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6th December 2014 Athens Protests

Yesterday saw large protests in the Greek capital of Athens to commemorate the death of a 15 year old boy named Alexis Grigoropoulos at the hands of Greek police in 2008. This year has extra significance due to the hunger strike of Nikos Romanos, who was there when Griogoropoulos was killed.

There was meant to be a gathering from 12 noon outside the University of Athens, so we headed in to see what would happen. The police had already banned demonstrations in a large portion of the city centre for the visit of the Turkish Prime minister; something that was set to end at 3pm.

When we turned up, nothing was really happening. Lots of people were gathered around the University, but there was no chanting or people grouped together; nobody addressing the crowd or anything like that. There were a few banners here and there, but it was a sunny day, and largely people were just sitting around drinking coffee.

We hung around for a while and decided to go and get something to eat and drink and come back a bit later when there was due to be a march from the University to the neighbourhood of Exarcheia, via Syntagma Square.

Despite there reportedly being around 8000 police deployed in the city, their presence was far lower key than it has been on previous occasions. For a day where they expected a lot more trouble, there didn’t seem to be as many on them about as usual – especially considering that there was roughly one member of the police for every protestor.

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There were a few on street corners, but mainly to close off particular areas and re-direct traffic. That wasn’t always successful as the Greeks don’t like to be told what to do – including not to drive down a particular road.

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It wasn’t clear exactly what they were trying to achieve, as they closed one road off first, and then moved it to the next one. It also wasn’t clear whether the tape they were using to mark the streets was tied to a car they owned, or just one that happened to be parked there at the time.

We headed back up towards the University after 6pm, and things seemed like they were amping up to get ready to move off. We ducked into a nearby bar to get a drink and use their bathroom. Pretty soon after, we head the chanting a street over as people marched past, with fully clad riot police running alongside the side streets. Then came the sound of smashes, and bangs – with the owner of the bar telling us: “They’re smashing up the old Parliament. What’s the point? If they go down the street they’ll find the real enemies.”

We headed back out to see for ourselves for what was going on, and found the street in a sad state of disrepair, with bus shelters and shop windows smashed up, and bins on fire. The police (or fire brigade – it’s hard to tell) weren’t far behind with miniature extinguishers.

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We tagged onto the tail end of the march, but didn’t get too far before both the police and some of the protestors told us to stop taking pictures. This isn’t something I would usually ever comply with, but given the intense atmosphere, and us as foreigners, we thought it wise to do so. All around us there were people with masks smashing up the fronts of windows, or dragging away large plant plots to break into pieces. They were definitely in the minority though, with plenty of both older and younger people simply marching peacefully along, or watching from the sidelines.

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A few seconds later we heard a few huge bangs come from just behind us, and saw people start to run. The police had thrown flashbang grenades and tear gas in retaliation to what looked like water bottles or small stones that had been thrown at them. This quickly escalated, and you can see exactly where we were in the opening scenes of the video below. Watch out for the police punching an already handcuffed man in the face.

We took our leave at this point, with the march heading onwards to Exarcheia. Reports are that the use of the force by the police continued, predictably – with both water cannon, and the liberal use of both tear gas and flashbangs. I’m not sure how any police force can ever justify using chemicals or military tactics so brazenly in a residential area.

As we walked back to Syntagma, we passed more destruction, with steps and shops all smashed up.

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I’m really not sure what destroying shops or steps is supposed to achieve, and whilst I completely support direct action, I’m completely against the destruction of the city that you live in to make a political point. Many activists online have decried these actions, circulating videos that apparently show a few hundred masked, undercover police emerging from the crowd and going behind police lines. It wouldn’t be the first time that the police have infiltrated marches and provoked violence to discredit, or give an excuse to move in with force, so it’s hard to know exactly what the truth is.

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Athens once again lies smashed up, in a country where finances are already beyond strained. Today, the Greek Government are set to vote on a controversial new austerity budget in an attempt to appease the European Union, with further demonstrations planned. We can only hope that things won’t go like they did yesterday.

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17th November 2014 Protests, Athens

This is What’s Happening in Greece Right Now

You might not have heard, but thousands of people have been taking to the streets of Greece over the past few weeks.

Despite the impact of the economic crash on the country initially garnering significant media attention, the longer lasting effects have not seen the same level of interest.

Passionate demonstrations are not out of the ordinary in Greece, but this year they have been particularly heated. The cooler weather in November has also brought with it a series of events that have heightened the tension in an already troubled corner of the European Union.

Students in Athens have already faced a number of conflicts with the authorities, one of which was over attempts to mark the anniversary of the 1973 uprising against the military dictatorship. (Some pictures available here) Already fraught relationships with the police have deteriorated even further, through aggression and the liberal use of force. Protesters have been met with tear gas, stun grenades, and claims of ‘thuggish’ behaviour against dissenters.

This weekend sees the culmination of a number of factors which could result in a terrible perfect storm.

  • Friday 5th December sees a State visit by the Turkish Prime Minister, in amongst political controversy over Turkish actions in the Aegean.
  • Greek police have reportedly imposed a ban on ‘outdoor gatherings and demonstrations’ from 3pm on Friday to the same time the following day.
  • Saturday 6th December marks the six year anniversary of the fatal shooting of 15 year old student Alexis Grigoropoulos, which sparked huge riots across the country in 2008.
  • A friend of Grigoropoulos who was with him at the time – Nikos Romanos – is currently imprisoned and has been on hunger strike for around 25 days. Thousands of people have already taken to the streets just days ago to show solidarity, with violence erupting afterwards.
  • Syrian refugees have been camped outside of the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square for over a week, engaged in a hunger strike to gain political recognition from the Government.
  • The Greek Parliament is set to decide on a contentious new budget for 2015 on Sunday

Greece is already sitting on a social powder-keg, with increasing pressure from the EU to implement further austerity measures despite sky high unemployment rates. It could be that the aggregation will spill over into violence, despite the thousands of police set to be deployed. Hopefully this won’t be the case.

Edit: You should be sure to read this thoughtful comment from Maria, below.

Smith Commission Burning: Whit an Embarassment

The latest controversy to hit Scottish politics is a video showing some SNP councillors in Renfrewshire burning a copy of the Smith Commission report. Yup, it seems ridiculous even typing out the words.

Acting like some sort of idiotic school children, the councillors in question fumbled around outside of Renfrewshire House building to burn a copy of the report, declaring:

This is what we think about it. No real powers for Scotland again from Westminster. […] There you go Gordon Brown, cheers.

Before signing off with ‘Happy St. Andrews Day’.

The video was on Youtube, which the BBC have now grabbed and put on their site here, should you want to watch it. Personally, I wouldn’t bother. It’s embarrassing for anybody frankly, irrespective of what political affiliations they might have. To be honest, it shouldn’t come of all that much of a shock that councillors are acting like complete muppets; I thought that was par for the course in local government.

The reaction from both sides to this scandal has been revulsive.

Jim Murphy, ever desperate to be seen as a master orator decried the stunt on Twitter:

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I’m not really sure what video he watched, since the twits couldn’t even light the bloody thing properly, so to say that it was torched is a bit of a leap. None the less, this response is patronising bullshit from a man who has divided his own party, and stood on a crate on streets around Scotland literally shouting in the face of people who disagreed with him. Platitudes like ‘Surely it’s time for Scotland to unite.’ simply betray the lack of concern or understanding for the actual political landscape in Scotland. The actions of a few morons do not equate to the position of the SNP, and it’s both boring and disingenuous to bring them together in such a way. They were suspended, for what it’s worth.

Another tweet doing the rounds came from Jenny Marra MSP (Labour):

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Leaving aside the use of the ridiculous term ‘The Vow’, which sounds as if it is the name of some daytime reality TV show, there’s no question that she’s right on one thing: the whole burning situation was both idiotic, and embarrassing.

What I find equally embarrassing though, is the idea that somehow the commitment set up by Gordon Brown was ‘promised, voted for and delivered’. What was promised is nowhere near what has been proposed in the Smith Commission (more detailed reading of what’s included is here), and then there’s that key word… proposed. The recommendations in the report will not be ‘delivered’ unless the UK Parliament votes to accept them, and it’s been made clear that that won’t happen until after the next General Election, if it happens at all.

The idea that everything is now fine and that politicians kept their promises and we should get back in our box and stop complaining is not just ludicrous, but insulting. Even if you think that the Smith Commission has been fantastic, and that control over road signs is the apex of devolution, it’s unthinkable that you would consider it to be ‘delivered’ until it’s signed into law.

I responded to the retweet of the above from aspiring Labour party candidate and solicitor Cat Headley to query the above. Instead of a reasoned, articulated response that one might expect, instead she chose to attack me directly – saying that I knew nothing about politics.

It boggles the mind that politicians are so blindsided by tribalism that they will dismiss people who question their statements, or query their position as nothing more than diddies that don’t know what the grown-ups are talking about anyway. Such staggering arrogance is precisely why people are fed up with the entitled attitude towards issues taken by those in political parties. The sooner this contemptuous notion is stamped out, the better.

Of course, stupid begets stupid. In response to the Jim Murphy’s comments, and the ludicrous idea that ‘The Vow’ has been delivered (‘something near to federalism’, remember?), elements of the other side have gone on the offensive.

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This is in reference to the Labour Party’s decision to lead the UK into war in Iraq under dubious (and illegal) circumstances – specifically in relation to Jim Murphy’s support.

There’s been a lot of this floating about, and it’s quite simply a dumb response. One does not dismiss a stupid decision made by one group by upping the ante and equating it literally to another tragic political decision in this manner. It’s petty, lazy, and smacks of die hard factionalism. Frankly, if anything is offensive, it isn’t the burning of the Smith Commission report in the bin, it’s the comparison between Jim Murphy’s idiotic words and a war which has resulted in the loss of an inestimable amount of lives.

The words of Jenny Marra are correct: This incident, and the approach from all sides has been an embarrassment to the Scottish people. Not because of real debates that are being had, but because of the blatant spin, arrogance, and political opportunism demonstrated by all sides in response.

Get a grip.

 

The Smith Commission Report

Today saw the release of the report from the ‘Smith Commission’, which was set up in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum to discuss the devolving of greater powers to Scotland.

This was the result of last minute promises (or ‘the vow’) from the main party leaders in Westminster, in the face of polls that showed a majority of support for Scottish independence.

The vow, and the Commission itself is shrouded in politics and controversy, but I’ve taken a look through the decisions in the report to see for myself what stands out. I’ve tried to take them at face value with my lawyer hat on, rather than look at any of them from an ideological standpoint that supports independence.

Here’s what I’ve found:

The Scottish Parliament

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 13.37.37This is a bit of a strange one. Designed to assuage fears that Westminster would dissolve the Scottish Parliament at a whim, it’s nothing more than a symbolic statement. Whilst it’s true that Westminster could theoretically disband the Scottish Parliament (as it is nothing more than a creature of statute), its existence was already guaranteed as much as it could be by constitutional convention. Even with new UK legislation to state the supposed permanence, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty dictates that the decisions of one parliament are unable to bind any other – so it doesn’t bring much to the table that wasn’t already there.

Elections

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This is good news, with the parties looking to bring these changes in in time to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections. Note that whilst this is a great progressive step that corrects some inconsistencies with our approach to the age of consent in Scotland, the same 16 and 17 year olds will not be able to vote in Westminster elections until they reach 18.

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Foreign Policy

Foreign policy remains reserved to Westminster, which isn’t a great shock really. What’s more interesting is the weak approach to the UK’s involvement with the European Union. When a matter relates to Scotland, the Scottish Ministers views should be ‘taken into account’. We all know what that really means.

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Interesting, but nothing to write home about. No mention of the license fee, or any other substantive elements of broadcasting in Scotland. Pretty weak, and something that should have really always been the case.

Pensions

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Remain with Westminster.

Benefits

Elements of some benefits payments – such as the creation of new benefits – is being given to Scotland. However, a large number of these remain reserved to Westminster. It’s an area that’s relatively long, and not one I claim to have any great knowledge over, so I’ll defer to others for analysis here.

Minimum Wage

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Stays under the control of Westminster. Can’t have Scotland paying a higher minimum wage than the rest of the UK after all, that would be scandalous. Worth noting that Labour were against giving the Scottish Parliament the power to introduce a living wage. Party of the people, indeed.

Equality Act 2010

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Reserved to Westminster. Whilst it’s important to ensure that Scotland wouldn’t slip below the standards set out in the Equality Act 2010, that seems less of a plausible threat than future Tory governments in London doing the same thing. On balance, I don’t see why this should remain a reserved matter.

Transport

Nothing all that notable here, with the exception of one massive devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament of course:

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Ahem.

Fracking

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A bit of a surprise one, given the economic importance of fracking. The powers relating to this will now lie with the Scottish Government. I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this though. Watch this space.

Misc.

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Good, but… bizarre.

Income Tax

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This one has received a lot of press attention, but it seems to be a case of wilful blindness to what the powers actually entail.

  • Income tax will continue to exist across the UK
  • The Scottish Parliament will have powers to vary the rate of income tax
  • Any income tax received as the result of an adjustment by the Scottish Parliament will go to the Scottish Parliament

BUT, note the point at the end of 78: that any increase in the amount of money collected through income tax will be met by a ‘corresponding adjustment’ to the amount of money that Scotland receives through the UK. That means that changes to the income tax levels won’t have any real effect on the actual amount of money Scotland gets. This is a clever way to give the impression of the Scottish Parliament getting more powers, whilst making sure they are toothless with regards to delivering any change.

Other Tax

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Pretty much all reserved to Westminster, with the exception of Air Passenger Duty. Note that this includes oil and gas revenues. No big shocker there.

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The costs of implementation of a separate system would have to be passed back to Westminster, making it a fairly unattractive power to implement.

There are also some changes to VAT, where Scotland will apparently generate income from the first part of any collection, but again this corresponds to a reduction in the amount received from the UK block grant, so it’s not worth even paying any attention to.

Fuel

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You guessed it!

Summary

I felt pretty good about the results of the Smith Commission when I read the brief reports coming from elsewhere. I dismissed the cynicism I saw from other pro-independence campaigners as inevitable. However, reading through the report for myself is pretty disappointing.

  • No real new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament
  • A couple of minor victories with regards to 16 and 17 year olds voting in Scottish Parliamentary elections
  • Some symbolic language, which doesn’t give any further legal status to the devolved organs
  • Headline suitable devolutions of certain taxes, which won’t result in any increase in the Scottish Parliament’s budget

The last one is the most galling of all. It means that even if they make use of the powers to modify the rate of income tax, the Scottish Parliament won’t actually receive any more money. Rather, it’s the source of the money that will change, rather than any powers over the level. This is a sham designed to deliver good headlines.

Of course, none of this is binding. Westminster still needs to accept the recommendations, which could be another interesting battle.

You can download the report for yourself here. It’s not too long – only 28 pages. Worth a read for yourself.

 

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Facebook’s Real Name Policy is Back

Facebook have pushed ahead with the enforcement of their ‘real name’ policy, which requires users to use their real, or ‘authentic’ name.

This comes after a previous attempt stalled, following an uproar from the community which forced Facebook to give a rare apology.

Here’s the gist of the requirements:

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/help/112146705538576

Sounds fair enough on the surface of it, and gives enough room for interpretation to allow aliases or nicknames – precisely what appeased the criticisms from last time. However, the practical implementation seems quite different.

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Again, these additional requirements don’t seem too restrictive. If anything, they seem fairly flexible, whilst retaining some sort of continuity. However, the practical implementation has been completely different.

Today, there have been reports that users have been locked out of their accounts, after Facebook has deemed their names to not be ‘authentic’ enough. This included a determination that the name ‘Daz’ (a common offshoot of Darren) was not acceptable, and ‘Nikki’ should be changed to ‘Nicola’ – despite the insistence that shortened nicknames (like ‘Bob’ in the case of Robert) are fine.

Now comes the kicker. In order to get back into your account, you either need to provide a ‘real’ name, or some sort of ‘acceptable identification’ to prove that you are known by the name or alias you had beforehand.

Let’s take a look at what the acceptable forms of identification are, according to Facebook:

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Uhm, sorry… what? Despite their warning that you should be sure to blank out any other personal information, there is no reason in hell that anybody should ever be giving copies of the above documents to Facebook. The idea that this would ever be requested is completely ridiculous. If Facebook demanded I send a copy of my passport – redacted or otherwise – then they would be politely told where to shove it.

But hey! Should you not wish to share such an important piece of sensitive ID with a social network based in a different country, you have another option. You can provide two bits of ID from the following list:

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This just becomes more ludicrous. Here’s why:

  • There is no way for Facebook to verify any of the above properly.
  • All of this ‘evidence’ can easily be doctored by any muppet.
  • Even if you are known by a certain name in your everyday life, you won’t have that alias on official documents that require your legal name. In which case, how on earth are you meant to prove the existence of a nickname?
  • WTF is a ‘permit’ anyway?

There are plenty of reasons why people would legitimately want to avoid using their full, legal name online (those in teaching, or the health service, or…); those who have already lost the ability to remain hidden in searches thanks to previous changes, with the process to use a nickname or alias instead verging on the impossible. But there’s something far more fundamental here: That it’s absolutely fuck all to do with Facebook what name you choose to go by. Making determinations about what is and isn’t ‘authentic’ is evidence of an organisation that has no concern for its users other than its own commercial interests.

We need to find a better way to communicate than this by using this lot.

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One Year at Automattic

Today marks one year on since I officially started working at Automattic, and it’s something of a tradition for Automatticians (or a12s as we affectionately refer to each other) to write up an anniversary post. I say ‘officially’, as technically it’s been well over a year. Each employee goes through a trial period as a contractor first, which was then extended further in my case by the relatively long notice period required in the UK. For the purposes of this commemorative post though, we’ll just go with it being a year.

Initially I wasn’t sure I would write anything at all. Why should anybody else care about my work anniversary? The more I thought about it though, the more I realised just how much had changed in the past 12 months, and how crazy it was that I even got the job in the first place. As more than one wise colleague told me back when I was hired: the first 6 months are a bit like ‘walking on air’, and it isn’t till you’ve been around for a bit longer that you settle into things properly. It makes sense to pause and take stock, rather than continue to let things hurtle by.

A lot has happened in the past year.

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The most visible thing (and annoying to everybody else who knows me probably) has been the amount of travel that I’ve been able to do. This is partly for work, and partly because of work; a result of the flexible schedules that we are incredibly lucky to enjoy.

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I’ve been to San Francisco: the spiritual home for a lot of the online platforms we use today. The trip was both to meet colleagues, and also to check out the unbelievably cool WordPress.com HQ in person. I hadn’t seen my fiancee Grace in over a year, and Ingrid suggested I fly via Denver so we could be reunited for a week or so beforehand. Where else would do something like that?

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I’ve also spent time in Hawaii with the forums squad…

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Drank rum and swam with turtles in Barbados

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Explored temples and had rooftop BBQs in Mexico

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Met up with friends in LA, drank whisky and headed to the beach during a 9 hour layover

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Was reunited with the city of Chicago for a tech conference

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Got the chance to live in Greece for a bit

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and visit my family in Amsterdam

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As well as that, I got to spend time showing Grace Scotland. This included discovering parts that even I hadn’t been to before… like Islay, the home of whisky.

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Fife…

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Edinburgh…

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Oban, Iona, and Staffa

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And we spent a lot of time south of the border in England as well… going away with friends to cottages in the Lake District to eat cheese and drink wine.

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or to take last minute trips to Liverpool to sort out the whole fankle that is the UK immigration process.

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I even had the chance to play host in my home city of Glasgow, combining work with pleasure (though the two seem hard to distinguish nowadays).

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Whilst the travel itself is amazing (and trust me, I know how lucky I am), it’s really the freedom that makes it possible in the first place that’s the most liberating part.

Without having to worry about budgeting my annual leave throughout the year, I can take time to go and visit friends or family – no matter where they are in the world. I can visit places that I would never have wanted to sacrifice my time off for before, because now I can always chuck my laptop in my bag and find a pub with WiFi to work from. This is especially true when it comes to discovering and re-discovering parts of my own country.

Then there’s personal life. I got engaged to a beautiful American girl almost two years ago, and it’s been a long and difficult process to finally get to be together. As you might imagine, moving away from her homeland to a strange place was difficult enough, but it would have been 100 times worse if we weren’t able to spend the amount of time together that we have, thanks to working remotely. We’ve been in the best possible position that we could have hoped for, thanks to getting a job with Automattic.

It’s not just the ‘where’ though, but the when as well.

Rather than meet the challenge of a small company spread out across the globe with more tightly controlled appointments, the opposite is true. There are no restrictions on the times I work at all, with the exception of a weekly team chat for an hour at a time… and even that’s up for negotiation.

My own schedule is… almost non-existent. Rather than squashing my time into a set frame five days a week, I spread out my hours and adapt to what feels right. Instead of forcing myself to sleep at 4am and having to get up three hours later to get ready to catch a bus, I wake when it feels natural. The removal of the pressure to be somewhere at a certain time (not to mention being presentable) has meant that for the first time in my life I actually sleep about 8 hours a night, rather than the 4 I always used to.

One of the consequences is that weekends are becoming less defined as time goes on. It’s common to not just forget what day it is, but also to lose connection with the feeling that that day should have. There’s no downer on a Monday, or excitement on a Friday, for example. Going back to work isn’t a chore, and Monday isn’t even really the start of a week any longer. Working when you are most productive means you might work 13 hours on a Thursday, 4 on a Friday, 5 on a Saturday, and 7 on a Sunday, so the whole structure of life begins to lose the meaning that it was previously infused with.

This doesn’t work for everybody, but it does for me.

For the past year, it’s felt like I’ve really lived, rather than just living to work.

Then there’s the actual work itself.

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Every day I work with software that both myself and a large chunk of the web rely on for our websites. My team in particular fight to defend freedom of speech; protecting our users from censorship, and highlighting when companies try and abuse their position on the web. It’s something I’m very proud to be a part of.

To top it all off, I can count some incredibly smart and hard-working people both as co-workers and friends.

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Something that has really hit home over the past year is that if you want to achieve something, you’re the one who has to make it happen. More than a platitude: you can’t sit around and expect things to drop into your lap, or put decisions off until you are 100% ready; you have to just go for it.

Here’s to many more years. If you’re like minded, there’s all sorts of cool open positions with Automattic here.

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Scots Words

The Scots language. Something that comes naturally to us, but completely bewilders others when they hear us speak.

Lots of people (including many Scots) don’t realise that ‘Scots’ is a distinctly separate entity from English – more than just an accent or regional dialect. Just like many languages, there are types that vary both in level and in the time period that they are from. Ancient Greek differs substantially from the Greek that they speak in Athens today, for example. Acts of the first Scottish Parliament were in Auld Scots, and it was something that I had to read as part of my degree.

Licensed under CC, by demis.nl, via Wikipedia.
Licensed under CC, by demis.nl, via Wikipedia.

Unlike back then, the Scots we speak today is irrevocably tied up in English. The roots of many words are the same or similar, and it’s overwhelmingly a spoken language rather than one that would be written down. I’d be hard pressed to even spell half of the things correctly, and there’s no real formal standardisation that I’m aware of.

As I read recently, it’s probably the case that Scots speak a mash of Scots to each other, but English to others, automatically. It’s why it feels so good to chat to a fellow Scot when you’ve been abroad for a while… The patterns and words you use are completely different when you know the other person will understand you. If you’re not convinced, get even the most ‘well-spoken’ Glaswegian drunk with a group of pals and you’ll see how quickly things change.

That said, a lot of the words seem to fall out of common parlance, especially amongst those that consider themselves to be middle class, or who go through higher education. If you are constantly measured by your ability to use precise (and correct) language – whether in academia, personal life, or an increasingly globalised workplace – Scots gets pushed to the back of your mind. Some words are dismissed (wrongly) as being nothing more than an accent, or as an improper bastardisation of English… like ‘hoose’, ‘heid’, ‘widnae’, ‘naw’, ‘aye’, or ‘haun’…  whilst others simply become a chore to have to explain to people.

For me, having spent a lot of time out of Scotland over the past year, and even more time around non Scots, I’ve found myself wondering about these words; the words that I remember fondly from when I was younger. Scots words often fill gaps where English just can’t adequately express how you feel at certain times, and often have a deep emotional connection as a result. The more I am away from home, the more maintaining a cultural connection is important, and the more I want to make sure these words don’t just slip away.

So, as a result, I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to bring more Scots back into my everyday vocabulary. Part of the whole problem has been that because these words just seem so natural, it’s not always easy to identify which words are actually Scots… or until you realise that you have been avoiding them instinctively around people who won’t be familiar with them.

To help jog the memory, I’ve started reading some books that are written in varying degrees of Scots, and been noting down some of the words that I remember and want to use more. I’ve listed them below, but haven’t bothered with those that are obvious due to their proximity to English, or that are widely known outside of Scotland (wee for small, gie for give, etc).

The definitions are my own. You should know that by their nature it’s hard to articulate exactly the feelings behind the words, or when you would use them, but it should give a good idea.

Birl – Spin around. Like ‘geez a birly‘ – where an adult would pick up a kid by the arms and spin them around really fast. Or when you are birling around at a ceilidh – a traditional Scottish party.

Close enough.
Close enough.

Bosie – This is really a Doric word – a dialect of Scots used in the North East of the country, so not all that common down in Glasgow where I’m from. However, it’s such a great word that I’d be a dafty not to include it. Imagine a hug. Nice, aye? Now imagine having one of your favourite people in the world wrap you up in their arms whilst wearing a huge fleece jumper. That’s a bosie. Warm, safe, and affectionate; the best kind of hug you’ll ever get.

This is as close as I could find to visually represent what a bosie feels like.
A bit like this.

Breeks – Trousers. ‘Yer breeks are fallin’ doon!‘.

Canny – Careful, smart, cunning. Being clever about how you act. ‘He was aye canny wae how he spent his cash.‘ Like him or not, Alex Salmond was often described as being a canny politician, due to the clever strategies he used to get what he really wanted from the Westminster Government.

Clype – To tell on somebody/dob them in/snitch on them. Both the act and the person. ‘Don’t clype on yer brother‘, or ‘she’s a wee clype‘. Not a good thing.

Coorie – Cuddle up, snuggle in. A warm, affectionate word. I associate this with a mouse coorying in to blankets for some reason. ‘Come here and coorie in tae me‘. Should note that this isn’t a sexual thing.

Crabbit – This is fairly well known, but it’s still great. It means to be in a bad (or ‘crabby’) mood. ‘Stoap bein so crabbit‘, ‘he’s just a crabbit faced git‘.

Dreep – Means ‘drip’, but I always knew this in relation to a certain way of lowering yourself down off of a wall, to avoid hurting yourself. You’d ‘dreep’ down till you were hanging off by your fingers to reduce the distance to the bottom from your feet. ‘Ahll huv tae dreep ower it‘.

Dreich – This is a great word, which gets used a lot. Probably unsurprisingly, given what it refers to. It describes the weather, and is for when it’s raining, but more than that; painting a picture of a day where it seems like everything is grey: the sky, the buildings… everything.

Dreich
Dreich

Drookit – Soaking wet. Completely drenched. Almost always due to the rain, or if it’s snowed and then melted… Usually in reference to your clothes when you literally couldn’t be any wetter.

Fankle – All tied up in a knot, like a tangled mess. ‘The cord’s aw fanklet‘.

Gallus – Daring, confident, bold, cheeky. I always imagine somebody doing something with a knowing grin on their face. It’s usually used in a positive rather than negative way. Being gallus isn’t a bad thing. Even if somebody is a bit of a ‘gallus prick‘. My pal Kerry loves this word.

Guddle – A mess. ‘He’s got himself aw in a guddle‘.

Keich – Not to be confused with the egg pie ‘quiche’, although if you dislike quiche, you could well describe it as keich. Keich means crap. ‘Hahahah you’ve got bird keich on ye!‘.

Quiche. Picture licensed under CC. By Micah Elizabeth Scott.
Quiche, not keich. Picture licensed under CC. By Micah Elizabeth Scott.

Lug – Ear. Often heard when a parent is threatening to give their kid a smack for doing something cheeky. ‘I’m gonnae skelp yer lug!‘.

Scunnered – Completely fed up, done in. When you’ve had enough and can’t be bothered with something or someone anymore. This word is great for when you’re really at the end of your tether, and nothing else quite expresses it adequately.

Swatch – If you hear something akin to ‘Haw, geez a swatch!‘ whilst traversing the streets of Glasgow, never fear. It does not mean that the other party wants to nick your over-priced designer watch from you. Rather, it means they want to have a look at whatever you’re looking at at the time.

Overpriced watches. Picture licensed under CC, by choo chin nian
Overpriced watches. Picture licensed under CC. By choo chin nian

Wheech – Onamatopaeic, in that it sounds like what it is when you say it. The only way I can explain this is through an example: ‘Just wheech it over the wall. Naebdae’ll know!‘.

Wheesht – A command to be quiet, to shooosht. When somebody keeps talking after you’ve said to stop, it’d be fair do’s to say: ‘Wheesht!‘. Also used in different ways though, like to tell someone to ‘Haud yer wheesht.’

There’s endless amounts more, but these are some of the best. If you’re Scottish, we should definitely make more of an effort to retain these words. Don’t be a walloper; they’re too expressive to let go.

For a bit more on Scots, check out this great post.