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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

Tuesday March 19 2019

A friend has put this photo that he photoed on Facebook:

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If he objects to me using it, I’ll take it down, but I doubt he will.

It illustrates two things.

(1) The arrival of a new kind of skyscraper, the Very Thin Big Thing.

(2) How much less of a nuisance trees are, photographically speaking, when not smothered in stupid leaves.  As it is, that photo is a fine addition to the Winter Tree With Big Thing Behind It photo-genre, which is a photo-genre I like a lot.  With leaves, it would be significantly duller.

Here is a Guardian piece which explains why these Big Thin Things are now happening in New York.  I now intend, although I promise nothing, to do a Samizdata piece in which I expand upon this circumstance.  Clue: the provisional title of this piece is “Law and liberty in New York”.  The point being that clear law says exactly what you may not do, but by so doing, it also says exactly - exactly - what you may do.  Unlike in Britain with its insane “planning permission” system, where you just have to hope that some random assemblage of local tyrants doesn’t take against the plan you’ve been working on for months, and where there’s now no way beforehand of guessing what these tyrants will decide.  In New York, if you follow the rules, you know you are allowed to build it.  Result: well, New York.

Tuesday March 05 2019

Today a friend needed some rather dramatic medical attention, and I dropped by to provide what I hope was a little moral support.  Outside the place where this was happening, I encountered this cute little vehicle:

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Two interesting things about this little gizmo.  First, there is the way that its door opens.  The door on its right is open, in the above photos.  Useful in a tight space, I should guess.

And second is what it does, there being a website on it which enables you to learn about this.  It takes tissue or samples from sick people to a lab, where the lab decides its opinion about the nature of that sickness.

I like these little cars, which are so small they are almost motor bikes.  I certainly prefer them to those huge Chelsea Tractors, which look like they’re for doing bank robbery getaways or off-roading or maybe both at once.  Which, let’s face it, most Londoners do neither of, ever.

Friday March 01 2019

The summer of February 2019 has now ended, but I still have some photo-memories of it to stick up here.

These photos, for instance, of a man whom GodDaughter2 and I encountered in Hyde Park, back on February 15th.  As I have already related, there was a lot of feeding of birds going on that day, but before all that bird frenzy, we had already encountered a guy who had taken the feeding of birds (and squirrels) to a whole new level.  He wasn’t so much feeding these creatures as laying on a free canteen for them.  And they obviously knew this, and greeted him like a long lost friend.

I photoed him and his friends (who included two green parrots), a lot:

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You can see evolution taking a distinct turn towards something different, can’t you?  The most trusting and friendly and fearless creatures are the ones who get best fed.

Wednesday February 27 2019

Patrick Crozier and I have just fixed our next podcast, which we will record early next week.  Read about and listen to earlier ones here, and in due course this next one will go there too.  And for this next one, we will talk about … Brexit.  I knew you’d be excited.

Many claim that they are bored by Brexit, and maybe many are.  Although I suspect some are really just pissed off with not getting exactly what they want.  (And who is getting exactly what they want?) Either that, or actually only bored with other people’s opinions, but not with their own.  Me, I find the whole process rather fascinating, now that I have got over having been so wrong about it.  I thought that Brexit would lose the Referendum, but it won.  And I thought that once it had won, it would happen without too much fuss, because the Conservative Party leavers would mostly bow to the inevitable.  As of now, that hasn’t happened, and doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

Brexit is a subject that Patrick has strong opinions about, which is good because although this will not stop me interrupting (I’m afraid I always interrupt), it may at least mean that some of the times when I do interrupt, he’ll interrupt back and shut me up until he’s finished the point he was making before I interrupted.

Here is a Brexit photo I recently photoed, of a bus driving around and around Parliament Square, saying Believe in Britain and LEAVE MEANS LEAVE, but with nobody in the bus apart from the driver:

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They all left, I guess.

Monday February 04 2019

Last night I dined at Chateau Samizdata, which is in the Fulham Road.  I always get there early, but like to be exactly on time in order not to disrupt the preparations.  So, I typically walk about a bit, looking for photo-ops.

Last night I walked east along the Fulham Road towards the centre of London, and came upon Michelin House, which I knew was somewhere around there, but had never clocked before as being so very near to Chateau Samizdata.  This building occurs at the point where the Fulham Road is turning into Brompton Road.

It has a wonderfully eccentric stained glass window, at the front, at the top ...:

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… which had been thoughtfully lit from behind.

I image-googled this building, and I could not find this particular view of it.  There are one or two views to be seen of this window from inside the building, but none that home in on the window, in the dark, from the outside, with that all-important internal lighting.

I think that this window deserves to be viewable in as many ways as possible, from inside, and from outside.  As does the whole building.

I considered cropping my photo, but the photo exactly as taken supplies just that little bit of architectural context, so I left it as was.

Sunday January 27 2019

There was a meeting in my home last Friday, at which Simon Gibbs spoke, most eloquently and engagingly, about “What Libertarian Home Has Done Right”.  (I made him choose this title.  He is far too modest to have chosen it himself.)

Also on Friday, at this blog, I had already featured a cat photo, taken by my friend Dominique Lazanski.

What I had not expected was that Dominique Lazanski would get a mention in Simon’s talk, but she did.  Very favourably, as a Libertarian Home speaker who did much to soften the atmosphere of a series of meetings that might otherwise have remained rather beery and blokey and not sufficiently female friendly or, to use a word Simon likes a lot and which he himself epitomises, not “kind”.  Libertarianism is, after all, all about making the world better, which definitely includes kinder.

I had been intending to put up more than one Dominique photo on Friday, but meeting preparations meant that only the cat made it, that day.  Here are all the other photos I had already liked and set aside for here, along with a photo of a cup of coffee, which I added to the collection to get the number back to a convenient one:

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Click and enjoy.  Most of these little squares are mere excerpts from the originals, so you will have to click to enjoy.  But even if that doesn’t appeal, the basic point here is that Dominique Lazanski is, like many others these days, someone who combines taking very good photos with having a very full life doing other things besides taking photos.

This is the big photography story these days.  This big story is not how good the very best photographers, the Real Photographers as I refer to them here, are at taking photos and how very, very good their very best photos are.  No.  The big photography story these days is how good people like Dominique Lazanski are at taking photos.

To find out more of who Dominique Lazanski is, go to her website, or to here Twitter feed.  To explore all her Instagrammed photos, go here, that being where I encountered all of the above photos myself.

I chose my favourites, partly by particularly noticing the last two and the most recent of the above photos when they showed up on Facebook.  In addition to being a Dominique Lazanski friend I am a Dominique Lazanski “friend” on Facebook.  And the rest I found by simply clicking through all of her Instagrammed photos very fast, and noticing which ones I found myself pausing at.

Those drinks are included because I drank one of them myself, on Christmas Eve.

It could be that I am mishandling the Social Media, again, and spilling beans that are not mine to spill.  If Dominique finds out about this posting and informs me that she regrets it and would prefer to be living in a world which did not contain it, then this posting will be expunged forthwith.

Friday January 25 2019

Yes, a rather excellent James Bond villain cat, photoed in London’s Columbia Road, in the Bethnal Green part of town:

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Found in the Instagram feed (click on that for her most recently instagrammed photo) of this lady friend.

Columbia road is, as other photos in this set make clear, noted for its flower market.

Tuesday January 01 2019

Happy New Year to all my readers.  Every time I go out to a party, I encounter people who read this thing, despite all its technical stupidities and despite the fact that the subject matter is just me musing aloud.  So good morning to you all and I hope that not only I, but also you, have a good 2019.  (Yes, I’m managing to keep up, approximately speaking, there also, where my musings are more structured and disciplined.)

This being Jan 1st, I offer you a sunrise:

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Usually when the sky is that colour in my photos, it’s a sunset.  But it all came back to me when I chanced upon these photos, of an expedition to Alicante.  Basically, I visit all the bits of France and Spain that my ex-Quimper friends have or have had bits of property in.  And they had a place in Alicante, or they rented it, or something.  Maybe they still have it.  So, I went to Alicante, in January 2010.  And, the above photo was taken by me at a bus stop in Vauxhall Bridge Road, looking back across Vauxhall Bridge, while waiting for a bus to take me and all my holiday clobber in the opposite direction along Vauxhall Bridge Road to Victoria Station, where I eventually caught a bus to the airport.  With much confusion, as I recall it, about exactly where the damn bus departed from.  Had I not happened upon another traveller who knew, I might have missed that airplane.

All of which clarifies a fact that has for me become more and more clear over the years, that although blogs are not diaries, photo-archives are.  I have photoed many photos which I would not even consider sticking up here.  But they have all piled up on my hard disc.  I live, you might say, a double life.  There’s my, you know, life.  And then there’s my photoed life, which I can relive any time I want, and see all my friends and relatives and remember all the private things we said and did, the way you people very rarely get even to hear about, never mind learn the private details of.

This blog, meanwhile, is a severely edited subsection of my diary, with some added words, added in a way that I hope doesn’t make me appear too ridiculous.  Very different.

To add some words to the above photo, I realise that in addition to loving roof clutter, I am also becoming ever more fond of street clutter, which, due to the anarchic and non-mutually-communicating nature of London’s public sector, London possesses an abundance of.  Much of it is, like most modern roof clutter, severely utilitarian, which I like, because nobody is trying to make it look pretty.  But much ground clutter is very beautiful, especially London’s more showy street lamps.

Love the new keyboard.  So solid and strong.  Happiness is being able to check all the letters and symbols on your keyboard, as you type.

Monday December 31 2018

At the end of April and the beginning of May of 2018, I visited the city of Quimper, almost certainly for the last time.  The friends I have stayed there with several times are now living in the south of France, and their Quimper home is now someone else’s.  So, farewell Quimper.

On May 4th, on my last full day in Quimper, my hostess drove me to see the superb lighthouse at Penmarc’h, which is on the south west tip of Brittany.  And no, I don’t know how “Penmarc’h” is pronounced, and nor do I know what is really the correct name for this mighty edifice.  It seems to have many names.  But, it is a lighthouse, and it is in the town of Penmarc’h, so Penmarc’h Lightbouse it is.

Although she needed to get back in quite a hurry to prepare supper, she let me take the time to climb up the Lighthouse and savour the views of the town of Penmarc’h and of the Brittany coast.  Which were spectacular, as was the weather that day:

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The lighthouse I went up is the furthest from the sea of three structures, which would appear to have been doing, in succession, a similar job.  As time went by, they got smaller, nearer to the sea, and more dependent upon electronic technology.  Photo 3.1 shows the two smaller ones, as seen from the big one.

That same morning, I also checked out a huge and totally marvellous second hand shop in Quimper, and an equally huge and totally marvellous cheese factory, which was really more like a cheese refinery.

So, a really good day.  One of my favourites of 2018.  Except that the day after that day, in Paris, was probably even better.

Friday December 28 2018

Samizdata Supremo Perry de Havilland likes hippos.  A rather disconcerting thing that happens to you from time to time if you are a Samizdata contributor is that if you do a posting, but forget to add categories to it, the default category that gets added automatically is: Hippos.

So, anyway, yes, Perry likes hippos, so a friend of his gave him a hippo for Christmas.  It was presented to him at Chateau Samizdata on Christmas Eve, where I was also present.

I photoed it:

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Trouble is, the hippo is all black, and my camera didn’t do very well.  (The above result reminded me of this Samizdata posting that I did last year, about a very black sort of black.)

I tried lots of photo-editing, but I’m not sure that this was really much of an improvement:

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But yes, this really is also a bottle opener.  (I’m pretty sure it’s this one.) The friend who got it told me beforehand that it was a bottle opener also.  Would Perry really want it, if the bottle opener turned out not to work very well.  I said: if it’s a hippo, Perry will want it.

Wednesday December 12 2018

I continue to be skeptical about 3D-printing ever “going domestic”.  Just because the world can have a 3D-printer in every home, this does not mean that it makes the slightest bit of sense for the world actually to do this.  No, all the significant advances in 3D printing are now being made by old-school manufacturers, who now have another tool in their toolbox to make whatever stuff they already know how to design, make and sell.  3D-printing is additive in the literal sense, that being how it works.  It is also additive from the business point of view.  It is a technique that has been added to conventional manufacturing.  3D-printing is not “disruptive”.  It is the opposite of that.

Nevertheless, and despite all that, a friend of mine has recently purchased a domestic type 3D-printer, for him to play around with.  And despite everything I have learned about how the 3D-printing market is and is not developing just now, and despite the fact that I wouldn’t dream of acquiring such a contraption myself, I can’t stop myself being interested in what my friend does with his new toy.  3D-printing is just so miraculous, so Dr Whoozy, so Star Trecky, so downright amazing, as and when it starts to work as well as it clearly will work, once the Geekocracy have truly got it working properly.

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The above is a very early “product”, as advertised by my friend on Facebook, those being his fingernails.  Just conceivably, what my friend will do is develop a repertoire, so to speak, of such “products”.

I put “products” in inverted commas because we’re not talking big business here.  More like small acts of friendship.  Him being that most potent combination, a Geek who nevertheless knows how to make and keep non-Geek friends, he might soon be 3D-printing useful bespoke items for the rest of us.  So we don’t have to.

Trouble is, it’s hard to think what these things might be.  But I am sure that over the decades to come, ideas will materialise.

What I am foreseeing is a world in which 3D-printers appear not in all homes, but in just enough homes for all those who want any of these “products” to be able to ask their designated Geek friend to get to work.  And I suppose some actual business might even emerge from this, in the form of designs for popular items.

Jewellery and kid’s toys are two obvious things, although you need to watch out the kid’s toys are not the sort they might be tempted to swallow.

What made me think that the above speculations might not be absurd was not only my friend’s Facebook posting, but also this piece, about a retired engineer who makes trinkets for his little network of friends.

Ninety-four-year-old John Downes is not your average pensioner.

A retired engineer, Mr Downes’s room at his Cambridgeshire care home contains not one, but three state-of-the-art 3D printers – technology he uses for the benefit of his fellow residents.

Having lived in Toft for almost 50 years, Mr Downes decided to remain in the village when he moved to the nearby Home Meadow care home in May last year.

Note that.  He remains where has always lived, and keeps all his local friends.  I bet he makes the occasional stuff for people beyond his care home.

There, he was keen to continue his tech-based hobbies, so staff arranged for his 3D printers to be set up in his room.

A retired engineer, Mr Downes’s room at his Cambridgeshire care home contains not one, but three state-of-the-art 3D printers – technology he uses for the benefit of his fellow residents.

But like I say, the problem here is not the technology.  It is worthwhile ideas about what to do with it, other than sensible things like making bits for airplanes or spare parts for cars, nearer than China, which won’t be done in anyone’s home.

As soon as I think of something that I want my friend to make for me I will let him know, and probably all of you too.

Here’s a thought.  A mutual friend of 3D-printer man and me is building a railway layout for his kids.  (And, you suspect, also for himself.) Maybe 3D-printing can add something to that project.

Thursday November 22 2018

Following yesterday’s very generic, touristy photos of the Albert Memorial (although some of them did involve a breast implant), here is a much more temporary photo, of the sort most tourists wouldn’t bother with:

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You obviously see what I did there, lining up what looks like a big, all-seeing eye with a clutch of security cameras, cameras made all the scarier by having anti-pigeon spikes on them.

And what, I wondered when I encountered this in my archive, and you are wondering now, is the provenance of that big eye?

Turns out, it was this:

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So, not actually a photo about and advert for the Total Surveillance Society.  It merely looked like that.

However, just two minutes later, from the same spot of the same electronic billboard, I took this photo:

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So as you can see, the Total Surveillance Society was definitely on my mind.  Terrorism, the blanket excuse for everyone to be spying on everyone else.  The two minute gap tells me that I saw this message, realised it was relevant, but it then vanished and I had to wait for it to come around again.  Well done me.

According to the title of the directory, and some of the other photos, I was with a very close friend.  A very close and very patient friend, it would seem.  Hanging about waiting for a photo to recur is the sort of reason I usually photo-walk alone.

I took these photos in Charing Cross railway station on April Fool’s Day 2009.  I would have posted them at the time, but in their original full-sized form, they unleashed a hurricane of messy interference patterns.  But just now, when I reduced one of them to the sort of sizes I use for here, those interference patterns went away.  I thought that these patterns had been on the screen I was photoing.  But they were merely on my screen, when I looked at my photos.  And then, when I resized all the photos, it all, like I said, went away.  Better late than never.

Monday November 19 2018

During our recent chat about transport (already mentioned her), Patrick and I talked about robot cars.  I expressed particular skepticism about their supposedly forthcoming arrival en masse on the roads of our cities.  We mentioned, in contrast to the idea of robot cars immediately conquering our cities, the fact that robot vehicles are already in successful operation in certain niche situations.  We were able to think of two such.  They already use giant robot lorries in the mining industry.  And, Amazon already has robots wizzing about in its warehouses.  Both environments have in common that they are wholly owned by the operator of the robots, so if the humans in the place need to learn the habits of these robots and to give them whatever assistance and whatever slack the robots need, then such humans can simply be commanded to do this.  Unlike in big cities.

More recently, I met up again (as in: more recently than that meeting), with Bruce the Real Photographer, and mentioned that Patrick and I had been doing recorded chats, mentioning in particular our robotic ruminations.  And Bruce then told me about another niche use that robot vehicles have apparently been occupying for quite some time time now.  It seems that in Spain, a country that Bruce knows very well, the tyre company Michelin has a big testing track, and on this track, robot vehicles drive around and around, testing Michelin tyres.

You can see how this would make sense.  The robots can travel at exactly the desired speed, along a precisely preordained route, and thereby, say, subject two only slightly different sets of tyres to the exact same “driving experience”, if you get my drift.  Getting humans to perform such perfect comparisons would be very difficult, but this is exactly the kind of task, and in general the kind of operation, where robot vehicles would be ideal.  And, reports Bruce The Real Photographer, they are ideal.

Me having just written all that, I wonder if Google has anything to say about this Michelin testing operation.  Not a lot, it would seem.  They are far keener to sell their tyres than to tell us the details of how they test them, which makes sense.  But, this bit of video seems like it could be relevant.  And this …:

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... would appear to be the particular place that Bruce mentioned, because he recently tried - I don’t recall him saying why – but failed to get in there and see it.  To take Real Photographs perhaps?

And here is another bit of video about how Bridgestone is using robot vehicles to check out tyre noise.

So, testing vehicle components.  An ideal job for robot vehicles.  Robots are very precise.  They don’t get tired.  And you can use a special track where all the humans involved are on their best behaviour.

Sunday November 18 2018

Yesterday, my friend Nico invited me to an orchestral concert that he was playing in.  He was playing the drums.  But this was not some ghastly rock and roll ordeal, it was an orchestral concert, in Blackheath. 

Blackheath has a place called Blackheath Halls, and last night, the Blackheath Halls Orchestra performed, in the particular Blackheath Hall called the Great Hall, works by Debussy (the Nocturnes) and Sibelius (the 7th Symphony).  I’d offer a link to the announcement of this eventy, but now that it’s happened, the announcement of it has disappeared, like it never happened.

This Great Hall actually is pretty great.  Just recently, it has had its seating redone, with a flat floor being replaced by a slab of raked seating.  I photoed these after the concert had finished, and they looked like this:

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What that meant was that we in the audience had a great view of the everything.

Here is a photo I took of how things looked as the orchestral players were making their way onto the stage at the beginning:

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Here is a photo I took of conductor Christopher Stark, just before he embarked on the Sibelius symphony.

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And here is a photo taken at the end, when the applause was loud and long, which includes my friend Nico and his drums.  Was Nico the best?  Maybe.  I really couldn’t say.  But he was, at any rate in the Sibelius, the highest up.

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So, what to say about the music, and the performances?  Well, the Blackheath Halls orchestra is an amateur orchestra, and if the sounds they made are anything to go by, the hardest task facing an amateur orchestra is when its violin section must play very high notes, very quietly.  That is when ensemble is tested to destruction.  I blame nobody for this.  On the contrary, this was exactly the sort of thing I was eager to learn about, not having witnessed an amateur orchestra in action for about half a century. 

Today, I played a CD I possess of these Debussy Nocturnes, with Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra, on Deutsche Grammophon.  And guess what: it is a more polished performance than the Blackheath Halls Orchestra managed last night.  But having heard, and watched, amateurs play these piece, I now know them a lot better.

In the second Nocturne, there is a big march, and Nico was in his element.  He did an excellent job, then and throughout, with his usual dignity and exactitude and his usual total absence of fuss.  I never caught the conductor looking at him, which, I believe, was because the conductor wasn’t worried about Nico.  He had other worries to attend to.

That these Blackheath violinists had nothing to reproach themselves for became clear during part two of the concert.  There was a particularly striking passage in the Sibelius, when, instead of having to play high and soft, they played very low and very loud.  They sounded terrific.

So did the rest of the Sibelius, to me, but only after I did something rather surprising.

Christopher Stark, as conductors tend to do nowadays on occasions like this one, said a few words about each piece of music before he conducted it.  And what he had to say about the Sibelius included how this symphony, instead of being chopped up into separate movements, quick and slow, with silent gaps in between, is instead all in one movement, but that during this one movement, the music “morphs” (his word) from one rhythm to another, fast to slower, slow to faster.  At certain points of the piece there are both a fast little rhythm and a bigger and slower rhythm, both happening at the same time, in time with each other.

Stark’s conducting was as good as his words.  However, when I watched him conduct, I was only able to hear the fast little rhythm.  I missed those longer and slower rhythms.  This was probably because not only Stark’s arms and fingers but his entire body were all concentrated on communicating exactly how that fast little rhythm should be played.

So, I closed my eyes.

And, immediately, I heard both rhythms, just as he had described them.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the musical results he was getting.  It was just that the visual methods he was using were preventing me from hearing those results properly.

I kept my eyes closed for the rest of the performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  As did the rest of the audience, judging by the enthusiastic applause at the end.

What the hell, you may be asking, was the point of going to a concert, at which I could see, very well, all the musicians in action, if I then shut my eyes?  The point is: I was able to experience the extremity of this contrast.  Had I only been listening, as with a CD or a radio performance, that contrast would not have registered.  As it was, the moment when I shut my eyes was, for me, extraordinary.

Usually, I experience this effect at chamber music concerts, where the “body language” of the musicians constantly illuminates the nature of the music, and causes me, literally, to hear it better.

But, because (I surmise) the conductor last night was more bothered about getting his musicians to play the music as well as he could make them, than he was about explaining the music to us, the audience, with his visual gestures, I actually heard the music differently, and less well, when I watched him conducting.  Again, I am blaming nobody.  On the contrary, it was a most interesting thing to see and hear.

It helped a lot that Stark was able to explain something of the music, and in particularly this rhythmic aspect of it, with … words.  Things conductors don’t usually bother with, on the night, for the benefit of the audience.

Another aspect of the evening that was fun was how the audience and the musicians mingled.  I mean, how often, at an orchestral concert, does the man on the drums come and talk with you during the interval, and thank you for coming?  That would never happen with the London Symphony Orchestra.  During our conversation, I thanked Nico for telling me about this event and telling me also, beforehand, that the hall was architecturally interesting, in itself and because it had recently been remodelled.  That helped to persuade me to come, and I am very glad that I did.

Tuesday November 13 2018

With blogging, excellence is the enemy of adequacy, and often what you think will be excellence turns out not to be.

Eight days ago now, Patrick Crozier and I had one of our occasional recorded chats, about transport this time.  Train privatisation, high speed trains and maglevs, robot cars, that kind of thing.  I think it was one of our better ones.  We both had things we wanted to say that were worth saying, and both said them well, I think.  Patrick then did the editing and posting on the www of this chat in double quick time, and I could have given it a plug here a week ago.  If I have more to say about transport, I can easily do other postings.  But, I had some stupid idea about including a picture, and some other stuff, which would all take far too long, and the simple thing of supplying the link to this chat here was postponed, and kept on being postponed.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t matter.  So, I postpone telling you what I think about something.  Boo hoo.  But this time I really should have done better.

There.  All that took about one minute to write.  I could have done this far sooner.  Apologies.