Tuesday, June 27, 2006


A woman on the bus this morning is eating muesli, with a spoon, from her bag. Suddenly, she notices my interest and stops.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Power source of the future

Nice to see that this month's Prospect had an article on fusion power. I was peripherally involved in this in the early 90s, as my PhD was sort-of-relevant to fusion devices, and my supervisor still had some tenuous connections to the Culham lab. Therefore, off I went at the end of my first year to the Culham Plasma Physics Summer School. This had its plus points, such as wandering round Oxford in the evenings, drinking at the Turf Tavern, and staying in St Edmonds Hall. Basically though, the course was quite dull. We all had to be indoctrinated into thinking that fusion was the energy of the future. It did seem oddly half-hearted though, as if its all being 40 years off meant we didn't have to bother too much at the moment. And that, as the Prospect article rightly noted, is the point. Fusion power as a feasible generation option is always 40 years away, regardless of whether you are in 1970, 1992, or 2006. The principle is perfectly sound, but the devil is in actually engineering and building the thing. It's easy to demonstrate in broad terms how containment works, but as somebody during that summer school pointed out, in practice it's as easy as restraining a wet bar of soap with elastic bands.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Googling for something to do with chickens, I found the titles below. They are studies undertaken by a veterinary expert.

  • Alleged fraud on armchair ostrich farming
  • Losses attendant on mis-supply of ostriches
So if ostriches have been mis-supplied to you, I can recommend where to go.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Birdwatching at work

Went to a meeting in Perth today. The office is in an industrial estate, and has some resident oystercatchers breeding in the surrounding landscaped area. We got distracted at one point in the meeting by one of them rattling on the window (does it look like water?). During our buffet lunch, we got a perfect view of a couple of them foraging for whatever squirmy bugs it is they eat and shoving them into the beak of their chick, a grubby ball of feathers on stilts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Da Vinci bollocks

I was in the mood for a film last night, but there was a lack of anything interesting to watch. So it was you-know-what, which I expected to be rubbish. And it was. My excuse to myself was that I enjoyed the locations, which is more or less true. I did some picture spotting during the scenes in the Louvre (did you catch Oath of the Horatii flitting past?). The London bits around Westminster Abbey were also well known to me (though our Tom appears not to need to pay to get in). And the Rosslyn chapel is familiar too, being just down the road a bit. Anorak that I am, I also recognized the bit of ruin that Tom and Audrey are standing in front of towards the end while mouthing some bland nonsense.

So, pretty locations then. Apart from a nice turn by Ian McKellern, there's no other reason to see it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I've just discovered a website with beautiful panoramas. I can foresee some wasted hours ahead. My sighting of Ben Lawers from Arthur's Seat now looks quite tame.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More hills

A more sociable walk today, with an ascent of Ben Vane. The cloud kept us cool in the walk-in, then cleared on the way up to give a pretty good, if hazy view. Even Ben Nevis put in an appearance, with a tiny snow field glittering in the distance. I officially declare Ben Vane to be a cool hill. It's steep and has boulders and scrambly bits.

Interesting that none of us were repelled by the pylons and pipes of the Loch Sloy hydro scheme that's next to it. I mean look, it's a landscape-it has stuff in it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Don't argue with an economist

We were having some enjoyable office banter today at the expense of a colleague who drives the pathetically short distance from Tollcross to the office. Clearly, he'll be first against the wall when the revolution comes, but being an economist, he points out that once you own a car, the marginal cost of driving it somewhere is trivial.

As if to back him up, the buses have been irritating, overheated, crowded and generally rubbish for the last few days. Tonight there was an unreconstructed drunkard on the back seat of the 30, singing sectarian songs and being ignored by all the sweaty office workers.