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Diaspora - 18 July 2019

Scotland and the Space Race

Dad worked for NASA in the 60’s.  He moved us from Waldwick, New Jersey to Merritt Island, Florida when he took a position, with countless other engineers, at the Kennedy Space Center.

Some of my best memories from my childhood are from the years we lived in Florida.  We lived in what I considered a mansion, but in reality, was a 4-bedroom ranch home that backed up to the Indian River citrus orchard, and was close enough to the Banana River, I could picnic on a dock and reel in blow fish any time I wanted to.  I try to push back the memories of the nasty mosquitos, palmetto bugs, hurricanes and snakes.  I remember long bike rides down island and exploring new construction homes and pick-up games of baseball with other kids in the neighborhood.  Those were great memories from an important time in our lives.

So many of the kids in my then 5thand 6thgrade classes had parents who also worked for NASA.  Our teachers made a point of ensuring we were outside on the playground whenever there was a rocket launch.  The playground would fill with children looking towards the sky waiting to see the tell-tale sign of the trail of smoke from each launch.  We vied to be the first to spot the rocket.  As the earth rumbled, we all knew our parents were part of something really important.  We had no idea just how important.

50 years later, I have a much better sense of just how important the space race was and continues to be.  As Steve and I cleared out the last few boxes from the garage that once held all my Dad’s “stuff” we found one box that had been squished among other prized possessions (blow-up rafts, duct tape, various nuts and bolts, and golf shoes).  I glanced through the box and decided it alone would be the one box I would take to our new home on wheels to see what was inside.  I’m glad I did.  Inside was a small posted envelope from the 16thof July 1969 (50 years ago) with the Apollo 11 emblem, postmarked from Kennedy Space Center, to my Dad.  We had moved back to New Jersey in 1968, and a fellow engineer had posted it the day Apollo 11 launched.  A small note inside told my Dad “… hang onto this it might be worth something someday.” I gave the envelope to my younger child, who in turn just donated it to the NASA International Space Museum in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  The museum was very pleased to receive it.  Due to the timely receipt of their new acquisition, it will be on display with other Apollo 11 items this weekend to commemorate the launch 50 years ago. I’m so glad my Dad kept it.


No doubt some of us are old enough to relive the moment we watched American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step onto the moon.  Do you remember where you were when you watched that moment?  I do.  Music Camp, University of Kansas (French horn).

But what does all this walk down memory lane have to do with Scotland?  Well… it turns out that Scotland has recently taken a very active part in the Space race.  A quick search for Scotland and the Space Race reveals that Glasgow is a leader in Europe.  Cally Russel has written a nice article in Forbes that you can read in detail here:

Companies such as Clyde Space, Alba Orbital have been taking the lead.  Producing as many as 6 small satellites a month, Scotland has certainly taken their seat at the table of countries that will be at the forefront of space exploration.

Glasgow has produced more satellites in the last 2 years than any other city in Europe, and Scotland will also be home to the UK’s first Spaceport.  Located in Sutherland (A'Mhòine peninsula), it will be optimal for satellite shots for polar orbits and more.  Wiki has good information here:

With the uptick in the number of satellites produced in Glasgow, there is also the need to analyze the data that is gleaned by the satellites.  So this is the other large role Scotland is participating in. Bird.i, a start-up, is providing new data that will update some of the now outdated Google Maps imagery.  (8 years old data, in some cases.)

Universities in Glasgow are also taking a lead in the exploration of space.  Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities have world-class facilities focusing on space.  They’ve opened up to companies to provide commercial opportunities in Scotland.

So, although I always think of Florida when I think of the space program, it is wonderful to realize that Scotland has stepped up to take a lead a short 50 years after that moment in time we all remember.

Thank you Neil and Buzz and Michael Collins.

Diaspora - 9 July 2019

All Aboard!


If visiting the U.S., you can take a plane, train or automobile (motorcycle, car, RV) to get around.  And if you take the train, that would be our AMTRAK.  You can visit their website to see about various excursions, prices and much more at : And if you want to dig deeper, check out the history of America's Railroad at:   I happen to use Amtrak to travel from Lawrence, Kansas to Albquerque, New Mexico when visiting my children.  I enjoy the very tiny private compartment due to the overnight trip.  I can't say a traveler can plan on a good night's rest. Every little town that the train travels through gets the obligatory blast of the train's horn.  So while traveling in Western Kansas, in particular, there are lots of little towns that must be warned of the train "a'coming," even at 2:00 a.m.  Most folks eating breakfas in the dining car in the morning, look a little bit travel weary.

amtrak 363669 640

Randy and Cheryl MacFarland and Steve and I took a train in Scotland from Bridge of Allan to Stirling during one of our visits.  Although just a short jaunt, it was fun to experience the train.  According to my favorite website on all things of Scotland: There are connections to Scotland's seven cities.  But there are numerous other trains connecting travelers from small locations to the larger cities.  

There are 3 types of tickets:  Anytime; Off-Peak; and First Class.  Per Visiting Scotland:


Anytime tickets are unreserved standard class tickets which can be used at all times of day.

Off-Peak tickets allow for cheaper travel during specific hours when the trains are not as busy.

First Class tickets allow for travel in carriages with extra space, electrical sockets for laptops etc, and sometimes include complimentary refreshments.

To get to the ticket website, go to the Scotrail page:

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Feel free to Bring Rover With You.

You can bring your pet with you.  The Scotrail page says you can bring 2 of your pets with you, but you must have them on a leash, even if they are a turtle!


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For the Young of Heart Too


You can bring your elderly parents with you too...  No leash is required, but if you want to save money, check out the BritRail Pass with discounts if your family members are over 60 (a whopping 15% discount).  Oh!  And if you are between the age of 16 and 25, you can get a 20% discount.  If you are under the age of 5 and reading this - you are a terrific reader!  But you can also travel for free.  And if you are between the ages of 5 and 15, and if you bring an adult with you, you too may travel for free.  (Looks like if you travel by yourself and under the age of 5, you are free... check out the link.)


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Happy travels!  And if you haven't looked at the information on our website about the trip to Scotland and/or Ireland for 2020, make sure you take some time to scroll around to see it!



Diaspora - 20 June 2019

June it is!

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Well, it sure has been awhile since I posted here.  Steve and I have finally sold the farm and started living full time in our motorhome.  It has been a long time coming, but here we are.  We spent a couple of weeks enjoying a lovely spot at the Kansas Pomona Lake State Park.  However, I learned a valuable lesson while trying to use my own phone as a hotspot to access internet.  "Oh, that should be no problem.  Just plug it in and you won't use your data at all."  Well, that was what our AT&T rep said to me.  But I learned very quickly that she was not correct.  I should NOT DO THAT!  I ate up all our data time in just about one day.  The days of staying online all day long are now over for me.  So that is my excuse for not writing sooner (as I would often write in a letter to an old friend).  And yes, I am looking for an unlimited data plan for 5 users.

Now that Steve and I have moved to a commercial RV park in Topeka for a few days, I have full access to the internet.  Well.... that is not quite true.  I have to share it with the other 50 RVs in the same park.  So I either have to be patient while waiting for my internet to engage, or get up at 2:00 in the morning so that I don't have to share.  I'm not keen to participate in either.  But now that I have a few moments of internet bliss... I'm writing.

What brings Steve and me in to the big city and a commercial RV park, is the upcoming wedding for my nephew, Isaac.  He is going to be married tomorrow.  We only have a few customs at our family weddings.  I am chosen to give the family toast to the bride.  (Perhaps it is more correctly stated that I have assumed that role now that my parents have passed.). We have a long history of strong women, so I get to tell the bride and her family all about this and assume that she too is a strong woman, and we welcome her.  Or some such toast along those lines.  Then I launch into my mother's favorite toast:

"Here's to those who wish us well."

"All the rest can go to Hell."

She claimed she was taught that in Scotland.  I have my doubts...


So of course when I started looking for a topic for today's Diaspora, I decided it would be a bit timely to talk about Scottish wedding customs during the traditional month of June brides.  So here we go! (J. Drew McFarland - pay attention for your beautiful little girls.)

From the Visit Scotland website, there are some nice customs listed and discussed!

  • The bride should step out her own door with her right foot on the day of the wedding.
  • A sixpence in the bride's shoe is the custom from Aberdeenshire and Angus.
  • A sprig of white heather in the bride's bouquet is a bit of good luck if you are from the Scottish Borders
  • As the bride steps into the coach on her way to her wedding, her father throws a handful of coins out the window.  This is known as the "wedding scramble."  Children then scramble to pick up the coins.  In Ayrshire, this is called the "Warsel."
  • The bride has an older married woman wash her feet.  This is the custom in Fife, Dundee and Angus.  But note that in Fife, the young groom goes through a similar custom.  But for the bridegroom, he sits in a tub of water while his legs are coated with grease, ash and soot.  (Nothing is included with this note from Visit Scotland.  No explanation for this tradition.  Not sure how this is related to getting hitched.)

For the actual wedding and reception (Here, I will just copy and paste):


"Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop is where couples have been coming to tie the knot since 1754. Are you feeling rebellious? Follow in the footsteps of the countless runaway lovers who, lured by Scotland’s lenient marriage laws, eloped to the sleepy town of Gretna Green on the Anglo-Scots border. Say your vows over the original anvil used by the ‘Blacksmith Priest’ when presiding over clandestine unions."

"The Wedding Walk is the formal march taken by the wedding party to the church. Preceded by a piper or fiddler, the bridegroom leads the maid of honour while the bride walks behind with the best man. After the ceremony, the newlyweds leave the church followed by the best man escorted by the maid of honour. To secure good luck it was traditionally thought that the wedding procession should cross running water twice."

"A Penny Wedding is an ideal solution for those after a traditional yet budget-friendly wedding. Guests bring their own food and drinks to the reception allowing the couple to splurge on the wedding cake."

"The Scottish Quaich or ‘Loving Cup’ is a two-handled silver bowl which is topped up with whisky, usually by the bride, and then passed around for the wedding party to sip once the legal proceedings have been concluded."


I suggest visiting the website if you want to know more.  But the customs are very interesting.  And to my nephew and his beloved, Lisa - I wish them all the best!  

(Just tried to find a good Scottish toast to use instead of my usual "strong women" one.  Found the one below, but I will not be smashing the glass.  I will, however, think about one leg up and one leg down.  I will be in my best black floor-length formal with my Navy miniature medals on my red bolero jacket and my MacFarlane sash.  Seems appropriate!)


Theatrical Scottish Toast :

Delivered while standing on a chair with one foot on the table. After the toast is given, the drink should be downed in one and the glass smashed.

Here's tae us; 

Who's like us? 

Damn few, 

And they're a' deid!


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