Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sleep - Trying to Remember What It's Like

Got my CPAP machine delivered Thursday and tried it for the first time that night. Unfortunately, the anxiety that woke me up during the test at the sleep clinic returned, and every time I'd start to fall asleep, I'd start to panic. It either felt like I wasn't getting any oxygen in or that I wasn't able to exhale properly. I suppose that's a form of claustrophobia - I wouldn't know as I've never had any problems like that before. I do know that if anyone even threatened me with waterboarding that I'd sing like a canary. I think it's safe to say that this has been the ONLY time I've ever had this kind of anxiety attack, at least that I remember. I finally gave up after an hour and decided rather than force it, I'd just go to sleep and try again the next night. It's not all bad - from reading some of the boards and some online med documents, it sounds like mine is a common enough reaction and there are certainly people that take two or three weeks to adjust. I'm more than willing to be patient given the upside I'm expecting.

[Update] Friday night was some better. I managed to keep the mask on for almost 4 hours, although I don't think I slept more than an hour and a half of that time. It wasn't so much anxiety last night as it was just thinking about the machine and paying too much attention to my breathing. Still... progress.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dublin Trip - Impressions

I'll initially state that I actually only spent Sunday afternoon (after a transatlantic flight with no sleep), Thursday night pubcrawling and Friday afternoon (after drinking until 3am) actually in the heart of Dublin. So it's a little hard to judge. I'll say first of all that Dublin is not one of those cities that people are going to first say "wow, it's so CLEAN!". Friday afternoon walking around the pedestrian-malled Grafton Street shopping area with a hangover was tough - the place just frankly didn't smell good. The other thing that I noticed as I walked around with my camera is that it's hard to take good pictures. The sky was basically grey the whole time I was there, washing out the colors a bit. The city is primarily 4-6 story buildings and narrow streets, so it was hard to find good vistas like you find in Chicago and DC and London. The one place I found to get some pretty good pictures was along the River Liffey, but the Friday afternoon pedestrian traffic on the narrow sidewalks was so heavy that it was actually hard to just stand in one place and take pictures.

All of that being said, I liked Dublin and I look forward to going back! The people are great, the architecture is interesting, the city centre is reasonably walkable and how can you argue with a city with Bono, Sir Bob Geldof, Christy Moore and Phil Lynott as its musical icons and Samuel Beckett, Joyce, Shaw, Stoker, Wilde, Swift and Yeats are all the literary kings? This is not the broke, crumbling Dublin of the late 70s U2 videos, but it's also no longer the hippest capital in Europe as it was a couple of years ago. The huge capital boom that created the need for the large number of cranes building new stuff in the Docklands has gone bust, leaving those cranes idle for the time being. It does still have the feel (and the high prices) of a go-go city though and I'm definitely keen to go back and do some more exploring.


Dublin Trip - Beer

I should preface this by saying that while I've always talked positively about Guinness, it's never been one of my favorites. Not only do I enjoy more hoppy, bitey quaffs like Pale Ales and IPAs much more, I even like things like Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and Rogue Shakespeare Stout and Founders Breakfast Stout more that Guinness. That being said, I can safely say that all of the stories I was told by people about how much better Guinness is in Dublin than here are all lies. The hotel pub, as nice as it was, had the flattest, most syrupy stout I've ever had. Pubs in the city centre were not much better. The beer highlights of the trip were the Tsingtaos consumed when we hit a Chinese restaurant for dinner on Thursday and the Stella I had on Friday night before packing up. Beer selection ain't like it is in the US now, with bars like Tyler's Taproom or Flying Saucer trying to outdo each other on the number of craft beers they sell and brewpubs like Carolina Brewery and Top of the Hill in every city. Choices were mostly limited to Guinness, Beamish, Smithwicks, Becks, Stella, Heineken, Budweiser and Miller. I was fortunate enough to find a Bass Pale Ale somewhere, but never saw Harps, which I think is one of the finest lagers around. I basically spent the week drinking Guinness and Smithwicks and wishing for a Mad River Steelhead Double IPA (my new favorite) or a Menocino White Hawk Select. I may never drink another Guinness again.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dublin Trip - Sights

I only managed to get into the City Centre on Sunday (tired after flying from NC and not getting any sleep at all) and Friday (tired after drinking way too many pints the night before). I frankly didn't get great pictures, in part because of the continually overcast skies (my guys have been complaining that it's been rainy and grey all summer) and in part because of the massive crowds of people moving in herds along the narrow sidewalks. I did get to Trinity College and St. Stephens Green, as well as Dublin Castle and the Grafton Street shopping area (more on that later).

Dublin Castle - The Records Tower (NOT Tower Records)

St. Stephens Green - you can tell it was Sunday because Friday afternoon it was covered with people
Trinity College - line was too long to see the Book of Kells - maybe next time


Dublin Trip - Clontarf Castle Hotel

Scaffolding was for ivy removal on the tower

Red circle is the location of the hotel

Spent last week at the Clontarf Castle Hotel in Clontarf northeast of Dublin proper. It's a great location for my work as it is not too far from the airport and less than a couple of miles from the office, but not so great a location for getting into the Dublin City Centre as a taxi is required (unless you're suicidal enough to rent a car) and it can take 15-20 minutes to get a taxi out to pick you up. The hotel itself is nice though, combining a 12th century manorhouse/stronghold with modern hotel rooms and a good pub. They certainly won favor after we shut the pubs down at 1:30 on Thursday night and took taxis back to the hotel - when we found the hotel pub closed as well, one of the bright guys that works for me checked with reception and they were more than willing to serve us pints in the lobby. Of course that meant I wasn't in bed until 3am and was in no shape to work Friday, but I'd only planned to do a half anyway before going into the city to buy souvenirs. If you are planning to hit the town every night, it's probably not convenient but for work it was great!


More Corporate Welfare

Those who are jokingly talking about "socialism" in regards to the proposed bailout of the financial markets are missing the point. It's welfare, and welfare that only applies to rich corporations. There's apparently no money to help people that are losing their homes, can't afford to drive to work, can't afford to buy healthcare, but there's a trillion dollars to bail out companies that are sending off the guys that fucked us all over with 10s of millions of parachute money.

Krugman says no and thankfully Barack Obama says not so fast. I'm not saying that there's nothing to be done, but it can't be done without controls and regulations and help for the people who've been really hurt by this. Hopefully Obama will stick to his guns and give Congress the backbone to do this right.

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I'm not. Last time oil prices were hovering around $100 per barrel, gas as roughly $2.65 a gallon. Now that oil prices have dropped back to that territory and have stayed there for a bit, gas prices are still a full $1 a gallon more expensive. If you're surprised, you're a fool or you've been asleep.


Guinnessed Out

Just got back from a week in Dublin last night - mostly business. I'll catch up with you folks in a bit.

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