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My Canadian Experience
Fergus Games

On 13th August I headed out of Chatham toward Fergus and the Fergus Highland Games. I'd slept in a bit so didn't leave until 9.30am and I figured it would take around 2.5 hours to get there.  Well it actually took 3 hours as I got lost on the way thanks to a road closure and a diversion.

I will say that road signs in Canada can be difficult to see.  For example the sign for a road I was looking for was a small green sign which I only noticed as I went by it and this was a main route, Highway 6, so would have thought it would have been better marked.  I was going by Guelph to get to Fergus but I didn't see a single sign in Kitchener for Guelph and had to stop and ask directions.

I think street signs are generally easier to find than in Scotland but main route signs and signs to nearby towns are not as clear and it is these ones you mainly need as you go across country.

Anyway... I found Fergus and took the suggested parking route which I found later took you three quarters around a square instead of straight into the town.  Parking was not too far away from the ground although it was far enough to exhaust a few of the more elderly folk that attended the clan tents so I heard later that day.

I have a full report of the games at Fergus Highland Games, Ontario, Canada, 2005.

I was delighted to find a MacIntyre tent and chatted with Bob MacIntyre who suggested I should help look after the tent next year.  In actual fact I think I might just do that as it turned out quite a few people had asked for me at the tent.

Anyway, I had a good time at the Clan Village which was the main reason for going. They had 54 clans represented which they say is the largest clan tent village in Canada.

In the vast majority of cases these are volunteers which fork out their own money to be there and that usually means at least one nights accommodation. I'm told that most Highland Games don't charge for the event but you do need to bring your own tent. At Fergus they provide you with a tent but it does cost $48.00 to be in the clan village.

The only criticism I heard was of the opening ceremony where the clans have to head into the parade ground for the ceremony.  I was told this took quite some time to get lined up for entering the ground and then you had to listen to quite a few speeches which were hard to hear with the pipers practicing in the background and then a long time to get back out of the ground.  All in all it seemed to be quite a waste of time.  Certainly I had just arrived at the Clan Village when all this was going on and found quite a few empty tents.  Perhaps something they should think about for future events.

I think there must be a case for the Scottish Studies Foundation to see if they can help the clan societies in some way.  I have some ideas and will raise them at the next board meeting.  In fact we really need to get the clan societies onto a mailing list to enable us to chat about what might be possible.

Anyway... I had an excellent time in the Clan Village and met lots of great people.

As to work.. I seem to have settled into a kind of system here in Chatham.  I usually get up around 9.30 to 10.00. Fire up my email to see what's come in overnight and usually answer any emails that don't need a lot of thought.  I then make myself a coffee and depending how I feel something to eat. It's then back to the computer and dealing with other emails that take a bit of work to answer.

I usually get in around 40 genuine emails a day and thankfully not much more in spam. I try to answer each email as it comes in or at least the same day.  That said if it's a complex email then it might take another day or so to answer it.  I also get a bit behind if I'm away for a day or two but I do try to answer all emails.  I have a system that if I can't answer the email right away then it's left in my inbox until it's dealt with so I'm always reviewing email in my inbox when I get some time.

I do get quite a few emails in commenting on an article on the site but sometimes it's very time consuming trying to find that page so I can answer the question.  I do wish people would quote the url of the page that they are discussing as things would go a lot faster. Sometimes I simply can't find the page so just respond that I am unable to comment as I can't find the article they are referring to and ask them to provide the url of the page if they wish me to give an answer.

I then start to put content up on the site for that day which can take a few hours.  I then work on other content which means lot of scanning of books either to place them up as graphics or OCR them into the site. For those that don't know OCR is Optical Character Recognition which means you put the book on the scanner then run a software program which attempts to transfer the pages into text.

I will usually spend a solid half day once a week scanning in material and then use that for the rest of the week to get it up onto the site.  In many ways it's easier and quicker to scan in pages and then OCR them from the scanned image. It also means that if I need to head away for a day or two that I have material to work with while I'm on the move.

There are some books which are just a great read and when working on those things seem to go a lot faster.  I do have the odd publication which I believe to be an excellent resource but due to small type takes a lot of work to OCR and usually these books will go slower.  The Domestic Annals of Scotland was one such set and it took me around 2 years to get it all up on the site.  I suspect the current The Scottish Nation will also take around that amount of time.  When you have to OCR a page and especially when it's a small font size there are a number of errors which need to be corrected.  Once that is done you then need to read the page to see if you can spot any other errors.  With my software I often find that the letters b and h get mixed up. Also Gealic or Latin spelling can be time consuming as I am not familiar with spelling in those languages..  Over time I've gotten better at this so at least the Scottish names are familiar to me :-)

I also like to spread out the content on the site to a mix of material.  For example Canadians might not be interested in what Scots did in the USA so won't read that. Others might not be the least bit interested in the plants of the Scottish Highlands.  For this reason I like to get a mix of material up so that hopefully each week all will find something of interest to read.

I also like to put a mix of material up to fill gaps in knowledge.  The Scottish plant book fills just such a gap and so does the Scottish song book.  I try not to duplicate material and so once I've completed all the biographies in The Scottish Nation I likely won't be looking for any more books like that and once I complete the 6 volume Scottish song book I'll figure I've given enough attention to that area.

I have the 4 volume book up on the Scot in North British America but will also be publishing a 2 volume set of The Scotsman in Canada. My main reason for doing this additional work is that it is organised by Province and so I feel will be of interest to Scots-Canadian by Province. I have a small book up about the Scots in Sweden but have come across a much larger and more serious work on Scots in Sweden which I will also publish later in the year. I have a large work on the Highland Regiments but almost no material on the Lowland Regiments so have a book on them which will also go up later in the year. I haven't done any work on the Scottish Seers so have decided to publish a book on one of them also.

I constantly look for stories of Scots settlers anywhere in the world. The hardships that settlers faced was quite immense and I feel we need to try and tell more of that story. Sometimes other works you previously hadn't considered give valuable information.  Like the book, The Scot in Argentina, was really a religious work but contained some interesting stories so I published it.  I also have the book "The Churches work abroad" which tells what they were getting up to all over the world. For the first time it gives us a wee insight into Scots in China and the Middle East.

I also have to admit that I like certain books better than others and usually when one peaks my interest it will go up faster than others as I'm enjoying the read.  Other books I feel need to go up to make the site a good resource but don't necessarily enjoy it as much on a personal basis.

Some books I've discovered can go up faster if I put them up as an image rather than OCR them. Usually these are ones with a huge number of footnotes which take ages to deal with when you want to OCR them in as text. I do prefer to OCR books as that way the text is searchable.

I also spend some time each week doing research on the web by wandering through the online antiquarian book shops. While adding books to the site I often find a reference to another book on a topic I think will be of interest to site visitors so will do a search to see if I can find a copy of it. One of the major problems with buying antiquarian books on the web is the lack of description about the contents of the book. I have always wondered how people can ask for $40 - $400 for a book and not give any description other than what the condition of the book is. In these cases you have to email the book seller to ask if they can provide further information.  I am not going to spend hundreds of dollars on pure speculation.

I am also on a few bookseller lists so when these come in I read them through to see if there is anything of interest. Mind you if I do find something of interest I will also check other online sources to see if I can purchase the book at a lower cost.

Around 2pm I'll start to feel peckish and go get myself a sandwich which I usually eat at the computer. I work through to around 5.30 when I usually stop for my evening meal and watch a bit of TV. Depending on how I am feeling and depending what the Science Fiction programs look like on TV I can watch TV through to 9.00 or perhaps not watch anything if I have a lot to do.  I then will head back to the computer for another 2 or so hours to deal with other email and to work some more on OCR'ing in more pages from the books.

I do in fact have a small TV by my computer and usually have that switched on when I start the day so I can check on the news. Once I have the half hour update I usually switch it off.  I might switch it back on later in the day to catch any updates. Essentially a lot of work I do needs concentration so I really don't like background music or anything on while I work.

I'm a bit flexible when it comes to evening hours and have been known to work through to 2am but usually I try to finish by 11pm as I like to read for a couple of hours or more before going to sleep.

The one day that is busy for me is Thursday when I do the weekly newsletter.  As well as doing everything else it usually takes around 3 hours to compile the newsletter and it gets posted up on the site around 11pm to midnight and scheduled to be sent out around 6am on Friday morning. I always complete the newsletter around 8pm but wait until around 11pm so I can have a break and then re-read the newsletter to see if it makes sense.  This way I usually catch any mistakes although as regular readers will likely notice a few still creep in :-)

I do get visitors in from time to time and it's always nice to have a chat. Some of them bring lots of material which I will then add to the site as I get the time. Usually if they are here for a while I'll be working late into the night to get caught up.

I do get in a number of emails that contain biographies of Scots in various parts of the world and I also get in books for review and sometimes even books to put up on the site.  As you likely know I also publish the Family Tree articles which are emailed to me from the Odom Library in Georgia, USA.  There is also the supervisory role I take with the Scots Independent Newspaper in Scotland and sometimes a lot of work from Ian Hudghton who is a Scots member of the European Parliament. As I manage his web site it's my job to publish any material he sends me.

I still do some consultancy work for a couple of companies and so all this needs to be fitted into the day. So on the whole I keep pretty busy. I do make a point of attending the Scottish Studies Foundation meeting in Toronto each month staying overnight.

Income for the business is from advertising and so I will spend some time on doing a sales drive from time to time.  I like to try and find businesses with good synergy with the site and right now I have a couple of interested organisations but they can't give decisions until September and so am holding back hoping to get one of them onboard. Should I not be successful then I'll be spending some days doing some selling :-)

I also take off on day visits where I can take some photographs on an area or subject.  This is where I did a photo shoot recently on Uncle Toms Cabin for example.

This week also saw my first years accounts completed for my USA company. Thankfully not a huge tax bill and so that is now paid. I have to pay tax to the Internal Revenue Service and also the State of Kentucky where the business is based although the company is actually registered in Delaware, USA.

As to domestic issues I am still waiting for my bookcases to arrive and be fitted in my library. Once that is done I will finally be able to clear my china and get my dining room into operation. I did take a few shots of a couple of sets of china...

This is one set which you'll note is black and gold on the right you'll see that there is a Japanese ladies face at the bottom of the cup

Another dragon set and again on the right you might just be able to make out the face at the bottom of the cup.

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