Archive for the ‘Beastiesbeastiesbeasties’ Category

It’s an animal post!

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

1. A woman put a camera near her bird feeder and the pictures she gets are straight-up gold. Her name is Lisa M. Ca (but it should be Lisa M. CAW, amirite everyone? Hello? Anyone?). Here is a picture of her camera setup.


I think my favorites are the doves because I’m a sucker for doves (PigeonLover 4 Lyfe) but the, and I quote, “Grackle with a Snackle” is pretty great as well.

I highly recommend going to her blog and looking at all the bird pics. They drop your blood pressure really fast. So calming.

https://ostdrossel.tumblr.com/

 

2. A picture of alligators (or possibly crocodiles) in a river. With reflective eyes. I love the deep blue water and the orange retinas. Photo by David Moynahan.

 

3. I think we should return to this form of reproduction because I am 100% not feeling the “Imma rip my way out of you” technique we as humans are using now. Methinks time for an upgrade.

 

4. What my day would be like in Toyko: Wake up. Put on oven mitt. Go to squirrel park. Hang out with squirrels. Go home at night. Repeat every day following.

https://kotaku.com/inside-japanese-squirrel-gardens-yes-squirrel-gardens-1465052392

 

5. And while this isn’t technically an animal it is still nature-related so I’m putting it here. It’s a chandelier made with living algae. It helps clean the air.

Here’s an article about it. https://www.curbed.com/2017/9/27/16372820/air-purifying-plants-algae-chandelier-julian-melchiorri

Guatemala, Part 6.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Lake Atitlan. Get ready.

But first, Antigua’s main plaza! That I forgot to add to the Antigua posts earlier! I love how there’s old ruins and new ruins and everything all sort of mooshed together.

And I only made it to the main cathedral at night so all my pictures are blurry, but here’s the best of the bunch. A beautiful building, beautifully lit.

Okay, Lake Atitlan. We stayed at a hotel with THE MOST AMAZING GARDENS EVER. The owner started them several decades before and lovingly caressed and cuddled them and now they’re mind-blowing.

You would think I had never seen a plant before in my life the way I reacted to this garden. Right outside our room there were some screamy parrots that came out of their enclosure during the day to sit in the vines and shriek violently at the guests. One was a scarlet macaw. He was extra-screamy.

And there was one tree on the far edge of the property with the most interesting pattern in its bark. I felt like I was in a werewolf movie.

And here are the closeups I took of specific plants. Fun tidbit: while taking some of these photos, The Moomins had to protect me from getting attacked by an ornery goose that lives near a small koi pond on the property. I guess I got too close to the goose’s woman and he was disgruntled. It was worth almost dying at the hand (wing?) of waterfowl because these plants were something else, I tell ya.

We went out on a tour of the lake itself. I did not know that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, crash-landed in Guatemala and saw the mountain there that inspired him to write the “draw me a sheep” portion of the book. Specifically the elephant in the snake that is mistaken for a hat. <—- That sentence sounds like I had a stroke but if you’ve read the book it makes sense I promise.

Here’s an article about Saint-Exupéry and Guatemala.

https://globalvoices.org/2008/07/11/guatemala-was-antigua-the-inspiration-for-the-little-prince/

There was also a napping volcano. Shhhhh, Volcano, everything is fine. No make ‘splosions.

Aaaaaaaand that’s pretty much the highlights from my trip. However, one of the other people on the trip, Boris (who had THE BEST Russian accent in the world) had a far superior camera and took some unbelievable pictures of birds and other beasties. He was kind enough to share them with me, and now I will share them with you.

Guatemala, Post 5.

Friday, November 17th, 2017

More Antigua! But first, other things.

We drove past a funeral. It was quite sad. A police officer had been killed. I love how the whole neighborhood showed up and was walking with the family to show support. There was also a band playing mournful walking music and I think we as a nation need to get on that.

I saw a fountain and I liked how they planted flowers birds-of-paradise flowers the fountain. Plus there was a pigeon and I am on Team Pigeon 4 Lyfe. Extremely pro-pigeon. Not ashamed of it.

Okay, so Antigua. The buildings are very short and the roads are extremely wide because if an earthquake destroys a building and it pitches forward it doesn’t knock down the building on the opposite side.

There is a former nunnery in Antigua, Convent of las Capuchinas. It cost a lot of money to become a nun and that, combined with the constant battery of earthquakes, caused the nunnery to be shut down.

The grout that holds those brick walls together was a mixture of sand, gravel and egg whites. The city apparently ran out of eggs during the construction of this building.

The wine cellar for holy ceremonial wines was build like a doughnut with a big column in the middle which is how it survived all the earthquakes. It has great acoustics so the nuns used to go down there and sing and maybe sample the wines.

And there are gardens which are beautiful. It’s not too hard to have a gorgeous garden in Antigua, I saw many of them.

As we walked along the street during the sunset on the last night we found a rooftop bar in an old mansion-type home. The fancy older buildings reminded me of Spain. They tended to have huge scary exterior walls:

And gorgeous compound-like interiors with gardens. This was no exception.

When we went up to the roof you could really appreciate how the city is nestled in between the mountains.

• | • | • | INTERMISSION | • | • | •

Dia de los Muertos-type dolls! Same store as the decorated antlered skulls. I showed restraint and did not buy them.

• | • | • | INTERMISSION OVER | • | • | •

That’s all my photos on Antigua. I only have four photos for the town of Panajachel, a town on the edge of Lake Atitlan (more about Lake Atitlan in a bit) so let’s go through those.

CHARCH! In Panajachel we visited the church. I liked the architectural style

The inside of the church looked like and upside-down boat.

And there was a nice carved monster holding up the display board in the back.

Here was the biggest surprise for me in Panajachel. Stay with me here: There is a semi-famous artist from Vienna Austria named Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000). His artwork is extremely distinctive. It’s difficult to mistake it for someone else’s work. Here are some examples.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see a rather large mural featuring some of Hundertwasser’s work in this small village in Guatemala.

Whattup, Hundy? How you doin’?

Okay, coming up next: Lake Atitlan. Get ready for the most insane plants you have ever seen.

Guatemala Part 2.

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Tikal! I saw jungle pyramids, everybody! Jungle. Pyramids.

Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about Tikal.

Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. … After the Berlin Academy of Sciences’ magazine republished the report in 1853, archeologists and treasure hunters began visiting the forest. Today, tourism to the site may help protect the rainforest. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. … Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, c. 200 to 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century AD. Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned. These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century.

No one from the modern era knew the pyramids were there. They were completely covered with dirt and trees. Some of them are still covered or partially covered, archeologists are still working on the site and it is massive. There was a 3d map in the main entrance center.

Also tall trees filled with air plants.

You basically wander around the rainforest on neatly organized trails past very very large stone structures. I imagine there’s some kind of system but because of the trees and unexcavated mounds it seems very higglety-pigglety.

You can tell the Mayan’s belief system was similar to the Aztecs because at Teotihuacan they considered the circle to be holy and used it a bunch on their art and refused to use wheels because they thought it would be disrespectful. On a building at Tikal I saw the wheels represented as well. So, I’m guessing overlap.

Some of the gargantuan temples you were allowed to climb. I didn’t, of course because any form of athletics are not my jam ever ESPECIALLY in a hot sweaty rainforest, but The Moomins did and I took a picture of her at the top. Very proud.

   

A lot of the buildings are still covered or in the process of being dug out of the centuries of soil that has accumulated on them.

There were beasties roaming the property. The most visible were the coatimundis. There were two right next to where we were sitting snuffling around in the dirt eating fruits that had fallen from the trees. Sorry there’s so many photos – they’re very cute animals and it was extremely difficult for me to cull the pile of pictures.

Coatimundis are in the raccoon family. These must have been males because the name means “forever alone.” The females and babies hang out in family units but the males are forced to forage by themselves. Further on the trail we saw a family unit. I think the pale ones are teenagers (this fact is based on precisely nothing, don’t get mad if it’s wildly untrue).

I saw a bird from the corvid family (crows, jays, ravens, magpies, etc.). I think it’s a jackdaw.

We saw a snekkie-snekk but he slithered off with great haste.

Small lizard friend.

We almost got peed on by a troupe of spider monkeys that were high in the treetops. And we glimpsed a toucanet betwixt the leaves.

However, I was exceptionally excited to see an ocellated turkey. They are the most beautiful ugly animals ever in the history of things. I once saw a taxidermied one for about two thousand dollars and I was sorely tempted to buy it because, c’mon, amazing. Better than peacocks. Like a turkey designed by Lisa Frank. See for yourself. These are all photos I found online.

See? GORGEOUS. Hideous and exquisite simultaneously. Even the female is dope and rainbow. Therefore I was so very excited to see one. I saw this sign and readied my body for the magical bird to appear.

Aaaaaaaand nothing. I know from safaris that you see what you see because nature can’t be controlled but … it’s a turkey! Not a jaguar! I feel like I was making a reasonable request to the heavens. I wanted to see the blue heads with what looks like little mandarin oranges stuck all over it. Sigh.

(If anyone is feeling real generous and wants to buy me a present, here’s the link to the taxidermied occelated turkey for sale.)

http://www.creelandgow.com/prod-pages/CaGa2880.html

Coming up: Coffee plantation.

Important things of importance.

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

1a. As I grow older fewer and fewer nature facts surprise me. Which is why when I saw this sassy weevil I assumed it was someone’s craft project:
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But just to make sure I did a bit of searching and no, that might be a real weevil. I found a similar one called the Polka Dotted Clown Weevil and it is covered in iridescent scales that look like scattered glitter. Why was I not informed of this awesome weevil earlier???

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1b. In keeping with the nature theme there is a man in Japan, Keita Kosoba, who breeds nudibranchs. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love nudibranchs. So many varieties of awesome! I wish I could have a tank of nudibranchs of my very own.

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2. I love when people take mundane elements we see all the time and interpret them and make them cool. For example, this post that is now a cow being abducted by a UFO. Excellent work, street artist.

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3. There’s a woman in the Ukraine, Yulia Kosata, who makes felted houses for cats and I think they are magnificent. Why all cats everywhere are not housed like this I do not know.

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4. What steel droplets look like when they cool.

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5. And a fun one-type-of-music to another-type-of-music site that you might enjoy.

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 3.23.26 AM

Addendum: Here’s another nature thing: Look at these pictures of this fairy wren makin’ snuggles with other birds.

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Why are they cuddling? I mean, I know why I would cuddle them (so cute!) but I’m sure they have a different reason. I couldn’t find the precise reason but I did find out these neat facts.

Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in color; this gave the early impression that males were polygamous, as all dull-colored birds were taken for females.

Like other fairy-wrens, the superb fairy-wren is notable for several peculiar behavioral characteristics; the birds are socially monogamous and sexually promiscuous, meaning that although they form pairs between one male and one female, each partner will mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such pairings. Male wrens pluck yellow petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display.

Warning: It’s gonna get disgusting.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

But not too much. We’re going to dance around the disgusting, hint at it, and then dart away quickly. You’ll be fine.

First, an inevitability has happened. I have found the only animal that grosses me so much I had to look away from the television. Let me explain what it is before I show it to you. It’s a plaque of barnacles that fell off of a pier or a boat and the living barnacles are opening and closing their front door which looks like a cat’s nictitating eyelid (already gross) and then instead of an eyeball being in there fingers come out. FINGERS COME OUT OF THE EYELID HOLES OF THINGS CLUSTERED ON A BLOB THAT LOOKS LIKE NEW YORK STREET GARBAGE. Nightmares for life. You ready? Here we go.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmfohJ7wMZA

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Second thing, I have a good old-fashioned stomach virus. I haven’t had one of these in twenty years! So exciting! They are pretty much how I remember from my youth. Someone I did not remember: vague hallucinating. Nothing drastic but juuuuuust enough to remind you of your unwell state, similar of how people describe pot (“Did you ever really look at your palm, man? I mean, really look?”). Two instances that happened today:

  1. When I was in the shower I realized I was doing that owl motion where your head moves back and forth, back and forth. Because I had just realized, guys, items in the foreground move more than items in the background! Trippy! And I probably should not have been showering without supervision! https://media.tenor.co/images/7f4af3eff9fe127d0bb3bdb41c08206c/raw
  2. I looked at the toilet paper roll packaging and it said “double roll” but I read it as “death roll” which made me think of crocodiles and how they kill their prey and then I might have dozed off on the can for ten or fifteen minutes. This has not been a day of peak excellence.

But I’m healing and soon I will be no longer infectious and that will be nice. Until then, Gatorade and Tums are my best buddies.

Iceland, Part 7: Reykjavik.

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Reykjavik is the Major City of Iceland with 150,000 inhabitants, about half of the island’s entire population. It’s a very nice city – not too big, not too small. A great many buildings are made of stucco and a delightful element of Reykjavik is the amount of artists that are allowed to paint murals all over town. There are tons of murals. The first one I saw was of a jacked-up looking bird pooping out a giant wad of string which wasn’t the best thing ever but many others were not a bummer.

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Our apartment was pretty great. It was on the top floor of a house. I was not fond of taking several flights of stairs while hoisting luggage but the view was stunning and the door handle had a whimsical charm.

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A bunch of random things I saw walking around Reykjavik – first, a selection of buildings. Who knew that corrugated metal could be a tasteful and lovely house covering? I certainly didn’t until I came to Iceland. Thanks, Iceland.

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Sometimes the stores are tucked behind each other and in order to draw you in the store owners paint happy patterns on the sidewalk. I want to do that everywhere. It’s like the magical yellow brick road leading you places. Gets old never.

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There are no Starbucks so the Dunkin Donuts look like fancy coffee houses. Frank Sinatra and Norah Jones playing over the stereo and everything.

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It’s a pretty hippy-ish town. I passed several places that would have been totally appropriate in Brooklyn. Like the vegetarian restaurant right next to our apartment which had the weirdest choice written on the sign. “Ecstasy’s Heart-Garden.” They paid money to have that specific phrase, written in that specific way, put on their signs. I checked and it’s also on their menus. And their websites. As a design nerd this flummoxes and upsets me but if they’re okay with it I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.

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This was the other Williamsburgian place that caught my eye. It’s perfect.

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Many of the Christmas trees I saw were cleaved in twain. Like, split from top to bottom. I have a feeling that this is because Christmas trees are super-rare so if you split it and mount both halves to the front of your establishment you get twice as much tree for your buck.

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Cool shingles that look like dragon scales.

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Teeny-tiny adorable city garden.

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Iceland loves the English phrase “and stuff.” I noticed it all over and it delighted me every time.

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A painting of a lion on the side of a coffee shop.

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Tiny building that does… something. Cricket and I stared at it for a period of time trying to figure out what it’s for. We came to no conclusions.

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Window displays! Two dead giant taxidermied ravens. Not the only dead giant taxidermied ravens I saw as window dressing. They were not for sale. I was sad.

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Cool authentic Christmas lamps. Also not for sale. I was less sad than the ravens, but still a bit forlorn.

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Drawings made by children. The drawings, they were your standard kid drawings, whatevs, but two of the names caught my eye. Those are awesome names. I want to yell them out because they make me sound like a pirate. Try it. They have excellent mouth-feel.

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Dorky Norseman statue.

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Awesome painting on the front of a basement skateboard shop.

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And a neato sticker.

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I like this architect’s approach. “I want to put a window on the corner of this building but I don’t want to figure out – ah, screw it, I’ll make a flat bit and slap a window there, fine, good, time for lunch.”

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And this guy’s idea. “I love the basalt columns of our country. We should represent them in the city. Where’s the best place to put a basalt column-inspired sculptu– oooh, I know! In the middle of the road where it is guaranteed to get smashed into by vehicles who were not expecting freakin’ rocks to pop up out of the road like mushrooms. That is the best idea ever.”

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If you dig more than five inches into the ground in Iceland there is a chance you’re going to hit poisonous lava gases so this job site requires gas masks.

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Finally, there was an Icelandic dog. I loved this dog. I wanted to pet this dog for forever.

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Coming up next: NSFW museum and fancy fancy dinner.

Iceland, Part 6.

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Sorry, the earth caught on fire and I had to go deal with that for a little while. I’ll post about that shortly. In the meantime, moss! SO MUCH MOSS, GUYS.

But first, not moss.

Look at this panoramic pic I took of a corner of the gigantor glacier that takes up a fifth of Iceland.

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And while there are like four trees total in Iceland, that does not mean they are completely bereft of plants. Look at the beautiful colors of this random ground cover.

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We stayed at a sheep farm for two nights. It was wonderful as long as you’re okay with the intense smell of sheep poop. I’m fine with it so it didn’t bother me.

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Right out our front door was an enormous field and then the glacier. Helluva view, I tell ya.

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Our first night there I could not wait to meet the sheep so I snuck out by myself and went to the barn area. I was using a flashlight and totally forgot that retinas reflect back so I was startled by a barn full of demon sheepies.

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DEMON SHEEPIES!!!

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Not really. They were pretty chill. Small and stocky and rather disinterested in me and my delight at meeting them. Except for one, the alpha male. He was sitting on a cube of hay directly in front of me and was not behind any blockade of any kind.

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All was going well until he decided he had had enough of my company and stood up in a threatening way and I realized he could bolt directly at me if he wanted to and I was like heeeeeeey would you look at the time I gotta go.

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Big fan of the two broads on the left. We chatted briefly before I made my hasty exit. Well, I chatted and they looked at me. Still counts.

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So, the moss. As you already know, Iceland is made out of lava and some of that lava is in chunks, like this:

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Very jagged. Well, this feathery moss (it’s really a lichen but everyone calls it moss so we’ll go with that) found that it clung really well to these chunks and covered them completely so now the chunks look squishy and soft and round. These moss fields go on for miles and miles. It’s all you can see in any direct. With the mist it makes it extra-otherworldly. I adored it. Team Iceland Moss 4 Eva.

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Remember when I said I was going to share about twenty pictures of moss and everyone was thought no way? Look at all that there moss, y’all. I culled it down too. There was a solid hundred pics. Seriously, I really liked the moss. Has anyone watched The OA on Netflix? There’s a shot of the lead character visiting heaven or purgatory of some other plane of existence and they used the moss fields for that shot. I was so psyched to see it in the show, I might have yelled, “Oh, hello Iceland moss!” alone in my apartment when that came up on the screen.

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Apparently you can make an awful-sounding soup from the moss where you have to add a massive amount of sugar to make it palatable but hey, you got to get your chlorophyll from somewhere and there isn’t a lot of choices. (I almost wrote “chloroform.” Glad I caught that.)

moss-soup

Let’s finish talking about the countryside while we’re here and then in the next post we can move onto Reykjavik. In the first place we stayed, a massive village of about fifty inhabitants, we went out for a walk in the morning by the seaside. Note, it is before 11:00am so the sun is not out yet.

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And while we were walking by the sea a sweet small friendly cat D christened Socks decided to join us. I loved Socks.

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He let me pick him up and sing to him! He wasn’t enthused but he tolerated it. Great cat. I wanted to stuff him in my luggage and take him with me but I was outvoted. Boo.

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Since almost all of Iceland runs on geothermal energy we also visited a power plant. I recommend going. It’s only about an hour outside of Reykjavik. Easy to get to.

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We took the tour and the lady was very informative. Here’s what she basically said: There is insanely hot poisonous water that they pump up from under the surface. A pipe filled with clean water is put in a bigger pipe filled with this hot demon water and that heats up the clean water. The giant pipes go to Reykjavik and only lose two degrees on the journey so the water is still crazy hot when it gets there.

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The poisonous death water is put back into the earth so there’s no collapse and it reheats and the circle begins anew.

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The hot water is also used to power massive turbines which in turn make electricity. It’s a pretty self-sufficient facility. There are 40 employees on weekdays and two on weekends. Two.

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The turbines come from Mitsubishi and the company thanked Iceland for buying their products with two very beautiful authentic Japanese crafts.

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This was my favorite chart on the wall explaining the lava under the city.

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They also had a display of all the indigenous rocks. I loved that the most to the surprise of nobody.

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Alright, onto the city.

Iceland, Part 3.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Some fun facts about Iceland – the countryside has many one-lane bridges you have to drive over. I thought was insane the first time I saw it but after a while it made sense. One, twelve people live in the whole damn country and two, you can see forever so if another car is coming towards you you both have miles to somehow figure out who’s going to cross the bridge first. We drove for hours and it mostly looked like this:

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BTW, that bluish thing in front of us embracing the mountain is the glacier. The big one that takes up a massive portion of the island. Here, a map for help.

We got closer to it at one point. I thought it was stunningly beautiful.

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Another fun fact – this is an extremely elf-conscious country. Lemme pull a sentence out of this recent article in The Atlantic. You don’t need context. Just read.

If a road is completely necessary, the elves will generally move out of the way, but if it is deemed superfluous, a possibility at Gálgahraun, “very bad things” might happen. “This elf church is connected by light energy to other churches, other places,” Jónsdóttir said. “So, if one of them is destroyed, it’s, uh, well, it’s not a good thing.”

There’s also the article reported by AP News.

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So, as you can guess, lots of elf stuff everywhere. You need to respect the elves.

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Y’ALL RESPECT THE ELVES NOW.

Okay, the geothermal bakery and spa. Now, I don’t know about you but when I hear “bakery” I think of at least one oven, usually multiple oven. Based on what I saw I think maybe the name “bakery” is a bit of a misnomer. I will show you.

On arrival to the bakery and spa we got to see an authentic building with grass / moss growing on the roof.

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We asked to see the bakery and the kid behind the counter said, “Sure, let me grab the shovel.” None of us understood why he would need that, maybe to prop up the door? We had clearly seen the bakery from the parking lot.

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Here’s the thing: that’s not the bakery. That’s a building that takes the boiling water out of the earth and makes electricity. The bakery was a pile of dirt on the edge of that lake back there. That’s it. Here’s how the “bakery” works – you put the ingredients in a big pot, the main ingredient being rye, one of the only two grains that grows in Iceland, wrap it up tight in plastic, bury it a foot or two into the lava sand where the water is boiling, come back in 24 hours and unbury your bread. Hence the need for the shovel.

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The bread was delicious. They served us slices of the hot bread (really cake, the dough had two cups of sugar in it, let’s call it what it really was) and cold salted butter and we snarfed it down like we had never had food before.

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I’m not even remotely kidding about the water being boiling two feet down. Standing on the edge of the lake you could see the hotness trying to escape like little teeny tiny geysers.

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Mishi and I decided to try out the spa. The gentlemen opted out of this and on the website it said something about their roof deck being the ideal place for making memories. Here is the place for the making of memories.

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Mishi and I left the menfolk there to spoon or whatever their memory-making required, I don’t presume to know their business, and we tried all the pools. First we tried the room with the boiling springs directly under the floor that was cool because you could hear and feel the boiling under your feet but profoundly uncool because you were engulfed in a mist of egg farts. We then progressed from pool to pool, increasing in heat with each one. It was pretty great.

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The view of the lake was stark and lovely.

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And everything was going great until the maintenance guy who was patrolling the area doing something with a leaf-blower/pool cleaning device and OH MY GOD HE’S PULLING THE ELECTRICAL CORD INTO THE POOL WE ARE IN WE’RE GONNA DIE AND LEAVE BACHELORS ON THE ROOF TO MAKE MEMORIES ALONE FOR THE REST OF THIS TRIP. Luckily a second after I noticed and braced for a tingly demise, the pool guy signaled for Mishi to put the cord further away, saving us from a tragic passing. Cricket caught the epic save on film.

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There was one other hot tub place we visited while in Iceland. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. A bunch of pools next to some mountainous rocks with a piece of plumbing that you could shove some money into for the upkeep of these pools. And a great view of the glacier in the background. I was transfixed by the craggy rock directly behind us.

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We saw reindeer on the way out to the hot pots! I would have been far more excited if we hadn’t been a million feet away from them but if African safaris have taught me anything you see what you see and that’s how it is.

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To close this entry let’s talk Icelandic horses. Sweet, small, hairy, furry horses. I saw a few outside of a gas station and I had to get up close and make friends.

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Next, possibly the best thing I saw on this trip, the glacier beach.

Aaaaaaand I’m back from Iceland. Part 1.

Monday, December 26th, 2016

I’ve actually been back for two weeks but work happened in that way it always does (dramatically and oppressively) so I haven’t had a chance to sort through my pics. But now that Christmas break has started I got a chance to sift through my pictures of moss (get ready to see, like, twenty pictures of moss) (I am not kidding) and y’all gonna get a chance to live my trip to Iceland with me. So, Iceland. First, let me say I understand Björk sooooooo much better now. Her weird, odd, sometimes beautiful and otherworldly music makes much more sense. When I came back I watched a documentary on her and she talks about how being Icelandic influenced her in the first five minutes.

Iceland is unique. Based on what was told to me by several locals, Iceland is most like the big island of Hawaii in that it popped up out of the ocean from volcanoes. The two islands have the same black sand beaches and a very similar pH in the earth. Because Iceland was not part of Pangaea (the giant supercontinent that splintered into our separate continents) and no rafts of leaves floated over, Iceland has no native animals. None. Some seabirds come over and nest there in the summer but until some guy from Norway (let’s call him Sven) came over in 800 A.D. with his sheep and horses and cows, there were no beasties. According to my Icelandic source (the young man who worked at the geothermal bakery), Sven had to return to Norway after some time because all his animals died and he was starving. This sounds pretty correct to me. Everything about Iceland’s landscape said, “Thank you for visiting but if you stay here you will eventually die of malnutrition and exposure.” There are no trees. I’m exaggerating. There are a few short trees. A few. But no situation where you couldn’t see something because it was blocked by trees. No forests. So you can’t build your shelter out of anything but pumice which is sharp and porous. Fissures are open in the ground and sizzling water mixed with poisonous gases come out. There’s no grass for your animals to eat. The ocean is perpetually trying to kill you so it’s hard to fish. The wind wants to rip the flesh from your bones. But, you know people, they can’t take no for an answer. People eventually settled and the hardy short hairy horses and hardy short hairy sheep did well and became indigenous. Humans also brought mice and rabbits and reindeer and they’re considered Icelandic now too even though they’ve only been on the island for 1,000 years.

We* arrived at about 8:30 in the morning and the first thing one would notice is that it was pitch-black outside. I soon found out that the sun didn’t rise until 10:51 in the morning, hung out in the sky for about four hours and then peaced out, leaving you in blackness again. Once we rented our vehicle from the car rental station (where I saw this sign):

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We headed out to get some breakfast. As we were driving away from the airport, there was a sculpture that set the tone perfectly. It was a big pile of rocks with an enormous egg on top and a tail breaking out of the top. This was lit with red lights from the bottom for maximum spookiness. It said, “Hey, you didn’t know we filmed Game of Thrones here? Well, now you know! GIANT DRAGON EGG!” I was too busy going, “Whuuuuuuu…?” as we were passing it to get a picture of it, but here’s a shot I took as we were leaving. It’s during the day so it doesn’t have the same impact as it did with the red lights but you get the idea.

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Post-breakfast we started off to our first destination: the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is mostly for tourists – the natives tend to go to small hot pots in YMCA-like facilities in their towns. The four of us got to the place in pouring icy rain, changed into our bathing suits, grabbed some towels and quickly lowered ourselves into the warm, sulfur-smelling water. Important note: if you do not like the smell of sulfur maybe don’t visit Iceland. It’s a very common odor to come across. Some of the hot water pumped into the houses comes directly from the earth and it is infused with the pungent, egg-y smell. On the way to the lagoon we passed a cemetery. Much to our surprise and for reasons we couldn’t really fathom, the Icelandic people put colorful lit crosses near the graves. It’s a strange place to make so festive. Everywhere else the houses which are small and quaint have one tasteful strand of lights strung above the door, but if you come to visit the graves of Nana and PopPop, hey! A rainbow light-up cross shows you the way!

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I thought it was only that cemetery but no, I saw it several more times. Come celebrate Brazilian Carnival at the cemetery! Woot woot!

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Back to the lagoon. It was 9:45 in the morning. It was pitch-black. There was freezing cold rain periodically falling. There was also a thick fog that prevented you from seeing ten feet in front of your face. To complete the weirdness, there’s a hotel being build off to one side of the lagoon so you can hear some construction sounds and see the lights of the crane through the fog. I felt exactly like I was a wealthy person enjoying life after the fall of society in some dystopian future. Very Mad Max: Fury Road. “I’ll just sit in this warm, eerily bright blue water filled with powdered silica in this perpetual night consumed by fog while buildings are built nearby. All is as it should be.” I didn’t take my phone out because I was concerned it would get wet but someone else took some pictures that were very similar to what I saw. Thank you, internet, for providing me with visual reference of my experience.

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We took some photos as we were leaving.

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This was taken around 11:30 in the morning. This was as bright at it got during the day. Epic gloominess.

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Next, we look at waterfalls. In the dark. Because Iceland.

*”We” is Cricket, Cricket’s sister Mishi, Mishi’s husband D and me.