Archive for June, 2019

St John’s Day, 2019

June 24, 2019

A good day.

Brigitte went to Germany, and her travels all went well.

My day began with seeing Brigitte off, then going out with Lussa. A pleasant walk, not raining, Lussa returning when I threw a ball for her, behaving well – the use of the long lead really makes a difference for me not worrying about getting a puppy to return.

Then home. I’d been thinking for a little while that I’d like to get the Bb real book materials on to iGigbook on the iPad. But beyond loading the .pdf’s into the app (without an index, so I had to look at it in sequence, making me favour jazz pieces which come at the start of the alphabet), I hadn’t properly loaded them. I managed to find out how to do this: it doesn’t work quite correctly, but it’s much better than nothing. I can choose between a C and Bb version: it doesn’t quite work, as it tends to be a page or two out, but that’s (just about) playable with. This felt like a real win, making the iPad much more usable for playing with the clarinet.

Lunch with Eleanor. Good to see her, changing her work patterns in a good way for her, and we had a decent lunch, followed by very good coffee at her’s.

Home again, had another wee walk with Lussa: wandered to the station, decided I’d take a train if there was one there – liked the idea of not being planned, but just reacting to external events. And here was a train, so off to Bridge of Allan, for a coffee at Ciao. Except that Ciao is closed Mondays. But, I had a coffee instead in the Westerton, where they made a suitable fuss over Lussa. Back home again, and thought I’d look at my University Email. Normally , this its very boring, consisting of calls for papers at conferences, jobs being advertised, new journal papers near but not in my research area, and some requests for me to referee papers (which I do quite a lot of sometimes). But this time there was an email telling me that “my new mac mini had arrived”. Now, I currently run an ancient Mac Pro (2 CPU, each 4 core, 20Gb memory etc: 2007 or 2008 vintage), which won’t run the current macOS , and isn’t supported (officially) for Matlab 2019 (but it works). So when a call came round for new equipment t, I responded by requesting a new Mac – and while I’d like a new MacPro, I though that was unlikely. But I’d heard nothing further. So this was a very nice surprise.

But the best of the day was as I was preparing to take Lussa out to her class. I had a quick look at my emails, and here was one from ABRSM about my Grade 5 clarinet exam. Now, I sat it two weeks ago, and I’ve been awaiting the result. I knew I hadn’t played well, I was really nervous, and my hands got really sweaty (which they don ‘t usually)…. whatever. Anyway I’d passed, with 109/150. I was really pleased to read this! But I also really had to go out with Lussa right away…

And then the class with Lussa in Alva went well. Lussa herself seemed more relaxed (she knows all the dogs now). I mean, she didn’t behave wonderfully, and she definitely has ideas of her own, but she was good enough (and I’ll settle for a good enough dog)!

Home now: a phone call to one son who didn’t get caught in the flooding in Edinburgh, and email conversations … bedtime now.

A good day. Perhaps not exactly the weather for St. John’s day (nice enough earlier, then dreich – name recently proposed for the new Scottish currency by one Mr. Watt – and I drove through some torrential downpours and flooding), but still a good day.


two thirds of century…

June 3, 2019

Today I’m 66 and 2/3, two thirds of the way to a century (not that I expect at all to live to 100). May has been a difficult month, with three deaths: my son’s fiancĂ©’s mother and grandmother, and now my mother-in-law. Two of them were over 90 (98 in my mother-in-law’s case) but death is still sad, whatever age it occurs at.

I was thinking back to when I was 33 and third, half the age I am now. That would be Jan 3, 1986.

I was living in Blackford, Perthshire, with why daughter Eleanor, in a rather strange house on Moray Street. I had met Brigitte who would become my wife (but not till 1987), and we were having a romance by letter and the occasional (expensive!) phone call. I was hoping it would go further…

I was a young(ish) lecturer at Stirling University, very excited by being a member of the newly formed Stirling University Vision Group, with Francis Pratt, Bill Phillips, and the late Alistair Watson. Myself (a computer scientist/mathematician), an artist, a psychologist, and a physicist turned environmental scientist. We were an interdisciplinary grouping, trying to understand aspects of perception, particularly visual perception.

By the January, we had read papers by Hopfield on what became known as Hopfield Networks, by Hinton on Boltzmann machines, and (I think) a technical report on Back-propagation. No wonder we were excited!

How much has changed? Lots and little. We knew about encoder networks, and linear and non-linear projections. The machines we had were not powerful, and that limited what we could do. Still…

Teaching was in Pascal (I think…) and I introduced the communications and networks module to Stirling (I’d taught it previously at Glasgow).

People smoked in their offices. Rooms still had some lighting missing, reflecting the closeness to financial disaster that Stirling had come to in the early 1980’s.

All this seems a long time ago (it was a long time ago). I’ve married, brought up two boys, both now independent. And Eleanor has had her own wee flat in Stirling for more than a decade…And I’m now an emeritus Professor.