Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hooked on Crack

As you may have surmised from the title of this post, I've started going to a chiropractor recently: Dr. Shawn "The Spine Man" Stephenson of Stephenson Chiropractic in Los Altos. I've only had a few visits so far, but I'm already more than happy to give him a glowing recommendation, if any of you in the area are looking for a good chiropractor. I particularly like that he is very focused on patient education, really making sure that everything is explained and understood, which is great because I always ask a bunch of questions anyway. He's also just a generally wonderful, nice, funny guy. And everyone else I've seen in his office so far seems absolutely delighted to be there having him work on them, including the lady who was getting put back into shape after a car accident. Plus Mom's been seeing him for several months now as well, and she raves about him too. So what more do you need? :-)

As for what I'm doing there, I had considered going in to see him a few weeks ago, when my back was stiff and sore from hiking around Ireland and taking long plane flights. But I got busy and distracted, and then got back to feeling normal on my own before I actually got around to doing anything about it. Then last week I had a very bizarre experience, where I was woken up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night by a surprisingly sharp pain in my back. Completely random as far as I can tell, unless I was lifting heavy objects in my dream or something. It gradually faded over the next few days, but not before it had worried me enough to want to get checked out. So I did, and I got some x-rays and had Dr. Shawn poke around at my spine for a bit.

Turns out I'm in a situation fairly common among people who have spent a great deal of their lives reading, drawing, hunching over keyboards, and things like that. (Dancing is probably my one hobby that tries to counteract all this bad posture, but it's outnumbered, I'm afraid.) As a result of this, an x-ray shows that my neck has lost about 58% of the curve it's supposed to have, putting my head about an inch too far forward, which adds an extra 20 lbs of pressure to the muscles in my back and shoulders. The particular pain that brought me in was probably just caused by something very small that just happened to come at the wrong time, on top of my back's general out-of-shape-ness, and bumping it into a painful state for a bit. So while it did let me off easy this time, eventually fading on its own, its main function was as a warning flag. After a couple visits with Dr. Shawn, I decided it was probably a good idea to heed that flag and get this taken care of.

So I'm going in a few times a week now, to enjoy a few minutes of manhandling, spine crunching and getting coaxed into shape. It's very satisfying to have that done by someone who's so good at it. I'm also trying to break my habit of cracking my own back and neck, so I don't mess with any of the work he's doing. Apparently back cracking releases endorphins and such, which your body likes, so I guess it's as much a substance addiction as a plain old habit. But Dr. Shawn is going to be my main supplier of those chemicals now, so I'm practicing resisting the urges.

It'll probably take a while to notice any significant changes, but there are interesting things to observe even at this stage. After the last couple adjustments, I've actually noticed myself breathing a little differently. I don't normally have any trouble breathing, but my breath just felt a little clearer and more open for a little while. I'm also being much more conscious of my posture and precisely how unergonomic I am a lot of the time. As a musician and a computer person, I've spent a lot of time making sure things are ergonomic for my hands, and a lot less time thinking about my neck and back. So there's something to start focusing on more now.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Last Few Steps

Night and Day First impressions are all well and good, but it's the ending, I think, that can really make or break a dance. Or make it, anyway. If three or four minutes of my life have a so-so ending, it's no big deal. But if we manage a perfect wrap-up, that's something I'll be taking home with me.

As for what makes a good ending, I'll say that the flashy stuff is fine, and indeed required sometimes if we assume you're going to actually be musical about your dancing (and I do assume). But I'm not so good at flashy. My favorites tend to be the gentler, more romantic endings. It can be something very simple, like the ritard at the end of Congress of Vienna, which fits beautifully with three pivots and a slight tango close. If you have a good connection with your partner, then this is where you can really savor it for a few finals seconds before it's all over. The picture here is a beautiful example, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to "Night and Day" in The Gay Divorcee. The dance ends with a small dip, two pivots, and then setting her gently down on the couch or whatever that is there, leaving her speechless. That's one of my favorite bits in all their dances. (Though I could do without Fred dusting his hands off afterwards and offering her a cigarette. Spoils the moment a bit.) Another nice one is "Cheek to Cheek," from Top Hat, where they both spin gently down to lean against the wall, gazing into each other's eyes.

And then, of course, it's also fun to just do something random and different once in a while. I was dancing with Lilli Ann, the DJ, at the last Friday Night Waltz, and I knew she had to be back at her computer as soon as the song ended, to queue up the next one. I managed to time the ending just right to deposit her hand on her keyboard with the last note. I was rather amused with myself for that. And at one of the swing dances in Dublin, I interrupted a conversation with Danielle to dance with her. For the ending I managed to steer us right back into a couple of the chairs that lined the dance floor, so we could pick up talking where we left off. A little awkward since the chairs were slightly high (more like barstools), but it more or less worked.

Now, two questions for any of you dancers out there who want to comment: (1) What are your favorite dance endings? and (2) What's the best thing to do when you're stuck in a song that ends with a fade-out?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another Plug for eMusic

So here's another "pro" for the list on my initial post about eMusic. I got an email from them today (yes, I signed up for it) that mentioned they're giving away for free two CDs worth of the 2007 Independent Music Awards Winners. I think you probably still have to be a subscribed member to get these free, but still, that's nearly 3 hours of music there. It's a nice variety of stuff, so it ranges from more to less within my usual tastes and was a fun sampler to listen to. Props to eMusic for that.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

What Should I Eat?

The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, was recommended to me by Antonia and made a good followup to The Omnivore's Dilemma. Some of the information in it is similar, but it also spends more time talking about things like free trade and economic considerations, and also explicitly addressing various ethical arguments about what we eat. So it did some serious work on the internal debate slowly going on in my head about whether I should become vegetarian or vegan.

First, here's my current situation: I eat beef and pork pretty infrequently, and fish only slightly more. The majority of the meat I eat is poultry, and I think even that is in reasonably modest amounts. A good portion of my meals are vegetarian already, thanks to the fine chefs at work providing veggie options. So why am I not vegetarian or vegan yet? I'll list my main reasons, and then further thoughts on them from reading Singer and Mason's book.

Human beings are omnivores. Why should I go against Nature?
This kind of a view may be somewhat supported by Michael Pollan's argument about domestic animals co-evolving into a symbiotic relationship with people. However, factory farms and such things go pretty violently against Nature, supposed symbiotic relationships or not, and it can be a lot of work to find and verify more humane sources of meat and animal products. And of course, just because we are something "naturally" doesn't mean it necessarily shouldn't be transcended. E.g. it would be right for a "naturally" belligerent person to learn to control his temper. So while I still do not feel that eating meat is outright wrong, in and of itself, there are so many other wrong factors involved in most meat eating today that I'm willing to let this go of this particular argument. It's just a lazy reliance on the status quo anyway.

Effort vs. Benefit
Vegetarian might be reasonably do-able, but going entirely vegan has always seemed like a great deal of work for me. Food is nice and all, but I've never really been interested in devoting much time or energy to it. That's why I've never learned to cook much and base a lot of my food choices on the "quick and easy" criteria. Being vegan seems like I would have to start allocating way more brain cycles, time, and effort into figuring what I can eat in any given situation, and I'm not crazy about that. It makes me wonder if the incremental benefit of cutting out animal products from one single person's diet is worth it, especially if I'm not a heavy meat eater anyway.

I'm still on the fence about this. However, there are a few points from The Way We Eat that can put the benefit into perspective. I will call them the three E's, just because I can.
  • Efficiency: It takes 21 lbs of plant food to produce 1 lb of beef. The ratio is less dramatic for other meats, but the fact remains that we can feed more people far more efficiently if we use more plants and less meats.
  • Environment: Due to all the factors involved in meat production, switching from an average American meat eating diet to completely vegan saves the atmosphere from 1.5 tons of CO2 a year. That's half again as much as the benefit of switching from a regular to a hybrid car.
  • Evangelism: The more vegetarians and vegans that omnivores see out there "in real life," the more normal it will seem, and the more the ideas and practices will spread. So there would be some amount of a snowball effect, beyond simply my own personal decision (though unfortunately we don't have a good number to measure that).
Practicality and Social Factors
This is perhaps just a more specific example of the "Effort" point above, and can probably be addressed by the same benefit arguments, but I'll list it anyway. If I'm visiting an omnivore who is kind enough to host and feed me, I don't want to put them to extra work just to accommodate me. If I travel somewhere, I want to try the foods the natives eat. For that matter, I want to be adaptable, and not thrown off by places that may not have a lot of vegetarian options. Now that I think about it, maybe there's actually some primal survival instinct at work here, making me reluctant to artificially restrict my possible food sources.

Food I Like
I'd like to say my will power makes this a non-issue, but really, there's stuff I'd be sad to stop eating. I'm thinking fondly right now of some salmon I had on Friday, but I could probably deal with cutting out meat, I think. (And yes, fish are animals.) Cheese might be more problematic. I wouldn't much miss milk and eggs in and of themselves, but they do go into certain wonderful things that would be painful to give up, and here my sweet tooth begins clamoring about ice cream and cookies, though other things could fall in this category, too. Unfortunately, I didn't get much out of the book to address this issue, aside from the fact that there are more and more vegetarian/vegan animal product alternatives available now than ever before. Having tried some such things, I don't necessarily find them all convincing, though admittedly I don't have a wide experience. Though do they really need to be "convincing" substitutes, or just good in their own right? As an example, I got to help make vegan ginger apple ice cream with Antonia this afternoon. To me, it still seems significantly different from "real" ice cream. It was, however, very good. (Thanks, Antonia!)

None at this time. However, I am going to start experimenting a bit, first by paying more attention to how many things I regularly eat that contain animal products, and second by seeing how many of them can be eliminated without too much effort. (I'm thinking all meat here, at the very least.) At that point, I'll need to take another look around and see what kinds of things are left, how much of them I'm consuming, and what my alternatives are. We'll see where this takes me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Trying Out eMusic

Very belatedly taking a tip from Case, I went to check out yesterday. Initial impressions:

  • No DRM.
  • Good prices (about 30-60¢ per track, depending on your plan).
  • "Booster packs" to supplement your regular subscription.
  • Pretty easy, smooth download process, once you've installed the Download Manager.
  • 25 free songs for your trial period.
  • I had trouble at first figuring out how to browse their selection without signing up. (If you get the giant promo page, click through to the about page in the footer, and browse from there.)
  • You have to subscribe to a monthly plan, which doesn't carry over after the month is up.
  • The site wouldn't let me find any info on the booster packs until I'd already signed up for a paid account.
  • You can't search their help site. Sheesh, people, come on.
So I got my free trial, and then went ahead and took their cheapest subscription as well (30 tracks/month for $9.99). That let me get all three disks worth of Tom Waits' Orphans set. I'm still browsing around to determine what sort of a selection they have to go with my tastes, but I'll probably give it a try for a while, at least until we see what sort of a digital music store Amazon comes out with.

The forced-subscription thing is my biggest peeve about this, especially when things don't carry over. I'd be more than happy to just live off their booster packs (units of 10-30 tracks at a time), as long as I could get them when I wanted and use them when I wanted. It's a pity you can't just get those without a subscription. On the other hand, if I have trouble finding new stuff that I want each month, I figure I can always use my monthly quota to legitimize those parts of my music collection that may have come from *ahem* other sources. And that would probably be a good thing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Else

The Else album cover They Might Be Giants released their new album The Else today, iTunes only, 2 months before the CD comes out. (Though the CD is actually going to be 2 CDs, apparently.) I'd just as soon have had them selling DRM-free mp3s on, but I bought it off iTunes anyway. It's a good album, though like most of their recent albums, I have a hard time getting fully behind it because it divides so sharply down the Flansburgh | Linnell line. Their earlier stuff was more homogeneous, I think, and it was easy to like entire albums. Nowadays, I usually feel like more of a Linnell fan than a TMBG fan. (E.g. when the heck is he going to write more State Songs?)

That said, I will give Flansburgh credit for With the Dark. I really like how the several parts are so different and yet still flow well into each other. Some pieces of it do sound "typically Flansy," but the track as a whole is made more interesting than that by the combination and juxtapositions. The instrumental part is pretty neat, and for some reason the one bit about taxidermy cracks me up. So anyway, good job there, Flans.

Contrecoup was the only song on here that I'd heard before, and I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I don't think it fits well with the rest of the album, due mostly to the instrumentation, I think. The simple acoustic guitar works well in the context of making up a song as a challenge on a radio show, but less so in the midst of their other stuff. So it lost a bit by that, even though they actually extended the song somewhat. I'm also not fond of the changed rhyme scheme at the end. They took an AABC (where the B had an internal rhyme) and made it an ABBC which makes the first B sound wrong (especially since my mind is pre-filling in something that actually does rhyme). Urgh. The gradual speeding up at the end was kind of cute though, even if it didn't go anywhere but to a fadeout.

Others I liked include Bee of the Bird of the Moth which is based on a nifty critter called the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth. The word play here is fun, with the equal / freak-we'll rhyme, and the line with head lice, heads lie and headlights. I like the dramatic beginning to the melody in Climbing the Walls, though it ironically sounds more like coming down from the walls than climbing them. While I love the chorus of Withered Hope, I need to work on liking the rest of it more so it doesn't feel lopsided. The Mesopotamians is fun just to get to sing "Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh."

Anyway, I'll probably listen to the whole album as a unit a few more times, to let things settle in more before I send it all into the usual TMBG division of tracks I listen to and those I don't.

Monday, May 14, 2007

LiveBlogJournalSpot 2.0

For any of my LiveJournal friends who are subscribed to my LJ feed, I recommend switching to the new version here. This one is based on a FeedBurner version of my feed, which means I can maintain more control over it (which is what I should have done originally, though I didn't understand how LJ syndicated accounts worked then). In particular, this one is sorted by published date, rather than last-edited date. This is more convenient for the most part, especially right now since I'm still going back in time and labeling a lot of old posts which you all don't really need to be seeing in the updates.

Thanks to Sorcha for helping me set this up (since LJ now requires you to have a paid account in order to add syndicated feeds).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Medium Big Dance

Big Dance 2007 All-Nighters I danced from 9 PM to 6 AM at Big Dance last night, for the 8th year in a row. After that many, staying up all night doesn't really seem like quite such a big deal anymore. It can still be fun, depending on who you've got there with you, but it's not the same kind of challenge it once was. Unfortunately, this year I was disappointed because a number of people I was hoping to see weren't there, and some people I would have liked to have around longer left "early." This is more of an issue at Big Dance than at regular dances, because by 5 or 6 AM, I really just want to zone out in nice "comfort dances" with favorite partners. Not to disparage any of the lovely people I did get to dance with, of course (thanks go to Rebecca for the Lullaby Gauntlet, and to Lara for the last waltz). But hopefully a lot of you people who do stay all night at these kinds of things know what I'm talking about. So I'm afraid I came away kind of less satisfied this year than others. That said, though, there were some definite highlights to the night.

First of all, major props go to Bob for organizing probably the best contra dancing I've ever seen at Big Dance. This is in terms of dancing, rather than music (since we had canned music, rather than live bands like we used to in the past), but the dancing is definitely the greater achievement. Bob has been working tirelessly to evangelize contra dancing around here, specifically in the Stanford community, and it really seems to be paying off. We only did 4 contras, and it was relegated to the fencing room (we didn't even get to use the gym this year), but we had a fantastic turnout, with lots of people who have had at least basic exposure to contra, and the dances went very well. We did real dances, too -- nothing very complex, but not too dumbed-down or anything, either.

In terms of performances, Decadance stole the show (though I quite enjoyed Swingtime and The Knotts Dance Company as well). First up was a lindy-hop/hip-hop combo sort of thing (lindy hip? hop hop?) which was very cool. But David's choreography to Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" was just an incredible piece of silliness that made me happier than anything else all night. Guys lindy hopping with each other, girls lindy hopping with each other, pillow fighting, all sorts of craziness. It was glorious. Deca is doing some sort of un- Spring Show on June 9th, so I'm hoping I'll get to see it again there.

I joined the flag waltz competition with Louisa, which turned out to be based on flag football. A decent idea for when the field was narrowed down to fewer people, but we got caught in a vicious mob right at the beginning and were out. Around 5 AM there was a tacky tango competition. I wasn't in that, but it was quite amusing to watch. Neal and Rainbow won that hands down. Her feet didn't touch the floor at all during the elimination round, but then during their solo he refused to dance and stood there like an obstinate pole while she danced around him. Funnier than it sounds, I suppose.

Anyway, I got to bed a little before 7 in the morning and slept till 1. Would have been convenient to have had all this while I was still on Ireland time, but I'll be back on track from this faster than from the jet lag.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Post-It Doodles

Post-It Doodles My post-it-fu is not exactly of the same sort as Lara's, but they do bring out the doodler in me. Especially when, say, I'm the only person on time for a meeting or something. I've had a bunch of these stuck around my desk at work and they've started falling off, so I thought I'd scan a few for posterity. In case, you know, posterity is interested in this kind of thing.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ireland Trip 2007

Now that it's all been properly blogged, here's the roundup of everything:

Ireland, in Limericks

Usually, Limerick's in Ireland, but we'll go the other way here, since I did chronicle my trip in limericks. Enjoy.

Oh, the Long Room at Trinity's a sight,
That librarians dream of at night.
But good luck a-huntin'
For the titles you're wantin' --
They're arranged alphabetically by height!

If ceilís confuse you no end,
Just take heart, pay heed, and attend.
From the Limerick walls,
'Till besieged Ennis falls,
We'll dance them again and again.

A young Irish dancer named Sorcha,
Had a name with an int'resting quir-ika,
With the centermost syllable,
Completely invisible,
I've not seen the like in Amurica. *

Oh, the water in Galway's no jest --
It'll put your good health to the test.
Then you'll drink pesticides,
Just to cleanse your insides,
Of your cryptosporidium guest.

Tara, Newgrange and Monasterboice
Together make my tour of choice,
For throughout Brú na Bóinne,
There's nuthin' annoyin' ya,
While there's much about which to rejoice. **

When Mel Gibson was Braveheart to be,
'Twas to Wicklow, not Scotland, went he.
For the Minister of Arts,
Had filled soldiers' parts,
With the whole Irish Army, for free.

'Round Slea Head I needed no guide,
Just my new hired bike by my side.
Though it remains to be seen,
If I've ruptured my spleen,
From the fifty kilometer ride.

When hiking the Cliffs known as Moher,
I wish I'd put sunblock all o'er.
Crossing fields and streams,
I saw views from my dreams,
But got toasted by quarter past four.

- - - - -
* There are no real rhymes that I could think of for "Sorcha," I'm afraid. I really wanted to make a limerick with rhymes that were audible but not visible, though, so this is kind of a hack.

** You have to squeeze the "Tara" into the pickup beat on this one.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Doolin, and the Cliffs of Moher

Doolin My final excursion of the trip was to Doolin, a place small enough to make Dingle look like a big, bustling city. I stayed at the Doolin hostel, which also happened to serve as the town bus station and currency exchange point (handy, since there were no ATMs in town). I got put in room 17, which is normally an 8-bed dorm room, but which I got all to myself, since tourist season wasn't yet in full swing to fill up the rooms.

Music Cafe Doolin, small as it is, is known internationally as a hotspot for Irish music. So for the first time since my ill-fated Dublin excursion, I took my mandolin out to find some sessions. I found the local musicians here to be much more welcoming, probably because they go to these sessions expecting some folks to come along and join in, as well as just to listen. It is a little odd, though, to realize that they're basically human tourist attractions. Things there are really half session, half performance, with microphones and everything. Not sure how I'd feel about that if I lived there and played there regularly. It made it a little intimidating to join in as a newcomer too, but like I said, the people leading the sessions were nice, and that helped.

On the first night, I went to McGann's. The session there was being led by a very good guitarist/singer, and by probably the best tenor banjo player I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. Whereas in the Dublin session I went to I had felt relatively on a par with people skill-wise, here I felt rather more out-classed. But I played decently and had a great time listening as well. Would have liked to have picked the banjo-player's brain about a number of things, had there been time. On the second night, I went to O'Connor's pub. Instead of taking over a corner of the pub, this session was crammed into a little booth, around a little table. Didn't seem like people would actually have room to play pressed in elbow to elbow like that, but it worked somehow. This one was led by a trio of folks on flute, fiddle, and button accordion. Again, really good music. It was nice to finally get a really good fix of Irish music actually in Ireland.

Destination in Sight On the morning of my one full day in Doolin, I decided to hike out to the Cliffs of Moher, rather than taking the bus. If you take the main street out of town, you see a sign directing you towards the main visitor center / lookout point, which is about 9 km or so down the road. Just next to that, however, there is a barred-off cart path with its own sign, reading "Caution: Very Dangerous Cliffs Ahead." Now really, which one looks like a more interesting hike? And besides, option 2 seemed to have a perfectly well-defined path, well back from the actual cliff edge. So naturally I headed off that way, between the cow pastures.

Obstacles For a couple miles, things were pretty easy going. I just followed the path with occasional side trips to admire the various views or check out the ruins of some old building. It was a beautifully quiet, clear day, with no one else around. But after a bit (specifically: once I'd gone too far to want to turn back), it started getting trickier. First, I had to climb a fence to follow the path through a field of sheep. Then there were some streams to maneuver around, one of which sent me down a ways until I found a place I could get across, after which a marshy area disguised as a meadow tried to eat my shoes. I escaped that alright, though. Then I was climbing and ducking a few more fences before the path disappeared for a bit and I was just cutting clear across open cow pastures in the general direction I wanted to go. (Still paralleling the cliff edge, though not all the way down at the edge, since it was getting steep in some places.) After that, I went up and over what I think may have been the highest point on the Cliffs of Moher, at least from what I could see. I was back near the edge now, confronting a helpful sign indicating more danger due to continuing erosion. This would have been by far the scariest part if I had actually followed the path that reappeared here, especially with the wind picking up. But I scooted a couple yards to the left and went on the other side of a fence, which was a bit better.

By this time I was pretty sure that this wasn't the legitimate, alternate route I thought it was. But I could see O'Brien's Tower, which was where I was headed, and once I was over the peak it wasn't too much farther to get there. Just when I thought I had it in the bag though, the last fence turned out to be electric, for one final challenge. I wouldn't have minded so much except that it looked exactly like all the non-electric fences I'd been climbing, so I didn't know until it threw me off. (Well, after it through me off, really. Not much actually goes through your mind while you're being zapped.) Luckily, it was just one wire going across a metal bar fence, so once I knew where it was, I was able to climb more carefully and avoid it.

Made It The main tourist lookout point at the Cliffs of Moher has some very nice views, though to be honest it's a bit anticlimactic after you've just hiked 5-6 miles along the cliffs to get there. The helicopter tours and the tourist crowds affect the ambiance a bit, too. But it was still worth spending some time there. And also getting the bus back to Doolin.

Killinagh Beach Back in Doolin, I had some simpler walks around to explore the area. The area known as Doolin seems to be sliced into numerous little town-lets or something, each of which is only about the size of a single road with cow pastures on either side, stretching a mile or so from the main Fisher Street to the ocean. If you head out towards the ocean, you find some really interestingly rocky areas, with occasional standing stones and old wells and such. I would have quite liked to have had more time to wander around there.

Relevant Tunes:
  • 17
  • The Cliffs of Moher
  • The Road to Lisdoonvarna
  • The Humours of Ennistymon
  • The Clare Jig

Friday, May 04, 2007


Main Street, Dingle After leaving Dublin, I took a train to Mallow, another to Tralee, then a bus out to the Dingle peninsula, which is nearly as far West as you can go and still be in Europe. Dingle itself is a very small town on the coast, and is also known as An Daingean. Technically, since it's in a Gaeltacht, it's supposed to use its Irish name. It's opted not to, however, since the tourist the town relies on would probably just start calling it "the town formerly known as Dingle" anyway.

Colors Dingle has a little aquarium called Ocean World, which is like a baby Monterey Bay Aquarium and includes both native and tropical fish. The tanks and displays are all very nicely done, though there's a severe lack of information anywhere, beyond simply the names of what's in each tank (and even those were incomplete sometimes). The touch pool was interesting, because a lot of the rays, and even a bottom dwelling fish like a flounder or a sole, were all swimming up to the top of the water, almost as if they wanted to be petted. Very convenient, but definitely seemed unusual. There were also some eels that were acting strange. Normally, eels wedge their bodies in between some rocks and just leave their heads out to grab passing fish. In the open ocean tank, though, a green moray eel seemed to have gotten things backwards. It appeared to have its head stuck in a rock, and its entire long body and tail just dangling straight down the outside. Maybe he was new at this, or maybe his head was poking out the other side and he didn't realize he didn't have a whole cave to be hiding in. There was also a leopard moray eel that I actually saw swimming, completely in the open. Again, very unusual, but a swimming leopard moray eel may be one of the most beautiful things in the ocean.

Sarena Indian Restaurant, 2007 For my dinners in Dingle I ate takeout Indian food on the pier. The place I got it from was called either Sarena or Sareena , depending on whether you believe the sign or the menu. Yummy food, but this place was also interesting for a large sepia picture it had on its wall. Sarena Indian Restaurant, c. 1917 It's a photo of the same building 90 years ago, when it had considerably fewer shades of purple on it and didn't serve Indian food. The guy in the picture next to the horse cart was the grandfather of the current landlord, who is now 77 years old.

While somewhat on the subject of food, I'll mention Murphy's ice cream parlor, which had some excellent ice cream with some interesting flavors. The ginger latte was unfortunately much more latte than ginger, but the honey almond cardamon was wonderful.

Going 'round Slea Head The center piece of my time in Dingle was my trip around Slea Head Drive, a 30-mile loop around the end of the peninsula with some lovely scenic views of ocean, cliffs and islands. I rented a bike in town and cycled it all, which was a bit of an adventure on narrow, cliff-edge, one-lane roads. Also, it turns out that 30 miles is rather more biking than I'm used to doing in one day, so it left me a little jelly-legged at the end of the 6 hours or so that I was out. But it was a great little tour and much more fun that it would have been in a car, I think.

Me in a Stone Hut Aside from scenic views, the other main points of interest around the peninsula were things made of rock. Some of them, like these beehive huts, date back over 2,000 years. The Gallarus Oratory is over 1,000 years old and still waterproof, even without any mortar or anything else besides stone. There are also some good places to see church ruins, and even an old Ogham stone.

Beach One of my favorite spots along the ride was this beautiful little beach. I spied it from a higher lookout point, and decided I should find my way there for my lunch break. Turned out to be non-obvious to find, but an unmarked road leading between two cow pastures (there are lots of both of those in Ireland) got me there in the end. When I got there, I found that a rocky little stream fed into the ocean there and had some lovely grassy areas around it, still in view of the beach and perfect for picnicking. That put one of my favorite environments right next to one of my favorite views and made me very happy.

Relevant Tunes:
  • Dingle Bay
  • The Dingle Regatta
  • The Dingle Polka
  • The Rose of Tralee
  • The Kerry Man
  • The Star of Munster

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

After far too long in trains, planes, airports, etc., I have arrived home. The last several days of my trip were good, and will be chronicled here shortly. After I sleep for a while.

Relevant Tunes:
  • Farewell to Erin