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Showing posts from January, 2011

MY apartment

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I live in the attic of an old house. All around me there are reminders of the former uses of this space, the shape of the ceilings and the entrance through the middle of the floor can only be accounted for by reference to the fact that this was originally an attic. It is still an attic.

But there have been people living it it for quite a while, and each one I think has done something very different with the space. Unlike most apartments or homes, where there is a clear kitchen, a clear master bedroom, etc., this attic has nooks and spaces that can be used in different ways.

Probably the most amazing feature of the apartment is the five small windows all lined up along one nook, with a view that stretches from the Marin Headlands across the Golden Gate Bridge, over all of San Francisco and across Oakland. This is a vista par excellence.

The other people who have lived here have done various things in this nook, as in other spaces in the attic. The photos on line for this apartment show…

Graduate Liaison

My department has asked for one of the graduate students to be an official liaison with the faculty regarding the new hire and also other departmental affairs. They would like it to be one of the graduate students who focuses on Old Norse. The big question is whether it should be one of the dissertating graduate students, or if it should be one still in seminars. I am not sure which one is more professional, nor which one awakens more of a sense of trust in the process. I think I feel a bit too vested in the whole process to be able to    decide something as technical in nature as that.

Brennavín

I had a one shot of brennavín during "Icelandic night" at the Norwegian Club in San Francisco last night, and am, quite honestly, rather regretting it. I was not quite the sparkling engaged discussion leader I like to be this morning. It is foggy here today in more ways than one.

Files

The day before I left Iceland, my computer crashed. Booom! I mean, I knew I had a lot of things on the desktop. I knew I had not updated a lot of the software, and I knew it was an old computer. But I did not think I had done anything to make the computer decide to just erase my profile. Anyhow, it happened at a very inconvenient time, really, really, really inconvenient time, at 3pm on Friday, with my flight booked for  Saturday. There was nothing that could be done Friday night about it, of course, plus everyone told me it would take weeks to rebuild the system and find my files. Ten days before Christmas, I chose to go home instead of sticking around to help recover the files or redo the work if necessary.

My coworker Sveinn recovered the most critical files just now in mid-January, so indeed that took time. I think he had to rebuild the entire hard-drive.

The first day I was at my office here in Berkeley, the tech guy came around and added a profile to the shared computer for me. …

Job Talk

Today one of the graduate students in my department wanted to do a practice of his job talk--he is a finalist for a position at the German Department at the University of Oregon (or Oregon State, not really sure which). So all the professors in the department and most of the graduate students gathered in the seminar room while he did a run through. The talk was well outside of my area of expertise, focusing on the Norwegian poet Jacobsen. My basic understanding of the talk was that Jacobsen would not have been a Nazi sympathizer if he was an accomplished nihilist, but because he was an imperfect nihilist he tended to look for utopian solutions to the world's problems (ie: modernity). In terms of Jacobsen scholarship, this suggests that the normal strategy of ignoring his days as a Nazi sympathizer is not necessary, but rather to understand that he hated modernity so much, even Nazism sounded better.

For my own scholarship, I was interested to hear that a late 20th century Norwegia…

The bell tower

In the middle of campus, with a view straight out to the Golden Gate Bridge, is a big white tower, housing our campus carillon. It sounds out every hour the time, one bell rung for one o'clock, two for two o'clock, etc. I was teaching Palmer about it on Saturday, and he was having so much fun counting the rings. And then everyday at 8am, noon, and 6pm, a ten minute of so song or mini-concert is played. I teach at 8am, and so everyday as I am walking to my classroom, I get to hear the bells ringing to a dulcet melody as I walk past our huge classical library, and I am awed by the beauty of my surroundings.

Grettir and the goslings

My class read the first chapters of Grettir's saga over the weekend, and we discussed it in class on Monday.  The first thing most of them wanted to talk about was the thing they had read last: the chapter about Grettir's childhood. That is the section of the saga where his father keeps giving him tasks that he considers beneath himself, and he finds very meanspirited ways to express his displeasure. He is told to look after the geese and goslings, and after a few days of this his rage at the insult is so great, he strangles all the goslings and breaks the wings of each goose. My students were pretty darn amazed at this description of Grettir's childhood. But I told them we would have plenty of chances to talk about Grettir´s personality over the next few weeks, and wanted instead to spend some time talking about Grettir's ancestors and how they are described in the beginning section of the saga.

Before class tomorrow, I guess I need to decide what to say about this ki…

It has potential

My poor neglected dissertation got literally taken off the shelf and dusted off on Sunday, after sitting around untouched for I guess three months. I spent yesterday and today reminding myself just what exactly I was planning to write about, afterall.

The nice thing--actually, the really nice thing--is that in coming back to it, I am even more excited about its potential to be something pretty cool, an actual original contribution to the field of Old Norse saga studies.

Thank you to the ladies of 1909

Today Palmer and I took a walk around my funky neighborhood. It has a lot of narrow windy roads, many of which do not have sidewalks. Instead, there is like a separate walking path winding through the streets, with staircases cutting between streets in odd places. We set out to explore those today, and came across a sign explaining that originally, the Berkeley hills were supposed to be laid out in a regular grid of streets running perpendicular and parallel to one another, as it is lower down the hill, and in most major cities in the U.S.. However, a group of people with houses in the hills of Berkeley got together and petitioned the township to instead let the streets flow with the curvature of the hills, like country roads do. They also encouraged homeowners to build with native materials and in a way that complemented the terrain. As this plan got put into place, many of the original oak trees and redwood pines were left in tact, and the stairways today wind around some amazing ol…

Update

Last August, I wrote a blog entry about a ceramic sculpture I had purchased. Since this was a purchase made to serve as a lasting witness to my dissertation topic, I of course wanted to bring it with me to Berkeley, instead of leaving it at my apartment in Keflavík.

Only problem is, I did not wrap it well enough. Not well enough at all. When I finally got around to unpacking the suitcase it was in, I found "her" broken into 7 large pieces.

Thankfully, however, all the breaks were pretty clean. Also, the glaze on the statue has a cracked appearance anyhow, so I know it can be glued back together. And I also happen to know of the perfect sort of glue for fixing ceramics. In fact, it fixes just about everything.

And I will care for my dissertation muse much better from now on.

Last time I taught

I was realizing today that I have not sat in the Graduate Student Instructor offices in Dwinelle Hall since August of 2008. It is thoroughly amazing to me to think of all that has happened in the intervening time, and yet to me when I sit there, it feels like no time has elapsed at all. I remember all my students from 2008, I remember what I taught. A fold in the fabric of time, bringing me back to where I was.

Icelandic shoes

Today was a typical San Francisco day, weather wise. A bit cool and foggy in the morning, turning rather warm and sunny around mid-day, and then back to being chilly by the afternoon. And so I decided to wear my Icelandic black leather boots with the toes cut out (yes, high-healed sandal-boots), even though the heals makes walking up and down the hill outside my apartment a bit difficult.

Well, I know not everyone likes to imagine themselves in someone else's shoes, but for those who do have a sympathetic enough nature to do so, I suppose it will make sense to them, why those sorts of shoes were what the day called for. I myself am just pretty darn excited that my $220 shoe purchase at Smáralind will actually come in handy around here in Berkeley.

Attendance policy

It is my understanding that the University of Iceland does not require students to attend class. In fact, I am pretty sure this is a European wide standard.

But in the U.S., attending class is a must-do sort of thing. I am writing up my syllabus just now, and have to put something in there about penalization if the students miss more than a certain number of classes.

Bringing it close to home

Last night my lovely friend Amanda came over, with pizza, flowers, and wine in hand, meaning she was a very good guest by US standards. By Icelandic standards, she would have also qualified as a very good guest, because she also brought with her news. News related to an important current event.

Amanda's father is a professor in Arizona, and it turns out one of their good family friends, a woman they had visited over the Christmas holidays, was one of the 19 victims shot by the gunman in Tucson just over a week ago. She is fortunate to be alive: the bullet that traversed her body from front to back missed all vital organs, and she is now home from the hospital.

Although I was shocked when I first heard the news last week, and engaged in the subsequent media debate about gun control, mental health, and political rhetoric, I must say having even a tenuous link to that event has brought the sadness and human impact of it so much more to life.

Amanda was the one who deserved flowers la…

Viking Telecom?

Well, I believe I may have solved the mystery of why the text messages I have sent to my family and friends in Iceland have not gotten through. Turns out that to send an international text message from a Verizon phone in the U.S. to a phone in Iceland, I have to know which particular company the recipient in Iceland is using. If they are on Siminn (Iceland Telecom) then I have to add a 7 in front of their phone number (but after the country code). If they are on a network referred to by Verizon as "Viking Telecom", then I have to add a 10 in front of their phone number.

I have no idea what Viking Telecom is, and a Google search did not help much, except that it might be more generally known as Viking Wireless, and it is NOT Vodafone. This means, as far as I can tell, that there is no way for me to send text messages to Hjördís and Ko-leen, since I am pretty sure they are both on Vodafone. My attempts to send them text messages last week did not go through, anyhow.

For any te…

Not a "þetta reddast" kind of place

I am working on the syllabus for the class I am going to be teaching starting next week. I went through teacher training a few years ago, and recall one point of advice was to make the syllabus long and elaborate. I discovered actually the first time I taught that I had not been specific or elaborate enough on the syllabus for that class, so indeed it is true. The syllabus is like a contract between the student and the teacher, and it needs to spell out all sorts of particulars.

I suppose it is a good thing though, in terms of preparing students for the real world, where things are definitely going to be complicated and elaborate. I mean, just trying to find housing in the Bay Area is a challenge of Herculean dimensions, and only those who are diligent, patient, and tolerant of elaborate systems will ever manage it.

Teaching

I start teaching a week from tomorrow, and am looking forward to getting the syllabus all worked out this week. I am not a natural born teacher by any means, mostly because I usually think my students already know everything I am trying to teach them. But I enjoy public speaking, and I am not shy or reserved, so in that sense I find teaching fun, as a sort of performance.

The professors in my department know this about me, they know that the museum field is really my passion, and they have always shown me respect as a museum professional who is trying to finish her PhD.  But in order to do so, I rather need to teach. So now I am just trying to convince myself that indeed, I may actually have a thing or two that I could teach my students. And it will be fun.

Wedding painting

I do not know if the tradition of giving a newly married couple a painting is Icelandic tradition, or just if it is something my family in Suðurnesja does. But I was given a painting when I got married the first time, and my aunt in Sandgerði had the artist paint a view of the Icelandic beach. The colors of the ocean are just right, dark blue patches mixed with light grey patches, clearly the North Atlantic.

This morning, I unpacked that painting to hang up in my apartment in Berkeley. Though this apartment has wonderful views over the San Francisco Bay, it will surely benefit from also having an Icelandic landscape perspective.

On the road of life

... it is so important to have a good, reliable car.

I have just driven 2 times from Orange County to the Bay Area. I will do it for the 3rd time this week.

My wish for 2011

Perhaps I am getting old, but what I want most of all for 2011 is a quiet, normal year, without too much travel, without too much stress, but with lots of time to sit and relax and talk to the people I love.

May 2011 bring calmness and purpose to my dear readers.