Sunday, August 27, 2006

Reykjavík to London

[reading: Alfred Bester, "The Stars My Destination"]

Just time in the morning to go back to Hallgrímskirkja

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Then off to the airport and back to London.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Reykjavík

First activity for the day was a couple of hours of horse riding on Icelandic horses. They're fairly small, but still move at an impressive pace (too much so for one poor chap, who got thrown off when his horse unexpectedly cantered—he ended on the ground with one foot still attached to the stirrup) and have an extra gear compared to normal European horses.

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After that, back to Reykyavík for some culture: the Culture House, the Einar Jónsson sculpture garden and the ASÍ art gallery (which demonstrated that weird-ass conceptual art isn't just confined to the UK). Sadly, it seems that the Phallological Museum is no longer in Reykyavík, so we had to skip that particular bit of culture. (We also tried to get into Hallgrímskirkja, but it was shut for a couple of weddings.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hella to Reykjavík

[reading: Samuel R. Delany, "Babel-17"]

A waterfall day, starting with Seljalandfoss and a smaller waterfall nearby.

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Then on to Skógafoss.

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The town of Skógar also has a folk museum, which seems to be international standard terminology for "eclectic collection of junk" (although still interesting for all that).

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Icelanders seem very fond of sculpture; most towns seem to have a piece or two, even very small towns. (Every town also seems to have an interestingly-architected small church—I've seen many innovative designs).

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On the way back, there's a stop for ice cream in Hveragerði. The trip notes have this to say about Hveragerði:

Minor earthquakes are common and quite harmless. In the middle of the town the ground is too hot for buildings and a fence has been built to keep pedestrians safe! We can either stroll around this green oasis or use the opportunity to soak ourselves in the wonderful geothermal baths of Hveragerdi.

The reality seems to be rather more along the lines of the Rough Guide description:

There's not a huge amount to see in Hveragerði itself, though some fine hiking hereabouts might encourage a stopover.

Finally, back to Reykjavík for a puffin dinner at Lækjarbrekka.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Reykholt to Hella

First, a quick stop at Barnafoss.

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Then on to the mountain road, across the barren lava fields near Langjökull.

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Reaching Þingvellir, ancient home of the Alþing.

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On to more hot springs by the lake at Laugarvatn, this time feeding a steam room.

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Another waterfall at Gullfoss.

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Last stop was at Geysir, to watch the reliable Strokkur do its thing. I mostly take landscape pictures, so I think this is the first time I've ever used the motordrive on this camera.

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Ended the day at a "hotel" in Hella, which had the smallest rooms ever encountered. A twin room had two beds…end to end, with about as much space again next to them, in between walls made of plywood.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Langaholt to Reykholt

This morning's excursion was a boat trip to see the islands and birds off Stykkishólmur.

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Next was the reconstructed Viking house at Eiríksstaðir, complete with frolicking kittens.

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The last stop on our way to Reykholt was the hot springs at Deildartunguhver, the largest in Europe.

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Reykholt is the home town of Snorri Sturluson, who was murdered in his cellar in 1241. Apparently he tried "the old Viking trick of screaming and begging for mercy", but to no avail.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Snæfellnes

Exploring the Snæfellnes peninsula today, although Snæfellsjökur itself stayed stubbornly hidden by clouds all day. The landscape feels like a younger version of Scotland (but with the addition of lava fields); the weather certainly feels similar to Scottish weather.

We started with a quick visit to a narrow gorge at Rauðfeldargia.

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Next was a walk along the sea cliffs from Arnastapi to Hellnar, with various blow-holes along the way.

Harbour,_house_@_Arnastapi,_Iceland.jpg Bay,_sea_@_Arnastapi,_Iceland_4.jpg Rocks,_bay,_sea_@_Arnastapi,_Iceland.jpg

A little further around the coast are the Þúfubjarg cliffs (where legend has it that a poet won a rhyming competition with the devil).

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On to Djúpalónssandur (with the remains of a wrecked ship, originally from Grimsby, strewn around the beach) and from there to the ruins of an old village at Dritvík (in the driving rain).

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Finally, round the coast road to Ólafsvík, and then over the mountain road to a soak in an hot swimming pool at Lýsuhóll.


Reading the guidebook, I came across what has to be the earliest recorded instance of marketing:

The country which is called Greenland was discovered and settled from Iceland. Eirík the Red was the name of a man from Breiðafjörður who went out there and took possession of land in the place which has since been called Eiríksfjörður. He named the country Greenland and said it would make people want to go there if the country had a good name.

  (From Book of the Icelanders by Ari the Learned)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Reykjavík to Langaholt

Driving out from Reykjavík, we followed the road round Hvalfjörður to our first stop, a walk up to the waterfall at Glymur.

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Next stop was the Eldborg volcano crater. A quick Icelandic lesson on the way, and in proper English fashion the first word anyone asks for a translation of is "sorry".

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Finally, before we reached our (excellent) guesthouse at Langaholt, there was another stop to look at some basalt columns at Gerðuberg.

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Iceland must be the largest per-capita consumer of JCBs anywhere in the world—there seem to be diggers and lifters and trucks and dozers everywhere.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

London to Reyjavík

[reading: Sheri S. Tepper, "A Plague of Angels"]

Another year, another Exodus trip—this time to Iceland.

The instructions to allow extra time at the airport turned out to be nonsense; we were met at the door by a member of staff who told us we wouldn't be allowed to check in until 2 hours before the flight. I'm not sure I understand the reason for reducing the allowed size for cabin baggage either—I have to suspect it's a conspiracy of luggage manufacturers to force everyone to buy new bags.

Anyway, the first stop off the plane was the Blue Lagoon, which can been seen from a fair distance, gently steaming in the volcanic landscape. (I can also tell I've played too much Oblivion recently—I keep looking at small ponds and tarns and thinking they'd be good places to find nirnroot)

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After our soak, it was onward to Reykjavík.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Truth Mines

In the Truth Mines, though, the tags weren't just references; they included complete statements of the particular definitions, axioms, or theorems the objects represented.

Every tunnel in the Mines was built from the steps of a watertight proof; every theorem, however deeply buried, could be traced back to every one of its assumptions. And to pin down exactly what was meant by 'proof', every field of mathematics used its own collection of formal systems: sets of axioms, definitions, and rules of deduction, along with the specialised vocabulary needed to state theorems and conjectures precisely.*

I came across a cool maths site today (via Good Math, Bad Math). I'd actually been thinking about doing it myself for the last few years, but it always looked a bit too much like hard work (even when I had Copious Free Time), so I never quite got around to it.

It's kind of eerie, though—the proof pages are almost exactly like the ones I'd mocked up and had in my head when I was playing with the project (although less XML/MathML-y). I guess there aren't really that many different ways you could present it, but it does feel like some sort of noodly appendage has sucked the idea right out of my head and served it up as a completed web page (conveniently skipping the tedious business of doing all the work).


* Greg Egan, "Diaspora", 1997

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Code Review

Sometimes deleting code is almost as satisfying as creating new code. I had a day of code reviewing today, and I managed to get rid of 650 lines of code (plus another 500 lines of comments). That's a bunch less code to have bugs in.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Easy for whom?

"it's like goldy and bronzy only it's made out of iron"

Today's dose of irony: the Post Office leafet covering the new prices, which has two main categories, 12 sub-categories and 312 different individual prices, is entitled "pricing made easy".

Monday, August 07, 2006

Light Relief

Bit of light relief this afternoon, as we digressed into a quick photo shoot so that my co-conspirator could get a portrait shot for her profile on a business forum website. It's actually the first stab I've had since the course I took, and it came out better than I expected. Not super-great, but hey, it was free and only took an hour or so.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Flopping through the Mists of Time

[reading: Mark Russinovich & David Solomon, "Microsoft Windows Internals (4th edn)"]

I was sorting through a box of old floppy disks the other day and I spotted one with something I wanted to keep on it. It looks to be my only soft copy of an article I wrote on Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem (and I even won a prize for it), so it would be good to get it transferred onto the hard disk.

Slight problem though—I wrote it in 1989, and the floppy disk it's on is old enough that it actually flops (I always liked the old 'floppy' versus 'crispy' distinction). A quick scan of all of the dead machines hidden away around the house failed to uncover any with a 5¼" drive, so I decided to take the bike out for a spin and see if I could find any old-fashioned PC repair shops that might have a drive.

To my surprise, I actually found a couple of places using the "randomly driving around" approach, but only one of them was open on a Saturday. When I went in, things looked hopeful at first—the kid who was behind the counter said they had a machine with a old floppy drive. However, he looked distinctly becroggled when I produced a 5¼" disk; I'm fairly sure he'd never seen one before.

On the way out, I asked the lad behind the counter how old he was. "Fourteen", he replied. "Hmm, thought so—this disk is older than you are".

So I suspect eBay may beckon.