Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Saturday July 04 2015

Today I was out and about in the sweltering heat of London, and unusually for me, I found myself noticing a news item:

image

The news item being that big cloud of smoke, somewhere up river from Tate Modern.  Seeing as how I myself live up river from Tate Modern, this was a bit troubling.  Was it a moderately big fire, quite near to me?  Would I return home to find my home ablaze?  Had I started the fire by leaving something switched on that shouldn’t have been?  Or was it, as I found myself ignobly hoping, a bigger fire, further away?

I consulted the www about this fire when I got home, my home not having disappeared, and there being no smoke anywhere near it.  Eventually the www revealed what had happened.  The fire was - and alas, as I write this, it still is - in Perivale, which is way out in the west of London.  And this was one very big conflagration.

To quote the Evening Standard:

An enormous fire is raging in a warehouse in a west London suburb, with smoke visible for miles around.

Some 100 firefighters are tackling the inferno at a large building in Wadsworth Road, Perivale.

About 30 people fled before the London Fire Brigade arrived, with flames erupting just before 7pm.

That’s what I was seeing, no question about it.

According to my camera, the above photo was taken at 8pm, so the fire had already been raging for an hour before I noticed it enough to take photos of it.  Not that photoing smoke is my forte.  Presumably photoing smole is like photoing anything else in particular, the more you do it, the better you do it.

No matter.  Many others will undoubtedly have been photoing that same huge cloud of smoke.  It was, like the ES said, visible for miles around.  You’ll have no difficulty finding better Perivale warehouse fire pictures, in the event that you want to see such things.  For me, it is enough to know that nobody died.

A BIT LATER: Looking at the above photo, and at some of the others at the other end of the link immediately above (notably the one from beyond Tower Bridge) I realise that one of the tricks of smoke-photoing is the put the smoke behind a very definite and recognisable building.  So here is another photo I took, of some of the smoke that had already travelled a bit further, to the area behind St Pauls Cathedral from where I was:
image

Trouble is, although St Pauls is very definitely St Pauls, the smoke is not so definitely smoke.  It could just be clouds, in my photo.  Like I say, smoke is not a speciality of mine.

As you can also see, there is a crane to be seen there.  I also photoed smoke behind a crane cluster, but showing you that would be to change the subject.

Friday July 03 2015

This posting is not so much me passing on advice as me seeking to solidify some ludicrously overdue advice from me to myself, about how to photograph speakers.

Don’t try to do it when they’re speaking.

Last night I took about two dozen photos of Dominic Frisby, who was address the Libertarian Home crowd at the Two Chairmen pub in Westminster.  Almost all these photos were useless.  This was because Frisby was talking, and when people talk, they move.  The indoor light was very scarce, so the slightest motion meant a blur, and a succession of blurs was accordingly all that I got.  My only photographic successes during the Frisby talk were when I switched my attention to the people listening to him.  They were keeping still.

People like Richard Carey:

image

And Rob Waller, who was the “organising fascist”, as he put it, of the meeting, i.e. he set it up and did the introducing:

image

I think Rob clocked me, don’t you?

The only half-decent Frisby photos I got were during the Q&A, when, just like the two persons featured above, he too was listening rather than talking:

image

Doesn’t he look adorkable.

As to what Frisby said (on the subject of Bitcoin), well, it was all videoed, although the video camera was being hand-held, as this further snap of Richard Carey, helping out with that, illustrates:

image

I include that snap also because of the John Lilburne reference, Lilburne being a man whom we libertarians should be bigging up every chance we get.

Finally, a book photo.  On account of Frisby’s talk beginning a few minutes earlier than I had been expecting it to, I arrived a few minutes late, and the only seat I could find was the one with Frisby’s books on it, which he had presumably earlier been sitting at.  That explains the odd angle of this photo:

image

Both books highly recommended.  More about Frisby by me (+ further links) in this Samizdata posting.  In this I mentioned that Frisby was working on a Bitcoin book.  As you can see, that book has now materialised.

It helps that books, like people who are listening, or for that matter doing photography, and unlike people who are talking, do not move.

Thursday July 02 2015

Or so I assume.  I can’t think what else might have created this effect:

image

Yes, it;s quota photo time, and that Pavlova statue on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre never fails to charm.

I took lots of similarly double glazed photos of Pavlova at the time I took this one, this one being my favourite.

Previous, quite recent, Pavlova statue pictures can be seen here, here, and here.

A new category is long overdue, but as of now I’m off to bed.

Wednesday July 01 2015

Yesterday I wrote here about the twenty-first century social obligation to use a mobile phone when meeting up with someone, because of the problems this solves and despite the problems this creates.  Hence the need for me to take my mobile phone with me when going photowalkabout with G(od)D(aughter) 1.

But, on Saturday evening, the evening before GD1 and I went on our walk, I was very nearly deprived of my mobile phone, by which I mean deprived of the ability to make use of it.

What happened was that, while I was also out and about on Saturday evening, a baritone-singing student friend of mezzo-soprano-singing student G(od)D(aughter) 2, sought the help of GD2.  His mobile had run out of puff and needed a recharge.  GD2 uses an iPhone, but Baritone has an Android mobile, so Baritone could not use GD2’s recharger.  What to do?

Between them they decided that I and my Android recharger might be the answer.  I guess that GD2 then rang me on my immobile home number and discovered that I was out.  Then, knowing my aversion and incompetence as a mobile phoner, and especially as a reliable receiver of incoming mobile messages, she did not not attempt to ring me on my mobile.  Or, she did try my mobile and I did not answer.

For various reasons that I still don’t understand and which in any case do not now matter, Baritone ended up coming to my home, armed with GD2’s key to my home, and having made his entrance, he “borrowed” my mobile phone recharger.

I want to emphasise that the above quote marks are not sneer quotes.  They are confusion quotes.

For, what exactly does it mean to “borrow” a mobile phone charger?  What GD2 meant, when she assured Baritone that it would okay for him to “borrow” my phone charger, was that it would be okay for him to charge up his mobile phone, using my charger at my home.  As indeed it would have been.

However, Baritone misunderstood this assurance to mean that it would be okay for him to “borrow” my charger, as in: take it away and make use it throughout Saturday evening, in other places besides mine.  I don’t believe that Baritone would have done this without that assurance from GD2, as he understood it.  After all, whereas charging up your mobile in situ is socially very okay, taking a charger away without permission is surely a twenty-first century social gaff of the first order.  But, Baritone thought that he had permission to do this otherwise unacceptable thing.  GD2 is adamant that she gave no such permission, but I believe that Baritone genuinely thought that this unusual procedure was, in the light of GD2’s assurance, okay.  He made this clear in a written thankyou note he left on my desk.

And it normally would have been okay.  Had I not been going on an expedition the following day with GD1, then the charger could have made its way back to my home some time on or around Sunday, and all would have been fine.  But, for all the reasons that were explained in the previous posting, I needed that charger by quite early on Sunday morning at the latest.

So, despite GD2s protestations, I acquit Baritone of wrongdoing.

But then again, Baritone is a baritone.  And baritones often behave very badly, quite often at the expense of notably virtuous mezzo-sopranos.  So maybe I’m being too kind.

All was speedily corrected by GD2, who was rather insulted by the profuseness of my thanks when she brought my charger back at 8am on Sunday morning.  Of course I got your charger back.  (See what I mean about virtuous mezzo-sopranos.)

It was just as well that I did get it back.  In addition to using my mobile for all that meeting up at the start of the day, I also used it for its map app, and to tell me how Surrey were doing against Gloucester.  Very well, as it happened.  Nothing like your sports team winning to keep you going when you are knackered.

However, I now understand better why people have cameras with mobile phones built into them.  What with my bag and all, I was having constantly to choose between knowing where I was, and photoing it.

Surrey are on a bit of a roll just now.  This evening they beat Gloucester again, in a T20 slog at the Oval.  Surrey needed a mere six runs from the last four balls.  So, how did they get them?  The last four balls went: wicket, dot, dot, six.  In English that’s: probable Surrey victory, possible Surrey victory, almost impossible Surrey victory, Surrey victory.  I got that off my laptop, but I could have got it from my mobile, if I had been out and about.  Provided it hadn’t run out of puff.

Tuesday June 30 2015

As everyone else in the world found out several years before I did, a mobile phone is now an essential part of the kit you need to meet up with somebody.  So, I made a point of having my mobile with me when G(od)D(aughter) 1 and I met up at Manor House tube last Sunday.

When I arrived there, at our predetermined time, I discovered that Manor House tube has three widely dispersed exits to choose from.  Now you may say: “But how many ticket barriers does it have?  One.” You are right, but what if the mobile phone reception at the ticket barrier, this ticket barrier being below ground, does not work?  I needed to be out in the open.

Mobile phones cause plans to be more muddy and last-minute than they used to be, because that is what these plans can now be.  GD1 and I had hoped that “the exit of Manor House tube” would be unambiguous, but we took a chance on that, because we would both have our mobile phones with us, and we could make it up as we went along if things got more complicated.

I picked one of the three exits and looked around for GD1.  No sign.  I left a phone message and a text message for GD1 saying to her: I am in the Manor Park Cafe, which is next to the big gate into Finsbury Park, which by then I was.  Fifteen minutes later, I rang again, and eventually got through to GD1.  She said: “I just sent you a text.” Ah.  She was running a bit late, which, now that we all have mobiles, is okay because now such information is easily communicated.

Anyway we duly met up in the Manor Park Cafe, and we consumed consumables while deciding to have our walk anyway, despite the weather being vile, but also deciding that we would wait inside the Manor Park Cafe until it stopped actually raining.

What might have happened had we not had any mobile telephony at our disposal, I do not know.  The old method, which is that you decide beforehand to meet at place X at time Y, used to work okay.  Whoever got there first waited, and whoever was second said sorry, with whatever degree of sincerity seemed appropriate.  But now, if you don’t bring a mobile with you, and if you don’t make constant use of it, you are misbehaving.

I brought my mobile with me to meet up with GD1, but at a critical moment I failed to consult it.  “Getting old” will definitely be one of the categories below.

Monday June 29 2015

The question mark in my title is because I do not know whether or not this bench is unusual.  Is it truly odd?  Or did it merely seem odd to me, when I photoed it earlier this evening, because I noticed something I had never noticed before in such a bench, but which is actually not that unusual?

Anyway, this is the bench:

image

And what struck me as odd is those extra arms, dividing the bench into three individual spots.  There are other seats like this, but I have never seen a wooden bench of this very trad sort, with those very untrad internal arms added.  To me this was and is very novel.  I found myself thinking: Is there something particularly London (It says “City of London” on the bench) about this, to me, very odd arrangement?  Is this some sort of device to guarantee not being touched by the people who sit next to you, perhaps because there are three such people and they squeeze up against you?  And is that very London?  Something you definitely would not find in other more socially easygoing, less atomistic, places?

Also, somehow, given those extra arms, I expect also extra legs.

I encountered these benches (there were several, including the one I was sitting on when I photoed this other one) outside the Museum of London in the Barbican area of the City of London.  In case you wanted to know.

Sunday June 28 2015

I’m now knackered.  For reasons too complicated for me to explain in my present knackered state, I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I would have liked.  And then today I went on a photo-trek with Goddaughter 1.  This was great, and I am entirely glad that I did this, but about two thirds of the way through these photo-treks I typically arrive at a state of knackeredness, and so it was today.  Mostly it’s the feet.  They ache.  But, sitting down and resting only makes it worse when I try to resume.

We both took lots of photos, many of the best ones that I took being after I had become knackered, as also tends to be the rule with these photo-treks, hence my determination, every time, to keep trekking after becoming knackered.  This is often because at the end of the trek there is a destination which keeps us going, and which is really good.  This time, that destination, it gradually became clear, was Alexandra Palace.  And Alexandra Palace is a great place from which to photo London and its Big Things, especially if the light is as good as it was today.  The light at the end of the day is often the best, which is another reason to keep going, even if you become knackered before the day ends.  So I kept going, and so, a great day.

But a knackering day, and I am now off to bed.  I can, or so I hope, write when knackered.  But working with my primitive little laptop, I now find it impossible to contrive any links or post any photos, So no links.  No photos.

No photos also because, although it was a great day, I don’t know if I took any great (by my undemanding standards) photos.  I have looked at them, once, but am now too caught up in what I was trying to photo and am not yet able to be objective about what I did photo and to pick out any truly good ones.

Good night..

Saturday June 27 2015

Photoed by me today at the top end of Victoria Street, aka Victoria, where there is a hurricane of new building going on, a horizontal slice of an old building:

image

If you click on that, you will be able to see, from the daylight in the windows and from the big horizontal chunks of metal between the windows, that this is another of those facades from olden days that’s being held up and behind which indoor modernity will be put.

Friday June 26 2015

What with my computer misbehaving, and having a meeting chez moi this evening, I am only in the mood for a bit of frivolity.  Which is fine, because Friday is the day set aside here for frivolity of a feline nature.  Earlier in the week I was able to connect the subjects of drones and cricket.  Today, how about cats a cricket? And cats and drones?

Well, the best cats and cricket connection I have recently noticed occurred in a Channel 5 telly show called “Psycho Pussies: When Cats Attack”.  Having spent the last few weeks showing us how various animals, cats, dogs, pets, or just animals, make us LOL, they now turned to the dark side of feline behaviour.

I was only half watching, but my impression was that they were talking to the same small bunch of owners – owners willing to live with psycho pussies – over and over again.  I surmise that (a) most cats do not thus misbehave, and that in most of the cases where cats do thus misbehave (b) evolution swings into action in the form of a lethal injection.  But, there were a few masochistic pscho pussy owners, one of whom dressed up in cricket gear by way of self-protection rather than take the obvious lethal step.  And there was my connection.  Remember that for Friday, I said.  And I wasn’t the only one to notice this cat/cricket angle.

image

As for cats and drones, well the internet is flooded with gruesome pictures of that dead cat that some psycho artist turned into a quadcopter, or whatever the small and amateur drones are now called.  (Real Drones are as yet only used by Americans, to kill people.) I seem to recall doing a blog posting way back about this feline quadcopter, but cannot now find it.

However, far more amusing than this old and horrible story was what I also found during my quest for a drone cat connection, namely this:

image

The point being that for some, drones are, just like cats, pets.  And, pets get lost.  And when pets get lost, posters get put up, appealing for help.

I don’t reckon neighbours will be so sympathetic and cooperative, though.

Thursday June 25 2015

Here are two people whom Mick Hartley recently encountered.  He photoed them and stuck the picture up on his blog.  And I reproduce it here:

image

So, how come this flurry of privacy violation?  Hartley explains.  (There are several very heavy hints in the categories listed below.)

Wednesday June 24 2015

I like cricket.  And I like drones.  But which is best?

There’s only one way to find out.  Fight.

Actually, all the drone did there was hover, waiting to be clobbered, which, a minute and a half in, it duly was, by Chris Gayle.

What I want to see is a game where drones fight against each other.  Or a war.  Either would do.

Or, perhaps a demo.

Tuesday June 23 2015

This afternoon I went walkabout, with quite another object in mind than the Shard.  But, the Shard was looking peculiarly beautiful this evening, at any rate from where I was standing, on the Millennium Bridge.

image

At present I am not seeing this picture nearly as clearly as you probably are, because my proper computer (Godot) is ill and my laptop (Dawkins) only has a very small and inadequate screen.

What I hope you are seeing is the sky looking very earthly, but the Shard looking almost heavenly.  The sky looks rough and the Shard looks smooth.  The sky looks matt and the Shard looks gloss.  Sky behind the Shard is dark, the Sky reflected off the Shard is light.  London is dim, but the Shard is bright.

Renzo Piano, who designed this wondrous Thing, saw all this coming.  He knew that the Shard would reflect in a quite different way to a merely vertical Thing, and today this effect was to be seen at its very best.  I can only hope that my photo gives at least a clue of what was going on.

Monday June 22 2015

Indeed.  After meeting the extended family and photoing those Dinky Toys, I made my way back to Egham Station via the RAF Memorial at the top of the hill that overlooks Runnymede.  Runnymede and a lot else.

In the foreground, the River Thames.  To the right, in the far distance, London and its towers, just visible, if you are lucky with the weather.  Next to London and a bit nearer, Heathrow Airport, with the Wembley Arch clearly to be seen behind it.  Straight ahead, big reservoirs.

And to the left, Windsor Castle:

image

Click on that little picture to get the bigger picture.

I am having a recurrence of those computer problems I described in this earlier posting, but have discovered that my picture processing programme does function after all, after a fashion.  But very badly, and I am posting this picture of Windsor Castle because I remember that picture to be good, rather than because I know it to be.

The pictures I took from the top of the RAF Memorial yesterday seemed to me better than ones I had taken before from this spot, and I suspect that this is because yesterday was the first time I had used my latest camera at this vantage point.  But my computer problems struck again before I could check this feeling against actual facts.

So meanwhile, enjoy Windsor Castle, assuming that the picture is as enjoyable as I remember it seeming to be when I looked at it last night.

Sunday June 21 2015

Today there was a big old Micklethwait family get-together at the ancestral home in Englefield Green, Surrey.  Me, two brothers, a nephew and a niece plus partners, another niece, plus two little kids.  I took photos of course, and I wasn’t the only one doing that.

I prefer not to show you pictures of my relatives, but I’m sure that nobody will mind me showing you these snaps:

image imageimage image

Those are Dinky Toys, in really quite good condition, dating from the 1950s.  I can even remember a couple of the names.  The red van (which was my brother’s, not mine) was “Mersey Tunnel”, because it is a Mersey Tunnel police van.  And the white car with green on it is a Singer Gazelle.  Ah, Singer.  Those were the days when Britain contained about a dozen distinct car-makers, with distinct names like Singer.

All these toys had already been extracted from all the other goods and chattels in the house and given to N and NP’s two little kids, before I arrived.  Theoretically, three of these four antiquities were mine, or they were mine sixty years ago, but the kids seemed to like them and I was glad for these toys to be passed on.  Such things are only worth proper money if the boxes have been kept, and of course they hadn’t been.  And although these Dinky Toys, especially the two cars, are in really quite good condition, really quite good condition is not nearly as good as mint condition, moneywise.  So, yes kids, you’re very welcome.

But one favour I did ask.  Before you take them off to your home, let me photo them, just to remember them.  Okay?  Okay.  So I perched them on my knees and took the shots.

One of the many good things about digital photography is that with it you can store fun memories in two virtual dimensions, rather than in three actual dimensions.

Saturday June 20 2015

But, there is light.  And there is light.

Here is some light, earlier this evening, bouncing off the Millbank Tower with its superb roof clutter, next to a crane, and arriving upon the little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

image

Yes, that is excellent roof clutter.  Yes, that is a crane.  But … it’s not a very remarkable scene.

But here is some light, earlier in the week, bouncing off the same Millbank Tower with its same excellent roof clutter, next to the same crane, and arriving upon the same little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

image

Put it this way.  Had I not taken that shot earlier in the week, I’d not be showing you the one I took this evening.  Which I only took at all to illuminate that earlier one.