Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Honourable mention for… piping and juggling

I took these pics at the start of the Christmas stuff in Glasgow, not of the subjects, but purely to carry out some camera tests, having decided to play around with my usual setting for ‘hand held low light’.

I had been tricking the camera into preferring high ISO (but with the really high values locked out), slowish shutter speeds (but keeping away from really slow and shaky speeds), and wide apertures. It can do what it likes with aperture, since I know there’s really no point in not using wide apertures – stray into smaller settings, and the other two compensate, and the results are never good (for hand held).

I’m not going to comment on their abilities, since I’m told it’s not ‘PC’ to say anything negative about someone doing something you can’t do yourself. I’ve never even tried to play the bagpipes, and have yet to find the ‘magic’ that allows one to juggle.

But they do try, and it seems a shame not to give them a mention.

Buchanan Street Piper Juggler

Buchanan Street Piper Juggler

And a bit wider.

Buchanan Street Piper Juggler

Buchanan Street Piper Juggler

And… just one more.

Taken in a hurry as I turned to move on – I think it came out best of this test.

Buchanan Street Piper Juggler

Buchanan Street Piper Juggler


What’s that in the background, on the litter bin?

Is it an Orwellian 1984 reference?

George Orwell — ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.’

Well, we ARE in the ‘future’.

Buchanan Street Bin

Buchanan Street Bin

It took me a moment to work this one out, after putting it into context with the rest of view.

Sadly, it’s nothing more than one of Glasgow’s new high-tech, foot operated, litter bins.

I kid you not, but I am so used to seeing graphics like that used to indicate accelerator pedals in cars, I really struggled with this at first, and wondered what on earth that symbol was there for.

10/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Ease your conscience – go on a ‘Sleepout’

Since my own circumstances took a decidedly downward trend some years ago, I’ve become pretty cynical with regard to the sort of big high-profile events held by rich (compared to me) and privileged people who can basically (in my eyes) go out and ‘play’ at being poor or homeless for a few hours, or maybe even days.

One such recent ‘game’ was played in Scotland a few days ago.

A great wee party for those who attended, a wee drinky, and a free concert – and lots of nice free social conscience publicity for the wealthy celebrities who attached themselves to these events.

Oh, and helicopter transport too – probably the most expensive way to travel anywhere.

Thousands of people have taken part in a mass sleepout in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

Organisers Social Bite said they hoped to raise £4m to help homeless people across Scotland from the event.

The social enterprise arranged for performances from artists, including Amy Macdonald and KT Tunstall, for the 10,000 participants sleeping out.

Both singers performed at all four locations, travelling between cities by helicopter.

The events were held in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park, Dundee’s Slessor Gardens, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park and Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.

Charity Social Bite holds mass sleepout to aid homeless


I tend to side with this guy’s view.

However, the event attracted some criticism on the grounds that it is “patronising” to homeless people.

Bruce Forbes, director of Angus Housing Association, said: “I’m not critical of the fact that it’s raising awareness or the fact that it’s raising funds, but I think it is the fact that it now seems to be becoming an annual event which, really in a lot of ways, I think is quite patronising to homeless people.

“They’re having to sleep out every night, are not being entertained, they’re not sleeping in very high quality sleeping bags – it’s really not appropriate to try to replicate.”

It seemed far from realistic or appropriate that Glasgow’s event should have been staged in Kelvingrove Park, in the wealthy west end of the city.

Why not Alexandra Park in the supposedly poverty-stricken east end?

Or maybe in the city centre, where I snapped this nice Christmassy image of Buchanan street.

Christmas in Buchanan Street

Christmas in Buchanan Street

Yes, that’s someone asleep on the road, bottom left corner.

10/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

I hate Mondays

I’m sure I’ve read a few analyses that actually confirm Mondays are NOT good days.

I can’t remember the detail, but I think they babbled on about how human movement and industrial activity, courtesy of the Monday to Friday grind, and weekend break, led to influencing of the local weather patterns around populated areas were fingered as the culprits.

I’ve come to hate Mondays for another reason, much easier to ‘prove’.

After going out yesterday (which was the day before Monday), it didn’t feel as cold as expected, and after looking at the weather forecast and seeing the rain wasn’t due for a while, thought it (tomorrow, Monday) would be a good chance to take a trip and catch something I’d missed, mainly due to having to be there at 1 pm, or earlier.

I should have known better, and looked more closely at the weather.

Dry? Yes. Sunny? Yes.

Freezing and frosty? YES!

I was careless on that point, since we haven’t really ‘enjoyed’ that yet.

But when I looked at the weather station, sure enough, the temperature had tumbled below zero after I went to bed, and it stayed there until the morning.

And I was even up early (for me), so early… it was too dark to get a decent pic of our first hard/proper frost (I could have got one later, but that would have meant getting out a nice warm bed).

Freezing Graph

Freezing Graph

Don’t go by the actual temperature (yellow) – look at ‘Apparent Temperature’ or ‘Heat Index’. THAT’s the one that wastes your day!

(This graph used to drive me up the wall – FIVE parameters, but only FOUR lines, ever! Then I read a doc that threw in a line to the effect that Apparent Temperature and Heat Index were actually the same, but from different sources/countries. I note that meteorology sources cite this equivalence, but amateur ‘experts’ seem to enjoy arguing about the two terms, and making all sorts of claims about their validity. Apparently the ‘kewl’ thing to do in such forums is to argue that the terms are calculated, or derived, as opposed to measured, so are useless. I suspect the same people also hate BMI, and say it is useless too. I’ve seen some also argue this figure was invented by the industry to help sell air-conditioning, and make people buy BIGGER, more expensive items than they really needed.)

Apparent Temperature is the temperature equivalent perceived by humans, caused by the combined effects of air temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed.

Oh well.

Lesson learnt…

Look CLOSELY at the weather forecast, AND check the weather station for local detail and indication of what’s to come.

After I’ve looked out the window, the rest of the day is like…


Garfields Mondays

Garfields Mondays

10/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

The ultrasound scanner came from Glasgow (and it’s still there)

A recent story reminded me I had been trying to get pics of the first experimental (ultrasound) scanner on display in the Hunterian Museum.

The story actually begins with the tale of sketches made of the machine, but then goes on to cover its history.

Going for an ultrasound is a common and routine part of most women’s pregnancy.

The scans can examine mother and baby’s health, as well as detecting any abnormalities early on in pregnancy.

However, it is little known that the idea, and indeed the machine, were both pioneered and built in Glasgow.

For a few short years in the late 50s and early 60s Glasgow led the world in its research and implementation of ultrasound and its medical uses.

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the first paper to be published highlighting to the medical world the possibilities of ultrasound.

It was a unique and ground-breaking collaboration between experts in clinical obstetrics, engineering, electronics and industrial design, who created the first prototypes and production models of ultrasound scanners for routine obstetrics scanning in Glasgow hospitals.

At the heart of this was a young industrial designer from Glasgow, Dugald Cameron.

“A student in the year below told me what work her brother-in-law, Tom Brown, was doing,” Cameron explains. “My initial involvement began as a commission to make a drawing of a proposed unit.”

Tom Brown was a young engineer who worked for Prof Ian Donald at Glasgow-based firm Kelvin Hughes. Together with Dr John MacVicar, the three published their findings in the 1958 Lancet paper Investigation of Abdominal Masses by Pulsed Ultrasound.

“As a final year student I had persuaded Tom Brown to reconsider the design to facilitate its use by both medics and patients.

“The first outline drawings were done lying on the floor in Tom’s flat and progressed in the industrial design studio in the east end basement of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building.

The Glasgow man who sketched the ultrasound machine

I came across this machine some time ago, while looking for something else in the museum, and it was a surprise to find it there, and its history.

Experimental Ultrasound Scanner

Experimental Ultrasound Scanner

I’d meant to mention it before, and the story about the sketches prompted be to get back to it.

Although I’d taken quite a few pics during past visits, they were all useless, thanks the usual problem in the Hunterian.

Low light levels and lots of reflections from the glass cases – it’s really hard to get a clear view of many items when standing back far enough to take a pic. There are some dark items in unlit cases I have never managed to capture, as the only things the camera can see are the bright reflections in the glass, obscuring anything behind them. If you’re thinking this is easily fixed in a few seconds by attaching a polarizing filter, think again. Such filter actually only work effectively at specific angles (such as formed between sky/Sun and ground), and reflections from glass cases are not created at those angles. That would be TOO easy.

You can still see a lot of reflections in the glass of the scanner’s case, but I eventually managed to suppress them by finding the right angle to take the pic, then doing a little editing to tone the remaining reflections down a little.

A plaque fixed to the machine identifies it.

Experimental Scanner Plaque

Experimental Scanner Plaque

A descriptive plaque within the case gives more details.

Ultrasound Scanning Development Plaque

Ultrasound Scanning Development Plaque

10/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Looks like I really do live down a cold hole

After a couple of years of noticing an odd weather (or is it local climate) effect, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m NOT imagining it.

This year in particular, with its apparently milder start to the winter season compared to recent years, has made this effect even more noticeable for me.

What I find is that I can either be at home, or wandering the local streets, and think the day is freezing (which it is, both by looking at the ground, and reading thermometers). But, if I have to go out, once I get about a mile away, it’s always warmer.

I used to think I was just imagining this, as walking a mile takes 15-20 minutes, so you should be warming up anyway. But, that wouldn’t explain the lack of ice/frost, or frozen ground, which I might just have walked through near home, but is not present once I’ve walked that mile.

Tonight, I found another confirmation after decided to cycle to the shops.

The road past my door is gritted regularly, and the gritters have been out, so it was fine.

Then I turned off it – and found myself being VERY cautious. There was a nice, sparkly, coating of ice on the road.

Yet when I was coming up to that first mile – all was well again, and there was no ice on the back streets near the shops.

At least I knew to be extra careful as I headed home.

Hydraulic disk brakes on bikes – absolute MAGIC!

I also note that Glasgow City council (you know, the council I suggest local people STOP slagging off, and actually LOOK at what it does) published its ‘Bad Weather’ policy statement a few weeks ago, and that included a commitment to have its gritters not only working on established critical roads, but also cycle paths and routes with them.

While they can’t clear EVERY road and route, it does mean that they are NOT ignoring cyclists, as perhaps the damned ‘cycling activists’ might want us to believe.

We even have an online Gritter Tracker

Apparently the tracker is worth looking at just for fun, as out gritters have names, such as ‘Gritty Gritty Bang Bang’.

But, we don’t have these though (as far as I know).

10/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, Maps, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today’s word is… pariah

Since today does not seem to have a relevant ‘Today is…’ subject, I thought I’d use the space for a sort of ‘Word of the Day’ post.

I rather liked this article which brought the word ‘pariah‘ into its headline, AND managed to pair it with the name ‘Donald Trump‘,

An excellent combination, as the Cambridge dictionary defines a pariah as:

a person who is avoided or not accepted by a social group, esp. because he or she is not liked, respected, or trusted; an outcast:

Seems pretty good to me 🙂

Donald Trump dubbed ‘pariah’ as firm is criticised over plans for Menie estate

Yup, looks good too.

Today’s word is… pariah.

Donald 'Pariah' Trump

Donald ‘Pariah’ Trump

I wonder if Mr Pariah has any Apple products?

Ideal Christmas present – not only for him, but anybody who buys their stuff.

Apple Concealable Subwoofer

Apple Concealable Subwoofer

10/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment


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