Jun. 24th, 2017
04:50 pm - Last of the Scotland photos
I got distracted from sifting through holiday photos, but here finally are the last two albums from my Scotland holiday back in May:
The Orkney set includes photos of the Grain Earth-House, an iron age underground cellar that would have originally had a roundhouse on top of it, and also the Wideford Hill cairn. Both of these are "minor" as Orkney archaeology goes (the Earth-House is actually kept locked up and you have to get the key from a local cafe), which meant I was the only person there.
Jun. 4th, 2017
09:30 pm - Scotland II
Another batch of holiday photos:
- Kyle of Lochalsh and Plockton
- Rocks on the beach at Thurso
- The isle of Hoy (as seen from the ferry to Orkney)
- St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney
Plockton's a very pretty little harbour town, and the hotel was right on the harbour front. While I was there there was a wedding on, with the ceremony conducted out on a boat -- luckily they had the weather for it. (Apparently the couple had been coming to Plockton for some years for holidays so they decided to have their wedding there too, and I could see why.) There's also a photo in that set of a wind turbine blade being unloaded at Kyle of Lochalsh -- you don't realise how big those things are until you see one up close at ground level.
Moving on to Thurso the weather was a little bit more cloudy. On the coast you can see how the local rock naturally forms slab-like layers which make perfect flagstones.
St Magnus Cathedral has an impressive collection of 'memento mori' tombstones. (There are more photos of other bits of Orkney to come in the next batch.)
Jun. 3rd, 2017
10:27 am - Scotland photos (first batch)
My Scotland holiday last month was great, and I did particularly well with the weather. The trip was what you might call a self-guided tour: the travel agent prebooked all the hotels, train travel, and a few small-group day tours for places like Skye and Orkney. I got to see some of Scotland's more scenic railway routes, on a loop that went up from Glasgow to Fort William, across to Skye, then over to Inverness and up to Thurso, with a few days on Orkney before dropping back down to finish in Edinburgh. All the places I stayed were nice, I ate quite a lot of good food, and the logistics went exactly to plan: I would get off a train at a station and a pre-booked pre-paid taxi would be waiting to take me on to the hotel, every time. I'd happily recommend the travel agent if you want a good well organized tour-of-Scotland holiday where you don't care too much about how much it costs. They say they visit everywhere they send people to personally, and I got the impression that they tend to pick small hotels and day-trip operators and then use them consistently, which means that for instance the taxi firm cares about not letting you down because they're probably getting a job from the travel agent every other day in peak season. And they were happy to customise a 2 week trip into 3 weeks for me.
I've started on the drawn-out process of sifting through the photos I took; here's the first batch:
I think the first part of this trip was in some ways the part I liked best: it started with some really nice places to stay, and the geography of the area is spectacular. Skye has some beautiful scenery but I was surprised by how full of tourists it was. It's still possible to find bits which are empty of other people, though.
Apr. 10th, 2017
08:38 pm - Moving to Dreamwidth
I was prompted by the recent LiveJournal terms-of-service change (and by the fact that half my friends list seem to also be abandoning that ship) to move my journal to Dreamwidth. You can find me at http://pm215.dreamwidth.org/. I'm going to use the cross-posting facility to post my entries in both places at least for a while (though I only made 7 entries last year, so it may be hard to tell the difference).
Let me know if you have a DW journal I should be following, or if there seem to be teething troubles with the switchover...
Dec. 20th, 2016
07:30 pm - mobile tedium
It seems that Virgin Mobile have finally decided to kill off the tariff I'd been happily using for the last decade or more, thus forcing me to consider the confusopoly of mobile phone tariff choices :-(
I don't use my mobile much at all (occasional texts and calls; the logs say I last used it back in August), so the old Virgin PAYG-by-direct-debit was perfect: I just paid for what I used, with no monthly charge, and I never had to worry about having to top up the phone or credit that I'd paid for expiring. I'm not sure any of the operators offer a setup like this, and certainly Virgin's current offerings seem to weigh in at 6 quid a month minimum...
Three's PAYG deal looks about the closest (catches being that you have to use the phone at least every six months, and it's not clear whether it can be set to auto-topup). Moving my number to a new provider is faff I didn't really want to have to deal with, though.
Edit: aargh, can't just switch to Three, because they only work with 3G phones and mine doesn't do that (it's a Nokia 2600 classic).
Dec. 18th, 2016
10:36 pm - Final batch of holiday photos
Last couple of sets weeded through and uploaded:
- Tokyo at night, and Mount Mitake
- A Tokyo park, illuminated at night
- The Odaiba waterfront (in Tokyo)
Dec. 15th, 2016
02:49 pm - More photos (with added monkeys)
Further holiday photo installments:
Dec. 4th, 2016
08:29 pm - Holiday photos, slice two
A few more blocks of photos:
The last of those includes possibly my favourite photo of the trip, bright yellow leaves reflected in a polished wooden floor.
Still to be sorted through: night views of Matsumoto castle, more colourful foliage, several panoramas, a fake statue of liberty and lots of monkeys in hot water.
Nov. 30th, 2016
02:53 pm - Holiday photos...
I just got back from a great three week holiday, in Japan (again ;-)). I didn't take my laptop this time round, which was great from a "forget entirely about work" perspective but has left me with hundreds of photos on the camera to sort through and upload.
Here's a first slice:
A couple of particular favourites:
- Painstakingly spiral-raked gravel at a temple on Mount Hiei
- Sun slicing across autumn foliage, Mount Hiei again
More at the weekend, probably.
Aug. 24th, 2016
09:15 pm - passed the JLPT N1!
I took level N1 (the highest) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test last month (mostly as part of setting myself a goal to get back into putting more effort into my studying over the last year or so). The results came out today, and I passed!
- Vocabulary/grammar: 45/60
- Reading: 60/60
- Listening: 56/60
- Total: 161/180 (which is a solid pass, given the pass/fail border is at 100; less than 19 in any one section is also a fail)
They also provide what they call "reference information" (ie it doesn't affect whether you pass or not) which says that my vocab is a "B" and the grammar an "A".
I think I was lucky to get a perfect score on the reading section: usually there's one question that I find tricky enough that I have to guess it or get it wrong. Vocab's always been my weakest area. Really happy with this overall, anyway.
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