Pandemic Journal, Day 532

Today was an unusual day – there was nothing on the calendar. True, we planned to visit the chiropractor and go grocery shopping, but other than that, the day was blessedly unscheduled. And my email was fairly quiet. And I didn’t even get any offers to extend my car warranty!

So I spent much of the day working on Iceland photos and completed culling, editing, and labeling two days worth of photos (August 1 (Grimsey and Siglufjörður]) and August 2 (Námaskar∂ / Hverir, Dimmuborgir, and Go∂afoss).

Quiet is nice!

Pandemic Journal, Day 531

Diane spent the afternoon on her Windows computer working on the photobook she’s making for our trip to Costa Rica and Panama last year – which made it the perfect time for me to upgrade our home automation software.

I use Indigo on my Mac; it is relatively easy to deal with and has an active user community which makes plugins for various devices, such as the Amazon Echo. The latest release of Indigo added built-in support for the Echo; the old user-contributed plugin still works, but there won’t be any further updates or fixes, so I knew I’d want to migrate when I upgraded Indigo itself.

A normal Indigo migration takes less than an hour – they’ve been very good about not making changes that break plugins (unlike Home Assistant, one of the reasons I switched). This one took about four hours, much of which was spent deleting and redefining the devices that I control from the Echo – one at a time, of course.

As long as I was updating things, I took the opportunity to remove plugins I was no longer using and tried to do other cleanup; somehow, everything still seems to be working!

I’m not sure I like all of the decisions I made during the migration. For example, I changed from using the Sonos skill (which requires saying “Alexa, pause (or resume) Sonos”) to exposing the Sonos as a device on Indigo (so I can say “Alexa, turn Sonos on (or off)”). Making the change removes my ability to change the station or volume on the Sonos by voice, but I don’t think I ever did that anyway!

Pandemic Journal, Day 530

Another quiet day today; the air was noticeably better than yesterday, and it wasn’t quite as hot. Or so I think; I was at Shir Hadash for a meeting during the hottest part of the afternoon and by the time I left, it was just “toasty” outside.

We tried a new recipe tonight for the first time in a few weeks, One-Pot Tomato-Basil Pasta from the Mercury News. It was published right after the shelter-in-place order came down last March, but it was still new to us. I had to cut the recipe in half, but I used the full allotment of diced tomatoes (one can), so that was the dominant flavor. One lesson learned: I should have shaken up the linguini so that there weren’t lots of parallel strands next to each other; it would have reduced the sticking.

And the developer of osxphotos fixed both of the bugs I reported yesterday – he’s quick!

Pandemic Journal, Day 529

One of the surprise meetings I had at Shir Hadash on Wednesday had to do with this morning’s Shabbat service. Our Interim Rabbi had been scheduled to lead it, but his departure had already happened, and our other clergy were very busy preparing for S’lichot Services tonight and the rest of the High Holidays.

I volunteered to lead the service, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to put together a good d’var Torah on my own; the Cantor pointed me at a couple of candidates, and I chose to “adapt” (read verbatim) one that Rabbi Jethro Berkman wrote for T’ruah.org. It’s titled “Cultivating a Culture of Giving” and it resonated with me. It even encouraged me to use Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Giving as the little bit of Torah to be read right after the blessing for the study of Torah.

There had been a few changes in our procedure since the last time I led a service on Zoom; in particular, we’ve stopped using screen-sharing to display the prayerbook and weekly notes to the attendees. That reduced the amount of app-juggling I had to do substantially, and it also meant people could see one another throughout the service.

By the time the service was over, it was hot and fairly polluted outside, so we spent the rest of the day at home. The developer of osxphotos had sent me a fix for the bug I reported last week and wanted me to test it – it works, but I stumbled on another very weird problem in the course of testing the fix and reported it. It’s not one that I’ll run into in practice, but someone will!

Pandemic Journal, Day 528

Today’s highlight was Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s presentation of “Folktales from Around the World”, a charming and magical retelling of six folktales from, well, around the world. There are two more performances, tomorrow at 8 and Sunday at 3 – it’s a YouTube livestream, so no travel is necessary.

Beyond that, we mostly hunkered down to stay out of the heat and poor air – AirNow shows us at the boundary between orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) and red (Unhealthy for Everyone), so we might run the air conditioner tonight instead of taking advantage of the slightly cooler air outside.

I finished editing another day’s worth of Iceland trip photos – now that we’re off the ship, it’s probably safe to post this one of Diane looking at one of the Zodiacs aboard Le Champlain. A crew member shooed us away seconds after I took the photo, so I guess we must have missed a “Crew Only” sign somewhere!

Pandemic Journal, Day 527

I’d been doing well at hitting my fitness goals on my Apple Watch so far this month – in fact, I’d had a perfect week last week and had a twelve day streak of closing all three circles.

The day started with my usual Silver Tongued Cats meeting on Zoom. Since it was the last Thursday of the month, many of the members were going to get together in person at a nearby Panera Bread. I’d planned to walk there and join them until the club’s senior member asked me if I could give her a ride (she lives nearby and had just had knee replacement surgery).

I couldn’t say no – it was my chance to pay forward the kindness of a former member who’d taken me to meetings soon after my heart surgery in 2011. So I drove instead of walking.

I had a routine doctor’s appointment this afternoon and I thought about walking there to burn calories, but it was right after lunch and the timing didn’t work, so I drove.

After that, it was the hottest part of the day, so instead of walking, I sat down and worked on photos from Iceland, specifically from Vigur Island. I hadn’t had the time to deal with them while we were traveling, but I didn’t have that excuse today. I haven’t decided whether to go back and add photos to the blog entries from the actual travel days, but photos of cute birds are almost timeless, so I’ll post some guillemots and eiders here.

By the time I was finished with the photos, it was time to make dinner and have our weekly Trivial Zoom call, so my streak of closing all three circles was broken – but I can start afresh tomorrow, right?

Pandemic Journal Day 526

My big plan for today was go to to Shir Hadash and learn something about the new A/V system for the Sanctuary; there was lots of gear to be installed and programmed, and it seemed like a good idea for me to know something about it.

Before that, though, I had to get blood drawn for a routine test ordered by my cardiologist. I had to fast for the draw, so I wanted to get it done as early as possible. None of the Labcorp locations near me were offering early appointments; I decided to take my chances with the smaller location near me rather than the larger one next to the hospital. Labcorp’s website said that the location I wanted opened at 8, so I made sure to be there a few minutes early – and discovered that the website was wrong and they opened at 7:30. I was out of there by 8, just in time to hit school traffic near my house (something I didn’t miss at all during shelter-in-place).

When I finally got to Shir Hadash, I was pulled into an impromptu meeting about some High Holiday scheduling issues before I was able to look at the new gear. It’s all rack-mounted and very technical, and I hope to find out more about it soon – today, all I learned was how to drill out a stripped screw head and where the cameras are mounted.

And when I left, I got pulled into ANOTHER meeting – no one told me that being the chair of the Ritual Committee involved MEETINGS!

This afternoon, I finished editing the photos I took on our Golden Circle Tour; we were on the ship with limited connectivity after the tour, so I wasn’t able to post any photos then, but here are a few to make up for that lack.

Gulfoss (Golden Falls)

From Gulfoss, we went to Geysir. Geysir itself is inactive, but Stokkur erupts every few minutes.

 

The final stop on the tour was Þingvellir National Park, the original home of the Icelandic Parliament and the site of the rift between North America and Europe.

Pandemic Journal, Day 525

Today was a fairly boring day, which is NOT a complaint.

We ran some errands, the most exciting of which involved a trip to the Apple Store to drop off an accumulation of cables and other obsolete electronics for responsible disposal. I was shocked by how many USB2 cables I had; I was also surprised to discover I was the owner of a DisplayPort to MiniDisplayPort cable. And I’d clearly gone overboard in buying HDMI cables a few years ago – I got rid of a couple which were still in their original sealed plastic bags.

I also continued working on the bug I wrote about on Sunday – my bug report wasn’t completely clear, so I built a small test case and sent it to the developer. I wanted to include photos with all possible combinations of title and description, and I wanted to make it easy to tell which photo had which combination, so I sent him these photos.

Not very artistic, but probably clear!

Pandemic Journal, Day 524

When I brushed my teeth this morning, I noticed that the water in the sink was draining verrry slowly. We had to rush off to the JCC for our weekly torture session with our trainer, but I had just enough time to pour in a little drain cleaner before we left.

Two hours later, the sink was empty – but it filled up again as soon as I put some water in. This wasn’t the first time we’d had a drain problem, of course – so I pulled out the plunger and went to work, bringing gunk out of the drain AND the overflow. I cleared it from the sink and waited for the water to start draining.

Nothing happened. I poured in yet more drain cleaner and went on about my business. An hour later, the water was gone, but it had left its mark.

I cleaned the sink and ran some water to rinse it off – and the water just sat there.

I was out of drain cleaner – it was time to bring in the professionals. Our usual plumber (Scott at Thorne’s Plumbing) said he’d be able to come out late this afternoon; we cleared out the area under the sink and waited for the doorbell to ring.

Scott was successful – but it took him over an hour to get the job done. There was a huge plug of congealed gunk in the trap under the sink that refused to budge, even with a power snake. The trap had rusted in place, so he had to use a Sawzall to remove it! After that, the rest was simple (for him!), and now we have a new plastic trap and a working drain.

Homeownership – it’s always something.

Pandemic Journal, Day 523

After a very nice walk this morning, I sat down to continue working on yesterday’s problem.

You might ask “What was the problem?” since I was incredibly vague yesterday. I’m not as fried today as I was last night, so I can go into more detail. Possibly too much more detail.

Diane wants to take photos from our Apple Photos library and upload them to her Forever account to make photo books for our trips. It would be helpful if the title and description in Apple Photos went along for the ride, but trying to do it in the obvious way (use the built-in export in Apple Photos) has some problems:

• Forever only has a “description” field; you can fake the title by renaming the photo to use the title as the filename, but that’s ugly at best.
• Olympus digital cameras insist on writing “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA” into one of the description fields in the photo metadata; it’s not easy to get rid of it.

So I decided to use osxphotos to export the photos; it gives much more control over the process, including being able to suppress “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA” and merge the title and description into one field that Forever will happily display.

I wanted to go a little further, though, and provide a visual separation like a hyphen between the title and description (“title – description”) but only if both parts were present. The README showed exactly how to do it, with a template like this:

"{title}{title?{descr?{descr != OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA? - ,},},}{descr != OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA?{descr},}" 

which, obviously, says put the title in; if there is a title AND a description AND the description isn’t OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, append a hyphen; then append the description (unless it’s OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA).

Suppressing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA worked fine – but I always got the hyphen, even if the title or description was empty, like in the photo below, which is mostly here so Facebook has an image to use. The photo is of a pizza we had from Otto Portland in the South End of Boston when we were visiting Jeff earlier in the month.

I couldn’t figure out why the hyphen was always created, even though I spent several hours trying – and that’s where I finally stopped last night to write my very vague and frustrated journal entry.

Today, I decided to keep working on the problem so, if nothing else, I could file a good bug report (when I first started at IBM, one of the groups I worked with on RPS wouldn’t accept bug reports unless you could PROVE that the problem was theirs – that early experience scarred me, I’m afraid, but I write better bug reports as a result).

I figured out how to use my preferred Python debugger (PyCharm) on a program packaged as a standalone executable and set to work. Hours later, I had it – a change that the author had made a month ago broke the handling of boolean tests for empty strings. I sent him a fix – and then discovered that my fix isn’t quite complete.

I updated my report to tell him what was left unfixed, and I’m hoping he’ll be able to solve the problem completely. And if not, I think I have a simple workaround.

But that’s for tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 522

Sometimes, I get a bit too involved with trying to solve a problem that doesn’t need to be solved. Today was one of those days – and I still haven’t solved it.

Perhaps tomorrow will be more productive. Or less frustrating.

Pandemic Journal, Day 521

I had to deal with another recall today – this one was for my car, not the Governor. Under certain conditions, the Engine Control Module might continue to power the ignition coil after the engine is shut off, causing a short circuit – this could lead to a sudden loss of power while driving, which is Not Good.

The process was about as painless as it could be – I didn’t have to wait for a service advisor when I drove in; they had outdoor waiting areas as well as their traditional inside seating, though Diane picked me up about fifteen minutes after I’d gotten to the dealership; I only had to wait five minutes to pick up the car; they even washed it!

Other than that, I’ve been busy working on photos from Iceland – getting timezones consistent between cameras is a real pain, and Apple Photos doesn’t help by making it hard to tell what timezone it’s using. Rumor has it that iOS and iPadOS 15 improve on this, so I’m installing a beta on my iPad to find out for myself.

I’ve gotten up to the day we did the Golden Circle as part of the pre-tour; I took well over 100 photos that day, but there’s a lot of duplication and many of the photos I took from the moving bus are…let’s say “technically challenged”. :-)

It was a very nice day when we took the trip – and it was the Friday before a three-day weekend, so many Icelanders were taking advantage of the day, too, like these folks fishing in some rather cold water.

Pandemic Journal, Day 520

I got an email from our Temple President this morning asking for my help “to assist a task discreetly” and asking me to reply by email because he was in a meeting. I wondered why he’d sent it to my Board address instead of my personal address, but I replied saying “sure, what’s up?”

Moments later, I got a request to “purchase 5 $100 Apple gift cards at any nearby store and I’ll reimburse you”.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy any gift cards.

If I’d been paying closer attention, I’d’ve seen this when I started writing the reply:

  | On Aug 19, 2021 at 9:58:22 AM, President’s Name <randomstring@gmail.com> wrote:

randomstring@gmail.com is not the president’s email address, of course.

The scammer hit all of the published board mailing addresses this morning; I don’t know if I was the only one to start down the rabbit hole, but the Executive Director did send out a warning a few minutes later.

Speaking of scams and scammers, Diane and I filled out our California Recall ballots and put them in an official dropbox this morning. I’m proud to display my “I Voted” badge!

Pandemic Journal, Day 519

When we booked our Antarctic wine club adventure for this winter (summer there, of course), we were hopeful – we were fully vaccinated, vaccines were becoming more available, and the trends were good. We were so confident we paid for the full trip in advance to take advantage of a 10% discount.

That was then.

This week was the deadline to cancel with a full refund; after that, if we canceled, the cruise line would still refund most of our money but they’d keep a significant chunk that we could only use as a credit on one of their sailings during 2022.

We searched our souls. We checked the relevant thread on Cruise Critic. We looked at the progress of vaccination in Argentina and Chile. We looked at Seabourn’s options for next year. We thought some more.

And we decided that discretion was the better part of valor – we want to go to Antarctica, but we want to be able to fully enjoy the experience without worrying about the trip being canceled at the last second. And we want to enjoy the trip, including the cities we fly to – and this year, that didn’t seem likely.

So we called our travel agent and canceled.

At least we got to see penguins in Boston last week!

Pandemic Journal, Day 518

We went to the chiropractor today for the first time in nearly a month. We were talking with the receptionist about our trip to Iceland, and she said she’d like to look at some of our photos while she was going to be out for a few weeks having shoulder surgery.

I thought about giving her the link to our outbound travel day and telling her to follow the “Newer Post” links to see the rest of it – but it seemed like a suboptimal plan. I promised to email her a link to the Iceland trip – then all I had to do was create one.

When I got home, I looked at ways to convince WordPress to show a series of posts starting with the oldest one so that you could just scroll through a very long page in a simple way. And I found one – just add ?order=asc to the URL for a collection of posts.

Then I needed to figure out how to make a collection of posts for the Iceland trip. The easiest way to do that was to create a category for the trip and assign all of the posts to the category.

And finally, I had to send her the URL: https://readthisblog.net/category/travel/iceland-2021/?order=asc – not a thing of beauty, but it works.

I’d already created categories for a few other trips – now I’m going through my older blog entries and looking for other travel that’s worth making more visible. It’s a slow process; I’m up to mid-2002 so far.

Just what I needed – more self-inflicted organizational work!

Pandemic Journal, Day 517

I had to get a CT scan of my nose and sinuses this afternoon (my allergist wants to see how well his treatment is working – I can still smell things, so I’m hoping he’ll be happy with the images). When I arrived at the radiology center, I was handed the usual bundle of forms and asked for my ID and insurance cards, which I handed over.

A minute after I finished the forms, one of the clerks called out “David”, so I went up to his window. He handed me a driver’s license, a Medicare card, and an AARP insurance card, which I put in my wallet, and he told me to go into the next room for the CT scan. But I happened to look at the form he’d printed – it said “Neck”.

I’m not a doctor, but I was pretty sure that my allergist didn’t care about my neck. So I asked the clerk to double-check against the original request, and he assured me the doctor wanted a scan of the neck. Then he added “for dizziness, just as Dr. [mumble] requested.”

“[mumble]” wasn’t the name of my doctor. Dizziness wasn’t my problem. And I wasn’t the “David” he’d called. So I gave him back the driver’s license, Medicare card, and AARP insurance card and went back to my chair to wait.

A few minutes later, a different clerk called out “David Singer”. She gave me my license and insurance cards, and the form she’d printed was for a nasal/sinus CT scan.

The CT scan itself was uneventful, and I walked out with a disk full of images that I can’t really interpret – I expect to hear from the allergist in a couple of days.

Pandemic Journal, Day 516

We were at the Farmers’ Market this morning for the first time in a month; it’s still local king salmon season, so we had that for lunch today.

I spent the rest of the day catching up – and the rest of this post is basically documentation for Future Me in case I have to prevent SSL certificate expiration or if I want to track down what really made a flight late. Feel free to read along, or to stop here!

While we were traveling, I got an email telling me that the SSL certificate for this blog was going to expire on September 1. This surprised me because I thought I had it set up to automatically renew itself, but I didn’t want to do anything until I got home. Today, though, I took a look at the problem.

First, I had to get rid of the last traces of the temporary domain I’d used while migrating the blog to its new server. That was easy and almost obvious.

The second thing I had to fix was the DNS entry for one of my auxiliary domains – it had an “A” record for the old address of my server, which no longer worked. I changed it to a “CNAME” pointing to the server – that way, it’ll move automatically if I change the address of the server.

The final problem was harder to figure out – the certbot renew command failed with an error message telling me that my account (with Let’s Encrypt) didn’t exist. After a bit of digging, I found that I’d created a new account when I set up the new server but that the old account was still specified in the configuration file in /etc/letsencrypt/renewal – changing the account line in the configuration file fixed that problem, and I was able to renew the certificates.

I won’t really know if I fixed everything until the next renewal attempt in about 60 days, but at least now I’ve documented things for Future Me.

And speaking of documenting for Future Me, I wanted to find out more about why our Boston-LA flight on Friday was so late and whether Delta had actually held the LA-San Jose flight for us.

FlightAware is my usual tool for looking at flight histories – I used its search tool to find the LA-San Jose flight and then used the “Track Inbound Flight” link to go back through all of the flights which that airplane (tail number N289SY) had taken on Friday. Its first flight of the day left Reno more than an hour late, and it never caught up – so it arrived in LA late and Delta didn’t have to hold the departure for us.

I was also curious about what had happened on the Boston-LA leg; FlightAware wasn’t any help. I knew there was a site that showed every event affecting a flight’s timing but I couldn’t remember its name – it took a while to find it again: FlightStats.

I looked at FlightStats’s record of events for that flight (DL346). There were four different airplanes assigned to the flight, starting with N707TW at 3:05am EDT on the 11th. A bit over a day later (4:26am on the 12th), they changed to N722TW. At 11:40am, yet another change, this time to N717TW. And a mere 43 minutes later, another reassignment to N545US (that’s when they downgraded us from Delta One and sent us credit vouchers).

But they weren’t finished making changes yet – at 11:32pm on the 12th, they changed the expected wheels-up time from 11:10am to 4:44pm (oops!) and two minutes later, they changed the airplane to N537US, which eventually brought us to LA.

What happened to all those other planes? I thought you’d never ask. N545US got assigned to the morning BOS-LAX flight on the 13th, which operated on time. N717TW didn’t go anywhere on the 13th (it spent the whole day in LAX – I’m guessing maintenance). N722TW flew LAX-BOS on the afternoon/evening of the 13th. And N707TW had a busy Friday the 13th, flying LAX-BOS and BOS-SEA.

I’m glad I’m not in charge of scheduling airplanes for Delta (or anyone else)!

Pandemic Journal, Day 515

We got home a few minutes after midnight this morning. Our flight from Boston was late getting into LA, but the flight leaving LA for San Jose was also delayed, so we and our luggage made the connection (and they were able to put us into First Class for that flight, too).

This was our first trip on Delta in a very long time; I had mixed feelings about the experience. On the good side, everyone from the airline was VERY helpful and did everything they could to make our trip pleasant. On the other hand, I’ve never had so many itinerary changes (not even counting the delays yesterday) and trying to reach someone at the airline by phone or chat took a very very long time.

We’re flying them again to my 50th high school reunion in October – I’m crossing my fingers for a smoother experience.

This morning, we looked at the garden – it’s been busy while we were away. In particular, the cucumber vines were very generous, though they may be done for the season.

Pandemic Journal, Day 514

We’d set the alarm on Diane’s phone to make sure we’d be at the airport in time for our 11am flight. About ten seconds after it sounded, Diane asked me what the two texts from Delta meant – I’m not sure I’d opened my eyes yet, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be good news.

I was right. They’d already changed the connecting airport twice since we booked it (from Atlanta to Seattle to LA). Yesterday, they told us that due to an unplanned equipment change, we’d have to fly First Class instead of Delta One (lie-flat seats) and they were giving us each a $500 voucher for the inconvenience. Since we hadn’t booked Delta One in the first place and we were traveling on miles, I thought it was a pretty good deal.

This morning’s message was a different story. Our BOS-LAX flight was delayed nearly five hours and we’d miss our connection home. One of the messages implied that we’d been rebooked on a later flight but the other one implied that we’d have to go online to rebook.

I played it safe and went online – we hadn’t been rebooked. And the system wouldn’t let me rebook. So I called; all agents were busy, but instead of waiting on hold, the system offered to call me in 28 minutes or so.

35 minutes later, after we’d finished breakfast, I downloaded the Delta app to try their text support; their automated agent put me on hold, too!

But a few minutes later, my phone rang and it was Delta – the agent was extremely helpful and got things straightened out to ensure we could take the later flight out of Los Angeles.

What could we do with an unexpected morning in Boston? We hadn’t been able to see everything we wanted to see yesterday, so we called our son and arranged to meet at the Paul Revere House in the North End. We’d walked by it on the Freedom Trail many times, but we’d never gone in.

Like the birthplaces yesterday, it was a quick tour – four rooms on two floors, but unlike the birthplaces, the building was air conditioned, which encouraged us to stick around and ask questions. They also own the adjacent building and have filled it with artifacts and information about aspects of Paul Revere’s life other than the Midnight Ride. I’m glad we were able to visit.

We continued along the Freedom Trail to Old North Church, another site we’d passed by on previous trips.

It was quite interesting, but very hot – we decided against touring the crypt, but we did get to see a bust of Washington that Lafayette called a “faithful image”.

After a relaxed lunch at Boston Public Market, we hiked to Benjamin Franklin’s birthplace – which burned down centuries ago. The current building honors him (see if you can find it) – but it wasn’t worth the hike.

We said goodbye to Jeff again and returned to our hotel, only to discover that our keycards didn’t work. Pro tip: if you ask for a late checkout after the start of your stay, stop by the front desk to get your keys updated.

Then it was off to the airport for our delayed flight. We had to walk a long way to get to the right checkin counter, and somehow Diane tripped and fell along the way. We were immediately surrounded by Delta and Logan people who were eager to help her – they called the paramedics and arranged for a wheelchair to take her through the terminal. They even gave us access to the Delta Sky Club! The paramedics wanted Diane to go to the hospital “just in case”, but she declined – she’s a little bit scratched up and her sunglasses didn’t survive, but she’s otherwise ok.

Our flight was further delayed, but we’re finally in the air! Our new connection in LA is very dubious, but hope springs eternal. And we have clothes for tomorrow in our carry-on anyway.

Pandemic Journal, Day 513

Another day of American History today; we took the T to the Quincy Adams station for a planned 10am visit to the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Birthplaces, part of Adams National Historic Park. Google claimed that the Birthplaces were an 11-minute walk from the T station, but its omniscience fell short of routing us through the construction zone at the station, and the MBTA’s signage was no help, either. Eventually, we got outside and called a Lyft – and the driver had a hard time finding us, too.

We got to the Birthplaces 15 minutes after our reservation, but they had waited for us, and all was well. Both houses are “saltboxes” – we could only see the first floor of each one, which had very similar layouts.

We started at John Adams’s birthplace – he lived there until he married Abigail.

The first room we entered was the “Great Hall” (it was, perhaps, 15 feet on a side), which was used for general living; the fireplace was kept running 24/7 to keep the house warm (not a problem today!).

From there, we went into the “Summer Kitchen” (I don’t think there was a “Winter Kitchen”), where all the cooking happened.

The final room on the ground floor was the “Best Room”, where company would have been entertained. Adams’s father was a deacon (and was, of course, named John), so it was used a lot.

We passed by the well that the two properties shared (our guide said that digging an extra well was much harder than sharing one!) and went into John Quincy Adams’s birthplace. Abigail and John lived there until he became VP (well, she did – he was a world traveler!).

The “Great Hall” here was decorated with portraits of John and Abigail.

John used the “Best Room” as his law office, and he put his clerks into what Abigail thought was going to be her dining room (they worked and slept there!).

John made some improvements to the kitchen for Abigail’s safety – he put in a kettle hook and put the hearth outside the fire. During the late 18th Century, burns were a major cause of injury and death to women, and John wanted to avoid that happening to Abigail.

After the tour, we decided to walk the Presidents’ Trail to Abigail Adams’ Cairn (where she saw and heard the Battle of Bunker Hill).

The trail was marked by stickers on the sidewalk like this one:

Unfortunately, every sticker had arrows on the top and bottom, whether the trail continued straight or turned – we walked quite a bit more than we needed to before we figured out what was happening and let Google guide us.

After visiting the Cairn, we’d had enough walking in the heat and humidity and took a bus into Quincy Center for the rest of the day.

We explored the Hancock-Adams Common in the center of town and paid our respects at the Hancock Cemetery (I would like to know what a “Receiving Tomb” is and why it wasn’t bricked up like the others).

We would have taken the town tour and seen where the Adamses were reburied in the “Church of the Presidents”, but the tour was cancelled because of the extreme heat warning.

Instead, we walked to “Peace field”, which John and Abigail bought while he was Minister to Great Britain and where Adams descendants lived until the 1920s. It’s a beautiful property with a very nice garden, but because of COVID, there was no access to the interior.

They said that the library had several thousand books in thirteen different languages, all of which John Quincy Adams could read.

We’d hoped to visit some sites in Boston during the afternoon, but it was just too hot and humid. Next trip!

Pandemic Journal, Day 512

We’ve walked the Freedom Trail many times on visits to Boston – most of it, anyway. We’ve never quite made it to Bunker Hill, but we fixed that today using the Rosie Ruiz method – we took the T to the Community College station and walked the rest of the way.

The Monument itself was closed due to COVID, but I’m not sure I would have been up for climbing the 294 steps anyway. The grounds were open, though, so we walked around the battlefield – it was a beautiful morning. I would have liked to have been able to go into the Lodge, but it, too, was closed.

The Museum was open, though, so we spent an hour or so looking at all of the exhibits and learning the story of the battle, which actually took place on Breed’s Hill rather than Bunker Hill. The hill got renamed after the Revolution, and apparently the original Bunker Hill got used as landfill to expand Boston!

We made a couple of stops on our way to the Charleston Navy Yard and the USS Constitution. The first was at the Charleston Training Field, where we saw a monument erected in 1872 to honor “the men of Charleston who fought in the War of 1861 for the preservation of the Union” – the term “Civil War” wasn’t in common use then, apparently.

The second stop was at Warren Tavern for lunch; it claims to be the oldest tavern in Massachusetts. I can’t speak to the truth of the claim, but the food was ok, the beer was decent, and the air conditioning worked well. Four stars!

We’d been to the Charleston Navy Yard to tour the USS Constitution many years ago. Not much had changed, at least aboard the ship – there was more security, and the Visitor Center closed for an hour at 1pm for cleaning because of Covid!

We took the ferry to Long Wharf to go to the New England Aquarium, enjoying a cool breeze on the way. We also got to see the Aquarium from the water, and our guide on Tuesday was right – that view most definitely exposes the Aquarium as a Brutalist building.

The ground floor of the Aquarium is filled with penguins, and we even got to watch them being hand-fed their allotment of fish for the day.

The centerpiece of the Aquarium is a four-story salt water tank, complete with Myrtle the Turtle, as well as many other creatures of the deep and not-so-deep.

There are other exhibits to enjoy, too, like the sea dragons and the sea lions.

It was a good way to spend a hot afternoon.

Pandemic Journal, Day 511

We went to Lexington today to learn more about how the American Revolution got started. Our first stop was the Lexington Battle Green – it didn’t look very impressive at first glance.

We took a walk around the Battle Green and saw a few interesting items, like the oldest Revolutionary War monument in the US, dating from 1799 (with the remains of the milita members who were killed at the Battle of Lexington reburied there).

And across the street, we saw a huge house with an unfamiliar flag – Google told me that it was the Grand Union Flag, the first official US flag (and almost certainly the flag that George Washington flew when he sailed across the Delaware, not the one in the famous painting).

A few minutes later, we started our tour of the Battle Green – we looked at the Battle Green as a whole and found out how the British marched up Massachusetts Avenue from Boston and encountered the Americans who were there for a symbolic presence. Their commander, John Parker, ordered them to disperse and stand down – but in the darkness and confusion, when a shot suddenly rang out, the British regular troops started firing at the Americans, killing several. No one knows who fired that first shot – and it’s not for lack of investigations, beginning the very next day.

The house with the Grand Army flag was one of the few “witness” houses to survive to the present day; another one, the Harrington House, was owned by John Harrington, one of the Americans killed that day. He is supposed to have walked from the battle to the house (a distance of less than a block) and died on its doorstep.

We finished the tour at the Old Burying Ground, where John Parker is memorialized (and may be buried – nobody knows).

I recommend taking the tour if you are in the area. I also recommend having a car – we didn’t, so we walked the couple of miles up Mass Ave to our next stop, the Minute Man National Historic Park Visitor Center.

We arrived just in time to join a ranger-led walk to the site of “Parker’s Revenge”. After the British had marched up to Concord, only to find the arms they were supposed to seize had been moved, they had to go back to Boston – and there was only one road. Parker brought his troops up from Lexington and set them up as snipers – they harassed the British soldiers and shot several of them. The National Park Service carried out an archeological expedition to find out exactly where the battle happened – it’s an interesting story all by itself.

We had hoped to go to Concord, but it was almost five o’clock and we were tired, so we called a Lyft to take us back to Boston. It was a much easier journey than the British soldiers had taken in 1775. And we didn’t get rained on at all today!

Pandemic Journal, Day 510

Our streak of surprisingly good weather continued today in Boston, with a high of 76°F, and just a tiny bit of rain, enough to cool things down when we needed it.

Our son came to our hotel this morning about 10, and it was wonderful to see him after so long. We went out to his place in Allston to see where he lives (and of course to take advantage of the free laundry facilities)! We had lunch at Punjabi Palace – after 10 days in Iceland, it was a nice change!

This afternoon, we walked from Copely Square to the New England Aquarium by way of Phin Coffee House (yes, there are alternatives to Dunkin here). We’re taking a Brutalism tour with Boston By Foot – we’ve been on many of their tours in the past, mostly concentrating on all of the history that’s happened here, so this one should be different.

We looked at seven Brutalist buildings, all dating from the 1960s and 1970s – Brutalism fell out of favor quickly (partially because the cost of concrete increased!). The first was the New England Aquarium itself, which was built as part of a new mayor’s attempt to revive the waterfront and opened in 1969. Our guide told us that the best way to see the building as it was would be to see it from the water, but the photo below shows the Brutalist bones of the building, as well as the additions in 1996 and 2004, which are far more modern-looking.

After that, we looked at the two Harbor Towers apartment buildings. They’re about 40 stories tall and were built as affordable housing, opening in 1971. They faced the Central Artery highway (moved underground in the Big Dig) which separated them from the rest of Boston. They’ve been converted to condos and are now desirable housing!

Harbor Garage was the last building we looked at by the waterfront; its current owner wants to build a 600-foot-high tower over half the garage and promises to remove the other half to provide a “blue way” to the water to complement the Rose Kennedy Greenway which replaced the Central Artery. This is a controversial proposal, needless to say.

Our next stop was the State Street Bank Building (225 Franklin), built in 1966 – it was the first privately-developed major building in Boston’s Financial District in decades. The cantilevered openings along the sidewalk opened the building up to its surroundings, unlike Prudential Center and the John Hancock Building, which were built around the same time. This was my favorite building of the tour.

Walgreens currently occupies a 1972 addition to the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank building – when it was built, it was right on a street which has since been removed, giving it some breathing space.

The final building on the tour was Boston City Hall, which is the anchor of Government Center. It got mixed reviews when it was built, and still gets them today; the design is interesting since it puts the places where the public interacts with city government on the ground floor, ceremonial space on the next floor, and consigns the actual workers to the top floors.

By the time the tour ended, so had our stretch of good weather. There was a not-so-light drizzle when we got on the T to return to the Westin and by the time we got off, it was pouring. I wish I could bring some of the rain home with us!

Pandemic Journal, Day 509

It was our last day in Iceland; we had breakfast at the hotel again (the barista there makes a very nice espresso macchiato!) and finished packing before setting out for a little last-minute exploration.

We hadn’t walked all the way around The Pond yet, so that was our goal. Along the way, I was playing with Google Maps and found something called “Trivial Earth Lovers” – the description calls it a place of worship, but the photo associated with it appears to be that of the headquarters of the DAS Lottery! At any rate, that made me think of geocaching, so I hunted for easy caches near us and found two virtual caches, The Unknown Bureaucrat and Monument of Jón Sigurðsson – we’d been to both statues several times during the trip, so all we had to do was go back and take photos with one of us in the picture with the statue and submit the log.

We finished our walk around The Pond before getting the necessary photos; it was a pleasant day for a walk (we were amazingly fortunate in the weather the whole time we were in Iceland). If we’d had more time, we might have explored the “Human Expansion Station

but we skipped it in favor of leaving time for a visit to the National Gallery of Iceland (our Reykjavik cards were still valid, and I wanted to get full value from them!).

The National Gallery had a number of special exhibits – we had just enough time to visit two. The first, Death is Elsewhere, was a seven-screen video showing a couple dancing and singing very odd songs (in English) about Death being elsewhere – we stayed for a few minutes and moved on before the songs became total earworms.

The second, Hello Universe, was more traditional – it mostly had paintings, though there were some odd mixed-media pieces like Halldór Ásgeirsson’s Aurora Borealis Bar.

The labels for “Hello Universe” were only posted in Icelandic; fortunately, the museum had put the English versions online so we could look at them while walking through the exhibition.

After visiting the National Gallery, we took photos at the two geocaches and walked back to the hotel to finish packing and to check out, then we set out for one final meal at the Reykjavik Fish Company. I was pretty sure I knew where it was, but I brought it up on Google Maps to be certain – that was a mistake, because Google had the wrong address! We found it anyway and enjoyed fish and chips (they were out of Arctic char). It was next to Valdis Ice Cream – even though I wasn’t the slightest bit hungry, I wanted to try the ice cream. Valdis was the place we’d been hunting for the entire trip – our trainer had told us to find a place that served ice cream on waffles – but I had to limit myself to a single scoop on a cone. It was very good; next visit to Reykjavik, I’ll plan to go to Valdis for the full experience.

Then it was back to the hotel to retrieve our luggage, a quick walk across the street to the bus stop for the trip to the bus terminal and thence to Keflavik to fly home (well, to Boston).

The route to the airport took us near Fagradalsfjall Volcano. It had been pretty quiet the last few days, but as we passed it, there was lots of steam coming out.

The commentary on one of the YouTube channels carrying live video said that there’d been a wall collapse a few minutes before we passed by, generating lots of lava. All I could do was watch the feed and wish I were there.

Now we’re on our flight to Boston – there was no chance to see the volcano when we took off, but I did enjoy the view of glaciers over Greenland.

The movies and TV offerings on this flight didn’t excite me, but I was drawn to one album, “IBM 1401, A User’s Manual” by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

The first track, “IBM 1401 Processing Unit”, was strictly musical, so I was really surprised when the second track, “IBM 1403 Printer”, included readings of parts of the manual! Diane says she wishes her father had been able to hear this album – he spent years servicing 1401 systems as an IBM Customer Engineer.

We should land in Boston in a couple of hours – we’ll have to stay awake until 10pm or so Eastern Time.

Tomorrow, we see our son!

Pandemic Journal, Day 508

It was still pretty noisy outside last night when we went to bed, but closing the windows and turning on some brown noise made a huge difference, and we slept well.

We took an early walk this morning in search of a non-buffet breakfast – not much was open, and what there was didn’t appeal to us, so we went back to our hotel for their buffet after all – it was good, though not very Icelandic, except for one beverage:

Neither of us indulged.

After breakfast, we went to Kolaportið, the weekend-only flea market held in the old customs hall. It’s mostly aimed at locals rather than tourists (in fact, their official website is only in Icelandic) with lots of semi-permanent booths selling things like reading glasses, vintage clothing, and old appliances, but almost as soon as we entered, Diane found a jewelry maker who had made a nice pendant with a preserved lupin flower inside.

After wandering through the rest of the market (which reminded me very much of a con’s huckster room, though with even fewer books), we decided we’d take the ferry to Viðey Island. There were two options, both covered by the Reykjavik Card. There was an hourly ferry from the Skarfabakki terminal, which would require a cab ride. Or there was a twice-a-day ferry from the Old Harbor, ten minutes walk away – but I couldn’t find the schedule on their webpage and they didn’t answer their phone! We gambled and walked to the Elding booth at the Old Harbor and found that the next departure was 10 minutes away.

The trip was pleasant – we saw the Þúfa, an interesting artwork, as soon as the ferry pulled out, and of course there were views of Hallgrímskirkja Church and Harpa to be had, too.

The ferry stopped next to an Icelandic Coast Guard cutter, but nobody got out – we had stopped at Skarfabakki terminal to pick up passengers.

Five minutes later, we were at Viðey Island; we had a quick lunch at Viðey House and set off to explore the island.

Our first stop was the Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial to John Lennon from Yoko Ono. It wasn’t lit, of course, but I can imagine it would be very interesting to see when it is!

We didn’t have enough time to explore the whole island, but we did visit a few of the Milestones created by Richard Serra.

Soon enough, though, we were on the ferry and waving goodbye to the island and its inhabitants.

We got off at the Old Harbor and decided to visit the Omnom Chocolate Factory and Ice Cream Shop. It was raining lightly, and we weren’t dressed for it (I’d foolishly believed the weather forecast), so we popped into the Maritime Museum to let the worst of the rain pass.

I hadn’t really researched Omnom beyond seeing the rave reviews of their chocolate and ice cream; I thought it’d be a large operation, something like the Jelly Belly Factory or the Ritter Berlin Choco-World. It wasn’t – there was only one person staffing the store, which offered a few ice cream concoctions and a wide selection of chocolate bars. Both of us got the Lakkrís Wolf, which had soft serve covered with liquorice-chocolate sauce, raspberry-liquorice-chocolate cookie crumble and a milk chocolate wolf. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t choose it again. And we had to eat it outside, where the rain had returned.

We were able to take a bus back almost all the way to our hotel instead of walking a couple of kilometers, but we still got drenched when some clown drove his car through a puddle right next to us!

After we changed our clothes, we went on a final search for souvenirs in the Laugavegur area near our hotel – it’s Pride Week here, and the streets were filled with people celebrating (or maybe that’s what every summer Saturday looks like here!).

We had dinner at Brew Dog – good beer, messy sandwiches (sadly, they had run out of lambstrami, which was our goal, but the brisket and cheese bun was good), and a skillet cookie which might not have really been necessary. Our timing was good – when we left, there was a long line of people waiting for tables.

Now to pack up – tomorrow, we fly!

Pandemic Journal, Day 507

We got up extra early today to be sure we wouldn’t miss our Covid-19 test, so of course we were ready to leave the ship 30 minutes before our target.

The ship called a taxi for us, and a few minutes later, they said it was ready. The cruise director helped us with our luggage and we left the ship for the last time. There was a taxi there – but it had passengers in it, and when they got out, it drove off.

The people in the taxi were looking for a Golden Circle tour, which didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby. Our taxi (or at least another taxi!) pulled up while they were on the phone with their tour operator and we were off to the hotel – I hope they found their tour.

It only took a few minutes to get to our home for the next two nights, the 101 Hotel. Our room wasn’t ready, unsurprisingly, so we had them store our bags and waited for our friends to arrive so we could split a taxi to and from the Covid testing place.

The test was uneventful, and our results were negative, so we’ll be able to go back to the US on Sunday.

After getting tested, we went back into Reykjavik to enjoy the day. We started at the Saga Museum, which uses dioramas like this one to bring the early years of Iceland’s history to life. There’s an audio tour included – the whole museum took about 45 minutes to explore. Fun, but not life-changing.

From there, we went to Whales of Iceland, which also uses an audio tour and whale reproductions to help you appreciate cetaceans. Again, fun, but not life-changing.

We had hoped to have lunch at Kasbah, but even though they had signs in front of the restaurant advertising their lunch specials, they were closed. I checked the web site later and found that they’re only open for dinner – and we didn’t go there for dinner, either. Since Kasbah was closed, we went across the street to Reykjavik Fish; three of us had fish and chips, while Diane held out for Arctic char. Diane and I did agree on having Boli Beer – it was the best Icelandic beer we’ve had.

We went back to the hotel and finished checking in – our room overlooks Arnarhóll. Unfortunately, that also means it overlooks Hverfisgata, a very busy street – it’s going to be interesting trying to sleep tonight.

We finished the afternoon by going to three museums, beginning with The Culture House, part of the National Museum of Iceland. Most of the space is given over to “Treasures of a Nation”, Icelandic art – there were some very nice pieces included, such as Lava Flow by Þorbjörg Þórðardóttir:

Mountain Vista by Ólöf Einarsdóttir:

Kitchen Life by Anna Líndal:

and Die of Destiny by Finnur Jónsson:

Well worth a visit.

We then went to the Reykjavik Art Museum’s Hafnarhjús location; it was devoted to a group exhibition of very modern art. The piece I liked best was called Compasses, by Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir – it was created from felled trees, mounted horizontally and motorized to rotate slowly.

The rest of the exhibit was far more challenging. I’m glad I went, but I’m also glad the price of admission was included in the Reykjavik City Card.

Our final museum for the day was the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, on the 6th floor of the City Library. It was mostly given over to photographs by Sigurhans Vignir, showing Reykjavik (and occasionally other parts of Iceland) from about 1940-1970. I was taken aback when I saw his photo of the Town Center at Siglufjörður:

and realized I’d taken a similar photo earlier in the week!

Things had changed in the intervening decades.

Pandemic Journal, Day 506

Last night was probably the longest sail of this trip; we weren’t due into Heimaey until around 9am, so we had a leisurely breakfast. I went out on deck just in time to catch the pilot boat approach and the pilot come on board.

 

 

 

Once we’d docked, I went out on deck again and was nearly overwhelmed by the smell of fish – there were local birds taking advantage of the bounty, too.

Our tour of Heimaey began at the Volcano Museum; Heimaey was nearly destroyed in 1973 by a sudden lava flow from a vent which opened without warning – the lava eventually formed a new volcanic cone, Eldfell, and added about 20% to the size of the island (so any time you hear a real estate agent tell you to “buy land because they’re not making it any more” you can ignore that advice).

After the museum, we took a drive through town, passing through the harbor (where we confirmed what our noses had already told us – fish was the core of the town’s economy!), passing by Sprangan, a cliff where young islanders learn rope swinging – it’s how they collect eggs from nesting birds.

We continued around the island, stopping at their festival grounds, which were all set up for a festival which draws about 15,000 Icelanders every year (the population of Heimaey is only about 4,000).

The festival happens the first weekend in August, the weekend which has the most domestic tourism. But it was cancelled at the last minute this year because of Covid concerns. Maybe next year….

From there, we drove to the “puffin house” to enjoy one last view of puffins before we leave Iceland.

While we were there, our guide Sindri noticed a baby kittiwake that seemed to be struggling, so he grabbed it

then he carried it down to the shore

and threw it into the air so it could fly on its own.

Our final stop was near the airport – Sindri told us about the struggle to save Heimaey after the eruption, and the use of pumps like this one to slow the advance of the lava.

At first, they used the pumps to save houses and the town, but that meant that the lava started to threaten the harbor – and without the harbor, there was no reason for the town to exist. So they concentrated on the harbor and saved it; people started moving back into town as soon as the eruption ended, six months after it started.

We didn’t get a chance to see any of Heimaey on our own – but it looked like a nice place to explore on our next trip to Iceland.

We sailed away during lunch; there was one last lecture on the schedule, from Brian Murray from Duke on the transition to a low-carbon economy. At the end of the lecture, there were announcements: macarons were available in the lounge and there were whales visible from the ship. We decided that macarons could wait and went up to the observatory lounge on Deck 6.

We were not disappointed. I’ve never seen so many whales at one time, nor for so long – they were near the ship for at least an hour. I took over 200 photos, but not all of them were worth keeping. Here are a few I like – and there are many others.

We have a Covid testing appointment tomorrow morning at 9am, so we can’t linger on the ship (which probably makes them happy – they want to clean the room for the next guests). It’s been a good trip, and there’s more to come before we’re home.

Pandemic Journal, Day 505

We’re on our way to Jökulsárlón, the glacial river lagoon – we began with a tender ride to the foggy town of Höfn, which we were assured was charming on a day when you could see it. Then it was onto a bus for an hour-long drive to Jökulsárlón. We stopped at Hotel Smyrlabjörg for a comfort stop; we were preceded by the 13 Yule Lads we’d met on Monday in Dimmuborgir, but they’d gotten much more colorful in the interim.

At the lagoon, we had a few minutes to walk around before boarding a duck for our lagoon cruise.

We had to wear masks and life jackets the whole time and sit while we were on land, but we were free to move around once we were on the water. Being out with the icebergs and glacial fragments was a lot of fun.

At one point, our guide passed around a chunk of glacial ice; it was amazingly transparent and not all that cold!

We left the duck behind and reboarded the bus for a short drive to a beach where we ate our bagged lunches. It was a delightfully warm day – 13C – but none of us had brought swimsuits. There was an art exhibit on the beach with photos of the lagoon – it seemed rather meta.

After lunch, we drove back to Höfn and made a brief comfort stop at a library(!) and then continued on to meet our ship, which had repositioned to Djúpivogur.

A short tender ride later, we were aboard and in the lounge to enjoy the drink of the day.

Drink of the day

Tonight is the Captain’s Farewell Dinner – I suspect we won’t be finished until quite late. Good thing we don’t have to pack this evening!

Pandemic Journal, Day 504

We arrived in Seyðisfjörður during breakfast; as we sailed down the fjord leading to the town, we enjoyed seeing a couple of nice waterfalls.

There was only one formal activity on the agenda for this morning, a walk to the Blue Church for a concert of mostly Icelandic music by a local duo – I’m not sure that the guitar with the electric pickup was truly authentic. They said that any cheerful songs were almost certainly borrowed from other cultures, which might explain why they followed two songs about death and ghosts with Home on the Range, even if it was in Icelandic.

After the concert, we wandered around town for a bit, then went to the Tourist Information Center at the port to take advantage of fast Internet connectivity – we managed to upload all of the photos we’ve taken in the past few days before returning to the ship for lunch.

The ship sailed at 3; the afternoon was filled with lectures (one on glaciers in Iceland and one on Historic Preservation). It’s foggy outside, but we’re in the 6th deck Observation Lounge anyway. :-)

Tomorrow, we visit Jökulsárlón (which means “glacial river lagoon”) to see what we’ve been hearing about in the lectures. It should be an interesting day.

Pandemic Journal, Day 503

We got off to another early morning start today after a late night yesterday (there was a classical piano concert after dinner, and then we just couldn’t resist staying up for sunset).

The ship docked at Húsavík just before breakfast time, and we were on the bus around 8:15 to meet our guide, Yngvar (a Norwegian who moved to Iceland with his Icelandic wife). Húsavík is an old fishing village (they have a whale museum we didn’t get to see) which now has some high-tech businesses, especially solar cell production.

But we weren’t there to see solar cells – we were off for a 120-mile drive through the countryside. Our first stop was the geothermal field of Námaskar∂, chock full of sulphurous mud springs (we could smell it well before we got to it). It reminded me of Lasson National Park, but with many fewer tourists and warning signs. The bus driver gave us blue booties to wear so that we wouldn’t track volcanic mud into the bus!

After we’d explored enough of the sulphur field, we drove a few miles (err, kilometers) to Dimmuborgir, near Lake Mývatn, to walk in an older lava field filled with giant pillars and chimneys.

We were assaulted by thousands of teeny-tiny flies at Dimmuborgir – they didn’t bite, but they certainly were annoying. We’d been warned about them by our trainer and came equipped with head nets to keep them away.

Our final stop was Go∂afoss Falls (Waterfall of the Gods), where we got to walk almost all the way down to the falls – I suspect people fall in from time to time.

Then it was back to the ship for a very late lunch. We finished about 3:45pm, so we missed the National Trust’s lecturer, but we managed to see the lecturer from Duke on energy policy.

Dinner went smoothly – the amuse bouche was beet-based, and I was shocked to enjoy it!

We’re now en route to tomorrow’s destination, Seyðisfjörður. The sky is cloudy, so we don’t have to stay up for tonight’s sunset!

Pandemic Journal, Day 502

The day started quite early with a presentation about life on Grimsey Island – it’s quite different in the summer when visitors arrive than the winter, when only the 60-odd permanent residents are there and the sun doesn’t rise. Ferry Day is a big event!

We were on the first tender from the ship and took off on the path to the Arctic Circle. We passed the monument marking the former position of the Arctic Circle after only a few minutes of walking – but because of the precession of the Earth’s axis, the marker for current position of the Circle was nearly two miles north!

According to Wikipedia, the Arctic Circle is continuing to move north, and it’s actually about 90 meters north of the monument – we walked far enough to be sure we’d crossed the current position, but there was nothing to take a photo of there!

Grimsey is also known for its puffin colonies – there were more puffins than you could shake a stick at, and they were cute beyond belief!

This afternoon, we visited the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður – we saw a demonstration of herring salting and got to taste a couple of varieties of herring (and another shot of Brennivín).