Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Weeknotes #457

Taking my lead from the weeknotes meme that’s spread across a number of blogs/feeds I follow, but mostly inspired by my reading of Brian Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appendices, I’m making a go of keeping note of my thoughts and activities from week to week – much like I used to when blogging back in the day. It’s 457 weeks since my first blog post, so that’s where I start counting.

Long term, it might help me get closer to my vision of this site as a hub for my aggregated self (that was before I lost my enthusiasm for a while). But I’m not really thinking about that; it only invites creative paralysis! In the short term, it’s just something to keep myself engaged with things. However mundane my week has been.

But hey, enough of my yakking. Whaddaya say? Let’s boogie.

Monday — Bank holiday today, spent mostly reading and watching TV. Caught up with the first two episodes of Mad Men S04; enjoying the change in tone, and looking forward to seeing how things unfold (also hoping it grows to be more than just The Don Draper Show).

In the evening, watching an advert for mango-flavoured yogurt, I turn to Bee with my thinking that most yogurt flavours seem to be chosen to match the tartness of the yogurt itself – those that aren’t (chocolate and vanilla being the best examples) result in gustatory dissonance. Will they one day crack The Yogurt Problem and achieve the comparatively neutral taste of fromage frais?
More television: Mastermind and University Challenge make for a great quiz hour; don’t know why they’re not always scheduled together. Make it happen, BBC.

Later I finish reading The Player of Games by Iain M Banks. It gets four stars from me. I’ve already begun the next in the Culture series, but may take that one a bit slower. I have a lot of books to read, indeed.

Tuesday — Woke with a fever; I’ve lost count of the number of times that’s happened over the past few weeks. Felt ill in the office all day, headaches and nausea. Managed to keep down lunch, and get things done regardless. Probably a mistake. I leave early to pick up a new USB mouse for Bee, then home to veg on the couch and recover.

Wednesday — Still feeling off today; headaches returned in the afternoon. However, I did manage to get the XP partition on my MacBook working with my external monitor once again, thanks to Bee’s tinkering. She knows far more about Windows than I ever will.

Thursday — Woke up feeling better, more or less, despite stress of late-night noise from the flat downstairs (not to mention the strain in my calf from stomping on the floor in frustration).

Haircut today: much needed as it was more than two months since my last. Think I may have found a new barber to frequent, too; next time I’ll go between Monday and Wednesday as it’s cheaper.

Briefly considered, as I occasionally do, the opportunity cost of getting my own razor – and once again decided to stick with the bimonthly barber visit. For now.

I take the 124 home. It’s my favourite bus route; it only goes as far as St James’ so I never have to fight to get off at my own stop.

Friday — Slow day at the office. Lunch skipped as I forgot to bring the sandwich I’d made. Out to mam’s in the evening for a flying visit. I help tune in the analogue channels on her new TV. Then home by nine. Oven-baked chicken breast for dinner; I have mine on toast with beetroot and hummus.

Saturday — I’m up early to watch A Serbian Film which I’d downloaded overnight. I share my thoughts online with John, my go-to guy for exploitation film:

I just watched this one this morning. Before I go wash my eyes out with caustic soda… agreed on the Chris Morris-esque nature of the ‘shock’ scenes. Also: to me the whole thing is just a heavy-handed metaphor for post-war Serbia, as inspired by that Dennis Hopper line from Blue Velvet. Too contrived to be believable or really deliver a message.

After lunch Bee and I take the Luas out to the Point Village Market, which is a let-down. It’s described as Dublin’s biggest open market, and “a haven for food lovers”. But it’s really just small clusters of anonymous tents, set too far apart from each other in a windswept concrete square – the whole scene conspicuously devoid of atmosphere. Maybe it needs more people to make it vibrant, but it also needs more/better traders. If you build it, they will come.

Rather than settle for the market’s meagre offerings, we take the next Luas back to town and have lunch in Temple Bar. Dublin can be expensive, but it’s nice to know one can still eat out on the cheap occasionally.

Dinner: casserole of steak, potato, carrot and onion in a Guinness and beef stock. Might not be ‘summer food’ but it goes down a treat.

Up late-ish to watch the Mets game. The season’s been going downhill since Beltran returned. I know that’s a coincidence, but sport is as much about superstition as skill – at least to us spectators. Winning streaks? Lucky clothing? The peculiar US fascination with meaningless statistics? It’s all about our simple minds making sense of a complicated world.

Sunday — Hitchcock double-bill on the TV this morning: Spellbound and Notorious (the latter we save for later). Ingrid Bergman is stunning; Gregory Peck looking nervous in the former, eyes unfocused in the early scenes – stage fright, perhaps? Towards the end Bee and I have a chuckle at the ski slope sequence: they’re so close together, not even a budge between them, they look like they’re standing on the same skis.

Up to mid April in A Year with Swollen Appendices. Good quote on p59:

It’s nice arriving somewhere at night – night cloaks the mundane with intrigue.

Then p300, in Eno’s appendix on ‘axis thinking’:

It’s extraordinary that when the Berlin Wall came down everyone assumed that the whole world was about to become one big market economy running on the same set of rules. What happened instead was that the old dualism communism <--> capitalism was revealed to conceal a host of possible hybrids. Now only the most ideological governments (England, Cuba) still retain their fundamentalist commitment to one end of the continuum: most governments are experimenting vigorously with complicated customized blendings of market forces and state intervention.

Also taken aback by Eno’s description of the American consulate in Antigua as a ‘Zone of Pragmatic Deceit’, designed to deter the locals from entering the US without actually admitting it as a policy decision. He writes that visa applicants are required to address staff

through a thick glass panel which has a small hole 7ft from the ground, and a narrow slot at the bottom, about 3ft from the ground. Since the staff routinely feign inability to hear or understand what anyone is saying […] applicants are soon forced to their knees so they can talk up through the little slot. This induction into American society sets the right tone: instead of ‘Bring us your poor, your sick, etc’ it’s ‘On your knees and beg.’

It seems an extreme, Kafkaesque example (I find no other reference to it in a brief search online) but the concept is familiar: some ‘free’ countries do make those considered ‘undesirables’ jump through hoops simply to pay a visit. Case in point: for a South African resident in Ireland, the tourist visa form for most of Europe is two pages long; for Britain – including Northern Ireland, with whom we have a supposedly ‘open’ border – it’s 11 pages.

UFC 117 on the DVR to round out the evening. Great main event; glad to see Anderson Silva get taken down a peg and humbled in the octagon, even if he did squeak out the victory.