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kottke.org posts about Scotland

The Giant Chainmail Box That Stops a House From Dissolving

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2022

The Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland is considered an architectural masterpiece, but it’s falling apart in the wet Scottish weather.

Mackintosh was a revolutionary designer, but the materials and techniques at the cutting edge of architectural design in 1900 haven’t withstood a century of the west of Scotland’s harsh, wet weather conditions.

The external render of the property has not proved watertight and the walls have gradually become saturated and are crumbling, with water now threatening the interiors.

If we don’t act soon, the house will be irreparably damaged and we’ll lose its iconic architecture and unique interiors forever.

So what they’ve done is put a giant structure built mostly from chainmail around the house to dry it out. And cleverly, they built a system of observation platforms within the box so that visitors can see the exterior of the historic house like never before. (via waxy)

Sea State

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2022

a Scottish oil rig in the North Sea

This morning, I randomly ran across this New Yorker review of a memoir by Tabitha Lasley called Sea State. I couldn’t stop reading it, this review, and went down a rabbit hole of other reviews of the book: the NY Times, the Guardian, and the London Review of Books.

After losing four years of progress on a novel, Lasley’s work on Sea State began when she visited Aberdeen, Scotland to research what life is like for oil rig workers, saying she “wanted to see what men were like with no women around”. And then, more or less immediately, she started a relationship with one of her (married) subjects.

Lasley’s first interviewee is an offshore worker from Teesside, an area that was once a hub of steel and chemical manufacturing. Caden has clear blue eyes, a jockey’s body, and tattoos of the names of his wife and twin daughters. He likes the gym, ironing, the autobiographies of Mafia dons, and bio-pics about soccer hooligans. Lasley spots him at an airport, where his kit bag — a kind of waterproof duffel, designed in accordance with helicopter requirements — gives him away. She approaches him, explains her project, and asks for his contact details. Caden demurs, but gives her number to a friend, who invites her to a pub with a group of fellow-riggers. Afterward, Lasley invites Caden to her hotel. Within weeks, he’s skiving off family life to sleep with Lasley in airport hotel rooms, laying the blame on the state of the sea — too rough for the chopper to take off — for not being able to make it home.

Now involved and “around”, Lasley turned the book into a hybrid: personal memoir + a class-oriented look at the concentrated masculinity of life aboard oil rigs. And somehow, according to the reviews, this actually works. Fascinating!

“Spready Mercury” and Other Scottish Snow Plow Names

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2020

This is a map showing the real-time location of Scotland’s fleet of snow plows (which they call “road gritters”). As Jackie Sojico discovered, Scotland names their plows and some of them are hilarious.

a map of Scotland's fleet of snow plows

Some of the plows are named things like Sprinkles or Salty but there are also Gangsta Granny Gritter, Mr Plow, Spready Mercury, License to Chill, Ready Spready Go, and Gritney Spears. A possibly out-of-date list of plow names shared on Twitter includes Darth Spreader, Gritty Gritty Bang Bang, and Snowbegone Kenobi.

Plows elsewhere in the UK are also given interesting names: Basil Salty, David Plowie, Freezy Rider, and Roger Spreaderer. (thx, meg)

This Village’s Adorable Christmas Lights Are Designed by Kids

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2020

In the Scottish village of Newburgh, the Christmas lights hung up around town were designed from drawings done by local schoolchildren. Poppy McKenzie Smith shared some of the displays on Twitter.

Christmas lights designed by kids

Christmas lights designed by kids

This is the best, way better than any professional display. The kids must feel so great seeing their handiwork lit up around town like this.

Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2016

Trials rider Danny MacAskill busts out some more amazing tricks as he takes a mountain bike out for a ride in the area around Edinburgh. This could double as a tourism video for Scotland…the scenery almost steals the show here. (via @mathowie)

The origins of soccer

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2011

All kinds of evidence has been uncovered that organized soccer was being played in Scotland as early as the 15th century.

He discovered a manuscript of accounts from King James IV of Scotland that showed he paid two shillings for a bag of ‘fut ballis’ on 11 April, 1497. More evidence came with we came across several diary accounts of football being played in places like Stirling Castle, Edzell Castle and Carlisle Castle. The games were played on pitches smaller than the current regular football field, and featured between 10 and 20 men on each side.

Maybe we can get that guy who wrote the epic Reddit thread about how a 2000-man Marine unit might fare against the circa-23 B.C. Roman Empire (and got a movie deal for it) to write a scenario in which Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Iniesta, et al travel back to Scotland in the 1500s to take on the King and his footballers. (via @tomfossy)

The Falkirk Wheel

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2009

When the connection between two Scottish canals was disconnected, a clever solution to reconnect them was employed. Instead of linking them by a series of locks, a giant rotating wheel was constructed to lift and lower the boats the 79 feet from one canal to the other.

Falkirk Wheel

These caissons always weigh the same whether or not they are carrying their combined capacity of 600 tonnes (590 LT; 660 ST) of floating canal barges as, according to Archimedes’ principle, floating objects displace their own weight in water, so when the boat enters, the amount of water leaving the caisson weighs exactly the same as the boat. This keeps the wheel balanced and so, despite its enormous mass, it rotates through 180° in five and a half minutes while using very little power. It takes just 22.5 kilowatts (30.2 hp) to power the electric motors, which consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (5.4 MJ) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.

Here’s a time lapse of the wheel at work.