All posts by Brian McCann

The food court of Dublin Airport

I walked up to the hot foods counter in the food court of Dublin Airport, “can I get, uh, a ‘full Irish breakfast’? But with no toast.” The beefy looking Swedish guy behind the counter narrowed his eyes in curiosity, “where’re you from?” “Oh, Philadelphia, the US” “Nice, ya meet people from all kinds of ...

How to learn Arabic without really trying

You can’t. It’s impossible. Even native speakers struggle with it. Turn back, turn back now. When you take Spanish in an American school system, the main barrier to learning the language has less to do with the language itself and more to do with bad instruction, insufficient time, and a lack of inter-staff communication leading ...

Goldstein’s Book

When I was seven I become accustomed to the idea that people did indefensible things in the world. Thinking about it, I came to the logical conclusion that in their minds everyone thought they were the good guy. They had their way of looking at things, and only with the benefit of hindsight could the ...

Jaresh, Then and Now

Our tour group walked down a main street. It was narrow, with curbs high and tight and pillars reaching overhead, as to give the impression that we were walking in a slot canyon. This was the main street of the Roman city of Jaresh, only excavated in the 1970s. As we walked the bustle of ...

The two-colored hat

The events of today reminded me of a folk tale which I will now hamfistedly paraphrase: Two neighbors lived across the road from each other. One day, a man wearing a very tacky hat colored red on his right side and blue on his left side walked right in the middle of the two. Both ...

The Center of the World

There’s a stone temple in Turkey that’s considered the first complex structure in human history. Unearthed at Göbekli Tepe, it was originally constructed back to the 10th Millennium BCE. No older sites with such complexity or scale have been found, meaning that this would have been one of the first times the human species would ...

The End of the Yellow Brick Road

Hey, let’s tour an entire country in three days! That’s an amazing idea! It isn’t. Even though Northern Ireland is small and not even a country unto itself, it’s still going to wear you out when you try to traverse the thing and see everything there is to see in the span of 72 hours. ...

Leopold Bloom has an Eventful Day

The human species is incredibly diverse, with intense variety of culture and lifestyle. One universal thing however is that your predilections of the various cultures around the world are probably wrong. No better demonstration for this phenomenon exists than my viewing of a theatrical production of James Joyces’ Ulysses. Ulysses had been described to me ...

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Nat Turner Lives

As I look at the partition of Northern Ireland I can’t help but be reminded of the Jim Crowe south. Shortly after partition, the NI government set about creating a system where it was very hard for the Catholics to get ahead socio-politically. They gerrymandered the electoral process so Protestants pretty much held all the ...

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A Terrifying yet Efficient Bureaucracy

One thing you’ve seen in the movies, even if you didn’t realize it, is the basic process of boarding a plane. It the movies you walk into the gate associated with your airline. You get a boarding pass and check your luggage. You than proceed through security and from their you move onto your gate ...