Monday, July 21, 2008


Downieville is a little town in the Sierra's nestling in a valley along the North Fork of The Yuba River. Like most of these little towns it was settled during the gold rush of 1849. You can still come across people panhandling for gold in the river. These days the town is more likely to be populated with mountain bikers than bearded old prospectors. It's the location of the annual world famous Downieville Classic mountain bike race, which consists of two events, a cross country race and a gnarly downhill race where you descend over 5000 feet of heart poundingly steep and technical single track. We went up to ride the downhill course. It's perfectly possible to top 30 mph as you descend, and many of the pro racers go at over 40 mph. We witnessed some of them on a practice ride (the race was the weekend after we were there) and it's amazing the speeds they travel at. I think it helps to be a little crazy to race mountain bikes downhill. The course is a constantly changing roller coaster of a ride, carving dust tracks give way to gut wrenching steep, slick, speedy sections, which suddenly change terrain and the trail cross multiple streams before entering a rock strewn forest where the slightest loss of concentration will be punished. And that's just the first ten minutes. Of the five of us that rode the trail (we did it twice, once each day) three crashed, none seriously...well not very seriously. Some nasty cuts. To add to the excitement, one of my mates who was right in front of me rode right past a brown bear! My eyes were so glued to the trail that despite being twenty feet behind I never saw the bear. However another friend who was a bit behind us was spooked when the bear ran right across the trail on front of him. I'm not sure if I'm glad I missed the bear or sad I never got to see it.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dancing In The Streets

No time for writing so photos it is. This was taken just off Tompkin's Square Park (where I lived 18 years ago). A jazz band was playing on the back of a parked truck and this couple were grooving to the music. A very pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning. More proof of New York's increasing livability. This area although fun to socialise in, was dangerous and decrepit when I lived there. My roommate at the time had his neck slashed with a razor blade in a very nasty mugging. He was incredibly lucky to get a way with only a nasty scar. The EMT people told him if his attacker had been standing a centimeter closer he would have cut his jugular.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Chatting in the East Village

No time to write so some more photos from my trip to NY. This is on the corner of 6th and A in the East Village (the best breakfast place in NY is the 7A on 7th and A). I used to live on 8th and B eighteen years ago, and I always try and take in breakfast at the 7A when I am in town. I was walking around the neighborhood, which has been cleaned up dramatically since I lived there, when I came across a little outdoor stage with a jazz band playing. The couple in the photograph were hanging out nearby.

Single speed bikes like this are the new toy for urban hipsters. Even in hilly San Francisco they are very common. Simple, sleek, light and elegant, almost maintenance free. In relatively flat NY they are the perfect commuter vehicle. Most often the rear gear is fixed, i.e you can't coast, no freewheel. This means the bikes often do not have brakes, or at most a front brake (in this case a rear brake). You slow down by slowing your pedaling. This takes a little time to fully master, but it makes for a very efficient pedaling stroke when you switch back to a freewheel bike. You have to be able to pedal around corners and downhill, when many on freewheel bikes would coast.

Not wearing a helmet seems to be the norm when riding a fixie. Helmets will never make you look cool, but I've witnessed many bike crashes where severe head trauma was avoided by wearing one, and seeing people ride on busy city streets without one makes me cringe.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Brooklyn From a Taxi

Friday, June 06, 2008

Need For Speed

This is my usual view of my mate C, whether we be on the flats or the hills.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fishing in the Shannon

Used to occasionally fish here myself a long time ago. Never caught much, although if you know what you are doing apparently there are plenty of Trout and Salmon.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008


I've been traveling, hence zero time for blogging. I spent a very pleasant weekend in Manhattan, (followed by London and Ireland). Actually pleasant is probably not the right description of a weekend with an old college friend who was over from Ireland visiting his brother. Mildly debauched, actually on Saturday night it was quite debauched. It's been a long time since I was last up late enough to see the dawn. All in all it hit the right notes of drinking, eating, catching some music, sight seeing and shopping.

It was pissing rain while I was in the taxi from JFK, and the freeway was at a standstill. The driver decided to take local streets through Brooklyn to get to the East Village, where my mate was in a bar and had a pint with my name on it. It was the right decision, we made it from the airport in 40 minutes. I snapped this as we traversed the Williamsburg Bridge looking towards Midtown.

Luckily the weather eased off and was perfectly pleasant for the rest of the weekend.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

A New Hope

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shootin' Pool

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tide Log

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I took this just before Christmas, while we were out at Crissy Field taking a family photo for our Christmas card.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bubble Monsters

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ski Boundary Area

Monday, January 07, 2008

Winter Birthday

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This morning on the way to preschool, she hopped out of the car, stopped the first stranger she saw, and proudly proclaimed," My name is Maya, and I'm FOUR!" Not shy, our daughter. At all. I can't believe it's four years since we were shopping for a dining room table and I had to convince my wife that she was going into labor (she was really dead set on getting that table that day). I had to gently explain that despite her fervent wishes, our second baby was coming early. Tash, being experienced at this, said one thing when we got to the hospital: "Epidural. NOW!" My grasp of the written word is not sufficient to describe the look on her face when the doctor told her that the anesthesiologist was two floors down and things were too advanced, so the baby would be well on its way into this mortal coil by the time pain relief arrived. So, Maya said no to drugs and came happily into the world - and has remained that way since.

She's a clever little girl, but a space cadet. You can repeat yourself a million times, but if she's distracted, you might as well be an invisible mute. You could also grow old waiting for her to get dressed in the morning, and there are already mommy-daughter tussles over choice of clothing. Maya is quite happy to kick a soccer ball, or climb a tree, or beat up her younger brother, as long as she is wearing a dress, or skirt, in either pink or purple with matching tights and top. Her favorite item is a pair of pale pink Ugg boots my mother bought her. No matter the weather, the very idea of wearing pants is repugnant to her. And she will stand her ground on that matter. Her teenage years will be interesting. She already has to get the last word in.

My parents own a huge Alsatian (really huge), and he is like a little puppy around her. He took a total shine to her and is quite happy to follow her around. They make quite a pair.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Brandon Bay

Brandon Bay

I've been as sick as a dog the last few weeks. Sinus infection. After I got sick of sleeping, TV and reading, I began playing around with Photoshop, (as you do). This is a photo I took in Brandon, Co Kerry, this time last year, while home on vacation. I wanted to make it look like a painting, as I intend have a Giclee print made of it. I am pleased with it, but I am a Photoshop novice, so any Photoshop gurus out there, feel free to make any suggestions.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Auld Town

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas!

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Hope everyone out there has a good one!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Fun

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We are back on the East Coast, for Christmas, at my in-laws. To the kids delight there is snow on the ground, although a few days old and a little icy, but good enough for these Californian kids unused to such delights. Shane has to be dragged back into the house for meals, every waking moment is spent sledding down a small slope outside.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Limerick Bicycle

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Limericks Eco-Christmas Tree

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I wasn't long back before I had heard about Limerick's eco-Christmas tree. It sits slap bang in the middle of O'Connell St, Limericks main street. Thomond Park, Limericks hallowed rugby ground is undergoing some major construction to increase the amount of seating and amenities available, and the tree was constructed from scrap metal left over after demolishing the old seating. As you can see the LED lighting is powered by wind, (not in short supply this time of the year, you could barely stand straight last Saturday night).

I applaud the effort, and it is nice to see my home town leading by example. People seem rightfully proud of the idea. That said it's not the prettiest "tree". It's kinda unceremoniously plonked on the street, and I think some variation in the colour of the lighting would make it look better. But, like all good ideas it always takes a few iterations before the ideal is attained.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Michael Stipe

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The Sundance TV channel has a program called Iconoclasts, where by their own description they pair visionaries and innovators, and have them discuss their motivations and methods.

I took this photo of the TV during the episode that paired Stipe and the chef Mario Batali (whom I had never heard of before). Personally I found Stipe the more interesting. He is genuinely quirky and odd ball, but likable, thoughtful and confident. However it was a bit jarring that this defender of the environment is seen driving around Manhatten in a Cadillac Escalade, and jetting off to a U2 concert in a private jet.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007


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I never got to see the spider, itwas hiding somewhere under the deck. Given the size of the web, I wasn't terribly keen on meeting it.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bush Killed JFK


Halloween night. At first I thought he was a wacko, but then I realised he was handing out fliers for a poetry reading. Guerrilla marketing at its best. It was working, he got a lot of attention.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Not So Mellow Yellow


Some sort of emergency vehicle on the freeway leaving Tokyo. I just happened to be taking some shots out the window of the airport bus when it flew by. It went by so fast I didn't catch what kind of vehicle it was.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

All You Need Is Love


This was taken through the "V" in this:


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Sunday, November 04, 2007


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Shinjuko Train Station

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tommy Lee Jones

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Like many American actors, it looks like he has been making a few extra shillings doing advertising in Japan.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Shrine Arch


This is the entrance to the Meiji Jingu shrine.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007



I am in Tokyo at the moment. To prove it, here is a picture (from my hotel room), of the Tokyo Municipal Government building, which is much more imposing than it is pretty. It's right outside my window. I have never been here before, so even though I have to work, it's been very interesting. The Japanese are extremely friendly, and to my surprise, despite its huge size, Tokyo is a pretty mellow city. Everyone seems to take their time and there are lots of people walking the streets and hanging out in the noodle shops and cafes - I was surprised, given their work culture is geared towards long hours. Surprised, too, are my Japanese colleagues when I told them I expected it to be more manic.

At lunch time today, one of my team members brought me to the Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine, which is near the office. It's a beautiful, peaceful place - you wouldn't believe that you are in the middle of a huge city, once inside the grounds. The temple is made of Japanese cyprus and then woodwork is stark, precise, and beautiful. Also, it seems like the Japanese gods like a good knees up, based on the size of the Sake offering below (one of several).


As luck would have it, some of the company brass were also in town yesterday, and I was asked to tag along to a dinner at the top of the Park Hyatt hotel. If you have seen the movie Lost In Translation, you might recognise the restaurant. The characters were staying in the hotel. One of the scenes has Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen drinking in the restaurant, with spectacular night time views of Tokyo as the back drop. I actually didn't cop on about the movie myself until someone mentioned it to me. The food was amazing and the conversation interesting, and despite having my camera in my bag, I never took any pictures of the view. Doh! It only dawned on me when I got back to my hotel.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Swans Ditton Park_20070926_0005_1 The company I work for has a campus just outside London. While the main building is new, the grounds are those of a 15th century country mansion. The mansion is still standing and in perfect order, and there is a little river running nearby. The weather was beautiful, so I decided to forgo the shuttle from the hotel, and walk to work. The mile or so meander through the gardens around the house is a very nice way to start the day. This lone swan was preening in the river as I passed over.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Limerick Moon

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I took this when I was back in Limerick a few weeks back. It was a gorgeous harvest moon hanging low over the city. Unfortunately I didn't have time to grab my gear and head outside to someplace where I would have been in a position to take a shot that included the moon and the city.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Birthday Boy

Funny Kids_20070917_9_24 He's all of two today, our Cian. A rambunctious, boisterous, good hearted little boy, if ever there was one. Tash has taken to calling him Taz, after the Tasmanian Devil in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. In him, I may have found my little musician. He is obsessed with the guitar, and insists on being in the studio with me whenever I play. He will demand a pick, and strum one of the other guitars while I practice.
He has no awareness of his place in the sibling hierarchy. As far as he is concerned, even if he is the youngest, he is the King, and demands that respect be accorded him. His older brother and sister, who delight in his charm, are happy to play along...up to a point. There have been some older sister younger brother standoffs.

He had clonked his head while playing a few minutes before this photo was taken, hence the tears. He had been comforted before I took it, I'm not that cold hearted!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Kerry Sky

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The vast skies of the American West are spectacular to see, but for my money, nothing beats the drama of the Dingle Peninsula. The light is constantly changing as the North Atlantic clouds mesh and break on the mountains. Blue skies quickly give way to temperamental storm clouds, and frequently, sunshine and storm coexist in the same patch of sky. I have taken hundreds of photos of the scene above, and no two are alike. The offshore wind sends rain-laden clouds over the Sliabh Mish mountain range, where the granite hills drag the watery bounty onto their steep slopes, filling the myriad mountain streams and lakes in the process. You can sit sunning yourself on the beaches of Brandon Bay while watching the rain falling on the mountains barely a half mile away.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Rock

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Yet another Alcatraz photo. The blog has turned into a photo blog lately. I'm too busy to write anything at the moment, what creative energy I have left at the end of the work day is going into recording some new songs. I've also been practicing the guitar quite a bit, I have to play some classical pieces, (and I am not a classical player), at an upcoming wedding, and rehearsals with yet another new bass player in our band are ongoing.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Window to San Francisco

Richies Visit Day 2_20070817_0106

While walking around Alcatraz, I noticed this little window with a picture postcard view of San Francisco. I couldn't help but wonder if this was put there to torture the inmates, or to give them some hope. It was unusual in that there were no other similar windows in the building, and it was at face level, which also seems out of place in a prison, and it was so small it didn't let in much light. It seems it's only purpose was to provide a view of the city.

There weren't just visual stimuli, apparently on a still clear night the inmates could actually hear the revelers in North Beach.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Indians Welcome

Richies Visit Day 2_20070817_0170BW copy

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jail Bird

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Its been a busy few weeks. My brother has been in town for a prolonged visit before he goes back to college to do a Master's. His trip here coincided with one of my college friends arriving for a week. Natasha and the kids were still on the east coast, so a rip roaring rampage of rambunctious revelry was had. Imbibing, ingesting, and inhaling were indulged in. By that I mean we ate some amazing food, began drinking in the late afternoon everyday, and I reverted to the occasional cigarette. Both my brother and Richie smoke so...
I took the week off and we did a lot of touristy stuff, which I really enjoyed. It's been a while since I saw San Francisco through the eyes of a tourist. One of the highlights was a trip to Alcatraz, which I have visited twice before, but it never gets old. The park service really bring the prison alive. It's a sobering place: an awful prison with the best views of one of the world's most beautiful cities. That must have sucked. Big time. The weather was amazing, and despite some major camera problems (I got dust all over my camera sensor and fixing it involved some open heart surgery on my Canon 30D - this deserves a post all on its own), I got great photos. The Rock is a haven for birds, and this seagull obligingly posed for me.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007



I was trawling through my photos when I came across this from a trip to Ireland last year.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

One Toddler and the Ocean

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It's not the same is it...


Manhattan seems so much smaller without the Twin Towers. It still throws me a little when I see it.

We spent the last 10 days on the East Coast. The first weekend at my brother-in-law's wedding in Connecticut, which was great fun, despite the incredible heat and humidity. My parents, one of the brothers, my sister and her husband were all invited, so after the wedding, we took the kids and the gang of us spent a week in a rented house in Spring Lake, a beautiful little town on the Jersey Shore. The kids had a blast. We spent most of our time on the beach, or in the water. Shane even learned to boogie board.

We headed back to Connecticut last weekend, and on Saturday we jumped on the train to Manhattan, and took the Circle Line cruise around New York harbor. In all my times in NY, I had never done this. In fact I am not sure I have ever seen the Statue of Liberty before, even from the shore!

The picture of the Staten Island ferry reminds me of a joke.

Apparently Staten Island was named by a Limerick man. He was working as a sailor on a Dutch ship exploring what would become Long Island sound. It was extremely foggy, and it was his turn on look out. Seeing an object appearing through the murk, he peered out into the distance and shouted back to his shipmates:

" 'stat an island?"

Knowledge of the Limerick accent makes this funnier.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

I scream, you scream, we all scream for...

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Friday, June 22, 2007

22nd St. Market

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Thursday, June 14, 2007



This is Shane and Maya with my bro-in-law, Rahul. I love this photo. The kids have developed a sense of humor all their own, hence Shane's crossed eyes. He was cracking himself up, and despite my exhortations to desist, the second I would click, he would cross them again. This does, however, make a break from their standard scatological humor which consists of them saying "poop" "butt" or "fart" to each other over and over, and then laughing uproariously. They can do this for hours. The same night that I took this photo, I let Shane use my little digital camera. I heard some giggling from out in the hallway, and when I went to see what was going on, I found Maya with her pants around her ankles, telling Shane, "Take a picture of my butt!"

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Here Comes The Sun

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The sun has finally shown itself in San Francisco. In my 14 years here, this has been the coldest, windiest summer I have experienced. On Friday night, I went out for a few drinks with some friends, and it was so cold that I had to bundle up like it was the middle of December. However yesterday things changed, and although not quite hot, it was warm enough for the entire family to spend all afternoon in the back garden.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Me, yesterday...

John's 39th Bday_20070530_0002_1_pshop edit

According to the candles on the very yummy chocolate cake that my wife baked for me, I was eight years old yesterday. Add thirty one and you'll get the correct age. Jaysus! Am I middle aged? I certainly don't feel it. In fact, I don't mind getting older at all. When I examine the life cycle balance sheet, things seem better now than when I was twenty one. I'm certainly fitter (not skinnier though), healthier and happier now, although twenty one was indeed a great year. Definitely happier than twenty four. That was not a banner year. It involved prolonged involuntary celibacy. And poverty.

On the subject of being fitter - my bike training has been rudely interrupted by a bum knee. The left one. Given the mileage I have been doing, a sore knee might not be unexpected, but no, I somehow managed strain or tear the cartilage (don't you love the somewhat vague diagnosis that modern medicine provides), doing yoga. For those of you who think yoga is a mild form of exercise, go try it and report back to me.

Being a complete idiot, even though my knee was a little sore, I cycled forty miles last Saturday. I presumed that the lack of any pain during the ride was a good sign. I presumed wrong, way wrong. On Sunday my knee was so swollen I had to tie it down to stop it floating away, and any move in the wrong direction resulted in sharp pain. This was how I ended on the morning of my thirty ninth year on this planet, in the doctor's office having my knee twisted hither and thither. The good news is that, despite the pain, it seems mild enough; I was worried it might be a torn meniscus. The bad news is I am going to have to stay off the bike for at least 10 days, which really screws up my training schedule. Just when I was starting to feel strong. I have no choice but to roll with it. Ice and ibuprofen are my new best buddies. As a good friend puts it whenever something goes belly up, "How bad can it be, it’s not like someone died..."

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ghaddafi and Gareth

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This is my mate, Gareth, taken while we were browsing the clothes stores on Haight Street. This came out way underexposed, but I used my very, very limited Photoshop skills to redo the levels. I like the end result; it captures the neighborhood's self-conscious hip. Not that Gar is self-consciously hip!

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Don't Settle For a Network That Sucks

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This was take outside Ameoba records on Upper Haight Street last weekend.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Walking The Dog

Walking The Dog

I missed the dog in the stroller when I was taking this picture - it noticed it later when I was downloading the photos.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Life Through The Bottom Of A Glass

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Winding her way down on Irving Street...

If you were to spend some time walking down Irving street, near where I live in the Sunset, you'd be sure to see a few older Chinese women with one of these little shopping trolleys. Very practical indeed.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Limerick Skyline

You'd swear Limerick was surrounded by mountains from this photo. I was about two miles away in my folks' house, so the zoom lens pulls the background in close. I like it, it gives a totally different perspective on Limerick. The picture is not as blurry as it appears above* - click on it to see the full size. I need to figure out why it is getting so blurred when I upload. It's at full zoom and I did take the picture though a dirty window, but still the original is much sharper than above. Any of the photogs out there know why?

* Update. I posted it on flickr, seems to have solved the blurriness problem. This only occurs on blogger when I post cropped photos using the blogger interface.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Birthday Boy

Shane is five today. I can't believe its been five years since his birth.* This picture was taken last week when we were in Ireland. Drinking Nash's Red Lemonade on a hot summer's day was a rite of passage for every Irish kid when I was growing up, and Shane discovered it all by himself. He saw another kid with it when we were home last year, and asked me if he could have some. He doesn't get sodas back in the States, but was indulged in Ireland, and was delighted when someone would suggest going to the pub. He knew the deal: pub = crisps + red lemonade.

He actually starting referring to the red lemonade as his "pint." At one stage I went up to order and he sidled up to me, "Daddy, can I have more red lemonade?" "No, I think you've had enough for now." "But Dad, you're on your third pint and I have only had one..." "Well, it's differ... oh all right."

Another Irish habit he has picked up is meat. And more meat. It became his rallying call around mealtime. He could eat his way through a pig farm's worth of bacon and sausages. My father was only delighted - of his four kids, three are vegetarians. Shane became his BBQ buddy. The weather was so good that every meal was barbecued. For dinner, himself and Shane happily burned some fine steaks to a crisp on the BBQ, while sausages and rashers were routinely carbonised for breakfast. Much bonding was had. The interesting thing is, when he is back in the U.S., he never asks for meat as he seems to only associate it with Ireland.

I passed a Dad rite of passage myself last night: assembling a kid's bike, replete with misguided instructions. Its a cool, BMXy kind of bike, with Spiderman pictures all over it. He'll get it when he gets home from preschool today.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Sunday in Kerry 2

This is the same location as yesterday's photograph, taken from the beginning of the hike.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Sunday in Kerry

I am in Ireland at the moment, and I spent the long Easter weekend in Kerry. Only friggin' gorgeous it was. Californian weather. My brother announced he was going to buy a fleet of SUVs just to egg global warming on a bit - he hopes this will increase the likelihood of Ireland's weather trending towards the balmy side of the thermometer.

Yesterday some went to mass, and some ate cholate eggs, but we took blue-sky advantage and hiked up past Annascaul Lake, and, to my surprise, Shane (who came to Ireland with me), made it to the top and down. I was sure his five year old legs would get knackered at some stage and I'd end up carrying him down. There was a small trick involved, though - my sister informed him that Gruffalos * lived at the top of the mountain, but probably weren't there as they were taking their annual holidays to China.

Half way up, he proved his city slickerdness and asked my brother-in-law how many more blocks were left to go.

*If you aren't a parent, it's a fantastic childrens' book, if you are a parent and haven't heard of it, go buy it.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

West Coast Terrorist Threat Level: Green

I took this photo in 2003 on Market Street at the San Francisco anti-war protests. Protest is always at its best when served with a dollop of humor, and there was plenty of humor (see below), but as always at these events, it was offset by the parade of po-faced speakers. At the end of the day, this guy was getting the most attention and the best laughs.

Detailing my feelings about the last four years would take way more time and energy than I have right now, and anyhow, I vowed when I started the blog, I wasn't going to get bogged down in politics. In short, I wasn't a citizen when George Bush was first elected, but if I had been I would never have voted for him. Even though his politics are not mine, I never thought we would see the mind blowing levels of arrogance, intransigence and incompetence that his administration has achieved. This is beyond politics. For the record, I am a socially very liberal, but am fiscally centrist even mildly conservative. I'm as green as they come, but I don't think you can force people into environmentally sound behavior, you have to give them options, and making their lives less comfortable or impoverishing them in the process, will never work. I don't really trust the government with my money, but I think government is important as long as it is balanced by a free market, (the opposite also applies.) Somethings are so big that only government can tackle them. The Readers Digest version: I am all over the shop politically.

Regardless of my politics, I have always opposed the Iraq war, and I think I accidentally called it four years ago, when in an argument with a friend, I said this would turn into Northern Ireland on steroids. I was, and still am, a big supporter of the war in Afghanistan.

I still think the US is a great country, both in its incredible physical beauty and its aspirations. It has many faults, but in my experience, few places match it. It depresses me, though, how much this administration has sullied its reputation, and I suspect it will take a long time to repair the damage - it seems we really did misunderestimate Bush.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rockin' The House on Paddy's Day

Yours truly on the mic on Paddy's day, wearing the obligatory green (in this case, a Guinness t-shirt). I was again playing Lindsey Boullt's Musician's Showcase (that's Lindsey in the background, handing out shots of Jameson to the band). This is such a cool event. There is none of the competitiveness you can often find at standard gigs, just a fantastic atmosphere of support and camaraderie. This is my third showcase, and the best part is hanging out with folks I don't get to see the rest of the year. I think this photo was taken while I was playing one of my own songs "Outside Looking In." I posted some MP3s on the blog last year, but you can download the final mastered version here.

Warning guitar geekery ahead:
For those interested, the guitar I am playing is a Line 6 Variax, a totally new type of digital guitar. It has an on board computer and can model twenty two classic guitars. For example, it can sound like a 58 Les Paul, the original of which wouldn't leave much change out of $30k - if you could find one. And this guitar cost me $400! The sound modelling is spot on, and it seems to have already revolutionised the guitar world. Mind you, it doesn't look nearly as cool as a 58 Les Paul, but I am never going to own one so...

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different...

In contrast to yesterday's post - here's a picture of a cute little birdy - who was a product of natural selection as opposed to the spontaneous creation of an omnipresent creator.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring Forward

11. Stowe Lake Walk_20070304_0024_1

The hour jumped forward last weekend, in these here United States of America. This is much earlier than in previous years - by government fiat. By and large, I think this is a great idea. More sunshine in the evening is always a good thing. The weather seems to have gotten the message and has been only feckin' gorgeous for the last three days.'s a nightmare for software companies, and I work for a software company. Every teeny piece of software has to be patched to change time properly. I run technical support, which means I ended up on a few more conference calls on Sunday that I normally like to (zero being my favorite number of work related calls on Sundays, so this wasn't good). This was more than your regular working-on-a-Sunday-pain-in-the-ass. I am playing at a musicians' showcase next Saturday, which by coincidence, is Paddy's day. So while taking conference calls, I was simultaneously rehearsing for the show. Not an ideal situation, but all is well now.

Spring is well and truly sprung around here. In the Golden Gate Park, birds and animals are throwing each other sultry come hither looks, while flowers are budding all around. Actually, while walking around Stowe Lake with the kids last weekend, I noticed plenty of humans also come hithering to each other.

The above picture was taken during that walk.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Light String

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Saturday, February 03, 2007


Monday, January 15, 2007

Isn't Nature Cruel

This is a young male Peregrine falcon, and he owes his continued existence to my sister.

I noticed him sitting on our fence one morning early in the New Year. The day had not begun well. That morning we had discovered that our water supply was neither exactly legal, nor really illegal. Either way, it was going to cost me cash and heartache.

When our house was built, the original owner (and builder), and not gotten a tap from the county council water main. Instead he had tapped into his parent’s water main up the road. We never knew this when we bought the house - apparently this was pretty common in rural houses built before the 90's. Kerry County council has decided that this is an agricultural water supply, and as they are now metering water supplies and charging for agricultural water usage, it is a big problem. The original owner's mother is going to be charged a hefty fee for supplying us with water because her son couldn't have been arsed to pay a minuscule fee back in the ‘80’s to get a tap into the water main. The supply runs through a field and for some reason this means it is agricultural. We received a letter from the original owner saying that they would have to cut off our supply as the costs were prohibitive. Not good.

Anyhow, I began a round of detective work to figure out what to do, it’s €800 to get a tap into the water main, and then there's the cost to put a pipe up through the property to join our water pipes. It being a small country area, I was quickly put in touch with someone who, among other nixers, is responsible for local water supplies. It turns out the previous owner of our house is not a popular man in the locale. We dug up the driveway over the summer to put in a new one, and it would have been the perfect time to put in a new pipe. Anyhow at this stage we may have to pay for the new water tap, etc., and time will tell what route we next take.

Back to the falcon...while flurrying around, I noticed the bird on the fence, sitting curiously still. He didn't budge even though I was only three feet from him. I went inside and grabbed my mother who adores animals. I knew it was either a hawk or a falcon, and it's a pretty rare occasion you get to see one up close. I didn't have time to linger as I was rushing into Tralee to figure out the water problem. While I was gone, my sister and mother quickly realised that the bird had an injured foot. Unsure of the SPCA number, the called the Gardai.* The following conversation, worthy of a Father Ted episode, ensued:

Sister: “Hello, I was wondering if you could help guide us to the right authorities, we have an injured bird outside our house."

Garda: "A bird, is it?"

Sister: “Yes."

Garda, slowly: ""

Sister: "Yes, but it’s a large bird, a hawk maybe, it appears to have an injured foot. Maybe you could direct us to the SPCA?"

Garda, in a soft slow voice: "Ohh, sure isn't nature cruel."

The philosophical Garda, true to his word, contacted the Kerry SPCA, and likity-split, they turned up, and captured the bird. They informed my sister that they only knew of one nesting pair on the Dingle Peninsula, and they believed this was their offspring. He had an injured and infected foot, and would need some antibiotics.

Last we heard, Mr. Falcon was well on his way to recovery, and was soon to be the scourge of small birds and rodents the length and breadth of the Dingle Peninsula.

My brother grabbed my camera and captured the proceedings

*Gardai Siochana - Irish police force, translates as Guardians of the Peace.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, My Maya!

This is Maya (aka Maya Fantaya, Princess Maya, Her Highness, The Eaglet {not sure where that one came from}), and she is now three. Felicitations are a little belated, we celebrated her
birthday in Kerry last week, far, far from an Internet connection. She's actually celebrated all her birthdays in Ireland, and as a result, I have never posted a happy birthday to her, whereas the two boys have been publicly feted. This is a shabby way to treat one's only daughter so I am making up for it now. Santa Claus brought the above "Princess Dress." It was all she wanted for Christmas. The minute she would arrive in from cold, her clothes would be ditched and on went the dress, replete with a pair of pink, plastic high heeled shoes which she christened her "magically shoes" (see picture on the left).
Tash describes her best - she'll be wearing a tutu with matching she kicks your head in. Girly-girl she may be, but she is also the first one to climb up to the top of the jungle gym or jump off a high wall. Shane tests the safety of situations by sending Maya on reconnaissance patrols. If she survives, he'll give whatever it is a go. She is the one who tells the other kids that the playground near our house is HER playground, while we duck our heads and pretend we don't know whose child she is...

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunset Twilight

General Irving St with family_20061202_0043_1

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bay Daze

The last week has brought a lovely batch of sunny, clear days, nary a cloud to be found.* Our new office is right on San Francisco bay and I had my camera in my bag the other day. My eyes were dry and scratchy from hours staring at the computer screen, so I took a break and walked down to the water to snap a few shots - this is one of them. It reminds me of a painting that hung in my grandparents' living room for decades. It was garish, thick oil painting of a boating scene and the colors and effect were similar to this photograph. I never particularly liked the painting, but the scene fascinated me - it was far from sunny days on boats we were reared! The colors in that painting were in stark contrast to the drab, dull country house my grandparents lived in. I used to hate visiting my mother's parents, even though I liked them. They lived in a small town, and we always went to visit on Sunday when the place was a ghost town. All the shops and bars were closed, and you could stand on the main street and not see a car or a person all afternoon. I was usually bored out of my skull. A child of the suburbs, I was not interested in small country towns where they only had black and white TVs and everyone spent Sundays sitting around drinking tea, gossiping about people I barely knew. The only distractions were the Sunday tabloids that lay scattered on the couch. I would pretend to read the Irish Times, within which I could hide “The News of The World,” with the topless models on page three.

My maternal grandmother was a whip smart, highly-strung woman, who in retrospect, was probably completely unsuited to raising eight children. She was a prisoner of her times and her children took all of her time, of course. And sadly, once they had grown, she was left stuck in a small town with no outlet for her intelligence. Even in her latter days, when her body had become feeble and her mind troubled, her brain was still razor sharp. She was up to date on current events and the details of my life in America. I was her first grandchild, and she made no bones about the fact that I was a favorite! She died the day my son Shane was born (our first child who would have been her first great-grandchild), and only a few short weeks after her husband of over 60 years (my grandfather), had passed away.

I barely knew my grandfather, he was a ghostly presence around the house, and barely spoke from one end of the day to the other - or as far as I could tell, from one end of the year to the other. In his latter years, though, it was like the fog had lifted, and when I went to visit him, he would happily chatter away, while chewing happily on the Roses chocolates I would bring. He had been a master plasterer his entire life, and by all accounts, was a total perfectionist. During the very last conversation I ever had with him, he told me he had played the saxophone in a marching band when he was younger. I was then struck, and saddened, by how little I knew about him. I could hardly imagine music coming from this quiet old man. My mother's family is a stark contrast to my father's who are a gregarious bunch who revel in detailing highly exaggerated family histories (my paternal grandfather apparently attempted and failed to escape from Limerick jail,while being held by the British).** Every single one of them are charming romantics, and the McDermott family lineage is apparently full of lost loves, thrill-seekers, mysterious lost relatives, and revolutionaries - if you believe all the stories. For years I considered myself more like my dad's side of the family, but as I get older, I see more and more of my mother in me. I am a perfectionist to a fault, I am completely pragmatic in every part of my life, and while I listen to other peoples opinions, I more often than not follow my own instincts.

* It takes me a while to write a blog entry, and since I began this one, it has started raining. The winter is here.

** My dad still swears this is true.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Two of My Favorite Things

The first is a circa 1961 Vox AC 30 guitar amplifier. This was, and is, a favorite of the early Beatles, The Edge, Tom Petty, Brian May, and Radiohead, to name a few. It is renowned for its lovely chiming tone at low and medium volumes, and a sweet, singing distortion when turned up higher. I was lucky to pick this up for a hundred quid in Sammy Benson’s music shop, back in Limerick, sometime in the 80's. It was old even then, and I really didn't know what a steal I was getting. Tube amps fell out of fashion in the eighties, until everyone discovered that the amps that replaced them sounded like shit. I've probably spend the bones of a grand refurbishing it over the years, but plug in my Les Paul, turn the amp half way up, and it sings. Also, I could easily turn my original investment into a couple of thousand if I sold it on eBay. These amps are highly prized, and relatively rare. They are also cantankerous as all get out, but at 46 it needs a little love and care. Circuits designed to last ten years are well past their prime . I see the amp repair guy at Haight St Music Center so often that all I have to do is say is, "It's John" when I call, and he knows who I am. He loves this amp even more than I do!

The other is a late model human who didn't cost a dime to make, but will probably see us out-of-pocket half a million over his first twenty years! Like the amp, he has his difficult moments, but mostly he’s a curious sweetheart. And right now, he weighs a LOT less than the very heavy amp.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Lazy Days

San Francisco Zoo_20061119_0056

This is a pretty good representation of how we spent today. We had a great night last night, and we were all a little hungover this morning. We arrived home and the whole family promptly fell asleep! My nap was Vicadin aided as my neck is still killing me, or was before the drugs kicked in.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


San Francisco Zoo_20061119_0071

This is Tony. I kid you not. Given that he is a 500 pound, seven foot long Siberian tiger, you'd think they'd have named him more appropriately - something magnificent like Vlad or Igor. Even Rasputin would have worked better than the plain vanilla, "Tony."
Isn't he gorgeous? Sadly, there are more of his ilk in captivity than there are roaming in the wild. He is domiciled in the San Francisco Zoo, and doesn't seem too unhappy about it. We brought the kids there on Sunday and Tony was quite happy sunning himself and digging the beautiful, balmy NorCal fall.
Several years ago, I got to see a tiger up close and personal. We went to Marine World with a friend who had worked there in a previous life. They had a lot of tigers back then, including three beautiful white tiger cubs. We were so taken with them that my friend got us "back stage" at the tiger compound. The trainers promptly appeared with a stunning, 350 pound female Bengal tiger - on a leash (thank God). Before we could think, they had her up on a low stage, sans leash, with all of us standing behind her while her handlers snapped some photos on my camera. We were so nervous that when she yawned loudly, we all nearly leapt out of our skins. It seemed like her mouth could easily wrap itself right around my entire head.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Jumbo Floating Restaurant

Hong Kong_20061108_0137-editedThis is the restaurant I mentioned in yesterday's post

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

House Band C -->Hong Kong -->Las Vegas

It's been a fun, but insanely busy few weeks, and it's great to be back home. Even the routine of work is welcome. Yesterday morning, for the first time in weeks, I cycled to work. Also, my poor Natasha has had to deal with three wild children on her own while I was off gallivanting, so my presence is appreciated (to say the least).

To kick off the insanity in late October, there was the show at The Bottom of the Hill (see picture above, click for slideshow), which was a rip-roaring success. The picture above is of House Band C (that’s me on the left hidden by the mic stand), so-called because the musician on the right side, with the red Stratocaster, is Cory , our beloved band leader - and well, his name begins with "C." There was also House Band J, named after it's leader, Jake. Our primary job that afternoon was to back up some of my guitar teacher's other students. However, we also got to do a set on our own. We did a selection of songs from Jet, Blondie, The Brand New Heavies, and Led Zeppelin, and I got center stage for a rendition of Richard Thompson's "Tear Stained Letter." The gig was filmed and I'll get a copy of it, so might try and stick it up on the blog.

Soon after the gig, I was off to Hong Kong on a work trip. I'd never been there before so I was excited to see it, despite the fifteen hour flight. I was dreading the jet lag, but I didn't suffer too much. We arrived there at 6:30 in the evening, and by the time we reached the hotel, ate and had a few drinks, it was bed time. A sleeping pill saw to it that I got a decent night's rest, and although not entirely refreshed, I wasn’t as fucked up by jet lag as I normally am.

We witnessed a pretty horrible incident as we arrived at the hotel in Wan Chai, an area with a tons of strip joints, bars, and restaurants, so the streets were thronged. We were standing at a set of lights, waiting to cross, when this guy starts screaming at a woman who appeared to be his girlfriend. As we began to cross, the guy slapped her hard across the face. We were already at the other side of the street by the time it all registered and we stopped, not sure what to do. He continued shouting at her for a half a minute or so, until she walked away. Meanwhile, some Aussies, in an open front bar right beside where it happened, had witnessed the whole thing, and confronted the assailant. A melee started quickly, and ended just as fast, during which Mr Slapper got a well-deserved head butt (not that I advocate violence, but if there was going to be violence, he deserved it most). It all happened in a second, and before we had time to digest it, the crowd had dispersed.

Otherwise HK was a busy but relaxed trip. It’s a bustling city, but has friendly and chilled out people. My days were spent working, and every evening we checked the sights and got to eat at some tasty restaurants. One of them was a Hot Pot restaurant where each table has two holes in it. Under each hole is a small but powerful heater. A bowl of broth is recessed in each hole - one was a vegetable broth and the other was basically a bucket of boiled chilies. Then, the wait staff placed various raw fish, meats, and vegetables on the table. We each got a ladle and dunked into the broth our choice of the meat, fish or veg, holding it there until it was boiled enough to eat. I am by and large vegetarian, but when in I ate the fish. I scored major bonus points with my Chinese colleagues by being the only person who actively enjoyed the chili broth. I LOVE spicy food.

On our final night, we did what all good tourists do and hit the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen. And it's pretty jumbo, and it's on a boat. The whole thing is lit like a month of Christmas’s and ornately decorated - lots of red and gold dragons and Chinese lanterns. The food was good, not great, but the service was fantastic. All in all, the experience itself was worth the trip.

I arrived back after an uneventful flight, and turned around the next day for a long planned boys' weekend in Vegas. I hadn’t intended having the two trips back-to-back, it just worked out that way, and Natasha, my dearest darling wife, gave the whole thing her blessing. We stayed at New York New York, and had a fantastic time, during which we played lots of blackjack (and I didn’t lose too badly). Other than that, as the saying goes - What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

This week we moving office. We were bought by a huge software company at the beginning of the year, and they have an office in the same business park as us. Luckily, this means no major disruptions, and I can still bike to work when the urge strikes.

I'm also in the hole for some extended child care :)

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hong Kong

Hong Kong_20061106_0026I am in Hong Kong for work, so very little time for blogging. I've never been here before, and so far I love it. It really seems like the Asian Manhattan, but surrounded by mountains. We went to Victoria Peak for dinner the other night and I snapped this from the viewing deck. I forgot my tripod so its a little blurry.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006


De Young Museum_20061019_0066

This is another photo from the de Young Museum. On the observation deck high above the park, there is huge satellite map of San Francisco courtesy of Google Maps. Most of the people there were tourists, and one asked me where Alcatraz was on the map. When I told him, I was immediately barraged with more geographic questions. I ended up becoming "Mr. San Francisco Satellite Map Expert," happily pointing out various interesting spots to the assorted crowd.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006


De Young Museum_20061019_0048

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Autumn in San Francisco

De Young Museum_20061019_0070

San Francisco spends so much of its time shrouded in fog that those of us who live here sometimes forget what a gorgeous city we live in. Then autumn arrives - the fog is banished and the balmy sunshines reveals San Francisco in all it's kooky glory.

The new, and controversial, De Young Museum is worth its own post. I think it's beautiful. The main building is a huge, low, copper-clad structure, with a twisted tower looming over it, keeping a watch over the city. The top floor of the tower has a 360 degree observation deck, with incredible views of the city. It's a stone's throw from where we live, and last weekend, Tash and I finally wiggled enough free time to visit. It's amazing what a little elevation can do. Life really is all about perspective - change your perspective and you're reminded of the stunning beauty that surrounds you.

This shot is looking north west over the Richmond district, to the mouth of San Francisco Bay and over to the Marin headlands.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Waiting For The Train

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Mother and Child Reunion...

Tash and Cian Through Front Door Window_20061001_0003_2

Happy Birthday Tash!

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You Got the Silver, You Got the Gold...

BW Irving Street Shane_20060930_0033

This is another Irving Street photo. I'd guess that it's been a long time since this place actually bought silver, gold, and bullion - for the highest prices. It's always empty, a counter point to the buzzing Chinese hair salons on either side. The hair place on the left is where my kids get lickety-split hair cuts from middle aged Chinese women. Like all good sales people, they try to upsell: "Daddy also wan' haihcut? Luk like he need one," they purr. No thanks, it may be cheap, and good enough when the kids need a trim, but otherwise methinks not.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

How D'ya Like Dem Apples ?

BW Irving Street Shane_20060930_0005_2

Another photo from "Downtown Beijing."

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Friday, October 06, 2006



It's been a long week. I deserve one or three of these.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Birthday Boy!

Cian portraits_20060916_0001

Cian is all of a year old today. Man, the year since his birth has flown. My memories of him as an infant are already vague, so much has happened in the intervening time. He's an easy baby, social, mellow, and edible. People take a real shine to him and he adores the attention. He does this fake I-only-want-attention crying, while simultaenously smiling in a way that says, "I know that you know I'm faking it." It’s quite charming. He slept through the night earlier than both Shane and Maya, something we are eternally grateful for, and has been a food champ. He likes everything – and lots of it. He is HUGE, at 12 months he is outgrowing clothes suitable for an 18 month old. I might finally have a rugby player!
He has recently learned to haul himself up by grabbing low tables and chairs. Suddenly, things are a little more dangerous. He is constantly pulling himself up while still underneath the table, and bonks his head on the way up. He is extremely pale, (the Irish genes are surprisingly strong - our kids have gotten progressively less sallow, Shane is much darker than the other two), so every bruise shows up. There was a week or two where we were worried that he was starting to look like a battered baby!
As you can see in the photo, Cian has taken to pursing his lips constantly - we call this his Do Come In look. This is one of those silly, couple catch phrases. Way back, when Tash and I first starting seeing each other, there was a crap Aaron Spelling show called Models Inc. on TV. It starred Linda Gray (of Dallas fame), and was spun off from Melrose Place. It was one of those it’s-so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasures. Linda Gray, as usual, did all of her acting by quivering her lips. We only ever watched one episode and there was a scene where one of the characters enters a room, and Gray's character turns, purses her lips, and says, “Do come in.” It sounded like, “Duuu kammm eiiiin.” Imagine the Queen imitating a Texas accent and you’ll get what I mean. Sometimes when I enter a room, Tash will still quickly turn, stare imperiously at me, purse her lips, and say, “Duuu kammm eiiin.”

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Something Fishy

BW Irving Street Shane_20060930_0021

Irving Street, near where we live, changes dramatically as you head west towards Ocean Beach. It is the primary shopping area in the Sunset, starting at 7th Avenue and ending at 25th Avenue. Although very ethnically mixed throughout, around 7th avenue it's primarily caucasian, but as you work your way up the avenues, the ethnicity takes on a pronounced Asian flavour. The change is dramatic once you pass 19th Avenue. Tash and I refer to it as "Downtown Beijing." It becomes almost completely Chinese - the shop signs are Chinese, the nail and hair salons are Chinese, and the banks are Chinese. Old Asian ladies bustle glumly from store to store, suspiciously prodding the fruit and vegetables displayed on the street side stalls. Asian-American teenagers, lean against tricked-out Hondas and Scions, flirting bilingually, and yammering on cellphones, while little kids sample tapioca drinks. English isn't even the second language here, it is the third or fourth.
One great distinctions between inner Irving and outer Irving is price. In inner Irving, a bag of shiny, waxed veggies , artfully displayed at the upscale supermarket, Andronico's, will set you back about $40. The same bag in one of the scrappy, bustling Chinese shops, less than 10 short blocks away, will cost you only $15 - if that, (it should be pointed out that Andronico's has an amazing selection and everything is very high quality).
All of the Chinese produce stores and supermarkets have live fish tanks teeming with lobsters, crab, bass, carp, eels, and a few varieties of marine life that are very, very unfamiliar to me. They are also crammed full of all sorts of meats, various mushrooms, and a huge assortment of fruit and vegetables. It leads to the kind of pungent aroma that western supermarkets do their best to hide.
Many Sunday afternoons find us strolling to the playground, stopping for a coffee near Downtown Beijing, and the most common refrain from both Shane and Maya is, "Can we puh-leeze see the fishies and lobsters?” We, of course, consent.

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Monday, October 02, 2006


Dad Shane Mack_20060901_0018

This is my parents Alsatian, Mack. McDermott, Mack, geddit... Isn't he gorgeous? He is a big dog, even by Alsatian standards, however he is the least fearsome Alsatian ever; there isn't an ounce of aggression in him. Nevertheless, he is as strong as an ox, and requires a firm hand. When I was back in Limerick last April, I took him for a walk and he could easily drag all 190lbs of me. Dad takes him to a special training class for Alsatians, and he has become a lot more obedient since.
Shane LOVES him. It always takes him a few days to get used to being around an animal that dwarfs him, and usually he doesn't want to get too near him, but this time he got comfortable enough to pet him. He spent half his time back in Limerick looking out the kitchen window chatting to the dog!

When I was growing up we had another Alsatian, Raven. Apparently, when my Dad arrived home with an Alasatian puppy, my mother told him he was raving mad - hence the name. There are several pictures of me in my pram with Raven lying on the grass underneath.

I would love to own one, they are incredibly loyal and smart, perfect family dogs if trained properly, but with by 12 mintues of free time every day, I don't think I could manage it at the moment...

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Train I Ride

Shane and Tram Tracks_20060924_0006This is the N Judah, as it heads overground at Cole Valley. On Sunday, we were en famille at the Cole Valley Fair, one of the many neighborhood fairs that happen in September. Shane is fascinated with the trams and trains, and even more fascinated when they go underground. He insisted we go to the mouth of the tunnel and wait for the tram to go through.
As I have mentioned before, many weekend nights can find me on the N, heading to some of my favorite hostileries. One of my favorite things is sitting on the N, listening to music while observing everyone observing everyone. It being San Francisco, there is always the requisite freak on the train. On Saturday it was an overweight black guy, rapping along at volume to whatever was on his iPod. He was so excited by the music he insisted on removing his shirt. However, my favorite is the Wet Swimsuit Guy. He is youngish, extremely tanned, always dressed in sneakers, jeans, and a dirty denim shirt unbuttoned to the navel, with lank shoulder length, sun-bleached hair. He is always swinging a swimsuit in circles over his head, and depending on whether the tram is leaving Ocean Beach or heading towards it, the swimsuit is either wet or dry. I can only conclude that he regularly swims at Ocean Beach. I surf at Ocean Beach, (or at least I did until my kids arrived), so the mind boggles. Here's Surflines description of OB, (as it is known locally).

On a lot of days at Ocean Beach, just getting out can be a major accomplishment. Depending on swell and tide and sandbar, on many days there is a 200-yard "zone of death" in between the beach and the lineup. It can be as hard to get off the beach and out to sea for a surfer as it was for a marine to get from sea to shore on the beaches of Normandy. It takes knowledge, skill, strength and courage, but the deciding factor on a lot of days is still dumb luck.

A University Of California Berkeley study stated:

"Ocean Beach is the most hazardous and dangerous piece of shoreline associated with an urban environment in the whole United States."

Apparently over 10 people a year had drowed at OB before the Beach Patrol started. I can see why, and as such, I have a healthy respect for OB. If I haven’t surfed there for a while, I spend a few days at surfing other beaches until my skills are sharpened. Being caught on the wrong side of a large wave on OB was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. To get out to the swell, you paddle out to just beyond the point where waves are breaking; this is often incredibly physically challenging, sometimes more than surfing the damn wave. When you get out, you need to keep an eye on the horizon, mostly to make sure you are in the right position to catch some sweet surf, but also to save yourself a turn through the washing machine. Every so often, a wave can break further out from the shore, and if you are between it and the shore when it breaks, it can pick you up and toss you around like driftwood. In smaller surf this is disconcerting; in big surf it can be dangerous, especially if you get thrashed by a string of large waves. It happens to every surfer occasionally, and it is always terrifying. The waves are a lot more dangerous than the sharks...

Wet Swimsuit Guy is obviously a little touched, he mutters to himself as he swings his wet swimsuit around on the tram. This might explain why he chooses to brave the icy waters at OB.

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Monday, September 25, 2006


Friday, September 22, 2006

Dolphin watching

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Shane Cian Conor Kites_20060910_0041

This is another photo from my trip back to Ireland the week before last. It was primarily a business trip to London, but one of the perks is getting to bookend the week in England with weekends in Ireland. I took a few days off, and made the second weekend a very long one at our usual spot near Castlegregory. It was only perfect, warm September weather, enough tourists to create a buzz, but only in Dingle, (on our side of the Dingle peninsula it was pretty quiet) and everything still in bloom. My college roommate Richie and his wife and two kids spent a day and a night with us. On the afternoon they arrived, we brought all the kids to the local beach, which is only a short walk away. I bought buckets and shovels for sandcastle building, and a kite. They had a ball with the kite; in fact they fought over whose turn it was to fly it.

I love Ireland in September. When American friends ask when is the best time to go, I always advocate for September or May. They seem to have the optimal combination of weather, fun, and lack of crowds. Dingle was still busy, but manageable. We went out to see Fungi the Dolphin, which was much more fun than expected. The boat trip alone was worth the price. Shane, of course loved it, although it’s debatable which he loved more, being on a boat, (his first time), or seeing the dolphin.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Keep on rocking me baby

Monday, September 04, 2006

Swans and Ugly Ducklings

Swans in the Creek and others_20060903_0004

I don't know what the real name of this river is, but locally it's known as "The Creek," and it divides Limerick City from County Limerick. Its days as a border may be numbered. There is an ongoing debate about extending the city boundaries, which haven't budged since the forties. Many of the people who consider themselves from Limerick City actually live in the county. Me included. The boundaries were set long before Limerick had any real suburbs, and as a result, the City Council is coveting the affluent suburbs but the County Council is loath to surrender them. Anyhow, seriously jet lagged (stopping by on my way to London for work), I went a-wandering to clear my head, and as I passed over the creek, a pair of swans swam by, followed by three cygnets. I didn't notice the shopping trolleys until I leaned over to get a better shot.

Ireland can still be a dirty little country, and I noticed in one of the national dailies, that tourists rated litter as their biggest turnoff. That said, to my eyes street litter is much diminished, but if you take a walk along the banks of the Shannon , you'll find plenty of dumped litter, particularly beer cans. The latter are the remnants of what was known as "bush drinking" when I was a teenager. This was a simple pursuit, entailing the purchase of alcohol to be drank at night in an outdoor location unlikely to be frequented by adults.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Woke up this morning...

Shane and Maya with Guitar_20060616_0004

and my Cheerios wus gone.

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