Thursday, July 31, 2014

Selling some Spare Writing

With so much practice doing this writing thing in my spare time, I decided to try my luck at writing generic internet-friendly articles on a variety of topics and put them up for sale.

I recently sold a usage-rights-only article about my new hobby of streaming video games. The usage license means that I retain ownership of the article and can still claim it (and share it here) as my own. I did not include a byline (By Cory Hanson line under the title) in this article, so it was published without an author line on a how-to site.

When I sell full-rights articles (which I have) I can no longer claim them as mine and can't share them here, but when I sell the one-time usage of an article, with or without my byline, watch for it to appear in the In Print tab on the blog.

If you care to read my piece about internet video game streaming, you can check it out here.

I hope this can turn into something I can do to develop my writing and to make a little something on the side.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Coming Home?

After a two-week break from blogging, I'm back on the internet and bursting with fresh ideas and inspiration. Now that I've slept off my west-to-east jet lag, my mind is clear enough to take the keyboard once again.

I felt a distinct change as soon as I stepped out of the airport into the comparatively cool Dublin summer air. Dubliners had been loudly complaining about the intolerable midday summer heat of 27 C (80 F), but New York never dipped below that temperature, even at night. And the humidity? Fuhgeddabouddit!

As I rode the (recommended) Aircoach bus through the city, it really felt like I was returning home. I had wondered if Dublin would still feel like an alien and exotic world when I touched down. Cars driving on the left side of the road, Irish (and Continental) accents narrating the soundtrack of Dublin city noise, magpies hopping in the grass instead of American robins...

Nope! Not supporting my hypothesis (did I use that correctly, Sara?), I felt at home on the left side of the road. I understood the quick, "Howiya?" from the driver as he greeted me at the bus. When I opened our mailbox, I smiled as I pulled out the same circulars and flyers stuffed in illegally by couriers working for the local fast food joints.

Coming into the apartment, I was immediately flooded with memories when I smelled the place. No, it wasn't that we left chicken bones in the trash for two weeks, it was the same smell the place had when we first looked at it more than a year ago. They always say smell and taste memories have some of the best staying power in our neural circuitry. Apparently we haven't replaced the built-in (not unpleasant) smell of our apartment... I guess that's good news.

I had such a great time visiting our friends and family and enjoying the American experience again, but as much as I thought it would feel like a homecoming, it still felt like a vacation. Even sleeping in my childhood bedroom again triggered mixed feelings. It felt like the place I had enjoyed so many childhood memories (I used to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time while listening to the Smashing Pumpkins album Siamese Dream on repeat right there!) but it didn't feel like my bedroom anymore.

Tasting all of my favorite childhood American foods was even more wonderful than I had thought it would be (thanks, Mom!). Eating bratwurst, Happy Joe's Pizza, BBQ sandwiches, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, glazed doughnuts, Twinkies, and real Chinese buffet food really brought me home. Now that I'm back in Dublin, I have to return to my beans-and-rice diet to start losing the extra weight I picked up on my American binge.

Thanks to everyone I was able to see for making my trip so memorable. Inanimate object shout-outs to all the places I visited, new and old. You are all amazing.

See you next summer, America! Until then, keep being your awesome self. Americans, if you're coming to Dublin, drop me a line through the Contact page, I'd love to answer your Dublin questions.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back from the USA!

That's right, we've been away from Dublin over the last two weeks visiting our friends and family in Iowa and New York City. The blog schedule chugged along at its usual pace throughout the trip thanks to several weeks of dedicated prewriting and scheduling. Remember the week-long retrospective? The timing couldn't have been better for a non-time-sensitive series like that!

The blog will continue the daily pace, and stories can again be fresher now that I'm writing again in real time from Dublin. Apologies if we didn't respond to a comment or contact request. We're back online again after a great holiday home.

Expect full recaps, stories, and photos in our Travel Monday posts coming up later this year. For now, here's a brief slideshow of some photo highlights from the trip. Look for our trip to the American supermarket, buy-stuff-by-the-pound thrift shops, and our amazing self-guided Ghostbusters film site tour in New York City.

That's a Triple Wendy's Burger
That's a Triple Wendy's Burger

Ireland's Pink, Salty Meatsticks got Nothin' on This!
Ireland's Pink, Salty Meatsticks got Nothin' on This!

Corndogs, Another American Original
Corndogs, Another American Original

The Tail End of Dubuque's Annual Mayfly Invasion
The Tail End of Dubuque's Annual Mayfly Invasion


Cheap Burgers and Cheap Beers at Paul's
Cheap Burgers and Cheap Beers at Paul's

Our Favorite Dubuque Bar Decor
Our Favorite Dubuque Bar Decor

Cheese and Onion, Eat Your Heart Out!
Cheese and Onion, Eat Your Heart Out!

"The Yellow Ones Don't Stop"
"The Yellow Ones Don't Stop"
-Buddy The Elf

Ghostbusters Tour: 5th Avenue Library
Ghostbusters Tour: 5th Avenue Library

Ghostbusters Tour: The Firehouse
Ghostbusters Tour: The Firehouse

The Brooklyn Bridge is Longer than it Looks
The Brooklyn Bridge is Longer than it Looks

Why Pay for a Statue Cruise with Free Ferries Around?
Why Pay for a Statue Cruise with Free Ferries Around?

Lower Manhattan from said Free Ferry
Lower Manhattan from said Free Ferry

New York Stock Exchange Station at Broad and Wall Street.
"We doin' big pimpin', spendin' gees" -Jay Z
Upper West Side over the Park
Upper West Side over the Park

Ready to Keep Score at Yankee Stadium
Ready to Keep Score at Yankee Stadium

Poor Man's Baseball Scorebook
Poor Man's Baseball Scorebook

Nathan's Hot Dogs, Coney Island
Nathan's Hot Dogs, Coney Island

Coney Island Creepy
Coney Island Creepy

The Sealion Show at the NY Aquarium
The Sealion Show at the NY Aquarium

This Upstate NY Beer's Cost Matched the Branding
This Upstate NY Beer's Cost Matched the Branding

YOU Can be the Next
YOU Can be the Next to Enjoy New York on the Cheap

Regular programming to return tomorrow as I get back into the daily grind of writing. Thanks for tuning in!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Prague Castle and St. Vitus' Cathedral

After climbing all those steps for our high view of Prague, why not check out Prague Castle?

The castle itself is really a large complex of buildings, much like (largely disappointing) Dublin Castle. This fortified center of power was and is the center of Czech politics. The current government has offices here, and the ancient kings and bishops are buried here in the off-the-chain St. Vitus' Cathedral, standing tall in the castle grounds.

But first, enter the castle through the battling giants at the gate. See the Czech (red, white, and blue) and European Union (blue with yellow stars) flags flying, designating this as the official capital.

Prague Castle Gate
Prague Castle Gate

Just inside the gate, beyond the newer office buildings, is the old castle courtyard, absolutely dominated by the impressive fourteenth-century cathedral.

St. Vitus' Cathedral front side Prague
St. Vitus' Cathedral

This church, like many in its day, took a number of years centuries to complete. The church as it stands now was started in 1344 and finished in 1929 (!) but it was functional as a half-built but still very impressive cathedral for most of that time.

Its features are too detailed and too numerous to fully list here, but suffice it to say that it was an incredible sight to behold... And we didn't pay the entrance fee to see the whole church. Admission in the front door is free, but most of the church is behind a paid ticket line. After we saw the photo below...

St. Vitus' Cathedral Interior
St. Vitus' Cathedral Interior

...We didn't think it could be topped by anything that we could pay for. The tour includes some closeup looks at the unique works of art in the windows, wall carvings, and the tombs of ancient kings, emperors, and religious leaders.

The exterior of the church is free and equally awe-inspiring. The two halves of the church are divided front and back. The rear (altar) side of the church is the original Gothic design, with its architecturally-necessary buttresses holding up the central tower. The huge original entry door on this side of the church is now closed, as visitors and worshippers enter through the newer front entrance.

St. Vitus' Cathedral Buttresses
St. Vitus' Cathedral Buttresses

After exploring every free inch of the church, we explored more of the non-paid sights of Prague Castle. Because the complex is so large, we only had time to see a few more exteriors before we were hungry- and thirsty- again.

Kozel Beers in Prague
Kozel Beers

But after our afternoon repast, we would be back to Prague Castle after sunset to take the full Prague Castle self-guided tour- with no crowds and all the outdoor sights free to explore. That will be another post, but here's a teaser photo to give you a taste of our romantic nighttime stroll...

St. Vitus' Cathedral Buttresses at Night, Prague
St. Vitus' Cathedral Buttresses at Night

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Retro Saturday: Final Fantasy 5 Four Job Fiesta Highlights

Now, we go Classic. A classic run in the Fiesta mimics the character classes available in Final Fantasy 1 for NES. Players in that game have the choice of Fighter (Knight), Black Belt (Monk), Thief, White Mage, Black Mage, and Red Mage. All of these classes are jobs available in FF5, so why not make a run to match these specs?

This run is also what is called a Natural run in the Fiesta. This means that each character is assigned one job and cannot use any other jobs once assigned. This is a major handicap in FF5 because so many mechanics are meant to exploit using secondary skills gained from other classes. In a Natural (and therefore Classic) run, these are not available.

I rolled a Knight, two Black Mages, and a Red Mage. This is a fairly well-balanced party for a run like this, minus the Red Mage. Reds do have versatility in using white and black magic, and can equip staves (like the Healing Staff) for some early game help, but they really fall out of favor in the late game. Thier limits in spell use (second-level white and black spells) just aren't enough to compete with the tough enemies late in the game. With the help of the Knight and the unstoppable force of the Black Mages, I set off on my adventure.

Garula was a bit tough until I got the !Guard/Cover mechanic to work with Galuf.

After several failed attempts, I managed to escape the castle basement with the Elf Cape.

Some trial and error reveals the weakness of Dragon Pod to Bio.

More Classic adventures next week!

As per usual, find my video game action on the following networks:

Friday, July 25, 2014

I Miss Carp

When we were out in St. Stephen's Green earlier this July, I saw something in the murky, greenish, bird-waste-fouled canal water that made my heart sing...

St. Stephen' Green Carp
St. Stephen' Green Carp

There it was! A large common carp in the foot-deep Stephen's Green pond. I couldn't help myself as I rushed to the waterside. Sara got the great photo of this healthy monster there in the pond. I don't think they would look too kindly on me fishing in the park's lake, so this guy is safe for now.

I was similarly excited when we were in Prague looking into the Vltava River. From a high bridge, I spotted this beauty amidst a pile of river garbage.

Carp in Vltava River Prague, Czech Republic
Vltava Carp

...But of course, we all know that Eastern European people love their carp, especially at Christmas time...

Advertisement for carp at Polish market in Dublin
Get Your Pre-Orders in for Carp!

And I don't mean to poke fun to the good people of Eastern Europe. I enjoyed a good carp in the States, particularly when smoked in my cardboard box smoker.

I wrote about my nostalgia for Midwestern freshwater river fish in our retrospective post, and seeing the occasional carp gets my heart racing remembering days like this...

...When I could walk or bike down to Clear Creek in the summertime and catch as many river monsters as I could fit into a cooler.

Today, carp seem to be much more difficult to find, at least in such large numbers, close to me in the city. I hear rumblings of carp catches in the Grand Canal, but I have yet to actually see a carp in the canal, even in pools that have particularly good reputations for fishing like Baggot Street and Portobello.

Even if there are a few carp in the Canal, who knows if my old boiled dough balls would be of any use in the urban waters of Dublin. Further, if I were to score a few carp, I don't have my filet knife and box smoker to prepare the smoked carp I so much enjoyed making in Iowa.

I really miss the process of smoking carp, maybe more than the smoked fish itself. Soaking the fish in brine overnight, washing off all the slime, preparing the smoker box with the electric hot plate and old cast iron skillet full of woodchips, putting the fish on the rack, and tending it for hours and hours. On a sunny day, with the game on the radio, a big bag of sunflower seeds, and a cold beverage, smoking carp could be a very rewarding experience.

Even though I can't smoke them, I still haven't given up on trying for carp here in Dublin. Someday, I'll get my hands on one, and though it won't be an Iowa River beauty, it will take me back to those sunny days on the riverbank and the box smoker.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dublin's Best-Named Pub, The Goat

Goatstown is a small, quiet, south Dublin suburb between Mount Merrion and famous-for-its-shopping-center Dundrum. Whenever we've been through on our way to said shopping center, we've always had a smile at its most-famous landmark, the superbly named pub, The Goat.

We were itching to get out and enjoy some of the fine weather we've been having in Dublin, and this was the perfect opportunity to get out and walk in a neighborhood we haven't recently visited and try a pub that we've always wanted to get to.

The Goat Pub Dublin
The Goat

With a name like The Goat, one might not expect anything fancy, but this suburban pub is of the same model as many south Dublin neighborhood locals. The atmosphere is neighborhood but not rustic. We already know that suburban Irish folks don't largely care for dark, bare wood, divey pubs like those of American fantasy. Like so many other south pubs, they serve a menu of mid-priced pub food and have low tables for eating and high tables and a long bar for drinking.

Goat Statue at The Goat Pub, Dublin
Goat Statue

Of course, the neighborhood namesake goat is a prominent feature looking on to the busy intersection. And the beers? Well, it's hard to go wrong with O'Hara's Pale Ale, rapidly becoming our favorite widely-available pale ale.

O'Hara's Pale Ale at The Goat Pub Dublin
To The Goat!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

From the Yarn Basket: My First (Completed) Sweater

I have two obstacles as a knitter that make it very difficult to undertake large projects. The first is my typical yarn-buying style. Apparently I use up all of my abilities to plan efficiently and be organized while I am at work, because I procure yarn in a hodge-podge and mostly unproductive manner. When I see a skein of yarn that I love at a shop, I feel a compulsion to buy it whether or not it will suit any foreseeable knitting plans. Random skeins of various colors, textures, and weights could only result in crazy-quilt-type projects that no sane person would ever want to leave the house with. Deciding to make something requiring more than one skein would thus take advanced planning and a special shopping trip for the perfect yarn, which is not my M.O.

The second obstacle is my knitting project commitment issues. I'm sure any other knitter out there has felt it before. You want to start that large project, but the "what ifs" plague you. What if you pour hours into the project and then realize that the pattern is poorly written? What if you get bored partway through and never finish it? What if you manage to finish it and it doesn't fit? There is a knitting superstition that you should never make a sweater for your boyfriend because it will kill your relationship (when it doesn't fit and/or he doesn't like it as much as you want him to). Your emotions are invested in a project once you have put so much time and energy into it. I honestly think that a traumatic large-knitting-project-making experience, even if it is just for myself, would be enough to put me off knitting at least temporarily.  

Because of these reasons, I very rarely take on large projects. I pick away at little projects: a pair of gloves here, a hat there, a scarf every now and then. Once in a blue moon (or when I am putting off writing my thesis) I will make something big. I even tried making a sweater once, but my poor yarn buying habits (and poor planning) resulted in my realization over 3/4 of the way through that I did not have enough of the same yarn to finish. With tears in my eyes and a beer in my hand, I ripped the whole thing back apart. (See what I mean? Traumatic!)

Fortunately, the best kind of peer pressure arrived in the form of Emily, my good friend and fellow knitter. We decided that we would both make the same sweater, using each other's progress as motivation to keep going. It wasn't a race (although if it were, she beat me by a mile), but we kept each other updated as we worked on them. 

It took some time for me to get started, since I needed to clear the hurdle of finding the right yarn. I made a trip to WM Trimmings on Capel Street, where I knew I could find a nice selection of *cough*acrylic*coughcough* yarn. Yep, I decided to go with acrylic for this project, not only because it is much much cheaper (an important feature for a yarn you plan to buy so much of), but also because I fully intended to wear the finished project. Wools might be nicer, but acrylics are much more utilitarian--you can machine-wash them. The yarn I chose was James C. Brett Marble Chunky MC35, which is a mixture of reds, purples, browns and greys. 

It took almost two months to finish it, with most of my progress made on the weekends. It was five separate pieces (back, two front sides, and two sleeves) that I assembled at the very end. I'm very happy with how it turned out. It fits, it looks like the picture in the pattern, and I actually think that I will wear it...but probably not much until winter because chunky yarn makes for a toasty warm sweater. Nevertheless, I debuted the sweater at a local pub while watching Wimbledon and drinking a pint of my favorite Irish pale ale. 

Sara modelling the front of her sweater in a pub
Sara's First Sweater - From the Front
Sara modelling the back of her sweater in a pub
Sara's First Sweater - From the Back
I'm not sure when I will take on another project of this scale, but I'm definitely feeling less timid about it. Maybe the next one I make will be for Cory. After all, the superstition only applies to boyfriends, not husbands, right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hurling Leinster Final

Earlier this summer, we attended our first Gaelic Games event, and it was a doozy. The hurling regional final pitted the local Dublin hurlers against the Cats from hurling-crazy Kilkenny. We had our tickets for the general admission standing area called Hill 16 - more on that later - and were off for a big day out at Croke Park.

First, we stopped for lunch at Irish Americana chain restaurant Eddie Rocket's. Hamburgers, fries, and a jumbo hot dog before this most Irish of athletic events.

Eddie Rocket's Lunch in Dublin
Eddie Rocket's Lunch

After lunch, we made our way to Croke Park on Dublin's north side. This historic stadium is Ireland's traditional home for the Gaelic games championships, and it also happens to be Co. Dublin's home park. It is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, giving it a very cozy feel. It isn't like the ultra-modern stadia in Dallas and New York with specially-designed pedestrian routes and parking choices. It is more like Wrigley Field in Chicago, surrounded by homes and businesses.

Its residential status doesn't come without its share of problems, and the Garth Brooks controversy was still fresh in everyone's mind as they gathered for the game.

Before going into the stadium, we stopped for a drink at Gill's pub, just around the corner. It was jammed full of black-and-gold-clad Kilkenny fans and strung with Kilkenny flags and signage. Clearly this was the visitors' pub. We kept our blue-and-blue scarves under wraps...

Gill's Pub Near Croke Park
Gill's Pub Near Croke Park

Drinks at Gill's
Drinks at Gill's

In the stadium, we found our seats on Hill 16. This famous corner of Croke Park is named in honor of 1916, the year of the Easter Rising that ultimately led to Ireland's independence from England. In 1920, the tragedy of Bloody Sunday came to Croke Park, as a troop of British soldiers entered the stadium during a Dublin-Tipperary Gaelic football match and began firing into the players and the stands. Fourteen people including one player were killed.

Today, the standing terrage of Hill 16 is an icon for Ireland and the local Dublin supporters to yell, sing, and heckle from the less-than-comfortable standing cement steps.

We arrived at the game quite early, and per the advice from another Dublin fan, grabbed a good standing spot against a barrier near the tunnel. The view of the field was great!

View of the Stadium Croke Park from Hill 16
View of the Stadium

This Sunday at Croke Park was actually a hurling doubleheader. The minor regional final, also between Dublin and Kilkenny, threw in two hours before the senior event. We were able to watch the young hurlers from these two counties go at it as Hill 16 slowly filled up behind us.

Dublin Minor League Player Warming Up
Dublin Minor League Player Warming Up

After the minor league game, the senior hurlers took the field for warmups. We were blindsided by the sudden outburst of singing from all the blue-clad Dublin fans around us in the Hill 16 stands.

"Come... on.... you... BOYS in blue, c'mon you boys in blue, c'mon you boys, c'mon you boys in blue. C'mon you boys in blue, c'mon you boys in blue, c'mon you boys, c'mon you boys in blue..."

The Gaelic games have a long tradition of pregame pomp and pageantry. Before both games, to get the crowd pumped up (?) they cranked up the adrenaline-pounding hit "Only Time" by Irish artist Enya.

Although using slow progressive electronic music for pregame events isn't all that unusual...

 Our favorite pregame ritual at GAA games is the kids marching band leading both teams on parade around the field. I don't know where this tradition comes from, but it is a very sportsmanlike routine. Both teams shake hands and line up to take a lap around the field to be recognized and appreciated by fans of both sides.

Dublin and Kilkenny on Parade at Croke Park
Dublin and Kilkenny on Parade

After the presentation, they line up for the Irish national anthem. The text of the piece is in Irish, and singing it is considered a much stronger political statement than Americans singing our anthem at any gathering of more than six people.

The match itself? An absolute beatdown of the hometown Dublin team made the game a bit sad, but the enthusiasm of the Hill 16 crowd never waned. Their shouts of encouragement turned into shouts of insults and challenges as Kilkenny pushed farther ahead in the second half. 

One particularly colorful character kept telling the referee to go back to Westmeath, the neighboring county to the west of Dublin, whenever he made a call in favor of Kilkenny. Not sure if the ref happened to actually be from Westmeath or if a Dublin person telling someone to "Go back to Westmeath!" is some kind of coded city folk-country folk insult.

Follow this link to see highlights from the match.

Now we can gear up for our next trip to Croke Park, the Croke Park Classic of American college football featuring Penn State and Central Florida!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Prague from Above

So, we've written before that we always try to get a bird's-eye view of any city we visit. Our preference is to get the high view after doing some ground level sightseeing. If we've already seen or visited the museums, churches, and squares, they are easier to identify when seen from above.

In Prague, the best view of the city happens to be from one of the best sights: Prague Castle. Built defensively high up on a hill overlooking the old town, this huge castle complex was the center of Prague's power, and is thus proportionately impressive.

We were heading high, high above the city, to the big, shiny landmark seen clearly from anywhere in the Old Town.

Prague Castle from the River
Prague Castle from the River

...It proved to be high above the city, and the only way to get there was via one of the streets-turned-stairways leading from the Little Quarter (where we were staying) to the Castle Quarter.

Cory Climbing the Steps to Prague Castle
Cory Climbing the Steps

Making the climb was well worth the effort, not just for the visit to spectacular Prague Castle (another post), but for the great views of lower Prague. Misty as it was, we could still see many of the places we had visited just that morning on our Prague self-guided walking tour.

Charles Bridge and Red Roofs of Prague
Charles Bridge and Red Roofs

We love the red roof look of these continental cities. The high view lets us see the endless stretch of these iconic and pleasing roof tiles. Looking into the far distance, we can see the suburbs with more modern architecture and building materials. We don't mind this look, people have to actually live somewhere, right?

Tyn Church and More Red Roofs in Prague
Tyn Church and More Red Roofs

We liked the view so much that we even returned at night for some grand views of Prague's dreamily-lit skyline. It is much more difficult to capture the look of a city at night with a camera. Let these photos be a start for your imagination until you can make your own trip to Prague.

Tyn Church at Night in Prague
Tyn Church at Night

Wide View of Prague at Night
Wide View of Prague at Night

...Trust us, it's amazing. Cameras of any quality can do it no justice.

If in Prague, a visit to Prague Castle will certainly be on any self-or-agent-planned itinerary. To get views like this, just turn around at the top of the steps and enjoy! We walked as much of the castle walls as we could to find the best angles of different sights in town. Our schedule allowed it, and we were glad it did. More and more reasons to fall in love with Prague.