noideadog: (natural dancer)
One other thing I did this weekend was try to figure out what new nonsense visa waiver people need to do to visit the US. Last time my parents came here they were scolded for not having filled out some internet form that neither the airline or their allegedly well-informed daughter had said anything about. They arrived all "ESTA! It's called ESTA and if you don't fill it in you can't go to America! But the man said we could go just this one time, but DON'T DO IT AGAIN." America can be such a dick to visitors.

It turns out that there is, in fact, something called ESTA, which is a crappy online form that you need to fill out before you get to the airport. Here's the start of its blurb:

"On March 4, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act (TPA) of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-145. The Act directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a fee for the use of the ESTA system, comprised of $10.00 for each VWP applicant receiving authorization to travel to the United States and $4.00 for the processing of the ESTA application."

In Soviet America, we make a Travel Promotion act that makes it harder and more confusing to visit. America, when we said you should think more like a global citizen, we didn't mean you should base your tourism policy on that of Turkmenistan!

In happier news, my kid sister Tina and her bloke Damian are visiting next weekend. It's the first time they've travelled abroad without a Responsible Adult, so it's all very exciting and scary and unknown for them. Airports! Immigration! How to spend six hours without Facebook! Unfortunately they have difficult schedules and I couldn't find affordable flights that didn't involve changing airlines in Heathrow... this will be the deep-end approach to learning how to do international travel. It's not the transfer that's most worrying them though:

"What if they ask me questions?", Tina has asked, several times. "It's easy. Just tell them the truth!" "But... *in tones of deep significance*... what if they make me go into a room".
noideadog: (brain)
23andme tells me about several hundred people who might be my fifth cousin. Six of these people have sent enthusiastic messages about getting in contact and seeing how we might be related. These are possible fifth cousins. It's very odd.

I'm genuinely curious: does that sound like fun to other people? Dudes, I have first cousins that I never bother to contact, and second cousins a couple of towns over whose names I don't remember. Where I come from, you don't pay much attention beyond that, probably because there'd be nobody left to marry. Most of Meath/Cavan is probably my fifth cousin, now that I come to think of it. Half of Boston too, probably.

I admit that I don't know a single thing about my grandparents parents anyway, so I wouldn't be a lot of use. Huh. Maybe interest in ancestry comes from a genetic trait I don't have.

23andme is pretty interesting though. I learned that I have a slightly reduced risk of Crohn's Disease and substantially higher odds of heroin addiction. I'll not go start a heroin habit so.

Edit: To be clear, I'd get it if this was any sort of interesting or confusing or complicated heritage, but we're talking about white Irish people in America. There are, you know, one or two of them, and most of them seem to have kept excruciatingly detailed records.
noideadog: (natural dancer)
Agh, my brain is full of snot. I left New York with a mild cold which Dublin, oh sweet Dublin, encouraged and cultivated until it became a lung-sucking, throat-grating lurgy of misery and infirmity. Why is it always like this? When I get a cold in Ireland, I have it for a month. In New York, it's gone overnight. Is it the damper air? Am I allergic to the homeland? Could it be the dangerous proximity to good chips? I don't know. Colds in Ireland have always beaten the bejesus out of me, and this one is no exception.

We got in on Friday morning, a bit spiky and distracted, but well enough rested to go straight to the office and do a reasonable day's work before having a tolerable pint in the 40 Foot Bar in Dun Laoghaire and turning in at 9pm. Why Dun Laoghaire? Because it turns out that Paddy's Day followed by a rugby weekend in Dublin doesn't lend itself to hotel rooms near the office; after a lot of searching, we ended up booking an oversized closet with a shared bathroom in Dun Laoghaire for only twice what a hotel room in the city centre would have normally cost. The economy was well served by the tourist industry this weekend: I've never seen Dublin so booked out. By Sunday though, all was deathly quiet. "Were you waiting in the rank long?", I asked the taxi driver outside the Burlington. "I was considering having my post redirected." I guess the crowds went home.

Now that the city's back to normal, it's obvious that prices are well down. We're staying in the Burlington for cheap as chips, and I keep being confused by the piles of change I'm getting back in shops. The best thing is the final death of the once-ubiquitous Only, a nasty creature that used to loiter outside cafes and newsagents, smarmily advertising unacceptable prices for sandwiches and groceries and all kinds of things. The Only was only ever attached to prices that were obviously outrageous. It was a sly and injurious acknowledgement that everyone present knew they were being taken, that they couldn't do anything about it, and that they had to pretend to enjoy it for the sake of the Celtic Tiger. Only used to make me so furious. I haven't seen a single one since I got here on Friday, and I've been looking out for them. Good riddance, Only. Stay dead.

Restaurants are still mental expensive though. What's going on with that, Dublin?

Saturday night was the long-awaited Commitments twenty year reunion concert. God, they haven't lost it at all. Andrew Strong still roars, and none of the others have been slacking over the last twenty years either. Even better than the music -- which was fairly brilliant, actually -- was just how happy they looked. Watching Bronagh Gallagher in particular, you got the impression that there was nowhere, NOWHERE, in the world she would rather be. I think most of the crowd felt the same way. Even the inexplicably terrible camera and video work (Were those slide transitions and animated burning letters supposed to evoke 1991? Homage to Powerpoint 2.0, maybe? And was setting the camera to autofocus and then going for a pint some sort of conscious artistic decision? "It was nice of them to let a high school student do their multimedia", Joel commented afterwards.) achieved its own bit of greatness: being part of the laughter when the screen said "God sent him." "On a fuckn Suzuki?" would have been worth coming home for all on its own.

But oh the cold though, the goddamn cold. I managed about forty minutes under my own support, then another half an hour leaning on Joel, and then I had to go home or fall down. From the reviews I've read -- here's a good one -- it continued to be a hell of a gig. And I moped on the dart on the way back to Dun Laoghaire.

Yesterday was dinner with my family, the first time we've all been together in at least a couple of years. I met my brother's new girlfriend (future wife, everyone in the family reckons), and saw my niece walking for the first time, and marvelled at how many of us there are when we're all together with husbands and boyfriends and girlfriends and babies and dogs and all. Look, here's my sibs!
From Drop Box
noideadog: (monkey!)
Thank you for the breakfast recommendations! I spent half an hour in Whole Foods with the Monterey Bay list of sustainable fish figuring out what was ok to buy. Pole-caught albacore tuna is fine, apparently, and herring's ok. Yoghurt and nuts is a lot more appetising at 9am though. We don't have a microwave, but that's fixable. I was thinking afterwards that I could absolutely eat warmed up kedgeree for breakfast. Yum.

My birthday's not for another week, but this morning I got this card in the post. Can you tell that Tina is extremely busy studying for her Leaving Cert[1] right now?



[1] Final exam taken at around 17 years old in Irish secondary schools. Intense and stressful. The results determine what colleges and what courses you have access to.
noideadog: (Default)
Deciding what to do with my evening. My first thought is to play Dragon Age, but I'm noticing a strong correlation between starting to play Dragon Age and not doing anything much else with my time. It's a great game, but I'm not sure the amount of enjoyment I get out of it is equal to the amount I get from doing lots of other stuff. Productive real life is much less addictive, of course.

Today's the last evening of my holiday. New Mexico was excellent++ and then being at home messing around in the garden was brilliant too. I like my job a lot, but it's the best thing ever to sometimes not do it for a while. Staycation ftw.

Not that I spent that much time in gardening and silent contemplation or whatever. My baby brother Decky has been here since Wednesday night so we've been doing a bit of touristing, a bit of shopping and an awful lot of being in pubs. I'm glad that there are gaps between the visits of Irish people. My liver can't handle this sort of thing any more.

I grow old I grow old. Actually, at the moment I grow cold I grow cold and that is far more pleasant. It has been so, so hot. Autumn is here and the city is full of happy people talking about how nice it is to put on jumpers and breathe in cool, dry air. I've been germinating spinach seeds in the fridge, but it's now chilly enough that I reckon they can go straight into the soil. Simple pleasures, eh? It's drizzling right now, just a little, and I've become someone who's glad of light rain because it'll save on watering the plants. Autumn is a good time of year for domesticity. Nothing like cold and dark to make you love being warm at home.

It's not cold and dark yet but the light's gorgeous for the last few days, or at least it reminds me of autumn evenings at home and triggers happy memories. Light-based nostalgia is the best. Decky and I were getting ready to go out last night with twilight settling outside and orangey lights inside... absolutely lovely. I love the boundaries between things, the line a house draws between light and dark. It's hard to explain.

Winter weather will get old soon enough, but it's good right now.

I'm at the Howard Beach subway station, waiting for the A train, and this has been a stream of consciousness recording from Tanya Corp. Thank you for your time.


Posted via LjBeetle
noideadog: (coffee)
Welcome to Web 2.0 as Livejournal discovers integration with other social networks. You can now comment here using a facebook account. OpenID has worked for a while too. Some day, when LJ has also discovered spam-blocking, I'll turn back on anonymous comments. (I'm not holding my breath).

Today Joel's dad brought me on a tour of the local irrigation system. This was far more excellent than it probably sounds, and involved walking and then driving all the way from the pecan trees beside his house, along various trenches and right up to the big dam in the Rio Grande. We saw a Great Blue Heron and lots of cotton, which, seriously, I'll never get used to how that grows on a plant. Later, Joel's uncle Jim told me about water wars and treaties, about splitting the water fairly between Texas and New Mexico (and old Mexico, though they don't have a lot of negotiating power, and they get the thin end of the stick, Jim said), about how the underground reserve is running out, and about how until recently the rights to the surface water were being tightly controlled, while people were happily pumping water from underground without any restrictions at all. (Eventually people in power stopped avoiding the problem of how the river was getting less Grande, and now it's illegal to pump more than your allocation of water even if you own the pump.) I'm going to describe how the irrigation works now, so if you've lasted this long and don't think that's madly interesting, I won't be offended if you skip to the end. There are pictures of cows there.

So here's what happens. It starts in Colorado, in the ski season. If there's a lot of snow in winter, the Coloradans (Coloradoans?) are happy because there's good skiing, and their southern neighbours are happy because there's going to be good growing too. The water level is very predictable based on the snow: by April, the powers that be can let the farmers know the summer schedule for watering their crops.

The snow fills the Rio Grande, and some of it is diverted off and stored in reservoirs so that there'll be water all year round. The reservoirs are used for boating, so the water gets skied on and then boated on, and later probably swum in too, before setting off to make plants grow. I think that's neat.

The river in dammed in some places, and at one of these, near Las Cruces, a big motorised gate allows control over how much water is let run into a big old canal. It's a nice canal, all green and peaceful and moving along. It never had barges, but they wouldn't look out of place. The canal runs for a hundred miles or something, and smaller canals, called laterals, branch perpendicularly off it at intervals. There's a gate controlling whether and how much water can flow into each lateral. Regulating this was traditionally done on the honour system, but more recently they've installed solar powered meters on some of the gates.

Off the laterals, each big farm or group of small farms has their own trench with, you can probably guess, yet another gate. And off that trench, each orchard or field has one or more little tiny gates, round holes maybe eight inches across, with levers to open and close them. The orchards and fields are all slightly sunk and have raised edges, so when water gets in, it has nowhere to go but down.

So, the water board people (I have no idea what they're called) announce that, for example, all of the farms below two acres in size in RegionX will get water on June 1st. Some official goes around making the right gates happen, and that morning, there's water in the American Bend Lateral, which is the one in Joel's dad's nabe. He or one of his three trench-sharing neighbours open their gate off the lateral, then take it in turns to fill their pecan orchards to a depth of six inches. It all sounds pretty companionable to be standing around at six in the morning with your neighbours, watching the water flood their trees and waiting for your turn.

It's a system that still largely works on mutual co-operation and the honour system. Sure, Joel's dad says, some people abuse it and steal more than their share of water, but he thinks most people are honest. Apparently it's a fairly textbook implementation of an irrigation system used all around the world. The local agricultural college spends a lot of time doing exchanges and swapping information with researchers from Egypt and other agricultural desert regions. And it was built in probably the thirties, but he wasn't sure.

Eh, that's all I know about irrigation. Sorry if your eyes glazed over. Here's some pictures of cows.
noideadog: (Default)
Joel and I are off to New Mexico in a couple of weeks, flying into El Paso on September 1st and out of Albuquerque on the 7th. We're going to drive around a wee bit for the last two days so I can have a look at the state that made Joel. (I always think of that joke, "Excuse me, what state is Dublin in?" "Sure it's in a terrible state altogether". I will never not find that funny.)

It's such a different landscape, really nothing like what we have in the Irelands. Look, ship rock.

We didn't get our shit together in time to organise a cat sitter, so if you'd be willing to drop in and check on the littlest crackhead once or twice, or if you'd like to live in Brooklyn for a few days, please drop me a line. I would very much appreciate it and I would show my appreciation in booze or return pet-sitting credit or etc.

As soon as we get back, the most exciting thing ever is happening, and that's my little baby brother Decky coming to visit. It sounds like not a big deal, but Decky is completely excellent and I haven't seen him in forever: his visa application kept him stuck on an oil rig in the arse end of Northern Canada last May and couldn't make it to my wedding. I was sad. After all that, Canada said NO anyway, so he's calling through New York for a few days on the way home. Decky's about ten years younger than me, and we've never really hung out together much, though we always have good fun and like each other when we're home at the same time. It's going to be brilliant to spend a few days in the same city.

Also, I completely love showing New York to my family. Manhattan is a bit tall, a bit loud, a bit full of itself, a bit gay and about as multi-cultural as it gets, and it's great fun to watch first reactions to it from people who've always lived in small country villages. "People really live like this?" (Of course, town mouse here feels the same when she goes home.)
noideadog: (shutup)
I went to Ikea without a clear get-in-and-get-out strategy. Bad idea, right? Even worse:

I went to Ikea without a clear get-in-and-get-out strategy on a Saturday.

Was I insane at the time? Well, yes, apparently so, because...

I went to Ikea without a clear get-in-and-get-out strategy on a Saturday with my mother and my mother-in-law when I was already a bit tired. The curtain-buying department is probably the busiest and most annoying department of that busy and annoying establishment, so of course that's what we were there for.

What the holy hell was I thinking? I'm still recovering.
noideadog: (monkey!)
Well, we have a photographer, an option on some cheese, and a few cases of wine. It's not a bad start for a wedding, is it? Furthermore, we have a reception venue, two good choices for a ceremony, familial buy-in on which relatives to invite, a good hotel rate for that night, and a website with some information on it. There's a lot of stuff left to do, but I'm not too stressed about the wedding right now, which makes a nice change.

I like being back in Dublin. Most things are exactly the same, and I've been doing all of my favourite things: eating scones at Keogh's, getting chips from the place beside work, looking at the river in the dark from various bridges, being annoyed at Grafton Street, shouting "Ding ding!" when the LUAS goes by, having pints with a million people. My Dublin trips are fairly deterministic.

The only thing that has changed a lot is the Docklands. Where did that come from? Nobody told me that we'd suddenly become a Modern European City. William and I walked around there on Tuesday evening, admiring the gorgeous new Samuel Beckett Bridge, the red and green lights at Grand Canal Dock, the convention center, that weird sideways building that looks like it might turn into an arts centre, and the clean, calm modernity of it all. It the least Dublin thing I've ever seen. Well, the whole area is still a bit culturally sterile -- I saw a couple of polite wine bars and thirty places to buy an expensive cappuccino, but no theatres, cinemas, restaurants or reasons to be there in the evening -- but it feels like good things are happening. By the way, if you haven't seen the fantastic natural-gas installationdown by the toll bridge, you should go take a look, preferably after dark. It's cool that there's still crumbly brown brick buildings in the middle of everything. Good work, docklands developers. I like it a ton.

Since I'm talking about things I loved doing, here's another: Saturday was my hen party. We went to the lamer-than-lame wax museum, kind of just for the laugh, and it was even worse than you'd expect: all of these dead writers and looming popes and Figures Of Irish Interest that it's hard not to feel embarrassed about. It was good fun though. Not really 'so bad it's good', but certainly 'so bad it's hilarious sociologically fascinating. Gerry Ryan in a Matrix-style coat and sunglasses? Bronze Age St Patrick with mitre and crozier? The Stormont Agreement signatories made comical by ill-fitting glasses? What can they have been thinking? The plan to take obscene pictures of Bono was thwarted by the 'no touching' signs, and Joe Dolan wasn't easily accessible, so we have a single picture of us all clustered around an Episode One Anakin Skywalker. Lame. Brilliant.

We went to the Shelbourne for Posh Tea, cucumber and egg-and-cress sandwiches, little glasses of trifle, scones and cream, easy-listening tunes from a grand piano and other delicacies, and then we went back to our penthouse suite for a pyjama party. Both of these were exactly how I've always thought I'd like my hen party to be, and it was perfect, really ideal. I won't tell any stories from the evening, but I'll echo someone's suggestion that we should repeat the exercise next year. Count me in.

In other news, we're still waiting for Baby Bean, my first ever niece-or-nephew, to show herself or himself. There are plans to begin dislodgement tomorrow, so I'm going to take Wednesday off and go to Galway on a gamble that there'll be a baby to see. Either way, I'll be back in Dublin in the evening, and will be in the Porterhouse from 7 or something to celebrate anything that needs celebrating. Hoy!

And finally, in case you didn't notice the bit above where I mentioned drinks, here it is again: drinks, the Porterhouse in Temple Bar, Wednesday from 7pm or something.
noideadog: (coffee)

2009-11-30 21.44.37
Originally uploaded by xymb.
So on to Thanksgiving, and family, and more family, and twenty four people for dinner, and all of that was actually really good fun, though my introvert-brain got a little tired from being 'on' for the whole day, and I needed an hour of internet time in the evening to recharge. And then the next day was my bridal shower.

Here's what happens at a bridal shower, or at least here's what happened at my bridal shower, which is the only one I've ever been to.

- Joel's mum and aunt presented everyone with cooking aprons with our names embroidered on. This is a variant on the awful 'matching clothing' theme you get for hen nights, but didn't make me angry because high-quality cooking aprons are actually pretty useful things to have, and because it was rather nicely done.

- We cooked peach empanadas, and salad with lots of avocado, and and something else that I don't know what it was, but it included New Mexican green chiles, so I ate tons of it. They made it all veggie just for me, which was rather nice. Tasty food.

- We put a Julia Child DVD on, and, in between cooking, watched scenes of her negotiating the purchase of olives, and making bechamel sauce and things, and that was good too. She's brilliant.

- We played a game where every time a timer went off, a name was pulled, and that person had to choose a present from a basket of household things, like trays and clothes pegs and things.

- Then gifts, and Joel's mum sat beside me and took notes on who gave me what, which is something that Bridal Shower Etiquette says I was supposed to ask someone to do, but which I was feeing weird about. But apparently everyone knows these rules (apart from me), and so she did it without me asking. And then I got presents: nice yellow measuring cups, and chocolate, and massage oil, and wine glasses and Derby china. Hand-knitted dish-washing clothes and a bright green happy spoon from an aunt I hadn't yet heard of. Amusing cotton nighties from Joel's mum (not a bit sexy, but beautifully textured cotton, and they'll be perfect if I ever need to run around the moors looking for Heathcliff).

The best thing ever: a hand-made wooden box from an uncle I also hadn't heard of, filled with family recipes from his wife and other members of the family. This is such a beautiful thing. I was a bit overcome by how lovely it was. (It is probably rude to single one thing out, although I can't imagine that any of Joel's relatives will ever find their way here, but seriously, what a great gift.) Here's a picture of the box of recipes, and I included the bright green happy spoon because, honestly, I'm just delighted with the concept of the bright green happy spoon.

- Then I gave Joel's mum and aunt presents for organising the shower, which were a Nigella book (recipes from the old world) and a Sweet Melissa book (recipes from my favourite Carroll Gardens patisserie).

- And then we talked and it was nice. And then the menfolk came home.


noideadog: (monkey!)
Because every millisecond of my free time is not quite accounted for, I just added some stuff to Joel's Netflix account. I wonder whether Netflix trend-spotting tools start giving different recommendations as a result. Imagine little internet robots chatting about it, and the new one is saying "He seems to have developed an interest in period drama" and the old experienced one is all "Naw, a chick moved in. You can tell."

The other thing from today is that I randomly got my dad a box of good Turkish Delight a while back and it arrived in the post today. Being a huge fan of that bizarre substance and someone who never receives parcels in the post, he's doubly happy. I encourage you to commit random acts of Turkish Delight; it's rewarding.
noideadog: (nyc)
In case you're planning to be here ever (which, seriously, do), here's the very successful five day New York City itinerary I made for my parents. I think this sort of stuff can be hard to manage without some amount of familial stress and recrimination, and a bit of planning in advance can take the pressure off a little. This worked for us, and so I share it with the (small, localised) internet in the hopes that it can help other people too.


Three particular things that helped:
1) They stayed in the excellent Abingdon guesthouse, which is opposite a breakfast place of such genericness that even my dad will eat the food. This helped a lot, because they were able to have 9am breakfast on their own most mornings and get filled up, and that meant that we liked each other a lot more at the end of the week than we would have otherwise.
2) We only scheduled about four hours per day so we didn't get too worn out. Also, every day ended with "Rest for a couple of hours in separate places. Meet up later for dinner and hanging out."
3) I had water, bagels, apples and walnuts in my bag for distribution at all times. Emergency calories diffuse crabbiness.

Here's the schedule:

Day 0: Arrive late, have a beer, sleep.

Day 1: Subway to Central Park, preferably the ACE to Columbus Circle so you can arrive under the big globe statue. Exclaim at tall buildings. Walk through the park a bit and look at squirrels. Take a horse and carriage ride (these dudes are almost all irish, btw, so spend time figuring out people you both know.) Go into FAO Schwartz (toy shop!) to see the floor piano from Big and to use the loos. Walk along 5th Avenue. Admire the flagship stores of lots of designers. Look at sparkling things at Tiffany's. Get lattes and surreptitiously eat bagels out of your bag at Starbucks in Trump Tower. Subway home.

Day 2: Have brunch together at any of the ten thousand eggs-and-mimosas breakfast places. (I recommend Vynl on 15th and 8th, but not enough to go out of your way to get there). Subway to 34th St. Drop family off at Macy's. Go buy comics and drink coffee for two hours while they look at eight floors of clothes. Have lunch together in the diner beside Macy's. (Point out authentic diner features, so you can claim this is a cultural experience, but really it's just convenient). Go to Times Square. Be in Times Square. Stare at Times Square. Get a crick in your neck at Times Square. Try not to walk under traffic at Times Square.
Check out the M&Ms store. Take the 7 train to Queens to an irish pub owned by the friend of the uncle of someone your dad knows. I realise that this isn't generic enough to have in an itinerary, except that it kind of is because almost everyone coming here from Ireland will have someone that owns an irish pub in Queens that they've been told they should go check out. Have some beer there. Go to the Empire State Building (going late in the evening gets you much shorter queues: tip!), and watch Manhattan's lights. It's beautiful and exciting. Anyone who doesn't like the Empire State Building is dead inside.

Day 3: Subway to Brooklyn Bridge. Walk on the bridge and be impressed by the cool engineering. (My family didn't find this exciting, and my mum's gammy leg was causing problems so we got out of there quickly and took a taxi to Little Italy instead of walking there.) Have coffee and pastries in any of the Italian cafes. Stroll two blocks to Chinatown and spend the afternoon futzing around and buying your weight in I <3 NY shirts and silly tat. If you like food, have soup dumplings in New Green Bo or Joe's Shanghai, because they're the best thing ever. Slurp. Afterwards get red bean and black sesame icecream from the Chinatown Icecream Factory. Wonder when the Chinese got so good at icecream. Be happy.

Day 4: Subway to South Ferry. Collect the tickets for the Statue of Liberty that you booked earlier in the week (bookng tickets days in advance will make you happier). One ticket gets you three ferries: Manhattan-> Liberty Island; Liberty Island-> Ellis Island; Ellis Island->Manhattan. See the Lady; she's actually very cool. See Ellis Island. On the way back north, check out the Irish Hunger Memorial, which is one of the more surprisingly awesome things on this island [if you like Ireland].

Day 5: Subway to World Trade Center. Marvel at how seven years has passed with no visible construction on the Freedom Freakin' Tower. Note that the Empire State Building went up in less than a year, ffs. Get it together, NYC! Go to Century 21. If it's a Jewish Holiday and C21 is closed (oops), grab a subway back to Soho instead. If you hate shopping, continually remind yourself that your family is going home later that day, and that'll give you the strength to pretend to enjoy it. Grab a cab to Katz's (or walk ten short blocks) and have a knish and a Katz's ale. Collect bags and deposit family at the airport. Ssssssssstretttttttch.
noideadog: (nyc)
Awwwhhhoooohhhuurrrrrrrhuh.

That is the noise of me stretching and yawning after five days of showing Manhattan to my parents and vice versa. My brain is fuzzy with tiredness and prosecco. It's 4am on a schoolnight, so I should be asleep, but catching up on five days of internet was much more compelling; I've been sitting here for the last five hours in a throne created from two armchairs, two pillows and a blanket, feet up, a glass of fizzy wine close to my left hand, and the chair angled to shield myself from the untidiness of the kitchen.

My parents and my sister were here. It was mostly excellent. The times when it wasn't were mostly caused by my unfair expectations, or our differing goals. For example, I brought them to Katz's, providing a cultural experience by showing them the most famous of the awesome Jewish delis, home of tasty knishes (delicious-knishes!) and enormous food-porn pastrami sandwiches. They ordered chips and complained that they tasted funny. Do you see? But apart from that sort of thing, we had a busy, fun time and didn't piss each other off too much.

Two quick highlights:

My dad hadn't been on a train before: he enjoyed and talked about the subway a lot. He hadn't been more than 20 storeys up before: the 86th floor of the Empire State Building made him giddy. He mostly has lived in a tiny town for his whole life: by the time he left, he'd -stopped making comments on the different ethnicities here-. It was all shocking for him, but he liked it. I hadn't entirely expected him to.

At the (powerful, beautiful) Irish Hunger Memorial, Tina spontaneously started picking up litter. I've been there once before, and I did exactly the same thing. I was charmed that it inspired the same reaction in her.

I'll probably post later on about some of the stuff we did, since it worked out to be a pretty great five-day itinerary. Sleep now though.
noideadog: (nyc)
Everything is pleasant. A busy Autumn is coming up, but for now we have the last days of summer, and it's all rather lazy and nice and unremarkable. As an illustration, here's a description of the last day in the life of me:

We ate Thai food.. After work yesterday Joel and I ordered vegetarian Thai food and watched Six Feet Under in the Sysops lounge in the office. I ate a good green curry and some of his fake duck. Fake duck shouldn't be good, so I never order it, but it always is and I always end up stealing some of other people's.

.. and watched tv.. We're eight episodes into Six Feet Under, and I'm really enjoying it. I think Brenda's just wonderful. Joel reckons she's high-maintenance and possibly insane, but I don't think this detracts from her being cool. He thinks Nate is too clean cut and uncomplicated, which I agree is probably true, but he's -very- pretty. I hope that the Ruth actress won a lot of awards for the show, because she's excellent.

.. and then I read some and played with the cat. Afterwards, at home, I read the next chapter of The Audacity of Hope (I'm in love with Barack Obama. How could anyone not be?), and the first two chapters of The Satanic Verses (I recognise this as the sort of book where it takes me a while to catch the rhythm and start enjoying it rather than just appreciating the linguistic cleverness), while Joel went on a voyage of random discovery on wikipedia, learning, among other things, what forms of lying the Jesuits consider morally ok. Lucy joyfully stalked (but did not catch) a buzzing fly for most of an hour. It made me realise this:

  • Here are some toys I have bought Lucy: a cardboard thing on a bit of wire, a fluffy hedgehog, a ball with a bell in it, a ball on a spring, three bags of catnip.
  • Here are Lucy's favourite toys: the brown paper bag the comics shop guy puts my comics in, a cork, the strings on the edge of the rug, the cellophane bag toilet paper comes in, real or imagined insects.

We had a lazy morning..This morning: We woke up, had good sex, then went back to sleep until 1pm. I don't believe it's possible to have a better start to a Saturday. We had brunch (poached eggs, apple martini) in Vynl. It was one of those mornings where conversation is extra easy and perfectly in sync, and you realise all the reasons you like the other person, without it being a big deal.

..and talked about dogs..We did some planning for my family visiting in two weeks (erk!) and continued a long running quest to find a type of dog we both like. West Highland Terriers might be the winner, though I appreciate what he sees in funny-looking Boston Terriers.

..and went online, and then considered going for a beer. I bought a bagful of catfood for her ladyship, while joel collected the laundry, and then I came into the office, because I'm on call until 8pm and it's a nice quiet time to finish some code I'm working on. I haven't done any of it, of course, but I probably will once I've read the entire Internet. Later I think I'm going for some Belgian beers and frites with Amy, whose sister is visiting.

It's not the sort of lifestyle where you'd be rushing out to buy my autobiography, I grant you, but I'm happy with how things are just now.



I was going to get my mum a gift voucher for her birthday, which sounds like a horrible-daughter present, but which she'd really like. If it was a voucher for Tiffany's and then we went to Tiffany's together, I think that'd be pretty cool, don't you? I've been working on an itinerary for them while they're here, something that strikes a balance between what all four of us need:

  • seeing everything (my mum's objective. She wants to say "I was there!" when she sees things on tv. Plans include the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street)
  • having a nice restful time and eating food that is exactly like food at home (my dad's objective. My dad has never been to Foreign, apart from resorts in Spain that are filled with Irish people. Plans include Irish bars and lying in the sun in Central Park.)
  • shopping until we're dropping (Tina's objective. Century 21, Macy's, probably Bloomingdales though she's not their demographic)
  • making my dad's eyes fall out of his head in shock (my objective. We're going to see skyscrapers, the subway, Chinatown and the residents of expressively gay Chelsea.)

The closer it gets, the more I think that maybe five days is too many days. I so hope we don't drive each other crazy, but I'm fairly certain that we will.



Between the parental visit, going to LISA, New Mexico for Thanksgiving (in laws!), exciting things at work, two evening classes and THREE They Might Be Giants concerts, this Autumn's going to be quite busy. I'm half-considering giving these guys some money too. You could ask 'Tanya, are you really considering Manhattan as the place to learn to drive?' and I would say 'Well.. a bit, yes', and you might continue with 'Would you agree that that's incredibly stupid?', and I would have to concede that it probably is. Maybe, though. Joel's mom told him that there are lots of quiet roads around where they live, if he'd like to teach me to drive there. I'm certain that that's a horrible idea, but it did put the germ of an idea in my head that maybe I should be using this time when I have few friends and not much going on to get some skills. Otoh, there's plenty going on this Autumn. It's something to think about anyway.
noideadog: (monkey!)
I got a letter in the actual post with actual handwriting. I think this is the best letter I've ever received. It's definitely one for the keepsakes box. God, I wish I was fifteen and still wrote like this. (The dresses and shoes refer to bridesmaid costumes for middle-sister-Aishling's wedding next month)


Hello Tanya,
This is a letter from your best little sister Tina & Boozie-Ann a.k.a Julie!

I decided to write you a letter.

HELLO!

Here is the letter!!!


Joke! Why did the one handed man cross the road??
To go to the 2nd hand shop!


HA HA

Julie got the dress taken in on her.. it doesnt look like a tent anymore haha
How are you??

I got my shoes dare grooovy!!

X X X X

We are posting your dress today

Sorry your dress is in a shoebox

We are very poor because of the price of changing Julie's dress

You can reply to me by writing to me

Incase u forget my address is!

[my family's address. The house I grew up in.]

Slan for now!!
noideadog: (Default)
Things that I like today
- Chelsea. I went to get takeout Italian last night, and on the way home passed a dude giving out free samples. I was in a hurry to get pasta in my belly and I didn't stop, so it was half a block later that I registered that he was saying "Try the new KY!". I love living in Chelsea :-)
- Kindle. the Kindle is so great. It's a fantastic purchase. I read all of Making Money and I'm now halfway through Lord of the Flies. It seems like it's faster to read than paper, but that might just be the novelty of a new toy meaning that I read all the time. I certainly read for almost all of yesterday. Only bad point so far: if I read in public, someone always asks about it, and I get into a conversation about its merits, and I think that could get old. But the Kindle! The screen saver is a different line-drawing each time, and it looks like it's drawn on paper. It's hard to look at these pictures and remember you're using a screen.
- Ashes to Ashes. From the people who brought you Life On Mars comes a similar idea, a few years later. Everything that LoM did for cop shows of the 1970s, A2A does for 1981. The shots, the theme tune, the music: it's perfect. I love it so much. Potentially more than LoM, in fact, since the cultural references are my cultural references. Episode two has George and Zippy from Rainbow. So good.
- Family. My sister's wedding grows ever closer, and the excitement in my family is a lovely thing. I was the the phone to home as she was asking a cousin to be a bridesmaid, so heard enough background shrieks of excitement and joy to keep me in a good mood for weeks.
- Family again. My mum and dad went out with friends last night, and my dad almost had a small accident when he missed a step and stumbled. But he landed in the lap of some (very amused) beautiful blonde woman, so he didn't mind, my mum said, pretending to be indignant.
- Coffee. Freshly ground Costa Rican something something. God, that's good coffee.
- Being oncall. Well, so long as I continue not being paged, it's great to have an excuse to laze about the house all weekend, reading and relaxing and for once not feeling guilty about wasting precious free time.

Things that I don't like today
- Dark clouds. Enough rain. Let's have some daylight please.
- Gardening failure. The wilting lemon tree loses two or three leaves every day and is showing no signs of thriving. Tell me how to help you, lemon tree! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
noideadog: (coffee)
My grandad died :-( I feel weird about it: upset because my mum is sad, relieved that she doesn't have to look after him all the time now, strange that my mum and dad are now our family elders, and my siblings and I become the middle generation. Aishling needs to hurry up and have her kids to fill the vacuum, heh. I don't feel sad for who he was these last few years, because he wasn't him; he doesn't even look like him any more, Tina says. But I feel sad for the man he was.

Grandad was a big man -- physically big, and broad, and big in spirit. He had a lot of friends, and an enormous family. He always had people around him. He loved his grandchildren, especially the tiny ones, and had a lot of time for us all. He had no time for things that were superficial or contrived. He thought gyms were designed for fools who wanted to waste energy that could be put into working in a garden. He grew roses and when I was younger he grew vegetables too. His business was plant hire -- renting out bulldozers and JCBs and things -- but when I was little he had so many roses and plants around his garden that I really thought people came to hire them out for a week, like if they had visitors and wanted to brighten up the garden.(Even at the age of five I thought this was pretty weird.)

Grandad made bread and cooked hams the size of your head. He liked pictures of dogs and the aerial photograph of his house, Gravelmount, that hung in the hall. He had a dog called Sam, a very old Alsatian that we were all a bit wary of. He fed birds. He couldn't relax if his life depended on it, which I guess it didn't because he lived to 90. Given five minutes of free time, he'd go work on machinery, or wash the windows or something. He'd always -always- go out for a drive on Sunday, and usually bring a bunch of us kids. He'd usually end up in Jonesburgh somewhere up north, or at the White House, which was a car boot sale in Ashbourne, and he'd give us a tenner each and we'd buy marvellous junk and it was the best thing ever.

When Nana was alive, we used to visit them every Sunday. I mean, the whole family did, his five sons and two daughters and all their kids, and all their kids. We used to go there for Christmas too, all the women in the kitchen mashing potatoes and roasting turkeys and drinking tea and the men in the sitting room drinking whiskey and poking at the fire. Nana died about twelve years ago, around the same time as a lot of us grandkids grew up and went our own ways, and over the last ten years the family stopped getting together as regularly. There'd still always be a gang of people there on Sunday, but never everyone, and it was never the same. Grandad would go to one of his family for Christmas dinner, and some of us would see each other at weddings and 21st parties and things, but it was never the same as the ridiculously long wooden table crammed with people from when I was a kid.

As I said, he was 90, and had been senile for a few years, so in one way I feel like we lost him a long time ago. I've only seen him a couple of times a year since I moved to Dublin. Anyway. My grandad was cool. I miss him as he was ten years ago. It feels apt that the whole family will get together one last time to celebrate him. When I called my mum earlier, she and her cousin were going over to his house to drink tea. It's a wonderfully Irish reaction to grief, and it made me feel very sad and happy at once. I'll be home in about thirteen hours.
noideadog: (natural dancer)
The little plastic tub I bought in Balducci's has a label. The label says

"Pine nuts.
Ingredients: pine nuts
Contains pine nuts"

It has green beans in it. (It doesn't really.)

I'm drinking a decent, refreshing and tasty Sauvignon Blanc. What makes this worth mentioning is that it was made in Ireland. You wouldn't think, would you? And I don't mean it's some mystical irish celtic hoy-begorra alleged mead made by alleged monks in an alleged town I've never heard of. (Violins. Ancient celts believed it had life-giving properties. Contains water from the purest irish spring. Picture on the front in dusky blues and silver of a high cross and a girl with improbable hair.). This is actual, good, yummy wine.

There's an article about the man who makes it, so maybe everyone else already knows about it, but it was new to me at the Temple Bar food market when I was in Dublin a couple of weeks ago. His name's David Llewellyn, and he has a stall there every week, selling apples and a hot apple cider that's just about the best thing about a cold Saturday morning in the city center. When I was home he was also selling wine from his vineyard in Lusk. I was sceptical, but of course I bought some, and it's very fine indeed. I wish I'd bought more. A nice thing: his phone number's on the bottle, and he said to send him a text saying what I thought of the wine. I'll do that when it's not 2am in Dublin.

Sitting in my apartment drinking wine is very pleasant. The work I've been doing for the last two days has needed a lot of concentration, and my neck muscles ache from leaning towards the screen, peering at rows of data and making sure I wasn't about to break everything. I'm super-tired. I never feel honest claiming "I worked hard" though: I messed around with computers and thought about things and typed some things and sent some emails. It's not really -work-, is it? Not -really-.

Can you sense a looming parental comparison? Here is it: my mother's a nurse, looking after old people who are going to die soon. She got a qualification a while back where the coursework included a project on geriatric incontinence. Not for a million euros would I do my mum's job. And my dad's a builder. When I was a kid he always had deep cuts on his hands from lifting concrete blocks. (Which he'd show us with some glee, I remember, because my dad's basically a twelve year old boy). He lifts heavy things all day. Real work.

Anyway. In as much as what we do is work, I feel like I've worked hard. I have various forms of RSI in my shoulders and arms and back and eyes and brain, and it's nice to be stretched out at home with wine and the paper. I've booked a massage at work for monday (see?) to see if it will stop the clicking noises in my neck. In the meantime, I'm glad it's the weekend.

Btw, are other people not getting any comment notifications from teh ljs right now, or is that just me?
noideadog: (buttercup)
My mum just sent her first email from her first computer on her first broadband. We IMed from adjacent kitchen chairs. I'm absurdly proud. Also, wireless. In Kells! The future, eh?
noideadog: (culture)
I was in Rome,
but now I'm home.
(I wrote a pome.)
Shut up Tanya. God.

My mum and I went to Rome for her birthday. She continues to be 39 and plans to stay that way at least until I hit 30.

There's too much to say about Rome. We did some very serious, very focused touristing, and we still could have spent another few days just seeing the city. If you go there, get to St Peter's before 8am. Really. You'll thank me.

I wish we'd also done that for the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel, but they were worth the hour of queuing. By my calculations, sensory burn out takes about two hours to reach in there. After about two hours of overwhelming gold and marble, art and splendor, on every wall, ceiling, floor and statue, you stop seeing anything new. We decided not to bother with the Raphael room. I couldn't believe it later once I got out of there and got my brain back together. My mum bought me a poster of his cherubs as a consolation.

We saw the map gallery, which made me sort of hyperventilate with how exciting it was. The maps are -so- -amazing-. Pope Gregory XIII who commissioned them is my new personal superhero. He's the Gregory who introduced the Gregorian calendar by the way, and he futzed with Irish independence too. What a guy! (Go on, tell me how he killed puppies and sold unicorns into indentured servitude. I can take it.)

The whole place was so busy though. I find it really difficult to ignore a conversation or a written sign (so nosy!), and I can't not be vividly aware of someone standing so close I can feel them. Trying to process all of the inputs of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums while thousands of people crushed into my personal space was actually kind of distressing. I was surprised at how much I was quietly freaking out until I found a window to unfocus out of. Boy.

Extraordinary city though, and I only mentioned the Vatican so far. That's a plenty mindblowing place, but I much prefer the old Roman buildings: the Pantheon, the Forum, the distant aqueduct and so on. Two thousand years later, they're still standing, still glorious. What are we building now that will be admired in two thousand years? Nuclear waste containment?

I sat down here about ninety minutes ago to quickly check my mail before going to the shops. Enough for now.

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February 2014

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