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