Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's been a while

I haven't written a post in a few days now, so I figured now was as good a time as any to pop in and say hello. This has been a pretty busy week with tutorials starting up, lots more class time. Looks like this is going to be a tough couple of months. My Quantum Mechanics class is going over my head currently so I ordered the intro to quantum textbook that the UW currently uses, as my professor here doesn't follow a textbook, in an effort to follow along more easily. It should be here in the next week or so. My other classes however, are going very well, and I haven't had much trouble following along with them. In one of them we have to read and rework a highly scientific article into a more casual and more easily understood piece. My "heavily scientific paper" is about the use and steroids in the MLB and if the drastic increase in homers in the 90's was a direct result of this. So that should be fun. In other news, with the acquisition of a Fitbit device, a gift from father, I have found a new interest in that current fad, called "exercise." Essentially this thing is a pedometer, that counts your steps and figures the total distance you have walked. Which directly relates to my mild OCD with numbers, which in turn forces me to walk more to get step numbers that I deem acceptable. You also get "badges" for reaching certain goals, like 5000 steps a day or 20,000 steps a day. So to further add to my interest, when I get reasonably close to a new badge I tend to want to go for it. For no apparent reason, other than the accomplishment of getting a little image on my fitbit page. I carry this thing around with me all the time and have been, over the past 4 days, averaging upwards of 16,000 steps a day which is about 8 miles. With this new found interest in working out I have already lost 2 pounds in the past 4 days. At this rate I'll pull a transition similar to my brother's in no time. So I got that going for me now... which is nice.

I am starting to get over the cold I caught a few days ago, but am starting to enter the annoying stages where the sickness makes a last stand, and digs in. It currently is hunkered down in my ear canals and is making it uncomfortably difficult to depressurize them. Which is an odd feeling, I imagine its rather like having your head inside of a balloon. Sounds are muffled, head kind of feels like it's floating, and there is a massive desire to want to pop the dirty bugger.

On a lighter note, I recently bought train tickets to London for Friday, November 26th. The reason you ask? Well there is a little show here on the BBC, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine, maybe you've heard of it? Top Gear. Anyways lovely program, but they are doing an event called Top Gear Live, where they rent out a convention center and do a live automotive performance and allow you to get up close and personal with some of the worlds more beautiful automobiles and supercars. It should be really fun, and I am very much looking forward to it.

And if you haven't seen or heard about the show, here are two of my favorite moments:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lovely Day for Golf

What a lovely day to go golfing. I woke up this morning, took a look outside, and promptly called the golf course outside my window, Prestonfield Golf Course, and set up a tee time. After calling the Prestonfield hotel by accident, got half way through setting up a "tea" time, which here evidently means a dinner reservation, I realized I had made a mistake, apologized to the woman on the phone and went looking for the pro shop number. It was one of the more confusing phone conversations I've ever had. I didn't realize she was talking about a dinner reservation until she asked if I knew what I would like in advance. Which I found an odd question for setting up a golfing time. After sorting all of that out, I called the pro shop and managed to set a time for 3:42. So with the morning to kill, I went out and ran a few errands. Finally 3 o'clock rolled around and I made my way to the course. This course was beautiful, perfect view of Arthur's Seat, amazingly green grass, and best of all easily within walking distance of my room. As 3:42 rolled around I was behind two German guys who brought along an interpreter, which was funny. They were playing at a good pace though, and there was no one behind me so I could take my sweet time. I was making my way along and on the 4th tee box I was forced to wait as a peacock casually walked across the tee box, without a care in the world. I have no idea where it came from, as far as I know peacocks aren't native to Scotland, but there it was just strolling around. Aside from the odd wild life, things were going pretty well, I was having a good time, was playing pretty well, and was on a real hot streak with my driver. And then on the 9th hole, glory came. It was a short par 3, and I over shot the green by about 25 yards. So there I was, 25 yards away from the hole, and not on the green. I figured it wasn't too bad I could just chip back onto the green and save par. And then it happened, I chipped it and the ball hit the green and rolled straight into the cup! Unbelievable, my first birdie and on a shot that would have made Papa proud. I was so excited I pulled a Tiger Woods fist pump, dropped my club where the ball formally resided, and ran over and grabbed my phone so I could take a picture of the scene. It was a lovely moment and I wish someone else was there to witness it. I proceeded to close out the back nine with no major mistakes, I did somehow manage to lose a ball. And not the proper way, it didn't go into the deep bushes, or land in any water, I just couldn't find the damn thing in the rough. Very tragic. I finished out on the 18th green and made my way back to the club house just as the sun started to go down, it was a lovely day.

"Don't mind me"
My Birdie Shot

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Astronomy Society, The Second Week Recap, and much much more for the low low price of... well internet access I guess

Despite my initial opinions, the Astronomy Society actually kind of grew on me. It was off to a rocky start with every member coming in speaking broken English with heavy Eastern European or Asian accents, but as more people came in it got better. It was a solid mix of people which was refreshing. Seems like I finally found a society that is nerdy enough to hold my interest, but cool enough not to force my quick and quiet departure, never to be seen or heard from by that society again. Splendid news. The meeting was in a bar I hadn't been in yet so I was interested to explore it and got there a little early. In actuality I read my clock wrong and left super early, but that's not important. The Frankenstein Bar was one of the coolest bars I had ever been in (Pictures soon). Two levels, lots of themed decorations, complete with a wax Frankenstein that scared the hell out of me when I first sat down, and realized there was something behind me. It reminded me of that Jekyll and Hyde restaurant in New York City, but was smaller and more easily navigated, that place was a maze and not the terribly fun sort. So in my early arrival waiting period I ordered a drink. I decided on the signature drink of the bar, the Dr. Frankenstein. It probably would have been pretty good if they put some booze in it, but it tasted just like pure pineapple juice, which while delicious was not entirely worth the extra cost of a cocktail. Soon the meeting started and I got to met a few of the "board members" of the society, nice enough chaps. As the meeting carried on we started playing simple party games, like the one where you have a famous person's name on your head and have to ask yes or no questions to discover his or her identity. I got mine first, probably due to my superior American intellect of films and famous people, and won a pint, payed for by the society. Which was awfully nice of them. I stayed out for a few hours talking to different people in the group, and decided at around 11 it was time for me to go home back to my dorm room, before I fell asleep in my drink. Overall I would say that was a fun first meeting, which was lovely because the other society meetings were, to be quaint, bloody dreadful.

I had my first Quantum Mechanics lecture today, which means I've finally been to all of my classes, and this is going to be a tough year... But I suppose that college had to pick up the difficulty at some point right? The professor for QM, however is very good. A stylish Italian with a lovely accent, one of those teachers that gives a lot of effort, but expects a lot in return. Should be a fun class, albeit pretty challenging.

I worked out in the King's Buildings' gym today for the first time, and after discovering how everything works, no simple task as it seemed, I found a nice little gym tucked deep into the recesses of the "home" building. Equipped only with the essentials, it should be quite nice. The only major hitch is that I need to pay for the lockers, it's only 10 pence so it's not expensive by any means, I just have to start stashing my 10p coins from now on, which are oddly hard to come by.

This brings my first week of school to an almost close, I have one more class today in an hour, but I've been to it before, so it's nothing new, just the next lecture. I'm starting to get the hang of the homework system here, it's different than the UW system and not as clearly lined out, but I'm getting there. I'm also starting to figure out how the final exam system works here, and it looks like it will be drastically different then the UW system. The whole month of December is essentially for finals. So I have 3 weeks to study for and take my finals. Seems nice, but I was told last night that most 3rd year classes (which most of mine are) have their finals at the end of second semester, even if the class itself was in 1st semester. Which I hope isn't the case with my classes because then I would have to review the material from 1st semester throughout 2nd semester, on top of my other new classes. On the up side however that means I potentially could only have 1 final in December, which would be kind of nice, as maybe I could plan some traveling. However if that's the case I will have 6, very technical finals, in April or May. I suppose I will discover more as the year progresses but seeing as for most of my classes the final exam is at least 80% of my final mark, it's kind of hard to not have present in my mind.

It's hard to believe that I've already been here for almost two weeks. Amazing how regardless of some days passing slowly, on the whole time moves by pretty fast. And I'm trying to stop and look around once and a while so I don't miss it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Well It's Officially Raining

Never before have I been consumed by so much rain.

I needed to go into town to pick up a few things, a gym bag mostly, and a few books I was interested in reading. Now bear in mind that from my dorm it is a two mile walk into town, or at least the section I needed to get to. So I started my walk, passed a coffee shop and noticed Thea (one of the girls from UW) was sitting by the window, so I stopped in to say hello. Talked to her for a bit then decided to continue with my journey. At this point it started to rain, not terribly hard, but enough to say it was actually raining and not drizzling. This continued for a few minutes and I kept walking. The rain then started to pick up, but as a seasoned Seattle-ite, I wasn't too concerned. At about the time I reached the Royal Mile, the rain really started to come down, which at first made me laugh because I do enjoy the rain, but about a minute into this rain and I was starting to realize I was in some trouble if I couldn't get an umbrella in the next few minutes. Unfortunately at this point I was on the bridge and a decent ways away from any store that would sell an umbrella, so I pushed on. By the time I reached the shopping area, I was completely soaked. If i squeezed the cuff of my jacket enough water squirted out to wash a mid-size SUV. I finally reached a shop the sold umbrellas and bought two, one full size and one small one. And of course now that I had an umbrella the rain came to an abrupt halt. I continued to the store, bought my items and walked home. Have you ever seen those new Sour Patch Kids commercials, the ones that say first they're sour, then they're sweet? Where the little thing does something mean then something nice. That's how the weather was. First it was a monsoon, then the Sun poked out for a few minutes, but this being Scotland as soon as the clouds realized the Sun had escaped, they promptly covered it up again. And now I'm finally in my room hanging all my clothes up so they can dry.

Certainly was an adventurous walk.

Monday, September 19, 2011

First Day of School

I knew I forgetting something important I was supposed to do today, my apologizes for the lateness of this post. So today was the first day of class, and it went really well. My teachers all seem interested in our learning and have very easy to understand accents, except for one who is a bit of a bore. But 2/3 isn't bad. My Dynamics and Relativity professor might be my favorite thus far, he was explaining something to us today and shed light to one of most interesting quotations I've heard in a great while. "The dog of fate yet again pees on the leg." Which I found amusing. My Thermodynamics teacher is also quite interesting and seems to really know his stuff, as one would expect from a professor at a university such as this one. Which leaves my Math for Physics 3 teacher, who is a bit of a bore, equipped with a monotone voice and a lightly broken sentence structure he will be the most challenging of my professors to follow. His notation for some variables is also quite odd, but that shouldn't be too much of an issue. There is still one class I haven't been to yet, which is possibly one of the more interesting classes, Quantum Mechanics. However I received email a few hours ago from the professor stating that our 1st lecture was canceled and we would have our first class on Friday. Shame. That covers professors, now let me explain the lecture hall, which were equipped with lots of interesting gadgets. First off outside of each room in the James Clerk Maxwell Building (physics building or JCMB for short) there is a television screen that outlines that particular room's schedule for the day, which I found incredibly helpful, as I was able to double check my class locations. Inside the lecture hall itself, the seats are mounted on the wall behind the desk and fold down, kind of line one of those beds that hides in the wall until you need it. Which was rather cool, albeit a little annoying, as the person above you's shoe would often enter through the gap in your seat and poke you in the bum. Next is the black boards. Now at UW they have a similar system for black boards, there are 6 in total, in 2 sets of 3. They are all on tracks and can be thrown to different height on the wall, so everyone can see the notes and with more boards there is less frequent erasing, which is helpful. At UW there is a stick with a hook on it that you can pull the boards back down or push them up with. Here they are motorized which I found to be rather awesome. Damn US college budget cuts.... When the teacher filled up the first board he would reach over hit and button and the board would drive to the top of the wall. It was really quite cool. I managed to take a few picture of the lecture hall before class started, just for fun. I also saw an old Mini Cooper on my way back from class, so I took a picture of that too. Tonight I have a meeting with the Beer Society, at a pub called the Blind Poet, which should be interesting to say the least, but I have class tomorrow and am starting to get a bit of a scratchy throat so I will have to restrict myself to one pint... or maybe two... 

Change of Plans: With all these rumors of this so called "Fresher's Plague" I think I'll stay in and try to kill this scratchy throat thing as soon as I can. Going out into the cold Scottish air and drinking beer probably won't help. Until next time Beer Society. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

School Check off

Looks like I have everything I need for school tomorrow. And after some digging I managed to discover the classroom location for my first lecture and as it seems all my lectures are in the exact same room, all one after another.... for three hours... Which will be fun... or exhausting... Hopefully that all goes well and I can get the tutorial sections which fit my schedule the best, and everything will start falling into its rightful place. With school starting hopefully the weeks start to pass at a decent speed as I'm getting very excited to see my family over Christmas (which is still a long ways out). I'll have to make sure that they don't pass so quickly that I miss anything however, as I still need to find a good tailor so I can have my kilt made/fitted.

On a side note football practice today was actually not what I had expected. I assumed it was similar to inter-mural football, but they actually had coaches and playbooks and drills. Kind of like being back in high school. A kid even broke his wrist today. It's not what you think, it wasn't from contact or anything, poor little guy was back peddling and slipped and tried to catch himself. Sad because he didn't seem to be the sports type and looked like this could have been his first attempt at playing a new sport. Very sad. Unfortunately however I have a tutorial section for my Quantum Mechanics class during the Wednesday practice time. And since the team only meets twice a week, I would be missing half the practices. Which means I don't think I'll be continuing with this society. Which is probably a good thing with how busy my classes are looking.

Posts will probably start coming a little slower now with school starting up, but I'll do my best to keep everyone up to date.

Fresher's Ball

This was actually a much better event than I thought it was going to be. The ball was in the Teviot building (a few posts ago there's a picture of it) with each floor/section having a different activity. The first floor had a swing band playing and a chocolate fountain, the next floor had a jazz band and a casino, and the floor where i spent most of my night was the Ceilidh. Which is kinda of like Scottish square dancing, in the sense that every song has a specific dance to it, but I thought it was much more fun. Learning and picking up the dances on the fly however was rather tricky, especially in a crowded room. I took a video of the band playing the music so you could all get a taste of how it was going. Unfortunately I think this was a Waltz so its not too exciting. I tried to get a picture of every room, but some of them might be hard to make out due to the large amounts of people everywhere.

Today I have my first practice with the American Football team I joined which should be fun. Then after that I'll probably be in my room making sure I have everything ready for school tomorrow.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Proper Post Upon my Return

So today was pretty eventful, I got my matriculation done, then since I was already in town I decided to stop off and see the castle. I however did not get to see the whole thing because, as you can see from one of the pictures below, the line was huge to buy a ticket, so I walked around what i was allowed to without a ticket and left. The bleachers where there because the Scottish Military Tattoo was a few weeks ago, bummer that I missed it. Although I was told you needed to buy tickets to it about a year in advance... I walked around the Royal Mile for a bit longer then headed back to my room. As I got closer to my building however I could hear bagpipes, getting louder and louder as I got closer to my building. So I went looking around for the source, turns out one of the assistant RAs, Liam, can really wail, so I captured a short video of it. Well I got settled in my room and realized that on such a rare, nice day with such little wind I should probably try to climb Arthur's Seat. So I looked up the trail maps and headed out. I took the long route and headed around the peak before climbing the backside of it (saying peak makes it seem like a serious mountain, but it's probably no bigger than Little Si back home) Got a lot of really nice pictures from the trail and from the top of Arthur's Seat. You can see absolutely everything from up there. There are no trees to block the view and you can see the complete 360 degrees with no obstructions. Even got a few pictures of my dorm from up there. Really enjoyable trip.

Greatings from the Top of Arthur's Seat

Just walked to the top of Arthur's Seat, that large hill I can see from my window. Beautiful day even better then yesterday, no wind, scattered clouds, and nice and warm, well for my tastes. I've taken tons of pictures today and will write a proper post upon my return to my room.