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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: Getting old

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:

image

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?”

image

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.

Sunday January 07 2018

One of the problems of getting old is that it becomes gradually harder to do more than one thing in a day.  This being why my daily postings here are often rather perfunctory.

This morning, for instance, I had a most enjoyable meeting with a friend, and then, the weather being so good, I went wandering about in Soho.  That’s two things there, right away.  Now, all I am capable of is rather incoherent rambling about nothing very much.

I did, while meandering about in the south of Oxford Street area, finally manage to track down the latest issue of the BBC Music (by which is meant classical music) magazine, which is getting harder to come by with every year that passes.  Another symptom of advancing years being that it gets harder to buy the things that you particularly like, as others who also like that thing die off.

But, good news: the BBC’s preferred best performance of the Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata was a rather obscure recording by the rather obscure pianist, Peter Serkin, who is the less famous son of the famous pianist Rudolf Serkin.  I have so many CDs that I often can’t be sure whether I own some particular CD or not, and so it was with this one.  But after some rootling around, I discovered that I do possess this CD.  I love it when that happens.

And yes, since you ask, I am influenced by critics.  If someone who knows the piece in question very well thinks that this or that performance is very, very good, then I know that I will at least want to hear this performance, even if I don’t end up sharing the critic’s high opinion, which often I do.  This recommendation means I will now listen to this CD again.

The other thing I did was take a close look at a camera that I have been tempted by, but will probably not be buying, although it was interesting.  This was in a shop called Park Cameras in Rathbone Place.

Inside Park Cameras Rathbone Place I also took this photo, with the camera that I already possess:

image

Good to encounter a new bridge of interest, even if it is only a miniature Lego version of an old bridge.  I have no idea why such a bridge was in Park Cameras Rathbone Place, but I wasn’t complaining.

I get the distinct impression that a golden age of bridge building arrived about thirty or forty years ago, but has now departed.  I just picture googled new bridge, and I mostly got bridges I have known about for quite a while.

I digress.

Saturday December 16 2017

My camera is pretty good, but it isn’t ideal for me.  I only use a bit of it at all regularly, the automatic bit.  So if, on a rainy day, I push, by mistake, some stupid knob on it that tells it to stop being automatic, it stops being automatic.  And, the automatic focussing refuses to work the way it should.  That’s what happened when I thought it had conked out.  It’s fine.  It was simply obeying orders.

I tried photoing the relevant knobs, first with mirrors and then with my mobile, but the results of all that were a blurry mess.  Have you ever tried getting a camera to photo its own arse?  And photoing with my mobile is something I need daylight to do half decently.

I got a much better picture of the back of my camera by going to this.

image

In particular, I draw your attention to this bit:

image

The knob with AF/AE LOCK on it needs to be pointing at AFS/AFF, and absolutely not at MF.  MF means, I presume, Manual Focus.  AF means automatic focus.  S and the other F mean whatever they mean.

The problem arose when, in the rain and needing to possess three hands, one to hold my bag and two to operate my camera properly, I try to look at the photo I just took.  That involves pressing the button with the green arrow on it.  To get back to photoing, press DISP.  But, what with all the rain and the confusion and only having one hand to both hold the camera and press the knobs on it, I accidentally pushed the AF/AE LOCK knob, and got it pointing at MF.  By mistake.  I’m guessing this would be why the AF/AE LOCK button includes the word “LOCK”.  And this works a treat.  I know this now.

Anyway, the upshot (metaphorically speaking) of all this is that my camera went from photos like this, just before I met up with GD2 the day before yesterday ...:

image

… to this, not long after that, after the knob disaster had occurred …:

image

… and then back to this:

image

… when I met up with a friend yesterday, in: Hither Green.

So, panic over.

It’s an odd feeling, partially the feeling of massive relief that I won’t have to spend Christmas trying to turn whatever guarantee came with my camera into another camera, and partially the feeling that I am an idiot and that I should pay more attention to the knobs on my camera.  Delight and embarrassment all mixed up together.

This is what Americans would call a “learning experience”, and although often all that this means is “total cock-up”, in this particular case they would be right.

Tuesday December 12 2017

I have been receiving several of these calls recently, from faraway Indian-sounding guys who all, coincidentally, have English-sounding names.

Once again, I am reminded that the internet is the internet, and that if I type some words into my computer, along the lines of “I’m calling you from Windows …”, I should get the story.  And: I did.

That story was posted in 2012.  As it says, this rubbish obviously works.  Five years later, they’re still at it, with an identical script.

I’m somewhat ashamed to relate that it worked on me, the first time, a bit.  I seriously considered the possibility of the call being real, until I worked out that it obviously wasn’t.  Such shame spasms are important because they stop people talking about these scams and thereby reducing their chances of working.

In the early nineteenth century, sheep stealers were hanged, or so goes the legend.  Rip-off phone calls like the above make me understand why this happened, insofar as it actually did.  People talk, quite reasonably, about how people stole sheep because they were starving, but I’m guessing that having your sheep (singular or plural) stolen was a serious blow about which you (the victime) were ashamed, and that catching the bastards was very difficult even if you did tell other people.  So, when, by chance, sheep stealers were caught, they were often or at least sometimes killed.  I completely get it.

More often, however, they were (scroll down to the end) transported to Australia.

Once again, the internet tells the story.  This is yet another way in which the experience of getting old (the first posting you’ll get, as of now, if you follow that link, will be this one) has been transformed.  We oldies love to satisfy our curiosity about things that are none of our business and of no great interest to anyone, except us.  Time was when discussions about pointless trivia could go on for ever in a fact-free fashion.  Now, all you need is one small machine and the matter can be settled.  Does the internet kill conversation?  Discuss.  Or, you could type this question into the internet and get a definitive answer, yes it does or no it doesn’t.  End of conversation.  Or not.

Sunday November 12 2017

A few weeks ago, I watched and recorded a Shakespeare documentary series, in one episode of which Jeremy Irons talked about, and talked with others about, the two Henry IV plays.  And that got me watching two recorded DVDs that I had already made of these plays, the BBC “Hollow Crown” versions, with Irons as King Henry and Tom Hiddleston as the King’s son, Prince Hal.  While watching these, I realised how little I really knew these wonderful plays, and how much I was enjoying correcting that a little.

More recently, partly spurred on by what Trevor Nunn in that same documentary series had to say about it, I have been doing the same with The Tempest, this time making use of a DVD that I long ago purchased for next to nothing in a charity shop but had failed ever to watch.

By accident, when this DVD of The Tempest began, there were subtitles to be seen, and I realised that these written lines, far from getting in the way, only added to my enjoyment, so I left them on.  And, if subtitles were helping, why not the entire text?  Maybe I possess a copy of The Tempest, but if so I could not find it, so instead, I tried the internet, which quickly obliged.  My eyesight not being the best, I beefed up the magnification of the text until it was nearly as big as those subtitles.  So, I watched, I read subtitles, and I was able to see who was saying what, and what they were about to say.  And very gratifying it all was:

image

On the telly, on the left, David Dixon as Ariel and, on the right, Michael Hordern as Prospero, both very impressive.

And here, should you be curious, is the text they were enacting at that particular moment, as shown on the right of the above photo, but now blown up and photoshop-cloned into greater legibility:

image

I think the reason I found this redundancy-packed way of watching The Tempest so very satisfying is that with Shakespeare, the mere matter of what is going on is secondary to the far more significant matter of exactly what is being said, this latter often consisting of phrases and sentences which have bounced about in our culture for several centuries.  As ever more people have felt the need to recycle these snatches or chunks of verbiage, for their own sake, and because they illuminate so much else that has happened and is happening in the world, so these words have gathered ever more force and charismatic power.  As the apocryphal old lady said when leaving a performance of Hamlet: “Lovely.  So full of quotations.”

The thing is, Shakespeare’s characters don’t just do the things that they do, and say only what needs to be said to keep the plot rolling along.  They seek to find the universal meaning of their experiences, and being theatrical characters, they are able, having found the right words to describe these experiences, to pass on this knowledge to their audiences.  This is especially true of Hamlet, because central to Hamlet’s character is that he is constantly trying to pin down the meaning of life, in a series of what we would now call tweets, and consequently to be remembered after his death.

Prospero in The Tempest is not quite so desperate to be remembered, any more, we are told, than Shakespeare himself was.  In Prospero, as Trevor Nunn explained in his documentary about The Tempest, many hear Shakespeare saying goodbye to his career as a theatrical magician and returning to his provincial life of Middle English normality. But Shakespeare was Shakespeare.  He couldn’t help creating these supremely eloquent central characters.  Even when all they are doing is ordering room service, or in the case of Prospero doing something like passing on his latest instructions to Ariel, they all end up speaking Shakespeare, with words and phrases that beg to be remembered for ever.  These famous Shakespeare bits are rather like those favourite bits that we classical music fans all hear in the great works of the Western musical cannon.

So, a way of watching these plays that enables these great word-clusters to hang around for a while is just what you want.  (Especially if, like Prospero, you are getting old, and your short-term memory is not what it was.) It also helps being able to press the pause button from time to time, to enable you to savour these moments, to absorb their context, better than you could if just watching the one unpausable performance in front of you.  Although I agree, having a pause symbol on the furrowed brow of Prospero, as in my telly-photo above, is not ideal.

I am now browsing through my Shakespeare DVD collection, wondering which one to wallow in next.

Saturday October 28 2017

Recently I went out looking for another good shot of Richard Seifert’s One Kemble Street, of which I am very fond, having already posted some fun photos of it as seen from the ROH Bar and two more rather so-so photos of it, along with a photo of another circular Seifert edifice, also with an anarchic hairdo.

But here is a better photo of One Kemble Street, that I took over a year ago, from the top of the Tate Modern Extension:

image

The thing is, when I’m out on one of my photo-wanders, the pattern is: Photo, forget.  Photo, forget.  Photo, forget.  I hardly think at all about what I have just photoed.  Almost all my thinking concerns the next photo.

When, usually about one day later, I look back at what I got, even then I don’t pay attention to anything like everything I got.  Just some of it.  Which means that when I look back at some directory or other a longish time later, I notice more photos, basically for the first time since just before I took them.

It’s tempting to assume that this is the result of me getting old.  But I suspect that if I had had a digital camera when I was thirty, I would probably have forgotten most of the photos I took then, much as I do now.  But, I do think that age probably reinforces this effect.

Wednesday August 09 2017

This evening I attended the 70th birthday party of a school friend, aka GodDaughter 1’s dad. Yes, I am (see below) getting old.  As is he.

The journey from Vauxhall to Surbiton was a horrible, wet mess.  This about sums it up, but also portrays the journey’s one redeeming feature, apart from the fact that I did manage to get there on time:

image

At Vauxhall, from which I can usually go direct to Surbiton, they told me instead to go to Waterloo.  Above, we look through the window of my sopping wet train into the newly active what-used-to-be Euroterminal, now back in business.  But the very fact that this terminal is now back in business is all part of the confusion I suffered from, for they are now engaged in lengthening all the other Waterloo platforms, to enable the commuter trains to get longer, so that more people may commute while walking ever longer distances.  But eventually I got a train from Waterloo to Surbiton, and it almost certainly rains harder in India, during the monsoon, than it did while I walked from Surbiton Station to the party.

When at the party I was forbidden from taking photos, and instead had to socialise with all the other people who were there.  Which, to be fair, I did enjoy.  The party had all the good aspects of a funeral, in the form of learning lots of fun things about the centre of all our attention, without said centre being dead.  So, it all turned out rather well.

But I am now very tired and still rather tipsy, and am going to bed.

Monday August 07 2017

On the same day that I took these photos of a spiral shopping trolley sculpture, I also took this photo:

image

One of many other nice photos I took that day.  I chose this one partly because the Shard is the big Big Thing here, just now.

The reason for a quota photo is that I have spent most of my discretionary time today solving ridiculous problems.  But I did actually solve both of them, so I am now ridiculously happy.

Problem one was that my bedside radio had suddenly taken to breaking off its playing of mp2 files on the 2GB SD card I had inserted into it, after about twenty minutes, every time.  Was this the 2GB SD card?  Or (the horror) the radio?  Turned out it was the 2GB SD card.  My guess: the 2GB SD card, obtained because very ancient and hence ancient enough to fit into my ancient radio and be used both to make and to play recordings, was nevertheless insufficiently ancient.  It had the word “Integral” on it.  This suggests excessive speed to me.  At the very least, an air of impatience.  Anyway, my radio couldn’t be doing with it.  So, I tried a different and more ancient-looking 2GB SD card, and that worked.  Hurrah.

Problem two was that my debit card had stopped working, and I had a vague - but only vague - recollection of having received a letter from my bank with a new debit card in it.  But where was it?  There followed two hours of searching, but in a manner which made things more tidy rather than less tidy, which is not always the way when you are searching for something.  Key fact: I was not in too much of a hurry.  It is searching for something in a hurry that really makes chaos.  Anyway, I eventually found the new debit card, in the last place I looked.  Hurrah times two, making three hurrahs in all.

A good day.  And, I hope you agree, a good quota photo.

Tuesday August 01 2017

Today, my priority is not blogging well.  It is blogging early, so that I don’t have to bother with blogging for the rest of today.  I do not want to bother about blogging for the rest of the day because I am now sleep deprived.

One of the many symptoms of advancing age is the inability of the body to control temperature like it used to.  Younger people experience this inability as the notorious oldie habit of having the heating turned up too high.  But this inability also takes the form of the body allowing itself to become too hot.  I often get up in the middle of the night not just to piss, but also to cool down.  Throw in the tendency to keep on doing what you get into the habit of doing, and a night’s sleep becomes something that regularly happens in two chunks, rather than one.

Recently, I have been staying up too late and getting up too late.  And I decided to break this pattern this morning by simply not having the second chunk of last night’s sleep.  I got up half way through my night’s sleep at what was actually a pretty good time to be getting up for real.  So I did.

But this means I will be sleepy all of today, and if you are sleepy but don’t want to sleep, you cannot be sitting down.  You have to be walking about, preferably in places where you can’t sleep without catastrophe.  Like: outside.  So, outside is where I will shortly be going, and I plan not to return until quite late, thereby being able to get to sleep at the new and improved earlier time, because so very sleep deprived.

Tuesday July 25 2017

My day was dominated by the acquisition, and then the installation, of one of these.  Which looks like this:

image

Sorry about all the blank white space there.  I’d fill it up with words, if only I knew how to do that.

But despite being the sort of person who is unable to make blog-words move closer to complicated shapes like that one, I made the gadget itself work perfectly.

I picked it up this afternoon from Chateau Samizdata, where all my Amazonia gets delivered in order to stop it being stolen from my place by thieves pretending to be delivery men.  (Only one of my neighbours has to be conned, and they’re in.) And this evening, I got it out of its box and put it all together, and it worked first time.  Now my new computer screen hovers miraculously over my desk, instead of being held up by an idiotically cumbersome and desk-space consuming stand.  I can even open it like a door and get at all the storage space behind it.

One of the symptoms of advancing years is that newly acquired gadgetry, of the sort that consists of about twenty different bits that you have to assemble yourself, just never works without about of week of assembling and re-assembling and effing and blinding.  But this one worked first time, and exactly as advertised.

It helped that the instructions were only in one language, English.  As a general rule, the more professional the instructions look, the worse they actually are.  It’s the difference between instructions written by lawyers who bury the instructions that matter in lots of defensively irrelevant safety instructions that a six year old wouldn’t need to be told, and instructions written, and illustrated, by someone who actually wants you to succeed in assembling the thing.

Maybe I’ll rewrite this for Amazon.