Thursday, February 28, 2008


I got to use the word "polytomous" today. It makes being a statistician almost worthwhile. I'm still not sure where to put the stress when pronouncing it though (my use was in an email). My paper dictionary doesn't include it, and it baffles the spell-checker.

I'm still working on an excuse to use heteroscedastic, or leptocurtic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You mean I have to do this myself?

I keep changing my mind about whether recruiters are the best thing since sliced bread, or just completely hopeless. As a person who is really rubbish at finding jobs on my own, the obvious solution is to get a professional to do it for me. A few years ago, when starting on a previous bout of joblessness, I was warned to ration my use of recruiters, because they would pester me all the time. Fat chance.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Steven Campbell

I'm taking advantage of my half-idleness just now to go to lunchtime talks. Today we looked back on the work of the painter Steven Campbell, who died last year. The talk was significant for me as he was one of a remarkable generation at Glasgow School of Art in the early 80s who were held up as an example when I was at school. He was in the same year as Ken Currie, who won the annual Newberry award. Since Steven was also clearly exceptional, they invented the Bram Stoker award for him. These and other figures meant that when learning about art in the 80s, I had some local examples that gave me a connection to new developments in painting. As a result I never questioned that figurative painting was worthwhile, and am probably still working out of an enthusiasm born at that time. Scotland in the 80s could be a right miserable place, so some genuine heroes (mostly working class too) went down very well.

To be honest, I've never been a completely consistent fan of Campbell's work - it often seemed overblown and a little pretentious. Today's talk did address this somewhat: he was more versatile and thoughtful than I probably gave him credit for. Now what we need is a proper retrospective.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Midweek mountaineering

Just for once, I made an accurate assessment of the weather forecast on Wednesday, and predicted good weather in the West. And just for once, I was able to act on it, given my present state of semi-employment. My reward was a walk up Beinn Eunaich and Beinn a' Chochuill on a clear, crisp day that felt more like spring than February. These are next to Ben Cruachan, which is always a photogenic chap, and looked almost Alpine yesterday with its snowy corries and horn peak. Look:

Fine views towards the cloudier part of Scotland too. This is looking towards Beinn Eunaich, with Beinn Lui prominent on the right. I think that's Ben More and Stob Binnean poking up in between.

I need to get a decent digital camera: I could have taken twice as many pictures, but ran out of memory.

Oh, and Loch Awe has to be a contender for more picturesque station in Britain. It's ridiculously small, squeezed between the loch and a huge mock baronial hotel, and has a cute (presumably original) iron footbridge.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rudolph knew his pictures

During my visit to Prague in December, I learned about Rudolph II and his famous collection of paintings. I'd only vaguely been aware of this before, but learned a lot during my visit to Prague castle, where they are trying to reunite as many of Rudolph's paintings as they can. This is a big task, as they have been scattered by such forces as: bickering relatives, disgruntled Swedish armies who need to get some looting in before peace breaks out, and objects ending up in different countries when an empire breaks down.

I'm now going to see references to the man everywhere. Last week Melvyn Bragg did a program about Rudolph's court. Yesterday I went to a show in the Queen's Gallery in Holyrood Palace, and what should be there but Breugel's Massacre of the Innocents. It was part of the royal collection in Prague, where R had the dying children painted out and replaced by animals and bundles. Charles II later bought it. Him and his dad were responsible for a lot of the good gear in the royal collection.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The conclusion

My telephone line had a fault, quite apart from my old phone being very dodgy. Two BT engineers called this morning, and after ritual sucking of teeth and some impromptu reconfiguring of the window shutters, an ancient Bakelite box was revealed, bearing the inscription GPO. I wonder why these junction boxes are traditionally placed in bathrooms? One of the engineers reckoned that it had been there for fifty years.

The wizzy new cordless phone took a ridiculous time to charge, and somewhere in the confusion, I swapped it for a traditional one. I'm happy now.

Friday, February 01, 2008


I must be getting middle aged, because I will use the flimsiest excuse to visit John Lewis. However, my excuse this time was quite a good one: my house phone completely stopped working this morning, and I felt that wasn't a good state to be in. It has been a temperamental beast for some time, with the ring coming in a random variety of patterns, often having crappy and very directional sound quality, and usually requiring several attempts to actually dial a number. But I forgave it all these because I got it for nothing.

So for under £20, I now have a digital cordless phone with caller display and who knows what else. I do resent the fact that it needs a power source though. The traditional phone was a very elegant design in that respect, needing only the tiny line voltage to make it work. The modern home is full of plugs with step-down transformers.