Iceland: More Foss and Basalt Columns

We continued our exploration of Iceland’s southern coast by visiting some very special waterfalls (“foss” in Icelandic). The first waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, offered us the opportunity to see its majestic cascade of water from two viewpoints, front and back.

I approached the waterfall, already in awe of its power and relentless motion. It was smaller than many of the other waterfalls we’d already seen (read here and here), but still magnificent. Making sure my waterproof gear was tightly sealed (pants and jacket!), I began the climb to walk behind the falls for a completely different perspective.

Instantly I was transported to a scene straight out of a fantasy film. Mist enveloped me. The sound of the fall’s gushing water was mesmerizing. The continuously changing patterns of the flow was hypnotic to watch.

The fall was the main attraction, but the scenery surrounding it was also spectacular. Lush, velvety patches of moss and other greenery clung tenaciously to the rocks, flourishing from the never ending supply of moisture.

Damp and exhilarated, we headed to the next foss on the itinerary, Skogafoss. We couldn’t walk behind this one, but we could get as close as we wanted, provided we were prepared to get wet from the fall’s powerful spray. The momentum and vigor of the water was bedazzling. Though the photo mostly shows a lot of gray, the rocks around the falls were covered in a downy layer of richly hued mosses.

We boarded the bus and drove to Reynisfjara, a black sand beach where basalt columns reached high into the sky. Basalt columns are formed when lava cools over a period of time, causing the columnar shapes to form. We had seen these columns earlier in the trip from a distance, but at the beach we could walk up and touch them.

My photos of the whole area are not that impressive, but I got one close up that shows the geometric formations and patterns of the columns. Growing out of the rocks were tufts of grasses, flowers, and other kinds of greenery. And of course all of this was set against a stunning panorama of a black sand beach. I was surprised how soft and smooth the black sand felt in my fingers, like grabbing a handful of crushed silk.

Here’s a bonus picture of Reynisfjara.

Persona vs. Person

When we connect online, it can be difficult to tell if are we connecting with a persona or a person. In an online world fraught with misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda, it can be hard to discern who, or what, is behind those posts. A genuine person, a person pretending to be another person, an artificial being?

If you were to meet the person behind the messages, would that person match their online presence? Now, we also have to contend with the possibility that we may be chatting with or following bots, an automated program that is sometimes quite successful in imitating humans.

Online resources are plentiful and come in myriad options for us to connect with one another. We can join chat rooms or discussions with other like-minded people, even participating in ones specialized on an obscure or rare topic, like an uncommon disease. These can be life-saving and life-changing for people who live in remote or rural areas and my not have opportunities to bond with others like them.

We can also participate in online dating or social networking, posting to our friends and followers to make new “friends.” I tried online dating a few times. After being surprised more than once when I met the other person IRL (in real life), who turned out to be nothing like his profile, I started pushing to meet with potential dates right away.

Of course people can also show us their personas when we meet in person. However, when we meet face-to-face, we have the opportunity to rely on non-verbal cues and use all our senses to get a better idea of who this person is that we’re dealing with. This, of course, assuming that we still retain and develop our social skills as humans to make eye contact, converse in person, and learn how to interpret body language.

Facebook has a policy that people must use their real names when creating a profile. Variations and nicknames are allowed, with some guidelines. Even if we are supposed to use our real names on Facebook, does this mean that we act the same online as we do IRL? The trend seems to be that most people only post the best and brightest FOMO-inducing moments of their life online. In other words, a persona, the role we play online.

Lurking in the Dark Web

In the news coverage for the two latest shootings in the U.S. (El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH), the web-based communication forum 8chan keeps getting mentioned as a possible connection point with one of them. 8chan has long been known as a place where people can post and discuss ideas that are controversial or not politically correct.

In a previous post about The Rules of Global Language, I briefly questioned what happens to people when they are removed, or censored, from more mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Often, these people find another platform where they can gain support and encouragement for their ideas.

The kind of language posted on social media platforms, and thoughts around how to regulate, censor, or control it, are tricky problems to address. On one side, especially in North America, we subscribe to the idea of free speech (with some restrictions in specific contexts, for example, if it’s hateful or infringing on the rights of others). In some ways, it’s healthy to have dialogues of differing opinions out in the open where hateful and discriminatory thoughts can be discussed and refuted.

In library school, a professor of mine was fond of saying that sunlight is a powerful disinfectant. What she meant was that it’s healthy to discuss our ideas openly. However, this can’t and won’t happen when people lurk in the deep recesses of the dark web, secretly gaining support and momentum for their violent, objectionable ideas until they are ready for action. Unfortunately, the president’s tweets, a public, mainstream form of communication, only serves to validate some of these violent actions fomenting in the communication forums of the dark web.

On the other side, social media companies are increasingly looking for ways to censor, or remove, objectionable and controversial content from their platforms. Real people have been harmed from disinformation and propaganda being spread through these platforms. However, as discussed earlier, people removed from the mainstream end up in the dark web building strength, where nobody knows about them until the actions are performed, resulting in more senseless and violent deaths.

So how responsible is a communication forum, like 8chan, for some of these recent shootings? It’s true that the gunmen may have committed the crimes without the support or encouragement from a web-based forum, but would their ideas have been allowed to develop so fully? Or with so much encouragement?

Anatomy of Clutter

It’s always curious to me how and why clutter accumulates. I’m envious of those people who seem to keep their surfaces clean and free of clutter effortlessly. I can attain this standard for short bursts of time, but it requires huge efforts and constant vigilance on my part. Otherwise the piles grow until I reach a tipping point.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been attacking the accumulations of clutter and stagnant build up. The neglected piles of paper that need to be dealt with, tossed, filed, or scanned and then tossed. Random collections of stuff that I seem to gather in bags and pockets as part of my day-to-day living. Things stashed in a corner somewhere to be tackled when I have more time or more energy. Or that have to wait for something else to happen before I can take action.

When I go on one of these binges, I have a few strategies that help keep me motivated and get me over the hump.

Firstly, I’m always curious to learn more about my habits and assess why build up seems to be happening in a certain place (see Clearing Out Clutter) or with a particular type of stuff. I like to observe, without judgement or criticizing myself, as a way to understand more about the root causes of the problems so I can figure out better systems. (Read Diagnosing Bad Habits to learn more.)

Secondly, I’m always striving to increase my efficiency, especially with tasks that I don’t enjoy doing like going through piles of papers. If I can figure out how to deal with something fully the first time I touch it, that’s a big accomplishment and ultimately helps in reducing the clutter build up.

For example, paper receipts are always part of the landscape. This indicates to me that I need a better system for processing receipts quickly. I need to have set criteria about which ones to save and for how long. I also need a place to save them that is easily accessible. Once I have the guidelines established and a system for managing the receipts, I can process them faster. Now, when I go through my daily collection of receipts, I have a quick method for processing them.

For more strategies and tips, check out posts on Spring Cleaning, Productivity, or Deletion (electronic build up).

Working the Gig Economy: Bicycle Food Delivery

Two summers ago my partner and I spent a few months doing bicycle food delivery for companies such as Just Eats, Uber Eats, and Door Dash. As a fresh grad, my partner was looking to pick up some quick cash to supplement his full-time job with something he could do on his own hours. It was really the kind of job that could only exist in today’s modern world by using a smart phone equipped with an app, location tracking, and a robust data plan.

It was his gig, but I was curious about how the process worked so we had “delivery dates.” Typically I rode in front to navigate from pick-ups to deliveries. He carried the food in a giant, insulated backpack. As the novelty wore off for me, our dates dwindled down to once a week. We had a good time all summer discovering the city on our bikes, getting exercise, learning about new restaurants, and making money. We were in great shape! Plus we learned a lot about working together as a team.

I hadn’t thought too much about our time working in the gig economy until I read an article in the New York Times this past weekend, “My Frantic Life as a Cab-Dodging Tip-Chasing Food App Deliveryman.” Reading this article brought back memories, including yes, how dangerous it could feel to be moving fast, under pressure on a bicycle in traffic, competing with other bicycle delivery people, and in adverse weather conditions.

After reading Andy Newman’s (journalist) sometimes harrowing time delivering, it brought back some negatives about the experience. The work was hard with terrible pay. The companies constantly incentivized us to work more by promising bonus pay if a certain number of deliveries were completed in a specific time frame, while achieving a rating of almost 5 stars. UberEats could send us up to 4kms in any direction to make a delivery, making it difficult to finish them quickly and increase earnings.

Towards the end of the article, Newman recalls something from one of his interviewees that the real value of the deliveryperson is all the data collected by the hiring companies so that this work can eventually be replaced by machines.

I have mixed feelings about being replaced by machines, but having experienced the negatives of this gig economy, I would probably welcome a drone dropping off my order.

Iceland: Gullfoss and Faxifoss

After a morning spent traipsing through Thingvellir National Park and watching geysirs, we ended the day with waterfalls. Iceland is full of waterfalls, but I never tired of seeing them.

I loved watching the force of the falls and hearing the loud swishing noise of the water rushing past. I enjoyed feeling the mist on my skin, even when it was already wet and damp outside.

Close up of Gullfoss.

The famous Gullfoss was not my favorite, but I could see why it attracts so many visitors. Gullfoss literally means “golden waterfall” (gull = gold and foss = waterfall). Before you reach the falls, there’s a statue and plaque to commemorate Sigridur Tomasdóttir, the woman responsible for saving Gullfoss from being sold to a private company that wanted to dam the falls to produce hydroelectricity. She and her sisters loved the falls deeply and created their own paths to show the falls to visitors. Her efforts and commitment eventually led to Gullfoss being protected.

We were told Gullfoss was named for the many rainbows that appear over the falls when it’s sunny out. The day we went was gray and overcast, but we did get one beautiful rainbow right before we left. My picture of the rainbow is not that impressive so I didn’t display it on this post.

View of Gullfoss from above. It’s hard to get all of it in one frame.

We left Gullfoss and stopped at one last waterfall to end the day. Although this one was smaller than some of the others we saw, I was enchanted by the name even before I saw it. Faxifoss, which means Horse’s Mane Waterfall, was impressive in its own way. It even had a small “ladder” built on the left side of it to help the spawning salmon make it upstream.

Faxifoss – Horse’s mane waterfall

There was another rainbow at Faxifoss, but it was too far away from the falls to get both in the same picture.

Stay tuned for more waterfalls in the southern part of Iceland and an incredible black sand beach with basalt columns. We even got to walk behind one of the falls, Seljalandsfoss!