Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kay

Happy Birthday, Kay!

Here is the picture I'm going to work on for my next project, now that all my Christmas cards are finally ready - all I need to to now is write them up and put the address labels on!

I started working on this picture a little bit, but I've run out of time. Hopefully I'll get working on it in the next few weeks, though it's getting hard to find time - busy busy with PC Medic and I seem to have much more of a social life than I used to!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dead Man Walking

When we went to the opera last week, my Mum and I not only went to the ever-popular Turandot, but also to the modern opera Dead Man Walking, by Jake Heggie. The story is the same as the one in the movie with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn (I think it's Sean Penn - I never saw the movie), i.e. the story of Sister Prejean, how she started writing to a prisoner on Death Row, met him and became his spiritual advisor, right to the end, when he finally admitted his guilt and asked for forgiveness, and was executed by lethal injection. It is a story that makes you think about capital punishment and question what it really achieves.

Not exactly uplifting, says you! But it actually had some humour in it, and I did shed a few tears at the end, such was the power of the whole opera. The music itself was good, but not as striking as I was expecting - it had been compared to Porgy and Bess, but it was nothing like it. I felt a lot of the singing was kind of talking to music, rather than singing songs, if you know what I mean (actually one of the reviews on the Amazon website describes this much better than me, so have a look at it!) That said, one of the songs still sticks in my head, more than a week later - one of the main ensemble pieces, where the parents of the 2 murdered teenagers are singing "you don't know what it's like to lose a child" - haunting...I should look for the CD, just for that song, really.

Like Turandot, the stage production was excellent, making good use of all modern devices - good lighting, simple sets with strong design elements, and screen projections on the backdrop.

The singing was gorgeous - the Swedish mezzo-soprano who plays sister Prejean was top-class - a strong voice that carried her through the whole performance - there was hardly any moment where she wasn't on stage and singing. And the baritone who plays Joe de Rocher was amazing too - he actually sings one of his main songs while doing push-ups, and, wait for it, even push-ups where he claps his hands every time his body lifts!

If you want to listen to samples, have a look at the website.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nonna Valentina

We went out for a meal with Mick and Blath last night. We had picked Nonna Valentina on Portobello Road on my recommendation. It was a big responsibility, given that I'm not a foody and everybody else at the table was. But after yellow-fin tuna carpaccio, lobster risotto, squid ink pasta with mussels and clams, pannacotta, tiramisu and other delights, everybody declared the evening a success.

The restaurant was packed when we arrived, a little late, for our 7pm-sitting. We had been told we had to be out by 9, and I was a bit worried we would be rushed through our meal, but it wasn't the case. Service was efficient, we were quick in deciding what we were going to have, and we had plenty of time to enjoy our 3 courses. We had a lovely table overlooking the canal (actually, if I'm not mistaken, it is the table you can see on the picture), which is in the quieter corner of the dining room upstairs. The place looked lovely, all lit up with chandeliers and little candles, and there was a good buzz.

We stopped at Mick and Blath's on the way, chatted for an hour or so, and played with Stan the dog (the game consisted of pulling his new teddy bear, which had already lost an ear and was rapidly getting soggy. By the end of the evening, there was white fluffy dacron filling all over the floor) and petted Hoppy the cat (who, at 16 years of age, is still well able to hiss and lash out at Stan. No doubt as to who is the top dog in that relationship!)

Mick and Blath's house is lovely, with white walls, big rectangular windows, nice glass doors and plenty of gorgeous paintings that Mick has purchased over time, and lots of Ikea furniture and lamps. We'll have to check out the Belfast Ikea store when it opens (on the 13th of December, according to the website - I can't wait!!)

By the way, while looking online to find out how to spell Blath's name, I found this Catholic Online website! Worth a look if you're into this kind of thing, and even if you're not! But did you know the following about St Blath:
"Feastday: January 29
The cook in St. Brigid's convent, in Kildare, Ireland, also called Flora. She was renowned for her holiness and for her steadfast loyalty to St. Brigid in good times and in bad."

And I also found on the Baby Names of Ireland website that Blath means Flower or Blossom!

You learn something new every day!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


My Mum and I went to the opera last Saturday - Turandot was showing at the Gaiety. The weather was miserable, but we managed to avoid the worst of the rain, as Brendan dropped us to the Luas terminus and we got a tram straight away. After a light dinner in a very noisy Wagamama's, we headed across the road to the Gaiety.

Turandot is a big classic - big show, big chorus, big orchestration, big singing - we all know Nessun Dorma from Pavarotti's rendition during the Italy World Cup, of course -, and it is absolutely gorgeous. The production we saw was very contemporary, making good use of the small stage at the Gaiety, with metal steps on which most of the action took place. The costumes were a mix of Mao's Revolutionary Guards and 1950's Shanghai lady. The lighting was perfect - I love the blue/turquoise light they use for night fall. Ping, Pang and Pong were great fun, with their main song sung on bicycles - they got a big cheer! Calaf was sung by a Chinese Tenor - he was excellent - good, strong voice despite having to stand on his tip-toes when hitting the hight notes (which I find a lot of the weaker tenors tend to do - this guy was not weak - he had a lovely rich voice). Turandot was played by an Italian soprano - she was the weakest link in the whole show - her singing was OK, if a bit metalic, but the way she opened her mouth was just too scary - all you could see was this big square mouth with big square teeth, and her acting was very stiff, I thought. The best in the whole show was the Japanese singer who played Liu, the slave girl who loves and saves Calaf. Her name is Mari Moriya - she had a gorgeous voice, and she put a lot of feeling in her performance - particularly her last scene, in which she grabs the red satin curtain which covers the whole back of the stage, she runs down the stairs and rolls herself into the curtain. One of the best opera moments I've seen!

Happy Birthday, Mark

Your birthday was on the 22nd, so we're a bit late, but I hope you like the present that Brendan dropped over on Thursday!

Happy Birthday!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The patient is doing well

My Mac Mini is doing well, after a quick resuscitation, i.e. a wipe-out of the hard disk and re-install of the Mac OS/X.

I've now re-installed my Palm Desktop and transferred my Palm records back, I've installed Firefox, and I'm now in the process of transferring the data over from my external hard drive (mostly pictures).

I forgot to back up my iTunes music, so I'll have to rip my CDs again, but that's not the end of the world. I don't buy much music online, so, all in all, I've probably lost about 10 songs.
I'm sure there'll be plenty more glitches. I still need to re-install a few applications (OpenOffice, Photoshop Elements are really the only 2 things I want), I'll have to install the printer (which I access wirelessly) and I remember that was a bit of a pain the last time. And I'm getting a securityToken error in Blogger, which hopefully won't stop me from posting this little update!

Sick Mac Mini

We were busy at the weekend, with a girlie night out for me on Friday with neighbours from the estate, and a boys' night out for Brendan on Saturday with Niall and Mick. I went to the Sichuan in Stillorgan and Brendan went to the Monsoon, also in Stillorgan. Both restaurants very handy for us.

And yes, the China Sichuan is still at its old location - there is no talk of the move to Sandyford any more, and I didn't want to ask. (Based on the map they had on their 2007 calendar, I think the new location is still under construction). I had a great night out, conversation flowed easily and the food was as good as ever. Brendan and Pat gave us lifts home, so we could drink as much as we wanted, but, between the six of us, we barely managed to finish one bottle of red wine - I didn't touch any, neither did Lucinda.

I wore my new top from the Avoca shop, which I had purchased in Powerscourt a few weeks ago. Very happy with it - I got lots of compliments from the girls! I must get Brendan to take a picture next time I'm wearing it so I can show it off here. It's a long lace tunic, with an underdress and cardigan to match. The tunic is a smoky grey tone and the other 2 items are raspberry red. And I got a nice aubergine necklace from Costelloe+Costelloe to match. Big chunky rounded beads to cover the cleavage!

Brendan had a good night too - they drank more wine than we did - that's for sure!

On another note, and the title of this post, my Mac Mini is not well. It crashed on Saturday night. I had to hard-reboot it after iTunes froze completely. I couldn't even use the Activity Monitor to force quit the applications. It's been extremely slow since. So, I'm in the process of backing everything up so I can do a re-install of the Operating System. Initially, it looked like I had extremely little available memory, but emptying the trash seemed to resolve that. But even after that, it's still going extremely slow, so I think it's time for a fresh start, wipe everything and reinstall. I've got most of my data backed up already (I'm very organised that way!!), but I need to back up the most recent stuff onto an external hard drive. If you have a lot of data on your computer and you want to have a backup, I recommend you go and buy an external hard drive (I like the Seagate drives, but there are lots of different brands out there) and copy your data over once a month!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


If you want to watch some thought-provoking British drama, you can't beat the 2-parter Britz which recently showed on Channel 4. If you've missed it, you can watch it for the next 30 days (I think) on 4oD, but only if you live in the UK or Ireland and are using a PC, not a Mac!

Britz is a look at the young British Muslims of today, born and bred in Britain, educated, who've never lived in Pakistan, and how their lives have changed in the post 9/11 (or 7/7) world. And what they do about it!

If you get a chance to see it, don't miss it. Thought-provoking drama at its very best!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Birthdays this month

Birthdays this month are:
  • Hilary on the 17th
  • Mark on the 22nd
  • Kay on the 28th
For your birthdays, I'm giving you a picture of Lake Muckno in Castleblayney. This view is taken from the top of one of the hills at the Concra Wood golf course, due to open in 2008. I'm not a golfer, but there are lovely views from this golf course, with the lake and plenty of hills all around!


Last Wednesday, we decided to escape the Trick-or-Treaters by going to the pictures. I would have liked to go and see the new George Clooney movie (Michael Clayton), but it wasn't showing until 9:15 pm, way too late for me, and for the Trick-or-Treaters, whose average age on our estate is probably 6!

So we went to see Garage instead. Garage is an Irish movie, by the makers of Adam & Paul. One review comment I've seen on the website pretty much summarises my impression of it: "Funny, heart-warming and tragic". It's the story of Josie, who is looking after a small garage on the edge of a small town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Ireland. He is a marginal character, not quite retarded, but not quite 100% there either. People in the town like him, but don't take him seriously. He seems to be a happy kind of guy, but the movie follows him as he tries to connect with other people, and ultimately fails. Quite depressing ultimately. The film captured extremely well the feeling of oppression and desperation that hovers over the town. I'm not sure if there are still towns like that in Ireland - Dublin is certainly not like that nowadays - but if there are, I guess that their suicide statistics are way above the national average!

A good movie, but don't go if you're feeling down in any way!