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Showing posts from September, 2009

Broken dishes

I just broke a plate, the first dish I have broken in several months. I am planning on interpreting it as a sign of good luck.

On taking my advice

This afternoon my colleague from the Nordic Heritage Museum (in Seattle) had a few hours before his flight back to Seattle, so we met up for coffee and for me to show him the museum. He was impressed with it, of course! But I was more anxious to hear how things were going for him. I have been consulting with the Nordic Heritage Museum for 3 years now, wow, maybe 4, ever since I applied to be the director there. They offered me the job, which was of course very nice and probably would have been a lot of fun. But I told the board that 1) they really should try to find someone more experienced in multimillion dollar fund raising campaigns (they are building a new museum) and 2) that I wanted to go to Iceland and finish my dissertation. Anyhow, they took my advice (did not have much choice, since I turned the down!), kept looking, and found Eric. And I was mighty impressed with him--he has fund raised about 20 million dollars for the Nordic Heritage Museum since starting as the director t…

Clarity

When preparing a grant application, it is important to be very honest and very clear about exactly what the grant will be used for, and why. It is also incumbent on the recipient (if one gets it!) to use the grant in the way specified, allowing of course for the fact that there are always adjustments that must be made in the course of project development.
I was reading a comment on the WAC listserve (world archaeological congress) about a project that does not want to ask for grant funds, preferring instead to use a commercial model. This of course allows greater flexibility, because applying for a grant means that the granting agency influences the original goals and ideas of the project. But on the other hand, I tend to think that a grant application pushes us to think about issues we might not have thought of before, and be more open-minded, which is a good thing.

Phone calls from Dad

On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, I carpool into the the city with my friend Cassie (except on those days when I have a meeting here in Keflavik, like today). She has class that starts at 9, so we leave here at 8am. This is not too terribly early, but considering the fact that I stay up until 1:30 every night (so I can Skype Palmer), and I otherwise work from home, I am always a little worried about sleeping in too late. Like missing an early morning flight, or something.
I have not used an alarm clock since I was very young, except in really emergency situations. I just cannot stand waking up to some electronic noise, even if it is the radio. I want a peaceful morning. By the time I was 13, I had trained myself to wake up at a certain time, without an alarm clock. Before I go to bed, I tell myself what time I need to get up. It has worked like a charm for over 20 years. I sometimes have an alarm clock for backup, but as far as I recall, I always wake up before the alarm goes off.
De…

"Iceland"

Language has a wonderful ability to shape reality. To create categories. To then maintain those categories, to increase their efficacy and spread the reach of their power. Through metaphor, through connections, one category can subsume many others. And the more one talks about the category, the more it becomes. There has to be some natural suitability for a thing to its category, but categories also take on a life of their own, dragging the original subject of the linguistic expression with it into places they ought not go.

The Library of Congress

One of the many, many really great things about Washington D.C. is the Library of Congress. It is a massive library, truly massive. Takes up 3 gigantic buildings, two of them as old as the Capital, the other one newer and larger. Tunnels connect them all. Some of the stacks are open, meaning a person can browse for what they want, but for many other books, one fills out a form and the librarian goes to get it. Getting into the Library of Congress, especially after 9-11, requires a bag check and airport-style screening. Between the security, the librarians, and the overwhelming complexity of the architecture, not to mention the astounding beauty, I think a lot of people are dissuaded from going, it is a bit intimidating. But the library card is actually free, the setting spectacular, and well, none of this ever seemed overkill to me. I thought it was perfectly appropriate that one should have to go through certain formal procedures to get access to all that the Library of Congress had …

The saga theatre

I am proud to announce that this evening, I solved a problem, with the help of David, Koleen's husband.
Vikingaheimar has a component called The Sage Theatre. It is set inside a Norse style long hall, and features a mannequin of a monk and an old story teller. The story teller knows about the voyages of Leif Eiriksson and others to North America, around the year 1000, and he is telling the monk all about them (shortened to 5 stories, 2 minutes in length each). At the Smithsonian, we created a lightboard with the characters from the Vinland sagas--Bjarni Herjolfsson and Leif and the skraelings--and these characters light up whenever the story teller mentions them. It makes up one wall of the long house.
Well, late Saturday afternoon, the staff told me that the amplifier for the speaker in the theatre had stopped working. This was a bit unfortunate, since of course the mannequins standing there with the lighted figures behind them does not make a whole lot of sense without the audio…

C-sections

A friend of mine is past due on her pregnancy, coming up on 42 weeks. It has been interesting to watch how the Icelandic health care system is dealing with her case. They are taking their time about it. They are not rushing into inducing her, they are not rushing into scheduling a Cesarean. Nope. Just monitoring the baby, having her come in every three or four days for an ultra-sound, making sure everything is going well. Koleen (my friend) told me last night the baby's heart rate had started to go up, and she is going in for a checkup today (which means I get to watch her two lovely boys!), so they may decide to start doing something now to induce labor. But they are really trying not to force the issue, they are just trying to let the baby come out naturally when it is ready.
This is different than the policy in the United States, where medical practitioners seem rather eager to schedule a Cesarean the first chance they get. I guess in either case, it boils down to money. The on…

Just not good enough

The weather here in Iceland today is nice and clear. But it is still not good enough to take out the trash without a jacket on, and that is my gold standard of good weather.

Student income

It is perhaps a bit insensitive of me, but I have to say, it is really nice, now with the recession here in Iceland, to be on a grant from the United States for my PhD studies.

Saturdays and Sundays

The Icelandic word for Saturday is laugardagur, which literally translates as "bath day." In the olden days, from whence this day gets its name, the day before Sunday was the day when everyone in the family would take a bath, I assume in preparation for going to church on Sunday. So you got clean physically on Saturdays, and clean spiritually on Sundays.
Now a days of course this is not the case. Icelanders bathe usually daily (though perhaps not as obsessively as Americans), and Saturdays seem to not begin here until after sunset, ie: around 8pm Saturday night (kind of like a Jewish or Muslim day), extending well into Sunday. Sundays are therefore generally speaking pretty shot, everyone laying around recovering from a hangover and trying to prepare for reintegrating into the time reckoning of western society.
I think however Sunday is also the new laugardagur. Not in terms of people bathing, but in terms of the house getting cleaned. After waking up around 3pm, the only wa…

Group sing

One really nice Icelandic--well, actually, Scandinavian--tradition is that when there is a social gathering, people are expected to sing together. I am sure this happens in a lot of cultures, it just happens to NOT happen in American culture, at least not my slice of suburban American culture. But thankfully, in the Scandinavian tradition, hand-outs are made of all the songs that guest are supposed to sing.
So last night, when I was at the birthday party of friend of mine, I was able to join in the fun, which was really nice. Made me feel part of a 60s motown group or something.
At this same party, I also was able to firmly establish the difference between Jónas Kristjánsson the saga scholar and Jónas Kristjánsson the newsman, so that was nice.

Patent Process

I hope one of my Icelandic readers will inform me as to how the patent process is done here in Iceland. I am assuming there must be one, though I have never noticed anything similar to the ubiquitous T with a circle around it or the little patent pending proceeded by a number here in Iceland as one sees everywhere in the United States.
Even for people in the U.S., though, the patents process is a bit of a mystery. My dad is going through the process. First one does (or usually hires someone else to do) a patent search, which certifies that there is not already on file a patent just like one's own. Then one applies for a patent. The patent office then does their own patent search, and will issue a temporary patent. I suppose it depends on the type of invention, but then the patent holder has a certain amount of time to find a manufacturer for the product, someone who will take the concept from the drawing board and into production.
But that is easier said then done. My dad right now…

Is this my job?

Still working on the grant applications, and realizing that I should absolutely positively without a doubt have done this last year. I feel really bad that I did not. I do not know what I was thinking. We had a perfect project for it, the 3D graphic displays with information about the ship.
I was waiting for someone else to find the money, from a donor or from the bank, when I could have been trying to find the money myself, from cultural grants. Blech. I feel blechy.

Saturday night

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I did not have plans this Friday night, as anyone who reads my Facebook page, or my blog, might have guessed. On the other hand, I do have plans Saturday night, a birthday party. This one is nice since it is a 50th birthday party, but even more importantly, it is now the month of Libras, ie: my month. My own birthday may not be too much of a party (I'll be at a conference all day), but between the 21st of September and the 20th of October, I feel the uniting power of balance that Libra holds in her hands.

Icelandic directions

Travelers to Iceland often lament how casual Icelanders (here I mean specifically Icelandic businesses) are about specifying their whereabouts. A group of guys stopped me down by the pond a little while ago, asked me if I knew "where the place they call the Volcano" is at. I of course had zero idea, and was in fact just as lost myself, searching for Listasafn Reykjavík (which I ALWAYS confuse with Listasafn Íslands). Their website simply says it has two locations, one at Hafnahús and the other at Kjarvalstaðir. Don't know where those are? Oh, too bad. There is no map on either their website or ja.is.
This is a really good way to ensure that a foreigner always feels like a foreigner.

Tiny little point about David

In the United States, it is illegal for former elected officials to be hired directly into any sort of job which may be seen as directly tied to influencing government policy.* This includes especially that they cannot be hired as consultants for lobbying firms. In other words, the personal connections a person acquired from their time as an elected officials CANNOT be used to suddenly augment a private enterprise. The tax payers in essence own those connections, not the individual, and those connections ought to be safeguarded from providing an unfair advantage to a business on the open market. That David Oddsson was specifically hired for his political connections is exactly the issue. Those political connections are not in fact his, they derive from the position he held in service to his country. So it is not at all ridiculous to propose a law saying that former cabinet members here in Iceland, for instance, should be banned from certain jobs. If it is not considered over-regulatio…

Headline News

My generation of Americans is often called the MTV generation, but I sort of prefer to think of myself as the CNN generation. While many of my classmates probably did get home from school and immediately turn on MTV, I came home and immediately turned on CNN, especially Headline News. My mom tried to make heads or tails of this, finally decided that I just admired the afternoon anchor, Lynn Russell. Which of course I did, she was great, smart and beautiful, had this subtle way of lifting an eyebrow if the report was worthy of some suspect. She was a former police officer that had become a news anchor, one cool chick. But that was not really why I watched it every single afternoon, all through highschool. Rather, I was really rather obsessed with the news, I thought the news was downright fascinating. I think my mom began to understand this, the afternoon we sat together and watched the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and I cried and cried. I was a pretty young beach going teenager, I sho…

Take me out to the ball game

Dave told me last night he was planning on taking Palmer to a professional baseball game tonight. Dave's work was getting a sky box, which are those little rooms way up at the top, encased in glass and with a fabulous view of the stadium, and bar service. This will be Palmer's first time going to a ballgame.
I am a little torn about my little guy's first experience of the good old fashioned American game of baseball being through the eyes of the elite. I hope it does not completely ruin his ability to enjoy sitting on a bubble-gum stained, uncomfortable plastic chair in 95 degree weather, surrounded by a bunch of sweaty drunk people, watching an excruciatingly slow game.
The fact is though, at his age, and with the way he is, the skybox is way more his style. He sort of likes things just so.

Too strange

I took a nap, in the hopes then when I awoke, I would discover that it was just a joke, them making David Oddsson, the former Prime Minister, the editor of the nation's oldest newspaper, Morgunblaðið. I am sure Alda will have a fabulous article about it, full of sarcasm and wit, but I am just sad. That a newspaper I was rather attached to could be so blatantly disrespectful of even the illusion of media objectivity. That David Oddsson, a once powerful person in this country, thought that this was an appropriate thing to do with his life.
At least when George Bush Senior left office, he knew well enough not to accept every job that was offered him, even ones he might have liked or enjoyed; I am referring here to the National Baseball League asking him to be the Commissioner of Baseball. He knew how ridiculous it would be to go from ruling a nation to that. Though he has not done what Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have done with their after office life (ie: start important think tan…

Do not count on me

I am reading Þórðar saga hreðu, and cracking up a little bit at the depiction of Þórhallur, a farmer at Mikilbær. He is married to Olöf, a woman who knows something about healing people. The couple befriend Þórðar after he is injured in a battle, and he stays with them for a rather long time. Þórhallur goes along with him on many skirmishes, usually boastfully proclaiming ahead of time that he will come to his friend's aid, at which point the wife always says, "Do not listen to him, he won't do what he says." Through most of the plot, he neither helps nor hinders Þórðar, although at a crucial point, he betrays his friend's whereabouts to his enemy, and for this he is killed. His wife ends up marrying Þórðar. Þórhallur would have probably been better off if he had just said all along, "Look, seriously dude, just don't count on me OK? I mean, I know you don't have a lot of support in this valley, and I know that sucks for you, but all this killing and …

Religion and politics

I have been surprised by a lot of things about Icelandic religious beliefs. Not the hidden people or that some people have second sight, I have heard about that stuff long enough that it just seems right and proper here, a part of what makes Iceland beautiful.
But recently I have been surprised by discussions of the role of religion in politics. For instance, I was surprised to discover that one of my favorite bloggers is a staunch advocate for the idea that people demand to have their names removed from the Icelandic state church. I do not see why that institution, which serves the population in many, many ways, should be denied tax dollars. It is like saying one's taxes should only go to elementary schools if one has a child between the ages of 6 and 13. Not even to mention how many tax dollars go to other cultural institutions that even fewer members of the society take advantage of.
I also read that there is some interest in forming a new political group, one which is expressl…

Really good Indian food

I guess as part of the Reykjavik International Film Festival, there was also sort of a food festival. At any rate, the Grand Hotel was not only showing an Indian film, they also had brought in a chef from India for the week. Now, there are a couple of hardy and flavorful Indian food places in the city, but the menus have been modified to suit Icelandic taste buds. The Grand Hotel was not planning to make any such concessions to Icelandic taste buds. The dishes definitely had a kick to them, though not more than I could handle.
Decided to skip the film all together, since even though Indian food is an acquired taste, Indian film is even more so.

Summons

The U.S. legal system has a step for almost all proceedings, called a summons. This is sort of a racket, whereby the plaintiff has to give some outside service a fee to have a summons served to the defendant. The plaintiff can't just show up and serve the defendant themselves. Dave needed to serve me the divorce papers, but it would not be legally binding if he just gave them to me. It was however also prohibitively expensive to get a server to present me with the summons here in Iceland.
Now, the legal system in the United States cannot force a person to use a paid process server, and the court documents simply call for a third party to do the serving. So we decided to ask our friend Jana, who is also getting divorced, to sign off as the server, and I suppose we'll do the same for her when the time comes.
I do not believe there are process servers here in Iceland, but I am sitting here in the library with that economics professor, Hannes, sitting across from me, and well, it …

Parking garages

I was at the Kringla Mall having lunch with a friend, and driving out of there, I was realizing how few parking garages there are in Iceland. Each of the malls has one, and also there is one downtown on Hverfisgata, but none at the university. It seems to be a big selling point with the new Performance Center downtown, that it will have an attached parking garage.
Parking garages have their critics, because of course they allow for more cars to be on the road. But I always tend to think they are a good use of space, certainly better than just a parking lot. I also somehow feel like my car is safer inside a parking garage, that is once it is parked (finding a spot and navigating up the ramps is always tricky!). Anyhow, I use them whenever I can, and think it would not be so bad if there were more of them.

Sibling talk

I heard from my friend Kim, who is dating my brother, Erik, that Erik is actually free from work today, after working double shifts for two weeks straight now, trying to get off time to go home to California. I am going to try to call him when I get home tonight, because no matter where one is in the world, talking to one's sibling is really important.

What? That is completely crazy!

Woke up still thinking about the movie. The English gentleman who had arranged for Iceland to be one of the countries participating in the movie's global premier gave a speech before it started reiterating a theme in the film also. The basic point was that as long as we live in a democracy, the government will not make any policies that are roundly unpopular. They will not force people to stop driving their cars, they will not tell the oil companies to stop digging. Democracy is basically about keeping things going without upsetting anybody too much. If there is to be change in the system, it can only come from massive popular movements that catch on and thereby become the new norm, like the suffragette movement.
Yeah, it is a pretty rare thing in a democracy for a leader to say something like, "What? That is completely crazy. We are not going to do to that. No way. Get out of here." Instead they listen to their constituents, try to see if there is any way to accommodate…

Thank God I live in Iceland

I just got back from watching the film "The Age of Stupid"* at Smaralind Mall. What a surreal experience that was. The film is fantastically well done, the special effects at the beginning just cheesy enough that a person sits back smuggly and says, "Ha, I'm not impressed." And then it picks up momentum, introduces the stories of five people, every single one of them affecting and affected by global climate change, every one of them trying their best to live their lives, only one of them directly involved with and confronting ways to reduce their carbon consumption. Spliced in between is the man living in 2055, working on putting together this footage, but more importantly, and more effectively I thought, were short animated bits explaining things like where plastic toys come from and how much energy each continent consumes in comparison with every other planet. There were also short historical clips, one about how every couple of hundred years one groups tries…

Shopping

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I do not know which is stranger, being here when the shops are closed, or being here without Palmer.

Cat juggling

I was reading something in Malbein about Gisli I guess drowning a kitten when he was younger. This reminded me of my brother Erik, who once took our cat Jimmy, picked it up by the tail, and swung it around the room, letting go of it mid-air, such that poor Jimmy whacked the wall hard. He survived, but was never a completely normal cat after that.
It also reminds me of my brother Billy, who absolutely did the most amazing impression of Steve Martin talking about cat juggling.
Those wild and crazy guys.

Why in the world not?

I am currently preparing a grant application for an exhibit at Vikingaheimar, and oh my goodness, how much fun is this! I mean of course there are all sorts of details and picky questions, but the fun part of a grant application is the opportunity it provides to think big. Why not include something about boat burials in the Aland Islands? Seriously, why not? The idea is to give the public as much of a frame of reference for the importance of Viking ships in the Viking Age, and there is no reason whatsoever not to cast the net wide.
The grantees may not agree, of course, but it never hurts to ask.

The cold war

The Cold War smoldered just below the surface of world politics, influencing and infiltrating the global economy and development practices, debilitating genuine progress, disquieting in how terribly unconfrontable it was, seeping fear into the lives of countless millions.
That threat is thankfully behind us. Instead, now it is the more mundane problem of trying to figure out how to get my apartment warm.

Castor Oil

I wonder what brilliant, terribly pregnant, woman first came up with drinking loads of castor oil to induce labor? How did they know that would get contractions to start? Like the way Native Americans added ash to their corn meal mixture (which releases the niacin in the corn flour), is that some sort of instinctual thing that the brain just picks up on, somehow analyzing the chemical composition of a food product in comparison with the body's own enzymes and hormones?
I am wondering this because I have been immersed in babyness for several weeks now, a pregnant cousin, a pregnant friend, other friends with new born babies. Just skyped one of them a bit ago, had her fourth little boy (in 5.5 years) three weeks ago. Then my pregnant friend Kolleen waddled over, after drinking a mixture of castor oil and raw egg earlier today. She was having contractions, but they seemed to be the false labor kind.
Due to all this excitement, I missed the excitement of hearing about David being appo…

Pink gloves

I have a knee length vintage coat from my mom, with a big collar, big buttons, and sort of a molten black and white pattern. She is pretty sure she bought it when she was a student in Copenhagen in 1958 or 59. At any rate, she had it when she met my dad, and it has hung in her closet for a long time. Now it lives in mine, since it is a heavy wool coat and well she certainly did not need it in California. I had some black trim added to the arms, since my arms are longer than hers, and would like to redo the lining one of these days also, but I wear it as it is now, especially on windy days and especially when I am in the city. I wore it for instance when I was going to the bokmenntahatid.
I like to wear my pink knit cap and matching pink knit gloves with this coat, because, well, they are electric pink. And nothing looks so good with black and white as electric pink.
Walking past a bar that night in Reykjavik, a woman commented on my coat and gloves, told me I looked oh so Carrie Bradsh…

Re-words

Though they are all Latinates, they are some of the best words in the English language:
Respect Responsibility Reliable Reasonable

Rope yoga

I read in the paper that there is an opening in the 11:45 rope yoga class here in Njarvik. It meets Mondays and Wednesdays. I wasn't planning on being in Reykjanesbaer on Wednesdays, but I had not made up my mind about Mondays. I bet though I'd have to pay for both, even if I only use one, so that does not sound so hot.
I think instead I'll start exercising along to my yoga video, the same one I have owned for 15 years. It periodically goes through periods of actual use.

Not a day of rest

Sunday is supposed to be a day for relaxing, a day for visiting family, a day for doing things around the house. Not a day for doing office work. But for me, I feel a lot better about being here in Iceland, rather than in California, if I am working everyday. So today, after my fourth cup of coffee, I put on my thinking cap and figured out what I'd like to try to do for Vikingaheimar over the next two months. Who knows if all of it will work, who knows if any of it will work, but it is still so much fun to imagine the possibilities, and then give it a try. I'm thinking a reading of Völuspá would make a cool jól program.
I know, I know, not very Christian of me.

Thinkin' they know English

There has been some discussion in the news here in Iceland that Johanna, the Prime Minister, has not been talking to the Icelandic press enough, has not been speaking to the foreign press at all, and has refused to take diplomatic trips abroad. Some people question whether the problem is that she does not speak English. The counter argument was of course she must know English, she was an airline stewardess before she went into politics.
Now, my Icelandic is good enough to get me through all sorts of daily interactions, and I can follow the news, have participated in meetings in Icelandic. But I would never presume this means that my Icelandic is good enough for me to go into politics here, or to try my hand at extremely important delicate negotiations that turn on the nuances of particular words.
Many of my English speaking friends familiar with Iceland have agreed with me that Icelanders, and really no offense meant, but a lot of Icelanders tend to overestimate how fluent they are i…

Útsvar

The game show útsvar, which used to be on Friday nights but is now being shown on Saturday nights, features three people from two townships (or counties, depending) in Iceland who answer a series of questions. The format and rules are kind of complicated, and I think there is some way (like in Jeopardy in the States) for a team to loose and still advance, if their score was high enough.
Tonight Reykjanesbær was playing against a group from the north, and since I sort of know one of the guys on the Reykjanesbær team, Baldur, well, of course I had to watch. Reykjanesbær lost, but just barely. We were happy.

Balancing act

It has been sinking in for me the last few days that I did not give my son quite enough attention when he was here with me this summer. I mean, it was hard, we were opening the exhibition and lots of things were more difficult than I imagined they would be. When I worked at the Smithsonian, I did not have a child, so it was no problem to just put everything into work. But that is not that way anymore. When I think about work, I also need to think that Palmer is 4. And that is a special age, one to cherish.

Nammidagar

Saturdays in Iceland are sometimes called nammidagar because this is the day when the parents take their kids to the shop and the kids get to buy a bag full of mixed candies from the bins. These bins are in almost every store in Iceland, and, using my cousins as ethnographic field data, it seems every child knows which shop has the best candy of a certain type.
In the States (at least where I grew up), candy is only sold in prepackaged bags, and, of course American style, all through my youth the portions just got bigger and bigger. I have always been a big fan of hlaup, or in English, gummy candy. When I was younger, it was specifically gummybears - I had a ritualized way I would bite off the head of one and then the feet of the next one. So I would buy a bag at the mall, at the movies, whenever. And I would devour the entire pack over the course of a half-hour or so, usually feeling incredibly sick to my stomach. The next time I would buy a bag, I would promise myself I would take i…

Rauðkál

About a year ago I guess, or maybe more, I had my two bachelor uncles and one of their sons over for dinner. I made breaded ýsa and potatoes. As side dishes, I put out rugbrauð and rauðkál. They looked at me like I was insane. Thankfully, knowing I am from the states, one of them was kind enough to inform me that rauðkál is only served with lamb, not with fish.
Just now, I pulled out the hrásalat to have with my lamb kjötbollur and then instinctively put it back, grabbed the rauðkál instead. Thought to myself, I need to save the hrásalat for the ýsa in the freezer.

Trying it the regular way?

We are out of milk here at the museum, so I am having to have my coffee black. Does that count as "regular" coffee? I am not sure actually what would be the unmarked form of coffee, but since this has a noun plus adjective describer (black coffee) that would linguistically mean it is not the unmarked category. Neither though is "coffee with cream." Or "coffee with sweetener," right? Maybe only the one word Italian drinks count as unmarked -- latte, cappuccino, espresso? Of course, in the States, regular coffee is drip coffee, ie: absolutely not any form of espresso drink. Once I can figure out what really counts as "regular coffee", I'll be happy to give it a try.

Lucky customers

The German couple enjoying the exhibition at the museum this morning walked here from the guesthouse down the road. I noticed them starting to head this way from across the field, and it looked like they were having a nice time of it, in the sun next to the shore. A few minutes after they came in, a rain cloud burst open right overhead, filling the museum with stormy sounds and drenching all the rocks outside. They were lucky to make it inside in time. Now the sun is starting to come out again, and I think they will have a nice walk back, after they are done looking around.

Trying to make me jealous

Despite a few hours of sunny weather yesterday, it has pretty much been rainy and windy for the past 10 days straight. During this same time period, Palmer and Dave were in Southern California, visiting my parents. They would Skype me everyday:
"Hello Liz!" says my dad. "Today we went boating on the delta. It was 95 degrees."
"Hello Liz!" says my mom. "Today we were swimming in the pool. Palmer had such a great time."
"Hello Liz!" says Dave. "Tomorrow we are going to Disneyland. I am putting a lot of sunscreen on Palmer, since it is really hot down here."
"Hello Liz!" says my dad. "We've got everything all packed up for a nice day at the beach. The weather is really perfect!"

Notice a common thread?

I know, I know, the weather is amazingly, daily, unbelievably perfect in Southern California. I know that. I used to live there. But no one needs to try to make me jealous about it. I was pretty darn aware of the…

Skynsemi frá Setbergi

I was visiting my aunt for a bit this afternoon, and after discussing this or that, we got around to the financial situation (mostly because we were talking about her husband's business, or rather, lack thereof). She then said that she has simply gotten to the point where she really cannot stand to watch the news anymore, the whole thing makes her so angry and so uncomfortable and so depressed. No matter what anyone says or what anyone wants to have done, nothing seems to get done. We agreed that it seems somehow as if everyone is just waiting for the real news to break.

One more step towards complete Icelandicization

I do not imagine this will ever totally happen, but today marks one more little step towards Icelandicazation for me. I am going to get my eyebrows dyed. I have noticed more and more how every woman here in Iceland seems to do this, and at first of course I thought it was silly. In California people just wax their eyebrows. But then I went over to my cousin's for dinner a few months ago, and I just could not believe how pretty she looked. She said she'd just had her eyebrows done. So, what the heck. Maybe it is some tacky Suðurnesja sort of thing, but I don't care, off I go.

Couch

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The most awesome couch at Goda hilferinn. I did not buy it.

Cheeseless

I awoke this morning in the Knut Hansen novel Sult.

And I think the problem is that I forgot to buy cheese the last time I went to the store.

It is absolutely amazing how many meals that I make require cheese. Without cheese, not only do I not want to even attempt to make them, but whatever I do make is not nutritious enough to last me through the night, it appears.

Because I do not usually wake up rather hungry, but also rather uninterested in getting out of bed.

I blame this on Tillamock cheese, which came in huge brick size packages so that it lasted forever, was really flavorful, and all natural.

Mom, Dad: Send some!

Shopping!

My friend announced that she wants to take me to the city tomorrow, to the second hand furniture store she told me about recently. I am tre excited! All the furniture in my apartment is old hand me down stuff from my aunt and uncles here in Keflavik, and boy oh boy, a nice comfy chair (or two) would do my livingroom very nicely. But going to buy anything brand new would simply not be right, would not be in style with (one might even say not respectful to) the other pieces in the room.

In California, I was more inclined to try to find a good deal on new furniture, finessing my way into a great end table and coffee table set once. But that got left behind (with my first husband....).

Downside of carpooling

Well, I am not sure this really counts as a downside, since I am, as a matter of fact, burning through all sorts of secondary literature on Þórðar saga hreðu (what little there is), but sitting at this little desk at the library from 9am until 6pm is some sort of record for me. Now, I did stop to eat, but with the rain outside, and my friend Ragga being busy, I ended up eating here, so I was only gone from the desk for a short while.

There was no cafeteria at the library at UC Berkeley, so one was forced to get out just a little bit more during the course of a day, even if one was being super studious. I think that was a good thing...

Thesis

The land becomes meaningful as you walk through it, as you look around it, as you use it, as you live in it, as you think and remember.

A story becomes meaningful as you listen to it, hear it repeated, hear it changed, repeat it yourself, laugh at it, cry at it, represent it in art, use phrases from it.

My dissertation wonders how these two modes of meaning interact with one another.

Lower Upper Class

When I was growing up in Southern California, my classmates and I would often discuss whether the area we lived should be classified as upper middle class or lower upper class. None of us were poor. We got cars, we had pools, we took vacations. Some of us wore designer clothes from boutique shops and had membership in the country clubs, drove Mercedes and BMWs. I came to decide that people whose houses were big enough to have one room called a "Library" were officially rich; a four car garage also would do the trick. But a house big enough for every kid to have their own room, plus a play room, plus a home office for mom and dad, that did not count really as rich in my book, just lower upper class.

These people I grew up with, their moms and dads were mostly doctors and lawyers, or owners of modest size businesses, a few restaurant outlets or specialty stores. None of them owned the hugest most important companies in America; that was what would make a person Middle Upper Cla…

Rye grass

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Driving home today, my friend Cassie and I were discussing berry picking in Iceland, and I told her also that this is mushroom gathering time. She is from Australia, and all of this rather baffled her. I said, well, it is sort of a Fall harvest idea. Of course, in the States, and in Australia, Fall harvest is associated more with the gathering of corn from stalks that tower above a man's head, or cutting rye grass that has grown heavy with seed over the long summer months. Expansive fields of grain, not small things lying close to the ground.

There is decadence in both. There is decadence in walking through a field of grain, running one's hands across the tops of the feathery rye grass, smelling them drying in the sun, and there is decadence in kneeling down, and eating a bright sweet berry right away. The rye carries with it the expectation of soft, warm bread.

Museum libraries

Yesterday, I went to the library at the National Museum. It is a cozy library, with old books and old furniture, and books not available elsewhere plus all the archaeological site reports. Unfortunately, it does not have wireless, which is a bummer, but more problematic is that the archaeological field reports are only organized by year and listed in the system by site title, which basically means that if you did not already know there was a dig somewhere at a specific point in time, there is no way to find out about it. I told the librarian that I'd come back when I figured out how to know what reports I needed to read.

This was the exact same problem at the Smithsonian. Archaeological reports are tricky that way.

Source critical

When I pick up a dictionary, especially an English one, I am always reminded of what a "precocious" (read: difficult) child I was. Up through the fourth grade, I simply categorically refused to memorize the alphabet. I refused to sing the song. It somehow occurred to me as a 4 year old that there was no real logic to it, no requirement that the letters be in that order and not some other order. It also made no difference whatsoever to my ability to read, I could know the sounds without having some artificial construct in which to place them. I happily made it all the way to 10 years old without having alphabetical order memorized.

Then one day, my fourth grade teacher passed around dictionaries to all of us. Started talking about what a dictionary was and what it was used for. I started reading it, and I liked reading it, like the way it discussed the meanings of words. But I remember the moment, clear as yesterday, when I sat there with a dictionary open in my lap, in my ele…

Stormy weather

In California, when there is a rain storm, the electricity often goes out, I guess because rain storms in California tend to be accompanied by wind and lightening.

There has been rain here in Iceland for three days now, and windy most of the time, with strong gusts today and Friday (officially called a stormur in Icelandic, since the wind got above 10 knots I think it is). Anyhow, when a friend of mine tried to call me on his cell phone and at first he could not get through because my number was coming up as "out of range" and then the reception was terrible, I thought it probably had something to do with the stormy weather. That anyhow is how it would have worked in California. But here, it may just be a coincidence.

For Kendra

Kendra, who is a lector in Old Norse at UCLA but a linguist by training and a good friend of mine, urged me to go the Sigurdur Nordal Institute talk tonight. The speaker, and the topic, were of special interest to her, but since she's in Los Angeles, and not here in Iceland, she sort of gently suggested I should go. I told Rosa (the folklorist) afterwards that I was happy I did, since the talk was quite good. Because Kendra wanted a report, all of my other blog readers will get one as well.

Þórarinn Eldjárn's talk was entitled "Það kalla ég íslensku"; the title was supposedly a direct quote of something Sigurður Nordal said once in regard to the poetry of Hallgrímur Pétursson. His general point was that there was an overly conservative element in regard to the treatment of the Icelandic language, like for instance Sigurður using Hallgríms poetry as the only proper guide. But Þórarinn had examples where actually, those policing the language were often overly zealous, …

Attention to details

I sent the new booklet for the museum off to the printer this morning, and then stopped by there on my way to the city, to make sure they could print off some today (a staff member is on the way to Copenhagen for West Norden). Well, in preparing the file, I did not get the bleeds exactly right, and the spacing is a millimeter off in three places. So when we do the final version, in various languages, I'll try to fix these things. Likely there will be other little things also. But I think the same thing goes for any print job, no matter the size: eventually, you have to just decide to put the job to rest.

Great Icelandic words

I have not updated my list of funny Icelandic ways of spelling English words, because I think in fact some Icelanders are just making these up on the fly. More concrete are those official words created for the oh-so-prevalent latinates. Every tourguide in Iceland likes to mention these, things like simi and tölvu, Iceland literally being one of the only countries in the world to NOT use some derivative of telephone for the telephone.

Stjórnukíki is another one of these. It means telescope, but in another sense it does not, since telescope is latin for ´seeing things far away´ (just as telephone is ´hearing things from far away´). Instead of doing a direct translation of the latin roots (perhaps because television also means this), Icelanders came up with a MUCH better word for this invention--"Star looker". I especially like that the verb kikja is used for looking, that being probably one of the nicest sounding verbs in Icelandic "Kikja við" meaning "stop by&…

Hairstylist wanted

I was talking to my cousin and my aunt just now about their hair cuts, and I mentioned I was thinking about getting mine cut. Then I realized I HAVE NOT HAD MY HAIR CUT SINCE MARCH! Seriously, March?? I mean I had no idea it had been that long. I remember just before the opening of the exhibition in June that I was wondering if my cut needed a freshening up, but then my son came and summer came and it was just as easy to put it up as find time to get it cut. So now it is a question of waiting until I get back to Southern California for a few weeks in November, where my absolutely amazing hair stylist lives, or if I should just find someone here in Iceland to do something with it. I will probably opt for the latter, since now is probably as good a time as any to find a hairstylist who does not live halfway around the world.

Lamb soup

I'm making lamb soup with the left over leg of lamb from last weekend. When I was in California, I always made chicken soup, since I always bought full chickens there (free range, of course!), and thus it was good to do something with the rib cage and all that. My recipe for that was pretty well figured out, in terms of how to spice it and what veggies to put in. My lamb soup here in Iceland is a bit more experimental, I am not entirely sure about the spicing. Everyone says rosemary is so good with lamb, but I have never really thought that was the case with Icelandic lamb, which is a bit more earthy than other lambs. So I am trying oregano with this batch, and mushrooms.

My favorite thing about making this kind of soup is that well, there is no pressure about it at all, no feeling of wasting food, since of course this was the part of the lamb I would have just thrown out otherwise.

Simun Arge

On Friday I showed the curator from the Faeroese National Museum my museum, including of course the case on the Faeroe Islands. I have blogged about this case before, it was, to say the least, a challenge. Scrambling at the last minute to get a bunch of Faeroese midden deposit bones from New York, spending weeks and weeks and weeks trying to figure out how to put them in the case, creating and cutting out figures of birds and fish, sewing bones onto said cut outs, oh my goodness what a chore. Simun was very pleased with the results, though we agreed that he would send me a better picture, and I might make the cod bigger (the vertebrae overwhelm the cut out at the moment).

But without a pretense of modesty, I hereby declare that I have transformed Viking Age garbage into a visually compelling and important case that anchors the environmental message of the exhibition.

Frozen vegetables

I realized after getting home from perusing the aisles of Kasko yesterday that I did in fact have a lot of food at home before I went shopping. What I mostly lacked was frozen vegetables, and I guess this gave me the feeling that I had no food at all at home. This is because without frozen vegetables, I can't make the vegetarian dishes I like to have, like burritos with grilled veggies or noodles with Asian veggies.

For almost 20 years now, I have eaten a vegetarian meal once a day (not counting breakfast, that is always meatless). I started this when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, and I have found it works very well for me, helps me decide what to cook and eat and also keeps me a bit healthier. Plus I heard somewhere it was better for the planet too, since producing meat takes up more resources than producing vegetables does. I am not sure of the environmental argument here in Iceland, since so many of the vegetables need to be imported, so actually I have been eating meat mo…

One chapter at a time

I have worked recently on getting the outline for my dissertation done, and though there are a couple of loose ends, I think it is shaping up nicely. It is really important to have a picture of the whole before starting on any pieces parts. But of course my goal is to have one chapter done before I got to California for a few weeks in November. I find that the outline to the dissertation needs the added incentive of a schedule, in order to get measurable progress. But really, all I can do is write one chapter at a time.

An experiment

I had one beer with dinner at my friend's house, and could not manage to keep my eyes open past 11pm. Woke up wide awake at 4am. Great. Just tried to get back to sleep, but nothing doin'.

Fog

It is a rainy foggy day, which is usually my favorite kind of day to go to the pool. This may be because hardly anyone else is there on days like this, but more so because it reminds me of mornings in California, when I would put my head back on the edge of the hot tub, and let my legs rest on the steps on the other side, occasionally floating up in the bubbles from the jets. A whole hot tub all to myself.

It is too late for me to go today, but maybe tomorrow, if the weather keeps up like this.

Electric cars

Iceland is in a wonderful position to have nothing but environmentally friendly electric cars. There is a good supply of electricity (if the aluminum plants do not take it all) and most of the distances are just right for the operating capacity of electric car batteries.

But I have heard on several occasions people commenting on how very strange they think electric cars are. They aren't complaining about the way they look or the fact that they can't go as far, even that they have to be plugged in at night. No, what they complain about is that an electric car makes no noise. There is no vroom vroom of the engine, no sensory input to confirm that one has successfully turned the key and pumped the gas just enough to start the engine. Going down the street is also too quiet. The car does not shake at all, the car in a way does not seem alive, the way a combustion engine automobile does.

No matter how much the mechanics of an electric car are explained, a lot of people are simply g…

I bought a book

Of course this sentence needs to be sung to the tune of "I saw a sign, [and it opened up my eyes, I saw a sign]" by Ace of Base.

Yes, well, for the second night in a row, I went to the readings at Iðunn for the Reykjavik Literature Festival. That is the best way to experience both poetry and short stories, I would say. Tonight I just sort of spontaneously decided to stop by, since it was nice last night and since I was already in the city dropping off colleagues anyhow (colleagues who complained and complained about my driving, but I did not blame them really, since they are from the Faeroes, not Los Angeles, where my driving is considered conservative).

One of the poets was from Canada, and her poem about a man she met in Cairo, a silversmith, was so perfect, I decided that that was a book worth buying. Simple, real, intimate.

My brother

I don't know exactly why, but I am thinking about my brother Billy a lot this morning. It is always sad when a man in his mid 40s dies, we tend to think that is too young to die. But this is not what saddens me this morning. What saddens me is that all that he was, all the energy and humor and intelligence, never quite found its place in the world. Perhaps it would have more easily, in a place like Iceland.

September 11th

I start to get anxious every year, as it gets closer to September 11th. By the time the 10th comes around, a feeling of numbness has usually set it, as it did yesterday. I know many people have much worse stories from that day, but for me still, it does not seem like it happened 8 years ago, it seems like it happened last year. I remember many details of the day extremely well, wandering the streets of Washington D.C., seeing the smoke from the Pentagon, hearing rumors of other explosions.

Last year, it was hard to be in Iceland for September 11th, there was no real acknowledgement of the event here, of the humiliating blow the United States suffered on that day.

For the residents of New York, the impact of the devastation that occurred on September 11th is even greater, because it drastically changed the landscape of Lower Manhattan, and the view of Manhattan from all the boroughs. New York has struggled to find a way to both remember the incident and allow for rebirth.

From my own we…

Speak softly but carry a big stick

I'm reading an analysis of Svarfdaela saga, and thought this passage was interesting for how unbelievably stagnant political tactics are through the ages. "A character who is destined for heroic deeds [,,] must be seen as a man capable of taking revenge before he approaches an enemy with a peaceful solution in mind. It is one of the paradoxes of feuding that in order to effect a peaceful settlement, a character must have a demonstrated capacity for shedding blood." (Note that if I were editing this article, I would urge the author to combine the two sentences, which repeat the same thought with slightly different wording, into one).

On astrology

One thing I find transferable from Californian culture to Icelandic culture is an interest in astrology. It is perfectly normal in the course of a conversations both here and in California to say something like, "Well, he's a Scorpio", and people know what that means. My son Palmer is a Cancer-Leo cusp, which is a very difficult cusp, combining as it does the attributes of a Water sign with that of a Fire sign (or in more modern psychological terms, an introverted emotional expressive leader. Either way, a tough row to hoe). Both of my husbands, and most of the men I have dated, have been Earth signs; I am an Air sign and earthbound types like Air signs generally speaking, keeps their lives more interesting. My two best friends though are Fire signs and we end up doing all sorts of wacky things together because, well, Air fans Fire. Yes, all very logical, when the world is divided up this way.

German press

We had our third group of foreign journalists come by in as many weeks, the last one I am happy to say (for now). This time the group was from Germany. We've performed the same image of Iceland each time, had out a bowl of dried fish, butter shaped like a Viking ship, bottles of Viking lettöl set out, and a platter of flatkökkur with smoked lamb and butter. The flatkökkur today was from Bonus, and still warm when I opened the package. Oskar, our staff person, said he had first gone to Netto, and they were completely out of flatkökkur. It therefore seems there is a serious shortage in the greater Reykjanesbær area of this hearty round flat bread.

I hope the journalists appreciated our attempts at Viking-ish Icelandic fare.

Conflicting codes

As we move from culture to culture, or from stage of life to new stage of life, there are conflicting codes as to what constitutes honorable, righteous, responsible behavior. During transitional periods, which I always seem to find myself in, it is often extremely difficult to be simultaneously judged as doing the right thing by different groups of people, because sometimes, that which is seen as an indication of a dedicated, conscientious citizen in one country does not seem that way at all in another country. Many Americans think it is unAmerican to criticize the president, but it can also be argued that such a criticism is the basis of a thriving democracy, the very essence of Americanism, supposedly. Many Icelanders on the other hand relish opportunities to criticize their government, an idea that still makes me a little uncomfortable. But I do try sometimes.

Open letter

I just sent this off to Columbia University:

Dear Dr. Stiglitz,

I am a PhD candidate doing my dissertation research into Icelandic history, and I am also half-Icelandic, started coming to Iceland when I was a little girl.

I just wanted to send you a quick note of thanks, to thank you for your efforts to enlighten both the Icelandic politicians and public about the financial situation Iceland finds itself in at this time, and ways to improve matters.

In a country as small as Iceland, either everyone listens, or no one listens. This time, surely everyone is listening. And it means a lot to this country, which has felt a bit ostracized lately by the international community, that you have returned to give the country a second chance to get it right.

Thank you very much and best wishes,

Elisabeth I. Ward
PhD Candidate
University of California, Berkeley

P.S. I am also posting this to my blog, elisabethida.blogspot.com

Travel protocol

I missed out on seeing a few of my archaeological colleagues this summer. They were up digging near Reykholt, and had I brought my own car to the Viking Congress, I could have gone to see them when I was at the conference there. Instead, I sent them a few messages, asking them if they were coming down to Reykjanesbaer to see my museum. They said they would try, and then of course ran out of time. One messaged me today, apologizing. But actually, I think maybe I should have been the one apologizing. Afterall, he flew here all the way from Washington D.C., got himself out to the Icelandic countryside, and I could not figure out how to get a ride 10 minutes up the road from where I was staying? My priority was clearly on showing off my museum, instead of saying hello to friends and colleagues, and that is not really very nice of me. Next time, I will do better.

French philosophers and the sagas

I just read an interesting article in Scandinavian Studies about Svarfdæla saga that does the most remarkable job of quoting Foucault, Lacan, and Satre IN THE SAME sentence as quotes from the saga, as if those philosophers were commenting on the saga itself.

My sense of time and place is all whacked now.

Washing machines

I have a big old wonderful American washing machine, one which powers through huge loads of laundry in no time flat. Icelanders tend to comment on it, how nice it must be. Having never known anything else, my washing machine does not seem particularly remarkable to me. But my friend Guðmundur explained to me on Sunday, when he called to thank me for Saturday night's dinner, that Icelandic washing machines are as small as they are, and take as long as they do, because they are only hooked up to the cold water, not the hot water. If one wished to do a load of whites in hot water, the machine has to heat up the water itself. He was told that the reason for this was that Icelandic water has too many minerals in it, and thus it would ruin the mechanics of washing machines. We however decided this did not really make any sense, since my machine using the naturally heated Icelandic water, and it is still running fine. But it does at least help me understand why Icelandic machines take so…

On libraries

The library has always been one of my favorite places, since I was in the 4th grade at least, and spent an entire summer going back and forth, checking out as many books as I could carry on my bicycle.

When I was trying to choose colleges, it was the library that made the difference for me, in terms of which college made it to the top of my list. The library at UC Berkeley just amazed me, and I always look forward to days when I can go there and read. There is a weighty silence in the air that I can feel at a good library, and it helps me concentrate. It is a combination of architectural grandure mixed with the absolute freedom to read anything on the shelves that is both humbling and empowering at the same time.

Neither Landsbókasafn Íslands nor Arnastofnun give me quite that same feeling, but still a bit more so than my own apartment, so off I go to Reykjavík tomorrow, in hopes of getting in some good concentrating time.

The inventor

My dad is working on a patent right now for a new type of wind turbine, should get approved in the next couple of weeks. I think perhaps I have mentioned this before in my blog, but somehow, I get the feeling that the inventor, as a tropos or type, is not prevalent or recognized here in Iceland. The guys that build their superjeeps are tinkerers, but an inventor, well an inventor thinks of something that is meant to be of benefit not necessarily to themselves (though one hopes for good monetary compensation, of course), but to society at large. The lightbulb, the telephone, the traffic lights, the stories of these inventions are built into the narrative of American history. Big things that change the way we live our lives. And yet, once they are in place, they seem as normal and natural as if they have always been there. A feeling of "Of Course!" is what should accompany a good invention. A good invention is not simply a solution to a problem, it is a leap beyond, a willingn…

Far out

Last night I had a group of friends over for dinner, Icelanders who have spent time in California. When the fireworks started, we walked outside and I, and a couple of others, wanted to walk far out to the edge of the heath so we could get a good view, but the others wanted to just go back inside. One made a joke about how much Icelanders do not like to get cold, really.

This reminded me of when I was a teenager, and I wanted to go out to Reykjanes lighthouse in the middle of winter. Or when I was in Newfoundland, and wanted to walk all the way to the end of the path, so I could reach the very eastern most point of North America.

Even with a good jacket on, a lot of people would just sort of rather not bother.

Some sort of beetle

Iceland is basically a bugless country, I mean really even in Lake Myvatn, it is predominantly one sort of bug everywhere. In California, and in the desert, and in the south (both Washington D.C. and Georgia) big ugly bugs of all sorts periodically accost a person. I remember waking up one morning to see a preying mantis standing right in the middle of my headboard, I swear it was wondering whether or not it could eat me. I fled the room. And on my wedding day in Georgia, the cicadas were out, flying around everywhere. None landed on my hair during the ceremony, for which I was grateful.

Just now I noticed something black crawling across my kitchen floor, a little beetle, Not that I am a devout Buddhist or anything, but I really do prefer to scoop bugs up and put them outside, rather than killing them in my house.

This however was an ICELANDIC beetle. Though it was scooting along on its merry way, the moment I put a piece of paper down in front of it--hoping it would crawl on top of i…

How's business?

It is amazing to me how many Icelanders, after coming into the museum, ask me how business is. Everyone wants to know how many customers we had this summer, everyone wants to know I guess how much money we have made. I'm always perplexed by this question. First of all, museums in the United States are almost always not-for-profit institutions. They try to make enough money to keep themselves operational and to fund the programs they want to do. They do not pass on dividends to their stock-holders, it is just not that kind of business. Second of all, as the curator, I really would rather have a content related question to field. Business just is not 100% my thing.

A group of my friends came to see the museum yesterday, 7 people who had spent a lot of time in the States, mostly California. None of them (except one) asked about our profit margin. Instead they commented on how beautiful the exhibition was, and how interesting.

Back pocket ideas

When visitors come by, and mention this or that that we should do or could do, I often want to say something along the lines of "I'll put that in my back pocket" but I have a feeling this is not a phrase in Icelandic. It is a nice one though, implying that the idea will be kept close, and also somehow on reserve. Not discarded, not rejected. It implies that there will be a time when one will reach into one's back pocket, find a little note about this or that idea, and go, "Right! That was a good idea! Might be something I can try soon."

I found a note to myself like that earlier today, while trying to straighten up my desk a bit (hopeless). It said, "Henriette, talk on history of Reykjavik". She just dissed from Cambridge's architectural history program. I got to get on figuring out where she could hold a talk. That is a quintessential back pocket idea. Not to be forgotten.

Something to eat

Yesterday, I made the silly mistake of thinking the models for the fashion show might want something to eat between 4pm and 11pm. Watching them walk around the ship in strips of fabric (unbelievably beautiful fabric), I realized just how super thin these girls were. They really must have to starve themselves to stay like that. I myself, I do not miss a meal, and I snack in between, which is of course why I decided to decline when the designer offered this morning that I could try on one of the dresses. I am afterall not a size 1.

Exceptional

This morning is an exceptional morning, not in the sense that I am up early, I am always up early. But rather in the sense that I am up early, but wanting very much to stay in bed.

But that would be an exceptionally bad idea, since the museum is a bit disorganized after last night's sorree, but more importantly, I have special surprised lined up for the visitors. I finally today am going to be able to set up the computer kiosks I have been working on for over a year. They won't be in their final place (nothing ever really is in a museum), and the computer guy yesterday was complaining about the panoramic format of the screen, but I am confident no matter what, they will be a really welcome addition to the exhibition.

A good book

On cloudy days like this, all I really want to do is stay home and read. Instead, the printers came, the computers are getting set up, we are hosting Stoð 2 kvöldsfréttir tonight and then the premier of Iceland Fashion week is at 11pm tonight, in our main hall. This does not leave a lot of time for reading. On the other hand, a great chance to see some forward thinking fashion!

"You are very beautiful"

After interviewing me, Jón said to me, "Can I ask you, how old are you?" I said, "I am 36". He said, "Well, you are very beautiful." My mind reeled to try to understand the connection between my age and how beautiful I am, wondering if I was more beautiful because I was 36, if he thought I was younger than I am because I am so beautiful, whatever.

Would be interesting to understand what Icelanders consider the optimal age for a woman. This of course varies by generation and area, but for people my age, who grew up in suburban areas in the States, I think we all had the idea that we'd hit our stride in the mid-thirties or early forties. Blame it on the show 30 Something, I guess. All I know is I was really happy to turn 30.

Military identity

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A new radio station started broadcasting here in Iceland this week, Kaninn FM (91.9). The name means "The American" and it is run by the same guy that also runs "Officersklubburinn" (The Officer's Club). The logo for the radio station is a military insignia, and in both cases, photos of men in military uniforms are used in advertisements. For the Officer's Club, this made some sense to me, I mean, afterall, the establishment is in the old military base and was actually the old Officer's Club. But the Kaninn radio station, though using I guess the old tower from the old U.S. military radio station, does not really have anything to do with the military. The old radio station was a way for the military men to forget about all of that, and just relax, enjoy themselves. It seems everything the Americans did here in Iceland is somehow seen as militaristic, no matter if they are just trying to sit back and listen to music.
I hereby propose an initiative to tr…

1814

Today I was giving a tour of the museum to a group of journalists from Scandinavia (I felt a bit bad that I could not eke out more than three sentences in Norwegian before reverting to English). One of them was from Denmark, and after we'd done the tour, and were standing around having coffee, he asked about how people here in Iceland were handling the recession. I told him I thought it had been tough, but that maybe people's ideas about private companies and capitalism were changing a bit.
He then made the most wonderful point. He started talking about what had happened to Denmark in the early 19th century, about the loss of the fleet to the English in Copenhagen Harbor in 1809, and then the loss in the Napoleonic wars that forced Denmark to give Norway (and Iceland) to the Swedes. He said after these defeats, Denmark rallied, poured its energy into the arts and cultural fields, and from this sprang a new identity. He talked also about the events after WWII, when the Scandina…

Plans

I am trying to plan something Saturday night with the Berkeley Icelanders group. Oh my goodness, what a nightmare. No one from Reykjavík really wants to come down to Reykjanesbær, I suspect. Missing out on a great view, and some great humarsúpa. The pizza is good too. And yeah, there's this new museum....

The problem with success

In Iceland, more than in any other place I know, when a person is successful at something, shows a talent or an aptitude for this or the other, everyone in the whole country suddenly decides, 'That is the man for the job.' And then it is like no one would even consider interviewing anyone else, if the 'World Famous' painter or whatehaveyou wants to do it, then everyone else backs away and lets them do it. Here I speak from personal experience.
The painter is happy to have work, I am happy to have work. But that does not mean that I do not also want colleagues I can talk to, does not also mean that the overall quality of the product would be improved by greater dialogue, greater involvement. People tend to stagnate at the one thing they are good at, when maybe they would prefer to try, and fail, at something different.

Nixon

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No American politician would give the Nixon double victory sign.

Carpooling

My friend Cassie and I are giving it a go at carpooling into the city together. She's found out about a semester long program for graduates in International Relations, and having gotten her degree in that subject in Australia, thought perhaps she might learn something of interest taking classes here in Iceland.
It is a funny thing with those of us who met up through the facebook group Away from Home, Living in Iceland. Because we were all crazy enough to choose to move to this country, is that really a good basis for making a friendship?
The thing about a new friendship, like any new relationship, is it tends to intensify the small parts of oneself that one shares in common with the other person, and sometimes it might not even be the part of oneself that one finds all that interesting. One keeps one's fingers crossed that there will be lots of small connections, so that there is a feeling of being able to be more of oneself, instead of only a tiny part thereof.
I'm glad t…

September 1st

I've been looking forward to it becoming September, having given myself some sort of rough schedule for what I do which month in terms of my dissertation. Today I figure out what the heck has been said about Vallar Ljot's saga.
My own little May 1st, four months late.

Kemur mér á óvart . . .

that the clock is almost 2am. After dinner, I did the dishes, decided to take a shower, lounged around, then my parents called, then Palmer called, then I got snacky, and here it is 2am, and I have some stuff I have to send off to the printer before 8am tomorrow morning, when my carpool starts. The clock is always sneaking up on me, catching me off guard.