Friday, March 31, 2006

Computers are fast these days

I created a SAS data set with 144 million observations today. Admittedly, it took a while, but it is remarkable that it happened at all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I very much enjoyed Transamerica last night. Felicity Huffman's portrayal of a transsexual is very well observed, and assisted, I imagine, by some very skilled make-up and costume. That bloke-trying-slightly-too-hard-to-look-feminine look is captured expertly. I particularly liked the drag queen lipstick and over-abundance of pink. So is it just a light veneer covering a very formulaic road movie? Perhaps, but, for me, the changing American landscape did add something. It's all to easy for us to forget the size of that continent and driving across it probably would change your outlook of a few things. I suspect the film exagerates how quickly you could do this (we get to Texas with suspicious speed), but there is some plot to get on with, and the deadline of Bree's approaching surgery means that the journey has to proceed briskly. Anyway, a nicely judged piece that doesn't try to force a message. And that's good.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


It seems Ian Hamilton Finlay has died. It's been a bad few weeks for octagenarian eccentrics. I hope Little Sparta is preserved.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Thanks to a lot of moisturiser, my face is surviving, but it is flaking a bit now.

Walking past the Mound while sheding fragments of skin, I discover that Thursday is late night opening. So I wander into the National Gallery, where some musicians are playing classical music. Cue half an hour looking at paintings. (Yes, I know, this sounds impossibly cultured.) I am struck by a Van Dyke that I never really noticed before. He's much more interesting than I gave him credit for.

Monday, March 20, 2006


That's the colour of my face today, after yesterday's sun and snow. It entertained my work colleagues greatly. I had a meeting with some external bods this afternoon. Nobody mentioned that I was doing an impression of an electric fire.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Slow but pretty

I can report a fine day on Stuc a'Chroin, with Alan (old walking friend). There was still a lot of the copious amounts of snow that fell last week lying around, which made things very pretty, and slow. Lovely and clear too, with a semicircle of snowy peaks to look at (we're on the edge of the Highlands, remember). There was practise in traversing steep snow, which I've not done for a while, and the complex and rugged ridge gave us a lot of fun. The freezing level was at about summit level, so all snow was soft and getting softer, and therein lay a problem. The walk-out should have been a brisk trot down Glen Ample and no messing. But you can't trot on a path covered by a foot of wet cement. You labour slowly, with aching legs and curse when you posthole (which is a lot). Alan was suffering more than me, through having children and not walking much recently.

There's always something, isn't there? My last walk was fuck-off cold and icy, so this time it was crampons and thermals, but we really needed sunglasses and Ambre Solaire. And new legs.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


This morning two treecreepers were doing their thang on a large gnarled tree in the Meadows. I stopped to watch for a bit. Their tear-shaped bodies bobbed and darted about on the trunk like mice. Then it started snowing, so I moved on.

If you've detected an increase in bird notes in this blog recently, it's largely because I talk to Bob at work a lot and he knows about stuff like this. He's a good teacher--using interesting facts to hook me in and never overloading me with information. The bit of river near work holds a surprising number of birds and often starts us off. There's the exotic ducks that I've discovered are goosanders, the rather charming grey wagtails the other day (an easy one since they do a lot of tail-wagging), and the redwings foraging in the football field. I've still not seen the kingfisher, though. Patience, patience.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

That's that

As of tonight, when I received my rejection letter, I officially joined that elite club of people who have failed a Civil Service board. From what I've seen, the others have all been bright, articulate, and highly employable, so I feel honoured to join them. I suspect it's all for the best, as if I'd got in, the hideous and inexplicable rejection would occur a couple of years in. Colleagues have been very comforting about the whole business and have provided many other examples of recruitment/promotion disasters.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Political Science

The lyrics of Randy Newman's song of that name from 1972 are astonishingly prescient and could be a neo-con anthem:

No one likes us-I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us-so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin', too

Boom goes London and boom Paris
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sainsburys, tonight

I go on an unenthusiastic single-male type trip to Sainsburys.

A wee girl stands eating a creme egg at the end of an aisle with a streak of chocolatety dribble down her face. It works for me. I buy some.

Two blokes behind me in the queue discuss salad dressings and whether they've got enough balsamic vinegar. Then they talk about hard maths. They don't make me buy anything.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Goodbye, Ivor

Ivor Cutler is dead. I discovered this while reading newspapers after a meal in Hendersons. Both the Guardian and the Telegraph have good obituaries.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bothy trip

Had a very enjoyable overnight trip to the Bridge of Orchy area on Friday/Saturday. The weather was fine, the bothy was in good shape, and it was nice to see that Crannach wood has been fenced off to keep the deer out. Since it was cold, and snowy on the tops, there were a lot of deer about, too.

Anyway, onward to Beinn Mhanach, which I climbed very slowly. Unfitness, extreme cold, or a large pack? I'm not sure, but we got there in the end. I enjoyed making the rising traverse around Beinn an Dothaidh to get to the Beinn Dorain col. There's a certain smugness about not losing height that no other exertion can remove. Another reason for satisfaction was the emptiness of this side of the hill. After a brew of tea, I climbed to the col, which was like a railway station by comparison. Thence to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, which these days has decided to be friendly to walkers. So I suppose there are some advantages to being in a crowd.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Watched Solaris on DVD a few nights ago. That's the recent Soderberg version, not the very long Tarkovsky one. Anyway, it came up very well on re-viewing. As on my first encounter, I found the music captivating and somewhat hypnotic. Maybe I should locate the soundtrack album. And Natasha Whatsit is a bit tasty.

Incidentally, I see this blog now has at least 2 readers.

Here day, away day

The statistician's away day (just think about that concept for a moment) is now past. It was actually about a day and a half in Peebles Hydro and wasn't as bad as I feared. I don't really take to such events, partly because they take place in hotels (which I don't understand) and partly because of the awkwardness of coping with over 100 people whom I don't know. Like the odd loner I am, I go for a walk up the wee glen beside the hotel after the first day. It's a pleasant evening, despite having snowed earlier, and there's a noisy tawny owl in the woods. All in all, it could be worse.

Going back into the office after this short break, I'm struck by what a nice environment it is. I realise clearly for the first time that I'm going to miss this if, as seems likely, I don't get a permanent job there.