Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
- I Love You Will U Marry Me
- I’m back
- A snip at £7,499.99
- The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
- A vintage photo
- To Tottenham (6): The Spurs Shop
- Supporting England in the Big Bash League
- A new stadium for Chelsea
- You wait for years and then two come along at once
- Mosaic diversion
- On the value of speaker meetings - to the speaker
- 6k has a drone
- Quota coloured lights outside the Royal Festival Hall
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
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Communities Dominate Brands
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
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Don't Hold Your Breath
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Dr Robert Lefever
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Category archive: Cats and kittens
Photoed by me, earlier this evening, in Leicester Square:
Somebody gave me a leaflet, about this, while I was photoing. Maybe this was what the demo was about. Maybe not.
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.
I’ve already shown a very similar picture of this building …:
… at this blog, in this posting. The above photo is only very slightly different, in that it includes the Spraycan on the right, but excludes the Walkie-Talkie. Also, I was able to compose it because I was on the platform of Battersea Park station, rather than in a train and just taking a chance.
I show another shot of this thing, because, well, I just like it. There’s something about the way it gets lighter at the top, and how photos of this thing end up looking like they’ve been faked up by an architect’s office before the thing has even been built. Photos of it don’t look real. They look like Photoshop.
When I started doing this posting, I had it in mind for tomorrow (which is a busy day), having already done a rather perfunctory posting about a cat, Friday being my day for cat-blogging. But it turns out that this blue building is also all about cats and other creatures. I tried googling it for that earlier posting, without success. But I just gave that another go, this time typing “"blue new building Battersea” or some such word combo into the great computer in the sky, and this time it worked. This blue building is the recently opened Battersea Dogs (and now also Cats) Home Veterinary Clinic & Centre of Excellence.
Blog and learn.
The human eye comes with a brain attached, a brain which continuously works out what is actually there, as opposed to how things merely look. But the camera is stupid. It sees everything but understands nothing. It does not cut out what doesn’t matter.
So, when a camera takes a picture like this ...:
… it shows the sign, but it also shows all the stupid lighting effects that are messing with the sign.
It also shows weird lighting effects above and beyond the sign, which perhaps you hadn’t noticed, until I told you to look for them. Your brain may have cut that out, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the sign and you were concentrating on the sign.
But now do what I did next, when I realised what was really going on here. Having acquired the photography habit, I have become visually stupid, which means that I now see more, almost like a camera does.
Feast your eyes on this:
I am not sure if the above photo was the best I took of this effect, or the below photo. So I post both:
This was, I think, the single most remarkable thing I saw on my walk from Battersea Park station back to my home, last Wednesday afternoon.
From the above photos, you may be able to deduce what is causing this, but I’ll save you the bother of working it out. Here is the next photo I took:
And here is another photo which makes everything even clearer, that I got from the internet:
It’s the curvature of the surface off which the sunlight is bouncing that does it. That separates the blobs of light from each window into distinct columns, creating a parthenonic magnificence that would, with a flat wall of windows, have been just a big jumble. That would have been pretty good, but what we actually see is something else again. And yet, when I was photoing this, I was the only one paying attention to this amazing light show. Everyone else just walked past it, like it wasn’t there. This was because, thanks to their brains, it actually wasn’t there.
The internet ought to be able to correct such failures to notice. But the strange thing is, if you google the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, all you get is a lot of stuff about dogs and cats. No mention at all of this amazing special effect. The modern world has its priorities badly skewed.
I have photoed similar lighting effects before, such as the one reported in this posting. But that one is put completely in the shade by this one.
Categories below include Transport. That’s because all this drama was to be seen on a manky old railway viaduct. Which I actually think made it look better. (All everyone else saw was a manky old railway viaduct.)
Leake Street, October 19th. Probably still there, as of right now, but quite possibly already painted over.
I do not know why the cat is saying: “4”. Some sort of golfing reference?
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.