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 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.

Friday June 20 2014

One of my favourite computer functions is Screen Capture.  For years, I didn’t know how to do this.  How is “prt sc” screen capture?  I used to just photo the screen.  Then I got told, and more to the point, told at a time just before I found many uses for this procedure, and as a result, I actually got it fixed in my head.

So it is that I am able to capture fleeting moments like this one:

image

That was the passage of play that turned the game England’s way, today, on day one of the test match at Headingley.  Sri Lanka went from 228-5 and motoring to 229-9, in nine balls.  In among all this, Broad got a hat trick, but didn’t even realise and had to be told!  There was then a little last wicket stand and they got to over 250, but the big damage had been done.

Here is another interesting moment, which is the moment when they show me all the guys who worked on Adobe Photoshop, while I am loading Adobe Photoshop.

But, the trouble is, when I do a Screen Capture while that is happening, it doesn’t work.  What gets captured is the moment when Adobe Photoshop is finally loaded.  Until then, I guess my computer is too busy loading Photoshop to do a Screen Capture.  Either all that, or else I just wasn’t doing it right, as is entirely possible.

But instead of obsessing about what I might or might not be doing wrong, I instead simply photographed the moment, just like old times:

image

The reason I wanted to photo this was all the Indian names, in among the occasional regular American ones.  Interesting.  Where are they all based, I wonder?  I’m guessing somewhere in the USA, but what do I know?  Adobe seems to have a lot of places where they could be. And of course, if something like Adobe doesn’t know how to plug a global network of co-workers together, who does?  From where I sit, these Indian guys could be anywhere.  Even so, like I say, interesting.

A lot of the Americans I read on the Internet say that Obama is destroying America, and he seems to be doing as much as he can along these lines.  But there is a lot of ruin in a country, and a lot of ruin in American.  This screen shot suggests that at least parts of the good old American upward economic mobility ladder are working just fine.

Monday June 09 2014

One of the features of a genuinely chaotic cricket collapse is that not only does the batting dressing room descend into chaos.  So does the scoring.  And Cricinfo, God bless it, just descended into chaos this morning.  Batsmen were out, but then remained at the crease, only later to be replaced for no reason.  Wickets were credited to one bowler in his bowling analysis, but to the other bowler where it says how the batsman got out in the scorecard.  Etcetera.  It got so I just didn’t believe it.  And frankly, I was finding it hard to believe.  Gloucester, having made 207-3 in a twenty twenty game yesterday (only for the other guys’ innings to be rained off), descended into the chaos that is 25-5.

Against Surrey.  Hurrah!  All those expensive bowlers finally accomplishing something.  Although actually, the one taking the most wickets so far (if Cricinfo is to be believed) is Matt Dunn, from Egham, who cost Surrey nothing beyond what I’m guessing is a pretty basic wage.

It will presumably calm down.  (Already Gloucester are 55-5.) Gloucester will slog (Geraint Jones and the other Gidman) and scratch (all the other remaining Gloucester batters) to a hundred and something, and by the close Surrey will be eighty for eight, because presumably conditions are not that good for batting.  But just for the time being, let me enjoy this.

I don’t expect you to, but I am keeping up with the rest of the story, at Cricinfo, here.

Other Gidman out!  57-6.

67-7!  67-8!!  Three wickets to Jason Roy, occasional spinner.  Will they even get to a hundred?

LATER: Surrey doing extremely well shock.

Gloucester all out 112, which wasn’t quite as bad for them as once it looked, especially if conditions were as batting-hostile as their score suggested they might be.  But then, at the close, instead of being approximately all out for something very similar, Surrey were 186-0.  Surrey openers Burns and Ansari each having faced about the same number of deliveries as the entire Gloucester side, and nearing centuries.  Burns is nearly there, and Ansari already has a personal best.

I did not see that coming.

Reminds me of this.

TUESAY MORNING:

Ansari didn’t get to a hundred, his personal best now being 98, but Burns is past a hundred and still going.

Rather more excitingly, Alphonso Thomas of Somerset has just become the first person, unless I am much mistaken, to take four wickets with four consecutive balls, against Sussex.  And these were not tailenders.  Sussex began the day twenty something for no wicket and are now thirty something for five, Thomas having taken a hat trick with the last three balls of over 17 and then another top order wicket with the first ball of over 19.  My vague impression is that Malinga recently took four consecutive wickets in the final over of an IPL T20 slog, but that this is the first time this has been done in a proper game in proper circumstances, so to speak.  There will be plenty of discussion of this feat, so my hunches will soon be confirmed or denied without me having to do the digging.

The reason county cricket often excites me is that I have the scores puttering away on Cricinfo, in the background.  So, when big things happen, they often happen to me all at once.  The first I heard about Thomas taking any wickets at all was when he had already taken three, and when another guy had already taken another in over 18.

LATER: No, four in four in first class cricket is not rare.  It just hasn’t happened in test cricket.  Plus, I think the Malinga thing was in an international T20 game, rather than merely in the IPL.  So he is the only one to have done this in an international.  I knew you’d be excited.

Saturday May 31 2014

Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, and that means a do at my place.  This time I remembered to take photos:

image

I’m not expecting many marks for artistic impression with that one, but it gets across what these things are like quite well.  It’s not a big place, so there’s only room for a few more than a dozen, a dozen in comfort, and that is always the number of people that seems to show up.  (There were a few more present last night than you can see in that picture.)

What the turnout lacks in quantity it really seems to make up, time and again, in quality, and that was especially so last night.  And because numbers are small, that means that people can really dig into the subject.  They can really think aloud, so to speak, rather than just soak up what the speaker says and then maybe ask the one snappy question. Which means that people who came to learn about the subject, really do, more than they would have done from just the one speaker.  Afterwards, there isplenty of time for further talk and networking, what with the place being mine, rather than some hired venue that has to be vacated in a rush.

Although I promise nothing, I will try to say more about the actual topic (Internet Governance - more about that in this posting) in future blog postings.  Today was busy for me, and tomorrow will also be crowded, although the main reason for that is I’m meeting my mates in a pub to watch the IPL Final.

What’s that you say?  What does IPL stand for?  IPL means Indian Premier League, 20-20 cricket, tomorrow’s final being between the Rajasthan Royals and the Kolkata Knight Riders.  Last night was also full of acronyms.  More about them (see above) later.  Maybe.

Talking of acronyms, who knew that Detlev Schlichter had opinions about the England and Wales Cricket Board?

Friday May 16 2014

I see cat faces on bags:

image image

On the left, in Trafalgar Square.  On the right in a shop window, somewhere or other.

I see Hello Kitty continuing its conquest of the world:

image image

On the left: Patriotic Kitty, both an English Nationalist and a British Unionist.  (Hello Kitty is patriotic everywhere.) On the right: Hello Kitty colonises one of my local supermarkets.  Today shower gel, tomorrow, who knows?  One day, there will be Hello Kitty versions of everything.

And now I see this vast cat face on the outside of a building site at the top end of Victoria Street:

image imageimage image

Note the surveillance camera right in front of it.  Those things are also now everywhere.

This huge cat face was what got me noticing that Victoria Masterplan.

Apparently the cat face is an art installation.  Scroll down here if you doubt me:

A bold new art installation has landed here at Nova, Victoria. The enigmatic gaze of a 37ft tall black cat will become the new landmark to greet people as they arrive in SW1. Taking up residence on site, the portrait is the first European commission by American artist, Marlo Pascual. The chic black cat occupies the Victoria Street facade of our four storey site cabins, converting a disheartening grey slab into the most stimulating of canvases.

The untitled installation kicks off a series of iconic and non-conformist art projects that will unfold at Nova, Victoria on its journey to becoming the most forward-thinking and aspirational place to work, live, eat, drink, shop and enjoy in London’s West End.

So, people, nice big photos of cat faces are now iconic and non-conformist.  Modern Art eat your heart out.

(See also the bit where a discussion about “THE FUTURE OF LONDON DINNING” is advertised.)

All of which pales into insignificance beside what has undoubtedly been the week’s biggest cat news, which concerned an amazing YouTube video of a cat attacking a dog.  This story is now everywhere.  The dog was doing serious damage to the youngest son of the family, and was about to do even more serious damage than that.  But the dog reckoned without Tara the Cat, who launched what looked like a suicide bomber attack on the dog, which not surprisingly caused the dog to retreat.  Tara behaved exactly as if the small boy was one of her kittens.

Cats are complained about for being like perfectly evolved parasites on humans. We feed them, stroke them, put a warm roof over their heads, buy anything with cat faces on it, and in return they do pretty much nothing.

Tara, on the other hand, has surely repaid any debts she ever owed.

Friday April 25 2014

Are you a struggling designer?  Want lots of publicity?  Can’t afford to buy it?  What do you do?

You design a table for cats to play in.  Job done.

Last night “CATable” got 150,000 hits.  At 10am this morning, the score had reached: 213,000.

Will cats ignore the thing?  Probably:

Ruan Hao’s CATable could only be the invention of a severely Stockholm Syndrome-impaired cat owner. Designed as a desperate ploy to convince your cat that there’s somewhere more interesting to be than on top of your laptop right now, there is only one possible reaction I can imagine from the world’s feline population: utter disdain.

Cats may ignore Ruan Hao’s CATable, but the www is not ignoring it.

Maybe Ruan Hao thought of this?  Mmmmm?  Maybe not desperate?  Maybe smart?

Wednesday April 23 2014

Before I forget to link to it, here, very belatedly, is a link to four pictures of central London in the Guardian, which, if you left-click on them, suddenly become populated with soon-to-be-built new Big Things.

This, for example, …:

image

… turns, when you left-click on it, into this:

image

That’s the changing picture of the south bank of the river, just upstream from me.

My personal opinion is: it looks great!  By which I mean not that the second of these pictures looks great, but that the development it attempts to picture will look great, or at least much better than this picture.

This is a general fact about the new Big Things of London of the last decade and more, I think.  All of them have ended up looking, to my eye, better for real than the models and photos of them beforehand looked, which are just too boxy and bland and unrealistic to capture the feeling of how new Big Things will really look.

In particular, the Walkie Talkie looked, to me, terrible, when it was only a faked up computer image.  Now, I like it more and more.  It’s odd.  It’s not beautiful exactly, but it has character.  Once you see it, you don’t forget it.  In short, it is like London.

These new Big Things will, I predict, be like that also.  You can bet that all the architects involved will be trying desperately to upstage each other, by making at least half of these new Big Things systematically more interesting and oddly shaped than these computer mock-ups now make them look.

It occurs to me also to wonder how much difference the ubiquity of such imagery before Big Things get built affects the chances of such Big Things being built.  Could such widely-viewed-in-advance pictures perhaps make Big Thing building easier, by mobilising the support of those who, like me, would like such new buildings a lot, but don’t see it as a life-and-death struggle, the way many opponents of such Big Things perhaps do.  If that’s right, the opponents keep themselves and each other informed even when that is hard, and fight like hell to stop such Things, either out of aesthetic hatred or because some particular Big Thing will, they reckon, wreck their back yard.  Now, we less rabid supporters can all say Go Ahead Build It, but without busting our guts and doing lots of complicated research and politicking, because finding out and saying GABI is now so much easier.

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.