Thursday, June 25, 2015

Juvenile Seagulls - Dublin, Ireland

Seagulls over the National College of Art & Design, DublinBehind my apartment in Dublin, right outside the window where I sit most days, is the National College of Art & Design.  I look out directly onto the huge skylight in their library, and I can see a massive chimney.  Every day, I see seagulls atop that chimney.  Now, I see seagulls everywhere; the ocean is only a few miles away, and the River Liffey is only 300 yards away.  There are gulls capering about all the time.  I've worried quite a few were going to fly into my window.  Atop this chimney though, there always appear to be a few seagulls.  Now, I know why.

There seems to be a nest there.  The last few days, I've noticed a pair of juvenile seagulls, faded grey in color, like smoggy smoke, wandering around.  They don't seem to be old enough to fly, but it can't be too long now.  Until then, I have their companionship from 50 yards away, new life in Dublin, just beginning to explore its world, much like I am beginning to explore mine again.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Internet Troubles (or why you want a backup for your backup) - Dublin, Ireland

Today's lesson, if you have fewer than three ways to connect to the internet, you will be spending some time without.


After some of the trouble I had in Spain, I've been determined to have at least two backups for internet access in addition to whatever my primary access is.  So far, I've failed to have two backups almost universally, but I suspect that my determination to have two has led to me having at least one backup at all times.

My ideal situation would be high speed wi-fi available wherever I am staying, plus a SIM card with mobile data for my iPad, plus a SIM card with mobile data from a different provider for my phone.  As ridiculous as this sounds, I hope to show with the following anecdote that it is indeed called for.

On Tuesday, I moved into a new flat here in Dublin.  My instructions were to pick up the key from the pub below the apartment.  I had no trouble picking up the key, but upon arriving at the apartment, I had no instructions for internet.  At the time, the only access I had was my iPad with mobile data.  I don't have a reliable way to place calls from my iPad at this time.  I had to contact my friend on Google Hangouts, and have him request wi-fi access details from the owner of the property.  At that point, I had not yet figured out how to tether my laptop to my iPad.  Fortunately, credentials were obtained quickly, and I had internet access on my laptop 20 minutes after arriving.

Over the next 12 hours, I figured out that the internet in the flat sucked terribly.  The router is in another flat.  The connection will randomly drop out for 5 seconds to 5 minutes, and I can almost never keep any device but my laptop connected to it at all.

On Wednesday, twenty minutes or so in advance of my normal day, my boss contacted me.  We connected on screenhero.  Three minutes later, my laptop lost internet.  On my iPad, I turned on mobile data, started to connect on Slack and my mobile data went down.  At this point, I had nothing.  The only way I could talk to anyone was to walk up to them on the street and say hi.  At this point, I admit I felt a bit of panic.  Then, my mobile data came back.  We connected on Slack, and then we switched to Google Hangouts.  Ninety minutes later, after multiple hangouts with various collections of people, I finally had a chance to contact the property owner.

My laptop still had no internet, so I couldn't use my computer to place a call.  I finally thought of placing a call with Google Hangouts on my iPad.  It was $0.08 per minute, but I didn't care.  I needed internet.  Of course, I forgot that I only had $0.10 credit on google voice, but oh well.

I reached the property manager, told him I had no internet, and lost the call.  My minute was up.  Fifteen minutes later, he called me back on my Google Voice number.  Thank goodness for caller id.  Since he called me, time wasn't a problem.  We discussed the problem, and he told me a new router was scheduled to arrive on Friday that would be more powerful, and faster, so my internet should improve greatly then.  I asked how I could connect in the meantime.  He said he would try to have someone reset the router but he wasn't sure they could get there on Wednesday night.

Several hours later, every bit of which was spent on Google Hangouts voice chat, I finally figured out how to tether my computer to my iPad.  I switched to the laptop, relaxed, and got to work.

Fast forward to Friday night.  I still have no wi-fi in the flat.  The modem was delivered to the property manager after 9 pm, and he will be around to install it around 10 am on Saturday.  I used 4 GB of mobile data between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday night, over half my allotment.  I spent literally hours Thursday night trying to add credit to my SIM card so I could buy more data when I ran out to no avail.  Nearly 20 hours after starting that particular exercise in frustration, I got someone on the phone (from skype - Are you calling from a landline in Ireland or a mobile in Ireland?  I don't know.) who could help me.  I've got credit to spare, and the ability to top up online now if I need.  They had to contact me directly (except I contacted them) because I'm using an American credit card, and those things don't work right in Europe don't you know?

On any given weekday, I spend two to eight hours online in voice chat or video chat.  A number I expect to go up as they just made me a team lead, and I'm fielding many of the questions my boss used to handle.  Oh, by the way, that was why my boss contacted me early on Wednesday.  I've spent over twenty years running from being put in any official leadership capacity.  It finally tracked me down in Ireland, and I couldn't get away.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cognitive Dissonance in Ireland - Dublin, Ireland

Things I've noticed in Ireland that try to turn my head inside out:

  • Light switches are often not inside the room the light is in.  Some can't even be reached from the doorway of the room they are for.
  • Showers with pushbutton on / off.
  • Even stranger, a shower with a pushbutton on / off that won't work until you pull the cord outside the bathroom to give power to the shower.
  • A wall switch that completely disables power to the stove and oven.
  • Washing machines in the kitchen instead of dishwashers.
  • Streaky rashers look like bacon, but aren't quite the same.
  • Bacon isn't bacon, but it might be Canadian bacon, though I think the Irish would say it isn't Canadian.
  • Temperatures are in Celsius, weights are in pounds, and money is in Euros.
  • So far, the bathroom in every flat has had a light with a pull cord that did not work, with a plug only for shavers that can be set to 120 or 240 current via a switch.
  • Turning the bathroom light on will start the fan ... eventually.  Turning the light off will also turn the fan off ... eventually.  Eventually can be 30 seconds, or 3 minutes, and may or may not be consistent.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Stress of Travel - Dublin, Ireland

Travel can be stressful.  Transportation to and from airports, not to mention check in, security, interminable lines, bad food, infrequent breaks and chances to stretch your legs or change your body position in positive ways, tight quarters, noisy neighbors, finding food, communicating in foreign languages.  There are endless ways that stress can occur and build up.  This doesn't make traveling not fun, but it does mean that if your tolerance for stress is low for any reason, it can really start to get to you.  That is what happened to my friend that I've been traveling with.  Things piled up, and suddenly, he needed a break from his break, so to speak.  He hopped a plane back to the states this morning.

Now, I'm on my own in Dublin.  On Tuesday, I am moving from my current place to another place just a block or two from the Guinness Storehouse.  I'll be there until I leave Ireland at the end of July.  I'll miss having my friend around, but I'm excited at the prospect of travel alone.  I wouldn't be where I am if he hadn't prompted me to join him, but now, I'm free, and I'm loving it.

I'm in a peculiar position.  In the past, I've always lived month to month.  I generally need the paycheck closest to rent to pay my rent.  Now, I've booked my lodgings through to the end of November.  I'm over four months ahead of myself.  And I've booked all my flights through September.  It feels like this is getting easier.

So far, since leaving the States, I've been to Spain, France, and Ireland.  I've already booked the Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, and Indonesia for the future.  I've met friends from online for the first time, and have more planned to meet already.

I need to get better at sleep, particularly around travel weekends.  By barely sleeping around my trip from Paris to Dublin, I beat down my body enough to leave me sick most of my first week in Dublin.  I'll pay more attention to that.  I'm learning.

I'm also going to work more on integrating my physical and mental practices into something akin to a schedule.  This is not my forte, but it is important, and it is going to happen.  Every day, I will spend at least an hour walking, twenty minutes meditating, and perform something for strength training or exercise.  I admit that some days, strength training will be just letting my body rest.  Consciously resting is part of growth and health.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Two Weeks in Paris

I've been in Paris for two weeks, and I'm leaving in just a few hours.  I've posted almost nothing here, not because there is nothing to say about Paris, but because I've been too absorbed in life to write about it.

Things of note that happening here in Paris:

  • Four or five days of bouldering in the best bouldering gym I've seen.
  • A 10 km day of foodie walking.
  • The first time a pizza genuinely surprised me in a long, long time.
  • Temptations resisted.
  • Temptations not resisted.
  • Slacklining.
  • A bottle of wine that had been submerged in the ocean for at least a year.
  • Friends, new and old.
  • The most eclectically decorated apartment I've ever stayed in.
  • Bento boxes, and wonderful vegetables.
  • Great cooking, not my own.
  • Bone marrow, and head cheese, not at the same time.
  • A fleeting sense of family.
  • A chain of stores that sell nothing but frozen foods.
  • More butcher shops and bakeries than Starbucks in the US.
  • A shower I was convinced would not allow me to take a cold shower.  I was wrong.
  • A bar run by a self named Troll.
Paris, the place, was okay.  I'm not a tourist.  I don't care about seeing sights.  I doubt I ever got within a couple kilometers of the Eiffel Tower.  I passed by the site of the Bastille, and didn't care.

But, Paris, the people, were friendly, interesting, talkative, and not at all rude.  Despite me taking most of the time here to stop wanting to respond to everything in Spanish, no one ever seemed annoyed when I said I couldn't speak French.   My terrible, broken French skills were met with patience and understanding.

France was beautiful, interesting, and satisfying, and I look forward to returning in the future.