Showing posts from May, 2011


My dissertation is focused on Þórðar saga hreðu, a saga that is usually considered a late derivative of the classics Family sagas. My feeling is that the main reason people have viewed the saga with suspicion is a question of style. Things happen in this saga too quickly, and they seem rather under-motivated. For no apparent reason, Skeggi hates Þórður, and similarly, Orm just has to marry Þórður's sister, even though she is engaged to Orm's own brother. The whole thing lacks any kind of narrative sense. I would like to think this sudden jump in narrative is not a sign of a false, late, or malformed saga, but rather a sign of a saga that sees life the way it really happens. Some things happen quickly just out of instinct, and other things develop painfully slowly. Real life lacks narrative pacing.

Dusty files

This morning I found the box of files I took with me when I left the Smithsonian. I made a folder for every lecture I gave and every conference I attended while I worked there, from Russia to Newfoundland to Houston and Minneapolis, including two in Iceland, between 2000 and 2003. Unfortunately, this box did not contain a file I called Biblia Contactica, which contained lists of a lot of the contacts I made while working there, like the wealthy oil men in Houston who wanted to help me get Gunnar's ship down to Texas in 2002 when the Viking exhibition was at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I don't know where my binder of business cards are either. Blech, wish I was more organized.

Consolidating my clothes

I am still unpacking from my move from Iceland. Finished one suitcase this afternoon. I have another one still in my livingroom, and a third at my sister's house, but it is getting there, slowly but surely.  As I was putting the clothes in the drawer, and I was thinking about the last time some of those items had been together. For the pieces that I took up to Iceland with me, especially on the first trip, and still own now, it has been a long time since they have been reunited with their California cousins.  Although I know this means for me I'll have more wardrobe options in the near future, a part of me is also sad. The last little bit of letting go of my internationale lifestyle. 

Dissertation duo

My friend Amanda and I have a pact to get our dissertations written this summer. Yesterday we had a long lunch catching up on the news of my trip to Iceland and her family's visit to Berkeley, and at the end of lunch we agreed no more long lunches if we are in writing mode. Last semester she was in a dissertation group with two others, but I think she found it really did not help her much. Because it became about competition, about who got what done, etc.. And that was no good for her self-esteem, or her productivity. I am not the competitive type, so I think I can be a good dissertation partner for her.

Change of grade

I just submitted the paperwork here at Berkeley to change the grade for one of my students. I had neglected to mark in my records the extra points he received for rewriting some of his papers, and that changed his grade from a B to a B+. (The Icelandic grading system, as far as I understand it, is on a 10 point scale, such that a 8.5 would be equivalent to a B in the American system. This may be common throughout Europe; I would not know.) Turning in the paperwork to our department administrator led to a lively discussion of students and their obsession with grades. In many cases, this is not their obsession, but rather their parent's obsession. Students as young as 9 years old, my colleague was telling me, often have it drilled into their heads that they have to get straight As all the time. And this is what leads to plagiarism; it is the student's response to being told over and over again that the final grade is what matters, and not the process by which they get that gr

Sister in Seattle

I had planned to spend a few days in Seattle on my way back to California from Iceland. My sister lives there and it is a good city, a nice mid-size metropolis with plenty to do without one feeling totally lost in the  endless concrete jungle.  However, my sister told me while I was in Iceland that her new job would have her working almost the entire time I had planned to spend in Seattle. She of course said she would be happy to ask her boss for one of those nights off. I did not think this was a very good idea, not only because I thought it was important that she make a good impression on her boss, but more so because I wanted my sister to know that I respected very much her time and the importance of her job. I most certainly did not want to give her the impression that I thought it was more important for her to pick me up and entertain me, than for her to do something that would make her feel useful and productive and, well, part of life in the big city.  I think it is the job of

Glad I made it out in time

Sometime Wednesday afternoon last week, I started wondering about postponing my flight from Iceland until Saturday. It would have given me more time to pack and also allowed me to participate in some social activities I was invited to but had to decline.  Boy am I happy I did not do that.  Flights were cancelled Saturday and Sunday from Iceland because of the volcanic eruption in Grimsvatn, which would have meant I would not have made it back for Palmer's debut performance today. In front of several hundred strangers, my little guy sang loudly, goofed around on stilts, and smiled big.  Grimsvatn would have had a mad mommy to content with, if it had made me miss all that.  

A day in the life

I apologize in advance for this blogpost, which will be more or less a recap of my day yesterday. Because it was quite a day, from my perspective.  It started normally enough with a shower followed by a breakfast of cheese on toast and green tea. By 9am I had gotten all the things I wanted to take with me from my room, the guest room, and Palmer's room packed into a suitcase. But by the time Ko-leen stopped by at around 10am with some apples, I was in slight panic mode, as the realization was settling in that all the stuff I wanted to take with me from the kitchen and my office and my storage closet were not going to fit in my other suitcase. She wisely made a quick exit, but a few minutes later my friend Smári came by with some paperwork for my car (he is going to try to sell it for me while I am away). By the time he left, it was nearly 11:30, and I was hungry. My stomach asked if we could please go to the postoffice with the books I wanted to mail and get some food, but I had t

My car

I cannot really decide if I want to sell it or not, but I guess it makes sense to do so. Here is the car Palmer has named Matty the Mazda. He is for sale.

DV was just laying there....

At lunch today, I happened to notice the latest DV laying on the lunch counter, with photos from the Harpa opening. So I read it while I ate my sandwich. This was in some ways a compromise of my principals. I had cancelled my subscription to that paper last year, after trying it for three or four weeks, because, of course, it is not really a newspaper. But it cannot do too much harm, to glance through it without taking any of the "news" it contains very seriously or too much to heart.

Me and some other foreigners in Harpa

Because I am cleaning out my apartment, I have no food in my house. So around noon yesterday I thought I should probably head out and get myself something to eat. The food options in Reykjanesbær aren't great, so I decided what the heck, I'll drive to the city and take a peak at Harpa after lunch. I made the decision to wear a pair of corduroy jeans and clogs, in the hopes that some people might think I was a tourist.  But my rouse did not work. As I was standing in line--there were lines to get into each performance hall and I chose to jump into the shortest one I found, having no idea what event was being shown therein*--the man in front of me in line grabbed my arm and the arm of the old Icelandic guy standing behind me in line and said, "Þið eruð par, er það ekki?" Thankfully at that moment they opened the door so neither of us had to answer this awkward question.  The awkwardness continued inside. The seating situation was like it would be in movie theatre, b

Lego set

Today Ko-leen and I were going through Palmer's toys, and I told her to take the two hotwheel tracks I had. She was surprised, and wondered if Palmer would not want them back, until I explained to her those sets are less than $15 in the States. In Iceland they cost over 5,000 Kroner (around $45). Plus Palmer has two or three of them still and never plays with them. Just now I called over there and found out Dave bought Palmer a new lego set this afternoon. Lego sets run about $20 to $30 in the States, but I suppose here in Iceland they are 8,000 Kroner at least. Along the same lines, I complemented my aunt this evening on her new prescription glasses. She told me they cost 23,000 Kroner (over $200 dollars) which the cost of a fairly high end pair of glasses in the States. She said that was the cheapest here, and that the most expensive glasses would be 80,000 or so. I had to confirm this with here several times, thinking maybe she meant 2,300 cheapest and 8,000 most expensive (


Yesterday a friend of mine, who grew up in Njarðvík but now lives in the city, was helping me pack up some of my stuff. Afterwards I took him over to his mom's house, and chit chatted with her and her husband for a while. Her husband (my friend's stepfather) grew up in Keflavík, and used to work up at the Base. He remembered my grandfather and grandmother, and remembered when my mom and her family all lived on Túngata. On the way out, my friend's mother asked if I could please take her son with me to America, "because it would be cheaper for her."

All mixed in together

I am honestly not able to clearly distinguish between my clothes and my mom's clothes, or between the items to keep and the items to give away, or between the things I was given versus the things I bought. They are all mixed in together for me, one big lump of "my stuff" scattered all over my apartment.

End of an era

This morning as my plane was touching down on the runway, and I looked out the window, over the rocky, wet, grey landscape of Suðurnesja, I did not feel at all like I was coming home. This feeling of ennui began actually on the flight, when I noticed just how many advertisements there are absolutely everywhere you turn on Icelandair. When I got to the baggage claim waiting area, all I could think about is the time I had been there a year earlier, on my trip back from Stockholm. My friend Ko-leen has partially packed up my apartment, and there are boxes scattered here and there.


This morning I got to spend some time with my parents at my apartment here in Berkeley, having a cup of coffee, chatting about things, and enjoying the view. I have been in California for almost six months, and this is the first time they have been over to my house. I believe we Skype each other almost as much now as we did when I lived in Iceland. But anyhow, I am not complaining. Whether I see them all the time or once in a blue moon, it is always a really nice treat. Plus they gave me a check, so that should make my bank happy.

I am really very fond of Betty

Yesterday I was sewing up a hole in Palmer's favorite pair of socks, which we bought in Iceland last year. They are really well made socks, with an extra thick sole, and well worth the effort of a few stitches. So then Palmer asked me how I learned how to sew. I decided to show him the first thing I ever sewed, a purse I made for myself when I was 10 I think. I keep in in a box along with my photos from Iceland and various other postcards and such. Inside the purse I had actually put a collection of some of my favorite tid bits for my past, including a copy of my 8th grade picture, where I had the haircut I had gotten in Iceland, and the 16th birthday card from my brother Billy, which read, "How did a family tree so full of nuts, produce a peach like you?" - my all-time favorite birthday card ever. Another thing in there was the license plate from my first bicycle, which my parents had gotten for me at the Queen Mary. It was stamped with my name on it, or anyhow, one of