Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Today is Spreadsheet Day

17 October is Spreadsheet Day.

I have to give this one a mention as I got hooked on spreadsheets almost on the day they were made let loose on the world.

I can’t even remember the first one I used, but I did have an Apple II, and a PC clone way back at the start, and they were so new I couldn’t even get the boss to fork out the cash to buy the software – I had to buy my OWN software in order to be able to run it on the clone.

Even that clone PC wasn’t ‘ours’ and I had commandeered it as it lay idle and unused for 99% of the year.

We had been given it as the host for an IEEE-488 controller for a laser-based and highly accurate length measuring system used for calibrating things like machine tools. However, there was only a handful of such tools that this was needed for, so the whole system sat and gathered dust for the rest of the year, until it was needed.

However, after a while the bosses realised I was doing more than privileged staff who had assistants and secretaries.

I added a word processor, commandeered the printer as well, and was able to turn out calculations, letters, documents, reports etc before my esteemed bosses had managed to hand their stuff to their secretary/typist, correct it, and then have it all typed again. I just had to get things right on the screen, then print once.

They soon caught on though, and I got to spend tens of thousands on things like networked PCs and printers, plus word-processing software, spreadsheets, and eventually (just for me) databases.

All sprouting from my own desire to use a spreadsheet at work to make my own life easier.

The one downside of the spreadsheet’s arrival, for me at least, was the demise of the programmable calculator, or even just using an ordinary calculator – the spreadsheet just rendered it useless since it doesn’t need a whole set of keystrokes to be repeated if you make a mistake, or just have to do repeated calculations.

I’d been using the HP-41C to good effect, with printer, cards, and other external goodies.

But, although I continued to use mine as a portable data terminal and pocket computer, its days were numbered, as the PC could do the same, and not just one line at a time.





October 17, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | | Leave a comment

Today is Global Cat Day (Previously Feral Cat Day)

Feral Cat Day became Global Cat Day, apparently a permanent change that will be in effect from 16 October 2018 and for every year thereafter.

Alley Cats Allies Global Cat Day

So, it seems everyone loves a cat… unless it’s a stray cat, then the not-so-nice generalisations can kick in. This day aims to remind us that  every stray cat has within a loving, cuddle-able furball looking for a forever home.

Back in August of 2001, Alley Cat Allies celebrated their 10th anniversary, and launched the first annual Feral Cat Day to promote raising awareness about feral cat colonies and how to care for, and prevent them. Alley Cat Allies is a strong supporter of the ‘Trap-Neuter-Return’ policy, where stray cats are captured and brought in to local volunteer veterinarians to be neutered and returned to the streets. This allows the cats to live out their lives on the streets, without creating more kittens to perpetuate the problem.

Except, perhaps, Australia, where politicians and cat-haters seem to think the only way to deal with is via a cull.

Trap Neuter Return

Trap Neuter Return

October 16, 2018 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Almost weekly now – shootings in Glasgow

Am I the only one who sees this?

I would have noted the dates, had I thought it was going to become a regular occurrence, but as the media reports other cities are looking to Glasgow as a model for dealing with knives, it seems to be missing the almost weekly reports of apparently targeted shootings in the east end.

And I don’t think they’re being entirely honest about the knives either, as I’m pretty sure a review of the number of slashings and stabbings around the city is embarrassingly high, and worrying, as the incidents seem to be reported as ‘random’ or ‘unprovoked’, unlike the shootings.

I wasn’t near any news from Friday night until Sunday night, and being out all day Sunday meant I didn’t know that this road closure I hit on Sunday afternoon actually related to an incident on Saturday.

I thought I’d just missed something recent, from earlier in the day, as there were media photographers just packing up their kit.

Wellshot Road Closed

Wellshot Road Closed

Looking down the road, it was clear they were pretty serious, but I didn’t find out why until later that night, when I first saw the news.

Hunt for masked gunmen after man shot in murder bid

Man fighting for life in hospital after shooting at flat

Man shot in Glasgow flat by masked attackers

Images from the scene as police lock down Shettleston road following targeted shooting

Drivers asked to avoid Shettleston area as police probe targeted shooting

Two masked men behind targeted shooting in Glasgow’s east end as victim is critical in hospital

Police Quarantine Wellshot Road

Police Quarantine Wellshot Road

Seriously, after tougher firearms laws were introduced a few years ago, it seems we have MORE incidents than before, when I used to think of incidents like this being separated by years.

Perhaps time to think it may not be the AMOUNT of such law we have, but what they are directed at.

I’m always minded to think of how there are calls for laws that are TOO SPECIFIC, as seems the case in certain types of assault.

Seriously, why do we have them? They just muddy the waters, and can even lead to cases being dropped if criteria are not met for some technical reason, if say the wrong charge is brought.

Assault is assault, end of story, and should simply be charged on that basis – not have someone with an agenda or personal issue trying to up the penalties in ‘special cases’.

Another look down the road, before we go.

Police Quarantine Wellshot Road

Police Quarantine Wellshot Road

(Remind me NOT to make posts like this: I miss everything, even on my own doorstep)

October 15, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Mackintosh Building S22

Sad to say, but no surprise to see the Mackintosh Building back in the news with the sudden arrival of some really hefty storms and high winds during the week – unfortunately not mitigated by a ridiculously warm and sunny, wind and cloud free Wednesday.

With such tall and exposed works on what is just about the highest point in the city of Glasgow, it was inevitable that work would have to be suspended for a time, until the wind and rain subsided. As a result, the prediction of 14 October for entry to closed areas around the damaged building was revised to 21 October.

Unfortunately, even as I write this summary, I’m also reading that although a further ‘danger to life’ yellow wind warning was lifted for Friday – it still affects areas west of the city, with a further amber warning in place for rain. The same rain warning was set to affect Glasgow on Saturday, with the amber alert in place until 6pm, but that was revised to apply south of the city.

Despite the reduction in warning levels, Glasgow was still expected to be hit with some force by Storm Callum, but maybe not as much.

Friday’s forecast predicts a ‘wet, very windy start’ with heavy rain increasing again in the afternoon (true, it happened), then cloud on Saturday morning with persistent, occasionally heavy rain, but drier for a time in the afternoon. Sunday is looking better.


October 14, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today is Dessert Day

14 October is Dessert Day.

I AM a committed dessert person, and hate being out for a business dinner or lunch with people who are just too ‘serious’, and turn their noses up when the waiter offers the option of dessert, and I’m the only one longing for the final treat.

Sometimes I just don’t give a damn, and will order one (come on, the company’s paying!), even if everyone is just spinning on a redundant finger while I enjoy that final course!

It seems the word dessert comes from the French ‘desservir’, which means ‘to clear the table’, and refers to a dish served after the main dishes of the meal. The earliest references to the term dessert seem to be in the 1600s and coincided with the concept of serving a meal in courses, with each a separate experience.

The French were known to serve a sweet wine as an apéritif, and it didn’t take long before the concept of sweet followings to the main dish became common. The birth of the sugar and honey trade helped to support the idea of dessert, when became easier to obtain sweeteners, but for a long time it was still considered to be a lush decadence reserved for the wealthy.

So many options!

Choose from cakes, pies, chocolate, ice cream, tarts, gâteaux, cheesecakes, pastries, trifles, and more.



October 14, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | | Leave a comment

Today is World Standards Day

14 October is World Standards Day.

They never had this in my day, or if they did, they kept it a well guarded secret – and I can say my working life has been ruled by such documents since the days of AQAP (or BS5750 if you want to make things a bit simpler).

AQAP is still in force, being Allied Quality Assurance Publications (AQAP), standards for quality assurance systems that have been developed by NATO, and intended to define standards for Quality Assurance of defence products. Their importance being that they were around before BS (British Standards) or ISO (International Organization for Standardization) got their act together and produced 5750, or the 9000 series for industry.

The irony is that my work involves yet another set of standards not covered by these, but its own standards, as defined by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service).

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the sole national accreditation body recognised by the British government to assess the competence of organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services. It evaluates these conformity assessment bodies and then accredits them where they are found to meet the internationally specified standard. An organisation accredited by UKAS can demonstrate competence, impartiality and reliability in its ability to deliver results. Accreditation ensures that everyone from specifiers, purchasers, and suppliers to consumers can have confidence in the quality of goods and in the provision of services throughout the supply chain.

This means I always have fun when clients decide that they know better than UKAS and decide my facilities need to be audited to see if they conform to their standards, instead of accepting that we have been independently assessed and approved by a higher standard. They seem to be like little wind-up sheep, programmed to assess anyone in their supply chain, and (some of them) completely miss the point of Government accreditation.

It would be funny if it was not so sad, as they try to come in and conduct an audit of a “certification, testing, inspection and calibration service” as if it was the same type of beast that they work for, generally a manufacturing facility with product and material that can be physically sampled, poked, prodded, and reported on. They’re usually completely out of their depth when presented with something intangible like a service.

The better ones can accommodate the differences, but I’ve had to deal with ‘guests’ ready to pull the plug on our contracts simply because they are so entrenched with physical manufacturing criteria they simply cannot get their heads around how to assess a service.

But that’s just my little corner of the world – ‘Standards’ cover a much greater remit.

Many things in your life that are standardised, and this usually makes things much easier, even if you don’t realise it.

Standards dictate the sizes, shapes, composition, and many other fiddly bits that make our world fit together. Imagine what your life would be without standardisation. For example, while you might have noticed most countries have different mains plugs, at least within a given country you can usually plug stuff in without too much hassle. Imagine if every manufacturer, even in a given country, decided to fit mains plugs that only fitted their product.

It’s the same with most things, think of making a phone call if you could only connect similar brands of phone, and not be able to have any phone contact any other phone.

Perhaps the simplest and oldest example is the humble screw.

Once hand-made, screws only fitted the thread made at the time by the craftsman on the job. Lose a screw and there was no option of just picking another one out of a box, and using that. You had to get a new one made to suit the matching screw-hole. Until someone came up with the bright idea of standardising the threads, and using machines to make them – all the same. You can probably put this down to war, where a soldier’s life depended on being able to keep his gun working, and being able to use any matching part from the same gun as a part. In the days before standardisation, hand-made guns meant all the parts were different, so it was unlikely any part from another gun would fit yours, or that there was any box of spares to be found.

Yes, it may be a little sad, but at the end of the day, it is thanks to war that we have standards.

Sure, they’d have come along eventually, but who knows when?

That’s standards at work.

There’s an interesting (personal) web site with some more thoughts on the perhaps more ‘real world’ aspects of the subject here…


Bonus fact

To avoid confusion, since we have to use standards to compare/test/calibrate items we work on, and ‘standard’ (for the purpose of this article) refers to a publication or set of rules, we use the word ‘etalon’ as an alternative, in order to avoid confusion.

French, étalon, a fixed standard of weights and measures.

It may be an odd word to some, but it can make life easier when writing procedures, and having to refer to both physical standards and written standards.

World Standards Big Idea

World Standards Big Idea

October 14, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | | Leave a comment

Most popular cat names today

It seems GoCompare has been snooping on pets.

Did anyone ask the dogs and cats if they agreed to have their data recorded and used for this survey?

Has the ICO been informed?

Will GoCompare receive a £500,000 fine?

(Doubt it).

From the results, it seems that you (I don’t include myself in this result, as I wouldn’t lumber a pet with the sort of names reported) are a sad lot – it seems the days of Rover and Fluffy are a thing of the past for the UK, and today’s cats and dogs are lumbered with unusual names, with TV shows, celebrities and famous brands often an influence.

Surprising to say, Americans seem to be kinder to their four-legged friends, and seem to be less inclined to use these disgusting commercially oriented sources to makes unwitting and unpaid free advertising sources of them. Until I saw these UK lists I thought they were somewhat unimaginative, as one of the photo-sharing sites I ‘live’ in often has them showing pics of the latest kitten rescued from the streets, with the new owner pleading for inspiration for a name from the rest of the community.

See the lists here.

GoCompare – Pet Names

CoCompare UK Cat Names

CoCompare UK Cat Names

The onlne page only seems to give results for the whole of UK (looking at some 500,000 names), but I found this info when I tripped over an item claiming to give the most popular pat names in Scotland – maybe they were given more detailed, localised, results the rest of us don’t get to see. The only problem seems to be that the localised info does not differentiate cat and dog names.

Alfie was top in the G postcode – followed by Poppy, Molly, Bailey, Bella. Charlie, Millie, Max, Oscar, and Lola completing the top 10, and Cooper, Bailey, Skye, Hugo, Tara, and Bonnie more popular there too.

Least likely to be found there were Teddy, Tilly, George, Bella, and Ruby.

Unusual pet names in Glasgow were Dotty, Scooter, Cole, Travis, Rita, Laika, Haggis (thank goodness), and Link.

Wait! No Porridge?

The most popular name for cats was Charlie, with Bella, Poppy, Molly, and Oscar making the top five.

(Bella was the most popular name for dogs, with Alfie, Poppy, Charlie, and Max following.

Food based names included Cookie, Biscuit, Muffin, Pumpkin, and Noodle.

Films delivered Ghost, Sansa, Arya, Khaleesi, Nala, Simba, Albus, Sirius, Leia, and Yoda.



October 13, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | | Leave a comment

I miss everything, even on my own doorstep

While I might not be too upset about missing most of the action around me (it usually involves some sort of serious injury or death these days, and I’m glad not to have been anywhere near it at the time), I was ever so slightly irritated to have missed something almost outside my door.

I had even seen the signs, but trees blocked my view of the scene.

I’d glanced at the rear of a strange car in a neighbour’s drive, attracted by what looked like flashing, coloured LEDs in the rear light housing. After looking closer, I realised it was the amber warning lights on a vehicle I couldn’t see because of trees. This is not unusual (even the street sweeper has strobes), and I didn’t pay any more attention.

A few hours later I headed out to the shops, and found out why there had been flashing light behind the trees.

The broken grille and various other bits from a Vauxhall had been swept off the road – clearly there had been a collision, but with only the breakable parts from the front of the Vauxhall (and some recognisable bits from inside the grille area), I could only guess the driver had not noticed ‘the car in front’ slowing down, or even stopping, as it got ready to turn right at this junction.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to break, or have fall off and get left behind from the back of most cars, compared to the front, so there was nothing lying around except these Vauxhall bits.

A handy reminder of how hard it can be to take a decent pic of items on a wet road, due to the way the layer of water acts as a mirror-like reflector, making it hard to pick out items thanks to the small size of the lamps on lampposts. And, down here at least, we seem to be quite far down the list for getting LED street light updates.

The low-light sodium yellow shot needed a fair bit of shadow/highlight tweaking to make the broken bits appear under the monochrome yellow light.

The flash actually fared little better, and also needed a lot of manual processing. This is because the flash is little more than a point source on the camera axis, and the wet surface act like mirrors, so most of the light is lost as it reflects off it into the distance, and only a little is reflected back to the camera.

Both pretty poor, even after processing, but you can at least see the evidence of a Vauxhall – although the other bits are still hard to see.

Collision Low Light

Collision Low Light

This really is the same scene, photographed a few seconds after the first under the street lights, but using flash.

The two different light sources make quite the difference, and could be significant if pics were being taken for use as evidence. Taking a lot, of each, would be a really good idea if that was their purpose.

Some items appear to missing when the pics are compared, and even the detail on some objects appears to be different when they are matched.

Collision Flash

Collision Flash

Quite a surprise when I got the original back and saw how bad they were.

Then again, it’s so long since I took pics like this, I’d almost forgotten about the hassle of rainy, wet pics as I tend to prefer staying dry these days.

Weird observation…

Later(as in days, not hours), when I passed this again, it looked as if someone had thrown a bag of that white stuff used to mop up oil and chemical spills. Given the rainstorms of the past say or so, I think that might have been a waste of time, and was needed when this collision happened, not days later, after heavy rain.

October 13, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month.

Dyslexia was first identified by  a German physician, Oswald Berkhan, in 1881, and officially named ‘dyslexia’ by ophthalmologist Rudolph Berlin 6 years later. Berkhan discovered the existence of the developmental reading disorder while studying the case of a young boy who had severe problems learning to read and write, although he was clearly bright, and intellectually and physically capable. Since the discovery, physicians around world over have been working on different ways to help people manage the disorder, and a special dyslexia font has been invented to help those affected read more easily. Dyslexia Awareness Month was Created by The International Dyslexia Association and takes place over the entire course of October each year.

I was never diagnosed (I don’t even think it was a popular option to find when I was a kid) but there was a time when I began to wonder if I did suffer from dyslexia, or maybe something related, or similar.

When I started writing seriously (at and for work), I began to notice a disturbing trend – no matter how diligently I proofread work that was complete and ready to be published, it still seemed to go out the door with a load of errors I had simply never seen, even after repeated checking, sometimes to obsessive levels (I can do very good ‘obsessive’ when the mood takes me).

What was even more interesting, and ultimately helpful (for me at least) was noticing that if I left a piece of work for an extended period (and we’re talking weeks here, not a few hours or days), then I COULD find the mistakes when I took another run through the documents.

Seriously infuriating, if you came across it later, and the first thing you saw was those mistakes jumping out of the page at you!

Later, I came to learn that this was both a good and a bad sign.

Bad, as it meant the chances of not producing error free writing would not get any batter, no matter how careful I was, or how many times I went over freshly completed work.

Good, as it means I’m probably pretty good at this job…

The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart, explains psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. “When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” he said.

What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

That article’s not long, and worth a read if you are a writer, and are completely fed up with finding that first thing anybody does with your perfectly crafted work is hand it back, with all the mistakes highlighted!

Unfortunately, it also confirms there’s not really much you can do about it.

Unless you can afford to have someone who has not seen the work proofread it independently.

Or, you can wait a week or two until it is out of your head, then you can reread it yourself, when the mistakes should become obvious.

Don’t forget to use a spelling AND grammar checker too. It’s bad enough making ‘invisible’ mistakes without compounding them by letting avoidable errors go uncorrected (just don’t autocorrect though, that’s usually just dumb).

I like to grab an interesting illustration to end an item, but I was disappointed to find that many belonged to sources which were still spreading ignorant myths regarding dyslexia, or were from sources out to profit from offering supposed help or cures – none of which I wish to be seen promoting or supporting.

But I did find this short Ted-Ed video ‘What is dyslexia?’ by Kelli Sandman-Hurley, which seems to be a good introduction.

October 13, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | | 2 Comments

Early alert for Hebridean Dark Skies Festival

While it doesn’t really matter (I am nowhere near the Hebrides, and certainly can’t afford to go there just to look at sky, no matter HOW dark it is), I guarantee you I will have forgotten all about this by February.

But it is worth noting how many Dark Sky events are being organised in Scotland now.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will take place on the Isle of Lewis from 8-21 February.

Speakers will include Chris Lintott from BBC’s The Sky at Night, science presenter Heather Couper and Astronomer Royal for Scotland, John Brown.

There will be live music performances and screenings of films, including The Rocket Post and the silent movie Wunder Der Schöpfung.

Arts centre An Lanntair, Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust and Lews Castle College UHI are involved in the festival.

Stargazing events will be held at Gallan Head and the Calanais Standing Stones.

First Hebridean Dark Skies Festival to be held

See this Events Page for dates of the many events being held during this festival.

The story of the ‘Rocket Post’ is one I came across many years ago, and was a fascinating attempt, years ahead of its time.

Starry sky

Starry sky

October 12, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Fines and points waiting for sloppy drivers

I was slightly surprised to learn that encroaching on ASLs (advance stop lines provided for cyclists to stop ahead of vehicles) at traffic light controlled junctions was an offence that could attract both a fine (I think £100) and 3 penalty points. As per the pic below, I see these ignored so often (and no longer have to worry about such things) that it took a discussion with someone more knowledgeable to alert me to detail, and realise I had never looked at the rules.

I wonder if anyone’s ever been fined, or given those 3 points for doing this.

I see this all the time, but never see it any enforcement.

Advance stop line - how not to use

Advance stop line – how not to use

It’s interesting to read the detail in the Highway Code, and although highly unlikely, both the above COULD be ‘innocent’ (and pigs might fly one day), as there is a get-out clause, and just being stopped behind the ASL does not automatically mean the offence was committed.

Rule 178

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10, 36(1) & 43(2)

Rule 178 Advanced stop lines cycles

Rule 178 Advanced stop lines cycles

This explanation.

If the traffic lights are on red, drivers (including motorcyclists and scooter riders) must not cross the first stop line – if they do they could liable to a £100 fixed penalty and three penalty points on their driving license (sic).

If the lights change from green to amber as a driver (including motorcyclists and scooter riders) approaches but they cannot safely stop before the first stop line, they can cross the first line but must stop before the second stop line. In these circumstances it is not an offence to stop in the marked area.

Drivers (including motorcyclists and scooter riders) should avoid blocking/encroaching onto the marked area at other times e.g. when the junction is blocked.

Note that just because there’s a car in the ASL box does not mean to say the driver has committed an offence. The offence is only committed when the vehicle enters the ASL box when the light is red. If the vehicle enters the box and the light changes to red, no offence is committed.

Cyclists must not cross the second stop line while the traffic signal is red. Contravening a traffic signal is against the law, and could result in a £50 fine.

Sloppy writing too – the explanation is a quote from a UK source, but the writer has used an American English spellchecker, and used the American spelling of ‘license’ to remain in their work.

I almost missed this, but noticed my own system (which for blog posts, uses THREE dictionaries supposedly all set to be fluent in British English) failed to highlight this properly, and only an online grammar/spelling checker got upset by the error.

No wonder I think I’m getting worse at this over time, rather than better, with help like that.

The one that seems to work more often than most is LanguageTool proofreading software

There is a Firefox add-on that also seem to work just fine too, saves me a lot of embarrassment.

LanguageTool Grammar Checker

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: