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Showing posts from July, 2010

Professional development

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Oskar needed the flight hours and I needed a good view of Skagafjordur

All ready

I have never been on a private plane in the United States, but once, 5 years ago, I went up in a small private plane around Skagafjörður as part of the archaeological project I was participating in that summer.

Today I am going up in another private plane, again to fly over archaeological sites in Skagafjörður. That landscape surprised me the first time I encountered it, and has held my attention ever since. I look forward to getting to see it again.

And I am all ready, maps printed out, camera loaded, and nerves calmed.

So glad

I came into the city today, and although I certainly enjoyed the drive in in this lovely weather, I was even happier to discover that the library was open. With the big holiday weekend coming up, I really was not sure.

Writing

My Verslunamannahelgi weekend plans call for researching and writing, because you know I need to finish my "great contribution" to Old Norse scholarship. 
I do believe something similar happened to me when I worked at the Smithsonian. I spent Labor Day weekend 1999 working on the exhibition catalogue, which really was (and is) a sizeable contribution to Viking scholarship.*
* And now available at Vikingaheimar!

Surrounded by nice friends

A few months ago, Laurie left Iceland and moved back home to the States. We all miss her, especially her best friend here in Iceland, Verity. I was just noticing on Laurie's facebook page that she has a picture of her and Verity in Iceland as her profile picture. I thought that was so sweet.

I know a lot of Americans who have a sizeable collection of Icelandic friends, and one of the reasons they come back year after year is to get that great feeling of being surrounded by nice friends and quality people. There is not much more we could want from life, really, than that.

Thanks Verity, and thanks Laurie, for posting such nice pics. An American-British friendship made in Iceland!

Paternity leave

The political advisor to the Cultural Minister sent an unfortunate email yesterday out to an American journalist. The email was in Icelandic, so it seems the journalist forwarded it on to the Grapevine, which is an English language newspaper here in Iceland. I suppose they just wanted a translation. Grapevine however recognized that this was no ordinary press-release cleaned-up email. No, this was an email meant for an Icelandic colleague, someone in his own political party presumably, not the foreign press. Grapevine published it with delight, since it included both a funny vulgarity and a bit of political spin in action. Anyhow, the guy who wrote it then revealed that he had been working at home and that he thinks his son must have started playing on his computer, which is how that email got sent to the wrong recipient.

When I first started dating my ex-husband, who was and is in the Coast Guard, I was really surprised how easy it was for him to leave his office for a few hours to t…

10pm

I am watching the long shadows and pink hews of sunset creep across the landscape of Reykjanes from my office window after a good day with some Icelandic sagas.

Love

Over the last few days, several bloggers here in Iceland have been involved in a debate about whether or not atheism is a religion. Now of course that sounds preposterous in a way, since atheists do not believe in a god. But if one looks closely at the details, it is apparent that there is an "atheist movement" in Iceland led by a group of people who: meet regularly in private to discuss their ideas; actively lobby the government to change its spending practices; and hold public events wherein they try to gather more supporters. It was on this basis, the tendency to proselytize, that at least some of the argument turned.

One blogger in fact found this tendency especially annoying, and compared it to the religious person who did not make a big deal out of going to church, who was fine with the idea of the Bible being written by man but inspired by God, and believed in evolution with the caveat that God started it, etc.

I woke up this morning thinking about this, about this ty…

Things that matter and things that don't matter

The female first cousins had lunch together today, which was really nice, we have not done that in a long time. Though the conversation lightly touched on issues of fashion and a bit of family gossip, we stuck more to amusing anecdotes out of our recent trips, etc.

One slightly disturbing story however involved two of my cousins having to keep on driving past another friends house, when they saw the "criminals" standing outside having a beer and cigarette. Fanney dropped the word in there very casually, so I had to stop the conversation and ask "glæpamenn, ha?".  She said it was a man who had kidnapped a man in Sandgerði, put him in the trunk of his car, and then forced him to withdraw large sums of money from his ATM. This same guy then later beat up an elderly couple whose grandson owed them money, harming I think also their greatgrandson in the process. I said "Wow, why hasn't the guy been arrested?" My cousin then informed me he had been arrested,…

Digging deep

I was just reading an article by Torfi Tulinius from 1992 using an archaeology/literature metaphor, which made me happy. I would rather like to believe I am not so much out on an intellectual limb as I feel like I am.

Archaeology metaphors really a great, not only in terms of digging deep, but also very carefully. Looking at each detail, discerning variations in the soil, documenting it all.

But right now I feel more like the metaphor of Lucy walking through the closet*, pushing aside the fur coats to get to the snow covered trees of Narnia. To find my way past the insignificant stuff to the significant stuff.

*of course the metaphor there was reaching deep within yourself to find kindness, responsibility, bravery, and honesty. It has in that sense perhaps not much at all to do with scholarship.

My PhD

It was very un-Icelandic of me to decide at midnight last night to drive home from Reykjavík. Indeed as I was walking to my car, downtown was filling up fast. The weather was good, there was no wind, and everyone was dressed up and ready to hit the town. Except me. I was ready to go home and get a good night's sleep.

One reason for this is that I had spent Saturday working on my PhD, and it was the first really productive day I had had in a while. I think today will be the same, because I feel myself focused and interested and motivated. It is, actually, impossible to write otherwise.

Plus I have started to get excited by the idea that this is "my" PhD. So many other accomplishments in life are collaborative, say for instance having a child, but I feel very much on my own in regard to my PhD. And if I can get it done quickly, then that will be even better.

Two different conversations at once

Last night me and some friends from the Away from Home Living in Iceland facebook group met for dinner, etc. Many of us had not seen each other in a long time, some had never met, but all of us had one or two people we knew well at the table. I was very glad to meet Ösp, a textile expert, so we of course spent some part of the evening talking about Viking Age sewing techniques.

But it is always that way, in a group that big (there were 10 of us) that there are multiple conversations going on at once, and small parts of it here or there were even in Icelandic.

Sunset

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And I am on my way home.

Neighborhood kids

Last night Dave was telling me a story about a "discussion" he had with his neighbors. Seems Palmer was riding a scooter, and ran into their two and a half year old son. The neighbors claimed Palmer did it on purpose, and had done it several times this week. Dave did not take kindly to this suggestion.

Dave lives in an apartment complex with a central courtyard, built in the 70s when I think architects were trying to create spaces of community within their plans. Like the town I grew up in, Mission Viejo, which was a Master Planned Community meant to encourage walking and socializing and neighborhood.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the architects and urban planners, California and the United States are too populous, too dictated by capitalistic ideas of "choice", too accustomed to the nuclear family, and too organized around their workplace culture to really put all that much effort into getting along with or getting to know their neighbors. It is not, …

Body language

I remember so well my 5th grade teacher talking about body language. She used the example of when she had parent/teacher meetings--which she admitted could sometimes be really stressful--what a difference the positioning of her arms made in terms of how well the conversation went. If she crossed her arms and sat across from the parents at her desk, things went badly. But if she left her arm to lie across the table, her hands open, or if she scooter her chair around, things went entirely differently. She could say the exact same thing, and get a very different response just by changing her body language.

Anthropologists say that body language is not universal, and of course I believe them that there are some tribes in the Amazon that express joy by punching things. But I have been rather relieved to find that,  unlike the Icelandic spoken language, getting fluent in Icelandic body language was pretty darn easy. In fact I think I have not even noticed much of a difference in body langua…

Air conditioning

When I was in Florida, I was freezing inside all of the buildings, which were chilled to 70 degrees, and dying outside, which was a very steamy 90 degrees.  With just one step, there was a huge and sudden change in temperature and humidity, bam! I was not sure which change I liked less, honestly, going from the heat to the cold or cold to the heat. But usually I found myself more anxious to get out of the air-conditioning than out of the heat.

Iceland does not have air-conditioning. Of course there might be some computer room somewhere with some sort of cooling system, but no homes, no public buildings, not even the grocery stores (outside of the refrigerated rooms) have air-conditioning.

So today I went up to the airport to fill out some paperwork (and try to get Icelandair to update my frequent flyer account), and was, for the first time in my life here probably, rather appalled at the conditions in the arrival hall. It was jam packed with people, there was no air circulating, and i…

Don't look at me

I may have to delete this post shortly after putting it up, because I probably should not say anything at all. But I just think it is so hilarious, that I have landed right in the middle of some big complicated political power struggle over everything from world peace to natural resources just by helping get a museum started in Reykjanesbær. I thought my biggest problem was going to be the kind of white power nationalistic rhetoric that swirls around the Vikings. But little did I know that sleepy old Keflavík is also a hotbed of controversy on an international scale.

Which is good, really good. Makes life a lot more interesting not to just be doing academic navel gazing. And someday I might even have enough appropriate experience to handle it well.

Thai food in Keflavík

I owe a friend of mine dinner, since he helped me out a few weeks ago with the Viking class we had at the museum. I suggested that if he was willing to come back here to Keflavík, we could go to the great Thai food place on Hafnagata. This was completely out of the question as far as he was concerned, based on the simple assumption that Thai food in Keflavík could not be good (even though I assured him I had eaten there many times and found it to be one of the best Thai places I have ever eaten at)l Instead he suggested we go to an Indian place in Reykjavík. 

I have lived in a lot of big cities in the U.S., and all of them have had minority ethnic groups whose restaurants round out the culinary scene. Usually there is a critical mass of one group or another, such that one can completely trust that Chinese food in San Francisco and Ethopian food in Washington D.C. will be really good. So I have to say, in all honesty, that "Indian food in Reykjavík" sounds just as silly to me …

Mexican food continued

Today I am enjoying the left over Mexican rice and spiced refried beans I made Saturday night for dinner, wrapped up in a whole wheat flour tortilla.

It occurred to me that some Icelanders may not be as used to making burritos as I am, so I hereby pass on a very useful trick I learned in Southern California.

Place a tortilla directly, ie: without any sort of pan, on top of a hot stovetop range, either gas (low flame) or electric (high heat), for a few seconds. The tortilla will puff up, at which point it should be turned over and remain for a few additional seconds. Remove quickly.

What some people fail to realize is that the tortillas sold in the stores are only partially baked, and the last bit of browning is supposed to be done at home.

An electric range will need to be immediately wiped down, otherwise the gluten in the flour hardens onto the surface. Also, on occasion, especially on a gas range, I have ended up burning the edges, but even a burnt tortilla tastes better than a hal…

Tequila

I am not a big drinker, but I made the decision, in honor of the fact that my coworker Óskar is heading off to school in Florida in the fall, to prepare a few Borderstate specialities for his farewell dinner last night, among which would of course be margaritas. (I also happen to have a set of real margarita glasses that usually just sit up on my top shelf). But there is no way to make margaritas without tequila.

So yesterday I drove over to the state liquor store, in search of tequila. I really was not sure if it was even available here in Iceland, and had a heck of a time finding it in the store, but finally down on the bottom self in one corner, I spotted the silver and gold types of one brand, Jose Cuervo (which has a sombrero-shaped lid). I would have of course saved some money had I purchased tequila either in Florida or in the duty free store at the airport, but I did not think the price was too bad. And so I tromped home triumphantly.

None of my guests had ever had a margarita…

9:15 California time

Tomorrow is my son's birthday. For the first time, and the only time, he will be in California for his birthday, and I am here in Iceland. He has spent every birthday here in Iceland, and the plan is for him to spend his summers in Iceland henceforth. Of course, we have usually celebrated his birthday a week earlier or later over at his grandmother's house in Georgia also. This year though he'll be home at his own house for his birthday, having already had celebrations in Iceland and Georgia. 
I will however make a special point of Skyping him at 9:15 California time, since that is when he was born. And as the astrologers say, it is not just the day of the birth, but also the hour that makes a difference in how one's future unfolds.

10am!

In Berkeley and in Washington D.C., downtown street parking is tricky business. Anyone parking their car in these places has to be sure that they read carefully the sign stating the parking rules, and also that they are careful to read the right sign. On one stretch of road, it may be OK to park without putting money in the meters from 6pm until 9am, but further down the same street, it may only be Ok from 4pm to 7am. Or no parking allowed at all every third Wednesday of the month. Or only 30 minutes of parking on one side of the street, but 2 hours on the other side of the street. A dizzying array of permutations and exceptions that vary not only by section of town or street but also section of street. Though these rules generally have some rational explanation (flow of traffic, presence of school, etc.), they are clearly also intended to trip up the careless driver, who ends up with an unexpectantly high and unpleasant parking ticket.

This is my excuse for awaking in a cold sweat th…

Crisp and clean

The air in Iceland is so nice, and the temperature just right, with a light breeze and a few puffy clouds. This weather will beat the hot, humid Florida weather any day, at least in my book.

Travel companion

Well, I had Palmer with me on the flight from Iceland to Boston, and Icelandair has this great policy of giving kids on board a free meal. He of course did not eat all of his hamburger, so I got a meal too! Now today I am flying back without him, and miss everything about having him with me. Someone to talk to, someone to sit next to, someone to share food with, someone to walk beside. Amazing what a difference a travel companion can make.

The Gulf

It is rather surreal, staying at a beachfront hotel on the Gulf of Mexico while the BP oil well gushes forth. There is the temptation to just put it out of your mind, just ignore it, pretend it is far away or does not matter. Afterall, the sand is still warm and soft, the sun is still shining, and the waves lap gently against the shore. So on the surface, things seem nice. And I think a lot of the people have made the decision to just go with that surface appearance, forget the news, forget history, forget all that is brewing and dying just off shore. Certainly it occurs to me to just slip into that lull, because of course, I myself am fine.

But I do not really want to forget. I am in fact looking for reminders of what is going on off shore, asking the waiters where their fish comes from, talking to people at the bar about the oil leak, taking photos not of the beautiful scenery but of signs of the catastrophe. Because I sense it is meaningful, and I want to do something about it, even…

Putt putt golf

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My brother and I did 18 holes of golf here in Pensacola last night. Mini golf that is, with a jungle island motif.
I think Iceland needs a putt putt golf course.

Hotter than you know

I sat at a beachside bar this afternoon, watching the Blue Angels Airshow (photos did not turn out so well). And I got to talking to other people there at the bar. One guy was just amazed that I live in Iceland. He had question after question about it. Interestingly enough, it seemed he had neither heard of the banking collapse nor of the volcanic eruption, so I could do like Iceland Inspired and just talk about all the great things there are to do and see in Iceland. And I made a point of the fact that it is hotter there than one would think. He was suitably impressed with the little factoid that snowfalls melt in Iceland a day or two later. No hard frozen, icy depth of winter for us.

On the plus side

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Sure, we almost got eaten by an alligator, and the jetski dented my brother's car when the trailer broke, but on the plus side, we now have a good story. Always good to let people imagine I have an interesting life.

Watching HM

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At the crab trap, Perdido Key.

One world order

Down here in the deep south, people believe in the bible, and they believe in Armageddon. My brother and I had a really interesting conversation about it, and he brought up a really good point.  The bible basically says that as soon as there is a single world government, God will reign down wrath on mankind. Which does not give people a lot of incentive to cooperate, to come together, to be one.

So that is one thing to be said for state-sponsored, institutionalized religion.

Experiencing darkness

Tonight walking out of the restaurant in Pensacola Florida, I noticed an odd phenomena. The sky had turned grey, and the lights were all aglow. It was after sunset, and dusk was settling in. My friend Kim of course did not think anything of it, but I commented that now in Iceland, it never gets dark.

Obnoxious tropical drinks

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Half price! And I have Kim the Designated Driver.

Deep South

Day 1: It is raining so thick I cannot even drive, but I did manage to get to the neighborhood McDonalds, where they have free internet. And I have been chatting with a man in his 60s whose Southern accent is so thick I can hardly understand him. But I did decipher that he just bought himself a bike at the flea market for a really good deal. I wanted to take a picture of him on his bike, but I forgot my camera this morning. Instead he gave me a drawing that says "God loves me". 
Last night my brother and I talked about BP. They have a live camera shot they show on the local channel now 24 hours a day. It is a heartbreaking sight, to watch the oil gushing up like a blossoming flower set on fast forward. In all likelihood, this area of the United States is dying, and I feel the need to experience as much as I can. 

American fashion

I have been doing some people watching today, at the airport and in downtown Boston. And I had to smile when I noticed that I still dress like an American. Almost every woman I saw has been wearing a shirt of one solid color, and a skirt or shorts or pants of another solid color. And then the shoes usually match the shirt. Sometimes either the top or the bottom has a simple pattern to it, and then the other item of clothing is solid color, picking up on one of the colors in the pattern.

This is how Americans dress. I myself today am wearing a chocolate brown cotton top, a short black skirt, and chocolate brown sandals. Two solid colors an outfit makes, American style.

Happy 4th!

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From the birthplace of America.

Last moments in Iceland

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Spent watching Latibaer. At least it is in Icelandic!

Game time

I just heard the Icelandic commentators for the world cup discussing American football, comparing it to "fútbol". The main point was how terribly long American football games take, that even though the official playing time is an hour, a game actually takes 3 hours. One of the commentators blamed this on how long it takes the referees to decide on plays, and the review rule. Then another disputed that in fact with television cameras all over the field and wireless communication, that actually it just takes them a few seconds to decide on ruling.

It seems none of them realized the main reason American football games take so long is that they are televised. Because of that, the television station actually tells the couches and the players to stop playing, so that they can air commercials. It is not the other way around, that commercials are snuck in during natural breaks in the game (though they are also put in there). In other words, everything is done and has been done to ma…

Officially decided

One says "æ, shít" in Iceland, but "oh no" in America. Not "oh shit".

Thankfully, Palmer agrees.