Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas quotes and other delights

There are many meaningful, thoughtful, and poignant Christmas quotes from all kinds of literate people. Many try to find a deeper meaning for humanity and its treatment of the world and its inhabitants. There are many lessons to be learned, even at this age. However, I have thought those thoughts only to be let down by so much of humanity. Even after watching the violent throngs at Walmart and other shopping venues I know there is some redemption in the holiday season going back to its pre-pagan roots. To get a respite from all this deep thought and heavy thinking I have preferred the lighter side of holiday thought. 

Did Joseph really believe Mary when she told him who the father of the baby was?  How naive was the guy?
If Santa would have said Yo Ho Ho instead of Ho Ho Ho, would everyone dress up as pirates on Christmas?
"The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live." -George Carlin
“My parents always said that knowledge was the best gift they could give me, probably because they were too cheap to buy me Christmas or Birthday presents.”- Jarod Kintz
“Money's scarce
Times are hard
Here's your fucking
Xmas card.” -Phyllis Diller
 “What kind of Christmas present would Jesus ask Santa for?”- Salman Rushdie
“Everyone wants a Christmas tree. If you had a Christmas tree Santa would bring you stuff! Like hair curlers and slut shoes.”-Janet Evanovich
 “The worst gift I was given is when I got out of rehab that Christmas; a bottle of wine. It was delicious.”-Craig Ferguson
“A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.”- Mitch Hedberg
 “The Little Drummer Boy" was playing in the background for what seemed like the third time in a row. I fought off an urge to beat that Little Drummer Boy seneless with his own drumsticks.”-Dana Reinhardt
“The real Santa Claus is at the mall.”- Lemony Snicket

Let's hope we don't forget the really important stuff.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Iceland vs. Minnesota

Seems like an interesting comparison at this dark and frozen time of year.  The most obvious is that Minnesota is much colder. At least where there are people trying to survive. In Iceland, most people live around the edge of the country and the sea keeps them warmer. Maybe the Icelanders are smarter in that respect. I mean why go looking for trouble when there is a simple solution? I live by Lake Superior which is a huge lake, but it's no ocean. It does moderate the temperature somewhat if you stay close enough to it. Of course, if you do that you tend to stay a little more damp.

Wind chill. Today the wind chill was approaching -40 as the winds were 25 to 30 mph and the temperature was well below zero. While the edge of Iceland is warmer than us it sometimes (sort of regularly) gets hit by gale force winds which sometimes reach hurricane strength. It has been known to bend automobile doors totally the wrong way. I have no idea if there are serious calculations for wind chill when it gets going that fast.

Yesterday afternoon we had about 5 inches of snow. By this morning it had blown away. I suspect it went across the lake to Michigan, but I haven't called anyone over there to verify that that's where it went.

Darkness. Iceland is darker since it is farther north. But that means they get Northern Lights more often and that may offset some of the lack of sunshine. The good news is that in a week the days start getting longer for all of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

Food. We have Lutefisk (made from cod) here in Minnesota. It is an acquired taste, but if you take a piece of lefse, stuff it with mashed potatoes and butter, and then throw on a little Lutefisk it can be tolerated. Sort of like a Norwegian taco.

O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, how fragrant your aroma,
O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, you put me in a coma.
You smell so strong, you look like glue,
You taste just like an overshoe,
But lutefisk, come Saturday,
I tink I eat you anyvay

Iceland has Hákarl which is fermented Greenland shark. Fermented is a nice way of saying "rotten" or "putrefied". The taste is apparently something like ammonia. I say apparently because I have never tried it. Maybe next time in Iceland. Maybe. This is also supposed to be an acquired taste, although I cannot imagine how or why anyone would want to acquire it.

Both of these "delicacies" require long periods of time to make. Burial, fermentation, sitting on the floor in the corner of the outhouse may be things they have in common. I suspect that is why the occasional stray dog gets a chance to urinate on them for that "special" flavor. Both are meant to be eaten with traditional beverages like Aquavit or Brennevin. These drinks can be referred to as "Water of Life" or "Black Death" again depending on whether or not the taste for them has been "acquired". I'll have to admit acquiring the taste for them, but not the food with which they are used to chase.

Minnesota has Cold Spring, Spring Valley, Pine Spring, Glennwood Springs, and numerous others. These are cold, but good to drink. Iceland has many hot springs because of the volcanic nature of the country. Most of these taste like sulfur. So the question here is, do you want to quench your thirst or warm up? This time of year "warm up" wins. You can always melt snow if you are thirsty or have one of the aforementioned beverages. 

Ways to stay warm. In Minnesota we have trees. We turn them into firewood and burn them in stoves to keep us toasty warm. In Iceland they have no trees. Why they don't is subject to debate, but that is usually done halfway through the Brennevin. They do, however, have sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. I suppose you could cuddle up with a bunch of them for warmth (be careful of rumors) or sheer them in the spring and make warm clothes out of the wool. Often the wool is made into a Lopapeysa, or traditional Icelandic sweater which is warm and somewhat water repellant. The preferred method of using sheep for warmth is probably different from the country to the city, but I don't want to start any rumors. What happens in Iceland stays in Iceland.

Those of you in warmer climes probably don't understand why anyone would live in such a place, but sometimes you need the painful feelings of your extremities thawing just to let you know that you are alive. Screaming, "I want to go to Miami," as this thawing occurs is permissable.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sea Smoke or Winter comes to Lake Superior

The change from late autumn to early winter is often abrupt. Basically, overnight in fact. There I was, minding my own business, spacing out the entire month of November, when all of a sudden it's December and I am up to my eyeballs in snow. When it falls horizontally that isn't saying much, but we really did get a foot or two over a few days. Now the ground is covered and the frost probably won't penetrate down more than a few feet.
Late November:
A few days later in Early December:

Sea smoke is an interesting phenomenon. When the cold air from the arctic whooshes down upon us like a (insert clever analogy), the "heat " from the not quite frozen Lake Superior rises causing a mist or even a small spinning vortex of steam to be seen rising into the air. The temperature needs to be close to 0F (-17C) for this to occur in a noticeable way. This morning it was -10F (-24C) so it is definitely noticeable. In fact it gets so high over the lake that sunrise is delayed by about a half hour. But it makes for some interesting light. Sometimes you start to see things in the mist, but what?
Then you keep scanning the mist and there! I'm sure that is something. Look closely and you will see a ship plying through the cold inland sea.
Do you see it now?
Someday I may think I see the Flying Dutchman plying through the cold and dangerous waters of the big lake. The more likely thing, considering this area is sometimes referred to as the Scandinavian Riviera, might be to see the Flying Norwegian or the Flying Swede. If a person believes in ghosts or ghost ships Lake Superior would be a good place to see them. There are over 350 shipwrecks with more than a thousand lives lost in the relatively brief history of sailing on this lake. It demands respect from those who ply its waters.