Thank you M.

The is a cashier Bonus in Kringlan who always bags things up for me. Like they do it in America. Also, she goes the extra mile to talk English to foreigners. She always says “Good Morning”, and she always says “Good Bye”, too. I don’t know if she is always happy, but at least she smiles for the customers.

Somehow, this assistant definitely makes an effort to make you feel better. And you really do feel better, when you hand money to someone and get the feeling that your cash is appreciated. I don’t say I always and deliberately choose the queue that this cashier serves at, that would be creepy. But I’m always glad if thing turn out that way.

Maybe no one, here in Iceland work in commerce for long, because they don’t think they are being appreciated. And maybe the owners  do not realize not realize how much a good salesman/saleswoman brings in, at the end of the day. That’s why I want to say: “Happy Commerce Holiday” to all you sales people. An especially to that you lady in Bonus in Kringlan. The one that always bags things up for me.

An Open Letter to Gouda Cheese

Note to international users: I wrote this piece when the main Icelandic cheese maker decided to change the name of their Gouda cheese to Góðostur (Goodcheese).

Dear Gouda cheese.

I see that you are changing your name and yout want to be called be called Góðostur (Goodcheese) from now on. Congratulations on that! Everyone has the right to call themselves what they want. You publish your name-changing application in the papers. In the field “reasons for application” you write:

“It was beginning to be kind of silly to have a foreign name, since I’m actually pure Icelandic.”

Why did you like that, my dear cheese? What made ​you feel silly? Has anyone been making fun of your name? Have you been reading any blogs? Have you been listening to a lot of call-in radio shows?  By all means, I’m not telling you what you are allowed to call yourself, it’s your choice, but I really hope you did not consider yourself to be somewhat worse of cheese, just because you had a foreign name. And if that is really what you think, then please, don’t spread that message.

I must say that I felt uncomfortable when I read your explanation for the name change. Many Icelanders have foreign names and I do not think we should be spreading the view in the press that these names are silly, or that it is silly for that Icelanders to have them. No name is silly unless someone finds it silly. And really, no one should say that someone else’s name is silly. That’s just silly.

Someone designed this ad for you, my dear cheese, and probably they meant no harm. But I want to tell you, just to clean the atmosphere between us, that I felt sad, and slightly uncomfortable, when I read your clarifications on your name change in the papers. But I will not be angry with you, my dear Góðostur. You are, after all, just a cheese. I can’t be known for being angry with a cheese.

“Still whining about the Holocaust”

Professor Stefán Ólafsson professor writes strange article on his website, where he wonders why some people still want to speak communism being bad policy . I mean what is it with these people, it was two whole decades ago !

Stefan says among other things: “One would have thought , that this ghost had been put to rest in our part of the world , with the collapse of Soviet System aronund 1990. Many supporters of communism in the West had in fact abandoned ship long before that. the. The time of communism seemed very much over.” [Translation: PB]

Then follows a failed imagery of a communism ghost that libertarians are supposedly raising from the dead to direct attention away from  how bad capitalism is. Stefán Olafsson adds:

But why are radical libertarians , such as Thor Whitehead and Hannes Hólmstein, writing history and picture books about long dead ideology ? Or holding conferences and Tea Parties to discuss crimes committed to 70 to 100 years ago?

They even got the fair and pleasant Egill Helgason to pour tea at the séances today. ” [Note: Egill Helgason is a popular Icelandic TV talk show host.]

Seventy to one hundred years ago? So what, from 1912 to 1942 ? Is that communism’s evil period ranges according to Stefan Olafsson ? The communism hadn’t even began to spread communism round the world back then . What about all the purges at the end of World War II ? Occupation of the Baltic States ? Coups and electoral frauds in Eastern Europe? Invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 ? What about Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, which cost tens of millions of lives ? Does this not count?

One the people present to these ” séances” was Anna Funder , author of Stasiland. A large part of that book takes place in the long-forgotten 80’s. The decade when Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Radiohead were founded. The decade when Spaugstofan  started . Those who died in the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and those who died in Lithuania in 1991 would be in their forties today. It is truly amazing how people are still making fuss about this.

There is no further then communism to an end in our part of the world I is thirty two years old today managed to learn the geography of their suf the People’s Republic of Poland had these neighbors : the USSR , Czechoslovakia and East Germany . Indeed, had seven children , of course, to learn long names : Union socialist USSR , Tékkóslóvakíska Republic and the Democratic Republic of Germany . Not figured into my mind that this skill would Obsoletes within four years .

And of course, it’s not like communism is all dead and gone . Not in Cuba . Not in North Korea. Not in China. People call themselves communist education without ashamed of it and people are always willing to deny these facts for this policy and its relatives . In August, a series of courses held under the banner of Marxism and the whole four teachers at the school late summer root in Víðsjá Broadcasting. One workshop focused on the need for revolutionary wing political party ( revolution is nothing krúttorð , it means ” violence” , people are hit and people die ) . MPs attended this event. Reading list for some classes consisted of works by Marx and Lenin .

I do not use big words , but I must admit that I find this a bit odd. But maybe I’m just so old. I mean I must be. After all I was born in a communist state . I must be at least seventy .

Ethnic Map of Reykjavik

A Map of Reykjavik showing where different nationalities live. Each dot symbolizes 25 people. CC-BY-SA 3.0

  Here is a rather large map showing the nationalities of the inhabitants of Reykjavik. Each dot represents around 25 people. You can click on it for higher defintion. The Icelanders are shown in gray, since they would otherwise dominate the map. The locations within each district are representative only, so do not expect to meet 25 Lithuanians at an exact location of a green dot. There are some interesting patterns to be see here. The most diverse districts are the City centre, Vesturbær, Austurbær and Breiðholt. Breiðholt is particularly popular among Poles and Lithuanians whereas those from Westernern Europe and the USA prefer the city centre. This one is inspired on New York Times’ visualization of the US-census, called Mapping America, Every City, Every Block. I got the data for the most populous nationalities in every district of Reykjavik from the Statistical Office of Iceland. You can see the file I ended up using here: distvsnat.xlsx.

A Monument of Civil Violence

 Some people find it appropriate to construct a sculpture near the parliament where MPs are told that they will be beaten up if they do not perform. I don’t. Now what?


Once, when I was young and stupid, I published a magazine called “The Blue Integral – the voice of right wing math students.” It was a messy little tabloid. One day I held a festival in the student facilities where I put posters of David Oddsson and quotes of Bush and Thatcher on the walls. Many of my fellow students thought this was funny, but some did not. I was pissed off at those who did not find it funny. How did they dare ruining my day by not finding my jokes clever?


I’m sorry, I simply do not share their view of those that believe that the times when they smashed the windows of Parliament, when they broked into the Althing’s spectator platforms, and when they harassed MPs on way to work and outside their homes… I do not consider those to be the finest moment in the history of the Republic of Iceland. And I do not want to see these events commemorated. People may disagree with me. But no one can force me to like something I don’t.


What is the iconic imagery of this black cone? We have a black color, favorite color anarchists. We have a reference to the French Revolution. Date of installation work was chosen to remind us of the “pots and pans revolution”. All this sends a message. The message: “Dear Members of Parliament, you only sit here just as long as we, the mob, feel like letting you.”

Of course I agree that MPs only sit as long as they have people’s mandate. But MPs are to be substituted by throwing ballot in a box, but not by throwing stones at windows.


I have recently been reading some of the essays of the newly deceased former president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel. In his essay “The power of the Powerless” from 1978 Havel expresses the opinion that the use of violence is only justified in extreme marginal cases, for example as a response to an extremely violent dictator and if the use of force can in fact stop the violence. As an example he takes the allied war against the axis powers in World War II. Vaclav Havel is, however, against the use of force against the communist totalitarian governments of Central and Eastern Europe. It is his opinion that they neither deserve it, nor would such an armed struggle be fruitful.

I tend to agree with Havel. Maybe at some time we here in Iceland will have such an disgusting government that getting rid of them with violence may be justified. But so far are we, and have always been, from that point, that even mentioning this route to power is a bit like threatening a child who just spilled milk with death sentence.

Repeated reminders that violence and riots are justified as a means of achieving power, are more likely to establish fascism, rahter than impede it.


I do not like this piece of art at all. It claims to exalt disobedience, but actually it elevates the idea of violence against people we have chosen to make our society a little bit better. I do not want to see this message in a public space, let alone do I approve of such a raised fist being erected a stone’s throw from Parliament House. If anyone disagrees with me then they can offer their own private premises to host this artwork and open them up to it so that others who are similarly disposed towards it could admire it. But thing like that do not belong in Austuvöllur.


I myself realized that if I perform art by pasting Thatcher quotes on the wall in math students facilities I could not require of others that they would share my sense of humor . People can have their opinions, even opinions such as the ones that violence against elected representatives can be justified. But they can not claim public space for permanent glorification of such message. And expect that those who do not accept it will just swallow it.

Eurovision Song Contest 2012 – Projection for the Final

As promised, I publish my projection for the Eurovision song contest 2012. The model is based on two factors a) Youtube view counts and b) Friendship coefficients, based on the results of of the competitions in past decade. Enjoy!

Position Country Points
1 Russia 442
2 Turkey 440
3 Sweden 327
4 Cyprus 214
4 Germany 214
6 Serbia 140
7 Azerbaijan 96
8 Romania 93
9 Iceland 86
10 Albania 64
11 Ireland 51
12 Greece 38
13 Estonia 32
13 UK 32
15 Ukraine 30
16 Moldova 29
17 Denmark 24
18 Norway 23
19 Lithuania 22
19 Spain 22
21 Macedonia 15
22 France 1
22 Hungary 1
24 Bosnia 0
24 Italy 0
24 Malta 0

You can find the detailed projection here:esc2012projectionfinal.

Eurovision Song Contest 2012 – Projection for the Second Semi-Final

Last Tuesday PaBaMapa projected the results of the first semifinal of the Eurovision Song Contest. We got nine out of ten entries right. The projection for the second semifinal follows here, these are the ten projected finalists in decreasing probability order:

  1. Turkey
  2. Serbia
  3. Sweden
  4. Estonia
  5. Norway
  6. Croatia
  7. Bosnia
  8. Slovenia
  9. Georgia
  10. Macedonia

In fact Lithuania and Macedonia were tied to the point in the 10th place in the projection, We had to apply tie braking procedures to put Macedonia ahead. This projection relies heavily on Youtube watch-counts, making this semi-final a bit problematic since turkey has 4 times more hits than the next country. For fun: here are the youtube-hits for each country (in thousands) as they were on monday evening.

1 turkey 4104
2 russia 2155
3 germany 2024
4 greece 1700
5 cyprus 1655
6 ireland 1179
7 uk 1000
8 sweden 810
9 azerbaijan 797
10 romania 786
11 croatia 786
12 montenegro 588
13 serbia 570
14 spain 555
15 italy 508
16 albania 457
17 austria 445
18 iceland 440
19 san marino 433
20 bosnia 414
21 slovenia 404
22 norway 366
23 france 350
24 estonia 341
25 macedonia 332
26 malta 314
27 israel 302
28 finland 294
29 ukraine 290
30 slovakia 275
31 bulgaria 265
32 hungary 250
33 belgium 243
34 latvia 230
35 denmark 230
36 belarus 203
37 lithuania 202
38 switzerland 195
39 netherlands 189
40 portugal 182
41 moldova 179
42 georgia 138


Eurovision Song Contest 2012 – Projection for the First Semi-Final

We here at are proud to present our projection for the 1st semi-final of Eurovision Song Contest 2012. We project that the following 10 countries will make it to the final on the 26th of May, 2012:

  1. Cyprus
  2. Russia
  3. Albania
  4. Greece
  5. Romania
  6. Ireland
  7. Iceland
  8. Moldova
  9. San Marino
  10. Denmark
This projection is based on two factors. First of all we looked at the YouTube hits for each song in the evening of 21st of May, 2012, (night before the first competition, they will be very skewed after that). Secondly we used the results from the competitions 2001-2010 to calculate “friendship-quotient” for each pair of countries. For example Cyprus and Greece have a very high friendship quotient  (in both directions) since they give each other lots of points.  We then used this to simulate the results for the first semifinal. The two scores (youtube/country- friendship) were added together and projected on to the classical Eurovision 1-8, 10, 12 scoring progression.
You can see the full projection under the following file: esc_1stsemiprojection2012.

  The projections for the second semifinal as well as the final will be provided on the days of those events. But long story short: Russia is looking strong.  

Breakdown of the Votes in the Case of the Former Prime Minister of Iceland

The former Prime Minister of Iceland, Geir H. Haarde, was on trial for numerous accounts, related to the banking collapse of 2008. The Parliament had indicted him on 6 counts. Two of those were dismissed by the Court of Impeachment. He was acquitted on further three. At the end of the day he was found guilty of “not holding Cabinet meetings on important State matters”. The justices on the Court of Impeachment were unanimous in their decisions to acquit the former PM for three of the charges. The vote on the fourth went 9-6. Here’s a brief breakdown of the votes on that one.

Votes in the Court of Impeachment on whether fmr. PM Geir H. Haarde was guilty of "not holding ministerial meetings on important State matters".

Here’s the breakdown in some more detail. The Court of Impeachment consists of 8 judges chosen by the Parliament, 5 longest-serving Supreme Court judges, 1 Proffessor of Constitutional Law from the University of Iceland and The Chief Judge of Reykjavik District Court.

Parliament Appointed Judges

The Parliament chose the judges for the Court of Impeachment in 2005. The judges were chosen using proportional list representation. There were two lists: List A was the list of judges nominated by right-wing government at the time, List B were the judges nominated by (then) left-wing opposition. Here is those list of judges, that ended up sitting in the court, along with their list affiliation and verdict.

Judge List Verdict
Linda Rós Michaelsdóttir A Not Guilty
Sigrún Magnúsdóttir A Not Guilty
Fannar Jónasson A Not Guilty
Ástríður Grímsdóttir A Not Guilty
Vilhjálmur H. Vilhjálmsson B Guilty
Hlöðver Kjartansson B Guilty
Brynhildur Flóvenz B Guilty
Magnús Reynir Guðmundsson B Guilty

Thus, the pattern here seems pretty clear. Those nominated by the left (or current government) voted to convict, those nominated by the the current opposition voted “not guilty. The full list of judges nominated by the Parliament as well as the stand-ins can be found under the following link:

Supreme Court Judges

Supreme Court judges are nominated by the Minister of the Interior (formerly Minister of Justice). Here’s the list of the 5 Supreme Court justices, the political background of the minister nominating them and their verdict:

Judge Nominating Minister Verdict
Markús Sigurbjörnsson Right Guilty
Garðar Gíslason Right Not Guilty
Ingibjörg Benediktsdóttir Right Guilty
Viðar Már Matthíasson Left Guilty
Eiríkur Tómasson Left Guilty

The Justice Ministers in the years 1991-2009 were all members of the right-wing Indpendence party. A left-wing government took power in 2009. Note that this necessarily indicates the political background of the justices themselves, just the ministers (or governments) nomitating them. It should also be mentioned that there, where more senior judges on the Supreme Court, who apparently did not take their seats in the Court of Impeachment, probably due to their connection to the defendant.

Other Judges

Finally there are two more judges, one from the university of Iceland, and the Chief Judge Reykjavik District Court. (Both where in fact Stand-ins as the the professor of Constitutional Law, Björg Thorarensen opted out, and the Chief Judge of Reykjavik District Court was on a leave.)

Judge Institution Verdict
Benedikt Bogason University of Iceland Not Guilty
Eggert Óskarsson District Court of Reykjavik Guilty

Benedikt Bogarson has been a District Court Judge, (nominated by a right-wing minister) and was recently appointed to the Supreme Court by a left-wing minister. Eggert Óskarsson was nominated to the Reykjavik District Court by right wing minister but had been serving as a Reykjavik City Judge for some time before that. (Similar comments apply to some of the Supreme Court Judges in the paragraph before, there “political connection” is not always 100% clear. Or at least not to me.) You can find the full verdict (in Icelandic) here: