Sunday, 24 May 2020


colours of the world: Crayola crayons launch a special pigment pack to capture the diverse skin tones of people around the world—since fortunately the vast majority is not this

farringdon folly: the real life landmarks that informed and inspired (see also) JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth

a typographical sirloin: visual mondegreens (see previously here and here) resulting from the keming—er, kerning of certain letter combinations

service à la française: the history and possible future of buffet-style dining (relatedly)

ultraflex: a futuristic Icelandic boogie band at the intersection of disco and Soviet-era calisthenics

where the rubber meets the road: tyre add-on device collects worn and shredded detritus before it goes into the environment

Sunday, 10 May 2020


Codenamed Operation Fork, this day in 1940 saw the invasion and subsequent five-year occupation of Iceland by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines intent on denying Nazi Germany its capture or use after Denmark fell. Wanting to maintain neutrality, Iceland rebuffed overtures by the UK to join the Allies and was seized with military means unamicably at first though no violence ensued, the initial force encountering no resistance when they landed at Rekyjavík.
Aside from its strategic location in the north Atlantic, before declaring itself a Republic—the referendum taking place whilst still under occupation (the Canadians and then the US, still officially neutral, took over operations) in 1944—the island nation remained in personal union with its former metropolitan, the Kingdom of Denmark, and had had its defences and diplomacy managed by the Danes. The social upheaval and extensive development of purpose-built infrastructure made the years of the mandate hard ones for many Icelanders and there was little evidence that the Nazis had designs on the island, believing it too difficult to hold and the lack of roads and resources made it not a tempting prospect. In response to Operation Fork, planners drew up Unternehmen Ikarus for a later take-over after the Allies finished fortifying Iceland but was never realised.

Thursday, 23 April 2020


According to the old Icelandic calendar’s reckoning, the first Thursday after 18 April marks the first day of the month of Harpa, Sumardagurinn fyrsti, a public holiday—the beginning of the Náttleysi (nightless) time.  Meteorological projections for this season happen to align with folk beliefs that project that summer will be a mild one should there not be a freeze on the night before.

Thursday, 16 April 2020


From BBC’s Monitoring desk, we appreciated this rejuvenating, restorative suggestion from the senior ranger of Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstadur, in the eastern part of the island that one go, safely, out and embrace a tree, really savouring the connection and letting it support one and draw strength from it. Not all of us might have the woods at our doorsteps but I think all of us are lucky enough to have a tree at hand.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020


kórsafn: Björk collaborates with an technology company to produce background music that changes with the weather and seasons

de arte gymnastica: Ask the Past prescribes an exercise regimen from a 1560 volume

: a centenary celebration of filmmaker Federico Fellini

langmuir waves: a sonic sample of the solar winds

blogoversary: Boing Boing enters its third decade for the second time (see also about its earlier incarnation)

godunov, badenov: the Russian succession crisis and the curious case of the false Dmitris

how to teach your cat to do tricks: uncovering the art studio behind WikiHow‘s signature illustrations, via Super Punch

Saturday, 11 January 2020


We very much appreciated the introduction to the decorative rarity found in Japan and northern Europe but can be cultivated and cared for at home, sort of like Sea Monkeys but a lot more genuine, I think, called a marimo moss ball. Also known as mossimo (マリモ), a Cladophora or lake ball, it’s a bit of a misnomer as it's a particular growth formation—a colony, of a fresh-water algae called Aegagropila linnæi. The organisms will assume this globular cluster particularly in Iceland, Scotland, Ukraine (see also) and colder lakes in Japan but are increasingly endangered in the wild due to poaching. Protection efforts and due diligence on the part of collectors are helping to ensure that one can purchase a kit from sustainable sources.

Friday, 6 September 2019


Sensitive to the huge problem of food waste, an enterprising bakery in Iceland has installed a superannuated telephone booth on its premises in which to deposit the leftovers from the end of the day and offer them for sale to late-comers on a trust system at a deeply discounted price. Local patrons are delighted with the idea of being able to get fresh breads afterhours and help reduce what would otherwise end up in landfills. I hope more small businesses might take a cue from this bakery and invest in the honour and integrity of shoppers and right-sizing production.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

fire and i.c.e.

Though ultimately denied her alibi to skip out on a visit with Trump’s viceroy but not because liberal-Green prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir changed her itinerary and rather the US mission did shift their schedule from today to tomorrow rather than perpetuate another diplomatic gaffe, the Reykjavík Grapevine reports, Pence coming to Iceland following additional investment does yet put the country in an awkward position, the understudy being rather antithetical to everything that Iceland has come to embrace and stands for and steals the spotlight and upstages Trump himself regarding some issues. There’s sure to be protests whether the US is successful in making vassals out of Europe’s fringes or not, so stay tuned.

Saturday, 27 July 2019


Via My Modern Met, we learn that a group of scientists and activists from Rice University in the course of producing a documentary called “Not Ok” chronicling the loss of Iceland’s first glacier (Ok for short) in Borgarfjörður have created a memorial plaque and missive to the future, our judges whether we did what was needed to save the others.
Not only does it eulogise this tragic first slippage for the island that won’t be its last and the consequences of a catastrophic, runaway climate change. The plaque is to be installed 18 August and makes note of the atmospheric CO2 count in parts per million, which might become a novel way to date events.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

time to make the doughnuts

Having famously unyoked itself from one fast-food giant several years back—with the artefacts to prove it—one doughnut (kleinuhringjum) chain has already come and gone and now with a second one to follow, having grossly over-estimated the market demand in Iceland.
I hope that this trend continues and such invasive, unnecessary operations kindly remove their toe-hold in train stations and the high street in cloying hopes of being seen and establishing brand loyalty. Placeholder-boutiques, having dispensed with initial curiosity if the appeal was ever there much less sustaining, are a huge drag on resources and real estate that could be put to much better use.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019


Apparently realising announced intentions to re-occupy the naval station and air base made in 2017 returned to the Icelandic Defence Forces in September of 2006, US military budget allocations indicate that America will begin work on bringing Keflavík (previously here and here) back under its control. The extension of the civilian airport currently operated as a NATO base and host to American trans-Atlantic traffic, the US wants to rebuild and expand neglected infrastructure and establish a modern toehold in the between continents. The revelation is subject to controversy and contention in the Alþingi.

Monday, 17 June 2019

alþing considered

A possession of the Kingdom of Norway since the dissolution of the Kalmar Union in the early sixteenth century and then of the Kingdom of Denmark owing to the Napoleonic Wars (1803 – 1815, see also), the Republic of Iceland came into existence on this day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn) in 1944.
A near unanimous referendum held that May came into effect 17 June, independence day marked on the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson (*1811 – †1879), a prominent leader in the movement for Iceland’s autonomy, voting to end the island’s personal union with the monarchy. Effectively devolved and with home rule—except in defence and diplomatic matters, since the end of World War I, the Act of Union negotiated had a quarter of a century expiry date unless renewed, a trial period to allow Icelanders the chance to demonstrate that they could govern themselves.  Due to Nazi occupation, however, Denmark was not able to honour the 1943 deadline and Iceland, hosting Allied forces, held the plebiscite and voted to sever ties. Though many Danes were upset with Iceland declaring independence with their country under invasion, King Christian X nonetheless congratulated (with some urging on the part of his cousin, the King of Sweden) the people for forming a republic.

Friday, 7 June 2019


I found this campaign from the Icelandic tourism board especially shaming and the scold that I deserve since—especially owing to the fact the justifications of mandatory sorting of trash, deposits (Pfand) to encourage recycling are starting to hold less and less water or even a panic over Legionnaires’ disease tap water is generally clean and safe—I too am guilty of imbibing exclusively the bottled variety.
Like Kranavatn (Icelandic for tap water), it’s not out of fear for safety that I prefer to get my bottled water, which is even sourced not far from where we live and assuredly is piped in as well, but because I’ve come to prefer the carbonation—something I am confident that could be otherwise arranged. This is a small pledge for visitors that we could all make.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

hægri dagurinn

A year after a far more logistically challenging switch-over had occurred in Sweden, all vehicular traffic in Iceland switched from left-handed chirality to right on this day in 1968.
Owing to the relative absence of congestion on the roads prior and to the stationing of British military forces during and after World War II which significantly overrode civilian activity, Iceland was not compelled to choose or to align itself until it began hosting more guests from continental Europe and America. As for Sweden, the change was imposed in hopes of reducing traffic accidents and while indeed accidents decreased right after the transition due to an abundance of caution and over-compensation, the benefits were not long-lasting.

Friday, 1 March 2019


A dry spell lasting from New Year’s Day 1915 to this day in 1989, Iceland placed a prohibition on beer for seventy-four years. A 1908 referendum that went into effect seven years later banned all alcoholic beverages outright for the island nation, but under pressure from the Kingdom of Spain, who threatened to stop importing Icelandic fish unless they were allowed to export Spanish wine, caused the Alþingi to relax their strictures a bit and a 1935 plebiscite allowed for the possession, sale and consumption of spirits.
Beer, however, remained excluded in order to appease the powerful temperance lobby, reasoning that beer by dint of its cheapness would result in greater dissolution. By the mid-1980s, the availability of international travel and greater tourism reconnected a generation of Icelanders who had grown up without beer back in touch with it and bars in the country were improvising with an expensive and potentially dangerous mix of non-alcoholic beer (which was legal) stiffened with shots of liquor. The Alþingi finally entertained the question again and lifted prohibition—an event observed annually.

Sunday, 24 February 2019


The date of observance and tone having shifted significantly since the Icelandic calendar was first codified and presently equivalent to Valentine’s Day, Woman’s Day has settled on this day—having beforehand been held on the first day of the month of Góa—which could fall anywhere between the eighteenth and the twenty-fifth of February, due to the strictly solar character of the traditional way of keeping track of the passage of time which employed interstitial weeks rather than leap days every few years to correct for seasonal creep. The extra week called sumarauki was always inserted into the summer and the rather ingenious and tidy system developed in the 900s had twelve months of thirty days each (three hundred and sixty plus four epagomenal ones) and the months always began on the same day of the week. The old Icelandic year was divided between “short days” (see also here and here)—Skammdegi—that described the length of daylight during the winter and its corollary “nightless days”—Náttleysi. The dark and harsh first half of the year consisted of:

  • mid October – mid November: Gormánuður, Gór’s month which marked the time to harvest and slaughter livestock for the winter
  • mid November – mid December: Ýlir, Yuletide 
  • mid December – mid January: Mörsugur, feasting time 
  • mid January – mid February: Þorri, dead of Winter 
  • mid February to mid March: Góa 
  • mid March to mid April: Einmánuður, the month of transition
Summer is welcomed with Sumardagurinn fyrsti and the six months of unending days, many named after now forgotten goddesses—making an even stronger argument to honour the women in your lives all year around, follow with:
  • mid April – mid May: Harpa, the beginning of Summer 
  • mid May – mid June: Skerpia 
  • mid June – mid July: Sólmánuður, the sunny month 
  • mid July – mid August: Heyannir, time to dry the hay for the livestock 
  • mid August – mid September: Tvímánuður, for some reason, the second month 
  • mid September – mid October: Haustmánuður, autumn sets in

Friday, 1 February 2019

minn tími mun koma!

On this day a decade hence, reeling from the economic meltdown of that crescendoed in 2008 and revelation of graft and corruption within the sitting government, the Althing appointed member Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (previously) as prime minster of Iceland.  The first openly lesbian head of government plus the country’s first woman leader.
Having served in parliament since 1978, she made a bid to head the Social Democratic party (Alþýðuflokkurinn, later merged into the Social Democratic Alliance) in 1994 but was defeated. Never one to concede, Sigurðardóttir’s rallying cry became the above, My time will come!, a popular saying outside of the political sphere as well.  Though this degree of political normalisation has been restricted to European governments thus far and progress is a fragile thing that never ought to be taken for granted, it does seem rather remarkable and even rather old hat that ten years on there are three currently serving gay or lesbian national leaders, the Taoiseach of Ireland and the prime ministers of Serbia and Luxembourg.

Sunday, 23 December 2018


Though not officially recognised as part of the Calendar of the Saints until Pope John Paul II made it official in 1984 and followed up with a visit to the island, Saint Þorlákur Þórhallsson—Thorlak Thornhallsson, Bishop of Skálholt, had been considered the patron of Iceland for the greater part of a millennia.

His feast day, today, the anniversary of his death in 1193, marked the end of the customary Christmas time of fasting and signaled for households to prepare for Christmas in earnest, doing the last-minute shopping and finishing decorating the tree. Traditionally, Icelanders have skate, a sort of ray-like fish, on this evening—Thorlak also being the patron of fisherman and currently under consideration, informal investigation for being nominated as the patron saint of Autism, apparently as his interventions (we’re not exactly sure why but everyone needs a cause and a champion) have proved especially helpful for those on the spectrum.

Saturday, 22 December 2018


their santatanic majesties request: the Rolling Stone album had the working title of Cosmic Christmas

tinsel: a gallery of Mid-Century Modern aluminum Christmas trees

tinsel town: 1930s Hollywood in its heydays recreated as a diorama

brick & mortar: a bookshop in Tokyo now has a cover-charge

aðventuljós: a handy guide to the holidays in Iceland

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

einn af hjörðinni

The BBC Monitoring desk reports that one of the most anticipated annual registries among Icelandic shepherds (and we suppose among eligible sheep as well) has just been published with profiles of the country’s most sought-after ram bachelors, continuing a tradition of two decades of showcasing sires and obituaries for those who passed away since the last issue.
Seeing these impressive sets of horns reminded me that the release of the catalogue is coinciding with a plebiscite—direct democracy in action—taking place in Switzerland over the weekend on animal welfare, with voting finally taking place after an eight-year struggle to hold the referendum. At stake is the right for cow and goat farmers to receive special dispensation and compensation (due to the accommodations and bigger stalls required to safely rear the animals) who choose not to dehorn their herds. About a quarter of Swiss livestock are of the horned variety. The referendum’s human champion wants to take the question of economics out of the decision—which sounds rather ghastly and traumatising—and calls for subsidies instead of indignities.