Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- A swimming pool in a skyscraper
- God is dead
- PID at the Times
- My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
- ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
- Back from France (plus cat photos)
- Big Things through a gasometer
- The view from Stave Hill
- Confirming my String prejudices
- Cat photo and cat news
- Man 3D-prints Thing in his back garden
- Oxo Tower with bus advertising The Expendables III
- Something at Samizdata
- 5G Boris
- Out from under the weather
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Category archive: USA
I get google emails whenever “3D printing” is mentioned at all prominently on the www, and the latest one definitely got my attention. It linked to a story about a guy who has been 3D printing in his garden.
A building contractor living in Minnesota has developed his own 3D printer which can print concrete directly from CAD design software, and he has used it to 3D-print a castle in his back garden.
Here is how that looks:
Calling that a “castle”, as this story does, is a bit of a stretch. At the moment, if this is anything to go by, open-air and architectural 3D printing seems to have all the deft elegance and aesthetic flexibility of a dot matrix printer. But the equivalents of laser printers, and then (what we have now) cheap laser printers, and cheap colour printers, will surely soon be with us. And in due course the building trade will become something completely different, and hence buildings will too.
Yet another reason why I would love to remain alive for another century, just to see how this kind of stuff develops.
In England, this guy would either have failed to get planning permission for this erection, or else he would now be being told to take it down, for having failed to get planning permission.
My latest last Friday of the month meeting was this evening. Thank you Simon Gibbs, and all else who attended. Excellent talk and an excellent evening.
But I spent all day fretting about the meeting instead of doing anything for here, and now that it’s over I don’t want to say something stupid about the meeting. I’d rather think about that some more and talk sense about it.
So here, instead of proper blogging, are some cat links that I like. Google “cats” and of course you get a ton of stuff. These few were my favourites.
Cats in the movies.
Florida Man Holds Gun to Cat’s Head and Posts Picture to Facebook. The www is not amused.
Monkeys fear big cats less, eat more, with humans around.
And for those who share my interest in American politics, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused Senate Democrats of meowing like kitty cats and enabling President Barack Obama to enact lawless executive actions like no other president before him. I wouldn’t choose cats are a metaphor for lack of independence.
Know what’s the perfect crime? Murdering a jury. You can’t get a fair trial because any jury will be biased against you.
It’s Frank J. The J stands for Jenius.
I just came across this video, here, again, which has had many hits on Youtube. Like millions of others, I like it a lot. It’s Louis C.K., complaining about people who complain about modern life and all its wondrous new gadgetry. I was going to stick the video here, but it wouldn’t fit. (Anyone know how to make it 500 wide instead of 560? Maybe I should redesign my blog wider.) But follow that link and scroll down a bit to where it says: “- it’s very funny”; and then, in white on black at the top of the video: “+Everthing’s+Amazing+ +Nobody’s+Happy”. And then click and enjoy.
Part of why improved gadgets don’t automatically make us happy is that everyone gets to have a go on them, but what really makes a lot of us happy is improved relative status. New gadgets create a different world, in which we may as likely as not be demoted in status, below others who understand the new gadgets better.
There is also the particular genius of the gadgeteers to be considered, compared to our own ungenii. New gadgets can make many of us feel like savages, out of our depth in a world of wonders, less capable (because utterly incapable of producing such a wondrous gadget), rather than more capable (through possessing the gadget).
In the article linked to, there is speculation that old people are more easily pleased, by things. I certainly enjoy digital photography, as all regulars here will know, and you obviously enjoy that or you’d not be a regular. I also enjoy typing verbiage into my magic machine and this magic blog. Perhaps a reason why these things please me so much is that I am old, and had been waiting for such things to be possible for such a very, very long time. For decades, I fretted about my inability to make pictures without fuss and write stuff without fuss, and show both to other people whenever I felt like it, again without fuss. Now I can do these things. Any envy I feel towards the people who contrived these wonder is dwarfed by the pleasure I get in doing these things, finally. I know, I’ve been showing off my pictures and babbling away at various blogs for well over a decade. But like I say, I’m old, and more than a decade is nothing to how long I spent waiting for these things to be possible, all the while not even knowing if they ever would be. I had become used to knowing that these things might never happen, which means that I still can’t quite believe that they have happened, which means that they still make me happy.
One of my favourite computer functions is Screen Capture. For years, I didn’t know how to do this. How is “prt sc” screen capture? I used to just photo the screen. Then I got told, and more to the point, told at a time just before I found many uses for this procedure, and as a result, I actually got it fixed in my head.
So it is that I am able to capture fleeting moments like this one:
That was the passage of play that turned the game England’s way, today, on day one of the test match at Headingley. Sri Lanka went from 228-5 and motoring to 229-9, in nine balls. In among all this, Broad got a hat trick, but didn’t even realise and had to be told! There was then a little last wicket stand and they got to over 250, but the big damage had been done.
Here is another interesting moment, which is the moment when they show me all the guys who worked on Adobe Photoshop, while I am loading Adobe Photoshop.
But, the trouble is, when I do a Screen Capture while that is happening, it doesn’t work. What gets captured is the moment when Adobe Photoshop is finally loaded. Until then, I guess my computer is too busy loading Photoshop to do a Screen Capture. Either all that, or else I just wasn’t doing it right, as is entirely possible.
But instead of obsessing about what I might or might not be doing wrong, I instead simply photographed the moment, just like old times:
The reason I wanted to photo this was all the Indian names, in among the occasional regular American ones. Interesting. Where are they all based, I wonder? I’m guessing somewhere in the USA, but what do I know? Adobe seems to have a lot of places where they could be. And of course, if something like Adobe doesn’t know how to plug a global network of co-workers together, who does? From where I sit, these Indian guys could be anywhere. Even so, like I say, interesting.
A lot of the Americans I read on the Internet say that Obama is destroying America, and he seems to be doing as much as he can along these lines. But there is a lot of ruin in a country, and a lot of ruin in American. This screen shot suggests that at least parts of the good old American upward economic mobility ladder are working just fine.
I know what you’re thinking. This is a tricycle:
That’s not a tricycle.
This is a tricycle:
Photoed by me in an alleyway off Lower Marsh, this afternoon.
These are also tricycles
Blog and learn.
I like to browse through Jonathan Gewirtz’s photos from time to time, and on my latest browse I came across this photo, of a brightly lit building in Urban Florida. Miami? Don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.
What particularly got my attention was the fact that Gewirtz included in the picture: his own shadow.
I have taken the liberty of reproducing this detail here. “Copyright ©2011 Jonathan Gewirtz” is what it says just before saying “jonathangewirtz.com”, but I trust my little except does not break any rules. (Rules often being the point of copyright violations, I’m guessing. Maybe this particular copyright violation, on its own, would not be a problem, but once the line is crossed, by anyone ...) If Gewirtz wants this little piece of his work removed, he has only to say and it will be removed forthwith.
Okay, with that out of the way, the point that I want to make here is that I suspect that this thing of including your own shadow in pictures is a practice that has filtered upwards to the Real Photographers like Jonathan Gewirtz, from us digital amateurs.
Your own shadow in the picture often starts as a mistake, but then you think: well, okay, that’s my shadow, but what’s so wrong with that? I was standing there, with the sun behind me. I mean, did you think this wasn’t a photograph, and that someone standing there throwing a shadow into the picture wasn’t even there? Did you think that God took the picture? Cameras gobble up whatever they see in that moment, and in this moment, for instance, my shadow was part of what it saw. Often, the shadow is all there is, and very amusing it is too.
The crux of the matter is, I think, who the picture is for and what the point of it is. Is it for someone else, someone paying? Is perhaps a happy couple being photographed on their wedding day? In which case, they are the point, not the photographer. Likewise if the point is to photo this dish of salad, or that house interior, or this beloved pet or that sports team, well, the Real Photographer is not being paid to insert himself into the scene, and he will be careful not to.
But if, on the other hand, you are a snapper who is just having a bit of fun, then why shouldn’t you, the snapper, also become your own snappee?
But the thing is, when Real Photographers are out having fun, the way Jonathan Gewirtz presumably is when taking photos in Miami or wherever, just because he likes to, they are liable to take their ingrained Real Photographer habits of self-effacement with them. So, interesting that Gewirtz did not do this, at any rate not this time.
I’ll end with a slice out of one of these photos:
The crooked forefinger being mine.
Old car factories had a harmful impact on the environment, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, land and water. But it wasn’t all ugly. Oddly enough, one of the by-products of car production was Fordite, also known as Detroit agate. The colorful layered objects take their name from agate stones for their visual resemblance. But instead of forming from microscopically crystallized silica over millions of years, Fordite was formed from layers of paint over several tens of years. Back in the day, old automobile paint would drip onto the metal racks that transported cars through the paint shop and into the oven. The paint was hardened to a rock-like state thanks to high heats from the baking process. As the urban legend goes, plant workers would take pieces home in their lunch pails as a souvenir for their wife or kids.
Since then, car production has modernized and Fordite has been rendered a relic of the past. Artisans have been using the colorful material for jewelry but it’s not a stretch to imagine a future when these pieces sit behind glass in a museum. The colors can also be used to judge how old they are because car paint was subject to different trends. In the 1940s cars were mostly black or brown enamel while the 1960s ushered in an age of colorful lacquers.
Something tells me the 3D printers will have something to contribute to processes like this. I tried googling “fordite 3d printing” but all I got were lots of pieces about each but, so far as I could see, none about both. Give it time.
Regulars here, or for that matter there, will know that I have for many years now been at enthusiastic fan of the French historian and social scientist Emmanuel Todd. In recent years, this enthusiasm has at last started to become a bit more widespread.
Two of the world’s most important Todd-enthusiasts are now James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus. Quite a while ago now, they sent me an email flagging up a piece they had contributed to Hungarian Review, which contains some interesting biography about Todd, and about how his own particular family history contributed towards making him into the historian of the world that he later became.
Todd developed this grand theory, about how literacy triggers particular sorts of political upheavals in particular places, depending on Family Structure, and then when the political dust has settled fuels economic development, But what got Todd thinking about all this?
According to Bennett and Lotus, the starting point was: How Come The French Communists Are Doing So Badly And Never Seem To Do Any Better No Matter What They Try?
He was the product of an extended family of French Communist Party activists and journalists, and grew up hearing his father and relatives arguing around the kitchen table. Anglo-Americans had tended to regard the French Communist Party of that era as formidable, successful, and continually on the verge of seizing power. From the inside, Todd grew up hearing his family lament the eternal failure and futility of the Party. (He left the orthodox Communist movement quite early, and in fact was one of the first scholars to predict, in 1976, the coming collapse of the Soviet system.) For some reason, the Party was well established in certain regions, and completely without support in most others. The Socialists were dominant in others, and it was noticed that the same social classes would tend to support either Socialists or Communists, depending on the region, but never split between the two, and when they failed to support the one, would not switch to the other, preferring alternative parties. In other parts of France, neither party had a foothold, and the same social classes that supported either Socialists or Communists in their stronghold regions supported entirely different, and not particularly Marxist, parties. The reason for this split was constantly debated in Todd’s family circle, but no possible explanation seemed to hold water. It was a great mystery.
Once Todd began studies at Cambridge, and encountered what we are calling the Continuity School, he began developing a social analysis that perfectly predicted the voting patterns that had been such a mystery in his family’s kitchen debates. France is far from homogenous, and in fact is a patchwork of quite different cultures and family systems. When Todd saw the distribution of the various family systems of France, as established by inheritance rules and customs, he saw at once that both the Communist and Socialist electoral strongholds corresponded to the areas dominated by two distinct family systems. Where other systems prevailed, neither the Communists nor the Socialists could gain any real foothold.
You can see how Todd was perfectly primed to generalise the principle from France, and then England, to the entire world.
In the course of my Todd readings and meanderings, I probably was told (perhaps by Todd himself in his book about French politics (which I have long possessed (and which I see you can now get second hand for £2.81 (in English)))) that Todd had been raised by baffled and frustrated Communists. But I had not really taken it in.
I see cat faces on bags:
On the left, in Trafalgar Square. On the right in a shop window, somewhere or other.
I see Hello Kitty continuing its conquest of the world:
On the left: Patriotic Kitty, both an English Nationalist and a British Unionist. (Hello Kitty is patriotic everywhere.) On the right: Hello Kitty colonises one of my local supermarkets. Today shower gel, tomorrow, who knows? One day, there will be Hello Kitty versions of everything.
And now I see this vast cat face on the outside of a building site at the top end of Victoria Street:
Note the surveillance camera right in front of it. Those things are also now everywhere.
This huge cat face was what got me noticing that Victoria Masterplan.
Apparently the cat face is an art installation. Scroll down here if you doubt me:
A bold new art installation has landed here at Nova, Victoria. The enigmatic gaze of a 37ft tall black cat will become the new landmark to greet people as they arrive in SW1. Taking up residence on site, the portrait is the first European commission by American artist, Marlo Pascual. The chic black cat occupies the Victoria Street facade of our four storey site cabins, converting a disheartening grey slab into the most stimulating of canvases.
The untitled installation kicks off a series of iconic and non-conformist art projects that will unfold at Nova, Victoria on its journey to becoming the most forward-thinking and aspirational place to work, live, eat, drink, shop and enjoy in London’s West End.
So, people, nice big photos of cat faces are now iconic and non-conformist. Modern Art eat your heart out.
(See also the bit where a discussion about “THE FUTURE OF LONDON DINNING” is advertised.)
All of which pales into insignificance beside what has undoubtedly been the week’s biggest cat news, which concerned an amazing YouTube video of a cat attacking a dog. This story is now everywhere. The dog was doing serious damage to the youngest son of the family, and was about to do even more serious damage than that. But the dog reckoned without Tara the Cat, who launched what looked like a suicide bomber attack on the dog, which not surprisingly caused the dog to retreat. Tara behaved exactly as if the small boy was one of her kittens.
Cats are complained about for being like perfectly evolved parasites on humans. We feed them, stroke them, put a warm roof over their heads, buy anything with cat faces on it, and in return they do pretty much nothing.
Tara, on the other hand, has surely repaid any debts she ever owed.
For quite a while now, I’ve had a window open (which I would like now to shut and now I can) on these STUNNING PHOTOS OF WHAT THE WORLD LOOKS LIKE FROM THE COCKPIT, and in particular on this photo, which is number 4 of the set, of some houses outside Las Vegas:
Visuals can be misleading. It looks like a prison, or perhaps a military encampment. People are either being kept in, or it must be possible, as and when, to keep people out. America, land of the free? Certainly not. But neither is the actual story, is it?
Here is another picture from the same set (number 7), of another scene out in the desert near Las Vegas:
Put that picture next to the first one, and perhaps you get a true handle on what is going on, in both pictures. What is being controlled here is not people. It’s water. Those golf greens are there because water keeps them green. There are even a couple of big old artificial lakes. No water, and everything turns light brown again, and the desert takes back everything.
And the reason the houses are all in a clump like that, rather than scattered around the landscape, is surely also, at least partly, again: water. All those houses depend on the same centralised water supply.
Two of the other pictures in this set also involve organised water. Number 1 is an artificial wave pool, in Florida. And the final picture involves a swimming pool, in Boston.
So, despite the appearance of the first picture, America is a free country. But it is also a very organised country.
I particularly smile at how that golf course is in a giant ocean of sand, and in it they contrive these elongated artificial islands of green, and then within these green islands, they put smaller bits of artificial desert. Where else would you see bits of fake desert, in a real desert?
Spent the afternoon and evening out with Goddaughter 2. On our travels we encountered a poster advertising the movie Noah. My opinion of Hollywood action movies is that they shrink all stories that they start with back to just the one story which is the same story every time. I asked if that was true also of Noah. Yes, replied Goddaughter 2:
It is basically Transformers with a boat.
LOL. As in: I actually did. Goddaughter 2 also sounds like an action movie, I think.
When I should have been taking my early evening nap, we were instead watching Cosi Fan Tutte at the Imax, and I struggled to stay awake. Not that it was bad. If it had been bad I would have just gone to sleep. But it was good, so I kept on postponing my nap, for about four hours. The result of all this is that I am too now tired to be saying anything more than what you just read.
Well, one other thing. We met under the Big Blue Cock in Trafalgar Square, my thinking in choosing this spot being that you aren’t going to get it wrong. There are no other Big Blue Cocks in London, and you can’t miss it.
We both like it very much.
I think that’s my most recent selfie, taken at the beginning of this month. I took it in Croydon Road, Beckenham, while on my way to visit friends. Shop windows often include you in the pictures you take through them, even if you are not trying for that.
I of course have more recent pictures of others taking selfies of the more usual sort, where their own faces dominate the pictures, but with famous Big Things in the background. So yes, let me try to dig out the latest of those.
Here we go:
Although, note that there are two different smartphones being used there. That was taken from the southern end of Westminster Bridge, looking down to the riverside walkway. They are presumably trying to include the Houses of Parliament in their backgrounds.
The skeletons of six cats, including four kittens, found in an Egyptian cemetery may push back the date of cat domestication in Egypt by nearly 2,000 years.
The bones come from a cemetery for the wealthy in Hierakonpolis, which served as the capital of Upper Egypt in the era before the pharaohs. The cemetery was the resting place not just for human bones, but also for animals, which perhaps were buried as part of religious rituals or sacrifices. Archaeologists searching the burial grounds have found everything from baboons to leopards to hippopotamuses.
Three policemen in Pakistan guarding the prime minister’s home have been suspended for negligence after a cat devoured one of the premier’s peacocks, it seems.
It seems? Well, did it or did it not?
This Japanese gum commercial makes me wish I had a super fluffy gigantic cat to help navigate the horrors of public transportation and carry me around, avoiding traffic and other pedestrian suckers who don’t have adorable cat chauffeurs. Then I remember that if a cat that big existed, it would probably just maul me to death, ...
Why are there so many cats on the internet?
The problem is that they are asking the wrong question, which should not be “Why cats?” so much as “Why not dogs?” And the answer is that dogs are trying too hard. When a dog gets in a box or hides under the duvet or wears a funny hat, it is because he is desperately trying to impress you – longing for your validation and approval. When a cat does one of those things, it is because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. And it usually was. It is cool, and effortless, and devoid of any concern about what you might think about it. It is art for art’s sake.
This, at any rate, is one of the theories (of which there are an awful lot) about why content related to cats seems to gain so much traction online.
Maybe. I guess that’s part of it.
The original reason for my Feline Friday cat chat is that cat chat on the internet, at first only at inconsequential blogs such as this one but now everywhere, illustrates that the number one impact of the internet is that there is now a new way to be amused, and cats are amusing. The serious political impact of this is that with the internet it is easier to concentrate on what you consider amusing, and to ignore what people who consider themselves to be more important than you consider to be more important. This really ticks them off. Which is nice. The internet puts politicians, for instance, in their proper place, on the sidelines. Cats may or may not be important, depending on how mad you are, but they are amusing.
The willingness of the big old Mainstream Media to tell frequent cat stories, as they now show and do, illustrates that these organs have now accepted that they no longer control the news agenda. If the people of the world decide that it is news that an angry 22-pound cat that trapped a family of three and prompted a frantic 911 call has been sent to an animal shelter, then news it is, and the big old media now accept this.
From towards the end of this by Stephen Green:
Apple is one of the biggest users of batteries on the planet. Every iPhone, every iPad, every MacBook runs on battery power. Apple devices also tend to get the best battery bang for the size, compared to the competition. This is a company which understands better than probably any other on the planet how to make devices which conserve power while still producing best-in-class performance. If Apple wants to continue to improve, they should absolutely pursue every kind of energy source Cook believes might produce future improvement for Apple’s devices and for its customers. Will there be blind alleys and dead ends? Sure.
The Apple Newton was a dead-end device, but creating that product also resulted in the super-low-power ARM chips which run damn near every decent mobile device on the planet.
Interesting. I don’t know what an ARM chip is, but that sounds reasonable. I’m guessing the Apple Newton was one of those ideas where a whole lot of new things all had to work at once, and only some of them, like those ARM chips, did.
I once bought an Apple keyboard, but apart from that I can’t remember buying any Apple stuff. But, I am acutely aware of how much I have benefited from their activities, which caused everyone to do far better than they would have done otherwise.