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

Escape

Camusdarach

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

Wonders of Nature

The visual microphone.

Wired interviews Edward Snowden.

The Home Office’s campaign against a mother (and part two).

Ethan Hawke’s Black Album from Boyhood. The film was stunning; like watching life itself.

The Funeral with Carol Burnett and a young Robin Williams (via MeFi). Also, James on RW.

A Gun for George by Matt Holness.

Slug Solos.

Chanel’s shopping centre.

It will almost never be as bad as you think.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, together again.

If Michael Bay had directed Up.

How scientists feel about climate change.

Clive James’s retreat from this hot sun.

How the sun sees you (via io9).

How to Talk Australians (via MeFi).

The double identity of an anti-Semitic commenter.

22 August 2014 · Weblog

The Kelpies, Falkirk

The Kelpies are a pair of monumental new sculptures by Andy Scott located between Falkirk and Grangemouth, next to the M9 from Edinburgh to Stirling. I was there on Sunday with the family and took some photos of the mega-ponies in an hour of sunshine between downpours.

5 August 2014 · Journal

Into the Trees

For a middle-aged expat Tasmanian who learned to drive on a winding country road behind endless log trucks headed for Triabunna, “The Destruction of the Triabunna Mill and the Fall of Tasmania’s Woodchip Industry” was electrifying reading.

I’d missed the news about the mill being bought by wealthy environmentalists: a brilliant tactical stroke. And I’d missed the news that Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott were angling to open it again, but it didn’t surprise me. I expected the story to continue in depressing detail about how they’d pulled it off and got the log trucks rolling again, so the section on Alec Marr’s monkey-wrenching read like something out of a thriller. I’m averse to vandalism, but when the choice is between letting loggers loose again on Southern old-growth forests, or dismantling a disused mill to prevent that from happening, I know what I’d choose.

A lot of Tasmanians would gnash their teeth and talk about lost jobs, but industrial forestry hasn’t been a jobs bonanza for decades. A century ago teams of loggers used to go into those forests and haul out one giant tree at a time for sawmilling. By the 1980s, a few men with heavy machinery could knock over whole hillsides of ancient trees in one hit, and ninety percent of it, ninety percent of it, ended up as woodchips to be turned into newspaper. Or, as Abetz puts it in this article, “the woodchips are made from the leftovers”. What kind of person thinks of ninety percent of any living thing as “the leftovers”? Poachers killing rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks? Poachers need jobs too, but where is it written that they have to be those jobs?

Read More · 30 July 2014 · Politics

Potato Beans

Taming overlooked wild plants to feed the world.

Five ways that Seinfeld changed television.

How classic Seinfeld episodes were written.

Krieg der Sterne am Flughafen.

Graham Linehan tweets the Running of the Bulls.

Richard Linklater reviews his films.

UK authors’ incomes collapse.

Maps of an alternate North America.

Photographs inspired by kids’ nightmares.

SF writer Greg Benford on terraforming the moon.

SF writers predicted the Ukraine conflict; now they’re fighting it.

Photographs of Chernobyl post-accident.

Ohio replaces lethal injection with humane new head-ripping-off machine.

30 July 2014 · Weblog

Sanity

Sanna Beach, Ardnamurchan Peninsula, 13 July 2014

I’ve been stuck in the office for a lot of Scotland’s recent warm weather, but have been taking some days off here and there to go camping with my family. After a trial night in the woods in June (to see how our three-year-old daughter liked it), a couple of weekends ago we went to the Ardnamurchan Campsite at Kilchoan, driving through mist and rain on single-track roads to get there. We had one afternoon of sunshine the next day, when we crossed the crater of an extinct volcano to reach one of the best beaches I’ve seen in Scotland yet, next to the crofting village of Sanna. Here’s one photo of the many I took that afternoon while the unexpected sun went to work on our unsuspecting skin (mouseover for another).

We’re heading back west before the end of the school holidays for a final summer camping trip, so there will be more sandy photos to come.

23 July 2014 · Journal

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the Floating World

My recent forays into 35mm scanning have been taking me back to one of the major trips of my youth, starting with eight days our family spent in Japan at the end of 1985. I’ve actually written about that trip here already, when I wrote at length about my second visit in 2006. While getting a collection of these older pictures together for yet another photo gallery, I thought about adding some extended passages from my diary of the trip to complement that later account. But the diary entries are a whole different animal, full of the wide-eyed innocence of an almost-adult in a very foreign land, interspersed with accounts of sibling squabbles and teenage concerns. So a few extracts will suffice.

Read More · 8 July 2014 · Memory

The Big Cask

Once in every lifetime.

Believe it or not, Pete isn’t at home...

People can’t really multitask, except for these people.

Why you’re (probably) not a great communicator.

How not to say the wrong thing.

You are the best thing in the world.

Another breakthrough in solar panel manufacture.

Goebbels handpicked the perfect Aryan baby, not knowing she was a Jew.

Cory Doctorow précises Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

XKCD précises the land mass of the solar system.

Drinkies.

4 July 2014 · Weblog

Was Blocked (Not Blocked)

The Open Rights Group Blocked project has found that one in five sites are blocked in Britain by web filters put in place by one or more ISPs in response to government hyperventilation. When I checked on Wednesday, MetaFilter, Freaky Trigger and this very site were all blocked by TalkTalk, which would have killed half of my web reading and writing if we’d switched to them as we’d been considering. It looked almost as if TalkTalk were blocking all blogs by default, which seemed insane. They’re showing as okay now, so maybe they’ve been scrambling to fix things behind the scenes.

Maybe they didn’t like this ancient page of mine about how filters are fundamentally broken.

4 July 2014 · Infotech

Tasmania ’82

After cleaning up their dust specks and scratches in Photoshop, I’ve now added a gallery of my earliest black-and-white photos to Detail. Camping trips on the coast, day walks in the bush, ferries out to islands, and our quiet country town: this was my world at age fourteen.

Read More · 24 June 2014 · Memory

June 2014