On Iceland; Links

In case we haven’t gotten around to discussing just how we found Iceland this last trip, have a read of the Reykjavik Grapevine’s article, Curiosity Killed the Quiet. It really captures quite well what we found, and why we cannot see ourselves living there, at least not until they get a handle on their tourism.

On the other hand, here are some pictures of the trip, just because it really is a beautiful place to see.

Iceland 2016 07
Iceland 2016 03
Iceland 2016 16
Iceland 2016 71

In totally unrelated news, here are a bunch of stories I’ve been saving to share with you:


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Life With a Single Bag

Iceland 2016 02

Years ago, T blogged about her inability to leave our first flat in Scotland without a purse packed with what she considered necessities. Everything, down to food and bandages, was carefully packed away, to prevent what she saw as unnecessary limitations to our comfort and happiness everywhere. It took her a long time to trust our lives without a car, without knowing where all the stores were – it took her a long time to imagine that we didn’t need for her to carry everything for her comfort and safety on her back like a turtle. Thinking back on it, it was like she had lived through some kind of natural disaster — but the only disaster, really, was leaving the idea of “home.”

So, what does it mean that we are here in Iceland for a week with only one suitcase between the two of us? Other than that we forgot our toothbrushes, of course? It’s funny to think back to those anxious times, and compare them to how life finds us today — not any less mistrustful of the universe at large, at least in T’s case, but with a surprisingly clear idea of where home is — with each other. Though we’re less comfortable this trip abroad, we’re a little bit less concerned, if that makes any sense.

As the Viking ship indicates, we’re in Iceland at the moment, in pursuit of a work connection D had – one, an interview, the other, a beginning business meeting. One of the connections is very obviously not going to work out, so we’re waiting – still – and attempting to take this in the nature of a vacation — a little holiday from late summer into the land of winter (forty degree temps, of course, it what passes for late summer around here). We’re taking time to sit around on a blustery morning with coffee, doing pretty much nothing but stretching out on an unfamiliar couch with a book. Tomorrow we will bestir ourselves into the countryside with cameras and guide books, in search of waterfalls and “geysirs.” (Tomorrow, the wind may have dropped from 30 mph gusts!) But, for today, we are sitting, and looking thoughtfully at what has changed.

Iceland 2016 15

We first came to Iceland from our lives in Glasgow, and found this country, probably as many British people do, a reasonable exchange. Certainly there was more sunshine, more extremes in weather, more light. The Icelandic people we met remembered us, were happy to chat over coffee shop counters, telling us where to go, what to see. Comparing then to now – our last trip here in 2012 – it seems a vastly different place. Tourism caught fire here in 2014, and has increased about fifty percent each year since. It’s visible in many ways – the hordes of people wandering the streets, unmoored, snapping photographs of everything, even at six in the morning. (Courtesy of flights which arrive at 4 a.m. and nothing open until 9!) The begrimed buildings, sporting, instead of the quirky artistic graffiti murals, random tagging, and the weary people, serving too many guests to chat. We visited our favorite shops and then went away, a little troubled. Nowhere stays the same, of course, but the Iceland we enjoyed seems to be no longer enjoying itself.

Iceland 2016 16

We are not the same, either, of course. We’re older and trying harder to be more realistic about what we can and cannot truly do in the long term. While T can write anywhere, we’re trying to think where is easiest and best, in terms of productivity. While D can work anywhere, the business contacts he has here are best looked at long-distance. Using our most firmly critical and realistic gazes, we don’t see how living here would work out for the best. We’re having to be harder on our dreams and whimsies – obviously because that’s part of being boring old adults, but another reason is that at the end of our lives we don’t want to be left with just whimsy and wishful thinking. We left for Scotland on a whim, but we’re not going to leave the US again with quite so little preparation! We’re hopeful that doesn’t mean not leaving at all, but we’ll have to see how it goes. In the meantime, the kettle is calling on this dark and blustery day, and it’s time for another cuppa and maybe a movie, and then we’ll wrap up and head out into the lashing rain to see what society can be found. People visit California for the sun – we’re visiting Iceland and turning our faces up to the rain. It’s a strange puzzle of a world, isn’t it?

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“Lived reality is always a muddle.”

It is a truth universally acknowledged among T’s family and friends that D. is “the smart one,” in this relationship, and, in the face of a vast body of evidence, T generally concurs… however, as she has just sent him off to work after a failed attempt to start the car without the key, she would like to herewith state the time-worn truth that it’s a good thing that “cute”… can take one a long way in this world. ::cough::

Oban to Glasgow 9

The big buzz in adult literary circles at present, from Oprah on down, is Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. There’s a brilliant New Yorker essay by Kathryn Schulz this month which talks about the actual historical facts of that portion of abolitionist history, and the well-stitched (quilted, even) lies and mythologies which have generally overtaken its history. Whitehead’s novel is kind of a magical realism; the railroad – complete with cars and track – is real, in his point of view, and the novel – which we’ve not read – apparently takes into account who that would work for, and what it would cost them emotionally and physically as well as probably monetarily. Schultz’s essay has some great points about the history, and how Americans tend to view it – and mythologize it – in the general scope of today’s history and politics. Inasmuch as it caused frothing at the mouth for some to consider that slaves even built the White House, it’s obviously easier to recenter the narrative about slavery to the people who helped and healed, rather than who benefited, and to canonize them. We also like to imagine that “had we been there,” we’d have been working shoulder to shoulder with the abolitionists, ever on the side of right.

It’s such a nice fantasy.

The final statement in Schulz’s essay really stuck home:

“One of the biases of retrospection is to believe that the moral crises of the past were clearer than our own—that, had we been alive at the time, we would have recognized them, known what to do about them, and known when the time had come to do so. That is a fantasy. Iniquity is always coercive and insidious and intimidating, and lived reality is always a muddle, and the kind of clarity that leads to action comes not from without but from within. The great virtue of a figurative railroad is that, when someone needs it—and someone always needs it—we don’t have to build it. We are it, if we choose. ♦

Lived reality is always a muddle.

ALWAYS. A. MUDDLE. Oh, for the moral high ground which many people seem to find, and assume that their lives would have been peerless and blameless back in the day. They would have turned away from anything smacking of sexism or racism. THEY would have never kept slaves. THEY would have taken the kids out of the city for a camping trip to Jericho instead of being in Jerusalem the weekend they decided to crucify Christ. Always with the superiority complex, we humans! If it were all that easy, we’d all be swanning around in perfection, perhaps on golden streets. It’s NEVER that easy – life is also coercive, and insidious, and intimidating, full stop. This reminds me to, for the love of God, to give a bit of grace to others in terms of their follies and mistakes in the here-and-now.

We recommend Schulz’s entire essay, “The Perilous Lure of the Underground Railroad” where she considers Whitehead’s novel and Ben Winter’s alternate history novel, Underground Airlines within the context of history, historians, and how it we consider this piece of our collective past today.

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Swallowed With All Hope

Greenock 04

Despite T thinking she was a bit old for it, T’s mother often sang to her a Mr. Rogers song “Let’s Thing Of Something To Do (While We’re Waiting). A jazzy little oddity from the show, Let’s Thing of Something To Do was helpful for preschool teachers dealing with Lifestyles of the Small and Antsy. Sadly, though some of us are *cough* larger now, the antsy-ness has not demonstrably decreased… – if you can’t control any or everything around you, there’s really no point in twitchiness, but astonishingly, it is not a grace that all of us receive, that ability to “possess thy soul in patience.” August is barely halfway in, and already it seems a heinously long month.

So, we wait. This poem is a slightly less catchy (?) version of Mr. Rogers’ song, which we’re holding close in the Hobbiton, in these days of waiting for phone calls, waiting for interviews, waiting for critiques, waiting to finish manuscripts and waiting for this, the summer of our discontent, and this onerous election cycle to be OVER and please God, please, please please can you give us a time machine, and we promise not to skip ahead past February of next year, if we could just miss these next eight to ten weeks???

No? ::sigh:: Okay. Waiting again, then.

Things to Do in the Belly of a Whale

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

~ by Dan Albergotti from The Boatloads. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2008

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For today’s links, I’ve broken things into the depressing list and the happy / interesting list. First up, the depressing list:

  1. “…when a shrinking work force cannot foot the pension bill…”
  2. How connected car tech is eroding personal privacy
  3. Employers are using workplace wearables to find out how happy and productive we are
  4. Microsoft singlehandedly proves that golden backdoor encryption keys are a terrible idea
  5. On Twitter, abuse is not just a bug, but a fundamental feature.
  6. Policing isn’t just broken in Ferguson or Baltimore. It’s broken in America.
  7. The federal government is finally making police report every time they kill someone
  8. Australia Census Debacle: “to retain all the personal info that it was collecting, including linkages to other data, rather than destroying it after it got the aggregate census numbers.”

And now, the happy list:

  1. Never pee on a jellyfish sting
  2. Turns out there’s no actual evidence that honey lasts indefinitely
  3. Australian vaccination rates are at an all-time high after government removes anti-vaxxers’ benefits
  4. NASA has selected six private U.S. companies to develop concepts and prototypes of deep space habitats for Mars

Hope you enjoy these!


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More links for your contemplation.

  1. It Has Never Been Safer to Be a Cop
  2. Interesting analysis of police on-duty deaths (spoiler: there isn’t a war on cops)
  3. On buying into the packaged misogyny that is Hillary Clinton hating
  4. British woman held after being seen reading book about Syria on plane.
  5. Muslim couple removed from flight for ‘sweating’, saying ‘Allah’.
  6. EFF is holding a Database Hunt because the California Public Records Act requires local agencies (except school districts) to publish inventories of “enterprise systems” on their websites.
  7. Being vegan isn’t as environmentally friendly as you think.
  8. Chinese state media says that the ‘straddling bus’ is nothing more than a big scam.
  9. Test flight held for small jet modeled after Miyazaki anime.
  10. Man driving his Tesla suffers a pulmonary embolism … and the Tesla drives him to the hospital.
  11. A bar owner in the UK has built a Faraday cage to stop customers using their phones.

The first two are to dispell some of the rhetoric flying around concerning policing in this country. Link 3 really goes into some depth about how our public discourse surrounding Hillary Clinton has been biased in horrible ways (even if you don’t like her policies). Links 4 and 5 are of interest not only because they’re examples of racism and paranoia at work, but because they demonstrate that so much of our freedom can be arbitrarily taken away because someone “was afraid” – the same excuse police use when they kill people. If any of you are fans of open data and government accountability, consider taking part in EFF’s Great Database Hunt (link 6). If you’re a vegan because you think you’re being environmentally conscious … you may want to think again (link 7). And the rest of the links are just for techie entertainment.


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It’s been an awfully long while since I’ve published one of these posts, as T. reminded me the other day. I think I’m going to get back into the habit. The first three are for your entertainment, really. 4 and 5 are for if you’re interested in the inequalities in American society. 6 is a rather interesting finding about why female students do not pursue science / tech / engineering / math careers. And 7 is for those of you computer-sciency people, particularly if you thought that SQL was dying or dead. So, without further ado, today’s links:

  1. What would happen if Aziz Ansari narrated a BBC nature program?
  2. Humpback whales around the globe are mysteriously rescuing animals from orcas
  3. The Land Where Chillies Are Given the Status They Deserve
  4. Amid a funding crisis, Missouri’s top public defender appointed Governor Jay Nixon to represent a poor client. or check out the original text in all its glory at http://www.publicdefender.mo.gov/Newsfeed/Delegation_of_Representation.PDF
  5. Detroit’s Berlin Wall: “the half-mile long wall was built to segregate a black community from an adjacent white development…. The wall was the official racial divider for over 20 years, until the Fair Housing Act abolished such racist policies in 1968. The wall itself, however, still remains today – as does segregation in Detroit.”
  6. Low math confidence discourages female students from pursuing STEM disciplines
  7. The Singular Success of SQL

I’m going to try to make a point of writing here more frequently, and of providing these links posts in particular.


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Scottish Independence

To all of our dear friends in Scotland, in the wake of Brexit, you know what happens next:

Oban 83

(That’s a “YES to Scottish Independence” flag, in case you missed it.)

-D & T

Posted in In Retrospect, Rant | 1 Comment

…Otherwise, by Jane Kenyon

Wasa Stacks 2L and A Wedding 22Tanita and Ashley, in the wild


~ by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Skyway Drive 373Skyway Drive 372Skyway Drive 375

This weekend, we celebrated a life, gathered with loud friends, argued about social movements, and played cards with a fancy deck. It might have been otherwise. We ate sweet, soft, summer fruit, wore disreputable pajamas, contemplated brushing our hair, and didn’t. We picked up and discarded books, made vegeburgers, watered the plants, ate cheap chocolate, and drank in the breeze. It might have been otherwise.

This morning, we woke up.

Grace and gratitude for simple gifts.

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FauxOreos, Redux

Back in 2010 we made fauxoreos, and don’t know why we haven’t made them since. Possibly because they’re so fabulously addictive?

Well, we decided that, rather than baking a carrot cake (which seems to be the most favorite thing of all things, at D’s work), we’d try the oreos again. We have decided that they are so awesome that they need to leave the house first thing tomorrow, if they survive that long (they will – there’s no way we can eat more than a few bites and stay sensible about sugar intake).

Homemade Oreos 2.06

We had set out to roll these out as we did last time, but D wasn’t happy with them being oval for some reason (he’d forgotten that last time we didn’t roll them out, but smooshed them with the bench scraper – the bench scraper that’s gotten lost somewhere along the way, and was perfect for smooshing things). So, instead, we made the best use of our sushi press/mold ever, and used it as the thickness guide for rolling these out to a perfect 1/4 inch thickness.

Homemade Oreos 2.14

Of course, in addition to the more reasonably-sized oreos, D had to make one that’s about 6 inches in diameter. Just because. And then we got down to the icing things portion of the exercise, and realized that we didn’t have any icing sugar in the house … so we used granulated instead, sent for a spin through the cuisinart for long enough to at least be finely ground.

Homemade Oreos 2.17

Tomorrow morning, some of these will be going to the Honda dealer in Vacaville, because they’ve been so good to us. Some others will be going to D’s work, possibly to be handed out to a few special people, ’cause there really aren’t all that many in this batch. As to the huge one … we’re not sure. That may just have to stay home.

-D & T

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