Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'll Play Castlevania Level 5

It's Saturday and it's time to venture back to Castlevania.  In the game, we take on level 5 and its master, Death.  That's right, Death, The Reaper, Old Scratch, whatever you call him, he apparently works for Dracula.  Wow... Drac must be some bad dude if he holds sway over the nameless eternal Harvester of Souls.

In real life, we are both sick and taking it easy.  Also, I continue my job search and expand my job search net beyond my first few ideas.

Remember Death from Castlevania 3?  In the first video, made several months ago, witness Trevor Belmont take down the same cloaked spirit in the distant past before Simon Belmont came around.

Now, this week's video, taking down Death with a bad case of the sniffles.  Dracula himself next week!

Friday, August 30, 2013

We Found More Glasses!

So, finding awesome stuff on the ground here is going to be a big part of our lives here.  It's official.  Many of you read how excited I was about finding this glass.  On a fine Saturday morning, we walked from our apartment to City Centre in Dublin to catch a bus going north.  Just down the block from our apartment, I saw the Heineken glass sitting on an electrical box on the sidewalk, with just a half-sip of stale (staler than Heineken usually is?) beer.  I tapped it to confirm it to be made of glass and not disposable plastic.  Nice!  We weren't sure whether to take it with us for the rest of the day or to run it back to the apartment.  Not being in any hurry, I decided not to drag a dirty, sticky, stale beer glass around all day, so I ran (skipped!) home to set down this glass for later.

I found these two Heineken and Fosters beer glasses in Dublin, Ireland
I don't like light lagers anyway!

It should be noted here, for maybe the first time on this blog, that many pubs serve tap beers in glasses marked with the brand label of the beer.  Many an American bar might go for the clear plastic throwaways or the old-fashioned Lite Pilsner glasses for everything.  Here in Dublin, and the small number of pubs we've visited, the bartender carefully pours your drink from the draught into a specially labeled (and specially shaped) glass.  Different styles of beer do require different shapes of glass, according to many beer aficionados.  Just like we drink champagne out of flutes, merlot from merlot glasses, and Pilsner beers from Pilsner glasses, different styles of beer behave differently with a different surface-area-to-mass ratio and more or less head in the nose of the drinker.

Beer snobbery aside (maybe another post!) the glasses served here are marked with the logo and look beautiful.  I imagine it must be tempting to order a pint for 4-5 Euro, enjoy the drink, and slip out the door with a glass that would have cost 7 or 8 Euro at the gift shops.  Maybe tourists think that any glass bearing a beverage company logo automatically counts as a free souvenir, especially after so many ball game cup promotions.  I suppose it isn't a surprise that I find more of these glasses near City Centre after Friday and Saturday nights.  As bad as I feel for the pubs losing their property, I can't hardly think of a way to properly return these scattered glasses to the specific pubs from which they were stolen.  On the other hand, maybe I can increase my take by exploring the Temple Bar district of town early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  That neighborhood gets pretty rowdy of an evening, I'll have to check that out...

In the meantime, I had to put a dark backdrop on the labels of the two glasses I found.  I could think of nothing better than cold Guinness, even though the shape of the glasses were fit for more lighter beers.  Beer aficionados will just have to forgive me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cardboard Fire Logs

Our home has a wonderful open fireplace.  Just cleaned by the chimneysweep earlier this Spring, it awaits the cold, dark, damp winter.  Just relocated here with less income than the last chapter of my life, I await a way to get cheap (read: free) fuel to feed this fireplace.

My first thought was to prowl the city looking for scrap pieces of wood to use as fuel for our indoor fireplace.  I had made a habit of this back in Iowa for campfire wood fuel.  My main source was the woodshop teacher at my old school who was happy to provide me with clean wood scraps for the campfire.  When I first began to look around for scrap wood, I found it quickly, but began to rethink my choices after some thought.  Years ago, I would have (and did!) happily burned any old wood I could find- fresh, rotten, painted, chemical-treated, anything.  I have since wised up to some of the dangers of burning certain chemicals.  Here, I have seen a great deal of wood in construction dumpsters and broken pallets behind loading docks.  These look identical to anything I would have found back home, and if/when we go camping and need wood for an outdoor campfire, I'll happily come-a-collecting.  I wonder about the safety of burning any construction waste indoors.

That's the key- indoors.  Anything that is in the fuel we burn in our living room is going to end up filling our living space with invisible molecules, permeating the walls -and our lungs- with whatever fun compounds are present.  Fire and chemistry do not lie, nor do they play favorites, so we have to be careful.  I think scrap wood from unknown sources will be out for now.

Never fear!  The internet is here!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Trip to IKEA

Our apartment, as do many apartments in this part of the world, comes fully furnished.  Glad we were that we could move without bringing furniture and we got a great apartment with great furniture.  After getting our printer, we realized we needed some kind of desk or table for our computer, printer, and office supplies.  Our first setup wasn't quite working.

The printer, manuals, and printer paper on a footstool and the floor
What a mess!

The printer, sitting on a footstool with printer paper piled on the floor beneath wasn't a long-term solution, so we needed something bigger.  In Iowa, we would have just gotten in the car and driven to a thrift store like Goodwill for all of our furniture, clothing, and junk needs.

In Dublin, charity stores are great, but we have yet to find one of the cavernous warehouses like a Midwestern Goodwill store.  All of the charity shops we have found here have a great selection of clothing, but not as much room for furniture and junk.  Besides, we don't have a car, so we rely on the Dublin Bus for getting around town.  Thus, we can't gamble that any given charity shop will have what we need on any given day.  Having no choice, we had to go new...

"Where can we get new furniture at low prices?"  Of course the answer, especially in Europe, is IKEA.  I had never set foot in one of the colossal temples to consumerism, even back in America.  I had no idea what I was in for.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Immersion Water Heater

Water heaters.  Modern homes could not function without them.  All of us in the developed world rely on them for our safety and comfort.  This is the kind of appliance that can be totally ignored until something goes wrong.

In Iowa, we were blessed in our home to have the American standard water heater.  By American standard I mean the heater most Americans have in their homes:  "That big tank thing in the basement about which I know nothing, not even the brand!  It just works and has hot water ready when I shower!"

Ours did what water heaters do- it kept water hot.  All the time.  At at comfortable temperature.  All the time.  I never turned off the water heater in the four years we lived in that house, and never gave it a second thought.

Enter the new system of which I approve very much, the immersion heater.

Water heater used in Dublin, Ireland by Americans living there.

It's difficult to photograph the workings of the water heater, but the basic principles can be explained.  Instead of a 50-plus gallon tank heated to a comfortable temperature at all times, we use a small tank with an electric element immersed in the water within.  It works much like the electric kettle we use to boil hot water for coffee, tea, and cooking.  The electric heating element blasts the water within, boiling the water touching it almost instantly, taking no time at all to get the full container nice and hot.  When hot water from the water heater is needed, flip the switch to turn on the unit, and the whole thing heats up in about 30 minutes.

Switches for the immersion water heater used in Dublin, Ireland by Americans.

"But what about that small capacity!"  One might say.  True, that much water might not be enough for a long shower or full bath.  We get around that with high temperatures.  The water is the American water heater is set to a safe and comfortable temperature that can be used full-strength if you're tough.  This heater gets the water blazing hot.  I mean hot.  It can not be used full strength from the tap without scalding.  Even the taps and pipes get too hot to touch when this water is flowing through them.  The result of this is, of course, a shower or bath that uses a much lighter mix of hot and cold water to create a safe and comfortable water temperature.

Now for the trade-off.  To get this efficiency, we sacrifice some of the convenience of the good ole American Huge Tank.  Hot water requires advance planning.  There are no spontaneous showers here.  For a morning shower, we usually flip the switch just as we wake up.  After coffee and breakfast, we are set to go.  Some households here have automatic timers to get around this problem, but we haven't found a way to hook one up on our setup.  If we ever need a small amount of hot water in a pinch for dishes or shaving, we just use our small electric kettle.

This product seems like it will save a lot on energy use and bills.  I admire many of the small innovations we have seen here to save energy and materials.    Stay tuned for many more of the small changes that will add up to big savings of money and environmental impact.

Update:  An Irish friend recommended a great stand-up routine by Des Bishop, an American comedian living in Ireland.  After watching it, I think he captures the American perspective on the water heater change perfectly.  Thanks, Lord Stilton!

More about Des Bishop here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Road Trip: Albuquerque to Near-Dallas, Texas

Date         Stop    Odometer   Location                                       Time

6/21/20130211050Albuquerque, NM7:04 AM
6/21/20131211215Tucumcari, NM9:49 AM
6/21/20132211319Amarillo, TX1:00 PM
6/21/20133211491Vernon, TX4:08 PM
6/21/20134211626Lake Mineral Wells S.P.7:00 PM

From Sara's travel journal:
Friday, June 21, 2013 8:00pm
Lake Mineral Wells State Park, Texas (about 30 miles west of Dallas/Fort Worth)
We woke up pretty early at the hotel in Albuquerque this morning and packed up all of our stuff. We took it out to the car before we enjoyed our complimentary continental breakfast. We ran into some folks that were originally from Iowa. The man went to Davenport Central High School and UNI and was into music, so he and Cory knew a lot of the same people. What a small world! 
We made excellent driving time today. We stopped just outside of Albuquerque so that I could buy a New Mexico magnet, and we had an excellent lunch in Amarillo, Texas. We stopped at a small, diner-sized barbeque restaurant called Doug’s Bar-B-Q. There wasn’t a long line when we got there, and Cory and I had some time to mull over the menu. Finally, Cory had the courage to tell the restaurant owners/staff that we were from Iowa and that this was our first time eating Texas BBQ, and we weren’t sure what to order. He asked for a recommendation, and we took their suggestions. We shared a beef brisket plate that came with cole slaw, potato salad, and baked beans and a “half Barbeque Frito Pie”. The pie was essentially a walking taco that had barbeque sauce and baked beans on it instead of taco seasoning. The ladies told us that Doug's Bar-B-Q was a local, family owned place that had been open since the 1950s.  When we sat down, I saw that on the wall there were several local “best of” awards, so it looks like we chose well for our first Texas BBQ! Lots of locals were in and out as we ate our lunch, and I’m glad we took the time to stop and eat there. Afterwards, we thanked the ladies for their suggestions and went on our way. 
Doug's Bar-B-Q restaurant in Amarillo, Texas
Doug's Bar-B-Q, Amarillo, Texas
Barbeque sandwiches and Frito Pie at Doug's Bar-B-Q in Amarillo, Texas
Our first Texas barbeque.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'll Play Castlevania Levels 3-4

Saturday GameCast continues as we make our way further into Dracula's castle.  We discuss getting a package in the post and another fishing adventure, this time to the sea.  More about that trip in another post.  Castlevania will be finished in another week or two, at which time I will make a combined full-playthrough video.

I discovered too late an audio anomaly that I will have hopefully fixed for next week.  My recording program suffers a dip in quality just as I start the recording due to me hitting PLAY on the video program.  Maybe that's too behind the curtain, but there it is.

Mummies?  Frankenstein?  Piece o' cake!

Friday, August 23, 2013

I Found This Awesome Glass!

Just as the title says, I found the awesome glass pictured below.  Well... I can't take the credit for actually finding the glass.  That belongs to Sara.

Found in Dublin, Ireland
It all happened during the week of the Dublin Horse Show at the nearby RDS-Royal Dublin Society.  This event is a week-long celebration of all things horse.  I imagine, even if it isn't actually accurate, people in red coats and black helmets getting credit for horses doing funny things, ladies (and little girls) with ridiculously large hats, and way-too-drunk "gentlemen" staggering around the neighborhood with their Jameson Whisky.  Just like what I imagine an American horse show to be!

A look at the strange geometry of the Captain Morgan glass found in Dublin, Ireland
Cool shape, not quite square
Sara got home from work one evening to meet me for dinner.  She said she passed by a present for me on her way home.  She knows my hobby of collecting way cool things and cold hard cash from the gutters of the world, so I was excited to see what this surprise was.  We started walking towards Donnybrook where we had dinner plans.  At the nearby corner, we saw the above glass sitting by the bus stop on someone's garden wall.  It was beautiful, even with the dregs of someones red-colored cocktail.  I would love to have grabbed it right there and taken it to dinner, but something stopped me.  What stopped me was my fear of taking something that isn't fully abandoned.  I have rules about collecting change from the ground which are pretty easy to follow, but abandoned items make me a little more nervous.  It was entirely likely that someone was a little too tipsy when they left the Horse Show, brought along the drink, and left it at the bus stop when the driver wouldn't allow it on the bus.  But, it was also possible that someone was enjoying a refreshing red beverage and had a sudden emergency that necessitated this poor individual to set down the drink on the nearest surface and depart with the intention to return for it.

Wracked with uncertainty, I decided to give the drink some time.  We went to Donnybrook to dinner, with the intention of snagging it if it was still on the corner when we came back.  If it was gone, it meant the owner had returned or someone else needed it more than me.  If it was still there, it was always mine.  If you love something, set it free, right?

After dinner, I felt the magnetic pull of the glass on the corner all the way back.  I began to get ahead of Sara as my stride length and pace increased.  Sweat beads dotted my forehead, my focus was clear:  get that glass.  

I was rewarded for my patience with the gleaming red beauty sitting on the same corner.  All doubt and guilt fled me in an instant.  Clearly no one was coming back for this glass after so many hours, and I felt like I was doing the owners of the garden walls a favor by taking the "trash" away from their pristine wall.  I dumped out the red sludge and almost skipped home to wash the glass and enjoy a tasty glass of cheap white wine from it.  Nice.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Road Trip: Grand Canyon National Park to Albuquerque

Date        Stop     Odometer    Location                                     Time

6/20/20130210643Kaibab Nat'l Forest, 10-X6:51 AM
6/20/20131210695Williams, AZ8:36 AM
6/20/20132210835Chinde Point, Petrified Forest NP11:33 AM
6/20/20133210959Milan, NM
6/20/20134211050Albuquerque, NM4:00 PM

From Cory's Travel Journal (revised)

12:10 PM- Just a little way out of Petrified Forest National Park,  although we skipped the forest part and just did the painted desert.  We got up at 6 this morning and packed up the tent.  Fire ban = coffee and breakfast at Wendy's.  They had wireless internet which wasn't overloaded like McDonald's was yesterday.  We sent some emails while eating and got on the road.  We stopped for gas in Williams and hit I-40.

Sandwiches, peaches, and water for lunch at the Painted Desert at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Lunch at the Painted Desert

Flat, red desert at Painted Desert at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Lots of red earth and blue sky

Small red mounds roll the landscape at Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
More of the same

Petrified wood sits on the valley floor at Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
These chunks are petrified wood.  What were they doing here?

The A/C is working fine as we are mostly flat and high here in Eastern AZ.  Our lunch stop was the petrified forest and painted desert.  I-40 goes through the North part of the park, which has very little petrified wood, just the painted desert.  We didn't have time to drive through the park to the forest, so we stopped at a picnic shelter in the desert.  He had PB sandwiches left over from lunch yesterday and a can of peaches.  We took some photos, but couldn't find Frog in the car!  We must have put him in another bang or maybe on the floor of the car.  Wait, just found him under my seat, Nice!  We're continuing on to ALBQ.  More driving today, but pizza tonight!

5:38PM-  Sitting at Wal-Mart in ALBQ.  We need our halfway oil change.  I dropped Sara at a laundromat, so she is at a place just as depressing as I.  We got to the hotel first and checked in.  we found Wal-Mart and laundry nearby and wanted to get those out of the way.  The laundromat has arcade video games, at least!

Later-  We went back to the hotel to order pizza from a local pizza place.  Sara kept trying to find a place that would deliver to our hotel but apparently, no local pizza places deliver as far South as the airport Sunport. in ABQ.  I had iced down a couple of my last homebrews, and we had to settle for Papa John's... Oh well.  A lot of dishes here feature green chiles.  We were hoping to try a pizza with them, but no dice.

Two homebrews chill in an ice bucket at a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sadly, we had to enjoy these with Papa John's

We did some advance planning for TX and New Orleans while we watched some HBO.  I worked on some blog posts, we watched True Blood, and went to bed for a good rest.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Laundry Day!

This might not be exciting, but we find it significant.  Don't expect a series of laundry-related posts-unless, of course, this post becomes a viral sensation leading to a book deal.

Laundry here was something we had to consider when looking for housing.  I don't love laundromats, not because of any prejudices of people who have to use them, and not because of their mostly undeserved reputation of being dark, dirty, and depressing.  I just don't love them because I don't want laundry day to become just that, a day.  We knew Dublin is a big city, and did not know if laundry facilities were common in apartments in our price range.  Lucky for us, they are.  We were very happy to see washing equipment in our kitchen at the showing, and considered it in the decision to live here.

The washing equipment was like nothing we had seen in Iowa.  Namely, it is a washer and dryer in once piece.

Dual purpose unit that functions as a washer and a dryer

That's it.  Gone for us are the days of a super-large capacity washer with a hot blasting air dryer next to it.  Here we have a high efficiency unit that will, if asked, wash a small load in a slow cycle and follow it with an immediate dry cycle.  Great, right?  Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Many appliances here are meant to run efficiently.  Saving resources is much more important to the common consumer here than we would have ever seen in Iowa, even among the suburban Iowa yuppies.  High efficiency (HE) comes with a cost that must be considered and adjusted to.  The HE washers are catching on in America, using less water and lower temperatures.  The tradeoff here is in time.  HE wash cycles are rather lengthy, ours is more than a full hour.  No problem so far.

Photo of the settings of the washer/dryer unit
Different wash and dry cycles.  Temperatures are given in degrees Celsius

Daz laundry soap in a red bottle
Our favorite (the cheapest) brand of laundry soap!

Starting the wash cycle
Setting a load, the time in the window is for the wash only.
Drying cycles can be adjusted to different temperatures and times just as the wash cycles, but they don't work quite like the good ole Whirpool back in Iowa.  The dry cycle does not work by blasting the clothes with hot air and pumping the air out the dryer vent.  The cycle here slowly and gently pulls moisture out to the clothes and into the air in the machine.  This means in real terms that clothes will not be dry after one dry cycle, multiple may be required to have clothes "drawer ready."  We did receive a hot tip about stopping the dryer before the cool down cycle to get some slightly warmer and dryer clothes but we haven't tried that yet.

In the meantime, we are back to the days of our first apartment where the dryer was expensive and didn't work well.  Then as now, we went classic:

Clothes hand on a collapsible wire drying rack
A drying rack.  Awesome!
Now that's high efficiency, suburban Iowa yuppies!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First... Ok, Second, Homebrew!

Many no doubt know one of my favorite hobbies in the last few years has been home brewing.  I was first introduced to the process in college, when my roommates were interested in making some beer ourselves.  One of them had a brew shop near his hometown, so he invested in some ingredients and some, ahem, equipment.  Before long, he was making batch after batch in rubbermaid tubs under the beds in the room.  What was produced was quite nice.  Even with rudimentary equipment, he was able to conjure magic in a bottle.

I wish I had gotten more involved in brewing right then, but sadly, it lapsed after graduation.  It wasn't until a few years ago that I found a Mr. Beer beginner home brewing kit on clearance after Christmas.  I brought it home and made the batch.  The process for Mr. Beer was pretty simple.  Mix the pre-hopped malt extract syrup with water, pour in the yeast packet, and let it ferment.  After fermentation, add some priming sugar, bottle it up, and let the bottles naturally carbonate.

It is true these instructions will get you a drinkable product.  Without a thorough knowledge of how fermentation works and how ingredients affect the final product, the beer can be bland, flat, or not properly fermented.  Turns out my first few batches fermented in a basement that was much too cool for fermentation, and I wasn't motivated to make another one.

My parents gave me a book, How to Brew by John Palmer.  This book explains in much more detail the processes of making beer, wine, and cider.  I decided to try again, starting simple.  I mixed some sugar water and fermented it with bread yeast sitting around the house.  After two weeks, I mixed this flavorless fizzy alcohol solution with two packets of Kool-Aid mix and presto!  Weird tasting homebrew hooch!

Fast forward a bit, I had much better equipment and was making a variety of beers and apple ciders with different ingredients, yeasts, and techniques.  Beer is complex, but I never lost my love of the simple "wine" and "cider" drinks consisting of store-bought fruit juice, added sugar, and wine yeast.  Going to Ireland, I knew I couldn't bring all of my beer equipment, so I was planning to start over with very simple equipment and ingredients.

When we arrived, I made plans for getting started in brewing.  100% apple juice is available and cheap at the supermarket here.  My planned fermentation container was a 5 litre jug made for drinking water.  The problem was yeast.  Sara studies baking and brewing yeast genetics professionally, but I hope she will forgive my oversimplifying the following description.  The yeast we use for baking bread, brewing beer, making wine, and fermenting mashes for spirits are the same species, saccharomyces cerevisiae.  We (humans) have bred this one species into thousands of different varieties with different attributes, depending on their intended use.  Baker's yeast in everyone's kitchen is bred to produce a great deal of carbon dioxide quickly with less alcohol and even a little bit of sour flavor for some kick in our bread.  This kind of yeast in brewing does just what it is bred to do.  The product will be drinkable, but will not be very high in alcohol and will have some very "bready" flavors.  Different kinds of brewing yeast are bred to work quickly, slowly, in high temperatures, in low temperatures, to produce flavor compounds of fruit, spice, and an infinite and always growing variety.  These yeasts are not available at supermarkets, and must be special ordered or purchased at a specialty brew shop.

Ireland has several home brewing shops, but unfortunately, none in Dublin.  Any purchase made must be shipped or delivered by courrier.  This is fine for a large order, but I just needed one packet of yeast, less than one Euro total order.  No WAY am I going to shell out "a fiver" for shipping on a ninety-cent packet of yeast.  I had to wait until our next free shipping Amazon order to get the yeast I need.

Or did I have to wait?  I had the juice, I had the jug, I had some bread yeast.  Maybe I could do a one litre return to my bread yeast brewing roots?  Yes, I could. Yes, I did.  Yes, It worked.  No, it didn't taste good.  No, I don't want to talk about it.

With the arrival of our last Amazon order, I now had everything I needed.  Except for sanitizer, but you can't let that kind of thing worry you...

Apple juice, sugar, yeast nutrient, and yeast on display
From left to right:  yeast nutrient (from the supermarket, strangely) yeast,
sugar, four litres of juice, brewing notebook at bottom.
Ingredients, assemble!   Get everything together and clean in one place.  I cleaned everything with lots of soap and very hot water in lieu of sanitizing.  Should be ok, if it gets contaminated, I just get (still edible!) apple cider vinegar instead of hard apple cider.

Measuring demerara sugar for Cider
Demerara sugar, up to the 200 mL line in the cup.  We don't have a scale, so I just have to estimate measuring by volume.  What did you expect with a process like this?

Pouring apple juice to dissolve the sugar in a measuring cup for cider
Pouring some juice onto the sugar.

Pouring hot water into the sugar and juice to dissolve the sugar
 Topping up with some hot water for dissolving

Dissolving the sugar in the measuring cup by stirring
Umm... stirring

Pouring apple juice into the water jug fermenter
The rest of the juice going into the fermenting jug

Yeast nutrient with a measuring spoon
Measuring some yeast nutrient

Getting ready to pitch in yeast
Getting the yeast ready to pour

Page of brewing log book with the details of the cider batch
Careful record keeping in the brewing notebook. This all makes
sense to me somehow.

The cider is ready to ferment in the water jug fermenter
The fermenter ready to go under the sink for a week
Once the sugar solution was topped up in the bottle, there use just a tiny amount of air space in the jug.  This was a little worrying as the first stages of fermentation can cause quite a bit of foaming.  The jug was placed in this mixing bowl to catch any spillage.

Important!  This jug is not sealed completely.  To use a cheap jug like this as a fermenter, there must be a way for gas to escape.  To set this up, tighten the lid all the way, then give the jug a gentle squeeze.  While squeezing, SLOWLY unscrew the lid until air starts to squeak out with the pressure of your squeeze.  The lid must be tight enough that some pressure builds up in the bottle before it escapes.  This creates a positive pressure difference once fermentation begins that keeps any air or contaminants from getting in while avoiding exploding sugary bombs under the sink.

Keep reading for the next steps and the final tasting!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Security is Nice, But...

Our home is great.  Current blog followers will see a long series of posts about the many great features of our home.  This post is not one of those posts.

Our complex is protected by a security fence with privacy hedges on all sides.  This helps hide the sight of the busy highway and college campus on each end of the property.  For the sound, not much help.  No bother, though, right?  We can get in and out and we know that not just any crazy off the street can access the parking lot of our complex.  It takes the kind of crazy person who will wait by the gate and ask a resident to punch in the key or pull up in a car to activate the electronic gate to get in. Whatever.What could be wrong with this arrangement?  Well, buckle up, soldiers, 'cuz this story goes all the way to the top.

Each morning, we get a visit paid by our friendly (I assume) letter carrier.  He or she punches in our gate code and delivers all the bills, flyers, coupons, and credit card offers just like the friendly letter carriers in America.  This week, we learned that something is rotten in the state of Denmark Ireland.  Rotten may be too strong a word, but mildly inconvenient certainly isn't.  We ordered a new printer and some kitchen tools from Amazon.  Yes, they have it here, too.  On previous orders from Amazon, we learned (from experience) that items tend to arrive one working day earlier than the anticipated delivery date.  We also learned (from experience) that the post office will give you one shot to deliver to your address.  If they miss you, you gotta come pick it up from a central processing office.  If the parcel carrier gets no answer at the door, a green form is filled out and dropped in your normal letter box to be presented at the central processing office.

Yada yada yada.  Same old government hoops to jump through, and readers here will know we are no strangers to jumping government hoops.  This week, with a large box coming with an expensive and fragile piece of equipment included, we decided to take no chances.  Our anticipated delivery date was on a Monday, so the preceding Friday, I was to stay home, in the apartment, never out of earshot of the door buzzer, until the package arrived.  If we were to miss this package, it would mean a four-mile round trip walk. Two to pick it up, and two carrying a cumbersome box home through the busy city streets.

Friday came.  Friday went.  No box.  No slip.  No word.

"Ok, so this time Monday means Monday."  We said.  "I'll just stay home on Monday to wait for it.  Bit of a bummer, but as long as we get it, it'll be worth it."

Monday morning arrives.  With the morning post, I noticed and envelope.  On its face, Sara's name and our address, scrawled in pen.  No stamp, no postmark, no return address.  Inside the envelope, the dreaded green slip.  "Sorry we missed you!"  Dated on Friday, the day I chained myself to the house.

Faced with no choice, I alerted Sara to what was going to be an fun afternoon.  We met for lunch and I thought sadly about what might have happened.  "Do they have different people deliver packages than the regular letter carriers?"  "Did this person pull up to the gate without the code from their own department?"  "Surely this must be the first case of poor communication within an government entity, anywhere in the world."  I felt bad thinking about having to bring this issue up to the overworked but friendly-as-possible-given-the-circumstances postal worker.

Bravely, I tackled the long walk to the post office.  In nearby Donnybrook, I passed a church hosting a very large funeral.  I had the unlucky timing to walk through the crowds, cars, and police as the pallbearers were bringing the casket to the coach.  I felt underdressed with my black T-shirt, headphones, and large green backpack.  Our nearest library branch is on the way to this post office, so I seized the opportunity to return some books and movies, no longer needed now that we have the internet at home.

At the post office, I reported the issue and, predictably, I was treated very kindly by a friendly post employee who confirmed my suspicion that drivers other than the letter carriers delivered parcels, and one of them might not have thought to get the code for our gate before driving to our complex.  I gave her the new code, got her assurance that she would pass along the code to the parcel division, and got on my way.

The box was bulky, but it didn't begin to feel overly heavy until I was almost home and the rain clouds were just starting to roll in.  It may have looked funny to onlookers, but I found no less than five coins on the ground, walking the same sidewalk I had taken to get to the post office.  Maybe there is something to  carrying a heavy box that makes one see more on the ground.  For each coin, I made a point to set down the box on the ground, pocket the treasure, and heft the box again.

Getting home before the rain, I opened the box to reap my sweet reward.

A large cardboard box arrives from Amazon
The Box

A gold foil packet of turbo yeast
Brewing yeast

A small baking tray from Amazon
Little baby baking tray

A chef's knife with a white ceramic blade from Amazon
Ceramic kitchen knife

A printer/scanner/copier box.  Pixma MG2250
Printer thing

With Asian characters, Health, Clean, Vogue, Quality, Sharp
The attributes of the ceramic knife

Warnings of the ceramic knife told in poorly-translated English
Cautions and instructions on the awesome ceramic knife

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I'll Play Castlevania Levels 1-2

I'll Play GameCast triumphantly returns to the web!  To spare the bored uncaring sensitive readers repeated installments of irrelevant video game content, the series will become a weekend release.  I hope the commentary can function like a weekly informal podcast about what we are up to around town.  I have made several raw videos of gameplay upon which to comment.  I would like to sit down towards the end of each week and give a weekly audio update while watching and talking a bit about the game I am playing.

This week I begin playing Castlevania.  After the marathon drag of death that was the play through to Castlevania 3, this playthrough will feel like a snap.  In addition to introducing the game, I talk a little bit about my first forays into trout fishing in the nearby River Dodder here in Dublin.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fishing the Dodder

We are currently preparing a whole slug of blog posts recapping our month in internet darkness.  With all the extra time I had while Sara was at work, I was able to get in some serious fishing, but first- I needed to find a few things.

One of the first requirements for fishing (called angling here- fishing is what is done commercially with nets in the sea) is a body of water containing fish.  When we first arrived in Dublin and were walking around City Center, I spied three possible candidates.

First and largest is the River Liffey.  Big, wide, deep, filthy.  NEXT!

Next I noticed the Grand Canal flowing through the Southern part of City Center.  Promising, with a few visible fish and a few people with fishing rods dotted along its banks.  I later learned that parts of the Grand Canal are stocked and fished by an angling club, but these are mainly outside of town and a bit of a jaunt to access.

Near the Grand Canal I noticed a small stream passing under some of the city streets.  From one bridge, I spied a fly fisherman in waders fishing this stream.  "Could there really be trout in the middle of the city?" I asked my self.  Hmm.

When we moved in to our new place, I noticed a similar-looking river (the same river, I found out later) just a few blocks away.  Curious, I took a long walk along the bank in search of visible fish.  I noticed a few small fish near the bridges in the city streets, but couldn't get a positive species ID.  As I got farther from the busy roads, I began to see sights like this:

A large pool just upstream from a waterfall on the River Dodder in Dublin, Ireland

A waterfall cascades on the River Dodder in Dublin, Ireland

A pool below a waterfall on the River Dodder in Dublin, Ireland

These must hold some kind of fish, clearly.  In these pools and in even more picturesque urban countryside scenes, I did see some of the beautiful speckled backs of trout.  On further exploration, I saw a sign, "River Dodder, managed by Dodder Angling Assoc., permits available at tackle shops."  Hmmm.

Follow the jump for the rest of the story and more pictures.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beginning the Job Search

Good morning, Central Daylight Time Zone!  Fresh off my internet binge of yesterday, it has become time to use the internet for good rather than evil.  I found some rather encouraging news about my job search prospects during Internet Darkness Month (IDM).  Turns out I will be able to work here legally without qualifying as a super-specialist as was previously feared.  I will be able to work for almost any business for almost any salary with almost any number of hours with a reasonable amount of paperwork done by my prospective employer and myself.

On to the job search!  My previous two full time jobs in education in Iowa were done the very old fashioned way.  The search involved reading classifieds in the newspaper (the Des Moines Register always had the most comprehensive listings), compiling a paper copy of a cover letter, resume, reference list, and letters of recommendation, sending them in the mail, calling a friendly and very hard working school secretary on the telephone, to follow up the application, wait by the telephone for a call for an in person job interview, going to the in person job interview, and waiting again by the telephone for a good news/bad news phone call.  

As retro as that may sound to some readers, anyone who works in our around the American public school system knows that many schools are lacking in technology funding and training so, by no fault of their own,  many are stuck using these rather dated, expensive, and inefficient methods of job applicant searching.  My hope and heart goes out to those schools who are dealing with this obstacle as new college graduates are more and more engrossed in new technologies and are literally having difficulty communicating with potential employers as this gap grows larger and larger.

This means that I have never (effectively) used  more modern forms of networking, job hunting, and job application.  The public schools back home did have large employment databases with extensive mid-2000s era profile building, personal statement writing, and automatic job posting notifications.  I remember (not so fondly) spending tedious hours building the perfect profile on the Iowa REAP network, going through page after page of information line by line.  I entered my entire college transcript, gave long essay responses to a long list of questions (like a written job interview), entered in proof of my background check, blood pathogens training, mandatory reporter training (for both child and dependant adult abuse), and current CPR certification.  If that sounds boring to read, imagine spending more than a week's worth of evenings working on it.  This gauntlet seemed, from the outside, a test to filter out lazy candidates.  Teachers have to go through a lot of unnecessary busy work in their careers, so giving them a big task like the up-front might be the perfect tool to make sure all candidates are well versed and practiced in meaningless paperwork.

I received very little from this site, and was not surprised to learn much later that many schools (at that time) had never even heard of this site and their administrators would not know how to use this database if they had been aware of it.  Again, this is not the fault of these overworked individuals, but a product of years of technology stagnation in schools.  Discouraged, I went back to the old paper and pencil method and successfully landed two different teaching jobs with this tried-and-true practice.

Fast forward to today.  I need to begin some professional networking using the internet.  My networking social media presence was in great need of an update.  Facebook, which lied dormant and fallow from the time I graduated college until just a few months ago, had my current information circa 2007.  It still listed my old AOL screen name, BVU email address, and a profile picture of four pandas photoshopped to look like members of KISS.

Four giant pandas in a photograph altered to look like members of the band KISS

It was just by luck and good sense that I had updated my marital status from 2007!  All of the photos and information about me was posted up by my loving family and friends.

My Google account (Google Plus, Gmail, YouTube, and this Blog host) were similarly empty and worthless.  They featured a photo of my favorite movie character, RoboCop.

RoboCop stands proud on a blue background

As entertaining as Robo is for me and his dedicated fan base, that face showing up on every email I send, comment I post, YouTube video I share, and Blog post I write does not put the best face up for strangers.

Suffice it to say that other social media channels needed some attention due to similar photographing and informational lies, jokes, and voids.  I made it my plan for the day to improve and mature my online presence before I start to build profiles on job sites and start making online contacts.  I renovated Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype with an improved headshot and better contact info.  I am even planning to create a LinkedIn page to attach to the Irish job posting databases.  Unless, of course, LinkedIn proves to be like the Iowa REAP site in 2007 with philosophical questions and proof of blood pathogens, mandatory reporter, and CPR training, all of which are expired.

Cory's headshot with water in the backgroud
My new online headshot, cropped from a picture taken
by the river in Coralville by my gifted photographer Mother-in-Law.
Photo trivia:  I have such a big smile here because I am holding
a large, freshly caught carp just out of frame.  Really!

Cory on the trail at Glacier National Park, Montana
My new "cover photo" because those things are so
popular right now.  I don't know why, but apparently one
photo to express oneself isn't enough, there must be
a background photo behind it.  Oh well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We've got the internet!

It's been more than a month here on the Emerald Isle.  We've sincerely enjoyed our time here so far, but our lives have seemed disturbingly...fulfilling.  We have spent our evenings and weekends talking, sightseeing, spending time together, working on knitting projects, and reading worthwhile literature.  With the addition of home internet, all of that nonsense will thankfully come to an end.

I just received the modem by express courier from our internet provider after five weeks of waiting.  I plugged it in and have begun what will surely be an old fashioned internet all-day binge.

A pig-man greedily eats fistfuls of delicious internet

I don't know how I'll spend my fresh internet time today, but rest assured there will begin a flow of daily blog material for the good readers who have been waiting for new content and general proof of our continued existence.

Boy, do we have content to spew your way.  I've made video game videos, Sara has been knitting up a storm, we've been taking Dublin trips and lots of photos to share with everyone.  Please subscribe and check back as we get that all-important content out to you.

Thanks for your patience, everyone.  Now we are actually at home here in Ireland, and it's time to celebrate.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How Do You Measure One Month As An Expat?

Apologies for the lack of updates. Internet at home still eludes us, but we promise that once we have it we will return to our regular posting schedule to get everyone caught up on our Dublin happenings. We can't wait to share our adventures! We have been learning so much and we are both starting to feel very settled in and at home.

That said, we wanted to post something today because we have now been expats for one full month! It is hard to believe because the time has really flown by. To mark the occasion, here is a running tally of our activities during our first month as Dubliners:

Pints of Irish-made fermented beverages (including Guinness, Beamish, Smithwicks, and Bulmers): 16...ish. Maybe more.

Visits to the Irish Sea: 2 (kind of shameful considering how close we live to it...we'll have to work on that one)

Times we have been asked for directions in our neighborhood: 6 (and for 5 of them, we knew the answer! Seriously though, it is really hard to find anything in this city. Cory has a rant about street names and signs stored up for you, so stay tuned!)

Books Cory has read: 9 (I guess something good comes from not having the internet at home!)

Packages of digestive biscuits consumed: maybe 8? 10?...I don't even want to think about it...

Knitting projects Sara has completed: 7 (and I am almost done with #8!)

Times Cory has gone fishing: 6 (and he has brought trout home twice!)

Visits to Dublin museums: 3 (National Archeological Museum, Chester Beatty Library, and Guinness Storehouse)

That just about does it. Our to-do list is still very long, but I think we have gotten off to a pretty good start!