Touring the Roots of Ireland

No language on Earth has ever produced the expression “As pretty as an airport.”
–Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

An overseas trip always starts as an adventure when you lock your house and put the suitcases in the taxi, but something about the McDonaldness of airplane travel sucks some of the fun out it. As we embarked on this 16 day tour of Ireland, carefully gathering boarding documents and strategizing about packing, hopes were high. However, the ten hour flight from SFO to Heathrow, enduring rude seat recliners, bewildering instructions for which line to stand in for transferring planes, and the ever-desperate search for phone charge plugins had no unique Irish flavor to it.

My biased ignorance about the Emerald Isle consists of leprechauns, shamrocks, and “How Are Things in Gloccamorra.” All of which I know has as much to do with the culture of Ireland as Fisherman’s Wharf does with San Francisco. But I am ready to be a model tourist; I am prepared to look and listen and absorb.

Dublin: Live Music, Golden Torcs, Flying Pigs, and Guinness
Excited to finally be touring Dublin, we checked off several musts. We stood in the queue to see the Book of Kells, that medieval hand-painted biblical text at Trinity College. The exhibit and explanations were elaborate and somewhat more impressive than the faded book itself. Scribes who worked on different parts were identifiable by the artwork they chose to illustrate letters. The elaborate symbols which cover the full-page drawings that have to be explained to us moderns were code to the pre-literate population, who would know full well that peacocks meant incorruptability and grapes referred to the blood of Christ from the Last Supper.

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Today’s Chuckle: In Defense of Mud

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee


BAILIFF:              Order, Order in the court. His Honor Judge Michael Fairmind presiding. Today’s proceeding is Case # 04217-37B. Ms. I.M. Peevish vs. Mud. Ms. Peevish contends that on or around April 1, 2017, said Mud did willfully grab on to Ms. Peevish’s shoes and threaten to suck her into the bowels of earth and/or keep her stuck until she died. That Mud is also a scourge of the earth wreaking havoc across the continents, causing blight, mayhem, and general naughtiness.  Peevish is Suing for Damages, Pain and Suffering, Loss of Shoes, and Emotional Embarassment.

FAIRMIND:       Is the Plaintiff’s case ready, Mr. Greedie? If so, please proceed.

GREEDIE:           Thank you, Your Honor. We purport to show that Mud has caused massive problems worldwide with mudslides, mudstreams, and invisible mud pits which have caused thousands – including my client – no end of trouble.

Now, as Exhibit A shows, Mud is clearly a scourge of humanity. For example, just in 2017 alone there have been mudslides in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Peru. Highways have been blocked, havoc has been wreaked, and mud has been spilled. And did I mention the havoc?

20170421 mudslide damageExhB maybve
Exhibit A: Mud blocks section of Highway 17

FAIRMIND:       You did.

GREEDIE:           Good, it’s very important to get that havoc in there. Anyway, I would like to call my expert witness, Professor Thin to the stand.

BAILIFF:              Calling Professor Tse N. E. Thin to the stand.

GREEDIE:           Professor Thin, you are a professor, are you not?

THIN:                   I definitely am.

GREEDIE:              And did you take these horrifying pictures of these mudslides in Colombia and Peru? And mudslides on the highway?

THIN:                   I did.

FAIRMIND:       Where did you take them, Professor Thin?

THIN:                   I took them off the Internet. Continue reading “Today’s Chuckle: In Defense of Mud”

Tax the Peasants with this One Weird Trick!

Taxes are universally despised by everyone who pays them; shared resources are universally used by everyone who pays taxes. These are common unpleasant truths like waste disposal and knowing where hamburgers come from. No one is pleased when April 15th approaches.

While the income tax in the US is a phenomenon that started in the middle of our young history, taxation in general goes back to the dawn of civilization. The notion of paying resources into the central governing body is at least as old as the development of writing. Many of the earliest forms of writing – cuneiform on clay tablets from Lagash, Sumeria ( now modern Iraq) – reflected accounting for taxes paid by the farmers and peasants.  Some of these predated coinage, so many taxes were paid in kind. Farmers paid with chicken, livestock, or grains and if they didn’t have the goods, they paid in labor.

20170412 tax gods_of_egypt___tax_day_by_serverustare
SeverusTare, Deviant Art

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Bette Davis: Champion of the Pictures

I always had the will to win. I felt it baking cookies. They had to be the best cookies anyone baked.
–Bette Davis

Today, April 5th, is Bette Davis’ birthday. If you’ve never seen a Bette Davis movie, your life is not complete. In a career spanning five decades, her legacy includes a dozen movies that are all classics. The hallmark of a Davis film is that you can’t take your eyes off her when she’s on screen. As the Internet would say, “You won’t believe what she’ll do next…” Whether playing a vixen, starlet, waitress, apple seller, murderer, nanny, queen, or washed-up film star, Davis could squeeze every drop of drama out of a line. She would work a scene like nobody’s business, and that was the hallmark of her talent – in that way, uniquely American and uniquely female. Her characters always had to defeat the odds and they had to work like the devil to do it. Continue reading “Bette Davis: Champion of the Pictures”

In Line

Gentle Readers: today’s entry is my annual/semi-annual Fiction entry. This was in response to a Chuck Wendig challenge to write a story about “going against authority…middle finger up…Chaos and Rebellion….”  I confess it turned out longer than requested (but it’s me, so who’s surprised?) and also to be gentler in the end than the challenge suggested, although I’m not always as grim as I appear to be, either.]


Miz Berenson was the meanest, strictest, recess monitor that ever carried a steel whistle onto the playground. The asphalt at Robert Taft Elementary School was her territory, and woe betide anyone who broke her rules. No gum chewing. No going up the slide the Wrong Way. No Boys vs. Girls contests. And she was super strict about how we lined up to go back to class.

She would end recess like ten minutes early just to allow enough time for the line to meet her standards. There had to be eighteen inches between students. There had to be No Talking, silence, people. There was to be no what she termed Horseplay. If she didn’t like it, she’d make us line up again even if we were late to class. Or, she would make us spend part of our lunch hour lining up.

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