Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on New York construction cranes in action
Andrew Duffin on New York construction cranes in action
Friday Night SMoke on English is weird
Scott Morter on 55 Broadway
Ben on Incoming imagery from Antoine
Brian Micklethwait on Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
Brian Micklethwait on The new US Embassy – from my roof
Brian Micklethwait on New Thin Things in New York (but not in Lower Manhattan)
Michael Jennings on The new US Embassy – from my roof
Alastair on New Thin Things in New York (but not in Lower Manhattan)
Most recent entries
- Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
- Referendum day graphics
- Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
- Why I like Cricinfo
- English is weird
- The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
- New York construction cranes in action
- Some thoughts on the Izzard effect
- Lioness eats camera
- An MP murdered
- A great new bridge in Iran
- Lions - Bears - Blackhawks
- An electric car recharging itself in The Cut
- WWWhite Van
- A good morning
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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we make money not art
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Category archive: The internet
And I’m back to trivia-mongering. Any day now, I’ll be back to opinion-mongering too:
It’s the first picture of these.
Engineer Thomas Selig, 28, set up his camera on a tripod 100 metres away from a cluster of female lions and cubs in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. He then retreated to a safari vehicle to take pictures with a remote control. A lioness decided to make off with his camera, and proceeded to chew it!
Lucky someone had a second camera, to show what happened to the first camera.
Actually, according to what I am now reading, a lot of people never stopped opinion-mongering.
For years I have wondered how to put videos done by others at this blog. My problem has always been that they were too big. 560 pixels wide instead of 500 pixels, which is the width here. This evening, I thought I observed that “Brexit: The Movie”, as shown at Bishop Hill, was the exact same width as stuff at my blog. So, I rootled around in the source code for the Bishop’s posting of Brexit, and dug up what seemed to be the relevant bit. It turned out I was wrong about the width. It was 560, same as it always seems to be, But having got this far I tried just changing the bit in the code where it said “560” to “500”, and that seemed to work. The video seemed to get a bit smaller. (I changed 500 to 300 just to be sure I wasn’t imagining it.) I did some more sums, which told me to change 315 to 280, and here it is, 500 pixels wide, fingers crossed:
There is some kind of EUro-metaphor or EUro-moral buried in this story, concerning believing that a straight-jacket was actually tighter and more rigid than it really was, but I’m too tired to be bothering about that.
Tomorrow, I will watch it.
Nothing much here today, but I just did three Samizdata postings today and yesterday:
I have always felt that the fascination with cat photos that has engulfed the internet was somehow more important than just being a matter of cat photos, engulfing the internet. Now it seems that cat photos are a threat to Islam, and must be forbidden. For me, cats means pure fun. No purpose is served. Other than the purpose (purr-puss) of having fun. And it seems that there is this crazy Sheikh who also thinks that photoing cats is pure fun also, and that this is why photoing cats should be forbidden. For him, I guess, fun is never pure. Quite the opposite.
One of my regular automatic google-searches is “face recognition”, and just now this has been alerting me to all the various tricks that are coming on stream for making face recognition not work, by putting on make-up, or spectacles, and such like.
Here is my contribution to this discussion:
I know what you’re thinking. Who might that be?
Exactly. Although, if you’re are supercomputer, you have probably worked it out. You have a special programme which tells you to take particular interest in any faces that are trying to not be recognised.
Most of my libertarian friends think that such tech solutions are the front line of this battle. I have long assumed that the world is moving rapidly towards a state where the question of what is X doing at the moment is technologically answerable, and impossible to prevent being answered. For me, among other desirable things, libertarianism is the claim that although we can see X saying or doing something we don’t approve of, we shouldn’t legally prevent him or her from doing that, unless it is really, really bad.
In a world of Total Surveillance by the Big Machine, the proliferation of stupid rules and regulations with no huge moral content becomes a problem like it never used to be. I means rules about things like what you should eat or smoke or, now, say in conversation. Rules like that mean that we can all now be seen and heard breaking such rules. (Okay, maybe not now, maybe not yet, but that’s where things are headed.) And that means that anyone who wants to fuck up your life or my life (for an actual real reason that has bugger all to do with the stupid rule actually being broken) can then do it. Worse, some legislative maniac might demand that anyone that the Big Machine sees breaking this or that rule that he personally is obsessed about, should be automatically fucked over, by the Big Machine, with no human intervention involved. With a big long list of exceptions, like legislators. The Big Machine can’t touch them. Libertarianism has arisen, partly, because it has become ever more necessary to insist on certain principles, principles which were imposed upon the world in former times by sheer ignorance of what other people were getting up to.
The other thing people have to do is develop thicker skins, psychologically speaking I mean, because although legislative pressure is not now a problem for most people, social pressure can become a big problem, for example if you find yourself being mobbed on the internet for some innocuous thing you said or ate. Just because a million idiots on the internet are screeching that you are an idiot, that doesn’t mean you are, or that if you are, it matters. When it does matter, bosses should chill, and not fire people just because the mob is screeching. I applaud, tentatively, the recent tendency to give social media mobsters a going-over, using the same methods on them that they have been using. Who is this mad bitch? What has she (it does often seem to be she) been up to lately? What is her job? Who is her boss? Etc. (In the age of cyber-bullying, I feel that I now understand witchcraft crazes better.)
Another problem is that as something easily mistaken for a state of everyone knowing everything increasingly pertains, that old illusion that everything will accordingly be centrally plannable is likely to keep rearing its very ugly head, and keep on having to be experienced as a disastrous illusion. (More libertarianism.) The point is, everyone doesn’t know everything. Nothing like. We can’t. Our heads aren’t big enough, and even if they were, knowledge is not like that. Everyone can known anything in particular that is easy to know (like where X is just now) that they want to know and ask the Big Machine about. That’s entirely different from actual omniscience.
For years I have struggled, with the graphics programme I have been using, to crop, not square (an option this programme does offer), and not to a size I specify (ditto), but to a ratio that I specify. For years, I could not do that. I repeatedly searched for such a thing, in other programmes, but evidently didn’t pick the right words.
Then, in France, I couldn’t remember the mere name (on such things do decisions hinge) of my regular photo-editing package, so I loaded PhotoCat, basically because it had “cat” in its name and I reckoned I could have Friday feline fun with it (ditto), to see if I could photo-edit with that, and I could, and I could do constant ratio rectangular cropping which was a most welcome surprise.
Thus are decisions made, by computer operatives. There are two rules for getting things done in the modern world. (1) Do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem. If it doesn’t help you to do something that you need to do, don’t bother with it no matter how cool everyone else says it is. Cool is not a good enough reason to be faffing about with something. (Faffing about to no purpose cannot be cool, because it isn’t, and because another rule is: worrying about being cool guarantees that you won’t be.)
And (2): if it does help you to do just one thing that you do want to do, then, if you can afford the money, the space, the bother, whatever, use it. Then, when you are using that thing for that one essential thing, then, you can move onwards to finding out if it will do any other merely desirable things. But, lots of merely desirable things and nothing essential is not good enough.
Using anything is difficult, if you only use it occasionally, to do something merely occasionally desirable. This rule applies at all times, in all places, and no matter how “user friendly” the gizmo or programme claims itself or is claimed by other users of it to be. Occasional is bother. Always. Don’t do occasional if you can avoid it.
Using anything is easy, on the other hand, if you do it regularly. This rule applies at all times, in all places, to all things, and no matter how “user hostile” enemies of the gizmo or process claim it to be. If a convoluted dance around the houses by a complicated route gets you an essential result, then dance. Convoluted will quickly become imprinted on your brain, and easy, and reinforced each time you (frequently) use it. This is how rats and ants do things. (Hurrah: other creatures!) They’ll probably outlast us. Ants definitely.
The above explains why the division of labour was so epoch-making. When you concentrate entirely on a small but rather tricky part of a big process, you will do it massively better than others attempting this tricky operation only sometimes, in among all the other things they are attempting. The damn near impossible becomes routine and easy.
So, I prepared for a life of frequently PhotoCatting fixed-ratio rectangles out of my photos. Using PhotoCat for that one thing.
But then, earlier this week I was cranking up PhotoCat, prior to some fixed-ratio cropping, and it refused to load. It got to 80%, and then stuck there. Who knows why? Was this PhotoCat’s fault? Was it something I was doing? Probably the latter, but that isn’t the point. It didn’t load. So, I went looking for alternatives, and I found one, called: PhotoPad.
And the bad news for PhotoCat is that PhotoPad also does proportional ratio cropping, and does it rather more conveniently, because PhotoPad operates on my hard disc and doesn’t have to be uploaded from the www each time. Unlike PhotoCat, PhotoPad is not www based, or whatever you call it, which I prefer because you can still use it if the www is out of action. It’s now all mine:
That being a snap of a rather unusual form of transport that I snapped, in France. I like how you can see what’s happening there, like when they zoom in on a detail in a computer picture in NCIS or a movie or something similar. (Question. Does art lead life in computing? Does stuff like the above start out in the movies, just so absolutely everyone can get what’s going on, and then migrate to real life?)
PhotoPad does something else which PhotoCat didn’t do, or not for me, which is rotate much more exactly. Most photo software seems to want to offer only rotation in 1 degree increments. If they can do better, they don’t volunteer the fact. But, PhotoPad does volunteer this. With PhotoPad, instead of rotating something 1 degree or 2 degrees (or 359 degrees), you can do 1.38 degrees or 1.77 degrees or 358.61 degrees. You’d be surprised, perhaps, how often that is a desirable refinement. You can do it by eye, and let the numbers take care of themselves. Terrific. Cool, even.
So. PhotoCat now offers me … nothing. So, … see above.
Just now, while checking out the PhotoCat link for this posting, I successfully cranked up PhotoCat. Whatever went wrong before has now gone away.
There are four such bridges in the world.
And the pictures follow: Ponte Vecchio; Krämerbrücke, Erfurt; the Rialto in Venice; Pulteney Bridge in Bath. (The old London Bridge is, alas, no more.)
But then the bit about how there are four such bridges was crossed out, and this was added:
Update: Apparently, there are a few more. Pont des Marchands in Narbonne, France, is one example.
Narbonne? I was in Narbonne only days ago, hearing GodDaughter 2 and her pals sing the solo parts in the Mozart Requiem. Afterwards, we walked beside the river back to the car. Did I, I wonder, photo this Pont des Marchands? I do recall bridges, and I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t photoed them. Here are a couple of Narbonne bridges, that I photoed then:
So, did the Pont des Marchands figure in my bridge-snapping?
Image google image google.
The Pont des Marchands looks like this:
I had already copied those two bridge pictures above into my FranceMay2016/bridges subdirectory, but in that directory, there was no sign of anything with shops on top of it. However, another look through all the pictures I took in Narbonne that evening brought me to ... this:
The bridge in the front there is the one in the left of the two bridges above. Behind that little footbridge, could that be the Pont des Marchands, seen from the other side? Got to be. Those Ms certainly look encouraging. Short answer, after only a very little more image googling: yes.
There’s nothing quite like seeing something for yourself. And the next best thing is when you photo it without seeing it, and then see later that you did see it after all.
Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference. Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs. And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:
Conference programme here.
1.1: An attender. 1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden. 1.3: Syed Kamall. 1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides. 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro. 3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook. 3.2: Brook. 3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books. 3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window. 4.1: Anton Howes. 4.2: Howes and Brook. 4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.
Travel and learn.
I mentioned in a recent posting that picture editing here in Thuir is different. This is because I can’t remember the name of the photo-editing programme that I usually use, and am having to use a different one. And the one I am using is called PhotoCat. Irritating. But one very good thing has emerged from all the irritation, which is that PhotoCat can do cropping which follows the original shape of the picture,which with me is always 4x3. This means that I can now crop a picture and still have the final result the exact same 1000x750 pixels that all my other pictures are, and that means that I can easily do a much smaller version and make. I could do that with my regular programme, but only with a lot of fiddling about.
PhotoCat also does rotating in a way that takes you straight to the biggest version you can then have, also while preserving the same proportions.
Here, for instance, appropriately enough, is picture of a cat which I took in Castelnou yesterday. On the left is the original snap. On the right is the cropped version.
Whether the picture above actually needed cropping is not the point. The point is that cropping, while keeping the shape the same, was painless.
As is rotating. This same cat later did a bit of rotating of its own, so here is the original of it doing that, with my left foot intruding. And on the right is my rotation of its rotating, also cropped:
PhotoCat is a web based application, or I think it is. It works pretty much like you own it, except that if your internet is down, it presumably doesn’t work.
This posting has been done to ensure that I do not forget the name of this programme. PhotoCat. By which I mean PhotoCat.
As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old. Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.
I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket. This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket. Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.
Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.
When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel. Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting. Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket. I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades. The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life. But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.
Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do. And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still. So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now. On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night. As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains. Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.
I know the feeling. One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo. I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst. I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.
A bit of a meander, I’m afraid. But don’t mind me. You’d best be going now. I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.
I’ve already done one posting about the walk that GodDaughter One and I did along the New River (further reaches of) last Saturday, and as I result I learned (thank you Natalie) about Pollarding. Here is another posting, about a duck which GD1 and I observed that day on the New River, and this time what I hope to learn is what make of duck this is.
Here is the duck:
Here are a couple of shots of the duck with his Mrs.
Here’s one of those shots where the principle of a good photo photoed badly is taken to its outer limits. You can see what I was going for and how great it might have been, but you can also see that it didn’t work:
Don’t bother clicking on that one. No point in that being any bigger, is there?
To compensate for the above failure, here is a final head shot of Mr Duck:
I don’t usually post pictures of wildlife on this blog, basically because I feel that I don’t have anything to contribute. Other people – a lot of other people – do this several dozen times better than I ever will. But this duck genuinely interested me. Until I saw it, I had no idea that such a bird was to be seen in the vicinity of London, looking like it had just flown in from Africa or Brazil or some such luridly colourful place.
And whereas, when you have a question about the modern world, you can usually now just type that question into a computer and up comes the answer in just a few seconds, that doesn’t work when you have photoed a fancy-looking bird. I’m sure that this will come, but unless I entirely missed it, the time when this works is not with us quite yet. I cannot now just stuff this photo into my computer and say: What brand of bird is this?
Perhaps this can already be done. In which case a commenter can tell me this, and tell me the result that he or she got when he or she carried out this procedure. He or she can tell me both about photo-searching, and about the duck. Win win.
Blog and learn. That’s the plan, anyway.
After writing the above, I tried typing “fancy duck london” into the www and asked for pictures, and a picture appeared in among all the irrelevant nonsense that looked like what I saw. So now, I know the answer:
Specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century a large feral population was established in Great Britain; ...
Mandarin duck. Blog and learn.
I took a ton of photos, including this one, of the Wheel:
And then this one, of Big Ben:
And then this one of the Wheel again, and a general view of the River:
I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to being able to enjoy a cricket match and a walkabout, simultaneously.
The T20I, as they now call it, has worked out perfectly. England are in the final (see above) by beating NZ. Good.
And the West Indies are in the final also, because they beat India. Even though Gayle was out in only the second over of their very difficult chase. The Windian Ladies are also in their final. Also good.
Good because cricket needs the West Indies to care about cricket and to go on playing it and playing it well. (Indians are not going to lose interest in cricket any time soon, no matter what their team does or doesn’t do.)
Time was when the Windies were great at test cricket. Then they became crap at test cricket and fans like me feared that they might soon switch their attention to a quite different sort of game. Well, now they have. Twenty-twenty cricket.
My photos of London contain may oddities, which I sometimes only notice later, and often only much later.
Take this photo, for instance, which was one of the first I took from the top of One New Change, on the second of two visits I made in the early summer of 2012, on May 22nd:
I like it. Big Ben, seen through the Wheel, the Wheel presumably being what I thought I was photoing at the time. Outstanding roof clutter, right next to the Wheel. The pleasingly eccentric Oxo House, slightly nearer to us. Good stuff, albeit rather dimly lit.
But what about that big photo-within-the-photo, of what looks like the late Lord Mountbatten, standing next to a young man who looks vaguely like a young Prince Andrew, underneath where it says “Sea Containers House”? What on earth is that about?
Image google “Mountbatten Sea Containters House”, and all quickly becomes clear.
The largest ever photograph of the Royal Family has been unveiled on a prominent South Bank building in the heart of the capital to celebrate the Queen’s upcoming Diamond Jubilee.
When finished, a day or two afte4r I took my photo, the complete photo on Sea Containers House looked like this:
I caught the process of this photo being contrived at its very earliest stage. And yes, that is a young Prince Andrew.
The only thing I remember about all that Jubilee fuss in 2012 is that, for some reason or other, I pretty much ignored it. I think I may have watch the boats on the telly. Had I paid more attention, it would have been obvious to me soon after I took my photo of that photo what had been going on.
Google is wonderful. Also very sinister. Very sinister because so wonderful.
Yes, I’ve been continuing to photo taxis with adverts. Here are half a dozen of the most recent such snaps.
First up, further proof, if you need it, that the internet has not abolished television. People still like to be passively entertained, surprise surprise. But the internet is in the process of swallowing television, so that they end up being the same thing:
Next, become an accountant! Note how they include the word “taxi” in the advertised website, presumably to see whether advertising on taxis is worth it. Note to LSBF: I have no plans to become an accountant.
Note also the Big Things picture of London, something I always like to show pictures of here, and note also how out of date this picture is. No Cheesegrater, for a start:
Next up, a taxi advertising a book. I do not remember seeing this before, although I’m sure it has happened before:
Next, Discover America. I thought it already had been:
Visit a beach. I didn’t crop this photo at all, because I like how I tracked the taxi and its advert, and got the background all blurry, and I want you to see all that blurriness. Nice contrast between that and the bright colours of the advert. A little bit of summer in the grey old February of London:
Finally, a snap I took last night, in the Earls Court area. And now we’re back in the exciting world of accountancy, this time in the form of its Beautiful accounting software:
As you can see, it was pitch dark by the time I took this. But give my Lumix FZ200 even a sliver of artificial light and something solid to focus on, and it does okay, I think. A decade ago, that photo would have been an unusable mess.
I am finding that taxi advertising changes very fast these days. All of the above photos, apart from the one with the beaches, was of an advert I had not noticed before.
Which means that in future years, these taxi photos will have period value, because the adverts will have changed over and over again with the passing of only a handful of years.
Blog buddy 6k recently did a posting about a Finnish word, “kalsarikännit”, which apparently means: “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”.
I came across the big word in the title of this posting as a result of photoing a van, as it entered Victoria Street, on Tuesday:
What got me photoing this van was not any long word on it, for there are none. No, what got my attention was how amazingly posh this van looked. Amazingly posh like one of those amazingly posh magazines about Design, two-thirds full of posh car, posh frock, posh watch and posh property adverts. Goddaughter 1, if she sees this, will surely be delighted. The market for aesthetically sophisticated architectural photography (which is what she mostly does for a living) has now spread to the sides of vans.
But what is BRS? BRS.NL was a big clue. Dutch, yes? Yes. Here’s the website. I had a rootle around in it, and that was when I came across “Toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.
Here is the original Dutch:
Het accent van de werkzaamheden van BRS Traffic Systems BV ligt op het ontwikkelen, produceren, installeren en onderhouden van toegangsbeveiligingsproducten zoals Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speeddoors en Pevac®Traps.
By the way, “van” is not the Dutch for a van.
The only translation of “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten” that I could coax out of the internet was the English translation of the above verbiage:
The emphasis of the work of BRS Traffic Systems BV is the development, production, installation and maintenance of access security as Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speed Doors, and Pevac®Traps.
So, “access security products”? Fancy metal gates, in other words. That’s not as good as “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”, but I reckon “kalsarikännit” is not as impressive as “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.
Thank heavens for copy-and-paste.
German, I know, and Dutch, which I presume to be very similar, would seem to have this ability to construct infinitely long words, like good trains. So perhaps this particular word is not that surprising. But I like it. I wonder if there is a single German, or Dutch, word for “a word that is in principle infinitely long, to which you can keep adding stuff for ever, like a goods train”. Probably. It could, that is to say, be devised.
I still can’t really get used to it. I refer to how, when I see something intriguing, and photo it, I can look at it when I get home and look it up.
So, for instance, the day after David Bowie died (and the day that the news of his death was all over London (and presumably lots of other places besides (that day being a particular good day for me and my photoing (call Hemingway!!!!)))), I came upon this intriguing sign, outside a Church near Waterloo Station:
Hm, that looks interesting, I thought, as I perused this photo this morning. I must get inside that, some time Real Soon Now. Maybe I’ll go visit the place this afternoon.
And then I realised. This is the twenty first century, and I can get inside it, right here in my kitchen.
When I did, I encountered another of those pictures in which whoever did it is deciding which of London’s Big Things are worthy of inclusion in his picture of London’s Big Things:
As regulars here will know, these non-photographic assemblages of London’s Big Things are a big thing, for me, here, just now (those Boris bikes with Big Things on them also having been snapped on this same David-Bowie-died-yesterday day). Is there any city in the world with the sheer number of very recognisable Big Things, ancient and modern, that London now possesses? I reckon that for both quantity and quality, London’s Big Things have all other cities grovelling in self-abasement. But, what do I know? I only really know London.
Another thing I can’t quite get used to is that whenever I have a question that I don’t know the answer to, and to which google may not be so suited either, I can ask the Samizdata commentariat. I must ask them this, Real Soon Now.