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

Thursday June 21 2018

Here is a recent Scott Adams Dilbert cartoon, although Dilbert himself is not involved in this particular one:

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I’ve always thought that one of the many things that won the Cold War for Civilisation and doomed Bolshevik Barbarism to defeat was stealth stuff.  By its nature, stealth stuff is undetectable, and the better it is, the more impossibly undetectable it is.  So, if you cannot detect it at all, it could still be there, and really really good at being stealthy.  Hell, it could be anywhere.  It could be right outside the Politburo’s front window.

Of course, it probably isn’t this clever.  But, how would you be sure?

This was why, when the Americans had got these contraptions working reasonably well, they revealed their existence.  They took lots of spooky photos of these spooky things, and made sure the whole world could see them.  Where, at any particular moment, they were, for you to photo, they did not reveal.

How can you defeat an enemy like that?

Same with Star Wars.  Shooting down all incoming nuclear missiles with all-powerful death rays.  Bollocks, right?  But, again, how could you be sure.

Tuesday June 12 2018

I love to photo the huge white, often plasticky, sheeting that they now seem always to cover scaffolding with.  You get delightful shapes and patterns, due to the way that this covering sort of shrink wraps itself around the scaffolding, either because it does actually shrink, or because it is stretched when attached, or because of the wind blowing it around, in or out.

Thus:

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When the sun shines through behind, you also get scaffolding shadows.

Thus:

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I make a point of photoing scaffolding and its covering whenever the sun is being directly reflected of it towards me, very brightly, as is happening in the above photo top right.  So I zoom in on such a spot.  When I do that, the automatic light reaction of my camera darkens everything, including even the sky, overdoing things absurdly, and creates a whole different effect, nothing like what I am seeing.  (Photography is light.)

Thus:

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Plus, there is the added bonus that soon, all this will be gone, and instead there will be a building.  This building will almost certainly be far duller than it looked while it was being constructed.

This particular building is just outside the 2 Chairmen pub, where I did my talk last night, and before which I took these photos,all within a few seconds of each other.

A BIT LATER:  I just posted the above.  Until I did, I was worried that these are stupid photos, not worth anyone else’s attention.  But as soon as I stuck them up, and looked at them, in their blogged setting, so to speak, they looked to me very good.

Monday June 11 2018

The talk in question being this.  I show this photo of my notes here more to remind me to keep thinking about this stuff, than to tell you what I was talking about.  For that, maybe better wait for the video.

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I spent most of my spare time today working on that, even though it may not look like it.  In the end I had far too much I wanted to say, but I did manage to blurt out a decent proportion of it.  The thing to remember in such circumstances is that they don’t know what you forgot to say.  They only know what you did say.  If that was okay, then it was okay.

There is one big misprint, towards the end.  Where it says “Era 2 effects”, twice over, the second “Era 2” should be “Era 1”.  This did not throw me.  I only just noticed it.

Saturday June 09 2018

Yes, in Piccadilly Circus, photoed at the same time as those hair-patting ladies.  And this time, you know, just photoers, just photoing photos.

What strikes me is what a good camera I now have.  The light was not good.  I was there to meet up with someone, not to make the best of some sunny weather, because there was no sunny weather to be made the best of.  In the bad old days, when their were two zeroes in the years, most of these photos would have been an unsightly blur.  But now, the only thing I worry about is if there are recognisable faces on show:

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Once again, I made the selection of what to show here entirely by me liking the photo and you not seeing recognisable faces.  No thought was given to what sort of cameras were being used.  Which means that what cameras were actually being used becomes interesting and informative, like a small scientific experiment.

Once again, we observe the rise and rise of the smartphone as the preferred way for regular people to photo.  There are some Real Photographer cameras to be seen here.  And I think there always will be, because there will always be photoers for whom the best possible photos are the thing they want, and the best that a big old clunky machine can do will always be better that what a smartphone can do.

But, thinking about that some more, is that right?  Will there actually soon come a time when all photoing is done by little things the size of a biscuit?

And will there then be a Great Grumble from all the Real Photographers – a category which is maybe starting to include me - similar to the one when digital cameras first got going?

Friday June 08 2018

Following on from that earlier very vertical dragon photo, here’s some horizontality:

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Original photo, with explanation, here.

My thoughts and feelings towards these ladies can be summed up with the phrase unconditional positive regard.

Monday June 04 2018

imageI find signs to be an endless source of fun and revelation, and I frequently photo them.  So I was much entertained by this New York Times story, about a sign that went wandering.  Across the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Sandy grabbed this sign from the town of Brielle, on the eastern coast of the USA, in October 2012.  But, on or around May 14th 2018:

A man walking along the Plage du Pin Sec, near Bordeaux, spotted it. The faded sign was missing a chunk, but he could still read the legend “Diane Turton Realtors 732-292-1400.”

“It was curious,” the man, Hannes Frank, 64, a semiretired software consultant who lives in Brussels, said by phone on Thursday. “I looked at it and found it quaint.”

And he got in touch with the enterprise advertised on the sign.  By their nature, signs can be very informative.

The NYT says that its preferred expert on flotsametrics reckons that, given how long this sign took to make its way to France, it may well have crossed the Atlantic not once, but three times.

Flotsametrics is the study of things that float.  Now that the Lefties – like the Lefties who own, run and write for the NYT - are giving up on the claim that capitalism is ruining the planet by ruining the weather, they are back to bitching about how capitalism squirts out lots of rubbish, and they have become particular obsessed with rubbish that hangs about in the sea, especially if it floats.  So this story is actually part of The Narrative, even though it is presumably also a genuine and a genuinely good story.

Once the capitalists work out how to transform all the world’s rubbish into – oh, I don’t know – something like gunk for 3D printers to turn into replacement body parts, the lefties will have to think of some other insult to throw at capitalism.  But for now, this rubbish thing is getting back to being their biggest complaint.  Again.

But just clearing the rubbish up is no good.  Oh no.  The rubbish must be stopped at source by stamping out capitalism, starting with plastic drinking straws.  The actual source of this oceanic rubbish is mostly rivers in poor countries.  But that’s a mere fact.  The Narrative is what matters.

This has been a spontaneous rant, which is why I am keeping it here, rather than switching it to there.

Thursday May 31 2018

Indeed:

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I found that at the Spurs website.  That’s how things are looking now, or at any rate pretty recently.  From the sky.

Of greater interest to me is this:

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Which I found here.

The black bit is a staircase, and a viewing platform:

… the views from the Tottenham Skywalk will be spectacular. The trek has five core stages which offer different vantage points and experiences for its visitors. The walk starts on the southern end of the western side of the stadium where the Skywalk ascent begins. Traveling up to Level 5, one continues on the external open walkway up towards the roof. This is a pretty wild concept. Supporters and visitors alike will be trudging up the outer facade, carabiners and all, where they will catch glimpses of the frenetic indoor pace of the stadium, while also viewing the vastness of greater London.

Carabiners?  That means everyone roped together like mountain climbers.  So, not just strolling up there, then.  Even so, I just might give that a go.  And I’ll be doing a lot more than “catch glimpses”, I can tell you.  Here’s hoping cameras are allowed.

Wednesday May 30 2018

Here:

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Lovely.  Thank you Twitter.

It’s London, but the colour is Turkish delight.  The sky being the chocolate and the sun being the filling.

Sunday May 20 2018

Next Friday, my good friend Adriana Lukas will be giving a talk at my home entitled Personal Recollections of Life Under Communism.  While concocting some biographical information for my email list members, I took a closer look than I have before at her Twitter feed.

Way back in 2015, Adriana retweeted this remarkable image:

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It looks like some ancient oil painting, rather than the latest-thing highest-of-high-tech imagery, which of course is what it is.

GE Healthcare’s 3D-printing software works seamlessly with GE Advantage Workstation systems already working inside hospitals around the world. After a scan, the anatomy is rendered as a 3D image using GE’s Volume Viewer software, a 3D-imaging platform that combines data from sources like CT but also MRI and X-ray. The software then converts the image file generated by the Volume Viewer and within seconds translates it into a file format that can be interpreted by a 3D printer.

“In the past, it would take several days to get the images back” from an outside 3D software processor, Cury says. “The advantage of the new software is it’s in the same workstation where the technologists already do work on 3D images. The steps are a lot quicker and easier.”

More than 100 hospitals around the world have already ordered GE’s 3D organ printing software, which can be used for any type of organ as well as models of bones and muscles. GE says that as more hospitals use the software, it will be easier and quicker for doctors like Cury to share files with each other and have 3D models to use for planning and education prior to procedures.

The most impressive 3D printing stories often feature hopelessly old-school businesses, like GE.  This is because 3D printing is the ultimate non-disruptive technology.  It attaches itself to existing businesses and makes them better.  If you know only about 3D printing, and are not willing to cooperate with a regular business, forget about it.

All those stupid 3D printers that they tried to sell in Currys PC World a few years back were just ridiculous junk for making further even more ridiculous junk.

Saturday May 12 2018

I believe that many of the best photoers have a touch of the perve about them, and quite a few other photoers also.  At the very least, photoers sometimes have to be okay with people thinking they’re perves, which I suppose is part of what being a perve is.

So, for instance, in order to take these photos, I had to be using a camera in a public toilet:

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After we had done passport and baggage checking in for our Eurostar journey from the Gare du Nord back to London, nature had summoned me to the gents.  After I had answered my summons, I washed my hands, and then dried them in the hand dryer that you see above.  I had to leave to get my camera, and then go back there to photo the hand dryer.  Happily, nobody saw me at it.

The solidity and cleanability of the device inspired confidence.  I could see everything, so it would also need to look clean, which increased confidence that it almost certainly was clean.  Best of all, the heat was concentrated in a sort of horizontal sheet, if you get my meaning.  And you could move your hands up and down to where you needed to, to get rid of the last of the moisture.  It felt like it needed less power to do the same job, better.  And that of course is what its makers claim.

Those makers being Dyson, known to me until now only for their vacuum cleaners, and this is, as my photos had already told me, the Dyson Airblade dB hand dryer.

Capitalism just keeps on getting better, tiny step by tiny step, that being why this fact seldom hits the headlines.

Friday May 11 2018

When you go by train to Quimper from London, you start by going by Eurostar to the Gare du Nord in Paris.  And when you step outside the main entrance of the Gare du Nord, you find yourself next to a big red bear with wings.

Although I noticed this big red bear with wings when I first got to Paris, I only photoed it on the way back, a week later, when I and GodDaughter 2’s Mum were in less of a hurry between trains and when the weather was much better.

Also, on the way back, we didn’t suddenly see the big red bear with wings.  We could see it as we approached the Gare du Nord, and I had my camera ready to go, as it had been all afternoon:

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I quite like this big red bear with wings, but I am less sure about whether I admire it.  It seems like a mixture of too many unrelated things.  The lots-of-holes style of sculpting, which I associate with 3D printing, is one thing.  Making a bear look like a bear is something else.  And then, there are those wings.  On a bear.  Wings with holes in them.  The idea of the wings is that they turn the bear into an angel bear.  Something to do with global warming and the melting icecaps, I read somewhere and then lost track of.  The artist, Richard Texier, is not big on logic.  He prefers to stimulate the imagination.  To evoke magic.

The big red bear is called, see above, “Angel Bear”, and it has an inescapable air of kitsch abou it, to my eye.  Like something you’d buy, smaller but still quite big, in a posh gift shop, for far too much money.  I prefer a bull that Texier has also done, in the same 3D printed style.  No wings.  Much better, to my eye.  Cleaner, as a concept.

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But still a bit gift shoppy, I think.  Which is another way of saying that I bet these big old animals are by far his most popular works.  I suspect that Texier may be a bit irritated by this.  He likes being popular and he likes these big animals.  But he also likes his more abstract less gift shoppy stuff, and wishes the populace liked them more too.  Things like this:

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I found both of those images at the Richard Texier website, at this page.

Despite my reservations about the big red bear with wings and my preference for other Texier works, I can, when I look at his big red bear with wings, feel Paris trying.  Trying to become that little bit less of the big old antique such as, compared to London, it now is.  I mean, you can’t miss the big red bear with wings.  Personally, I don’t find it to be wholly successful.  But it is holey.

Thursday May 10 2018

Another day doing Other Things, another evening getting ever more tired, and wondering what to put here.

When in doubt … Pavlova:

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I didn’t know whether to pick that, or this closer-up version, so I show both:

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Behind Pavlova is Nova.  Did they call it Nova to rhyme?

While I’m in this directory, here’s the lady with a crane behind her:

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All three of those taken within a couple of minutes.

That was nearly three years ago, when Nova was still being readied for its first occupants, still living up to its name.  The interior wouldn’t look like that now, if only because there’d be less light pouring in from the far side.

Thursday May 03 2018

I really like this photo I took, a couple of years ago; of a poster featuring the Wheel with its top sliced off; and behind it the actual top of the actual Wheel

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However, another version of this photo might have been even better.  If I had gone closer to the poster, and put the top of the actual Wheel right on top of the poster, that might have been truly impressive.

But I distinctly remember thinking at the time that what with the road being full of traffic, this might have meant a long wait waiting for a gap, and what with me already having had a long day and wanting to get home, so I said to myself: I’ll come back later.

But by the time I did come back later, the poster had gone.

If you see a photo, take the photo:  Immediately.

One of the categories I have assigned to this posting is: How the mind works.  But this was more a case of: How my mind didn’t work.

Sunday April 29 2018

Today, I connected my camera to someone else’s Mac.  But clicking through the photos on my camera proved impossible, the way I find this to be trivially easy on my clunky old PC with clunky old Windows.  We could not make this work.  Which just goes to prove that ancient computer truth.  There is no such thing as “user friendliness”.  There is only what you know how to make a computer do, which is trivially easy, and what you do not know how to make a computer do, which is impossible.

See you tomorrow.  Maybe only as briefly as this.  Or maybe not see you tomorrow at all.

Friday April 27 2018

And by personalised, I mean personalise for your cat.

This evening I had a Last Friday meeting at my home, and during it, I learned about a cat phenomenon that suits my Friday Cats and Other Creatures blogging habit.

It seems, or so I was told by one of my lady guests, that a recent invention is that a cat can have a chip on its shoulder - as in: electronic chip - which means that it can get in through the cat flap in the door to your house, but no other cat can do this.  For all other – chipless - cats, the cat flap refuses to flap.

This deals with the habit that cats have of following each other into their various “homes”.  Apparently, cat flaps of the more primitive sort have been allowing passing stranger cats to take occupation in your home when you are gone.  And your cat can’t stop them, if it is not a dominant sort of cat compared to the invading cat.  If your cat is not dominant, your house can become a house for all his dominant acquaintances. Scary for you, and even scarier, I presume, for your cat.  But now, your can can avoid all this grief, because if you have one of these new style cat flaps, only your cat can get into your house.  Your house becomes his safe haven.

Presumably what my lady guest was talking about was something like this:

SureFlap cat flap with microchip identification is made of plastic material. All cats can go out, but only cats with corresponding microchip can come in again. ...

When you think of it this way, cat flaps must have made quite a big difference to the lives of cats, good for some and bad for others.  And these personalised cat flaps are another big change.