JOURNEYS…

To avoid forgetting anything, I wrote up a list, each item in itself proving to be a journey. These journeys all connected with technology.  I needed a structure, something I could see, refer to, add to, (things kept slipping my mind…so much going on) and as each item was actioned, I wanted to see it marked up as ‘started’, or, scored through as ‘done’.

I deal with security updates as soon as I am alerted.  I also scan my system to see if I’m all up-to-date. I can mark that one as…….  Continuing task – done for now.

A friend seems to have disappeared off my radar.  An email I sent about a month ago has not been returned, I think this might be good; but, her home phone number no longer connects.  She was treated for a serious illness a few years ago.  An internet search brings up old information.  Inside, I am on an emotional roller coaster. I mark this search as ‘started’, (journey to be continued).

Ransom malware has caused major, major, seizures of computer data, disrupting  UK  Health Services and many business systems.  It’s a concerted worldwide attack.  Technology and security experts talk about maintaining the security and integrity of computer operating systems.  An important security patch was available from March.  What the circumstances may tell us is, that this is too complex an event to be resolved by a concrete answer. This is marked ‘Stay Aware’

Try as hard as I might, sending a money gift securely to a new baby,  living abroad,  has proved exasperating. There’s no obvious reason given to me from a list of possibilities suggested by the company.   Mum sends  new information.  But, the website continues to stop the transaction.  However, because the latest information is correct, the company can tell me that there is a security issue with the account to which I am trying to send the gift.  Keeping the link closed is protecting accounts from potentially being compromised, including mine.  Wow! Am I glad of that!  What a journey this one is.   Task marked ‘Started’     (… problematic).

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WHERE WILL IT ALL LEAD?

With all that’s been going on, and very publicly, here and abroad, I have been at a loss to know what to think.  If I feel disempowered, how on earth must millions of other people feel.

Those that can, have grouped up and made their feelings known in public places around the world, often at personal cost to themselves. The amount of courage and positive human energy there is to care, is truly amazing.

I am not qualified to speak of what the security services at all levels do, or, what they do not do.  Like most people, I only know what morsels are given for public consumption. I am extraordinarily grateful to have been able to live a life that has been mostly safe and away from major conflicts. There are so many who cannot say this.  Every day we hear heart-rending stories, many of which are streamed into our visual consciousness to our homes. It does make us face the reality of the suffering that has been and is being endured.

With the current ruptures, of a type generally unknown to many of us in our lifetimes, our own comfort blankets are disappearing at speed.  The peace in Europe of the last seventy plus years is politically in the balance and it is also affected by major influences from other continents. There is a serious ramping up of aggressive rhetoric.  Where will it all lead?

 

The Difference Time Makes

It is just a fraction over seven years since I last came here. With an Ordnance Survey map it is easy enough to find.  There is a small parking area, space enough for the trickle of people who arrive to explore. This is a ‘pre-history’ site, which,  you reach by an easy sloped climb; you can choose between two or three different approaches, although one approach would certainly depend on whether there’s  a bull in one of the fields and/or cows with young calves.  Dads can jealously guard their ladies and in any case, bovine mums and dads can be very protective of their broods. So,definitely, no waving red rags to a bull.

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Prehistory site Information 2009

The pictures I took back in 2009 were with an early bridge camera that had an unsophisticated limited zoom lens.  Even so, it is so interesting to compare the yesterday, (2009) and today, (2016) photos and see the very marked  modern man-made changes in that period sat on top of, and next to, the signs of time immemorial.

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Prehistory site Information 2016

There are five cairns at this site, none uncovered.  The outlines of three are straightforward enough to see. The roof of the highest cairn (height as in top of the hill) appears to have caved in, creating a rim on which, weather permitting, you can rest.  On a clear day you can also gaze upon the panorama of two counties and their mountains, plus an island twenty-one miles across the water, as you will see.

This a serene view from the top of the hill in 2009 and the picture below it, (allowing for differences of time, position, general weather conditions and the light) is a similar scene ….. and

p1010073-baillie-farm-house-wb p1000444-section-baillie-wind-farm-wb….this is how it has changed…and changed…

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…..A panorama – the same house and woods totally surrounded by windmills.

This photo also shows the sweep down from the ‘high cairn’ to a lower sited cairn, (the rounded mound on which there’s another modern day intrepid explorer).

This was a ‘tentative’ coastline wind farm development, in 2009.  There are more wind turbines now. The two wind farms are not far from one another.

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I did not want to focus on the wind farm, (the one above) in the picture below. I wanted to show the view of Orkney  across the water. It is  some distance away, you may need to peer in, but, it is there to be seen, to the right.

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The yellow flowering bushes in these pictures are Gorse bushes.

 

Morven and Scaraben are the mountains in the county of Caithness. This looks like Morven peaking up and over the horizon in 2009.

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This is The County of Sutherland, also in 2009, pre-turbine days, from the same vantage point.  If I am not much mistaken, you can see a couple of the Bens (mountains), amongst the clouds, Ben Loyal and Ben Hope.

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At the cairn, I was at the same level as the top of these wind turbines, (excluding the upper windmill arms). It was quite a thought.  The miniature buildings, (left) give some sense of scale.

You can see the concave cairn I have been talking about and a typical horn sloping along from what would have been the dome. This is the one from where you get all the great views. You can see a difference in the relatively richer looking grass on and around the cairn, in comparison to the rough moorland tufts on the ascent to it. The new heather blossom is bonny just now.

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Taken from  the cairn, and some distance away,  the land meets the sea. Stubble is being burnt off  the field . There are hay bales in one of the other fields. Across the Firth (sea) is the coastline of the county of  Sutherland and signs of village habitation.

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THERE IS NEWS FOR YOU

Government spokespersons, or is it a lone person, whoever it is/they are, they/it remain/s nameless, nameless, publicly contradicting the tide of feeling that there is in Scotland following areas in England and Wales to vote for Brexit. …….No there’s no appetite in Scotland for another independence referendum vote…….then, sometimes adding, there are no grounds to pursue it, Scots do not want it…… Well now, to paraphrase…have the Scots got news for you!

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The Westminster Government, (now there is one) believe having spokespeople talking up the impossible will arrive at what they want as the possible.  The Scots are not that easily swayed. They’ve been duped once in 2014, by Westminster Government promises that were turned on their head the day after the Independence Referendum result.

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To many who voted to stay in the Union, The Union was a complete package with membership of the EEC. I have not yet met one person on my Scottish travels who wants to be part of Brexit.  Sure, there was a small percentage in Scotland that did vote for Brexit on the 23rd June 2016,  I have not met any of them, or, anyone who admits to it.  There are individuals who the media find to provide alternative pop vox.

For the record, what I do hear is that people who sincerely voted to stay in The Union last time, would now vote for Scottish Independence.

My ongoing unscientific sample supports the Scottish resounding YES  vote to EEC membership. There are a number of sound reasons for this sentiment, the biggest one that is voiced, is that the EEC has been instrumental in maintaining peace between the European nations.

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If, or when Scotland becomes independent from England, there could be a very rocky time, but then, we are only just  beginning to see the reality of where Brexiteers are taking the UK;  uncharted waters to rockier times on a much bigger scale.

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Eucomis – Glorious Blooming Pineapple Head

 

 

 

 

POWERFUL WORDS

Some of you from BCUK may remember Guinevere Glasford-Brown. Since those blog days, she has become a published author and got a Best Book review from The Times Literary Reviews as well.  Last week I heard she was in Brussels.  Also, last week, I heard she was safe.  I breathed again.  Atrocities are painful to hear about, and heaven only knows, we have heard about so many; too many. When you know of someone who may be caught up in an atrocity you are seized by an indescribable, awful sensation, which, muscles you did not know you had, hold down.  Guin was fortunate in her travels, others were not.  Since arriving home, she has written about some of her post trauma feelings on her Facebook Page, to get her feelings out.  Her words talk of her irritation with  family, they indicate her anger and emotional pain at what has been done to people….to people by people. Her words are powerful.

What Guin says applies to all the atrocities we hear of, be they of large groups or individuals, such as the Moslem shop-keeper in Glasgow who was murdered because he wished his customers and Christian friends a happy festival.

It is so sad, so sad.

 

ABIGAIL……TO GERTRUDE AND HENRY, WHAT NEXT…Brrr

So far, Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude visited, all, it seems, in quick succession.  Now we expect Henry’s imminent arrival.

Gertrude stormed in last Thursday night, (28th January 2106) and raged all of Friday. Late in the day there was a lull in Gertrude’s activity and I went out to get some provisions, such as were available. Bridges closed to traffic, meant absolutely no buses, no transport of any kind that would deliver anything and also trains were cancelled.

Passing through the check-out with my few bits of shopping; ‘passing the crack’ (chat) with the cashier, a young lad from the high school :

Him politely: It’s getting chilly out there now.

Me: Gertrude  has been raging all day.

Him: – mischievously- what set her off then!

Yesterday, Saturday, we had snow and windy gusts. It felt really cold…it pierced through you.  I was wearing four layers indoors and a long padded coat plus hat outdoors. By nightfall the snow was nowhere to be seen.

Heavy snowfall pitted its sound against the windows during the evening.  Eventually, peaking out from behind the curtains, I saw a settled covering of white.


Today, Sunday, the last day of January, we had snow lie all day.  It was another four layer dressing day. There were some light snow showers, also a period of bright snow reflected sunshine.  We went for a walk  zipped up in wadded coats, our hats on, thermal gloves to keep hands and fingers toastie warm and walking boots for grip.

Now we await the arrival of Storming Henry, chasing in close on the heels of Gertrude.  Oh joy! (Not).

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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FORENSIC SCIENCE AND HUMAN IDENTIFICATION

I am doing a massive open online course, (mooc) with Dundee University in Scotland. It lasts for six weeks. When I first heard about it, ten thousand people had already signed up. Massive in name and massive in number.  I like to think I might have been number ten thousand and one.

 An event I went to at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August this year informed me about moocs and in particular, this one.  The course is called ‘Identifying The Dead: Forensic Science and Human Identification’.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, (if you drink tea).  I  was a week late starting and have now caught up.   We are now beginning week three and I intend to stay with the time line; you won’t hear much from me while I am keeping up with it. This course has fired up the brain cells, (much needed) with new and interesting learning; a great combination!  The science of real forensic investigations is not like what we see on television programmes such as CSI, Lewis, or, Waking The Dead. It is educating me, and ten thousand others, about what the forensic science specialists actually do and how they collect and collate the provision of evidence.

At least decade ago, a director  of a forensic laboratory in Scotland, said, that if he were seeking trainee forensic scientists he would look for candidates who had studied a science subject, such as physics, or chemistry, in depth, because they would have the desired academic rigor.  The candidates can, he said, be trained in forensic investigation to accreditation standards once in situ. There were then, and are now,  many students taking forensic sciences courses, which the professor described as ‘scientifically superficial’ and which,  are unlikely to take the students into the realms of the specialised scientific forensic work that the experts are expected to perform.  From what I have learned so far with the mooc, I can understand why that may be so. 


THOUGHTS ON THE BRITISH RESPONSE TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS.

Apart from a rumble of disgust at the British Government’s response to the refugee crisis, I have not heard much discussion about the U.K’s sorting criteria for ‘acceptable’ refugees.  Britain is not open to refugees on the move, irrespective of the reasons why.  What we hear, is that any refugees that Britain accepts will have to be in the official camps  They will include the most vulnerable, (whatever that means) and likely, orphan children.  Alarmist voices quickly channeled all the resources arguments against giving refuge to unaccompanied children. The same arguments have been raised in respect of the trickle of ‘acceptable’ refugees over five years that Britain may give refuge too, 4000 per year.  In this instance the Westminster Government response was to offer time-limited assistance in areas where any refugees may be settled.

Funding the needs of extra people is a consideration, it has to be.  While that discussion is being resolved both domestically and internationally, it is worth remembering history shows that  previous waves of refugees who arrived in Britain have and still do substantially contribute to the wealth of this country.

Britain has not been mean with aid on the ground, far from it.  A major slice of basic aid in forming the camps, in particular, in Lebanon, has been given through the generosity of the British people.   But, not all refugees are in camps, there are a large number eking out an existence in  sub-standard conditions in countries like Jordan.  That said, their need to  be fed is no different from the refugees in the other camps.   Like many  in camps, (including camps in Turkey) they are now being forced to move on because the United Nations (U.N) which has been supporting these camps with food aid, has run out of money for food aid for  the refugees. The U.N has been reliant on international financial donations to support vast numbers of people with food.  Starkly put, the refugees, whether in camps or shacks, can no longer be fed.  Their choices for survival – the basic human instinct – are limited to moving on, to attempt to survive.  Life becomes a lottery. In trying to survive many die.

Communities around the U.K have spontaneously been taking practical steps; there have been collections of warm clothing for people stuck at Calais and other ports, who have arrived  at these places wearing their sandals and lightweight clothing, none of which is suitable for surviving Northern European Winters. In Vienna,  clothing donated from many sources  is given to the refugees as they arrive in the city. I expect the same scenario will have been enacted throughout other refugee arrival points, where refugees are being treated  with dignity.  Sad to say, treating the refugees with dignity  is not universal.

I was appalled to hear the rhetoric of Fascism by the Hungarian Government and from other Eastern European States. The Balkan Wars and the Hungarian uprising against Russian suppression  are all still within living memory.  They created refugees who were desperate for help.  Some of my faith in humanity was restored when I saw and heard the reports of the Hungarian people individually helping refugees, irrespective of their Government’s distasteful stance.

The UK has no need to swell its population with young and intelligent people from elsewhere to support an ageing population as much as some of our neighbour countries do, (like France and Germany, for example).   So, to minimise our responsibility to what the world has now accepted is a true refugee crisis, (as opposed to economic migrants) from Africa and the Middle East,  this is what the British Government says it is going to do over five years.  Britain will consider taking  a total of 20,000 ‘acceptable’ Refugees, (4000 per year) who are in official refugee camps.  Perhaps, from those selected  there will be orphan children.  You are definitely not going to be offered refuge in the U.K if you are a refugee with the many thousands on the move,  who are  risking life and limb to survive.

 

 

SUCCESS -ZOOMING – RARING TO GO

I did my research, it looked straightforward enough, so I ordered memory modules to upgrade my computer.  It’s not any old computer it’s an Apple and what they do and how they do what they do is different to Microsoft.  With Microsoft boxes of tricks, I could decide on what worked and slot the memory into whichever slot was free.  That was that. Not so Apple.

We had the right type of screwdriver to open the memory modules ‘door’ below the logo; that was the really easy part, I could have played with it for hours.  I well and truly earthed myself then struggled to push out the safely wedged memory from the package. Each module was very tightly housed into their plastic forms.  I gave up being gentle and succeeded in forcing one out.
 

Carefully following the step-by-step instructions, I pulled out plastic tabs that were supposed to loosen the existing computer memory from their slots. Not for me they didn’t. As I wanted the existing memory, I was not bothered about moving it anyway. I concentrated on installing the new green  memory modules.  ***!!!** They would not seat properly.

My persistence began to wane. The lady on the helpline – from Egypt – made suggestions that mirrored what I had been doing already…..Uh, Could I go to a computer shop.….No, not possible where I live…..have you watched installation videos on our site? ….I had a quick look.  No videos, just repeats of step-by-step instructions and not even as good as the ones I used.  We agreed to to replace my modules. as they didn’t seem to fit.  She started off the order process. The replacements would be sent when I returned the modules I had.

Next, phoned my brother hundreds of miles away. I wasn’t being forceful enough, he said………

                     A Bit Of Caerphilly

Really tug at the plastic tabs like they were a piece of  attached string,” he said, it would loosen the pre-installed memory modules, not that I needed to; I did it anyway.  A blue rectangular module catapulted out of the slot making a direct hit on my chest.  I was all of a tizzy… I checked the module for size against the new one I was struggling to fit. They measured the same. With a bit of a shove the original memory module seated in.  Right, then, let’s try the new modules one  more time.  I gave the first one a real heave ho and it did as it was told…wow! The second one got the same treatment.  I was ready to plug in to the mains.

My system analyser recognised the computer has lots more memory……