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Cinnamon patrol

Mr and Mrs Lili Wedding


Linguistics lesson

A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day.

"In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some
languages though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative."

"However," he pointed out, "there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A Dublin voice from the back of the room piped up: "Yeah. Roigh."



YASP (Yet another snow-related post)

Like the rest of Northern Europe, we've been hammered by arctic weather. But unlike the rest of northern Europe, we were totally unprepared for it.

This is because, depending on who you listen to, it's the worst winter in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years (says Seamus the postie on RTE1), 50 years or the worst ever.

We're running (or have run) out of salt for the roads, the pavements are a national shame, water mains are bursting hither and thither, and all that is before breakfast.

But I don't mind any of it because this is my first real Northern hemisphere winter. I get to see firsthand water going through it's phase changes in new and exciting ways; like de-icing the car with warm water only to have it refreeze 30 seconds later, and, why, just 15 minutes ago I was driving along when a roof ice-berg broke off and ran down the windscreen completely obscuring my vision - thrilling!

So here's to precipitation in all its forms! To boilers wherever they may be activated! To hot calvados & apple juice! To watching it snow from your desk! To losing feeling in one's face! To winter!

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

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New apartment pics

Here some some snaps of the new apartment.

Main bathroom and 2nd bedroom not included, as they are works in progress.

The rental agent's plumber failed to turn up for the final time yesterday, so we have sourced a new plumber ourselves. I'm hoping for good things.

As you can see, our couch is particularly generous. On the days when it's cold and rainy outside (i.e. all of them for the next 4 months), it is quite hard to leave it for work. Often I think of just sitting there and doing a Discovery marathon, punctuated only by the Angelus at 6pm on RTE1.

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Nature abhors a vacuum

Holy batman! This tired blog has been laying bare, strewn, left adrift, abandoned.

But we have not sat still. We have not been slothful or lazy. We could be reclining on our oversized couch, enjoying apertifs from our oversized coffee table and watching cable TV from either of two locations. But we're not. Every day, at dawn's crack we heave ourselves into the cold morning (well. one of us does - the other gets in the car and drives to work with the heat on) and give ourselves over to Dublin Bus. We toil away at our workplaces and watch the sun set over our afternoon tea. And then again - into the cold night - the unforgiving cold night.

When we do see the sun, it is from the warm bosom of Ikea and her inexpensive cafeteria. We must fortify ourselves with meatballs, gravad lax, almondy cake and €1 hot chocolates. We must live better through technology - even when that technology is kitchen drawer organisers that aren't designed for your kitchen drawers and have to be tortured into shape. And we lug flatpacks 10, nay 100 times our own weight like so many weary ants.


This weekend we promise to take photos of the new digs. Stay tuned.



Not lost in translation, unfortunately

(How did I miss this for 5 days? Then discover it via Sideswipe in the NZ Herald?)

From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/6190964/Passengers-panic-as-cabin-crew-plays-incorrect-message-saying-plane-to-ditch.html.

Aer Lingus cabin crew caused panic on a Dublin to Paris flight by accidentally playing a message in French which warned that the plane was about to make an emergency landing.

Panic-stricken passengers, of which the majority were French, spent several terrifying minutes convinced they were about to plunge into the sea only to discover staff had put on the wrong announcement.

Around 70 people were on board the A320 Airbus which took off from Dublin on its way to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

Approximately 20 minutes after take-off, an announcement in English advised passengers that the plane was passing through an area of turbulence, and to return to their seats and fasten their seat belts.

It was directly followed by another announcement, this time in French.

Relaxed-looking English-speaking passengers smiled at their fellow French travellers and presumed they were listening to the same message.

However, this one received a very different response that could not be explained by cultural differences as the French began to scream, shake and cry.

One passenger told the Irish Examiner newspaper that a Frenchman who had been dozing next to him suddenly woke up and looked very startled.

"He translated what had been said to me. The message, he said, was that we should prepare for an emergency landing, note where the emergency exits were and await instructions from the captain. As there was turbulence as well I got quite alarmed.

"The woman behind me was crying. All the French freaked out," he added.

A few agonising minutes later, the cabin crew realised there was something wrong as passengers were wailing.

In fact, a steward had simply pressed the wrong pre-recorded message – warning the plane was about to make an emergency landing.

The aircraft was over the sea at the time and some passengers believed the plane was about to ditch.

"They then went back on the PA system and apologised for playing the wrong announcement in French," the passenger said.

An Aer Lingus spokeswoman confirmed that a pre-recorded message in French about the emergency landing had been accidentally pressed instead of the turbulence warning.

"We subsequently clarified this and apologised to our passengers. It is a very unusual occurrence," he said.

The mid-air drama happened on August 4 but was not reported in France until yesterday.

French nerves are still jangling following the still unexplained crash of an Airbus A330-200 belonging to Air France, the national carrier.

Flight 447 plunged into the ocean after taking off from Brazil for Paris, killing all 228 on board. It was the company's worst-ever disaster.

Investigators said last month they expected it would take at least 18 months year to reach conclusions about the causes of the crash, after submarines failed to detect the plane's two black boxes.

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Luas down

The red-line Luas got into a pretty nasty crash with the No 16 bus this afternoon in the middle of town.

The Luas is much loved in Dublin, and we wish him a speedy recovery.


Our thoughts are with those who were injured.

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Rue Privée

Rue Privée
Originally uploaded by djcult
Quietly. In the undergrowth of our summer château near Lamalou-les-Bains.

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Baked Belgian booty - the mattentaart

I was first introduced to this tasty pastry by some Belgian friends of ours.

A speciality of the East Flanders city of Geraardsbergen, the mattentaart (matten = "curd", taart = "tart") is a cheesecakey-like cake encased in puff pastry. The secret ingredient is the buttermilk used to prepare the fine dry curd for the cheesecake part. The puff pasty is light and crunchy, and the cake has a very light crumb, and a delicious tangy sourness.

Eagle-eyed Laura found this at a stall in Ghent and we enjoyed several of them.

The tart is so special, it has been granted the sought-after European Regional Product status, designating it as qualifying for the Product Designation of Origin - the first Flemish food product to receive the designation. This means it can only be called mattentaart if it was actually made in Geraardsbergen (or the city's neighbouring village of Lierde) and made using the traditional, ancient recipe - which dates back to 1510 - while also using milk from the region.

Smakelijk eten!

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Letters from Lamalou

After spending one day & one night tootling around La Cité (the medieval-walled-town-part) of Carcassonne , we rented our car for the drive to the chateau. The Opel Corsa with no hub caps was not the black Peugot 207 I was hoping for. Also, unfortunately, it's the same car we did our driving lessons and tests in, which bought back bad memories. Also, unfortunately is was diesel - actually it drove quite well and I was impressed - but it sounded like a pretty shit tractor. To ease into driving on the other side of the road, I thought I'd terrify Laura by driving perilously close to the right-hand side - especially when near parked cars, ditches, or - my personal favourite - sheer drop-offs. To make it more scenic, we GPSed a route that took us via Castres, up through the mountains and national park, and (by accident) the super-charming really-old-looking, no-cars-because-the-streets-are-too-narrow, stuck-up-in-hills-with bridges, funny-old-outdoor-squat-urinals-and-all Olargues.

The chateau was cool. It's more-or-less a 3 storey square building enclosing a courtyard with several attached barns and outhouses. And a pool (of course). The owners were competitive body builders and have build a very impressive 2-storey gym complete with protein supplements and all. As there is no gym in the area, it has turned into a good sideline for them. But because it's an historic property they aren't allowed to advertise, or put up any signs. The best they can do is put a sign some distance down the road saying "gym in 500 metres" but, and this is truly French, the sign can't give any indication of which direction it's in. The property extends quite a way in one aspect and includes an abandoned orangerie. If you walked through the orangerie, or along the no-longer-used railway line across the road, you come to the spa town of Lamalou-les-Bains.

To us, a "spa" is a place that girls go to sit around in bath robes while being up-sold ludicrously expensive beauty products. But the French spa towns are more like water-based outpatient clinics. After a few days in Lamalou you start to notice the preponderance of wheelchairs, crutches & bandages - in fact, in any given group of people, at least one person is likely to be looking fairly worse for the wear. So, in the nicest way, I think of Lamalou not of les Bains, but of les cripples - kind of like a leper colony with really nice boulangeries. Speaking of pastry, our initial efforts in the regard were a bit frustrated - if you're like us, if you're on holiday, by the time you sleep in, have breakfast & perform your ablutions lazily, it's around 1pm. That is indeed a shame, because in Lamalou (and I suspect most other small town in that area, if not the entire country) all the shops shut at 1pm to reopen at 4pm. Eventually we got it right, but on day #1 we were restricted to Lidl rations only.

Being, aside from the Ikea furniture, more or less an authentic country house, we had no aircon. During the day the temperature maxed out around 40°. The shutters were shuttered, and on the days when we didn't foolishly adventure up hills or down gorges (we did both of these at my insistence and Laura's forbearance), we siesta'ed in our room, feverish, languid, and happy. On the first night I left the shutters open, and it was pleasantly cool. On night #2 I did the same but we inadvertently outsmarted a bat's echolocation: Laura woke in a start claiming rustling noises and I poo-pooed it as a dream - but there was no mistaking the wriggly fist-sized parcel in our net curtain. I have to admit, and I'm not proud of this, that years of apartment living has rendered me a little soft when it comes to non-domestic animals. But the burden of protecting my wife sits heavily on my shoulders and I'm not one to back down (except when facing that one type of bear where you're supposed to back down). I found the best course of action was just to close the windows on top the curtains - thereby ensuring the bat remained outside - and allowing him the opportunity to free himself, should he wish to do so. In the morning I checked tentatively, and confirmed he had made his escape.

In fact, this is was not the only act of heroism on my part. On another day I found a lizard in the same net curtains. (I feel I need to give a bit of context here: we have been constantly & shamelessly harassed by small lizards in the past. In Fiji a lizard had taken to living behind the toilet cistern - at night he'd (they're always "he's") creep out, and you'd get up to use the loo and flick the lights on, and he'd race back in - and we, neither of us, dithered on that throne. Then in Goa, a different lizard (I assume) had taken to living behind the giant carved wooded headboard above our bed. Again the same thing - he'd creep out when it was dark or quiet - then any light or motion would see him to racing back in. It began to affect our ability to enjoy the headboard and we were forced to bring it to the attention of the staff. A group of them came in, first to remove the headboard, and then to deal with the lizard: after being exposed, he ran out of the room at a million miles with 3 or 4 men chasing him, and ultimately he succumbed to one of their shoes). With that in mind, I tried to loose the lizard from the curtain through vigorous shaking. When that failed, I tried to "bash" him off using Laura's magazine. It was successful, but along with the lizard, the magazine also exited in the window and ended up in the boules sandpit (from whence I was forced to retrieve it, a little shame-faced).

Then, on our last night, I got up to the use the loo... We had been talking to the owners about the local fauna - which had included scorpions - and I noticed a scorpion-shaped thing on the floor. It was small, and I prodded it with something and it didn't move, so I assumed it was the discarded exoskeleton of a scorpion. None the less I put an empty can over it, then spent the next 45 minutes wondering where the freshly decked-out scorpion could be (the sheets?) before falling asleep. In the morning I removed the can and lo! it was indeed a scorpion, and not just a shell. And this time it took off. I quickly replaced the can, and we put a bottle of shower gel on top of the can to weigh it down. Then we packed up, paid the bill, and left for La Grande Motte, warning the owners on the way out.

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Languedoc rocks

We're back from our summer holiday. Wow - it was amazing! It was great to really take our time to get to know an area of France - much more satisfying than the usual long weekend.

The fist image shows a map of the main places we went to (we didn't really go to Aix so much as drive through it on the way to airport, but anyway).

We spent most of our time in renovated chateau near the spa town of Lamalou-les-Bains. The second image shows the chateau with Lamalou in the back ground. You can see the vineyards all around. Our apartment in the chateau was really lovely - a great place to siesta during the hot part of the day.

More to come including photos & never-heard-before stories of animal wrangling and heroism.

Meanwhile I have 2 more days left at work, so I'd better find a new contract soon, or else, I'll be... well... relaxing at home and biking in the park. And we can't have that.

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Sweep's family reunion - the miracle of YouTube



49,000 people made redundant in Ireland in 2009 (so far)

From http://www.independent.ie/breaking-news/national-news/49000-people-made-redundant-in-ireland-in-2009-1852322.html:

New figures from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment show that 49,009 people have been made redundant so far this year. Over 6,350 were laid off last month alone.

The rate of increase for the year to date is 142%.

Director of the Small Firms Association Patricia Callan says that urgent government action is now needed to stem the rise in job losses.

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Key dates in the Irish Republic

Every age has a keyhole to which its eye is pasted.
- Mary McCarthy

1916 - Nationalists stage Easter Rising, seizing the General Post Office in Dublin and proclaiming an independent Irish Republic.

1921 - Anglo-Irish Treaty establishes the Free State, an independent dominion of the British crown with full internal self-government rights, partitioned from Northern Ireland which remains part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

1937 - New elections. The voters return de Valera and also approve a new constitution which abolishes the Irish Free State and proclaims Eire (Gaelic for Ireland) as a sovereign, independent, democratic state.

1973 - Ireland joins the European Economic Community.

1998 - The Good Friday Agreement on a political settlement for Northern Ireland is approved by voters in referendums in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.

2002 - Euro replaces the punt.

2009 - IKEA opens in Dublin. Some of the staff dressed up like Abba.

The citizens of Ireland are now free from furniture store oppression. There are rumous IKEA furniture comes in different colours and designs - not just the "cheap unpainted wood / I did it in high school" style so popular with all the other discount furniture stores.

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Incident: rejected takeoff due to fish strike

From http://www.avherald.com/h?article=41d56b1f&opt=0:

An Air Canada Jazz de Havilland Dash 8-100, flight QK-7710 from London,ON to Toronto Pearson,ON (Canada), impacted a fish during its takeoff roll and rejected takeoff. The airplane stopped safely.

NAV Canada reported besides the DH8A, that an osprey flying overhead the aerodrome had dropped a carp, which impacted the airplane. The FAA reported the airplane to be a DH8C (Dash 8-300).

The airplane departed a few minutes later and reached Toronto on schedule.

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BBC TV Concorde special from 1989

Really good - about 30 mins altogether. Watch a take-off from Heathrow and a landing at Washington Dulles. See an explanation of the cockpit controls from the pilot and flight engineer. Watch the instruments as they go supersopnic!

Really an amazing plane, a real it was retired.

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Classic Richard Feynman lectures

Classic 1964 Richard Feynman lecture series on Physics at Cornell