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: Getting old

Wednesday December 12 2018

I continue to be skeptical about 3D-printing ever “going domestic”.  Just because the world can have a 3D-printer in every home, this does not mean that it makes the slightest bit of sense for the world actually to do this.  No, all the significant advances in 3D printing are now being made by old-school manufacturers, who now have another tool in their toolbox to make whatever stuff they already know how to design, make and sell.  3D-printing is additive in the literal sense, that being how it works.  It is also additive from the business point of view.  It is a technique that has been added to conventional manufacturing.  3D-printing is not “disruptive”.  It is the opposite of that.

Nevertheless, and despite all that, a friend of mine has recently purchased a domestic type 3D-printer, for him to play around with.  And despite everything I have learned about how the 3D-printing market is and is not developing just now, and despite the fact that I wouldn’t dream of acquiring such a contraption myself, I can’t stop myself being interested in what my friend does with his new toy.  3D-printing is just so miraculous, so Dr Whoozy, so Star Trecky, so downright amazing, as and when it starts to work as well as it clearly will work, once the Geekocracy have truly got it working properly.

image

The above is a very early “product”, as advertised by my friend on Facebook, those being his fingernails.  Just conceivably, what my friend will do is develop a repertoire, so to speak, of such “products”.

I put “products” in inverted commas because we’re not talking big business here.  More like small acts of friendship.  Him being that most potent combination, a Geek who nevertheless knows how to make and keep non-Geek friends, he might soon be 3D-printing useful bespoke items for the rest of us.  So we don’t have to.

Trouble is, it’s hard to think what these things might be.  But I am sure that over the decades to come, ideas will materialise.

What I am foreseeing is a world in which 3D-printers appear not in all homes, but in just enough homes for all those who want any of these “products” to be able to ask their designated Geek friend to get to work.  And I suppose some actual business might even emerge from this, in the form of designs for popular items.

Jewellery and kid’s toys are two obvious things, although you need to watch out the kid’s toys are not the sort they might be tempted to swallow.

What made me think that the above speculations might not be absurd was not only my friend’s Facebook posting, but also this piece, about a retired engineer who makes trinkets for his little network of friends.

Ninety-four-year-old John Downes is not your average pensioner.

A retired engineer, Mr Downes’s room at his Cambridgeshire care home contains not one, but three state-of-the-art 3D printers – technology he uses for the benefit of his fellow residents.

Having lived in Toft for almost 50 years, Mr Downes decided to remain in the village when he moved to the nearby Home Meadow care home in May last year.

Note that.  He remains where has always lived, and keeps all his local friends.  I bet he makes the occasional stuff for people beyond his care home.

There, he was keen to continue his tech-based hobbies, so staff arranged for his 3D printers to be set up in his room.

A retired engineer, Mr Downes’s room at his Cambridgeshire care home contains not one, but three state-of-the-art 3D printers – technology he uses for the benefit of his fellow residents.

But like I say, the problem here is not the technology.  It is worthwhile ideas about what to do with it, other than sensible things like making bits for airplanes or spare parts for cars, nearer than China, which won’t be done in anyone’s home.

As soon as I think of something that I want my friend to make for me I will let him know, and probably all of you too.

Here’s a thought.  A mutual friend of 3D-printer man and me is building a railway layout for his kids.  (And, you suspect, also for himself.) Maybe 3D-printing can add something to that project.

Tuesday November 20 2018

I think I must have noticed this strange phenomenon before, but then I forgot about it.  But whether I ever did notice it before or not, I recently noticed it again, or I noticed it:

image

I’m guessing that what this means is that if you are in Zone 2, and move to Zone 2/3, you haven’t moved into another zone.  And if you are in Zone 3 and then move to Zone 2/3, ditto.

But since I have an Old Git Pass, none of this really matters to me.  I just like the oddity of the situation.

Saturday November 03 2018

Photoed by me, on the same day that I most recently photoed Bartok:

image

As I get older, I find myself, every so often, getting crosser.  Not all the time, you understand, just in occasional eruptions.

But I am not cross about this photo.  That is exactly how it came out of the camera.  No cropping or Photoshop(clone)ing.  Just as was.  I love that light, as I have been saying here for about a week now.

I love that effect when the light is very strong and almost exactly in line with the wall but not quite, at a just sufficient angle to light it up, and at the slightest excuse cover it in big shadows. If it didn’t say: “City of Westminster”, you’d think you could be in the South of France or some such sunlit place.

More about the Compton Cross.

Thursday November 01 2018

I recall speculating here (by quoting Bill Bryson) that a reason why Modernism is so monochromatic is that there was a time about a hundred years ago when the two hardest colours to get right in painted form, and hence the two most modern colours, were: black; and: white.

Early, monochrome photography was also a big reason for architectural modernity not to care about colour.  The most modern buildings were the ones that looked like black and white photos.

This has been a long time changing, but changing it finally is.  There was Renzo Piano, and his brightly coloured buildings near Centre Point in London.  And now here comes this, by Jean Nouvel:

image

It’s the right hand of the two towers that I’m concerned with here, not with the other tower, or not with the crane or the bridge, bonuses though the latter two undoubtedly are.

Jean Nouvel has tricked his tower out in red, white and blue.  It’s in Marseille, and is called La Marseillaise.

My immediate reaction is: a bit of a mess.  Looks like he did this with three cans of spray paint, and in about twenty seconds.  But, if I got to see it in the flesh, with all the complexities of the detailing, I might well like it a lot.

But my opinion about the beauty or lack of it of this building is beside my point, which is that colour is finally creeping into fashion, as part of architectural modernity.

It has taken a long time, because architectural fashion always does take a long time.  This is because architects, unlike more regular artists, peak very late, a bit like classical conductors and for the same reason.  Which is that architects (like conductors), in order to peak, have to be very powerful, by which I mean, liked and supported and paid for by lots of other powerful people.  Powerful people tend to be old.

And sure enough, when I looked up the architect of this tricoloured tower, Jean Nouvel, I learned that his is now 73, having been born in 1945.  In other words, he is now entering the architectural promised land, that land being where he can design buildings exactly as he pleases, and the clients build them and reckon themselves lucky to have got him.

I could now add other coloured modernism photos, and make further points about why this trend is now happening, and happening so powerfully.  But the trick with blogging is to keep it brief, and if a subject matters to you, to come back to it again and again, while linking back to earlier pieces make the same big point.

So, expect plenty more here about coloured architectural modernity.

Wednesday October 10 2018

There is building activity going on at the top end of Horseferry Road, which is near where I live.  And this afternoon, when I sallied forth to enjoy the last really fine day of 2018 and to photo London, this bit of London activity was one of the very first things I photoed.  I really like how it now looks:

image

The walk lasted a long time, and that knackered me.  But what really knackered me was the shopping I needed to do at the end of the walk.  The final bit of that being lugging two bags of supermarket purchases up the stairs to my home.  This is not my idea of fun, even if it didn’t kill me and even if it did make me stronger.

So now all I am fit for is a little TV followed by bed.  I photoed many more pleasurable things today besides the above, which is why this posting is called “The last really fine day of 2018 (1)” rather than just “The last really fine day of 2018”.  But all of that will have to wait.  I promise at least one more posting concerning today’s photos, to make retrospective sense of that (1), but no more than that.  Good night.

Thursday September 13 2018

Today I was in Bermondsey, seeing a man about a blog, and instead of going straight home again, I got out at Southwark and walked to Parliament Square.  Then I tubed to Victoria, and did some quite strenuous shopping.  All that, plus I am getting old.  So, now I am now knackered, and am in need of an early night..

Here, picked out almost at random, is a photo I took on my travels, in Lower Marsh.

image

When photoing this photo, I of course had no idea that part of the blurry crane in the background would be visible, less blurrily, at a weird angle, in the street lamp.  Like I always say, my camera has better eyesight than I do, and what with me (see above) getting old, that gap has been growing.

London street lamps are rather fine, I think.  In the middle of London.  Not so sure about the outskirts.

Thursday August 16 2018

The Devil’s Dice is a debut work of crime fiction, written by my niece (which I mention to make clear that I am biased in her favour) Roz Watkins, and published earlier this year.  I enjoyed it a lot when I read it, but I did complain about the cover design:

Memo to self: If I ever design a book cover, make the title on the front either in dark lettering with a light background, or with light lettering on a dark background.

This earlier posting reinforced that point with a photo of a big display of books in Waterstone’s Piccadilly, from which you can only tell that The Devil’s Dice is The Devil’s Dice when you crop out that one title from that bigger picture and blow it up, thus:

image

This illegibility effect is also all too evident in this photo, taken by Roz’s brother.

All of which means that this (this being the relevant Amazon link) is good news:

image

That’s the cover of the paperback version of The Devil’s Dice, which which will be available in January of next year.  Okay, it’s not a huge change, but putting the same orange lettering on a black background instead of a near white background is much more likely to get the attention of the fading-eyesight community, of which I am a member, and which is surely a quite large chunk of the public for crime fiction.  This is also the kind of thing that just might sway a decision about whether to put a book in a bookshop window display.

I bet I wasn’t the only one grumbling about that earlier hardback cover, and it would appear that the grumbling has had exactly the desired effect.

I know little about book publishing, but I’m guessing that paperbacks are where the volume sales are, driven by those early glowing reviews (The Devil’s Dice got lots of glowing reviews) penned by the readers of the hardback version.  And from that volume comes the magic of a serious word-of-mouth wave.  Most readers are probably willing to wait a little in order not to have to devote scarce bookshelf space to great big chunks of cardboard, and for the sake of having something a bit easier to carry around.

And, if you really insist of your books being ultra portable, or if your eyesight is even worse than mine and you need seriously to enlarge the text, The Devil’s Dice is also now available in Kindle format, for just £1.99.  I am biased (see above), but for what it’s worth I agree with all those glowing reviewers, and recommend The Devil’s Dice in all formats, even the hardback with its dodgy cover.

Wednesday August 08 2018

I don’t believe I am the only man to have been deranged by the heatwave in the manner I am about to describe, in fact I know that I am not, because I had one of those How-Very-True You’re-So-Right type conversations with GodDaughter2’s boyfriend, Only The Other Day, about exactly this matter.

I refer to the fact that I, and many other men, do not merely wear a jacket to fend off frigidity.  We also wear it to carry stuff.  It is our version of a handbag.  In my case: wallet, cheque book and paying in cheques book (so I was born before you were - live with it) (both these items serve another purpose besides handling the financial instrument relics of the previous century, which is to fill up the pocket containing my wallet and stop the wallet falling out (which would be a catastrophe)), pen, purse, Old Git free London transport pass, keys, handkerchiefs, mobile phone, spectacle case with reading spectacles, spectacle case with spare camera batteries and spare SD cards (the latter for if I forget to put my regular SD card back in the camera), Disprins, cough sweets, regular sweets, eye allergy spray, and no doubt several other things I can’t now remember.

Unlike some men, I also carry an actual bag around with me on my travels, containing: a folder with paper to take notes, a shopping bag for if I shop, a camera, a book, a small bottle of fruit flavoured anti-dehydration liquid, any food I have bought, any spare garments I might need for if it gets colder, an umbrella, and even sometimes a laptop computer, on those days when I am in a mobile laptop computing sort of mood (although lately I have tended not to be in such a mood (too heavy)).

But, transferring all the clobber described in paragraph two above into the bag, and into the midst of all the clobber described in paragraph three above, is a serious derangement, not least because the bag gets far too full.  For remember, what if, late at night, if the heatwave abates, I need the jacket?  I have to have the jacket in the bag, just in case, even though it is far too hot to wear it and in fact, throughout the heatwave, it remained so.  So, with everything now in an unfamiliar place, much of it buried under other bits of it, all the usual reflexes stop working.  Nothing is any longer where it usually is.  I start suffering from that frightful female syndrome of digging about inside the bag, frantically trying to find whatever it is.  Which may in fact be in one of my trouser pockets, or maybe even my shirt pocket, for goodness sake.  Oh God, where’s my wallet (which contains all sorts of priceless stuff which I dare not even itemise (see above))?!?!  Etc..

Today, the heatwave sort of ended, as in: the weather oscillated between pleasantly warm and somewhat warmer.  But unfortunately the London Underground didn’t get the email containing the link to the short-term weather forecast, and chose to remain full of the horribly hot air that it had been accumulating throughout the previous fortnight, or however long it’s been.

But the discomfort I suffered was the discomfort of wearing my jacket when it was rather hot.  That I can live with.

But worse, just like the London Underground, I too found myself suffering a systemic hangover from the previous period of high temperature hell.  Earlier this evening I was in a pub, and when my pubbing was done, I picked up my bag, and visited the toilet, prior to leaving.  Luckily, while there, I realised that I had left my jacket on the back of the seat that I had been sitting on.  I reclaimed it, seemingly unmolested by plunderers, except that … hell’s bells, my wallet wasn’t in it! It was, of course, in the bag, where I had recently been learning instead to put it.

It’ll be a few more days before I recover my usual calm and suave demeanour, when out and about.

Saturday June 16 2018

This morning, I had a strange dream.  What with attending a couple of recent song performances given by GodDaughter2, my subconscious somehow persuaded itself that I was also having to do some singing, in front of a similarly discerning audience.  But of course I had no idea what I was supposed to be singing.  Also, my singing is ridiculous, and it has been ever since my voice broke.  Nobody sane would gather into an audience to hear it.  Nevertheless, there I was, on a stage, waiting to perform, with three other actual singers, totally clueless.  So far so ordinary.  A classic unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmare.

At this point, however, a slightly more conscious layer of my subconscious deduced, in an actually quite relaxed manner, that this was an unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmare.  At which point, it told me to look the audience straight in their eyes, and I said words to the following effect: “This performance may seem like it’s going to be a dream for you, but actually, it’s really a nightmare.  My nightmare.  And I’m not having it.  I’m not going to do any performing, and I am not going to feel bad about this.  I’m out of here.” And I was.  I left the stage, and all those present just had to deal with it.

At this point it got strange.  Instead of me waking up, the dream carried right on.  The media decided to take an interest.  There were TV crews interviewing the other performers, the ones who had actually been doing some rehearsing.  What was that about?  Who was that bloke?  It was quite a drama.  As it would be, if a performer made a speech like the one my subconscious and I had just made.  I tried to hide behind a door in the room where all this media frenzy was unfolding, but the media spotted me and advanced towards me.  Only then did I wake up.

What did this mean?  What was my subconscious telling me?  The usual unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmare seems to say: rehearse better.  This revised version seemed to say: relax.  But relax about what, exactly?

They say that if you have a weird dream, then if you just write it down, as best you can, or, if you are the picture-drawing sort, if you draw yourself a picture, then whatever message your brain was trying to get noticed in another part of itself is from then on regarded as having been noticed, and the weird dream does not return.  What matters is not the accuracy and quality of what you write or draw.  Simply making the effort is enough.

It feels to me like this was something to do with getting old.  Getting old means that you just get less bothered about things generally, and unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmares in particular.  Time was when you worried about such things.  Now, you just bugger off out of there.  If others object, that’s their problem.

Also, if you think this is a bizarre blog posting, ... well, you know, ditto.

Thursday May 17 2018

I have yet to break my Twitter silence.  I am just letting all the people I follow just Twitter away all over me, while I try to get a sense of who Twitters well, so that when I finally do, if I ever do, I too will Twitter well, or at least quite well.

imageOne such role model is Frank J. Fleming.

From whom, this is deservedly getting around:

I think you’re always going to have tension in the Middle East when there’s people who want to kill the Jews and Jews who don’t want to be killed and neither side is willing to compromise.

More recently, I also liked this, about an American psycho-gang that President Trump described as animals:

I assumed the threat of MS-13 was being overblown since I don’t trust Trump, but now other people I don’t trust are doing overtime belittling the problem of MS-13 and I don’t know who not to trust more.

When I was young, I wondered if I would be able to respect my youngers but betters.  How would that work?  It turns out it works fine.  That would make another nice Tweet.

Tuesday May 15 2018

Today was a perfect day for a day out on a big photo-expedition, but for some reason to do with getting older, I didn’t feel up to it.  It’s too early to be sure, but I sense that a phase of my life, a phase that consisted of, among other things, exploring and photoing London, may just have come to an end.

So, instead of showing you photos I took today, here are some from an ancient I Just Like Them! Directory:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

Taken in 2008 in Trafalgar Sqaure (1.1), in 2012 underneath that rather pointless ski lift thing out east (1.2), in 2014 while those swanky student accommodations were under construction at the far end of Westminster Bridge from Parliament (2.1), and at the top end of Horseferry Road looking at the top of a random building at the top end of Rochester Row (2.2) also in 2014, when all the tree leaves had been shaken off.

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 March 08 2018

Earlier today, in the Derby branch of Waterstone’s:

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Standing on the staircase, top left, in a black dress, is Roz Watkins, speaking at the launch of her crime thriller, published today, The Devil’s Dice.

I mention Roz and her book here because she is my niece.  Another sign of getting old, to add to the collection: instead of boasting about elderly relatives who did great things in the past, e.g. WW2, you instead find yourself boasting about younger relatives who are doing great things now and who will probably do more great things in the future.

Roz sent me an advance copy of The Devil’s Dice and I am happy to report that I agree with all those effusively admiring Amazon reviewers.  Very absorbing, very well written.  I am now working on a longer piece about this book for Samizdata, which I hope will go up there tomorrow.  If not then, then soon.

Saturday February 17 2018

I still get cheques through the post, and then I insert these cheques into my bank account by going physically to my local physical branch of my unlocal bank and by handing the cheques over to a cashier.  My bank, however, doesn’t like this.  Just like Tesco, they want me to do the work.  In Tesco’s case they now demand that I become my own check-out person and operate their computers for them.  So, it’s Sainsbury’s and Waitrose for me, from now on.  Bye bye Tesco.  In the bank’s case, they want me to do their work for them while I sit at home.  But, I like the exercise.  In the huge bank queue, I get to read a book concentratedly, because there is nothing else to do.  Good.

All of which is a preamble to the fact that when I came across this, I LedOL:

“Are you aware that you can now do all of this online?”

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Genius.  K. J. Lamb, well done.

One of the many techniques they use to put you off actually going to the physical local branch of your Big Bank is to keep changing the people behind the bars.  And these total strangers are constantly, and insultingly, asking you to prove that you are who you are.  Well, madam, I’ve been banking with your bank for the last half century.  Who the hell are you?  Please could you give me proof that you actually do work here?

Someone should make a movie about a twenty first century bank robbery, where the robbers, who are disgruntled ex-employees of the Big Bank that owns the bank branch they bust into, bust into the bank branch, overpower the witless bunch of newbies who happen to be running the place that day, and park them all in a back room for the day with tape over their months, and then the robbers run the bank all day long, while one of their number hacks into the mainframe computer of the Big Bank that owns everything, and sucks all the money out of it.  The point is: none of the customers who visit the branch while all this is happening would find it in the slightest bit odd to be confronted by a bunch of total strangers.  That would ring no alarm bells at all, because this happens all the time.

Monday January 08 2018

I’m not saying Happy New Year to you, again, although now that I’ve mentioned it, I actually do, again.  No, what I have in mind is that today feels like my New Year has, at last, begun.

I always tell people that I like a quiet Christmas and a quiet New Year, but it seldom turns out that way, and it did not this time around.  This was not because I got lots of appalling demands to attend appalling things.  If they had been appalling demands and appalling things, then I would have happily played them all off against each other and ignored the whole damn lot of them.  No, the problem was: enticing requests to attend enticing things, frequented by enticing people whom I might not soon be meeting again, things that I knew I would enjoy and which I did mostly enjoy, hugely, but which just came one after another.  (Plus, I arranged an event myself at my home, on the last Friday of December.)

And then, in the midst of it all there was that dose of Ashes Lag, to play havoc with the already imperfect sleep pattern.  The point of such fill-in-the-blank lags is that it only takes one such night of lag to create a ripple lasting about a week.  Throw into that mix a few invites to things that happened not in the evening but earlier in the day, and it all became pretty strenuous.

But now, all these events have come and gone.  I had a huge sleep last night and way into this morning, and finally feel able to think about the year ahead rather than just the next thing I need to get to.

So like I say: Happy New Year.