Archive for June, 2008

Random Scotland Pictures

June 19, 2008

I took some 400-plus pictures while there (many of them redundantly repetitive). No… wait! Come back! I’m not going to post them all… but I did want to share 10 or so, to close out this Scotland thread – – –

I’m thinking this is either a Scottish gremlin or a practice dog. Not sure which.

“No, officer, honestly… he’s just a friend! I had no intentions of fouling him. I’m more of a ‘sheep’ kind of guy, anyway…”

Why is this horse wearing underwear on his head? Was it some kind of horse fraternity hazing? Is he the nerd horse of the pasture that all the bully horses [??] make fun of and pull practical jokes on?

Ummm… I’m thinking those first two warnings are duplicatively redundant. Sorry, just not picturing this conversation: “C’mon, Bobby! Let’s go frolic in the toxic waste! It’ll be great fun!”

Sound advice… ‘nuff said.

So, clothed lights must be okay, right?

I’m guessing you get the option, given how randy you are and how long you’re willing to wait [I chose the closer one…].

… and in case you don’t make it to one of those humps on time, you can cool the fire in your trousers with some of this stuff (Ed. Note: it also comes in powder and water form! Pics available on request!).

Lucky rich people… they get to have a loo right in their study. And a velvet covered seat, no less! When I grow up, I want to be rich…

And finally, for those who want to know what I look like… or my Girl Child…

Yep, that’s me in an authentic 1200’s-recreation Scottish helmet, authentic 1200’s-recreation Scottish chain mail, and authentic… ummm… well… authentic REAL 2003 Taiwan watch.

And isn’t my Girl Child pretty? I think she has my eyes…

Scotch

June 17, 2008

Not the highlight of the visit to Scotland, but certainly one of my favorite stops, was to a distillery.  Yes, the place where they make that precious amber liquid called Scotch by most of us… and merely whisky by the Scots themselves.

We found a distillery offering tours southeast of Edinburgh (which, for some reason i never understood, is pronounced ‘Edinboro’ by the locals).  The Glenkinchie distillery has been in business a couple hundred years and offered us a true education about the Scotch making business.

Thinking we’d get some cheesy little video and see some handbuilt models of the process, we were pleasantly surprised to actually walk through the distillery, seeing all steps of the process on the way.  Including, as seen in this picture, the yeast vats… and our guide opened the lid on them.  Get too close to them and you could get knocked on your ass by the fumes!

There are some eleventy-seven different brands of Scotch, each with it’s own unique taste.  That taste is affected by the water of the region, the amount of peat used in drying… or smoking… the malt barley, the size and shape of the copper stills, and finally, by the casks used to ‘mature’ it*.  

As to that latter, the casks are of oak or poplar or other hardy woods** which by themselves add a certain flavoring to the Scotch.  What was surprising to me was that they (well, Glenkinchie, anyway… can’t speak for the others) only use casks already used elsewhere.  For example, the casks Jack Daniels uses for their whiskey maturation are used only once… then sold off to folks like Glenkinchie.  Glenkinchie also uses casks previously holding sherry wine.  Each of these ‘pre-soaked’ casks, then impart a hint of that flavor to the Glenkinchie whisky… for 10 or 12 years (less or more years and the Scotch just doesn’t taste ‘right’).

And, of course, my favorite part of the tour was the tasting room.  Ahhh… it did indeed make this man’s eyes water and mouth drool.  They, of course, first offered us tastes of their own brand.  But, for the purpose of ‘education’ (and who can deny themselves a good lesson now and again?), they also offered quite a variety of other brands from other parts of Scotland so that we could taste the differences.  One brand, for example, uses lots of peat in the smoking process and, to me, smelled like something you’d burn in a kerosene heater rather than drink.  I’ve heard it’s an ‘acquired taste’.  I think i’ll let someone else do that acquisition.

Unfortunately for me, i was the designated driver (the Girl Child having lost her license during an unfortunate pickpocket experience in Istanbul).  i didn’t let that stop me from having three… or was it seven?… samples of Scotch before leaving.

And with a wistful farewell (and a hope to return), we say goodbye to Glenkinchie Distillery.

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*There are quite a few folks at work i’d like to put in a cask so they’d actually mature.

**hehehe…i said ‘wood’

More Scotland

June 16, 2008

Some more random blitherings on my trip to Scotland – –

The place is just dripping with history.  You can’t turn around without running into a castle, usually in some sort of disrepair.  Many of those castles have great stories that go with them.  One of my favorites was an abandoned castle (3rd one below) with a sign saying this was the site of the “Roasting of the Abbot Incident”… and that’s all it said.  I guess because it was just an *incident*, it wasn’t worthy of explanation (and, yeah, there are web sites that talk about it ).

        

The movie connection is mostly known.  I’m sure some of you have seen “Braveheart” or “Rob Roy”.  You’ll be happy to know that those movies are based in whole only partially on the truth. But not so much so as to ruin it all.  And a useless bit of information I didn’t know… the Hogwart Express from the second Harry Potter movie, shown travelling over a long train viaduct, was filmed in the Highlands of Scotland. 

There’s a special breed of Highlands cow (Heilan’ Coo, in the vernacular) that has long hair.  Daughter Person decided they were ‘long haired hippie cows’ who say “Du-u-ude” instead of “Mo-o-oo”.

 

An addendum to my post on driving in Scotland — as I said, the back roads offered great scenery.  There were also little villages, most picturesque, every 10 miles or so.  All of them required you to slow down to 30 MPH [side note—I was very glad that they didn’t use some arcane speed system like ‘furlongs per fortnight’].  Most of them had speed radar attached to a sign that would blink your speed at you and add a message to “Slow Down”.  Our favorite radar sign, however, was one where there would be a flashing smiley face if you were under 30 and a sad, frowny face if you were going too fast.  Girl Child was always urging me to speed up to get the frowny face… little twit.

 

Rosslyn Chapel, of “The Da Vinci Code fame, was one of the more incredible stops.  I learned there that the book’s author never visited the chapel before writing.  There is no “Rose Line” or 6-pointed Star of David in the chapel (the movie artificially added them).  But, the architecture was eye watering and I was surprised to find they still hold services there.

More randomness soon… I think I’ll go have some Scotch to ease the night into my veins… [big, cheesy grin]

Driving Scotland

June 15, 2008

First things first in Scotland… we needed a car to get around.

 

Now, I knew that folks drive on the left side of the road and knew that the driver’s wheel was on the right side of the car in Scotland.  Not deterred by that fact, I thought the best way to see Scotland was by driving wherever we wanted to go. 

 

Exhibiting a classically GnuKid lack of insight (and looking to save a few dollars), I had reserved a manual transmission car.  Climbing in the driver’s seat, my right hand immediately and instinctively went to the gear shift… “Where the hell is the gear shift?” said my right hand.  “Holy crap,” my eyes countered, “it’s over there on my left side.”* My left hand remained silent, clenched in raw fear of the task laying ahead for it.  My left hand is only used to doing non-complex, non-dexterous tasks like digging out a hunk of ear wax or scratching left side body parts or holding up the magazine while… ummm… never mind.  Despite practicing in the parking stall, I proceeded throughout the entire week to leave bits of clutch gearing littered across Scotland.

 

With the Daughter Person navigating, we were able to find all of our tourist sites.  And we only got lost two or three times a day doing so!  But we quickly learned that getting lost is an adventure in itself and Scotland is a lovely place to get lost in.  We actually found a tourist site or two that way as well.

 

There were questions, best untested, like “Since i can turn right on red in the US, can i turn left on red in Scotland?”  But we figured it out.

 

The road signs weren’t familiar and it took some time to figure them out.  Yeah, I hear you experienced travelers out there saying, “Damned fool went to another country without learning the traffic signs and laws.”  Guilty as charged (…and lesson learned – the internet is easy access to all that information).  But, I came to learn most of the signs and enjoy a few.**

 

This one should be posted every 50 yards on the back roads.  All but the main roads were narrow, curvy, and full of large trucks going much too fast and coming straight at you.   I learned quickly how to enhance our silver rental car with green shrub stains on the left side of the car, figuring this much better than enhancing it with paint and dents from those trucks on the right side of the car.

 

Roundabouts were always festive fun, being a way to direct traffic to various roads without the use of traffic lights.  I’ve had the pleasure of using them before, having once resided in the Boston area, where they were called Rotaries.  But I’ve never had to negotiate them driving on the left side of the road.  There were quite a few occasions of where I was the topic of vivid and animated swearing by drivers’ of cars I’d cut off.

 

This one always made me smile.  Now, it’s obviously a warning… but what kind?  Are there carnivorous badgers who attack?  Roving bands of badgers who steal hubcaps?  I like to think that it was merely a spontaneous declarative statement from a Tourette’s-challenged sign maker.

 

At the end of the trip, the car (less those clutch parts mentioned previously) was returned intact to the rental agency… no one was injured (other than my bruised ego from the occasional drive on the right side of the road)… I wasn’t arrested (though they have traffic cameras galore there…i’m anxiously watching my mail box)… and, best of all, it was a great way to see Scotland.

  

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*Yeah, my body parts have particularly festive conversations amongst themselves. I try not to get involved.  Bad form and all, listening in on that stuff.

**Being the driver, i didn’t actually take pictures of these signs, but stole them liberally from the web or recreated it myself.  But they are replicas of real signs i ran into there.

Back In The Wilds

June 12, 2008

I sit here, bleary eyed, staring at my computer screen wondering where the heck to start in recounting my trip to Scotland. I’m coming to the conclusion that —

(a) My body clock is still on Scotland time; travel lagging,

(b) My mind wanders grandly from thought to thought even when I’m not tired,

(c) There still is no ‘c’, and

(d) There’s no way to get all the highlights in one post anyway.

But, a few points for now —

Seeing the Daughter Person was wonderful. We caught up on all the little life trivia we hadn’t otherwise shared and we enjoyed seeing the sights. She never achieved her stated goal of “…drinking a pint of authentic Scottish beer in an authentic Scottish pub while listening to authentic Scottish music…”. This was because the only Scottish music we heard being the bagpipes in Edinburgh. And, despite liking that music (in moderation), it would definitely not be welcome in a pub environment. We did, however, share a few pints together…

For being a ‘wee land’ (being about the size of our Maine [state motto: “Hey! Don’t Forget We’re Up Here Too!”]), it is a very geographically diverse and varied country. I was surprised to find so much empty space until being more surprised that there are only some 5 million Scots. And they are outnumbered by Scottish sheep by some 4 to 1 margin. C’mon, Scots! You need more sex! No… no… not with the sheep…

So, suffice it to say that I’ve safely returned to the Frontier of the Midwest. I admit that, besides travel fatigue, I am suffering from a nasty case of “Carpal Butt” from the plane rides home (no, I did not swim it… this time… maybe next, okay?). Tune in over the next few days for other adventures of GnuKid in his journey to one of my many homelands.

Ah dinnae wan’ tae lae ye, am glad tae be haem wi’ ye, but dae wan’ tae gang abroad someday suin.

GnuKid Disappears

June 4, 2008

For awhile anyway. ..

The Girl Child is an adventurer at heart. Much like her Grandma, she views the world as a toy to be played with often and everywhere. And, admittedly, like my Mom, the Girl Child is also a source of learning for me on how to better live life.

So for her recent adventure, the Girl Child is finishing up her semester abroad in Switzerland*. She has been actively bugging me to come over to visit. Between work, finances, and ‘other’ issues**, I’ve been hesitant to agree. But, I finally gave in and we started talking plans.

Girl Child then sets down a ground rule… we can’t go anywhere that she’s already been in Europe.

Now, let’s go back to that “Girl Child is an adventurer at heart” thing. On spring break and most every weekend, she has been almost everywhere in Europe already! Even being pick-pocketed in Istanbul*** didn’t discourage her wanderlust.

So…after reviewing the extremely shortened list of options, I chose Scotland as my adventure spot. I’m a mutt, with about a third being Scottish. As such, I’d sort of like to see my ancestral homeland…well, a third of my ancestry, anyway. And I hear tell that they have a strange and wondrous liquid called “Scotch” that I’d like to try in a native glass… or seven… teen…

Anyway, I’m off to gallivant about Scotland, leaving the Wilds of Ohio, and have an adventure. I won’t e-see you all until the middle of next week (unless I can peek out if I can get access to the Girl Child’s laptop when we’re not touring, walking, gawking, sleeping, eating…).

See you back here soon, riding the range of the Wilds of Ohio!

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*I don’t remember having such wonderful opportunities for doing this kind of stuff when I was a kid. [grump] I feel cheated.

**I’m sure you’ll be seeing blogs on the ’other’ issues down the road… be patient.

***Ouch…

EDBFH

June 2, 2008

The Wicked EDBFH and the White Powder

  

Okay, so there’s this woman who’s been on multiple project teams that have used our facility as a home.  My facility houses the “cutters of red tape” for our bureaucracy’s cumbersome procurement process.  On each project this woman has been here, she has refused advice and counsel from our experts on how to do things, preferring to do it whatever way strikes her fancy.  She treats us like men servants and hand maidens, requesting we do her mundane and simplistic things.  These could be easily done herself, but I think she gets a power trip thing going by getting us to do them.  She constantly complains about her workload which, albeit high, ain’t no higher than anyone else’s if she actually got down to doing it instead of complaining about it.  Needless to say, she has created great enmity, to the extent that people cringe at the mere mention of her name.   

 

 Because of this, I applied a private moniker which was quickly and enthusiastically picked up by the rest of the folks here.  She is EDBFH – – Evil Demon Bitch From Hell.  Say the words and the letters a few times and you might feel the ease with which they pour off your tongue.

 

 Then, she committed the faux pas which forever enshrined her in the lore of our building.

 

 

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