Monday, 12 September 2016: Autumn update

Life has been full of good experiences lately. July began with the Kelburn Garden Party, followed by concerts and hanging out with friends. The summer has also included several meditation courses, as well as meeting the lovely Chris Packham again, and I finally got around to seeing the Jesus and Mary Chain, a band who played a crucial part in the story of how I ended up living in Scotland. What a fantastic gig - decadent noisy oblivion!

I am now looking ahead to my second year at the University of Glasgow. In a surprising conclusion to first year, I was awarded a Mary G. Ross Prize "in recognition of excellent performance" in French - a subject I have decided not to pursue any further, despite my love of languages. For the coming year I have chosen a curriculum completely focused on biology, comprising 9 distinct courses, and to get the maximum benefit from the short teaching semesters I may forgo non-academic events until the exam period ends mid-May.

As for site updates, a Nature 2016 album has been created with this year's wildlife photos so far (they're not good but they're mine!). There is also an up-to-date Food Parade 6 page, created mostly for Kevin and me to get meal ideas and to remember in which cookbook to find the recipe...

A final pernickity note: This is not a "blog". Blogs tend to be ready-made templates for those who won't or can't write HTML. This is a website hosting several types of content and the Newsbox, which is only a small part of it, existed before blogs became widespread. Please don't dismiss all the hours I spend creating and maintaining this site by referring to it as merely a blog. Merci bien!

Saturday, 18 June 2016: Summer update

As mentioned in the previous Newsbox post, spring was a time for exam revision, but Kevin and I also managed to attend a couple of stand-up shows and concerts, including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. We have neglected the symphony somewhat in recent years, after the tenure of Music Director Stéphane Denève ended (and he was replaced by a less personable conductor), but in early April Stéphane returned for a visit and we couldn't miss that! In April I also had jury duty, a drawn-out affair which took up my time and attention right before the first exam, and was at least partly to blame for my B1 grade in that course.

Academically, the first year of my Zoology degree went well. I attained A grades in the remaining four courses, and I was class representative for two of my three subjects, which is acknowledged on my academic transcript. I joined a research group specialising in ornithology and chronobiology, and for the past 3 ½ months I have collected data for ongoing research in Blue Tit breeding season diet by monitoring urban invertebrates. Volunteering for research earned me a place on a Masters-level course which included a short residential at the university's field station on Loch Lomond - a nice change from the work in the city.

I now have some much-cherished free time for enjoying nature with Kevin, for looking after my health with fresh summer veggies and distance running, and for all my plans and projects which include reading a huge stack of books I haven't had time for before. My first choice was Chris Packham's newly published memoir Fingers In the Sparkle Jar, which was an intense read at times as I recognised some of my own experiences. I wrote an enthusiastic Tweet about it and he both retweeted (to 159,000 followers) and replied to me, but then I already knew from the time we met that he's really nice to his "fans".

In website news, I have moved things around a bit and changed my online photo album, removing many old photos and then combining all the year albums into a single page full of animals, people, places, and events (and a fair bit of posing). It now lives in the "Hobbies" submenu and is called Personal photos.

Lastly, I mentioned in my spring update going to a talk by George Monbiot on the topic of his latest book. He wrote this column about neoliberalism, which is worth a read.

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