Archive for January, 2009


Before we moved to Edinburgh we psyched ourselves up for a return to rainy greyness.  I say ‘return’ because we grew up with drizzle and dull skies.  But, since we haven’t lived a full calendar year in WA for nearly ten years we were concerned that our Washingtonian indifference to weeks of grim dampness might have worn off.  After four months of Edinburghian living, though, we have found that our pre-travel mental exercises have been largely worthless, and the reason is surprising, at least to us.  The reason is that we have encountered sunshine and blue skies every week for these four months.  Admittedly, some weeks we’ve only seen the blue sky two days out of seven, but, we’ve still seen it.  And, though a couple of weeks have brought rain every day, often the rain only comes in spurts, with strong easterly winds bringing happy intervals of blue and sun.

Ironically, I was musing on this subject as I began my walk to New College on Monday.  And, wouldn’t you know it, after five minutes of walking the clouds let loose with the heaviest rain we’ve had yet.  By the time I arrived, my pants (er…trousers) were soaked mid-thigh to ankle.  And, since I didn’t have a change of pants, I had the next four hours to contemplate whether a true Washingtonian happily endures not only rainy greyness but also the consequences of walking in that rain. I’m still thinking.

Other news #1:  Jackie continues her work as a dictionary editor.  This week she wrote entries for words beginning with “‘o”.  Perhaps the oddest word she encountered was “orad”, as in, “I stabbed the succulent steak and brought it orad.”  I heartily recommend the word “orad” and will bequeath thirty-five points to all who use it correctly.

Other news #2:  I am still a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh.  Though several weeks passed in which I didn’t know the meaning of the word “progress”, I’m slowly becoming reacquainted with the word.

Other news #3:  Several posts back I introduced two locally-used words, but, as Nicky pointed out, I have yet to offer an explanation.  So, here goes:  “wee deco” is something like “quick look”, and “everything potty” means “all things related to pottery”.  Stay tuned for round #3 of  “Trivia: Random Questions of Fun”.

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This past Saturday, 10 January, we attended a conference on the subject of animal-human hybrids.  Why?  First, the fellow organizing the conference invited us.  He’s involved with the Scottish Council for Human Bioethics.  Second, we wanted to be first on the list for faun adoptions.  Third, animal-human hybrids  no longer belong solely to the realm of sci-fi, and we wanted to be informed.  Ok, so I don’t think we actually would like to have a faun, at least not a young faun.  We have enough adventure awaiting us with a young human on the way.  And, honestly, it’s going to be a long time before anybody makes a faun (or a centaur or minotaur or any cool animal-human).  But, at least in the UK, scientists are currently making animal-human hybrids using either cow or pig cells.  As it currently stands, UK law requires that the animal-human embryos are destroyed after 14 days; thus, no half pig-half human creature is allowed to develop fully.   Basically, there are two main types of hybrids, chimeras–creatures with distinctly human and distinctly animal parts, like a faun with its human upper body and goat lower body–and cybrids–creatures with a melding of animal and human genetic structure formed by adding a human nucleus to an animal cell that has no nucleus.  Both types of hybrids (at this point all microscopic bunches of cells in a lab, mind you) offer researchers opportunities to further scientific knowledge that may lead to great medical breakthroughs.

 As you might imagine, though, all sorts of ethical questions arise with this real-life sci-fi, and the conference debated these ethical questions, the most obvious question being “Should we make hybrids in the first place?” Another important question is, “At what point does the creature cease being human?”, a question which itself begs the question, “What is a human?”  The lectures ranged from clear to obtuse, offering both partially satisfying and wholly maddening answers to the profound ethical questions.  On the whole, we learned a lot from the conference, and we enjoyed yet another unique Saturday adventure.    

FYI, here’s a picture of a “geep”, that is, a goat-sheep that was created several years back.  Notice the distinctly goat legs and the distinctly sheep wooly midsection. 300px-sheep_goat_chimera

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Hogmanay 2008

Edinburgh is the self-proclaimed world capital for New Year’s Eve parties.  For three days, the city centre is cordoned off.   All traffic, except beer trucks, presumably, is diverted.  On December 31, even pedestrians are kept out of the city centre, that is, unless they have a pass for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.  With that pass, one can mingle with the other 100,000 people packed into the mile-long street party that takes over Princes Street.  What better way to ring in the new year than with happy drunks and rockin’ bands from around the world?  Well, we opted not to join the Princes Street revelry.  While the energy and excitement of a massive street party holds some attraction, we figured that pinging around a public mosh pit on a sub-freezing night, especially at a cost beyond the student budget, just wasn’t worth the trouble.

But, we did get out, and we still found a taste of Edinburgh’s public happiness, as the pictures below show.  Instead of braving the crowds of city centre, we walked up Calton Hill, about 1/2 mile from our flat.  There were plenty of revelers on the hill, but, unlike if we’d been in city centre, we had room to breathe without inhaling the next guy’s smoke.  The view of the fireworks was top-notch; we were within 200 feet!  And the entertainment of the public party-ers was worth more than our entrance fee.  Aside from the brilliance of the fireworks, there were two highlights of the night. 1) Watching five cops arrest a poor fellow who unabashedly set off a single firework directly in front of them.  Instead of attempting to run, he gleefully waited for the cops to stroll over to him and then dejectedly accepted his fate.  2) Greeting the boisterous, kilt-laden chappie who wished us and our country (the good ol’ USA) a prosperous and peaceful new year. I highly doubt the dude will ever remember that he offered me his bottle of wine (I declined) or that he bequeathed us each with three cheek-kisses.  All told, Hogmanay 2008 was a smashing success.

P.S. Click the pics for a larger view.

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