Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Global [Updated February 3, 2009]

Update, February 3, 2009: The wrangling continues, the sit-in continues, and the plant is still closed -- except, tellingly, the furnace, which is being kept stoked by a skeleton crew. Two US investment groups, Clarion Capital and KPS, are evidently interested in acquiring at least the Waterford name; the former apparently would keep at least something going in Co. Waterford, while the latter is probably more interested in the brand rather than the actual product. Click here for the Irish Times' February 4th story on developments. I'll update here occasionally, but those with keen interest should establish a bookmark for the Times and check it frequently, searching on "Waterford" in its search box.


I know many people in my town, and many people in my circle of friends, and many of my students who are either in fear of losing their jobs in this deep recession or who have already lost their jobs. I'm sure that the same can be said by just about everyone who reads this blog.

The immediacy of our friends' and our fears, and the U.S. news's concentration on the situation in our nation and continent, can tend to obscure this fact: the phenomenon is global, not just the problem of one nation.

If I needed a smack upside the head on that, it was provided by this story in the Irish Times today: the venerable glass factory in Kilbarry, Co. Waterford, has been shut down and its employees laid off.

Stunned: Waterford employees take over the cafeteria in the Visitors' Centre, an action that continues now (Saturday, January 31, 2009). Photo by P. Browne, copied from the Irish Times website.

Waterford crystal glass pieces have been among the highest-quality in the world for more than 200 years. In addition to magnificent goblets, pitchers, vases, and the like, their one-of-a-kind pieces (such as the crystal carriage at the top of this blog post) are legendary. They manufactured trophies for the world's great sporting events, for example, and the ball that drops over Times Square in New York at the stroke of midnight on every New Year was skillfully crafted in County Waterford.

But all of that stopped yesterday, when the place was shut down by its bankruptcy receiver.

Diane and I made a point to visit Waterford Glass during our trip to Ireland in 2006. We were fascinated by the processes we saw, astounded by the artistry unfolding in front of us, and charmed in a way that touched our hearts by every worker we spoke to, from the artisans to the tourguides to the clerks in the gift shop. Every one of them clearly took great pride in their employer's reputation and in their own jobs.

We don't know their names, but this fact saddens us dearly: none of the people in the pictures below will be able to report to work next Monday. (All photos taken on August 7, 2006.)

Good luck, my friends.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Great View of the Inauguration Crowd

GeoEye, Inc., released this astonishing image from its GeoEye-1 satellite this afternoon. After you've clicked on that link, the photo you see is only part of the high-resolution image that you can (and should) download via the link on that page. More information about the image can be found here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

National Parks Meme

One of the ways to tell that your blogging has hit a flat spot is that you actually welcome a meme. Chris Clarke just tagged me with his US National Park Meme, and, rather than cursing him repeatedly for the tap, I only did so once, so I guess SherWords is at least approaching a flat spot.

Chris cut-n-pasted a list of US National Parks and bold-faced the ones he has visited in his lifetime, and invited others to do the same. The meme has a bonus question: "what’s the next National Park you’d like to visit?"

First, the list:

Acadia National Park (Maine)
National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa)
Arches National Park (Utah)
Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
Big Bend National Park (Texas)
Biscayne National Park (Florida)
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado)
Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)
Channel Islands National Park (California)
Congaree National Park (South Carolina)
Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
Death Valley National Park (California, Nevada)
Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)
Everglades National Park (Florida)
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Glacier National Park (part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park) (Montana/Alberta)
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina, Tennessee)
Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)
Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)
Joshua Tree National Park (California)
Katmai National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)
Kings Canyon National Park (California)
Kobuk Valley National Park (Alaska)
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)
Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
North Cascades National Park (Washington)
Olympic National Park (Washington)
Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
Redwood National Park (California)
Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
Saguaro National Park (Arizona)
Sequoia National Park (California)
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)
Virgin Islands National Park (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)
Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Yellowstone National Park (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming)
Yosemite National Park (California)
Zion National Park (Utah)

If you check Chris's list against mine, I think you'll be struck by the similarities. Each of ours shows surprising omissions for those who are familiar with us or our writing: his doesn't include Kings Canyon or Sequoia, for example, and Crater Lake is absent from mine despite numerous wanderings close to it. But overall, the similarities are remarkable.

As for the "bonus question" concerning the next national park I'd like to visit (and note the technicality that it doesn't specify US national park!), what Diane and I are actually planning to do is to make the following list all bold-faced instead of only two-thirds:

The Burren
Wicklow Mountains

The list is the complete roster of National Parks in the Republic of Ireland. (We almost got to Ballycroy in our 2006 visit, but didn't quite get there -- we hustled through Co. Mayo to get to Clifden from Sligo for the pony show, and didn't quite have the time we would have liked, but we'll fix that next time.) That there are only six national parks in the country seems a bit strange at first for a land so fabled for its beauty (as Diane just said to me, "The whole place is a national park!"). It's less strange when you consider that a) the whole country is almost exactly the same size as South Carolina, which has only one national park (Congaree), and b) the Republic adheres strictly to the IUCN's 1969 criteria for "national parks":

In 1969, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recommended that all governments agree to reserve the term 'National Park' to areas sharing the following characteristics:

  • Where one or several ecosystems are not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation; where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites and habitats are of special scientific, educational and recreational interest or which contain a natural landscape of great beauty;
  • Where the highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate as soon as possible exploitation or occupation in the whole area and to enforce effectively the respect of ecological, geomorphological or aesthetic features which have led to its establishment;
  • Where visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educational, cultural and recreational purposes.
It is the policy of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, endorsed by successive governments, to abide by the criteria and standards for National Parks as set by the IUCN.

(Quote from the Republic's National Parks and Wildlife Service website. It's a shame, though, that the Service doesn't also abide by the proper use of serial commas.)

I actually had thought that I would do a similar bold- and not-bold list for national parks I've visited and not visited in Australia... until I did a little googling and found that the Ozzies have a staggering 516 of them. Nobody's going to read to the end of that list, and precious few of them would be bolded.

Of course, this wouldn't be a SherWords post without some bandwidth-hogging images, so here's this post's quota: my favorites from the four Irish national parks we have visited:

Connemara: the admonition to stay on the trail is familiar in US national parks; the stern "DO NOT INTERFERE WITH PONIES" is not.

Killarney: enjoying the vista from Ladies' View with one of the locals.

The Burren: Karst, karst all around, and caves beneath our feet. Also Galway Bay in the background.

Wicklow Mountains: heather and a clear, pure brook by St. Kevin's Way.

Coda: As Chris notes, "it’s not a meme unless you tap people for it," so I guess I should burden some readers by name to do their own list. But I won't. I will, though, invite any regular SherWords reader to follow up on his or her own blog, or in the comments here, to the National Park Meme: what US National Parks have you visited? What national park would you like to visit next? (And feel free to add Canada's national parks to the list, too -- or even instead of!)

Post-Coda: As Chris also rightly notes, "yes, this list reflects a certain amount of assumption of privilege in that travel costs money and time, and if you’ve been unable to do the Parks Tour thing, feel free to tell us about a local place you like, NP, National Monument, State Park, or otherwise."

Friday, January 2, 2009

For the Little, Tiny Snide Bit in All of Us...

... Chris Clarke's blog introduced me to Let Me Google That for You. I think we all can find uses for it now and then.