Water. Falling.

Today at Gullfoss, the Niagara Falls of Iceland. And frankly, more impressive, as it’s not used for hydroelectric power, there are no casinos rising on its shores and no Maid of the Mist taking honeymooners up close, although there are scores and scores of tourists.

This is a beautiful country. On our drive today we went past farms nestled into folds of felted green that climbed hundreds of feet up volcanic mountain faces, their sweeping flatlands dotted with sheep and horses. Not a fast-food interchange to be seen (although Subway and KFC have a foothold here,  and there’s a Dunkin Donuts a block or two away from our apartment in Reykjavik). Hardly any billboards. Hardly a scrap of litter. 

Coming back to the car, Kate overshot our Toyota in the lot. “Oh,” she said when I called her back. “I didn’t know our car was missing a hubcap.” 

“It isn’t,” I said. It was. 

We figured the item was lost on a piece of rough road we’d traveled en routed, doubled back and re-traveled it at a crawl. No hubcap. We made one final pass, what the hell. FOUND IT. That was a relief, so we celebrated with pizza lunch. Mine had Parma ham, arugula and peanuts on top. Filed under: Things That Are the Same, But Different. 

Tomorrow, up to Akureyi we go, on the north coast. Hours of sunlight there: 23.5. This is disorienting, to say the least. Getting to sleep is tough enough, but can be done with an eye mask. But Iceland generally works regular hours, so after sleeping late you find yourself breakfasting at 11 am, lunching at 3:30 pm and then, at 10 p.m., saying, “Hey, anyone hungry? Let’s eat!” But everything is closed at that hour other than bars, and most bars don’t serve food. How have these socialists figured it out? Genetics, I guess. 

7:55 p.m. Here. Time to consider whether dinner will even be in the picture tonight. Have a great weekend, all. 

Posted at 3:53 pm in Uncategorized | 48 Comments

Indoors and out.

We went back to the pool today, or rather, all of us went to the pool today. We had to, because the shower in our Airbnb has fatally malfunctioned, and that was the only way we could all start the day nice and clean. Afterward, we had hot dogs, sold at a stand outside. I had the Elvis Hot Dog, seen here:

Yes, those are those little matchstick fried potatoes you buy in a can when you’re too cheap to spring for chips. (I love them; they were a preferred snack of my childhood.) What they have to do with Elvis I can’t say, as I thought he preferred fried PB&banana sandwiches, but I’m by no means an expert. However, as an American, I thought I needed to underline this little bit of overseas interpretation of US culture with an endorsement. And it was fine, although Icelanders have a strange idea of what constitutes mustard.

I think I’m done with Reykjavik, and today we picked up a car that will allow us to venture farther afield. It was cloudy today, so after the pool, we did the museums, one featuring incomprehensible modern art — my rule for these is, the longer the explanatory text on the wall placard, the worse the artistic failure — and the penis museum. Of this, I have to say: Eh. Penises, penises and more penises, and with a few exceptions, the whole thing seemed to boil down to this:

1) Penises in preservative solution inevitably end up looking like a meat accident;

2) The bigger the animal? The bigger the penis! Who knew?

Along those lines, Alan, right, with a whale dick – blue, I believe:

But of course the real action was in the gift shop, where I passed on everything, including the “It’s not for pussies” T-shirt and dick-shaped bottle opener. And these cuddly toys:

Yesterday was this modernist masterpiece:

Lutherans at their most majestic. I spotted these chairs on the altar and thought, now that’s what you call Scandinavian design at its best:

But mostly I tried to sit quietly and respectfully, because I may not be a Lutheran, but I know how to behave in a church, which is more than I can say for half the tourists there.
Time to wrap and plan for tomorrow. Keep the United States warm for me, because I’m chilling at 64 degrees N. 

Posted at 5:34 pm in Uncategorized | 78 Comments

The reaper.

As I think I’ve mentioned a time or ten, my link-wrangling on a day-to-day basis goes like this: When I find something interesting, I toss it into a draft post, a process that goes on all day, between other things.

I think it was the third item when I found they had a common theme today:


Honestly, though, the kickoff item is almost joyful. And it so happens that one of my Facebook friends was there when it happened: Bassist Jane Little, who only recently became the longest-serving orchestra musician in the world, collapsed on stage during a performance of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Sunday. She never regained consciousness, and died later that night. At 87, after 71 years with the ensemble.

Which would merely be sad, but not when you consider what they were playing at the moment she went down: “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Which was their encore, in fact. And as one of her fellow players scooped her up and carried her offstage, they kept playing, so she actually left the limelight as the song reached a climax: So let’s go on with the show! A WashPost account of the incident, and her life, here.

A friend once told me he despised the platitude we so often say after someone dies: “Well, at least he died doing something he loved,” because most people don’t want to die, much less screaming toward the earth at 32 feet per second when a parachute malfunctions. In this case, though, I think we can make an exception. You couldn’t have scripted a better death; in fact, if you had scripted this, the director would have thrown it back in your face and called you Mr. Obvious.

Then, mid afternoon, I checked Twitter and found this:

Once you find the eyes, it’s just mesmerizing.

And on an animal theme, there are these outdoorsmen:

The weather at Yellowstone National Park on May 9 was fairly temperate: The low was 39 degrees Fahrenheit; the high was 50.

Nevertheless, when two tourists saw a baby bison, they decided it looked cold and needed to be rescued. So they loaded it in the trunk of their car and drove it to a ranger station.

Over the weekend, their action was widely mocked online as evidence of extreme anthropomorphism, not to mention stupidity. On Monday, the park revealed that it was also deadly — for the bison. The newborn calf had to be euthanized, the park said in a statement, because its mother had rejected it as a result of the “interference by people.”

My eyeballs just sprained themselves, they rolled so hard.

Finally, an astounding long-form project from the NYT, on the city’s century-old potters field on Hart Island. It’s very long, and I haven’t gotten all the way through it, but what I’ve seen is remarkable: Deep history, a slow burn of anger over the policy that dumps so many people in mass graves there, impressive enterprise (when the city wouldn’t let the media observe or photograph an interment, they hired a drone). And great writing:

New York is unique among American cities in the way it disposes of the dead it considers unclaimed: interment on a lonely island, off-limits to the public, by a crew of inmates. Buried by the score in wide, deep pits, the Hart Island dead seem to vanish — and so does any explanation for how they came to be there.

To reclaim their stories from erasure is to confront the unnoticed heartbreak inherent in a great metropolis, in the striving and missed chances of so many lives gone by. Bad childhoods, bad choices or just bad luck — the chronic calamities of the human condition figure in many of these narratives. Here are the harshest consequences of mental illness, addiction or families scattered or distracted by their own misfortunes.

But if Hart Island hides individual tragedies, it also obscures systemic failings, ones that stack the odds against people too poor, too old or too isolated to defend themselves. In the face of an end-of-life industry that can drain the resources of the most prudent, these people are especially vulnerable.

Indeed, this graveyard of last resort hides wrongdoing by some of the very individuals and institutions charged with protecting New Yorkers, including court-appointed guardians and nursing homes. And at a time when many still fear a potter’s field as the ultimate indignity, the secrecy that shrouds Hart Island’s dead also veils the city’s haphazard treatment of their remains.

The best single detail is about the AIDS row: Buried 14 feet deep, instead of the usual three. Just 16 bodies, but it brings back an era in a way few other memories do.

Have I bummed you out enough yet? Just think of Jane Little. On with the show!

Posted at 12:04 am in Popculch, Uncategorized | 51 Comments

Super-duper Tuesday.

If you haven’t read the link MichaelG posted in comments yesterday, from Talking Points Memo and about Trump, you should read it, if not for the analysis then for this excellent metaphor about projects and doing things the right way vs. the wrong way. (I’ve done it both ways, so I feel like I know this from experience.)

When I read the Times article (about the GOP’s failing effort to stop Trump), observe recent weeks as they’ve fluttered by and think about how things got to this point, I come back again and again to conversations I have with our chief tech, Matt Wozniak. Matt uses the metaphor of debt to describe the inevitable trade off we face building and maintaining the software that runs TPM.

If we do a project in a rough and ready way, which is often what we can manage under the time and budget constraints we face, we will build up a “debt” we’ll eventually have to pay back. Basically, if we do it fast, we’ll later have to go back and rework or even replace the code to make it robust enough for the long haul, interoperate with other code that runs our site or simply be truly functional as opposed just barely doing what we need it to. There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s simply a management challenge to know when to lean one way or the other. But if you build up too much of this debt the problem can start to grow not in a linear but an exponential fashion, until the system begins to cave in on itself with internal decay, breakdowns of interoperability and emergent failures which grow from both.

So here we are, on yet another pivotal Tuesday, and who knows? In 36 hours we may know with near certainty it’s a Trump-Clinton ticket, come fall. And then the fun really begins. As this is a politics day, and I’m getting a late start on this, a few linky hors d’oeuvres for y’all:

Nothing about this analysis, about why Ted Cruz will not drop out to save his party, surprises me. Especially this part:

It’s very possible that, if he becomes the Republican nominee, Trump would get shellacked in November, setting off a period of anguished introspection for the party. Conservatives would vow never again to nominate a non-conservative for the highest office. “This is Ted Cruz’s ace card,” says Steele. “Going back to 1996, conservatives in the party have always felt that we’ve lost these presidential contests because we’ve not been true to the cause by nominating someone who will fight for the cause.”

For a large segment of the party, the savior would be obvious. And Cruz, having never wavered, would find himself right where he wanted to be, once he realized, in March 2016, that he wouldn’t be the 2016 Republican nominee: at the front of the pack to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2020.

I hear this over and over from Republicans — don’t move to the center, move further right! And as bad as a Trump-Clinton race would be, I can’t imagine how awful a Cruz-Clinton race might play out. I may have to emigrate for 2020.

Says Slate, “To save itself, the Republican Party must finally put the working class ahead of the donor class.” Like that’s gonna happen.

Finally, here’s a Storify of David Frum tweets on the collapse of the GOP — you know, the Canadian-born RINO from the Bush administration? I think he nails it, though.

Off to work.

Posted at 8:53 am in Current events, Uncategorized | 38 Comments

The lazy train.

Another link salad today, because I have been a lazy, reading, organizing, car-less lump today. A persistent rattle in the right front quarter put the ol’ Volvo in the shop, and of course that led to brakes and all I can say is ow-my-wallet. But I finished one book and started another, ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Who’s going to this New Year’s party? Can I go too?

The best White House photos of the year, as selected by the chief WH photog. You’ll be scrolling for an hour. So many wonderful shots.

The folks I buy greens from, most weekends.

Happy new year, all! In a couple weeks, NN.c enters its 15th year. Holy shit, how’d that happen?

Posted at 9:56 pm in Uncategorized | 77 Comments

Best seat in the house.

Kate noticed this weekend that Wendy prefers men to women. That she does, but it helps that some men let her be a lapdog.


Hope your Thanksgiving was what you wanted it to be, and that you still have a lap-like space on your body. I feel like I ate my weight in butter, so off to the gym for me on Black Friday. You?

Posted at 11:29 am in Uncategorized | 68 Comments

Road notes.

Day one report, or Travel is Very Broadening, Even Little Trips, or Two Things I Learned Yesterday:

Thing one: A staged reading of “Frankenstein” taught me that if you think this story is abput laBORatories and EEgore and torches and pitchforks, you don’t know “Frankenstein.” It’s really a story about gods and creations and fathers and sons and, of course, heartbroken women. (I also saw a side idea about schizophrenia and psychotic breaks, but the monster was real, after all.) More on this later, when I have a real keyboard.

Thing two: If you get a chance to eat in an Iranian restaurant, take it.

OK, one more thing: It’s hard tomtype on an iPad.

Later, folks!

A photo posted by nderringer (@nderringer) on

Posted at 8:14 am in Same ol' same ol', Uncategorized | 54 Comments

After Thursday comes Friday.

Again, a late post. Sor-ree. The usual stuff — work, boredom, more work, Thursday night. Eastern Market After Dark, a design-festival thing that filled the neighborhood with suburbanites telling themselves they were enjoying an authentic urban experience. On the sidewalk, a DJ on every corner:


Question for the room: Do any DJs use PCs, or is DJing a Mac-only game?

Detroit-vs-Everybody is the current hip T-shirt, although based on the Detroit Hustles Harder showing last night, it might be making a comeback. Five or so years ago, everyone wanted Detroit Hustles Harder. It even inspired parodies: Detroit Hustles? Hardly. Me, I’m holding out for Grosse Pointe-vs-Everybody.

Anyway, it’s fun to get out on a school night, drink a little draft beer, watch a fashion show. My friend Dustin was trying to get me to pull a Sacha Baron Cohen, but by then my phone was blowing up with Work Problems, so work problems must be my focus today.

Fortunately? There’s much good linkage.

One of the funniest things I’ve read lately: Married role play.

Something else funny: Neil Steinberg gets reader mail. It’s useful as a guide to the People of Trump, but also as an indication of the sort of mail people send you when you write for a newspaper. People call you unbelievable names, attribute all sorts of vileness to your name. And sometimes they make you laugh. (Sometimes they turn out to be Brian Stouder.)

One reason those folks get stirred up? They’re being manipulated. Even allowing for the usual bias of editing, there’s something about this mashup of conservative media reacting to the (then-upcoming) papal visit that is sort of jaw-dropping. There are people who have this stuff piped into their home more or less all day. No wonder they’re angry.

And even though he already seems like yesterday’s mashed potatoes, Roy is always worth a read, and just the headline on his Scott Walker postmortem is worth a click.

With that? Work Problems. See you Monday.

Posted at 8:12 am in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

Marriage =/= prosperity.

I don’t want to belabor this gay marriage thing, but at the same time, it irritates me the way they squat over the whole narrative of what the institution even is. That’s why I liked this piece in the WashPost, which shows in graphic form how closely tied not to religion and culture, but demography and the economy.

I learned this when I wrote about marriage for Bridge a couple years ago: You want people to get married? Make them middle class in the first place. But in the absence of an economy that can accommodate them, it’s really difficult to convince poorer people that they’re better off married than single. (Even though, yes, some of them — some of them — would be. Might be.) So, you want people to get married? Tend to the economy first. The rest will follow.

Such good bloggage today. Sorry I’m a day late on this, but I really liked the column about Chris Christie that everyone’s talking about. It illustrates something I always tell my writing students (not that I have any at the moment): When the facts speak for themselves, let them.

Other lying politicians tend to waffle, to leave themselves some escape hatch. You can almost smell it.

But Christie lies with conviction. His hands don’t shake, and his eyes don’t wander. I can hardly blame the union leaders who met with him for believing him.

Such an elegantly simple accusation: He lies. And yet so uncommon in modern political reporting. No one wants to lose access. I guess the Star-Ledger editorial board doesn’t care anymore.

You may have heard about Ask Bobby, the Jindal campaign’s Twitter-chat effort. Why do politicians make this mistake over and over? They think they’ll get respectful questions, and they get this:

and this:

and this:

It’s entertaining, anyway. Scroll away.

Stephen Colbert dropped in and out of metro Detroit, and left this behind. It’s brilliant. Watch.

Finally, there’s a hot new band playing in Detroit this weekend. They got some good ink today.

Almost the long weekend. Enjoy.

Posted at 12:18 am in Uncategorized | 66 Comments

Breakin’ curfew.

Mama went out last night. Mama did not get hammered, but it was midnight before she walked through the door, and friends, I am no night owl these days. These are the wages of having 25-year-old friends.

Yes, that was the occasion: A 25-year-old’s birthday. “Congratulations,” I told him. “Your brain is now fully mature.” Then we destroyed a few brain cells.

We went to the Temple Bar, probably one of the last — I’m growing to hate this word, but it works — authentic bars of the old Cass Corridor, now rebranded Midtown and movin’ on up. The door has a buzzer to keep the worst of the riffraff out, although some get in anyway. There’s a bar dog, named Jameson. And last night he had a few friends in for a playdate; their owners/foster parents were wearing Detroit Dog Rescue T-shirts and having a few pops at the bar while four sizable dogs galumphed around, play-fighting and mostly moving too fast for photos:


After the visiting dogs left, the other bar pet came out for a visit. Here she is with the birthday boy:


It was a nice evening. The internet jukebox had the Wutang Clan and Warren Zevon. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

So here we are on hump day, and here’s some bloggage for you:

Via Hank, a nifty piece of explanatory journalism on a heavy-metal drummer. Yes, explanatory:

At what tempo will a series of sonic events fail to register as a beat? Our conception of rhythm roughly corresponds to the span of the human heart rate, and Fox is curious about what happens on those margins. He says he’s been spending his free time trying to build the stamina to drum at the speed of a hum or a drone.

Just a very enjoyable read, which you’ll want before you plunge into the bummer of the day, yet another police shooting, this one in South Carolina. I am eager to hear the justifications that will be offered for this one. I’m also interested to hear what media gurus say about the increasing number of these incidents, as cell-phone cameras improve and improve and improve. I recall when J.C. and I first talked about bystander videos, back when maybe one in a thousand people might be carrying a small video camera when news is breaking. There was a helicopter crash where two people in the crowd were so equipped, and CNN was able to cut between angles. Then everyday digital cameras had video, and then they had better video, and so on.

I imagine the reaction will be something like this: Who you gonna believe? Me, or your lying video?

Forty-six comments on my story yesterday on road repair! Hardly a record, but it gives you an idea of how strongly people feel about this issue here. I was telling the table last night, when I was talking to the guy quoted in the lead, and he was describing the pavement disaster that totaled his Honda, I was thinking, “Gee, this almost sounds like getting hit by an IED.” I asked, “What did that feel like?” He replied, “Like an IED,” my soul smiled, and I was happy. A good quote is a simple pleasure to a journalist.

Happy Wednesday, all. No more late nights for me for a while.

Posted at 9:38 am in Uncategorized | 30 Comments