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
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- 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
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- 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: Food and drink
When there are great big thick elaborate sandwiches going for a quid each at the end of the day in Strutton Ground I am sometimes tempted to have one too many, i.e. two. I did that yesterday, and although I love these sandwiches, they hate me, and when there’s two of them, they can act on this hatred. Which meant that my internal organs were in no state to confront the ferocious rugger game between Wales and England this afternoon. England eventually won with a well taken but still somewhat lucky (for England to get the chance I mean) late try. But for most of the game Wales had looked better and England were consequently, for most of the game, behind. (The more usual procedure is for England to look better and for Wales then to win with a late try, Wales having been behind for most of the game.) I’ll take the win, but it would be nice if, one of these weekends, England could simply race away to a nice big win. As it was, when I fret about a game on the telly, I often console myself for probable disaster by deliberately doing something else, to put it in perspective, to distance myself, to consume irrelevant aroused energy, blah blah blah. Today I got several quite significant household tasks done.
The other Six Nations rugger game today had involved Italy. Let’s just say that the Georgian rugby team, if they were watching, must now be feeling even more pissed off. They would surely have done better against Ireland than Italy did.
Tomorrow, I expect France to slaughter Scotland. If they do, England will be top and the only unbeaten team. If Scotland win, well, jolly ho Scotland. Rugby remains a very important game.
Football, on the other hand, is only a game.
LATER: France didn’t slaughter Scotland but they did defeat them, and England are indeed now the only team with two wins from two. France and Scotland both looked good, and England beating France is looking better and better.
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.
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.
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?
This morning I was out and about in the greyness and gloom of Victoria, and the more entertaining things I saw was this guy, wearing a suit. And a swimming cap. He was talking with a guy wearing a Santa elf hat, outside a pub, and inside the pub was a table full of more guys in strange headgear. Mr Swimming Cap and Mr Elf had to be part of that. Some kind of office or re-union pre-Christmas get-together, presumably. With a strange headgear theme.
Click to get the bigger picture. I now wish I’d got more of the suit.
I like how the hat is wrinkled, like an alien in a cheap and ancient SF movie, before this kind of thing was done properly.
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.
Alice Robb writes about the strange relationship between humans and cats:
When a stray cat wandered onto the tracks of a midtown 7 train last month, the MTA halted the entire subway line until the animal was out of harm’s way. At the same time, the U.S. government euthanizes millions of stray cats each year. They’re a disaster for the environment: One conservancy organization has called cats the “ecological axis of evil.” ...
There was no single, obvious reason for cats to have been domesticated, says Robb, like meat, or milk, or fur. They are famously unbiddable. And they can be very nasty to us. So, how did it happen?
As I talked to scientists, it dawned on me that we weren’t necessarily the ones who were driving this relationship. House cats sidled up to our first settlements 10,000 years ago, because of big changes we started making to the environment. All of these animals crept into our settlement and were eating our trash - animals like badgers and foxes, in addition to small wildcats. They got into this new niche and exploited it.
So how did they trick us into feeding them and taking care of them?
For a long time, it was probably just an accident. But there are reasons that cats made the transition, but we don’t have badgers or foxes as pets today. One reason is that cats have a set of physical features that, for completely accidental reasons, remind us of human babies. Cats have big round eyes located right in the middle of their faces, because they’re ambush predators and need good binocular vision. They have little noses, because they don’t hunt by smell. They have round faces because they have short, powerful jaws. This set of features, which is actually just an expression of the way the cat hunts, looks to us like our infants. That gave them a leg up on the competition, and made them an intriguing and charming presence, rather than a straight-up nuisance, like a raccoon.
I always assumed that cats were made welcome by our ancestors because they killed rats and mice, which gobbled up our crops. But, says Robb, cats often can’t be bothered to kill rats, because of all the garbage humans emit.
There’s plenty of garbage for everybody. Cats and rats have been photographed sharing piles of trash. Why would these animals fight and risk their lives, when they could just comfortably graze together?
As for the suppose health benefits of keeping a cat, these, says Robb, are highly dubious.
It all adds up to a pretty good summary of the cat/person relationship.
Friday is the day here for cats and other creatures, so here, among other things, is a panda:
What this photo illustrates is the perennial problem of trying to chuck stuff out, which is that all too often, stuff is just too nice to chuck out.
I recall, a year or two after the Berlin Wall was dismantled, meeting an Eastern European lady, who complained about how the packages and pots and bottles in which produce was suddenly now sold was too good to chuck out. Bloody capitalism. Capitalist rubbish was better than what they had previously had as actual stuff.
In a modified form, I now suffer from this syndrome. It has crept up on me more gradually, but throughout my lifetime, packaging has been getting ever better, probably because it is the sort of industry that politicians disapprove of, and have hence left to its own devices, an industry’s own devices invariably being better than any device devised by politicians. The packaging industry, not having been “helped”, has thrived.
Beer bottles (the one in the picture still has beer in it so that will be consumed first), I have learned not to miss. But even they are sometimes so artfully designed that it seems wrong to throw them away.
The coffee jar I will keep, because coffee jars are so structurally impressive.
But that panda has got to go.
For me, on this night, Bonfire Night really was a bonfire night, and here is that bonfire:
There were also fireworks, in abundance. But I learned that photoing fireworks effectively is actually quite hard, if you are not used to using that snap-snap-snap-snap-snap procedure that is also used to capture sportspersons in action, so you can pick the best of five snaps rather than just hope that your one snap is good. My camera could probably do this, if only I knew how to push the right buttons. But, I don’t.
But it was great to be at this event, which took place in the grounds of this church. It reminded me a bit of the Farnborough Air Show, in that although there was a very large crowd of people present, all just standing in a big clump, nobody’s view of the excitements was impeded by any other people, because the drama was all in the sky, which we could all see quite clearly, with nobody interrupting anyone else’s view (as I explained in the final paragraph of this Farnborough Air Show posting). This fact alone made for a very convivial atmosphere. Usually crowds are rather bad tempered because the ones at the front can see whatever it is better, and the others are all fighting each other for what remains of the view. But not at the Farnborough Air Show, and not if there are fireworks, presented in the way that they were outside and above St John’s Loughton, earlier this evening.
Afterwards I and my Loughtonian host were able to buy a hot dog and a hamburger, for two quid each. Usually, “events” are an excuse to charge far too much for such things. Not there, not this evening.
No Guy, though. I would have liked a Guy.
Click at will, to get bigger, less square pictures.
Displayed in chronological order. Taken between May 2011 and August 2014. When I took that last one, of the bikini-wearing bottle openers, that got me collecting all the others. That last one is definitely the one where the Union Jacks are having the most fun.
Yesterday I was reminding myself that we live in an age when pub quiz questions have instant answers. So when, soon after posting that posting, I came across this photo I took a while back, of a boat, …:
… with the words “THAMES RIB EXPERIENCE” written on it, I set to work to find out what the “RIB” bit means. I had vaguely supposed that this was some sort of steakhouse sponsorship deal. The world is now full of ridiculous arrangements of that sort, sponsored by commercial enterprises whose only way to sell more of their stuff is to cause even more people to have heard of it. The mere merits of the product being irrelevant, for their purposes. “Yes it’s bad for you but it tastes really nice” not being a message they want to be too publicly and explicitly associated with, because then they’d have the health fascists all over them.
So “Thames Rib Experience” as an exercise is boosting meat consumption? But which ribs should we be consuming. Just ribs generally? The British Rib Council, a combined consortium of ribbers, combining to boost ribs in general? It didn’t seem very plausible. So, what does RIB really mean?
It turns out that RIB means rigid inflatable boat.
This is a triviality, of course, unless you are in life-threateningly urgent need of a rigid inflatable boat trip on the Thames. But the change in the world towards a state where it is much easier to find things out is not trivial. The story that lots of people mention in this connection, and lots of people are not wrong, is the ease with which a formerly dirt poor farmer now can, in the depths of the African countryside, keep himself informed about the prices he can expect to get for his products, when he takes them to market.
Quicker and better answers to questions is all part of why all this stuff has been happening lately.
I think it looks like they’re giving someone two fingers, rather than two kangaroo ears. At least it’s not pointing at us. It’s more like we’re doing it. Weird. It will be interesting to see if it survives. Quite apart from anything else, I just think it is extremely ugly, in the same kind of way that the 2012 Olympics logo was ugly.
Friday is my day for cats and other creatures. The other creatures have already been alluded to. Now for the cats.
Last Sunday I visited GodDaughter 1’s parents and my friends, Gus and Mrs Gus. Gus, Mrs Gus and I visited their allotment, to collect our supper and to do some watering. Well, they collected our supper and did watering. I took photos. Like these two. On the left, Gus, and on the right some flowers? What sort of flowers? Yellow flowers.
And, I photoed cats.
The first cat I photoed lived in a house with a fence bordering on the allotments, through which it observed me, and then came closer, to investigate,while always being ready to retreat if I made any sudden moves:
That final picture is of the cat after he had gone back home, photoed with maximum zoom. But, he was still staring warily at me, just in case I did anything dangerous.
And the other cat I photoed was a handsome black and white cat, like the one my family had when I was a kid. He is apparently a regular visitor to the allotments, which is one of his favourite toilets, so I was told.
This time there was no fence to hide behind, so my zoom was in constant use.
I have been slightly ill for quite a while now. About three weeks. Not properly ill, just slightly ill.
One of the symptoms of being ill is that I don’t like coffee. Normally, I do like coffee. But when ill, I don’t. And for some reason the experience of being slightly ill has thrown this effect into sharp relief. Every morning for the last few weeks, I have asked myself: do I want coffee? Each morning, I have said to myself: yes, I do. Not as much as I do when healthy, but I still want it, more than I don’t want it.
This is because I am mostly well, but a bit ill. Mostly, I still want coffee, but I slightly don’t. Because I am slightly ill.
Maybe it is the constant decision making which has made me so very aware of this equation, that being healthy means I can drink coffee, but that being ill means I don’t.
What this shows is that there is a definite connection between regular coffee drinking and a healthy lifestyle. But, for me at least and probably for quite a few others, the causal arrow goes in the opposite direction to the one usually assumed.
Every so often, Instapundit does a posting about how coffee is good for your health. Drink three cups of coffee every morning and live to be ninety five, that kind of thing. The clear implication is that it is the coffee that is causing you to live so long.
My surmise is that this is wrong. Your healthiness is what is causing you to be so healthy that you live to be ninety five, and your healthiness also causes you to drink lots of coffee. You drink it because you can. You are healthy!
Sickly people, the sort who die younger, cannot stomach coffee. But it is their sickliness that kills them, not their failure to drink coffee.
I can’t be the first person to say all this. I am slightly ill, and so can’t be bothered to search out all the other people who say such things. But, I bet they are out there.
I’ve been suffering from something a lot like hay fever. Yesterday, the doctor gave me some anti-hay-fever spray to spray it with, up my nose, which I hate. My symptoms are: aches and pains that wander around all over the left side of my head. I knew you’d be excited.
But, from the same doctor who wants me to spray chemical effluent up my nose I learned that if you get something stuck in your throat, which is what set all this off, they recommend: coca cola. I did not know that. So last night, when I went out for drinks, someone offered me a drink, and I though, no I’ve had enough (what with the headaches and so forth), but then I thought: yes, get me a coca cola. Apparently it clears out stuff in your throat by dissolving it. How come it doesn’t dissolve your entire mouth? (Maybe it does.) But whatever, it felt like it worked, and I’m drinking more coke now.
Last night, at that drinks gathering, I heard something else diverting.
We were having a coolness competition. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately? That kind of thing. I contributed the fact that my niece is about to become the published author of a work of crime fiction, which is not bad, and which I will surely be saying more about when this book materialises. It will be published by a real publisher, with an office in London and a name you’ve heard of, which intends to make money from the book and thinks it might. More about that when I get to read it. I usually promise nothing but I do promise that, here or somewhere I’ll link to from here. It would be a lot cooler if it was me who had accomplished this myself, but it is pretty cool even from a moderately close relative.
But another friend from way back whom I hadn’t seen for years trumped this, with something which in my opinion made him the winner, not least because he did the thing in question himself.
Remember the Concorde crash in Paris, back whenever it was, just before 9/11. And remember how the other Concordes all got grounded for ever after that crash. What you may not recall quite so clearly is that the other Concordes were not grounded for ever immediately after the crash. That only happened a few weeks later. And my friend told us that he took a trip on Concorde, on the day after the Concorde crash. How cool is that? Very, I would say. There were many cancellations, apparently, but he was made of sterner stuff, which is all part of what made it so cool.
I know, a bit of a ramble. It comes of me being somewhat ill. Illnesses can be cool, I suppose. But this one, which is just uncomfortable enough to be uncomfortable, but which hasn’t actually stopped me from doing things, merely from doing them energetically and enthusiastically, definitely isn’t cool.