Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Problem neighbour keeps leaving his jaguar in my drive

My neighbour may not be short of a bob or two, but he’s not very bright.

A fast-talking salesman sold him a cheap jaguar, and he refuses to believe anyone who tells him he was conned. Even the bites and scratches have failed to convince him.

He can’t remember which driveway is his either, and keeps leaving his ‘jaguar’ in mine. Like all cats, it likes to sit on the warm bonnet, and just looks at me as if I was stupid when I ask it to move.

I used to be able to get its attention by sending small children to ‘pet the nice pussycat’ – but I can’t find any now.

Leopard Rolls

Leopard Rolls

30/11/2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

What are we getting on the old Halford’s site?

I can’t remember the history of the occupancy of the site which was once home to Shettleston’s Halfords store.

Vague memories of some low-cost grocery shed, but I never paid attention, and it was an anonymous and featureless shell within on the few occasions I found myself inside. Halfords eventually filled the empty site with a purpose-built store, but that went too.

I did use Halfords for a while, but changing circumstances ended that. Then another change, and I want it back.

In the past year it would have been handy, as the nearest one is 5 miles away, and takes over an hour and a half to reach.

It’s a while since I passed the spot in daylight, but that meant I came across the start of a new development on the cleared ground.

No signs in evidence, so I wonder what we’re getting?

Former Shettleston Halfords Site

Former Shettleston Halfords Site

30/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Kedi and the cats of Istanbul

After yesterday somewhat grim video about the fate of unwanted Tibetan Mastiffs dumped by wealthy Chinese who no longer wanted their ‘fashion accessories’, something to lighten the mood and bring back a smile.

Hundreds of thousands of Turkish cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame — and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.

Critics and internet cats agree — this cat documentary will charm its way into your heart and home as you fall in love with the cats in Istanbul.

See the home page: Kedi

And: The cast of cats

Kedi poster

Kedi poster

While there is a standard trailer for this pay to view documentary, I came across the same trailer with an extra few minutes of material from the documentary.



Someone’s daughter made a video of Istanbul’s cats as their homework in 2016.

And shows you don’t need a huge great expensive documentary team to produce a decent video:

After looking at these (and there are quite a few more ‘Cats of Istanbul’ videos to be found along with those noted here), not sure if I should just go live there, or if we should arrange for some Istanbulian cats to be imported to the east end of Glasgow, so I can get my hands on them in the street, and not have the dubious pleasure of little more than ‘catbutt’.

Also Odyssey Turkey: Cats of Istanbul

29/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Seldom seen Challenger

Not seen every day, but a shortcut through the streets of the Barras, and you can tell which street from the pics, was rewarded with the sight of this 2012 Black Dodge Challenger, looking suitably mean and moody in the fast failing evening light.

I love the way the manufacturers brought these cars into the 21st century, and made the work not only on the strip, but on the road, by designing European chassis to make them go around corners, as well as in fast straight lines.

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger

It may be ‘old news’ now (from back in April), but this car has become a real ‘Demon’.

The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon: 840 horses, does 0-60 in 2.3 seconds, and hits the quarter-mile in 9.65 at more than 140 mph.

A little tamer, this example is no less desirable (to me at least).

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger

As someone interested only in the engineering and development, I’m glad to be around to see fossil-fuelled cars take on electric vehicles on the strip, with each able to take honours (using production cars, I might add).

It’s sad to read about bullies (polite description) from BOTH camps who want to settle matters ‘Behind the workshop’ when their car loses, or accuse the other of cheating in some way.

Life’s too short not to just say “Nice” when you trip over one of these, or a ‘Ludicrous mode’ Model S, or the new Tesla Roadster, not yet tested of course, but a little faster even than the Demon above, with the promise of 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds, 0-100 mph in 4.2, and the quarter-mile expected to arrive in 8.8 seconds, plus a top speed of more than 250 mph.

Looking at those numbers, it’s hard to believe some sad motoring hacks once told us the end of fossil fuels was going to be the end of car fun.

Thankfully, they were fools, and even 10-20 years ago electric/battery vehicle customisers were using the old tech of the day to replace petrol engines in various classic muscle and sports cars with electric conversion that left their donor cars in their dust, and black lines on the road.

Crude? Yes. Effective? YES!

Thankfully, modern batteries and some really clever control circuits have made it all much more civilised.

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger

I love them all – from a Model S whispering its way down the strip to beat most challengers (sorry, not meant as a pun).

To an Aventador that sounds as if it’s doing 150 mph while it’s just trickling along at walking pace in traffic.


Nice coincidence.

A few days after I made this post, I came across a picture gallery showing the Evolution of the Dodge Challenger (1970-2018) completer with some interesting tech details from under the Demon.

I’m afraid the good people at WordPress haven’t worked out a way to embed an imgur gallery (yet?), so you will just have to click on the link below and view it at source (almost 50 pics):


29/11/2017 Posted by | photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Anatomy of a low low light night shot

It’s not secret that I like low-light and night shots, and this carried over from my film camera days.

While I was usually not too pleased with the results – everything came out yellow thanks to the near universal adoption of low-pressure sodium street lighting – I did seem to be able to get results, and was often surprised by others who I thought were decent photographers who claimed they just couldn’t get it to work for them.

I beat the yellow lighting by shooting black & white, which had the fun side effect of often not looking like a night shot, and surprised a few people when they learned what looked like a slightly odd daytime pic had actually been shot at something like 3 am. Then, I was also tied to tripods or supports. Today, I work mainly hand-held, don’t use a tripod, or a support (can’t carry them casually anyway), and avoid flash if at all possible.

Folk don’t know how lucky they are now, as their phones carry cameras that will take pics at night (without flash) in places where there is half-decent lighting.

Real cameras do even better, but still need sensible users. Despite buttons and settings marked ‘Night Shot’ they often don’t deliver if it REALLY is night, and there’s no nearby lighting.

I was reminded of this as I tried to grab a ‘casual’ pic recently, while walking home.

The first attempt was a joke, and there was so little light (no working street lights nearby) – my little pocket camera just laughed (no pic).

So, disable the flash suppression – well, the flash certainly fired, but the result speaks for itself, and the expression ‘Taking a pic of a black cat in a black room with the lights off’ came to mind. This pic.

Bicycle Try 1

Bicycle Try 1

I have an ‘Auto Adjust’ pic correction option in my software. This almost never fails to impress me with the adjustments it makes, and there are often cases where I cannot manually reproduce whatever it does with some pics, regardless of which individual tools I use.

But it barely changed this one.

Bicycle Try 2

Bicycle Try 2

I tried an alternative, which allowed me manual control of the automation to tweak the effect, and this managed to do a little better, but this was the limit for a ‘simple’ pocket camera.

Bicycle Try 2A

Bicycle Try 2A

I was going to have to go back if I wanted this shot, and take the ‘Big Guns’.

The first shot was really just meant as a trial, with no street lights shining on this corner, and me too lazy to release the highest ISO setting in the camera, I didn’t expect much. In fact, I was caught by surprise as the shot would have come out reasonably… had I not moved too soon, before the shutter closed. My bad, not the camera or the way I have it set. I just didn’t wait. I thought it was going to hold the shutter open a lot longer than it did. (No second shot, this was only an exposure test – to compare against the previous examples above).

Bicycle Try 3

Bicycle Try 3

I normally avoid flash, unless absolutely necessary, so the last shot in this set allowed it to fire.

Bicycle Try 4

Bicycle Try 4

Even I’m impressed, as it’s only a tiny pop-up.

Probably the main advantage it brings is to kill the dreadful yellow of the old LP sodium streets lights still living here.


I ended up delaying this post for a few days, in anticipation of the arrival of a fast lens (f1.8 – all I can afford) and a final comparison.

While the ‘new’ lens was just on the camera and I had not had a chance to test or calibrate it (the body settings are still tweaked for the slow zoom lens, and a surprising change in the weather (it got WARMER after raining lightly through most of the afternoon/evening) meant I was plagued with condensation on the relatively cold camera body and lens surfaces, all but ruining tests I had been trying to make.

That said, the comparison was amusing – while this corner was so dark, the zoom lens exposure was almost 2 seconds for Try 3 (no wonder it blurred, even with vibration reduction doing its best), the fast lens took the same shot in 1/6 second.

Bicycle Try 5

Bicycle Try 5 (Yes someone sat it up since I was last there)

Bear in mind that this was a straight hand-held shot in a corner so dark the autofocus couldn’t see anything to focus on, and manual focus was not going to happen, I couldn’t see enough detail in the viewfinder. Fortunately, I could fire-up an autofocus illuminator.

Slightly puzzled by the WHOLE scene being notably out of focus though, as focus confirmation was signalled (shutter is locked if AF fails anyway). Might have been down to condensation, which the weird wet weather I had been walking through all day had hit inside the camera body, and affected this function. While a wide aperture lens does have a narrow depth-of-field, NOTHING in this view is actually in focus.

Update 2

This post got delayed AGAIN!

The f1.8 lens turned out to be horrible for my purposes, and after a day (and night) spent with it, it was found to produce poorer results than any of my cleverer lenses with slower f-numbers, but vibration reduction (and able to zoom).

I wanted one last shot of this scene, but in daylight.

I almost missed it, as it gets dark so early, but as can be seen, the shop in the background is open this time.

Bicycle Try 6

Bicycle Try 6

This shot just confirmed that a fixed lens without vibration reduction just doesn’t cut it, not even in daylight.

And the wide aperture – meaning narrow depth of field – is just a liability. I generally need MORE, not less.

They may be great in sunlight, or in a studio, or with a tripod, or under a flash, but for street use?


(It’s history.)

29/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Rich Chinese mastiff owners abandon their dogs to violent slaughter

As I’ve noted before, being cat-centric does not equate to being a dog-hater, and this story needs to be spread.

For Westerners, it’s probably bad enough that Asia still has those who trade in dog and cat meat for the table.

But even that is surpassed when greed and vanity result in the violent and brutal killing of dogs which have lost their financial attraction, and even sees them being skinned alive.

Via Thousands of huge, aggressive dogs are roaming Tibet after their rich Chinese owners abandoned them

Tibet is full of unwanted dogs.

Areas of the Tibetan plateau have become flooded with giant, fluffy unwanted Tibetan mastiffs, once the most sought after dogs in China, after a collapse in the market for the dogs has left thousands homeless.

A scene captured in Abandoned Tibetan Mastiffs, a 20-minute long documentary which was released in April, shows hundreds of black Tibetan mastiffs crowded together in a shelter operated by a local monastery, waiting for their meals.

Gangri Neichog, a non-profit organization that helped produce the documentary, told The Beijing Youth Daily (link in Chinese), that more and more local officials and temples in Qinghai are setting up shelters like the Maozhuang one, as there has been an explosion in the number of abandoned dogs since 2013 when the craze for Tibetan mastiffs started to fade.

In Qinghai’s Guoluo prefecture alone, 14,000 of the 50,000 dogs in the area are strays, noted Gangri Neichog, speaking to the paper in August. Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, also had some 13,000 stray dogs as of 2015, noted the newspaper. A shelter built in 2013 for 2,000 dogs in Lhasa now houses more than 7,000 dogs.

The craze for the furry dogs rose and fell with the Chinese economy’s trajectory. Around a decade ago, when China’s economy was rapidly growing, owning a Tibetan mastiff was a symbol of stature and wealth—two Tibetan mastiffs were sold for (link in Chinese) 18 million yuan ($2.7 million) at a luxury pet exhibition to a real-estate investor in Hangzhou in 2014. In 2009, a woman in Xian bought a Tibetan mastiff for 4 million yuan, and welcomed the dog’s delivery with a 30-car motorcade at the airport.

A resident in a prefecture in Qinghai said in the documentary that at the peak, people wouldn’t even sell their dogs for 2 million yuan. Li said that the price of a Tibetan mastiff can now be even below 10,000 yuan.

Many who bought the giant dogs found that the dogs were entirely unsuited to living in urban areas and especially small apartments, said Li Qun, a professor at Nanjing Agriculture University who studies animal husbandry history. Many brought mastiffs back home to the city, used them to breed, and them (sic) sold the puppies off for quick money, he added.

Samdrup, a nomad who traded Tibetan mastiffs in 2005 to 2006 when the market was booming, had hoped to ride the boom to get rich quick. But he soon discovered the cruelty of the business. A businessman in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, approached Samdrup and bought five Tibetan mastiffs from him. The businessman had been keeping about 60 female Tibetan mastiffs when Samdrup went to visit him in Lanzhou. The businessman told Samdrup that most of the dogs were being slaughtered for meat, except for a few good breeds. During the visit, Samdrup even witnessed a dog being bashed with a hammer, hung from a hook, and then skinned alive, because “the meat would be delicious and nutritious,” Samdrup said in the documentary.

Samdrup said he cried for a long time after that, and now volunteers as an animal rescuer. He takes care of some 40 dogs, and had them sterilized.

28/11/2017 Posted by | Appeal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scotland gains another ‘Dark Sky’ award

I like to give a mention to ‘Dark Sky’ awards made to areas of Scotland, when I’m lucky enough to spot them.

A large area of woodland in hills above Loch Ness has become a Dark Sky Discovery site.

Abriachan Forest Trust has been awarded Milky Way class Dark Sky status, the first location in the Inverness area to receive the certification.

There are other Dark Sky Discovery sites in the Highlands, including Castlehill Heritage Centre near Thurso.

The status is only awarded by Dark Sky Discovery to places with “very clear views” of the Milky Way galaxy.

Via ‘Milky Way’ designation for forest near Loch Ness

It’s a bit of a sad story in a way, and while the subject may not be impinging directly on this newly awarded site (yet?), it does wave the tiniest of warning flags for its future if care is not taken.

I refer to a paper I saw recently, reporting the findings of a survey carried out using a new set of satellite images taken of the Earth as seen at night.

Both worrying and disappointingly, it seems that despite the continuing switch to LED illumination, and efforts through cooperation and legislation to deliver more efficient and directed outdoor lighting sources which should reduce light pollution, artificially illuminated area of the Earth are actually growing BRIGHTER, not dimmer.

It would seem that while we are producing lighting units which use less energy, we are not using that to provide the same lighting for less energy consumption, but maintaining the same budget and pouring out MORE light for the same cost.

Well, that’s my take based on what I see.

Council’s HAVE reduced consumption by using better and more directed street lighting (I’ve even seen some being slated for REMOVING lighting they consider excessive), while commercial interests are simply getting more ‘Bang for their Buck’, and installing brighter lights to advertise their presence, yet paying no more to run them.

Since I won’t be getting anywhere this site any time soon, this random night sky wallpaper scene will have to do.

Dark Sky

Dark Sky

28/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drone rules and regs set to be ramped up with apparently more police powers

There’s a sad irony (for me at least) as I watch the development of drones (and arguing about the meaning of that word makes no difference, language changes to meet the needs of the day, get over it), having been a radio-control modeller in the past.

For pure fun, I jumped in with both feet almost the first day serious electric buggies arrived, starting with completely sealed waterproof ‘go anywhere’ chassis (which was soon stripped down to almost nothing as I didn’t go anywhere wet), that I probably doubled the intended speed of, and advanced to a 4-wheel drive beast with differentials, and souped-up with high power motor, extra cells to increase the drive voltage, and electronic speed control to dump the mechanical thing that came in the box. Sadly for the maker’s good efforts, I made it 2-wheel drive, as drifting it was a LOT more fun.

Then I got hooked on the start of decent radio-control helicopters, but that never went really well, as I was forever suffering technical issues that meant more time on the ground than in the air, but I did learn the basics, and never crashed.

The irony is that in those days, RC helis cost way more than drones, and did not fly themselves in any way. We were lucky to have one gyro, compared to the multiples fitted to drones.

Cost and ability kept the sky clear in those days.

Today, drones are relatively cheap (a fraction of the original RC helis) and need no skill to fly.

But they do need common-sense – and sadly, that’s a rare commodity.

Look no further than the issues around increasingly powerful laser pointers.

Is the instance of morons who think it is a ‘Good idea’ to park themselves near an airport rare to nil?

Sadly, looking at the news and incident reports, anything but!

The same people can go out and buy any drone they like, and fly it where they like.

I could waffle on about ‘Why we can’t have nice things”.

I could list many items I am not allowed to buy, or even OWN for that matter, having been restricted by legislation in recent years.

I could probably even point out that relatively responsible (such as me) are restricted by the law, while criminals care not one jot about the law, and carry on unaffected, fairly safe in the knowledge that they will not be caught.

That’s not my imagination or an unjustified claim. Look at gun crime for example, or even vehicle excise duty evasion, now growing even though it should be easier to catch offenders by number plate recognition, as opposed to eyeballing ‘tax discs’.

I can’t afford a decent drone, so this has no impact on me now.

But it’s just such a shame that what should be both a fun recreational item AND a superb tool for serious users, has become demonised and targeted by legislation that is really more ‘knee-jerk’ (to keep uneducated members of the public appeased) than effective regulation.

See details here: Police to be given powers to ground drones in UK crackdown

There’s also a clear media trend – maybe intentional, maybe not – to ‘talk up’ stories about civil incidents involving passenger aircraft.

This usually comprises a story about a ‘ near miss’ involving a drone a few feet from the aircraft, and reports of drones being spotted by aircrew, often at extreme distance, and so far (despite the number of claims/reports) no actual collisions, or even video to support the stories.

There’s been more evidence of UFOs near aircraft than drones.

That’s not to be misrepresented as my wanting to see such an event, but evidence and fact would be better.

As it is, these sighting have about as much credibility as UFO sightings, which aircrew generally stopped reporting once their bosses began to drop their names off the promotion ladder.

Reading the media, one could be forgiven for thinking that a drone sighting involved something more like…

Predator And Hellfire

Predator And Hellfire

Than this…



I’m just having a bit of a waffle, since I’ve largely avoided throwing anything into this particular pie.

But most of the so-called ‘power’ are largely contained in existing CAA rules, and sadly, from comments that can be found in other forums, those currently ignoring those are unlikely to change their habits, especially as they can disappear long before any police with ‘powers’ can arrive.

Fly safe if you’re lucky enough to get a serious drone for Christmas.

28/11/2017 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Early presents in Shettleston

It’s not every day you walk past a rack of clothes sitting in the street, and I had actually walked some way past before my brain woke up and said ‘Whoa!”

This one probably speaks for itself, at the door of one the churches, and I almost missed the label attached.

I almost didn’t even get a second chance, as the lighting almost blitzed the writing, but I got it back.

I’m sure somebody somewhere will be upset and grumpy about this, and want to score hate points or moan.

Shettleston Generosity

Shettleston Generosity

Shettleston Generosity Sign

Shettleston Generosity Label

Pity there was nothing in my colour.

28/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Today is French Toast Day

More delicious than the simple combination of sliced bread soaked in beaten eggs (maybe with a little milk) has any right to be, this quick and simple meal has existed under various names around the world since… oh, who cares.

A little irritating for me, as I don’t happen to have any eggs to hand at the moment, this is an easy ‘day’ to take part in, as if anyone really needs an excuse to fry up some of this treat, or any of its variations, since it’s easy to upgrade with anything that goes with egg. I rather like it covered with one of a certain 57 varieties of tinned pasta swimming in their tomato sauce.

Probably the only thing to be wary of is any sort of soggy bread that has not been properly ‘proven’ or allowed to dry after baking. I’m thinking mainly of some of the more common (and supposedly popular) white breads, which I find just revert to dough when chewed, and I’d say are not even properly baked.

I prefer a nice wholemeal type, not fresh out the wrapper but aged for a few days so it has had a chance to become ‘dry’. This means it is ready to soak up the eggs, and fry evenly. I’ve no real interest in any so-called ‘recipes’ with silly variations or weird additions, and my only customisation might be to cut the bread into fingers before soaking and frying.

Seriously, if I didn’t have a load of other (fresh) food to hand, I’d be off the shops for a box of eggs right meow now.

Plain French Toast Fingers

Plain French Toast Fingers


28/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Mildly reassuring car crash story from Aberdeen

Crashed car

I’ve seen a number of ‘car crash’ stories (and I use the term merely for convenience, rather than get tangled up in an attempt to attach a more accurate description) in the media recently, referring to drivers who have driven into areas of roadworks which should have been clearly marked off to prevent unintended access.

They caused me concern as most seemed to conclude with the driver being prosecuted and found guilty of some offence, and fined, maybe even given some points as a bonus.

While I cannot comment on those stories as I was not privy to the full details of any those cases, just the media’s take, they did concern me as they related to a place I had been in, thankfully only once, and many many years ago – and with no damage or injury arising.

But I always wondered what would have happened if the police had been on hands, as they often are in that area.

In my case I’d been leaving Aberdeen by the usual dual carriageway due south, grim dark night with light snowfall (not enough to lie, just interfere with vision), and had the apprentice as a passenger. A route followed so many times it was virtually an autopilot run.

There’s no lighting on that road, so headlights are a must (and I had upgraded custom items fitted).

Both of us thought the road was quiet, and after driving for a while became uneasy at not seeing a single other vehicle for some minutes.

I stopped for a better look even though we were crawling along by that time.

I was glad I had stopped, as it was obvious we were in the middle of abandoned (due to the weather) roadworks.

I backed out of this, and when we got back to the start found that there were no warning signs, and that the cones which should have closed this section of road off were lying at the side of the road, meaning there was no indication to drivers arriving there.

Fortunately, nothing happened as there were no holes in the road, but I always wonder what would have happened to me (ie the driver) if it had, and I had been deemed to have ignored the signs – which I didn’t, since there were none there.

But who would believe that in court?

Even if I did have a witness in the car as to the state of the cones and signs?

See also Car crashes into ditch after workers fail to close road

Not that far away from my story – wonder if it was the same workers?

Maybe I wouldn’t have ended up in court after all.

27/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

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