Showing posts from January, 2010


Yesterday my mom and I started speaking Icelandic, to give my son some practice before he comes up to Iceland in a few weeks. He may not understand much of it, but I think it is still good for him to hear it, just so he won't be so shocked.

Delicate conversation

It is a maxim of polite American society, that one avoids discussing politics. I am not sure how this maxim came about, since in a democracy, one should in fact discuss politics a lot and with all sorts of people. So I was amused last night when our next door neighbor--who takes care of the mail and the pool for us when we are out of town--came by. The State of the Union was the night before, so that is how the conversation started, but a few minutes into it my mom turns to me and says, "This is the first time they have ever had a political conversation!" The amusing part was that they totally agreed on everything.

School registration

I do not know how the Icelandic school system deals with the fact that from year to year, there is an inconsistant number of students entering the school. In California, all students within a school district are guaranteed a spot somewhere in one of the public class rooms in the district. However, it is not guaranteed that one will always get the school closest to one's home; kids sometimes get bused from one end of the district to the other, to ensure an even distribution of students. We discovered this morning that registration for the elementary school closest to Dave's apartment is going to be taking place when Dave is in Iceland. Now, assuming there are not a lot of kids registering, this will not be a big deal. But, if the school is over-enrolled, and he does not register during those two days, Palmer will not get a spot at that school. He'll get a spot somewhere else of course, but not there, the best rated elementary school in the district, and one of the best in

Nixon et. al.

When I am here in California, I often get the question, "How do you like living in Iceland?", some sort of reverse of the "How do you like Iceland" question tourists in Iceland are asked. And insider/outsider perspective as it were. Just now Sandy, the graduate student administrator for our departmental cluster, asked me this. So I started telling her what has become my standard line lately, about how important it has been for me to be in Iceland now, during all these political and financial changes. How incredible it has been to see history unfolding, and to try to understand how upsetting and unsettling it is for Icelanders themselves. Sandy actually started tearing up a little bit when I told her about it, especially the anticipated report. She said it sounded exactly like what she experienced, in the 70s, during the Watergate period. A loss of innocence. The realization that the government that you trust and respect can in fact lie to you without the slighte


When I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I was so excited to find a radio station called KFOG (104.5 fm), and today driving around in Dave's big black 1996 Impala, I found KFOG again. Same great mix of old stuff and new stuff and obscure bands and world famous performers. So although I am not a registered Foghead, I do consider myself a fan. It is a reliably eclectic radio station. Kind of like a U2 concert at Iceland Airwaves, I guess.


This morning I was cutting up fresh pineapple for a fruit salad here at my sister's house, and I was thinking about what an unusual fruit that is. First of all, as anyone who has driven around Hawaii knows, pineapple does not grow on trees, so I suppose technically they are not even a fruit. Secondly, they have this thick inedible core, which would not be so unusual, except that is not the seed or the stone of the fruit. It is rather the woody mass around which the sweet, juicy part accumulates. Where then are the seeds of a pineapple? This morning I confirmed that pineapple seeds are in the skin of the pineapple. No joke.  The indents below the spikes on the rind of a pineapple are where the seeds form, making pineapples some sort of opposite-fruit. And yet still oh so yummy. Although canned pineapple and pineapple flavored this and that are all around, I do not think I have ever seen fresh pineapple in Iceland. It is probably just a matter of time.


My sister, niece and I went to the playground tonight at dusk, to go swing on the swings and climb on the jungle gym equipment before dinner. I told them about the cool playground right next to my apartment in Iceland, where the swings are even bigger than the ones here in Washington, and the view stretches on for miles and miles. I told them they would have to come visit me soon, now that there are direct flights from Seattle to Keflavík.


My sister has a brown and white English corgi named Chester. Corgi's look a lot like Icelandic sheep dogs in terms of hair type, snout and ear shape, and body length. They are also similar in temperament to Icelandic sheep dog, and generally make good pets. Their main distinguishing feature, though, is their very short legs, which wikipedia explains this way: As herding dogs, Corgis work livestock differently than other breeds. Instead of gathering the cattle the way a  Collie  would, by running around the livestock, Corgis drive the herd forward by nipping at their heels and working them from behind in semi-circles. Seldom giving ground, if an animal should turn and charge the Corgi will bite its nose, causing it to turn and rejoin the herd. Wikipedia seems a little confused on the subject of the short legs of the Corgi, thinking maybe this would be an advantage when herding cattle, but it is clearly a disadvantage herding sheep. I've also heard they were bred that way so

In memory of my brother

January 22nd, 1963 was the day my brother was born, in Virginia, USA. He started his life though here in Iceland, where my mom and dad met, fell in love, and married.  I'm following in his footsteps today, leaving Iceland for the States, and will spend tonight with my sister, Maria. Her and my brother were close in age, and close in heart. They were both also redheads. Here they are with the grandkids. I think my brother inspired the idea for me to go home now, because to him, it was so important that our family stay together, and stay close knit. He was the best one about calling all of the other siblings, he suggested things we could do together, and when we were all together, the love and the joy that came from him filled the whole room. Even after his death, he is still bringing us together. Here is the remaining family, Maria, my dad, my brother Erik, me, and my mom, on the day of my brother's memorial last year.  We miss you, we love you, we thank you.    

Nothing strange about that

Tornado warnings in California and lightening storms in Iceland. Yep, all perfectly normal.

It is a small world, afterall!

When I told my mom about how my stuff is lost, and boxes came to my house marked Brazil, she said to me, quick as a wick as usual, "Why don't you email the guy whose name is on the boxes?" I blinked at this for a minute, since of course it is the shipping companies that need to figure it out. But after a week of them not making any real headway, I took my mom's suggestion to heart. Googled the company name on the box, and the person's name (only the first name, the last name was hard to read in the photos I had). Then I was directed to the Haas School of Business site, UC Berkeley! Turns out this fellow Cal Bear had graduated and taken a job with a consulting firm in Sao Pablo, Brazil! And get this, he is on the same network as me on Facebook, so I was able to send him a message there. He tells me that "his" shipment (ie: most likely mine) is due in two days, and he'll let me know what stuff arrives. Maybe this is redundant to what the shippers are

Golf clubs

I just remembered that I need to be sure to bring my golf clubs here to Iceland on my way back from this upcoming trip. They have been sitting in my closet, and now in the trunk of my car, unused for several years. That is to say, I am not the world's best golfer. But I do enjoy a chance to get out on the course, and sometimes I manage to hit the ball OK even. Putting is less of a problem than driving. Still, there are a few rules about golf I wish they would change. Like in my opinion, when a group is playing a round, it should not be the player that is doing the best that gets the honor of hitting first at the next hole. Instead I think it should be the player that did the worst at the previous hole, had the most strokes. Give that person the first shot at the next hole, maybe there is some hope the rest of the players won't have to stand around as much. I mention this because, well, I am usually the worst player in a group, and I don't imagine the playing conditions

Marble cake

My Amma used to bake the best chocolate and vanilla marble pound cake, so I was so pleased when my friend Koleen brought me one yesterday, as a thanks for using the car. It was freshbaked, still warm in fact. I sliced into it, and remembered the way I used to eat it with my Amma, making sure I got a little vanilla and a little chocolate in every bite. And I still love doing that.

Send in the Marines

I know everyone in Iceland is proud to have sent a plane full of rescuers to Haiti so quickly. I am too. The U.S. Military is also sending Naval and Marine forces to Haiti . This CNN report says 5000 to 6000 troops are there. Those are dedicated hard working people, and I admire what they are doing. I note however that in terms of percentage of the population, 100 people from a country of 300,000 is a lot more than 6,000 people from a country of 300,000,000.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is a Federal Holiday in the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. day. My son reminded me about the Jr. part, which was really cute. "No mom, his name is not Martin Luther King. His name is Martin Luther King JUNIOR." I guess I should have added, "Actually, it is Doctor Martin Luther King Junior" but I did not want to argue with a 4 year old. Anyhow, this is a holiday that has not yet taken on a particular tradition in the United States--no barbeques or blow-out sales--and a lot of businesses ignore it. But at least there is some hope that Palmer will know what a remarkable man Dr. King was, the kind of person who believed equality and justice was attainable, no matter how preposterous it sounded to everyone around him.

Captain Crunch & The Cavity Creepers

The comedian Dave Barry used to have a bit in his weekly satirical article about great band names. He'd be talking about something like going camping, and then he'd say just out of no where, Spikey Pine Cones would be a good name for a band, or something like that. Usually more funny though. This morning I got an email from my sister. She suggests Captain Crunch and the Cavity Creepers as a good band name, Captain Crunch being a ridiculously sugary breakfast cereal that was advertised with a funny animated pirate in the US when I was a kid, and Cavity Creepers being animated characters brought to the good children of the US courtesy of the health department in the 70s. A kid watching Saturday morning cartoons would therefore by bombarded by two contradictory messages. I bet that sort of thing never happens here in Iceland. Anyhow, my sister's daughter suggested that a great name for a band would be "Loaded Diapers", and I just have to say, for the cross-cult

Gift card

I am giving my cousin here in Iceland a gift card for the book store in honor of her graduation from highschool. I recently gave a bookstore gift card to my niece in California for Christmas. Now some say (including my friend David) that a gift card is a silly gift, and I can kind of see this. I remember one time just before Christmas, a guy standing in line in front of me at the grocery store, wanting to buy a bunch of giftcards all at once, just so he could say he was done with is Christmas shopping. So there is that air to a gift card, that the giver was just plain lazy. I guess a person is always supposed to go the full nine-yards, picking out a special gift with all the bells and whistles, something that took ages to track down, beating up grandmothers and climbing walls to procure. And if you aren't willing to do that, then well just admit it and give cash. To me though cash is really impersonal, and totally general. Now a gift card may not be the most special gift, but if


They sell these pre-baked things in the store here called kökubotn. They are, I think, just meringue baked in a flat round layer. They look really good, and are crunchy, but they are also basically tasteless. Stuff is supposed to go on top of them to make them edible, really. The various baking experiments I have tried lately have not turned out so great. The banana bread my friend and I polished off tonight was better than the others, even though I did not bake it right and it fell in the middle, so still not perfect. I'm thinking of baking another batch for my cousin's graduation party tomorrow. I hope everyone won't be disappointed. My baking skills are only slightly above botn standards.


Like many "middle class" Icelandic homes, my cousin has incredibly hip, Italian leather furniture in her livingroom. My apartment has American "middle class" furniture, overstuffed, muted, fabric-clad couches. Sitting in it always makes me feel lazy, it is in fact more fluffy than my bed. I have of course neither the resources nor the will to go buy a whole new couch set. But I have been contemplating whether or not I could buy a leather chair to go with my American couches, even though that's against fashion rules. It would just be so nice to have a chair that was firm and well made, one I could feel was really supporting my back and my legs, one that made me feel secure and cozy, without making me want to go right to sleep. Today Dave is getting new furniture delivered to his house: a suede covered chaise lounge chair and a custom ordered fabric couch. But this blog entry has nothing to do with that.

Can't decide

My cousin just sent me a text message asking me what I was doing tonight. She's having a glass of wine, her husband is out of town. I should go visit, sounds like fun. However, I had planned to work on stuff for the museum tonight, it being after dissertation hours. But then, how boring am I? Is work that important? Well, yes, kind of since I'll be out of town starting next weekend. I hereby admit I never had this problem in California. No cousins sent me text messages with last minute invitations there.


In the United States, or at least in California, contact lenses are treated like prescription drugs. You have to have a doctor's note to get them, and the doctor's note has an expiration date a year after it is written. When I want contacts, I go to the optometrist, get a prescription, and then I call 1-800-Contacts and they send me a year supply. Since I do not wear contacts every day, this year supply usually lasts me two years, if not more. (I alternate with my glasses, switching back and forth). Well, about two months ago, I realized I was reaching the end of my supply of contacts, purchased several years ago, actually. And I was wondering what to do about this. Squeeze in a visit to my optometrist in California, during my few precious days there, and then hope the shipment of contacts arrives before I have to leave? Time consuming and expensive option, I was not keen on it. So yesterday, I was at the Apotek here in Iceland, and my eyes happened upon two shelves full of


I was thinking about my orange tabby, Ember, today, after I saw a posting on facebook about my friend's cat that died. I would really like it if he were here with me in Iceland now, he was such a good cat. But on the other hand, he would have really hated the 6 month quarantine. I've heard it is up in the northern part of Iceland, and I have also heard that even though the pet is in quarantine, the owners can still go visit it. Not sure how the logistics of something like that would work out, but I would have probably figured out a way. 


I am watching the fog form against the mountains, and it is reminding me of the cloud bank that pours into San Francisco Bay, over the Golden Gate Bridge, most everyday. It is a natural phenomena, caused by the differential temperatures between the water and the air.

Falling into the same old pattern

I like to think it is the Californian in me, raised on an ethic of water conservation. But really, I should do the dishes more often.


I have to admit I am kind of looking forward to going to Berkeley at the end of the month. Not only do I need to see my son and my parents, but there is something about campus, and the town itself, that opens up one's mind and thinking. I highly recommend it for anyone in need of inspiration.

Navel gazing

The 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti is the sort of tragedy that makes one think about one's own personal safety; at least it does for me. I grew up in earthquake country, and the memories of those tumblers form a central core of my childhood experiences. Now I still live somewhere prone to earthquakes, though the ones here in Iceland are usually shallow, which means they are much shorter in duration than the ones in California, as far as I understand it. To me it is more nerve wracking to live on an island, knowing how easy it would be to get cut off from the world, how much one has to be able to rely on the resources available right here. Iceland is better off than Haiti both in the sense of having more resources and having building practices that withstand earthquakes, I know that.  I can't help but feel, though, this morning a little more grateful for the wind whistling outside my door, and the rain wetting the window panes.

Vallar hjalli

I have already registered Palmer in preschool here, even though he won't actually start until March. So that means I am getting the emails now about special events at school and reminders to parents about this that or the other. The school is across a big field from my townhouse, so I think Palmer and I will walk over there, even if the weather isn't so perfect everyday. I get emails from a parents group I was part of in Berkeley still too, but that has 10,000 members and information about everything from gardening to garage sales to teething problems.

Dett í, ofan á, úr, út

I´m not sure if someone had dett í (gotten drunk), or if það bara dett ofan á (it just sort of happened), or if some dett úr (forgot), but at any rate, my household goods dett út (have disappeared). Let's review the chronology here. Early August packers from the shipping company arrive at the apartment in Moraga. They load my 4 large plastic containers and 8 cardboard boxes, plus one baby crib, into their truck. I watch my things depart. In September, I ask the friendly girl (Magie is her name) if she happens to know when I might expect my stuff. Late September she tells me. I am most impressed. Extremely so. Mid October rolls around, and I have not gotten a call. And it occurs to me that I am going to be traveling through November. Hmm. So I call again. Well, yes, she tells me, looks like your shipment should arrive on the 31st of October. Now here I admit that maybe I was a little lacks. I had a lot to do before my trip, and so when they did not call me, I did not follow


I noticed the other day that the plastic food storage containers I have bought here in Iceland are grade 5, PP, the worst kind of plastic. It breaks down and seeps into the food the fastest, especially if the food is fatty, and with each wash and each spin in the microwave, it gets worse. In Berkeley, there was always a big selection of grade 2 or grade 10, or even non-petroleum-based food storage containers. My strategy here in Iceland will henceforth be to have no left-overs.

Social media

I am facebook friends with Egill Harðar, and I read Andres Jónsson's blog, in the hopes that somehow or another I will absorb enough of this social media stuff to be able to implement some of it with Vikingaheimar. We already added to our homepage a Twitter and Facebook link in an attempt to be more savvy in this regard. But I don't know much about it technically speaking. It seems to me that the principle is one of giving people the feeling of lots of options. Lots of ways of getting in touch with a certain company. Lots of ways to participate in that company's activities, to become part of its development. A chance to identify with it, embrace it as part of oneself and one's life, and not just a place to get a particular thing or service. This sort of model fits in very well with museum practice and theory. A museum is a place for community building, for people of like minds and like interest to come together and develop new ideas. Thus clearly I like the idea of so

Saga Trails of Iceland

Vikingaheimar is supposed to provide information to tourists about other historical sites in Iceland. So we decided to have a computer kiosk with an interactive map and the option for visitors to email or send to their phones the addresses of places they are interested in visiting. Gagarin, the company doing the computer interactive, advised that we be selective about how many locations to put on the map. Well, for about a year now, this has been lingering over my head. Somehow it became my job to select which places would go on this map, and then to write up a paragraph about each one. I have been putting it off and putting it off. Yesterday, a co-worker tells me that the head of the Saga Trails Association, Ragnvaldur, is going to work with Gagarin to get this computer kiosk done. At first I thought, hang on a minute, because you know I have thought about it a lot and have some ideas of how it could or should be done. But then last night a joyous feeling overcame me, as I realized

Shipping Update

I do not think I am being bizarrely pedantic when I admit that it is not a nice feeling at all, to have no idea where in the world my stuff is, and when in the world it is getting here. The shipping agent in Singapore sent one short email Friday afternoon (his time) stating that he did not believe a shipment for Iceland could get confused with a shipment for Brazil, which was just oh so helpful. I am assuming he is now out for the weekend. I'm having a Kafkaesque response to it all, not upset per se, more like just unable even to process or engage with it.

Sure footing

Not only did I not slip on the coat of ice covering everything this morning, I also managed to express some of my cares and concerns about a new exhibition project to a coworker adequately, in Icelandic, and for the first time. I think this will help with division of labor and execution as we work to install new components in our main exhibition gallery. At least I know it could not hurt.

15459, 15456

I was perhaps not necessarily looking forward to unpacking several boxes of books, but it was nevertheless a relief to get a call this morning, telling me that the shipment I sent from California in August would be arriving at my home here in Iceland today. Friends had warned me this was a risky, time consuming, potentially catastrophic endeavor, but I took no heed. So my stuff was first shipped to Singapore, so what? So it was "consolidated" there with other stuff coming here to Iceland, no big deal. Perhaps a bit circuitous, a bit complicated, but I figured it would all work out in the end. Well, well, what should arrive today at my lovely, icy front step, but 7 boxes, all nicely labeled with the name and address of someone in . . . BRAZIL! 7 was not a lucky number for this stranger in Brazil, whose fate is now inexplicably tied in with my own. An email to the shipping company reveals that there were two shipments from Oakland, California, one destined for Brazil, the


Oskar, an Icelander who lived in California long enough to have almost become native, and I had dinner tonight, and of course two misplaced Californians like to go to vegetarian food. So that was good. Over dinner I told him about my grand plan to hit all the best holidays in the U.S. and Iceland, since Iceland does Christmas and New Years better than the States. Thanksgiving and Easter on the other hand are fun in the U.S., and almost non existent here. Oskar reminded me I should not forget about Halloween, and we worked out I could hit both Halloween and Thanksgiving if I booked my tickets right.  Yep, it is good to have dinner with those in the know. 

iceskating versus skiing

It was so nice to go iceskating on the pond in Reykjavik today, just like I thought it would be actually. And even though it had been years, it did not seem like it at all. My skates slipped right onto my feet, just like I remembered, no problem, as if no time had elapsed at all, and I skated just like I had before, not too fast, but smooth. I have also skied since I was 14, but somehow everytime I go skiing, it feels like the first time all over again. I think it has something to do with a fear of the chairlifts, but I am not sure. Anyhow, two runs into it and I am usually back to myself, able to enjoy it. Still, this winter, I think I will stick to iceskating, and leave skiing for next Christmas.* *unless someone offers me a ski cabin out of the blue.

Swimming lessons

The other day, I was talking to Palmer's dad, asking him whether or not he had put Palmer in peewee soccer or not. He hadn't, and was instead looking into swimming lessons. Those also did not seem like they would work, timing wise and also in terms of the quality of the program. Dave read an online review that was mixed about how affective it was and critical of how many students were allowed to enroll at once, so he's decided to skip that and was considering a private tutor. I had a private tutor when I was learning how to swim, my dad. It took maybe 2 weeks, or less, and then there I was, swimming away. My dad also taught my two nieces how to swim. Anyhow, we agreed I would look into swimming lessons for Palmer here in Iceland. And if that does not work out, I know of a really great private tutor who might be up for the job.

Jason (not from the horror film)

For 20 years, I've known a guy in Cambridge, England. He's the son of a plumber, became a plumber himself. He's also quite the world traveler, which is how I met him, and as I have come to discover through the years, incredibly good at staying in touch with all his friends around the world. He was the first to get me signed up to Skype, pestered me about it for two years I think before I actually signed up. Anyhow, today I asked him about Icesave, expecting any minute a tirade about how unbelievably irresponsible Icelanders are and threatening to come blow us out of the water (not really, but then British journalism is so strange, one never quite knows what to expect). Instead he shared an anecdote making its way through the press, about a little old lady who went to take her money out of the Royal Bank of Scotland this week, and in the process launched into a full scale lambast of the teller, of the bank, of banking in general. We came to the conclusion that this sto

Presidential power

Well, so Ólafur Ragnar did not sign the Icesave law the Althingi just passed. In the United States, a Presidential veto hangs over all legislation, all the time. Recently, the line item veto was approved, which means the President of the United States can sign a law into being, except one clause here, one article there. Whichever little tidbit he finds particularly distasteful, gone. This is why, when there is an election for President in the United States, it is of huge national concern. That person wields tremendous power. Not only can he decide whether or not to sign a law, and amend it in the course of signing it, he also appoints all the heads over all the governmental agencies, and controls the army. I mean, Ok? Right? We get it. Your life is in this person's hands, honestly. But we in the United States, we know that going into the election, we know it throughout the campaign, we know it when we vote in the legislators that have to work with that person, we know it the wh


I am heading out to The Pond, either today or tomorrow, since I have it on good authority that it is frozen. I started iceskating at the indoor rinks in California when I was maybe 17 or so, mostly because I was really good at roller skating and wanted more of a challenge. Bought my own skates when I lived in Columbus, Ohio, and used them pretty often there, even more often in Washington D.C. There is a skating rink in the sculpture garden right next to the Natural History Museum, so that was convenient, if crowded. Since I have moved to Iceland, I have not been iceskating at all, come to think of it. I do not know any iceskating tricks, I cannot twirl or jump. For me, a girl from Southern California, I think being able to stay upright and move forward is enough of a trick.

New Year's Resolution

I am not one for making New Year's resolutions, since generally speaking I am not much of a rule-goer-byer. So this is less of a resolution than a realization. I need to save money this year. I suppose lots of Icelanders, and Americans, are in the same boat. Around New Years, people were looking back over the last 10 years, and for me and some of my friends, 9/11 stands out as a defining memory for the decade. My cousin in Chicago and I were talking about it, how the only thing American's were told to do after that event was to "spend, spend, spend!" That was the way to fight the terrorists, that was the way to win. Thankfully, that has not been the mantra here in Iceland to the shock of the banking collapse. So I think if the last decade was the decade of spending, this should be the decade of saving.


Today I am rearranging my bedroom and the guest bedroom, and found myself hanging up some clothes, including my brown wool suit. I bought that suit in 2002, for the opening of the Smithsonian (a.k.a. "my") Viking exhibition at the Minneapolis Museum of Science. The exhibition had traveled to five other cities before coming to Minneapolis, and at each new venue, a head of state from one of the Nordic countries formally opened the exhibition. In Minneapolis, Ólafur Ragnar had the honor. He had, in fact, also been to the opening in Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. Anyhow, the local news wanted to do a big segment on the exhibition for their Sunday morning program. So the PR person from the museum contacted me, said that me and the President of Iceland would be jointly interviewed for the live segment. My very first thought was, "What in the world am I going to wear?!" because well, Ólafur is one fine dresser, that much is certain. I went out and bought a very ni

Happy New Year!

For several years I have heard about how great the fireworks are in Reykjavik for New Year's Eve. I assumed everyone was talking about a firework display put on by the city, similar to what is done on menningjarnótt, or even ljósanótt. So although i was invited to a party in the city with a "great view of the fireworks" I thought it was just as good to give it a pass and stay local here in Reykjanesbær. And wow am I happy I did. Because as I began to understand sometime after we'd started on the turkey and mashed potatoes, on New Year's Eve here in Iceland, every other family in Iceland puts on their own fireworks show, in their front yard. When I was a kid in Southern California, we used to all go see the official fireworks put on by the city for the 4th of July. That was usually at 9pm or even a little earlier. Then everyone would find their way back home, whereupon all the neighbors would gather in the street with their own stash of fireworks, some cool drinks,