* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Monday, September 17, 2012

This and That, The Second

The popular media focuses on slightly different topics in Ireland.  I watched a documentary about Kate Middleton.  I learned that, Kate, generally accepted as really, really attractive, well put together, and future Queen, was rated a 2-3 out of 10 by her male middle school classmates.  I have to remember this to pass along to Megan when she is at a low ebb.  I also learned that Nigella Lawson is 52.  If I can be half as fabulous as she is, I have nothing to fear about growing older.  I've also been watching 2 good documentaries I recommend if they make it over to the US-  The British is the history of the UK in 7 hours.  It's pretty interesting although they mostly have actors doing random color commentary  interviews where it seems like it would be more appropriate to have historians, sociologists and the like.  But, the meat of the show provides plenty of factual information.  The other is The Vikings which (shocker!) covers the history of the Vikings from 3000 BC.  The presenter has a luscious Scottish accent if somewhat unfortunate hair and it's chock full of quite well presented information.

Netflix only just rolled out in Ireland this year.  They had a similar dvd by mail service that rolled out a few years earlier called LoveFilm but I get the impression it wasn't all that great until Amazon bought it out last year.  Various rights issues seem to be big here regarding US studios so being able to carry films from Miramax, etc, is a big deal.  While netflix and redbox completely ran video stores into the ground in the US, video rental places are still ubiquitous here.

In addition to video rental stores, I also see a lot of independent book stores and all manner of record stores.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.  We use Amazon UK.  It's not quite the same as having a site specific to Ireland- some merchants don't ship to or charge a lot extra to ship to Ireland but a fair number of things are available with free shipping, etc.  Amazon UK has been around since 1998 but the contrast between what is available via the US site and the UK site is pretty striking.  I have gotten the impression that the UK site is growing at a pretty good clip but if you are used to the magic of subscribe and save for all manner of household goods, it's a bit of a transition.  On-line shopping in general doesn't seem to be as popular here, on-line grocery shopping aside.  It's a challenge to find Irish shops on-line, even as a basic webpage to find out things like hours and prices.

An Irish friend and I talked a bit about how the Irish don't tend to be early adopters.  The flip side of that is that they then completely leapfrog various stages of technology because when they do finally start using something, it's already undergone it's beta test in other countries (often the US).  For instance, credit cards here all have a microchip rather that the magnetic strip you see in the US.  The chip is significantly harder to copy than the strip and doesn't wear the way the strip does.  Merchants stick your card into a handheld reader and then you input a pin rather than a signature- skipping over the forgery issue.

I will never feel quite the same about the US mail service.  It is generally acknowledged by the locals that the Irish mail service is less than reliable.  You are likely to get your mail eventually but the road is winding.  For instance, my mother sent a package to us.  We had just started wondering if we should start investing what might have happened to it when our landlord/neighbor came by.  We live at 1 O'Connell Gardens.  The package had apparently gone to 10 O'Connell gardens.  An important note is that since it went through customs, etc, it had the regular handwritten address but also an official form with the little blocks.  Plus, my mom was an elementary school teacher for years.  To mistake the 1 O' for a 10 takes some rather significant negligence.  Not recognizing our name, she gave it back to the postman and asked our landlady (living at 1A) about it.  When I showed up at the post office, explaining the saga and that I didn't have the claim slip OR Irish id but I did have a Virginia driver's licence, neither the post man not people in line found the whole story at all unusual.  Dublin is considered pretty advanced in Irish mail service since it uses post codes.  The rest of Ireland looks at them askance as a suspicious Imperial Britain sort of thing.  At the same time, I get the impression that one can routinely address something to Mary Smith The Pink House Sligo and it will get there without any trouble.

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