THE POWER OF OUR OWN FREE WILL

I have, at last, finished reading a book which has opened a Pandora’s Box of uncomfortable feelings. It is no overstatement to say the story is, in a perverse way, an engrossing and powerful read.  I took a break from the book just over half way through it to restore my inner self to its familiar, more comfortable state. Though the writer is giving us the power of our own free will to be involved, he is also rendering the reader  to be actively powerless.  Being disempowered is an extremely uncomfortable place to be. And this is the position in which, swathes of the world’s population reside.  Selection Day by Aravind Adiga,  published this year, is not a read for the faint-hearted. It is a very clever writer who can connect a reader to almost participate in the linking destructive events that lead to the final denouement.

SELECTION DAY

I have  read one other book by the same writer, it was the Man Booker Prizewinner 2008. The White Tiger.  Adiga later admitted that he had had to watch his back after exposing in this book a variety of  cultural norms within a society he knows well.  The White Tiger is a very good, high quality and exciting read with superb pacing.  I found myself being curious about the the effects of the breadths and the depths of the social and economic corruption he unwrapped in his story, and its global reach.

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Coming back to nearer home, I have just started reading Ian Rankin’s very first Rebus book, Knots and Crosses.  I thought it might be a good idea to introduce myself to an Edinburgh writer, a writer who has grown in stature.  I am hoping that introducing myself to his literary characters will create another interesting link with Edinburgh…….we’ll see

 

 

 

 

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Moments At The Edinburgh Festival Fringes

It seems to me there are lots of Fringe bits to the Edinburgh Festival, but to keep things relatively tidy, (programmes, books, leaflets always being the exceptions) I see the Fringes divided up into the;

  1. International classical theatre, concerts and The International Book Festival;
  2. Professional Fringe; (worth a look)
  3. Mainstream Fringe (semi professional, can be interesting);
  4. Have-a-go Fringe (a huge range of options, often thought-provoking and clever);
  5. Stand-up Comedy, and
  6. Multinational talents Fringe, (A wide variety, some very beautiful).

Selecting from numbers 2-6  is not straightforward. This, for me, is a great big part of the fun of being at the Edinburgh festival…getting there and invariably taking pot luck. Number 5, is quite likely to be risqué! (I have no respect for ‘comics’ who operate with gratuitous vulgarity).

The Royal Mile pop up shows stand out on their own; The Royal Mile is always worth visiting.

This year I found myself second in a queue for a show; the Editor of The Children’s Guinness Book Of Records, Craig Glenday was first. We had a lovely chat and sat in the same church pew to watch a really good show called The Gin Chronicles.  It’s a spoof 1947 radio broadcast. If the show appears anywhere else, go see it.

And here is the Guinness Book of Records man doing his own ”show’ at The Book Festival. There were only a few tickets left when I got mine on the day. Craig gave the young audience, (and their adults) guidelines about what records would not get into the books,  such as anything that would upset the people who help animals. It was a gentle humorous  production. We saw a couple of record holders, a bagpiper, and  a cyclist without a bike seat. The seat-less cyclist also tried to break a record at the show.   Children were invited  to play the bagpipes, or, monitor something with stopwatches, or, click devices, or, race to make up a potato head. (There is one on the low table).

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The Festival seemed a bit slow to get into a bustling rhythm this year, partly because some of the elements of it were staggered not to clash too much with the Olympic Games. The new digital hub in the Centre of town had no  queues of festival-goers lining up for digital events in the Assembly Rooms, where, in previous years  you would have seen flows of people waiting for shows. It was all very quiet. The pop-up outdoor cafes and bars nearby were not over-subscribed with patrons. Up the hill in the Old Town where a lot of extra events seemed to be sited, it was busy.

What you see here is a newly refurbished banking hall at St Andrews Square, Edinburgh. It is gorgeous. The staff are happy for visitors to wander in and learn about the building’s history. In the front garden – a Festival venue – you could sit and eat, or under gazebos, sit and play with outsize light -weight dominoes, or, under another, lounge on large cushions and play  with large cards.

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So, in Princes Street, (the main shopping street of the city) I was darting through crowded spaces when I heard the attractive sounds of music.  I back tracked and gave the guy a donation. “Stop!” he called as I was about to dash off again. He raked around in a big bag and handed me a card… except it wasn’t. He’d given me a gift of his CD “Because you are so nice”, he said.

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This is busker Marcello Vacante playing a track from  his CD ‘Train For London’ .  (His name is on the CD cover)

 

Does anyone know anything about this type of teapot, (if it is a teapot) seen in a charity shop window?

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Oooops – In a back street I  found that The Driving License Authority had been busy (DVLC stamped on the clamp).

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Let me introduce you to Audrey.

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The last remaining vintage mobile cinema from around 1967.  Black and white Pathé News films, (remember those) were shown, a couple were of the 1947 beginnings of the Edinburgh Festival. My friend told me afterwards that she remembered going to the first festival with her mother!!!  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

This was called “The Rook”. The Game Of Thrones seemed to be a theme, does it refer to it?

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It looks like a close relative of the Kelpies based in Falkirk (Scotland). However, the Kelpies don’t have reins or a feather topknot.

Scenes of Festival relaxation in Princes Street Gardens and Granny’s Drying Green below Edinburgh Castle:

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A musical venue, where guitars  also became percussion instruments for both classical and fusion genres.

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Last, but definitely not least:

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A view of Edinburgh Castle with an interesting wee look-out tower and a clear view of a lump of Dolerite, a coarse-grained Basalt rock.  The Castle rock is estimated to have formed about 350 million years ago and is the remains of a volcanic pipe.

References:
MacIvor, Iain (1993). Edinburgh Castle. p. 16. ISBN 9780713472950.

McAdam, David (2003). Edinburgh and West Lothian: A Landscape Fashioned by Geology. p. 16. ISBN 9781853973277.

 

SELF-DESTRUCTING BLOG

Blog.Co.UK (BCUK), whose registered offices are in Germany, is completely removing its blogging platform during the day of the 15th December, 2015. It is a very final act. I have never before seen a blogging platform self-destruct out of all existence.  BCUK will be history.      smile emoticon kolobok

Blog UK was an intuitive site to use, a vibrant and supportive social site in its heyday, it was easy to make blog friends who actively shared comments. Its demise, though slow, was really inevitable after it was sold on. The new proprietors gave access to avalanches of spammers.   Inappropriate mails stopped being dealt with.  Lots of genuine bloggers voted with their feet. Many, like me, occasionally posted and kept in contact with favourite BCUK bloggers. Groups of friends kept going.  smile emoticon kolobok

Users of BCUK were given lots of warning of the proposed end, as were sister platforms in other parts of the world. At the same time we were given detailed instructions in English on how to export our posts to WordPress (WP) and how to save them.  The instructions would not work for the likes of Blogspot, where I was regularly posting.

The French bloggers also received their instructions in English!   smile emoticon kolobokI spent some time translating the instructions into French with the assistance of Google Translate. My translation was posted on the French site, with lots of grateful thanks.

Exporting blogs to WP was not difficult, though perfect, it was not. I will have to edit through ten years worth of posts. I have given it a rest while I’ve been learning to use WP.  By default WP has become my primary site.  It is a bit complicated and there is a lot of clunky programming.   Bloggers from other countries have found sites elsewhere and find it easier to stay in touch with me on Blogspot. smile emoticon kolobok

A few blog UK friends decided it was time to say goodbye to blogging.  Some have have connected up here on WP. It’s nice because linking up on WP with other people who want to genuinely inter-communicate in words about this and that, and not sell you something, is not easily facilitated with the WP set up. smile emoticon kolobok

 

MOOC OVER

Mooc over….the final  statistics were amazing. 21,000 people throughout the globe participated.  The total number of full time students at Dundee University, Scotland, this academic year  is 17,500.  For six weeks, ( the length of the course)  the mooc more than doubled the university’s student population.  What a triumph for Dundee University.  Mooc questions and comments were totalled up, the final numbers being enviously fantastic.  The ‘Educators’ who are members of the departmental academic staff, including the professors, were very active in encouraging us in our tasks and answering queries. The live interaction was terrific.  Every week, at the end of the unit, there were mooc video seminars when our forensic queries were answered in more detail.  The facial reconstruction feature was brilliant; we students  got to do it.

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The departmental staff have extraordinary busy and demanding working lives and they gave up a huge chunk of it from May this year, to develop the course and then to interact with their short term course intake. Rumour has it that the course, the forensic sciences in Identifying The Dead, will run again in 2016.

 

 

What is a mooc? It is a free of charge massive open online course. Participants can, if they choose, buy a certificate of attendance, at nominal cost, but not till they have completed a certain percentage of a course. If you want to, and you live where it might be possible, you can book for, and pay to take an examination.  While these courses do not count towards a higher qualification, they are accepted for continuous personal development, if what you learn is relevant to your profession. One of our local pharmacists is currently doing a relevant mooc, which, just happens to be with Dundee University too.  He is very impressed with the quality of his course.

I am dabbling with another mooc, which in contrast to the first one, is nowhere near as dynamic. But then, can criminology be as lively as the forensic study of identifying the dead?  I have not yet seen much Educator activity, though with week two starting,  you never know what might happen. The numbers of participants are not anywhere near comparable as the Dundee University mooc.  They are substantially lower.  As I have a few distractions coming up, I may have to bow out of this course about half way and maybe pick  up where I leave off, another time.   One helpful feature is, the courses are always there to continue on with, in silence, or, you can wait till a course is interactively offered again.

 

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THOSE PONCY ARTY TYPES ACCORDING TO BBC RADIO 4

Hubby literally choked on his food tonight. We had just decided to turn off the radio, a BBC radio 4  ‘comedy’ programme, which was chuntering on in its usual inane fashion, interviewing a writer, whose literary chat was impenetrable.  The interviewer stopped the flow of the silly diatribe with stark truth about the nonsense.  This was followed by a variety of spoof audience feedback.  Suddenly  the disconnected voice pronounced;

“Those poncy arty types usually do nothing but talk about themselves and look up their own arses.”

Wide-eyed hubby looked at me and exclaimed, “That’s the BBC! It’s the sort of comment I might make, but not the BBC?” 8|

I suggested that perhaps, just perhaps, the BBC might be trying to get in touch with reality, with the world outside Broadcasting House and connect with its audience. 😉