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Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

Ever since I blogged about the eruption of the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, my American friends have teased me about the mouth-twisting words in my country’s old and so-beautiful language. As a public service, I offer them this pronunciation link. See the second audio player on this NPR web page.

Eyjafjallajokull: Post 3 | Post 2 | Post 1

HH

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previous: action on the home front

A few days ago, I wrote about the eruption under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in southern Iceland. There was all that hot gas and so forth burping upwards from the nether regions, and also an imagined legend about the trolls who live beneath the ice. But it turns out that the subglacial world, as it is called, is a happening place further south as well: in the other Iceland, the BIG ONE. To quote, which is the cheapest way of boosting the daily word count,

Antarctica Shelters Abundant Microbial Life In Water Miles Below The Icy Surface.

A more sedate view of what is going on down down there can be found in
Science News.

I don’t want to pre-empt the reading pleasure that these links will bring you, but would nonetheless like to indulge in a bit of repeating, ahem, reporting, and of course in some punditistic commentary. We begin with this amazing quote:

They found that the source of the falls — a sunless, 23-degree pool three times saltier than the ocean, trapped under the ice for at least 2 million years — was home to at least 17 types of microbes. Similar to how other organisms use oxygen, the microbes use iron in their environment to “breathe”, and an oxidized (or rusted) version of the iron then spews out with the brine. As Priscu describes it, the microbes, in effect,” eat rocks.”

Microbe at Blood Falls, Antarctica

After this gloominous description, reminiscent of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, the author states that “studies of Lake Vostok ice core samples … report microbial life on the order of 100 to 1,000 cells per milligram of water.” Ouch! that sounds like a crowd, though the variation in the estimate indicates sloppiness. Can’t these scientists do better, even if they are working in extreme conditions? So far, so good, I suppose. But then the author oversteps:

The microbes clearly live together as a community: They need each other to survive,” said Mikucki, whose work was supported by the National Science Foundation. “Waste produced by one will be food for another. Really, there’s no reason to think that isn’t common around Antarctica.”

The agenda is now clear. This is about community, ecosystems (which right-thinking people disavow) and, dare I say, it? Well, yes I do: THINLY VEILED SOCIALISM, albeit at the microscopic level. Micro or macro, it is still bad news. Right is right, wrong is wrong.

HH

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Poem

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Eruption beneath Eyjafjallajokull glacier2image

previous: arrival in America • next: the other Iceland

Well, things are heating up at home. A volcano beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted around midnight Saturday. The southern coast, where the glacier is located, is beautiful country, even when the earth is splitting open and belching fire. But I prefer a less violent Nature: the sea, the waves lapping against the pebble beach, the wind whispering over the ice …

The eruption reminds me of an imagined legend.  The trolls that live under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier believe that when a man from across the sea comes to our country and is able to pronounce “Eyjafjallajokull” perfectly seven times in rapid succession, the earth will open up and Iceland will return to the waters, never to be seen again. Our language, in the trolls’ view, is part of the national defence system:-)  But against plate tectonics there can be no defence!

Icelandic friction, causes of eruption: a poetic post

A Poem

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next: action on the home front

At university in Iceland, I studied physics, literature, and graphics design. After graduation, I found work at an advertising agency as a designer. The creative side of the job, especially the art, suited me, but the office chit-chat and politics clashed with my taciturn nature. Frustrated by my square-peg-in-round-hole status, I went back to university, obtaining a masters degree in mathematics after more than the usual number of years. Student life was the perfect arena for the exercise of one of my character disorders: following the interest-of-the-moment rather than doing what I should. The damage done by weeks of inattention to my classes could be repaired by a three-day binge of studying. Yes! I could out-concentrate the most obsessive of the obsessed among my fellow students, even Harald Haraldsson himself!! Out in the real world once again, I found a series of odd jobs, few lasting for more than a year. Waiter at a local restaurant, copy editor for a newspaper, writer of advertising copy, web design. Etc.

It was in the web design job that I learned about programming. For extra money and as a kind of challenge, I started writing software. Creating and shaping code soon morphed from a pastime into a monster that devoured both day and night. I would wake up on the living room couch, exhausted from a three-day binge in a labyrinth of logic, data structures, and context-free grammars, unable to stand the sunlight streaming in from the windows that looked out onto the sea, books, papers, and dinner plates scattered across the room in revolting disorder.

The beast was destroying me. Alcohol could not have been worse, though I barely touched it. A year ago I went cold turkey, writing no software for eight months. A small inheritance helped me to survive during this period, though the money did not go far. I played the piano, tried to compose music, and took long walks by the sea to calm my nerves.

Then, partly due to the economic crisis in Iceland, I decided to come to the US. I needed work, and one of the few options open to me was to resume software development. I am giving it a try, but this time under strict guidelines: I write code only during daylight hours, and preferably in latitudes where neither day nor night last too long, where the Earth itself lives from season to season with less dramatic swings of mood. The hours of darkness are reserved for music and a long-delayed writing project.

So far the experiment has worked. A few dollars are flowing in, and the old obsession seems to have been tamed for now. I live, as always, a somewhat reclusive life. I prefer it that way.

– HH

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