Sunday, September 30, 2007

So, Hows Scotland You Ask?

So now that I've been here at Heriot-Watt University on the outskirts of Edinburgh for a little over half a week, I bet the few readers I have to this blog want to know how its going. To sum it up...

Pretty good.
Of course I don't really know anybody yet, but I've met several nice people. I've moved into my residence room and have pasted it with photos and am slowly making it my own (ie, making it messy). I took some photos around the university yesterday.
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Its a very nice campus, lots of green space. If you click here you can see more photos from the parks around the campus. The walk from my dorm to the place I'll be taking classes is about 10 min. Theres a little convenience store on campus, but for any real food selection I'll have to head out into town for a Tesco or ASDA. Not to worry though, the bus system is pretty awesome. When there isn't too much traffic its a 15-20 min ride to the city center.

I registered for my courses the other day too, its a pretty decent schedule. 9:15 start every day. Some days busy with classes, other days only one lecture. I'll just have to keep on top of my reading, as this is expensive and I haven't been in school for almost 5 years. But its brewing/distilling, and I've had a passion for that for awhile... plus my biochemistry background should help.
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Apparently the university was built near a graveyard too.

There are several pubs on campus, but the ones run by the university seem closed on the weekend. I liked the Lecern Bar which seems like more of an "old man" bar. Better beer selection than at the student union pubs. Its too bad that due to marketing the most popular beers (and thus the ones sold on tap) are pretty much foreign lagers... not really my thing, I'm looking for a fine english bitter or scottish ale. They exist luckily, but not much variation available.

Today I took a hike around central Edinburgh today, its a very nice city. And easier to get around than you'd think. You can't really get lost since you can almost always see the castle or other landmarks.
Blue Sky... in Edinburgh... it happens
The Castle
Oddly, I remembered my way around the city from the last time I was here in 2003. Which led me back to Bobby's Bar where I had a couple of pints of CASK ale (finally!) - first Caledonian 80 (4.?%), a Scottish style of beer thats supposed to be quite malty, but I think the cask was a bit off. Then a pint of Deuchar's IPA (I probably misspelt that), which was rather tasty and only 3.8%. I'd have another pint or three of that.
Taken whilst crossing North bridge.

I wandered around quite a bit and snapped lots of photos, the best of which can be found by clicking here. Of course I had to try for a good sunset shot, this was the best I could muster:

Sunset & Castle

Theres something about the way the light reflects in the air in Scotland that I love... in the evening when the sun is getting low there is a ... colour... its hard to describe and I can't seem to capture its essence in a photo (always overexposed or the colour just doesn't come through)... but its peaceful and feels "old".
Its a beautiful country, I must make sure I leave time to see it.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Packed and ready...leaving on a jet plane

Well, today I did the final pack and such... I fit everything I can think of into two bags with room and weight to spare:

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All of my crap...

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Cool vacuum bag that shrinks when you suck the air out...

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Compressed bag... much smaller! As long as the airport guys don't want to search it...

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Yep, everything in 2 bags. The duffel is 18 kg and the backpack is 16.

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It really doesn't look like much does it?

Anyway, my flight is tomorrow at 18:40. I should be settled in my dorm room any everything hopefully by Tuesday evening, perhaps I can get internet again. Although by that point I may want to sleep... or socialize with what are hopefully some cool flatmates...
Hm, I just realized that I don't have a travel alarm clock... I should do something about that.

Anyway... cheerio!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP, I'm leaving for Scotland in 9 days

When you know you have a big life change coming its sometimes hard to actually think its going to happen when its far away. Then one day as the day of the change approaches you reach a sudden realization: "Holy fuck, its actually happening".

For me, that day was today.

As I've mentioned before, I am a brewer, and I've been accepted to do my MSc in Brewing & Distilling at Heriot-Watt university in Edinburgh, Scotland. It will be awesome. I am looking forward to the life change. But at the same time, it seemed like something in my head that was happening to someone else, like a movie. Today it really clicked that I only have 9 more days here.
9 days to get my finances in order.
9 days to figure out how to pay my tuition without a UK bank account.
9 days to get the lease of my condo in Edmonton in order.
9 days to pack my life in 2 checked bags under 23 kg and one carry on.
9 days to buy my luggage and perhaps a few new clothing items.
9 days to say a temporary goodbye to my friends here.
9 days process almost 300 photos from my travels in the last few weeks as I won't do them after I leave (its a serious hobby).
9 days to pre-read brewing manuals and biochemistry texts to refresh myself on the process and the biology.
9 days to short-list the brewing books I want to take with me, as they are heavy.
3 days to spend with my lovely girlfriend (she moves back to Manitoba on the 17th...).
6 days after that to be sad that I won't see her for about 3 months.
9 days to keep it together and not freak out too much.
9 days to post the beer reviews that I haven't posted yet.

Ok, well I'm going to get on some of these... cheers!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More travels

Well, my travels and slackage continues, since my last post I've been to Canmore, Edmonton, Rural Alberta, Canmore again, and now I'm in sunny Kelowna, BC remembering that I like wine in addition to beer. So perhaps I'll just take some time in the next few days to catch up with beer reviews and travel stories.

One story I didn't tell is that when I was in NYC I bought a nice new lens for my camera. I picked up a Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens, which I've been using almost exclusively since I bought it. Its fast focusing, and the image stabilizer is an awesome feature. And of course buying it in the states saved me about $200 CAN. My newest flickr photos which I may publish in the next couple of days should include a lot of photos with this lens, I've taken about 300!
It should be updated in the next few days.