Ice, Fire and Butter: an Iceland Experience

•August 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

If you are interested in seeing the far north, I can’t think of a more exotic country to visit than Iceland. The whole island is formed by lava flows that seep from the divergence of two tectonic plates. This is what causes the volcanic eruptions, steam vents, earthquakes and other phenomenon that create a constantly changing landscape. And somehow, in spite of all this, there are flowers everywhere in summer. I’ll show you some later. First the Fire and Ice.

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The above photo is a place where molten lava burst from below, seeped out of the crevice and eventually hardened. Over vast time, weathering and glaciation created what you see above.

You might ask, as you read this, why I’m not telling you the exact location and name of each place where a photo was taken. Ah, you have not been introduced to the Icelandic language. Most of the names I could give you have six syllables and you most likely would get lost in the middle of the word anyway. If you wish for a tour guide to Iceland, you are reading the wrong blog. I did try, I really did try, to master some of the pronunciation, but to my ear, at least, the native speakers are swallowing half the sounds. I kept thinking of Klingon. But I digress. Back to the photo tour.

There are many hot spots, thermal vents, hot springs, whatever they’re known as, scattered through the country. I was fortunate to visit a volcanic region in the center of the country. This area is not easy to access. Often the road, which can be nothing more than a narrow bed of volcanic ash, disappears under a fast moving stream. There are many signs to warn drivers of this.

 

Personally, I would rather have seen signs to indicate that anyone without very stout ankles is going to fall flat on their face at least once a day trying to walk this landscape.

If you are lucky, there is some nice volcanic ash to walk on. If you’re not lucky, watch your feet. The location of the following photos is where NASA tested the moon landing vehicles in the 60s before their use on the moon! You can see why.

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In the midst of all this fury, the ice age has left its mark. You can walk on glaciers, and boat around with icebergs.

 

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I walked on this glacier. It’s not pristine white as you might expect because the whole country is an active volcanic area. Ash coats the ice. If you can see below, some of the blue ice shows. It’s also visible in floating ice.

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Today, most of the glaciers have retreated and carved fjords, valleys and lakes.

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This is NW Iceland. I boated in some of these fjords. There were many whales. I won’t post any whale photos because I was only able to get the whale tails. Not very exciting. I am sure other people got some good photos but I’m not tall enough! Most of the time the heads and bodies of other people on the boat got in the way and I doubt you want to look at the back of a rain slicker? I would rather show you scenery.

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I went by small plane from the NW to the North Central coast. This was taken from the window of the airplane (obviously).

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You might think there is nothing but rock and ice to see, but as you travel from one region to the next the landscape changes a great deal. Erosion has created a shallow layer of topsoil where a wonderful variety of plant life grows. The wild blueberries were ripe when I was there and we would pick them as we walked. Many of the plants seemed very exotic to me, but I know almost nothing about botany.

 

Or, should your feet betray you, you could always fall into a puffin burrow. In places where grass grows taller and the ground is spongy, a fall is nothing worse than landing on your own bed. How do you like the way I sneaked the puffins in?

 

The south coast was the greenest area of the country that I saw. Of course, there are still lots of thermal areas and volcanic rocks and volcanoes to be seen.

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I have to say something about waterfalls. There are zillions. One of the biggest, Dettifoss, is truly powerful. However, I was delighted by something that I discovered nearby. I’m not sure what it is, but I will call it a fairy circle.

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I don’t know how it got there. Oh, you want to see the waterfall, don’t you. Okay, but you can see waterfalls easily. When is the last time you saw a fairy…altar?

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By this time you have either decided you can’t live without seeing Iceland or you’re just scrolling down the page like mad. And there’s also the matter of the butter. I’m sure Icelandic butter is very fine indeed, and it is impossible to avoid, so it seems. It’s in everything, on everything and often has seeds in it. There’s butter all over the greenhouse grown veggies which are wonderful enough to not need it. The soups they make there are also fantastic. I’m sure there was some butter also in the moss soup. No, I did not make that up. Interesting it was, but I was only able to make it through half a bowl. I know, I just told you the soup is fantastic. Except for that one! I don’t understand why the population there is so long lived on their diet. Enough about food, only mentioned the topic as a point of interest.

So I leave you now with one of the highlights of my trip. An encounter with a badly behaved Icelandic goat.

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Mickey is the author of two mystery novels. Visit www.mickeyhoffman.com for details.

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Buy a TV set in only 4 Hours!

•May 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Step one: Find the TV on the store’s website. Then the store tells you to order it on line.

Step two: Select a TV set. Set up a delivery.

Step three: It seems you now have to wait for an email to set up the installation of the TV.

Step four: The email arrives. The email has the order number and a phone number to call for installation scheduling. For some reason that can’t be done on line.

Step five: So time to call the number. The person who answers has ALL of the details of your order wrong. You learn that not only is the address incorrect, the TV was scheduled for pick up at a store in the wrong city, not as a delivery. AND when you clarify the city, they don’t have that model of TV that can be delivered to that area in the first place. When you express dismay, you are transferred to a different department.

Step six: You are told, after being switched between three different people, that the order you placed can’t be completed, but you can not be issued a cancellation or a refund from the person telling you this. You must call a different number and ask for a special department.

Step seven: You call the number you were given and a robot voice does not have that special department on its robotic menu, nor can the robot understand you. After using several terms of endearment the robot finds you a human. This human is very nice, and looks up your order and says there was nothing wrong with it in the first place. Who told you it was all screwed up? But, this person can not set up the installation. You must call another number and to avoid more errors, tell them to look at “order details.”

Step eight: This call takes you to what is obviously a huge call center because you can hear the person sitting next to the one who took your call more clearly than the person you are speaking to. After explaining several times you wish to set up an installation, the person pulls up the order and finds that the order details are NOT correct, but says he can fix it. This takes about half an hour during which time you are placed on hold four times and have to repeat the address where the TV is going several times. The only thing that previously seemed correct, the day of delivery, now seems to have changed mysteriously.

Step nine: You ask the person to please repeat everything to verify, since it has been a long, long road to reach this point. You are assured that the TV will arrive one or two days before the installation crew will arrive to set it all up. A recap will be sent via email.

Step ten: The email arrives. The zip code and street address are correct. The name of the town is misspelled. But it’s been four hours. Maybe it will arrive anyway. At this point, who cares?

Mickey Hoffman is the author of the mystery novels, “School of Lies” and “Deadly Traffic.” Visit http://www.mickeyhoffman.com for details.

 

My new world, November 2017.

•November 11, 2016 • 1 Comment

I would like to announce that I shall succeed from reality. Or please can I reincarnate immediately into some other species where I would feel less shame? I want to live in a fantasy world where there is no science to drag me down. Where are the Trisolans when we need them? (If you haven’t read the books by Liu Cixin these are actual outer space aliens that are out to destroy us. I was afraid of the concept but now, bring it on guys or whatever term you sentients use.) In my fantasy world I won’t notice the coral reefs die, the oceans rise, the trees wither, the animals die. I will eat salty food and drink diet soda and never get ill. And all the discarded plastic,tires and styrofoam in the world will just disappear after one month in the landfill.

Getting older? Here’s an App.

•July 18, 2016 • 3 Comments

These days I feel like my body has become a foreign entity which does whatever it wants. I’ve almost given up trying to keep control. Bits and pieces, parts and systems go awry without advance notice and seemingly without cause. So I have decided to relinquish my futile attempts at managing these processes. But if I’m no longer going to pretend to be in charge, something has to take over. Hence, the new app. This app is called, “Today’s Body Part.”

After download and installation on your mobile device, the app will run itself beautifully.  Each morning a cheerful message will appear on screen to inform you which of your body parts or systems is going to go wrong.

For example, “Good Morning. This is your lumbar spine and I’m excited to tell you I’m going to be your Body Part of the Day! For more details just watch your finger press the icon and read on. (Since you have allowed us our autonomy there’s no need for you to lift a finger, as the saying goes, hah hah.) Thanks for checking in, see ya Soon.” For extra fun, download the Deluxe app which will allow you to view the message through your cellphone camera as an animated cartoon superimposed on your current location.

Today’s Body Part app will alleviate all the anxiety that comes from trying to keep the aging process at bay. Download Today!

Mickey is the author of two mystery novels published by Indigo Sea Press LLC. Visit her website: www.mickeyhoffman.com

 

 

When did my concern become your hate?

•February 27, 2016 • 2 Comments

Well, I learned my lesson. I had to remove a post from my Facebook author page. The post mostly was a link to a NY Times article. Apparently, my error was that the headline of the article had the name TRUMP in it.

The article referred directly to the HB type visas that were the inspiration for “Deadly Traffic.” The article does not say Trump or his companies are doing anything wrong, but it correctly says that the workers who have those visas are rather trapped because they are here legally only as long as they have the job listed on the visa. If they lose that job or quit that job, they can’t stay in the country legally.

Although my book is a mystery novel, it details some of the abuses in the visa program, mainly how foreign workers are recruited to come here and then exploited by unscrupulous bosses. My book isn’t political and it’s certainly not about any candidates for office.

In the past I’ve linked to other articles or books that deal with problems with this visa program and never got replies of any kind before. In fact, you can hear the crickets chirp on that Facebook page. I usually don’t get even a “like.” But within hours of my posting the above-mentioned link, I received a number of vitriolic responses, the first of which was, “No one wants to read your book, it’s trash.” I suppose I should feel gratified the writer knew how to use the apostrophe in it’s.

Anyway, the angry responses were from supporters of Donald Trump who assumed I only posted the article for political purposes. The NY Times has posted several articles lately about US visa programs and their problems and this was just the latest.I did get one long response from someone who wanted to bash Trump, which was equally problematic because my post had no political intent.

I have now removed my apparently outrageous post. So beware, folks, how you relate one of your novels to reality. The world might not forgive you.

If you’re interested, here is a link to the NY Times article. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/us/politics/donald-trump-taps-foreign-work-force-for-his-florida-club.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Taxi Distractie

•October 24, 2015 • 1 Comment

Everyone knows about distracted drivers. We all see people using their phones on the road. In the good old days, putting on makeup or eating behind the wheel were the worst things. Then came the cell phone. As if this didn’t provide anough distraction, the phones soon got GPS apps. Then came little GPS screens that could sit on the dashboard, and now, cars are coming with tablet sized monitors right in the dashboard.

If you’ve ever been in a taxi in a big city, you know to wear a seat belt and brace yourself for potholes, lane swerving and unexpected accelerations. Even the most sedate cab ride can be a challenge if your hand encounters a suspicious sticky spot on the seat, or you notice, after boarding, that your driver looks like he hasn’t slept in a month and when he did, he most likely slept in the taxi.

Taxi drivers used to leave their communication radios turned up and passengers had the pleasure of hearing the calls and static. Then the drivers got cell phones, so they yakked to their families while driving. Now they have better phones and the phones have screens. They take business calls, they talk to their friends, and if they think about it, they might glance at the road from time to time.

Recently, I got in a taxi at night at an airport. A minute after the driver pulled away, he received a call on his cellphone. He answered, “AIRPORT TAXI.” Then, apparently, someone started to give him an address. He reached for a small notebook and pencil and proceeded to write this down while simultaneously navigating a cloverleaf on ramp at high speed. From my seat in the back, I couldn’t tell–did he have either hand on the steering wheel? Fortunately, he ended the call when he had to merge on to the freeway. Just when I got my breath back, his phone rang again. This time he answered, “CITY CAB”. He had a brief conversation, then made a call on a different phone and assigned someone to a pickup. Yes, it could have been a comedy skit, but after 13 hours on airplanes I wasn’t in the mood to laugh. He continued to take calls the whole way. I was more than usually happy to reach my home! Yes, he is a very enterprising young driver, but I doubt he will live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. In any case, I won’t be calling either of those taxi companies any time soon.

There are alternatives to taxis, but they’re not necessarily safer. I recently rode a Super Shuttle where the driver had three large monitors arranged around the driver’s seat. We were hurtling down a highway at 70 mph and he seldom bothered to view the road ahead.

Sometimes, yes, I say something like, “Maybe you should watch the road.” One driver agreed with me and seemed to be embarrassed. Most of them ignore it or blame their supervisors for making them work too hard. How much do you tip someone who almost gets you killed?

Mickey Hoffman is the author of two mystery novels. Visit www.mickeyhoffman.com for details.

Set in “Stone” : The Neighborhood Divide

•July 25, 2015 • 2 Comments

If you haven’t been following this blog you missed my rant about the concrete work in my city. It’s here for future reference:

https://mickeyhoffman.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/a-mystery-in-concrete/

The city government is obsessed with what they refer to as traffic calming dividers. These are blobs of pavement that jut out from corners or divide traffic lanes. In my opinion, someone important or influential owns a concrete company because the money the city spends on this stuff could be used elsewhere.

Anyway, about a year ago the powers that be decided to place a street divider in front of my house. This was to slow down the cars. The city hasn’t done anything about slowing down the skateboarders who zoom from the top of a hill in a nearby alley and roll right into passing traffic which is way more dangerous. Or, they could have made the intersection a four-way stop sign like many, many others. But instead, the concrete men came and constructed an ovoid island of concrete and then covered it with river rock. It was lovely when new and now it’s even more beautiful. I will give you a moment to admire it. Notice the accompanying cracked pavement and weed growth.

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Ignore the dry grass on the other side of the street. We are in a drought and aren’t supposed to water the grass. It’s not a reflection on the “quality” of the residents.

If you travel one mile south, to the neighborhood where some of our city council members reside, you will find quite a different scene. Here’s the street divider those folks got.

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Note they got a two-tiered island which even has a small tree growing in it. There’s also a bird bath but it’s hard to see due to all the greenery. This neighborhood has an average income higher than my neighborhood and very few apartment houses. I guess those people a mile down the road just appreciate foliage more. Right.

Do these dividers slow down traffic? Not that I’ve noticed on my street. They do make it harder to park. Perhaps the drought will sooner or later nullify these esthetic differences. The whole city might look like the Sahara soon. With concrete.

Visit my website, www.mickeyhoffman.com

 
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