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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

Tuesday September 18 2018

And no, I don’t mean reinforcements for an army.  I mean the kind of reinforcements that end up buried in concrete.

Like these ones:

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All six of these photos also feature one of the more impressive scaffolding arrays near me just now.  The art of scaffolding and the art of creating reinforcements for structural concrete have much in common.  Both involve putting together lots of bits of metal.  Both need to result in a structure that stays put and does not collapse.  Both look pretty to people like me.

But there are also big differences.  Scaffolding is very visible, and it remains visible for the duration of its working existence.  Scaffolding thus proclaims itself to the world, by its very existence.  That we live in a golden age of scaffolding is obvious to all of us, whether we like this fact or hate it.

Also, scaffolding rather quickly punishes those who erect it, if they don’t do it right.  While creating scaffolding, scaffolders make use of the scaffolding they have just been constructing, and they are their own first users.  They thus have a literally inbuilt incentive to do their work well.  And if they don’t, it is not that hard for others to spot this.  Bad scaffolding wobbles.  Such are my surmises about scaffolding.

Reinforcements for concrete are something else again.  By the time they go to work, doing the job they were built for, everyone concerned had better be damn sure that they have done their work well.  But, if they haven’t, the disastrous consequences of that bad work may take years to happen, and even then to be controversial.  Who is to say exactly what caused a building to collapse?  And if the building collapses rather catastrophically, it is liable to destroy a lot of the evidence of what exactly happened, and why.  Investigating such catastrophes being a whole separate job in itself.  So, getting these reinforcements right, with an inbuilt regime of testing and inspection and supervision, all managed by morally upright people whose declarations of confidence in what they have been inspecting can be relied upon, is a whole distinct industry.

But, this is an industry whose products, by their nature, end up being invisible.  We all rely on such work being done correctly, not just “structurally” but also in a morally correct manner.  Yet, we mostly never see this work, only its indirect results.

So, I hereby I celebrate the work, morally as well as merely technically good, that goes into the making of reinforcements for concrete.  I salute the good men and true who make these (I think) beautiful objects, and who ensure that they perform faithfully.  Their moral as well as technical excellence is all part of why I consider such reinforcements to be things of beauty.

I did some googling to try to determine exactly what reinforcements like those in my photos are used for.  The lorry says R. SWAIN AND SONS on it.  But they are hauliers, not makers of concrete reinforcements.  The nearest I got to an answer was this photo, of objects just like those on my lorry, with this verbiage attached: “Prefabricated Piling Cages Made of Reinforced Bars On Site”.  Prefabricated Piling cages.  Piling sounds to me like foundations.  (Yes.) The reinforcing has to be shoved down a hole in one go.  It can’t be constructed bit by bit, in the hole.  It either gets assembled beforehand on site, or, it gets assembled in a factory and taken to the site by lorry, as above.

The reinforcing that a structure needs when it is above ground, on the other hand, can be assembled on site, and I’m guessing that this is what usually happens.

Just guessing, you understand.  My first guess actually was: for an above ground structure, until I came upon the photo I just linked to, and not foundations.  But, what do I know?

Friday September 14 2018

Last Sunday morning I was trying to have a good old lie-in, but instead I got woken up early by a giant anteater.

Yes.  Having been woken up, I looked out my window towards where all the din seemed to be coming from, and this was the scene I beheld:

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At first I thought the culprit might be that refuse lorry in the foreground, but it soon because clear that the noise had been coming from that red lorry with the crane-like thing attached to it.

Let’s move in closer:

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By the time this photo had been photoed, the big red lorry had lifted its nozzle out of that hole in the pavement on the right there, which I subsequently learned had been dug in connection with electric cables.  Evidently there was muck in the hole which needed to be got out, in a hurry.  Sometimes technology really sucks.

I was intrigued, and at first greatly puzzled, by picture on the side of the red lorry, and it took me quite a while to work it out.  It is a giant anteater.  It looks like at least two creatures, pointing in opposite directions, but the “other creature” is, or so I believe, the giant anteater’s giant tail.  That tail being a lot of what makes the anteater a giant.

Wikipedia tells us what an actual giant anteater looks like:

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I can see why an anteater would have a very long nose.  But why the enormous tail?  Balance, perhaps?  The answer offered here says balance, and also maybe to cover itself when sleeping.  It seems to be mixed up with the anteater having a low body temperature, the tail being there partly to keep heat out.  So, perhaps also some kind of fan?  I couldn’t find a confident answer.

As for the gizmo deployed at the back of the lorry, note how this time, a bendy arm with a tube in it does make use of a bendy tube, unlike that machine for squirting concrete that I mentioned here earlier.  Guess: not so much pressure this time, not least because the material itself being sucked up (this time) is not so heavy and bulky.  Some pressure, but not so much.

That phone number of the side of the lorry got me to the enterprise that supplied this equipment.  But follow that link and you’ll find no mention of any red lorries with anteaters on the side.  By which I mean, I didn’t.

Thursday September 13 2018

Today I was in Bermondsey, seeing a man about a blog, and instead of going straight home again, I got out at Southwark and walked to Parliament Square.  Then I tubed to Victoria, and did some quite strenuous shopping.  All that, plus I am getting old.  So, now I am now knackered, and am in need of an early night..

Here, picked out almost at random, is a photo I took on my travels, in Lower Marsh.

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When photoing this photo, I of course had no idea that part of the blurry crane in the background would be visible, less blurrily, at a weird angle, in the street lamp.  Like I always say, my camera has better eyesight than I do, and what with me (see above) getting old, that gap has been growing.

London street lamps are rather fine, I think.  In the middle of London.  Not so sure about the outskirts.

Tuesday September 11 2018

If you step outside Sloane Square tube station, and immediately look to your left, you see this:

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This is one of those phenomena which doesn’t photo very informatively.  By which I mean that if you are there, it is far easier to see what is going on.  So let me now tell you what is going on.  This is the inside of a new building, but covered up, while they’re completing the building, with a sheet.  This sheet has another building painted on it.  And there is light coming at the sheet from behind.  When what is behind the sheet completely blocks out light, we see the picture on the surface of the sheet.  But when light comes at us from beyond the sheet, the picture on the sheet is overwhelmed, and we observe either light, or any shapes (in this case steel structure and scaffolding) in silhouette.

What I like about this effect is both its temorariness, and the fact that it ends up looking so much more interesting that it was intended to look.  The idea was that we would only see the picture on the sheet.  What we actually see is a whole lot more diverting.

Here is another photo I took of the same thing, this time including a bit more context:

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It’s a little more clear, in that photo, that there is a picture on a surface as well as all kinds of excitements behind it, on account of the sheet consisting of surfaces at an angle to one another.

Best of all, you can now see that one of the excitements behind the sheet - to be more exact, one of the structures behind the sheet - is a crane.

Monday September 10 2018

If someone is doing this ...:

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... is it okay to photo them and stick the photo up on the internet, somewhere like here?  I feel that it is okay, because, albeit in a very good way, the guy is making something of a spectacle of himself.  He is doing something very individual, in public, in a way that people are bound to notice.  Therefore, he doesn’t mind them noticing, or he wouldn’t do it.  Therefore, he won’t mind me noticing it.

Behind our self-transporter, we can just about make out the towers of Battersea Power Station.  Well, I can, because I know that’s what it is, because that’s where I took the above photo, this afternoon.  At the time, I was busy photoing the road, because in my opinion it is a very interesting road.  For reasons which I may, or may not, explain, here, some other time.

Meanwhile, I miss Transport Blog.

Sunday September 09 2018

Photoed by me, this afternoon, just outside Acton Central London Overground station:

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Time was when I would have completely trusted a blog posting like this one, which says good things about this enterprise.  Now I merely trust this blog posting enough to link to it, and enough to hope that what it says is true.  I’ve no reason to think that it isn’t, apart from the fact it’s on the internet.

I know what you’re thinking.  How can you be sure that I am for real?  I am, but I would say that, wouldn’t i?

Saturday September 08 2018

Earlier in the week, on my way to St James’s Park tube, and again on my way back home from St James’s Park tube, I photoed what I described to Google as a “concrete pump”.

This concrete pump was helping to build a clutch of apartment blocks where the old New Scotland Yard used to be, before New Scotland Yard moved to a new New Scotland Yard, back where the original Scotland Yard used once to be.

I got enough images to suggest that a “concrete pump” is indeed what this extraordinary contraption is, but not enough to suggest that I had named the contraption correctly, using the preferred words of those who deploy it.

Nevertheless, enjoy.  I did, especially the close-ups of the joints.

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All this, just to be able to squirt concrete from a lorry into a hole.  (I’m guessing, from the invisibility of building action behind all the solid fences, that his concrete was for the foundations.  This being where concrete, as opposed to steel on its own, still seems to be essential.) And with a big long arm like that one, with all its joints, I’m guessing it can reach all sorts of complicated and out-of-the-way spots.  (If you guess that I do a lot of guessing when I see something like this, then you guess right.)

There must be a reason why they don’t use a flexible tube, but have to make do with a rigid tube, but with the occasional rotating joint.  So elaborate are those joints that they end up looking biological rather than merely mechanical.  So, as with the previous posting, also about technology rather than biology, I have categorised this posting as, among other things, “other creatures”.  (I’ve also added “sculpture” to the category list.  Does regular sculpture come any better than this?  Sometimes maybe, but not very often.)

The concrete itself must be a marvel of blending and general wonderfulness.  Able to travel as a near-liquid along this elaborate pipe, under (guess) great pressure (another guess: that’s why the pipe has to be made of metal rather than of something bendier), but then able, at exactly the right time, to solidify in the deep cylindrical holes into which it is squirted.  At which point it has to stay solid for ever.  (Is something added, at the critical moment, to make it solidify?)

There is much that is very wrong with the world.  This sort of stuff is what is very right with the world.

Friday September 07 2018

Driverless cars will happen, eventually.  But when they do, who knows what they will be like, or look like, what they will do or not do, what other changes they will precipitate?  When this finally happens, it will surely be the railways, or the internet, in the sense that it will be big, and that nobody now knows how big or what the details will consist of.

Two driverless vehicle articles came to my attention today, both of which illustrate how very different driverless vehicles could end up being to the vehicles we are now familiar with.

This Dezeen report reports on a scheme by Land Rover to put eyes on the front of driverless vehicles, to communicate with pedestrians, the way pedestrians now look at the faces of drivers to negotiate who goes where, when.  Makes sense.  With no driver, and the vehicle driving itself, it could use a face, or else how will the vehicle be able to participate in after-you-no-after-you-no-afteryou-no-I-insist-so-do-I sessions?

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So, does a robot with a working face (in due course robot faces will be a lot better than that one) count as: “Other creatures”?  I say: yes (see below).

Will the Thomas the Tank Engine books prove to be a prophetic glimpse into the future of transport?  Eat your hearts out, SF movies.  Didn’t see that coming, did you?

And here is a posting about how people might choose to sleep in driverless vehicles on long journeys, instead of going by air.  The problem with going by air being that you have to go by airport, and that sleeping in the typical airplane is for many impossibly uncomfortable.  But, if we do sleep on long distance driverless vehicles, what will we do about going to the toilet?  Stop at a toilet sounds like an answer.  But what will the toilet be like?  Might it also be a vehicle?

The point is: nobody knows how driverless vehicles will play out.  Except to say that if they look like cars and vans and lorries look now, that would be an insanely improbable coincidence.

LATER: More about those eyes here.

Sunday September 02 2018

Here.

Sometimes a blog posting could just as well have been a tweet.  But most of my bog postings couldn’t.  If Twitter had arrived before blogging, blogging would surely have been considered an improvement.

Every so often, I rootle through my rather chaotic (increasingly so as I go backwards) photo-archive, and every so often when I’m doing that (as I was doing last night), a particular photo jumps out, that I have no recollection at all of having taken, but (and) which I really like.

Such as this one:

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The sunlight hitting the trees, and the pavement and the road, looks rather like snow.

That’s exactly as it came out of the camera.  Which was only my second ever digital camera, a Canon A70.

Which sort of suggests that although things like superzoom on your camera have got a lot zoomier and cheaper, the basic way these things work hasn’t changed that much.

The screens on the backs of cameras, on the other hand

Although come to think of it, what we see above is a scene with an abundance of light bouncing around in it.  It’s when things get darker that the latest cameras really come into their own, compared to this old thing.  The indoor photos in the same directory, of some long ago event in Brussels that I attended, now look very blurry and dated in their appearance.  Either that, or hideously flashed, which I hate, and never do now, no matter what my camera says.

Sunday August 26 2018

June 8th of this year was a good day for roof clutter.  In Pimlico:

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It’s the variety I like, and the mixture of the ancient (the chimney pots (including some quite superior ones)) and the modern (aerials), that I like.  The chimney pots are often very decorative on purpose, while the more modern technology is only decorative as a throw-away consequence of how it needs to be to do its various jobs.

In one of them, there is scaffolding.

It helped, at lot, that the weather was so nice.  In my opinion, almost anything looks good in really nice weather,

Tuesday August 21 2018

Yes, photoers photoed by me exactly ten years ago to the day, in the vicinity of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Bridge, Parliament, etc.:

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Cameras you don’t see much any more.  Even a free London newspaper you don’t see at all, any more.

Even the guy just smoking while photoing now looks a bit noughties.

Sunday August 19 2018

Earlier this evening I did some laundretting, and while I was there, this showed up outside:

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I still photo taxis with adverts on them, and I especially liked this one, advertising this..

It made me think of the last time I went up to the top of the Shard, just over a year ago.

So I took a browse through the photos I took that day, and this time around, this one particularly struck me:

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That was cropped to confine itself to the one building, and photoshop(clone)ed to resist the dullness of the day and general fogginess of the original.

Part of me wants to say that this is a classic case of the behind-the-scenes bit of a building, a chunk of it that you are not supposed to look at and get all aesthetic about.  It is what it is.

But I actuallly think that this is the facade of the building that the architects of it were most proud.  There is an exuberance about this roof, done in the equipment-as-decoration style, that is utterly lacking in the rest of the building.  The “official” bits of which are about as dull as dullness can get.  They didn’t have the budget to go full Lloyds Building, all over.  But they were able to go crazy on the roof, because the politicians whose job it was to tell them to redo the design more boringly didn’t give the roof any attention.  They thought they were building a machine for studying in, but only on the roof were they able to go mad with “expressing” that machineness.

I reckon they were delighted that the Shard was later put right next to this block of boredom with a great roof, enabling thousands of folks to gaze down on their favourite bit..  Gotcha, boredom police!

Okay, just a thought, and a thought that could well be wrong.  Maybe they really didn’t care how the roof looked.  But take a look through these photos of this mostly very dull slab, mostly taken from street level, of course, and see if you don’t share my suspicions.

Saturday August 18 2018

Indeed:

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Here.

She also wrote that NYT letter about white privilege, concerning which she Tweets:

Do not deny my lived experience.

Absolutely not.

Thursday August 09 2018

The final full day of The Great Heatwave of 2018 was two days ago, on August 7th.  August 8th was a couldn’t-make-up-its-mind day, and today was a could-make-up-its-mind day, and it made up its mind to be cold and wet and generally horrible, perhaps in honour of the Lord’s Test between England and India, today’s first day of which was totally rained off.  One day, magic beams will rise up into the sky from around the boundaries of all major cricket games and will divert the rain into giant vats, also on the boundary, and play will proceed no matter what the weather beyond the ground.  (Such devices will also transform global agriculture, and make the entire population of the world obese.)

So, as I was saying, two days ago was the last day of the Heatwave, and maybe it was this heat which cause this lady to be wearing, in a street near me, this headgear:

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This lady looked normal enough, apart from the headgear.  I made no secret of the fact that I was photoing her, and she clearly saw me doing this and didn’t seem to min.  Or maybe she was concentrating on her phoning and actually didn’t see me.  Either way, I waited until her face was hidden.

The sane explanation for the headgear was the heat.  And honestly, I do believe that this was what it was for.  That heatwave really was very hot.