We Shall Resume in an Hour

Twelve things the British public are wrong about.

The Star Wars throne room minus John Williams.

Bygone photographic oddities.

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich.

The Terrible Sea Lion.

“Japanese Maple” by Clive James.

28 September 2014 · Weblog

Coincidence? I Think Not

No sooner do I post that stuff about oil than this turns up in my inbox...

Read More · 28 September 2014 · Whatever

Scraping the Barrel

It isn’t surprising that this news of potential improved oil extraction technologies is being treated as evidence of some sort of BBC plot to withhold The Truth before the referendum, but as far as Google News indicates there was no reporting of it anywhere before a few days ago, when it appeared in the oil industry magazine Offshore. Any beef about its timing is really with the team at Heriot-Watt University. But then all they’re doing is announcing a promising line of research—it isn’t as if they’re ready to press the big green button on a whole new production method.

Read More · 27 September 2014 · Politics

Exponential Crisis

Ebola makes you a risk to yourself: “Throughout my time in Sierra Leone I was plunged into a state of hyper-awareness about my own body and that of every person around me.”

Dr James Appel’s blog about his volunteer work in Liberia is sobering reading (via Mefi).

Estimating the fatality of the current outbreak: more like 80-85% than the reported 50-55%. Just as deadly as previous outbreaks, then. Surviving isn’t like tossing heads rather than tails, it’s rolling a six on the first try.

Fresh graves point to undercount of Ebola toll.

Up to 1.4 million people could be infected by January.

24 September 2014 · Events

An Untied Kingdom

Wall of St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, 17 September 2014

The day after, I don’t feel smug or triumphant or gloating or anything of the kind, I feel sad that so much passion and enthusiasm was channeled in a direction that came to nought. I personally disagreed with it, but that passion was important. Today feels anticlimactic.

Read More · 19 September 2014 · Politics

Broken-Up Britain

With the referendum only two days away, I’m writing comments on Metafilter rather than posts here, so I’m collecting today’s here before they’re instantly out-of-date. Initial quotes from other people’s comments in that thread are shown in italics.

Read More · 16 September 2014 · Politics

Spinning the Wheel

Parts of my post of a few days ago were months-old in draft, but the catalyst to finish it was this MetaFilter thread going into the final weeks of the campaign. I’ve joined the discussion there now, and written some more lengthy comments which I’ll excerpt below. But first, some links that are worth a look.

Read More · 11 September 2014 · x1 · Politics

Heart Surgery

I’ve tried a few times in recent months to write about the referendum, but have stalled each time. Joining the fray as a naturalised UK citizen feels fraught with difficulty, so like a lot of people in Scotland I’ve been keeping my head down. That tendency has been particularly noticeable here in Edinburgh, where so many residents aren’t from Scotland. For most of the year it’s killed small talk at social events.

Read More · 8 September 2014 · x8 · Politics

Doom Loops

Hoverbikes: up, up, and away.

The secret German scheme to invade America before the First World War.

A citizen’s income would make Britain fairer. I remember favouring this idea back in the 1980s, when nobody ever mentioned it; good to see it getting some traction now. [Edit: And according to the Radio 4 evening news, it’s now Green Party policy.]

The strange and curious tale of the Maine phantom.

Dramatic reading of YouTube comments from a One Direction video.

Mary Beard takes on her sexist detractors.

Crappy crappy joy joy.

Fantastic break by Röyksopp and Robyn at 1:48 in the “Sayit” video (2:28 in the song proper).

A sorry fate for one of the better long-haul airlines.

The procrastination doom loop.

Three children injured as tornado hits their tent. Poor kids. Glad we weren’t camping further south that weekend.

5 September 2014 · Weblog

Popular has been continuing steadily through 1998 and into 1999. More of the tracks are new to me now, so my comments have been getting briefer, but here are a few of the longer ones, edited and adapted.

Read More · 30 August 2014 · Music

The Not Zone

I wish I’d never read The Hot Zone, and could remain sanguine about what’s happening in West Africa. As if there hasn’t been enough bad news lately, with MH17, Gaza, Ferguson, Robin Williams’s death, and another volcano rumbling in Iceland. But even against that competition, accounts like these aren’t easy reading:

Mob destroys Ebola centre in Liberia two days after it opens.

Haunting images from Liberia.

Laurie Garrett’s grim analysis.

“Help! Help! We are drowning in the sea of Ebola.”

22 August 2014 · Events



Two weeks ago we went camping with the kids one last time before Edinburgh’s schools went back, at Camusdarach near Mallaig (which I had visited years ago with my parents to catch the ferry to Skye, before the bridge was completed further north). We were a bit late getting there because of an unanticipated traffic jam into Fort William, and because a few miles before the campsite we were flagged down by a local who told us there had just been a bad accident up ahead, with two cars on fire. For the next couple of hours we watched emergency vehicles race past while we fed the kids hot dogs from a tin for dinner and got eaten alive by midges. Driving past the scene of the accident was haunting, as it looked like one that nobody could have walked away from, but apparently three people did escape and were taken to hospital. Five minutes later and it could have been us.

We set up our tent and got to sleep, and were rewarded the next day with beautiful sunshine and a string of great beaches and dunes separated by rocky points and warm rockpools. It was breezy enough to fly our kite, but warm enough for the kids to run in and out of the sea all day.

On our second full day it rained relentlessly. We waited too long to make it worth heading home that day, so stuck it out for a third night before packing up the wet tent and driving back east. Turns out we caught the southern edge of ex-hurricane Bertha, which did a lot of damage further north. So it could have been worse.

The camping trips this summer have been fun, even though they each had a rain-to-sun ratio of about two to one. We might try to sneak in another weekend away before the weather gets too cold, although it’s felt like autumn since we got back, so that might not be long.

22 August 2014 · Journal

August 2014