Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Nikki on I want to write more here about music
MarkR on Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
Brian Micklethwait on Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Rob Fisher on Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Rob Fisher on A bridge in Narbonne
Rocco on Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Friday Night Smoke on Safe cracks in an airplane window
6000 on The view from the roof
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Most recent entries
- Seven London bridges (again)
- Feline Friday at Samizdata
- Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
- More South of France bridges
- Played 6 – Won 0 – Drawn 3 – Lost 3
- I want to write more here about music
- South of France signs
- Keeping up appearances at One Palace Street
- Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
- Incoming imagery from Antoine
- A bridge in Narbonne
- South of France electronic clutter
- Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
- Bird takes off from a TV aerial
- Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Language
Indeed. Photoed by me yesterday afternoon:
Learn more about the service at one of the places featured on the van door, such as this one.
The early version of this posting had a title with the word “verbose” in it, but that was inaccurate. This is more words that you’d see on a van twenty years ago, but it’s all good stuff.
I did an earlier posting about some birds I had spied on a walk with GD1, and 6k identified them:
I can help with bird identification!
Your ducks are red-crested pochards (a female and a male), ...
Pochards? You made that up mate. Well, no. But, first I’d heard of it.
… while your ibises are African Sacred Ibis, which are regular visitors to our local dumps and beaches, scavenging what they can, where they can.
Sacred Ibis? More like profane.
I can confirm that these Ibis, Ibises, Ibes, Ibix, whatever, look good in the air, because on that same trip, moments after taking the shot I showed in that earlier posting, of two Ibi squatting on a horizontal tube, I got a shot of one of them flying. Inside their cage, yes, but still flying. And suddenly, a squat little pre-war propeller driven failure of an aircraft turned into a post-war jet bomber:
Let’s have a closer look at that:
Profane on the ground, but sacred in the air.
Blog buddy 6k recently did a posting about a Finnish word, “kalsarikännit”, which apparently means: “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”.
I came across the big word in the title of this posting as a result of photoing a van, as it entered Victoria Street, on Tuesday:
What got me photoing this van was not any long word on it, for there are none. No, what got my attention was how amazingly posh this van looked. Amazingly posh like one of those amazingly posh magazines about Design, two-thirds full of posh car, posh frock, posh watch and posh property adverts. Goddaughter 1, if she sees this, will surely be delighted. The market for aesthetically sophisticated architectural photography (which is what she mostly does for a living) has now spread to the sides of vans.
But what is BRS? BRS.NL was a big clue. Dutch, yes? Yes. Here’s the website. I had a rootle around in it, and that was when I came across “Toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.
Here is the original Dutch:
Het accent van de werkzaamheden van BRS Traffic Systems BV ligt op het ontwikkelen, produceren, installeren en onderhouden van toegangsbeveiligingsproducten zoals Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speeddoors en Pevac®Traps.
By the way, “van” is not the Dutch for a van.
The only translation of “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten” that I could coax out of the internet was the English translation of the above verbiage:
The emphasis of the work of BRS Traffic Systems BV is the development, production, installation and maintenance of access security as Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speed Doors, and Pevac®Traps.
So, “access security products”? Fancy metal gates, in other words. That’s not as good as “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”, but I reckon “kalsarikännit” is not as impressive as “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.
Thank heavens for copy-and-paste.
German, I know, and Dutch, which I presume to be very similar, would seem to have this ability to construct infinitely long words, like good trains. So perhaps this particular word is not that surprising. But I like it. I wonder if there is a single German, or Dutch, word for “a word that is in principle infinitely long, to which you can keep adding stuff for ever, like a goods train”. Probably. It could, that is to say, be devised.
Six years ago I submitted a paper for a panel, “On the Absence of Absences” that was to be part of an academic conference later that year - in August 2010. Then, and now, I had no idea what the phrase “absence of absences” meant. The description provided by the panel organizers, printed below, did not help. The summary, or abstract of the proposed paper - was pure gibberish, as you can see below. I tried, as best I could within the limits of my own vocabulary, to write something that had many big words but which made no sense whatsoever. I not only wanted to see if I could fool the panel organizers and get my paper accepted, I also wanted to pull the curtain on the absurd pretentions of some segments of academic life. To my astonishment, the two panel organizers - both American sociologists - accepted my proposal and invited me to join them at the annual international conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science to be held that year in Tokyo.
I wonder what Hemingway would have made of “On the Absence of Absences”. (Hemingway, for those not inclined to follow links, is a programme to make your writing clearer.)
Presumably someone has also written a program which churns out this kind of drivel automatically. Google google.
The creators of the automatic nonsense generator, Jeremy Stribling, Dan Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn, have made the SCIgen program free to download. And scientists have been using it in their droves.
At the moment, this sort of drivel just marches on. This is because people who oppose the drivel have to convince the drivellers to stop, which is hard. And, being opposed to drivel, they usually have better things to do with their time. The trick is somehow to reverse the burden of proof, to put the drivellers in the position, en masse, of having to convince the rest of us that their drivel is not drivel. At that point, they find that they have no friends, only public contempt. Everybody, including them, thinks that it is drivel. And nobody thinks it worth bothering to even try to prove otherwise.
Regular cats have kittens, but this cat is big, and has cubs:
Mick Hartley had a picture of an underpass, at Mick Hartley, today. I went to where that underpass picture came from, to try to understand the underpass picture. I still don’t understand the underpass picture, but I did find the above mega-feline. Rather than reduce the whole picture and lose feline detail, I cranked up the cropper, in square mode (of which I am particularly fond).
A few decades ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don’t let Kevin Bacon die.
How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?
Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.
How come Miss Universe is only won by people from Earth?
I picked the first three by the fact that I actually did laugh out loud. Then, after about 30, the jokes started to fall flat. I stopped laughing, but carried on in the hope that the laughter would return. It never did. I was completely joked out.
By the time I reached 85, above, I was in the mood to get quite angry if someone said something even slightly angry-making, which is why I include 85. Yes, I’ve often wondered about this. Why does nobody not from Earth win that thing? Something should be done about it. And I don’t believe there’s ever been a Mr Universe from off-planet either.
It’s things like this that mean that when those Aliens do show up, they may be hostile. We should choose our words, and in particular, our masculinity and feminity championship descriptions, more carefully. This is not a joke.
There have been times, which I prefer not to remember with links, when a bit of heckling from this programme would have improved my writing, and it would probably have improved this sentence, maybe by chopping it up into two sentences, or even three or four, or five, especially in the first or first few sentences of postings, when I tend to go round the houses like a drunken milkman, which is a bit unfair to milkmen, but there you go.
Today I have been what passes with me for busy. By this I do not mean that I have been doing anything along the lines of work, of benefit to others. Oh no. But I have been paying attention to a succession of things, all of which involved me not being in much of a state to do anything else.
There was a game of cricket, there was a game of rugger, and a game of football. England defeated South Africa. England defeated Scotland. And Spurs defeated Watford. So, three for three. And then I went to hear a talk at Christian Michel’s, about The Unconscious, Freudian and post-Freudian. Freud, it turns out, was right that there is an Unconscious, but wrong about a lot of the details.
On my way home from that talk, I took a photo. Technically it was very bad photo, because it was taken through the window of a moving tube train. It is of an advert at a tube station. But my photo did the job, which was to immortalise here yet another assemblage of London’s Big Things, in an advert:
That’s only a bit of the picture, rotated a bit, lightened and contrasted a bit and sharpened a bit.
The advert was for these visitor centres, which sound suspiciously like what used to be called “information desks”.
I see: the Cheesegrater, the Wheel, the BT Tower, Big Ben, the cable car river crossing, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Paul’s, and the pointy-topped Canary Wharf tower. I forgive TfL for plugging the embarrassing Emirates Dangleway. If they didn’t recommend it, who would?
Because of all that busy-ness, I have no time to put anything else here today.
Tomorrow: Super Bowl!
LATER: AB de Villiers, talking about South Africa now being two down with three to play:
“I can’t help but think, shit we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. Shucks, I mean. But that’s the fact of the matter. In situations like this, whether you are 2-nil up or 2-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us. Shucks.”
We all know what shit is, but now learn what a shuck is.
The practice of facadism emerged in the 1980s, when construction technology made it possible to retain a mere sliver of a frontage, and as the rise of the conservation movement increased pressure to preserve the historic streetscape – even if it didn’t care much for what happened beyond the surface.
And more to the point, there are some great photos. Photos like this:
Wainwright is of course angry about this unequal style collision. He writes for the Guardian, and being angry about capitalism (aka everything except Guardianism) comes with the job. But I actually quite like it when big modernism rises up behind smaller ancientism. To put it another way, in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, the architect-hero Howard Roark is disgusted when a committee seeks to stick an ancientist front door at the bottom of his modernist skyscraper. But I think this front door, at any rate as shown in the film they made of The Fountainhead, improved things. It certainly made it easier to see where the front door actually was, which is often hard with totally modernist buildings, and used for about a decade to be impossible. Ancientism evolved a way of handling front doors in a way that makes sense to all, and there is no more virtue in destroying these ground-level conventions than there is in abolishing English and trying to replace it with Esperanto.
Besides which, buildings are often hated, to begin with, for the very thing that causes them at a later date to be loved, namely their distinctiveness and their oddity. Think of the Eiffel Tower, which at first was greatly disliked. My guess is that much the same will apply to the above Cardiff oddity.
I also believe that the Carbuncle-Cup-winning Walkie Talkie will in the fullness of time mutate from Carbuncle to National Treasure. I visited that building today. More about that visit Real Soon Now, maybe, I promise nothing.
For the purposes of this posting, bike fishing means fishing for bikes. Not: fishing while on a bike.
Favourite line in the report:
Bike fishing has become one of Amsterdam’s unique tourist attraction.
My immediate reaction was: So, anyone can do it? Do you need a license? But what they really mean, presumably, is just standing there and watching while somebody else does the bike fishing.
A bike fishing competition might be really something. And it still might be if it was fishing while on a bike.
Other recent favourite Amusing Planet posting: The Lady of the North.
I’m still catching up with some of the things I did last summer, even though it is now next year. My gaff my rules. In particularly, I still have finished reporting on Richmond Park.
Richmond Park is the very picture of unthreatening sweetness and light, especially on the sort of day it was when me and GD2 paid our visit to it. But, as regulars here will know, I like to photograph signs, and maps, so that I will know where I’ve been.
In Richmond Park, there are big maps of Richmond Park, like this one:
This map is covered with the names of all the various places in Richmond Park. Most of these names are quite nice, as you can see if you take a closer look (by clicking on it), at this closer-up view of the middle of the above map:
Prince Charles’s Spinney, Thompson’s Pond, Sidmouth Wood, and Queen Elizabeth’s Plantation, they all sound nice enough, in keeping with the suburban niceness of the place. Although, I suppose “plantation” might suggest slavery.
But some of these names speak of a different and grimmer past. How about, to take a closer look at some of them, names like these:
Suddenly, Richmond Park becomes more like the sort of landscape that brings to mind, say, Vincent Price’s chilling enactment of the Witchfinder General.
Names like those two suggest interpretations that are probably far worse than the truth, of names like these:
Spankers are probably just people who chase deer so that the upper classes can kill them for sport. A saw pit is probably just a pit where sawing (of tree trunks) was done. And Peg’s Pond is probably just the pond which Peg owned, and fished in. But, I couldn’t helping thinking that Peg’s Pond was really the pond where Vincent Price made poor Peg swim, thereby proving that she was a witch. And then she got hanged in one of the two hanging locations named above.
And how about these two names:
Bone Copse? Killcat Corner? What on earth was that about? Googling told me nothing, but that proves nothing.
I did a Samizdata posting earlier today, soliciting help in decyphering a piece of text in a photo. Earlier this month I photoed this lady holding up a message for the lady she was videoing to read. Trouble is, the text was in something that looked like it was Russian.
According to Samizdata commenter Alex, the text is Kazakh. It would appear that the lady being videoed was making a video message for her sister. I expect further details to follow.
Ah, Kazakhstan. Known in Britain mostly for being the home of Borat.
As it happens there’s a Borat photo I’ve been meaning to stick up here, of Borat on the back of a bus. Here is that photo, on the right below, together with another Borat related photo which is one of my all time favourite snaps. I took this Borats-plural photo, on the left here, in Piccadilly, on March 9th 2007, and it has been shown here already, on the day after it was taken. The Borat on the bus photo was taken on March 14th, and is being shown here for the first time:
Click to see these photos bigger.
When I googled for more serious Kazakhstan information, the most interesting info I found was definitely this. Blog and learn.
I did a posting at Samizdata in 2012, about a trip I made to One New Change, but I don’t believe I ever displayed this photo, which I took soon after visiting the top of that excellent venue:
It is quite clear that this is a drycleaners. Its name, alas, is not, in my photo, quite so clear.
Photo of this enterprise taken without my deliberate and rather malicious mistake here.
I have just got back from a party at Mchael J’s, having failed to do anything here before departing to it, and this was all I could manage.
But, I can add this. During that party Michael said, while travel-talking about the Middle East:
The thing you have to remember about that part of the world is that Hezbollah are the good guys.
I think he was talking about Syria, but I could be wrong. It was a good party.
Perry de Havilland also said something else very funny, but I have forgotten what it was. It was a good party.
Good night. Sleep well. I will.
Blatant quota photo, in the form of an interestingly informative vehicle snapped by me earlier this evening:
Shame about the superfluous piece of punctuation.
Earlier, my host and his guests were chuckling at a big flag host had in his living room, which said: DONT TREAD ON ME. For DONT read DON’T.
Shame the apostrophe cannot somehow be transferred from the car to the flag, thereby bringING (see comment) the grammar universe into alignment.
Back to the car: COMERCIAL is missing an M.
None of which should be brought up if he is rescuing you and your vehicle from a predicament.
And, I bet this posting contains a grammar or spelling mistake, because this is one of the subsections of Sod’s Law. Whenever you sneer at someone else’s grammar or spelling, yours goes wrong.
Photoed by me, earlier this evening:
This is my regular laundrette.
There seems to me to be something doom-laden about these messages.
LAST WASH: 6.45PM
And may God have mercy upon your soul.
It’s the severity and coldness of the machines and the negativity of the news about that wash, after which no further washes may be washed, and about the close, after which the rest is silence. In most other circumstances those merry wishes would be cheerfully inconsequential. But not these ones. They too seem to be spoken with funerial gloom, in a way that portends a Christmas which will, this time, be anything but merry.