Thursday, March 29, 2007


Probably the single reason I fell in love with this city...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring has sprung...

For a few days, at least.

Gorse (Ulex europaeus), a native evergreen shrub, is in bloom. These coconut scented, yellow flowers are protected by sharp spines and currently carpet the rugged slopes of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags.

(I'm not terribly happy with this assembly. The hazy sunlight does no favors for the seams.)

To my company from Western Washington – temps look to be similar to ‘home’ but I’d caution that once you factor in the wind it tends to be quite chilly so heavy coats are a must. (We are expecting rain the end of the week, but no worries, I’ve got ‘brallies to spare.) Days are lovely for walking, once the mist burns off. Think Arthurian… Otherwise, safe travels. See you at the airport!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mothering Sunday (UK) & A Road Trip

Unlike the US, the UK celebrates Mother’s Day in March. And, as Mother Nature seems to be at the forefront of conversation these days, its appropriate that she is battering the UK with northeasternly gales and a bit of the white stuff rather than the loving warmth the crocuses and daffodils crave on this ‘her’ day. Aberdeen and parts of northern Scotland awoke to a chilly white blanket this morning; Edinburgh is just holding on for dear life as the gales bear down.

In what will only be a futile attempt to embrace a sunny, springtime outlook, I thought I’d curl up with the computer (under a duvet wearing two pairs of socks) and finish the last of the Florida road trip posts from November. Its warm in Florida, maybe those pics will warm me up???

Apparently us gnomes get around, especially if you believe Amelie. We found this minstrel with three of his friends and a turkey in Pebble Hill, Georgia.

While visiting high school buddy K, she said, “I’ve found this great beach. Its only 5 hours away.” Of course, for the ‘vehicularly-deprived’ the prospects of a hitting the pavement were rapidly endorsed. This shouldn’t be to hard – drive east to Jacksonville (and the water) then south to Melbourne Beach along highway A1A and the coast. What the Florida highway map neglects to indicate is that you can’t actually drive the entire 180 miles on highway A1A; you’ve got to drive inland then occasionally pop east to get a glimpse of the water. But who cares – life is an adventure!

Along the way, we saw the oldest lighthouse in the US (St. Augustine, Florida).

Finally reaching the ‘Space Coast,’ named for its association with Cape Canaveral and the 1960s & 1970s playground for the astronauts in training, I thought I was in heaven. Not only could we see the launch pad (and vehicular assembly monolith) but, miles of quiet, undisturbed beach like this gem at Indian Harbor (below). The beachfront property only comes to life for those few weeks a year when a launch is eminent. This is my kind of beach – although at 70oF wasn’t quite the balmy I was hoping for but I still managed to get a wee tan.

Since we were so close to Orlando, I couldn’t resist suggesting that K and I pay Mickey a visit on our way home. K said she had been to Disneyland once as a child so this ‘Disney-baby’ insisted we make a day of it! Apparently Nessie (from Loch Ness/Drumnadrochit) was also on vacation as tourist season had properly ended back home.

Packed to the gills with pre-Turkey day families, there were long lines everywhere. YUCK! But as we stood behind the castle watching the fireworks lighting up almost asleep munchkin’s faces, I can honestly say, “It’s the happiest place on Earth.”

As the park closed, we embarked on a driving marathon – 5.5 hours to Tallahassee, 3 hours sleep, then 5 hours to Atlanta to get me on a plane to Western Washington. Thank you K for your hospitality and digital photos. I had a brilliant time!

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Luckily, K is as adventurous as I am. So, when I suggested a quick walk around the Museum of Florida History as a means of staying dry during a sudden deluge she said, “You know, I’ve never been in there.” An hour’s diversion quickly expanded to the remainder of the afternoon when we stumbled upon the 25th Annual Capital City Quilt Show.

I recently learned that over twenty million Americans quilt. So, for my Mum...

These Celtic Flamingos won "Best in Show."

K's favorite. The fabric for this quilt was hand-dyed by the quilters husband.

A bit traditional, but I liked it.

Entitled "Fire and Ice," this past winner definitely makes you pause and appreciate the craftsmanship.

These octopi are actually all one piece of fabric (cut like we used to cut paper snowflakes in grade school). Impressive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Inspiration revisited

Memo: A departure from the travelogue for a few minutes as I work on my digital photography skills.

This digital photography stuff has a steep learning curve...

It took me a little over six months of research before I could stomach handing my shiny VISA card to the clerk at Ritz Camera in exchange for my Nikon D80 in mid-January. Sadly, I've learned my hand isn't as steady as I thought; too much coffee I suppose. But, the first few outings have produced a couple of nice images. (As all aspiring photographers will know - it is about shooting and learning, not about mass pr
oduction. The more you shoot, the more you learn.)

Of course, then there is the computer end of this proposition. Working on a 'church mouse's' budget has taken a bit of finesse. Faint-heart never won fair-maiden... After some careful tap-dancing, I 'acquired' the required software to stitch panoramas as well as PS CS2. Now if I only knew how to use it... Think think think...

All in all, its been a labor of love... as one's hobby should always be. Honestly, if this had been my job, I probably would have called tech support hours ago. But, its off hours, poking around has been a welcome change to the grind of PhD data analysis.

So, now that the UK Blogger interface is fully functionally again here's my first assembled image! (Those of you unfamiliar with the headache are lucky -- Virgin Media re-branded Telewest the last week of February and most of the
UK has been without Blogspot since.)

What do you think? (Wandering Vet, can you find the seam?)

Monday, March 05, 2007


On the eve of the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles, an article appeared on the front page of The Guardian highlighting our disappearing natural wonders. Regardless of your politics, a picture of an almost barren Kilimanjaro, for the first time in nearly 11,000 years, is a poignant one. I’ve been fascinated with this beauty ever since.

-The volcanic crater at the summit of Kilimanjaro, Alex Majoli/Magnum Photos

Last week the Kili6 from SE England summited and returned with some awe-inspiring pictures. If, like me, you find yourself looking for that little extra motivation, have a peek at the highest peak in Africa:

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Night Owls

Fascinated by the heavens from an early age, I never miss a chance to gaze skyward and awe in the magic of it all. Last night was another cracker! Despite BBC claiming a day filled with rain, the heavens only opened up for about 90 minutes in the early evening treating us Edinburgers to an atmospheric sunset and cold clear night. This is wonderful news to a stargazer, especially last night as it was the first total lunar eclipse of the year.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which I have yet to see, a lunar eclipse is easier on the eyes but just as awe-inspiring. Last night’s event was the first total eclipse of the year, and according to NASA, could be seen on almost all continents. Only Eastern Australia, New Zealand and Alaska missed out. (Then again, Aus and NZ are in the middle of summer. They can’t have everything now can they!)

By way of a cursory science lesson: As the moon circumnavigates our home, light from the Sun is reflected off its surface. During an eclipse, the Earth blocks the Sun’s light and the only light to reach the Moon’s surface is reflected from our atmosphere.

I suspect my back garden (Holyrood Park) is one of the few places in Edinburgh the eclipse could have been seen without much city light pollution. Bundled up tight, I took a cuppa, blanket, and camera to sit in the back garden. (Honestly don’t know why I took the camera, I was so cold and shivering only one shot turned out.)

-Lunar eclipse, Edinburgh, Scotland, 23.15, 03/03/2007

There aren’t a lot of words to describe the sight of our moon slowly being engulfed by the Earth’s ghostly shadow; eerie isn’t one of them. As the event reached its zenith, the Moon turned pale red with only a white halo around her edges. Scenes like these make me remember how small we really are in the cosmic sense and how elegantly our tiny galaxy occupies the sky.

If you missed last night’s event, never fear. If you’re in the US (or Aus/NZ) 28 August 2007; Western Europe 21 February 2008 offer the best bets.

For more information: