Further Adventures in Ireland (County Cork)

It turns out most of the stuff self heard about the Irish are not true.

For one thing, the Irish are really direct.  They don’t mince words.  If they don’t like you, you’ll know it.  In about two minutes.

This is a good thing.  Because, after all, who has the time?  Why tie oneself up into knots trying to figure out this or that or the other thing?  If self wants a wake-up call, she’ll go straight to Ireland.

But when an Irish person smiles at you, it’s like the sun!  Self is NOT KIDDING!  It’s better than when a Californian smiles at you because it’s not a politeness thing, it’s a sincerity thing!

Self is also really grateful that she did not push through with her decision to cancel her subscription to Condé Nast Traveler. 

In her periodic attempts to simplify her life, self tries to get a grip on all her magazine subscriptions.

She must have at least 20.

The one big thing she decided to cancel this year was The New York Times Book Review, which she’d been subscribing to for at least 20 years.  That subscription was over $100, who wants to keep subscribing to a thing one has barely enough time to read?

She wavered quite a while over Condé Nast Traveler.  She is impatient with the articles that seem geared exclusively towards possessors of the Gold American Express card.  But, in contrast to the NYTBR, the cost of a year’s subscription to Conde Nast Traveler is only $12.  That’s $1 per month.  Even though self barely had time to read it, especially in the past year, she did stumble upon an article about “Hidden Gems,” one of which was Ballyvolane House in County Cork, Ireland.  Where self is spending tonight and tomorrow night.

The minute she walked in the door of the house (built in 1728, originally Georgian style but now Italianate — don’t ask self to explain, she’s reading this from a book she found in her room), she felt she’d landed in the middle of a Merchant & Ivory movie.  No, it was better than a Merchant & Ivory movie.  Because she was in it.

Ease:  Self's bed in Ballyvolane House, County Cork, Ireland

Ease: Self’s bed in Ballyvolane House, County Cork, Ireland

She arrived back in Dublin last night.  Thank God her Aer Lingus flight was uneventful.  Dublin was pouring rain.  She made it by bus to O’Connell Street, but there were no taxis.  She got to Inchicore drenched to the skin, an hour before dark.  She stumbled out for Chinese take-out, then lugged everything on the train for Cork (from Heuston Station) this morning.  But — heavens to mergatroid — self is getting good at this!  Not even man-handling two full-to-the-brim rollies and a purse and a laptop threw her the slightest bit off-schedule. Not the slightest bit.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Monument 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct:  Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct: Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

The Golden Gate Bridge:  View From Land's End, San Francisco:  December 2008

The Golden Gate Bridge: View From Land’s End, San Francisco: December 2008

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones.  She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf ("Stonehenge/Pacifica")

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones. She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf in 2008:  “Stonehenge/Pacifica”

Excerpt, “Stonehenge/Pacifica” published in Wigleaf (1/11/2012):

It was a dream I had, some restless night.  One of those weeks or months or years when we were worried about money.

But when were we ever not worried?

First there was the mortgage, and then the two.

And then your mother got sick, and your father died.

You can read the story in its entirety, here.

Right after posting this, self decided to book herself a tour of Stonehenge.  An evening tour of Stonehenge, not one of the day tours that take in multiple sites, with Stonehenge thrown in.  That’s on April 26. She has to find a way to get to Salisbury, where the tour starts.  The tour starts in the evening, though, so she has almost the whole of the 26th to figure out how to get there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Seattle 2014

The minute she gets back to the Bay Area, she’s going to have her MacBook Air’s keyboard fixed.

During one sleepless night last year, she spilled strawberry jam on her keyboard.  She was trying to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but the knife slipped out of the jam jar, and fell on her keyboard.  Ever since, the keyboard’s stuck.  She can just manage to get some keys to register, but only if she presses with all her might.

It is a beautiful day.  The last time self was in Seattle was 2007.  She was hosted, so she was picked up from the airport, and she was a guest in the home of Maria Batayola.

This is a completely different kind of trip.  She’s staying in a hotel.

The people on the plane were none too friendly.  Everyone was absorbed in reading the papers or reading their iPads.  They also looked very, very white.  And healthy, in that quintessential American way. Great hair, great teeth.  Neat clothing.  The woman seated next to self, who never cracked a smile in her direction, had a Bally tote.

Seattle’s edges are hard and bright.  The streets are surprisingly empty.  Puget Sound, though, is huge:  about 10x the width of San Francisco Bay.  The ferry boats are enormous, they remind her of cruise ships.  The snow-capped mountains glint in the sun.  Just looking at them makes self feel cold.  Self wonders how much a ferry ride costs.  She’d love to explore Bainbridge Island, which she heard has cute little art galleries and coffee shops.

During what was left of today, self decided to walk.  She wound up in Pioneer Square.  The streets were really, really empty, except for a park with a giant chessboard where a young woman was trying to move the chess pieces and some old men were teasing her in a lighthearted way.  Birds flew among the trees.  There were Indian totems off to the side.

She walked some more.  She found a bookstore:

The Globe, a bookstore near Pioneer Park

The Globe, a bookstore near Pioneer Square

In the bookstore loft, self found a very cozy reading nook.

In the bookstore loft, self found a very cozy reading nook.

She also found a bustling bakery near a park:

Grand Central Baking Company, next to Occidental Park

Grand Central Baking Company, next to Occidental Park

Triple-Chocolate Cookie from Grand Central Baking Company:  $1.95, and worth every penny

Triple-Chocolate Cookie from Grand Central Baking Company: $1.95, and worth every penny

That triple-chocolate cookie was just about the best cookie she’s ever tasted.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Latest Developments in the Life of Self

A niece in southern California has her own business designing cute tops.  She sent self a message that they’d be doing a one-day yoga and fashion event in early February.  Oooh!  Self is always looking for the smallest excuse to go to southern California!  Because Taciturn Sole Fruit of Her Loins lives there!  And she didn’t see hide nor hair of him over the holidays! And that’s how she got sick, felled by the H1N1 or whatever that virus is!  But now she is mostly over it, which is why she’s madly reading a) Divergent; b) The Hemingses of Monticello; and c) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which she decided to read today while slurping her Ramen noodles, and — this just goes to show how certain books can only be read in a certain mood.  Perhaps because the weekend is starting, and she signed up for Beginning Yoga, she is feeling oh-so-relaxed.  Which meant, the very same RWS that bugged her so much yesterday was suddenly extremely entertaining today.  And self saw that she was actually only 2 pages from the end of the chapter on Zagreb. So, she’s going to give BLGF another shot.

Another item of interest is that she decided this week to play SuperLotto, for only the second time in her entire life.  She bought QuikPik at Safeway, and forgot that the winning numbers were announced on Wednesday.  Anyhoo, she suddenly remembered today, went to CALOTTERY.COM and found that the winning ticket was purchased from Circle K in Lake Elsinore. Which means it was not her.  Boo.

Finally, self is reading the San Francisco Chronicle of last Tuesday and finds that the hackers behind the Target data breach have been identified as two Russian teenagers who live in a city on the Volga River.  One of them was “close to 17 years old.”  What is this world coming to when several million people can be held up by a Russian teenager on the Volga.  She also learned a new term:  “malware.”  That’s short for malicious software.

More finally, she finds out that “account information stolen during the Target security breach is now being divided up and sold off regionally.”  Two “Mexican citizens” were arrested at “the border with 96 fraudulent credit cards in their possession.” Which means, according to the South Texas Police Chief who made the arrests, that the data sets are “obviously” being sold off “by region.”

And the ultimate Finally, self last week received a phone call from a man who said he worked for “a credit bureau” and said it was absolutely urgent that she call them back.  It was such a weird message that self decided to ignore it.  And the credit bureau person never called back.

So, here’s what self decided today:

  • She must continue playing more Lotto.
  • She will try as much as possible to stop using her credit cards.  Any credit cards.
  • She will try to stick with the yoga classes even if she turns out to be the fattest, oldest, and most uncoordinated member of the class.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

About the End of Self’s New York Times Book Review Subscription

Self still has a huge backlog of NYTBR issues to go through.  She pulled them out of her hopelessly muddled “Pile of Stuff” and started to go through them.  The very first one she started to read was the January 5, 2014 issue.

Front page review of Chang-rae Lee’s science fiction novel, On Such a Full Sea.

Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more.  It’s a wonderful addition not only to Chang-rae Lee’s body of work but to the ranks of “serious” writers venturing into the realm of dystopian fantasy.

Lost self at “dystopian,” everyone’s favorite catch-all one-word description for the Apocalyptic Future, now swarming the world on hundreds of reviews of the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Plan for Today (2nd Saturday of December 2013)

Self is going to Bindlestiff in the City.

She is going to watch four Filipino movies back-to-back.  And self knows it sounds a little bit like overkill, but she already paid, so she is fully committed to this course of action.

She asked The Man if he was interested in coming along, but he stoically refused and went off to watch “The Hobbit:  the Desolation of Smaug,” in 3D.

The first movie self is lined up to see is at 3 p.m. : LOVE, ILOCOS AND OTHER TALES (84 min., in Tagalog and Ilocano with English subtitles) –  Directed and written by Jhezel Finones, the film focuses on “local television programs of national import, like Biag Ko (My Life), Journal List and Love, Ilocos.

Followed, at 5 p.m. by PUREZA, THE STORY OF NEGROS SUGAR (110 min., in English, Tagalog, and Ilonggo with English subtitles) — Directed by Jay Abello, the documentary takes “an unflinching, exhaustive look at the rise and fall of the Negros sugar industry from different points of view — the landowners, the workers, government officials, the academics, the social workers.”

Followed, at 7 p.m.  by DINIG SANA KITA / If I Knew What You Said (88 min., in Tagalog with English subtitles) — Directed and written by Mike E. Sandejas, about two polar opposites — a deaf boy and a troubled girl rocker — who cross paths in a mountain camp.

And then (hopefully, self’s neck will be able to hold out) she will watch her final film of the day:  Peque Gallaga’s Bacolod-set SONATA.  Since the film starts at 9, and self remembers how long Gallaga’s other Bacolod movie, ORO, PLATA, MATA was, she figures she won’t be home until well past midnight.  She reminded The Man to leave the porch light on, because she hates having to stand around, fumbling for her house keys, in complete darkness.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Unexpected (Not a WordPress Photo Challenge Post)

This evening, self got an e-mail message from a young woman with a very familiar last name:  La’O.

Here’s what the message said:

Hello!  My name is Monica.  I am the daughter of Maia La’O (Assumption ‘y4).  I have a baking company based in Los Altos.  Our meringue kisses make delightful hostess, teacher, and coworkers gifts.  Discover that perfect little treat to share this holiday season below!

Here’s the link.

The name of Monica’s bakery is Olamola Confectionery.  The address is:

146 Main Street, Suite 214
Los Altos, CA 94022

After self finished reading the testimonials, she developed a mad craving for a meringue.  She got up from the bed, where she’d been nesting with many pillows, nursing a cold, and put on some leggings, socks, and a sweatshirt.  She saw the time:  8:15 p.m.  She knew there’d be something open — maybe not Olamola, but something similar.  She made up her mind to go to Los Altos first thing tomorrow morning to meet this wonderful young woman, the daughter of someone who used to be the classmate of self’s older sister, Paz.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Back Issue: The New York Review of Books

Every day for the last three days, self has been driving north — to Berkeley, to San Francisco.

BART went on strike on midnight, Friday.  The traffic has been horrible.

The 2nd annual Filipino American International Book Festival has wrapped.  Self went Saturday and Sunday.  It was exhilarating, but also a tad stressful.

So many books!  So little money!

It was grrrreat seeing:  Linda Nietes.  M. Evelina Galang.  Angela Narciso Torres.  Luisa Igloria.  Karen Llagas.  Cecilia Brainard (who moderated panels on two successive days).  Tony Robles & family.  Edwin Lozada.  Barbara Jane Reyes.  Oscar Bermeo.  Rashaan Alexis Meneses.  Penelope Flores.  Michelle Bautista.  Jean Vengua.  Gayle Romasanta.  Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto.

Now, self must rest her weary and over-stimulated brain.

This evening, self discovered that Goldilocks is moving from their Westborough location, to some other place in South San Francisco.

In the September Vanity Fair is an article on the painter Balthus and his last muse, a girl who began modeling for him at 8.  It is rather shocking to see the painter’s Polaroids of this girl partially unclothed. But there was nothing at all prurious in his interest:  his wife and daughter were fully aware of this relationship.  To which self can only exclaim:  How very, very European! Such a level of tolerance would not be possible in America.

She decided to re-new her subscription to The New York Review of Books, for two more years.

In the issue of June 30, 2013 is a poem by Zbigniew Herbert, translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles.  Self only has time to replicate the first half:

FROM AN UNWRITTEN THEORY OF DREAMS

In memory of Jean Améry

1.

The torturers sleep soundly their dreams are rosy
good-natured genocides — foreign and home-grown
already forgiven by brief human memory
a gentle breeze turns the pages of family albums
the windows of the house open to August the shade of an

    apple-tree in bloom

under which a fine brood has gathered
grandfather’s open carriage an expedition to church
first communion mother’s first embrace
a campfire in a clearing and a starry sky
without omens or mysteries without an Apocalypse
so they sleep soundly their dreams are wholesome
full of food drink fleshy bodies of women
with whom they play erotic games in bushes in groves
and over it all floats a never-forgotten voice
a voice as pure as a spring innocent as an echo
singing of a boy who spied a rose on the heath

memory’s bell awakens no ghosts or nightmares
memory’s bell repeats its great absolution

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Still on that Pile of “Stuff”: Stanford Magazine, Sept/Oct 2013

Today, self decided to discontinue her subscription to Condé Nast Traveler.  Why?  Because the articles are geared towards very rich people, but are mostly written by writers who are a lot poorer than the people who actually may end up taking the tours.  Self has been aware of this for at least 2 – 3 years.  But she put off ending her subscription because she was enchanted by the contributing writers, who very often were writers she respected (like Linh Dinh, who is from Vietnam and who she first met in Berlin, in 2005)

She also decided to catch the first screening of “Captain Phillips” at the downtown Redwood City Century 20.  It was 11:30 a.m. There were more people than she expected there to be, at such a time of the morning, on a weekday.  She found parking right away, in front of Pamplemousse.  She liked the movie.  It was directed by Paul Greengrass.  Has there been any Paul Greengrass movie she’s disliked?  Come to think of it, no.  She thought the shaky-cam was pretty effective here in simulating the rocking of the kidnappers’ skiffs and the lifeboat on which they (with Captain Phillips as a hostage) try and make their escape.  In the end (and we all know there is only one way for this to end, because Tom Hanks’ characters almost never die), self liked Tom Hanks’s performance.  He keeps everything muted, low-key.  This is how she pictured Captain Phillips to be like (in her head, when the story first broke).  Another thing: the movie makes clear that despite the enormous technological superiority of the U.S. Navy, the outcome could have been disastrous if not for a fortuitous combination of happenstance (Captain Phillips, for one, was an enormous practical advantage for the Navy: At least as portrayed in the movie, he was clever and kept his head) and pluck (Captain Phillips’ crew, after taking back control of their ship, decided to follow the lifeboat, keeping it always in view until the Navy arrived, which self thinks must have contributed to the pressure on the Somali pirates to negotiate).  The shooting of the pirates appears almost anti-climactic.  After it happens, the movie ends rather quickly.  Which is a good thing.  Because the thing to remember is not the outcome, but how everything involved balancing on a knife edge of terror and aggression.  Wits saved the day, not firepower.

So, here is self at the end of her day.  She and The Man have had dinner, and the washing machine is running.  The backyard deck is empty.  Bella’s water dish is full.  Her pillows are scattered all around the garden.  Her funeral is next weekend, on Saturday the 26th.

One of the things she pulled out of her “Pile of Stuff” yesterday was the Stanford Magazine of September/October 2013.  Flipping through the articles, she came across a piece about Stanford psychiatrist David D. Burns.  For 10 years, Burns has led the Tuesday Night Group, “an informal weekly gathering of medical students, residents, and local therapists.”  Burns is a therapist to the therapists.  He knows many therapists are themselves prone to depression, especially if they have spent years treating patients who display no measurable signs of improvement.  Therapists, it turns out, can be just as gullible and easy to manipulate as ordinary people (So why do we need therapists?  Good question!  Self has no asnwer for that one)

Here are excerpts from the article:

“Therapists falsely believe that their impression or gut instinct about what the patient is feeling is accurate,” says May, when in fact their accuracy is very low.  “I haven’t met anyone yet who can read minds.”

Burns says most therapists “believe they are aware of how their patients are feeling at least half the time.”  He “quickly disabuses them, citing his own and other research showing only a 10 percent overlap between how a patient says he is feeling and how the therapist thinks the patient is feeling.” This is of course a “huge margin of error.”  Burns asks his patients to keep “a daily mood log, a two-page form on which patients record the negative thoughts and emotions they experienced after an upsetting event.  In addition to rating the intensity of their emotions on a numerical scale, they must also write down what therapists call cognitive distortions — such as catastrophizing (expecting only the worst to happen), emotional reasoning (believing, for example, that if we feel stupid, then we must be stupid), or mind reading (assuming that what we imagine other people are thinking is what they actually think).

Hmm, this is truly a fascinating article on Monsieur Burns, dear blog readers!  Self will stop blogging so that she can keep reading.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Good For You, Self!

You did not give in to temptation and slink off to see “Oblivion”!  No, you stayed home, and saved $7.  Not only that, you saved two hours of your life which were instead spent on:

  • Catching up with old friends.  You found an e-mail from Beth Alvarado.  Which was just so, so –  zen, because you had just been in the Stanford Creative Writing Program yesterday, attending a colloquium with T. C. Boyle (T.C., why are you so hip?  What gives you the right to be so hip?  How can you be a famous author and not be an ass?  How?  How?  How?  Is it your red converse sneakers and the black suit and the hair that probably at one time used to be a mullet?) and it would have been a terrible waste of the energy flow from that event to see a movie like “Oblivion.”
  • You got to try to get son off from jury duty.  That is, you called the San Mateo County Courthouse on his behalf and explained that on the date in question, son would be in Claremont, receiving his Masters diploma.  And the lady said, “Fine.  I’ll move his date to the following week.”  To which self really had no rejoinder.  Well, actually, she did attempt a rejoinder but the lady cut her off and said, “Ma’am, this is the second postponement.  By now he should know what his summer plans are!” Self meekly subsided.
  • You got to hear the mail landing in the mailbox.  And you were then able to see that you had a form rejection (from Colere) and an announcement of winners of the Sarabande Book Prize and were informed that IF you were a finalist, the entry fee for next year’s contest would be waived, so you thought that you were a finalist, until you read the names of the finalists.  What is the point of sending a letter saying IF you are this, then you won’t have to pay a fee to join the contest next year, when there are only three finalists and the letter was probably sent to EVERYBODY?
  • You got to do more web research on your favorite characters from “Game of Thrones” :  Jaime Lannister (You finally realized you’d been mis-spelling his name forever), and Brienne of Tarth.  And you found this fascinating interview between Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Self can’t believe she actually spelled that correctly), and Rolling Stone.  NC-W says quote unquote:  I’m sorry, I’m going in circles.  You were asking about Brienne and I’m talking about Jaime!  To which interviewer responds quote unquote:  It’s very Jaime of you.  To which NC-W responds quote unquote:  We should have Gwen on the phone.  It’d be more fun.

See, this is the reason why watching Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth on “Game of Thrones” is so much fun:  there’s this on-going banter between two people who respect each other, one of whom just happens to be a man.  And maybe Brienne, the woman, really wishes she were a man as well.  The man’s good looks are completely incidental to the relationship, and the woman’s plain-ness is incidental as well.  Holy Cow!  Did you catch that smokin’ hot tub scene in Episode 5?  When Brienne stood up from the water where she’d been just moments earlier simpering like a blushing bride and displayed herself to Jaime in all her earthly glory (from the back, but her curves were evident), and the guy was just — mesmerized?  As were we, the viewers?

Until the fight on the bridge episode (Episode 2?), which was the last one self saw before leaving for Venice, self’s favorite character on “Game of Thrones” was Daenerys.  But –  no more!  Give her Brienne’s awkward ungainliness any time!

So, given that self had skipped watching approximately three weeks’ worth of “Game of Thrones,” she could be forgiven for wondering why Jaime Lannister was wearing that hand on a rope around his neck.  She didn’t realize it was his own hand until some bandit began ridiculing him about it.  Then it was — GASP! –  Holy Major Plot Development!  As some other person on the web said (You see?  Self really HAS been all over the web this afternoon!):  Jaime.  Oh, Jaime.  I really hope you’re ambidexterous.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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