Far be it from us to put a political spin on the giddy whoop-de-do surrounding St. Paddy's Day; but, hey, there are probably more terrorists and people hell-bent on religious war in Ireland than there are in the Middle East. Since 20 percent of Americans claim Celtic ancestry, it would seem the United States might focus more resources on peace on the Emerald Isle than in the Sahara Desert. Still, we the people don't really call the shots right now, do we? And except for the occasional "bloody" songs from U2 and Sinead O'Connor's pope-bashing on late-night TV, we American Irish tend to look on the bright green side, name our sons Curran, Connor, Conan and Collin, and drink--but don't brawl--around March 17. Setting politics and religion aside and starting the Celtic heritage celebration early this year, the lairds and ladies, laddies and lassies will gather for Dallas' weekend-long North Texas Irish Festival, which starts with a Friday concert from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. with international and local bands performing in Fair Park. Musicians on Friday, Saturday and Sunday include the Cathie Ryan Band, Maire Ni Chathasaigh & Chris Newman, The Patty Furlong Band, Liz Carroll & John Doyle, Brothers 3, Irish Rogues and Beyond the Pale. Celtic Women in History and the Scottish Village highlight this year's festival, which features cultural arts and crafts, storytellers, workshops, Irish dancers and ethnic food. Festival hours continue 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 Friday night, $15 Saturday and Sunday, $25 for a weekend pass and free for 11 and under. Call 972-943-4624 or see www.ntif.org. --A.M. Helber
Inventions gone to the dogs
It's said that pets and owners start to look like each other after a while. Maybe it's just because they live in such close confines. But where do we draw the line? T-shirts, fur coats, sneakers, Burberry accessories, monogrammed collars and sweaters are a bit excessive. But now those pups in the dumps are getting the same kind of "sunshine in a bottle" happy pill as their owners. Find out about these and other new developments during the 13th annual Animal Care Expo at the Hyatt Regency Reunion in downtown Dallas from March 10 through March 13. There are about 200 booths from more than 100 companies, all trying to out-product each other. For the past 50 years, The Humane Society of the United States has organized protection over the animals, and this is just one of the ways it proves it (and helps animal care experts network). For a list of speakers and classes, call 1-800-248-EXPO.--Desiree Henry
Don't spend that European vacation clutching your fanny pack, eating overpriced tourist fare and wondering how in the heck you set out for Spain and ended up in Morocco instead. An ounce of prevention in the form of Rick Steves' travel tips and anecdotes could make a world of difference in how you travel the world. Because Rick Steves knows Europe. He knows how to thwart pickpockets. He knows the best places to eat, drink and be merry. He knows how to board a train to Barcelona and actually arrive in Barcelona. Steves speaks at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Eisemann Center, 2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. Cost is $15. Call 972-744-4350 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com.--Stephanie Durham
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Dr. Phil is overbooked
Take a mid-50s, balding, mustached Oklahoman with a no-nonsense attitude and a personable personality, add a psychology degree and an 11 a.m.-to-3 p.m. time slot. And you have something just as exciting as it sounds: the abstrusely popular television advice guru Dr. Phil. Oprah's pal recently got a biography of his very own, The Real Dr. Phil (not the fake Dr. Phil--no, don't tell us there are two), and the book details everything from Phil's childhood athletic adventures and early training as a pilot to his later marital strife and lucky encounter with golden television goddess Oprah. If you're a Philite, come out to meet and greet the biographer, Sophia Dembling, who will be on hand for a book signing and other such pleasantries at the Creekwalk Village Barnes & Noble, 801 W. 15th St., Plano, Saturday at 2 p.m. Tissues and depressing looks provided. Call 972-422-3372. --Mary Monigold
Hit the Bug Screen
The butterfly is going to bite it. Let's get that out of the way. Explain it to the kids before going to the museum and before sitting in the theater and watching the praying mantis, Hierodula, grow up and hunger for his co-star and winged feast, Papilio. Sad, maybe, but Bugs! A Rainforest Adventure is shot from a bug's-eye view in lush Borneo. And even we get to watch Hiero mate with a lady mantis and Papi get some sweet action of her own. Watch real hatchings, tense up at predatory attacks and learn a lot about bugs. Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1501 Montgomery St., hosts the 2- and 3-D film Friday through October 9. Tickets are $5 and $7 for the Omni Theater with admission combo rates also available. See www.fortworthmuseum.org for show times or call 817-255-9540. --Merritt Martin