Right Here, Right Now

It’s over five years since I last added anything to In Theory, my repository for old political theory essays. So here are three more, from my halcyon days as a masters student twenty years ago.

Read More · 12 December 2012

Scottish Sand II

After my latest batch of marking was finally complete and I’d caught up on The Killing, I spent a couple of evenings finishing off yet another web thing started months ago. This new gallery at Detail has the best of my local beach photos from the past few years, or at least the ones without two particular kids in them. Included are a couple of brief glimpses of sunshine from Britain’s rainiest summer in a hundred years, along with some more reliably sunny weather two years ago. More Details to come.

12 December 2012


Okay, in the wake of that desperate post of two days ago, I am now officially off the Beeminder road. Writing an extra 112-word post before the end of yesterday was competing with too much work at work and too many chores at home. So it’s time to leave automated guilt-tripping behind and go back to manual guilt-tripping recorded on a note on my desktop. Fortunately, that makes this the last time I’ll post about the subject until my end-of-year reckoning of how far short of 100,000 words I’ve fallen.

13 September 2012


Uh-oh. I have one hour to write 160 words, or I fall off the yellow brick road at Beeminder. Which, given that I’ve adjusted my 100,000-word target down to 66,666 (without actually mentioning it here; I’ve been planning to nudge it up again at some point), would be a pretty feeble performance. So I’d better write something.

Read More · 11 September 2012

The Mark of Zero

How easy it turned out to be to fall off the wagon.

Marking the best part of two hundred thousand words over recent weeks—too many weeks—took its usual toll. There’s reading it all, of course, but writing the comments is the hardest part; trying to justify a mark while offering constructive feedback is never simple. And until I’ve finished, I never feel I can legitimately write anything else, like posts for here. Having to coordinate all the other markers and marks for a course of five hundred students doesn’t help, either.

Now that it’s done and I’ve had a few days to recover, I’ll try to post something every day again for a while.

29 June 2012

While I’m buried in marking and moderating and things are relatively quiet here, I thought I’d put up a page I’ve kept under wraps for a while. One of my areas of limerick writing (which itself has been pretty quiet lately) is a series of brief biographies of fine artists. When I was writing most of them in 2006 I intended to do enough to cover a representative sample, from Ansel Adams to Zurburán, and collect them into a small book aimed at museum and gallery shops, with each limerick and biographical note facing a page showing one of the artist’s key works. In early 2007 I approached some publishers with a book proposal along those lines called There Was an Old Artist from Ghent, and hit the usual wall of indifference facing any author of light verse.

Because of these plans I kept the limericks in question out of my own pages, although they were all at the OEDILF as usual. Five years later I have to admit that the idea isn’t going anywhere soon, so rather than leave them on the hard drive or bury them in other pages I thought I’d put them on display here.

There was an old artist from Ghent
Who loved painting wherever he went.
His colours were fine
And his subjects divine—
Once you knew what the devil they meant.

23 May 2012

Time for a new banner with a touch more spring about it, even though we had hail yesterday and it isn’t exactly warm out there. Because of the way my templates work, it’s back-dated across all the May entries.

16 May 2012

Well, that little unplanned gap between posts sure put to rest the post-every-day challenge. I had a few too many things on my plate after our time away, including gathering photos for the Lego Show postmortem. I’d better write that up, I guess.

12 May 2012

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

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

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

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

April Fool

1 April 2012

Desperate Dance

I’m limping to the finishing line for March without any inspiration at all, having used up my February buffer completely. But if I can make this entry 112 words long, the average since January 1 reaches 274 and I win! (For now.) What I win is another question entirely.

Read More · 31 March 2012

This is a test entry to see how easy it is to post from an iPhone. Not too bad, provided you can read impossibly tiny fonts.

2 March 2012 · x1

Time for a monthly word-count reckoning. I posted 11,897 words in February, which was over 410 words a day, so I’m now way ahead of target; but a bit over four thousand words were from old emails and texts, so in terms of new material I’m a little behind (238 words behind, to be precise). Still, near enough. The main advantage of all those volcano posts was that I now have a buffer to carry me through a busy March without dropping fatally below the average word count. Another advantage was that I’d been meaning to post about it for ages, and now I have. On to the next item from the backlog.

1 March 2012

Now that the saga of our drive back to Scotland from Spain in 2010 is complete, I can at last post this gallery of photos to accompany it, which I put together months ago but couldn’t post without telling its full story:

Volcano Days

Read More · 29 February 2012 · x1


To accompany the latest instalment of The Year of Travel Disasters, here’s the latest gallery at Detail: the Spanish province of Murcia (with a bit of the neighbouring province of Alicante, although not that city itself).

Read More · 21 February 2012

Just spent a few hours tinkering with page layout and blog templates to very little effect. I was going to put up a sidebar here, but didn’t like it, then was going to modify the footer, but didn’t like it, and was going to revamp the front page of the site, but ran out of time to do it properly. I’ve half-done it instead.

Blog template tags are productivity antimatter.

12 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:


6 February 2012

The Danger Zone

So, it’s four weeks since I started this self-imposed challenge of blogging an average of 274 words a day for 366 days, in order to pass 100,000 words by the end of the year. A good time to reflect on how it’s going, especially as I have a lot of ground to catch up after a few days in a row of writing hardly anything.

Read More · 29 January 2012 · x1

After 4–5 years of relative silence I was hoping the blog comment spammers would have forgotten about me, or would have found themselves more honourable jobs like CEO of Megaupload or the MPAA, but it only took them three weeks to latch onto the place again. As a result I’ve had to switch on comments approval for a while. Sorry if yours gets held up, but as I’m checking the place daily now it won’t be for long.

Or, to put it into words the spammers seem to understand: MeAB7q rwojvswtqqfb wrTNtn fodtkbgwdgyx gsfHbZ pqhfhlcyqljn vKeiwk cpusdbxaeksh xlj2Dd yojhwipnvwjk MsvWeL rdhkpzwlkeis 1KbH3t asftiescrucj.

Read More · 24 January 2012 · x2

The Eleven-Day Itch

Eleven days in and I’m already dropping below my target 274-words-a-day average; posting a link or two makes it easy to post once a day, but it only gives me a few words at a time. Blethering about day-to-day events would help, but if I were drawing on my day for this post I’d have to tell you about the drain that backed up and flooded the passageway out to our shared garden with unspeakable stench; or that getting our roof properly fixed (as opposed to temporarily and adequately) is going to cost five grand, and that getting their share of the payment from five of the six other owners in our stair will take forever because they’re all absentee landlords. Which is depressing enough to deal with, let alone write about or read. Anyway, isn’t that what Facebook is for? I wouldn’t know; I drifted away from Facebook because I wasn’t interested enough in too-brief posts on people’s day-to-day doings. The irony is killing me.

I should remind myself of the purpose of setting an arbitrary word target and post-a-day challenge: to break out of the perfectionist mindset that had me thinking that I shouldn’t post anything because it would be too trivial, or that somebody would already have said it better, and what’s the point anyway. Last year I came close more than once to mothballing the whole site. And yet I know from past experience that it’s only through these pointless throwaway entries that you get to the worthwhile cut-out-and-keep ones. So I’ll keep going.

And hey, another 271 words! Not including these ones. 292 including those. (And also these.) (That’s enough theses and thoses—Ed.)

11 January 2012 · x2


A revamp and redesign of the Detail index page, which had become far too text-heavy for a part of the site that’s all about images. There are some new galleries on the way, too.

Read More · 9 January 2012

As tends to be the way, posting has been derailed by new-year design tinkering, with a new banner above, and new sidebars and footers on their way. I’ve also cleaned up the archive indexes for 2010 and 2011. Both now include galleries of the source images of their monthly weblog banners, which served as a kind of visual diary of those years.

But never fear: this post keeps me on the posting-each-day schedule, and the cumulative average is still above target. I’m almost ready to think that this time the resolution might have stuck. We have visitors this weekend, though, which will be a good test; and there’s full-on assignment-marking next week, which will be another.

6 January 2012

With this update for December 2011, the Feed is closed again. Stick around here instead for all your 2012 links-blogging needs.

4 January 2012

Crash Through or Crash

So, my new year’s resolution was to post here at least once a day throughout 2012, to force myself back into the blogging groove. Maybe I can recapture some of the glories of 2000-2006, or maybe it’ll all be drivel, but at least the place will start breathing again. Tweeting doesn’t count; and after I’ve updated it for December 2011, I’m shelving the Feed again so that I resist the temptation to let other people’s links do the talking.

This first post is just to test that my blogging templates can handle the transition to 2012. I haven’t decided how to reinvigorate the banners yet, but last year’s default will do for now.

Oh, and I’m aiming for a 274-word average a day, so there’s already some catching up to do (this entry is only 138).

1 January 2012 · x2

Site News in 2011