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: Other creatures

Friday May 11 2018

When you go by train to Quimper from London, you start by going by Eurostar to the Gare du Nord in Paris.  And when you step outside the main entrance of the Gare du Nord, you find yourself next to a big red bear with wings.

Although I noticed this big red bear with wings when I first got to Paris, I only photoed it on the way back, a week later, when I and GodDaughter 2’s Mum were in less of a hurry between trains and when the weather was much better.

Also, on the way back, we didn’t suddenly see the big red bear with wings.  We could see it as we approached the Gare du Nord, and I had my camera ready to go, as it had been all afternoon:

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I quite like this big red bear with wings, but I am less sure about whether I admire it.  It seems like a mixture of too many unrelated things.  The lots-of-holes style of sculpting, which I associate with 3D printing, is one thing.  Making a bear look like a bear is something else.  And then, there are those wings.  On a bear.  Wings with holes in them.  The idea of the wings is that they turn the bear into an angel bear.  Something to do with global warming and the melting icecaps, I read somewhere and then lost track of.  The artist, Richard Texier, is not big on logic.  He prefers to stimulate the imagination.  To evoke magic.

The big red bear is called, see above, “Angel Bear”, and it has an inescapable air of kitsch abou it, to my eye.  Like something you’d buy, smaller but still quite big, in a posh gift shop, for far too much money.  I prefer a bull that Texier has also done, in the same 3D printed style.  No wings.  Much better, to my eye.  Cleaner, as a concept.

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But still a bit gift shoppy, I think.  Which is another way of saying that I bet these big old animals are by far his most popular works.  I suspect that Texier may be a bit irritated by this.  He likes being popular and he likes these big animals.  But he also likes his more abstract less gift shoppy stuff, and wishes the populace liked them more too.  Things like this:

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I found both of those images at the Richard Texier website, at this page.

Despite my reservations about the big red bear with wings and my preference for other Texier works, I can, when I look at his big red bear with wings, feel Paris trying.  Trying to become that little bit less of the big old antique such as, compared to London, it now is.  I mean, you can’t miss the big red bear with wings.  Personally, I don’t find it to be wholly successful.  But it is holey.

Friday May 04 2018

I have been reading more of Leo McKinstry’s Operation Sealion, and very fine it is too.  I hadn’t been keeping up with McKinstry’s books, but now learn that, among several other topics, he has written books about Alf Ramsey, Jack Hobbs, and the Hawker Hurricane ("Victor of the Battle of Britain").  Memo to self: read more books, do less internetting.

In the Sealion book I have already encountered two little nuggets that were new to me.

After the “deliverance” that was Dunkirk, Churchill apparently said (p. 86):

“We’ve got the men away, but we’ve lost the luggage.”

I’d not heard that one before.

And nor did I know about this, concerning another Ramsay, Admiral Bertram Ramsay, who masterminded the Dunkirk evacuation (p.81):

The genius behind Dynamo, Admiram Ramsay, rewarded himself on 4 June with a well-deserved round of golf, on the course at Sandwich nearby, and, liberated from the strain, proceeded to attain the best score of his life.

I find it interesting that McKinstry seems to divide his writing time about equally between war and sport.  I wonder if he has developed any opinions about how these things relate to one another, along, for instance, lines like these.

Friday April 20 2018

When you think of lions in Trafalgar Square, you think of lions like this one, as photoed by me, in January 2015, at the Charlie Hebdo demo:

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But one of my favourite lion in Trafalgar Square photos, which I took in April of 2014 but never got around to putting here until now, was this one:

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I think it’s the leather handbag that makes this so good.  This is a lion quietly going about her business (it feels like a her despite the mane), not conquering the world or even aggressively promoting anything.  She’s just out shopping.  She does have a rather startled expression on her face, but that’s because she’s being photoed.  She’s not angry you understand, just surprised that anyone should be interested in photoing her.  “Ooh, hello dear!  Are you photoing me?  I hope I’m looking my best.” And maybe a bit scared that I might have designs on her bag.

More seriously, I like to photo, and to show here, faces where face recognition is not an issue.

Monday April 16 2018

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down.  (I know, “bookmarks”.  Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links.  Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows - we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope.  Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns?  Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints?  The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise.  She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on.  But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump.  The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good.  Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is.  And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do.  You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it.  Jordan Peterson, take a bow.  That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood.  The only question is: By how much?  Trivially, or significantly?  My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam.  I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is.  These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”.  If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground.  I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did.  Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden.  As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe.  His name?  Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog.  As do I.  It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron.  He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history.  This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better.  And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was.  This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room.  The job is not done, but I have taken a chunk bite out of it.

Saturday April 14 2018

Indeed.  Last night I was walking somewhat exaustedly from St James’s Park towards Victoria, and this took me along Petty France, which is where the Ministry of Justice is to be found.  This is the one that used to be the Home Office and which looks like an Eastern Bloc Embassy.  And in Petty France, right next to this Ministry of Justice, I spotted this:

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Yes, an urban fox.  You expect to see such beasts in the more sprawling London suburbs, the sort that contain lots of open spaces and vegetation.  But not trotting along the pavement, right past a major government ministry.

It was getting dark rapidly, and for some idiot reason I had set my camera to make movies instead of regular photos.  But that did at least mean I could pick out a less bad still shot.

Luckily, the quality of the photo is not the point here.  It’s the principle of the thing.  Cats and dogs, yes.  (At first, I thought that this fox was a cat.) Horses, carrying policepersons, exercising themselves in between riots.  Good.  Ducks.  Pigeons.  Herons (see below).  That’s all fine.  But foxes?  That was a real surprise.  And a definite first for me, in central London.

Friday April 13 2018

Yes, way out west.  Barnes.  I was there earlier in the week with GodDaughter 2.  We dined here, right beside the river.  Very nice.  Very appetising.

It was a dull day just like today, but I had my camera with me anyway, and in among photoing the bridge upstream and the bridge downstream, I also photoed various birds.  Including this one, which I suspected was a heron and which a little bit of image googling confirmed was a heron:

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The first three came out quite well, but the final one, bottom right, is the heron disappearing across the river, in a bird blur, with an even blurrier bird reflection underneath it as it flew away.  My camera moving excitedly didn’t help, but I still quite like it.

My favourite, however, is the first one, top left.  In that one, I particularly like the goofy way that the heron seems to have its knees pointing inwards, like he has been caught breaking some rule, and is shuffling his feat.  Or her feet.

Friday April 06 2018

Just got back from a great talk by Rob Waller at Christian Michel’s, about Artificial Intelligence, dream or nightmare, etc.  Rob himself was quite optimistic, but to illustrate the pessimistic side of the debate, he talked about … well, see above: a robot dog apocalypse.  He mentioned also its creator, Charlie Brooker, which made googling easy.

Here we go:

We’ve all seen movies and TV shows about killer robots. But until Netflix’s new season of its future-shock anthology drama Black Mirror, never before have we seen a terrifying vision of machines run amuck that so closely resembles the design of actual real-life robots — namely, those Boston Dynamics “dogs” that have impressed the world with their remarkable balance, speed, and dexterity … yet also unavoidably make you wonder: What if one was chasing me?

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But then Rob talked about how AI was achieving huge increases in agricultural productivity and miracles of environmental protection, by doing such things as providing water automatically for migrating birds, and also for crops.  Like I said, he was optimistic.

Thursday April 05 2018

Twitter is getting seriously addictive for me these days.  What will stop that is that it is getting a bit samey, as the same people keep on saying the same things.

Kristian Niemietz spends most of his Twitter time shouting at Corbynistas.  So I was rather delighted to see this:

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Miemietz supplies no link, which I hate.  This hatred reminds me of the time when I used to rain curses down upon would be Libertarian Alliance authors who did not supply proper footnotes, in that now long gone era when there were no links.  Just footnotes.  I know, weird.

To quote myself (who else will?):

If you submit something to the LA for publication, your manuscript must be legible, and it must be complete. If we publish it exactly as you have submitted it, you should be content. On the other hand, if we are unable to publish it as it stands, either because we can’t read it, or because it lacks vital details, we will not be at all content.

We do not favour the “people generally, are, in a general way, inclined to think approximately such and such” style of writing. Who thinks it? Exactly what do they think? Where’s the proof that this is what they think? You should supply chapter and verse. If you are depending upon or taking issue with some written point of view or other, it is essential that you should enable your readers to acquaint themselves at first hand with what you are praising or criticising. They must be able to satisfy themselves that your criticisms are fair. They must, if encouraged by your praise of something, be able to explore further. The LA would be a waste of everyone’s time if all that happened was that a whole bunch of people read everything published by the LA, but read - or wrote - nothing else.

Accordingly, you must supply complete and accurate footnotes. ...

Ah, those were the days.  It’s a wondrous exercise in invective, though I say it myself.

Although, I note that I broke my own rule.  Who actually said: “no one says that”?

But however much those days were the days, I still prefer these days, when you just shove in a link.  Much easier.

Like this link, to the actual story about the missing cat that no longer was missing.

Later: Also this.

Monday April 02 2018

So this evening I dined at Chateau Samizdata, where hippos assemble, from all parts of the world.  This hippo, with storage space and a lid, is the latest arrival:

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I said I thought it looked a bit like a sheep.  It’s the legs.  I was told, no, it’s a hippo.  The food was great and the drink was even greater, and I even got a present of some drinks glasses that were superfluous to Chateau Samizdata’s current requirements.  So,yes, now that I look at it again, I see that it looks exactly like a hippo.  No question about it.  Not like a sheep at all.

Friday March 30 2018

This Friday’s Other Creature is this:

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Found it here.  Thank you Clarissa for telling me about this.

It’s all in connection with Australian Ball Tampering.

My favourite factual discovery re this rumpus: Cricket Australia has a Head of Integrity.  Reminds me of this guy.

Monday March 19 2018

For two reasons.  First, England came second to bottom, which is not the usual arrangement at all.  It is now being said that they were tired, from playing too much rugby for their clubs and before that for the British Lions.

But the other reason this was a strange end to the Six Nations was the weather.  The last weekend of the Six Nations is supposed to be a day where all we rugby couch potatoes celebrate that Winter is well and truly over, that Spring is here, and that we can finally rise up out of our couches and venture out properly into the first serious sunshine of the new year, for hours at a time.

Instead, along with England doing really badly in the rugby, it was like this:

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Click on that to get the bigger picture.  That’s GodDaughter2 weekending out in the countryside, in Hampshire or some such county out there.  That photo was taken by her, on the same day that England got beaten by Ireland at Twickenham, where it also snowed.  Which was all part of why England did so badly, I think.  For Ireland, the worse the weather is the better they like it.

According to the short-term weather forecasters, who are the only weather forecasters I take seriously, this second cold snap will soon be done, and then Spring can finally get started.

Friday March 16 2018

I’m trying to wrench my sleep patterns back into something like sanity, and this now leaves me very tired.  Which is the plan working, but it makes blogging rather difficult.  So, today, one photo, and that’s your lot:

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Plus, although I’m tired, here is a detail, that emphasises the flamingo aspect:

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The relevant bit of the website.

Monday March 12 2018

On March 21st, Roz Watkins, author of The Devil’s Dice, will be signing copies of that book at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, an event which I will attend.  This afternoon, finding myself in that part of London on account of needing a new battery for my ancient Casio watch, I dropped in on Waterstones to see what, if anything, they were doing with the book.

They had just one copy on show, in a New Crime Hardbacks display:

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Can you spot it?  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.  The Devil’s Dice, with its light orange title on a light coloured sky, is second from the right, bottom row (on account of Watkins beginning with W).  Another memo to self: When I become a published author, have a surname starting with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet, rather than almost at the end.

Anyway, here’s a close-up of it, just so you know it was really there:

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I needed another copy of the book, because I gave the advance copy Roz sent me to someone else.  But I was reluctant to buy the only copy of The Devil’s Dice that they had on show, thus depriving Waterstonians of any further sight of it.  I asked at the desk if they had a paperback.  Oh no, they said, not for at least six months.  I asked if they had any more copies on order.  Yes, said the lady, sounding rather impressed when her computer told her, we have eighty copies coming, ordered this morning.

I have no idea what that means.  Maybe those copies are just for the book signing, and maybe many will be sent back after that.  But maybe this is good, and reflects how well the original launch in Derby went, assuming that this did go well.  Anyway, with eighty more copies on their way to Waterstones, I bought that one copy that they had today.

See also, The Devil’s Dice with dog, in Waterstones Brighton.  Again, right down by the floor with the other Ws.

Friday March 09 2018

As a Blackadder fan, I have long known about the use of pigeons during World War 1, to send messages.  Pigeons like the one in this photo:

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Twitter caption:

War Pigeons were very effectively deployed in the First World War. For instance, they carried messages, like the one being attached to a pigeon by Austro-Hungarian soldiers on the Isonzo Front, which can be seen in this picture.

Quite so.  But what made me decide to post the above photo here was this exchange, in the comments.

“Liagson”:

Were they normally encrypted?

Wayne Meyer:

They used WEP. Wartime Encryption for Pigeons. It was a very early wireless standard.

Blog and learn.  Not only did I just discover that pigeon messages were – of course, they’d have to have been – encrypted.  I also learned that you can link directly to individual Twitter comments.

And what better way could there to learn about the activities of birds than via Twitter?

Saturday March 03 2018

In other face recognition news, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Big Prawn is having its face blurred out of photos on Google Maps.

The problem Google faced was that recognisable people with recognisable faces were showing up on Google Maps, owing to the accident of where they happened to be when the Google Maps photos happened to be taken.  So, they introduced a face recognition programme with a difference.  Every time a face was recognised to be a face, that face was blurred into unrecognisability in the final Google Maps photos.

And this also got done to the Big Prawn.

The Big Prawn is a giant sculpture, presumably an advert for a place where you can eat regular sized prawns.  No, not according to Wikipedia.  It’s just a big prawn.

In Australia, it would seem that Big Thing means something different to what I mean by this phrase.

A cow also got its face blurred over.

Confining Cats and Other Creatures postings to Friday is becoming difficult.  These days, as on this day, I often don’t bother.