Friday 31 May 2019

A Tiny Bit of Old Edinburgh

Whist I was down in Glasgow recently I took the new fast electric train to Edinburgh to have lunch with David, a long-time friend and former colleague who has featured many times on this Blog with his dog Molly (who is still fit and well). One of my favourite posts is here. We had lunch in a small French café called La Barantine Victoria in the Grassmarket area. I didn't take a photos so have used one from Google.

I used to spend a lot of time in Edinburgh and had various friends including, for a while, David (pre-Molly) who lived there. I spent some of the morning wandering round some old haunts many of which seemed to have disappeared or been swallowed up by the plethora of new eateries being fueled by the huge influx of tourists.

Most of my exploring was in the region of The Royal Mile:

I was rather sad to see the need, which is now universal it would seem, to protect pedestrians from vehicle terrorism.

There was a Schools Climate Change march. Two things about it rather surprised me: it's examination time and many of the particupants were obviously a great deal older than school age.

Friday 24 May 2019

"I am not a Dalek."

One of the plus things about waiting around in hospitals for scans and reviews is that there is nothing to be done, so I use the time to read the newspaper and do the Times 2 crossword and drink coffee. That has accounted for quite a few hours this week.

Just occasionally I come across articles that make me do a mental double-take. One such healdine was "Hey Siri, are you enforcing sexist male stereotypes?" The article started by saying that the United Nations has said that AI [artificial intelligence not the farming version of AI] assistants with female voices are fuelling gender bias and reinforcing the patriarchy with submissive and coquettish responses to men.

I have only used Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. Alexa is a female voice but Siri can be male or female and, in my view, the name is gender neutral.

If you ask Siri "Are you male of female" it answers 'Well my voice sounds like a woman's but I exist beyond your human concept of gender."  (Presumably if mine was set to a male voice the necessary changes would be made.) The same question put to Alexa  elicited the answer "I'm female in character." which rather surprised me.

Among the UN's recommendations is a requirement that digitl assistants announce at the start of every interaction with a humanoid that they are not human. Another is that a female voice should not be the default one on sign-up (easily altered for Siri) and that a gender-neutral option should be provided.

The first of those recommendations would drive me bonkers.  "Alexa, what time is it?" "Please know that I am an androgenous digital assistant. Er....I'm sorry I've forgotten what was it you wanted to know?" "That's okay, Alexa. I've forgotten what I asked."

As for listening to some metallic android....you can count me out.

For once it seems to me that the UN has more important things it should be worrying about.

Sunday 19 May 2019


Kirkintilloch is not the most interesting place in Scotland, nor the prettiest, nor, indeed, does it possess the most of any particular quality. It's not even the most depressing. The High Street does, however, have a splendid assortment of charity shops. Apart from, perhaps, Ayr I know of no finer collection in one street.

The first known settlement on the site of what is now Kirkintilloch was a Roman fort on the Antonine Wall established in  the mid-2nd century by the Romans. Today it's only claim to fame is housing the headquarters of the East Dumbartonshire Council.

Apart from the fact that it's not very far from Bishopbriggs which is where I stay when I come to Glasgow for my cancer scans and reviews, Kirkintilloch would never figure in my thoughts but for the fact that my wife's Godmother, Jenny Coutts, was it's first female Provost back in 1964.

However the reason that I am wriiting this post has really got nothing to do with Kirkintilloch itself but because when I was there yesterday to get a new battery for a watch I met the rudest and the least rude shopkeepers I've met for a very long time. I walked into the first shop and there was a woman reading a book sitting down behind the counter in a huddle under a headscarf.  After I coughed discreetly and without looking up to see if I was potentially more interesting than her book obviously was she grunted "Yes?" "Do you fit watch batteries?" I asked which was unnecessary given that I was standing next to a large sign offering that very service?  "Yes." I took my watch off and placed it on the counter. After a while the still buried face imparted the information that "Boss back in 10 minutes."

Further down the road there was a Timpsons - the 'we do everything' shop. There was a chap working away with his back to me whistling loudly and mending a pair of shoes for a lady who was sitting on a chair waiting surrounded by more shopping bags than she could possibly have carried. He turned to acknowledge my presence with a cheery "Be with you shortly" and finished mending the shoes. Whereupon, whilst shoe glue was drying, he put a new battery in my watch and managed to have a three-way conversation about life, the universe and everything whilst still being cheery (though not actually whistling at the same time). 

He probably charged considerably more (with a year's written guarantee) than the little 'general hardware store' down the road but I know where I'll be going next time.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

The Sun Doth Shine

Who would believe that this was taken one hour before midnight yesterday from my conservatory? Yesterday Stornoway was the sunniest place in the UK with 12.5 hours of sunshine. Having said that it was also very cold with a bitter northerly wind making going outside less than a joy. 

My internet hasn't been too bad although the engineer told me that 'when' not 'if' it goes again then that's it until the new cable is laid because I'm occupying the last working line within the cable. Memo to self - ring BT for update.

Once I'd been discharged from hospital it took a few days to get back up to speed but I'm back with all cylinders working now (I hope). So I have managed to read some of your blogs and hopefully I'll be back to commenting properly soon. Frances Garrood one remarked that there were few things as irritating as retired people saying that they were so busy that they had no idea how they ever managed to fit in work as well. Well I've been retired a good few years now and I marvel at people like YP and Cro who manage to blog every day. I think my mind must work too slowly or, perhaps, I just don't have enough of interest to share with the world.

More soon.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Life Update

After a week of intermittent internet which has curtailed my time in Blogland, it has been decided that the cable in the road verge has to be renewed which needs specialist equipment and possibly a road closure. So it’s not a straightforward half a day job. 

Anyway my blogging might be curtailed yet again for a short (hopefully) while.  I’m writing this on my mobile/cell phone but blogging on the phone isn’t easy nor fun. 

Yesterday morning I woke (I always say that that’s a good start to the day) early and was feeling A1+ which is generally speaking how I feel anyway. I went for my usual morning walk in the Castle Grounds and, having stopped and chatted to half of Stornoway, I went to The Woodlands for morning coffee. 

Within an hour I had all the signs of another bout of sepsis. Within another couple of hours I’d been admitted to hospital where I was pumped full of the appropriate antibiotics. Because it was caught early I’m hoping to be home on oral antibiotics within another day or so. 

Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. I miss you all.