Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on UPS drones and drone vans
6000 on Guess what this is
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Patrick Crozier on The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
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Peter Chapman on Africa is (still) big
A Rob on An old person television set
Shawn on An old person television set
Michael Jennings on Calatrava coming to London
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- Two sunsets and two London towers
- Photoing last Friday’s Last Friday meeting
- My comment on the Six Nations so far
- UPS drones and drone vans
- Tim Marshall on the warming of the Arctic
- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
- Marc Sidwell on experts
- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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we make money not art
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This and that
Category archive: This and that
I have spent yesterday and today indoors, tidying up, or at least trying to. Infrastructural Overload is a terrible thing. This posting is about this tidying. You have been warned. Spoiler alert. You risk being seriously bored – angered even - by the triviality of it all.
The turning point was setting a date by which a serious amount of tidying needs to be done. The date in question is December 30th, when there will be a post-Christmas party and a talk in the evening, in the place now being tidied. December is a long month, in the sense that the last Friday of November was on the 25th, which was when I last entertained here in a space-hungry way. So the last Friday of December is five weeks later, rather than your more typical four. The key decision was not to attempt any entertaining before Christmas, which gives me a nice long time, and in particular that precious blank (for me) time around Christmas, to get stuck into all the shite that needs de-shiting.
The basic problem is a lot of piles of unprocessed paper. We are talking about an enormous in-tray in a small dwelling, which is not a good combination. Today, the piles of paper are now mostly in the living room, on top of big planks on top of sofas, and the processing has begun.
I already have a small chair-load of superfluous paper, destined for the bins, and have made several discoveries.
I have discovered two vital books of instructions that I had thought gone for ever, one for my washing machine and the other for a recording device. Very gratifying.
And, I have discovered that some magazines wrap themselves in biodegradable plastic. I found several such unopened magazines from several years back, and the wrapping has biodegraded. I had to vacuum bits of it off my hands. I’ve often wondered what biodegradation looks like. Now I know, a bit more than I did.
I anticipate a sense of liberation, of spiritual renewal, once a serious amount of tidying has been done. This may be a delusion, but if so it is a delusion that is already having consequences, in the form of me doing tidying up.
That being the name I have given to this photo, taken yesterday afternoon:
Pride of place in all the temporariness goes to Centre Point, currently having some kind of makeover. But there are also cranes, crane shadows, flags, and all manner of urban thisness and thatness, including a big face on the back of a Boris bus, advertising Coca Cola.
Why the Union Jacks I wonder? Was the idea that, following the vote for Remain that was obviously going to happen, there would always be a Britain? Tourists, this place is still its good old British self? Leavers, bad luck, this is your consolation prize? Remaining doesn’t mean that Britain will be gobbled up by Europe? (Even though that is the plan.) Seriously, I wonder what the thinking was there.
Whatever, it makes for a pretty photo, I think. Also, good light.
My illness has taken the form of a “thing” that moves around my head. At its worst, it impinged on my brain and nose and made me feel very bad, headache and bunged up nose. Then it moved around in a circle, from above left eye to above right eye, to below right of head. That gave me a malfunctioning throat, but stopped being a headache. Today, it arrived back above the left eye, and moved over to above the right eye. Again. Result: headache and bunged up nose, all day. Again. Like it was last Sunday. I had hoped it would make just the one visit to wherever it chose to go, and then stop. No such luck.
So, not even a quota photo today.
Number 11 of these:
The trick was to get really close.
One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera. He just keeps them coming.
A few days ago I purchased a small loaf of sliced bread of my favourite sort, namely Hovis Original Wheatgerm. And I found something rather strange about it:
Not all the slices were like this, but most of them were.
I’m guessing that what happened here was that part of the previous loaf inside whatever space this loaf was cooked in got left inside, and hence incorporated into the next loaf, my loaf. And, it would appear, it got cooked twice, or at least rather more than the rest of the loaf, and before the rest of the loaf was inserted. And then everything sliced and sold to a supermarket, and bought by me, just as if nothing odd had happened at all.
I happily ate the resulting hybrid loaf, which seemed fine, even if the darker bits were a bit drier. This is not a complaint. If Hovis want to send me more sliced bread, they are welcome, but that is not my purpose with this posting. I’m just trying to entertain, with an oddity. Because, odd, don’t you think? Never seen that before.
On a slight tangent, I believe that I am becoming a better photographer with the passing of the years. By this I do not mean that I am getting technically any cleverer, although mercifully my cameras are. What I mean is that now, I realise that this is the kind of thing that needs to be photographed, before it is merely consumed. A few years ago, I might have eaten this, and then only later realised that I would have liked a photo of it.
Just to emphasise that my improvement as a photographer still has some way to go, I vaguely recall trying not to get any shadows in this photo. But, if I was so trying, I failed. You can make out the shadow of my photoing finger, towards the right. Apologies for that. You get what you pay for here.
Just to drive the point home that not all the photos of mine that I show here were taken several weeks or even months ago, here is yet another which I took (just like the previous two in the previous two postings) today:
My picture is somewhat cropped. Her hair somewhat less so.
Inevitably, in some of these cross-examinations, this blog came up, with me saying that I write here about whatever I feel like writing about, with very little thought for the interests of my readers. Cats on Fridays, general trivia, etc. I do Big Issues at Samizdata and trivia here. Blah blah.
However, an American lady friend, whom I had not met in quite a while and whom I was very pleased to meet again, told me that she quite liked my trivia stuff, and that she even read my postings about cricket (this being the most recent one). I thought that only I and Michael Jennings and Darren the Surrey Member were at all interested in those. It seems not.
I’m guessing that this interest on her part is partly actual interest, but also partly that a principle is at stake here. Which is: that the trivia that other people are interested in, but not you, is not actually an entirely trivial matter. Life is not only Big Issues. It is the small pleasures that give colour and texture and individuality to life. Watever matters, to someone, matters. Your opinion about what the Big Issues are should not be allowed to drive a tank or a government bureaucracy over my trivial pleasures.
So, her reading about the trivial pleasures of others is her asserting this Big Issue to herself, as well as maybe learning something about other little parts of the world, like the world of cricket (actually quite big of course, as I daresay are the worlds of embroidery and gardening and croquet and rap music and all the other little things in life that I don’t personally care about, other than to believe that tanks or government bureaucracies should not be driven over them).
Me being me, my way of asserting the importance of trivia, in general, to people, in general, is me writing about the trivia that interests me.
Her way of asserting the importance of trivia to people generally is her reading about the trivia that others write about. But we are both making the same point.
I don’t want to say that I have entirely described why my American lady friend likes to read what I write about cricket. I merely speculate that the above speculations might be a quite small part of why she does this.
(She, like me, probably also thinks that thinking about trivia can often lead to interesting angles on Big Issues, of the sort that merely looking straight at the Big Issues might cause you to miss. Pointless fun and truly original insight are often delightfully close neighbours, I think. But that’s a tangent for another time, hence this paragraph being in brackets.)
I was laden with bags of shopping, but I still thought this worth photoing, late this afternoon:
Which do you think is better, a good photo of an okay thing, or an okay photo of a good thing? This, I think, is a photo of the latter sort. Digital cameras come into their own in taking such photos, because, although lacking that last ounce of phototechnicality, they are easy to have with you and easy to use, even when you are basically busy with other things.
What I like is how totally different each of the nine shapes are, like they are nine different pictograms or something. Only the one bottom right rather lets the side down.
Also, the car wasn’t helping. Had that not been there, I would probably have done it from right in front, and it might have ended up being a good photo of a good thing.
But, until a short while ago, I did not know this:
Deirdre McCloskey is a well-known economist, with a reputation for originality or, depending on how you like to see it, being a maverick renegade. She is a neoclassical Chicago economic historian by training. But she has been asking about the rhetorical underpinnings of economics for some time. She also, in a story well-known in the profession, used to be a he, Donald McCloskey, but has transitioned to being a woman.
Blog and learn.
For much of yesterday, the world economy teetered on the edge of chaos, on account of this blog being out of action. In the USA, people from all walks of life complained that, without this blog, sneering at Brits and celebrating the defeat of Britain in the revolutionary war of 1776 or whenever became too difficult, without this blog as an explanation for their otherwise incoherent resentment.
Australians wanting to find out who won the Ashes in 2011 had to look elsewhere for news.
And all over Europe, policy makers, seeking light relief from their self-imposed task of ensuring that the EU goes out with a huge bang rather than with an orderly and rational recognition of what ought really to be done, looked to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom for solace. But it was not there.
How can we be expected to lead the European economy over a cliff in the proper manner, exclaimed Big European Cheeses, if we can’t divert ourselves every now and again with pictures of London bridges, and of new London towers, like the big spiky one and the one with the three holes in the top? After a hard hour fretting about Spaniards who are about to riot and then die of starvation unless we print some more money and give it to ourselves, we need to be able to contemplate roof clutter, stuff about something called “Samizdata”, and photos of London tourists taking photos, another Big European Cheese added.
Fortunately, BMDC came back on line yesterday afternoon, and the happiness of the world and the orderly progress of Europe towards self-inflicted ruin was reestablished in the nick of time.
Tidying up, with me, doesn’t happen because it’s that time of the month or the week or the year, or because the place just generally needs tidying up. It happens because I am looking for some particular thing. It is there, under the chaotic topsoil. But where? Let the archaeology begin.
Rather than just scatter the topsoil up into the air randomly, which even I know will massively increase the chaos, I instead find myself sorting the topsoil out, into crude categories of different topsoils. By topsoil, I mean basically: paper. Somewhere under all the paper is that particular piece of paper, or clutch of paper, that I seek. Twice in the last fortnight I’ve had a day like this. The earlier tidying frenzy was to find the book of words for an electrical gadget, which was duly found. Today’s frenzy was to find an ancient financial document, which if found will yield money. Today as before, many other lost and forgotten objects of value also surfaced. Today has been more complicated, and must continue tomorrow. The financial document has yet to materialise.
I managed to chuck out quite a bit of topsoil. Well, not yet, but the chuckable out topsoil is already in quite a big pile of its own. But to make room for that, I had to take out previously accumulated piles of topsoil, to make way for the new topsoil that would then have to go also. And to take out the old topsoil I needed bags, bags which had been doing other stuff, and had never been unloaded. So that had to be done too. And so the task elaborated, before I do this, I will have to do this, and in order to do that, I will first have to do this. And so on. But progress was made.
Cricinfo a few minutes ago:
Anand: “Did anyone notice, today’s 20-10-2010?” Did you?
Not me, until Anand said. India now need 77 runs at exactly 7 per over, with 7 wickets left, to beat Australia.
First it was the captain of the England cricket team (Botham). Then it was the Prime Minister (Blair). Now the dead people are starting to be younger than me.
My problem (one of my problems) is that I accumulate open windows, to things I don’t want to forget about, and which I am hence reluctant to shut. But these open windows, and all the advertising shite they come with, clog up my computer, or so it feels to me.
Now I am sure there is a better answer to this problem than the one that follows, but for now, my answer, today, is to stick a few such links here, where they won’t vanish in half a day and where anyway I know my way around.
The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet. Note, incidentally, the disastrous headline punctuation. Punctuation in headlines says you can’t have a full stop at the end of a headline, but that you can have whatever punctuation you like in the middle of the headline, fullstops included. Bizarre. (Not that that’s why the piece interests me.)
That Codevilla piece about the American ruling class. Actually I think a major part of this story is that it isn’t only the American ruling class. It’s a global, or at least beyond national, class. The entire West that was is starting to be ruled by a united gang of interconnected people. Rulers of The World Unite. You have nothing to lose but the love of your dreary little voters. (To “love”, should I add “consent”?)
On the Validity and Necessity of Atheist Criticism of Islam. I like Edmund Standing a lot. Mostly I agree with this. But, I think he makes too little of the differences between Christianity and Islam. Christianity is bonkers but Islam is downright evil. (Although, I do admit that Christian anti-semitism is deeply embedded in it.) The problem I have with Islam is not only that it is so false. It is that it so nasty. Allah does not exist, but if Allah does exist he should be opposed. This is somewhat less true of the various Christian versions of God, especially nowadays.
The Vanity Fair Sarah Palin piece. I want to read this to see if it actually says anything more than: she’s a politician! Is she going to run for President? If she gets to be President will she be a quite good one, as Reagan (won the Cold War - only talked about stopping the US state spending rise) was. Will President Palin, that is to say, actually stop the US state spending rise?
The Chinese state media global offensive. Were a time traveller from a hundred years hence to invite me to guess what sparked the Big War of 2037, I’d guess China versus someone, rather than Islam versus anyone. Islam has the will to Big War, but looks unlikely at all soon to command the means to wage it. (I include Iran in that judgement. There is more to having a Bomb than just having a Bomb. You must also have the means to attack the other guy’s Bomb, and to defend your remaining Bombs, which you must also have.) And I have long believed that being able to fight wars is more important in their causation than merely wanting to. I mean, few great powers unambiguously want to fight major wars, because they have too much to lose. But, from time to time, they still did, and might one day again. Hopefully The Bomb will continue to work its terrifying magic, and Great Wars Between Great Powers will continue to not happen, but how long will that last?
I want to do a Big Piece on Samizdata about all that, Real Soon Now. Globalisation as we now know it, i.e. the version where we don’t fight global wars against one another, is more caused by The Bomb (which first happened in 1945) than by Modern Electronic Communications (which first happened in 1842). See Global Ruling Class, uniting of, above.
That should clear out my computer’s tubes a little.
This link dream posting did the trick. It remembered a whole clutch of stuff for me, thus enabling me to forget it all and get on with my life, i.e. with piling up more links on my screen. So here’s another expulsion onto the blog of the things I seem to be finding interesting just now.
Japanese mobile phone novels, continously updated, like a Dickens novel first published in a popular fiction magazine. What’s happening is that suburban angsty girls are writing stream-of-consiousness alter ego stories, which are then being hoovered up by publishers and are now selling, really selling, as books. Which has got all the publishers excited and that has got the old school book writers excited. Is that how art forms start? People start them, for their people reasons, and in their downmarket people languages. Then, after the concept has been commercially proved, the artists climb aboard, or maybe some of the original creators acquire artistic ambitions.
We now living in the age when telly soap operas are going from something liked by mere people to something done with artistic as well as commercial considerations in mind. Time was when the artists despised soaps. Only people like those! Now, artists take soaps seriously, and are doing serious soaps. Not necessarily any better, mind you.
NHS accident and emergency grief.
The Best Book on the Market, the blog.
Hit & Run on Two kinds of libertarians. Most libertarians already have this distinction in their heads, expressed one way or another. I have long thought of me and my fellow libertarians being Next Steppers and/or End Staters, with the Libertarian Alliance tending strongly towards the End State end of things. What would improve things a bit, now? Where should it all be heading? In this Hit & Run piece, it’s Policy Libertarians and Structural Libertarians. The second is an unsatisfactory expression, I think, because it does not explain itself. It has to be explained.
However you label such categories, they do tend to overlap quite a lot. One of the most valuable Next Steps is to talk, whenever you get the chance, about desirable End States. End States may not be practical politics, yet, but talking about them is, and that can even apply to regular politicians. David Cameron, for instance, is not doing as well as he might right now because all he is doing is second-guessing the government with his preferred Next Steps, and trashing the government’s Next Steps. All very well as far as it goes, but how are we all going to be rescued from this mess? Will it just be ever more depressing Next Steps for ever? Answer (see and hear here): talk also about the desired End State that these Next Steps ought all to be enabling us to reach, as soon as we can.
There is a particular benefit attached to the link dump technique of blogging as per this posting, for all bloggers suffering from blogger’s block - which is me, often. It gets you started. All you are saying is a little something about each link, and maybe not even that. But a little something can quickly then mutate into a bigger something. A couple of the blurblets above could easily have been separate out as individual blog postings. The posting immediately below this one - about Michael Flatley, God, etc. - did begin life as part of this posting and was then copied and pasted out onto its own.