When is July over?

I feel like carp. I mean crap. That is an excellent illustration of one of my ailments, bizarre goings-on in my arms and hands that keep me from typing well. Sometimes it hurts to use the computer and that in combination with other crappy health stuff means not a lot of updating here. I have thousands of pictures to present but I can barely scroll through Facebook.

Vegas bunny is quite ill and is having a ridiculous surgery on Thursday. I’m worried about her.

This month sure sucks so far. Next!

1. The hydrangeas here can’t pick a color. I know they vary based on soil acidity, but the variety here is amazing and often occurs on the same plant.
2. I don’t think these were the intended diners when the pet store put out this dog food.
3. General Tso’s Tofu
4. The thing that trims the hedgerows
5. Stuffed portobellos and campers
6. Walter lounges

Does Egon drink Guinness?

Our second day in Dublin (last weekend) included a trip to the Guinness brewery. Here’s how a conversation went after seeing the old flower ad above: How do you define flourish? Then looked up fleur de lis. That’s the symbol of the Three Musketeers. They were in Slumdog Millionaire: what were their names? Athos, Porthos, and had to look up the other one. Aramis, but can only think of someone in Ghostbusters… Harold Ramis!

Ireland is a country in love with its courgettes and aubergines. Now, I thought I loved zucchini and eggplant, but darn it, I’m getting tired of them. At home every token veg dish is pasta and here it’s pasta with aubergines or some other variation of aubergines with courgettes tossed in for good measure. Hasn’t anyone heard of BEANS? I miss beans.

There are no screens in the windows. Cheerios taste like sugar cereal here and are marketed by Nestle, not General Mills.

The letter Z is pronounced zed here. We have a lot of abbreviations and acronyms at work, so I hear zed just about every day. And I always think of General Zod from Superman II.

I found this handy from Wiktionary: (Latin script letter names) letter; a, bee, cee, dee, e, ef, gee, aitch, i, jay, kay, el, em, en, o, pee, cue, ar, ess, tee, u, vee, double U, ex, wye, zee/zed. But I’d also like to note that H is not aitch here, but rather haitch, so it’s p-haitch at work and spelling my name includes haitch in the middle too.

I’m sure it’s not dominating the US TV and water coolers like it does here, but the World Cup is going on in South Africa right now. The Irish folks at work said they would be rooting for the US since they didn’t want to root for England. We get a lot of British TV so I’m seeing a lot of support for England as it is. David and I watched the England/USA match last night and I still think soccer is boring. Somehow the US is considered to have “won” even though it was a tie game. And there was this horrible buzzing noise from the crowds the whole time. Oh well, I’m going to have to live here longer to understand this one.

Some good news from the States:
California bans plastic bags
Pet-friendly license plate will be available next year in Indiana!

Albuquerque bans companion animal sales in pet shops: “Since the ban started, animal adoptions have increased 23 percent and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35 percent.”

And yes, I get almost all my news from Facebook.

The Bad Santa of leprechauns

We are in Dublin for the weekend. Casper came home tired but well from the vet and we seem to have found a good petsitter, so we went ahead with our holiday weekend plans. We are being boring in the hotel room right now but overplanning makes us cranky, so down time is good. We tried to fight it out from laptops with online Battleship but couldn’t get an interface that worked, so now I’m blogging and he’s working on an invoice.

Pardon the repeat first picture there. I’m not smart enough to figure out the gallery feature on this site.

Gallery: First we have the dogs earlier this week, in a picture that should be captioned, “No, we didn’t poop up here!”
The rest are Dublin pictures: a creepy statue with really long legs and huge feet. David finds Starbucks and is ecstatic (despite the way he doesn’t look ecstatic). Then we have streets and shops of Dublin. Dinner: boxtys (boxties?) at Gallagher’s Boxty House, which was a little touristy but they had vegetarian boxtys (kind of a potato pancake thing from the northern counties) and I’m just not likely to find those in most pubs. The food was really good.

On to “Why go Bald,” another bunny ad, and finally David jaywalked without me while I was looking the other way and then there was too much traffic to join him. I took a picture of him way over there, abandoning me, but that crazy giant guy (we’re calling him German) decided to be a ham as well.

We got into town in late afternoon, so mostly just wandered at St. Stephen’s Green and into Temple Bar for dinner and drinks. Hopefully tomorrow will hold more specific tourist visits.

London, last day

The dog situation still is not resolved. I’m trying to keep my mind off of it; recreated paperwork did not arrive today as expected. The !@#$ airline has no idea where the papers went after they left San Francisco. If we have to recreate it all again, it will be Wednesday before I see them. :'(

So, I will try to replay the last day in London:

Nicole and I made our semi-lazy way back into the city with another toasted cheese sandwich and our bags, which we were able to leave at the train station instead of lugging them around London. We found another vegetarian restaurant for lunch, Mildred’s:

We saw these shirts and I felt I had to take a picture of Arnold for my brother.

Then we wandered a bit and lounged at Piccadilly Circus with a drink.

Nicole’s flight was much earlier than mine, so we said our goodbyes at the train station and I went on to explore a few more hours. I went back near Buckingham and checked out Hyde Park, which has a boating pond, restaurants, cycling paths, several statues and memorials, and a whole lot of people enjoying the spring weather.

Achilles statue

Queen Elizabeth gates

North of Hyde Park is the Marble Arch (more pics at Flickr), and then this statue for which I couldn’t really find a lot of information. Hard to miss, though.

I managed to lose my subway card so I got another one and went up to Regent’s Park, where I had ice cream and wandered through the water fowl protected areas; apparently there’s a zoo and other things to do at the park as well, but my time was running short to explore much. After enjoying the spring flowers, I found myself in front of 221 Baker Street, and the Underground Station there, which took me back to get my bag at a different station, has little Sherlock Holmeses on the subway tiles.

So while I spent all afternoon in the nice outdoors, pictures of the park start to look the same, and I’ll end there. We had known the subway line back to the airport was closed for maintenance, so it took me something like two hours on other lines and buses to get to Heathrow, where my plane left early (and almost without me!). Who ever heard of a plane leaving early? Meanwhile Nicole’s flight had been delayed for hours and she was probably still there too! I made it to Cork in an hour and had Sunday to myself. And I discovered I lost my sunglasses too.

A couple pictures from near home:

Ringcurran Church is apparently not in use anymore, except perhaps a couple times per year

Scilly Walk takes a high path along the harbor, where two ruined forts are visible

London with Nicole

Just after college, my first trip abroad (wait, I think I also drove to a Windsor casino from Detroit one night?) was to meet my friend Liz in London. It was a fabulous trip, and there is even evidence from my website in 1999! Holy crap.

My friend Nicole was staying near London a couple weeks ago on business, and she invited me to join her for a few days in the city. It’s barely more than an hour flight from Cork to London, so off I went to stay with her in this fancy hotel/spa place. There is secretly a newer, uglier part to this facility, though, so it wasn’t exactly resort-like for us–just comfortable.

While Nicole earned a living on Thursday, I took the Tube from Heathrow and explored London a bit on my own. The London Eye didn’t exist when I was there last, so I took an expensive trip in the giant Ferris wheel over the city. I booked online ahead of time, paying extra to skip the line. As Dad says, you can’t put a price on a good time, and that includes not wasting time when there are smarter ways to travel! I probably wouldn’t go on it again, but it’s one of those tourist things you should do once. After I got home, David told me he saw a show about how it was only designed to last five years and it’s already been ten, so maybe it’s not one of those tourist things you should do after all.

I wandered the shore of the Thames near the Eye and found a neat cafeteria at Southbank Centre with a great eggplant aubergine stew for a late lunch. The weather was gorgeous and I sat out on the terrace with hundreds of others who were enjoying a drink in the sunshine.

Later, I found Waterloo train station and bought a quick ticket for Camberley since the train was about to leave, and I wasn’t quite sure it was the right stop, but I knew it would get me close. The train ride was about an hour, I think (during which I giggled at every stop since they kept announcing the end of the line very clearly as Cockfosters, even funnier with the accent), and I found a taxi to get me to the hotel, beating Nicole there by about a half hour. We wandered into town for a tapas dinner and then a drink at a karaoke bar. The English singers weren’t very impressive; drunkenness is pretty universal.

We stumbled home and slept in without an alarm. The plan for this trip was to head into London and figure it out as we went! We armed ourselves with toasted cheese sandwiches for the train ride, picked up some maps, and went to the British Museum. I hadn’t been there before and wished we had more time. I didn’t even know the Rosetta Stone was there and missed it! The collection was pretty amazing, but I kept wondering about all the colonialism and plundering that probably gathered half of it.

I had gathered info on vegetarian restaurants from Happycow.net, which was not only a tasty move, but gave us places to find and therefore took us down streets that we wouldn’t have otherwise traveled. First up was an all-veg Thai/Chinese buffet with many choices, both hot and cold, fake meats and already-meatless dishes. I get overwhelmed when I can choose anything on the menu; it’s rare to have more than a pasta choice wherever I go. The excitement was doubled since Nicole was just as excited about the food choice as I was.

We wandered through daffodil-filled Green Park and had gelato across the street from Buckingham Palace. I was impressed by the number of transport cyclists in the park (and the number of clueless pedestrians who wandered right into the cycling paths). We remarked on how many people wore red shoes. I also lost and found my glasses, and then we happened upon the changing of the guard at the palace, which made us laugh because they were very serious about whatever was on that clipboard. We made up voiceovers to illustrate what was happening, but I’m afraid I don’t recall the soap opera now.

We wandered some more and planned a tour for later, but killed time first near Westminster Abbey. Most sightseeing places were closed by now.

After a pay-to-pee stop where I also picked up minty plastic chewable toothbrushes from a gumball machine in the loo, Nicole suggested stocking up for our multi-hour night bus tour of the city, which meant booze and snacks (the little bottle of Jack isn’t even in the picture!).

There were only two other passengers, who had taken the two front seats of the top of the double decker bus, but we took other seats up top and listened to the rather biased commentary as we rode around the city. It was nice to get a sense of what all was there (since we hadn’t visited in years) and it helped us find things the next day, too. The tour was a good lazy choice at a time when there wasn’t much else to do but eat or go to a show.

Time for another veg restaurant, this time in Soho! The street was hopping with bar and show-goers. We had fabulous food at Zilli Green, just in time for a guilt trip about my use of ice cubes before they closed.

I’ll wrap up this day with a poster I liked in the Subway:

As usual, more pics at Flickr

I feel like Arliss today

I almost made it a month.

I have been the friendly newcomer (as much as is possible for me) since March 5 when I got on the first of three planes to take me to live in a place I’d never visited. And now, on April 1: I’m grumpy. I woke up that way and I’m not fighting it today. Please review the best introvert article ever as detailed here. My energy has been sapped from dealing with people (none of whom are in any way close to me) and I’ve pet all of two dogs for less than twenty minutes in this whole time. I only saw a sad rabbit through a pet store window.

I’m not complaining (beyond that which comes with grumpiness) and I don’t want to leave. I just want to be grumpy and not return calls, schedule meetings, establish accounts, ask twenty times what Irish Boomhauer just said, figure out what I can eat at a corporate meeting at a fish-only restaurant, explain why my credit card doesn’t work like everyone else’s, or fill out any more forms. I’m tired of telling people where I live and what I think of town and defending why I don’t go out to pubs on my own to get to know even more strangers I don’t have the energy to know. I also don’t really want to read any more procedures with 12 attachments but actually that kind of work is much better than other things I could be doing at my job today, so I’ll read.

I didn’t want to go to tea either, but I did and just listened. I can’t do a total alienation today but I shall invoke the code of almost-silence until I feel better or find a fuzzy animal to cuddle. It’s a reasonable coping mechanism.

Driving, shopping, getting losting

Last week was my first driving trip on my own to Cork. I got lost a lot, mostly listening to my GPS but not being in the right lane or seeing the right sign to correlate to her directions in time. Due to significant shopping needs (having a partially furnished house, e.g., no forks or pots or groceries), I went both Saturday and Sunday last weekend. Then I was up there again on Wednesday for the parade and also grabbed a television from a grumpy salesperson. Then I went up again today to go to an animal rescue event and did a little more shopping, this time in the zippy areas of the Grand Parade, English Market, and pedestrian streets where shops weren’t open on Wednesday.


    I’m not a very good driver, but drivers here are polite, so no one has honked at me. Sometimes this is bad because I don’t know it’s my turn to go.

    I still don’t know if I can turn on red (I’m hoping not, because I need the red lights to think and regroup! But I wouldn’t know anyway since no one honks)

    I find it thrilling to go 100, even if it’s really 60 back in the non-metric world.

    There is no taco sauce in Ireland. Jalapeno-tomato relish is not the same – I tried it on my burrito.

    There are no king size pillowcases here. In fact, king size here is queen size at home, so I’m really looking for super king size. You can find the super king sheets occasionally, but no one sleeps on giant pillows. Also, pillowcases come in styles like Oxford and housewife, but I have no idea what those mean. Since I’ve been learning so much about pillow sizes, more than once I used the known of 45 cm x 75 cm (standard pillow) to approximate other purchases like a 32″ TV and a towel rack — my metric approximations aren’t so good outside a laboratory.

    The shopping carts trolleys are locked to each other in the corral. It takes a one Euro coin to release one, and you get it back when you return the cart to the corral. Anyone remember how much loose shopping carts in parking lots drive me nuts?? Solved. However, on my first shopping trip, I had no idea what value coin to use and had to ask some random guy. I now hoard these coins in fear of not being able to get a cart. Also I kept fearing someone would steal my cart from the store aisles if I didn’t have my hand on it, to get the money, since they totally would in the U.S.

    There are some lovely European laws about not testing household products (like cleaners) on animals. 🙂 This means I can buy generic dish soap washing up liquid and no bunnies were hurt. In the U.S. I usually have to shop at a special store for that.

    Carmel prepared me for roundabouts, but not the four-lane variety with stoplights.

    I now expect to make one or two wrong turns on any trip to a new place. My GPS says “Recalculating” and “Make a U-turn” a lot. Today I never did find the pet supply store or the catalog store and just went home.

    Everyone else’s credit card has a chip in it that lets them wave it past readers at the checkout till and not have to sign anything. I preempt all payments now with “it doesn’t have a chip” and prepare for the cashier to figure out how to swipe the card.

    No pay at the pump, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t work for me due to the above. It took almost €60 to fill the 12-gallon-ish tank of my new diesel Golf, and that’s at about 40 cents a gallon less than gas petrol would have cost.

    On the road, the line in the middle is white but the lines on the edge are yellow. Parking garages are scaled down to match the smaller cars. Like on the country roads, I find myself clenching my teeth and holding my breath/thinking skinny to get past tight spaces.

    On the way to work, there is an intersection with a stop sign but YIELD is painted on the road, and two blocks later there is a yield sign but STOP is painted on the road.

    No one is fat here.

A few pics from today:

“Cream crackers” are popular. I’m not sure where they get the name, but it’s even printed on the cracker itself. They taste a lot like unsalted Saltines.

Roofs of Cork

Back to Quay Co-op for lunch

St. Patrick’s Day: wandering Cork

After the parade, I ate at hippie-friendly Quay Co-op, a popular vegetarian restaurant in Cork. The food was great! They also have a grocery which would have helped my pantry a lot (it’s hard to find a few veggie-specific items in regular groceries), but it was closed for the holiday.

A note on the word quay: I used to use it a lot in Scrabble and therefore knew it to mean dock or wharf. This word is part of every other street or building name around here, and it’s pronounced key. Whoops!

Cork has a central island of sorts within the split of the River Lee, which is pedestrian-only and has lots of neat little shops, restaurants, and pubs. The parade went around this area so I couldn’t get in until it was over, where it was jammed with people. Most of the shops were closed for the holiday so I didn’t get to explore much, so I just took some pictures. At a central spot there were food booths and a concert stage and it was so crowded it was difficult to even walk.

This is what’s left of the Red Abbey, a 14th-century church. It’s basically the oldest thing in town now since everything else from that era and before burned down long ago.

Lunch lady

I was reading an interesting series of short articles on public school food in D.C. The switch from shipping in pre-packaged individual meals to be warmed before serving to the kids to ‘fresh cooked’ meals in a brand new school kitchen actually means shipping in pre-packaged larger quantities of frozen food that are then reheated in a steamer by people who have never cooked in an actual commercial kitchen before, and everything is served with disposable tableware. They don’t even have a stove or a dishwasher in the new kitchen. The worst is the junk the kids are actually served. It sounds awful in taste and is just marginal in nutrition.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about my own cafeteria experiences. First off: Safetypup was on the milk cartons! His cartoon taught us safety tips while using good grammar. Matches are tools, not toys with which to play. Unfortunately I can’t find any pictures of Safetypup in his cartoon form, just scary costumed people dressed as Safetypup.

I used to keep my lunch money coins in the zippers of my Kangaroo shoes. It was really hard to stand on one foot in the lunch line as it moved forward and unzip my shoes to get the money out. Seems bizarre that I swipe a credit card at the work cafeteria now.

Mom would post the weekly school lunch menu from the newspaper on the fridge, and each morning she’d ask if we wanted to buy the menu choice or take a packed lunch. One of the most humiliating experiences of my elementary school lunch career was when the sixth grade girls (the meanest one was Jamie McCarthy!) made fun of my fifth-grade lunch: a hotdog in a Thermos of hot water, which I assembled with the bun at the table. Mom was creative in keeping the food hot, but the teasing stuck with me for, oh, 24 years now.

Our Little Hoosier meetings were held in the cafeteria. We made Indiana-shaped cookies once a year. I also remember thinking how dumb some of my classmates were during these meetings.

In boarding school we shared a cafeteria with college students. The most famous dishes were Limelight chicken, or Chernobyl chicken as suggested by the strange glowing color, and Tater Tot Hot Dish, or TTHD. The lady who ran the checkout was kind of socially awkward (I guess she fit in with us) and had some classic lines which made it to the Masochistic Board, a piece of MDF we propped in the lounge on our dorm floor, which we decorated with things that drove us nuts and then beat on it with a cat o’ nine tails-like device my mom had at home for distressing wooden frames. It had chains attached to a wooden handle and made a hell of a racket! It was so bad that the girls on the floor downstairs started crying because they thought someone was being beaten and we had to stop attacking our Masochistic Board. I’m not quite sure how it got that name, except maybe because we were punishing ourselves by going to a really hard school, but I do remember the director of student life taking a couple swings at it before it was retired.

Pissed? Bitter? Test your beating skills on the f***ing Masochistic Board! (One of the girls on our floor had a bad emu experience)

Our work cafeterias are decent, but some days are better than others when it comes to veggie options. Still better than school food! I hated Hamette on Bun, which was a common Friday lunch.

There’s a program to fund veg options in school lunches!

I was going to end with a little rant about the pro-HFCS commercials, but instead I recommend a viewing of King Corn instead, which streams free from Netflix.

This post made me hungry.

Pack, purge, panic

Some random thoughts to prove I’m still alive.

I did indeed have cadaver bone put in during my osteomyelitis treatment! It was irradiated, powdered, and mixed with what is basically plaster of Paris, but it still sounds exotic. Unfortunately I’ve had some additional dental pain recently. You’d think I traumatized my teeth or something.

Arliss had her fourth surgery a week ago (vet and I agreed she didn’t need a CT scan after all) and she’s doing great! She even gained weight in the last two weeks.

Loving the Indy Winter Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. The place is PACKED and I love seeing cyclists with panniers riding in the snow! Note: the local chickens went on strike when it got super cold the last couple of weeks, so eggs were harder to come by. I like being able to get a half dozen a month since we don’t use more than that, and then I can take the carton back to the farmer to use again.

I discovered recently-reopened El Sol de Tala. This town has more Mexican (I use that as a geographic/ethnic term loosely) restaurants than you can imagine, but this one place stands out. They even have a veggie menu. It’s not the same old enchiladas anymore, people!

Following a craving, I had French toast at Denny’s, and even if they hadn’t ruined it with cinnamon and powdered sugar, it still was nowhere as good as Dad’s. He also blows away every pancake on earth.

I’ve finally heard from some of the relocation folks and the target start date in Ireland is March 1. There’s so much to do that it’s hard not just to plop on the couch with 81 SVU reruns on Tivo and ignore the obvious (that’s how many were scheduled in this two week period). One of my current focuses (okay, foci) is pantry raid: use up all the groceries that line our cupboards and freezer. In the past week we had breakfasty stuff to use up biscuits and fake sausages and last night I made chik’n and rice casserole. My freezer has several fake meat products that I’ve always kept as backup, but usually have been creative enough not to need for most cooking. I see a lot of chili in our future for the ground ‘beef’ crumbles…