Showing posts from January, 2012


I am a Libra, and I mean really a Libra. Of the 8 planets, 7 of them were in the constellation of Libra when I was born (not just the sun, which is the main determinant of astrological sign). What this has meant for my daily life is that I have all sorts of weird OCD type things I do to try to live my life fairly. I try to not favor my right side too much, by doing things with my left hand, or putting my computer to my left, or getting out of bed on the left side, as often as possible. I try not to favor pants over skirts: I usually wear one one day and the next the other day. I have done this since I was 10 years old. Same with heals and flats. The article in today made me think of this. When people talk about finding the Golden Mean, I try to figure out what in the world other way there is to do something. Because finding the balance is inborn into me; I really do not even have to think about it anymore.

Hypothetically speaking

So I have been given the opportunity by a company that specializes in the make-believe to do a bit of make-believing myself. If Duffensmirtz from Phineas and Ferb were a real person, and he wanted to make a runestone, what sort of runes would he use? I would not normally engage in such a futile intellectual exercise, except for the fact that I know they are actually going to make said rune-stone. There is a place picked out, a deadline to follow, and so this hypothetical is for real. Unlike many others in my life.


Sunday would have been my brother Billy's 49th birthday. My family did the best they could to find a way to think of him and about him that day, without being too terribly sad. My sister, in a weird bit of paranormal that fits better in with Iceland than the U.S., even had a mysterious message on her phone that morning about Billy, which she thought one of us had sent, but we hadn't. That was comforting, to think that he is somehow still with us, still communicating with us. In a family dynamic like ours--where we are spread out all over the place--it is not so much not seeing Billy that makes me realize he is dead. Even when he was alive, I would go months, maybe even a year or more, without seeing him. It is not hearing from him that is so hard. No emails, no text messages, no phone calls. Not hearing his voice, not reading words filled with his signature wit and intelligence, not having texts from him reminded me to do this or that, these are the things that remind me ev

Always looking for a way out

Students at Berkeley are supposed to take 12 units to be fully enrolled, and each unit is supposed to represent 5 hours of work a week. Since most classes are 4 units, the University expects the students to be taking 3 classes per semester. I am pretty sure this is what I did, although perhaps one semester took a 4th class on a pass/no pass basis. Anyhow, most of the students today take 15 units, or even 18 units, which is totally crazy. And so we, the instructors, get lectured all the time about how much of a work load our students have. Very rarely is it mentioned that this is their own choice; no one has told them they have to take such a heavy load. They sign up for the classes they want to take, and it should not be my job to assign less just because the students have figured out that they can graduate sooner if they stuff their schedules. But no matter what I assign, they always find a shortcut, utilizing what is called "minimizing effort." In other words, they are

Explicate and Simple

Yesterday I went to a teacher training course, in other words a class for teachers to learn how to teach. One of the major differences between teachers at the primary level, and teachers at the secondary level (college and above) is that college teachers do not really know how to teach. They get teaching positions because they know a subject very well. Primary school teachers are teaching things to kids that most adults already know, so their specialized training is in how to teach something properly, given the huge range of learning styles and intellectual aptitudes one encounters amongst a random group of 7 year olds who just happen to live near one another. College teaching is totally different, in that the students of a university are generally speaking at the same intellectual level. But this does not mean their learning styles are the same, nor does it mean their maturity and motivation is the same. So there has been a trend in college level teaching to try to get professors

Charlize Theron

I may be spelling her name wrong, but I suppose you all know who I am talking about. She put in a guest appearance on Top Chef tonight on the Bravo channel to promote her new film, Snow White and the Huntsman. Charlize plays the wicked queen, so the aspiring chefs had to make food fit for a wicked queen. But her role tonight was that of a food critic, which she played perfectly, critiquing how well the dishes were cooked and seasoned. Although I found the premise of the show interesting, it was also sad seeing such a talented actress act so shallow. It was also sad to realize that she is now old enough to play the wicked queen, rather than Snow White.


Yesterday I wrote a blog about a football game, and my dad commented that he was surprised I could write about sports with such alacrity. Part of the reason for this is that I have taken the words of Professor George Lakoff from Berkeley to heart. We live by metaphors. Even the most mundane of things in life contains within it the possibility for metaphorical application to larger and more complex issues. And so to me it is always worth having a conversation even about something simple, in as much as it helps us think about our world. Sports in particular have a plethora of metaphorical layers to them; they are basically a metaphor for life. So to me, there are no boring conversations about daily life. There are only doorways into more interesting subjects that we either choose to walk through or not.

Military retirement

Although I am no longer a military dependent, my son still is. Which means the vagrancies of the military retirement process affect him and his life. After retirement, the military pays for one final move of all household goods. By defacto, this is back to where the enlistment first took place, i.e. Georgia. Of course that can be changed to any destination Dave chooses, and well, since this isn't happening until early 2013, he hasn't made up his mind yet. Depends on where he gets a job. And well of course he'd rather stay in California. Who wouldn't? Well, anyone who was interested in actually buying a house might not. The Bay Area housing market is unbelievably expensive, and recession proof. Well over a half a million dollars for even the smallest most ordinary 2 bedroom house. In Georgia, you can get a 5 bedroom, 2 story home with a pool for $300,000. Makes the Icelandic housing market not seem so bad at all.


The National Football Team in San Francisco is the 49ers, named after the hardy souls who poured into California from "back East" in 1849, when California became a state. This was mostly gold miners, but also businessmen of various sorts, and of course writers like Mark Twain looking for adventure. Tonight the 49ers were playing the New Orleans Saints, a team named for the fact that New Orleans is one of the most Catholic cities in the U.S., besides perhaps Boston. Anyhow, as the saying goes in sports talk, the 49ers "pulled it out", which means they won the game in the final few minutes. And in this case, it was literally the final minute. With 2 minutes on the clock, New Orleans scored a touchdown to pull ahead, and Dave (with whom I watched the final quarter of the game as I was picking up Palmer) walked out of the room, pretty sure the whole thing was over and the team he was rooting for would loose. But they didn't. Once the 49ers got the ball back, a lon

No snow

While Reykjavik has been experiencing a thick heavy snow fall, the Sierra Nevadas and other mountain ranges in California haven't had any snow fall. It hasn't rained here since November. Perhaps that is something to envy, 65 degrees and sunny in December, but without a winter snow pack, we could have another drought year. At least in Reykjavik you have the hope of Spring. We here in California do not.

Charlie Sheen

The other day I saw the youtube clip of Charlie Sheen "winning" and immediately it made me think of how odd it is that Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey, Jr., both dark haired, dark-eyed actors of about the same age, who started out in Hollywood at about the same time, could have turned out so differently. Both had a raging alcohol and drug problem, but one overcame it while the other one did not. I wonder what strength of character allowed Robert Downey, Jr., to pull himself up and remake himself, and what flaw of character kept Charlie Sheen in denial that he even has a problem. I really don't have the slightest clue. But what I do know is that I very much want to go see the new Sherlock Holmes film.


Both the National Museum of Iceland and the National Library have what I would call obvious stairways. As soon as you walk in the front door, there they are straight ahead. Of course at the National Library, one has to choose if one walks up the set to the left or to the right, whereas at the National Museum, it is one semicircular incline. But in both cases they are solid, formidable staircases. Today on campus I was in Kroeger Hall, where the Hearst Museum of Anthropology is, and at the University Library. And I was realizing both of these buildings have an entirely different staircase ethic than the one I encountered at intellectual buildings in Iceland. Both of those buildings have "floating staircases", huge spiral staircases four stories high that are not attached to any walls. And both are tucked away into the interior of the building. For the library, it is the central architectural feature around which most of the library is organized. And it is totally cool. H

30 Rock

Now that I finally have TV again I find myself mostly wanting to watch a show I started to get hooked on in Iceland, 30 Rock. There are reruns of it shown on a couple of different stations at different times, so I can go for about 2 hours most nights doing nothing but watching 30 Rock. I usually try to stop myself. One episode I watched tonight was all about the office trying to cut down on their energy usage, and at the end of the show, Al Gore made an appearance. He was changing lightbulbs at the studio . He was actually pretty funny, and had some good lines. One of them was "Like the old African proverb that I made up says, 'If you want to go quickly, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together'. We need to go far, quickly." All of you hipsters may have already seen this, since it is from 2009. But it is no less true today than it was then.

Either way, the result is the same

I have tackled the conclusion to my dissertation several times; this week I really need to get a complete draft done. The problem is, however, that I have a very associational brain. Whereas the other chapters were focused on particular issues, this chapter is about bringing all the strands together, and I cannot figure out where to start. So this evening I decided I needed to do a detailed outline for the whole conclusion. Usually, if I need to outline at all, I never need to do it more than once. But tonight I have revised the outline back and forth, first starting with one concept and then starting with another. And well the weird thing is, it really makes no difference. It all circles back on itself, one idea brings up the other and can be approached from varying angles with equally interesting results. I guess the problem is that I don't have a final definitive "answer" I am offering, but rather wish to open up for further discussion an array of issues. Because t

A very strange reaction

Last night I was perusing some Icelandic blogs before heading off to bed, as per my usual. I almost hate to admit it, but my heart literally skipped a beat and I had to sit back on my couch and recollect my thoughts after I read this one . Actually, just reading the header got me a bit dizzy. Then I remember that nothing ever gets ultimately decided through the aegis of blog entries, anyhow.

San Reykjavík

Last night me and two friends of mine from the department--Amanda and Nan--plus Amanda's good friend Shannon went out in the city last night. The discussion turned to Reykjavík on several occasions, since everyone at the table had been there at one time or another, and by the end of the night, driving home past the Marina, we even agreed there was something about San Francisco that reminded us all of Reykjavík, especially that part of town, near the Palace of Fine Arts and the harbor. We also decided that the four of us having dinner and drinks at an upscale restaurant before going to an adult mixer at a museum counted as a "Sex in the City" sort of evening. And it occurs to me that was something that also reminded me of Reykjavík. In the U.S., since I was 19 years old, when I have gone out for an evening somewhere, I have done so always as a couple, with a boyfriend or husband. It has only ever been during my trips to Iceland that I would go out on the town with &q

My Dad's 70th

Birthday's are really good days to celebrate, whether they be milestone birthdays or not. This December 31st was my dad's 70th, and I am still replaying in my head all the laughs and hugs and excitement of that adventure. Here's to my dad, and a life extraordinary.


I wrote a blog two years ago about how great the dentist was I used in Iceland, how funny it was that his assistant was the mother of the woman who had been my assistant at Vikingaheimar for one summer. That's how it is in Keflavík. Today I called the dentist I used to use in Berkeley, where the file is still under my old married name. That office has the same assistant it had back in 2007, a woman with a thick accent who cannot spell anyone's last names just from hearing it. The odds that her and I have mutual acquaintances is rather remote. Tomorrow I will be going to my new dentist in Walnut Creek, and the office manager there seems, from our phone conversations, to have a doctorate in dentistry herself. So I am looking forward to going there and hopefully finding a way to fix my upper teeth. I also due for a check up and cleaning. By the time I go out with my friends Thursday night, I hope to at least have the big gap in my smile plugged. That would be nice.

Very strange

On December 27th, I took all the decorations off my Christmas tree, and then Dave and I moved the tree out of the livingroom and onto the balcony. Today I told the building manager that as soon as the water evaporates out of the base of the tree, I will wrap the tree in a sheet and drag it outside (like a mobster would with a dead body) so as to not leave a messy trail all over the building. In the mean time, my balcony has a rather odd appearance. Somewhat Christmassy, but also somewhat sad. I hope not too many people see it like this. Surely they will think it very strange indeed, to have a dead tree out on one's balcony. In fact, I am freaking myself out, just thinking about it.

Hilton hotel

Last night we celebrated my dads birthday, and New Years Eve, at a Hilton Hotel on San Diego bay. My friend Kim got our rooms upgraded, soy parents had a suite and the rest of us on the same floor nearby. It was really wonderful, as if we'd rented a party room. Even better was that when we got into the room, we were greated by a chocolate birthday cake and by bottles of Icelandic water. It was a good night.