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Stirling Uni Newsletter No. 5
30 May 2004

Eight months or (260 days) or (6240 hours) since arriving at Stirling University.

Exams are finished. My courses this semester have been '3132: Computing Science II Programming and User Accessibility', '4112: Introductory Macroeconomics', and '69S2: Renaissance to Revolution: Scotland, 1513-1689'. I can say without reservation that I am not a fan of end of semester exams. They violate two of the four basic Computing Design Principles: Let the User Feel in Control and Don't Overload the User's Memory. Another design principle the whole university system seems to violate is Know Thy User. God forbid the administration should think of us as more than seat fillers in the governments' grand scheme of education. The last design principle is Try to Prevent and Fix Errors seems to be the responsibility of those least able to effect change, the students.

You can view my academic progress at see Russell's grades. The rest of the grades will be posted as soon as they become available.

I've endeavored to become involved in University life and to an extent the wider Stirling community with limited success. If you contemplate a mid life crises involving attending a distant university, you are shy and sensitive, and you have grown to rely on the emotional support of a significant other, don't do it, unless you can bring that support with you.

I've elected not to return to the USA this summer for three reasons:

1. Carole, my significant other, took the opportunity of my departure in September to end our four year relationship in November. It's mostly my fault. I was talking about wanting to live in Scotland permanently and she was not inclined or able to make that kind of commitment.

2. With apologies to MacFarlanes Company, who were essential in awakening my desire to come to Scotland, I have the opportunity to work with Alba Re-enactment & Clan Heritage Trust.

3. Scotland is not the country I was expecting. A lot has changed since my mother left Kilmarnock in 1947. A lot has changed in the UK since I left Oxfordshire in 1973. Even though I've read an inciteful book called "Stone Voices" by Neal Ascherson there is still so much to learn and so little time.

The University of Stirling was established on the Airthrey Estate in 1966, but Airthrey has existed in the historical record since 1146 when 'Atherai' is mentioned in a charter by David I, King of Scots (1124 - 1153). Airthrey used to include the western end of the Ochill Hills, the largest area of remote land in Central Scotland. Last week, on separate days, I walked to the summits of two of the hills; Dumyat (1373ft / 418m) and Ben Cleuch (2364ft / 721m).

The Ochills are just one example of what makes Scotland so dramatic. Here within an hour's drive of Edinburgh or Glasgow is an area large enough and inhospitable enough to warrant its own Mountain Rescue Post, and the Ochills are not even considered part of the Highlands.

If anyone is ever inclined to brave the trials of modern travel, given the ongoing security concerns, I would be delighted to meet you at Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Prestwick Airports and give you an intimate look at my new backyard, Scotland.

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