Saturday, December 24, 2005

Oh wait

It turns out one of those half-hearted invitations wasn't so half-hearted after all, and he really wants me to go home with him, 'cause then he wouldn't be so bored the whole time. And since he quit grad school, I don't see him very much anymore, so I'm going to wonderful Co. Offaly for an Irish country Christmas. Woo!

It's especially interesting to go 'cause my friend is gay, and his parents, of the old-school religious variety, don't know and have many times expressed disapproval of "those people." It's a teeny town, and he really is the only gay in the village. So my mission is not to drink too much and start harassing his parents on their views on homosexuality. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Poor little me

I am spending Christmas alone.

Actually, this is not especially tragic, as I care very little for the whole Christmas thing, except for the sparkly lights part. That I like. But anyway, I have a couple of half-hearted invitations to spend Christmas with the families of some of the lab guys ('cause for them, it is an unthinkable tragedy to spend Christmas alone), but I'm not really feeling up to faking Christmas cheer, y'know?

So here I am. Housemate A has gone home, and housemate B has yet to move in. Other people with whom I am friendly have also buggered off home for the holiday, so I've got a few days to myself. I've got a few fake logs ("Crackles like real wood!") for the fireplace, I've got booze (although, you know what they say about drinking alone...), I braved town today so that I have enough food to last me through the days when the shops are closed. I've got a couple of knitting projects I want to at least get started on, I checked out some DVDs from the library (they had Porgy and Bess! I was so excited). Those plus the books I've already got, not to mention internet surfing, should probably keep me more than busy.

I'm kind of looking forward to sleeping in and being able to hang out all day in my robe and not have to worry about anything or anyone except for the cat. And if I get really bored, I can always clean the house; but really, how likely is that?

Reading: Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day and flipping through Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, usually while I'm eating. If that woman's prose was any more purple, I'd have to bleach the volume before the type could be read.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The department's Christmas party was last night, and a full half of the lab isn't in today. They really should have learned by now and schedule these things for a Friday. I left at a reasonably decent hour, and, more suprisingly, had stopped drinking at a thoroughly decent hour, but I heard that a good number of the hardest partyers only left when campus security came to clear out the room. We seem to have done a pretty good job, actually- all the wine was gone, there were only a few cans of beer left, and plenty of Coke and orange soda still there this morning when we went to help clean up.

The only disappointing bit was that the dude doing the music didn't have any Bangles songs- I requested Walk Like an Egyptian, 'cause it would annoy the grad student who'd had it stuck in her head all day, but he didn't have it. And he didn't have Eternal Flame, either, which would have annoyed the whole room. Darn.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Damn you, Murphy!

So. One housemate has moved out and her replacement won't be here for another few days and the other housemate is in Australia for two weeks. The cat and I have had the place all to ourselves for nearly a week now, so it's the perfect time for - you guessed it- locking myself out of the house.

I had pretty much assumed this would happen at some point, and had even been vaguely thinking to myself that I should make a copy of my key and keep it at work, but for it to happen just when both housemates are gone? That's cheeky. Two things conspired to make me forget my key this morning: the Boy had used my key earlier last night and then put it back just far enough away from my wallet and mobile (where it normally lives) so that I didn't see it this morning; and I had chosen to ignore the fact that it was pissing it down and decided to wear a skirt, so no suspiciously empty pockets to remind me. I didn't even notice that I didn't have my keys until lunchtime.

When I discovered the key's absence, I thought, damn, well, how much do locksmiths cost? Looked them up and called a few (by the way, totally off-topically, why the hell are there pages and pages of locksmiths in the Dublin phone book, but barely half a page of veterinarians? Isn't that totally backwards?) and apparently they charge €75-90 to come and possibly break your lock and/or door to get you back inside your house. So, fine, plan B: break into my own house.

The Boy, who is inherently dodgy, was delighted with this plan and immediately started modifying lab tools to be used as lock picks. We had two approaches: a) pick the lock and b) get a stick of the correct size and shape to put through the letter slot and work the latch from inside. As you can probably guess, neither worked. As a last resort, we looked at the window above the sink that had always been kinda loose. After a bit of prying, you could just about insert a thin lab spatula under it and unlatch it, which we, surprisingly successfully, did. So this window is a slit of a thing, maybe 10 inches tall and high off the ground. Took off the boots and got a boost up to the ledge and figured I'd maybe just be able to squeeze through (in the skirt! a bad decision for the day for several reasons, apparently), but it turned out not to be too tight of a fit at all. In no time, I was in my kitchen, with the cat staring at me wondering what the hell I thought I was doing.

I took the spare key with me into work, which is its new home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I'm so old

I'd bought some fake logs ("logs" made of sawdust and wax) for the fireplace for Thanksgiving dinner and liked having a fire so much that I bought some more last night. Plus, it was absolutely freezing last night, so it was the perfect time. I pulled one of the couches as close to the fireplace as I dared, and sat there, knitting, with the cat on my lap, for hours. I had some wine, but now it occurs to me that hot chocolate would have been ideal.

I always aspired to growing old disgracefully, but so far it hasn't happened yet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I also quite like London

Ha, this blog is like A Tale of Two Cities! Except not at all, really.

I spent last weekend in London, for my November trip. I flew in on Friday early evening (Aer Lingus into Heathrow, as I like to avoid Ryanair whenever possible) and flew out late Sunday night (BMI, first time I've flown them, and they were quite okay). I've been to London maybe half a dozen times before (although never for more than a few days at a time, unfortunately) and did most of the touristy things the first couple times, so now I go there usually with something specific in mind to see or do, in addition to the random wandering about. It occurred to me more than once throughout this trip that I wouldn't at all mind living in London.

This time, my mission was threefold: 1) find a good bowl of pho; 2) see the Chihuly exhibit at Kew Gardens; and 3) visit Loop, a yarn shop that I'd heard had just opened in Islington . (It's getting seriously cold, and my knitting activity is inversely proportional to the temperature.)

The yarn shop I found by looking up British knitting groups on-line and the pho I found by asking on the Lonely Planet message boards. It turns out there is a cluster of Vietnamese restaurants in Shoreditch on and around Kingsland Rd. We passed a few quite promising looking ones and settled into Song Que, a longish trek from Old Street tube station. It was a good choice. The pho was great- I'd forgotten how much I missed the stuff, and the whole meal with drinks was about GBP10 each, so cheap as well.

The yarn shop was small, but lovely. They had a smaller selection of yarn that I am used to (their whole collection would barely take up one free-standing display case at Weaving Works) but everything they carried was beautiful. I couldn't find the Debbie Bliss cotton in the color I wanted (I'm in the middle of a wavy pattern scarf and ran out of yarn) but I did buy some very soft kid mohair that I'm planning to do something in a lacy, open-work pattern with. Not sure what yet. The best part about the yarn shop, though, was getting to it. It's in Islington and and I took the tube to Angel station and walked to the shop. And discovered a great neighborhood in the process. I passed by merchants packing up stalls from what must have been an antiques and second-hand merchandise market. I was sorry that I didn't make the trek out earlier in the day, 'cause a lot of the stuff still out looked quite interesting and browsable. There were lots of little independent shops as well, which is a nice change from the chains. We stopped at a cozy looking pub for a quick pint (of bitter, since it's harder to find that in Dublin) before dinner. This was one of those times when I felt I could really enjoy living in London.

The Chihuly exhibit at Kew (I know, all way across continents just to see Chihuly) was totally awesome. I mean, yeah, glass art is just sort of inherently pretty and cool, and Chihuly's stuff definitely as a large "wow" factor, and there were lots of pieces at Kew that showed that off. The bits I liked best, though, were the simpler sculptures. The best ones were pieces where the glass mirrored or copied the shapes and colors of the plants around it. There were a couple times we stopped to admire a plant or to touch the leaves, and didn't even notice for a long time that the "plant" next to it was one of the glass sculptures. The other installation I liked was the blue and white "Heron", where the glass pieces, blown into shapes reminiscent of herons and long-necked birds, were put into one of the lily ponds. We had only intended to spend two or three hours at Kew and then spend the rest of the day at Camden Market (highly recommended by some friends) but we liked it so much we spent the whole day there and only left when they closed. That's okay, that means Camden will make the perfect excuse for going back.

Monday, November 14, 2005

And you know what else?

I totally dig the Saturday market in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar. Organic fruit and veg, a crepe stand, a French baker's stall, a chick who sells flowers of the kind that you would actually grow (sweet peas, wildflowers) instead of your fake-looking standard hothouse lilies and roses, two cheesemongers, a few butchers and plenty of other stands filled with food you can buy to bring home or eat right there.

The absolute best thing, though, is that it's open during decent hours. Now, I'm as excited about farmer's markets and local produce as the next person, but who the hell wants to get up at the butt crack of dawn on a weekend to rush to the market? That's just positively uncivilized! On a Saturday or Sunday morning, you want to stay in bed at least a couple hours past when you'd have to get up for work during the normal drone week. Then lie around, maybe read the paper, have your first cup of tea or coffee, then make your way leisurely out of the house and have a pleasant stroll to the market. Who the hell wants to get up while it's practically still dark out, shivering and tired and sleepwalk to the market so you can get there before all the good tomatoes get snapped up? I mean, Jesus, no wonder most people take what they can get at Safeway.
The Temple Bar market, however! Now they know what's up. I get there between noon and three most times, and it's still swinging. The workers at the big veg and fruit stall that anchors the market are still bringing out fresh stuff, the chick who works at the baker's stall is still reinforcing her wall of bread at her table, the guy who sells cereals, grains and dried fruit still has his sacks of product half full. If you get there at three, there's still a good couple hours of browsing and buying. At the places I tried (rarely) in Seattle, stalls were packing up as I got there in the early afternoon. It makes no sense.

The only way they could impove upon this market is to open it on Sundays, too. But I won't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

And now for something completely different

Since the last Dublin post was a whinge, this one shall be a rave.

I love the Georges Street Arcade. It's awesome. For one thing, it's just a great building- all red brick and little turrets. Mostly, though, it's because the teeny shops in there are a great relief from the British high street chains on Grafton St. When you get tired of the endless sameness of Next, M&S, River Island and whatnot (and you get tired of them quickly), you can pop into the Arcade and find shops selling, among many other things, heaps of ethnic silver jewelry, piercing jewelry, hippy-dippy "oriental" clothes, funky alterna-wear, used CDs and books, secondhand German military jackets, cheap Chinese copies of the trendy clothes you see elsewhere, organic foodstuffs, handmade soap and a stall selling nothing but cool hats. It's just great all around.

The second time I was in Dublin, I wandered in while strolling around the city centre and was totally excited at what I found. The next time I was in Dublin, for the job interview, I tried to find the place again, but no luck. (I have absolutely no head for directions, so I had no clue where it was, except that you could get to it from a side street off Grafton.) When I moved here to live, I made it a quest one weekend to find it. Now, I'm happy to see that some new stalls and shops have opened, but I'm sad that one of the guys selling used books is gone.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Holy rusted metal

Now, I'm all about the Firefly- I left work early yesterday so's I could get as many episodes in as possible before going to bed. I managed eight episodes and would have finished the whole series if it wasn't for the need for an early start this morning.

However, much as I'm loving the Firefly, I have to say: Joss! What the hell were you thinking with that theme song?! It's horrific! It's so cheesy it makes triple-creme brie seem like microwaved Velveeta. Now, maybe you thought you'd just take the Western theme the whole way with the cheesy Western theme song? Is that it? Maybe you wrote it specifically to be really bad and cheeserific? That's what I'm gonna think, because surely you didn't think it was good?

Reading: Nuthin'. Knitting. Can't read and knit and watch DVDs at the same time, dammit.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mmmm...Joss Whedon

I borrowed the Firefly DVDs off a friend, 'cause I semi-wanted to see Serenity, and was advised to watch the series first. And damn! They're good. I watched the first disc last night and was only barely able to stop myself from going right on through the night. But I tell ya, I'm glad I didn't have to sleep alone after watching about those Reavers. Scary.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Mildly frustrating

Okay, I usually try not to do the bitching about Ireland that a lot of people here do, 'cause I think one should be generous with one's host country and, besides, what's the point of moving somewhere else if I expect it to be just like home? However, there are a few little things that I feel I'm justified in whinging about.

For a country that managed to turn itself from one of the poorest to one of the richest nations in Europe (hey, highest standard of living in 2005, according to The Economist!) mostly by luring in high tech companies, it sure is a little strange that, high tech-wise, Ireland is 5-10 years behind. And I'm not talking about the big life-changing things- I'm sure the hospitals here have the latest machinery, and I know the universities are fairly well-equipped. I'm talking about the little things that make my life just a teeny bit more difficult.
For example: the Dublin public transportation system. Look as long as you want, there is no page on their website that will show you a map of the bus routes superimposed on a street map of Dublin. The web site shows you what neighborhoods the various routes go to. That's it. However, this is not surprising, because even if you went to the Dublin Bus offices, there are no such maps. There are maps of some of the neighborhoods with the bus routes, but why they can't make a big one with all of Dublin on it and put it on-line, I don't know. There isn't even a little cartoon of what streets the buses go down and what the cross streets are. The information on the poles at the actual bus stops are less than useless: they simply ugly up the street. And on-line trip planning? Ha!
Example two: high speed internet access is a joke. You can get broadband if you have an Eircom land line. The resulting connection is, I'm told, barely adequate. The land line costs you €40/month and the broadband is €30. If you are unlucky enough to move into a place that did not have an existing land line, Eircom will happily charge you upwards of €100 to put one in. If you don't want to pay the exorbitant sums Eircom insists on, then you could go for one of two other choices. For both, the coverage is patchy at best (doesn't even cover all of Dublin, for Pete's sake) and will randomly cut out on you.

None of this is horrible. Mostly the solutions involve my having to walk a little bit further or to have to stop by an office and talk to someone rather than do what I want over the computer. But I'd gotten too used to being able to do practically everything from the comfort of home. Perhaps it's just as well that this kind of thing forces me to move my ass out of my chair, huh?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Find something else to talk about, people!

Everyone else has linked to this article, so I may as well: excerpts from NYTimes columnist Maureen Dowd's upcoming book Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide. Okay, listen up, people, it was entertaining for a while, but I am now sick and tired of books, articles, blogs, movies, TV shows, and other crap purporting to report and comment on how difficult it is for the "modern woman" to hunt, find and catch a husband and then, if the stars are aligned and they get that magical band around their fingers, how to balance a career and family. I am convinced that the authors/producers/directors/whatever of these cliches masquerading as commentary with real insight live in some alternate universe. Okay, so you and your two buddies, one a high-powered Wall Street trader and the other an interior designer who counts Julia Roberts as one of her clients, are having trouble finding "Mr. Right". Maybe you're too good at your job and you're scaring them off? You were told that you should always let the man pay because otherwise you're not feminine enough? And once you find this magical person and somehow manage to reproduce (after rounds of IVF treatments at $10K a pop, of course, which you will write about in Salon), should you cut back on your work hours, or just quit entirely? After all, it's not like that law degree that you spent 3 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on is worth anything, really, compared to the Miracle of Motherhood and Being There to see the little snot-nosed brat take his first shit in the plastic potty, right?

What universe do you live in?! Most women, wives and mothers have to work because two incomes are necessary just to pay the damned mortagage. Many people married their college or high school sweethearts because they fell in love with the pimply-faced, gangly dude who made them rice crispies bars in their dorm kitchens, not because they want to be wined and dined by property magnates in shiny Prada suits. Many women have normal jobs, that pay somewhat less than decently, and they meet their dates at the local bar with the sticky floor; they get taken to the Olive Garden and make random chitchat. But of course, you! Jesus, how difficult your life must be! Those sample sales are a killer, aren't they? Those charity balls and book signings just get soooo tedious, and the men you meet there keep giving you mixed signals and never respond to your e-mails, anyway. Shut up! Just shut up! The only people who live like you and share your experiences are your buddies at those press junkets. You comprise maybe 0.2% of the population and have 10% of the wealth. The first couple of books and movies and whatnot were entertaining in a "Hey, see how stupid and miserable the rich people are" way, but now it's just getting insulting and, worst of all, boring.

Reading: Alice Sebold's Lucky: A Memoir, and the Susanna Clarke.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Not surprisingly...

I totally forgot about the time change until I overheard some chick talking about it on the bus on the way into town this morning. So now I'm at work an hour earlier than I need to be and none of the shops are open yet, so I have an hour to kill...

Tomorrow is the Dublin marathon and a holiday here. If I had known this earlier than, say, Thursday, I would not have signed up for instrument time today and could have taken off for the long weekend. Damn.

And now for something mildly disturbing: I usually keep the cat indoors on Halloween, New Year's, July 4th- pretty much any time when there are likely to be fireworks, 'cause I don't want her near kids setting them off or getting too curious about what that shiny sparkly thing is (she is my cat, after all), so I thought nothing of it when people warned me to keep the cat indoors this weekend. What I did think was strange was that, after this warning, they would go on to say something along the lines of "Oh, cats go missing a lot on Halloween, you know...people do awful things to animals then...." The first time this happened, I was like, Uh-huh, a little paranoid, are we? And then when other people kept telling me this, I just started wondering what the hell kind of people live in this country. Seriously, do people torture cats here or what?

Reading: Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Very good. Excellent read. It's part fantasy, part history, part fairy tale, part ghost story and part good old-fashioned "what happens next?!" novel. Clarke's got some imagination on her, I tell ya.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Dammit, I'm sick again! How does this happen? In the 13 months I've been here, I've been sick more often than in the last five years put together. What the hell? I've gone through packets and packets of Sudafed. This is ridiculous.

But anyway, Paris trip. We took Ryanair into Beauvais airport. Ryanair is cheap, but infamous for flying into teeny regional airports that are miles and miles from the cities that they claim to serve. This keeps their airport fees down, but the tickets are never as cheap as they seem because, for instance, to get into Paris proper from Beauvais, you have to hand over €13 for their shuttle bus. Which takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I find it hard to believe that French drivers actually obey the speed limits, so I can't think why this bus did a steady 40 mph all the way into Paris. An hour and a half later (mind you, the flight to Beauvais from Dublin only took an hour and 25 minutes), we're at the Port Maillot metro station, where, after some confusion as to how to actually cross the street against streams of neverending oncoming traffic, we meet the friends we're staying with. We take the metro back to their place (god, I love subways- so efficient, so simple, so fast). We're starving, so we buy bread, cheese, pastries and other foodstuffs on our short walk from the metro station to the flat and stuff ourselves while the guys catch up with each other and the girlfriend and I roll our eyes at their jokes.

So we spent nearly four days in Paris and here's some of what we saw:

Notre Dame: really cool and lit up at night, but that meant we didn't get to see the stained glass window in all its glory. That's okay, it's unlikely we'd have wanted to wait in line and pay to go in anyway.

We strolled along the Seine and looked at the bridges and buildings. The Pont Neuf has all sorts of gargoyles along the sides, which are awesome.

And despite all the Amelie hoopla, we went to Montmartre:
Montmartre was the most "touristy" of the places we saw, I think. There were lots of people selling postcards and trying to draw pictures of tourists to sell and lots of shops filled with random tourist tat. Yeech. But the side streets are nice and winding and eventually we found our way down to another neighborhood, where we bought some pastries.

The Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower and stuff were cool. We didn't go up to the top of either, though. We didn't feel like waiting in line and paying and anyway, we got a great view of the city from the hill at Montmartre.

So on to the important things: what we ate. Breakfasts (or lunch, really, considering how late we managed to leave the flat every day) mostly consisted of bread, cheese and other pastries we bought in the shops around the flat. We'd take the stuff to a park or somewhere to eat. The food was all awesome. Once we went to a creperie for lunch, and couldn't decide whether we wanted savoury (made with a savoury, heavier wheat batter) or sweet crepes (made with lighter, sweeter batter), so we got both. Ha. They were awesome. I had a mushroom and cheese one and then we shared a citrousy creme one. Everyone at the tables around us also had two crepe courses, so at least it's pretty common to eat your lunch crepe and then get a dessert crepe. They apparently also drink cider with them, but we couldn't face that at 11 in the morning, so we passed.

The restaurant we went to for dinner the first night was pretty good, but I can't remember the name. It's right on the Seine and the waiter guy was really nice and funny. I had trout. I really like trout.

Dinner the second night was at La Cave de l'Os a Moelle, which was really cool. Get this: it's an all-you-can-eat French restaurant. How cool is that? They've only got three tables set up, so you have to share with whoever else is there. The starters are all set on the table, along with gherkins and other little nibbley bits. On our night, they consisted of a beetroot salad, marinated mushrooms, a pork pate loaf thingy, cauliflower or vinegary cucumbers. The soup and main course are kept heated on a teeny old stove at the back and the desserts and cheese (and there were dozens of both to try) were on a long table at the side. The main course on the night we went was a beef stew, so I couldn't eat it, but damn everything else was good. The soup was pumpkin. We stuffed ourselves, and, though we managed to try a good half-dozen of the dessert offerings, had to pass on the cheese, 'cause then we wouldn't have been able to walk out of there. The bottle of wine was €9 and the dinner was €20 per person. We got off the metro a few stops before ours so that we could walk off some the food.

Dinner the last night was at Chez Papa, in the neighborhood. It's part of a small chain of restaurants, and was packed. They also didn't take reservations, so we had to wait a bit, but they gave us little garlicky bread things to nibble one. I had the fish soup and a salad with warm potatoes. They were both HUGE. I couldn't finish. The others had goat cheese salads and duck in pepper sauce. I tried some of the duck- it tasted meatier than I remember but it was really really good. I think the whole bill was €70 for the four of us and wine, which was way cheap.

There were lots of other restaurants that we had been given recommendations for and didn't have time to try. Dammit. Will have to go back and forget about the sightseeing and just eat.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I love Paris in the springtime...I love Paris in the fall

Tower, schower...look, a bee!

You will all be very happy to know that I actually took my camera to Paris! It even left my bag! Pictures were taken with it! Not by me, no, but still.

I spent four days in Paris a few days ago and it was awesome. I ate so much I frequently couldn't move enough afterwards to order the cheese plate for dessert. If I ever go back, I'm totally eating dessert first. We stayed with friends of the Boy, who live in the 14th arrondissement, near the Tour Montparnasse. They lived right off the Rue Daguerre, which had shops galore. The many epiceries, fromageries, boulangeries and patisseries brought out their wares and set them under umbrellas and canopies along the pedestrianised street. Most days we didn't manage to leave the flat before noon, so mostly we picked up bread, pastries, cheeses and such on the way to the Metro station, then had a picnic at a park somewhere, thus integrating sightseeing with stuffing ourselves.

More details later...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I am a tourist

So after sitting around for a week, I actually got off my ass and went out of the house to see people this weekend. At one point, I was hanging out at a friend's house and saw a tourist guide to San Francisco. It turned out that my friend's boyfriend had been using it this past month to explore the city. He grew up in Santa Cruz and moved to the city a year ago to live with her. I realized, once again, that I was also pretty much a tourist in this town, since I've never lived here as an adult. I grew up here, but moved away when I was eighteen, so I really only have a kid's view of the city. So I've decided to write this blog entry with a tourist slant.

On Friday night, I hung out with a friend I'd known since we were eleven. The choices of hang-out venue were either Pinoy Pop (a music night organized by and for Philipino kids and featuring local bands) or to go out for a drink. Since it was late and I am old, I decided I didn't want to go somewhere to get tinnitus with a bunch of people 10 years younger than me, so we went to Rohan (on Geary and 2nd) for their fabulous soju-based foofy cocktails and their little plates of yummy nibbles. The drinks and food were great as usual, but for some reason the DJ insisted on playing her music so loud we had to shout to hear each other. After a couple drinks, our throats were getting sore, so we went home. (So much for trying to avoid tinnitus; and the group of guys sitting next to us may have been about our age, but they were acting ten years younger.)

Yesterday I met up with this friend, her boyfriend (whom I adore, but not in that way) and another friend I'd known since I was 14 for lunch at El Toreador (in West Portal). Mexcian food is one of the things I have never managed to get in Dublin, so I was happy. Plus, I'd never been to this restaurant and it was supposed to be good. They had awesome fish tacos, and the spinach enchiladas were great as well. They give you a whole carafe of their surprisingly spicy salsa when you sit down.

After lunch, and with the boyfriend safely sent off home, we went down to Good Vibrations (on Valencia and 17th) to play with the vibrators. I tried to think which one would be the least embarrassing were it to be pulled out of my bag at an airport security checkpoint. After a few minutes of this, we decided maybe ice cream would be a good way to cool down. We drove to Pollyann's (on Ortega and 30th? Somewhere around there, anyway), which has been there since I was in middle school. But they've expanded into the spaces next to them and is now huge and shiny instead of tiny and crowded like I remember. They've got more flavors than any decent person could want, and if you can't decide, they have a huge wheel-of-fortune type wheel that you can spin and choose for you. I got a cone of the Jamocha fudge almond, which was good, but not nearly as awesome as my friend's jasmine tea flavor. It tasted like what you'd expect jasmine flowers to taste like and I totally regretted my choice.

We then went back to my friend's place in the Sunset and just hung around for a few hours, watching TV and listening to a new song she'd written. We talked about our upcoming high school reunion, which is a pot-luck barbecue held in San Mateo, for Pete's sake. We read through the e-vite responses and looked at the invitation list to see if we even remember anyone, let along cared enough to actually go and see how they've changed. It turns out, not surprisingly, that I don't remember any of them.

When we got hungry, we went to to King of Thai nearby (on Noriega? possibly?) where we all ordered huge bowls of noodle soup. Mine was seafood in a red bean-based soup stock, and was good, but kinda salty. After stuffing ourselves, we left to go to a bar that a friend of theirs was holding his birthday party in. It turned out the bar was Lone Palm (on Guerrero and 22nd, sorta Castro/Mission area), which I'd actually been to before, a couple of years ago. We arrived a little before 10 and managed to find a table, but the place filled up quickly, and soon was packed. My dirty martini was too dirty, but my friend's apple martini was just perfectly apple-y. The birthday boy bought us all shots of Patron and we managed a toast before the place got so crowded we couldn't see the different sub-factions of the birthday party anymore. It was a good crowd- people our age mostly, but not painfully hip or styly. Everyone was friendly and in good spirits. However, once again, our age caught up with us, and we left shortly after midnight.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Making drama

The absolute best moment at the wedding was when the photographer walked up to a knot of us bridesmaids and asked, innocently, "Do any of you bridesmaids have significant others?" A loaded question at any gathering, as any female of marriageable age with aunts knows. At this gathering, it was even more loaded, as each bridesmaid was in her own personal relationship purgatory. Anyway, the poor hapless photographer's question was met with, like, 20 seconds of the densest silence ever. We just sort of made quiet “Uhhhhh” noises as we tried to figure out what to say. My brain went through all the possible answers: “Yes” was untrue; “No” was also strictly untrue; “Maybe” was not really an answer; “Er…it’s complicated” would have been the best answer, but that seemed like it would require further explanation, which we did not feel like giving. After a couple of awkward exchanges, the photographer slunk away to people with slightly less complicated love lives.

We laughed and laughed and laughed. It was awesome. It was so awesome, we were unable to stop laughing for a while. But maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, all this made me feel like maybe I didn’t have enough drama in my life, ‘cause it seems like it could be fun. I generally try to live without too much drama; I always thought that most people make their own lives difficult, when they could just let most things go and live more peacefully. But recently, I’ve been thinking- why the hell not stir up some shit? Why try to glide through life without making any waves? It’s just another way of making yourself invisible and lessening the influence of yourself on the world, isn’t it? But then I thought, Dang, that seems like it would take a lot more energy than sitting around and reading the newspaper.

Reading: Just finished Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous People. Man, I love Jon Stewart. Why don't they export The Daily Show to Ireland?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

West Coast Tour

As many of you know, I’m back in the land of the free and the home of the brave for a few weeks. I flew into Seattle, where I was met by wonderful friends who whisked me straight to sushi. (That’s how you know they’re good friends.) This first evening turned out to be indicative of the rest of my visit, which was filled with friends and food. I confess there was also a certain amount of shoe-shopping.

After a few short days, I took the train down to Portland. My time in Portland was spent doing wedding prep-type activities and, uh, also shoe-shopping. Hey! I needed shoes for the bridesmaid’s dress! The shopping was successful: I and another bridesmaid ended up with the most fabulous bronze heels. Later, when I saw the uneven lawn the wedding party was to walk on, I nearly regretted the choice of 4-inch heels, but it was impossible not to buy them- they were fabulous. The wedding went off without a hitch. My ankles, as well as all entering couples, emerged intact. The ceremony was short, the alcohol abundant, the bride and groom waaay too cute.

I had a lot of time to hang around with my girl friends in both Seattle and Portland, and it made me sad, because I have no such friends in Dublin. I mean, it’s not like I need people around to discuss big important feminist issues or whatever, I just want people around to drink wine and try on dresses and giggle with. Of course, these are people I’ve known for 5 years or more, so that may have more to do with it than gender. It’s easier to be yourself around old friends. However, I'm now back in San Francisco, and I have yet to see any of my high school friends here. I sat around for two days before I even started calling any of them. What does that say?

Reading: Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore. Hilarious. It's a send-up of religion. With a talking fruit bat. Beat that.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Since you asked

In reponse to Jennifer and Debbie's comments, here is a picture of both my butt and the boy. My butt was not yet sore at the time this picture was taken, though.

Heh heh heh.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Last weekend

So a couple friends arrived last week to visit me and the Emerald Isle. They threw caution to the wind and decided that the left side of the road was a perfectly reasonable place to drive and so, last Friday, rented a car and headed West. On Saturday the boy and I took a train out to Galway to meet them (It took less than 3 hours! We were shocked!). We drove through the Burren in Co. Clare, but, alas, did not have time to stop and look around. In Doolin, we checked into our respective B&Bs and headed out to see the Cliffs of Moher. It is only one of the few times I've seen the Atlantic and, dammit, what a place to see it from.

We had a run of lovely weather, so the sky? Really was that blue.

We had dinner at a pub, where, mercifully, we could not hear the traditional Oirish music being inflicted upon the place. I had mussels (mmmm...mussels...) and we stayed around for a few pints afterwards. Miraculously, we actually managed to find out way back to our B&Bs.

The next morning, we took a ferry from Doolin out to the Aran Islands. The ferry stopped at Inis Oirr, where we walked around for a couple hours, and then continued on to Inis Mor, where we stayed the night.

Inis Mor ("Big Island" in Irish) is only 9 miles long, so, despite my reservations, we rented bicycles to get around the place and see stuff. It really was the best way. Besides, there were barely any cars on the island and the hills were totally manageable. (Yeah, okay, so I walked up a couple of them. So what, huh?) We biked to Dun Aonghasa, a stone fort built in 2000 B.C. and overlooking the Atlantic.

Rather refreshingly, they do not fence off the cliffs around the fort, so you can go right to the edge and look down at a beautiful, but cold and rock-filled death.

Isn't the color of the water awesome? We thought so.

The other good thing about renting bikes was that the B&Bs we stayed at served the traditional Irish breakfast, i.e. Heart Attack on a Plate, so it was good to be able to work off at least some of the food. Also, the B&B on Inis Mor has a stray cat and her kitten hanging around. I tell you, Chloe came this close to having a new "friend."

After seeing some other really cool stuff and eating even more, we and our sore butts left, half of us back to the car in Doolin and the other half to Galway to catch a train back to Dublin (stupid work).

P.S. At least a couple of these pictures were taken with my camera. But not by me. So there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Well, I warned you

Listen people, I only yesterday found the time to go to the grocery store for the first time in 2 weeks, all right? And that's only by skipping yoga, which means that's 3 weeks I've skipped it.

And it's not like I'm super busy or anything. I've discovered that I really need to have time when I'm not doing anything. If I don't have a few evenings/days a week when I know there's nothing I have to do or pay attention to, then everything feels too crowded. Even if all the "stuff" I have to do and attend to just exactly fills up my time and I don't have to hurry from one thing to another, it still feels rushed to me. And things have been feeling a little crowded lately; I haven't sat down and watched 3 reruns of Scrubs in a row for weeks now, and that sucks. In fact, last night, as I was sitting down to eat dinner, I went to turn on the TV and noticed that we have a different TV! Then I remembered that old housemate had moved out with his and it had been replaced last week, but last night was the first time I'd had the opportunity to watch it. And then I couldn't find the remote or anything.

Also, for some reason, work seems especially busy this past couple weeks. Possibly because we're trying to put out this paper, possibly because some people are on holiday and I have to pick up slack, possibly because I've been too lazy before.

But! This past weekend I got out to Galway and the Aran Islands and, when I have the time, I will write about it and put up some pictures. (Don't be silly, of course they aren't pictures I've taken. They're pictures taken by the people I was with.)

Reading: Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. It's, like, my biography. Only, uh, Indian.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

God, I'm lazy

I've never been the most energetic of people. I've never really participated in sports, for instance, 'cause it just seems so...tiring. I manage to drag my ass into yoga every couple of weeks, but even then I sit on the mat at the beginning and dread the sun salutations that are supposed to get our hearts going and warmed up. I've never understood people who bar hop or pub crawl. Surely the sensible thing to do is find a nice place, with some seating, and then stay there and do your drinking in warmth and peace? And if I'm already home after work, with my shoes off, sitting on the couch reading or watching TV? Almost nothing will get me up and out the door again. If you want me to go drinking with you after work, it's gonna have to be right after work.

All this I knew and have accepted about myself. However, I've noticed recently that I've become even more lazy, if that's possible. Going to a party, right from work, with work people, but requiring a 15 minute walk? God, that's just too much work for a party. Walking the extra few blocks to go to the main library instead of the local branch? Too much hassle. Paying more for groceries at the yuppier place because it's closer to the bus stop than the bigger, cheaper store? Perfectly acceptable. Getting up from my chair in the office to go the 20 meters into lab to check an experiment, for Christ's sake? Eh, I'll just wait until I have a few tasks lined up to do in there. It's getting so bad that I'm starting to wonder if I don't have an iron or vitamin deficiency or something. I mean, seriously: I'm actually too lazy to get up from my desk? That's ridiculous.

I had promised myself that I would go somewhere different at least once a month, but I didn't take advantage of the Stockholm opportunity, basically 'cause, yeah, you guessed it, I just couldn't face lugging stuff to the airport and lugging it back. This next weekend is the last chance I have to go somewhere for June, and I was going to take a train down to the countryside and walk around, just for the day. But, really, at the moment, I just can't be arsed.

Monday, June 20, 2005


I called my father up to say Happy Father's Day and he asked, as he has done every year since I left for college, when I'm coming home for summer. I think since I'm at a university, he assumes that it's just like school and that I get the summers off and would therefore come home for three months. Never mind that I actually haven't had summers free since 1999, and that, even before that, I never came home for more than two weeks, tops, during the summer. I always stayed in Portland and worked during the college summers. But it's cute that he ignores all previous experience and expects me to be at home, anyway.

It's actually very good for my mental and emotional stability, I think. It's a subtle reminder to me that, no matter what, I can always pack up and go home and he will happily feed and house me, for as long as I need it. Never mind that I'm nearing 30, never mind that I should, by all rights, be supporting him by now, never mind that I'm educated up to my eyeballs, he will always cheerfully take me in. I didn't appreciate this as a safety net until recently and it was further driven home (excuse the pun) when I was reading through the reader responses to the Class Matters special section in the NYTimes. A few people mentioned that they, and many others, had no safety nets, of any sort, familial or otherwise. If they lost their jobs or got ill, that would be it- they'd be out in the streets. And I, who has no savings to speak of, no pension or retirement account to draw on, no monetary wealth of any kind, would be in the same position if not for my family.

Now I feel guilty for not staying longer at home this August. Dang.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Speaking of movies...

There's apparently a movie out in the States (God only knows when/if it'll show up here) called Saving Face, which is about, get this, Asian-American lesbians! I know! Who'd a thunkit?! I've only read one review, which was mostly positive, but the accompanying picture had suspiciously media-friendly-looking lesbians. You know, really pretty femme ones. Anyway, might be one more thing to do while I'm home.

Yay! Home!

I finally bought tickets to go home. For once, I think it actually helped to wait until now. I'd been checking prices for months and was quoted $1000+ just for a round-trip ticket to SFO. An open jaw ticket to PDX/SEA and from SFO was costing $1400. Just absolutely ridiculous. But I found some flights, and although it costs more than I think it should, it's still cheaper than before, so I'll just count myself lucky.

I'm totally going for Chinese food as soon as I hit home soil. Although there are many Chinese here (more native Mandarin speakers in Dublin than native Irish speakers in the whole country, as they keep saying), there aren't any really good Chinese places yet. Another couple years, I think. And pho! Or any Vietnamese food!

I'm also going to buy more of those simple stretchy bras that I like from the Bon Marche. I've discovered that I'm slowly going back to my hippier years, vis-a-vis bra-wearing. I'm really disliking the nice, pretty, underwired things that I wore more frequently during the years in Seattle, and have been either going au naturel or wearing the aforementioned simple stretchy things, which are rapidly becoming worn out. (This is total oversharing, but hah! you're a captive audience.)

Let's see...what else to do while at home? Walk around like I belong there. I didn't notice this until I went over to the UK a few weeks ago for the literature festival, but I think in Dublin, I'm constantly aware that I'm non-native. Or, actually, I'm constantly aware that others are aware that I'm non-native. It's a little hitch that's always in the back of my mind. It doesn't make me feel uncomfortable or awkward; I can't describe how it changes my attitude, but it does, slightly. I didn't notice it was there until I walked out of the plane at Birmingham airport and it was gone. It was also conspicuously absent as I navigated around the airport and train and bus stations. (I was asked for directions.) I think I feel more natural; I don't get the feeling that, when I go up to ask about train tickets or whatever, that the person is bracing themselves for dealing with a foreigner. Not that I feel it happens in Dublin; people have been really nice here. I don't think this feeling is generated or re-inforced by the Irish. I think it's just this thing I have. I will have to think more about it now that I am aware of its existence.

Reading: A Suitable Boy, and Melvyn Bragg's The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language, although, to be honest, I haven't really been doing much reading lately. Also, I notice that the guy who did Princess Mononoke and whatever the hell that other popular anime movie was (y'all know how I feel about anime) has just released Howl's Moving Castle, which is based on the Diana Wynne Jones novel and one of my favorite children's books. I'm very upset about this ('cause y'all know how I feel about anime, plus you know they never do a good enough job when turning books you love into films), because now it looks like I will actually have to voluntarily pay money to see an anime film. And no, it is impossible for me not to go see this adaptation. Feh.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


I was so looking forward to this weekend. It's the first in the last few weeks that I've had to myself and I had nothing particular to do. I was going to spend it shopping for random crap that I don't need (a good spring skirt comes to mind), reading, writing a news-filled letter to a friend, and maybe going to the modern art museum. But as it happens, I woke up on Saturday morning with a horrible cold. I should have seen it coming. Two of the lab guys had already come down with bronchitis and the last few days have been so gross and muggy in the office that I could feel the bacteria breeding in that warm, moist atmosphere.

I did manage some grocery shopping on Saturday (which is nowhere near as much fun as skirt-shopping), but went to bed early and spent all of today lying around on the couch, watching TV and alternating between cough drops and Lemsip. I couldn't even really concentrate enough to read one of the many many books I bought from the literature festival in Hay a couple weekends ago. Feh.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I was afraid this would happen

Okay, as you are no doubt aware, I haven't really been diligent about updating this blog lately. But I have excuses!

The first thing to bear in mind is that it takes me the better part of an hour to write what I think of as a decent entry. I can't just steal an hour from work, 'cause then I'm all stressed and feel rushed, which brings me to the second thing: I have to be in the appropriate mood to write about whatever topic it is I've chosen.

So now, the excuses. In the last month, I've had only a handful of evenings when I've had a few hours to myself, and those have mostly been spent sleeping or eating or doing laundry. There was the lovely German visitor, then one weekend to get errands done, then I went off to Wales to the Hay Literature Festival, then I had great friends from home visiting. So Thursdays to Tuesdays for the past few weeks have been shot. And then the few days I had left during the week, I felt guilty and thought I should work.

So there you go. There're my excuses.

However, the next few weekends look open, so far. Unless I decide to go to Stockholm.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Never mind

Just saw a group of 10- or 11-year olds being led across an intersection, against the light, by their teachers. In front of a garda van. So I'm just gonna stop worrying about that. ('Cause I was losing sleep over it, y'know.)

In other disturbing news, got an invitation on from some dude I don't know asking me to join a tribe called "Asian women WHO love white men". (Yes, with the word "who" capitalized like that. Don't know why.) After I stopped shuddering in horror and could type again, I declined. Then I thought, Hey, maybe it's a joke, maybe it's a tribe devoted to abusing people who think they can mask their racism with sexism! Maybe this "Timothy" person is an Asian dude who thought the tribe was hilarious! After looking through his profile, though, I really really doubt it, and though it didn't have anything "worse" than what you'd find in the alternative ads in The Stranger, I still feel like I really need a shower after having been exposed to this guy. Even over ethernet lines. Yeech.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Individual vs. Collective Good

Should I feel guilty for crossing the street against the light right in front of a class of impressionable -aged schoolchildren, who were being herded and lined up by their guardians to patiently await the light change?

Reading: P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves in the Offing. I had to stop myself from staying up all night reading it. I'd messed with my sleep schedule enough this weekend.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ah, Europe

Two important competitions were decided today. The first is the FA Cup, which Arsenal won, beating Man U by 1 penalty kick. I care nothing about this (other than a residual preference for Arsenal from when I lived in Manchester), except that I caught the last half of the match and it was so close even I got kind of caught up in it.

The second is the Eurovision 2005 contest. For those of you who don’t know, and I’ll bet money that that’s most of you, it’s an annual song contest, with one entry from each European country (and, uh, Israel; yeah, I don’t know either). It’s geared towards pop acts and the songs are absolute, total crap. So, naturally, it gets lots of people very excited. Ukraine hosted it this year, in Kiev, and they had to set up a tent city to house everyone who came to see it. Now, when I say absolute total crap, I mean it. This is the 50th anniversary of the contest, and, as far as I can tell, the best song to have won in all fifty years was Sweden’s entry in ’74, Abba’s “Waterloo”. Which says a lot.

Now, I normally would care nothing about this competition, either, except that in recent years it switched from being judged by a panel of “experts” to being judged by people voting in from their phones, which means that all the acts suddenly got much more photogenic and there are more scantily-clad dancers on stage. The rules are that each country ranks their top 10 vote-getters and reports to Eurovison central, which doles out points. No matter how small your country is, you get the same number of points as anyone else to give out. (So, just for example, let’s say you’re a small island nation with a mere 4 million people; you get the same voting power as Germany’s 80 million people. Hey, it’s kinda like the EU! But I say too much.) However, and this is key, you can’t vote for your own country’s entry. This results in a pattern of voting that is, in essence, a reflection of what goes on in Brussels and gives a great picture of what Europeans think of each other. For instance, Turkey and Greece normally never vote for each other’s entries (except for this year, it turns out), and the UK always gives high points to Ireland’s entry because there are so damned many Irish living over there. For the same reason, Germany tonight gave 10 points to Turkey, even though their song sucked so much no one else was voting for it. The Baltic states always vote for each other, likewise the former Soviet states and Sweden, Norway and Denmark always vote for the other Scandinavian states. It’s just fascinating watching the results roll in and seeing who gives high points to an entry that everyone else had so far ignored, and who ignores an entry that everyone else has given high points for.

Another interesting thing about the Eurovision contest, which I think also says a lot about modern Europe, is that so many acts come from countries other than who they’re representing, and the same goes for the writers of the songs. The winner this year is Greece, with the singer Elena, who was born in Sweden. (And whose winning song includes the lyrics “you are the one, my number one” and “you’re my lover, undercover”. Hey, I warned you it was utter crap.) And I believe Ukraine’s entry was written by an Irish dude living in Sweden. What surprised me was that the vast majority of the songs were sung in English. Oh, a few acts stubbornly insisted on singing in their native languages (and of course, France would probably rather pull out of the contest than have a song in a language other than French, even though their lead singer this year was Israeli-born), but everyone else sang in English. The hosts spoke English. The different countries reported their rankings in English or French, with most opting for English. Jeez, no wonder English speakers never bother learning a second language.

All in all, a fascinating day of television.

Reading: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, in preparation for seeing him speak at the Hay Literature Festival.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Two things

Two funny things that have happened to me at German passport control (keep in mind I've only been in Germany twice, so this is a high percentage):

1. Passport dude flips through my passport to find a place to stamp. He turns to his colleague and starts gesturing and talking in a high, excited manner. I don't know any German (except for how to say "white asparagus"), but it's clear to me what he is on about. He points to the "entry" column of the passport and then the "departure" column and is obviously ranting to his colleague about how clear the columns are and why the hell don't people stamp entry and departure stamps in their proper places. He goes on about this for a good couple of minutes, turning to different examples in my passport from when, in his opinion, less than competent people have put their stamps in the wrong places. He then carefully stamps my passport and gives it back to me. I turn to the page to see the Frankfurt stamp aligned and centered in its proper "entry" box. Way to go in dispelling stereotypes about Germans, passport dude.
[Edited to add: I've just checked my passport and all the German stamps are not only in the correct columns, but they're also positioned in the little rectangles. The other countries just randomly stamp wherever there happens to be room.]

2. Bored passport dude takes my passport and swipes it through the computer. Seeing something interesting, he sits up and squints closer at his screen, and then at my passport and then at me. Does this again a couple times. Says nothing to me. I am about to ask if something's wrong when the supervisor dude standing behind him catches sight of the monitor and comes over to peer over his shoulder at it. Reads the screen, scrutinizes my passport, looks at me. They do this for what seems like forever, but don't speak to each other or to me. Just before I break down and start screaming, "What?! What?!" he stamps my passport and waves me through, thoroughly bored again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rags to...uh, well, more rags

Reading: A fascinating series in the New York Times about class in America. The overview talks about the class structure and mobility in "classless" America. There's even an interactive graphic to see where you fall on the ladder! It says that I am about 69% of the way up this ladder. Only my wealth keeps me from being among the really elite. (Dammit! Once again, I am held back by not being rich.)
Apparently, class mobility has been falling for decades. If you're born to poor parents, you are now more likely to stay poor than someone from the '50s. Likewise if you're rich. Despite this, most Americans still feel that it is easy to move up the ladder (or down, which no one seems to take into account). And a healthy percentage of Americans really believe that they will succeed and get their part of the American dream, which explains why so many people oppose the inheritance tax, even though they believe that the playing field isn't even.

While I am smugly delighted in finding proof that the rich are indeed getting richer and the poor getting poorer, with a wider and wider gap between the haves and have nots, I am also enough of an American to resist the idea that even if you work hard you still may not be successful. As well, my own personal experience has very much been a pull yourself up by your bootstrap kind of thing, so it's a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. To some extent, it's because it’s always hard to understand why everyone else doesn't make the same choices you do. (Or is that just me?) But the second article in the series, on class and health, gives a good picture of how choices are limited by money, position, power, etc. I am waiting eagerly for the third article, on marriage.

Speaking of templates...

Two weird inter-related things. I was roaming the city this weekend with my (male) visitor. We saw Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, in which a guy says that men and women can't ever really be just friends (hmmmm...sound familiar?). Meanwhile, there was wild speculation on the part of my housemates about whether I and my visitor were lovahs. (I was all, No way! He has a girlfriend! And housemate was all, And that's stopped people when?) (I live with heathens.) You see? It's impossible to get away from this.

Hey, if you're bi, does it mean that you can't ever really be just friends with anyone? How terrible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In a tourist town

I was a tourist this weekend. It actually felt really good, especially since it was in Dublin and I didn't have to be one of the stand-on-a-busy-street-corner-and-lengthily-consult-my-map kind of tourist.

But now I'm sick. And it sucks to be back at work.

Saw a hapa kid from the bus the other day. And its mother was carrying one of those re-usable Tesco shopping bags, so they probably live here. So that's a good sign.

Reading: Taking a break from A Suitable Boy with Margaret Mahy's The Catalogue of the Universe (YA sci-fi/fantasy- nothing exciting has happened yet, but I already dislike the main character 'cause she's all tall and pretty and smart and shit [Hey, I never said I wasn't shallow]) and Jennifer Crusie's Faking It (trashy romance- the female protagonist is an artist who fakes paintings and orgasms; truly a Renaissance woman).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Let's say you are in the market for a diamond. For your budget, you can get a larger lab-made diamond or a smaller natural diamond. Assuming the same quality in terms of clarity and defects and what not, which do you buy? Why?

Now, keep in mind they're both diamonds, and as such are just tetrahedral carbon.

Reply to the blog or e-mail me with your answer. I'm polling everyone I know. I don't have a reason for doing so; I'm just curious.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Gay people love me

Last night I accompanied a friend to the Temple Bar Music Centre for their queer and alternative night. (I realize hanging out with a bunch of gay people doesn’t do much for my personal romantic life, but that’s a subject for another blog.) As we came to the entrance, the bouncer said Hello and asked if we knew “what was going on tonight” before stepping aside to let us in. If I hadn’t been so surprised by the need to warn people, I would have answered, Yeah, hoyay! instead of looking kind of confused.

Inside, it felt and looked like the whole Irish gay population under the age of 25 was crammed into the Music Centre. It also looks like only gay people are hipsters in Dublin, which explains why I’ve seen so few hipsters around the city. At one point I was thinking maybe I should become one, just to make it feel more like home. I had almost started looking for messenger bags. But I digress. Anyway, it was a great crowd, if a little young, but I guess you have to start somewhere.

I’ve become used to getting warm responses from people when I tell them I’m from San Francisco, but I was unprepared for the instant gay street cred I got from last night’s crowd. At one point I was introduced to some people and when they discovered I was from S. F., their response was an incredulous, Well, why the hell did you move to Dublin?! It was suggested more than once that we should carve out S.F. from the North American continent and tow it over to Europe. Anyway, I was a hit, which is good for my friend, ‘cause he brought me along as fag hag for the night to help him pick up guys. I myself was hit on by lesbians and got the phone numbers of a very gay dude and his fag hag who apparently had a great time drinking and dancing with us. (For the record, I stopped drinking early on in the night and so was sober for most of it. No matter what other people may say.)

The night was great fun, though. I got to wear my cool shoes and it’s always nice being told you’re gorgeous, even if it is by flaming gay boys. (If only the straight Dublin boys would get their act together.) It’s also good to see that Dublin supports such a great gay population, even if, for some reason, they’re still moshing over here.

Reading: Still on A Suitable Boy. Sheesh.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I love Irish drunks

True to their international reputation, the Irish do indeed spend a lot of time drinking. They have the highest per capita alcohol consumption rate in Europe, if not the world. This isn't as surprising as the fact that, apparently, half of the Irish population doesn't drink, which means the other half drinks twice as much.
And when they drink, they really drink. Where I come from, i.e. the world outside of Ireland, drinking until you vomit is embarrassing; it's a sign that you've had too much and can't hold your liquor and have no self-control. At this point, your friends would push some water at you and pour you into a cab, making soothing noises and gently shaking their heads in disappointment. Here, vomiting is simply a stage in the night's drinking. Not only are young people not embarrassed to be throwing up in the streets, they're almost proud! Like, Once again, I've overcome my personal alcohol threshold and forged new ground! Their friends help them wipe off their mouths and the whole group once again stumbles down the street to the next pub. I have never seen so much grossness in the streets on Saturday and Sunday mornings as in Dublin.

However, maybe because they spend so much time drunk out of their minds, the Irish are the best drunks I've ever met. They are the nicest, funnest, most genial alcoholics I've ever had the pleasure of drunkenly slurring at in a bar. In all my time here (and I've spent a lot of it out in the pubs), I've never seen a violent altercation in a bar. During St. Patrick's Day, when the whole Irish population plus almost as many tourists, were out in the streets hammered out of their minds, there were 600 arrests in the whole country. As one of the lab guys quipped, that's barely one episode of Cops in the States! I think maybe the violent drunks have been selected out of the population, Darwin-style.
The first time I encountered drunks in Ireland, seven or eight years ago, we thought, Okay, best to avoid the drunken Irish boys. But now I remember that we were in Temple Bar, which, as I've learned, no self-respecting Irish person actually drinks in. It's mostly kept in business by tourists and English groups over in Dublin for stag or hen nights. So the leering and drunken shouting? Probably not by Irish people. In fact, the Irish boys here have been perfect gentlemen to me. No matter how drunk, they usually make sure I get myself into a cab and always look faintly concerned if I tell them I'll walk or take the bus. (Not that I've ever had any problems with the bus, or with walking around the city.)

So yes, they may all be alcoholics, but they're the best kind.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'm a judgmental bitch

I met a chick a couple months ago who boasted that she was going to read all the "classics". She felt that she "should" have read them and was going to read three a year. I assume until she dies or until she runs out of classics. I know I'm not supposed to judge, but that's about the most bone-headed idea I've heard since Bush's forest fire management plan to cut down the trees so they won't burn. First, what a way to turn reading into a pleasure-sucking chore. Second, assuming she lives for another 40 years, that's only 120 books. Third, what the hell constitutes a "classic"? If Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are classics, is Uncle Tom's Cabin on her list? If Ulysses is a classic, are The Iliad and The Aeneid included in her 120 books? Is Beowulf? If Oscar Wilde's plays are classics, what about Tom Stoppard or Aeschylus? And those are just choices from the West! What a fuckwit.

As you may be able to tell, my feelings about this run rather high, and completely out of proportion to the actual importance/merit/relevance of this issue. I mean, really, why should I even care what this woman chooses to do with her time? But I do care! I don't just find this project distasteful; I'm actually angry about it. And I can't figure out why. Is it because she has the temerity to think that she alone can decide what book is a "classic" and what's not? Is it because I harbor some secret guilt about not liking dead white male authors? Weird.

Word of the day: Bushenfreude. Okay, it's not particularly new, but what an awesome word. Coined by Daniel Gross for, it describes the odd situation of people who hate Bush but benefit from his tax cuts. He first noticed this juxtaposition of conspicuous consumerism with conspicious anti-Bush sentiment when he saw a brand spanking new BMW with a bunch of Howard Dean yard signs tossed onto the back seat. Had he taken a picture of this scene, I'm sure it would have fuelled even more red state anger about those rich, hoity-toity liberals (and who says their anger would not have been justified?).

Reading: Finished One Hundred Years of Solitude and feel that I read it too fast. It must have been awesome in the original Spanish.

Monday, May 02, 2005

More places to live

Reading: Yet another reason to move to New York! A literary map of Manhattan, showing where fictional New Yorkers lived. What a cool project. If I find such a map of London (and it must exist, right?), I am going over there with it right away. Hmmm, that reminds me, there's a literary pub crawl of Dublin that I've got to do one of these days.

Saw the Hitchhiker's Guide movie this weekend. Two words: knitted Marvin. I must have this. Someone should have a pattern up on the web by now.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Haha! Success!

Chloe on her bed. And jay-sus I've got a lot of pictures of the damned cat.

I don't want to get your hopes up, though. I'll probably still not remember to take the camera with me when I go places.

Okay! Fine!

All right, I've been scolded several times before for never bothering to bring a camera with me when I travel and never having pictures of anything. So I understand the spirit with which my friends gave me a digital camera when I graduated. (Thanks guys!) And although this camera never left the hotel room (indeed, never left my bag) when I went to London, and I didn't even remember to bring it with me when I went to Berlin, and I'm pretty sure it has never been exposed to the rarefied outdoor air of Dublin, I want to say that I appreciate the gift. Really!

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so to kill two birds with one stone (that's the end of the stupid cliches, I swear), I'm going to attempt to post pictures on this blog. Now, I will mosey over to the blog help section and work on this. It's okay that I'm spending a semi-sunny Saturday afternoon messing about on the computer, because I'm also enjoying my new chair!

Reading: Um, spent last night kinda drunk, so nothing new.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Templates for real life

At the very beginning of Hexwood, a girl meets a boy. Well, actually, a young teenager meets an older man. Their relationship was written in a way that puzzled me. And then I thought, why should this be puzzling? The two characters form a close relationship, and because they are of the opposite sex and are both past puberty, my brain at once reached for the only template it's ever been exposed to for a close relationship between two sexually mature people of the opposite sex, which is, of course, the romantic, sexual relationship. As Terry Pratchett has pointed out often in his books, stories have power. This template I've got attempts to fill in the blanks and paint the background of a relationship which the author may or may not have intended. Whatever actually happens between the characters and whatever they say to each other, my brain will attempt to mold its tone to fit within the template. It colors the whole experience. And this is true whether I am presented with a man/woman pair in a book, a painting, a play, anything. In the case of Hexwood, Diana Wynne Jones has, disappointingly for me, re-inforced this template. (Okay, fine, so I've just given away a crucial part of the plot of the book; but you weren't going to read it anyway, right?)
This particular template is surprisingly strong and deep-seated. Right after reading "girl meets boy" at the beginning of this blog entry, who didn't immediately file the relationship of this fictional pair of people into the "romantic" category? And you know nothing at all about them except for their sexes! I racked my brain to try to find a story, a piece of art, anything that depicts a close relationship between a man and a woman that wasn't romantic or sexual. And I can't think of one! The movie Lost in Translation came close- except for the kiss at the end, of course. (Um, another spoiler.) Surely there must be some examples, somewhere!

Every once in a while, I'll read something where some idiot says, Oh yeah, men and women can't ever really be just friends. My reaction to this kind of statement has always been a strong desire to whack the speaker upside the head, but now I'm thinking, Why wouldn't someone say something like that? They have no examples of anything else! There's no other mental template to fit such a relationship in, so it gets slotted into the only one available. And that's a shame, because stories do have power and they influence real life.

Reading: Finished Hexwood. Lata gets heartbroken in A Suitable Boy.

Monday, April 25, 2005

It's the little things

I need a haircut. Well, not really a cut, just a trim to get rid of the split ends. All the "respectable" places here charge upwards of 50 Euro, which is highway robbery. But don't worry! I'm not here to do the "Dublin is so expensive" whine. This is an altogether different whine.

The closest I have ever come to having a "regular" hairdresser is this Chinese lady at a shady storefront in San Francisco, whom I went to three or four times. I also got a pretty good haircut from a lady in Manchester's Chinatown. I had to respond to her Cantonese with English after embarrassing myself with my broken Cantonese, but the communication was sufficient for the first short hair I had had since I was born. And she did a great job. Both these people charged, like, 20 bucks (or the equivalent in pounds). In Seattle I tried several different places, like Borseno's and Rudy's, but they were disappointing.

So, naturally, when it came time to get a haircut here, I went looking for little Chinese ladies on dodgy streets. And in my failure to find this mythical shop, was reminded again of how young the immigrant population is here. Only in the last ten or fifteen years has Ireland became a country where people immigrated to rather than emigrated from. You see lots of Asian faces on the streets of Dublin now, but most of them only arrived a few years ago or are students here to learn English. You don't see any Asian-Irish yet. In fact, I haven't even seen very many Asian-Irish couples. I was reminded of this when I saw a hapa teenager on the U-bahn in Berlin; it will be a few years yet before hapas appear here. I do see many Asian couples with babies or toddlers, however, so it won't be long before people hear a Dub accent you could float rocks on coming from an Asian face.

I can't identify very well with, for lack of a better term, Asian-Asians. Almost all my Asian friends have been 2nd-generation or beyond. For the first time since I moved here, I missed having this specific group of people around. I had bought a book called Ego Trip's Big Book of Racism (had to order it on-line through a store in the States, naturally), and it is, to quote a certain friend, hilaaaaarious. I got to a page titled "The Top Ten Things You Wouldn't Want to Steal from an Asian Household" and didn't have anyone to share "#3: fluorescent lights in the living room" with. I laughed and laughed, and at the point where, at home, I would have shown it to someone and pointed and laughed some more, I realized there was no one here to show it to. I knew it was getting really bad when, in a pub a couple weeks ago, I saw this Asian woman speaking with a British accent, and actually went up to her and told her I wanted to say hello because it's so rare that I find an Asian person here who isn't "Asian-Asian." Well, first I asked her whether she lived in Dublin, 'cause Brits coming over here for a drunken weekend don't count. Okay, so I had had a few pints at that point and was maybe a little tipsy. This whole episode was made worse by the fact that I was at the pub to meet a dude that a friend had set me up with, and, from the moment I heard that chick speak with a British accent, I practically ignored him and spent the whole time sneaking looks at her and hoping she'd notice I was speaking with an American accent. That, and trying to work up the nerve to go speak to her. I had developed some sort of instant girl-crush on her or something. Dang. And now I wish I'd drank some more and had had the nerve to give her my phone number.

Needless to say, I didn't have a second date with the guy. Too bad. He may have been able to suggest a hair stylist.

Reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones (I usually stick to her Chrestomanci books, but this one is dedicated to Neil Gaiman! How could I just put it back on the shelf?). I'm used to reading multiple books at the same time, but this is getting ridiculous. I suspect Jonathan Lethem's going to have to go on the back burner.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Speak of the devil...

Reading: An interview at with Richard Florida, who wrote The Flight of the Creative Class, following his first book The Rise of the Creative Class three years ago. The books lay out Florida's theory that the "hot" cities in which to live and work, cities which have strong economic growth are also places with large ethnic and foreign-born populations, as well as large populations of artists, free-thinkers and, in a blow to the conservatives, gay people. He thinks that you can predict which cities are up-and-coming by looking at how welcoming they are to such groups of people, the creative class that he alludes to in his titles. Places like San Francisco and Seattle come out on top on his lists. His new book talks about how the competition for the creative class is now global and, in the interview, he mentions Dublin several times as a strong competitor in the global market for this group of people. So whaddya know? I'm ahead of my time.

So far

At a project and funding review session today, I was asked by the outside reviewers why I'd chosen this position and whether I liked working in Ireland. I refrained from saying that I didn't want to have to learn German to take the other offer I had, but did say Yes, I liked working in Ireland. I've been asked this question quite a lot and at first just said yes because I think it was sort of the expected answer, but I'm finding that I'm not lying. I do like it here. The people are friendly, the lab is good, Dublin rocks. I've talked to a lot of people (especially, for some reason, a lot of Germans living here) and was surprised to find out that many of them just hate living here. Amongst complaints such as the roads and other infrastructure being bad and the government and bureaucracy being incompetent, the main gripe seems to be that Ireland is ridiculously expensive. Which, to be fair, is true. I then usually ask why they don't go back home, and the answer is always, There're no jobs at home. Well, so that seems to be the trade-off: you could live cheaply off unemployment at home, or pay 1000 Euro/month from your paycheck to rent your closet-sized studio here. It's expensive here because people can afford it. Plus I think the Irish are overcompensating at the moment for centuries of being desperately poor.

I wonder how much personality has to do with it. I've read about people who visit some place and "fall in love with it," who feel instantly that "they belong there." (It seems to happen to a lot of Americans in Prague. Although my guess is that it's because there are already so many American ex-pats living there that it's no wonder it "feels like home.") I don't know what that feels like or how it happens. I think I have the ability to be perfectly content with wherever I'm living. Or, to put it another way, I don't think my location affects my level of happiness very much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to move to Manchester permanently any time soon, but I was more or less happy during the time I spent there. And although I don't think I will live the rest of my life in Ireland, I'm also very much hoping that my contract will be renewed for a couple of years. Does this attitude mean I have no discrimination, no taste or preference? Does it mean that it doesn't actually matter where I live? Surely this is an area where one should have a definite opinion?

Reading: Mingus Rude arrives on Dean Street in Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude and Maan gets freaky with a Muslim singer in Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Who gives a flying fuck?

The title pretty much encapsulates how I felt about blogs. I already regularly communicate with the people who care about me, so what would the point of a blog be? How arrogant to assume that complete strangers would care how I spent my day or how my life is going or what my opinions on the Nescafe espresso machine is! (It sucks, if you want to know. The espresso machine, I mean. The day and life are going okay so far.)

However, the insistence of several friends has convinced me that there may be an audience, and a recent bout of navel-gazing has convinced me that it may have therapeutic value. So here it is! Ta-da!

I'm uncertain about who I want my audience to be. On the one hand, of course, it will simply be another way for me to communicate with my friends. On the other hand, I think I would find strangers' opinions fascinating. Without any background information about me, and having only my own writing to go on, what would they think, and what's the process by which they form their opinion?

Well, here's to the spirit of experimentation.

Yesterday's reading: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem