Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lifting big things

Clydeside's shipbuilding history is slowly getting some kind of a memorial, though it is spread between several sites. The Titan crane at Clydebank opened to the public last year, and I visited it yesterday. Growing up in Glasgow, the crane (and by that I mean a hammerhead like the Titan) was a natural symbol of strength and technological prowess. The thing that I made most commonly with my Meccano set when I was wee was a crane very like the one you see. I was most directly inspired by the Finnieston crane, mind you. (Oddly, the default construction for me in Lego was a rocket. Nasa really missed something by not giving theirs a square cross-section.) Climbing to the top of this symbol is easy, in a shiny new lift, and there's a fine view along the river. Towards town, somebody is still making ships--Yarrows at Scotstoun is knocking up some new destroyers.

Maybe the basin in front of the crane should be preserved too. So many famous ships started out here. There's a notch at the end where they lengthened it to stop the Queen Mary from sticking out into the river.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Digital bus stops

I've just discovered MyBusTracker which allows you to see real-time bus information for your favourite Lothian bus stop. It's a pity not all the buses are fitted out yet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oppie and the bomb

I've been enjoying watching Oppenheimer over the last few evenings. This series was produced by the BBC in 1980, which means that I have a dim memory of it, but was too young to really appreciate what was laid before me. What has made them release it on DVD now I don't know, but I'm glad that they have. It's a real period piece in a way, up there with Tinker, Tailor in its almost insolent slowness and care in building up its subject. Can you imaging anybody now making 7 hours of television that principally featured lots of people in suits sitting round committee tables and smoking a lot? (Admittedly, with one good explosion.) Jack Bauer would save the world several times in that span.

I particularly liked the Groves-Oppenheimer relationship, which could have been just cliche, but instead was subtly portrayed, and left you with respect for both of these very different men.

It's just a pity that the budget for this release didn't stretch to some extras on the DVD (I know these are often rubbish, but this was a case where you could have done something good), or to improving the colour quality of the video sections, which can't possibly have been that bad on broadcast. A missed opportunity also that the original production didn't try to explain more of the physics of what was going on. I looked up my copy of Clive James on Television, and he thought so too.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Suddenly, it's summer. I shouldn't complain, but it was rather hot today. I wanted to round off the weekend with a hill, so found myself in Callender heading up Ben Ledi. The town was tolerable when I arrived, but later was full of Glaswegians getting sunburn and buying woolly jumpers. The walk was good, though it was the first sweat-fest of the year. I reckon the snow might have been a problem only a couple of weeks ago.Sitting on the unusually still and sunny summit, I wonder why the Trossachs (which I can more or less see) were considered such a beauty spot. Because Victorian Scots could go on an excursion on just such a bank holiday and sail down Loch Katrine?