The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What I Love Most About My MacBook

When I got my first laptop at the end of 2007 I decided to leave Windows and venture into the world of Macintosh. I've seldom regretted that decision. Yes, there is the occasional inconvenience when this or that whatever isn't compatible with a Mac but for the great majority of the time owning a MacBook has been a dream.

I could go into all the differences between a Mac and Windows and how easy it was to learn the OSX operating system and the user interface (I hope I'm using the right terminology) but if you own a Mac you already know all that stuff and if you don't own a Mac, you don't care. Truth be told, I get a little nervous when I have to use Windows now. I'm so used to what I have that Windows has become a bit foreign to me.

All that aside, though, what I really love the most about Mac Dubh ( that's it's name...pronounced "McDoo", Gaelic for son of the black one) is the magnetic power cord. You see, Mac Dubh doesn't sit stationary on a desk. He sits on my lap, or on the couch, or on the coffee table, or wherever. So the power cord is all over the place and I can't tell you how many times over the last year and a half that I have caught it with my foot as I get up to walk away. If that little power cord were securely attached I would have killed Mac Dubh a hundred times over by now. But, as it is, when klutzy me can't lift my foot high enough to avoid the cord, it just pops right off and my little black MacBook feels nary a jolt.

I have no idea who, at Apple, came up with the idea of a magnetically attached power cord but what a fabulous feature. If it has saved my laptop so many times, then I can't be the only MacBook owner out there who has silently thanked that anonymous person, either just before or just after calling myself a dork for catching the cord....again.

Oh yeah, and Mac Dubh says thanks, too!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Craig Reads My Email

This actually happened about 3 months ago, but I was preoccupied with getting ready to leave for Berlin that week and didn't get around to posting it. Craig gets about 1000 emails a day and out of those his staff pick out a bunch that they think he might like. Then he goes through them and chooses the 3 or 4 that he likes the best. It's kind of a game with his regular viewers to see who can write an email that Craig will choose to read on the show. I have to admit I was pretty jazzed when he picked mine. I don't even mind that he mispronounced Mannheim.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beauty Comes In Many Packages

The embed for this video has been disabled on youtube, but please, copy/paste it into your browser. It brought tears to my eyes. And she's a Scot!

Hallowed Ground

I posted this last year and I'll probably post it again on this day next year. The Battle of Culloden is one of the most important events in Scottish history....

The date was the 16th of April, 1746, but the story began in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland (the only child of Mary Queen of Scots and heir of the Stuart Dynasty) ascended to the throne of England upon the death of his third cousin, Queen Elizabeth. He then became James I of England as well as James VI of Scotland, uniting the two countries under continuing Protestant rule.

The crown passed through the Stuart descendants, a mixed bag of Catholics and Protestants, for about 100 years until the Settlement Act of 1701. This Act prevented James III, the great grandson of James I from claiming the British crown in 1714 because he was Catholic. The next nearest Protestant claimant to the throne was a German from Hanover. Thus began the Hanovarian Dynasty of George I and the struggle of the Jacobites (from the Latin for James) to return the throne to the Catholic Stuart Dynasty. After a failed attempt from France by James III himself in 1715, the cause was passed to his son Charles Edward Stuart, known also as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

In 1745 Prince Charles made his move. He landed in Scotland, gathering his forces predominately from the Highlands and swept through the country on a wave of national pride coming within striking distance of London itself. Through a series of bad command decisions, though, the Highlanders eventually found themselves, on Culloden Moor, exhausted and facing the Hanovarian forces who were well rested and under the sharp command of the Duke of Cumberland, the younger son of King George II. They were outnumbered 9000 to 5000.

It was a slaughter that lasted last than an hour. Survivors were given "no quarter" and the dead were buried by the local citizens. There were too many for individual graves so the bodies were interred in mass graves according to their clan. The clan stones still stand on Culloden Moor to this day. Jacobite sympathizers were hunted down over the coming months, many of them killed or taken prisoner to be executed or transported to the colonies in America. The wearing of kilts and clan tartan were outlawed as well as the playing or possession of the bagpipes, considered not a musical instrument but an instrument of war. The Highland clan way of life that had flourished for 600 years was exterminated.

Clan stones on the moor

A visit to the Memorial at Culloden, today, feels more like a pilgrimage to those who love the Scottish Highlands and her rich history. It truly is hallowed ground. Quiet contemplation in front of each of the Clan stones (many with freshly laid flowers), looking to the top of the Memorial with it's inscription to the fallen Highlanders and imagining the ancient way of life that was crushed on that fateful day is sure to move all but the most hardened of hearts. I encourage all who visit to walk the battlelines. Begin at the line of red flag poles that represent the place where the Hanovarian troops were positioned. Look across the Moor to the blue line of the Highlanders. Then walk to the other side and look back across. Look at how boggy and uneven the ground is and try to imagine the physical struggle and confusion of a battle in such a setting. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of reverence and respect for the men who had died in the very field where we were standing. I do not exagerate when I say that we could very nearly feel their presence all around us.....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Viva La Feet!

The weather has been just beautiful lately. Spring is definitely here. But I really haven't had a chance to get out and enjoy it until yesterday. I took on a project from Conny, who is doing her PhD at the university in Berlin. She has done some interviews that she needs transcribed from audio and doesn't have the time to do it herself so she's paying me to do it. It's really tedious, boring and time consuming but the money at the end will be nice to see. I spent the better part of last week working on it and decided yesterday that I needed a break and also needed to get outside. So I put on my walking shoes. I've gotten out of the habit of my daily walks since I got here and now that the weather has gotten so nice I plan to make them a priority again.

Nikki lives in Ludwigshafen and I live in Mannheim. The two cities are only separated by the Rhein river. Then there is the Neckar which branches off the Rhein, runs through Mannheim and off to the southeast (actually I think it comes from the SE and runs into the Rhein at Mannheim). So riverside walking/biking paths are in abundance around here. They are quite pretty, well maintained and very popular. I started my walk yesterday along the Neckar and ended up several miles later in a little town called Neckarhausen. By the time I got back to my starting point I had covered about 9.5 miles and was thoroughly pooped, but in a good way.

Today I decided to go to Luisenpark for my walk. I haven't been there since Nikki and I went last October. The park is really big with outdoor cafes, fountains, boat rides, flower gardens bursting with color, several playgrounds bursting with children, large open grassy areas and endless paths that meander through it all. There is something about walking through a park on a beautiful day with an ice cream cone in your hand that just makes you feel so carefree. I don't think I walked 9 miles today but, even so, I covered a good bit of ground and felt very satisfied by the time I left the park and caught the Strassenbahn home.

I'm not sure which I enjoyed more...the river or the park. Either way, though, I have really missed my walks. I've gone meandering through the forests and the vineyards with Nikki and Bert and various other people several times since I got to Germany but those excursions have a different feel to them. They are fun and very social and usually consume the whole afternoon. On the other hand my daily walks are solitary, only take a few hours and seem to be my way of staying in touch with myself. I don't power walk; I just walk. I think it's my form of meditation. I feel better mentally and physically when I walk regularly. I had a gym membership for a while several years ago but I finally realized that it caused me more stress than it relieved. I had to force myself to go and felt guilty when I didn't! I much prefer to just put on my tennis shoes, grab my iPod and step out the front door. I don't have to make myself do it. I don't find excuses to avoid doing it and it's a whole lot cheaper than the gym!

Monday, April 6, 2009

He Just Cracks Me Up!

The Declaration of Arbroath

Anybody who saw the movie Braveheart is familiar with the Scottish patriot William Wallace. After Wallace's execution in 1305 by King Edward I of England the Scottish people rallied around their King, known as Robert the Bruce, who continued the struggle against Edward's son and English domination.

Having soundly defeated King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn after nearly 20 years of war, King Robert the Bruce and the Scottish people might have reasonably hoped to be left in peace. But the English king did not give up so easily and the Scottish Wars of Independence continued. In the propaganda war, the Scots were at a disadvantage in relation to the influential power of the Pope in Rome - he was more interested in gaining support for another Crusade to the Holy Land from the English king. The Pope had excommunicated Robert the Bruce, not unreasonably, following Bruce's murder of a rival to the throne on the altar steps of a Franciscan priory. But prompted by the English king, the Pope also excommunicated all the people of Scotland.

The Declaration of Arbroath (sometimes called the Declaration of Independence) was Scotland's response to the excommunication. It is one of the great icons of Scotland and is in the form of a letter (in Latin) to the Pope from eight earls and 31 barons of Scotland asking him in rousing terms to acknowledge Scotland as an independent nation and to reject the claims of the English king. The Declaration was ahead of its time as it sets out that the king (previously regarded as appointed by God) could be driven out if he did not uphold the freedom of the country. It later became a model for the American Declaration of Independence.

It sets out the long history of Scotland as an independent state and cleverly tries to persuade the Pope of the legitimacy of Scotland's case. It's most famous and most quoted passage is:

"For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent to subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life."

The Declaration of Arbroath is more correctly entitled "Letter of Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII". It is dated 6 April, 1320. While the original Declaration was delivered to the Pope, a contemporary copy is held in Register House, Edinburgh. The translation below of the full text is based on one published in 1689.

1320 Letter of Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII
(Declaration of Arbroath)

To our most Holy Father in Christ, and our Lord, John, by Divine Providence chief Bishop of the most holy Roman and Universal Church, your humble and devoted sons: Duncan Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and Annandale, Patrick of Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm Earl of Lennox, Wilham Earl of Ross, Magnus Earl of Caithness and Orkney, William Earl of Sutherland, Walter, Steward of Scotland, Wilham of Soulis, Butler of Scotland, James Lord of Douglas, Roger of Mowbray, David Lord of Brechin, David of Graham, Ingelram of Umfravil, John of Menteith, Guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gilbert of Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert of Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry of St Clair, John of Graham, David of Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick of Graham, John of Fenton, William of Abernethy, David of Wemyss, William Muschet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace of Maxwell, William of Ramsay, William Mowat, Allan of Moray, Donald Campbell, John Cambrun, Reginald le Cheyne, Alexander of Seton, Andrew of Leslie, Alexander of Straton, and the rest of the barons and freeholders, and whole community, of the kingdom of Scotland, send all manner of filial reverence, with devout kisses of your blessed and happy feet.

Most holy Father and Lord, we know and gather from ancient acts and records, that in every famous nation this of Scotland hath been celebrated with many praises: This nation having come from Scythia the greater, through the Tuscan Sea and the Hercules Pillars, and having for many ages taken its residence in Spain in the midst of a most fierce people, could never be brought in subjection by any people, how barbarous soever: And having removed from these parts, above 1,200 years after the coming of the Israelites out of Egypt, did by many victories and much toil obtain these parts in the West which they still possess, having expelled the Britons and entirely rooted out the Picts, notwithstanding of the frequent assaults and invasions they met with from the Norwegians, Danes, and English; And these parts and possessions they have always retained free from all manner of servitude and subjection, as ancient histories do witness.

This kingdom hath been governed by an uninterrupted succession of 113 kings, all of our own native and royal stock, without the intervening of any stranger.

The true nobility and merits of those princes and people are very remarkable, from this one consideration (though there were no other evidence for it) that the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, honoured them as it were the first (though living in the outmost ends of the earth) with a call to His most Holy Faith: Neither would our Saviour have them confirmed in the Christian Faith by any other instrument than His own first Apostle in calling (though in rank the second or third) St Andrew, the most worthy brother of the Blessed Peter, whom He would always have to be over us, as our patron or protector.

Upon the weighty consideration of these things our most Holy Fathers, your predecessors, did with many great and singular favours and privileges fence and secure this kingdom and people, as being the peculiar charge and care of the brother of St Peter; so that our nation hath hitherto lived in freedom and quietness, under their protection, till the magnificent King Edward, father to the present King of England, did under the colour of friendship and alliance, or confederacy, with innumerable oppressions infest us, who had in mind no fraud or deceit, at a time when we were without a king or head, and when the people were unacquainted with wars and invasions. It is impossible for any whose own experience hath not informed him to describe, or fully to understand, the injuries, blood and violence, the depredations and fire, the imprisonments of prelates, the burning, slaughter and robbery committed upon holy persons and religious houses, and a vast multitude of other barbarities, which that king executed on this people, without sparing of any sex or age, religion or order of men whatsoever.

But at length it pleased God, who only can heal after wounds, to restore us to liberty, from these innumerable calamities, by our most serene prince, king, and lord Robert, who, for the delivering of his people and his own rightful inheritance from the enemy's hand, did, like another Joshua or Maccabeus, most cheerfully undergo all manner of toil, fatigue, hardship, and hazard. The Divine Providence, the right of succession by the laws and customs of the kingdom (which we will defend till death) and the due and lawful consent and assent of all the people, made him our king and prince. To him we are obliged and resolved to adhere in all things, both upon the account of his right and his own merit, as being the person who hath restored the people's safety in defence of their liberties. But after all, if this prince shall leave these principles he hath so nobly pursued, and consent that we or our kingdom be subjected to the king or people of England, we will immediately endeavour to expel him, as our enemy and as the subverter both of his own and our rights, and we will make another king, who will defend our liberties: For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent to subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life.

For these reasons, most Reverend Father and Lord, We do with earnest prayers from our bended knees and hearts, beg and entreat Your Holiness that you may be pleased, with a sincere and cordial piety, to consider that with Him whose Vicar on earth you are there is no respect nor distinction of Jew nor Greek, Scots nor English, and that with a tender and fatherly eye you may look upon the calamities and straits brought upon us and the Church of God by the English; and that you may admonish and exhort the king of England (who may well rest satisfied with his own possessions, since that kingdom of old used to be sufficient for seven or more kings) to suffer us to live at peace in that narrow spot of Scotland beyond which we have no habitation, since we desire nothing but our own, and we on our part, as far as we are able with respect to our own condition, shall effectually agree to him in every thing that may procure our quiet.

It is your concernment, Most Holy Father, to interpose in this, when you see how far the violence and barbarity of the pagans is let loose to rage against Christendom for punishing of the sins of the Christians, and how much they daily encroach upon the Christian territories. And it is your interest to notice that there be no ground given for reflecting on your memory, if you should suffer any part of the Church to come under a scandal or eclipse (which we pray God may prevent) during your times. Let it therefore please Your Holiness to exhort the Christian princes not to make the wars betwixt them and their neighbours a pretext for not going to the relief of the Holy Land, since that is not the true cause of the impediment: The truer ground of it is, that they have a much nearer prospect of advantage, and far less opposition, in the subduing of their weaker neighbours. And God (who is ignorant of nothing) knows with how much cheerfulness both our king and we would go thither, if the king of England would leave us in peace, and we do hereby testify and declare it to the Vicar of Christ and to all Christendom.

But if Your Holiness shall be too credulous of the English misrepresentations, and not give firm credit to what we have said, nor desist to favour the English to our destruction, we must believe that the Most High will lay to your charge all the blood, loss of souls, and other calamities that shall follow on either hand, betwixt us and them. Your Holiness in granting our just desires will oblige us in every case where our duty shall require it, to endeavour your satisfaction, as becomes the obedient sons of the Vicar of Christ.

We commit the defence of our cause to Him who is the Sovereign King and Judge, we cast the burden of our cares upon Him, and hope for such an issue as may give strength and courage to us and bring our enemies to nothing. The Most High God long preserve your Serenity and Holiness to His Holy Church.

Given at the Monastery of Arbroath in Scotland, the sixth day of April in the year of Grace 1320, and of our said king's reign the 15th year.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Edward Update

I just read the mini-blog that Carie put up about Edward. Chipin helped her raise $435 toward his vet bill and the clinic has a charitable contribution fund that will help with the rest of it. The best news of all is that Edward went home last Monday!

Many happy years together, Carie and Edward!