Review: Outlandish Scotland Journey Part 1 and 2

When I read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager)*, I thought to myself, “I really want to go to those places and see those things.” I often wish it was easier to find stuff in Scotland but there’s so many things in Scotland that it can be hard to know where to look for anything specific! Anyway, that was before they made a TV show out of it, and now there’s even more Outlander locations in Scotland!

*Book 1 was retitled Cross-Stitch in the UK for some stupid reason, and they wonder why it was initially less popular over here; it’s still the same love story between Jamie and Claire.

Another rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the way to Loch Ness.

The first guide, Outlandish Scotland Journey part 1, covers the Outlander sites between Edinburgh and Inverness, while the second, Outlandish Scotland Journey part 2, covers Inverness and a whole plethora of sites around the city. In both cases, the sites are marked on a map so you can see the route that goes between them all.

If that’s not enough, there are also very clear directions explaining how to get to each location, and the guides are very clear about what you will find in each place, with lots of details to help you make the most of your holiday. One thing I especially liked was the thistle icons that rated each location, and showed whether a location was worth visiting or not, so I could see at-a-glance how many sites to spend time visiting (nearly all of them… now I just need a reliable vehicle to travel in).

Another thing I liked was the author has found pictures of what the places look like, and put them alongside what the places looked like in the TV series, so you get an idea about how similar the places are in real life (for example, some buildings in Culross were painted for filming so in real life they’re a different colour).

One more thing that I liked about these guides is that they give you the disabled access information, so if you are traveling as a disabled person or if you’re taking someone who is disabled, you have a good sense of whether you can get into any specific place. I’ve talked before about why that’s important to include in travel guides as it can make or break some people’s trips.

It was also useful to know how much time to schedule for each aspect of the trip; for example, it tells you how much time each itinerary will take, depending on whether you want to do it faster or slower, so you have a good idea of how much time to budget.

Other things that you will find in these guide books include: Where to park, for sites where parking isn’t immediately obvious; whether any individual attraction is worth a visit or not (and an explanation and references showing why not, if it’s bad, so you can make an informed choice); how much they cost; and there are even lots of extras, such as places of interest that weren’t in the books/TV series but are still worth a visit while you’re in each area.

These Outlandish Scotland Journey ebook guides also really make use of being in an electronic format, by linking to additional useful information, which basically means it’s like someone went out and painstakingly researched your holiday for you, so all you have to do is follow the route and have a great time! Or, if, like me, you’re the sort of person who likes to go out and discover things, these guides have a lot of mileage in them as well; I would choose the most interesting locations, and see what turned up in the space between them while I was traveling (because Scotland has a LOT of space).

If you live in Scotland, you could do some of these locations as a series of day-trips at the weekend, rather than a long holiday, and it would certainly be a great way to spend your days off! If I still lived in Edinburgh, I would definitely do that.

These guides are useful for a wide range of readers, both locals and further afield, and my overall conclusion is that they are well worth a buy if you are going anywhere in Scotland this year or researching a future trip.

Find the Outlandish Scotland Journey guides on Amazon here: Part 1 and Part 2
Or find out more here: Outlandish Scotland Journey website

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinner Time at Cafe Mango

Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
The main course at Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland. Taken August 2015.

For this week’s photo challenge, Dinnertime, I decided to share these pictures of the delightful Cafe Mango in Fort William.  If you’re climbing Ben Nevis, this Thai and Indian restaurant is well worth a visit.  It was the best restaurant we ate at on the West side of the Highlands, everything was simply delicious and the staff were friendly and made us feel very welcome even though it was 9pm, and we were the last customers (because we had just climbed Ben Nevis – everyone seems to eat early in the Highlands)!

Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
Some of the stunning decoration inside Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland. Taken August 2015.
Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
A shot of the rest of the restaurant (I used the bannister near the top as the horizon line) including the beautiful emboidered elephants backdrop, in Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
Fort William at night: The outside of Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons: Spring

In direct contrast to Autumn, Spring as an emotion is a feeling of growth, of change, of refreshment, when I look on the whole world with new eyes.  Everything is growing, and the detritus of the old world is consumed by rebirth:

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Lichen on a rock, Fort William, Scotland.

From the Weekly Photo Challenge found here: Seasons I decided this picture best represented Spring as a reflection of the inner landscape.

I Found the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.

Driving to Fort William takes at least 7 hours from Bradford.  When you get there, however, there’s a pretty decent Morrison’s (supermarket) and it’s right next to a McDonald’s.  On both of our driving holidays around the Fort William area, we saw a lot of this part of town because it’s the only supermarket in town as far as I know, and it sells things you can eat without having to cook them.

We didn’t actually make it to Fort William on the first night, because we didn’t set off at a reasonable time of day – I’d stupidly decided at 8pm the day before that life was slipping by without anything interesting happening, so I convinced my future husband that we absolutely had to pile into the car and find the Loch Ness monster (or rather, go to see Loch Ness).  I felt it was deplorable that I’d never been the entire time I’d lived in Scotland, and now I lived 7 hours away it was suddenly imperative that we go.  I get like this sometimes.

Before we got to Glencoe, as the road started to incline and about ten minutes after that point on the A82 (the main road) where my ears always pop, I got too sleepy to keep driving so we pulled into a layby and reclined the seats in my VW Golf (aka VW Rabbit in the USA) then caught some Z’s.  FYI, the VW Golf is a very uncomfortable place to kip, and I awoke with a crick in my neck, sleep in my eyes and a bladder full to bursting.  Luckily, around the corner from the layby we’d stopped in, there was another one which was surrounded by three spectacular waterfalls.  Not only that, but there was also a brick wall on one side.  I climbed over it, with difficulty due to what the rushing sound from the waterfalls was doing to my psyche, and I took care of the bladder problem (why is it that those of us with female anatomy get so embarrassed about urinating in public but people with man parts just do it at the side of the road in full view of traffic?  We should get over it already).  Anyway there were quite a few good waterfalls because it was the right time of year for them to be really big with the snow melt and rainwater off the mountains (in summer most of them are nondescript) and this was my favourite (all photos taken on Samsung Galaxy SII as this was early 2014 before I got a camera):

A beautiful waterfall near Glencoe in Scotland, next to the A82.
A beautiful waterfall near Glencoe in Scotland, next to the A82.

We carried on up to Fort Bill, stopping along the way to take some photos of the beautiful waterfalls and surprising rainbows, which formed from the clammy Scottish morning mist in the Highlands:

A rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the A82 on the way to Loch Ness.
A rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the A82 on the way to Loch Ness.
Another rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the way to Loch Ness.
Another rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the way to Loch Ness. It looks out of focus – that’s actually the mist that’s also causing the rainbow.

When we arrived at Fort William, we grabbed some breakfast from McDonald’s; my future husband had some sort of bacon McMuffin and I had three hash browns and a pot of Barbecue Sauce, all washed down with a nice cup of tea.

We headed upwards some more until we reached Fort Augustus, about which I remember nothing, and appear to have taken no photos, so I suspect it was just a main road, a roundabout and possibly a primary school.  It looks bigger on the map.  The significance of Fort A. is that it lies at the southernmost tip of Loch Ness, which was what we were there to see.  From here onwards, we were driving with Loch Ness on our right and a bunch of trees on our left.  The trees seemed oppressive, cloying, like they were clamoring to just reach out and push us off the road and into the Loch.

Loch Ness shores
The shores of Loch Ness: The trees looked malevolent, like the only thing preventing them from reaching out and pushing our car into the Loch was that we weren’t worth their time.

There was something very primal about this part of Scotland.  The temperature stayed quite chilly around Loch Ness in the early morning, and we pulled over a couple of times to get a look at the water.  I can confirm that it’s much longer than it is wide.  And it’s very wide, too.  Like, I could see to the other side, but I couldn’t make out what was there beyond distance-trees.  And I definitely couldn’t have swam to the middle let alone the other side.  We pulled into Invermoriston with the intention of walking around on the shores of the Loch, but we found this to be impossible because a) Invermoriston is a lot further away from Loch Ness than it looks on the map and b) the road is the only thing between the trees and the water.  So we had a better view from the car.  Having said that, Invermoriston is a place of spectacular scenery and if we were staying in the area for a few days, I would probably have wanted to stay in Invermoriston because its scenery kinda looked like Rivendell:

Invermoriston looks like Rivendell
Arrgh! My phone’s lens must have gotten dirty all the pictures of Invermoriston HAVE no focus. Invermoriston: Looks like Rivendell. Black thing in middle is my future husband.
Invermoriston looking like Rivendell Highlands Scotland
WHAT HAPPENED FOCUS YOU USED TO LOVE ME??? I think it was too bright for me to see the screen and realize what had happened else I would’ve cleaned the lens! Invermoriston looking like Rivendell again (can you even see the second bridge?), although you might just have to take my word for it 😦
Invermoriston
Invermoriston from inside “The Summer House” an abandoned building from a bygone era.

In all honesty I have to say Invermoriston was a nicer place to look at than Loch Ness.  Loch Ness was a black, inky, deep place of mystery.  I’m sure you know the story – that it’s a deep fissure in the land, that separates the top of Scotland from the bottom, that they’re just attached at all because of tectonic plate movement.  Somehow, even though I could only see the surface, it *looked* deep.  I certainly wouldn’t want to swim in it.

We climbed around Invermoriston for a while then got on.  Having reached Loch Ness, we weren’t really sure what we were doing here or where our end point was.  It was impossible to walk around Loch Ness and to be fair, the Loch was so big that it was entirely probable that a giant monster of the deep could live under it’s pitch black waters and never be found.  Perhaps there would be a clue at nearby town Drumnadrochit.

I’d at least heard of Drumnadrochit from that episode of Count Duckula where the Count and his BFFs teleported their castle to Drumnadrochit and had some sort of episode involving both of the townspeople.  Count Duckula was very good at taking Londoners’ perceptions of the rest of the world and playing with them.

In real life, Drumnadrochit is a reasonably sized village, with a post office and three Loch Ness visitor centres, all of which, I believe, are privately owned.

Me outside one of the Loch Ness Visitor centres (the Loch Ness Monster Centre) in Drumnadrochit.
Me outside one of the Loch Ness Visitor centres (Nessieland) in Drumnadrochit, next to a large model of the Loch Ness Monster.
The Loch Ness Monster Centre, Drumnadrochit, was closed when we went.
The Loch Ness Monster Centre, Drumnadrochit, was closed when we went because it was out of season.

 

We went to the first one but it was closed (despite a roadsign claiming “open every day”) because apparently it was the wrong time of year.    The second one was also closed for the same reason.

Nessieland visitor centre scotland drumnadrochit Loch Ness
This Loch Ness visitor centre is closed… but the sign on the left clearly states “open every day.” Most peculious. It didn’t stop us taking photos with their Nessie sculptures.

The third visitor centre took itself very seriously and had a cinematic entrance (and correspondingly high ticket prices).  It looked like a proper museum.  I think they were catering to fancy people with plenty of holiday money (of which I believe there is a steady supply in the tourist season).

Loch Ness visitor centre Drumnadrochit Scotland
This one looked like the best Loch Ness visitor centre… but be prepared to pay correspondingly high prices.
Sock ness Loch Ness Drumnadrochit
Sock Ness.

We weren’t feeling very fancy, and we didn’t have lots of money so we just walked around to the gift shop which was free entry, and where I *finally* found the Loch Ness Monster.   She’s now sitting upstairs on one of my bookshelves with her friend who is a Loch Lochy Monster but was visiting Nessie at her home in Loch Ness when they both got caught and put in a gift shop:

The Loch Ness Monster
I found the Loch Ness monster and adopted her and her friend.

After that we drove on, following the road beside Loch Ness until we reached Inverness.  The Loch really is spectacular and I highly recommend seeing it out of season when you don’t have to worry about hitting someone because they’re trying to take photos whilst driving (I narrowly missed crashing into a lot of distracted drivers last summer when we used this road to get from Fort William to Aberdeen), and out of season there are also far less entitled angry Audi drivers, talking on their phones and speeding on the wrong side of the road as well.  For the best of both worlds, most things in the Highlands are fully open in April and it’s still fairly quiet by then.  If you’re looking for an actual Loch Ness monster, it’s also far more likely that you’ll spot one off-peak because everyone knows that Nessie is scared of tourists.  Here’s what Loch Ness was looking like:

Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit.
Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit.
Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit.
Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit. as you can see it’s impossible to get closer than the road.

Kiss From A Rose (in Aberdeen)

The car broke down, and on a trip filled with minor disasters, it was the best thing that could have happened during the holiday.  I left it at a garage in Aberdeen city centre and I had three hours to kill before it would be ready to collect.  Walking towards nowhere in particular, camera in hand, I found this beautiful cavalcade of roses.  I was compelled to test out my new camera in what turned out to be the beginning of an afternoon of photography.  The results are below.

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Whilst perusing them for choosing which pictures to share with you all and which ones to discard, the following little ditty came into my thoughts, and it is somewhat appropriate (plus it’s ALWAYS Music O’Clock in my house; to say I like music is an understatement).

rose5

rose6

.rose7

.

rose4

.rose3

 

.rose2

Do you know where I found these?  Outside an unremarkable retirement complex with no interesting architecture or other heritage, in a city filled with ancient buildings.  I guess it reminded me that beauty is everywhere, we just have to pay attention to it.  When I put a magnifying glass to this patch of roses with my camera, it has become bigger in my memory than it was in real life, but if I saw these every day, I probably would never have noticed their beauty.

This was really the turning point in the trip to Scotland in August (it was two hours after that head injury), and everything started to pick up from the moment I decided to take photos of these flowers instead of passing them by in the search for something “interesting” to do.  The next part of the afternoon’s photographic extravaganza can be found here, which begins around the corner from the roses pictured above.

I guess it really is true that everything in life can be pinned down to a series of tiny decisions.

7 Lessons Learnt from Climbing Ben Nevis

This was a very personal goal for me. It was the highest priority on my 30 list, and after climbing Snowdon and Ben Lomond, I wondered whether we could really do it.
The first day of our Scotland trip, we had planned to do it, but I was taken ill with a severe migraine that night so we put it off.
The second day, after much ado, we called it off. The weather was heavy rain.
The third to sixth days we were in and around Aberdeen.
As our holiday drew to a close, I felt more and more miserable and started acting like a complete brat. I didn’t work out why until day 6 when I hit my head and nearly died (you’ll remember this was confirmed by a doctor when we got back and I landed in hospital). The thing I was most regretting? That I would never have even climbed Ben Nevis.  Yes, there was an “even” in there.  And this is how my lack of sense of achievement undermines my confidence.
So on the evening of the sixth day, I drove us back to the west side of Scotland and we slept at the foot of the mountain. In the morning, we packed some snacks and water, and began our ascent.

Rush hour in Scotland, several hundred sheep crossing the Youth Hostel path on Ben Nevis late afternoon.
Rush hour in Scotland, several hundred sheep crossing the Youth Hostel path on Ben Nevis in the late afternoon (on the first day when we didn’t actually climb it).

It took about 8 hours to get up and down. I learned several things:
1. Those respect the mountain people take it too far with their scaremongering. If I’d known it was going to be as straightforward (I did NOT say easy) as it was, I would’ve done it on day 2. I wore trainers and I had my waterproof and gloves.

We built a snowman from snow on the slope. It was the size of my fist, and sits on a 2x4 plank of wood.
We built a snowman from snow on the slope. It was the size of my fist, and sits on a 2×4 plank of wood.  Curiously the lack of ice axe and crampons did not hinder us.

2. You don’t need a fancy hydration system. I took a plastic 500ml bottle of water, I think 750 would have been optimal but a litre would have meant expending too much energy on carrying it up. There is a waterfall around 2/3 of the way up where you can refill anyway.

Waterfall Ben Nevis
Waterfall on Ben Nevis.

3. You don’t need trail mix, energy bars, kendal mint cake and other expensive walkery foods. I took some ready-made Morrisson’s Chicken Salad sandwiches, a cereal bar and a banana. If I’d been closer to home, I would have made my own sandwiches.

Carn Dearg (the mountain next to Ben Nevis) from Ben Nevis
Carn Dearg (the mountain next to Ben Nevis) from Ben Nevis

4. You only need 7 hours of daylight left to set off (you can do the last hour in twilight/darkness if you have a torch), so if it’s 11:00am in August you probably haven’t missed it for the day (we thought this on 3 separate days).

The waterfall that you could refill bottles from (we stopped for lunch beside it).
The waterfall that you could refill bottles from (we stopped for lunch beside it).  It goes on up but my head is in the way, despite my best efforts.

5. You don’t need a headtorch, a normal torch will do (or the flashlight on your phone if you’re confident about the battery life) and you don’t need one torch each, one between two or three is enough unless you’re stupid enough to separate from your companions.

The drinking water fall, from in front of it.
The drinking water fall, from in front of it.

6. Wellies and a map are FAR more useful than crampons and an ice axe.

The remains of the old Victorian observatory on top of Ben Nevis.
The remains of the old Victorian observatory on top of Ben Nevis.

7. More people attempt it than we saw at the summit. Loads of people (about 50%) turned back before the top. While this is fine, I do suspect they then go back to work telling everyone they climbed Ben Nevis when they didn’t actually get to the top.

The trig point at the top, proving we made it.
The trig point at the top, proving we made it.  As the little sign to my right so rightly observes, I do have a weak edge.

8. The top has an emergency shelter so if the weather turns, you can hide out (this one’s more of an observation than a lesson).

The emergency shelter is in that hut at the top of the remains of the old observatory.
The emergency shelter is in that hut at the top of the remains of the old observatory.

After I got so worried about climbing without a spare pair of tractors in my daysack, I am at my wit’s end with the shitty advice coming from “respect the mountain” type people.  Where do they actually get off?  Being an anarchist and a minimalist and a free spirit and having lived among Irish travellers, I am firmly in camp “disrespect the mountain” if it means I’m not carrying so much crap with me that I’m never going to get to the top.  If you’re wondering whether it’s okay to go up or not, and it’s summer conditions, just go for it.  As long as you’re not a complete moron it’s going to be fine.  I mean, you would really have to try to get killed in summer on the tourist path on Ben Nevis.  At which point, your last thoughts should probably be “whoops.”

This song sums up my attitude to the prospect of my own death by misadventure, learn it, before you canoe back down Everest being towed by mountain dolphins:

When we reached the summit, I didn’t really have a sense of achievement. I guess I must be developing a good sense for things such as the top of the mountain really being a halfway point not an end. And this was borne out, because (as with Snowdon) the descent was far more painful on my poor damaged lower leg bones and on my feet. When we reached the little wooden bridge (we took the Youth Hostel Path as it’s got free parking and less hikers before it joins the “tourist path”), the magnitude of the achievement struck me. Not the physical demands because let’s be fair I’d barely done any exercise for a month before we climbed it and I found it was only the compression on my leg bones on the descent that caused an issue. The achievement was that I was able to fulfil a promise to the me from the past who wrote the 30 list. Ben Nevis was one of the most important things on the list. A gateway to bigger things.
I guess now I need to try and work out what those bigger things were.
Any ideas?

Britain's highest war memorial. Because one generation's pretentious junk is another generation's national treasure.
Britain’s highest war memorial. Because one generation’s pretentious junk is another generation’s national treasure.  Actually if you read it, it’s for soldiers from Fort William, the nearest town, which makes more sense than the “Nepalese War graves” all over the UK – why oh why aren’t they home on their mountains where their hearts belonged?  Didn’t they give us enough already?

This was a Travel Tuesday post but it’s taken my internet 8 hours to upload all the pictures even though I’ve well reduced the image sizes.  We really need to get the internet fixed but we have no way of contacting BT since our phone line being partially severed is the whole problem.

In Pictures: Urban Industrial Decay by the Sea in Aberdeen

How long has it been since I last did a travel/pure delight article??  It feels like forever!

While I was in Aberdeen I saw some awesome decaying industrial objects which reminded me of Natalia Goncharova and Futurism here’s some inspiration pictures:

Giacomo Balla's Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Giacomo Balla’s Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).

I’m sure people much more accomplished at Art have commented on these pictures to death.  To me, they remind me of the opening minute of the song “Breathe” by Pink Floyd on The Dark Side of The Moon album.  It all links together.  In that vein, of industrialization and movement and life borne of machines and future provided for by machines, there’s little room for the question of the inevitable death of those machines.

When I came across this bounty of stimuli just abandoned on various plots of land in Aberdeen, I was reminded of the inevitable omega – the end of all things.  So I took lots of pictures of these industrial objects because their death masks were so beautiful, and I included the surroundings in some of them because their burial sites were often in direct contrast with their tortured metallic endings.  Such an unnatural and contrived resting place for what was once some chemical elements separated from base rock by a blast furnace.  Abandoned because their ferrous surfaces have combined with too much oxygen.  One question which I cannot answer is: “How sustainable are these burial sites where we lay out our expired machinery?”  There was a LOT of stuff like this in Aberdeen.

I felt sad that such amazing and titanic objects had been abandoned.  There were far more pics than this but I decided to just share this set of 11 in this article, paying particular attention to texture (especially rust) and unusual focus length.  I’ve written my own criticism by them in places so you can see what I thought of how my pictures came out.  I’m a crap photographer but I’m trying to learn, so any feedback would be appreciated, positive or negative.  This was before I bought my amazing new lenses for my DSLR, and I’d had the camera maybe 4 days by this point, so all pics here taken with my 18-55 kit lens on 100% manual camera settings with no autofocus (c’mon, autofocus is for wimps).  Click any image to enlarge.

A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust.  The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust. The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
I really liked the texture.
I really liked the texture.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
A metal thingy.  The sea is behind this wall.
A metal thingy. The sea is behind this wall.  I like the contrasting texture of the lichen, the wall and the metal thingy.
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???  Apparently they’re lifeboat launches?  ISO too high.
More delightful texture.
More delightful texture.  Not level (argh).
Rusty giant chain.  Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso!  I wonder what it was used for...
Rusty giant chain. Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso! I wonder what it was used for…
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
barbed wire
Barbed wire and concrete textures contrasting with roof tiles.  Horizontals not straight.
Crane and sky.  I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted.
Crane and sky. I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the texture of the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted both at the same time and forgot to level it out.
Texture tyres.  I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really nice texture (I love the kitemark, bottom right).  I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres??  What has tyres this big??)
Texture tyres. I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the delicious texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really beautiful surface (I love the kitemark, near bottom right). I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres?? What has tyres this big??)

I don’t know what to say to sum this post up, so I’m going to let you do it instead.  Feedback please!