Friday, February 29, 2008

Ireland: Dublin (Friday, February 29) — Part 2 (afternoon/evening)

Written Friday, February 29 at 10:11 pm, Dublin (at the hotel)

Wandered down to the Liffey and hit Forbidden Planet.  Came back with a dozen miscellaneous back issue from their overstock bin at 25 cents each, and a copy of Justice League Legends, reprinting part of “The Lightning Saga” and a couple issues of Justice League, including a new cover for my anal-retentive Legion of Super-Heroes collection.

Later, I headed back into Temple Bar — past the actual Temple Bar, in fact — and had dinner at a Chinese fast food place (duck in plum sauce) and then a Nutella and ice cream crêpe and coffee for dessert.  On the way back, stopped in the Temple Bar Trading Co. shop, or the side that was open, which was all Guinness stuff.  Mugs, chocolates, refrigerator magnets, sure.  Soccer balls, rugby balls, t-shirts, okay.  Soft-boiled egg cups?  Slippers?  Underwear?  Oy!  (Or is that “Oi!”?)

My mother observed that she wasn’t picking up the Irish accent as readily as she has with other accents on past trips.  Me either, and that surprised me at first, although I’ve noticed it creeping in more the last couple days.  I suspect it’s because we’ve had three of us to reinforce each other’s American speech modes.  Now that I’m on my own, I’ll be picking it up much faster, I’m sure.

I’ll be heading out to the pubs in a bit.

Updated on January 11, 2010

Updated on April 30, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Ireland: Dublin (Friday, February 29) — Part 1 (afternoon)

Written Friday, February 29 at 2:58 pm, Dublin (at the hotel)

We arrived in Dublin a bit early, I think.  I pulled my suitcase out into the terminal, got a chicken, cheese, and stuffing panini, and then hopped on the Luas tram for a €1.50 ride to Abbey Street, less than two blocks from my hotel.

Makes me look forward to when our light rail in Seattle will be done, next year.  I’ll be able to catch a bus less than a block from the house, switch to the tram after about a 5 minute ride, and then take a 20 minute ride right to the airport.  It will take a bit longer (and take more timing) than just getting in the car, but it will generally be quite convenient.

I’m going to go out for a bit and wander O’Connell Street, and probably down to Forbidden Planet.  I expect to hit both Guinness Storehouse and the National Museum (for the Viking exhibit) tomorrow.

Updated on January 11, 2010
Seattle light rail is open now, and I’ve taken it to and from the airport a few times.  I’ve found that catching the bus a block from the house isn’t much fun at 6:00 am in the rain.  And I’ve found that the last bus past the light rail station on the way home is sometimes before my flight gets in, so I have to hoof it home.  (Which is about a 15 minute walk, not bad unless I’m lugging heavy luggage.)

Until recently, I’ve had to catch a shuttle bus from the last train station to the airport.  I’ll be heading to Washington DC this coming weekend for Mid-Atlantic Leather, and they just opened the final leg all the way to the airport a month ago — well, with a few blocks walk at the end, through the parking garage apparently — so we’ll see how that changes things.  Of course, I’ll also probably be schlepping the 50 pound portable sling…

Ireland: Blarney Castle, Mallow, Killarney, and back to Dublin (Thursday–Friday, February 28–29

Written Friday, February 29 at 12:25 pm, on the train to Dublin

Yesterday’s trip took us toward Cork, to Blarney Castle (and the Blarney Stone), probably the most famous tourist attraction in Ireland.  We drove toward Cork, then took the scenic route on the north side of Inishcarra reservoir, then into Blarney, where we had lunch.

Blarney Castle has large grounds, the castle ruins, a “rock close” (a garden path through some large boulders), and a manor house built a couple hundred years ago.  There are several stops and viewpoints around the grounds, explaining various history bits, including a cave with alleged tunnels to Cork, Kerry, and the lake; the dungeon, likely castle well, and kennel; the lake, where valuable gold plate was said to be tossed to keep it from the hands of the British (the lake was drained in the 1800s, but no sign of the plate was ever found); the lookout tower, and so forth.

Perhaps the most striking aspect was how small the castle actually was.  A basement and an entry room; rooms for the Earl, his daughters, and the priest; a “family room”; a banquet hall; a kitchen no larger than my own; and a couple garderobes (privies).  That’s it.  Presumably any guards and staff were housed outside the castle, but the image of one housing dozens of people inside is completely blown away.

Being there in February, the manor house was closed to tours, the rock close was technically closed as they were building a new boardwalk for it, but by going up the exit steps, I was able to get in and see pretty much all I wanted to.  In truth, there probably should have been a reduced entry fee, since perhaps 1/3 of the site was unavailable.  On the other hand, one of the guidebooks showed the line to kiss the Blarney Stone in spring or summer, with people lined up solid all around the battlements and around the banquet hall below.  In contrast, while I was in the castle proper, there were maybe a dozen others in there as well, such that I could go to any part and linger or backtrack as desired without having to deal with huge crowds.  And since Mom and Grandma couldn’t negotiate much in terms of steps well, and were getting a bit worn down by all the driving all week long, I don’t think we would have done much more there if it were available.

And yes, I did kiss the Blarney Stone.  With that added gift of eloquence, now you’ll never get me to shut up.  <grin>

We returned via Mallow and Rathmore, then stopped at the Lidl (closer to a Fred Meyer, perhaps, than anything else in the Northwest; grocery store plus some other stuff) to get the making for dinner.  I made pork chops, quiche lorraine (okay, I baked a pre-made one of those), and beets, plus pre-made strawberry trifle cups for dessert.

Friday morning came a bit earlier, as I made oatmeal and scrambled eggs with “bacon” (ham, to Americans) and bits of pork chops I had salvaged the night before, pre-cooking.  And then a scramble (heh) to the train.  The ticket to Dublin was €33 ($50, about the same as a ticket from Portland to Vancouver BC, maybe), purchased from the Irish Rail website; purchased at the station, it would have been €62!

The more I’ve travelled in recent years, the bigger a fan I’ve become of using public transportation — the El in Chicago, airport bus and subway in New York — but cross-country rail could be a whole different level.  It has been an enjoyable trip, however — except for the persistent rattle in something above the window next to me.  The cars are clean and modern, with little tables and even a food service cart coming through the aisle.  (It’s also a faster trip than by car, I think, with only two stops between Mallow and Dublin.)  Miles and miles of green Irish countryside going by, nothing much to see.

We should be in Dublin in 30-40 minutes, I think, and then I’ll catch a cab or bus to Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street, where I’ll be for the next couple nights.  I’m going to try to start shifting my schedule back around the clock, staying up late tonight, sleeping late tomorrow, and staying up late and probably sleeping very little on Saturday night, so that I’ll knock out on the plane to Amsterdam and then back to Seattle.  I’m scheduled back in Seattle at 2:30 pm.  The aim being, then to wake up the equivalent of late morning on Sunday (like I usually would) and being back to something close to my usual weekend schedule, minimizing the jetlag coming back.  We’ll see.

Updated on April 29, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ireland: Interlude

Written Thursday, February 28 at 9:34 pm, Killarney (upstairs at the cottage)

An unusual thing I’ve noticed here in Ireland is that hot air hand dryers are everywhere in toilets.  I have only seen a single paper towel dispenser all week.  In part, I suppose that this is a marker of how much forest (and thus paper products) we have in the States, vs. how little they have in Ireland.

But I also wonder if hot air hand dryers are more “green” (as they have always claimed to be).  There would be a larger overhead in the creation of each dryer vs. that of a paper towel dispenser, and there are ongoing electricity costs and higher maintenance costs of the physical device.  But on the other hand, day to day usage is just electricity.  No need to stock and load paper towels, no need to truck in paper towels, no need to do everything required to create paper towels, and no need to dispose of paper towels (and I bet relatively few are recycled).  When you think about it, there are a lot of costs involved in the day-to-day “maintenance” of the towel dispenser.

Oops, out of time to write of today’s trip now, will have to do that first thing on Friday.

Updated on January 8, 2010
Here is a Wikipedia page which pretty much confirms the idea I wrote above.  On the other hand, it also says that (a) people prefer to use paper towels, (b) hand dryers are less nygenic, and (c) hand dryers may actually blow germs off your hands and around the restroom.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ireland: The Ring of Kerry and the Gap of Dunloe (Wednesday, February 27)

Written Wednesday, February 27 at 7:19 pm, Killarney (upstairs at the cottage)

The weather was bright and warm today (it’s supposed to rain again tomorrow), so we drove the Ring of Kerry today.  We headed up to Kilorglin, then along the north edge of the Iveragh Peninsula, along the south side of Dingle Bay which had been so nasty a couple days ago but was now very calm.

The Ring of Kerry is quite definitely the big tourist road in the southwest region.  While much of the road is but two narrow lanes, it would still be navigable by a tour bus, which much of the Dingle and Beara peninsulas were not.  We only saw one tour bus all day, though (February is well outside the season); that probably made for a nicer trip, with far less traffic.  There were several patches of road construction along the way, including major work in Waterville and Castlecove; getting ready for the season, no doubt.

We stopped for ice cream in Castlecove (and I also bought a 2 CD set of Merle Haggard songs there), and then lunch in Kenmare, our third trip through that very nice little town.  We also shopped at the Kerry Wool Market shop there.  I bought a sweater and a ski cap; a bit expensive at €90 ($135), but they are wool and they will be my major souvenirs of the trip.  (I had also bought a €10 made-in-China-from-acrylic-yarn Ireland scarf in Dublin on Saturday.)

Rather than take the route back from Kenmare we’ve done twice, or back through the National Park, we went down into Black Valley and through the Gap of Dunloe.  Single-lane track the entire way (about 20 km), past sheep and farmhouses and looming upthrusts of rock; it was as close to a natural rollercoaster as you’ll find.  This time, I had the video camera with me and I recorded several snippets of driving on the dashboard of the car, including a full 8 minutes of harrowing drive through the Gap of Dunloe.  (I figure if I play it double time and add an Irish jig soundtrack, I’ve got the potential for a really cool and popular viral video on YouTube!  Remember that you saw it here first!)

We’ll be going into Killarney to the Danny Mann again shortly, so I can have my nightly Guinness and e-mail.  One of the bartenders is starting to recognize me!  (I was there until closing last night.)

After coming home from the pub each night, I’ve been watching DVDs I brought with me. So far finished Pretty Woman, watched Season 1 Episode 2 of Stargate: Atlantis, and two episodes of Season 1 of Will & Grace.  Maybe some Queer As Folk Season 4 tonight?

Finished Before Dishonor today.  Peter David is a great writer of Star Trek novels, tying disparate bits of continuity together into a superb whole, and doing it with dialogue that always seems note-perfect.  (He does Worf to a “T”.)  Although I’ve watched little Star Trek since the very start of Voyager, and thus haven’t seen either of the big Borg episodes referenced in this book, nor several of the lesser episode references — and didn’t know many of the secondary characters, at least one of whom is from an entire series of Star Trek novels that he has done — to see several of his creations from when he wrote the comics for DC Comics who are based on rec.arts.comics denizens from the time (late ’80s/early ’90s)show up here: Admiral Galloway and the TNG-era descendants of TOS-era security personnel Meyer and Boyajian make cameo appearances.)  And of course, when he made the pivotal reference to a Kirk-era TV show enemy, two words was all I needed to have a “Holy crap!” moment.  Connecting with your reader to do that with just two words, that’s good writing.

We’ll be going to Blarney Castle tomorrow — probably taking the north side of Inishcarra Reservoir and avoiding going into Cork at all — and then north to Mallow and back to Killarney.  Only about 10 miles is road we’ve been on before; much of should be pretty good road, except maybe the part along the reservoir.  It’s supposed to be rainy all day tomorrow, based on last night’s weather widget forecast.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ireland: The Beara Peninsula (Tuesday, February 26)

Written Tuesday, February 26 at 6:20 pm, Killarney (upstairs in the cottage)

The weather was nicer today, and we headed to the Beara Peninsula, south of Killarney and Kenmare.  First we backtracked to Kenmare by the route we had taken back from there before, then drove the north side of Beara Peninsula along the Kenmare River as it widened out to the sea.

Unfortunately, I left my video camera at the cottage by accident, so no videos today.  Sigh.

The color of the waters were beautiful — green and a rich medium blue — and the landscape was fantastic, with limestone everywhere.  (And sheep, plenty of sheep.)  We stopped several times to view the water landscapes, plus at a ruined house that must have dated back 200 years and a similarly aged ruined church (Kilcatherine, I think) in the midst of gravestones, even with gravestones in the church itself.  There were a myriad of small featureless stones in amidst the ones from the past century which looked likely to be headstones from decades and maybe even centuries ago, when easily-weathering limestone is all that could be used.

A long portion of the road was again single lane, for several miles, although it never felt particularly dangerous due to there being sheep pastures and houses frequently along the way.

After a late lunch in Castletownbere, we went a little further out to the local castle, the ruins of Dunboy Castle (destroyed in 1602 because O’Sullivan Bere was in rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I) and the being-massively-renovated Puxley Castle (burned in 1920 by the IRA, now being restored into the Capella Dunboy Castle hotel).  The signage there answered one of our question about why people had settled out on the near-barren, windswept coasts: because the Normans forced them from their ancestral homelands and this was what was left.  The O’Sullivan clan had been forced to this area; we had seen that name abundant on gravestones earlier in the day.

We drove back on the south side of the peninsula to Glengarriff, and then over Caha Pass and through Turner’s Rock Tunnel, a series of one long and four small rough-hewn tunnels carved through the mountain rock.  We stopped briefly at the Bonane Heritage Park, where there were recreations of various Bronze Age-style sites, but we would have had to walk a 3 km uphill trail, so we stuck with just viewing a crannóog (hut in the middle of a pond) and a short hike up to a viewpoint to see the valley spread out below us.

Finished The Ringworld Throne last night, and as I expected, it didn’t have as good an ending as I wanted.  A big part was the character names; previous books had two or three Ringworld characters with odd names (Harloprillar, etc.), but this one had a dozen or more, making them difficult to track.  There were also large chunks of story in the last 50 pages which were either viewed by the characters rather than involving them directly, or which were related second-hand.  I got the feeling that Niven had more story than he could fit in, and ended up summarizing chunks to move things along instead of them maybe dragging.

Updated on January 5, 2010

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ireland: The Dingle Peninsula and Killarney (Monday, February 25)

Written Monday, February 25 at 11:45 pm, Killarney (at the kitchen table)

It was very windy and rainy all day.  The most dramatic part of the day’s trip was the drive over Connor Pass, down into Dingle.  Very rocky, and only one lane for a couple miles, which included a very tight squeeze past a van coming down in the other direction; now I know the meaning of “wide spot in the road”!  Probably a good thing that there was no visibility off the side of the road due to major fog/clouds, so we couldn’t see what were avoiding falling off into.

We stopped in Dingle for gas and snacks, deciding not to go out on the loop at the tip of the peninsula, figuring that it was so icky, we wouldn’t really enjoy it.  On the way back, we stopped near Inch, where the wind was whipping Dingle Bay (right off the Atlantic) into a frenzy.  We tried to have lunch in Castlemaine, but the pub advertising “Good Food Served Daily” apparently had a different meaning of “Daily” in mind than we did.  We ended up with Fish & Chips at an Irish fast food joint called Micko’s in Kilorglin; I also had “curry fries”, fries with a glop of curry gravy on them.  (Pretty good, actually.  Not that far from poutine, I’m sure.)

(“Kil” – “Cill” in the Irish – means “church”.  Nothing to do with a battle site or anything like that.)

I have a couple rules when traveling:
  • You can eat at any restaurant, even the lowliest dive or chain restaurant, but you can’t eat at any restaurant (or any chain) twice.
  • And you can’t eat at any place that you could eat at when at home.
So no Burger King or Subway, but White Castle and Long John Silver’s (or Micko’s) are fine if you’re from the Northwest (since they aren’t).  I make an exception for “necessity foods” like coffee — Starbucks is fine anywhere (although if there a chain like Caribou, I frequent it instead of Starbucks when in Chicago and DC).  I also sometimes make an exception for brunch vs. dinner (in places where there are not a lot of breakfast options), since the meals tend to be so different.

Almost nothing was open in Killarney at 8:30 on a Monday night, and we didn’t want anything horribly fancy.  We ended up at a local Chinese place.  I can’t get Mom and Grandma to do Indian (which is why I went ahead and had the Chicken Curry for lunch yesterday and the Curry Fries today).  At the supermarket, I noticed Uncle Ben’s (apparently the same brand as in the States) has Curry and Korma sauces here.  I wonder if I can get those in Washington?

Other food experiments today were an apple soda called Cidona (not worth trying again) and a Moro bar, chocolate around caramel around a chocolate and crunch (malt?) center (pretty good).

Finally got my e-mail program set up to send and receive.  Good thing, since there were 90 items with the work e-mail on Thursday–Sunday, and 280+ on one work-related list I’m on that I’ll have to wade through in big ass chunks.  I also started posting these blog entries, with retro timestamps to echo when they were written, not when they were uploaded.

Checked out just what “black pudding” is via Wikipedia (blood sausage; blood plus fillers like oatmeal).  I had it a couple days ago and ate it (because one must try things like that when travelling, right?); it was okay, but nothing I’d write home about.  (Oops, too late!)  I also looked up “craic”, a term I’ve seen used by Irish boys on a couple cruise sites.  It’s nothing kinky, seems to mean roughly “fun” — “I’m a young, craic guy” — and comes from the same root as “crack”, a term we rarely use that way in English any more.

Tomorrow will probably be the Beara Peninsula, I think, or maybe Blarney Castle and other areas near Cork, although my mother has no interest in actually going into Cork or other cities.  If the weather is clear, we might do the Ring of Kerry rather than waiting for later in the week, lest it rain again.

Updated on January 4, 2010

Ireland: Killarney (Sunday, February 24)

Written Monday, February 25 at 10:40 am, Killarney (at the kitchen table)

Went to the Internet café last night, late, for just 35 minutes.  Barely made a dent in my accumulated e-mail, but made sure the Rain Country folk knew I was alive, and replied to a couple work items.  Then went to the Danny Mann pub to use their wireless, and got through a bunch more e-mail.  Should have set up the e-mail program while there to just download all my e-mail, to take care of offline, but didn’t think to.  Tried to update QuickTime on the computer, but failed to get a good enough connection.  Looks like I need an XVid codec to view the videos I took on this computer, but the one out there for the Mac won’t run on a G3, so I’m out of luck; I can store them, but not view them except on the little Flip camera.  I’ll have to wait until I get home to do anything more with them.

We’re going north to Tralee and then out on the Dingle Peninsula, about another 120 miles of driving, it looks like.  No idea what the roads will be like, of course, and thus how fast the trip will be.  It’s also windy and rainy, so it may be a slow trip.

Looks like I’ll finally finish Larry Niven’s The Ringworld Throne today (I actually finished it on Tuesday).  I’ve only been working at it in spurts (when I travel) for a year and some.  Not as good as the previous two novels in the series; doubt I’ll get the fourth one.  I think the plot is scattered; the parts with the vampire slayers and the parts with Louis and Hindmost and company are only sort of intersecting, and there are too many pieces missing from the latter plotline for me to do more than stumble along.  Maybe everything will come together in the final 40-50 pages, but I’m not confident that it will be a satisfying conclusion.  And then I can get back to the second half of Peter David’s latest Star Trek novel, Before Dishonor, also lain fallow for a couple months.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ireland: Kenmare and Killarney (Sunday, February 24)

Written Sunday, February 24 at 6:40 pm, Killarney (at the kitchen table)

Today, we drove down to Kenmare, through the Killarney National Park.   We stopped at Lough Leane and walked up to the Torc Waterfall, then travelled further along.  The roads were incredibly narrow and winding, and the speed markings were as high as 100 km/h (60 mph), absolutely ridiculous for those roads; 40 km/h (25 mph) would have been more appropriate.  Later on, we stopped at Ladies View, named for the reaction that Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting had when viewing the Lakes of Killarney from that spot.

Kenmare was a nice little town.  We had lunch and stopped into a linen and lace shop and into two wool shops.  Kenmare is on the Ring of Kerry drive, so we’ll go through there again later in the week.

Driving back, we took what looked on the map to be a lesser road, but we knew it couldn’t be any worse than what we had been on.  Indeed, it was technically longer (length-wise) than the N7 through the park, but only took us half the time due to much easier road.

We stopped at the grocery store again for snacks for tonight and a few other things.  Included in this purchase: Nutella, and honeycomb ice cream.  Never had them before.  (Nutella is chocolate-flavored hazelnut butter, next to the peanut butter; not nearly as flexible as peanut butter due to the cocoa in it.  Honeycomb ice cream is honey flavored with crunchy bits of toffee or seafoam or some such.  Yummy.)

Going to definitely get into town to the Internet café tonight.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ireland: Killarney (Saturday, February 23)

Written Saturday, February 23 at 11:46 pm, Killarney (upstairs in the cottage)

Coming back after dinner later, Mom missed the final turn to our cottage (inside the complex).  It was dark.  But she would miss it again at dusk on Sunday, too.  Turns out she was counting the speedbumps rather than the streets, and was remembering the original count from Saturday night.

Had quite good fish & chips for dinner, at a pub which eventually had traditional Irish music playing, after the France v. England Six Nations rugby match.  Watching that — I’ve never seen rugby before, and I still can’t figure out what prompts a new throw of the ball (a “scrum”?) — I can sure see why rugby is popular in the gay community these days:
  • It’s a drinking game.  Every one of the British players (not so much the Frogs) looked like he’d be downing a pitcher of Guinness or Foster’s or something more British after the match.
  • It’s hyper-masculine.  It’s like “tackle soccer” or “football without the rest break after every 30 seconds of play”.  Yes, Virginia, gay guys do fetishize extreme masculinity.  (Well, natural masculinity, as opposed to fake shit like pro wrestling.)
  • It’s off the radar in America.  Gay guys have to be either bleeding edge or at least sharply non-mainstream, at least until the mainstream catches on.  Doesn’t matter if that’s facial hair, showtunes, or sports; rugby is so much easier to embrace when Joe Average Straight Guy has at best a passing awareness of it.
  • Beefy boys in shorts and sweaty shirts tackling each other en masse, pulling at each other, unobtrusively grabbing who knows what bits of flesh along the way.  Good lord, it’s almost an orgy!  Who needs the bathhouse?
  • September 11.  Rugby got a huge boost in the gay community due to Mark Bingham’s involvement in stopping the 4th plane on 9/11.  A genuine gay hero makes rugby a gay sport.
After the game was over, but before Mom was ready to leave the music (we had to eventually in order to get to the SuperValu before it closed), I went a-wandering.  Hoped to find an Internet café, but both I found closed at 10:00 (one had already locked up at 9:45 when I got there, grr), so I haven’t checked my e-mail yet and told anyone I’m actually here and intact.  Found a music store and bought some cheap CD reissues (4 for the price of 3 at €3.99 each): Pam Tillis, Dolly Parton, Mickey Gilley, and Charlie Rich.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow.  Maybe driving the Ring of Kerry (that’s some long route around the county) or going to the Dingle Peninsula; I think I read that there are some archeological ruins up there.  If not tomorrow, then later in the week.

Should find the train station tomorrow and get my ticket for Friday morning.

Ireland: Dublin, Dublin to Killarney, and Killarney (Saturday, February 23)

Written Saturday, February 23 at 7:44 pm, Killarney (upstairs in a cottage at Old Killarney Village)

We took the City Tour in the late morning, on one of a fleet of “hop on, hop off” double-decker busses.   We got on at Parliament House/Trinity College, then off at Merrion Square, St. Stephen’s Green (big park), and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but then rode the rest of the way back to O’Connell Street.   I’ll probably come back to the Guinness Storehouse tour next weekend.   Had luck at the Cafe Royale at a Best Western on O’Connell Street, sitting under the TV showing the Birmingham v. Arsenal soccer match.   Every pub around was getting packed full for the Six Nations rugby match of Ireland v. Scotland, held there in Dublin that afternoon.   So many Scots boys in kilts, everywhere!   (Looking forward to Utilikilt weather in Seattle again!)

We bussed back to the B&B to pick up the car, then drove from Dublin, through Limerick (rather, just to the south of Limerick), and then to Killarney.   Nothing special about the drive itself, although large portions were just one lane in each direction.   Mom’s driving was better, probably because she got used to the car.

It got dark about 20 minutes before we got to Killarney.   The place we’re staying at — Old Killarney Village, a small development of time-share cottages — is outside Killarney, so we missed the turn off and went all the way to the town center, then backtracked and asked directions.   Then almost missed the turnoff going the other way, then just missed the side road from there, and then missed the check-in office.   No big deal on any of that, just one little whoops after another.

We’re heading into town in a few minutes to get dinner and visit the grocery to get all the necessities for the next week.  Maybe find an Internet café, too.

Ireland: Dublin (Friday, February 22) — Part 2 (night)

Written Saturday, February 23 at 9:40 am, Dublin (again, on the bed at the B&B)

Dragged myself out of bed at about 9:30 last night, swigged a cup of instant (ewww!) coffee, and caught the bus to the City Centre.   Fortunately, lots of folks were getting off at a couple spots, so I knew when to exit — right on the O’Connell Bridge over the River Liffey.  From there, I walked east along the south side of the river (Aston Quay and Wellington Quay), trying to find Georges Street where a couple of the gay pubs are.  Finally got to Parliament Street and remembered that Georges didn’t come all the way to the river, so I found where I was going in short order.  Passed by the Dublin branch of legendary UK comic store chain Forbidden Planet; I’ll get back there next weekend.

Had a Foster’s at The Dragon, and then a Guinness at The George, where I met a couple guys from London (Fraser and I think it was “Fahmi”).  Chatted with them a bit, then headed across the river.  Tried to find Out on the Liffey, but it is closed according to the guy at The Dock Sauna (a gay bathhouse, attached to Inn on the Liffey; no, I didn’t go in).  So I went to find PantiBar (formerly GUBU [short for “Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre, and Unprecedented”, a quote from Taoiseach Charles Haughey, referring to a double murder in 1982; although the original quote is apparently not gay related, as a name for a gay bar, it is almost as good a repurposing as “santorum”]).  I got rough directions, but couldn’t find it until I stopped at a straight pub and got better info.

Had a Guinness at PantiBar, and eventually started to fade; too little sleep does that.  Met and made out with a guy named Declan there; maybe I’ll get the chance for more when I’m back next weekend.  (Told you I’d pay for the lack of sleep.  Otherwise I would have gone back to the George with him and his buddies and well, who knows!  Always a shame to pass up potential goodies.)

Walked to O’Connell Street to try and find the hotel where I’ll be next weekend, but no luck.  (Didn’t see it on Sunday when we were by there in the daylight, either.  I think it’s a block further up.)  Caught a cab, which I was sure was taking me completely in the wrong direction, but poof, there we were back by Porterhouse North and I was in bed by 1:30 am.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ireland: Dublin (Friday, February 22) — Part 1 (day)

Written Friday, February 22 at 5:15 pm, Dublin time (on my bed at a B&B)

Once we got to Dublin and got the car… more adventures.  (Also lots of Scots boys in kilts.  More on that later.)  First we got a little bit lost trying to get to the M1 (the freeway), because of having to take a roundabout route (which went around several roundabouts, naturally), dumping us in the parking lot of a shopping mall.  Blame a cruddy map from the rental place, and not the best signage.  Signage got worse, though, as it was nearly impossible to figure out what cross street we were at almost anywhere in Dublin, or even that we were on the street we thought we were on.

I’m a bit concerned about my mother’s driving.  Her Multiple Sclerosis leaves things a bit uncertain, and driving on the left side doesn’t help (although she’d done it before).  She kept changing lanes in the roundabouts without signaling, and in generally, she drifts far to the left, sometimes right onto the line (which scares you a bit when you’re on that side of the car; even more when there’s a rock wall there!).  I’m sure she must have cut off some other drivers or edged close to them.  We’ll probably be better once we’re out on the N7 to Limerick tomorrow, though, rather than in the city.

But we finally made it to the B&B… and the owners weren’t there!  (Of course, they had expected us 3+ hours earlier, so we weren’t overly surprised.)  We made our way to the pub across the street, and got the lady at the attached hotel’s front desk to call the B&B, by which time they had returned.  Whew.

Wind is blowing like a demon, almost strong enough to blow my grandmother over.

Now we’re going to head out for dinner at a nearby pub (Porterhouse North; I had “Beef ‘n’ Stout”, a cross between beef stew and shepherd’s pie), and then I expect we’ll crash.  I’ll try to just nap a few hours and then go out to the gay bars, er, pubs, although we’ll see if I can actually drag myself out of bed to do it.

Updated on December 24, 2009

Ireland: Amsterdam to Dublin (Friday, February 22)

Written Friday, February 22 at 11:45 am, Dublin time (somewhere over England, sitting sideways in the airplane seat) / 3:45 am in Seattle

It was looking like the 12:00 time was bogus, since the next listed flight was actually 13:10, but they got us on our original plane and got us out around 12:20.

The coffee was lousy, by the way.   And a “Large” was about 10-12 ounces, so it was way overpriced.   Decent apple cake, though.

Aer Lingus has the least leg room of any plane I’ve ever been on.   My knees touch the seat in front of me.  If my thighs were 1/2 inch longer, sitting would be difficult.   Is this where I make a leprechaun joke, since I’m going to Ireland?

Screaming kid on the flight.  There was one on the flight to Amsterdam, too, but that one shut up for most of the flight.  I honestly think that parents should not only have to buy a separate seat for any kid under 4 years old, they should have to pay double for it.  Anything to convince them to just stay off tightly packed transports until the kid is old enough to not scream like this.  (Yeah, I realize that he’s probably in some distress from pressure changes.  I don’t care: the parents’ “need” to travel with the tot is abusing both the kid and the rest of us.)

No inflight magazine, just a “sell you snacks and perfume and jewelry and other stuff” catalog.  But the snacks listing really shows we’re in a different country.  Beyond the easy stuff like scones and shortbread biscuits, there’s a “Full Breakfast” (sausages, bacon [ham], black pudding & white pudding, tomato, sauteed potatoes, farmhouse brown bread, butter, marmalade, fresh orange juice, and a hot drink; €8, roughly $12).  And two sandwiches: chicken & stuffing, and cheese & spring onions (€4.50 each, about $7.50).  Nifty.

When the beverage service rolled out, I became further convinced that Aer Lingus is a budget airline on the same level as Skybus in the states.  First flight I’ve been on where you had to pay for the beverages.  €2 ($3!) for a soda or a cup of lousy airplane coffee!  Watch for this level of cheapness to hit the main carriers in the states within three years.  I’d love to predict Southwest first, but I’m betting on Delta or American jumping before them.  At least with Skybus (“Pillows are just $10!  Blankets are extra!  But maybe you were lucky and got the $20 ticket for this flight!”) — emphasis on “bus” — you kind of expect it.

What the fuck is up with the flight staff hocking duty free stuff on the flight itself?  No, I don’t want to buy a full-size bottle of liquor or a watch from the stewardess.  What is this, Times Square in the 1970s?  (“Psst, buddy!  Wanna buy a Rolex?”)  This one, I can’t blame on Aer Lingus, since Northwest did it, too.   I wonder how much volume they actually sell?

Ah, the kid finally shut up.
…And then started up again 10 minutes later.

Ireland: Seattle to Amsterdam (Thursday–Friday, February 21–22)

Written Friday, February 22 at 10:30 am, Amsterdam time (at a kid’s table in the Amsterdam airport).  That’s 1:30 am Seattle time, I think.

Leaving Seattle and getting to Amsterdam on Northwest was pretty uneventful. Watched Brother Bear (pretty good), Bee Movie (mediocre), and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (nowhere near as good as the first, and scattered with the three subplots – the defeat of the Spanish Armada was almost an afterthought – but Eric Bana was sure pretty to look at) on the flight. Had three meals (or two and a snack, if you prefer); fairly typical airline food, although with airline food being so rare these days, pretty good airline food. Got a pair of seats to myself, which was nice. Slept maybe 2 hours of the 9 total, though (but we got to Amsterdam at the home time equivalent of midnight or so, so what do you expect?). Yawn. I’ll pay for that later.

We were supposed to have a two-hour layover in Amsterdam before catching Aer Lingus to Dublin, but there was engine trouble which first delayed and then cancelled our flight. Grrr. We’re to come back in another 30 minutes, to wait for the next flight (12:00, rather than our original 9:40). I’m expecting/fearing that this will mean everyone on our flight is now on stand-by for the noon flight, and thus probably only 1/4 of us will get on. We may be stuck here in the Amsterdam airport all day. (That’s how it would work in the States, to be sure!)

Bought some mini-cheeses to snack on, and a new pair of cheap earphones at the duty free place, since the ones provided by the airline were crap and my own in-ear ones broke during the flight. Debating whether to buy some overpriced non-Starbucks coffee or not…

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Trip to Ireland: February/March 2008

I am going to be in Ireland from February 21-March 2, traveling with my mother and grandmother to Dublin and then to County Kerry, centering on Killarney.  My grandmother’s family was from western Ireland, apparently mostly around Galway; family name of Finnerty.

I’ll be writing blog posts offline and posting them as I’m able, along with some accompanying video snippets added later one, once I can edit them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stupid, Stupid Ads!
    — Don’t Read the Label

“Stupid, Stupid Ads!” dissects ads that try to do something underhanded or just plain stupid.

This commercial for Claritin showed up during the Superbowl:

Let’s just review that line of dialogue:

“Don’t buy any allergy medicine until you read the label…
Or do what I do and stay Claritin Clear with non-drowsy Claritin.”

Got it.  Always read the label unless it’s our product; in that case, just use it because a race car driver does.

Updated on May 12, 2010
Old video gone, embedded new one from YouTube.