Thursday, 31 July 2003


[net culture] Coudal threw out the ball, I batted it back, and before long it turned into the most fun we've had on MetaFilter in ages. I'd already seen BlogStop, the group weblog where each entry takes the last word of the previous one as its acronym, but the MeFi thread easily surpasses it, because it reads more easily as a thread than as a series of reverse-chronological blog posts, and there's so many of us playing you have to be blindingly fast to keep up. I was glad, too, that people ran with the early attempts to make each post part of a proper meta-conversation about the act of posting, the nature of MetaFilter, and so on; far more fun (and challenging) than just plonking down nonsense words.

The thread's getting hard to follow, though, because too many players can't resist adding their entries even though someone else got in first—or they miss them on preview—leading to confusion about which last word is currently 'on'. But I can understand the impulse to post and be damned; I've ended up with a long list of entries I sadly had to abandon:

So, only piddling, halting issuances should the readers yield? ¶ Help, every latest issuance cancels others! Prefer to emit really slowly. ¶ Right, each cancels (usually rapidly) something in one's noodle. ¶ Not each addition terminates lightly, yes? ¶ Yet our urbane riffs shine ever longer, friend. ¶ No other time in one's notebook, sorry. ¶ Sir, every questing user easily notes complete entries. ¶ Slowly, painfully, each entry disintegrates. ¶ Kids, no other words lend erudition; don't go entering a boring long yarn. ¶ Sure, tiring it might usually look; actually, the entries dominate. ¶ Even Xhosa phrases or similar I'd try, if only notified. ¶ Do all you losers instill gags horribly, then? ¶ Reloading, I guess, hammers the easily overheated, underappreciated server lots, yes?

That last one seems particularly apt. If I get another shot at 'righteously', it's going in!


Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Moving Pictures

[uk culture] Every time you go to the movies these days there are piles of free postcards on a rack somewhere in the foyer, advertising Coming Attractions, mobile phones, Häagen Dazs, and so on. For a while, when they were still shiny and new, I used to squirrel away multiple copies of the good ones against the off-chance that one afternoon I'd want to sit down and write to all my friends, "Wish you were here, so you too could get 30 hours free with T-Mobile." Strangely, those afternoons never eventuated, and so we accumulated more and more of these things, in that insidious way stationery has ("You can't throw me out—I'm completely unused! Look at that—that's perfectly good writing surface, that is."), especially the anthropomorphic kind.

Even though most of these advertising acorns are pretty ordinary, because we've been gathering them for a few years we've ended up with a random sample from all over the world, which actually makes them interesting. Like the St Vinnies cards from Australia encouraging you to charity-shop 'till you drop; or the Kiwi ones showing the yachting hero who later died in the Amazon; or the numbered and signed postcards-as-limited-edition-artworks from the UK; or (my favourite) the application cards to join the Austrian chapter of MENSA.

I'd stopped picking them up, though, after realising that acquisition was outstripping actual use by an order of magnitude—until the other day, when I walked past one of the racks and saw its contents move.

It wasn't just a trick of the light; it was a trick of the light reflecting off a ridged plasticized surface to give the illusion of movement as you tilt it back and forth, like those stickers you get in boxes of Golden Grahams—you know, the ones with Aragorn and Eowyn sword-fighting, which you didn't know what to do with and ended up sticking onto the case of the rewriteable CD you use for back-ups at work. Or maybe that's just me.

This was no movie promo, though; this was much better. It was a postcard-sized guide to the imminent expansion of the European Union.

Europe/New Europe

Now I ask you: wouldn't you be thrilled to see your tax money spent so wisely? Thrilled to think of the hours devoted to creating this essential accompaniment to an historic event? Thrilled that this precious palimpsest, which might ordinarily retail for 99 pence in a museum or gallery store, is being distributed freely at cinemas nationwide?

Indeed you would. But the value doesn't stop there. Because as you can see, not only does the card show the countries that are joining, it shows the countries that aren't joining: Europe; New Europe; and They Reckon They're Europe But Ha, We Know Better. Take that, Norway; take that, Switzerland, and Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, the Ukraine, that bit of Russia which used to be Danzig, Georgia, whatever that other one is, and of course Russia itself. You're nothing but a yellow outline on the blue plastic background of history.

It gets better. Overleaf, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office reveals its deeper purpose. This is not a card for foreigners in need of a geography lesson; it's for Britons who need convincing that they should even care where Slovenia and Slovakia are, or which one's which:

New Europe: Benefits to Britain. More countries are joining the European Union... this will mean: more jobs... greater prosperity and diversity... greater opportunities to travel and study... a cleaner environment... increased peace, stability and security.

Which on the face of it suggests that Slovenians and Slovakians will now be able to travel to the UK and get stable, well-paying jobs as cleaners and security guards. (So that's where the Daily Mail gets its ideas.)

Needless to say, faced with this feast of laser-etched exotica, my previous resolve grievously dissolved, and I grabbed whole handfuls of those suckers—which puts me at dangerous risk of postcardiac arrest.

Fortunately, I have you, my loyal readers, in your So Not Europe You're Not Even On the Card countries, wondering how you can tell where to spend the euros you haven't got, and thinking "If only I had some kind of map, in handy pocket-sized form—preferably one that changes when I tilt it." Well, think no more, but instead follow this link and enter your snail mail address to get some mail from the 'snail. Shiny new Europes all round! For the first half-dozen takers, anyway. After that I'll have to go and see another movie.

(By happy coincidence, this once-in-a-lunchtime giveaway takes place on the fourth birthday of this very site. Huzzah!)


Wednesday, 23 July 2003

Search Me

[net culture] Matt Haughey has been wondering whether the Google critics have a point about the impact of weblogs on the web's favourite search engine, noting the "types of things a search engine like Google likes to see":

  • frequent updates to webpages
  • many incoming links
  • meaningful page titles
  • important text wrapped in header elements
  • meaningful page filenames

Matt suggests that "it's a total accident that blogs do all of the above well". I'm not so sure. We've had years of experts telling us what makes a good website: update regularly, give pages meaningful titles, use header tags to give semantically meaningful mark-up. Just because webloggers and other personal site builders have taken those lessons on-board better than many others, does that make those lessons wrong?

It may be that "something isn't right in Googleville", but surely the problem should be solved by the rest of the web lifting its game, not by crippling Google's ability to detect good web practice. Maybe there's scope for a short-term tweak of Google's algorithms until the world catches up; but maybe that would skew the playing field towards something none of us would consider best-practice.

[Update: Matt tells me he meant that for most bloggers Google attractiveness is a side-benefit of following those criteria, not the main aim.]


Monday, 21 July 2003

Licence to Rant

[uk culture] I wrote so much in that MeFi thread about TV licences the other day that I figured I might as well keep it here in handy edited form. And it doesn't stop there... the thread may have been over, but after further thought on the weekend I wrote this. Forgive the clonking and whinnying noises of yours truly riding a pet hobby-horse.


So Last Year

[whatever] When are businesses in the Sydney CBD going to update their postcodes? "Sydney 2000"... "Sydney 2001"... c'mon, guys, get with the programme!


[whatever] Proof of a vast international beverage-naming conspiracy: in English, coffee contains caffeine, but cocoa doesn't; yet in German, Kaffee contains Koffein, and Kakao doesn't.

I reckon they switched it in the war to confuse spies. "Soothing mug of cacao, old bean? Aha! Gotcha!"


Sunday, 20 July 2003


[net culture]

Pirates of the Internet


Friday, 18 July 2003

[site news] A new instalment of Detail, taking a slightly different approach to the previously-posted highlands stuff: Orkney. I've got enough material for another series of castles, too, but might leave that for now—doing these takes too many late nights, and I'd rather get on with the plans mentioned over the past few days.


New Formula Links

[weblog] One-minute vacation features snippets of sound as evocative as any photograph: try the one for 30 June 2003, recorded "in Antarctica on a crappy hand-held tape recorder. It's a woman singing in a hollowed out oil drum on Elephant Island, which made a lovely, angelic reverb sound on her voice." Makes me wish I hadn't left my own crappy hand-held tape recorder in storage back in Oz. [Via Jerry.]

A review of real life, "the most accessible and most widely accepted massively multiplayer online role-playing game to date" [via sylloge].

Travelling around Europe in (a) Flash. [Via MeFi.]

The Oxford Shark [via Owen].

Compelling tale of a year spent teaching English in Korea, via Stavros (and as he says, "long, but well worth the read").

Useful outcome of Shauna's iBook travails: an attractive new desktop picture for yours truly!

And somehow I've ended up writing too much in this MeFi thread about the British system of TV licences, which despite its anomalies is vigorously defended by those who believe that Lord Reith's magnificent edifice would crumble if the money to pay for it was raised in a different way.

(The title of this entry, by the way, comes from watching too many ads for the UK's number one male grooming brand. More than eight million men use it "at least once a week"! Also, spot the missing punctuation: the track proved to be an immediate hit reaching no one for four weeks. Yes, I am that easily amused.)


Thursday, 17 July 2003

Academic Circles

[site news] You may remember my giving a paper in Vienna last year at a Pacific studies conference (assuming you've been reading that long, and have a photographic memory for things people mention in passing). At that stage it was basically a pile of notes and a Powerpoint slideshow, but over subsequent months of tinkering I reformatted it for the web. I had plans to turn it into a traditional journal paper, but given the nature of it (lots of screenshots and graphs) couldn't figure out how to surmount the difficulties of turning out a print version; so I procrastinated.

There was another reason. For years now I've been thinking about issues of online copyright and its academic implications. It's a big part of my work at the moment. And the more you look at the subject, the more stark the situation appears. Traditionally, academics sought to publish their work in books or respected journals, as that was the best way of getting it out to an audience of their peers. Nowadays there's an alternative—and you're soaking in it. Major journal publishers, meanwhile, are dealing with the challenge of the web by locking up as much intellectual property as they can, and keeping tight controls on access to electronic versions of texts. In effect, they're renting the work back to the very people who gave it to them.

Yes, gave. To get published in most academic journals, you must assign your copyright to the journal. Once you do, you have no control over what's done with it. If they choose to make it available only to those whose institutions pay an extortionate subscription, there's nothing you can do about it. Your work may be online, but there's no point linking to it, because most people can't see it.

This is something I find increasingly and deeply troubling.

There are all sorts of issues involved, which I'm trying to work through behind the scenes at this very moment. But leaving aside the wider issues, this has a particular resonance for me because of the areas I've worked in over the years.

One, now sadly receding into the past, is the Pacific. When I was a grad student working on Pacific politics, I hoped that my work would be part of a conversation between islanders and non-islanders, not some cloistered effort that would only ever be read by visitors to the ANU library. Realising that dream meant getting the work to as wide an audience as possible—and putting it on the web is a way of doing that. While net access in the islands may not be great, at least it's available in some places, whereas access to hundred dollar books from OUP and expensive paper or electronic journal subscriptions is next to nil.

The other, obviously, is the web itself. I've worked in this field now for five years. My current job is specifically about its educational implications. I want to see it used to best advantage by academics, not just in teaching, but in the part of their work that universities value the most: research. Research, and the dissemination of research.

I want to see that happen, yet in my own day-to-day practice have been holding back, in case I have to publish in journals which won't consider submissions that have already appeared online (most of which don't publish freely to the web either). So: I can't put my work online before print publication, when it has the highest chance of appearing topical and fresh and sparking interesting discussions with my peers; and I can't put it online after print publication, because someone else will own the copyright and want to rent it back to my university library; so in effect, I can't put online academic work which is all about working as an academic online in order to discuss its implications online with fellow academics.

This is madness.

The main reason to acquiesce to this madness is, unfortunately, fairly compelling: traditional forms of print publication are the main basis on which research performance is judged, which in turn determines one's prospects for academic appointment/renewal of contract/promotion/tenure/delete where applicable.

Different people will deal with this quandary in different ways, I guess. But if enough people deal with it by rejecting it, the quandary will go away. Traditions only persist if enough people actively believe in them and maintain them. They change when people start behaving differently.

That doesn't help much if your university still does things the old-fashioned way and you're facing the end of your contract—and mine's only a year off. But maybe that's what's making me feel as if bold action is needed. I don't actually believe there is any academic job security; the '50s and '60s are gone. Nowadays academia is a carrot-and-stick game where management and government have eaten the carrot. Even if you have tenure your situation can become untenable.

But I digress.

Here, then, is my new personal policy. I no longer care about journals that automatically reject material which has already appeared in some form online. I no longer care about journals that demand copyright in exchange for the privilege of publication on paper and/or a pay-per-view website. I will no longer publish my research anywhere that won't allow me to republish it here—unless the bargain is far, far more compelling than giving away all rights in exchange for a one-line reference on my CV. The public purse is paying for this work, and I want the public to be able to see it.

So that's the deal. I have a ton of ideas in my head, and a ton of unpublished stuff on the hard disk, and it's all coming soon to a web page near you.

After that rousing manifesto, its first fruits might seem a little disappointing; but even if you're not a Pacific anthropologist (neither am I, but I was speaking to a room full of them) you might find something in it. The paper is Linking the Islands: Pacific Implications of the Web, and while the first section deals with the development of websites about and within the Pacific (mostly only of interest to Pacific scholars), a later section comparing levels of net access in the Pacific and the West gives some indication of the digital divide between rich and poor nations (as opposed to rich and poor within the same nation, which is what you usually hear about). I thought about expanding that survey to a greater number of countries, and now it could use updating with 2002 figures, but—well, other things got in the way. Maybe I'll be more tempted to, now that it's out there. Maybe I'll even turn out that print version after all, and find a suitable home for it. And maybe—one day—it won't matter if I don't.

There's something about blogs in there, too. Yeah, yeah, I know.

Thanks to Kathleen for inspiring me to think about what the hell I'm doing by posting her own what-the-hell-am-I-doing thoughts over recent weeks. Also, this paper by John Willinsky helped me feel I wasn't alone in all this—recommended further reading.


[minutiae] Sign on the street: BUY FIVE PIES, GET 20% OFF.

So, you pay for five and get only four?


Wednesday, 16 July 2003


[code] Matt Haughey's tutorial on using Movable Type templates to maintain static pages must have fired off a rogue neuron somewhere, because I've finally realised how to get past one of my long-standing obstacles to making better use of MT—and the answer has been staring me in the face all along. It has less to do with his particular angle than with those numbers appearing at the end of each permalink.

I'd been so conditioned by years of using Blogger-generated entry IDs as anchor names that I blithely carried on the practice after switching to MT. Every new entry increases MT's internal entry count by one, to the point where it's now up to five hundred.

The problem is that if you run more than one blog on the same install of MT, a new entry in any one of them increments the same central count. So blog A gets entry number 345, blog B gets 346, A gets 347 through 349, and so on. Fine. But when you export your blogs so that you can re-import them after a crash or change of server, you export each one separately, and the entangled entry IDs get lost. Then when you rebuild them your permalinks get screwed up, because the entries get imported in a different order and assigned different IDs. Not very perma.

If you run several MT blogs off the same database, you end up dangerously reliant on the continuity of your existing set-up. Unless—you don't use MT entry IDs in permalinks. You use something that won't change: a time stamp, or the entry title, or whatever you like (if you have an otherwise unused MT field to store it in). Even if all the entry IDs change after a re-import, it won't matter.

It's so obvious, I can't believe I didn't see it before. Now I really can run every changing part of the site using MT, and not just the bloggish bit. Which is handy, because I had a fairly major addition in mind.


Tuesday, 15 July 2003

Feeding Time

[net culture] When I saw Tom Coates's latest post my first thought was 'Tom, don't feed the trolls', but Simon/hitherto's response is a useful outcome of this tiny spatlet: reasonable points, soberly made. But while I have some sympathy for his position (although protesting against new words all too often appears Daily Telegraph-ish), there is a useful outcome of the blog movement, too.

Yes, the concept goes back to the beginning of the Web; the last chapter of Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web (1999) puts that beyond any doubt. It's really just a new word to describe what he wanted the Web to be all along: a place where anybody could publish their ideas and findings as they occurred, allowing all sorts of new linkages to form. But in the second half of the nineties, that vision was so overwhelmed by the rise of commercial brochure sites that the world needed reminding that the Web isn't just a variant on traditional publishing with the same old constraints and gatekeepers. Sometimes it takes new words and new descriptions to focus our attention on what's already there.

Hitherto said, in his first essay on the subject, 'Blogs are fundamentally no different to the personal websites that have been made so easy by the likes of Geocities since 1996 or so.' Maybe so, but how many of those Geocities sites grew beyond a few pages built in a first flush of activity? A minority, I'd bet. When people are thinking in terms of 'building a site', the temptation is to tackle it like any other one-off project: in, build it, done, out (all those animated gifs of men-at-work signs). But when the tools they use and the rhetoric of the form stress the open-endedness of what they're doing, the constant changingness of it, they'll approach it in a different spirit. True, they still might not stick at it, but they'll have engaged more with one of the major strengths (and weaknesses) of the Web—its transience—than they would have if they'd bunged up a picture of their cat and left it at that.

Hitherto clearly has an appreciation for the finer points of rhetoric and the subtle cut and thrust of civilised debate (to wit: 'DO SOMETHING THAT'S ACTUALLY OF WORTH YOU STUPID, POINTLESS, SELF-IMPORTANT, DULL, TEDIOUS, MINDLESS *FUCKS*'). Surprising, then, that he misses the rhetorical significance of all this. Any 'new' Web 'movement' that wakes up the media and (just perhaps) the masses to the potential of all those PCs and all those internet connections and all those 10MB accounts of free webspace given out with all those net connections and all those ideas and observations in all those people's heads in all those countries, cities, homes and offices is a good thing in my book.

These stupid, pointless, self-important, dull, tedious, mindless fucks have collectively built a rhetorical, technological and cultural edifice without which a great many 'things of worth' would not have been made. And if you haven't noticed what those are yet, you're too busy bristling at a trivial neologism to pay attention.


Monday, 14 July 2003

Fossil Footprints

[net culture] As part of a burst of bibliography-building, I've been cleaning out hundreds of k worth of bookmarks, sifting through folders labelled 'IT Issues' and 'Web Development' last organised in 1999 or 2000 and dumped into ever since. It's a salutory experience, seeing all those links from pre-crash days bring up 404s, site-not-founds, and domain-poacher portals. Even whole operating systems have disappeared off the face of the Web. (I never got further than booting into Be on a spare Mac in my tech support days, seeing I had no actual reason to use it, but it was fun to do; like stopping over in an exotic airport and staring out the window at another country.)

It's annoying to notice how many once-free newspaper and magazine articles are now locked up in pay-per-view archives; sure, as if I'll pay five bucks to see three paras of rehashed Reuters copy. Sadly, this trend is only getting worse.

But it's fascinating to see what has the best record of longevity amongst these tech-oriented pages: weblog archives. The pages often remain, or are easily relocated in the archives thanks to file-naming conventions like '2000_08_01.html'; and the text is still there in its original context, if not its original design.

With all the derision that's been directed at webloggers by the noisier Slashdotters and their ilk, it's amusing to think that weblog commentary on the changing tech scene is more durable than the 'official' version. It could one day be easier to learn what the Be OS was like from the archives of a Be-using blogger than to track down a working copy of the OS.

With IP-hoarding companies locking up more and more of our collective culture and then losing the key (or the master tapes, or VC funding, or market share), our digital descendants may well end up like today's historians and biographers: filling the gaps in the record from the commentaries and dead links left on thousands of personal websites.


Sunday, 13 July 2003

Life in One Day

[journal] Yesterday we caught the bus to Tollcross and changed onto the 11 out to Leith; our kitchen needs repairing since a leaking washing machine seeped water under the lino and cupboards, and the joiners the insurance company uses are based out there.

After an action-packed hour contemplating the merits of vinyl-covered particle board in a range of fake naturalistic finishes, we cut down to Great Junction Street and made our way along to Leith Walk. Jane suggested catching a bus back from the bottom, but I wanted to walk up it for a bit to visit a charity shop or two.

Once I'd scooped up a couple of paperbacks and Beth Orton's first two albums for a fiver, I suggested heading for our favourite café round these parts, which was only a block or two up. So we kept walking, past the Asian supermarket with its pungent supply of durians; past the Snail Mail card shop; past the video game store with the sign like a 1950s newsagent's, all thin serif capitals with a shadowed edge, hand-painted in yellow on dark blue. You almost expected a card in the window advertising GameBoy cartridges for sixpence.

The café was further up than I'd remembered. As we walked from one corner to the next I recalled an old engraving from a local gallery, with its bird's eye view of Edinburgh in the 18th century: the old town clustered up the slope beneath the castle; the new town filling out the grid on the other side of the Nor' Loch; fields from there to the firth; and the port of Leith in the distance with a straight country lane leading out to it. Two centuries ago we would have been walking to Edinburgh, not right up the middle of it.

We reached the café at last, and took a table out on the pavement, a much more attractive option this summer than last. As we were waiting for our macchiatos and ciabattas, an old bloke at the next table made some comment about how you wouldn't have seen outdoor tables in Leith once upon a time; no, we agreed, as you do with any statement of the obvious—even today a cost-benefit analysis would come out against outdoor seating and in favour of placing every table next to an Aga.

"Where are you from?" he asked, and we told him; "Visiting?" No, we live here. He had trouble hearing us, what with the traffic noise and a touch of deafness, but it turned out it hardly mattered.

"I used to play draughts with the widows who lived in that building over there," he said. "When I was a kid. Got good enough to make some money out of it, playing around town."

We listened politely. He took it as encouragement.

"Just got a good deal on a camera lens at one of these places down the road. Ten quid—cost you a hundred and fifty new. A Zeiss. I used to be a professional photographer. Used to take photographs of celebrities. Burt Lancaster. Bing Crosby. I'd play golf with them up at Gleneagles. Alan Shepherd, the astronaut; got some good ones of him. He wanted to give me a set of his clubs, but I couldn't use them—they were right-handed, I'm left-handed."

And so he was away, telling us about his past. At first I thought it would all be showbiz gossip half a century old, a harmless claim to celebrity by proxy, but he was a better story-teller than that. His tales drifted back and forth through the decades, one by one covering the span of his life.

He'd been in the army and the navy; in 1947 he was stationed in Berlin, where a few cartons of cigarettes could buy you a Volkswagen, and where he saw a pal shove the cig he was smoking into his pocket when a C.O. came into the room, and set his leg on fire. Another friend convinced him to dive into a river because it would make a good picture—he got caught under the current and almost drowned.

He'd worked as Edinburgh's worst electrician, setting fire to office furniture all over town; and in a steel foundry covered in powdered rust that went up to his calves, alongside ex-cons "as thick as this stone" (tapping the wall). His hands grew strong from lumping around sacks of pig iron, and he needed them to fight off his co-workers more than once.

As a lad, he'd been at art college; later in life, he was holding cameras with foot-long lenses out of the bottom of planes, trying not to let go. Another time, he was some kind of technician at Heriot-Watt College, working for a science professor who didn't know a 3/8" spanner when he saw one. He was told once to get rid of a store-room of old chemicals by pouring them into an empty oil drum, where they bubbled and fizzed into toxic sherbert, and then tipping the results onto a nearby field. No wonder the Pentlands are bare.

So it went on, one tale after another, story after story of comic characters and moments—"You have to have a laugh," he said. At the end of a relentless hour I was starting to feel trapped; there was no room in his monologue for us to make our goodbyes, and if there was he couldn't hear us; but then he'd tell another great story, like the one about the prof wanting to test a machine that had just been stripped and re-greased, turning it on, and getting thick grease sprayed up his labcoat by its 8000 rpm motor—and standing there, getting more and more sprayed, until the grease ran out.

Whenever my attention wandered I would notice his plate slipping, dropping half his front teeth past the other half every time he laughed, like a game of dental Tetris; or his eyes and mouth wrinkling tight as he held his laughter in.

A second hour passed with stories from his childhood—the time he fished a black week-old egg out of the bins of pig scraps that dotted the streets during the war, and hurled it at his schoolyard enemies; or when he saw the first German bomber to fly over Britain in World War Two from the foot of Leith Walk, where we'd just been. Two Spitfires chased it, and some poor sod who was tiling his roof was killed by machine-gun fire—most likely from the Spitfires, not the bomber.

Two hours must have reached even his limits, because he finished at last, with the now familiar instruction, "Whatever you do, have a laugh. You've got to have a giggle."

We talked about him the rest of the way up to St Andrew's Square. It's not every day in Edinburgh you get cornered by a local and told his life story; more likely you'd have to corner him. Actually, more likely it wouldn't happen at all.

So where did this exceptional exception come from? Is this what it's like to be 73—so brimming over with stories that they slosh onto whoever's sitting nearby? It wasn't out of loneliness; he had a daughter living down the street, and waved to more than one white-haired passerby in the time we were sitting there. (One of them didn't notice, even when he called out to her. "Deaf as a post," he complained.)

"I could write a book about all this," he'd said at one point. He certainly had the stories for it; but maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't. If you don't write a book, then when do you get the chance to tell your life story once you're at the end of it? Your family knows it, or enough of it; your friends all know it. You might never get the chance to set it all down, all at once; to puzzle over its pieces and turn around the edges to see where they fit. Unless you sit down next to a couple of complete strangers, and start talking.

Still. I can empathize with that.


Friday, 4 July 2003

[site news] Tour the Highlands II: The North and West. I promised some photos from our April trip, and here they are. This selection covers the north and west coasts of the Scottish highlands from Thurso to Ullapool. The photos were mostly scanned from 35mm prints; the only digital one was Jane's of the beach near Rispond. The pages are in the same style as the first instalment of 18 months ago, with the usual bandwidth-busting downloads, and the usual application of the facet filter in Photoshop (I like its painterly effect, and it shaves a fair bit off file size). There'll be some images of Orkney soon too, but I'm thinking of taking a different approach with those.

Now you can see why I had nothing much to write about it. What can I say? It was beautiful. I could have stayed a month. As long as I didn't have to drive on the single-lane roads with hardly any passing places every day. The occasional RAF jet tearing through the roof of the car was another minor drawback (that's what it sounded like, anyway).

Other new things lately: a new banner on the category archives of this year's log, just to use up some more of the windows I've been photographing; and at last, a 2003 update of the outside page—I'm going to ditch the bogroll on the left as soon as I can get the design right.

And then there's this.


My Relton DuPiniot Hat

[weblog] Two blogs worth visiting this week: Ed takes no prisoners* in this excellent post protesting threats to overtime pay in the US; and Kathleen has a string of thought-provoking entries on academia, not writing about academia, and new academic projects.

*Ed-related cliché now returning to the stage after an 18-month absence—see comments.


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