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

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Category archive: Technology

Saturday May 28 2016

I was very proud of this photo of seven London bridges ...:

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… when I first posted it here.

Today I took another photo of these same seven bridges:

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I said I’d check this model of the City of London out, and today I did.

I wish this model included Westminster as well as the City, but it’s a model of the City.

Thursday May 26 2016

One of my regular automatic google-searches is “face recognition”, and just now this has been alerting me to all the various tricks that are coming on stream for making face recognition not work, by putting on make-up, or spectacles, and such like.

Here is my contribution to this discussion:

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I know what you’re thinking.  Who might that be?

Exactly.  Although, if you’re are supercomputer, you have probably worked it out.  You have a special programme which tells you to take particular interest in any faces that are trying to not be recognised.

Most of my libertarian friends think that such tech solutions are the front line of this battle.  I have long assumed that the world is moving rapidly towards a state where the question of what is X doing at the moment is technologically answerable, and impossible to prevent being answered.  For me, among other desirable things, libertarianism is the claim that although we can see X saying or doing something we don’t approve of, we shouldn’t legally prevent him or her from doing that, unless it is really, really bad.

In a world of Total Surveillance by the Big Machine, the proliferation of stupid rules and regulations with no huge moral content becomes a problem like it never used to be.  I means rules about things like what you should eat or smoke or, now, say in conversation.  Rules like that mean that we can all now be seen and heard breaking such rules.  (Okay, maybe not now, maybe not yet, but that’s where things are headed.) And that means that anyone who wants to fuck up your life or my life (for an actual real reason that has bugger all to do with the stupid rule actually being broken) can then do it.  Worse, some legislative maniac might demand that anyone that the Big Machine sees breaking this or that rule that he personally is obsessed about, should be automatically fucked over, by the Big Machine, with no human intervention involved.  With a big long list of exceptions, like legislators.  The Big Machine can’t touch them.  Libertarianism has arisen, partly, because it has become ever more necessary to insist on certain principles, principles which were imposed upon the world in former times by sheer ignorance of what other people were getting up to.

The other thing people have to do is develop thicker skins, psychologically speaking I mean, because although legislative pressure is not now a problem for most people, social pressure can become a big problem, for example if you find yourself being mobbed on the internet for some innocuous thing you said or ate.  Just because a million idiots on the internet are screeching that you are an idiot, that doesn’t mean you are, or that if you are, it matters.  When it does matter, bosses should chill, and not fire people just because the mob is screeching.  I applaud, tentatively, the recent tendency to give social media mobsters a going-over, using the same methods on them that they have been using.  Who is this mad bitch?  What has she (it does often seem to be she) been up to lately?  What is her job?  Who is her boss?  Etc.  (In the age of cyber-bullying, I feel that I now understand witchcraft crazes better.)

Another problem is that as something easily mistaken for a state of everyone knowing everything increasingly pertains, that old illusion that everything will accordingly be centrally plannable is likely to keep rearing its very ugly head, and keep on having to be experienced as a disastrous illusion.  (More libertarianism.) The point is, everyone doesn’t know everything.  Nothing like.  We can’t.  Our heads aren’t big enough, and even if they were, knowledge is not like that.  Everyone can known anything in particular that is easy to know (like where X is just now) that they want to know and ask the Big Machine about.  That’s entirely different from actual omniscience.

Wednesday May 25 2016

I already showed you some Narbonne bridges, snapped during my France expedition.  Here are more bridges.

Are these first lot of bridges really bridges, or are they just buildings with holes in the bottom of them to let people through?  I reckon these make the cut, but once the buildings start really piling up on top of the holes …?:

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I’m doing these bridge photos in sets of three, and next is a clutch of photos of a set of three bridges that connect the town of Ceret to the other side of the local river.  Picasso spent time in Ceret, because of the light.  (I also photoed Renault Picassos.)

The regular shot of these bridges is from below, as you can see if you click on the second of these photos.  But I was with people who were in a hurry, so I only got to photo the bridges from the other bridges, or in one case, the shadow of a bridge, from the bridge.  And oh look, photographers!:

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In the first of these next three bridge photos, there are three more bridges, by my count.  They’re in the seaside town of Collioure.  The other two are in Perpignan, where, just like in Quimper (where I have also visited these same friends (G(od)D(aughter)2’s family) – they have houses all over the place), there is a river flowing through the middle of the town with multiple bridges over it.

imageimageimageimageimage

Finally, here are some rather more modern bridges.  First there is one of the main motorway from France to Spain, which carries a lot of lorries.

The motorways of Europe may, I surmise, be the place on earth where robot drivers have their first seriously big impact.  Robot cars are too complicated, and to start with, what will be the point of them?  But robot lorries will be able to travel a lot faster than regular lorries, for a lot longer than regular lorries, on roads that are the most controlled and predictable roads in existence.  European motorways carry colossal amounts of freight, unlike in the USA, where a lot freight goes by train, Europe’s railways being full of passenger trains.  And there’s nothing like a sight of this particular motorway, handily shown off by being placed on the side of a mountain in full view of the local and non-charged version of the same road, to see all this.

In the middle below is a hastily snapped shot from a bridge as we drove over it, over a newly constructed high speed passenger railway, again connecting France to Spain.  Brand new railways lines have a certain pristine charm, I think, with the gravel under the tracks yet to be blackened by constant use.

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Finally, we have what may well be my favourite South of France bridge photo of them all, on the right there.  This is one of those unselfconsciously functional footbridges, which more and more abound in towns and cities (London has many such bridges), and which join work spaces off the ground to other work spaces off the ground.  This particular footbridge is in Perpignan.

Quite why such bridges, which have long been around, are now proliferating is an interesting question.  Maybe it is just that organisations are getting bigger, and demand bigger buildings, and connecting two buildings by a footbridge of this sort turns two buildings into one building, at any rate for certain purposes.  If two bureaucracies that live across the road from each other merge, then a bridge joining the top floors together is the logical first managerial step.  This allows the new bosses to commune with one another, without having to trundle up and down and across the road all day long, rubbing their shoulders with the unclean shoulders of their underlings.  Lower footbridges bridges enable functional specialisation to proliferate among lesser personages.

But, what do I know?  My point is, I like such footbridges.  And whereas most of the other bridges in this posting are the sort that feature in lots of other people’s photos and in picture postcards, these Brand-X urban footbridges are only a Thing because I say they are.  Which is a major purpose of truly good photography.  Truly good photography doesn’t just celebrate the already much celebrated; truly good photography offers new objects of potential celebration.

So now I will celebrate this Perpignan footbridge some more:

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As I was photoing it, I was banging on to my companions about this footbridge and about footbridges like it, and they asked me if I was familiar with this London footbridge.  Oh yes.

Thanks to that little spot of googling, I just came across, for the first time, this bridge blog.  Do you want to meet bridges in your area?  That seems like a good place to look.

Saturday May 21 2016

Pictures taken by me earlier this month:

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I keep telling myself to take notes during photo sessions like this, but I didn’t, and it took quite a bit of googling to work out where all this keeping up of appearances was.  But here it is:

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It’s the big block in the red rectangle.  The big spread to its left as we look is Buckingham Palace.  Hence, I suppose, the Palace in Palace Street.

The former civil service block is being demolished, apart from its Grade II listed façade, and converted into 72 homes within yards of the perimeter wall of the palace grounds.

Then there’s a lot of sales babble, the gist of which is that if you have to ask you can’t afford it.  And then there’s this:

The building, designed by Chelsea Barracks architects Squire & Partners, will be completed in 2017 and reflect five architectural styles: 1860s Italianate Renaissance, 1880s French Renaissance, 1880s French Beaux Arts, 1890s Queen Anne, and contemporary.

Presumably “reflect” here means “preserve the outsides of buildings done in: ...”.

Or, it means “fake”.

Thursday May 19 2016

Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):

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That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.

I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.

imageThe email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”.  When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).

Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat.  See right.

Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane!  So very tall, and so very thin.  It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything.  I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London.  Not that Antoine’s crane is in London.  It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.

I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes.  When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.

It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.

As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below.  Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.

Tuesday May 17 2016

I had today, May 17th, as the day when I would finally have recovered from the strain and stress of taking a holiday in the south of France earlier this month.

So, what else is there to say about France.  Well, a thing I love about France is … The Wires!  Just like all those dezeen pictures of bland new Japanese dwellings, surrounded by The Wires!, France also seems to have no inhibitions about hanging The Wires! everywhere, and in particular above the roads.

Below are sixteen South of France clutter photos, chosen from a clutch of clutter photos several times larger than that.  Included in these photos are views of The Wires!, and also of regular roof clutter consisting of kit for receiving entertainment.  Sometimes both:

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I am fascinated by all this clutter, because I am.  But in addition to just liking it, I think that it illustrates an important point about the modern world, which is that if clutter is so visually appealing – as I believe it often is – then people should, on aesthetic grounds, be allowed to do erect whatever they like.  Chances are, it will look amusing rather than ugly, in much the same way as a forest or a crystal cluster.

But, I have to admit that the general south of Franceness of it all also appeals.  All those orange tiled rooves, and stucco, and all that amazing light.  Almost anything looks good in light as nice as it often is down there, which it was for the first few days.

Most of the above photos were taken in the town of Thuir, where my hosts have a house.

Monday May 16 2016

Today I attended Deirdre McCloskey’s talk for the Adam Smith Institute.  I know what you’re thinking.  Okay, okay, photos, as per usual.  But: What did she say? Fine.  Go here, and you can find out.  What I can find no link to is any information about the event – when, where, and so on.  It’s all now gone.  Maybe it was never there in the first place.

But the Man from the Adam Smith Institute told me to send in some of my snaps, and these are the ones I sent them:

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McCloskey’s basic point was what is rapidly becoming the libertarian orthodoxy, to the effect that (a) the world started getting humungously rich in or around 1780 (Yaron Brook‘s preferred date for this is 1776 (to coincide with America starting and Smith’s Wealth of Nation’s getting published)), and (b) we did this.  Our enemies tried to stop us and they failed.  We know how to make poor people rich, and we’ve been doing it ever since.  Our enemies only know how to make rich people less rich and poor people more poor.  Bastards.

My recent favourite example of enrichment is a very tiny one offered at today’s talk by McCloskey, which is that you can now use your smartphone as a mirror.  Better yet, McCloskey said, before the talk she was giving, she spotted Steve Baker MP doing this exact thing with his smartphone, while perfecting his appearance prior to doing his MP socialising bit.

The reason I particularly like this is that I just recently learned about this trick myself, when I saw someone doing it, and took a photo of it:

If you photo someone looking in a mirror, they can see their face, but you can’t.  (Unless it’s a crap movie, in which case the audience sees the face and the person with the face doesn’t.  I know.  Ridiculous.  But this is truly what often happens.) But, if you photo someone using their smartphone as a mirror, both you and they can see their face.

Thus:

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McCloskey’s point was that enrichment doesn’t only come in the form of more money, but also in the form of the ever more amazing things that you can buy with your money.  Like a phone that is also a NASA circa 1968 supercomputer.  And a face mirror.

Finally, here are a couple more photography-related photos.  On the left is the official photographer for the McCloskey talk:

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And on the right there is a photo which I also took at the venue for the McCloskey talk, which I will not name, because the people in charge of this place might then learn of this blog posting and see this picture and then who the hell knows what might happen?  Are you wondering what I am talking about?  Click on the picture and work it out.  I only realised what I had photoed after I had got home.

Tuesday May 10 2016

I am a very infrequent flyer, and the thrill of flying that I felt as a child has never really left me.  As Louis CK has it, I’m in a chair in the sky, travelling at an unimaginable speed.  And the magic of flight is, for me, even more magical if you can see out of the window, so I like to pay extra for a window seat, and ever since digital cameras, take digital photos.  I’ll never forget photoing the mighty Millau Viaduct, back when I did that.

So, today, on the way back from Perpignan to Stansted, I took photos through the window.  But the clouds today were very cloudy and the only photo I took today that I consider worth a second look was this one, not of what I saw through the window, but of the window itself:

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Those little things that look at bit like flying birds or insects are actually cracks in (on?) the glass, right?  So, how is that safe?  How is that allowed?  I did a bit of exhausted googling just now, and got nothing, but I did try.  (Maybe there is an answer in this, but I couldn’t quickly find it.) I’m not saying it’s unsafe, and that it shouldn’t be allowed, because obviously it is allowed, and it’s obviously safe.  Flying is safer than crossing a road, and if those cracks were going to split the airplane open, they’d not be allowed.  But to me, that’s what’s interesting.  These little cracks are obviously not going to get bigger, any time soon.  Assuming cracks is what they are.

LATER: Thanks, as always, to Friday Night Smoke, for one of his always informative comments, on the above.  He tells us that these are not cracks, but little bits of ice.  Further inspection of my photo archive confirms this.

Obviously, being ice, these “cracks” are on the outside of the plane, on the outermost of the three layers of airplane window.  Soon after the photo above was taken, the Ryanairplane descended into the clouds over Stansted Airport, at which point I took the photo below.  At the time, what interested me was that the water was moving upwards across the window, on account of the airplane descending.  But now what it proves is that those “cracks” have now melted:

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I don’t know what that road is.  Presumably something near Stansted Airport.  Google maps google maps: M11.

Wednesday May 04 2016

I went Ryanair to Perpignan to get here.  I made a point of booking a window seat, but tragically, the wing was centre stage, thus:

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I choose that photo to show you what sort of window my window seat was next to.  There are nice, clean, easy-to-see-through windows, and there are Ryanairplane windows.  So, I didn’t attempt many photos on my journey.

But as we approached Perpignan airport, from the sea, which involved the Ryanairplane obligingly taking a sharp right turn and lowering its wing out of the way, with the snowcapped Pyrenees way out in the distance, I had to at least try:

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That being what I finally saw, after I managed to persuade the Thuirian computer that I am now laboriously using, to show it.

I am in the town of Thuir, near Perpignan, for a few days.  Last night, in fading but still fabulous light, looking more amusing sights.  I was not disappointed.

I’m guessing that the thinking here is that nicking a crane, or even getting inside a crane, is quite an operation, what with cranes being rigged so they’re unenterable if you are not the designated owner.  But, nicking a cement mixer is just a matter of lifting it onto your vehicle.  So, here is how you protect your cement mixer when you go home at night:

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Cranes.  Is there anything they can’t do?

Typing text is a struggle in Thuir, because in Thuir, they have slightly different keyboards to what I am used to.  But photos, which in Thuir need different software to work, are also a struggle.  So, blogging here for the next few days will probably (I promise nothing), as always here, be light and perfunctory, the difference being that here I have an excuse.

Monday May 02 2016

As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old.  Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.

I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket.  This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket.  Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.

Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.

When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel.  Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting.  Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket.  I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades.  The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life.  But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.

Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do.  And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still.  So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now.  On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night.  As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains.  Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.

I know the feeling.  One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo.  I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst.  I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.

A bit of a meander, I’m afraid.  But don’t mind me.  You’d best be going now.  I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.

Saturday April 30 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by me yesterday afternoon:

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Learn more about the service at one of the places featured on the van door, such as this one.

The early version of this posting had a title with the word “verbose” in it, but that was inaccurate.  This is more words that you’d see on a van twenty years ago, but it’s all good stuff.

Wednesday April 27 2016

I spent a lot of my blogging time today writing about a talk I attended last night, given by Tim Evans.  I did not finish what I wanted to say, but the attempt left me little time to do anything here.  So, a photo, taken by me on the way to Tim’s talk, as I emerged from Euston Station:

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That’s part of the roof of St Pancras Station.  I like how my snap makes you see this building, if not with fresh eyes, then at least from a rather fresh angle, instead of the usual one you get, from in front.

St Pancras Station was first opened in 1868, and the contrast between how they did the tops of big buildings in those times and how the tops of similar sized buildings are done nowadays could not be more extreme.  Now, buildings of that size tend to have flat tops, and to be covered with telecommunications equipment.

Like this:

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This being New Scotland Yard.  And a statue of a man scratching his back outside Westminster Abbey.  Well, no, but that’s what it always looks like to me.  The column of that statue can also be seen in yesterday’s numerical traffic lights snap.

London’s famed Metropolitan Police are moving out of New Scotland Yard, back to old Scotland Yard.  It will be interesting to see what happens to all that roof clutter.  Maybe nothing.

Tuesday April 26 2016

I took this picture in lots of different versions.  Same picture.  Lots of different numbers.  So which number to choose, to show here?  I chose 5, because behind where it says “05”, Big Ben reveals the time to have been 5 past 5:

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So that’s 5 ticked.  2 is already done. 8 more to go.  Or maybe 7. Because, I rather think that these devices never get to say “01”

Saturday April 23 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by me next to Centre Point, this afternoon:

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Another London facade which is nice but not totally wondrous is being carefully preserved, so that modernity can in due course be erected behind it.  This time I photoed it from behind.

I have been assuming that this is a purely aesthetic thing.  Done like this to get planning permission.  But someone (I do not recall who) recently told me that if you preserve a facade you don’t have to get planning permission for whatever you put behind it.  But, if you allow the facade to disappear, then you do have to get planning permission, even if what you subsequently do is re-erect the original facade.

Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Note that dash of Renzo Pianistic colour there.