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: How the mind works

Friday May 18 2018

My friends in Brittany have a new cat: Oscar.  (He replaces this cat.)

I, of course, took many photos.  I like these ones:

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And I like this one best of all:

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Oscar has reached the stage in life where he is still a kitten in his behaviour, but not any longer in his appearance.  Sort of a cat teenager.

Oscar has a very short attention span, and is currently programmed to check out everything he sees, like some obsessively exploratory robot.  He sees a lot and he keeps on seeing something else.

So, for instance, you click your fingers at him to initiate some sociability, and he sees that, and runs towards you, but then, while still on his way towards you, he sees something else behind you, and carries right on towards that, after only the most perfunctory acknowledgement of your fingers, in which he has already lost interest several tenths of a second earlier.  Or he has simply forgotten why he is is motion, and he just carries on.  Very strange.

But as he calms down, he will presumably start to treat people more in the way they like to be treated.  When I took an afternoon nap, he also fancied a nap and had his on top of me.  But, had there been a more satisfactory household appliance, like a warm fire, he might well have preferred that to curl up next to that.  It didn’t seem personal, just a matter of comfort.

But I still liked him.  Cats are just so likeable, whether they are actually being likeable, in their own minds, or not.  All they have to be is non-objectionable and not too scared to check you out.

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 May 03 2018

I really like this photo I took, a couple of years ago; of a poster featuring the Wheel with its top sliced off; and behind it the actual top of the actual Wheel

image

However, another version of this photo might have been even better.  If I had gone closer to the poster, and put the top of the actual Wheel right on top of the poster, that might have been truly impressive.

But I distinctly remember thinking at the time that what with the road being full of traffic, this might have meant a long wait waiting for a gap, and what with me already having had a long day and wanting to get home, so I said to myself: I’ll come back later.

But by the time I did come back later, the poster had gone.

If you see a photo, take the photo:  Immediately.

One of the categories I have assigned to this posting is: How the mind works.  But this was more a case of: How my mind didn’t work.

Monday April 30 2018

Some dqys ago, on a day when the weather was undecided about whether to be sunny weather or rainy weather, and was switching between both, I caught site of a roof near to my home.  Later, I could not decide which of the four photos I took to show here, so here are all of them:

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As to why I show them, well, see my title, above.

Usually; you want your camera to show what is really going on.  But this time, I enjoy its confusion.  If I did not tell you that this was wetness on those tiles, reflecting the sun, you would surely reckon that whiteness to be snow, or frost.

The human eye knows what it sees, so at the time I knew at once what this was.  My camera merely saw what it saw.

Thursday April 26 2018

I like this, which I photoed this afternoon in my local laundrette:

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I like the photo it makes, and I like the thing itself.  What I think I like about the thing itself is that it suggests to me that someone is putting an effort into this laundrette, like they care about it and intend for it to stick around.  In recent years, this places has seemed temporary, uncared for, intended for closure.  The above sign with socks suggests to me that the laundrette won’t be closing any time very soon.  Which I am very glad about.

Wednesday April 25 2018

I like doing podcasts, and have recently resumed doing this.  The difference between these and earlier efforts is that I am not making the mistake of trying to be the interviewer, a role which I have learned, the hard way, that I am utterly unsuited to.

I do not, however, like doing podcasts because I assume that I will reach a huge audience with my brilliant insights and opinions.  Rather is it that I deepen my friendships with the people I share the microphone with.  The first is a mere outside chance.  The second is pretty much guaranteed to happen.

Although neither I nor any of the other people whom I podcast with assumes that we will reach a huge audience, we know that we probably will reach some sort of audience, probably very tiny, of friends and acquaintances and general passers-by, and that means that we had better say things we have thought about and which we mean and which are worth saying.  We need to be at our conversational best, just in case.

Compare that with two or three of us just chatting in a pub or an eatery or in one of our homes, but with no microphone on.  The level of conversational intensity, so to speak, is, in those circumstances, far lower.

Almost all of my renewed podcasting activity has been with Patrick Crozier.  I recall with particular pleasure the first of these recent efforts that we did about World War 1.  Who else has listened in?  I have no idea.  But I listened.  He listened.  I can listen again, and I have, more than once, because so many interesting things, I think, got talked about.

More recently, I took part in a group podcast on the subject of freedom of speech, alongside Jordan Lee, Bruno Nardi and Tamiris Loureiro.  On that occasion I can be sure that others were listening, because there was a room semi-full of people, listening, right there, in the Two Chairmen, where Libertarian Home meetings now all seem to happen.

The microphone that Bruno placed in our midst was distinguished by its size and its striking appearance.  I photoed it:

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That photo, for me, illustrates the bigness of the difference that a microphone makes to a conversation.  Jordan, Bruno and Tamiris are all slightly better friends of mine now than they would have been if we’d not done this.

Why then, do I not switch on a microphone during my Last Friday of the Month meetings?  Maybe I will start doing this.  But for now, I believe that a roomful of people, assembled to hear a particular person speak on a particular subject, achieves that same heightened level of attention and conversational concentration that a microphone achieves for a smaller group of people who are talking amongst themselves.

It is also helpful for speakers to be absolutely sure that their talks won’t go straight to the www, and that means that they can confidently take an early shot at a new subject, with all the errors, hesitations and confusions that might occur.  Ideas need to be nurtured and shaped and polished, and that is far easier to do if such early efforts are not being bugged.

This Friday, I have another of my Last Friday meetings.  Dominic Frisby will be doing an early dry-run version of his Financial Game Show, which will be having a run of performances for real at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.  I’m pretty sure that me threatening to switch on a microphone during this out-of-town preliminary try-out version, so to speak, would have been a deal-breaker.

There’ll be another early version for this show at the King’s Head, Crouch End, on May 22nd.  I attended the very first outing of it at the same venue last Monday, and I can report that I and the rest of the small crowd had a lot of fun.  As Frisby reports at the bottom of this piece in MoneyWeek:

We had fun. My MoneyWeek colleague, Ben Judge, turned out to be the winner, prompting many in the audience to make accusations of an inside job.

Yes.  This was a pity, because actually what came across rather well was how imperfect the knowledge of financial experts often is, and how other people, with direct experience of whatever it is, often know more than them.

Tuesday April 24 2018

I’d never heard of it, until, yesterday, at a bus stop near near Finsbury Park tube station, I observed, and photoed, this:

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This advert didn’t impress me.  I actually laughed.  The Pauline Quirke Academy.  Give over.  You’re ‘avin’ a laugh.  I did anyway.

Later, I saw the same advert in the tube:

image

This did impress me.

I think it was that the back of a bus is a tacky advertising spot, used by tacky enterprises that you have never heard of and will never hear of again.  Ergo, the PQA must be tacky and will soon disappear.  The tube is not such a tacky spot to advertise.  Ergo, the PQA is not so tacky after all.

I wish the PQA every success.  PQA website.

Pauline Quirke is best known to me for doing this.  And to most others, if the internet is anything to go by.

Might someone else who saw both adverts have been more impressed by the bus advert than by the tube advert?

Tuesday April 17 2018

This morning I get a phone call:

Me: Hello.

Voice at the Other End: Hello.

Me: Who is this?

Voice at the Other End: Me.

That is such a perfectly idiotic answer.  And such a perfect joke, provided only that it isn’t happening to me or to you.  It should be in an American sitcom, and I am sure it has been.

The subsequent conversation included this:

Me: I am going to blog this.

My thanks to Me.

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.

Sunday April 15 2018

I liked this, from the Megan Mullally character in Will & Grace (latest series, episode 6, beginning of):

“Sorry I’m late, but I got here as soon as I wanted to.”

At their frequent best, American sitcoms keep on nailing down these universal feelings about the world and its various demands, yet in a way that you never heard before.  It’s like they show you the world, but with perfect subtitles attached, explaining everything.  My sense is that a gag like that one is proposed by one person, and then talked through by a huge team of gagsters at a big table for about half a day until it is polished and refined down to its pure and perfectly funny essence.  (Either that, or some bloke just thought of it, just like that.)

In general, I really like American sitcoms, because, in addition to being funny, they are another world, but another world where they speak an almost identical language to mine.

In English, and also in American it would seem, sorry is definitely the hardest word.

Tuesday April 10 2018

Yes, another illusion, to add to this one, and to make a similar point, by what appear to be rather similar means:

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The blue stripes do not slope.  They merely look as if they slope.

I found this Here.  I recommend following that link and scrolling down to the .gif there, which proves that everything above really is horizontal.

Talking of horizontal, what happens if I do a horizontal slicing job?  This is just the top blue stripe:

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The trick still works, even if not as strikingly.  Not that I care much about the details.  That things like this work is what interests me.

Commenting on the previous illusion, Commenter Alastair recommended this book.  It’s now on its way to me.

Wednesday April 04 2018

Yes, a few days ago now, I had a haircut.  I like to get value for money, and get rid of lots of hair whenever it gets cut.  Here’s the before and after of it:

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Both of those photos are examples of Multiple Selfies, where, one way or another, you get two or more selfies instead of just the one.  The one on the right, if my camera screen and my camera and my mirror and your screen were all perfect (which they are far from), would have been an Infinitely Multiple Selfie, but in reality it only makes it to being what the one on the left is: a Double Selfie.

Note how in each case I artfully disguise the state of my chin(s?).  On the right by holding my head high and stretching it.  On the right with the careful (but alas not quite perfect) placing of the camera.  Sometimes, when selfie-ing I try to look my best.  Often, I just don’t bother.

I know what you’re thinking.  Selfies aren’t cool.  But look at it this way. The human face is interesting, but you can’t just photo Other People and shove their faces up on the WWW, WWWithout their permission.  It’s not polite.  It could make trouble for them, if they are strangers who didn’t want it known that they were in London, or if they are friends of mine and don’t want it know that they are friends of mine.  Which leaves my face as the only face it is convenient for me regularly to photo and then stick up here, with my oWWWn full permission.  I had to crop the Double Selfie on the left to cut out another bloke.  I did this because of internet etiquette, not raging egocentrism.  Besides which, if selfies are raging egocentrism, this is my blog and I’ll do whatever I want with it.

So anyway, back to the haircut.  I have been going to the local haircutting shop, Adriano’s, at the corner of Horseferry Road and Horseferry Road (it does a right angle kink), pretty much ever since I moved into my home in about 1990.  Every time I go there, I say: very short please, shorter than you usually do.  And the old bloke there (Adriano?), who has a full head of hair, starts snipping away, very carefully, and goes on for as long as he considers seemly.  The result looks great, but not as short as I want.  Once, I very nearly got what I wanted, when another bloke with shorter hair cut my hair shorter.

This time was different.  It was another bloke, with no hair on his head at all.  He is not completely bald, but he had that look where he was pretending he wasn’t partly bald by saying, I’m deliberately bald.  On purpose.  Without such deliberation, I would have hair all over my head!  It fools nobody because his hair immediately starts to grow again, and his actual baldness is quickly evident.

Anyway, I felt optimistic about this guy.  Make it almost as short as your hair, I said, but not quite.  Said he: OK.  Maybe, finally, I’d get the haircut I wanted.  I did.  Instead of the agonising, disapproving and prolonged snipping I was used to, Mr Baldie got an electric shearing device and just sheared it off, as if my head was a sheep.  It took less than a minute. The next three minutes was just tidying up, and it was all done.

Next time, if Mr Baldie does it again, I will take photos during as well as before and after, because these would have been outstanding.

I rather think that in the left hand one, above, before, a weird effect is that my hair is shorter on my right side than on the left.  This is because, being right-handed, I pull out more hair from the right side than the left side, when washing it in the bath.  (I wash it in the bath.)

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.

Sunday April 01 2018

I became fixated on Spurs in the 1960s, like a baby goose, because then they were so good.  Plus, I always like their Jewish angle and still do.  I have supported them, strictly at a distance and media access permitting, ever since. They’ve been sporadically good since that ancient time, but never as good.  Finally, that seems like it might be changing.

Today Spurs beat Chelsea at Chelsea, the last time they did that having been in 1990.  Spurs are now in fourth place, which if they stay there is high enough to get them into the Champions League again.  They are now 8 points clear of Chelsea in fifth.  With seven more games to be played, it’s not settled yet, but things just got a lot better for Spurs.

I just watched Dele Alli’s two goals on the TV highlights, and with both it was not just the skill but the speed with which he did what he did that was so impressive.  Before that, Eriksen hit what the radio commentators were calling a potential goal of the season.  One of those long distance, fast and late inswingers.

So, to celebrate, here is a photo I took of the new Spurs stadium, which will get moved into next season or thenabouts.  It will be a few games before the Spurs team settles in and starts enjoying their home advantage whenever they play there.  But judging by how well they did this season at the at first unfamiliar Wembley, it shouldn’t take them too long to settle into New White Hart Lane.

So, this is how New White Hart Lane was looking last November, with one of the Walthamstow reservoirs in the foreground:

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Mmmm.  Cranes.

I haven’t checked progress more recently, and can offer no photos from since then.  But here are 103 more pictures, and counting, of New White Hart Lane’s progress.  I knew you’d be excited.

Saturday March 31 2018

BMdotcom doesn’t do video very often, but this actually immobile piece of graphics does a fair amount of apparent moving around, especially if you do any scrolling up and down:

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Says Akiyoshi Kitaoki:

Each row appears to move. Each row is horizontally aligned but appears to tilt.

I made it slightly smaller than it was, but that hasn’t changed anything.