Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Irish Government "Losing your job" Website

A sign of the times: .The last item in the menu is a useful guide to "Leaving Ireland". I'm always impressed by the usefulness of the Irish Government sites, but this one if a bit depressing.

It''s interesting that if you view the page about leaving Ireland in Irish (as Gaeilge) then you see nothing ( but if you switch over to English then you see all the info. I guess they don't want the Irish speakers leaving :-) Or maybe the person whose job it is to translate the page to Irish lost their job and left the country.

The US is not quite at the point where the government would have a page about unemployment which includes tips on "Leaving America".

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A collection jar for the IRA

Today's Boston Globe shows a photo of a money collection jar labeled "IRA". It's ironic that it's shown in a paper representing an area which historically collected a lot of money for the IRA, and that the photo has nothing to do with the actual IRA at all:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Martha Coakley's weird accent

I guess I'm not the only person who thinks that Martha Coakley has a weird accent - a quick Twitter Search shows people remarking on her accent.

Listen yourself to this YouTube video and draw your own conclusions. With the lilting and the off-sounding vowels she sounds to me like she's from Fargo via West Cork. Certainly not Massachusetts though.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Massachusetts farm for sale - with promise of US Green Cards

The Irish Times reports a home, farm, and restaurant business for sale in Tully, Massachusetts (near Orange) which comes with the promise of a Green Card also, if the buyer employs 10 or more US citizens.

At about $1.5m (about 1 million euro) it's still a lot cheaper than the equivalent property in Ireland.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quincy "Best place to raise kids in Massachusetts"

Judging by the photo in BusinessWeek, it's also the home of giant people who sit on the sidewalk teaching their kids to read:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yousef Islam jeered at Dublin concert

A priceless quote here:
Radio presenter Gerry Ryan, who was there, said he had never seen such a “level of hate and bile and viciousness” from an Irish audience. He heard one fan shout at the singer: “play Peace Train, you f***ing b******” .

Sunday, November 15, 2009

US Teacher Fired for posting a picture from the Guinness Brewery

A teacher from Georgia visited the Guinness Brewery in Dublin on a trip to Europe, and posted the obligatory photo of her drinking the "free" beer from the Gravity Bar. A parent then reported her "alcohol use" photos (she had another of her drinking a glass of wine) and she was fired. Hard to believe. Full story on

Monday, November 9, 2009

The "Jedward" thing

During my trip last week to Ireland, it was hard to avoid the "Jedward" thing. These are twins (John and Edward, hence "Jedward") from Dublin who are contestants in the X-Factor talent show with Simon Cowell.

My cousin, who lives in England, told me that the received wisdom in England is that it is Irish voters who are keeping them in the competition. Having watched them on TV, I can confirm that they are not very good singers by the standards of American Idol, but then again that is not such a big deal. They certainly have been shifting a lot of magazines.

Full disclosure: I went to the same school as the Jedward twins - KH school in Palmerstown, Dublin.

Friday, October 23, 2009

HalloweenTown this weekend

HalloweenTown looks like fun for kids, and it's close to the Children's Museum too.

If you are a Zipcar customer, you can donate $5 to pay for a kid to go to HalloweenTown, and Zipcar will give you $10 credit. Win-win.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Boston Noir

What a great article by Peter Keough in the Phoenix about Boston Noir.
When I was growing up in Roslindale a few decades back — among tribes of ignorant, second-generation immigrant kids whose favorite words began with “f” and “n” and who liked to torture small animals and beat up small children before they moved on to their future vocations as petty criminals, dead dope users, or real-estate agents — it didn’t occur to me that this was a setting rich in literary and cinematic potential.

Now with films like "Mystic River" and "The Departed", there is a Boston Noir look - low cloudy skies, closed-in streets lined with triple-decker houses, dark clothes. And now a book, Boston Noir, to be launched on Saturday at the Boston Book Festival by writers including Dennis Lehane.

Like everything Boston related, there is more than a little bit of Irish influence in Boston Noir. I've always thought that Seamus Heaney's poem "Whatever you say, say nothing" reminds me of parts of Boston as much as the north of Ireland:
Smoke-signals are loud-mouthed compared with us:
Manoeuverings to find out name and school,
Subtle discrimination by addresses
With hardly an exception to the rule
And, from the same poem, this next piece was originally written about northern Irish Nationalists. They were "besieged within the siege" - besieged within the larger Unionist population, who themselves felt under siege in Ireland as a whole. And, figuratively hiding, they were like the Greeks whispering to each other in the Wooden Horse of Troy. But recently it makes me think of the working class Irish neighbourhoods of Boston, themselves feeling "besieged within the siege" of other minority groups who themselves would feel under siege in America as a whole.
Where half of us, as in a wooden horse
Were cabin'd and confined like wily Greeks,
Besieged within the siege, whispering morse.
All of which makes for paranoia, suspicion, tribalism, and, of course, noir. I'll try to head down to the Boston Public Library on Saturday to get a copy of Boston Noir.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Premier League soccer in Boston?

Speculation that an English Premier League game could be staged at Fenway Park. However: (a) Fenway Park is pretty small for the crowds would go to a Premier League game, (b) I can't see the Premier League putting a game in Boston before it runs one in New York or Los Angeles [or indeed Dublin or Dubai or Shanghai], (c) if the game is after the baseball season, then it may be too cold in Boston, or there could be snow, and (d) FIFA would not allow it.

Nice idea though.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Real housewives of Boston

This comment on UniversalHub about an imagined "Real housewives of Boston" (Episode 1 set at the Corrib in West Roxbury) is so funny, it deserves a post of its own:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hurling out

Legendary Cork hurling goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack has come out as gay. It really says something that this is not a big deal in Ireland. Paddy Power bookmakers have opened a book on which sport will have the next coming-out. Darts, golf(?), and boxing are all low on the list.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Code for free in-flight WiFi when flying Boston to BWI

If you're flying Boston to BWI on Airtran, you can get free WiFi from now until the end of 2009 by following these steps:

1. On the plane, select the "gogoinflight" SSID
2. Sign in or click "Buy" to create a new account.
3. On the "Payment Info" page, enter this code (case sensitive): BOSBWI
4. Click "Update Total".

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hilary Clinton loved in Ireland

She really is, as shown from her walkabout from Hogan's Pub to McDaid's Pub in Dublin this weekend. I was in the front of the crowd when Bill Clinton spoke in front of Trinity College. Hillary walked over, and a guy half-jokingly asked "do y'have any sisters Hillary?".

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ireland votes Yes

Today's Irish Times features the universal Irish symbol for "Yes" - I guy in a pub drinking a pint of Guinness and another guy giving a thumbs-up. We don't have a word for "Yes" (or "No") in the Irish language so this is what we do instead. The "Yes" vote is interpreted as Ireland choosing to stay in the EU, and stay part of the global economy - a good thing for people like me who depend on Ireland being part of a global economy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hugh Laurie's accent in House

Although I'm not an American, I live in the US and I find Hugh Laurie's access in House almost unlistenably fake. However, and this is the interesting thing, Americans do not seem to find it fake.

I notice the same phenomenon in comments in the Guardian today. A non-American says "that American accent he tries to affect just drives me up the wall. Maybe if I didn't know he was British and faking it, it wouldn't be so painful to me, but I do and it does." But then someone else points out that "Most Americans say he sounds perfectly fine to them."'

Fake accent or not, I'll still watch House because any show which uses Iron and Wine's cover of New Order's "Love Vigilantes" is OK by me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cost to become a US citizen

The Boston Globe has a piece today about the raised fees to become a US citizen.

According to the Globe, "the effects ripple across cities such as Boston, Lawrence, Cambridge, and Lynn, which have high immigrant populations and low citizenship rates. Less than half of immigrants in each city are naturalized citizens, according to 2008 census figures, compared with 49 percent statewide and 43 percent nationwide."

umm - 49 percent and 43 percent are "less than half". But anyway, I know that I've paid well over $1000 for various Permanent Resident fees, over the past few years. I noticed that the fees have been going up all the time, and I took the view that it's better to get these things done now, rather than pay more later.

How does the US compare on this? The Globe reports that Australia and Canada are cheaper places to get citizenship, at "about $200". The IrishCentral site reports that Australia is the Number One choice for Irish people fleeing the recession. Jenny Woods, a 27-year-old from my home county of Westmeath, is quoted saying "I have family in the U.S. but I couldn't get a visa so I decided to come to Australia." And today's Irish Times quotes a couple moving to Vancouver. With its strict visa rules and high prices for immigration fees, the US is not seen as quite as attractive, which is a shame.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ireland's most watched TV programme is....

According to Roger Childs at RTÉ, Ireland's large state-owned broadcaster, Ireland's most-watched TV programmer is the Angelus. This short programme, unique to Ireland, consists of soothing vaguely-religious images and the sound of church bells bonging in the background. When I was growing up, a religious image would be shown (e.g. an Eastern Orthodox style icon of Jesus and Mary) and I remember yelling to my mother when the image changed, each week, as if this was a big televisual event.

People who live outside of Ireland, you are missing nothing. It is probably only the most-watched programme on Irish TV because it is on at 6pm immediately before the news.

Here is a recent Angelus on YouTube - as a commenter says, it is "beyond parody":

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I live in Boston and am represented by an openly gay senator

How is this possible? Did John Kerry come out?

No - as a Dublin University (Trinity College) graduate, I am represented in the Irish Senate (Seanad Eireann in Irish) by Senator David Norris. I sent in my postal vote for him last time there was an Irish senate election. Since I cannot vote in the US (I have taxation without representation), he is the one senator I can vote for.

Ireland's senate is unusual since it includes seats which represent college graduates. So, despite the fact that I live in Boston, I'm included in the constituency of Dublin University and am represented in the senate by David Norris.

By the way, David Norris' Wikipedia page is worth a read, like this bit:

Norris was born in Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo. When his father died, Norris, then a small child, went to Ireland for the first time. Norris' cousins came to meet him when he arrived by ship into Dublin. Norris has spoken of the disappointment on the faces of his cousins when they discovered that their 'African' cousin was not black.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Google Maps camera in Roslindale

I'm watching you... spotted outside Romano's Pizza

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Where government control of healthcare is a good thing

On cable TV here in the US, it seems like "government takeover of healthcare" is some kind of nightmare. Last week in Ireland, I walked past this poster each morning on the way to catch the train to work. It showed the diametric opposite nightmare - corporate control of healthcare. The fear spread by the poster is that a "Yes" vote in the upcoming Lisbon Referendum in Ireland would result in health and education falling into the private sector. Given that a "Yes" vote would bring Ireland closer to France and Germany, that is about as likely as a "government takeover of healthcare" in the US. But it was certainly funny to see the mirror image of the US. I guess fear works on both sides of the Atlantic.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Funding program for entrepreneurs from north of the border

With the entrepreneur John Dunlop (inventor of Dunlop tyres) on some of its 10 pound notes, and a great history of industry and hard work, Northern Ireland should be a great place for entrepreneurs. Invest-NI has a scheme for funding entrepreneurs, but hurry since your proposal has to be in by 18 September:


Got a Great Idea?

Make it Your Business!
If you have a business idea with the potential to go global, you should apply for Invest Northern Ireland's new propel programme today.

Are you working late into the night developing your business plan? Maybe you've already designed a product but are now wondering how to get it off the ground?
Whatever stage you're at, it's time to take your idea forward with support from the people who know.
The propel programme can help turn your concept into a hi-growth export focused business in just 12 months. Funded by Invest NI, it is tailored for entrepreneurial individuals with innovative business ideas that have the potential to reach international markets. You'll get personalised support including funding through salary support grant, the experience and knowledge of industry mentors, and connections and exposure with investors and tutors unmatched by any other programme.
At the end, you'll see your business idea become a business reality.

The propel programme is open to all potential entrepreneurs resident in Northern Ireland. Places are limited and competition will be tough. If you're creative, ambitious and determined to succeed, apply now at:

Email: | Tel: 0870 4954 841
Deadline for applications is 18th September 2009.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ireland's mini stimulus plan this summer

A letter today in the Irish highlights the vast difference between the US Government and the Irish Government responses to the recession.

The Irish Government has, like Hoover after the 1929 Wall Street Crash, tried to cut back spending and attempt to balance the books. We all know how well that turned out. The US Government has thrown money at the problem, and part of that is funneled into many public works programs. For example, the rebuilding of the public housing buildings here in Roslindale (at Beech Street) is funded by the Federal Govt stimulus plan. This provides work to builders, carpenters, electricians - who then pay taxes on that money and spend much of it locally.

In many ways Ireland is like a US state, without the freedom to run a big deficit. But the US government itself, of course, can run up a gigantic deficit, as it is doing.

But what if the Irish government had a stimulus plan?

Here is the letter, from the Irish Times letters page:

Madam, – I am the chairman of a medium-sized enterprise involved to a large extent in the construction industry, but with clients from all sectors of the Irish economy. In our last financial year we had around €6 million turnover, this year it looks like we will have around half that, largely based on being busier in the earlier part of the year. In other words, things are getting worse.

In July, things suddenly got better in terms of orders and inquiries. Why? The summer school works programme! thankfully we got a good bit of work from it. There was a lot of pressure to complete work before the schools reopened, but that’s a problem we love to live with.

Now we are in September and things are looking gloomier than before.

There are few new works, local authorities have no money and Joe public is holding on to his. As a result, we and many like us will lose money and lay off people, with additional cost to the exchequer and personal suffering.

All the Government attention is focused on Nama and presumably the Budget, which I don’t believe will do a thing to preserve jobs in the short term, and as we know, in the long term we are all dead.

So I checked how much our personal mini-boom in July cost. Google yielded a press release from Batt O’Keeffe stating €80 million provided works in 1,180 schools. Thank you, Minister you kept a good bit of the remaining architectural and building industry going for four to six weeks. In return the State got much-needed work done and it got Vat, PAYE, and PRSI rather than paying dole. I think that is called win, win.

Why are we not developing a programme of labour-intensive highly focused local works schemes to employ small and large builders, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians and maybe even a fencing contractor or two. Twelve- months duplication of the summer works programme would cost less than €1 billion, less than 4 per cent of the Department of Social welfare budget.

How I wish I believed these sort of ideas were buzzing around our politicians’ and civil servants’ brains, but unfortunately I don’t think the small issues are getting any attention. Will someone please come up with a few ideas to stop the haemorrhage of jobs in this economy. – Yours, etc,



Irish Fencing Railings Ltd,

Kylemore Park South,

Dublin 10.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cultural diversity in West Roxbury

Good piece in the Globe today

This is spot-on:

Jamaica Plain was the spot for young hipsters seeking a tolerant environment. Roslindale was the ethnic melting pot with blue collar roots that young families could afford. But West Roxbury? West Roxbury was what it always had been, a suburban enclave in the city where lace-curtain Irish had settled and never left.

Even as an Irish-born person myself, West Roxbury feels "more Irish than the Irish themselves". Kids called "Conor" and "Sorcha" in Cork and Dublin Gaelic Football jerseys, stores selling Irish paraphernalia, the pubs (like the one with the mural of the "two white guys shaking hands"). Roslindale, which is more diverse, feels more like the Dublin I know (the South inner-city).

Though well researched and well written, the Globe article does have the feel of an Irish Times article circa 2002. "Look, we have a small number of immigrants moving to Ireland! In fact, I think we have a couple of ethnic restaurants now! We are so diverse!":

There was Melinda Keehnle on a recent evening, walking home from Roche Bros. grocery store, as she has always done. The 50-year-old nurse can still be found at the West Roxbury Pub on Friday nights, leading karaoke renditions of old Irish songs, surrounded by the regular crowd.

But other nights, she samples her neighborhood’s new fare.

“I have seven restaurants within two blocks of my house,’’ Keehnle said.

“When I go out on my porch, I can smell Indian and Thai and fresh seafood and burgers. You name it.’’

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

For once, a good piece by a foreign journalist about impressions of the US

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the "leaving Washington" piece by Justin Webb from the BBC. Here is a snippit:

On the last day we spent in our home in north-east Washington, they were holding a food-eating competition in a burger bar at the end of our street. The sight was nauseating: acne-ridden youths, several already obese, stuffing meat and buns into their mouths while local television reporters, the women in dinky pastel suits, rushed around getting the best shots.

Ugh. So I was pleased to read a much better piece by Denis Staunton, the Irish Times correspondent in Washington. He is leaving Washington, and writes about his impressions of the US and Americans:

Some snippits:

Living in the US, what’s most striking is the lack of social contact between blacks and whites outside the workplace. In Washington, where 56 per cent of the population is black, almost all the whites live in the affluent northwest quadrant, which also houses all the city’s universities and most of its hospitals.

Blacks and whites not only live in separate neighbourhoods but usually worship in different churches and often patronise different restaurants, bars and clubs.

Few whites are overtly racist, but many have expressed to me a sense of unease if they’re in the minority in a social setting. Some fear that they’ll be unwelcome in a predominantly black environment, though my experience over the past four years suggests the opposite.

Often the only white face at African American clubs, parties and occasionally funerals, I’ve only met warmth and easy friendliness. It’s true that black friends have occasionally offered tips on correct behaviour and when my friend Tino offered to take me to his church one Sunday, he did so on two conditions. “You’ve got to dress properly in a suit and tie,” he said. “And if anybody stands up and starts getting happy, don’t even think about joining in.”

I wonder what if he had been posted to Boston?

Here are three of his "Curious Differences" between Ireland the US. I've noticed these myself too:

COCKTAILS in the US are dangerously potent and two or three are enough to render the average Irish drinker helpless and foolish. Natives, on the other hand, will cheerfully down a couple at Happy Hour and swallow a few more with dinner. Then they’ll drive home.

DATING is a minefield for European imports, most of whom have long ago abandoned the rituals of courtship. Americans are often dating a number of potential partners at the same time, gently testing each one for evidence of financial solvency, social status and personal compatibility. There are no strict rules about when to go home with your date, but be warned: things can move very swiftly after you make your choice. As a recent headline in the satirical weekly, the Onion, put it: “Nation’s Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: ‘Let’s Move in Together.’ ”

DINNER PARTIES in Washington start on time, often with a little speech by the host, and end with miraculous precision. Nobody looks at their watch, but at a certain moment all the guests will rise as one and announce that they must be off. If you check the time, it’s always 10.30pm on the dot. Irish-born hosts are exempt from this rule.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Virginia Show

These days I spend a lot of time in Northern Virginia - making me sadly familiar with Dulles Airport, Herndon, Reston, Tyson's Corner, and Arlington.

But, as a 6-year-old, I remember being taken by my grandparents to visit a different Virginia: the agricultural show at Virginia, County Cavan. I found it amazing - so much to see, stalls selling all sorts of things, so much hustle and bustle.

Bernd Biege has a slide show of photos from this year's Virginia Show here. Naturally, it doesn't seem as exciting as it did to me at 6 years old. But what great memories.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The untold problem with "Rip-off Ireland" - people *wanted* to be ripped off

At last, an Irish media article hints at the real reason why prices in Ireland were so high during the boom years. People wanted to pay high prices.

I can remember telling friends back in Ireland that I got my refrigerator cheaply because it had a dent on the side (where nobody would see the dent) and I got looks of disdain. Then a friend explained how their fridge had cost many thousands of Euro, and they had to get it shipped to Ireland. But that was a good thing. Similarly, I remember being told proudly that pairs of jeans had cost over 180 dollars in New York (whereas my Old Navy jeans cost $19 in the annual Old Navy jeans sale). German friends would remark that there were more brand-new German cars on the streets of Dublin than in Germany.

With all the current blame on property developers and politicians in Ireland, maybe the real culprit for the boom-and-bust was a nouveau riche buying culture which made post-Soviet Russia look restrained by comparison. Shopping around, or looking for a bargain, was looked upon in the same way as taking a used piece of bubble gum off a park bench and chewing it. Maybe people wanted to be ripped off. It certainly seemed that way to me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Irish re-immigration to Boston

Hardly a major trend (yet) but Irish people are moving back from Ireland to Boston - people who returned to Ireland during the boom years:

Friday, August 7, 2009

The case of the disappearing Cape Cod beaches

Kate Holmquist of the Irish Times reports on the disappearance of Cape Cod beaches which she remembers from childhood. And Boston gets the blame:

The “conservationists” in Boston – there’s an edge to the way he pronounces this plural noun – started the problem 40 years ago when they built a jetty about 2km to the southeast to protect an endangered bog. Cockle Cove started changing shape as the sea dumped sand to the northwest, enlarging the beach there. One thing led to another, with sand being pumped by the town from here to there, and more breakwaters being built. It wasn’t nature at all that did this, he thinks.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why the absense of great Greek food places in Roslindale?

The question is again asked on Chowhound- Seeking Greek Gyros/Souvlaki in Roslindale area

Roslindale has a huge Greek influence - witness the Panatinaikos flag flying outside the car service place on Washington Street at Kittredge, Comcast's hyper-local billboard ads for Greek language TV channels, Greek Orthodox Churches, and that car with the map of Greece sticker and "CYPRUS" as its number place (I guess there are no Turks living around here).

There is a Greek grocery store, but no Greek restaurant. There are Greek-owned restaurants which serve mainly American fare with some Greek dishes on the menu - the Blue Star, as mentioned on Chowhound - but they are hardly exclusively Greek (the Blue Star does a great Full Irish Breakfast).

The answer I've got to this question is "there is great Greek food in Roslindale, but it's eaten by Greek people at home". Hardly a good answer for those of us who would pay for Greek food at a restaurant or take-out place if it was available...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The "world's biggest burger" school of reporting about America

It is a sad fact that many Europeans like (and expect) to read stories from America about eating competitions, crazily religious people, Hollywood, and hypocrisy. I am a European myself and I know that these are many of the stories of America which I grew up reading in the UK and Irish papers. It gives a very distorted view of what life is really like in the US.

What are the only two US stories on the front of the Irish Independent (an Irish broadsheet newspaper) website today? Maybe (1) Bill Clinton freeing the two reporters in North Korea and (2) Obama's problems with healthcare reform? No. The two stories are:

1) Cheating hubby gets penis glued to stomach in revenge act
2) Michael Jackson 'killed by drugs given by aide as doctor slept'

These are the stories which people want to see about America, because it fits with preconceived ideas about what life is like in America.

Mark Little was the RTE (Irish Public TV) news reporter for the US. He wrote a book called "Turn left at Greenland - In search of the real America" which railed against the "Burger eating competition" view of America. I could see this myself when I was talking in 2007 to journalists covering the democratic primary in Austin, Texas. In Austin, who did they interview about Clinton versus Obama? Maybe some hipsters in an indie coffee shop (God knows there are plenty of them in Austin), or some businesspeople in Starbucks, or some baby boomers in a diner? No. They drove out to a rodeo where they interviewed a guy riding on a bull. Because this was what people expected Texas is like. This was the "average Texan" - a guy sitting on a bull. And he gave strongly anti-Clinton and anti-Obama views. If, as a European reporter, you interview 20 people about an issue and one person comes across as completely ignorant and uninformed, guess which person will turn up on TV? It'll be the clueless guy, as a representative of America. That is what sells on European TV.

So I was disappointed to see the same thing from Justin Webb of the BBC. Here is a snippit:

On the last day we spent in our home in north-east Washington, they were holding a food-eating competition in a burger bar at the end of our street. The sight was nauseating: acne-ridden youths, several already obese, stuffing meat and buns into their mouths while local television reporters, the women in dinky pastel suits, rushed around getting the best shots.

America can be seen as little more than an eating competition, a giant, gaudy, manic effort to stuff grease and gunge into already sated innards.

You could argue that the sub-prime mortgage crisis - the Ground Zero of the world recession - was caused mainly by greed: a lack of proportion, a lack of proper respect for the natural way of things that persuaded companies to stuff mortgages into the mouths of folks whose credit rating was always likely to induce an eventual spray of vomit.

There is an intellectual ugliness as well: a dark age lurking, even when the president has been to Harvard. The darkness epitomised by the recent death in Wisconsin of a little girl who should still be alive.

So there we get (a) the eating competition, and (b) the religious craziness (parents who would not get a doctor for their daughter for religious reasons). In other parts of the article you can read about political hypocrisy.

In my 8 or so years here, and many other trips before that, I have *never* seen an eating competition (I did see one in Dublin though, in my college years).

I often wonder does this type of commentary say more about Europe than it does about the US?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Annual festival of drinking, music, and goat-coronation

Puck Fair takes place in the town of Killorglin in Kerry next week. This annual festival, dating from ancient pre-Christian times, consists of drinking, music, and goat-worship. It is not to be confused with the Puck Fair bar in NoHo in New York City, which only features two of those three attractions.

This year the goat which is crowned the King of Puck Fair is a goat called Billy from the north of Ireland (Ballycastle). So he'll be "King Billy" for a week. And ironically it was Sinn Fein which helped King Billy get down to Kerry.

The Irish Times reports:

Seamus Blaney, a councillor on Moyle District council, and the Ballycastle goat catcher accompanied the goat to Killorglin and will return to collect him on August 13th before his visa date expires, Frank Joy, Killorglin’s chief goat catcher explained.

He and Mr Blaney hatched the idea of bringing the puck 365 miles south last St Patrick’s day at a get together between Ireland’s three oldest fairs, Puck Fair, Lammas Fair and Ballinasloe Fair to mark thirty years of co-operation..

“The King in waiting in peak shape. Teddy Clifford [local vet] has checked him out thoroughly We have him indoors in quarantine. He is a very nice goat, a beautiful goat. I have never seen one like him.”

In fact the goat is so beautiful he is being very closely watched in case he is lured away into the Kerry hills by local she-goats, Mr Joy confessed.

“We are actually keeping a closer eye on this puck than normal,” Mr Joy said. As well as herbs and hay the goat is receiving a special goat mix from the local Kerry Ingredients store in Killorglin.

“I also want to thank the Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris for sorting out his majesty’s visa papers for us,” Mr Joy said.

Friday, July 24, 2009

25 years of the DART

The DART is 25 years old this week. Here are some of my memories of the DART:

- The time when the driver drove right past Bayside station (shown below), and then announced over the PA that he's forgotten about the station, and then reverse the train back into the station. Everyone laughed.

- The time when the train stopped near Howth Junction because of a bomb scare, and everyone nonchalantly walked on over the tracks, nobody worried about bombs or trains.

- My first time taking the DART to southside stations, in places like Dalkey and Killiney, and being amazed at the wealth there. I remember catching an early train back north, in the early morning after a house party on the southside, marvelling at how much nicer the station were, compared to the stations on the northside.

- My friend Mike arriving at Dun Laoghaire and phoning me to ask which DART to take up to central Dublin. I said "No really, there is only one line". Years later, the DART still only has that one line.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Pan-Celtic Flag at the Tour de France

Spot the Celtic flags: Brittany, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Isle of Man (Manx), and Cornwall.

(from the BBC Sport Website)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"The film draws upon elements of the old witch-hunts that happened most famously in Salem, Wisconsin"

An interview with Lars von Trier about his controversial new film, Antichrist, which references the famous witch trials in Salem, er... Wisconsin.

I have heard Salem in Massachusetts being confused with Salem in New Hampshire, but "Salem, Wisconsin" is hilarious.

The interview is also worth reading for other reasons - e.g. why the film is currently having censorship problems in Japan.

An "open-source, crowdsourced" car, made in Boston

Local Motors makes cars just outside Boston. Check out their Rally Fighter car, made based on specifications provided by a community of designers on the Internet.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dublin's "Castle Market" area in this month's Conde Nast Traveler magazine

It's not online yet, but the Conde Nast Traveler magazine has a one-page feature on Dublin's "Castle Market" area. Basically the area between George's Street and South William Street. It doesn't mention The Market Bar (good tapas) or the new burger place ("Gourmet Burger Kitchen" - I highly recommend it, despite its name). But it does mention a bunch of designer shops and Hogan's bar.

Friday, July 17, 2009

No late-night buses in Boston

One way in which Dublin trumps Boston is the availability of late-night buses in Dublin, compared to Boston which doesn't have late-night buses (and which is considering cutting back even on evening buses). There are ideas, though, about how to bring late-night buses to Boston.

What seems to work in Dublin is simply making the late-night buses relatively expensive compared to daytime buses. The "Nightlink" (called "Drinklink", or the "Vomit comet") buses are more expensive than normal buses, though still a lot cheaper than a taxi. So why not just raise the fares? That would pay for the buses, surely, and (literally) drive more people to spend money in Boston at night.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Count me out

Although I somehow never realised this when I grew up in Ireland and did all my schooling there, the Catholic Church has near monopolistic control of schools in the Republic of Ireland. 98% of primary schools are funded by the state and yet are managed by the local Catholic bishop. One of the reasons is that it's assumed that the Republic of Ireland is overwhelmingly Catholic. In this article, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin says that 87% of people in the country are Catholic. He must not be including the north in that figure, but in any case that 87% would include people who are nominally Catholic but do not practice. If those people were to somehow "opt out" of being included in that 87% figure, then that would give more impetus to moves to provide more education choice in Ireland.

That is what the "count me out" website is all about. It is for people who want to "de-identify" (to use a horrible neologism) as Catholics.

Not being "counted in" in the first place, I can't "count myself out" from the ranks of Catholicism. But still it's interesting, in an objective way, to view the FAQ for the Count Me Out website. I had to chuckle when I saw so many guilt-ridden questions, like "What if my parents find out?". The answer to that one may be "once you leave, all that guilt will be gone, so by definition you won't feel guilty about it" :-)

On a more serious (and controversial) note, I've often wondered how much the militant anti-Catholicism from the north influences the more liberal anti-Catholicism of "south" of Ireland, and Dublin in particular. I've often read through the Irish Times and stories bemoaning Catholic Church influence on education are just a click away from stories about Catholic primary schools being burned and daubed with hateful graffiti in the north. The big difference, it seems to me, is that the anti-Catholicism of the south is mostly evident within the lapsed Catholic population, not the non-Catholic population, whereas up in the north it's a different story of course...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Foraging for Wild Edibles in Roslindale this evening

I guess if the recession keeps going like it is, then "foraging for wild edibles" may be a useful skill to have...

Details below:

July 15 from 6-8 p.m., rain or shine. Free. (Reservations required via phone or e-mail at All ages. Meet at Allandale Woods Urban Wild parking lot, 7 VFW Parkway, Roslindale. 617-542-7696.


Monday, July 13, 2009

"In five or six years, Israel’s company tax will be lower than Ireland’s.Intel and others will think hard about that when they decide where to invest"

Who else spotted this remark about Ireland's taxes in an article about Israel in the Economist this week?

Surprisingly, Mr Steinitz [Yuval Steinitz , Israel’s finance minister] has raised VAT from 15.5% to 16.5% (but had to drop a proposal to levy it on fruit and vegetables), while embarking on a seven-year plan gradually to reduce company tax and income tax instead. “If I put money in ordinary peoples’ pockets, they’ll spend it on imported goods and foreign holidays,” he says. “Our own economy doesn’t produce consumer goods for them to buy. We make know-how and software, chips for Intel [a giant American maker of processors] and computers for irrigation, chemicals, stents for heart surgery and pilotless drones.”

Mr Steinitz says Israel must make such products more competitive as the world economy recovers. He proposes to double government funding for research and development. No bank bail-outs, he argues, means he can keep the budget deficit down to 6% this year and 5.5% next. His “temporary” rise in VAT is meant to help offset a drop in tax revenue. “Other countries will be raising their direct taxes to cover their deficits just when our taxes will be coming down. In five or six years, Israel’s company tax will be lower than Ireland’s. Intel and others will think hard about that when they decide where to invest.”

Sounds very smart. Raising VAT does not hit Israeli industry because most of its consumer goods are imported. Ireland also imports most consumer goods, but the Republic of Ireland government has less leeway for raising VAT because people can (and do) go across the border to Northern Ireland if goods are too expensive in the Republic. Israel doesn't have the same issue (it is not like people will go across the border to Syria for cheap groceries).

Also, Ireland has the issue of paying for its reckless banks. Israel does not have this problem.

I've spoken to Irish government officials who often look to Israel as a country to learn from and emulate. But, in this case, it seems to me that it's the other way around: Israel is emulating Ireland's strategy coming out of the 1980s recession: Lower taxes and invest in R&D. Ireland, by contrast, is considering raising taxes. But R&D investment continues in Ireland: Just in the past week we have: 1.5m Euro investment by telecoms software company Accuris, 11m Euro investment by Pfizer into Cork, and 22m Euro by Boston Scientific to be invested in R&D in Ireland. Many of that R&D is on the back of the existing low-tax climate in Ireland. My advice to the Irish government is to leave corporate taxes as they are, and in general keep taxes low. I don't think Ireland wants a situation where companies choose to locate R&D in Israel instead of Ireland, when Israel itself is emulating the Irish model which brought the companies to Ireland in the first place.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Alls well that end ends well for US backpackers turned away by Irish immigration

A nice uplifting story:

Three guys from Plano, Texas were denied entry to Ireland recently because they had "no visible means of support" (no hotel booking and seemingly not enough money for their trip around Ireland and Europe - although the Irish Immigration police refused to look at their online banking details when they offered). They were sent back to the US (and had to pay for the flight back!). There was an outcry in Ireland, and now the three backpackers are being offered a hotel for a week, free cellphones, plus a thousand euros in spending money. They are instant celebrities in Ireland now - the "Plano 3".

All's well that ends well. This restores my faith in Ireland. We should not be blocking Texans at the border.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Swine flu reaction: Relaxed in Boston, Tense in Ireland

This story pretty much sums it up - calmness about Swine Flu in New York, but tenseness in Ireland. My kids both had the flu recently, probably Swine Flu. So did many local kids, and the school was shut down for a while, so I minded the kids at home so that other people did not get infected. I talked to family in Ireland who were shocked to hear such as a relatively relaxed attitude to Swine Flu ("yeah I think they have Swine Flu, but they're fine"). In Ireland, it's a big deal right now. I was told "don't mention Swine Flu too much when you're in over here in Ireland!" :-)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Get yer Mexican wrestling masks here

"You can get your wrestling mask at El Chavo in Roslindale on Washington Street in Roslindale Square. You can get all sorts of Mexican food and supplies there."


Whenever I see the store "El Chavo", I can't help thinking that "El Chavo" is Spanish for "the chav". Indeed, a look at the derivation of the word "chav" shows that it may be influenced by the Spanish word for "lad" or "boy", which would make sense. Do chavs wear Mexican wrestling masks though?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Massachusetts gets an Irish Summer, complete with Irish Potato Blight

The rainy summer in Massachusetts is so bad that the Boston Globe features a section on how to build an ark. As an Irish person living in Boston, this summer weather makes me feel at home. Flights to Ireland are cheap right now, but why go to Ireland when you can get the weather right here? Look at the forecast for Dublin for the next five days - looks pretty similar to what we've been getting in Boston, except it's in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit:

The Irish summer similarity goes further. Universal Hub and today's Boston Globe both report that the disease best-known as Irish Potato Blight has struck Massachusetts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Standing by the flag not feeling shameful

Two recent musings on Stars-and-Stripes flag-flying, both at the local level and at the national level:


From Timothy Egan in the New York Times:

While following the length of the Lewis and Clark Trail several years ago, I was struck by the huge number of flags in places like rural Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota and Montana. On Indian reservations, the same thing – though often with tribal symbols superimposed. But in the major cities along the trail, St. Louis and Portland among them, I was hard-pressed to find a flag in front of a home.

I wondered whether urban Americans, overwhelmingly Democratic, had something against the flag, or if they felt the country was no longer theirs. Now you can ask the same question of the other side of the political spectrum.


And locally here in Roslindale, from Ken Ward:

Flag-flying, like bumper stickers, is an expression of personality and identity, which also, in the aggregate, helps define a community. The journey from Jamaica Plain to Roslindale (...) is marked by a decline in rainbow flags and Tibetan prayer banners and an upsurge of shamrocks and American flags.

It has always struck me that the liberal/progressive rejection of the American flag (traceable to anti-Vietnam protests, I assume) has had a subtle but nonetheless powerful impact on U.S. politics. Refusal to show the flag is an eloquent expression of deep ambivalence toward America and a huge boon for conservatives and the Republican Party.


This chimes with me. Although I am not American, I do, for the first time, have a small American flag out for the 4th July. And it's because of Obama.

It's interesting to notice the different flags around Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and West Roxbury too. In Jamaica Plain, it is true, you see Tibetan prayer banners, which you will probably not see in Roslindale and certainly not in West Roxbury. And the shamrock flag count goes up as you go from Jamaica Plain into Roslindale, and then there is no shortage of shamrock flags and Irish tricolors in West Roxbury. But as you go from Jamaica Plain to Roslindale you'll also see Puerto Rican flags and Dominican flags, Greek flags (including the shamrock-covered Panatinaikos flag on Washington Street in Roslindale), and Mexican flags. In Roslindale you'll see some Canadian flags and at least one Swedish flag. There may now be more gay rainbow flags in Roslindale than in Jamaica Plain. In all three areas there are US Marines flags (at least one in each neighborhood that I can think of). You'll also see many of those homely flags showing rabbits (at Easter time), leaves (in autumn), snowmen, and the like.

But everywhere, in all three strongly liberal and strongly Democrat neighborhoods you will see many American flags. This wasn't the case during the Bush years, I think. That's changed now.

Happy 4th of July weekend.

Monday, June 29, 2009

World Dwarf Games to be held in Belfast next month

From today's Irish Times:

"The fact that Belfast has been chosen to host the prestigious event is quite a coup for Kelly and her colleagues at the Dwarf Athletic Association of Northern Ireland (Daani). The first World Dwarf Games were held in Chicago in 1993, and previous host cities include Toronto and Paris. So why Belfast this time? It’s largely down to the success of the Dwarf European Championships that were held in the city in 2006, which attracted more than 100 athletes – including three of Europe’s top Paralympians – from eight different countries."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lions lose, and even Matt Damon joins the South Africans

So the Lions lose the second test. In retrospect, as someone on Twitter remarked, Ronan Keating may have been a better choice than Ronan O'Gara.

And I see Matt Damon in Springbok colours for a film about Francois Pienaar and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. If they're making a rugby film, I wish it was about the famous Lions tour led by Willie John McBride (of "Get our retaliation in first" fame). Now that would be a good movie. And, we could then finally get to see the Lions beat South Africa again...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009's recommendations for getting to Boston's airport

I sometimes use the MBTA trip planner (on for checking bus and train times. It's pretty useful. But it seems to have problems when it comes to the airport.

If you query it for a trip from (let's say) Roslindale to the airport (entering "Roslindale" as the start and "airport" as the destination), it changes your destination to "Airport, MA", and then you see this:

So, rather than getting off the Blue Line at the Airport, you would go past the Airport station and then get off at Wood Island station, and get a bus from there. Who in their right mind would do this?

But, what if you put "Logan Airport" instead of "Airport" as the destination? In that case, you are given the route via South Station and the Silver Line:

Notice there is an "Itinerary 2" there. You'd presume this would be the Blue Line subway to the Airport station, right? Wrong. The alternative route is to go to Oak Grove on the Orange Line and then take a bus to the airport from there!

Unfortunately, some people not familiar with Boston may take this crazy route to the Airport.

Crazy as it sounds, the MBTA Trip Planner does not seem to realize that the station called "Airport" on the Blue Line is a way to get to the Airport. It suggests the Silver Line bus, and buses from Wood Island and Oak Grove. But, what about the option of "take the Blue Line to Airport station"? In order to see that option, you have to enter "Airport Station" (not "Airport") into the search. Then it gives a sensible way to the airport:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Loyalist racism against Romanians in Belfast

Sad news from Belfast. Over 100 Romanians, fed up with racist attacks where they live in the Village area of South Belfast, have left Ireland to return to Romania.

A church took them in for protection, but the church itself was attacked, its windows smashed. Over the weekend, an anti-racist march was attacked by people making Nazi salutes and throwing stones.

I know the area of Belfast, "the Village", where the Romanians moved to. It's somewhere where I'd be very uncomfortable opening my mouth with my "southern" Irish accent, because it would be assumed that I am Catholic (I'm not). Anti-Catholicism runs deep there; it's an accepted part of life. Romanians would also be assumed to be Catholic, and therefore fair game for attack.

A number of commentators have asked why the "loyalist" (Protestant, pro-British) areas in the north of Ireland are more racist. Laurence White in the Belfast Telegraph puts forward some ideas:

"The simple fact is that there are an uncomfortable number of racists in Northern Ireland. For some reason they seem more prevalent in loyalist areas – perhaps it’s because they are just more stupid than racists in other areas and cannot hide their bigotry so well. "
"People in those areas have been told for generations that Catholics are their enemies; that Catholics want to bring down the state and drive all Protestants into an united-Ireland.

Fed such a diet of hate, it is little wonder that some people living in such areas view any outsiders as a threat. If they cannot vent their sectarian bitterness against Catholics because of lack of opportunity, then they turn on others that they view with suspicion, be they Romanians, Poles, Chinese or whatever nationality."

Unfortunately that rings true to me.

In the Sunday Business Post, Tim McGurk addresses this difficult issue too:

"The racist attacks on the Roma community in the Village area of Belfast will come as no surprise to those who know the place.

For years, it has been synonymous with the most extreme loyalist elements and, throughout the Troubles, was dominated by loyalist paramilitarism. During the worst days of the sectarian killings in Belfast, the Village was the headquarters for some of loyalism’s bloodiest gangs.

Situated as it is just below the Falls Road by theM1 motorway and close to Belfast city centre, it was ideally located for loyalist murder gang sorties into adjacent Catholic areas to kidnap victims."
However, they are only the latest victims of sectarian attacks in the North, which has the highest level of hate crime in these islands. Over the years, there have been persistent attacks on the Chinese community in south Belfast, while in other places Poles and Portuguese have suffered.

The origins of the latest attacks lie in a riot around the Northern Ireland vs Poland soccer match at nearby Windsor Park in March. Given that the Polish community is mostly Catholic, it took very little to set off the violence that occurred."

The Guardian also questioned why so much of the racism in the north of Ireland is concentrated in Protestant, Loyalist areas:

So far this year there have been 33 racist attacks recorded and 30 of these were in Protestant areas. These assaults range from petrol bombings of the houses of migrant workers to the forced evictions of black women from loyalist estates. In one incident in March this year racists smeared excrement over a Catholic Church in the Upper Newtonards Road in east Belfast, which has become a place of worship for Filipino nurses working at nearby Ulster Hospital. The latest alleged racist incident occurred last Monday at a secondary school in North Belfast. Jade Taylor, 13, was left badly shaken and bruised after she said she was assaulted by racists at Glengormley High School. "

This is the dark racist underside of the working class "White Anglo Saxon Protestant" culture which has contributed so much to Ireland (the shipyards, entrepreneurial, innovation) and to the US too. What can be done about it? When so much of identity is about the negative ("not Catholic") rather than the positive (hard-working, proud, resourceful), maybe it is no surprise there is so much hostility towards outsiders. The fact that so much religious sectarianism is accepted is also bad. If it's "OK" to hate people from another religion, it's not a big step for it to be "OK" to hate people from another race.

Hopefully there will be an anti-racist campaign which will make discussion like this a thing of the past.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Things to do in Dublin when you're dead

Why not visit some cemeteries? Bernd Biege writes a nice guide to Dublin's graveyards.

I've often walked past the Huguenot cemetery which Bernd mentions, on the way from the office to Grafton Street in Dublin. Picturesque and always makes me think.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"To emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once"

Sadly true.

From the Colm Toibin "Brooklyn" review in a recent New Yorker, which I read in a holding position over Providence last night:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Derry/Londonderry in New Hampshire

I always wonder about the fact that New Hampshire has the towns of Derry and Londonderry so close together. Wikipedia doesn't tell me. Did people who objected to the "London" part move over to the neighboring town of Derry? I snapped this photo when driving past the exit for Derry and Londonderry this week, in the rain.

John McCain ran a "No Surrender" rally in Londonderry back in 2007, seemingly oblivious to the Irish connotations of that phrase and location [read this great analysis of McCain's Scots-Irish appeal here].

I can tell where Google's sympathies lie. You can see that "Derry" is identified as the correct spelling in the Blogger software I use. But "Londonderry" gets a little wavy red line under it, indicating that it's not a word. It suggests "London" instead (that would not fly in the real Derry), and weirdly suggests "Transponder" as an alternative. Maybe Google is saying that is the solution for the real Derry/Londonderry in Ireland: change the name to "Transponder" and then everyone will be happy, or at least confused.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why is it so much cheaper to fly from Boston to Ireland, compared to flying from Ireland to Boston?

A good question, posed in the Irish Times

"Starting at $599 (€430), you can fly from Boston or New York to Shannon, and then back from Dublin, on a three-city package that includes six days’ use of an economy rental car with unlimited mileage and six nights’ hotel accommodation in Limerick, Mayo and Dublin.

It’s only marginally more expensive to fly from Washington DC and Chicago. You have to wonder where the profit is in a deal like that.

It’s on offer along with a range of other amazing packages, including a week’s fly-drive from Boston or New York for $399 (€285). "

Update on Wednesday: The Belfast Telegraph ran with this story today but didn't credit the original Irish Times story by Rosita Boland. Not cool, guys.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

$50 for your Irish story

Although I don't usually do this, I've pasted a request I received from Blue Mountain Arts for Irish (or Irish-American) stories. $50 for 100 to 600 words is a pretty good deal...


International publishing company is looking for inspirational stories and wisdom that relate to Ireland or the Irish culture to be published in an anthology. We are interested in your non-fiction essays, stories, or poems that in some way capture the Irish (or Irish-American) heritage, region, or lifestyle.

Stories and essays should be between 100 and 600 words long. If possible, we’d like you to include a pithy saying at the end, which sums up the inspirational message of your story. For example: “You'll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind” or “Laughter is brightest where food is best.” The saying can be a traditional Irish saying or something you come up with yourself.

There is no minimum word count for poems. Please note that we’d prefer to receive non-rhyming poems.

If your story or poem is selected to appear in the anthology, you will receive a one-time payment of $50 for anthology rights upon publication.

Please submit your writings by e-mail to by June 30, 2009. Please put “Irish” in the subject line and include the essay/poem in the body of the e-mail (we do not accept attachments). Be sure to include your name and mailing address. There is no limit to the number of writings you can submit!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Milan derby in "Foxboroough" next month

Looks good. I'll miss this because I'll be in Ireland though.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ireland through to the Super-8's of the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup

Though many people in Boston and Ireland may think "Super-8's? Twenty20? Cricket?", this is a big deal and it's great to see Ireland follow up its win over Pakistan in the World Cup with the win over Bangladesh. The win brings Ireland through into the later stages of the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup, and sets up a tasty game against India on Wednesday of this week.

I wonder is it possible to watch the Ireland vs India game on TV in the US?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Jewish students "quarantined" in Ireand

It's a long story, but the "Leaving Certificate" exam, which I guess would be similar to an exam for a high school diploma except with a lot more pressure since it determines college places, was subject to a screw-up where the wrong English paper was given out. So, an English exam was postponed until Saturday (tomorrow). So what about Irish Orthodox Jewish students who could not take the exam on the Sabbath? They are "quarantined":

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boston accent of the day

On the hilarious "Paper Towels" video on YouTube:

"throw it in the aaaih, look it comes right back down".

Grilled Cheese Sandwich discussion on's relationships discussion

This is priceless

"I would describe everything about her as perfect except for one thing. She absolutely refuses to [make me a grilled cheese sandwich.] Now I want to ask her to marry me, but the thought of going the rest of my life without receiving [grilled cheese sandwiches] is definitely a worry. I fear I may resent her eventually, or possibly feel the need to seek [grilled cheese sandwiches] out somewhere else when enough time has passed. It has already been 2.5+ years since I last experienced a [grilled cheese sandwich]. It is starting consume my thoughts."

I'm looking forward to a logically corresponding discussion taking place on the cookery section of

mmm grilled cheese sandwiches...... and it's nearly lunchtime too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Election Posters in Ireland

Ireland has the convention of the election poster on the lamppost, something which is rare in the US. At times like this, in the run-up to the European elections, Dublin if festooned with these posters (photographed in front of Government Buildings in Dublin last week):

Needless to say, there have been many fake election posters - here is one of the best of them:


Posters are also regularly defaced:


But even the genuine, untouched posters can be quite weird:


Apparently the Belgians do it better:


Monday, June 1, 2009

The Irish Times travel section covers Boston

A glowing review of Boston in the Irish Times, which I read at the weekend on a flight from Dublin to Boston.

"The city is smaller than Dublin, with about 600,000 inhabitants, but, like Dublin, it punches above its weight in culture, arts, entertainment, sport, politics, food and fun. Not a night passes without an event worth going to, be it a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, a concert at Boston Garden or an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art."

Of course, the naming of "Boston Garden" is inaccurate, but I can understand the Irish Times choosing to call it that, given that its current name is liable to change twixt laptop and printing press. And if you include the surrounding suburbs and towns, which bring the population over 600K, Boston may be larger than Dublin. Personally, having lived in both cities, I think they are about the same size.

By the way, when I was in Dublin last week, I heard the most ridiculous attempt at a Boston accent on Irish radio. It was on a commercial to entice Irish people to visit Boston on holiday. But, the accent was some mix of New Jersey, Texas, and South Dublin. Would it have been so difficult to find someone with an actual Boston accent to do the voiceover?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is Boston Still a Venture Capital Hotbed?

From the New York Times: Is Boston still a Venture Capital Hotbed? Now that Greylock is moving out, concentrating on Silicon Valley...

One quote stands out: "The differences start early; Stanford students think about working at start-ups while MIT students think about working at big companies"

There is also the conundrum that Boston-area companies reach a certain size, but don't go supernova (e.g. compare Lycos with Yahoo!).

Hopefully this article is being read by many people in the Boston area who are thinking "I'll show them!!", and will get fired up to create their own start-up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Today's "Irish economy not what it was" story

This time from Fortune Magazine. It covers the same ground as other articles about the "decline of the Celtic Tiger", though with better photos.

I did enjoy reading that Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, was "sipping vending machine espresso bought with a euro bummed from a flight attendant."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The MBTA's bizarre map for the No.42 Bus

I took the No42 bus at the weekend, and couldn't help but notice the bizarre map which the MBTA puts out for that bus.

It shows a Stop and Shop on the edge of the Arboretum, on Centre Street. There is no Stop and Shop there!. A Stop and Shop right in the Arboretum like that?

Are Tedeschi's and Store 24 really the only thing of note on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain?

And what is the obsession with Check Cashing places?

I mean, look at the map below. What if someone is looking for, let's say, Brigham and Women's Hospital, or the Museum of Fine Arts. They are nowhere to be seen on the map. But we do see two check cashing places.

That said, this map will come in very useful for my mammoth check-cashing trip this coming weekend, not to mention my weekly shopping in the new Arboretum Stop-and-Shop. :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why is the Obama Administrations clamp-down on multinational tax avoidance not a big story in Ireland?

Only Niall O'Dowd is covering this story, in the Irish Times. In the run-up to the US election, nobody in Ireland seemed to point out that it was McCain who was more in favour of free trade, and would not interfere with the ability of US corporations to avail of low Corporate Tax regimes such as Ireland. However, the Obama team won, and now it is clamping down on something which was a fundamental part of Ireland's growth over the past 10 years. e.g. last year I had dinner with a US software executive who invested European profits (realised in Ireland) in Irish buildings, land, jobs, and research, in order to avoid US tax. Is that good for the US? No. However, it was clearly good for Ireland.

O'Dowd notes:

"This is about much more than the Obama administration. The tax law issues will also be in the purview of key senate and house figures, all of whom will have a major say on the final legislation. It is there, more than with Obama. that the key Irish influence may lie. It is ironic that Ireland’s best friend currently on this issue is right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh who has been castigating Obama daily for his attempts to force American corporations to repatriate profit earnings. In the brave new world of Obama’s Washington, Ireland will have to take their friends where they can find them and they will likely not be within this administration on this issue."

It is the Republicans and right-wing radio (which includes many Irish-Americans, let's not forget) who are against this proposal. Though, not for any pro-Irish (or pro-Cayman Islands, pro-Bermuda, etc) reasons, but rather because it actually puts US corporations at a disadvantage against non-US companies which can still take advantages of low corporate tax regimes.

On this one, Ireland can't assume that the Democrats are automatically "friends of Ireland".

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The top stories right now on CNN

"Indie Rockers Death Cap for Cutie talk about touring" is a Live Developing Story???

Some people have to move out of a house which has Chinese-made drywall?

These are the biggest stories in the world right now?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Confederate Irish

Bernd Biege mentions that the current exhibit on Irish soldiers at the National Museum in Dublin's Collins Barracks (across the river from the Guinness Brewery) includes a piece on Irish soldiers who fought on the Confederate side in the US Civil War. As he says, they are not as well known as the Irish people who fought on the Union side. And it's appropriate since it's Confederate History Month (not in Massachusetts though, needless to say),

He mentions the Mexican-American War, in which Irish people also fought on both sides. More recently, Irish people fought on both sides in the Spanish Civil War, and it was pointed out that they could have saved on the travel costs by just staying in Ireland and staging a battle somewhere flat like the Curragh in County Kildare.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why aren't there more chocolate Easter Eggs in the US?

"Irish consumers munch through almost 1,000 tonnes of chocolate at Easter and the aluminium foil could be recycled to make 1.3 million drinks cans."

It amazes me that here in the US there is no traditional of large chocolate Easter Eggs (often filled with smaller chocolate eggs). Where could I get the equivalent of a Buttons or Yorkie egg in Boston? Perhaps in an import store like the one in Harvard Square. But in somewhere like CVS I just see things like "Peeps". Because I wasn't in Ireland or the UK this year before Easter, I don't have my usual collection of large chocolate Easter Eggs this year. And Easter does not feel the same without them...

[Image from:]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Irish Economic - Little shelter from the wind and the rain blowing in

Global economic problems impact Ireland hard, because, like the island itself, there is little shelter when the wind and the rain blows in from across the Atlantic. Ireland gets it weather from across the Atlantic via the Gulf Stream: from the Gulf of Mexico, past Florida, up past New York and New England, and across to the wind-buffeted Irish West Coast. And Ireland's economic weather blows in from the same source. Property collapses in places like Florida, as well as cutbacks be employers like Dell in Texas, blow over the Atlantic to Ireland. Ireland's highly globalized economy takes the good with the bad, and right now it's mostly bad.

So the Irish Govt today released a new budget to deal with the global economic downturn. Interesting to read the details on the Irish Times site (link below). The Irish Govt is cutting back on costs in order to lower government spending, because of reduced tax income due to the decline in property sales and the global economic issues in general.

It is interesting to compare the Irish Govt response (cut back spending) with the US Govt response (increase spending). Of course, the circumstances are different - the US Govt can print money, whereas Ireland is similar in many ways to a US State which must not run a deficit (an EU country can run a deficit within certain bounds, but after that it runs into trouble with the EU).

Most people would naturally consider Ireland a high-tax country. But look at the story below. The Irish Government is considering bringing in property tax. That is something which would chafe with many people (especially in rural Ireland where I come from) as a government levy on private property ownership. But in the supposedly "low tax, small government" US it's taken for granted. Additionally, the Irish Government is cutting back on payments to parents sending their kids to pre-school, but such payments do not exist here in the US. Also, the child benefit payment, something which does not existing in the US, is now going to be means tested. But it still exists.

All in all, the supposedly "brutal" budget is not as brutal as I thought, and made me think about how much the US is actually the "Tax and Spend" country here, and Ireland is the puritan "rein in the costs, keep government small" country. Although, in times to come, Ireland will then benefit from the US economic upturn (as it benefits from good weather blowing in over the Gulf Stream from the US) and the poor US taxpayer (like me!) is left with the costs as the US debt grows and grows.

"Your business is important to us"

Bank of America send me a notice saying that they were raising my credit card interest rate from 12% to over 28%. This, despite the fact that the balance was nowhere near the credit limit. So, I called them to decline the increase and pay off the credit card instead. While on hold for about 20 minutes, I heard about how much of a "valued customer" I am, and then bizarrely, when I told the customer service guy that I was paying off the card and would not use it anymore, he thanked me for "my business since 2004".

Go figure. I've moved to using my Citibank card which is at 9.9%. I guess they value my business.