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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: This blog

Tuesday December 22 2015

At that excellent party last night, the one that gave rise to last night’s spectacular non sequitur of a posting, Rob Fisher mentioned that he had thoughts from time to time which are too inconsequential and un-thought-through for Samizdata, but which are still definitely thoughts that he wants to put out there, but for which he has no outlet.  He used to have a personal blog, but not since he started writing for Samizdata.

My response was this: Write these thoughts down.  Send them to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, explicitly identifying them as submissions to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.  And the chances, overwhelmingly, are that I will post them here as guest postings.  After all, as last night’s spectacular non sequitur of a posting illustrates, the quality control here is very, very relaxed.  Sometimes stuff here is good, but it absolutely doesn’t have to be.  It just has to be stuff.

I just wanted to make that clear, in case Rob has forgotten, or has remembered but thought that I was just rambling drunkenly and didn’t mean it.

This is not a general invitation to all of my acquaintances to bombard me with drunken would-be bloggage.  And it is certainly not an invitation to wanker social media PR slaves to “submit” boring pieces about things I don’t care about by people I don’t care about, sometimes hinting at money that I will never get, and causing my email address to get onto yet more lists, wielded by yet more wanker social media PR slaves.  Not that me saying that will put these wanker social media PR slaves off.  But I just wanted to get it out there.

Saturday December 19 2015

The plan was that this week, I would be catching up with myself on the blogging front.  Instead I have found myself going out and doing things, and I have got even further behind.

So it is again this evening.  After another busy day doing things, I have time and energy left now only to show you a snap I took of a shop window display somewhere in Oxford Street:

image

Yes, it’s a Star Wars stormtrooper facing a communications crisis, and improvising, with some obsolete and inconveniently large equipment.

I love shop window displays, especially at Christmas Time of course, when they erupt into Vesuvii of invention.  Again, these are not things that you would want to buy, even the bits of them that are for sale.  But I do enjoy photoing them.  Not least because they are usually very well lit.

Star Wars, latest manifestation of, erupted in London on Thursday, to the sound of box office records being broken.

Saturday December 12 2015

One of the things I have had to learn as a blogger is to go ahead with my little photo essays, even if I absolutely know that there are more relevant photos to be found in my archives, which I would love to include if only I could find them quickly.  When that happens, I should just go ahead anyway.  If I later encounter the photos I would like to have included the first time around, fine.  I should do another posting and link back to the first one.

You are probably expecting a photo here, to back up the above point …:

image

… so there is a photo.  It’s a nice photo.  But it doesn’t really make the point above it.  Perhaps, somewhere in my archives, there is a photo which does exactly make that point.  But, it would take too long for me to find it.

Tuesday September 15 2015

It’s been a very bad last few days here at BMdotcom.  First there was the domain name fiasco, and then last night and into this morning there was another interruption, caused by a power cut in a totally different part of London to me, which was in its turn caused by all that rain we had recently.  And then the interruption was prolonged by the mishandling of this power cut by my rather creeky and out-of-date version of Expression Engine.  The two events were unrelated.  I think there’s a Macbeth quote that deals with this kind of thing.  One of those plays about a king for whom things are starting to go badly wrong.  But rest assured that there is no sign that BMdotcom is about to be dethroned permanently.

So anyway, here is one of those photo-postings made quick and easy by my “I just like them!” directory.

I just like this, taken in 2007:

image

And I just like this, taken a month ago:

image

That second one was already edited and ready to post, with its new name, but I don’t believe I ever got around to actually displaying it.  If I did, well, take another look.

I do not promise more substantial stuff tomorrow, but I do hope for it.

Sunday September 13 2015

Excellent piece in the Daily Mash about photography and its impact, entitled Everyone sad because of photo of thing that’s been happening for months.  I only just noticed this piece, probably because it didn’t include a photograph:

It has been confirmed that everyone kind of knew the thing was happening, but now they are very sad and angry because there is a photo of it.

The thing about a photo is that a vivid photo can tell a story very quickly, this being why this particular one is getting around so much and being talked about so much.  Not necessarily a true story, not straight away, but a story.  And that’s what you want, if you are The Media.  The Media sell stories.  Truth, factual and/or moral, is nice too, but not the essence of the product.  That photos do their job well is not a “conscience” thing.  It is a speed of communication thing.  Photos communicate a lot very quickly.

The speed with which a picture tells a story is why I have so many photos here.  This is a kitten blog.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it doesn’t expect you to take it seriously, unless you want to.  My photos don’t consume your time, unless you want them to.  Often, I only tell my stories here at all if I have a photo.  It would take too long to explain with mere words, and anyway, what would be the point?

Headlines aren’t necessarily true either.  In fact, I would say that the biggest media lies are to be found in photos and in headlines.  Photos typically lie, when they do lie, by omission.  Headlines just lie, and you can often tell they’re lies simply be reading the story under them.

Why do headlines lie?  Because that often makes for a more appealing story.  The truth is usually more mundane.  But mundane doesn’t get you eyeballs.

Friday September 11 2015

By which I mean the wait for Eclipse to update (or whatever it has to do) its DNS (domain name system), in such a way that it enables me to reach my own damned website.

As it is, the one way I can reach my own website is by using an alternative route, which works fine, except for the small matter of it not connecting to the rest of the internet.  Each time I start that up, I have to restart my computer.

It’s like I never left the twentieth century.  That kind of thing is fine if it’s voluntary, like me having lots of CDs because I like them, and still carrying books made of cardboard and paper with me in the tube and on buses.  But this is like I’ve been kidnapped by Time Lords and spat out of their Tardis in about 1996.  Which may not be long by their standards, but for me, it is most inconvenient.  Actually it is weirder than that, now that I think about it, because I have the internet, but no email.  And, rather unusually for me, I have urgent stuff I need to do, involving email.  And I really, really don’t want to have another email address.  I hate it when other people have several different email addresses, and I don’t want to do that to others.  But, if this crap doesn’t end soon, I will have to do that.  After that, maybe a discussion with Eclipse about whether they continue to be my internet provider.

I am not a happy kitten blogger:

image

I found that picture of a pissed off cat wearing spectacles ... somewhere, but since I can’t check if links work, no link to where that was.

I am being told that this could all go away at any moment.  But, which moment?

And how long will all the other internet providers take to re-acknowledge BMdotcom’s existence?  That’s another worry.

Thursday September 10 2015

This blog is suffering from problems caused by me failing to re-register my domain name.  This has now been done, and it should all be up and running Real Soon Now.  But apparently it can take time for people to re-connect to here.  Glad you have succeeded.  (Because you can’t be reading this if you haven’t succeeded.) It was all I could do to get through to my blog myself, and post this, because my regular method is still not working.

Anyway, here are some random photos, just to be sure that I can also post a photo:

imageimage

On the left there is a close-up photo I took in France, of part of The Internet.  Not all of The Internet; that would be crazy.  Just a bit of it.  No wonder the bloody thing keeps breaking down.  And on the right, the instructions for The Internet.  Although, to be fair, these pictures were taken nine years ago, so things may have improved a bit since then.  Now, for instance, it can’t any longer be: “A VOS BLOGS!”, but instead: “A TWITTER”, or Tweet Air as they presumably call it over there.

No links to anything else in this, because I am now only getting to my own website, but not to anywhere else.  And if you understand that, then maybe you can explain it to me.  Don’t try emailing me until I tell you you can, because I can’t receive them yet either.

Friday March 13 2015

Indeed. What on earth was I thinking, posting - on a Thursday, rather than today, Friday, the traditional BMdotcom day for cat-related items - a piece that starts with how computers are rather bad at recognising cats? I only even realised that the cat category should be attached to the posting just now.  Oh well.

imageAnyway, more cat news, which I did deliberately hold back until today, is that the mega-behemothic-super-industry that is Hello Kitty is making a deliberate play for more male customers, with T-shirts decorated with such things as the picture you see to your right.  But, will such images repel human females?  You can imagine the high level debates that the Hello Kitty high ups (I somehow imagine them to be mostly men) must have been having about this issue, of such fundamental importance to their brand.

More cat news?  I need a bit more to be sure that the picture there doesn’t bash its way into the posting below (even though that would be rather appropriate).  Well, I am sad to report that for some people, the most interesting thing about the death of Terry Pratchett (good quote that – that’s the sort of thing he will be really missed for) was that he had a cat sleeping on his bed at the time.

Tuesday January 06 2015

Spent the day writing half a talk about sport as a replacement for war, for Christian Michel.  But, on the night (i.e. tonight), I just winged it.  One of the better talks I’ve ever given, which admittedly isn’t saying much.  And one of the most shambolically prepared.  Now knackered and watching the Wildcard Playoff Highlights on C4.  More considered content should follow, Real Soon Now.

Saturday January 03 2015

The error messages have continued, so all I will do this evening is post this.  Back home tomorrow evening, and I hope things work better there.  The temptation to attempt another picture posting is huge, but I will resist.

No I won’t.  That went so well, I’ll give it a go:

I only got this far so you’ll just have to click on this.

Like I said, see you tomorrow.

Tuesday December 30 2014

I have swapped one kind of computing confusion, too complicated even to describe, for another, and am now using a French keyboard, but telling the computer I am using that this keyboard is really British.  This means various letters on the keyboard being in the wrong place, such as the Q and the A, which are where the A and the Q ought to be.  There are other confusions, of a more serious sort.

This is a very peculiar experience for a touch typist like me, because it means that I can now only touch type.  I cannot pause and go find the correct letters, because I do not know them, or not the ones that cause all the trouble.  Only my fingers do.

So it is touch typing, or no typing at all.

Which is better than French typing, but still very imperfect, because some of the regular British things are things which my fingers are not that good at, most notably inverted commas, both single and double.  This is why I said it is in the previous paragraph rather than abbreviating it, and why I am saying it is in this sentence, twice, without any inverted commas to indicate that I am quoting myself.

I seem to recall that faced with this dilemma on a previous French expedition, I had to make do with the computer recognising the French keyboard I was using as French, which meant switching As and Qs, etc.  The alternative arrangement is somewhat better, but only somewhat.

Luckily my fingers know how to do two important things, neither of which are in the same place on these keyboards, namely commas, and full stops.

Another oddity is that the spellchecking in my blog input process demands that all words be recognisably French, and so underlines most words, because of them not being French, thus rendering itself inutile, and yes that is how you spell inutile.  But, sorry about all the other spelling errors in this.

Monday December 29 2014

I am able to keep on posting each day, but it is proving tricky.  So best to expect interruptions during the next few days.  I have taken tons of photos, over the course of two cloudless days, but posting any of them is really complicated, and even telling which are the good ones is hard because the screen I am trying to use is too vague for me to tell properly.

To add to those woes, the text posting process has a bizarre quirk on this computer, or maybe it is with this mouse.  Which is that the cursor is liable, without warning, to jump back several words, which makes touch typing as hard as it is usually easy.  As soon as I get up any speed, I find that I am typing stuff in the wrong place, as I just did in the middle of the word “stuff” back there.  Then it did it again.  (Inverted commas are a struggle too.)

I guess it’s called home advantage.  I have not now got it.  So I am, as of now, more than usually definite about promising nothing, because nothing is what you may very well get until I am back home, and back enjoying home advantage.

Thursday November 27 2014

For a few hours, from some time last night until around midday today, instead of getting BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, all you got, if your experience was the same as mine, was this:

Database Error: Unable to connect to your database. Your database appears to be turned off or the database connection settings in your config file are not correct. Please contact your hosting provider if the problem persists.

I couldn’t be telling you this if the above melancholy circumstance had not been corrected.  Deepest thanks to The Guru, for his prompt attention to the matter.

Since I was attempting to post something last night, that means you got nothing yesterday.  Trust me, your suffered far less than I did.  I hope to be making it up today.

("Making it up”.  What a strange expression.  It means: doing a corrective favour.  And it means: inventing it, even perhaps lying about it.  And then there is also what women (and now some men) do to their faces, minus the “it”.  Odd.  Although I do see a connection between meaning two and meaning three, rude though it might be to point such a thing out.  (And why make “up”?  (See also “screw up” and “clean up”.  (So this digressionary paragraph turned out relevant after all.  (This is my record for the most consecutive close-bracket signs.)))))

Wednesday November 19 2014

From time to time I like to stick bits from books up here, usually quite short, but sometimes quite long.

With the short bits, there is no legal or moral problem.  Fair use, etc.  But with the longer bits, there might be a problem.  Here’s how I operate.  I put up whatever bit it is that I think deserves to be made much of, on the clear understanding that it might disappear at any moment.  Because, if anyone associated with the book I have got my chosen bit from complains and says please remove it, I will do so, immediately.

Many might think that such persons would be being rather silly.  I mean, what better way could there be to reach potential readers of the entire book in question than for readers of a blog, and a blog written by someone who already likes the book, to get to read a relatively small chunk of it?  Win-win, surely.  Because of course, I only put up big chunks of writing if I approve of what the chunks say.

But what if a publisher is trying to insist on the principle, that copyright damn well means what it says?  Such a publisher might want to proclaim, and to be seen to proclaim, a no-tolerance attitude to the copying of bigger than small bits of any its books.  Even if that particular book might be assisted by this particular recycled chunk being here, the larger principle might feel far more significant to the publisher.  That principle being: If we allow this, where will it then stop?

And I get that.  As I say, if any publisher or author did complain, for these kinds of reasons or for any other, then I would get it, and the bit from the book in question would at once vanish from this blog.  So far, I’ve had no such complaints.  Which could just be because they reckon this blog to be too insignificant to be worth risking a fight with.  They wouldn’t have a fight, but they might have a rule about letting sleeping puppies, like this one, lie.

Whatever.  All I am saying here is that if I put up a big bit of a book, and anyone connected to that big bit cries foul, then the big bit will immediately vanish from here, with no grumbling, or worse, self-righteous campaigning, attempts to mobilise other bloggers, etc. etc.

Think of all this as an example of Rule Utilitarianism.  And I am myself a Rule Utilitarian.  My libertarian beliefs are not the absurd claim that libertarianism is inscribed into the very physical fabric of the universe, an inherent fact of life itself, which we humans either recognise or fail to recognise, but which are there anyway.  Tell that to the spider I just squashed into the pavement on my way home to write this.  No, I like libertarianism because it works.  Libertarianism is a set of basically fairly simply rules which all we humans either choose to live by or choose not to live by.  If we choose to live by these rules, life is good, happy, comfortable and it gets better and better.  If we don’t live by such rules, life goes to shit and stays there.

And here comes the Rule Utilitarian bit.  Even if this particular bit of thieving, by the government or just by some bod like you or me, is very insignificant, and even if what the government or the bod like you or me wants to spend its or his or her ill-gotten gains on is wonderful, absolutely wonderful, my rule says: No.  Not allowed.  Don’t get into complicated discussions about just how little thieving is too little to be bothering about, or just how noble a noble project has to be for it to be noble enough to be financed by a spot of thieving, because that way lies the slippery slope we are now on, where the government gobbles up at least half of everything, to very little benefit for anyone other than itself.  Stick to the rule.  No thieving, no matter how petty its scale or how noble its supposed object.

So, I get Rule Utilitarianism.  And if any publisher decides to inflict his Rule Utilitarianism, in the manner described above, upon me, I would get that, and act accordingly.

What got me wanting to spell all this out is that I have recently been reading Dominic Frisby’s excellent Bitcoin book, and I find myself wanting to put bits of it up here, quite longish bits.  And in general, having just followed the link at the top of this and read some of them, I feel that postings of this sort are among the better things that I do here, and I want to do more of them.  But, to all of the bits from books that will follow, I want to attach the above mentioned caveat about how the verbiage that follows may vanish without warning, and a link to this posting is the way to summarise what is going on in my head without me banging on for however many paragraphs there are here.

Tuesday October 21 2014

There I was, lying in the bath, listening to Radio 3.  Some music had ended, and I was now being subjected to a programme which I do not usually listen to, called Words and Music.  And I heard the actor Jim Broadbent saying these words, by Michel de Montaigne:

I take the first subject that chance offers.  They are all equally good to me.  And I never plan to develop them completely.  For I do not see the whole of anything.  (Nor do those who promise to show it to us.) Of a hundred members and faces that each thing has, I take one, sometimes only to lick it, sometimes to brush the surface, sometimes to pinch it to the bone.  I give it a stab, not as wide, but as deep as I know how.  And most often, I like to take them from some unaccustomed point of view. Scattering a word here, there another, samples separated from their context, dispersed, without a plan and without a promise, I am not bound to make something of them, or to adhere to them myself, without varying when I please, and giving myself up to doubt and uncertainty, and my ruling quality, which is ignorance.

Sounds like a blogger, doesn’t he?  A blogger, that is to say, like me. Especially where he says “without a promise”.  I keep saying that. Above all there is that “this is what it is and if you don’t like it you know just what you can do about it” vibe that so many bloggers give off.  With Montaigne, we are arriving at that first moment in history when writing and publishing new stuff had become easy.  Not as easy as it is when you blog, but a whole lot easier than it had been.

I transcribed the above quote from Broadbent’s reading of it.  The punctuation is somewhat uncertain, and at one point assertively creative on my part.  I added some brackets, around what is clearly a diversion from his main line of thought to which he immediately returns.  It’s a sideswipe at others and it is then forgotten.

Such is the wonder that is the internet that I had little difficulty in tracking down the quote.  It is near the beginning of Montaigne’s essay entitled “Of Democritus and Heraclitus”, in volume three of his essays.

image

The BBC used a more recent translation, which I much prefer the sound of, it being less antique and long-winded.  And if Montaigne himself was also antique and long-winded, then I still prefer intelligibility to stylistic accuracy.

LATER: More about Montaigne, also emphasising the modern social media angle, here.