Speed of Light

It isn’t much of a photo, but the orange dots are Edinburgh and the blue dots are runners in light-suits in Speed of Light, the art performance held on Arthur’s Seat every night of the Festival. J. ran in it twice, after months of training, so I went along to see it for myself on Saturday, the final night, when another friend was running it for a fourth time. Even being in the audience was a minor workout, as it meant hiking up to the summit of Arthur’s Seat in the dark, using special walking sticks with softly glowing lights at the bottom and piezoelectric lights at the top that sparkled when the stick shook. From the top we had a perfect view of the runners coming together and fanning apart. We didn’t actually make it to the very top on our night, as the winds at the summit were 63 miles per hour, but we got near enough. The round trip took over two hours, but it was worth the hike; walking up Arthur’s Seat in the dark isn’t something I plan to do often.

Read More · 6 September 2012

I’d better round off those few posts on the Olympics with one on the closing ceremony. The games themselves kept me enthralled to the end, or at least to Mo Farah’s nail-biting 5,000 metres victory on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the opening ceremony soundtrack has barely left the Now Playing slot on my iPod. I don’t think I’ll be able to say the same for the closing.

Read More · 13 August 2012

Gold! Gold to Anyone! Gold!

We’ve been visiting friends, taking a few days to wander down to England and back and visit some scenic spots along the way. Spent half the weekend with them watching the Olympics on their giant telly, after following it all week at home: Jess Ennis’s final 800 metres in the women’s heptathlon, Mo Farah’s 10,000 metre win, and Andy Murray’s straight-sets defeat of Roger Federer to win the men’s singles tennis gold.

It’s a while since I’ve seen much of the Olympics at all. I grew up watching Moscow, Los Angeles and Seoul with the family, but since then it’s been patchy: a bit of Barcelona on hotel TVs while travelling; not much of Atlanta because I was starting a new job; some of Sydney while I was in San Francisco; none of Athens or Beijing.

Read More · 9 August 2012 · x1

I’ve been thinking about the Olympics opening ceremony for days, and better get some thoughts down before they’re obliterated by the games themselves. Many others have already got in first, of course, and it’s especially worth reading these good blog posts and Metafilter comments, as well as the thoughts of its director Danny Boyle and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Read More · 1 August 2012

Taken Aback

I was 12 when Azaria Chamberlain went missing, and in my family there was never any doubt of her parents’ account of what had happened. We’d camped at that same site only the year before, and had seen just how brazen the local dingoes had become after years of getting used to visitors. But I also remember what a deeply unpopular view this was in dingo-free urban Australia, as the first few seeds of public skepticism grew into rampant weeds of outright disbelief.

I especially remember the books in the local newsagent. This was when A Hundred and One Uses of a Dead Cat first appeared. Before long there were knock-offs by opportunistic local cartoonists along similar lines, featuring dingoes and, yes, babies. I don’t think any were actually called 101 Uses of a Dead Baby, but they got close. This was one of them.

Seeing that at the age of 13 was an excellent primer in just how crap the adult world could be.

12 June 2012

My Name is Legion

It’s a bit disconcerting following news about the Legionnaires’ outbreak affecting mainly older men with underlying health conditions in southwest Edinburgh when you live a mile away from the epicentre and fit all those descriptions. Hypochondria awaits.

6 June 2012

Elderly couple’s lift goes to wrong floor before going to right one. This apparently warrants 219 words for a world news audience.

20 March 2012

I was busy all day today with visitors at work, so there was no time to reflect on the death of the King of Tonga, George Tupou V. From a distance, he seemed a decent man, and he had an enormous impact on the Tongan political system in his few short years on the throne. He deserves more than comments about pith helmets and a few quoted tweets. Tupou V “spoke eight languages and was an accomplished cellist and pianist”, and (admittedly after civil unrest) brought democracy to Tonga at last. But one of his most entertaining gestures may have been his last:

Tongan media reported that he met Pope Benedict XVI on February 24 in the Vatican in Rome—and gave the Pope a signed picture of himself.

19 March 2012

Worst Eighties Comeback Yet

The revival of Falklands/Malvinas sabre-rattling is one of the more depressing developments of the week, especially now that armchair generals on both sides can meet on the virtual battlefields of the Internet. A Metafilter thread pointed to a string of articles at MercoPress, the South Atlantic News Agency, with comments that take some beating:

Personally I think a few H-bomb test in Islas Malvinas Argentina can solve the problem with one strike I would love to have the honor, If USA and UK can kill over 10.000 muslims including women and children for resources, I amsure nothing will be done when this 3000 terrorists, pirates and illegal aliens go missing after a H-bomb test in Islas Malvinas Argentina.

I met a Falkland Islander a few years ago on a first aid course. As pirate terrorists go, it has to be said he was a disappointment.

Still, reducing the islands to radioactive glass would at least clear up all the landmines left over from 1982. How it would enable a glorious Argentine homecoming is less clear.

10 February 2012

Each year brings a few snowy photos in this part of the world, but by any measure 2010 was extraordinary. My family and I largely missed the big freeze of 2009–10—Edinburgh’s first white Christmas in the whole time we had lived here, and we were on the other side of the world visiting friends and relatives—but the news reports of it were enough to make us wonder if we’d get home safely in early January. (We did; it started thawing just in time.)

We were here for the next one, though, and it managed to disrupt my travel properly this time—but that’s a story for a later post. In the early days of the blizzard I took plenty of photos, and more in the second half of the freeze after my return from a work trip. Now I’ve finally turned them into a proper gallery at Detail:

Freeze

6 February 2012

Last year was certainly full of bad news, and some of the worst came right at the end, when The Independent reported “dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane ... seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean”. This apparent fulfilment of earlier climate-doom prophecies seems to suggest, as I tweeted at the time, that the gig is up. All aboard the non-stop diesel train to underwater London.

Over at Metafilter, I chipped into the pessimistic thread that resulted. A few people tried to look on the bright side of environmental and population collapse, arguing that a world with fewer than seven billion people wouldn’t exactly be hell-on-earth. But it’s how you get there, I replied in not-so-many words—some of which I want to preserve here, in all their December 2011 gloom. Hey, this reinvigorated blog can’t all be cheery posts about roof damage and congressional attacks on the integrity of the Web.

Read More · 20 January 2012 · x2

Our damaged roof

Here’s a great sight to greet you on your last day before going back to work. When we woke up our top-floor flat was groaning in the wind, and J thought she heard one of the doors down at the bottom of the stairs banging. Then after breakfast she left to take W swimming with friends... and was back in the flat only a few seconds later. The skylight above our tenement stair was almost completely covered by roofing felt. Sticking my head out of the attic window confirmed that it was our felt: the left half of that exposed wooden roof was over our kitchen and bathroom.

Read More · 3 January 2012 · x4

Events in 2011