Showing posts from April, 2013

Random thoughts

Yesterday when I was waiting for the Bart train, I noticed a bee on the ground. The bee was, for lack of a better word, stumbling around. It was not able to fly, and it also seemed unble to walk in a straight line or even stay on its legs. It made me think of the articles I have read about bee colony collapse, the mysterious circumstance where bees suddenly stop retuning to the hive. The latest I have read about it is that it is caused by something going wrong with the bees sense of direction, such that although the bees want to get home to the hive, they cannot find their way back. And without the nourishment of the honey, they all start to die. What is causing this navigational failure is still uncertain--cell phone transmissions for instance have been offered as one explanation. But yesterday I was sure it was caused by another culprit I've heard mentioned: pesticides. After this thought occurred to me, I spent the rest of the train ride imagining a book written two hundred ye


I have a neighbor named Beverly, a petite African American woman in her late 50s or 60s, who works with handicapped adults. She is a humble, kind, and extremely genuine human being. Sometimes I see her walking to the train station early in the morning, and I give her a ride. When my brother is here, he does the same thing. When I went out of town for a week over Christmas, she watched my three cats for me. She is a really good neighbor. When I lived in Iceland, I remember feeling ill at ease with most of the people living in the same block as me (except of course my friend Ko-leen). I never had any idea what I was supposed to talk to them about, and I resented the feeling that they knew more about who I was and what I was doing in Reykjanesbær than I knew about them. I was trained by the American suburban living experience of the 1980s, where one does one's best to never speak to the neighbors unless there is an entirely practical and logical reason to do so. Perhaps my time in


Today the course I am teaching, Scandinavian 123, begins the final section of the course, which I titled "Transformations" when I made up the syllabus. I just noticed that I put the topics in a really random order on the original syllabus, but hope my student's will appreciate my efforts to fix that with an amended syllabus today. One of the challenging things about teaching this section is trying to decide how exactly to explain how Viking raiders turned into Medieval Christians. Models of cultural change generally depend on a diffusion model--i.e. that Scandinavians saw how things were done in mainland Europe and then copied it--based on some sort of idea of logical progression and rational human preference for more efficient systems. Such an explanation is largely unsatisfying, in as much as most cultural systems are neither that logical nor that permeable. So first one has to assume that Viking culture was somehow perceived as insufficient before one can hypothesize

Not a Viking diet

About two years ago, the head of Framsóknarflokkurinn, Sigmundur Davið, said he was going on a "Viking diet", which meant to him a diet in which one only ate meat and dairy. This annoyed me, since it was based on some sort of stereotype of the barbaric Viking that ought not be floating around Iceland, of all places. The real diet of late Iron age Scandinavians ("Vikings") was not low carb: first of all they drank a ton of beer, and secondly, they ate plenty of bread. So I am not on a Viking diet. I am however on a low carb diet, which means I have stopped eating bread or other starches (potatoes, corn, rice). Basically, no white fluffy food. This has been working pretty well for me, although this morning I stopped by a cafe and ordered an omelet for breakfast that I was not too pleased with. Not only did it take a long time, was clearly microwaved, and had a slice of American cheese on top (which isn't really cheese at all, it is a "cheese like product&


Unlike many of my intellectual friends, I go to church on Easter Sunday. It is an important part of my life, and a tradition I plan to keep up and pass on to my son. This year my son and I went to a small community church in Moraga. They were really friendly and happy we attended.