Wow, what a crazy two weeks. So, what's been going on... the week before last was a little slow; catching up on work and everything. We spent most of the end of the week preparing for our National Astronomy Meeting. On Friday, after dealing with the incompetence and lack of awareness by some of the PhD students, a few of us went to go try a new bar in town. They had a decent special on wine so two girls and myself split a bottle. Then this awful band started practicing and we realised that we have reached that age where we start whining when a band starts to play. So we decided to go back to one of their houses, order Mr India and watch Star Trek. It was an awesome evening. We now have another recruit for our Star Trek nights!
On Saturday, I had a nice lie-in before finally getting up and packing to go hang out in Edinburgh for the night. I went to the Queen Street station and got the train to Edinburgh Haymarket. It was a beautiful train ride as the weather was absolutely lovely. That train journey always reminds me of Colorado on a nice day. It is a stretch of farmland with the highlands behind them, but instead of Colorado, the farmland has the quintessential 'rolling hills'. When I arrived in Haymarket I met up with my friend and his girlfriend in their flat. We had a few beers and put on some heavy metal LPs. We also watched a documentary on the heavy metal culture and his girlfriend made some bolognese. Her sister and one of his friends showed up as well before the show we were going to. We wandered into the streets of Edinburgh and decided to walk to the gig, about 20 minutes away. It was really great to walk through the city. Edinburgh has such a great cityscape with fantastic old streets and buildings. We went to a metal show in a venue down an alley with about 4 bands playing. The gig was fantastic and had some bands that completely rocked the house. After the gig ended, we went outside and hung out with one of the bands as they packed up their equipment in a hatchback. They had an inflatable football that we kicked around in the street a bit and they were playing the Star Wars soundtrack from their car. Afterwards we went to a pub called The Doctor and had some gin and tonics and ate some really good beef jerky that my friend had brought from America. He also had brought me some pickle relish and Fat Tire beer. What a great present. We then went back to the flat and crashed until the afternoon on Sunday. After a quick breakfast I caught the train back to Glasgow and on the way, I got a text about a last minute barbeque that night on the University hill. The weather was stunning that day and so I jumped right on that. It seemed that all of Glasgow was out enjoying the rare sunlight. We met at the university flagpole that overlooks all of Glasgow and the Clyde river. We had a little portable barbeque and made sausages and drank beer while lying on the grass in the sun. It was absolute bliss and super relaxing. We are now enjoying sun that stays up until 9:30 at night, so if the sun is out, it's fantastic!
I woke up early on Monday to go help out with our meeting. I was in charge of helping out the press room the whole week, which was not too terrible and I got to see a bit of the action. I wished I could have seen more talks, but they needed someone to man the press room and help if necessary. I kept track of all the news stories on the meeting as they came out all week. It was pretty interesting to see the science press working, especially against an election this month. On that note, it is really bizarre to have a one month election cycle. One month for everything. Debates, registration, adverts, all the things that us Americans were inundated with for 18 months straight condensed into 4 weeks.
Anyway, speaking of Monday, I had the most wonderful, fantastic, liberating, thrilling, exciting night that night. I finally got to go to the Barrowland Ballrooms to see a show. Not just any show, but the Dropkick Murphys. The Barrowlands is Glasgow's most famous concert venue. It used to be an old ballroom (obviously, from the name) and has low ceilings, wood floors and in a delightfully sketchy location in East Glasgow. On Saturday, it's also home to the black market, The Barras. It lived up to everything I expected from it. The floor was sticky with beer, there was no airflow and the people were going nuts. It was the first time I had seen the Dropkick Murphys live as well and they exceeded my expectations. They played all my favourite songs including ones I did not expect at all. At one point, the singer said "We never play this, but you seem the crowd to like this sort so here is FIELDS OF ATHENRY!!" The Fields of Athenry was my first favourite Dropkick Murphys song, so I went friggin nuts. They played a brilliant show. Glaswegians are just as nuts about music as I heard. It was a crazy, primal show; so much sweating and dancing and singing. Airflow would have been nice, but people were pretty good at getting their passed-out friends out of the crowd (not even kidding!). I had a few close calls after 4 of the best songs all in a row, but I managed not to pass out from the heat. It made it such a more fantastic experience. My friend who came with me really got into the show as well, which made it even better, especially as it's not her sort of thing, but she absolutely loved it. We left covered in sweat and beer (as plastic glasses of beer are constantly thrown into the crowd, it felt great!) and we could not hear or speak. It always feels great.
On Wednesday we had our conference dinner in the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. This was an absolutely phenomenal event. They have a giant organ in the entrance hallway. As the delegates were arriving, we were lead through the gallery and up a large marble staircase to a champagne reception over-looking the dining area and amongst the art and statues. It was an elegant reception and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Thanks to the fact that Glaswegians were organising this conference dinner, you can scrap the idea that there were going to be the standard one bottle of white and one bottle of red wine for a table of ten people. No no no, this is a glaswegian event. There were four bottles of wine and five bottles of beer for a table of 10. Thankfully, this got everyone properly liquored up for the ceilidh after the meal. Most people had not been to a ceilidh before but most of the people got up to dance. We had a smashing time. After the dance, we decided to have an after-party at the Oran Mor which lasted until 2 in the morning. We filled the Oran Mor with astronomers and drank whisky all through the evening ending with the obligatory chippy at the corner of the Botanic Gardens.
Thursday morning we woke up to the most bizarre news we have ever heard. A volcano had gone off; no one could fly in, out or around the UK. My friend did not get to move to Berkeley, I have a friend stranded in Austria, my friends from America could not come visit me and our speakers could not arrive or leave from the meeting. Sadly, the sky was not as apocalyptic as we hoped and many people were in denial about not being able to fly. We are going on four days now of being completely cut off. The inconveniences I mentioned are only a small fraction of the problems that my friends are having. Though my plans for the week have been completely thrown out the window, I thankfully am not flying myself. We did however have to deal with the chaos of trying to get our delegates from the meeting home. They did a pretty good job of giving each other rides back to London and other places. It has been just such a weird experience, which is still going on.
On Friday night we finished up the meeting at around three in the afternoon and took the leftover alcohol up to the common room and drank our beer, reveling in the post-meeting enthusiasm. We had another great day in terms of weather, so we went out looking for beer gardens, but could not find a good place. We went to the chippy for dinner and then crashed the Ben Nevis for some whisky. As I was completely knackered from the past week, I went home relatively early.
Last night I went across the street to my friends' house. Him and his wife are from Mexico and made Mexican food for a few people. We had a ton of great food and drink and enjoyed good company. The best part? Living across the street from them...well, really, the posole was the best, but just walking across the street at night was really nice.
Anyway, so that has been the last two weeks for me. Since I do not have visitors the next week, it should be pretty boring, but I will still let you know if anything exciting happens! Ta for now!