Tag Archives: Scotland

Sir Nils the Penguin is Promoted to Brigadier

Some years ago the King of Norway loaned a penguin to the Edinburgh Zoo and, for kicks, also knighted him. Now whenever King Harald V swings by to visit Scotland on vacation, he promotes the damned bird again. Over the years Sir Nils Olav has gone from a knight to a personal member of the kings guard. read more »

We Probably Overdid it on Witch Executions

I’m beginning to suspect that most of the women we burned at the stake were not actually witches. Even those we properly identified as conjurers can still be divided into subcategories, because not all witches are necessarily evil. There are good witches, like Samantha, from Bewitched, and then there are evil ones, like Janeane Garofalo. read more »

I Might Be on the FBI Watch List

I’d like to go ahead and clear up why I once delayed an international flight due to a misunderstanding about smuggling pistols. If you’re a regular reader do press on, but this post is primarily written for whichever federal investigator handles the yellow sticky notes in my file folder at the FBI headquarters. In 2004 read more »

Corpses of Interest: John Knox

If you’re a Shakespeare enthusiast, or ardent follower of global parking lot news, you’re aware that archaeologists recently discovered King Richard III’s earthly remains under a parking lot in Leicester. Presumably King Richard (or “Humpback Dicky,” as his friends called him) parked his car at a mall, couldn’t again locate it, and eventually got buried beneath read more »

Hostel Life

I’ve lived in hostel twice now, both occasions more or less voluntary. For those unfamiliar, a hostel is basically a flophouse which costs more. The major difference between the two is that one has scruffy, half-drunk people who barely speak English wandering around at odd hours, whereas people in flophouses generally don’t own passports. The read more »

In Search of My Land

[youtube width=”600px” height=”400px”]VlbwxvmjPm0[/youtube] Score another one for Scotch: if you drink enough of it distilleries give you plots of land! Very few drinking problems result in that sort of awards system. The Laphroig Distillery sent me the deed to a square foot of land some months ago, and I decided to track it down. In read more »

Burns Suppers: Kilt, Dancing & Murder Etiquette

Today Scots celebrate Burns Night, their most prominent and least violent national holiday. If you’re visiting Scotland or have Scottish ex-pat neighbors, you may be invited to a Burns Supper. If that’s the case, it’s imperative you know proper kilt, dancing and murder etiquette. Pay attention, because kilts come with a little knife which the read more »

How to Make an International Bank Transfer

Scotland has finally sent me my money back, and just in the nick of time: it’s the holidays and I need that cash to make sure the Heaton family Christmas tree is properly stocked with bottles of whiskey wrapped in festive paper as if decorated by flamboyantly homosexual street vagrants. Whilst living in Scotland last read more »

Don’t Mess with Clan McBastard

I fancy myself something of an Associate Scot: I’ve drank enough single malt to drown a family of horses, I’ve snuck into a castle, twice lived in Edinburgh, and even dated some Scottish women. Briefly. Combined with a gang of close friends who took it upon themselves to adopt me and teach me the ways read more »

Wotjek the Bear

The all-time best animal at Edinburgh Zoo was definitely Wojtek the bear. Let me tell you about Wojtek. Wojtek was a Syrian brown bear that the Polish army adopted during World War II while in Iran. A local boy captured the bear cub, then offered to sell it to the Polish army for two cans read more »

A Guide to Loch Jumping

If you’re like most visitors to Scotland at some point you’ll be faced with the option of jumping feet-first into a loch. A “loch” is very similar to a conventional lake, except that it is far, far colder and more apt to be populated with sea monsters. (The word “Loch” comes from the old Gallic read more »


Quite kindly, my hosts had contacted the Dalbeatie Museum to snag its creator and curator to show me around after hours while I was in town. Tommy enthusiastically lead me through the museum to explain trinkets and historical curio from the last century which he has pieced together over thirty years. The top floor is read more »

Our Pirates are Gentlemen

Last year I read an article in the New York Times, wherein US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that the American Navy is larger than the next thirteen navies on the planet combined, eleven of which are our allies or security partners. This is in stark contrast to the American navy at its onset during read more »


The third time the homeless man and I made eye-contact I decided to go to the movie. This is all on account of the fact that, apparently, I’ve gone prematurely senile. I am now in my high twenties and lock myself out of my flat at least twice a month. It’s horrifying. Before aging past read more »


For some time now New Year’s Eve has struck me as a poor holiday conceived by alcoholic mathematicians. Imagine for a moment that we’ve never celebrated the day before. If I said, “Hey, why don’t you come over to my place tomorrow night? We’re going to get really drunk and then celebrate flipping a calendar read more »


How famous is Linlithgow? Well. Have you ever wondered where the very first assasination with a firearm took place? Scottish history is rife with stories about so-and-so burning down whossit’s castle, and whossit wreaking bloody revenge (generally by burning down a castle), which prompts more castle burning and revenge. Such is the case with the read more »

Helluva Bridge

The technical facts about the Golden Gate Bridge read like poetry to engineers. I have inherited no useful math skills, however, so am thus left to marvel at the paint job. Originally the architect wanted to paint it gray, but denizens talked him into bright red on the grounds that it’s prettier and cargo ships read more »

Thwarting the Vampire Castle

I realized only the night before that in less than a week Scotland would expel me like Coke through its nostrils after a really good punchline. My goal of achieving knighthood before returning to America’s heartland was in serious jeopardy. The best plan, I reasoned, was to achieve a more realistic goal. If I could read more »

Monks & Hippies

With the exception of the abbot and a couple of monks, most of Samye Ling’s tonsured are Brits. Which is funny, as all Scots look like thugs when their heads are shaved. An effect heightened by the many tattoos which creep out from the shadows of the monks’ red robes. I suspect several of the read more »

Holy Islands and Live Burials

Iona is a grand volcanic belch, crumbled by time and blanketed with thick, furry grass. It’s only a mile and a half by three miles, which means it’s small enough to explore in a day, but large enough to escape other travelers amidst a range of hills, beaches and bogs. Significant chunks of my time read more »