Here’s a really interesting video from the World of Tanks people. Yes, it’s a YouTube video, but you can drag your viewpoint around to see the video from different angles. This is particularly interesting when they’re inside the tank, as you can pause the video and have a good look around. Contains a mixture of exterior and interior footage of real and replica tanks, and game animation.
You may (or more likely won’t) remember that about 18 months ago after painting some jolly nice models I made some suggestions for new designs to Nathan Yeoman of Yeoman Models, and he expressed a definite interest in making one of them. For various reasons, I rather lost track of what Nathan was doing until recently I discovered that he’d completed what I’d asked for (in various scales, including 28mm) and it was on sale!
What I’d asked for was a particular feature of Victorian streets that I couldn’t find anyone making a model of – the cabbies’ shelter. These did exist in other towns, but so far as I’m aware the only place they can still be found is in London, where almost a quarter (13) of the original 61 survive. The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was set up in 1875 by the Earl of Shaftesbury (among others) to construct and run these shelters, and is still looking after them today!
The cabbies’ shelter was built in the road, and wasn’t allowed to be bigger than a hansom cab – so to put it in modern terms, it only took up one parking space of the time. inside, cabbies could take shelter from inclement weather, and nosh on grub provided by a small, self-funding kitchen, all without leaving the cab stand (again in modern terms, the taxi rank).
The buildings themselves are quite distinctive – small, rectangular wooden sheds painted green, but sometimes with quite attractive panelling and fancy roof. I thought of designing a laser-cut model myself that I could have made by an online service, but ultimately I’m glad I didn’t soldier on and carry it through, because what I would have designed wouldn’t be as good as what I’ve got.
The 28mm cabbies’ shelter from Yeoman Models is a five part model cast in resin – four walls, and a solid roof. It doesn’t seem to be a replica of one particular shelter, but takes attractive elements from several of them. Nathan’s mouldings are very sharp, and although by the nature of resin castings a little clean-up was required, it was very minimal. I glued the four walls together with Araldite, and to make the roof removable, I built up a lip to go inside the walls by super-gluing on matchsticks and reinforcing with Milliput.
That was about it for modelling – the rest was paint. I’ve left the interior untouched for now, but I may attempt some representative additions in future like the stove from 4Ground. Here’s how it looks when done:
There’s a serving hatch, if you’re not stopping (or not a cabbie – only cabbies allowed inside):
And here it is flipped 180°, to show the side usually facing away from the road:
I’m catching up a bit here, as I actually visited the fledgling Dundee Museum of Transport nearly a month ago. It opened last year in temporary accommodation (it’s eventually going to inhabit the Maryfield tram sheds, which are still standing at the crest of the hill just south of the junction between the Kingsway and the road to Forfar). It’s not going to pose great competition for the transport museums already around in larger cities, but for a small first effort I was quite pleased with it. It took me a couple of hours to wander round taking my time over it.
I was a bit disappointed that the 1950s seemed a bit better represented than earlier eras, but there were still cool things to see.
A 1959 Jaguar XK150 (3D)
An Angus council Fowler DNA steamroller (follow link for better pictures of the whole vehicle)
A Dundee horse-drawn tram, being restored having spent approximately 114 years as a summer-house in Perth after being sold off in 1900.
The same tram in service in Dundee, some time ago.
Inside horse-drawn Tram 24 (3D)
The interior of Tram 24 from a different angle
There’s also a double-decker Aberdeen Corporation Electric Tram which is currently even more skeletal. It’ll be interesting to visit in a few years’ time and see how the restorations have gone.
A horse-drawn ambulance, and its interior.
An Ashford Litter, in use as a foot ambulance between 1887 and 1921, when this one was last used in Perth to take a patient with appendicitis to Perth Royal Infirmary.
There’s also an Austin J40 pedal car (very posh), a Sinclair C5, and a full scale reproduction of Preston Watson’s first flying machine. You know, the Dundee guy who flew before the Wright brothers hogged all the publicity! (Sadly, alternative facts exist.)
Other vehicles I personally found less interesting, but it depends on your tastes and DMOFT is well worth a visit. I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the special guest:
Of course I already knew which episode of Doctor Who was on the day I was born; I mean, who doesn’t know their natal episode? ;-) And naturally, it’s a classic…
It’s interesting to see what else was on though; on BBC One, Doctor Who was preceded by Grandstand and Juke Box Jury, and followed by The Dick van Dyke Show and The Munsters, then a film (The Eagle and the Hawk) under the heading “High Adventure”, the Last Night of the Proms, more sport in the form of Match of the Day and an American courtroom drama series, The Defenders. All before closedown at 11:35.
What was on BBC Two is less recognisable today, though I might have enjoyed The White Rabbit (the dramatised story of SOE operative and successful POW camp escapee Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas), with a young Annette Crosbie appearing in the cast list. There’s an archaeology programme the description of which reminds me of the one shown on BBC3 in The Dæmons, but it probably wasn’t quite as exciting as that! There’s also Always On Wednesday, “a master class with Nadia Boulanger”. David Attenborough’s right; BBC2 is not the channel it was when he was its controller. The evening on BBC Two finished rather later than BBC One, with the “midnight movie” for night owls, Cover Up, just starting at 11:15.
Find out what was on (according to the Radio Times) on the date of your choice from the BBC Genome Project.
Any vote is a choice between two or more futures. The referendum on Scottish independence is a choice between two (or more) futures.
Two, because the choice on the paper is a simple Yes or No. More, because each choice is supported by multiple parties who have different views of what should occur after a Yes or a No.
But today we focus on making our choice of one of two futures; by saying Yes or No to whether Scotland should be an independent country.
You wouldn’t know it from the campaigns though. Despite two and a half years in which to prepare and make a case, only one campaign has had anything much to say about building a future that’s better for Scotland; for the people who vote today. Only one campaign actually deserves to win.
It may not turn out that way, of course. The flawed AV referendum was lost to a campaign that didn’t deserve to win. (Unfortunately Alternative Voting, the version of proportional representation on offer, probably didn’t deserve to win either – it was a tough decision for me to vote for the proposal on that occasion.)
I don’t have children, but I want to leave the planet a little better than I found it when I go, and giving Scotland a better go at running itself is probably the biggest, most positive project I can contribute to in my lifetime, even if that contribution boils down to a single X on a bit of paper. And this may be my only chance to do that.
It’s taken an extraordinary set of circumstances to bring us to this point. There’s majority support for independence in a parliament that was designed to prevent it. Those circumstances that may not be repeated in the next twenty years, or ever; and in twenty years I’ll be approaching 70 and perhaps the end of my life (though I hope for a bit more!).
Yes campaigners don’t share a single vision for the future of Scotland, but at least they all have one, and almost all of them envisage a more egalitarian Scotland that deals more kindly with the less fortunate and makes sure that the citizens of the future can benefit from a high quality education with less debt. We can probably get some sort of blend of those proposals through coalition our proportionally elected parliament.
The No campaign have little in common but their opposition to change. The three main parties couldn’t come together to make an alternate positive proposal for Scotland’s future. If they had, they could have put it on the ballot paper and almost certainly won – the SNP left the door open on that for a long time, while making it clear it wasn’t their responsibility to come up with a proposal they didn’t support*. The Scottish electorate has waited even longer for them to come up with something worthwhile, but it’s become clear they have nothing, and large swings to Yes show patience is running out. In the case of a No, what we get depends on who gets in at Westminster, and it’s likely to be just one party’s version that gets enacted. Not to mention they’re all pretty rubbish. Take a look at this graphic to see how significant the proposed changes are:
Click through for the source and more information. The Westminster parties are offering S1 through to S5. Polling suggests most of the Scottish population wanted S9; independence is S10. Which of those looks closest to S9?
“No” may win, but frankly I think that would be a bit of a disaster for democracy and Scotland, and deeper entrench the cynicism and disgust many people already feel for politics and politicians. I won’t be helping them, as I’m voting “Yes”. If you’re reading this and have a vote, I hope you’ll consider it too.
My friend who prefers not to be linked closed his “Yes” post with this video. I recommend it too:
* This may not be how you’ve seen it reported, with delusional commenters suggesting that the party of independence somehow didn’t want what it’s always campaigned for, and that Cameron had manoeuvred Salmond into a corner. Really? It was a win-win for the SNP – if the Unionist parties came up with a credible third option for the ballot paper, it would have romped home with a safe, large majority that independence-minded voters could have accepted as a significant step in the right direction. As it was, they made it clear there was nothing much on offer and forced waverers to consider whether independence was really the only game in town. The Unionist behaviour was, sadly, predictable. It’s a gamble for the SNP, and not guaranteed to win, but it was always likely to push more people into supporting independence.
For Christmas, my sister gave me a Royal Navy 50 foot Picket Boat (from HLBS) in 28mm scale, and I spent time over the New Year period painting and assembling it.
The boat is a steam pinnace. “Pinnace” has a couple of possible meanings but in this case means a smaller boat carried by a larger ship for use as patrol boats, for ship-to-shore operations and as a defence against torpedo boats – the pinnace would be fast enough to respond to a torpedo boat, and was armed with one or more gun (a Hotchkiss 3 pounder in this case) that would allow it to respond at range. The other gun, not present on my model, might be a Nordenfeldt or Maxim machine gun mounted on the roof of the rear cabin.
This type of pinnace was in use from 1880 right up until the Second World War, with 620 in service during the Great War, so excellent for a steampunk setting.
The kit mouldings are very crisp and clean, mainly in resin with white metal for the finer details and fine plastic rod for the hand rails. The main thing required for painting it was a steady hand (never really got the hang of masking tape), though patience came in handy too while applying several layers of white paint to get a decent solid finish. The only thing I’m a little dissatisfied with is the rear cabin, which is a bit dark in colour and I feel I could maybe have done better there. Good enough though, and I’ll leave it.
I had a few minor issues with the parts. The shoulder rest on the Hotchkiss 3 pounder doesn’t have an obvious place to attach it. I checked images of similar guns on the Internet and settled on a location to fix it; I then had to break it off and try again when I discovered the gun couldn’t pivot due to the shoulder rest hitting the top of the engine house. One of the stanchions for the handrails broke (recoverably). One of the cowl vents doesn’t sit comfortably in the space left for it, and some of the instructions could have been clearer.
Finally, I wondered whether the scale was quite right everywhere, as the spaces to be occupied by anyone operating the gun or steering the vessel seemed extremely cramped. This might be just economy of space on an efficient working vessel, but in particular the space at the wheel is very restricted. Over all the issues were all relatively minor though, and didn’t distract from a very satisfactory model.
As far as colour schemes are concerned, I aimed to make it look more Victorian than 20th Century (which would have featured more light grey). I also went for black rather than blue, so it’s a perfectly normal pinnace; blue would have identified it as an Admiral’s barge. Picket boats such as this don’t seem to have had a lot in the way of individual markings – not even a name – so that helped to keep the paint job simple. If I ever feel brave enough, I may add a bit of coal dust around the coaling holes (the black circles on the deck amidships) using weathering powder, but as a working navy vessel I’m assuming it would be kept pretty spick and span most of the time.
There’s a surviving pinnace of more or less this pattern which is believed to be the last remaining naval steam boat in the UK. Steam Pinnace 199 was built in 1911 and now belongs to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. Steam Pinnace 199 was an Admiral's barge, so you can see the blue colour previously mentioned. There are a couple of interesting videos on YouTube:
Another horse-drawn Dundee tram has been (re)discovered and taken for restoration. Story on the BBC, and with video at The Courier.
It's not looking too great on the outside after spending a century as a summerhouse, but apparently it still has the original interior.
A welcome recent
addition return to the Dundee city centre since late last year is an original Dundee & District Tramways horse-drawn tram.
Unfortunately it’s not fulfilling its original function – might be a bit tricky without a full set of rails – but it’s back sitting on such rails are available, and interesting to be able to have a close look at it. It last saw service here as an actual tram over 100 years ago.
It’s now The Auld Tram, selling coffee and sandwiches. Must try the nosh some time; so far I’ve not been sufficiently hungry when passing by, but it looks like they’re aiming for high quality but satisfying. It’s an offshoot of Bridgeview Station, a restaurant overlooking the Tay Bridge with an 1870s railway carriage.
Something else to look out for later this year will be the opening of the fledgling Dundee Museum of Transport.
If you read my account of last year's march, you'll know that as, generally speaking, a non-activist, I found it quite enjoyable. If you fancy coming along this time, it would be good to see you there, and good numbers will help to sway public opinion. As far as I can tell, support for a "Yes" is higher than most of the media would have you believe, but still trails a "No". However, about a third of people are still in the “Don’t Know” camp, so visible public support does matter. Poll reporting is often phrased in a way that may encourage you to assume the “Don’t Know”s support a “No”; make sure you check the actual numbers. If you support Scottish independence, don’t let the Catalans put you to shame!
Last night, I watched The Complete Metropolis, or at least the version that’s as complete as we’re ever likely to get, although it has a few scenes still missing. It is the best version I’ve seen (and the fourth I’ve owned).
Funnily enough, the most immediately obvious improvement is to the captioning! The captions are translated from the originals, and since previously available versions of the film have been so heavily cut that the story is different, the captions have also been rewritten; often not very well. The original captions construct a better narrative. The few remaining missing scenes are replaced by captions in a different font, so you also know what you’ve missed.
Of course, although the captions create the best first impression, the “new” footage (largely unseen since the film’s first seventeen days of showing in Germany in 1927) are invaluable in re-establishing the intended narrative too. Two substantial subplots are reinstated, the symbolism around the seven deadly sins, the Book of Revelation, Babel/Babylon and Robot Maria’s residency in the Yoshiwara nightclub is more clearly spelled out, and we see rather more of the destruction of the machines and the underground city. The recovered footage is of poor quality, even after restoration, with a lot of vertical scratching and a bit of black boxing around the edge. I’m surprised they couldn’t have done a better job of removing the vertical scratching, but in the full context of the movie, honestly you won’t care tuppence.
The first “new” subplot concerns Josaphat, the Thin Man and Georgy 11811. Josaphat and Georgy 11811 make minor appearances in other versions; Josaphat is the administrator Joh Fredersen sacks early on, and Georgy 11811 is the worker whose shift Freder Fredersen takes over in his enthusiasm to find out how the other half live. The Thin Man, Joh Fredersen’s sinister enforcer, is largely absent from other versions, as is the subplot that intertwines these three. Although Georgy 11811 remains a minor character, it’s nice to see that his arc contains both a fall and redemption, and I would go so far as to say that Josaphat becomes the third heroic character in the film, after Freder and Maria.
The second re-established subplot is the relationship between Joh Fredersen, Rotwang and the deceased Hel, loved by them both. Although this is touched on in previous versions, with more time devoted to it it helps to better explain the character of Rotwang. He’s still the archetypical mad scientist with wild hair, staring eyes, and a mechanical hand – but we have a better understanding of why he’s as mad as a box of frogs these days and why he does what he does, rather than him appearing to be a rather random agent of chaos.
More is made of the religious symbolism in the film, and it becomes clear why it’s there. This is much better handled by the previously missing footage, and unified by a sequence where Freder’s hallucinating. Now I finally understand how the statues of the seven deadly sins come to life!
Finally, we see rather more of the destruction of the machines and the underground city and although there’s little added to the plot by these sequences it does help to flesh out why things are happening as they are. Without these sequences, some of the destruction seems a bit random, but they become more coherent with the missing footage added back in. Particularly worthy of note are Robot Maria and the mob storming the Moloch Machine, and a much fuller sequence of the destruction of the Heart Machine, which triggers the flooding. First of all, the Heart Machine is clearly identified as such, and then we see how the mob get at it, leaving me with rather more sympathy for Grot, the Chief Foreman, than I’ve felt in previous versions. The flooding sequences are extended, and more time’s spent building up their tension.
Unless you have a fondness for 1980s music – in which case, Giorgio Moroder’s tinted version is still worth watching – this is the version of Metropolis to see, whether you’re coming to it fresh, or you’ve seen it before and would like to revisit it. Unless those few missing scenes turn up, this is your best chance to see the movie pretty much as Fritz Lang intended. Ultimately, although it’s still very much of it’s time, Metropolis is a better constructed and more modern movie than you may have thought.
By the time I was looking for a job three years later, the Web was so much of a part of how I worked as a developer that I dreaded the possibility of working for a company that wasn’t connected. Luckily, that didn’t happen, although all we had was a 28k modem – with a timer on the power socket so that it cut off outside working hours and therefore kept the phone bills down.
Pollphail, the ghost village near where I grew up in Argyll, and which I mentioned a few years ago, has changed hands again. Sounds as though the buildings may finally come down, having gone uninhabited since being built, thirty five years ago. Unless you count the sheep who took shelter there.
Apparently it became part of an art project late in 2009 when demolition was thought to be imminent. Check out this video for eerie atmosphere with added graffiti:
If you're feeling brave, you can also watch this found-footage short:
Yesterday I attended the first of three annual March/Rallies that are to be held in the lead up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014. The last (and only previous) time that I was part of a public expression of opinion would have been towards the end of the Thatcher government in the 1980s, when I was part of a protest against Michael Forsyth opening the East Sands Leisure Centre in St. Andrews. I’ve nothing against the fine institution that is the East Sands Leisure Centre, I should hasten to add; just the company it kept at the time.
That was an angry protest; very civilised, because it was St. Andrews, and quite small scale, but angry at the things that the government of the time was doing. Although it was also very civilised, yesterday was otherwise a different kettle of fish.
It was a bit bigger, for a start. 9,500 according to the organisers; 5,000 according to a police estimate, but that was apparently made before the march started and certainly not at peak attendance, which would have been at the start of the rally in Princes Street Gardens.
The main difference, though, was atmosphere. This wasn’t a protest against something, it was a statement of support for something, and the overwhelming mood was positive. At the rally, I listened to about two and a half hours of people giving speeches (interspersed with musical interludes, of which see a couple below), and it was only towards the end of that that we started to get some angry speeches – from trade unionists railing against the current Westminster government. While I could sympathise with their reasons, I’m glad that the majority of speakers were not in that mould. That’s not to say that other speakers didn’t have an occasional dig, but it would be as an aside in a more forward-looking speech.
Another good thing its that it clearly wasn’t about one party. Obviously there is one party which has an enormous presence in this debate, but after a speech from the First Eck there were speakers from other parties and none. Margo McDonald was first up, followed in an order I can’t recall by Dennis Canavan and speakers from Labour for Independence, the Greens and the SSP. Conspicuous by their official absence were the current parties of Westminster government – which is a shame, as there must be some who have an interest in Scottish independence. I hope someone in those parties has the guts to take the sort of stand against their leadership that the Labour for Independence guy has. One journalist came out in support – the chronologically gifted (her words!) and more-than-usually-worth-reading Ruth Wishart.
Anyway, I just wanted to write about the experience of being there, not to change your minds. Having said that, if you want to accompany me next year, that’d be great.
Dougie MacLean sang Caledonia for us, which was well received:
Rock bagpipes have been done before, but Gleadhraich were rather good at it and moreover come from Carnoustie. Shame I didn't capture their rendition of “My Generation”, which was also highly enjoyable:
If you want to hear "My Generation", Gleadhraich themselves have an earlier performance on YouTube.
The Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland marched through St. Andrews today. I have no idea why. It wasn’t the best weather for being an archer in.
Some time later, they marched in the opposite direction and some of them dropped in to the Whey Pat for a swift refreshment.
While I wasn’t rude enough to take any pictures in the pub, I was intrigued by the chance for a closer look at their kit. The bow is a traditional wooden self longbow, probably of yew. Each archer carries three arrows, and while they were also wooden, they were more obviously modern, with a plain brass pile, a transparent red plastic nock. Although the arrows being carried had plainly never been used, each archer’s set seemed to have distinct fletching. Whether this was intention or coincidence, I don’t know. Each also carries a short sword, which so obviously resembled a gladius that I was actually relieved to find it described in Wikipedia as “a short gilt-headed Roman sword”.
Behaviour was interesting too; on entering the bar, arrows went straight on the bar. I guess this was a practical thing, as when worn they’re slung at the right side, protruding downwards in front of the body and upwards to the rear. You can see how this might be awkward in a bar situation. I was slightly surprised when they left to hear “Who’s not got a bow?”. Clearly the Royal Company of Archers don’t buy into a more archaic version of the Rifleman’s Creed! It would be interesting to know to what extent Archers kit themselves out, and to what extent they’re issued with their gear. It seems clear that some order their own bows, as they’re quoted as being patrons of Richard Head Longbows, but “Who’s not got a bow?” suggests that, for some, bow ownership is less of a concern.
After all that, here’s a link for anyone experiencing a sudden inexplicable urge to listen to Barwick Green.
Sometime this month, I think I passed the milestone of 20 years of owning a PC.
I wasn’t particularly exposed to computers while I was school, nor even much at university. A friend had a BBC micro, on which I played Elite a few times, and I learned to write S-algol on the University VAXen. The closest I came to a PC was one Physics lab that required me to write a little Basic to control a stepper motor.
Then I did a conversion M.Sc. to Computer Science, and then I was unemployed.
After nearly a year of unemployment, the bright future of work as a programmer I’d hoped for looked like as though it might be escaping from me.
I thought I’d better do something about it, and with a loan from my parents and advice from my friends I bought a PC, to demonstrate that I was serious about these computer things. In particular I was grateful for the advice of flybynightpress, a Mac enthusiast himself, who advised me not to get a Mac but a PC, because the employment prospects were better. You tend to pay attention to advice like that!
Sometime in June or July, I had a horrible experience when it stopped working. Completely. My first computer, bought with money I didn’t have, bricked. and with that horrible paranoia that maybe, oh no, maybe it was all my fault!
A technician had to come the hundred and something miles from Edinburgh to the glen where I was living with my parents on the west coast, with me liable for the several-hundred-pound cost of the callout if it really was my fault. That was not a happy wait.
Luckily, the motherboard had died of its own volition, and with a replacement fitted free of charge, that PC served me well for a fair while afterward. And a month or two later, I was employed as a programmer, albeit in a job paying only 65% of the average graduate starting salary of the time, and with the most horrible computer language in the world ever. And on a PDP-11/83, not a PC. Still, I’m sure my PC-ownership helped ;-).
Today, my Raspberry Pi arrived, both more and less powerful than that machine of twenty years ago, depending on how you look at it. Unfortunately a painful ear infection is making the thought of tinkering unappealing for me tonight; but hopefully the Raspberry Pi will be the gateway for others to follow in the career that the PC has let me enjoy.