A Yank’s Guide to the UK, Part 1.

Having invaded the UK this July 4th, I thought I’d post on some of the things that make our motherland, albeit the one we stormed away from different from the USA. Also I’ll give some practical tips. Right now I should add a disclaimer. I’m not responsible for the consequences if you follow them. I repeat, you’re on your own.

This post is about driving.

They drive on the other side of the road. The left, those socialist commies, the left I tell you. Sorry I was channeling my “inner republican.”

But they do drive on the left, and if you are hiring a car it is helpful to know a few tricks.

First, do you need a car? If you are staying in the cities, no. Renting one in London would be exceedingly daft as they have excellent transport and more importantly, huge areas where you need a special permit to drive. Don’t bother. You can get from city to city and to most, but not all, of the touristy spots without your own car.

However, if you’re like us and visiting the non-touristy spots (somehow I doubt my brother and sister in law would appreciate the company) then you’ll need one. Check the deals you can get by booking one when you get your tickets. BA is especially good for this and a car rental with tickets is sometimes cheaper than tickets.

Almost all the cars are manual transmission. I repeat, almost all the cars are manual transmission. You can pay extra for an automatic, but be manly and use the stick. (did I just write that?, yes).  It works very much like it does in the US. Except you use your left hand and remember to reach further left than you think you need to. You’ll find, or at least I do, that the right/left side of the road comes naturally, but there are some gotcha’s.

Turns with islands. You’ll initially want to go down the wrong side. Don’t.

Pedestrians and other road hazards, things like zebra crossings. They’re on the left. You’re used to them being on the right. Make a conscious effort to look in the other side. By the way, not only is it illegal to run down pedestrians, but you have to stop for them. Silly law, but that’s the way it is.

Stop lights. Stop lights go yellow before they turn green. Just like drag strips. It’s good, and I wish they’d do that back home. Of course the idiots in Atlanta would hop the yellow, so perhaps its for the best. The law is to put your car in neutral and set the parking brake when you’re at a stop. The yellow is to tell you to put it in gear. Then expect traffic to shoot off when it turns green. Sort of like at a drag race. By the way, don’t be shocked when your engine stops when you put it out of gear and set the brake. That’s to save petrol, I mean gas.

There is no right turn on red.

The roundabout from Hell (Swindon)

Traffic circles are ubiquitous. There is a rule for them. The vehicle (including bikes, lorries and other cars) on the circle to the right has the right of way. They mean it. If you’re turning left, be in the left lane (or left side of your lane) with the turn signal set. If you’re going straight don’t set your signal, and if you’re turning right, set the turn signal to the right. Then enter the circle and exit at the right time. If you’re turning right, set the signal to left when it’s time to leave the circle. It is ok to go around if you miss your turn. (Not just Yanks do this.)

Turning across traffic. If it’s light, OK. Otherwise don’t. Go with traffic and use the next roundabout (circle) to go the way you want.

The Motorways have a speed limit of 70, except when they don’t. A-roads, B-roads have 60, and other roads 50. Except when posted otherwise. A-roads are sort of like numbered state highways, B-roads are a little smaller, and the others, well they range from quite decent to little more than an “metalled” (paved) track. A warning, in the country or in National Parks, the A-roads can be one lane wide. It makes driving interesting and fun.

Don’t use your horn. It’s not polite. You can however give them the finger.

Enough for now, we have to drive to Tesco’s to pick up a few supplies.

‘Ta

Section through an octopus shows the mouth passing through the brain

Anatomy To You

Paraoctopus

Octopuses and other cephalopods are well-known for their exceptional intelligence and complex brains, which appear to outstrip all other invertbrates. But, they work within one strange constraint – like all other molluscs (snails, slugs, oysters and more), the nerve ring at the centre of their nervous system encircles the oesophagus. In cephalopods it is this nerve ring which has become enlarged and organised to form their advanced brain, meaning that everything they eat must pass through the brain. One would think this exposes the animals to significant risk of brain injury in the case they ingested something large or awkward. But cephalopods have a bird-like beak which crushes food into manageable pieces and minimises this risk. This section through a young octopus shows the bulbous, stripey-looking brain between the two advanced camera eyes, surrounding part of the oesophagus (small white centre towards the base of the eyes). Also visible are two…

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Savannah Natural Wildlife Refuge. #birding #photoblog

Only about ten miles from the city, but a world away in reality, the Savannah NWR is a fantastic place to watch birds and … other creatures. Alligator

The internet died at my lodging before I could post the bird lists. The cover shot shows a flock of glossy ibis (sort of, ahem, unusual). There are also grey ibis and two species of egret (snowy and great white). I saw chimney storks, blue and tricolor herons, killdeer, american coots, boat-tailed grackles (sort of hard to miss – they were demonstrating their vocal abilities), and a couple of cardinals. Not at the site, but on the way were terns and grey vultures. I wasn’t trying to identify the “little brown birds” which are now where my life list is lacking.

Egret fishing

This is a better picture of a tricolor heron.
tricolor heron

But the stars of the show are alligators.
DSC_0439

DSC_0545

You’re not supposed to mess with them. For good reason, come late afternoon they wake up and start to give you the eye. Fortunately, they don’t think much of humans.
DSC_0563

In Times Past.

Just Add Tea

Historical fiction and historical romance bring their own set of problems for an author. As an author I’m the only and supreme authority on my science-fiction world so what I say goes. If I’m writing in the current day, then my knowledge of idioms and manners is as good as anyone’s. Except I might have to research a sub-culture, but I can usually find someone who is a member of it to check that I’ve got it right. I might, of course, have to be a little careful about approaching the local chapter of the Hell’s angels for my motorcycle gang book, but that’s a minor distraction.

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On Romance…

Just Add Tea

or the structure of a romantic story and why it matters.

The basic form of a romance story is surprisingly simple. Boy being meets girl being, or more often girl being meets boy being, and after some complications they wander off under the light of the setting moon with a happy ever after ending. Or at least happy ever after, for now. With such a simple plot, one descended almost intact from Homer (the wily Odysseus overcomes many obstacles to be reunited with his faithful dog Argos. Oh and his wife Penelope), romance seems a trivially easy thing to write.

Romance may be trivial to write, but it’s not trivial to write well.

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Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

publishing is already hard enough

Aware #poem #lovepoem

D. H. Lawrence, 1885 – 1930

Slowly the moon is rising out of the ruddy haze,
Divesting herself of her golden shift, and so
Emerging white and exquisite; and I in amaze
See in the sky before me, a woman I did not know
I loved, but there she goes and her beauty hurts my heart;
I follow her down the night, begging her not to depart.

The ThemeShaper WordPress Theme Tutorial: 2nd Edition

Watch the webpage.At some stage I’ll be moving from wordpress.com to another host (google analytics and sumo plugs, please, for free, maybe). That also gives me the ability to host unlinked pages and multiple websites. The free templates tend to be wonky, so I’ll probably roll my own.

ThemeShaper

Preface

Many of you have written or commented to tell us how much you liked Ian Stewart’s original tutorial, “How To Create a WordPress Theme: The Ultimate WordPress Theme Tutorial”. You’ll be happy to learn that that we’ve created a second edition of the tutorial! Just like last time, you can expect one new lesson each day. What’s changed in the second edition? Keep reading to find out!

What’s new in the Second Edition:

  • Updated code samples that draw from the Underscores (_s) starter theme.February 2012 marked the release of the Underscores (_s) starter theme, and since then, it has gathered plenty of momentum. The code samples and file structure for the theme we’re going to create in this tutorial will draw from _s as a source of modern code that reflects current best practices.
  • New Lessons.Developing Your Theme Sense is worth reading if you’re…

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Redefining “Success”: On Self-Care, Balance, and Overwork in Academia

Very true, although I didn’t have to get to death’s door to see it.

SAS Confidential

Author: Raul Pacheco-Vega
Originals: RaulPacheco.org  [ 1 | 2 ]


By some people’s standards I could consider myself a very successful academic. I have a job I love at a prestigious, internationally-recognized institution, I have a low teaching load, have successfully raised extramural grant money to execute projects, I have brilliant students, both undergraduate and graduate. I absolutely love my research and have fantastic collaborators worldwide and wonderful colleagues at my institution’s campuses.

Yet, I can’t help but remind myself that definitions of success vary. I’m not a fan of “publish-or-perish”, and sometimes I defy the old canon by refusing to engage in it. Yet other times, I just can’t stop myself from writing about a…

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Quick and Easy Bread Recipes You Can Do Yourself

On to my secrets!

Italian Home Kitchen Blog

484163886Have you ever wanted to bake some hearty, homemade bread but then realized you didn’t have all day to prepare dough, let it rise, and then (finally) bake it? Well here’s a secret: not all delicious homemade breads require half a day to bake. There are a variety of recipes that use baking powder or baking soda, instead of traditional yeast, for leavening, cutting your preparation time by at least half. You can make sweet and savory loaves, muffins, scones, biscuits, pancakes and even popovers without taking hours out of your day.

We have compiled a list of some of the best-loved and best-rated quick bread recipes, all of which you can easily make with your own two hands. These tried-and-true recipes will enable you to have a sweet or savory bread on your table in a pinch.

Popovers and Pancakes

Classic Popovers

Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Biscuits…

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