View from the Trenches: Hard Science


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Some snippets from my research lately:

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So, what did you think of [university]?

Well, the linguistics faculty was in the humanities department…

[General laugh]

Yeah, all those students walking around, talking about books.

o O o

Every so often something happens to bring it home to me that at heart, I’m not so much a researcher as a scientist. Most often, this happens when I scoff at questionable research methodology. Or statistics abuse. Sometimes I have to remind myself that qualitative research is research, too.

I have a feeling I’m going to be in for a shock when I move to another university and end up immured in the humanities.

I’m pretty sure this is all just more evidence that every syntactician secretly wants to be a physicist, a condition known as physicist envy. (Not quite the same as physics envy).

o O o

How would a microfiche concordance of Old English even work? Basic corpus work was a lot more difficult in the past.

o O o

“The time frame under investigation will be primarily the first millennium before and the first millennium after the birth of Christ.” Since I was translating, I did a double take here. Yes, it really said millennium. That’s a whole lot of ground to cover. We’ll see how that goes.

In the same paper, I discovered that the change from BC to AD is called Zeitwandel in German, which translates to ‘timeswitch’. I don’t know why this doesn’t exist in English, and suggest we start using it forthwith.

St Andrews, part 3: Waves and Corbies


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You can tell when the sun is out because the pictures become nice and crisp. Scotland seems to provide a particular challenge for photos because the amount of light doesn’t correspond particularly well to the settings you would normally use. Most places get darker when clouds block the sun, but somehow in Scotland, the light just gets more diffuse. I never thought to distinguish between ‘light grey’ and ‘dark grey’ skies before I came to Scotland. Here, though, ‘light grey’ skies characterise many nice summer days. Sun is the best, of course, but I’ll take what I can get.

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Some cities have pigeons. St Andrews has crows.





St Andrews, part 1


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Last weekend NTs and I met some friends in St. Andrews for breakfast and a turn around the farmers’ market. Then NTS and I poked around. A lot.

St Andrews

St. Andrews is tiny and charming. It’s possible that I have now been inside all of the shops save large clothing and shoe stores. It may be just as well there weren’t more, or NTS would have had to get cranky.

St Andrews

At the end of the main streets is the ruined Cathedral of St Andrews. The original section was started in 1158 on the site of the older church of St. Rule, whose square tower still stands. In fact, you can climb to the top of the tower still… provided you don’t run into anyone coming down. The stair is an impossibly narrow spiral. We were lucky, and only ran into someone when we were quite near the single landing and had a place to squeeze by.St Andrews

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St Andrews Cathedral

This is the first post of several. I took a lot of pictures.

The Only Scotsman at the Wedding is No True Scotsman


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Scotsman Hotel

NTS has been hankering for a kilt for some time now. (This image may or may not have been in the back of my mind since we first decided to move to Scotland.) When some dear friends of ours invited us to a wedding at the Scotsman Hotel, we knew it was time to take the leap.


I confess myself delighted with the spectacle.


As the bride is American, the groom Welsh, and their academic colleagues English, European and American, there were almost no Scots in the entire party. Some of the guests were charmed by the gentleman in the kilt and asked to have their picture taken with him.

Stained glass, the Scotsman

My husband, part of the local colour.


But really, how could you not be charmed by that smile?

Hiking Along the Hedgerows


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Saturday was sunny, so NTS and I hopped the bus for the Pentlands once again. I didn’t have any particular plan in mind. Mostly, we just wandered. First we were passed by cars and cycles on a track that led past a long reservoir between hills.

The cars found their rest at the Clubbiedean fishery, but we had miles to go before we slept, and meandered on down a dusty lane between sheep fields bordered by dry stone fences. To the north, the Forth rail bridge bounded redly over the blue Firth. It really is the loveliest of the Forth bridges. Fields turned to farmhouses, and dust to asphalt, and it looked like we might have to contemplate a premature return to society.

Happily, no such fate befell us. We branched off again into that most delightful bastion of the British countryside, the country lane, drowsing in the sun. There we took our tea (the other great bastion of the British, country or otherwise).

It was at the end of this lane that we reached a crossroads (cross-lanes?) of trails, with a signpost I had seen before. Should we go on to Balerno, or circle back to Bonaly? With a hearty and heartless belief in building up one’s endurance, we circled.

It was a large circle.

Map of Pentlands by hedgerow, Bonaly

Map created at I am now in love with this site. Especially the altimeter.

Happily, the days are long, so there was never any question of being caught out after dark. By the time night fell, we were tucked up in the pub, consuming a well-earned beer and late dinner.

The First Iced Coffee of the Year


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It’s 61F here (16C), and sunny.


Tiny grills spout tiny plumes of fragrant smoke in every park. Even now, I’m sipping my first iced coffee of the year. (As I now cold brew my coffee year-round, this was deliciously easy. This year, I’m prepared. Iced coffee is not a Scottish tradition.)

iced coffee

Yes, that’s a sweet potato cookie on top. With chocolate chips.

birch with burlsMeanwhile, Maine got six inches of snow Wednesday night.

To Bivy or Not to Bivy: March in the Pentlands


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Just a quick hike.

Pines in the Pentlands, Bonaly

While we were out, we scoped out a few possible sites for camping.

stone pound, Pentlands, Bonaly

Scotland allows you to camp nearly anywhere you would want to (not in people’s backyards), so long as you’re not in the way and you leave no trace. We’re still working our way up to this. I’ve never camped without a car or a canoe before, except at SCA events. But I’m determined we will soon.

pentlands, April

BRID Maybe we should try bivy sacks instead of a tent. People say that you feel closer to nature that way, not in a smaller version of a building.

NTS I don’t see how that’s a recommendation.

Pentlands, Bonaly, March

BRID Oh, well. It probably doesn’t work so well for two people. You know what they call a two-person bivy. b


BRID A tent.

In the Kitchen: Amaranth Granola and Butternut Tabbouleh



Hello, my dears. Are you feeling fearfully neglected?

Well, you have been. My leisure of late has been spent largely in my kitchen.

I spent much of Sunday poring over a newly discovered food blog, Cookie & Kate. Isn’t that the best name? Cookie is a dog. (Kate is a person.) It’s a vegetarian blog, which means new and interesting dishes. Since meat isn’t expected to be the star, a lot of effort goes into making veggie dishes really interesting and appetizing. Even if I sometimes serve them with a side of steak.

butternut squash tabbouleh

Sunday’s dinner: butternut squash tabbouleh with a side of steak. So good. The only change I made was to use currants instead of cranberries, since I had them on hand, and add a bit of coriander and pepper. But not too much. The point of tabbouleh is to let the fresh herbs speak for themselves.

Inspired by Kate’s list of make-ahead breakfast foods, I set my mind to puffed amaranth and date bars. (I wanted to make granola, but it turned out that I didn’t have anywhere near 4 cups of oats.)

Popping amaranth is fun. Once you get the hang of it. You have to heat up the pan really hot–always hotter than you think you need–then put in a spoonful of grains. If they start popping immediately, you’re good to go: put the lid on, and in ten seconds they’re fluffy and done. Pour them into your “keep” bowl, heat the pan a little and make another spoonful. If they don’t start popping immediately, the pan isn’t hot enough, and that batch is never going to pop right; pour the scorched grains into a bowl to throw away later, heat the pan hotter and try again. Learn from my experience and don’t dump the ruined grains in the bin until they’ve cooled, unless you have a metal or glass bin. You’ll melt the plastic.

Having popped the amaranth, I turned my mind to the dates. It turns out that tiny food processor really can’t handle dates. They just kept whirring around and around in the bowl. Wop, wop. Amaranth date bars were a no-go.


What to do with a quantity of popped amaranth? I almost ate it then and there with a spoon, but that wouldn’t lead to delicious breakfast food. I persisted and finally substituted the popped amaranth for half the oatmeal needed for granola. The granola recipe I had intended to make in the first place. I made a lot of substitutions for half the ingredients in that recipe, but it came out delicious. I will be making more this weekend. (In my defense, I only had enough amaranth and oatmeal for half a batch the first time.)

chia berry jam

To keep the granola company, I made chia berry jam from frozen berries, with a frozen banana for sweetness. It simmers for half an hour on the stovetop, so I kept an eye on it while I made dinner. Smelling the granola in the over while I stirred jam on the stove gave me the strangest sense of cognitive dissonance.

granola and jam

I enjoyed the granola and jam with greek yoghurt for breakfast all week. The turbulent and truncated affair of the amaranth date bars turned out deliciously in the end.


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