Showing posts from April, 2012

Margret Clunies Ross

I have been remiss on blogging the last few days, although I have in mind to blog about a presentation my students gave on Wednesday. It was all about Iceland and mackerel fishing, and it was interesting. But I was busy Wednesday taking care of Palmer, and busy getting ready for my trip and driving on Thursday, and although I brought my computer with me to the conference on Friday, it seemed a bit rude to be typing long things while everyone talked. Now this morning I am a bit groogy, not because I drank so much, but because if I drink at all, I always wake up super early the next morning. Last night was a dinner in John Lindow's honor, and among the many people giving him a toast and saying a few nice words was yours truly. I was the only one with a typed out prepared speech, and although I got plenty of "that was so nice" afterwards, it wasn't until this morning that I was really convinced it had worked out well. Because this morning, getting off the elevator here


Palmer's father is having a colonoscopy tomorrow morning, so I am keeping Palmer tonight so that he can "prepare." I am also taking him to the doctor's tomorrow morning, and driving him back to his house, because he will be heavily medicated. And then Palmer is going to stay with me again tomorrow night, since we figure Dave will probably be too groggy. Which is fine with me, since I will be missing out on this weekend with Palmer anyhow. It occurs to me that in Iceland, one probably would have a large enough network of support to not have to ask one's ex wife to help them out for their colonoscopy.

Two weeks

I have always been a big believer in deadlines and schedules. Although they may not be the universal panacea for all wrongs, they definitely help with productivity. But I am having a conundrum trying to determine what goals to set for myself over the next two weeks, since I will be gone two long weekends in a row, first to Los Angeles and then to Salt Lake City. There is only one thing I absolutely have to get done before Friday, May 4th, which is my presentation for the conference in Utah.  And I am sure I could tinker around with it every day until then, making it better and better with each revision. But that won't help me much with progress towards finalizing my dissertation. So in order to forward that goal, I think I am going to try to get Chapters 1 and 2, which John has already seen, out to my other committee members before I go to Utah. Those two chapters need a bit of massaging and straightening up, but are otherwise pretty good to go. Then I can work on my presen

Christianity in the sagas

On Friday I pre-presented to my colleagues the paper I am planning to give in Utah May 3rd. My department organizes this "practice session" every year, but this is the first time I have participated. I found it very odd, if also helpful. It certainly has given me lots to ponder over, although I haven't quite figured out yet what to make of some of the comments I got. Overall, I am arguing that Þórðar saga hreðu is about redemption, but it seems my audience, or at least the two Old Norse professors in the audience, did not seem keen on supporting that hypothesis. Instead they thought I should stick with the standard, accepted explanation of the noble savage. I don't know if there really is that much of a substantive difference between saying that medieval Icelanders saw in some of the saga heros a prefiguration of Christ, versus saying they saw them as noble savages, moral without having been taught God's ways. But to me, there is a nuanced distinction in term


I once again find myself in the position of wondering whether or not, in a country so full of folktales, placenames, and sagas, if there really is such a thing as "wilderness" in Iceland. A completely unenculturated landscape is hard to find anywhere in the world.

Behavior chart

My son's elementary school teacher has decided to start giving him a daily "behavior chart." This is a piece of paper which breaks up his day into four hour long segments, and for each hour, he gets graded on his behavior. A star if he does everything right without prompting, a check if he needed reminders to exhibit proper behavior, and a circle if he did not follow directions even with a reminder. Yesterday was the first day he got this chart, and there is one star and three checks for the four hours he was in school, written in red ink. Next to each line there is also star in pencil, and I am sure this means the teacher sat down with him and explained to him that he should be getting a star for every line. I don't like him being reminded to act properly any more than I like his behavior being constantly evaluated.

Parents at the park

I remember when my cousin Fanney came to visit me at my apartment in Asbru. There was a playground next to the apartment, and she thought it was strange that there were benches all around the park. So we got to talking about how American parents always go with their kids to the park, and watch them the whole time. Whereas Icelandic parents send the kids to go out and play by themselves. I think there are more parents than kids at the park here in Walnut Creek today.

A proper funeral

Over the years of writing this blog, I have sometimes noted that Icelanders do not always appreciate just how good they have it on their little island in the middle of the North Atlantic. And today I thought of one more. I was driving home this afternoon, taking the windy road that leads over the Berkeley hills (which is really a single mountain), and a commercial came on the radio for affordable term life insurance. Now the thought sometimes occurs to me anyhow, whipping around those sharp turns, that I might loose control of my car and die on that drive, so hearing this commercial brought that idea up into my head again. And I thought about the fact that I do not have term life insurance, which means that if I were to die now, there would be no money for my family to hold a funeral for me. And I wondered if Icelanders realize just how lucky they are, that because they have a State Church, they do not have to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a funeral. In the United States, c


My students turned in response papers to the novel of Norwegian author Amalie Skram a few days ago, and I am now grading them. One of my students has decided the entire novel is an indictment against Christianity, and that Skram is declaring deep, forgiving, understanding love is impossible. I obviously did a very bad job teaching this novel. But it is always hard to know how much to try to give the students life lessons, when I like to think my goal is to give them critical thinking skills, and not to tell them what to think. But in this regard, I did feel the need to gently suggest to the student she was mistaken. There is a difference between selfish love--love that is demanding and unforgiving and self righteous--and unselfish love, that thinks first and foremost of the well-being of their partner. It was that latter sort of love that Skram's character never learned. 

Nigella knows her stuff

For Easter supper this year, I have decided to make lamb and beans, a dish served in Iceland for sprengidagur, I know. But according to the most popular cooking goddess in Iceland (whom I have never seen on television in the U.S.), it is a perfectly acceptable Easter meal. It is funny that Nigella would recommend the same Easter dinner my first husband made in 2000, when we had curators from Finland and Iceland, in town for the installation of artifacts at the Smithsonian Viking show, over for dinner. I remember Sigurgeir from the Arni Magnusson Institute raving about it, and also just genuinely happy not to be dining alone on Easter Sunday.

Good Friday

Because of the way the Catholic Church figures out Easter, some years Good Friday corresponds to the Jewish holiday of Passover, and sometimes it does not. Jesus was of course celebrating Passover dinner when he and his apostles had the Last Supper, so of course the two holidays should always overlap. But they don't, because of some dispute over how to reckon the lunar calendar.  I have always thought the English name for the Friday before Easter was strange--Good Friday--for the day Jesus was crucified. In Icelandic, it is called föstudagur langir, Long Friday, which I guess refers to how the apostles must have felt enduring a painful day like that.  Icelanders take Easter much more seriously than Americans do in other regards also. I do not even have Good Friday off of work, although at least Palmer does. Palmer is spending the day out in the desert with my parents and his dad, riding on dune buggies and watching motorcycle races out in the Mohave, the same thing I did many tim

Extreme cynicism

This evening, I made the mistake of turning on the television while eating dinner, or more precisely put, I made the mistake of not turning off the television after I was done eating dinner. So instead of working on the bibliography for my dissertation, I watched the Jodie Foster movie Contact. I have of course seen it before, but not all that often. I mostly like the fact that Matthew McConaugey's character in the film is named Palmer. But the story is really too cynical for my taste. Despite having the assistance of Carl Sagan to write a few hopeful and flowery speeches about us not being alone in the universe, the film itself presents a very uninspiring vision of contact with beings out in the universe. After billions of dollar's being spent, Foster's character meets someone who looks like her father on a beach that looks like earth, and that is it. The aliens explain this kind of noncommittal first step is how contact works. I understand the reasoning to be that if ma


Palmer will be home with me for Easter dinner on Sunday, and although I am trying to focus on my dissertation, I know I am really looking forward to that day. I already bought the ingredients for the meal, which is sort of inspired by Icelandic Sprengi dagur -- lamb and beans. Unfortunately, I cannot replicate the Icelandic easter eggs here, those wonderful decorative oval cases of chocolate, filled with more candy and a little note telling you about the year. The outside of the egg is decorated with little springy items, like little fussy chicks and candy flowers and you hardly want to crack them open. But once you get through the outer shell, a whole new adventure awaits.  I think though he'll be pretty excited by the hallow plastic eggs I bought, which pop open in the middle, some filled with chocolate, some filled with gummy bears. I am going to hide all over the apartment before he gets here and let him go on a wee bit of an easter egg hunt, even if it is kind of late on Sund

Trader Joe's

From my apartment here, I have three choices in terms of grocery stores. There is a Whole Foods about a mile down the bike path, a Safeway two blocks beyond that, and a Trader Joe's off in the other direction, about as far. This reminds me of living in Reykjanesbær. Safeway is like Bonus, big and the least expensive. Whole Foods is like Netto, fancy produce department and pricey. Trader Joe's is like Kasko, especially in terms of the cozy size of the store, and also the lower-end prices. Not as cheap as Bonus, but a healthier selection of food at a good price. Trader Joe's specializes in their own items, rather than carrying products made by other companies. They do a little bit of that, but you go to Trader Joe's because you want Trader Joe's whole wheat croissants, or because you want Trader Joe's soup mix, most of which is organic and fair trade and inexpensive. They even have their own brand of wine, called Two Buck Chuck (it only costs two dollars). Trade