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Purpose of environmentalism Mon, Sep 29, 2014
I used to think of environmentalism as a sort of "save the trees" hippie movement that was more concerned with plants and animals than with people.  But recently I've started to realize that that's a little naive, to say the least.  From my limited understanding and experience with environmentalism, it's basically the idea that we, humans, should be concerned with the environment, not just because we feel bad for some endangered toads or whatever, but because "the environment" encompasses pretty much everything, and by affecting one part of the environment, we're really affecting ourselves.  It's essentially a selfish pursuit.  The sun provides energy to plants, which feed us (and animals) and also generate oxygen to breathe.  Mess up one part of that equation -- sun visibility, plants, animals, air -- and you have problems across the board.  It's not so much that we can accurately predict what will happen if we mess something up, but the lack of predictable accuracy is kind of the whole point. 

What doesn't make sense to me is when people are anti-environmentalism.  I get that jobs and the economy and politics are important, but do people realize that without a suitably healthy environment, we'll all be dead?  Where do you think your food comes from?  What do you think your food eats?  The shortsightedness of it is frightening. #science

Phone conferences and speakerphone Tue, Sep 23, 2014
One of the ways my employer tries to save money is by doing phone conferences where people call in to a central number and conduct their meetings as if all the people were in the same room.  The problem is that for whatever reason, my co-workers like to emulate a typical chaotic meeting environment by leaving their phone on speakerphone.  That way, everyone in the cubicle farm can hear that person pretending to do work.  It's like wasting your time sitting in a meeting, except you don't even have to show up. #business

Scotland trip Fri, Sep 19, 2014
The wife and I recently spent 10 or so days in Scotland driving around, sightseeing, and sampling the local aqua vitae.  We flew into and out of Edinburgh, visited castles in Edinburgh, Stirling, and near Loch Ness, and drove through or stayed in Callender, Fort William, Inverness, Dinnet, and Aberfeldy. 

We sampled and mostly enjoyed the local fare, which largely consisted of fried meats and potatoes, though the haggis was an interesting detour.  There seemed to be about ten or so different meals that were available at every restaurant around the country.  None of them were bad, but there wasn't much variation. 

We visited and toured a few distilleries including Glen Ord, Cardhu, Macallan, and Glenlivet, and I personally tried about 30 different kinds of Scotch whisky throughout the trip.  Before the trip, I hadn't tried too many Scotches that I was a fan of, but I came home with an enormous appreciation for Glen Ord, Macallan Amber, and The Dalmore.  Even the wife, who is by no means a drinker of hard alcohol, could appreciate the difference between different brands and flavors, and even liked a few. 

The landscape was surprisingly stark.  There were green pastures and forests followed closely by rocky hills and steep slopes.  The weather was largely cool and wet, but we got a couple days of sunny warmth.  Because of the on-off rain, my shoes and socks kept getting wet, which was not cool. 

Good god, the Scots love their sheep.  Every hill and field seen from a distance was covered in tiny white dots.  Though the much beloved highland cow was seldom seen. 

The castles and history were great to see in person.  It's always amazing when you can walk around a structure that's been standing for 500 years.  An interesting side note is that many of the churches are no longer churches; instead they're tourist information centers and business offices. 

I had driven on the left side of the road one time before in Grand Cayman, so it wasn't entirely foreign.  But it was still foreign.  I got used to it after a week or so, but it still didn't feel quite right.  I attempted to teach my wife how to drive stick, which was interesting because we were in a foreign country with unintelligible road signs, driving on the left while sitting on the right and shifting gears left-handed, on a one-lane two-way road that wound through farms where we had to frequently stop for cattle and sheep.  It was a moderate success. 

The language barrier was pretty minimal.  I expected to have some problems understanding people because I'm bad at understanding people whose accent doesn't match my own.  But even in the more rural parts, the language was pretty understandable. 

Our visit happened to almost coincide with the Scottish vote for independence from the UK.  The "Yes" campaign's alternative "No Thanks" nicely sums up the friendly nature of the vote. 

In conclusion, this was a good trip.  It was a little pricey because of the length of the flight and the currency conversion.  We had a good time checking out the cities, small towns, and mountainous back country, as well as sampling some of the local food and drink.  But because of the nearly constant cold and wet, we probably won't be returning.  No hard feelings though. #travel