Scots-medium schools

Bokmål and NynorskIf Scots is a language – and it’s almost universally accepted today that this is the case – why is it treated as a regional accent by schools?

The typical approach is to learn a few songs in Scots, and perhaps even to read a short story or a play in high school, but not much else. There’s also now an awareness that kids shouldn’t get told off for talking Scots or using Scots words when speaking English. Surely this approach only makes sense if Scots is some variety of English.

If Scots is a language then it should be taught in separate classes, not as part of English lessons. And using Scots words when speaking English should be regarded as a case of code-switching – something which is common in all bilingual areas, but hardly a thing to be encouraged.

And last but not least, we should have Scots-medium schools. It’s absolutely wonderful that we have so many Gaelic-medium schools in Scotland now, but surely we should have Scots-medium ones, too. Schools where Scots is the language of tuition, apart perhaps from the English lessons.

It could be similar to the situation in Norway, where all pupils have to learn both Bokmål (similar to Danish) and Nynorsk (based on the dialects). However, some schools are Bokmål-medium and teach Nynorsk as a separate subject, and others are Nynorsk-medium and teach Bokmål as a subject.

Surely we could do the same here? Of course it will take a while to get there – the teachers will need training (even if they’re native speakers of Scots), and a lots of text books would need to get translated – but it would be do wonders for the Scots language.

The traditional East Asian seasons work really well in Scotland

Just to escape from all the Brexit madness, I read a couple of Wikipedia articles about the traditional East Asian calendars that divide the year into 24 solar terms instead of 12 months.

The solar terms are defined in terms of celestial longitude, and the same is true for the four seasons:

  • Spring (315°–44°): 4th February–4th May
  • Summer (45°–134°): 5th May–6th August
  • Autumn (135°–224°): 7th August–6th November
  • Winter (225°–314°): 7th November–3rd February

(The dates are approximations – they can vary by a day. And I haven’t really sussed why the four seasons aren’t exactly the same length.)

The funny thing is that these seasons seem to work much better than the traditional ones in Scotland. Phyllis and I have often said to each other that spring seems to start around our birthdays (4th and 8th of February), and my mum’s birthday (5th of May) is often the first warm day with green leaves on trees. Also, this year – without having read the Wikipedia article – I posted this on Facebook on the 7th of August: “Here in Scotland, hairst is in the air the day. Haste ye back, summer!”

It’ll be interesting to see whether winter starts on the 7th of November this year!

Tesla’s model doesn’t work

Testing the Tesla autopilot (self driving mode)
Testing the Tesla autopilot (self driving mode).
It’s been revealed that the first person ever has been killed in a crash by a self-driving car:

The 7 May accident occurred in Williston, Florida, after the driver, Joshua Brown, 40, of Ohio put his Model S into Tesla’s autopilot mode, which is able to control the car during highway driving.

Against a bright spring sky, the car’s sensors system failed to distinguish a large white 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the highway, Tesla said. The car attempted to drive full speed under the trailer, “with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S”, Tesla said in a blog post.

In spite of this, I still believe self-driving cars will take over. However, it does highlight one fallacy, namely the idea that a human driver can be expected to supervise a near-perfect self-driving car.

Just think about it: If your car has been driving perfectly for a whole year, would you find it easy to keep your eyes glued to road and your hands to the steering wheel, just in case the car’s computer has a nervous breakdown? Wouldn’t you start playing with your smartphone, eat a sandwich or even doze off for ten minutes?

What this accident shows is that Google’s model (where the car is fully autonomous and the passengers don’t have access to a steering wheel) is correct, and Tesla’s is doomed. If a car is driving on its own, nobody should pretend that a human is ultimately in charge.

No normal person will ever own a self-driving car

Google prototype self-driving car
Google prototype self-driving car.
A few things I’ve read recently have convinced me that the average punter will never own a self-driving car.

The main reason for this is that they’re going to be significantly more expensive than an old-fashioned car, mainly because of all the sensors. As pointed out recently in the New York Times, “[a]dding self-driving technology — at least as it stands now — into regular passenger cars could make them absurdly expensive for anyone without the cash of a Silicon Valley mogul. Until recently, the laser sensor used on the Google car project cost $75,000 [£50,000].” Even though that price is clearly going to come down, it’ll always be more expensive to produce a self-driving car than an old-fashioned one.

The additional costs mean that they need to be used much more than normal cars in order to recoup the cost. HGV lorries might (as mentioned in the article linked to above) adopt the technology first, because it means a lorry can then be on the road 24/7 with only one driver, which mean that the additional cost will be recouped quickly.

Normal, old-fashioned cars are just not used enough to make it worthwhile to make them so expensive. According to the RAC, the “average car is parked at home for 80% of the time, parked elsewhere for 16% of the time and is only on the move for 4% of the time.”

Because of this, a self-driving car only really makes economic sense if it’s being used as a taxi, so it’s no surprise that Uber are very interested in this area — they already have put self-driving cars on the road in Pittsburgh.

Even if some crazy individual were to buy a self-driving car, it would be a bit silly to park it when they’re not using it rather than letting it make some money on its own working for Uber or similar. Only multi-millionaires will buy a self-driving car and then leave it in the driveway.

So we aren’t going to replace our old car with a self-driving model. Instead, we’ll simply start using self-driving taxis more and more until we don’t see the point in owning a car any more. It probably won’t be long before young people can’t see any point in getting a driving licence, but I imagine companies like Uber might need to introduce subscription services covering all you transportation needs for a fixed monthly fee in order to tempt current drivers to give up their car.

The move to self-driving cars is of course going to be bad news for the majority of car manufacturers. If normal people don’t buy cars, there is absolutely no reason to have so many brands and models to choose from. It’ll probably be more like the situation in the aviation industry, where companies buy hundreds of planes and then decide how they want them to look.

Det ville have været min mormors 100-års-fødselsdag i dag

Idith's birthday
Idith's birthday.
Min mormor ville være blevet 100 år i dag.

Idith, som jeg altid kaldte hende (som ældste barnebarn ville jeg bestemt ikke kalde hende mormor, når alle andre kaldte hende Edith eller Mor), samlede altid familien om sig på sin fødselsdag, så hvis hun stadig havde været i live, ville hun helt sikkert have insisteret på at samle hele familien om sig, og hun ville have trakteret os med jordbærkager og kokosmakroner (sikkert også med andre ting, men de to slags kager var obligatoriske).

Hendes fokus på at fejre sin fødselsdag betød, at man altid kunne være sikker på at se resten af familien mindst én gang om året, og resten af året brugte hun altid megen tid på at fortælle én, hvad de andre lavede, så det havde store konsekvenser for sammenhængskraften i familien, da hun døde i 2000 (to år, før jeg flyttede til Skotland).

Jeg håber, vi måske kan holde en lettere forsinket fødseldagsfest for Idith, når vi er i Danmark i juli i år.

(Min morfar, Otto, var et år yngre end Idith, så ham kan jeg skrive om næste år. Min fars forældre blev født i 1899 og 1900, så jeg var desværre endnu ikke begyndt at blogge, da de ville være fyldt 100.)

New URL

This blog is now more than ten years old (you can check the archives if you don’t believe me).

I recently changed its title from The Widmann Blog to Denseman on the Rattis (check The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie if you don’t get the reference).

I’ve also now moved it, changing its URL from blog.widmann.org.uk to widmann.scot. Given my continuing support for Scottish independence, I thought that was more appropriate.

Rullepølse for expats

My rullepølse.
My rullepølse.
One of the few Danish types of cold meat that lack any close equivalent in Scotland is rullepølse, basically rolled and pressed pork.

Here’s how you can make real Danish rullepølse yourself:

  1. Buy a large piece of pork belly (they regularly stock them in Makro).
  2. Cut off the skin and any ribs that might still be attached to it (you’ll need a very good knife for this). Trim it so that it’s perfectly rectangular and of a uniform thickness. It should now weigh about 1500g. You’ll probably end up with a lot of surplus meat and fat, but you can mince it all and use it for a medisterpølse.
  3. Make a brine by boiling 2000ml water with 200g of sugar, 300g of salt, a couple of bay leaves and 10 pepper corns. Cool it down and put your pork into in. Store this in the fridge for 48 hours.
  4. Take it out and discard the brine. Chop up one onion and a large bunch of parsley. Distribute this on the pork together with ground pepper, some ground allspice and a few sheets of gelatine. Tie it up tightly with some string.
  5. Boil it for two hours. Let it cool down a bit, and then press it overnight in a cold place between two chopping boards (I used some clamps to apply pressure, but you could also put something heavy on top.
  6. Slice and enjoy!