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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: Business

Wednesday July 19 2017

The internet has worked out that I am interested in the Samsung S24F356 Full HD 24” LED computer screen, and is bombarding me with adverts for it:

image

Click on that to learn more.

This is an I Told You So posting.

Here is what I said, back in 2014, about Google Glass, when they tried getting some idiot fashist woman involved in trying to selling it to other posturing idiot fashists, and someone called Robyn Vinter said Google Glass would never catch on, because, in her opinion, Google Glass wasn’t cool:

I think that the writer of this piece, Robyn Vinter, makes the very common error of saying that a piece of kit won’t catch on because, in her opinion it is, in a general sort of way, not nice or not good.  I know it’s only a jokey piece, pandering to ignorant prejudice and general technophobia, but it contains a serious and wrong idea about how technology gets established in the wider world.

Technology doesn’t catch on because people like Robyn Vinter think that it’s cool.

Technology or software, or whatever, catches on because it solves a particular problem for a particular group of people, and they start using it.  People like Robyn Vinter then say: ooh, how very uncool you are.  And the people using the thing say: guess what Robyn Vinter, we don’t care what you think, we are finding it extremely useful, to do what we want to do.  If you don’t think we look cool, this is entirely your problem and absolutely not our problem at all.  Gradually other uses for the thing in question accumulate, and quite a few people use it for several different things and get really excited and try to use it for everything, because they now like it so much.  If enough uses are found, then the alleged uncoolness of the thing just gets overwhelmed by people using it, in public, in full view, and to hell with the coolists.  If the coolists still want to write articles about how uncool this thing is, even though thousands of their potential readers are now using it, then they are pushed aside and other writers willing to say that it’s cool after all are told to write that instead.

So the question is: will Google Glass be useful enough?  Basically, it would appear to be a screen that you can use while you are doing something else, to do computer stuff and regular stuff at the same time.  Sounds extremely useful to me, for ... various things that I now know not of.  But I am sure things will turn up that it is very useful for, even essential for.  Work, basically.  Not strutting about in the street.  No.  Getting worthwhile things done, more efficiently, faster.  That kind of thing.  We’ll soon see, anyway.

And now, at Dezeen, I read this, entitled Google Glass resurrected as a tool for hands-on workers:

Following a two-year hiatus, the Google Glass augmented-reality headset has made a comeback, and is being targeted exclusively at businesses.

I told you so.  Google Glass still hasn’t properly caught on yet, but at least Google are now setting about making it catch on in a way that might succeed.  (Perhaps a Google-person even read my 2014 blog posting.)

Work.

Tuesday July 18 2017

Again, nothing much here today, but there is something by me over at Samizdata, entitled ”The overheating Samsung S24F356 – and thoughts about why there are so many complaints about capitalism”.

My quest for a new computer screen, alluded to here some days ago, lasted rather longer than I thought it would.  But at least I got a Samizdata posting out of it all.

I also finally managed to finish and submit a short summary of this talk by Marc Sidwell, which I will inform you of again when it is posted.  This talk happened nearly a year ago.  I personally did not take this long to summarise it, but I did take a few weeks longer than I had hoped.  And, I fear, promised.

Sunday July 16 2017

I loved the latest cars when I was a kid, and I still love the latest cars when I was a kid.  I loved theose cars then and I love them still, more and more, as both they and I get older.

Cars like this:

image

Which I photoed late in the afternoon yesterday.  I often visit Lower Marsh late in the afternoon on a Saturday, and once again, the above classic car made realise that yesterday was the third Saturday of this month, the day when the classic cars gather in Lower Marsh, from midday until middle-to-late afternoon.  By the time I was there, this and one other car were the only ones still lingering.  Memo to self, get there at 12 noon next time around.

So if I type in all the third Saturdays of the month for the next few months, helpfully listed here, maybe, on one of these dates, I’ll get there in time to see the real show, instead of just the odd late leaver.

August 19th
September 16th
October 21st
November 18th
December 16th

As I say, there was one other classic car hanging around in Lower Marsh when I got there.

This:

image

The point here being that while this Morris Minor Van is an amazingly well preserved classic vehicle, Pimlico Pumbers is an impeccably modern enterprise.

Like I say, they don’t use this van to do plumbing call outs.  It would appear to be a piece of artistic sponsorship:

We also have an unregistered 1966 Morris Minor LCV with only 67 miles on the clock. We purchased it in 1995 in primer paint and have since restored this classic model to its former glory and it now sports Pimlico’s blue and white livery. We have never taken it on the road to ensure that it stays in its original condition. Ted Connolly, Editor of Classic Van and Pick-up Magazine described this van as a museum piece.

But given that this vehicle does show up at classic car gatherings, I’m guessing this is a pretty good piece of business.

Sunday July 09 2017

One of the things personal blogs are for is blowing off steam about this or that petty unhappiness that life has just thrown at the blogger.  Today, that is what this blog is going to be for.  As for you, what could be more amusing than reading about the misfortunes of others, in this case me? Other people’s misfortunes are the stuff of comedy, even if they aren’t actually that funny.

So yesterday I dragged myself through London’s current wave of tropical heat-haze weather to PC World Tottenham Court Road and picked out a new computer screen.  You ask: Why not buy via the internet?  Answer: So if it goes wrong, I can take it back.  It has gone wrong.  It’s fine in every way, except on the right of the screen it overheats something awful.  Clearly something bad is going on in there, which only stops when I unplug it.  (For some idiot reason it doesn’t seem to have an on/off switch, or not that I can detect.) So today, I will have to take it back, through the same heat-haze.

I will get my money back.  I’ll have no trouble convincing them it’s not right.  All that will have to happen is for it to be plugged in.  What I won’t get back is the time and grief and sweat and misery of taking it back.

I plan to keep the free HDMI cable that came with it.  That will be some compensation.  I’m guessing that when something like this happens, they don’t try to reassemble the complete package of things I bought, screen plus all the extras, because mending the screen would be a colossal waste of time and money.  They will just write the whole thing off and dump everything, perhaps dishing any useful extras out to the staff.  So if I hang on to an extra, they won’t care.  This won’t fully compensate me, but it will be something.

I wonder: Do they have a system which might enable me to dump all those useless screens I have accumulated?  (Follow the link above (or more conveniently, scroll down to the posting before last)).  That would be very helpful.

This probably hasn’t been miserable enough for your taste.  Too much emphasis on what I can successfully rescue from this very minor mess.  Too little in the way of accumulating catastrophe climaxing in a genuinely major mess.  Blogger has problem.  Blogger sorts problem as best blogger can.  Not really comedy gold, I realise that now.  When a blogger uses a blog to cheer himself up and actually accomplishes that, it stops being so funny.

So now you is the one who is rather miserable, and I is the one who is laughing.  Oh dear.  How sad. Never mind.

Thursday June 29 2017

June 30th (i.e. tomorrow): Barry Macleod-Cullinane is a Conservative local councillor, and as a libertarian of long standing he is perfectly qualified to speak about “Townhall Libertarianism”. 

July 28th: Leandro d’Vintmus is a Brazilian, and a musician.  And also interested in how political and psychological libertarianism interact and reinforce each other.  Very different from the usual sort of Brian’s Last Friday, and all the better for it.

Aug 25th: Nico Metten will speak about “Libertarian Foreign Policy”.  Nico is your classic unswerving libertarian, except that he talks rather quietly.  Insofar as, in this complex matter, there are distinctions to be made, subtleties to be teased out, hairs to be split, we can depend upon him to make them, tease them out, split them.

Sept 29th: Financial journalist Tom Burroughes (aka Samizdata’s Johnathan Pearce), financial journalist, will speak about the (in his (and in my) opinion) very bad idea of a “universal basic income”.

Oct 27th: Rob Fisher, who is a parent, will offer some reflections about that.

Also fixed: January 26th 2018: Tim Evans, Professor in Business and Political Economy at Middlesex University Business School, will speak about the business of higher education, which is one of Britain’s most significant export industries.  We libertarians are used to complaining about higher education for the bad ideas that if all too often spreads.  But what about the economics of the higher education business?

Plenty of food for thought, I think you will agree.

Tuesday June 06 2017

Incoming from Simon Gibbs, in the form of an email, containing all the necessary links, entitled:

Michal Huniewicz combines drone, very good camera & photography, and a bit of Photoshop

He does indeed.

At the Michal Huniewicz Twitter place, I started scrolling down, and (of course) stopped when I got to this, posted on March 15th of this year:

image

Bigger here.

Yes, it’s the London Gateway, on or just before March 15th.  When I visited London Gateway in 2015 there were only five cranes.  Now look at it.  Still not the complete set according to my calculations, but well on the way to that.

Here is another shot, also (I assume) contrived by Michal Huniewicz, of LG in action, from directly above:

image

Personally I am not fond of that Photoshop Look, which boosts the contrast of everything to a wildly unrealistic degree, butchering mere landscapes into a state of kitschified unwatchability.  Huniewicz doesn’t unleash this kind of ugliness very much, but, as Simon’s email hints, he does this a bit, and his landscape photos suffer, I think.  But cranes are visually strong enough to survive this kind of falsification with ease.  Their essence, which is structure rather than mere colour and colour contrast, shines through.  And actually, Huniewics doesn’t Photoshop around with his crane pictures, or not so you notice.  They look to me much as they came out of the camera.  Or maybe it’s just that when painted boxes are made to look brighter it looks no more like a crap picture on a Scottish biscuit tin than it did before.

Wednesday May 31 2017

Lincoln Paine, The Sea and Civilization (p. 130):

Octavian’s victory in Egypt brought the entire Mediterranean basin under the command of a single imperial rule. To guarantee the safety of the empire and its sea trade, Augustus (as Octavian styled himself) established Rome’s first standing navy, with bases at Misenum just south of Portus ]ulius, and at Ravenna in the northern Adriatic. These fleets comprised a variety of ships from liburnians to triremes, “fours,” and “fives.” As the empire expanded, provincial fleets were established in Egypt, Syria, and North Africa; on the Black Sea; on the Danube and Rhine Rivers, which more or less defined the northern border of the empire; and on the English Channel. Over the next two centuries there was nearly constant fighting on the empire’s northern and eastern borders, but the Mediterranean experienced a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity during which Greco-Roman culture circulated easily around what everyone was entitled to call Mare Nostrum - Our Sea. It was the only time that the Mediterranean has ever been under the aegis of a single power, with profound results for all the cultures that subsequently emerged on its shores.

There follows (p. 132) a description of the sort of commercial culture that resulted.  Here is some of what Paine says about Ostia:

The remains of the city, which rival those of Pompeii, reveal a town of ordinary citizens rather than wealthy estate owners and their retinues. The essentially rectilinear streets were lined with three- and four-story apartment houses, many with street-level stores and offices. ...

But then, concerning religion in Ostia, Paine addes this:

… In addition to houses, offices, workshops, and laundries, the city boasted an astonishing array of religious buildings that reflect the inhabitants’ strong ties to the Roman east. Side-by-side with temples to the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon and the imperial cults stand Christian baptisteries, a Jewish synagogue, and a host of temples to Near Eastern deities, including a dozen dedicated to the Zoroastrian divinity Mithras, the god of contracts and thus revered by merchants. ...

Mithras was the god of contracts?  Revered by merchants?  I knew about how the Roman Empire took off economically (and degenerated politically) by surrounding the Mediterranean, but I did not know that Mithras was the god of contracts and was revered by merchants.  So, it would appear that proto-libertarianism in the ancient world missed a big chance when Christianity conquered the Roman Empire and prevailed over Zoroastrianism.  Although, a little preliminary googling tells me that some reckon Christianity to have been “borrowed” from Zoroastrianism.  Whatever.  I like the sound of it, and will investigate it more.  By which I mean I will do some investigating of it, instead of the zero investigating of it that I have done so far in my life.

Thursday May 25 2017

I don’t remember how I recently found my way back this piece in the Telegraph, but I do remember noticing it when it was first published in 2014, because I remember the graphic in it about preserving various public views of St Paul’s.

However, I don’t think I actually read it right through in 2014.  In particular, I don’t remember reading this:

It’s no secret why developers want to build towers as tall as possible. The higher an apartment block is, the more money it makes. A rule of thumb is that each floor adds at least 1.5 per cent onto the value of an apartment.

“The fact is someone will pay more to be on the 29th floor than they will to be on the 27th floor,” says Mark Dorman, head of London residential development at Strutt and Parker. They are marketing the two new towers at Nine Elms (56-storey City Tower and 45-storey River Tower, ready in 2017).

“Surprisingly, too, as has been discovered in New York, you will get as much money for a high-rise apartment facing another high-rise block as you will for an apartment facing the river.

“The same rule applies in London; you’ll get more for an apartment with a view of The Shard or the Gherkin than you will for one with a view of the Thames. People in high-rises like to look at other high-rises.”

The piece then goes on to note that others, notably the Price of Wales, don’t like high rise buildings.

So, the people who like living in high-rise apartments are willing to pay for them.  Some of those not willing to pay for them don’t like them.  Guess who wins.

Plus, there are lots of people, like me, who are not willing to pay for high rise apartments, but who do like them, because they (we) like how London is and how London looks because of all these other people living in London, making all manner of interesting business and pleasure ventures viable, and making the entire place more interesting to live in and look at, and in my case a lot more interesting to take photos of.

Here is how the Telegraph piece ends:

As for those people who worry that it’s all foreigners who are coming over here and taking our high-rises, they shouldn’t get upset, says Challis. …

Challis being “head of residential research at Jones Lang Lasalle”.

… That battle is already lost.

“The fact is, one-third of the population of London was not born here,” he says.

“Take me – I’m Canadian. When it comes to internationalisation, I have to say that this is not a new phenomenon. This city is founded on its contribution to the globe.

“It’s time everyone woke up and realised what has happened. There’s no doubt in my mind that London is now the de facto capital of the world.”

All of which was written before Brexit happened.

And I’m guessing that Brexit won’t make much of a dent in any of this.  Some voted Brexit, I am sure, to put a stop to all this, or at least to slow it down.  I voted Brexit for other reasons, and also because I didn’t think Brexit would make much of a difference to the cosmopolitan nature of London.

In the longer run, I think and hope, Brexit will make London even more the “de facto” capital of the world.  In other words (see also “fundamentally”, “essentially") not really the capital of the world at all, but you know what he’s (and I’m) getting at.

Long before London became the “de facto capital of the world”, it was also the “de facto”, as well as actual, capital of England, in the sense that it has always been a Mecca for non-Londoners.  William Shakespeare for example.  He too was, by the standards of his time, an immigrant into London.  (Who went back home to die, as most immigrants don’t, but that’s a different story.)

Friday May 12 2017

On that wander-around earlier this week, with GD2, there were, as related yesterday, lots of luxury objects to photo.  And I did try, but mostly I failed.  This was partly because luxury objects tend to be sparkly, and sparkly is hard to photo successfully.  But mostly, I suspect, it was just that I’m not used to photoing luxury objects and am in general not very good at it.

There were sparkly animals to photo, such as a bracelet with a tiger on it, and a silver horse rolling about on its back.  But they didn’t come out that well.

There were a couple of incongruously painted pandas (perpetrated by this guy), which I also photoed.

And there was a Bentley Mulsanne parked out in the street looking very good (especially its front lights), the effect as splendidly dignified as that of the two pandas were incoherent, offputting and pointless.  More about that Bentley, maybe, some other time.

Maybe even some more about the pandas, once I have thought of something to say about them other than that I didn’t like them.  I mean, someone obviously does.  Why?

In the end, the luxury item that I remember from that day with the greatest pleasure was this one:

image

The trick with buying luxuries is to buy a category of luxury that you can tolerate being too expensive.  A luxury car would break my bank account completely.  A luxury bracelet would be a non trivial hit, even if I wanted one.  But a luxury ice cream, in a tub that someone has obviously “designed” (to look somewhat like an old Penguin paperback in this instance), that I could happily stretch to.

Tastes differ in such matters, but I found this icecream really tasty.  It was purchased in the cafe at the top of John Lewis’s in Oxford Street.  After we had consumed our various luxury foods and drinks we climbed to the floor above, to the roof garden, where the view of London is not as spectacular as some of the views of this kind, but very satisfying if you are a fan of roof clutter, as I am, especially with the weather being like it was.  Again: luxury.  This time not overpriced at all.

Thursday May 11 2017

GodDaughter 2 and I meet up every so often, so I can be brought up to speed on her progress as a classical singer.  The last two times we’ve met, we’ve visited posh shops.  She likes viewing their contents.  I just like photoing whatever amusing things happen to present themselves to me, including, sometimes, the contents of the posh shops.

Here are some of the photos I took on the most recent wander around that we did (just after I took the photo in the previous posting).  These photos all having been taken in the Burlington Arcade:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

1.1 is the view everyone thinks of, if they think of anything at all, when they think of the Burlington Arcade.  1.2 is the rather elaborate floor, which I rather like.  Then things liven up a bit.  2.1 is someone who managed to look ultra-posh, even when seated in a wheelchair.  2.2 … well, you can see why I would like a posh box for putting posh things into, with decoration on its lid like that.

But then, my eye wandered a little, and I noticed that although we were in the Burlington Arcade, there was still – wonder of wonders - roof clutter to be seen, through the windows above us.  I hoovered up roof clutter views, and here are a few of those:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

The more I wander around London, the more I notice this contrast between the stage, the places where London is trying to look its best and is all primped and permed and made-up, and the behind-the-scenes areas.

Here was a circumstance where, behind a very posh piece of retail scenery, there was still backstage clutter to be seen, just by looking upwards, through the ceiling.

Thursday April 27 2017

A recent photo, taken in the Burlington Arcade, off Piccadilly:

image

Is this, I wonder, the place where Michael Portillo buys his clothes?  Here is the most Portillo-esque bit of the Cordings website.  Most of the clothes on show there are not so flamboyant.  Shame.

That’s GodDaughter 2, also photoing this enterprise, somewhat out of focus on the right there in my photo.  She is getting into the spirit of things not only with her finger nails but also with a sticking plaster on one of her fingers which is, instead of being flesh-coloured like a normal sticking plaster, bright blue.  I have not seen such a thing before.

Wednesday April 26 2017

What follows is the speculation of a football non-obsessive, and it could all be nonsense.  So sprinkle lots of “so I surmise” and “it seems to me” all over it.  And then correct me if I’m wrong.  So, I surmise ...

If all Premier League teams were very roughly equal in strength, amd doing well or badly merely because of the vagaries of form and fitness and confidence and sheer dumb luck, you’d expect a few to be stretching out at the front of the field, and a few to be falling back at the back, with a big bunch in the middle.  The biggest points gaps would be at the top and at the bottom, with no big gaps anywhere near the middle.

imageNow look at the state of the Premier League, as of now, on the right there.

We do now see gaps at the top and at the bottom.  As of right now, leaders Chelsea are 4 points ahead of their nearest chaser, Spurs, and Liverpool are next, a whole 8 points behind Spurs.  Bottom club Sunderland is now 6 points behind second-from-bottom Middlesbrough, who are 4 points behind third-from-bottom Swansea.

And we also see a big bunch of teams in the middle.  The points gap between West Brom in eighth place and Burnley at sixteenth is a mere 4 points.

But the biggest points gap of all between adjacent clubs in the Premier League is between Everton in seventh place and West Brom in eighth place.  This gap is currently no less than 14 points.  The top seven clubs (Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton) are now, you might say, the Real Premier League.

I distinctly recall the times when the Real Premier League only contained four clubs: Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.  And then Man City joined it, with Liverpool slipping down.  So there used to be only four, but now there are seven.

This has had an interesting consequence, which is that the FA Cup is now important again.  Or so I surmise (see above).

The FA Cup used to count for a lot.  There was no Real Premier League in those far off times, or if there was I was not aware of it.  But there was a European Cup and a European Cup-Winners Cup, or some such thing, and all clubs wanted to win either the League or the Cup and preferably both, for the sheer glory of it.

Then, the European Cup or the Champion’s League or whatever started to get seriously into its stride and to mean serious money, to spend on now seriously well paid players.  “Getting into Europe” stopped being a bit of an afterthought and became what it was all about.  At around this time the Four-Team Real Premier League also got into its stride, and the best route into Europe, for Real Premier League clubs, became to ignore the FA Cup.  Remember when Man Utd didn’t even bother to contest the FA Cup and instead went flapping off to Brazil, to lose some mega-championship of the world game?  All that crap about The Magic of The Cup, and Anyone Can Win The Cup, blah blah blah, became very tedious, because Anyone Who Was Anyone (i.e. the Real Premier League) couldn’t be bothered with exhausting themselves trying to win FA Cup, what with them always being in Europe anyway and having the small matter of the Premier League to come at least fourth in to get back into Europe again. For the FA Cup, they put out their reserves instead of a real team, just to keep them busy and amused.  If they got beaten by Anyone Town, that was the fault of said reserves, was no huge surprise, and was no skin off the nose of the actual Real Premier League club.  Skin on it, if anything, because the season immediately became less exhausting for any first teamers who got dragged into going through the motions in the FA Cup.

But now that the Real Premier League has expanded from four clubs to seven clubs, a Real Premier League club can no longer take its route to Europe quite so much for granted.  At which point the FA Cup, which is another route into Europe, becomes of significance to Real Premier League clubs, the way it has never been since the Real Premier League got started.

This year, all four FA Cup semi-finalists were Real Premier League clubs.  (Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Man City.) When was the last time that happened?

Saturday April 22 2017

Indeed:

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The history of this particular picture is that GodDaughter 2 and I were in Waterstones, Piccadilly, which is one of our favourite spots.  She loves all the books.  I like the books too, but I love the views that I can photo from the cafe at the top.  This is not very high up, but it is high enough up to see many interesting things, and familiar things from an unfamiliar angle, of which, perhaps or perhaps not, more later.

So, anyway, there we were in Waterstones, and we were making our way up the stairs to the top, rather than going up in the lift, because I needed the Gents and GD2 needed the Ladies.  All of which caused me to be waiting on the book floor nearest to the Ladies, and that was where I saw this book.  I had heard about it, via a TV show that Hockney did a few years back, and I did a little read of the bit that really interested me, which was about how very early photography intermingled with “Art”.  I wouldn’t have encountered the book itself had it not been for GD2 and I both liking Waterstones, and had it not been for nature demanding GD2’s attention.  So, this is another picture I owe to her, to add to this one.

The way Hockney and his art critic pal tell the story of how early photography and the Art of that time intermingled is: that all the other Art critics say that the Artists were zeroing in on a “photographic” looking style, through their own purely Artistic efforts.  Nonsense, say Hockney and pal.  The Artists were already using the early stages of photography, and if my recollection of that television show is right, that this had been going on for quite a while.  They were using photographic methods to project a scene onto a surface, and then painting it in by hand.  These paintings look photographic because, in a partial but crucial sense, they are photographic.  Later, the photo-techies worked out how to frieze that image permanently onto that surface, by chemical means rather than by hand copying.  Those Art critics want to say that the Artists lead the world towards photography, but the influence was more the other way around.  Photograhy was leading the Artists.

This fascinating historical episode, assuming (as I do) that Hockney and pal are not making this up, shows how complicated and additive a technology like photography is.  It didn’t erupt all at once.  It crept up on the world, step by step.  And of course it is still creeping forwards, a step at a time, in our own time.  Early photographers couldn’t shove their pictures up by telephone onto your television screen, the way I just did, if only because television screens didn’t happen for another century.

Meanwhile, the book trade is creeping forwards.  In the age of Amazon, am I the only one who sees an interesting book in a bookshop, looks at the price, says to himself: I can do much better than that on Amazon, and contents himself with taking a photo of the book’s cover?  Are we bad people?

For this book, the difference is thirty quid in the shop, but twenty quid or even less on Amazon.

In that talk I did about the impact of digital photography, one of the uses I found myself emphasising was using digital cameras for note-taking.  How much easier and more exact to make a picture of this book’s cover with one camera click, than to record its mere title with the laborious taking of a written note.

Wednesday April 19 2017

Last August, in Gabriel’s Wharf:

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Really annoying day, making very little progress on about half a dozen different fronts.