Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WWI tour & Twitter

You may (or may not) remember when I wrote two months ago that I was going to Belgium on a World War I tour. Well, that day is here. I'm off in the morning on my two day trip. You might think that means a break from me and my ramblings, but no such luck. In fact, if all goes well, I'm going to be posting more! My WWI tour will have a distinctly Irish flavor and I'll do my best to share that with you. Oh, and it's now one day in Belgium and one day in France (just over the border).

That's where that new sea-blue Twitter box comes in. See it there on the right? I hope to be able to do some brief posting inside that box throughout the days and longer posts - with pictures - here when I can find an internet connection.

You might also notice that I've changed my Twitter name from unquiet_man to AmericanIreland. Makes a bit more sense, right?

School's out for summer ... FINALLY

Today is the last day of school and thank God. The month of June is a nightmare when you're trying to get your young offspring to bed so that they can sit in the classroom on those all too rare warm, sunny days. As anyone who has ever visited Ireland during June knows the sun shines bright until late. As you can imagine it's hard to convince little Sean or Siobhan to go to sleep on time when the sun is still high and bright in the sky until around 10pm, or later if you're in the west or north.

For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, the older kids (13+) finish a month earlier even though they are the ones who can better accept the late sunsets. So not only do the younger children have to endure a month of classes on at least one hour's missing sleep they also have to put up with their teen brothers and sisters being barely out of bed by the time the school day is over.

I'm just glad that my son is finally finished with school. I only wish I was looking forward to a whole summer of playing ball, riding my bike and going swimming (but not in the Irish Sea!).

Monday, June 29, 2009

On the Luas

A few weeks ago I wrote about the DART. The DART is special because it runs right along the coast for stretches and gives you a great view. Between Dalkey & Killiney it runs along a cliff on the coast, which only makes the view more special.

On Saturday I had a rare opportunity to ride the Luas, Dublin's light rail system.

The Luas doesn't offer the scenery that you can get from the DART, but it is quick getting into the city from Sandyford on the southern outskirts of Dublin. Takes about 20 minutes. I like it because it's got a different feel from the DART and it's newer and cleaner. And because it's light rail it runs along the street for a while, which gives a different view than a train that is kind of cut off from the city around it.

And the Luas stops right above the Grand Canal, which is a great place. I spent a few years working near the canal and I loved walking along it and eating my lunch there when the weather was good. Also, back when I was an impoverished and hungry student in this city I used to go for long walks along the canal with my girlfriend (now my wife).
I'm only sorry that they needed that steel girder right in the middle of my picture!

Friday, June 26, 2009

No longer going to "Linger" in Ireland

Shock is too strong a word, especially on a day when there are deaths - Michael Jackson & Farah Fawcett - in the world of popular culture. Still, I have to admit I was pretty surprised to read that Dolores O'Riordan is moving to rural Ontario. Why am I so surprised?

Well, first of all, this is the first time I've heard any pop star/movie star/whoever say they were leaving Ireland due to the pressures of fame in Ireland. Irish people have had a reputation of leaving famous people alone, but maybe that's more myth than reality? I don't know, but O'Riordan clearly believes it is. I guess.

Somehow Bono and his family manage to endure the pressures, which I would have assumed would be far greater than those that Dolores O'Riordan has to put up with. In fact, I would have bet that if she didn't make a big deal of it her children could have lived pretty anonymously here. Maybe she just wanted to go live in the woods, I don't know.

Another reason I'm surprised - and I'm really surprised by this one - is that O'Riordan is turning her back on a nice little tax break that people who write music or books or film scripts get here. Now, admittedly, there are rumors that those tax breaks are going to be eliminated in the next budget, but as of now they're still in place and O'Riordan is turning her back on them to pay full tax in Canada.

Unusual decision.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are those icebergs out there?

I don't live too far from the coast, which is almost always a good thing. One time I question the benefits of our location is when we get nice weather, like we had today. The day was pleasant, probably got up to about 70. No stifling humidity and a fresh breeze. What could possibly be bad about that, right?

Well, my family likes swimming in the Irish Sea. And the Irish Sea is COLD. I've heard Americans refer to the waters off Maine as cold and maybe they're comparable. I don't know. I used to swim in the Atlantic on a regular basis, but off Long Island and the Jersey Shore and it was never anywhere near as cold as what I experienced today and every other time I've gone into the Irish Sea. I once scraped my leg in the water and I swear it was on a chunk of ice.

And I go through the same emotions every time. I park the car and as I walk along I say to myself, it looks so beautiful. It looks refreshing.

A quick check tells us that the EU's blue flag is flying, which means the place is clean. I think. Not sure what it means, really.

Everything's looking good, but looks can be deceiving. No, not that. It's clean all right and the next view is tremendous as well. But oh so telling.

The water is lapping at the shore and the beach is not too crowded, all of which is great. There aren't many people in the water, though, are there? Why? I'll tell you why - because all people - even Irish people - have come to realize that the Irish Sea is FREEZING.

My family doesn't seem to care about that.

We make it down to the beach and while I'm already chattering in anticipation of the cold, they're happily discussing the prospects of their pending death-defying plunge into icy waters.

We all head to the water's edge. More dread. They're in and I'm not. Not really. Up to my knees maybe.

I'm always the last one to get down. It's part of the ritual. You must get your head wet. I generally spend about 15 minutes psyching myself up (& making an Act of Contrition) before I finally force my head and shoulders down into the water. In that instant my breath is sucked from my body and I feel like I'm going into shock.

Less than a minute later - it takes me that long to regain consciousness - and I'm heading for dry land, where the fresh breeze now feels like a winter's gale. But I'm alive and I think to myself that by August I'll almost think this is normal.

nygalwaygirl wrote:
Oh my goodness! This sounds dreadful! You should tell your family that you need to mind your ticker and should be excused on medical grounds... Irish people are like seals, with a secret insulating layer that the rest of us are missing... Invest in a wet suit or give up the whole deal, I say!
6/26/2009 8:15 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:
A wet suit? A great idea, but not one I'd be allowed. And if I start complaining about my "ticker" I'll almost certainly be forced to abandon all those foods that make life worth living. Besides they know I've recently been checked out and given an all-clear. No, I don't think my ticker is going to cut it.

What's worse is that there are people here who swim all year round. And we have friends who go swimming pretty much daily from St. Patrick's Day to Nov. 1. They're nuts, I know, but to my family their behavior is a bit extreme and only serves to emphasize how sensible our attitude is.

I've been looking for a good excuse for ten years and haven't found one yet. I guess I can live in hope that someday my ticker will be plausible.
6/27/2009 3:46 AM EDT

Irish? American? Irish-American? American-Irish?

A recent article in the Gorey Guardian caught my eye. Andrew Cody, from Gorey Co. Wexford, graduated from the US Naval Academy last month. Cody got to shake hands with President Obama at the ceremony.

I like this article because it's clear that the Gorey Guardian believes that Cody's accomplishment is a source of local pride. It's not a tone that you'd find often in the Dublin-based media.

I was also struck by the Gorey Guardian's claim that Cody is the "first Irish person to attend and graduate" from the Academy. Hmm. I guess the first thing we'd have to agree on is the definition of an "Irish person" because clearly the Gorey Guardian is excluding Irish-Americans, who have been graduating from Annapolis probably since the day it opened back in 1845.

Okay, so they're focused on people (a) born or (b) raised here, I guess. I can live with that. Yet, one of the basic eligibility requirements for admission to the Academy is that you are a citizen of the United States. So I have to assume that Cody is American as well as Irish. So, maybe not Irish-American, but Cody is at a minimum American-Irish. See how confusing this gets? Probably better to leave off the "first Irish person" stuff.

How much better it would have been if the Gorey Guardian had simply linked Cody with Wexford's own John Barry, father of the American Navy.

{Statue of Barry outside Independence Hall, Philadelphia.}


Padraig wrote:
I love this article. truly. truly.
6/27/2009 4:58 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:
Thanks Padraig.
6/29/2009 1:39 PM EDT

Ajreaper wrote:
I have to offer props as well Yank very nicely said- I had the good fortune a number of years back to spend three days at the Naval academy on business and it is a most impressive place by any standard you could choose to apply and the most impressive thing is the quality of young men and women who are found there. My heartfelt congratulations to Andrew and one can certainly understand the pride in his accomplishment back home regardless of how it is spun.
6/29/2009 2:10 PM EDT

Padraig wrote:
keep'm comin yank.
6/29/2009 2:31 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

I've never been to Annapolis, but my best friend from high school went there. It is a first rate institution and attracts the best America has to offer. That Andrew from Gorey was accepted and graduated from there is no mean feat.
6/29/2009 4:46 PM EDT

Ajreaper wrote:
Yank- should you ever get the opportunity to visit you'll never forget it. when we were there it was pre 9/11 and we had freedom to go where ever we chose when we chose, the grounds, chapel, and museum everything left one in awe. To be accepted and to graduate speaks very highly of an individual without question.
6/29/2009 10:31 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

I'm hoping I can get there someday. I really want to take the family to Washington, but so far that hasn't worked out. Maybe when I finally get that arranged, I can detour towards Annapolis.
7/3/2009 7:14 PM EDT

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What a difference a year - errr - 28 years can make

My daughter finished her leaving cert and has now gone to America - to my parents - for the summer. She wanted to get her driving license so that she could get around while there, but that's not as easy these days as it was back in my day. You have to pass a "mandatory pre-licensing course" now. That wasn't case when I was new to the road. You got your permit, did some learning and practicing and when you were ready you made an appointment for a test. If you passed that was it. No MV-285 or whatever it is was required.

The only way my daughter could take that course this summer would be if she were willing to tell her employer that all mornings are now out. She's not prepared to do that, which means she'll need a ride to work. Oh well.

Mid summer

I can hear you from here. "What is this guy talking about? Summer's only just begun. June 21st, right?"

Well, yes and no. Yes if you live in America. Summer starts on June 21 the longest day of the year. In Ireland, however, summer begins on May 1 and that means ... mid summer is right now. To prove the point, Cork is in the middle of the two week Midsummer Festival right now.

And, as you might imagine, there's a religious feast to mark the occasion. Tomorrow, June 24, is the feast of St. John the Baptist and in parts of Ireland the eve of St. John's feast is marked by bonfires. I've never been to a St. John's Eve bonfire, but it's on my list.

The 23rd always reminds me of the song Spancil Hill, which is a great 19th century emigrant's song.

Being on the twenty-third of June, the day before the fair,
When Ireland's sons and daughters in crowds assembled there

{If you want to read a bit more about the bonfire tradition, you can find it here.}

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just snapped this

One of the few pluses to the Irish weather ...

Looked even better with the naked eye. Too bad that house got in my way and prevented me seeing where it ended.

New name

If you look closely - doesn't have to be too closely - you'll notice that the name unQuiet Man is gone and replaced by the more obvious The American in Ireland. I loved the other name, but it was too ambiguous for today's world of trying to explain something in under 5 words and 5 seconds.

What to do about my twitter name - unquiet_man - is now the question.

The sky at night

It doesn't get dark at this time of year. Not really dark.

Last night I had to go out to the car to get something and I noticed a faint glow still in the northwestern sky. It was around 11:30. A few hours later, I had to drive into Dublin and back. I was on the road for an hour - not normal for me to be out between 2 & 3 in the mornings - and what was a faint glow in the northeastern sky at 2am had developed into a fairly early morning sky by 3.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

... and exhale!

Thank God that's over. My daughter finished her Leaving Cert yesterday and the whole house is relieved. We won't know how she did until sometime in mid-August, when the stress will return, but for now a peaceful serenity reigns in our house.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


{First, full disclosure. I should have read Ulysses 24 years ago. It was mandatory for an English class I took in college - 'Modern English Novel', I believe. Anyway, I read some of it, but not all of it. I was never a fast reader and Ulysses is not fast reading even for those who can read fast. So, I faked it. Listened in class, got a lot of tips from a friend - & English major! - who was in the class and accepted that my grade would not be would it could have been.}

Today is Bloomsday. People celebrate Bloomsday by dressing up in period costumes (June 16, 1904), walking parts of the route followed by Leopold Bloom and taking part in readings from the novel. Some people go to the same locations, eat food of the day, etc. It's become a pretty big deal over the last decade or so and definitely attracts a crowd - locals and visitors. All this celebration for a book I couldn't be bothered to read!

I just happened to stumble onto a small gathering of the celebrants in Glasthule, Co. Dublin today. Glasthule is near the James Joyce Museum in Sandycove, Co. Dublin, which of course is a place of pilgrimage for fans of Joyce, particularly today.

I only wish I'd have had my camera ready when they were walking around rather than when they were well into their lunch, etc. And, I don't know where the women went. Maybe they opted to dine indoors. Not sure.

nygalwaygirl wrote:
You probably needn't have had the low grade had you simply skipped the first three chapters, which are very dull, and focused on the funny bits, and read the last few chapters. That's what I did, and I still remember getting an A on the exam. ;-)
6/17/2009 6:29 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:

Maybe you're right. I don't know and at this stage I'm not even lying to myself about going back and reading it again - in full.

Ulysses was half the course at the time and I read the other novels because (a) they were shorter and (b) they were easier. That's how the final grade wasn't the embarrassment it should have been. I'm more embarrassed by what I did than the grade. For some reason I'm less embarrassed about having done something similar in my freshman year when I only read every other chapter of Moby Dick.
6/17/2009 8:17 AM EDT

Friday, June 12, 2009

No more cead mile fáilte at Shannon Airport

Sad to read that Aer Lingus is getting rid of the service to Shannon from New York. Obviously they must figure it's not making any money and unlikely to for some time. However, if I was still living in America and planning a vacation to Ireland I can't imagine landing anywhere else. Dublin is a lively, vibrant city, but it's a city with all that traffic, etc. Shannon still has that rural feel.

When I was living in New York nothing cheered me up more than descending into the Middle of Nowhere, Co. Clare. That's the Ireland I dreamt about when I was sitting in an open plan office on the 20th floor of 111 Wall Street. All those green, rocky fields, the Cliffs of Moher, north Kerry ... there is just so much to love about the west of Ireland. Now you'll have to drive for at least four hours to get to that Ireland.

UPDATE: Hmm. It seems the Irish Times got it wrong with their front page story. At least for now. RTE says that the Shannon flights to New York (& Chicago) are "under close review."


jakethedog27 wrote:
I agree I love flying into SNN. Lucky the BOS to SNN is not going away yet....not that I have $$ nowadays for a vaca-apparently I'm not alone. On the bright side for us-if they do suspend JFK-SNN or BOS-SNN at least Ireland is small enough to make it work-it wont take you 6 days to drive from Dublin to Tully Cross. Did the article say that Aer is stopping flights to SF all together? Or is there still the DUB to SF option? It would be a pain to have to fly from DUB to JFK and pick up AA to SF -sure there will be some type of codeshare. Anyway when it makes more sense to open these flights back up I am sure they will. (want to bet it will be at just about the time I/we can afford a vaca? funny how that works) Not sure if Aer Lingus has been laying off-sure they have -t I would rather make the drive from DUB to GAL than have someone get the axe.
6/13/2009 2:59 PM EDT

jakethedog27 wrote:
Being new to this blog..forgive me if this is a subject you have talked about. Going back and forth with you last few days has got thinking about my few trips to Ireland. I have been more than a few times the last time being 2002-exactly one year to the day after 9/11. On all prev trips it seemed to me that the Irish people went out of there way to be nice and friendly and open-just like your read about in travel publication. 2002 I noticed a major change in the attitude-people seemed to be less likely to care about you-and more than that-there was more than one time at a pub when young kids seemed to want to fight or at least give me sh about being American. Now I have done the playful "yank" thing in the past-I understand the playfulness of it all..this was not the same and was not playful. So you ask- as I did was I doing something to cause this...not sure, but I'm well traveled and have never been that loud stand out American (not that it should matter if I was). The last few years I have been doing an unofficial survey of people I have know that have been over-I gotta say a good amount have had the same feeling and experiences.

As a yank living in Ireland have you seen any of this? I guess It could be me, all of my friends, co-workers and the random people that I met that have been over in the last few years.

I know for a long time Ireland had been dependent on tourist $$-all of the sudden the celtic tiger started to roar....do you think this could be it?

Please don't get me wrong-I have been in rougher tougher spots(USMC) but gotta say it sucked.

interested to hear what you have to say.
6/13/2009 3:42 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

Yes, Aer Lingus is going to "suspend" the Dublin-SF route and the Dublin-Washington route. I haven't had to go to SF in about 9 years, but when I was going there from here I flew to London and then direct from London to SF.

I think Aer Lingus has shed a few jobs, but I also think the real "cost-cutting" is still to come. The airline lost quite a bit last year.

I know what you're saying about driving across the country, but with the traffic, you might find your first hour just getting beyond Dublin. After that it's pretty easy driving nowadays. It used to be totally draining to drive across the country here. So much tension on the narrow roads with people passing you doing 90 or people passing cars going the other way coming right at you ... then add in the tractors, cows, uggh.
6/15/2009 4:34 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

Now the hard questions. The short answer is that you caused none of the reactions among people here that you describe and yes, I've plenty of it. It was very hard to take in the immediate aftermath of September 11. There was always an undercurrent of anti-American stuff here - especially among the so-called educated - but it seemed to explode after Sep 11.

One thing I can say is that people here are over the moon about our new President so I've noticed a definite decline in those attitudes.
6/15/2009 4:57 PM EDT

jakethedog27 wrote:
Why would you want to live in a place that has people that hate you b/c you are American or b/c of your president? Its hard enough being judged by race, social status or bc your fat/skinny/bald/hairy/tall/short/gay/straight/cat/dog.

Why would it explode after 9/11? I can understand Iraq? Are you suggesting that the guy at the pub was giving me a hard time b/c of Bush? Seems a little foolish and un-educated but that is what I suspected. Kinda like me starting a fight with a guy at a pub he was from California and I hate Arnold.

What do you think of the theory of a certain we don't need you or anyone we are the Celtic Tiger we no longer need tourist $$ blaa blaa blaa? Funny thing is the Celtic tiger is dead and Bush is gone so we might never know. The one thing I can tell you is that attitude toward tourist better change because Ireland is in for a stormy few year(more than most).

Do you think that tourists coming to America get targeted at bars b/c of where they came from or who their president happens to be. No -they are target b/c they stick out and don't know the direction back to their hotel rooms.
6/15/2009 6:04 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

First, although what you experienced is real, it's not everyone. Most of the people I meet are very decent and are not that dumb. I think the arrogant & ignorant who look for Americans on whom to vent their stupidity are a small minority. And that's it. They go looking for Americans. {American tourists are not that difficult to identify.}

Yes, most Irish people didn't like President Bush and were very much against Iraq, but other than a small number most people here did not and would not hold any American responsible for all that his government does. I mean, there are few here who would like to be held responsible for what the Irish government does.

Most people do not hate me and I would say that Americans are as or more welcome than any other 'blow-ins' here.

I think the Celtic Tiger and its impact on tourism is more complicated. For many here the whole "quaint" Ireland was a source of embarrassment and they were happy to be able to shed that. Now, however, it looks like we're heading back in time and maybe tourists will be treated a bit better. I don't know. I agree that the economy here may suffer for quite a bit longer than elsewhere.

My wife - who is from here - has always insisted that Americans are the friendliest people in the English-speaking world. She never understood how Americans could come here and find the people friendly. I think she's a little harsh, but I know what she means. I think in general Americans are very welcoming (although sometimes they can be very direct, which can cause Irish or British people to take a step back), would not hassle anyone because of their government or whatever and tend to be almost excited to meet people from other countries. Maybe this is less true in the big eastern cities, but I often hear people here saying that New Yorkers are friendly, which surprises me at times.
6/16/2009 10:45 AM EDT

jakethedog27 wrote:
thanks good insight and interesting.
6/16/2009 5:25 PM EDT

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

They should be so lucky

Today's NY Times has an article about a house in Malahide, Co. Dublin bought by an American couple in 2006. John and Blakey Shirey moved from New Hampshire to Ireland in 2004 when John's company posted him to Ireland. They rented for two years before buying a "small red-brick home" in Malahide, an "exclusive area by the seaside." The Times says that the Shireys wouldn't divulge the price they paid for the house, but that local real estate agents say that local prices have fallen "15 to 20 percent since they bought their home three years ago."

I'm no expert on property values in Malahide, but I'd very surprised if the Shireys could get much more than 65% of their 2006 purchase price these days.


jakethedog27 wrote:
"I'm no expert on property values in Malahide, but I'd very surprised if the Shireys could get much more than 65% of their 2006 purchase price these days"

"The Times says that the Shireys wouldn't divulge the price they paid for the house, but that local real estate agents say that local prices have fallen "15 to 20 percent since they bought their home three years ago"

Am I missing something. Based on the facts provided I would guess that the Shireys are not going to more 80-85% of the purchase price.

Can you share more info on why you think its 35%? Not trying bust you chops I am truly want to know. Does the 15-20% represent sales comps or are people just asking for 15-20% less and actually selling 35% less???

6/11/2009 7:48 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:
Jake, like I said I'm not expert. However, I don't know anyone who believes their house is worth anything like 80% of what it was worth in 2006. If you have a look at this site you'll see that prices are probably down quite a bit more than the estimates the Times provides. The Times trusted real estate agents, people who have a vested interest in talking up the property market. Look at that page I linked to and you'll see a house similarly sized to the one the Shireys own and it is on the market now for €450,000, but had been listed at €800 in 2007. (Now, I admit I'm trusting in a site full of user-generated content, so take from that what you will.) Still, the real estate agents are the last people I'd trust.
6/12/2009 6:22 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:
Don't know where my link went. Hope this works. http://bit.ly/XR7lt

jakethedog27 wrote:
Ok so it comes down to trusting the NY Times and RE Professionals or trusting you ("no expert") and a "site full of user generated content".


6/12/2009 4:12 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:
You could be right jakethedog27. Maybe I'm just a pessimist (and I am). I own a house here and if I had to sell - based on what I hear/read/etc - I'd hope to get 70% of the value of the house near me that sold in the summer of 2006.
6/12/2009 6:23 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:
Or maybe it's because I just assumed we'd already hit the bottom. http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2009/05/10/story41602.asp
6/12/2009 5:11 PM EDT

jakethedog27 wrote:
Yank-I like the last article you linked....it is all true Ireland went crazy.But at the time it made perfect sense and no one has the abilty to see the future. But there are some possible flaws with the link...maybe you can help shed some light on. It states: "The value of the asset will have some relation to the yield the asset returns. In houses, the yield is the rent. In the US, a house was traditionally valued at some multiple of the rent it generated. Typically, the value of a house was calculated at 12 to 14 times its annual rent. This relationship has held in the US for over 100 years. There is no reason to believe that this shouldn’t be the way to value Irish houses". This all true I own a two family in Boston and paid $550K for it I get 39K per year little better than his calculation but close enough..so I agree but I think the info in not complete. Prices need to drop but not using this ratio. The question for you or the guy that wrote this is..using the 12-14 times annnual rent ratio what happens when rents are artificially inflated(using this math my home was worth $900K in 2002 -never )? As the banks get tighter and people lose their homes...they are going to need places to live. A smart LL knows that a weak sales market= a strong rental market. Bottom line is homeowners that bought at the top cant afford to sell less than 65% of the value...you will never see it....the Shirleys have two choices wait it out(suck it up)...or drop the keys off at the Bank and go back to NH. The RE broker is telling the truth...but is talking about asking price and asking price....don't mean a thing. The true value of RE is whatever someone is willing to pay for it. Anything below 70% is going back to the bank.
6/12/2009 6:47 PM EDT

jakethedog27 wrote:
Oh by the way when I get some cash I heading your way to buy some bank owned...prime RE...right after I get back from my spending spree in Florida.

Oh wait I have no $....get you next time.
6/12/2009 6:49 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:
Jake, you and I are pretty much in agreement now. One thing McWilliams left out of his article, but he did highlight constantly for the past 5 years was the massive disconnect between rents and home prices. When the economy was red hot the valuations based on the rents that were available at the time were still much lower than what people were paying.

The NY Times didn't say whether the Shireys had the money to buy their place outright or if they got a mortgage. They may have accumulated sufficient equity in their NH home to buy their Dublin house without debt. Also, one thing in their favor is that some of their loss will be mitigated by the appreciation of the euro against the dollar, depending on when they exchanged their money.
6/13/2009 6:40 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:
By the way, here's a little tale. Was talking with a man who grew up in Jackson Heights, NY, where I was born. He was telling me that his parents bought the house he now lives in back in 1928. They paid $65,000 for the house. My own grandparents bought the house I lived in as a young boy in 1934. They paid $5,700. The two houses are about six blocks apart and pretty much identical in size.

This man told me that the value of his house only matched what his parents paid for it some time in the mid-late 1970s. How's that for scary!
6/13/2009 6:43 AM EDT

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Candidate for our 'time'

Joe Higgins won a seat in the European Parliament. Joe was late entering the campaign, sort of reluctant, but he won. Now I'm not really excited by his win other than I figure his posters went a long way towards putting him over the top.

On tenterhooks

Scottish television network STV is reporting that Setanta will disappear tonight. We fans of American sports here in Ireland are all on edge wondering what will happen to our supply of baseball and hockey if that happens.

I just thought I'd share. I know you're all worried on my behalf.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Setanta's woes & ESPNA

One of the great developments for us Yanks in Ireland over the past few years was the birth of NASN - the North American Sports Network. When NASN came around it brought baseball & hockey & college football/basketball to my television for the first time since I left America in the early 90s. Absolutely fantastic.

I remember sitting in my living room here in Wicklow during August 2003 and watching a baseball game from Chicago. I couldn't get over it.

A year or so ago NASN was rebranded ESPN America (stupid name) after ESPN bought out the original owners, Setanta Sports. However, ESPNA is still part of the Setanta subscription package and Setanta is in deep financial trouble.

I don't know what might happen to ESPNA if Setanta does go bust, but I guess I'm half expecting it might mean the end of American sports on t.v. in Ireland.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I love sports. Still live & die with the Mets. I'm not a big soccer fan, but I always watch Ireland's games. I think if I was a big soccer fan I'd be less keen on the international soccer. Like a lot of Americans (40+ anyway) the only real experience of international sports taking hold of me was during the 1980 winter Olympics when the hockey team won the gold. Otherwise, international sports are for amateur sports fans (even if the games are no longer amateur).

It's half time in Bulgaria and it's 1-1. A win would be great, a tie enough. A loss ...

UPDATE: Finished 1-1. Not bad, no not bad at all.

So, did you have a good summer?

Irish people are fatalistic about the weather. When we get a good spell – like we had last weekend – you constantly hear “Enjoy it while it lasts,” because there's an assumption that the bad weather is only around the corner. That assumption is generally well justified.

Last week Ireland was “sweltering”. Temperatures were in the mid to high 70s. It cooled off from midweek, but even yesterday was fairly pleasant. Today, June 6, in south County Dublin my car thermometer told me that the temperature was 7.5C at 1pm. That's around 46F. Even the locals have on jackets today. And there's a stiff breeze and heavy rain. It's miserable. I bet a lot of people have their heat on today. It's supposed to be June!

The forecast is for a gradual improvement to more normal temperatures. Highs around 60, that kind of thing. Not great, but better than today, but not the kind of weather you associate with summer. Based on past experience, I know that many Irish people are wondering if the few days we had is it for summer weather.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Walking in Dun Laoghaire

As I mentioned below, I walked along the seafront in Dun Laoghaire today. I love walking there, especially on a day like today. Saw quite a few tourists, including a few from the US of A. You can always tell the tourists on a day like we had today. They're the ones who believe you need a sweater or light jacket when the temperature is soaring to 60 or so with that fairly "fresh" on-shore breeze and the occasional threatening looking cloud. The locals think that's shorts and tee-shirt weather.

The views along the seafront are tremendous. I never tire of being there.

That's "James Joyce's Tower" in the distance. If you're one of the few who's read Ulysses you'll understand and if you haven't then it's still a nice picture.

And that's Howth, Co. Dublin way off in the distance. The rocks you see in the foreground are part of the defenses of the Dun Laoghaire Pier - a great walk, if you have the time.

I voted

And just like that it's over. The election was today and the polls closed about 15 minutes ago. Who won? Who knows? They don't start counting the votes until the morning.

It's been a long time since I voted in America. The last election I can remember clearly was Dinkins vs Giuliani I. By the time they made the sequel I was living here and ineligible to vote. Anyway, that's 20 years ago, but I remember going into the booth and pulling the little levers and walking out about 20 seconds later. That's not how it works here.

We have proportional representation here. How does it work? Well, roughly, you write a 1 in the box next to your favored candidate and a 2 next to your second favorite and carry on that way. (You can get the full picture here.) I love the whole paper and pencil feel to it. So 19th-century-town-hallish, if you know what I mean.

Today we voted for three representative bodies that - as far as I can tell - have very little power or impact on my life. I voted for town council, county council and European Parliament. All of those have some minor powers, but the local councils have little power compared with the unelected county manager and the European Parliament has virtually no power when compared with the European Commission and the even more powerful European Council (all the various heads of the member states).

By this time tomorrow we'll know who won the local elections, but I don't think they're counting the European votes until Monday. I think they're waiting until every country has voted. Most are voting on Sunday.

Testing times - for a car owner

Okay, I know I told you about the tension in the house to do with my oldest daughter doing her Leaving Cert at the moment. Well, there's another source of tension, but it's one that only I feel: the NCT. I have to bring my car to the test center in an hour where it will be, well, inspected. It's been a while since I lived in New York State, but the inspection process there was never the gut-wrenching testing process we have here. Why? Well, I'm not sure I can say.

In New York your mechanic is usually the guy who does the inspection, which means it's done by someone who (a) you (hopefully) trust and (b) might be willing to allow a little "leeway" on things like emissions. Here the test is run by a company that does nothing other than test cars. And it's a Swiss company so the culture is an unforgiving one.

I don't know. I'm sure this doesn't sound all that onerous a task and I bet for many it isn't, but I know that for me sitting there at the test center while my car is poked, prodded, revved (is that a word) and measured is a stomach-churning experience. I think I'd rather do the Leaving Cert.

UPDATE: Whew! Passed with flying colors. Celebrated with a few minutes walking along the seafront in Dun Laoghaire.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The 1911 Census

Elsewhere on this site, Declan O'Kelly reports that an additional five counties have been added to the online database of the 1911 Census. Census data from nine counties is now available online: Antrim, Cork, Donegal, Down, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Offaly and Wexford. (Note: if you go to the 1911 census web site and see "Kings County", that's not Brooklyn. That was Offaly's name at the time.)

My wife and I recently spent quite a bit of time searching the records of the 1911 census. All of her family was living in County Dublin at the time and we were able to find records for each one of her grandparents' families.

What is particularly good about the digitized 1911 census is that you can view the actual census form that was filled in at the time. You can see your ancestor's hand-writing, etc.

My wife was excited by the fact that her great-grandfather had made a mistake all the way down the form and had to cross off and correct it. She pictured her great-grandmother letting him have it for this, projecting back through time onto her great-grandmother the traits she remembered from her grandmother, who was six in 1911. In addition, my wife learned something new - that her grandmother had been born in County Fermanagh.

I know for a lot of Irish-Americans 1911 is too late for any Irish connection, their Irish family was already living in America at the time. In that case the 1911 census might have little appeal, although maybe aunts/uncles/cousins still lived on the family homestead. If, however, you did have family in Ireland in 1911 the census is a great resource. It'll be even better when they finally finish digitizing all the counties' data.

Leaving is canceled

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned stress and the Leaving Cert? Well, the stress levels in the house just exploded. At 9pm we learned that the rumors we were laughing about during dinner - "someone in Dunboyne has seen tomorrow's paper and ... is coming up" - were mostly true.

Tomorrow's exam has been canceled because some nitwit in County Louth handed out the wrong papers this morning before realizing what they'd done and corrected that mistake. A few students saw the paper, but this afternoon they posted all their knowledge online. So, just like that students all across the country knew what these few knew.

Oh, and you want to know if it's a big deal here? It's the lead story on the national news. Yup. I think that captures how big a deal the Leaving Cert is better than anything I could have written. The lead story.

Monday, June 1, 2009

American servicemen in unmarked grave in Cork

This evening I was watching a docu-drama on the "Spanish Flu" pandemic of 1918-1919 in Ireland when near the very end there was a mention of three American sailors who died of the flu and were buried in an unmarked grave in a small graveyard in Queenstown, now Cobh, Co. Cork. I want to know more. Why were they buried in an unmarked grave? Why not shipped home for burial as all other fatalities in Queenstown were? (I think the family had to pay for repatriation at that time.) Why weren't headstones sent over by the Navy to mark these sailors' graves?

I'm not sure if there's any difference for those who served in the Navy and those who were in the Army, but I know veterans of the American army who later lived here and died here can have their graves marked with a standard military issue headstone. Who pays for that, I don't know.

Anyway, I was surprised to learn that men who served in the Navy, who died while serving, lie in an unmarked grave. That should be remedied.