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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: Current events

Friday June 01 2018

I kid you not:

image

West Japan Railway Co. said Friday it will begin operating a Hello Kitty-themed shinkansen on June 30.

The interior and seats of the 500-series shinkansen, to be used for daily round trips between Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka Prefecture and Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture, will feature Sanrio Co.’s Hello Kitty character, the railway operator said.

The special train, to be decorated with pink ribbons like the character, will be used to promote local attractions and specialty goods, and passengers will have the chance to pose for photos with a big Hello Kitty doll.

I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been had by Japan’s answer to the Daily Mash, or that all this was first announced on April 1st.  Nevertheless, it does seem to be a real thing.

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.

Friday February 16 2018

You wait nearly thirteen years at BMdotcom for a giant penis photo, and then, out of the blue, two come along.  That one, in the post before last yesterday, and this one:

image

Crikey, blimey, etc..  Or as we Brits also used to say: Well I’m blowed.

Fox News, so also “other creatures”.

You Had One Job calls this an “unfortunate helicopter shot”.  But I bet the photoer could hardly believe his extreme good fortune.

Sunday February 04 2018

I just heard ITV News describe South African politician Jacob Zuma as being “mired in a whirlwind” of something or other.  Controversy, or some such thing.  Yes, this.

Next thing you know, he’ll be blown away by a swamp.

Sunday November 19 2017

I was once briefly acquainted with a quite close relative of Robert Mugabe, and that person was truly remarkable in being utterly incapable of understanding how anyone could possibly disagree with the truth that he saw so very clearly.  This person also looked exactly - spookily - like Robert Mugabe. (It was asking about this resemblance that got me the information that he was a close relative of Mugabe.) I have never known a more deeply stubborn person, ever.  But it was not a stubbornness made merely of the desire or the determination not to change his mind.  No.  He was simply unable to change his mind.  The idea of him ever having been wrong, about anything, was simply impossible for him to grasp.

If Robert Mugabe is anything like this relative of his, and everything I know about Robert Mugabe tells me that Mugabe is, in this respect, exactly like him, Mugabe may find himself sacked, imprisoned, or even executed, but he will never resign, or ever change his mind about the wisdom of anything he ever said or did.  That he has not yet resigned has, according to the Guardian headline linked to there, has “stunned” Zimbabwe.  I was not stunned.

They’ll have to force him out, like King Richard II was forced out by King Henry IV.  But if Mugabe is forced out, there will be no scenes like the closing scenes of Shakespeare’s version of Richard II, where the deposed Richard comes to see the world and its ways differently, and to understand things more deeply.  Simply, Mugabe is right, has always been right and will always be right, and if everyone else disagrees with him, it can only be that everyone else is, was, and will be, hopelesslyl wrong.  Mugabe is literally incapable of understanding matters in any other way.

Mugabe is indeed now a rather confused old man.  But his confusion concerns only how it is possible for so many people to be so completely mistaken.

Saturday October 21 2017

Today.

… although early signs are that it will not hit as hard as expected.

In other words, not nearly as impressive as Hurricane Ophelia.

Friday September 08 2017

For all I know the sky was quite dramatic over other places too, but it was in Brixton that I saw it:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

Often, when I show photos here, they were taken days, weeks, months or even years ago.  Yesterday, there were photos that were taken ten years ago.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but: the above photos were taken earlier this evening, when I journeyed out to Brixton Curry’s PC World Carphone Warehouse or whatever the &&&&& it’s called, to try and to fail to buy a new TV.  Which means that this is topical meteorological reportage.

Click on any of the above photos if you wish, and if you do you’ll get the bigger versions.  But I actually think that the smaller versions are more dramatic, because more abstract and less of something.  Like little oil paintings.  Especially the first one.

Thursday August 31 2017

Here.

I heard about this soon after it happened, because I had been semi-following the game, on account of it being at the Oval and involving Surrey.  When it said “play stopped by crowd trouble” or some such thing, here, I at once tuned into the internet radio commentary, and replayed the strange moment when they saw this arrow stuck in the pitch and the players all either walked off or ran off.  Later, they reckoned the arrow must have come from outside the ground, not from one of the stands.  So, not crowd trouble after all.  Good.

Usually, when there’s an act of obvious terrorism by an obvious terrorist, the BBC makes a big thing of not jumping to the obvious conclusion about why it happened.  But this time, it really wasn’t obvious, and so far as I know, it’s still a mystery.  I mean, why fire just one small arrow at a four day county cricket game, which was already heading for a draw, watched by a largely empty stadium?  A small shower of arrows, into the crowd, and preferably a dense crowd, well, that might have caused some real grief and real panic.  As it was, it felt more like some bizarre accident rather than anything very malevolent.  A kid maybe?  Or just someone really, really stupid.

Mind you, I’d not be nearly so relaxed about all this had Surrey been chasing down a target of about a hundred, which earlier in the day it looked like they might contrive to be doing, despite all of yesterday having been rained off.  Had this mysterious incoming arrow turned a probable Surrey win into a draw, then clearly Middlesexist terrorism would be an obvious motive to be looking at.  But Middlesex had already batted themselves out of trouble, and a game that was already dead on its feet managed to get put out of its misery in a way that was really rather interesting, entertaining even, given that nobody got hurt.

Surrey have made a point of drawing games this year.  They have scored just one win so far, but are sitting pretty safe in mid-table.  Yorkshire have two more wins than Surrey, but fewer points, on account of Surrey having only lost one game, with their other eight all drawn.  Yorkshire have won three but lost four.

Meanwhile, test cricket has also been pretty lively, but in a good way:

So, Test cricket is in danger, is it? Ha! Test cricket laughs in the face of danger. Twice in the space of 14 hours, the game’s world order has been thoroughly rattled, with two of the most memorable results in recent years. The first jolt came at Headingley, where West Indies upset England for their first victory in the country since 2000; the next day in Mirpur, Shakib Al Hasan bowled Bangladesh to a thrilling, historic maiden win over Australia.

The danger, that test cricket just laughed at, being the danger of tedium and of insignificance.  Not arrows.

Monday August 14 2017

I have not yet read and probably never will read James Damore’s internal memo that went external, about diversity policies within Google, the one that got him fired.  But just in case I do want to read it, here is the full text.

And here is a conversation between James Darmore and Jordan Peterson.  I haven’t watched all this either, but so far Peterson has been doing a lot of the talking.  But the fact that Damore doesn’t mouth off a lot actually reinforces the feeling that he’s a good guy, if somewhat naïve.

Samizdata has also had a lot of Google/Damore posts recently, here, here (lots of good stuff and links to good stuff in that one), here, here, and here.

Damore was naive, in particular, about what will get you fired.  Most people know that if you criticise your bosses and it gets out, they do not like it.  The better you do it and the more it gets out, the more they do not like it.  Damore did it pretty well and it got out a lot.

Normally, I’d say that Google wanting only employees with “googliness”, of whom Damore proved himself not to be one, would be reasonable.  But the trouble is, Google is in the business of making judgements about what opinions should and should not be allowed on the internet, encouraged, discouraged, and so on.  For that job, they need political diversity.  Unless, of course, they’ve decided to ignore the other half of America.

Which might make sense.  That other half of America is, in global terms, a rather unusual bunch of people.  As are the “other halfs” of all other countries.  The “cosmopolitans” of the world, insofar as they really are a single group, are the biggest and, crucially, the richest group of people in the world.  But what if actually, the two halves of America, and the two halves of everywhere else, each have more in common with one another than they do with all the other cosmopolitans?  Stay, as the saying goes, tuned.

My own hunch is that Google ignoring half of America will be bad for business.  I mean, even the cosmopolitan Americans will want, from time to time, to actually pay attention to the other half, to find out about how, for instance, the other half votes and might be persuaded to vote differently.  If Google’s googliness gradually stops helping them do that …?

DuckDuckGo.  I found that here, via here.

Friday July 21 2017

Here.

LATER: And here.

Thursday June 29 2017

June 30th (i.e. tomorrow): Barry Macleod-Cullinane is a Conservative local councillor, and as a libertarian of long standing he is perfectly qualified to speak about “Townhall Libertarianism”. 

July 28th: Leandro d’Vintmus is a Brazilian, and a musician.  And also interested in how political and psychological libertarianism interact and reinforce each other.  Very different from the usual sort of Brian’s Last Friday, and all the better for it.

Aug 25th: Nico Metten will speak about “Libertarian Foreign Policy”.  Nico is your classic unswerving libertarian, except that he talks rather quietly.  Insofar as, in this complex matter, there are distinctions to be made, subtleties to be teased out, hairs to be split, we can depend upon him to make them, tease them out, split them.

Sept 29th: Financial journalist Tom Burroughes (aka Samizdata’s Johnathan Pearce), financial journalist, will speak about the (in his (and in my) opinion) very bad idea of a “universal basic income”.

Oct 27th: Rob Fisher, who is a parent, will offer some reflections about that.

Also fixed: January 26th 2018: Tim Evans, Professor in Business and Political Economy at Middlesex University Business School, will speak about the business of higher education, which is one of Britain’s most significant export industries.  We libertarians are used to complaining about higher education for the bad ideas that if all too often spreads.  But what about the economics of the higher education business?

Plenty of food for thought, I think you will agree.

Friday June 23 2017

The internet loves animals, especially cats and dogs, and I went looking for Grenfell Tower animal stories.  Because, there’s always an animal angle, to just about any story, even if it wasn’t an animal story to start with.

Did many pets die in the Grenfell Tower disaster?  I wasn’t able to answer that one.  But there have been a number of stories about pets who either can’t now stay with their current owners, or whose owners have died.  Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, for instance, is helping out with temporary pet accommodation.

Animals were also heavily involved in the search for bodies in the wreckage, as MSM news explains:

Specially trained dogs are also vital to the mission. The search process is painstaking, and as dogs are smaller, more agile, and have such a keen sense of smell (better than any technology), the animals have been deployed at more challenging areas.

The upper floors of the 24-storey high rise, those most damaged, and where people are most likely to have been killed, benefit particularly from the dogs’ expertise.

The canines come from the LFB and the MET’s urban search crews. They’re given special equipment, and even little boots to protect their feet from heat and broken glass. While obviously dangerous, no fire dog has ever been harmed while out on an operation.

...

The dogs mean the sad and devastating process of finding the missing will be quicker. They can get into parts of the building humans simply can’t get to.

I particularly like the bit about those “little boots”.  Nice touch.  Both in the sense of what this detail adds to the story, and in the sense that this must make life easier for the dogs, despite any doubts the dogs might have when first made to put their little boots on.

More about these dogs and their boots, with a picture, here, in a story from last year.

Friday June 16 2017

It feels hard to write about anything else in London, other than that towering inferno.  This story will run and run, because it partakes of both genuine emotions of the strongest sort, and politicians and media people eager to fan the flames.  What happened?  Who exactly has died?  Whose fault was it?  You can’t blame the media.  Their job is to tell true stories, and this is one hell of a true story.

image

Daily Mirror story about a barking dog.

Politically, if you had tried to hand-craft a disaster calculated to do the most possible damage to the Conservative government, and to most encourage what now seems to be a rising tide of Corbynism, you could hardly have done it more perfectly.  Those political people who are now fanning the flames are filled with passionate moral self-confidence.  How on earth the long-term politics of all this will pan out, I have no idea.

Would a Corbynite government really turn Britain into Venezuela?  Probably not, but why take the chance?  That’s what I say.  But will enough of my fellow Brits agree with me, when the time to say comes round again?  As of now, it feels like: no.

Oh well:

Spero infestis metuo secundis.

6k liked that too.

Wednesday June 14 2017

In the movie of that name, the inmates were all rich and glamorous.  Well, they would be, they were played by movie stars.  And the fire spread slowly enough to last for a whole movie.

This tower contained mere people, and the flames spread very quickly, like … wildfire.

I presume that the social media are ablaze with images of this tower, but for me, being the age I am, it’s the Evening Standard that really brings these sorts of things home:

imageimageimageimageimage

As you can see, they originally went with “Inferno”, but later changed it to the more politically charged “Death Trap”.  On the telly, the story was already developing, along the lines of: they were warned.  But they did nothing.

The Evening Standard story so far.

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?