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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: Society

Sunday March 10 2019

Here:

image

It reminds me of the scene at the end of Starship Troopers (a scene which I may now be imagining (but I think it happened)) where the victorious Starship Troopers celebrate their capture of The Queen Bug.

Tuesday February 26 2019

On Sunday evening, and then again yesterday during the day, my water supply was interrupted.  This has never happened before.  Electricity, yes, that has been interrupted, I seem to recall.  And once, my hot tank refused to stop heating its water, which was alarming.  I had to switch off all my electricity myself, to stop my boiler boiling itself and perhaps exploding like a steam locomotive having a crash.  But, no water?  That was a new one for me, here.

When my taps first ran out of puff, I didn’t know what was causing this.  At first, I thought the problem might be my own personal arrangements, as it had been with that over-eager heating system.  But, I knocked on the door opposite and discovered that my neighbour had received an email threatening water disruption, and it all started to make sense.  One of our neighbours was having work done which necessitated a block-wide water switch off.  This was on Sunday evening, but the email concerned threatened disruption on Monday, disruption that duly occurred.

I wasn’t even completely sure if the water, when restored, would automatically fill up my pipes again, once it had abandoned them.  You know how you can get water to to go up and down in pipes, in school physics lessons.  What if interrupted water supply created a permanent unwillingness of the water to travel along my personal pipes, to my personal taps?

When the water returned later on Sunday evening, it was quite a relief to see it gushing out of my taps again, of its own accord, with no suction pump needed to coax it back into action.  But then, disruption happened again, exactly as threatened, on Monday.

It’s only when you are deprived of something you are used to having that you realise how much you depend upon it.  For washing, of me and of the things I eat from and off.  For flushing the loo.  There was an event I wanted to attend on Monday evening.  No go.  Unclean.

I had never had anything to do with my lady neighbour before this little water drama.  Interesting that things not working properly and “community” go together like this.  When the great machine we all depend on stops working, we suddenly become more dependant upon each other, if only to find out what the hell is going on and when it is likely to stop.

Monday November 26 2018

I often find the Tweets at Market Urbanism baffling, because they concern obscure American political disputes.  But even as I am baffled by the second half of this (what on earth does “filter hard and fast” mean?), I agree with the first half.  I also unironically love these:

image

The Tweet contains a link to this Bloomberg report, which is where Market Urbanism and I got that photo, and which notes (rather gleefully/) that the builder of these things has gone bankrupt.

I do unironically love these gloriously unfashionable little stately homes, but I do not totally love everything about them.  Because what is about each one of these fake chateaux, is lots of others that are identical.  A lot of the point of living in a building like this is surely that there is nothing else like it in the vicinity.  Such a pile should be uniquely recognisable, and architecturally victorious over all the neighbours in the “my house is the poshest” contest.  If there is going to be a herd of these things, let there be a bit of variety.

But despite all those nitpicks, I do think that the world could use a lot more fake antiquity of this kind.  In particular, I wish more of this sort of stuff was allowed in England.  Uninterrupted “honest” modernity can get very dreary, I find.  I love those London Big Things that I bang on about here, but a lot of the fun of them is how, closer up, they often tower over buildings erected a couple of centuries earlier.

However, the trouble with newly minted fake antiquity is that this too can look rather dreary and soulless.

When fake antiquity really comes into its own is when it has been around for a while, and people can no longer see how fake it is.

The world seems to be full of well-connected, in-power aestheticians - who demand that every new building be modern, and badly-connected, out-of-power aestheticians - who hate modernity.  I want lots of both, all muddled together.

Thursday November 22 2018

Following yesterday’s very generic, touristy photos of the Albert Memorial (although some of them did involve a breast implant), here is a much more temporary photo, of the sort most tourists wouldn’t bother with:

image

You obviously see what I did there, lining up what looks like a big, all-seeing eye with a clutch of security cameras, cameras made all the scarier by having anti-pigeon spikes on them.

And what, I wondered when I encountered this in my archive, and you are wondering now, is the provenance of that big eye?

Turns out, it was this:

image

So, not actually a photo about and advert for the Total Surveillance Society.  It merely looked like that.

However, just two minutes later, from the same spot of the same electronic billboard, I took this photo:

image

So as you can see, the Total Surveillance Society was definitely on my mind.  Terrorism, the blanket excuse for everyone to be spying on everyone else.  The two minute gap tells me that I saw this message, realised it was relevant, but it then vanished and I had to wait for it to come around again.  Well done me.

According to the title of the directory, and some of the other photos, I was with a very close friend.  A very close and very patient friend, it would seem.  Hanging about waiting for a photo to recur is the sort of reason I usually photo-walk alone.

I took these photos in Charing Cross railway station on April Fool’s Day 2009.  I would have posted them at the time, but in their original full-sized form, they unleashed a hurricane of messy interference patterns.  But just now, when I reduced one of them to the sort of sizes I use for here, those interference patterns went away.  I thought that these patterns had been on the screen I was photoing.  But they were merely on my screen, when I looked at my photos.  And then, when I resized all the photos, it all, like I said, went away.  Better late than never.

Sunday November 04 2018

This makes sense:

There are three separate things the larger Twitter user base demands from the company:

- the ability to send messages out to the entire world

- the ability to interact with fellow users

- the ability to send messages without the fear of toxic responses

The problem is it’s basically impossible to guarantee all three at once. Call it the “Twitter impossibility theorem,” to ape Kenneth Arrow. You can have an open Twitter, you can have an interactive Twitter, and you can have a troll-free Twitter, but it is basically impossible to have all three. One of the demands must be dropped.

Twitter reminds me of that fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which jumps into your ear and translates all the languages of the gallaxy into your language, which started wars because it meant that everyone could understand what you had said, and hate it, and be understood by you hating it.

Twitter doesn’t translate, but it connects the hitherto unconnected.

Saturday October 27 2018

My meeting last night (Tom Burroughes talking about Brexit) went well.  I never feared that Tom’s talk wouldn’t be good.  I merely feared that a humiliatingly small number of people would show up to hear it, and the better his talk was, the more frustrating that would have been.  However, although a few who had said they’d try to come didn’t show, quite a few others who’d not said they were coming did show, and it all went fine.

Nine people doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to make for a very interesting conversation, so long as they are a good nine.  They were.

Nine comfy chairs and nine people is no coincidence.  This kind of thing has happened too often for it to be chance.  When there were fewer comfy chairs, there were, on the whole, that number few people.  Conclusion: if I would like more people to attend, I must increase the number of comfy chairs.  Up to twelve, which is towards the maximum number of people for good conversation, and the point at which it begins to turn into a “meeting”, in the wrong way.  With people who actually had interesting things to say instead sitting there in silence, feeling left out.

I am taking steps to accomplish this.

Wednesday September 12 2018

Earlier this evening, I attended a fascinating Libertarian Home talk given by Jason Cozens, one of the founders and bosses of Glint.  (Scroll down there a bit, and I think you will see why I think I smell yet another two-man team.) Glint enables those who think that currency ought to be gold-backed to get there hands on just such a currency, thereby personally reversing, as it were, the decision by President Nixon, in 1971, to take the US dollar off the gold standard.

This talk was excellent, and was clearly saturated in Austrianism.  In the highly unlikely event that Jason Cozens has not met up with a conversed with Detlev Schlichter, he should.

Here is a photo I took of Mr Cozens waving an ancient gold coin from Roman era Britain, which he had come by in some way that he did describe but which I immediately forgot:

image

And here is that coin, and him holding it, somewhat closer up:

image

Glint, however, does not deploy actual gold coins.  Any gold it arranges for you to own stays in a vault in Switzerland.  You get yourself a Glint account, with whatever combination of gold or other popular currencies in it that you want, and you can buy stuff with your card, which looks and works like any other credit/debit card.

Glint would appear to be well worth investigating.

I also found the evening very advantageous on a more personal level.  I was able to solidify no less than two future Brian’s Last Fridays talks, and was able to woo two other potential future speakers of great interestingness.  Others present seemed equally busy making connections of their own.  Which is a lot of the point of such meetings, and which is all part of why I believe in organising a steady stream of them.

Thursday August 30 2018

Today, in search of something worth displaying here, I chanced upon a directory of photos of photoers who were to be seen holding more than one camera.  I gathered these photos together some time in 2010, but then never got around to doing anything with them.  Almost all of these photos seem to have been taken in and around Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge, my most usual locale for photoing photoers, then as now.

Here are some of them now:

imageimageimageimageimage
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These photos all date from 2005 and 2006.  I was not as fussed about hiding faces in those faraway times, but as you can see, I was making some effort in this direction, at any rate enough of an effort to give me plenty of faceless photoers, so to speak, to choose from.

As to why these ladies are holding another camera, this was usually because they were in a group, and were helping to ensure sure that each photo-op was registered in every camera owned by anyone in the group, and in particular that each camera owner had a decent number of photos of themselves.  (In the above photos, in other words, we are often observing selfies being taken.) Often, I would photo ladies (ladies especially seem to hunt photos in a pack) who were taking the same photo two or even several times, with two or several cameras, one after the other, with the inactive cameras hanging down from them in a clump.  Sadly, there are no ladies to be seen here with more than two cameras on the go.

Often one of the group would ask me to take a photo of all of them, with one of their cameras, and sometimes with more than one in succession, so that they had at least one photo or some photos with everyone included.  It’s all I can do to make any sense of my own cameras, let alone anyone else’s, but I would usually do my best.

It could also be that some of these ladies are taking photos with cameras supplied to them by absent friends or partners.  Remember, in these faraway times, communicating photos from this camera to that camera was harder than it is now, and if doable, a lot more cumbersome.  How much easier for it to get my desired photo in my camera, even if I myself didn’t take it!

Friday July 27 2018

I have just finished hosting my latest last Friday meeting.  It seemed to me to go very well, despite, and arguably because of, the low turnout.  The fewer people show up at a meeting, the more subtle the conversation can be.  Each question can get really answered.

Tamiris Loureiro was the speaker.  Unusually, she actually spoke for a shorter time than she had in mind to.  Usually what happens is that a speaker assembles twenty things they want to say, and gets through about three or four of them, and speaks for twenty minutes longer than they had in mind to.  She raced through hers in about twenty minutes, which left lots of time for comments and questions from the rest of us.

Her subject was Jordan Peterson.  She described to him as “The Good Libertarian”, which proved interestingly provocative.  Peterson spans a lot of political territory between conservative and libertarian, including classical liberalism, classical liberal being what he calls himself.  Paradoxically, said Tamiris, a lot of Paterson’s political impact comes from the fact that he approaches most of the problems he tackles in a non-political way.  He urges us all to take personal responsibility for our lives, rather than palming our problems off on governments.  Which of course is what libertarians recommend.

What did I learn from the evening?  Some of what I learned came from finally getting stuck into 12 Rules for Life, by way of preparation.  I had been put off from actually reading this book by the fear that I had heard it all, in the various videos and interviews of Peterson’s that I have already heard.  I feared being bored.  Oh me of little faith.  I really enjoyed reading it.

One of the many things about Peterson that strikes me, as I found myself saying at this evening’s meeting, is that he has a very interesting “talent stack”, to use a phrase that Scott Adams likes to use to describe successful people.  Peterson has a range of intellectual skills, from digging deep into ancient religious texts and coming up with non-trivial interpretations, to being an experienced councillor of troubled people, to being interviewed on television without losing his rag (think of the Cathy Newman interview), to jousting belligerently on Twitter with the worst of them.  He is a self-publicist of considerable talent, and he has deeper stuff that will stand up to being publicised.  It comes, I surmise, from his belief that a man’s got to take on the most responsibility he can carry.  He needs to reach as many people as he can with his redemptive messages.  He shouldn’t be too modest.  He should put himself about as much as he can contrive.

Next up, hearing if the recording I made – or tried to make - of the talk, and of the subsequent Q&A, is any good, as a recording I mean.  I don’t usually record my meetings, but I recorded this one in order to make the event mean something if the only people present had been Tamiris and me, which for a couple of days earlier in the week looked like it might happen.

Wednesday July 18 2018

Here.  Video, lasting just over twenty minutes.  Just watched it.  Good.

Particularly interested by what he says about how, without cheap paper, the revolutionary changes ushered in by the printing press could not have happened.  Mass produced printed matarial printed on animal skins not economically doable.

Harford ends on what he thinks is a depressing note, about a woman who supplies the final bit of muscle to a huge warehouse system, by receiving verbal orders from an all-powerful robot, which she simply obeys, second by second.  Go here, get this, this number, take it here, ...

Well, it’s a job.

Personally, I think that having to think all the time about your work, when you are at work, is hugely overrated.  Whenever I have had a “job”, I liked it when my job was my job, but my thoughts were my own.  Best job?  Driving a van, delivering number plates.  Drove on autopilot most of the time.  Thought my own thoughts.  Didn’t “buy into the company vision”.  Not “committed”.  Wasn’t “invested” in the work.  Just did it, mostly without having to think about it.  Bliss.

Wednesday June 27 2018

Whenever, in London, I bump into Chinese couples doing a wedding photo session, I join in and photo away myself, taking care to include the official photoers in my photos.

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That clutch of photos was photoed in September 2014 on Westminster Bridge, and is one of the nicer Chinese wedding photo sessions I recall joining in on, largely because of the splendour of that red dress.  (And yes, she herself looks pretty good too.) Usually, the bride wears white.

Just like the official photoers, I lined up a landmark behind the happy couple in one of my photos.  And note how another of my photos is just her, without him.  That seems to happen quite a lot.

Until now, it never occurred to me to research this delightful Chinese custom, but today, I did.  And I quickly found my way to this BBC report, published in October 2014, which explains that actually, these photos don’t get taken just after the wedding, but before it:

It’s a Chinese custom for couples to have their wedding photos taken before they are married, rather than on the day of the nuptials. “We wanted to take some sweet moments to share with the guests,” says Yixuan. On the wedding day, the photos will be shown to the guests on cards, via big screens and perhaps on video.

In China, pre-wedding photography is a huge - and lucrative – industry. ...

Usually I hesitate to feature the faces of strangers at this blog.  But my rule is, if you are making a spectacle of yourself, you are fair game.  And these photoers often make a huge performance out of getting the exact shots they want.

I think I have mentioned here before that I believe someone should do a ballet based on the contortions that digital photoers twist themselves into.  It would make sense to include a Chinese wedding couple in such a ballet.

Monday June 25 2018

No posting here yesterday, because from mid afternoon onwards this site could not be reached, either by readers or by the writer, i.e. me.  Sorry about that, but all seems to be sorted now, as it had to be for me to be able to post this.

I also had email problems, and just when I really did not need them. The Sunday evening before the last Friday of the month is when I do a mass(-ish) email about my forthcoming Last Friday of the Month meeting.  (This time: Prof Tim Evans on Corbyn.) But, it would seem that the emails all got through, even if replies to them were only getting back to me at around midday today.

When you have problems like this, then as soon as they’re sorted the worrisomeness graph nosedives from VERY BAD!!!! to profound happiness:

imageimageimage

Which is always a better feeling than, logically, it deserves to be, considering that all that happened was that something bad happened and then stopped.  But when badness stops, that feels very good, even if, logically, it is only things getting back to normal.

Saturday May 26 2018

I was attracted to Nick Bryant’s Twitter Feed by this Tweet, which someone on my Twitter Feed had flagged up.  And that got me looking at other Nick Bryant Tweets.

In one of these, Bryant alludes admiringly to this quote:

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Which Bryant calls “smart”.  And it does sound quite smart.

But think about this a bit more.  What this says is that in every room with several people in it, one of them shouldn’t be there.

If everyone followed this advice, social life would collapse.  The smartest person in each room would keep leaving, and then the second-smartest, and so on.  And the leavers would be frantically searching for rooms with smarter people in them.  But the smartest people in those rooms would also have to leave, and eventually they’d be the smartest.  And so on.  Madness.

Here’s my plan.  If you like the company you are in, stick around.  If you really are the smartest person there, there’s still plenty you can learn if you have a mind to.  And if you are actually teaching everyone else, well, what’s so wrong with that?

The truth is that most people are smart about some things and stupid about a lot of other things.  Which means that actually, the “smartest person” notion is inherently flawed.

The idea of the above quote is that we should always be learning things from others.  But you can usually learn something from anyone, no matter how much smarter you may be compared to them, or think that you are.

Further thought: If you are in a room where you think you are the smartest person, and that everyone else is stupider than you, well, maybe you should get out of there and spare these people your company.

I have in mind the meeting I hosted last night, where everyone was smart, or so it seemed to me. About whatever each of us was smart about.

Sunday May 06 2018

I remember when the internet was nice.  My part of it, the blogosphere, was nice, anyway.  Every blogger, no matter what he thought about things, was a comrade.  Every commenter, ditto.  In those magic few years from about 2001 until about 2008 at the latest, when a whole generation of people the world over found themselves short of cash, the internet was a nicer, more trusting place than it is now.  Since then, less and less.  Now, the internet is not to be trusted further than it can be spat, and it can’t be spat at all, can it?

Which is why, when I go on holiday and leave my flat unattended, I tend not to broadcast the fact on this blog, by posting postings which are clearly from this or that holiday location.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: broadcast?  This blog, a broadcast?  Well, no, not to regular humans.  But to all those cash-strapped desperadoes out there, it is a potential opportunity.

I don’t know if there are any internet creatures who spend their time working out, from blog postings and social media postings, that this or that person has left his home unattended, and then selling lists of such trusting persons on to people who might be able to do something bad about that, but this is not a chance I now care to take.  I prefer only to be telling you about photo-expeditions after I am back home.

Also, as you get older, you get more easily scared.  The less you have left to lose, the more you fear losing it.  This may not make calculational sense, but does make evolutionary sense.  The young need to be willing to take risks, to be willing to bet everything for the sake of their gene pool.  The old have less to offer in such dramas.  Or something.  What do I know?  Anyway, whatever the reason, we oldies get more timid as we grow older.

So yes, I was on holiday last week, in Brittany, and then yesterday, on the way home from there, I was in Paris, as I yesterday reported, once I had got home.

I took enough photos while in France to last me a month of blogging, and I expect about the next week of postings here to be about nothing else.  Here is just one photo from my travels:

image

That was my first view, again, this time around, of Quimper Cathedral, seen through the rather sunglassesy front window of my hosts’ car, on what was already quite a dreary afternoon, the day after I arrived, Sunday April 29th.  Quimper Cathedral – to be more exact, one of its towers - was responsible for the timing of this visit.  I’ll tell you more about that in a later posting.

Thursday April 19 2018

Via Scott Adams, I encountered this, from someone called Peter Smith:

Been chatting to my wife while Twitter was down. She seems nice.

But what does she now think of him?