Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Information is beautiful

Everyone knows I love me a good infographic.

Spotted this one in the government's white paper and just had to repost it (recoloured so as not to jar with its surroundings, naturally). Click for a larger version.

Thursday, December 05, 2013


One of my favourite ways of unwinding, or unjamming my brain if I get stuck on a project, is to go for a walk along the tow path on the Union Canal. I find I think through my feet sometimes and the stroll out west under the bridges and past the ducks, with the water always steady beside me and an unrolling familiar-but-each-time-new landscape of the canal sides to occupy my brain... I just love it.

This time of year though there's a problem, the light. Around mid afternoon the sun goes down so most of the times I might go for a walk it's pitch black, if not when I head out then definitely by the time I'm coing back (my customary walk is 2 miles out and 2 back).

A few years back Scottish Waterways lined the towpath with neat little solar powered running lights. They make it easy to see where the path runs and are (I think) kind of beautiful in themselves:

However the towpath is also a commuter run for cyclists and I was increasingly finding I was dangerously invisible to them. Nobody actually made me have to jump into the water, but on a walk a few weeks back several riders nearly ran straight into me on the return leg, and being apparently invisible (but not permiable) was taking a lot of the fun out of the walk.

Happily Justin's cycling habit came to the rescue and he's loaned me a visibility armband thingy so now when I go stomping I have little red lights on one arm.

Kind of a "I'm here please do not try to cycle through me!" alert. It works too. Winter walking is a peaceful and relaxing experience once more. Hurrah for the LED!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Covered in awesome

Anita brought these to my attention a while back and I keep meating to share them: new cover art for some of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. They're beautiful and inspiring.

It's hard picking a favourite but I think mine is probably this:

Sourcery cover, via Buzzfeed

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Well that was fun!

I'm just back after helping Yes Scotland leaflet information on today's White Paper to commuters at Haymarket (we were handing out an even more condensed summary, the full thing is here if you're curious) I may not have mentioned this to everyone but after around a decade as a small "n" Scottish nationalist I threw my hat over the fence in October and became a card carrying member of the SNP. Seemed only right: I believe fervently in an idependent Scotland and the the referendum less than a year away, it seemed time to do something about that belief.

So anyway today was my first bit of political activism since... well pretty much since marching in favour of the (then) new and shiny devolved Scottish Parliament's (then) proposed repeal* of Section 28 back at University.

And it was fun.

22 of us turned up to don Saltire blue Yes Scotland branded hi-viz and hand out postcard sized summaries of the white paper, until we ran out and began handing out Yes newspapers... which also ran out pretty quick.

I spotted only three "Better Together" volunteers. They seemed to be having a much harder time finding welcome hands to take their papers.

One especially lovely moment for me was when a woman commuter stopped in front of me and peered intently at my blue vest for a second before taking the proffered paper with a big smile. "Sorry" she said "it's just someone tried to give me one of those Better Together ones earlier."

There were of course plenty of people passing who didn't want either a paper or a postcard, commuters after all are usually focussed on commuting... a couple even announced their intention to vote no as they passed me, but the responses I had were overwhelmingly either open-minded curiosity or genuine enthusiasm. Heart warming really.

40min into our hour of volunteering we'd all 22 run out of things to hand people, a shame really as the handful of No folk still seemed to have armfuls of their paper... but then as I said fewer people seemed interested in that.

I realise it's a completely unscientific sample and all, but nonetheless it felt today like Scotland is very seriously thinking about going it alone next year, and I for one couldn't be happier about that.

* which subesequently passed more than three years before Westminster took that shameful bit of hatred-enshrined-in-legislation off the rest of the UK's statutes. Just sayin'.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Just. Wow.

I was hoping to enjoy the Doctor Who 50th special. I wasn't prepared for just how much though.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

How did I miss this?

Justin pointed this out to me a while back and I've yet to get through more than a handful of them but I love it. As I think will anyone with an enquiring mind, a love of infographics, and/or a sense of humour.

As with most xkcd the alt texts are usually worth hovering for (not in the first handful, but the later ones) my personal favourite so far being from his examination of what (hypothetically) would be the effects of an ever expanding Earth:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

one year to the day

So OK I'm not really doing cryptic posts for my future self anymore, or rather I'm trying not to...

...but. I had news today about a friend's engagement which made me look back on this post and smile. Not least since said news coincidentally arrived one year to the day after that post.

That's all. As you were.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Last week my brother and his family came to visit Edinburgh for the first time.

Well, not the first time. My brother's been lots... and he and my sister-in-law have visited together a few times... including once with my nephew when he was very small and I (famously) had nothing but pear cider in the fridge when I left my brother babysitting his son and toom my sister-in-law out for all night festival comedy and coctails.

Last week my neice visited Edinburgh for the first time, the rest of her family came along too.

It was an awesome week all round and part of me's tempted to drone on about it here but I'm not going to, partly because I doubt anyone except future me wants to read that (and he gets plenty to read) and partly because my brother's not always that comfortable with me putting details of his and his family's life out on the open interweb. Understandable. Besides all of that I'm rusty at blogging and my fingers would probably wind up sore.

Instead I'm just going to blog about going with all of them plus Justin and his two daughters to Glasgow's (relatively) new transport museum, Riverside Museum.

If you haven't been (and live in Scotland) you must. Hell if you haven't been and don't live here I'd recommend it should you make the trip. It's a fantastic place, the building itself is worth a visit in my book and that's even before you get to the wonderfully presented exhibits. There are shelves of old cars* rambling displays of mixed vehicles with stories woven through them, an almost hypnotic wartime subway to ride on, and a victorian Glasgow pub (on the recreated victorian Main Street that occupies one corner of the museum where you can explore all the shops...) populated with ghosts by a genius use of video screens as pub mirrors.

Sadly none of my photos really does the place justice but in amongst all the failed attempts at panoramas and interiors is a rather nice reflection of the tall ship in the river front glass of the building:

Riverside Museum, Glasgow

Fantastic to see a celebration of transport and transport design so well designed in and of itself. Can't wait to go back.

* Some amongst us (OK we four grown-ups) were distressed that "old" includes cars from our childhoods and even in one case one of our first cars. Tempus fugit.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Starry eyed

I just finished watching and enjoying this wonderful documentary on the NRAO New Mexico Very Large Array.

It's a scientific and technological icon of my childhood. Quieter and more understated perhaps than Concorde or The Shuttle, and (in spite of its many cinematic cameos) certainly far less ubiquitous than the Compact Disc or Velcro. But its completion in 1980 marked the beginning of a new era in space observation and it's such a powerfully evocative structure that it's long since seeped into my subconscious as the image of our planet's eye on the universe.

Jodie Foster's narration and the stunning cinematography combine to make a hym to this technological, scientific monument of my age. It's deeply moving.

What's even more moving is learning that (unlike most of my other examples - Velcro notwithstanding) The VLA has had a C21st rebirth, marrying its breathtaking late C20th macro engineering with the best of early C21st micro technology to produce an instrument with all the majesty and grace of the original, but many times the capacity to (further) enrich our understanding of the universe we inhabit.

I salute you VLA.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Four minutes...

So I missed voting in the BBC's Stirling Prize poll by that. Four minutes. Frustrating since I'd basically made up my mind on seeing the video of the Park Hill rennovation but I wanted to be fair so I watched the others too. 

It doesn't matter of course - RIBA's judges won't be paying a blind bit of notice to the BBC's poll but it's frustrating all the same. 

That said I'm glad I looked around the other entries - some fantastic buildings in there and each of the little mini documentaries was nicely put together. Newhall Be and Astly Castle especially caught my eye... but whether it's regional bias or my deep rooted fondness for brutalist architecture I couldn't say, but Park Hill is the stand out for me. 

Growing up in South Yorkshire, Sheffield was where we went to shop, when real shopping was required. As a kid of course "real shopping" meant toy shopping (invariably only near birthdays and xmas) and toy shopping in my childhood meant Redgates. Perhaps then the stirring I get from views of Park Hill, high on it's bluff overlooking Sheffield has as much to do with seeing it from the car window on such trips? My own personal Colossus of Rhodes standing sentinel over Sheffield Parkway signalling we'd reached the place where all the toys were...


I'd like to think it has at least something to do with the aesthetics and the purpose of the project as well - seeing that yearning post-war optimisim inherent in the building reinvigorated and made new for a C21st audience is really exciting. The honesty of the design is refreshing too - the bare concrete features in some of the interiors (yes Virginia, concrete can be beautiful!) and the way the simple, large windows and bold colour panels play with the strong lines of the original structure. 

Regardless of it winning the award I really hope the project continues, and the whole estate gets this new lease on life. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

newness! v6 is here :)

It's not yet 100% if I'm honest: mobile navigation isn't displaying yet (which is a shame because the new design is responsive so the pages all rearrange themselves beautifully for small devices) visitors using Internet Explorer won't see the social media links in the right hand side of the menu bar, and the "share" links at the end of these blog posts look a bit out of place, being the default sharethis ones... There are probably other glitches too but I'll fix all of them, and hopefully soon.

For the most part the new design is ready to roll, and I'm very pleased with it - feel free to let me know your thoughts/bug reports in the comments.

The most important change is the new design page, the most thorough online "portfolio" I've done to date, and one I plan on expanding over time.

Long time visitors will notice a few things have gone as well - the last vestiges of the personal site which has been here for the past ten years have been retired to make way for the site's role as my business "shop window"... well all but one of the vestiges: I've kept the blog archive. ten years is a lot of blether to discard, even when there are as big gaps in it as there are.

If you miss the old personal content (and - just now - aren't using IE) you can supplement it with the social media links. I plan on adding to those too over time, possibly restoring some kind of photo album via flickr but we'll have to see if anything comes of that or not.

I also intend to update this blog more often. I know, I know, you've heard that before, but since I always tell clients there's no point in having a blog you don't update... practice what you preach and all that. There's likely to be more design related posts and less navel gazing though.

So onward and upward...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

technicalities / cross-polination

OK, me being rubbish at this blogging lark isn't new. In fact it has a long and fine tradition going back almost a decade (scary thought) but lately I've been conscious of letting this place languish and wondering why. I think I just stumbled onto parts of the reason.

excuse part the first: "Apple took my RSS away"
It's ages back now, but the last major overhaul of Safari removed the RSS reader functionality (for no good reason) and put it in Mail instead... which is a stupid place to put RSS. Having painstakingly moved all my feeds (friends blogs and a few cartoons) to Mail I promptly forgot to check them for three months, after which I found that (presumably having realised an email application is a stupid place to put RSS) Apple have removed RSS from Mail as well... GAH!

So last month I started reconstructing my RSS feeds in a neat little standalone app called Netnewswire and that's working nicely.

...what does this have to do with me blogging or not? I hadn't really realised before but reading my friends' thoughts and musings prompts me to put down my own, and without that prompt I was forgetting.

excuse part the second: "Google broke my blogger"
I'm still not sure why but since its last update blogger's front end has been bitching at me about utterly spurious and non-existant faults every time I do anything. How do I know they're non-existant? Because everything still works, I'm just plagued with error messages.

That's less of a disincentive than the conversational vacuum I was in, but I think it's a contributory factor nonetheless.

So. That's my "dog ate my homework" bit for 2013, and (hopefully) the start of another period of regular posts... about nothing in particular, to be read by nobody in particular.

Monday, April 29, 2013


A mouse!

A mouse in broad daylight no less.

Brave mouse.


Well OK not so brave, it popped out from under the skirting of the big cupboard* in the corner of my kitchen/office, saw me, popped back in and then freaked out and ran under the fridge when I opened said cupboard to see where it came from.

It came from a hole where the studding wall of the cupboard meets the floorboards. Or rather doesn't meet the floorboards.

This is the third time (in two and a half years) that I've seen a mouse in my house. The first this year, but also the first ever in daylight (the other two were furtive night time mices as one expects). Its boldness - coupled with it being in my kitchen - make me think I should be doing something about it. Presuming mouse-boldness indicates competition for food and/or space under the floor**, which in turn I presume indicates a many of mices under my floor.

I don't want to kill them though.

I also don't want them in/on my food/food preparation places.


For the time being (since there's no evidence of mouse anywhere that food is kept or prepared - I checked thoroughly!) I think I shall live and let live, but keeping an eye out for further mouse-ey incursions. Loath though I am to start killing the wee buggers, I really can't have them making free with the kitchen.

* said cupboard is where I store Henry (the hoover) a bucket and other such large cleaning related miscellany... had mouse emerged from a food cupboard I'd be out at the shop buying traps but as it is...

** where, I'm reconciled to the fact, there will always be mice. I live in an old building in the middle of a city after all.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ding Dong

So I wasn't going to blog about this.

Yes, I know I've not been blogging about anything much lately so big whoop, yes?

Well I wasn't... But then Hamish pointed something out to me and I wanted to share it. Hame's been one of my best friends for such a long time that I forget sometimes this isn't the land he was born into. On April 8th he emailed me with thanks for preparing him for this day. Amongst other things I'd once played him a particular Hefner song. I remembered - reading that email - how startled my archetypally Canadian friend was early in our relationship when my South Yorkshire roots showed through on the subject of this one poisonous bag.

Hatred doesn't figure in my make up. It doesn't, any of you who know me, know that. Margaret Thatcher was the exception who proved that rule.

I occasionally cite primary school craft lessons (where - teachers colluding - we'd craft clay effigies of the then-Prime Minister's head and then mangle them while gleefully singing "here's Maggie Thatcher, Throw her up and catch her, Squish-squash squish-squash, There's Maggie Thatcher" - I'm not making that up.) but they're symptoms not causes. Thatcher's influence on my generation was polarising, and I - by nature - gravitated into hating the woman, against my own nature.

Anyway back to Hamish. Today he sent me a link. I've never had much time for Russell Brand in the past but the Guardian article Hame pointed me at is beautiful.

if you opposed Thatcher's ideas it was likely because of their lack of compassion, which is really just a word for love. If love is something you cherish, it is hard to glean much joy from death, even in one's enemies.

Perhaps for the first time that explains to me my own struggle with vehemently hating someone when hatred isn't something I understand?

Thatcher's time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most. I know from my own indulgence in selfish behaviour that it's much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others.

I find I'm smiling, nodding, and (perhaps) understanding something new. Who knew?

I maintain (as I did on the 8th) that I'd have to be a massive hypocrite to claim to feel anything other than elated at the news that this poisonous, destructive and vile woman has - at long last - departed. I'm many things, but hypocritical isn't one of them. I'm unsettled though to think that - perhaps - my very determination to hate her, is part of the woman's legacy.