Category Archives: Travel

We have returned to Castle Wheaton. Here’s a story about a different castle.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-9-14-38-amDriving on the left side of the road was nerve wracking as hell. The roads in Scotland seem to be much more narrow than the roads I’m used to, and Anne kept telling me that I was veering close to the left shoulder, almost letting the wheels go off the road.

It took me nearly two full days of driving, but I did get used to it, and I even figured out the proper way to navigate a roundabout, which was not the victory it may sound like, because it was the final roundabout I used before we returned the rental car.

Scotland was the most beautiful place I’ve been that wasn’t in the South Pacific. The highlands were just breathtaking, and for some reason we got perfectly clear skies and sunshine the whole time we were there. The thing I wasn’t prepared for at all, though, was how dark it got at night. There weren’t any streetlights. Now, Americans, let me be clear: I don’t mean that there weren’t a lot of streetlights, or that the streetlights were dim. I mean that there were literally zero streetlights. When we drove back to the house we were staying in after dinner in Portree one night, I could only see as far as my car’s headlights, which wasn’t even 30 feet, before the darkness swallowed up the light.

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Hello from Birmingham

British Industrial Town from the train.
British Industrial Town from the train.

No, not the one in Alabama. The one in England.

We took 8 hours of trains yesterday, from Scotland, to get here for Destination Star Trek, the only Trek convention I’m appearing at this year.

It was an amazing and beautiful ride, and it made me wish that America had a train system that was even half as useful and relevant to where people actually travel as the British Rail System is (I don’t know if it’s supposed to be capitalized, but it earned it, so there.)

We are now in a hotel, and I said to Anne this morning that it feels anticlimactic to be here. After several days in the Scottish Highlands, sleeping in cottages, and driving down tiny sheep roads to get from place to place, it just feels … plain. It’s nothing against the hotel or anything, but if you have an opportunity to travel, even though hotels are familiar and predictable, I highly recommend giving the alternative a try.

Scottish countryside, from the train.
Scottish countryside, from the train.

I’m going to miss Scotland. In fact, I already miss Scotland. It was so beautiful, and it was such a wonderful experience for me, I feel like I recovered a lot of HP and Mana that I didn’t know had been depleted. I’ll have more pictures to share and more words to write about it once I’ve properly processed and reflected upon the time we spent there.

Hello from Scotland

Anne and I have spent two days in the HIghlands, and we love it here. We will return someday, when we can spend more time and do more things.

I took about 5000000000000 pictures, but the Internet is slow and wonky where I am, so I can’t upload them at full resolution. Here’s a few of them, resized:

This castle is very old.
This castle is very old.

This is Urquhart Castle, which is on the shore of Loch Ness. That ruined tower has been ruined longer than my country has existed.


That’s Loch Ness, as seen through an ancient window in the castle.

Thery're very good castles, Brad.
They’re very good castles, Brad.

This is Eilean Donan, which is famous for being in many movies including Highlander. I’d list the others, but there can be only one.

We didn’t go into this one, but we did have tea in their little restaurant and it was awesome.

sheep-sheep sheep

There really are sheep everywhere in the Highlands, and no matter how much I try to befriend them, they aren’t having it. I’m kind of glad they always run away when I get about 30 feet from them, though, because there aren’t many things in the world as funny as watching sheep run, with their stupid little legs.

My incredibly small sample size of about a dozen people indicates that everyone here is incredibly kind, and they don’t make fun of my accent.

My Keynote Address to the 2016 Mensa Annual Gathering

Seconds before I started my address.

This is a slightly edited copy of my prepared remarks for the Mensa Annual Gathering. These remarks are meant to be heard and performed, so some of the nuance may be lost in the text.

Mental Hopscotch
If I’m so smart, why is my brain so dumb?

When Mensa invited me to speak to you tonight, it was easy to say yes. Though I am not a member – and I’ll get to that in a minute – my son is. In fact, he took and passed the test when he was 16, the youngest in his group. Joining Mensa was something he’d wanted to do since he was in sixth grade, and because I am a loving and supportive father, I thought that I’d help him prepare. I was in GATE, then AP, then honors, then Starfleet, so I figured that I could be a useful resource for him … and holy shit was I wrong. It was a humbling moment for me, eleven years ago, when I discovered that not only did my son not need my help, but I was wholly unable to give it. Like, I’m a smart guy, but as far as I am concerned, the Mensa test may as well be administered in Aramaic to subjects who are blindfolded and underwater. On Europa.

What I remember from the practice tests I looked at and then quickly ran terrified away from was that they tested my ability to reason and extrapolate the solutions to problems both complex and relatively simple, often from incomplete information. I didn’t have too much trouble with that part of it, but it was the math that killed me, because even though I’ve tried over and over again since I was in third grade, when it comes to math, I am talking Malibu Stacy.

Still, I accepted this invitation to speak tonight because one of my fundamental rules for living a successful and happy life is: don’t be the smartest person in the room, its corollary is: if you look around and see that you are the smartest person in the room, find a new room. This is the only way you keep growing and challenging yourself to be the most interesting human you can be.

The thing about that is … well, when you’re literally put on a pedestal in front of that room? It’s … really fucking terrifying to stand here. What could I possibly tell a room full of people who are smarter than me? Something geeky? Okay, that’s … well … right. Something geeky. Talk about something geeky that’s going to be relevant to a massively diverse group of people who probably aren’t judging me, but I’ll just proceed as if they are because that’s how my stupid brain works.

Okay … something geeky … something geeky …

I’m a geek! Everything in my life is geeky!

It’s going to be okay, Wheaton. Just sit down, and write about what you know.

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My speech to the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival

I'm going to try SCIENCEOn April 17, I was given the great honor and privilege to speak before the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.

These are my prepared remarks. I mostly stuck to them, and didn’t improvise as much as I usually do, because I was more nervous than usual at this conference. I knew that I had to speak to children, their parents, and their teachers. I hoped that I would inspire them all to keep doing awesome things, and to do more awesome things. I also hoped that some of my remarks would be heard beyond the walls of the conference, because I’m doing my best to make a positive difference in the world.

Please keep in mind that these remarks are written to be read and performed by me, so they are probably not as strong when read as I hope they are when they are heard.

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