Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Michael Jennings on Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Brian Micklethwait on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Ashes to ashes
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Peter Briffa on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Most recent entries
- Long Title (with italics)
- Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
- Comrade Blimp
- Ashes to ashes
- La Porte des Indes
- Friend on telly
- Sculpture at St James’s Tube
- Digital photographers holding maps
- More photos of things past
- Father Christmas Aerodrome
- How big should these squares be?
- Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
- The Kelpies of Falkirk
- A quota thought that (luckily for me) went nowhere
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Category archive: How the mind works
And what happens when this current winning England side starts to seriously fall apart, as it soon will, when players like Anderson and Swann (Swann in particular) have stopped playing? How consistent will selection then be? Something tells me I may be doing one of those I told you so link backs that we bloggers are so fond of. When we actually did tell you so, I mean.
The first bit there, about England falling apart, now reads especially well, although I did not think that they would fall apart so soon. Swann and Anderson are still playing, but Swann in particular is not what he was. Trott is broken and gone. Cook and Pietersen are runless. Root looks good, until he gets out. Tremlett was a prayer, not a selection. Stokes? Expect a period of England selection inconsistency.
It’s not quite over yet. If England could scrape a draw in this game, it would feel like a huge win, and that is not totally impossible, especially if Cook hangs around for a day and a half. But, nobody is betting on any of that happening, and certainly not me.
What I said about Stuart Broad seems now to apply far better to Mitchell Johnson. I said the Aussies might regret having a go at Broad. I wonder how the Barmy Army now feels about all the grief it has piled upon Johnson in former times?
I am starting to have a real problem with remembering the names of people. (And yes, this is another posting about the process of getting old, of the sort predicted in this earlier posting.) I see him. I know him. Or rather, I know that I should know him, and I do know him. But, I do not know him, as in: I do not know his name, despite have been told that name half a dozen times and more. Nothing is more disrespectful than forgetting someone’s name, yet I keep doing it, to people whom I really want to treat with respect.
The worst recent example of this syndrome concerns a guy who has attended several of my Last Friday meetings. He attended again last night, and once again I got his name wrong. My only defence is that I ask attenders to email me if they are coming. But this is not a condition of attendance, and he never does. So whenever he does show up, as he did last night, it’s a bit of a surprise. But that is a pretty feeble excuse. He’s on the email list.
He is a Spaniard, which I think makes it worse. I ought to be especially pleased when non-Brits show up to my evenings, and I am. So, why can I not do this man the elementary courtesy of remembering who he is?
So anyway, his name is: Victor. Victor, Victor, Victor.
It is my hope that the two pictures below (reproduced here with Victor’s permission) will finally nail Victor’s name (Victor) into my head:
On the left Victor, photoed last night in my kitchen. On the right: Victor.
What’s the betting that next time I meet Victor, I call him Vulcan?
This evening I hope to be attending an Event. And now, having performed all my obligatory duties for the day, I am turning my attention to this blog. I am very pleased that for the last however many days it is, I have managed at least one blog posting here every day, and I want today to be no different.
It is now, as I write this, just after 1pm, and the Event is not until the evening. Yet, I find blogging even under such relaxed circumstances as these extraordinarily difficult. I do not mean truly difficult. I merely mean extraordinarily more difficult than it surely ought to be. Even a window of several hours, yet a window which has a definite end when I have to stop the blogging and start to do whatever it is, seems, maybe, too small. What if my writing catches fire? What if what began merely as a small quota thought ignites into a long essay? What if I suddenly decide that I want to add photographs, know the photographs I want to add, but do not know where they are on my hard disc?
Luckily for me, nothing clever is now occurring to me of the sort that will make ending this blog posting difficult. No added photo seems needed. So, I will just end it.
There. Easy. I reckon that took about ten minutes.
I will even have time to take some shirts to the laundrette, and have a clean one ready to wear, at the Event.
Time for an I-told-you-so moment.
I told the Australians not to rouse the kitten:
Darren Lehman may have made a bit of a mistake, when he called Broad a cheat for not walking when Broad was clearly out and should have been given out, and said that Australian crowds should have a go at Broad in the Ashes series this winter in Australia. Lehman was only joking, but it was a joke he may regret.
But they went ahead and roused the kitten anyway. Here is George Dobell reporting on Day One of the Ashes:
Rubbished, ridiculed and reduced - the front page of one Australian tabloid dubbed Broad a “smug pommy cheat” on the morning of the game - England, and Broad in particular, arrived with abuse ringing in their ears.
Broad, it was claimed by an Australian media stoked by their national coach, was little more than a medium-pacer whose disregard for the rules shamed him, while England’s batsmen were running scared of Australia’s pace attack.
But instead of wilting in the cauldron of the “Gabbatoir”, Broad appeared to revel in the occasion. Indeed, he even admitted he found himself whistling along as a large section of the crowd chanted “Broad is a w*****.”
This may be no surprise to the England camp. As part of their exhaustive preparation process - a process that was ridiculed at the start of the tour when sections of the Australian media were leaked details of England’s nutrition plans - England’s players were analysed by a psychologist and Broad was one of three who, in his words, “thrive properly on getting abuse”.
“It’s me, KP and Matt Prior,” Broad said. “So they picked good men to go at.
“It was good fun out there. I think I coped with it okay. It’s all good banter. Fans like to come, have a beer with their mates and sing along. I’m pleased my mum wasn’t here, but to be honest I was singing along at one stage. It gets in your head and you find yourself whistling it at the end of your mark. I’d braced myself to expect it and actually it was good fun. I enjoyed it.”
Australia 273-8. Broad, so far: 20 overs 3 maidens 65 runs 5 wickets, including the first four, and including the one truly class act in the Oz top six, Clarke.
I just left a comment at Samizdata, on this posting by Natalie Solent (who has been very productive there of late) about the lack of security of the ObamaCare website, and this Guardian story on the subject:
The insecurity of the site, probably incurable in less than several months (from what I’m reading), has always struck me (ever since I first read about it a week or two back) as the absolute worst thing about ObamaCare, though I admit it’s a crowded field. The Bad News letters from insurance companies at least put a number to how much money is now going to be screwed out of you, that Obama said (about forty times) you would not be screwed out of. But all that data lying around for any tech-savvy passer-by to grab means there’s no upper limit to what you just might lose, if you have anything whatsoever to do with this horrible horrible thing.
It took me years to trust Amazon with my bank details. Only when about half the world seemed to be signing up for that deal did I take the plunge, and I still fear that in some mysterious way I might one day regret this. I mean, what if Amazon gets taken over by greedy incompetents, skilled only at crookedness, of the sort now already running ObamaCare (and also “advising” people about it)? I know, there are safeguards in place, but my fear is, although small, real. My fear with Obamacare would now be big, and real. My attitude to ObamaCare would be (a) I want nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with it, and (b) If the President and his gang say I have to have something to do with it, then I hope the President and his gang rot in hell.
Obama, it seems to me, has been treated like a great many other bad black Americans. He has been cut a million miles of slack, never criticised, never taught any morals, and now suddenly, patience has run out and he faces a lynch mob of enraged citizens. He is going to get the political version of a life-time prison sentence, namely a place in the Presidential Hall of Infamy. (I know what you’re thinking: wishful thinking on my part. Maybe. But his friends are all abandoning him now. He surely now realises that he has screwed up big, and that there is no way back.)
Heinlein had things to say about this. If you are going to punish big later, then it is kinder to give your punishee some warning, with small punishments earlier, when he does small things wrong when younger. I’m not talking physical abuse here, just the odd harsh word when the kid does a bad thing. That way he learns, instead of being hit with the kitchen sink, out of the blue, when he turns 18 or 50 or whatever.
This is remarkable:
This is what it is:
The crows that live in Tokyo use clothes hangers to make nests. In such a large city, there are few trees, so the natural materials that crows need to make their nests are scarce. As a result, the crows occasionally take hangers from the people who live in apartments nearby, and carefully assemble them into nests. The completed nests almost look like works of art based on the theme of recycling.
Or, alternatively, like a Thing made with coat hangers.
But what I particularly like about the Crows Nest of Coat Hangers (I prefer “coat hangers” to “coathangers” because that could be read as “coa thangers") is that I have never before seen anything made like that by a bird. Made like that yes, by a human. By a bird, no. All the other photos are very nice, but I have already seen similar things, stunningly photographed. Technically, the crows nest photo is not actually that great. It’s the Thing itself that is great.
It was Hemingway, I think, who said that thing about how your writing is only as good as the stuff you remove from it, or words to that effect. (Exact quote anyone?)
And I think one of the reasons why some writers especially like blogging is that a personal, I-write-what-I-please blog like this one (but done by a Real Writer who also does Real Writing) is where such offcuts can go, and still have a half life. The offcuts are no longer completely wasted. But neither do they get in the way.
And here’s a really good photograph, to make up for the really bad photograph in the previous posting. I say really good photograph. What I mean is a photo taken by me that is okay, of a really good photograph, taken by a seriously Real Photographer. Limited edition, perfect paper, perfectly printed, framed, the works, worth hundreds of pounds:
Yes, it’s Dumbledore, making himself smile for the camera.
At the Do I attended last weekend, just after taking the photo in the previous posting, this photograph was one of the items being charitably auctioned.
This is the first charity auction I can remember attending. But, despite my ignorance of how to do such a Do, let me offer you a tip, for if you ever organise a charitable auction. Be sure to hand round a cash bucket immediately after the auction bit of the evening finishes, to enable all those who feel ridiculously guilty about not having bought any of the things being auctioned to part with a manageable amount of cash, without being encumbered with a unnecessary Thing, or worse, a Complicated Experience. If they had done that at this Do, I reckon they might have increased their money by twenty percent or more. They’d certainly have got twenty quid out of me.
This is a posting of a type that is likely to become more common here, as the years roll by, because it is about bodily discomfort.
The discomfort today, which lasted all day, came whenever I tried to walk, and was all around my midriff. This was either caused by eating too much junk food, or by the manner in which I slept last night. Perhaps both. Maybe it was not junk food, but rather: too much cheese. The pain is in what I think is called the lumbar region, lumbar being a word I googled with the spelling wrong, making it sound like wood, which tells you that this kind of thing is rather new to me. Google corrected me, like a rude doctor. I hope that tomorrow morning all will be well, but just now that does not feel likely.
The blogging advantage of this particular discomfort is that it is not too undignified or disgusting. I am also beginning to experience discomforts that are very undignified and very disgusting, but these I prefer not to tell you about.
This latter reluctance explains, I think, why the discomforts of old age come as such a surprise to many people. The previous lot of old people only supplied to me a very censored version of what was happening to them, so I now have to find most of this out for myself.
Although, it could be that the previous lot of old people did tell me these things, but I wasn’t paying attention.
The worst thing about it is that you just know it’s going to keep on getting worse, and worse, and worse.
Today being Remembrance Sunday, but not having got out and about during it, I instead looked for Remembrance photos past, and came across the archive containing these.
I was struck by one in particular, in which we see the phrase “To All Our Heroes” inscribed on a cross with a poppy on it. That word “heroes” makes me slightly uneasy, especially in the plural. Were they all heroes? Similarly, the way all these dead are so often described as having “given” their lives for freedom, or for their country, or whatever. It must surely be more accurate to say that many of these men were victims, and that their lives were taken from them. It might be rather insulting to describe them thus in public displays honouring their memory, but maybe more accurate.
The cross on which the word “heroes” is inscribed is surely rather more accurate, as a description of what really happened, to most of these dead. I do not deny that there were indeed many heroes, in all these wars. But surely, for most, war, and death in war, were things they endured. That is a kind of heroism, of course, but is not quite what is usually meant by the word.
I lost an uncle in World War 2, although it happened before I was born. He was the victim of a training accident. I respectfully mourned him from time to time throughout my childhood and have gone on doing so ever since. But there was nothing especially heroic about his death, and that has just seemed to me to be yet further cause for sadness. Many times I wished that Uncle John had died heroically, if he had to die at all. But, he did not die heroically. War is like that.
The cross seems to me to be a somewhat more accurate representation of what happened to these countless men than does the word “hero”. This was surely more like a catastrophe which swallowed people up, in the manner of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood or a fire. Some who suffer or die in the course of events like that are very properly called heroes, because they did indeed behave, and perhaps die, heroically. Most, however, are merely described as victims. No disrespect is intended with that label, and I intend no disrespect in suggesting that many of these war heroes were really just war victims. Their deaths are no less worthy of being remembered and reflected upon, merely because we describe their deaths that bit more accurately.
A lot hinges on whether you consider the fights and wars that all these dead people died in were worth it. There is something inherently somewhat unheroic about dying in a fight that could not accomplish anything good. Part of being a true hero is that you choose the fight in which you will risk and perhaps lose your life, and that you choose it well.
If anything in the above angers you in any way, the chances are that this is because I didn’t say it right. I’m trying to say something that is somewhat hard to pin down, and maybe said it wrongly. I am not trying to say anything demeaning or disrespectful, either towards the dead themselves, or towards the feelings of those who still, like me, mourn them.
Last night I attended the Simon Gibbs talk about how to herd cats. For me the problem was right there in the title. It was like he knew he was attempting something impossible.
My immediate reaction is that what I do to cats is stroke them, if they will let me. If I “owned” a cat, that would mean that it would also be my duty to feed it. But herding cats? There’s a reason this phrase is used to describe social schemes that can’t work.
Simon’s scheme seems to depend on some kind of website. Websites are not my strong point, even understanding the point of them let alone actually making them work. The less new software I have in my life, the happier I am. So maybe I am missing not something here, but everything. Simon made several mentions of a “button”. When I find out where this is (somewhere at Libertarian Home?), I’ll give it a go. If others do and do whatever Simon wants them to do, then I guess the cats will start being herded and my present scepticism will be proved wrong. I hope that happens. (As I said to Simon after his talk, see this.)
Slightly more seriously, Simon’s talk made me think of a distinction that I associate with the great American theorist of management, Peter Drucker. As I recall it, Drucker describes various different ways to do organisation.
One is to imagine the perfect organisation. You ask: Suppose we had no organisation already, with all its obligations and habits and rituals, what would the ideal organisation for what we are trying to accomplish look like? And then let’s turn what we have into that. An example Drucker was fond of was Sloane’s General Motors, probably because Drucker worked for Sloane, although exactly when he did that work, I’m not sure.
Another is not to dream dreams of future perfection. It is to ask: What little steps can we take, now, immediately, in the right general direction, given the strengths and resources that we already now possess?
In my opinion the second attitude is better suited to the life of a London libertarian with a bit of influence but not much (i.e. libertarians like me and like Simon Gibbs), than is the first.
The late Chris Tame, whose Number Two I was for about a decade, was one hell of a libertarian organiser. Over the years he organised some superb and superbly ambitious events, because he asked what the perfect event would look like (as I did not) and then went ahead and organised it. But my ongoing disagreement (it never boiled over but it was always there) with Chris was that too many of his ideal schemes did not achieve anything other than some rather demoralising costs.
My own approach was to concentrate on much smaller completions – a small meeting, a pamphlet, a radio performance – and just try to get each potential completion completed as quickly and satisfactorily as possible, at which point it was on to the next one, and so on until victory is achieved. (You can see why I like blogging so much. And perhaps also why Chris never liked it, although he had other reasons besides the mere smallness of individual blog postings.)
The reason I mention Chris Tame, apart from the fact that I think it may illuminate, is that what I may very well be doing here is being reminded by Simon’s current scheme, as expounded last night, of a past argument in my life, and then slotting him into that argument on the other side from me. I may, that is to say, be completely misunderstanding what he is now proposing. I might, as the saying goes, be fighting the last war rather than this one. Since I do not now really get what he is proposing, this is not, to put it mildly, unlikely. Happily, Simon’s talk was being videoed, so you’ll soon be able to watch it for yourself and decide for yourself what you think about it.
I may very well, at some future date (maybe after watching the talk again), be explaining why this posting is completely wrong.
Yes, incoming from Rob Fisher:
I am fascinated about why old things look old. Certainly print quality is part of it. Change, too: the Heinz beans logo (which has never changed as far as I can tell) does not look old in the way that some of these logos do.
I’m guessing this is follow-up to what I said here about how photography used to make people from the past look overly solemn, and what Rob said there, in jest, about the past being all in black and white.
Mark Twain must surely have been a bit more merry, in general, than he looks in the photo of him there, now colorised but still very grim looking.
What a lot of the colorised photos look like is stills from “historical” Hollywood movies. You expect Brad Pitt, dressed in olden times clothes, to step forward at any moment.
As for the logos, it is noticeable (although this doesn’t apply to all of them) that in quite a few of them, there was a flurry of (often quite radical) changes in and/or up until the 1950s and 1960s, but somewhat less in the way of change since. Often the later changes (see for instance: VW) are mere polishing. It’s like they were trying to get it right, and then they do get it right and stuck with it. At first they didn’t know quite what a logo was for and what logos are. They they did know. That is reinforced by the Firefox logo, which started in 2002 and then did the one early change in 2003, and that’s it.
How has the internet affected logo design?
Increasingly, I am coming to think of the summer as the photographing season, and the winter as the time when I look back through what I’ve got and tell you good people about some of it, and generally try to catch up with myself.
So, this summer, obviously, there was The Wedding. But there were also other weddings. Weddings serendipitously encountered, at places like Westminster Abbey (Aug 19) …:
… or in the Kings Road (Aug 31):
Am I entitled to steel the souls of other people’s weddings like this, by not only photoing them but also by sticking up some of the photos on my blog? I say yes, and I am the one who decides because if I decide yes, nobody stops me. Probably someone could stop me, but nobody does. And how can you stop photoing outside Westminster Abbey? Can’t be done.
The way I see it, if you make a big public show of yourself like this, in a public place, you are fair photographic game. The guests are all snapping away, so why shouldn’t a stranger join in? And more to the point, how would anyone Official be able to decide, right then and there, who is a digitalised guest and who is merely a digitalised wedding crasher? Can’t be done.
So, there the photos are, of the brides, the grooms, and of course of the photographers, Real and digital.
These two sets actually make a nice contrast. In the first, we see the Real Photographer in action, waving his arms around to telling the bride and groom where to stand and how to stand and what to look like they are feeling, like the whole show is for his benefit, which this bit of the event sort of is. And the bride and groom pose anxiously, communicating love as best they can, but actually looking more like dutiful than adoring.
And in the second, we see the wedding party emerging from Chelsea Town Hall, to confront a digital scrimmage, with all concerned looking thoroughly relaxed and happy and celebratory.
I recently read a piece, somewhere (sorry about no link – commenters?), about how in the Old Days, i.e. the days when there was Extremely Real Photography (tripod – stand very still) or no photography at all, people made a point of looking severe and grim in front of the camera, on those rare occasions when they encountered one, because if they relaxed they risked looking like a total prat, in what might well be the only photograph that anyone ever took of them or ever remembered them by. As a result we now get a relentlessly false picture, literally, of what life was like for these people in times gone by. We, on the other hand, treat any particular snap that someone snaps of us as no big deal, and we grin away to our heart’s content, and trust our mates mostly to pick the picture that makes us look okay. The whole idea of the Uptight Victorian, said this piece I read, compared to relaxed and happy us, is a consequence of the changing nature not of life itself, but of photography. Interesting idea, I think.
And I further think that these two sets of photos illustrate this contrast rather well.
Alex Singleton has sent me an advance print-out of a book he has written about how to do PR. I have reached page 59, and am so far very impressed.
When I read a book of this sort, I like to read about relevant personal experiences, as well as Big Lessons and Grand Principles. That way, you are more likely to be convinced that the Big Lessons and Grand Principles really are as good and grand as they may merely seem.
So I particularly enjoyed this bit (from page 59):
When I got my first column in 1994, in a newsstand computer magazine, I had no idea what I was doing. But it seemed like I needed to get some stories, so I wrote to all the relevant companies and invited them to send me information about what they were doing. Not all of them replied - those that failed to respond were PR idiots. Some of them wrote to me saying that they would add me to their press release distribution lists - they were amateurs.
Then some guy called Quentin got in touch. His company, Accountz, sold products by mail order and it was miniscule - just him and his wife. But he wrote me a personal two-page letter (this was before email was commonplace) explaining how he had a Big Idea to defeat the major players in his sector. Unlike some of the other companies, he had no PR agency - but he had a story. And during the 15 issues I wrote that column, I could always rely on him
to take my calls and give me a good quote. When I upgraded to bigger-selling PC titles, including the market-leading ComputerActive, I kept on writing about his company. Today, his products are sold in PC World, Currys, AppleStores and Staples, and as I type this he has just made a successful exit from the company, passing it onto an investor.
What worked about that PR-journalist relationship is that Quentin - perhaps unwittingly - had good personal brand. He never tried to force a bad story on me and never wasted my time.
Alex has told me he is in the market for typos, and I think I see another blemish, to add to the two I’ve already told him about. Shouldn’t “onto” (final line of para 2 there) be “on to”? Not sure, but I think I’m right about that.
More about this book when I have finished it.
I used to defer gratification when I was a teenager. Now that I am middle-aged I take it when it presents itself. Not only have the opportunities become rarer and more precious, but the benefits of deferral are always in the future. And my future is getting shorter every day.
“A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips.” This equation advises us to forgo the pleasure of tasty but fattening food. It may be good advice when you are 20. But as you age and your hips’ lifetime shortens, the scales begin to tip in the direction of instant labial gratification. No one counts the calories of his last supper.
Those are the first two paragraphs of the first column in a collection of columns entitled Free Thoughts, by Jamie Whyte. All available on line.
I found them while looking for this (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), which is by Preston Byrne. Byrne is my next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), this coming Friday, as I’ve already written about on Samizdata.