Saturday, February 25, 2006


Saw Capote last night and liked it a lot. It's always a pleasure when a film appears from the publicity to have a certain message, but on viewing turns out to have rather more to it. To put it another way: it's good when trailers don't spoil films. Thus, I thought that Truman Capote's researches into a nasty murder in Kansas would simply gain him an insight into his own background and how he could have turned out. However, what gradually swims into focus is that Capote's book can only exist because of the deaths of the victims, and that it can only be finished with the death of the murderers. Since stays of execution are granted, this takes about five years, and leads to an excellent bit of cinema. A very fine performances too from Mr Hoffman, and some lovely shots of bleak midwestern landscapes.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The natural world

I've not posted any nature notes for a bit, so I'm glad to record some fieldfares in the Meadows happily bathing in a puddle, while some inexplicable buskers (it was very cold) played at the people hurrying past.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Meanwhile, back at the office

Of course, everybody in the office asks about the interview, and I reply with an appropriate variant on "bloody awful" in each case. Over the day I do become just a little more hopeful. Somebody points out that to the fresh-faced new graduates, clutching their freshly minted degrees, the competency based interview is a much greater horror than to cynical old me. Well maybe.

It's hard to get back to work, as I feel like I've been away for ages.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Had an interview this morning and it didn't feel too good. It was unfortunately conducted in a tricky dialect of HR Bollocks. I am not fluent in this. Let's hope that everybody else was equally bewildered.

It rained quite a lot today. Just as I escaped after my competency-based ordeal, a lorry ran through a huge puddle and splashed me liberally.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I, a statistician

I still have some trouble self-identifying as a statistician. It's one of those archetypally dull things, like chartered accountancy--though, thankfully, much more interesting in reality. I've just been doing some tutoring. Hearing yourself say things like:

"No, remember that the null hypothesis states the variances are equal"

and expecting to be understood, is very spooky. And who came up with hypothesis testing, with all its Godawful multiple negatives? Not to mention the frequently misinterpreted p-value.

Is this a way for sane people to talk?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Biofuel madness

There's a lot of talk about biofuels at the moment (see my previous note on the Broons). It seems to be an idea whose time has come, or at least its time to be talked about has come. What almost none of the pieces in the press mention is how much space it takes to grow sufficient feedstocks. Basically, growing your fuel is very inefficient, regardless of how you do it. It's even less efficient than renewables like wind power, and that's saying something. A recent EU estimate stated that 17% of the EU's agricultural area would be needed to support a 5.75% uptake of biofuels by 2010. That's an awful lot of land for a small overall change in our fuel use. You have to wonder if we haven't better things to do with land, like growing food on it.

But what about Brazil -- that beacon of eco-fuel use? Well, they have an awful lot of land and a lot of heat and sunshine, so the conversion of sunlight into fuel, via some biochemical pathways is about as efficient as it presently can be. This is often forgotten when optimistic comparisons are made. Other factors have been important too. The programme was originally partly motivated by a desire to reduce their dependence on oil imports, though they have a little oil of their own now. It does rather worry me that those who form our policy have not been very well briefed on this.
I predict a backlash to the current biofuel hype in maybe 6-12 months, with claims that we've been "misled" about them.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Scotrail are rubbish

I got up ferociously early this morning to get the 06.40 train to go walking near Dalwhinnie. Just before starting, there is an announcement asking passengers changing at Perth (that's me) and some other stations to get off and wait for further instructions. Like a fool I obey, and guess what? The train leaves normally and (as far as I know) goes to Perth. There are no further instructions, and the whole thing was a screw up. If only I'd ignored the announcement, I'd now be walking around somewhere more interesting than Edinburgh.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Edward Scissorhands

Am just back from seeing Matthew Bourne's production of this at the Festival Theatre. Dance is not exactly a performing art that I follow, but you have to make some exceptions. I thought the show was excellent, with music nicely adapted from the film. The ensemble pieces had a lot of energy and humour, and the sets and staging were very impressive.

An interestingly mixed audience too. Initially the theatre seemed to be full of school parties, but on further study there were plenty of those older ladies that you always seem to find in theatres, plus some Goth presence. My neighbour sported leather trousers and a velvet frock coat. I felt underdressed.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Claws of Axos

I acquired this Dr Who DVD on Friday to add to my already all-too-large collection. I'm not greatly taken by it as a story, but it has a fantastic little extra that tells of the fascinating details of Reverse Standards Conversion, complete with Open University style graphics. If only there were more details...

OK, I'll take off my anorak now.