I ate a late lunch at Jimmy Chung’s, Waverley Bridge, the other day. Nice buffet. Not exactly authentic Chinese cuisine, though.
You can eat as much as you like, for less than a tenner.
I ate a late lunch at Jimmy Chung’s, Waverley Bridge, the other day. Nice buffet. Not exactly authentic Chinese cuisine, though.
You can eat as much as you like, for less than a tenner.
A couple of weeks ago I posted about what went wrong with Intute, and towards the end I gave a few personal details about how I was prevented from presenting, to the rest of the Intute team, a new (and I thought exciting) alternative plan to that of cataloguing the best of the Internet. The personal details were included because without them, no-one would have understood why I didn’t present the new ideas, and also the lengths that were taken to stop me presenting them at a meeting to which I had been invited by the Intute Management. Amongst the feedback to the post was a rather insulting and inaccurate Comment which called my past contribution to Intute ‘increasingly negative’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘vindictive’. The Commenter, who I don’t remember from Intute days, and if he was involved, he has left no traceable contribution that I can find, went on to say that “…more than a few people breathed a sigh of relief that you weren’t involved further.”
That last bit is probably correct, especially if it refers to some of those who continued to be employed to catalogue Internet resources.
As a manager of one of Intute’s ‘Hubs’, one of several things that concerned me at the time was the cost of cataloguing Internet resources. I believe this was eventually calculated to be something like (including overheads, etc) £80 per record*.
Here’s an example of a catalogue record from Intute:
This journal site includes sample issues with abstracts, bibliographic details and pdf format full text articles covering alternative propulsion and alternative energy generation systems.
The journal includes original research papers, literature review reports, case studies of current interest, and book reviews. It is published by Inderscience.
Here are 163 similar records.
Of course, there was more to Intute than records like that. Intute actually did quite a lot of good work, there were some good informative blog entries, there was the Virtual Training Suite, and Intute helped more than a few people find quality Internet resources. But the Internet resource catalogue was always unfortunately kept at the heart of Intute, and JISC money was poured into it.
Intute, and its predecessors, got through a large amount of funding during the lifetime of the various services and projects. It must have been more than £10 million and perhaps even £20 million*. There seems to be little to show for that investment today.
In 2005 the wrong decision, at a key time, was taken with respect to Intute’s future. I remember an Intute meeting in, I think, Birmingham, where I argued that the service should progress beyond an Internet resource catalogue and become a much more useful service involving cross-searching of various bibliographic databases and more (on which a lot of work had already been done). I suggested that the actual Internet resource catalogue should be drastically cut in size, and that the resulting savings in costs could be put to better use. There were several people at that meeting who agreed with me. Obviously, the cataloguers didn’t agree.
If I remember correctly, it was the Intute Board who took the decision to continue to concentrate mainly on an Internet resource catalogue, and from this point onwards, Intute was doomed to a slow death, even though further £ millions went into funding it.
Now – from the abusive Comment in my previous post I deduce that there may be some people who would like all of this, and more, buried. The message is clear – if you bring it up, your character may be questioned. There will be flak. It’s already the case that some people are reluctant to say much in public about these sorts of things (because you never know who might mark one of your future bids for funding, etc), and not just matters relating to Intute, and the best course is therefore usually assumed to be: tow the line/keep quiet. This doesn’t affect me anymore, because I’m retired, and I’m prepared to bring things up, and I’m not put off doing so by personal abuse.
How on earth, in 2005 when Google had already gone public and when the popular search engines had already taken over ‘Search’, could a Board including university librarians and others who should have known better think that cataloguing the Internet, in order to produce a searchable database of about 80,000 records of the type above, have a future worth investing more £ millions?
Who gained from this decision, and in what ways? Did anyone make money (from consultancies, etc) from giving advice that influenced the decision? Was there other pressure? Was there a stitch up? Or – was it simply a dumb and costly decision?
Is there a can of worms here? It should be possible to raise such questions without receiving abuse.
With the funding that was available, Intute would have been in a wonderful position to develop similar ideas and services in a way taylored to the best interests of academics, had that decision not been made by the Board. The decision by the Board seems to me like a major screw-up of JISC funding; and libraries, students and researchers are still suffering from it. That’s why this stuff is still relevant today.
As a footnote, if my suggestions to Intute at the time were disruptive according to this definition, then I’m actually proud of that fact.
* If you have more accurate figures, please let me know.
Last night Lindsey and I went out for a meal in a Chinese restaurant. We managed to ask for a table for two, order drinks, order tea, ask for dumplings and soup as starters, and chicken for a main course with rice, ask for the bill, and ask where the toilets were, all in Chinese.
The Mandarin classes are paying off!
The downtrodden rose up due to better education and communications. A baldy said “The downtrodden are too dumb to run this. I can do better”. Once the baldy was gone, a few increasingly deluded and nasty chaps with more flamboyant hairdos took over and screwed everything up. After that, things got a bit better and the downtrodden became fat, though not as fat as the fat cats did, although unlike the downtrodden, the fat cats didn’t actually become physically fat. In the meantime, the declining few who worried about any of this wrung their hands and became Guardian readers. Then, the Internet happened, and this revolution in communications meant that everyone was now playing on a flatter pitch.
I wrote in my post yesterday that I was confused about discussions on Scottish independence, which I’ve read on both sides or the argument, where the topic has been the viable size of countries.
Switzerland is a fairly small country, with lots of mountains, and no coastline, and is doing very well, but then Lesotho is also a fairly small country, with lots of mountains, and no coastline, and is not doing very well.
The world is big enough to find examples that can prove, or disprove, just about anything at all with respect to viability of countries.
The Cayman Islands are extremely small, and seem to do very well. That probably means that the Shetland Islands could do very well (especially if rights to oil are taken into consideration), if they they wanted to break from a future independent Scotland.
So where does it all end?
On another entirely different topic, I read in the Saturday Guardian about the Rural Reading Room project in China. There are some details here.
“How to ensure their access to books is an important issue. Central and local governments have spent a lot of money to help farmers gain access to books. The Reading Rooms in small villages have 1,500 books and 100 periodicals and newspapers, but in some of the larger ones, the Reading Rooms can have as many as 50,000 books. We are spending a lot of time and energy on citizens’ rights to know and to read.”
So – just when public libraries are being closed down in the UK to save costs, in China they are doing the exact opposite. Who’s got it right?
On another topic, here’s a short quote from Wu Shulin (邬书林), a government minister in China, on the situation of Liu Xiaobo:
“On the one hand we should protect the people’s rights to express their views; on the other, we have to ensure social stability in our laws.”
Having been through an immense amount of instability in the past 100 years, in China social stability is seen by the government and many other people as being more important than individual rights of expression.
This is something we in the West find difficult to understand.
Most of the fury seems to be about the spoof map, rather than the article itself. The article itself is about the economics of independence. This blog post discusses the article plus a post by Gerry Hassan who argues against the article, and also places the Skintland map in context.
The economics are complex. I have no idea if the economic conclusions in The Economist are correct or not, and the more you look into it, the more complicated it becomes.
I’m also confused when I see various arguments about whether small countries are viable or not. Looking at the world, some small countries do well, and others don’t. The same can be said about large countries. I don’t think size really matters in many respects, though as international businesses become larger and larger, and global economics become ever more interconnected, smaller countries are obviously more at the mercy of multinationals and high finance.
Should Scotland become independent, I expect that little would change, economically, for a few years. Scotland might do a wee bit better, economically, or it might do a wee bit worse. There would obviously be some capital loss, due to uncertainty, and there would be some new investments and initiatives resulting in new industry. There won’t be any wonderfully miraculous changes resulting in rapid wealth growth for everyone in Scotland.
And the fact that very little would likely change, economically, scares me the most, because that is when things may well get nasty. If Scotland becomes independent, it will be because a majority of those who vote in the Referendum vote for independence, and that will mean that there are many people who will have great expectations of fast improvement under a new government.
When things don’t rapidly improve, those people will start to ask why. Why am I still living in a wee flat and don’t have much/any more money? Why are my nephews still looking for work? Why am I having to work longer before I get a pension? Why does the health service seem to be the same as before. Etc.
Who’s fault is it that I am not now much better off? I was expecting much more, now that we’re independent.
When people start asking those questions, whoever is in power will likely say “It’s not our fault!” That’s because politicians of every kind never say “Actually, it is our fault”. So, whoever is in power will say that it’s someone elses fault.
“We got a bum deal!” “We had to take on too much debt.” Or whatever. And where will the finger be pointed? At the English, of course.
Does that matter? Well, there will be a lot of frustration. Frustration can quickly turn to bitterness and worse. This won’t worry English people living in England too much (except that a few beatings will quickly reduce tourism), but English people living in Scotland may well feel themselves threatened. You then get much more capital outflow. And population outflow as well. And then what? The economic situation gets worse due to this outflow. So, who’s fault is it now? What other groups of non-Scots living in Scotland can be identified? Muslims, perhaps? Poles? It must be the fault of someone else, we will be told, and not whoever is in power.
Alex Salmond is a respected and clever politician. Did you see what he said about The Economist? He said “It will rue the day” it printed the ‘sneering’ front-page article.
Can you imagine what might happen when those people who are more anonymous and much less respected, not so clever and less educated than Alex Salmond start to think about who should ‘rue the day‘ that Scotland is not doing as well as they expected it would?
What a lovely time we had at Fifi’s party tonight. I’ve worked with Fifi on at least a couple of occasions, and I was trying to remember if I’ve ever been her boss, but I don’t think so. Actually, maybe I was, for a short while once.
I once shared a flat with Fifi, Gillian and Lindsey, up in Morningside. Sometimes, my lad friends would come up there.
“Rodz – are you enjoying living in a flat with three women? Are you involved with any, or all, of them?” they would ask, a bit more crudely than I have stated in that quotation.
“It’s wonderful. And no.” I would reply, because at that time I wasn’t going out with Lindsey.
And then one of my lad friends, for some inexplicable reason, reached under the settee and pulled out what turned out to be a pair of nickers.
“What’s this, Rodz? Are you sure about the answer to that second question?”
“It’s nothing to do with me.” I answered, honestly.
I enjoyed the party tonight for several reasons. Firstly, because I didn’t drink too much. Secondly, because the venue was good. Fiddler’s Elbow. At ground level there’s a bar and restaurant. Upstairs was the party room. Downstairs is some kind of club. Outside, during a smoko (I don’t know if it’s the same in your country, but in Scotland, if you want a ciggie, you have to go outside), I asked one of the barmen how young you would need to be to fit in to the club, and he said that the club was not part of the same management, but that it was for people of all ages.
“Even someone as old as me?” I asked.
“Sure!” he replied.
Well, I didn’t go down there, so I can’t verify that.
There was a nice atmosphere to the party. Fifi had put some effort into the music, and people were dancing at times, but the sounds never took over or got too loud, so you could still talk to people. There was some nice food as well.
At first, I felt a bit spare, because I didn’t recognise anyone I knew. But the thing is not to worry about that sort of thing. Conversation happens, eventually. We met some folk that Lindsey knew, and also during the first smoko I spoke to an extremely tall chap, who’d been in the bar, rather than the party.
“How tall are you?” I asked, cheekily.
“You could be a bowler!” I exclaimed.
Usually, in Scotland where many people don’t take to cricket, you’ll get blanked if you say something like that, but instead, he said:
“Actually, I was a wicket-keeper.”
So we had a ciggie-length conversation about cricket, which was nice.
And the kids at the party were terrific. I say ‘kids’, but they were all my sons’ ages – 20, 21, 22 or so. Such nice kids! Pleasant to talk to, and interesting, and forward-looking, and positive. They had their opinions, but they didn’t force them on you. And they were relaxed at socialising.
Well, at the same age, me and Fat Mac were not like that. When we were that age, me and Fat Mac would be interested only in getting hammered and chasing skirt.
Thirdly, the party was good because everyone was so relaxed. And also, Shaun (younger son) met a whole bunch of his friends. He’d previously wanted to pull out of going to the party, because he thought that he wouldn’t know anyone there.
During the second smoko I got talking to the chef from the restaurant and another barmen and barwoman. I told the chef about the wonderful meal we’d had at the Bridge of Lochay, the other week. The chef said that he, too, cooked nice food sourced locally. It’s definitely a trend. And, because I hadn’t drunk too much, I didn’t falsely claim to be an internationally famous food-critic-blogger so how about a free meal sometime, like I once did on another occasion in another place.
For her birthday, Lindsey gave Fifi one of Fat Mac’s daughter’s wee stained glass creation pendant thingys, which she liked. Fat Mac also once worked in the same place as Fifi.
Fifi has been going through some tough times ever since she was run down by a car, due to the migraines that resulted, so it was great to see her in good form.
This is a heavy weekend. A party, a ceilidh, and on Sunday a family meal. I’m going to catch some ZZZZds.
Ross had a fantastic sense of humour.
It always helps when someone has a sense of humour.
It really, really, really helps when you have a fantastic sense of humour, and you also suffer from cerebral palsy, you’re stuck in a wheelchair, you’ve never taken a footstep in your life, your front teeth stick out at 50 degrees, you can barely control a muscle in your body, only nine people in the whole world can understand a single word you say, and your life expectancy is probably about twenty-five or so – like Ross.
Not only did Ross have a great sense of humour, but I never once heard him complain about anything whatsoever. Next time you have a moan, like we all do from time-to-time, think about that.
Ross was 14. Only a few people could understand anything he said. Obviously his Mum and Dad could, and his teacher at his special school. At first, I couldn’t at all. Then, gradually, I could.
Ross liked drinking tea, or “Chaarrruugglgg gup” as he called it. Once you start with chaarrruugglgg gup, you can start to build up a small vocabulary. It’s certainly easier than learning Chinese.
I’d put the luke-warm tea in one of those non-spill baby cups, place it in Ross’ hand, and after four or five wafts of his hand towards and around his face he’d eventually get it into his mouth and be able to drink in a gurgly sort of way, until it fell onto his lap and the process would start again.
He couldn’t really do diddly-squeak for himself, apart from sit in a wheel-chair and crash into things if and when he managed to get on a roll. But one thing he could do was work the dial on the radio. He loved his radio. His radio was the only thing he hardly ever pissed into. When he pissed into his radio and it stopped working, his Mum would buy him another one.
Boy! He could work the little dial! That was what he could actually do, for some inexplicable reason. He’d find Cuddly Ken on Radio Whatever. He’d be able to flick the dial and find the remnants of the Pirate radio stations. He could do this in a couple of seconds. Most of the rest of us able-bodied people can’t even do that as quickly. That was Ross’ big thing – working the dial, and finding the music radio stations he loved listening to.
“Caroline, Car-o-line, Ayaai-i-yaai-yai. Caroline, Car-o-line, Ayaai-i-yaai-yai. This is Radio Caroline on 199″
I used to sing that to him, and he loved it, except that he’d laugh so much that he’d fall out of his wheelchair. And he was quite heavy and awkward and floppy to get him back into it.
Had he not been dealt one of the worst of all hands in the deck of life, Ross would have liked to have become a radio disk jockey. But instead, we would pretend.
“This is Ross the Boss talking to you from Caroline 199-er on your Long Wave” I’d say, trying to sound as much like Everett or one of the other DJs as possible, talking to the top of my empty half gallon of cider that they gave me for babysitting him, in lieu of a microphone.
He loved that. “Ahhggwrryddy” he’d call me, drooling over the dial and flopping in half.
The lad had a wonderful sense of humour. I could tell that much. There were so many laughs we had together. I’d do the radio commentary as fluently as I could, pretending to be him, and he’d gurgle with laughter. Sometimes I’d run dry, and he’d take over, and it would come out a bit like “Garreooogggly Carrolluggian…a babbbrrrgrrr gluug” until he’d be laughing so much he couldn’t continue.
“Find Radio Luxemburg, Ross” I’d ask. And he could, in half a second. “How’d you do that, Boss?”
“Ahhggwrryddy geaaalllabyy!” (Roddy – it’s easy) he’d tell me.
The story he liked the most was the one about how Radio Caroline’s batteries once ran down, and I’d do the soundtrack.
“This is Caroline on 199-er, aaaannnd weee’re having problems with our batteries juuuuust now, so thiiiiiiings maaay beggggggin to souuuuuud a biiit straaaaaaange, I’m afraaaaaaaaid.”
He also liked the story about how one of the pirate radio ships once sank. I’d do that one as well.
“You’re tuned to the number one pirate radio station, and this is Ross the Boss bringing you the latest news from the middle of the North Sea. I have to report that water has started to leak into the studio due to a problem with the plug. Splash. Slash. And unfortunately we seem to be sinking. But we will continue to broadcast as long as is possible. Here’s a song you may like, called “Children of the Sea” by Black Sabbath. Splash. Gurgle.”
I couldn’t do that one too often, because without fail he’d fall out of his chair laughing.
He could barely talk, due to the spasticity. Apart from his radio, the other thing he liked was caaaaxxtttaaaxxxsssseee, which he’d demonstrate by pushing his right hand out in front of his chair.
No – I didn’t get what caaaaxxtttaaaxxxsssseee was at first either.
“What’s that, Boss?” I asked.
“Eh? Ross the Boss, I don’t know what you mean, man.”
“Caaaaxxtttaaaxxxsssseee!” he repeated a few times, and then with an enormous effort, he tried to clear some of the flem from his mouth, took a deep breath, and said “Caattaxiii”
“Ah! I’ve got you. Taxi. You like the taxi?”
He really loved going on the taxi outing for handicapped kids, down the coast, which they did once a year – with balloons on the roofs of the taxis, and their horns sounding constantly. That’s what Ross’ hand out front had been demonstrating – pushing the taxi’s horn.
One time, when I was babysitting, he told me, “Ahhggwrryddy, grrabbiddlie wahmimmly gruuruellie [roll of head as he tried to compose himself a bit more] wahwah jahimmly [right hand comes up] gruuie twalettillilly, he, he, heh, maju-umbillillie.”
I thought – “Strewth! He needs the cludge? Not just a wee? Let’s hope not. I don’t know how to do that. Surely his Mum did that before she left.”
I ignored it. I got more into the “Yes, we’re here on RNI, Radio North Sea International, 208 on your night-time Long Wave, and Ross the Boss is about to take over the airwaves for his late-night meet-the bozo interview session. And the bozo this week, same as last week and the week before, is…Rodz the Bodz”
The distraction only worked for a few minutes.
“Ahhggwrryddy, grrabbiddlie wahmimmly gruuruellie” Ross repeated, once more, to me, this time with some urgency.
What to do? “Boss man Ross. Do you really, really, need a dump cludge? Surely not?”
“Ahhggwrryddy, grrabbiddlie wahmimmly gruuruellie” he said, reaching over with his right hand and scratching towards his derriere and producing a finger’s worth of poo that he could no longer keep in, as an example of how imminent it all was.
“OK, then. Will you help me as much as possible? I don’t know how to do this.”
Ross half fell out of his chair, laughing. To him, this was a daily thing. To me, it wasn’t. I was a twenty-year-old babysitter, with limited life experience.
So, we worked his wheelchair into the cludge. Not easy. The toilet was small. What the freak do you do next. He was heavy. No wonder his Mum had taken up weight lifting to build up her strength. You have to lift him out of his chair, kick the chair away with your right foot and somehow plonk him down on the bowl at the same time. Prop him up and take the pants down. Re-position him more centrally.
OK, Ross the Boss, you get on with it, and I’m off now to watch the news on telly. You’re cool here? Your Mum will probably be back soon.
“Ahhggwrryddy!” “Ahhggwrryddy!” Eventually came the call from the toilet.
Oh shit! So…Boss the Ross, Ross the Boss, on 199-er, So you seem to be finished, so… I have to wipe yer snerse?
“Gerrshssh, heh hah-grup” he replied, but I caught him before he laughed so much that he fell off the bowl.
We had a lot of laughs, Ross the Boss and I did, so we did.
Ross’ Mum was very apologetic when she got home that time, explaining that she’d simply forgotten to make sure he’d dumped before she went out.
“Jean – its a priviledge to know someone with a sense of humour like Ross the Boss, you must be very proud of that,” I told her, “And I hope I never forget how much he laughs, despite everything”
And I haven’t.
- – -
[Here are details of some other short stories]