Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday May 27 2018

Using phone.  Impossible.  That is all.

LATER: Well, not quite.  It seems that it was Google not working.  Or something.  Everything went black.  Why?  So after all the usual switch-it-off-switch-in-on-again bollocks, I closed all windows, black as they were and were determined to remain, and then opened just one.  And that, this, worked.  I found out google wasn’t working by trying another internet searcher thingy.  That worked.  Except that it couldn’t remember how to get here, if it ever knew.  So, I closed google and opened it again, a little.

Very peculiar.

As for that using phone thing, well, again, not impossible.  Just ridiculously difficult.

Saturday May 26 2018

I was attracted to Nick Bryant’s Twitter Feed by this Tweet, which someone on my Twitter Feed had flagged up.  And that got me looking at other Nick Bryant Tweets.

In one of these, Bryant alludes admiringly to this quote:

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Which Bryant calls “smart”.  And it does sound quite smart.

But think about this a bit more.  What this says is that in every room with several people in it, one of them shouldn’t be there.

I everyone followed this advice, social life would collapse.  The smartest person in each room would keep leaving, and then the second-smartest, and so on.  And the leavers would be frantically searching for rooms with smarter people in them.  But the smartest people in those rooms would also have to leave, and eventually they’d be the smartest.  And so on.  Madness.

Here’s my plan.  If you like the company you are in, stick around.  If you really are the smartest person there, there’s still plenty you can learn if you have a mind to.  And if you are actually teaching everyone else, well, what’s so wrong with that?

The truth is that most people are smart about some things and stupid about a lot of other things.  Which means that actually, the “smartest person” notion is inherently flawed.

The idea of the above quote is that we should always be learning things from others.  But you can usually learn something from anyone, no matter how much smarter you may be compared to them, or think that you are.

Further thought: If you are in a room where you think you are the smartest person, and that everyone else is stupider than you, well, maybe you should get out of there and spare these people your company.

I have in mind the meeting I hosted last night, where everyone was smart, or so it seemed to me. About whatever each of us was smart about.

Friday May 25 2018

Those photos of Oscar would appear to have made quite a difference to Oscar’s life, because he went missing last Monday, and three of these photos helped to find him and get him home again:

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GodDaughter2 will be telling me more about all this soon.  Like: Were there any other recent photos of Oscar that would have worked the same trick?  I don’t want to jump to conclusions, as people say when they do want to jump to conclusions, but maybe without my photos, Oscar would have ended up having a totally different life.

The heart of the operation was the much grumbled-about social media.  The above poster was concocted in London by a friend of GD2’s, and then socially media-ed all over the local area in France.  Facebook, take a bow.  In addition to being an actual friend of mine, GD2 is a Facebook “friend”, but I hadn’t been paying attention to her Oscar postings, until she phoned and then emailed me about all this excitement:

About 300 people shared various posts I posted on Facebook to find Oscar. He left Monday, I started looking for him last night and we got him today!

GD2 made all this happen while in London, that email having arrived was yesterday, last night being Wednesday evening.  It seems that Oscar, having got lost, was then cared for by another family.  But when, thanks to the above social media activity, they got in touch and Oscar got back to his original carers, GD2’s family, he apparently spent many hours sleeping, which is not the routine I recall when I was there.  This tells to me that he was very stressed while away, and was relieved to be home.  With home needing no sneer quotes, the way it might with some cats.

6k has also been impressed by these Oscar photos, this one in particular …:

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…, and he has been making that the basis of various would-be internet memes, of which this one is the latest:

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Reuniting lost loved-ones is a classic excuse for the Total Surveillance World we now live in.

And actually (see above (sometimes)) quite a good excuse.  If I, or someone, had not been surveilling Oscar, he might still be lost.

I also remember how, in the past, GD2’s parents would grumble about how much time she would spend social-media-ing, instead of doing “real” things, like sleep or homework.  But finding Oscar was very real.

Thursday May 24 2018

In Quimper, the city in Brittany which I recently visited on account of having friends who live there, I photoed this:

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My camera’s ability to notice details that I didn’t notice at the time …

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… immediately enabled me to learn who did it, and what else he has done.

I love the internet.

Wednesday May 23 2018

So I went to Foyle’s this evening, to buy this but got there too late, and then went food shopping in order to confer meaningfulness on an otherwise meaningless expedition.  So then I was tired, but managed to write a posting for here, but then it turned into a Samizdata posting, which I will post tomorrow, or maybe not, because I always sleep on Samizdata postings nowadays, because that always makes them better, or not.  So now it’s tomorrow morning and I have nothing for here, so here is a photo I took through the new entrance to Tottenham Court Road tube station:

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I like that time of the evening, or the early morning come to that, when natural light and artificial light are in some balance.

Centre Point has had a total makeover and been turned into posh flats.  But, it looks exactly as it always did.

Tuesday May 22 2018

Ten years ago, to the very day, I took these photos.  Two are of regular heroes, Indiana Jones and Lara Croft; and two are heroes of the Super variety, Batman, and Superman:

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The above heroes were, of course, not real.  They were plasticated sculptures, standing outside the old London County Council building, to advertise movies, presumably.

It’s interesting – is it not? - that no such statues are erected to honour real people.  Or none that I knowe of.  Those are still done in monochromatic metal.

I’ve just seen how the photos have worked out.  Indy is trying to whip Superman.  And Lara Croft is shooting Superman.  Both of which seem rather unwise.

Monday May 21 2018

I spent most of the time I had available today for blogging working on a piece about Dominic Frisby, in connection with this.  I want to sleep on it rather than shove it up tonight, but it should be up at Samizdata tomorrow.

So here is a quota movie poster, on the side of a bus, which I photoed in Paris, when I was there recently:

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I don’t love movies as much as I used to, but I still love movie posters.  And I especially love them when they are advertising an Anglo-movie to non-Anglos.

Sunday May 20 2018

Next Friday, my good friend Adriana Lukas will be giving a talk at my home entitled Personal Recollections of Life Under Communism.  While concocting some biographical information for my email list members, I took a closer look than I have before at her Twitter feed.

Way back in 2015, Adriana retweeted this remarkable image:

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It looks like some ancient oil painting, rather than the latest-thing highest-of-high-tech imagery, which of course is what it is.

GE Healthcare’s 3D-printing software works seamlessly with GE Advantage Workstation systems already working inside hospitals around the world. After a scan, the anatomy is rendered as a 3D image using GE’s Volume Viewer software, a 3D-imaging platform that combines data from sources like CT but also MRI and X-ray. The software then converts the image file generated by the Volume Viewer and within seconds translates it into a file format that can be interpreted by a 3D printer.

“In the past, it would take several days to get the images back” from an outside 3D software processor, Cury says. “The advantage of the new software is it’s in the same workstation where the technologists already do work on 3D images. The steps are a lot quicker and easier.”

More than 100 hospitals around the world have already ordered GE’s 3D organ printing software, which can be used for any type of organ as well as models of bones and muscles. GE says that as more hospitals use the software, it will be easier and quicker for doctors like Cury to share files with each other and have 3D models to use for planning and education prior to procedures.

The most impressive 3D printing stories often feature hopelessly old-school businesses, like GE.  This is because 3D printing is the ultimate non-disruptive technology.  It attaches itself to existing businesses and makes them better.  If you know only about 3D printing, and are not willing to cooperate with a regular business, forget about it.

All those stupid 3D printers that they tried to sell in Currys PC World a few years back were just ridiculous junk for making further even more ridiculous junk.

Saturday May 19 2018

The plan was simple.  Get out into the sunshine.  Cross Vauxhall Bridge.  Turn right and proceed along the south bank of the river, upstream.  Check out what is happening on that side of the river, up to an including at Battersea Power Station.  Then turn left, and proceed to Battersea Park Station.  Take the train to Victoria.  Do some shopping.  Get home, knackered, and post one photo.  Just one.

All of the above happened, and here is that one photo:

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That’s Riverwalk, although why it’s called that, I do not know.  Seems rather misleading.  A building is not a walk.  A walk is what I was doing.

It was the kind of weather where almost anything looks good in a photo.  I was going to say: even Riverwalk.  But as with every obtrusively new building in London that I start off not liking, I am getting used to this one, and may eventually even start liking it.  I may even start liking its colour, if colour is the right word.

I had no great hopes for this walk, and that was one of the first photos I took, what with Riverwalk being on this side of the river.  But the expedition turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected.  More to follow, maybe, I promise nothing.

Good night.  Sleep well, I believe I will.

Friday May 18 2018

My friends in Brittany have a new cat: Oscar.  (He replaces this cat.)

I, of course, took many photos.  I like these ones:

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And I like this one best of all:

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Oscar has reached the stage in life where he is still a kitten in his behaviour, but not any longer in his appearance.  Sort of a cat teenager.

Oscar has a very short attention span, and is currently programmed to check out everything he sees, like some obsessively exploratory robot.  He sees a lot and he keeps on seeing something else.

So, for instance, you click your fingers at him to initiate some sociability, and he sees that, and runs towards you, but then, while still on his way towards you, he sees something else behind you, and carries right on towards that, after only the most perfunctory acknowledgement of your fingers, in which he has already lost interest several tenths of a second earlier.  Or he has simply forgotten why he is is motion, and he just carries on.  Very strange.

But as he calms down, he will presumably start to treat people more in the way they like to be treated.  When I took an afternoon nap, he also fancied a nap and had his on top of me.  But, had there been a more satisfactory household appliance, like a warm fire, he might well have preferred that to curl up next to that.  It didn’t seem personal, just a matter of comfort.

But I still liked him.  Cats are just so likeable, whether they are actually being likeable, in their own minds, or not.  All they have to be is non-objectionable and not too scared to check you out.

Thursday May 17 2018

I have yet to break my Twitter silence.  I am just letting all the people I follow just Twitter away all over me, while I try to get a sense of who Twitters well, so that when I finally do, if I ever do, I too will Twitter well, or at least quite well.

imageOne such role model is Frank J. Fleming.

From whom, this is deservedly getting around:

I think you’re always going to have tension in the Middle East when there’s people who want to kill the Jews and Jews who don’t want to be killed and neither side is willing to compromise.

More recently, I also liked this, about an American psycho-gang that President Trump described as animals:

I assumed the threat of MS-13 was being overblown since I don’t trust Trump, but now other people I don’t trust are doing overtime belittling the problem of MS-13 and I don’t know who not to trust more.

When I was young, I wondered if I would be able to respect my youngers but betters.  How would that work?  It turns out it works fine.  That would make another nice Tweet.

Wednesday May 16 2018

I was rootling around in the archives for something interesting, and this time I really went back, to the time of my very first digital camera.  And in among lots of photos of my friends and GodDaughters all looking eighteen years younger, I found this photo, taken while on a trip around the Wheel, of the Guy’s Hospital Tower, looking just as brutally (because Brutalist) ugly then as it does now:

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That’s right, no Shard.

But more to the point, it shows what a Big Thing that building in the middle there used to be.

And I’ve said it here before.  This was London’s Montparnasse Tower.  What Paris concluded from the Montparnasse Tower was: never again.  But what London concluded from the Guy’s Hospital Tower was: we need to build lots of bigger towers, so that this one won’t be any part of the definition of London.  And in particular, we need to put a really big Big Thing, right next to this big old thing.

So, in the photo: Guy’s Hospital, and no Shard.

And: without Guy’s Hospital, also no Shard.

Tuesday May 15 2018

Today was a perfect day for a day out on a big photo-expedition, but for some reason to do with getting older, I didn’t feel up to it.  It’s too early to be sure, but I sense that a phase of my life, a phase that consisted of, among other things, exploring and photoing London, may just have come to an end.

So, instead of showing you photos I took today, here are some from an ancient I Just Like Them! Directory:

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Taken in 2008 in Trafalgar Sqaure (1.1), in 2012 underneath that rather pointless ski lift thing out east (1.2), in 2014 while those swanky student accommodations were under construction at the far end of Westminster Bridge from Parliament (2.1), and at the top end of Horseferry Road looking at the top of a random building at the top end of Rochester Row (2.2) also in 2014, when all the tree leaves had been shaken off.

Monday May 14 2018

Having spent a week appreciating the Frenchness of France, I now find myself especially noticing the Englishness of England:

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1.1 (cricket in Vincent Square) and 1.2 (Prince Albert outside his Hall) were taken yesterday afternoon.  2.1 (Westminster Abbey plus Big Ben smothered in scaffolding (plus a tiny bit of Wheel)) was taken yesterday evening.  2.2 (a Handley Page Victor recently acquired by a friend) was taken earlier this evening.

Sunday May 13 2018

One of the things about travel in foreign parts is that you regularly see things which you just do not understand.

And for me, when I was in Paris on May 5th, this photo, hastily snatched while crossing a road, definitely falls into the I Do Not Understand This category:

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The buildings reflected in the window behind me introduce a note of sanity into an otherwise incomprehensible scene.  Why the upside down chickens?  And what has this to do with fortieth birthdays?

Shop windows are an endless source of photo-amusement for me.  I can enjoy it for ever, but without paying a thing or taking up any of my scarce home-space!

Busy day today, so that will have to do.