Saturday, December 20, 2008


Egads, it's been almost a month. Because I'm lazy and haven't yet organized any of the pictures from my various trips this past year, I shall share some random stuff in the interest of pretending that I actually blog occasionally.

First, a couple of pictures that I took early in November from the Mound here in Edinburgh:

Ok, those are probably the most interesting. You might want to move along now, because it's pretty lame from here on out.

Because I'm leaving in a couple days to spend Christmas in Ohio, I'm trying to eat up the food in my fridge. So for dinner this evening, I had tacos:

and cauliflower:

What, cauliflower isn't typically a side dish in Tex-Mex food?

A couple weeks ago, I did put up my few Christmas decorations. I'm enjoying them, but I realize overall effect is a bit pathetic when captured for pictures to post here.

My tree:

Santa with garland:

Holiday potholder/towel decoration:

My countdown-to-Christmas calendar:

And finally, I have been running. See, look at the stars on my calendar. I'm also re-attempting the 100 Pushup Challenge again. Those are the stars on the charts below the calendars. I made it through week 4 (actually week 6 because I had to redo a couple weeks) the first time.

My last couple runs in particular were very good! I was able to maintain a good pace (for me) for 3 miles without needing to slow down or stop to catch my breath. I feel like I'm finally, finally back to my fitness level from before my 6 week holiday from running. Yay!

Ok, that's all. End randomness.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I can still run!

I don't know why I'm always surprised that I can still run after not running for a month (or so), but I am always surprised. For some reason, I expect to suddenly lose overnight everything that I had built up. Huh.

But, as you might surmise from the shiny, pretty stars at the beginning of this post, yes, I can indeed still run, although I've definitely lost some conditioning.

Tuesday 11/18: 2 mile run in the evening, blistering wind

Sunday 11/23: 2.5 mile run (12:16 min/mi) in the beautiful crisp morning under a blue sky, light wind

All I can say is thank Bob for my running partner, because who knows when I would have made it out the door with my running shoes on if I hadn't committed to running with EM.

Also thanks to Merry who has been both motivating and inspiring. Again. It was Merry who help to inspire me last fall to get the running thing going again. Merry, ever consider motivational speaking?

Oh, and Xenia, who was also motivated and inspired by Merry last year to start up running, well, she's running in her first marathon next weekend! Go Xenia!!!

And CMS/Keziah, finished writing her book!

I haven't mentioned Team CB for a while, but we four are the original members. It's been a year since we joined together in a virtual sort of way to motivate and encourage each other. And I'd just like to take a moment to say: Well done, Ladies! Well done all of us!

And yeah, I can still run. :+)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tropical Sunset

I have many goals of things I want to do between now and the end of the year. One of them is to write and post blog entries for my various trips this past year. I've put up a few, but I've yet to share pictures from Delft or Morocco or Australia. There may be one or two more I'm forgetting. And then there's the conference trip from this past week, where I got to watch the following sunset.

But, until I get my act together and get those posts put together, these pictures will have to tide us all over. Now close your eyes. Imagine a warm breeze blowing across your skin. Imagine the soft churning of waves on the beach. Sand under your feet. Maybe, just maybe, this image will help keep the cold weather away for a little while longer.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Modern Scottish Wenchwear

When my sister and nieces were visiting a couple weeks ago, I naturally took them out and about to see a bit of Edinburgh. We wandered over toward Old Town and down Victoria Street where I knew there were some fun shops to see. One in particular, I knew, had nice (if pricey) handmade Scottish goods, and it's always fun to browse in. I didn't know the name of the shop, just it's general location. I was expecting fancy mugs and home decor. Instead, I discovered that the shop had morphed and was now selling these.

The shop is called Anta, and a quick chat with the shopkeeper revealed that Anta actually had expanded. The current location was to focus on clothing while a new shop was opened across the Grassmarket for home furnishings.

And the clothing that they focus on includes tartan silk corsets.

Aren't they gorgeous!

(Yes, I totally ripped off the above three photos from their brochure.)

The woman in the shop actually makes them, custom. They run 300-400 pounds sterling. I don't really like to bare my shoulders, and I have absolutely no occasion to wear something like this, and I really can't afford one. But...but...ok, I'll admit it, I really want one!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Random Travel News: Brisbane

Well, yesterday after almost 2 days of traveling, I finally made it to Brisbane.  Woo!  Travel was uneventful, at least once I got on the plane.  The fuel spill on the road between Edinburgh and Glasgow seemed to portend dire things, but other than an extra-long, scenic trip to the Glasgow airport, all was well.  I would recommend Emerates Airlines for long trips, with good food for economy class and plenty of leg room.  The only downside is their ridiculous 7 kg carry-on baggage limit -- just not realistic if you're going to be traveling for TWO DAYS. 

So can I now say that I've been to Dubai and Singapore since I've transited through their airports?  Probably not.  By the way, Singapore wins as far as nicest, most original airport decor.  It almost didn't feel like Any Other Airport for the whole hour that I got to enjoy it.

I am staying at a very cute B&B in the middle of Brisbane, the Eton Bed and Breakfast.  Unfortunately, it is in the middle of Brisbane and nearly surrounded by backpacker and youth hostels.  Actually, it hasn't been as bad as I expected, noise-wise, for which I am thankful.  It does, however, look out of place, this cute, historic house surrounded by Modern City.

After arriving yesterday morning, I did exactly what they say you should not do to get over jet lag, which is to sleep during the day for 6 hours.  That and getting dinner in the evening was pretty much my day.  So much for my grand plan to knock myself out on the plane with drugs and arrive bright-eyed and bushy tailed so that I could get some work done on Sunday.  The drugs, which I especially requested from the doctor, did not deliver the knock out as promised.  Argh.

So this morning I woke up earlier than planned and went for a run!  It's always fun to run in a new place.  Brisbane has some nice trails along the river, although it took me a while to actually figure out how to get down to one of them.  But in the end, I had a nice, scenic run starting with the William Jolly Bridge and then around the South Bank.  Way more hot than I'm used to though, and it's only spring!

After the run and breakfast, it was off to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  Sorry, no pictures yet.  I won't be able to download them until I get home.  I will say though that, yes, koalas are pretty darn cute, and yes, I did get to pet one. His name was Mike. :)  I also got to see frisky kangaroos, lorikeets, cockateels, kookaburras, emus, a cassowary, bats, and sleeping wombats. 

And then I came back and took a late afternoon nap.  Sigh...

Tomorrow the conference starts, so no more major sight-seeing until Saturday.  But today, I got to pet a koala.  I think my trip to Australia is now complete.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Word Wednesday

knackered - what I will be when I get off the plane in Brisbane on Sunday after traveling for two days

More specifically, knackered means to be utterly exhausted or worn out. It's actually one of the first new words that I learned after I moved to Scotland (almost two years ago!). I'd stayed up all night working on something (or possibly reading a book), and when relating this to my officemate, he said, "You don't look knackered." And after giving him my I-have-no-idea-what-you-just-said blank stare, he explained.

Since then, I've learned that knackered can not only be applied to people, but objects as well. For example, you can say, "After walking home last night in the ferocious wind and rain, my umbrella was completely knackered." Umbrellas don't have a long life here in Edinburgh.

Knackered is fun to say, although I have to admit it's not one of the words that's crept into my regular-use vocabulary. It would have been very appropriate to describe my condition on Sunday after my running partner and I tried a new route. We're experimenting with hills. The less said about that the better.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Great Scottish Run

This morning I ran in my first 10k race, the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow!

The largest trial of the day turn out not to be the race itself, but actually getting to the race. I ended up having to take a taxi to the bus station, because no local buses were running yet, and then the bus to Glasgow ended up leaving 15 minutes late. Given that the race started at 9 and the bus was schedule to arrive at 8:45, this made me a bit nervous. But we made up some time, and I made it to Glasgow and George Square in time but with no extra time. Whew!

I was at the back of the back, given my late arrival, which meant once the race got going, much dodging and weaving past the walkers was requried. I've decided that when there is room, I don't really mind this. It gives me the illusion that I am fast. :+)

One fun thing about the race was the bagpipers stationed at every kilometer. I liked that I could hear them playing up ahead and know that one more kilometer was almost finished. (And men in kilts* - Win!)

At the end of the race, my running partner Elaine and a friend of hers were there to cheer me on! Definitely a good feeling. I don't know what my exact finishing time was, other than under 1:20 (I hope). [Edit: Just checked and my official race time is 1:17.24, a 12:29/mile pace! Yeah!]I messed up setting my watch timer at the start. Oh well. I wonder if this helped me to enjoy the race more, because I wasn't worrying abut my time. I could just focus on running at a comfortable, sustainable pace. Just one short walk break at the 5k point! And I finished! Really, that was my goal!

One funny thing that I wondered about. When running along the bridge over the Clyde River, I noticed that they had police stationed periodically along the sidewalk (backs to the water). It looked like they were guarding against random runners who are suddenly overcome with the urge to hurl themselves over the side. I mean, come on! It was only about two kilometers into the race. No one should be that desperate yet!

One last tidbit. When visiting the Great Run website, I noticed that they had this game so that you too can take part in the Great Scottish Run. It's somewhat trivial, but enjoy!

*Although there were also boys in kilts and at least one girl in a kilt playing as well.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Running Report

I haven't posted one of these for a while, but today I feel like some self-congratulations are in order. I have been running, kinda sorta following Hal Higdon's novice 10k training plan. And today, my running partner and I ran 5 miles!! I ran 5 miles!! That's over an hour of running!!!

Quite honestly, it feels weird to refer to myself and running 5 miles in the same sentence. Who, me? That can't be me. I can't run that far.

But apparently, I can! :+)

Which is a good thing, because I've signed up to run in a 10k race (6.2 miles) in Glasgow in two weeks. It's the Freshnlow Great Scotish Run on September 7th. And knowing that I can run 5 miles makes me feel pretty good about being about to finishing the race.

Where did all this motivation come from? I blame Xenia, fellow Team CB member. We started running at about the same time, and she's running in a 1/2 marathon in a week. Go Xenia!!! Maybe someday that's something I'll consider. For now, though, I just want to give Xenia a big thank you! Because she pushed herself, it motivated me to push myself just a bit farther too.

Exercising with buddies, even if that buddy is in another city. Definitely the way to go.

[BTW, Xenia has posted some awesome pictures of her vacation in Greece. Check them out!]

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Word Wednesday

I'm going to give this a try, at least a couple times a month posting on a regular topic -- new words or new word uses that I've learned since I've been in Scotland. We'll see how it goes.

pear shaped - An adjective describing a situation that went awry, perhaps horribly wrong. As in, It all went pear shaped.

It's funny how I can hear a word for what seems like the first time, and after that I start hearing it all over the place. Pear shaped is one of these. A friend used it in conversation a couple months ago, prompting a big "What?" from me. Since then, I bet I've heard someone use it at least once a week. Which means that I must have heard it without it registering for a good year and a half.

This also happened with Hiya. Hiya is probably the most common casual greating used here, but it took a good two months after I moving here before it registered that was what people were saying. Weird.

But back to pear shaped. It's definitely one of the more fun words I've learned, and I'm hoping it will make its way into my regularly used vocabulary.

Note to self, seriously screw up something at least once a week so that I have a reason to work pear shaped into my conversations.

Photo courtesy of Opus104 on flickr.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Push ups

I can't remember which blog it was where I first read about the 100 Push up Challenge, but it didn't take me long to jump on the bandwagon. I've been improving my fitness with the running thing (three times last week, woohoo!), and for a while now, I've been doing an excellent job of thinking about strength training. And reading about strength training on websites like The doing, not so much.

The 100 push up challenge turns out to be the perfect solution, at least for me, to kick start a strength training program. It has different levels to start at, it doesn't take a lot of time (about 10 minutes, 3x a week) and it tells you exactly how many push ups to do each session. Plus you can print it out, post it in your kitchen, and give yourself stars everytime you complete a push up workout! Yay for stars!

I'm on week 2a. Yes, there is a week 2a. I added it. Going from a maximum of 6 push ups at the end of week 2 to 15 push ups at the beginning of week 3 was just too much, at least for me. Actually, I can do 15-16 push ups now, but then I'm done. No second set of 12 push ups, and definitely no third or forth sets with the number of push ups scheduled for that day.

So here is my week 2a, for anyone who might be interested.

Day 1: 8, 7, 7, 6, min 8

Day 2: 10, 9, 9, 8, min 10

Day 3: 12, 10, 10, 8, min 10

So far (just completed Day 2), this seems to be the right level for me. I can tell I'm pushing myself, but I'm actually able to complete the workout.

By the way, I'm not actually doing full, plank-position, on-the-floor push ups, although that's definitely a long-term goal. Instead, I'm doing pushups in a plank position, but with my hands on a bench. Sumptuous actually has all kinds of suggestions for push up variations. If you're interested in increasing upper-body strength, but think floor push ups are too much, you can always try counter or even wall push ups.

Does the push up challenge work? You bet! I've gone from being about to do a max of 3 bench push ups to as many as 15. It's a great feeling to feel myself getting stronger just over a period of a couple weeks!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Birthdays and Kittens

Dear Bob, did I really not post anything in June?! Apparently so.

So today is my birthday!

It was fairly low key, as most of my birthdays are, but all in all not a bad Monday. I had a nice chat with my mom. And I got to play with kittens! Ok, at a little over 2 weeks, they're not quite at the playing stage. But getting to pet and cuddle four little kittens. Nope, doesn't get much better than that!

As of Friday evening, I got to be custodian to mamma kitty, Mango, and her four babies, while their family goes off for a two-week holiday. I get to baby sit
kittens for two weeks!!!! In case you can't tell, I'm a tad excited. :+)

Here are the kittens all in a pile shortly after they arrived.

I thought a corner in the kitchen would be nice, but Mango just wouldn't settle. She kept going in and out of the kitchen. When Mango started to try to move the kittens, I realized that she had other ideas of what constituted a good spot. The next time I followed her when she left the kitchen. She went straight to my bedroom to a narrow spot between the hamper and a chair, and then looked up to me with an expression that clearly said, "I want them here, you idiot person." So I moved the box, and Mango climbed right in and started nursing.

And here is Mango, who looks so much like my first cat, Tiptoes, it makes me just a little bit sad.

Today, I took a few more pictures of the kittens.

There are three boys and a girl. The girl is the black and white one with a narrower white slash on her forehead and a black smudge on her chin. The little tabby boy is going to look just like his mum when he grows up.

The kittens are walking but very wobbly. Even in the two days since they arrived, they are moving more. Right now they still spend nealy all their time sleeping and eating, but I just bet they'll be trying to climb out of the box by next weekend.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Scottish Moment

I'm here at work at the somewhat early hour of 10am (for the academic world). I'm sitting at my desk with the window open giving a nice breeze. It's quiet. And I can hear a bagpiper playing Scotland, the Brave, somewhere in the distance.

Photo from

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Weekend in Oxford

This past weekend, I finally ventured out of Scotland to other parts of the UK. I took the train down to Oxford to spend the weekend with friend and fellow member of Team CB, Xenia. On Saturday, we ran in the Oxford 5k Fun Run. If you follow the link, you'll notice the runners, presumably from last year, actually have bibs with numbers and it looks all official like. They lie. Rather than going into the details, I'll just point you to Xenia's race report (both very true and very funny). Based on my watch time (the only time I have for the race), I completed the 4.9k in 37:15. Which is actually pretty good for me, but I did end up walking for about 3-4 minutes of the race. Bummer.

Chri..err..Xenia and I spent the rest of the day walking around Oxford and enjoying the sun. Xenia is a terrific tour guide! I learned all about the weird collegiate setup that is Oxford, about pimms and punting (a very good way to look silly). It was a beautiful day to be out and about. And Oxford really is a neat place to wander around. Here are some pictures from my tour.

This first picture is of Wadham College (I think).

It turns out that the University of Oxford isn't
really a university as we typically think of a university. Imagine if someone picked up all the small liberal arts colleges in Ohio and plunked them down in the same city. Oxford is kind of like that. Each college is much, much more independent than a college in a US unversity. I also learned from Xenia that the castle-like, up-and-down, edging bits on the building are called crenellations.

Oxford was interesting because, like Edinburgh, the city and buildings resonate age. Here is a picture I took along Broad Street.

Although you can feel the age as you walk around, the weightiness of Oxford was very different. Buildings and sidewalks in Edinburgh are made up of all this dark, grey stone. The stone buildings in Oxford have a much warmer feel, probably because they are made of a lighter sandstone.

Enough about stone. This is a picture of one of the guys they have ringing the Sheldonian Theatre.

I think it looks like he's going to sneeze. Hopefully it won't happen during graduation, which is held here.

These next few pictures are of the Bodleian Library.

If you look closely at the second picture, you'll see they have Latin above the doorways. Apparently, you need to know Latin just to know your way around this particular library. I'm guessing you won't find any fun romances here.

And now we have the Bridge of Sighs. No wait, wrong bridge. That one's in Venice. This particular Bridge of Sighs is a replica. I can't help but wonder what message they were trying to send to their graduate students.

And here is me, in front of the Radcliffe Camera. "Camera" seems like a funny name for a library, until you realize they were just trying to be all pretentious with the Latin again ("camera" means "room" or "chamber" in Latin according to the Wiki page).

This next building is part of All Souls College, or more formally, The Warden and College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford. I can't help but wonder what the requirements are for getting into this particular college.

This next batch of pictures were all taken at Christ Church College, which is very pretty and not Latin. (Ok, there was Latin in the Chapel, but I didn't take any pictures there.)

For all you Harry Potter fans, this dining hall in Christ Church is the one they used to film the dining hall scenes for Harry Potter.

Ok, enough buildings. One of the very, very cool things about Oxford was the parks and greenspace. There are two rivers that run through town, where you can find ducks and geese, including Canadian Geese, which is a bit surprising. My best guess is that the geese in these pictures are Greylag Geese. Although this one looks like she's walking, she was actually posed that way for several minutes.

And look, goslings!! Awwwwww.

Ok, not geese, but also not animals that I was expecting to find in Oxford.

And since I love trees, as usually I must include a couple that I thought made for particularly interesting pictures.

And that concludes your tour of Oxford!