Thursday, October 25, 2007


Why is it that some people, particularly boys between the ages of 10-12 and young men aged 18-22 think that being a complete asshole to everyone they meet is a guaranteed ticket to popularity and coolness?

Why do these people have parents that put up with it?

And why the sweet Mary Mohamed Jesus fuck has it become my job to re-wire a class full of idiot children's brains so that they treat those around them with a modicum of fucking respect, not to mention refrain from acts of blatant xenophobic ass-hat-ism and crude jokes involving metal poles, asses, and attempts to make little kids lick said pole afterwards.

Why didn't I take that night-watchman's job?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Add one part compliment, one part insulting anger, blend well...

...and you've got the morning I'm trying to slouch my way through.

See, it's parent-teacher day here and this glorious academic entity know as Where I Work. So far today, I've received one very sweet and uplifting stream of compliments from one of my former students and his parents. It was almost enough to make up for the crap I've been taking from other students and parents who find my grades to be too harsh and my methods "ekki nægjan nóg gótt".

Mostly this comes down to my "vinnueinkum" (where the students are graded on a scale of 1-4 on things like "turns in homework on time" / "doesn't disrupt class" etc). Much as I disagree with the whole process of grading people, I figured if I had to do it, I should at least try to be fair. So if I didn't have a record of students turning in the two home work assignments I gave them, they got a zero in "turns in home work on time". This made logical sense to me. 0+0=? You guessed it, 0!

But apparently that's not how math should be done over here. 0+0= "at least 2 and should be raised even higher if a parent comes to complain."

I hate grading. I hate that assignments are graded on a scale of one to ten but behavior is graded on a scale of 1 to 4. I hate trying to numerically quantify the complex and singularly individual process of learning. I hate that said quantification is all the kids and the parents really seem to give a shit about.

All things considered, I like the library a lot better. I like the fact that at the library, information is there for you, but no one is forcing you to read it, no one is telling you to read it faster, demanding reports on it, or grading you on it.

Schools ought to be like libraries. Teachers ought to be like interactive books, full of knowledge and capable of showing you how to apply said knowledge.

That way, when you want to learn something, you could come and check out a few books, read up on it a bit, and then sit down with a teacher and figure the rest out. Freely, independently, without coercion of quantification.

That's the kind of school I want to teach at.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Society's Core Values: Redux

Miriam Rose, the young woman facing deportation form Iceland for "threatening society's core values" was on the local current-events show Kastljós last night. One of the better points she made was that if she is threatening the core values of Icelandic society, then those values are the values of the market place, not of a civil society.

Kudos to her.

Thing is, the state of Icelandic society has been getting me down the last couple of months, as is abundantly evident in this blog.

A sizable chunk of this is down to yours truly. I've had a worse than usual case of my autumn-induced malaise/melancholy, coupled with a deeply rooted pile of pissed off due to the events of last July. I should move on, but I'm still pissed, and its coming out in all kinds of ways.

But my dissatisfaction is not entirely due to my currently pissy attitude. There are things that need addressing here on the Lump, and even if no one actually reads this blog, it means something to me to voice my dissent. If "most men live lives of quiet desperation" I think its about fucking time for our desperation to get really FUCKING LOUD!

The Miriam Rose case is highly illustrative of several issues that desperately need addressing and redressing in this society.

For starters, there's a distinct level of xenophobia at play. Icelanders arrested for acts of civil disobedience are not held in solitary confinement during their incarceration. Ms. Rose was. Icelanders arrested for acts of civil disobedience are not required to hand their passports over to the authorities. Ms. Rose was. Finally, while an Icelander arrested for civil disobedience would have their day in court, Ms. Rose's deportation does an end-run around justice, as the deportation is being handled by the Icelandic Immigration "Service" (that actual translation is closer to "Authority" or "Police", they don't service folks that well) who when it comes to matters of immigration and immigrant rights, act largely as a power unto themselves, unchecked by the courts.

Then there's the glaring example of the nepotism, cronyism, and jingoism at play when it comes to the powers that be. Several months ago, a young Central American woman was granted Icelandic citizenship after only a year or so in the country. This was newsworthy because, as far as the rules usually apply, it takes at least a year to get citizenship (if you're married to an Icelander, which the young woman wasn't) but usually takes anywhere from 5-7 years. The young woman in question just happened to be living with the son of a prominent member of Parliament, which we've been assured has nothing to do with her super-sonic entry into Icelandic society, but was seeking Icelandic citizenship so that she could then be eligible to study economics in the U.K.

After her interview on Kastljós, she was active in her "mother in law's" party's election campaign.

So the lesson is, as long as you are politically connected, interested in something conservative and respected like business or economics, speak Icelandic (Ms. Rose put on a brave show, but Ms. Speedy Entry had obviously spent alot of time in the language lab), and play by the unwritten rules (don't rock the boat, only act within the system, etc.) then the written rules can be bent or even broken to allow you to stay here, even if you're active in politics.

If your not politically connected, not conservative, don't speak much Icelandic, and challenge the status quo, you'd best tread very carefully, especially if you're active in politics. That's when they hammer the rules into a nice rigid rod to pummel you with.

But the Miriam Rose Case has another side to it as well. Just like the WAR IN CITY CENTER, its part of an ongoing campaign of misdirection and coercion on behalf of the authorities.

Case in point, just a few weeks ago, Iceland hosted a major NATO conference.

Not a protest to be seen.

Which is the whole point. Deporting "troublemakers" like Ms. Rose isn't just an end in and of itself, it's also a handy means of stifling dissent. By channelling the dialogue to make it look like the only people who protest anything are foreigners (not far from the truth sometimes, but I digress) you can make Icelanders feel less inclined to support them. After all, "þetta fólk" are "bad mouthing" the beloved homeland. Label them a "threat to the basic values of society" and people will be even less inclined to support them, and the government gets a green light to kick out all the foreigners who aren't perfectly happy being "erlent vinnuafl", aren't busy taking care of the elderly and the young, doing the building and the cleaning and the cashiering and the dish washing or touring around and drinking at bars and going to music festivals all the other "legitimate" things that foreigners can do here.

All this is to protect the basic values of Icelandic society.

If so, then the following is sadly a much more likely list of core values than whatever's written down at Alþingi (that is, if its written down, and not just left up to whoever is in charge at the time):

1-Money is more important than people.

Therefore people with lots of money are more important than people without. People who
work with money are more important than people who work with people. Hence bankers, investors, business owners and investment groups deserve better service from the government, tax breaks, and more say in the organization of society than teachers, nurses, child-care workers, municipal employees, or people in the (non-financial) service industries.

Money being the most important thing, it must therefore be good. Hence anything that increases the amount of money (business, GNP, tax revenue, etc) no matter the cost to people must be good. Hell, its practically holy. Anyone or anything that seeks to limit, prohibit, or otherwise impede the accumulation of wealth, especially the accumulation of wealth by the already wealthy is therefore evil or misguided and certainly a threat to society. After all, we're not "gamaldags kommatittur".

Likewise, monetary crimes are more serious than crimes against people. Especially monetary crimes against the State. Hence drug offenses, which entail making money in a way unsanctioned, and therefore untaxed, by the government, or smuggling (ditto) are prosecuted more harshly and with more zeal than crimes like assault, rape, and sexual abuse, which after all, only harm people.

2-Laws must be obeyed no matter how asinine, intrusive, or unjust they are. Civil disobedience threatens the stability and sanctity of the status quo.

Therefore people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Henry David Thoreau should never be allowed into the country, as they threaten the very foundations of Icelandic society. Remember: Með Lögum Skál Landið Byggja. Seriously, if people went around protesting and challenging laws, it might not be illegal to be gay, or women might be guaranteed equal pay under then law!

Likewise, if you have a problem with an asinine law, you shouldn't seek to change it publicly (unless your an elected politician) rather you should try to get around it via subterfuge. Challenging it outright on moral, ethical, or even legal grounds will get you in trouble, best just to grow the pot in the basement and not bother with rallies, protests, or petitions. This also gives the authorities the ability to catch you, punish you, and use you as an example of how they are protecting the public from you. Do your duty, break the law in private!

If a law is so universally ignored that not even the most rabid policemen will enforce it, it should remain on the books as a way of selectively targeting people for prosecution. (Why do you think porn and sex toys are still technically illegal?)

3-Thou Shalt Be Mightily Apathetic!

The last thing a perfect society like Iceland needs is malcontent trouble-makers wanting to change or fix things. You can't fix things. Það er vónt en það venst. Don't try. Don't strive. Fólk eru fífl, og þú ert fólk. Be unhappy inside and smile to the world. The unhappy buy more, and money matters. Buy yourself into debt. Keep up with trends. Go abroad once or twice a year to someplace sunny and cheap. Buy buy buy. Consume consume consume. Work work work. Don't question why you're depressed, tired, stress out. Don't wonder if a world where you actually spend time with your kids is possible. Whittle your dreams down to things you can find in a catalogue. Repeat the mantra "Ísland best í heimi! We have the most cleanest nature, most beautifullest women and strongest men! We are hip of kúl and all the Hollywood stars think we rock!" until you believe it!

And yes, for the record, if these really are (and I deeply hope they are not) the basic values of Icelandic society, then throw my ass out too, 'cause I'm definitly threatening them!


If you feel the need to give me any "Iceland, love it or leave it" shit, please click here. If you feel the need to point out that I'm being very negative, please check the title of the blog and ask yourself "what part of rant did I not get?"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Call me "Giles"...

So I've totally fallen off the bloggin' wagon of late, which is hereby gonna change.

Back to "Daily Rant" as opposed to "Once or twice a month when I've got nothing better to do rant".

Since last I wrote, I've moved back into my construction-zone apartment. I've very nearly finished the bedroom, after hammering out all the loose tile (easy peasy) and the not-so-loose-tile (much harder, but thankfully only about half a square meter). All I have left to do is touch up the paint, put up the curtains, cut and nail down the edging around the new floor (which much to my chagrin I realized doesn't match the old floor. 'Course I realized this after I'd glued the fucker down...) put up some shelves and change the light fixture and I can move back in.

After that, all I have to do is finish up the living room (light fixture, shelves, paint, new furniture), the hall (paint, light fixture, new floor), the shower (move and re-install washing machine and dryer, tile, install shower, put up door) and the kitchen (take out wall, re-wire the whole space, install sink, cupboards, stove, fan and vent, fridge, paint, put in new floors, new light fixtures, shelves and storage, furniture).

Total cakewalk.

I wish...

Aside from that, I've also started my new job at the same place as the assistant librarian/English tutor/cafeteria gestapo.

The librarian part of the deal is great even if I somehow managed to throw out my back re-shelving books. Hours of hard physical work on the apartment, nada. Two hours re-shelving and I had to go to the doc's.

Doc gave me butt-pills. What the hell is it with the butt pills? I've never encountered them, the entire time I was in and out of the hospital in the States, never a butt pill to be seen. Leave the Land of the Fat and suddenly you have to keester your pain killers...

But anywho...the library gig is nice, even if the concept of whispering in the library is totally foreign to Icelandic schools. As I type one of the 8th graders has just climbed on top of the table to shout at his fellow students over the top of the shelves. His teacher (Ms. Hottie) just looks blissfully on...

I think my train of thought just derailed...

The weekend was good, despite the screwed up back and fuzzy-headed-butt-pilly-ness. I went to the BEST MOVIE EVER! So damned good Embles and Anna and I wanted to buy tickets to the very next show and watch it all over again.

Followed that up by drinking some beer (didn't take much) with Klaus at Embla's place, which led to crashing on the guest bed upstairs. Which turned out to be too soft, so I laid down on the rug in the living room to give my back a rest, drifted off to sleep, and was woken up in total fright by the dog deciding to lick my belly-button.

I like dogs, but for fuck's sake!

Next day was great though. Hung out with the Embles and Klaus and ever-more mobile Askur and wound up making a truly delicious meal (pot-roasted vegies and beef, mashed sweet potatoes with roasted garlic, and a nice Fall salad) followed by berries in cream and accompanied by Shrek I and II.

Pure bliss.

So the rest of this week is set aside for working on the bedroom, the sooner I get moved in the better. I suspect however that I'll also be doing quite a bit wondering about when my little sis is gonna squeeze out my first (blood-related) nephew, and hunting for something fun to wear for a Halloween.

That is all dear blogadytes, someone actually wants to check out a book!

Monday, October 1, 2007

On a totally unrelated note...

Anyone know where I can download Peter Paul and Mary's acapella version of "Because All Men Are Brothers"...The Great and Powerful Google has failed me...

The Story of My Day

So we had an "starfsdagur" today at work, as if all the other days we aren't really working.

But I was productive as all hell, holed up in the classroom that soon won't be mine anymore, grading papers at suicidal speed, listening to various odd bands found on You Tube.

Not terribly exciting, I know. About the only amusement that part of the day provided were all the copy-paste papers that the kids tried to foist off on me as their own. For starters, there are maybe two students in the school who even know what adrenaline is, let alone how to use it in a sentence. Add to that the absolute laziness of their scams! I mean, seriously kids, if your going to plagiarize, please don't use something from the first hit thrown up by googling the fucking book's title! Use some guile! I give bonus points for guile!

So I stayed until 4, using my mad deductive reasoning skills to figure out who owned what paper, as a goodly amount of them were either unsigned, or included just the first name. "Anna" for instance. I have 7 fucking Annas in my classes!

Don't even get me started on the pathetic attempts to make the page and a half minimum by filling an entire page with clip art...

After that, I walked over to the paint store and bought some lovely autumny green and yellow paint. Every body's got a red kitchen these days.

Proceeded to carry the paint 2km to my much neglected housing, painted the trim in the bedroom (after removing 12 screws necessitating 5 different screw-driver bits) and got all the obviously loose tiles on the floor removed.

These tiles will be the death of me. The fuckin' things are hideous for starters, mismatched around the edges, little thumb-pad sized bits of white, and grey and black, the grout turned to powder, or worse, a chemically orange goo. I want to remove them. Seriously, give me a broad-head masonry chisel and a mallet, and I'll be good for a couple hours of wonderfully cathartic thwacking.

Come to think of it, give me a mallet and something to smack and I'm generally just in hog-heaven.

But the owner(s) can't decide if they want to fix the damn things and have me lay laminate over it (WTF?!?!?) or just let me take them out and then lay the laminate. So for now my floor is in limbo. Not wanting to start painting the walls as late as it was, I opted for a slightly different cathartic destruction, namely stripping old paint and plaster off one of the idiotic architectural features in what will hopefully someday be my kitchen.

Stripping paint by hand is kinda fun. The same kinda fun that picking your nose is when your a kid, only less gross and less likely to make your nose bleed. Its the whole digging for grip and then the satisfaction of pulling off a really big piece at once. Good times.

So yeah, that was my 15 hour work day. 8 hours of grading papers and useless meetings (I've sat through 5 meetings about the importance of keeping up moral, and not one on emergency drills, what the hell is up with that? Nobody notice that we live in one of the most seismically active spots on the planet?!?!?) followed by 7 hours of painting, tile-prying, and paint stripping.

If I had to choose, the latter wins hands down.