Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Stewart on Unusual bench?
6000 on The Shard was looking very special today
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Southall on A posh white van and a not so posh white van
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Brian Micklethwait on England crush NZ (and Surrey beat Leicester)
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London on What is this weird plastic thing?
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Most recent entries
- Unusual bench?
- More keeping up of appearances
- Cats and cricket – cats and drones
- Two strangers photoed by Mick Hartley and show there (and here) without their permission
- You can tell that drones have arrived because now they are being turned into a sport
- The Shard was looking very special today
- Windsor Castle from the top of the RAF Memorial
- Photoing old Dinky Toys in Englefield Green
- Cat picture on white van
- Smart face on smartphone
- Heaven aka the Barley Mow
- Old London by the Buck Brothers
- The selfie stick is a very useful piece of kit
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Category archive: Technology
What with my computer misbehaving, and having a meeting chez moi this evening, I am only in the mood for a bit of frivolity. Which is fine, because Friday is the day set aside here for frivolity of a feline nature. Earlier in the week I was able to connect the subjects of drones and cricket. Today, how about cats a cricket? And cats and drones?
Well, the best cats and cricket connection I have recently noticed occurred in a Channel 5 telly show called “Psycho Pussies: When Cats Attack”. Having spent the last few weeks showing us how various animals, cats, dogs, pets, or just animals, make us LOL, they now turned to the dark side of feline behaviour.
I was only half watching, but my impression was that they were talking to the same small bunch of owners – owners willing to live with psycho pussies – over and over again. I surmise that (a) most cats do not thus misbehave, and that in most of the cases where cats do thus misbehave (b) evolution swings into action in the form of a lethal injection. But, there were a few masochistic pscho pussy owners, one of whom dressed up in cricket gear by way of self-protection rather than take the obvious lethal step. And there was my connection. Remember that for Friday, I said. And I wasn’t the only one to notice this cat/cricket angle.
As for cats and drones, well the internet is flooded with gruesome pictures of that dead cat that some psycho artist turned into a quadcopter, or whatever the small and amateur drones are now called. (Real Drones are as yet only used by Americans, to kill people.) I seem to recall doing a blog posting way back about this feline quadcopter, but cannot now find it.
However, far more amusing than this old and horrible story was what I also found during my quest for a drone cat connection, namely this:
The point being that for some, drones are, just like cats, pets. And, pets get lost. And when pets get lost, posters get put up, appealing for help.
I don’t reckon neighbours will be so sympathetic and cooperative, though.
I like cricket. And I like drones. But which is best?
There’s only one way to find out. Fight.
Actually, all the drone did there was hover, waiting to be clobbered, which, a minute and a half in, it duly was, by Chris Gayle.
What I want to see is a game where drones fight against each other. Or a war. Either would do.
Or, perhaps a demo.
But, there is light. And there is light.
Here is some light, earlier this evening, bouncing off the Millbank Tower with its superb roof clutter, next to a crane, and arriving upon the little square of electro-magic inside my camera:
Yes, that is excellent roof clutter. Yes, that is a crane. But … it’s not a very remarkable scene.
But here is some light, earlier in the week, bouncing off the same Millbank Tower with its same excellent roof clutter, next to the same crane, and arriving upon the same little square of electro-magic inside my camera:
Put it this way. Had I not taken that shot earlier in the week, I’d not be showing you the one I took this evening. Which I only took at all to illuminate that earlier one.
For most of today I was without my computer, and yesterday I could only use it in “safe” mode, the most obvious and lamentable effect of which was that I couldn’t see or manipulate pictures properly. So, I couldn’t do pictures for the best part of two days.
Pictures like this one, which needed cropping because to the left of this young man (as I looked and snapped) was a close-up of another young man’s face, with nothing in the way and hence totally recognisable:
What I liked about this picture at the time when I took it, on Westminster Bridge two days ago, was that the guy’s smartphone had a banknote on it. And what I liked even more about this picture when I took another look at it just now with my restored computer is that the man on the banknote is Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin, an enthusiastic inventor, would surely have loved the idea of his face being, two and a quarter centuries after his death, on a portable instantaneous communication and computation machine, with the ability to create and transmit instantaneous likenesses of one’s companions and one’s surroundings and to record and transmit verbal messages, and to perform many other tasks and wonders. Or: whatever he might have called a smartphone.
I don’t often go to pubs, because of the noise. But Goddaughter 2, raised in France, wanted to try eating a pie in a pub, so we went to the Barley Mow in Horseferry Road to see what they had. They had pies, which proved very tasty.
Two particular circumstances made the evening pure perfection for me, besides the pure perfection of Goddaughter 2’s company I mean.
First, they had the latest England v NZ cricket ODI on the telly, and I got to watch the conclusion of England’s outstanding and outstandingly successful run chase that has just levelled the ODI series 2-2. And second, this being the twenty-first century, GD2 had her smartphone with her and was texting with all her friends. I hope you aren’t bored because of me doing all this texting, she said. No no, I said, gazing happily at the giant telly screen, you just carry on my dear. Don’t mind me. As I said to her when we were leaving, had I been asked to chose the perfect hour and more to spend in a pub this week, then given that this pub had the cricket on the go, and given that my ever-delightful companion was apologising for neglecting me and communing instead with her smartphone, this hour and more would have been it.
There was noise but it didn’t matter. We didn’t do much in the way of conversation, in other words we didn’t shout much at each other, although we did a bit because it wasn’t actually that noisy. But we were mostly doing two separate things that did not require peace and quiet to work. GD2 didn’t need silence to read and write her texts. I didn’t need any television cricket commentators to tell me that England were batting up a storm.
As we left I asked GD2 if she reckoned the social media have made it better for women in pubs. She reckoned yes they probably have. If men in pubs are diverted by men’s stuff, like cricket on the telly, then any women they have dragged along with them are now able to entertain themselves, instead of just sitting there moping and getting bored. Or, if the men were a bit more gracious than that, they would force themselves to ignore the men’s stuff and do conversation, despite their strong inclinations. Also not ideal. So, social media definitely equals progress. And if the women are distracted by women’s stuff, then the men can play with their smartphones.
One of the very few uses I have found for my own smartphone, aside from telling me where I am and where to go when I am out and about, is acquainting myself with the latest cricket scores when I am out and about.
Every time a new gadget gets introduced which catches on, in public, there is a chorus of disapproval from unimaginative puritans saying: ban it, it’s evil, it’s stupid, it’s wrong, blah blah blah.
Selfie sticks have caused particular ire. Other people enjoying themselves, by photographing themselves, seems just too much to bear, for the unimaginative puritan tendency.
I say unimaginative, because it perhaps does take a little bit of imagination to realise that with a selfie stick you can get results that would be very hard to get by any other means.
But there’s no need for selfie sticks, say the UPs. Get someone else to take your picture, if you really do want a picture of yourselves with all of you included. And some people do just this. I often get asked to take other people’s pictures for them, so that all of them get to be in the picture instead of one of them taking it and not being in it. I do my best, but my best is, I fear, often very bad. Other people’s cameras are notoriously difficult to use correctly, first time, only time.
Besides which, try getting someone else to do this for you:
This couple were photoing themselves outside Westminster Abbey, with themselves in the foreground, and Westminster Abbey’s twin towers in the background. But not just Westminster Abbey in a general sort of way behind them. They wanted the camera looking up at them, and past them, to the top of Westminster Abbey, to those twin towers, and to the blue sky above them. A much more dramatic shot.
Imagine getting a passing stranger to take that shot. Try getting me to take that shot. Even if I was willing to crouch down, how would I know what was on the screen? How would I compose the shot? I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. It would be a random mess.
The only way they could get this shot was with a selfie stick.
I am not saying that they realised they wanted this sort of shot, and got a selfie stick in order to get it. Well, maybe they did. But what is far more probable is that they they got their selfie stick, just to take good selfies instead of begging incompetent strangers like me to take bad unselfies. And at first they took regular selfies, with the camera in the same sort of position as it would have been if someone like me had been holding it in the regular way, at a regular height.
But then they realised that they could point the selfie stick in any direction they liked and could place the camera any place they want to that the selfie stick could reach. It could go straight up in the air, or straight down, or partly down but right near the ground, as here. With it, they could choose the exact background they wanted and compose the shot perfectly. And as any photographer, even an amateur like me, will tell you, background is everything when you are shooting head shots.
Selfie sticks are great. Personally, I am not into taking self-portraits, except when I am reflected in the scene I am photoing, so I don’t need a selfie stick and I don’t have one. Above all, I don’t want a selfie stick because mostly I go photoing on my own. I very seldom need to be taking group shots that include me, the way people are if they are on their honeymoon, say. But just because I don’t need a selfie stick doesn’t mean that nobody else needs a selfie stick and that all who have selfie sticks should be yelled at.
I took the above shot of the selfie stick in action on the same day I took this photo.
A while back I visited a friend in Epping, and during our ramblings in Epping Forest that day, it was mentioned that there was a spot in that general area where the Big Things of London could be seen. Seen from a great distance, but seen, in a gap between the trees.
Lured by the promise of this view, I returned, the Sunday before last, and was duly shown this view. You could see what appeared to be the BT Tower, and when I got home I confirmed that it was indeed the BT Tower. But, handsome though the BT Tower is, there is more to the towers of London than the BT tower. Never mind. I contented myself with photoing decaying farm machines.
But there are no decaying farm machine photos in this posting, and for that matter no photos of the BT Tower. Because. About an hour later, in weather that (as had been promised by the weather forecasters) was improving, we stumbled (if you can stumble in a car) on a vastly improved view of London. We only got to that because my friend was using a hoped-for short cut to show me an antique railway station or a church or some such thing. But suddenly I yelled that the view I had hoped to see an hour earlier was now viewable. Stop the car. Stop the car. Let me get out and photo … this:
There they all are: Strata (the one with three holes in the top) Shard, Walkie-Talkie, Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Heron Tower, Natwest Tower, Spraycan. They’re all there. Apart from the BT Tower which is away to the right and hidden behind a hill.
As so often at this blog, what you are looking at is a great photo, taken just about technically well enough for you to realise what an even greater photo in all respects this could have been, if taken by a Real Photographer at the top of his Real Photographer game.
The only reason it has taken so long for me to stick up this picture is that, as you can surely imagine, I took a great many shots like this one, but later could not decide which one was the least mediocre. All were very striking (because of what was in them), and rather blurry (because I’m a blurry kind of photographer when I take shots like these), and interrupted by wires in the foreground (because I did not see those until I got home).
I took that photo on the right, of our location displayed on its map by my smartphone, in the car, just before we continued to what had been intended as our next destination. As you can see from this, we were well beyond the M25. The small blue blob in the middle is the location. Subsequent google mappery confirmed that we were twenty miles and more from the centre of London.
Sadly, the small blue blob in the middle is pointing, very misleadingly, in a completely different direction to the direction in which I pointed my camera to photo London. London is located below and to the left, i.e. towards the south west, the M25 being the road around London and the M11 being the road from the territory to the north east of London (involving such places as Cambridge), to London.
This spot is not all that far from Epping tube station. On a better day, I will return.
This view combines great distance with definite visibility to a degree that I have not experience and photographed from any other place. Does anybody know of any place that scores higher by this combined measure?
I include cranes in the category list below. There are, as always with big pictures of London, cranes.
Indeed. Photoed by me in September 2005, i.e. just under a decade ago:
Had I known how interested I would later become in white vans, I would have done a proper picture of the white van there. At the time all I cared about was the new Wembley Stadium, in the background there. But it says something that I considered this particular white van to be a worthy foreground to all that Big Arch activity. It also shows how white van graphics have progressed since then, the ones there being very straight and rectangular, like they’re done with Letraset, as maybe they were.
On the day I took that shot, I also took other shots like this one ...:
... and this one, which I recall especially liking at the time:
Blue sky. That never fails. Not then, not now.
I took photos, but almost everything I took was terrible. This one, much cropped and enhanced, was one of the least worst ones:
That’s Sam Bowman in the middle there, with his back to the window, and on the right, Worstall, holding his glasses, waiting for Sam to finish his intro. That almost everyone had their backs to the windows didn’t help me photo their faces.
The only half decent photo I took was when I got outside, and photoed people who were saying those prolonged goodbyes that happen at these kinds of events.
Through the upstairs window you can see the party continuing.
The gist of Worstall’s talk was that the Green claim that the earth’s resources are about to run out is based on a failure to understand the meaning of the word “reserve”. Reserves are not all the resources they even know about or know how to go looking for; they are the resources that they already have lined up to be extracted, given current market conditions and current technological ability. The entire point of “reserves” is that they are already on the warehouse shelf, metaphorically speaking, and are indeed about to “run out”, aka be consumed. That these “reserves” are about to be consumed does not mean that all the earth’s resources, known and unknown, easily obtainable at today’s prices and with today’s technology or difficult, are all about to vanish, any more than the fact that all the food now in warehouses will soon disappear and then immediately be replaced means that we are all about to starve.
I have long suspected-stroke-assumed something along these lines. Good to hear it spelt out in detail.
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
Truly, that’s a glorious headline.
Indeed it is:
The drone was not hostile. It was part of the show, as was Iglesias attempting to handle it. It was just that it all went rather wrong:
“During the show a drone is used to get crowd shots and some nights Enrique grabs the drone to give the audience a point of view shot,” the statement read. “Something went wrong and he had an accident. He decided to go on and continued playing for 30 minutes while the bleeding continued throughout the show.”
Iglesias was semi-treated immediately after the accident.
Definitely a future trivia question in a pop quiz. But the worst that could have resulted from this would have been a couple of missing Iglesian fingers. This ("NY-bound plane nearly collides with drone, FAA says") could have ended far more grimly.
There will be many, many more drone dramas. They are colossally useful, and accidents buzzing around begging to happen.
Yes, again, but I do love her, especially now, when she presides over all that noisily aggressive building work all around her at the top end of Victoria Street:
Nothing says old school femininity like a ballerina, and nothing says old school masculinity like one of those extendable (but not at the time fully extended) temporary cranes. Men are here. But if here is the top end of Victoria Street, so too is the ultimate lady.
Can anyone tell me what this is?:
Soon, you will be able to shovel an image like this into the www and it would tell you what it is, same as you now do with words. But if that can be done now, I don’t know how.
I photoed this contraption last night, next to the recycling rubbish bins a few dozen yards from the front door of my home. So, whatever it is, someone has no further use for it. It was right under a street lamp which meant that the non-flash snaps I took were better than the flashed ones.
But, what on earth is it? Suggestions so far have been: some kind of toy; or: some sort of home for a pet. The latter suggestion being mine, but not a very confident one. I mean, why does it have what looks like a toast rack sticking out of its top? Bizarre.
So, as I often find myself asking here, ... anyone?
Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo. Exit your train, and go through the barriers. Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit. Step outside. You are in “Station Approach”:
I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.
You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi. But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”. (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps. Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.
To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie. To the far right, the Spray Can. Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.
It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train. Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings
What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter. In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground. If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them. Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”. Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared. The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now. But these two buildings could hardly be more different. The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss. The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.
And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:
Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.
Stations are great linear photo-opportunities. This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level. If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings. This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.
Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations. The traffic would wait for ever. So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level. So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it. You can from Station Approach. Well, I can, because I want to.
No not taken by me. I wish. The original and several others of the same guy that are equally fun, here.
I chose that one because, in addition to showing the artist and his murals, it also shows what a fight reinforced concrete puts up, when someone tries to destroy it. (A point also made, with an illustration (yes taken by me) in this earlier posting.)
And this one has a camera!:
It’s like the internet can read my mind.
Am I happy about that? Are you?
More to the point, what are the rules about flying one of these things around in London?