3 July 2004

I'm several days behind on my story, so let me try to catchup.

On Wednesday, 30 June, Jane Prey arrived. She was at University of Virginia, then a program manager at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education, and now at Microsoft Research. She was at the ITiCSE (International CS education conference) earlier in the week at Leeds, and was stopping by to visit us on her way out to London. We took her on a long walk through Oxford (and finally visited Blackwells–huge old bookstore), then went to dinner at The Eagle and Child. We watched the movie Bye, Bye Birdie (which our church is going to do this next year).

Thursday, 1 July, was a bit of a rush between classes and leaving for Edinburgh. Students had their first programming assignments due that evening, so I did have office hours that morning. (They did a marvelous job! Visit the Oxford CS1315 home pages then click on the Who's Who pages, and any of the students' pages to see their work in Word documents.) Jane hung out with Barb and the kids, then went with me to class. It was a good class to visit–we were doing mirroring and compositing, and she said that she could see how engaged they all were. We rushed back to the house for a taco, then rushed back in time for 1371. I had them do sound work: We read in WAV files and manipulated them. Though they finally (!!) have MATLAB on all the computers, most of the computers have no sound hardware, and only one of them can download things from the Internet! I had to pass around a USB drive with all the sounds I wanted them to use.

After class, we very quickly packed up, saw Jane off at the bus station, picked up food, and went to the railway station for our 3:30 pm to Edinburgh. The train was packed at first, but emptied out the further we got north. The train went along the east coast–we could see the boats stranded in the mud at low tide, and all the seaside villages.

Edinburgh is a striking city! The buildings are detailed, on rolling hills, with gardens everywhere. It's less congested than London, and because of the hills, it's easier to see lots of different things whereever you are. We're staying in a very nice bed and breakfast that Barb's sister, Sue, found. We caught up with them there.

On Friday, 2 July, we had a great breakfast (sausages, eggs, bacon, porridge) then took a taxi to the base of Arthur's Seat–a large hill (mountain?) overlooking the city. We saw swans with their babies which the girls loved. The walk up was steep but fun – the countryside is beautiful, and the kids were in good moods scrambling up the rocks. The view was impressive from the top, but I think that the walk up and back was as much fun. We then walked down by some ruins onto the Royal Mile (between the Queen's palace in Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle). The Queen was in residence, so we didn't get to see the Palace. We took a bus most of the way up to the castle, then climbed up the rest of the way.

Jenny, Katie, and Michele as we waited to walk up Arthur's Seat

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Arthur's Seat from the B and B

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Barb at the top

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Barb, Matt, and Katie on our way back down

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The Edinburgh Castle reminded me of the castle's in Lord of the Rings–passageways that ring the castle that one travels up and twoard the center of the castle, interspersed with porticulis gates. We saw the Scottish crown jewels, and had terrific views of the city. I found the history fascinating–when we got back, I read for hours in all the tour books that had history sections, trying to figure out who Mary Queen of Scots was, and how often the Scottish and English fought, and how did the crowns become merged.

All of us at Edinburgh Castle

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Matt as we look out over Edinburgh from the castle

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After the castle, we had lunch and went shopping down the Royal Mile. We took a bus back to the bed and breakfast, and after resting for just a bit, walked up to an Italian restaurant for dinner. When we came back, Sue and Barb took a bus to the train station to make our reservations for our trip back Sunday. They took the wrong bus (or the right bus, but at the wrong point) and ended up taking about three hours–and getting to the train station too late to make the reservations! Meanwhile, Michele and our kids watched The Tuxedo on DVD while I read history.

I'm writing this Saturday 3 July morning. Barb and Sue are getting the reservations and picking up a mini-van from the airport. We're driving to Strathaven and other places where their ancestors are from. I'm really looking forward to seeing the Scottish countryside!