Saturday, May 31, 2014

Things I've Liked on the Internet Lately

Things that are better with cats #564: fine art
The jackalope - not quite as fictional as you had thought
Whiskey-flavored pigs. Because bacon isn't tasty enough already?
Hilarious photos of the World's Best Father (except mine of course) and his 3-year-old daughter
And here's another great photo series: Everyday Astronaut
New lab-created organism has 6 DNA letters instead of 4.
The volcano that changed history
Foodies - a very short story
Play the 30th anniversary edition of the HHGTTG text-based game here. Prepare to die. A lot.
The Leidenfrost effect - making water do weird things
Walk in someone else's shoes with the 20-Day Stranger app. I am intrigued by this, but also kind of freaked out.
And here's a cat playing Jenga:

Monday, May 26, 2014



heading towards
the twin chimneys,
a two-horned snail

-- Anatoly Kudryavitsky

One of the more controversial features of Dublin's skyline is a pair of striped exhaust chimneys out in Ringsend, part of an oil-burning power plant that closed in the '70s, though the building lingers on. In a city where 10 floors makes a "skyscraper" (and there aren't that many of those), anything as tall as these things definitely stands out. The chimneys are one of those love-it-or-hate-it features of Dublin, with some people decrying them as a hideous eyesore and others defending them as a cherished local landmark. I fall firmly on the "love it" end of the spectrum. Maybe it's a side effect of an upbringing surrounded by chemical refineries (they really are magical all lit up at night y'all) but I have something of a fondness for industrial installations, and I like these a lot. Living on the southeast side I see them every day, unless low clouds block them from view. I look for them when I fly into Dublin, because they say "home" to me.

The power station has an interesting history too. Known as the Pigeon House after the storehouse-keeper who set up a shop and restaurant there for hungry travellers coming off the ships at the seawall in the 1700s, the site has since hosted a hotel and a fort in addition to the power station. The first power station there was built in 1903 and is still standing, as are parts of the other buildings, though long abandoned and slowly falling apart. A few years ago photographer Donal Moloney broke in and made the following video, which shows the decaying building in all its eerie splendor:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vicarious Tourism: Jordan

Yes, I went on vacation again. Europe is great for that; it's relatively quick and easy to get all kinds of places. Such as, for instance, Jordan. Jordan, like Ireland, is a small country with an incredible wealth of historical sites and jaw-dropping natural beauty. The color palette is a bit different though.

I crammed quite a lot into my ten days. I rode in an Ottoman-era train. I experienced the apparent repeal of the laws of physics in the Dead Sea, and then got a mud wrap and a massage. I got up close and personal with a coral reef in Aqaba. I scrambled over Roman ruins at Jerash. I rode a camel.

And there was Petra of course, where I had a whole day to hike around and play Indiana Jones. Everyone makes a big deal about the Treasury, and it IS impressive. Even having seen the pictures, glimpsing it at the end of the canyon still sent a chill up my spine. But there's so much more to the city! The place is huge, caves and carvings as far as the eye can see. Just the official highlights can eat up hours, but it's also pretty easy to go off the map a bit and do a little private exploring.

However, the best part of my trip was probably the day I spent in Wadi Rum. Almost as soon as I arrived it starting raining, torrents of water and marble-sized hail for a good 20-30 minutes. And when it was over waterfalls had appeared in the mountains where there was only rock before, and a rushing river appeared where there had been nothing but sand. That was special. And then the sun came out with a nice cool breeze, and the air was so clear with the dampness holding the dust down. Perfect conditions for six hours of walking in the desert with only a Bedouin guide and a scruffy canine sidekick. It was so peaceful, and the scenery couldn't be beat.

It was not a cheap vacation by any stretch of the imagination - Jordan's entire economy is built on squeezing as much cash as possible out of visiting tourists, and they have it down to a science by now. So worth it though! Every time my inner pennypincher started getting whiny another wonder turned up to take her breath away.