Road tripping

I’ve never been a big fan of tour buses. Everywhere you go are crowded by default because you bring your own crown, and you have to adjust to someone else’s schedule. Having found a decently priced (black marked) rental through Couch Surfer, we set out to explore the southern part of Iceland on our own. 

Our weapon of choice.

Our weapon of choice.

Of course, it helps if you can see the road.

Of course, it helps if you can see the road.

And away it goes.

And away it goes.

After trying to cross the mountain pass, we figured it was safer to go around. I took the wheel and drove back down, and we took a detour around. First stop, Geysir. 

Boom there it goes.

Boom there it goes.

While Geysir erupts every few years or so, usually after an earthquake, Stokkir is much nicer and shows itself every 5-10 minutes. After an almost 10 minute wait it erupted a total of five times in less then a minute. We agreed that Stokkur must indeed be female, before moving on.

Arctic wasteland, with sharp volcanic rock adding insult to injury.

Arctic wasteland, with sharp volcanic rock adding insult to injury.

There is the occational river, though.

There is the occasional river, though.

Next stop Gullfoss, and no, it’s much colder then it looks.

I've made a habit of actually being in some of my holiday photos this time.

I've made a habit of actually being in some of my holiday photos this time.

Last stop, Þingvellir. Interestingly, this is the exact location where the continental plates between the North American and Eurasian Plates are slowly being pulled apart. This is what causes they geysers in Iceland, which in turn gives the air that sulfur smell. No reason the vikings thought Hekla was the gateway to hell.

Next stop, Þingvellir, where the vikings held their meetings of legal issues.

Þingvellir, where the vikings held their meetings on legal issues and regulations.

And with that, our round trip was complete. As the wind had cleared, we could take the route we planned to take when we first started out. It was truly a great trip, and a little taste of the three week road trip we have planned for June as a last part of our stay in the US. Iceland is a really interesting place, and I’d love to see it during the warmer months.

Time for some sleep. Tomorrow we’re getting back to Boston after a week and a half on the road. So long!

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Icelandic impressions

Coming off the plane and taking the one hour bus ride to our hotel leaves me with one impression. This is an isolated place. Long stretches of absolutely nothing. But as we walk the street under a slow drizzle, I’m beginning to feel like home. Not so much the rain, as the streets, the people and the dark gray sky. The area we’re living in reminds me a lot of Landås even. We eventually find the main street just as things start closing up, but luckily there are a few places still open. After a quick lunch we find our first kiosk, going straight for the sweets my eyes widen. I never knew how much I’d miss salty sweets, something you can’t get anywhere in the US, and here is a wall of assorted candy. And they even have chocolate covered licorice!

Ice and snow.

Ice and snow.

Happy and content we walk to the end of the street, hop in a cab and check out the only shopping venue still open; the Kringlan shopping mall. Seeing as I only brought everyday clothes I pick up a black shirt and a white tie just as the stores are closing. It is Saturday after all, and we have no intentions of staying in the hotel all night. A local band is playing in a rock club, and we stick around for an additional beer and some random chatter with the locals. We realize that Viking tastes like Bud, and call it a night. 

In the distance, steam, a signal of things to come.

In the distance, steam, a signal of things to come.

Sunday comes, and after getting up for breakfast, we go back to bed and sleep till noon. Still on San Francisco time, and this way is a killer. We rent a car from a girl I found through Couch Surfer and head for the Blue Lagoon, Icelands most famous spa and bath center. The facilities are modern and luxurious, the systems high-tech (with the entrance and access systems giving me ideas for potential gameplay features), and the white geothermal seawater is at a comfortable 42 degrees celsius with the air just below zero. I realize that there are some perks of living in Iceland. 

Floating around in salt and minerals.

Floating around in salt and minerals.

Warm water, cold land.

Warm water, cold land.

We finish the day off with a fish dinner at the spa before driving back to Reykjavik. Feeling adventurous we take the road less traveled, and end up in the middle of nowhere on a dark and ice covered road on which we do not see a single car. An arctic wasteland like nothing I’ve ever seen. Surrounded by volcanic mountains we make our way across, and knocked out from extreme relaxation we try going to bed somewhat early hoping to get the most out of tomorrows road trip around the golden circle.

This picture lies; the road was dust and ice for 90% of our trip.

This picture lies; the road was dust and ice for 90% of our trip.

After an hour of nothing, we came upon this little outpost.

After an hour of nothing, we came upon this little outpost.

And that’s it so far. Tomorrow we’re going road-tripping around to see some nature. Will make sure to get some nice shots. Byebyenow!

In Limbo

After two nights on different flights and 12 hours in Boston, the concept of sleeping cycles is lost on me. I have no idea what time my body feels it’s suppose to be, only that the sun is up and that we should probably head out to get some food. Reykjavik itself is 4 miles from the airport, not American miles but the 10 km kind. The land is open and barren, with no trees and with a few lone mountains as the only points of interest. Isolation, is what it feels like. Buildings are grey and dull, and seems to be randomly scattered in small groups as the bus takes us from the airport to our hotel. It’s freezing, snowing and the service is mediocre. Yup, we’re back in Europe all-right!

We’re off to explore downtown Reykjavik now, to see what this little 120k city has to offer. The tour guides seems to hint at Norwegian prices, the news paper total economic collapse. Time to figure out how that sums up.

San Francisco write-up

We spent our last day trawling the expo before taking the boat to Alcatraz. It was a nice ending to a very cool trip. San Francisco is high on my list of favorite cities in the world, and it is definitely a place I could see myself living. The sun was warm and comfortable, and for that I can live with the cold breeze that occasionally sweeps the city. I’ve heard that Boston and San Francisco are the two cities in the US which are most similar to Europe; If that is the case, Boston is London while San Francisco has more of a southern Europe feel to it. The parts of the city we explored had a laid back and comfortable atmosphere as soon as you got off the tourist trail, and the sun certainly helped. 

Over the hill on a cable car.

Going over the hill in a cable car.

A different part of town.

A different part of town.

Not everywhere is crowded.

Not everywhere is crowded.

Surprisingly enough, it's a one way street.

Not surprisingly, it's a one way street.

Palms at the pier.

Palms at the pier.

Eyeing The Rock.

Eyeing The Rock.

End of the line.

End of the line.

And that was a quick image recap of our touristing in San Francisco. All in all, awesome experience one very much recommended. Though next time, I’ll stay longer. Now I have to start packing for our trip to Iceland, catch you later!

GDC at a glance

Ok, sorry about the disappearing act folks. Finding an internet cafe proved harder then I thought it would be, and with so much happening at once I simply didn’t get to do as many updates as I wanted. I’ve learned my lesson though, and will make sure to bring my laptop next time I travel somewhere. Anyway, where was I. 

I wants!

The OnLive booth. Awesomeness.

Ah yes, the expo. One career expo, one presentation expo. Talking to human resource personel at the career booths gets old real fast, so we spent most of our time in the presentation expo checking out new technology, new games, and gladhanding different developers. Testing the latest mind control controller is always fun (seems a new company pops up every year), but OnLive is definitely the most interesting technology to come out of this years conference. In short, for playing the latest game on the marked it replaces the need of a badass computer with the need of a badass internet connection. It accomplishes this by letting you play games directly on their server and have the image streamed to you. An awesome idea, I tried it myself and it actually worked. The woman I talked to said that they considered it disruptive technology in the sense that it has the potential of fucking up the marked completely. Personally, I can only dream of what this technology opens up for in terms of the games that can be developed with it in mind. Available user hardware is no longer a limitation, and game worlds can be as large and as complicated as possible. AI, which tends to be a huge CPU sink be run on a supercomputer half way around the world. The possibilities are literally endless. However, even after trying it I still have my doubts on how well it will preform in practice, but we’ll see. In any case, this one is worth keeping an eye on folks.

Added social lube.

Drunk Scandinavian game developers.

Wednesday night I went into fanboy mode and blew off the IGD award ceremony to catch Neil Strauss’ book signing and Q&A session. If you haven’t already,I’d suggest you pick up The Game and Emergency even if you aren’t into non-fiction. They are both excellent reads, and his writing is both compelling and addictive. We ended the night at an open bar Nordic Game party which by that time was a drunken romp. Sadly, as with the display expo, there was very few Norwegians. Seems our industry is in a pretty bad shape, when nobody feels they have anything worth showing off to their peers. And if there was a guy from Funcom at GDC, he was probably hiding under an alias in shame. 

To be continued..

Hippies and indie games

China town was interesting enough, neon signs and countless people who didn’t speak a word of English. Today I’m trying something new. Drunk blogging. You see, when going to an Indie Game Developers party, the people I ended up talking with started throwing drinking tickets my way. Hard to turn down free drinks, and as three drinks becomes five and six drinks, it’s all lost. Luckily I’m still on Boston time, so midnight comes and it’s time to get back to our hotel.

 

Stamp on the hand means free drinks. Happy days!

Stamp on the hand means free drinks. Happy days!

In any case, Monday came and went. We went out with some people from the Gambit lab, but they ended up ditching us as we were moving to a semi-private networking party at some guys suite (I’d name drop but I simply do not remember his full name). Hang out with some interesting people, of note two girls who wrote for IGN, and a guy who loved blimps, and a few people we will have to keep in touch with from Boston.

Tuesday came, and as Kristine heads off to meet a fellow musician at Berkley I go to find someone to print me a handful of business cards. While FedEx seems to be able to do the job in a few hours, my files are in the wrong format and as I left my laptop in Boston (bad idea, I’ve learned) I’m stuck having to rely on other people again (Stein, you know who you are). After hooking up Kristine we grab Nick, a totally cool Austrian guy, and head off to go hippie-watching in Height street. Somehow, the best part of any vacation is the part I spend doing nothing. Walking around, taking in the city scape an the scenery is high on my list of favorite activities to do in new places. Height street was perfect for this with it’s odd shops, strange people and dubious smell. In an anarchist book store I even found a handbook on how to do riot control, which really made my day. It’s next on my list after The 48 Laws of Power.

The biggest city park in the US. Smells like weed and flower children.

The biggest city park in the US. Smells like weed and flower children.

Later, after walking up and down the streets of the Italian quarter, we finally find a decent place for pizza. You’d think pizza would be an easy thing to find in a place like that. Wrong. The night ended on the Independent Games party at The Cellar, where we hung out with all sorts off odd developers. I had an interesting talk with the man behind Bridge Builder, and fetched the cards of a handful of other oddities.

Tomorrow is the first day of the expo and I need to be well rested. Have a good one!

San Fran day 1

As if on cue, two hobos start fighting over a sleeping bag as a taxi speeds off into the distance. I’m standing one block away from one of the biggest shopping malls in San Francisco, looking down the street. Telling off beggars is an art form for the locals here, tourists are easy prey, and the homeless know where to go. It’s Sunday but all the shops are open and the city is bustling with activity. The topography and the buildings reminds me of a place I’ve spent many an hour. I’m walking around in Grand Theft Auto.

It's made for a high speed car chase.

It's made for a high speed car chase.

Tired after a long flight, our first day was a lazy one. We checked out our neighborhood, realizing that we are well placed near the convention center which is also conveniently located in the middle of the city. A Virgin Megastore nearby is shutting down, I suppose the economic collapse is affecting everyone these days, and Branson has already made his fortune and is ready to move elsewhere. After checking in at GDC, where we see several familiar faces from our time in academia, we hook up with a handful of the Gambit people and go for some food. Food becomes beer, and as people start getting tired we end the night with some people from Bergen, the nice gang from TurboTapeGames. Seems Scandinavians are the only ones who knows how to party, and Jesper Juul isn’t here yet.

Two guys from TurboTapeGames + 1.

Two guys from TurboTapeGames + 1.

Monday comes with a warm sun and a cold breeze, and we go for the most touristy thing we can think of, the cable car. It’s a nice trip, lamenting the fact that I’ve seen this place in dozens of movies and a good handful of games. We get tickets for Alcatraz, sadly not before Thursday, and we walk across the hill, making sure to walk down Lumbar street. Then we come across a small cozy cafe, and hey, what’s that computer in the window there? And here we are, blogging and having an ice tea as we are getting ready to check out china town. I’d add pictures, but that’s simply not an option from this computer. Hell, I can’t even read the blog itself as the browser seems to he a homebrew ZRNET access program. Hopefully I can get hold of a laptop or a proper computer later on.

That’s a little update, and now my prepaid card is running out. We’re off to china town, so have a good one!

(edited in some pictures)

With flowers in my hair

Mood music, click me. 

Strange and alternative San Francisco awaits, at least that’s what they’re telling me. I’ll make an effort to do regular picture updates if I find an internet cafe with proper hardware, which shouldn’t be impossible in this day and age. But who knows, they might still be living in the 90ies over there for all I know. Timezone is an additional -3 compared to here, so expect updates at random hours.

Boston Skyline

Boston Skyline

The city sleeps, as countless geeks are packing for their pilgrimage to the Game Development Conference.

We are two of them. 

Postcard offer

The sun is shining, the stereo is blasting, Dreamweaver is installing, weekend is coming and I’m in a totally awesome mood. A simple introduction website should be up some time today or tomorrow and hopefully my business cards shows up one of those days as well. San Francisco is our next stop, and with it GDC and a lot of interesting people. Time to put on my game face. 

But it’s not all fun and games and we’ll be spending the first few days exploring the city before attending the second part of the conference. Urban vacations tends to include a lot of walking around, looking at things, stopping for food and drinks at random intervals through the day. I get restless sitting around and it got me thinking; I haven’t written a post card in ages. So here’s the deal. Post your snail mail address here, and I will send you a postcard. No matter who you are, an address here  will net you a postcard and a custom greeting from the city of LGBT. 

It’s public domain anyway. What are you afraid of?

Coming to visit?

There are a few of you out there who has been toying with the idea of coming to visit us, and some have even booked the trip already. Our calendar for April is beginning to fill up, specially seeing as we are going to San Francisco next week and then for a quick trip to Iceland to reset my Visa Waiver the week after. So if you want to see Boston and hang out with yours truly, this is the time to start planning. The plane ticket should run you about 5,500 kroner for a round trip, hotel room nearby goes for about 600 to 800 kroner a night depending on whether you travel alone or not, and you can feed yourself for less then 100 kroner a day. I’ll be here to keep you company and show you around during the day, and Kristine will join us when she’s done at the office. 

As for Boston, the weather is usually nice in the spring time, it hardly ever rains and the sun is warm. There’s a river for sailing, different kinds of shopping areas and lots of things to do when the weather starts turning. It’s not your typical American city, for that there’s New York which is a 4 hour bus ride away, but you will still get a taste of American culture and a change of pace from everyday life.  

If there is something you want to do some time in the future, do you know when the best time to start planning is?

Now.

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