Sunday, 28 October 2012


The autumn colours are superb just now.  But the leaves are starting to go...


Driving past Stirling Castle I pulled the car over into a lay-by and jumped out to take a picture of the castle and of the adjacent areas (below).  As I did this other cars copied me, i.e. pulled over; drivers got out of their cars, whipped out their iPhones and holding them at arms' length captured the colours.

Ladies who lunch ... Having arrived at the restaurant for the Canadian Ladies Luncheon I took a few shots of the Canadian-like colours and then headed for my twice yearly 'fix' of Canadian accents!

Thursday, 25 October 2012


After I brought the children back from school we went out into the garden.  Iain was working on his joinery bench.  I sat on the wall with a cup of tea ... then went back inside for my camera in order to catch the light (3:30 pm) shining through the lime tree leaves.

Ishie and Alastair run around outside (which certainly saves on the clearing up inside!)

Sunday, 21 October 2012


We had the 2 children for a "sleep-over" last night.  Now 5 and 4 years old they are very good about getting ready for bed, teeth brushing etc.

Mairi brought us a pumpkin last week so today we had a go at cleaning it out and making a face, i.e. a face on one side for Ishie and a face on the other for Alastair.  Iain pointed out that it is always a good idea to do a drawing of what you plan for the final construction.  So here they are sketching out a smile.

We were very impressed with Alastair's fine motor movement now: he holds a pen or pencil very well and executes his first letters he is being taught very neatly with even spaces in-between.

 Ishie helped me make soup in the pressure cooker.  When I asked her to toss in some chopped vegetables while she was stirring the pot she pointed out that she couldn't do the 2 things at once.  There began her first lesson in life!  ""Ishie" I said, "when someone asks you to do too many things at once you simply say to them 'I only have 2 hands' !"

She made us laugh, later, when we were discussing the pros and cons of what to do about a Christmas card this year.  From the floor where she was drawing she pipes up "Now you two are simply going to have to work out how you are going to do this together" (or words to that effect)!!

Lastly, I thought I would share this photo of Alastair's drawing of a pumpkin.  "Alastair, aged 4 years 8 months".   I was greatly struck at the very symmetrical circle he drew!  I wonder if we have an architect-in-the-making here?!!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


When Mairi came back from Vancouver she brought back with her a bottle of wine from a box that I purchased last Christmas for Alastair and Dawn.  I got it in the only place you can buy wine: the BC Liquor Store in Oakridge Mall.

I recall buying it for the label ... sure ... the wine is going to be good because it is an Australian Shiraz 2008.   It is from South Eastern Australia (is from 20-60 year old Barossa vines and raised in American oak) and produced and bottled by R Wines. 

At lunch on Sunday it was John who pointed out to me the intriguing artwork.  Yes, I had been attracted to it, enough to purchase the bottle, but I did not notice the Escher-esque figure in the drawing.  The original artwork is an illustration by the Hungarian graphic designer Istvan Orosz entitled Ship of Fools.   When I look at it I see a MacBeth-like country setting with a boat hanging from a tree and some kind of figure caught up in the vines of the tree.

Look again..... and you see a skull!

Using Photoshop on the digital image I shaded out the bits to show what I mean.  It is what is called "An anamorphic image".  There is a lot of information on this and other forms of mathematical art on this website  here.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Technology is fine as long as it works.  The trouble is than when software is updated, usually automatically, things are not only changed around (which I find as I get older, more bothersome) but often simply do not work.

For example, I have a wonderful iPhone which does 101 things which I absolutely love.  But recent updates on the phone ... or maybe the Mac computer... or both ... left me in a situation where the iPhone was not syncronizing with the computer.  This showed up when I tried to download photos from the iPhone to the computer.  (I know it's a phone but I use it as a mini-computer/camera most of the time.)

So ... how do you sort this out? Basically, you have to "google" and fine out what others are doing about it.  And, yes, lots of people are having the same trouble - reassuring.

I spent hours and hours trying first one thing then another, always keeping in mind to change one variable at a time.

Alastair helped me on Skype to guide me to reinstall iTunes as this seemed to be the source of the problem.  Wrong.

I finally cracked it!

So ... the problem:  unable to synchronize my iPhone 4S (May 2012) with iOS 6.0 with Mac 10.7.5. Helpful search sites related to: "device not showing up in iTunes" or "Mac 10.7.5  not recognizing iPhone".

The answer: Reset the iPhone.  (You do that by holding the sleep/wake button at the top right of the device and the home button at the bottom center of the face at the same time.  Hold them both until you see the screen go black. In some cases, you may need to keep holding them even after the red power off slider appears. If it does, just keep holding it. Wait until the white Apple logo appears.)

Photo of man and canoe:  I took that at Kip Marina, at the edge of the car park, this week.Both figures are of wood with a laminated glass-fibre finish on the boat.  Don't know sculptor.  The iPhone in his hand was made with the aid of Photoshop.

Monday, 15 October 2012


I had another trip down the Clyde to the sailmakers in Largs today.  The Ayrshire farmland was covered in frost when I set off but the day turned out bright and sunny.  So at midday I stopped opposite the island of Arran and had a coffee from my flask ("Thermos" to North Americans) at the roadside.

Ailsa Craig is a conical shaped island in the lower Clyde - last sight for emigrants leaving Scotland for the New World.

 Lady Isle off Troon

The island of Arran

Monday, 8 October 2012


 I had to drive to Largs today to pay a visit to a sailmaker ... not to have a sail repaired but rather it was to discuss the possibility of making a new replacement cover for our gazebo.  I bought this garden gazebo 2 years ago and it has served us really well.  However the material is perishing as it is rather thin and has been exposed to the sun as it sits in the south side of the house.

The drive back to Glasgow was lovely as I followed the shore of the Clyde all the way back up the motorway.

 On the edge of the river between Port Glasgow and the city of Glasgow are these bits of old wood sticking out of the water.  They look like they have been the posts for an old wharf or something but ... no ... they are what is left of a timber pond.  When timber arrived in the Clyde destined for the shipyards or sawmills instead of holding it all in a log-boom they build enclosures - a bit like a paddock - in the shallow water along the shore and held the timber in there.  These are the rotted remnants.

This sign explains how it dates back to the beginning of the 18th century when timber was being imported from North America and Europe.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Here are a few miscellaneous photos of the grandchildren as taken by John and Alastair over the last 4 weeks.

Ishie and Alastair are out walking in the woods on the edge of Glasgow.  That is the city in the distance.

 John took this photo of Ishie and Alastair peeping over a gravestone.

Alastair took this photo of Indy in Vancouver, now 13 months old and starting to walk and talk.

Friday, 5 October 2012


Beavers have been around a long time.  They have them in the UK, for example, in Argyllshire.  I thought I knew all about beavers from learning about them in school.

     Castor canadensis

 Sculpture: Canadian Parliament Buildings

However, what I did not know was this:

Melvyn Bragg, BBC In Our Time, said today that "Aesop's Fables presented the myth about beavers sacrificing their own testicles to hunters in the erroneous belief that the testicles were the prize. In fact it is the castoreum in the anal glands which was sought by hunters. Castoreum contains salicylic acid from which aspirin was developed; it is also used as base for perfumes, and in the USA is still used as a food additive."

Source: The Medieval Beastiary

Furthermore, Wikipedia states:
"Within the zoological realm, castoreum is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac in combination with the beaver's urine, used during scent marking of territory.[1][2] Both male and female beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail.[3] The castor sacs are not true glands (endocrine or exocrine) on a cellular level, hence references to these structures as preputial glands or castor glands are misnomers.[4]"

...and that ....

"In the United States, castoreum as a food additive is considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be generally recognized as safe,[11] often referenced simply as a "natural flavoring" in products' lists of ingredients. While it can be used in both foods and beverages as a vanilla, raspberry and strawberry flavoring,[12] the annual industry consumption is around 300 pounds.[13]

Castoreum has been traditionally used in Scandinavia for flavoring snaps commonly referred to as "Bäverhojt".[14]

Castoreum is also used in small amounts to contribute to the flavor and odor of cigarettes.[15]"