The Magic Physics Pixies

On Thursday last week, I gave a short talk on the background and operation of one of my other sites,, and the components that make up what I called “a professional community resource”. The event was the Association of Learning Technology Scottish SIG meeting at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The presentation slides can be downloaded as a pdf by clicking on the image on the right. You can watch a recording of the event below. This post is also available on

Declaration of Independence

Hoots, mon, old chap.
Hoots, mon, old chap.

A while ago, an old friend from my Sussex days posted on Facebook, “When are you coming home?”. My response, to the applause of the crowd, was, “I am home”. I love Scotland, or at least parts of it, and she has been quite kind to me since I came here in 1991 for what I had intended to be a maximum of 6 months.

I migrated involuntarily to Scotland 23 years ago out of economic necessity. My pedigree is not dissimilar to your average mongrel although I do have strong roots back 200 years through my American father’s line to the Hoods of Dumfries. I am as proud of my heritage as I am of anything else I have no control over, like my height. “Proud” in the sense that I recognise it as my good fortune and something I should (and do) take full advantage of.

Something else I inherited from my father was his intolerance of pretension, although I think I can run with a line so far, before rebelling (this trait from the Bourne family, my mother’s genetic base). This is what I often refer to as the “F*ck it” point.

I have reached this point in the debate over Scotland’s independence. Listening carefully to both sides of the argument, I have found no imperative nor evidence to support the action of severing the leg we stand on in the United Kingdom. Neither the leg nor the amputee would fare well, although I suspect that the economic reality of our population distribution, one-eighth of it in London and 91% not in the metaphorical leg, the UK-not-including-Scotland will survive.

The vote in September is going to be made with people’s heads, hearts and the (m)asses.

To intellectualise the argument, there is no economic or political advantage for Scotland to cede from the rest of the UK: our UK research investment, world investment, finance investment, European investment would be damaged substantially. Alec Salmond, clever cookie that he might be, has failed to convince anyone’s head that a Yes vote is in anyone’s interests.

Hearts will be bursting with nationalistic emotion, the halls and glens still echoing to the skirl of pipes and the choruses of “Caledonia” and “Flùr na h-Alba” at the end of the Glasgow games and the SNP will be hoping for a “games effect”  just in time for the referendum in September.

Finally, there is, despite all the hype, door-knocking, state-funded leafleting and propaganda, the most powerful political force of all: the disinterest of the masses. Here is the greatest vote, if not actually for the status quo, but against the change in it. For same reason I didn’t engage with the rubbish waiter in the rubbish restaurant I had lunch in yesterday when he asked if everything was all right, people don’t feel sufficiently interested in revolution or changing things for the better to engage in the argument. This is why you see a predominance of “Yes” stickers all over the place. There is the sense that to dissent from the nationalist zeitgeist is somehow anti-Scottish, not something to be in times of Nationalist fervour.

Well, I am at the F*ck it point with this debate. Blame my breeding. I am going to vote against independence: because I love Scotland (parts of it); because there’s no argument for it that even remotely sounds convincing to me; because as part of the UK, Scotland punches above its weight and I like that; and because it’s right to stand up against Nationalism in this insidious form. I declare my independence.


f2Jon Baird’s film of Irvine Welsh’s book, Filth, has to stand head and shoulders above almost all of the other movies I have seen in the past ten years, and certainly outclasses every one of those that was spat out by the regressive Hollywood machine. This movie is so different from those that it almost warrants a class of its own. If other films join it, they will undoubtedly be made in Scotland.

The story is set in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, and begins in a vein somewhere between Ashes to Ashes and Chewin’ the fat, with plenty of proper Scots comedy, banter and swearing, as we see the central figure, Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), vie for promotion using every desperate measure he can think of. His misogyny is developed through the film as we see him struggle with the battle for promotion, a cocaine habit and something deeper. I’ll not spoil the plot for you but be prepared for a significant shift in how you think about and empathise with  Bruce Robertson, as McAvoy puts in the performance of his life in crafting the twisting evolution of the character on the screen before your eyes.

Be prepared also for some stunning visual comedy throughout the film, from the police party photocopy-your-penis contest to the expanding head of Roberston’s shrink, played brilliantly by Jim Broadbent in a burlesque on the Clockwork Orange side of Cabaret. Watch out for Eddie Marsan’s outstanding portrayal of Robertson’s Masonic brother and victim Bladesey and a musical cameo from David Soul.

This is a stunning, stunning quality film, bound for cult status. Don’t miss it.