Friday, October 23, 2009

Keith the Robot

Jeremy has been posting blog entries on here for the most part, and I haven't really contributed much (other than Jeremy using some of my photos), so I figured it was time I wrote something on the blog. As you all know, I'm in the PGDE program at the University of Edinburgh, so I am constantly swamped with work. It is unbelievable the amount of work they expect of us, so it's a welcome change when we have art class and we get to play!

On Tuesday we were talking about 3D models and different ways we could go about making them. I have an illustration of a robot on the front of my notebook, so Emma suggested we try to make him for our 3D model. We used newspaper for his body, hands and feet; straws for his arms and legs; and cardboard for his head. We then covered him in plaster strips and painted him gold! Helen named him Keith. We broke him out of the art room on Thursday. We were afraid he'd be kidnapped during our 5 week placement. Seriously, he's that cute.


Keith hangs out on my window sill now, next to photos of Laura, Patrick, Jeremy, Matthew, and Paul. He's pretty comfortable there.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Glencoe-Aonach Eagach

This past weekend I had the awesome opportunity to go camping up in the Scottish Highlands with a couple of guys (Matt & Tom) I had met through Katie's program at Moray House.

We left Edinburgh on Friday evening and by the time we arrived in Glencoe it was pitch black outside. The area we camped in was quite boggy, and the fact that it was night when we arrived made finding a place to set up camp quite difficult. But we were able to find a decent little spot that was dry enough for us to set up our gear. Once we had set up the Tipi (yes that's right, a Tipi), we took the time to look around us at the enormous hills that surrounded us on all sides and admired the clear sky and all the stars that were shining in the darkness (It really made me miss being in northern Ontario). I couldn't wait to see what it would look like in the daylight. It didn't disappoint:

Here is the Tipi we stayed in (It had a wood burning stove inside)

Our site was just beauty!

So the decision was made that on Saturday we would scale the Aonach Eagach or "Notched Ridge", an enormous ridge that was just down the road from our site. It is famed as the narrowest ridge on the British mainland, the Aonach Eagach gives a thrilling and spectacular traverse for keen scramblers, linking the Munros (Scottish mountain with a height over 3,000 ft) of Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (I have no idea how to pronounce these places as they are all in Scottish Gaelic: GĂ idhlig). It was absolutely amazing. This next picture isn't of Aonach Eagach but it was just an unbelievable looking mountain that we passed on our way from our campsite to Aonach Eagach, so I just had to include it here:

So we got to Aonach Eagach and climbed (I was dying at the beginning, but I eventually got my second wind! I really haven't done much climbing before. The last time I climbed anything was Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, which was nowhere near as high as Aonach Eagach. Arthur's Seat was really just walking up a hill. Aonach Eagach involved a lot of scrambling and actual climbing, which I've never really done, but I was totally excited for it, even though I have a fear of heights...or more accurately a fear of falling from heights). It took us from about 10 am to approximately 4:30 pm to climb to the top, make our way across the ridge, and descend on the opposite side. Here are some pictures of our journey:

This was one of the few spots where we had to do a full-on climb rather than just a scramble.

Tom, Me, and Matt

We headed down here because we heard that there was a pub down there somewhere. There was and it was great!

Here are a few more pictures of the scenery from the top:

I believe that these mountains opposite Aonach Eagach are referred to as "The Three Sisters"

I honestly can't believe I actually climbed on that...

...and that!

This is the view after we completed our descent (from outside of the pub)

At the end of the day it was an absolutely tremendous experience. A lot of fun. A lot of work. And worth every minute of it. Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where Are We? A Comparative Geography Lesson

Since we have moved to Edinburgh, a lot of people have asked me about Canada. Most people start off by asking where in Canada I am from, so I tell them Toronto (because Scarborough would mean nothing to them). The next question? You guessed it: "What's the weather like in Canada?" The assumption is that all of Canada, from east to west is extremely cold and snowy all the time. People just imagine that we wear parkas, toques and mitts all year round while we live out our days in our igloos. So I am left to explain that, "Yes, in Toronto, the winter gets quite cold, as cold as -30℃ or worse somedays, but the summer gets as hot as 30℃ on the positive side of the thermometer at times as well. But it would be different if you lived in Vancouver, Halifax or Iqaluit." People are actually quite surprised that it isn't just a perennial winter all over the country and that we get temperatures much higher than Edinburgh during the summer! I have had to tell people that we are actually lot further north in Edinburgh compared to Toronto, and people are usually surprised by that as well, because Canada is usually considered "The Great White North".

This past weekend I was talking to a guy about how much further north Edinburgh is than Toronto. I had checked out the difference in latitude between Toronto and Edinburgh a few days earlier and found that Toronto would be at about 43° 48' 6" N (actually that would be the intersection of Morningside and Sheppard in Scarborough, but whatever...we are part of the "Greater Toronto Area") while Edinburgh would be at 55° 56' 46" N. So I rounded it to a difference of 12° or 12 latitudinal parallels between the two cities. Then he asked, "Well what does that mean then? How far would that be?" My response was, "Pretty far..." which was a pretty lame answer!

Here are some interesting facts that would have made a better answer than "pretty far":

I set out to find out the distance between the two cities if they were in fact directly parallel to each other on a North/South axis. It turns out that Edinburgh would be approximately 1350km north of Toronto. Edinburgh would be so far north in Ontario that it would be on Tukarak Island in Hudson Bay (which would really be closer to the Quebec side than the Ontario side of the bay). It would be impossible to drive there from Toronto because roads don't go that far north. And even if you could drive you would have to take a boat or a plane to the island. Also, Tukarak Island is probably one of those places in Canada where it is winter all the time (thank God the temperature in Edinburgh doesn't get much lower than 0℃ or I never would have moved here. I'd just as soon move to Nunavut...though the winds here do make it pretty chilly, but I think I can deal with it after the one winter I lived through in Ottawa with all that snow). Here is a map of Ontario to put it in perspective:

Conversely, if Toronto was 1350km directly south of Edinburgh it would be just off the northern coast of Spain near Bilbao. Which I am sure has much nicer weather than Toronto even though it's on the same latitudinal plane, but you'd have to live on a boat, which wouldn't be so bad if you avoid the extreme cold of a Canadian winter. Here is another map from Edinburgh's perspective:

Well, I hope other people found that interesting. Luckily, I'll be starting work tomorrow so I won't have all this time on my hands to provide you with these "fascinating" facts.

Here is an additional geography lesson from two great Canadian scholars, Bob and Doug McKenzie: