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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: The internet

Monday May 02 2016

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.

Friday April 08 2016

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:

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Here are a couple of shots of the duck with his Mrs.

imageimage

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:

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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:

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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.

Friday April 01 2016

So back on Wednesday afternoon, I said I’d be going out, and I did go out.

I took a ton of photos, including this one, of the Wheel:

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And then this one, of Big Ben:

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And then this one of the Wheel again, and a general view of the River:

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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.

Tuesday March 08 2016

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:

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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:

image

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.

Monday March 07 2016

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:

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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:

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Next up, a taxi advertising a book. I do not remember seeing this before, although I’m sure it has happened before:

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Next, Discover America.  I thought it already had been:

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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:

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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:

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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.

Thursday March 03 2016

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:

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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.

Tuesday February 16 2016

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:

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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:

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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.

Thursday February 11 2016

C’est Magnifique:

image

Paris has been casting about for exciting new buildings.  That one was rejected, but le www can soon put that right.

After a long period of imposed timidity, the architecture of Paris is coming back to life.

That modern house perched on the top is inspired.

It’s London envy, I think.  All those French people under thirty who can only find work in London, going to London, and then reporting back that (a) London is cool, and that (b) a lot of this is down to its recent Big Things.  So, make some Grand Choses for Paris.

My theory of why it was turned down.  That what this wondrous Chose proves is that if people were allowed to do exactly what they like, in cities like Paris, it would be magnifique.  To put it another way, this wondrous thing makes planners feel unnecessary, and they really don’t like that.

It is strangely lacking in colour, but again, this is easily correctable.  Perhaps the monochromeness of it all is to make the architects feel more necessary.

Saturday February 06 2016

Today I have been what passes with me for busy.  By this I do not mean that I have been doing anything along the lines of work, of benefit to others.  Oh no.  But I have been paying attention to a succession of things, all of which involved me not being in much of a state to do anything else.

There was a game of cricket, there was a game of rugger, and a game of football.  England defeated South Africa.  England defeated Scotland.  And Spurs defeated Watford.  So, three for three. And then I went to hear a talk at Christian Michel’s, about The Unconscious, Freudian and post-Freudian.  Freud, it turns out, was right that there is an Unconscious, but wrong about a lot of the details.

On my way home from that talk, I took a photo.  Technically it was very bad photo, because it was taken through the window of a moving tube train.  It is of an advert at a tube station.  But my photo did the job, which was to immortalise here yet another assemblage of London’s Big Things, in an advert:

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That’s only a bit of the picture, rotated a bit, lightened and contrasted a bit and sharpened a bit.

The advert was for these visitor centres, which sound suspiciously like what used to be called “information desks”.

I see: the Cheesegrater, the Wheel, the BT Tower, Big Ben, the cable car river crossing, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Paul’s, and the pointy-topped Canary Wharf tower.  I forgive TfL for plugging the embarrassing Emirates Dangleway.  If they didn’t recommend it, who would?

Because of all that busy-ness, I have no time to put anything else here today.

Tomorrow: Super Bowl!

LATER: AB de Villiers, talking about South Africa now being two down with three to play:

“I can’t help but think, shit we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. Shucks, I mean. But that’s the fact of the matter. In situations like this, whether you are 2-nil up or 2-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us. Shucks.”

We all know what shit is, but now learn what a shuck is.

Monday February 01 2016

Last Friday evening, at that meeting, I talked with Perry de Havilland about writing for Samizdata.  I told him that I have recently been taking longer to finish my postings, to get them nearer to completely right.  He compared blogging to rock ‘n’ roll.  The clear implication being that blogging, like rock ‘n’ roll, is most truly itself when done, so to speak, live.

Each to his own.  I now find that one of the symptoms of advancing years is that I am no longer as confident as I once was about the first thing that comes out of my mouth, or about what emerges from my tapping fingers.  I prefer to have several reads-through of it, with gaps of time between them to think more.

My two most recent Samizdata postings are results of this more considered manner of writing.  They may not seem so to readers.  But they are much better than they would have been without any polishing.

Such polishing is not new, for me.  I used to do it to stuff I wrote for the Libertarian Alliance.  Stuff like this piece, which Patrick Crozier kindly linked back to, in one of the comments on the first of those two recent Samizdata pieces.  As Patrick said, what that earlier piece said was very similar to what the Samizdata piece said.  Appropriately enough, both pieces (separated by a quarter of century) were about how reluctant people are to change the basic way that they think about things.

Then as now, such polishing did not make my writing perfect.  But it did make it quite a lot better.

Well, now, I seem to be reverting to writing more considered and revised essays, short or not so short, rather than “blog postings”.  Rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s game, and I do not feel comfortable writing in that manner.  I used to.  If Perry de Havilland still does (and he does), I am very happy for him.  But it seems now not to suit me so much.

However, I do actually think that rock ‘n’ roll is now less appropriate.  The novelty of just anyone being able to shovel stuff onto the internet has now passed.  The mainstream media have now thoroughly internetted themselves, and the “any old stuff” approach (such as prevails here) does not get a blog like Samizdata the traffic that it used to get.  I think that some of us at least should be polishing.  More and more, my role model is becoming the late Findlay Dunachie.  Not in the sense that I intend only to review books from now on.  I mean that I find myself wanting to write more in the way he wrote, more thoughtfully, in a way that is more considered.

I am not now deciding to write differently.  (I promise nothing.) I am merely noting that this is what seems now to be happening.  An earlier stage in the change of attitude I am describing was earlier described in this posting here.

By which I mean, what seems to be happening at Samizdata.  Here will continue to be the impulsive, sloppy, last minute, thinking aloud, what you get is what you get operation that it has always been.  I did a little polishing of this piece, but not a lot.

Friday January 22 2016

You often hear people talking about how buildings which are a lot taller than they are thick are really just penis substitutes.  This advert, which I snapped on the tube earlier this month, makes the connection explicit:

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Want to know more?  Here.

I have noticed that the junk email I get, and the adverts that interrupt my internet browsing, seem sometimes to be related to stuff I have posted here.  So, I may regret this posting.

Saturday January 16 2016

Given that I am not actually seeing any visuals on a screen, sleeping through the decisive passage of play of the latest test match in South Africa only made it more dramatic.

There I was, making sure I was awake and able to start the recording of Record (as they have now gone back to calling it (it had been CD)) Review, and then getting up for a piss and a cool down before getting back to bed again for a bit of a lie in, by which time England were all out 323, with a first innings lead of 10.  Before dozing off, I learned that Sinopoli’s Cavalleria Rusticana was the winning Cavalleria Rusticana in a strong field, and then I surfaced again and was informed by my other bedside radio that South Africa had lost no wickets in reply and were ahead at lunch, and then I dozed off again, and then got up properly ... to learn from my computer that South Africa were 44-5, oh no make that 45-6, correction 46-7.  Game over.

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That pic is the last one of these.

A lot of cricket photos these days, including most of this lot, seem to be, not of cricketers doing great things, but of cricketers celebrating having just done them.  The pictures of Moeen Ali’s broken bat are also fun, but again, what you really want to see is the moment when it broke.  The above photo is a refreshing exception.  It shows Broad actually taking the final wicket of the South African innings, with a diving caught and bowled.

LATER:

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One of the pictures in this.

Sunday January 10 2016

For the purposes of this posting, bike fishing means fishing for bikes.  Not: fishing while on a bike.

As already noted here before Christmas, Amusing Planet has become a regular internet spot for me.  I especially liked this report, complete with photos like this:

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Favourite line in the report:

Bike fishing has become one of Amsterdam’s unique tourist attraction.

My immediate reaction was: So, anyone can do it?  Do you need a license?  But what they really mean, presumably, is just standing there and watching while somebody else does the bike fishing.

A bike fishing competition might be really something.  And it still might be if it was fishing while on a bike.

Other recent favourite Amusing Planet posting: The Lady of the North.

Wednesday December 23 2015

I love these modernist sand castles by Calvin Seibert, featured today at the blog of Mick Hartley (to whom thanks).  Hartley picks out five of them for his blog.  I pick out another for mine:

image

Many more here, as Hartley adds, at Calvin Seibert’s My “Sand Castles” Flickr site.

Here, I think we can say with confidence, is another impact of digital photography.  Seibert doesn’t say in his short introductory spiel (click on “show more") how important digital photography is in preserving something of these castles before the incoming tide or human destructiveness or accident claims them.  But it obviously is.  Would he have developed this way of sculpting, if he had had no convenient way of recording it?

And my other thought is that the website where Hartley learned about these castles, which is called Amusing Planet and which I had not previously heard of, will be well worth making regular visits to.  It says in this post that Amusing Planet has now been in action for nearly eight years.  I must have been there before.  But, I didn’t pay any attention to the surroundings of whatever posting I was looking at.  I should have.

Tuesday December 22 2015

At that excellent party last night, the one that gave rise to last night’s spectacular non sequitur of a posting, Rob Fisher mentioned that he had thoughts from time to time which are too inconsequential and un-thought-through for Samizdata, but which are still definitely thoughts that he wants to put out there, but for which he has no outlet.  He used to have a personal blog, but not since he started writing for Samizdata.

My response was this: Write these thoughts down.  Send them to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, explicitly identifying them as submissions to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.  And the chances, overwhelmingly, are that I will post them here as guest postings.  After all, as last night’s spectacular non sequitur of a posting illustrates, the quality control here is very, very relaxed.  Sometimes stuff here is good, but it absolutely doesn’t have to be.  It just has to be stuff.

I just wanted to make that clear, in case Rob has forgotten, or has remembered but thought that I was just rambling drunkenly and didn’t mean it.

This is not a general invitation to all of my acquaintances to bombard me with drunken would-be bloggage.  And it is certainly not an invitation to wanker social media PR slaves to “submit” boring pieces about things I don’t care about by people I don’t care about, sometimes hinting at money that I will never get, and causing my email address to get onto yet more lists, wielded by yet more wanker social media PR slaves.  Not that me saying that will put these wanker social media PR slaves off.  But I just wanted to get it out there.