mánudagur, október 31, 2005

liquid assets

We had some extra booze left over from Saturday's big party. A whole 18 Budweisers, in fact. (The original Budweiser, brewed in south Bohemia, not the copycat watery American version. But I'll leave that topic for the forthcoming Czech Report.) Now 18 beers may not seem like a lot to you outlandish readers, but here those beers are each like a block of gold. A fully fungible asset, each gleaming can. So exchangeable, in fact, that the state-run booze stores will take them back and issue a 100% refund. So on the way home from work today, E and I stopped off at the gleaming Smáralind booze store and while E perused the hot schnapps selection, I explained my situation to the elderly cashier. Within half a minute, I was walking out the door, 3582 krónur back in my pocket. That's $58.54. Blocks of gold, each and every one.

the search is over

My work buddy and sometime Iceland Report commenter SR was out with his soccer league buddies on Saturday night. They get together once a year and whichever subset of them played the best gets to keep their league trophy until the next year. They've been passing this same trophy back and forth for five years, but the other night at Mama's Tacos downtown, the guy with the trophy came to the table empty-handed.

"I don't have the trophy cause I gave it to Bobby Fischer," he said.

Nobody believed him. But around the corner from them Fischer and his Japanese wife were indeed munching on Icelandic Mexican food, Fischer the proud new owner of an Icelandic soccer trophy. The soccer hooligans invited the couple to join them, but Fischer demurred and left the restaurant. Later in the evening, though, Fischer and his wife returned to Mama's Tacos, apparently having reconsidered the offer. Fischer sat down with the guys and they hoisted a few beers together. He was nice enough, says SR, who mainly talked to him about soccer. Nobody challenged him to a chess game, which was probably for the best.

föstudagur, október 28, 2005


Last night the wind howled all night at a constant roar with little variation and no letup. Poised as we are, five floors up and directly on the water, there was nothing between us and the wind. It was as if our apartment building was a tiny stone at the bottom of a vast rushing river of wind. Every time I woke up in the night, all I could hear was the same roar, and I slept well knowing that I was warm and safe inside while nature ripped into Iceland as best she could just outside the glass.

This morning the storm was still going full-tilt as we awoke. It was 7:30 and pitch black outside, and when I went to the window there was confectioners' sugar snow blowing sideways under the streetlights. The drive to work along the seashore road was a tad hair-raising, with frozen-over patches of sea spray clinging to the asphalt, topped by a dry-ice fog of sideways-blowing snow. A couple more mornings like this one and I'll be off to see my all-knowing Icelandic tire guy to get some spiked shoes for the ole RAV4.

miðvikudagur, október 26, 2005

skíta og pissa

For those of you who don't know, the Icelandic language is a brother language to Old English (and Old German, too). This is because Icelandic is basically Old Norse, little changed in over 1,000 years. The three old languages share a common parent language. As such there are many words in Icelandic that are similar to English (bók/book, hús/house, borð/board, grænn/green) and many more that are the same as Old English words that have since fallen out of favor. (My favorite example of this is the word for barrel in Icelandic: tunna. Old English had tun, which I only ever saw in "Moby Dick".) These similarities make it easy to learn a lot of Icelandic vocabulary as an English speaker. But there is a dark side to this convenience.

Old English had some names for bodily functions that became "dirty words" once new spring-fresh Latin words came in via French. These old words used to be the workaday nonoffensive words, but went downmarket with the advent of newer, "cleaner" expressions. Many of these words, however, remain in Icelandic where they are still used today in polite company.

These words can be jarring to an English speaker. Today on the walk down to lunch my coworker was talking about housetraining her family's new puppy, and using the verbs að skíta (to shit) and að pissa (to piss): the puppy was pissing on the newspaper in the foyer, but he was now able to shit outside. I was trying my hardest to stifle a laugh because my English mind kept interrupting with bathroom-humor images. But she carried on as if nothing was the matter. In Icelandic, after all, these have always been the everyday words.


Last night's northern lights show was the best one I have seen yet. E and I kept running out to the frigid balcony wrapped in blankets to get more glimpses of the action. An arc of ghostly green would span the sky and then disappear, and then come back again a few seconds or minutes later in a different place. Then the arcs whorled in on themselves, making giant sky-snúðar in the distance.

Some time later, I was already in bed and E on the phone when she rapped on the bedroom glass from the balcony. She was whooping with excitement. I ran outside on the cold cement of the balcony and there was another sky-spanning arc but this time the whole of the arc appeared to be flapping in the breeze, like the giant flag they used to hang out at Iversen Ford on Route 3A. The body of the flag was green, but the bottom edge of it was brilliant Hendrix purple. The whole vast form was shape-shifting so fast that it was hard to take it all in at once. And then it was gone, and the sky black again.

þriðjudagur, október 25, 2005

swimming in the dark

Last night was my first reminder of how the pools are here in the winter. From the parking lot, the rising steam lit from below makes a low luminous cloud over the entire outdoor pool area. Emerging from the mandatory showers, still wet, walking outside into the 0° air is a quick blast of pain before the scramble into the nearest hot tub, the one right around the corner from the door.

After a few minutes of soaking, walking outside in the cold air is easy, and I'm ready for the lap pool. It's shrouded in low-clinging steam clouds, so that the surface is barely visible. But underwater, even with the dim lights, I can see almost the length of the 50 meters. It's a hidden world down there, the other swimmers lonely companions who can only be seen from the deep. Popping my head up for air, all I can see is fog.


According to an annual survey by Transparency International, Iceland is the least corrupt country on the planet, displacing Finland this year for the top spot. Britain comes in 11th, with the United States at 17th. It pays to know someone over at Transparency, I guess...

mánudagur, október 24, 2005

the icelandic bubble

E and I were on a Sunday drive around Reykjavík and some of the suburbs yesterday and noticed just how many new apartments and houses are being built on the outskirts of the Reykjavík area. In the town of Hafnarfjörður, for example, there is a vast area next to the Haukur athletic complex where a completely new neighborhood is being built from the ground up. It doesn't look like anyone is living in there yet, but looks as though it is designed to hold thousands of people. Outside of Njarðvík there is a sign proclaiming a planned development of over 800 new apartments. And that's not to mention the vast expansion of the city by the start of Route 1 at Heiðmörk. The sheer number of towering yellow cranes in these ground-up neighborhoods is unlike anything I have seen anywhere else in Europe or the U.S.

We couldn't help but wonder who exactly is going to live in all of these new places. Sure, Iceland is in a baby boom, but most of those little tykes aren't going to be able to sign a mortgage application anytime soon. And the government doesn't seem to be in a hurry to open the gates to a lot of new immigrants. Looks to me like this is a speculative boom fuelled by last year's mortgage rate cut by the three big banks (Landsbankinn, KB Banki, and Íslandsbanki) that dropped the lending rate to under 5%. Sure enough, house prices shot up to soak up the excess liquidity, and the real estate boom gathered steam.

The combo of the building boom and the lofty stockmarket here (the benchmark ICEX-15 is up 37% this year alone) reminds me a lot of the good-ole bubbilicious days of the late 1990s in the U.S. It was a lovely time while it lasted - who can really say "no" to first-class flights to Asia and 2-month bonuses? - but I remember how painful it was in the years following the bursting of the NASDAQ bubble. I can't help but wonder what will happen when the Icelandic bubble deflates.

föstudagur, október 21, 2005

the zero block

I just learned a useful little fact about Reykjavík, and that is that it actually has a "zero block" of sorts. In (mainly Western) U.S. cities this is the place where 0th Street meets 0th Avenue. Sometimes street numbers themselves are based on this (0, 0) point in the city's Cartesian grid. This is a system that was really taken well past the limit of practicality and well into the Twilight Zone in soulless Salt Lake City where "270 West 10000 South" is a legitimate address.

Thankfully, they didn't go nearly as far as that here. In the case of Reykjavík, there is no true zero block, but it is true that the street numbers on most streets count upwards with the main post office downtown as their radial hub. So if you want to know which end of the street has the lower numbers, just look back in your mind's eye to the big red building in the heart of things. (Now I wonder what scheme they use on Pósthússtræti itself...)

fimmtudagur, október 20, 2005

jersey ed

My friend Jersey Ed just showed up for the weekend. It's his second visit to Iceland. He was here for the Iceland Airwaves music festival weekend last year, and I got an email from him on Monday saying he was coming back today. It's always nice to see repeat visitors to this place, it helps to validate the whole moving-to-Iceland experience, in a way.

E and I met up with Jersey Ed and his buddy Dave down at Hressó before they went off to see some Dutch DJs at NASA. This is a big music weekend in Iceland, lots of bands playing all night at 6 different venues downtown, for 3 nights. Icelandair (bless their monopolist hearts) promotes this festival to high heaven in the Other Lands and packs their flying aluminum tubes full o' tourists to ship in for the weekend. Said tourists consume thousands of $9 beers, watch music, get happy, and hype it up to their friends back home upon return.

It's always great to see long-lost American friends again. The banter was fast and furious, and by the end E was teaching Michigan Dave how to say "Gaman að hitta þig" to any Icelandic lovelies he might run across in the clubs. Dave was taking the lesson very seriously, and had some really good pronunciation, I thought. The tutorial ended up at the end of the NASA entrance line, where earnest Michigan Dave was still practicing "Nice to meet you" to the endless amusement of the three blonde Icelandic girls in front of them. Ah, the magic of being a tourist in the Land!

laugardagur, október 15, 2005

big riffs

Iceland is a land shaped by massive natural forces. As such, it is fitting that many of its inhabitants should have a greater-than-normal appreciation for the massiveness of metal rock. When Metallica played here last year (right before my arrival) they set a new record for Icelandic concert attendance. Right around 18,000 at the show, I believe. In other words, around 6% of the country's population. When was the last time 6% of [insert your country here] turned out for one metal show? Probably some kind of locomotive expo in the 1890s.

The mutual love affair between hard rock and Iceland may have started with Led Zeppelin, who after playing their only concert in Iceland, wrote "Immigrant Song" on the plane ride out, so inspired were they by the harsh beauty and mythical history of the Land.

Even a guy like me, known to dabble in such non-metal music as Sigur Rós, Talib Kweli, and even Paul Simon, has found himself more open than usual to hard rock after some time on the Ice. When X-ið 97.7 ("the X") played The Wizard by Black Sabbath a couple months back, I found myself nodding my head in appreciation and pursing my lips in a Nigel Tufnel sneer as I cruised down Hringbraut.

Sensing an opportunity to make inroads where none had before been possible, my brother made and shipped to me a mix CD titled "Remember: It Could Always Be Slower (Vol. 1)". The CD is a tribute to his favorite brand of rock, and what he maintains is the future of all rock, and that is riff-driven rock. Front and center on the CD, and originators of the large-riff format, are Black Sabbath. They are supported by Kyuss, Rage Against The Machine, and Iceland's own Brain Police.

I had never before, for example, really given Iron Man its due. I didn't realize that the song depicted a literal man of iron, feeling outcast among the carbon-based men around him. But as my brother explained, "See, this is exactly the sort of education you have needed. Ozzy is telling you a story about an iron man. Unequivocal. There is usually no hidden meaning or witty turn of phrase in a metal lyric." Exactly. And the man of iron would fit right in up here, surrounded by endless blank plains and steel-grey glacial flows.

The Brain Police (who I missed in concert last week) have done a tremendous job of putting their own northern twist on the big-riff sound, with songs like Jacuzzi Suzy and Taste the Flower. The riffs in these are every bit as ponderous as anything that came previously. I can imagine the tremendous recording apparatus they must have used to capture these vast riffs. Some kind of quarter-mile-wide magnetic tape stretching from Akureyri to Blönduos, perhaps, transiting at glacial speeds across recording heads made from mountains. We certainly have the space up here for that sort of thing.

I think the vastness and harshness of this Ice-land make it ideally suited for large-scale rock-riff appreciation. I am eagerly awaiting Vol. 2, and hoping that, indeed, it is slower.

föstudagur, október 14, 2005

the all-knowing number

I have written a few times previously about the kennitala system in Iceland. The kennitala is a national ID number, but it's (almost) completely public. Anyone's full name, kennitala, and address are available on the web to anyone holding an Icelandic bank account. This was initially very spooky to me as an American, but as this new article points out, the openness of the system is perhaps its greatest strength.

miðvikudagur, október 12, 2005


Late-breaking news is that a picture of E and I made it into today's DV, the country's trashiest (and only) daily tabloid. This is the paper that the Boston Herald wishes it was. Full of cropped color pictures, big-font headlines, and low-level news, DV has a loyal following here.

When we were at last Friday's Tonik concert at 12 Tónar, a photographer snapped us watching the show on his way out the door. We had no idea who he was, but then sure enough here's a DV article on the Friday concert series at 12 Tónar, and there we are, looking week-weary yet spellbound by Tonik's unique homebrewed electronica. (Sorry, non-Iceland-based readers, I have no way to link to this article online.) I guess this is yet another reason why it's always a good idea to dress well in Iceland.

the name game

Iceland has some very unique, beautiful, and old names for its inhabitants. Before coming here, I had never heard of many of the first names I now use every day. But recently I have become entranced with the even older and more obscure Icelandic names, no longer in wide circulation. For example, since my first name appears to be difficult to say for many people here (the English "J" sound at the beginning, especially) I have started using the name Játvarður in casual use. When putting in an order for a couple of burgers at Hamborgara Búllan, and they ask for my name, I'll throw out a "Játvarður". (This is not unlike the Shoonesque practice of using the name "Billy" to request a table at any Boston-area chain restaurant.)

Játvarður (pronounced roughly Yowt-varth-er) is funny to Icelanders because it's a name that is barely used these days. There are only a handful of Játvarðar in the national registry. I think it's a name associated more with country farmers from the 1800s than American-accented financial-services immigrants from the 2000s.

Since I am George's son, I decided that Játvarður Georgsson would be a good full version of the name. (I won't get into the well-worn territory of explaining Icelandic patronymic names, you can read more about them here.)

E and I had been looking for what mouth-twisting Icelandic name might make a good companion for Játvarður and saw it on the side of a bus: Tyrfingur! So I could be Játvarður Tyrfingur Georgsson. That's a pretty good handle.

Then the other day, the entire universe of Icelandic names finally opened up to me. I discovered the government's registry of all legal names. There is a list for men, a list for women, and a special list of names that can only be used as middle names, a category of which I was previously unaware. (Middle names are not, however, limited to this; any first name can also be a middle name.)

So now the Icelandic naming world is my oyster. There are so many colorful names, many of which I had never heard of before. Here are some handles that we came up with at work, using the official lists. (I should point out here that these names are far more colorful than the average Icelander-on-the-street these days. We were trying to revive some of the old names on the list, ones that have dropped out of circulation.)

For the men:

Hrollaugur Haffjörð Hjörvarsson
Sigtýr Vémundur Þórhallsson
Geirtryggur Ásröður Guðvarsson

And the ladies:

Snjófríður Grélöð Jörmundsdóttir
Blædís Miðdal Runólfsdóttir
Ingimunda Friðbjört Muggsdóttir

...and finally:

Snæþór Norðland Jökulsson (Snow-Thor Northland Glacier's-Son!)

That last name is so beautiful and rich that I just may have to rethink this whole Játvarður business.

mánudagur, október 10, 2005

gone fishin'

We awoke very early Sunday morning and pulled on all kinds of warm layers in the predawn greyness. We put together a cooler full of bread, cheese, harðfiskur, skyr, and cookies, and headed out to our friend's house in Grafarvogur. We piled into his car in the cold of the morning and headed north to Snæfellsnes, to a family farm called Ós that sits at the mouth of a river on the north side of the peninsula. It was a drive that accompanied the sunrise and vistas of snow-covered mountains sidelit with orange.

At the family cottage we met our friend's family who filled us with hot coffee and then watched as he assembled fishing poles. The walk to the river was downhill over some grassy moguls and then carefully across a new barbed-wire fence. We walked along the river bank for some ways, crossing through small side-streams in our rubber boots. We came at last to a wide brook that was swift and cold and it was here that our friend carried us, one at a time, and Jesus-in-"Footprints"-poem style across the deepest part, piggyback. He was the only one who had waders and displayed true stoic Icelandic resolve as he picked his way among the slippery rocks at the bottom.

We were fishing for trout, and our friend helped us bait up the hook with an appetizing piece of fish, attached about a meter below the float. I was casting into some running water at the far edge of the cold stream. I hadn't done any fishing since I was a kid, but I remembered how to cast from all those times standing at the end of the New Hampshire dock, hurling my plastic plug into the marsh. I soon lost myself in the fishing, casting and reeling, and thinking about things as the river burbled by. E took some turns at the rod and then went off exploring up the river. On reflection it seemed funny to be hurling this same piece of meat into the dark water, over and over.

With the exception of a lunchtime and napping trip to the family homestead, the day passed at the river in a timeless way. I watched the sun move slowly through the sky as we tried our luck at different locations along the river. The mountains were far and then near, vast and snow-covered, and the wind, that constant Icelandic wind, howled at me all day, whistling in the fishing pole. As I made a cast into an eddy across the river, I looked up to see the wide brown finger-tipped wingspan of an Icelandic eagle gliding over. I realized that fishing is really just an excuse to stand outside and experience nature on its own terms.

As dusk was growing, our friend rounded us up and we walked down the riverbank toward the mouth. We left our fishing gear on a carpet of green mossy grass and kept walking out past the end of the river. It was low tide and possible to walk far out into the bay, from one low island to the next on a bed of sandy kelp and tide pools. In the distance were the masts of a shipwreck and we walked all the way to it. Our friend told us supernatural tales on the way across the vast saltwater plain. The boat itself was a ghostly fishing ship intentionally run aground in the 1970s. It was rust-covered and badly listing, water from high tide still pouring out of the downhill side. There was a rope slung over the high side and we climbed aboard. We clambered into the bridge and peeked into the black pit of the hold. It was spooky indeed on the slanted deck, with the light growing dim and not another living soul around save for the wind. I was glad to leave the ship behind and head back across the salty moors to the farm.

It was dark when we left for Reykjavík, along dirt and then paved roads, telling stories back and forth in the car. We never caught any fish, but in the end that wasn't what the day was about.

föstudagur, október 07, 2005

weekend plan

After the hectic move over the last few weeks, E and I are finally settling back into life. This weekend is going to be the first in many that we'll have time for fun stuff, and nobody's happier about that than me.

Friday after work starts with a trip to the excellent 12 Tónar record store downtown for the Friday concert series. After that we'll get some bad (or maybe good) downtown food and head over to see some kinda crazy Scandinavian-Japanese half-cartoon movie of E's choosing. It's the Reykjavík Int'l Film Festival, after all! After that we're going to our friend's house for her switching-jobs karaoke party, fully stocked with Supertramp songs and mojito mix. If we're not completely dead, we'll succumb to the mounting peer pressure to go downtown at 1 a.m.

But hopefully we don't succumb, because Saturday morning we're hosting Saturday Morning Coffee, bright and early. The rest of Saturday will probably see us wandering around downtown, looking at crazy Icelandic high-fashion cookware and legware. There is a store here (Iða) that sells all manner of wonderfully designed objects; E appears to need to visit said store on a semi-regular basis. And we'll also be making a stop at the pool to let the hot water blast out all the party residue.

Sunday, however, promises to be the Crown Jewel of the weekend. Our friend is taking us up north to Snæfellsnes for the day on a fishing trip. We'll be fly-fishing for trout in a river controlled by his People. If the fish aren't biting this late in the year, we'll go hiking and explore the area. Like many Icelanders, he insists that this place of his is the most beautiful in the Land. I'll let you know if it's true.

miðvikudagur, október 05, 2005


Excepting Microsoft and American cable-TV companies, I never before came face-to-face with the awful price and service consequences of a monopoly quite as much as I do here in Iceland. There's Eimskip, the only way to ship goods from most American ports to Iceland. There's the effective monopoly that was created by 5 years of price and contract fixing among the three Icelandic oil companies. There's of course Sláturfélag Suðurlands, monopolizing the slaughtering needs of the southlands. But the worst of all might just be Icelandair.

My gripes with "the airline" go back to when I moved here. Their U.S. sales agent lied to me about the availability of lower-cost tickets. When I found the lower fare the following day, they refused to honor it. They said they would allow me to change to the lower fare ($175 savings, and their mistake) for a $150 change fee. Even after I wrote a letter to their customer service department, they didn't budge. And why should they?

Icelandair has a great scheme going. They make it really inexpensive (as low as $250 or 15000 ISK roundtrip in the low season) to fly roundtrip to Iceland from Boston or New York. That way they get the tourists here cheaply. Those tourists then dish out the dough on hotels, rental cars, and tours. And much of the Icelandic tourist industry is controlled by Icelandair's sister companies.

Meanwhile those low low fares are subsidized by those of us living in Iceland. Because we only have one way to get to North America, Icelandair can charge us almost anything it wants. And it does. The best fare I have ever seen to Boston, one that people here really crow over, is 34000 ISK, over $550. Fares on this route are usually 50000 ISK ($820) or higher in the summer.

And they don't even have to be nice about it. I went to their Reykjavík sales office the other day to get a receipt for a trip I took in the summer. It was an e-ticket and I had deleted the email with the receipt. The lady sneered at me. "We gave you a receipt when you bought the ticket," she said. I asked if there was any way they could print one out again. "That will cost you 1000 krónur," she sneered.

16 bucks. To print out a piece of paper. Somewhere in all of this, they forgot who their customers were. Or maybe they never needed to know.

þriðjudagur, október 04, 2005

frequent sleeper silver

It appears as though the Republic of Iceland has decided to upgrade my Frequent Sleeper membership to Silver Level. For my first year and change here I have been a Bronze member. New immigrants who come here get automatically enrolled in the Frequent Sleeper program at the Bronze level (the immigration office also calls it a C-visa) and then have the possibility to upgrade to Silver after one year of living here. When I applied for a second year of residence, the membership office again granted me the Bronze pass. No good, I thought, I want 25% Sleeper bonus and free drink coupons! So I asked my HR guy who called up the customer service center and appealed on my behalf. "J is a good kid, and wants to keep living here in Iceland, he needs the Silver!" I heard him say. Apparently it worked. I went down to the (usually scary) membership office (known locally as Útlendingastofnun) and a nice lady there asked me to fill out the Frequent Sleeper application again (I'm getting good at those!) and told me the fulfillment office (also called Lögreglustöð) would be able to "bump me up" soon.

The main benefit of Silver-level membership in the Iceland Club is that holding it for 3 years allows you to "go for the Gold". With Gold, you never have to apply for membership again, and you're on track for the ultimate in perks: the Platinum level. This is the level that Icelanders get at birth and Bobby Fischer gets through the Alþing. With Platinum membership in the Frequent Sleeper Club, you get the right to vote and a shiny new passport too. And, best of all, you never have to file another IRS form 1040 again.

mánudagur, október 03, 2005


Every night, all we can see across the inky blackness of the water outside our new place is a tiny line of lights. And during the day, with the sunlight on them the right way, the lights become a tiny row of white buildings far across the bay. A lost city, a promised land, Iceland's gem: the town of Akranes.

So after our marathon Sunday appliance- and housewares-buying spree, E and I took a drive out there yesterday. It's only about 45 minutes away, but that's thanks to a tunnel that goes deep under the fjord separating us and Akranes. It used to take more like 2 hours to get there, by driving the entirety of the road around Hvalfjörður (the Whale Fjord). This seems all the further considering that as the crow flies the Promised Land is only 12 miles across the water from our house.

The tunnel comes out next to the looming bulk of Akrafjall, "our mountain". The road passes farms and horses, sheep, and cows, all huddled at the base of the mountain, and then comes over a rise where Akranes in all of its smoke-belching glory is suddenly laid out. There is the Byko sawmill, the grocery-store-at-the-edge-of-the-Universe, the rows and rows of grey apartment blocks, the shopping-street-that-time-forgot, and the hillocks spired with art-contest steel sculptures. Towering over the whole thing is the smokestack for the fishmeal cooker, a vast factory complex that takes up the better part of the business end of town.

(When the fishmeal cooker is on full blast, baking up fishmeal delights by the ton, the smell is apparently pretty strong even for the locals, who call it "the smell of money" in order to cushion the blow.)

We stopped in at the local museum, which was closed, but had all manner of grass-parked boats available for the clambering. One we christened the Original Jugboat because of its sad creaking-sailing-ship construction. There were some smaller boats, too, including one named after a coworker of mine. Next stop was the town swimming pool, where we thought we'd catch some chlorine, but that was on the verge of closing.

On the way out of town, we stopped near the camping area and hiked through some grasslands to cliffs on the ocean's edge. There we could see the lowering sun, the fishmeal smokestack, and the wind-whipped masses of waves smashing on the cliffs below. Occasionally the waves would smash so high on the rocks that I'd get sprayed with water. In the distance, a vertical rock was getting plastered with water that shot directly into the air 30 or 40 feet. The thundering bass from tons of water rushing up the cliff walls under my feet was a sound that will carry me through the work week.