Akureyri was the biggest city we'd been in since Reykjavik, so after breakfast and checkout there was but one thing to do -- buy souvenirs! Oh, there also happened to be the largest souvenir store in Iceland down the road from the hotel.
Funny thing about Iceland is that everything is expensive. Because, you know, it's ICELAND. What I love though, is that the souvenirs, hand-made in Iceland, are cheaper outside of Iceland. Regardless, I picked up some stuff. Who doesn't need more shot glasses?
The tourist drag is actually pretty cool. A large blue Parisian cafe with castle-like turrets, and other cool buildings.
We were off, a few hundred clicks to go, and not a whole bunch in between.
Except a turf village from the late 1800's. Low-built homes and buildings, covered in grass. Some were moved to this spot to recreate the village, others were here originally. However, the museums of old farm implements didn't interest us, so we moved on.
A turf church warranted a brief stop, then a monument to a poet who moved to Canada, then a stop for ice cream, and another quick shot of another nifty church.
And then a series of craters, a small one, a larger one, and other than the view, less impressive than the ones we'd see a few days earlier. You see, we were doing the standard tour in reverse, so where this may have impressed us if we'd seen it first, it paled in comparison to the sights we'd seen already. Although it was more than a few stairs to make it to the top. Including one broken step that will undoubtedly cause a broken leg at some point.
Our destination was Borgarnes, a short jaunt from Reykjavik, but before we got there, a few more sights had to be seen. We drove to the most powerful hot spring in the world. It's an impressive description for a large rock shooting out steam and water, being tapped by a geothermal power company and sent off to the capitol. Although we were able to buy some hydroponic tomatoes.
And then - Reykholt. This was the home of Snorri Sturluson. Considered on of Iceland's greatest statesmen and poets, he lived in the 12th century, and served twice as lawspeaker. His old stomping grounds now house a hotel, library, churches, and research area. It's considered one of the most important historical spots in Iceland. Still there is Snorri's old thermal bath. A shallow pool with hot-spring water piped in via a stone channelway. He got there from his house via an underground tunnel, the same tunnel he was assassinated in.
We walked the grounds, took some pictures, and continued on. There was one last waterfall worth seeing, but the prospect of another 100km round trip lots its appeal as the sun began to set. Instead, we continued on to Borgarnes, found our hotel (which was conveniently located past the town), and settled in to watch a killer sunset over the golf course. Did I mention that there are a bunch of courses in Iceland? Shame that I don't golf.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Akureyri was the biggest city we'd been in since Reykjavik, so after breakfast and checkout there was but one thing to do -- buy souvenirs! Oh, there also happened to be the largest souvenir store in Iceland down the road from the hotel.
Day 7 is in progress, I'll finish it up tonight.
Math, not MATH, despite Hoy's involvement.
I will make the assumption that anybody who cares about poker that reads my little speck of the Internet is already reading Hoy's blog, and is therefore already following the posts regarding Bayes' Theorem. So there is absolutely no need for me to repost anything from them here, including my rather lengthy comments attempting to show Bayes' theorem applied to the Monty Hall problem. Go look at them there.
What I do want to comment on is that I think this series of posts and the discussion they've caused is fantastic. It goes without saying that most of the bloggers know about those pesky things like "outs" and "M" and "EV" and "pot odds" (am I the only one picturing Chris Farley here?), but more advanced statstical math is often ignored. I fall in that camp as well. I can DO the math, but I set
knew standards for laziness.
The other problem is that people fall into ruts. I've mentioned this before. It makes things predictable.
I was surprised by the number of people who hadn't heard of the Monty Hall problem before, but then again, it falls into the realm of trivalities that I find fascinating. What it DOES do is force people to start thinking differently. With luck, some of us will start looking at ways of applying this to our games. It CAN become second nature. Poker isn't a game of precision mathematics, you just need to "get" it and estimate and apply to help you with decisions.
The false positives vs low rate in population question was also good, but the math became very easy to follow and easily explained intuitively once hard numbers were used.
I won't post my thoughts on where Hoy's going with this, because this is his show, and he can reveal the ending at a time of his choosing. But I will repeat what I said in the comments:
Think, "Where in poker would I find a situation where I knew the odds, and then received additional information that I could apply back to my original choices and help me make my next decision?"
Yes, it's a very general answer.
In a similar vein is Blinders' post about satellites being -EV and a waste of time. Go read it if you haven't already. I see his point, but disagree with it. He's right that a solid way of moving up in levels is to dominate at one level, then move up and repeat. You gauge your skill more easily this way, and improve your chances of success.
Here's the thing though. I like satellites. I especially like them because they're often easy. I especially love the $2 and $3 rebuys for the Fifty-Fifty, mostly because I've won my seat in probably 80% of the ones I've played, with almost minimal investment. The $8 level 1 peeps and the token frenzies are also great.
Why? Because I'm better than most of the players in them.
I'm not going to claim I'm about to go pro or anything. I know I generally suck at poker. But I also know I'm better than the competition at these levels.
I think Blinders missed that aspect. If you're a decent player who CAN be +EV in the bigger games, then why not satellite your way in? I'll continue to use the 50-50 (although the $55 entry is far from prohibitive) as an example. Your options to get in are: $2 rebuy, $3 rebuy, $7 SnG, $14 freezeout, 1200 point freezeout, and maybe a few other options in the same price range. I generally spend $4-$8 in the $2, or $6-$12 in the $3. So I can lose 6-13 $2 or 4-9 $3 tourneys before I've already paid for the 50. I haven't won a 50, or hit the big cash, but I HAVE cashed more than I haven't, so I'm +EV on this system, and would have to hit a terrible run to change that.
I agree that if all you can win is an $8 tournament, then there's no point in using that to get into bigger money games. If, however, you can consistently cash in a bigger game, then why not use your skills to dominate the lower levels to maximize your profit? When you start consistently getting the big cashes, then you can stop with the satellites because the difference in buy-ins becomes relatively minor.
Regardless, I think both Hoy's recent posts and Blinders' have been great for fostering discussion and forcing people to start thinking again. Every once in a while, we need a kick in ass to jumpstart things.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
This day happened to be my brother's birthday. It was also a much shorter drive than the previous day. Also? Minimal mountain passes.
No breakfast included with this hotel, so we stopped at the local grocery store and picked up sandwich stuff. We stopped at large ravine and unfordable river. Until a bridge was built, this was a fairly hard-to-access area.
Filled with food, we drove, and drove... and drove. Then we turned off towards Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Average flow? 193 cubic meters per second, during floods it hits 500. By comparison, Niagara Falls has an average flow of 1,833 cubic meters per second, but it's MUCH larger than Dettifoss.
We got out of the car and quickly realized it was cold, and windy, and damp. Luckily, the walk to the falls was only a kilometer or so over rocky terrain. No problem. We reached the falls and started checking out the various vantage points. One brother decided that six inches from the shore at the crest of the falls was a good place. Again, I took some pictures so there'd be a document of his last moments on earth, and again, he managed to not fall in. He did admit that it wasn't his smartest idea though, since the wind was making it very hard for him to not keel over to his doom. The idea was toyed with to visit the two other falls nearby, but somehow another 40 minutes of walking plus time standing around in the cold wasn't that appealing with our noses running and ears turning red. Well, my ears were red, my brothers had hoods. Who knew it would be chilly a few degrees south of the arctic circle?
We shivered our way back to the car and drove back across the vast wasteland we had traversed on the way there. Land scoured by glaciers, with a single road winding through it. Eventually we made the main road again and continued west.
The thing about hot springs is that you can see them coming. Plumes of water vapour in the air visibile for a while. We were coming up on some more. These ones were surrounded by a very large geothermal plant, but had no shortage of visitors. The main attractions were the two volcanoes. Well, one volcano, one crater full of hot spring water. Across from these was a series of hot springs and mud flats. This tends to create bubbling mud... and a strong smell of sulphur.
Over a much smaller mountain pass, and on to a most unique place. Volcanic pillars, mounds, and other rock formations all in one small park. It was described regularly like being on another planet. In reality, it was like walking among a bunch of lava pillars. It was still very unique, but underwhelming after the buildup.
This was by Myvatn, a large, shallow lake, which was filled with pseudocraters. A pseudocrater is caused by explosions of gas during a volcanic eruption. Lava into the lake... lava cools... gas inside explodes... pseudocrater.
And then on the road again. To Goðafoss - Falls of the Gods. When Iceland chose Catholicism as its official religion, the man who made the decision tossed his pagan idols into these falls. Or so legend says. They're a small falls, but one of the most interesting ones. Think a mini Niagara Falls, with an extra small falls in the middle, and a few extras on the side. Once again, much time was spent wandering around, enjoying the vistas.
And then, onto Akureyri, the capitol of Northern Iceland. A large resort town of 18,000. It's a great town, with good food, a great hotel, and yet another cool-looking church. We arrived with time to spare, so some exploring was in order. Directed to a local restaurant, we had a solid meal. Saltfish for me, although the Kangaroo was very tempting. Back to the hotel, and a solid night's sleep.
I should try and speed these up. But then again, I was hit with a solid case of apathy Monday night.
Awaking from a comfortable sleep in a comfortable bed, we started out with the standard continental breakfast before packing up to head out.
Once again, the landscape was surprisingly barren as we went. Wide, flat, wind-swept lava plains as far as you could see. This are was desolate due to the regular volcanic activity under the rather large glacier to our west. Eruptions under the ice cause rapid melting and flooding, which the subsides. One of the most recent events wiped out the bridge, the landscape, and was back to normal in 36 hours. It did make for a rather spectacular sight as we approached a bridge: The ground was slightly raised and a ribbon of sand and spraw blew across a pond and over the bridge for a solid 2-3 minutes. The 3 cars on the road, including us, all stopped to watch and take pictures.
Before long, we came across not one, but two glaciers. In fact, they were tongues of the much larger Vatnajökull - Skeiðarárjökull and Öræfajökull. We pulled into the national park Skaftafell and assessed our situation. Nobody quite felt like the multi-hour hike to some waterfalls, and we didn't have our glacier-climbing equipment. So we bought some postcards and drove about 2 minutes to Öræfajökull. An easy hike to the edge of a ravine and we got plenty of views of the glacier on the other side, as well as the valley it was slowly carving. It's amazing that something so seemingly immobile can carve entire landscapes if given enough time. It could be seen as a lesson in patience.
We moved on, passing the long black sand spit of Breiðamerkursandur and then came upon one of the most amazing spots I've ever seen - Jökulsárlón. Another tongue of Vatnajökull, Breiðamerkurjökull, comes down to a freshwater lagoon (undoubtedly created by the glacier itself), which in turn connects to the ocean and its saltwater. This creates a warm spot where the glacier starts breaking up, creating... icebergs. So here we were, in above-freezing temperatures, looking at a lagoon FULL of icebergs, slowly drifting to the open sea. It was also full of gulls, terns, skua (big brown bird), seals, and tourists.
Obviously, there was lots to stick around and see, so we did. The highlight happened just a few minutes after arriving through. While taking pictures of the lagoon, there was a VERY loud cracking and crashing sound, followed by rushing water. One of the larger bergs had broken off and begun to tilt in the water, exposing its underside. When you see and iceberg, you see the dirty white top, but seldom the bottom. As it turned, I was amazed by the incredible shade of blue the previously submerged half was. Think cyan. In fact, it almost appeared to be glowing.
We crossed the bridge to get a different perspective, and watched the seals convene. Six or so black heads constantly popping above the surface, and then diving down again. I'll assume there were also a few fish around. We also met with a skua - a large, ornery brown bird who was afraid of neither man, nor car, nor boat. They did, however, tolerate us.
Much of the day had already passed, and we'd barely covered a third of our distance for the day, so we got back on the road. To Hofn, where it was windy, cold, and empty. There is apparently good birdwatching here, but they decided to stay low today. So instead we did some groceries, had some dinner, and moved on.
To the fjörðurs! Yes, fjords. This means coastal roads that wind and have wind. In this case, underpaved curvy roads with lots of wind, blind turns, and blind hills. We came on option A. The Öxi road, road 939. This option carves out a large chunk of driving, so we turned to it. We got 10 meters when we saw the sign - 17-degree grade, narrow, unpaved road, 35km. Right, we're going to do that in a Skoda. We debated, turned around, and stuck to the main road.
A while later, the main road turned off towards our destination. This was option B. Option C was to continue on the winding and windy coast for twice the distance, and it was getting dark. So we took the main road. We kept taking the main road, and 20 minutes later, we came upon the sign. 12 degree grade, curves, unpaved, 30-some-odd km over the mountain. In the rain. And the dark. It hadn't been dark all trip, today it was overcast and going to be pitch black, and we were going over a mountain.
So we continued over the mountain, and it got dark, and it rained more. Before we made it up, it was pouring and black. Before that, we had a few spectacular views of the valley, but it was too dark to get a picture, besides, we just wanted to keep going. Then we met the curves that were almost literally 180 degrees, and somehow didn't go over the edge. You need to be hitting the gas to make it up the hill, and not hitting the gas to make the turn. I'd call them hairpin turns, except the radius of the curve was tighter than that. Then we made the next one... and the next one. It was harrowing for all of us.
Now, before you think I'm exaggerating. Years ago we traversed the Alps via car. Heading TO the Swiss side, you're going 8000ft up on a road that constantly curves back on itself, with rotting 2x4 s and a thin wire being the closest thing to a guardrail. You're constantly looking down on the tiers of roadway below you and shear cliffs that you can see yourself tumbling down. Motorhomes and trailers are regularly coming past you the other way on a road that is BARELY wide enough for 2 cars, and mirrors get bent back constantly from meeting other cars. I was fine for that trip. This one ended in a rather large sigh of relief. Maybe it was the horrible road, rain, and pitch blackness.
We crested the mountain, and started down. We pulled over to let one large 4x4 pass us on its way up, and eventually got to some flatter ground. This is where we met our first cat, when it ran in front of the car, got totally freaked out and escaped... everyone lived. Eventually, we found our way into Egilsstaðir, and got directions to our hotel. We pulled in after 11, and gladly found our beds.
Yah, yah... I've got days more to go in the reports. I'm hoping to get day 5 and 6 up tonight. I've just been distracted. The Toronto International Film Festival is fast approaching and I need to pick my films before Friday. It doesn't help that their website is fucked up and not saving my choices so I can schedule, whittle, and review them.
Anyway, congrats to LJ for her postively amazing run of late. QOD has gone and cashed for over $12,000 in 3 tournaments over the past few weeks. 3rd in the 32k twice for over $9k, and another $3200 live at the Venetian over the weekend. Damn. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't insanely jealous. I needs to win me some big money.
Yes, this will be a poker post. I haven't put one up in a while.
The last two nights have been an example of my mood swings in poker. Monday I played in the MATH, the 50-50, and a cash table with a bunch of bloggers (starting with Fuel) . The night started well. I donked off some cash in a Tier 1, but won another for the MATH entry. I cashed in the $2 rebuy to the 50-50 and then again in the $3 rebuy. Both times with pretty minimal investments. ($4 in the $2 rebuy, and $9 in the $3). The $3 cash gave me $55 due to my already winning an entry in the $2. Not a terrible ROI.
So I'm feeling good. I'd had doubts about my game after a day of going through the motions previously. The MATH is fine, but I'm really more interested in the cash game at this point. Mostly because I have have my bankroll on the table. The 50 was a donkfest and I got bad beats laid down on me all over the place.
Then I lost interest in all of it. The 50, the MATH, the cash. I rapidly went out of the tourneys, but stayed in the cash. Distracted by blog posts, TV, etc.. I watched by profit dwindle and become a loss, and finally I quit when everyone else left. It was completely obvious. I just started playing crap and calling with nothing. I'd taken some solid play over a couple hours and wasted it. I was pissed at myself.
Then last night I wasn't going to play. I had other things to do, and I started doing them. Then Kat and I started chatting and I decided to play in the Monkey Tourney (formerly the Wheatie)on Stars. I didn't even know about the Bodog game, but they don't take Canadian money anyway. You know what? I had a blast. Once upon a time, I knew how to play this game. I didn't rely on ridiculous streaks of cards, and last night I reverted back to that style. I bluffed, stole, restole, and got lucky when I needed it, and cashed. I left in a good mood, having spent a couple hours chatting and playing for fun. I had forgotten this was recreational.
We even converted some poker forum guy into a hammer playing maniac! He started off with "why are you playing crap?" which of course endeared him to all of us. By the time the bubble burst, he was playing The Hammer like a pro. Hell, he even crippled me by re-raising a steal with the damned thing and scaring me off. I thought, "Hammer? Naw, he's just learned it, no way he's already re-raising all-in from the BB with it." How wrong I was.
Of course, I was also playing the Stars version of the 50-50, and the $75 Token Frenzy on Tilt at the time... neither of which went well (how many bad beats can you get in one night?). But I didn't care.
So here's hoping last night marks a turnaround, where I start having fun again with this game - win or lose. I'll sign up for the Mookie tonight, and intend to have a blast. I doubt I'll be playing anything else though... I've got a ton of shit that needs to get done, including those trip reports.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The weather so far had been fantastic. 17+ degrees C, lots of sun. It got a bit overcast and windy at Gullfoss the day before, but otherwise everyone, including the locals, was impressed. We have a tendency to change the weather when we travel. When in the Alps, it was the hottest heatwave they'd had in 20 years; Japan - we missed Typhoon Robin by a day the whole way, with it starting to rain as our plane left Tokyo; Banff - it went from -26 for two straight weeks to +2 when we arrive and +8 when we left. Iceland? Overcast, rainy, and chilly to Sunny, calm, and warm.
We headed out from Reykjavik to Kirkjubaejarklaustur (Klauster), with a few planned stops along the way. The drive starts out with rather uneventful scenery. Kilometers of lava desert on either side, and a road over a small mountain. Then, as you come down, you see a valley spread out below you, the town of Selfoss in the distance - it's a welcome sight. We unsuccessfully searched for a particular cafe, and carried on to our first stop.
Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland's more famous waterfalls. Tall and narrow, falling over a grotto into a small pool, it's incredibly picturesque. This day, there was a bit of a wind, so the cascade was blowing around, with the mist reaching the parking lot a couple hundred meters away. The most unique aspect of this falls is the ability to walk behind it, into the surprisingly dry grotto.
A tangent here. Iceland has a few naming idiosyncrasies. One that I've noticed has caused some confusion (both with me and online) is the name Selfoss. Foss = Falls essentially, so Gullfoss (Golden Falls), Goðafass (Falls of the Gods), etc, are easy to pick out. Selfoss, however, is both a waterfall and a town. The problem is, they're nowhere near one another. The town of Selfoss is near Seljalandsfoss, not too far from Reykjavik. Selfoss the waterfall, however, is located in the northern part of the country. That said, I've seen more than a few people confuse Seljalandsfoss with Selfoss, although they look nothing alike and are hundred of kilometers away from each other. End tangent.
So, we pull into the lot and I walk out to the falls, snapping pictures along the way. I had learned my lesson at Gullfoss and brought my lens cloth so I could wipe my camera off as I went. Even so, the mist was everywhere, and try as I might, a lot of my pictures are marred by water on the lens. Still, they views make for some great shots, moisture or not. As I was crouching to get a low shot of the falls, I saw my first rainbow of the trip. Now I know it's just the refraction of light through water droplets, and I've seen many in my life. But it's a rare occurence when you find one right next to you. I took a picture and moved on. Climbing behind the falls on a rather treacherous path of slick rocks and rough steps. Behind the falls I took what might be the most artificial-looking shot of my life, with my brother in front of (behind?) the cascade. It looks photoshopped, despite how real it is.
The walk out from behind the falls was slightly better, and afforded some absolutely fantastic pictures... like the one on the right. I must have taken a couple dozen from various angles. I think it was more than worth it. In fact, I spent so much time taking pictures at this site, that my family had grown fairly impatient with my delay. One of my brothers echoed my thoughts exactly though - "Sure, he'll wait until the next time he's in Iceland."
We carried on down the road to our next stop - another waterfall, and one I was looking forward to seeing since before the trip. Skogafoss.
A few weeks ago, I posted some random links. Among them was a flickr link of people standing under a rainbow in Iceland. At Skogafoss to be precise. I could only hope the conditions would work for me to see something similar. My hope was not in vain.
Where the previous falls were tall and narrow, Skogafoss was majestic. Taller than Seljalandsfoss, and wider, in a cove that had been cut out of the hillside over centuries, it is an impressive sight to behold. Unlike Seljalandsfoss, you can't go behind this falls, but you can climb to the top. I decided to stick around the bottom and middle, and got more than my fair share of shots. It was a gorgeous sight, and a big destination for tourists of all stripes.
Like every other falls in Iceland, you can get as close as you want to these. Many of us emerged from the shore soaked from the mist, while others literally chased rainbows. The sheep on the farm next door seemed disinterested.
After a long time (with no complaints), we continued. Next stop - Vik. No, wait, we turned off early because something looked interesting... and we found Dyrhólaey.
A peninsula that is about as South as you can go in Iceland, this was a side trip that shouldn't be missed. The road was rough (to call it unpaved would be an understatement), narrow, blind, but luckily - flat. A 4x4 isn't necessary, but you can't avoid the potholes.
Jarring our way to the end of the line, we were greeted with one hell of a view. Black sand beaches, rocky shores, cliffs, caves, basalt sea stacks, glaciers, and ocean. Then we looked closer. Why were all those people up on that hill? The answer was obvious very quickly - puffin nesting. Dozens of puffins were on this cliff, many barely a dozen feet away, unperturbed by the small mass of people and their cameras.
But as I said, there were more than puffins to see here. I walked away from the birds and wandered onto one of them many rocky cliffs to see what was out there. A bridge that looked like it was made of shale crossed over a cauldron of violent water. My brother decided standing on the precipice to get a good look as a brilliant idea, and he manage to not fall to his death. Looking back at the fishing puffins, I noticed the other wildlife - a seal near the beach, loons diving, ducks gathering, and gulls and terns overseeing the whole menagerie. It had easily been the most wildlife we'd seen in one day, let alone one spot.
We had a fair ways to go, and a stop or three left, so we got back on the bouncy road and headed to Vik. Vik's a fishing town that is the southernmost town in Iceland. It offers more views of what we'd just seen, so we didn't stay long. We stopped at a few restaurants on the way, but none offered much of interest. Finally we made it Klauster (there was some napping on my part), and our hotel. Unfortunately for my appetite, the dining room was full of a tour bus's passengers when we arrived. Luckily, we were able to squeeze in 30 minutes before close.
I may have mentioned there's a sheep or 2 in the country. I had the lamb, it was delicious. In fact, everyone loved their meals. It made for a good ending to the day.
Friday, August 24, 2007
We awoke in time for breakfast. Pretty standard continental option, except with herring, skyr, and Nutella (not together). Out we did head for the 1000 year-old town of Þingvellir (the Þ is pronounced like a "th"). It was here where the laws of Iceland were read aloud every year at the alþing, which was held from 930 to 1798. It was essentially the capitol for the original Icelandic settlers, when written language didn't exist in the country, and there wasn't a governmental organization like we know to day. The Lawspeaker was the most important person, for he had memorized the entire code of laws. The lawyers out there should like that. It was also the site where Iceland accepted Christianity as their national religion, and where the country regained independence in the 1940's.
Today, it's got a visitor center, a view, and a walk. It is yet another place where the continents drift apart, which has allowed for a pathway down the rift. There's also one heck of a view of Lake Þingvallavatn and its various islands. Glacial lakes and volcanoes meet many times in this country.
Not knowing where the path led, we opted to drive down the road from the visitor's center and check out the park. The first thing I noticed was the waterfall. Just a small one, but loud enough to be heard. Next came the crystal clear water you had to cross to walk to the Law Rock. Naturally people tossed coins in... because people are idiots. It's a creek people, not a fountain.
There isn't much of note on the short boardwalk to the rock, and in fact he rock itself is unimpressive save for its historical significance. You can, however, imagine throngs of people in the field below, listening to the laws and judgments being read.
From here we made our way across some mountains and vast empty lava fields to Geysir, yet another hot spot of geothermal activity. Here lay a field with numerous active geysers. The king of them was Geysir himself, yet he only went off when there was an Earthquake. Capable of reaching heights of 70-80m (for comparison, Old Faithful can reach 25-55m), you kind of wanted some seismic activity to see this. It was okay though, because nearby was Strokkur, a smaller geyser that went off every 5-10 minutes and reached as high as 25-35m. This was the one with the most attention, for obvious reasons. Watching the whole process, from the bubbling pool, to the rapid expansion as surface tension tries its best to hold back the steam, to the powerful explosion of steam and water to the final emptying of the pool which quickly fills back in.
There were other spots as well, a couple hot pools with small streams pouring out, and a few small geysers that did little more than bubble and spurt. It had been made into a rather big (for Iceland) tourist attraction.
Then it was off to Gullfoss - the Golden Falls. Up to this point, we'd only seen small falls from glacial streams. This one was something else. The river Hvítá runs down from the glacier Langjökull and becomes a rather impressive cascade. As you approach the falls, the entire bottom half is hidden. The thought is, "0h, that's a pretty waterfall," as it appears to just drop off into oblivion. Once you get closer, and descend a long staircase, you realize that they're much bigger, and FAR more impressive, with a second wide and tall cascade falling into a ravine below.
A recurring theme with the big falls in Iceland is how close you can get to them. In this case, there's a rocky outcropping that the falls roar right past, and dozens of people can be found standing on it. No guard rail, no warning signs (because you see, they don't assume people are as moronic as they do here... the fact there's a giant rushing torrent of water 12 inches away should be warning enough). All-in-all, an impressive sight.
Then we turned around and started heading back, with a brief stop at Kerið (again, pronounced like a "th" but a sharp one), a large volcanic crater and lake, with deep green water and a bunch of people trying to throw rocks in it (it wasn't as close as it appeared).
Still awake, we made our way to The Blue Lagoon to relax. This pool is constantly refreshed, with the water being completely changed every 40 minutes, keeping it nice and warm, and in some spots (especially near the artificial hot spring) damned hot. The floor is covered in silica mud and volcanic sand, and the whole place is just... relaxing. Stepping purposefully into the wall of steam from the spring, or just lying on your back and floating effortlessly is a calming experience for sure. Throw in a waterfall that offers one hell of a massage and it's a great way to end the day.
We left to see the sun setting, and made our way back to Reykjavik. It was late, so the possibility of finding an open restaurant on a Monday was slim. We settled for Domino's pizza, because it was convenient and open. After covering as much ground as we did, any food was welcome... and it was still a better option than McDonald's and its $15 Big Mac combo.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
First, a preface. For as long as I can remember, my family has traveled. My dad was an airline employee, so flights were always cheap. My mom is a geographer, so the trips were seldom anywhere that involved a beach or other typical relaxing setting. We also tended to cram three weeks worth of travel into one. For instance - we did Paris and the surrounding country (beyond Versailles) in a week. We covered 3000km in northern Italy, the south of France, Monaco, and Spain (and back again) in 9 days. The Alps (France, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, Switzerland) in a little over a week... etc.. It continues.
We went somewhere interesting every year for a long time, and the list is very impressive. Often we'd hear the phrase, "you should appreciate this. It's a once-in-a-lifetime trip." But as I and my brothers grew older, the trips became fewer. My mother and brothers have gone on two trips without me in recent years, and I've done a few on my own, Israel being the most recent.
So, as my brothers were simultaneously graduating this year, and therefore losing their flight privileges, the time had come for one last family trip. Originally, it was to be Peru in July, but we just couldn't coordinate vacation time. So it became Iceland in August. My mother, me, and my two brothers heading to Iceland. My dad staying at home to watch over the various things that apparently couldn't go untended for a week. While traveling with my family can be... stressful to say the least, I was looking forward to this.
We started our journey heading to Nova Scotia. There's no direct flight from Toronto to Reykjavik until later this year, so we were going via Halifax. My middle brother was out on a different flight than the rest of us (pass situation), and ended up waiting an hour for us to arrive. I slept from takeoff to landing on the first leg -- apparently I missed a croissant. We arrived with 7 hours to go until we had to check-in for the flight out. We grabbed our rental car and drove out. The decision was made to swing by Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg instead of hanging around Halifax all day. I had been to both, my brothers had not. The day was sunny and bright, so it couldn't have been better to see two places known for being scenic.
Peggy's Cove hasn't changed much in decades. Big lighthouse, rocky outcropping, lots of people. I started taking pictures. There will be a link to vacation shots eventually, but for now, I have to work them down from the current count of 2600+.
Then came Lunenburg - known for being a shipping town, with a unique architectural style. The pictures were fewer due to our tighter time, but I still got plenty of one of the coolest-looking schools I know of.
Enough of Nova Scotia for now though. We got to the airport where I deftly stepped in front of a large tour group to get to the desk. Seats spread across the plane, but it didn't matter because my plan was simple - sleep. For the majority of the 4 1/2 hour flight, I did just that. It was night so I wasn't missing much. I did, however, miss dinner. We landed in Keflavik (where the airport is) around 5am local time, meaning it had been 18 hours since I got up to leave, with about 6 hours of broken-up airplane sleep. Our day was far from over though, as you can't check in to a hotel before 3pm apparently.
So we rented our car and started driving around. First around Keflavik, looking at a viking ship, old farmhouse, and one giant sword statue. Exciting stuff for sure. Then to Grindavik, a largish town on the south tip of the Reykjanes peninsula. As usual though, it's the journey, not the destination that is important.
First I straddled two continents. The European and North American continental plates meet at the North Atlantic Ridge, which runs through Iceland. There are gaps throughout the country, including one in Reykjanes where they've cleverly built a footbridge, allowing us tourists to walk between continents. A short walk up a narrow path in the wind brings you to the gap, filled with and surrounded by black volcanic sand. A sign explains the concept of continental drift, and countless tourists before have left message written in rocks on the floor of the gap. As far as initial sights to see go, it's impressive if you give some thought to the reason for its existence, and not the fact it's neither all that wide nor deep.
Iceland is known for having a rather poor road system. Their ring road circumnavigating the country is relatively new, and not paved everywhere. In fact, most of their roads are unpaved, untended, and narrow. There are plenty of blind turns and hills, and most bridges are 1-lane jobs where right-of-way goes to whomever is closest.
Our paved road turned to unpaved, and we turned off that to an even worse road in order to chase down a view, a lighthouse, and some hot springs.
Running over a rock on a "gravel" road, fighting the wheel, and fearing small, steep hills, we made it past a lighthouse to the ocean. Where we caught a view of the the island Engey, which is a big volcanic rock of an island in the ocean. There's a few of these in Iceland. The shoreline was impressive as well, what with the rather large faulted uplifts.
Iceland is powered by geothermal power. Its water system comes directly from cold glacial sources (for cold) and hot springs (for hot). Throughout the country there are telltale plumes of water vapour from the various springs and the geothermal plants on top of them.
The shore we were on happened to be right near some, so we continued on our bumpy trail to the steaming mud and smells of sulfur. I'll say this for Iceland, you learn to drive quickly. Our area had a few cars coming in and out, and there was that narrow, rocky road. It appears that when you pass hot springs, there's a good chance you'll suddenly find yourself engulfed in a cloud of vapour, completely blinded. Luckily, we didn't pass anyone. We pulled over in a clear spot, and my brother and I went for a walk to get a closer look at the steaming, bubbling mud. We quickly found ourselves surrounded by a sulfur-rich cloud, and were instantly wet. Unfortunately for us, my brother has dreads, and I had hair paste and glasses, which made for an interesting sight when we walked out covered in condensation.
We dried off quickly and continued on our way, coming up on a Grindavik a noise was heard and our hubcap spun off down the road... odd. To the side of the road we did pull and discovered our flat tire. It was changed quickly enough and we continued on our way... to the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon has nothing to do with a young, naked Brooke Shields and her journey into womanhood. Well, it does... but not this one. Yet another hot spring, but this one turned into a spa as well as geothermal plant. It is aptly named -- in the middle of a lava field, surrounded by nothing, there is a large pool that is a shade of turquoise you'd swear was fake. Think berry blue Kool-Aid, or blue cotton candy. It's natural, caused by the silica particles in the water refracting the light. During some periods, a particular algae takes over, turning the water green instead. This seemed as good a place as any to stop and eat for the first time since the plane (which, if you recall, I slept through). Monkfish on potato was alright, but didn't live up to the hype. The fish was chewy and lacked flavour, although the sauce, veggies, and potato were good. I came very close to falling asleep at the table, so a trip into the water wasn't going to happen that day.
We headed to Reykjavik and the hotel, but arrived too early to check in, so it was off to the downtown flea market to see their wares. To say it was underwhelming would be... accurate. To kill enough time to get back to the hotel and find a bed, we swung by Hallgrimskirkaja - possibly the most famous church/building in Iceland. A tall obelisk of a front, with wings that resemble a pipe organ, it's an impressive sight. It could be said that I took a picture or two.
We finally made it BACK to the hotel and were able to check in... 6 hours later I woke up, changed, and fell back asleep until the morning. This was, after all, the first time I'd found a real bed since I woke up 33 hours earlier.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I'm home. It wasn't without some drama.
Cape Breton was more or less a bust. Too long a drive both ways, and after Iceland, it was anticlimactic. That said, we did find Casino Nova Scotia where I left up $10. It's about the size of a closet and is full of slots, a few table games (which weren't open), and a 4-table poker room (which wasn't open). Got to Louisburg and it closed in 15 min.. so that didn't amount to much.
Today however... well, let's say it was unique. Sat in the airport from 10am until 7pm, got bumped from 8 or 9 flights before switching our destination and going through Ottawa. Of course, this was almost ruined by some dork from the south... George W. Bush or something like that.
I'll get to that in the full trip report :).
And yes, the pictures will eventually be up... but first I need to drop it to a more reasonable number from the current 2200 or so.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I'm back in Canada, in a hotel outside of Halifax in fact. Today didn't qualify as the most exciting. We rolled out of the hotel around noon, took the long-way around to Reykjavik but didn't make it to the waterfall we were aiming for (once again, a horrible road played a part, as did the prospect of a long and possibly arduous hike at the end), and eventually just took in the view from The Pearl and learned about the history of Iceland. Turns out nothing much has happened in the last 300 years. At least, that's when the exhibit ends. How lazy was today? Only 77 pictures taken. I have no idea how I took that many even.
I did add to my already ridiculous liquor collection by picking up some Icelandic Schnapps called... Brennivin, or Black Death. Gotta love Duty Free shopping.
Tomorrow's plan is to drive up to Cape Breton and hang out there for a few hours before driving back here. Then it's on a plane the next morning and with luck I'll be back at my own place before dinner. Looking at a lot of time in the car tomorrow... maybe I should bring a book.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Day 7 down, back to Canada tomorrow night. Today's sights? World's most powerful hot spring, historic sights, valleys, mountains, craters, and a turf village. Not the most exciting of days, so I only took about 280 pictures.
It's been a good trip, but like all of them, I'm looking forward to getting home. There's really no place like it.
Two more days... I might even make the MATH.
In non trip-related news, I found out my live club is moving again. No word on the new location, and it all seems a bit sudden to me. That's the problem with these places - they can be a tad... transient. Here's hoping they get the new digs up and running on time. In the meantime, I'm off work all next week, anybody want to meet up in Niagara?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Day 6 done. 882 pictures between days 5 and 6 alone. That likely puts me over 2000 so far, with close to 2 full days here, and 1 more in Nova Scotia. I´ve never been to Cape Breton.
Today - cold. Mountains are chilly when it´s overcast, you´re a few degrees away from the arctic circle, and there´s a bitter wind blowing off that incredibly powerful waterfall. 2 waterfalls, some cold, lava formations, pseudocraters, and the capital of northern Iceland... 260+km of driving. And sheep.. always the sheep.
Nice dinner of salted cod in a mango salsa (was torn between that and Kangaroo.. go figure), and my brother´s birthday. Fun times.
Posted by Astin at 7:53 PM
Quick one today.. really, these are also so I have a record.
Glaciers, glaciers, and more glaciers. Then a lagoon full of icbergs, seals, gulls, and terns. I didn´t know that particular shade of blue actually existed in nature.
Then the fjords. Well, some of them. Driving along a windy coastal road that was paved occasionally was... lengthy... and beautiful. We opted to take the long way around once it was decided that maybe our little car would have a hard time with an unpaved 17-degree slope on a narrow road up and over a mountain. As it got dark, we discovered the main road eventually did something very similar, but at a slightly better angle. It was a bit harrowing to drive a pothole-filled mountain roadway with hairpin turns in the dark. We made it eventually though.
Don´t worry, there will be a full report up on my return.
Posted by Astin at 6:35 AM
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Another quick post, although I'm using a full keyboard this time. Today I took a stroll behind a waterfall, took a few dozen pictures of people reaching for rainbows, and watched puffins, gulls, terns, ducks, and one seal live their lives off a cliff face in the north Atlantic.
Remember that link from a couple weeks ago wishing I could see something like it? I was there, I got the pictures.
449 pictures today. I'm well over a thousand, with 5 full days left. I don't envy me once I decide to pick and choose.
Finished the day of with some fantastic lamb here in Klauster. 300-400km to go tomorrow. Glaciers, more puffins, fjords and coast. It really gets interesting after that when we hit the north side of the country.
Posted by Astin at 7:08 PM
Monday, August 13, 2007
Day 1 down. Actually, days 1 & 2. 384 pictures so far. I may have a problem. Having fun, but my palmtop is not the best for typing.
BTW - it is mildy fun to suddenly find yourself in a cloud of sulfur- filled water vapour and be instantly soaked. Seriously.
Posted by Astin at 5:31 AM
Friday, August 10, 2007
If it happens twice, it's tradition.
The new tradition seems to be that during the summer, work pays for a big ol' gathering of a bunch of people at the very nice rooftop patio at Ultra here in the T-dot. That was last night. Free drinks, free hors d'oeuvres, and lots of mingling and conversation. Definitely a welcome respite.
After the outing, I walked the 5 minutes home (another reason I like this tradition), and soon after got a call from one of my best friends, who happens to live in a mining town about 3km from buttfuck nowhere. It was good to chat with her for an hour or so before we both went off on our respective vacations (she's going camping for a week, I'm going to Iceland... we're both jealous of each other).
And then I decided to fire up an $11 turbo to play. I didn't realize until we were heads-up that it was a peep. Oops. See, I didn't actually want a token, I wanted cash. I had knocked out 6 of the 7 shmoes who sat down with me (flopping quad sevens on my second hand helped get that ball rolling), and had about a 2k chip lead on my opponent, who had quietly sat back and let me do the heavy lifting. Blinds were at 40/80, so there was no rush. I found 66 in front of me, and raised. He pushed, I thought... and called. He flips over A9o and rivers the 9.
Between the drinks and late hour, I didn't realize I was playing for a level TWO token, so I decided I wanted 2nd place money, but wasn't going to completely donk to it. If I'd noticed 1st was a $75 token instead of a $26, I'd have probably played a bit differently. So between registering for the wrong SnG, and then not realizing what I was playing for, I shortchanged myself. Oops. Reasons why I should only play while sober and awake.
Sweet ghost of Charles Elmer Hires these look gooooooood. A friend is house/catsitting for me while I'm gone, and will be making some. I'm jealous like you wouldn't believe.
Chances are I'm done with poker until I return from my trip. Good luck to everyone at the felt. I expect to read about thousands upon thousands of dollars of cashes when I return. Perhaps even an FTOPS champ?
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Congrats to LJ for pulling in a big score in the 32k yesterday! I can only hope that when I get back and have a week to sit around on my ass at home that I can do something similar. :)
I, however, did not cash in the 32k, or the 28k, or 24k, or 50-50. Of course, this is partially due to me not playing in any of them. Instead I met up with my buddy from high school days who now lives in Montreal. It was good times with him and his girlfriend. We always have some laughs when we meet up.
Then I came home, far too sober, and fired up an $11 Turbo SnG before I called it a night. And went out on my 2nd or 3rd hand when I found cowboys on the button. MP raises to 60, there's a caller, and then I re-raise to 150, figuring that will keep at least one person in and but not let anyone else come along. BB thinks and calls, initial raiser re-re-raises to 360, caller folds, and I re-re-re-raise all-in because I want this done. If he has aces, so be it. BB folds, and MP calls... and flips over ATh. Dammit, that's got disaster written all over it. T on the flop, A on the turn, and no K on the river. IGH after about 2 minutes.
So I fire up another. QTo that I get in for cheap with in LP . Yah, it's a crappy hand, but I'm a weeeee bit tilty. Q on the flop and there's a bet, call, I call. Turn could fill in some douche if they had A4 for a straight, but that's it. Weak beat, call, I PUSH... into a set and that A4. Whoops.
So I didn't play anymore and did 3 days worth of photos from my trip to Israel in February instead. Those might actually get up some time! Especially since I now have a photo-stitching program that works quite well. Saves me a load of time.
I highly doubt I'll get to the Riverchasers tonight. Free drinks after work, and a bunch of pre-trip stuff I really should get started on. After that though? I'll probably push with kings again.
So, what do you think of the changes?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Out 16th or something like that in the MATH tonight. 99 meets Zeem's TT with a T on the flop. Funny thing is that as soon as I saw the 99, I gave up. I hadn't really been playing all that well, and figured I was either winning or going home with this hand. I wasn't into it, and quickly shut off Full Tilt and was done.
Of course, now I realize that that will be the last blogger game I'll be playing for a couple weeks. I'm meeting up with an out-of-town friend on Wednesday, and either seeing a movie or packing or both on Friday. Is there a Riverchasers this week? I might show up there. Then I'm off to Iceland with my new camera. Here's hoping I can take at least one or two decent pictures with it. If not, I'll likely have 3 others with me. I think I'm done with camera purchase for a while. If I take enough, I'll probably come up with some I like.
Posted by Astin at 12:30 AM
Monday, August 06, 2007
Played in the 50-50 tonight. As is rapidly becoming tradition, Chad ended up at my table for a while, this time on my right.
I'll confirm he got some absolutely horrific beats laid on him. Thing is, he's still alive with 2 tables left (and now out 15th). Me?
So, a better pay than I got with 4th in the Mookie, and it covered all my buy-ins and attempts at buy-ins last night plus a bit of profit. Which is good, since the Big Game didn't go so well for me. I started both of the tournaments 30 min late as well, which was less than advantageous.
I guess I should explain the title. My last hand of the 50-50:
Dealt 33 in the BB. MP raises as usual, and I call. Flop comes 664, I bet 20k into the 29k pot, leaving me with about 19k. Raiser thinks, and I know I've got him. He pushes, I call, and he flips over AQ. Any guesses what hits?
Nope. 4 on the turn, counterfeiting my 2 pair, K on the river helps nobody. I'm done in 20th. About 5 hours of play, $211 profit. I guess $42 an hour isn't a bad rate.
But here's what you really want to know.
AA - 5 times
KK - 3 times
QQ - 4 times
JJ - 1 time
10 other pocket pairs (everything but 88; 33 and 66 twice)
AK - 9 times
AQ - 1 time
AJ - 5 times
KQ - 5 times
KJ - 6 times
QJ - 4 times
So once again, 18% of all the hands were a pocket pair, AK, A-face, or paint. I hope everyone cleaned out their buckets from last time. The sad part? I got almost nothing for the aces. The first one got me a built pot (I raised the limpers, and most called), the second got me an all-in, and after that? Nothing but blinds. I guess I should mix up my play a bit more with them.
Long weekend in some parts of Canada. I love the extra day off. 4 day week, and then 2 weeks off, including 1 week in Iceland. I need a vacation.
Friday, August 03, 2007
It's simple, get these hands. Oh, this will be long. And you might want a bucket near you to puke in. You've been warned.
This was my FIRST Hand. Keep an eye on the numbers in the corner.
Two hand earlier I asked where my Aces were. Now seriously, this is crazy, even for me. Look at these 3 CONSECUTIVE hands.
Recess had just won dirty against someone else. Whoops.
This is where the
first third level of blinds ended. So that's what? 30 minutes? IronGirl was also the first of 8 people I knocked out.
And then Lightning
1st break is here.
2 hands later I got JJ. 2 hands after that I knocked out NightRanger/StB and his pocket kings when my ducks flopped a set. Then I got moved, so I missed those screen shots from the last hand window.
Now THIS is a lead.
Zeem didn't make it, but played his short-stack masterfully. This is the first of a few he managed. This also starts a succession of AJ and AQ. Look at the numbers in the corner.
Oh, and a 99 in there.
I hurt Garth here... badly.
Still going with the AJ and AQ sequence.
New table, same cards. And LJ.
Haven't seen these in a while.
And we're at the 2nd break. That would be 2 hours in. AA twice, KK twice, and TONS of Ace-Face.
And it continues in hour 3.
Final table fun.
And the hand that did me in. I was in 4th, blinds were big and coming around quickly of course, so I pushed over the top and NumbBono called. I counted. 17 aces in the deck. I got most of them earlier.
Am I really going to complain?
Here's the final tally:
24 pocket pairs
AA 4 times
KK 3 times
JJ 2 times
TT-22 at least once each (66 & 55 twice, 44 & 33 3x in case you were wondering)
Everything but QQ
AK 4 times
AQ 7 times
AJ (which is GOLD!) 9 times
KQ 4 times
KJ 2 times
QJ 6 times
So out of 306 hands, 56 (18%) were pairs, Ace-face, or faces. I didn't bother counting any medium suited connectors, but those were there too of course.
Are you sick? I thought so.
So, what's my excuse for not winning? I don't have one. I got cards and boards from start to finish in what might be the sickest run ever seen in these blogger events, if not most 56-runner tournaments. I guess it's appropriate for the scene.
I don't blame the 66, I can't. I could have folded, but then I'd either be waiting for better cards or cold stealing. In the end, it was my play before the sixes that hurt me. I didn't maximize value from my Aces at the final table, and while I did steal occasionally, I didn't resteal, and got restolen from far too often. I picked a few spots poorly with cards I wasn't willing to go to war with. But we learn from our mistakes. Next time, I'll be better.
Congrats go to NumbBono for taking it down heads-up against Jordan, who fought back from a REALLY short stack to a hell of a heads-up battle. Way to go both of you guys. Also Congrats to SelltheKids for 3rd, and everyone else who cashed. Yes, even Waffles. It was a hell of a final table.
Thanks to Al, Hoy and Mookie (the only of the 3 to cash!) for all the work in putting the whole BBT together. You guys rock so hard there should be a law.
P.S. - I starting playing with Alt text today with the images. Anybody notice? Go ahead, hover over a screenshot.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
The time: About 2:00pm. The place: My work (2nd floor).
I stand up at my desk and catch that there's an ambulance outside. This isn't entirely unusual, but it warrants a look. Odd, there's also 4 cop cars. And the sidewalk is taped off. That is unusual. Oh, there goes one of the cars with lights flashing. Police are taking statements. Wonder what happened. Rumour is someone tried to rob the bank. That's brilliant, rob the head branch of the largest bank in the country in the downtown of the largest city. Yup.
The police seemed to be taking a while to get statements. Well, there'd be a lot of people. Back to work. Look again... new EMS vehicle? And what's that? Oh, THAT would be the the BOMB SQUAD.
Out come the robots. Around 3:10 we're told that they're clearing our floor. No? Really? About time. So we all walk outside, and find the nearest patio to have a few drinks and watch the goings-on. Firetrucks, Hazardous Materials team, okay then. About 4:15 they started letting people back in.
So, some guy comes in, claims he has a bomb, and asks for some ridiculous sum of money. Negotiates for it in fact, and the cops show up and grab him. There was no bomb.
The beer was good. Glad it was a slow day.
Forgot about The Mookie tonight, whoops. In other news, dumb fuckers in the 50-50 who call pot-sized bets all the way down with A4o on an A5532 (three heart board, I had a 5) can kiss my ass.
Surfing Boing Boing and Neatorama today. Now I pass these links along to you.
52 Influential Photographs
If I had kids, they'd totally have this.
Yet somehow these guys are still running free.
What an awesome cat. Mine's still cuter.
I now have a new way to fold shirts.
Why should so many ice cubes die needlessly? Yes, I bought one.
I'm going to Iceland in 1 1/2 weeks. I hope I see something like this.
Posted by Astin at 12:49 PM