Friday, October 24, 2008

Offaly in Song!

The town of Birr, Diane's and my past and future temporary home in Ireland, is in County Offaly. County Offaly, I'm sure, is the least known of the Republic's 26 to Americans, so you can imagine our delight when our friend Lucile alerted us to this traditional ballad in which Offaly is mentioned in the first verse:

Oh, and the other stuff in it is pretty cool, too, truth be said.

Friday, October 17, 2008

DO NOT WANT, West Coast Edition

A while ago, Ruth posted an entry in her blog about the unwelcome approach of a hurricane, apparently headed straight for her home in coastal South Carolina.

Coastal California isn't immune to seasonal hazards, either, and the Fall hazard is fire, especially this year. We have had two straight years of much lower than usual rainfall, and so even the normally fire-resistant redwood forests (such as the one we live in here in the Santa Cruz Mountains) are virtually explosive, especially the undergrowth of hardwoods, Douglas Fir, and brush. So I was not at all pleased a few days ago when I arrived home (after having taken a couple of our animals to the vet) to see this in the cul-de-sac adjacent to a back boundary of Ft. Harrington:

Boulder Creek's Finest in Action

For the past week, the late nights and early mornings hereabouts have been chilly, including the first frosts of the season, even though the days continue to be hot (and very dry). Our nearest neighbor to the north (just across the fence from the gazebo area of Ft. Harrington) lit a trash fire in her wood-burning stove that morning to get warm, since her electricity had been turned off for non-payment sometime in the summer, and she didn't have any firewood. She left while the fire was still burning, and sparks from the paper in the trash fire survived their rise through the chimney and set her roof on fire.

The fire was noticed right away by an alert neighbor on the other side of the creek, who did a 9-1-1 shout-out to the Boulder Creek firehouse, and then drove to the nearest bridge across the creek and back to the cul-de-sac. Not raising anyone with her shouts, she found a hose outside a neighboring house and started trying to spray the roof fire with its pathetic little stream.

The BCFD was all over the case like flies on, ah... well, stuff, though, and arrived right then. The fire was out very quickly after they arrived, according to Diane, who had been unaware of the fire until seconds before the fire trucks arrived when she saw big, gray ash flakes falling on our deck -- and flames leaping from the far end of our neighbor's roof.

Putting away equipment. The derelict truck with the broken-windowed camper shell belongs to our firestarter's ex-husband, and hasn't moved for at least two years. ===>

Emergency flasher reflected in our garden house
<=== window.

The roof in the background of the last photo is the one that caught fire. Due to the telephoto's distance-squashing effect, it appears much closer to our fence than it really is. I don't have a photo of the area of damage, but it was small. It's been covered by a tarp, and our neighbor continues to live in the house.

We're all keeping an eye on her.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whatever Shines

Mary Rosse's darkroom, Birr Castle, late 1800's.

John McCain and Barack Obama squared off again last night in the last debate before our Presidential election, and many "sound bites" were spat out by both sides, and will be hashed over and analyzed ad nauseaum elsewhere.

One that didn't get (and won't get) much attention -- because it's so predictable and so pablum -- was McCain's touting of his running mate as what he might call a "feminist": someone who has accomplished hard stuff about 50 years after someone of the other gender could have accomplished it. Good for her. Really.

But wouldn't a real feminist superheroine be one who breaks a barrier before some dude cracks it? Like maybe the Irish gals whose audacity is recounted in Whatever Shines Should Be Observed, a slender tract by Susan M. P. McKenna-Lawlor.

Whatever Shines Should Be Observed, part of Kluwer Academic Publishers' Astrophysics and Space Science Library, tells the stories of five remarkable Irishwomen who were pioneers in a variety of modern sciences and technologies. From the introduction by Alison, Countess of Rosse (the current Lady Rosse of Birr Castle):
This book gives us the lives of these five exceptional, but little known, Irish women. They achieved high recognition in scientific subjects at a time when women in the propertied classes were hardly allowed out of the nursery before their marriage, and schooling for daughters was very much an afterthought behind the education of their brothers. These five ladies, due to their own persistence and high intelligence, taught themselves astronomy, microscopy and photography, an unusual achievement in itself. But more than theat, they were to become experts in their fields and successfully pursued these ambitions, indeed, followed their stars. Mary Rosse won the Dublin Silver Medal for Excellence for her photography. Mary Ward [a cousin of the time's Lord Rosse -- SH] published authoritative works on astronomical subjects and microscopy and, by 1903, Margaret Huggins and Agnes Clerke were invited to become honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society.
(Mary Ward has another, sadder distinction: she was Ireland's first auto accident fatality, thrown from [and run over by] a Parsons invention, the "Road Locomotive," on the grounds of Birr Castle on August 31st, 1869.)

Diane and I will be going back to Birr Castle, the home of the remarkable Parsons family, in 2010, and will be combing the archives of these astonishing people and their friends and cohorts in the castle's archives room, which we had an all-too-brief look at in 2006. Look forward to more then here in SherWords... we sure do!

Friday, October 10, 2008

U Can Has Ur Lolcat Cuz I Can Has My...

(Detail from this receipt:
from today's visit to the neighborhood grocery store.)

Notice that they paid me $2.06 to take the item. Such a deal!

For anyone who somehow has managed to stay unaware of the lolcat phenomenon, click here for background.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Captain, Turn this Boat Around!

Looking Back toward Inishmore
Looking Back for the Last Time (We Thought) toward Kilronan and Inishmore from Galway Bay, August, 2006

We're going back. Not next year, but the year after. Back to Galway Bay, back to the Bothy, back to Dublin, back to Birr. We're so giddy, we could just, well, expectorate, I suppose. Aside from the possibility of a global economic meltdown (even which may not be enough to prevent the trip), our only worry right now is caretaking of Ft. Harrington.

Giddy, we are. Big-time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

100: Forty-Two

Grace on her father's memorial bench, October 1, 2008. Photo from Adam.

This 100th installment of SherWords comes on the 42nd anniversary of Doug's birth. This year, Grace was accompanied to her dad's bench only by her mom, her Uncle Adam, and her Aunt Reva. I had to teach, but my heart was with them today, too.

For another picture marking the day, please visit today's installment of PicShers.