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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: How the mind works

Wednesday April 26 2017

What follows is the speculation of a football non-obsessive, and it could all be nonsense.  So sprinkle lots of “so I surmise” and “it seems to me” all over it.  And then correct me if I’m wrong.  So, I surmise ...

If all Premier League teams were very roughly equal in strength, amd doing well or badly merely because of the vagaries of form and fitness and confidence and sheer dumb luck, you’d expect a few to be stretching out at the front of the field, and a few to be falling back at the back, with a big bunch in the middle.  The biggest points gaps would be at the top and at the bottom, with no big gaps anywhere near the middle.

imageNow look at the state of the Premier League, as of now, on the right there.

We do now see gaps at the top and at the bottom.  As of right now, leaders Chelsea are 4 points ahead of their nearest chaser, Spurs, and Liverpool are next, a whole 8 points behind Spurs.  Bottom club Sunderland is now 6 points behind second-from-bottom Middlesbrough, who are 4 points behind third-from-bottom Swansea.

And we also see a big bunch of teams in the middle.  The points gap between West Brom in eighth place and Burnley at sixteenth is a mere 4 points.

But the biggest points gap of all between adjacent clubs in the Premier League is between Everton in seventh place and West Brom in eighth place.  This gap is currently no less than 14 points.  The top seven clubs (Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton) are now, you might say, the Real Premier League.

I distinctly recall the times when the Real Premier League only contained four clubs: Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.  And then Man City joined it, with Liverpool slipping down.  So there used to be only four, but now there are seven.

This has had an interesting consequence, which is that the FA Cup is now important again.  Or so I surmise (see above).

The FA Cup used to count for a lot.  There was no Real Premier League in those far off times, or if there was I was not aware of it.  But there was a European Cup and a European Cup-Winners Cup, or some such thing, and all clubs wanted to win either the League or the Cup and preferably both, for the sheer glory of it.

Then, the European Cup or the Champion’s League or whatever started to get seriously into its stride and to mean serious money, to spend on now seriously well paid players.  “Getting into Europe” stopped being a bit of an afterthought and became what it was all about.  At around this time the Four-Team Real Premier League also got into its stride, and the best route into Europe, for Real Premier League clubs, became to ignore the FA Cup.  Remember when Man Utd didn’t even bother to contest the FA Cup and instead went flapping off to Brazil, to lose some mega-championship of the world game?  All that crap about The Magic of The Cup, and Anyone Can Win The Cup, blah blah blah, became very tedious, because Anyone Who Was Anyone (i.e. the Real Premier League) couldn’t be bothered with exhausting themselves trying to win FA Cup, what with them always being in Europe anyway and having the small matter of the Premier League to come at least fourth in to get back into Europe again. For the FA Cup, they put out their reserves instead of a real team, just to keep them busy and amused.  If they got beaten by Anyone Town, that was the fault of said reserves, was no huge surprise, and was no skin off the nose of the actual Real Premier League club.  Skin on it, if anything, because the season immediately became less exhausting for any first teamers who got dragged into going through the motions in the FA Cup.

But now that the Real Premier League has expanded from four clubs to seven clubs, a Real Premier League club can no longer take its route to Europe quite so much for granted.  At which point the FA Cup, which is another route into Europe, becomes of significance to Real Premier League clubs, the way it has never been since the Real Premier League got started.

This year, all four FA Cup semi-finalists were Real Premier League clubs.  (Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Man City.) When was the last time that happened?

Thursday April 20 2017

I always know when I am on the right track as a blogger.  It’s when someone quotes me.  (It’s usually either the Quotulator (I was most recently quotulated by him in this posting) or 6k.) This means (a) that I have said something interesting and somewhat novel, and (b) that I have said it well.  (b)-ing I do, on its own, regularly.  I regularly say obvious, banal, boring things clearly and fluently.  Don’t we all?  Nobody copies and pastes (b)-ing.  Frustratingly, I also do quite a lot of (a)-ing on its own, meaning: I say something interesting, but say it very badly and confusingly, with constant self-interruptions, this paragraph perhaps being yet another example of (a)-ing.  Nobody quotes (a)-ing either, because it just confuses and irritates people.  You have to do (a)-ing and (b)-ing all at once before you get quoted by anyone.

So, if 6k has just been quoting me, I must have said something good and said it right, right?  And 6k has just been quoting me:

First this, from earlier this week:

I still hate and fear golf.

And then this, from the posting that that recent posting linked back to:

I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century.  I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life.  And I wasn’t having that.

Sadly for me, though, this is not the perfect piece of writing that I yearn to contrive, every time I place my fingers above my keyboard to start to type in this stuff.  It was not, that is to say, the blogging equivalent of a perfectly hit golf shot.  (a)-ing and (b)-ing were not perfectly combined. There is one crucial word missing.  Where it says: “… there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life”, I should have put “… there was a definite danger that playing golf would take over my entire life.”

Playing cricket, as a life-time occupation excluding all else besides doing whatever work was needed to stay alive, never appealed to me, for the simple reason that I was always hopelessly bad at playing cricket.  A cricketing life would have been a life of constant humiliation at the hands of all the other, better cricketers.  The occasional well flighted off-break or decently played single out to extra cover would not have begun to compensate for all the contemptuous fours and sixes hit off me (if and when I ever bowled) or the flying stumps (if and when I finally got to bat).  You can’t play cricket alone, against only yourself.  You have to have opponents, and if these opponents are almost always better than you, you aren’t going to have a huge amount of fun.

But playing golf is different.  Basically, no matter how they dress it up, golf is, or at any rate can be, a solitary game.  It is a game you can play against only yourself, and for me that would be a fair contest, rather than the permanent humiliation that me playing cricket regularly (by its nature, necessarily, against other cricketers) would have been.

6k notes that do I “love cricket”, and I do.  But to be more exact, what I love is following cricket, not playing it.  And following cricket, at any rate the way I like to follow it, fits in perfectly with me also having a life doing other more meaningful things besides following cricket.

What I love about cricket is, yes, the game itself, but also the minutiae of its progress - the verbal commentaries and the numbers and the dots, the runs and the wickets, the constant flow of data.

Football is not like this, for me.  The actual processes don’t appeal to me nearly so much.  All that passing and tackling and dribbling and creating and missing half-chances.  These processes only really matter, to me, if they result in a goal, and in a way they only matter to anyone if they result in a goal.  With football, it’s only goals that count.  Only goals determine who wins.  And only the goals really speak to me, so I prefer to watch, if I watch football at all, the recorded highlights of football, and the more highlighty the better.  (This is not an argument that you should stop loving football or playing in or going to watch football matches or watching entire games of football on your television.  I am merely describing how football does and does not appeal to me.)

Cricket, on the other hand, and unlike football, emits this constant gush of truly meaningful information, information which all adds up to winning or losing.  And I relish the decoding of this information in the same way that an MI6 analyst must relish being able to tell what is happening out there also only by looking at data on a computer screen.

I only ever actually attend a cricket game as a special and very occasional treat.  I wouldn’t want to watch cricket, for real, in person, at the actual ground, day after day.  The very second-hand and rather arms-length nature of cricket data is, for me, all part of what fun it is to be receiving it.  Having played enough actual cricket in my extreme youth to have the game imprinted into me, like a first language, I know how diabolically difficult it is to do what good cricketers do routinely.  When, as happens from time to time, my computer screen announces a “w” (somebody just got “out"), I feel the same lurch of emotion that the real spectators and participants enjoy or suffer.  When I see a “4” reported at Cricinfo, and then read some guy telling me that it was a good shot rather than a mis-hit, I get almost the same pleasure from that as I would have got from actually seeing it.

Especially entertaining is if, say, an IPL team needs to clobber a boundary off the final ball of a T20 game (never mind – it’s just a sort of cricket game) to win, but will otherwise lose, and then a “6” shows up on the screen.  Hey, how about that!  Or, if a limited overs win-or-lose, no-draws-allowed game ends with, say, one team needing three to win off the last two balls (I seem to recall something like this happening in the IPL a couple of days ago), but with only one wicket left, and the penultimate ball suddenly announces itself to have been a “w”.  Game over.  Wow.

(Although, I have to admit that a big spread of Premier League games on a Saturday afternoon, with goals erupting quite regularly, and then final whistles all being blown in a sudden rush, is fun, provided your team’s circumstances mean that you have firm preferences for several of these games rather than just the one game.  Lots of significant games then adds up to something almost as continuously amusing as a single game of cricket.  To me.  (This is not an argument, see above ...)

I know, all very childish.  But following sport is rather childish.  And there’s nothing wrong with such childishishness provided that it doesn’t totally take over your entire life and turn you into a permanent twelve-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week child.  Because, what I especially love about following cricket is that I can combine it with other things.  Life, when I am following cricket, can go on.

I can now even carry a 1960s mainframe computer around with me in my pocket.  I can keep up with any games of cricket that are happening while being out and about in London, meeting colleagues and friends, and taking photos.  My cricket machine even doubles up as an A-Z map, complete with a blue blob that says “you are here”.  Amazing.  In short, and although there are days when it threatens to, merely following cricket has not totally taken over my life.  There are even days when my real life is so diverting that I neglect cricket entirely, and have to catch up later.

All of which means that when 6k says that what puts me off golf is its pleasure to pain ratio, and that he feels just the same about cricket, and how come I don’t? - well, with respect, and all my fault for failing to clarify the difference between playing golf and following cricket, but he has it all wrong.  Following cricket is continuous squirts of fun into the texture of everyday life, all pleasure and no grief.  Playing golf threatened continuous squirts of pleasure, but no everyday life at the same time.  It threatened a completely different life for me, and an utterly vacuous one, like being a drug addict (very like being a drug addict), with all my spare time and spare cash consumed by it.  Like playing outdoor solitaire, all the time and not doing anything else, and perhaps even stealing money to fund the habit.  (I am also terrified of actual drugs, for the same reasons.)

Because the thought of playing golf during every spare hour I had filled and fills me still with such horror, I have even avoided following golf, for fear that merely following golf might become a gateway drug to actually playing golf.  You want continuous data?  Golf, like cricket, supplies a constant gush of it.  But cricket data never says to me that I ought to pick up a bat or a ball and start trying to play the game, again.  I know my limitations.  Following golf?  Well, I just can’t take that risk.

Sunday April 16 2017

Lincoln Paine is an admirably ambitious historian.  Here is the first sentence (to be found on page 3 of my paperback (but still very big) edition) of the introduction of Paine’s very big book, The Sea and Civilization, which is 744 pages long and which I have just started reading:

I want to change the way you see the world. ...

Good, because I bought this book in order to do exactly that, change the way I see the world.

In the following specific way:

… Specifically, I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade. ...

Hurrah for the internet.  I went looking for a maritime history of the world and found this, which I might never have done if I had been relying on merely physical bookshops.

… This shift in emphasis from land to water makes many trends and patterns of world history stand out in ways they simply cannot otherwise. Before the development of the locomotive in the nineteenth century, culture, commerce, contagion, and conflict generally moved faster by sea than by land. The opening of sea routes sometimes resulted in immediate transformation, but more often it laid the groundwork for what was later mistaken for sudden change. ...

Here is an example of what you notice when you think like this.  On page 7, we read this, about the USA:

A maritime perspective complicates our understanding of the “westward” expansion of the United States. California achieved statehood in 1851, two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, when the territory was virtually unknown to Americans back east and the number of United States citizens on the Pacific coast numbered only a few thousand. Thanks to the extraordinary capacity of the American merchant marine of the day, tens of thousands of people reached San Francisco by ship, a mode of transportation that was faster, cheaper, and safer than the transcontinental journey, although the distance covered was more than four times longer. The United States conquered the interior of the continent - what are today known as the fly-over states, but at the time could aptly have been called the sail-around territories – in a pincer movement from both coasts, rather than by a one-way overland movement from the east.

On my TV I have just recently been watching Michael Portillo investigate that very “westward” expansion of the USA, with plenty of wagons and locomotives involved, but no mention at all of any ships.  So I know exactly what Paine means.

Paine goes on to assert (on page 9) that there have been …:

… changes in the public perception of the maritime world, for the merchant marine and naval services no longer hold the attraction for people that they once did, when ocean liners and freighters crowded the piers of Manhattan, Hamburg, Sydney, and Hong Kong. At the start of the twenty-first century, ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade and the number of oceangoing ships has grown threefold in the past half century. But the nature of shipping has led to the relocation of cargo-handling facilities to places remote from traditional port cities, ...

In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

About that, I am not so sure.  Maybe it’s more a matter of degree than he says.  I guess I’m a bit different, in that I have been particularly noticing both what is happening to London’s old docks and waterways (they’re being prettied up for tourists like me and for the new gentry (really, mostly, just indoor and better paid proletarians) who now live next to them) and where London’s new mega-dock is now nearing completion, downstream.  I am definitely not the only one who has noticed shipping containers.  As Paine himself says, in his final chapter, containers are driving globalisation, and much of the globe has surely noticed.  Indeed, this might be why Paine’s publishers judged the time to be right for the switch in focus that he argues for.  On the other hand, I did have to go looking for this book.  Nobody else brought it to my attention, spontaneously, as it were.

Talking of focus, my eyesight has now reached the stage of me only being able to read a book by holding it about two inches away from my face.  Spactacles don’t do it for me any more.  Usually this is fine.  But this is a very big book, and it is going to be a very big struggle for me to read it.  But I am determined to do all the struggling that I must.

Or, I might go to the internet again, and buy something like this contraption.  If I do purchase such a reading aid, it will presumably be as cheap as it is because it recently crossed the world in a shipping container.

Tuesday April 11 2017

I like this footbridge, and I like this photo of this footbridge:

image

I took this photo on the same day I took this gasometer with towers photo, and these cat photos.

We are looking down from the road bridge that takes Twelvetrees Crescent over the River Lea and Bow Creek.  It’s a delightful spot, to be found at the top right end of the Limehouse Cut.  On the right, we see the Limehouse Cut about to make its bee-line for the Limehouse Basin.  And on the left, the River Lea is about to wend its very winding way down to the River.  Where the Lea empties itself into the Thames is right near where I took these fish photos.

The reason I cross-reference all these photo-postings of mine is because the idea of these expeditions is not just to see amusing things in isolation, but in addition to that to build up the bigger picture in my mind of what that part of London, and in particular its waterways, is like.  All these walks need to join up with each other, in reality and in my head.  The latter I achieve by trawling back through my photo archives, by repeatedly meandering about in google maps, and by connecting up this blog posting with that one.  And by going on more expeditions.

Monday April 10 2017

You hear this phrase a lot, along with its twin “No, yeah …”.  Sportsmen in particular use this phrase a lot, especially cricketers.

A couple of days ago, I was sitting having a drink with a friend, and I heard a regular human being at a nearby table use this strange expression.  And straight away, I listened to myself in amazement as I immediately explained to my companion why people, especially cricketers, say this.  I had no idea why this nearby person had said “No, yeah” - or was it “Yeah, No”? - but quite suddenly, it became clear to me why cricketers so often talk like this.

Consider the following example, from earlier today.  Gareth Batty, the captain of the Surrey cricket team, is speaking about Surrey’s fine win, completed this morning, against Warwickshire, in a four minute video that you can watch at the Surrey website, here.

Surrey’s two best players in this game were, first, Mark Stoneman, who made a big hundred which enabled Surrey to get a big first innings score of 450 odd, and second, another Mark, Mark Footitt, who wrecked the Warwickshire first innings reply, with figures of 9 overs 2 maidens 14 runs 6 wickets, which are very good figures.  Footitt in particular was a match winner.  A batsmen can make sure his team doesn’t lose the game, but a bowler can, often with brutal suddenness, win the game, and Footitt won this game, in one brilliant afternoon of bowling.  He got Bell and Trott, both recent major England batsmen, both for ducks, in one over.  Warwickshire never recovered.  Yesterday Warwickshire batted quite well in their second innings, Trott in particular, but it was too late. This morning Surrey got Warwickshire’s last few wickets and won by an innings.

So, of course, Gareth Batty was invited by his video interlocutor to agree that Stoneman and Footitt had been brilliant, as they had been.  But Batty had something else he wanted to say.  He wanted to say, and did say, that this was a team effort. Everybody contributed.  We all hit the ground running in our first game of the season.  Well done all of us.  Well done all our hard work in training, all that pre-season effort in the nets, and all that.  And when he’d finished saying all that he said how great the Surrey fans had been.  Message: we all pull together.  Not a few individuals.  The team, in fact the entire club and its supporters.

So, before all that, by way of introduction, how did Batty react to the claim that he should be singling out Stoneman and Footitt for praise, and also be talking about a brilliant catch by Borthwick to get Bell out when Bell looked like staying a lot longer with Trott than he did and threatening to save the game, and giving Borthwick a name check also.  By saying: “Yeah, no …” You can hear him say this just over a minute into the video.

What gives?

What gives is that Batty is saying “Yeah” to the inescapable facts being presented to him.  Stoneman and Footitt did play brilliantly.  Borthwick’s catch was also superb, and a game-changer.  So he is not going to disagree.  So: “Yeah”.

But: “No”, because Batty wants to say something else instead, which he then says.

The “root cause” so to speak, of the Yeah, No, No, Yeah thing is that typically, when sportsmen are being interviewed, they are knackered, and have had no time to think what the hell to say, and in any case mostly don’t make a living doing sport after being top of their class at school in elocution, and they have to be helped.  And the way that sports interviewers help sportsmen is typically by supplying them with a ready-made answer and asking them to agree.  But often, the sportsman, while not wanting to contradict exactly, doesn’t want fully to agree either.  If he personally did brilliantly (that often being why he is picked out to be interviewed), he doesn’t want to deny that he did indeed do brilliantly, exactly, but he would rather say that it was, you know, nice to do well, and pick out a few other team-mates by name who also did quite well.  So, he starts by saying “Yeah, no”.  Yeah, he did well, but no, not that well.  He of course thinks that he did brilliantly, sure, but he doesn’t want to say it, because then everyone, and especially his team-mates, would think he’s a arrogant pillock.

Batty, today, agrees that two particular guys, whom he makes a point of not naming, did indeed do well.  “They don’t need me to tell them” how well they did, is how he puts it, and then talks about the whole team.  By saying “Yeah, no” at the beginning of all this, he is neither wholly agreeing nor wholly disagreeing with the “question”.  He is more, as it were, sculpting, modifying, diluting, shifting the emphasis of, changing the balance of, what has just been put to him.  Yeah, it’s not wrong.  But no, he wants to say something else.

Saturday April 08 2017

Today I had what I suspect may prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I say that because it was so boring that I may never do it again.  I walked the length of the Limehouse Cut:

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The thing about the Limehouse Cut is that it is dead straight, as purely man-made things so often are.  So, when you are walking along next to it, you find yourself staring forwards at an infinitely receding, dead straight, unchanging canal-side path.  The Limehouse Cut is dead straight, and hence dead boring.

Click on that dreary little map of the Limehouse Cut, above, and you will get the context, which shows also how most waterways in London look.  Not straight.  And that makes them much more amusing to walk next to.  Usually, when walking beside a London waterway, there are constant twists and turns.  New things regularly come into view.  The whole atmosphere of the journey keeps changing.  But when things straighten out, like they did today, it can get very repetitious.

Here are some pictures that make that point:

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I have long noticed something similar when it comes to walking along roads.  Long straight boulevards are an ordeal.  Twisty and turny walks, with lots of visual variety and with obstacles in the way so you can’t see miles ahead, are, I find, much more appealing.

The point is variety.  Anything that just keeps repeating itself is dull.  Even if it is something you might think picturesque, like a waterway with lots of boats on it.  But that gets dull also.

I was actually not surprised by this.  I was expecting it.  But, I was hoping against hope that there might be a good view in the distance, like the Shard maybe.  Or that it wouldn’t be boring.  Well, it wasn’t entirely boring.  There were things to see that were surprising.  Plus there was a park that I was able to visit.  But basically, it was boring.

But the thing was, what if the Limehouse Cut was really exciting?  I had to make quite sure that this was not so.  So, there was a meaningful mission today, and it was accomplished.  And it didn’t take that long.

Thursday March 30 2017

imageYesterday I put up sixty eight photos, of demo signs, in a big pile, four square photos wide, seventeen square photos high.  Below all these photos I wrote about, among other things, my fondness for large collections of photos of objects, each object the same, yet each object different.

Today, just the one photo, taken at the beginning of this month, but a similar effect.  Yellow emoji key rings, on sale in a tourist souvenir shop just outside Waterloo Station. The photo is five yellow emoji key rings wide and twenty four yellow emoji key rings high, plus a bit extra around the edge.  Click on the cropped version to get to the uncropped original.

I love to photo the stuff on sale in tourist souvenir shops, probably because the photos tend to have this same thing going for them: lots of things, each the same, but often each different, as here.  Well, there is quite a lot of repetition with these yellow emoji key rings but there is also lots of variety.  Buying just one of these yellow emoji key rings would be completely irrelevant to the pleasure that I get from this large array of yellow emoji key rings, because that would not be an array of yellow emoji key rings, just the one pointless, isolated yellow emoji key ring.  Only the array does it for me.  And who would want an actual array of such things.  No, the ideal arrangement is a photo.

This is probably some kind of psychological oddity of mine, along with me being a pathological collector and and an old git who is mostly content with his own company, who, on the whole, prefers photographing life and blogging about life as lived by others, to actually living his own life.  Someone recently told me I was borderline Asberger’s, or some such thing.  No offence was meant and none was taken, although I was a bit surprised, because it had never occurred to me before.  But this is probably right.

This is presumably all part of why I like blogging so much.  I collect blog postings, at a regular rate of one blog posting per day.  Each follows the same set of rules.  Each is different.  One posting alone would mean nothing.  Assemble them in an array and they start to add up to something.

At some magnifications the yellow emoji key ring array on the right was encroaching upon the posting below.  This short extra paragraph will sort that.

Wednesday March 29 2017

Last Saturday, I journeyed forth to check out a statue.  I’ve been reading this book, which got me interested in Frederick, Duke of York, second son of George III and C-in-C of the British Army, for real, not ceremonially.  A hugely important figure in British military history, apparently, and there is a statue of him at the top of a column, right across the road from where he used to work, where he used to work being a walk away from where I live.  I’ve always liked this statue, and its column, but had never, until now, given a thought to what the bloke at the top of it had done to deserve it, for deserve it he did.

But before I checked that out, I encountered, in Parliament Square, that big Anti-BREXIT demo, and since today is a rather important date, BREXIT-wise, I’ll leave the Duke of York to other days, and focus on that demo, and in particular on all the signs that I saw.  The light was very bright, so here, with many a shadow getting in the way, are most of the signs that I saw:

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Given that I personally voted BREXIT, why did I go to all the bother (and when I do this kind of thing it is a lot of bother) of showing all these snaps here?

Here are a few reasons:

I was struck by the enthusiasm and inventiveness and personal commitment on show, especially illustrated by the number of hand-done signs I saw.  This enthusiasm is a significant political fact of our time, I think, no matter what you think of it.  My personal opinion is that it is going to do terrible damage to the British left, in a sort of mirror image way to the damage that Britain’s participation in the EU did to the British right.  (See this posting and this posting, at Samizdata.)

Second, many people whom I like and respect, some of them people of the left but most of them not, nevertheless voted against BREXIT, for reasons I thoroughly respect.  Much of the motivation behind the vote against BREXIT was libertarian in spirit, and much of the motivation behind the vote for BREXIT was anti-libertarian in spirit.  I voted the way I did despite all that, because of my pessimism about the future development of the EU, and because in my opinion the EU brought out the very worst in our politicians and public officials.  Turned them all into a pack of bloody liars, basically.  But those who did not see it that way had their reasons.  This posting is my nod towards all those who disagreed with me in this great matter.

Third, this posting reflects a photographic enthusiasm of mine, which is for large sets of objects which are all of the same kind, yet all different from one another.  I reacted, photographically, to this demo, in the exact same way that I reacted to an NFL jamboree that I encountered a few years back, in Trafalgar Square, where I found myself snapping lots of NFL name-and-number shirts, likewise all the same yet all different.

And see also this demo.

I have included a few signs which verge on self-parody.  1.1: “I AM QUITE CROSS”, made me chuckle, and wonder whose side they were on.  As did 9.1 and 9.2, “Tut” and “DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING”, the latter being a sign that goes back to Father Ted.  11.2, “mewn” baffles me, though.  What is that?  Does it mean: me-EU-UN?

Monday March 20 2017

This evening I attended a talk at Christian Michel’s, about (and against) major increases in the human lifespan.

The speaker quoted luminaries saying that infinite life would lead to infinite meaningless of life.  People would just get bored.  It is death that gives life its meaning.  Immortality would drain the meaning out of life.

But from the floor came a different surmise, to the effect that the imminence of death, to some anyway, causes a slowing down, a draining away of zest.  Greatly prolonged life - accompanied by the enhanced and prolonged energy and zestfulness that would make prolonged life enjoyable, rather than merely bearable, or worse, unbearable - would surely cause many now considered old to get stuck seriously into new projects, confident that they would have a serious amount of time and energy left to devote to them.  Something like immortality would cause more lust for life, rather than less.  People who expect to die soon are now inclined just to sit back and wait for it.

When I first encountered a primitive version of the very word processing that I am indulging in right now, nearly fifty years ago now, I hurled myself into learning to type, confident that the investment of time and effort would more than pay for itself.  Had I been nearly seventy when I first encountered word processing for the first time, would I have bothered with it?  Probably, not.  If, on the other hand, I could now confidently expect another seventy or so years of active life, would I now be more inclined to adapt to new techniques and processes?  Yes.  I am pretty much certain that I would be more adventurous, more willing to invest time and energy, if the pay-off was going to be five or more decades of further potential impact rather than just the one decade or so that I now anticipate.

The speaker from the floor who expressed this most eloquently was Chris Cooper, who is giving my next Last Friday of the Month talk, on March 31st, on the subject of the rise of the robots.  Chris thinks they will become our robot overlords.

What I can say with confidence is that one of the reasons I don’t now get stuck into new ways of doing things, new ways that might greatly improve things for me, is that whereas the investment of effort and energy would be unchanged from what was required fifty years ago, the benefits I can expect to gain, now that death looms, will be greatly diminished.

So, if death did not now loom ...

Monday March 13 2017

The omniscient short-term weather forecasters have ordained that today’s weather will be very good, so I will go somewhere, and take photos.

Here is where I plan to go:

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I am interested in Highbury Fields, from where I hope to be able to see Big Things, uninterrupted by the leaves that will spoil such views later in the year.  And I will also, if I have time, investigate the thin strip of green that goes through where it says CANONBURY, a little bit to the south east.  This is part of the New River, more northerly bits of which I earlier explored with Goddaughter One.

I now plan to go there, because I am so old I now need a plan, in order to get out of the house, good and early, in the first place.

Tuesday March 07 2017

So I had a look around Dezeen to see what’s there that’s interesting, and their most popular posting right now is about IKEA.  All I saw, for several days, was: IKEA.  So I ignored it.  But on close inspection, the posting is actually rather interesting.  Its title is: IKEA switches to furniture that snaps together in minutes without requiring tools.

Quote:

The fiddly ritual of assembling IKEA furniture is set to become a thing of the past as the furniture giant introduces products that snap together “like a jigsaw puzzle”.

The brand has developed a new type of joint, called a wedge dowel, that makes it much quicker and simpler to assemble wooden products. This does away with the need for screws, bolts, screwdrivers and allen keys.

My chosen destinations for furniture are charity shops, mostly.  That or basic second hand places.  Partly that’s an aesthetic preference.  I take pride in the cheapness of my living arrangements, that being my preferred look.  But part of that is because I have always assumed that flatpack furniture is indeed too fiddly and complicated to be relying on.  Also, frankly, I basically just don’t like IKEA’s furniture.

But for those who do like IKEA furniture, it looks like it is about to get a bit simpler to assemble.

Thought.  Does Lego make furniture?  I just googled that question, and google answer number one was this:

A company is making furniture that is like giant Lego for your home:

This furniture is designed to be taken apart over and over again.

It is called Mojuhler and is flatpack, modular furniture that can be changed from a chair to a table in minutes.

You can fund the project on Kickstarter from about £80.

Nice basic idea, but scroll down and you get to pictures of brackets and screws!  Screw all that, and not with a screwdriver.  It looks more like Meccano than Lego, I’d say.  It says on the right at that place that it failed to get its funding.  If that’s right, I’m not surprised.

This is more what I was thinking.

One of the basic drivers of design is the desire to own bigger versions of the stuff you played with as a little kid.  A lot of Art is like this, I believe.  So, why not furniture too?

Monday March 06 2017

But I do.  (Clue in the categories list.)

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Click if you want slightly more context.

Photoed by me, earlier this evening, at Victoria Tube Station.

Sunday March 05 2017

Via this posting at the Scott Adams blog, I first learned, just now, about Robots Read News.

All the pictures in this cartoon series are identical.  Only the words change.  Yet, the words on their own would probably not be so effective.

I especially enjoyed the first two comments on the above posting:

AtlantaDude:

If the Robot knows he is superior, I would expect him to be more condescending, and less angry - insulting humans in more subtle and clever ways than simply calling us stupid meat sacks, etc.

Scott Adams:

I am going for insensitive not angry. Part of the joke is that objectivity is indistinguishable from hate.

My next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (March 31) will be my Libertarian Friend from way back, Chris Cooper, talking about the rise of the robots.  They will rule us, he says, if I understand him correctly.  But maybe I don’t because he and I are both meat sacks.  Maybe he is expressing himself badly.  Or maybe I am misunderstanding him.  Or maybe both.  That I am understanding him correctly suddenly seems like a one in four chance.

Thursday March 02 2017

In a BBC sound clip lasting a little over one minute, ex-Leicester City psychologist Ken Way, talks about Leicester City’s premier league success, and about who created it.  Claudio Ranieri, Way says, “inherited” Leicester City happiness, from predecessor Nigel Pearson.  Ranieri’s successor, Craig Shakespeare also creates lots of happiness, says Way.

So, was Ranieri making them miserable?  Is that why they dumped him?

Maybe that was part of it.  But buried in this report, on Leicester’s recent thrashing of Liverpool, is another potential clue.  Right underneath the big green graphic, there is this:

In keeping with Craig Shakespeare’s pre-match comments, Leicester returned to the style of last season, 4-4-2 ...

Could that be it?  Could it be that simple?  Does Leicester reverting to “4-4-2”, whatever exactly that means, explain their sudden return to form?  (If that’s what it proves to be?)

Maybe 4-4-2 was enough to make them happy again.

The Welsh rugby team is in a bad way just now, having just been hammered by Scotland, for the first time in ages.  The new Wales boss, Howley, is
a very gloomy man, who didn’t even try to be upbeat after this loss.  I wonder if his dour demeanour is hurting Wales.

But, what do I know?

Wednesday March 01 2017

As many times threatened here, this blog is going, more and more, to be about the process of (me) getting old.  As you (I) get older, your (my) grasp of the everyday mechanisms of early twenty first century life becomes ever more stuck in the late twentieth century.

One of the best known symptoms of advancing years is short-term memory loss.  In plain language, you do something or see something, and then you immediately forget all about it.  You put a remote control down, and seconds later, a portal into the seventh dimension opens up, swallows the remote, and closes again, and you spend the next ten minutes looking for the damn thing.  If I write with feeling, it is because exactly this just happened to me, when first-drafting this.  But at least when it came to this remote, I managed to persuade the portal into the seventh dimension to open and disgorge its prey, after only a few minutes of searching and brain-wracking.

Altogether more tiresome was when the same thing happened to this, about a fortnight ago:

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As you can guess from the fact of the above photo, I eventually found this Thing again, but only after about a week of futile searching, through all the stuff in my small, one-bedroom home.

In the end, I had to give up, because I had instead to be preparing for the meeting I held at my home last Friday.  And then, in the midst of those preparations and much to my amazement, the above Thing revealed itself to me again.  It was in a place I should have looked in at once but failed to, but at least I found it.

What the Thing is is the electrical lead for my ancient laptop.  Time has not yet rendered this laptop useless, by which I mean not useless to me for my primitive late twentieth century purposes, but losing this lead might have this laptop useless even to me, if Maplin‘s had been unable to supply a replacement.  At the very least, I had started to expect a hefty bill, because people selling leads for such purposes know that they are dealing with desperate buyers, for whom a vital piece of kit will either resume working, or be forever useless.  Twenty quid?  Arrrrgh!  Hmmmm.  Okay, so be it.  (Bastards.)

I have a couple of bags entirely full of leads like the one above, In Case They Come In Handy, which of course they never will.  This is yet another category of stuff that you have to get used to chucking out, but being old, you find it hard to do.  Because, Sod’s Law decrees that as soon as you chuck one of these wires out, you will realise you do need it.

But, like I say, I found this particular bit of wire.  It wasn’t the best thing that happened to me last Friday.  (That was the meeting.) But it was pretty good.