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: Technology

Friday December 02 2016

Friday is the day here for cats and other creatures, so here, among other things, is a panda:

image

What this photo illustrates is the perennial problem of trying to chuck stuff out, which is that all too often, stuff is just too nice to chuck out.

I recall, a year or two after the Berlin Wall was dismantled, meeting an Eastern European lady, who complained about how the packages and pots and bottles in which produce was suddenly now sold was too good to chuck out.  Bloody capitalism.  Capitalist rubbish was better than what they had previously had as actual stuff.

In a modified form, I now suffer from this syndrome.  It has crept up on me more gradually, but throughout my lifetime, packaging has been getting ever better, probably because it is the sort of industry that politicians disapprove of, and have hence left to its own devices, an industry’s own devices invariably being better than any device devised by politicians.  The packaging industry, not having been “helped”, has thrived.

Beer bottles (the one in the picture still has beer in it so that will be consumed first), I have learned not to miss.  But even they are sometimes so artfully designed that it seems wrong to throw them away.

The coffee jar I will keep, because coffee jars are so structurally impressive.

But that panda has got to go.

Wednesday November 30 2016

The first of my two trips earlier this week to Tottenham was on Monday, and, as soon as I stepped beyond the front door that I share with my neighbours, the weather put me in very a good mood.  It was exactly as had been prophesied, namely: perfect.  Sky, fifty shades of blue, depending on what else you put next to it, thus:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

All of these photos involve scaffolding, which is a thing I love, along with cranes.  (Also bridges.) Scaffolding says that Men Are Working, building a better future for us all.  Scaffolding says that Men With Money think that here, there is more money to be made, selling or renting new or newly refurbished places.  Cranes say the same.  (Bridges say: here are two places worth connecting.)

On a day such as Monday was, scaffolding can look especially fine, because Monday was the kind of day when just about anything was looking fine.

1.1 is of some home improvement going on as seen from just outside my front door.  1.2 and 2.1 are both of the building going on across my courtyard, where they are turning a posh office into posh flats.  And 2.2 is of some scaffolding to be seen in Vauxhall Bridge Road.  (Although there seems to be disagreement between the sign in my photo and the only relevant website I could find, concerning what number to ring to get Superior Access Scaffolding.)

Lovely.

And all of this before I had even arrived at Pimlico Tube.  It was an auspicious start.  The rest of the day did not disappoint.

Sunday November 27 2016

Indeed:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

People taking photos with their mobile phones, now more commonly known as smartphones because of all the other things they can do also besides phoning people when out and about, is now something you see everywhere.  Above is a typical such photoer, whom I photoed at the top of the Big Olympic Thing last Tuesday, just before it got dark, on the same day I took these photos.

1.1 and 1.2 both show classic finger-work, of the sort I have long been familiar with, but which I nevertheless never tire of seeing and photoing.  These shapes always make me smile.

2.2 is a classic screen shot, with everything on the screen very visible, as it is often not.  Normally I like bright, outdoor light, but when it comes to photoing other people’s screens, the worse the light is the better.

Perhaps 2.1 is the most interesting one, because it shows what dirty windows there are up there.  The human eye doesn’t see through dirty windows very well, but cameras do this better, unless the camera is photoing the dirt, in which case it really photos it.

Or maybe it has been invented and the answer is it’s called lots of little flat screen televisions.

This thought was provoked by seeing this picture, at Mick Hartley‘s:

image

There’s nothing wrong with this Big Thing that painting it entertainingly wouldn’t put right, in fact very right indeed.  It could become a well-loved landmark, if only it was spruced up a bit, with some bright colours.  This Big Thing is called the Edificio Torres Blancas, and it is in Madrid.  In Spain they like bright colours, right?

But, what bright colours?  The answer is to copy what they now do in Trafalgar Square, with that Fourth Plinth.  In Trafalgar Square, they have solved the problem of what to put on the Fourth Plinth by keeping on changing it.  That way, everyone gets to like some of the objects they put on the Plinth, and that way everyone who dislikes what is there now can comfort themselves with the thought that it will soon be gone.  All can photo the ones they like and ignore the rest.  Eventually, a winner may be declared.  Eventually, a thing will be put there that seems to right, to so many people, that it will be decided to keep that thing there for ever.

That’s what they should do with the colouring of the above Big Thing in Madrid.

So, techies, get to work.  What we need is a new sort of paint that you just slap on, but whose colours, down to the minutest detail, can then be controlled by a big old computer at ground level.

Or, this is already possible, as the advertisers are now proving with their changeable screens, and all that it missing is that this is, for a mere building, as opposed to a commercially profitable message, for the time being, too expensive.

Also, maybe the architect is still alive and vetoing any such notions, insisting that his masterpiece remain blancas, or failing that then at least grey all over.  Time will soon correct this sorry state of affairs, if state of affairs it be.

Friday November 25 2016

Memo to self.  Whenever you see a clock, photo it.  Why?  Because that will ensure that you actually know what time all those photos that day were taken, what real clocks moving back and forth but my camera’s clock: not.  I usually get the date right.  The time, often not.

One day, when a clutch of my photos taken several years ago are crucial to establishing or destroying an alibi for a criminal suspect, knowing the exact time could turn out to be very important.

It helps that I like clocks and tend to photo them anyway.  Now I will try to make a habit of it.

This clock …:

image

… is to be found at the top of a rather intriguing building in nearby Victoria, now the National Audit Office, but which used to be an airline terminal.

I photoed this clock from the roof of my home, on the same day I took these photos.

Thursday November 24 2016

I took this photo …:

image

… yesterday.

This rather alarming message was displayed in the Waterloo Station concourse area, in rather large lettering, and you can see more of that if you click on the above horizontal visual slice.

All it was was part of an advert for the Top Gear replacement that Clarkson, Hammond and May are now doing for Amazon.  But photography sometimes does this.  But “this”, I mean that it can snatch messages out of the flux of everyday life – especially everyday advertising – and bestow upon them a portentousness that they don’t really radiate, when they are merely doing their job.  Now that adverts can change their screens, there can be one message, and then another, like a TV advert.  And the result is these snatches of text that can pack far more of a punch than they do in real life, so to speak.

Monday November 21 2016

For the last week or two or more, I have been unable to reach the 6k blog, which is one of my favourites.  I’ve been able to reach everything else I wanted to, but not 6k.  Odd.  My computer has been behaving strangely in recent weeks, so it’s almost certainly me rather than him.  Or maybe, as The Guru suggests, it might be my internet provider. Whatever the reason, it’s been a frustration and a worry.

But today, for no reason that I can think of, I clicked on 6k yet again, and back it came, like it had never been away.

To celebrate, here are some more lighthouses, something which 6k likes, and which in a more ignorant and casual way I do too:

image

That’s a crop from the middle of a hastily snatched shop-window shot, full of reflections and general confusion.  Memo to self.  Next time I visit my friends in Brittany: better lighthouse shots.  Of postcards, of toy lighthouses like these ones (I seem to recall entire walls of lighthouses in tourist crap shops), and of actual lighthouses.

image6k likes lighthouses so much that the little square graphic at the top of the window where his blog is windowed, or whatever is the word for that, is a red, white and blue square from a red and white lighthouse picture.

Saturday November 19 2016

I recommend clicking on this:

image

What’s so entertaining about what you get is how commonplace the building is.  How small.  How suburban.

Ah, but if you go down to the basement, and if you can persuade them to give you the key to the purple door (which they won’t but you never know your luck), then in the act of entering, you step through a wormhole and find yourself at the huge BIS base that orbits around Alpha Centauri, which is like the Clapham Junction of our part of the Milky Way.

Meanwhile, this deceptively humdrum little place, disguised as a mere space travel fan club, is to be found a short walk across the river away from my home.

I took my photos of this building and its amusing sign on the same day I took this photo and these photos and this photo and this photo.  That was a good expedition.  Not as good as the expeditions the inner core of the British Interplanetary Society go on, from time to time (think about that), but good.

Thursday November 17 2016

A few days back, I did a posting about a plan to illuminate London’s bridges.  What, I think, will make this new plan different and striking is that all the bridges will be lit up, all at once.  So, for instance, it will be possible to see them all lit up from above, from places like the Shard, and like the top of the Hotel ME.

Because, as some have told me recently, it is not as if London’s bridges, one at a time, have never been lit up before.

Proof of which observation comes in the form of another photo I took in 2006 (while seeking mobile phones being used as cameras), of London Bridge, looking upstream from Tower Bridge.  And London Bridge is all lit up:

image

Okay, it’s only in one colour, but it’s still lit up.

Tuesday November 15 2016

A problem stated is often a problem solved.

Problem: There is too much dust in my home and I need to do lots of vacuuming.  Problem: But I like to listen to music, of the sort that can’t outgun a vacuum cleaner.  These two things don’t go together.  Solution: I don’t vacuum.  But, problem: I don’t vacuum.

Solution?  A device that I can be watching while vacuuming, to amuse myself and vacuum.  Answer?  Google glasses, to watch movies while vacuuming.  Too expensive.  Too stupid.

No.  Answer: Headphones and a portable music box in one of my pockets, while I vacuum.  Good.  Problem stated, problem solved.

I find a music box.  A small plasicated discus-like object that will perhaps be persuadable to play CDs.

But, it needs AA batteries.  I have an abundance of AAA batteries, but cannot immediately put my hands on any AA batteries.  I believe I have plenty of AA batteries, but the places where AA batteries are likely to be found are mostly all covered in thick layers of dust.

Ah, the twenty first century and its problems.  Well, at least the problem of sticking something up here every day however ridiculous is now solved, for today.

Sunday November 13 2016

I have a new CD player which has the delightful property that it does not put a little pause in between tracks.  My previous CD player, an abomination perpetrated by something called Cambridge Audio, does insert such gaps.  This doesn’t matter, mostly, because mostly the tracks I want to listen to have gaps between them anyway, so gaps that are a tiny bit bigger are not a problem.  But if you are listening to one of those classical pieces which is played in one continuous lump, but which is divided up into episodes on the CD, and when each of these episodes is given a separate track, the effect is disastrous.  A total deal breaker.  Strauss Alpine Symphony Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini or Corelli Variations.  Almost any opera.  There are actually a lot of such pieces.

Just after buying this abominable device, and before I started suffering from its vile gap habit, I also acquired a CD of Daniil Trifonov doing several Rachmaninov variations pieces, and it was while attempting to listen to this CD that I discovered how appalling this Cambridge Audio CD player was.

So now I have a new CD player, which leaves no gaps, and I went looking for that Trifonov CD, in order to actually enjoy it for the first time.  But then came the mystery.  I couldn’t find it.  I have a vague recollection of putting this CD in a different place, to play it on a different player, I think.  But what different place?  Did I even own this CD at all?  Had I only imagined owning it, and had I actually played another CD of those Rachmaninov pieces?

As I searched I realised that I was tidying up.  I guess there are two ways to look for something.  You made the place even more of a mess, or you make it less of a mess.  And, if only because there was nowhere to put any mess I created, I found myself actually reducing the mess.  And once I found myself doing that, I also found myself rereading this, which is me telling me about an earlier effort along similar lines.

I may never find that Trifonov CD.  But if an imaginary CD causes me to contrive the reality of a more tidy home, ... 

Saturday November 12 2016

Yes, two photos from the archives.

First, David Cameron, in November 2006, somewhat more than a year after he had become the Leader of the Opposition.  Cameron is no longer the Prime Minister.  The Globalisation Institute is no longer.

image

And, photoed about a week later, a Remembrance photoer, outside Westminster Abbey.

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I took over seven hundred photos that day, including photos of many, many photoers.  Not one single solitary one of them was using a mobile phone to do photoing.  So I guess that means that that had not then started.

Thursday November 10 2016

A few days ago, the weather was gorgeous, in the early morning.  Forewarned by a typically omniscient short-term weather forecast, I got up early and went up to the roof of my block of flats.  I particularly wanted to photo the progress of the building work opposite, and more distantly, the progress of the new US Embassy over towards Battersea, which happens to be very visible from this spot.  But I also photoed roof clutter, near and far:

imageimageimageimageimageimage

1.1 That building, on the far side of Victoria Street from me, used to be New Scotland Yard, but the Metropolitan Police are moving (to a building right next to the original Scotland Yard), and it seems that one of London’s finer roof clutter clusters will soon be no more, to be replaced by these new towers.  Blog and learn. 

1.2 Some of the scaffolding opposite, mingling with aerials, and with an older kind of aerial for tuning in to messages from the heavens, otherwise known as a church spire.

2.1 Clutter at its most cluttered close up.  Is that stuff in the foreground maybe something to do with mobile phones?  In the distance, Battersea Power Sation, with one of its chimneys yet to be completely reconstructed.

2.2 Me photoing a satellite dish, and my shadow photoing the shadow of the satellite dish.

Tomorrow’s weather is also due to be gorgeous.

Tuesday November 08 2016

Incoming from 6k telling me about a scheme to light up London’s bridges.  (I often hear about London things from him.) This Guardian piece doesn’t, or not so I noticed, say explicitly whether this is intended to be a permanent arrangement or temporary, but it seems like it will be permanent.

Plans to light up London’s bridges in what would be one of the biggest public art projects the UK has ever seen have taken a step forward with six schemes shortlisted.

I agree with the Guardian that this picture, which is of this entry, is very enticing:

image

There’s a ton of verbiage attached to each of the six entries, but artistic verbiage is one of the things in the world that I respect the least, right down there with a few other things that I don’t respect at all.  Which doesn’t mean that the winning scheme will be bad.  It could be terrific.

The proof of the pudding will be when we all start photoing it.

No public money involved at all.  So they say.

Thursday November 03 2016

I have just done a rather belated posting at Samzidata about a talk given there a week ago, at which I was present and at which I attempted photos.  At Samizdata, I grumbled about the light for photoing the speaker, but showed one of my less bad efforts.  I rejoiced that there was also present an internally lit screen, and showed one of those photos.  Here is another such:

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Smith wins, of course.  Marx’s prophecies were clearly wrong, even while he was still alive and pretending otherwise.