Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Michael Jennings on Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Brian Micklethwait on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes to ashes
itrat batool on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Ashes to ashes
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Peter Briffa on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Most recent entries
- Long Title (with italics)
- Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
- Comrade Blimp
- Ashes to ashes
- La Porte des Indes
- Friend on telly
- Sculpture at St James’s Tube
- Digital photographers holding maps
- More photos of things past
- Father Christmas Aerodrome
- How big should these squares be?
- Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
- The Kelpies of Falkirk
- A quota thought that (luckily for me) went nowhere
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Category archive: London
Here is recent confirmation of the map app effect, i.e. the replacement of paper maps by electric maps.
The pictures below were all taken on June 4th of this year. Soon after that date I picked out these nine snaps of digital photographers doing their things, with a view to showing them here, but I never got around to doing that. I made my selections without any particular thought of maps. So far as I can tell, I picked my winners on a variety of grounds, three of them, it would appear, because of interesting backgrounds, in particular the one (2.1) with the word VISIONS to be seen in the background, on the side of what looks like a TV van. My selection is also biased towards facial non-recognisability.
Here are eight of the nine I picked.
And here is the ninth.
Was that ratio a fair reflection of the ratio for the entire lot of photos I took that day? No. It was not. I took about 350 snaps, of which about third to a half were of digital photographers. That’s a lot. Number of maps being flaunted by photographers: one. That one. Otherwise, no maps to be seen. This does not of course mean that no other maps were being carried. But it is telling, I think.
Four of these snaps, by my calculation, feature pictures being taken with smartphones. I think I was a bit biased towards that also, but the fact that I had so many examples of that to pick out is likewise telling.
Goddaughter Two is in town. She was already spontaneously talking about this map thing, before she knew I had any interest in it. She and a friend are now being London tourists. They are seeing a few maps, but only a few.
Change is not just the new stuff. It’s the old stuff that you don’t see any more.
JUST BEFORE POSTING THIS: Goddaughter One’s dad dropped by. He was recently wondering about maps, his question being: How do I best tell fellow engineers, visiting London for a footbridge conference, where London’s best footbridges are to be found? Give them a paper map and mark the bridges on that map? No. Paper maps don’t sell any more. At all. Ergo, they are rapidly ceasing to make them. Answer: Given them electric map references. They get you to within ten yards of each bridge, no worries.
One of the jobs of random blogs like this one is recommend such things as restaurants. This is one of those postings. If you read no further, just know that I recently dined at La Porte des Indes, and I liked it. It’s just a short walk away from Selfridges in Oxford Street, where a friend had been working. Address: 32 Bryanston Street.
So, to the details of why I liked it. One: the food was very tasty. Always a good start. And while we were waiting, they gave us little plastic cups of soup, also very tasty.
However, although I like the way tasty food tastes, I now unable to consume very much food all at once. Perhaps I am lucky, because being unable to eat too much, I am not becoming as fat as I might otherwise become, what with so much of the food I do eat being junk.
But there is a way in which I am often unlucky, which is when I am dining out. Often, I just can’t manage to eat all that I am paying for.
So it is that a service I especially value is when I am allowed to take my leftovers away with me. A restaurant willing to package up all my delicious but indigestible leftovers will now have a special place in my heart, and stomach.
La Portes Des Indes was not cheap, when I and a friend dined there about a fortnight ago. But I still remember the delicious taste of the chicken, the pain of realising that my stomach would not be able to do it justice, and the small translucent plastic carton they used to put my spare chicken in, so that I could eat it later. I’ve had bags made available in such circumstances before, but never a plastic carton.
I paid about twice what I usually want to pay when dining out, but I also dined twice over, once in the restaurant, and then again back home, the next day.
The place looks great as well. The outside is unprepossessing, like a fast food joint at the bottom of an office block. But when you step inside, it’s like you’ve entered the restaurant equivalent of the Tardis. It’s really big. It used to be a dance hall, so they said. And the décor has been preserved from that era and added to, rather than stripped out and replaced with modernistic dreariness. Plus, the ambient noise was not too loud and we could hear each other talk without any shouting. Crucial, for me. I often leave things early for this one reason.
Quota photos, I’m afraid, but I like them:
Taken by me at St James’s Park Tube, yesterday. Not really sculpture, of course. But I like the colours that my camera has automatically selected for these images. And I like how the one on the left has the dirt highlighting the shapes, rather like make-up.
I’ve recently been doing a lot of trawling through old picture archives, and in the course of this I found a directory devoted to Digital Photographers Holding On To Their Maps.
So here is an enormous clutch of such photos, with the little squares below all homing in on the maps. Click to see the photographers in action, if you wish.
The photos you get by clicking are exactly as taken, but the little squares involved quite a lot of enhancement - brightening, contrasting, sharpening, etc. - the better to reveal their mapitude.
If you don’t wish to click on any of these map squares, fine, but at least reflect with me on how the age of maps, on paper, like this, is now drawing to a close. The above snaps were snapped between 2005 and 2007. I wonder how many such photographs I’d be able to take now. Next time I go out snapping snappers, I’ll make a point of trying to see if paper maps are still being carried by photographers.
My guess would be, yes, just a few. This would be because the keener you are on photography, the more likely you were to have had a nice camera before the smartphone thing kicked in, and the less likely you might be to get a brand new smartphone, to replace your regular, mapless old phone. So maps being held by people with regular cameras are still, I am guessing, around.
But, nobody taking photos with a smartphone will now be simultaneously waving a paper map. Such a person already has a map.
It’s surely worth me adding that I got my smartphone entirely for its map app. It’s lighter than an A-Z and much lighter than all the A-Zs you’d need if you travelled much, and also much nicer than google maps printouts from my computer, because my smartphone, crucially, tells me where I am. For me, a smartphone is a book of magic maps which also does occasional phone calls and textings, not the other way around.
Going back to the pictures above, it’s not just the map-flaunting that is now looking quaint. So do a lot of the cameras. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. A picture collection is like a well stocked wine cellar. It gets better with age.
More photos of things past
More because I have already done a posting entitled Photos of things past, as I discovered when trying to save the text file I wrote prior to posting this.
I must say, I do find myself missing this Thing. If they hadn’t smashed it to bits, I would definitely be thinking that they should, but now that they have, this kind of Thing is on the defensive, and you find yourself siding with the architectural underdog. I’d certainly not be happy if all traces of New Brutalism were brutally expunged. We need a bit of it to hang around, if only as a warning of how mad architects can get, when they get mad.
This Thing was situated in the roundabout on the far side of Westminster Bridge, now occupied by the big hotel featured in picture 1.3 below. Someone told me a few days back, when I was talking about having posted an earlier picture of it here, that it was a G(reater) L(ondon) C(council) office annex, reached by a tunnel under the road from the main building. So, now that London’s local politicians have moved downstream, to The Testicle, this Thing became superfluous to requirements.
It was destroyed in October 2006, as these photos, taken on October 13th of that year, prove:
On that same day, October 13th 2006, I took other photos, of other things that have moved on, or which soon might.
The first two of these next snaps are of cranes, temporary by their nature. Who knows what that crane cluster (1.1) was building? I could probably work it out, but that isn’t the point. The point is: what an excellent crane cluster! And I think I found another picture I took of it, this time looking along The Strand.
What that blue crane was doing, floating on the river, posing in front of The Wheel, I also can’t remember.
I include the bus (2.1), with its entertaining reflections, because the London Double Decker Bus has now been redesigned, and all other London Double Deckers could soon be Things of the past.
Those wind propellers, on the top of Palestra House, the Big Thing just across the road from Southwark Tube Station, are long gone.
And the final snap there (2.3) reminds us of another kind of temporariness, which is that sooner or later, we all must move on. That snap is of flowers and pictures, placed outside Westminster Abbey, in memory of the then recently murdered (it’s still unsolved) Anna Politkovskaya.
Photoed by me, just under a week ago, in one of the windows of Selfridges.
This posting is a test, which will involve great confusion to anyone trying to read this blog now, as I do this. And actually, quite a lot of confusion in perpetuity.
I am trying to work out whether these four squares will fit in the allotted sideways space (500 pixels). Once I’ve got them fitting properly, I’ll tell you what they are, and what that picture at the bottom is.
And right away, we have a problem. The square on the right has shoved itself under the first one, rather than where I was hoping it would be. This requires all the squares to stop being 123x123 (pixels), and must instead be resized to become 122x122. This could take a while.
Okay, all done now. And it didn’t take long at all:
Let me explain. I am planning one of my big photo collections with lots of squares, and before doing that I needed to know how big the little squares needed to be, to fit properly into 500 pixels. Just as well I did this test.
As to what the four squares above are, well, there’s a clue below. They were taken on December 16th 2006, the same day as I took all these photos.
The one on the left, as it turns out, is also in the original mega collection linked to above. I guess there’s just something about a canoe man falling over forewards.
The second … well, how could I have missed this first time around? Two geese eating what is clearly a whole pizza!
Number three is a particularly vivid example of the Things Reflected genre, and I like it a lot.
And I picked out the one on the right, because it is the exact same bridge, and the exact same view of it, as is featured in this posting, except that in 2006 there was no graffiti. So right there, the decline of Western Civilisation, happening in front of our eyes.
And this final picture is what happened on my screen when I was processing that last picture.
Moiré patterns. Because these patterns were the result of the photo and my screen colliding, I don’t know what you will see on all your screens. Maybe nothing, and you don’t have the faintest idea what I am talking about.
Anyway, job done. 122x122 it is.
In that 2006 postings, as with many of my large photo-collections here, there is a horizontal gap between horizontal lines of photos, but no vertical gaps between each photo. I prefer the latter arrangement. If there are gaps, they should be everywhere. Hence this test, beause I have never done a collection which is four little photos wide. Three wide, yes, but not four.
I knew you’d be excited.
This week, I have been in a particularly egotistical and silly mood here. (Which is allowed, because I say what is allowed.) This is because I worked extremely hard (by my pathetic standards of what hard work is) on this posting at Samizdata, and am now relaxing.
It is interesting how the prices of basic supermarket products now seems to fluctuate rather more than they used to. My last stash of Gold Blend also cost £3 a go, for two. Today, I bought three of these packets. For the last few weeks it went up to £4.50, and I held off, waiting in hope of a price drop again. Today, I was nearly out and would have to buy some, no matter what the price. But, glory be, it was down to £3 again.
Could these fluctuations be a consequence of containers? Is it that containers have made supplies of things like branded coffee less continuous, more prone to famine or feast? And are we now enjoying a capitalist version of what happened under communism, in which suddenly a rumour would fly around Moscow saying that a consignment of meat had arrived, and immediately the queues would form. With us, the news that Gold Blend is on offer at Sainsburys flies around on our mobile phones, or in this case is featured on my blog, at which point it’s first come first served.
Or is it merely that logistics geniuses, armed with super-computer-networks, are now able to do sums about the precise prices they need to charge at any particular moment for any particular thing, in order to make maximum use of scarce warehouse and store space? If you get my meaning.
Or maybe it’s a bit of both?
Michael Jennings presumably knows the answer to these questions, because Michael Jennings (see the first two of these comments) knows everything .
I took this photo on Wednesday evening, on the way back home from one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 talks:
Do you think it is gloomy and grim? Maybe so. But Earl’s Court is London’s Australian quarter, or it was in the days of Barry McKenzie. And today I am Loving the Aussies slightly less, although my reasons for this are this, rather than that.
Last night, at Chateau Samizdata, I and all others present drank this:
Until last night I did not know that there was any such thing. Well, I knew there was Sauvignon Blanc, but not called that.
Sadly, I failed to properly include the hippo at the top of the label on the left, but you can see plenty of the hippos here, because of course there is a website and you can read all about it.
Clever marketing, I think. The real wine buffs will like it, if they like it, regardless of the name. “Oh yes, it’s actually rather good, you know” blah blah. And the wine unbuffs like me will like it too, because it’s a laugh, and a bit of a tease of wine buffs of the sort who expect wine not to be called such a thing. So, win win.
It’s a technically terrible photo, back lit, in a way that focusses attention on the dirtiness of the shop window. Reflections everywhere. But, I still like it. It’s a board game:
Photoed by me last weekend, in Tooting, on my way to a Do.
Blog and learn.
December 6th 2006 was a good photographic day for me. I took these photos, from the top of Tower Bridge. And, as I approached Tower Bridge, along the south bank of the river, I took many other photos, of which one of my favourites was this:
I think this looks a bit like an owl. I’ve always liked this picture, but for some reason, for years, I thought I “couldn’t show it here”, perhaps because it is a bit blurry. But of course I can show it here. I can show whatever I like here.
One of the great technological success stories of our time is the development of glass, a development which has had a profound effect upon architecture. One of many improvements made to glass has been that it has got a lot stronger. One of the ways it has got stronger is that it has got less brittle, and more bendy. And bendy glass results in unpredictable and strange reflections, like the one above.
Do you want to know what that weird shape is? Almost certainly not, but I’ll tell you anyway. First up, it is not an owl. What it is is the NatWest Tower, with the sun shining on it so it lights up like a bar of gold. And it’s the NatWest Tower lit up like a bar of gold, reflected in the new London Parliament building.
On the left here, the same thing again, but with context, in the form of other towers reflected, such as the Gherkin. In the middle, the same thing differently reflected, making it clearer that it is indeed the NatWest Tower. On the right, the NatWest Tower, not lit up like a bar of gold, but so you can see what it looks like.
Are you wondering what the new London Parliament Building is? Again, probably not, but here it is anyway, viewed from the other side, from the approach road to Tower Bridge. Here in London this is known as: The Testicle.
That last photo was taken on that same day, December 6th 2006, so again, no Shard.
Last night I attended the Simon Gibbs talk about how to herd cats. For me the problem was right there in the title. It was like he knew he was attempting something impossible.
My immediate reaction is that what I do to cats is stroke them, if they will let me. If I “owned” a cat, that would mean that it would also be my duty to feed it. But herding cats? There’s a reason this phrase is used to describe social schemes that can’t work.
Simon’s scheme seems to depend on some kind of website. Websites are not my strong point, even understanding the point of them let alone actually making them work. The less new software I have in my life, the happier I am. So maybe I am missing not something here, but everything. Simon made several mentions of a “button”. When I find out where this is (somewhere at Libertarian Home?), I’ll give it a go. If others do and do whatever Simon wants them to do, then I guess the cats will start being herded and my present scepticism will be proved wrong. I hope that happens. (As I said to Simon after his talk, see this.)
Slightly more seriously, Simon’s talk made me think of a distinction that I associate with the great American theorist of management, Peter Drucker. As I recall it, Drucker describes various different ways to do organisation.
One is to imagine the perfect organisation. You ask: Suppose we had no organisation already, with all its obligations and habits and rituals, what would the ideal organisation for what we are trying to accomplish look like? And then let’s turn what we have into that. An example Drucker was fond of was Sloane’s General Motors, probably because Drucker worked for Sloane, although exactly when he did that work, I’m not sure.
Another is not to dream dreams of future perfection. It is to ask: What little steps can we take, now, immediately, in the right general direction, given the strengths and resources that we already now possess?
In my opinion the second attitude is better suited to the life of a London libertarian with a bit of influence but not much (i.e. libertarians like me and like Simon Gibbs), than is the first.
The late Chris Tame, whose Number Two I was for about a decade, was one hell of a libertarian organiser. Over the years he organised some superb and superbly ambitious events, because he asked what the perfect event would look like (as I did not) and then went ahead and organised it. But my ongoing disagreement (it never boiled over but it was always there) with Chris was that too many of his ideal schemes did not achieve anything other than some rather demoralising costs.
My own approach was to concentrate on much smaller completions – a small meeting, a pamphlet, a radio performance – and just try to get each potential completion completed as quickly and satisfactorily as possible, at which point it was on to the next one, and so on until victory is achieved. (You can see why I like blogging so much. And perhaps also why Chris never liked it, although he had other reasons besides the mere smallness of individual blog postings.)
The reason I mention Chris Tame, apart from the fact that I think it may illuminate, is that what I may very well be doing here is being reminded by Simon’s current scheme, as expounded last night, of a past argument in my life, and then slotting him into that argument on the other side from me. I may, that is to say, be completely misunderstanding what he is now proposing. I might, as the saying goes, be fighting the last war rather than this one. Since I do not now really get what he is proposing, this is not, to put it mildly, unlikely. Happily, Simon’s talk was being videoed, so you’ll soon be able to watch it for yourself and decide for yourself what you think about it.
I may very well, at some future date (maybe after watching the talk again), be explaining why this posting is completely wrong.
More old photos, this time from the time when the Eurostar trains used to depart from Waterloo:
Taken with my old Canon A70, on June 21 2003. So, over a decade ago. I think the sign on the right of these three snaps is something of an exaggeration. That’s about how long it takes now, isn’t it? Not sure about that.
The pictures are all pleasingly worse than the ones I take now, with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150. It would be terrible to think that neither I nor my cameras had got any better between then and now.
Eurostar came and went from Waterloo from November 1994 until November 2007. Since then, not a lot.
In 2012 a new proposal for the future use of the station was made, namely that it becomes the London destination of all the UK’s sleeper trains. This may become necessary as the phasing out of Mk2 vehicles and their replacement with Mk3 will make the trains too long for the platforms at Euston, and construction of HS2 will make the long sleeper dwell times at Euston untenable. If the Paddington sleepers were also diverted this would concentrate all sleeper services at Waterloo International, thus making use of the former Eurostar lounge facilities for sleeper passengers.
I can’t say I quite follow the logic of all that, but at least Waterloo Eurostar-that-was has not been completely forgotten about.
London already has many interesting bridges, but might be about to get another:
Changsha on the other hand, a place I had never heard of until today, and going only by the picture below, has rather little by way of visual excitement, or will have until they build this bridge, as it appears they definitely intend to:
Architect John van de Water says the form is also intended to reference traditional Chinese crafts. “It refers to a Chinese knot that comes from an ancient decorative Chinese folk art,” he explained.
Ingratiating bullshit being a core architectural skill.
Not that this makes it a bad bridge. On the contrary, it looks like a lot of fun, that will cheer the place up no end.
And I agree with Heatherwick, and with his celebrity booster Joanna Lumley, that the exact part of the Thames (the north end would be at Temple tube station) where they have put their proposed bridge could indeed do with some further livening up.