Monthly Archives: July 2012

Incoming Tide at Sandymount Strand

We live a few minutes walk from the beach here. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived near the beach, though my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the fact that it is never warm enough to swim or lounge around in the sun. (Well, it is never warm enough for me to swim or lounge around in the sun.)1 I believe the air temperature here has only cracked 70° F a couple of times since we arrived, and the water temperature at the nearest buoy (a few miles out to sea) is currently 58° F.

The beach we frequent is known as Sandymount Strand and is essentially a giant sandbank. At low tide, the water recedes a significant distance. If the Satellite imagery on Google Maps is to be believed, then I’d guess the water’s edge recedes by more than a half mile at most places along the strand. But, truthfully, I haven’t tried walking out to the water at low tide, so I can’t really say. At high tide, the water comes nearly up to the seawall in most places.

I’ve been a little surprised that there are no discernible waves. I assumed that this was just because of the sandbank. I thought I saw some waves breaking further out on the day pictured below, but then I didn’t see any on Saturday, when we rode the train for some distance down the shore (where there is much less sandbank). So, I’m not sure. The buoy (again, several miles out at sea) is reporting wave heights of 0.6 m at the moment, so there must be waves out there somewhere.

As a result of this lack of waves, though, the tide coming in is essentially a slow flood, with the water slowly but surely subsuming the gigantic beach. The first couple of times we went out to the beach, the kids were disappointed, because the tide was low(-ish), and they didn’t even see the water. This last time, though, we went out a couple of hours before high tide, and fun was had by all. I challenged them to stop the tide coming in with their shovels and bucket. They didn’t stop the tide, but that didn’t reduce their fun.

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  1. Irish people keep commenting on how tan I am. I am becoming a bit self-conscious about it. 

Banking

Before coming to Ireland, I was warned by a colleague that I would be frustrated by bureaucracy. So far, that seems to be largely untrue, except in one area: banking. I have been here for almost a month, and I still cannot pay a bill online. I am not sure if the problem is the bank that I selected, Bank of Ireland, or if the process would be just as onerous at any Irish bank.

I have completed the following steps:

  • Obtain a Personal Public Service (PPS) Number, which is the Irish equivalent of a Social Security Number. I applied for this on the morning of my arrival; I was able to obtain the number by phone a couple of days later. Not bad.

  • With PPS Number, a letter from my employer, my staff ID card, and my passport in hand, visit a branch of the bank with spouse. I do not know what is required if one doesn’t have an employment letter and staff ID card, just that there is a Bank of Ireland branch specifically for Trinity College and this was what I was told was required. Apply to open a current account (equivalent of a checking account). They will not let me open a joint account with my wife, only a personal account. They do not really explain why, but mutter something about her not being affiliated with Trinity and her not having proof of address. I am told that I will receive my ATM card and PIN (in separate mailings) in about 5 business days, but that I can drop by for my account number sooner, in a couple of business days.

  • Account number is obtained two business days later. PIN number shows up via mail about 8 business days later. ATM card finally shows up about 13 business days after the account was opened.

  • Apply online for access to online banking. To obtain access, they must send me (another) PIN number via post. PIN number arrives about 5 business days later. (Today!) Must call to activate PIN number. This call requires ATM card.

  • Go online and attempt to pay rent. Told that in order to add a new payee, I must be sent a security code. Security codes can be sent via text message or post, but I cannot receive them via text message until I register my mobile phone. Registering my mobile phone requires (you guessed it!) a security code be sent via post.

So, tomorrow I will go into a Bank of Ireland branch and attempt to pay my rent (via electronic transfer, which seems to be how most payments are handled here). If I do not succeed, I will be very unhappy.

I also tried to apply for a credit card, as I thought that might be useful, given that I’m currently sharing a single debit card with my spouse. Was told (online) that I must be a permanent resident of Ireland to apply. Considered lying. Decided to try in person tomorrow, instead. Will also ask (again) about a joint account.

We’ve generally been trying not to complain about perceived inconveniences here. We remind ourselves that they do things differently here, and that different can be good. But here I am, whining about banking in Ireland.

Update: I walk into a BoI branch, ask to make a direct payment, saying that my online banking is not fully setup yet. “Are the recipient accounts BoI accounts?” “No.” “We can’t initiate those from a branch. You could make a lodgment [deposit, in cash, presumably] directly at one of the branches of that bank.” So angry.

A Little Walk

I took the kids for a walk this afternoon. As those who have been following along at home know, we live near the River Dodder. So we walked down the river, to where it flows into the River Liffey, crossed the East-Link, and then walked upstream (West) to about the Dublin Convention Centre before returning to the Ringsend Library for an afternoon event. I took a few pictures, which would have turned out better under blue skies.

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The “Dodder Buoy” which, strangely, is not in the water.

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The Dublin Skyline (Uh, Riverline?)

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Samuel Beckett Bridge

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Dublin Convention Centre

Smartphone Update

I have given things up before. I gave up all social media for Lent a few years ago, and it was an eye-opening experience. I realized what I liked about social media and what I didn’t like. It was nice to be free of the compulsion to constantly check and see what might be posted. And to be free of the compulsion to cast every life event in a pithy 140 character remark. Frankly, I should probably do that again.

But deciding to give up on having a smartphone for a year? Dumb. In the two weeks that I’ve been smartphone-less, I’ve realized how often I rely upon it as a tool and not just a toy.

Example 1: I’m at the playground with the kids. The sky looks threatening and the wind starts to blow ominously, they way it does just before a downpour in Blacksburg. But the weather changes quickly here, the sky often looks threatening, and the wind often blows. My weather instincts, honed by decades of living in Virginia and Tennessee, don’t work properly. Is the sky about to open up with a downpour or will it blow over with no precipitation? I have no idea, but I need to know, because it’s a 30 minute walk home with the kids. What could answer this question quickly and definitively? A radar image on my iPhone. (Outcome: We stay. It rains a few drops.)

Example 2: Heading home from a bit of shopping in city center. I think I know a closer place to take the bus than the stop we’ve been using. But it quickly becomes clear that I’ve made a mistake (because the road where I thought we could catch the bus is one-way, in the wrong direction). We wander around for a bit, through a couple blocks that look a little sketchy. We find what is probably an appropriate bus stop, but after waiting a few minutes with no idea when the next bus might come, we abandon it and walk to the train station instead. The kids are thrilled, because we finally take the DART.

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If I’d had a smartphone, though, then immediately upon realizing my error, I could have identified the location of an appropriate stop. And, once reaching that stop, I would have had real-time bus information at my fingertips.

And that’s without even mentioning the huge quantity of personal reference material and operational information that my phone can access.

Denying oneself access to good tools for no good reason is foolish. So, I’m going to stop. I’m going to try to stick with my smartphone-less existence until August 1—a full month—to see if I can detect any further redeeming qualities, but right now, I can’t. I have a SIM-unlocked iPhone 3GS ready and waiting. (We packed it with a different use case in mind, but there you go.) Upon activation, I’ll probably mostly keep it in WiFi mode. I certainly won’t be using it casually while I stroll down the street. But when I need it, it will be there.

The curious thing about this, though, is that it doesn’t solve either of the problems mentioned in my original post about my iPhone being snatched. First, I’m not going to run with the iPhone 3GS on my arm. It would probably be perfectly safe, but I’m not going to chance it. So, I’ll be running with an iPod nano (hence, GPS-less) for the rest of the year. Second, the iPhone 3GS camera is pretty crummy. It will do in a pinch, I suppose, but I’ve rearranged my briefcase so that I’m carrying the SLR more-or-less constantly.

Dublin Zoo

We went to the Dublin Zoo weekend before last (July 7). I’m behind on my blogging—sue me. (I am finally getting into a routine here, with most bureaucratic nonsense finally sorted. So, I will hopefully be posting more regularly blah, blah, blah.)

I visited the Singapore Zoo a couple of years ago, during a business trip, but other than that I hadn’t been to a big city zoo in many years. The Dublin Zoo was fun, and we bought an annual membership for the whole family, so we’ll definitely be back. As you can see, we got an up close look at some of the animals.

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