Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Peter Whale on On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
6000 on On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
Brian Micklethwait on Why I like Cricinfo
Darren on Why I like Cricinfo
Tatyana on English is weird
Brian Micklethwait on New York construction cranes in action
Andrew Duffin on New York construction cranes in action
Friday Night SMoke on English is weird
Scott Morter on 55 Broadway
Ben on Incoming imagery from Antoine
Most recent entries
- UCH footbridge
- On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
- Are London’s cranes about to depart for a few years?
- The new Tate Modern extension from inside Blackfriars Station
- Brexit graphics
- Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
- Referendum day graphics
- Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
- Why I like Cricinfo
- English is weird
- The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
- New York construction cranes in action
- Some thoughts on the Izzard effect
- Lioness eats camera
- An MP murdered
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
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The Devil's Kitchen
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The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
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The London Fog
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The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
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Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
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Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
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Institute of Economic Affairs
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Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
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This is Local London
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WSJ.com Opinion Journal
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This and that
If everyone is to be trusted, including me, then I hold the record! 4,455. Truly. This is the one time in my life when I need someone to hack into my computer and verify that this is true. Where’s bloody MI5 when you actually need it? A comment from the person on duty there with special responsibility for me would not come amiss.
By the way, you may like to know that the original title of this posting was “Plink plink plink plinkplinkplink plinkplink plink plink plinkplinkplinkplinkplinkplinkplink”, but that the final “plinkplinkplinkplinkplinkplinkplink” made the sidebar entry for the posting too wide, which caused the sidebar itself to widen, which caused this posting and all the other blog postings on view to disappear down below all the permanent bullshit, to get out of the way. Just goes to show, eh?
This recollection about Nelson is fascinating:
He entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was all on his side, and all about himself, and, really, in a style as to surprise and almost disgust me. I suppose something I happened to say may have made him guess that I was somebody, and he went out of the room for a moment, I have no doubt to ask the office-keeper who I was, for when he came back he was altogether a different man, both in manner and matter. All I had thought was a charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of this country and of the aspect and probabilities of affairs on the Continent with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad, that surprised me equally and more agreeably than the first part of our interview had done; in fact he talked like an officer and a statesman. The Secretary of State kept us long waiting, and certainly, for the last half or three quarters of an hour I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more. Now if the Secretary of State had been punctual & admitted Lord Nelson in the first quarter of an hour, I should have had the same impression of a light and trivial character that other people have had, but luckily I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more sudden and complete metamorphosis I never saw.
That is Lord Castlereagh remembering the great man. [Correction: It was the future Duke of Wellington. Thanks Natalie - see comment.]
Was there ever a more prefect example of image projection, the nature of which is illuminated dazzlingly, by at first being done wrongly? Whoops! Wrong performance for this bloke! So, leave the stage. Then, re-enter, performing quite differently.
We are not talking “image” and “reality” here. Just two different images and two different realities.
I do not criticise Nelson for his obvious emphasis on image-mongering. On the contrary, it is all part of what an excellent commander he was. I feel exactly the same about another hero of mine, Montgomery, who was similarly devoted to cultivating his own fame.
For me the crucial thing is that the men being lead in battle preferred it this way. Better a self-promoter than a cypher whom you never see. Central to great leadership is understanding and controlling the effect you have on other people.
Findlay Dunachie supplies the above quote in a Samizdata review of books about Nelson, Collingwood, Trafalgar, etc., which is outstanding, as several commenters have pointed out.
Over the last few months and years, the usually quite long review articles by Findlay Dunachie have been, I would say, just about the classiest things at Samzidata. He is not listed there as a “principle contributor”. He is merely a “contributor”. But as far as quality is concerned he has been and is a principle, no doubt about it.
For technical reasons it is not now possible to link to individual author archives on Samizdata, but if you look at everything in the category of book reviews, you will find most of Findlay’s stuff, and not a lot else.
I also particularly recommend this 1996 Libertarian Alliance Historical Note, entitled The Success of the Industrial Revolution and the Failure of Political Revolutions: How Britain Got Lucky.
Mick Hartley is a terrific blogger, although I am extremely biased about that because I usually seem to agree with him. He even shares my dislike of Salvador Dali, while conceding, as I do, that his horrible works are very skilfully done. (Although actually, he merely doesn’t admire Dali. I loathe him. So there is a bit of a difference there.)
Here is Mick Hartley writing about conceptual art:
Then there’s the bohemian angle. Artists, part of a ”fundamentalist bohemian sect”, like tweeking the sensibilities of us bourgeois nine-to-five drudges, trying to open up our dismal lives to some excitement, put some colour into our drab semi-detached sensibilities. But by now, one hundred years after Duchamp’s urinal, this is such a cliché that’s it’s hard to believe that it still has any purchase. Yet the latest catalogues continue to talk excitedly of transgressive works, which will subvert our notions of art, and challenge our preconceptions. As though we’re all going to rush for our smelling salts every time we’re confronted with a work of art which doesn’t conform to our chocolate-box prejudices, still, after all the Piss-Christs, and piles of bricks, and Madonnas with Elephant Dung - as though, nowadays, we don’t have to struggle to find an exhibition which doesn’t aim to challenge our boring middle-class preconceptions.
Although, a conceptual artist who exhibited a Prophet Mohammed, done, say, with camel dung, would at least prove that he was serious about challenging preople’s preconceptions.
My opinions about conceptual art are numerous. One opinion that I hold is the one expressed above, that it is all so passé. Suburbia is a far more important contribution to civilisation than conceptual art, and is far more subtle and challenging.
Another opinion I hold is that there is a certain kind of person, of whom I am one, who likes art galleries because they are quiet, and because, although you can talk (provided you keep it down), you don’t have to. Both quiet talk and silence work well. So, ideal for a first date, and come the coffee or the drink afterwards, there is guaranteed to be something non-personal and thus not over-inquisitive to talk about that you know the other person has some experience of. Art as conversation piece, in other words.
That conceptual art requires so little effort also makes it good for dating. What you see is it. The only even slightly tricky thing about it that you need to understand is that there is nothing to understand. There are no complicated labels to read, about who made it, why, when, what it is of, what its consequences were, what wars it started or was provoked by, etc. A twat artist made it, because that’s what twat artists do, not long ago, it is of nothing, it will have no consequences, and no wars – no interesting events of any kind usually – are or will be involved. Unless it involves someone like the Prophet Mohammed (see above). Conceptual art is sublimely unchallenging, in other words. It is very nice, quite nice, not nice, etc., like wallpaper. Again, great for a first date. Nothing to seriously distract you from the real object of the exercise.
It’s got to have some sort of central nervous system,” said Biff. “Jeepers, if we could just find its brain, maybe we could kill it.”
“That’s just it, Biff – it doesn’t seem to have any head whatsoever! It seems to be some sort of pure unedited energy, and any attack only seems to make it stronger!”
Heh. Or as my best friend down the road when I was a child used to say: “Arf arf.”
I have had an extremely busy day, with various blogging obligations, and then preparing for and chairing a meeting at my flat, which involved a visit from a cleaning lady (for which I had to do preliminary cleaning), and then shopping. So, I have spent about two hours today playing with this, which I got to via the Dave Barry blog.
This is a curious computer game which involves clicking on one little thingy, and victory consists of creating the maximum possible amount of commotion with that one push of the mouse. It appeals to me a lot, and I was getting funny looks when, after the formal procedings of my meeting ended at 9.30pm, I crept into my kitchen and resumed playing with it.
My top score so far is 1,867.
What I like about it is that it plays to my sense of being one of life’s catalysts. One click and then I sit back and watch everything happen. And I am already starting to learn regular patterns which, once mastered, will mean that one day I will click once, and it will then commote for ever and ever.
It’s been a long day.
Many is the time one has wanted one of these:
What an inventive time we live in! But, if you use it when out on your own, you might appear foolish. Also, I think it should be a bit flatter, so to speak.
I love these mad gadget catalogues. I got this one from the latest Radio Times.
For old times sake, and also because I happen to have been paying some attention to the argument about the latest educational “reforms” in connection with this nice Mr Cameron being the opposition spokestoff on the subject, I googled “Education”, and got to this letter in some aspect of the Guardian:
Your incisive commentaries on the education white paper by Peter Hyman and Phil Revell (Comment, October 24 and 25) contain more sound sense than a coterie of government ministers could muster between them, with the former’s advocacy of genuine curriculum flexibility and a move towards smaller, more human schools, and Revell’s prescient questioning of the ominous sounding foisting of “parent power” on to a generation of parents with little or no interest in the direct running of schools.
Even more disconcerting is that after a decade of demoralisation, due to the deprofessionalisation of teachers’ work through relentless government micro-managing, teachers now face the depressing prospect of continually looking over their shoulders to field parochial, egocentric concerns from parents whose understandable remit is their own children, rather than the complex needs of all pupils. Just how many crass policy-making errors will it take before politicians finally realise that the most effective way to “drive up” standards is to create the conditions for a trusted, relatively autonomous teaching profession, in which the living, creative art of teaching is nurtured and intrusive surveillance is kept to an minimum?
Dr Richard House
What the above letter says to me is that education is now a nationalised industry in an advanced, post-Soviet state of derangement. The full nationalisation phase is over, defined as the period when lots of people actually believed in nationalisation. This is followed by two contradictory and when combined, utterly chaotic processes: micro-management from the top (the top having lost confidence in its own chain of command), and pseudo-market “reforms” imposed from the top (ditto).
As for parent power, a pervasive confusion is imposed, where the difference between parents running a school is muddled up with parents running away from a school they don’t like. Choice within, at taxpayer expense, is, as Dr House says, a hopeless muddle of clashing personal agendas. But the right to choose which school to start with t would work very well, if only parents and teachers were both abandoned by the state and left to get on with it amongst themselves, with the government supplying no money and no management beyond the occasional visit from the police when crimes are committed or reasonably suspected.
The “most effective way to ‘drive up’ standards” by creating “the conditions for a trusted, relatively autonomous teaching profession, in which the living, creative art of teaching is nurtured and intrusive surveillance is kept to an minimum” would be for the politicians to give up completely, and treat education the way they used to treat advertising, namely as sordid and immoral, but legal, and above all, because so sordid and immoral, nothing to do with them.
(Now the politicians both consume advertising on a vast scale and, more and more, they also micro-manage it, perhaps because the two professions are now so much closer than they used to be, and the politicians all have opinions on the subject, the way they used to only about laws on account of so many of them being lawyers. But those are different stories.)
What Dr House himself thinks his prescription means he does not clarify. Hurrah for apple pie, he says. But how do you bake the apple pie? Total autonomy for him and his colleagues at government expense? (I.e. the good old days.) I fear so. A genuine free market, in which he earns his money only from his customers, with maybe a bit more thrown in by charitable donors, old boys and old girls, etc.? Maybe, but I doubt it.
Mao’s hatred of learning was coupled with a passion to destroy China’s cultural heritage. In 1949, when he came to power, the Mongol-Ming-Qing capital of Beijing (Peking) was still intact, with its massive dressed stone walls and gates, its hundreds of temples, its traditional courtyard houses with their exquisite tile roofs, its memorial arches or pailou, and its distinct drama, cuisine, customs, and traditions. Everything had survived the war with Japan; were it extant today, it would constitute one of the world’s most magnificent historical sites.
But Mao decreed its obliteration. In 1958, on the eve of his campaign, roughly 8,000 historical monuments were listed as still standing in the capital. Mao planned to keep only 78 of them; most were destroyed.
It think it was Harold Nicolson – truly not sure but a Nicolson or a Nicholson of some variety – who said, following (a) the death during World War II of his son, and (b) the destruction of the library at Monte Cassino during the battle of that name, that it was (b) that upset him more. It’s a little presumptuous to say such a thing, but me choosing those two paragraphs from out of all of all the stuff about Mao Zedong’s numerous crimes reminds me of that.
Mao also killed many sons:
Most importantly, Mao was the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century.
As Waldron points out, you wouldn’t see a Hitler picture displayed thus. I took that photo at the huge Chinese shopping centre way up there on the Northern Line somewhere, Colindale I think. On the one hand Mao has clearly lost the battle of ideas to Fanta etc. On the other hand he still partially wins, because he still shares totally undeserved billing with Fanta. Mao never did anything for humans as good as Fanta. Fanta never harmed anyone, while Mao murdered millions.
The good news is that this book, and this review article, look like being parts of a general intellectual and moral offensive by civilisation against the many ghastlinesses of how China is ruled and misruled now, this particular book being compared by Waldron with The Gulag Archipelago in its potential impact. The Chinese Government really really does not like it.
Good. For a long time, China kept its head down and Civilisation was preoccupied with reducing the USSR to ruin. But now the USSR is duly ruined, and China has attracted serious worldwide attention through its remarkable economic surge, the obvious basis for a bid for eventual global hegemony. So now Civilisation, albeit somewhat diverted by Islamic foolishness, is turning its intellectual guns onto China.
Personally I think Civilisation should trade with China, if only because so much of Chinese trade is itself surely very civilised. But Civilisation should also engage politically, by supporting Chinese oppositionists, by, e.g. re-telling and linking to the stories they are now telling. Civilisation should use the trade links to send political messages in and out of China alongside goods and commercial messages, rather than vainly try to end the trading. Let the Chinese despots worry about the impact of all this trade on them. The point, as with the USSR ruination project, is to do what works, rather than merely to soothe the Western conscience. If I was the Chinese government, I would far prefer futile attempts at trade embargoes to focussed political campaigns, such as for instance, an enthusiastic attempt to spread news of this book around, a mass willingness to buy it (already a fact apparently), and then actually to read it, and then to spread its many memes and messages far and wide.
The way I see it: two down, two to go. German Nazism, Soviet Communism, Islamofascism, Chinese Despotism.
Please note that the list does not read: Germany, Russia, Islam, China. Identifying the exact enemy and learning all about his exact nature is crucial to winning these things. By this standard the seeing off of German Nazism was a seriously Pyrrhic victories, and the ruination of the USSR, because it now seems to have involved the continuing ruin of Russia also, was not much better. This latter process, as Mark Steyn explains, is also doing a lot to inflame Islamofascism. But the moral of these Pyrrhic victories by Civilisation ought to be clear. Don’t mess with Civilisation; if you do, the people you now tyrannise over and whom you say you represent are liable, along with you of course, to be the big losers.
Is Civilisation strong enough to deal with the last two on the list simultaneously? And can it win these last two contests less destructively than the first two? I want to think so, if only because all that trade with China is making Civilisation, as well as China, rich.
Bi, Lesbian Or Gay Society.
Talking of how I blog, I did a piece yesterday for Samizdata about the Conservative leadership contest, and it had the same structure as that described in my previous posting here - see immediately below, no need for a link to that. It started out very boringly, obviously, about this nice posh Mr Cameron that the Conservatives seem about to be lead by, yawn, but then I began to have more interesting thoughts about why and also when niceness in politicians matters, or does not matter. Basically, niceness obtrudes as a Prime Ministerial issue when it is believed that nothing important actually needs doing.
See also, in connection with the Conservative leadership contest, this posting on that subject, which I believe is a hell of a lot more profound than perhaps you do. The whole point about Conservatives these days is that millions of people reckon they are bonkers, and that a lot of them actually are. They are now moving outside the social mainstream. If daughters in family TV sitcoms now go out with Conservatives, their parents worry, usually with good reason.
Well well, how very odd. Harry Hutton’s thoughts on the Conservative leadership contest have vanished, and been replaced by some gibberish about how much fish otters eat per day. Did I dream it? Did someone hack into his site with the profundities in question? Or hack in and delete them? We may never know.
One of the reasons I have generally been such a failure as a paid writer is that I hate writing under time pressure. Even putting some trifling piece of nonsense up at this blog becomes a tiresome obligation as the evening gets under way. So, I am basically putting this posting up so that I don’t have to do anything else here today. I may, but I don’t have to.
Do you benefit at all from such foolishness? Well, I seem to be the kind of writer who does blog postings by putting up some link or quote or quota photo or some such, about something commonplace, but then my imagination, for want of a better word, takes wing. This is what you seem to like, or you wouldn’t keep coming, in your tens. A tangential thought occurs. An autobiographic recollection presents itself. An unobvious connection connects in my mind. And what began as pure tedium comes to life. But not this time, I fear.
No. Still can’t think of anything. Have a nice day.
Another busy day neglecting this blog, so some quota photos. Click to get them bigger. I have decided I didn’t like this method of displaying photos, since a lot of the point of having photos is to liven up the blog as a whole even if people don’t giove a stuff about any particular photos. So, it’s back to little pictures to click on.
And there’s even a website there you can follow up. That’s if you have no life at all whatsoever.
Just back from a day out, during which I saw the afternoon matinee performance of Richard II, starring Kevin Spacey, at the Old Vic, the theatre of which Spacey is now the artistic director. Short review: I loved it. Longer review: on Samizdata, I hope, Real Soon Now, link here to that whenever. But, I promise nothing.
Earlier in the week I reestablished contact with Mark Rousell, who is now, again, my computer GP. I missed him. He was unavoidably engaged otherwise.
I am often frustrated, not so much by computer experts as such (although I do emit the occasional howl of impotent misery), as by my dependence upon them. And what frustrates – actually, the word is “scares” - me about most of these guys is that they can each of them tell me something very important and clever, but usually can’t, for one reason or another, either because they can’t, or just as likely, because they are too busy sorting out a similar aspect of some other person’s problems, help me with what I really want help with. Which is: everything. Yes, that’s it, that’s what a lot of us want sorted out with our computers. Everything.
After I have had the help of one of these other experts, I then have another dozen things that I have to remember. I’m out of my depth, and now I have to swim with few more little weights attached to my brain. And the knowledge that I will not remember all these things is what scares me, and makes me reluctant, as it were, to commit, even to a casual date. These experts tend to be specialists. They sort out some of your problems. But that still leaves all the others, which they are understandably reluctant to get involved in. They just want to help you, and then get out of there and get back to their real stuff. Each specialist has his own preferences and sorts out things according to his own little ways and likes and dislikes, and everything still works, but remembering it all is nearly impossible. The more help you get from such people, the harder it gets.
Mark is different. Mark is what we call in Britain a General Practioner, but of personal computers. A GP. He has recently visited me twice. First, he did a general sort out of my email difficulties, did a bit of scanning for spybots (whatever a spybot is), reassured me about certain strange emails based on hijacking my email address, suggested a printer-cum-scanner that sounds just right for me, and helped out with several other things that I have already forgotten about. This means, by the way, that where it says contact at the top left, you can now actually contact me. This will be a mixed blessing, I expect, but, I can now report that does now get to me.
Then, last night, my computer simply stopped. I rang Mark at once, and described the symptoms. He made a ninety percent certain diagnosis, which turned out to be right, that it was the power unit, and immediately came round (i.e. this afternoon) with another power unit, which he installed, on his hands and knees, with his box of tools, and had it working straight away. The coincidence of him getting back in touch, and then me needing him for an emergency fix like this is still making me sweat. What I would have done without him, I dare not even speculate.
I know people who know most of the things that Mark knows separately, but I know no one else who knows all the things he knows, and who is willing to place all his knowledge, of everything, at my service, for a very reasonable fee. Plus, his attitude is so good. He doesn’t radiate even the faintest whiff of that geek-vibe that says you are stupid for not knowing personal computers as well as he knows them. He gets what being a non-geek is like. In other words, he is not himself actually a geek.
The reason I am telling you all this, instead of just thanking the guy personally, is that Mark is now engaged in getting a business going in which he offers the kind of stuff he is now doing for me to several dozen other similar persons. He will soon, almost certainly, be pulling together into one set-up my email, webhosting, web-back-up, etc. etc., thereby replacing and rationalising all my current and chaotic and hopeless uncoordinated arrangements – and he could do the same for you, if you are the sort who needs such an everything service. And if anything then malfunctions, he can sort it out for you. I could ramble on further but by now you surely get the idea. I really recommend this guy.
Not everyone needs someone like Mark. Many computer users are, as it were, their own computer GPs. They can keep track of everything, and revel in being good at that, and in coordinating the various experts they sometimes call in for particular matters. But for a person like me, who lost the plot of what goes on under the bonnet about two weeks after I bought my first computer, Mark is just the sort of ally I need.
Not, however, if you live in Alaska. Not yet. Since Mark is an expert in such things as teleconferencing, communications and such like, he is well placed in due course to run a stable of globe-trotting trouble-shooters and advise them about what to do, rather the way photocopier service engineers are always in mobile phone contact with each other and with their bosses now, only cleverer, with cameras involved for instance. However, Mark said a number of things this afternoon in favour of this attitude, to the effect that face-to-face on-the-spotness is often necessary with computers, because you can do only so much on the phone, or even though a magic programme he has that he can use to take over your computer from a distance and sort it all out for you. He could not, for instance, have replaced my power unit today by any other method than actually coming here, and then checking that everything worked. So what I am saying is, if you like the sound of this service, and live in or around London, he could be your man. But London would probably be best, for the time being.
The one thing that Mark has not tended to bother with is blogs and blogging, which, since I am immersed in it so much, and actually am starting to understand and to understand the workings of, I will continue to draw in other specialist help.
Blogs are not the answer to all information-spreading problems, Mark says, and I agree. However, I did very tentatively suggest to Mark that a blog might help him with his specific business problem. He is great at what he does, but finds it hard to put the word out about what that is. There are, in this life, those that do most of it, and there are those that get most of the credit for doing it, the overlap being incomplete. Mark is definitely in the doers column, and he now relies on word of mouth, without quite knowing how to stir it up sufficiently. Yet he does not lack verbal fluency. He just can’t afford expensive advertising. So, I suggested that it might make sense to include a blog as part of his – at present somewhat antiseptic and impersonal – web presence. That is not intended as a criticism. This website is only at a very early stage of its existence, and Mark is the first to admit that he needs to do lots more to it. At least he has a website. But, a blog might help to get him past that “Who is this guy anyway?” barrier. He would explain things like his typical customer problems, and typical answers. Satisfied customers like me could comment, and link to him, and ask things and be told things. He would come across as a real person, and a real person who could be on your side too.
In a way, Mark is a lot like this bespoke tailor who, I believe, did wonders for his marketing by setting up his blog. Mark, to switch metaphors yet again, is like a bespoke personal computer guy.
Lyn S, already a regular commenter here, and linkee to your left, is supplying a torrent of good stuff and good links just now.
My recent favourite Linn S linkage was to this fractals site, linked to in this posting. I know what you are thinking. Art nouveau patterns, squiggly wiggly wallpaper twirlygigs, seen them, drooled over them, got bored with them.
But I picked “squarries”, and I really enjoyed what I found, if only because they looked so very unlike your usual fractal twiddliness. More like modernist architecture in a squalid part of a very crowded city. Although, this one I’ve picked out happens to be shinier, less grey and concrety, and more new and industrial, like some SciFi oil plant. Vaguely 1930s in its colouring, maybe a tad socialist realist. Cubist figures with smooth and shiny skin work there.
I found that bottom right, here.
But what are these pictures/objects? Do they come out looking three dimensional, complete with shiny bits where the “light” catches them, or is that contrived later? What is a “squarry”?
Here it says this:
The name isn’t official ... It’s a Koch curve made of squares instead of triangles.
Etc. And I am none the wiser.
We are being told to expect a cold winter.
Britain can expect its coldest winter for at least a decade, the Met Office has warned.
Mayor Ken has attached himself to this prophecy:
London Mayor Ken Livingstone warned that London and the South East could face the worst winter since 1962-1963, when Britain was frozen from Boxing Day until April with an average temperature of 0.2C (32.3F).
And I dare say it was quite chilly in the north of Watford and west of Heathrow regions of Britain also, and that it may be again.
I have great respect for short term weather forecasts. I often make or change my arrangements in accordance with them, and seldom regret it. One of the many things that a blog can do is remind the owner of it to see if certain much-trumpetted-at-the-time predictions actually come true. And I wonder if this one will.
I remember the Big Freeze of 63. The first snow fell on Boxing Day, and it was still around in May. I was a schoolboy at a boarding school, Marlborough. When that Spring (hah!) term began, in January 1963, I had brought a hot water bottle with me. At first there was scorn, but that didn’t last long. I recall that on several occasions, the water inside my hot water bottle, while still in my bed in the morning, had nevertheless frozen. Not solid. But there was definitely ice in there. No hockey was played at all that term.
Oh, and I almost forgot. During the Christmas holiday, the “house” we ought to have been sleeping in got burnt, and we had to live in wooden huts, in a field. The dormitory was another hut. Hence that frozen water bottle.
I am now reading a book about the naval history of the Second World . It abounds with the usual horrors, and I think part of why I read such books is to remind myself that all the discomforts I have endured have been trivial compared to all that stuff. This winter may be unpleasant, but it will be entirely bearable. And then there will be spring.
Besides which, an unusually cold winter may mean quite a lot of snow, and some altogether different photos of London to the usual ones. Last winter (hah! again) there was no snow at all.
This is depressing. I found it in a set of rules for blogging.
Whenever you post anything to the Internet—whether on a weblog, in a discussion group, or even in an email—think about how it will look to a hiring manager in ten years. Once stuff’s out, it’s archived, cached, and indexed in many services that you might never be aware of.
Years from now, someone might consider hiring you for a plum job and take the precaution of ‘nooping you first. (Just taking a stab at what’s next after Google. Rest assured: there will be some super-snooper service that’ll dredge up anything about you that’s ever been bitified.) What will they find in terms of naïvely puerile “analysis” or offendingly nasty flames published under your name?
But here’s another thought. Your future employer will be looking to see if you have a bit of go about you, a bit of spirit, or that at least you once did, once upon a time. Have you any youthful indiscretions to talk about, and if not why not? He wants, above all, to avoid hiring one of those completely risk-averse, bloodless semi-humans who organised his entire adolescence around not looking bad twenty years later. He wants someone who has tried stuff, done stuff, and made mistakes. He does not want William bloody Hague, who only became human after he had made a total cods of being Leader of the Conservative Party.
David Cameron looks just like another of these bloodless, calculating, boy-machines. If he becomes the next Leader of the Conservatives, it will be because he has now, suddenly, acquired a bit of a past, with human blood flowing through it, possibly, allegedly, maybe, no concrete evidence.
If you never do anything or even say anything that you regret, then the chances are that you will have something far bigger to regret later, which is never having done anything at all.
I liked everything about him except his taste in music, which generally seemed to consist of the latest thrashings of whatever gang of demented musical hooligans had made a tape in their parents’ garage that week. By playing every tape of this sort produced in or around Britain during the last forty years, he inevitably played the odd pearl in among the huge piles of swine droppings, and encouraged a tiny few swine droppings makers to try doing pearls in the future. How could he not? But it was all very Darwinian, I think.
But the thing I liked about Peel, and which I suspect is what almost everyone liked, is that he did not ever try to sound hip. He never, never did that embarrassing yet ubiquitous thing that is a twenty seven year old graduate of Harrow and Durham University trying to sound like a fifteen year old from the lower class part of town. You know what I mean. Biggest single cause of channel hopping and broken radio and TV sets there is, in my opinion.
Peel, on the other hand, would introduce his next tune – “and now here is Fuck Your Granny’s Goat from the Suicidal Maniacs” – as if passing a rather disagreeable legal document to you across a big desk situated in the most prosperous part of Horsham, Surrey. He would, at that exact moment, exaggerate his own aging middle- not to say old upper-classness. Quite right too. Don’t pretend to be one of these grotesque delinquents. Instead, be a guiding, encouraging, adult presence for them.
What Peel was doing was welcoming these various reprobates into adult society, without ever surrendering any particle of good manners or adult decorum. On the contrary, he was acknowledging these various, temporarily unwashed but actually ragingly ambitious strummers and yellers into that particular part of adult life that they had chosen, instead of demanding that they all become lawyers or dentists and hating everything about them, like their parents. Young people felt un-got-at, either by being screamed at or worse, by being badly and embarrassingly imitated and by having their youthful slang stolen. Older persons such as me nodded approvingly. Quite right John. Young People These Days Aren’t As Bad As All That - They Just Need A Little Encouragement.
If only the music had not been mostly such junk. But you can’t have everything.
Well actually you could. More recently, Peel used to do a delightful radio show on Saturday mornings which was all Peel and no Fuck Your Granny’s Goat by the Suicidal Maniacs. One of the minor but definite sadnesses of my life has been that this usually clashed with CD Review.
I actually don’t have to have little photos for you to click on to get the big ones. I can just put XX, or something, and you can click on that. So, here are eleven XXs:
I only gradually realised that the picture taken here, eleven times, a bit after I took the ones of the towers in the previous posting, had to include the lady on the right. I particularly like the penultimate one where she has a smoke.
If this was a Mark Holland posting, all these photos would be 500 pixels across without any clicking, and there would be a hilarious running commentary. In this case I imagine that there would be Linford Christie references.
Another busy day, so a couple of quota photos, taken in March of this year, from Parliament Hill, Hampstead, looking down over London, and in particular, at the towers of Docklands:
According to my camera, as recorded by my hard disc, the first was taken at ten to five on March 22nd, and the second was taken ten minutes later. I was lucky with the weather that day.
I still wish cameras could do what eyes do, namely see the fine distinctions within the light bits and the dark bits, of the same view.
Click to get them bigger.
I’ve been out all day today, and a very lovely day it was too, but that means not a lot here. Just to say, my thanks to Charles Pooter, for commenting that he likes these pictures.
He has a blog, which I will presently add to my blogroll. I got there just in time to find this choice quote, in the aftermath of the July 7th bombs, which he found at thetoffeewomble and which deserves to stick around and get around:
A friend of mine visits a strip pub, once a week, down by the Gray’s Inn Road. Despite the bombs, he went along this afternoon, as usual, and was the only guy with four strippers. But, he told me, he had to go - ‘otherwise the terrorists would have won’.
Quite right too.
Two jumps, to a blog I never knew existed. Not a wildly amusing one, but one I never knew existed. Harry Hutton links to a scornful piece about the daft semi-religious practices of the Blairs of Downing Street in the New Humanist, where they also, it turns out, have a blog.
Two things to say about this. First, good, I have now done my blogging duties here today. Any other stuff you get here this side of October 15th is beyond what you are promised. Like: the rest of this posting, which I now know to have gone on a bit.
Second, more seriously, I think that one of the purposes of a personal and don’t-care-who-reads-it blog like this one is to enable me to feel my way into controversial topics, like this one about the daftness of Goddism. You see? I would never say anything like that in a public place, like Samizdata. Well, sometimes I do, and the commenters erupt like a poked hornets’ nest. And I know we are under orders to ignore the commenters, but sometimes it is hard.
Besides which, I am in a quandary. A lot of the good things in the world just now are being done by Christians, i.e. people whose religious beliefs I find it hard not to go beyond total disagreement with, to contempt for. I mean really. God, infinitely all-knowing, infinitely nice, presiding over all the horrors of real life, no evidence except for daft ancient literary rumours. But just now, apart from the odious Islamists of course, I can’t see this drivel doing - or even being much connected to - huge harm, certainly not compared to the atheist lunacies of Bolshevism.
But I agree with the lefties that it can’t be very good for the most powerful, as of now, country on earth to be ruled by people who profess the bizarre beliefs that they do. I realise that Bush is being misquoted when he is said to have said that God told him to invade Iraq. But so what? The report may be inaccurate, but it is essentially true, in the sense that he does believe in God, very seriously, and he presumably must consult God before he does something like invade Iraq. He certainly isn’t going to get embroiled in denying that God told him to invade Iraq, is he? ("So Mr President, are you saying that God did not tell you to invade Iraq? Did he perhaps warn you against invading Iraq? What exactly did He say?")
My problem is that maybe God was – so to speak - right about invading Iraq. Things in Iraq have not gone as smoothly as I hoped, but nor have they gone as badly as I feared, and I think things could yet turn out very well. By the time the Goddist Bush is replaced by some other bloke who takes his unavoidable nods of respect towards Christianity less seriously, the USA’s Iraq policy may be impossible to reverse, and Iraq could be well on the way towards being a Middle Eastern Japan or South Korea, or even West Germany. Things change in the Middle East, very fast. Something good happens, like the original war being over in about a day, or that election earlier in the year followed by pro-democracy demonstrating elsewhere. But then the lefties gradually get the bad news machine cranked up again, and everyone starts to believe, again, that it will all unravel, like Vietnam. Then something else good happens, and the lefties regroup, temporarily confounded, and so it goes, until ten years later, the lefties give up and look elsewhere for anti-Western triumphs.
In general, some of the best things ever to have been done in the whole of human history (think: Quakers) have been done by Christians, and in a way that is extremely hard to separate from their religious beliefs. And if some unhinged Christian blogger wants to make that his quote of the day, that’s fine by me, with or without this sentence.
Meanwhile, if you go with the New Humanist types, you find yourself (or such are my suspicions) being offered a package of soft or worse, not-so-soft, soft-in-the-head leftism (of the sort which lusts for catastrophe in the Middle East followed by a general collapse of the West in the face of Islamist barbarism) as the natural consequence of dumping God. Which does not follow, to put it mildly.
So how and where do you start?
Well, I say, I start here, at this blog. I may never get beyond a little sloganising and general pacing about the battlefield, as in this posting, but then again, here I have the chance to do better than that, whenever the spirit moves me, if you’ll pardon the expression.
So, new categories: “Religion”, and “Atheism”. And I think I also need to have “USA” and “Middle East”.
By the way, I dislike the word “humanism”. My atheism is negative, a statement of disbelief in a daft proposition. It is not a positive statement in favour of anything else. I don’t especially believe in humans, or “humanity” (very odd word that), other than believing in the obvious fact that human beings, unlike God, do actually exist.
One of my favourite pubs in London is the Albert, in Victoria Street. Here it is, dwarfed by modernity (as I used to say on my old Culture Blog). If you go here and scroll down a few cricket pitches worth, you get to this picture of it:
I don’t go into pubs much, and don’t recall ever actually going inside this one. I just love the way it looks, flanked by respectfully bland skyscrapers, like butlers looking after a young royal.
A week or so ago, I found another reason to like The Albert, in the form of the evening sun. Victoria Street is one of those big east-to-west London streets (Oxford Street is another) which is smack in line with the evening sun as it sinks down beyond Heathrow. On an evening when the sun is not obscured by clouds, the light just explodes along the street and everyone caught in the beam is lit up like an Avro Lancaster hit by a Berlin searchlight.
That evening was one such, and I was across Victoria Street from the Albert, and saw that the evening sunlight was ripping right through it, in one lot of windows and right out the other side. So I crossed the road and took some snaps straight through all the windows and straight at the sun.
Click on those pictures to get them larger.
And, just to prove that they really are windows and not just wallpaper, here’s the Albert photoed from the sunny side, with the buildings of Victoria Street bouncing off the windows. Oh I do love a good reflection.
It seems to me that every age has things that it decorates way beyond the call of duty. Then, when subsequent generations loose interest in that particular form of decoration, people whose time it was when those particular things were decorated say: Look, Western Civilisation when I was a lad! And now look at it!
Later generations poured their souls into car styling, LP covers, all-over-the-body tattoos, the more unofficial sorts of racing cars, and now, websites and blogs. The decorative flame burned right through less-is-more modernism and right out the other side. Not long ago, stereo speakers, hitherto of an impeccably rectangular tedium, suddenly exploded into Cadillacness. Now, enormous excesses of decorative enthusiasm are being poured into architecture, this time in the form of elaborately contrived steelwork, to support things like the glass roofs of million pound front doors, at unimaginable expense. (Expect future postings on that topic.)
But when they built the Albert, and a zillion other pubs of that same vintage, they really went for decorated pubs, and in particular, decorated pub windows.
And I haven’t even mentioned churches, until now.
Where will the urge to decorate strike next?
From Leading the Charge of New Brisbane, or something, and whatever that is, comes the news that:
Colombian Senator Survives Car Bomb Attack
More to the point, Harry Hutton also survived:
The glass was ankle-deep in places, but everyone was incredibly cool about having their street blown up. I didn’t see anyone crying, or being hysterical or being bad-tempered. It was just like the Blitz, only without any fucking cockneys.
Harry Hutton also has pictures. What Harry Hutton was/is doing in Bogota I have no idea. But then, wherever Harry is, I have no idea what he is doing, apart from occasionally teaching people, to much comic effect. CIA probably, hence the “cavalry” in his blog title. They knew there was trouble in the offing, presumably because they arranged it. He was sent to observe and report. Obviously a blog is the modern way to do this sort of thing. Why waste time with tedious reports on paper, which only sit about in large piles, unread by anybody except enemy spies.
I had an uncle, Uncle Guy, who also did this for a living, although he was long before blogs. He was British Foreign Office, and resembled the actor Terry Thomas to a remarkable degree. Wherever he went, trouble followed. At first I thought he caused it, by shouting at waiters. I visited Uncle Guy when he abandoned globe trotting and settled down as the party political agent of the then Minister of Defence John Nott. He had an award on his mantlepiece from something called the School of Psychological Warfare Bangkok. How cool is that!
I am myself quite dull, but I have some great relatives.
So here’s a shaving picture:
It was taken in Piccadilly last July.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of articles in international magazines and newspapers extolling the rise of China and India in the world economy. Phrases like ‘the two Asian giants’ have become commonplace.
More fanciful commentators have concocted new terms like ‘Chindia’ to herald the rise of this new global force. Futurologists have speculated about a ‘tripolar’ scenario of the US, China and India dominating global affairs in a decade or two from now.
All this has stroked our fragile Indian egos no end. It may even have fooled a lot of people into actually believing all this hyperbole. It’s time for a cold dash of reality and a few comparative numbers.
And the comparative numbers make it no contest. China is way, way ahead.
The problem India has is that it is, politically, a free country. Try to reform the Indian bureaucracy, and the bueaucrats link up with anti-reform politicians and stall it.
In China, they murder pet dogs, don’t allow democracy, and impose a free market – in everything except opinions, ideas, things of that sort. A gigantic South Korea circa 1970, in other words.
I have not had a good day. I had the whole day to get things done, but achieved hardly anything. But thanks to the blogosphere, and a couple of brief hours of effort, I did still learn a lot.
Waaaaah! Waaaaah! Waaaaah! Another posting on Camera Anguish! Only five and half weeks after the previous one!
It’s about iPods:
I have one of the 2nd generation iPods (the one with menu buttons but with a solid-state wheel) and while it’s great (apart from the battery monitor which is never right) I am so sick to death of having to untangle the headphones wiring every single time I try to use it. Surely there must be some form of ‘cable tidy’ system for the iPod headphones, rather than wrapping the cabling around the iPod and thus placing the earphones under stress?
That’s all of it, aside from the vent/unvent signs at the beginning and the end.
The way to get rid of the wires of iPods is for iPods to be made lighter, and for them to hang from our ear lobes.
It is a little known fact that when, in or around 7,000 BC, Gods From Space arrived at this planet (having foolishly destroyed their own planetary civilisation) they brought the notion of ear-rings with them. These were combination iPod/mobile phones. They were often spherical, hence the expression “the music of the spheres”. Only posh people, specially selected by the Gods From Space for their grovelling willingness to do what the Gods From Space commanded were equipped with ear-rings. With them, these posh people communicated with the Gods From Space, or they did on those rare occasions when they could get through to them. There was always one hell of a queue. Mostly they had to be satisfied with recording a message and hoping for the best. And they communicated more frequently with one another.
Humans selected by the Gods From Space for even more important responsibilities were equipped with more elaborate communications devices, which were installed on their heads in what are now called “coronation” ceremonies. Through these head-sets – “crowns” – they received their instructions, and were able to call up air support, satellite intelligence reports, and so forth. No wonder these super-trusties, or “kings” as they were known, were taken extremely seriously by the downtrodden masses.
Eventually the Gods From Space, who were a quarrelsome lot, destroyed themselves. Or else they just died out, through shortages of the necessary chemicals etc., or because they simply weren’t able to sustain what remained of their way of life with their insufficient numbers. But the memory of their magical technology and tempestuous cavortings still lives on. Humans still trying to impress one another with spurious claims of continuing Godly favour, and with the reality of the Godly knowledge they still had, make it almost impossible to work out when the Gods From Space perished.
“Religion” is the more or less debased memory of those times, together with the various doomed attempts – cargo-cult style – that Godless humans have made to revive these powers and relive these ancient and dangerous excitements. As a general rule the less ancient a purely human “religion” is, the more deranged is its memory of what really happened, but the more that religion accords with purely human needs and yearnings. In the East – especially in India, I sense – they remember things vaguely accurately. Here in the West, and in the nearer East, our own civilisations having only developed later, we have no bloody idea, and just made it up as we went along.
Meanwhile iPods as we now know them are causing many other problems besides the tangled wire problem that Julian of Camera Anguish complains of. Because they are so wonderful, so light, and so expensive, iPods have caused the property crime rate to increase, bucking the generally downward trend in property crime, caused by electronic stuff mostly becoming so cheap that it’s not worth nicking. And those wires that Julian rants of are all part of the problem. They are apparently rather distinctive. They say “I am an iPod – steal me” to any passing hoodlum. Hoodla everywhere are responding enthusiastically.
If you nicked someone’s iPod in 6,500 BC they could tell you’d nicked it at once and if you tried using it you would be immediately executed with a single 180 decibel phone message. Say what you like about those Gods From Space, and I do, but they knew what to do with muggers.
I notice on my Expression Engine “Control Panel Home” that there is something called “Total Combined Page Hits”. What does that mean? Presumably the “Total Combined” bit means “not real”, and that only a very few percent of them are actual people actually coming here and actually reading for a few seconds until they decide they aren’t interested, and that the rest are virtual robots programmed by idiot criminals to make various idiot websites appear more busy and popular than they are. Or some such meaningless nonsense.
Anyway, at 2.05pm on Monday 26th of last month, i.e. just under a week ago, the score was (I have it in my Filofax): 23756. Just a moment ago (at 3.15 pm) it was: 33250. Is that good, okay or pathetic?
I tell my friends that I don’t care about site statistics, but what that really means is that I will not exert myself to discover any if such discovery involves the slightest exertion. But if the numbers present themselves to me, I do take notice of them.
More (some?) good photos here.
Further illustration of the ordinary thesis? Maybe that one is a bit too ordinary.
It must be admitted that you can see photos just like this everywhere you go nowadays. What gives this one that edge of pleasure to it for me is that it was taken by a friend (?) of a (blogging - sort of - never actually met the guy) friend. Hence the dual categorisation of this posting, which has not only been about photography.
From the small hours of this morning until this afternoon, my broadband connection was out of commission. The obvious thing would have been to do other things, but as soon as I got up today, I could only fret. Doing something else was out of the question. So everything I was doing today got delayed, and there is now only time to say this. I.e. that.
Well, let’s have a picture as well. Here are two I took in May of this year:
I have friends who say that one day someone will kill me for doing this kind of thing. But you have to die of something, and why not die getting a good photo.
Last night I posted a piece by my very good friend “Diana Quaver” on Samizdata, about Daniel Cuthbert, quota-convicted yesterday of computer hacking. The law is now on autopilot.
They see a problem. People are pissing in the street.
They draft and pass (all one process these days) a law which makes it illegal to do whatever they are worrying about, and illegal to do lots of other perfectly innocent things of a related nature, like piss in your own lavatory.
The fact that you have just taken a piss in your own lavatory comes to the attention of a policeman. Your neighbour doesn’t like you and saw you at it. Or, your toilet has one of those new electronic wifi DNA RFID piss detectors fitted.
The police are no longer judged according to how well they uphold the law, but according to how many people they can convict.
Convicting an otherwise honest and law abiding person whose only crime is pissing in his own lavatory is obviously far easier than convicting a genuine criminal, who has been, I don’t know, robbing banks or murdering people, so the police arrest you for pissing in your own lavatory. Like I say, far easier.
You come to trial. The judge, regretfully, notes that the law does indeed state that you may not piss in your own lavatory, so you are convicted. You only escape prison because there is no more room in them.
That isn’t much of a caricature. And that was the process that Daniel Cuthbert fell foul of.
Cuthbert’s blunder, apparently, was that when first confronted by the police, he lied. Don’t blame him. Not being a genuine criminal, he didn’t know how to handle himself. That’s all part of why non-criminals are so much easier to stitch up.
The verdict is still unjust. He was found guilty of computer hacking. He should have been found “guilty” only of impeding the police in the course of their stupid investigation of something that should have been none of their damn business in the first place.
Best Samizdata comment so far is from Natalie Solent:
Julian Morrison writes: “I’m thinking, with the sums of money involved, this case does have some legitimacy. Okay, he didn’t mean anything, but still. A cop catching you with a bunch of lockpicks at the back door of a bank isn’t going to listen to “I was just testing my cash is secure"."
I don’t know much about computers, but going from the description of the facts given in the main post Mr Morrison’s analogy is too strong. A better analogy would be that Mr Cuthbert was found poking or tugging at the fascia of a cash machine, having become suspicious that it was an overlay put there by criminals.
Incidentally, if you google Daniel Cuthbert, you get to photography by Daniel Cuthbert. And yes, Diana Quaver assures me, it is the same guy.
Here’s my favourite of the photos at his site:
Don’t know what that is. A mob of horror movie peasants outside a law court perhaps?
Interesting pricing policy. Giving it away on the internet, but charging a hundred a fifty dollars for a ready-made and convenient print-out, otherwise known as the book.
It’s all way beyond me, but these guys seem to like it.
How much difference will this self-replicating distribution make to the sales of the non-self-replicating version? Guess: a lot, and in a good way.
Samizdata’s Dale Amon links to an article entitled How Linux Could Overthrow Microsoft. I don’t suppose anything in this is that revelatory, certainly not to someone like Dale Amon, but I am finding it very helpful for understanding just how and why Linux is on the up-and-up and Microsoft may now be slowly going the way of the old IBM. The tone of voice of the piece is explanatory rather than missionary.
These paragraphs in particular make a lot of sense to me:
Proprietary software is licensed, not sold, with severe accompanying restrictions on copying or modification. This scheme was not devised by fools. It reduces piracy, rewards risk, and allows vendors to enforce compatibility. And when a proprietary vendor controls industry standards, it generates fantastic amounts of money; Microsoft alone has created about ten thousand millionaires through employee stock options. And yet there are now literally thousands of open-source development efforts like OpenOffice, Firefox, Linux, and Apache that have been downloaded tens of millions of times. Why?
Proprietary products cannot be customized by users. Product quality is uneven, in part because outsiders cannot examine source code. If a vendor controls major industry standards, as Microsoft does, it can force customers to upgrade - change to a newer version, and pay more money - almost at will. Furthermore, because lock-in to a proprietary standard is so profitable, imitation is a major threat. Software vendors therefore spend large amounts of money pursuing patents to deter clones and lawsuits by rivals.
Perhaps most importantly, proprietary vendors also treat plans, source code, and technology as secrets that must be carefully guarded. But in software development as in other activities, secrecy allows mistakes and abuses to be covered up. Bad work goes uncorrected; managers hide information to gain career advantage. To ferret out bad work, companies hire testing and quality-assurance groups that are kept separate from development groups, but this is wasteful. And if a software vendor has financial problems or an executive loses an internal political battle, a product can languish for years. If customers have problems, they tell the vendor and hope that it will listen. Sometimes it doesn"t, and that"s just too bad.
Open source inverts this model. Under the terms of the most common open-source licensing agreement, the GNU General Public License (GPL), a program"s source code must be made available whenever the program is distributed. Other programmers may do what they want with it, on one condition: any modifications they make must also be covered by the GPL - that is, their code must be made available. The GPL, in combination with the meritocratic culture of software technologists, has yielded a highly transparent, decentralized approach to software development, controlled by communities of engineers who determine the direction their efforts should take. Open-source development groups generally post all their work publicly, including specifications, source code, bug reports, bug fixes, future plans, proposals for enhancements, and their often vitriolic debates. Linux is open in this sense (and yes, Microsoft monitors it closely).
Relative to proprietary efforts, in open-source development there is little management hierarchy, strategic game-playing, patenting, and branding, and few flashy product launch events - in short, less crap. Even though the total Linux workforce is large - as many as ten thousand people - most of it is technical. Red Hat still has fewer than a thousand employees, though it is growing fast. By contrast, Microsoft has 57,000 employees. Microsoft"s legal department alone probably costs more money than the governance structure of the entire open-source movement. And there is no question that for many engineers, the comparative absence of crap is one of the major attractions of working on open-source projects – either as volunteers or as paid employees. “We have people lining up to work for us,” Red Hat"s Tiemann told me. “There are so many people interested in working on open source that we can be very selective.”
I have read all of it up to that bit, and am now not going to stop until I have read the whole thing.
The stuff about back-doors and security breaches is also very good, for a techno-ignoramus like me, that being the subject matter of Dale’s original posting and is the reason he linked to the piece.
I have been busy all day, and tonight I am busy reading a two page essay called Photographers’ Rights in the UK (a pdf file that requires Adobe Acrobat 6 or higher) by Linda Macpherson, so that I can put something here about it. I learned about this piece from a comment from this guy (to whom thanks), on this posting which was about how I took a photo of the dca from the pavement outside and was told I had to have permission to take photos of the dca from the pavement outside. So today, I took some more photos of the dca from the pavement outside. Then I had to go and do something else. But I forgot the thing I needed to have with me to get that something else done, so I will have to go back there tomorrow, this time remembering to take the thing with me. Bloggers eh? They live life to the full, close to the edge. Close to the edge of idiocy in my case, on a day like today.
Incidentally, someone else tried doing the same thing with the dca, and with the same result. Have I started something?
UPDATE Thursday: The Samizdata commenter referred to above also included a link to this, which is about the equivalent laws for USA-ites. I have not read this yet, but it seems to be a more polemical piece. It starts:
The right to take photographs is under assault now more than ever.
Having this link here rather than just in that comment is a convenience for me, and I hope to some of the readers of this also.
I remember thinking “Who are they trying to kid?” when I saw this obviously fake person on the telly. Now his perpetrators have gone beyond idiotic, into creepy and immoral, and have made an enemy of Adriana.
Big mistake. Huge mistake.
I reckon “tBBC” sounds very north of England, don’t you? As in: “Trooble’t BBC. T’ Creatives are not ‘appy. Not ‘appy at all. Thur’ll be bluck-owts mark me words” etc. But it just means “the Big Blog Company”.
For reasons of my own, to do with my blogging activities elsewhere, I want to show you a picture of the new Sainsbury’s that has just been erected near where I live.
Click to make it even bigger.
It is interesting in that above the Sainsbury’s bit are flats, rather than just more Sainsbury’s stuff, or a roof, or something dull like that. And it is also interesting because the Sainsbury’s bit at the bottom was open several months before they finished the flats above.
I don’t especially like it. In particular, I do not like the vomit coloured bricks. A darker, shittier colour might have been better, or perhaps a rectal bleeding colour. No, on further thought, I think what it really needs is sloping rooves, with tiles. Or maybe thatched. And what I especially hate are those big curvey, rectal bleeding coloured signs. Anyway, there it is.
As you can see my picture posting problems have now gone away. More about that anon, maybe, but I promise nothing.
I’ll just bet it does.
But it’s actually only about what to call the New Zealand badminton team.
Thank you Stephen Pollard.
Postings for the foreseeable future are liable to be rather wordy. This is because uploading pictures has suddenly stopped working. I have no idea why this is happening, that is to say, not happening.
Bloggingwise, this has not been my year. Is this blog also about to collapse?