Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Michael Jennings on Large number of jobs
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Rob Fisher on Comparing London then with London now (and the Oval then with the Oval now)
Rob Fisher on On the connection between drinking lots of coffee and living a long and healthy life
6000 on Gherkin in splendid isolation
Brian Micklethwait on Bird – and bird close up
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Michael Jennings on A Docklands footbridge about to be put in its place
Most recent entries
- Another London Big Thing alignment
- Shard and Walkie-Talkie from the top of the Cheesegrater
- The hottest day of the year (5): Old Citroens in Roupell Street
- The hottest day of the year (4): An antique view from Waterloo
- Large number of jobs
- The draw that turned out not to be
- Ghostbusters sculpture advert at Waterloo Station
- On the connection between drinking lots of coffee and living a long and healthy life
- Spraycan with moon
- Gherkin in splendid isolation
- Bird – and bird close up
- LIFE at the Park Theatre
- London looking like Dubai
- Illness and coolness
- Photoers photoing the views from the Tate Modern Extension
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Computer graphics
Most emails that arrive here at BMdotcom don’t grab me by the throat, but I liked this one, with its attached graphic as above.
I’ve often wondered how they do Chinese (?) writing with computers. Now I am wondering some more.
My computer didn’t allow me to save this graphic in a different size, but my blogging software did. Odd.
I am an occasional visitor to Londonist, and I rather think that they’ve made it easier than it used to find be to your way to Oldie But Goldie type postings, of the sort that are not going to lose their appeal merely because they were posted six months or a year ago.
Postings like this one, which steers Londonist readers towards an amazing website, where you can compare old Ordnance Survey maps of London and surrounding areas with how things are now. As you move around in one of the maps, the other map automatically follows you. Brilliant.
The National Library of Scotland has just made freely available online 16,865 historic Ordnance Survey maps covering Greater London and the south east of England, dating between the 1840s and the 1950s.
Me being me, I compared the Oval cricket ground of old with how it is now:
Click on that graphic to get a bigger version of it.
Look how the playing area has shrunk, to make way for more places for people to watch play from. X in each map marks the same spot. On the left X is way out in the playing area. On the right, it is on the boundary edge. No wonder they hit lots more sixes these days. It’s not just bigger bats. It’s smaller grounds.
6k writes about the long journey from journeyman amateur snapper to Artist:
I don’t pretend to be a photo ninja. I can point, and I can shoot, and sometimes the results can be pretty good. Very occasionally, they can be startlingly good, but only very occasionally. I need to work more at not just pointing and shooting to increase the percentage of those startlingly good shots. We’ll get there.
There follows a picture of a bird spreading its wings. In other words, the capture of a fleeting moment.
6k photos his family quite a bit, as they do things like explore the spectacularly beautiful coastline near where he lives, in South Africa. Photoing your loved ones is also a matter of capturing the exact right moment.
With me, I think I get nearest to Art when I’m lining things up with each other. I have a mental list of things I like, and a picture counts double in my head, if I can line a couple, or maybe even more, of these things. The most characteristic of such alignments over the years have typically involved a digital photographer, with a London Big Thing in the background.
Here are a couple of efforts I might pick out to enter a competition, if someone told me I had to do that:
In these two cases, there is also an element of me waiting for the right moment, or more accurately me snapping lots of promising looking moments and picking out the best one.
Those two are from this huge collection of unrecognisable photographers, which I doubt many of you scrutinised in its entirety. So there are two of them again. I particularly like the one with the blue balloon.
And here is another exercise in lining things up, captured just a few days ago. This time, the object at the front is a plastic water bottle, resting on the anti-pigeon netting in the courtyard outside and above my kitchen window. Behind the bottle is a thing that regulars here will know that I like a lot, namely: scaffolding! This being the scaffolding at the top of the big conversion job that’s being done across the courtyard from me:
That picture involves something I don’t usually like to do, which is cropping. The original snap was rather bigger.
I don’t know what exactly I’ve got against cropping, but it feels to me like only one or two notches up from cheating. Maybe I take rather excessive pride in (the Art of) getting the snap I want to emerge straight from the camera, no muss, no fuss, no photoshop. The truth, of course, is that cropping is itself very much an Art. But because I don’t do cropping that much, I probably could have cropped this photo a whole lot better than I actually did.
I’m a big fan of the Samizdata Commentariat. It’s one of the best things about Samizdata. Part of the reason for its excellence is that when things get heated, a comment like this appears:
I’m not a huge fan, on the other hand, of the Guido Commentariat. Too big, too abusive, too given to tangenting off on only very marginally relevant subjects, just like most other big Commentariats, in other words. Still other Commentariats, like mine, are too small to be worth reading regularly. My commenters are very good, but there just aren’t enough of them (it being absolutely not the fault of those who do comment here (it’s the fault of all those who might comment but don’t (and is it really even reasonable to call that a “fault”?))). Samizdata manages to strike a happy balance. At Samizdata, you don’t get Comments (0), posting after posting, like you (I) do here, but nor do you get Comments (1538), or some such ridiculous number of mostly unreadable twaddle-comments. That, for me, is the Guido Commentariat.
But I keep going to the Guido commenters from time to time, because they do have their moments:
That was this morning.
I don’t know if I would call the immediate economic outlook for Britain “absolutely fine”, but compared to continental Europe, and especially continental EUrope, it remains quite good, both immediate outlooks having got rather worse because of Brexit.
The British policy for the last few years seems to have been: be the least worst governed country, but only by a bit. That way, capital and people flow in but don’t absolutely torrent in, even though our bosses are making most of the same mistakes as are being made everywhere else. Just not quite so much as rivals of comparable stature, like France.
If Brexit had only destabilised Britain, then British markets really would have crashed. As it is, it’s a toss up whether Brexit has destabilised Britain more than it has destabilised EUrope. (That guy means the EUrope won’t survive. Europe obviously will.) My belief is that money is both running away from Britain, and coming into Britain. (But what do I know?)
Now that it’s been decided that we shall Brexit, Dezeen reports on what creatives have been creating to mark the event. Here are the two images they reproduce which I think are the most striking:
Both of these images are intended as expressions of regret that Britain has voted for Brexit, but neither quite say that, or not to me. What, after all, is so great for a balloon about being stuck in a whole bunch of other balloons? It’s creator says: “sad day”, but it doesn’t look that sad to me. It just looks like a change. If he was merely describing, relatively objectively, what had happened, then I guess: fair enough.
As for the disintegrating, weeping Union Jack, that would work far better as an expression of regret, in the event that Britain had voted Remain rather than Leave. It is national flags like this one one that the EU has been working tirelessly to replace with its own flag. Very odd. But, a striking image nevertheless.
First, this, which was the graphic on the front page of today’s pro-Remain Daily Mirror, and reproduced at Samizdata, which Natalie Solent reckons sends a somewhat ambiguous message. I agree. Because REMAIN is in the biggest letters, it looks like it could be saying that if you vote REMAIN, you’ll be sucked into a black hole. As you will, by the way, if enough people do this. This is indeed the fate that awaits us all, in the event of a REMAIN victory. One of the reasons why this graphic only works when misunderstood, is that when misunderstood, it becomes true!
The thing is, the EU is a lot nearer to being like a black hole than us leaving the EU is. For that message, they needed something more like an endless desert, or a huge tundra, or maybe some grim maritime scene, doom-laden as far as they eye can see.
The enormity of this decision is, I feel, appropriately reflected in the deranged graphics which occurred when this picture got loaded up. Samizdata usually centres pictures automatically, and also makes them smaller automatically, if they need to be smaller. That doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment.
In the comment thread on that posting, I mentioned that it was raining. Which it was, torrentially. But alas, it soon cleared up, thereby not dampening down the London (= Remain) vote as much it might have if it had rained with less violence but greater steadiness. I mean, they even managed to have a shortened game of cricket at Lord’s, after the rain had stopped.
And on the right there, Elizabeth Hurley, who will have voted Leave by now, that being the picture she Twittered yesterday along with her support for Leave. There she stands, wearing only high-healed sandals and a Union Jack cushion, or that’s how it looks. Thankyou Guido. She was probably right that this would get noticed, and would aid the cause she favours. But I bet the Leavers have been circulating their own interpretations of this rather odd picture. Is the picture recent, I wonder, or does it date from way back?
At least it is upbeat and optimistic in atmosphere, unlike that black hole.
I found a handy little graphic – of Big Things built and Big Things soon to be built in the “Square Mile Cluster” of the City of London – in this piece:
Click to get a bigger and easier-to-read version.
As you can see, the names are all very dull and stupid. The Gherkin is called “30 St Mary Axe”, the Cheesegrater is called “122 Leadenhall Street”. The “Aviva Tower”, which will (if built) be the biggest of the lot (until a bigger one gets built), is far too big and obtrusive to go on being called the “Aviva Tower” indefinitely, by anyone except dull construction magazines terrified of their advertisers. There is also no way that the angular pointy thing (5: “52-54 Lime Street") will remain “52-54 Lime Street”. And I see that they even still calling Heron Tower the “Salesforce Tower”, which got squashed by public opinion ages ago.
Have these people learned nothing from the example of The Shard? The Shard’s owners heard people calling The Shard “The Shard” as soon as they announced it, and said, okay, that’s a name we can happily live with, we’ll call it that too. That way, there is no confusion. Everyone, even its owners, now calls The Shard The Shard. But refuse to bend with the linguistic breeze, and you end up with a building that you persist in pretending is called “34 Boring Street”, but which is really called The Dildo, or some such thing.
But the particular new tower which this article is about, now called “1 Leadenhall”, could quite well remain that, because it looks pretty unremarkable. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The fundamental purpose of the City – London, actually – is to get things done, not to look pretty.
But although unremarkable to look at, “1 Leadenhall” may prove very remarkable to look from. For here is yet another City of London Big Thing which will, assuming they mean it, have a viewing gallery at the top. The views of nearby and bigger Big Things will, I surmise, be pretty spectacular.
I actually think that they do mean it, just as they meant it with the Walkie Talkie. The City’s rulers seem to be making viewing galleries – free and public viewing galleries – at the top of new City Big Things a condition of planning permission. This is, I surmise, because they want to liven up the City at the weekend, by attracting out-of-City-ers there.
The City at the weekend is now about as exciting as the inside of a coffin. When I visited that model of the City (which at the moment is open only on Fridays and Saturdays), I stayed nearly an hour and saw only two other people there. They want to change that.
Trouble is, one of the things that gives the City at the weekend its coffinian atmosphere is its semi-darkness, on all but the brightest days. This is because of the Big Things of the City are not built with daylight in mind. They are built to create as much office space as possible, and maybe look cool from a distance, and they are now starting to cluster in a solid lump. I recently wrote about the difference between London and New York in this respect. In New York, daylight is a very big deal, and the Big Things of New York have always had to be rather further apart than these new London Big Things.
Photoed by me yesterday, in Lower Marsh:
How soon before you will be able to take a smartphone photo of such a vehicle, and then, on your screen, press on the Twitter or Facebook squares, or on the website, and get there. Presumably, with that squiggly square, you can already do something like this.
That would certainly be an “intelligent advertising” improvement on what I have heard threats of, which is that adverts will change when they see you coming, to something they believe you are interested in. But I don’t believe that will happen any time soon, because how would you stop other people seeing what the advert thinks you are interested in? Leaving it up to you to investigate further, if you want to, will be much more civilised.
Here is a picture of the Lower Manhattan end of New York, the bit with the tallest skyscrapers, topped off in 2001 by the Twin Towers:
And here is another picture of the exact same scene, taken fifteen years later in 2016, this time topped off with the single replacement tower for the Twin Towers:
The guy who took these pictures was interested in which photograph is photographically superior. The first one was taken with old-school film and the second is digital.
To me the two pictures look nearly identical. Their technical identicality does not interest me. But their architectural identicality, aside from the Twin Towers alteration, is something that I find fascinating.
Skyscrapers have exploded all over the world in the last decade and a half. New York is one of the world’s great cities. And yet, here are two photos of New York taken at opposite ends of the last fifteen years, and aside from the rather dramatic change imposed upon the place by terrorism, nothing at all seems to have changed.
Things were not changing in 2001 and they aren’t changing now. Consider the cranes in these pictures. Basically, barring a few microsopically invisible ones, there are no cranes.
I don’t know why this is, but it strikes me as an extremely remarkable circumstance.
It’s not that you aren’t allowed to build towers in New York any longer, unless you are replacing something like the Twin Towers. In the part of New York a bit further to the north, just to the south of Central Park, there is an explosion of skyscrapers under way. Skyscrapers that are very tall, but very thin.
Here is a picture of how these new New York Thin Things look like they will look:
People have long feared that skyscrapers would make all big cities the world over look alike. But the shape of individual skyscrapers varies from city to city, and does the shape of skyscraper clusters as a whole, and as does the variations in the heights of buildings. A city where the newest and tallest towers are a lot taller than the older buildings is one sort of city. A city where new towers are only slightly taller than old ones looks very different.
New York’s newest towers are, as I say, these tall Thin Things, a lot taller than their surroundings. In London, the typical new tower is a much fatter looking Thing, the extreme recent case being the Walkie Talkie which is big on the ground compared to its height, and which then bulges outwards as it goes upwards.
Interestingly, the Walkie Talkie is the work of Rafael Vinoly, as is this new Thin Thing in New York. (You can just see the top of this new Thin Thing in the second of the two Lower Manhattan photos above, bottom left, in the foreground. That’s the one big change in these photos aside from the Twin Towers having been replaced.) It’s like Vinoly wants to do his bit to make great cities look distinct and recognisable, rather than them all looking the same. Good for him.
I have been neglecting Libertarian Home of late. Let me assure LH’s Dear Leader Simon Gibbs that this is not permanent, just a combination of the declining energy that accompanies advancing years, and being, first, knackered by my French expedition, ant then preoccupied with the meeting I hosted on Friday addressed by Dominic Frisby. (Because this was a dry run for a theatrical performance at the Edinburgh Festival in August, some rearranging was required in my tiny front room, to make it less completely unlike a theatre.)
Simon has made it easy for me to respond positively to his constant nudgings, by serving up a nudge that is very easy for me to respond to, and in fact which I am glad to respond to, because it takes care of my something-every-day self-imposed rule here, for today.
At the Libertarian Home secret coven site where Simon nudges most of his nudgings to his various LH helpers and comrades, he posted this picture, which he recently snapped in Trafalgar Square:
Click on that to get the original, bigger and with more verbiage.
It is typical of Simon that he nudged this in my direction (picking me out individually thereby ensuring that an email about the nudge would reach me immediately) by emphasising the horizontality of this photo. (He had other ways of recommending it to others.) What this illustrates is that Simon is good at tuning in to how others think, which is the bedrock of the art of persuasion.
Photographic horizontality interests me because it suits the blogging format by helping to make blog postings vertically shorter and hence less unwieldy than they would otherwise be, and because horizontality also suits other circumstances that happen to be of interest to me.
So, he used it. Thus are ideological movements built and strengthened.
That Brexit thing is getting less and less horizontal by the minute, apparently. Although I promise nothing, I have in mind (more Gibbs nudging) to go to Trafalgar Square this afternoon and try to photo the whole thing.
For years I have struggled, with the graphics programme I have been using, to crop, not square (an option this programme does offer), and not to a size I specify (ditto), but to a ratio that I specify. For years, I could not do that. I repeatedly searched for such a thing, in other programmes, but evidently didn’t pick the right words.
Then, in France, I couldn’t remember the mere name (on such things do decisions hinge) of my regular photo-editing package, so I loaded PhotoCat, basically because it had “cat” in its name and I reckoned I could have Friday feline fun with it (ditto), to see if I could photo-edit with that, and I could, and I could do constant ratio rectangular cropping which was a most welcome surprise.
Thus are decisions made, by computer operatives. There are two rules for getting things done in the modern world. (1) Do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem. If it doesn’t help you to do something that you need to do, don’t bother with it no matter how cool everyone else says it is. Cool is not a good enough reason to be faffing about with something. (Faffing about to no purpose cannot be cool, because it isn’t, and because another rule is: worrying about being cool guarantees that you won’t be.)
And (2): if it does help you to do just one thing that you do want to do, then, if you can afford the money, the space, the bother, whatever, use it. Then, when you are using that thing for that one essential thing, then, you can move onwards to finding out if it will do any other merely desirable things. But, lots of merely desirable things and nothing essential is not good enough.
Using anything is difficult, if you only use it occasionally, to do something merely occasionally desirable. This rule applies at all times, in all places, and no matter how “user friendly” the gizmo or programme claims itself or is claimed by other users of it to be. Occasional is bother. Always. Don’t do occasional if you can avoid it.
Using anything is easy, on the other hand, if you do it regularly. This rule applies at all times, in all places, to all things, and no matter how “user hostile” enemies of the gizmo or process claim it to be. If a convoluted dance around the houses by a complicated route gets you an essential result, then dance. Convoluted will quickly become imprinted on your brain, and easy, and reinforced each time you (frequently) use it. This is how rats and ants do things. (Hurrah: other creatures!) They’ll probably outlast us. Ants definitely.
The above explains why the division of labour was so epoch-making. When you concentrate entirely on a small but rather tricky part of a big process, you will do it massively better than others attempting this tricky operation only sometimes, in among all the other things they are attempting. The damn near impossible becomes routine and easy.
So, I prepared for a life of frequently PhotoCatting fixed-ratio rectangles out of my photos. Using PhotoCat for that one thing.
But then, earlier this week I was cranking up PhotoCat, prior to some fixed-ratio cropping, and it refused to load. It got to 80%, and then stuck there. Who knows why? Was this PhotoCat’s fault? Was it something I was doing? Probably the latter, but that isn’t the point. It didn’t load. So, I went looking for alternatives, and I found one, called: PhotoPad.
And the bad news for PhotoCat is that PhotoPad also does proportional ratio cropping, and does it rather more conveniently, because PhotoPad operates on my hard disc and doesn’t have to be uploaded from the www each time. Unlike PhotoCat, PhotoPad is not www based, or whatever you call it, which I prefer because you can still use it if the www is out of action. It’s now all mine:
That being a snap of a rather unusual form of transport that I snapped, in France. I like how you can see what’s happening there, like when they zoom in on a detail in a computer picture in NCIS or a movie or something similar. (Question. Does art lead life in computing? Does stuff like the above start out in the movies, just so absolutely everyone can get what’s going on, and then migrate to real life?)
PhotoPad does something else which PhotoCat didn’t do, or not for me, which is rotate much more exactly. Most photo software seems to want to offer only rotation in 1 degree increments. If they can do better, they don’t volunteer the fact. But, PhotoPad does volunteer this. With PhotoPad, instead of rotating something 1 degree or 2 degrees (or 359 degrees), you can do 1.38 degrees or 1.77 degrees or 358.61 degrees. You’d be surprised, perhaps, how often that is a desirable refinement. You can do it by eye, and let the numbers take care of themselves. Terrific. Cool, even.
So. PhotoCat now offers me … nothing. So, … see above.
Just now, while checking out the PhotoCat link for this posting, I successfully cranked up PhotoCat. Whatever went wrong before has now gone away.
Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference. Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs. And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:
Conference programme here.
1.1: An attender. 1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden. 1.3: Syed Kamall. 1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides. 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro. 3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook. 3.2: Brook. 3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books. 3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window. 4.1: Anton Howes. 4.2: Howes and Brook. 4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.
The weather in Thuir and surrounding parts yesterday and today has been grim, in sharp contrast to the weather at the end of last week.
Here is that sharp (as in sharp and then not at all sharp) contrast:
On the left, the weather last week, as viewed from the top of the house I am staying in. On the right, the weather viewed from the same spot this afternoon. The weather on the left was the sort that decreased the apparent force of gravity. The weather now is the sort that you describe yourself as being under.
Note that it is not only the far away Pyrenees that have disappeared in the right hand picture. The further away bit of the much nearer, green bit of the landscape has also vanished under cloud.
These two pictures (click on either to get it bigger) both involved a lot of cropping, and fiddling about to get the cropping exactly (or approximately exactly) so. Without Photocat, I could never have done it.
I am looking forward to maybe (I promise nothing) doing similar before-and-after snaps involving recently constructed buildings in London.
Travel and learn.
I mentioned in a recent posting that picture editing here in Thuir is different. This is because I can’t remember the name of the photo-editing programme that I usually use, and am having to use a different one. And the one I am using is called PhotoCat. Irritating. But one very good thing has emerged from all the irritation, which is that PhotoCat can do cropping which follows the original shape of the picture,which with me is always 4x3. This means that I can now crop a picture and still have the final result the exact same 1000x750 pixels that all my other pictures are, and that means that I can easily do a much smaller version and make. I could do that with my regular programme, but only with a lot of fiddling about.
PhotoCat also does rotating in a way that takes you straight to the biggest version you can then have, also while preserving the same proportions.
Here, for instance, appropriately enough, is picture of a cat which I took in Castelnou yesterday. On the left is the original snap. On the right is the cropped version.
Whether the picture above actually needed cropping is not the point. The point is that cropping, while keeping the shape the same, was painless.
As is rotating. This same cat later did a bit of rotating of its own, so here is the original of it doing that, with my left foot intruding. And on the right is my rotation of its rotating, also cropped:
PhotoCat is a web based application, or I think it is. It works pretty much like you own it, except that if your internet is down, it presumably doesn’t work.
This posting has been done to ensure that I do not forget the name of this programme. PhotoCat. By which I mean PhotoCat.
A week ago and more, the story was that Spurs were hunting them down, waiting for them to falter. But it was Spurs who faltered, twice. They had leads against both the last two teams the have played, but all they could muster was just the two points. So Leicester, and most of the rest of the world that cares about such things, is now celebrating:
All season long, people have been saying that Leicester would falter. Now people are saying that this is a one-off, and that they’ve been lucky not to have more injuries and to have picked a moment when the hitherto best teams were all “rebuilding”. We’ll see. Leicester remind me a bit of Nottingham Forest of old, who were also said not to be front rankers, and had quite a few players rescued from the scrap heap. They did pretty well, for a while.
Spurs? Well, they have a new stadium coming soon, so there’s a decent chance this is Spurs on the up too. On the other hand, there’s nothing like new architecture to take people’s eyes off the ball. Again, we shall see.