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Questionable Choices

The government of Iceland has been on a roll this year. First, minke whale hunting and now this dreadful, short-sited environmental blunder.

nóvember 30, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Almost Interesting Fact of the Day

So, anyway, today I was searching through the Althingi web site--as I'm sure all of you do on a daily basis--and came across this fact about elections.

nóvember 21, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Little Icelandic

Here's some basic Icelandic for all you traveller types.

nóvember 18, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recent Updates

In my Good Advice... post you can find a great link from Kristen and a not-to-be-missed show, that is, if you can get to London Friday...

nóvember 18, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Few Questions for Tóti (Interview #2)

But mostly, I'm a lazy bum, quite happy with a good book, a latte and/or glass of red wine.

I know you’ve all been anxiously awaiting a second interview and it is finally ready for you. What a strange and wonderful place the Internet is. When I was looking for Icelandic blogs, one of Tóti’s was among the first that I found. And it was through his blog that I discovered just how technology hungry, not to mention technology savvy so many Icelandic people are. I would tell you more in this introduction, but he tells the story better himself:

Born in 1967, making me a gen-x character. Have a degree in marketing and economics from a small Catholic college called Assumption College in Worcester Mass. Don't ask, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Started out working in advertising and media, but paroled myself from that particular career with time off for good behaviour. Went into international marketing with a focus on Software and IT in 94 and have sold and marketed stuff in places from Kamchatka to Taipei, US, Sweden and others. A map of my travels can be found here and my blog is at toti.simblogg.is. I can currently be found running a start-up called Hex Software which specializes in mobile services, including mobile blogging and speech based applications. Company motto: We build character, company goal: Make money, satisfy customers, have fun.

People in Iceland seem to be very interested in new technologies. Why do you think this is?

Tóti: I think it's a cultural thing. Since we, as a people, kind of skipped the industrial revolution and really joined the rest of the world after World War II, we went straight into the information age. All of a sudden we got new stuff that made our lives considerably easier, including lots of tech stuff. And we also figured out that we could use technology to make up for lack of manpower. So we got used to it as a concept, and therefore got interested in using it in our personal lives as well. Plus the fact that we've got some looooong cold winter nights to tinker with our toys.

What do you see as the future of moblogging?

Tóti: Personal content management, kind of digital storage bin for all sorts of stuff.

Other than in terms of technology, how do you feel that Iceland has changed in the last ten years or so?

Tóti: We have significantly more freedom than before, mostly due to our membership in the European Economic Area. Through that we have inherited a whole lot of personal and financial privileges which our political leaders were unwilling to give us themselves. This has also led to a more cosmopolitan attitude, as it has become easier for people to move elsewhere and work or for people to move here. Which is good.

What is the general attitude toward the continued military presence at Keflavik? What is yours?

Tóti: I don't really know how the general attitude towards the military presence could best be described, since we have very strange feelings about it. First of all there's the money we get from it. Then there are the search and rescue helicopters, which have saved many lives. But then again there's the feeling that the Cold War is over. It was in all the papers. We won. As for terrorism; the terrorist threat has existed in Europe for decades, and it was only when it threatened the US that it became a 'real threat'? And anyways, you can't defend against terrorism without running a totalitarian regime, and even then it's impossible. So we don't really see who we are being defended against. And we really don't get that the world is a dangerous place, since nobody is mad at us for anything. So I can't really say what the general attitude is, but we seem to find it a bit odd.

My personal view? If we are to remain members of NATO, we need to be defended, because otherwise we'd be the weakest link if someone wanted to make a point. Seeing that our GNP does not allow us to spend much on national defense, we would not be able to do so ourselves. If the US military presence here is cut down to only serve US needs, I would have to consider supporting us leaving NATO and asking the remaining military presence politely to leave at their earliest convenience, as we had decided to be truly neutral.

But mostly, I'm mad that when my dad was offered a ride on an F15 double seater trainer, he declined and did not volunteer me to take his place. Curse you, Red Baron :-)

What one thing would you tell a visitor to do in Reykjavik?

Tóti: Seek out the music.

Which Icelandic bands do you recommend?

Tóti: Kimono, Einar Örn, virtually anything signed at Bad Taste.

What sort of tourists annoy you?

Tóti: Tourists don't really annoy me at all. I get annoyed by the Icelandair campaigns that demean Icelandic women though, as I don't really consider them to be loose women at all. And if they were, should we really advertise that to others and increase competition?

You went to college in Worcester, MA which is not far from where I live. What can you say about that experience?

Tóti: Nice things. You guys have a nice colour scheme going there in autumn. The school was fine, good people, and generally speaking a good place to stay.

When I get back to Reykjavik, where do you recommend I eat? (I'm a poor school teacher on a budget though!)

Tóti: Umm... then you'll have to stun pigeons and cook them with your travel iron. I hear 'wool' is a good setting to use.

Seriously though, Vegamot, a bistro café is very nice, reasonable prices, smart(mouth) staff. That's where we go.

If you had a few free hours away from work and life's responsibilities, how would you spend that time?

Tóti: In the summer I'd go sailing. If we'd ever get any snow in winter, skiing. But mostly, I'm a lazy bum, quite happy with a good book (well, not all agree that what I think is good is good) a latte and/or glass of red wine. Preferably with the girlfriend within reach.

Well, I certainly had many more questions for Tóti but, as you can see from his blog and website, he’s a busy man. And who am I to delay the implementation of new technologies with a few questions. I’d love to hear more about his experiences in Worcester, for example. It’s about as far away from Reykjavik culturally as a person can go. Look for more interviews coming soon. If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it. And if you know someone who’s just dying to be interviewed for this feature, pass his/her name along to me.

nóvember 14, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Cursed One (Interview #1)

People call me Au∂i. I'm 22 years old and I live in Reykjavik. I have no direction in life and most of the time I don't know if I'm coming or going.

910473524630l.jpg For a living I try to convince people I know something about electric appliances. I really don't. In January I'm planning on going back to school. I'm very interested in people and different cultures and I love traveling. It's always been my dream to be able to write for a living but who knows what will happen with that. I will settle with just doing something creative.”

When we went to Reykjavik this past September, one of our regrets when the visit was over was that we hadn’t really interacted with very many Icelandic people, excepting cashiers and waitresses and clerks doing their jobs. This interview, and those that will follow in the coming weeks, is an attempt to at least have a shadow of that experience that we missed out on. We won’t make that mistake the next time.

When I was developing this blog I spent time searching out Icelandic blogs. Little did I know how many were out there. One of them, though it had been abandoned, stood out, if for no other reason than its title alone: Au∂i The Cursed One.

Luckily for us blog readers, though “The Cursed One” is no more, Au∂i is maintaining a new English-language blog: A Woman Without a Man is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle. And it's well worth visiting regularly. Whether she is writing about herself:

Why is it so difficult to hear good things about yourself? I went out to this coffie house earlier tonight with two of my girls and it's was a nice change from the "wow she's hot" rambling with the guys. Not that I don't enjoy hearing them talk about what they would do to Angelina Jolie if they got the chance. Heck I would consider a thing or two with her. They drove me home and outside my house one of them starts saying all sorts of things to me that really ment a lot to me to hear. I really needed to hear those things and it's aways nice to hear good things when you have not been fishing for a compliment. They sound much more genuin that way. At the same time I felt really akward cause I really can't take compliments. I feel all embarrased and I just want to run away. When you have been told your whole childhood you're stupid and ugly you sort of start believing it and you can't believe anyone who says otherwise. I think I'm going to sleep smiling tonight

Or about music videos:

I just watched 50 cent's P.I.M.P video and I have to say that I was a bit surprised. The women in the video are naked. I mean ok women in these rap videos are normally not wearing turtle necks but I mean they were naked naked except for some little thong they were trying their best to hide. I mean I'm not blushing over here or anything, I only have to look down to see a pair of breasts but I'm just thinking like what next. 50 cent was groping their breasts and in my time (hehe) that would have passed as slightly pornographic. Now they are showing a video like that at nine in the evening in the most popular station among the teenagers. What did I miss?

Or about important social issues:

The healthcare system here for those who suffer from mental illnesses is a disgrace. There is no one who monitors them after they come out from the hospital if they get into it in the first place. There is no support for the families. The waiting lists for the children's wards are unbelievable and it depends on how often the child has tried to take their own life where it is on the waiting list. The worst thing is that it doesn't only affect the person who's sick, the whole family is a part of it like the family of this young man I know who don't sleep at night out of worries. Only about a year ago a man like that commited a murder right here in Reykjavik cause he just didn't get the treatment he needed. How many more need to do something awful so something will be done???

Throughout her writing, Au∂i is consistently honest, thoughtful, passionate, and humorous.

Recently I had the chance to ask her a few questions about herself and about Iceland:

According to one blogging survey Icelandic is the 12th most popular blogging language which is amazing considering the size of the population. Why do you think this is?

Au∂i: It's quite simple really. There is a saying over here that says if one cow pees all the other ones do as well... that's what this is all about. This is the new trend. Now everyone blogs, when I was 14 everybody wore their sweaters backwards. Also we are a bit full of ourselves by nature, everyone is an artist of some kind and is sure he has something to contribute to the world. When I heard about this I wasn't a least bit surprised.

You've mentioned having both an English and an Icelandic blog. How are they alike? Different?

Au∂i: They are alike in the way that they both tell a tale of the same main character, me, but that's about the only thing they have in common. I try to be honest and true to myself in them both though. I'm much more conscious of who is reading my Icelandic blog so I avoid writing things that I know will hurt people. I also don't give away any information about myself like where I work or where I live exactly cause Iceland is a really small country and if I write about a difficult customer or something it's likely they could hear about it. I let myself go more in the English blog. And I curse more.

If you had to compare yourself to a character on Friends, which one would you say you are most like? If you could be any Friends character, which one would you be?

Au∂i: The answer to both the Friends questions is Phoebe. I'm like her in the way that I sort of live in my own world and the two worlds don't always go together. I'm a bit wacky and eccentric like her. Why I want to be like her is the fact she wants to do the right thing all the time although she doesn't always succeed. At least she tries.

Tourists, whatever country they may be from, can often be annoying to the people who live in a popular tourist destination. Do you find this true of tourists to Iceland? What advice would you give tourists to be less annoying?

Au∂i: I don't find the tourists over here all that annoying. Only thing I've noticed is the reputation Icelandic girls seem to have and a small portion of the male tourists tend to treat them with a little disrespect. The most annoying thing about tourists in general is when they expect the locals to speak their language and then get all irritated when they don't. That's annoying.

I love music. What Icelandic bands would you recommend to me?

Au∂i: You have about an hour? My favorites at the moment are Maus, 200.000 naglbtar, Sigur Ros, Mum, Ensimi, Jaguar and Botnle∂ja but other good bands people like are Minus, Brain Police, Ulpa, Leaves, Quarashi, Ske and many many more. At this site you can find a list of the bands that have a homepage and most of them have some kind of sound clips. Rokk.is is also pretty interesting.

How has Iceland changed in your lifetime?

Au∂i: First of all my lifetime is a relativly short period of time. What comes first to mind is how much Reykjavik and it's surroundings have expanded. My mum now lives where me and my friends went to pick berries when I was younger. It took us all day to go there and we packed lunches and everything. The number of immigrants has grown, especially in the past few years. There also seems to be more violence and crimes now but maybe I simply didn't notice it back then.

What is your favorite time of year?

Au∂i: Winter because of the stars and the northern lights. Summer because of the 24 hour sunlight. Spring because everything is waking up again and fall because of the beautiful colours. There is no way I can choose between them.

If you could recommend one place to eat in Reykjavik, what would it be?

Au∂i: Being the poor little girl that I am I usually don't have money for anything fancy. The best junk in town is without a doubt Nonnabiti in Hafnarstæti, especially after a pint or two.

Well, I could have asked Au∂i many more questions, but she was headed off to a vacation in Denmark (and you can read all about it in her blog). I enjoyed having the chance to talk to her and will be interviewing more people in the coming weeks. Look for more interviews in the near future.

nóvember 4, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack