So This Year

With two hours of 2013 to go, here’s my favourite music of this year—and for the first time in quite a while, almost all of it was from this year as well (all releases below are 2013 unless otherwise indicated). Once again in chronological order of my discovering it, because ranking music is exhausting.

Read More · 31 December 2013 · Music

So Last Year

So for a few years I’ve been doing these retrospective entries about the previous year in music, and this year I’m so far behind that I now have less than 48 hours to write about 2012, or else I’ll have to call it “So the Year Before Last”, which doesn’t work nearly as well. So here’s the best stuff I listened to in 2012, in chronological order of discovering it.

Read More · 30 December 2013 · Music

That’s a Wrap

Like any good six-year-old, our son has been bursting with anticipation for Christmas, asking us again and again for weeks if we can tell him what some of his presents are. We should line a packing box with wrapping paper, bundle him into it while he’s asleep, and tell him his present is the whole world.

24 December 2013 · Journal

Buckingham Palace, London

Now that I’m on leave for Christmas and have wrapped all our presents I have a few more moments to sort through photos from the year, and figured I’d make a gallery of a weekend trip to London I didn’t post about at the time. I was there in April to take my son to Legoland Windsor and do the whole visit-Buckingham-Palace thing, now that he was six. It was my first trip to London in quite a while, too, so I was happy to see the Shard and one or two other new things. Here they are.

23 December 2013 · Travel

Norn Iron

I first visited Ireland with my parents in 1992, starting in Dublin and driving south and west to Cork, Limerick and Galway. I was back again in 2002 with J., on a weekend trip from Edinburgh to Dublin. On both visits I liked the easy familiarity of the place, with its good-natured people and its villages reminding me of midlands towns in Tasmania. But on the first visit, at least, there was one direction we wouldn’t have dreamt of driving.

The Troubles began eighteen months before I was born, so like any now-forty-something I grew up hearing about them. Throughout the 1980s, stories of hunger strikes, IRA bombings and troops on the streets made Northern Ireland sound like the last place you’d want to visit, at least in the British Isles. So when I visited the British Isles, I didn’t. When I was studying in England in the early nineties I met someone from Derry, who sounded Scottish until I listened more closely, and who didn’t talk about home much. His home seemed to me as exotic and as distant from our university town as mine must have to him, but mine at least was on the other side of the world.

By the time we moved to the UK in 2001, the landscape had changed. The Good Friday agreement drawing a line under the Troubles was three years old, and appeared to have worked. When we were travelling around Britain and Europe during those first few years, we contemplated the short hop to Belfast, by Ryanair or by ferry from Stranraer, but never quite made it. On a trip with my parents around Ayrshire and Galloway in 2008, we looked across to the Antrim coast from the old ferry town of Portpatrick, and thought about it again; it was barely a hop and a skip.

Read More · 21 December 2013 · Travel

Special Snowflakes

Car mechanic gives birth to a revolution.

The second operating system hiding in every mobile.

Snowflake photography [via io9].

Speaking of snow, please give generously.

Jonathan Coe on Boris Johnson.

The Age of Enthusiasm [via Mefi].

The blog is dead, says Jason Kottke. Not this one, despite appearances—it’s just taking me a while to write the particularly long next entry.

20 December 2013 · Weblog

Nelson Mandela’s handling of the transition to post-apartheid South Africa made you wonder why all world leaders couldn’t be like that, particularly in the face of their failures elsewhere: at the moment of his election as president in 1994, Bosnia was tearing itself apart, Rwanda was a month into a hundred days of genocide, and there was little sign of international action on either. But that also made his election one of the most hopeful moments of the most dramatic five years in world politics in my lifetime, and that lingering hope was enough to soften the gritty impression made by Johannesburg when I visited it in 2000. One man can rarely make such a difference to how you feel about not only a whole country but the whole world, but Mandela did.

6 December 2013 · People

Not as dramatic as elsewhere in Britain today, but the way this tree in our tenement garden fell down in four directions at once in this morning’s storm was pretty impressive...

Storm damage, 5 December 2013

At least our roof didn’t blow off this time.

5 December 2013 · Journal

I missed a week of updating by obsessively watching everything Who-anniversary-related on iPlayer, including this clip of Tom Baker’s reappearance seventeen times. Here are some undoctored links.

Aurora and unusual clouds over Iceland.

If all stories were written like science fiction stories.

If science fiction stories were written like Facebook feature releases.

How a copyright mistake created the modern zombie.

How a US-UK pact forged modern surveillance.

Naomi Klein on how science is telling us all to revolt.

Charlie Brooker on why video game television is so hard to make.

Re:char will help Kenya go green and save money.

Imagining the post-antibiotics future. Guess what—it’s awful!

Headlines from a mathematically literate world.

Waterstones’ amusing riposte to Amazon Prime Air.

5 December 2013 · Weblog

November 2013