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UK Home Office suffers setback: can't destroy family by deporting American head-teacher as his British wife begins cancer treatment

The UK Home Office's war on migration has suffered a setback: an American head-teacher had lived in Scotland for nearly ten years will be allowed to stay and help his British wife of four years as she begins cancer treatments. The Home Office had been absolutely set on deporting David MacIsaac, having declared his marriage "a sham," despite the massive shortage of qualified head teachers. But after the pesky Observer newspaper called attention to MacIsaac's plight, and Scottish politicians took up his cause, the poor Home Office was forced to change direction, causing irreparable economic harm to the private security company that would have otherwise been enriched by a government contract to shackle MacIsaac and physically abuse him all the way back to America.

But have no fear: Britain's new migration policies will ensure that countless other MacIsaacs will be cruelly taken from their homes and families in an effort to pander to the Daily Mail, bigots, and crypto-bigots who say things like "Oh, I'm not a racist, but when people arrive too fast for us to assimilate them, it doesn't do anyone any good" (or its cousin, "I'm no bigot, but certain groups just don't want to assimilate.")

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Ken Macleod on Iain Banks

CBC radio's excellent magazine show As It Happens conducted a short, lovely interview with Scottish sf writer Ken Macleod about Iain Banks, who had been his friend since high school. It's a beautiful piece of audio, and a heartfelt one. My condolences, Ken. Cory

Detailed obit of Iain Banks

Iain Banks died yesterday. The Guardian's John Mullan does justice to the long and important career of one of the best writers in two fields:

In 2010 he gave an interview to BBC Radio Scotland in which he spoke with painful frankness about the breakdown of his relationship with his first wife. But then the media interview seemed his natural forum: it is difficult to think of a more frequently interviewed British novelist.

While his science fiction spanned inter-stellar spaces, his literary fiction kept its highly specific sense of place. The place that gives the title to his 2012 novel Stonemouth is fictional, but, like other fictional places in earlier Banks novels, it is a highly specific Scottish town. Like The Crow Road and The Steep Approach to Garbadale –it is the story of a man coming back to his family home, and it is difficult not to think that this is Banks's story of himself.

Iain Banks dies aged 59

Iain Banks: I'm dying of cancer, this book will be my last


Sad news: Iain M Banks, beloved author of brilliant science fiction novels and (to my taste), even better thrillers, has terminal gall bladder cancer that has spread to his liver, pancreas and lymph nodes, and is unlikely to live for more than a year (and he may live for less time). He posted the news early today, in a statement that's bravely and darkly humorous, as befits his work and his reputation:

As a result, I’ve withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I’ve asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry – but we find ghoulish humour helps). By the time this goes out we’ll be married and on a short honeymoon. We intend to spend however much quality time I have left seeing family. and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us. Meanwhile my heroic publishers are doing all they can to bring the publication date of my new novel forward by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves.

There is a possibility that it might be worth undergoing a course of chemotherapy to extend the amount of time available. However that is still something we’re balancing the pros and cons of, and is anyway out of the question until my jaundice has further, and significantly, reduced.

Lastly, I’d like to add that from my GP onwards, the professionalism of the medics involved – and the speed with which the resources of the NHS in Scotland have been deployed – has been exemplary, and the standard of care deeply impressive. We’re all just sorry the outcome hasn’t been more cheerful.

I've never (to my recollection) met Banks, but I am a huge fan of his works. As I wrote some years ago in Wired, his novel Dead Air is the first truly post-mobile-phone thriller I ever read, one where all the suspense comes from characters being in constant contact and knowing what the others are about, rather than the uncertainty of not being able to reach one another. There's a scene in that book, where someone is trapped in a closet when the killer comes home unexpectedly, and is texting to a confederate outside, that is nothing short of genius. Where the traditional mystery would have put the confederate through the stress of wondering what might be going on, in a position of total ignorance, Banks delivers a complete, minute-by-minute SMS set of updates to the confederate, and shows that knowing is infinitely more scary than ignorance, if handled by a master. Which he is.

Growing up, my whole circle of friends doted on his debut novel, The Wasp Factory, whose toe-curlingly, wonderfully macabre gross-out climax still makes me go a little sweaty-palmed when I think of it. And his novel Complicity was the book that set me on the path to giving up cigarettes.

I haven't even touched on his science fiction novels, the incredible Culture series, but they are worthy of your attention, too. In short, the field is losing one of its greats, and Scotland is losing one of its great champions for independence, and the world is losing one of its great campaigners for justice.

I wish Iain and his family a calm and loving and graceful time, and thank him sincerely for the hours of pleasure and the years of insight he's given to me and all of us.

Iain Banks diagnosed with gall bladder cancer

(Image: Iain (Menzies) Banks, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kyz's photostream)

Yarn bomb transit protest in Edinburgh

An unknown yarn-bomber has taken to the streets of Edinburgh with a political message, opposing the tramway expansion underway there. Yarnivore Rose says, "Actual political speech in yarnbomb form, rather than 'mere' decoration! BRING IT!"

More from The Scotsman:

Grant McKeenan, who owns the Copymade Shop on West Maitland Street and who has started his own anti-tram poster campaign, said he thought the protest was “excellent”, adding: “Anything speaking out against the trams is good in my book, and clearly someone’s gone to a lot of 
trouble.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader confirmed that the council had removed the colourful protest.

“When unofficial banners are put up it’s normally the process that they are removed, in case they come loose and flap into the face of a pedestrian or into the path of a cyclist.

“It did look like nice crochet work though, someone had clearly spent a lot of time on it.”

The city council added that the blanket was still in their possession if the owner wished to claim it, no questions asked.

Mystery knitter vents Edinburgh trams fury in ‘yarn-bombing’ blanket protest

(Thanks, Rose!)

(Image: a downsized, cropped thumbnail of "The embroidered tram work protest which was attached to the fence on Princes Street," a photo by Mary Gordon)

London Varieties comes to the Edinburgh Fringe


Juggler and impresario Mat Ricardo sez,

After six months of sell-out shows and fun times in London, we've arrived at the Edinburgh Fringe where Mat Ricardo's London Varieties has become The Voodoo Varieties! We're all very excited - we have a completely different line-up of the best cabaret, variety, circus and comedy acts every single night - and we've got some amazing guests in the next few days, including professional wrestling superstar MICK FOLEY, Scary genius RICHARD WISEMAN, comedy star THE BOY WITH TAPE ON HIS FACE, PIFF THE MAGIC DRAGON and lots and lots more.

Every night is going to be a one-off, unique show, and we're adding more names all the time. I am, if you can't tell already, giddy like a schoolgirl about some of the people I'm going to get the chance to host. The show is running at The Ballroom, The Voodoo Rooms at 8.15 every night except Mondays, and my new one man show "Vaudeville Schmuck" is at the same venue at 5.45pm every night.

Boing Boing readers have been so supportive of the Varieties project, so I wanted to make sure that any of you that are around the fringe this month knew what fun would be going on over at the Voodoo Rooms. You can book tickets for the Varieties here and for Vaudeville Schmuck here.

Voodoo Varieties with Mat Ricardo (Thanks, Mat!)

UPDATED: Scottish town council shuts down 9-y-o girl's wildly popular school lunch blog


A nine-year-old girl in Scotland has been ordered to abandon NeverSeconds, her wildly popular blog, which features photos and commentary of the food served in her school. The blog began as a writing exercise undertaken with school permission, and was an implicit critique of the nutritional value and quality of the food. Over time, its proprietress Martha Payne branched out into raising money for school meals in east Africa. She became a minor celeb, with coverage in newspapers and blogs, and attention from celebrity chef and school food campaigner Jamie Oliver. Yesterday, she published a post called "Goodbye," in which she explains that she has been ordered to cease blogging by the headteacher, and expresses sorrow that she won't be able to continue her project. Her father clarifies that the shutdown order came from the local Argyll and Bute town council.

Here's what Payne wrote, followed by some words from her dad:

This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.

I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.

Goodbye,
VEG

Hi,
Veg’s Dad, Dave, here. I felt it’s important to add a few bits of info to the blog tonight. Martha’s school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I’d like to thank them all. I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha’s photography.

It is a shame that a blog that today went through 2 million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2000 for charity is forced to end.

Payne's blog inspired correspondents from schools around the world to write in with their own photos, and was a burgeoning nexus of a real community of interest among children. It's a terrible, stupid thing that Argyll and Bute council did.

Girl banned from taking photos of school meals for hit blog

Update: The Argyll and Bute council have rescinded the ban. The Guardian's Peter Walker reports:

Roddy McCuish, the council leader, told BBC Radio 4 that he had ordered an immediate reverse of the ban, imposed earlier this week. He said: "There's no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute council and there never has been and there never will be.

"I've just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It's a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I've certainly done that."

It marks a complete reverse of the council's position earlier this morning, when a statement directly attacked the NeverSeconds blog, set up by Martha just six weeks before as a writing project, for "unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs".

The statement added: "The council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the NeverSeconds blog for obvious reasons, despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils. However, this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing."

Payne's supporters have been tweeting photos of their food in solidarity with young Ms Payne, using the #mylunchformartha tag.

Dull town and Boring town find common cause

The town of Dull, Scotland has become a sister community with the Oregon town of Boring. They have joined forces to promote their inherent interestingness. Alexandra Topping writes in The Guardian:

Before long Dull and Weem community council was in – presumably interminable – talks with Steve Bates, chairman of the Boring community planning organisation, to discuss the possibility of twinning the communities. But while Dull – thought to have derived its name from the Pictish word for fields – has a mere 84 residents, Boring – named after William H Boring, an early resident of the area – has a population of more than 10,000, scuppering chances of the two being officially twinned.

Determined to cement the links forged by the two names, the places have now become "sister communities", and could carry signs such as "Dull, in association with Boring" or "Dull, in sisterhood with Boring". Residents of both places wait with bated breath as officials in Boring, which is six hours behind the UK, voted on whether they could be officially linked. Any fears were quickly assuaged though as the Boring Community Planning Organisation in Oregon voted to make the two communities "a pair for the ages".

Dull and Boring? Not any more for Scottish village and US town

Huge, dumb booze producer Diageo orders industry association to give them the prize that had been awarded to small, spunky competitor


BrewDog is a spunky craft brewer in Scotland. Diageo is a titanic owner of booze brands, a kind of Wal*Mart of booze. The British Institute of Innkeeping is their mutual trade association.

Last Sunday, the BII's independent judges awarded BrewDog a prize for Bar Operator of the Year. When Diageo found out -- just ahead of the ceremony -- that a company affiliated with them hadn't won the prize, they threw a tantrum and said that they would cease all sponsorship of BII events unless the prize was given to them.

So BrewDog -- who'd been told in advance that they'd won -- sat at their table at the banquet with jaws on their chests as their competitor's name was read out by the announcer, and representatives from Diageo's chosen bar got up on stage to accept an award whose plaque clearly said "BREWDOG: BAR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR." The farce has turned into a scandal, and Diageo has issued a non-apology of the "mistakes were made" sort.

BrewDog is pissed:

As for Diageo, once you cut through the glam veneer of pseudo corporate responsibility this incident shows them to be a band of dishonest hammerheads and dumb ass corporate freaks. No soul and no morals, with the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a wart hog.

Perhaps more tellingly it is an unwitting microcosm for just how the beer industry is changing and just how scared and jealous the gimp-like establishment are of the craft beer revolutionaries.

We would advise them to drink some craft beer. To taste the hops and live the dream. It is hard to be a judas goat when you are drinking a Punk IPA.

Walk tall, kick ass and learn to speak craft beer.

Diageo Screw BrewDog (Thanks, Chris!)

Makers and surgical trainee team up to improve prototyping bones from CT scans with 3D printers


Mark Frame, an orthopedic surgical trainee at Scotland's Monklands Hospital, 3D printed a model of a bone from a CT scan, as preparation for surgery. Rather than using the local rapid prototyping shop at a university (where such an operation might cost $1200 for a miniature model), Frame modelled the bone himself and had it printed at Shapeways for £77. The Shapeways community gave him feedback and help as he worked through the process, using free software tools to make the model. I love how networked maker communities help people who have specific, interesting problems to solve them for themselves. I also love 3D printed bones -- as you might remember, my wife surprised me with a 3D print of my femur after my surgery this year. When I showed it to my surgeon (a man of heroic reserve and calm) he practically flipped his lid and I practically had to pry it out of his fingers.
I used OsiriX, a well known open source medical imaging package for mac OS to open the CT scan images and produce a surface render (mesh of points) and export it in a format I could manipulate and make compatible for the printers at Shapeways. I exported the files as .obj files and opened them in a recommended manipulation program called MeshLab. This, another free open source application for mac osx. The aim of this application is to close any holes in the meshes and to delete any artifact produced in the scans. These were then exported as .stl files ready for printing.

I uploaded them to Shapeways through my account and they were almost instantly verified as printable and Shapeways began processing the images. The total cost for both bones in white flexible plastic only came to a tiny £77. The bones were in our hands in 7 days to the UK. The resultant models were amazing! We verified them and found them to be virtually identical copies of the bones on the CT scans. The white plastic was a great material to machine and use our normal orthopedic drills and saws and screws on to practice the operation.

3D Printing Bone on a budget!

Anonymous paper sculptures in Scotland's libraries


An anonymous sculptor has been leaving gorgeous carved-book sculptures in Scotland's libraries, along with little notes of encouragement. Some are left out in the open; others are hidden away and may have sat a long time before being discovered.
Having been on display in the Scottish Poetry Library for a few months, the poetree is now kept behind the counter for safety, but if you ask nicely I'm sure they would let you have a look.

The National Library's gramophone is in a display case near the front door.

The Filmhouse's cinematic diorama is currently not on display.

The Scottish Storytelling Centre's dragon is probably going to estivate during the Festivals to avoid any possible manhandling by infant hordes but will surely make a return in the autumn.

Mysterious paper sculptures

Cory at the Edinburgh Festival tonight, Reno WorldCon this week

I'm about to fly to Edinburgh for a gig at the Edinburgh Festival, tonight at 8:30PM. There are still a few tickets left.

From there, I'm headed straight to Renovation, the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, where I'll be doing a ton of stuff:

Wednesday, August 17
11.00-11.45am - Author in the Library, Sierra View Library (off site), 4001 S. Virginia St, located in the Reno Town Mall across the street from the Reno Sparks Convention Center -- reading, autographing, and Q and A with library community, host: Christine Johnson

2.00-3.00pm - Reading, Reno Sparks Convention Center room A05

Thursday, August 18
8.55-10.00am - Stroll with the Stars, (off site) meet at Stroll Meeting Spot (Walgreen's parking lot, 3495 S Virginia St, about 5 minute walk north of Atlantis), will stroll down to Reno Sparks Convention Center, with Stu Segal, Bill Willingham, Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Lawrence M. Schoen, Lauren Beukes, and Ellen Datlow

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Mat Ricardo at Edinburgh Fringe

Funny juggler/conjuror Mat Ricardo sez, "Remember last year when I staged a one-man show at the Edinburgh festival, asking if - after 25 years of touring, performing and slowly going mad - I should continue doing my job as a juggler and comedian? Remember how I discussed it with the audience and got their advice during each show? Well - the results are in - the show was a massive success and I got the best reviews of my career (Graham Linehan came, and called it 'Charming, funny and startling;). the feedback was literally unanimous that I should keep doing it. Hooray! The show transferred to a short London run earlier this year, which sold out, and I've been booked to perform it at a larger venue for the duration of the Edinburgh fringe, starting next Wednesday. The lesson here is simple - if you make something, then make it personal and meaningful. When you do a job that you love for a long time, as I have, it's easy to forget why you loved it in the first place. It's easy for it to become just a job, and that's what had happened to me - but writing and performing 'Three Balls and a New Suit' helped me remember, and now I love doing it as much as I ever have. Win!"