An Untied Kingdom

Yes
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I’m writing comments on Metafilter rather than posts here, so I’m collecting today’s here before they’re instantly out-of-date.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

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

July 2014