Thursday, October 15, 2015

America - are you out of your gourd?

You can't eat these things, right?
I was in a store in upstate New York the other day – I can't remember which – when I overheard two ladies discussing where was the best place to buy decorative gourds. No, I'm not kidding.

Decorative gourds? When did that become a thing?

I've lived outside America for a long time and I have spent very few October days in the US of A over the last ... 24 years. When I left I'm pretty sure decorative gourds were not a thing.

After I hearing those two women – and after I'd stopped chuckling – I started noticing that there are gourds everywhere. Even in the church I went to on Sunday there are gourds. Are some of these actual former living things? I have no idea, and I don't care. I don't think you can eat them, whether they were once alive or not.

So what's going on here? Where did all these gourds come from? When did they become a vital part of my fall?

Now I know that most of my memories of October and Halloween are from my childhood, but I was 27 when I left America. If gourds had been a thing before I left in 1991 I'd have known about it. And if I didn't, my wife surely would and she'd have asked me about this strange American custom of decorating your house or church or office or ... anything with gourds.

I'm sure there are people out there who take their gourds seriously, but I can't take them seriously.

{Next - why would anyone want pumpkin flavored anything?}

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Proclamation? Declaration of Independence? Where are the signers buried? Don't ask @IrishExaminer

The editorial in today's Irish Examiner says "All the signatories of the Declaration of Independence lie there [Glasnevin] and their ghosts will assuredly be present today."

What? Surely the Examiner is aware of the fact that most of the executed leaders of the Rising, including all the signatories of the Proclamation, are buried in Arbour Hill cemetery, right? Okay, that's  the Proclamation, not the "Declaration of Independence."

Yes, Ireland did declare its independence, but that was a declaration approved at the first meeting of the First Dáil. Was it actually signed? Maybe. I don't really know. If yes, who signed it and are they all buried in Glasnevin?

Is this really what the Examiner was referring to in their editorial about today's event at Glasnevin to mark the funeral of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa? Again, I don't really know, but if the declaration was signed, is there a copy of that document somewhere that we can view?

Overall, the point of the Examiner's editorial was lost thanks to this confusion.

* Corrected - Thomas Kent & Roger Casement are not buried in Arbour Hill

Monday, July 20, 2015

Moving to Ireland? Where to take your driving test!

Are the people in the west of Ireland naturally better drivers than those in the east? Or do they have better instructors there? I only ask because I was looking at the driving test pass rates for each test center and it definitely looks like a new driver would have a much better chance of passing the test if they found a test center west of the Shannon.

If I had to take the driving test in the near future and I had a choice as to where, (based on the last three years' pass rates) I'd try to book my test in one of these (in order):
  1. Sligo
  2. Ennis
  3. Tuam
  4. Clifden
  5. Carrick-on-Shannon
I would try to avoid these centers (in order):
  1. Rathgar
  2. Naas
  3. Tallaght
  4. Raheny
  5. Carlow
However, an overall theme is basically - head west, but avoid the Shannon center, which has had a pass rate of less than 50%.* If you're in that area, head to Ennis, where the pass rate is nearer 70%.

I really wish I could plot these rates on a map, but I don't have those skills.

Kilrush had a bad 2013 in terms of the pass rate, but seems to have righted the ship in 2014.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Leicester Cathedral should flood eBay with Richard III booklets

Let me say up front that I have no problem with Leicester Cathedral cashing in on the whole Richard III shebang. Churches need money too and if reburying a 500+ year old king puts coins in the coffers fair enough.

However, I think it's a bit rich for the man in charge of that whole affair to give a big "tsk tsk" to anyone else who might earn a penny or two out of the reburial.

The Dean of Leicester said:
"We've noticed that service booklets from the cathedral's services are being sold for extortionate prices on eBay, presumably by those who attended the services," he said.
"This is very sad - many would have welcomed being there and keeping this as a souvenir.
"We have had extra copies printed and we are selling a set of all three for £12.50 to cover costs from Christian Resources in St Martin's House, next door to the cathedral."
Rather than moan about people selling the booklets at "extortionate prices" on eBay the Dean should flood eBay with his own booklets at whatever price he considers fair. That will put an end to anyone charging "extortionate prices" and will also earn the cathedral a few extra pounds. eBay is the opportunity, not a threat.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Five centuries late – the funeral of the century belongs to Richard III

So today's the day. The day of the celebrity funeral of the year, the century! Right? And not a damp eye about the place – the perfect funeral, not even a twinge of sadness among any in the church or anywhere at all really.

Richard III's funeral today is kind of like Will & Kate's wedding, only without the beautiful bride (or bridesmaid). What about the Royal Family? I don't know if they'll be in attendance for the big event in Leicester, but let's face it Richard wasn't (and isn't) really much of endorsement for the concept of monarchy.

In fact, his reputation was so poor that despite my real interest in the discovery of his body in the parking lot in Leicester, I didn't think many in Britain would really care. I am surprised at how big this thing is. I'm also also a little ... perplexed by today's ceremony.

Does Richard actually require a second funeral? Is there no statute of limitations on these things? Are people really going to pray for the repose of his soul?

I guess I'll have to wait and see how the ceremony is conducted, but there's no denying that interest is huge. I'm sure people all over Britain have been hanging Union Jack bunting, making plans to gather with friends and family for the funeral and preparing afternoon teas according to instructions in Funeral Magazine (Yes, there is one) so that they can enjoy 15th century royal treats after Richard III is buried once and for all - again.

I hope everyone enjoys the day. It's on Channel 4 in Britain. I have no idea if there's any coverage in the US of A. I sure hope so.

Here's a song appropriate for today's occasion/festivities.