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?