Camera

So far, touch wood, the digital camera had no unpleasant surprise for me. Quite on the contrary. It surprises me how it can do things I was a wee bit hoping it might be able to.

If the truth be told, to date I’ve only had time to find out how to charge the battery, switch the camera on/off, zoom in/out and take a picture – not yet how to turn on/off the flash or self timer, let alone record a video. (This is good, actually – it means I’m not as impatient as I used to be about learning everything a new toy of mine can offer.) But I’ve already tried, successfully, something fairly important. I managed to install the program from the supplied CD, import some snaps onto my hard disc, and later upload one to LibraryThing.

This is no small thing for me. It means that I can cross off scanner from the list of things I intended to buy and use the money for something else; that I can share the pictures I make with friends; and that I’ll no longer have to search for just about every picture I need on the Net – I can even have some which simply aren’t there to be found. I don’t mean only book covers.

 

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John Corbett & Christian Kay: Understanding Grammar in Scotland Today

I have learned about the publication of this book from an SLC article. This, together with the title, seemed to me to imply a book dealing with the grammatical differences between English as spoken in Scotland and in England – which expectation wasn’t fulfilled. (There are a few such differences mentioned, but only in passing.) Nevertheless, after the initial disappoinment I found it interesting enough, because it was dealing with English grammar “from the inside”, not from a different language’s point of view, as was the case when I was learning it at the secondary grammar school. For example, I found out that my, your, his &c are regarded as determiners/possessive adjectives – while we saw them as possessive pronouns.

It’s written using the descriptive, rather than prescriptive, viewpoint, and it leads the reader from the very basic things like classifying words by particular parts of speech to describing how phrases, clauses, and finally complex sentences work. If you’re not afraid of technical terms like constituent, predicator, adverbial, active voice or passive transformation (some of which I’ve encountered for the first time), it gives you a good insight into the ways the language is structured, and I’ve no doubt I’ll find it useful as a reference book in future.

When all is said and done I’m sure I’m glad I’ve bought it. (Incidentally, I posted an identical “reader’s review” of it at LibraryThing and Amazon.co.uk.)

 

US street preacher fined £1,000 for breach of peace

Shawn Holes, 47, a street preacher from New York state, was preaching in Glasgow city centre (why?), charged with breach of peace for some of his comments (seemingly those directed at gays) and fined £1,000. He admitted the charge before returning to the US.
PinkNews: Street preacher fined £1,000 for homophobia
A PinkNews article about Peter Tatchell’s disapproving of the verdict followed. For once, I’ve skimmed through the comments, to be disgusted again by how many in our community argue to the effect that freedom of speech should only mean freedom of politically correct speech. Still, there were some sensible posts – and ones alleging there were sectarian verbal attacks as well, or that the charge wasn’t about the contents of the speech at all. That’s the trouble as I see it. Almost none of the commentors (including Tatchell) was actually there to know what (and in what context) in fact the guy was saying. Yet we’re all so ready to shout “freedom of speech!” or “hate crime!”…

 

Data centres power usage warning

Greenpeace have issued an estimate that by 2020 data centres will use more power than currently consumed by France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined, and implored major IT companies to use renewable energy sources to power these centres.
BBC: Greenpeace issues warning about data centre power
I realised storing so much data demanded considerable energy consumption, but nowhere near this estimate – not within the next ten years. And the fact that Greenpeace love to exaggerate doesn’t mean they don’t have it right sometimes.

 

Peatcutting

My love for Scotland being of the long-distance kind, there are several things I know of but don’t know much about. Like activities I often see alluded to, may even have some idea about the purposes of and so forth, but have never actually seen being done. One of these was peatcutting – until I was lead by Gordon Wells from FnaG to “Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean” and this video:

The Island Voices have an admirable policy of providing the same video with both English and Gaelic commentary. Here’s the Gaelic version:

Enjoy!

 

Cal Merc publishing articles in Gaelic

From 17 March, Caledonian Mercury began occasionally publishing articles on various topics by Murchadh MacLeòid / Murdo MacLeod in Scottish Gaelic (with very brief synopses in English attached). To date there are these three:
Cal Merc: Fuirichidh na muilleanan aig an taigh – is bidh adhbhar aca
Cal Merc: Cluasag a chuireas ceist sa Mhì-Rùn Mòr
Cal Merc: iPad: Bha sin ann reimhid
I’m particularly glad for the range – politics, heritage and technology so far. I hope they keep it up, although I haven’t read the first and probably won’t have time to read the last until this weekend. I did read the second and it was quite interesting stuff. In fact so much so, that an FnaG debate stemmed from it – and it’s still going. (I haven’t joined it though – there’s too much I’d want to say on the matter once I started speaking at all.)

 

Thrifty, not miserly

Some days, I can hardly think of anything to write in my diary before going to sleep except for eg “ordinary workday”. At best perhaps expanding a bit on what that currently means. On other days, there are so many things worth blogging about that all I have time to do is briefly enumerating them. Today was closer to the latter sort.

I’ve stated before that as a result of my summer trip I had to become more thrifty, but by no means miserly. I stopped buying two or three books and a CD or two each month at Amazon, but hadn’t decided to not buy anything there until autumn. Consequently, when Mike Perham’s book about his round-the-world voyage got published, I ordered it within a week. (And a CD and two other books, while I was at it. One of them The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which it seems everybody knows but me.) Today the parcel arrived and frankly, I’m rather curious, because I’ve no idea what’s the book going to be like. I skimmed it quickly through and luckily it doesn’t look like he just pasted together the blogs he was writing while sailing. Most of all I wonder whether it will do what I initially wanted those blogs to do, before finding out I didn’t have time to read more than the most important ones over weekends. That is to say, to slightly enlighten the landward guy that I am about the vocabulary and technology of sailing.

But even before fetching the parcel from the post office I bought a digital camera. This of course cost much more; on the other hand it was one of the items I was taking into account when restructuring my budget after having ordered the trip. Anyway, I won’t go into detail about it until I explore how it works and what it can do. So far I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that it’s apparently being able to record video and sound in addition to still images. I didn’t know these things were this advanced…

 

Litrichean diofaraichte

Mar a bha mi ag ràdh sa Bheurla, leugh mi a’ chiad leabhar sa Ghàidhlig o chionn ghoirid, agus tha aon de na h-adhbharan a bu chudromaiche a b’ urrainn dhomh sin a dhèanamh na Litrichean BhBC le Ruairidh MacIllEathain. Mar sin, rinn mi rudeigin eile cuideachd: sgrìobh mi post-dealain thuige son taing a thoirt dha.

Tha cunnartan gu leòr air an Eadar-lìon nach eil an taobh a-muigh dheth, ach tha cothroman sònraichte air mar an ceudna. Gu math tric, faodaidh tu a ràdh do chudeigin gur fìor thoil leat na tha iad a’ dèanamh, fiù ‘s nuair nach eil iad uabhasach ainmeil. Uill, chan àbhaist dhomh a bhi a’ cur puist-d mar sin ro thric idir, ach tha mi toilichte gum faodar gan cur.

Bha mi a’ sgrìobhadh ‘s ath-sgrìobhadh a’ phuist-d sin uair no dhà a thìde. Tha an t-eagal, no an t-amharas, orm gun nì mi gu math tric faux pas air choireigin nuair a sgrìobhas mi rudeigin mar sin. Tha e coltach nach do rinn mi sin an turas seo, ge-tà, oir sgrìobh Ruairidh air ais. Agus ‘s e aon bhuil seo: an àite cheannach leabhair eile, dh’fho-sgrìobh mi dhan iris dà-chànanach Cothrom.

Chan eil sin a’ ciallachadh nach ceannaich mi leabhar eile gu bràth. Ach fanaidh mi greis. Chì mi dè cho mòr a bhios an iris a’ còrdadh rium agus dè cho fada a bhios mi a’ leughadh aon chopaidh dhi.

 

The Independent sold to Lebedev

Irish company Independent News & Media has sold loss-making The Independent and Independent on Sunday to Александр Евгеньевич Лебедев, who already owns the Evening Standard.
BBC: The Independent bought by Lebedev for £1
It was the favourite newspaper of mine during my 1990 two months in the UK. Well, it’s over now, as nothing’s going to convince me that a newspaper owned by a former employee of the KGB can be… independent.

 

Catholics using gay loophole against gays

An exception in the Sexual Orientation Regulations alowing charities to discriminate if their aims are to serve people of a particular sexual orientation was used as a loophole to allow a Catholic adoption agency to refuse gay adoptions.
PinkNews: Gay protection loophole allowed Catholic adoption appeal
And rightly so. You can’t allow some charities to discriminate against straights without allowing other charities to discriminate against gays. The exception shouldn’t have been in the law at all. Fair is fair: if you’re against discrimination, you can’t support protectionism, and this applies to freedom of speech as well.

 

Could we have some more spring, please?

I never understood March proverbs. The local one (“March – we’ll crawl behind the stove”) didn’t make sense to me even in childhood. (If you’re cold in March, why haven’t you been behind a stove throughout the winter in the first place?) Much later I read in a booklet on Scottish proverbs that “March comes wi’ adders’ heads and gangs wi’ peacocks’ tails” is much preferable to its English counterpart, “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb“, which latter thefreedictionary.com explains as meaning “The month of March usually starts with cold, unpleasant weather, but ends mild and pleasant.” Frankly, the association between peacocks and Scotland is as obscure to me as that between cold weather and lions.

Anyway, they seem to apply no longer. Just as about two decades ago I began noticing that what I understood as autumnal weather usually only lasted for about a week between summer and winter, in the last years it seems like spring, too, has all but disappeared and winter is followed almost immediately by summer. Walking to work after 5 a.m. this morning, there was the pleasant smell in the air that says that winter is finally over – but somehow it didn’t smell exactly springy. A fortnight hasn’t passed since frosty nights, yet the forecast for this Thursday shows a maximum of 18C. And I remember how last year the change from “not a leaf to be seen” to “not a bare branch to be seen” took only a few days.

I don’t complain about the seeming end of winter, but I do prefer things like this to be happening more gradually. Both winter and summer have their good aspects, but I always enjoyed the transitory periods the best. Winter and summer feel like status quo; spring and autumn feel like flux. And flux feels closer to life than status quo.

However, I had a look at the BBC forecast for Perth and they say 9 above on Thursday. Possibly the season still exists in Britain.

 

Daonnan ann an Trioblaid

(It’s hard to keep track of all what’s hapening. Yesterday: Widsith‘s, my favourite blogger’s, 32nd birthday; Mike Perham‘s 18th birthday; today: Jockie’s 40th birthday, St Patrick’s Day, 10th anniversary of my 1st shift in any printing house, I met Pinkie who’s still living in this city, my therapist emailed she was beginnig to worry why I haven’t emailed for so long… But I’m going to write about something else.)

More than fifteen years have passed since the Yuletide of ’94 when I received, as a Christmas gift, the Robertson&Taylor (1993) Teach Yourself Gaelic book. Over the following years I began learning from it twice or thrice, but never got as far as the middle of it. In between I was given another, Mackinnon (1971) TYG. Probably in ’03 I began once again, using the format 1st R&T lesson – 1st McK lesson – 2nd R&T – 2nd McK – 3rd R&T – … and persevered until finishing the 23-lesson Robertson&Taylor in ’06 and the 35-lesson Mackinnon in ’08.

This posed the question “What next?” As chance would have it, that same year I got online and one of the first things I discovered were Ruairidh MacIllEathain’s BBC Litrichean. The folowing year’s discovery was Fòram na Gàidhlig, where after some time I became a regular. Sure, there’s also Radio nan Gaidheal, Naidheachdan BBC, Akerbeltz and quite a few others, including dictionaries. But it’s mostly thanks to the Litrichean and FnaG that I finally decided to buy a book in Gaelic.

The initial problem was how to get a suitable one. I knew bugger-all about what had been published in the language and Amazon lacked a Gaelic section. After some time I came across Comhairle nan Leabhraichean, later on got a good reference for it, and eventually decided on this book by Lisa Storey. Two reasons: To be on the safe side, preferring to risk beginning with something too easy to beginning with something too hard (and thus possibly discouraging). And because although I knew the heroes’ trioblaidean would hardly bear any resemblance to mine, the very phrase Always in a Trouble is so much like a brief summary of my life…

I admit that when it arrived I was a bit disappointed. Even for a children’s book it looked too thin, printed with a too large font and containing unnecessarily many pictures. I mean, all right, I’ve always been a bookworm, but not a genius, yet when I was ten I was reading about ten books like Vicke Viking a month. This one looked like a couple of Sunday afternoon hours’ affair even with my handling of the language.

In fact I probably could read it like that, but in the end I preferred to look up every single word I didn’t know in a dictionary as I went along, even if its meaning was quite obvious from the context. I was also checking these words in en-wikt and bookmarking those that were missing there so as to put them in later myself. Thus with about an hour a week spent with the book I was reading it for about a month.

Nevertheless, whatever the details I can claim I’ve read a whole book in Gaelic, and even enjoyed it in a way. Now I’d like to read it again, at one go, and already I’m looking forward to buying and beginning to read another. Currently I’m pondering whether to stay in the Feadhainn òga – younger kids category for one more time, as they’ve got Le Petit Prince, or whether to move one level up to the Deugairean – teenagers section…

 

New Roma-separating wall

A 2.2m tall, 150m long concrete wall was built in the Slovakian municipality of Ostrovany to prevent the local Roma majority [sic!] from committing property crimes in the Slovakian ethnicity’s part of the village.
BBC: Slovakia’s separation barrier to keep out Roma
After the Ústí nad Labem hysteria, it’s refreshing to read an informed article which isn’t biased either way. Perhaps, now that they have so many of them as asylum seekers in their own country, the British know better about the eastern-middle-Europe Roma than to just take all their allegations about racism for granted. The editor didn’t fail to mention both the Roma (“Why couldn’t they use the money to build us a decent home instead?”) and the Slovakian (“[they] have grown dependent on the state. All they need each month is two signatures [for] their welfare payments”) points of view.

 

Archivist

Sometimes it seems to me that in an ideal world in which your work is what you do best and like best I would quite possibly be a librarian or an archivist. A job concerned with keeping written materials well organized, putting the emphasis on precision rather than on quickness…

The archivist trait in my mind expresses itself also in an obsession with archiving my own life. This has always put some strain on me as there are two extremes, each of them with a desirable aim but going straight against the other. Ideally, I would like to have every single minute (even every passing thought) of my life archived somehow so I could look it up in future. Ideally, too, I would like to live to the full, not wasting a single minute of my time by recording life rather than living it.

Another problem is keeping one’s records so as to be able to find a specific information. It’s easy enough to look up whether anything important happened on a particular day. In the opposite direction it’s still fairly easy to look up, say, in which year I went on this or that trip, I’m not travelling very often. It’s far trickier to ascertain, for example, when I read such-and-such book, or when I read it for the first time, let alone how many times I’ve read one of my favourites. (It’s somewhat easier using a text editor, but of course, most of my records have been done before I’ve got a laptop.)

I wrote here in January that I had at least managed, after years, to edit all the diaries, notes, memos &c I’d gathered throughout the first twenty-four years of my life into a single, chronologically linear, story, and throw away lots of papers and mementoes whose sentimental and/or documentary value didn’t justify the space they took. That there’s a good chance to treat the following fourteen years more quickly. Nevertheless, the problem of how much time to spend on recording my current life remains.

So far, I’ve learned to keep only those letters (not necessarily emails) and other written or printed items I surely might want to look up again one day. I almost never come by any other (ie non-paper-ish) mementoes I would find it hard to part with. I’m trying to make my daily diary entries as concise as possible, though I’m still usually failing in this effort, and my weekly summaries even more so. But a new problem arised with this website.

The question is always the same: Is this worth writing about? It would be fun – but would doing something else be more fun? Will I – or anybody else – care to read it after it’s written? There’s hardly a week during which at least eight things I’d like to write about don’t occur – but if I did, some of them wouldn’t have time to happen at all, if you take my meaning.

So I’m trying to learn to be easy-going about it. Writing about those things that are absolutely most important for me, and treating the others analogously to the books I’d like to read, posts I’d like to comment on, films I’d like to watch, songs I’d like to listen to, information I’d like to look up… That is to say, writing when I’ve got the time, am in the mood for it, and there’s no distinctly better way of spending my leisure hours – and if I fail to describe some happening or express some opinion, just being content with having experienced the former or contemplated the latter.

The best (or indeed, the only reasonable) solution to the “I can only do so much and there’s so much to do” syndrome is doing as much as you can without getting overwrought with it, being glad about what you’ve done and easy about what you haven’t.

It’s certainly not easy to put this theory into practice but.

 

Sandy’s 34 and Lùc’s reconnecting

I admit I’m too keen on seeing symbolic coincidences. Sometimes this reaches the point where it’s debatable whether there’s anything symbolically coinciding at all.

On Thursday, Sandy turned 35. Sandy was a workmate of mine back in 2000-2003, and my seventh post-army love. It was one of those loves which can ultimately bring a body down a lot. At the end of the day I had to quit the job and go through an approximately six-month booze-up to get over it. (Another embarrasing symbol: I began my next job which lasted for some time on the very date when, three years earlier, I had seen him for the first time.) I bear him no grudge. For all his latent egocentrism, he often helped me a lot when his and my aims pointed at the same direction, and I had some great times with him. It surprised me now to realise he was that much younger. (Eight years – the number again.) But I no longer love him. As a matter of fact, I’m gradually fancying him less and less.

On Thursday (here’s the symbolic coincidence – if there is one), I received a reply for my Sunday’s email to Lùc – the first I’ve heard from him since the end of last November. Needless to say, this made my day. Apart from the therapists and a couple of guys in this town he’s one of the two people I met in the rehab that I’m still in contact with – that is to say, otherwise than when revisiting the rehab. I never loved him (though I once was on the verge of it and always have fancied him), but he’s one of the closest friends I’ve had during this millenium so far. People come and people go, friends come and friends go, but there’s always the additional fear in these relationships that your friend might have relapsed. Which with alkies can eventually mean the skid row and with junkies the fatal overdose. So I was mightily relieved to find out there are simply currently too many interesting real-life things happening to him to let him spend much time online. But the line wasn’t broken. This relationship lasts. Which is great.

 

Internet as a human right?

The results of a survey conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC, in which more than 27,000 adults across 26 countries took part, show that 79% “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that access to the Internet is a fundamental right.
BBC: Internet access is ‘a fundamental right’
Frankly speaking, I don’t understand what they mean by that. That nobody should be legally banned from said access? That governments should provide one for everyone currently present in their countries? That they shouldn’t filter anything? That… there are so many possible interpretations as to make the statistic rather valueless. But there are other, more interesting findings mentioned in the article. “In Japan , Mexico and Russia around three-quarters of respondents said they could not cope without it.” I beg your pardon? Yet in the same Japan a majority of users “felt that they could not express their opinions safely online”. Huh?

 

Religious gay civil partnerships pass the Lords

An amendment to the Equality Bill allowing those religions which decide to hold civil partnership ceremonies to do so was approved by the House of Lords, despite attempts at misinterpreting it by some Church of England bishops.
PinkNews: Lords back religious civil partnerships for gay couples
Lord Waheed Alli, who proposed the bill, naturally didn’t wait with a retort to set the record straight. There’s another aspect to this, though. In effect, what the bishops said amounts to “we are afraid that there may be a limit set upon our religious freedom, and to prevent this we are willing to make sure that there is a limit set upon religious freedom of others“.
However, Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, might remove the amendment on the grounds that it could raise problems in the marriage system.

 

Gravatar

As an Internet beginner I was spending a lot of time creating profiles. I don’t mean creating lots of accounts, I mean spending lots of time on each account’s profile. To a small extent it was a matter of what nick to choose (my most usual real-life one? or something completely new? or even the string of characters on my ID card?), but mostly it was about contemplating how to fill in the boxes (should I reveal my age? my sexuality? my location? &c). I used to be troubled especially by the boxes in which you’re supposed to characterise yourself in a few (or not so few) words. How to make it short but telling a lot?

(In fact, one of the reasons for creating this website was having a “home base”, to which I could point out with a link without filling in anything other than the “compulsory” details elsewhere. Indeed, later on I even blanked out much of the information from those profiles that I had created before launching this site.)

One reccurring item on these profile pages is a picture. Somewhere it’s called a “devil” (ICQ), somewhere an “avatar” (FnaG), somewhere a “userpic” (LJ) and so forth, but the principle is the same – a kind of a visual signature or nick. I used quite a few of these, but sooner or later was always dissatisfied with my choice. Always began to consider them either not Scottish enough, or, alternatively, Scottish in a too ostentatious way. (I still like the logo I made up for this site, but using it for example at FnaG would remind one of the “wha’s like us?” syndrome.) Nevertheless, when I was led by the Cal Merc to the Gravatar website, I decided to give it one more try.

After some consideration I concluded that I was still happy with the snap I used for my “About” page here and used a cut-out of that. (Actually, I already had used it elsewhere, namely on YouTube.) It’s Scottish all right, but refers to the nick to which I’m quite used by now even more, it’s easily recognizable in the thumbnail size and neutral enough to be used anywhere and everywhere.

So that yesterday’s anniversary of the day back in ’91 when I eventually lost my virginity I celebrated by something quite asexual – namely, setting the gravatar to my FnaG profile and posting my first Cal Merc comment using this nick’n’pic.

 

Bonus tracks

I hate bonus tracks. (I hate cover versions even more, but one thing at a time.) Possibly this is another idiosyncrasy of mine and the music industry just knows its customers actually buy an album more readily if they’re told they’re getting something “extra” for their money. But it seems mad to me.

I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. For several reasons, I’m used to perceiving every album, even “best of”s of various artists, as a “concept album”. If other listeners see them as mere random collections of songs, then of course more tracks means more music, so they may even buy a new release of one they’ve already got. As far as I’m concerned, adding a song or two after, say, Bridge over Troubled Water, is like performing a play by Shakespeare and adding, after the final act, a “bonus sonnet” or two.

I can just see the adverts. Today: Hamlet! With two sonnets the ensemble never recited before! Or imagine going to the cinema to see Life of Brian and after Always Look on the Bright Side of Life being given two version of the Dead Parrot sketch which didn’t make it onto the TV screen. (These bonuses are often demos, sometimes of the same song.) Or on a book cover: For Whom the Bell Tolls – with two previously unpublished bonus short stories by the author!

No, not the latest – with a book, you just stop reading. You don’t have to be ready to quickly push the Stop button after the final chord of the original set of songs lest you hear something incongruous in its wake and have the experience spoiled. Because this is the trouble: if you don’t want to hear these add-ons, you can’t be entirely immersed in the music at the very moment when you should be most immersed in it.

Of course, I don’t know how happy or unhappy the musicians themselves are and how much they can or cannot do about this. And of course there are exceptions proving the rule. (Not having heard the original album helps.) Adding two songs after End of the Line, which was a perfect ending to the first Traveling Wilburys album, was pure barbarism – and yet I don’t switch them off. I want to hear Like a Ship as well. But I do feel like a philistine when doing so.

So I’m glad not everybody’s doing it. For example, nobody’s dared so far to add Hey Jude as a bonus track to the end of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And it’s not about how famous you are. The latest release of Room to Roam has no bloody amendments either.

I hope I won’t live to the day when what I’ve just said won’t be true any longer.

 

Perthshire power cuts

45,000 homes were affected by power cuts resulting from snow pulling down power lines last Thursday, 5,000 of these still on Friday and 100 yet on Saturday – only on Sunday did the BBC report all had been reconnected again.
BBC: Power is restored after snow cuts
I learned about this from BBC Radio Scotland while it still lasted and it made me muse upon two things. First, how would I cope in such a situation. Second, how well the proverb “near’s my sark, but nearer’s my skin” applies here: hearing of the Haiti earthquake (and later the one in Chile) I just thought “ay, it’s a sad and dangerous world, but luckily the threat of this particular danger in Europe is rather remote”. These power cuts were, in comparison, an absolutely trifling matter – but happening this near and in a country I love I cared much more about them…