Showing posts from March, 2010


We started our paskafri by having 'traustvekjandi' pizza.


When I got here, they were servicing 35. Now it is 41. Not bad progress, considering I am 43.

Rescue protocol

As was perhaps apparent from my last post, Pálmar and I headed out for a little drive this afternoon. We went over to Kleifurvatn, and then stopped at Sultún, before making our way around to Grindavík and then home. A tour guide had told me yesterday that is the route they use for all the visitors going on the Wonders of Reykjanes tour, and although I did it once myself as part of the Viking Congress, I wanted to drive through there again today. So there we were on a bumpy dirt road in my mini van. When I stopped to take a picture of the lake, I noticed my cell phone had no reception (though it did further down the road). As we crested one particularly steep hill, I began to worry a little bit that this was perhaps not one of my brightest ideas. And then I started wondering what would be the proper response, if indeed something happened to my car while we were out on that little journey. I think the instinct of many people is to try to walk to find help. But then I have heard rescu

The beach

Not quite Laguna, but I like it.

Pine trees

Here in Keflavik, there is something called a skógar garðin. I have heard people talk about it, but have never known what they are talking about. There is no skóg (forest) in Keflavík. Well, yesterday we were driving around, and I saw the sign for this skógargarðin. And there in a large field, with walking paths all around, I saw maybe 50 or so tiny little pine trees. They were practically saplings, but I know they must have been planted several years ago. Trees grow very slowly here in Iceland, but they do grow. It reminded me of the park near the house where I grew up. Last time I was home, I noticed how a pine tree that had been planted when I was a kid was still there. It was not all that tall, actually, since Southern California is not the natural habitat for pinetrees either, and it was rather crooked, but I was happy it was still there, and still growing in its own funny way. Maybe I'll take Palmer to the skógargarðin this weekend, so he can pick out a favorite pine tree


I knew when Pálmar started leikskoli here that he might have some problems. On Friday we found out that he has been fighting with one of the boys in his class, Kristján Gisli. The first day we were there, it seemed to me he liked Pálmar and wanted to be his friend. But I think he did not take it well that my son does not speak Icelandic very well.  So now they are fighting with each other. And I have to say, I now Pálmar is not just the victim here. He used to fight with some of his classmates in California also. In fact, he and his friend Ethan and a little girl named Tory used to have weekly dramas of some sort or another. But anyhow, it does not stop me from worrying about him, now that he's away from the house every day for many hours.

Lawsuits and Intent

Yesterday I read that one of the Icelandic soccer players playing in the U.K. was suing a newspaper here in Iceland for reporting on his contract negotiations. I do not know anything about the details of the matter, but it struck me that this is one of the few lawsuits I have heard anything about since I have moved here to Iceland. Sure, there are criminal prosecutions sometimes, but this is more of a civil dispute, and I am assuming that the claim would be one of monetary loss or perhaps even damage to reputation. Sport figures and business figures in the U.S. sue for those sorts of things all the time. I have always found lawsuits against newspapers for reporting this that or the other have a slim chance of succeeding, at least in the U.S. The reason for this is that the litmus test for civil lawsuits is whether or not the parties were carrying out their original intent or not. The original intent of a newspaper is to report on the news, so that makes cases against them for doing s

Searchlight, NV

For anyone who heard the news reports about the Tea party rally in Searchlight Nevada , where Sarah Palin  made a grand appearance, I did not want the weekend to go past without mentioning that my dad was at the rally. My family has owned a weekend place in Searchlight Nevada for 20 years, and this is the first time I have any hope of anyone knowing what town I am talking about. So it is a big moment.


In my son's apartment complex in California, there are three little boys his age. Here in Iceland, the boys I know are all older than my son. He has two cousins his same age, but they are both girls. And none of them are near as enthusiastic as he is about playing cars.

A really good day

There is a very nice indoor swimming pool in Reykjanesbaer, which was not open today when we went there. This seemed OK to me, since somehow that always felt like some sort of extreme luxury, to be in warm water inside a warm building, when it was in fact freezing cold outside. Plus I am rather used to outdoor pools from growing up in California.

HC Andersen

Yesterday afternoon, my cousin's daughter, who is Palmer's age and who knows English (she lived in Ireland until last year) came over for dinner and a play date. Because she was the guest, we let her pick out what show we would watch, and she chose a DVD I have of some HC Andersen tales in Icelandic. We watched the Matchbox, the story about the three dogs that guard piles of copper, silver, and gold. They come to the soldier whenever he strikes his magic matchbox. They also help him win the affections of the princess. We read this story at Berkeley, and there we spent a great deal of attention discussing the dogs' eyes, and what they symbolized. The cartoon gave the dogs regular eyes, instead of the bizarre spinning eyes in the original. Anyhow, it was nice not to have that distraction, because I think now I have come up with a better interpretation of the story. The matchbox is the soldier's self confidence, perhaps even arrogance. The more confident and arrogant h

Sunny day

Today is a beautiful, clear day, and they are predicting the same bright skies all weekend. When I was a kid in California, a spring weekend like this would call for an all day trip to the beach. There are few places where I can as contently spend an entire day doing basically nothing, other than just feeling the sand between my toes, listening to the waves, walking around the rocks down by the shore, and watching the birds. To sit in one place, but feel part of something more, is such a wonderfully luxurious experience. I get that feeling from waterfalls here in Iceland, too, so I think that's were we'll be heading this weekend (and not to the volcano).

Started a new blog

This blog has started to loose some of its original intent, in as much as I find myself incapable of not talking about my work at Vikingaheimar or my work on my dissertation. So I started a new blog specifically related to the museum, to at least de-clutter this one a little. I hope you find it interesting enough to follow .

Safety in numbers

Today the decision was made that the Icelandic police and other enforcement agencies would not restrict access to the area around the volcanic eruption. Partially this is because the eruption has remained relatively stable for the last 36 hours or so, with a steady but not increasing lava flow. Partially this is because the eruption is not a massive one nor fast moving, so the danger is manageable. But of course the real reason is because there will be an awful lot of people trying to get a good look at the eruption this weekend. Even if the law enforcement proclaimed a ban, it would not be heeded. The eruption simply lies too close to a popular walking path for lots of people not to think that a hike up to it is the thing to do this weekend. The plus side of this is that there will be exactly that, plenty of people up there this weekend. Whenever anyone is trying to do something rather dangerous and unpredictable, it is really very advisable to do it in a group. There is safety in


We sent off a postcard to Palmer's California preschool. Real mail is always a treat for kids.

House plants

Two weeks ago, I bought a houseplant at IKEA, and yesterday my friend Koleen gave me clippings from some of her houseplants. Up until now, I have been reticent to have houseplants (let alone a pet), because I am gone away from Iceland so often and so much. And afterall, plants need to be watered on a steady basis, if there is any hope of them living.


I mean I know the word in Icelandic for icecubes, "klakka".  And I know, very well since I was a child, the Icelandic word for icecream, "ís".  Still, as I dropped off the little boy who had hit his head on Gunnar's ship today with his brother, I suggested that he needed "ís" on his forehead. I blame it on the stress and excitement of the day.


Palmer pulled all the soda bottles out of my fridge, svona i tilefnis dagsins.

Looky Lou

Growing up in Southern California, there were wild fires pretty often. Our family reacted to these events in what, I later came to learn, was a somewhat unusual way. We piled into the car and drove towards the fire, so we could get a better look. This morning I find myself so tempted to jump in the car with Palmer and drive down to the southcoast of Iceland, where a volcanic eruption started last night around Eyjafjall glacier. But I think maybe I should skip it in favor of doing something slightly more sane. 

Jon og Frida

When I was Palmers age, they lived in California. Jon says the same thing he said then: he has the prettiest wife in the world.

Task oriented

I still refer to the head of the Arctic Studies Center at the Smithsonian, where I used to work, as my "boss," I guess because he was the best boss I ever had. Now not everyone feels that way about the man, but his style worked just fine for me, because he was very good at keeping goals firmly in mind, and putting all resources into accomplishing those goals. It was a hectic, stressful workplace, but it was a productive workplace. I knew what my tasks were, and I kept to them. I am looking forward to him coming to see Vikingaheimar. Although he has not been directly involved, I know well enough his expectations to still be following them, even now.


Palmer and I went to Debenhams today, because I figured that was the only store I was sure would be carrying a selection of boy's bathingsuits at this time of the year. I have only been in there once before, or maybe twice, but today it really struck me, just how exactly identical it is to American department stores. Same layout, same selection of goods, same expensive but not outrageous prices, same overdressed sales clerks. Only difference is that there was no bathroom in Debenhams itself, whereas in the U.S., one can always count on departments stores to have nice bathrooms.* *Ladies bathrooms in such stores often have carpeted areas with couches and extra mirrors and counters, actually. It is quite the gathering place. 


This morning I got Palmer dressed and ready for school, only to be greeted by a locked door and a sign saying it was a staff day. I have no idea how I missed the message about this. But on the other hand, such is life here in Iceland. No use making any long term plans, because things always "come up". Today though I think will shape up nicely, since it is a pretty day and Palmer is in a good mood. What tomorrow will bring I can't really say. There is probably some super important message about tomorrow I also somehow missed.


Twice this week, first with Gisli at Arni Mag, and then with Hringur at Gagarin, I had professional contacts suggest that I should bring my son over to their offices because they would like to see him. I thought that was so funny, since I have been working on a daydream exactly along those lines, wherein Palmer and I take a day off from school and work, and drive into Reykjavik, and we go visiting all the places mommy works and all the people mommy knows, just to quickly say hi. But I don't want to push my luck with this one, since he could easily get overwhelmed or grumpy, and then said visits would not be so pleasant. Anyhow, I was just thinking about how nice it was that Gisli and Hringur had thought of that. I guess my contacts at the Smithsonian, and at the Nordic Heritage Museum, would have done the same. Everyone the world over, afterall, wants to meet my son.

Didn't make it

The piece of Honey Nut Cheerios on the left got baked before it was shaped into a loop. I thought that was kind of sad.

Just to get an appointment?

Now I am not one of those advocates for the wonders of the U.S. medical system, since I am well aware of the lack of service it provides to the uninsured. But when my family here in Iceland warned me that I would not be able to book a doctor's appointment, and that I just needed to show up at the emergency room between 4pm and 8pm, I really did not believe them. So today I pick up the phone, casually dial  Heilbrigðisstofnun Suðurnesja, and push one for booking an appointment. After 3 rings the line disconnects. I try again. Same thing. Try a third time, same thing. So then I call back, and push 2 for the switchboard. I ask them if I can have an appointment, and they transfer me over to a woman who informs me there are no appointments through the month of March. Fine I say, can I book one for April? No, to book one in April, I have to call the first week of April. The appointments are only booked one month at a time. She tells me she has to advise me to go to the emergency room hou


Palmer recognises fastfood places with playstructures anywhere. He also recognised the song playing: 'Oh, it's time to get this party started!'

Television troubles

So I have a lot of DVDs from the United States. I also have some Icelandic language DVDs, and now that my son is here, I would especially like to watch those. But of course American DVDs can only be played in American DVD players hooked up to American televisions. Icelandic DVDs can only be played on European DVD players hooked up to European TVs. There has to be a direct connection between two machines speaking the same language. If  you try it any other way, as it turns out, you waste a lot of money and get nothing but snowy pictures.

Svana and Sigga

Two of my mother's first cousins, who grew up around the corner from her here in Keflavík but then both moved to Reykjavík, came to the lecture yesterday. I was so happy to see them in the audience, I almost started crying. Instead, as soon as the lecture was over, and before the questions were over, we all snuck out to start chatting. They asked about my family, especially my mom. And then I told them about my son being here in Iceland. He was over at my cousin's house (I thought the lecture might not quite be his cup of tea), and I so wanted to go get him so that they could see him. They have not seen him since he was 2 years old, and were really curious how he is growing. So now I think I am starting to understand how my mom feels when she comes here to Iceland, and ironically one of the reasons she does not come more often. When she comes, she wants to see EVERYONE: every first and second cousin she used to play with, and to meet those she never did spend enough time with

Bjarni speaks

We closed the exhibition cases at 9:30 and Bjari started his lecture at 11. I am a little tired.

So excited!

Tomorrow we are opening a new exhibition about the landnám archaeological site in the village of Hafnir. It will be integrated into our existing upstairs exhibition dealing with the settlement of the North Atlantic, but will provide a specific example of some general trends. The archaeologist who conducted the dig, Bjarni Einarsson, has been consulting with us, and Byggjasafn Reykjanesbær, which helped coordinate the dig last summer, is also coordinating this exhibition. So the exhibition development has been a neat group cooperation, which suits me very well. I really prefer to have people to talk to, with whom ideas get clarified and sharpened. I think, or at least I hope, that they have felt the same about working with me. I have been a bit picky about how to frame the text and the organization of the exhibition, since, well, I am the curator of the museum. Anyhow, it opens tomorrow at 11am with a lecture from Bjarni. I expect it to be one of several such projects to keep improv

Is it really asking so much?

On Tuesday I picked up my car from the Mazda dealership at Brimborg. New timing belt, new struts or something like that, oil change, etc. It cost about a thousand dollars. In California, when I get my car worked on, especially a dealership, I always, and I mean always, get it returned to me with a wonderful wash and wax and vacuum. It makes it so much easier to fork over hundreds of dollars just with a little 10 minute gesture like that. Instead today I had to try to wash my car myself at one of those coin operated thingies, which makes me feel like I am reliving Footloose. The car barely gets washed, the timer keeps beeping at me, gets banged into by all those hoses, it is just lame. Californians know how to treat their cars right.

The kindest people I know

Alda calls Iceland "Niceland", and in a similar vein, recently a project called Iceland wants to be your friend was started by the tourist board. Now of course there are nice people and good people all over the world doing all sorts of thoughtful things, but as I was explaining to my friends Anthony and Iris, it really does seem to me that the expectation of fellow-feeling, consideration, and sympathy is greater here in Iceland than in the United States. You always have to ask how people are doing, and you have to be genuinely interested in the answer. Sometimes, one needs to go out of one's way to do things that help another person have the time, space, and encouragement they need to take care of personal matters. And so I say with all sincerity, I hope Gunnar's ailing mother welcomes hearing her son's voice, and I hope Bjössi's wife feels much better soon. They are all good people.

Heidurs gestir

Palmer, Anthony, Lilja, and Iris (not pictured) came to see me at the museum today.

Stick shift

Today I returned the rental car I got from Hertz on Friday. It was a Toyota Corolla, and I am happy to say it never accelerated out of control, even though it had an electronic ignition system (was there really anything wrong with turning a key?). When I got back into my Mazda, I was sad to be back driving a car with an automatic transmission. That too seems like something that worked just fine before things got all fancy.  FYI for anyone using Hertz: they give people rides, just like National car rental company does in the U.S. 

Divine number

Even though his mom did not figure out a way to bring a "Robot Party" theme to fruition, and even though more than half of his cousins were not able to make it this afternoon, and even though he fell asleep in the car and therefore missed the "concert that doesn't have gummy bears in it," I think our first day on our own went pretty well. And 120 more to go.

Sleeping in

When my son arrived last Sunday, he got right to playing. Though there were signs of jetlag in terms of his appetite, he was not napping and he was waking up early in the morning all week. Last night he fell asleep on the couch at 5pm, and now, at 9:30am the next day, he is still asleep. I guess he had a lag in his jetlag.

Million Man March

I do not know if this will make any sense to Icelanders, but there is something about the Icesave referendum tomorrow that reminds me of the Million Man March . The rhetoric of social change is a complex trick, where somethings work and other things do not. Somehow someone somewhere comes up with just the right thing to turn to conversation in a new direction, to put attention on those principles and ideas that had been neglected and overlooked in the frenzy to stereotype and simplify. African American males had been portrayed for decades, even centuries, in unflattering ways, and there seemed no way what so ever to make any headway to correct that impression. Then the march organizers hit upon the idea for a march by African American males demanding that men take care of their family and their obligations. So contrary was it to common stereotypes that it just made everyone do a double take, and it sufficiently destabilized the existing preconceptions that new ideas were able to em


Today, mostly as a way to justify renting a big Landcruiser, we drove out to Thingvellir. Palmer got to put on his snjogalla, Lilja got to take a nap, Dave got to take some pictures, and Iris and I got a chance to chat without our children jumping in. There is something so majestic about Thingvellir, I never get tired of going there. I like the way the two cliff faces were so clearly once together, and the speed with which the Ax river flows down the ravine, because it makes me think about destruction and formation. I like the way the place envelopes a person, brings ones attention there, right there and no where else, because there is nothing else to do but confront the rocks surrounding you. And today, for about a half an hour, we were the only people there. As we were leaving, the light snow had turned into a wet sleet, and two small busses of tourists had arrived.

Apartment K

My friends from Germany snagged a small but hip apartment on Hverfisgata with an especially stylish bathroom.


I hope my readers will forgive me for getting a bit sentimental, this fine Tuesday early A.M.. But as I find myself blinking at the clock, unable to comprehend exactly that I have been awake from 3am drafting exhibition script, it occurs to me what it will mean, having my son here with me here in Iceland. He'll be going to leikskoli at 8am every morning, he'll need to be in bed by 9pm every night, I'll have to take him to see his cousins nearly every night, and most of the food I buy will be the things I know he will eat. And I find myself so happy to be accommodating his needs and his schedule into my life, because that is what love does to a person.


Well, we've decided to redo half of the exhibit upstairs over the next two weeks, in anticipation of Safnahelgi, Reykjanesbæjar, because you know things only get done in Iceland when there is an extreme and almost untenable deadline.


We decided to take a little drive.


When I was in highschool, I was in the Model United Nations program and the Mock Jury program. Both of these give students a chance to brush up on their powers of persuasion. Unlike the Debate Club, or the Icelandic style school quiz shows, these were not so much about demonstrating knowledge and individual brilliance as they were about knowing how to work the system. You "won" at a Model UN conference by your school sponsoring the most resolutions to get ratified, so that although it was competitive, the focus was much more on the quality of the legislation itself, than on any turn of phrase of rhetorical flourish. (We followed the actual U.N. floor rules, and those are pretty formal). I was thinking about all that this morning, after noting just how much Palmer's powers of persuasion have improved in just a few short weeks.