Oh man, I’m dying here: Melodica Cover of the Jurassic Park Theme Song (thanks, James). In the same vein, wheeze along to The Bodyguard Theme Song.

Speaking of wheezing: The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of this recharger (via Twitter).

30 April 2012 · Weblog

ACTA: if you think we’ve won, we’ve lost.

Charlie Stross on Amazon’s ebook strategy and DRM and ebooks.

29 April 2012 · Net Culture

Tweet Nothings, Part X

I’m not sure if this is still worth doing now that third parties fill the gap, but here’s another batch of Twitter archives (see previously). I only started archiving them because I didn’t trust that Twitter would last, and maybe in the long run that’s still true. I’ve been using it mainly as a links blog anyway, and have posted many of those links here this year, but not everything has made it across. I couldn’t be bothered checking for link duplication below, but have omitted a few course-related tweets and some featured in earlier posts. Either way, there’s bound to be a link or retweet here worth a look.

Read More · 28 April 2012 · Whatever

Status Quo Ante

Our roofing crisis is near its end. Last weekend we had the last of seven payments from our neighbours for their share of the eight grand. We hadn’t known this last landlord’s contact details, until J. sent his letting agents a letter outlining the legal ramifications for him and for them. That worked. He said the letting agents had failed to pass on the previous messages. Whatever it was, he came by with an envelope full of cash, and so today we had the roofing company’s receipt for payment in full, just after their Second Final Reminder Invoice. It was a relief not to get sucked into the vortex of pursuing people through the courts and being pursued in turn by the roofers.

Read More · 27 April 2012 · Journal

L'enfant malade

Isn’t well

When she grizzles
We can tell
Our baby isn’t
Feeling swell

When the Calpol
Barely quells
Her hot and bothered
Midnight yells
The case is even
More compelling

Getting better?
Isn’t telling

Image: Eugène Carrière, L’enfant malade (detail, 1885), Musée d’Orsay

27 April 2012 · Journal

Pecha Catch-up

So, we did it, and all nine of us survived. In fact, our slides all worked really well, even though the number of words in our scripts varied from six or seven hundred up to 1500. Mine was 730, although I probably ad-libbed another 50–100 along the way; I was aiming for two sentences a slide. I hit all the transitions with only a few pauses, so I guess that counts as a success. I never felt I had to race to the finish line, at least, and that was without any actual rehearsal.

It does turn out to be a good way to get to the essence of a presentation without having to sit through a lot of waffle. And it actually seems to help if there’s a sense of shared panic among the presenters.

26 April 2012 · Journal

Patchy Catchall

At our programme team Away Days in Fife we’ve all agreed to give a Pecha Kucha presentation on a piece of our research. I thought it was pronounced in a similar way to “Machu Picchu” or Betchadupa, but the stresses are on the cha’s; apparently it’s the Japanese term for “excruciating psychological torture”. In a Pecha Kucha you’re supposed to give a talk in 20 slides of 20 seconds each. Sounds simple, until you try to condense anything of any substance down to it, and realize how well-rehearsed you’ll have to be to get through them in a timely way.

Read More · 25 April 2012 · Journal

Behold the water slide so dangerous it was shut down immediately.

25 April 2012 · Weblog


I’m in Lower Largo in Fife for work, in a meeting venue by the beach, and realised during our lunch break that the skyline to the west looks different from this time last year: the smokestack of Methil power station has finally come down. And so one of Scotland’s most ironic tourist stops meets its end.

Read More · 24 April 2012 · UK Culture

A Tree Falling in the Forest

It’s time to let go of this experiment. Even though this entry will probably end up long enough to keep me on track, the whole business of blogging one or more posts a day to meet a daily average of 274 words is having too negative an impact for something that nobody else cares about. There have been too many filler entries, and too many entries—like this one—talking about the challenge itself rather than something substantive.

Read More · 23 April 2012 · x1 · Site News

Putting Things Into Perspective

The Scale of the Universe.

22 April 2012 · Weblog

The stuff of nightmares: a brilliant account of the sinking of the ferry Estonia in 1994 [via Mefi].

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Lonely Boy (slow to start, but stick around until the halfway mark).

21 April 2012 · Weblog

The siren songs of telly and sleep were too strong tonight, so I didn’t post the links I had queued up. This note tapped out on the iPad will have to serve as placeholder. [Next morning:] Okay, here are the links I was going to post.

Meet the New Boss, Worse Than the Old Boss? A long piece questioning whether the digital model of music distribution is better for the artist.

The Guardian’s Battle for the internet series, for future reference.

Isaac Asimov imagines digital learning in the Electronic Age (1989). Why are so many surprised that one of the leading hard-SF writers was good at predicting technological trends? (See also Arthur C. Clarke.)

The Jig Is Up: Time to Get Past Facebook and Invent a New Future. I liked Tom Ewing’s response: “This may all be true but, ah, so what? Expecting a paradigm shift every five years isn’t ‘disruptive’ or ‘innovative’, it’s just greedy.”

Hacking the Non-Disposable Planet. Lots of interesting ideas here, but I’m not sure that hackstability is likely just because it’s an attractive alternative to collapse. Surely it still needs an oil-replacement and the world’s coastal areas not to be flooded.

20 April 2012 · Weblog

Back to Front

It only took me three months, but I’ve finally promoted the blog to the front page of the site again, deprecating its /weblog/ location (which will remain indefinitely) and moving the old front-page blurbs to an About page. I’ve brought back the slidy sidebar thingy of 2005, narrowed a bit so it works better on the iPad (where for some reason it won’t slide back in; at least now it doesn’t obscure the blog text), and will bring back my list of blog links once I get a chance to update them—many of the early-2000s crew have moved or moved on.

19 April 2012 · Site News

Historic Battles

Around the dinner table last night, we were discussing the difference between university teachers and the school teachers W. will soon meet.

“Dad teaches adults at university,” said J.

“I know that,” said W. “He told me.”

“So what’s my job?”

“I don’t know,” said W.

“And what’s your job?”

“Fighting,” he said. “And history.”

19 April 2012 · Journal

Sweet Heart Sweet Light continues to gets its hooks into me (and it really is bristling with hooks), so I’ve been reading around on it. Jason Pierce has been doing the interview rounds: apart from the Guardian interview I linked yesterday, there’s one at Pitchfork and another at Stereogum, where he said:

There are an awful lot of records ... made by people that, whether they want to or not, they've soaked up a bit of that wisdom. ... You might think of them as the great, but often forgotten, mid-period records by big artists. There is this group of records that probably outnumber the records that people hailed as the classics, or the big moves in rock and roll, and they seem like the very backbone, the spine, of the music I love. I wanted to make one of those kinds of records, one of those things that befitted my age a little bit more.

Read More · 18 April 2012 · Music

The last few Spiritualized albums did less and less for me, and I thought I’d have to be satisfied with Lazer Guided Melodies and Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, but the just-released Sweet Heart Sweet Light sounds terrific on a first couple of listens. Something about this one stands apart from its immediate predecessors—it’s much more melodic, for a start.

But what a genesis it had. As if the background to Songs in A&E wasn’t bad enough.

17 April 2012 · Music

Twitter Serendipity

Onion vs Murdoch

16 April 2012 · Whatever

Flowing and Taking Stock

The FT interviews Larry David.

A clever take on the influence of Photoshop on modern standards of beauty.

Stock and flow and Dance the flip-flop, from Robin Sloan, author of Fish (which I have now Looked At several times).

Over at MetaFilter, a MetaTalk post asked to hear from active users who have been there the longest. I chipped in with my own Mefi memories, which I will now quote in their entirety (with an edit or two) below the Read More fold. Because I can.

Read More · 16 April 2012 · Weblog

Get Lost in Translation

Today sees a first for this site: there are now two lines of non-Roman script below the comments boxes on these posts to warn off the spam farms. The fact that spammers continue to attempt to post comments to this post can surely only be explained by their not reading English.

Read More · 15 April 2012 · x1 · Site News

Paper Playin’

I’ve been playing with Paper on the iPad, which is a fun toy and has potential (if they add a few features, like a colour picker, and being able to duplicate pages to use as a basic history function), but really needs a stylus. Unfortunately these aren’t available yet (and I don’t have an iPad 3), but I’ve ordered another kind and will see how it goes.

14 April 2012 · Infotech

Hold the Bus

Don’t go getting all unlucky on me, Friday the 13th, threatening to drop me off the yellow brick road on Beeminder if I don’t post 258 words today.

Right, you made me do it. Stream of consciousness.

Read More · 13 April 2012 · x1 · Net Culture

The Chequered Flag

Not still writing that report. Ten thousand words of notes turned into eight thousand plus. Phew.

(What would be even better is if I could post the whole thing here and knock off the rest of the month’s word count in one hit. But no.)

12 April 2012 · Journal

Still writing that report. Here’s a comment I wrote for a recent Metafilter thread about the difficulty nowadays of making a living with food writing. It isn’t about that, but about another field that used to be a big earner for those who made it.

Read More · 11 April 2012 · Comics

Holding Pattern

Still writing that report. And to think that I estimated it would take a day.

10 April 2012 · Journal

Our University doesn’t do public holidays, apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Hogmanay Hangover Day (January 2). The union traded the others away for extra annual leave a few years ago, making it even harder to find room in the working calendar to take it. Now we’re supposed to work on Good Friday, unless we take a day of leave (as I did).

It doesn’t make any difference today, though, because Scotland doesn’t do Easter Monday either. Hogmanay Hangover Day is one thing, but Christ Still Alive Again Day just doesn’t cut it. You’ll have had your resurrection.

Not that you would know from the near-empty car-park at work today. The servitor checked in on me an hour ago and said I was the only person left in the building.

I’m taking advantage of the peace and quiet and working back until seven, on a roll (at last) with the report I was meant to finish two weeks ago when I was sick. I’ll need to do more later, though, so there won’t be much of a blog post tonight. In fact, this is it. Blog Still Alive Again Day.

9 April 2012 · Journal


Every “Exterminate” From Doctor Who. Nearly as many as you’d hear in a typical lunchtime in my primary school playground.

Peter Serafinowicz’s Dalek Relaxation Tape—one of the finest moments of his recent 6Music run. Hearing this on the podcast almost had me doubling up in the sauces aisle of Tesco. Almost as good as the T-WOG$.

9 April 2012 · x1 · Television

Buy Our Stuff

French-Polished Dining Table and Chairs
£100 Polwarth, Edinburgh

Four French-polished dining chairs with a small dining table (seats 4), all in good condition. The chairs’ upholstery matches in theme, with two pairs in navy and two in burgundy. The table is a versatile size, 137cm by 74cm (4’6” x 2’5”), which could suit a kitchen or dining room. This furniture originally came from a nunnery in New South Wales, and was stripped and restored by the current owners; the chairs are a typical early-20th-century Australian style.

For collection only.

Read More · 8 April 2012 · Journal


There was a time when I knew the conversion rate from the pound to the Aussie dollar almost by heart, and from the AUD to the USD, and a few others. But I realised the other day that I hadn’t checked in a long while what the pound was doing against the Aussie. When I did, it wasn’t pleasant.

Read More · 7 April 2012 · Travel

Adam Buxton reads out some YouTube comments.

TV is Broken.

How to Write the Great American Novel.

Peak oil will stunt any economic recovery.

Glyn Moody: Our Imminent Summer of Digital Discontent.

Neil Tennant in 1992: Hatred can be positive.

Angry Birds, Farmville and other hyperaddictive games.

A life-size glass skeleton illuminated by krypton.

No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.

6 April 2012 · Weblog

Computer Support 101

I’ve been hanging on to my six-year-old iMac, a PowerPC G5, for as long as possible, but it’s so slow that it’s like an old terminal, with visible lags between each letter as I type. Partly that’s because there are only six gigs free on the hard-disk at the moment, but I clear out a chunk every now and then and it doesn’t make much difference. I could put up with it until upgrading my work machine a year ago, but dissatisfaction with relative levels of performance gets me every time. Maybe I need to downgrade the work Mac to a Performa.

Read More · 5 April 2012 · Infotech

Where’s Y. huali Now?

The discovery of feathered tyrannosaur Yutyrannus huali reinforces what palaeontologists like Jack Horner have long said: birds are latterday dinosaurs. Which means that all those cartoons showing cavemen living alongside dinosaurs weren’t wrong after all. Exhibit A; Exhibit B.

Six months ago: Trove of Dinosaur Feathers Found in Canadian Amber.

4 April 2012 · Weblog

Phew, Not a Scorcher

Last week we had summer weather, this week sleet and snow: esrever otni enog evah snosaes eht. The snow hasn’t settled, which seems a shame: if it’s going to be this cold, you should at least have a chance to get the sled out.

4 April 2012 · x1 · UK Culture

The Director’s Cut (Director’s Cut)

Is a “director’s cut” ever a good idea? The director’s cut has been a feature of the home video landscape for years, getting a significant boost from multi-disk DVD and now Blu-Ray sets. There are some pretty bad ones around, but which are the best? Movie sites like Shortlist, IGN Movies, MoviesOnline.ca, FilmWad and Empire have all given us lists of the best (and worst), and online discussions have suggested others (Blade Runner tops most lists, but beyond that they diverge significantly). Where do you start when that two-hour epic isn’t epic enough?

As posted to MetaFilter.

Read More · 3 April 2012 · Film

The Director’s Cut

This discussion made me wonder if there’s a site somewhere that rates director’s cuts. There doesn’t seem to be, but quite a few film sites have done lists of the best...

Read More · 3 April 2012 · x1 · Film

Existential Challenge

There is a limit to how many times you can post an entry with no words in it as part of a “post every day” challenge, and that limit is one, one time, and only on April First at that. So I’ve shot that particular bolt. Now I have to start writing stuff again.

It’s a bit daunting, though, to know that I was four thousand words low in March and only got by on my previous buffer. That means I have to start posting twice as much again just to keep up. I’m not sure that the respond-to-random-stuff approach is going to hack it.

To be continued.

2 April 2012 · x2 · Site News

April Fool

1 April 2012 · Site News

March 2012