Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fifty Years Ago Donald Hebb Proposed a Rule

The Hebb Rule says that if an initially weak synapse repeatedly fires at the same time that the postsynaptic neuron fires, the synapse will become strengthened. After several firings, the synapse becomes strong enough to fire by itself. LEARNING HAS OCCURRED.

Hebb was unable to determine if this was right or wrong. Can you imagine the suspense?

Learning is happening all over the place right now, in fact. Five chapters left plus twelve cranial nerves (and their functions). My dysfunctional dalliance in biopsychology officially ends tomorrow at 3pm. I can be drunk by 4, removing most residual knowledge with the destruction of a few million brain cells. Hey, math major: with 16 upper division credits, how much tuition is lost from the consumption of one twelve-dollar bottle of rum?

The economics of that plan aren't looking good...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Global Cooling

Did you know, there are places in the world where the winters are commonly harsh? This may seem obvious, but think about it. When we get a bad week or so of very cold temperatures, it's pretty unusual. It only lasts for a few days. We complain for a while, turn up the heat, and except for a higher electric bill, nothing really bad seems to come from it.

As I walked to my French final last night breathing air that, at 4 degrees farenheit, froze whatever mucous could be found in my nose, I thought about people in the places where this kind of weather was normal. There are places where it is not unusual for people to live in apartments with little heat, who do not own clothes that are warm enough. There is a lot of suffering.

People die all the time from the cold, but we never really think about it. The other night, I thought about it.

Our forecast will warm up in a couple of days. We have enough money to pay the electric bill, and there is a large stack of firewood outside to keep the woodstove going. I have a pile of wool yarn that I can make into socks and scarves, but in the mean time we have a closet full of clothes to wear.

I think it's time to be grateful for what we have, and to share what we can. Spread the love, be nice to one another, because life can be tough.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Economics Solves Crimes

I remember hearing about the case of Kitty Genovese, but I didn't know the story behind the story.

I read Freakonomics and found reading about the application of statistical analysis to everyday conundrums more interesting than you might think. For example, have you ever wondered why, if drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers? The answer is, it's not all that different than Amway.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Four hours before dark, this is what lay on my dining room table.

A cape in colors excitedly chosen by a little girl in a fabric store in an enthusiastic bout of 'we've got so much time!' kind of shopping trip one month prior, her mother confident in her ability and time frame to sew a simple cape. Now, H-Day, it sat waiting to be completed as the minutes ticked by.

Four hours before trick or treating commenced.

Four hours to determine whether a child would be disappointed or elated with their halloween costume. Would this child learn to depend on her mother to provide, as promised, or were mommy's promises nothing but hot air?

As it turned out, the Vampiress was happy.

Happy Halloween, All Saint's Day, Marine Corps Birthday, Veteran's Day, My Birthday, and Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Good Morning!

I started my day by bathing my 15-year old long-haired cat's behind that was covered in diarrhea. And then, I trimmed the long hair around his behind.

How was your morning???

Friday, November 06, 2009

Every Other Word Is Capitalized, But I'm Not Screaming

I keep meaning to learn how to knit socks. I think that learning requires a class for me, because I can't learn from a book. I need to be shown.

Earlier this year I was busy with school, then it was summer and who wants to knit with wool in the summer? Now it's fall and I'm busy with school again. What a broken record. Then I found this on the internet, which is a VIDEO that SHOWS you HOW to KNIT socks.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Murphy Forgot To Include This One

The law of When You're In a Hurry says that when one is trying to check something online quickly before rushing out the door in order to be somewhere, that will be the exact moment your computer decides it needs to perform an update and restart itself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Be Patient With Your Cell Phone Signal

It has to go to and then return from space! Maybe give it a minute before you start complaining. Remember the rotary phone? Yeah. How about the guy with two zeroes in his number, how much did you hate calling that person?

Louis CK talks to Conan about the miracle of technology, making some great points.

From me to you. Or actually, from my French class friend, Emily, who sent me the link, to you. Enjoy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It Was Awesome

Giving my child a classical education while she attends public school means we do a lot of work at home. School homework and home homework. Poor girl.

We began with the moon, learning the difference between orbit and rotate. We've moved on to the planets, the study of which will culminate in an artistic rendering of a 2-D model of the solar system.

All of this to say that today we found a really cool website that shows the solar system in motion.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I love Glee. Can't get enough. Singin' and dancin' and the microcosmic hell of the high school social strata, all in one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This Book Will Not Stimulate an Action Potential

I can hear the questions even though the room is silent. Since I haven't mentioned it in the past 30 seconds, am I reading anything at all? Have I given up on novels forever, or just until school relents its endless cycle of reading, writing, and 'rithmatic?

I do occasionally put down the textbook in order to escape the world of dendrites and axons, ecological imperialism, and irregular verbs that end in -re.

I'm reading a new book that combines knitting with murder. I know! Awesome.

It is awesomely bad. A woman who owns an alpaca farm is murdered, and the main character is her friend who discovers the body. When this woman then talks to her (other, alive) friends in the knit shop the next day, they are not rattled or sad. The meet, talk about knitting, and contacting the dead woman's grown daughter, among other topics. This main character is the crack amateur who will solve the murder. It is ridiculous and great because it is easy reading that I don't have to retain and be tested on later. Try Needled to Death and tell me you don't feel the same way.

It's a good escape from learning the difference between ligand-gated channels and voltage-gated channels.

Not that I don't love them both.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gratitude Platitude

You know what's really great?

When you go to empty the bathroom garbage and the bag kind of sticks on the upturned can and then releases suddenly so that half of the garbage spills across the floor so that you have to pick it up with your hands.

Yeah, that is awesome! I love it. It's almost, but not quite, as fun as cleaning up after a geriatric cat with diarrhea, which is almost as fun as cleaning up your kid's vomit or diarrhea. THAT is the worst (especially seeing your child suffer), and so, I am grateful that I only had to deal with the first thing today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Makes Total Sense

This is the kind of thing that will be on my test today.

Did I mention, I'm a social science major, history minor???

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Misery Loves Company. And Sympathy.

Now I know the misery that is Strep Throat. My throat feels like it is stuffed with sandpaper, and every swallow means that sandpaper grinds delicate throat tissue. And it isn't a fine, 220-grit paper. Oh no, we're talking course, 40-grit paper doing its thing ALL DAY LONG.

Do not rest easy, pustules, I've begun taking antibiotics. Your days are numbered.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


I have kept at The Human Stain because, despite the author's insistence on using stream-of-consciousness writing to express his character's inner thoughts at times even though the third person narrative had adequately performed this task. It's a good story and I want to see how it ends.

The main character in the book is a college professor of the classics. That means everything Roman and Greek, including the language. I came across a passage and it shot straight to the highest part of my soul that loves learning while at the same time the part that laments the state of education in this great country of ours.

Before I reveal that, let me tell you what happened in my own town. Our school superintendent was asked by a parent, why raise the bar? In fact, you can read the story, and her response, here.

I thought, why raise the bar, are you NUTS? That is not even a relevant question. The only question we should be asking as parents and as a community is, how do we get every student to the very highest level of academic achievement? Okay, maybe there are more questions, such as, how do we challenge the students who are already at a high level, and how do we raise everyone else to that level, and beyond? What's important is that every single student perform at their absolute best, no exceptions! Seriously. Anything less is PATHETIC. LAZY. UNACCEPTABLE. I'm amazed that a question like that came from a parent. Another question might be, how do we get parents to get off their lazy behinds and demand more from their kids: hard work, accountability, and better manners while we're at it?!?

So, I've got this idealistic vision for education that involves a community of teachers and parents working together to make sure that every student is performing at their very highest. I also know that it's all about as realistic as fairies and elves doing a little dance across my keyboard right now. That's where I am as I read The Human Stain, when all of a sudden, WHAM-O. I read this:

"In my parents' day and well into yours and mine, it used to be the person who fell short. Now it's the discipline. Reading the classics is too difficult, therefore it's the classics that are to blame. Today the student asserts his incapacity as a privilege. I can't learn it, so there is something wrong with it. And there is something especially wrong with the bad teacher who wants to teach it. There are no more criteria...only opinions." -----The Human Stain, Philip Roth

Hot damn and hallelujah, as my grandmother used to say. Eureka, as the forty-niners (and the Greeks but it looked more like Εὕρηκα) used to say. That's very true, don't you think? I'm not trying to take you down the primrose path where everything was better back in the old days. But there is something to that paragraph. Things have changed to where the pressure is off of the student to work hard and instead, easily accept defeat when faced with challenging material.

That's not to say that teaching methods and materials haven't experienced a declined or serious defects. The great progressive educational experiment, among others, has done more than its fair share of damage to American children since the early 20th century. Eschewing phonics for whole-word methods of teaching reading, for example, left perfectly capable and bright schoolchildren in the darkness of incomprehension. What I think is telling here is that the student used to be accountable, and now, they are not. To whom does this failure point? We are talking about children here. Children who learn very well what they are shown. Parents! The answer is, parents, and they should know better.

Some parents (like whoever asked that question) don't want to be bothered with their child's education. Some might say, that's what teachers are for. If that's your argument then you must also believe that all learning is confined to the classroom. Then, taking that further, homework shouldn't matter. That MUST be why a percentage of children don't do their homework on a regular basis, and why the parents do not help with homework nor discipline their kids to do it, or even talk about the importance of it in the home. Declining grades, test scores, and now Iran has the nuclear bomb! (Maybe. But most likely.) Who can say that it is no wonder that America is in decline when it comes to education when we dumb down material and test out ridiculous theories at the expense of real children who do not appreciate being treated as test subject guinea pigs.

And then there is the social aspect which lets people off with their feelings, not to mention parents who would rather be friends with their kids than do any actual parenting. It makes me want to insert hot pokers into sensitive areas in order to wake those people up. Hello! Did you not realize it was going to be hard to be a parent? Sorry to tell you, but it is. Too bad, now deal with it.

I know a mom who spends hours each night helping her child do homework. She goes above and beyond because she cares. Sure, she could watch tv instead, or do ANYTHING else, because who wants to spend so much time on homework? But she cares, and I respect the hell out of her for it. There are many parents who care and who foster a sense of responsibility in their children when it comes to school and instill values. I'm talking about those who don't, and they suck.

They suck because it teaches kids a lesson in the worst way, that school doesn't matter. It teaches kids that they don't have to listen to authority - their teachers - and that sets a bad example for the future. And heck, it sets up a pretty bad scenario for themselves, if they think their kid is going to grow up and not realize they don't have to listen to them, either. After all, kids learn what they have been taught. To look at it a different way, it's not even realistic, because homework is supposed to reinforce what was learned during the day. The higher the number of times the brain is exposed to something, the more likely it will be to recall the information at a later time.

Of course not every teacher is fantastic, but they are also not magicians. They need our help to instill the lessons taught at school. Our kids need us to be strong and teach them valuable lessons that will endure throughout their life: hard work and accountability will always serve them better than laziness at a difficult subject.

So, buck up! Do the right thing. Encourage your kids to work harder, dammit. Don't accept anything less. Be the example you wish to see, and all of that.

Focal shuas. (Word up, in Irish.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I am having a hard time getting through The Human Stain for one glaring reason: verbosity.

Stream-of-consciousness paragraph (after paragraph after paragraph) bore readers. Enough! There is something to be said for great ideas in brief. To wit: E.B. White, Wallace Stegner, Ann Packer.

The story is a good one. Philip Roth is a prize-winning author of fiction, and this book had potential but for lack of good editing. Or, maybe I just don't get it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sometimes the Internet is Not Your Friend

Got an email this morning which I thought read "training pants" before I realized it said "training plans", and referred to something about exercise and not geriatric underwear inserts.

Criminey, I know I'm not 20 anymore, but I didn't think I was ready for THAT kind of sales promotion!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Budgetary Whoas

There's nothing like working harder for less money and absolutely no glamour or thanks. Our income recently took a hit, with the bread-winning spouse working endless hours to find jobs and then do the jobs, take care of the administrative duties, look at the profit margin....wait, where's the profit margin?

Anyway. Times are tough all over. We're grateful to have a paycheck.

And now it is midway through the month and the grocery budget is down to $18.

Last night's dinner was economical: chili. I had all of the ingredients on hand. Pasture-fed beef from in-laws (bragging), dried beans, the last jar of tomatoes I canned two (or was it three?) years ago, dried oregano from the back yard, and spices from Morton's and Lawry's. To make a little bit bigger batch, I peeled and diced the oversized pieces of zucchini that will only taste good if pureed and baked into bread or cooked into a pot of something else, like chili. OC made the cornbread. AMAZING cornbread! I love having a child who can cook.

It's a good thing there were leftovers. It's not like we're going to starve or anything, I just like leftovers.

It's in the 80's this week and sunny, so I'm still hanging clothes out to dry on my 1945 Sears and Roebuck laundry line. Saving electricity and great-smelling clothes, can it be true? Look out, Donna Reed.

And yes, I meant to spell the word in the title that way. It's a pun!

This is also Donna Reed:

Donna Reed's image as the perfect housewife (nor as hot swimsuit chick) is in no danger of being overtaken by the likes of me. I think we are both fine with that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Summer Lovin', Had Me a Blast

I am deep into fiction reading. In the last month, I've read Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety, Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years, and John Synge's The Aran Islands to name a few. I have a couple of other titles from the library waiting on my coffee table.

Some friends of mine follow the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series.

Summer reading is almost over. Rats.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Apologia....Nay, Excuse

A strange phenomenon occurred as I wrote the last entry. All of the words in the English language were used up and unavailable, except for the trite and ridiculous sentences that I was able to type.

This doesn't happen to many people. Apologies for the incredibly boring reading. I think the cuteness of the pictures rather makes up for what the words lacked.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Favorite American Pasttime

These are a few of the players from team Glory.

I happen to know that the second base player enjoys a good Beverly Cleary novel, glass of raspberry lemonade, and has a love for Polly Pockets.

These pictures are from spring.

I eat vegetables in season, yet post photos willy-nilly. Wacky!

It was fun to watch them play.

The girls played hard, and learned a lot.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

For the Love of Tomatoes and Cornbread

I made chili last night, and it tasted amazing. This wasn't because I'm a great cook. It had to do with the ingredients.

The central ingredient was heirloom tomatoes, mostly flammes. Heirloom varieties are those that used to be regular old tomatoes, pollinated by the flying bugs that facilitate plant sex. Nothing special. They were bred for their taste, and kept going in all the family farms and backyard gardens that used to proliferate across this nation. Of late, they have become hard to find. Thanks to organizations such as Seed Savers Exchange, there is hope that they will not go extinct.

I took home these beautiful tomatoes and blanched them to remove the skins, then smushed them in a pot and added herbs, salt and pepper. The entire preparation process took four minutes. Clearly this is the route for me: tasty food AND easy.

I added the kidney beans I had soaked overnight and simmered on the stove for about two hours.

(Again, this was easy. The night before, I threw the dried beans in a bowl along with lots of water, and promptly forgot about them. When I was two hours away from needing them, I put them on the stove and did other things until it was time to make the chili. I am not about spending my life in the kitchen, just long enough to make piquant food.)

I chopped up a green pepper and added it to the pot. The result of these few, easy ingredients? THE MOST AMAZING TOMATO-Y FLAVOR: ripe, sweet, bursting, intense.

In recent decades, there has been a steady decline of American small farms in favor of large agribusiness. The result has been a sharp reduction of available produce that tastes good, and a proliferation of red tomatoes that taste more like cardboard than the red, juicy fruit they were intended to be.

It's interesting to look at the change in American food habits by looking at American society. Who buys the cheap produce? We all do, but especially people who live in inner cities, whose only access to groceries are convenience stores. In those cases, what is available are packaged, processed, loaded with synthesized additives, and not a whole lot of fresh veggies, even of the cardboard kind. We've come to expect asparagus in September (it's an early spring veggie) and oranges all the time (even though they're best in January through about March). Do we have to have it this way? Is there a better way? What about cost?

Good questions.

I especially wonder, does it cost more to buy organic vegetables? What about the cost of transportation, fuel, and the pollution created by hauling food long distances, to say nothing of the lack of taste? About 85 cents of every food dollar goes to the processors, marketers, and transporters of food. The rest, three whole nickels, go to the farmer.*

Taste is what compels me to make the effort to shop at the farmer's market and the small produce store. I am not under any illusions that my actions will save the world, nor do I care about politically correct rhetoric. I care that my money go to support farmers, especially those that live around me, rather than a corporation whose only concern is profit. Efficiencies have their place, just not in the business of, for instance, cramming so many chickens into a cage so that they can't spread their wings. It's unnatural.

I don't see why good old-fashioned, chemical-free, tasty vegetables and meat need be exclusive of affordability.


"The drift away from our agricultural roots is a natural consequence of migration from the land to the factory, which is as old as the Industrial Revolution. But we got ourselves uprooted entirely by a drastic reconfiguration of U.S. farming, beginning just after WWII. Our munitions plants, challenged to beat their swords into ploughshares, retooled to make ammonium nitrate surpluses into chemical fertilizers instead of explosives. The next explosions were yields on midwestern corn and soybean fields. It seemed like a good thing, but some officials saw these new surpluses as reason to dismantle New Deal policies that had helped farmers weather the economic uncertainties notorious to their vocation. Over the next decade, nudged by industry, the government rewrote the rules on commodity subsidies so these funds did not safeguard farmers, but instead guaranteed a supply of cheap corn and soybeans.

These two crops, formerly food for people and animals, became something entirely new: a standardized raw material for a new extractive industry...this new industry made piles of corn and soybeans into high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and thousands of other starch- or oil-based chemicals. Cattle and chickens were brought off the pasture into intensely crowded and mechanized CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) where corn &ndash which is no part of a cow's natural diet, by the way &ndash could be turned cheaply and quickly into animal flesh. All these different products, in turn, rolled on down the new industrial food pipeline to be processed into the soft drinks, burgers, and other cheap foods on which our nation now largely runs &ndash or sits on its bottom, as the case may be.

This is how 70 percent of all our midwestern agricultural land shifted gradually into single-crop corn or soybean farms, each one of them now, on average, the size of Manhattan. Owing to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetic modification, and a conversion of farming from a naturally based to a highly mechanized production system, U.S. farmers now produce 3,900 calories per U.S. citizen, per day. That is twice what we need, and 700 calories a day more than they grew in 1980. Commodity farmers can only survive by producing their maximum yields, and they do. And here is the shocking plot twist: as the farmers produced those extra calories, the food industry figured out how to get them into the bodies of people who didn't really want to eat 700 calories more calories a day...

Most of those calories enter our mouths in forms hardly recognizable as corn and soybeans, or even vegetable in origin: high-fructose corn syrup owns up to its parentage, but lecithin, citric acid, maltodextrin, sorbitol, and xanthan gum, for example, are also manufactured from corn...

Obesity is generally viewed as a failure of personal resolve, with no acknowledgment of the genuine conspiracy in this historical scheme. People actually did sit in strategy meetings discussing ways to get all those surplus calories into people who neither needed nor wished to consume them. Children have been targeted especially; food companies spend over $10 billion a year selling food brands to kids, and it isn't broccoli they're pushing. Overweight children are a demographic in many ways similar to minors addicted to cigarettes, with one notable exception: their parents are usually their suppliers. We all subsidize the cheap calories with our tax dollars, the strategists make the fortunes, and the overweight consumers get blamed for the violation. The perfect crime."

----- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

As for the cost, I cannot say it better than Steven L. Hopp already did:

"Most consumers don't know how much we're already paying for the conventional foods, before we even get to the supermarket. Our tax dollars subsidize the petroleum used in growing, processing, and shipping these products. We also pay direct subsidies to the large-scale, chemical-dependent brand of farming. And we're being forced to pay more each year for the environmental and health costs of that method of food production.

Here's an exercise: add up the portion of agricultural fuel use that is paid for with our taxes ($22 billion), direct Farm Bill subsidies for corn and wheat ($3 billion), treatment of food-related illnesses ($10 billion), agricultural chemical cleanup costs ($17 billion), collateral costs of pesticide use ($8 billion), and costs of nutrients lost to erosion ($20 billion). At minimum, that's a national subsidy of at least $80 billion, about $725 per household each year. That plus the sticker prices buys our "inexpensive" conventional food.

Organic practices build rather than deplete the soil...eliminate pesticides and herbicides...maintain and apply knowledge of many different crops...Smaller farms also bear relatively higher costs for packaging, marketing, and distribution. But the main difference is that organic growers aren't forcing us to pay expenses they've shifted into other domains, such as environmental and health damage."

----- Steven L. Hopp, Ibid. 117.

Even if these numbers are higher, or lower, the fact remains that there is a lot of subsidizing going to energy use rather than good food production. In my opinion, it seems like a huge waste of resources.

What is it that makes us believe that the only way to run a business is with the goal of getting rich? What is wrong with running a business with the goal of producing a fantastic product, with the idea of maintaining that production for the long term, the results of which would keep people employed and well-fed and do not make them overweight and ill?

I see the choice to be made, and it is easy. The proof is in the chili.

* paraphrased from Barbara Kingsolver, Ibid. 13.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


"The language of friendship is not words but meanings."

----- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I've Got Your Global Warming Right Here

Our house does not contain an air conditioning unit. The good news is, we normally don't miss it. We use fans at night, and along with a system of opening windows at night and closing them during the day, usually stay quite comfortable. There are times when the daily temperature rises above 90 degrees farenheit and the evening air cools to a mere 60 degrees or so. Those nights are few, but when they happen the fans are a pathetic substitute to human-engineered cooling system. That is my inconvenient truth.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prize-Winning Chickens

At this year's county fair, my daughter entered two chickens.

Meet Tutankhamen the rooster. He's barely a teenager at five months old, with raging hormones and a bit of a know-it-all attitude.

A good rooster protects the hens, but also shares with them. Tut is rather selfish. He grabs the largest piece of food and runs with it, squawking all the way as if to say, "Neener neener!" or some chicken equivalent. I am not thrilled with his early-morning crowing. Perhaps he will become the largest piece of food on our table one day. I will dig in with relish, if that becomes the case.

This is Boadicea the hen. She's the biggest of our Rhode Island Reds, and is very sweet. Let's just say, her cage didn't need a warning sign. Uhhhh, ignore that enormous, beautiful, dark chicken behind Boadicea. That one isn't ours. But from the looks of him, he won a blue ribbon, too.

OC won two blue ribbons with these two crazy chickens. Good job, keepsie!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Elementary, and More Than a Little Messy

Nonetheless, I made this. It's kind of bulky at the top, but I still like it. I hope that with practice I can get the wire to be less....."bohemian".

Friday, July 31, 2009

53°16'N 09°03' W

Using the slogan the real mccoys is big here. It works for chips as well as car rentals.

Hot chocolate served with pink marshmallows makes Erica very happy.

I'll miss you, Galway city.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Excuse Me, Your Fleadh is Showing

The film fleadh was here!

Fleadh is the Irish word for festival, prounced fest uh vul.

Oh, you already know English? Pardonnez moi.

Pronounce it flahd.

Hey, yankee, take it easy on the "d". It's not an adjective meaning characterized by flaws or having imperfections, it's Irish.

Don't worry. I pronounced it "fleed" in front of the program director and he was all *shiver* before he corrected me. It was one of those "ignorant American" moments that are bound to befall the traveler one day. Just roll with it. No one will hold it against you.

Did you notice Anjelica Huston on the official fleadh poster?

Okay then, how about now?

She was here, in Galway, for an interview before a screening of "The Dead", the short story by James Joyce. And yes, the magazine photo spread was tacked up wonky, that's why poor Anjelica looks like that. Trust me, she is not missing a large chunk out of the right side of her head at all.

For the benefit of my husband who, when I told him I was going to see a live interview with Anjelica Huston, asked, "Who's Anjelica Huston?"

The fact that one day I will depend on this man to wipe the drool from my chin is what keeps me from making (too much) fun of his ignorance of the entertainment world.

Cribbed from the internets:
"The actress spent much of her childhood in County Galway where her father, filmmaker John Huston had a home in Craughwell. She also attended Kylemore Abbey girls' schools in the '60s.

Fleadh spokesman Felim MacDermott said: "It is very fitting that Angelica is our guest of honour in our 21st year, as in our very first Fleadh, in 1989, she featured with her father John in a documentary about the local Galway Blazers hunt.

"Angelica will also introduce some of her films, such as James Joyce's 'The Dead', which was directed by her father, during a mini-retrospective of her work at the Fleadh."

Huston, aged 58, will also take part in a public interview in the Town Hall Theatre on July 12 where audience members can ask her questions. I was there! I was there!

Huston received the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Maerose Prizzi in the black comedy 'Prizzi's Honor' in which she starred opposite Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner. In 2005, she received a Golden Globe Award for her role in 'Iron Jawed Angels', which co-starred Hilary Swank .

Huston currently serves on the board of directors at NUI Galway's John Huston School of Film and Digital Media. She is also a campaigner for animal rights group, PETA, and the US Campaign for Burma.

Previous guests of honour at the Film Fleadh, which is funded by the Arts Council, have included Peter O'Toole, Jeremy Irons and Donal McCann."

My view from the balcony was not that great because it was up high and my camera is not capable of that kind of zoomage.

But still....the woman who played Morticia Addams...

...and Maerose Prizzi was in the same room at the SAME TIME as myself.

Remember when you gave that interview in Galway and you were being asked questions and then answering them, and there was an audience and a woman in the balcony with an old camera that couldn't zoom very close and she had a blog and decided to post the picture anyway because it made her feel good to tell people she was like in the same building with Anjelica Huston?

That was awesome.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Trad Music 7 Nights

Galway city is full of pubs. Here are just a few.

"Taaffes is one of Galway City’s best known bars. Located right in the Heart of the City on Shop Street, Taaffes has been operating as a pub for over 150 years."

"The building itself has been here for much longer dating back at least 400 years. Architectural evidence on its upper floors and rear smoking area make it as old as the nearby Kings Head."

"Taaffes is also well known as a GAA pub and you will see pictures of the victorious 1998 Galway Football team among the photos that line the walls. Today Taaffes is run by the Lally family who have strong connections with both the GAA and Traditional Irish music in Galway."


"The Pub itself is divided into four distinct rooms but they each have an emphasis on comfort with comfortable leather seats and a large wood burning stove in one of the rooms.

The Cottage Bar is part of a new wave of pubs offering an extensive drinks menu with beers, wines and ciders from around the World. There is also a large emphasis on food here with a brilliantly exotic salad and tapas menu served throughout the day."

Heard a storyteller here. AWESOME. Stories are not just for kids.


"Roisin Dubh is a Gaelic term meaning Black Rose in English. It was the symbol of Ancient Druids from the area and also a famous political song in Irish History. Pronounced Row sheen Dove, the list of people to have played in this intimate venue is astounding. Greats such as Ray Manzarek, John Paul Jones and Steve Earle have all played here as well as Irish legends such as Christy Moore, The Frames, The Saw Doctors and Andy Irvine."

Not to mention Go Panda Go. You heard it here first.


"Live music is played here seven nights a week. Monroe's has a solid reputation as a home for traditional Irish music. Every Tuesday night they have Traditional Irish set dancing which you can join in on if you are confident enough."

Also, fantastic pizza. Have a Smithwick's with a Guinness head.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I couldn't help but think about being in Ireland before, with my family. That was fun.

OC was five and quite the fantastic traveling companion.

How cute is she??? I can hardly stand it.

"Would mummy fancy a pint o' Guinness?"

When I get home, those cheeks are going to be kissed and squeezed LIKE YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

From Campus

The National University of Ireland, Galway was established in 1845 as Queen's College. It bills itself as "one of Ireland's foremost centres of academic excellence. With over 15,000 students, it has a long established reputation of teaching and research excellence in each of its seven faculties - Arts, Science, Commerce, Engineering, Celtic Studies, Medicine & Health Sciences, and Law."

If you attended college and NUI Galway, you would inevitably come across the old quad, and be duly impressed by the high, grey stone walls. The Gothic tone of architecture (I think?) creates a medieval air.

Then you would look up, and be blown away by the grandeur that so often characterized Gothic (I think) architecture.

It feels like this building has always been here.

What does it looks like inside? Let's walk through the gate.

All four sides are surrounded by rows of windows. There is perfectly manicured green grass with sidewalks to take you any which way. You can see the scale by noticing the door. The walls are quite tall.

The quad may be seen in full, although not in detail, from this aerial view of campus taken in 2004. It's in the lower left corner.

The unnaturally blue water is the River Corrib, where many rowing crews practice nearly every day. They're fantastic to watch in action.

If you majored in business and economics, you might have a class held in this room.

The building is called the Friary, because it was an old church, or I don't know what. It is far from the old part of campus, so it would seem that as the college grew larger, it incorporated the church and turned it into a campus building. There are stained-glass windows, as you can see. The room is quite high-tech, although you are sitting in a room which must be more than 200 years old. It's the same in the Friary computer lab, where I am now.

I think it's highly interesting to see for one's self where ancient meets modern. It does so all over this island in dramatic fashion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity. I am so grateful for the ability to be here, and for the support and sacrifice on the part of friends and family.

The prospect of leaving home for five weeks was very difficult. Not just leaving home, but a husband and daughter. This is a corporeal severing that worsens with time.

Also, I miss my old kitties. Silly, I know, with as much complaining about them as I have done.

Living with other people is not the easiest in the best of times, but when they leave piles of hair in the shower drain and dirty dishes in the sink, the tension it creates is frustrating to say the least. This is not the place I want to deal with problems and have an altercation.

My classes have required viewing some films which are not the lightest of subjects. In "The Wind that Shakes the Barley", a film I have seen before, a boy is beaten and killed for not speaking his name in English, a man's fingernails are pulled out for not revealing the names of others in the Irish resistance to the Black and Tans. There are executions, of a young Irish boy be fellow Irishmen, and of a landlord. It is wrenching, but also an important film that portrays the complicated split within Irish society when it came to accepting the Treaty of 1921. It's well-written and well-acted, and it does a fantastic job of contrasting the difficulties and the struggles of the time.

The next week was lighter fare, with "Into the West", about two boys leaving the slums of Dublin for the west, where there mother is buried and their father doesn't want to face his past. It's moving, and wonderfully not violent.

Then there was last week. "Hunger" is an award-winning film portraying the imprisonment and hunger strike of Bobby Sands, the young Belfast man who died after 66 days of hunger strike in prison in Northern Ireland. His objective was to be given political status, which he was not given. Instead, he was labeled a criminal. Again, an important but nonetheless wrenching topic. The film is vivid in its portrayal of the beatings, filth, and brutality of life in prison. It goes on to show Bobby's body breaking down from the strike. It was at this point that I physically could not watch anymore. I saw the actor's face, and I saw my brother in the hospital, suffering from leukemia. No one questioned why I was crying, sitting there silently looking down. The film would make anyone cry. You should see it. But it's hard to watch.

And then there was Yahoo. Every time I logged into my email, I first had to face several pieces of bad news. A toddler died while locked in an overheated car; a puppy barely survived torture and being set on fire by cruel kids, and the story goes on that this follows a kitten being tortured in previous weeks.

It easily got to be overwhelming.

"One's suffering disappears when one lets oneself go, when one yields - even to sadness." ----- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Southern Mail, 1929. (Translated from French by Curtis Cate.)

I yielded to sadness, and felt better after.

This week is better. The puppy lived, now receiving care and doting. I think the kitten lived, too. I choose to believe that it did, anyway. The weather has cooled, so hopefully negligent parents will escape accidental murder for the time being.

The history of Ireland is violent and harsh, but so is much of history. It's also a beautiful place, and there are so many encounters with friendly people that have gone a long way to soothe an abraded soul.

There was the nice man in Ballina who told me about his family, about fishing, and how he had spent 40 years living in Spain and helping tourists. We spent a few pleasant minutes chatting beside the river Moy during a bit of a shower. There are the students here who I am slowly getting to know, but have been very nice and keep asking me to go places with them, even though I often turn them down. (I need more sleep than they do, and more time to study and write.) There is this lively city full of art, films, and performances to attend. Creativity abounds. The professors with the program are fantastic, and interested in their students lives outside of class.

For these, I am grateful. But there is another facet to this story.

I would like you to meet Irish Kitty:

She/he is enjoying her/his perch on the roof of her/his house, which is located on campus, strangely. I met Irish Kitty when she/he came to be pet as I was walking by. (For the sake of argument, let's call her a "her".) I gladly acquiesced because, kitty-love! I also met her people, who told me Irish Kitty is crazy. I think Irish Kitty is not crazy, but is merely misunderstood. Anyway, she likes me to pet her and that's good enough for me. Me and Irish Kitty, we are tight.

I would be ecstatic if the shower was clean and the dishes were done, but as the saying goes: you can't have everything. I have a cat to pet. Good 'nough.