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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

Sunday December 07 2014

Like half of London, it would seem, I’ve been suffering with a cough and a cold and a headache, finding it hard to sleep.  For some reason it all gets worse at night, especially the headache.  Why?

So a couple of incoming emails from Simon Gibbs, concerning some of the pictures I took at that Cost of Living Debate which he organised last October, really cheered me up.

The first email said that one of the pictures I had taken, of one of the speakers, had enabled Simon to flag up, on YouTube, that speaker’s videoed performance, more attractively than might otherwise have been possible.  A photo was attached…:

image

... which Simon described thus:

One of your digital photos on my TV, via the Virgin Media YouTube app.

Then, very soon after that email, another one, longer:

I managed to make some more appear.

The video quality is okay, but the camera was pointing statically at the whole panel. You zoomed in on individual speakers while in action (or at rest), then I was able to crop and add titles and the resulting thumbnail is better than any individual frame of the video.

Here “better” means “better able to encourage someone to click from a list of videos through to the video itself”, meaning they will stand out from the crowd.

And another picture was attached:

image

I am delighted that my photoing obsession has assisted Simon in his much more strenuous activities.  And I got in for free.

Which reminds me that I should long ago have done my own selection of snaps from that evening, and stuck them up here.  I may yet do this, and maybe quite soon.

Saturday December 06 2014

As earlier promised, a selection of the better photos I took at that Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

Click to get them bigger.  If you want to recycle these photos, please feel free, with or without gratitude to me.  Email me (see top left where it says “Contact") if you’d like any of them bigger.

Friday December 05 2014

When I got to that ASI Christmas Party the other night, I was already in a grumpy mood, on account of not being allowed to bring three Opera Babes to the party.  That’s right.  The Adam Smith Institute didn’t have room for three glamorous young women, two of them at the Royal College of Music (Goddaughter 2 and her friend) and one of them (another friend of Goddaughter 2) who was auditioning for the Royal College of Music (having already been accepted last year by the Guildhall).  I had already arranged to bring Goddaughter 2, but the ASI having spurned her two glamorous Opera Babe friends, GD2 not unreasonably preferred to be with them.  I don’t mean that the ASI said: Opera Babes? - No thanks.  I mean that they didn’t even allow me to say that they were Opera Babes, so oversubscribed were they.  Or so she said.  The ASI lady put their names on the subs bench list in case of cancellations, but your guests only get on the pitch if the ASI tells you so beforehand, and I heard nothing.

So instead I went to the ASI Christmas Party with Goddaughter 2’s glamorous elder sister.  When I got there, it was clear that although there were many persons present, there was most definitely room for three more Opera Babes.  But, two many mostly very non-operatic males of the species had already signed up to be there, and they needed room to stand around in all-male groups and shout their opinions at each other.

So there I was at the ASI Christmas Party feeling grumpy, looking around the room and recognising hardly anyone, and feeling bad about having dragged GD2’s sister to this ghastly do and being so grumpy about it, and for about the first half hour of being there, I continued to be grumpy.  Three things, however, cheered me up.

First, I bumped into someone I did know, Anton Howes.  And it turns out that he has a new blog.  How very last decade, I said, but really, I was truly delighted to hear this, and started to feel that the evening was not going to be a total write-off after all.  I had actually learned something of genuine use and interest to me.  Cheer-me-up Thing Number One.

Cheer-me-up Thing Number Two, I got my camera out.  I think I saw some other person taking photos and I thought: time for me to do some soul stealing.  Was this uncouth?  Probably.  Would I look like an old prick?  Presumably.  But I was feeling like an uncouth old prick anyway, so out came the camera anyway.  And immediately I cheered up.  Suddenly, people cheered up when I approached them, and ceased from only talking about what they were talking about and instead started presenting themselves to my camera in a way that would make them look approximately as good as they were capable of looking.  And, if they ignored me, well, that’s fine, because when people ignore you and just carry on enjoying themselves, that, if you are a photographer rather than a human being, is good.

Cheer-me-up Thing Number Three: Eamonn Butler saw me taking photos, and approached.  Oh dear.  “Brian, could you please stop being such an uncouth old prick?  And if you do insist on photoing, could you please make a point of not photoing him, or him, or her.” Paranoid rubbish like that flashed up in my brain in between Eamonn being clearly about to say something and Eamonn actually starting to say it.  And what did he say?  He said: “Could you please send us a few of your best photos?” or words to that effect.  Hah!  I was now an officially designated photographer.  I was someone.  Instead of me fretting about not knowing anyone (and about not being allowed to be The Bloke Who Brought The Opera Babes), everyone else had to feel bad that they didn’t know me.  Hurrah!

And actually, when I bustled my way through the throng some more, snap snap snapping, it turned out that actually I did know quite a few of those present.

Here we have, I think, another impact of digital photography.  Digital photography cheers up people like me when we go to parties.  But, shame I couldn’t photo the Opera Babes.

All of which began life as a mere intro to me showing you lots of the photos I actually took at this do.  But, people who might google their way to - or maybe even be steered with a link towards - such photos won’t be wanting a long ramble attached to them about how I felt before and during the taking of them.  So, I’ll stick them up in a separate posting.  This I promise.

Tuesday December 02 2014

Defence Minister Michael Fallon addresses the throng at the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party, earlier this evening:

image

More to follow.

Monday December 01 2014

Today I went walkabout in the City of London with my friend Gus, father of Goddaughter 1.  This evening I found, for the first time, this short video interview at the Arup (his long time employer) website, done with Gus in 2010.

Here are four vertical favourite-photos I took:

image image image image

On the left, Gus shows me a magazine picture of the Cheesegrater, taken on a much nicer day than the day, cold and windy, that we were having to put up with today.  Next in line is one of those Big Things seen through a gap in the foreground shots, but with a difference.  This time, there are two Big Things involved.  There is a sliver of Walkie-Talkie on the right, and then way beyond it, you can see the Shard.  Then, we see Gus joke-propping-up the miniature Lego Gherkin that is to be seen next to the regular Gherkin.  On the right, Gus looks up at something or other, this being the best snap I did of him.

Now for all my favourite horizontals.

I’m too tired after all that walking about in the cold to say much about these pictures, but see in particular 2.1, which is, I’m pretty sure, some of the bolts, a few of which recently disintegrated.  Now they are having to check all such bolts, and there are a lot.

1.1: Mmmm, cranes.  Grim day, well done my recently acquired camera, good in low light conditions.

1.2: Canon Street tube.  Designed like a bridge, said Gus, ace bridge designer, because under it there are tube lines which it is built on top of, like a bridge.  This is the building I asked about in an earlier posting here.

1.3: I included this because of the sign saying “all inquiries”.  All?  You know what they mean, but there is fun to be had on the phone with this sign.

2.2: A Gherkin detail, is there because I said, when I saw it, that looks rather plastic.  And guess what, it is plastic.

2.4: Shows us the Lego Gherkin in front of the Actual Gherkin

image image image image
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3.2: A more fun picture of Gus, featuring also: me, in the right hand purple circle.

3.3, 3.4, 4.1: All the Walkie-Talkie.

4.4: For scaring pigeons, something you seldom see from above.  I saw this particular cluster of pigeon scarers while descending a staircase at Liverpool Street station.  That last was the very last photo I took.

When I emerged from Pimlico tube, near my home, I was amazed at how dark it had become, at a quarter to four in the afternoon.  Like I say, my new camera really did the business today.

Sorry for all the cock-ups and mispronts in this posting.  I’m knackered and am now going to bed.

Thursday October 02 2014

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:

image

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.

Sunday September 21 2014

Yes, me times 3:

image

Plus Goddaughter 2 and her mum, plus a pot plant, times 2.  Click for the bigger picture.

Taken in an eatery where they have mirrors on every wall, to make a small place feel bigger.  The eatery being the tuk tuk in Old Compton Street.  Cheap.  Cheerful.  Recommended.

Wednesday September 10 2014

This evening I attended a young friend’s fortieth birthday party.  (You know you are old when people aged forty are young.) And I took lots of photos.  Before doing this, I asked our young hostess (the one who is now aged forty) if she would like me to take photos, or would actually prefer me not to.  She said please do take photos, so I did, in abundance. The best of them will be my birthday present to her.

As usual, my first look at them when I got home was a big disappointment.  The lighting was difficult and the background was a lot easier to focus on than dimly lit faces tend to be, so I have huge numbers of snaps of perfectly detailed backgrounds with blurry faces in front of them.  But the best of them will, I reckon, come out okay.  Most are not suitable for blogging, because private, but here is a crowd scene showing what the place looked like:

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As you can see, an ecclesiastical setting.  The Cloister Cafe of St Bartholomew the Great, which is near the Barbican.

That photo is exactly as it came out of my camera.  No beefing up of the dark bits, which means that you can see what a tricky place it was to photo in.  I just took lots of pictures, in the hope that some would turn out okay, and I think that this is what happened.  There were many failures, but a few successes.  Once I get to work with my Photoshop clone, there may be more successes than it now appears.

Maybe I should have used flash, as my camera spent the entire evening urging me to to do.  But, I hate hate hate flash.  It is appallingly antisocial, and the results usually look terrible, as in: “Hey, that was taken with flash, wasn’t it?” and “Doesn’t your software have a tool to removing red-eye?” It probably does, but … uurrgghh!!

Friday August 29 2014

Spent the whole day fretting about not enough people coming to my Last Friday of the Month meeting this evening.  Richard Carey would, I knew, be fine, but would the number of listeners be insultingly small?  Happily, two people showed up who hadn’t emailed that they were coming, and the room was, if not full, at least not embarrassingly empty.

Better yet, I also fixed my speaker for next month, which I had also been fretting about.  Priya Dutta, who attended this evening, will be speaking about Education, libertarianism and similar things.  The Gove reforms, the various attempts to set up cheap new free enterprise schools of various sorts, that kind of thing.  She is a teacher, so this is bound to be good.  I’ll say more as I learn more.

Too tired to expand on what Richard said (about English Republicanism and its influence in the American colonies and later the USA), other than that in the brackets is what it was about and that it was very interesting.  But since this is Friday, here is news of Cats on Kickstarters, and of Catstarter , which I think is a book, or maybe a blog.  Also cat related: Ceiling Netanyahu is watching you tunnel.

Saturday July 12 2014

Yes, here are yet more snaps I snapped on that boat trip.  This time they are not of people posing in groups, but of individuals, if not on their own, then photoed on their own by me.  Other people are strictly background:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

The point of these pictures, for me, is not who the people are, simply that I like the pictures.  But, for the record, the one’s whose names I know are: 1.1 Damien, 1.2 Noreen, 2.3 ASI Co-Supremo Madsen, 3.1 Mr Devil’s Kitchen, 3.3 ASI Junior Supremo Sam. If anyone knows others, please comment accordingly.

Once again there is a propaganda message here.  As well as adding up to a happy and companionable movement, these people include some very interesting separate, individual people, distinct characters.  What I like to think these pictures get across is how clever these people are, as well as good humoured and good fun.

The light in these pictures was not perfectly handled, nor was it in the previous batch of photos from this trip, of people posing in groups.  But photoshop (or whatever you personally use) is a wonderful thing, and great pictures can be extracted from very average ones these days with no great strain, the way only fictional spies used to be able to do.

Besides which, I really like 3.2, of the young woman next to the no smoking sign.  I think all that light and shadow makes her look really good.  Okay, it wouldn’t do as a portrait, and it certainly wouldn’t do as a passport photo, but as a picture in its own right, I like how it came out.  She looks intelligent, I think.  Not that she didn’t to begin with, but you get my point.

In general, I think it creates a far better photographic atmosphere to have lots of light splashing around everywhere, even if that sometimes makes for somewhat unsightly shadows and badly lit faces.  The point is not: these are great photos, artistically speaking (even though some of them are pretty good even from that point of view).  The point is: it was a great boat trip, and everyone had great time.

I also think that bridges, which I like for their own sake, make good backgrounds for head shots.

Wednesday July 09 2014

The key moment for me on that boat trip came near the beginning, when Eamonn Butler, Joint Head Person of the Adam Smith Institute asked me to send in any good photos that I took.

Until that moment, I had not been sure whether photography was really tolerated, let alone encouraged.  But I took that as an invite to snap away all evening.  (It wasn’t that really, but that’s how I chose to interpret it.)

The bread-and-butter shot when photoing occasions like this one is the posed group.  People in groups, who are friends, or who are maybe becoming friends, and who know that they are being photographed, are duly photographed, resulting in pictures like most of these ones:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

Photos 1.1, 2.3 and 4.2 don’t quite fit the posed group template, because here the people in the shot aren’t posing for it, merely being photoed.  But the message is much the same.  Here are some attractive, intelligent, companionable young people, having a good time in each other’s company.  They believe in libertarianism and free markets, and are going to make that count for something in the years and decades to come.  Socially isolated human atoms they are not.

3.1 is also a bit of a departure from the norm, but you want a bit of craziness at such events.  If absolutely everyone is being nice and polite and well behaved, then it ain’t a proper party.  Once again, Mr Arm Tattoo (the previous posting in this series featured that same Arm getting itself a drink) contributes a bit of quirkiness and danger to the event. When I was a kid, only self-declared professional criminals had tattoos like that, or so I was raised to believe.  At best, people who worked at fair grounds.  Those days are now long gone.

Thursday July 03 2014

Incoming from Darren:

I just read your comment about The Spraycan always being lit the same way in your

Big Things in the sunset article and it made me realise I might have one or more photos waiting on my phone that I took last night that would confirm your assertion. I wasn’t (deliberately) photographing The Spraycan, of course.

Unfortunately it turned out that rather a large bit of “clutter” had thwarted me - see attached:

image

So, you’d have been watching Jason Roy upstage Dilshan then.

That looks like a great seat you had there, way up in the stand.  A while back, D, you said something about us both going to the Oval.  Rudely (apologies) I now realise I never replied.  Serves me right.  But next time you are going to that high up spot, and there’s space for me, let me know.

The Spraycan is right in the middle of this picture, at the back there, behind the floodlight. The Spraycan being at Vauxhall and the Oval being right near there also, there it is.  Over to the right but further away, there are such things as the Strata and the Shard to be seen, or so I seem to recollect from when I was last at the Oval.

I’d enjoy the cricket too.

Surrey are doing really well just now.  In addition to Roy’s T20 heroics, they are now third in Division 2 of the County Championship and have an outside chance of getting promoted right back into Division 1.  All this after a truly frightful start to the season.  Their last four first class games have been won 2 drawn 2, which may not sound that amazing, but Surrey have topped 400 in their first innings every time, and in one of those innings even got past 600.  The last time they did that must have been in the halcyon days of Ramps.  Now, instead of just the one guy making half the runs, they’re all at it.  Burns, Ansari, Davies, Solanki, Roy (off 55 balls) and new captain Wilson have all got first class centuries in the last few weeks, and Tremlett nearly got one also.

Gloucester saved that game where Surrey got 600, losing only one wicket throughout the last day.  But the point is, Surrey are making big first innings runs again, for the first time since Ramps went off the boil.  Even if you don’t win after that, you don’t lose either, and the bonus points pile up.  For batting obviously, but for bowling as well, because nothing puts pressure on opposition batters like a ton of runs against them.  Gloucester may have escaped heroically, but Surrey still got quite a few more points than them in that game.

Saturday May 31 2014

Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, and that means a do at my place.  This time I remembered to take photos:

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I’m not expecting many marks for artistic impression with that one, but it gets across what these things are like quite well.  It’s not a big place, so there’s only room for a few more than a dozen, a dozen in comfort, and that is always the number of people that seems to show up.  (There were a few more present last night than you can see in that picture.)

What the turnout lacks in quantity it really seems to make up, time and again, in quality, and that was especially so last night.  And because numbers are small, that means that people can really dig into the subject.  They can really think aloud, so to speak, rather than just soak up what the speaker says and then maybe ask the one snappy question. Which means that people who came to learn about the subject, really do, more than they would have done from just the one speaker.  Afterwards, there isplenty of time for further talk and networking, what with the place being mine, rather than some hired venue that has to be vacated in a rush.

Although I promise nothing, I will try to say more about the actual topic (Internet Governance - more about that in this posting) in future blog postings.  Today was busy for me, and tomorrow will also be crowded, although the main reason for that is I’m meeting my mates in a pub to watch the IPL Final.

What’s that you say?  What does IPL stand for?  IPL means Indian Premier League, 20-20 cricket, tomorrow’s final being between the Rajasthan Royals and the Kolkata Knight Riders.  Last night was also full of acronyms.  More about them (see above) later.  Maybe.

Talking of acronyms, who knew that Detlev Schlichter had opinions about the England and Wales Cricket Board?

Tuesday May 06 2014

Indeed.  The picture on the left is the only one I managed at Richard Carey’s talk about the Levellers last Thursday at the Rose and Crown.  I forgot my proper camera, and so took a few shots with my mobile, of which only one was the slightest use.  And then when I got home, I could not persuade my mobile to transfer its picture to my regular computer.

The problem is, I use this process too infrequently.  The simple truth about computer processes, always and everywhere, is that a computer process you use regularly is easy, while a computer process you use only very occasionally is extremely difficult.  Ignore all prattle about “computer friendliness”.  Either you know it, in which case all is simplicity.  Or you don’t in which case your chances of success plummet towards impossibility.  Repeat business is all.  And I use my mobile phone so rarely to take photos that I do not regularly transfer photos from it to my regular computer, and that causes this process to be impossible.  I looked at various videos claiming to answer this question.  All were useless.  My phone did not do any of the things they said it would do when I pressed the buttons they told me to press.  Why not?  Who can say?

So instead, I simply photographed my mobile phone with the picture on it (getting it simply to display the picture was itself very difficult), and that is the picture you see below, on the left.  On the right is a picture of a mug, which I found while searching for a better version of the picture of John Lilburne than what you see in my picture of Richard Carey’s T-shirt:

image  image

Richard’s talk was outstanding, and I am told that the video of it will be available very soon.

By the way, I tried to put a thin black line all around the mug picture, but I very seldom do this and couldn’t make that work either.

Friday March 28 2014

I will, I am now sure (although I actually promise nothing), be writing more in connection with the talk that Christian Michel has just given at my home, but as of right now, I am too tired to do it anything like justice.  All I will say about it now is that it was superb. (Read his sales pitch for the talk in this earlier posting here.)

But two bits of trivia about the evening occur to me to mention, both so trivial that I don’t have to have all my wits about me to mention them.

First, I made a particular resolution not just to provide satisfactory snacks to my guests but to actually open the packets of the snacks and putting the snacks in plates.  In the past, I have found myself burdened, once my guests have departed, with unopened packets of party food.  My surmise is that this is not because nobody wanted to eat any of these snacks.  No, the problem is that people don’t like to open food packets, because that feels, and worse, may appear greedy.  It’s like they want to eat all of them.  Or maybe, that they are reluctant to open a new packet when they only want one of them.  But, faced with a plate of biscuits or a big bowl of crisps, they will not hesitate to partake, if so inclined.  It’s a little thing, but this worked well, I think.

And second, as usual, the exactly right number of people showed up.  How do they know to do this?  Last time around I was afraid that there would be too many.  This time, for various reasons involving several semi-regulars happening to have other things on such as wedding anniversaries, I feared there might be too few.  In the event, the number of attenders, both last time and this time was pretty much identical and just right.  It always is.  A Samizdata commenter, commenting on something I wrote there about this odd phenomenon, said that there is an explanation of it in this book, which I’m pretty sure I already possess.  I must track it down.  With luck, this posting will remind me to do this instead of forgetting about it.