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"America is the awesomeist awesome that ever did awesome!" Expect to see something like that in every US presidential candidate's stump speech, over and over, in one form or another. American Exceptionalism is a must, the notion that somehow, fundamentally, America isn't just quantitatively exceptional -covering vast stretches of land with 315 million people - but that it's somehow qualitatively different. Whether it's the landscape, natural resources, cultural properties, historical properties, or whatnot, somehow, America is different, in a way that's better than everyone else.

Your average politico attempting to argue for American Exceptionalism will pull out a bunch of random factoids or snippets to try to argue their point. So I'm going to do just the opposite and pull out a contrast. Since my home is Iceland, how about we look at Icelandic exceptionalism?

(Above: Traditional Icelandic homes like these were based on the old viking homes and were in widespread use up until the early 20th century)

Unlike the overwhelming majority of countries, when Iceland was settled, there was no indigenous population to ethnically cleanse. While most of Europe was still languishing in post-Roman decline, this was the age of enlightenment for the vikings. They settled a loose empire stretching from western Siberia through Iceland to the eastern seaboard of Canada and possibly the US due to their advanced shipbuilding and navigation technologies. In particular their understanding and usage of optics seems to have been exceedingly advanced, such as using light polarization filters to find the sun in a cloudy sky and the construction of aspheric lenses good enough to use in a telescope, long before Galileo. Literacy was widespread among the vikings in general, but particularly in Iceland. The early Icelanders founded what is (arguably) the world's oldest extant national parliament.

(Above: Reykjavík, with a view toward Esja)

The largest city, Reykjavík, is the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world. While relatively small, Iceland holds the wettest spots in Europe, glaciers (one of which is the largest by volume in Europe) which receive over 10 meters of precipitation per year - yet parts of the northeast of the country are borderline desert. Iceland contains Látrabjarg, the westernmost point in Europe, which also houses the largest bird colony in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Iceland also is covered in waterfalls, including Dettifoss, often called the most powerful in Europe. While whether or not it exceeds Rhine Falls depends on how you measure, there's no question that its peak flows far exceed any other waterfall in the modern world. A couple thousand years years ago, about 900,000 cubic meters per second of water flowed across the falls and through the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon system. To put this into perspective, the Mississippi River's average outflow ranges from 7,000 to 20,000, and the average wet season outflow of the Amazon River (by far the largest in the world) is only 200,000 cubic meters. But you don't have to go back 2,500 years to see massive floods in Iceland. In 1755, Katla, who is threatening to erupt again, unleashed a 300,000 cubic meter flood down her hillsides and into to the sea, and has done smaller "jökulhlaups" since then (indeed, the scientific term for "volcanic flood" is an Icelandic word). Should it be any surprise that the world's largest sandur (outwash plain - also a scientific term taken from Icelandic) is in Iceland?

(Above: Ásbyrgi, carved in a matter of days by two jökulhlaup in the past several thousand years)

If it sounds like there's lots of water in Iceland, it should. Iceland ranks solidly #1 in the world in freshwater per capita at 532,000 m^3 per person per year, orders of magnitude higher than most other developed nations. But the resources hardly stop there. Iceland sits in the middle of one of the world's richest fisheries, new exploration suggests 250-500 million barrels of oil and 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas in just two blocks of Icelandic waters (worth about $300,000 per Icelander at today's prices), and unimaginably vast renewable energy resources. Iceland is only one of five nations in the world to use essentially 100% renewable electricity. And it's cheap. While even the smallest of the aluminum smelters Iceland uses to "export" power consumes more energy than all of the homes and businesses in the country combined, Iceland still has only touched about a quarter of its large hydro and conventional high temperature geothermal. These resources are vastly exceeded by small hydro, low temperature geothermal, enhanced geothermal, wind (this windy country is finally building its first two wind turbines - there's just been no need), wave (huge resource potential), tidal (huge resource potential), etc. While most of the world searches desparately for energy, especially low CO2 power, Iceland is awash in it.

(Above: Swimming inside the warm caldera of Askja)

This geothermal energy comes from Iceland's truly exceptionally active geology. While the exact reasons why Iceland is so volcanically active are still unknown, Iceland is estimated to have been the source of 1/3rd of the world's lava since 1500 A.D.. This could be seen perhaps most dramatically in the 1783/84 eruption of Laki, a 23-kilometer-long fissure volcano whose 8-month-long eruption killed 6 million people (the deadliest in recorded history). While not a record-holder in terms of lava released (Mt. Tambora exceeded it), it released a staggering 120m tonnes of SO2 and 8m tonnes of hydrofluoric acid (normally a trace gas for a volcano). These figures are more typical of a supervolcano than a regular volcano; Tambora, by contrast,released only 22m tonnes SOx while Mount Saint Helens released a mere 1.5m. The deadly cloud was even capable of directly poisoning tens of thousands to death in the UK. Yet Laki isn't even Iceland's largest. Iceland also has other unusual volcanic features, like Þríhnúkagígur - the world's deepest (and only readily accessible) uncollapsed volcanic magma chamber - right by Reykjavík.

(Above: Inside the magma chamber of Þríhnúkagígur)

But it's hardly only the history, resources, and geology that make Iceland exceptional.

When it comes to competition, tiny Iceland with only 321,000 people performs staggeringly well. Iceland ties the US for having won the most strongman competitions, taking 8 of the 35 gold medals in the World's Strongest Man competition's history. When it comes to chess, Iceland has 9 grandmasters, giving Iceland a per-capita rate 150 times higher than that of the US and even 26 times higher than Russia (the Icelandic language even has a verb, tefla, meaning specifically to play chess - and only chess). In 2008, Iceland took the olympic record for being the smallest country to win a team medal, a very difficult record to achieve because it means having many players good in the same sport at the same time rather than a single rather exceptional athlete here or there. Yet unlike many nations, Iceland provides rather little national assistance for developing a strong Olympic team.

(Above: Table for chess by the side of the road in Reykjavík)

In accordance with its strong literary tradition, Iceland has one of the world's highest rates of nobel laureates, the author Halldór Laxness. It's arguably the highest. Concerning the others with claims to be higher: the Faroese winner, Niels Ryberg Finsen, was an Icelander born in the Faroes, which were then part of Denmark and still not fully independent, who then was educated in and spent most of his life in Denmark. Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott were born in Saint Lucia, a British colony, but were educated and lived overseas. Jules A. Hoffmann and Gabriel Lippmann, both credited to Luxembourg, were both French and were educated and lived in France. While Laxness lived for short periods of time overseas, he was born to an Icelandic family in Iceland, raised in Iceland, and primarily lived and worked in Iceland.

(Above: Icelandic bookshop)

Indeed, to this day, Icelanders publish more books per capita and artists as a share of the workforce than anywhere else. Iceland also probably has one of the highest rates of musicians per capita - the country has 90 music schools, 400 choirs, 400 orchestras and marching bands, vast numbers of rock bands, etc. One can pick any random tiny town (say, Dalvík) and find a music school with half dozen or more instructors. Unsurprisngly, Iceland hosts one of the premier indie music fests in the world, Iceland Airwaves.

(Above: Skálmöld performs at Iceland Airwaves)

There's much in national statistics that's impressive as well. For example, lifespan - despite eating a rather Americanized diet, Iceland is #1 for men and #4 for women. Iceland has the highest rate of union membership in the OECD. Iceland also has the most peaceful nation on Earth, with the world's lowest percentage of GDP spent on the military.

(Above: Friðarsúlan, the Peace Tower, on an island just offshore from Reykjavík.)

Iceland was ranked by Save the Children as the best place in the world to be a child and the second best to be a mother. Oh, sure, the combined 9 months of paid parental leave (which they're looking to raise to 12) could have something to do with it, but either way, it shouldn't be surprising that Iceland swaps regularly with Ireland for the highest national birth rate in Europe status. Thankfully the parents don't have to be married to enjoy parental leave, because Iceland was the highest of 14 surveyed nations in the rate of out of wedlock births; marriage isn't seen as particularly important for childrearing here. But whether a parent or not, women in Iceland can point to having the world's lowest gender gap and the 4th highest rate of women in parliament in Europe (#10 in the world), along with a lesbian head of state and a large portion of women in top cabinet positions (the US, by contrast,ties for #78 with Turkmenistan). Iceland was also the first nation to have a woman directly elected as president.

(Above: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the world's first directly elected female president.)

Despite having one of the world's lowest population densities (among countries, only Western Sahara and Mongolia are distinctly lower) and sitting on some of the most rugged, unstable volcanic terrain in the world on the middle of an island in the North Atlantic, Iceland boasts the 9th best rate of broadband connectivity in the world. And it's not just general "broadband"; 98% of Icelanders can get basic broadband (144kbps), while 50% homes can get superfast (>30MBps), generally 50 or 100MBps fiber. And while one may want to credit this to an "everyone lives in the same place" effect, only 1/3rd of Iceland's population lives in (still rugged, spread out) Reykjavík, and as for the entire capitol region, representing 2/3rds of Icelanders, it is still only average population density for a nation. Iceland also has the world's highest percentage of its population on Facebook. And just to emphasize the computer literacy aspect a bit more? Internet Explorer is only the third most popular web browser in Iceland. ;)

(Above: Coffee at Café Paris in Reykjavík.)

Finally, some miscellany. Heard the old wives' tail that coffee stunts your growth? Well, Iceland is #3 in per-capita coffee consumption, yet has the world's second tallest adult males. And that's not the only thing that's big about them. ;) Of OECD nations, Iceland has the highest acceptance of evolution. It also has, according to an annual study, among the world's happiest people.

Originally posted to Rei on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:51 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (204+ / 0-)
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    •  Depends. (36+ / 0-)

      Pretty much you need either a job in a professional field, a passport from a Schengen country, marriage to an Icelander, enough money to start a legitimate business that will employ a number of people, or an act of parliament.

      The "job" approach is the most general case, but note that the application process takes several months at a minimum and lots of effort on the part of the company, so they need to really want you.

      Note that the language here is Icelandic.  Sure, everyone speaks English, but if you plan to live in Iceland, you need to learn the language.

      •  Hvar skrái ég mig? (13+ / 0-)

        I'd love to learn Icelandic, especially after that diary the other day discussing naming conventions.

        An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

        by OllieGarkey on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:43:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Viltu kennslubækur? :) (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NonnyO, OllieGarkey, Fairlithe, koNko

          Ég mæli með „Colloquial Icelandic“, hún er frábær.  :)

          •  Þakka þér fyrir tilmæli! :) (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Ég er að svindla. Google Translate er fyrsta þýðandi sem virkar. Ég hef notað það til að hafa samskipti við fólk um allan heim. Ég er að læra um mismunandi tungumál, og ég er að falla í ást með málvísindum.

            An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

            by OllieGarkey on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:37:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  For example, I love the fact that the Icelandic (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              elfling, koNko

              word for cheating is "svindla."

              An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

              by OllieGarkey on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:39:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Haha, we have a lot of that. (4+ / 0-)

                But there's also a lot of words that are "false friends" - misleadingly similar to English words.  ""Harma" means "regret".  "Dekk" means tire.  "Melta" means digest.  "Leg" means uterus.  "Krap" means slush.  "Göng" means tunnel.  Etc.  Can't just trust the "looks or sounds similar" approach!  If you rely on that, I'd hate to see people's reactions to how use the word "fagmenn"  ;)

                •  False Cognates, yeah. I've discovered a lot of (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  crose, foresterbob, elfling

                  those in various languages.

                  And right now, I'm looking at the difference between svindla alone and að svindla, which seems to have a different meaning. I suspect that my usage may not have been the correct one.

                  Languages are cool, and Icelandic is one of the more unique ones. I have a thing for languages that aren't spoken widely.

                  A lot of people want to learn languages like Spanish and French, to expand their horizons and widen their ability to communicate.

                  I want to learn the languages that aren't as widely spoken. Icelandic is one, because Iceland has such a small population. Gaidhlig, Cymraeg, Euskadi (Basque), and others. I'm researching  íslenska and it's linguistic genetics now.

                  An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

                  by OllieGarkey on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 05:38:29 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Svindla is the nafnháttur (name mood), (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    OllieGarkey, Bronx59, milkbone, elfling

                    Aka, the infinitive.  „að svindla“ is like "cheating".  að + infinitive is roughly equivalent to -ing in English.

                    Fun word related to "cheating".  The Icelandic word for casino?  „spilavíti“ - literally, "game hell"  ;)

                    Feel free to drop me a line if you have any Q's (or should I say S's? ;)  )!

                  •  Don't forget Navajo (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    elfling, OllieGarkey, terjeanderson

                    That language is a work of art.

                    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

                    by Pale Jenova on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 07:33:27 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Yes it is. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      And it's not the only language. Cherokee script is beautiful.

                      I wonder what people would think of offering native languages in schools as a language requirement?

                      Those langauges are an important part of our national tapestry, and we have a duty to do what we can to preserve them.

                      My only worry about something like that is that what happened with Irish will happen to our native languages.

                      An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

                      by OllieGarkey on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:02:48 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  What happened to the Irish language? /nt (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        •  Well, there were two very strong dialects that (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          were being spoken widely in the country. The government, and the nationalists that supported it, created an anglicized form of gaelige and started teaching it in schools to revive the language.

                          The problem is, people who actually spoke the language in its living form were being forced to learn the anglicized form.

                          It destroyed the orthography of the language, and while everyone is required to learn some Irish in school, the number of people who speak it as a primary language has been dropping.

                          They meant well, but it was a disastrous policy that has harmed the language very badly. The worst part is that anglicized school gaelige is still being taught.

                          That's an oversimplification of a really complex issue, and there's a movement in Ireland to move over to the welsh method, and use the still living dialects instead of the anglicized form.

                          If you want an example of the split in the irish language, just listen to the pronunciation  differences in music.

                          Here's Darach O Cathain, a native Irish speaker, singing Oro se do Beatha Bhaillie:

                          Here's Sinead O'Connor, who knows school gaelic, singing the same song.

                          You'll notice that the second sounds a lot more like English. Her vowels are all English. The dipthongs are gone.

                          If something isn't done, any future revival of the Irish language will have to rely on Manx or Gaidhlig, the other Goidelic languages, to revive its orthography.

                          And that's almost as bad as anglicizing the language!

                          Take the word Tiocfaidh. As in Tiocfaidh leat fanacht. Darach would pronounce that word something like Tchyukay, while Sinead would say Chucky. Chucky is closer to the original Irish, but Gaidhlig speakers pronounce it Hoo-koo, and you'll hear that difference if you listen to the link I sent you, it's in Scots Gaidhlig.

                          So yeah, Irish is in trouble. There's still a chance to save it, but that would require a huge shift in every policy being used to attempt a preservation, it would require most of the textbooks to be rewritten, and a new system to teach it.

                          At this point, it's likely to go the way of Cornish. It'll be revived, it will be a living language, but Cornish sounds almost exactly like welsh, and Irish will sound like Manx or Gaidhlig.

                          An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

                          by OllieGarkey on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 12:36:15 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                •  "'Krap' means slush." (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Bronx59, milkbone, Pale Jenova, elfling

                  No way that's a false friend. Anytime I have to wade through slush to get to the bus stop you'll hear me calling it "krap" loud and long.

                  If you can't say anything nice about the GOP, please post here more often.

                  by Omir the Storyteller on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:29:50 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  I was thinking the same (6+ / 0-)

      thing until I remembered I get really cold when it's 60 in L.A.

      What is the ratio of tall, well-endowed men to women in Iceland?

      Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Barack Obama

      by delphine on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:55:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why> Are you a tall, well endowed woman? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Naniboujou, jayden

        And yes, this diary does make Iceland sound like paradise on earth. Which is the only planet I have to judge things by, so Iceland must be wonderful!

        When the government wants to keep something secret, assume the protected information would either embarrass officials or outrage people -- or both.

        by Lisa Lockwood on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:14:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Iceland is surprisingly warm, at least in winter (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bontemps2012, jayden

        But it would still be cold by LA standards, and it never really heats up in summer, either.  

      •  Slightly higher ratio of men to women. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        crose, jayden

        Not an anomalous ratio, though, it's still pretty close to 50-50.  I imagine it's shifted in favor of males to the degree it is because of people who came looking for jobs in the construction and fishing industries.

        Here in Reykjavík, the average January temperature is just a touch below freezing.  The average July temperature is like 60 or so, maybe a little less.  Things have of late been a couple degrees F higher than "average", though, year after year; the arctic is warming pretty quickly.

    •  All you have to do is pronounce Eyjafjallajökull (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That will keep all the teabaggers (and newscasters) out. :)

      And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

      by Pale Jenova on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 07:32:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Iceland reading list (17+ / 0-)

    An American friend's getting married later this year in Reykavik, to an Icelander who's emigrated to the USA.  They're talking about living there permanently.  Ahead of going there for the wedding, we're looking around for Icelandic reading material.  Laxness is already in the mix, of course.  But what's some other (fiction or nonfiction) reading material that might be engaging and informative ahead of going there?  My Amazon searches have turned up mostly whodunnit/thriller kinda things; I'd be glad to hear your suggestions.

    What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.? -- Nicholas Kristof, NYT --

    by Land of Enchantment on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:29:42 AM PST

    •  Hmm, I'm not much of a bookworm myself... (13+ / 0-)

      but I might be able to help.  What kind of books are you looking for and in what language?

    •  A book I enjoyed (26+ / 0-)

      Is "A Good Horse Has No Color" by Nancy Brown. It's about the author's search for a pair of Icelandic horses to export. But I think non-horse people would enjoy it too.

      There's lots of history - for example, our author walks up to a farmhouse and asks in broken Icelandic if Snorri Godi had lived there: "Já, já, já, já " -- and the farmer regales her with the stories of Snorri Godi's lifetime, a thousand years earlier.

      Haukur had grown up riding the Longufjorur, and often he hired out now as a guide to tour groups. He had several trips scheduled for the summer, he told us.
      "I'm used to horses," I said. "Can you rent me one? To keep at Litla Hraun?"

      Haukur frowned.

      "What did you ask him?" my husband whispered, alarmed at the abrupt stop in the conversation.

      I shrugged at him, smiled ingenously at Haukur. On earlier trips to Iceland I had taken two six-day treks by horseback into the rugged highlands, riding between glaciers to valley of hot springs -- although I'd had very little previous riding experience (I began taking lessons only after surviving the second trek). Are you used to horses? the horse trekkers would ask, and I had always answered yes. There was no one to rebut me. The same technique made up for my poor language skills. I would nod and smile and snatch at every word I'd understood, hoping that my pat answer, I'd like to try it, wouldn't be too out of place. (Only once did my method seriously fail, landing me in a two-hour demonstration of an institutional-strength vacuum-cleaner system when my hosts invited me to go see the ryksuga. I thought it was some kind of bird.)

      Much later I would learn that the Icelandic phrase "used to horses" meant a proficiency that could take a lifetime to perfect. Haukur considered himself only ninety percent "used to horses," and he had been riding all his life. But Haukur was a gentleman. He did not call my bluff. He pulled the map toward him and, with the stem of his unlit pipe, traced a long, wavy line down the coast. "It's dangerous path," he warned, wagging his pipe, "if you don't know the tides."

      The Longufjorur cuts the mouths of several rivers, some of them deep-channeled salmon streams, others edged with quicksand. The safe paths shift from storm to storm, while the force of the wind and its direction, and the fullness of the moon, decide how fast a rider must cross. Ebenezer Henderson, a Scottish churchman who travelled throughout Iceland in 1814, described the crossing well: "We advanced at a noble rate, it being necessary to keep our horses every now and then at the gallop, in order to escape being overtaken by the tide before we reached the land. At one time we were nearly two miles from the shore; and I must confess I felt rather uneasy , while my companion was relating the number of travellers who had lost their lives in consequence of having been unexpectedly surrounded by the sea."

      "I'd like to try it," I perservered. "May I ride with you some day?"

      Now Haukur looked pleased. He leaned over, and with a devilish twinkle in his eye, took my hand between both of his. "You will take a horse across the Longufjorur with me some day," he declared.

      I thanked him and slipped my hand out, with the excuse of folding up the map. Suddenly a hot blush crept up my neck. Had I used the verb ríða instead of the standard phrase að fara á hestbaki, "to go by horseback"? Ríða, which sounded so much like our verb "to ride", but which colloquially meant "to have sexual intercourse"? I glanced up to see Haukur trying to subdue his bright smile. He winked. I ducked my head.

      But from then on, as I watched the horses and riders cross the sands, I was hoping to see Haukur leading a horse with an empty saddle.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:33:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent, thanks. . . s/t (11+ / 0-)

        What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.? -- Nicholas Kristof, NYT --

        by Land of Enchantment on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:47:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  ok. now, I want to read it! -nt (0+ / 0-)
        •  I've reread it a few times (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I quite like it. I've always had an affinity for Icelandic Horses, which are unique and interesting. They're very practical animals, and typically live out even in winter. They come in nearly every equine color, including some odd ones, except for Appaloosa. They are five-gaited. They are pony sized, but they are ridden by tall Icelandic men, even for racing.

          Iceland is too cold for cattle to be as practical as horses. The horses are both transportation and food animals.

          The Icelandic horses in Iceland are completely isolated as a population and have been for hundreds of years. You cannot import horses to Iceland; you cannot even bring an Icelandic back. Thus, if a horse goes to Germany for a competition, say, it stays there.

          This is a link to the Icelandic Horse magazine from Iceland:

          There is an English version, even an English print version, which is pretty fun to get. It comes with lots of ads from Icelandair. :-)

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 08:35:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Njal's saga (19+ / 0-)

      is my favorite.  It explains Icelandic law and life and has a great storyline. Also, Egil's Saga and the Elder Edda.

      I spent a year in Iceland way back in 1979.  From the posted pictures, someone has been planting a lot of trees.  

      Jesus died to save you from Yahweh.

      by nolagrl on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:59:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That was my thought too (6+ / 0-)

        ... about the trees.  I had a brief visit, a few days, back in 2005.  (I took a stopover on a trip to visit relatives in France.)  Skipped Reykjavik entirely, in favor of exploring the countryside, birding.  Trees were exceedingly rare, from what I saw.

        What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.? -- Nicholas Kristof, NYT --

        by Land of Enchantment on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:07:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Depends on where you go. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          But the rate of new forestation projects is pretty impressive.  And there's some nice forested areas even within Reykjavík, like Öskjuhlíð, and right by Reykjavík, like Heiðmörk.  The forests in the southwest aren't as extensive or as tall as some of the ones in the northeast, mind you.

          We're never going to have the degree of forest scale or cover as, say, Norway.  But the forests are coming back.

      •  I agree: Njal's saga! (11+ / 0-)

        Before I visited Iceland as a teenager in the 70's, I read Njal's Saga. I still have my copy; it's a reminder of a wonderful trip.

        I camped throughout the country; I spent a couple of days in my little tent near Thingvellir, for example. Thingvellir is where the Althing (Parliament) was held, and there's a lot of talk about in the saga. Because there aren't (or weren't) many trees, and the geology (except for volcanoes!) doesn't seem to wear down the soil rapidly, the place is the same as described in the saga One Thousand Years before! It's also stunningly beautiful -- I've never seen water as clear, or smelled air as clean. I was the only person there, BTW.  

        I've sometimes wondered why I returned home.... :-)

        (Enjoy your life in Iceland, Rei!)

        •  Sagas and other readings (5+ / 0-)

          You have to read the sagas, of course!
          Here are a few additional suggestions.  My late cousin, Bill Holm, wrote a wonderful book called "The Windows of Brimnes" published in 2008 by Milkweed press.  He was (and I am) a west-Icelander, unlike me (but like my Dad) he grew up listening to Icelandic spoken by his parents--he was a poet, an English professor, and he spent his summers in Iceland. Like Rei, Bill makes lots of comparisons in the book between Iceland and the US.  Like many of his books, reading the book made me glad to be alive.  There are also some great poems about Iceland in the book of poetry called "The Chain Letter of the Soul" published after his death in 2009.

          If you read Halldor Laxness book "Independent People" (the book for which he won the Nobel) you will understand a good deal about Iceland and its history, and why the idea of independence is so appealing and in some ways tragic.

          Also, I recently read Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson's "The Flatey Enigma" which is billed as a mystery, but it is so much more, it makes significant reference to the sagas, it tells you a lot about Icelandic culture and the relationship with Denmark, and it is an interesting read.

          Also another beautiful book is Audur Ava Olafsdottir's "The Greenhouse".  Just a beautiful read.  Brian Fitzgibbon does wonderful translations.

          •  Mysteries (0+ / 0-)

            They are often excellent topical stories, addressing a variety of issues, and learning a lot about a landscape and/or culture.  (For one example, Arthur Upfield's Napoleon Bonaparte series is great for getting a "sense" of Australia.)

            What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.? -- Nicholas Kristof, NYT --

            by Land of Enchantment on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:13:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I was going to mention Bill Holm (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jcjyl, john keats

            Sadly I never had the chance to meet Mr. Holm. He grew up just a few miles from Clarkfield in Minneota.  Given that SW Mn is relatively sparse for population it doesn't surprise me that the icelandic culture has survivied as a western colony. (As has the Norwegian culture.)


            Given that I live in St Peter I regret never going to one of his talks at GAC.

            He does have several books available as audiobooks. I  tend to advocate listening to translated authors on audio book as sometimes you can her the "voice" of the original author.

        •  Breathing (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NonnyO, crose, elfling

          Iceland is a wonderful place to breathe.  Couldn't agree more.  I like, too, the slightly sulphurous hot-spring type water coming out of the shower.  No carbon was engaged for that hot water!!

          What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.? -- Nicholas Kristof, NYT --

          by Land of Enchantment on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:10:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hehe, of course, the downside.... (7+ / 0-)

            is that I have have the following conversation with 80% of the couchsurfers I host:

            Tourist: "Too bad the water here tastes and smells like a volcano!"
            Me: "You turned on the hot water as well as the cold when getting some to cook or drink?"
            Tourist: "Yes."
            Me: "Only the hot water tastes and smells like that.  The cold is fresh tasty glacial meltwater.  Two separate pipes.  When people here want hot water to drink or cook with, we heat up the cold."
            Tourist: "Ooooh... let me test."  (beat)  "Wow, you're totally right!"

            I've had that conversation sooo many times  ;)

        •  "I've sometimes wondered why I returned home" (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          EricS, crose, jayden, elfling

          And that is why I moved here, lol!  I wondered the exact same thing.  

          There's a trick as to the water's seemingly unreal clarity.  Part of it is the lack of polution.  But the other part is, the ground is just too young!  It hasn't had time to wear down to clay or for organic matter to break down to a fine silt ("soil" here is often more like a mixture of sand and peat, not much of a soluble component).  Also there's a number of tricks to the lighting here that I've come to figure out over time.  Abnormally clear water + dark volcanic sand + low sun angle + exceedingly good mirror (aka, why the water shines so much and looks so unusually blue).  Little dust to blow around = unusually crisp, unfiltered light.  Low sun = constantly more like sunrise/sunset, i.e., better contrasts between light and shadow.  Etc.  Even still, even after living here so long, the landscape still has a sort of unreal feel to it all.

          Reforestation has gone on at a pretty good pace since the 1970s, I think you'll be surprised.  It's still only a rather small percent of the country, but some of the forests are getting pretty respectable, esp. in the northeast.  At the same time, the lupine has been spreading too.

    •  Try the Sagas (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There are English translations online for some of them (free on some college/educational web sites).

      Oddly enough, not half an hour before I checked in to DK to see what's going on here, I just finished watching an hour-long BBC special that is primarily about Iceland and their Sagas.  They have a very rich literary heritage spanning more than a thousand years that all started with the oral tradition of story-telling.

      BBC The Viking Sagas

      Apparently a great many of the sagas that are reprinted are based on real events involving real people.  There are some fictitious tales that are based in history, so the closest modern genre might be historical fiction.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:59:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Beowulf (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NonnyO, jayden

        There was a movie version of that old story recently (Gerard Butler, Sarah Polley) which was filmed in Iceland, so you get marinated in the gorgeous, stark landscape.

        The time I went to Iceland before, I was birding and packed along a scope and binos.  I didn't take any pictures.  This time, I'll pack the camera.  I'm really looking forward to the trip.

        What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.? -- Nicholas Kristof, NYT --

        by Land of Enchantment on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:15:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Didn't see the movie (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Land of Enchantment

          The only previews online had a lot of special effects, and I'm not much into special effects and computer animation.  Before I saw that I had planned on buying the DVD, but changed my mind when I saw previews.

          Studied Beowulf in English and Old/Middle English class in college.  One page is in English, the facing page is in the original language.

          I love listening to YouTube videos where a few lines of Beowulf are recited.

          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:23:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Reykavik Crime Series (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Arnaldur Indidrason writes the Inspectur Erlendur series

      I have been on a scandinavian crime fiction binge the past couple years.

  •  I had a most interesting discussion (22+ / 0-)

    the other day with a person who stated that those "happiness studies" were bogus. Why?

    Because the United States accepts all their sad immigrants-you know, the ones who accept personal responsibility and don't want to be taken care of by government socialism. They are the real winners who are serious about life and wish to pursue wealth and opportunity in the land of the free.

    Yeah. I do have interesting talks with people.

    Iceland is stunningly beautiful and culturally fascinating.

    Almost 10 year old Daughter: "Boys are pretty good, but daughters have sentimental value." Me: "I don't think that phrase means what you think it does." Daughter: "None of them do, Mom. More's the pity. Words have to be flexible in today's world."

    by left rev on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:29:59 AM PST

    •  One could argue just the opposite. (26+ / 0-)

      If a person was so upset with where they lived and fled to a new place, they'd be overjoyed by being in their new place and artifically boost its happiness score.

      And, FYI, Iceland is European-average in terms of immigrants.  There's a common misconception that Iceland is racially uniform; it's anything but.

      •  Yeah, it's real melting pot (7+ / 0-)

        94 percent Nordic AND Celts!

        •  The US is #42 in the world, Iceland #61. (19+ / 0-)

          ... in the world in terms of percent foreign-born population (out of 194), 12.81% versus 7.67% for Iceland.  More but hardly some massive difference.

          The first person I ever met on my street when I moved into my apartment was a little black girl, who spoke only Icelandic.  When I started work at my company, both the guy who gave me my security briefing and the woman who processed my paperwork were immigrants.  Of my 8 or so immediate coworkers, two (myself and one other) are immigrants.  And there are plenty more in the building.  Iceland has among the highest percentages of Poles, Filipinos, and Lithuanians as a share of its population in the world outside their native countries.  Here's a music video from one of our current chart-topping bands.  Do I really need to keep going?  Heck, our first lady is an immigrant, for crying out loud.  

          Why on earth are people who've never been here always so damned incredulous that Iceland is some racially uniform place?

          •  Oh, you met a black girl. Good for you! (0+ / 0-)

            Look, Iceland seems to be a lovely place, but let's not pretend it's something it isn't. We have many many races, ethnicities, religions, languages, etc. The US is an incredibly diverse place and trying to make Iceland sound comparable just isn't going to fly.

          •  Ancient history - 1970s (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            When I was stationed in Iceland, they were just allowing Black soldiers to be stationed there. Honest. No black service people were allowed.  You also had to clear customs every time you left the base. A six pack of soda would get you a $250.00 fine. All you cassettes had to be listed on a customs form.  Americans were not really popular politically, but the people were wonderful!  

            Jesus died to save you from Yahweh.

            by nolagrl on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:09:48 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, it's amazing how rapidly Iceland has changed (6+ / 0-)

              I mean, in the 1970s, oranges were a luxury good.  The first Icelandic TV broadcast wasn't until 1966.  Indeed, at one point, not only was Iceland a very racially uniform nation, but there were strong policies in place to keep it that way.  Those who did immigrate were under strong pressure to assimilate as much as possible (including the taking of Icelandic names).  I've seen some criticism about Iceland's refusal to take in jewish refugees from Germany during WWII, for example, but the reality is they didn't just do it with jews, they did it with everyone.  Even Danes and Norwegians often had trouble.

              It's just not the case today, however.  Especially during the 90s there was a massive influx of immigration and there was a strong shift in attitudes.  I still see it today, with the older people slower to accept the newer situation.  Example: I once was at a performance at Airwaves and there was an old Icelandic guy playing, doings songs in each language that people there spoke.  And at one point he asked, "are there any Icelanders in the audience?"  and I responded (in Icelandic) that I'm an immigrant.  He responded nicely in Icelandic, then asked again, "now, are there any Icelanders in the audience?"  Quite the contrast, I've had quite a few times with young people where even immediately after I point out that I'm an immigrant, they refer to me as an Icelander.  Even while I'm bungling the language  ;)

              There's also sometimes issues related to the lack of historic racial conflict in Icelandic society; a lot of things that are seen as racially taboo or offensive in the US often aren't here - for example, actors using blackface or taping their eyes back when playing an asian character or whatnot.  For some there's no understanding of how that even could be offensive, which has occasionally led to minor dustups (most recently, the "Tong Monitor" incident where a comedian was pretending to be a generic asian game show host)

              So yes, Iceland had a long history of relative racial uniformity.  But the society is in the middle of adapting to a new reality of a large percentage of immigrants.

        •  So? How is that bad? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          You do realize, don't you, that people in Northern climates do not produce much melanin, which makes for lighter skin?

          When the ancestors of any now-white group of people migrated out of Africa and into climates farther and farther north, they lost the darker skin coloring because the sun's rays at the northern latitudes are not that intense and skin doesn't need to be protected as much with all that clothing on to keep warm, so eventually the dark skin was lost to people who stayed in northern climates.

          You don't say what skin color you have, but if you are dark-skinned and lived in a far-north climate, had children, and their children had children, and so on, it would take a remarkably short evolutionary time period for your descendants to lose the dark pigments as a result of melanin not being necessary to survive in a cold climate.

          Ergo, if you can't stand being around people with light skin tones, I recommend you stay in equatorial climates where there are any number of shades of light brown to dark brown to black-skinned people around the world (and very few light-skinned people, but if they have descendants who stay in equatorial climates, their descendants will acquire dark skin in time, too).

          Rei does not need to defend her new country.  It is what it is based on events that happened during the last 1300 years and the people who settled there.  It just so happens they were not dark-skinned and some were from even farther north than Iceland.  So what?

          Do you think countries with fair-skinned people need to import dark-skinned people to provide what you think of as a balance, or diversity?  Do you want to use coercive force on Iceland's government to import dark-skinned people by invitation?  What if people with dark skin from warmer climates do not want to move to colder climates?  Do you recommend forcing dark-skinned people to move to cold climates where they don't want to live?

          Do you see where your criticism is way off the mark, beaky?  Iceland's history is far different from US history, and Rei had no control over Iceland's history.  

          If you don't like the "lack" of ethnic diversity (as you see it), don't visit Iceland.  Stop judgmentally and negatively criticizing the country because it doesn't meet your standards for diversity.  It's cold there, much of the climate is harsh, and you might freeze your @$$ off.

          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 01:55:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Now you're using unfair conversation tactics (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ojibwa, Nulwee, kyril, Lisa Lockwood, zett

        like "logic" and "facts."

        I've never been in a position financially to travel outside of America, much to my frustration. But I would love to visit every country and discover what makes each one exceptional.

        Almost 10 year old Daughter: "Boys are pretty good, but daughters have sentimental value." Me: "I don't think that phrase means what you think it does." Daughter: "None of them do, Mom. More's the pity. Words have to be flexible in today's world."

        by left rev on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:15:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  When I started following "Kinderen voor Kinderen," (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, kyril

        … the Dutch children's pop group sponsored by VARA, years ago, I was surprised to see how multiracial it was.

        My ignorance.

        I mentioned it to my friend who teaches Dutch middle school — she just kind of shrugged and said, "That's the Netherlands."

        There's a common misconception that Iceland is racially uniform; it's anything but.

        The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

        by lotlizard on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:52:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Rei, how do you, and I mean that (0+ / 0-)

        in the plural sense, feel about Birgitta Jónsdóttir? She's been at the forefront of advocacy for Julian Assange and I greatly admire her strong personality. Her tweets have been sparse, lately, but she was very vocal when Assange's extradition hearings were being held in London.

        When the government wants to keep something secret, assume the protected information would either embarrass officials or outrage people -- or both.

        by Lisa Lockwood on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:18:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Æji... how to phrase... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          UnaSpenser, koNko

          Because I've met her a number of times (I used to be active in her new Pirate Party, though I've sort of stopped) and actually chatted via email with her about the issue.  I think there's no questioning that she'd be categorized as a "supporter" and even "advocate", definitely at least a bit into conspiracy theories...  but she's also had her differences with him too, and I do get the sense that if he was convicted of rape, she'd hardly be out there holding a vigil for him every day.  For her it seems to be all about the issues.  She's hardcore into transparency, and if Wikileaks disappeared tomorrow and a different, effective leak organization unconnected to Assange appeared in its place, I don't think she'd have any issues hitching her horse to it instead.

          That said, I haven't known her for a long time and we've only exchanged maybe half a dozen emails on the topic, so these are just my general senses.

          I also have to say that one thing that I admire about her is that even on internal issues that she's clearly had significant personal opinions on in the Pirate Party, she's deferred to the general party consensus rather than trying to dictate it.  Which is probably good strategic policy, given the independent streak of your average Pirate Party member, but I get the sense that she's not doing it for that reason, that she does it on principle..

    •  This may be just anecdotal (7+ / 0-)

      on my part but Cleveland seems to lack an Icelandic version of Slavic Village or Little Italy. Seems like we lack a great influx of Icelandic immigrants to contribute to our ethnic diversity in this city.

      My guess is that, oh I dunno, they have no reason whatsoever to be here. lol Even the people with the foreign accents tend to be really old. Nobody's been here from Ireland in a while, either.

      I'm just sayin....maybe it's just Cleveland. There might be a Little Iceland somewhere in North Dakota for all I know. ;-P

      "It's not enough to acknowledge privilege. You have to resist." -soothsayer

      by GenXangster on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:09:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you added up all of the Icelanders who ever (9+ / 0-)

        lived, they'd total less than a million (another way to put it, a third of the Icelanders who ever lived are alive today).  Not exactly a large stock for emmigration!  There are a few places, though.  Gimli, Manitoba has the largest percent of people of Icelandic ancestry outside of Iceland.  And was North Dakota just a guess?  Beacause it's actually correct, North Dakota has the highest percentage of people who list Icelandic ancestry on the US census (though there's only about 3k there).

        In Iceland, these people are referred to as Vestur-íslensk (Western-Icelandic).  Most do not speak Icelandic, or if they do, just a few words. There's also about 7k people born in Iceland who live in the US.

        And as a curious anecdote, I've met an Icelander, daughter of an Icelander, and who lives in Iceland, but who doesn't speak Icelandic!  She grew up living with her father in the US, and then moved back here.

        •  Wow. That was just a guess! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nulwee, kyril

          Thanks for the information. I knew so little about Iceland because I swear I've never met even one of those kinds of immigrants in the United States.

          "It's not enough to acknowledge privilege. You have to resist." -soothsayer

          by GenXangster on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:32:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Further background for folks who are interested: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, koNko

          Gimli, Manitoba (check out the Viking statue):

          Meaning of the name Gimli:

          The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

          by lotlizard on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:58:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  A small number made it to Washington. (0+ / 0-)

          Specifically, a very small, isolated peninsula called Point Roberts. To get there you have to drive ~40 miles through Canada from Blaine, Washington. Otherwise, it's by boat or small plane.

          One of my mother's best childhood friend's grandparents had immigrated there around 1900 or so and worked in the fishing industry. Many of the second generation moved to the big city, Bellingham (my hometown), after the canning plants closed or moved in the 20's.

          I believe only a few families went that far, and most of them were assimilated quickly through marriage. One of my middle school teachers, Mr. Gudmondsen, was a fisherman in the summer, and a teacher the rest of the year. He was a large, solidly built man with dark red hair, and very proud of his unique heritage.

          •  Think local rw squawkshow host Dori Monson (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is Icelandic.

            Oh well, gonna have some outliers in every group :)

            The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

            by ozsea1 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:01:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Hmm, never heard the name Monson... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              but I work with a guy named Dóri  :)

            •  Possible, although I don't know. (0+ / 0-)

              Isn't he from Ballard? The large number of Norwegian immigrants overwhelmed most of the other Norse-based communities in Puget Sound. Ballard and Poulsbo alone count(ed) for the majority in past years, but with greater numbers of non-Norse residents beginning in the 60's, that generality is pretty moot now.

              Even Swedes are out-numbered by the Norse in Washington state. As for me, my German-Irish-American ancestors found a home away from home...

              Dori: what a maroon!

      •  Close.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zett, elfling

        DNA studies have been done, and in Iceland the original residents were primarily Viking men and Irish Celtic women.  In the Faroe Islands the DNA studies indicated primarily Viking men and Celtic/Gaelic women from Scotland and the northern Scottish islands (Orkneys, etc.).  Often the Viking male DNA indicates origins in western Norway.

        The five inland states who got the most Norwegian (and Swedish and Danish) immigrants in the late 19th century were Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota.  North Dakota also got a large colony of German immigrants at one point.  The Red River Valley also got a large influx of farmers and traders and trappers at one point, and the earliest census data when the area was still a territory has a lot of French Canadian names with occupations such as trapper, hunter, trader with the Hudson Bay Company.

        I do genealogy research, and when I'm going through names in census data for Minnesota and the surrounding states, it's rare not to have pages and pages of Scandinavian names with origins in Norway for most of them.  Norway had a population boom after smallpox was mostly eradicated, and since only 10% of the country has arable land, they had to move.  When the Homestead Act was signed (1862) people from Norway came in droves for farmland.  The same emigrant feeder ships went to ports in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  [My ancestors from those three countries were among those groups.]

        I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

        by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:17:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Link to a bit of info: (0+ / 0-)

        I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

        by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:18:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •   (0+ / 0-)

        Fair number near Minneota MN

    •  Sadness score? You'd think if they left where (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, radical simplicity

      they were unhappy, they'd be happier here.

      Guess they realize it was an unhappy gambit?

  •  I already knew (18+ / 0-)

    much of this about Iceland, I think I have some relatives living there, and I know I have some friends living there.

    Every country has bragging rights for excellent things they've done, and I am so happy you pointed out the highlights of the good things about Iceland.

    Americans get too caught up in America, because it's so huge, and so many tend to forget that's a whole world out there that's not American and has the right to be not-American and is good.

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:30:59 AM PST

  •  I'm ready to go too except for some concerns (16+ / 0-)

    about the imminent volcanic eruptions at possibly four sites.  But I suppose that if I balance that imminence against stats for death by violence from another human here in the US, perhaps Iceland is the place to be.

    One of the best things that happened in Iceland in recent years was that their women politicians sent so many of their aspiring day traders back to their fishing boats so their economy could be healed.  So-called financial services are really just a rodeo, I think.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:33:01 AM PST

    •  Every country has risks. (11+ / 0-)

      But these days volcanic eruptions here are rarely killers in Iceland of anything but sheep.  These days they usually cause more havoc for people overseas than they do for Icelanders!  Here in Iceland, the ash plume is a point source.  It spreads out as it blows around outside of Iceland.  We also have excellent rescue services and disaster response teams.

      Pretty much every department has to be prepared . For example, when a jökulhlaup takes out a bridge on the ring road - they monitor for when they're going to happen and close the roads, by the way - they can get a temporary up in a matter of days after the waters subside.

      The greatest risk to tourists is what they do to themselves.  For example, every so often one gets themselves killed by doing something like going hiking on a glacier alone and falling into a crevase or whatnot.

      And anyway, if your goal is to wait until there's no imminent risk of eruptions in Iceland, you might as well just cross Iceland off your list  ;)  Heck, Grímsvötn erupts once every 3-10 years just on its own.

      •  The first truly scary story I read as a child (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, kyril

        was about Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.  It left its mark.  But thank you for the reassurance and the warning about the crevices.  I appreciate the great survey course on Iceland that you wrapped up into a truly joyous read.
        Perhaps modesty kept you from pointing out that the people in Iceland tend to be better looking than most others, but it's likely that happiness is a prime factor for beauty.

        Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

        by judyms9 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:07:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Haha, well, beauty is subjective. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, GayHillbilly

          But I am, in general, quite in agreement   ;)  Just a side observation: most Icelanders look older than they really are! (the opposite of what I experienced when traveling in Japan).  More than a couple times I've met some guy, gone out on a "date", then later added him on Facebook and when their birthday showed up, my immediate reaction was, "Oh my god, you're how old?"

  •  And don't forget to mention (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, Dr Swig Mcjigger, Cardinal96

    Iceland's whaling industry - that's quite exceptional insofar as very few countries have one of those nowadays . . ..

  •  Love this diary, love Iceland - but its debt... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ojibwa, kyril, uato carabau, Cardinal96

    ...and the extremely poor judgment in their national banking crisis must be noted in creating a full portrait of paradise on earth.

    Some people are intolerant, and I CAN'T STAND people like that. -- Tom Lehrer

    by TheCrank on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:29:28 AM PST

  •  What about Beer culture,What is Icelands best (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, SuWho, sfinx, dewtx, GayHillbilly, cpresley

    beer. Also i have been interested in Iceland since Reading "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and the paradox of a land composed of Fire and Ice. THank you for the diaries they have been great stuff!!

    America, We blow stuff up!!

    by IndyinDelaware on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:31:03 AM PST

  •  Just wanted to pop in and say hi. (7+ / 0-)

    Your work is always a joy to read!

    20 innocent children were slaughtered. The gun lobby and NRA bear responsibility and it is time to fight back!

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:32:12 AM PST

  •  Lovely diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but I think the photo caption "traditional viking houses" is somewhat misleading. They hardly had windows in the viking age.

    •  Fair enough. :) (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, sfbob, GayHillbilly, cpresley, Mariken

      But they're roughly the same.  Some of the ones present in Iceland today are not reconstructions but actual homes people lived in in the early 20th century.  Iceland went from extreme povery to wealth exceedingly fast.  Most common fruits and vegetables weren't even available in grocery stores until the 1970s.  One of the christmas traditions here is mandarin oranges.  It because a tradition because imported fruit like mandarins used to be such a luxury.

      •  I´m from Norway (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, terjeanderson

        and mandarin organges is a christmas traditon here too, for the same reason as in Iceland (and ordinary oranges is a modern Eastern tradition).

        •  In the Little House on the Prairie books (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Oranges were a Christmas tradition in the midwest as well. I guess we in the US are too jaded to have kept that.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:00:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I grew up with that tradition in the 1960s (0+ / 0-)

            Part of my family was from a dirt poor coal mining town in western PA, with parents who both grew up during the depression.  Even as they became more middle class and prosperous, the tradition was always that there would be an orange at the foot of the stocking on Christmas morning.

            My sister and I have continued that tradition in homage to the struggles of our grandparents and parents (and just because it feels good to keep going with a tradition) - although I think the significance is not appreciated by my nephews.

            My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world - Jack Layton

            by terjeanderson on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:47:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  if only (9+ / 0-)

    i weren't so poor, i would happily move to several countries not named the USA

  •  Does everyone have the "-son", "-dottir" names? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, kyril, dewtx, NonnyO

    I think I read (many years ago when I was thinking of emigrating) that to become a citizen you need to take a traditional last name which consists of your father's first name followed by "son" or "dottir".  True?

    We get what we want - or what we fail to refuse. - Muhammad Yunus

    by nightsweat on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:45:01 AM PST

    •  No, you don't have to... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, sfbob, nightsweat, dewtx, cpresley

      and in fact, many Icelanders don't have a patronymic, although most do.  Some have a surname instead of a patronymic or in addition to it - one famous example being the aforementioned Halldór Laxness.  :)  Another good example would be our previous prime minister, Geir Haarde (who - to loop back to the immigrants topic elsewhere in the thread - is the son of an immigrant).  

      •  But this is a recent change (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Until the mid-1990s, if you wanted to become an Icelandic citizen, you did have to take an Icelandic name--in particular a name that could be declined in Icelandic.  See the work of the scholar Kendra Willson.

        Laxness had a patronymic, but was permitted to adopt the name of the river near his beloved home, I believe.

        There is still a naming committee that approves names of children.  There has been recent discussion of it in the press, I think....

        •  Heh, it's far from just Laxness. (0+ / 0-)

          And he chose that name, but he could have picked anything.  But for just another prominent example, our last prime minister was Geir Haarde (who is the son of a Norwegian immigrant).

        •  And even native born girls today still have to (0+ / 0-)

 that. Just ask poor Blaer.

          Personally, I think any group or government agency that is that obsessed with declensions should...

          ....wait for it...


          "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

          by DarthMeow504 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:21:21 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The patronymic naming system... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Orinoco, elfling

      ... is still in use in Iceland and the Faroe Islands today, yes.

      NB: a patronym and a surname are two entirely different things.

      As Rei indicated, some use other names, too, but they all have patronymic names.

      Patronymic names were in use in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark until the late-19th / early 20th century when each of those countries went to a single inherited surname.  [Father's first name followed by -sen / datter in Norway & Denmark, and sson / dotter in Sweden].  Iceland being a country settled by Vikings, they followed the same patronymic naming system - and still use it.

      I do genealogy research in all three Scandinavian countries, and the patronymic naming system is great for finding women.  They kept their own names their entire lives.  [Why would a woman change her patronym to her husband's patronym?  His father was not her father, after all.]  The farm names were tacked on as a kind of address, or to distinguish between two or more people of the same name, and if a person (or couple/family) moved to a different farm with a different name, then the farm name changed.  If a new immigrant from one of those countries did not use their own or their father's patronym, they often chose as a surname one of the farm names they lived at in the old country.  Some opted for new American surnames entirely on a whim (I did research on one Norwegian family that did that, but at least they all knew the original patronym).

      There are also matronyms (mother's first name followed by sen/datter, sson/dotter), but they aren't used that often and I've not run across that yet in my genealogy research.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:45:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is also occupation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        iirc the phone book lists names and occupation, so people can distinguish between Jon Jonson carpenter and Jon Jonson fisherman.

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:39:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  True... but occupation surnames... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Orinoco, terjeanderson

          ... are not used as often in the Scandinavian countries.  Mostly it's farm/location names.

          England, which had a huge influx of Anglo-Saxon and Viking settlers, has many, many occupation surnames.  [The name England is a contraction of Angle Land.]  I have several from different parts of England that are occupation names in my own family tree.

          While searching one web site in England while looking for ancestors in Yorkshire, I ran across a 1379 Subsidy Roll (Poll Tax) and spent many hours going through the lists of names.  York is the port where ships landed, and both Anglo-Saxons and Vikings landed there, came back and settled and became traders, merchants, and spread inland and became farmers; lots of towns end in "by" which (to this day) is the Scandinavian word for 'town.'  The 1379 Subsidy Roll is an etymologist's idea of heaven!  Surnames were occupation, location, personal characteristics (red head, for instance), country of origin (of the person or her/his ancestors), landmarks, and women's names were included.

          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:03:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, not a surname (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Jon, son of Jon, would be Jon Jonson. But because it's such a common name, the phone book also lists (at least it used to) Jon's actual occupation, not as part of his name, but just as a way to disambiguate one from another. Actually, many of the Jons I knew also had distinct middle names, so one could refer to Jon Haldor or Jon Ricard to tell them apart.

            "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

            by Orinoco on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 01:03:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Gaard Navn (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If you were a property owner you were not necessarily subject to patronymic naming conventions. You would have a family name associated with your piece of paradise. It was sort of the equivalent of being a gentleman squire.

        I am of norwegian descent on both sides.  If you have a gaard name you were socially a cut above.

        •  Not necessarily (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, terjeanderson

          I do genealogy research (started when I was a teenager 50 years ago), have my own Norwegian ancestors documented back to ca 1620.

          I also help others do genealogy research in Norway, Sweden, Denmark.

          The gaard navn [farm name modern spelling gårdnavn - aa = å] was often tacked on to the end of the first name [technically the only legal name anyone had was their first name; middle names were not used until the mid-19th century], patronymic name [father's first name plus sen or datter suffix], and in court documents and such, if there were two or more people of the same name, the farm name was tacked on to the end of the name to distinguish which was which.  I also see first name plus farm name in some of the documents.

          Technically, the farm name was more of an address of sorts, not an actual surname or part of a person's name.  IF that person moved, the name of the farm also changed, so the farm name did not "travel" with a person's moves.

          Once the emigrants from the three Scandinavian countries got here, they either took their patronymic name or adopted a farm name as their American surname so they could fit in with the population of their new country who all had surnames (most used the first initial of their patronymic name as their middle initial in the US if they adopted an American surname).  In the case of my Norwegian gr-gr-grandparents, they first used an alternate spelling of the last farm they lived on before emigrating (same thing for some of the people who married into my family on side lineages; I've researched their families, too).  Each of my gr-gr-grandparents had been born on a different farm, lived on second or third farms during the early years of their marriage, but it was the last farm they used for the US surname.  The farm name was not a permanent thing ... until they got to the US.

          There is a complicated system of "ownership" when it comes to the farms in Norway, and it involves several different classifications.  I've still not sorted it out beyond the fact that the eldest son inherited the property.  I find these titles in records and enter them as is, so there were different classifications of farm "ownership."  Some farms had sub-farms and the houses were rented out with or without land for keeping a garden and maybe a few animals (One I researched had 22 farms under one name ~ that was quite a muddle).  A great many of my ancestors were sailors, some had a jekt [cargo boat], and rented land to live on besides sailing around the fjord or fishing.  Yet another sailor classification was mariner, and that was in connection with the military.

          Each case is different.

          If both of your parents are of Norwegian stock, it should be easy to track your ancestors.  Get all the US info (the expensive part is the b/m/d records on this side of the pond), year of immigration (found on census data), and then you can leap across the pond to emigration records, then birth/baptism, confirmation, marriage, death/burial records as well as census and other data.  Norway's records are online, all free, on one web site with several sub-sections, all thanks to the taxpayers there.

          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:29:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Neat! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            This is really interesting information.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 11:12:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thank you... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I admit, it's fun to do genealogy research in Norway.  Really, "all" you need to keep in mind is the patronymic naming system, the name order of the children, the three extra letters (vowels) of the alphabet, which letters of the alphabet are interchangeable through 300-350 years of records, there's no standardized spelling until the 20th century, so most of the spellings are phonetic and in local dialects and often depend on the educational level of the writer, and sometimes the same writer used different spellings for the same name in one document.  Norway didn't go to a single surname system until by law in 1923, although by 1900 some people used a single surname because they knew that law was going to be going into effect.  In large cities where there was an influx of foreigners for trade, sometimes a few people did use single surnames, but they're the exception, not the rule.  Women kept their own names their entire lives, so they're pretty easy to find in the records.

              Et cetera....

              Once a person gets the hang of it, it's really quite easy.  Web sites in Denmark and Sweden have the same info, but in Denmark there's two web sites, not one, and their records are also free, but their search engine isn't as easy as the Norwegian one.  Sweden, unfortunately, has fee-based web sites (corporate-sponsored), but the last one has colored digital images.

              American records?  Totally different story.

              I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

              by NonnyO on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:27:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  excellent, thanks, thanks again (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, SuWho

    and iceland was a big victim of the bank con of 2007.. real big.

    wow- excellent post

    People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think. -George Carlin

    by downtownLALife on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:05:42 AM PST

  •  Yup! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, sfinx, tommymet, Fairlithe, elfling

    I've admired Iceland for years.  While your at it, why not throw in Haldor Laxness as a national treasure?  But come down to it, I think every country is exceptional, just like all children are above average

  •  Home of the Sugarcubes (0+ / 0-)

    “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point--race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.” ― Molly Ivins

    by RoIn on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:18:04 AM PST

  •  A table for chess (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SuWho, hazey, too many people

    at the side of the road in the capital city? Love it.

    Thanks for these informative diaries; the entire series is very educational and even inspiring. So glad you're liking it a lot after all the effort to get there.

    We are often so identified with whatever thoughts we may be having that we don’t realize the thoughts are a commentary on reality, and not reality itself. -- Gangaji

    by Mnemosyne on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:32:40 AM PST

  •  Can't Wait To Visit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful insight (and pics) into your country.  My Dad was stationed in the Reykjavík area for the US Army during WWII and I always had a desire to visit.

    Well this is the year as my wife & I are planning to drive the complete Ring Road in the second half of August.

    Any tidbits you as a local care to share that I might not be made aware of from the touring company that will be handing our booking?


    •  Lol, that could take forever to respond in detail! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, terjeanderson

      Some general comments though.

      Check to see if you'll be there for Menningarnótt!  If so, definitely be in Reykjavík while it's going on and catch as many bands as you can!  If you need recommendations, just ask.

      In general try to be in Rkv. Thu-Sat nights, if you want to maximize the concert/party scene.

      August is blueberry season.  Go out and enjoy them!  You find them by looking for dwarf birch, which covers hillside after hillside in places.  The blueberries (along with crowberries) grow at the base of the clumps of birch.  You can also randomly find strawberries and brambleberries.  Bearberries grow also but I don't recommend them.  Oh, and keep a good idea out for boletes, if you like picking mushrooms.  You find kúalubbi  (leccinum scabrum) and its similar relatives (though you need to pick them young to keep them from getting wormy, and I recommend soaking the caps for a few minutes after removing the gills to drive out any pests that might have gotten in).  There may also start being the wide range of edible forest mushrooms coming in by that point, though they really take off in September.

      Take as many detours as you have time for on the ring road.  While the whole country has some general "themes" to its appearance, each part of the country is different from the others and has its own unique natural treasures.  Just to give you an idea of how diverse an area can be, look up pictures of each of the following, and then plot them on a map to see how close they are to each other:  Gódafoss, Mývatn, Hverfjall, Krafla, Húsavík, Ásbyrgi, Jökulsárgljúfur.  :)

      Stay phone and net connected.  Bring a GSM phone that can handle email and the like and get an Icelandic sim card (not expensive, just pop by Kringlan) if you can't add Icelandic service to your existing phone.

      Expect to use credit cards for most purchases.  Pick up just a bit of cash at the ATM at the airport in Keflavík.

      As a vegetarian I recommend trying the awesome breads from Jóí Fel (generally found right outside Hagkaup stores), súrmjölk með hnettu og karamellu, rúgbrauð (comes in packs, pre-sliced or not), skyr (of course - check out that protein content on the side, though!), kókosbollur, banana corny bars (they're a German thing), any of the ice cream, and if you like licorice and chocolate together, well, then you'll have trouble choosing in the candy isle  ;)  (lots of other stuff though, candy selections here are pretty extensive).  Non-vegetarians typically recommend the pylsur (lamb hot dogs), hangikjöt (smoked lamb), harðfiskur (fish jerky, very popular here), and a bunch of other stuff that I try not to pay attention to  ;)

      Bring layers.  If you plan to be sitting or standing around in the middle of nowhere at increased elevation or whatnot, clothe yourself pretty well.  Don't, on the other hand, walk around Reykjavík in some bright red synthetic windbreaker unless you want to paint a giant "tourist" target on your back.  ;)  Wool is always popular.  Just don't have any single layer be overly warm, esp. your base layer because it can sometimes get into the 70s at low altitudes in August, and if you're walking around with your base layer as a heavy wool sweater...

      Take in some geothermal waters.  Doesn't even need to be a place like the Blue Lagoon, even the pools are geothermally heated (just not as fancy of scenery), and even the little ones generally have stuff like steam rooms and hot pots  If you want a Blue Lagoon-style place in the north, there's a geothermal baths at Mývatn.

      Get as out into the middle of nowhere as you can and take in the silence.  And yes, you can hike and camp and harvest wherever the heck you want so long as you don't cross fences, aren't too close to a home or campsite, and aren't in a national park.  So if you see some cool-looking volcano and decide that you want to spend the night sleeping in its crater?  Go for it.  Iceland really does the whole "I dare you to!" thing a lot with its landscape.  

      Don't be stupid.  Examples of being stupid:

       - Driving a regular car onto an F-road.  The rental car companies aren't just telling you to avoid them for giggles.  You Will Not Make It.  These roads are not only highly rugged, but they have things like rivers flowing across them.

       - Walking across a glacier without experience doing so, or worse, alone.

       - Walking across coarse apalhraun (blocky aa lava field) that's very heavily overgrown with moss - that is, terrain that looks like this.  The moss (which can get many inches thick, it's almost like walking on pillows) can hide holes between blocks or even into lava tubes.    In general though it's quite safe (not to mention rather comfy!) to walk in mossy areas, just not over coarse apalhraun.

       - Hiking into the middle of nowhere and relying on a single piece of electronics (say, a GPS) for your survival.  Because electronics fail.  Especially in the middle of nowhere.

  •  loves this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and love Iceland and a focus on Icelandic exceptionalism (see my username). Those dwellings are traditional and they are in Iceland but they are not "traditional Viking homes".

  •  I'd love to visit to flyfish (0+ / 0-)

    for salmon :)

  •  This is Snark right? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hamm, jcjyl

    I say that because there are numerous statements that make it look like a 14 year old wrote this.  "While the exact reasons why Iceland is so volcanically active are still unknown."  

    The reason why Iceland is so volcanically active is because it sits on top of two plates, the North American and the European.  The North American plate is moving to the west and the European is moving to the east.  This creates a diveregent plate boundary that opens up the Earth's mantle and creates the volcanoes on Iceland.

    Now I ask who lives in Iceland would not know that?

  •  Yes, but read Michael Lewis' Boomerang (0+ / 0-)

    There is a dark side to Icelandic exceptionalism.

  •  you mentioned Laki, so here's this worth watching (0+ / 0-)

    a Nova program recently shown on PBS.

    Nova: Doomsday Volcanoes

    Iceland gets a lot of mention in this program.  A larger eruption than Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 could shut down the world economy.

    I'm a blue drop in a red bucket.

    by blue drop on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:24:39 AM PST

  •  Let's talk about why Iceland is called Iceland (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue drop, dewtx, NonnyO

    and Greenland is called Greenland, despite the fact that Iceland is both less icy and more green than Greenland.

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:29:38 AM PST

    •  Names (6+ / 0-)

      Iceland is named as such because Flóki Vilgerðarson saw pack ice drifting by during his first (unusually cold) winter at Barðarströnd - the notion being, "man, this place is so cold that the ocean is freezing".  Of course, Iceland's climate is actually quite mild and it's not normal for pack ice to reach Iceland.  Still, people approaching the island from the east and south and seeing the glacial termini of Vatnajökull probably didn't question the name much  ;)

      Greenland wasn't so unreasonably named when you realize that the name was what Eiríkr Rauði called the specific land that he was settling, and was not necessarily envisioning naming this whole massive glacial-covered island at the time.  Banished for murder, he sailed along the south shore of the (already known) island to the west , going past frozen inlets until he found an area that was not glaciated, and in fact, quite green during the summer (and still is to this day - there are a number of unglaciated spots in Greenland, with climates cooler than but not too radically different from Iceland).  His saga states that he chose the name because he wanted a nice name to be appealing and attract people.

    •  Viking Marketing... (7+ / 0-)


      'Goodwill' between the GOP and the President is as abundant as unicorn farts - Me'

      by RichM on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:58:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This video mentions why... (0+ / 0-)

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:53:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  must be a lot of oil and gas (0+ / 0-)

    down there, ripe for fracking.

  •  Question... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, NonnyO

    What is the religious make-up of Iceland?

    'Goodwill' between the GOP and the President is as abundant as unicorn farts - Me'

    by RichM on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:52:31 AM PST

    •  Tough question! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dewtx, NonnyO

      If you go by national registry statistics, very Christian, very Lutheran.  If you go by polls, however, you get a sizeable minority that's atheist, agnostic, or pagan (including some Old Norse paganism).  The reason being is that you're automatically enrolled on the registry to the church of your parents when you're born and you have to unenroll to change it; a lot of people don't bother.

    •  Found this in Wiki... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dewtx, too many people, NonnyO

      A Gallup poll conducted in 2011 found that 60% of Icelanders considered religion to be unimportant in their daily lives, one of the highest rates of irreligion in the world.

      'Goodwill' between the GOP and the President is as abundant as unicorn farts - Me'

      by RichM on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:57:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  nice pretty little country you got there (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BayAreaKen, dewtx, too many people

    thanks for sharing it!

    "Kossacks are held to a higher standard. Like Hebrew National hot dogs." - blueaardvark

    by louisev on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:12:31 AM PST

  •  Iceland (0+ / 0-)

    Iceland seems like a fun country to visit.  But just scrolling the comments, the original poster seems very defensive about any potential criticism of Iceland.  It reminds me a lot of that other poster who would have all these diaries about how much better continental Europe is than the US.

    Trust me.  I get it.  I don't believe in American exceptionalism and have no interest convincing anyone how great America is.  It just seems like a weird forum to post this.

  •  I loved this diary (0+ / 0-)

    Because I love Iceland, but ugh. The penis thing is unnecessary. Aside from the study being called out for bad methodology right in the article, I'd hope DKos of all places would not play up frivolous measuring sticks for "gender fitness".

    •  Just added for grins. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      People here have a pretty lighthearted attitude about that sort of stuff.  There's a penis-shaped mall, a penis museum, etc.  And there's also been calls to build a corresponding vagina museum (first seriously, then revealed to be a joke, then another group decided to take it up as serious).  

  •  Nice Place (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marsanges, elfling, NonnyO

    I've been there a couple times. I'd recommend seeing it if you have the chance.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:36:16 AM PST

  •  About my trip (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ridemybike, cpresley, NonnyO, Rei, elfling

    In 1985 at the age of 18, I was an exchange student (from California) to Sweden.  When I left, I told my Swedish “parents” that I’d return some day with my own family.  Fast forward to 2007.  Celebrating my 11th wedding anniversary, my wife plans a trip for our whole family to go to France.  I say, as long as we’re going to France, why don’t we go visit my Swedish family as well.  She thought that was an excellent idea and looked into how we could fly from the US to Sweden and France on one airline.  It turns out that Iceland Air had very convenient flights, didn’t allow pets on board (good if you have allergies and don’t want a cat under your chair), offered unusually long layovers and considered it one round trip.  So we ended up going to Iceland, Sweden, France and back home.

    In 2007, my son was 6 and my daughter 8.  Our first experience of Icelandic hospitality was on the airplane.  Before the plane even took off, the flight attendants went to every child on the plane and gave them an activity to do.  Then once we were in the air, they served the children food before the adults.  It was heaven!  The kids behaved themselves for the entire flight and were made to feel special.  The airline actually allows for an “unlimited” stay-over in Iceland. So if you’re traveling to Rome for example, you could stop in Iceland for a month and then continue to Italy without any additional cost to your final destination airport.  Had we known how much we’d like Iceland, we would have visited much longer!  As it was, we only stayed for 3 days.

    The natural beauty of the country is undeniable.  Everywhere we went, it was stunning.  We took a tour (forgive me for not remembering where we went…it’s been 5.5 years and I don’t have our photo album in front of me for reminding!) of the country and saw geysers and waterfalls and ponys and flowers and the intersection of the two tectonic plates and on and on.  We couldn’t get enough.  

    The restaurants were fabulous and the people serving us all took interest in our family.  Without ever ordering it or charging it to our bill, every restaurant brought ice cream to the kids after the meal.  The shopping was wonderful as well.  At the time, I was in the market for an upscale men’s wrist watch.  I had my eyes on some “typical” brands but didn’t know exactly what I really wanted.  Then I happened upon JS Watch Co in the 101 district of Reykjavik, and went inside.  I must have spent 2 hours talking with the watch maker Gilbert  (seen at the website leaning over the table) while my kids played on the floor of his tiny store/manufacturing company.  He was so very kind.  I eventually left after buying this watch.  He actually took me to the duty free store himself (in his car) to apply for the tax refund, and then walked my family to a restaurant, made sure we had a table and spoke to the owner about our meal.  To this day, I get compliments on that watch.  

    My wife wants us to return to Iceland, which doesn’t get an argument from me other than we have so many other priorities now that our children are 12 and 14 (summer camp, other commitments, etc).   I have kept up with Gilbert and his store and even bought another watch, the SIF .  If you can, please read the story about why they made that watch and what they did with the first 40 or so that rolled off the manufacturing line (they’re only making 930 total).  Or look what they did with some of the ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption.  What a beautiful piece of art!

    At any rate, I think Iceland is amazing.  Thank you for your diary.  

    •  The focus on children here is pretty undeniable. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's sort of expected that parents bring their kids everywhere (and when I say "everywhere", I mean rock concerts, political party meetings... anywhere without an alcohol-related age cutoff pretty much).  And so a lot is focused around them.  

    •  Wow, those are really neat watches (0+ / 0-)

      I hardly realized any small watchmakers still existed. What lovely work!

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:08:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the wonderful geography lesson! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BayAreaKen, NonnyO

    I loved reading about Iceland and seeing the excellent photos.

    One edit:

    the notion that somehow, fundamentally, America isn't just quantitatively exceptional -covering vast stretches of land with 315 million people - but that it's somehow quantitatively different.
    I think that second "quantitatively" was intended to be "qualitatively," no?

    You make a great case for Iceland :)

    We all understand that freedom isn't free. What Romney and Ryan don't understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.
    Julian Castro, DNC 4 Sept 2012

    by pixxer on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:57:16 AM PST

  •  I am so taking a month-long vacation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, NonnyO, Rei

    in Iceland at some point.

    "Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel." -Sepp Herberger

    by surfbird007 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:07:14 PM PST

  •  been dreaming about going to iceland for years (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, too many people, NonnyO, Rei


    this diary is showing me and telling me
    to book that dream already!

    thanks x million, rei.
    hope all is well... it sure looks that way.


    every adult is responsible for every child

    by ridemybike on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:10:21 PM PST

  •  oh gawd another "yay Iceland" yawn (0+ / 0-)
  •  One quibble about Icelandic military spending. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I know of one other country that has a lower per capita military spending than Iceland (because our family enjoyed a wonderful trip there over this past New Year's): Costa Rica, which spends $0 per capita for its military--because Costa Rica has no military! That's why you don't see Costa Rica listed in the military spending link provided.

    So maybe to be more precise you could say that Iceland has the lowest per capita military spending among nations that have a military. By the way Costa Rica is a beautiful country, but Rei your photos really make me want to visit Iceland sometime to enjoy its spectacular natural beauty as well. Is there a "best time" to visit Iceland to explore the sights and scenery? I'd guess that summer is the big tourist season there, but is that also the best time to enjoy the all the grandeur that Iceland has to offer. My wife has never seen the Aurora Borealis (I have, once, when a huge solar storm pushed it all the way down to upstate New York when I was in graduate school there many a year ago), so late fall/early winter or late winter/early spring travel wouldn't be out of the question if that's the best time to experience all the natural wonders of Iceland.

    Rei, thanks for a beautiful tour of your new home country.

    These are troubling times. Corporations are treated like people. People are treated like things. ... If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now. — Rev. Dr. William Barber, II to the NAACP, July 11, 2012

    by dewtx on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:40:05 PM PST

    •  I've been to Costa Rica too. :) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dewtx, elfling

      Stayed with a lovely family In Ciudad Colón, learned a little Spanish, etc while helping with a radio station.  Costa Rica was the first place in my life that I've ever gotten full eating just fruit  ;)  I'm still big on guanabana-flavored stuff (thankfully it's strangely easier to get here than it was in Iowa), though I try not to eat too much because of the anonacin risk.

      It's hard to classify either Costa Rica or Iceland as having "no military" or "a military".  For example, what they have to be counting in the case of Iceland is the Coast Guard and Víkingasveitin (sort of a an elite police swat/counterterrorism team).  But I know Costa Rica has that sort of stuff too.  In fact the guy who ran the radio station I was helping with told me about one time when he had death threats against him that the office of the vice president sent a team of 8 people with enough weapons to take over a small country to defend him  ;)  

      Either way, they're both pretty darned peaceful countries as a whole!

      There is no single "best time".  I'd say as a whole summer has more to offer, but there's different things at each time of year.  And even different times of summer.  For example, June has the longest days, July the hottest weather and the lupine, August has the blueberries and the most large festivals, etc.  

      •  Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

        We have an week-long Alaskan cruise out of Vancouver planned for mid-August this year (our first time to Alaska and first cruise). So maybe Iceland will one of our next "big" trips. Although we also want to visit Ireland some day too, so maybe we can combine the two with a week in Iceland and then on to a week in Ireland--after all they're only one letter apart!

        I also didn't know how much music was such a big part of Icelandic culture and society. Sounds like Iceland could be the place where someone's singing "A Song of Fire and Ice". Wonder if George R. R. Martin has ever been to Iceland? You also mentioned the large number of books that are published and read in Iceland. I was curious what percentage of those are in the Icelandic language and what fraction in English. I'm sure that of course the large majority is in Icelandic, but if an English-speaking tourist like me were to visit a bookstore in Iceland could I find a reasonable selection of Icelandic authors in English translation (or written directly in English) to pick from and take home? Being a big mystery reader, the only Icelandic mystery author whose books I have here at home (in English translation of course) is Arnaldur Indriđason--his first English-translated book "Jar City" being still my favorite one of his. (I had already known about the famous health study in Iceland to collect blood samples from all native Icelanders for DNA/disease studies since their native Icelandic family trees can be reliably traced back many many many generations, which actually plays a part in the plot in that particular book.)

        So all the best to you in Iceland from a native Iowan (who's now become a Texan). Please keep writing these wonderful diaries about Iceland--with your descriptions it sounds like such a fascinating place.

        These are troubling times. Corporations are treated like people. People are treated like things. ... If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now. — Rev. Dr. William Barber, II to the NAACP, July 11, 2012

        by dewtx on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:02:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know about George R. R. Martin... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but parts of Game of Thrones were filmed here.

          There are some pretty sizeable bookstores here like Eymundsson - for example, here's the basement of one of the Eymundsson's (it's 3 or 4 stories).  About half the books you'll find in there are in English.  If I had to guess I'd say 80% of the books in Icelandic are from Icelandic authors, while about 80% of the books in English are from foreign authors.

  •  LOVE your diaries. Iceland is definitely on my (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, too many people, NonnyO

    wish list of places to go one of these days!  

    Corporations before people.... it's the American way!

    by Lucy2009 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:43:18 PM PST

  •  The blood of Viking kings course through my veins (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fairlithe, dewtx

    My quest is to restore the glory of Valhalla to its rightful place paramount to the citizens of Asgard.

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 01:22:59 PM PST

  •  LOVE Iceland! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewtx, BayAreaKen, NonnyO, Rei

    We visited Iceland on our way to Stockholm 3 years ago, and absolutely loved it!  We hope to return when we have more time to explore this beautiful country.  The people were friendly, the landscape is beautiful, the food is good...and there was a lot to see and do.  Thanks for posting this.

  •  Have you sampled the hákarl yet? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That is #1 in terms of culinary adventure.

  •  If I could afford it, I'd go to Iceland. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    too many people, NonnyO, dewtx

    Such a beautiful and interesting country!

    •  Did you choose your sig... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gjetost, dewtx

      ... because you like goat's cheese?  Specifically, Norwegian Goat's cheese, since the word Gjetost is Norwegian.

      Gjetost - well, the one on the link, at least - is one of my favorite foods.  This particular Ski Queen brand is considered mild.  It's actually quite sweet, caramel-colored, and delicious with butter on flatbrød.  My Norwegian teacher said that one had to acquire a taste for "the real goat's cheese" which is apparently an acquired taste.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:14:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Iceland looks like the awesoment awesome (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in awesome!

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:13:19 PM PST

  •  Þríhnúkagígur - inspiration for Tolkien's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Chamber of Doom, perhaps?

    I'd love to visit Iceland.  It seems a spectacular place.

  •  Great diary! I would like to apologize for some (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cpresley, zett, NonnyO, Rei, EricS, elfling, dewtx

    of my fellow Americans that have posted rude comments about this diary. The title of the Diary is a perfect summary of the content. Yet, some folks read it and then complained that it was all about Icelandic Exceptionalism. This is such a typical knee jerk reaction here in America. We can't accept that there could be a better way. If we hear about it, all we want to do is criticize.

    This diary is one of the best I have read this year. I am sorry you were given so much grief for your efforts. Most of us really appreciate your diaries!

    •  Ditto The Sentiment (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rei, too many people, elfling, dewtx

      At the risk of being labeled an "elitist"by a lot of my dumb down fellow citizens here in the US, I have to say that a lot of that arrogance and ignorance would take a huge hit if these people traveled outside the country.

      As the saying goes, travel broadens one's perspective and brings about the awareness that where one lives isn't the center of the universe.  

  •  What breathtaking scenery! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for these stats, Rei. They're fascinating.

    "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here:

    by Kimball Cross on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:27:35 PM PST

  •  Could use some more trees, like it used to have... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The pictures show trees; but it's true that Iceland was completely forested when settled, and is now almost completely unforested.  A great deal of the arable land has taken erosion damage.  I'm curious why that isn't being addressed.  Not necessary to the economy? No snark here.

    As for food and differences in taste, I would recommend anything thinking about Iceland to acquire a Lakkris dundur candy bar and tear into it -- without reading the ingredients.  Boy will you be surprised -- at least, if you're American.

    •  Indeed it is being addressed, quite well. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marsanges, dewtx

      But it takes a looong time to reforest a rugged subarctic country the size of Kentucky!  :)  Estimates are that within a few decades, for example, Iceland will be self-sufficient on timber production.

      I've seen estimates that "as much as" 25% of Iceland was forested in the past, although not necessarily at the time of the settlements. But whatever the number, there were definitely a lot more trees.  The real problem wasn't so much woodcutting as it was the sheep, which graze away new seedlings.  Today, the first step in any reforestation project is excluding the sheep from the target area.

      Also to prevent erosion, Nookta lupine was introduced to Iceland.  A very controversial decision, with lots of big pros and big cons.

      •  thanks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        for explaining this, interesting. In general I would tend to come down on the side against such deliberate introductions. Particlutaes matter of course. In any case, wouldnt one think that Icelands reforestation should be helped by the expected warming? For Iceland, the thing that matters is the secular warming of the north atlantic drift and I believe that will be substantial and should have an effect on icelands plant life.

        Plus, volcanic soils :) Once you get some soil life going it might become a really green island !  

        And since both the Americas and the Old Continent are only going to be farther away from you, eventually after a looong time you might end up like Kauai :)

        •  Non-natives (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It's tricky.  First off, one should note, they're using non-native trees, too.  Should that be condemned?  Or is it better to have some kind of forest in place, with the option of "nativizing" it more in the future?  Hard question, but I tend to support the decision of bringing in faster-growing non-natives to kickstart the forestry.

          The lupine first off does exactly what it says on the tin.  It prevents erosion and it does an excellent job of restoring the soil.  It can grow almost anywhere and it spreads on its own.  It's also beautiful when in bloom, and provides a food source for some types of birds.

          The downsides are that it does crowd out native plants - including much loved ones like blueberries.  While some animal populations increase in lupine fields, others decrease.  When not in bloom, it's rather uninteresting.  It's somewhat hard to control and it ismildly poisonous for grazing livestock if they eat too much.  It's also colonizing areas that never were successfully colonized by native plants before.

          Looping back to the upsides, the evidence suggests that after a couple decades, it tends to have restored the soil enough in an area that it can no longer compete with the natives effectively and slowly dies out.

          So yeah, it's a controversial plant, with big pros and cons.

      •  I would think the volcanos have taken a toll (0+ / 0-)

        as well.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:13:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Plus, you fired your own Banksters! Well done. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  I don't think a lot of the Icelandic model scales (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to a large country. There are just too many areas where their size allows flexibility that a larger country would have a rough time scaling up.

    That said, they have done a fantastic job in building a society to live in. They have nailed it on energy, health care, social integration, tourism, manufacturing. It is truly amazing what a country of 330,000 people have accomplished. Were I a young man, I would be very tempted to try to figure out how to go there to live.

    I loved the cod, could live without the rotten shark, and found the beer adequate.

    I have never been able to figure out if Fox is the propaganda arm of the Republican party or is the Republican Party the political subsidiary of Fox.

    by Dave from Oregon on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 04:43:34 AM PST

  •  Sure is beautiful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, dewtx

    I go to Finland at least once per year but have never been to Iceland, but this diary sure make me want to make the side trip next time I have the chance.

    The sod roofs are excellent.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 09:33:06 AM PST

  •  Sometimes I forget how small Iceland is. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We are only about 5,4 million here in Finland. The Helsinki metro region has roughly the same pop as Tampa Bay, and yet 1/5 Finns live here. Along with most of the immigrants!

    Strange to think that we are huge in comparison.

    I hope you enjoy your above freezing temps. We are getting our first true taste of winter here in Helsinki with -26-30 C on the way.

    That said, it isn't any small wonder more people don't want to move to our respective countries (even though the numbers are increasing dramatically). It is truly cold and dark this far north. While the sun is returning, the length of day doesn't (IMO) make up for the lack of warmth in the summer. If only we could see temps over 20C regularly in the summer it would be a lot better.

    I can't imagine living in Iceland where the prospects of ever seeing 20 C are quite dim!

    •  Meh, 20C's getting a bit warm for me ;) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FinchJ, dewtx

      Today was actually lovely, sunny and it felt like spring outside.  Well, not early in the morning, but when I went out later.  

      I'm sure glad we don't get your cold!  Boy, people would freak out if we got weather that cold here in Reykjavík.  Our average January temperature isn't even a degree below freezing.  We do get it pretty windy, though.

  •  All I can say is (0+ / 0-)

    Ja, sure, yabetcha.  

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:14:21 AM PST

  •  What about the cover up (0+ / 0-)

    of the volcano that leads to the Center of the Earth?  In 67, after dropping put of college and not getting along anymore with Lou Reed I mounted an expedition to your island.  I even found a goose named Gertrude to take with me and the Pat Boone lookalike I was able to persuade to adventure with me was full of pep and moxie.  So we arrive in the hotel and ask the way to the volcano and pretty soon we are getting all of these sincere looks by everyone .... then concerned looks...then everyone was nice... but no directions...

    So I had to go home and I got drafted when I could have been enjoying the view down under with my goose.

    To hell with Iceland!

  •  Response to the financial crisis? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluedust, terjeanderson

    Did I somehow skip over that in my read?

    Iceland took the unusual course of letting the banks fail,  preserving its social safety net and closing the gap between the middle and the wealthy which had recently grown.  They are not without their economic difficulties, but they have done better than those pursuing austerity.

    Now that's exceptional!

    We kidnap. We torture. It's our policy. Embrace it or end it!

    by Mosquito Pilot on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:52:24 AM PST

  •  Late to the party, but ... cool diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You make Iceland sound awesome! (heh).  I may have to visit some time; I didn't realize it was so nice there.  All those books!

    Hope all is well with you, Rei.  

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