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

Friday October 10 2014

The lion statues in Tragalgar Square are famous, and they deserve to be.  But there is another lion statue in London that I am also fond of, namely the one on the far side of Westminster Bridge from the Houses of Parliament.  I like, when I walk along beside the river next to St Thomas’ Hospital, to photo it lined up with the Wheel.

Here is how it looked, on the day I also took these photos, and these, and these:

image

I really liked this when I saw it.  You wouldn’t want a guide lion, but, that’s the joke.

And this other guy liked it too:

image

I couldn’t wait for Friday to come round so I could show these snaps to you people.  Inconveniently, I took them on a Saturday.

The BBC have been doing cats, in a three part documentary, and the papers are all over it.

It turns out that with us, cats are cats.  Then they go outdoors and become lions.  They get on better with us than they do with each other.  They have evolved to manipulate us into feeding and sheltering them.

With the arrival of the internet, the evolution of cats has entered a new and more intense phase.

LATER: Although guide lions probably wouldn’t work, here’s a 2012 story about a guide cat, who guides a dog.

SUNDAY: I was back there yesterday, and that bit of yellow writing wasn’t there when I first photoed this guide dog lion:

image

And they have also sorted out that strap around the lion’s front.

More about what is going on here, here.

Sunday October 05 2014

While rootling around in the www like it was about 2003, I found this piece, dating from 2009, which was all about this apparently pretty but otherwise unremarkable abstract picture:

image

In case you don’t already know what is going on here, the big story here is that the blue bits and the green bits are the same colour.  What colour your eyes see something as depends on the other colours in the immediate vicinity.

The writer linked to above found this graphic here, which you can too if you do a bit of scrolling down.

If you saw this around 2009, or something similar around 2003, then apologies for the repetition.  That early period of blogging, just after 2000, will always seem to me like a fleeting golden age, when everything of this sort was being discovered and passed on for the very first time.  Because we could.  Before, we couldn’t.  Now, we could.  But now (as in now), most of this sort of trivia has been in circulation for a decade, and it lacks the impact it once had.  We bloggers must find new things to say, to cover for the fact that blogging itself is no longer new.  This is not a bad thing.

Wednesday October 01 2014

Taking the first question first: is it practise or practice?

This is the kind of question that, in the days before the www, used to rattle about inside several million heads for decades on end.  As it so happens, it did so rattle in mine.  But for a decade and more now, such questions could and can be answered, and today I answered this question for myself, by finding my way, very quickly, pretty much as soon as I started trying, to this site.  I’d been meaning to do this for a long time.  Today, I did.  What it says at the other end of that link, assuming I read it right, is that practice is the noun and practise is the verb, as with advice and advise.  I know, you knew that.  I must be an uneducated pillock not to know it.  But, although in many ways not an uneducated pillock, I was for many decades just that, in this particular way.  Besides which, the essence of educatedness is not mere knowledge, it is knowing that one needs to acquire this or that further item of further knowledge, and if far later than is dignified, well so be it.

I’m not saying that this answer is correct.  I’m just saying that from now on, this is the answer I will try to apply whenever the practice/practise dilemma presents itself to me.

Moving on to the question in the brackets above.  Answer: no.  The site where I found this answer (right or wrong) is called “Future Perfect”, and its subtitle is “Improving Written Communications”.  Like, that’s all it would take to make the future perfect.  I do not believe this.  I get it.  Future perfect is also a piece of grammar, and grammar is (along with spelling) one of the things this place is about.  Ho ho.  But, future perfect?

Perfect communication could just mean perfectly expressed abuse.  Remember that fish in Hitchhiker’s Guide, which enabled everyone to communicate perfectly with everyone else, and which started terrible wars, because now everyone could understood everyone else’s insults.  Perfect communication is indeed, maybe, part of the perfect future, but saying perfectly nice things is also an important part of perfection, I would say.  And that’s quite aside from the fact that actual perfection would also be terrible, for other reasons.

Wednesday September 24 2014

From early in the afternoon of Tuesday, yesterday, until early this morning, this blog was out of action.  I couldn’t read it myself, let alone post anything:

image

The non-functioning of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom took out my emailing abilities as well.  If anyone tried to email and got told to get stuffed, please try again - especially if it concerned the meeting at my home this coming Friday evening, at which Priya Dutta is going to speak about education.

I don’t suppose many people suffered much, but I did, because I didn’t know if and when BMDC was ever going to come back to life.

The problem was something to do with the internet provider (which has recently changed hands) for my Hoster.  But spare a thought for Hoster.  I wasn’t his only client ringing up in a state.  He had lots of others doing the exact same thing.  He told me that he will be changing his internet provider asap, but that he couldn’t do that until his internet provider came back on line and he was able to make the necessary arrangements.

Meanwhile, I really need to change how I do email.

More times like these.  I have had a great deal too many and too much of these sorts of times lately.

Friday September 19 2014

I only found out about the wonder-gizmo below with its 65x zoom (scroll down a bit there) because I had gone looking for cats stuff.

A fun bit of news on the cats front today illustrates how seriously the oh-so-serious Guardian now takes the whole cats thing, along with the rest of the media after a decade and more of cattery on the internet.

A cat-blogger lady called Jackie Smith has done a book of cat pictures, called Cat Walk:

I don’t think Cat Walk is book about cats. It’s about learning to see beauty within arms reach. It’s about hunting for words like a mouse hunts for cats. It’s about walking, but not really covering distance. The same paths are travelled, but each time the light, the season, the thoughts inside make it different. It does have something to do with the character of cats, but also to do with writing, looking, seeing, being in a place.

This man should be told.

My favourite bit is where she says “It’s about hunting for words like a mouse hunts for cats”.  Because it’s not enough to hunt down the right words.  You have then to arrange them in the right order.  I mean, a mouse hunting for cats?  That’s some mouse you got there lady.

Tuesday September 09 2014

New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross writes about how he still loves his classical CDs.  Partly, he admits, it’s nostalgia.  CDs were such a huge leap forward when they first arrived that that moment of pure joy is very hard to turn your back on.  I can still remember what my first CDs were: Nielsen 3, Brahms Sextets, Barenboim complete Beethoven piano sonatas, Strauss Alpine Symphony … Then there was the realisation that classical CDs would just get cheaper and cheaper and abundanter and abundanter, and then very soon the reality of that happy circumstance.  Gramex Boss Hewland prices his stuff with more than half an eye to what Amazon charges, and it remains worthwhile to visit Gramex from time to time, even as all the other central London second hand CD emporia have faded away.  He piles them high and sells them cheap.

Yes, the physical space occupied by CDs is a problem.  Those piles can get very high.  (Visit my home to see that problem on an enormous scale.) But, for me, the internet remains an unenticing place to purchase and play classical music.  I have accumulated some virtual titles, as a result of buying them new on Amazon and having an additional “cloud” version of the same thing piped into my computer.  But I wouldn’t want to be without the CDs whose purchase provoked this additional twenty first century response.

I wrote recently about the value of keeping things separate, in my case my big home computer and my music making equipment.  Even as my big home computer continues not to materialise, I still have music as good as ever, with no messing with some new kind of system to make it work.

But the central problem with classical music on the internet is that it remains, I believe, a mess.  Pop music having overwhelmed classical music economically during the last hundred years or so, pop music is the big driver of internet music, and internet music is entirely organised for the benefit of pop fans, and their discreet tracks.  We classicists are liable, as Alex Ross explains, to get lumbered with such things as John Eliot Gardiner’s Beethoven Nine labelled as being the work of Lyuba Organosova, merely because she tops of the list of soloists for the final movement.  The labelling of classical tracks on Amazon, where they offer you little snippets to listen to, is routinely done by naming the pieces with such things as their tempo or loudness markings, while neglecting to tell you what the piece is or what number movement it is.  They just can’t be bothered to get it right.  Fair enough.  I understand why they can’t be bothered.  We classicists aren’t worth bothering with.  Buy the CD or don’t and consider yourself lucky, is the message.  Until someone really big and well organised does bother about it, classical music on the internet will remain an off-putting afterthought, piggybacking systems devised for something else, rather than an enticing attraction.

When things get reissued, the labelling is liable to go completely to buggery.  I, for instance, have that Barenboim set of Beethoven sonatas on EMI from way back, long before the internet, when it first came out as a set of CDs.  Since then it has been reissued.  So, when the internet tries to assist me in cataloguing recordings I myself have made of it onto my hard disc, it gets it all wrong.  Useless.

Classical music on the internet will eventually get sorted out.  And when it does, I will, if not dead, presumably hear about it from my classical music mags.  A consensus will be announced, saying things like “Classical CDs really are pointless nowadays”, and when you read such articles, it will, after about a decade of premature enthusiasm of the geek-bollocks sort ("all you have to do is blah blah dance on the head of twenty seven pins blah blah blah turn seventy three cartwheels blah blah blah what could be easier? … yes it might all crash but to solve that blah blah blah ..."), eventually become true.  A actual, real world majority of Classical freaks will be using this single, best arrangement, and it will work, all the time, like email.  Or not.

Even when such a new classical dispensation does emerge, I will probably not bother to switch.  It’s not just sunk costs; it will also be declining costs.  As internet classical music becomes ever more appealing, so the price of mere CDs will sink and sink, until all of them can be purchased by me from Amazon, for £0.01 plus postage.

Meanwhile, I like that my CD filing system (aka my CD collection) is always accurate.  When I dig up a CD that says it is so-and-so’s recording of Brahms 4, it is, and then when I play it, it will be played in the right order.  Notes will be to hand to read about this recording if I want to, conveniently stored right next to the CD.

I do have lots of virtual music, as an addendum to my CDs, like those files that Amazon spontaneously volunteers, and like stuff I have recorded from the radio.  But the latter starts out being called something like DAB002, and I have never sorted out how to file it conveniently, or even to edit it into individual performances.  Life is too short to be bothering.  Why edit, when CDs are already edited.  Virtual music is strictly an afterthought for me.  Plastic music remains the thing itself, for me.  And (see above) I don’t believe I’m just being sentimental, even if I am somewhat.

Thursday August 28 2014

This afternoon, The Guru is coming by to reconstruct God, so God (the other one) willing, I will be back in serious computing business by this evening.

When I was recently in Brittany, my hosts supplied me with a state-of-the-art laptop and a state-of-the-art internet connection.  These last few days, without God (my one) and having to make do with Dawkins (my obsolete and clunky little laptop, the thing I am typing into now), I have felt less connected to the world than I did in Brittany.  I am connected, after a fashion.  But Dawkins is so slow and clunky that I have been doing only essentials (like finding out about England being hammered in the ODI yesterday), and checking incoming emails, and shoving anything however bad up here once every day.  It’s like I’ve regressed to about 2000.

I have managed to put up a few pictures here, in God’s absence.  But Dawkins’ screen makes these pictures look terrible.  I am looking forward to seeing God’s version of these pictures and hope they will be greatly improved compared to what I am seeing now.

Thank God (the other one) I haven’t been depending on God (my one) for music.  As I have surely explained here many times, one big reason I prefer CDs (and separate CD players scattered around my home) to all this twenty first century computerised music on a computer is that if God goes wrong, as he just has, I don’t lose music.  I also have music concerts recorded off of the telly, onto DVDs, which I can play on my telly, which is likewise a completely separate set-up to God.

In general, the argument against having everything done by one great big master computer is that when something goes wrong with that master computer, everything else in your life also goes wrong, just when you may need those things not to.  One of the things that willgo wrong, rather regularly, with your all-in-one master computer is when this or that particular one of its excessively numerous functions becomes seriously out of date.  I mean, if it has a vacuum cleaner included, what happens if vacuum cleaners suddenly get hugely better?  In Brian world, all I have to do is get another new and improved vacuum cleaner, and chuck out the old one.  In all-in-one master computer world, you are stuck with your obsolete vacuum cleaner.  Or, if you can, you have to break open your all-in-one master computer and fit a new vacuum cleaner, and probably also lots of other new stuff to make sure the new vacuum cleaner works, which buggers up a couple of your other functions that used to work fine but which no longer work fine.  Or at all.  I prefer to keep things simple, and separate.

Something rather similar applies with how to handle (the other) God.  That is another arrangement you don’t want to have running the whole of your life for you either.  It’s okay if you do God for some of the time and keep Him in his place, but you want scientists telling you about science, doctors about medicine, and your work colleagues about your work, and so on.  If, on the other hand, absolutely everything in your life, and worse, everything in the entire world you live in, is controlled by ((your version of) the other) God, everything is very liable to go to Hell.  (Aka: Separation of Church and State.  Aks: don’t be a religious nutter.)

I have my own particular take on (the other) God, which is that He is made-up nonsense.  But just as wise believers in (the other) God don’t let that dominate their thinking on non-God things, nor do I think that my opinions about (the other) God can explain everything else as well.  These opinions merely explain the particular matter of (the other) God being made-up nonsense.

Do not, as they say, put all your eggs in one basket.

Tuesday July 29 2014

Wow:

MAYOR OF LONDON Boris Johnson has announced that the capital will have access to 5G mobile connectivity by 2020, allowing Londoners to download a film in less than a second.

Not that I understand nearly completely what that means, and certainly not that I understand nearly completely what that might possibly mean for me.  But, … wow.

I’m guessing that Mayor Boris is doing that old politician trick of standing next to something that looks good, but which he had nothing to do with.  Or is actual politics involved in contriving this seeming miracle?  Is it done with wires?  Do the wires need the Mayor to let his roads be dug up?

Comments will be particularly welcome on this.

Sunday July 27 2014

I just heard someone say in an American TV sitcom (I love American TV sitcoms) that they’re not going to answer the phone without knowing who it is, “like it’s 1994”.

I still do this, with my old 1994 style phone, which I greatly prefer to mobiles, because when I am out and about, I don’t have to answer it, and because phones connected to your house with wire cannot be lost, and because I know exactly where it is when it rings, and because that ring never changes.

Quite often, when I do answer, it’s a junk phone call, offering to extricate me from a financial error that I personally have not made by urging me to commit another financial error, and as soon as I realise it’s junk, I put the phone down.  Does this constitute some sort of “success” for the junk phoning enterprise?  Look, they answered!  Because obviously they knew who we were, this not being 1994, and yet still they picked up the phone!  Hey, we’re getting through!

Much of life these days seems to consist of doing many futile things, but contriving for these things the appearance of non-futility.  These days?  I suspect all days that have ever been, with humans involved, and no doubt many other species also, both before and now during the human epoch.  Only the futile things and the means of contriving a non-futile appearance for them change from time to time.

I don’t mind junk phone calls.  If they were more frequent, they would annoy me.  As it is, if there is a pause in incoming phone calls lasting a few hours, it is soothing to be informed, even if only by a robot actor voice spouting nonsense, that my phone is still working.  The pause was because nobody wanted to talk to me.

When answering junk phone calls, I pause any music that may be playing.  I do not mind this.  There is a part of my brain (yours too?) where you remember the musical phrase you were listening to when you last paused the music, and when you unpause it you carry on listening just as you would have done normally.  I even suspect that pausing deepens my response to particular pieces of music, by fixing particular moments of them in my brain more firmly than might have happened otherwise.

Since I am now rambling like the really old person that I am rapidly becoming, let me ramble some more.  In connection with none of the above, here are the wheels of a big mobile crane that I photoed in Victoria Street a while back.  Click on it to get the crane:

image

I like cranes.  That one is, I think, the Spierings SK599-AT5.  I love how you can find out about things like this, these days.  And this time it really is these days, rather than all days. 

Here is a link to a toy version of this crane.  Do contractors use toys like this to plan their jobs, I wonder?  As well as just to decorate their offices or amuse their spoilt children?

It is now late morning on Sunday.  Are sermons like this, when the priest is getting old, but is too well liked for anyone to want to sack him?  With a blog you can ramble anyway, because nobody can sack you.

Friday July 25 2014

My latest last Friday of the month meeting was this evening.  Thank you Simon Gibbs, and all else who attended.  Excellent talk and an excellent evening.

But I spent all day fretting about the meeting instead of doing anything for here, and now that it’s over I don’t want to say something stupid about the meeting.  I’d rather think about that some more and talk sense about it.

So here, instead of proper blogging, are some cat links that I like.  Google “cats” and of course you get a ton of stuff.  These few were my favourites.

Cats in the movies.

Florida Man Holds Gun to Cat’s Head and Posts Picture to Facebook.  The www is not amused.

Monkeys fear big cats less, eat more, with humans around.

Feisty feline saves boy from bullies.  But, there is no video, so not as good as this.

And for those who share my interest in American politics, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused Senate Democrats of meowing like kitty cats and enabling President Barack Obama to enact lawless executive actions like no other president before him.  I wouldn’t choose cats are a metaphor for lack of independence.

And see also the cat wheel linked to by David Thompson.

Friday July 18 2014

BrianMicklethwaitDotCom Feline Friday heaven, in other words:

image

Click to get it twice the size.  Go here to see where I found it.  Colossal again.

The internet is altering the balance of power between Art as Silly Complaints About The Bourgeoisie and Art as Fun For Everyone.  In a good way.

Friday July 11 2014

City A.M. has a report about another possible bridge across the Thames, this one being one that will connect Chelsea to Battersea.  There is another map here, also showing all the various options for where exactly to put this bridge.  And I see that I already mentioned this Chelsea to Battersea bridge idea in this earlier posting.

This makes three new London bridges that are now being talked up, planned, hustled, whatever.  There is also the Joanna Lumley bridge, which will go from Temple tube station to across the river from Temple Tube station, or then again maybe not.  Both this and the Chelsea to Battersea bridge are footbridges and bikebridges, but they are also forever talking about a big road bridge just down river from City Airport.

If this Chelsea to Battersea bridge gets built, it will be only a dozen minutes (two to three dozen minutes if I want to get close) from my front door, so you can bet that (although I promise nothing) I will be photographing its progress relentlessly.

I hope they make it look good.  Bridges can look so great that it is a serious shame when they don’t look great.  It’s good that they’re going to have a competition for this one.  This, I think, will unleash a contemporary force that is starting to interest me a lot, which is internet informed public opinion.  Now, all the various contending pictures of what they might or might not do can get published and talked about beforehand, far more easily than in the years B(efore the) I(nternet).  The people who rule the world basically don’t care exactly where, or even if, this bridge gets built, so they are perfectly willing to let its final design be settled by Vox Pop.  And Vox Pop, when it comes to bridges, is a force for good, I think. If you are going to spend 8X million quid on a bridge, you might as well spend 9X million quid and make it look really good and distinctive.  That’s what I think Vox Pop will say, and for once I agree.

LATER ON FRIDAY (i.e. not the small hours of Friday morning): More bridgery today from City A.M., this time in the form of a plug for that East London road bridge, already mentioned above.

Tuesday July 08 2014

Here.  (Via here.)

PLUS, from the comments on the piece (first link above), from the writer of the piece himself:

Invoking Godwin’s Law is the type of thing Hitler would do.

Very true.

Monday July 07 2014

Not long ago my Computer Guru persuaded me to upgrade my version of OpenOffice to the latest version.  I then had to reset the default font for typing bog standard text into a bog standard word processing file in OpenOffice Writer, latest version.  It insited on using Times Roman 12 pt.  I wanted Verdana 13pt, and eventually I managed to persuade OpenOffice Writer to do this every time.  Then my computer got stuck and I had to switch it off, but when it came back on again, this resetting was forgotten, and I had to do it all over again.  I was back with bloody Times Roman bloody 12pt, again.  It was a small nightmare, again, to get it to do Verdana 13pt, again, without it having to be told, again.

At least there is an internet, to which questions of this sort can be put.  The answers are a maelstrom of gibberish, but at least you narrow the gibberish down a bit.  Main rule: beware any answer which includes the word “forum”.  Forums are full of wrong answers and answers to wrong answers along the lines of: I did all that but nothing happened.

The basic problem with computers is that because they can do more and more with each passing yeart, it is becoming harder and harder to persuade them to do the one simple thing that you personally want them to do.  You are surrounded by vast and growing explosion of things which the damn computer can do but which you don’t want it to do, which makes it almost impossible to find the one little set of buttons that, if pushed, will make it do the one little tiny thing that you do want it to do.  If there are only three available fonts to choose between, and changing that font setting is about all that can be changed, then it is relatively easy.  But the more complicated the programme gets, the more difficult it becomes to make it do “easy” things with it.

And now, with those sneer quotes, I have just discovered that they have to be reset as well.  This has to be done because if quotes are done the way the unmodified programme wants to do them, that buggers up links when I transfer the text to my various blogging locations.

That was a nightmare too, first time around.  Now, I must endure that nightmare, again.

The fact that there are now two – maybe several – versions of “Open Office Writer” (those sneer quotes are now working, it would appear) out there adds an extra dimension of shititude to this whole shitty shituation.

I still have to make the damn programme refrain from adding extra space between paragraphs.  I do spaces between paragraphs with an extra carriage return, because that too is how text needs to be when I transfer it to a blog.  Bugger bugger bugger.  The nightmares just keep coming.

If you are a geek who understands computer stuff but not people, then your response to all this will be: “Easy – you just to “^)3y6t65+££@{{{ +++ %*%&%**%% ==== XYZXYZXYZ” - what could be simpler?” Answer: Just about anything in the whole damn world would be simpler.

The real nightmare is that soon, all appliances will also be computers.  Whereas it now remains possible to simply switch, say, a vacuum cleaner, you know, on, soon that formerly simple process will become another nightmare of persuasion and internet interrogation, simply to get it to vacuum the way you want rather than the way you absolutely do not want.  People will be buying whole new machines, entirely because they can’t make the damn machine do what the machine is perfectly willing to do, provided only that you know which of seventy-nine buttons to push and what order to push them in.  Ditto kettles, washing machines, fridges, everything.

As I often warn readers, this blog will, as I get older, be, more and more, about the process of me getting old.

Don’t get me started on automatic supermarket checkout machines.

Saturday June 21 2014

I just came across this video, here, again, which has had many hits on Youtube. Like millions of others, I like it a lot.  It’s Louis C.K., complaining about people who complain about modern life and all its wondrous new gadgetry.  I was going to stick the video here, but it wouldn’t fit.  (Anyone know how to make it 500 wide instead of 560?  Maybe I should redesign my blog wider.) But follow that link and scroll down a bit to where it says: “- it’s very funny”; and then, in white on black at the top of the video: “+Everthing’s+Amazing+ +Nobody’s+Happy”.  And then click and enjoy.

Part of why improved gadgets don’t automatically make us happy is that everyone gets to have a go on them, but what really makes a lot of us happy is improved relative status.  New gadgets create a different world, in which we may as likely as not be demoted in status, below others who understand the new gadgets better.

There is also the particular genius of the gadgeteers to be considered, compared to our own ungenii.  New gadgets can make many of us feel like savages, out of our depth in a world of wonders, less capable (because utterly incapable of producing such a wondrous gadget), rather than more capable (through possessing the gadget).

In the article linked to, there is speculation that old people are more easily pleased, by things.  I certainly enjoy digital photography, as all regulars here will know, and you obviously enjoy that or you’d not be a regular.  I also enjoy typing verbiage into my magic machine and this magic blog.  Perhaps a reason why these things please me so much is that I am old, and had been waiting for such things to be possible for such a very, very long time.  For decades, I fretted about my inability to make pictures without fuss and write stuff without fuss, and show both to other people whenever I felt like it, again without fuss.  Now I can do these things.  Any envy I feel towards the people who contrived these wonder is dwarfed by the pleasure I get in doing these things, finally.  I know, I’ve been showing off my pictures and babbling away at various blogs for well over a decade.  But like I say, I’m old, and more than a decade is nothing to how long I spent waiting for these things to be possible, all the while not even knowing if they ever would be.  I had become used to knowing that these things might never happen, which means that I still can’t quite believe that they have happened, which means that they still make me happy.