warriorsavant: (Three Musketeers)
"I like to feel a healthy breeze around my privates…" (very minor character from one of the Harry Potter books). Except it never gets down to -17ºC (0ºF) in Scotland; highlands, lowlands, midlands, outer islands, then or now; or they wouldn't have taken up wearing kilts. On the other hand, it was really just between house and car (in which I put a blanket over my bear legs) to and fro to my friend's house for his annual Robbie Burns Night.

Between everyone there, we had a total of perhaps 1.25 Scotsmen, but still great fun. Some food (limited what can be eaten on a keto diet; but a small amount of haggis won't ruin the diet). Some chat. Some scotch (just a wee dram… or four). Some poetry - actually my favorite part last night (even if I cheated and recited Dave Van Ronk). There was something fascinating about sitting in a cozy living room, reading poetry from 2-1/2 centuries ago, with people of 3 (4?) generations. The dark, warm, comfy feeling of being immersed in a warm, slow river of history.
warriorsavant: (Three Musketeers)
First, a confession. It doesn't actually exist any more than the Sword and Microscope Society (see Profile Intro), which is to say it exists in my mind and sparsely elsewhere. This is really the story of how I started wearing a kilt. If I blogged about it before, apologies to older (well, more established) Gentle Readers for being redundant.

The US Gov't celebrates to varying degrees of actually-caring-about-it (mostly not) various ethnicities and other identities. Of course once you have an XXX day, week, or month, then XXX1 wants one, as does XXX2, as does, well everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame (or as it might be day, week, or month). These "observances" get posted in gov't offices and institutions, including military ones.

In my 2nd-to-last Commnand, my CSM (Command Sergeant Major), who became a close friend, was part Scottish, and did play the bagpipes. (He has been mentionned in my blog initially as CSM, then when he retired, as Pipes-Major.) One day, several months before his retirement, we were at our HHQ (Higher Headquarters) for something, and noticed signs up about Israeli Day and Scottish Week (or maybe Israeli Week and Scottish Day, I forget). I laughed and said as a joke, "Hey, that could be for us, we can show up dressed in kilts and yalmulkes." He looked at me and said, serious, "I have an Army kilt. All the services have their tartans. They can be worn with the dress uniform in the Commander allows it."

That started the ball rolling. My fantastical side couldn't resist, especially looking towards his retirement ceremony. Another friend, recently retired from the Army, who is also part Scottish, got involved. (He doesn't play the bagpipes. He plays the bugle. His neighbors love that on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. At my retirement, the two of them played their respective instruments (or is that "instruments") which was a hoot and very satisfying.) The three of us basically egged each other on to get kilts (well, the 2 of us who didn't yet have one) and show up at CSM's retirement party so clad. (The icon is from that party.) Other than initially freaking out my general (who thought I'd taken up cross-dressing), it was a rousing success.

Since then, have worn the kilt only rarely, but do like to when occasion presents.
warriorsavant: (Three Musketeers)
Long but fruitful day yesterday. For most of the day, had the interviews to pick our Residents. As always, had way more candidates than we have spots, and when reviewing the files, easily 90% are qualified. Nonetheless, of those, we picked 18 to interview for our 3 positions. And as always 17 of those would have done fine. (There's always one at the interviews who causes us to look at each other afterwards and wonder why picked that one to interview.) The poor things come before the whole panel (there were 9 of us this year, including 1 Resident) and get their 20 minutes. We're not vicious at all, but still it must be nerve-wracking for them. We then each rank all the candidates and tally up the scores. That should be the end of it, but some committee members tried to change things at the last minute. I recall 3? years ago, after the scores were tallied, the committee basically ignored them and moved people up and down in the rankings as they liked. Me and some of the others clamped down that, but today there was still some last minute attempts to juggle things. They are so concerned about being fair and transparent, but just don't grasp that that means setting the ground rules before the interviews start, then holding to them. During the day, Nom & her mom had taken the kids to the Temple for Tet (Vietnamese New Year). They are too young to appreciate it, but good for them to have some exposure to that side of their cultural background.

After that, got home just in time to go out again. It was Burns Night, and needed to go sip some scotch and listen to poetry. Nom was feeling a bit under the weather, and her parents were also so they couldn't babysit, so I went solo. After the silliness at the interviews, I got home too late to even change into my kilt, much to my (and other folks) disappointment. My friends don't have that much room, so the party has always been at his father's house. A sad note for the evening was that the old gentleman had died less than a month before. He was the one who always ordered the haggis and made the scotch broth. He had ordered the haggis just before he passed, but in his honor, we specifically did NOT have scotch broth. He was a retired Professor of Biochemistry, and I always enjoyed talking to him. Despite that, people enjoyed themselves, including me, who generally hates parties, although I didn't stay late, feeling guilty about leaving Nom alone with the kids all day.
warriorsavant: (Computer-steampunk)
EDINBURGH VIGNETTES
..We are much farther north than Montreal, and the days are light longer. Well, "light" perhaps not operative word, as is mostly gray, rainy, chilly, windy, overcast. Did accidentally see the sun for a few minutes.
.. A farmers market on Saturdays. With outdoor stalls. What are they thinking? See above comment about weather.
..Streets with traditional names, named for what was once sold there, like Candlemaker Lane. But what pray tell was found in Grassmarket? Earlier predecessors of Amsterdam style cafes?
..Some pubs have traditional names like "Kings Head Arms," which is nice. Some of these names seem to have carried over when they were converted to strip bars, which is weird. And no, Gentle (if perverted) Reader, I did not partake.
..Lot's of statues and monuments, especially along Royal Mile: Hume, Scott, Adam Smith, etc. honoring Edinburgh's tradition as a center of scholarship.
..They are aware that folks in some countries (most of them) drive on the other side, which makes it a danger for tourists crossing the street. In some areas like near the airport, they paint a note on the street telling pedestrians "Look left," or "Look right," with an arrow. It's only written in English, so I guess it's okay to run over francophones. In most of the city, you are on your own to figure it out. Sometimes you forget, or figure it out but then it turns out to be a one-way street in the other direction. Fortunately, Edinburgh drivers, unlike Montreal ones, actually try to refrain from running you over.
..Pipers everywhere, playing for the tourists. Of course, considering how far pipes carry, might only be just 2-3 in the whole city, and it seems like they're everywhere.
..Walked into a model shop. In addition to the usual animals, tanks, planes, etc, they were selling a scale model of the RMS Titanic. Whattheheck? Who would want that? And what would you do after you built it, smash it with an ice cube?
..Local soda called Irn Bru, pronounced like "iron brew." Good, tastes like cream soda.
..Prices always seem reasonable, until you realize they're in £ not $. Even though you know that, you still automatically value it in dollars.


THE CONFERENCE
..Much of it above my head, or at least irrelevant to me, but still getting a lot out of it. Have met a number of important researchers in Cutaneous Lymphoma, and some collaborations might ensue. Some of the talks gave us ideas - nothing of immediate use, but ideas often have to churn around in the back of the mind before they bear fruit. Other talks were simple inspirational in feeling the passion of the speaker. That was especially true of Elaine Fuchs, one of the keynote speakers, who even started her talk by saying that you have to find a job/career that excites you. This is someone with 100s of publications in journals like Cell and Nature.
..Just knowing I was taking part in an event with scientists from all over the world meant a lot to me. Science has always been international, even when nothing else was. When I was a Resident, I was writing a paper, and found the original reference to something, which dated from the early 1800s. Back then, you could go into the historical stacks at the McGill medical library. I remember the feeling I had, holding that almost 2 century old journal in my hands, reading the original article that I was citing, and feeling myself part of a river of knowledge flowing down through the centuries.


MY COMINGS AND GOINGS
..Breakfast included at hotel. Had the Scottish Breakfast, which included haggis. It actually wasn't any worse than any other Scottish food. Okay, that sets the bar pretty low.
..Walked into a couple of antiquarian bookstores and map shops. Half wanted to get some thing but didn't. I confess to a sort of brain freeze in those places. I need nothing, but want everything.
..Picked up a some bottled water for my peregrinations. Buxton Water. Buxton was an old spa town (like Bath) that I visited some years back with WWC and Dad when she took part in an international Gilbert and Sullivan festival. (I guess I get to UK for international events these days.)
..Edinburgh Castle. Can't go to Europe, especially UK without checking out a castle or two, and this is a big'un. Enjoyed it, but have seen quite a lot of castles by now, so a bit less of a thrill. Enjoyed the military museums, of course, and watched them fire the one o'clock gun. (Guide claimed they fired a gun at one instead of noon to save on powder - fire only one shot instead of twelve. No sure I believe it, but makes a good story.)
..Had lunch one day in Glass and Thompson, which is featured in some of Alexander McCall Smith's novels. Enjoyed the literary connection, but really a very ordinary, rather modern cafe.
..Did get a proper jacket to go with my kilt. The reception the first night, I wore it with a regular suit jacket, which just doesn't look right. For the reception last night at the Scottish Museum I had the proper Charlie Jacket.
..A kilt is certainly not a skirt, but did get some appreciation for what women go through. No, not the cool breeze, the risk of an upskirt, or should I say upkilt, which is worse, since if you are wearing anything under it, it is not a kilt. The sporran somewhat protects against that view when seated. It also protects against a shot in the goolies. Add that you can use it to carry a condom, and it can protect the goolies in more ways than one. (And again, Gentle-if-perverted Reader, I did not partake. I'm a one woman man these days.)
..Scottish Museum. Very cool Victorian era building, with a three story, open ironwork truss, vaulted ceiling. Several of the pieces exhibited were classic 19th century machinery. In many ways that was the golden age of machinery. Today we have electronics and automation and machines, but then they had Machinery in all its metalwork beauty. I appreciate the functionality of the former but admire the esthetics of the latter. Yeah, I have a steampunk side.

Edinburgh-1

May. 9th, 2013 11:24 am
warriorsavant: (Three Musketeers)
   Am attending the International Investigative Dermatology 2013 meeting. In the past, have shied away from pure bench research stuff, as my training is much more clinical, but one of our Residents is presenting here, and I need to support the team, expand my horizons, make contacts (although I generally stink at networking), and also have an excuse to wear my kilt and drink scotch.
   It's an overnight flight, leaving at 10 PM, so long day before: good teaching clinic in the morning, exercised, talked to Nom, read, etc. Slept a bit on the flight (had gotten a new type of in-flight pillow, but didn't seem to work any better than the older type).
   Arrived at Heathrow to clear customs and change planes. Cold and gray. Yup, am in the UK. Somehow turned the wrong way going through customs and ended up outside the terminal, had to go back in through security who confiscated my bottle of water. When I bought a new one inside, I had to show my boarding pass. Yeah, probably otherwise lots of people would go to the airport and go through security to pay double the prices of buying things in town. The seats at Heathrow are uncomfortable for napping and no WiFi. They clearly want you to be bored so that you do go shop in the overpriced shops, which are overpriced because they gouge the shop-owners on rent. I have some vague recollection that Pittsburgh Aitport was the first that seemed to be set up as a large shopping mall with a small airport attached. In the old, less security-oriented days, I'm not sure people didn't go out to the airport to shop.
   Later that day, arrived at Edinburgh. Cold and gray. Yup, am in the UK. In Montreal the weather has turned warm, here, as always, it's cold and gray. On the positive side, everything is very green, and the people are very friendly and talkative. The "dour Scots," is a myth,  probably by the English, when the Scots refused to talk to them. Some of the people (e.g. the taxi driver) have very thick Scots accents (even I have to listen very carefully to understand them, and my foreign colleagues are completely lost) and others have no accent.
   Interesting financial note: if you pay by credit card, there is a 5% transaction fee. That fee exists in N. Am. too, but the merchant get stuck paying it.
   The architecture is lovely, mostly stone, in pseudo-medieval style. I'm in the New Town, which is to say, dates from 1700s. (One time in England, WWC, Dad, and I stayed at the New Hotel, which meant it was built in 1200s.)
   Attended some interesting talks, shmoozed with some people, and had dinner with my Residents. The wanted to get some good food, so we went to an Indian restaurant. This is the UK, an entire nation of people with no taste buds, if you want good food, go to an Indian, French, or Italian restaurant.
   That night was the Welcome Reception, and yes, I did wear my kilt (pictures to follow eventually). As for "my" tartan, I wear the US Army pattern. All the services have one, although it is only semi-official. I was the only one wearing a kilt, which meant that everyone else was improperly dressed. Actually, almost nobody in Scotland wears a kilt day-to-day anymore; they are only worn for special events, which I considered this to be. I initially felt a little self-conscious walking down the street, but soon got over it. Overheard at least one group of tourists being very pleased that they had actually seen someone in a kilt. I wisely kept my (non-Scottish accented) mouth shut and let them enjoy.

Kilts

Mar. 24th, 2009 09:43 pm
warriorsavant: (Default)
Just upgraded my account to allow posting pics.


And what could be a better first pic post than 3 manly Soldiers in
kilts (US Army Tartan, Dress Blue uniforms with kilts - and yes
"everything is in fine working order").



 

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