Happy Birthday, Baby B

This day last year I got my baby home for the first time. It was the beginning of my life as a dad, a challenge I have tried to rise to every day since. It isn’t always easy to be my exuberant self in the face of an even more exuberant baby who wakes up at 3am, but then again it isn’t always easy to be my exuberant self in the face of unexuberant adults during normal daylight hours.

13th September, 2020 was a rush. Woken up at 3am or thereabouts, hearing My Exquisite Wife was being induced. The thing they don’t tell you about induction before you’re scheduled for it is that you aren’t really scheduled for it. Instead you can be in the hospital for days before they begin the process as they’ve got to wait till they’ve got a free bed in the labour ward, with spare capacity for all the inconsiderate people who spontaneously just start giving birth. Bastards. Oh well, it avoided us having a September 11th baby at least. Anyway, from the date of induction till now, nothing has been the same. They kept the pair of them in hospital for a couple of days to make sure everything was all hunky dory and then they came home, caked in blood and vomit.

And that was just My Exquisite Wife.

Babies, right?

I’m a big fan of babies as might’ve been expected from my many posts about kids throughout my 5 years at this whole blogging lark. Becoming a dad was something I knew I wanted to do quite early on. I watched the men on TV, the sitcom dads and cartoon dads and figured they were fairly rubbish, but then looked towards my dad who’s good at it, and I knew I wanted to join the illustrious line of competent fathers. This past year I’ve been blessed by B, who is close enough to the perfect baby for a new parent.

This past year B’s developed at roughly the exact right moment for everything and sometimes a little earlier than anticipated. This is most apparent in her walking, which she’s been at for a couple of months now, and in her being able to climb stairs. She sleeps fairly well (fingers crossed for tonight) and only refuses to eat some foods which, in all fairness, My Exquisite Wife would also refuse to eat.  I understand why so many parents gush about their kids for mine is perfect. Except when she isn’t.

Truth is, it is work to raise a kid. It’s caring for a whole other heartbeat. It’s grabbing everything out of her hands which she can find, since it’s always dangerous items which are the most grabbable. It’s making sure that what she’s putting in her mouth is good, nutritious food, which will enable healthy growth and engender good habits. It’s thinking about different ways to entertain her, which fortunately at the minute is mostly making poop noises and pretending to eat her, without resorting to just giving her a phone loaded with some sort of stupid app which is probably harvesting data to make a frighteningly realistic picture of her every want and desire as she grows up into a consumer, in a vaguely dystopian vision which is not quite Black Mirror or 1984 or Brave New World, but instead is something new, dark and terrifying. That funny feeling.

I’ve had new appreciation of this fact as I’ve been looking after her every day recently. Generally I’m lucky enough that I only do about 50% of the day to day while My Exquisite Wife does that plus some of the extra necessities like clothes buying. At the minute, doing 100% of the day to day is exhausting. It boggles my mind that some people are capable of looking after kids all alone all the time. It’s surprising too that some people are able to continue writing constantly while looking after children. For me it’s going to have to be a rarer thing to get back into the habit as I’ll need to write around our work schedules, as well as childcare responsibilities, and dogcare responsibilities.

It’s not easy, but very little in life which is worth it is easy. Sculpting a little mind and building a little body which will be fit to deal with the stresses and difficulties of life involves about as much effort as it’s supposed to. On measure, I’d say I’m more than happy to put up with it. Here’s a bit of hope that the next year will have a couple fewer nightime wakeups.

The writer of this piece is too tired to come up with something clever to write here.

Happy America Day, Baby!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Tonight for dinner we had corn and hot dogs in celebration of the 4th of July, America Day. It’s actually among one of my favourite days of the year as it’s a day which celebrates My Exquisite Wife’s nation and all that they’ve given to the world. A great many people are likely to criticise the US for much and ask what they’ve given the world, but how about mass production, electric light, the internet, Netflix and Mickey Mouse? Interesting fact I found out about that last one is that Mickey Mouse was actually voiced by a Scot for about 40 years.

Regular readers of this blog (generally there are more of them than regular writers of this blog as I’ve been sort of absent since March) will be aware of how often the posts are about My Exquisite Wife – who is American, and a logical topic of discussion today. But she’s not the topic of discussion today. Instead, I’m talking about my baby. A wee girl currently dressed like the American flag, though that may be against the flag code as you’re not supposed to display it in places where it might get dirty (Edit: it did get dirty and we called some Boy Scouts to bury her outfit). Oh well, it’s one of the most reproduced images on the planet and a lot of the planet is not clean enough for a flag of ideals.

That’s the thing about America, it’s all ideals. Ideals that much of the country’s history has failed to live up to, but ideals which they keep striving towards in the understanding that if they ever manage 80% of them they will truly be the greatest country going. America represents a dream, a longing for something not of the Old World which was all dirt and war and feudalism. It was the dream of a new world that could be cleaner, more peaceful, and an ideal place for colonies that would grow spices and tobacco and such. Okay, so not all the ideals were perfect.

Very important considerations about America and her independence need to be had around slavery and the impact of the large landowners supporting the new state. Freedom for some, democracy for some, tiny American flags for everyone. But America today is at a turning point. People in America are increasingly coming to grips with their history, realising it happened, doing their best to fix it as far as possible, and moving forward as fast as possible. If there’s one absolutely defining feature of Americans it is their desire to move as quickly as possible. After all, they have a long way to go.

Raising a Small American

As it turns out, half-Scottish half-American babies are an interesting sort. She’s loud, like her mother, she’s ambitious, like me, she likes to nap sometimes, like her mother, and she doesn’t like to sleep at night but is very good when she’s finally down, like me. Our baby likes her food, like the pair of us. She quite likes her meat and even seems fairly a big fan of haggis (she’s 9-months and many think that’s too young to do meat but modern childcare practitioners tend to think it’s fine to introduce meat at 6-months and might even be quite good as it’s at that stage that many babies need a lot more iron and protein, and meat is dense in both these nutrients and in ways which is more easily accessible to the human body than vegetables). She has the energy of an American and the passion of a Scot.

Then again, she may just be a baby who I’m projecting all of these traits onto. It’s hard to guess at the potential virtues and vices of a 9-month old. Her personality is definitely far more developed than it was the last time I wrote about her but anything I could say about her would be heavily influenced by both the type of person I’d like her to grow up to be plus unconscious gender biases. Sort of like how the exact same behaviour in a boy might be called anger and in a girl stroppyness. All I can say for sure is that she’s fairly active, enjoys climbing instead of sleeping, appears to like people well enough, and has started to think the dog is hilarious. A fine piece of clay for me to mould into the greatest person who ever lived, who obviously would be half-American and half-Scottish.

More interesting is how we’re going to raise her to recognise and appreciate all sides of her nationalities. There’s lots of opportunity for American culture in Scotland because most cultural production in the English-speaking world is American. It may be actually more difficult to find distinctively Scottish books, films and music. Though there is a great culture for storytelling in Scotland and a rich literature going back a thousand years, much of that literature does not feature in education curricula. Unless there’s been a major change since I was young, most of the books are in English rather than Scots and often by writers who have set their works in England rather than Scotland. I’ve nothing against England as a concept but how can you raise someone to understand their own country if most of the stuff they’re reading is about somewhere else? There’s a reason the Scottish accent has been in decline, reducing in rhoticity (the rolled r). We’re being impact by the fact that it’s all BBC Received Pronunciation. It can have deleterious effects on the poor bairns. It can make you feel even smaller to not feel recognised anywhere. Also, apparently it makes some kids snort before speaking. We’re going to need to be very on our guard to make sure she gets enough Scottish input. This will be heavily assisted by the fact my kid book reading voice is so much broader than my regular conversation voice.

You should hear my Dr. Seuss readings.

An advantage she is definitely going to have is the fact both her mummy and daddy really dig each others cultures. After all, My Exquisite Wife lived here for a while even before she met me because she wanted to see what we’re all about. I’ve been fascinate by the American mindset probably ever since I read Sylvia Plath as it was completely different from any exposure I’d had to Americans before. Though she is a really sad girl so I hope and pray my baby grows up almost nothing like her. As well as this, my baby is the inheritor of a great Scottish-American tradition. 35 presidents have had Scottish ancestry, including Barack Obama who apparently might be related to King William the Lion of Scotland. Scots are all over American history, from the Independence to the Constitution. Both sides of the US Civil War, the Confederate flag is a Saltire for that reason, but also the Battle Hymn of the Republic has Scottish influences as it was inspired by a soldier’s song started as a joke over a Scottish soldier named John Brown. The influence is not even just from Scotland to America, a great many Americans have made Scotland their home and greatly improved our country. Sadly, they are a lot less reported on so in my research I haven’t yet found them, but if you want a laugh check out this list of all the notable Americans with even a hint of Scottishness on their Wikipedia page.

With our careful piloting, the wee baby is going to grow up to love 4th of July like her mummy because that’s a day about her country, but hopefully also like her daddy, who knows it is not his country but who can appreciate the awesome contributions the Americans have made to this planet of Earth.

The writer of this piece finds this a hot, sweaty Summer.

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.


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.