Sunday, 23 March 2014

Don't Be That Guy

Today my awesomer half and I were waiting for the bus in front of Hoggis & Figgis on Dawson Street.

A late 50s-and-gray-on-top American tourist was walking past the bookshop with his wife.  The man gazed into the bookshop window and said in a patronizing tone, "So they're readers, the Irish..."

Yes Virginia, we have books in this country. Irish people learn to read and go to schools. Like this one...

Seriously, don't be that guy.  The guy who makes disparaging comments about Irish literacy aptitude 100 meters from Trinity College, one of the most respected universities in Europe.  Sir, they don't call it the land of saints and scholars for nothing.  Didn't you read the travel brochure?

Look, Ireland is not The Quiet Man.  It's not all thatched roof cottages, fields of sheep and priests making sly bets on the horses.  That's Hollywood.  This will probably burst someone's bubble but we do have electricity and running water here.  I'm not being tongue-in-cheek about this.  My fiancĂ©e' was actually asked this question by a tourist in Connemara.

"Do they have running water and electricity?"
Yes.  Yes they do.

So whatever preconceived notions you have about Ireland, please get them out of your silly head right now.  Everyone likes a good Disney movie but folks, Darby O'Gill and the Little People was a lie:  The only leprechauns in Ireland are at The Leprechaun Museum, and the reason why they have pots of gold is because thousands of tourists are gullible enough to pay €12 admission.

The Honest Truth:  If you really want to know what Ireland is like, think of a town you have been to in the Midwest during late fall and you'll probably be about right in your approximation:  Ireland is like that.

It's kind-of-just-like America:  Irish people drive to work in Toyotas and Nissans.  They get gas at Texaco and they buy donuts at the local convenience store.  Over here, they're called Centra instead of 7-11 but they sell the same cans of Pringles and Budweiser.

(Spoiler Alert:  Budweiser is brewed in Ireland by Diagio, the people who make Guinness, and the Guinness you drink in America is actually brewed in Canada by Labatt.  I know... the truth hurts sometimes).

Monday, 17 March 2014

Grant Museum

Today we visited the Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London. This museum is used for comparative  Zoology classes in the mornings and is open to the public in the afternoons. We really enjoyed speaking to the museum curator and looking at the amazing specimens.  They had a fascinating exhibit called the Micrarium. It was a closet-sized space with microscope slides mounted on light-box walls. Interesting Fact: 95% of animals on Earth are smaller than your thumb, yet most museums only exhibit the biggest 5%. This exhibit gives the little guys a chance to be appreciated.  Well done Grant Museum!

Puffer fish

Jar of Moles... who, by the way, you can follow on Twitter @GlassJarOfMoles
(Not associated with the Grant Museum, but still quite a character)

Animals in the Micrarium

Silica skeletons of sea sponges

Sunday, 16 March 2014

British Museum

We are enjoying our weekend holiday in London. Today we visited the British Museum. They had two special exhibits on. First we saw Columbian Gold, which was very good. The Columbian's level of technology in metal smithing in 1600 BC was incredible. They made good use of gold & copper alloys and had intricate lost-wax casting methods. Second was the Viking ship and artefacts exhibit at the museum. This exhibit suffers from being too crowded at the beginning. A lot of items are packed into a tight space and traffic flow is a problem. Some of the best items were actually pieces on loan from the National Museum of Ireland! Alas no photographs were allowed in each, so here are some other shots from around the British Museum.

Courtyard outside of the British Museum

Interior of museum, with architectural conservatory style roof

Amenhotep III, 1370 BC

Lely's Venus (Aphrodite), 2nd century AD

Friday, 14 March 2014

Harry Potter Tour

My better half and I are visiting London for the bank holiday weekend.  If you didn't know, Monday is a national holiday in the Republic of Ireland:  St. Patrick's Day.  We were able to get some cheap flights to London on Aer Lingus and here we are!  We had an amazing time today visiting the Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden.  Many of the important props and sets are on display from the 8 Harry Potter movies that were filmed here.  Such beautiful work goes into making the props, costumes and sets.  It really makes you appreciate all the work that goes in to making a movie. It is not just the actors, it is the army of people behind them who make the movie.

Prof. Dumbledore's lecture podium in the Great Hall

Refreshments at the Yule Ball

Fleur Delacour's costume

The Fat Lady's portrait at the entrance to the Gryffindor common rooms

Gryffindor boys' dormitory complete with trunks under beds and books on desks

Gryphon at the entrance to Dumbledore's office

Professor Dumbledore's Office 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Port House

My better half and I went to lunch at The Port House.  This is a Spanish tapas restaurant on South William Street in Dulblin.  It was a chilly day, 4°C (39.2°F) and miserably rainy.  It was nice to get in out of the cold and have a glass of wine.  One of my favorite things to order is spinach salad with warm goats cheese, honey and almonds.  I don't care what Ben Franklin said about beer, I think warm goat cheese drizzled in honey is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.  Yum!  The restaurant is basically a wine cellar, made with old Dublin brick and limestone blocks.  Cast terracotta blocks from another century are stacked like bookshelves against the walls, holding dusty bottles of wine. Candles flicker on tables.  The atmosphere is electric with noisy talk and clinking glasses.  The tapas menu is a bit like dim-sum where you order small plates; they are meant to be shared, like hors d'oeuvres.  It's a fun way to enjoy a meal.

Outside, the orange heat lamps beckon you to come inside...

 Inside, it's a bit dark and mysterious

The bar with a multitude of Rioja

Patatas Bravas - deep fried cubes of potatoes with fiery tomato sauce

Ensalada de Queso de Cabra con Miel
spinach with grilled soft goats cheese, tomato, almonds, mustard & honey dressing.  Proof that God loves us.

Chanquetes - deep fried whitebait. OMG these are SO good!

Guindillas - Riojan chilis, grilled

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Me So Pretty

My Awesomer Half and I were in La Petit Parisian for lunch.  They had some great music playing.  Django Reinhardt's version of 'Brazil' came on just as we sat down.  It was perfect.  Inspired, I had to buy it on CD, so after lunch it was off to Tower Records we went.

While we were poking around upstairs in the Jazz section, I spotted this faux pas over in the Movie Soundtrack section.  Somebody had mis-placed Predator in the Pretty Woman slot.  LOL

And in case you're wondering, no it wasn't me!  These things are too good to make up sometimes, know what I mean?

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Brown Thomas Has Premature Ejaculation

Christmas comes early at Brown Thomas, a posh Grafton Street store in Dublin.  I was in the store on August 31st and they already they had Christmas trees and decorations out.

Consumers aren't stupid.  We know the game; Christmas is the biggest money-generating season for retailers.  The corporate suits think they can somehow extend the season by starting it earlier.  So every year, we see the decorations come out just a little bit earlier, but it's so transparent.  Consumers know it's just a scheme to weasel more money out of them.  It is off-putting because retailers are so shameless about it.

Seriously.  It's summer.  WTF?

oh boy!  cheap plastic shit from China!

Gosh how quaint, an old-timey market.

The wanks up there in Marketing must have had quite a circle-jerk around the conference room table when they decided this time, Christmas should come in August.

Pardon me, but aren't the Christian holidays just a rip-off of early pagan calendar-based festivals?  Christmas is a re-branding of Yule, the midwinter celebration.  Megalithic people built Stonehenge and Newgrange 5000 years ago so they could tell when the shortest day of the year occurred.  They planned a holiday around it because--let's face it--spending winter in a hut with all your relatives gets old really fast.  My point is, you can't have a MIDWINTER celebration in SUMMER.

Oh, and Brown Thomas, can you please tell me what happened to Halloween?  Shall we be ignoring this non-gift-giving holiday?  Yeah, maybe it's all for the better.  That would just confuse the kids in October.