Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Michael Jennings on Fuck the duck until exploded
Friday Night Smoke on MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Michael Jennings on MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Friday Night Smoke on MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Michael Jennings on MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Jay on Halloween buckets
Alastair on MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Rob Fisher on At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Michael Jennings on Only with a computer
Friday Night Smoke on Godot nearly ready
Most recent entries
- The uniqueness of our microbiome
- Fuck the duck until exploded
- My chance to ride a bus almost as old as me
- The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
- In which I quotulate from a photo of a Canadian train
- And now a photo-drone in a London shop window
- MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
- At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
- The death of email?
- Only with a computer
- Godot nearly ready
- Bald bloke taking a photo
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
Signs and notices
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: London
Today, blogwise, has been one of those days. By that I mean not that I have been too busy to do any blogging. I merely mean that I haven’t felt like doing any, and have in fact not, until now. I have had plenty of time to blog. I just haven’t used any of it to blog.
So, it’s just as well that, I now discover, there has been an incoming email from Michael Jennings, entitled:
If you want to ride a really old bus, here is your chance.
Which reminds me that, recently, when mostly photoing photoers photoing Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, I found myself photoing, instead, this:
He wasn’t taking photos. He was checking through photos he’d taken earlier.
I can remember when buses like that were the latest thing.
LATER: More about those Tower of London poppies. I read that Guardian piece before I discovered Guido was already on to it, and I thought it was weird too. Like one of the commenters, and Guido, said: clickbait. Plus, as another commenter said: yeah, the general public likes it, it means something, no wonder the Guardian art critic can’t be doing with it. Let’s hope Natalie Solent gives the piece a good fisking like it’s 2004.
I know what you are thinking. That there is no connection between a big red historic thing which people just never forget about and a big red thing about an historic thing which people just never forget about. Something along those lines?
It’s one thing to see a photo-drone reviewed in DPReview, and costing the best part of a thousand quid. It’s quite another to see one in the flesh, in a London shop window, on sale for less than four hundred:
Photoed by me through the window of Maplin’s in the Strand, late this afternoon.
Here are the details of this gizmo, at the Maplin’s website.
Okay, that must be a very cheap camera, but even so, this feels to me like a breakthrough moment for this technology, if not exactly now, then Real Soon Now. Note that you can store the output in real time, on your mobile phone. Something tells me that this gadget is going to generate some contentious news stories about nightmare neighbours, privacy violations, and who knows what other fights and furores.
What might the paps do with such toys? And how soon before two of these things crash into each other?
I sympathise with whoever wrote this:
West Brom can hardly believe their luck. Being denied a win at the death by Manchester United is one thing, but having teased a previously woeful Marouane Fellaini back to life must really does takes the biscuit.
“Must really does takes the biscuit.” I reckon he was choosing between, not two, but three different ways of saying what he was saying, but managed to combine all three.
This is the kind of mistake that can only happen with a computer. If you were merely writing, or typing with an old school typewriter, there is no way you would have put that.
When I perpetrate something like that, and I frequently do, and if I later spot the mistake, I then allow myself to correct it, no matter how long ago I made the mistake. Is this wrong? My blog, my rules.
A subsection of Sod’s Law states that whenever you mention someone else’s mistake in something you say on the www, you will make a similar sort of error yourself. If I do this in this posting, I will not correct my error, but will add something “LATER”, in which I identify my error.
Computers. New ways to screw things up.
I attended a talk this evening at Christian Michel’s about robots. The point was made the robot cars probably will be safer, but every once in a Blue Moon, there will be a truly spectacular disaster, of a sort impossible to perpetrate with old school cars.
I am rather ill, so will be brief.
I have opened a Bald Blokes Taking Photos photo file. So far, my favourite bald bloke taking a photo photo is this one, taken in July of this year:
I like (a) the Shard in his picture. There are other photos in this file of equally good bald blokes, and some of them have come out even better, with more detail. But you can’t tell from the photo what they’re photoing, which I rate a drawback.
And I like (b) the amazing sort of horizontal rift valley at the back of his head, that many bald blokes have (some of them more than one).
Enjoy. For me, it’s back to being ill.
When someone shows the world a picture like this …:
… I’m like, as the younger element now puts it, yeah yeah.
But when a newspaper, the kind they still print on paper, reports that they are about to sell bits of it, then that, I say to myself, is actual news. They’re actually going to build this bizarre Thing. Next to Battersea Power Station.
And by selling the flats in advance, I guess they are also crowdfunding it. Interesting trend, that, I think.
Expect (although I promise nothing) more pictures from me as it takes shape. And that is quite some shape, at any rate in the pictures.
Indeed. You don’t see this kind of thing every day:
But I did. Today.
As a general rule, I don’t advise combining ice cream with photography. Do one or the other. That is the rule I recommend. But these guys were doing an excellent job of merging these two things, and they weren’t just eating their ice creams and doing photography. They were photoing their ice creams.
I congratulated them for the excellence of their photographic imagination, and they were really pleased to hear this. I asked if I could photo them. Yes, they replied. And when I said “photo”, I meant, as they surely understood, photo them and put pictures of them up at my blog:
I also took lots photos of a demo outside Parliament by Kurds, demanding help from Britain in their battles against ISIS. Maybe (I promise nothing) I’ll put some of those snaps either here or on Samizdata, perhaps tomorrow.
The lion statues in Tragalgar Square are famous, and they deserve to be. But there is another lion statue in London that I am also fond of, namely the one on the far side of Westminster Bridge from the Houses of Parliament. I like, when I walk along beside the river next to St Thomas’ Hospital, to photo it lined up with the Wheel.
I really liked this when I saw it. You wouldn’t want a guide lion, but, that’s the joke.
And this other guy liked it too:
I couldn’t wait for Friday to come round so I could show these snaps to you people. Inconveniently, I took them on a Saturday.
It turns out that with us, cats are cats. Then they go outdoors and become lions. They get on better with us than they do with each other. They have evolved to manipulate us into feeding and sheltering them.
With the arrival of the internet, the evolution of cats has entered a new and more intense phase.
LATER: Although guide lions probably wouldn’t work, here’s a 2012 story about a guide cat, who guides a dog.
SUNDAY: I was back there yesterday, and that bit of yellow writing wasn’t there when I first photoed this guide dog lion:
And they have also sorted out that strap around the lion’s front.
More about what is going on here, here.
Dezeen has pretend-photos today of London’s soon-to-be-unleashed new driverless tube trains. As I write this, they’re all over the TV news.
Their pictures are spooky, being mostly of the black and mysterious fronts of the trains:
The BBC reports that the Train Driving Union is angry. I’m sure it is. I guess it will refuse to drive these driverless trains.
Seriously, they’re on a hiding to nothing. The D(ocklands) L(ight) R(ailway) already has driverless trains and having them on the tube is the obvious next step. It’s like they said when the atom bomb was first used in anger. The only important secret, said somebody clever and famous, is now public knowledge. It works.
The picture that interested me rather more was this one (which I found earlier today at the Evening Standard):
This is a trend that has been growing and growing. Instead of each carriage being a separate room, the whole train is now one huge elongated room. The Tube already has trains like this, but they are just a bit clunky at the joins. These new trains, judging by that picture, will accomplish this effect with unprecedented elegance and panache, or so it looks to me. You almost can’t seen the join.
I guess one good consequence of this is that if one part of this single room is extremely crowded, such a crowd is able to spread itself out, towards the not so crowded parts of the room.
That might be the good news. But the other day, I found myself doing something really rather annoying to my fellow passengers, on one of these new, single room trains. I was in a big hurry, and had just managed to catch the train I found myself on. But, I happened to know that, in order to minimise the time of my journey, I needed to be at the other end of the train. So, crowded though the train was, I barged my way through it, as politely as I could but still rather disruptively, thereby getting a lot nearer to where I knew the exit was at my destination station.
Is this a Thing now, I wonder?
I also wonder what other effects there will be of these new and improved connections between tube carriages. What effect, for instance, will this have on busking?
I have started a file of photos called “I Just Like Them”, for those days (very frequent) when I have left blogging for the day to the last possible moment and beyond. The idea is to have a plentiful supply of quota photos, ready to hand.
Here is the kind of thing I mean:
That was taken from the top of the Monument on November 18th 2012.
I could drone on for several paragraphs about what is so very nice about that picture (were I to do this, the redness of two of the cranes there would get a particular mention), but the simple truth is: I just like it.
Busy day. Quota photo time:
Red crane tower. Yellow staircase made of scaffolding
There is lots of building going on in the Victoria area right now. That photo was taken in Victoria Street, on the same day that I photoed yesterday’s bag ladies.
And this other photo was taken of the same construction job. It isn’t really raining. But something watery was being done up at the top of the building (washing something maybe?), and water was descending from there, down through the bright sunshine:
Rain is, I find, hard to photo (although sometimes I get semi-lucky – see photo 2 in this posting). The best way is usually to photo it at the place where it lands. Photoing it in the air as it descends seldom works for me.
This is usually because when it is raining there is no bright light in action to pick out the descending drops. It is amazing how much difference sunshine makes to photography. The eye adjusts, and doesn’t see that huge difference. But the camera gets everything exactly so on a sunny day, but dulls everything down on a dull day. If you are photoing rain, bright sunshine blasting through that rain is what you want. The above wasn’t really rain, but it was like rain - although descending more slowly, which also helped, and the sunshine was, as you can see, at full throttle.
However, you probably need to click on it and make it bigger to register the effect at all clearly.
Last Saturday the weather was vile, in the morning. But, trusting as I always do in the excellence of Britain’s short term weather forecasts (see in particular the final comment there), I prepared myself for a late afternoon expedition with my camera, confident that sunshine would be abundant. Exactly as forecast, it was.
I took many other photos of photographers besides those I took, during that same expedition, of the photographer who took photos of Gramex CDs, including, in particular, these, of bag ladies taking photographs:
Well, not really bag ladies. More ladies also carrying big bags. All three are using the same technique for carrying their various bags, namely putting their entire arms through the bit which would normally only be clutched by a hand. If you think about it, this technique only works when you are pointing your arm upwards. Point your arm downwards and the bag doesn’t stay put. This means you only carry your bag like this when you are taking photos. Which makes this a classic item of Digital Photographer Behaviour, alongside such things as the Waving About of the Fifth Finger (to avoid it finding its way into the picture (as demonstrated by the lady with the next bag)).
Click on any of the squares, and you will get to the exact same square only bigger. These pictures have been thus cropped in order to avoid showing the faces of people standing nearby, in ways that would be easily recognisable, either by people or by machines.
Yes, there I was, relaxing in one of the big old armchairs that Mr Gramex reckons have made him so much money over the years, and this guy shows up at the door wanting to photo the CDs.
Mr Gramex has no objection, so, he does. And I photo him. This is what this looked like:
I thought I was the only one who did things like photo CDs in CD shops. Why was he doing this? He was evasive. My guess is some kind of project photoing lots of different stuff in lots of different London shops. Or, maybe wherever he goes, in life, he photos stuff in shops, the way I photo photographers. He said he was from Turkey.
Mr Gramex was very keen that Mr Turkey should also go outside and photo the window display, which he did. Even if he actually cared nothing for this window display the marginal cost of digital photography is zero and if that was how to keep in with Mr Gramex, fine, he’d do it. Which is when I took the photo on the right. Click on that photo, and, in the event that you care at all, you can see me photoing, reflected in the shop window, bottom right.
The bike in the middle picture belongs to Mr Gramex. As you can see from the reviews here, Gramex does not suit everyone. But it suits the people it suits very well.
Yes, dezeen (Dezeen?) continues to be a favourite wwwspot for me. Here are some recent dezeen postings that got my attention, for this or that reason.
First, news that there will be a viewing platform on top of the Walkie Talkie:
The Walkie Talkie Skygarden has yet to open and will, I’m sure, come with a catchier name. But already it is in obvious competition with the Shard – pricey versus free, ascetic steel and glass versus sylvan repose, supreme height versus not being able to see the Walkie Talkie. ...
Very droll. The original was about how you couldn’t see the National Theatre from the National Theatre. But me, I am warming to the Walkie Talkie, and I don’t just mean I’m standing under it and being fried. I especially like how it looks from a distance. The point being: it looks like the Walkie Talkie. Not just some anonymous rectangular London lump, no, that particular Big Thing. Yes it is not properly beautiful. But neither is London. Besides which, anything that just might compete down the price of going to the top of the Shard has my vote. I’ll definitely make my way up there, as soon as they’ll let me
Next up, isn’t fun when someone hitherto impeccably cool suddenly turns into Grumpy Old Man:
Speaking to Dezeen, the 85-year-old English designer said tech products like the iPhone and Apple Watch were turning people into zombies, adding: “I’ve got a certain cynicism of Apple and their motives. It’s a bit of a monster.”
“It’s a game they’re playing and it’s an absolutely straightforward, commercial, ruthless game, and it’s dressed up nicely because they’ve got some talented people in their employ,” he said.
Grange, who was knighted in 2013 for services to design, believes that the tech giant has successfully turned Modernism into “good commerce”, using aesthetics to dress up a self-perpetuating product cycle.
“There are probably few companies around now that absolutely answer the prospect that Modernism is good commerce,” he said. ...
Modernism is good commerce? Can’t have that.
… “They’ve been so bloody ruthless that you almost get no choice in the matter.”
“Almost” there means “not”. (See also: essentially, basically, fundamentally, etc. etc. etc.) Because actually, you get plenty of choice about whether to buy Apple stuff or not. Apart from one rather nice keyboard, I never have.
People always talk about the behemoths of capitalism like this, just as they are starting their long slide down into moderate size and moderate success, into business as usual. How do I know Apple is now at the top of that slide? Easy, they are building a custom-designed headquarters. It absolutely yells: from now on, all Apple-persons will talk to each other and keep everyone else out. And what they will be talking about, to an appalling degree, will be their own living arrangements inside this huge circular corporate burial chamber. They’re doomed, I tell you, doomed. Someone tell Sir Grumpy (above) that he can relax.
Next: what a driverless car might look like. Not. But, it looks very pretty. The basic point, that driverless cars will in the longer run utterly transform the look of the outdoors is, I think, a very good one. Maybe that is how some of them will look.
I really do not like the way this floating bikeway along the River Thames looks, in the pictures there. At the very least, I say, find a way to avoid having those obtrusive shapes above the level of the track, which makes it look like an infinitely extended item of tasteless garden furniture. I get it, that crap is there to enable it to float up and down on the tide. Well, find another way to do that.
Next, some excellent photos of the High Line, in New York. I especially like the distant aerial view of it curving its way over the Rail Yards, with the spontaneous architectural order of Manhattan’s towers in the background.
I do like this rectangular block of a house, but with one end lifted up. Usually the rectangular block houses featured at dezeen are impeccably, terminally tedious. But this one, I like. Apart from the fact that whenever the damn architect called round, you’d have to tidy up all your domestic crap all over everywhere, and turn the place back into the dreary corporate office it resembles in the photos. What is it with architects not wanting homes to look, inside, like homes, but instead like some kind of dystopian hell with nothing in it besides a wooden floor?
Here are some impeccably, terminally tedious rectangular type houses, in Japan. To me, by far, by several hundred miles, the most interesting thing about these photos of them is the amazing amount of electrical crap in the sky over the street outside. If I was photoing in Japan, I would be all over that. More Japanese sky clutter here, in photos of another impeccably, terminally tedious block house with an interior that also looked like a corporate office reception area when the photos were taken.
Google drones. Spooky.
Parisian blocks become wavey.
Finally what with this being Friday, some black cats with bronze bollocks. I kid you not.
Earlier this evening I attended a talk given by Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown in Southwark. Read Michael’s background briefing about the things he talked about further this evening, either here, or here.
I have friends who seem to revel in having their photos taken, but Michael is not one of them. He entirely lacks vanity, and tends, when being photoed, to have the look of a man worrying about how bad he fears he will look in the photo. So it was that, having earlier been asked for a photo of Michael by Simon Gibbs, the organiser of the meeting, I was only able quickly to find one that was remotely good enough. (You can see it at the other end of the second of the above links.) This evening I made a particular effort to correct this, and here is one of the better shots that I took of Michael this evening:
The most dramatic moment in the evening came when the Putin-echoing stooge Russian lady in the audience (there always seem to be one such stooge at any public event mentioning Russia and its current policies) tangled with Michael on the subject of Poland. Why were the Poles so paranoid about Russia and so keen to join NATO?
Michael replied with a short history lesson that was brief, and crushing. Nazi-Soviet Pact. (The stooge later denied that this had even happened, so Michael later told me.) Katyn Massacre. Warsaw Uprising. (Stalin parked the Red Army outside Warsaw and let the Nazis crush it.) An imposed Communist government, that the Poles would never have chosen for themselves, for the next half century. Final sentence, something like: “If fearing Russia after all that means you are paranoid, then yes, I guess the Poles are paranoid.” Applause. With any luck, this little interchange will be viewable on video, along with the talk itself of course.
Earlier, the lady stooge had waxed eloquent to me, in the socialising period before the talk, about the superiority of Russian education over English education. She had a point. Russian children are indeed made to work far harder at their lessons than English children are these days. But what if the lessons they learn are a pack of lies?
See also this, recently at Samizdata.
On a happier note, I harvested several names and emails of various young, clever libertarians to add to my Brian’s Last Fridays list. A couple of them being, so it seemed to me, of exceptional promise. (I hope that doesn’t sound patronising.) I was particularly impressed by this guy.
Indeed. Photoed by me this afternoon:
I don’t know what went wrong with this one.
Googling reminds me that there were a lot of complaints, the summer before last, about Boris buses getting too hot. Has that been sorted?
In general, I am suspicious of these new buses, on two grounds. First, as its nickname makes clear, this is a very political sort of bus, being the Boris Johnson answer to Ken Livingstone’s Bendy Bus. When politicians push technology, expect trouble. I’m not saying they always get things wrong, because they don’t want to look like prunes, and when they push things that go wrong, they do. But, they are still tempted to push, because, in defiance of what you often hear, politicians are typically very short-termist, being unable to look beyond their next election. Businessmen, at any rate businessmen of the sort who preside over the design of buses, tend to look further ahead, and not unleash their buses until their are truly ready.
Second, it was designed by a “designer”. By Thomas Heatherwick, who designed that cute roly-poly bridge in Paddington and also the bridge Joanna Lumley wants to have built across the Thames. If you want a bus not to malfunction too much, the kind of designer you want designing it is a bus designer, who is thoroughly familiar with the particular problems that buses can get engulfed by and knows all the tried-and-tested recipes for avoiding such problems. This Heatherwick bus smells to me of change for the sake of it. This is okay if you are designing something small enough to fail without too much expense, like a chair or a spoon or an iPhone case, or a rather pointless roly-poly bridge. But buses are serious. When they go wrong it can cost millions.
And when a “designer” is involved, mistakes do tend to happen, because designers are brought in precisely to design everything. And when you try to do everything anew, you make mistakes.
And if that happens to a politicised design, such as this bus, other political things cut in. Politicians and their supporters don’t suffer financially when their pet projects go wrong. They can start fighting the wrongness by just chucking money at it, and just pass the bill on to the rest of us. If unlimited money doesn’t sort out the mess and instead becomes part of the mess, then their next impulse is to try to cover things up. If that fails, Plan C (we’ve reached about C, I’m guessing) is to find someone or something else to blame. Does that also fail? Plan D: just walk away from the mess, refuse to talk about it, and insist on talking about something else, anything else, everything else. Change the subject. In politics, in the end, all there is is “the subject”. If politicians keep winning, then they “succeed”, no matter how much havoc in the form of things like crappy buses they leave in their wake.
I’m not saying that these Boris Buses are guaranteed to fail. New designs, of the sort driven by politicians, can be a triumph. Sometimes, they even triumph economically. Look at the Volkswagen Beetle. And nor am I saying that one bus attached to a tow-truck is evidence of complete failure. I’m just saying that this particular bus has a lot of bear traps to get past.
LATER: By pure coincidence, favorite blogger of mine 6k right now also has things to say about Boris.
He’s a law unto himself, but if you believe that there’s nothing behind the apparent buffoonery of his outward image, I think you’re mistaken. You don’t get where Boris is by being a buffoon. Acting one, perhaps – being one, no.
Spot on. The British toff classes are full of people like this. I had an uncle who behaved exactly this way.