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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: Friends

Thursday December 14 2017

My camera has conked out.  The autofocussing is refusing to autofocus.  Which is nasty.  And even nastier given that I only found out about this when I was trying, with it, to take photos, this afternoon, like this one:

image

That’s from the top of Primrose Hill, as photoed by my mobile phone, which is a Google Nexus 4.  That one wasn’t too bad, but most of the phone-photos I phone-photoed with this annoying gadget, truly good only for telling me where I am and how soon I will reach my tube destination and what the cricket scores are, were rubbish.

Here is one of the few other good ones, taken from one of the bridges over the Regent’s Canal:

image

That red boat is the Feng Shang Princess.

GodDaughter 2 was with me.  Since I couldn’t take lots of photos, there was nothing for it, I had to make do with talking to her.  And also listening to her.  Which worked out quite well.

Thursday December 07 2017

Indeed:

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Opened in 2013.  Still very much open 2017:

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Photos by me this afternoon, in St Albans.  Thanks to Darren and family for the hospitality.

LATER: Another blast from the past:

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I remember liking that one a lot.

Tuesday December 05 2017

Earlier this evening at the Two Chairmen, Westminsters, Adriana Lucas, who grew up in the old Czechoslovakia as was, gave a most eloquent talk about this experience.  She didn’t bang on at length about the usual horrors – prison camps, executions, purges, and so on – although of course these were mentioned.  Rather did she focus on the minutiae of life for the rather less unlucky victims of communism, the ones who got to stay alive.  People adjusted, basically.  Or if, like Adriana’s family, they were dissidents, they learned to be extremely distrustful of almost everyone but their closest and most trusted loved ones.  Being a dissident wasn’t about overthrowing the regime; it was merely about staying sane.

Here are four photos, that I picked out from the dozen or more that I took, and that I just sent to meetings organiser Simon Gibbs, who is to be seen in the first one, introducing Adriana.  The photos I sent to Simon were rectangles, but I actually prefer these square cropped versions.

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

As you can see, this excellent talk was videoed.  Videos are far harder to edit than merely to … video.  So you may have to wait a bit before seeing this one.  But, for those who did not attend this talk and for many who did, it will be worth the wait.

Friday December 01 2017

Last Saturday, a friend invited me to share some gin at The Star.  We also each had a pie, with red wine in it.  Delicious.

The Star is quite near to the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, and has a great slab of Crossrail turmoil right slap against it, which has turned the formerly busy Great Chappell Street into a poky little footway, and has for a year or three now destroyed all possibility of passing trade to The Star.  So, The Star has switched to invites and events.  It hasn’t now even got a sign on over its front door.  Where there once was and still ought to be a sign, there is, for the time being anyway, only blank blackness:

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But inside, things liven up considerably, in particular with an enjoyably ironic display of antique signage:

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This next one, also visible above in the general display, being a particular collector’s item, which explains why I waited until today (Friday is Cats and Other Creatures Day here at BMdotcom) before displaying it here:

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That wouldn’t be allowed now, any more than all the tobacco adverts would be.

imageAnd since this is a Cats and Other Creatures Day, there on the right is an advert for another product from the same enterprise.  If the product had been made of budgies and canaries, I’m sure the pussies would have loved it.

We got there on the dot at 1pm, opening time, and were the first there, hence those empty tables to be seen above.  But the place was soon buzzing with happy gin drinkers.

An earlier posting, featuring a photo I took just before I got to The Star, was also naughty, in a different way.  It’s interesting what naughtiness is now and is not now allowed.

Thursday November 30 2017

GodDaughter One’s Mum and Dad are members of a theatre-going gang, who take it in turns to organise for them all to go to the theatrical performance, about every month or so.  Tonight it was Antony and Cleopatra by the RSC, at the Barbican.  But GodDaughter One’s Mum was otherwise engaged, helping out with a jewellery show done by GodDaughter One’s Sister, so I went to the Barbican instead.

As so often, when I really pay attention to a Shakespeare play (and if you are seeing it in a theatre there is not a lot else to be doing), I learned a great deal about it.

I did not catch every word.  Much of the support acting, especially by the young men playing various Roman soldiers and messengers, was decidedly school-play-ish, to my old eyes and old ears.  These brand-X guys simply did not fill the auditorium properly.  Since we were at the back, we suffered.  Nor did it help that I for one could not see their faces properly, from that far away.  But Antony and Cleopatra were both pretty good, as was Enobarbus.  But honestly, only the music came over loud and clear.

I will be investigating this play further on the screen.  YouTube offers this, which looks like it could be pretty good.  I quite like north American accents in Shakespeare, given that it probably sounded more like this originally than it sounded like modern Posh English.

As for DVDs, this and this both look promising.  Also: cheap.

Back in the Barbican, Josette Simon as Cleopatra yanked the verse around a lot, but that all added to the impression of her being a force of nature.  Antony, played by Peter Byrne, was a very prosaic figure by comparison.  I especially like the line in this Guardian review about how “Simon is excellent in the closing passages suggesting that Cleopatra is living out a fantasy of an idealised Antony”.  Yes.  So, best of all might well be a DVD of this RSC production.

Sunday November 26 2017

Earlier today I was at a party, and sitting in on the party was Alexa, the cylindrical robot from Amazon.  So, one of us asked Alexa to tell us a Dirty Joke.  Alexa replied: “Why do you call a chicken covered in dirt crossing the road?” Answer, although I didn’t hear if Alexa actually said this or merely assumed that we’d get it: a dirty joke.

Not bad.  And funny because, although a joke involving dirt, it is not a dirty joke in the sense of there being any sexual innuendo involved.

But, was Alexa trying to tell a joke?  Or merely trying to do as she was told, without in any way understanding what the thing she was being told to do actually meant?  I know, Alexa never “understands” anything.  She’s a machine, with no consciousness.  But, you surely know what I mean.

Another rather perfunctory posting.  But, I spent quite a lot of my day going to a party, partying, and getting back from the party.  I may, although I promise nothing, do better tomorrow.

Wednesday November 08 2017

Yes, as I often do, I am doing the first 6/20 talk of the year, in this case of the year 2018, for Christian Michel.  He calls them 6/20 because, with only rare deviations, they happen on the 6th and the 20th of each month.  My talk will be on the January 6th.

At the meeting on the 6th of this month, Christian asked me to send him something in writing about the talk I would be giving, and to finalise its title.  Here is what I just sent him:

“The causes we identify and the causes we identify with”

My background is not philosophy; it is political disputation.  My talk will not be an exhaustive philosophical explication of the nature of causes and of causation; rather will my talk be about how causal arguments are deployed by those arguing about politics, in particular by those of us with highly developed ideological prejudices.

It will be about how such persons often especially like a “root cause”, even though causes typically deploy themselves in teams rather than in isolation.

It will be about how the causes of events - of good events and of bad events – which we ideologues choose to pick out, from the hubbub of multiple causes, and celebrate or denounce are choices which are conditioned by our general ideological prejudices.

Among other things, I expect to be comparing ideological arguments with the arguments that happen within failing marriages.

This is more in the nature of a memo-to-self, to get me going on the necessary preparation, than it is an advert.  But if you want to attend this or any other of these meetings but don’t know how, get in touch.

Monday November 06 2017

This blog regularly suffers from this condition:

The maxim “Nothing avails but perfection” may be spelt shorter: “ Paralysis”.

Today, for instance, I journeyed forth, north, and got some great photos.  But I want to get my report of today’s photo-triumphs exactly right, which means that, quite possibly, I won’t ever report them at all.  How paralytic is that?  Very.

However, this evening, I met some people who every now and again take a look at this blog.  Not a read of it, you understand.  They look.  At the photos.  So here is a photo for such “readers”, taken just over a decade ago, of a lady with a nice headscarf taking a photo with her then state-of-the-art but now hopelessly out-of-date mobile phone:

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It was not long before then that I started seriously trying to take photos of photoers that excluded their faces.

Thursday November 02 2017

Remember that hippo I photoed before giving it to Cleaning Lady’s Partner.  Course you do.  And remember how I only posted one photo of the hippo in question, because I was in a rush.  Well I’m in another rush, following a long day doing various other things, and here is another hippo photo:

image

I like the contrast.  Usually things like this hippo are either looked at separately, or else viewed alongside other similar creatures.  But having this hippo announcing his ownership of a clutch of my household equipment looks good, I think.

Friday October 27 2017

One of the depressing things about the Internet is that excellent places, because not quite excellent enough, or because for a few months they don’t feel quite excellent enough, fall off your radar.  Well, maybe not yours, but mine.

So it has been, for me, from a time way back when to about the day before yesterday, with the excellent and constantly updated site which relentlessly explains that This Is Why I’m Broke, this being a succession of things.  Rather expensive and somewhat esoteric things, of the sort which someone, maybe you, is going to like a lot.

Things like this:

image

I have recently acquired a new Cleaning Lady, and her partner happens to like hippos a lot.  This is just the kind of thing that he would love.  And for a mere £82, 555 it could be his.

It wouldn’t suit me.  Quite aside from the thermo-nuclear expense, when I purchase seating I need it to seat the maximum number of people in comfort that it can, in the space that it occupies.  This is for my meetings, of which there was another this evening.  This hippo sofa is altogether too much hippo and not nearly enough sofa, for my purposes.

And I’m guessing that even Cleaning Lady’s Partner would hesitate at the price, and be told by Cleaning Lady that it would occupy too much space.  They being a couple who think that emptiness is a desirable quality in living space.  (I like emptiness, but like even more having somewhere to put all my books and CDs and home-recorded DVDs.)

I must have been quite a blow for Cleaning Lady’s Partner when (a) he first set eyes on the above hippo sofa (he will definitely have set eyes on it, because his hippo radar is state-of-the-art) but then (b) having, reluctantly, to decide that, hugely appealing though it obviously is, he could not, in all conscience, purchase it.

But the good news is that I recently encountered, in a local charity shop, and immediately did purchase, the hippo shown below:

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You couldn’t sit on this hippo, and frankly, it looks considerably less like a hippo than the hippo sofa does, despite its sofa.  But it is a lot smaller and it was a lot less expensive than the hippo sofa.

Following the meeting, Cleaning Lady seems to have departed with the hippo, or I hope she did because I cannot now find it.  Hope Partner likes it.

I love digital photoing.  For many reasons, only one of which is that when you give someone an amusing present, you can photo it before handing it over, and carry on enjoying it in a convenient, digital form.  I took many more photos of the hippo than just that one, but I am now in a hurry to finish this, so one photo will have to do.

Thursday October 26 2017

Will computer power displace humans, or empower them?  Will computers unleash mass-unemployment or create a world of new jobs for everyone?  Is humanity about to be divided into the indolent masses on the dole, and the lucky few who control the now human-workerless means of production?

Here‘s a guy who is quite optimistic. 

When most people think of robots, they picture an R2-D2-like droid, providing critical information to assist humans and courageously rescuing them from dangerous situations. While we are, in my view, decades away from having robots that can function like a “Star Wars” character due to the limitations of artificial intelligence, a new class of robots that are mobile, dexterous, and capable across multiple operational regimes will soon be available to augment human performance.

This will happen through a combination of human intelligence with machine strength and precision. In this symbiotic relationship, the multi-tasking robots rely on humans for direction while simultaneously safeguarding them from dangerous environments and tasks. These robotic “guardians” are the future of work on Earth and, yes, in space, too.

Peter Thiel also believes that computers and humans will complement one another.

Think power steering, but a hundred times more versatile:

We are at a point in history where decades of research and development coupled with ever-improving technological performance and lower component costs are combining to make yesterday’s science fiction a reality. Imagine a machine that is your personal proxy, controlled by you, leveraging your intelligence, knowledge, instincts, intuition, and judgment while able to physically perform in the same manner as your own body, but safely, and with super-human strength, endurance, and precision.

I’m optimistic about The Robots because every time they make a leap forward, they will do it by doing one particular thing a lot better.  That means that all sorts of new projects make sense that didn’t before, but each new project demands the services of a hoard of humans, to tidy up after, install, mend, and generally look after the robots, in their latest manifestation.

But, humans will have to be adaptable.  Abandon jobs that the robots have learned to do, and get new jobs doing things that the robots will need doing for them. Robots now make much of the world’s stuff, but there are still lots of shelves the stuff gets put on that it makes sense to have humans do, and because of the robots, there are more shelves with more stuff than there used to be.

I look at the world and I do see “technological unemployment”, but I also see people busily doing jobs that didn’t previously exist.

Rob Waller is doing a talk at my place, on the last Friday of November about the robots and all that.  He gave a talk about this earlier, which I was unable to attend.  But the title of that talk, together with the hints he’s already given me, all make me expect him to be optimistic also.

Tomorrow evening, which is the last Friday of this month, Rob Fisher will be speaking chez moi about Fatherhood.  I believe that Rob’s young son will have plenty of choices about how to make a living, especially if he is as smart as his Dad is, but even if he isn’t.

Monday October 23 2017

GodDaughter 2 has fixed for me and her to go to a dress rehearsal of Rodelinda, at the ENO, tomorrow evening, for free!

So, what is Rodelinda about?

Rodelinda is a dramatic tale of power, anguish and love. When Grimoaldo takes Bertarido’s throne, Bertarido flees abroad, leaving behind his grieving wife Rodelinda. The usurper tries to force Rodelinda to love him, but when the exiled king returns in disguise, everyone is put to the test.

One of Handel’s finest operas, Rodelinda is filled with intense drama told through ravishingly beautiful music. ...

Good, good.

But then, this:

Award-winning director Richard Jones brings his distinctive theatrical imagination to this production, which sets Handel’s bitter political drama in Fascist Italy.

Well, maybe it’ll be okay.  Not all such productions are ridiculous.  And when it comes to Handel operas, my impression is that they are mostly pretty ridiculous to start with, wherever you set them.  This particular opera is ...:

… based on the history of Perctarit, king of the Lombards in the 7th century.

Those Lombards are:

Not to be confused with the modern inhabitants of the region of Lombardy, Italy.

The Lombards were:

… a Germanic people who ruled most of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774.

Blog and learn.  Or in this case, blog and go to the opera, and learn.

My worry is that although Rodelinda will be sung “in English”, it will be sung in standard operatic fashion, i.e. the words might as well be in Swahili for all the sense they will make.  But, because all this indecypherable gibberish will be “in English”, there will be no big signs, foreign movie style, to tell me what the hell they are singing about, like there are at the Royal Opera House, where they sing operas mostly in such languages as Italian or German, or they do if you’re lucky.

In short, my fear is that I will get what I pay for, although here’s hoping I get more.

GD2 will definitely get more, because she is studying to do this kind of thing for a living.  Insofar as it’s good she’ll learn about how to do it.  If it’s not good she’ll learn about how not to do it.  Win win.

Sunday October 08 2017

Yes.  I ran it by Adriana plus her Plus One (Perry de H), at that feast I reported on yesterday, and it turns out that I’m not the only one who finds the phrase “self storage” …

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… to be rather odd.  (That’s this.)

I know what self storage is.  It’s the name given to the process of ridding your self of some of the crap by which your self is currently surrounded and impeded, without actually chucking it away irrevocably.  In particular, when your self is in between locations, or when your self has moved from a big place to a smaller place, your stuff, or your excess stuff, needs to be stored somewhere.

But self storage, taken literally, sounds like you are parking your self in a warehouse and for the duration, your life will consist only of all the extraneous crap.

You become like a zombie or something.  I can understand people wanting to put their mere selves to one side while earning a living.  That might make a rather profitable business.  But while actually, you know, … trying to live … ?

Odd.

Saturday October 07 2017

From Michael J:

Is there anything better than sitting in a bar in one of the prime selfie taking spots in the universe?

Well, maybe I can think of a few things, but I get the picture.  To be exact, I got this picture:

image

But where might this be?  I scrutinised the “properties” of this photo, in particular some numbers with the words “latitude” and “longitude” next to them.  So far as I could work it out, this was somewhere on the island of … Momix?  No, not Momix.  The island of: Rhodes.  But, that could easily be out by several thousand miles, given Michael J’s travelling habits and my analytical abilities.

Meanwhile, the most exotic place I’ve been to lately was the place where this photo was taken, by my friend Adriana:

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How cool is that?  And I’m not talking about the fact that this is ice cream.  This was my pudding when I feasted with Adriana and her Plus One here.  The ceilings were so far away you could hardly see them.  There were oil paintings beyond counting, often with no labels to identify the personages in them, presumably because People Like Us all know who they are without having to be told.  Or, they are all so posh they don’t care.

I left my stuff, including my camera, at the front desk, photography not being permitted.  Fair enough.  Don’t want any oiks casing the joint.  But her photoing an ice cream wafer, Adriana said, wouldn’t make waves.  Besides which, these days, how can you tell if someone is taking a photo, if all they are doing is waving a smartphone.

Tuesday September 12 2017

Here.  Goodness knows what will happen to that link in future hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millenia.  But as of now it is working very nicely, and Surrey are having a great day.  Foakes has just hit four fours off four balls.

With its own built in commentary from Churchy and his pals, it still isn’t what you get from Sky or from national BBC, but it’s still good.  The main drawback is there’s only two cameras, one at each end.  It they hit a boundary, you just have to take their word for it about where it went and how fast.  But this sort of thing can only get better.  Hope it’s still happening tomorrow.

Scorecard of the game here.  Close of play day one: Surrey 398-3.  Sanga 85, Foakes 64.  Nice.

Ex-Surrey batters Davies and Sibley have also been in the runs, for Somerset and for Warks.  Also nice.

Off out very soon for dinner with friends, so that’s it here for today, and it makes my evening a lot better now that my duties here are done.  Have a good one yourself, unless you are a Yorkshire supporter.