November 13, 2011

Field of Dreams

Tonight Field of Dreams was on ITV4. Field of Dreams is such a great movie. It was really good to come across it on British television.

This scene with James Earl Jones has to be one of the greatest movie monologues of the past 25 years.

November 6, 2011

November Catch Up

It has been awhile since I have posted so I figured it was time to do a quick catch up post of what I have been doing for the past five weeks or so.

At the very end of September, I moved into a new flat in Stirling. It was a little sad moving out of my old flat. I had lived there for almost two years, which made it the longest I have lived anywhere on my own and the 3rd longest if you include where I lived with my parents. While it wasn't the nicest flat, it had a great location and suited my needs fine.

My new flat is great though. I'm renting it from a friend who is giving me a pretty big discount from the going rate for a flat in the building. The flat has a great view of the Wallace Monument and the surrounding Ochil Hills. It has also cut my commute to work in half, from six minutes to three. The downside is that you just can't pop out to a nearby shop if you need to quickly pick something up.

Similar to the view from my flat

In early October, I went to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews. It is basically the European equivalent of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. I got to see John Daly and top European golfers like Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, and Graeme McDowell. By chance, I also watched Huey Lewis a lot. I can't believe how much I have seen Huey Lewis playing golf. I'm pretty sure he started to recognise me by the end of his round.

John Daly teeing off at the Old Course

Also in October I took a day trip to visit York. I was born in York Pennsylvania, which is named after York England, and much of my family lives there so it was kind of like I was "going home". I visited York Minster, York Castle, The Shambles and the Jorvik Viking Centre. The Viking Centre was pretty interesting. It had a ride that took you through a reconstructed Viking town. They piped in this smell so it smelled like what a Viking town would smell like. I had a great pork sandwich from the York Hogroast for lunch.

The Shambles

Best Firework Show Ever?

September 26, 2011

Gondola Races

Gondola races are one of those things that are better in concept than they are in real life.

When I was in Venice at the beginning of the month, I got to see the Regata Storica, which is the largest gondola race in Venice. While you would think gondola races would be pretty exciting, they were anything but. The whole program of races was running very late and there were lengthy half hour waits between races. There is little passing and those passes that do take place are very gradual.



September 11, 2011

Becoming British?

When I was in Venice last weekend, I was talking to some Canadians who were staying at the same place I was. One of them brought up the different kinds of "chips" that are available in Canada. She was saying that ketchup chips are particularly good. It was only after a couple of confusing minutes that I realised she was talking about french fries rather than potato chips.

Does automatically assuming "chips" means french fries mean I am slowing becoming British?

August 28, 2011

Fringe Reviews

Here are my rating of the Edinburgh Fringe shows I saw this year.
  • Dave Gorman *****
  • Milton Jones *****
  • Jack Whitehall *****
  • Mark Nelson **** 1/2
  • Cambridge Footlights ****
  • Pete Firman ****
  • Andy Parsons *** 1/2 (not bad, just did not live up to my expectations)
  • Mat Ricardo ***

August 14, 2011

August 2011 Update

August in Scotland means only one thing, Festivals.

This month I've been busy going to shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. On 5th August, I saw Dave Gorman doing his powerpoint show. The show was excellent and I highly recommend it. It was a little weird that the show was held in the George Square lecture theatre. I used to have philosophy lectures there that used powerpoint and now I was sitting there watching a comedian use powerpoint.

The following day I watched Hibernian play Sunderland, an English Premier League team. It wasn't the most exciting match, but Hibs were able to hold out for a draw against a much stronger team. After that I saw the "Best of Irish Comedy" show. The show has a different cast each night. That Saturday it was Neil Delamere, Elaine Malcolmson and another Northern Irish comedian with Martin Mor as the MC.

This past Tuesday I saw Milton Jones before going to the Tattoo. Milton Jones is an excellent one-liner. His comedy was pretty intellectual. You needed to listen closely to catch his play on words. I still have tickets to see Jack Whitehall, Andy Parsons and the Cambridge Footlights later this month. I'm also going to see the Scotland vs Italy rugby game at Murrayfield.

Below is a video I took of the Dutch Bicycle Band at the Tattoo.

July 4, 2011

Stirling Castle

On June 12, I visited the recently reopened Royal Palace of Stirling Castle. The Palace had its grand opening the previous weekend after being closed for renovations over a couple of years. It has been completely been redone as it would have looked in the 16th century.

I had been to the Palace the first time I visited Stirling in December 2007, shortly before it was closed for renovations. The difference between then and now is huge. In 2007, the walls had been striped back and were bare stone. Historic Scotland did a great job. Below are a couple pictures I took.


The Stirling Heads

May 31, 2011


Continuing my series of posts on different kinds of street food, in Nice I tried Socca. Socca is pancake-like and made out of chickpea flour and olive oil. It is baked in a large flat pan and then served while still hot.

Socca is surprisingly filling. A serving like the one in my picture is almost enough for a whole meal and only costs a euro or two. Overall Socca is one of those foods you should try once but you probably won't have a strong desire to keep going back, unlike Belgian waffles.


French Riviera

Sorry for the gap in posting. I have been pretty busy lately. This past weekend this blog turned two years old, and I would like to increase the frequency of posts over the next year.

Earlier in May, I went to the French Riviera for a 4-day weekend. I stayed in Nice and took trips to Antibes, Cannes, and Monaco. It was nice to get away from cool and overcast Scotland for a couple days. The weather was prefect on Thursday and Friday.

The Cannes Film Festival was going on that weekend. All of the huge yachts were out, and I got to see some of the largest in the world. I walked out to the end of the dock to get a better view and hung out with the paparazzi as they wanted for someone to leave the Lady Moura. The events surrounding the film festival were a little bizarre. You had all kinds of people walking around trying to spot someone famous or to get into one of the various parties. Some of these people were rather dressed up, which made them seem all the more desperate. It resembled groups of college freshmen on a Friday night trying to find a frat party that would let them in.

Monaco was also an absurd place, but in a different way. It is very much a place of contradictions. The city/country consists mainly of high-rise towers. However, there are lots of nice little parks and green areas all over. Of course, there were plenty of middle age men driving expensive supercars and a flat the size of mine would cost over €1 million, but at the same time, I got the impression that Monaco must have been a kind of a backwater 100 years ago.

Since I was there two weeks before the Grand Prix, the course was almost finished being set up and I was able to walk most of the track. One of the things I did was I went to the Monte Carlo Casino. The Casino is very grand and not like any casino you would find in America. It cost €10 to get in. Since the minimum for blackjack was €50, I just played the slot machines for a while and watched people play roulette. I saw one guy win over €8,000 on one game. It also had a self-cleaning toilet I took a video of.

My pictures are now uploaded and a few are below the jump.

May 6, 2011

Historic Day in Scotland

Today will go down as an important day in the history of Scotland. Last night the people of Scotland voted and gave the Scottish National Party a surprise majority in the Parliament and a strong mandate to govern the country for the next five years. Not to overstate things, but this is huge news and changes everything.

The outcome of the election is very significant. The Scottish Parliament was designed by the Labour Party in 1998 to use proportional representation so that it would be impossible for the nationalists to win a majority of the seats. They feared the SNP would use the Parliament as a step towards independence. The SNP were able to overcome this last night.

For the past four years, they have governed as a minority government, relying on the other parties to pass anything. This obviously restricted what they could do and forced them to make compromises. Now they are free to pursue their own agenda.

Scotland's relationship with Westminster and the rest of the UK has dramatically changed for at least the next five years. The SNP Government is in the position where it can claim to be the only government in the UK with the legitimacy to rule as is the only party to have a majority of seats in its legislative body. It will use its mandate to pressure Cameron. And if he doesn't get his way, Salmond will use every grievance as a means of showing how Scotland would be better off without the English. The next couple of years will be a long, subtle campaign for independence.

You could see the effects of the election even today, before all of the results were announced. At work we have already begun to discuss how we will have to approach our English equivalents differently.

May 1, 2011

How I crashed the Royal Wedding

Since I was already in London this week for an alumni reception my university was hosting, I decided to stick around until Friday when the royal wedding was. I wasn't particularly interested in standing along the route all day, but I did want to see the crowds and how people were celebrating. It was a big British national event and worth having some sort of experience.

I got to the Green Park tube station around 10:30. I thought that I would try walking towards the middle of the Mall thinking the crowds would be thinner there. However, the police were blocking all access to the Mall and the area around it. So I kept walking towards Trafalgar Square. However, it was blocked off too so I headed back to Green Park. It turned out that at some point before anything started, the police had blocked all access to the route and also to the sites where they had set up giant screens. If were weren't on the Mall or at one of the site with the screens really early, they weren't letting you in. I spent some time walking around trying to figure out how to get through. I did get to see some of the Household Cavalry walking towards Buckingham Palace, which was pretty much the extent of the procession I saw.

Eventually I found a spot where people where sitting on the top of a 10 ft high plywood wall on the edge of Green Park. I stood on top of a 3 ft high barrier and pulled myself over the top and on to a small 2X4 ledge on the other side. The other side wasn't the actual park but a rectangular maintenance area. The police then started to yell at everyone standing on the difference sections of the walls to go back to the road or they would arrest use. Some of the other people started to jump into the park so I made my way around the wall (walking on a 2 inch wide ledge) to the park side of the box. By then the police were busy chasing the earlier jumpers. I waited until after this 70 year old Indian guy jumped because I was sure I could out run him. After almost landing on a glass bottle, I ran into the crowd of people watching the screen to hide.

By this point, they were just arriving back at Buckingham Palace. I did get to see them come out on the balcony on the giant screen set up in the park. I had a great view of the flyover and got to buy a copy of the official programme.

April 23, 2011

Ketchup Confusion

I've noticed that there often seems to be a moment of confusion when I ask for ketchup for my chips at the chippie or other fast food place, although I normally use brown sauce. The worker hesitates and asks if I mean "tomato ketchup" or "tomato sauce".

I was always a little confused why they needed to ask for clarification but never really gave it a whole lot of thought until I saw this article from the Middle Class Handbook. According to them, there is a pretty clear class divide in the British choice of condiments. Brown sauce is the middle class condiment of choice while "tomato sauce" is used by the working class. "Ketchup" is a more middle class term that the chippie worker would not use, hence his confusion when he comes across me.

April 11, 2011

2011 Masters

I was watching the Masters yesterday on the BBC and something felt like it was missing. I don't believe the BBC played the Masters jingle that CBS uses. Dave Loggin wrote the song and it is entitled "Augusta". The song also has lyrics (see after the jump), but CBS only uses the instrumental version.

This song is the perfect example of the interaction between music, sport and memory. When many people think of the Masters, this song is one of the first things they think of. When you hear a few bars of the song, images of Augusta come to mind. Without the song, the BBC's coverage was lacking one of those little things that makes the Masters special.

April 8, 2011

Stone Roses Disappointment

Yesterday I got very excited when I read this.

It seems like this rumour makes the rounds every year. When I saw that the Telegraph was running the story, I got my hopes up since I figured they would only carry it if there was something behind it. At least the Complete Stone Roses tribute group will be playing in Stirling this summer.

April 1, 2011

2011 Census

Sunday was census day in Scotland. I was actually pretty excited to fill it out. I have seen my ancestors' records from various US census, and its pretty cool to think that in 100 years my descendants will be able to a little glimpse into my Scottish life.

March 28, 2011

Double Jeopardy Outrage Continued

Continuing on from my post last week about the passage of the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill, I came across this news story over the weekend:
An inquest has returned verdicts of suicide for Derrick Bird and unlawful killing for each of the 12 people he shot dead in West Cumbria last year. A jury of six women and five men sitting in Workington, Cumbria, returned the verdicts after listening to four weeks of harrowing evidence.
Unless I am missing something, this "inquest" seems to be completely pointless and a waste of time and money. As far as I can tell, there is a separate inquiry which is also wrapping up soon on how the police response could have been better. Why did a second one need to be held with a jury?
  1. Why did this take 4 weeks and required 70 some people testifying? There was no question he did it. If this was required by some legal technicality, couldn't they wrap it up in an afternoon? Why did so many people need to relive the events for no obvious purpose?
  2. Suicide is a actual crime you can be found guilty of? Is there a punishment for it? Who defends you? How much does the British government spend each year trying people for suicide?
  3. Unlawful killing? As opposed to lawful killing? (I actually read this is the English term for homicide and manslaughter which makes more sense, but I still wonder what the point of jury's verdict is since Bird is dead.)
  4. Going back to my double jeopardy post, if this had happened in Scotland, could you now be retried for suicide if you were acquitted the first time around? Could a dead person be retried for unlawful killing?

March 25, 2011


I have uploaded my pictures from Athens. Here are a few of them:

The Parthenon

Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Acropolis

March 24, 2011

Where is the Double Jeopardy outrage?

Hours before dissolving itself, the Scottish Parliament passed the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill and the bill is currently awaiting royal assent. The Scotsman summarises the bill as allowing "exemptions to the centuries-old principle that no-one should be tried twice for the same crime." I am shocked that not only has there been no form of public outrage, there seems to be support for it. The Daily Record notes that Scots Law has provided protection against double jeopardy for over 800 years but they then go on to support getting rid of that protection saying how great it will be to retry some people 30 years later. Even the Law Society of Scotland supports the bill.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law lists five principles which underpin double jeopardy:
  • preventing the government from employing its superior resources to wear down and erroneously convict innocent persons;
  • protecting individuals from the financial, emotional, and social consequences of successive prosecutions;
  • preserving the finality and integrity of criminal proceedings, which would be compromised were the state allowed to arbitrarily ignore unsatisfactory outcomes;
  • restricting prosecutorial discretion over the charging process; and
  • eliminating judicial discretion to impose cumulative punishments not authorized by the legislature
A government's ability to require anyone to answer to the court and to submit to its judgement is one of its greatest powers. Without protection against double jeopardy, this power would go largely unchecked. This power is entirely one sided. The state would have the power to decide how often to charge an individual and could do so until it received the verdict it wants. The individual has no choice. He must continue to defend himself until he loses. The individual will never win and the state will never lose.

The judicial system is based on finality. Once the court has decided a matter of fact, it is not reconsidered, res judicata. The integrity of the judiciary demands this.

Prosecutors have the responsible to use their powers with great care and only after consideration. Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, the burden of proof rests on who asserts, not on who denies. It is the responsibility of the prosecutors to decide when the evident is great enough that the State will bring charges against an individual. By prohibiting double jeopardy, the prosecutor makes sure his case is sound and is forced to not make premature accusations. Without this, the quality of the judiciary will suffer. Knowing that you could possible have a second chance at trying someone completely changes the dynamics surrounding criminal procession.

What makes the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill worse is that it applies ex post facto. This is coupled with a vague general "new evidence" exception so that anyone acquitted of a crime in Scotland ever now faces the uncertainty of their acquittal and faces the worrying prospects of a second trial.

One of the hallmarks of an advanced civilization is a fair and just legal system. These recent developments cause me to question if Scotland has this.

I have supported the SNP in the past on this blog, but this is clearly a huge error of judgement on their behalf.

March 5, 2011


Last weekend I went to Köln, Germany. I visited the Cologne Cathedral and got to climb the one church tower. Before the completion of the Washington Monument, the cathedral in Cologne was the tallest building in the world. The day was a little overcast but you still got a great view of the Rhine and the city. I also went to the Chocolate Museum. It had a working Lindt production line so you could watch up close while they made little chocolate bars and Lindor truffle balls. I ate a couple of really good pretzels and bratwurst and had some Kölsch.

I also went to watch FC Köln play SC Freiburg. Köln won 1-0 with a late goal by Lukas Podolski. The atmosphere at the game was incredible. Possibly the best I have ever seen. The fans in the south stand were chanting/singing the whole game and were incredibly loud at times.

Kölner Dom

March 4, 2011

Cell Phone History

Engadget recently published a story where their staff writers wrote about the first cell phones they owned. It's an interesting read and definitely says something about American culture in the 90s/early 2000s and the evolving role that technology plays in our lives. It is also interesting to see how technology, in the way of mobile phones, provide us with a set of common experiences. Their story prompted me to think about the phones I have owned and used over the years. Read on after the break.

February 15, 2011

FC Köln

At the end of the month I am going to Cologne. One of the things I will be doing there is going to watch a FC Köln game. It turns out that their song uses the tune of Loch Lomond. The club's mascot is a billy goat named Hennes. Here is Hennes VIII singing the anthem:

January 30, 2011

Some Observations

A few random observations:

  1. British breakfasts are rather good. Eggs, a grilled tomato, some good pork sausages, thick back bacon and potato scones. Although I do skip the baked beans.

  2. British business lunches are terrible. I always dread going to meetings where lunch will be served. They always serve these awful little sandwiches with the grossest fillings, and since they put out so many different kinds of these sandwiches, its not like there is a whole lot else to choose from. And since the people you are meeting with are paying for it, you are obligated to be seen eating something. I usually end up eating a lot of fruit. I wouldn't be surprised if some people thought I was a vegetarian.

  3. British people are short. My boss is 6'2" at the most, but if you had heard people (including himself) talk about him, you would have thought he was a giant. This confused me a little. It took me awhile to realise this, but British people are just short.

  4. When I first lived in Scotland, I thought that British Coca-Cola tasted rather poor compared to the American stuff. I had thought that I had since got used to it. The other day I bought a 1.5L bottle of Coke. Turns out that it is just as poor as it was in 2007. Nothing has changed.