Thursday 28 July 2016

Happy Birthday to the Web

Today is the 10,000th day of the Web. Put another way the Web is 27 years and about 4 months old.

On day 1,208 the dial-up melody rang in our ears and, since then, in the ears of anyone who watches a movie from that era where emails are involved. 

However all this is fairly academic for most of us because the use of emails didn't really become relatively commonplace until the mid 1990s. Hotmail, for example, started in 1996/7.

I wonder when the WWW is viewed 100 or 1000 years from now how significant it will be regarded. 

When I was very young my maternal grandparents lived in a large house where the main power was gas and the heating was largely coal. The wireless (the name in those days for a radio) was powered by an accumulator. The accumulator (a type of electrical battery which can be charged and discharged and recharged many times) would be collected by a local company and recharged every couple of weeks. They had a vacuum cleaner which was huge and not particularly portable and was powered by a person who pumped a handle rather like this one only significantly larger. It was a two-person operation.

I often talked with my grandmother in later years (bearing in mind that she died 45 years ago at the age of 93) of the huge changes that had taken place in her lifetime.

In year 1887 when my grandmother was born the first British motor car was just about appearing. In 1971 the motor car with all its technology as we know it today was not even a dream. When she died the personal computer wasn't known never mind the World Wide Web. She did live to see the first moon landing (in 1969). Ironically the computer in the Apollo had a miniscule amount of the computing power of the simplest of mobile phones today.

The changes that have appeared in my lifetime sometimes blow my mind. I wonder if the changes that my son and subsequent generations will see will be as huge. Of course I will never know.

Monday 18 July 2016

I'll Meet You in Starbucks

"Pardon? I'm in Lewis at the moment."

"So am I. I'm here for the Festival."

"We don't have a Starbucks in Stornoway. Anyway it's a Sunday and only the hotels are open for coffee and meals."

"Trust me. There is a Starbucks. It opened on Thursday. Pick me up and we'll go for lunch."

So I did. And we did.

Mind you I was threatened with men in white coats by one friend who steadfastly refused to believe me when I told her where I was going.

Anyway we had a pleasant lunch in very spacious, airy surroundings even if the weather outside was pretty dreich.

The entrance across the courtyard
The menu - no mention of Starbucks
It is large, spacious, light and airy.
The foyer with shop and more seating and the servery counter to the right.
Exit acroos the courtyard with the newly relocated museum on the left
So not really your typical Starbucks! My guess is that as they are aiming at Americans to occupy the apartments in the Castle the Starbucks name is being used for the coffee to make visitors feel safe and 'at home'. Actually we agreed that the coffee was good.

I won't be moving my loyalty from The Woodlands (which is a hundred or two yards away in the Castle grounds)  but I will visit again.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

I've Lost My Vacuum Cleaner

How can one lose or mislay a vacuum cleaner? Well I have done just that. For ten minutes or more I have wandered through the ten rooms in this house and have still not managed to find it. I'm getting concerned about my state of mind. Then I told myslelf it was ARADD (Age Related Attention Deficit Disorder) or, as shown in this YouTube video, which many of you will have viewed already I'm sure, Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. Then I remembered that I've always displayed those symptoms: long before I was at an age where this is supposed to kick in anyway.

Whilst I was searching I was thinking about why I am here (I don't mean on this earth but in this house this morning and not working at Gaz's house). It's because of a conversation. Two people rarely have a conversation. Ask each participant for a résumé of the conversation and you will find that there were two different conversations. 

It's rather like witnesses. Every police officer and every lawyer knows that witness statements are often, perhaps usually, unreliable. 

50 years or so ago a colleague (a lawyer) drove the nose of his car slightly over the white line into the main road along which I was travelling to work. I joked with him about it when I saw him in work an hour or so later. "What colour was the car you saw?" he asked. "Green". I knew that because not only did his car often park next to mine but I had travelled in it often. "Grey" he said "See. It wasn't me you saw." Totally bemused by the fact that he didn't know the colour of his own car I popped down into the car park to check. It was grey. I learned from that that dogmatism is to be avoided at all costs when one is likely to be cross-examined.

Well that didn't help me find the vacuum cleaner but it did rather demonstrate ARADD can be applicable to writing blog posts as well. 

I've just had another look around. Still no sign of the vacuum cleaner.

Friday 1 July 2016


There are so many serious subjects to write about at the moment. What has Europe learned by the massive loss of life during WW1 and WW2? That's relevant because today is the 100th annual anniversary of the Battle of the Somme where 1 million lives were lost. The UK's central political establishment is in disarray. (Fortunately Scotland's is not.) We have no real idea what the UK's referendum decision to leave the EU will mean. Will Andy Murray win Wimbledon? And they are just a few. For heaven's sake we need to know whether YP has/will return from Greece. Will Adrian manage to reconstruct all the equipment he's working on? Will any more of  Cro's Elderflower Champagne explode?

All this was just too much for me when I received an email from Amazon trying to persuade me to buy a tie rack.

Who buys tie racks these days? Mine was a gift about 50 years ago from the Mum of my oldest friend (we've known each other for 68 years) and it still holds some ties but who wears ties these days? I wear a tie perhaps a dozen times a year. [A dozen is 12. I say that because when I asked for a dozen of something recently the young lady looked at me blankly and asked what a dozen was.] 

So I thought that as an anti-dote to serious problems I'd show you the remnant of my tie collection. 
The ties that signify belonging: often gifts. Left to right: Amateur Fencing Association Coaches Club; I've been to St Kilda; presented to me by a visiting representative of the Falkands' Government; the tie of Caledonian MacBrayne - Scotland's principal ferry service provider (a reminder of the years I spent negotiating with the Company; the original tie of Comhairle nan Eilean (The Western Isles Islands Council).

A few of the ties that I still wear today (the others are in a wardrobe in Glasgow where I usually wear them!).

A miscellany of ties: New Zealand (I bought for myself). Apart from the yellow dragons which came from Hong Kong the rest are gifts. I occasionally wear the middle one when I go to parties at the donors'.