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: The internet

Tuesday April 15 2014

I love this, from AndrewZ at Samizdata, commenting on this piece by Natalie Solent, which quotes a couple of particularly demented pieces of writing in the Guardian, about cupcake fascism (this phrase should never be forgotten) and about the horrors of tourism.  (Natalie has been agreeably busy at Samizdata of late.)

Says AZ:

The online edition of any newspaper that isn’t behind a paywall relies on advertising to generate income and this depends on maximising the number of page views. The simplest way to do that is to publish outrageous and provocative opinions that will attract links from elsewhere and start a blazing row among the regular commenters. The great liberal newspaper of old is now little more than a group blog that trolls its own readers for advertising revenue.

No link from here to the original pieces, about cupcake fascism or tourism.  Oh no.  BmdotCOM is not falling into that trap.

Now that I have read the rest of them, I can report that all the comments at Samizdata on this posting are pretty good and worth a look.

Monday March 31 2014

I have been following the World T20 cricket tournament now taking place in Bangladesh on Cricinfo in the last few days or weeks or whatever it is, and it has been non-stop thrills and dramas and surprises, the latest being an amazing game between Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Sri Lankan fans had been urging the replacement of Sri Lankan spinner Mendis by Sri Lankan spinner Herath for some time, and they were not wrong.  Mendis in the earlier game that Sir Lanka lost against England: 4 overs 0 maidens 52 runs 0 wickets. Herath in today’s game against NZ: 3.3 overs 2 maidens 3 runs 5 wickets.  NZ, chasing a modest 119, only managed 60.

Things will probably calm down as the final games approach, as often happens at big international sports tournaments.  I seem to recall many football World Cups starting out fun but then getting duller and duller, culminating in four Continental European teams beating each other one-nil after extra time or nil nil with penalty shoot-outs, and one of them (I immediately forget which) gets to win it.  But in the early rounds, when teams like Cameroon and Croatia and England are still involved, it is fun fun fun.  I can even remember the long ago times when Scotland used sometimes to be involved in these early dramas.

I can’t say I was too distressed this morning about England being humiliated by The Netherlands.  When I saw the scorecard after it was all over (I had been doing something else) I actually laughed, and not bitterly.  Well done the Dutch.  This is one of those results that are “good for cricket”.  Cricket badly needs to extend its empire beyond the usual British Imperial suspects, and nothing attracts attention in an outsider country like their outsider team thrashing one of the insider teams.

England were never going to win this T20 tournament.  They did okay for most of it, and only crashed into this Dutch debacle after they were definitely about to go home anyway.  Besides which, this is T20, and crazy things happen in T20.

England were a bit unlucky against New Zealand, when rain gave NZ the win that they might not have managed had it not rained, given England’s quite decent total.  England’s best game was against Sri Lanka (see above), when Hales hit a brilliant century.  Lucky Herath wasn’t yet playing.  And England did not disgrace themselves against South Africa.  The margin, a mere three runs, flattered England, because actually it was all over several balls before that, with Bresnan only adding a bit of consolation slogging off the last few balls that got England near, but couldn’t have got them near enough in the absence of no-balls.  Even so, decent effort, jolly good game, etc.  Like every other England fan, I have no idea why Jade Dernbach remains in the England team, despite being regularly clobbered for about fifty.  This time he conceded 0-44 in three overs and didn’t bowl his final one, and was dropped for the final game against The Netherlands.  Will he play for England ever again?

The Dutch, on the other hand, had a terrific tournament.  They got totally creamed by Sri Lanka and beaten by New Zealand.  But in the first round they pulled off an amazing win against Ireland, where run rate calculations meant that in order to go through to the next round they had to score something like a hundred and ninety something in about fourteen overs.  The Dutch were never going to manage that.  But guess what, they did, and they eliminated both Ireland and Zimbabwe.  Astonishing.  Then, they gave South Africa one hell of a fright, losing a game by six runs that they were well course to win.  I was not amazed when they beat England.

Australia didn’t win a single game at the group stage, and were yesterday bowled out by India for 86.

The white guys have not been doing very well at this tournament.  It’s happening in Asia and the Asian teams are the strongest.

Saturday March 29 2014

Interesting.  I just looked at a particular classical CD on amazon.co.uk, and it told me I’d already ordered it, last October.  As it happens, I knew this.  I was just looking to see what had been happening to the price of the CD in question.  But I am impressed that they reminded me.

In general, Amazon has a clunky, even twentieth century feel to it.  Which for a clunky twentieth century guy is very reassuring.

The automatic delivery to my computer of audio files of CDs I have already ordered in plastic form is very cunning.  It all arrives on my computer automatically, and arranges itself on something called my Cloud Player.  It is now late at night, and although the speakers on my computer are nothing like as good as my real speakers on my real CD player, they are nearer and can thus be quieter.  I’m playing one of these audio files now, which is one I have ordered in plasticated form but which has not yet arrived.  This way, I can play it as soon as I pay for it, just as if I was living in the twenty first century!

And I’ve got to admit that there is something rather agreeable about not having to get out of my chair to hear music.

Saturday March 22 2014

As anyone who noticed the sudden piling up of moronic spam comments here may have suspected, I had an internet disconnect crisis last night, and it was still in effect this morning.  I fiddled about with wires, last night and again this morning, because the last time it happened this is what solved it.  I did lots of rebooting last night to no avail, so didn’t bother to do this again this morning.  Instead I rang The Guru.

It was amazing how much The Guru was this morning able to learn about the problem, by which I mean to learn what the problem was not, just by unleashing his remote control Superpowers.  He then suggested another rebooting, and I did this, just to humour him, and back it all came.  But why?  What was I doing right, all of a sudden?  Very troubling.

It’s like that pivotal moment in movie history when Harrison Ford, in one of the first and good trio of Star Wars movies, got a bit of electrical kit in his spaceship to work properly by smacking it.

Friday March 21 2014

Scientific American:

The skeletons of six cats, including four kittens, found in an Egyptian cemetery may push back the date of cat domestication in Egypt by nearly 2,000 years.

The bones come from a cemetery for the wealthy in Hierakonpolis, which served as the capital of Upper Egypt in the era before the pharaohs. The cemetery was the resting place not just for human bones, but also for animals, which perhaps were buried as part of religious rituals or sacrifices. Archaeologists searching the burial grounds have found everything from baboons to leopards to hippopotamuses.

BBC:

Three policemen in Pakistan guarding the prime minister’s home have been suspended for negligence after a cat devoured one of the premier’s peacocks, it seems.

It seems?  Well, did it or did it not?

UPROXX:

This Japanese gum commercial makes me wish I had a super fluffy gigantic cat to help navigate the horrors of public transportation and carry me around, avoiding traffic and other pedestrian suckers who don’t have adorable cat chauffeurs. Then I remember that if a cat that big existed, it would probably just maul me to death, ...

Guardian:

Why are there so many cats on the internet?

The problem is that they are asking the wrong question, which should not be “Why cats?” so much as “Why not dogs?” And the answer is that dogs are trying too hard. When a dog gets in a box or hides under the duvet or wears a funny hat, it is because he is desperately trying to impress you – longing for your validation and approval. When a cat does one of those things, it is because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. And it usually was. It is cool, and effortless, and devoid of any concern about what you might think about it. It is art for art’s sake.

This, at any rate, is one of the theories (of which there are an awful lot) about why content related to cats seems to gain so much traction online.

Maybe.  I guess that’s part of it.

The original reason for my Feline Friday cat chat is that cat chat on the internet, at first only at inconsequential blogs such as this one but now everywhere, illustrates that the number one impact of the internet is that there is now a new way to be amused, and cats are amusing.  The serious political impact of this is that with the internet it is easier to concentrate on what you consider amusing, and to ignore what people who consider themselves to be more important than you consider to be more important.  This really ticks them off.  Which is nice.  The internet puts politicians, for instance, in their proper place, on the sidelines.  Cats may or may not be important, depending on how mad you are, but they are amusing.

The willingness of the big old Mainstream Media to tell frequent cat stories, as they now show and do, illustrates that these organs have now accepted that they no longer control the news agenda.  If the people of the world decide that it is news that an angry 22-pound cat that trapped a family of three and prompted a frantic 911 call has been sent to an animal shelter, then news it is, and the big old media now accept this.

Tuesday March 18 2014

I still can’t get used to the internet.  I never really will.  You can find all kinds of stuff out in a few seconds.  You know that, and so do I know it.  But, unlike (probably) you, I will never get truly used to this.

Last night, for instance, there was a TV show on about Fossils, fronted by this old Fossil Professor, and mention was made of – and a little sliver of film was shown of – a building (with lots of fossils in it) called the Royal Ontario Museum.  I said, that looks like that Daniel Libeskind museum in Berlin, in the saw cuts in big blocks style.  So let’s see about that Royal Ontario Museum shall we?  Sure enough, that is Libeskind also.

I had imagined that the saw cut style was specifically used only for that Berlin museum, to make you wince when you look at the building, same as you do when you find out the grizzly details of what happened to all those Berlin Jews.

However, it now seems (to me) that Libeskind just likes doing saw cuts.  Am I getting this wrong?

Maybe I could google that question also, and find out if anyone else agrees with the above.  But that’s enough answers for one posting.

Friday March 14 2014

From Tim Berners-Lee, no less, on the occasion of the twenty fifth anniversary of his glorious invention, the www:

I never expected all these cats.

Berners-Lee also mentioned something about a Magna Carta for the web, but I am afraid the cat remark has overwhelmed all that stuff.

Or, maybe the cat angle has drawn attention to the Magna Carta stuff, which would otherwise have been ignored even more.  (I am starting to notice many rather irrelevant cats in adverts nowadays.)

Sunday March 09 2014

Christopher Seaman, in his book Inside Conducting (pp. 89-90):

If you truly love a work, you’re bound to feel emotionally involved while you’re conducting it, and if this doesn’t get across to the musicians you’ll get a cold performance.  Some conductors need to use bigger gestures than others to communicate with an orchestra.  It takes great aptitude and long experience to pour your heart out yet still maintain the necessary composure.  Professional musicians don’t need a good conductor to be over-demonstrative in order to pick up his musical ideas and feelings.  I sometimes tell students who thrash around ineffectively with paroxysms of emotion that they’re meant to be cooking the music, not eating it.  (The French term for conductor is chef d’orchestre, but that’s a coincidence.) James Levine is reputed to have said, “My tears only hurt my ability to make the audience cry.” And Richard Strauss said to Rudolf Schwarz, “Don’t sweat – let the orchestra sweat.  Don’t weep – let the public weep!”

I came across an approving reference to the bit about “cooking the music, not eating it” in a review of this book in the BBC Music Magazine, November 2013 issue.

I do like how you can chase these things up properly nowadays.

Wednesday March 05 2014

That at any rate is the date that all the workers working on it have given me, when I asked them:

image image

Although, I suspect that the word “local” is supermarketese for “half as expensive again as you would like”.  Fair enough, their gaff their rules.  And it all helps.  Even if the only consequences are that the other local late-night stores drop their prices by a few pennies and keep their milk a bit colder, well, every little helps.

But then again, see the picture on the left where it says “Great OFFERS” three times over.  So, maybe the downward price pressure radiating from this new place will be quite substantial.

I also think it’s a very smart move to feature the opening time very prominently on the front.  No matter how often I am told which shop stays open until when, I forget, and 6am-11pm every day is nice and easy.

The shops that are being replaced by this Morrisons are (a) a Jessops camera shop, and (b) a remainder bookshop.  Both replaced by the internet, presumably.  But, if you are caught short for sugar or coffee or cheap wine at 10.30pm, the internet doesn’t do it.

Tuesday March 04 2014

My Ashes Lag is really being taken care of, by the South Africa Australia cricket, which is in South Africa, God bless it.  It starts at Really Early am London time.  Crucially, it keeps on doing that.  You don’t cure Ashes lag with just one virtuous wake-up.  You have to string a bunch of them together.  Nothing like a really good test series that starts at Really Early am day after day to do that.  It’s just a pity the series is not a fiver rather than a mere threeer.

Australia are crushing South Africa in the third and final game, just as they did in the first game, and just as South Africa crushed them in the second.  And I sort of told you so:

Mitchell Johnson won the first game for Australia, then did nothing in the second, but I think I heard that the pitch for the third game will suit Johnson, so maybe it will be an Australia win.

Well, not really, I mostly sat on the fence.  But, at least I am not surprised.  South Africa are 71-4 in their second innings, with Amla out but AB de Villiers still there.  At tea they were 15-3.

I really hope they have lots more one-day games, and that at least some of them start good and early.

The other really good news, aside from the Ashes Lag thing, is that South African captain Graeme Smith has now retired from internatioanal cricket, and can now devote all his energies to getting Surrey back on their feet.

Rather annoyingly, what with me trying to get other stuff done, cricket remained interesting all day, with Pakistan chasing a vast Bangladesh score, in the Asia Cup, or something.  The highpoint of that was the innings of Shahid Afridi which began like this, the W at the start being the fall of the wicket that brought him in:

W 6 2 6 1 |6 2 . 6 6

35 in ten balls, in other words.  At the start of all that, Pakistan were in a seemingly hopeless position.  After those two overs, the chase was doable, and they duly did it, despite Afridi having a bad back which meant he couldn’t stretch out and avoid being run out, just after he’d raced to fifty.

Tomorrow, the decisive SA v Aus action is likely to come at the start, so that’s more good news on the Ashes Lag front.  If early wickets fall, especially that of de Villiers, that will be it.  If they don’t, and especially if de Villiers hangs around for a decent time, South Africa would have an outside chance of a draw.  But, I doubt it.  South Africa’s only real chance is if Johnson gets hurt early in the day, just like Steyn got hurt early on day one.

Incoming, entitled “Request Link Removal”:

Dear Brian,

I am contacting you on behalf of Eurostar, we work with their Online Marketing team and are currently reviewing the number of links pointing to the Eurostar website. In order to comply with Google’s regulations, there are a number of links which we are required to remove or nofollow. We have identified such links from your website and would like to request that you either remove the link or add a nofollow tag to it.

The link(s) we wish to be removed can be found here:
[original link written out but it doesn’t fit properly here]

Please can you let me know once you have altered the link or if you have any questions,

Kind Regards,
Marleen Vonk
SEO Account Executive
360i | 62-70 Shorts Gardens | Covent Garden| London, WC2H 9AH

The link in the above email is to an entire month of postings here, so it took me a while to find the offending link in question.  I was half hoping I wouldn’t find it, so I could send a sarky email back saying: Be more specific.  Which posting?  No such luck.  It’s in this posting, where is says “November”.  Worth following that link because it is to one of my very best ever (I think) photos.

I don’t understand what a “nofollow tag” is or how to make such a thing work, so I just removed the link.

My link originally went “http(semicolon)//stpancras.eurostar.com/en-gb/why-we-moving” (I’ve changed “:” to “(semicolon)” there to stop this version causing more grief).  Trying StPancrasDotEurostarDotCom now gets Google saying:

Oops! Google Chrome could not find stpancras.eurostar.com.  Did you mean: www.­eurostar.­com/­stpancras

Interesting that Google omits the question mark there, I think.

So, presumably this is a case of an old Eurostar website that they no longer want anyone reading.

Or is it?  I don’t know.  Can anyone tell me more about what just happened?

To me, it all has a slightly objectionable taste to it.  The link to our site no longer works, so you must remove your link to it.  Why?  Why can’t the link just not work any more?  Does it clog up the internet, or something, with repeated attempts to make the link work?  Is that what this is about?

Wednesday February 26 2014

Seconds after I’d finished photoing that camel, I took this photo:

image

But whereas I was quickly able to find out about the camel, and about how there’s a pub called that (partly), and so on, I was unable to find out anything about “SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS” other than a phone number, which I dare not ring because I don’t really have a proper question to ask them other than: do you exist?  There is no website.  The www knows of no buildings that have been designed by SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS.

So, if you work for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS or if you know anyone who works for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS, please add a comment.

My theory is SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS used to exist, which is when they put up that big sign.  But, before the www came into existence, they went out of existence.  And now, nobody can be bothered to take the sign down.

Tuesday January 21 2014

As I said in the previous post, my talk about digital photography at Christian Michel’s last night went well, in the sense of me feeling it went well, and it seeming to be well received.  I occasionally put my sheets of paper down and extemporised upon some point I was making, but mostly, this was it.  No links, no photos, no extras.  (They may come later, I hope, but I promise nothing.) Just the bare text that I read out, complete with all the errors of grammar and spelling, of fact and interpretation, that may or may not be present:

I have given several talks in this 6/20 series, but until now this has been because I have had both questions and answers to offer to the assembled throng.  I have had theses to present, clutches of facts to pass on.

This time I don’t know the answers.  I merely want to know the answers.  What is the impact of digital photography? What is it doing to us?  Since fixing this subject matter with Christian I have made, I think, some progress in arriving at answers, but only some.  Tonight I expect to make further progress.

Luckily, for my purposes, we have all been alive throughout the period of digital photography’s mass use, and have observed it in action, even if we may not always have wanted to.  Has anyone here not taken a digital photo?  Just as I thought.  (It actually says that here.  And this.)

*****

I will start my remarks by quoting a remark made by an American whom I overheard about fifty years ago, on the Acropolis in Athens, the place where what is left of the Parthenon stands.  I was there trying to do some sketching, a skill I never got any good at but spent a few years attempting.  He was doing pictures with his seriously pre-digital camera.  As soon as he had finished photoing, he wanted to leave, presumably to get to his next photoing place.  But his family were enjoying the Acropolis in the morning sunshine.  Said he to his family: “Come one, come on!  We’ll look at it when we get home!”

This outburst captures a great deal about what people object to about digital photography, but it also reminds us that photography, by Everyman as opposed to by professionals, is nothing new.  Digital photography is partly just the intensification of a process that has been in place in our culture for well over a century.  But it is more than that.

Thursday December 26 2013

Now on display in the window of a local Oxfam shop, the one in Strutton Ground:

image

Here it is on Amazon.

(Further Amazon thoughts from me here.  The weird thing about Amazon is that it seems, still, to be a hangover from the dot com boom bust era.  It doesn’t make a profit, but still people want to own its shares.  Explanations anyone?)

But back to the latest England Ashes tour, which has become another very tough one.  Day One at Melbourne was hard going for England, not at all like their previous Day One at Melbourne.  And you can bet Clarke remembered that day when he put England in this time around.  This time over, he wanted to knock England over for something like 98, and end the day with Australia on something like 157-0.  At least England escaped that.  They didn’t do terribly badly, just not terribly well.  All the England top five got starts.  Only Pietersen got past 50.  It won’t be enough.  Australia will surely score quicker, get a lead, and win well, again.

Trott broken.  Swann gone.  They’re “playing for pride” now.  The pride, that is to say, of not being beaten 5-0, which they probably will be.

Australia aren’t especially good, and England aren’t especially bad.  But Australia are now definitely better in all departments, and with no interruptions or fluctuations caused by the weather like in England, they just keep on winning and England keep on losing, not just every match but pretty much every session.  Oh well.  Only a game.

England’s problem now is that the formerly great oldies (Cook, Pietersen, Bell, Anderson), are not yet bad enough to drop, and the newbies are not yet good enough.  But, if they don’t drop the oldies, the newbies will never get good.

Friday December 13 2013

When tube drivers get above themselves and start doing stand-up comedy routines over the intercom during tube journeys, I find this nearly unbearable.  I think this is because, when on the tube, I go into a sort of trance, basically to cut out the din of the train, but comedy over the intercom makes that trance impossible to stay in.  I find myself listening carefully, despite myself, in case the exhibitionist failed comedian says something of importance, and with that, I am obliged to listen also to the train noise.  Horrible.

This (photoed yesterday by me at Embankment Tube Station), on the other hand, is not something I mind at all:

image

That’s right, platitudinous philosophical ruminations where there should be significant information about service interruptions.  But, it didn’t bother me.  In fact, I quite liked it.

Writing, as I recall writing in this piece (about how to argue), is a branch of good manners.  (In that I actually said “publishing”, but the point is identical.) This is because writing is easily ignored.  It puts the reader in control.

The same applies to blogging, in fact to the internet generally.  It isn’t an interruption.  You are in complete control of it.  Except when the damn thing starts making noises (like those damned tube comedians), that you have to spend ages tracking down the noise and switching it off.