Archive for March, 2010
O beard your growth is lackluster
Only patches of hair you could muster
For three weeks it grew
In the mirror I knew
I must shave and try again next’yur
Rest in peace, Not-Beard. Feb 27, 2010 — March 21, 2010
It’s 11 o’clock Monday night and I’m heading home after a few beers with a friend. Normally Monday night is pretty quiet in Galway, but this isn’t a normal Monday night. It’s the first night of RAG Week, a weeklong drinking extravaganza masquerading as a charity event for NUIG, the college in town. Drunk college students are everywhere, stumbling over themselves, urinating in public, yelling, and generally being obnoxious drunks. As I’m heading away from the city centre throngs of students are heading in the opposite direction. I may as well be in a doomsday movie, running toward the site where the asteroid is supposed to hit as everyone is leaving town. Luckily, two brave, drunk souls rescue me.
“HIIIIIIII! Will you be our new best friend?” an Irish girl says as she stumbles into me. I remove by earbuds and look at her quizzically. “I’m Aisling and this is Aoife,” she says, punctuating each word in a way only a drunk person would. (That’s ASH-ling and EEE-fa, for you Americans. I’m still getting a grip on some of these Gaelic names myself.) “We’re going to Coyotes and we want you to be our new best friend!”
I’m not typically one to deny invitations to drink with attractive Irish women, but these two are sloppy drunk. The kind that I know I’ll spend more time apologizing for then talking to. Furthermore, Coyotes is the new Coyote Ugly-inspired bar, complete with a mechanical bull and bartenders dancing on the bar. It’d be fun to see it some night, but this isn’t the night.
“I don’t know ladies, I’m just heading home.”
“Ohhhhhhh, you’re foreign!” Aisling says upon hearing my accent. “Are you from America?” she says, possibly the most interested anyone has been in my American roots.
“Yes, yes. I’m from Minnesota. But I should really…”
“Come on, we’re going to Coyotoes,” Aoife says as she grabs my arm and starts walking me in the opposite direction. I decide to see what happens.
What happens is we spend 20 minutes waiting in a two-block-long line that doesn’t move before the bouncer stands on an embankment and shouts, “FOLKS, WE’RE AT FULL CAPACITY, NO ONE ELSE WILL BE LET IN. YOU MAY AS WELL GO HOME.”
No one moves. A few minutes later he shouts it again. Aoife and Aisling seem to be convinced that they can whisper the magic words to the bouncer and get in, but I’ve had my fill. So I quietly duck out, and they hardly seem to notice. I guess our best-friendship wasn’t meant to be.
1. Our grocery stores are ginormous. Bigger than big. An American cereal aisle is something to be beholden to. Cereal sits on both sides, top to bottom, going the entire length of the 20-meter aisle. By contrast, even the largest Irish grocery store will have two, maybe three racks of cereal. And good luck if you want to find plain, unflavored tortilla chips.
2. We’re not as diverse as we think we are. Racially, we’ve got the trump card when it comes to diversity. But American readers, how many people do you work with who were actually born in a foreign country? Currently, I work with two Poles, two Lithuanians, and a Belarusian, I live with a Swede, one of my best friends is a German and tonight I’m going to a party for a French girl.
3. We love our Mexican food. Just try finding a tortilla over here. Slim pickin’s.
4. When cooking, we measure our food in volume. Over here it’s much more common to measure food in weight. Reading my first Irish recipe made me realize why we were selling so many food scales at the retail store where I work.
5. We don’t care about sports as much as we think we do. Sure, we have an odd fascination with not one but two sports that nobody but us seems to understand (American Football and Baseball). But even after devastating losses or euphoric victories, we’re pretty much done talking about a game by midweek. But over here, I’m STILL hearing about the Hand of Henry, and that happened the first week I got here!
6. We are institutionally orderly. You’re meandering down a wide sidewalk on a busy day, where do you walk? If you said the very right side, you’re probably an American. I never realized how bound by the rules we are until I came here. Extending my example, when walking down the pedestrian shopping mall in Galway it’s basically a free-for-all, weaving back and forth throughout the crowd. It’s not just walking patterns. It’s our banks with their drive-thru windows, our parking lots with one-way lanes and reserved spots for pregnant women and families, our self-checkout counters at Wal-Mart — they all are grounded on the presumption or order, a presumption that doesn’t exist in Ireland…just look at the dog crap on the sidewalks.
7. We are diligent about picking up after our dogs. The Irish? Let’s just say you’d best be watching your step on the sidewalk.
8. We care a lot about the Olympics. Irish folks just didn’t care about the Winter Olympics. An Irish friend of mine always corrected me when I talked about watching “The Olympics.” “The Winter Olymipcs,” he would qualify. Not the actual Olympics. Nobody over here watched the Olympics (which only played on one channel). It makes sense. Ireland had only 6 competitors in this year’s Olympics. The highest anyone placed was 17th.
Every now and then, my friend from back home will send me an email that is short and to the point: “Oh my god, work is SO boring. Please give me something to do.” I’ve established a bit of a reputation among my friends for being the guy who knows some entertaining things to do on the internet. Also, you all were very responsive to my last post, and I feel the need to give a little back to you, the community. So without further ado, I give you some of the best ways to waste time on the internet.
Warning: Reading this may cause you to accidentally spend 3 hours at your computer. You have been warned.
We’ll start within my own medium. The first blog I ever got really into was The Sneeze. Steve, the author, doesn’t write as much as he used to, but the archives are full of hilarious little anecdotes. I suggest you start with his recurring “Steve, Don’t Eat It!” feature, where he blogs about his experiences eating everything from Beggin’ Strips to his wife’s breast milk.
My Minnesotan friend Chris started his blog, Strong and Affordable when he started taking college classes in Canada. If you like reading the American fish-out-of-water stories in my blog, you’ll like his.
It was from Chris’ blog that I discovered my favorite new podcast, Stuff You Missed in History Class. The hosts speak in that dry, monotonous public radio style, which helps because if they didn’t you’d never believe some of the stories they tell, like the story of The Champagne Safari, the first podcast you should listen to.
I could go on and on about podcasts since they’re all I listen to on my iPod, but I’ll stop with this one: The Bugle. Props to my buddy Seth for recommending John Oliver (of The Daily Show fame)’s podcast project with Andy Zaltzman. Like The Daily Show, The Bugle riffs on current events, but at much greater length and with a whole lot more ironic puns.
Speaking of funny things, if you’re not checking Today’s Big Thing on a daily basis you really should be. I love how to-the-point their tagline is: “The Awesomest Thing On the Internet, Every Day.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
More laughs can be had over at xkcd. This thrice weekly web-comic almost always makes me laugh. It’s written by a former NASA physicist. As a result, every now and then he’ll throw in a punchline that requires knowledge of quantum physics. But hey, I know a lot more about quantum physics because I read xkcd.
Stepping back to blogs for a moment, I discovered One Bad Date recently, and I’m so glad I did. The writer is using a dating website and says yes to any date she’s asked on. She blogs about her usually hilarious experiences here.
I think Passive-Aggressive Notes is especially hilarious to those of us from Minnesota, the land of passive-aggression. After reading this site, I don’t think I’ll ever communicate with someone by note again.
Finally, I’ve gotta tell you about some great flash games. I found out about all of these from The AV Club’sSawbuck Gamer feature. Almost all Orisinal’s games are maddeningly addictive. Start with Winterbells and you’ll see what I mean.
As for artsy games, try out Today I Die. It’ll take you a while to figure out what the point is, but that’s sort of the game. The point is figuring out what you’re supposed to do.
Finally, check out this hilarious one-joke game, You Only Live Once. The AV Club called it “Commitment To A Joke: The Game.” It’ll only take you about 5 minutes to play through, and I bet you’ll find it quite daft (in the best kind of way).
So there you are, dear readers. What did you think? What sites do you visit without fail? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section.
The most challenging part of moving to Ireland wasn’t losing my home turf; it was losing my network. Back in Minneapolis, I prided myself of the solid network I’d established. I haven’t abandoned that network since moving, as those of you who follow me on Twitter know. Just last week I tipped off a local reporter to a story that became their lead in the ten o’clock newscast. It was a geek-out moment for the journalist in me, but also a reminder of how much further I have to go to replicate my Minneapolis network here in Ireland.
So I’ve decided to go back to square one.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Gary, a headhunter at Prosperity, a great recruitment agency in Dublin that specializes in digital, marketing and media jobs. Gary does a lot of recruitment for social media jobs, and he had a novel idea: use social media to find me a job in Ireland.
Using social media to find a job is certainly not new news. But it would be helpful for me, a guy who has plenty of experience as a social media specialist, but not the Irish network to help me find a job. So I have a humble request for you, my readers. Do you use Twitter? Retweet this with the hashtag #GetJohnAJob. Use Facebook? Post this to your page so others can hear about my story. Know any contacts in Ireland who could be helpful business contacts for me? Shoot me an e-mail. If I can get just a few more people to read this blog, it might just give me the edge I need to find a social media in Dublin. I really appreciate any help you can offer me.
Now let’s see just how powerful social media in Ireland is.