Green Education in a Green Country



I'm officially done! I graduated on Tuesday, in a beautiful (okay, long and boring) ceremony. It was fun to dress up in silly robes and get bopped on the head with a piece of John Knox's trousers (I'm not kidding -- that is how they graduate you here). I graduated with distinction - basically the equivalet of "cum laude". Now I just need to find a job.

Here are some graduation day pictures:

The ceremony was held in the impressive McEwan hall.

Me with my program advisor.

And what's a graduation without a picture with the piper?


Debunking social stigmas...

...against buses.

Types of public transportation vary in the way they are perceived. Subways and trains are viewed as being cosmopolitan, and ferries are just fun. But buses are perceived as fit only for the poor, the elderly, and schoolchildren. Oh, and crazy people. Not exactly a glamorous crowd.

However, my experience, at least here in Edinburgh, has been different. Sure, the people listed above ride the bus (and sorry if you're in that group and feel oh-so-unglamorous now), but so do bussiness-people and families. Blue collar and white collar alike. And now, officially, I can add celebrities to that list.

Yes, last weekend I had my first-ever up-close-and-personal celebrity sighting* -- on a bus. Emma Watson, the actress who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, got on the bus Aaron and I were on last weekend, and we eavesdropped on her conversation for about 20 minutes (we have no shame). It was so cool!

Now, I concede that there may be a difference between the buses here and the buses in your town. Buses need to be clean, reliable, frequent, safe, and convenient in order for those who have other transportation options to ride them (double decker-ness doesn't hurt, either). Perhaps once your town introduces buses that embody all these properties the celebrities visiting your town will start riding them too.

And I have to say, there are probably few other ways in which you can really eavesdrop on a celebrity like when one sits down a few seats behind you on a bus. It's really the way to go in celebrity sighting. I know you are dying to know what exactly Emma Watson talked about for the 20 minutes we listened in on her. Well, that is between me and Emma. And the friend she was talking to. And the 15 or so other people seated around her.

So....go, ride a bus! Find your own celebrity to eavesdrop on.

*I have also seen Bill Pullman, Sandra Oh, and Will Ferrell in person, but from a bit of a distance -- certainly not close enough for eavesdropping.


What next?

Some of you might be wondering what exactly I'm up to, since I've finished my degree but have failed to vacate the country. Well, that is a very good question. I started applying for jobs, and actually got an offer at a renewable energy consultancy in Glasgow, but turned it down. And at this point, to be honest, I don't exactly know what I want to do next. I have a couple ideas though.

Aaron and I have a new flat in Edinburgh, so I plan on staying in Scotland for at least a few more months. I'm working with my advisor on shaping my dissertation into a paper to try to get it published in a peer-reviewed journal -- which would be very cool. I'm going to try to take some time to do some of the travelling I meant to do this year but never got around to. For starters, my friend and I will be hiking the Great Glen Way, a 73 mile trail from Inverness to Fort William, starting tomorrow (I'm on a computer in the hostel we're staying at in Inverness right now). After that, I'd like to do some travelling in France, Italy, Northern Ireland, Wales...and maybe a couple more places. In between all the travelling I may try to do some temp jobs to keep the cash flowing.

Aaron and I are also toying with the idea of taking an extended trip to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. That will require much more planning, obviously, and perhaps more serious saving of money beforehand. But its an idea, and doing this travelling now, before I get another full-time job is an opportunity I want to at least consider.

So that is what I'm doing and thinking now. Who knows; by next week I might have a totally different plan. But I figured I could update whoever out there in cyberspace cares on what I've been up to.

Wish me luck on my first 19.5 miles of hiking tomorrow!


Hyperindividualism, moving, and jerks

After a stressful weekend of flat-hunting and hosteling, Aaron and I managed to sign the lease on a flat. It's a one-bedroom, a little further outside the city, but all in all not a bad place. Finding the flat, it turns out, was the easy part. Moving our stuff (from Aaron's cubicle at work) into the flat -- not so much. Moving tends to bring out the worst in me, and at some point during every move I manage to be reduced to tears. This time was no different.

Since we didn't have a place to live when we had to move out of our old flat, we simply packed everything up and stored it at Aaron's work. How to get it there? No problem -- we just called 2 cabs and loaded everything up. We patted ourselves on the back for not accumulating too much stuff in the past year -- we still have little more than the 2 suitcase-fulls of stuff each that came over on the plane with us last year. Easy-peasy.

So we were utterly unprepared for the nightmare that moving our stuff from Aaron's cubicle to our new apartment would turn out to be. We hoisted everything onto the sidewalk outside of Aaron's work and called for two cabs -- same as before. They turned up and promptly informed us that they "don't do removals". Huh? We didn't have that much stuff. They continued to refuse, and left. So we called back the cab company, and were told that they wouldn't move us with all our stuff -- it was too much -- even though they admitted that they did move all our stuff 3 days ago (a mistake apparently). So we grudgingly asked them to send 1 more cab to pick us up with a couple suitcases to get us through the night in our new place. Well, this cab showed up, took one look at our suitcases and refused! Again! Frustrated and wanting to just get home at this point, we asked how much stuff we could take. The cab driver wouldn't answer us, wouldn't look us in the eye -- just took off. We called back the cab company and were told that they would no longer dispatch cabs to us. After a few choice words we hung up and tried to figure out what to do next. We decided to lug a couple suitcases down the street to a bus stop and take the bus home. The bus pulls up, and -- you guessed it -- refuses to let us on. The bus was too crowded for us and our luggage. So we said goodbye to our pride and hailed a taxi, who was this time, apparently arbitrarily, willing to take us.

So most of our stuff is still stranded in Aaron's cubicle. We can't rent a van (no UK drivers licenses), cabs and buses obviously can't be counted on, and 3 miles is a long way to haul our stuff on foot. We can't get ahold of any movers.

What does all this have to do with hyperindividualism and jerks? Well, pretty much everyone we encountered in our pursuit of moving were jerks. Jerks mostly in the way they treated us, and in the way they did business. It was infuriating but also humiliating and degrading to be treated that way. We certainly didn't invite it. We did nothing wrong, and up until (almost) the very end were polite, courteous, professional.

Which got me to thinking -- why are so many people jerks? It might have just been bad luck this time, but I've been noticing it more and more, here and in Boston. People, especially people you are trying to get goods or services from, tend to be jerks. Not all these people, and not all the time, but a large percentage of them. My best guess is that it's a vicious cycle -- they have jerky customers which in turn makes them act jerky (I can understand how this happens -- I temporarily turned into a jerk myself after all this happened. Why should I be nice to people if they are all jerks? was my anger-adled thinking).

And maybe this is the root of some of our culture's hyperindividualism -- the desire to be as self-sufficient as possible, to never need anyone else. Maybe people want their own cars in large part to avoid interactions with other people/jerks. I would have easily avoided my moving nightmare by owning a car. I would never again have to rely on cab jerks or bus jerks. And it doesn't stop with cars. People stay glued to their TV's every night, maybe in part because they are avoiding going out into the real world where they would have to deal with jerks. And I can see why people buy new appliances/gadgets as soon as the slightest thing goes wrong with the ones they have: you can buy a new one online, without even speaking to another human. You try to call customer service (maybe the biggest jerks of all) to fix something on your laptop and let me know how your blood pressure/migraine situation is after that ordeal.

I don't have the answers to this problem. And maybe its not even really a problem for most people, since most of us strive for that hyperindividualism and so are somewhat insulated from jerks. But in any case, it helped me to write all this down and vent.

So, my advice? Go about your business and try to smile when you encounter a jerk, despite it all. And for heaven's sake, avoid Edinburgh cabs.


OLS - final week

It's the last week of the Eat Local Challenge, and we did the best we could...considering we're now homeless. Yes, that is correct, we no longer have a place to live (Aaron's family: if you're reading this, please don't freak out). Our lease on our apartment ended yesterday, and to make a long story short we have been unable to find a new flat. So even though we are currently living in a hostel, with all our possessions piled in Aaron's cubicle at work, and we are frantically trying to find a new apartment, we decided to do a full day's worth of local meals today. Might as well end the Challenge with a bang.

For breakfast we sauntered down the street to the farmers market.

Aaron had mostly-local porridge (oatmeal) with almonds and pears, and a bottle of local apple-elderflower juice.

I muched on a brioche roll and had a bottle of fizzy local raspberry juice.

While we were at the farmers market we picked up some provisions for a picnic lunch.

After looking at another flat (that somebody else had put an offer on before we got there -- why does this keep happening to us?!) we wandered over to this nearby park to have our picnic.

The picnic consisted of soft pretzels and a garlic-herb soft cheese spread, a cucumber, goats cheese rolled in oats, and tiny plums and pears.

For dinner we have reservations at a restaurant called Urban Angel. Their motto is "local, organic, free-range, fair trade". They have amazing food and it's easy to get a mostly-local meal.

If we can eat locally for 3 meals a day while homeless it really can't be out of most people's reach. Think good thoughts for us while we try to find a place to live, and keep eating locally!


OLS - Week 9

This week's local meal involved baked potatoes topped with sauteed zucchini, onions, and tomatoes, and some cheddar cheese. On the side: red cabbage stewed with local apple juice, onions, redcurrants, and some non-local white wine (unless you count France as local...)

In other news: I finished my dissertation, and now I'm just searching for a new flat in Edinburgh that allows dogs, and not having too much luck (which is bad, since we have to be out of our current flat by Friday). Also looking for a job still. And, you know, just trying to figure out what I'm doing next in life in general. Any suggestions?

Okay, off to look at a flat. Keep eating your summer veggies!


OLS - Week 8

This week's local meal (courtesy of Aaron, who has really been doing more than his fair share of the cooking since I've been so busy with my dissertation) was fried egg sandwiches on homemade bread with homemade mayo, and a beet-cabbage-carrot slaw. Truly delicious!

Wish I could write more, but its back to the dissertation. On Friday, I'll be done with my Masters degree!