Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I'm not sure if it's the large amounts of Sigur Ros I'm listening to these days, but I'm being drawn across the Atlantic to the small island nation of Iceland. I should really blame Eric Weiner.

Years ago I read The Geography of Bliss and loved the book. But the section that fascinated me the most was Weiner's profile of Iceland. In the book he makes Iceland seem ideal (other than the weather of course) in that language and poetry are an integral part of life. Failure does not have the stigma that it does in our society. And best of all, there is a great openness and acceptance about the Icelandic people. Since then I've been dreaming of cozy cafes, sipping coffee, and reading poetry in Icelandic. I badly want to visit but my thought have even gone as far as to consider living there.

I have several pictures on my computer of Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. I have even more of the Iceland countryside. I love the untamed wild look of the place. If you ever want to see beauty, just do a Google image search for Iceland Night. Even the images of snow and ice don't turn me away. While I have long railed against winter, my head seems to point further north. I look at images of northern Canada and Iceland with longing. The quiet northern places draw me with the lure of solitude and wildness.

I'm only starting to learn more about the country beyond the basics that I've read. The more I've read the more fascinated I've become with the place. It continues to be listed as one of the happiest countries on Earth, that despite the months of hard winter. While I'd probably visit in the summer, I would love to go one year in winter to see the Auroras. Lately I've begun listening to a few Icelandic language lessons. I've spent hours on travel sites looking at hotels and places to see. I probably won't be going anytime soon (Jeff is a little short of vacation) but I'm more than content to dream and plan. I never thought a cold island would draw me, but I can't wait to travel there.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The National at the Starlight

Okay, this is the last post I'm going to do about The National. I promise. Three might be more than I should do but I couldn't pass up telling you about last Friday where I finally (after two months of waiting) got to see them in concert.

Shortly after I became obsessed with the band, I went onto their website to check their tour listings. Normally when I do that with a band they are touring Europe or the Northeast or something. The bands rarely ever have anything close. But I looked at The National's schedule and one date stood out for me. October 11th, Kansas City's Starlight Theatre. They were three hours away in a cool open air auditorium.

I quickly used my powers of persuasion on Jeff, meaning I might have begged a bit and promised that it was the only thing I would ask for for my birthday. He said yes and we proceeded to buy tickets. This was the end of July/beginning of August. I printed the tickets, hung them on the fridge, and waited, mostly impatiently.

So when the concert finally rolled around, I took a half day on Friday so we could head down early. We got to the theater about 6:30 and sat through probably the oddest choice of an opening band I've ever heard. Sadly even live I was not a fan of the opener. It didn't help that they had their bass cranked up so high that it hurt my throat. But I sat through it, waiting for The National to take the stage.

As they were setting up the stage I noticed that the drummer was in the back warming up and testing out his drums. I took some pictures of Bryan although with the smoke effects they were testing only a couple came out. Then the band took the stage and I was instantly in heaven. They sounded so good. I was that annoying fan who sang along, took hundreds of pictures and video, and danced in my place. I'm sure I annoyed the girls in front of me as I screamed out "Squalor Victoria" along with Matt.

The band played for 10 minutes shy of two hours. They did four songs as part of their encore, including Mr. November where Matt wandered out into the crowd. Sadly his microphone detached and we lost his audio for most of the song. But it was great to see him wandering among the fans, screaming out the lyrics. They played almost two dozen songs and I knew every single one. Even Jeff had a blast and he normally hates anything with live music. They had played most of the ones he really wanted to hear.

But the best part of the concert was watching the band on stage. I'd seen videos of them performing (lots of videos) but it was different to realize that they were right there in front of me. I've mentioned before that I have a bit of crush on Bryce and getting to see him play (we were on his side of the theater) was incredible. He's incredibly dynamic on stage. I even got video of him bowing his guitar (below).  But each member of the band was wonderful to watch. Matt with his pacing and primal screams and wine drinking. Bryan with his incredible drum work. Scott bouncing along to his bass playing. And Aaron rocking out on either the guitar or the piano. And the sound was amazing. When they finally wrapped up, with the whole crowd singing Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, I just didn't want it to end. An amazing night, one that I won't forget for a long time.

Edit: I have two videos that I'm trying to upload. But blogger doesn't seem to like them. I'll keep trying so check back if you're interested.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My First Apple

In 2004, my poor Gateway computer (remember those) was on its last leg so I decided that to be a real writer I would get a laptop. I could just picture myself sitting in cafes cranking out masterpiece after masterpiece, while sipping cups of green tea and black coffee. I could picture it vividly. I could even picture the computer, shiny and white with that pretty glowing apple on the back. Apple was pricey even back then, but I'd heard good things about its user friendliness. So Jeff and I went to the store and bought me an iBook G4. And I loved it.

My only previous experience with an Apple had been the Apple IIe that my parents still have down in the basement. For those old enough to remember, they had a big floppy discs that programs were loaded onto. I played Brickout on that machine for hours. But my iBook was miles away from that. It was portable and sleek (by those days standards). It had decent battery life and relatively fast computing power. I quickly found it to be indispensable.

I used that computer daily for about three years, 2007 or so when I started playing World of Warcraft regularly. The iBook didn't have a video card so playing got a little tricky. The game was slow and took forever to load screens. I would get impatient waiting. We had bought Jeff a Powerbook for him to game on so after a couple of weeks of listening to me complain, Jeff and I went out looking for a desktop. We didn't comparison shop at all. By this point we were a dedicated Apple household. We bought a lovely iMac. The screen was just a bit smaller than our TV (which tells you more about our TV than our computer). I gamed on it heavily for years, until I stopped playing. Then the iMac moved upstairs to make room on the kitchen table for things like eating, and living.

But I spend most of my time downstairs so I dug out my old iBook and plugged it in downstairs. It still worked even though it wasn't as fast as the iMac. It was clunky and heavy by today's standards but it still connected to the Internet, still wrote emails, and still allowed me to write from the comfort of the couch. And I've used that computer constantly up until this week. It's finally dying. The battery has been long gone and Apple no longer makes replacement batteries for it. The processor has reached the point that it's so slow that it's painful to work on. It's having problems opening simple things like Word and Excel. I'm sure it's not as protected as it should be. It's time for it to go.

It doesn't hurt that Jeff and I recently broke down and bought an iPad. I love the portability of the tablet and the quick speeds. I do most of my web surfing on it. I've even installed a Twitter app to see if I can figure out how (and why) to use it. But the iPad isn't perfect. I hate to write long emails on it. We don't have a keyboard for it, so I'm struggling to write blog posts on it. And I won't even think of creative writing on it. Most of my writing is done on the iMac upstairs. But when I'm downstairs I still look at the iBook longingly. I haven't brought myself to get rid of it yet. I've had that computer for nine years now. I've used it regularly for all that time.  That's nearly miraculous in today's technology world. I'm sad to see it go. But I know it's lived a long, long life. And it made an Apple convert out of me.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Not So Killer Wasp

While the news is buzzing about the killer hornets in China, I thought I'd share my not-so-deadly wasp that I took pictures of three weeks or so ago. We have mud wasps that have decided to build a home right outside our door. This is the second nest they've tried to build there in the years we've lived in the house. We'll have to call someone to come and take care of it. I'd think about doing it myself, but...well...I'm not insane. Bees I like, wasps I do not.

So we often have wasps flying around the front of the house and one afternoon I found a very cooperative subject sitting on the window. It was one of our 100 plus days last month and I think it was trying to suck the cold air-conditioning through the window. I snapped pictures, I changed settings on the camera, and I took even more pictures. The one below is my favorite. I think the lighting works. I just love how much of this odd strangely beautiful creature you can see. And I love the big eyes. Of course I'd still kill one if it came indoors.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Long Two Weeks

These last two weeks have been some of the longest of my life. I didn't think it was possible for time to go so slowly. If I needed proof that time is relative, this was it. When I last updated the blog, my father was being transported by ambulance up to the Mayo Clinic. I had spent most of the day before with him at the hospital and had gone to see him that day (Tuesday) over lunch. He was taken that afternoon up north.

That evening, at 9, my mother called to say that my father's surgery was planned to be the next day. She was heading up to Rochester and she asked if I wanted to go. I wasn't about to let my mother go up alone, particularly not at that hour. So I quickly emailed my boss to say that I wouldn't be in the rest of the week and headed north, riding with my mother. When we got halfway up, my father called to say that now the surgery would be on Friday. But we were far enough along that we continued on. And it's a good thing we did.

On Wednesday we saw my father early in the morning. And things seemed fine. Until they didn't. My father complained of problems focusing his eyes, double vision, and that's when I noticed that he was slurring his speech. He was having a small stroke right in front of us. With this new complication, the surgeons rushed the schedule and managed to get him in on Thursday. I've never known a longer afternoon. They took him in for prep at 3 and we didn't hear anything until 10. I didn't know seven hours could go so slow.

Hospital time is slow time. For us waiting, for my father waiting to get surgery, for my father recovering from surgery. He is supposed to be heading home today after a slow but successful recovery. He said that the pain was less with this one, versus his initial 24 years ago. I just can't be more grateful that he had his fainting spell which allowed us to go into the ER that night. I can't be more grateful that the surgeons moved us up in their schedule. I can't be more grateful to the nursing staff at both hospitals that took such fantastic care of him. And I can't be more grateful that his heart restarted on the operating table. It's been a long two weeks, but for the moment I see a happy ending. But it's a reminder to me that life is precious. And even slow minutes are precious minutes.