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

Sunday August 28 2016

I’m actually rather surprised that this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often:

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The story is that a lorry with a digger on the back of it drove under a bridge, but the digger hit the bridge and broke half of the bridge off so that it fell on the road below, or to be more exact, onto another lorry, also going under it at the time.  A motorcyclist was nearly killed, but wasn’t.

Cranes helped to clean up the mess:

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One of the scarier things about all this, if I understand what has happened correctly, is that half the bridge is still sticking out over the motorway, and traffic is even now passing underneath it:

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Is that right?  And if that is right, is that .. you know … right?

Thursday August 25 2016

Here:

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So far as I can tell, though, this is not a glass bridge, more a metal bridge with lots of windows in its floor, which I don’t think is the same thing.  But, it’s still a step in the right direction, towards the day when they build a bridge entirely out of glass.

Thursday August 18 2016

My blogging time this evening was totally bent out of shape by – surprise, surprise – a game of cricket.  This went on for longer than I expected, and it seeed and sawed hither and thither.  Sangakkara scored a brilliant hundred.  Jade Dernbach also did important things for Surrey.  And Surrey won.  It was like I was there!

Sangakkara’s brilliance is well explained in this report of the game.  But Dernbach deserves a bit more immortalising than his performance might otherwise get.  First off, he took three top order Northants wickets, including those of Levi and Duckett, both dangerous, for small scores.  And just as in that game in 2015 against Notts, the penultimate over that Dernbach bowled, and the contrast between it and the penultimate over of the Surrey innings, also involving Dernbach, proved crucial.

In the penultimate over of the Northants innings, Dernbach conceded just two runs, after the over before that one had gone for eighteen.  And he got the wicket of his opposite number – the Northants number eleven, Azharullah – with the last ball of that penultimate over, thus ending a troublesome last wicket stand, and denying Kleinveldt one final over of tumultuous hitting, because thanks to Dernbach getting Azharullah there was no final over.  Kleinveldt might have got a century, and Northants might have got three hundred.  As it was, Kleinveldt had to be content with 76, and Northants with 276.

But whereas Northants had scored two off their last two overs, with one wicket left at the beginning of the second last over, Surrey, also with only one wicket standing, found themselves needing twenty four off the last two overs to win the game.  Dernbach was batting alongside Sanga, and thanks in no small part to Dernbach, Surrey did win.  Dernbach scored eight, including a much needed boundary during that penultimate over, and the rest of his runs in singles of the sort that got the strike back to Sanga.  And Sanga did the necessary slogging and won the game for Surrey with an amazing six during the last over and a four off the last ball of the match.  But Dernbach’s support was vital.  He played a few shots and did not get out.

Here is a not very dramatic picture I took of Dernbach at the Oval, at the game I attended last month, just after he had taken three top order Gloucester wickets in that game:

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And here is a rather better picture that I took, during that game in 2015, of a picture someone else took of him, along with the Shard and a crane and a gasometer:

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Perhaps one reason Dernbach played so very well in this evening’s game is that he is now, what with being quite old, a one-day specialist.  If Surrey had lost this game, I’m pretty sure that that would have been the end of his season, because Surrey would have been knocked out of this fifty overs tournament, and have already been knocked out of the twenty overs tournament.

Wednesday August 17 2016

Here are three pictures, on the left below.  On the right below are the pictures that explain the real pictures.  On the left: artistic impression.  On the right: what’s going on that enabled me to photo the artistic impression.

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Top, in Victoria Street.  I have never noticed this particular effect (left) before, but in the bright sunlight the other day, I did.

In the middle is a way to decorate a wall of windows that I’m not sure I like the look of, except in photos.  On the right there, we see that the building in question is next to The Monument.

The photo on the right, bottom, I took out of a train window, as I journeyed towards the Horniman Museum.  No rotating needed.  Good shot.  Photoing out of a train window works well in bright light, so long as you get no reflections.

Note the big things - Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Walkie-Talkie, lurking behind the blue building, on the left as we look. 

Another example of bright colours in modern architecture, which is a trend I am noticing quite a lot.

As with photo 2, I’m not sure I like the building, but I do like the photo.

Tuesday August 16 2016

I continue to hoover up White Van pictures whenever an interesting one presents itself.  And this one, that I encountered yesterday evening in Victoria Street, is surely a classic of the genre:

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What I enjoy so much about this van is how this enterprise clearly started out in a state of in-your-face honesty.  Yeah, we do lavs.  Our boss is Dave.  Workplaces need lavs.  You got a problem with that?  Everyone needs to piss and/or shit every now and again.

But then, as business expanded, the euphemisms crept in.  Changing the website was too complicated, but the surrounding verbiage got more polite and decorous.  That’s my take, anyway.  Have you ever seen the word “welfare” used like that?  I haven’t.  “Welfare Vans” sounds a bit like something laid on by the Japanese Army during the war, providing you-know-what to the soldiery, and for which they still refuse to apologise to the women thus made use of.

Go to www.davlav.com and it’s all explained:

These self-contained welfare vans offer independent diesel heating, washing, toilet and kitchen/eating facilities. Also included are auxiliary power microwave, hand wash and water boiler. Our welfare vehicles offer superior standards and are completely mobile, providing staff with all the facilities required by current employment law. All parts comply with the new legislation for Whole Vehicle Type Approval.

I might have guessed there’d be government regulations involved.

Sunday August 14 2016

When I took this photo, about ten days ago (on the same day I took all these), …:

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… I thought that all I was doing was enjoying the dark clouds in the background and the brightly lit buildings in the foreground, an effect I am very fond of.  And the crane.

However, when I took this photo …:

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… I remember being intrigued by that other crane.  Not just the bright red crane, looking so cute against the bright blue sky (like in the first picture here).  No, I mean the crane that has appeared from out of the roof of the building, the sort of crane that reaches out beyond the roof it resides on, or in this case in, and allows men in a box to lower themselves down the building and clean its window.

The crane with a sort of random frame on the top of it.  What is that?  So I photoed the puzzle, and looked at it when I got home.

Here it is in close-up:

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The frame on top is a bit of the roof, permanently attached to the crane.  When the crane is working, it wears that bit of the roof like a long hat.  When the crane is resting, that hat turns into the perfect thing to fill the hole in the roof, the hole from which the crane emerged.

Here, by way of contrast, is the corresponding close-up of the picture at the top of this posting, of what the roof looks like when the crane based inside it is resting:

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When the crane is doing stuff, there’s no way that the roof can avoid looking cluttered.  But when the crane is resting, the aesthetic proprieties are restored.  The crane disappears inside, and flattens the roof.

The thing is, this roof is not flat.  Flat roofs are considered invisible, which they are, from the ground.  Flat roofs have lots of similar cranes resting on them, and they just sit there, cluttering up the roof.  Which is fine.  That’s the rule, for flat roofs.

But for a roof that is at an angle, which thereby becomes visible from the ground, then aesthetics apply.  Clutter cannot be allowed.  When clutter is not active, it must somehow be smoothed out, decluttered, tidied up.

And look what I just found.  Here is a picture which I took back in April of the same crane as is discussed above, but before it got its hat attached to it, and looking like a regular crane of this sort:

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Note how the light is completely different again.

I think that it was because I had already registered the existence of this crane, looking as all other cranes of this sort look, that I was so intrigued and puzzled by its hat.  I suppose I thought that there might be some kind of closure for the roof, when the crane was not busy.  But I did not foresee that the closure would be attached be attached to the crane.

Saturday August 13 2016

Proof that the day that Darren and I saw Surrey beat Gloucester was a great day out is that I have already done three postings about that day here, and have hardly scratched the surface of how much fun I (for only one) had, on that day.

Posting (1) about that day concerned vans.  Posting (2) was about cricket, and in particular about the emerging cricket superstar that is Jason Roy.  Posting (3) was about the Oval’s contrasting architectural Big Things, and about seeing (or not seeing) London’s biggest Big Things from one of the Ovals Big Things.

The final test match between England and Pakistan is now under way, at the very same Oval that I have been going on about.  (England are getting stuffed, as I write this.  Go here to be sure.) So it is appropriate that this posting takes us, those of us who are interested, back to cricket, and in particular to the photoing of a cricket scoreboard.  Sporting scoreboards make for great photos, packed with memory-triggering information.  Not just obvious things like the score of a particular game, but, as the years pass, forgotten names, and forgotten moments in remembered games.

I didn’t take many pictures of the old scoreboard that day, the one way off to the right of the Pavilion (as you look at it), but here is one of the pictures I did take of it, along with a lot of other stuff all around it:

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You can’t really see the scoreboard there, unless you look rather carefully, so here is a close-up:

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This looks to me rather like an eighties style computer screen, the sort that started you off with cryptic messages like: “A:>“.  Such old screens often had orange letters or numbers on a black background.  No doubt there have been suggestions that this scoreboard be replaced by something more twenty first century, but no doubt also, the old fogeys of the Surrey County Cricket Club drew the line at such vandalism.  Cricket is, after all, a game typically played before an audience made up mostly of oldies.  And as you can see from my pictures, this audience is too sparse for cricket people to be able to ignore the tastes of those who do show up.

I can remember scoreboards far more primitive even than this, where you hung the numbers on hooks.  I even helped to operate such a scoreboard occasionally, when Englefield Green played nearby teams like Egham, Staines and so on, on … Englefield Green.  Because yes, there really was an actual Englefield Green.  There still is.

All that that old scoreboard showed was, as I recall, total runs scored, wickets down, batsman number this, this much, batsman number that, this much.  And, if the other side had already batted, the other side’s total.  Batsmen would not have been identified with numbers like 58 or 59, i.e. with the numbers on the backs of their shirts, because they wore no such shirts.  Their number would be their place in the batting order, which is actually far more informative about the state of the game.  If, say, there are seven wickets down, and batsmen 8 and 9 are batting, both with smallish scores, that’s one sort of game.  But if batsmen 3 is still in with a decent score to his number, that’s a much better prospect for the batting side.  “59” doesn’t tell you anything about whether the guy can bat or not.

Here is a much newer scoreboard, to be seen on the other side of the ground from the old scoreboard:

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Here we learn who batsmen 58 and 59 actually are.  Yes, they are the Curran brothers.  They came together at the fall of the sixth Surrey wicket, and a lot depended upon them.

T(om) Curran is about twenty, and S(am) Curran is eighteen.  On the day I took these photos, the Currans came together with the Surrey innings struggling for adequacy.  There had been a flurry of wickets.  More wickets now and not many more runs, and Gloucester would probably chase down the Surrey total easily.  More runs now, and more wickets not so quickly surrendered, and Gloucester would have a fight on their hands.

For a while, the Currans “rebuilt” the innings, in other words scored rather slowly.  But then the younger Curran (S(am)) stepped on the gas.  Soon, this Curran partnership had become a …:

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… and then, seemingly in no time at all.  S(am) Curran had brought up his personal …:

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… and the partnership was looking like this:

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S(am) Curran got out soon after that, and was duly thanked by the scoreboard:

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We can see the Surrey total on the old scoreboard …:

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... the Surrey total being just about the only thing that the old scoreboard did tell us, during the interval.  That’s the thing about old-school scoreboards.  When they’ve nothing to tell you, they are unable to tell you anything else instead.

Surrey had done well.  Although there had been no outstanding innings in the manner of Kumar Sangakkara, who scored 166 back in September 2015, Surrey had actually made more in their first innings this time around.  Besides S(am) Curran’s fifty, there were also substantial scores from Davies and from Burns, and it all added up.  The stand-out moment of the innings, the sort they call a “champagne moment” on Test Match Special, was when Surrey captain Gareth Batty hit a ferocious six that went smack into the middle of the new scoreboard.  With no apparent harm done to it at all.  Which was impressive on both counts.

Gloucester made a bad start:

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That’s twice I’ve watched Surrey in a 50 overs game, and twice I have seen Jade Dernbach do decisive things.

There followed a promising stand, but it ended too soon, for Gloucester’s purposes:

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I will end with a burst of horizontality.  Darren was kind enough to say that he especially liked the posting I did after our previous Oval expedition which featured lots of adverts piled up in horizontal slices.

Here, which I hope Darren will also like, is another pile of horizontal slices, this time of Gloucester’s last six wickets falling in a rather humiliating heep, and the time at which each wicket fell:

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As you can see, Surrey won easily in the end, with Batty again distinguishing himself with five wickets.  Story of the day: Surrey got in a bit of a mess, but recovered.  Gloucester got in a bit of a mess, never recovered and instead crumbled.  If you’re there, your team winning narrowly may be better, but winning easily is pretty good also.

Monday August 08 2016

This computer upheaval I’ve been having lately was caused by me running out of computer storage space and my existing computer storage space having to be replaced.  All the informational clobber that had been stored on the old two terrorbite disc had to be shifted onto a new four terrorbite disc.  This took longer than was anticipated.  That is what was happening over the weekend.

Today something else happened.  The new computer arrangementspent the whole day noisily chuntering to itself, about something or other, in a way that I found most troubling.  Was this chuntering the new normal?  Is this it?  Is the new four terrorbite disc just permanently noisy?  And then, finally, early in the evening, the chuntering suddenly stopped.  And my computer sent itself an email saying that it had been doing some backing up, of the sort that happens at the beginning of every month.  Thank goodness for that.  There has since been no more chuntering.  There will presumably be occasional bursts of chuntering in the future, but when they happen, I will be able rationally to hope that the chuntering will soon cease.

In amongst all this chuntering, I went on a short photo-expedition.  It was short because I forgot to take my camera.  There was chuntering when I left.  There was chuntering when I returned.  But thanks to being back so very soon, I got to hear the blessed moment when the chuntering ceased, and to note the email that manifested itself at this wondrous moment of incipient silence.

Friday August 05 2016

Indeed.  Taken by me, earlier this evening:

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If you do not share my fondness for scaffolding, or my particular fondness for scaffolding when it is covered up, rather hastily and imperfectly, with huge stretchy plasticky sheeting, or my extreme fondness for all of that when it is hit hard by bright sunlight, well, never mind.  You can quickly tell from a photo whether you like it or you don’t like it, which means that if you don’t like it, only a very little of your life is consumed by this thing that you don’t like.  I’m not sure if a picture is worth a thousand words.  Certainly not in all circumstances.  But a picture takes up far less time that a thousand words does, except if you want it to.  Which explains a lot about this blog.

Monday August 01 2016

By which I mean: here are some more photographers who are anonymous, not that these particular photographers are any more anonymous than photographers shown here usually are.

Wandering through some recent photo-archives, I came upon this particular collection of anonymous photoers, photoed by me May of this year, which had already been gathered together, but not, I believe, ever shown here.  I think I recall gathering them up, and then getting diverted into doing some postings about similarly anonymous photoers photoed rather longer ago.

Anyway, here they are:

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Lots of mobile phones, with one tablet, one Real Photographer doing his Real Photography thing, and the odd old school specialised digital camera.  That’s pretty much how things are these days.

Saturday July 30 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by me this afternoon.  I got off my bus early after spotting it, and walked back to photo it:

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Inside the extraordinarily big front door of this place.  The name keeps changing from Department of I forget what it used to be, to Department of I forget what it was after that, And I think they just changed it again, following all the recent political excitements, and us having a new Prime Minister.  Innovation?  Industry?  Skills?  All the sorts of things which, if you have a government department for it, you get less of.  I believe it is now: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  Jolly ho.  That’s probably completely wrong, and the Department of Energy and Industrial Strategy is perhaps somewhere else.  Maybe everything is just staying where it is, and they have merely juggled the labels.  That’s the likely story.  Like I say: jolly ho.

Impressive airplane, though.

Friday July 29 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by her in a zoo in or around Quimper, where she is staying at the moment.

First, an elephant.  At first I thought there was a camera smudge in this, in the middle.  But the elephant is chucking dust over itself, and also some into the air:

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GD2 particularly drew my attention to its legs.  Also indeed.

And here are some monkeys, looking very learned:

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This picture cries out for a caption competition, but caption competitions don’t seem to work here.  By all means try to change that if you’d like to.

These - I think - very nice photos were apparently taken with an iPhone 6.  Impressive.

Thursday July 28 2016

As I said yesterday, much socialising this week.  Another do tonight, and yesterday, another visit with Darren to the Oval.

One of the advantages of my White Van fetish is that whenever I am waiting to meet someone in London, I can pass the time by photoing White Vans, of which there are invariably some and often many.  So, while I waited to meet Darren, I photoed White Vans, and also a couple of not-so-White ones.

Before elaborating on the vans let me be clear that Darren was not late.  He was spot on time.  I was early.  The trip to the Oval is not a totally familiar one for me, so I made sure I was not late by being early.  Hence these vans.

Pride of place goes to the first van, light green in colour, decorated with the regalia of the Surrey County Cricket Club.  I spotted this vehicle as I was making my way towards the Hobbs Gate, where we were due to meet.  It was parked under one of the Oval’s huge stands.  All the other vans were photoed outside the aforementioned Gate.

By the way, I love what I found when I followed the above link, to the Cricinfo Hobbs profile:

Jack Hobbs was cricket’s most prolific batsman. He finished with 61,237 first-class runs and 197 centuries, most of them stylishly made from the top of the Surrey or England batting orders. And he might have scored many more had the Great War not intervened, or if he hadn’t been inclined to get out shortly after reaching 100 to let someone else have a go.

Anyway, here are the vans:

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1.1: The Surrey CCC van, as related above.

1.2: The first of two snaps with a bike angle.  But, bicycle recovery? This van is for collecting bikes to mend, but not, alas, for recovering bikes that have been stolen.  The bits where it says “We fix bikes” have, for me, an air of clarificatory honesty about them.  Like they were added to lower falsely aroused expectations of daring do against the criminal classes.

1.3: This one I especially like, because I like White Vans and I like signs (by which I mean: I like to notice them).  And here is an example of the former devoted to the latter.  Note in particular: “Health & Safety Signage”.  A big growth area in recent years.

2.1: I think this is my favourite one, of these.  Usually, what I like about the White Vans I photo is the profusion of information that they supply.  But in this case it’s the lack of information that made me smile.  VOITH?  Like: Everyone knows what VOITH is!  But not me.  Turns out it’s an enterprise that makes stuff for cars.  When it says it “builds its partnership with Vauxhall”, this doesn’t mean with Vauxhall the place (which is very near to where I was standing when I took the photo), but rather with Vauxhall the car making enterprise.

2.2: A black van, devoted to cleaning.  Very wise.  One of the problems with White Vans is how dirty they can look, if only slightly dirty.  And if you are a cleaning enterprise – and especially if you are a fantastic cleaning enterprise - you don’t want your vans looking dirty.

2.3: More bike involvement, this time in the form of a Deliveroo biker upstaging a van devoted to motorbikes.  Luckily, I also like to photo Deliveroo bikers.  (See 2.4 here.)

That’s enough vans.

Wednesday July 27 2016

Last weekend and all through this week, despite still not being totally well, I have been doing lots of socialising.  I now face more.  This Friday I have a meeting at my own home (Michael Jennings speaking about Australia).  Today, my cricket buddy Darren and I are going to see Surrey v Gloucs at the Oval.  Plus, The Guru and I are, in the midst of all this, trying to fix a visit by him to see to my big old home computer ("Dawkins" is the name I think I gave it), in time to beat the Windows 10 For Free deadline, which I think is on Friday also.  So, blogging here during the next few days may be more perfunctory than usual.  It may not, but it may.

On the other hand, blogging doesn’t need to take that long, and while doing this apology-for-not=blogging posting, I also concocted another blog posting.  See below.

This is why I make a point of promising nothing, so very frequently.  Once I have promised nothing, my immediate inclination is to break that promise.  Whereas, if I promise something, that is all too likely to be the promise that will get broken.

Thursday July 07 2016

On Tuesday of this week I did a posting about the view from Docklands ten years ago, which featured a shot of central London taken from one of the Docklands towers.  While concocting that posting, I of course looked at other pictures taken from the same spot, on that same photo-expedition.  Here is one of those other pictures:

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What got my attention in this snap was those bits of stuff, floating on those two flat, floating box/barges?  Let’s take a closer look:

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Could that perchance be some kind of footbridge?  Yes it most definitely could.

Googling “docklands footbridge” and clicking on images soon got me to the bridge that these bits subsequently turned into.  It’s the South Quay Footbridge, which is just round the corner from where I snapped its bits.  I’ve probably got shots of this bridge that I subsequently took myself, but here are a couple that I quickly found on the www:

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On the left is a photo of this bridge that I found at the WilkinsonEyre website, WilkinsonEyre being the guys who designed it.  On the right is another shot (which I found here) of the same bridge.  Less dramatic, and in a way that wrongly suggests that it is a railway bridge, but making it clear beyond doubt (with its particular view the sticking up bit of the bridge) that this is definitely the bridge I was looking for.

What all this illustrates is that the pictures I take of London contain far more information that I can possibly hope to process straight away.  I later spot things.  In this particular case, I spot things ten years later.

I definitely intend to seek out this particular bridge and take some photos of it for myself.  It’s not a bridge style that I especially care for, with its ungainly non-vertical spike, but I guess it makes quite a bit of structural sense.  Maybe I can find an angle that makes it look really good, as some of the other WilkinsonEyre pictures also do, I think.

And while I’m about it, here are some more footbridges, already in place ten years ago, for me to check out:

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Finally, my thanks to Michael Jennings for contriving to take me to the top of this tower, which he was able to do because at the time, as I recall, he was working in another part of it.

I’ll end this posting with one of my favourite pictures of Michael, taken on that very same day and in that very same spot, as he looks out across East London – the Victoria Docks, City Airport and beyond – in a pose that suggests that he personally owns at least half of what he is looking at:

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Sadly, not.  But I still like the picture, which I think is very Ayn Rand heroic.

More pictures of Michael in this posting today at Samizdata.