Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
- Marc Sidwell on experts
- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
- Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East
- Opera North’s Ring
- An important game and only a game
- Making blue by copying tarantulas
- An old person television set
- Battersea from Clapham Junction
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Category archive: Business
Last night I sent out the email concerning the Brian’s Last Friday meeting this coming Friday, at the end of which email I found myself blurting out this:
Whenever I concoct these promotional emails I end up feeling very excited about the forthcoming talk. This time, this effect was especially pronounced.
This was what got me “very excited”:
Marc Sidwell will give a talk entitled: Promoting Freedom in a Post-Expert World.
He will be speaking about “the ongoing erosion of power and technocratic authority (most recently visible in the Brexit vote and the rise of Trump) and proposing some ways libertarians can respond to this shift.”
Other talk titles that were considered: “Twilight of the Wonks” and “The Revenge of Common Sense”.
Marc Sidwell is an journalist, editor, publisher, and writer, most recently of a How To Win Like Trump, now riding high in the Kindle best-seller List. More about Marc, his career and his publications, here.
For further information about the kinds of ideas Marc will be presenting, I strongly recommend a visit to: marcsidwell.com/.
It was there that I gleaned this quote, from Brexit campaigner Dominic Cummings:
“All those amazed at why so little attention was paid to ‘the experts’ did not, and still do not, appreciate that these ‘experts’ are seen by most people of all political views as having botched financial regulation, made a load of rubbish predictions, then forced everybody else outside London to pay for the mess while they got richer and dodged responsibility. They are right. This is exactly what happened.”
It wouldn’t surprise me if that quote gets a mention at some stage during Marc’s talk.
I would add that there are some kinds of expertise that continue to be held in very high esteem. Nobody doubts the expertise of the people who make all the machines and devices, mechanical and electrical, that keep our world ticking over efficiently and entertainingly. Not all expertise is now held in low regard, only the kinds of expertise that Cummings itemises.
The room is already starting to fill up.
Email me (see top left of this blog) if you want to know more about these monthly speaker meetings at my home.
You don’t have to believe that animals either have or should have rights to realise that people who are gratuitously cruel to animals are likely to be more cruel than usual to their fellow humans. But what of fake cruelty to fake animals leading to real cruelty to real creatures, animal or human? I imagine there is some kind of correlation there too, although my googling skills fell short of finding an appropriate link to piece demonstrating that.
Being cruel to a fake animal that another human loves is clearly very cruel, to the human.
As was, I think, this demonstration of fake cruelty that recently hit the internet. That link is not for those who are squeamish about beheaded teddy bears.
And what of people who are nice to fake animals?
Here is a picture I took in my favourite London shop, Gramex in Lower Marsh, in which there currently resides a teddy bear who was recently rescued from sleeping rough, by Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland:
If you consequently suspect that Roger Hewland is a kind man, your suspicion would be entirely correct. I agree with you that kindness to fake animals and kindness to real people are probably also correlated.
I sometimes drop into Gramex just to use the toilet. Never has the expression “spend a penny” been less appropriate.
Africa is big, and Africa’s rivers don’t help in cutting these huge distances down to size.
More from Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography (p. 119):
Most of the continent’s rivers also pose a problem, as they begin in high land and descend in abrupt drops which thwart navigation. For example, the mighty Zambezi may be Africa’s fourth-longest river, running for 1,600 miles, and may be a stunning tourist attraction with its white-water rapids and the Victoria Falls, but as a trade route it is of little use. It flows through six countries, dropping from 4,900 feet to sea level when it reaches the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. Parts of it are navigable by shallow boats, but these parts do not interconnect, thus limiting the transportation of cargo.
Unlike in Europe, which has the Danube and the Rhine, this drawback has hindered contact and trade between regions - which in turn affected economic development, and hindered the formation of large trading regions. The continent’s great rivers, the Niger, the Congo, the Zambezi, the Nile and others, don’t connect and this disconnection has a human factor. Whereas huge areas of Russia, China and the USA speak a unifying language which helps trade, in Africa thousands of languages exist and no one culture emerged to dominate areas of similar size. Europe, on the other hand, was small enough to have a ‘lingua franca’ through which to communicate, and a landscape that encouraged interaction.
I’m guessing that Africa’s famed natural resources (although not of the mineral sort – those natural resources just suck in thieving foreigners) also helped to split the population up into lots of little enclaves, by making it possible for quite small communities to be economically self-sufficient. Not very self-sufficient, as in rich, but sufficiently self-sufficient not to die out but instead to keep ticking over.
I am always banging on about my collection of photos, but my collection of books is also, in some cases, becoming a bit interesting. Here, for instance, is a bit from a book that was published in 1980, by Peter Laurie, called The Micro Revolution. (pp.202-204)
At the time of writing (early 1979) the microprocessor was much discussed and many people were asking what it would do to industry and employment. My own ideas, for what they are worth, are presented here and there through this book; at this point it might be worth summarizing a study by the American management consultancy firm of Arthur D. Little Inc, which was carried out between 1976 and 1978, cost $2 million to perform and whose detailed results are available for $35,000 a copy.
The survey looked at the USA, Britain, France and Germany. It predicted that by 1987 - that is, in seven years time - the annual market for products incorporating microprocessors will be worth $30 thousand million. If computers are added. ‘It appears that by the end of the next decade every citizen of a developed country will spend an average of £100 a year on microprocessors.’
In more detail, the prediction was that American cars would be forced by strict legislation on pollution standards to install micros to control ignition and carburettion. In Europe, where people are less fussy, this development would lag. But in all countries, micros would be widely used for information and entertainment in the car.
It is predicted that the home market will be the largest, with something like 400 million intelligent units a year worth $50 each being sold in 1987. Micros will be used in many different products - we have already talked about the entertainment-communications-computer unit which will look like a TV set with a computer added. There will also be all sorts of intelligent toys, kitchen gadgets, security systems, gardening devices.
In the office there will be a large sale for text processing, facsimile and copying machines, electronic telephones, dictating systems and communication processors. If the Post Offices provide data highways to match, this will result in the ‘virtual city’ described in chapter 9.
Industrial systems will be slower to incorporate micros (a) because they differ one from another and it is not easy to mass produce equipment for this market; and (b) because what is used has to be extremely reliable - and only time can prove that.
Arthur D. Little predicts that micros will generate 400,000 extra jobs in Europe in firms making, installing and servicing equipment incorporating them. It is inescapable that if microprocessors are widely used they will increase material wealth. However, they will also put a lot of people out of work, and there is no guarantee that these people will be easily, or indeed ever, retrained for new jobs. In fact the whole thing looks like producing considerable industrial dislocation; because along with the people who will not be needed there will go a tremendous shortage of people who are needed. As early as 1979, my eighteen-year-old son, with only school computing and three months of work on microdevelopment behind him, was offered £300 a week to work in Holland. GEC said recently that they alone could employ every British electronics graduate. There is no doubt that over the next ten years anyone who can pass himself off as understanding the micro will be in great demand, and will be able to make large amounts of money in exploiting his talents.
For this decade at least there are going to be wonderful opportunities for intelligent and independent people. The classical example is young Wozniak who, in 1976, at the age of 21, with his friend Steve, set to work in his parents’ California garage to build a microcomputer. ‘I sold my calculator and Steve sold his van and we used the money to hire a printed circuit artist to layout the boards.’ In 1979 Wozniak, now 23, and the employer of 200 people was planning to ship $75 million worth of his APPLE computers.
The trick with photography is knowing what to photo in the first place. In particular, you need to be photoing things that are not going to be the same if you come back later. Photoing captures the ephemeral, far better than it celebrates the eternal. This being why people like photoing their kids. Soon, they’ll be different. But, a photo of Big Ben? It’s been done. A lot. No point in another of those.
Or what about something else that changes, like the price of a piece of electronics? I took this photo of such a price, in February 2005:
I have helpfully picked out the price and photo-enhanced it, so you can read it without any clicking. That’s a terrible photo, technically, but no other photo in that directory ("miscFeb05") is anywhere near as entertaining.
I love how it is reduced from £7,999.99. So if you had bought it then, you’d have saved five hundred quid! Now five hundred quid is the entire cost. (Which you can now save by not buying it.)
Sport yet again. And yes, I’ve still got plenty to tell you, in January, about one of my favourite days out last year, which was on November 28th, which I have already written about five times already. There was the shining moment described in this, and the three earlier moments linked to from there. And there was this next shining moment. And now there is the Spurs Shop, which looks like this:
Not very exciting, I think you will agree. But the stuff inside, the sort of stuff I have never ever seen before gathered together in one place, was, for me anyway, a remarkable sight:
So, what do we see there?
1.1: is a cardboard model of the old Spurs stadium, the one they are about to trash and replace, yours for £30, but you have to construct it.
1.2: Spurs clothes. Lots of Spurs clothes. Plus big Spurs slogans.
1.3: Spurs cards to tell your associates that this is your room. Really. Very blurry. Only realised that this was what they were just now.
1.4: Spurs mugs. It says everything about the state of the Premier League that I looked at this photo, and read Kane as “Car Nay”, like he’s from Africa. Alli, like Kane, also plays for England.
2.1: More Spurs mugs, this time with the tasteless cartoon cock, rather than the tasteful and elegant proper one. AIA is an Asian insurance company.
2.2: Spurs clocks.
2.3: Spurs wall stickers and, click and look on the right, Spurs flags.
2.4: Spurs luxury rugs. (And more Spurs clothes.)
3.1: Spurs luggage tags. And I don’t know what those yellow striped things on the right are, if you click on that. Some kind of Spurs bags, I think,
3.2: Spurs 5M retractable dog leads and Spurs dog collars. For actual Spurs supporter dogs, I mean. Not Spurs-supporter priests.
3.3: Spurs doormats and Spurs thermometers. Like a lot of the stuff in these pictures, I only noticed the Spurs thermometers now.
3.4: Spurs tea towels and Spurs trays.
4.1: Spurs fridge magnet pens.
4.2: Spurs jelly babies and Spurs “snowies”. (Learn more about snowies here.)
4.3: Spurs white teddy bears.
4.4: Spurs flipflops.
5.1: Spurs footballs. So Spurs supporters actually play this game?
5.2: Spurs scarves.
5.3: Spurs sterling silver earrings.
5.4: Spurs iPhone cases.
Out in the open, there were also Spurs cranes, although there was no price tag on any of them:
No, not really. Not Spurs cranes for sale, just Spurs cranes working away on constructing the new Spurs stadium.
Sticking with sport, this morning I followed, on Cricinfo, most of the run-chase in the Big Bash League game of the morning. It happens in the morning over here. Some of the games are even being shown here on free-to-view TV, on Channel 5, although C5 hasn’t been so lucky with the games it has so far shown, both having ended rather tamely.
But, the one this morning didn’t end tamely. Oh no. The Some-city-in-Australia Aggressively Rebellious Types (perhaps of the animal sort by perhaps human or naturally disastrous) scored 222-4, which is the biggest score for a team innings posted in the BBL, ever. And the Some-other-city-in-Australia ARTs chased it down! How amazing is that? Very amazing.
Whenever I tune in to the BBL, I have a look for what English players are playing, by which I mean merely: have played for England. I very much want my cricket-playing fellow countrymen to impress the cricket world,but as to which Australian city hosts the winning team, well, I really cannot make myself care, not matter how hard I try. The Australian team with the more Anglos in it is the one I support. This morning, only one Anglo was involved, Stuart Broad.
Broad’s side bowled first, and Broad took no wickets for 39, which under the circumstances was not that bad. Not good, but not that bad. In reply Broad’s team for quite a while looked like they might breeze it, without needing down-the-order Broad to be doing anything with the bat. For as a long as a bloke called McDermott was batting, all was looking good for the Broad team. But in the end, Broad, batting at number 10, had somehow to make nine runs off the last three balls. He hit two fours and a one, to win it.
After Broad hit the second of his two fours, I yelled my appreciation, the only time I said anything out loud. Then, Cricinfo told me that Broad had fluked this secomd four by snicking it, instead of connecting properly like he did with the first four. And the final and winning one turned out to be a dodgy shot too. But never mind. Broad had done it. Rule Britannia. Go Blighty. “Broad’s final flourish in record chase”, said the Cricinfo home page. To me. I assume that in Australia, Cricinfo was attracting clicks to that same report by mentioning McDermott, just like the actual report does, in its headline, thereby at least suggesting that the report was the same for everyone.
Someone needs to write a game-theory type paper about why multinational club teams eventually end up getting more, and more fervent, support than merely national teams, and I am sure that plenty of someones have, because of course this has been going on with the Premier League for quite a while.
All this happens not because partisan patriotism is abolished. Rather does partisan patriotism fuel the eventual multi-national outcome. Having a couple of your fellow countrymen on a team, if it keeps happening, may well turn you into a supporter of that team. And they can work the same trick with other nations too, thus multiplying their support, and ability to sell goods adorned with the club’s heraldry.
Also, the management of the club can be first world, by the simple mechanism of holding the entire tournament in a first world country. That means that each club is better than most nations. And it all feeds on itself in a virtuous circle of enthusiastic sporting insanity, which ends up with everyone becoming citizens of the world.
This afternoon I read in the Evening Standard that Chelsea FC were hoping to get planning permission for a big new stadium, and sure enough, this evening, they got it. I guess they’re all pretty happy there, what with Chelsea being top of the Premier League and all. (Although, I can’t help mentioning their recent winning-streak ending loss by Spurs.)
Here’s how it is reckoned the new stadium will look (I found this picture here), from above, when it’s dark:
The architects are Herzog de Meuron, the same firm that did the Tate Modern Extension. And, they also did that amazing new opera house out in the estuary in Hamburg. And hey, that opened today, according to that report. Blog and learn.
But back to that Chelsea stadium, what strikes me, yet again, about this major eruption of architectural modernism is that while it is very modern, it is also very carefully crafted to fit the inevitably rather oddly shaped site. Indeed, the architects make use of this odd shape to give their stadium its rather particular, asymmetrical shape, while nevertheless contriving an exact rectangle in the middle, in the manner required by the rules of football. Form follows site plan. That’s the way modern architecture is now done.
(It would seem that the exact same principle applied to the new Hamburg opera house also. It was put on top of an “historic brick base”. A brick base, I’m guessing, which was whatever shape it was, and could not be otherwise.)
And what also strikes me, yet again, is what a total nightmare it would have been to have attempted a design like this Chelsea stadium without computers to keep track of everything and handle all those asymmetrical shapes.
(The Hamburg opera house was plagued with delays and cost overruns and defects and took a famously long time to finish. But that’s a different story.)
Well, that FinTech meeting was disappointing. I did learn a few things, and some general background. But there was certainly no mention of denationalising anything, merely of running the nationalised industry that is money somewhat differently, and of a few computerised money-lenders getting in on it all.
However, rather more interestingly, mosaics are getting made in the same building where the meeting took place. And there were a lot of mosaics on show, scattered about in the rooms and corridors under St John’s Church, in Waterloo Road.
I attempted photography. The light was what you would expect in a basement, but this one, with a bit of help from my Photoshop clone, came out okay:
I don’t know if that is a particular soldier or just a generic soldier, but either way it is skilfully done, I think.
It may be that someone will see this posting and object to this picture, in which case down it will come. But I doubt it.
Last night, I promised I’d keep an eye and a camera open for Merry Christmas signage during my walking about today, and I did, but I didn’t find any such signs. But I did find another sort of sign, which I liked because it contained lots of London’s Big Things, and I photoed it. And then, when I got back home after dining out with my mates, I discovered that it had the words “Merry Christmas” at the top of it. How about that?!?:
Here is the website of this enterprise. I have a vague recollection of having gone inside this place, once upon a time. It was, of course, shut today.
I am collecting these graphic renditions of London’s Big things. You see them everywhere, if you look, frequently on the sides of white vans.
Merry Christmas. As in, I hope you had a good Christmas Day, and are having a good Christmas break because it almost Boxing Day now.
I like the roof clutter reflected in the window.
LATER: More Merry Christmas designage (dezeenage) here
On the left: Iceland (Lower Marsh), 50p. On the right: Tesco (Warwick Way), 75p.
Identical bottles, with the same green tops. But the Tesco one is, I believe, ever so slightly darker. Is it perhaps fifty per cent more concentrated?
Indeed. Photoed by me in the Victoria Station branch of W.H. Smith, last week.
And here is Where to Find Them. Well, it’s one of the places to find them:
All the Penguin Modern Classics that they are selling occupy just the one alcove. Thirty books to read in a lifetime, one alcove. And Fantastic Beasts, one alcove. The J.K. Rowling juggernaut rumbles on.
And that’s not even to mention Robert Galbraith.
Indeed. I have the rest of today set aside for other things, maybe even including a little more tidying up, which I have been neglecting of late, but need to get a lot of done by the end of the year.
So here is a particularly diverting white van:
My rule for paying attention to things is to pay attention to things that intrigue me, without necessarily knowing why these things intrigue me. So it has been with white vans. Partly it is because they are politically symbolic. But partly it is because, actually, white vans span the entire social spectrum, in the atmospheres they radiate. There are as many different ways to make a white van look as there are ways to wear your clothes.
Last Thursday I managed to insert myself into a gathering of GodDaughter 1 and her close family, in honour of her birthday. So it was GD1’s Mum and Dad and Elder Sister, and me. We met up on the South Bank, and wandered along it, to see an art exhibition, and also a jewellery show, hosted by this enterprise, at the bottom of the Oxo Tower, which GD1’s Sister had helped to set up. GD1’s Sister has herself become a jewellery maker, and apparently a rather promising one.
None of GD1’s Sister’s products were on show, alas. But I was as interested to see what the general atmosphere and attitude was, of this quite large number of jewellery makers, each with a small clutch of Little Things for us to examine. I know nothing of this world. What sort of world is it?
The main thing to say is that the value of what all these makers are making is not based on the price of the materials they are using. This is not precious metal jewellery, the real purpose of which is to navigate through financial crises. The value of these Little Things lies in the inventive way that often quite modest materials are put together.
I was curious to see if there’d be any 3D printing involved. Sure enough, one of these jewellers (Lynne Maclachlan (I love how my photos remembered her name for me, with no need for any other sort of note-taking)) is doing this:
On the left, the little collection of Lynne Maclachlan’s wares that was on show. On the right, GD1 handles one of Ms Maclachlan’s products.
Does my picture, and the way GD1’s fingers look, make that bracelet look very light? I hope so, because it is very light. Which is an important consideration with jewellery, if you want to make it other than tiny. You don’t want your ears, fingers, wrists, or neck, weighed down with things that feel more like you’ve been enslaved rather than decorated. And 3D printing can accomplish this, by making a structure that is still structurally solid, but both less bulky and more fun to look at than a solid lump.
I have long wondered about 3D printed jewellery, but there is only so much you can learn from googling. Seeing these Little Things in their proper habitat, in their appropriate commercial context, tells you a lot more. That Lynne Maclachlan has been welcomed into the sisterhood (it is mostly sisters) of jewellery makers rather than seen as any sort of threat, is, I think, very telling.
Yes, The Railwa. I had continued my odyssey from Seven Sisters on the regular railway, to White Hart Lane Station. And from the platform, and then when I got outside, this was what I saw. The Railwa:
As you can see from the picture on the right, The Railwa used to be The Railway Tavern.
The y Tavern bit has disappeared because this is one of the many, many British pubs that has recently been shut down.
The other night they had a telly show about this, but it seems that it’s not all doom. Pubs are being shut by Big Booze, and often then turned into blocks of posh flats, which are more lucrative. But, some of the pubs are being saved, and taken over by The Community. Accompanying this is the rise of “craft beer” (I at first misheard this as “crap beer"), which seems to be a mixture of regular beer and fruit juice, and as such, sounds right up my street. When it comes to drink, I am a girl. My alcoholic drink, on those rarish times when I am in a pub, is: lager and lime. So it’s all going my way, apart from if I go to one of these new pubs and find it full of The Community.
To be a bit more serious, what I think I see happening here is that the old Working Class, the sort that used to smoke, and watch football teams while standing up and wearing cloth caps is ceasing to exist and what remains of it is being kicked out of the pubs by the new Working Class, the sort that doesn’t smoke, and designs websites and manages brands and works in call centres and which spent this weekend at the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern. The fate of the Railwa is what happens when an industry goes through a transformation of this sort. Many of the old institutions collapse and get trashed, like the Railwa, by the look of it. Others get transformed in accordance with the new dispensation, as perhaps the Railwa will be.