Love, a Dog and a Baby

Recently I started investing and my picks have been mostly terrible, but with a lot of potential. It reminds me of the person I was when My Exquisite Life met me.

23 February 2016, Bukowski’s bar, Prague, the Republic that is Czech: two travellers loosely connected to the table they’re sitting at fall in love over a mutual recognition that they’d just got there. Conversation flowed as the pair got to know each other and the guy made a move he’d never had a chance to make before – dropped into conversation in a regular speaking voice he informed her, “You’re gorgeous, by the way.”

It’s the smoothest I’ve ever been or will ever be. If my illustrious flirting career had to end it at least did some with success.

That of course wasn’t the end of the flirting. Long term relationships continue with a bit of playful back and forth. I feel like I do it every conversation and instant message. In every card for birthdays, valentines, and the two anniversaries we acknowledge. In every blog post which references My Exquisite Wife. Love is an action you do constantly, actively, passionately. It’s a small flame if left alone – given proper stoking and ample fuel love is a rich conflagration that can burn even the wet Winter Forest that is the world’s cynicism.

My wife was gorgeous when I met her. And when I first told her I loved her (St. Patrick’s Day). She was even more gorgeous when she randomly stopped me in the street months later to confess her own love for me. She blew me away with her beauty on our wedding day. And when I melted watching her meet our puppy for the first time. She humbled me as she brought life into this world. To this day, she remains the gorgeous, funny, understanding, punctual, and brilliantly smart person I fell in love with and continue to fall for every day.

The writer of this piece thinks it complete and as near to perfect as a thing made of words can be.

Is Scots an Indigenous Language or a Bastard Offshoot of English?

One of the most magical times of the year is coming up – the census. It will be the first Scottish census that My Exquisite Wife, who is American, and my newborn baby will be included on so that’s a bit of excitement right there. It’s also a time which is generating a bit of controversy due to the fact there’s some fairly trans inclusive wording on the gender question. That’s an interesting development and well worth reading about, but not the topic of today’s post. Today I’m going to be thinking about whether Scots should be thought of as an indigenous language in its own right or as a dialect of the English language. It’s a fascinating question as to most English speakers and to many Scottish people it is just slang, a sort of lowbrow vernacular which they feel betrays a lack of cultivation, a carelessness about language. Slang is often looked on as a sort of worthless distraction from elevated pursuit of culture, think of how ebonics is treated (though that has an additional racist element). But if Scots is a language in its own right then we need to consider how to preserve it as a mode of communication and how to encourage education in it as a second language worth consideration.

First, the argument for Scots as being an offshoot of English. The easiest way to understand a form of communication’s relation to another is by looking at their history. In this respect, Scots most definitely has a tight connection with English as it began to develop with the migration of Angles from England into Scotland. A truly interesting thing about England and the English is how they are recognised as one group when in reality they are actually a combination of many different ethnic and linguistic groups, among them Angles, Saxons, and Normans, with significant celtic influence also playing a role. The influence of the Angles upon the English language is often placed directly together with the Saxon influence, hence Anglo-Saxon. The Angles arrived in Scotland around the year 600 AD and Scots developed around about the same time, alongside Old English.

Therefore, Scots is a bastard offshoot of English and is merely English spoken wrong. Case closed.

But that’d be nice and simple and when it comes to talking about the development of languages over a thousand years ago, nice and simple is rarely correct.

If you’ve ever tried to read Old English, true Old English, not Shakespeare which is Middle English, you’ll be struck by how different it is from the modern day. For a good test, just see how much of this you can follow.

It sounds like this man is speaking a foreign language rather than English. If someone came into your workplace speaking like this you’d either call for a translator or a doctor. What I’m essentially saying is that Scots is a bastard offshoot of Old English in the way that Modern English is a bastard offshoot of Old English. English and Scots are most likely better thought of as cousins rather than siblings.

The main problem appears to be that many Scottish people consider Scots to be thought of as homely slang at best and at worst the vernacular of the jakey (a great Scots word for a drug addict). This was shown by the 2010 Public Attitudes Towards the Scots Language where nearly two-thirds of respondents did not think of Scots as a language and more just a way of speaking. In this question the survey caught something essential about public opinion towards Scots. To many people it’s almost part of a Scottish accent to drop in a few Scots words, and when you’re around more Scottish people who you think will understand you drop in a few more Scots words, and you don’t consider it speaking Scots. This makes some sort of sense, given the number of non-native people in Scotland, it makes more sense to speak English in more formal environments and also in group socialisation. Scots has been essentially swallowed up and is now more like a part of English. It’s a code which we slip into when we’re around people we think will get it. The problem here is that as the overall centralisation of culture continues, as accents drift more towards the big cultural centres like New York, Hollywood, London, allowing Scots to be thought of as a branch of English spoken weirdly as opposed to its own thing means we’re at danger of losing it entirely within a couple of generations. After all, why properly learn a language which is increasingly less prevalent?

This could precipitate a major decline in our understanding of our own culture and history. Scots was the primary language in Scotland as recently as the 17th-century, approximately 70% of the country spoke it. This means that to understand anything that culturally happened in Scotland before the 1700s you need to understand Scots. To understand our greatest cultural icon, Rabbie Burns, you need to understand this bit of history. Burns was writing after a period in Scottish history when we had entered into union with England. It was broadly a harmonious affair besides a few riots and a fair amount of popular discontent. Scotland remained largely its own place culturally speaking. But after 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s attempt to claim the throne for the Stuart family, there were major attempts to “correct” the way that Scots spoke. We like to say this had little impact on us and we point to great Scots today who still rock the accent, but overall there has been a turn away from Scots as anything but a language of the kaleyard. Today only about 30% of the modern Scottish population claim to speak any Scots. In pure numerical terms there are twice as many Scots speakers today as there were back then but per person the number has dropped off significantly. This is not a drop which can solely be explained by immigration and increasing numbers of foreign-born people in the population, the vast majority of people in Scotland identify as either ‘Scottish only’ or Scottish and British’. 30% suggests that at least half of people who identify as somewhat Scottish don’t speak the language that was once predominant.

There is some good news to this story. In 2015, the Scottish Government decided on a policy to encourage more Scots use in the country. This means we’ll start to see more Scots language use in school, where it was limited to a couple of Burns poems and a scene or two from ‘The Steamie’ when I was a pupil. The idea is that this will give Scots the legal recognition that it never had as an official national language on an equal level to English and Gaelic. Hopefully with this all in place we’ll start to see a bit more recognition of Scots as a language in the coming years. If we’re very lucky, there is currently a generation of great writers of drama and song going through a school system that won’t stifle creative attempts in Scots.

Because I intend to be part of the problem rather than the solution, I will continue writing mostly in the English language. Just to shake some things up a little however I have begun taking a course with the Open University on Scots so I can begin to understand more of the intricacies of the tongue. This is totally free to do and from what I’ve done so far the quality seems to be fairly good. I encourage everyone to give it a look. My hope is that with a bit of study I’ll actually be fluent in it to an adult level rather than the rather childish level of Scots I can currently manage.

In the end, it doesn’t even really matter if anyone thinks it’s a weirdly spoken way of speaking English. It seems to me that that doesn’t fit into the realm of being a reasonable opinion to hold. It’s in the realm of saying that Romeo is your favourite character in Macbeth – a categorical mistruth. Scots is a language, it is indigenous, and though it’s been struggling for a while, it’s still alive enough that we can keep the magic that is a thousand year form of communication going. Hopefully by the time it comes to put my baby in the next census, she can also be classed as a Scots speaker.

The writer o this piece hinks it awffy bonnie.

We Like the Stock: How $GME Has Turned Millennials Into Investors

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It’s a phenomenon which is hard to get to grips with. How did GameStop shares suddenly explode in value, almost touching $500 last week but at time of writing trending down towards $275? There’s a lot to unpack about it and I’ve been following the for a week and the story has only gotten grander.

It’s a David and Goliath angle. Reddit users vs Hedge Funds. Turns out Hedges sometimes conjure money out of seemingly thin air by betting against stock. Best description, borrowed from r/WallStreetBets:

🦍 has 🍌 which is worth $10

🐍 thinks $10 is a lot, borrows 🍌 and sells it, then goes around trying to convince 🦍 🦍 🦍 community 🍌 is only worth $4 to pocket $6 difference.

🦍 🦍 🦍 disagree, buy 🍌 🍌 🍌 and price goes up to $15.

🦍 demands 🍌 from 🐍, 🐍 down $5.

When 🦍 🦍 🦍 agree with 🐍 that 🍌 too expensive, hedge funds shorting 🍌 win.

APE TOGETHER STRONG

Photo by Arindam Raha on Pexels.com

The hedge funds borrow shares, they sell, convince everyone the company is a failure through a complicit media then buy back the borrowed shares. When they’re confident in their assessment and proven correct, it’s a no risk strategy. Far less risky than stable, long-term investments. This has a variety of bad impacts on the economy at large. If a company has a rough month they could find themselves vulnerable to morale shocks as the financial press lays into them. If a company promotes a new CEO from within instead of getting some member of the old guard, some investors perceive risk and hedge funds see shortpurtunity. This type of perception is one of the factors which hurts upward mobility at the highest levels as generally getting to those positions is difficult for anyone from a working class or disadvantaged background unless they’ve got considerable tenure.

This type of thinking has convinced Reddit to back GameStop by buying shares. That jacked the price up. Currently, there are several hedge funds convinced GameStop was basically dead and they were trying to short it to death. The guy who realised this is best known by his Reddit name DeepFuckingValue but we now know he’s actually called Keith. He’s got various arguments about the state of GameStop as a viable company and these convinced enough people to try and trigger what’s called a short squeeze.

Back to 🦍 and 🐍.

The 🦍 wants his 🍌. 🐍 swears he’s good for it. 🦍 demands interest for every day he hasn’t got 🍌.

If multiple hedge funds borrow stock to short it, this can actually cause the price to go up. Each time a fund needs to buy stock back to sell it the value rises. If there’s also a surge in buying activity from investors who see the lowered price as a good deal, this then can cause all the shorts to lose money trying to minimise losses. The shorters who want to wait it out to see they can still profit lose out due to mounting interest payments. 🐍 need to buy 🍌 🍌 eventually.

It’s all very exciting but sadly I got in the vicinity of buying way too late. A lot of activity has gone on in the apps who which looks like market manipulation. Several investment apps stopped onboarding new customers. Robinhood, which was an early favourite, started preventing buys of GameStop while still permitting sells. I was already too late to get in on the ground, but I was definitely too late when they stopped selling fractions of shares.

I, like many of my generation, don’t trust the people who run the stock market. The big whale participants who raked in billions in cheap debt then basically cried they we’re too big to face consequences for their actions. If there’s one thing Millennials love more than avocado toast and being unemployed, it’s people facing consequences for their actions. We’ve seen so little of it. Millions marched against the Iraq War and it happened anyway. Occupy Wall Street took over financial streets around the world and nothing happened. Trump somehow got elected despite being among the worst people to ever stand for President and making many gaffes that would render anyone else unthinkable.

GameStop presents a chance to stick it to the insanity which insulates those who cause catastrophe from consequences. By making the shorters of this medium weight retail brand pay through the nose for underestimating its support, WallStreetBets is standing up for a world of consequences.

Simultaneously, and I expect this will need more data to be sure of, this has got to be one of the largest entrances onto the stock market for a generation. WallStreetBets grew from about a million to six million users over the course of this rush. Not everyone getting involved in stocks as a result of this event is a member, but if we assume about a third of the new members at least have probably never traded, it’s like a small country getting involved.

Given Reddit demographics are very Millennial heavy, this is like the generation discovering a whole new industry. I had no idea it could be as simple to buy stock as I found it this morning. I’m already 13p up so I consider that a win.

Who knows what the legacy of GameStop will be? All I know is it’s definitely been the start of one portfolio.

The writer of this piece doesn’t understand money.

While you’re here, I have a proposition. Do you want more eyeballs for your blog or for your business? If so, then consider buying a press release. This is a fairly affordable way of getting your name out there in the press so journalists pay attention to what you’ve got going on.

My baby throws up like me

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We’re now 4 months in to the life of my daughter and she’s hitting what’s called a sleep regression. This is when a baby that was developing good habits and a regular pattern of sleep suddenly diverges. She went from being able to do 6-8 hours in a block to doing less than 4. Quite often she does 30-minute stints. This is taking its toll on her mother, My Exquisite Wife, and on me – though less on me as I’m slightly further from the crib and less interrupted by noises.

It’s pleasant when she does sleep as it means I get to look at her with a bit less drooling. She’s definitely got eyes, colour and gentle bags underneath them, and a mouth like mine but the nose reminds me most of my father-in-jaw, the man previously referred to as Party City. I hope she drives like him.

Her temperament reminds me of my mum at the minute. Easy-going most of the time, great fun, but when she’s upset she’s very upset. It always cut right through me. I hope my baby is as gregarious as her. An absolute force of nature.

When she’s waking up, my baby reminds me of my brother, who also used to be very annoyed to be awakened but it was my job to get him up for school. I hope she gets his sense of discovery.

Can’t see my dad in her yet at the minute but that takes time. I don’t think I resembled him in much but the principles he taught me until fairly recently where responsibility and a more dad-like fashion sense has reordered the reflection I saw in the mirror today.

My Exquisite Wife’s personality is coming through in her a lot. Mostly in how funny she is. The baby is a lot broader, makes a lot of poop noises, but her timing is what most seems like her mummy.

And in my baby I see how I throw up. Such ferocity, like the world is ending. To her, as she’s only vomited properly two or three times, it’s probably does feel like the end of the world. In my case it’s normally self-inflicted from a drink too many, fewer and farther between now but my tolerance is way lower. In hers, the milk just hit badly. It’s fine. We clean ourselves off. Maybe one day, like me, she’ll always reach porcelain.

My baby is growing and changing all the time, developing quirks and movements that remind me of people I know. It’s a delight to watch the growth of a whole human person from the beginning. Can hardly wait to see what she turns to next. I’m just praying it’s someone who can sleep 10 hours in a row.

The writer of this piece is experimenting on if he can write one-handed holding a baby. All mistakes are his own and feedback is appreciated.

It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries

A special announcement, a new Christmas song means a new addition to my Christmas Jukebox series.

The song is an absolute belter of a track and captures Christmas in a way reminiscent of the second verse of ‘Christmas in Hollis’ by Run-DMC – it’s a song which focuses on the real side of Christmas. The fights with family members over politics and the differences between generations. The happy tears of someone showing they care as well as the sadder tears of expectations sorely dashed.

I’ve been the cause of that last one at least once. 16 years ago I was almost killed by a Ford Transit van, escaping only by a combination of the skills of the various healthcare workers, sheer luck, and the unfailing love of my family.

This event shaped the lives of us all. It was a painful reminder of the fragility of the world. You can’t expect to know what will happen every second of the day. Every now and then the universe throws something you could’ve never anticipated your way. You shouldn’t go through life always expecting horrors to occur, but that’s an understandable mindset when occasionally they do happen.

The accident shaped me in this way, too. I often expect everything could come crashing down at any second. I’m most terrified of the plot line you find in certain TV shows where something is All a Dream. It’s a persistent worry that things are going too well. Fun fact above the type of brain damage I sustained, it’s believed to have given me a bit of a mood alteration where I act like I’m 2 glasses of wine in.

That feeling was never more serious than this year. Like everyone, I spent most of this year inside for fear of a virus. Unlike most people, I had some very legitimate reasons to be extra particularly careful (rather than just moderately careful). My Exquisite Wife discovered she was pregnant in January so this entire year has been about keeping her safe. Keeping her safe while also not revealing that she was pregnant for much of it as we didn’t want lots of fuss. This did make it a bit hard to explain to some people why I was taking the pandemic seriously (seriously though, it’s a pandemic, you should be taking it pretty damn seriously, right?). It also made it harder to explain why I was so critical of the government’s overall mismanagement and bungling of almost every step this year. There were times this year I was sure I must be in some extended coma dream. The world does not feel real. Everything was falling to pieces yet with my oddly elevated mood it felt kind of… fine?

I was sure bad times and sadness would befall me at any second this year. A pregnancy is an additional risk factor and especially tricky during a mass sickness. As well as that, I’m quite into finding out statistics and it chills me to the soul that 20% of pregnancies fail. This year I’ve been so worried that we might end up in that 20%. I was so worried I didn’t fully accept I was having a baby as a kind of coping mechanism.

There was a palpable moment of dread when she first came out and didn’t make a sound, cord around her neck. But the midwife moved it, with the gentle firmness of an experienced angel, and my girl screamed the place down.

I was sweaty. In a mask, my exhalations bursting out the sides, partially fogging my glasses but I saw all that and shouted out “YAS” at the top of my lungs, as the cry of grief instantly flipped into an exaltation that maybe there is some more justice in this universe than I thought.

At that moment, I became a daddy. I instantly bonded with this little girl. She’s so chatty, just like her mother.

So, I’m pleased to announce it’s Christmas as writing all that out – the first time I’ve done so – has got me reliving those feelings. This Christmas will be a quiet one with my parents, who may have prematurely aged from the accident but have recovered well thereafter and look incredibly good for it. Also present will of course My Exquisite Wife, the New True Queen B, and Our President, Augie Peanutbutter.

From all of me here at Pastures Fresh, I’d like to wish you a very merry Christmas.

The writer of this piece encourages you to look both ways when crossing streets.