Archive for Scotland

the 39 steps

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on May 3, 2015 by xi'an

I had never read this classic that inspired Hitchcock’s 39 steps (which I neither watched before).  The setting of the book is slightly different from the film: it takes place in England and Scotland a few weeks before the First  World War. German spies are trying to kill a prominent Greek politician [no connection with the current Euro-crisis intended!] and learn about cooperative plans between France and Britain. The book involves no woman character (contrary to the film, where it adds a comical if artificial level). As in Rogue Male, most of the story is about an unlikely if athletic hero getting into the way of those spies and being pursued through the countryside by those spies. Even though the hunt has some intense moments, it lacks the psychological depth of Rogue Male, while the central notion that those spies are so good that they can play other persons’ roles without being recognised is implausible to the extreme, a feature reminding me of the Blake & Mortimer cartoons which may have been inspired by this type of books. Especially The Francis Blake Affair. (Trivia: John Buchan ended up Governor General of Canada.)

thumbleweed [no] news

Posted in Kids, Mountains, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on April 14, 2015 by xi'an

Just realised today is the second year since my climbing accident and the loss of my right thumb. Even less to say than last anniversary: while it seems almost impossible not to think about it, the handicap is quite minimal. (Actually, the only time I truly forgot about it was when I was ice-climbing in Scotland this January, the difficulty of the [first] climb meaning I had to concentrate on more immediate issues!) Teaching on the blackboard is fine when I use a chalk holder, I just bought a new bike with the easiest change of gears, and except for lacing my running shoes every morning, most chores do not take longer and, as Andrew pointed out in his March+April madness tornament, I can now get away with some missing-body-part jokes!

hot X buns

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , on April 6, 2015 by xi'an

hotXbun1Since this is Easter weekend, and given my unreasonable fondness for hot-cross buns all year long, I tried to cook my own buns tonight, with a reasonable amount of success (!) given that it was my first attempt. I found an on-line recipe, mostly followed it, except that I added the yolk mixed with sugar to make the buns brown and shiny et voilà. If I ever try again to make those buns, I will look for an alternate way to make the [St. Andrew’s] crosses!


a most curious case of misaddressed mail

Posted in Books, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2015 by xi'an

Today, I got two FedEx envelopes in the mail, both apparently from the same origin, namely UF Statistics department reimbursing my travel expenses. However, once both envelopes opened, I discovered that, while one was indeed containing my reimbursement cheque, the other one contained several huge cheques addressed to… a famous Nova Scotia fiddler, Natalie MacMaster, for concerts she gave recently in South East US, and with no possible connection with either me or the stats department! So I have no idea how those cheques came to me (before I returned them to their rightful recipient in Nova Scotia!). Complete mystery! The only possible link is that I just found Natalie MacMaster and her band played in Gainesville two weeks ago. Hence a potential scenario: at the local FedEx sorting centre, the envelope intended for Natalie MacMaster lost its label and someone took the second label from my then nearby envelope to avoid dealing with the issue…  In any case, this gave me the opportunity to listen to pretty enticing Scottish music!

a marathon a day for… a year?!

Posted in Kids, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2015 by xi'an

“I think a lot of people do not push themselves enough.” Rob Young

I found this Guardian article about Rob Young and his goal of running the equivalent of 400 marathons in 365 days. Meaning there are days he runs the equivalent of three marathons. Hard to believe, isn’t it?! But his terrible childhood is as hard to believe. And how cool is running with a kilt, hey?! If you want to support his donation for disadvantaged children, go to his marathon man site. Keep running, Rob!

icefalls on Ben Nevis

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2015 by xi'an


benThe seminar invitation to Edinburgh gave me the opportunity and the excuse for a quick dash to Fort William for a day of ice-climbing on Ben alNevis. The ice conditions were perfect but there was alas too much snowdrift to attempt Point Five Gully, one of the mythical routes on the Ben. (Last time, the ice was not in good conditions.) Instead, we did three pitches on three different routes, one iced rock-face near the CIC hut, the first pitch of Waterfall Gully on Carn Dearg Buttress, and the first pitch of The Curtain, again on Carn Dearg Buttress.

The most difficult climb was the first one, grading about V.5 in Scottish grade, mCICaybe above that as the ice was rather rotten, forcing my guide Ali to place many screws. And forcing me to unscrew them! Then the difficulty got much lower, except for the V.5 start of the Waterfall, where I had to climb with hands an ice pillar as the ice-picks would not get a good grip. Breaking another large pillar in the process, fortunately mostly avoiding being hit. The final climb was quite easy, more of a snow steep slope than a true ice-climb. Too bad the second part of the route was blocked by two fellows who could not move! Anyway, it was another of those rare days on the ice, with enough choice to worry about sharing with other teams, and a terrific guide! And a reasonable dawaterfally for Scotland with little snow, no rain, plenty of wind and not that cold (except when belaying!).

icicles on the Ben

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , on January 25, 2015 by xi'an



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