valkyrieza: (blue open window)
Just had a sushi lunch courtesy of a sushi chef that arrives at the company canteen twice a month. I feel so spoiled, but the chef is absolutely excellent!  Now I can get back to work with a lighter heart and a fuller stomach.

I also managed to find the site for the lovely restaurant [personal profile] claidheamhmor, [personal profile] melancthe and myself visited a couple of years back. They have a wonderful buffet, a cosy blues bar and beautiful scenery. Would be a nice place for a LJ meetup, especially for a lazy late morning lunch where there is nothing to do, but have a lazy conversation over a glass of wine with sleepy blue horizon hugging the mountain line. I am not really exaggerating the view either, especially from the top floor of the restaurant.

I would of course, love to dine at this place. I went past it in December on the way to the Rhino and Lion Park and it does look as good as in the pictures. However, having looked at the menu perhaps it is one of those places to visit around bonus time:)
valkyrieza: (Firefly - Walsh this land)

Hobbit hominids lived the island life

Wed Apr 18, 6:43 AM ET

A tantalising piece of evidence has been added to the puzzle over so-called "hobbit" hominids found in a cave in a remote Indonesian island, whose discovery has ignited one of the fiercest rows in anthropology.

Explorers of the human odyssey have been squabbling bitterly since the fossilised skeletons of tiny hominids, dubbed after the diminutive hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien's tale, were found on the island of Flores in 2003.

Measuring just a metre (3.25 feet) tall and with a skull the size of a grapefruit, the diminutive folk lived around 20,000 and 80,000 years ago and appear to have been skillful toolmakers, hunters and butchers.

They have been honoured with the monicker Homo floresiensis by their discoverers, who contend the cave-dwellers were a separate species of human that descended from Homo erectus, which is also presumed to be the ancestor of modern man.

That claim has huge implications and has been widely contested.

If true, it would mean that H. sapiens, who has been around for around 150,000-200,000 years, would have shared the planet with rival humans far more recently than thought.

And it implies that H. sapiens and H. floresiensis lived side by side on Flores for a while -- and, who knows, may even have interbred, which could have left "hobbit" genes in our DNA heritage.

In a study that appears on Wednesday in the British journal Biology Letters, evolutionary zoologists at Imperial College London believe the hobbits may well have achieved their tininess naturally, through evolutionary pressure.

The principle under scrutiny here is called the "island rule."

It stipulates that because food on a small island is limited, smaller species do well and get bigger over time, sometimes becoming relatively gargantuan.

But larger species, facing fierce competition for a small amount of food, become smaller, because those members that eat less have an advantage.

Lindell Bromham and Marcel Cardillo trawled through published journals and online databases to see how primates performed when subjected to the "island rule."

True enough, small primate species (ones weighing less than five kilos, 11 pounds) all pumped up compared to their mainland relatives -- but all the larger primates became smaller, in a range of between 52 and 80 percent.

That fits in well with H. floresiensis, who was around 55 percent of the mass of a modern Indonesian and probably 52 percent of an H. erectus.

So the evidence backs the idea that the hobbits were an insular dwarf race -- humans who became smaller, possibly after the island separated from the mainland and left them marooned with diminished food resources.

The authors refuse, though, to wade into the debate as to whether the hobbits were H. erectus or H. sapiens.

Also unclear is why the hominids had a relatively undersized brain compared to their diminutive body. A modern human child of the same size has a much larger brain, as do pygmies.

A conflicting explanation for the small brains has been offered by primatologists led by Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago.

He contends that the Flores hominids were not a separate species but quite simply a tribe of H. sapiens who suffered from a pathological condition called microcephaly, which results in a small brain and body.

Martin also disputes the idea that these pint-sized creatures could have wielded the sophisticated stone tools, found in the Flores cave, which were used to butcher animals.

The hobbits tucked into a now-extinct miniature elephant, Stegadon, that also dwarfed-down under the "island rule".

Taken from Yahoo news. Article can be found here.

valkyrieza: (weir alien)
All pictures are either 1024x768 or 1600x1200 and are hidden behind a cut.

To pick up where my last post about Iceland ended. After stopping to feed the horses we were driven to a lava park. This is a clear example of Icelandic volcanic past. Of course, we were treated to both geological explanation - which I cannot remember well enough to recount here- and the more folksy version. In Icelandic folklore, trolls once were numerous in Iceland. And about a thousand years ago, almost all of them went to visit a troll that lived so far away, that he was very lonely for fellow troll company. Upon arrival, they had an incredible party that lasted all night, but they had so much fun during the party (and alcohol) that they forgot to retreat underground when the sun came up. As per legend, they turned to stone, forever immobolized in their last moments of revelry. That is a far more livelier explanation for the lava park then the actual scientific one:)



The park is enormous, and about 25 years ago, a French gentelamn has gotten lost for more then 20 hours, but if we keep in contact with the guide, the chances of getting lost are almost non-existent.

Personally, the park has not really impressed me that much. Saw some impressive scenery later though.



Then, we were off to the place where the two plates, American and Eurasian meet, with a short excursion towards the cave where the hot baths used to be.

This is not the best picture one can take, but essentially, the caves house hot springs and it was a popular bathing spot for the local populace. Unfortunately, after the volcanic eruption over 20 yers ago in the area, the water is too hot to bathe in.



Here is the split, that divides the plates. Considering the fact that my hotel stands on the American plate, one could say I've been to the continent without going through the pesky customs officials.



Let's just say you do not want to fall down there:)

On the way to see the mud pits, we saw the evidence of how truly hot Iceland is underground. Since most people use geo-thermal water, holes are drilled and generators are placed to make use of the steam power. The perfect example of hot steam rising.



This hole was drilled about 2 years ago, unfortunately, they cannot utilize it. The power of the steam is too much for the current equipment, that is on hand, to use. They are waiting for more powerful equipment, the goverment has to give aproval to buy. Beaurocracy is everywhere:) This is the hole really up close.



Since we were so close, it is amazing how powerful nature really is.
So, more views from the top.




A frozen crater, covered in ice on top, but boiling in the bottom under the ground. The expression of "Hell freezes over" has come to mind more then once:)


And more scenery featuring mud pits, they may look cold, but they are boiling.



Next stop - Krapla and sulphurous boiling mud. It looks better on camera, I swear!

valkyrieza: (gerard butler sunglasses)

Yes, I am a dreadful, lazy person, but I have an excuse, sort of - work has been busy.

So without further ado, my recount of a short trip to Iceland.

NB: All pictures are behind the cut except the first one, which is a link. Almost all of them are 1024x768. I had taken a few with the slightly higher resolution of 1600x1200, but most should be 1024x768.  That is why I did not specify the image size in the info box.


There is only one flight from Copenhagen to Reykjavik on Saturday. The trip is only 3 hours long, but as a side note, I'd like to gush about Air Iceland a bit. I have been traveling fairly extensively recently and unfortunately, work does not allow me to take higher then economy class for European flights. However, everyone knows economy flights, no leg room, no side room and a privledge to sit VERY closely to a total stranger for several hours. To my surprise, there was actually quite a bit more leg room then in any other airline I have flown before and I have flown quite a few now. Perhaps. not enough for a very tall person, but certainly more comfortable.

Anyhow, The airport, Keflavik is about an hour away from the city. The bus ride introduced me to the beautiful frozen landscapes of Iceland. Unfortunately, it was slowly getting dark and one thing my camera does not do well is taking pictures in the dark, even with the night-mode enabled.
view from the hotel
The hotel is near the central street, however opposite the hotel, is an old-style bookshop. You know the ones, full of books crowding the small space, remeniscent of the 70's spy novel for agent-to-agent meetup. It is run by an elderly gentelman, who barely spoke English.


Down the road from the hotel, the view is breathtaking and my camera simply cannot do it justice.

Still down  the road, the view of the harbour.


 The next day, I flew down to Akureyri, the most northern town in Iceland. Whilst on the plane, I managed to snatch a few pics of the ground below.

I did a few more snapshots until we landed here, in the tiny airport on this runway.


We were met by the tour guide, who after announcing his long name (Icelanders still keep to the old tradition of naming and thus do not have surnames, but rather use patronymics), but pronounced that we can call him Rabie. During the short trip around town (with a population of only 18 000 people it is not very big) he amused us with the stories about the police department - 5 guys needed during the shift, 4 to play cards and 1 to make coffee - and of the fire department - 3 guys needed, call the spare guy from the police shift to have 4 hands to play cards -  he finally took us towards the nature of the Northern part of Iceland. I thought Iceland was a very pretty place - I was wrong, it is magnificent!





The first photo stop of the day was the Waterfall of the Gods. Legend has it, that when Iceland has accepted Christianity in the 10th century, one of the elders who was instrumental in the parliament decisions, came home and threw the pagan idol statuettes into this waterfall.


So to this day it is known as Waterfall of the Gods, and due to cold and hot springs underneath, does not fully freeze.



 Our next stop, was at a forest, which had a lake with volcanic structures peaking out. It is a popular spot during summer.



The featured guest is a fellow tour member, an Australian firefighter.

The forest is really pretty in wintertime and we have been assured that in summer it's breathtaking.



Can you imagine this place in summer, in full bloom?





On the way to another photo stop, I got to see some more mountains. I really like the mountains, I can snap pictures of them all day.


On the way to the lava park, we stopped off to feed a few Icelandic horses. They are a very popular breed, a very hardy animal that due to isolation of Iceland, remained bred true as opposed to other European breeds. It is docile and has 5 gaits instead of the usual 4. These were very friendly horses, greedy for the bread we gave them.



I think this is the end for this post due to the heavy pic spam I just bestowed. Next post about Iceland - Lava park trolls!

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