Livingston 1-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Almondvale Stadium, 21/3/15

What an odd game.

We started brightly and had two efforts on goal from Garry Fleming neither of which were on target. Then Chris Turner dangled his leg out to stop a Livi player getting past and was booked. An unneeded foul which I said to Onebrow would be even more unnneeded if they scored from it. So what happened? 1-0 Livi. Danny Rogers seemed a bit immobile as it went in.

There followed a succession of fouls by Livi layers on ours all of which went unpunished – even the one that resulted in Darren Petrie having to be substituted. Dylan Easton came on but this wasn’t really the sort of game where he could shine as Livi were very physical. Despite that it was two more of our players who got booked. In Mark Wilson’s case it looked to me as if he played the ball onto their player. I thought it wasn’t till late in the game that the ref saw fit to book any of their players but the BBC says one was yellow carded after 45 mins. The worst refereeing decision came in the second half when Garry Fleming was given offside despite the fact that he had run on to a pass misplaced by one of their players.

From five minutes into the second half Livi were time-wasting. That was an irritating spectacle. I was thinking we’ve beaten way better Livi teams than this.

The time-wasting came back to bite them late on when Scott Agnew drove a free-kick into the net. Is that Aggie’s first goal from a free-kick since we got promoted to this division?* It wasn’t even in the corner, hit on the goalie’s side of the wall, but I wasn’t caring.

No time-wasting by Livi now. But it was us who scored again, Garry Fleming latching on to a ball after a set piece wasn’t fully cleared and fairly belting it into the net. He simply wanted it more than the defender.

So a win that sees us 11 points clear of 8th place with 7 games left (with Alloa only having 18 points to play for and Cowdenbeath 24.) Livi are 17 points behind us with only 21 to play for. I think we won’t finish last, then.

*Edited to add:- Apparently not. I seems he got one in the 4-1 demolition of Hamilton Accies last spring. I wasn’t at that game.

Pinhole Eclipses

I tried to photograph the pinhole camera image I managed to get of yesterday’s eclipse. It was difficult to focus the digital camera on the image made by the pinhole, though. In real life it appeared much sharper.

I did get multiple images by using a colander:-

I’ll stick to the day job.

Reelin’ In the Years 101: Brain Damage and Eclipse

Not a single; and two tracks which run together on the LP but the second one seemed appropriate for today.

Pink Floyd: Brain Damage and Eclipse

Stargazing Live Hunting Supernovae

I’ve been watching BBC 2’s Stargazing Live the past two nights.

Not that it’s told me much I didn’t know but the hunt for supernovae they mentoned at the zooniverse site was intriguing. Apparently humans are required to check the comparison photos of patches of sky after the before and after subtraction has been made; computers can’t do it.

Up to when I looked just now over 26,000 people have taken part in the effort and over 1,000,000 comparisons have been checked. Out of these tonight’s programme said they’d found one supernova already.

There has been a lot about tomorrow’s solar eclipse in the two programmes so far. In the morning I’ll be out with my two pieces of card pinhole camera trying to image it. As I recall the percentage coverage for the last solar eclipse I witnessed (in 1999) was less than the 95 or so for my area tomorrow. I doubt I’ll see another.

Other Military Graves, Crail

There are several headstones in Crail cemetery which resemble Commonwealth War Graves ones but are in grey rather than cream/white.

Both the following two men died on 23rd November 1918, hence after the armistice:-


Lieutenant Clarence Reginald Mundy


Air Mechanic F Green

A differently shaped headstone is for an RAF man, Second Lieutenant Cecil Sealey Davis, killed while flying at Crail in May 1919.

There are also graves for a Navy Reserve seaman, who died on 16th March 1918, and an air cadet who died in December 1918.


R Watson, Seaman, RNR


Flight Cadet J A Scarratt

Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

The latest from the BSFA Awards list – 6 out of 8 read now – but probably the last.

Solaris, 2014, 384 p.

 Europe in Autumn cover

For a long time there was a dearth of detective stories in SF. This may have been because of the necessity that such a story work as both SF and crime novel, creating a gap which writers couldn’t seem to bridge. However any such lack has long since been filled. I don’t recall, though, many outright spy story/SF crossovers. Thrillers, yes (but they are a different beast again.) Yet here we have Europe in Autumn, reminiscent of nothing so much as a Cold War era spy story. This may be due to the fact that, a brief excursion to London apart, it is set mainly in Eastern Europe, areas which were formerly in Warsaw Pact countries. There is too a constant hint of menace, of surveillance, of people with hidden agendas, pervading it. All of which Hutchinson handles with aplomb.

After the devastation of the Xian Flu Europe has fissured into innumerable small statelets, “Sanjaks. Margravates. Principalities. Länder.” One of these polities is a trans-European railway line running from Portugal to Siberia, but never more than ten kilometres wide. In this Europe borders, razor wire, visas and bureaucracy abound; travelling is not simple. Rudi is an Estonian chef working in Kraków who is one day “invited” to join Les Coureurs des Bois, an organisation dedicated to smuggling mail, packages and sometimes people across the numerous borders. His training ends in a disastrous foray into the railway’s territory. Later “situations” also turn out less than well and he begins to wonder why.

This set-up is intriguing. A Europe returned to a pre-Napoleonic patchwork – only much worse; some of the polities extend to no more than a couple of blocks of flats. It’s certainly surprising. One thing I never expected to read was a piece of SF explicitly discussing the merits or otherwise of the Schengen Agreement. How all this sticks together, plus the relevance of maps of non-existent places, is all revealed in a tightly plotted, highly readable thriller style narrative. In parts Europe in Autumn reminded me of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – was there something in the air the year before last? – there are extremely faint echoes, growing stronger towards the book’s end, of Transition, plus parallels with The City and the City and similarities with PƒITZ.

Europe in Autumn is a good book – even a very good book – but I’m not entirely sure about its place on the BSFA Award ballot. It has SF trappings to be sure, invisibility suits amongst them, but, in essence, it’s a spy novel.

The phrase “he wardrove around the city” was a new one on me but I’m grateful for it.

Pedant’s corner:- Hutchinson has too much of a fondness for the phrase “tipped his/her/my head to one side,” to indicate a character’s desire for more information, clarification or knowledge of evasion. Also: we had “a raise” (but elsewhere Hutchison also uses the British formulation a pay “rise,”) “I don’t think anybody understands the offside trap any more,” (OK this was a piece of spy speak but shouldn’t it still have been offside law? The offside trap is an effort to employ the law in a team’s favour,) tokomaks (tokamaks,) “for the first time in many years feeling anything approaching sympathy for his father,” (shouldn’t that be something rather than anything?) watched them them go, “Here he was, sitting here quite comfortably,” Minster for Minister.

Commonwealth War Graves

Just beyond the churchyard gates at Crail there was a sign saying Commonwealth War Graves are located here. You have to go to the other side of the church to find them.

Most of the dates are for 1941. There was a torpedo attack training base at Crail airfield during World War 2. I presume these graves are for people who died in the course of training or were injured/killed on a sortie and buried on their return.

First there are three which stand on their own.

Private D Mason, Home Guard
Sergeant A H Cunningham, RAF

Pilot Officer W R Constable

Note the first of these was a member of the Home Guard and aged only 19.

Further into the cemetery there is a larger plot of 22 graves:-

Most of the names here are of Australians or New Zealanders but one of the 22 graves is more unusual in that it is of a woman; a Wren named Sheila R McCormack.

The inscription reads, “In loving memory of my dear wife. Tread softly: my darling sleeps here.”

Very few women’s names appear on War Memorials. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman’s war grave before.

Heart of Midlothian 4-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Tynecastle Stadium, 14/3/15

Well I didn’t expect much from this game but at half-time we had held out well only really extended when Danny Rogers had to make a magnificent one-handed save, pushing the ball onto the woodwork from where it fell kindly back to him. We had two attempts on goal – both from Chris Duggan, one of which he made entirely for himself.

The atmosphere in the away end was livened up by the presence there of “Swiss Sons” – quite why a group of fans from Switzerland has adopted us is a bit obscure. I liked the scarf on which was written “Float like an elephant, sting like a rock.” Said scarf was brandished from the lower gangway as its bearer led the Sons choir. Great stuff.

Sadly the game went away from us. They scored after a corner but it looked as if Danny Rogers had been impeded. Their second was from another corner, a free header this time. They didn’t score from open play until we started to try to take it to them a bit in the last ten minutes. 4-0 was harsh on us.

Marvellous fun chanting, “Shall we sing a song for you,” at the comatose home support, “There’s only one Ian Murray,” then, “We forgot that you were there” when they finally roused themselves, “What a shitey home support,” after the circa 15,000 crowd was announced, “We can see you sneaking off,” when the early exodus started, as well as the usual “Dumbarton,” clap, clap, clap and “Oh when the Sons, go marching in,” – plus the Swiss inspired, “Dih, dih, dih-dih, Dumbarton.”

Still, in the second half we were restricted to long range shots. Chris Duggan wasn’t in the box enough, having to forage wide to get the ball. We miss a focal point.

Our defensive outlook here is undersatndable given the disparity in resources between the two clubs but too often our passes failed to reach their target. Theirs tended to be more into space for a man to run onto, but their players are quicker all round. We didn’t get time on the ball.

More attacking intent next week please, though.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Picador, 2015, 339 p, including 2 p Acknowledgements and 3 p Questions for Discussion.

 Station Eleven cover

Well, it’s a long time since I’ve read a good disaster novel. (Or any disaster novel at all really.) Not that this is a disaster novel per se as it spends a good bit of time on pre-apocalypse matters. The third person narrative varies between the viewpoints of actor Arthur Leander, his first wife Miranda, his friend Clark, former paparazzo turned paramedic Jeevan Chaudhary and Kirsten Raymonde, a child, then later an adult, actor.

Arthur Leander collapses on stage of a heart attack on the night the Georgian Flu comes to Toronto. Jeevan Chaudhary is in the audience and tries to aid him but fails to prevent his death. Before the performance Leander had given Kirsten two “issues” of a sumptuously produced limited edition comic book, the Station Eleven of the title. Kirsten values these through the years of travail ahead; for the Georgian Flu turns out to be particularly virulent, causing death within hours, hence civilisation swiftly falls apart. The few survivors eke out their existence as best they can.

The narration flits between pre- and post-apocalypse detailing Leander’s life story; Kirsten’s wanderings in Year Twenty with The Travelling Symphony – despite the name they perform Shakespeare plays as well as music – with its slogan (derived from Star Trek: Voyager) Because survival is insufficient; Clark’s pre-disaster memories of Leander and his post-apocalypse life in Severn City Airport, Michigan, where he sets up a Museum of Civilisation; Miranda’s experiences with Leander; along with Jeevan’s memories of his life. (There is no reason to suppose that Mandel has ever read it – in all probability she hasn’t – but the Travelling Symphony elements reminded me a bit of Larry Niven’s Destiny’s Road. Mandel is a much better writer than Niven, though, and her story more complex.)

This is a very good book indeed, suffused with sadness but still affirming life. The characters all ring true to life – plus of course the inevitable death(s) – and there is a glimmer of hope for the future at the end. A curiosity was that only the odd pages are numbered and that only if they didn’t coincide with a chapter heading. Even though it has more of a mainstream feel had I read this before the cut-off date I would certainly have nominated it for the BSFA Award – the book was first published in 2014 – but sadly I was a month late.

Yet, even in a book as good as this there are entries for Pedant’s Corner:-
“The line of jets, streaked now with rust.” (Only iron – or steel – can form rust. Aeroplanes aren’t made from iron. If they were they’d not get off the ground. Iron is much more dense than the aluminium jets are made from.) “He’d laid awake” (lain.) In one chapter – a supposed transcription of an interview with Kirsten by the editor of the New Petoskey News – King Lear and New York Times are underlined. Is this due to the pre-word processing convention that submitted manuscripts contained underlining where italics were to be used in the final copy – italics being beyond normal manual typewriters – and these instances were missed in the transcription?

Not Friday On My Mind 28: My Name is Jack

I did get ribbed about this one, though. Not at school, but by a neighbouring boy when visiting my grandparents in Johnstone. (They only lived there for a few years before moving on.)

Manfred Mann: My Name is Jack

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