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.