Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Iceland! Part I: Things I Saw, Places I went, Stuff I Did

Places I went: Even as I type this, it sounds as though I didn't see much, but honestly I was constantly moving and going somewhere. I stopped briefly at each spot to really appreciate everything before moving on. The truth is there is SO many things to see and do in Iceland and one week is nowhere near enough time to see everything. In the winter, hours are reduced in a lot of places too, and when visiting outdoor features, you are limited by the short days. While in Reykjavik, I visited a couple of museums, the National Museum of Iceland and the Aurora Borealis Museum. I wish I had made it to the Saga Museum and the Settlement Exhibition but I ran out of time. All of these places are spread out through the city and so it took some time to walk to them, and of course, I wanted to stop and take pictures of pretty much everything so yeah, the evenings crept up on me pretty quickly. I also wanted to kind of experience a bit of the local culture, so I hung out in a lot of pools and went to a few coffee shops and bars. I did a walking tour of the city, went to the famous hot dog stand, and on Monday night, walking to Grotta Lighthouse, I stopped and sat on a rocky cliff to watch the northern lights. It is said that you shouldn't expect to see them when you visit, so I felt so lucky to see them my second night there.

On Tuesday, the plan was to do the Golden Circle, which I did most of by the end of the day. I never made it to Thingvellir National Park which makes me incredibly sad but it just never worked out. On Tuesday morning it was sleeting, and as I got closer to the park, the roads got progressively worse and worse, and my little 2WD hatchback was not having it. About 3/4 of the way there, I ended up behind a row of cars that were stopped and ahead there was a tour bus that had rolled off the road and was laying on its side down a little ravine. Honestly, it doesn't sound like much here, but it was terrifying to see it and to watch the terrified, disoriented tourists stumble out of the bus. To make a long story short, a police officer came around a few minutes later to tell us they were closing the road and was nice enough to turn my car around for me on the extremely narrow, icy road and once I was closer to Reykjavik again and the roads were better, my nerves finally eased up. I drove to Hverger∂i, calmed down a bit, and decided to just do the rest of the tour backwards. I ended up visiting Keri∂ crater first (which was so beautiful), then a tomato greenhouse in Reykholt for lunch, then Geysir (where I saw Stokkur erupt a few times), then Gullfoss, the giant waterfall.

Wednesday was the day that I finally learned that plans in Iceland are completely useless. I set off from Stokkseyri, where I spent the night, and drove to Oddi (an old church/monastery/graveyard), and Keldur (which are viking ruins that I discovered were closed for the winter). At Keldur, I realized I left my phone charger back at the guesthouse and I made it almost back there when I ran over a screw that punctured my tire. I managed to get to a gas station, call the rental car company, and attempted to change my very first flat tire when a very nice person (the Icelandic Keith Richards) came out to change it for me. I then had to drive to Selfoss to get it fixed which was probably the least fun experience I had in Iceland. Service industries are very different over there (understandably so) and they weren't the most pleasant people to deal with, but the man fixed the tire for me and honestly that's all I care about. By this point, it was mid afternoon and I had to drive to Vik before dark so I only made a couple of stops on the way and those were at Skogafoss and another waterfall (which is the waterfall that you're able to walk behind!) and in front of Eyjafjallajokull volcano (the one that erupted in 2010). I never did get my phone charger back but I'm okay with it. Later that night, at my guesthouse, I happened to glance out of my window before bed and the northern lights were right there! I couldn't believe I had seen them twice now. They only lasted a few minutes before the clouds took over, but they were beautiful.

I think Thursday was my favorite day. I experienced the crazy weather in the morning as I drove to Dyrholaey lighthouse and to Reynisfjara (beach). I set off from there with the goal to make it all the way to Jokulsarlon, a few hours drive. As I drove, the landscape became exponentially more incredible (which I found hard to believe because I was already completely in awe of everything I had seen thus far). I saw vast lava fields covered in green moss, Laufskalavar∂a, which is a rock memorial for a farm that was destroyed in a past eruption. I put a rock for good luck because I definitely didn't want anything else to go wrong. I drove past Dverghamrar, which was a giant rock cliff where elves are said to live (there were a lot of these). I decided to put the Game of Thrones soundtrack on and those few hours driving through Southeast Iceland definitely rank highly among the best experiences I've ever had. The music personified the landscape so perfectly. At one point, the grass and farms disappeared and I was driving through what looked like a desert on another planet. There were these beautiful snow capped mountains in the background and I actually think I shed a tear at this point because I was so overwhelmed by how incredibly beautiful it was. I then began to see the glacier tongues descending down the mountains and stopped for a ton of pictures. It was so calm out here in the middle of nowhere surrounded by this incredible landscape. It was so quiet and at times, I was completely alone. I ended up missing the glacier walk I was supposed to do, so I spent a lot of time exploring Jokulsarlon, which was definitely one of the best places I saw. Across the road, there was a beach with a bunch of glaciers washed ashore. They call it the Diamond Beach or something because the glaciers look like a bunch of diamonds scattered among the black sand. I visited a smaller glacier lagoon on the way back to my next guesthouse. This was the first night we had that was completely clear and I was determined to see the Northern Lights again. It took a lot of trips outside to check, but finally around 11 pm, I went outside and was absolutely overwhelmed by the display. I only saw the green, but instead of looking like green wispy clouds like they had the previous nights, they were very distinct and I could actually see them shimmering among the vast number of stars.

On Friday, I got the pleasure of traveling with an awesome German girl I met at the guesthouse, and her and I drove back out to Skaftafell to do the glacier walk I was supposed to do the previous day. The glacier we hiked on was called Svinafellsjokull, which descends from Vatnajokull, the largest glacier cap in Iceland. Aside from dealing with obnoxious tourists on the walk, some of which were taking pictures of themselves laying on the ice pretending to fall into crevices (and making our guide extremely nervous), it was an amazing experience. Apparently I was standing on the same glacier where they filmed Batman Begins and Interstellar! After the tour, I had to begin the long five hour drive back to Keflavik, stopping in Vik briefly to enjoy the sun set behind a cliff near a beach.

Saturday was my flight home and quite honestly, I was completely exhausted. I had plans to go to a museum, but I decided to just relax and explore local life in Keflavik before returning my car and heading to the airport. I went to a local pool and then to a coffee shop where I had my last cup of delicious Icelandic coffee and a really good donut.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Yeah, I have to be an adult and stuff, but at least I'm no baby.

Journal prompt #4: What is your earliest memory and (I believe) how did it make you feel?

This one is a hard one to answer, but I'm going to go with the memory of how I met one of my first friends, since it happened when I was four and that's when you start forming reliable long term memories. I was sitting on the sidewalk playing with some chalk and one of the neighborhood kids came over and asked me to be his friend and if I wanted to come over to his house and play. I said yes and I went over to his house. I know, it's kind of an anticlimactic memory. It's basically something a typical four year old would do. But that's not why I decided to put this post in my blog. As I was thinking about this prompt, I got on a whole other topic.

Emily prompt of the day: Why do we begin to form memories at age four anyway?

This got me thinking. Four is such a random age to begin remembering things and it's really quite late when you think about it from an evolutionary standpoint. I'm sure back in the day, when our very survival depended on our capabilities as human beings (unlike now, when technology has enabled a completely directionless, dependent, lazy person to pass along their traits to as many kids as he/she desires), it was important for a young child to be able to remember important stuff, like lions are bad and will eat you, etc.

Of course, times have changed. I'm sure that the real reason behind this phenomenon is simply that age four is when our brains are developed enough to form long term memories, but I have a different theory.

Think about it: you're a fetus, floating around in the womb in a nice, warm, quiet environment. Everything you could ever need is literally fed directly to you through a giant tube in your stomach. You don't even have to open your eyes. You just sit there, occasionally suck your thumb and throw out some kicks for good measure. Then, all of a sudden, without warning, the warm fluid you're floating around in goes away, and the walls of your bedroom literally push you right out the door. Within a few hours, you're thrown into a cold, loud world full of bright lights and strange people. I think the reason that we don't remember things as babies is because we simply just aren't ready for this bullshit.

I know that your first thought is that babies have it really easy. Your parents literally do everything for you and all you  have to do is smile occasionally, spit some food on your clothes, and cry whenever you get the least bit unhappy. Sounds like an easy life, doesn't it? In reality though, babyhood is like one giant Monday. I don't think we give babies enough credit for all the shit they have to go through.

For starters, they don't get a say in what they eat. Have you seen baby food? Is there anything remotely appetizing about pureed mushrooms or chicken mush? No. There isn't. In addition to that, half of the things babies eat make them puke anyway, so they get to taste that shit twice. And they get no say, because they can't talk yet. Sometimes they get Colic, which is just one giant stomach ache all the time. That doesn't sound remotely fun to me. Then there's the whole teething situation, which is the first time a human being gets taught the lesson that their body will betray them on a regular basis. They can't even just drink the pain away like adults do, since they're babies and their tiny fingers and lack of motor skills renders them incapable of opening whiskey bottles.

It only gets worse from there too. I think one of the worst things about being a baby would be that literally everyone and their mother wants to be in your face and holding you. And I don't blame them, because babies are adorable and squishy and I think it's a stress reliever holding something that squishy. They're like living stress balls (but only when you can return them to their rightful owner when the going gets rough). The problem here is that every baby has a disgusting relative--a person with questionable hygiene and absolutely no capacity for personal space who only seems capable of destroying a baby's personal bubble and going to town with the ridiculous faces.

Thinking about all of this stuff, I can't imagine what it would be like if I remembered every instance I threw something up or had my personal space violated. I'm pretty glad our brains decided to delay this memory forming process, otherwise, I'm pretty sure every single baby on the planet would grow up to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I'd like to thank old dead guys for doing my thinking for me

I know I haven't been good about writing in here lately, as I am now an adult with an adult job and I  require an insane amount of energy just to stay awake and function day to day. This, in addition to what I consider an "easily excitable mind," has resulted in a behemoth writers block that I haven't been able to shake for a while. I found myself reminiscing the good old days of high school and college english class, being given a prompt and being forced to sit and write in a journal. Some of my best work came from being forced to just write the first thing that came into my head. Luckily, I was given an awesome book for my birthday that includes 365 writing prompts, so it's basically like having my own nagging english teacher!

Today's writing prompt was the following: What does 'happiness' mean to you? Would you describe yourself as a naturally happy or an unhappy & worried person? Tell me about a time when you felt really happy and about a tie when you made someone else feel happy.

Happiness is a strange concept to me. Looking for some inspiration, I read the quotes in the back of the book on happiness and found one by Aristotle that kind of jumped out at me: "Happiness depends upon ourselves." This, of course, led to a google search (where the magic begins) on the quote, which led to a mad frenzy to find my copy of Nicomachean Ethics that I SWORE up and down that I kept, since I keep pretty much all of my textbooks from college (I believe you can learn a lot about a person by what's on their bookshelf), only to find that I had, in fact, gotten rid of that book. So until I receive my ordered copy of the book, the internet has to suffice.

Aristotle has kind of a strange perspective on happiness that does not in any way support anything our society does nowadays. Lately we have "rediscovered" the concept of mindfulness (which is basically the new "kale"--aka a trend that everyone pretty much disregarded for years and now all of a sudden its the hottest "thing" in health. This isn't shocking given that our society has basically been built upon giving history the giant middle finger and doing what we want anyway. Modern day society is basically a giant teenager full of angst and bad decisions); we have learned that living in the moment and not worrying about the past or the future can be beneficial, which makes sense, but Aristotle believed that we should always act with the future in mind. How will our actions now make the future a better place? 

Aristotle believed in happiness as a human goal (which it is) and the central purpose of life itself (which I suppose it kind of is. We haven't figured out the purpose of life quite yet, so I guess this one wins out as a default). He believed that happiness is an end result, that it's not something we can feel and then not feel again in the course of a few minutes. It's not the result of something good happening, and when something bad happens, its not a feeling that can just go away. It's a culmination of living a fulfilling, virtuous life. If you have friends and are just, courageous, and a good citizen all in a way that is neither excessive or lacking, happiness is the end result. Like when you're playing the Sims, and you've achieved their life goal and their Sim thing turns gold for the rest of their lives.

Now obviously I do not regard Aristotle, as insightful as he was (basically the Jesus of ancient philosophers) to be an all-knowing authority on such a complicated, intangible concept, but he has certainly put more thought than a lot of people have and his ideas have helped me in answering the question of what happiness is. I, too, believe that happiness is not a temporary feeling. I believe that one can be happy and also feel bad for a bit. I believe that a person can be content with his or her life but get angry over somebody cutting them off in traffic. Despite having an asshole boss, one can still be overall happy with everything else and grateful to have a job. I think that each positive action that one performs during life is a brick and happiness is the building that results from many good actions. Everyone is in charge of their own happiness and they decide how strong the building will eventually be. The stronger the building, the more able to weather any storms that life decides to conjure up. 

Personally, there are lots of things that make me feel good that I should probably implement in my day-to-day life and I think it's important to figure out the difference between things that make me feel good and things that will make me feel happy in the long run. I feel that this whole Aristotle business was a good way to start and was also kind of like knowledge porn for my brain.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Dear Facebook Aliens, I'm on to you

In keeping with what will probably be my new year's resolution to write in here more often (or in general, I guess), I am going to attempt a post today. Or maybe not, because goals are meant to be followed and resolutions are meant to be broken. New year's resolutions really are just our way of balancing our life; if we got EVERYTHING done that we set out to do, then we would never experience the euphoria of accomplishing anything because we would always get everything done. Somewhere along the line, I'm sure some human invented the idea of the New Year's resolution to help society become more productive. Plus, if we accomplished everything we set out to do, we would become cocky little jerks and everyone would hate people even more than they already do. So really, when you think about it, creating this blog was just a way for me to make me more tolerable to people. You're welcome.

I'm sure I've written in here about how much I despise facebook, you know, despite my pretty frequent usage. Actually, when you think about it, using facebook kind of perpetuates an addictive/self-loathing kind of behavior. You get on, and then you can't get off. You are literally stuck. You find yourself scrolling through cat videos and buzzfeed recipe videos for whatever cheesy, bacon-y, oven broiled monstrosity your friends swear up and down they're going to make for their next party, meanwhile, the voice in the back of your head is trying to tell you to do something productive, so you get off, and then immediately forget what it was you got off your phone to go do*, and you get back on the phone for another four hours. I swear, it's like aliens invented this shit to turn all of our brains to mush and turn us all into mindless zombies.

*You know, like when you walk up three flights of stairs in your house with the intention to go do something, and then you get upstairs and you forget why you went up there? Or when you go stand in front of the fridge for ten minutes trying to figure out why you are standing there? On second thought, I just came up with a million dollar idea. How cool would it be to have a fridge that you could open, and as you're sitting there in a mind trance waiting for your brain to start working again, it throws a sandwich at you, or a beer or something. Like "HERE, QUIT WASTING MY TIME AND GO AWAY." Or what if your fridge gave you something to do? If you stand in front of it long enough, it'll tell you to go clean your room, or it'll give you a pinterest worthy project to work on. That way, you can go upstairs and work on a Paper Mache collage of the universe instead of bathing the dog which is what you were going to do before you went and stood in front of the fridge.

Anyway, back to aliens. Today, I hate facebook because it keeps insisting it knows me better than I know myself. It's like when the internet uses your cookies to track what you're searching for and then you find those same searches in the side bar of your webpage. Before I knew why that happened, it would really freak me out because I would be like "Whoa, how did the internet know I was looking for a fancy lunchbox?" Cookies, that's how.

But I don't even think facebook uses cookies; it's facebook aliens trying to destroy humanity. I have seen suggested posts for things that I have had nothing to do with ever. Back in college for instance, I ended up putting on some weight (you know, because I was a little busy trying to graduate a year early, commute to school, and basically work full time in a damn bakery all at the same time), and I would get on facebook and it would recommend baby stuff to me. Like, you little condescending piece of shit, there are better ways to tell me to lose weight. And then sometimes, it just tries to make me feel worse about myself. Like on days that I feel kind of down and blue, and it comes up with a suggested post that says something about helping starving kids in Africa, or an article titled, "How to Make Friends in Real Life," or a book that I should read called "How to Get the F*** Over Yourself." Or it'll take every lifetime achievement of my facebook friends and permanently pin it to the top of my page. Hey, facebook, if I decide to post some cryptic song lyrics, just lay off, yeah? Or how about recommending me a hug and a bottle of wine?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Don't take advice from stick figures

I will have to admit that one of my favorite past times is making fun of stupid pictures people put on Facebook. You know, the ones that have some "inspiring" quote in front of a picture that does not at all relate to the subject? How about the ones that take some really inspirational quote from someone like ghandi and set it to a picture of some emo teenage couple doing a pinky promise? I've never actually seen that one to be fair, but with half of the crap that I see on the Internet, I won't doubt it's existence. Or my personal favorites, the bucket list excerpts written by obsessive teenage girls about how they want their future guy to act. "23: to find a guy who makes you breakfast in bed every single morning" or "4556743: to find a guy who loves me so much, he spends all night staring at me and obsesses over me every damn second of the day." Adorable.
Anyway, seething animosity aside for ditzy teenage girls aside, I found this picture today. I don't really want to make fun of it, because the picture has a lot of good intentions, but I had so many objections to pretty much everything in this picture. The pic is below, titled "How to Not be Hard on Yourself." First and foremost, I would like to say how wonderful this idea was. I think that we are all a bit too hard on ourselves. I mean, for God's sake, the fact that you are alive today means that you were the one out of billions of sperm cells that made it to the egg and finished the job. You literally grew yourself into a human from a blind date between two cells. You fight gravity every single day. You take food and turn it into poop. Seriously, if anything, just take five minutes out of your day and just think about that. 

That being said, I will now rip this picture to shreds with my biting sarcasm. 

My mistakes are part of my learning. So every time I go out and get drunk and make bad decisions, it's really just like going to school, right? And school is good. Everyone says to never stop learning so basically I should never stop making mistakes. 

There is no right way to do anything? This implies there is no WRONG way to do anything either, and I'm pretty sure if you get out of bed in the morning head first, you might break your neck. 

Stand up for what I believe in, even if it's popular. Except maybe advocating killing other people, because that's pretty unpopular and you should never advocate that. I feel as though maybe Hitler took this advice the wrong way. 

Learn from people who criticize me. The only thing I've learned from people who criticize me is that I'm basically worthless scum. You should learn to take CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and think about it carefully. 

Look at my past as an adventurous biography. Except it's an autobiography because I'm pretty sure I wrote it.

Don't underestimate your talent until you apply it 100 times. After that, you just suck and should learn from the criticism you get for wasting your time.

Express your anger in a positive way. Like beating the shit out of a punching bag while eating a turkey leg. 

But I get it, there's a lot of pressure on us. I think it has something to do with our place in history. The problem is that there have been SO many awesome people before us that have done so many awesome things. We are literally running out of things to be accomplished so honestly, I think that makes even getting out of bed and living day to day without dying or being eaten by killer geese a pretty spectacular accomplishment. 

Things that Don't Make Any Damn Sense

So I noticed my blog is getting some random views so I figured maybe I should write something in here, yes?

Anyway, I don't normally title my posts, but I'm going to preemptively (I'll have you know it took me way too long to spell that word because my phone claims it doesn't exist. Liar.) call it Things that Don't Make any Damn Sense. And actually I was going to start with pickles, but I've been inspired by creating my title, so the list now goes as follows:

1) Why we Capitalize Some Words in Titles but Not Others and How the Hell do I Figure Out the Difference?

Wow that title alone annoyed me. So what determines if a word gets capitalized in a title? This is one of those random facts that just kind of slips its way into your brain when you're not looking. Like how you learned what a gondola is (true fact from a conversation I had in real life today). You just kind of wake up one morning and you know more stuff. It's like there's a knowledge fairy that comes and pays you a visit when you're sleeping. Anyway, I think I was taught in school that only important words get capitalized in a title, but how exactly do we define "importance?" Because the words "and," "if," "but," "the," "in," "we," "do," well, they're all kind of reeeeally important words. If any of those words do get capitalized and I have simply neglected to do so, please let me know. Or don't, because you shouldn't take anything I say seriously anyway. In fact, these words are like the under appreciated housewives of word society. I think they should all go on strike. That's as much as I care to write about words because now we're going to talk about....

2) ...PICKLES.

Pickles make no sense to me. I mentioned this to a friend actually, so to at least one person, this conversation will sound familiar. Anyway, who in their right mind was like, "hey! Let's take this perfectly good and delicious cucumber and bathe it in vinegar and then eat it?? Well, I will tell you! Apparently, after googling it, it was the Mesopotamians. Blame Mesopotami and the deranged science that led to the creation of pickles! Blame one of the earliest human civilizations! Also apparently Thomas Jefferson enjoyed pickles, but only in the summertime as I can garner.

3) mushrooms

This I seriously don't understand. Let's pick something that grew in a pile of shit and eat it! I blame drugs.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I get inspired by older black ladies

I have had something completely uneventful happen to me today. I have had a very bad day. You know, one of those days where you just want to take a bottle of wine and go hide under a rock (forever)? I kind of wish we all had giant pods, kind of like something in a totally crazy spacey sci-fi movie where the main characters are all wearing skin tight leotards and doing some weird shit like trying to colonize another planet with only blood type AB+ people. On a totally unrelated topic, WHY do people think that spandex is the best thing to wear in space? If I were in space, I would probably be wearing some kind of industrial grade shit that is literally one step short of a walking dungeon. It would be the only thing to keep my ovaries safe from the outstanding amount of radiation  that everyone forgets actually happens in space, thus protecting the unborn children who will ultimately carry on the name of the human race. We don't want them possessing an extra arm. Although, that probably went out the window when we all decided to leave planet earth for an entire lifetime spent aimlessly drifting through the void and sleeping in those little pod things. Oh, right! The pods. And the bad day. Back to that. 

I don't need to go into details about the bad day. It was just kind of one of those "the universe hates me and is trying to stop every bit of progress I make right in its tracks" days. Maybe the universe was mortally offended over something I said? Maybe this is some supreme higher powers way of "making me a better person by mentally beating the crap out of me?" I've stopped trying to make sense of it at this point. 

              Dear universe,
                      I see your "totally shit day" and raise you one "popcorn and wine for dinner." 
                Take that!

I always kind of feel bad for feeling bad. I mean, I really don't have a BUNCH of stuff to complain about. I mean, there are starving children in Africa being hunted down by hippos and I'm sitting here tapping away on an iPad. As if the thought of that isn't enough, the other day at the metro, I saw a guy in a wheelchair just chilling in the lobby sleeping. Upon closer examination, I noticed a cord coming from the chair. Plugged into the wall. That guy literally couldn't go anywhere because his wheelchair battery died. It. Died. The poor dude literally had nothing else he could do except just sit there and try to catch some Z's until that he could eventually make it home. 

And it's that kind of stuff that just puts it all into perspective. I think the worst thing to do when you're sad is to think of ways it could be worse. The only thing you're actually doing is tempting the universe, not to mention, reminding yourself that the world can be an awful, dreadful place. I'm not saying that you shouldn't count your blessings, because you definitely should, but don't distract yourself from sadness. Sadness is the natural balance of things. It exists to make the happy stuff feel good. Revel in it. Bathe in it. Appreciate it. And then when it's ready to leave, make sure it has its coat and walk it out to the car. It's only polite. 

I hate commuting with every ounce of my being. Having to shove past people while dealing with  temperamental subway service and the overpowering feeling of JUST WANTING TO BE HOME while someone is standing next to you with their ass in your face is just about unbearable at times. And unfortunately, I'm not one of those people who can be perky about a bad situation. It's almost  inhuman. But as I was waiting on the platform for ages after leaving work a half hour late, teeth grinding and trying desperately to think of the silver lining in my awful day, the lady next to me, An older black ladies (the "fountain of wisdom" type) asked where the train was (because it was literally taking forever and a day) and upon being notified that it was literally nowhere to be found, she turned to me and said something that made me laugh. 

                                                         "Woo! Ain't that some bullshit?!"

Lady, you took the words right out of my mouth.