Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
cricket highlights on No wicket in fourth over shock
Chuck Pergiel on White van reflexology
Darren on Two photographers photoing me
Simon Gibbs on Digital photography ballet
Brian Micklethwait on My next camera?
Brian Micklethwait on My next camera?
Michael Jennings on No wicket in fourth over shock
Alastair on A blast from the photographic past
Brian Micklethwait on Photographers by the river
Darren on Photographers by the river
Most recent entries
- Shiny little car
- On clapping in between movements at classical concerts
- Brightly lit against a dark background
- Alcoholic Architecture sign
- Big Ben through the legs of Gandhi statue in Parliament Square
- You can’t make a skyscraper out of containers
- A couple of old squares
- Further spectacular information storage progress (which will immediately become very useful)
- A big Black Cab advert picture for a Samizdata posting
- Designing and building with glass
- White van reflexology
- Photoing down by the river
- iPhone with added fish eye lens
- Cranes and a bridge (but not in a good way)
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This and that
I was out and about in Soho earlier this evening. I was with someone, but someone mercifully sympathetic to me taking photos so I got the chance to grab this shot:
I like how the ostentatiously silver colour of this vehicle grabbed every bit of light there was (as did my Lumix Camera). And I like how I can now learn what the shiny vehicle was advertising, even though I had little idea at the time. Capital Golf could have been something financial, for all I knew. But, it actually is advertising golf, the game, or to be more exact a golfing equipment store. When I looked more closely at my photo, “London’s Finest Golf Store” was a definite clue.
I could even read the website, and go straight there. But this website is really boring. Although that may just be me projecting upon it my personal opinion of golf.
Actually, I only tell myself that golf is boring. I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century. I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life. And I wasn’t having that.
I just watched a recording I made of a BBC TV show called Proms Extra, which is a chat show that responds to and flags up London’s immediately past and immediately future Promenade Concerts. They were asking themselves whether they minded clapping in between movements, in connection with a performance of The Planets, in which this had happened.. The assembled commentators agreed that they did not mind at all.
Two thoughts from me about this.
First, the assumption seems to be that people clap in between movements because they don’t know they’re not supposed to. But I think it is much more knowing than this. I think the audience has changed its mind about this.
There has been a huge movement in music-making to achieve an “authentic” sound, by which is meant the sort of sound made by the first performers of the pieces. Well, why not more authentic audiences? Time was when “classical” audiences would clap in between movements without hesitation. Sometimes they would yell for encores, of symphonic movements, before the symphony had even finished, just like at the opera. That in-between-movements clapping is now happening (has been for quite a while actually) at the Proms tells me that the current fashion for clapping in among big multi-movement pieces is a very knowing decision, a very musically educated decision. We are not “supposed” to do this? Well guess what, we have decided that we will do this.
It’s not only this, but I am sure that this is part of it.
Personally, I think that not clapping something like the tumultuous third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, for instance, seems very unnatural.
However second, there is no doubt that this new convention, if new convention it will be, has not yet been fully established. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not, and quite often in a rather tentative, awkward and rather indecisive way. So, it must surely sometimes make life a little difficult for performers.
What if you have just given what you reckon was a tumultuously great performance of a movement which ends in a manner than just begs to be greeted with a round of applause, and there is silence? In the older days, of strict inter-movement silence, fine. I’m not finished. But now? Hm. Did they not like it? And, after a bit of silence, will they relent, and start clapping, just as I am starting the next movement?
The older regime of silence in between movements was at least a rule, which everyone stuck to and which newcomers quickly learned, from all the dirty looks they got if they broke the rule. And performers could either pause or press on immediately, confident that no clapping would interrupt whatever effects they were seeking to create.
Spent my day recovering from hosting a meeting at my home last night. Much tidying up still to be done. So, quota photo time.
But, two, both of brightly lit buildings against dark backgrounds. Part of one of the dark backgrounds being the Shard:
That chessboard building is about one minute’s walk from my home.
The one on the left taken in June. The one on the right just over a week ago.
Incoming photo (which is something I like a lot), from Simon Gibbs, of a sign (I like signs a lot), near Southwark Cathedral:
Click on that to get the bigger, unhorizontalised picture, and read more about what this is about here. Google sends me regular links to anything that is “new architecture london”, and there’s been lots written about this place.
Although, rather oddly, I couldn’t find any pictures of this sign. Maybe this will change that.
The gimmick is that this is a pub that sprays alcohol into the air. That was always going to be catnip to the media, social and regular. “Breathe responsibly”. Arf, arf. There are already plenty of pictures around of that sign.
I like statues, by which I mean that I like the statues that I like. Statues that I like don’t read where it says on my blog that I like them, and then say things like “But you never visit”, when I visit. They don’t say things like: “So, now that you are visiting quite often, what is this? Where is this relationship going?” In decades and centuries to come, maybe statues will behave in exactly this sort of troublesome way, but for now, they don’t. They just stand there.
And, they stand there immobile, which as a rather crap photographer, technically speaking, I greatly appreciate.
Here is a recent London statue that I now like:
That’s also another in my ongoing series of Great Photos Taken Rather Badly, which you, oh Real Photographer, can now go and take better. Big Ben won’t have moved. Nor will the legs of the recently unveiled statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, as I write this, looks like being a lot sunnier than it has been in London for quite a while.
(New Gandhi statue unveiled in “London’s Parliament Square”. Interesting how hitherto national organs now aim themselves at the whole world. The media they are a-changing.)
I only recently noticed this Gandhi statue. For decades Parliament Square had no Gandhi statue. Then, it had one.
This combines two interests of mine, the use of containers to make buildings, and the use of colour, to make buildings look more colourful:
But is it serious? It shouldn’t be. Making a skyscraper by piling containers on top of each other makes no sense, because the ones at the bottom have to be able to support the ones at the top. And the ones at the top have to be very light. The idea of having all the containers of the same structural strength and hence the same weight is foolishness containerised. The ones at the top will be far too heavy for what they are doing and the ones at the bottom will be squashed flat.
And if you are not piling containers on top of each other, but are merely slotting them into an already constructed structure, then here’s a plan. Why not save bother by not using big, heavy, lumpy old containers. The simple fact is, containers are only useful for making regular old buildings of the sort of height that buildings used to be before they invented mechanical lifts and structural steel (even though containers are themselves made of structural steel) and reinforced concrete.
Besides which, it surely only makes sense to make a building out of containers if you can get some leftover containers on the cheap. There’s no way they could get that many containers by just waiting for them to fall off a container ship.
Just had another rootle in the photo-archives, and I encountered two nice (if rather cheesey (but I don’t care)) photos, which had in common that there were not entirely nice, but that if I cropped a couple of squares out of them, they became a lot nicer. The one on the left is the bottom right hand corner of the original. The one on the right is two thirds of the original with the left one third omitted.
Taken in Jan 2007 and Feb 2008. (Feb: no leaves.)
I had another of those Goodness Me How The World Is Progressing!!! moments the other day, when I read a Wired piece by Brian Barrett entitled The flash storage revolution is here, and in particular stuff like this:
In 2013, Samsung announced a new way of approaching flash storage manufacturing. Rather than place the cells along a single layer, as had been standard practice since NAND flash was invented in the 1980s, it would stack them vertically. That allows for much greater density, which gives you much more storage space.
Samsung’s solution, called V-NAND, has seen remarkable gains since its introduction. In the first year, the company stacked 24 layers on a single die, while in 2014 it managed 36. The 16TB SSD kicks that up to 48.
Or, in rather plainer English:
By applying an innovative manufacturing technique to existing flash technology, Samsung has created a hard drive that could store well over 3,000 high-definition copies of Mad Max: Fury Road on your MacBook Pro. ...
But that same paragraph immediately continues:
… It might sound unlikely that you’ll ever need 16TB of space or be willing to pay for it. ...
And Brian Barrett then spends the next few paragraphs trying to convince potential skeptics of the “need” for such vastly increase domestic information storage capacity.
I need no convincing. If there is one thing I have learned from spending the last thirty years mucking about with these amazing gadgets, it is that more power, more speed, more storage capacity will all turn out to be extremely useful, very quickly, and will then quickly become essential. Things you just assumed would be impossible quickly mutate into near-necessities.
See also this earlier Samizdata piece by me, entitled Why fast and powerful computers are especially good if you are getting old. And also this earlier piece, simply entitled Progress, also about domestic information storage, in this case concerning an old SD card I found while clearing junk out of my home, which stored the princely info-quantity of 16 megabytes, which is enough for about three photos with my current camera.
I’m concocting a short Samizdata posting which will need, if and when it ever materialises, its readers to be able to read what it says in this:
Samizdata readers! If you need this bigger to read it, click on it!
When I first started noticing new architecture about fifty years ago, glass figured prominently in the ravings of Modernist propagandists, being the means by which buildings made themselves transparent and thereby proclaimed their structural honesty and modernity.
This same glass was routinely hated by those obliged to live or work behind it. Glass was the means by which unfortunate inmates of Modernism were fried in the summer, frozen in the winter, or had their skirts looked up through by passing oglers. The heating and air-conditioning bills could be stupendous. Often, inmates shoved cardboard behind this glass, to diminish its worst impacts. Glass in modernistic buidings regularly got broken, often deliberately, not least because first generation modern buildings, at any rate in the UK, often brought out the worst in those subjected to it.
How times have changed, by which I mean: how glass has changed. It is far more varied now, far more cleverly made, far stronger and less breakable, and far more carefully used in buildings. Which is not surprising given that glass has only grown in importance, and in the percentage of the surface area of buildings that it now covers.
What follows is the whole of a short report, by Chris Jarvis of Sheppard Robson, of a round table conversation in which he participated last May, about the use of glass in building, organised by the Architect’s Journal.
The prose is sometimes rather businessy and clunky, but I found the content fascinating:
The conversation was focused on the specification of high-performance glazing. More specifically, how fundamental changes within the industry – which include shifts in legislation and the drive for efficiency in our built environment – have resulted in the specification of glass being determined much earlier in the design process.
Glazing is no longer an adjunct that is decided upon once a concept design is complete and planning has been granted. Issues such as orientation, shading and air-tightness need to be considered in the early stages of projects along with the specification of the glass to ensure the target energy performances can be met. Rigorous energy modelling is also important to enable the right glazing option to be chosen for project, site and client.
Availability of data
One of the key challenges in the specification process is the availability of the necessary rigorous data on materials. Currently, there is a feeling across the industry that the level of detailed product information is not readily available across the board. This provokes the question of how can technology be harnessed to collate the necessary technical performance and cost data - which architects, façade engineers and contractors can use - to make the right choices earlier in the process.
A holistic approach needs to be taken to assess all of the above criteria and select the most appropriate single, double or triple glazed units to meet the performance requirements, whilst staying within budget. Triple glazing is not currently a widely used material to boost performance, mostly due to the cost of the product. However, over the next few years this is likely to change: as triple glazing products become more widely used and technology develops to decrease the weight of the product, it will become more viable for projects and client budgets.
However, the use of more advanced, highly tuned technology requires more monitoring after completion to access the efficiency of the product over the lifespan of the building. Currently, rigorous data of how glazing performs after 10 and more years does not exist; how can new products help the industry close the ‘performance gap’ and alert us to poorly performing glass that is ultimately having a major impact on the efficiency of our built environment.
I chanced upon this at the Sheppard Robson website after photoing one of their buildings, the new headquarters of the Salvation Army, near St Paul’s, and then looking that up on the www:
It looks good, even if custom build HQs often spell trouble for the organisations which move into them.
While I’m on the subject of glass, several incoming emails have wanted to be sure that I had clocked this:
That’s a swimming pool made of glass. I yearn to photo oligarchical mistresses frolicking about in it, but, no chance. This will be inside a very gated community, in the vicinity of the new US Embassy in Battersea. I am optimistic, however, that we might all eventually catch a glimpse of such a thing in a James Bond movie, complete with frolicking oligarchical mistresses.
The above picture, and further details, here.
I always regard it as a sign that I am onto something when 6k notices me noticing whatever it is, and he did notice that.
This outburst was prompted by the experience of photoing the lovely Pavlova, twice, and once through trees of the sort which, had the photo been taken later in the year, like now, would have been totally clogged up with leaves.
Here is another photo of this sort:
Take a careful look at that (perhaps by clicking on it to get it a decent size). Look how many Big Things would be invisible if all the branches and twigs there all had leaves stuck on them, as happens during the summer. The photo would be nothing. Just a station sign, and lots of damn leaves.
Or how about this?
That’s Vincent Square, which is a two minute walk from where I live. Both the above photos were taken in March of this year.
Several Quite Big Old Things there, along with The Wheel of course. And although leaves wouldn’t totally blot all that out, they’d also do severe damage to that view. The top of Big Ben would still be visible, but The Wheel would be half gone and the Other Parliament Tower almost totally so. If – the horror - TV aerials sprouted leaves during the summer, that would do for the other half of The Wheel and most of Big Ben, because there is a little clutch of TV aerials right between them.
Despite being very London, I do not object to this picturesque view, even though it is so classically England countryside in its effects. You can almost smell the warm beer.
Photoed by me, outside Earls Court Tube, last night:
Click on that to get the bigger, truer, duller, original picture.
On a sunny afternoon in June, this was the big picture, complete with Big Things, and a bridge, in the background:
I homed in on that photosession, down by the river there.
There were making a bit of a spectacle of themselves, so their recognisable faces would have been fair game, but I took lots of pictures of them, and am able to show you only faceless pictures like these:
My favourite faceless photo being this one:
There was a big crowd looking down on all this. They really can’t complain, and I don’t believe they will, in the event they see those pictures.
When I took this snap, this afternoon, ...:
... all that I thought I was snapping was a selfie session, done by two ladies with conveniently face-hiding hats of agreeably contrasting colours.
When I got home and saw the above photo on my giant home screen, I got two nice surprises. First there was the surprise of how well the photo had come out on such a dull day. But there was also the surprise of what that clip-on thingy is on the iPhone. As so often, my camera saw more that saw.
A little googling soon got me immediately to such places as this. That’s right, a clip-on, fish eye lens. £10.99.
Only a smartphone camera is thin enough for a lens to be just clipped on like this. Did you see that device coming? Me neither.
I’m guessing that taking a selfie with such a lens makes it much more likely that you will be in the picture, which is presumably quite a problem if you can’t see the picture you are taking. It also gives you a panoramic view in the background.
I wonder if they clocked the bloke photoing them, in that background.
6k writes about a Fairly epic disaster video:
Cranes and bridges. I know who’ll like this one…
That would be me.
But it’s not a happy crane and bridge video. It’s a bit of a disaster…
So I watched the video, and then read 6k’s commentary underneath it, in that order. 6k’s commentary described my sentiments exactly:
Look, because of the title of this post and the title of the video, you know that things aren’t going to end well. But it’s the way things happen almost in slow motion and the lack of any sort of discernible panic that makes this so entertaining.
So slo-mo was it that I checked that the people moving about as this was happening were moving at a realistic speed. They were. Which meant that the cranes really did descend this slowly. It was almost like when the Twin Towers collapsed, in that way if in no other way.
I’m not good at putting up videos here, so you’ll have to follow the link at the very top of this to watch this video. However, this disaster having been videoed at the time, there was no way the www was not going to supply follow-up stills of the resulting wreckage, and here is an aerial snap that I quickly found, which tells that story very well:
Click on that picture to get it bigger. Follow the link above if you want to see where I found it.
I’m guessing (only guessing mind) that the fact that the cranes were on a boat may have been the straw that caused the camels to fall over onto those houses.
Commenter number one there spells it out, and he says that the water aspect of things was more like a bale of straw:
There is an example of this exact situation in the maritime crane operation safety textbooks. Obviously, they didn’t read those.
Here’s a quick list of safety violations:
1) None of the vehicles were secured on the decks
2) Barges stability was not ensured in any way
3) The cargo was not stabilized from swinging & windage by lines
It’s easy to sneer about how hindsight is easy, blah blah. But this guy sounds like he might have been able to stop this, had he been directly involved.