31 December 2006

Happy Hogmanay!

Well, I was supposed to be down at George Square right now, but the event has been canceled. We're having 80mph (128 km/hr) winds and rain. And the lights are flickering. So it's a bit crazy outside.

Instead we're spending the night in, and eating and making merry!

My Bolivian friends Liliana and Paula gave me these (right), as part of a Bolivian New Year's tradition. Red means that I'll have love and passion in the new year. Since this is a family oriented website, I cannot show you them on my person (nor would I otherwise!), but please know that they are very comfy. :-)

I have more posts to make about my Christmas vacation, but they will have to wait until the new year!

May all your 2007s be happy, healthy, and safe!

30 December 2006

Trip to the Trossachs - December 21 - 23rd, 2006

Just before Christmas Kate and I took a wonderful trip to the Trossachs with a group called Glasgow Friends International (the same group I went to New Lanark with). Anyway, the trip definitely earned them a link in my links section. If you're an international student in Glasgow and want to take affordable outings with a group of inviting individuals, then get in touch with these people. They are great!

The Trossachs is an area in the Stirling region which consists of many bens (hills), lochs (lakes) and glens (er... glens). The Trossachs are also referred to as "the Highlands in Miniature" or "the Gateway to the Highlands", as it is where the hilly and loch-filled terrain of the Highlands begins. We began our trip by heading to Callander, where we learned how the original kilt was made. The kilt was made of a large tablecloth-sized piece of material called a "plaid", which was spread on the ground and then pleated. The wearer then sat on the plaid, laid back, and wrapped it around their waste, fastening it with a rope. The pleating effect at the back looks exactly like the modern kilts of today, and excess fabric above the belt was used for warmth, pockets, or protection from the rain. To the right you can see an example of a kilt made from a plaid, even Kate got in on the action and donned some female Scottish dress.

Just outside of Callander we stopped to say hello to Hamish, the Highland Cow. Highland cattle are impressive beasts with very large horns and a thick ginger coat which hangs in their eyes. They are built for a Scottish winter on the hillsides, taking the rain and mud in their stride. Hamish, unlike his hillside brethren, lives like a king near one of the distilleries, with ample hay, little mud, and a nice little shelter from the rain. But as they say, "heavy is the head that wears the crown", poor Hamish appears somewhat lonely when you compare him to the hillside cattle which have a nice little congregation for company.

We then traveled up to Balquhidder, stopping at Loch Lubnaig (pron: LOOB-nag) along the way. The hamlet of Balquhidder is home to the final resting place of Rob Roy MacGregor, notorious cattle thief and Scottish Robin Hood. It is also home to an old kirk whose ruins now serve as a heritage monument/landscaping feature. Rob Roy lay with his wife and one of his four sons at the door of this old kirk with the defiant epitaph "MacGregor Despite Them" - which while never fully explained, seems to have something to do with the surname MacGregor being denounced for the clan's participation in a bloody raid long before Rob Roy's birth. The epitaph was not put in place until 1981, along with a rail marking each grave - the headstones having been taken back by the earth and rendered unreadable.

The story of Rob Roy seems to have been heavily romanticized, with his character drifting from bully to benevolent outlaw depending on who is telling the tale. The historical facts include stories of betrayal, theft, revenge, uprising, secret alliances, royalty, mafia-esque extortion, and philanthropy. The question of whether Rob Roy was truly a Robin Hood for the Scottish Highlands, or simply a bully with an ax to grind, is openly alluded to in the introduction of the somewhat campy Rob Roy historical video we were shown in Callander. Like many things in history the answer seems to be a little from column A and a little from column B.

From Balquhidder we visited Loch Voil, and took in the scenery while walking down a rural road that snaked its way along the lake. The scenery of the Trossachs is eerily similar to that of the Haliburton Highlands, with me having to remind myself every so often that I was still an ocean away from home. The differences between here and home are incredibly subtle, being more a collection of impressions rather than list-able features. The forests of the Trossachs are mixed conifer and deciduous, with a higher proportion of pine and evergreens than back home. So even in winter, the forest still has the appearance of being lush and green. The trees are also more gnarly, growing in different directions with kinks and twists in the branches, rather than the young arrow-straight trunks that are more prevalent back home. The trunks here are also more likely to be covered with moss and ivy, while back home the lichens are still working hard at taking over, the moss still some years away from calling the trees home.

After dark, which has stabilized at a very early 15:48, we arrived in the small town of Killin and settled down in the initially chilly youth hostel. The hostel was very inviting, and old house with a large communal kitchen, big dorm-style rooms with very comfortable bunk-beds, and a cozy common room with a propane fireplace.

The next day we ventured out to Ben Lawers mountain, one of the many Scottish bens in the area. Hill walking is a sport in Scotland, the mountains being quite small and relatively easy to hike up. Here is where I got my first taste of truly Scottish looking landscape - or at least landscape that my poorly traveled eyes had not seen before. The mountains here rise just above the tree line, and are covered with scrub, heather (not blooming this time of year, unfortunately), grass, patches of trees, and rocky streams. It is difficult to determine which peak is which, because there are so many hills on the hills themselves. The streams add a pretty soundtrack to the outright remoteness of the hillside, as well as a refreshing drink. We were supposed to be able to see Loch Tay from Ben Lawers, but the rolling fog obscured our view. Despite this, walking the mist covered hills still had its atmospheric charm.

Another interesting thing about the Scottish bens is that they are used for livestock - mainly sheep but also Highland Cattle. Looking up the side of the hills, which appear reddish in the winter because of the non-blooming heather, with green grassy patches, you can see the tiny roaming white dots that are sheep going about their business of grazing.

After Ben Lawers we drove along the River Lyon, and through Glen Lyon. Glen Lyon is a remote glen that cuts through the hills, navigable by a windy little road that is really only wide enough for a single vehicle. Hydro lines, sheep, and the occasional small house dot the hillsides. The hills are imposing, cutting you off from so-called "civilization" - in my mind, these quiet places are much more civilized than any big city.

Once through Glen Lyon, we stopped in Fortingall to see the old Yew. The Yew is estimated to be between 2000 - 5000 years old, and sits in the Fortingall Parish Churchyard. The ancient tree is protected by a gated wall, the old trunk having been reduced from it's 16 m (52 ft) girth (marked out by posts) to many stem-like projections by over-enthusiastic souvenir seekers and vendors during the 19th century. Despite this, the old Yew seems to be in good health, with nice green foliage.

Our next stop was Aberfeldy for another scenic walk and a little shopping. Some of us opted out of the walk, wanting to warm up with a nice hot beverage. We stopped at a small coffee shop/bookstore/gallery for some excellent hot chocolate. Afterwords, we roamed around this pretty little town poking in the shops and buying some postcards.

Back at the hostel we had a Christmas dinner consisting of chicken, stuffing, vegitables, party crackers (complete with tissue paper crown) and Christmas presents. We also had a traditional Palestinian dessert made by one of our fellow travelers that I must have the recipe for... especially since it was just as good the next day for breakfast.

Our last day of travel sent us back towards Glasgow, stopping at the Falls of Dochart (pron: DOUGH-cart) - a set of impressive and picturesque rapids - before we left Killin. We then wound our way - past Loch Tay, Loch Lubnaig again, Loch Earn, and Loch Venachar (pron: VEN-a-car ; same tempo as vinegar) before reaching Loch Katrine, home to the Lady of the Lake and the steam ship named after Sir Walter Scott. Loch Katrine is where Glasgow gets most of its water, and has been since 1859. Loch Katrine is overlooked by Ben Venue, home of the Urisks, a tricky group of fairy people who like to play tricks on passers by.

Our final stop was in Aberfoyle which entailed a visit to the Wool Centre. At the wool centre I bought a couple of skeins of hand-spun Shetland fleece to make a scarf... another piece of Scotland for me to craft a souvenir out of.

It was great to get out of Glasgow for three days and spend some time in the fresh air of the Scottish countryside. I got to get to know my flatmate, Kate, a bit better and we are becoming fast friends. I also got to see some Scottish scenery that is very difficult to get to if you don't have a vehicle. I've posted a selection of photographs on flickr for your perusal - enjoy!

Glasgow Pre-Holiday Blues Buster - 16-Dec-2006

So, after our crazy two weeks, most of which was completely gray and rainy, Lesley and I decided to break out the cameras, on our first truly sunny day in a month, and go tourist on Glasgow. Our first stop was just across the street to Glasgow Cathedral, with the blue police callbox en route. There are 4 of these throwbacks to the 1920's and 1930's in Glasgow, one of which is a "Coppuchino" outlet - a coffee kiosk. Once victim to the march of progress, they are now protected by the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust and
the Doctor Who Society (no, I am not making this up if Wikipedia is to be believed), and kept to their authentic trademark design. The really hilarious bit is that they are actually now referred to as a "TARDIS" style police box. Again, I'm not making this up.

Then we walked down High Street, along Saltwater Street to Glasgow Green. The Green dates back to the 15th century, and throughout history has been the site of public hangings, demonstrations, and the final resting place of many very large artifacts including Nelson's Monument, and the McLennan Arch (right) which once served as the centre piece of the Assembly Rooms on Ingram Street before they were demolished in 1890.

Beside Glasgow Green runs the River Clyde, which divides Glasgow into north and south. The Clyde is a major river in Scotland, and the third longest. The Clyde is also home to some of the more dodgey places in Glasgow (as you can see below), and probably should not be visited at night. During the day, you're likely to pass quite a few tourists and locals making their way to and fro - but on the whole the walkway along the river remains fairly quiet compared to the shopping streets. Several large bridges span the Clyde, and boat tours can be taken down river to a massive shopping mall (and presumably the nicer end of the Clyde). Unfortunately the boat is out of the water until March, but when it goes back in I plan on taking a tour.

We walked pretty far down the River Clyde and when the sun began to set (which was still only around 2:30 pm), we decided it was best to begin heading north (especially after we passed a bunch of guys who looked a little mafia-esque). Then we headed up to George Square to check out the christmas lights, and to get ourselves beer and a burger at the Counting House.

And thus ended our great sunny day walking around Glasgow! More pictures, as always are available for viewing at my flickr account.

25 December 2006

Take me with you!

Thought you might find this an entertaining picture. :-D

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas to everyone!

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
'Till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

-Emerson Lake and Palmer

17 December 2006

Oh, and I forgot to mention...

I finished my afghan! It's a little on the narrow side, but it will be great for cuddling up with in front of the tv or computer.

16 December 2006

Stepps - Crime Capital of Glasgow

Stepps is a very odd place. It's a small village on the outskirts of Glasgow, only slightly larger than Minden. Most notably, it houses the University of Strathclyde playing fields. But, every December, it becomes a hub for criminal activity, with no less than 8 crimes occuring all within yards of eachother. Each crime seems to be repeated every year, from armed robbery, to amateur bomb making, to drug crime. No one has quite figured out why this occurs, but it keeps the M.Sc. Forensic Science students busy for a couple of weeks anyway.

The Stepps exercise, or as it is formally referred to the "Crime Scene Exercise", is a crime scene to court experience in which we were split into groups and given each a crime scene to process outdoors, transport the evidence back to lab, and then analyse the evidence, and anymore incoming, for two weeks. At the end, we had to write a court report on the analysis we've done. In March we will be called to court by the Law students to testify. In the meantime, we may be called upon by the defense from other crime scenes within the exercise to do analysis as well.

Our day at Stepps playing fields consisted of trying to recover our badly burned cardboard victim in gale force winds that lasted all day. The winds were nothing that I've ever encountered before. Absolutely relentless! The wind just kept blowing and I found myself just hoping it would stop for 30 seconds so I could write my notes without my paper blowing all over the place. And then it would rain just enough to dampen the paper and make my pen run all over the place. And it was nuts trying to get in that white suit in that wind too... kind of like trying to put on a kite.

The subsequent two weeks was spent sifting through the evidence we collected, receiving more evidence from the "police" and doing analysis on the evidence we gave priority to. It was a big lesson in group dynamics, being thrown in the deep end without any waterwings whatsoever, and learning that a biologist and chemical-phobe like me can actually do chemistry when the situation demands it. It also made me seriously question whether this is the line of work I want to get in to. In the end, after all the stress and uncertainty, I still learned immensely from the experience and still want to see this all through to whatever end it gets me to. I'm also somewhat proud of myself because I demonstrated some serious perseverance in some of my analysis.

Anyway, I'm now putting the whole exercise aside for the holidays, and am refusing to worry about it until it comes up again around March. I have two more days of class left, and then I'm free for a couple of weeks! Yay!

Stirling - December 2, 2006

Lesley and I decided to go to Stirling before the two week stress-marathon that was to be the Stepps exercise. Stirling is a lovely little town... comparable to Peterborough, Ontario in size. It is home to a number of attractions including Stirling Castle, Mar's Wark, the Old Town Jail, and the William Wallace Monument. We unfortunately missed the Wallace Monument, but since Stirling is only 20 minutes north of Glasgow, and less than $20 for a train ticket, we'll certainly be going back.

Stirling Castle is really cool. Right now the Palace is undergoing renovation, but many of the other buildings are open. But just walking around the grounds and peeking in all the different passages is interesting. Stirling Castle is a Renaissance castle and was home to Mary Queen of Scots, and James IV, among others. The Castle was built as early as the 14th Century, but mostly 15th and 16th Century buildings remain. The outer defenses were built in the 18th Century. There's a certain vibe to castles, especially ones like Stirling Castle which have been kept true to their original style. They are massive, solid buildings that seem incorporate the out-of-doors and nature with their opposing man-made-ed-ness (yes, I'm really just making up words here). They were no doubt massive and busy places all of the time, decadent during the best of times, and downright frightening during a siege.

My favourite part of Stirling Castle was down in the cellars (I think they were cellars) of Elephant Tower where you could see fragments of the old spiral staircase and low ceilinged rooms. It was like spelunking without the claustrophobia, having to duck around columns and under low archways. Although it was all still above-ground (there were a number of low windows at about grass level), it had the feeling of being below ground... maybe because there was just so much above you.

We also stopped at Mar's Wark, which is the facade of a Renaissance Mansion. The mansion was never finished, and all that remains of it is the outside front, comprised of a number of low doorways (a testament to the shortness of stature of Renaissance Europeans), and windows. You can walk up into the graveyard behind Mar's Wark, and then along a little pathway to actually walk around what would have been the upper floor. From the upper level you can look below to the different rooms - what's left of them anyway. It is all very forlorn and spooky with everything covered in leaf litter and pop bottles carelessly tossed in by unappreciative passers-by.

A definite highlight of Stirling is the Old Town Jail. The jail was built in 1847 and was an attempt at Victorian prison reform. The focus was supposed to be rehabilitation and education, rather than meaningless drudgery and squalor. While it was still a far cry from 50 prisoners in a single cell with no food or water unless it was brought from somebody on the outside, it still fell back into the old penalties of being made to turn a crank that did nothing for hours on end, and picking apart pieces of rope coated in tar. You get 10% off if you've visited the Castle, and it consists of a guided tour with an actor. Afterword, you get to tour around a modern day exhibit of what prison life is like. The actor is absolutely fabulous, representing everyone from the old hangman to an escaped convict.

Anyway, as usual, pictures are worth 1000 words... though I think quite a bit more. So pop on over to the flickr account to have a peek.

19 November 2006

Snow in Scotland!

Today when I walked into our living room, I was greeted with my flatmate announcing "Snow!" Not snow in the city of Glasgow, but out on the hills/mountains. It is actually a pretty impressive sight in real time... afraid my camera doesn't do the effect justice. It's like looking at another snowy world from your window. Winter has come through the front door, but it hasn't quite settled in... it's not like it's sitting in your favourite chair and eating your cookies yet. I'm reserving judgement on how better/worse this is going to be from a Canadian winter - when the girl downstairs from Winnipeg is complaining already that she feels cold, you know that there's something to it.

Last week was super busy for me, catching up on labs I had to redo. On top of that it rained all week, with only brief respites of sunshine (with what little daylight we do get). Next week was shaping up to be a reprieve, but turns out we're scheduled in the lab all week doing another exercise. They have a habit of throwing us into the deep end with very few waterwings. But, that is probably the best way to learn.

This afternoon we're going to see Casino Royale, then going to a Chinese buffet. Tonight they are lighting up George Square... so if you're around at 1:30 pm Ontario time, check out the webcams (link to the right). There might even be fireworks.

Christmas is also just over a month away... though the lights in George Square have been up since the begining of the month. All the shopping streets are a sea of people, it's impossible to go anywhere and it not be busy. Just go with the flow and all that. I went and picked up some LED lights for my room... get a little colour in and add a festive touch.

Anyway, just a short post from me this week. I'm in the thick of it now and there is no end in sight until Christmas vacation! Might be headed up to Loch Tay around that time for a few days, but still have to finalize the details. Take care, everyone!

11 November 2006

Multiheader Miscellany

Remembrance Day/Armistice Day
Today is Remembrance Day and Armistice Day. I bought my poppy about a week ago. Whatever your political affiliations or beliefs, there are some things that are just worth taking a moment of quiet pause over. Tomorrow there's going to be a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in George Square that I'll likely go to.

(and the Young Ladies' Knitting Club and Terrorist Society)

TV?? Who has time to watch TV? Well, there are a few things on TV here that I make time to watch. I've been watching Torchwood - which whoever knows me also knows that I've been eagerly awaiting this Doctor Who spin-off since it was announced - which has turned out to be a big success. It takes off from when Captain Jack was left by the Doctor and Rose on Satellite 5 after they defeated the Daleks. Watch for it on CBC in Canada when they get around to it.

I've also been watching a new series called Robin Hood which is really really good. I don't know if it is ever going to make its way to Canada, but if it does... or if you stumble upon it otherwise... it's well worth watching.

So, as well as watching TV in some of my spare time I've been crocheting. My flatmate, Lesley, knits, so it's not uncommon to see us both out in the living room with our yarn and implements of construction. I'm crocheting an afghan right now because there doesn't seem to be a huge market for cuddly blankets over here. But, there is a big and wonderful knitting and crocheting section in John Lewis over at the shopping mall.

Look Ma! I'm in the paper!
Just wanted to thank Jerry Grozelle for the lovely article he wrote about me in the Highlands Courier. Here is a picture of it up on our fridge. I hope that us young folks from Minden keep venturing out into the world.

The Alarm Clock from Hell
Yesterday we all got woken up by the fire alarm at 3 in the morning. There is a klaxon in every room, so the sound is about the equivalent to what might rouse a coma patient. Anyway, we were back in the building in about 15 minutes. But it's a horrible thing to wake up to... not even because there could be a fire, but because the noise is just terrible... so a lot of people didn't really sleep good after that. Not fun if you have class/lab to do the next day.

When they told me that it rained a lot in Scotland, I believed them... but I don't believe this
Seriously, I thought, oh rain that's not so bad. But the rain in Scotland is of another breed entirely. There is something completely different about it. It falls in these massive drops, and I have a sneaky suspicion from the ground up rather than the sky down. Anyway, I walked out of the James Weir building last night into the gale and was soaked from the knees down in less than 10 steps. It was ridiculous. I've given up on umbrellas entirely. They just turn inside out and take up space. I'm all about hats and hoods now - much more effective. It is going to be interesting for our crime scene exercise in December. It is an all weather affair, so my game plan is rain suit and lots of sweaters.

My bathroom is literally too small to swing a cat in
Which I only mention because I now know that the smallest room you can swing a cat in is 2.5 m x 2.5 m. That is according to Brainiac... which is kind of like MythBusters only far less structured and with... well... less of a point. But it still gives me my useless science fix.

05 November 2006

New Lanark

I was a little bummed out for a bit there, because I thought that with the hectic pace of my course, and winter setting in, that my travelling days were over until spring. Not so, however! My lab schedule has spaced out considerably, and this weekend turned out to be the perfect weekend to get out of Glasgow.

Lesley, my partner in crime, and I went on a trip to New Lanark with a group called "Friends International". They are a Christian group which plans tours and events for all the international students in Glasgow. Alot of the trips are day trips, and they are usually under £10. They are relatively unstructured, so you get to poke around yourself without having to see everything with a big gaggle of people. We also, by coincidence, met up with a couple of other students from our programme as well, so it was nice to hang out with some M.Sc. Forensic Science students outside of school.

New Lanark is a small village on the River Clyde that was founded in 1786, and built around a cotton mill. Robert Owen, a co-owner of the mill believed in social reform and philanthropy, and was unsatisfied with the living and working conditions of the workers. In response to this he built the worlds first nursery school, and made sure that the millworkers had access to education and medical care. Owen's business partners began to feel he was wasting money on these efforts, and in response Owen bought them out. He was able to run the mill profitably while caring for his workers, and the village became the epitome of utopian socialism. At the time the village housed around 2,500 people.

It was still very very basic living. Up until the early 20th century a family only got a single room to live in. When electricity became available in 1898 there was only enough to power a single, dim bulb - and this was switched off at 10pm. Indoor plumbing was only installed in the 1930's. After changing hands several times, the mills finally closed in 1968. People started to move away and some of the buildings were demolished. In the 1970's a restoration project began and now the village is a thriving tourist attraction. Around 200 people live there now in rented and private properties.

New Lanark is a very beautiful place, right in the middle of a conservation area (click on the picture up to to get a bigger look). The landscape looks an awful lot like Central Ontario, with cedar trees mixed in with fir trees and deciduous trees. There are a set of rapids upriver from the village which powers the mills, which is where we spent most of our time. Lots of fresh air, which was a needed change from the pollution of the city. The Visitor's Centre is in a building that was once called "The Institute for the Formation of Character."

From there you walk along a link to Mill 3, where they have set up a ride called the Millennium Experience. This was a sort of kitschy time travel themed tour through the principle behind New Lanark - but it was still really fun. You got into this pod thing with a track over your head and were toured through an audio-visual presentation involving everything from mirrors and video screens, to mannequins with moving faces projected onto them. After the ride you walk down catwalks gradually making it through the exhibits down to the bottom of Mill 3 where there is a gift shop and coffee shop.

Now, I wasn't planning on buying anything in New Lanark, but I wound up getting a very cool souvenir. New Lanark still makes wool in roughly the same way it has since it was founded. They sell rather large packages of it for £10, which is a pretty good deal for wool in general. One of the colours they had looks much like the colours in the picture above. So my goal, after I complete the afghan I am working on now, is to crochet something using wool from New Lanark - which actually has the colours of New Lanark at the time I visited!

After touring around New Lanark we got back in the vans and went to a church in Strathaven (pron. "stray-ven") for supper. Tonight is Guy Fawkes night, and all weekend people are celebrating with bonfires and fireworks. Straven had a MASSIVE bonfire (the size of which would be considered a major safety issue in North America) and some pretty impressive fireworks.

Tonight there are fireworks at Glasgow Green, which I think the entire building will be going down to see. It should be really fun!

Anyway, I am going to update my flickr account straight away with pictures of my day out yesterday, pop on over and have a look!

28 October 2006

Saturday is Cleaning Day - Don't forget to turn your clocks back!!

Fall is upon us, and the leaves are turning here in Glasgow. Tonight we, along with the rest of the world that observes this strange practice, turn our clocks back 1 hour. Those of my flatmates who come from more southern countries who do not do this are quite taken aback by the whole process and it seems rather silly to them. Usually I'd say it seems rather silly to me too, being a staunch supporter of Saskatchewan's choice to not do the Daylight Savings Time thing, but I am looking forward this weekend to an extra hour of sleep, and to a slightly brighter wake-up time.

It is actually significantly darker here in the morning than in Minden, even though latitude wise we are really only about level with the top of James Bay. However, as my flatmate (and engineering student) Lilliana showed us this morning, the Earth's tilt makes Glasgow actually farther away from the sun than James Bay, so the days here are quite a bit shorter. Not as short as in, say, Iceland... but shorter than I am used to.

My week of hell turned out to be busy, but not really hell. I had a full week of labs, oddly symmetrical with 4 labs dealing with blood, semen, and saliva sandwiched by 2 labs dealing with document analysis. For one lab I got to drip blood from different heights and at different angles (food grade animal blood) and observe what it did. What a mess that was. Blood dries really fast and gets really sticky, so getting it off of things like wood and carpet is awful. The cleanup I think took the longest of any lab I've had. Alot of people were complaning about the smell of the blood too, but I didn't find it all that bad. Then again, I've also been to visit an 1,800 head hog farm... and the smell of 1,800 pigs is waaaay worse than a little tupperware container of animal blood.

Today I got up early and did my laundry. Did my bedding, clothes, and towels. All in all I did two loads, wash and double-dry, which costs me £4, which today is around $8.48 Cdn. Stupid considering the same in Canada (using the exact same machines) is $6... and as low as $4.50 because you don't actually need two dries to dry your clothes. I hate doing laundry in the first place, and I hate paying this much for it even more. But it's either that or stink.

I also cleaned my room today (how boring is my life right now that cleaning my room is bloggable material? ;-), darn school for getting in the way of my vacation in Scotland!). Hoovered everything (our hoover's name is Henry), dusted... Mom would be proud!

To backtrack a little. Tuesday night we celebrated Eid with Shabnam. She made a huge spread of Indian dishes. It was soooo good! We had guests and everything. Got a little "beatiful and interesting" with the wine (no, not really... but it's our joke when we go out for beer or have wine). Lesley's Mom who is in Scotland this week also joined us. It was really fun! I'm going to have to try making savayya sometime, a very tastey dessert made of noodles and milk.

Oh, and I've gotten to meet Kate, our new flatmate from China a little better. She's a year younger than me (yay! I'm not the youngest anymore!), and she's very very friendly. This is actually her second year at Strathclyde doing a multi-year Master's degreen in marketing.

Anyway, that's really all that's fit to blog for now. Shabnam and I are going to walk down on Glasgow Green for a little exercise (I've had to tighten my belt a notch, if you can believe it!) and then I've got some residual homework to do from the past week. Enjoy your extra hour of sleep everyone!

19 October 2006

Jigsaw puzzle of death: University Update

Well, my mouth is finally starting to feel better, as is the rest of me. I may finally have this new microflora licked (knock on wood).

My time has been primarily filled with lectures and labs, and trying to take care of myself in terms of food, shelter, and clothing. I started Tai Chi on Monday which will hopefully help with the health thing. Found a great food joint called Best Kebab. Burgers for £1.90, huge döners for £3.70 (and I mean huge... an entire meal in a sandwich), and other Turkish fare. Anyway, for days when I'm tired of eating the same chicken soup for 3 days in a row, it make for a relatively cheap way to break up the culinary monotony.

We got our 8th flatmate last week. Kate from China. So far I haven't had much of a chance to talk to her. That's what happens when you get a new addition when school is in full swing. Luckily she isn't fresh off the plane or anything. I think she's actually been going to Strathclyde for more than a year - so she knows the ropes already.

Yesterday we did this wicked glass breaking and reconstruction group exercise in the lab. We had to break and reassemble a pane of glass, as well as record how far the glass traveled, and other instructive facts. Reassembly was like doing a giant, very sharp jigsaw puzzle.

The scribbles represent the dirty outside surface of the window... something that would be used to determine the inside and outside surface of each fragment of glass. But forget the technicalities of it... it just looks really cool!

Today I did fingerprint enhancement and recovery. This one started out a little rocky, but wound up being really fun and interesting. It's a really dirty job though. The powder sticks to everything (as it should) and gets everywhere if you're not neat and tidy about it. I'm proud to say that me and the other girl working on it managed not to make a complete mess.

Anyway, here's a fingerprint of my own I lifted off a piece of paper using aluminum powder. Isn't that just too cool. Yes, I'm a total geek! ;-)

I have tomorrow off, hurrah. But next week will be my second week of hell (the first being the 8 instrumental labs I had in the first week) with the entire week packed with labs, as well as tossing a student staff meeting and some lectures into the mix. After that, my labs space out again for another couple of weeks.

Anyway, time to go eat that chicken soup! Cheers!

14 October 2006

I feel like I am taking part in a medical experiment...

Those who have been talking with me outside the blog know that I have been hit this month with case after case after case of malidy seemingly one right after the other. It started with a sinus cold, turned into a cough, wound up with a coldsore, then got a stomach thing, and now I've got a mouth full of canker sores. The way I look at it is that all of these things I usually get inside a typical year, and being in a new climate with new germs and microflora, it's not all that surprising that I'm spending my first month effectively ill.

The hardest thing to sort of "cope" with is trying to find remedies to all these problems. Back home I am a compulsive label reader when it comes to off the shelf medicine. I know the difference between tylenol (acetaminophen), advil (ibuprofein), and asprin (acetasalicylic acid). I know that dextromethorpin is for coughs (though not very effective in my experience), pseudoephedrine is for congestion, and that night time cold medicine usually has some form of antihistamine to aid with sleep. All of these things are quite readily available in Canada, without so much as a second glance from your local pharmacist.

Here, I've been falling back on my label reading habits to make sense of the myriad of strange brands and potions used to relieve my various ailments. Here, "tylenol" isn't around, but medications containing paracetamol are effectively tylenol - paracetamol just being a different name for acetaminophen... exact same stuff. Once I had that down, I felt a little better. Here, Sudafed wutg pseudoephedrine is OTC only, with the off the shelf version being the far more inferior phenylephrine hydrochloride - seriously, this stuff doesn't stand a chance against the type of blockages my sinuses are subject to.

Finally, we come to the combo cold meds... those day time and night time caplets which make life with a cold so much easier. Here, they are much the same as in Canada. Some acetaminophen for your aches and pains, some pseudoephedrine for your clogged up sinuses, and a little antihistamine to knock you out at night. Much the same save for the active cough ingredient - pholcodine. Pholcodine is possibly the most effective cough suppressant that I've used... but it is part of the codine family, which is an opiate, so makes you feel pretty druggy. So it's "take it and go lay down" type of cold meds... but when you're coughing your brains out it does the trick. Keep in mind this is available OTC, when in Canada pholcodine is generally prescription only.

Now we go from the strange to the rediculous. Anyone who knows me knows that when I get cankers, or mouth ulcers, I get them bad. Sore ones which make eating an absolute trial. Probably the best remedy I have for them is dabbing a little hydrogen peroxide (the kind you can get off the shelf in Canada... hear that... OFF THE SHELF) on them. It hurts like a bitch, but it speeds the healing time quite alot. Swishing with lots of Listerine and salt water also keeps things moving along quite nicely. The other day I went out to find some peroxide, but couldn't find any. So I wound up buying TCP, which says it's for mouth ulcers. It's an antiseptic, but smells like the inside of a hospital. So when you swab it in your mouth, your breath then smells like a hospital as well. It's gross and, while it did relieve them in a small way, didn't relieve them enough to be at all worth it. So today I thought I'd ask someone at the pharmacy where I can find hydrogen peroxide. She tells me it's over the counter. I'm like, okay, odd. I go ask over the counter and I get the oddest look from the lady (such an odd look that my flatmate sort of stepped away from me for a minute) and then was told, quite curtly, "We don't do that here." Right, you're willing to sell opiates OTC, and not 1% hydrogen peroxide to swab on my bloody mouth ulcers.

The only thing we can figure is that my flatmate had just bought some OTC Sudafed (you know, the kind that actually works, with pseudoephedrine) for her bad sinus congestion, and both pseudoephedrine and hydrogen peroxide are used in meth production. But do I really look like someone who is making meth in my spare time? I was seriously waiting for the police to descend on me right there in boots. I half think they logged the time so that they would know which frame on the CCTV recording to look at if they busted my "lab". What a surreal experience.

Honestly, every time I walk into the chemist I feel like I'm involved in some strange socio-medical experiment. >.<

12 October 2006

View from the Penthouse - University Life Update

Wow. I have been incredibly busy. I need to start taking those multivitamins I bought.

When the fire alarm went off in our building a couple of days ago, I came to realize that there are alot of people in the M.Sc. Forensic Science program living in our block. Apparently we're being dubbed "those CSI people." It never ceases to amaze me that when I talk to people who speak english as a second language and they look at me blankly when I say I'm taking forensic science. But then I say (tiredly) "CSI" and the lightbulb goes on. It's like in Dogma when Alan Rickman is talking about being the voice of God, and Bethany stares at him blankly. "You people. If there isn't a movie about it, it's not worth knowing, is it?" Lol. Pop culture is a powerful thing.

Labs started last week, and they got off to a really rough start for me. The picture to the left is another view out of my bedroom window. That's Todd's Bar. I like Todd's normally because it's never very full and we can slip out and have a pint if the fancy strikes. However, Monday nights seem to be event night at Todd's and that begins at around 10 o'clock at night... which you all know is my bedtime. The festivities last until around midnight, and then the lollygagers all stumble home hooting and hollering for another hour after that. When Todd's is busy, I've given up on going to bed at all, and have resigned myself to watching tv until most of the hooplah has died down. Sunday nights, somewhere on campus, there is another loud party going on with music and a band... not so bad to listen to really... until the drunken partiers walk home... right past Todd's bar again. So, Sunday and Monday night got me very little sleep, and I wasn't a very happy camper walking into the unknown Tuesday morning.

Anyway, we are being thrown into the deep end in terms of labs. Basically, you get plopped down in front of your experimental materials, instrument, whathaveyou, with a set of sometimes dubiously clear instructions and basically told "have-at-'er". Now, to some people this is a-okay. To a bunch of M.Sc. students who are likely all over-achievers (I include myself in that) it turns you into a little ball of stress. Oh, did I mention that there really is precious little access to someone to ask questions of? As I said, chucked in the deep end with maybe only 5 waterwings to share between us. But, other than the stress and frustration, I am learning quite alot. Having many preconceptions broken, getting to play with some pretty cool equipment, and really enjoying all of it.

I'm also getting a little more involved in my program than I thought I would. I volunteered for class rep (mostly because people were not eager to volunteer for the position), so I am second of two class reps that have to go to about 3 meetings a year. Should be interesting.

My favourite labs so far have been the hair and fibre ones. Not to get too technical about it (because I tend to rabbit on about it when I do), there are some microscopes which fire UV light at the fibres which makes them glow different colours depending on what kind of fibre they are. There's a kind of rabbit fur which glows red... very cool. There's another microscope which uses polarized light (like in your sunglasses) to make the fibre glow different colours, and based on those colours it is possible to tell approximately what type of fibre it is - they use this in geology too. I got to use the comparison microscope to view two fibres side by side and try to match unknown fibres to known ones.

My absolute favourite lab was using the ESDA. It's a machine on which you put a document, lay film over it, then sprinkle toner on. The toner collects in any indentations that are in the document (say, from someone writing on a piece of paper over top of it), and lets you see what marks are there. We had to go through different kinds of pens, paper, and pressures of writing, then finally tested an unknown document. The message on the unknown document was definitely a confidence booster when up until this point you feel like you're doing everything wrong. I didn't keep my ESDA lifts though (basically contact paper is layed over the toner and the film cut off to form what basically looks like an overhead) because they were pretty dirty.

The labs I've hated the most are the GRIM (Glass Refractive Index Measurement) - the general concensus among staff and students is that GRIM is a very fitting acronym. It's basically a system that looks like you could play pong on it. Any sudden movements and it freezes, something I managed to do twice. I mean, my Windows 98 system still runs faster than that computer. Anyway, I didn't get any workable data, and need to do a late submission using a classmates data... but we get two tries on every lab, so it's okay.

The other lab I hated was comparing toolmarks using a comparison macroscope (like a microscope only lower magnification). This is hard! Two hours staring through this thing and I only felt remotely comfortable matching one set... and I might still be completely wrong about it. However, this is something that takes years of experience and training to work with, and really the point was to show how difficult it is, and how the comparisons are very seldom neat and pretty.

Anyway, enough of labs. Last night we went to the International Students pub night. It was alright for the first little while, but then it got really crowded and the volume of the music started going up and up. So by the time we left our ears were ringing. I don't think I'm going to go to another one of those. The only fun was hanging around with the flatmates and with some of the guys we went to Edinburgh with.

Friday we might be taking a break from beer and a burger to try some place new. We love the Counting House, but routine can be a killer. Anyway, enough of me rabbiting on about nothing. Another busy weekend coming up (got to grocery shop and do laundry), and then a busy week next week.


Mexican Night and Canadian Thanksgiving!

Ola chicas, como estas! Saturday night was Mexican night! We all went to the big Tesco up in St. Rollox and got taco stuff, and had tacos and margaritas. We invited a couple of people and all had a good time sitting and chatting - AND EATING!

Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving, which creeped up on me really fast. Lesley and I had been talking about doing a Thanksgiving for awhile, so we held a mini-Canadian Thanksgiving. I roasted a chicken and baked a square sweet potato pie (sweet potato because I couldn't find canned pumpkin - though I believe it is around -, and square because we don't have a pie plate), and Lesley made corn and mashed potatoes and gravy. Anyway, aside from me having to put the chicken in again for another 10 minutes, the dinner turned out well, and everyone seemed to really like it, even the square pie! We're going to hold a big proper American Thanksgiving, which we'll be able to plan a little better.

Pictures of both events are up on my flickr account, go have a peak!

01 October 2006

West End

Today Lesley, Shabnam and I took the underground over to the west end of Glasgow. The Glasgow underground is incredibly easy to navigate. It's £2 return to ride, and it just goes around in a big circle. You can either take the Inner Circle, which goes west, or the Outer Circle which goes east. It took us only 10 minutes to get to Kelvinhill, which is where Kelvingrove Park, Kelvingrove Museum and Gallery, and the University of Glasgow is.

That said, the underground is also a little scary to ride as well... for me anyway. Given that the only other "underground" I've ever ridden is in Toronto, and is not really all that much underground, this was a new experience for me. The platforms are, by and large, tiny. When the train comes in the wind picks up on the platform and the very small train (tall people mind your heads!) comes in with a roar. Once your on, you blast through the dark tunnels that seem to have only 6" of clearance around the entire train, with the cars swaying side to side. But, it is a quick, cheap, and presumably safe mode of transport around the city.

Walking around the west end was like being in a completely different city. This is completely strange when you come to the realization that you're only 2 miles from George Square. The west end has a reputation of being the more posh end of Glasgow, and I suppose it is to a certain degree. But going over there I am lead to believe that it is more a leftover of the time when Glasgow was quite a bit more rough around the edges. The west end simply got cleaned up first, and Glasgow central is certainly catching up.

The first thing we saw was Hogwarts... er the University of Glasgow (left). No, Harry Potter was not filmed at the University of Glasgow, but compared to the more utilitarian style of Strathclyde's buildings, it certainly could have been.

After wandering around the University we went through Kelvingrove Park. The park is very pretty, very green and full of trees. The River Kelvin runs through, and you can cross over it by foot bridge at several points. You might remember Lord Kelvin, who invented the Kelvin scale of absolute temperature (c'mon science geeks, don't let me down!) and who's alma mater is Glasgow University. Anyway, the title of Lord Kelvin, if I understand it correctly, is actually named after the river and not the other way around.

Facing Kelvingrove Park is Kelvingrove Museum and Gallery. This is a massive museum which was completed in 1901. The building actually backs Argyle Street, which has lead to the myth that the building was built backwards to spite the architect. The myth has it that the architect was so distraught he jumped to his death from one of the towers. This isn't true. The truth is that the museum was built facing the park intentionally, and in part because the 1901 International Exhibition was held there. In 2003 the museum was closed because the blond coloured stone had become black from coal dust. The stone was cleaned by using a rubber compound to coat the stone, which once pulled off pulled the coal dust with it. All the artifacts had to be moved out at the time, but some of the larger ones like Sir Roger the elephant and a giraffe had to remain and have special enclosures built around them.

At the Kelvingrove Museum, admission is free. There is also way more to see than you can in an hour or so. There are rooms devoted to nature, women's rights, Scottish art and history, just to name a few. There is also a cafe, kids area, small reference library, and a massive organ which plays on certain days. We're hoping to return to hear that in the not so distant future.

The weather was beautiful today, but we arrived home just before it started to pour rain. I got a great picture out my bedroom window of a rainbow coming down over the Royal Infirmary (right). Tomorrow my classes start in ernest, and I will be putting my nose to the grind-stone. I do plan on seeing more of Scotland and Glasgow, but school is going to have to come first... at least for the next little while.

Anyway, I've uploaded pictures of the west end trip to flickr. You might notice that I've taken many photos off of flickr. This is because my flickr account has a limit of 200 viewable photos and rather than just have the most recent photos visible, I thought I ought to just leave up my absolute favourites from my past trips, and have room for new ones. Anyway, go over and take a peak.

29 September 2006

Edinburgh - 24 September 2006

As I time this I am still suffering the consequences of my Edinburgh trip *hack hack* *cough cough*. Yup, as you can see from the picture on the right, my flatmates, myself, and some other friends decided to go to Edinburgh for the day and brave the Scottish rain. Though I will say, I far from regret going. It was a very fun trip, and Edinburgh - though something of a tourist trap - is a fascinating place. In fact, since it is only an hour's train ride (barring delays) from Glasgow, I am intent on going again during better weather. As it stands, I am thankful that the UK has some pretty potent cold medication available over the counter.

There is some confusion among the non-UK'ers of how to pronounce Edinburgh. Just for the record, I heard it pronounced Ed-in-ber-oh by the tour guide, and Ed-in-bro by the conductor of the train. I guess it largely depends on where you're from. As I mentioned, it is an easy hour's train ride. Once you get off the train at Waverly Station, you have immediate access to tour buses, and for around £10 can ride all four. We were actually able to do fragments of almost every one. Though the only one I liked was the green bus (Edinburgh Tours, I believe) because it had a real tour guide rather than a recording. You get a much better feel for the area when the guide can adlib, and can acknowledge that the heavy mist is obscuring your view of what she is talking about.

The part of Edinburgh that we visited is called the Old Town. It includes the Royal Mile, and Edinburgh Castle. The Royal Mile takes at least a day to see, so I only saw a fraction of it. It includes museums, churches, shops, and many other points of interest. Edinburgh Castle is up Castlehill at the head of the Royal Mile. The castle is an impressive place to visit, and could itself house a small town. It is primarily an outdoor destination, so I regret that I did not see nearly enough of it because at that point I was soaked. Some of the indoor sites, that I unfortunately didn't see, are the dungeons and the crown jewels. I did get to see the oldest part of the castle, which was Saint Margaret's Chapel. My only criticism of Edinburgh Castle is the very modern elements. It is feels like it is filled with shops and cafes, which makes it feel like more of a tourist trap than an historical site. However, that may just be the wet shoes and socks talking. After stopping at one of these cafes for coffee and a scone, we decided that Edinburgh Castle was best left for a return trip on a nicer day, and headed down into the Old Town of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile.

This part of Edinburgh is actually a city built on top of a city. During the 16th century Edinburgh's two main thoroughfares, High Street and Cowgate, were linked by a labyrinth of Closes and Wynds (narrow alleys) which often housed the poor people of Edinburgh. As the population boomed, new housing was built, and to provide safe passage for horse and carriage, massive North and South bridges were built. The South Bridge, originaly concieved of as a shopping street, contained a series of vaults. These approximately 120 vaults were used for storage and workshops for South Bridge businesses. However, rushed construction resulted in leaky vaults, and the idea was soon abandoned. Once the industrial revolution set in, the vaults became slums - offering squalid, dark, and wet accomodation to Edinburgh's poorest, as well as providing an anonymous hiding place for criminals to practice their trade.

During the 1800's, tons of rubble was dumped into the vaults, sealing them off. After being forgotten for over a century, the vaults were excavated starting in 1988. One of the many cellars and old wynds of Edinburgh can bee seen in the Tron Kirk, which is now an information centre. Marlin's Wynd (left) was buried along with the rest of the cellars and vaults of 16th century Edinburgh. The Tron Kirk was built over top of it. Legend has it that the builder of Marlin's Wynd was so proud of his work, he asked to be buried under it. His burial site has not yet been found though. Unlike the more dodgy wynds of the time, Marlin's Wynd residents were prosperous businessmen, lawyers, and surgeons.

Behind Marlin's Wynd and the Tron Kirk are the vaults of the South Bridge, in which you can partake in a haunted underground tour. This is something we all thought would be good fun, so we paid our £6.50 and off we went. I have to say that the tour guide was very very good at his job, because he had the whole lot of us going. First you walk into this squalid looking room referred to as an old student's residence. All the relevant "we're not responsible for what misfortune befalls you during this tour" warnings are given, and off you go... save for two people who chickened out in our group. Now, did they really chicken out? Or were they stooges? I'd have to take the tour again to figure that one out.

You are then lead into a claustrophobic passageway lit only by green light, with vaults leading off the sides. You are told about various apparitions witnessed in the passageways and vaults, some harmless, others malevolent. The passageways and the vaults are damp, and on a rainy day like this was you can hear the dripping of water. The guide then proceeds to talk about the dark and dangerous history of the vaults during their slum period - stories of squalid living, murder, mass deaths from plague and fire, and other disturbing stories of the short and painful journey that was life for a poor person at that time. All the while, the guide keeps tripping over things and making loud noises, readily admitting that he is a klutz, but relishing all the while that he is getting a rise out of you. Finally, in the darkest vault (with no light) the guide tells you a horrifying story about a room full of people cooked to death during an above ground fire that heated the vault to fatal temperatures.

So, are there ghosts? Well, I won't say. I can say that even without the showmanship the vaults that I saw were cold, dark, and uncomfortable. They would have been a wretched place to stay and, haunted or no, are a rather frightening place to be. Throughout the tour the adrenaline was certainly pumping, and we call clustered together anticipating that some spectre would come and ruffle our hair or pull at our pantlegs - or worse. At the same time though, it was the most fun I think I've had on a tour. I got a good healthy scare in a fascinating place, and got to hear some incredible legends. At the end of the tour, you get a free whiskey and a cookie. After we were out of the scary underground, my flatmate Lesley, who's respective arms we had mutual death grips on the entire time, thanked me for letting her hold on to my arm during the tour (we wound eachother up pretty good... so chalk one up for the power of group psychology there)... ha! I wouldn't have let go in a million years!

After the scary tour we took some tour buses around Edinburgh, and then took the train back home to Glasgow. Unforutnately, between the rain and the scary I didn't take too many pictures that day, but what I did take I've uploaded onto flickr. I'm already planning my next trip there, and would like to see Greyfriar's Bobby (the little dog who layed at his master's grave) and Edinburgh Medical College, the alma mater of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Maybe I'll even do a few more haunted tours... but only if I have a flatmate's arm to hold onto.

28 September 2006

Joke: The Pharmacist

Told to me by one of my flatmates.

This young man is invited by his girlfriend to supper to meet her family. In honour of this occasion, she announces to her boyfriend that they can make love for the first time that night. The young man is really very excited about this, it being his first time. He goes to the local chemist and asks the pharmacist there his advice. The pharmacist is very kind and detailed, and for an hour councils the young man on what to do, protection, etc. The pharmacist asks the young man whether he would like to buy a 3 pack, 10 pack, or family pack of condoms. The young man asks for a family pack, as he imagines - it being his first time - that he will be quite busy.

That evening the young man meets his girlfriend's family and sits down for supper, immediately volunteering to say grace. He sits with his head bowed in intense prayer for 5 minutes... 10 minutes... 20 minutes... until his girlfriend nudges him and says "I didn't know you were so religious." To which the young man replies..

"I didn't know your father was a pharmacist."

26 September 2006

Some Updates on University Life

I just got done posting about my sight seeing trips around Glasgow and Scotland. Sunday my flatmates and some other went to Edinburgh - which can either be pronounced Ed-in-ber-o or Ed-in-bro depending on who you are listening to. I'll post about that later. Suffice it to say for now I experienced true Scottish rain that day, and was completely drenched despite my waterproof jacket. A little hypothermia, as well as fun, was had by all.

An update on the Norwiegan guy: Turns out that was a mix up. He traveled up to our flat with one of our flatmates but was actually in the wrong block. He's now in his proper home in the block next to us. That room is still empty, and we are wondering if it will ever be filled.

Last but not least, today was my first day of school! It was introduction to the course and the laboratory. I will be in the lab daily, which is a little intimidating because that generally means I'll be turning in a report daily as well. The building I am in is a complete maze. It is over 100 years old, and a crazy mix of old, new and under construction. For the first little while I am going to have to arrive half an hour early just to figure out where I am supposed to be.

Tomorrow is more introduction, and continues on like that up until the end of the week. Then the real work starts!

Isle of Arran and Castle Brodick

On Saturday, September 23rd I took a trip to the Isle of Arran which was organized by the Chaplaincy. The Chaplaincy at Strathclyde helps run the Glasgow International Students Welcome Programme. I had to get up super early to take the bus to catch the ferry in Androssan.

From Androssan we crossed the Sound of Bute by ferry to the Isle of Arran. The island is the largest in the Firth of Clyde, and owned entirely by the Duke and Dutchess of Hamilton. When the Duke and Dutchess failed to have a male heir, the title was passed over to a distant relative, and the castle and island given to their daughter who married the Duke of Montrose. When the death duties became too much for the family after the death of the Duke and Dutchess, the castle was passed into the hands of the Scottish National Trust.

I have to admit to being a bit disappointed in Castle Brodick. The oldest part of the castle is mediaeval, but you only see the Victorian era apartment of the Duke and Dutchess. Plus, there's no photography allowed inside the castle, so the excitement of being able to share in the experience was completely lost. Though the inside of the castle that we did see is very beautiful.

For the rest of the day on Arran I spent my time simply wandering around. It was a little rainy for the first half of the day, but by afternoon it was warm enough to take my jacket off. I decided to go down the pedestrian paths into the village. After visiting Arran Aromatics (a soap factory/shop), Arran Brewery, and a few other shops, I tried to go back up the path I came and was stopped by a rather surly woman. Because my tour guides did not give us a ticket, I was not allowed to go back to the castle. Thankfully, another group of students (and Canadians as well) who did get tickets (because they went by train rather than the coach bus) vouched for me. At that point we were told that the path was closed due to flooding (I did notice some damage on the way down) and told the correct path to take.

I got to play tour guide next - as I got back to the castle I saw the remainder of the group headed down the same path. So I walked with them down the right path back to the village and hung around there again.

Arran Isle is very beautiful. It is green, with small mountains, and lots of sheep and cows. I want to go back to Arran (which is pretty simple by train and ferry) to see the rest of the island.

I met quite a lot of other students as well. I met Susie and Simon. Susie in on exchange from McGill University in Montreal, and Simon is from Hong Kong - they are both going to University of Glasgow. I also met a lady from Tennessee who is going to one of the colleges.

Again, I have taken a whole ton of pictures of Arran Isle, so pop on over to my flickr account to have a look.

The Necropolis

"The Glasgow Necropolis is a Victorian cemetery in Glasgow. It is situated on a hill above and to the east of Glasgow Cathedral (St. Mungo's Cathedral). Fifty thousand individuals have been buried in about 3,500 tombs.

It was conceived as a Père Lachaise for Glasgow, and subsequently established by the Merchants' House of Glasgow in 1831. Alexander Thomson designed a number of its tombs, and John Bryce and David Hamilton designed other architecture for the grounds.

The main entrance is approached by a bridge over what was then the Molendinar Burn. The bridge, which was designed by James Hamilton, was completed in 1833. It became known as the "Bridge of Sighs" because it was part of the route of funeral processions (the name is an allusion to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice).

The cemetery's paths meander uphill towards the summit, where a dominating statue of John Knox was erected in 1825. The Glasgow Necropolis was described by James Stevens Curl as "literally a city of the dead". - from Wikipedia

I've been to the Glasgow Necropolis twice now; once on my own and once walking with Lesley and Ellen (my two flatmates who are in my program). Although it is a cemetery, people use it for walking their dogs, jogging, etc. Actually, Lesley got attacked by a fair-sized terrier her first time out jogging there - she's alright, but she wound up climbing up on one of the graves to escape it in an ordeal that lasted a good twenty minutes or more.

It is fairly run down, with the mausoleums and crypts almost all desecrated. Many of the monuments have either fallen over of their own volition, been set down by the parks staff to prevent injury, or have been outright pushed over by vandals. However, there is a volunteer group assessing the necropolis with the aim of restoring it. They were formed only last year, so I imagine it will be some time before the place is fixed up. It is a massive cemetery as well. Although I've been in twice, I've only seen a fraction of it. The paths spiral up the hill, cut across eachother, and then track back downhill again. From the Bridge of Sighs you can either go straight up hill to the left, or go downhill to the right (passing behind a brewery) and track back up again.

The monument to John Knox is lit up at night, and can be seen from our flat window.

I've taken a ton of photos of the Necropolis, and they are over at my flickr account for you to enjoy.

22 September 2006

Glasgow Cathedral

I visited Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis today. I've uploaded a ton of pictures of the Cathedral to my flickr account, and I'll upload the ones of the Necropolis likely tonight if I'm not out too late.

The Glasgow Cathedral is unlike anything I've seen before. It really is breathtaking in terms of size and age - as well as beauty.

Here's some information on the Glasgow Cathedral from the leaflet I bought:

"The site has been held sacred for more than 1500 years. Here the cross was planted and the ground blessed for a Christian burial by St. Ninian [in 397]. The first stone built Cathedral was dedicated in 1136 in the presence of King David. In the Lower Church is the tomb of St. Mungo (or Kentigern) who died in 603.

"There are five major components to the Cathedral - the Nave [left] ... the Quire, the upper and Lower Chapter Houses, the Lower Church and the Blacader Aisle.

"The Cathedral has one of the finest collections of modern stained glass windows and nearly all have been installed since 1947...

"... [the] Lower Church with its many buttresses supports the Quire above...

"Over the junction with the transept, soars the 13th century tower with its spire, the only intact central tower on a great mediaeval church in Scotland...

"The large projection to the south is the Blacader Aisle, vaulted by Archbishop Blacader."

by The Society of Friends of Glasgow Cathedral

There is also a little graveyard beside the Cathedral with very very old graves in it. The graves are all flat and the entire yard is full. It gives a whole new and real meaning to walking over someone's grave.

Anyway, as usual a picture is worth 1000 words, so I'll leave it now to my Flickr account to pick up where I left off.


It's a boy!

We have a full house now! Yesterday a woman arrived from South Africa. And... gasp... a man from Norway. Haven't seen the guy yet but, as mom said, he's either died and gone to heaven or died and gone to hell.

Yesterday was our Orientation. Learned many new things... such as Scotland only has sun from 10 am to 3 pm during the winter. Yikes!

Been doing lots of shopping. The ladies have been contributing tons of stuff to the kitchen and to apartment life in general. I'm getting along very well with everyone. Soon this place will feel like home away from home.

Glasgow has no J-walking laws. But it is really worth your life to attempt to cross the street without a signal. Also, if you aren't careful walking down the side-walk, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to get wanged in the head with a bus side-mirror. Didn't happen to me yet... but did come close. Last year I was told a girl had her arm broken by one. You can also cross diagonally across the intersection on a walk signal... I'm not sure if that's official... but it certainly happens.

Oh, and I've been suffering from a bit of congestion and soreness in my throat. Not sure if it is environmental or a cold. But I've been popping Vitamin C and Zinc. It's school, so I'm bound to catch a bug eventually.

**UPDATE: Turns out the Norwiegan guy wound up in our flat by mistake. He was actually supposed to be in the next block over. Anyway, the room still stands empty.

20 September 2006

Greetings from Glasgow!

Hi everyone! I'm finally getting settled in to my residence. The picture to the left is what I see when I look out my livingroom window. In the foreground is the Provand's Lordship, Glasgow's oldest house built around 1471. Behind it is the Glasgow Cathedral.

My flat in residence is wonderful. We're on the top floor, and the lift (which unfortunately didn't work the first couple of days I was here) comes straight up into the flat (so to get to our floor you need a special key). I have a nice sized bedroom with a closet-sized bathroom with toilet, shower, and sink. But it's my bathroom!! There is also a large common kitchen and living room.

The flat houses 8 females - so far 6 have arrived. There are two from Bolivia, and one each from Alaska, India, and Greece, then me from Canada. All postgraduate students. So far, everyone is lovely. We've all been busy trying to settle in and get the supplies we need to make the flat feel like home. I imagine our final 2 flatmates will arrive this week.

I've been walking around alot. Most of the amenities are located via George Square. George Square - which you can see pictures of if you go to my Flickr page (link to the right) - is the reference point for just about everything. It has the Glasgow City Chambers, as well as the tourist information centre. Northwest of the University is a large shopping area called Buchanan Galleries, and to the south there is the St. Enoch Shopping Centre.

The Glaswegians are very very kind and helpful - though a little difficult to understand sometimes. There are around 1500 International students at Strathclyde University alone, and on top of that there is also the University of Glasgow as well as several colleges -- so a large, and somewhat lost, student population is the norm. I'm sure I'll get used to the accent and slang in time.

Anyway, there is so much to talk about, and my thoughts are very disorganized at this point. But it will all trickle-on gradually. Saturday I am going to the Isle of Arran to see castle Brodick. Today is International Students Orientation, and then a reception in the Student Union.

I've uploaded a large batch of photos to my Flickr account. You'll notice I have a bit of a strange name for my flickr account. It's a Doctor Who thing I used for my Yahoo ID for playing games... and I didn't see the sense in signing up for a new ID since I had one already. ;-) Anyway, pictures are worth a thousand words... so I'll direct you to those to do a little of the talking for me. :-)


15 September 2006

I have arrived!

So, it's been a whirwind 24 hours. But I am here at the hostel in Glasgow. Here's the blow by blow:

We got to Pearson Airport at around noon-ish Thursday. I can't say that I was in anyway calm, cool, or collected. But, family was there to calm me down. And Jason and Meghan showed up in plenty of time to see me off. (Jason: the back rub was much appreciated :-)) Narrowly missed Jeremy though, but was able to blow a kiss his way from the security line.

Security in T.O. was HELL. Crowded, not enough personel for the amount of people going through, etc.

The flight was kind of turbulent, and there was no movie because their brand new Panasonic in-flight entertainment system was on the fritz. But I have to say, although KLM (like most economy class airlines I would think) squeeze you in like sardines, they do have excellent service and are very kind. We even got hot cloths to freshen up with!

Amsterdam has a neat airport. It's only one terminal, and that terminal is massive. It's full of shops, and even a casino and museum! I think it took me 25 min to walk across the airport to my gate. I got myself some euro over there beacause the dry airliner air killed my throat and I needed some more water... $20 CDN = 10.09 euro. And water was 2.50 euro... ouch!

In Amsterdam the take off runway is a 25 minute taxi (on the plane) from the gate. At one point I thought we were going to drive to Glasgow! ;-)

Glasgow is huge. You do a loop around when you land, and it's very very big, but with lots of green-space. I was greeted after immigration by a student who got me a cab to the hostel at a reduced rate. The cab ride into the city was alot like taking the 401 in Ontario in terms of scenery and vegitation. But the city is very different from anything I've seen in Ontario. Ottawa might come close.

I got to the hostel too early. I got my room changed to a private room because I was so groggy that the thought of sharing with 14 others just wasn't sitting well. Still couldn't check in until 3pm so I called home to let all know I was well and sat in the lobby with my luggage. I fell asleep right in the EuroHostel lobby! Anyway, the front desk noticed and got me in my room early. So I was in by 1 pm and had a 5 hour nap. Can you believe that I actually fell asleep to bagpipes playing outside my window!? Crazy!

I've done some walking around Glasgow already. Got some nice pictures too. I'll put those up later... right now I'm on coin-operated internet. Had pizza for supper.

Tomorrow I get into residene, and can spend some more time exploring the city. It seems easy enough to get around by foot. The University is about 20 minutes walk from here. Though I'll likely take a cab again tomorrow because of the luggage.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm going to go and watch tv and read up on the sights and sounds. :-)

07 September 2006

The countdown is on

So, the countdown is on for me to leave for Glasgow. 7 days pretty much right on the button. I would like to profusely apologize in advance to anyone I haven't been able to visit before I leave. Odds are I will not make it out of town (save for shopping in Lindsay with Mom) again until I go to the airport. I have abused my little brother's good nature enough by monopolizing his car for as long as I did. He has informed me under no uncertain circumstances that I am in his debt until informed otherwise.

I'm uploading some pictures of home in Canada onto my flickr account. I just want documented proof that I live a completely normal small-town life here in Canada, and that I am indeed an unassuming person... contrary to what some people would lead one to believe ;-). Nah, just want some pics to gaze at in case I get homesick for good ol' Minden.

Last of all, I gained another first-cousin-once-removed a week ago Wednesday. Saw pictures of baby Eli today, he looks just like his dad... which could be cause for concern (I'm just kidding of course). Anyway, congrats to Ryan and Tanya on a job well done.

09 August 2006

An intro and some housekeeping.

This is my blog that I will be posting to while I am in Glasgow, Scotland for 2006-2007.

I'm leaving September 14, 2006. I will be attending the University of Strathclyde to earn my M.Sc. in Forensic Science.

The reason I am making a blog for this experience is so that the people who are interested can come and visit at their leisure, look at the copious amounts of pictures I am sure to take, and not worry about having to keep up email correspondance. Basically, it's an open invitation to see what I am up to.

Another reason I am doing my own blog is so that I don't clog up the other blog I post to, postLogica, with all my Scotland stuff. Plus, pL is a place where me and my friends from highschool can mouth off... not something for a general audience. ;-)

Anyway, odds are this blog is going to morph several times over the next little while as I play with templates, links, cathcy titles, etc. That's all for now.