Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Michael Jennings on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Brian Micklethwait on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Michael Jennings on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
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Patrick Crozier on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
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- Cat proximity awareness
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- Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
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- New River Walk
- Die Meistersinger was very good
- Spring in Islington
- ROH Covent Garden here I come
- Today’s plan
- Photoing the faces of strangers (or in my case: not)
- England crush Scotland in the 6N – plus the hugeness of home advantage
- If Pugs could fly
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Category archive: Getting old
This evening I attended a talk at Christian Michel’s, about (and against) major increases in the human lifespan.
The speaker quoted luminaries saying that infinite life would lead to infinite meaningless of life. People would just get bored. It is death that gives life its meaning. Immortality would drain the meaning out of life.
But from the floor came a different surmise, to the effect that the imminence of death, to some anyway, causes a slowing down, a draining away of zest. Greatly prolonged life - accompanied by the enhanced and prolonged energy and zestfulness that would make prolonged life enjoyable, rather than merely bearable, or worse, unbearable - would surely cause many now considered old to get stuck seriously into new projects, confident that they would have a serious amount of time and energy left to devote to them. Something like immortality would cause more lust for life, rather than less. People who expect to die soon are now inclined just to sit back and wait for it.
When I first encountered a primitive version of the very word processing that I am indulging in right now, nearly fifty years ago now, I hurled myself into learning to type, confident that the investment of time and effort would more than pay for itself. Had I been nearly seventy when I first encountered word processing for the first time, would I have bothered with it? Probably, not. If, on the other hand, I could now confidently expect another seventy or so years of active life, would I now be more inclined to adapt to new techniques and processes? Yes. I am pretty much certain that I would be more adventurous, more willing to invest time and energy, if the pay-off was going to be five or more decades of further potential impact rather than just the one decade or so that I now anticipate.
The speaker from the floor who expressed this most eloquently was Chris Cooper, who is giving my next Last Friday of the Month talk, on March 31st, on the subject of the rise of the robots. Chris thinks they will become our robot overlords.
What I can say with confidence is that one of the reasons I don’t now get stuck into new ways of doing things, new ways that might greatly improve things for me, is that whereas the investment of effort and energy would be unchanged from what was required fifty years ago, the benefits I can expect to gain, now that death looms, will be greatly diminished.
So, if death did not now loom ...
As many times threatened here, this blog is going, more and more, to be about the process of (me) getting old. As you (I) get older, your (my) grasp of the everyday mechanisms of early twenty first century life becomes ever more stuck in the late twentieth century.
One of the best known symptoms of advancing years is short-term memory loss. In plain language, you do something or see something, and then you immediately forget all about it. You put a remote control down, and seconds later, a portal into the seventh dimension opens up, swallows the remote, and closes again, and you spend the next ten minutes looking for the damn thing. If I write with feeling, it is because exactly this just happened to me, when first-drafting this. But at least when it came to this remote, I managed to persuade the portal into the seventh dimension to open and disgorge its prey, after only a few minutes of searching and brain-wracking.
Altogether more tiresome was when the same thing happened to this, about a fortnight ago:
As you can guess from the fact of the above photo, I eventually found this Thing again, but only after about a week of futile searching, through all the stuff in my small, one-bedroom home.
In the end, I had to give up, because I had instead to be preparing for the meeting I held at my home last Friday. And then, in the midst of those preparations and much to my amazement, the above Thing revealed itself to me again. It was in a place I should have looked in at once but failed to, but at least I found it.
What the Thing is is the electrical lead for my ancient laptop. Time has not yet rendered this laptop useless, by which I mean not useless to me for my primitive late twentieth century purposes, but losing this lead might have this laptop useless even to me, if Maplin‘s had been unable to supply a replacement. At the very least, I had started to expect a hefty bill, because people selling leads for such purposes know that they are dealing with desperate buyers, for whom a vital piece of kit will either resume working, or be forever useless. Twenty quid? Arrrrgh! Hmmmm. Okay, so be it. (Bastards.)
I have a couple of bags entirely full of leads like the one above, In Case They Come In Handy, which of course they never will. This is yet another category of stuff that you have to get used to chucking out, but being old, you find it hard to do. Because, Sod’s Law decrees that as soon as you chuck one of these wires out, you will realise you do need it.
But, like I say, I found this particular bit of wire. It wasn’t the best thing that happened to me last Friday. (That was the meeting.) But it was pretty good.
What is it about taking out the rubbish that makes the task so very unwelcome? I live alone, so do not get nagged to do this, but reality itself nags me. Take the rubbish out. Why can’t I do this simple thing?
Partly, there is the procrastinator’s constant enemy, which is that fact that a little more time will make very little difference. Spill rubbish on the floor and it must be cleaned up at once, so cleaned up at once it is. But most rubbish has its own intermediate, organised, official place. Why bother with it tonight? Tomorrow morning will do. Tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon will do, and so it goes on.
The current rubbish crisis is different, because I have been doing some clearing out, and about four loads of rubbish have assembled themselves. So procrastination is not such a good option. Trouble is, each load of rubbish involves a trip down and then up the stairs again, and I have it in my head that it all has to be done at the same time, because if not this situation will drag on for ever, and that means going down and up the stairs four separate times. Things aren’t made any easier by having to check beforehand if there is still any room in the rubbish bins for the recycled rubbish. Am I supposed to do a separate trip just to find out? Often, yes. I meant to check earlier this afternoon, when I was out doing something real, but forgot.
The worst thing of all is that some of the rubbish isn’t really rubbish. It’s perfectly good stuff that I am just never going to use and which is taking up space, and which I don’t have the time or the social media savvy to find a home for. Ah, finding a home. For rubbish.
Perhaps blogging this through here will in some weird way change the way I’m thinking about this, and I’ll get it all done. Mostly what blogging about this rubbish make me think is: this is rubbish, get it done. There you go.
One of the many dispiriting aspects of getting old is that your favourite sorts of technology revert to 1970s standards of reliability, even when brand new. This is because the kind of kit you want to buy is often no longer now being made, so if you can find it, it was made a really long time ago, and that means it is liable to not work properly.
Last week, I wanted to buy a small television set. Everyone else who wants a small television buys a tablet or some such contrivance. But I am me, and I wanted a small television set.
And this was the picture it showed me when I got it home and switched it on:
Yes, a television set that doesn’t work. When did you last experience that? It’s like globalisation never happened, and I am back to buying a television from GEC or Ferguson or some such fiascotic enterprise.
This was the only kind of small television they had. There were several rows of huge televisions, and a single row of even huger ones. But no small ones.
I tried to include in this posting a link to the actual television and where I bought it. But that website wasn’t working.
Just heard an announcer on London Live TV pronounce Persephone as “Percy Phone”. It should be Per Seffany, in case you also are not sure. Y(oung) P(eople) T(hese) D(ays). They just don’t have the Classics.
Today will be the forth consecutive day of clear skies over southern England. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the first two of these four days, I journeyed to East London, and today I plan to do the same. (Yesterday, I just couldn’t make myself do this. Instead I got a haircut.)
Living and working on my own, to my own schedule, creates problems as well as solving or abolishing them. Being old, I basically have to get up as soon as I wake up, in order to squirt urine where it needs to go rather than where it doesn’t. And, having woken up, getting to sleep again can then be difficult and time consuming. Either I do this, eventually, which takes a big bite out of the beginning of my day. Or, I stay awake, which means that by the early evening I will be asleep in my chair. I am staying awake today, to make maximum use of all that sunlight which even now I can see outside. But, if I leave my self-imposed blogging duties for today to the evening, I will find this very difficult. This evening I will be both sleep-deprived and exhausted from my wanderings. Also, I want to be at an event this evening. So, I am blogging now, before journeying to East London.
It is for times like these that I collect photos that I just like into special directories, of photos that I just like. Since today is Friday, my day for cats and other creatures, here is an other creature:
A rather blurry photo, so no clicking for anything bigger there. That’s it. But click on this, of the sign under the elephant, if you want to read more about it:
Having to get up every few hours when trying to sleep is a penalty of old age, but a better thing about being old right now is that the indiscriminate inquisitiveness of oldies like me is now more easily answered, without me having to pester any actual humans. Getting old used to mean remaining permanently confused by more and more random stuff, but less so now I can just ask the www. Time was when a photo like the one of this elephant in my archives would have remained for ever mysterious. Now, I can learn all I want about to about it.
Here is a better elephant sculpture photo, which I found here
But why is the union jack elephant a different shape to all the others? I could find this out, probably. But can I be bothered? Do I care? No.
But why is the union jack elephant a different shape to all the others? I could find this out, probably. But can I be bothered? Do I care? No.
Spent my evening getting my colour printer back in business. Took me five minutes to find the on/off switch.
It always surprises me when people don’t take pictures of events that they themselves organise. Me included by the way. I have a friend who kindly takes photos at my events whenever he attends them, because I mostly forget to, and I’m guessing others do too. This being the kind of obvious but small error that people make when they are stressed.
Which is maybe why this IEA guy, who saw me taking photos at this IEA centenary event in honour of Arthur Seldon, last night, asked me if I could send him a few of my photos.
Here are the seven photos I will be sending him.
The first one sets the scene, but also highlights a problem, which is that these days, at speaker meetings, there is usually a bright screen, while the speaker is - or (as in this case) the speakers are - in something more like darkness:
On the left there, Martin Anderson. On the right, Patrick Minford. Take my word for it.
But I did get a few half decent shots of speakers speaking, or listening to other speakers speaking:
Top left: Peter Seldon, Arthur’s on. Top right: Richard Wellings. Bottom left: Linda Whetstone, speaking from the floor. Bottom right: Patrick Minford, again.
Finally, my two favourite photos of the night, both of Martin Anderson. And of his magnificent giant shirt:
I did attempt some crowd shots, but they didn’t come out at all well. Shame, because there was quite a crowd.
I also tried photoing the video camera and its operator. That also failed to come out right, but at least there was a video camera present, so presumably those who did not attend will be able eventually to listen in on what was actually quite an upbeat event.
You know you are getting old when instead of just attending funerals of people whom you knew, you attend celebrations of people who were born one hundred years ago, whom you also knew.
More about Seldon and his colossal impact here. There is also a photo of him there. Shame there wasn’t a photo of him on that big screen.
Today I visited Tottenham, and I intend to return tomorrow, both expeditions having been prompted by these two weather forecasts:
That I have already decided this evening where I will be going tomorrow, and that I already knew last night what I was going to do today, is typical of how I now do these expeditions. Trying to work out, in the morning, where I’ll go that day, given that the day is turning out nice, tends not to work so well. Being old and tired and physically lazy, I have to have an interesting and attractive destination in mind as soon as the day starts, in order to force me out the front door soon enough for the expedition to amount to something.
In this respect, I am turning into my Dad. When I was a kid I used to tease my Dad about all the planning that would go into family expeditions, and he used to justify this with questions starting with the words “What if?” What if, we get into an accident? What if, one of us gets sick? What if, the trains are disrupted? We need a plan capable of taking care of everything. I used to think he was being over-cautious, and that we ought to just get started and deal with problems as and when they happened, which they mostly wouldn’t.
Well, as I get older, I become less good at adapting, by which I mean that I can change a plan in mid plan, but that it takes longer and is more stressful.
But more fundamentally, I now suspect that my Dad may have needed his plan just to get him going at all. Without a plan to drive the expedition forward, with artificially created deadlines and reasonably enticing objectives, maybe he just wouldn’t have been able to muster the energy he needed to lead us forth into the world at all. Like me, he knew that he would be happier if he did get stuck into an expedition, and would be depressed if all he did was sit at home doing this or that amusing but trivial thing. So, he would devise plans to make himself do what he wanted to do. My Dad’s plans were not as he sold them to me, mere precautions. His plans were energisers.
But maybe that’s just me.
I have a new CD player which has the delightful property that it does not put a little pause in between tracks. My previous CD player, an abomination perpetrated by something called Cambridge Audio, does insert such gaps. This doesn’t matter, mostly, because mostly the tracks I want to listen to have gaps between them anyway, so gaps that are a tiny bit bigger are not a problem. But if you are listening to one of those classical pieces which is played in one continuous lump, but which is divided up into episodes on the CD, and when each of these episodes is given a separate track, the effect is disastrous. A total deal breaker. Strauss Alpine Symphony Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini or Corelli Variations. Almost any opera. There are actually a lot of such pieces.
Just after buying this abominable device, and before I started suffering from its vile gap habit, I also acquired a CD of Daniil Trifonov doing several Rachmaninov variations pieces, and it was while attempting to listen to this CD that I discovered how appalling this Cambridge Audio CD player was.
So now I have a new CD player, which leaves no gaps, and I went looking for that Trifonov CD, in order to actually enjoy it for the first time. But then came the mystery. I couldn’t find it. I have a vague recollection of putting this CD in a different place, to play it on a different player, I think. But what different place? Did I even own this CD at all? Had I only imagined owning it, and had I actually played another CD of those Rachmaninov pieces?
As I searched I realised that I was tidying up. I guess there are two ways to look for something. You made the place even more of a mess, or you make it less of a mess. And, if only because there was nowhere to put any mess I created, I found myself actually reducing the mess. And once I found myself doing that, I also found myself rereading this, which is me telling me about an earlier effort along similar lines.
I may never find that Trifonov CD. But if an imaginary CD causes me to contrive the reality of a more tidy home, ...
No, I’m not talking about Cold Feet, I’m talking about my own cold feet, those things at the far ends of my legs.
Yesterday morning, I had a most unwelcome experience. I had got up for a piss, and had then hung around out of bed that bit too long, and my feet got cold. So far so regular. I eventually went to bed, and still my feet were cold. And then, despite the rest of me getting very warm, my feet refused to get any warmer, even after a short spell of sleep. I woke up with cold feet.
So, the rest of my body seems to have lost the trick, some of the time anyway, of sharing warmth with my feet. I actually had to get up again, and brew up a hot water bottle. I am starting to understand why old people are often to be observed with their feet in big bowls of hot water.
I have yet to experience feeling nervous about committing to something, and then my feet getting cold immediately after this feeling strikes, but I am sure that this experience will be bestowing itself upon me very soon. Getting old is, among other things, the process of learning that clutches of words that you had thought were merely clutches of words are actually cruelly accurate descriptions of genuine sensations, felt by you, as you get older. Under the weather. No stomach for it. And, in due course, I am sure: cold feet. There are plenty more. But (which is another Getting Old thing) I cannot now remember them.
When you talk about an airplane being blown up, that usually means it has been exploded, destroyed, incinerated. This airplane, however, has been blown up, yet it looks like this:
Details at 6k. This posting here is basically a celebration, of the fact that I am now able to get to 6k, copy pictures from 6k, etc.
For the last few days, right up until nearly now, my computer was unable or unwilling to access 6k. Everything else: okay, but rather clunky. 6K: not. I checked if this was 6k’s fault by trying to access 6k via my mobile, and that worked. Ergo, it was me. Strange, and rather frustrating, because I like 6k. And now, for some equally bizarre reason, my computer did some sort of internet connection hiccup involving that thing where it says something about a testing process and says you have to check in again, with some password you never knew you had which you can actually ignore by just opening a new window, and once I reopened a new window, everything was suddenly back working properly. And: 6k returned.
Dodgy connection? Well, maybe, but I hadn’t touched any of the connections. Why did this happen? Don’t know. And: don’t care, unless it happens again. Then: it did happen again. Fiddled about with connections. TURNED COMPUTER OFF AND TURNED COMPUTER ON AGAIN. Seems now to work. Weird.
Also weird is what the Russians are about to be getting up to. (The airplane above is Russian.) Some things never change. The Russians are always doing one of two things: pretending to be weaker than they are, or pretending to be stronger than they are. They seem to be in a stronger than they are phase just now.
Life is full of mysteries. More so, as you get older.
The other day (which is an expression that strikes me as very odd – I mean: either yesterday or the day before yesterday), I was sitting on my toilet and, not having brought a current book with, I took a look at one of the Rebus books, The Naming of the Dead. All my already read Rebuses are gathered there. Immediately I was hooked, and since then, I have continued reading.
The thing is, I have already read this book. I have read all the Rebuses, except the latest, which hasn’t yet emerged in paperback. But, I have absolutely no idea what will happen in the rest of The Naming of the Dead, apart from that it involves a serial killer on the loose, which I got from the blurb on the back.
This is one of those bonuses of getting old. It’s not worth all the drawbacks of getting old, but it is a bonus. You can reread books which depend for their effect on you not knowing what will happen next, because if you read the book about, I don’t know, five years ago, you probably don’t know what will happen next.
And when I have finished The Naming of the Dead, there will then be all the other Rebuses. For me, one of the most important ingredients of contentment is to have a book on the go that I really am keen to read.
Whenever I see an old car, of the sort that was the latest thing when I was a kid, I photo it, or I try to.
See, for instance, those delightful old Citroens in Roupell Street. Which were there, I have since learned, not because someone in Roupell Street is collecting them, but because someone in Roupell Street is repairing them.
And see also, this ...:
… which I saw earlier this week, while on my way to a violin and piano recital at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square. A Rolls Royce, on the way to what turned out to be a Rolls Royce performance.
I used to have a Dinky Toy version of that car.
I am increasingly coming to believe that many of our most powerfully felt aesthetic prejudices are formed in the nursery. And that a lot of Modern Art is the recreation of those happy sensations, in an enlarged form, suitable for the enlarged people that the nursery dwellers turn into.
But Dinky Toy cars don’t have to be enlarged, because they already have been. Enlarged Dinky Toy cars are called: cars.
Come to think of it, I also had a couple of Dinky Toy Citroens, a DS19, and a 2CV. Yes, this explains a lot.
The time is not far away when I will almost cease from adding to my photo-archives, and will spend most of my photo-time trawling through the archives that I already have.
And coming upon photos like this:
That’s a Big Thing alignment that you don’t see very often. It is, of course, the Wembley Arch and The Wheel. I took this shot in Eltham, quite near (I think) to Eltham Palace, on (definitely) December 23rd 2015. The posting at the end of that last link mentions this expedition, to meet up with my good friend Alastair, but the only picture it shows is a picture that Alastair himself took some weeks earlier, of the Walkie Talkie, and I never subsequently showed here any of the pictures that I took that day. The above is one of them.
However, it is typical of many of the photos I take in including things, in this case a Big Thing, that I was unaware of photoing at the time. I think I realised that I was photoing The Wheel, when I took the above photo. But I do not believe I realised at the time that I had also photoed the Wembley Arch. For this reason, the picture above zeroes in on this alignment. But if you click on it, you get the original photo that I took, where the above alignment is only one of many potentially interesting things.
The Wembley Arch often surprises me like this. It’s like one of those idiots who deliberately pops up behind TV sports reporters, except not idiotic or deliberate. It is very big. And it is quite a way away from the centre of London, in a rather confusing direction. So it has a habit of suddenly looming up in the background of the photos I take, even though, not knowing exactly where it is, I am seldom trying to photo it. Unless of course I actually see it, which I typically don’t. Until I look at my photos. (E.g. the final photo in this posting earlier this week, about what I saw from Epsom. From Epsom, the Wembley Arch is way off to the left of London Big Things.)
Earlier today, underneath the Wembley Arch, the Rugby League Grand Challenge Cup Final took place. Hull FC came from behind to defeat Warrington.