mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
In Boston I used to bicycle to work and also a little around the area for exercise. I enjoyed it: I felt quite safe mixing with the traffic in my area. We had limited funds for our move to Scotland and our bicycles got left behind.

The cross-trainer does not offer much of a view. Lately I have wondered if on some of my days off from my exercise schedule I could usefully bicycle around here. Our village is so small that only walking makes sense and in the vicinity I am not much of a fan of,

  • the steep gradients, of which Dundee in particular has many, but also the Sidlaws

  • the A90, the main road locally, which has a sidewalk and high-speed traffic

  • winding country roads, with fairly fast cars and poor visibility around bends.

Perhaps I could avoid paying for a campus parking pass: find a fairly flat route to work from somewhere in Dundee where I can easily park the car for free. More likely, maybe there are pleasant trails hereabouts the carse near the firth which are not much challenging for the casual rider. I am not hopeful but I am again starting to think about how bicycling could make sense despite how I feel about the local roads.

I freely admit that I am probably inaccurate in my sense of the risks: National Cycle Route 77 runs along these roads to which I am averse. I am content to claim such misjudgment as my prerogative. I am greatly cautious because my family rely on my ability to work.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
When I am in the US I have a strong sense of the state and national identity of my location: I look around and, in terms of what goes on and what applies, local custom and jurisdiction feature strongly in my thinking. I do not have this sense when I am in Britain and I am puzzling over why not.

Scottish law is interestingly different to English law, just as my children now experience the Scottish education system which is unlike anything I knew. I had not been to Scotland before interviewing for my current job. There is no shortage of mention of Scotland on various signs and documents. Both the Scottish and UK independence referenda demonstrate that native residents retain a strong sense of local identity. There are various local customs and foods. It is not as if I am much less familiar with the US: I have spent most of my adult life there and my impressions of it even before first living there were generally confirmed over time.

Still, when I live in, say, Ohio, I am very aware of that it is where I am, as if it brings a welcome sense of extra meaning into my existence. Maybe the difference is that more of one's rights in the US are codified explicitly in a way that conservatives may even regard as being sacred. Or, perhaps Scotland is quite like England and that I spent my childhood in England makes me less conscious of my locality when I am in Britain. It doesn't make sense to me, anyway: I do not see what, say, Scotland lacks that would from day to day make me take for granted that I am here.

I have wondered if civil liberties could provide a clue. The EU has a strong sense of personal privacy from the point of view of confidentiality. The US has a strong sense of personal freedom from tyrannical or even needlessly prescriptive authority. I do not especially notice the UK culturally exhibiting much of either, except perhaps when inventing complaints about the EU, so is that an aspect of what I am missing here? To what extent does it generalize to other social issues? Or maybe it is just about how patriotic people are: after all, for Americans July 4th is a major holiday but in England they do not even get St George's Day off work.
mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
I have tickets to be flown from Glasgow, Scotland, to Windsor, Ontario, via Toronto, and it got me to thinking that, aside from Paris, these days I tend not to visit major cities, I just connect through them, London especially given that it does not attract me anyway. I do quite like Toronto: something about the zoning policy seems to have made it pleasantly livable once one is used to sharing the road with the trams.

Before I became a dual citizen I would have to visit cities for visa reasons: of course the US Embassy in London, but once I was in the US certain visa operations could still be done only abroad so from Ohio we would drive up to the US Consulate in Toronto or wherever to perform them. Actually, one of our more recent visits to Edinburgh was to the US Consulate, though I don't yet foresee further reasons to pay such visits.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
Continuing my topic of vaguely familiar places, driving near Glasgow today I saw a sign to Larkhall and have now figured out what it reminds me of: Larkhill from the background to V for Vendetta, a site far from Glasgow, in the English county of Wiltshire. So, not Larkhall at all, I had confused the names.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
It is strange for me to travel in the parts of England around Cheshire and Lancashire for I spent the first years of my life there before my parents moved us south. I know many place names that we traveled to or that came up in conversation so they feel very familiar to me but I was so young that I did not know quite where they were nor do I retain much memory of why we might have visited or mentioned them. Consequently I find myself in the paradoxical position of feeling very much at home in a region that I really do not know at all.

Oppositely, last Tuesday I was driving further south on the M5 and I noted a familiar hill, clearly visible from the motorway, whose name I did not know but it is prominent enough that it probably has one. It turns out to be Brent Knoll whose surroundings were long ago eroded by the Bristol Channel. On Sunday I had been observing the Bristol Channel from the Glamorgan Heritage Coast which features some striking sedimentary rocks.
mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
Travelodge is a UK chain of rather cheap motels, not even quite upscale enough to have a breakfast bar. Admittedly, for work purposes I am used to nicer hotels: in Britain my last was The Principal York which was very agreeable (apart from mediocre coffee) and, in traveling in the US for work, mostly as a defense contractor for some years, I enjoyed the flights, airport rental cars and hotels as we visited various military bases and corporate sites.

Tonight I stay in the Travelodge Caerphilly hotel. It is rather peculiar: in our family room, sleeping four, we have a decently sized bathroom with bathtub and integral shower head, plenty of space to walk around, reasonable beds, large mirrors, colorful clean curtains; the room seems clean and well-maintained. Still, the room is oddly lacking. We have a tiny not-widescreen television, only three accessible electrical outlets (of which the heater takes one, the kettle another), no table even at a bedside, so no clock, informational booklet, notepad, whatever. In one corner there is a horizontal surface fixed to the wall as if to function like a shallow desk, with a single plastic-seated chair. The aforementioned kettle is not cordless, nor large, so it takes two unpluggings to make the four of us a tea or coffee each.

I thus find the room to be a puzzling mix of adequacy and extreme cheapness. Travelodges do vary somewhat and this one is above average. I think it was Knutsford that afforded a close-up view of a seagull-filled roof and Chorley that had a pleasant cat. But, I think this room is the most incongruously mixed one that I have seen, making me wonder if it captures a snapshot before the effects of cost-cutting have had time to settle. Perhaps this sample is just too random: after all, the room next to ours features a widescreen television, cordless kettle and even a bottle opener yet no bathtub.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
In driving around Cardiff we stumbled upon an excellent small diner, Luvly Grub. Their fare may be basic but the staff are nice and the menu offers a good range of freshly made food in decent portions and at low prices. I wish there were more eateries like this.

In navigating South Wales I have enjoyed hearing [personal profile] mst3kmoxie's English-voiced Google Maps app butcher Welsh place names so badly that even my American-voiced maps lady does a better job but I might have hoped that some metadata with the names would have caused alternative pronunciation rules to be applied; now I wonder how it copes with Spanish place names in the US.

In conversation the question was raised of why no banknotes are issued by a Welsh bank and I imagined that the Welsh think that quite a fair question. Perhaps it is simply that they have been less resistant to annexation.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
My drive home, back up from the southwest to the northeast, went easily, with less rain and still no bad traffic. Unintentionally I awoke early both today and last week so left before dawn: driving down to Cornwall I was on the M5 by noon and today by noon I had reached Lancaster, not even driving among the faster cars.

During today's drive BBC local radio included the earnest statement that beavers excite strong opinions in people and BBC national radio played me the latest from Rag'n'Bone Man, Blondie and Future Islands, all of which seemed much as one would expect from them, though Future Islands really have to be watched. There was an amusing moment with commercial radio in which Frank Skinner told us an anecdote about a man vomiting much confectionery only for the show to abruptly cut to a commercial in which a lady wondered if we fancy a treat. My favorite CD from the drive back up was probably Joe Satriani's instrumental rock album Surfing with the Alien: I had forgotten how very good he is at playing electric guitar expressively.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
Being back in Cornwall at present it is interesting to be reminded of small details that I had forgotten: for example, at lunch in a restaurant today I was asked Where's your table to? in contrast to the Where's your table at? which fits what I sometimes heard after moving to Ohio.

I realized that driving down yesterday I spanned the extent of the British motorway network from its northeast to its southwest tip: from the A90 I entered westward at one end of the M90 near Perth and exited the end of the M5 at Exeter westward onto the A30. My radio listening included Alice Levine's show on BBC Radio 1. I also enjoyed Vanessa Paradis' Live album: I like Dis-lui toi que je t'aime and she does sound sweetly enthusiastic in covering Les Cactus.
mtbc: maze C (black-yellow)
This morning I traveled down to York for the Light Microscopy Facility Managers Meeting. The railway journey was pleasant: not only does the Fife Circle Line see pleasant scenery but, true to its name, the East Coast Main Line shows even more coast. I see the ships and the seaside towns and wonder at all the lives I don't know.

I reflected on my change in perspective since moving to Perthshire. I used to think of York as a cold, windy place very far north. Now, it is surprisingly far south, approaching Manchester's latitude.

Even south of Edinburgh the train was pleasantly empty. Perhaps trains in the north are like the motorways: the congestion is largely south of Leeds, making life in Scotland pleasant indeed.

In speaking with others about microscope vendors I came to wonder if they really don't want to be in the image analysis software business: they care about hardware and feel as if they must bundle proprietary software with it but it is usually not great software and perhaps everybody would save money if they simply pooled resources toward some open-source effort. It is serious microscopes that I am thinking of here, probably costing a few hundred thousand dollars each.

I made a discovery at the hotel about coffee machine user interfaces: apparently when the columns of drink option buttons are above multiple spouts then the coffee is likely to issue from the spout below the corresponding button. This guideline is consistent with the few observations that I made.
mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
I took today off work and went for a gentle walk with [personal profile] mst3kmoxie, parking the car at Corsie Hill and walking up to Kinnoull Tower. We saw various trees, ferns and mushrooms and heard birds. The cliffs overlook the A90 so we often see them from below. It was a lovely Fall day for a walk: dry and mild with a gentle breeze.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
At work in Dundee when I stroll across main campus it is now full of students. Presumably the freshmen are settled in and have made friends, expressed themselves through the medium of poster purchases, and adopted a new routine. It got me thinking back to my own time at Cambridge (England*) as a student. I spent quite a lot of time interacting with friends instead of studying and I don't regret that at all. Those friendships still mean a lot to me.

Since graduating, then moving around a lot over later years, I haven't had much in the way of close friendships with people actually somewhat colocated with me. That I do regret, but only isasmuch as I couldn't both have my cake and eat it. While there is much about my life I wish were different, the choices I did make provided me with experience, and experiences, I'd not now wish to trade.

Still, I have a clear memory of much of my time with friends decades ago, and a handful of subsequent experiences have revealed to me that I'm unusual in so naturally putting relationships on pause: at least, in a way that I can comfortably step right back into them. In how I am with people, I have changed little since graduating, but I get the impression that people expect more initial awkwardness and I thus wonder how time might have changed them. I am often guessing what people might think or say about something in my life even though I have now not much seen them for a very long time. It may be relevant that my personal memories are generally rather loosely timestamped.

In general I am very happy to see people again and learn about how they are and what has been going on, it is really just the circumstance of living far from them that keeps me quite literally away. Returning to the Cambridge area would partially solve that. There is much to attract me there but, goodness, partly due to local council decisions, not the city itself. There were various nails in that supercilious Cambridge is full, go away coffin while we lived there but I think one of the last was making the road to the railway station open to taxis only, I could no longer drop off or pick up visitors in a private car. Columbus, OH, while hardly being a tourist destination, remains far closer to my heart, and there is a handful of people there too whom I miss.

*It confuses the issue that I spent a couple of years working in Cambridge, MA, which is the main place I've bicycled; one of my colleagues at work there graduated from the University of Cambridge. In this journal entry I am not referencing time in Massachusetts. And, I've not stopped in Cambridge, OH, for much longer than to get gas.
mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
I had an interesting conversation with a member of cabin crew on one flight recently. I often sit near the back of the airplane which is a good way to get to chat with them. She was surprised that I opted for a window seat and I thought about it rather and, at least for shorter flights, I supposed that I like them for a few reasons. One is that the window affords a striking view that has been unavailable to humanity for much of its history so I feel obligated to take advantage of it. It took many people a lot of work to get us that view. Another is that, perhaps related to imagining the life of the monks in the abbeys I visited, I do like to think about what I see. For instance, I saw a large barge, maybe on a river to a Great Lake, and I thought about the people on the barge and how they know about managing and navigating it and whatnot. Also, I've mentioned coming into Newark: all the cargo containers and cranes and whatnot at the port's docks are a large, complex world unfamiliar to me but many others there know it well. Another thing about Manhattan is, in visiting it, I like to see places that are already familiar to me from television and movies: for instance, I was pleased to find myself passing the courthouse steps often seen in Law & Order (1990). I realized that a common thread here might be that I like to know about others' lives and to connect with them in tangible ways like sharing their world in person. This kind of thinking had my interlocutor label me a dreamer.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
In Ohio I spent many hours driving on US Route 23. In recently visiting Michigan I saw deer and a turtle, then passed the 45th parallel, equidistant from the equator and the pole, and further traveled at the north extent of route 23. In Ohio I had previously wondered what lay further north on it and now I have seen its far end for myself.

I would quite like to write a travel series wherein I traverse some of these longer routes in the US taking photographs, trying diners, collecting anecdotes and suchlike, probably planned to veer south in the winter and north in the summer. Even better would be also renting or swapping cars and reviewing those as I go. That doesn't seem to be a remunerative career that is easy to break into but I nonetheless note its abstract appeal.

In being flown into Newark I got a good view of Manhattan in the evening as we passed alongside: alternate straight streets showed the red taillights or white headlamps of the vehicles along them suggesting an alternating one-way system. I hadn't especially noticed this as a pedestrian or even using the crosstown buses. I recalled that I have yet to visit Central Park.
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