Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Natalie Solent on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Cyclists
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Patrick Crozier on Cyclists
Brian Micklethwait on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
rob on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
Most recent entries
- Matt Ridley on how (fracking) technology lead science
- The wonderful things they’re doing with plastics nowadays
- The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
- 240 Blackfriars behind some reinforced concrete that is being demolished
- John Croft: Composition is not research
- The cuddly killer
- Strand Palace Hotel footbridge
- Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
- Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
- Brittany lighthouses
- Citroen correction
- When the people are the Art
- Ghost Bus
- Cats don’t smile
- Just the top of the BOT … but still instantly recognisable
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Cats and kittens
The internet is fighting back against … cats!
Cats are colonizers: this is what they do. They have colonized the internet just as they have colonized so many other habitats, always with the help of humans. This is the lesson of Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, a new book by conservation scientist Peter P. Marra and travel writer Chris Santella. From remote islands in the Pacific to the marshes of Galveston Bay, Cat Wars traces the various ways in which felines have infiltrated new landscapes, inevitably sowing death and devastation wherever they go.
Perhaps the most famous case of genocide-by-cat is that of the remote Stephens Island in New Zealand. Before the end of the 19th century, it was home to a unique species: the Stephens Island wren. One of only a few species of flightless songbirds, the wren ran low to the ground, looking more like a mouse than a bird. After a lighthouse was built on the island in 1894, a small human settlement was established; and with humans, invariably, come pets. At some point a pregnant cat, brought over from the mainland, escaped and roamed wild. The island’s wrens, unused to facing such a skillful predator, were no match for the feral cats that spread throughout the island. Within a year, the Stephens Island wren was extinct. It would take another 30 years to eradicate the feral cats.
This is not an isolated incident. Cats have contributed to species decline and habitat reduction in dozens of other cases. Because they’re so cute and beloved, we have little conception of — and little incentive to find out — how much damage cats are doing to our environment. When researcher Scott Loss tallied up the number of animals killed by North American housecats in a single year, the results were absolutely staggering: between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals, between 1.3 and 4 billion birds, between 95 and 299 million amphibians, and between 258 and 822 million reptiles.
Most books that get multiple reviews on Amazon get around four stars out of five, on average, because most of the reviews are from admirers and there are just a few from detractors. This book gets a star average of one and a bit.
How do you know if a cat is happy? Answer, mostly: from the sounds it makes and from its bodily movements. It purrs. It shoves its face against your legs, or your face. These are the strongest signs.
A still photo of a happy cat, or any kind of realistic picture, is not likely to communicate feline happiness nearly so definitely. And that is particularly true if you are only allowed a picture of the cat’s face. It’s eyes may be nearly shut, but that could just be because it’s resting, rather than especially happy. And anyway, good pictures of faces, the sort that really get our attention, have eyes which are wide open.
I’m guessing that this may have been the thinking behind the above, to me, rather unsettling image. There are no eyes-wide-open eye-catching photos of happy cats, so they slapped a smile on a cat in a drawing.
But, as I often say of rather peculiar things that I show photos of here: it got my attention. Click on the above for a bit of context. I took the photo in the Earls Court area, rather than Notting Hill, and it was of a bike.
There is, of course, that Cheshire Cat, but that’s rather unsettling also.
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.
Yesterday I was out in the depths of the countryside, and I snapped a bird. Birds are not good at moving their beaks out from behind greenery, just because you tell them to, but even so, I quite liked this snap in particular:
And I think it works even better in close up, thereby making its eyes more clearly visible:
I have absolutely no idea what brand of bird that is, and I certainly don’t know its science name. Anyone?
So, where was this particular depth of the countryside? Well, actually, it was up on my roof:
That being the entrance to the roof from the staircase that I share with my big pile of neighbours. The countryside is that green bit behind it. I have to be careful to keep that door open, because if it swings shut, I’m trapped up there.
So, I wasn’t in the depths of the countryside yesterday. But the light was magnificent up there on my urban roof, early in the morning, and then in the late afternoon. Although I promise nothing, I hope to prove this with more snaps, Real Soon Now.
And see also this Samizdata posting by Perry de Havilland, about the cats of Istambul.
[N]ever have I seen a city with more cats.
Perry visits Turkey. Military coup follows immediately. Coincidence? Well actually, yes.
When cute wildlife kills other cute wildlife, it has to be handled delicately:
‘We ask that members of the public exercise patience during this time. The City hopes to trap the caracal, collar the animal with a radio tracking device and to move it away from the penguin colony, but still within its current home range. …’
Wouldn’t get that in the Kruger National Park, now would you?
I’m guessing: not.
Until today, I had no idea what a caracal was. Blog and learn. You mean you still don’t know? Here you go. Basically, it’s a big cat (or a small lion-coloured leopard) with big pointy ears.
Latin name of caracal: caracal caracal.
Friday here used to be a day for cats and kittens, and it still is, but I have recently been broadening it out to give other non-feline creatures a mention. Which I do anyway, but now it’s official. So, this Friday, I show you a pig, photoed by me about a year ago:
This pig was to be seen outside Casa Manolo in the King’s Road. There are several Casa Manolos in various parts of London, and it took me a while to work out which Casa Manola this was. (I had photoed the shop sign, but had no record of which road I was in.) But the photo here is definitely of the same group of shops in one of my photos. No pig in that photo though. Either the pig is now gone, or, more probably, the photo at the other end of that link was taken before the pig arrived. Or, the pig lives indoors and only comes out sometimes.
And here are a couple of dogs, in Tottenham Court Road a few days ago, in the entrance to Heal’s. I don’t know what they are supposed to be doing there. “Chanel” says they’re advertising perfume, but that seems strange. Whatever, I like them:
It’s like someone saw a dog with one of those muzzles on it, and thought: I could make an entire dog that way.
There is also a cat inside Heal’s, advertised outside, which Heal’s claims is famous, even “infamous”. More about that (maybe – I promise nothing) after I’ve taken a look at it myself, and had a go at photoing it.
I realise that none of these creatures is actually alive, but that’s what comes of living in London. Plenty of alive creatures, but also plenty of pretend ones.
I also realise that all the Art in these photos (see below) is in what is photoed. But that’s fine.
And I’m back to trivia-mongering. Any day now, I’ll be back to opinion-mongering too:
It’s the first picture of these.
Engineer Thomas Selig, 28, set up his camera on a tripod 100 metres away from a cluster of female lions and cubs in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. He then retreated to a safari vehicle to take pictures with a remote control. A lioness decided to make off with his camera, and proceeded to chew it!
Lucky someone had a second camera, to show what happened to the first camera.
Actually, according to what I am now reading, a lot of people never stopped opinion-mongering.
Nothing much here today, but I just did three Samizdata postings today and yesterday:
I have always felt that the fascination with cat photos that has engulfed the internet was somehow more important than just being a matter of cat photos, engulfing the internet. Now it seems that cat photos are a threat to Islam, and must be forbidden. For me, cats means pure fun. No purpose is served. Other than the purpose (purr-puss) of having fun. And it seems that there is this crazy Sheikh who also thinks that photoing cats is pure fun also, and that this is why photoing cats should be forbidden. For him, I guess, fun is never pure. Quite the opposite.
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.
Friday is my day for creatures of all kinds. Cats, yes, but other creatures too.
Here is a dog picture I took in France that I rather like. Okay it’s a bit blurry, but the car was wizzing by, and I tracked it by swinging my camera round to follow it:
According to the reviews of it at Amazon, I might have got a much better picture had I been using one of these, which is the camera I now lust after.
Here, on the other hand is a cat picture, of a cat clock, taken in Céret:
That is not a favourite picture. I show it merely because the lady at the centre of the next picture was taking a photo of this cat clock:
And that picture I do like, even though that’s me in the middle, reflected in the shop window.
I love pictures like this, where I stand in front of the window blocking the light onto the window, with the result that my reflection creates, as it were, a window through the window. Where my shadow falls, we see through the window. Where it doesn’t, what we see is what is reflected in the window.
Here is another cat, this time a real one, which we all saw just as we were getting into the car in Thuir to go to Narbonne, to sing in or to just be in the audience for Mozart’s Requiem. I do not often see a cat sleeping in a tree, but this one was:
Here is another creature picture, of those particular creatures called humans. The picture emphasises, I think you will agree, human biology:
And finally, back here in London, I photoed some pelicans in St James’s Park this afternoon, with a fountain going off behind them:
Note the baby pelican there. The eastern end of St James’s Park, where this snap was snapped, looking west towards Buckingham Palace, is one of my favourite places in London just now. One of many, admittedly, but definitely one.
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.
Incoming from Darren (to whom thanks also for various recent comments):
Saw this White Van story and thought of you.
The artist, known only as Mr Konjusha is 22 and from east London.
His work has been spotted at various locations since he started drawing on the vehicles about three weeks ago. He said he had worked on 10 vans so far.
I think the whiteness of White Vans is all part of their appeal. If they are white and clean, they look really clean. If they are white a dirty, they look really dirty.
But if they are white and dirty, but if the dirt has been turned into art, what are they then?
Once again we have here an art form which is greatly encouraged by cheap digital photography. Would Mr Konjusha be so inclined to exert himself thus, were it not possible for his efforts to be quickly and easily recorded and equally easily shared with an admiring public?
Judging by what he says about how he was trying to put a smile on delivery drivers’ faces, he started doing this just for a bit of fun. But if he likes the fame and the attention he is now getting, he’ll perhaps continue for a while, more than he would have done in the previous century. Maybe, thanks to all the attention, his next job will be in advertising.
What’s the betting someone turns this dirty art into something that will actually get printed, nice and cleanly, onto a nice clean van?
I’ve included “cats and kittens” in the category list because the guy says that some of the faces he does look like hybrid human/lion faces.
Yesterday I duly climbed to the top of the Big Olympic Thing, but today I want to show you some creature pictures. Having decided to broaden Fridays out from mere cats, to any non-human living thing, I have been wandering through my photo-archives with half an eye for any nice looking non-human photos.
Here are a couple of snaps I particular liked:
These were both taken on a photo-walk that I and G(od)D(aughter) One did in May of 2011. We spent the day walking along Regent’s Canal. I did a couple of postings about this walk at the time, but took many more good snaps than that.
The two birds above are occupants of the Snowdon Aviary. At the end of that link it says that this Aviary contains some “white ibis”, ibis being, apparently, the plural of ibis. Are those things ibis? Could be. I’m hopeless at which brand of bird is which.
The sign, which actually includes a cat, is over an entrance to the footpath beside the canal, from the road. I think. You walk under it, I’m pretty sure.
Strangely, if my photos of the day are anything to go by, we didn’t see many swimming birds that day, in the actual canal. But when we got to Paddington Basin we saw a few.
I often try to photo such birds, but only rarely come away with anything that strikes me as very interesting. The world is, after all, full of extremely Real Photogaphers who like to photo birds. So, what can I add to all that?
These two birds are maybe a bit nice, if not actually what you’d call interesting. The feathers on the one on the left have come out quite well. And the one on the right has an interesting (because pink) beak, which doesn’t look normal to me:
GD1 and I don’t talk much on these walks. We each tend to concentrate on our own photoing. I occasionally photo her from a distance though, with other interesting things (such as bridges) in the background. And occasionally, she photos me:
I like how, in the picture of GD1 photoing me, there is another photographer operating, in the background, on the left as we look.
Well, the New Year (even though the New Year is actually getting quite old now) Resolution here, to blog early, and sometimes even to blog often, is working well. I haven’t delayed going to bed because of this blog for about a week, and I sense that this may even continue.
Friday is my day for cats, and now also for other creatures, and already this Friday, even though it not yet even the middle of the day, there has already been a posting here about dogs. Republican dogs. That posting is right below this one, but there’s the link anyway.
And here now is another creature posting, about a truly unique other creature - half cat, yes, but also half dog, half bee, half zebra, and wholly suitcase - of the sort that kids can ride, at airports, to stop them getting bored:
Apparently Trunki made the first of these, and then some Hong Kong guys did a cheaper knock-off, and Trunki complained. Trunki lost.
These cases - the physical (suit)case and the legal case - illustrate the fine line that divides a design from an idea:
But five Supreme Court justices unanimously disagreed, and ruled in favour of PMS on Wednesday – stating that while it had “sympathy for Magmatic”, the “Design Right is intended to protect designs not ideas”.
It looks a lot like a design being copied to me. Not that I mind. And actually, I think the Hong Kong version is better, because the original can’t make up its mind whether its eyes are eyes or horns. HK case resolves this by having eyes and horns.
PMS website: here.
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).