Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More flat pictures!

Here are some more pictures of my flat. It's not all that exciting, except for my room, but here it is anyway!
*
Updated pic of Warrender Park Crescent!
*
Warrender Park Crescent, which I believe used to be a school for young girls. (Picture not taken by me, I found this one on the internet).
*
For reference, my room is to the right on the top level when you're looking at the above picture. So if you look at the pictures in my previous entry of the view out my window, you're looking at the cupola from the right. The gable on the right side (which you can't see in the pic above) is slightly higher than the one on the left, so we are at the highest point in the building. (In the first pic of this entry, we are the gable sticking out of the center/corner of the building.

*
Closeup of my bed, with my new sheets and pillows, and my plants!
*
The kitchen, with my two herb plants on the right! My cabinets are the
ones with no handles to the left of the cooker.
*
The sad little common area of our kitchen.
*
The hallway.
*
So looking at the last picture of the hallway to get some perspective, there are two entrances, one behind where I was standing to take the picture, and one at the other end where the stairs are. Directly to the right, which you can't see too well, is the small hallway to my room and Hannah's room, as well as the kitchen. The bathroom is the next hallway coming off, and beyond that is the little hallway with the toilet, Lucy's bedroom, which is identical to mine, only opposite, and Miriam's bedroom. Also there's a closet down that hallway. The little alcoves on the left are just windows.

So classes have officially started, and so far the first three days have been great. It's still going super fast, but I feel like I'm actually learning stuff at a fairly reasonable pace. Monday we had two lectures on embryology and a computer practical on embryology, Tuesday we had two lectures on cell biology (mostly about stem cells), and a lecture on farm economics.

Today we had our first lectures combined with the second years, and while the information was a bit of an overload, it was still interesting. My only issue was that the lecture was HUGE! At colby the most people we ever had in a lecture was like 50 students, this was like, maybe a bit over 100! The professor had to wear a microphone so we could all hear him. Craziness. I much prefer small schools.

The second years seem nice enough, but they're SO young it boggles my mind! Some of them look like they're 12! Also, it was a bit of a downer to sit down and hear one of them say "we're surrounded by the enemy now," referring to them being surrounded by a bunch of GEP students. And they wonder why our two groups tend to have animosity between them? Not to say that I wont ever associate with any of them, because a lot of them seem perfectly nice, but if that's their general attitude towards us I'm not going to go out of my way to make friends with them.

Anyway, now back to studying, before I go to our weekly dinner at Jessica's.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Highland Adventures!

So before I tell of my highland adventures, first I'd like to introduce you to my new flat! There are some things different now than when I took the picture a few days ago, mostly that I've moved the pictures that are on the right side of the wall to a different space, and now have two picture frames to hang there (found for a pound each at a bargain store, of cute animals!), and also, there is a big fern on the right side of the window, and a little tray of pots that I've put some wildflower seeds in! I decided that I am going to beat my black thumb, and so Jessica and I went to the HomeBase store (basically a UK Home Depot), and got some plants and seeds and pots and soil and went crazy. No longer will plants come to my house to die!
*
My new flat!
*
So at first I wasn't too thrilled with the flat, because for one, it is on the TOP floor of the building, meaning that I have to climb exactly 100 steps (yes, I counted) in order to get there. Once I got over that it's not so bad, especially once I furnished it (after a glorious trip to the Edinburgh IKEA). It's a bit weird living with college-age kids (my flatmates are 17, 19, and 20). They are all very nice so far, but it's just like we're at completely different stages of life, and I feel like such an old stuffy woman because they're always going out partying and I'm like "nahh I'm tired, I think I'm going to go to bed at 10pm." Also, I've lived on my own already, for four years of college and then one year almost completely independently, and so it's weird to be back in a situation where I have to share space with people, and have to deal with rules about what I can and can't have in my room.

But whatever, so far it's working out alright. If nothing else, it's just for a year, and I might get in a bit more shape in the process. :) Also, check out my view!
*
My view by day!
*
My view by night!
*
So now, on to my highland adventures with Jessica, Erin, Hyla, and Kirsten! Check out my mobileme gallery for more pics, but here are pics to show the main highlights.

Day 1: Carbisdale Castle!
*
'A' on the map is Culrain
*

We caught an early train at 6:40am to Culrain, changing trains once at Perth. At Culrain we stepped off the train and walked about 1/2 mile to Carbisdale Castle. This Castle was built by the Dutchess of Sutherland, between 1905 and 1917, and used by her until it was turned into a youth hostel. So it's a very new castle, but it's reputed to be haunted by various ghosts. We unfortunately didn't see any, but what can you do. It was my first experience in a youth hostel, and it was actually pretty good. I still prefer full-service hotels, but how often do you get to stay in an actual castle for something like 17 quid a night?
*
Carbisdale Castle
*
We couldn't check into the castle until 3:30, and it was only about 11:30, so we left our packs behind and went for a walk around the area. We didn't see too much excitement, the whole of Culrain is basically the train stop, a few houses, and the castle. Everything else is farmland.
*
Me and the Highlands!
*
Scottish Wildflowers
*
We discovered a pretty cool bridge
*
So after our long walk, we headed back to the castle to check in and have a cup of tea from the cafe before going up to our rooms. Our room had 4 sets of bunk beds, so with only 5 of us, we were left to share the room with 3 random people. We were there for 3 nights, but the others only stayed for a night each. We ate dinner in the castle, for a whopping 9.50 quid, but it was surprisingly good, and I suppose for the price of 17 quid a night, they have to make money somewhere, right?
*
Hyla (middle) and Erin (right) get settled
*

Day 2: Dingwall Mart
*
Closeup of Culrain (A), and Dingwall (B)
*
The next morning, we caught a 9am train to Dingwall, to see the livestock market (which was the reason behind this whole trip. The day we were there was prime stock day, so they were selling all of the prime lambs and prime calves off to the abbattoirs (a nice word for slaughterhouses). It was kind of cool to see how the whole thing works, and how each cow is auctioned separately. I'm pretty sure it is completely different to the mass livestock sales in the US, so it was cool to see it done in such a personal manner. We were so very out of place in this setting, and people were looking at us like "what on earth are 5 blonde girls with cameras and notebooks doing here?!" But regardless, it was a good experience.
*
Calf being auctioned
*
Also it was funny because the auctioneer was so stereotypical of what you'd see on tv that we could barely understand what he was saying because he was doing it in that sing-songy way and it was going so quickly! We met the auctioneer afterwards, and he's a really nice man, he gave us lots of information and even a floorplan of the market penning system to help us with our EMS forms! I love Scottish people, they're so nice!
*
Us at the Livestock Market!
From L-R: Me, Erin, Jessica, Hyla, Kirsten
*
After the livestock market we headed into the town of Dingwall to just look around. It was such an adorable little town and had a surprising amount in it for such a small setting. While I was there, I bought a bike! I live a bit away from school walking, so having a bike will make it much easier to get to class. Also, will be easier on my feet! :)

We had dinner in a cute little pub by the traintracks, and ate delicious burgers and fries (which are only called fries when paired with hamburgers, apparently, otherwise they are called 'chips'). Then we boarded the train and headed back!

When we got back to Carbisdale Castle we pretty much just conked out, it was a tiring day!

Day 3: Carbisdale Castle Hiking
When we got up the next morning the weather was gorgeous, so we decided to take a nice hike around the castle. There are a bunch of trails set up, I think mainly for mountainbiking, but they were just as fun to walk!
*
Gorgeous weather, finally!
*
Us taking a break on an oddly-placed bench!
*
A pretty lake we stumbled across!
*
After the walk, we pretty much just hung out around the castle until bedtime. We made dinner in the self-service kitchen and sat around chatting until we went to sleep.

Day 4: Inverness, Urquhart Castle, and Loch Ness
*
We took the train from Inverness (B) to Urquhart Castle (C),
then walked to Drumnadrochit (A).
*
On this last day of our adventure, we took the 9am train home. This train stopped in Inverness, though, and Jessica and I decided that instead of following the others back to Edinburgh, we were going to stay at Inverness and try and make our way to Loch Ness. Our train ticket was open-ended, afterall.

So we parted ways, and took a bus to Urquhart Castle, which is a ruin of a castle that was at one point one of the largest strongholds of Medieval Scotland. It sits right on the Loch, which makes it such a fantasticly mystical setting. No sightings of Nessie yet, but we held out hope.
*
Jessica and me in front of the ruins of Urquhart Castle
*
Then we decided to walk to Drumnadrochit, since the lady at the bus centre told us it was a 15 minute walk. An hour and a half or so later, we finally found Drumnadrochit. On the way though, we had a lot of fun eating blackberries by the side of the road and taking pictures of the beautiful scenery.
*
Thistle with Loch Ness in the Background
*
When we made it to Drumnadrochit finally we didn't really have time to do a whole lot, but we did stop in at the Original Loch Ness Monster Center, which was mainly a souvenir shop. But, at last, we had our first Nessie sighting!
*
We found Nessie!
*
Lastly, we ate a cup of soup and chips in a small cafe/bar, and then went to the bus stop to wait for the bus back to Inverness. Standing there in the rain for 1/2 an hour we realize that the bus is not going to come, and that the lady at the bus center told us the wrong time, and the bus had in fact been scheduled to arrive 5 minutes before we actually got to the bus stop. So we called a private taxi hire, who drove us all the way back to Inverness. She was a very nice Scottish lady, who talked to us about her dogs and Scotland and made the extra cost bearable. Plus, we weren't in the rain anymore.

Back at Inverness we had time for a bit of coffee and then got on the train back to Edinburgh. Despite the trip being amazing, I was quite glad to be sleeping in my own bed in my own space!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ok ok.. is it a... Pegifunticorn?

Yes!

For reference to the above quote (slightly paraphrased), which has become "the new thing" with Jessica and I, see HERE. More on why that's there in a bit.

We had our first exam today. Didn't count for anything, which is quite fortunate, because none of us can quite figure out how they expect us to learn the entire (and I mean down to the nerves, arteries and veins) anatomy of the dog in 4 weeks, but whatever. Now we know that we pretty much need to study on a constant basis, and we've got until December to actually learn it for real. Parts of the written test were ok, like I'd get an entire page where I'd think "hey, I know this!" and then I'd turn the page and leave 90% of it blank. The oral part of the exam was less frightening, oddly enough, and I love Dr. Sue Kempson. She is one of the anatomy teachers, and also just a hilarious and amazing woman, and I happened to get assigned to her for the oral (which I literally did a big loud "YES!" with an arm pump in the hallway when I found out). Plus, I love her accent, and the way she says things like "You'll want to bring your rubbers to the written examination, so make sure you have plenty of rubbers. I don't think you'll need the rubbers for the oral portion though." I'm pretty sure she doesn't realize that rubbers mean something other than erasers in the good old USA.

This coming week we've got off while the freshers arrive, and so Jessica, Hyla, Erin and I are going up to Carbisdale Castle and Inverness to see a livestock market, and also to visit Loch Ness. I'm so excited! Expect lots of pictures! Maybe I'll even get a pic of Nessie or one of the ghosts of the castle!

Anyway, so back to the pegifunticorn. Yesterday during our study break, Jessica, Pookish and I went to Elephants and Bagels (which is officially my favorite cafe ever) for lunch, and we were looking at the many drawings around the wall that patrons have made of elephants and/or bagels. There are some pretty fun ones up on the wall, such as the crazy elephant which looks as though it (or possibly the artist) was on some sort of hallucinogen, or the sketch of an elephant skull that I have a suspicion was done by a Dick Vet student, or perhaps the adorable scribble of an elephant done by a small child in bright yellow marker.

As we were looking at these things and eating our bagels (sans elephants) we saw on the counter a stack of paper and some markers. So we decided to add to the glory of Elephants and Bagels by putting our own version of an elephant on the wall. I picked up the markers and away we went! I was the artist, Jessica was the colour-inner and creative inspiration, and Pookish was the moral support. One of the more sociable waitresses thought it was hilarious. The other one was on the phone, but she gave us a weird look. I'm not so sure I could blame her.

Let me walk you through it:


We start off with a simple tracing of an elephant and a bagel, but as we were thinking about our earlier conversations, in which we constantly interject the "Are you a unicorn?" game at pretty much every opportunity (and did it again just there for fun), we decided that the elephant needed a horn that was emitting magic, as Pookish describes.

Jessica then decided that it needed wings, because every kick-ass unicorn has wings (making it a pegicorn, or pegasus avec horn), so why not an elephanticorn? Thus it became a Pegifanticorn. When picking a color, we decided on bright pink, because it just seemed the proper choice. We then added eyelashes which I originally thought "Too much, too much," but then, as Jessica pointed out, the thing was already neon pink, so it probably wouldn't put it over the top.

Now as I was penning in the title, I for whatever reason decided to put a 'U' instead of an 'A' (as in PegifUnticorn), but fortunately that added to it's awesomeness, because it added a bit of FUN to our drawing.

Thus, the Pegifunticorn. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

You Smell Like a Pig!

I have discovered today, that this is truly the worst insult anyone could ever give you. Today after a day of classes and a histology lab, we had a practical for handling pigs. They truly do smell terrible. As soon as we stepped onto the farm the smell was just revolting, and inside the pig enclosures, which are kept around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, we had to fight not to gag. Ugh.

The piglets were pretty cute, I have to admit, despite the fact that I will never want to be a pig farmer or pig veterinarian. It's just not for me. We vaccinated the little piggies today with a product called Circoflex, which basically protects the bacon precursors from something called "Pig Wasting Disease."
*
Mama pig wonders what we're doing to
her babies
*
Baby pigs suckling
*
Me holding the bacon precursor,
post-vaccination
*
After vaccinating the wee piggies, we trooped into a different pig enclosure where there were slightly bigger piggies who needed to be moved from one pen into another, so we used these ingenious devices called "pig boards," which are basically what they sound like: pieces of wood you use to push the porkers wherever you want them to go.

After doing this, which was pretty easy, albeit smelly, we proceeded to the big barn, where we met the large sows and boars. This is the breeding arena, basically, and there were different pens full of 10 or so sows each who had been "serviced" twice already that day, and were due for another servicing later that same day. The boars, who had pens all to themselves, were just lazing about waiting for their next big moment. What a life, eh?
*
Sows
*
The Boar
*
So that was pretty much our day with the piggies. We went back on the bus, and I immediately took a shower before dinner, but even now I can still smell the pig. I feel like the smell settled in my lungs and every time I breath I can feel it. Ugh. It's just one of those smells that seeps into everything, and follows you around everywhere. Gross.

So moral of the story: If anyone ever tells you that you smell like a pig, slap them!

OR go wash yourself, you filthy animal! :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Animals actually move?!

In the last few days, we have gotten to see actual live animals. Dissecting dead things, while cool, does get rather old and depressing after awhile. So it was very exciting to go and work with real, living, breathing animals on the farms this week.
*
Living sheep!
*
On Tuesday, after a day full of 2 lectures (Animal Breeding & Genetics, and Anatomy) followed by a dissection, my group was bussed out to Easter Bush farm, for a sheep practical. Here we learned how to flip sheep, which I had learned once before, but as with all things, it is one thing to know how to do it and another thing entirely to actually do it. So the practice was nice. We also learned how to trim hooves, which I remember as being extremely difficult when I did it at the Good Shepherd Farm last summer, but for some reason was quite easy this time. Maybe the breed I was working on last summer has different hooves. I dunno. Anyway. We also learned how to sex them, estimate weights, actually weigh them, estimate body score, and determine an age estimate based on teeth.
*
I'm not quite sure how Anik ended up riding the sheep
but there you have it. :-P
*
For whatever reason, once you get a sheep into this position, they
totally chill out, making it very easy to do whatever you need to do.
*
video
This is a video of the proper method for flipping and sexing a sheep, as
demonstrated by our instructor, Archie.
(This video was taken from my classmate, Anik.)
*
Trimming back the hooves.
*
The sheep practical was really fun. I think out of all the farm animals, the sheep is the one that I could actually see myself enjoying. They're small, can't really do much damage, and are really too afraid to try anything much worse than running away or jumping obscenely high (which is really the only danger, because if your nose gets in the way of their jump you may end up with a broken nose).

Today we had another 2 lectures, same ones as yesterday, then a dissection, then we had our cow practical out at Langhill Farm (right by Easter Bush, also owned and run by the Dick Vet). The cow practical, while somewhat fun, didn't really inspire me to want to work with cows. They still scare me, because they're just these massive things that can do some serious damage to you, despite the fact that (at least in the case of the dairy cow) they aren't intentionally trying to hurt you. They were in crushes (which is a restraining device), but still they're a bit scary. Perhaps once I get more comfortable I'll be able to, but for now I'm not really a cow person. Also, cows are slightly gross. They are quite covered in feces, and they drool this foul smelling cud from their mouth.

Now you may or may not know this about me, but I have a thing about saliva. I cannot stand it. I can deal with any other bodily fluid--urine, anal glands, diarrhea, vomit, pus--you name it. But I just cannot deal with saliva of the animal nature. Sure I can fake it, like I can remember times working in front of clients in Dorchester, holding the bull mastiff's mouth open while ropes of saliva are dripping on my arms and all over me. But once I am out of that room, I have to rush to the sink to get it all off me before I gag. I don't know, it's something about the texture, and the fact that it's sticky and doesn't easily come off your hands or clothes. Ugh, even thinking about it gives me the heeby-jeebies..

Despite this, I still had to learn how to do all these things that involve sticking my fingers/hands in the cows mouth, so I sucked it up, and doubled up on rubber gloves, and replaced the top one after every time I had my hand in the cow's mouth. Also we're wearing all waterproof clothes, so at least I didn't have to worry about it on my clothes. Ick. Once I sort of got used to the idea that I was going to get it on me and there was no avoiding it, I just tried not to think about it and it got better, but still, another point against the cows.

What we learned how to do today was harnessing the cows, using a premade harness, and also learning to make one out of a piece of rope...
Anik demonstrates how to make the harness, while Bethany
learns to tie a slip knot.
*
And now to harnes the actual cow!
*
Then we learned how to restrain the head properly, and also to get a look/feel of the teeth and tongue. The cow only has front teeth on the bottom, so you can stick your hand around the front and sides to grip the cow and to get it to open it's mouth.
Me with a tongue. Those things are massive, and slightly gross, hence my face.
*
Next, we learned how to insert a gag into the cow's mouth. When you need to examine the back of the cow's mouth, you can't go sticking your hand that far inside. While the front of the cow's mouth is relatively harmless, the molars and premolars at the back could crush your fingers if you get them in the way, so the gag keeps the mouth open while you have a look in.
*
Paul, one of our teachers of the day, demonstrates
how to put in the gag.
*
I should also mention a funny story about how we made Paul, the man featured in the above picture, extremely uncomfortable, because when he popped over to see how we were getting on, Anik happened to exclaim, "I've been violated!" when the cow accidentally chewed on her breast. I don't think I have ever seen anyone turn as red as Paul turned. He took it well, and, after a few minutes of not being able to talk for laughing, was able to show us a trick for putting in the gag that helped a lot. Go Anik for making the instructors uncomfortable. :)
*
Me fitting the gag in, all the while extremely frightened
of those chomping premolars. I survived though, and succeeded!
*
The last thing we did was learn how to pick up a cow's feet, both the back and the front, in case we ever need to examine it for any reason. For the back feet we rigged up this pulley system over the crush with a bit of rope to pull the foot up. It's a bit daunting doing this because you have to basically lean on the cow's butt while you're setting this up, praying that the thing doesn't (a) kick you, or (b) urinate/defecate on you.

For the front leg, you have to stand with your shoulder at the cow's shoulder, and push the cow over so that it shifts its weight, and then you pull the cow's knee towards you and scoop the hoof up. This may sound relatively easy, but it's not. Also, the cow can quite easily kick you with your back feet, and given how far you have to bend over to do this, your head is in prime target location. Fortunately, dairy cows are pretty docile, but still.
*
Me lifting up a cow's foot! Keep in mind this animal
is 530 kilos. Very heavy!
*
After all this, we talked about things like body condition and estimating weight and stuff before cleaning up and heading home. So the day of the moo-cows was a success, and I am confident that, while I don't particularly have any desire to do any of those things again, I am capable of doing them all.

While seeing living animals was a nice change, I am quite looking forward to a break from practicals tomorrow. Instead we have a lecture on ultrasound in the afternoon tomorrow, which I am very excited about! I can already tell that I'm going to be really sore tomorrow morning, so the respite will be nice. :)