Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Transport

Monday June 19 2017

Indeed:

image

The date I did the photo is on the bus.  The place is just past the 507 bus stop at the top end of Horseferry Road, which I go past on my way to the nearest tube station.  I cropped the photo a little, but was careful to include the flowers.

Whenever I see Chinese looking couples getting married in London, having a marriage photo-session, I take all the photos I can, of them and of their photoer.  The above is a nice variation on that theme, I think.  If there’s no photoing going on, the next best thing is an interesting vehicle.

Not much today.  Too hot.  Hot indoors.  Even hotter out of doors.  So, stayed indoors.  Mostly next to my big old computer, and its fan-stroke-fan-heater.  But at least I wasn’t running around getting even hotter.

Saturday June 17 2017

I just did a posting at Samizdata about the flypast over London today, that went with the Trooping of the Colour.  That I photoed from my roof, insofar as I saw it.

I stuck up a lot of Samizdata-friendly photos there, but my favourite flypast photo was this, of a couple of planes seen through some foreground roof clutter:

image

You may say: not very remarkable.  But I say: this is not the kind of thing I usually see from my roof when I go up there with my camera.  For me, this is remarkable.

Thursday June 15 2017

I have posted here recently about the design of tube maps.

And I have posted here about how the Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea.

But I didn’t expect ever to be posting about both, in the form of the same piece of graphics.  But now, Colossal has a posting entitled The Roman Empire’s 250,000 Miles of Roadways imagined as a Subway Transit Map:

image

If you click on that, you’ll get it big enough to clock all the station names.  (If your eyesight is in the same zone of dodgyness as mine.)

I actually think that this drives home the point, about Rome surrounding the Mediterranean, very well.  Just giving all the various tribes and countries and kingdoms involved a spanking on the battlefield is one thing.  Roman roads are something else again.  A Roman road says: We’re here to say, and we can do it again whenever we want.

Tuesday June 06 2017

Incoming from Simon Gibbs, in the form of an email, containing all the necessary links, entitled:

Michal Huniewicz combines drone, very good camera & photography, and a bit of Photoshop

He does indeed.

At the Michal Huniewicz Twitter place, I started scrolling down, and (of course) stopped when I got to this, posted on March 15th of this year:

image

Bigger here.

Yes, it’s the London Gateway, on or just before March 15th.  When I visited London Gateway in 2015 there were only five cranes.  Now look at it.  Still not the complete set according to my calculations, but well on the way to that.

Here is another shot, also (I assume) contrived by Michal Huniewicz, of LG in action, from directly above:

image

Personally I am not fond of that Photoshop Look, which boosts the contrast of everything to a wildly unrealistic degree, butchering mere landscapes into a state of kitschified unwatchability.  Huniewicz doesn’t unleash this kind of ugliness very much, but, as Simon’s email hints, he does this a bit, and his landscape photos suffer, I think.  But cranes are visually strong enough to survive this kind of falsification with ease.  Their essence, which is structure rather than mere colour and colour contrast, shines through.  And actually, Huniewics doesn’t Photoshop around with his crane pictures, or not so you notice.  They look to me much as they came out of the camera.  Or maybe it’s just that when painted boxes are made to look brighter it looks no more like a crap picture on a Scottish biscuit tin than it did before.

Monday June 05 2017

A few hours after I took this photo (and not before all the latest terrorist dramas that were happening on the other side of the river (which I later crossed)), I took this photo, outside the Bank of England:

image

This combines four things that interest me.

First, most obviously, it is a photo of an unusual means of transport.  Rather confusingly, this contraption had “PedalBus.com” written on it.  But when you type that into the www, you get redirected to pedibus.co.uk.  Where you also discover photos of contraptions with “PedalBus.com” on them.  Very confusing.

Second, the persons on the pedibus/PedalBus are making a spectacle of themselves.  People who make a spectacle of themselves are not entitled to anonymity, or not at this blog.  Photoers going about their photoing business do, mostly, get anonymity here.  But people yelling drunkenly, albeit goodnaturedly, and striking dramatic attitudes when I photo them, not.

Third, I like these downward counting numbers on the pedestrian light bits of traffic lights, which London apparently got from New Zealand.  (Blog and learn.) Very useful.  I like to photo them, preferably in combination with other interesting things.  Score.  Score again, because there is not just one 7 in this photo, there are two 7s.  This particular time of the day, just when it is starting to become dark, is the best time to photo these numbers.

And fourth, I am becoming increasingly interested by London’s many statues, as often as not commemorating the heroes of earlier conflicts.  I think one of the things I like about them is the sense of a very particular place that they radiate, just as the more showoffy Big Things do, but even more precisely.  They thus facilitate meeting up with people.  “In front of the Bank of England” might prove too vague.  “Next to Wellington” pins it down far more exactly.

The Wellington statue makes a splendid contrast with the pedi/PedalBussers.  Wellington is Wellington, seated on his horse (Copenhagen presumably), very dignified and patrician.  And the peddlers are the kind of people he commanded in his battles.

I don’t get why this statue is in front of the Bank of England.  Why isn’t there a Wellington statue at Waterloo?

Thursday June 01 2017

Should a tube map look like this, which shows the real places and distances of everything, but is confusing, especially if you are looking at the middle …

image

… ?

Or like this, which is the usual way you see tube maps, all designed, with inner suburban distances shortened, to make everything more clear, especially in the crowded middle …

image

… ?

Answer, do the map as a .gif and show both, morphing into each other.

Now that TV screens for advertising are becoming ubiquitous at tube stations, seemingly costing hardly any more than paper of the same size (changed by hand from time to time), why not have TV screens at tube stations with .gifs like this on show?  Maybe you could have buttons on them, so individual viewers could switch from one to the other in their own time?  Would this cause arguments between rival viewers?  Revised suggestion: Have three displays on one screen: on the left, real distances; .gif in the middle; “designed” on the right.

Monday May 29 2017

About an hour after taking this photo, about happiness, two more photos that I took made me very happy.

The first photo was this one:

image

I had been hoping for something impressive in the way of a sunset, but this was better.  How come that big black line, somehow painted on the clouds?

Slowly, I worked it out.  There had to be a logical explanation, and my guess was that this was, to cut a long thought process short, the shadow of a vapour trail.  There was a vapour trail above the clouds, and the clouds were very thin, which meant that a shadow on the top of them registered underneath them also.

The trees were obscuring my view, because I was using them to provide shade.  But if I moved a bit, so I could see beyond and above the clouds, in the direction of the sun, would I be able to see such a vapour trail, above and beyond?

Yes:

image

There you go.

I’ve probably seen this effect before, but this is the first time I have really noticed it.  Image googling for “vapour trail shadow” got me to quite a few photos of similar things, but nothing quite like what I saw.

Some critics of digital photography complain that digital photography is a substitute for actually looking at things.  For me, digital photography has caused me to look at things more.

Monday May 22 2017

Time was when I think I did more bridge postings here than I seem to do now.  Maybe it’s just that I have seen, and said things about, most of the world’s bridges that interest me.  But I have the feeling that rather fewer new bridges are being built these days, and that those that are being built tend to be rather smaller.  Footbridges, in other words.  There’s nothing at all wrong with a pretty footbridge, but there is something super-splendid about bridges like the mighty Millau Viaduct.

Or the mighty Forth Bridge.  Which has been photoed a million times.  What more is there to say about this wondrous structure?  What more is there to see of it?

Well, feast your eyes on this photo:

image

This was first posted here, and was there noticed by Mick Hartley, to whom thanks.

It’s a long time since I’ve seen a more perfect example of the modified cliché photo.  Photoes of the whole of the Forth Bridge are everywhere.  But I have never before seen a photo of only the top bits of the Forth Bridge, with cliché Scottish countryside blocking out the bottom bits.  Brilliant.  It even includes a cliché tourist steam train at the bottom.

I wonder, was this photo taken with a drone?  If so, we can expect to see many more such familiar-thing-photoed-in-an-unfamiliar-way photos.

A big reason I have loved all the twiddly screens on all my cameras is that they have enabled me easily to take pictures from both above and below my usual height.  A drone is like the ultimate version of that, because with a drone you can hold your camera hundreds, even thousands, of feet up.

Which I can only do when I’m in an airplane.  (See Millau Viaduct link above.)

Thursday May 18 2017

Funny how you learn things.  I get an email from the Adam Smith Institute, and in it (I don’t quite know why but there it was) was a link to this Guardian piece about Britain’s canal network.

This piece contains many interesting nuggets.  This, for instance:

One of the peculiar and completely unforeseeable benefits of a national canal network is that it means the Canal & River Trust owns a national towpath network, creating an uninterrupted channel of land between the major cities of London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – the perfect place to bury a network of electric and fibre-optic cables, and to install mobile phone masts. Much of the cable could even be delivered by barge. In total, there are 400 miles (650km) of fibre-optic cable buried under the towpaths that the Canal & River Trust looks after – and the money earned from this helps pay for the upkeep of the waterways.

Well, I don’t know about that “totally unforeseeable”.  But nevertheless: nice.

There are more boats on Britain’s canals, apparently, than at the height of the industrial revolution.  Which doesn’t surprise me because I knew about the huge upsurge in the leisure use of British canals, having myself become a tiny part of this upsurge myself, on foot, with my camera.  And this has often caused me to wonder, have any new canals been recently dug, to facilitate the to-ing and fro-ing of us new canalians?

Yes.  This one:

… in 2002, the Millennium Ribble link in Preston became the first new canal to be opened in Britain in more than 100 years. It joins the once-isolated Lancaster canal to the national network, as had been planned 200 years before.

I could have found this out, presumably, if I had just googled “new canal” or some such thing, at any time during the last decade and a half.

I tried googling for a “new canal”, in the “UK” of course, but couldn’t find my way to this or any other new canal in the UK, which surprised me.  And which means that if I had simply asked my question of google, I might not have been able to answer it.  So, thank you Adam Smith Institute for the link.

Better fifteen years late with this story than never. The Millennium Ribble link itself was first planned two centuries ago.  So that was also a case of better late than never.

Friday May 12 2017

On that wander-around earlier this week, with GD2, there were, as related yesterday, lots of luxury objects to photo.  And I did try, but mostly I failed.  This was partly because luxury objects tend to be sparkly, and sparkly is hard to photo successfully.  But mostly, I suspect, it was just that I’m not used to photoing luxury objects and am in general not very good at it.

There were sparkly animals to photo, such as a bracelet with a tiger on it, and a silver horse rolling about on its back.  But they didn’t come out that well.

There were a couple of incongruously painted pandas (perpetrated by this guy), which I also photoed.

And there was a Bentley Mulsanne parked out in the street looking very good (especially its front lights), the effect as splendidly dignified as that of the two pandas were incoherent, offputting and pointless.  More about that Bentley, maybe, some other time.

Maybe even some more about the pandas, once I have thought of something to say about them other than that I didn’t like them.  I mean, someone obviously does.  Why?

In the end, the luxury item that I remember from that day with the greatest pleasure was this one:

image

The trick with buying luxuries is to buy a category of luxury that you can tolerate being too expensive.  A luxury car would break my bank account completely.  A luxury bracelet would be a non trivial hit, even if I wanted one.  But a luxury ice cream, in a tub that someone has obviously “designed” (to look somewhat like an old Penguin paperback in this instance), that I could happily stretch to.

Tastes differ in such matters, but I found this icecream really tasty.  It was purchased in the cafe at the top of John Lewis’s in Oxford Street.  After we had consumed our various luxury foods and drinks we climbed to the floor above, to the roof garden, where the view of London is not as spectacular as some of the views of this kind, but very satisfying if you are a fan of roof clutter, as I am, especially with the weather being like it was.  Again: luxury.  This time not overpriced at all.

Saturday May 06 2017

I like to photo London taxis, of the sort that have big elaborate multicoloured adverts all over them.  Not so black cabs, you might say.

I encountered this unblack cab in the Cromwell Road earlier this evening, just as it was getting dark.  I like how its colours shone out, in contrast to all the greyness and gloom by which it was surrounded, as if photoshopped:

image

But there was something else I especially liked about this taxi and its all-over advert.  Here is a detail from the above photo:

image

What I like is how that little orange light in the side of the taxi has been incorporated into the design of the advert, by becoming the point at which about eleven cake slices of colour meet.

I’ve not seen anything like this before.  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been out there.  It just means that if it has, I haven’t noticed.

Wednesday May 03 2017

I have begun reading Lincoln Paine’s very big book of maritime history, and it is heavy going, by which I mean that it is heavy.  My eyesight is deteriorating, and I now have to hold books with quite small print, such as this one is, close to my face, and holding this very big book is rather exhausting.

The first chapter concerned Pacific canoeists, whose navigational achievements were stupendous, and pre-USA Americans.  It was no fault of Paine’s, but I wasn’t that gripped, because I had no questions about such things hat I wanted answered.  But then Paine moved to ancient Egypt, and things started livening up (pages 37-38):

In the spring of 1954, employees of the Egyptian Antiquities Service were removing debris from around the base of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The effort was a routine bit of housekeeping and there was little expectation of uncovering anything of significance in a place that had been worked over by tomb robbers, treasure seekers, and archaeologists for forty-five hundred years. As they cleared the rubble, workers came across the remains of the southern boundary wall. This was hardly extraordinary; boundary walls had been identified on the north and west sides of the pyramid as well. What was unusual was that this one was closer to the pyramid than the others. Because the archaeological record had long since revealed the Egyptians’ fastidious attention to precise measurements and symmetries, archaeologist Kamal el-Mallakh suspected that the wall covered a pit holding a boat connected with the funeral rites of the pharaoh Khufu - or Cheops, as he was known to ancient Greek writers living about midway between his time and ours. Archaeologists had found such pits around various pyramid complexes, including that of Khufu, although all were empty at the time of their modern discovery. Further excavation revealed a row of forty-one limestone blocks with mortared seams. El-Mallakh chiseled a test hole in one of the stones and peered into the impenetrable darkness of a rectangular pit hewn from the bedrock. As he could not see, he closed his eyes.  “And then with my eyes closed, I smelt incense, a very holy, holy, holy smell. I smelt time ... I smelt centuries .... I smelt history. And then I was sure that the boat was there.” Such was the discovery of the royal ship of Khufu.

The forty-four-meter-long disassembled vessel had been superbly preserved in its airtight tomb for approximately four and a half thousand years. According to one investigator, the boat’s timbers “looked as hard and as new as if they had been placed there but a year ago.” The boat was almost certainly built for Khufu, the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. The Great Pyramid was his tomb, and the cartouche of his son, Khafre, was found on several of the blocks sealing the pit. More than twelve hundred pieces of wood were recovered, ranging in size from pegs a few centimeters long to timbers of more than twenty meters. About 95 percent of the material was cedar, imported by sea from Lebanon; the remainder included domestic acacia, sidder, and sycamore. After the pieces had been documented and conserved, the complex work of reconstruction began. The pieces had been arranged logically in the pit: prow at the west end, stern to the east, starboard timbers on the north side, port timbers on the south, hull pieces at the bottom and sides of the pit, and superstructure elements on top of the pile. Carpenters’ marks in the form of symbols in the ancient hieratic Egyptian script gave additional clues about how the pieces fit together. Even so, it took thirteen years before the reconstruction was complete; and it was not until 1982, almost three decades after its discovery, that the Khufu ship was opened to the public in a specially built museum alongside the pyramid.

By any measure, the Khufu ship was an astonishing discovery. The largest and best-preserved ship from antiquity or any other period for the next four thousand years, it reveals the technological sophistication of the ancient Egyptians on a far more intimate and accessible scale than do the pyramids or the more arcane arts of embalming and mummification. Like these practices, the burial of the Khufu ship was clearly linked to death rituals in some way, and there is no clearer indication of the central place of boats and ships in Egypt of the third millennium BCE than their honored place in the sacraments of the afterlife. Together with the other twenty-one Egyptian vessels thus far discovered by archaeologists, to say nothing of the hundreds of models, tomb paintings, and written descriptions of ships and boats, as well as records of river and sea transport, the Khufu ship forcefully highlights the importance of watercraft to a civilization that flourished along a fertile ribbon drawn through an African desert.

Friday April 21 2017

So far, I have only managed seven photo-postings about my expedition to the big old Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is now in the process of being turned into a bigger new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.  Tomorrow, Spurs play Chelsea in the semi finals of the FA Cup, and in honour of this confrontation, here is Tottenham posting number eight.

I made my way eastwards from the stadium, towards the park and then the canal beside which I hoped to walk south.  But before I got there, I encountered this:

image

This footbridge is to be found next to the level crossing at the north end of Northumberland Park railway station.  I climbed up on the footbridge and took this shot, looking south, of that railway station:

image

My main reason for showing this is to show you how far away the Big Things of the City are from this vantage point.  This sort of circumstance being why God invented zoom lenses.  Look what happened when I cranked up my zoom, on my trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ200.

What you see here is the miniscule portion of the above view that you see if you follow the railway lines straight to the horizon, and then shift a tiny bit to the left, just past that big spikey thing, to those tiny little things sticking up, just beyond the big spike and to its left, as we look:

image

And what we see is that those tiny things are the Big Things of the City of London.  Gherkin.  Cheesegrater.  Shard.  Plus intervening clutter of course.

Over to the far left of the station view photo you can also make out the towers of Docklands.  But they aren’t that special to look at.  If it weren’t for the pointy one, you’d hardly know how to spot them, because they’d just be a few anonymous lumps.  What Docklands needs is a mega-skyscraper of a distinctive design.  Maybe a thin tower, with a huge revolving restaurant at the top.  Something along those lines.  But I fear that the nearby presence of City Airport would make that impossible, for the time being anyway.

Wednesday April 19 2017

Last August, in Gabriel’s Wharf:

image

Really annoying day, making very little progress on about half a dozen different fronts.

Tuesday April 18 2017

I just spent about an hour working on today’s posting, but it got stuck, and complicated, as postings will.  So here is a shiny car to fill today’s void, photoed this afternoon, in Mayfair:

image

It’s the younger, racier brother of this shiny car, which I encountered in 2015.

I still hate and fear golf.