You Haven’t Been Watching

Nestled in this piece on the Jimmy Savile fallout at the BBC is an eye-opening quote: “BBC4 had been targeted for cuts because it delivered the smallest amount of ‘unique reach’, viewers or listeners that did not use any other BBC service.”

What a bizarre way of judging its importance. Are they seriously suggesting that TV channels only matter if they’re the only one that some people watch? That BBC4 viewers shouldn’t occasionally stray as far as BBC2, or that they shouldn’t listen to Radio 4? What about iPlayer, which jumbles up shows from all BBC channels by design?

Are they judging on the basis of viewers who’ve lost their remotes?

23 November 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

Right Ho, Eaves

I’ve finally finished clearing out the eaves. Only took about twenty hours. The ones on the lounge side were less a case of clearing out, more a case of pulling up dozens and dozens of two-inch nails from the crawl-boards covering every inch of the space using a crowbar and claw-hammer. There weren’t nearly as many bucketloads of dust and stone to carry downstairs, but there were a few finds along the way.

Read More · 10 July 2012

Punning Hunt

I was at a pub quiz last night, where we tossed around team names inspired by Jeremy Hunt’s ministerial woes since he was caught sucking up to the aging prince of the tabloids. Mine carried the evening:

Hunt for Red Tops Over.

I thank you.

1 May 2012 · x1


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

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


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

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

An Excusal Rarely Offends

It seems that I am eligible for jury service and not entitled to excusal.

Guide to Jury Service Eligibility and Applying for Excusal

This is a shame, because “excusal” is such an amusing word. Scotland is the only place I’ve ever heard people describe retirement as “retiral”, and now this.

I have no excusal that would get me off jury service, so now I have a gavel of Damocles hanging over my head, making it more difficult to travel or to watch box sets of Boston Legal until that day actually arrives.

I must have walked past the Edinburgh Sheriff Court in Chambers Street one too many times on my way to work. “You’ll do, pal.”

30 March 2012

This Sceptred Isle

“Last month TfL applied to issue anti-social behaviour orders which would not only stop [a group of urban explorers] undertaking further expeditions and blogging about urban exploration but also prohibit them from carrying equipment that could be used for exploring after dark. Extraordinarily, it also stipulates they should not be allowed to speak to each other for the duration of the order—10 years.”

China Miéville on Apocalyptic London (soon to be expanded).

Skilled migrants to lose the right to settle in UK. Theresa May replaces carrot with turnip.

Why is the Sun prioritising benefit fraud when the tax gap is 100 times bigger? Why is the Pope Catholic?

Banksy on advertising.

3 March 2012

The OEDILF just opened a new letter range, which meant it was time to post my first new limerick there in four months—a nod and a wink at our southern neighbours.

Read More · 28 February 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

Now to deal with the different methods of catching Rats. The best way, in my opinion, is,


Via Mefi.

8 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

Trinity House, Leith

On Friday after work, I joined a group of friends—two of whom work for Historic Scotland—for an after-hours tour of Trinity House in Leith, the headquarters of the Incorporation of Masters and Mariners and now a museum. The highlight of this fine Georgian pile was the Convening Room upstairs, lined with Raeburns and a huge painting of Vasco da Gama, and with a table covered in treasures. They kept us engrossed for an hour or more. Here are a few of my photos of them.

1 February 2012

UK Culture in 2010