Archive for July, 2014


These guys had great brogues "Meeeee"

These guys had great brogues “Meeeee”

Day 1: Dublin

Jake: “Hi, yeah, can we get two pints of Guinness please.”

Me: “And two shots of Black Bush too, please.”

Barman: “In less than two jiffs. From where do ye hale, lads?”

Jake: “Pittsburgh.”

Me: “Langhorne.”

Barman: “Ah yes. Lovely, it is.”

There are things one expects when traveling in Ireland: Guinness, quaint pubs, green, red hair, and the Irish brogue. As we are in a quaint pub drinking Guinness and the barman has on a green vest and shock of red hair, we are fulfilling those expectations. Moreover, his brogue pours out of his mouth like cool bubbles. It causes no distress.

Of all the variants of English, I find Irish to be the most pleasant. Not that it’s got a lot of competition in the world of English accents. Just watch an episode of The Young Ones, any American reality show, or listen to an Australian speak. We are all chewing gravel compared to the Irish. It is a delicious accent.

Part of what makes the Irish accent so appealing is that it so often comes along with a pleasant temperament.In my time in Ireland, I have heard very few words spoken in anger. I know it happens, of course, but in my personal interactions with Irish people they have been extremely warm, open, and friendly. Their brogue seems specially constructed to convey that personality.

Also, it’s addictive.

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The Rules of Irish Navigation

20140714_220616If you are from a normal country and have ever spoken to a person who has driven in Ireland or the UK, then you asked something like this: “Ooh, how was driving on the other side of the road?”

Depending on the temperament or experience of the driver, you might expect a variety of answers. The person answering might exhale shakily and say: I still wake up in a cold sweat screaming ‘stay on your left!’ They might put on a thousand yard stare and ask to be left alone for a while. If they are of a heartier intestinal fortitude or perhaps once maneuvered a tank through a minefield in combat, then they might underplay the deed, You get used to it, or straight up blow it off, Oh, it’s no problem.

Whatever they say, the driver of the car through Ireland is not the real hero. The real man of the hour is the copilot.

Strange? Not really. OK, yes, the pilot has to worry about keeping to the left, driving from the right, shifting with his left, and keeping everyone inside the car, and some people outside the car, alive. But the copilot’s duties are to obey the rules of Irish navigation.

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The Quirks

quirkI am hiding from my mom.

I’m holed up in my brother’s room, which has so much technology that it seems I could launch a thermonuclear war from my parent’s attic. On the coffee table are three remotes that control the behemoth entertainment system in front of me. I hesitantly touch a button and wince at the lights it produces.

A few footsteps betray my mother’s approach near the base of the attic steps. I remain perfectly still and cast my eyes at the ground as though I were being circled by a silver backed gorilla. She moves away. I breathe, go back to my remote controls.


I wish I remembered my brother’s induction seminar. I touch another remote, it makes the lights go away.


I have been home for 16 hours.

I have a quirky family. From my dad to our pets, we are all a little…unique.

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Airport Anxiety

airportLocation: Somewhere in Terminal 2, Heathrow International Airport, London, (AKA: Lucifer’s rectum),

Temporary population: roughly 12,492,593.

Time: 3:17 pm, July 20, 2014.

Goal: Flight BA198 leaves at 4:30 pm. from Gate B32 in Terminal 5.

Dilemma: Gate closes at 4 pm.

There are people everywhere. And though they are in all shapes, colors, and sizes, their two unifying factors are that they stop without warning and they drag along a suitcase on wheels. I sprint ahead to dash between two of them, just barely sneaking through before they crash their shoulders together. Still, I am through, but my troubles are far from over.

I try to read a far off sign as I jog along, but sweat has filled my eyes. I hanky away the sweat and continue my mantra: Terminal 5, B32, Terminal 5, B32, Terminal 5, B32.

Admittedly, this mantra is at times interrupted by Tourette’s-like outbursts of frustration which stretch the limits of my creative lexicon to its grandest degree. Fortunately, most of the people around me are too busy shuffling along and listening to Robin Thicke to notice.

In the distance, I catch a glimpse of the magical phrase: Terminal 5. Yes! Thwarting my advance, however, is something of a conglomeration of obstacles you might see Indiana Jones negotiate…if Indy was trying to catch a transatlantic A330 in Heathrow, that is.

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My Name is Damien and I Love Musicals

I feel prettyMy morning run is a crowded experience today. There are people walking, running, cycling, and rollerblading in order to enjoy the nice weather. I pass dozens of people. If I had to guess the two main facial expressions I am greeted with, they would be terror and confusion.

For today, I am singing. In Mary Magdalene’s Mezzo-Soprano. Loudly. Very loudly.

Folks, if you have eyeballs and exist, you look at Facebook a couple of times a week. And if you look at Facebook, you have surely noticed the Facebook enlightenment. The Facebook enlightenment is this trend of posting enormously inspirational quotes, memes, and status updates. There are too many to list. These often focus on one’s empowerment, worth, drive, dedication, and self-awareness. If you were to judge people’s lives from their Facebook accounts alone, you would think that we live in a society of highly philosophical, successful, and aware people.

But we don’t.

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2014-06-30 20.30.59Krkonoše. Green mountains, streams, quiet valleys, chalets. A perfect place to hike and be. Just be. After spending three days there I realized one thing about myself: I am a damned hypocrite.

I spend all year barking at students about technology in one way or another. I am either shouting at them to stop reading Facebook or Twitter and to pay attention. Or I am groaning about their lack of touch with the real world in lieu of the virtual one.

And yet, in my first three days in one of the most beautiful natural areas of Europe, I spend the entire time on the computer in the chalet’s restaurant. I did look out of the window a lot. I looked out the window and sighed, too. And when the other people ran out to look at the rainbow, I even took a picture through that window.

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The early Bird Gets the Random Vocabulary

antsThis morning as I walk home from the shop, I bump into my favorite neighbor. He is a friendly old man, a retired gynecologist who is always out in the morning walking his dog. Even if he was rude to me he would be my favorite neighbor by default, since he is the only one who speaks to me or acknowledges my existence.

Still, as I approach the man, I review the area around us with extreme caution and suspicion. Nothing. Everything is fine. So far. The man speaks to me in Czech and I work my hardest to keep up the conversation. We talk about the weather and the neighbors and the fact that the summer is moving along in warm fashion.

And then I am attacked by ants.

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To Plan or Not to Plan

2014-07-02 14.15.12I plan everything. I plan the amount of toast I’ll have at breakfast, the schedule of my weekend sitcom viewings, and my month in book genres. I love reviewing schedules, itineraries, and plans. If you hand me a map or a schedule, I am in organizational heaven.

I’m really worst with holidays. I plan them to the minute. I have planned bathroom trips and snack breaks in my holidays. Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine, but I am not married.

This time, however, I thought I’d go different. Tomorrow I leave for Ireland and while I would usually have planned every single stop, every single town, and every single pub, I have elected to not follow this idea. Perhaps this is because I have been there twice before, perhaps not.

In any event, I am filled with terror.

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Stuff I learned on the Internet this Week

from the internetI think you’ll agree that the Internet is a strange place. The internet kind of reminds me of that time I licked a car battery: exciting, shocking, and filled with lots of screaming.

But the Internet is nothing if not a place to learn a hundred thousand random bits of information you never knew, never needed to know, or never knew you needed to know. This week has been especially fruitful in the learning department, and I thought I could share a bit of what I have learned on the Internet in the last week.

Though nowhere near a scientist, I have always loved scientific questions. And there is no better place to indulge your half-assed curiosity than where? Right. The Internet. In the science department, I have learned what happens when you crack an egg underwater. I learned what happens when you fill an anthill with molten aluminum. I learned what happens when you – strictly for the good of science – drive a remote-controlled toy car through a pride of lions or jump into a pool of diet coke wearing a suit made of Mentos.

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