Dokodemo Door!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Truthiness to Power

"President Soeharto led Indonesia for over 30 years, a period during which Indonesia achieved remarkable economic and social development... Though there may be some controversy over his legacy, President Soeharto was a historic figure who left a lasting imprint on Indonesia and the region of Southeast Asia."

--US ambassador to Indonesia Cameron Hume in his official comment on the death of Suharto on Sunday.

Delicate times like these demand it not be said that Suharto's minions killed somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million Indonesians and East Timorese during his 32-year rule.

By "lasting imprint" I assume Hume meant "mountain of skulls."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New semester

I've had a very relaxing winter vacation-- maybe too relaxing.

The Spring semester is about to begin, and I'm wondering how long it will take me to get back up to operating speed, so to speak.

My schedule is going to be less-than-convenient this spring. Not only am I teaching a class I've never done before (necessitating lesson plans made from scratch) but the classes I'm taking in the evening are going to be quite challenging.

On top of that, Mari and I are planning to move to a new apartment not very far away from where we are now.

In other news, Mari has started teaching a small Japanese class among some of co-workers. She's going to start charging a (tiny) fee in the near future. This isn't going to be anything more than just a hobby for her, but I hope she finds the experience enjoyable.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Alþings great and small

Okay, I promise: this is the last update devoted to our summer trip and it's been way overdue.

November was really hectic, then the holidays came and I lost track. I'm good at making excuses, eh?

So let me pick-up where we left off. For our purposes, three days in Iceland was an appropriate length of time. We flew-out of London, and arrived in Reykjavik at 11 PM. The sun had barely started going-down. Next morning, we got-up and hiked-around town:

Reykjavik is, I think, one of the odder capitals I've been in. It was a city of 100,000 and was, sadly, a bit drab. There wasn't a lot of fanciful Scandinavian architecture, although there was a bit of color here and there. It was June, and the temperature never got above 60 F.

Behold Leif Eriksson, credited with being the first European to visit the Americas:

My wife was shocked to learn that Columbus Day should be regarded as something of a sham.

That evening, we were bused-out to a hot-spring spa down in the lava-fields of the southwest coast. And ohhh man, was it ever fine.

I'm a big lover of the onsen spas which dot rural Japan, and I will say that the Blue Lagoon in Iceland was, without a doubt, the finest onsen-pool I have experienced ever.

The next day, we went on a bus tour of southwest Iceland, the highlights of which were a waterfall, geysers, and Þingvellir National Park. (And yes, I like how the 'th'-sounds are represented in Icelandic.)
One thing that is striking about rural Iceland is that there are barely any trees. When the Vikings first landed, there were apparently a number of birch forests which were chopped-down over the years. But today, there's a thin green skin stretched-over red or black lava rock, as can be seen at the crater-lake Kerið.

Around noon, we hit the geysers. Geyser is, of course, from the Icelandic 'geysir' and is the only word from that language to make it into English as far as I know. I wanted to load some video, but it didn't quite work. So here's an inadequate substitute: a photo of Strokkur in mid-eruption. I had to wait a whole ten minutes to get this snapshot, so you'd better enjoy it.
Then, we stopped by Þingvellir National Park, location of the Alþing, the annual council of Icelandic chiefs at which the national law-code was hammered-out and justice dispensed.
Nearby, there was a little pond called Drekkingarhylur which means "the drowning hole." I'll quote the informational tablet:

Seventy-two people are known with certainty to have been executed at Þingvellir from 1602 to 1750: 30 males were beheaded, 15 hanged and nine burned at the stake. Eighteen women were drowned here in Drekkingarhylur."
Makes lethal injection seem a bit milquetoasty, does it not?

Then, we got back to our hotel and the next morning we flew back home.

So endeth the saga of our summer trip.