Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Peter Thrall on Headlights with cleaning brush
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- Photographers in Tate Ancient
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- Another facade being carefully preserved
- Rob took photos
- Flying cars will have to be flown by robots
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- Lady with a lot of hair
- Triple selfie
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- Quota towers
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- 65x zoom!!!
- Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
- Union Jack Minis
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Language
Here. They may not have intended it to be sarcastic, but that’s how it reads.
So, what is “Xxxx”?:
Taken by me, when out and about yesterday early evening.
I’m still suffering from God problems. God needs a new everything. New fan, new processor, new graphics card, even some new RAM. His old body will do, and hopefully all his hard discs can stay where they are, and continue to have all the same stuff on them, but the stuff that enables God to do his mysterious work is all change. Overheating, The Guru said. There was much dust inside, which will not surprise anyone who has ever visited my home.
Here is a picture of God’s inner workings, not that it tells me much:
Apparently overheating is big deal in computing these days, and there are an amazing number of little systems inside a computer like God which are just there to stop things getting too hot. The Guru pointed out various little cooling mechanisms, and there were about half a dozen of them. Not just obvious things like big fans, but small things like strategically placed bits of metal to get ride of the head in some tiny little sub-system.
I recall reading a book about the man who invented the first Supercomputers. Cray? It said that Cray computers were actually of a rather conservative design, because that way they wouldn’t go wrong. The brilliant idea was to combine such a computer with a refrigeration system. Apparently nobody had thought of that, until Cray did. But, said Cray, who says you can’t put a computer in a fridge?
By the way, odd that fridge is spelt fridge, but refrigeration is spelt refrigeration, without a d in the middle. Google it if you don’t believe me. I only just found this out, from my spell checker and then from googling it myself.
The bad news is that without God I am without email. I know, this is ridiculous. I keep meaning to switch from FuckupMail (the system supplied to me by The Guru (who disapproves of Google “on principle")) to Gmail, because you can access Gmail from anywhere. So what if you have to donate your soul to Google? What would they do with my soul? Very little, I am almost sure.
FuckupMail works fine, until you try to access it from another computer. Then it causes me to call it that. So, for example, on my recent French trip, I just ignored email and hoped for the best. But now I have things coming up that need organising, and I can’t wait until the middle of next week for email, so FuckupMail has to migrate to Dawkins. So, I am currently engaged in doing that. But every time Dawkins gets to the emails concerning back-ups, which happen every day at three in the morning, he goes on strike for about five minutes and I often have to shut the email system and then open it again, after which it takes another five minutes before it deigns to transfer any more emails, which it eventually does until 3am comes around again. I have had to stop the email system and start it up again about three hundred times. “Should take about two hours” said The Guru. Turned out more like forty, and it still isn’t done. The only exception was when the emails concerned the fact that the back-up system wasn’t working, which it wasn’t for about one blessed month earlier this summer. They transferred fine. I know. Ridiculous, but I had no idea it would take as long as it did.
Should. This is a computer technical term meaning, “should but actually won’t”. Whenever you hear this word coming out of the mouth of a Computer Guy, trouble. Every time.
It’s only when you don’t have email that you realise how much you depend on it.
This is what Dawkins looks like:
Which I include just to tell you, in case you are confused.
This, on the other hand, is the new graphics card, which I include because I like it:
It looks like a cross between a helicopter and a bra, both fine inventions.
By the way, please don’t leave any “helpful” comments on this, about what, in your opinion, you think I ought to do about all this, instead of what I am doing. I already know (a) why I am doing what I am doing, (b) why it is ridiculous but why I’m doing it anyway, and (c) what I intend to do about it all to stop similar absurdities in the future. If you agree with me about how annoying this is, that’s okay, but if you have any opinions about any of this that are different from mine, keep them to yourself.
Bizarre day today, and am only now shoving whatever I can think of to shove up.
I went trawling through the photo-archives, and came up with this weird selfie shot from 2006:
Two cameras I no longer use. My previous pregnant-out-the-back telly. Some book about Something For Dummies.
I will go on saying that the tower, as featured in all these photos that I recently photoed, ...:
... should be called the Spray Can, until everyone is calling it the Spray Can. Or the Spraycan, that’s optional.
Or until someone comes up with an (even) better name.
But meanwhile, what shall we call the ”Salesforce” Tower?
The new name should please the residents but piss off Salesforce, for renaming towers all over the damn place, and make them wish they hadn’t attempted this in London. Salesfuck. Something along those lines. Not good enough, because too profane to be printed in regular newspapers. Salesfarce? Failsforce? Close enough to Salesforce to make the connection. But insulting. To Salesforce. The obvious thing would be to just carry on calling it the Heron Tower, but I don’t think that will punish these Salesfuckers nearly enough. Their stupid name needs to be dragged audibly through the mud.
In case you are wondering, yes I am still a libertarian. Capitalism, hurrah! But the thing is, when you complain about a business doing something really annoying, there’s quite a decent chance they may stop, or at least, if they persist, be commercially punished. At the very least there is a decent chance you can make whoever did whatever it was squirm a little, and generally be made a bit of a prat of. When you complain about the government, there is much less chance of any such good stuff happening. No way will you get, e.g., refund. Just another bill to clean up whatever the original mess was.
So, complaints against capitalism are rewarded, by capitalism. Complaints against governments are not rewarded nearly so much, by governments or by anything else.
So guess which, in defiance of all sanity, you get more of.
That’s quite profound, I think. (This is why I like tangenting. See below.)
City A.M. is now one of my go-to places first thing, and there I read today:
Transport for London (TfL) will be introducing screens displaying how many people are sitting upstairs and which seats are available, in a trial system to begin in two weeks.
The display screens will be situated next to the driver as people board the bus and between the driver and the staircase before passengers go upstairs.
I am struck by two electronic sign innovations that have already arrived on the London transport scene.
There are those invaluable signs at bus stops, telling you what is due, when, and where it will go. The only problem with these signs is that not every bus stop has them. I know, I know, you can crank up the bus app on your mobile. But I prefer not to have to bother, and anyway, that’s a lot of fuss just for a bus. (Note the vagiaries of the spelling there.)
And the other innovation, much more recent, is those little signs that tell pedestrians - i.e. me - how many seconds will elapse before the pedestrian sign will be turning red. Very helpful. I don’t want to freak out motorists by getting in their way, but nor do I want to neglect an opportunity to cross if I can do so without freaking out the motorists. These latest signs tell me what I need to know. And it’s amazing how far you can travel in three seconds, if you know that three seconds is all that you have, but that you definitely do have three seconds.
So, will these new sign inside buses be any use? Judging by earlier TfL electronic signage efforts, my guess is yes.
(More rhyming fun with esses (?) there. It could so easily have been and gues and yess. And before that, fus and buss. (Does such tangenting pis you off? (And are you fed up with this multiple bracket gag? (This, I think, being the record.))))
As politically controlled entities go, TfL is not too shabby, although goodness knows what it costs. Especially given that they are now dragging their feet (which is all it will take for Uber to get truly motoring in London) when it comes to crushing Uber. It’s the same mentality, d’you think? TfL likes electronic signage, whether the signs are public or personal. Could be. Do you think the next thing will be big public Uber signs that you can use to whistle up cheap and cheerful transport, if you don’t have a mobile on you? Again: could be.
Taken by? No prizes for guessing who. Country? “Poland/Georgia”. Date? “Jan/Feb” of this year. That’s what it said in the email.
About every other day Google sends me news of Emmanuel Todd, news in French. Sometimes it is news of him talking on video, in French. I can just about order a croissant in a French shop, but that’s as far as my French goes.
So, imagine my delight on learning about this video, of Emmanuel Todd talking … in English!
What he is saying is that the different family systems of Europe mean that the different nations of Europe are politically incompatible, and accordingly that the Euro is doomed. Worth a watch, if that kind of thing interests you. In particular, the way that the Euro is putting Germany in charge of France is not at all what the French elite had in mind, and this means that sooner or later the French will have to dump the Euro. But first, their elite has to explain why it made this hideous blunder in the first place. Because dumping the Euro would mean admitting they should never have done it in the first place.
Tim Evans recently gave a talk to the End of the World Club (silly name, great talks) about politics, David Cameron’s politics in particular. He said that Cameron has no problem with Britain leaving the EU, while he remains Prime Minister. Sure enough, about two days later, an email from Tim arrives, complete with the link, saying: And so it starts ...
Goddaughter 2 is at the very early, tadpole stage of becoming an opera star. She has already been identified as possessing operatic superpowers, but there are, of course, many obstacles for her still to overcome. So, fingers crossed.
This summer she will be performing at a Festival in Belle-Île, which is off the south coast of Brittany. Her family, who live in Brittany, are kindly including me in their expedition to see and hear GD2 in action.
Obviously, there is a Festival website, and equally obviously it is basically a French thing, but it also supplies an English translation:
Welcome to the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer.
With much excitement, the preparations for our 2014 season are well underway, with artists from all over the world preparing to travel to Belle-Île to rehearse and perform two dramatic masterpieces, Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Meanwhile the Festival Choir is busy rehearsing Haydn’s sublime oratorio The Creation, heard for the first time on the island. There will be an orchestral Mozart evening, the ever-popular Ad Libitum gala concert, early-evening recitals by our young artists at the Café Bleu in Sauzon, and a series of masterclasses.
As the excitement builds, we hope you will join our festival family, and be a part of this rich, unique and inspiring season.
Which is fine. But before reading that, on account of having not at first realised that they offered their own English version of the above, I accepted an offer from a little window at the top right of my screen to do a translation of the French original of the above, with some sort of mechanised-computerised process.
It went like this:
Welcome to the International Opera Festival of Belle-Ile-en-Mer.
The preparations for the 2014 season are progressing well, with joyful excitement. Artists from around the world are preparing to come to Belle-Ile to rehearse and perform two masterpieces lyric, Leoncavallo Pagliacci and Gianni Schicchi by Puccini which will be donated to Arletty room. Meanwhile the choir festival works and repeats Creation, sublime oratorio by Haydn, which will be given for the first time on the island, in the churches and the Cathedral of Vannes. Also on the program, the Citadelle Vauban, an orchestral concert of Mozart and the ever popular concert Ad Libitum. Finally, two concerts of our talents in the late afternoon at Café Bleu in Sauzon and a week of master classes.
While riding the excitement, we hope you will join the family of opera festival and be this rich season unique and exciting.
Which I prefer. It’s actually not that bad. Most of the mistakes seem to consist of getting words in the order wrong.
The Salle Arletty is mentioned in the original French version, so it also gets a mention in the mechanised English version as a place to which musical performances will be donated.
For the original French version, go here.
My family used to go on holidays to the southern coast of Brittany when I was small, to a place from which you could see Belle-Île, but we never actually visited it. Expect Belle-Île photos here, when all this happens. Are you already riding the excitement?
Whenever I am hit by a question about modern life, I generally get better answers from my tiny band of readers than I do by merely googling.
Today’s question is: What are “chinos”? I missed it when chinos first arrived, and since that moment of arrival, at which point presumably chinos were explained, nobody has taken the time to explain chinos to me.
What is the difference between chinos and long trousers. According to this website:
Designed for the British and French military in the mid-19th century, chinos were originally called khakis and are made from a twill fabric usually in cotton.
A “twill” fabric? What the hell is that?
So, I’m guessing that they stopped calling them “khakis” because they wanted to be allowed to change the colour, and khaki is a colour as well as a style of clothing.
Also, is there any connection with China?
It was like this for me at school. I kept getting left behind by, you know, things, and then when I asked, people would laugh at me. But if you don’t ask, how will you ever learn?
I think what the laughers were trying to prove to me was that I was not as clever as they thought I thought I was. But cleverness is not knowing stuff already all the time. It’s knowing that you don’t know it and knowing how to find it out, and understanding it once you have found out. And the way to find things out is to ask.
“Laugher” doesn’t feel like a word, does it? Laughter (larfter) yes, but laugher (larfer), not so much. But according to google, laugher is a word. However, my blogging software puts a squiggly red line under laugher, so it doesn’t think laugher is a word. But then again, my blogging software puts a squiggly red line under “google”, and that’s definitely a word.
The English language is strange.
Consider this. We’re talking football, not something we often do here, but we are.
Suppose one of us says: “Liverpool are back.” This means that Liverpool, as in the single club Liverpool, is now doing very well, and much better than they have been doing for the last couple of decades or so. Which it is. Top of the Premier League as of now.
But suppose someone says: “Liverpool is back.” It would be clear from that remark that what is meant is that the entire city of Liverpool is on the up-and-up, footballwise. And it is. Both Liverpool (the club) and Everton, the other big club in Liverpool, are doing well just now. And Everton … are.
So, “are” is singular, and “is” is plural.
In other soccer news, check out the new Spurs stadium that they are going to build, which is to be called the Naming Rights Stadium.
Prediction: Spurs will do surprisingly badly (i.e. they’ll be eleventh rather than seventh, their current default position) for the next few years. Why? Because of this syndrome.
Big Ben is the most famous Big Thing from among all the London Parliament buildings. But the other Big Thing, almost as famous, is “Victoria Tower”, by which I mean the one that’s a bit thicker than Big Ben, as tall, and with about five big spikes on top rather than just the one. Until now I had supposed that Victoria Tower was St Stephen’s Tower, but St Stephen’s Tower is another name for Big Ben. Certain wankers are fond of saying that Big Ben is really only the clock in the tower. But the rest of us long ago decided that Big Ben is Big Ben, all of it, tower, clock, the lot.
Or then again, maybe “St Stephen’s Tower” is really ”Elizabeth Tower”, because just recently they decided to call it that, instead of whatever the hell they used to be call it.
I say, screw the damn name changes imposed by the damn politicians. If everyone out here in Human World thinks that Big Ben is actually Big Ben, the clock and the tower, then I say the clock and the tower are Big Ben. Usage trumps political mucking about. What something is called is discovered, not decided from on high. Elizabeth Tower my arse. Nobody I know calls it that. Nobody I know even knows that anyone else thinks it’s that.
Here’s a bloke who says: ”It’s called St Stephen’s Tower”, and a commenter then says: “Don’t call it Big Ben”. But the test is, do you want, when talking, to be a wanker, or do you want to be understood? If you want to be understood, you’ll say Big Ben.
That Big Ben is Big Ben is a fact reinforced by all the stupid name changes flung about by the politicians. The “Big Ben is not Big Ben” tendency can now no longer agree about what Big Ben is supposed to be called instead of what it is called, so: they lose.
So anyway, forget about Big Ben. Here are two recent snaps I took of “Victoria Tower”, both of them containing other things besides the Tower in question, which is how I like to photo London’s Big Things:
In each case, the other stuff has come out very clearly, and the tower is present only as a backdrop, in one case rather too strongly lit and in the other case not strongly enough lit. But that’s the thing about these Big Things. They are totally recognisable even if they don’t come out that well. That’s almost a definition of a Big Thing.
Why the brightly lit Union Jack umbrella? Well, I just like it.
As for why I have become so fascinated by chimneys, I think I can answer that. For me, chimneys represent a, yes, fascinating staging post between the kind of purely decorative and impressive roof clutter that the Victoria Tower makes such resplendent use of, and on the other hand the entirely utilitarian roof clutter, to do with the sending and receiving of electronic information, the accommodation of lift shafts, equipment to clean windows, as such like, that prevails now. Chimneys of the sort to be seen above are both there to do a job, and yet are also shaped to look somewhat elegant. For me, chimneys of this sort are an interesting moment in architectural history.
The umbrella photo was taken from Westminster Bridge, far side of the river from Parliament, just behind the tourist crap kiosk as you cross the river going south, on the right hand side, on July 6th of last year. The chimneys photo was taken from within the Millbank Triangle, i.e. in a spot in the middle of the triangle with, as its edges: Victoria Street, Vauxhall Bridge Road and the river, on December 12th of last year.
By the way, “Victoria Tower”, as I have been calling it, has sneer quotes attached because that used to be called “The King’s Tower”, but They (sneer capital T) renamed that in honour of Queen fucking Victoria. No wonder nobody has any idea what to call the fucking thing.
I seem to have turned into The Devil’s Kitchen.
I often cheat about timings of late night postings, by doing them in the very early morning and then subtracting enough time to time them at just before midnight. Perhaps you’ve noticed. You may even have got very slightly angry. This began when I was writing, just after midnight, about something had just been to, and wanted to put “earlier this evening” rather than “last night”. Last night is until you have gone to bed, no matter when. Today starts when you wake up, not at midnight last night. By this somewhat foul but on-the-whole fair reckoning, I have managed to post something-every-day-however-crap for the last several months.
But last-night-stroke-this-morning I was unable even to do this, because from 0:24am exactly until around 4am-ish (guess), earlier “today”, i.e. last night, brianmicklethwait.com was out of action, which meant that not only couldn’t anyone read it, but that I couldn’t post to it.
It being so late, I couldn’t politely ring The Guru, but I did email him, and he emailed me back at once. It turned out that he was even then Working On It. (Something to do with changing IP addresses, for some reason or other.) He was even able to tell me, with a second email, exactly when the problem had begun, which I hadn’t known.
Anyway, my basic point is: sorry.
“Sorry” is one of the most complicated words in the English language, especially here in England. Sorry is by no means the hardest word to say, in England. We say it constantly, to mean any number of apologetic and non-apologetic things. So make of this sorry whatever you will.
They were both as pristine and polished as life-size dolls recently removed from their cellophane boxes; rich-girl thin, almost hipless in their tight jeans, with tanned faces that had a waxy sheen especially noticeable on their foreheads, their long, gleaming dark manes with centre partings, the ends trimmed with spirit level exactitude.
I claim no expertise in the matter of the differences between male and female writers, but might not paragraphs like that have caused suspicions that “Robert Galbraith” was really a woman, even if the information had not been revealed on the front cover? It’s the detail. The waxy foreheads, the centre partings, trimmed like that. I don’t think a man would have gone into quite such detail, nor - in this age of male timidity about being anti-female – been as wonderfully rude about it.
I could be imagining all that. I don’t read much fiction by men either, and maybe the best men writers are just as exact about the women they describe and can be just as rude when doing it. And maybe most women writers would not refer to a spirit level in such a context. Really, I just liked it.
I’m reading Boris Johnson’s book about London. It’s good fun. I don’t know how much Boris is to be trusted about things like historical facts, but I doubt it is that bad, even though he is a politician.
The thing is, for years I’ve been looking for a brief history of London, but all the others seem to be too long, and too solemn, or worse, they exude literary pretension. I think I own this book, but have never been inclined to read it.
I’ve just finished the Chaucer chapter. I hadn’t realised quite what a swell Chaucer was. Him writing in English was a rather generous - or maybe rather patronising - gesture from a man whose first language was Norman French. It was during his lifetime that English supplanted French as England’s language. Johnson mentions the Black Death, of course, but not one of my pet theories about the Black Death, which is that the Black Death actually helped to cause English to take over, by killing half the royal administrators, who then had all to be replaced, because clearly the bureaucracy couldn’t get any smaller. That would be against the laws of everything. So, what remained of the teaching profession was sucked into the bureaucracy. At which point the English turned to home education. Guess in which language. But I digress.
I am greatly looking forward to reading about the time of the English Civil War, and then the stuff about John Wilkes, who is someone I keep hearing about but have never really got to grips with. I anticipate a good, quick, potted biography. I am expecting the arguments swirling around Wilkes to be a bit like those that now rage around the figure of Edward Snowden.
The book passes my basic test, which is that having started it, I find that I want to finish it. I am reading the book, despite merely needing to read other books.
In the shop (a remainder shop), I read the beginnings of the chapter on Shakespeare, and bought it on the strength of that. You can buy it for £2.82.