Showing posts from September, 2015

Movies from the 1990s

Tonight I watched bits of Sleepless in Seattle and City Slickers, two extemely American films that I suggest Icelanders watch if the wnt to understand anything about Americans over the age of 30. I must say that I have never particularly liked the idea behind Sleepless in Seattle, because it seems to me Meg Ryan's character falls in in love out of pity, a sort of Florence Nightingale affect. She hears through the medium of the radio that he is deeply depressed and hurt, and this awakens an emotional empathy that makes Meg dump the person she is with. The movie ends at the moment the two main characters finally meet, as if that's the end of the story, for the man in Seattle to be on the road to recovery with a nurse at his side. I prefer the understanding of relationships developed in City Slickers. There is such a great range of relationships in that film, but I always liked the one best of the guy who has gotten divorced and is on the path to getting stuck with his whiney

Trip to Iceland in January

I am not a proponent of people going to Iceland when it is especially cold, wet, and dark. But the airfare is cheap, and I think some Americans don't realize just how different Iceland can be between the winter and the summer. Like the person asking my advice the other day on where to go in Iceland in January, with a rental car. It will be their first time there! Gack, they had of course already bought the ticket, so what am I supposed to say? Just stay in Reykjavík and use tour buses if you absolutely must leave the city, I guess. There is some safety in numbers, and in having a local guide, someone who knows very well what Iceland can be like, and can protect you.  I learned my lesson though, living there. There were days and days in January and February when I did not leave the house, when the snow was blown up half way up my door, and it was so windy on the roads it was impossible to drive. I was living there alone, in my own apartment, and it was frankly scary. But I put on


I don't think there is an Icelandic phrase equivalent to the America phrase, used to describe a person with a colored past or a complicated life: S/he's got a lot of baggage. As a person who herself has a lot of baggage, it would be interesting to know exactly how that sentiment is expressed in Icelandic, or if Icelanders don't really have the concept. The latter is possible, since it seems to me generally that Icelanders do not expect people to have clean, simple, uncomplicated lives. But the former is also possible, that I just have never learned the phrase in Icelandic. It would be helpful, especially right now in my life. So if any Icelander reads this blog and knows how to say it, please let me know what it is. A bit more explanation might help clarify how this idiom is used in modern American English. For instance, if a woman is divorced, and has a kid from that divorce, she has baggage. If she comes from a family that has suffered from substance abuse or alcohol

Flækjast yfir heiminn

So at the same time that Justin Bieber decides to go to Iceland for quick 2 day visit, Pope Francis takes a trip to Cuba and Washington D.C., and the President of China comes to Seattle. All of these disparate events are interesting to me for very different reasons, and resonate on different levels, and on different scales, but are newsworthy in their way. Justin Bieber might seem like the least important, but because I always keep somewhat of an eye on what is going on in Iceland, I actually was quite interested to see how much Bieber would tweet, etc. about his trip, since that could impact tourism in Iceland. When he was younger, I thought he was quite cute, and now I feel awkward about that, since he is only 20 or so now I think - so yuck, 5 years ago he wasn't even legal. I also feel guilty that I don't think he is attractive now at all. People change, my tastes change, I guess that is normal, and maybe it isn't just his looks that are unattractive to me now, maybe i


As someone in the field of Old Norse manuscript studies, it is pretty silly that I haven't read Iceland's Bell yet. The novel by Laxness is, from what I understand, historically relevant to the field, and was probably influential in the repatriation of the manuscripts. Today I guest lectured in a class, where the students had read several chapters of the book, and it was awkward that they had read the book and I had not. Even more awkward was my attempt to gloss over the fact that I hadn't, since of course I really have no excuse. But oh well, no one is perfect and there is no need to go around beating oneself up. I didn't do anything else terrible or silly or even inappropriate today, in fact I started the morning with a call to my son and ended it by listening to a choir in a church, so a nice wholesome day. And yet for some reason I've been very depressed, as if something went wrong a long time ago that I don't know how to fix. I have cried three or fou

Fair and unfair competition

The United States, as the capitalist capital of the world, is supposed to require competition in the marketplace in order for there to be a healthy economy. So powerful is the capitalist metaphor that even in the non-profit educational field, the sense of competition can permeate relationships. I am however not a good capitalist. On Friday, I was at the Nordic Heritage Museum, offering them free advice. Then this week, I will be up there three or four times, doing free labor. So some might say I am being disloyal to my own place of employ, the Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University, if I help my "rival", the Nordic Heritage Museum. Only I don't see it as a rivalry. In my mind, culture and education, and cultural education, requires an overall advancement in general knowledge and information, because people can only be interested in preserving something they are familiar with. They have to have a certain level of confidence and competence. But it

Intestinal parasite

Anyone who's checking up on my google searches recently would have noticed a slew of searches about a weird little amoeba called Blastocystis hominis, which I found out I have living in my intestines. I might have picked it up in Europe this summer, or I might have had it for years, since I was a kid spending my summers on a sheep farm in Icelamd. I've been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrom since I was 16, after all, and this amoeba is highly associated with that continual irritation. But my concern at the present is not to figure out where it came from but to figure out what to do about it.  The doctors aren't sure if it actually causes any diseases, and they aren't sure how to treat it, so I don't know what exactly my doctor will prescribe. I did however find out there was a health food supplemeant, one of those probiotics, called saccharomyces boulardii, which sounds like Parisian sweetener and might do nothing at all, but it's available over the count

Faculty house talk about Iceland

Today I gave a lecture at something the folks at PLU call the Faculty House, which is actually a private house where the faculty members often gather to have lunch during the weekday and beer after work on Fridays. Once a month on Wednesdays, they ask a faculty member to talk about something that might be of general interest, and I was asked to talk about Iceland. It was only a 20 minute talk, and I mostly gave my opinion on when to go, what to see, and where to stay (basic recommendation: Sept./April, see the churches and lighthouses, stay in a hotel in the countryside). Some people in the audience had been to Iceland before, including a geologist, the university pastor, and the university archivist, and the latter had roundly disagreed with my assessment that the Blue Lagoon was over-rated. As they were in the midst of eating lunch, I told them I wouldn't go into details about why I don't recommend the Blue Lagoon, but I did hint that it had to do with hygiene. Another pe

Drone attacks

I listened to a very upsetting "Fresh Air" broadcast today, driving home from work, on National Public Radio, about the US Citizen killed in a drone attack in Yemen in 2011. It had been such a good day, productive and interesting, good meetings with my dedicated and passionate colleagues. And then to listen to that on the way home, made me really upset, I was crying several times during the evening. What a country I get to live in! Yeah! My tax dollars at work! (sarcasm...) Made me really, really miss living in Iceland. I guess I may be starting to plot my return to that rocky outpost in the middle of the North Atlantic. I made myself lamb steak and stewed red cabbage and scalloped potatoes. Kind of sad to fix such a fancy meal just for me, but my original plan had been to take some beautiful photos of the finished product - my blog needs some food porn. But I was too upset to bother with that. After eating, I had write a response paper and found myself being especially hon

Distinguishing Donald from other Ducks

This evening, I engaged in my new-found habit of walking over to the exercise equipment on the other side of the lake. On the way there, I walked past a group of ducks, all settling in for the night (it was just after sunset). This got me thinking about Donald Duck, who is, for reasons I innately understand but cannot adequately explain, much more popular in Scandinavia than in America. I suppose it has something to do with ducks being natural. 1   Conversely, Scandinavians probably can't make any sense of why Americans would even remotely like Donald Trump. So, well, I think that may have something to do with the American definition of leadership. I was listening to a radio show this morning, called literally the boss show , and they were talking about the qualities that make a good leader. I was in a Leadership Training program all last year, and had to read articles and books like the one they were discussing, so the program caught my interest. What makes a good leader? Th

Pleasantries to Pass the Time

I suppose it might be terribly American of me, but I like to talk about work, and what is going on in my workplace. I am kind of a workaholic, and ambitious in the sense that it is important to me that my work be meaningful and forwarding a purpose beyond my own wallet. It also might be terribly American of me that I will just strike up a conversation with virtual strangers, and more often than not, steer that conversation towards work. That might seem standoffish or arrogant, but since work is actually personal and important to me, I always feel like I've established a real connection with someone, if they understand what it is like to work at a university, and on odd outreach projects to the general public. At a barbecue we had at my work on Friday, I realized that this penchant was not serving me very well with my coworkers, however. Everyone else was finding ways to laugh and have conversations about light and easy non-work related topics. But I have a weird sense of humor an

I changed my mind

When I lived in Iceland, I found I had to cook a lot, because eating out was really expensive, and I couldn't keep showing up at my relatives house around meal time, hoping to get fed. So it is nice to have days like today, when I stay home and cook meals that will last me through the week. Its funny, because before I lived in Iceland, I didn't have any trouble eating many meals out, especially because in the US, one can get a warmed over burger for a dollar at any corner store. But I guess I developed some self respect somewhere along the line, too.

16th International Saga Conference

Before attending the Saga Conference in Zurich a few weeks ago, I have to say I was not looking forward to it. I even tried to convince my work that they shouldn't send me, since my funds were supposed to be for travel to Scandinavia, and that conference was not in Scandinavia. Why didn't I want to go? Well, partially in recognition that I have changed, professionally speaking, from a saga/Old Norse specialist to more of Scandinavianist with this job. I was conflicted about having to revisit that part of myself, which I had rather let go of, starting when I finished my dissertation.  Frankly, I have been enjoying the opportunity to redefine myself that comes with working at PLU. I am really obsessed with moving forward in life, and not looking back, probably to a fault. Going to the saga conference therefore felt rather like going backwards. On the other hand, as a scholar, one spends so much time building up a deep familiarity and knowledge of a subject, and it also feels li

Folklore on the farm

I had a nice heart to heart with my son this weekend, where we touched, among other things, on my dislike for modernity. "You think everyone should be living on a farm!" he said to me, in a way that made that sound like a bad thing. So, yes, I confess, I think everyone should be living on a farm, or at least have a garden or greenhouse. I am not quite sure how we were all manipulated into not having gardens, but I imagine the goal was to get everyone to go shopping at grocery stores. Capitalism and consumerism, I really do resent being caught in that system. Not to idealize subsistence farming, but that is one of the allures of Scandinavian Studies for me, how recently back in time Scandinavia was a largely rural society. When I was in Norway this summer, I was amazed at how apparent that still is, in the way people live. Boy that would be nice, to have a farm in Scandinavia. I would of course never complain about having a farm in Iceland, but I must say, in Scandinavia,

Memory foam

After a 12 hour drive, I am glad to be home, but a bit too amped up to go right to bed. Plus, my mattress is not the most comfortable. I have had a series of bad mattresses, starting from when I moved to Iceland 8 years ago, all of them hand-me downs that were pretty wore out. So I am looking forward to having the time and money to buy a real mattress, and would definitely prefer one of those memory foam mattresses. I like the sound of that, as if the mattress would really get to know me, remember me, comfort me and support me. Haha, maybe I need more than a mattress for all that.... This blog has really devolved. It has basically nothing to do with Iceland anymore. I do apologize, for those that come here because they are expecting insights into Iceland. I do occasionally have something to say about Iceland, and may use this blog as a way to think through and prepare for a talk I am giving on the 16th about Iceland, but in reality, I haven't lived in Iceland now for over 4 years

Apple trees

I am working on an exhibition called PLU@125:Lutheran Education on the Frontier, which will open later this month at the Nordic Heritage Museum. So I have been learning a lot about Lutheranism generally, and Lutheran education specifically. The idea behind the exhibition is to get across the uniqueness of PLU, but not in a way that is some PR spin, but rather as a historical and cultural phenomena. When Scandinavian and German Lutherans first came to the United States, they moved to the Midwest, and lived in small rural towns. So here is where it gets interesting. By 1900, there were 15 Lutheran colleges and universities in the Midwest, each one serving its own ethnic and religious base. The liberal Swedes had their college, the conservative Norwegians had theirs, etc. In the exhibition, I suggest that PLU was established originally on the assumption that the same thing would happen on the West Coast, that it would be a repeat of the Midwest. But that is not how it turned out. Inst

Upsetting realization

Apparently, everything I have been writing the last few days hasn't been saving properly, or at least I can't find any trace of it out on Google Drive. I guess it was only getting uploaded to one server, and not to the backup system, or something. Anyhow, that is really frustrating, because I thought it was something I could share with a wider audience, which would definitely have helped move things along this weekend. The even more frustrating thing is that I didn't realize it before I left, otherwise I could have maybe emailed the files to myself or something. So now I need to apologize to my co-worker. What a bummer. I am of course 700 miles away from my computer, and did not even consider bringing it with me. It is old, and heavy, and carrying it around is like carrying around a ball and chain. Plus I don't want to be tied down all weekend with more writing. Jeez, I am really upset. That realization coming to me at the end of a long day of driving is especially

Worth the risk?

I am driving 700 miles one way, so 1400 round trip, in four days, which is actually not that fun, especially for my sensitive knee. And it is actually a bit risky. Today my Audi informed me that I needed maintenance (namely, an oil change) in 400 miles. So my sister and I tried to figure how to check the oil before I hit the road, but with no luck. The owners manual had an illustration that is apparently for a different model, shows a little orange dipstick not visible on my model. One can hope that hitting the road without doing all the required maintence exactly right won't lead to tragedy. It's like the odds of getting hit by lightening, right? And to make the odds lower, we can say like getting hit by lightening in Iceland, where there is no jolts of electricity raining down, just wind and rain. My Audi deserves better than this kind of Russian roulette with its engine, but I hope it forgives me. We've got a long way to go on the I-5.