Wednesday, January 30, 2008

’Tis a wee hill, but grand

Last picture from Ireland. Our tour of the historical sites around Dublin culminated in a trip to the Hill of Tara, where the Celtic kings were crowned. Paul, our tour guide, described it: “’tis a wee hill, but grand. If you’re of Irish descent—if you have any Celtic blood at all... welcome home.”

The Hill of Tara has, among other things, two interlinking circular mounds. They’re amazing as you walk around them, but they’re easier to discern from above.

Also on the site is the Stone of Destiny, or Lia Fáil. According to legend, this stone was used to crown the Celtic rulers. The stone lets out a scream when touched by a future king.

I’ll avoid putting more pictures of myself here. But I’ll report, sadly, that I’m evidently not destined to be a Celtic queen.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Iceman Cometh

I had every intention of going into work on Saturday. As I was reluctantly getting ready to go, Daryn returned my call from earlier. I asked what he was up to that day. “Yeah, so... some of us are going to go see this guy who’s sitting in a big tub of ice.” Pause. “You want to come?”

I decided to go in to work on Sunday.

This is Wim Hof. He’s mastered a type of meditation that allows him to regulate his own body temperature and heart rate.

He stood in the ice for one hour and twelve minutes (breaking the previous world record—his own—of one hour and eleven minutes). We stood in the street and watched him stand in the ice for about forty-five minutes.

Here he is coming out of the ice. Check out his companions’ snappy t-shirts.

Friday, January 18, 2008


In a fit of crunchy social consciousness — and also because I was attracted by the bright colors — I bought this cereal the other day. Check out the bottom: 10% of the profits are donated to Peace.

Everyone loves Peace!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Here’s a rare picture of me, taken by Sydney:

Fourknocks is a Celtic group tomb, oriented so the sun shines directly on the main burial chamber inside on the winter solstice. I’m standing on top here, but we went inside, too, where there is one of the only representations of a human face from neolithic Ireland. The tomb is older than the Pyramids. Cooool...

Monday, January 14, 2008

The unforgettable fire

And this is the Hill of Slane:

In the 5th Century, according to legend, St. Patrick lit a fire here in defiance of the pagan king, High King Laoire. The king was impressed and allowed St. Patrick to continue his missionary work, although the king himself was never converted to Christianity (and was, according to our guide, buried in Celtic fashion—standing up, with a sword in his hand). The structures in this picture are the ruins of a friary church, which was restored in 1512, and a college.

Our guide also said that the name of U2’s album The Unforgettable Fire referred to St. Patrick’s fire on the Hill of Slane. In fact, U2 did hold the initial recording sessions at Slane Castle. So who knows. What is certain is that our tour guide was a great fan of U2, and the soundtrack for our tour consisted of many many selections from U2. Alternating with those from Riverdance.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


During the trip, we took a day trip around to some ancient Celtic sites. This is a picture of Monasterboice, a Christian site founded in the late 5th Century. This is one of the Celtic crosses, from the 10th Century, used to teach bible stories to the illiterate. On the New Testament side of the cross, due to contemporary issues and prejudices, Jesus is depicted wearing a monk’s robes and with a monk’s tonsure. And the Romans are depicted as Vikings.

The tower in the back is believed to have been used to provide refuge from these aforementioned Vikings.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Guinness is good for you

If you’re in Dublin and you feel like coughing up €12.60, you can take a self-guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse.

As you walk in, you’re presented with a souvenir paperweight—a plastic blob with a drop of Guinness trapped inside (along with a warning not to drink it).

And then it begins. You walk into the main area where you’re confronted with enormous video screens showing idyllic scenes of hops blowing gently in the breeze. You reach into giant vats of roasted barley, where you’re told to get a sense for yourself of the grains that bring forth the magical and distinctive taste. And, of course, you can stand under the tremendous waterfall highlighting the purity of the water used to make Guinness.

By the time you get the complimentary pint at the bar at the top, you’ve heard a loving description of Mr. Guinness, whose passion for his art was unmatched, you’ve seen a sample of the numerous advertising campaigns, which insist upon the healthfulness of the drink, and you’ve had an opportunity to contemplate various passages by James Joyce. And you can’t help but wonder how you ever drank anything else.

It’s a very well-done tour.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It’s been a while

Phew! Back from vacation. I went home for Christmas and to Dublin for New Year’s Eve. I saw really amazing things in Ireland, got inspired, and then took mostly mediocre pictures. But before I start on those, here’s a building I passed every day when walking from where I was staying to the center of town. It made me chuckle: