Thursday, October 27, 2005


I'm simultaneously pleased and a little miffed that beavers have been re-introduced to Britain (Gloucestershire, to be precise). Miffed, because there has been a move afoot to do this in Scotland, and much hoo-ha has been gone through, with precisely no effect. Meanwhile, our friends in the Cotswolds have just kind of, er, done it. I suppose private enterprise is better at getting things done than a devolved government...

Monday, October 24, 2005

More cute animals

Have just rescued a blue tit, which was flying round my kitchen. It must have squeezed through the gap in the window. Maybe my kitchen units look like a good foraging area (nice arty postcards, yum!).

Cute animals

I visited the Scottish Seabird Centre on Saturday. I'd avoided stumping up my £6.95 during previous visits to North Berwick, but felt it had to be done. If you notice a slight hesitancy there, it's because I often disapprove of modern museums, which seem to always be an "Experience" (note the capital E), and involve lots of images but very little real material. Initially, this looked to be the case, with a lot of huge reproductions of puffins and seals in evidence. Ultimately, however, it's redeemed by a number of real exhibits: the remote cameras on various islands that you can control in real time, and the tanks of sea-life, including prawns, hermit crabs and blennies. The grey seals and their pups were in residence on Isle of May, and watching them laze about (anthropomorphic, but what else can you say?) is irresistible.

North Berwick is a very cute place to visit in its own right too. It seems to have retained a very healthy set of high street shops, unlike many small towns. The Aldeburgh of East Lothian? Pity it's full of golf courses, though.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Fun-filled afternoon

It was a rainy Friday afternoon, so it seemed like the time to do some computer peripheral maintenance. I've long held the view that understanding computers is just about possible, but understanding printers and devices of that ilk is a wholly other proposition. Still, I had two useless devices gathering dust on the floor, so they either had to start working, or they were out.

The Epson scanner responded well to some re-installation, and is now mostly working. Some of the wilder shores of scanner functionality seem still to be out of reach, but I'm happy enough. It works.

The dodgy Dell own-brand printer is another matter. This has been sick since I tried to refill the ink cartridges myself, rather than pay over the odds for the gold plated ones from Dell. Yes, I'm tight, but I'd do the same again. Attempted re-installation only made this worse, and had me swearing at the screen quite a bit. It felt just like working on Crystal Enterprise all over again. Need I add that the supplied manual was useless? Not a great advert for my former profession.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Curse of the were-rabbit

Thankfully, Wallace and Gromit's latest adventure is very good indeed, breaking a run of indifferent-to-poor films on my part. I noticed that the adverts beforehand were either obviously targetted at small children ("the best Disney princess album, in the world, ever!"), or were for cars. The distributors have worked out that dad is taking the kids, and apparently not mum. Or is it a sexist assumption that car adverts are only aimed at men? Probably. But I detest all car adverts anyway, so I'd never know any different. I'm old enough to remember when car adverts actually tried to tell you something about the car, rather than just being vague aspirational images. How long is it before some advertising exec hits on the idea of a retro style ad that is just informative?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Union Canal

I went on a very fine walk yesterday, following the Union Canal from Linlithgow to the outskirts of Edinburgh. I was very lucky with the weather, it being dry, bright througout, and with a couple of hours of sun around midday. This seemed to bring out all the wildlife. On two separate occasions, I saw what I'm pretty sure were mink swimming in the canal. One of them even swam right up to me to allow a better identification. Perhaps I should be more dismayed at the damage they are probably doing to birdlife, than I am thrilled at the mere novelty. Just after the first American visitor was sighted, I passed a riotously perfumed bush clustered with a stupid number of bees and flies, and six red admiral butterflies. Not bad for mid-October.

It's an enjoyable route for other reasons too. Where the original bridges exist, they are lovely: stone built and elegantly arched, and with carved numbers that count down to Lochrin Basin. And you get a good view of the shale bings around Broxburn and of Niddry castle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Welcome home

Since moving back to Scotland a little more than a year ago, the weather has seemed relatively kind. During all of Alison's visits it has been almost scarily pleasant, so that she thinks the damp Scottish climate is a myth. The last two days, however, have consisted almost entirely of rain. Persistent, heavy, stair-rods of wetness falling from a grey sky. It makes me nostalgic for family holidays. And wet, unfortunately (I need a new waterproof).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Changing, yet changeless

Last Sunday, I was reading the Sunday Post in a wee cafe. Of course, one reads Oor Wullie and The Broons just to see that they're still the same. Except that The Broons this week concerned setting up a biodiesel scheme. I feel it my duty to record these things.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Good reading

I've had a very good run of reading recently--as sometimes happens--seeming to have a magic touch both with library books and items trawled from second hand shops. I've just finished (if you can be said to finish such a work) The White Goddess, Robert Graves's original, lengthy, passionate and sometimes just downright barmy musings on the origins and interconnections of myth and poetry. It's difficult to come up with a pithy summary of such a large book, so maybe I won't try. I can see why professional Celtic scholars dismissed it, and why lots of new age type people would hug it to their bosoms. Let's just say it's worth reading, if only for the richness of anecdote and the Byzantine footnotes (the belief that barnacle geese grew from barnacles is a nice example).

All this and John Updike too. I have been put off for a long time, but final read Seek My Face recently. A fantastic bit of writing, and all the more interesting for being about post-war American painters (albeit slightly in disguise). The Zack character really being Jackson Pollock gives rise to the lovely line: "When did Zack start dripping?".

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A history of violence

I saw this film last night and thought it was crap. I was hoping for good things, but apart from a promising opening sequence, all I got was a stream of film cliches. The bad men are clearly irredemably bad because they kill a child, which stops you feeling any remorse when they are moved down themselves. Tom Stall is such a regular guy, with a wife who attends to his sexual fantasies, and nice kids, and who runs a nice all-American diner in a quiet town, that you feel a bit sick. And bored--because establishing this takes a long time. No doubt Mr Cronenberg is aware of the debased nature of the currency he is working with, but he fails to turn it into anything more interesting. I considered leaving the cinema, which is pretty bad for me.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I am experienced in the use of wooden tripods

Went to a painting class last night. I was asked at the start if I had used an easel before. An odd question. Are you now required to view a health and safety video first or something?
Quite fun in the end, but acrylics are a bit yuck. It might help if I took some decent brushes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tech authors never die

To write this, I have to click "Create New Post". This is somewhat tautological (though frequently seen in UIs). After all, you can't create an old one, can you?

Monday, October 03, 2005

A view spoiled

Walking home last night, I decided to make the trip a little more interesting by cutting through the Old Town. It was a fine evening, and I had the wizard idea of observing the view from the Esplanade. Cut to the top of Castlehill. Some stands from the tattoo are still there (why does it take so long to take this down?) and an itty-bitty chain stretched across. There are two tourists ahead of me, and I can't see anybody else, so I step across. I'm then accosted by a security guard who appears from a wee hut. I won't bore you with the conversation, but you know how it goes: this area is closed, sir. Eventually, I negociate two minutes looking at the view (he thinks I'm some kind of weirdo though, and I have to repeat the request a few times). Maybe if you're a pretty female tourist, this part goes rather better.

As far as I know, the Esplanade is a public area, and the restriction is just because of that over-persistent scaffolding. The whole thing is trivial, yet it spoiled my evening. Over-zealous security guards seem to be a feature of our age.