Archives » 2008 » August

Dumbarton 1-1 East Stirlingshire

The Rock, 30/8/08

Well; we didn’t lose.

But we didn’t win either. And this time we came from in front.

But it beats getting humped 7-0.

Seventh, and with a zero goal difference.

Feels like familiar territory.

Winter’s Shadowy Fingers

During a break at work yesterday I noticed the leaves on one of the trees outside were turning yellow.
It’s still August!
There were more trees like this on the way home, and even more today when I travelled to Perth and back.
I don’t remember trees turning so early before.
After a not very warm summer – the second in a row – maybe I was more sensitive to it but this was dispiriting.
Just goes to show the Scottish weather is totally bizarre.
Only two years ago I took in the delights of Gayfield (note to that American Christian website; it is not Homosexualfield) on the last Saturday of October to see Dumbarton achieve their now traditional draw there. And it was warm.
Before this I’d never been warm in Arbroath in my life!

Party Leaders

All quiet on the Labour leadership front in Scotland. (Well, if they’re making a noise I’ve not heard it.)
Still oor Tavish has become the Lib Dem leader.
Will J Arthur McNumpty be pleased?


I heard young Tom Daley, the Olympic diver, use the expression “times it by” in a TV interview after his event.

Times it by? Times it by?

What superannuated numpty taught him this phrase?

Why employ it at all when there is a perfectly usable adult word, the proper mathematical term, which someone of 14 years of age – hell half that – ought to have no problems in using if they had been told it properly in the first place?

I assume the thinking process behind employing this horrible construction is that “multiply” is too complicated a word for children to cope with.
But why is it necessary to talk down to children in this way?
Does it really make the manipulation (sorry, I used a five syllable word there; I of course meant times-it-bying, only four syllables after all) easier for a child to understand by describing it in a childish way?

I know we refer to times tables, but the process is not called timesing, is it? (See how ugly this becomes?)

In any case it might be better to say, for example, 4 lots of 6 make 24, or four multiples of 6 give you 24, rather than 4 times 6 is 24.

Even if “times it by” were generated by children themselves they ought to have been told, “We don’t say that. We say multiply instead,” in much the same way you would correct a child who said buyed in place of bought.

Think how different phraseology would have been if this ugly usage had always been in vogue.

Be fruitful and times-it-by; and replenish the Earth? Hardly trips off the tongue.

Bobby Darin got it correct.

Multiplication. That’s the name of the game.

St Mirren 7-0 Dumbarton

St Mirren Park, 26/8/08

What can you say about this debacle?

We are rubbish.


I thought this game would be unwelcome. I’ve not got good vibes about Saturday now.

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 1. The Luma Building

For almost longer than I can remember I have been interested in the style known as Art Deco, which enjoyed its brief flurry in the inter-war years of the 20th century.
Almost the only reason for catching an episode of Poirot on TV is that you may get a glimpse of something in this style in the back- or foreground. The same is also true of the fashions worn by Geraldine McEwan in the Mapp and Lucia adaptations from quite a few years ago now. (Though I suppose both of these programmes may be enjoyed for their own sake.)

Art Deco encompassed fashion, interior furnishings, ornaments, personal items, advertising and architecture and found a lavish expression in the film musicals of the time – think Busby Berkeley or Fred and Ginger – and indeed of the Picture Palaces in which these were viewed.

Art Deco era personal items such as compacts can be beautifully stylised (with the emphasis often focused on geometry) and some of the advertising posters are stunning. However, it is in the buildings that I find an elegance and boldness which, to my mind, architecture seemed to lose until around the last 20 years or so.

Anyway, I was over on the M8 west of Glasgow in the last week of my holiday and missed the Luma building on the way up. This surprised me as it used to be a fairly kenspeckle sight from the motorway, albeit badly dilapidated.
I took special care to sight it on my return as I was worried that it might have been pulled down despite a redevelopment some years ago – when it even got a programme to itself on BBC Scotland. As it turned out the worry was unnecessary as it had only been obscured by some trees which had matured. Or else I used to make that journey in winter.

There are not, to my knowledge, all that many big Art Deco buildings left in Scotland. The Luma is a pleasing survivor.

Luma Factory
Photo by yellowbookltd.

They’ve done an excellent job on the facade but unfortunately it has “had its eyes poked out.” (© K Skirving)
For some reason replacement windows for these buildings do not seem to be quite in keeping with the originals. Perhaps it’s something to do with double glazing but it’s a bit strange as the original manufacturer appears to be still going strong and should presumably be able to provide adequate replacements.
Apparently for the Luma they did make the effort but the result doesn’t look quite right to me. I think it’s because the original glazing on the circular tower would have been curved. The replacements comprise a series of flat windows angled to each other. Also the horizontal bars on the new windows are a touch too wide.
A short history of the building can be found at

For another colour picture see

“Mappa Mundi” by Justina Robson

Macmillan, 2001

Mappa Mundi cover

Another doorstopper, 465 pages this time. Just as well I was on holiday.

I’m not quite sure about this book. The characters are not so distinctive as they were in Robson‘s earlier novel Silver Screen. This may be because the plot is rattling along, a factor which unfortunately involves a lot of info dumping, and Robson may have invested more of her efforts in those directions. Also back stories are filled in on occasion, a habit which I dislike, but, hey, she’s up there with Mailer on that one.

The science-fictional element is two-fold; a kind of nanotech virus software (MappaWare) which can affect the brain (“stir its contents with a spoon” – effectively resetting people, then) and a 100% replication delivery system. The possibilities for bad uses of such a technology are obvious but some of the characters see also the good which could result.

Premature testing of all this stuff is the engine which sets the plot off but there are no fewer than seven “false starts” – establishing motivation for some of the characters – where earlier incidents in their lives are recounted, before we get down to the nitty-gritty.

There is plenty of spy story type skullduggery and betrayal (is this a Robson trait? – see my infinity plus review of Keeping It Real) an obligatory bit of sex but, surprisingly, not much violence; in the course of all of which two of the characters transcend humanity in a way which stretches credulity a touch.

It’s not an easy read, the ideas are too dense for that – but they are nevertheless followable. However, the major flaw, in a novel where questions of identity are central, is that the two characters most changed by MappaWare did not behave/read much differently after the change than they did before it.

Still, if you like near future techno-thriller type stuff with reasonable characterisation you won’t be disappointed.


Ian Sales has caused a bit of a stooshie over at Futurismic and some comment at Neil Williamson’s site by posting that some of the early works of Science Fiction from the 1950s and 1960s are not quite attuned to modern taste and are, in some cases, not well written.

Now, SF, in its early form, was widely derided as not paying enough attention to characterisation. For some this was the attraction; the idea was the thing – or the famous “sense of wonder” – and the portrayal of the people involved a secondary consideration – if it was a consideration at all. The sensibilities of those characters were also those of the time when they were written, with sexism, racism, cultural stereotyping and so forth, and can read oddly in retrospect. (This is, of course, mainly true about most – though not all – fiction of those times.)

Ian’s point was that these early SF stories, while still necessary reading for aspiring and active writers of SF, would not now necessarily be a good introduction to the field for new readers, as any unreconstructed attitudes encountered may be off-putting.
Something of the sort happened to me at school. I was assigned “Great Expectations” – which I could just about accept, though Miss Havisham struck me as unbelievable, and “David Copperfield” – which ended me. I have not read a word of Dickens since. It put me off. This may be my loss. (Alastair swears by him and I do find the TV adaptations of Dickens very watchable.)
Strangely, the same did not occur with Shakespeare, which I enjoyed at school, and from which I can still rattle off whole reams of speeches.
This can be a matter for individual taste of course. I gather some find Shakespeare inaccessible.

Now that the big SF ideas have mostly been delineated (or even played out) and SF writers are in the main exploring aspects within them, I would suggest that for stories to be satisfying, characters, human dilemmas, and not necessarily ideas, need to be at their centres. But I would, wouldn’t I? That’s the sort of fiction I write. (I hope.)

The thing is, “Nightfall” – a famous Isaac Asimov short story – is about as representative of SF today as, for example, “Lucky Jim” is of modern novels; i.e. not at all.

A double difficulty with using these stories as an introduction, or exemplar, is that most of the SF of earlier decades has been overtaken. The worlds imagined have not come about and the modern world contains technology that those writers did not envisage. PCs, laptops, mobile phones (though not wrist phones,) the internet, are all conspicuously absent from all but recent SF. This must seem strange as an example of the “future” to a child given a story without them. Nothing dates as quickly as the future. Just watch the original “Star Trek” or “Space 1999.”

It is, by the way, a myth that SF – particularly the written form – is about predicting the future. If it illuminates the present, that is the most you can ask of it.

Dumbarton 1-2 Stenhousemuir

The Rock, 23/8/08
So, the unbeaten league record is gone.
Again we came back from one goal down, and a forward actually scored!
But we let it slip.
Unless we find some consistent form soon it’s beginning to look like a long, hard season.
Tuesday night’s CIS Cup game is a bit unwelcome just at the moment.

Smidgen, Smidgin, Smidgeon.

A small piece?

Perhaps it isn’t.

I first saw this word in print as “smidgin” so I persist in thinking this is the correct spelling. This is why publishers, newspapers and writers of captions for TV news and the information pages on the red button have a responsibility to ensure any spellings they use are accepted ones. Anyone coming across a spelling for the first time could be influenced by it. Though it is as well to check a dictionary.

My Chambers doesn’t have an entry at all for it but my Shorter Oxford lists smidgen and smidgin. has only smidgen. has all three.

I can only suppose smidgeon has arisen from an erroneous analogy with pigeon. I must say smidgeon looks very odd to me, especially as the two words are not connected in their origin.

When speaking or hearing them I always think “smidj-in” and “pidj-on.”

Surprisingly, to me at any rate, pigeon is an alternative spelling for pidgin (also pidgeon) – a mash-up of two languages which is not as fully developed as a creole.

So, in the strange way in which my mind works:- Pigeon? Creole?

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