The Pastafarian, A Taxi Cab Guru, and The Furry Coffee Specialist

I turn the bottle over in my hand, read the price tag and gag on my chi.  $30.00 US for an “Ionized Crystal” spray.  “Mist this spray over your crown chakra to increase feelings of universal warmth and love.”  You have to be kidding, I think as I set the bottle d

Source: The Pastafarian, A Taxi Cab Guru, and The Furry Coffee Specialist

Goals

Tami Pets a Horse in Dublin
Tami Pets a Horse in Dublin

Not a single organism on this planet ever does anything without a goal in mind. If you aren’t reaching your goals, maybe you set them unrealistically high. Or maybe you aren’t a strong/fast/smart/handsome as you thought you were. Or, maybe they’re not really your goals.

In writing, plenty of people will say that they want to write a best seller. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict that result, nor anything you can do to guarantee it. Which makes “write a best seller” a false goal, because you can’t control enough of the process to ensure success. Some people state goals such as “I’m going to write 20,000 words per week each and every week this year.” And then they fall way short of doing that. This is probably an example of an overly ambitious goal, but also, I suspect, it is simply not what most writers really want to do. 20,000 words per week? Almost 3,000 per day? Really? You want to sit on your butt and scribble, key, or dictate for all of the hours it will take to pull that off?

You know what? Creative people don’t respond to that sort of situation very well. If you’re creative, you probably have a desk that would drive Miss Jones (or whatever your English teacher’s name was) crazy! You can probably find whatever it is you need in a few seconds, but anyone else would be well advised to simply leave the room. Am I right? And your time is the same. It’s messy. Heck, you may write 30,000 words a day. Once. And never again. And you may go thirty days without so much as a thousand words. Not too often, but it will happen. Because your real goal is probably what you perceive as the “lifestyle” of an author, meaning that you get up when you want to, write what you want when you want to, eat lunch when your stomach growls, and submit your completed manuscripts to grateful (you pick) agents/publishers/readers. I’m right again, aren’t I?

If that last paragraph describes your “real” goals, take heart! The problems with that set of goals are simply that, in order to get to that point, you have to write a lot, take a lot of criticism, and become your own best marketing department. You can do that first thing, right? And you can learn to accept and give useful criticism, heck, anybody can. That third one? Well, might be more problematic, but bigger word nerds than you have done it, because marketing is a teachable/learnable skill. There are entire departments dedicated to marketing in business schools all across the country.

In other words, that goal, even though it sounds like the fuzziest and wimpiest of the three I’ve offered above, is the most realistic. Because that’s the sort of goal a creative person can get behind, and stick to. Don’t delay! Start working toward your goals today! Can’t wait to see  you on Ellen!

*** If you’d like to learn more about marketing, check out the Las Vegas Writers’ Group meeting on June 21st! Click this link for more details.

Writing Daze

BONUS THIS WEEK! I am, unlike many writers, supremely confident and always sure of myself. (I also sell bridges – write for details.) If you are not so fortunate, you will probably enjoy this post on Writer Unboxed.

For Steinbeck, the week of 13 June 1938 started “unpropitiously.” He was suffering from a hangover and a sense of foreboding, the latter no doubt a response to the pledge he had made to keep a dail…

Source: Writing Daze

From Avengers to Vegas

Acquired this Bootleg Photo of a Portrait of Graham Norton from the National Gallery of Ireland - Photographer Unknown.
Acquired this Bootleg Photo of a Portrait of Graham Norton from the National Gallery of Ireland – Photographer Unknown.

We visited the National Gallery on our first day. It is, in fact, next door to the Prime Minister’s office (see earlier post Into the Tame Yonder.) Oddly, it was okay to photograph most of the artworks, but we had to go all “back alley” to get this pic. Hope that isn’t Mr. Norton’s idea, because we are fans of his programme on the BBC. He is, as you might have guessed, Irish.

After the bus ride I more or less ran back to the hotel to drop off our packages of souvenirs, then walked back to the Savoy to rejoin Tami. We bought tickets to the Avengers movie later that evening, then went a few doors down to Murray’s, a bar and grill a few doors away from the Savoy Theatre where the movie was showing. As Murray’s says on their website, they feature Good Craic on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Craic is pronounced like “crack,” and it means fun. Now you know as much Gaelic as I do. Hope it helps somehow. We ate light, for one thing we’d had lunch in mid-afternoon, for another, it was a movie and popcorn is almost mandatory.

The Savoy is a multiplex in an older building, so there are stairs. Lots of them. It’s up three to the ticket office/concession area, then up about twenty or more to the floor where the Avengers movie was playing, and then up some more steps to get into the theatre, and of course, up to the back, where we like to sit. Then Tami sent me down for some Popcorn and Coke. I ended up eating about half of the corn, and none of the Coke. And we watched Avengers: Infinity War. At this time, nothing to say. Either you’ve seen it, or you probably never will. And, yes, a rather abrupt ending.

The next morning after breakfast we went to the Dublin Writers’ Museum, which was only about half a block (2/5 of a metric block, I’m sure) up the street. They don’t seem to have a website of their own, so the link takes you to one of several Dublin tourism sites. There are, in case you didn’t know, a plethora of famous, and very talented, Irish writers in print. In the museum you learn of their personal lives, see some of their personal possessions, and maybe, if you’re like me, decide  you’ll download a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, after reading the description of the work on display. Haven’t started it yet, but it’s in the lineup, waiting it’s turn. After seeing the museum, we walked back to our hotel, packed, and met our car to the airport just before noon.

As for the trip, well, the food was a bit better on the return flight, we were ready to kill each other in LAX, then there were only 57 people on the 48 minute Southwest flight to Vegas, and we were home before 9:30 pm. Can’t just drop off to sleep at a time like that, so by the time I got to bed, I’d been up for 23 hours straight. (Got up at 11PM Friday evening PDT.) Whew!

And there’s my extended report on our recent trip to Ireland and Portugal. Oh, yes, we were also checking out places to retire. Verdicts? Nothing solid. Either country would be an excellent base for seeing Europe. Ireland, of course, is English Speaking by nature, which does give it a leg up. Of course, they drive on the left side of the road, but then, nobody’s perfect.

Goodbye, and Adeus!

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Feeling a Bit Sheepish

This is Bruce, a Border Collie in Training, Doing Rather Well
This is Bruce, a Border Collie in Training, Doing Rather Well – Photo by Tami Cowden

Bruce was one of two dogs we saw training to be shepherds. I once knew a border collie (Sparkplug by name) who could not stop chasing and herding. It was really great to see a trained (mostly) one doing his job. My video didn’t come out too well, but I’ll post it anyway. I did trim out all of the boring parts.

We also saw another dog, one much earlier in the training process, who still needed a lot of practice. It was not a border collie, but another breed of shepherd. The farmer and his wife and one of their sons helped with the demonstration. They told about taking the sheep up into the mountains in the spring, and about bringing them down again in the fall. On January 12th of every year a vet visits to determine the pregnancy situation amongst his ewes (which they pronounce “yos.”) At birthing time, starting in March, the females carrying multiples are brought to a barn where they can give birth in a warmer, more protected environment. The only predator is the fox, but, as we all know, they can be sly. Mom can defend one lamb, but two or more may be lost. They keep several hundred adult sheep, and a group of younger animals as replacements.

Move 'em Out, Bruce!
Move ’em Out, Bruce!
Ever alert. Literally en garde.
Ever alert. Literally en garde.
This man is definitely outstanding in his field.
This man is definitely outstanding in his field.

Sorry. I cannot resist puns.

But Wait, as I seem to be fond of writing lately, there’s more!

We visited the sheep farm in spring, before the sheep were moved up the mountain. That meant that there were new lambs in the barn. And new lambs in the barn mean new lambs that may be held. Of course, the bus interior smelled like sheep after, but for Tami, it was worth it.

Tami Had a Little Lamb. For a few minutes, at least.
Tami Had a Little Lamb. For a few minutes, at least.

Well, that’s pretty cute. I scratched the lamb’s ears a bit, but didn’t hold one. Several were offered for holding, and they were passed around for about ten minutes. Times like this I completely ignore the facts of what goes into a lamb stew.

Take it all around, I learned a lot on this bus tour. I learned that Braveheart wasn’t filmed anywhere near Scotland. I learned about the Irish sheep industry. And, most important of all, I learned that Shawn the Sheep is Irish!!!

Well, at least it looks that way.

The next post will wrap up this series. I’ll return with something about writing itself next Wednesday.

It’s Shawn the Sheep, It’s Shawn the Sheep,
He even mucks about with those who cannot bleat.
Keep it in mind, he’s one of a kind!
Oh, life is sweet with Shawn the Sheep!

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Bus, Sheep Dog, and Lunch

This is a Plate of Irish Stew. Of Course, Bought as it was in an Irish Village, it could be Gumbo and still Qualify
This is a Plate of Irish Stew. Of Course, Bought as it was in an Irish Village, it could be Gumbo and still Qualify

This is the day we saw Avengers: Infinity War, but before that, we did this. The evening before we stopped in a storefront close by the Savoy Theatre and bought tickets from Wild Rover Tours for a bus to take us to Kilkenny, Wicklow, and Glendalough. We were to meet the bus at 08:00 in front of a hotel not far from our own, and also close by the Savoy, for what that’s worth. It was threatening rain. Our tour guide, one Peter, explained that it rains 270 days a year in Ireland, so that was no big deal. It’s cloudy 65 days a year in Las Vegas, so I get what he’s saying. It had been sunny for our entire visit to Ireland up to now, but reality was setting in. Fair enough. The bus took off promptly at 08:20. On the way out of Dublin, Tami was able to photograph a few curiosities. (Curiosities for an American, at any rate.)

Who this is, I know not. But it is somewhere in Dublin. Photo by Tami Cowden
Who this is, I know not. But it is somewhere in Dublin. Photo by Tami Cowden
Dinosaurs. In Dublin. What is the world coming to? Photo by Tami Cowden
Dinosaurs. In Dublin. What is the world coming to? Photo by Tami Cowden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rain was relentless all that morning as we made our way along a motorway (think freeway) to Kilkenny. (Or Cill Chainnigh in Gaelic) The photo at the top of yesterday’s post was taken as we pulled into Kilkenny. We had a set amount of time there, about 2.5 hours as I recall, which Tami and I used to tour Kilkenny Castle, and to shop for souvenirs. The castle looks eminently un-defensible, but that is due to the nineteenth century wings added on to it.

This is Kilkenny Castle, in Kilkenny (duh) Ireland Kilkenny Castle Photos by Tami Cowden
This is Kilkenny Castle, in Kilkenny (duh) Ireland

Inside the castle is mostly décor and other remains of nineteenth century English occupation. Of course, it was always English, but originally much older. The tour includes a section of the oldest portion where you can see what remains of the very first construction, done many centuries ago.

Some photographs in (and through the windows of) Kilkenny Castle:

A Fireplace Screen in the Library. Used by an Individual to Block the Fiercest Heat
A Fireplace Screen in the Library. Used by an Individual to Block the Fiercest Heat
The Front Lawn, Complete With Optional Tour Group Gathering for the Tour
The Front Lawn, Complete With Optional Tour Group Gathering for the Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

Sure, seeing an old castle is fun and all, and walking through rain is more enjoyable to a Las Vegas desert rat than you might imagine. But, the tour went on. Back in the bus and off to Wicklow Gap. Ireland is called the “Emerald Isle.” Here are some pictures to show you why.

Green? We Have Green!
Green? We Have Green!

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, the Cows are Brown and Tan (and Black and White, not shown)
Okay, the Cows are Brown and Tan (and Black and White, not shown)
Here Are Some Black and White Cows. But Look at the Field and Forest, Will You?
Here Are Some Black and White Cows. But Look at the Field and Forest, Will You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took those three pix on the way to Kilkenny. Not exactly random, but not specially chosen, either. I tell you, the place is green as green can be!

But, on to Wicklow Gap. If you saw Braveheart, you saw Wicklow Gap. Scotland? I think not! It is pretty up there. And, when we were there, cold and rainy, too!

Wicklow Gap. FREEDOM!!!
Wicklow Gap. FREEDOM!!!

IMG_20180427_134943048_HDR IMG_20180427_135104317_HDR

All three of these photos are of Wicklow Gap. The middle one, looking far over the mountains, is my favorite. The top pic is of some interesting rocks, and the bottom is of a tarn. (You can look that up if you’re not familiar with the term.)

So, Mel Gibson was here and his cast of thousands. The road is full of switchbacks, and my seat in the back of the bus was the subject of much reconsideration until we got down to the village of Wicklow. Wicklow has an abandoned monastery, a round tower, two lakes, a waterfall, and a restaurant/gift shop. Also, people live there.

It is where I photographed my lunch, as seen above. We took so long at lunch that we made it only to within sight of the first lake, never mind the waterfall or second lake. We didn’t even have time to visit the ruins of the monastery, but Tami did take some pictures of it.

The Round Tower of the Monastery at Wicklow
The Round Tower of the Monastery at Wicklow

 

No idea what that tower was used for by the monks. Keeping watch for marauding Norsemen, maybe. We were disappointed that lunch took so long, but the next leg of the trip was the best part, amazingly enough.

So good, in fact, that I’m saving a separate post for the sheep dog trials we got to witness. Great dogs, and Tami got to hold a little lamb!

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Irish

This is in Kilkenny, which is covered in the next post.
This is in Kilkenny, which is covered in the next post.

After sleeping on the plane from Lisbon, getting to our hotel, and going to bed at 3 or 3:30, I woke up before Tami and got in a quick shower. Breakfast was, well, let’s describe the hotel first, okay? We stayed at the Castle Hotel, which is in a very convenient location. It isn’t in a castle, but it’s close to one. The hotel consists of nine houses which have been connected to create a hotel, breakfast area, and basement restaurant. As a result of combining all those houses, the elevators (lifts,) while they work perfectly well, don’t exactly get you to the level on which you’ll find your room. You do have the option, in each house I suppose, of taking the stairway, but with loaded baggage at three in the morning, that wasn’t all that attractive. The breakfast area, which also had a door directly onto the street, I suppose should anyone want to drop in and buy some food, was, from our room, down two flights of stairs, 180 degrees to the left, down eight stairs, across a landing, up eight stairs, and across a sort of parlor. There was a buffet with servers behind it, where you could get all sorts of delicious food. And they had toast (hot toast if you can believe it,) a complete Irish selection (as I said, skip the puddings,) sausages, bacon (ham,) and some really tasty little croissants. By about ten, we were ready to head out into Dublin once again.

A week earlier we had walked past the EPIC Irish History Centre. My family history includes one James McDaniel, who, the story goes, came to Tiffin, Ohio from Ireland in 1848. A not unreasonable thing, given conditions in Ireland at that time. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten with that branch of the family, and I wanted to see if I could use this place to get further. As it happens, most of the building is devoted to the Irish Emigration Museum. If that sounds dull, let me assure you that we spent at least three hours going through the various exhibits, and were surprised to learn how long we’d been at it. I learned many things about Irish history, which is mine, to a large extent (I know, I look German.) The relations between England, then Britain, and Ireland were not the Brit’s finest hours, to say the least. The number of people in the world with Irish ancestry is staggering. The extent of Irish influence beyond Ireland is even more so. Take US Presidents. This picture of a plaque from inside the museum tells the story.

There are several things in Ireland named after President Obama.
There are several things in Ireland named after President Obama.

For another example, consider this guy:

Doctor Guevara? Irish? Who knew?
Doctor Guevara? Irish? Who knew?

Some of the exhibits brought tears to my eyes. It’s no wonder Irish people tend to be creative, because life has, in many cases, been pretty difficult for so many of them.

Inside the gift shop (much smaller than the one in Lisbon’s airport) is the Irish Family History Centre. We bought access to their research facilities, and by golly, I did learn something about old James McDaniel. Namely, that he was born in (drum roll) Pennsylvania! I’ve done further research since I got home, but at this time, that’s all I can say. What I really want is to find James’s father. I have half a dozen candidates, gleaned from the 1830 census. I’ll get him, by gosh!

By the time we left the afternoon was moving on, and we hadn’t had lunch. I believe that this is the day that we ate in a place on Temple Bar. Touristy, pricey, and probably obligatory. The Irish duet playing did manage to play some of my favorite Irish tunes. Erin go Bragh! We tried to get tickets to Avengers: Infinity War, but they were all sold out. So much for our plan to see it a day before the North American release. (We saw it the next evening.) The next day was, in fact, a big one. We bought tickets on an actual tour bus to Kilkenny and points South. It made for a great day, and you’ll learn all about it in my next post!

To your health!
That is, Sláinte!

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The Lisbon Oceanarium

From the Temporary Exhibit "Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano." Photo by Tami Cowden
From the Temporary Exhibit “Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano.” Photo by Tami Cowden

Takashi Amano specialized in creating underwater living art. This is a huge aquarium, planted very carefully with tropical aquatic plants and stocked with tropical fish. Some of the same fish we have (in smaller quantities) in our livingroom aquarium, in fact. It is a very peaceful and calming exhibition, very unlike the normal life of a big city.

Down one level from the temporary exhibit is a pretty cool aquarium. (No whales, I promise.) People visiting can get pretty wide-eyed with delight. To wit:

Photo by Tami Cowden
Photo by Tami Cowden

We have basset hounds, which are pretty cute animals. But we found some other animals in the Oceanarium that are even cuter. I refer, of course, to Sea Otters. You can see thousands of these guys cavorting near Monterrey, California, if you don’t want to come all the way to Lisbon.

Terminal Cuteness - Photo by Tami Cowden
Terminal Cuteness – Photo by Tami Cowden

I wanted to post a video, but my video editing software is on a different computer and difficult to access. Lunch was fine, about what you’d expect, including dessert. We spent several hours at the Ocenarium before we had to recover our car and drive to the rental agency. This brings up an interesting aspect of navigating in a foreign place. It is absolutely essential that at least one phone, with one maps app, be properly charged at all times. Our car’s power outlet didn’t work, so this involved some definite fuss and bother. Luckily, we had an excellent turbo charger that is portable. You charge it; it charges your devices. I highly recommend such an item if you plan to travel. For me, the best thing about being back home is that I no longer have to pay attention to that. My car charger works, and I have my choice of chargers in the house. Whew!

The rental agency woman had offered to take us to the airport, but as we discovered that it was only about six Euros to Uber it, we declined her generous offer. We did give her the bottle of champagne that we got for free at the hotel in Espinho. Maybe she paid our tolls for us, I can’t say, but if she did, thank her for me if you see her. She works at Ausocar Lisbon.

Capture

We arrived at the airport with a lot of time to spare, which was good as it took a while to check in and find our gate. Here’s the thing about Lisbon Airport: you Exit Through the Gift Shop! I mean that literally. The path to the gates winds through the largest duty-free shop in existence (or so it seems.) It took about ten minutes to fully clear the place. Many people stopped to buy things, too, so I guess it’s a good idea from a strictly commercial point of view. We, of course, were less than thrilled, but what the heck, we got there in the end. Hungry. Tired. Disgruntled. (Can one be ‘gruntled?’) And, in the end, what matter? We ate from a small restaurant not far from the gate, and were content enough. Once aboard the plane, as soon as I could, I went to sleep. Not the best sleep in the world, you say? It was good enough. We got to our Dublin hotel at about 02:30. By 03:00 or so I was asleep again, in a bed.

Just one more story. Tami joined what Aer Lingus calls the “Aer Club” when she booked our flights. It is free. It doesn’t get you much, but one thing it does get you is priority check-in. We must have passed a hundred other passengers on our way to the “Aer Club” counter. Heck, we were through the gift shop before the last of them checked in. Keep that in mind, should you ever fly Aer Lingus.

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