Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Business

Monday February 18 2019

Being logical about it, there are five Six Nations weekends each year, during which each of the Six Nations plays all the other Five Nations, and there are forty seven Six Nationsless weekends.  But Six Nationalists like me know which weekends I am talking about.  I’m talking about the one between week 2 and week 3 and the one between week 3 and week 4.  The Six Nations is happening.  But, it’s not.  The Six Nations is under way.  But it’s stuck.  I have just endured the first of these two weird ordeals.

But in between these two black holes of non-Six Nationsness, the key game of this year’s entire Six Nations, Wales v England will be happening, in Cardiff.  Both England and Wales have won their first two games, and only they can each still win a Grand Slam.  England, with their three South Sea Island hulks playing, have been unbeatable, so far. And they have many times started out unbeatably against Wales.  But then the Welsh play catch-up rugby, which is a game that they, unlike any other Six Nation these days, can actually play, and they often then win, despite England’s scrum being on top for the whole game.  So I am taking nothing for granted.  Especially when you consider that England will have only one Vunipola playing, the other one having hurt himself against France, as earlier noted here.  But England will have a Tuilagi playing, in addition to the surviving Vunipola, so I just about fancy them to win.

Meanwhile, how did I survive the recently concluded weekend?  Well, there were two good cricket matches to be following.  There was an amazing test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka, which SL won by one wicket, following an unbeaten last wicket stand of 78, and what was clearly a wonderful 153 not out by their wicketkeeper Kusal Perera.

Here’s a picture of Perera celebrating that amazing win:

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But, note those empty seats.  I wonder how many people actually paid to be present at this game.  Rather few, if that’s anything to go by.  People are now saying, as they have been for many years, that Test Cricket is dying.  But it keeps being interesting, in a way that the other crickets now played can’t ever really match, any more than a number one pop song can quite match a Bruckner Symphony.  That’s if you like Bruckner symphonies.

The other good cricket game was one of those other crickets games, the final (finally) of the Big Bash League, contested between the Melbourne Poisonous Spiders and the Melbourne Big Hairy Bastards.  Or some such belligerently metaphorical contestants.  It was definitely Melbourne v Melbourne.  Melbourne won, but not before Melbourne had looked certain to win but then suddenly collapsed, allowing Melbourne to snatch the trophy.

The two semi-finals having happened on Thursday and Friday mornings, I was up promptly on Sunday morning to follow this game.  But it happened in the Australian afternoon instead of in the evening, and it was all done when I clicked in.  Oh well.  It was fun to read about.

Wednesday February 13 2019

Last night: Manchester United 0 Paris St-Germain 2.

This evening: Tottenham Hotspur 3 Borussia Dortmund 0.

From a BBC report on tonight’s game: How could anyone underestimate the resolve of this Spurs side after the manner in which they have kept pace with Premier League pace-setters Manchester City and Liverpool without any squad strengthening and recent injuries to key figures Kane and Alli?

But: Oh dear.  Because this makes it that bit more likely that Man U will sack Solskjaer and buy in The Poch.  Which it would seem they can do and Spurs are powerless to prevent, unless The Poch decides for Spurs.  As he well might.

I really, really hope Man U contrive some kind of miracle revival in their away leg in Paris.  As to what Spurs manage in their away leg, well, I just hope they get through, and that nobody else important gets injured.

And that the way Spurs are now playing says to Poch: You can’t walk away from this.

PLUS (later): This

Friday February 01 2019

This is definitely my favourite Other creatures story of recent months. Months because this was reported on before Christmas, and I’ve only just got around to mentioning it here.

Parrot used Amazon Alexa to order items while his owner was away:

So far Rocco the African Grey, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, U.K., has demanded treats such as strawberries, watermelon, raisins, broccoli and ice cream.

He has also ordered a kite, light bulbs and even a kettle.

Rocco likes to dance too and tells the voice-activated device to play favorite tunes. Sometimes they are slow numbers, but he generally prefers rock.

Where is voice recognition when you need it?

Alexa needs a setting, for junior members of a household, for whom she is allowed to play musical requests, but from whom she is not allowed to take purchase orders.

You’d think that with lots of kids in the world, many causing havoc, Alexa would be able to make the necessary distinctions.  But it sure is entertaining when she doesn’t.

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.

Saturday January 19 2019

I wonder what this extraordinary place …:

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… will turn into.

Approximately halfway between Turkey’s largest city Istanbul and its capital Ankara, the Burj Al Babas development will contain 732 identical mini chateaux when, or if, it completes.

Begun in 2014, the hundreds of houses have been left in various states of completion since the dramatic collapse of the Turkish economy led to developer Sarot Group to file for bankruptcy in November.

Too bad people can’t buy them one by one, and put them in lots of other places around the world.  Sadly, houses don’t work like that.

Having them all next to each other surely defeats one of the major purposes of a new house like this, which is to outdo your neighbours.

It looks miniature, doesn’t it?  The houses look like things you have to careful not to tread on.

Monday January 14 2019

Last night, Spurs lost 0-1, at “home” (i.e. Wembley), to Man U.  I had been half hoping that Spurs might lose, because this would make it less likely that Man U would want to replace their current manager, Solskjaer, with the man whom he outmanaged last night, Spurs manager Pochettino.  Spurs really need Pochettino to stay, and they want Man U to back off trying to lure him away with their infinite money.  It is all explained in this piece.  I said that!  But alas, I didn’t say it soon enough.

This being why the Spurs strikers were so careful to aim all their shots at goal straight at the Man U goalie, David de Gea.  They want The Poch to stay with them too.

Just kidding.  de Gea did really well.  And concerning that, I liked this tweet at the end of the game last night from Watford goalie Ben Foster:

I see a lot of people saying all De Gea saves were straight at him, please factor in that the guy has some mad sense to know where to be at just the right time, you can’t teach that. Proper goally

But not very proper punctuation.  What has Ben Foster got against full stops?  Maybe he used up all his stops, performing a similar miracle to de Gea, for Watford against Crystal Palace.

I recall hoping on a previous occasion that my football team would lose.  England were playing Germany at home.  It was again a management issue.  It was worth England losing to Germany if that resulted in Kevin Keegan ceasing to be England manager.  Keegan is a great guy, but was wrong to manage England.  England did lose.  Keegan did step down.  Soon after this, England beat Germany in Germany, 1-5.  But sadly not in the World Cup or the Euros or whatever it was, which England and Germany both qualified for.  Germany presumably won that.

My thanks to Patrick Crozier, with whom I dined earlier this evening, for lots of details about the above, which I had either forgotten or never knew in the first place, like Foster being the Watford goalie and England playing Germany in the last game at old Wembley and then winning 1-5 in Germany.

Wednesday January 09 2019

I continue to photo taxi adverts, whenever I get the chance.  Last Sunday, I photoed this one:

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There wasn’t space for to get the whole taxi, and there wasn’t time for me to go the other side of the road and get the whole taxi, because I was in a hurry to be somewhere else.  But I hope you agree that that photo suffices.

This being the century of the internet, I have since found this, and this, and this.

I bet Jimbo Phillips never thought he’d be selling mortgages.

Tuesday January 08 2019

Recently, I bought a book on Amazon, about English as a Global Language.  I’ve not read it right through yet, but it seems really good.

As regulars here will know, one of the things I like to do is reproduce short excerpts from books.  This I do by scanning.  But, unfortunately, my copy of English as a Global Language came to me full of underlinings of what the previous owner consider to be significant sentences and phrases.  For what it’s worth, I often agreed with his choices.  But such underlinings play havoc with scanning, so I wanted them gone.

Luckily they were not in ink, only in pencil.  So, an eraser of some kind ought to do the trick.  So, where could I buy an eraser locally?  I actually wasn’t sure.  It would certainly be a palaver.  So, maybe I already owned an eraser.  I had a rootle through a couple of small transparent crates, which I use to keep such things as pens, pencils, felt tip markers, and so forth and so on.

I found several erasers, all hard as rock.  They hadn’t been used for a decade and they might as well have been plastic cutlery for all the use they were for removing pencil marks.  But then, I came across this:

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Just like everything else in the crate, this thing had not been touched for a decade.  This too would prove useless, surely.

But no.  It worked perfectly.  The rubber was as soft and useable as it was the day, lost in the mists of time of the previous decade or even longer, when I first acquired it.  Amazing.  And the print of the book was utterly untouched, so soft was the rubber of this wondrous item.

One of the things you seldom see on the internet is any reportage of how well something works a decade later.  Usually the reviews are instant.  Does it work now?  If it does, five stars, or four if you have some minor quibble about it.

So now, I am delighted to report that the STAEDTLER Mars plastic, or whatever it’s called, has real staying power, as a remover of pencil marks.  Buy a STAEDTLER Mars plastic now, and if you still have it a decade hence, it will still work.

The thing is, it was such a trivial task.  To have to have spent an afternoon wandering around London SW1 looking for a new eraser would have been so annoying.  To be able to get erasing right away was just so satisfying, compared to all that nonsense.  That the actual erasing took hardly any time at all only emphasises the contrast between how well things went and how annoyingly they would have gone, in the absence of my STAEDTLER Mars plastic.

I may never do any actual scanning of this book, but that’s not the point.  The point is, now I can, with no bother.

Wednesday December 26 2018

And here, as promised yesterday, are the other dozen of the Christmassy (Google reckons it’s double ss at the end there rather than the single s I used to name the photos) photos that I was gathering together yesterday.  They, like the previous lot, are shown in chronological order, the first one being from 2015 to now, the most recent from earlier this month:

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I used half a dozen of these two dozen photos to concoct a Merry Christmas photo-posting at Samizdata, in the small hours of this morning, what with there having been nothing there yesterday, until I did that.  And then faked the timing.  Just like I often do here.

Which means that, for the last week, I have not only done something for here, every day, but have done something there, every day.  More on the thinking behind this sudden burst of Samzdating here, some time soon, maybe, I promise nothing.

Friday December 21 2018

Ridiculous:

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Octopus shorts.  Photoed by me in the Kings Road.

Not so ridiculous and just a little bit sublime:

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It’s this shop, in the Fulham Road, a few hours later.

Sublime:

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Sublime compared to the Octopus Shorts anyway.  If Jeff Koons did that, it would change hands for millions.

Not photoed by me.  A friend featured that photo at her Facebook site recently, she having photoed it.  My friend says that this unicorn is something to do with fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital, despite not being close to that Hospital.  More the Gloucester Road area.  But even given all that information Google could tell me nothing about it.

I’m guessing that, what with unicorns being very big business, this unicorn, even if it is on the www, is buried under a million other unicorny images and products and general nonsense, which have all paid Google to put them first.  Such is the internet.  If you aren’t paying, you’re the product.

Saturday December 15 2018

Well, it’s official.  I care more about cricket, as played by anyone, than I care about football, as played by Spurs, the football team that I tell myself I support.

If I truly support Spurs, how come I only bothered to wonder the next day.how badly they had lost to Barcelona recently, in their clearly doomed attempt to qualify for the last sixteen of the European Champions League, or whatever they call it?  Answer me that.  On the night, I was so concerned about when the next test match between Australia and India would start, and whether I could hear any commentary on it, that I completely ignored Spurs.  When you consider that this Barca/Spurs game was on Tuesday night, and that the Australia/India game didn’t start until the small hours of Friday morning, you can see what a crap Spurs fan I am.

It was only some time on Wednesday that I internetted the news that Spurs had got a draw against Barca (thanks to a late equaliser), and that because Inter Milan had also only got a draw in their game, Spurs had squeaked through, but only after an agonising wait for the Inter result caused by that game going on for a couple of minutes longer.

While all this drama was going on, I was oblivious to it, and was instead scratching about on the internet chasing that cricket game.

Which is still going on.  Day 3 will be getting underway in a few hours, on Radio 5 live sports extra.  My sleep is already deranged, in a way that usually only happens when England are playing in Australia.

Today, I did keep track of the Spurs Burnley game, which Spurs won (thanks to a very late winner).  So: more drama.  But although I was aware of this while it was happening, I was again scandalously relaxed about it all, despite this game being billed as a Spurs Must Win If They Are To Stay In With A Chance To Win The League sort of a game.  Oh well, I was thinking, as it remained 0-0 right up until extra time.  Oh well, that’s how it goes.  Maybe next year, when they have their own stadium to play in.

Maybe the reason I am not shouting at Spurs in my kitchen, urging them on to glory, is that they are indeed engaged in building themselves a brand new custom built headquarters, in the form of that new White Hart Lane stadium.  So according to my way of thinking, they shouldn’t now be doing this well.

However, it would seem that all the money that the new stadium will bring into the club has caused Spurs to do something now that they haven’t been doing for several decades, which is keep their best players.  I’m talking about the likes of Kane, Deli Alli, Moura (who scored the late equaliser against Barca) and Eriksen (who got today’s very late winner).  Such stars might still make more money if they went to Real Madrid or some such even richer club.  But, at Real, they might not do as well on the pitch as they are now doing for Spurs.  They might then fall off the football pyramid of greatness, never to climb back on it again.  Footballers are interested in money and glory, not just in money, not least because glory turns into more money later, when they later try to get football jobs without being players any more.  Spurs look like they could be about to do both money and glory rather well.

The same goes for the current rather-hard-to-spell Spurs manager who is masterminding all this.  Many now assume that he will shortly move to Madrid.  I’m not so sure.

I mean, if this is how well these Spurs guys can do while the new Spurs HQ is still being finished, think how well they might do when they get really settled in in the new place and are able to concentrate entirely on football.

Or maybe it’s that a new stadium is not really a new headquarters building, more like a huge new factory, for something like a brand new airplane.  Boeing bets the company every time they launch a totally new aircraft.  A football club bets itself whenever it moves into a new stadium. But this stadium is actually for doing football, rather than just a place to do lots of headquartering.

Thursday December 13 2018

For reasons too complicated and undignified to elaborate upon, I have been sitting at home, waiting for one sofa to be taken away and for another sofa to be delivered, preferably in that order.  This has caused me to be stuck indoors throughout most of the daylight hours of the last week or so, which is why I have posted only photos from the archives, rather than any photos taken more recently.

But, I have been able to get out after sofa-moving hours, which I take to end by about 6pm at the latest.  And during the hours of darkness I have reminded myself that whereas most things do not photo well in the dark, taxis with adverts on them look quite good.  Not as good as they do in bright sunshine, but still quite good.

Here is a clutch of taxis with adverts in the dark, taken during the last twelve months, but mostly more like during the last two or three months:

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The seventh (3.1) of these twelve advertises Huawei, who have been in the news lately, for being a front for Chinese state skulduggery.  Other than that one, these are just regular adverts, on taxis.  I particularly like the one for The Phantom of the Opera.

But they keep changing, and I’m thinking that my next taxi advert posting might come from me going back to when I first started noticing taxi adverts, and photoing them.

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.

Saturday December 08 2018

Stow-Away is a recent arrival in Lower Marsh:

Stow-Away is a new sustainable and eco friendly apart hotel concept. Stow-Away Waterloo is our first London base made from 26 re-purposed shipping containers, stylishly designed to provide a snug comfortable Stow-Away sleeping experience.

Lots of people have tried to do architecture with old shipping containers, but personally I doubt if it makes much sense.  But, if your task is to sell hotel rooms, then shipping containers are perhaps a good gimmick, for attracting attention and for giving guests something to talk about.  “I slept in a shipping container.” Etc.  I’ve never done this.

It got my attention:

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I enjoy in particular the various reflections there.

All but the last of these photos were photoed in one burst, last September.  The final photo was photoed more recently, in the evening.

I think this hotel is quite good fun, especially those strange looking shades, red on the inside, that are a feature of the front.  But, I regret the trend of which this “apart hotel” is a part, which is the transformation of Lower Marsh from a fascinating and quite cheap thoroughfare, full of diverting shops and eateries, into a dreary and expensive thoroughfare, stripped of all those diverting shops and eateries.

This happens all the time.  A street contains lots of lively and amusing stuff.  Word of that liveliness spreads, and the rents then go through the roof.  The liveliness is priced off to another part of town.  Such is urban life.

What I am really saying is: RIP Gramex.  Follow that link and you find “an important message to our much-valued customers”.  That would be me.  But this “important message” is dated 4th August 2017.  I gave up hope at least a year ago.

Thursday December 06 2018

On the same day, September 24th 2013, that I took all those artistic photos not of cranes, I also photoed something else that wasn’t a crane either.  In addition to liking cranes I also like bridges, but this other something wasn’t a bridge either, despite looking a lot like one.  I refer to this contrivance:

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So far as I can work it out, this is a structure to protect a road against some power lines which are crossing that road.  The road in question being the A1014, aka “The Manorway”, just before it runs out of puff at a roundabout.

I know.  Why this one structure, there?  What’s so special about these power lines?  Were people about to start working on them, and were they scared that they might fall on the road and set light to a lorry laden with some highly inflammable liquid, of the sort they concern themselves with in Coryton?  Could be.  According to this, there used to be a refinery there (hence yesterday’s ruins).  Now, there either already is or there is about to be a diesel import terminal.  Yes, apparently this got going last year.

Maybe the structure I photoed is somehow a consequence of this change.