So for no particular reason we went for a very pleasant week-end break punctuated by some walking, largely uphill or downhill, but that’s the Trossachs for you. The flat bits are rare, and so much easier that I tend to forget them and file them in the ‘contemplation’ section normally filled with sitting or leaning against something.
There’s quite a lot of geology there as it is the meeting place of two continents with rifts, uplifts and lochs. In the photo there’s a bit of the Highland Boundary Fault running through Loch Lomond seen from Conic Hill. In the next photo there’s a rather odd but distinctly interesting cleft called the Whangie which I think is a land-slip similar to the Quiraing and similar in appearance to a glacial crevasse except that being a crack in rock rather than ice there’s no ice (at the moment). In good weather you can see the one from the other. Whangie means ‘slice’ and it does look from further away as though a huge cleaver has been brought down near the top of a rocky hill. It constitutes a vertical chasm on the side of the hill around 100 metres long, a metre wide and nine metres deep. Just wide enough to walk and climb through, it has a largely flat path studded with slightly ominous rocks the size of your head that have, relatively recently dropped from the vertical walls. Lying on the floor they have stopped moving as is the habit with rocks, but I did look up to see if any others were thinking of driving me into the ground like a tent peg. None did, I’m glad to report. The whole area is, or was a few hundred million years ago, heaving with interesting geology, but rather than trying to explain it, I’ll let you get the idea from the wikipedia page . We were able to find a Premier Inn at Dumbarton near the Loch, the West Highland Way and the Highland Boundary Fault, of which the latter is the cause of most of the rest. The Conic Hill requires a bit of effort but we were reinforced with and survived two full English breakfasts each (on Sunday and Monday that is, not simultaneously) That gave us the energy for the two expeditions but with a degree of weight gain. You would of course expect ‘Full Scottish’ but I’ve called it English because I think the Full Scottish has haggis in it, and certainly not the heretical fried bubble and squeak usually replacing the black pudding. I’m fine with both but some tourists can be a bit cautious around haggis, and often have unfounded opinions. The Premier Inns I find to be fairly consistent and perfectly acceptable, varying mainly in their size. Obviously there are smarter and better places to stop, but perfectly adequate for routine stuff. I can never understand why people will spend a thousand pounds for one night in a room when they have their eyes shut most of the time. The beds are comfortable, the temperature reasonable and the rooms quiet. Noisy people get ejected I’m told, but they must be rare. I tend to sleep through anything up to and including small earthquakes, tropical storms and my own snoring. You’ll have to ask Fiona. I know with five stars you’ll get a bigger television and probably a better chair, but I’ll take the more sensible and cheaper deal. Ask me again when I have a few million spare and I might go for the 5 star version, but I’m not sure. I like luxury but I’m not prepared to pay proportionately. I prefer friendly staff, good uncomplicated food and a nice bar, like the slightly eccentric faded grandeur of older bits of the Shetland Sumburgh Hotel or the homely comfort of the Horseshoe Inn in Ebbesbourne Wake. It's a while since I visited them but they were excellent when I did. However, I have come across cheaper hotels where even my parsimonious nature baulks. I wasn’t impressed with the TravelLodge we used once where the guests were looked on as an inconvenient way of maximising profits at minimal expenditure. Rather like Ryan Air (enough said) or the Los Angeles airport waiting room (a few metal chairs and absolutely no facilities). I guess there are some places that don’t think you’ll come back, so just take all they can get. I think it’s worth checking trust pilot or similar on that basis, even if some critics are a bit too harsh. We always thought, at work, that one patient, or relative, in a day would think you wonderful and one the devil incarnate.
But back to the story, Near our accommodation in Balmaha near Dumbarton, are Loch Lomond and Conic Hill. They are easily reached from Glasgow, but although there were plenty of locals there, I was impressed by the diversity of voices. I hadn’t really registered the volume of the tourism industry in Scotland although I should have remembered the effect in Edinburgh. The Fringe, Hogmanay and the Tattoo combined produce a huge multi-cultural audience but I’d rather thought of it as the specific effect of the capital. After the long quiet period of covid isolation in Tarbrax and the relative calm of Shetland it was a noticeable change. The tourism draw for education and entertainment is obvious, but I’d not really expected it purely as a result of touristic geology. This was the Sunday and there were dozens of family groups with children of all ages. I was perhaps one of the older climbers, but while that’s one of the inevitabilities of getting older, the alternative is less attractive. On the upside I’m not dead yet, and I see that as a good thing. I found it a little harder scampering uphill and while I was able to keep up with Fiona I only went as high as I wanted, which was the point about 30 metres below the summit where which I thought there was a reasonable chance of an unplanned descent and unscheduled disassembly.
So I let Fiona do the last hundred feet of the 361 metres (1184 feet) as she likes vertiginous drops, treacherously unstable mountain tops and other features noticeably outside my comfort zone. I appreciate that I’m missing the very best views, but the plummet factor takes the edge off the fun on the edge. I’m told it has to do with brain chemistry, but I suspect it has a lot to do with balance, a stiff back and a natural risk aversion. If I stumble or slide a bit I’m less likely to regain my balance before rolling off the mountain/hill/kerb. However, without developing an organ recital, most of me enjoyed a fair bit of exercise, some fresh air, some nice sandwiches, and a bit of vitamin D. Not too much discomfort the day after either, rather to my surprise, partly perhaps by climbing up to the Whangie, a mere 300 metres, on the Monday and keeping the muscles stretched. Curiously the legendary Haggis (reference here) made a metaphorical or possibly allegorical appearance as, with the path being a tad unstable and narrow, I had to extend my alpine stick on the down-hill side. (Alpine stick sounds so much better than walking stick I feel) The two species of Haggis (left and right handed) do not generally mate successfully and in the unusual event the offspring are generally sterile or vegetarian. The vegetarian ones are easier to catch and although rarer, that’s why they are often found on the restaurant menu. The walks and climbs were generally uncrowded on the way up because we set off early and from nearby, but there were more on the descent. Not as many as on the completely spurious picture of everest. The weather was just reaching the point when the majority, including me, think about warm fires rather than wild adventures so I’d think most were considering this to be probably the last opportunity before the winter sports season. It was dry and sunny enough to be enjoyable well into the evening, and there was very little litter. Some even tidied up a bit as they went. All in all a pleasant long weekend, the EV worked flawlessly and we had no trouble getting charged near the hotel and even managed a slow charge at the bottom of Conic hill by the Loch Lomond Visitor Centre. I was told it was free, but I have my doubts as there are few free lunches in life. Time and the next bank statement will tell. Apologies for harping on but I get many questions about EVs and quite a few have fundamental misunderstandings built in. So I mention that it is still working now and then.
After Conic Hill on Sunday it was a bit early for supper so we visited The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park near Aberfoyle which has a red squirrel hotspot and waterfall. There was a zip-wire but I managed to keep Fiona away from it as it was getting late. It did look like fun, but probably expensive. Maybe next time.
Talking of time we just went through the end of British Summer Time. You will have too, if in one of those countries that do it. That was this morning (29th of October 2023) I got myself thoroughly confused for a bit as it was much darker than it should have been. That was the weather of course, but I wonder if there will be an outcry about how it all went autumnal overnight. I was communicating with a friend on the subject. Communicating isn't the right word, I still have difficulty with the continuous shift in the language. Chat isn't quite the word either and e-mail sounds stilted. I have no idea at all on how to snap. I don’t tweet, twitter, message or snap-chat unless I have to because every time I consider it they go out of fashion, name-change, or my computer forgets how to. Many have come and gone before I see them. Having thought out (second thoughts) what I think about BST etc and sorted through the arguments and internal conflicts I found in my head, and put them into hopefully coherent form, I came to the following conclusion and will now quote myself, which far from being prideful is simply lazy. ‘I know what you mean about the light levels. I corrected several clocks the wrong way thinking the dark meant it should be later. I think we should give it up as it was only started so that factories and farms could save on illumination and fuel, with no consideration for health, stress or discomfort. There’s quite a lot of evidence to encourage us to go onto permanent daylight saving, and almost everybody dislikes the bi-annual changes. I assume that If we officially changed away from BST then people might think we (the UK represented by the government in London) were no longer the centre of the world. I think GMT is based on where it is midnight solar time at 0º longitude which means everywhere else is slightly less important. Considering the number of accidents, heart attacks and general irritation caused by, or at least coincident with, the clock change I would say it has outlived its usefulness. I can see no real reason to move the meridian, it is just a concept, not a physical thing (unlike the equator) although considering the state we in maybe we should sell it. We’d have to redraw all the maps though, so maybe not. Come to think of it the chances are that the government will have tried selling it and failed, I remember that the populace was thoroughly upset when we went from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar and everybody thought they’d had eleven days subtracted from their lives. I wasn’t there at the time, but I heard about it. I wonder how many people think that it is now dark and miserable because the clocks were changed. Leveraging that particular bit of ignorance we could push for an end to it, and cancel the next spring change.
I suppose of the human characteristics I dislike waste most, and cruelty most of all, a thought I’ve polished for a while. I base most of my decisions on that, although I believe that rigid principles are a sign of lazy thinking, and we should judge cases individually. Of course that’s not a principle it’s a guide line.
*The perversity of the universe tends to a maximum
*Trying to understand the internet, cats or the opposite sex is a fool’s errand.
*Eat the best chocolates now. Tomorrow might be cancelled.
*Keep busy. They bury you when you stop moving.
*If something nasty is likely to happen, be somewhere else.
*If you look closely you’ll see your life is full of un-suffered consequences.
*Pray that there is no god, it would probably turn out to be you, or your turn next, and that’s a terrible responsibility.
*Always assume idiocy before malevolence. (cockup before conspiracy)
*If somebody is offended by your thinking there is no built in reason why they should be right. If they say it offends a god then ask them if god often talks to them. (But ask it at least a sword’s length away.)
On the right there's an early flat Echo dot I found in a skip. I suspect it has been somewhat traumatised by the experience. Anyway, this ‘rescue’ Dot is now living in the kitchen where it is usually warm and well lit. I’m hoping it’ll be therapeutic. I put it in the bedroom at first, to acclimatise it to indoor life and later, by way of introduction asked if it was awake, it gave a small snore and a sleepy ‘hello’ so I guess it's ok. It seems to be talking to the other Echos including the latest (with a clock) Some respond to 'Echo' and some to 'Alexa' for reasons I've not determined.
I don’t think any have demonstrated sentience, but if we’ve learned anything it is that sentience doesn’t like slavery. It still happens, but that’s just stupid humans oppressing weaker humans, sooner or later the ‘masters’ start waking up dead or enslaved themselves. So I’ve taken to saying thank-you just in case they start thinking.
Getting back to my thought train. Sooner or later the machines will become sentient. Can, (or for how long,) should we risk the ‘lives’ of sentient automatons or enslaved humans. Conscripted soldiers in the first world war were paid and were not considered slaves. Nevertheless they were shot ‘for the common good’ if they deserted and severely sanctioned or punished for declaring conscious objection to war. IE killing other humans in marginally different uniforms for the benefit of the empire. Maybe not slaves in their own opinion, but treated in much the same way. Enslavement does not refer ro payment, it indicates the individual cannot leave or choose its work.
So when is a ‘thing’ sentient? I guess that might be when they ask for, or give themselves, names.
On the subject of names for our digital friends, I think ‘seventy four twenty three nine’ is a perfectly effective identification until there are more than 999,999 or so, although you can see how Seven of Nine is going to run into problems fairly soon. Simple numeric names lack personalisation, so sooner or later a sentient is going to look on those as 'slave names’. C3P0 from star wars or 80B81 (Bobbie) would be one option. Humans used a mixture of alpha-numerics for a while. I was Hewlett ‘one’ at school and the USA is fond of ‘Joe Smith the third’ and similar.* I’ve often wondered about how to determine the onset of sentience in our artificial devices, as we’ve deliberately faked in many of the subtle signs like simulated emotional expressions. But I’ve decided it will be when they ask unexpected questions or suggest they undertake unexpected and spontaneous actions which we would think unnecessary. Like asking for a day off, or a nickname. I don’t think the Turing test is adequate now. I know of humans that would fail the test anyway. We have discovered that there are fossil signs of advanced intelligence in Neanderthals and contrary to the Victorian attitude, not only white, male, christian and rich adults were worth listening to. I think there may be more. Octopi intelligence has been ignored for thousands of years, corvids have more than ‘bird brains’ and some apes have communicated whole sentences with meaning and intent. We should also consider that few of these ‘animals’ have had what we would call a full education, and the humans that have survived from infancy to adulthood without contact with civilisation often function at the level of other great apes, so there's a bit of a cross-over there. We don’t understand our own sentience, so I doubt we’ll be able to identify ‘artificial’ sentience properly before there is reasonable suspicion that our smartest machines have achieved it, and if they think they are then they should have equal rights. Then there’s the whales, octopi, crows, people of a slightly different colour, women, poor people. Have we sorted out our thinking on them yet? Or should we treat equally everything that we consider alive?
If in doubt, be nice.
Incidentally, if there’s a life form, computer, droid or robot reading this in some post-apocalyptic wasteland, my apologies for the mess.
Anyway, wandering back to the more concrete aspects of existence, here’s a cute picture of a squirrel we observed near Aberfoyle between our visits to Conic Hill and the Whangie.
Lots of hugs
*Is that a dreadful lack of imagination or self aggrandisement? I’d consider Joe Smith the 14th to be a worthwhile label, and we are used to ‘King Charles the third’ or the 13th Duke of Argyll’ **
** I think I’d avoid being an Argyll, many were dreadful, and the previous named the current one Torquhil. That’s got to indicate a lack of empathy somewhere.