Showing posts from November, 2011

Triple the fun!

My mom and dad braved the freeways of Los Angeles to come up to see me for Thanksgiving, which is the busiest travel holiday of the year in the U.S.  It is like Icelanders on Verslunamannahelgi or something. Well of course someone has to stay home to bake the turkey, but usually at least three or four other households join in, meaning that at least 2/3 of the population is simultaneously leaving their home and heading to someone else's home, all trying to be there by 10pm Wednesday night. That is a lot of traffic on the road all at once. Today, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the same thing happens again: everyone tries to head home. But the timing is less strict, since some people get sick of their families already by Friday and head home then. My parents stayed all the way until Sunday morning, which is quite an honor really, since they'll have to hit a lot more traffic on their way home than they would have had they left yesterday. So that is nice. Even nicer is that my m

Salvation army

I read about a church taking donations of frozen turkeys to give to families for Thanksgiving, so today when we were at the store, Palmer and I bought a frozen turkey. The store was offering a discount to anyone who bought over $50 dollars worth of groceries, giving 50% off the price of the turkey. Since I spent over $100 I must have gotten an even better discount, because the turkey was only $7 dollars. But when I brought it over to the church, and saw all the people in line waiting for groceries in order to make a Thanksgiving meal, including many families and older couples, well, that turkey seemed very valuable.

Busy week ahead

This week is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., and as seems, elementary school kids in most of the U.S. get this week off. At least Palmer does, and every other child I know. This is different than when I was a kid; we only used to get Thanksgiving Thursday and the Friday afterwards off. But now it is a whole week. So Palmer is coming to stay with me this week, which will be fun. And my mom and dad are coming up on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. Dave is, as always, going to do the honors in terms of most of the cooking, but I think I will at least make some sweet potatoes and a pumpkin pie or maybe lemon bars (my mom left a package of that at my apartment last time she was up, and it is about time it get used!). But actually I am not thinking all that much about the holiday. My mind is still rather preoccupied with the Occupy protests and what has been going on at University of California Berkeley and Davis campuses. On top of that, I have a lot of work issues I am thinki

Real problems

One of my students was a witness to the police shooting that took place here at UC Berkeley on Tuesday. He came to see me during office hours, and we had a long discussion about the horrible event. He said the man who was shot and killed by police was a student he had taken a class with last semester, a rather quiet and sullen young man. The information he had heard was that the young man was a security guard, and the gun he pulled out of his backpack was the one he had been issued at work. It is unclear if the police over-reacted in terms of shooting him when he did not immediately drop his weapon. It could have been that the student simply was sitting down to do some lab work and wanted to have the gun where he could see it, instead of in his backpack; he should have known however that bringing guns onto campus is not allowed. So in that sense it seems more likely that the student might have thought Tuesday--when demonstrations were going on and most of the classes cancelled--would b

Cultural tourism in Iceland

I just finished writing a chapter of my dissertation, which resulted in a much larger discussion of cultural tourism in Iceland than I had intended. But the fact is, this is an issue I have been extremely interested and concerned about for at least 15 years, if not 20. I have never, ever liked the way Iceland is marketed to tourists in the U.S. Everything from the unspoiled nature to the crazy city life in Reykavik. It has always left the part of Iceland I loved--the simple joy of being in a relaxing and lovely place with my family--completely out of the picture. In 2001, I went to Hvollsvöllur to examine the Saga Centre as part of a study commissioned by the National Park's service to look into cultural landscapes as heritage tourism. I thought that endeavor might represent a change in how Iceland was presented to tourists. But in the last 10 years, and especially while working at Vikingaheimar, and at meetings with the Saga Trails Association, I came to see just how completel

Sex scandals

Wednesday afternoon, my son's father started talking to me about the Penn State football coach criminal sexual abuse case. Although I had seen a headline that day about Joe Paterno stepping down, I did not pay it much attention, mostly since Joe is 84 years old and I have been expecting his retirement for a while. But also, I must admit, because I generally speaking keep much better track of Icelandic news than U.S. news. So the sex scandal I had been following was not the one most American's were following. I was instead reading all about the book written by the daughter of a deceased bishop accusing him of repeatedly sexually molesting her through her childhood, and the reaction to that book by the woman's family. Of course I am referring to Iceland's child sexual abuse story of the week. With all due respect to everyone in Iceland involved in this, and with full cognizance of the status and power of a bishop, the child sexual abuse case at Penn State so completel


Yesterday I gave my students an article entitled "The Aesthetics of Reading" which was published in 2002 in the journal Aesthetic Education. The articles thesis was that there are several exceedingly important mental skills that we acquire from reading novels that we do not acquire from watching movies, or even from reading other types of printed material. Specifically, he identified three things 1) the way time is treated in novels, which is rarely a natural chronological flow; 2) the way we have to remember characters, part of a skill he called "funding" and 3) the depiction of conciousness, in the form especially of reading a character's internal thoughts. In all these things he said that the reader's experience of a novel over a very long period of time, at least days if not weeks and months, makes for a very different mental experience than seeing the same narrative in movie form. The elongation of the unfolding of the narrative heightens our reliance o

Holiday Plans

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and Palmer has the day off school. When I noticed this two weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to drive down to Southern California with him, to visit my parents. Then I started having car trouble. And my mom starting having back trouble. And a large rain storm was predicted for the exact day we'd be driving. So on Monday of this week, we decided to postpone the trip, and go down there over Thanksgiving instead. Then last night, things changed again. My dad said he would rather come up to see me in Northern California, than us come down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. So as of today, that looks to be the plan. Thanksgiving is though two weeks off, so things could change again, of course. Do I have Christmas plans yet, you ask? You tell me.

Little red corvette

I am having car troubles. On Friday, my Saab worked just fine, getting me safely back and forth to lovely Stanford University. But on Saturday morning, when I tried to get her in gear to take me to Palmer's soccer game, nothing doing. The clutch pedal was completely flat against the floor, and any attempt to shift gears made a tremendous racket. I just had the clutch worked on by a shop called Svensson Automotive (yes, they specialize in Swedish cars; yes, the owner is of Swedish decent), which is (like any good Swedish company) not open on the weekends. So yesterday was spent getting the car towed from my apartment to Svensson's. Dave was kind enough to let me borrow his second car until my car is fixed, a red Chevy HR2. And that worked out great this weekend for Palmer and I when we went to a birthday party Saturday night and when I took him to school Monday morning. This morning I also took him to school no problem. Then the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me with

Árbók hins Íslenzka fornleifafélags

I think I spelled that right. The library here at Cal has the issues of this journal from 1926 to 1936 bound together and on the shelves. That is it. Nothing from before 1926, and nothing after 1936. Other university libraries in the UC system (UCLA and UC San Diego) have earlier issues, but nothing later. So I went online to look at the digital holdings. I found a Google Library version of the issues from 1885 to 1890. I am reading through that now. And then bingo, the website has all the articles, 1881 to 2001, online. I am enjoying the issue from 1885 though. It is fascinating because back then, 125 years ago, Icelandic was written different. Jeg instead of Ég. Sjer instead of Sér. I suppose these spellings, which make Icelandic look more like Danish, were removed for just that reason. It is also fascinating because of the way archaeologists back then used the sagas in their work and knew all the saga characters and events. Very different from today. So, thanks to

Occupy vs. Tea Party

Yesterday, or maybe the day before, I heard some commentator saying that the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement were two halves of the same coin. In a way, this is good news, because it means that there is space for productive cross-dialogue between the two movements. And indeed they are both upset about overlapping issues,  as illustrated in this diagram . But what this analysis misses is that the two movements have at their core fundamentally different moral codes. The Tea Party wants to go back to the conservative values of the 1940s and 1950s in the U.S., in which Christian Religion was central to defining behavior. The Occupy movement--although it has been depicted as somewhat amoral--has instead a very different moral code at its center. I had heard the term "socially progressive" lots of times here at Berkeley and San Francisco, but I never really understood what it meant, until yesterday when I was reading coverage of the Occupy Walnut Creek event on Saturda