Thursday, September 29, 2011

BitchBuzz: Facebook's New Timeline

Prepare yourself for more bitching and moaning on Facebook as there's another change on the way. Looks like they're rolling it out more slowly and still tweaking it as they go along. Here you go:

Facebook's Timeline: What it's All About

By K. A. Laity

Not long after it introduced the friend ticker on the right hand side of your screen, Facebook began to roll out another innovation, albeit in a much slower wave: the Timeline. While clever clogs using Chrome and Firefox figured out that you can block the ticker, most people still have not been given the option for Timeline, although they should be able to access the demo.

The new Timeline offers a way to give more of a stable identity to your Facebook profile. Their tag line embodies the vision they have for this newest innovation (or irritating new feature, as it will inevitably be called): "Tell your life story with a new kind of profile."

That statement demonstrates that Facebook has begun to look at the long term. I'm not necessarily saying it will be successful to do so (and Google+ has grown at least in new members if not in actual activities), but it shows a development avenue that counters the nervous tick of the ticker: a desire for continuity...

As always, read the rest over at BBHQ.

Blogger's making changes, too -- eep! And don't get me started on my web page difficulties (argh). The days are just packed, even when I'm not standing around waiting in queues. I've got my first visitors today! That means I have some cleaning, tidying and preparing to do. But another cuppa first...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Well Done, Gardai

So, two trips wasted now.

I spent yesterday finding the Garda Immigration Office in Galway. It turns out to be in a mostly unmarked building (there's a tiny plaque among the others) in the Byzantine wastelands of a charmless industrial park in the part of Galway that doesn't end up on the postcards. After at last locating it with a lot of help from Google Maps, I was told that not only were there no forms available to register, but they were "out of numbers."

Silly me, I assumed this meant some kind of glitch with their machine. At least I knew where it was now and could return in the morning, when (surely!) it would be less chaotic.

I got up early, passing through a twilit Eyre Square, where the crows fought a turf battle against the gulls with plenty of commentary on both sides, and repeating the less-than-picturesque ramble out to the industrial park. Returning for the opening hour of 7:30 was early for me, but surely a wise thing to do.

Apparently not.

Arriving minutes after opening, I found the line out the door and into the parking lot. I ducked in to grab a form, but after asking several people, was unable to find anyone who was giving out the tickets to officially queue for a place in line. I joined the end of the line and filled out my form, hoping someone would appear soon. More people joined behind me. Everyone looked anxious. Children were already bored with waiting, as apparently many people got here quite early. I was beginning to get a bad feeling about that.

Finally one of the latest folks to join the queue came out with a form in her hand, saying angrily that they would not see anyone that day who did not already have a ticket. We were wasting our time. Yes, that's right. Arriving at the time the office opened meant we were too late to actually see anyone in the office that day (o_O). So the posted hours -- which a hand-written sign declared could be changed "without notice" -- mean nothing because if you are not there before they opened (in fact, well before they opened) they will do nothing for you.

Apparently, this is typical.

I suppose if you're in the midst of a financial crisis and want to discourage immigrants, this is one way to do it. However, I am not costing the Irish nation a penny, and am bringing the prestige of the Fulbright foundation and a lot of money to spend here, but apparently that's not enough. Perhaps a dance of some kind is called for, or a round of drinks...?

And they're not answering their phone. I shall have to write a letter to The Times. Oh, wait...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Around Galway Bay

Autumn in Galway nonetheless has a lot of green yet...

Galway is a busy working port with plenty of boats and bustling business.

The swift-running Corrib meets the bay; must be nice to live along here.

Along the piers where the river meets the bay.

There are swans everywhere in Galway. Beautiful but not that nice!

A civic-minded crow helps keep things tidy.

Don't even ask what Leslie's drinking! The King's Head has good Sunday dinners and Kilkenny ale which some of us enjoyed.

Monday, September 26, 2011


A brief video before my batteries died (>_<) so you can see the area around Newgrange and the tree full of crows watching us (I'm sure they were amused). The narrow passage and deep interior really brought out my claustrophobia, but I waited at the end of the group to see if I could talk myself into going inside...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Saint Patrick's Confessio

People ask me what this "digital humanities" business is that I'm supposed to be engaged in for the coming academic year; the answer is long and complicated (but if you bring me a cuppa, I'll tell it to you). Among the kinds of activities that very big umbrella covers is one of the projects developed here at the Moore Institute: the Confessio of Saint Patrick.

You can look at digital renderings of the eight surviving manuscripts; you can read the text in English, Latin, Gaeilege, Italian, German or Portuguese; you can read a lot of essays that tell you about the context of Patrick's time, the manuscripts, the world he lived in and get a full bibliography of the sources. All from the comfort of your computer!

This is the sort of thing that shows you why medievalists, despite our reputation as people only to be found in musty libraries among handwritten tomes, tend to be geeks of the first order and interested in the latest technologies (okay, this does not apply to Fred Biggs ;-). The most plenteous text from the Middle Ages, The Prick of Conscience (not as racy as it sounds), boasts just over a hundred copies. Many exist in a single copy (e.g. Beowulf). Digital copies are so helpful!

For more FFB, drop by Patti Abbott's blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Media: Hancock's Half Hour

I may well be cheating by having used Hancock's Half Hour before (although if I weren't too lazy to do a search myself, I suspect it may actually have been one of the films, either The Punch and Judy Man or The Rebel). However, as I'm without cable or internet at home, I have been entertaining myself when too tired to write anymore by working my way through the 8 DVD set of Tony's best half hours. Appropriately enough for Talk Like a Pirate Day, I was watching this episode last night where Anthony pulls out his fine Robert Newton impression to do Hamlet's soliloquy. Arr, Jim boy!

Enjoy :-)

As always, drop by Todd's place to get the full round up of AV gems.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Snapshots of Galway

As I've been getting nudges to show you a little of my new home city, here are a few snapshots from my new phone. I still don't have internet at home (ayiii!); but I do finally have a mobile! Which means I have a camera now, too. I love living surrounded by rivers and canals as well as the bay. Above is abbot canal on the way to campus near the Salmon Weir Bridge and the cathedral.

This was some interesting ivy on the wall along the canal on Nun's Island.

Folks on Facebook already saw this: a late lunch at the Mill House Restaurant, right over the canal and next to the Corrib.

The local Galway Bay Ale is quite refreshing and I recommend you give it a try, if you don't go for the Galway Hooker Pale Ale (it refers to a kind of ship!).

I live in the bustling centre of the city. Folks prowl up and down Shop Street or down to the Latin Quarter, all a minute's walk from my flat. And yes, the madness goes on late into the night, so I will likely be keeping late hours here, too.

And in Eyre Square Centre, it's all about the wolf! Hee, I love this new window display. It's weird living adjacent to a mall. One exit takes me right into Dunnes (during opening hours) who're kind of like the Irish M&S. And yes, that means there's a Foodhall in the lower level (phew!).

Ooh, that reminds me! I need to get some batteries so I can get the Newgrange video off the camera. Here's one photo from the old camera. More soon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: The Way We Live Now

I have a great love for nineteenth century novels. Their leisurely nature and broad scope allows readers to inhabit their worlds entirely. It makes them perfect for long afternoons reading, but I've found, too, that they suit perfectly for piecemeal ebook reading as well, which may at first seem unlikely. The truth is that depth and leisure make it very easy to pick up a book days or weeks later and fall back into the adventures without hesitation. I have read Trollope's The Way We Live Now over a matter of months, whenever I might be idle for a moment and have my iPod to hand.

Barchester Towers has generally been acknowledged as Trollope's masterpiece and I can't recommend it enough, but there's something timely about The Way We Live Now with its financial shenanigans—bounders, bubbles bursting and fortunes ruined—that fits our time perfectly. That it begins with a writer struggling to make ends meet likewise endears the book to me. The depiction of Americans in London—with their wild and brash ways including a woman who wields pistols—made me laugh, but by the end Trollope has characters acknowledging that while "They do tell bad things about them Americans," as the owner of a boarding house put it, some might be quite good to know.

The good characters nearly break your heart and the bad characters prove so fascinating that you almost understand their motivations even if you can't quite forgive their horrible behaviours. Let me offer some bon mots from the book to demonstrate Trollope's style such as his description of the Evening Pulpit, one of the papers Lady Carbury (the struggling writer) implores for a good review. The paper was meant to record events of the day and predict those of the morrow. "This was effected with an air of wonderful omniscience, and not infrequently with an ignorance hardly surpassed by its arrogance. But the writing was clever. The facts, if not true, were well invented; the arguments, if not logical, were seductive… A newspaper that wishes to make its fortune should never waste its columns and weary its readers by praising anything."

Of course her pleas were vain, and she appealed to her publisher to defend her. "Mr Leadham did not care a straw for facts or figures—had no opinion of his own whether the lady or the reviewer were right; but he knew very well that the Evening Pulpit would surely get the better of any mere author in such a contention. 'Never fight the newspapers, Lady Carbury. Who ever got any satisfaction by that kind of thing?'"

I think Trollope felt the sting of the situation sharply. It's hard to believe he might get such cutting reviews with his wonderful sense of nuance. Of the American woman he writes: "Mrs. Hurtle got up to receive him with her sweetest smile—and her smile could be very sweet. She was a witch of a woman, and, as like most witches she could be terrible, so like most witches she could charm."

Of the swindler Melmotte who ends up winning the seat for Westminster despite rumours of his financial misdeeds: "The more arrogant he became the more vulgar he was, till even Lord Alfred would almost be tempted to rush away to impecuniosity and freedom. Perhaps there were some with whom this conduct had a salutary effect. No doubt arrogance will produce submission; and there are men who take other men at the price those other men put upon themselves. Such persons could not refrain from thinking Melmotte to be mighty because he swaggered; and gave their hinder parts to be kicked merely because he put up his toe."

At a low point, Lady Carbury repeats to herself "those well known lines from the satiristOh, Amos Cottle, for a moment think / what meager profits spread from pen and ink." She plunges on anyway: if our characters were not to make so many errors of judgment, we would not enjoy their lives quite so much. Lady Carbury finds much to console her in the writing of her novel: "One becomes so absorbed in one's plot and one's characters! One loves the loveable so intensely, and hates with such fixed aversion those who are intended to be hated." However, on the bad days, "on a sudden everything becomes flat, tedious, and unnatural. The heroine who was yesterday alive with the celestial spark is found to-day to be a lump of motionless clay."

Trollope's gentle affection and even gentler derision invites the reader to think generously of characters despite their many faults. He says of the good, if unimaginative man Roger Carbury: "To a man not accustomed to thinking there is nothing in the world so difficult as to think."


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life at No. 10

Still trying to sort out the practical matters: you know how much patience I have for that (>_<) but my M-Bag has arrived with its wealth of goodies. No fun waiting around for the postman to arrive when there's no internet at home! I have some brief video from Newgrange (before the batteries ran out >_<) but I have to splice it together which I should have been doing with all that free time but I only remembered it now. More anon!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dublin, Newgrange and Maynooth

I had a busy weekend thanks to the Fulbright folks. Our orientation in Dublin proved to be a lively affair that kept us on the run. Thanks to Colleen, Sonya and Pippa for a great experience. Thursday started out a wee bit early, with a dawn train from Galway to Dublin. Good thing I live across the square from the train station!

I haven't been in Dublin in thirty years. A lot has changed. While we started out at Trinity, there was no time to catch the Book of Kells exhibit, so I'll be back (anyway I didn't get a chance to meet up with Pádraig either, so I'll be back soon).

We met the other Fulbright folks, including Michael, Leslie and Gurram who are all in Galway and we had a chance to chat and talk about our projects as we got to know each other. We had a lively welcome and a fun history tour of Dublin with our energetic guide Tommy. That evening we had a dinner theatre show -- a sort of Riverdance light >_< The musicians and dancers were mostly good, but it was a bit cheesey and touristy. But the audience seemed largely pleased (apart from Dominique who's doing a masters in traditional Irish music at Limerick; poor gal, she found it a bit trying).

In the morning we were off to Newgrange, an incredible megalithic site, older than Stonehenge. I wasn't sure I would actually go inside. The passage into the temple is quite narrow and there are all those tons of stones overhead. The light at the winter solstice hits the interior through a special channel designed for that purpose, so they knew when the sun would return once again. Quite a sight, which they recreate with a 40 watt bulb ;-)

So yes, I did it. I hung back at the very end of our group and was rather nervous, especially when they turned out the lights. Okay, panicky might be a better word, but I tried to relax (ha!) and while I may have run out pretty quickly at the end (oh yeah), I can say I did it and it was quite an amazing experience. You can throw your hat into the ring to be one of the lucky few who actually get to see the dawn rise there at midwinter; there's a lottery to choose.

After that we went to the lovely campus at NUI Maynooth, where we had lectures on Irish history and language, a tour of the campus and a tantalisingly brief visit to the Russel Library and all its many treasures. We had a lovely dinner with the new President and lots of the other faculty that spawned a lot of conversations and connections. The second day we got our introduction to speaking Irish and in the afternoon Irish dancing. Hee, a bunch of academics! We did a lot better with the language than the dancing (well, most of us -- Dominique and Amelia did just fine, and we were getting better by the end). Dinner that night was under the full moon that rose over Trim Castle, the twelfth century Norman fortification (take that, Strongbow!). It was an absolutely gorgeous night.

Sunday we headed back to Dublin for the Ambassador's Remembrance and Peace event. The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, spoke eloquently and there was beautiful music, including a new piece in honour of the day that featured the Irish Orchestra and Uillean pipes that had a soaring beauty, both melancholy and by the end, full of hope. It was that kind of event: NYFD and NYPD first responders were honoured -- some dual citizens, some the children of immigrants. It was a very moving event.

Afterward we all headed back to our separate locations, promising to keep in touch and to practice our dancing ;-) I'm still without internet at home (finally have it on campus, hurrah!) so I may not be online as much as usual. Hopefully it will all be sorted soon (or I may just go crazy).

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Hastily as I have no time (literally, my 20 min voucher ticks away) things to date: no phone, no internet because I didn't have a bank account until today and couldn't deposit my check before tomorrow, so no money in account and no bank statement. Argh -- no internet on campus because the request for my ID didn't go through until today and it takes 24 hrs for the account to be set up. Won't be able to use it because tomorrow at dawn I'm off to Dublin for orientation which has us traipsing around New Grange and then going to a formal lunch (how to dress for that day?). I find the Ambassador's do now says "no refreshments" which makes me want to give him the high hat (what's the point of Ambassadors if they don't give you cake at least?!). So no phone, no internet possible before next week.

Oh and the whole check being delivered to the wrong address because I am Eyre Square Centre and not Eyre Square which is the opposite side of the square and thank goodness for honest folk not tempted by an enormous check >_<

Decisions: do I pay for the phone outright because the good contracts require a 24 mo commitment? If so, is it worth springing for the iPhone? Maybe not. Argh! Decisions!

On the other hand I had lunch with a fantastic colleague, resident medievalist Frances McCormack who was a delight and a kindred soul for sure, so things are bound to improve. And I have finally had a pint, so you can relax all those who were excoriating me ;-)

Monday, September 05, 2011

Hello from Shannon

Free wifi in the airport and an hour's wait for my bus. A fairly short flight so not quite enough sleep and a tickle in my nose that means someone's germs are trying to fight their way in (STAY OUT!). Dawn is breaking. I already had to have my picture taken >_<; because I'll be staying here for a c0nsiderable length of time. Hope I never have to see that picture! Pink eyes and rooster tails in my hair. Maybe I can sleep on the bus. My landlord should be meeting me at the bus station in Galway. I'm seeing tea and a long hot bath in my future :-)

Hee! Guy sitting across from me reading to his kid tells him the "What's brown and sticky?" joke -- one of my favourites :-)

UPDATE: it may be a few days before I get internet at home. I should have wifi access tomorrow on campus (using the postgrad lab today). In the mean time, you can text me on my UK phone although I think I'll be getting an Irish phone (probably an iPhone :-).

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Publications: Blink Ink & Scribing Ibis

Here's the lovely package you get when you order the Noir issue of Blink|Ink. And you will order it, won't you? It's got a lovely story by me and gruesomely hilarious one by Mr B (Paul Brazill) and loads of great photography as well as some terrific stories told in a flash -- and for just two bucks! A gorgeous little bit of mail to receive. I should also mention that the Scribing Ibis collection is now available at Amazon. It reprints my story "Sinikka Journeys North" along with a wealth of myth-inspired fiction.

The hell that is moving is over; big thanks to Robert for the final rescue (and sanctuary :-), thanks to Barb for giving Kipper a great foster home; thanks to Catherine for duty above and beyond, thanks to my pals on Twitter for listening to my panicky or whinging messages (especially @lochee :-), big thanks to Byron for a last burst of energy and to the countless others who helped, stored, or took things I needed to do without >_<

Not quite the foot massage I had in mind...

I had planned to have a bit of a lie in this morning, but this was not allowed.

Yes, multiply this by all the limbs (and stomach: how do you bruise your stomach? Very easily it turns out). Sore all over. The bruises will heal. And less achey already.