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

Friday December 14 2018

Two creature-related BMdotcom-Friday-friendly images from the Niagara of Trivia and Abuse that is Twitter, to feast your eyes, and your brain, on.

The first is American:

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Which I encountered here.  I miss Transport Blog.

And the second is Anglo-Canadian:

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The Canadian being Jordan Peterson, and the Anglo being a Fox, and what’s more a Fox with an animal tattoo on his arm.

Thursday December 13 2018

For reasons too complicated and undignified to elaborate upon, I have been sitting at home, waiting for one sofa to be taken away and for another sofa to be delivered, preferably in that order.  This has caused me to be stuck indoors throughout most of the daylight hours of the last week or so, which is why I have posted only photos from the archives, rather than any photos taken more recently.

But, I have been able to get out after sofa-moving hours, which I take to end by about 6pm at the latest.  And during the hours of darkness I have reminded myself that whereas most things do not photo well in the dark, taxis with adverts on them look quite good.  Not as good as they do in bright sunshine, but still quite good.

Here is a clutch of taxis with adverts in the dark, taken during the last twelve months, but mostly more like during the last two or three months:

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The seventh (3.1) of these twelve advertises Huawei, who have been in the news lately, for being a front for Chinese state skulduggery.  Other than that one, these are just regular adverts, on taxis.  I particularly like the one for The Phantom of the Opera.

But they keep changing, and I’m thinking that my next taxi advert posting might come from me going back to when I first started noticing taxi adverts, and photoing them.

Monday December 10 2018

A slow motion catastrophe, all the more inevitable because this is, after all the internet.  But, it doesn’t happen.

This popped up on my computer screen, courtesy of Facebook.  What happened was was that I activated a video a Friend had stuck up, and this was what Facebook wanted me to see next.  It looked like a nice little catastrophe to pass the time with, so I activated that as well.  And although that catastrophe didn’t happen, what did happen was even better.

Do the people who arrange things like this play with toys beforehand?  That would make sense.

Apparently Transport Blog may be coming back to life, any month now.  But, it promises nothing.

Saturday December 08 2018

Stow-Away is a recent arrival in Lower Marsh:

Stow-Away is a new sustainable and eco friendly apart hotel concept. Stow-Away Waterloo is our first London base made from 26 re-purposed shipping containers, stylishly designed to provide a snug comfortable Stow-Away sleeping experience.

Lots of people have tried to do architecture with old shipping containers, but personally I doubt if it makes much sense.  But, if your task is to sell hotel rooms, then shipping containers are perhaps a good gimmick, for attracting attention and for giving guests something to talk about.  “I slept in a shipping container.” Etc.  I’ve never done this.

It got my attention:

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I enjoy in particular the various reflections there.

All but the last of these photos were photoed in one burst, last September.  The final photo was photoed more recently, in the evening.

I think this hotel is quite good fun, especially those strange looking shades, red on the inside, that are a feature of the front.  But, I regret the trend of which this “apart hotel” is a part, which is the transformation of Lower Marsh from a fascinating and quite cheap thoroughfare, full of diverting shops and eateries, into a dreary and expensive thoroughfare, stripped of all those diverting shops and eateries.

This happens all the time.  A street contains lots of lively and amusing stuff.  Word of that liveliness spreads, and the rents then go through the roof.  The liveliness is priced off to another part of town.  Such is urban life.

What I am really saying is: RIP Gramex.  Follow that link and you find “an important message to our much-valued customers”.  That would be me.  But this “important message” is dated 4th August 2017.  I gave up hope at least a year ago.

Wednesday December 05 2018

So I was looking, as I do from time to time, through one of my Stanford-le-Hope directories (the one memorialising September 24th 2013), expecting to be amazed by photos of the giant cranes of London Gateway.  Instead I noticed how much else there was in the Stanford-le-Hope vicinity besides giant cranes:

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There was decaying industrialisation.  There was vegetation.  There were pylons.  There was roof clutter.  Even ground clutter.

So I went all the way to Stanford-le-Hope, so far away from London that I had to pay to get there, and some of my favourite things were things that we have lots of in London.  But, it was great.  Out there in Beyond London, everything is all spread out, and it is easier to photo things.  But, you need to check beforehand that there are things.  And there were lots of things at or near London Gateway, even back in 2013

Time I checked out London Gateway again.  Some time next summer, I think.

Wednesday November 28 2018

On the back of a bus, near Victoria Station:

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Photoed by me a few days ago.

Quoth Google:

No results found for “a true gleaming sincerity”

That had to change, and now it has, assuming Google acklowledges the existence of this now very antique blog.

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple Bali. on the other hand …

It’s in wonderful indonesia.  As are these four ladies, wearing complicated hats and holding what appear to be complicated fans:

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More True Gleaming Sincerity there.

Also photoed by me, a quarter of an hour later, also near Victoria Station.

Monday November 26 2018

As I earlier said, about this taxi, and various photoshopped variants of it:

I hope I chance upon the original, and get a go at photoing it myself.

Well, yesterday, in Warwick Way, I did chance upon it:

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I speculated recently that photoing sculpture might be easier to do well in cloudy light.  I also recently speculated that something similar might well apply with brightly coloured vehicles.  The above bright yellow taxi would seem to confirm this.

Next advert-taxi target, this very cute Swarovski taxi.  I have already spotted one of these taxis twice, but my first sighting was in the dark with me burdened with laundrette stuff, and my second sighting was yesterday morning, but after I had been shopping and was thus similarly burdened.  I tried to photo it, but it had moved on before I could.

Photoing taxis is a lot easier when they are parked.  It is also easier if the driver is not present.  If he is, I say I am interested in his advert, and ask permission to photo first.  Once they know you aren’t snooping on their parking habits, they’re usually very agreeable.

Friday November 23 2018

So, Friday, and something about cats, or dogs, or other creatures.  Dogs, as it turns out.

I took the following two photos a month or two ago, when rootling around in East London in the District Line DLR sort of area, where the City of London is busy turning into Docklands.  And I am pretty that this first photo was intended, in my mind, to be of the notices in the foreground:

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But then I noticed the background.  Was that a lorry?  On top of a building?  For no reason?  With no obvious way back down?

Yes it was:

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Not an entirely clear photo, and it was also getting dark which didn’t help.  But trust me, there was no easy way up, or down, for this vehicle.  A lot of trouble was gone to, by someone.  But, why?

No, I don’t know either.  But sometimes mysteries are the funnest things to photo.

Thursday November 22 2018

Following yesterday’s very generic, touristy photos of the Albert Memorial (although some of them did involve a breast implant), here is a much more temporary photo, of the sort most tourists wouldn’t bother with:

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You obviously see what I did there, lining up what looks like a big, all-seeing eye with a clutch of security cameras, cameras made all the scarier by having anti-pigeon spikes on them.

And what, I wondered when I encountered this in my archive, and you are wondering now, is the provenance of that big eye?

Turns out, it was this:

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So, not actually a photo about and advert for the Total Surveillance Society.  It merely looked like that.

However, just two minutes later, from the same spot of the same electronic billboard, I took this photo:

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So as you can see, the Total Surveillance Society was definitely on my mind.  Terrorism, the blanket excuse for everyone to be spying on everyone else.  The two minute gap tells me that I saw this message, realised it was relevant, but it then vanished and I had to wait for it to come around again.  Well done me.

According to the title of the directory, and some of the other photos, I was with a very close friend.  A very close and very patient friend, it would seem.  Hanging about waiting for a photo to recur is the sort of reason I usually photo-walk alone.

I took these photos in Charing Cross railway station on April Fool’s Day 2009.  I would have posted them at the time, but in their original full-sized form, they unleashed a hurricane of messy interference patterns.  But just now, when I reduced one of them to the sort of sizes I use for here, those interference patterns went away.  I thought that these patterns had been on the screen I was photoing.  But they were merely on my screen, when I looked at my photos.  And then, when I resized all the photos, it all, like I said, went away.  Better late than never.

Tuesday November 20 2018

I think I must have noticed this strange phenomenon before, but then I forgot about it.  But whether I ever did notice it before or not, I recently noticed it again, or I noticed it:

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I’m guessing that what this means is that if you are in Zone 2, and move to Zone 2/3, you haven’t moved into another zone.  And if you are in Zone 3 and then move to Zone 2/3, ditto.

But since I have an Old Git Pass, none of this really matters to me.  I just like the oddity of the situation.

Monday November 19 2018

During our recent chat about transport (already mentioned her), Patrick and I talked about robot cars.  I expressed particular skepticism about their supposedly forthcoming arrival en masse on the roads of our cities.  We mentioned, in contrast to the idea of robot cars immediately conquering our cities, the fact that robot vehicles are already in successful operation in certain niche situations.  We were able to think of two such.  They already use giant robot lorries in the mining industry.  And, Amazon already has robots wizzing about in its warehouses.  Both environments have in common that they are wholly owned by the operator of the robots, so if the humans in the place need to learn the habits of these robots and to give them whatever assistance and whatever slack the robots need, then such humans can simply be commanded to do this.  Unlike in big cities.

More recently, I met up again (as in: more recently than that meeting), with Bruce the Real Photographer, and mentioned that Patrick and I had been doing recorded chats, mentioning in particular our robotic ruminations.  And Bruce then told me about another niche use that robot vehicles have apparently been occupying for quite some time time now.  It seems that in Spain, a country that Bruce knows very well, the tyre company Michelin has a big testing track, and on this track, robot vehicles drive around and around, testing Michelin tyres.

You can see how this would make sense.  The robots can travel at exactly the desired speed, along a precisely preordained route, and thereby, say, subject two only slightly different sets of tyres to the exact same “driving experience”, if you get my drift.  Getting humans to perform such perfect comparisons would be very difficult, but this is exactly the kind of task, and in general the kind of operation, where robot vehicles would be ideal.  And, reports Bruce The Real Photographer, they are ideal.

Me having just written all that, I wonder if Google has anything to say about this Michelin testing operation.  Not a lot, it would seem.  They are far keener to sell their tyres than to tell us the details of how they test them, which makes sense.  But, this bit of video seems like it could be relevant.  And this …:

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... would appear to be the particular place that Bruce mentioned, because he recently tried - I don’t recall him saying why – but failed to get in there and see it.  To take Real Photographs perhaps?

And here is another bit of video about how Bridgestone is using robot vehicles to check out tyre noise.

So, testing vehicle components.  An ideal job for robot vehicles.  Robots are very precise.  They don’t get tired.  And you can use a special track where all the humans involved are on their best behaviour.

Tuesday November 13 2018

With blogging, excellence is the enemy of adequacy, and often what you think will be excellence turns out not to be.

Eight days ago now, Patrick Crozier and I had one of our occasional recorded chats, about transport this time.  Train privatisation, high speed trains and maglevs, robot cars, that kind of thing.  I think it was one of our better ones.  We both had things we wanted to say that were worth saying, and both said them well, I think.  Patrick then did the editing and posting on the www of this chat in double quick time, and I could have given it a plug here a week ago.  If I have more to say about transport, I can easily do other postings.  But, I had some stupid idea about including a picture, and some other stuff, which would all take far too long, and the simple thing of supplying the link to this chat here was postponed, and kept on being postponed.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t matter.  So, I postpone telling you what I think about something.  Boo hoo.  But this time I really should have done better.

There.  All that took about one minute to write.  I could have done this far sooner.  Apologies.

Sunday November 11 2018

Yesterday, I went on a shopping expedition which involved boarding a train at Charing Cross, which I planned to reach by going first to St James’s Park tube.

The first of the photos below (1.1) is of a taxi, parked close to where I live, with some sort of poppy related advert on it.  I like to photo taxis covered in adverts.  Temporariness, the passing London scene, will get more interesting as the years pass, blah blah.

Then, in Strutton Ground, just this side of Victoria Street, I encountered two besuited gentlemen wearing military berets and medals.  I photoed them both, with their permission, and I post one of these photos here (1.2), also with their permission.  Sadly, the other photo didn’t come out properly.

It was only at this point that I realised that, the following day (i.e. today) being Remembrance Sunday and what’s more the exact one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice of November 1918, London in the Westminster Abbey area would already be awash with Remembrance Sunday photo-ops.  My shopping could wait a while, and I turned right down Victoria Street.

The seven other photos below mostly involve small wooden crosses and dead autumn leaves - autumn 2018 arrived at Peak Dead Leaf yesterday - but they also include another poppy related advert, this time on a the side of a bus (3.3), which I photoed in Parliament Square:

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Sadly, the plasticated documents referring to “British Nuclear Test Veterans” (2.1) were insufficiently plasticated to resist the effects of the rain.  It began to rain some more when I was arriving at Charing Cross station and it did not stop for several hours, so I’m guessing these lists suffered further rain damage.  It’s odd how little sadnesses like this stick in your mind, in amongst the bigger sadnesses being remembered.

The autumn-leaves-among-crosses photos, all taken outside Westminster Abbey, are but a few of a million such that must have been taken over this weekend, in London and in many other places.  Is it proper to include two mere advert photos, even if they are poppy related adverts, in such poetically symbolic and dignified company?  I chose to do this because one of the things I find most interesting about these Remembrance remembrances is that, as each year of them passes, they don’t seem to be getting any smaller.  People still want remember all this stuff, even though all the veterans of World War 1 are now gone.  Hence the adverts.  If the adverts didn’t get results, they’d not be worth their cost.

As to why these remembrances continue to be remembered, and by such huge numbers of people, year after year, I think one reason is that each political tribe and faction can each put their own spin on the sad events being remembered, but in the privacy of their own minds.  For some political partisans, these ceremonies and symbols are a chance to wallow in the pageantry of patriotism.  For others, they are an opportunity to rebuke such nationalists, for stirring up the kinds of hostility that might provoke a repeat of the sad events being remembered.  “Patriotism” and “nationalism” being the words used to salute, or to denounce, the exact same sentiments.  But declaring red poppies to be a warning that the defence budget should be increased, or that they are anti-Trump and anti-Brexit symbols that Trump supporters and Brexiteers have no right to wear, would be too vulgar and partisan, so on the whole this kind of vulgarity and partisanship is not indulged in, not out loud.

The phenomenon of the political meeting where all present hear the same words but where each understands them to mean different things – I’m thinking of such words as “Britain”, “freedom”, “democracy” and “common sense” – has long fascinated me.  Remembrance ceremonies remind me, on a larger scale, of such meetings.  I attended many such little political meetings myself before I decided that mainstream politics was not for me, and switched to libertarianism, where meanings are spelt out and arguments are had rather than avoided.

For less obsessively political people, Remembrance ceremonies and symbols are simply an opportunity to reflect on the sadness of history in general, and in particular the sadness of the premature deaths of beloved ancestors – or, perhaps worse – hardly known-about ancestors.  We can at least all agree that premature death, in whatever circumstances, is a sad thing to contemplate.  And until young men entirely cease from dying in wars, Remembrance Sunday will continue to be, among other things, a meaningfully up-to-date event.

And so, year after year, these ceremonies continue.  Will this year’s anniversary come to be regarded as Peak Remembrance?  We shall see.

Monday November 05 2018

Incoming from Darren:

Took this photo a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t help think of you. …:

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… I didn’t discover that the photoer had been caught in the picture until later. Taken from on a train while going through Blackfriars station. As you can probably tell, it was just taken using a phone.

I emailed Darren back, saying I’d feature his photo here.  He then said that I shouldn’t feel in any way obligated to do this.  He just thought I’d like the photo.

I thought about why I was so glad to receive this photo, and so keen to show it here, along with what he says about it.  I think the reason is that Darren clearly “gets”, as they say, this blog.  He gets that I am fond of the unfolding and ongoing drama of the architecture of central London.  He gets that I notice how others like to photo London, too, it’s not just me.  He gets that I am fond of the new Blackfriars railway station, straddling the river the way it does, and that I love the sort of views you can see and photo from it.  And, Darren gets that I am deeply impressed by the photographic prowess of mobile phones.

He even refers to his photographer as a “photoer”.  Until now, that was just me.

Thursday October 25 2018

Whenever I see a taxi with an interesting advert on it, I try to photo it.  To recycle what I said in this, there is something especially appealing about a large number of objects, all exactly the same shape, usually all decked out in the same bland colour, but each one instead decorated differently and very colourfully.

It would appear that I’m not the only one.  Further evidence that taxi adverts count for more, per square inch, than other adverts do, comes in the form of the meme war that this taxi and its advert is now provoking:

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The CEO of a plumbing firm has announced that his company will be paying a delivery driver to ride around London in a taxi emblazoned with the slogan ‘Bollocks to Brexit’.

Social media gobbled this up, of course, and the responses were not long in coming.  There was this:

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And then this:

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And there will surely be many more.  I hope I chance upon the original, and get a go at photoing it myself.

More taxis with regular adverts will definitely follow here, as soon as I get around to it.

LATER: And, as I should have mentioned sooner, my friend from way back, financial journo Tom Burroughes, is giving a talk this Friday,tomorrow evening, at my place, about Brexit and all that.  I anticipate a more subtle and more elevated discussion than the one on these taxis.