Sunday, September 30, 2012


Doug Harrington (1 October 1966 - 14 November 2006) watches his old man demonstrate his new, spiffy, lightning-fast Pentium computer in December, 1996.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

An Example of How the Internet Has Changed Everything

Dr. Mary Spanner (not her real name) is in New South Wales, Australia.
Kevin McLaughlin is in Dublin, Ireland.
I am in Boulder Creek, California, USA.
I have never met either of the other people in this interchange.

The suspension pedestrian bridge across the River Camcor, Birr Castle Demesne. Built around 1820, this may be the oldest wrought-iron suspension bridge in Europe.


January 11, 2012, 1:52pm PST (= 8:52am January 12 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
To: Sherwood Harrington
From: Dr. Mary Spanner
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge

Dear Sherwood,

I am writing a book about Thomas Waters, who designed and built a suspension bridge in Tokyo in 1872. Tom grew up next door to Birr Castle [in Ireland -- SH], and I expect he modelled his bridge in Japan on the Birr one.
I would really love a high res. copy of your photo. Please let me know the cost, etc.

Best wishes,
Mary Spanner
Honorary Associate:
The School of Humanities
The University of ****
NSW, Australia


January 12, 2012, 7:30pm PST (= 2:30pm January 13 in Sydney)
To: Dr. Mary Spanner
From: Sherwood Harrington
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge

Dear Dr. Spanner,

I will be happy to give permission for one of my photographs of the Birr suspension bridge to be used in your book without charge. My only condition is that it be properly credited.

However, I'm not sure which photograph you mean! I have a few out there at different places on the web. Let me know which one you're interested in and I'll make the highest-resolution file I have of it available to you.

Best wishes,

Sherwood Harrington
Astronomy Department
DeAnza College
Cupertino, California


January 12, 2012, 8:00pm PST (= 3:00pm January 13 in Sydney)
To: Sherwood Harrington
From: Dr. Mary Spanner
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge

Great to hear from you!

Thanks, Sherwood.

I have decided on the attached photo [at end of this message -- SH], which can be compared easily with the version that Tom Waters built in Japan (also attached) [not included in this post -- SH]. Of course, the Japanese bridge is much bigger! Waters never did anything by halves!

It wasn't an easy decision, as you have several nice ones.

My husband and I were at Birr, also staying at the Bothy, several years ago! I see you are with the Astronomy Department -- no wonder you were interested in Birr!

I do appreciate your generosity, and will, of course, add the appropriate credits.

With best wishes,
Mary Spanner

Kevin McLaughlin's straight-on view of the bridge. Photograph courtesy of and © Kevin McLaughlin, all rights reserved.


January 12, 2012, 9:00pm PST (= 4:00pm January 13 in Sydney)
To: Dr. Mary Spanner
From: Sherwood Harrington
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge

Hi, Mary -

I'm afraid that isn't one of my photos. Can you send me the URL where you found the one you want?



January 12, 2012, 9:05pm PST (= 4:05pm January 13 in Sydney)
To: Dr. Mary Spanner
From: Sherwood Harrington
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge

Hi, Mary -

Just following up on my e-mail to you of a few minutes ago -- I found the photo you want on Flickr, and it belongs to a fellow named Kevin McLaughlin. Here is his profile page, from which you can probably contact him:

Good luck to you -- your book sounds intriguing!



January 12, 2012, 10:04pm PST (= 5:04pm January 13 in Sydney)
To: Sherwood Harrington
From: Dr. Mary Spanner
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge

OK. Sorry about that. One I really liked was in fact yours, a side on view of the bridge. I must have got confused after that, when I decided on the lengthways version.

If I can't get anywhere with Kevin McLaughlin, I will get back to you.

Best wishes,


January 14, 2012, 12:02am PST (= 7:02pm January 14 in Sydney)
To: Sherwood Harrington
From: Dr. Mary Spanner
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge

Hi again, Sherwood.

I got into the web page you mention below, but unlike yours, it does not seem to have an email address for Kevin McLaughlin.

I don't want to sign in to anything, which Flickr seems to want me to do. I wonder if you could please contact Kevin via Flickr and give him my email address so we can talk. Is that possible?

Don't worry if it is too much of a nuisance, and I hope you don't mind me asking this favour.



January 14, 2012, 10:11am PST (= 6:11pm in Dublin)
To: Kevin McLaughlin (via Flickr message)
From: Sherwood Harrington
Subject: Author Requesting Permission to Use a Photo

Hi, Kevin -

Dr. Mary Spanner of the University of **** in Australia would like to use your photo of the Birr Castle suspension bridge in a book she is writing. Since she is not a Flickr subscriber, she has asked me to pass along her e-mail address to you so you can contact her if you wish.

Dr. Spanner's e-mail address is *******@****

Thanks, Kevin, and best wishes from
Sherwood Harrington


January 14, 2012, 10:25am PST (= 5:25am January 15 in Sydney)
To: Dr. Mary Spanner
From: Sherwood Harrington
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge -- Followup

Hi, Mary -

I just passed a message along to Kevin. I hope he gets back to you, but there is a notation on his account that he is busy with other things for a while and may not check his messages right away.

If it doesn't work out that you can use his photograph, please let me know. I have developed some photographer contacts in Ireland through Flickr, and one of them might be willing to take a shot from the same vantage point for you. Also, you could try e-mailing Lady Rosse for help -- since you've stayed in the Bothy, I'm sure you know that she is very nice and very helpful.

You've tweaked my interest in Thomas Waters, a fellow I'd never heard of before. Please let me know when your book sees print; I'd very much like to read it. I just read the Wikipedia entry about him, and thought of another famous Irish civil engineer: Michael Tubridy, who was responsible for the reconstruction of the great telescope at Birr Castle (and for the recently-replaced passenger terminal at the Dublin airport.) Tubridy wasn't famous for those things, though. He was famous for being the original flute player for the Chieftains!

Best wishes,


January 14, 2012, 10:27am PST (= 6:27pm in Dublin and simultaneously written with the previous message)
To: Sherwood Harrington (via Flickr message)
From: Kevin McLaughlin
Subject: Author Requesting Permission to Use a Photo

Dear Sherwood,

I'll get on to that, thanks.

Kevin McLaughlin


January 14, 2012, 10:32am PST (= 6:32pm in Dublin)
To: Kevin McLaughlin (via Flickr message)
From: Sherwood Harrington
Subject: Author Requesting Permission to Use a Photo

You're welcome, Kevin. She seems like a very nice person, and the fellow she's writing a book about -- somebody I'd never heard of before -- seems to have been a very interesting guy according to the little I've read about him online this morning. I hope she does wind up using your photo of the bridge.



January 14, 2012, 11:20am PST (= 7:20pm in Dublin)
To: Sherwood Harrington (via Flickr message)
From: Kevin McLaughlin
Subject: Author Requesting Permission to Use a Photo

For me, people just have to ask and I'm usually happy to give permission. Courtesy goes a long way.

It's good to know that there are people writing about these great 19th century guys, recovering their stories and making them known.

All the best,


January 14, 2012, 2:28pm PST (= 9:28am January 15 in Sydney)
To: Sherwood Harrington
From: Dr. Mary Spanner
Subject: Birr Suspension Bridge -- Followup

Thanks very much Sherwood,

Kevin has just contacted me! Great. I will certainly put your name on my list of people who want the book, and he has requested a copy too.

I have not yet found a publisher, which is (as you probably know) not easy these days. **** **** Pess in NY is presently considering the proposal, but I will believe it when I see it.

It is certainly an extraordinary story, and hopefully someone will take it up.

Don't take too much notice of the Wikipedia bit about TJW. Some of it is quite wrong. You should really read a book by Mary Spanner and Susumu Yamashita if you want to know the truth about him. Hopefully it will be available in the not too distant future!



Total elapsed time from Dr. Spanner sending the first inquiry to me, through her acquisition of the photo and its permission, to summary chat: three days.

Critical part of that (first contact with the photographer to Dr. Spanner's acquisition of the image and its permission): less than four hours.

Total great circle distance involved (Boulder Creek - Dublin, Dublin - Sydney, and Sydney - Boulder Creek): 22,900 miles.

Wow. Just wow.


I have used "Mary Spanner" as a fictitious name for a real person. In the interests of her privacy and confidentiality, I have not used her real name, or that of her institution or her co-author.
Kevin McLaughlin lives in Dublin and goes by the handle "harve64" on Flickr. His beautiful landscape photographs (and the occasional one of Eric the Cat) are well worth spending some time with.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Only Because I Don't Know What His Birthday Was

Oolie and part of his posse, 2003.

The Black Freighter left port three years ago today.

Both Mrs. Fort and I are ailurophiles, and we make no bones about it. (One of the very first things she ever said to me, in fact, was "Do you like cats?" My life would have been very different had my answer been at all different from what it was.) We think that all cats' personalities are fascinating, and that's the quality that keeps us buying lint rollers by the case more than any other. Sure, some of them are cute and cuddly -- but by no means all of them. But every single one of them is fascinating.

None more so than Oolie, the Black Freighter.

But, selfish fellow that I am, this post won't involve specific memories of him (as my friend Chris Clarke did so well yesterday for Zeke.) It has to do with me and a gathering discomfort about marking his death annually, the same discomfort that has stopped me from noting in this space the anniversary of an entirely different kind of loss. Enough time has gone by now that the shock has worn off (though we still see him at the periphery of our vision once in a while), and what we're left with is a lasting smile. That seems like cause for celebration, and the anniversary of his sudden death kind of works against that.

If we knew what his birthday was, what to do would be easy: just celebrate that. But the best we can come up with is "probably sometime in early 1995." Or we could do something akin to what my father's eldest sister did. When she was a child, she secretly chose one date to be her "Happy Day," and vowed to herself that all day on that date she would be happy and do happy things no matter what might be going on. And she did. She kept it secret from everybody until she was in her 84th and final year, when she told me about April 4th in a letter.

Instead, I think I'll go about it less randomly. I think I'll designate the exact opposite side of the orbit to be my Oolie Day from now on. Expect to see another picture of the Black Freighter here on August 5th.

Natural attraction: reaching for a jar of "Cuban Mojo Mustard" in 2008.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

(Please click on the image to see it as it's meant to be seen.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Four Days Off the Grid

The forced-air furnace doesn't work without electricity, so Ft. Harrington's only heat for the past four days was from the wood-burning stove in our barn of a living room at the far end of the structure.

When our gasoline-powered generator died last year, we decided not to go to the expense of repairing or replacing it. A long time had passed since there had been a power outage longer than a couple of hours here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and we figured that PG&E had beefed up the grid sufficiently that the expense wasn't really justified.


The wind started to pick up a bit around midday last Wednesday, the last day of November, while I was at work. Diane tells me that the power went out here in the mountains at about 3:30, and we were a little surprised that it was still out when I got home after dark. We settled in for a pleasant evening by candlelight, warmed by the wood-burning stove in the living room.

Diane and Kelsey by candle- and stove-light.

The "pleasant" part of that stopped at about midnight, as December came in like a dragon. My friend Paul, the meteorology guy at our college, told me the next day that winds had topped hurricane force at the tops of several mountains around the Bay Area that night. While not that strong down here in Ft. Harrington's hollow, it was plenty strong enough. The sound of small branches hitting the roof was almost nonstop for a while in the wee hours, and the characteristic rifleshot-crack of redwood limbs separating from their trees, followed by the whoosh as they fell their hundred feet or more through other branches, followed by the thud (or worse) when the widowmakers hit the ground punctuated the night.

25 feet long and having fallen about 100 feet, this "widowmaker" redwood branch fell in about the best place it could have, causing only minor damage to a grape arbor (at left) and the rose garden area (at its far end).

Things had settled down a bit by dawn, and it was evident that we had been very, very lucky, as had all of our immediate neighbors. While there was lots of damage to peripheral structures, nobody's house was crushed. (At last report, though, at least four homes were destroyed by falling trees elsewhere in these mountains.)

Crunched deck railing.

The electrical power grid had been devastated overnight. Both main lines into the San Lorenzo Valley, one up from Santa Cruz to the south and the other over the mountains from the Bay Area to the west, were so badly damaged in wilderness areas that crews and equipment had to be brought in by helicopter to essentially rebuild large sections of them. It took nearly four days for power to be restored here; the Fort was off the grid for 93 hours and 15 minutes, ending at 12:45 this afternoon.

Old Kelsey and I keep each other warm. (Photo by Diane Harrington.)

The lack of a generator made things a bit more inconvenient and uncomfortable than we would have liked, but we mostly feel like we dodged a bullet -- or an RPG -- or two, and know how lucky we were. The two big "widowmaker" redwood branches that fell on our property only damaged a deck railing and a grape arbor -- far less damage than they would have worked if less considerately placed. Also, this was a dry wind, not a rain storm. If it had been a typical wet winter storm, with the ground soaked, that fierce wind would have toppled whole redwoods, not just pieces of them. That nightmare would have been just horrendous -- but it didn't happen.

Seven minutes before the power came back on: Jax (lower) and Cooper (upper) keep the old man warm and vice versa. We didn't keep the fire going except in the evenings, and -- while not cold by northern December standards -- the temperature in the house during the day was generally in the upper 40s and lower 50s Fahrenheit.

No, it didn't happen this time. But it will. And you can bet we'll have a generator when it does.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Old Dog Makes Another Comeback

Kelsey and Jax this evening. Note the shaved places on Kelsey's forelegs: they were for intravenous ports' insertion during his time under general anesthesia three days ago.

About a year and a half ago, we had a cancer scare with old Kelsey-the-Dog. Further testing ultimately showed that the scary initial test results were due to something considerably less dire.

This week we had another big "whew" episode with our stalwart friend and guardian of Fort Harrington. A couple of weeks before, he had developed a bit of a yeast infection in both ears, and his veterinarian put him on a course of topical antibiotics for ten days. By the time we took him in for a follow-up, it was clear that he had lost all hearing in both ears.

That follow-up visit with the vet was three days ago, the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving. The infection had cleared up completely -- but his ears were hurting him so badly that a standard visual inspection proved impossible, even with me and a burly vet tech gently but firmly trying to keep him immobile. Since he had recently had a routine blood panel that showed good kidney function, we decided to put him under general anesthesia to try to see if the cause of the pain and deafness could be ascertained.

He made it through the anesthesia well (though it ultimately took him two days to shake the unsteadiness and grogginess) -- but no progress was made on diagnosis. The vet took a head x-ray while he was unconscious, and made arrangements for consultation with a radiologist next week.

I picked him up on Wednesday morning, and the vet was convinced -- as was I -- that his deafness was complete and permanent. We had a short conversation about coping strategies for living with a deaf, aged dog, and I took him home. I made a brief post about his condition on Facebook before heading off to work.

When I came home after work that night, the poor guy was shaky and miserable. Diane said that she had tried all sorts of test noises during the day, and he hadn't responded visibly to any of them. I took him outside to do his business in the darkened front yard.

While we were out, someone up the hollow whooped and hollered at something, the noise echoing down the draw. I glanced at Kelsey, and saw he had his head up, alert in his standard vigilant-alert pose. He was ahead of me and to my right, about ten yards separating us. I clapped my hands once, hard.

His head whipped around. The wrong way, but it whipped around nonetheless.

That night, we continued making noises, testing him and confusing the spaniels mightily. Some things he seemed to notice, most not.

Thanksgiving day was a different story. Hourly, it seemed, his responses to sounds increased. By evening, he seemed to be almost completely back to normal, and today, "Black Friday," the recovery seems to be complete. Not only that, but the pain is gone, too.

We have another appointment with his vet tomorrow, and it will be interesting to hear what she has to say. My completely unprofessional guess is this: he's a geriatric dog (the chart on the vet's wall says that a rough human equivalent age to his is 85), so maybe his body just doesn't recuperate as quickly now after things like infections as it used to. Whatever the reason, he's shown his resilience once again, and we had a much happier Thanksgiving for it.

He's still hard of listening sometimes, but he's always been like that. I think it's the Akita in him; they have a reputation of hard-headedness.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two Astronomers and the Forest of the Iroquois

I had a hard week at work last week. It was nothing particularly epochal or even unusual -- just a confluence of typical trials, round budget pegs to be pounded into square bureaucratic holes and the like. Friday's afternoon wasn't so much like a liberation as it was like a temporary reprieve, knowing, as I do, that Monday comes soon after, and verbal cheese like "Student Learning Outcomes" will, again, become hash to be taken seriously.

I stopped by the grocery store on my way home, depleted and stone-brained dull. As I pushed my cart into line, something in the soundtrack of the audio pablum of Safeway's muzak caught my attention. By the time I reached the front of the line, my skin was all a-goosebump, and I had to concentrate on stopping tears lest the checker judge me to be dangerous.

"Sailing to Philadelphia" was playing as I waited to pay for my wheat chex.

The song is a hauntingly beautiful duet by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor. In it, they reprise an imaginary discussion between two Englishmen in the 18th century who took on a surveying job in the new world: surveyor Jeremiah Dixon and journeyman astronomer Charles Mason. Their "Mason-Dixon Line" marking the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, between America's South and North, even today has a greater societal impact than a geographic one -- but Jeremiah and Charlie couldn't have known what their line would demark in the larger world of future politics. They only knew that they were headed into a wilderness.

I am, personally, a product of their divide. My father's family is from the North, my mother's from the South, and both sides go back several generations, and both sides sacrificed sons in battles with the other's sons.

I am also, like Charlie, an astronomer of little note but with great appreciation for the science and its beauty. The roots of that appreciation lie in my younger eyes' view of dark, sparkling, starry skies in upstate New York, afforded by breaks between the trees in its forest, the forest of the Iroquois.

So this verse, sung by Taylor as I fumbled for my Safeway Discount Card at checkout, damn near broke me to tears:

You're a good surveyor, Dixon,
But I swear you'll make me mad.
The West will kill us both
You gullible Geordie lad.
You talk of liberty --
How can America be free?
A Geordie and a baker's boy
In the forest of the Iroquois?

I grew up in the Forest of the Iroquois, and might not have without Jeremiah's and Charlie's efforts. And then I went on to be an astronomer.

Sherwood in the Forest of the Iroquois, 1961. Photo by Lynn Harrington.

The Safeway checker wouldn't have understood that I was fumbling for a card with Charles Mason's name on it, so I didn't tell her. I just paid cash for my wheat chex, and then drove off toward my home in the Forest of the Ohlone.



Saturday, October 1, 2011


Doug Harrington (1 October, 1966 - 14 November, 2006) stalking crayfish at his great-aunts' house in Upstate New York, summer, 1975.

That's his brother Adam's hair, fuzzy in the left foreground. Adam has put together a celebration of his brother's life in video-slide form and posted it on YouTube today. Please go visit, if you have a few minutes to spare.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ireland Revisited: Afterword

412 years ago, my 10th-great grandfather, John Harrington, included the following in a report to his godmother the Queen on his recent deployment to Ireland:
I have informed myself reasonably well of the whole state of the country, by observation and conference: so I count the knowledge I have gotten here worth more than half the three hundred pounds this journey hath cost me.
If I ever meet Sir John, I'll tell him that I got the other 150 pounds' worth.

I'm not going to be as bold as he was with my assessment after two deployments, though. While I think this pair of Harringtons is now reasonably well informed about certain aspects of Ireland that we knew nothing about before, we are also well enough informed to know that the "whole state" of any country, even one as small as that one, is beyond us.

Our first reconnaissance is done, though, that much is certain. What comes next will be very different from exploration of geography -- I doubt very much that any future visits will lend themselves to a daily account or mapping. Instead, what I think lies ahead for Ireland and me is some in-depth research on some very specific topics. The precise form of what comes out of that research will depend in large part on what's uncovered in it, but I know who its central figure will be, and he's not one I would have expected before this second trip to Birr.

Laurence Parsons, Fourth Earl of Rosse, may not have been a riveting intellectual giant like his father or a reckless technological and industrial giant like his younger brother, but by virtue of time and position he ties together a parade of fascinating personalities and a sea change in the way we all live our lives. His time spanned from the first automobile tragedy to the runup to WWI's mechanistic horror, his astronomy bridged from the gentility of a country gentlemen's avocation to the first mountaintop professional observatory run by a modern university, the geography of his story spans from Birr to Santa Cruz. The next steps in research are to try to get a sense of the man himself beyond his brusque diary entries and to fill in more details concerning his week in Northern California in 1891 -- including trying to crack the mystery of those four blank diary pages.

As concerns the latter, I'm anxiously awaiting the re-opening of the Lick Observatory Archives at the University of California, Santa Cruz, just down the road from my home here in Boulder Creek. The archives have been unavailable for many months due to facilities renovation, but should reopen before the end of the year, and I'm anxious to see if I can find more about the Fourth Earl's interactions with the Lick staff of the time, including the Observatory's blustery (and largely unpopular) first Director, Edward Singleton Holden. I know a little something about that particular cast of characters already, having worked as an editor and archivist for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an organization founded by Holden in 1889.

As concerns a sense of the man himself, I suspect that will require getting dusty in Armagh and Trinity College, Dublin for starters. The archives at Birr, fascinating as they are, primarily show only one end of conversations: letters received. Letters from Lord Rosse to the astronomers at Armagh and writings of his during his long tenure as Chancellor of Trinity College should help give more insight than his short diary entries do.

This will be fun.


A few footnotes:

A big difference:

The biggest difference to us between our 2006 visit and this one four years later is not a hard call: it's the ease of getting around Ireland on the roadways. The reach of "dual carriageway" superhighways from Dublin now radiates to all of the island's other major cities, and no place in Ireland is more than a couple of hours by car on good, modern roads from Dublin, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cork, or Waterford. It is as though all of the US had made the transition from 1930s roads to a complete modern interstate network in less than a decade, and the effects on the character of Ireland will be profound and permanent. The network was just in its finishing stages in August, 2010. The following video clip shows eight minutes of a drive along the M7/N7 toward Limerick, and gives a pretty good flavor of the magnitude of the transition. The first third is along a new superhighway (the M7), the middle third is along a new connecting road from the superhighway to a village, and the final third is along the N7. The connecting road is typical of new non-superhighway roads which have also proliferated across the island, and its breadth and clear sight lines bear little resemblance to the narrow, hedgerow-walled roads they replace. The N7 from Birdhill westward in the last part of the clip is typical of what constituted a major national highway during our 2006 visit.

(The banter between Diane and me at the roundabout refers to a joke I had cracked during a visit with Lord and Lady Rosse about how American tourists might be miffed that the Irish seem to be intent on not remaining picturesquely impoverished and quaint.)

Photos in a trice:

A link to this has been posted on this blog before, but it's sensible to repeat it here: all of the 700-plus photos in the albums of this trip over on can be seen in rapid-fire on this YouTube video in only six minutes:

Plans gang agley:

Back in July of 2010, this SherWords post invited readers to hold on to a map of our intended travels to compare with what actually happened. Just in case you've lost yours, here are the two maps -- planned on the left and actual on the right.

Evidently, a major ankle injury tends to sag one's peregrinations down and to the right.

Which leads to this closing note: I knew before that my wife is a tough cookie who doesn't let a little pain stop her. I just didn't quite appreciate the magnitude of her grit. If it had been me taking a tumble off that stile in County Antrim, I can guarantee you that a lot more of our days would have looked like August 26.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ireland Revisited: Across the Western Ocean

Day 35 of 35: Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones stayed in the room next to ours the night before our departure. He's 19 days older than I am, but looks 19 years older, at least, and I guess that's what comes of packing so much fun into your life. No rock star shenanigans that night: the only noise coming from that direction was the occasional knock on his door by what we figured was his manager or agent, shouting "Ronnie! You have to be at [xyz] in [abc] minutes!" Carlos Santana didn't look like he needed such shepherding, but, then again, Carlos is a whole month younger than Ronnie and me. We didn't bother Mr. Wood beyond simply nodding to him as we passed him in the lobby.

Homeward bound:

To the airport, early morning. To American immigration (which no other foreign country has at the Dublin airport.) To Aer Lingus. To Chicago. To United to San Francisco, to Adam, to the pickup truck, to home.

US presence in Dublin's airport. (This is the "old" passenger terminal; the new one opened just a few weeks later and incorporates the most comprehensive US Customs and Immigration station outside the Western Hemisphere.)

Aer Lingus's "St. Aoife" at the Dublin Airport as we awaited departure. This was the aircraft that brought us from Chicago to Dublin weeks before – but here it was about to take people to Boston; ours was to be the next flight out after that.

The trip home was largely uneventful, unlike last time, and gave no opportunity for a dramatic end to this narrative.

And that's fine by us.

All of the sets of additional images from this trip can be accessed through this index page over on

Next and last -- Afterword (to be posted after a few days' break)
Previous: September 6, 2010 -- Dublin in the Rain
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ireland Revisited: Dublin in the Rain

Day 34 of 35: Monday, September 6, 2010

Our last full day in Ireland this time was a very rainy one, spiked by the obligation to return our rental car by the middle of the afternoon. Fortified by our experience on Saturday, we braved Dublin’s traffic by driving into the city in the morning, parking in a garage near Saint Stephen’s Green. We left the big, expensive camera back in the hotel because of the rain… and Diane’s little Canon point-and-shoot didn’t work well, so we have very few photos of this day. It’s just as well; we were so sad to leave that the mist and the gray and the drizzle fit our mood better than any photo could capture.

Park Lake in the rain, St. Stephen's Green.

Sherwood (blue jacket) shopping on Nassau Street.

Back in the hotel, starting to pack.

The full set of slideshows from this trip will be linked at the end of tomorrow's installment.

Next: September 7, 2010 -- Across the Western Ocean
Previous: September 5, 2010 -- The Mountains of Mourne
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ireland Revisited: The Mountains of Mourne

Day 33 of 35: Sunday, September 5, 2010

Drifting in the rain on Carlingford Lough.

Postponed to last by circumstance, we finally drove up from Dublin toward Belfast and swerved right at Newry in County Down (UK) into the Mountains of Mourne. Diane had wanted to see this storied part of Ulster for a long time, and we had initially planned to go there early on in our trip, but circumstances kept pushing us back toward the end.

The day was wetly gray, and seemed played in a minor key. As we drove, we kept turning the car's radio on to get news of something we knew nothing about a few weeks before: the All-Ireland Hurling Final being played in Croke Park, Dublin. The match on this day, roughly the Superbowl of the GAA, was between Tipperary and perennial powerhouse Kilkenny. Both county colors -- black and amber for Kilkenny, blue and gold for Tipp -- had been on prominent display in flags and pennants all over both counties throughout our travels, and we couldn't help but get interested in what was going on. Tipp won in an upset.

In the Mountains of Mourne.

Southward-looking panorama from near Hilltown, County Down.

After a misty ramble through County Down’s highlands, we drove down southward toward the coast at Kilkeel:

… and then westward and northward along Carlingford Lough back toward Newry and the border, then back to the Republic. (Despite the sound of its name, Carlingford Lough is not a lake, but rather an inlet of the Irish Sea. It forms the easternmost part of the border between counties Louth and Down, between Leinster and Ulster, and thus at present between Ireland and the U.K.)

Deep water port equipment at Greenore, on the south side of Carlingford Lough, in the Republic.

Along our drive back through the rain to Dublin, we took a detour toward the border near Dundalk, looking for a settlement named Drumboat for our friend Ronnie Peterson, part of whose ancestry comes from there. We were not successful in locating the place, and rain was coming down so hard by then that we abandoned the search after wandering into Northern Ireland once again, but we know where to look next time!

More images from this rainy day in the mountains and around Carlingford Lough are available here.

Next: September 6, 2010 -- Dublin in the Rain
Previous: September 4, 2010 -- Moving Day
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ireland Revisited: Moving Day

Day 32 of 35: Saturday, September 4, 2010

Moving day. Sighing day.

Heading out the door, September 4th.

We left the Bothy today, headed back to Dublin and ultimately to Boulder Creek, and, as four years ago, sadness hung around us like a mist. We love this place.

Ready to go.

The day was taken up with the now-short drive (thanks to the new M7 motorway) to Dublin and checking back in to the Radisson Blu hotel at the airport (or “rad-ISS-un SASS” in the funky dialect and outdated business vocabulary of our satnav’s speech imitation routine.) Rain began to pick up pick up as we left Birr, and intensified as we approached Dublin. The weather had almost precisely coordinated with the calendar in switching from high-tourist season in August to September’s lower expectations. It felt comforting, in a way.

Not a rocky road.

As we approached Dublin, we decided to drive into the center of the city instead of using the ring-road M50 superhighway to avoid it. We wanted to see, on this weekend day, if driving there would be comfortable. We still had two full days ahead of us before our flight home, and wanted to spend one of those days in the city; driving would be a more efficient use of our time for that than the bus would, but only if we thought we could tolerate it.

We're glad we did drive through Dublin on this rainy Saturday. It was a nice way of sightseeing, and traffic was light. From our experience, Dublin isn't a particularly harrowing city to drive in, as long as one is accustomed to driving on the left (as we were by then.) In fact, it's pretty pleasant compared to large American city centers.

More images from September 3 and 4 are available here.

Next: September 5, 2010 -- The Mountains of Mourne
Previous: September 3, 2010 -- Last Full Day in Birr
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ireland Revisited: Last Full Day in Birr

Day 31 of 35: Friday, September 3, 2010

Hornbeam hallway in the Cloisters, Millennium Gardens, Birr Castle Demesne

Our last full day in the Demesne was mostly spent in the Bothy packing and cleaning; Diane's ankle was too sore from yesterday's trudging up and down the Hill of Uisneach to do much beyond that.

I took a last early-morning walk, including a visit to the brick bridge over the Little Brosna and, of course, to see our friend near her new palace.

The annual trimming of the Millennium Gardens' hedges had been completed the day before, and they looked mysterious in the early morning mist (top) and grand in the later morning’s full sunshine.

In mid-morning, I went over to the Castle, where I had invited myself to take snapshots of our host and hostess. Lady Rosse offered to take a photo of me wherever I wanted; I chose the “Yellow Room,” where we all had a great time two Fridays ago. Especially given the pioneering achievements in photography by a previous Countess of Rosse, I am tickled to have a photo of myself in Birr Castle taken by the current Lady Rosse. (The fact that it's a really nice picture helps a lot, too!)

A count, a countess, and a no-account.

They are delightful people, and we’ll miss them.

I finished the benches’ panoramas project with views from two near the castle, favorably illuminated in evening’s sidelong sunlight. Along the way, I took one more look at the reconstructed Leviathan, still not operational but still a stirring sight for those who know its story.

When we arrived in early August, the castle's ivy was all a lush green. As we prepare to leave, its walls are well along the way to changing their seasonal wardrobe.

More images from this day will be available in a two-day set that will be linked at the end of tomorrow's installment.

Next: September 4, 2010 -- Moving Day
Previous: September 2, 2010 -- The Hill of Uisneach
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2