Sunday, April 30, 2006

your imagination is the hood ornament on your car of creativity

Does anyone remember 'I'm With Busey'? Probably not, and it's doubtful if even Busey remembers...but I do! Granted, I had to be reminded of Gary Busey's existence first, but that was accomplished by his bit-part in 'The Firm', which I watched tonight about thirteen years after it originally came out. When it originally came out, Tom Hanks was thirty years old and not quite so creepy, I was in Eastern Europe teaching myself algebra to songs played on Voice of America (when the stupid crane wasn't parked in the perfect spot to block our radio reception), and Gary Busey was ten years away from starring in 'I'm With Busey'. The show was short-lived, but I have fond memories of that idyllic last summer between college graduation and the start of my job--I saw a few nights' worth of episodes of 'I'm With Busey' while hanging out with Nita, Sika, and Walter, before going back to my tiny room and crawling in through the window to avoid the teenage campers hanging out in the lounge. Man, that show was great--I love insanity, and Gary Busey seems to have it in spades. It's too bad it will never come out on DVD, since that show was brilliant!

I did absolutely nothing today, which was fantastic--I've been trying my best to explore, and take advantage of the city, etc., but I didn't feel like going out today, so I spent the day reading, writing, watching television, and cooking. This was actually the first cooking I've done in the month since I've been here. I made quesadillas with chicken, peppers, and onions, and it was just as good as the way that I always make them at home, except I shouldn't have bought their idea of 'Mexican-seasoned' chicken pieces, there were no green peppers in the store, the tortillas tasted funny, the cheese was too strong, I forgot to buy black olives, the sour cream was a little weird, and the salsa should have been hotter. Other than those slight variations, though, they weren't too bad! Perhaps from now on I'll save myself the effort and just buy ready-made meals or order in, since cooking isn't all it's cracked up to be when one has terrible utensils and inadequate ingredients.

Um, what else. Thanks to 'one of the little ones' for cheering me up today--I shall try to remember that I'm not as boring as I sometimes think that I am :) Also, tomorrow is a bank holiday, so I don't have to go to the office, which is fantastic. Since I don't pay taxes here and don't have to worry about the massive problems of socialism, I'm quite thrilled that I'm getting so many days off. Granted, I still have it worse than the people in this office; everyone here gets a legally-mandated 25 days of vacation per year, whereas I started off with 15 and only go up to 20 after three years. Lame! But, 15 days is better than a lot of companies, and since I don't want to be a bloody communist, I guess I should be pushing for no vacations, more child labor, and more dangerous and poorly-ventilated working conditions. Instead, I'm stuck with 15 days of vacation, ten paid holidays, free food, and the only injuries I am likely to face are eyestrain and carpal tunnel syndrome. That, and the loss of my youth to the demands of corporate America. But, if I were living a hundred years ago, I would already feel like I was well into my middle age, so I suppose I should be thankful.

Also, note to Michael: nothing bad has happened to me this weekend, but nothing good has happened either, so I think you probably have a fifty-fifty chance of striking it rich on lotto tickets purchased in the next forty-eight hours. It might be worth the risk! But let me know if anything unfortunate happens to you, so that I can prepare myself for a change in luck. And on that note, it's time for bed.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

she don't want nobody near

Today was a very lazy day; I slept around eleven hours last night, which was v. necessary considering how much I had worked over the course of the week. I had intended to get up early and try to go out of the city, but I'm glad that I failed to set the alarm, since it was cloudy all day and that would have ruined my mood if I'd showered at eight a.m. and then discovered that it was too gloomy to enjoy the countryside. So, instead, I ate a really late breakfast with Sonam, and then went to the office for a bit. Afterwards, I walked into town, and I went to this shop called The Pen Corner, where I broke down and bought myself a fountain pen. As I may have mentioned last week, I had purchased a cheap, basically disposable calligraphy set to keep myself from buying a more expensive fountain pen. Over the course of the week, I've written in my journal almost every single night, a fact that I attribute to the sensual, sexy feeling of ink flowing smoothly across paper. In an effort to encourage my writing habits, I bought a real fountain pen, and it's lovely--nice weight, beautiful red brushed metal, and a nice bottle of blue ink to go with it. So, hopefully I can continue my writing, and perhaps write something more creative than my daily blog entries.

Afterwards, I went to the Museum of Decorative Arts and History, where I spent a great couple of hours--I absolutely love museums that contain glasswork, furniture, and clothing, so this was the perfect place for me. Then, I went grocery shopping, came home, and watched 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' with Sonam and Tina. It was a pirated copy that I'd been given in India, and unfortunately the quality wasn't very good--it was clearly filmed in the theatre, which explains the jerky cinematography and the sound of laughter at various jokes. I like the movie quite a bit (nothing's hotter than assassins), so I'll have to get a real copy when I get back to the States.

Now, I'm going to have to go to bed--sorry that I'm so boring!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

when soul meets body

Yay, the presentation is over, and it went well. I'm exhausted, though--I was back in the office at 7:30am to prep for the presentation, then gave the presentation from 9-11, then went out for lunch with Darragh and Kerry in celebration/a desperate desire to see sunshine, then worked the rest of the afternoon. I managed to leave the office by 6:30, though, which is miraculous. I ran over to St. Stephens Green shopping centre and returned the wireless router that I had purchased incorrectly, the walked down Grafton St. and ate dinner at a tasty place that I've been to a couple of times before. Now, I'm wrapping up some work, and I think I'll actually be in bed by 10:30--

Actually, I lied. I started chatting with Matt, who's still at the office, and I think we're going to go out for a drink. But, relaxation is about as important as sleep right now, so I can't say that this is a completely stupid decision. Regardless, it's already been made, so I should go find him. Goodnight, everyone!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

simultaneous release

After the second night in a row where I've been in the office until half past twelve, I think it's time for me to go home and go to bed. I was three minutes late to my nine a.m. meeting this morning--and tomorrow, I need to be here by 7:30 at the latest to run through our presentation one more time before giving it from 9-11. But, we had a regular ol' party at work tonight; I'm working with two other people on this project, and the three of us hung out in a conference room until 11:30, eating takeout Indian food and playing with Powerpoint and Excel. Fun, eh?!

But, in less than twelve hours, this will all be over, and I can take Thursday and Friday relatively easy. I have yet to make plans for the weekend because I'm waiting to see how I feel about going out of town this weekend; it's a three-day weekend in Dublin, so I should take advantage, but I don't think I will have time or energy for anything more than a daytrip. Who knows, though? Sometimes I surprise myself.

Okay, I'm getting's time to walk back to my apartment and crawl into bed. Goodnight!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

just waiting for the daylight to come crawling in on me

I'm about to go home, since I'm about to fall asleep at my desk and I can no longer figure out what any of my graphs mean or how to at least make them pretty enough to obfuscate the complete lack of coherence. Since I had to meet my manager at 7:30am today, and it's now half past midnight, I'm not exactly a happy camper. I get to do it all again tomorrow in preparation for a major presentation at nine a.m. on Thursday, and then I intend to leave as early as possible on Thursday and drink something alcoholic, provided that I don't fall asleep on the way to the pub.

I found myself on the verge of tears tonight without realizing why. Then, I listened a little more closely to the music pumping through my headphones, and realized that Radiohead's '2+2=5' was playing. I haven't heard that song in months, if not years, since I haven't listened to Radiohead much since Walter stopped riding in my car and switching my CDs in an effort to avoid 95% of the crap that I regularly listen to. Anyway, '2+2=5' (and, in fact, most of the 'Hail to the Thief' album) is indelibly imprinted on my subconscious mind because I listened to it on constant repeat while I was working on my thesis during that awful two weeks in May of my senior year; in fact, I distinctly remember listening to 'The Gloaming' for nine hours late one night while I was alone in the Meyer 24-hour study room. So I think that my mind heard the unique opening of '2+2=5', recognized the intense level of pain and fatigue that I am currently in, compounded that sensation with the stress I currently feel over when and how this project will be completed, and rebelled at the fact that I am now back to the same level of misery I felt while writing my thesis, only without the mental reward of doing something for the greater knowledge of mankind. I think the threat of tears was a last-ditch effort by my subconscious to lodge a formal protest over my current state of affairs, but I promptly beat it back into submission and began working again. Yay.

Now, though, it's time for me to go home and go to bed! Thirty-six hours from now, the first major phase of my project will be done, and I can relax for a few minutes or something.

Monday, April 24, 2006

balance shmalance

That whole balance thing isn't going so well, considering that I'm still at the office (it's 10:30pm) and have a meeting at 7:30am. Sigh. That means that I have absolutely nothing at all to report, since I haven't seen or done anything exciting today. Hopefully I can change that tomorrow! Now, though, I'm going to go home and go to bed. Goodnight!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

i get wisdom day and night, turning darkness into light

I went into the office this afternoon, where I spent an hour debating my work/life balance issue. Realizing that I had absolutely no balance, acknowledging that it was a perfectly lovely day outside, and understanding that UV rays, while dangerous, are not as immediately threatening as the desire to beat my head against my desk, I decided to do something about this tragic state of affairs. So, I locked up my laptop (even though I could hear it pleading to be released), and sauntered out to face the sunny afternoon.

There were people milling about in red and blue, like some rugby-influenced version of 'Romeo and Juliet', only with fewer histrionics. The Munster v. Leinster rugby match was on this afternoon, and the stadium is v. close to my apartment--but I walked into town rather than towards the stadium, going against the throngs of people headed for the showdown. Despite the rugby, the downtown area was still packed. I had a tasty sandwich (chicken w/cucumbers, tomatoes, and a generous helping of mayonnaise) and tea at a cafe, which felt v. civilized; I decided then and there that I would start collecting teapots, although I currently own none, having given my only teapot to Claudia when I was attempting to divest myself of some of my worldly goods. But, since I got it at Pier 1, I feel that it was not perhaps a collectible, and so I'm looking forward to restarting my collection. After this revelation, I strolled over to Trinity College, where I saw the Book of Kells.

The Book of Kells is a medieval illuminated manuscript of the four gospels, thought to have been created by the monks of the monastery on Iona (an island off the coast of Scotland) and brought to Kells, Ireland, when the monks got tired of all the Viking raids and came to Ireland instead. Not that Irish history has been particularly pacifist, but the Vikings had a penchant for burning and pillaging Iona every few years, so it's understandable why the monks decided to try somewhere else. It didn't exactly work in the long run, but it did bring the Book of Kells to Ireland, which is great for Trinity College even if it isn't great for the island of Iona.

I happen to love museums, especially when I am there alone and so can read every single placard and printed text next to the exhibits, and so I was quite satisfied w/the Book of Kells exhibit. 8 euros was perhaps a hefty admission price for a display that really consisted of three rooms, plus the library upstairs, but since I read everything I didn't feel ripped off. And, the illuminated pages displayed from the Book of Kells were really cool. Best of all, I absolutely fell in love with the library--you could *smell* the knowledge in the room, since it was filled with two stories' worth of books (and by stories I mean spatial stories, not imaginative stories), most of which were hundreds of years old. While most people would have spent a lovely day outside, I was quite pleased with myself afterwards. Finally, I fell in love with a poem that was printed on a huge display in the exhibit; I found a copy of it online and have reproduced it below. Obviously it was written in ancient Irish, since it's 8th or 9th century, so who knows how good the translation is, but I liked it despite all that.

After that, I wandered across the river, found a stationery/bookstore, and bought a cheap calligraphy set. I've been debating buying a fountain pen, but they're absurdly expensive--so when I found this cheaper starter kit, I decided to buy it and determine whether or not I will actually ever use the fountain pen before investing in something nicer. I also picked up a copy of The Economist, and 'Collapse: How Societies Choose or Fail to Succeed' by Jared Diamond (author of 'Guns, Germs, and Steel', which I own but haven't actually read--Claude read it for me and reported that it was great, but I haven't gotten around to it). I guess I feel like I should take more of an interest in current events outside the society pages of the New York Times. So, I read the Economist while eating a salad at some restaurant. Then, I met Matt for a movie; we saw 'American Dreamz', which had some funny moments but was in general rather unfunny. I do like Hugh Grant when he's being a cad, and terrorists are funny when they're being mocked, but I was rather unimpressed. Now, after having talked to my parents for an hour and a half, it's time for me to go to bed! But, you should read 'Pangur Ban':

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.
'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
Written by a ninth-century Irish monk
Translation of Robin Flowers

Saturday, April 22, 2006

category seven - the end of my pride

I just saw the worst movie ever. I remember laughing about it when I saw previews for it a few months ago, never thinking that I might actually have the opportunity to see it in all of its moronic glory. The movie I am referencing is, of course, 'Category 7: The End of the World', which started its inglorious life as a miniseries in the US. Now, in a sign that the world is embracing all of the worst aspects of American 'culture', the miniseries was aired in its entirety on a British/Irish tv station this evening. And I, being the sucker that I am for disaster movies, got sucked in to the point that I couldn't turn it off even when I realized that I was in for a three and a half hour ordeal.

The movie is a blatant rip-off of 'The Day After Tomorrow', which is itself a movie that should not have been made, let alone poorly copied. I think the worst part about this movie, though, was that the camerawork was *terrible*--way too much ineffective slow-motion, way too little attempt to make all of the computer effects fit in with the humans who were doing something that they thought might pass as acting. However, don't be fooled into thinking that it was easy to pick a 'worst part' of the movie. There were so many options that it makes my head spin. One option, for example, would be the way that the storms in the movie were supposedly fueled. In 'The Day After Tomorrow', if I recall correctly, the storms were massive supercells created because the earth's temperature had gotten so high (due to global warming) that it caused some reaction with the mesosphere (the highest part of the atmosphere) that led to extremely low-pressure eyes to form, sucking down all of the cold air from the mesosphere that resulted in instant ice age (and lots of nice scenes of people running away from cold air). In 'Category Seven', the heat from all of our industry and power grids was causing giant heat plumes to rise from cities, which causes a reaction with the mesosphere--but in this case, they kept saying that 'chunks' of the mesosphere were falling, and when the chunks fell into one of these heat plumes, it caused a thermal reaction that led to city-destroying storms. You have to give them points for attempting to come up with another plausible way for a massive storm to develop; but since 'Day After Tomorrow' had already taken the best ideas from the kookiest scientists, 'Category Seven' scriptwriters were left to make up a storm with the possibility that chunks of atmosphere could ever fall anywhere. Ha!

To make it even better, they got Randy Quaid involved, presumably to lend some credibility to the 'end of the world' half of the movie title. He had a great role in 'Independence Day', and there was an identical role in this movie too--but he didn't get to be the washed-up pilot who gets one last, self-sacrificial chance at redemption; that part went to the dude from 'Picket Fences'. Instead, Randy Quaid played a tornado chaser who had a mystical experience when he miraculously survived a previous tornado (hmmm...does his craziness here sound anything like his character's opinions of the aliens who supposedly kidnapped him in 'Independence Day'?). In perhaps the weirdest twist in the whole film, he actually ends up kissing Shannon Doherty, who he had teamed up with to shoot rockets into the storms in an attempt to gather data about how the storms were forming. I can't think of a single time in the last decade where Randy Quaid has gotten to have a love interest, and the fact that it was Shannon Doherty says a lot about her career after 'Beverly Hills 90210'.

The one thing that truly disappointed me was that the kids (because of course the kids of the main characters have to be in danger--but rather than just being trapped someplace, they were kidnapped by a religious zealot who was intent on fulfilling the 'killing of the firstborn' in an attempt to bring on the end of days...even though everyone knows that that will only result in Passover, and you really need to rebuild the Temple and find the Antichrist and do all sorts of other stuff to bring on the Rapture, just ask the stupid documentaries playing constantly on the History Channel) were only in danger of getting shot. In fact, the people who were holding them were retarded, since they were more worried about guarding the kids than the fact that they were sitting in an abandoned (and therefore unsafe) factory while a gigantic storm was bearing down upon them. Anyway, I was disappointed that even though this movie had a) a perilous trek across a destroyed landscape to find the kids (but this time in a stationwagon rather than on snowshoes), b) a ubiquitous shot of the Statue of Liberty being destroyed (this time sans ice), and c) a ubiquitous shot of the White House being destroyed (this time sans aliens), the kids were at no point in danger of being killed by ravaging wolves on a grounded Russian battleship. The best part of all of 'Day After Tomorrow' is when the kids go to the battleship, try to recover medicines, and almost end up being eaten by the wolves that escaped from the zoo. The fact that 'Category Seven' managed to copy the entire rest of the plot but didn't think to bring the wolves along was unforgiveable.

Anyway, nothing to report here--I went out last night, which is why I didn't blog. A few pints of Guinness later, I was quite happy and relaxed, and topped it all off with fish and chips from the latenight fish-and-chips place nearby. Mmm. Today, I slept in, then spent the rest of the day working on my project, which was completely awful. I realized today that my idea of 'work/life balance' is wearing an old Stanford sweatshirt and ripped-up jeans when working. Clearly, something needs to change. Now, though, I need to work on restoring my wake/sleep balance. Goodnight!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

i am still living with your ghost

I'm really tired, so this will be brief. I was rather busy today, so I didn't get home until 8ish. I had a quick reheated dinner (leftover thai food, yummy) with Sonam, and then we went to some Japanese place in the downtown area to meet Maya and friends for Maya's final going-away party. They were all still eating dinner, and I had a date to talk to Tom about potential post-college job opportunities, so I took full advantage of my hot magenta phone by stylishly chatting on the street for awhile. With my magenta phone and my fur-trimmed pink bomber jacket, I'm sure that 'stylish' was the first word that any passersby thought of when they saw me!

After everyone finished karaoke, we went downstairs, where they have several karaoke boxes set up in the basement. This is a great system--rather than having to sing in front of a bunch of strangers, and endure their singing, and wait in line for songs, you can rent a small (8-10 person) karaoke room for an hour at a time. So, we sang fun things like 'I Will Survive', 'Hotel California', and 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Most people were getting ready for hour two, but I wasn't feeling well (loud singing of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' exacerbates my lingering cough), so I said my farewells to Maya. I took a v. informative cabride home, since the driver gave me a quick intro to rugby in preparation for this weekend's Munster-vs-Leinster rugby match. This is important for me because a) the stadium is less than a mile from my apartment, which could lead to mass chaos on Sunday, b) I like finding out what people in my new country like, and rugby is at the top of the list for many, and c) I like that there are places that are actually named Munster and Leinster. This is apparently the semi-final match in the worldwide championships, but since the Irish are so into rugby, this is almost like a final--they'll cheer for either team in the final, probably, but the Munster/Leinster rivalry is intense and bitter. I love bitterness and intensity, so it sounds like the game for me! I'm going to try to catch some of it on the 'telly', if I don't come up with other excursions.

Other than that, I have nothing to report. No news is good news, right? And with that, I'm off to bed!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

down in the badlands she was saving the best for last

I have nothing of real interest to report. I had intended to go to a going-away party for Maya at a pub tonight, but I ended up having lots of stuff to do and so didn't get home until 9:15. By that point, I was too tired to rally and go out, so I ordered thai food, ate the thai food, and checked some emails instead. Yay.

Instead of writing anything substantive, I'm just going to list some things I've been thinking about:

1) The new Red Hot Chili Peppers cd, 'Stadium Arcadium', is coming out at the beginning of May, but the first single, 'Dani California', has already been released. I downloaded it from iTunes tonight, and I really like it--despite the fact that Red Hot Chili Peppers can't seem to put out an album without referencing California, I still think they're an awesome band and I'm looking forward to their new album. It's actually going to be a double album, which will make up for the lack of CDs over the last four years, although I still love 'This is the Place' (which contains the memorable lines 'Can I smell your gasoline/ can I pet your wolverine?') enough to last a lifetime.
2) Whoever posted the fact that there's a case of bubonic plague in LA made me very sad that I'm missing out on the action. If we're lucky, maybe Tom Cruise will get bubonic plague--how awesome would that be? I wouldn't wish that fate on his newborn daughter, since she's already in for a hellish life--or maybe I should wish it on her, only to spare her from what will quite probably be a completely fucked-up childhood.

3) I actually like french fries and mayonnaise, and I fully support this European development in condimentry.

4) My fuschia uggs aren't quite ruined, although there is some v. slight discoloration and the affected areas aren't quite as soft on the outside as they were before :( So, I'm trying to decide whether to buy the wasabi green color on clearance, and having them shipped home so that they're waiting for me. The other alternatives are a) black uggs with rosebuds (actually a child's style, but they would fit me), or b) the 'rockstar' variety which is covered in metal studs. I don't think I'm rockstar status, so wasabi would probably work, but who knows? I'll decide by tomorrow, I think, so if you have a burning desire to share your thoughts on this question, let me know.

5) Thanks to Tammy, I'm slowly reimmersing myself in classical music. I've been listening to some Dvorak and Tchaikovsky--if you have any suggestions for your favorite classical works of all time, let me know!

6) I just want to say again how v. civilized it is that you can get tea in a real teacup in the kitchenettes at the office. The only downside is that their coffee machines are comparatively terrible, and so I've switched to drinking tea almost exclusively, rather than getting a much-needed pick-me-up with a highly-sugared French Vanilla coffee at 4pm. Oh, well, change is good, right?

Okay, that's all for tonight. Goodnight!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

ukrainian wisdom

This was all clearly my fault; I even had a veiled warning in the form of a mention of Little Sergey in my father's comment on the previous post. How many times does Little Sergey come up in conversation? Not that many--which is why it's important to recognize the significance when he does. Anyway, I was going out for dinner tonight, and it was sprinkling outside, but I had been assured that the restaurant was 'just around the corner' and so I didn't bother to change my coat or my shoes. By the time we got to the first corner, it started pouring, and I didn't have a hood, so my hair began streaming with water. The place was actually more than just around the corner, but it wasn't quite as bad as Sergey's 'two steps around the corner' (which, for those of you who weren't priveleged enough to be there, was actually a couple of miles, mostly uphill, in the freezing November winds of downtown Kiev, dragging along my aged grandfather and my arthritic grandmother, for some dubious reward that I have now forgotten). However, I'm concerned that I may have ruined my lovely pink Uggs--I really hope that they dry out without any noticeable discoloration.

But, despite this dire situation with my shoes, dinner was lovely; I went out with Matt, Maya, and Sonam and Tina (who just arrived from Hyderabad yesterday). The restaurant was interesting too--it was actually built underneath the DART tracks, so the ceiling in the middle was low and deeply curved, and you could hear the DART pass overhead every few minutes. This was all much swankier than it sounds--I mean, they had candles, so it had to be nice, right? Then I came home, sat around, and am now getting ready to go bed. In fact, now that I have finished this post, that's exactly what I'm going to do!

Monday, April 17, 2006

hazy shade of winter

Do you ever have those moments where you meet someone, instantly dislike them, and then have to be nice because you inevitably end up being the person sitting nearest to them for the rest of the evening? I'm not saying that it happened to me tonight, of course--this is just a hypothetical situation. But imagine a hypothetical situation in which someone repeatedly made jokes about the Midwest (not knowing that the hypothetical 'you' was from the Midwest). They later hypothetically ask you where you are from, and you respond 'Iowa' in your most mocking tones. Rather than becoming flustered, they proceed to say that Iowa is very flat, and then make fun of Wisconsin for several minutes. Of course, I don't have a lot of opinions one way or the other about Wisconsin, and I recognize that Iowa is perhaps not as cultured as other parts of the world, but I don't particularly appreciate having my home state mocked by someone.

Actually, I don't mind my home state being mocked if I am friends with the person--but if I'm neutral or slightly negatively inclined, this is enough to end it all for me. Hypothetically, of course. The fact that this hypothetical conversation was then followed by what rubbed across my already-abraded nerves as a rather patronizing list of what I should see in Europe, almost all of which I've already seen, was enough to make me want to run screaming for the hills. Alternatively, I could hypothetically drive a knife into the person's hypothetical face--but they had already cleared away my cutlery, because this hypothetical person showed up over an hour late, which meant that we then had to have drinks with him, which prolonged the meal by another hour and a half.

I don't think that I will particularly enjoy pub culture--unless I'm with close friends, I don't like drawing out slightly awkward social situations. Clearly, dinner at Lucky Dhaba was slightly awkward, but I was with all of my favorite people, and so I was willing to prolong the insanity. But, when I'm with people I don't know, I'm usually quieter and more well-behaved, which quickly makes me feel bored, which makes me rather impatient with three-hour dinners. Ugh.

One interesting thing that I've noticed here is that people seem to feel absolutely no barrier to spreading stereotypes about other Europeans. I don't know how many conversations I've had in the last two weeks in which the 'organized, methodical Germans' were compared to the 'lazy French' or the 'disorganized Italians' or the 'drunk Irish' or whomever else. When I'm at home, I may discuss stereotypes about groups if I'm with someone from that group, and I probably encourage stereotypes about Iowans (with enthusiasm that directly contradicts the anger that I felt about having my state mocked by someone I didn't know today, hypothetically), but I don't really talk about other groups. Granted, I have been known to sing 'I'm Ronery', which directly abuses the occasional tendency of Koreans to be unable to pronounce the letter 'l', but I never would have come up with that joke on my own--it took the largely awful 'Team America: World Police' to plant that unforgettable song in my head. But, in general, coming from a society and an age-group that has drummed political correctness into everyone's heads, stereotypes now seem somewhat acceptable if they're made in a joking manner, but I don't know many people who would flat-out say something about that was in any way negative about another group in a serious conversation. The people who do usually are perceived (and probably are) racists, but here it just seems accepted that different European groups have various tendencies. On the whole, I think there are a lot of problems with political correctness, and I know that it has caused a lot of jokes and/or anger, and I would prefer to live someplace where it didn't matter. However (and this is a big however), the benefit has been that if people in positions of power are no longer able to say negative things about minority groups, new generations are afforded the opportunity to grow up in a more colorblind society. My grandparents' generation may be beyond repair in terms of racial prejudice (and I definitely don't just mean white grandparents--every friend I've talked to, regardless of ethnicity, says that their grandparents have some prejudices against other groups), but I'm confident that we'll see a minority president in my lifetime. I think that's much more than can be said of Europe--for all of its socialist utopian visions, the last few years have begun to show that Europe has serious issues to address in terms of race and what it means to be a citizen. Regardless of how much more progress needs to be made in the US, I can't think of any other societies which have integrated people from so many different nationalities to the point that it's possible for people from virtually any group to rise to virtually any level of power. In my opinion (and I could be completely wrong here), the issue is no longer really just race--at this point, the real barrier to progress in America is class and money. If two similarly-talented children have access to the same education, the same after-school activities, the same supportive families, and the same safe neighborhoods, they should have approximately the same adult opportunities available to them. The major issue facing America now is how we can clean things up for both the urban and the rural poor so that the next generations can break the cycles that their families are trapped in, regardless of whether they're a poor black kid from the slums or a poor white kid from the sticks.

Okay, enough about that. I'm worn out from walking around all day; I went into city center to do a bit of shopping, and thought that I was successful, but came home to discover that I'd bought the wrong wireless router. This was a problem with the method of purchasing--I went to this weird electronics store where you just flip through a catalog, write down what you want, pay for it without seeing the product, and then they bring it up from the back warehouse a few minutes later. From the catalog description, I thought this was what I wanted, but it turned out to be a router for phone modems, not for cable modems. I'm guessing the last person to buy this had the same problem, since all of the internal packaging had been opened by someone else before it was apparently returned. Hopefully my next trip will be more successful! When I got back, I discovered that my roommate had arrived, which was great--I went out for dinner with her, the other two Hyderabadis currently here, and a couple of other people, and it was nice until, let's just say hypothetically, the last hour or so. Now it's time for me to go to bed!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

hail europa

Today was v. relaxing. I awoke late, with the intention of showering and perhaps accomplishing something--but I got sucked into a TV airing of 'The Money Pit', a minor comedy from ~1987 starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. That was back before Tom Hanks started taking more serious roles, and relied more on slapstick, so it was quite amusing; he and Shelley Long played a couple who thought they got a fantastic deal on a house, only to discover that they had been conned and that the place was completely falling apart. It was perhaps not as good as 'Joe vs. the Volcano', 'Big', or other Tom Hanks movies from that era, but it did manage to trap me into watching virtually the entire movie (I must have missed approximately ten minutes at the beginning). Since the movie didn't end until 2:20ish, and I had intended to go to Evensong at St. Patrick's Cathedral at 3:15, I didn't have time for a shower, but I did manage to put on a skirt and tame my hair before catching a taxi to the church.

I arrived early, because I had anticipated some traffic problems due to the Easter Rising commemorative parade that went through the city center earlier in the day, but the traffic was largely back to normal, so the taxi ride was quick and easy. St. Patrick's Cathedral is only a couple of blocks from its rival, Christ Church, the cathedral where I had attended the Handel/Baroque recital on Wednesday. Both churches are now Protestant (Church of Ireland), thanks to the British, and both rely heavily on tourist admission fees because their congregations are now so small. I was quite surprised that Evensong only attracted ~150 people, and two-thirds of those appeared to be tourists. Granted, they don't offer communion during Evensong, so I suppose a lot of the more devout parishoners went in the morning, but the attendance was sparse to say the least; they could have fit four times that number without any problem whatsoever. Still, the service was nice, albeit heavy on singing, but that's to be expected of anything called 'evensong'. Better yet, they have a real choir and an organ, so you don't have to do all the singing yourself like I'm used to when I go to the Christmas Eve service at my grandmother's Methodist church. Choir boys are a definite step up from out-of-tune farmers.

All in all, I felt that this was a better way to experience a cathedral than by paying to go in and have a look around; Notre Dame in Paris was highly moving, but it would have been more moving if there weren't tons of Japanese tourists jostling to get pictures of each other in front of anything that looked remotely interesting. When I left, there was almost as large of a crowd outside waiting to look around as there had been during the actual service, which I thought was a little ironic.

After that, I did very little the rest of the day. I had fish 'n' chips at the pub nearby, I talked to my parents, and I spent most of the evening reading 'Georgette Heyer's Regency World'. I'm approximately 70% finished with it, and I'm sad that I've gone 0-for-2 so far with books I've purchased here. This isn't infuriating me like 'Jaywalking with the Irish' did, but I'm just a bit bored with it. I think that the problem is that Georgette Heyer was so attentive to facts and to accuracy that most of the information in the book could easily be learned by reading a dozen of Heyer's romances--which are far more entertaining than an academic description of the Regency period. The worst part, though, is that every fact that is given is backed up by references to Heyer's books, not to other historical accounts. The author was apparently working on a Ph.D. dissertation on Georgette Heyer, and so her account of the Regency explains everything with illustrative references to Heyer's characters. For instance, the section of women's conduct might have a sentence like, 'As Miss Sophia Stanton-Lacy discovered in 'The Grand Sophy', women were barred from driving down the exclusively male St. James' Street'. The first few sections were fine, but the constant references to fictional characters (especially from the same five or ten books that I've already read) is getting a little tedious.

Despite that, I'm beginning to get enthused again about writing my romance novel, if I can actually work up the nerve to begin again. This will have to be balanced with work, a desire to get fit, my plans to thoroughly explore Dublin, and my hopes for getting out of the city at least twice a month. Will I accomplish everything I want? Probably not, but so far it's v. fun trying!

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 15, 2006

soldiers of destiny

The political party that has led Ireland for much of the time since independence was achieved in 1921 is named Fianna Fail--translated from Gaelic, it means 'Soldiers of Destiny'. How awesome is that? Why do Americans content themselves with boring party names, boring currency schemes, boring suburban architecture, and other boring things? Actually, it's really just the party names I am annoyed about; you have to admit that our flag is about as crazy and busy as they come (I think we misunderstood what having a tricolor flag meant), and our national anthem is both difficult to sing and apparently difficult to remember, judging by all of the Olympic athletes who start off lip-synching on the podium but gradually fade away around 'whose broad stripes and bright stars'.

Anyway, I'm debating whether to go downtown tomorrow; there's a military parade in honor of the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising, as well as some vague commemoration of the Battle of the Somme during WWI, so that the Loyalists also have something to celebrate. It's the first time they've had a parade on Easter in thirty-five years, and there was talk of cancellation after the riot a couple of months ago, but it's still on for tomorrow. We'll see how I feel about it tomorrow, but I don't have a huge desire to go watch a parade, so I may stay home (or better yet, go shopping).

The weekend so far has been really nice. I had dinner at Sandra's house last night, and ended up staying over because she lives about fifty minutes away by train. The dinner was great--she had raclette, which is traditional Swiss/German variant of fondue. It involves a tabletop electric grill; you use the top portion to grill things like eggplant and meats that require more cooking, and then you put your ingredients into a small metal pan, top liberally with cheese, and then slide into the bottom half of the grill so that the cheese melts and everything gets warm and yummy. I was quite intrigued by this process, and may have to procure a raclette before I go home, although this would necessitate ordering from and getting it shipped to the States, so there's really no rush. But clearly, a raclette is just the thing to add to my waffle iron, my pizza stone, my George Foreman grill, my genius sensor microwave, and any number of other kitchen gadgets large and small.

After we had consumed sufficient amounts of wine, talk ended up turning to politics; actually, for Sandra and Stephanie, it turned to something unknown since they were talking to each other in German, but for me and their boyfriends, we discussed politics in English. I typically don't discuss politics, but it all started off with rather innocent questions from me about the state of affairs in Ireland, which gradually descended into a dissection of relationships between Protestants and Catholics in the north, followed by a rather harrowing description of Belfast. I paid for this by having the dubious pleasure of discussing American foreign policy for half an hour with people who are as well-informed as I am, since people here actually make an effort to know what's going on in America. General consensus seems to be that the war is deeply unpopular (surprise), but the guys were curious to understand what the mood is in America and where we think we'll end up going in the next election. I clearly don't have any of these answers, but it was a good discussion nonetheless.

Today, I took the train back to the city, which gave me some really lovely views of the Atlantic/Dublin Bay from the train. The train was built into the cliffs over the sea, and frequently used tunnels in places where the cliff was too steep to cut across the face. It was sunny in the morning, so I decided that it was a perfect day for doing the Dublin bus tour, but of course it turned cloudy and overcast for most of the afternoon. I was bundled up in my pink bomber jacket, though, so I was happy as a clam on the top of the open-air double-decker bus. I didn't take full advantage of the on-off privileges on the bus; instead, I rode the whole tour straight through once, got off for lunch, then took the bus again to the National Museum. It's clear that the quality of the tour guides varies widely, and I wished that I would have ridden the entire way with the second driver, rather than the first, but overall it was a good introduction to the layout of Dublin. Everything really is rather close together, and many things are within walking distance (albeit a half-hour walk, not a five-minute walk). There are many things that I will have to make time for while I'm here, particularly the museum that specializes in glass and pottery, the jail where tons of revolutionaries (including almost everyone from the Easter Rising) were incarcerated and executed, and St. Patrick's Cathedral. The line for the Guinness Storehouse was ridiculous--it looked like it was as painful as the line for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and considering that you were just getting a free pint of Guinness, rather than the chance to see 'The Birth of Venus' and hundreds of other priceless examples of Western art, it seemed just a little bit ridiculous. But, apparently the view from the top of the storehouse is worth it, and so I'll go there--but I'll wait until someone visits me, so that I don't go more often than I have to.

I ended up going to the National Museum after the bus tour, and I was really impressed--the museum doesn't charge an entrance fee, but it was very polished and had an extensive collection of Celtic, Viking, and Medieval jewelry and weaponry. Their gold displays were breathtaking, and I could only sigh longingly over the idea of getting to wear huge solid-gold collars and bracelets. It's of course easy to banish such longings when you remember what the gold came with (war, plague, pestilence, famine, and the general discomfort that would come with never bathing and being constantly pregnant). But, when the gold is stunningly displayed in a well-lit modern museum, it's very far removed from the circumstances in which it was born. Since I love all sorts of history, but especially pre-industrial history, the museum was well worth the trip for me. I was a little disconcerted, though, by their small Egyptian wing; the entire rest of the museum was dedicated to the Irish experience, but they had a couple of rooms to house a collection of Egyptian artifacts that some rich Irish Victorians had bought up from shady antiquities dealers and eventually donated or sold to the museum. The mummies and maps of the Nile seemed horribly out of place...and almost too British, if that makes any sense at all, since the British love their Egyptian antiquities and refuse to part with them.

After that, I wandered around a bit, then came back to my apartment, ordered some take-out Thai food (which was tasty, and which I grossly overtipped for because I misunderstood what the total was, but c'est la vie), and have been rereading Georgette Heyer's 'The Grand Sophy'. I should go to bed, but since I have the next two days off, I think I'll stay up and read for a bit. But, on the whole I'm very excited about all of this exploration that I did today, and I really need to draw up a list of everything I want to see. I had initially planned to take weekend trips to other parts of Europe, but I have a feeling that I could confine myself to Ireland and the UK (Scotland, Wales, Bath, etc.) and have more than enough to do with my approximately 20 remaining weekends. Regardless, Dublin is really cool, and I can't wait for the nights to get even longer and the days to get just a tiny bit warmer :)

When I grow up (and particularly if I make a fortune from romance novels), I want a charming Georgian-style townhouse with a gleaming red door just like this one. Posted by Picasa

Why I don't live at the P.O. - if you had been here ninety years ago tomorrow, you would have been in danger of being shot. Today, they're preparing the General Post Office, site of the 1916 Easter Rising, for tomorrow's commemorative parade. Posted by Picasa

Despite Vidya's near-command to eat at Abrakebabra, I didn't succumb today--but I think it's telling that there were two Abrakebabras along the route of the Dublin Bus tour, which indicates that they are supremely important. Posted by Picasa

Dublin Bay, as seen from the DART. Posted by Picasa

The view from the platform of the Greystones DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) Station--how can mass transit be so lovely? Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 14, 2006

smints and icecream

I probably won't post anything of substance tonight because I'm about to leave for a dinner party, and it's far enough away from the city center that I may end up staying over. This is just a brief message to let my well-wishers know that I am alive. I'll write more tomorrow!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

hello moto

I finally, after months of inner struggle, broke down and purchased the Motorola RAZR V3. Better yet, I purchased it in magenta (see below). I've now officially entered the ranks of the borderline-trashy; I just need a bunch of crystals dangling off the sides, or stick-on rhinestones for the cover, to complete my awesome ensemble.

Despite my embrace of trash, I am also proud to enter the ranks of the able-to-order-takeout. Since there was no phone in my apartment and I had no cash, I wasn't able to even consider takeout for my first week here; now, with both cash and phone in hand, I can call any restaurant with delivery and have tasty food brought directly to my door. It's amazing what modernity has wrought, innit?

So I went to Grafton St. to buy my phone tonight, which proved dangerous because it also allowed me to stop at a bookstore. I picked up a copy of Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods', since I never got around to reading Claudius's copy, and I also bought a research book called something along the lines of 'Georgette Heyer's Regency England'. I know tons of stuff informally about the English Regency period (typically described at 1811-1830, I believe), but this should be a good book for me to use as I finally finish writing my freaking romance novel. I read a couple of chapters over coffee after having dinner at a restaurant near Grafton St., before coming home and playing with my new phone.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, which the Irish have off since they're still going through the motions of being good Catholics. But, judging by the number of people (rough estimate: everyone) carrying newly-purchased alcohol as they were running errands tonight, it's clear that the whole country is in a mad dash to prepare for the calamitous Shutting of the Pubs for Good Friday. While Good Friday used to be a day of penance and reflection, it's now a day to get raucously drunk at house parties rahter than at the pub. I was thinking of going to the party at the Embassy, but one of my coworkers invited me to her house for dinner (and, no doubt, some drinks), which sounds infinitely preferable.

Happy Good Friday to all of you heathens stuck in a country that doesn't give you the day off :)
  Posted by Picasa
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

abduction from the seraglio

Tonight, I went with my friend Maya (visiting from the Hyderabad office) to see an organ recital in honor of the anniversary of the first performance of Handel's 'Messiah'. The recital was held in Christ Church Cathedral (see below). The organist was clearly v. talented, and the music was lovely in a church setting--but it was also clear that the organist much preferred Bach, because he only played one Handel piece despite Handel being the supposed theme. He also only got ~40 minutes--apparently, since Christ Church is now supported solely by tourism dollars/euros, they don't like to pay staff to keep the doors open for free concerts. Or perhaps I should be more charitable and assume they had some sort of evening services going on. Anyway, because of the length of the concert, the organist cut one of the two Handel pieces. Despite that, the music was really lovely--I used to listen to lots of Bach fugues when I was younger and less enthralled by pop culture, so I felt like I was getting back to my roots.

Listening to classical always makes me wish that I still played the flute; I gave it up years ago, but despite the fact that my mouth was the wrong shape for flute, which made it difficult for me to hold the correct embouchure (aka the tight, closed-up position that allows you to direct a steady stream of air across the flute opening), I always enjoyed playing it. My band director in high school was really quite good; we won all of the marching band competitions, except for one, that we entered while I was in high school, and we typically performed very well at the conference-wide concert band competitions as well. Some of my favorite pieces from the good ol' days included 'Flores de Espana' (which had a nice Spanish flair), 'Trail of Tears' (which involved haunting wind instruments combined with some fun chanting of Cherokee words which we probably were incapable of pronouncing), and a duet of Pachelbel's 'Canon' that I played with Elaina. Oh, and the Olympic theme arrangement, of course. Anyway, if I ever become Secretary of State, maybe I'll take up flute again--I saw an article in the New York Times the other day about Condoleezza Rice's piano skills in her chamber group, and it was rather inspiring.

Anyway, the concert was cool, and afterwards we went to a pub (naturally) and had a pint of Guinness with the three other people who went to the concert with us. Then, Maya and I ditched the other three and had a tasty dinner near the pub; I was extremely glad that we took a cab home, since I was much too full for the twenty-minute walk. After reaching home, I downloaded the pictures you see below, and I also downloaded Mozart's overture to 'The Abduction from the Seraglio', which has been on repeat ever since. I may have to get back into classical music, since I'm rather sick of everything else I have. I know, it's blasphemy to say that I no longer want to listen to Gavin Rossdale--he'll always be near and dear to my heart, but I think I need a break from him. Mozart seems like an adequate (albeit calmer) substitute.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do this weekend, but I have four days off, so hopefully I can accomplish a lot. Actually, most stores and things will be closed during Easter, and everything will be closed on Good Friday--but I would imagine that some of the more touristy things will be open Saturday and Monday, so perhaps I'll do one of those Dublin bus tours. Now, though, I'm super tired, so it's time for bed!
 Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin--thanks to the British, the most important cathedrals in Dublin are all Protestant. The church was beautiful, but lacked the gravitas that I found in my Great Church Tour Across Europe last summer--probably because you can't help but feel sorry for all of the forgotten hordes who were starving to death and unable to even pray in their old cathedrals. Posted by Picasa
 The photo is a little blurry, but for some reason the commemorative statue of Handel conducting 'The Messiah' is a very-well-built naked dude standing on top of some modern structure suggesting organ pipes. I doubt that Handel was that ripped, nor did he conduct naked, but perhaps I'm forgetting some of the stuff that I learned in Music Appreciation. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

diet cokes and baby ruths

Well, I finished that stupid book tonight, but there's no point in rambling on about it--any comments left on the post would undoubtedly be about my aunt's birthday. So, happy birthday Aunt Becky! I'll even wish you a happy 29th birthday if that's what you really want :)

Other than that, nothing of much importance happened today. I have to make a trip to the immigration authorities bright and early tomorrow morning, so I think that I'll go to sleep early. It's funny--I was told that the lines are really long, but when I found out that one of my coworkers only spent an hour and a half in line there, I thought that it was short compared to the amount of time I waited at the California DMV for my driver's license. Anyway, since I have to get up earlier than usual tomorrow, I think that it's time for bed. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 10, 2006

jaywalking with the irish, pt. 1

So, I've spent the last two nights reading this book that I picked up at Waterstone's (the British equivalent of Borders, and therefore the British equivalent of a huge drain on my savings), and if I actually liked it I would probably stay up tonight to finish it. You know that I despise a book if I prioritize going to bed before eleven over finishing the last few chapters. It's called 'Jaywalking with the Irish' by David Monagan, and I picked it up because I thought that another American's chronicles of explorative vertigo in Ireland would help me to adjust. Instead, I've just become more and more annoyed at this guy. He and his wife (whom he makes occasional overly-cute remarks about) picked up their three kids and moved them all to Cork, Ireland, in pursuit of some upbringing less tainted by the modern living found in cold American suburbia. Clearly, anyone who picks up their family and moves to a foreign country suffers from a restlessness of spirit that some find charming and others find idiotic; perhaps since I was picked up and moved to a foreign county, I usually find it charming, but in this guy I find it idiotic instead.

I think that my main problem with him is that his language is always, inevitably, unavoidably overwrought. You can argue that that's my main problem as well (the fact that I even used the word 'overwrought' implies that I have some issues with clear, direct prose), but I think that the key difference here is that he *always* means it. There are times when I'm feeling sorry for myself and I use fancy words like window-dressings to cover whatever I'm thinking, but most of the time I use them because they are pleasantly ironic when one is describing otherwise-boring aspects of modern life. But, if you're using them to describe a country about which you want to make a larger point, such as the point that people have lost a great deal by sacrificing their backwoods cottages and charmingly-poor towns in the name of 'progress', you had best make sure that your point isn't lost in your endless descriptions of rainbows, rainstorms, your children's' friends, and the characters you've met at the local pub.

To put it another way, Monaghan dresses up everything that he sees in some sort of fevered dream of what Ireland used to be like (which, he likes to remind us, he is an expert on since he spent a year or two in Ireland in the '70's). Then, he is brought back to 'reality' by seeing some girl walk by in a midriff-baring shirt, or getting his windshield bashed in by some area youths (he bemoaned this as an Irish reaction against outsiders, but I think it was an understandable reaction against a self-involved prick), and this gives him a chance to wax eloquent on how all this new-found wealth is ruining Ireland. I haven't finished the book, so I'm hoping something bad happens and he gets shipped back to America, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards. I think it's telling, though, that he doesn't have many anecdotes of people who are wishing away all of this prosperity--given how he loves to recount every conversation with anyone he's ever had over a pint, I would expect that anyone who said anything about how the country was getting worse would end up in the book.

At the end of the day, romanticizing doesn't pay the bills, and if you ask someone to choose between living in a soulless concrete apartment in Dublin, with tasty ready-to-eat meals from Marks and Spencer, or living in a two-room hovel with ten kids in the backwoods of County Cork, dying from famine and sending everyone you know off on perilous emigrations to parts unknown, I would imagine most people would choose the concrete apartment. Then again, maybe I'm being hypocritical, since I know even less of the situation than he appears to.

Maybe I'm also biased right now, since I had a ready-to-eat meal (spaghetti carbonara) from Marks and Spencer today, and it was delicious. I left work around seven, came home, tidied up a bit, ate dinner, and read that blasted book until now. One more thing, and then I'll shut up about it. Allow me to excerpt a passage:

"Beside the church lay a park where the grass wove thick and the birdsong sweet, but no fairy chatter could be heard. Instead, there waited a black, voluptuous sculpture of the Egyptian god Isiris, she the incarnation of fertility renewing without end. Beyond lay a mysterious series of fifteen-foot-tall pyramids of blue-gray Kerry slate, rising improbably beside the river and before the open water of Sneem's harbor." David Monaghan, Jaywalking with the Irish, pg. 123.

If you're going to write prose so that it sounds like you're trying for some high-minded literary prize (and especially if you're writing prose for a book, and not for a blog that you write haphazardly every night), you should know your facts. And the fact is that there is no god called Isiris. He meant Isis, but ended up with some strange cross between Isis and Osiris, and neither he nor his subsequent editors caught it. This bothered me so much that I flagged the page, and when I'd read another hundred pages with this still fresh in my memory, I looked it up just to make sure that I wasn't wrong.

Now, I'm going to fully admit that I sound just as overknowledgable and unbearable as Monaghan does, especially since I'm taking issue over extremely small pieces of his work. But, I guess I don't like reading the travelogues of anyone who takes themselves too seriously. And this guy, regardless of how much fun he had or how many 'dear friends' (an abhorrent and oh-so-fake way to describe people) he made, seemed to fall effortlessly into the 'I Take Myself Seriously' club. I'm still going to finish the book, because finishing books is what I fall effortlessly into, but I'm not going to be happy about it. And, you can probably be assured that if I'm not happy, you won't be happy, since you'll have to read another post about it.

On that note, I have tons to do tomorrow, so I should probably sleep. My ten-day-old sore throat has somehow developed a wracking cough accompaniment; usually coughs beget sore throats, but this one was the other way around. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow! Otherwise, I may have to break out the half-empty bottle of Jameson that the former tenant thoughtfully left for me. If whiskey can't fix me, you can bet that a visit to National Health Services won't do the trick either.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

the things you said and did to me seemed to come so easily

If yesterday was fun but hectic, today was quiet but relaxing. I accidentally slept until 1:30, which was entirely my fault since I also accidentally read until three a.m. I took a quick shower and then walked downtown. The walk was punctuated by occasional bursts of rain, followed by all-too-brief stretches of calm. But, I discovered that I can walk to the main shopping area around Grafton St. in around fifteen or twenty minutes, which is great--it seems entirely reasonable to get some exercise by walking to Grafton St. and then taking a taxi back when I'm laden with packages. Clearly, I could get more exercise by doing this in the opposite manner, or foregoing taxis altogether, but I didn't particularly feel like walking home in the rain with a bunch of shopping bags.

Anyway, Grafton St. is an area where Matt and I were yesterday, and I really like it. Actually, everywhere that Matt and I were yesterday was within five minutes of each other; Temple Bar, Grafton St., Dame St., Trinity College, and the other important areas of old Dublin are very compact and completely walkable, which is totally different from, say, Hyderabad. Grafton St. itself has been closed to motorized vehicles and turned into a street-long mall of sorts, as if Stanford Shopping Center had been stretched along one street and been forced to changes its upscale American stores for upscale Irish/European stores. Oh, and of course Dublin doesn't try to grow palm trees in an unsuitable climate, but I think this is eminently preferable; Stanford's palm trees, while lovely, are something of a joke when you find out that the school spends $30,000 per tree, an amount that comes close to a student's yearly tuition.

So, Stanford aside, Grafton St. is lovely. They even had the foresight to put a Body Shop next to a Nine West, which will probably help to part me from my hard-earned cash several times over the next few months. I didn't do much shopping because I got there late (everything closes by six on Sundays, just like at home), it was a bit rainy for shopping, and I was more interested in looking around, but I could easily while away an entire day around Grafton St. I did manage to pick up some necessities at Boots (the upscale British equivalent to Longs, transplanted to Ireland), including a hair dryer, and I bought a couple of books at Waterstone's. I checked out the Marks and Spencer, which is an old-school department store with, of all things, a food section in the basement. According to what I remember reading about the business at some point, they actually make a lot of their money off of their food offerings now, and it's little wonder--the place is a dream for people who don't really want to cook. They have all sorts of refrigerated, reheatable, single-serving meals, which is perfect for me since I don't like buying ingredients when I know that half of it will go to waste before I can use it, and I'm not in the mood for cooking when I've been at the office for twelve hours. So, I picked up enough random meals to last the week.

This all left me feeling very self-satisfied, even though self-satisfaction was perhaps not deserved since I, in essence, spent the afternoon buying overpriced toiletries, unnecessary books, and ready-to-eat meals to support my laziness. Despite that, I was feeling pretty satisfied, and after I had dropped my groceries off at home, I decided to forego the newly-purchased meals and have dinner at the nearby pub instead. Kitty O'Shea's is the nearest pub to the office, and so gets a lot of business from us when people leave work (apparently there's a group that goes every Monday and Wednesday, and most Fridays too). They also serve extremely tasty fish 'n' chips, which I washed down with some Guinness. If you read my blog and notice that I start to have Guinness more than four times a week, I suggest that you start sending me well-meaning emails with links to Alcoholics Anonymous. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours there, sipping my Guinness and reading a book that I picked up this afternoon. Then, I called my parents, came home, read a bit more, and am now more than ready for bed.

I've been in Dublin one week, but I already feel really settled. Maybe I'll start to feel claustrophobic once I've been working longer, but right now I'm really satisfied. Of course, I suppose it would be better if it didn't rain so much, but I'm not going to push my luck by wishing for that :)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

whispers at the bus stop

Today was a great day, probably in large part because I made it more than two blocks away from my apartment. I unfortunately had to get up at 6:30am, which is absolutely awful on a Saturday, especially since I still haven't completely adjusted to the time difference and so had trouble falling asleep last night. Why was I up at such an ungodly hour, you ask? Well, on a whim about a month ago, I had registered to take the Foreign Service Exam. It's only offered once a year, and today was the only test date. I had planned ahead and registered to take it at the US Embassy in Dublin. For those of you whom I work with, don't be concerned that I'm abandoning you--a) the application process to work in the Foreign Service can take up to two years, b) the application process is absurdly difficult to pass, and c) I have no idea what's next for me, but switching jobs definitely isn't on the horizon anytime soon.

Anyway, the exam was actually a fun way to start off my Saturday, probably because I'm completely masochistic in a trivia-loving kind of way. The test is broken up into four parts: general/job knowledge, essay, biographical, and English expression. The general section asks all sorts of trivia about Constitutional amendments, geography, history, culture, etc.; the essay is an essay, obviously; the biographical section makes you answer all sorts of questions about yourself; and the English expression section is similar to most standardized English exams. I think that I rocked the geography, at least--all those hours spent making my own little geography reports in Ukraine really helped me. Even now, more than a decade later, I can pick most African countries out on a map. If you're interested in trying, go to; I got a 140 out of 162 possible points on the Africa quiz, in case you'd like a bit of friendly competition.

Unfortunately, geography was a small component of what they tested, and the rest of the test was difficult. But, I managed to end early, and even better, I managed to leave during a break in the cyclical rain showers that were occasionally dousing Dublin today. Best of all, though, I secured an invite to a party at the Marine House on Good Friday. This is key because a) all bars and pubs are closed on Good Friday and b) drinks are only 2.50 euros, which is absurdly cheap for Dublin. I haven't decided if I'll go yet, but it could be fun to meet people whom I don't work with, so we'll have to see.

Anyway, after the exam, I met Irish Matt (who, obviously, is Irish and is back here rather than still in India) for a very late lunch. That turned into several hours of hanging out. He v. briefly showed me Trinity College, which he graduated from a few years ago, and which is home to the Book of Kells and an apparently-beautiful library that I will have to check out at a later point. Then, we stopped at a pub for my first pint (well, to be honest, first two pints) of Guinness. I must say that I like Guinness, even if it hasn't been transformed into the deliciously-potent Irish Car Bomb (which I will have to remember not to order here, judging by the look that Matt gave me when I mentioned them to him). I then caught a taxi home around 8:30, since he was having dinner with some friends, and I enjoyed the pleasant aftereffects of two pints of Guinness by eating leftover Indian food and reading a book in bed for awhile. A few years ago, I never would have dreamed that the day would come when I would be completely satisfied by 32 ounces of beer and a puddle of reheated curry, but stranger things have happened.

Tomorrow, I'll have to go back to the main area of Dublin and check out the shops--particularly the bookstores, of course, even though they are v. dangerous for me. Luckily, the stores aren't open long on Sundays, which will naturally curtail my acquisitive tendencies. Now, though, it's time to curl up in bed and dream of pleasant things. Perhaps I'll dream of leprechauns--I haven't seen any here yet, and I'm really disappointed. I've seen a few people who look like soccer hooligans, but that's as close as I've come. Hopefully some trips to the countryside will rectify this situation.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

fish and chips

I am once again a member of the ranks of the economically-viable; I walked two blocks in a different direction and successfully located an ATM. This allowed me, five minutes later, to successfully purchase my first greasy bag of fish and chips. I brought said greasy bag back to my apartment with me, where I proceeded to enjoy the delectable goodness of deep-friedness (although, alas, it is not the same as Long John Silvers). Clearly I will need to invest in a bottle of Heinz ketchup, since the ketchup that they gave me was the same miserable, too-sweet stuff that is always to be found in Europe, but all in all I was quite pleased. Better yet, the fish and chips place is open until like one a.m., which will be quite useful for me as I begin to work even more on the stuff that I have going on in Dublin. It already stays light so unbelievably late (until after eight, and we just passed the spring equinox), and by the time the solstice hits in June, it will stay light until eleven p.m. This is perfect for me--as my workload increases, the sunshine will too, so I can work a few minutes later every day and still manage to catch half an hour of sunlight at the end of it. Awesome!

I'm quite excited about the weekend, and now that I have cash I may be able to actually go someplace and do something that doesn't involve wandering within two blocks of my apartment. I need to go out Saturday morning anyway, so afterward I will probably wander around, do some shopping, perhaps buy a cellphone, and generally scope out my environs. Sunday will probably be more of the same, unless I decide to catch up on sleep and work, but I'm trying to set goals of not having to work on the weekends, and I might as well start now.

Regardless, Dublin in really cool. Even the two blocks around my apartment, strange though they are because they are essentially a quay that has been converted into apartments and office space, and was probably rather seedy a few years ago, are really cool. There are all of these cute terraced houses, with either a little tiny lawn or a one-car parking space in front, all closed off by neat little iron railings. In the two-block walk to the convenience store I have been frequenting, I pass directly by three pubs, and I'm sure there are more within a stone's throw down any of the side streets. I also live by a DART (Dublin area rapid transit--sound familiar?) station, which gets an 'x' for noise but a 'check for convenience, even though it hasn't been quite so convenient during my cash- and time-strapped first few days.

Currently I would pay dearly for a full night's sleep and an end to this pesky sore throat; I thought I was getting sick a week ago, but I've just maintained the same sore throat without experiencing any additional symptoms. If I am lucky, perhaps I'll get consumption (tuberculosis) while I'm here; I didn't pick up bubonic plague in India, but consumption seems so much more romantic and writerly anyway. I think it would be great fun to be wrapped up in a muffler and a comfy sweater, coughing blood into a handkerchief while writing an epic tragedy that will survive the onslaught of time. I have mentioned this fantasy before, however, and I am aware that having consumption is probably not as romantic as it sounds. This is particularly true since a) most consumption is now caught from spending large quantities of time around homeless people, and b) the treatment requires a significant amount of rather unpleasant drugs. The treatment used to involve taking a vacation at a seaside resort, which is pretty appealling--but I guess the treatment also used to be completely ineffective, so you sort of have to pick your battles.

Regardless, Dublin has some amazing literary history, and I'm looking forward to exploring it more over the next few months. There's a big festival here soon to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Samuel Beckett's birth, and I'm going to have to see if I can get tickets to see a performance of 'Waiting for Godot.' Not that I really have much knowledge of Beckett, nor have I read the play, which I guess makes me an elitist poser, but I've always loved the title and I might as well see it in Dublin, right? I shall leave you to debate whether any of this post made sense; it's time for me to go to bed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

green black and blue, make the colors in the sky

I should have brought my playstation and my Dance Dance Revolution pads; I ended up in a ground-floor flat, and so if I decided to 'stomp it to my beat', as one of the songs proclaims, I wouldn't have bothered anyone. That would probably end soon, though, since I will get a roommate in a couple of weeks, and not everyone is particularly indulgent towards ridiculous techno music combined with bizarre imported videogames.

While I still have not gone more than two blocks from my apartment, I can already list some ups and downs (or checks and x;s, if you will):

check: the snack rooms at the office have real mugs for tea, so that you can have a civilized cuppa instead of slurping your tea out of a paper cup like those barbaric colonials in the States.

x: the snack rooms at the office seem to specialize in a strange flavor of yogurt: rhubarb. I've never seen rhubarb yogurt before, and I think there's a good reason for that. Sometimes the colonials do get something right; but I guess a country that was ravaged by famine will eat anything. Which leads me to...

x: flavored potato chips. Whether you call them chips or crisps, sometimes you just want a nice, salty, otherwise-unflavored potato. The anonymous (but guessable) commenter about this issue a few posts ago was right that it's difficult to find unflavored chips anywhere. The office had a couple of bags of sour cream and onion, (which I got used to in India, where the only other alternatives were 'Spanish Style Tomato Tango', 'Caribbean Style Chili', 'Indian Style Magic Masala', and a v. infrequent plain chip that usually made my day when I found it); but, the sour cream and onion ran out today. I tried the salt and vinegar, which was mostly okay, but when they're too vinegary, they make me want to cry. We'll see how this works out, but given that my expat diet typically consists of sandwiches (thank you, Earl of Sandwich! and also, thank you Sri for enjoying sandwiches as much as I do) and chips, this could be v. sad.

check: Irish accents. They're all lilting and beautiful, even when I can't understand them. They make you want to turn off the laptop, throw it out the nearest window, and head down to the pub for a nice pint or three. This is problematic, since the laptop probably won't be turned off at all for the next six months.

Okay, I have tons to do tomorrow and I intended to be in bed ages ago. But, considering that I had to a) unpack my clothes so that I could stop looking like a wrinkled mess, b) prep for some meetings tomorrow, and c) write in my blog so that people wouldn't immediately leap to the conclusion that I had died in some particularly-gruesome leprechaun-related stabbing, I didn't get to bed as early as I should have. I am going to immediately rectify that unfortunate situation--goodnight!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

new look, same great taste

Okay, I lied about going to bed--I decided to play around with my blog formatting instead. In honor of my move to a foreign country, this blog is now green--green for Ireland, green for my eyes, and green for the envy that I feel towards all of you with access to bona fide Mexican food. The content will continue to be a familiar mish-mash of overly-long posts full of the minutiae of my daily life, photos of absurd or evocative sights, and slightly whacked-out paragraphs hastily written after fourteen hours in the office. This template change, combined with the post and photos below, are all you're getting out of me tonight--it's definitely, definitely time for bed.

soup and sandwiches

Continuing my record, I have yet to go more than two blocks away from my apartment. Actually, 'blocks' is an approximation, since roads don't really create perfect perpendicular intersections and nice, dependable squares, but it's a good guess for distance. However, I did make it to the same convenience store that I found the other night, thus rescuing myself from the horrid fate of eating potato chips for dinner for the second night in a row. I procured some sketchy (but tasty) fish chowder and some stuff for sandwiches, so I should be good for tomorrow as well.

I currently face a couple of dilemmas. 1) I haven't tracked down an ATM, so I have no cash with which to pay a taxi, a food delivery person, or anyone else. 2) I have no phone in my apartment, nor do I have a cellphone, so I can't order any delivery food. 3) Grocery stores appear to be too far away for serious shopping, but since I have no cash, I can't take a cab or train. 4) The major grocery store here, Tesco, apparently delivers, but this brings me back to points 1 and 2. Sigh. Clearly I just need to take a walk that's slightly longer than two blocks (or even, potentially, just a walk that's two blocks in a different direction), but I'm so busy that I haven't had time to explore yet. Hopefully this weekend will lend me adequate exploration time. If not, there's always next weekend--I apparently get both Good Friday and Easter Monday off (thank you, Catholics!), so a four-day weekend will definitely help me to get settled.

Now, though, it's time for bed; and I sincerely hope that there aren't a million box elder bugs (see below) in my apartment when I wake up.

In case the family was curious--a box elder bug did make it to Ireland. Box elder bugs ( are a veritable plague in Iowa this spring, and they were absolutely everywhere when I was home--I would wake up with several in my waterglass every morning. I admired this bug's tenacity in surviving 1) a freezing trip to Des Moines in the back of my father's truck, 2) a long plane ride to Ireland, and 3) several days of being moved back and forth in a v. heavy suitcase. However, after taking its picture, I promptly squished it--I had no desire to infest Ireland, particularly since St. Patrick is no longer around to get rid of them like he did all those snakes. Posted by Picasa

My new living room, replete with 'art'. Posted by Picasa

My new kitchen, after an afternoon cleaning by the housekeeper. Posted by Picasa

My new bedroom...I had to wrestle with my conscience, since I don't have a roommate yet and could have chosen the smaller bedroom, but the amount of stuff I brought necessitates major closet space. Posted by Picasa

For those of you who may be curious--a view of the hole that is quickly becoming my parents' new basement. The pond in the background was made by my father a few years ago. Move to Iowa, inhabit vast quantities of space. Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 03, 2006

hello ireland!

I have arrived in Dublin, and so far it's the bombdiggity. Not quite as much of the bombdiggitysss as friends are, to reference a particularly low point in my past literary prowess, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. We'll see if I continue to feel this way after I've actually gone out and explored. I had grand plans yesterday to get off the plane, drop off my bags, and then go out and buy a phone and a hair dryer, but once I got to the apartment, I quickly realized I had no desire to navigate around an unfamiliar city in the rain. I did keep myself awake all afternoon by playing 'Civilization', which wasn't perhaps the most productive thing I could have done, but it was certainly effective.

Judging by what I've eaten since arriving in Ireland, this might not be the healthiest place for me. Last night, after not eating for ten hours, I finally ventured out and found a convenience store, where I procured a couple of frozen mini-pizzas and a small bottle of Diet Coke. I had one of the pizzas last night for dinner, nothing for breakfast today, some small amount of Indian food (how ironic!) for lunch, and rice krispies as a snack. I didn't get back to my apartment until nine p.m., and I thought that I could tide myself over with a bag of potato chips (aka 'crisps'), but when I discovered that I might faint from hunger, I ate the other frozen pizza instead. Isn't that all delightful? Clearly, finding a grocery store ranks right up there with getting a phone as the most important pending task.

Okay, time for bed, I'll take some pictures or something when I have more energy.