Thursday, 31 January 2008

Determined to Unwind

Even grabbing a few minutes during a busy day can refresh the psyche. Even if i can't get away from the desk, just do what i can. Put aside the emails, texts and distractions and kick back.

In this case, a colleague had returned my copy of "Porco Rosso". Along with the latest "Photoplus: Canon edition".

Another Glorious Day in the City

The crispness of the day heralds bad weather ahead.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Citizenship by Osmosis

Pete Seeger playing via the Naxos Music Library. It was Satchmo earlier, then some pre-Elvis rock 'n' roll. Woody Guthrie next, i think.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Why is the sun setting?

I thought it was almost lunchtime?

Start the week

You know it's going to be one of those weeks when you finish marking at 230am, force yourself out of bed at 645am. Then, after a snack of goji berries, find that someone has stolen the doormat from the hall. Ah well, maybe the Fates reckon i'm enough of a doormat myself and don't need another.

BBC WorldWide on MySpaceTV

I missed this as it's been a busy week, so thanks to Michael for referring to the feed in his blogging assessment:

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC and MySpace, the world's largest social networking platform, today announced the launch of a ground-breaking partnership to bring new and archived short form BBC content to MySpaceTV.

The announcement marks the first global agreement of this type between MySpaceTV and a major broadcaster. Under the partnership, the best BBC video content will be made available online globally via MySpaceTV, the social networking site's popular new video platform. MySpace users will be able to visit and subscribe to the BBC Worldwide's MySpaceTV video channel in order to view, embed and virally share BBC content across the MySpace community.

Full report available at:

BBC Worldwide's page on MySpace - they've already got some clips from Doc Who and Red Dwarf. Lets see if I can embed the code without being a MySpace member (stifles evil cackle)...

Red Dwarf: Taranshula

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Missing Forms Not Yet Found

You're probably already aware of this but...

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has apologised after five out of eight boxes of surveys, by 1,400 students from seven colleges, disappeared.

Names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, gender and ethnicity are included in the documents.

They went missing when a Glasgow market research firm sent them to a consulting company in Edinburgh, the SFC said.

Students from Aberdeen College, Adam Smith College in Fife, Anniesland College in Glasgow, Barony College in Dumfries, North Highland College and Telford College in Edinburgh, have been affected.

The National Union of Students Scotland has advised students to change internet and banking passwords, to help protect their identity.

From the SFC site:

Students at seven colleges across Scotland took part in a survey Learner Choice in FE 2007 between 1 October and 3 December 2007.  SFC contracted York Consulting LLP to carry out the survey, who in turn sub-contracted the interviews to market research company Research Resource.

The forms contain personal data which the interviewees may prefer to remain private, such as name, address, date of birth, phone number, and demographic information (such as gender and ethnicity).  For many people much of this data is already in the public domain.  It does not include bank data or national insurance details.  Nonetheless, SFC and the contractors are very keen to alert all interviewees that this information may become disclosed in a way that they have not authorised.

...despatched eight boxes containing the original paper forms with the data collected in the survey by City Link courier to York Consulting LLP.  York Consulting LLP informed us that three boxes were received.  Despite extensive efforts by Research Resource, City Link, and York Consulting LLP, five boxes containing about 1,500 forms have not been found.

The SFC point out that they have "contacted students individually".

Friday, 25 January 2008

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Robert Burns, born 249 years ago; and with 11 months left to go until Christmas.

Here's an extract from the Bard:

"Look not alone on youthful prime,
Or manhood's active might;
Man then is useful to his kind,
Supported in his right:
But see him on the edge of life,
With cares and sorrows worn;
Then Age and Want-oh! ill-match'd pair-
Shew man was made to mourn.


Source and prose in full

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Paxman on mental health

There's an heartfelt piece by Jeremy Paxman on last night's Newsnight blog: "Bravery in the face of mental illness":


For some reason, mental ill-health retains an aura, which seems at times to make it almost impossible to talk about it sensibly. Quite why this should be, when so many of us are going to suffer from depression or other illnesses, I don't know.


I suspect it's because we're frightened of it ourselves. How much better it would be if we could all treat it as we treat physical conditions, like 'flu or cancer or a broken arm.
Mr Bondevik's honesty in putting his cards on the table and telling the people of Norway what was going on in his mind and in his life is admirable. But the reaction of Norwegian voters is just as impressive.

They voted him back into office.


Full post and comments

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Humberside Police Seizure

More 'civil liberty' stuff:

A Humberside Police spokeswoman said: "Camera film was seized by Humberside Police following complaints from members of the public about photos being taken in the area of the Prospect Centre.

"Any person who appears to be taking photos in a covert manner should expect to be stopped and spoken to by police to enquire into what their business is.

"Humberside Police would expect other officers within the force to act in the same manner if given a similar situation.

"Following a thorough investigation into complaints made to Humberside Police it has found the police officers acted in a right and proper manner.

"It would be inappropriate to discuss the detail of the complaint as this is a private matter between the complainant and Humberside Police."

Full story at BBC News

Additional quotes from Mr Carroll via

'All the shots were of people. I took shots of people crossing the road, the Big Issue seller, two youths drinking from beer cans, people walking in the street and so on,' said Carroll who told us he was making his first attempt at 'street photography'.
He admits a few of his shots were taken candidly, adding: 'I did not take any photographs of children. I took most of the photographs openly, not trying to disguise the fact that I was photographing.'
Humberside Police seized two films containing the shots Carroll had taken. At the time of writing they had yet to return the films to the photographer.


The Stop/Search record form issued by the police states the reason for the stop as 'obtaining photos of poss [sic] sensitive material', according to a copy of the form supplied to us by the photographer.


'At about 1.45pm, just after entering Boots store I was stopped by two police officers… They asked me to follow them back out to Prospect Street as they wanted to question me about 'the way I had been using my camera'.

There's a copy of the police form on the site.

I used to work in Hull years ago. I can't think of anything "sensitive" there. In point of fact, if it has become a standard British town centre, then the polis can just check the myriads of CCTV footage that will exist on Mr Carroll. Much easier to seize someone's personal possessions and search them to see if they have photos of building security systems (a box on a wall) or times and uniforms of security vans (memory and the Internet).

One wonders if the same would have happened if the photographer had been using digital footage. Obviously real criminals use film. Then send it to be developed and have another chance of it being seen. Or have a lab full of chemicals. This is turning into an episode of "The Sweeney".

Thanks to AT for the heads up on this

Noormal Service

Normal service will be resumed as soon as Zooomr finish moving servers and doing the 2008 update.

Fire in the sky

Shame i've not got the EOS in to work with me as the glow from the sky sets windows afire.

Monday, 21 January 2008

News Technology

Rory Cellan-Jones, tech journo with the BBC News team writes:

I’ve been away from my normal beat for a couple of days, getting involved in coverage of the Heathrow crash landing. But reporting on this story has reminded me of how new technology has changed the lives of journalists. Ten years ago, we would not have had three tools that proved essential over recent days – Google, Youtube, and games software downloaded online.

Full story on how Internet technology aided the recent BBC coverage of the Heathrow crash landing. The discussion afterwards is worth your perusal too.


Wonderful word: earworm

a term for a song that becomes stuck in a person's mind.

Earworm. Dig, dig, dig.

Faces from the Lewis War Memorial

An interesting use of blogs can be found here: Faces from the Lewis War Memorial

I've said many a time that blogs are quite a versatile format. A project that anyone can do, and can be a comfort to many families worldwide as they try to track down their relatives. Without a past, we have no future.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Glenshee Traffic

After leaving Braemar yesterday, I stuck with Plan A, and headed up to Glenshee intending to get some action shots of the ski-ing and 'boarding. Heading south, every car park was packed, people were stopping in the road to look at the herds of deer in the glen. We pushed on through to the ski centre where it was even worse.


With no place to turn back, and just space for a single car to pass, we had to pass by The Cairnwell, and Glas Maol before eventually passing to The Spittal, turning round and passing through the tight squeeze again. Complete chaos with cars left haphazardly in car parks and at the side of the road.


An hour to 90 minutes later, we were back at Braemar, with no photos taken and a hope that the MRT vehicles that I'd seen (about 3) weren't needed. I can't imagine any hikers being so selfish to just abandon their car in the road so that they can go and enjoy themselves. I'll never bother heading that way when it is snowing. This sort of thing isn't for me.


Saturday, 12 January 2008

FMAO Cairngorms


-9'c on car thermostat. Brr. (maplink)


Creag Bhalg, near Mar Lodge 


Towards the Chest of Dee 

Moving to the Linn of Dee, we parked in the NTS car park, and walked a couple of kilometres along the Dee towards the sunlight.


River Dee, west of the Linn of Dee. Maplink 


Morning sunlight on the frozen River Dee



Flowing water, frozen water and melting water



Burn flowing down to the Dee




Frozen puddles and pools


New Alpkit jacket got a workout. I was toasty at -9'c with a Polartec 100 fleece and a "life is good" t-shirt. No wind, so no windchill to contend with. I've got to get more practice in blending layers with different colour balances.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

BBC iPLayer

The BBC has relaunched their iPlayer. You can catch programmes from the last 7 days from BBC1 and BBC2, also the digital channels BBC3, BBC4, News24 and BBC Parliament.

Useful programmes for your career range from "World Business Report" to "Panorama: One Click from Danger".

They have also integrated the "listen again" radio features into the iPlayer so you can catch radio shows too. Crossing Continents on Thursday's Radio 4 was a feature on technology, e-athletes and cyber-addiction in South Korea (newslink).

Could you pass the UK test?

People who wish to obtain British citizenship have to pass a "Life in the UK" test. Could you pass? Here's a site that offers free practice tests.

There is additional background information on the official Home Office "Life in the UK" test site.

Oops, I only scored 76% - maybe I should have done some revising first.

Just checked, and the notes say "You must answer 18 out of 24 questions correctly (75%) in order to pass the test". Huzzah, I'm still British. Just.

Other practice sites are available, as well as the official revision book: "Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship" (current versions available from TSO, and elsewhere). Check out a copy from the College libraries. Looks like I'll have to read a copy to brush up on the missing 24% of my Britishness.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

CES 08

The Consumer Electrical Show is on over 7th-10th January in Las Vegas. I didn't get a chance to see the news yesterday, so haven't heard much about it. Here's a mediasplurge.

Official website - complete with RSS feed, and media coverage pages, including Bill Gates' final keynote speech (link to his QnA session on BBC website).

The BBC is blogging the Show, and has a page of gadgets to look at.

FWIW, I'd be happy with a half-hour programme on mainstream tv from each day of the show. If we truly live in a technological age, what happened to our "Tomorrows World" type of programmes? But I suppose it gives people a chance to create solutions and sell you them on dvd or on niche channels. I class Freeview as niche channels, until the digital switchover forces us plebs to update our systems, and forces the 'service providers' to improve the signals and coverage. I foresee a lot of people walking away from mainstream television unless the digital authorities get their act together.

In the meantime, and back OT, the channel that has the BBC scared, YouTube, has plenty of coverage. Here's the results for a search on CES 2008. Share and enjoy.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Stats for 2007

The blog monitoring only started in October. Since then the blog has received 2,333 visits, viewing 4,938 pages, spending an average 3minutes here. According to Google, there have been 1,090 'uniques', coming from 22 different countries (ignoring the usual 0:00:00 visits).

Strange keywords - looking at visitor searches and seeing the amount of time they spent on site:

  • a place to rest after 0900pm in glasgow [10 minutes]
  • drink driving figures grampian [8 minutes]
  • jupiter 2 spacecraft [4 minutes]
  • journalism+blog+rgu+scott [4 minutes]
  • mark stirton the planet [4 minutes]
  • candace downey [2 minutes]

Just goes to show you, I suppose. A website doesn't allow people to find the eclectic mix that a blog allows. Once readers visit, they may find that there's more information that is useful to them - or is entertaining, or just kills some time.

Friday, 4 January 2008


Today I have been mainly looking at website:

I would be going "brrr", but I got my new down jacket today. Toasty. I was going to get up Bennachie to take some photos, but someone had stolen the sky, so I didn't bother.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Orion and Mars

A couple of experiments on a cold, clear night - except for one cloud that decides to obscure Mars. I find useful.

Orion - chosen since I can recognise the 3 stars in the belt. 55-200mm lens used, tripod and remote controller. Experiment was to try and find a decent light level. Seems that the longer I leave the shutter open, the more 'wobble' affects the image. Perhaps atmospherics, but it was a windy night.

f5.6, 1 second IMG_5671-01-1s
f5.6, 4 seconds IMG_5673-01-4s
f5.6, 15 seconds IMG_5675-01-15s
f5.0, 30 seconds IMG_5669-01-30s

I may have caught some of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower (?!) completely by accident, as I was failing to get The Plough into one shot, and captured this with a 5second exposure.


Lessons learnt - photographing space is cold and unforgiving. Automatic focusing is out, and everything has to be manually focused - a few wee dots on a background of other dots, or a dark patch. A still night so as not to cause tripod to wobble. Warm clothing. Have a plan. For some constellations, a wider lens is needed. More warm clothing. Don't do it if you are tired and have to get up early the next day.

So, next time, I'll do some research in to the timings, and see what's around to be photographed. Maybe some sort of map of the sky?

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Dion is Cuidich

The Northern Constabulary have a page dedicated to mountain rescue and safety information: link. As well as exceedingly useful advice (no, I don't do subtle hints), they have links to many of the regional mountain rescue teams, cave rescue, rescue dogs, and the RAF MRT. All worthy of a visit.

I like the Community TV project that the force is involved with. Great idea.