Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Final Act

October 1, 2007

Greetings, you splendid things. You join me as I steer The Hutchison Monolgues into the choppy waters of the home straight. Thank you for bearing with me over the past nine months. Doubtless you have enjoyed this queasy voyage a lot less than me.

As always, I was intending to accompany this ‘volume transition’ with an assurance of more regular commentaries. I think, having got to this stage, we can all afford to be realistic about that. I imagine that I’ll post now and again, but perhaps it’s time to let The ‘Logues peter out in a manner befitting their age.

Keep your respective peckers up. We’re almost there.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

May 7, 2007

Statistics. How would you even start to write a post about statistics? 

At the moment, I’m in the process of throwing together a doctoral thesis. Having gathered all the data, I’m now at the stage of putting it all in the one place in order to analyse it. Said analysis involves diving deep into the very shallow waters of my statistical knowledge. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

Did you hear about the three statisticians who went hunting? They spotted a deer in a clearing up ahead, and the first statistician took a shot at it, falling short by a good ten metres. The second statistician also took a shot, but he overshot by ten metres. The third statistician shouted ‘we got him!’

Look, I didn’t say it was very funny.

I don’t really mind data analysis. In fact, it can be rather jolly when all goes to plan. The trick is to stay within what you understand, even if that doesn’t give you much room. In fact, there’s probably only enough room to stand up. On one leg. But it will suffice.

I have two programs to help me. Good old Microsoft Excel and the dreaded Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). With Excel, your data can be made to look nice and be set out in a intuitive way. SPSS will do your statistical calculations for you, but won’t let you have any fun. Most of my day was spent trying to make Excel and SPSS play nicely and not fight. 

Even when I was elbow deep in my number-crunching exploits, I was able to spare a thought for my faithful blogue readers. Knowing that they’d take a keen interest, I romped on over to The Strip Generator, in order to construct a schematic account of the data analysis process.

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I was going to riddle this post with some amusing statistics courtesy of Google, but didn’t quite find the energy. However, I’m sure that at least 79.2% of you will have some statisical tit-bits that are interesting and with which you might entertain the rest of us.

A Quik Bite of the Fat Stuff

December 31, 2006

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Yesterday, thinking it would be a good idea to involve ourselves with the post-Christmas sales, Mrs H and I set out for an unforgettable trip to Ocean Terminal. For those who are yet to frequent the OT, it is a veritable shopping Mecca for those in the North East of Edinburgh, as well as to the handful of keen beans willing to travel a little further.

During our expedition, we happened across a number of establishments that form the basis of today’s monologue. And so it is that we turn our attention to the ubiquitous surfwear shop.

In one such shop, once Mrs H retired to the changing room with a fistful of garments, I had the opportunity have a little pace around the rustic, splintery interior. Amongst all the earth-coloured chunky-knits and the skimpy pastels (all of which are sold ready-tatty to save you the time) were clutches of pallid shoppers, none of whom appeared to be on the way to the beach. I’d be interested to find out the proportion of clothing sold in such an outlet that will ever be involved in water- or skateboard-related activity, although I’m not sure how one would gather the data.

Another thing: the posters in these shops always fall into one of two categories. A poster in the first category will depict an ethnically diverse group of twenty-somethings laughing heartily in the vicinity of a clapped-out Volkswagen. The second will portray a lithe individual in the throes of an extreme sport, and will be emblazoned with a bit of philosophy such as ‘don’t let your fears stand in the way of your dreams’, or (my personal favourite) ‘a bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office’.

It appears that clothing is not the only thing for sale here. You are subscribing to an imagined lifestyle in which you can drop out of the rat race and sit on a beach all day long, pausing only to back-comb your boisterous locks and undergo rigorous cosmetic dentistry.

I am left with one nagging question: if we eschew our offices altogether, how on earth will we afford all these over-priced clothes?

Why We Have Boxing Day

December 26, 2006

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Last night, my estimable father-in-law and I thought we’d get the jump on the rest of the do-gooders by heading on down to Tesco to dispose of the roomful of detritus that Christmas had somehow generated. The paper, cardboard, plastic and glass had been dutifully sorted into their respective bags, so we bundled them into the car and hit the road. During the next half-an-hour, there was opportunity to ruminate upon the act of recycling.

Firstly, it seems like there is only finite goodwill when it comes to this sort of thing. It was great to see that others had taken the time to bring their bits and pieces to the recycling bins, but somewhat disappointing that they hadn’t managed to deposit them in said bins. Clearly, would-be recyclers had found themselves bereft of the moral strength to squash their boxes and post ’em through. Ironically, of course, I don’t imagine that boxes outside the designated bin will ever see the recycling process, so it would have been altogether more efficient to dump them in the nearest convenient country lane.

It seems that attempts to recycle, no matter how cack-handed, are sufficient to absolve the recycler of any other social responsibility. How often I am agitated by people parking in the middle of the road, with their open boot exactly adjacent to the appropriate recycling hatch, in order that not one unit of unecessary effort is expended. Honestly guys – park in a space. A little walk won’t kill you. And, despite the exhaustion incurred by your noble act, feel free to put all your carrier bags in the bin when you’re done.

Better still, recycle them.

Five Little-Known Facts

December 21, 2006

OK, readers. We’re getting to the stage where it might be necessary to flesh out the enigmatic Mr H a little. Neil Costley has just thrown down the gauntlet by “tagging” me, which means that I must divulge five hitherto unknown facts about myself. By the way, do look at Costley’s blog (hit the link to your right) as it is most compulsive. I regard him as The Blogfather.

Anyway, enough about him. Here we go.

1. I have a fish phobia. For social reasons, I have been fishing on perhaps four occasions, all of which have been spent dreading the possibility of ensnaring one of our aquatic friends. I frequently dream about fish. In my dreams, they are often dead, sometimes humanoid. Weird.

2. As someone wishing to project the image of a seasoned film buff, I am embarrassed to admit that Backdraft and Hollow Man are numbered among my favourite films.

3. I wore a kilt for the first time last Saturday. It was most invigorating. I’ll probably do it again. I did not wear it as a true Scotsman, because I am not. And it was quite a cold day.

4. I pretend to like jazz much more than I actually do. Whilst aspiring to the cool, intellectual image, a lot of it is actually rather boring. The only time I listen to jazz is when people come round for dinner (observant, recurrent visitors will notice that the same three albums are played on a loop). I sometimes listen to Maynard Ferguson (a Canadian jazz trumpeter) but am consumed with bitterness that I will never play as well as him. This rather undermines the experience, for me.

5. I only have one kidney, and have no idea why.

That was fun. Here’s a picture of me in a kilt (to substantiate Fact 3 for any doubting Thomases out there).

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An Evening at Waverley Station

December 20, 2006

Avid readers will recall that the run-up to the official New Year opening of the blog was to be devoted to mastering the medium. As it turns out, there’s not much to it. Why don’t I just crack on?

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I had an interesting evening tonight. Mrs H was involved in a school production (don’t be alarmed – she’s a teacher) and during the day, I found that I was to be unexpectedly available. As an aside, this seems to be happening quite a lot recently, but I don’t dare to contemplate what it could mean. Anyway, I thought it might be nice to make the trip out to West Lothian to watch the show, and chum her back in the car. It was to be an all-ticket do, but having met a couple of her colleagues at the weekend, I thought there was at least a chance I could schmooze my way in. Failing that, I would just wait in the car for her to finish.

So, I arrived at Waverley Station and purchased a one-way ticket, checked the platform number, made my way there, showed my ticket to the lady who waved me through, and I waited. After a while, I made some polite enquires, only to find that I was on the wrong platform. I was pointed to the other end of the station, only to see that the train was not scheduled to leave for another hour. I trotted over the the information stand, and was told by a young man (lying almost prostrate in an office chair – some feat) that he didn’t know what had happened to the 17.56 I was after. Realising that the trip was now doomed, I queued up at the ticket counters to see what the score was. The nice lady was unable to help, but referred me to the Scotrail ticket booth on platform 14. The man in the booth, attentive as he was to my plight, suggested I asked the Scotrail manager what had happened to the train. He gave me directions as to how to find this gentleman which, via an erroneous turn into the first class lounge, took me to a pokey little perspex bunker. I could see the mythical, Santa-like figure within, but he was on the phone, and I didn’t think he would share my sense of urgency. I waited for him to finish, then (as instructed) gave a ‘chap on the window’ (NB we call it knocking where I come from). He explained (rather jovially, considering) that the 17.56 had left, on time, from platform 13. I entered into a half-hearted dispute, which he concluded by saying that it was a busy train, and that I was the only person to have missed it. Subsequently, I wondered how he knew this (did all the passengers phone him to convey that they were safely on board and heading happily west as planned?) Anyway, I thought I’d still try for a refund, so queued up at the ticket counter once again. The same lady, whilst the very personification of sympathy, could not issue a refund because I was carrying a Scotrail ticket (she pointed to the pattern of the perforation, as if by way of explanation). Once again, I was sent to the chap on platform 14, but this time I could not get to him, since I’d already used the ticket to get to him before. At this point, I gave up the whole sorry enterprise and went home.

So, that’s an account of my evening so far. What started out as a little jaunt to lend some moral support evolved into an unforgettable odessey around Waverley station, coupled with a journey to the very brink of madness. I suspect it was my mistake too, so I can’t even enjoy the comfort of the moral high ground.

Shame.