Monday, August 31, 2009

Rethinking Facebook

Did you realize that Facebook goes into your e-mail account to find potential "friends" for you? I noticed recently that Jason Ibarra was being recommended as a friend to me. Kathie and I met him once in Skagway, Alaska, and blogged about him. His dad happened across our post about Jason, who then e-mailed me through our blog e-mail account to say hi. Other than e-mailing him back, I've had no other contact with him and we have no contacts in common.

So how else might Facebook have known to recommend Jason as a friend to me? That message wasn't even in my main e-mail account - the one I sign in to Facebook and Blogger with. Kinda Big Brother-ish, don't you think? I'm thinking of deactivating my account again.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Patty!

When Patty was little, I carried her around, fed her, probably wiped her little dirty butt, and on her birthday I dressed her up and took her picture. This photo is marked on the back "Patricia Dale Nute, August 29, 1955, 5:00 PM". Likely, I gave her that hair cut.

Here's to many more!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Glasgow Cathedral: Saints and a Kilt

Glasgow Cathedral and Stirling Castle were on my must-see list in addition to walking the Way. Kathleen and I went a few days early to get our history fix in before Sally and Jan came to start the walk, Kathleen to Edinburgh and I to Glasgow.

I was re-reading Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth as a prelude to the recent sequel, World without End, both books set in the time period of the 12th-14th centuries when the Glasgow Cathedral was being built. Historical fiction is more painless and enjoyable than having to research how these guys managed to build these massive structures almost a thousand years ago.

Patty and I had seen the ruins of the Abbey at Holyrood in Edinburgh last year. Built earlier in the 12th century than the Glasgow Cathedral, the Abbey's rounded, thinking about being pointed arches, seem to me to be an example of Romanesque transitioning to pointed Gothic arches.

Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh

The Abbey did have some pointiness going on, but Glasgow Cathedral was full of pointed arches, ten story high vaulted ceilings, and high celestery windows letting in the light.

Glasgow Cathedral

The statue in front is David Livingston, MD, famous medical missionary and explorer, of "Dr. Livingston, I presume" fame, and the Miami Beach style street lamps are from Glasgow's coat of arms based on St. Mungo's miracles.

Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam

St. Mungo, AKA St. Kentigern, built a chapel on the cathedral site in the 6th century. The story goes St. Mungo carried the body of a holy man, Fergus, in a cart drawn by two wild bulls, giving direction to the bulls to take it to the place ordained by God. The bulls pulled the cart to this area of Strathclyde where another saint, Ninian, had blessed the site a century earlier and, voila!, from St. Mungo's little religious settlement grew a marvelous city.

On entering the cathedral nave, the height of the ceiling made possible by the pointed arched vaults was breathtaking.

Everywhere in the church were reminders and memorials to Scotland's fallen soldiers and, as on our last trip, I saw Scotland as a nation grieving.

Beautiful stained glass windows...

The Creation window

The Millenium window

While I was taking in the Nave, an eightyish gentleman sitting next to one of the great pillars started a conversation about the marks on the pillars.

"It happened during the Reformation", he said. "The people wanted to save the cathedral so they stripped it of all its (Catholic) decorations". Later I read there were altars at each of the fourteen pillars of the Nave in pre-Reformation times; perhaps these were what had been ripped away. In any event, the cathedral survived the destruction of the Reformation.

Then he directed me down to the crypt beneath the church where St. Mungo's body lies.

St. Mungo was buried in his 6th century churchyard and later moved to the crypt built under the cathedral to house his body. Huge pillars in the underground church support the weight of the church above.

While I was checking out the subchurch, another volunteer approached and gave me an hour of his time, telling me all the things I had missed, like the bullet holes in the only original door left in the church, a remnant of not so peaceful times. He knew all those fascinating things that aren't in the tour book, all the more fascinating because he was wearing a kilt. He said he had walked the Way, "don't need to do it again". He filled me in about Rannock Moor, "it's floating and it has the only Ice Age forest left in Europe", he said. I didn't want to ask why he didn't need to do it again, but I put Rannock Moor on my list. I got his name, Mr. Montgomery, should have asked for his phone number. What is it about a man in a kilt?

Next post, Stirling Castle, Braveheart, and Robert the Bruce.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Homecoming Scotland 2009

Over the course of commenting on the last post, Surviving Scotland, Patty asked about my "certificate for the returning". On reaching the Isle of Skye, our last destination, Kathleen and I went to the Visitor Center to collect our certifications for Scottish descendants returning for Homecoming 2009.

Our Scottish ancestral line runs through Reuben Steele of Brayll County, Argyllshire, who immigrated in 1745 through Philadelphia to Virginia. Wouldn't it be fascinating to know why this young man and his wife came to the colonies? Was it about the 'Rising? Was he a deportee of the English? As lowlanders, probably Presbyterians, they most likely came for religious freedom as the Church of Scotland had an Episcopal constitution. One of his 15 children, Robert, our fourth great grandfather, was a soldier in the Revolution in the company of Captain Alexander Sayers.

When I was talking with a Scot about The Homecoming during our Walk, he lamented "our greatest export are young people". Indeed, an estimated 1.5 million Scots have immigrated over the centuries, many to the colonies and a free America. Lucky for us as they were well educated, liked a good fight, and liked freedom, albeit they were a bit split during the Revolution.

The Homecoming coincided with the 250th Robert Burns anniversary, a hero to the Scots. This poster was in the Kelvingrove Museum. Hm-m-m, who does it resemble?

All over Scotland were Festivals for the returning, busloads of clans who had come back to celebrate their identity. On the plane over to Glasgow, I sat beside a distinguished man from Texas and his college student son, Madisons they were, and the son had made the arrangements for them to go "home".

I felt like I was home.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Surviving Scotland

I walked the West Highland Way in the Scottish Highlands with three buddies -- Kathleen, Jan, and Sally - now just back a few days, recovering from jet lag, settling back into San Diego and missing the cool days, even the rain, of Scotland. Ninety five stunning miles, the most challenging long distance walk in Scotland.

Day one of the hike, I put on my hiking shoes and realized I had brought the wrong pair, an old pair smaller than my current sturdy, comfy shoes. How could this happen? What could be more important for a climb or long distance walk than your shoes? What an idiot, I thought, but I'll just have to make the best of it. After two days of walking I recognized that purplish color in my big toe nail that heralds the nail falling off. On the third day, the sole of the left shoe came loose, flapping freely as I walked. I borrowed duct tape from an innkeeper and wore the shoe again the next day. Double idiot...not only did the duct tape give out quickly but I was going to lose that toenail for sure by continuing to use the shoes.

I resigned myself to wearing my not so sturdy, not at all waterproof trail running shoes, took the traditional end of trail still life -- in this case, end of life still life - and sadly left the shoes behind in Inveroran.

Day ten, after walking into Fort William the day before and getting ready to set off for the Isle of Mull, I dropped my camera on the pavement. It was irreparably damaged, and at that point I had not even a camera to take a still life of my dead camera.

After I dropped the camera, we went over to the car rental place and found we had a stick shift car reserved (since 95% of cars in Scotland are stick shift!), compounding the terrifying fact that we would be driving on the "wrong" side of the road, in the rain.

What?! Did I leave all my judgment on the other side of the Atlantic? Desperate to get to Mull, we took the car and Sally, an experienced stick shifter, drove us there and back. After we left Sally and Jan at the train station to go back to Glasgow, Kathleen took over driving - saying something about she drove a truck some years ago and she knew it would come back.

Twenty minutes out of Fort William heading to the Isle of Skye, I asked Kathleen if she didn't think it was unusual that the hood was vibrating. Scot that she is, she said she could handle it, no worries. Ten minutes later, the entire front tire came off, all in one piece like a doughnut out of the deep fryer. The car rental place didn't buy the plea that we were two ditzy American women, and how were we to know we were driving on a flat tire and burning all the rubber where the tire met the wheel? They charged us the full amount for five days rental - plus 500 GBP deductible - and wanted us to take back the same car! We said, "just take us to the bus station", and we made our way through the rest of Scotland by foot, bus, and train. I can't help feeling that flat tire saved our lives.

The final "oh, no!" came when I walked in the house, hugged my kitties, and the little scoundrels showed me $40 worth of expensive hiking socks they had chewed up while I was gone. I could see the "serves you right" look in their eyes.

On telling the car story to a neighbor, with dramatic effect of course, he said "I can top that". He and his wife had rented a car in France, returned it to the agency where a man met them in the parking lot, clipboard and papers in hand. They left the car with this guy and flew back to San Diego. Later, they received a bill from the car rental agency for the entire amount of the car. Evidently, the man in the parking lot was not an employee and they had handed the car over to a thief.

Next post, the joys of Scotland!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Can we get past our fear of change and come together to get this done?

While we're waiting for Kathie to get over her jet lag and show us some pics from walking the Western Highlands of Scotland, I'm going to throw myself into the healthcare reform debate. Having witnessed firsthand the inner workings of a Medicaid HMO, I can tell you that people are already making a LOT of money rationing healthcare.

So what got me going this morning? Like everyone else, I've been thinking about it for a while. On Facebook, I see several of my coworkers bashing Obama and his healthcare reform and I'm not clear on what their objections are. I love them all but - as women and mothers and nurses - how can they not want this system fixed? (Of course, that last assumes that the current proposal can fix this mess - a big assumption, I grant you.)

This morning, I found a link on Janet's kitties blog to a Washington Post editorial that makes sense to me. Here are the last two paragraphs from the editorial...

"Can there be anyone more two-faced than the Republican leaders who in one breath rail against the evils of government-run health care and in another propose a government-subsidized high-risk pool for people with chronic illness, government-subsidized community health centers for the uninsured, and opening up Medicare to people at age 55?

"Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society -- whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off. Republican leaders are eager to see us fail that test. We need to show them that no matter how many lies they tell or how many scare tactics they concoct, Americans will come together and get this done."

OK, gloves off. I gotta go walk the mall.