Apr 212013

Scotland Scotland
Photos of Scotland

We spent a little less than week in Scotland in the summer of 2012 as an “add-on” from a another trip to London and Scandinavia. I wasn’t terribly well planned but was very enjoyable; funny how that works sometimes. The country is small but the winding roads off main routes mean distances are generally slow to cover. Even so, it worked well that we stayed in Edinburgh as our base and took day trips and tours around the country.

Edinburgh is a lovely mixture of a city – lots new, lots old. The most popular point of the city is arguably the Edinburgh castle, and with good reason as it is well preserved and serves as the focal point of the city. I highly recommend walking through Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat to catch a sunset or sunrise. Not only because the view of Edinburgh castle is incredible, but also because we ran into some entertainment. Two bagpipers had setup on one of the paths and were practicing in the rain and enjoying the acoustics of the rocks. Few things have ever been as special for me than watching the city glow under a pink sunset in the rain while accompanied by a local soundtrack.

It is easy to get around by Edinburgh black cab, bus, or walking. As with most European cities the train station is located in the center of the city and it is easy to travel to major destination points that way (more on that later). To get a full taste of the country though you need to either rent a car or use touring companies. We took several small group tours to explore the highlands while visiting castles, lochs, distilleries, and towns. Though we encountered wet weather most of the trip all of our excursions were very enjoyable.

We also took the commuter train to explore Glasgow by day trip. The trip by train was fast and relatively inexpensive as the cities are not terribly far apart. Anna and I both enjoy Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s work (Art Nouveau) so it was a must visit for us, including lunch at one of his tearooms. Despite the relatively close distance between Glasgow and Edinburgh they each have very distinct attitude. The cliche adage is that Edinburghers say Glaswegians are rough about the edges, and Glaswegians see the Edinburghers as snobs. I can’t remark too much on that as it was such a relatively short visit but I found that Glasgow felt much more like a vibrant new-world city than Edinburgh, which felt a bit more like a well curated museum piece in places.

It was a short but very packed and enjoyable trip. Scotland very easy and relatively cheap to visit if you are in London already, so consider it if you are already going to be spending any time in the UK.

Apr 202013

This American Life in coordination with Planet Money created a show which dives deep into structural issues related to employment which have been dogging the US (and frankly other wealthy western nations) for decades. As usual they do an excellent job crafting a riveting story about what can be a very dry subject.

The number of Americans receiving federal disability payments has nearly doubled over the last 15 years. There are towns and counties around the nation where almost 1/4 of adults are on disability. Planet Money’s Chana Joffe-Walt spent 6 months exploring the disability program, and emerges with a story of the U.S. economy quite different than the one we’ve been hearing.

Apr 172013

Per the UT:

“Ordinary skin cells have been directly converted into the myelinating cells destroyed in multiple sclerosis, according to two new papers in Nature Biotechnology.

This has huge potential and I really hope the research progresses well – MS is one of those diseases where there haven’t been a lot of breakthroughs yet. It seems like we are getting close and closer to true medical breakthroughs, like printed or grown/reseeded replacement parts and direct mapping of pharmaceuticals to an individuals genes.