Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 4 hour time difference

Because Summer Time ended last weekend in Ireland and the UK, but does not end until this weekend here in the US, we are now in a week when the time difference between Boston and Ireland 4 hours, not the usual 5 hours. This can result in all sorts of confusion. It also means that the time difference from Boston to Ireland is only one hour more than the time difference from Boston to California. It makes Ireland feel more like the 51st state than ever.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ireland gets the snow first this year

Snow is not quite general over Ireland today, but there was a lot of snow in border areas last night. In Boston, the forecast light snow (mixed with rain) last night didn't materialize, and today began clear and dry. I'm sure Boston will make up the snow deficit over the next few months, but right now Ireland leads Boston in the snow stakes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No athiests on Aer Lingus

On a recent Aer Lingus flight I took, some unexpected turbulence causes a stewardess to explain "Jesus!". Then later on the same flight, coming into the gate in sleepy dark Dublin at 5am, another stewardess announces "Grá Dé orainn go léir" [God's love on all of you].

As Des Bishop pointed out in his hilarious series "In the Name of the Fada" (where the native New Yorker learns Irish), it's impossible to converse in Irish without bringing God into it. At school I learned that Hello is "Dia duit" (God be with you), with the response "Dia is Muire duit" (God and Mary be with you).

So it is on Aer Lingus. Something comforting about that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Yah boo - that "English" health system

In the debate last night, John McCain once again got the Irish corporate tax rate slightly wrong (he said 11%, whereas it is actually 12.5%). But, balancing things out, he did get a dig in against the English. As Justin Webb reports, McCain made a disparaging comment about the "English" health system. Though, if the English (actually British) system is bad (free coverage under the NHS, half the spending per person as the US) then I don't know where that leaves Ireland. Or indeed the US.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"National Cranberry Festival 2008" at Edaville near Carver, Massachusetts

Ever wonder how cranberries are harvested? No? Well, even so, you can find out at the National Cranberry Festival which I visited today at Edaville. Edaville is located near Carver on the way down to Cape Cod from Boston.

Wisely, the festival does not focus on the cranberry harvesting itself (which involves guys wading into water holding some kind of water-rake thing). Instead, there is a two mile long narrow gauge railway, many amusement rides, and a ball pit for kids. Today there was also a display of Irish dancing and trained dogs (not together, though). The narration on the train tells the story of the founder of Edaville, how he built up the train line and developed the impressive Christmas festivities there as a New England institution.

Here is a bunch of cranberries about to be harvested, then to be taken to the nearby Ocean Spray plant:

Greetings from Edaville:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Banks branching out

I guess you know times are hard for banks when you see this:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New visa to allow Americans to work for a year in Ireland, or Irish people to work for a year in the US

Next month, a new visa agreement between Ireland and the US comes into effect. It allows up to 5,000 Americans to work in Ireland for a year, and up to 20,000 Irish people to work in the US for a year. The visas effectively are one-year versions of the J1 working visa, which people like me used to spend a summer working in the US as students.

These one year visas are a great opportunity to work in a different country, and gain experience of living abroad. I did this myself 15 years ago, and I recommend that Irish and American (and indeed Irish-American) people out there do the same.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Polite, yet distant, friendliness"

A good article in the Irish Times today by a Polish person returning home from Ireland:

"To befriend an Irish person is a different story. Coming from my culture, where you say what you think, it was a mighty challenge to understand what was really said in a conversation. Freud was right in claiming it was impossible to psychoanalyze the Irish. That barrier of polite, yet distant, friendliness seemed impregnable. To my delight, I found out that it was actually soluble in alcohol."

Yes, alcohol is the key. Psychoanalysis is one of those foreign concepts which I feel never made sense in Ireland (like communism, or the practice of taking uneaten food home from restaurants). As an Irish person, I think "if I don't tell my closest friends how I feel, why would I tell a psychoanalyst?".

On another note, it is good to hear that people coming to Ireland for work feel welcome:

"In Ireland, I felt welcome. Was this because Ireland never adopted the mentality of an imperialist country? Because Irish people knew best what it meant to look for work abroad? Or more pragmatically, that the economy boomed and migrant labour was now welcome?"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The staples

Photographed recently: a fridge full of beer and sausages in a Sainsbury's near Bloomsbury Square in London. Add in pasta, and then you would have all three major food groups represented.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Aer Lingus to cut down Boston flights, and move to US-based flight crew?

The Irish Examiner reports today that Aer Lingus is going to cut back some transatlantic flights to cut costs.

Personally, I think that Aer Lingus is being dragged down by unnecessarily engaging in head-to-head competition with Ryanair. For example, I recently flew return from London to Dublin for zero ticket cost, paying only taxes and baggage costs. This is a bit ridiculous, and I would have happily paid a reasonably fare for the flights. I don't see why Aer Lingus has to match all of Ryanair's low-cost or zero-cost flights. They could charge a bit more and I certainly would still always choose Aer Lingus over Ryanair.

According to the article, Aer Lingus is also following a recent trend I've noticed in Europe: moving jobs to the US where salaries are cheaper because of the weak dollar. But this removes one of the reasons I choose Aer Lingus: the Irish flight crew.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Irish language childrens books

Irish language books for children are a lot more common than when I was a kid in Ireland, as this photo shows. Hodges Figgis has a great selection, on Dawson Street in Dublin. I photographed these books in Dublin Airport.