Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday June 30 2006

I don’t have to explain why I love this:

image

A bit bigger where I found it, here.

Last night, a day late because of the France Spain game, Antoine and I did another of our elections around the world mp3s.  At the start of it, I couldn’t remember if it was the fourteenth or the fifteenth.  But actually it was number thirteen.

Topics and timings:

START – 4 mins 40 secs: Intro.  Rather protracted this time, because in addition to introducing the topics, I also announced, and explained the following decision: that from now on these things will be done once and month rather than once a week.  The next one will be done on or around July 4th, and then the next one will be some time in August, and the next one after that some time in September.  And so on.  Basically, once a week is proving too burdensome for lazy little me.  I want to do other mp3s with other expert persons, and more than about one a week of these things is, for now, beyond me.  To say nothing of beyond the massed ranks of my fans who hand on every word spoken by or to me.

4 mins 40 secs – 12 mins 10 secs: Kuwait.  Where women now have the vote.  What consequences will that have?  Antoine will keep us posted, if not during our mp3s then at his blog, or with his own podcasts!  (He may now be addicted, and will have to arrange his own fixes if once a month proves insufficient.)

12 mins 10 secs – 14 mins 35 secs: Mexico.  Left biased polls say Obrador will win the Presidency, but more convincing polls say it will be very close.  Too bad Argentina beat Mexico the other day.  A Mexico win would have help the incumbent party to win again.

14 mins 35 secs – 16 mins 45 secs: Italy.  Recent referendum said no to regional autonomy.  North remains yoked to South.

16 mins 45 secs – 19 mins 10 secs: Mauretania.  97 percent voted yes to having a choice of different parties!  Sounds there wasn’t much choice about voting for choice.

19 mins 10 secs – 20 mins 20 secs: Congo.  It just gets worse and worse for the Congo, as they attempt an election.  Now they have plague in the north!  And the other day, in a building in which there was a government party rally taking place, the roof collapsed!

20 mins 20 secs – 25 mins 15 secs: UK.  Boundary changes that will actually help the Tories, which makes a change.  And Tory leader Cameron proposes a Bill of Rights, to replace the Euro-Bill we now have.  Antoine is unimpressed.

25 mins 15 secs – 39 mins 40 secs: USA.  Supreme Court throws out Vermont proposal to limit campaign donations to $500.  And upholds Republican corrections of boundary manipulation by Texas Democrats.  (Dems were getting 40 percent of vote and over 50 per cent of seats.) And: Democrat bloggers versus Democrat regular politicians.  Mark Warner versus Hilary Clinton.  See also, said Antoine, this Heartland Institute report on the earthquake unleashed by bloggers in Pennsylvania.  Is blogging a new revolution?  Bit of an argument about that between Antoine and me.

39 mins 40 secs – 44 mins 42 secs: China.  Elections for Communist Party positions.  Antoine promises further China talk next week.

Thursday June 29 2006

Okay, I’m drunk.  I did a podcast with Antoine, and we went out to the pub afterwards, and I had TWO PINTS.  Which is more than enough to derange me.  No way am I in any state to podcast that podcast.  It would vanish or come out sounding like Boris Karlof talking to Boris Karlof or some such freaky thing.  Summary of what we said: democracy is spreading, but is that good question mark question mark.  Actually I don’t think it was quite that, but I’m drunk.  I think I covered that.

So, a quota photo:

image

I just like it, okay.  I think it’s funny.  When it came up on the computer it made me laugh.  Ha ha ha.  So, there it is.

Earlier, I enjoyed some Twenty20 cricket, on Ceefax, which was brilliant.  Surrey slaughtered Kent, having slaughtered someone else last night.  Slaughter means you have the best scoring rate, so is worth two more points.  Surrey stars so far: Alistair Brown and James Benning, Benning being the one who scored 189 not out, in an earlier posting.  Scroll down until you get to a cricket scorecard in Ceefax.  I’m too drunk to organise that.  See Cricinfo (on the left under websites) for details.  Hint: start by clicking on England on the left where it says: which country?  I know, you don’t care about cricket.  I respect that.  I despise it, but I respect it.

Weird eh?  Unlimited overs: Surrey brilliant.  Twenty overs: Surrey brilliant.  Fifty overs: Surrey crap.  I’m baffled, and presumably they are too.

Tuesday June 27 2006

Will of The Corridor of Uncertainty has categorised this as: cricket photos, delhi, ethereal, india, photo.

image

A bit like this.  Again, from flickr, here.

It’s that old mist makes distant objects grey but leaves nearer objects darker trick.  So, just line up lots of stuff in the mist, far and near.  Never fails.

Umang comments:

That’s India Gate in the background - the memorial built for Indian/British soldiers killed in WWI and the Afghan wars.

Good to know.

Monday June 26 2006

More edublogging, from diamond geezer:

My last 24 hours at university were a bit of a rollercoaster. I was trying to lap up the last few hours of the university experience, only to discover that normality had already departed. I retrieved one last camera film from the chemist only to discover that it hadn’t wound on properly, so the memories contained in my last college photographs were all superimposed and therefore useless. And in my pigeonhole I received yet another rejection letter from yet another company who didn’t want me - more my loss than theirs, I suspect. When my Dad finally arrived to cart away all my belongings I had absolutely no idea where any future career might be heading, just that life would never be quite so easy ever again. Or quite so much fun.

Should’ve ‘ad a digital camera me ol’ china.  (Can’t seem to avoid that meme just now.)

University.  A huge dole queue that it is huge fun to be in, with no (well not much) social stigma attached.  Who can resist?

That Thing I was busy doing at the end of last week was a course in how to teach reading, and is all part of the fact that I will, Real Soon Now, be cranking up Brian’s Education Blog again.  (I’ll spare you any links to the ruins.)

Not Brian’s Culture Blog.  That’s this, pretty much, minus the posh paintings.  (And there’s nothing to stop me having posh paintings again here from time to time if I want to.) But the buzz in my network is (in English, a couple of people have told me) that Brian’s Education Blog (as opposed to Brian’s Culture Blog) is actually missed.  Moves Are Afoot to clean up the ruins, and get it going again in spanking new premises.  New premises, I should say.  I don’t believe in spanking, and especially not in connection with education.  Educators should only use violence in self-defence.

Anyway, if that does happen, here’s the kind of thing I’d want to be featuring, concerning a man about whom I knew nothing until today, but who would appear to have been – to be – an extremely successful educator. 

This from West Ham supporter Iain Dale, about someone called Tony Carr:

image

This is the man who should be the proudest man in England tonight. You probably won’t have heard of him. His name is Tony Carr. He is the man who has brought you Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick - all of whom played for England today. He’s head of the West Ham Youth Academy. And if the England manager had had any sense at all another Tony Carr graduate, Jermain Defoe, would have been in the team today too. And coming up for the next World Cup, we’ll have Anton Ferdinand and Mark Noble for you.

Michael Carrick was a star today - good tackles, spraying the ball around. God how I wish we could have kept him at Upton Park.  ...

All this in connection with England storming to a 1-0 triumph over mighty Ecuador yesterday afternoon.

Sunday June 25 2006

Billion Monkey wedding photography, from this guy.

image

Click bottom right at Sepial (first link above) to get it bigger.

As the Wedding Photographer himself says, in connection with photographing children:

If a child you want to photograph is avoiding your camera or putting on an (unconvincing) performance in front of it then be patient. (Indeed, “be patient” are two of the first words I would offer to any photojournalist asking me for advice.) Never force a child to have his photo taken, but do try to catch him when he is playing with a toy or distracted by some other shiny happy thing. The flipside of a child’s being easily distracted is that his absorption in play might not last long, so take any opportunity to snap him in action as soon as it appears.

And the reason I am so enamoured of my Billion Monkey photography is: for children read people, and for toy read Billion Monkey camera.  Shiny happy thing indeed!  Some of the best pictures I have of my friends are of them either snapping or looking at their Billion Monkey snaps.

With Billion Monkeys you don’t have to be so patient, because they already have their toys, and they are less likely to get bored with them!

Spent today recovering from yesterday, which culminated in this.  But then I went out again this evening, at short notice.  So not a lot here today.  Except this, which I took outside a pub this evening:

image

What is special about this is that Billion Monkey me took my snap at the exact same moment that Billion Monkey him took his, of his pretty lady friends, and he was using flash!

Friday June 23 2006

Another busy day today, of serious business in the morning and afternoon, followed by serious pleasure in the evening.  So let me get my duties here for today out of the way.

A quota photo:

image

Cricket, and one of the world’s great landmarks.  A bit like this picture, but better.  I love where the ball is, and the way the camel is present, but does not get in the way.

But definitely not by me.  I wish.  No, from here, via here.

Busy time for me.  Out doing things.  And, in passing, snapping things, like this, in Hackney this afternoon:

image

The trouble with the bloody Big Media is that they make such a fuss about nothing with things like this that if anyone half sensible really did, seriously, any day now, fear a Doomsday Scenario, this headline wouldn’t tell you.  When I saw it, I laughed out loud, and snapped the thing purely for comedy purposes.  I just assumed - and still assume - that it was nothing but some ludicrously over-exaggerated bending out of shape of routine medical caution.  It simply never occurred to me that this could be real Bad News.  Regular life will go on regardless, and under elevens will be able to enjoy their free tube travel unimpeded by doom of any sort.

And these wankers complain about blogs getting facts wrong.  They rape the facts so routinely with these kinds of headlines that they no longer register that they are doing it.  They put crap like this in a different part of their brains, so to speak, to the bit where they moan about lies on the internet.

The other thing I really enjoyed today was a glorious refereeing cock-up this evening in the Croatia Australia football game on the telly thie evening.  British referees are famed, at any rate in Britain, for being omniscient and infallible.  Nevertheless, a British referee gave a rather bad-tempered Croat bloke no less than three yellow cards before finally sending him off with a red.  Two is the preferred sufficient amount of yellowness to get you sent off, but my fallible compatriot forgot, when he gave said Croat his second yellow that it was his second.

You can tell that the World Cup is coming nicely to the boil.  Referees are making serious cock-ups.

As are goalies.  Both the Aussie goalie and the Japanese goalie, playing against Brazil, let in howlers this evening, poor fellows.

But a cock-up is one thing.  The habit of falsification, so ingrained that the perpetrators of it would be amazed to be accused of it even as they know that falsification is what they are quite deliberately doing, is something else again.  I feel sorry for those goalies, and even for that referee, perhaps even especially for him, because he is never going to be allowed to forget this.  But I feel no sympathy whatsoever for the people who invent these scare headlines, and then wonder why nobody trusts them and why more and more of us now prefer to get our overwrought nonsense for free on the Internet.  That referee is going to apologise, very soon, very publicly.  Those goalies are probably being publicly distraught even as I polish this.  But there will be no apology for that idiot headline, and nobody will even think of asking for one.  Crap in newspapers?  And you are getting in a stew about that, Brian?

Well, yes, I find that I am getting in a stew.  Sometimes reporting is the art of registering real disgust at the routinely disgusting.

Wednesday June 21 2006

Another Tuesday evening, another Brian and Antoine democracy around the world mp3.  Our twelfth.

Timings and topics last night:

START – 1 min 15 secs: Intro, but failing to mention FIFA (see below)
1 min 15 secs – 3 mins 45 secs: Palestine.  Hamas trying to stop the referendum on the survival of Israel – but by parliamentary obstruction rather than street fighting.  Progress!
3 mins 45 secs – 5 mins 5 secs: Congo.  Belgian military policemen are trying to supervise election registration.  Antoine pessimistic.
5 mins 5 secs – 8 mins 35 secs: Catalonia.  Big percentage yes on a small turnout favours devolution, Scotland style.  Antoine reckons it’s all about enticing ETA into a similar arrangement for the Basques.
8 mins 35 secs – 12 mins 50 secs: Slovakia.  Ex-Communists back in business.  But why were the polls right this time?  Antoine is puzzled.  (Thought now: maybe they just got better at polling.  I didn’t say that in the mp3.)
12 mins 50 secs – 19 mins 45 secs: France.  Liberté’s answer to Segolénè Royal, Sabine Herold.  General chat about French libertarianism, which has always been strong and which they, bless them, call liberalism (but often avec un spit).
19 mins 45 secs – 22 mins 35 secs: UKLabour copies Conservative internet strategy.
22 mins 35 secs – 27 mins 10 secs: USA.  Big business support Dems just when they are dipping in the polls.  Antoine says they should give him their money instead!
27 mins 10 secs – 40 mins 55 secs: International Whaling Commission.  Which has a one-country one vote system, no matter how non-whaling a country is.  Non-whaling countries used to vote to save the whales from the hunters.  But now they are starting to vote for whaling.  FIFA has same one-country one vote system, with similarly odd results.  Also talk about the EU voting system.
END

It is noticeable how Antoine is tracking stories from week to week, my favourite one at the moment being the possible referendum in Palestine.  More topics at less length seems to be the pattern.  I’m happy to go with his flow.

As for me, I am getting more practiced at concocting these post-chat blog postings, which at first took far too long, which depressed me.  Big relief.  But repeat anything and it speeds up.

Two incoming emails, both with pictures.

In no particular order, the first email, from Jackie D, is entitled “I miss Transport Blog, Take 87”, linking to this picture, from here.  The man at Venture Chronicles says:

Here’s a picture of a bridge that joins the former East and West Germany over the River Elbe.

So, built since 1990 then.  Yes?

image

It reminds me a bit of this.

And the second emailer is Michael Jennings, who sent me the two pictures below, without explanation other than that they were of “Mad Japanese Billion Monkeys”.

imageimage

It turned out that he took these pictures himself, last Saturday, at the top end of the Jungfraubahn, which is in Switzerland and which is the highest railway in Europe.

When he emailed me with that information, he also included this picture, which I think really is rather mad, much madder than the Japanese Billion Monkeys.

Click on all three pictures to get them bigger.

When you consider that all of these pictures have a Transport theme – barges, bridge, mountain railway- Jackie D’s email title is spot on.  I also miss Transport Blog.  If Patrick Crozier loaded it up with coal and water and got it cooked up and moving again, I’d definitely want to contribute.  But like all blogs, it would need someone to be Muggins, i.e. to keep it going when all about you are . . .  not.  Patrick again, I think.  It’s up (or down) to him.  I vote Yes.  As in: Yes and he should be Muggins.

Tuesday June 20 2006

When I got this new computer, one of the downsides was I couldn’t read the comments at Blognor Regis any more.  Then I could.  Now I can’t again.  Something to do with Javascript.  Very annoying.

So just to comment, on this: I strongly agree about this man, ever since I saw him on the Jonathan Ross show a few weeks back.

Just now, he is the realest thing on Reality TV.

Podcasting is on my mind a lot, because I’m doing it, quite a lot.  (Antoine and I will be doing another tomorrow evening, assuming all goes to plan.) And I’ve been clicking on other people’s podcasts to find out how they do it.  Of the podcasts I’ve lately listened to, this is one of the more interesting ones, which I got to from here.

At first I thought it might be a send-up, but it turns out to be genuine enough.  Sigurd Rinde, of “Thingamy” (which had me wondering), talks a lot about “added value”, etc.  That is a phrase you hear a lot these days.  It comes of him being a consultant.  I wish the interviewer had asked Sigurd to tell us about a particular company whose added value he had actually added to, and how.  What, Sigurd, do you actually do?  When you go to see your customers, or when they come to see you, what happens?

Favourite bits.  Early on, Sigurd talked about when he was in the computer games business:

Those were the good old days in the beginning of electronic games.  So they were all kids.  I remember our first Christmas party.  We had parents day before, which I loved because the mothers were more my age.

And on the software at the heart of his way of doing things now, at “Thingamy”:

We have rebuilt the system umpteen times, and every time we halved the lines of code, and it’s getting more and more nimble.  I mean, the whole package is thirty meg big, and that includes the webserver, object oriented data base (built for this by the way), interfaces, rules, engine, XML, you know, the whole thing, yes thirty meg, put it on your server, run Germany with it.

Not sure about that comma between “rules” and “engine”.  Maybe that should be “rules engine”.

During the last week or so, or two, my Substitute Blog Ruins (I’m thinking of restarting the Education one, Real Soon Now) have been spam link and spam comment attacked, I think.  About half way through this, I worked out how to switch the links and comments for my Substitute Blog Ruins off.  Meanwhile, it was quite easy to delete links and comments all in one operation, in Movable Type.  Which was why it took me a day or two to bother to work out that “fuck off you mad robots” option.

Why aren’t the mad robots attacking this blog?  Don’t they know about it?  Worse, do they know about it, but not respect it?  If they did attack here, my life would probably end at once, because Sod’s Law decrees that Expression Engine probably doesn’t allow mass deletion of comments and links.  Each one would have to be deleted with six keystrokes followed by six creeping “yes yes I’m doing it but please remember I’m only a computer I’m not as quick as you humans are at doing things” lines of green rectangles inching slowly from left to right.  Meaning that deleting a comment would actually takes longer than writing it, even if it’s a real comment rather than a robotic one.  Or, I’d have to suppress the tiny trickle of (greatly appreciated) comments here.

The weird bit is that the mad robots have carried right on attacking, like moths madly smacking themselves against a closed window.  That’s the only explanation I can think of for the mass of completely blank emails I now keep receiving, from nobody, saying nothing.  Deleting them is very easy.  As is deleting all the emails from robots saying that the robotic mass email shots from robots pretending to be colleagues of mine, i.e. with the same second half of my email.  My Computer Guru told me not long ago that apparently about eighty percent of email in the whole world is mad robot crap.

Please, no helpful suggestions about how to turn my life upside down by having entirely different programmes, entirely differently run.  This is like people who want to solve your problems by you learning Esperanto, or French, or something.  My present arrangements work.

But now, when I load up this blog, some of the pictures have been replaced by tiny little red crosses.  Why?  I hate that.  Have I been overdoing the pictures?  Have I run out of space, bandwidth, etc.?  More pestering of My Computer Guru, I fear.  I’ve left a message with Him.  But now, all the pictures are back!  No little red crosses to be seen.  So what was that about?  Bloody Internet.

So here’s another photograph, to see if photographs still work:

image

We’re looking across Vincent Square, where they play football and cricket, right here in London SW1, with the Wheel in the background.  This is all about two minutes walk from my front door.  Walk along the road there and you can see Big Ben.  Ain’t London pretty?

I’ve talked with My Computer Guru.  He reckons the little red crosses are caused by my service provider being troubled, and are not a domestic problem for me to worry about.  I hope He’s right.  He usually seems to be.

Monday June 19 2006

Well, I’ve had my day of pottering about doing not very much thoroughly deranged by – would you believe? - county cricket.  On Ceefax.  You know, in among doing other things like pottering about.  But I got a lot less pottering done than I’d planned.

One day, limited overs (i.e. 50), county cricket is a very popular day out these days, and after today’s games you can see why that would be.  There were six games today.  Northants beat Derby by one run, Gloucester beat Surrey by two runs, and Middlesex beat Someset by 3 runs.  Essex beat Kent by 4 wickets, but could easily have lost at the end.  Only the games at Edgbaston where Notts beat Warks by 7 wickets, and in Durham where Durham beat Scotland in one of those rearranged ("Duckworth/Lewis") endings were matters in any way unsatisfactory.  So a jolly good time must have been had by most.

The Surrey game was especially remarkable, and not just because I support Surrey.  Gloucester got off to a spanking start, but then lost wickets.  However, their number ten had a slog at the end and they totalled 339 for 7, which is a lot, trust me.  Surrey looked doomed at 123 for 4, but occasional opener James Benning had started slogging and he just kept right on.  At 280 for 9 it looked all over again, but again Benning kept on doing his thing, and together with someone called Saker he got Surrey to within one boundary of winning, before Saker was run out of the second last ball of the last over.  (Earlier Benning had bowled 2 overs 0 wickets for 27, and Saker 8 overs 0 wickets for 64.) Benning ended up with 189 not out, with Saker’s 22 being the second top Surrey score.  That I would love to have seen.

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Earlier in the week, Surrey succeeded where today they just failed.  For some reason, Surrey just can’t manage to win at the one day game, not even if one of them makes 189 not out.  But at four day cricket, they can’t seem to lose, no matter how hard they sometimes try.  (The way they rip into four day cricket you’d think they’d be naturals for the one day game, but it just doesn’t seem to work out that way.)

Their four day game against Somerset at Bath began last Wednesday, with Somerset quickly losing top order wickets.  But then Surrey dropped catches and batted with their usual gay, so to speak, abandon, and were behind on first innings.  Somerset looked set to bat Surrey out of it, but then they lost second innings wickets, and just after lunch on Friday, Surrey had a day and two thirds to get just over 350.

Two sessions later, it was all over, with Surrey racing to victory with an entire day to spare.  That I would also love to have seen.

However, what these two games illustrate is how very much more satisfactory, as entertainment, one day cricket is compared to the four day version.  I mean, what other kind of sporting entertainment would allow an entire summer Saturday to just disappear down the plug hole, with a spectacular finish like that Surrey/Somerset one being all done and dusted the previous evening?  That’s the trouble with four day cricket.  You know when it will start, assuming the weather doesn’t screw around with it, but you have no idea when it will end.

A few weeks ago, I tracked all the county games going on in one particular week, eight of them.  No less than four of them were all over in three days, with, again, the final days being Saturdays.  Two more were over by lunch on Saturday, and another soon after.  Only one game provided a full day’s entertainment on the Saturday.  (Actually, I think one of them may even have ended in two days.)

Clearly, the only people for whom this makes sense as entertainment are retired people, and those freakish young people who don’t mind entertainment that retired people also like.

I would never now bother to go to a county cricket match.  Which means, as a result, that I have never acquired the habit of going to cricket matches much at all.  I prefer to follow them on Ceefax, and watch the test matches on the telly.

Test matches, especially against good sides like Australia, make money.  (This is why it is such a big deal which county grounds they are played on.  Lancashire recently lost its next test match, amidst much weeping and wailing, and it went to Cardiff, amidst much Welsh celebration.) One day cricket is in rude health.  But the financial black hole that is four day county cricket is the great weakness of English cricket.  Nobody watches it.  And, surely, fewer and fewer people care about it.

What to do?

I would look at several things.

First, I would be looking at televising the whole thing, very cheaply and cheerfully, and somehow making money out of people like me who would like to be watching it, probably with something like adverts at the website where I click onto the pictures.  That used to be terribly difficult, but it is getting terribly easy, surely.  The cricket people ought to set this up for themselves, just like dads videoing their sons’ sports days.  If the cricketers wait for Rupert Murdoch to do this, they’ll wait for ever.

Second, if only to make the television pictures less depressing, I’d look at rearranging the seating.  You get that ghastly serried-ranks-of-empty-seats effect even when some test matches are televised, because those games also have a way of ending unpredictably, which means that towards the end, unless it’s Australia, no one shows up except the players and the media people.  The camera people do their best to conceal how few actual people are watching, but boundaries get hit, catches get taken in the deep, and those great slabs of empty seats sometimes just have to be shown.  So, I say, when there aren’t many people there, rip out the seats and replace them with promenades.

Another thing I’d look at is WiFi.  Antoine suggested this when I talked about this to him, and presumably he is now influenced quite a lot by Jackie D.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  She earns a living advising people about this stuff.

Basically, what county cricket has to do is stop being a place where your regular life stops, and where you sit there like a pudding and watch nothing but the game for day after day, even if the massed ranks of the proletariat did use to do that eighty years ago, standing, in cloth caps, looking grim.  If you go to county cricket now, you need to be able to continue with your life.  By socialising with others, and by doing that virtual form of socialising that is internetting, the assembled throng would be able to carry on living, instead of stopping living for the duration.

I remember cricket matches when I was at Marlborough, my posh public school.  They were excellent, and one of the more excellent things about them was that in amongst the throng of persons watching, other things were being attended to and talked about besides cricket.  Political intrigue, deals, gossip, fashion parading, philosophical discussion, etc.  Even school work.  Only when the Marlborough version of Freddy Flintoff was having a slog or taking a clatter of wickets did everyone stop all that and concentrate on the cricket.  That’s how county cricket should be.  Surround it with seats that everyone present is supposed to just, you know, sit in, doing nothing else, condemns the whole thing to a living death.

I could go on, but it hasn’t got any cooler, quite the opposite.  So that is your lot for today.

Sunday June 18 2006

Yes it is.  And to add to my misery today, I only realised that there was a flypast of interesting airplanes driving over London to celebrate the Queen’s 80th about one minute too late.  When the penny finally dropped, I rushed up to the roof, wearing only trousers and sandals but with the x12 zoom camera, but it was all over.  Damn.  I’m a republican, but a flypast is a flypast.

After that I was out and about, and am now knackered.  I bought some more summer trousers in H&M, and boy am I glad I’m not a clothes-aholic.  It was bad enough in Gramex.  Talking of classical CDs, Alex has lots to say about that, following our mp3ing, about which we are both now very feeling very positive.

Today at the World Cup, Ghana beat the Czechs.  It’s the weather, I think.  Europeans, especially non-Mediterranean Europeans, aren’t used to playing in this heat.  They can train and prepare all they like, but they just don’t function properly when it’s this hot.  The Ghanaians, on the other hand, were buzzing around like kids in the street.  If it stays this hot, England have no chance.  If the weather cools down, England have a chance.  Remember England v Brazil in Japan.  Was that last time around?  It was the heat, I tell you.  England struggled to beat the black men of Trinidad, because of the heat.  Obviously the England players and coaches can’t say this because it would be defeatist, but it’s still true.  I’m not complaining, I’m just saying.  On Tuesday England play Sweden.  Swedes are even whiter and from even further north than us, so I fancy England to take them to pieces.

If it cools down, I might also do more and better blogging.

Friday June 16 2006

A couple of World Cup souvenir snaps.

First, a back to front exhortation to England, urging our national soccer team to play up and play the game.  I saw it flying over London yesterday, and England duly overcame the combined might of Trinidad and Tobago.  It was a long way away, taxing my x12 zoom lens to its limits.  My eyesight being what it is, I only found out what it said when I got home and looked at it on my computer.  But, I guessed right.  Click to get it bigger.

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And second, a snap of the TV taken today, just after the Argentinians had scored the second of the six goals they scored against the combined might of Serbia and Montenegro.

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It’s the Billion Monkey shot of a lifetime!  Diego Maradona goes bonkers.  And an alert Billion Monkey blond lady sitting just in front of him gets the snap.  That’s Maradona’s daughter there next to him.  It’s all a bit vague in this picture, but trust me, that’s a bona fide Billion Monkey lady there, at the bottom of the picture.  You can tell by her left hand.  Click to get it even bigger and even vaguer.

Yes, and you can listen to us here.  It lasts just over 45 minutes.

I’ve been classical music fan all my life.  Alex Singleton has got into it only recently.  So we have plenty to talk about.  Alex talks about the classical music he has begun with.  I try to talk about music that might be appealing to newcomers to this music, and about the barriers people might face, or feel that they face, between them and enjoying it.

An oddity of this particular mp3 file is that it contains absolutely no music.  Which is a bit odd, I suppose.  Is this sensible?  Will people grumble?  Well, our answer is we’re doing this as much for our own amusement as for anyone else’s edification, and, at any rate for now, you’ll just have to jot down the names of pieces and enterprises and musicians we mention and do your own Googling, should you want to know more.  My editing skills are primitive to non-existent, and if I were to try messing about with bits of music, well, it wouldn’t work.  If we do about half a dozen of these things, and the word gets around that they’re worth listening to, then maybe then would be the time for me to pester my long suffering London computer expert friends about how to do this.  For now, its plain chat, or nothing, so plain chat it is.

We have in mind to keep it leisurely, and to do one of these things about once a month, and just see how it develops.  It so happens that Alex and I did this mp3 on the same afternoon as Antoine and I did our thing later in the evening.  But you may note that Alex introduces our chat by just saying that this is “June 2006”.  No date, and certainly no time.  This is not a once-a-week every-Tuesday-night regular-as-clockwork thing the way the Brian and Antoine mp3s are at least supposed to be.  Which means that some time Quite Soon Now, I might very well have another listen to our conversation, and note down the pieces of music and the various enterprises and websites we mention, and do some further blogging about them, and include some decent links.  I may get around to suggesting favourite and recommendable cheap performances of some of the pieces we talk about.  But, as I keep saying here, I promise nothing.

So meanwhile, here is the conversation itself, and I hope those of you who give it a try find it entertaining and interesting.

A final word of thanks, to Antoine.  He has convinced me completely that this podcasting/mp3/whatever thing is a goer, even if it may never set the world on fire.

Thursday June 15 2006

The latest Brian and Antoine mp3 about elections and politics around the world is up here.

Timings of topics:
START - 1 min 35 secs: Intro
1 min 35 secs – 6 mins 10 secs: Germany.  Chancellor Angela Merkel is podcasting.  How will politicians use the new media?
6 mins 10 secs – 8 mins 15 secs: Mexico.  How football results can affect elections.
8 mins 15 secs – 12 mins 45 secs: Palestine “Two Palestines” referendum.  Hamas fights (literally) to stop it.  Fatah fights (ditto) to have it.
12 mins 45 secs – 14 mins 35 secs: Pakistan.  Musharraf getting re-adopted as Presidential candidate.  Then re-elected?
14 mins 35 secs to 18 mins 15 secs: Congo.  Shambles.  Belgian genocide there a century ago.  Election register feared as tool of repression.
18 mins 15 secs – 24 mins 25 secs: Taiwan.  More history explaining agreements and disagreements between Taiwan and mainland China.  Mainland criticises Taiwan corruption.  Pot kettle etc.
24 mins 25 secs – 32 mins 30 secs: The left wing blogosphere in the USADaily Kos, MyDD.  Bloggers swing election in Montana.  Hilary Clinton gets nervous.
32 mins 30 secs – 37 mins 35 secs.  UK Conservatives using blogging?
37 mins 35 secs – 41 mins 18 secs: Slightly off-topic suggestion about WiFi at the LA/LI Conference in November.  LA way ahead of Brian and Antoine with mp3s.
END

As I said right at the end, we always seem to go past my half hour target, but this is because Antoine is always just so interesting and knowledgeable.  Think of it as eleven bonus minutes.

Apologies for the delay in getting this up.  (It was recorded late on Tuesday evening).  Complicated day yesterday.

Wednesday June 14 2006

Just managed a piece today for Samizdata, about the new Home Office headquarters building, and the inverse connection between the excellence of buildings and the non-excellence of what goes on inside them.  You can probably deduce the rest.

So, wow, I have actually managed three Samizdata bits in the last four days – there was that review article that I mentioned here as the reason there wasn’t much here last weekend.  There was a brief bit of fluff about the World Cup, and now this Home Office bit.

Tomas Kohl (linked to from Blognor) nicely sums up how I now feel about political blogging:

As for political opinions, I have voiced them all - literally. I have run out of opinions. I no longer have any.

Mark Holland of Blognor (makes him sound like a member of the House of Lords – which is fine by me) blames society for the loss of animal spirits among him and his like-minded opiners The world just now happens to be extremely boring.  But I think Kohl’s explanation contradicts him, and is rather better.

For decades the people in charge of opinion-spreading used only to allow my type of opinioniser to opine occasionally, and we were only allowed out on our best behaviour.  If I really wanted to let rip, I had to be content with penning the occasional Libertarian Alliance publication, and as the custodian of the LA’s output at that time, I didn’t want everything even there to be people letting rip.  Besides which, writing for the LA was and is burdensome in another way, because it has to be quite substantial.  What if what I had to say could be stated in one or two pithy paragraphs?  Like many I was a potential blogger long before the process or the word was invented.  Then along came Samizdata and an open invitation to rant for it, and I was home at last.  But now I, like Tomas Kohl, have pretty much said all I have to say.  What I haven’t said, anyone who cares can deduce, from what I have said.

It could well be that nothing in the previous paragraph is actually true, but for the moment, that’s how it all feels.  My mood may change, but for the time being, that’s my mood.  However, I often find that as soon as I describe a mood that I’m in, it changes, maybe because it just does, but also, maybe, because stating it changes it.  Stating it sort of makes it history, psychologically speaking.  Maybe this will work in this case.

Whatever.  Anyway, I have managed to do several recent bits for Samizdata, i.e. more than my usual by the standards of recent weeks and months, and I hope to keep that going.  Perry and Adriana are very good friends and I feel an obligation towards them.  They provided me with a platform when I had things I wanted to say.  It is now my turn to pile stuff upon the platform as and when the platform needs it.

The thing is, when it comes to propaganda, the most important thing is to simply keep bloody going.  Bash on.  Keep on grinding it out.  Drip drip drip.  Drip drip.  Drip.  Drip drip drip drip.  Yes, if necessary, just plain repeat yourself.  It’s not as if everyone was paying attention the first time around.

Tuesday June 13 2006

I just had the intriguing experience of reading this short review article before realising that it is written by Theodore Dalrymple.

I especially agree with the conclusion:

The fundamental question is whether Islam as a private faith would still be Islam, or whether such privatization would spell its doom. I think it would spell its doom. In this sense, I am an Islamic fundamentalist. The choice is between all and nothing.

Only at that end point did I look up to see who had written this.  Smart fellow, I was thinking.  My sentiments exactly.

I am, like so many Westerners, now dipping from time to time into the Koran, for as long as I can stand it, and generally boning up on Islamic history.  My conclusion also, so far, is that Islamic Fundamentalists are not betraying Islam.  They are simply doing it.  Average Joe Muslim, with his desire for a quiet and happy life, of just the kind that I also prefer, is the one who is betraying his religion.

On the other hand, I have never - never - encountered a Christian who did not constantly betray his or her religion.  “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.” Christianity, if the Gospels are taken seriously, is a religion of pacifism and self-sacrifice.  How many Christians do that?  Hardly any.  Most Christians, just like most Muslims, behave like regular people.

However, just now, the mosts are not equal.  Most Muslims is not all of them.  Most Christians pretty much is.  And there is also the little fact that Christians living up to - or down to - the demands of Christianity ruins only them.  It doesn’t threaten others, unless the Christians in question have power and are hence screwing with other people’s lives when they suddenly decide to indulge in their Fundamentalist Christianity and to take the self-ruining Gospel of Jesus Christ seriously.  Those Christians, of the sort that President Bush is rumoured to be or at least to favour and consort with, who say that Christianity is a license for them to conquer the Middle East or whatever, can easily be demolished by referring them to the words of their founder.  Christianity absolutely does not verbally manoevre all other Christians into agreeing with such plans.  Quite the contrary.

Dalrymple again, just before that end bit above:

The specific (and baleful) contribution of Islam is that, by attributing sovereignty solely to God, and by pretending in a philosophically primitive way that God’s will is knowable independently of human interpretation, and therefore of human interest and desire - in short by allowing nothing to human as against divine nature - it tries to abolish politics. All compromises become mere truces; there is no virtue in compromise in itself. Thus Islam is inherently an unsettling and dangerous factor in world politics, independently of the actual conduct of many Muslims.

Just like Soviet Communism and its imitations, in other words, only this time, a billion people really believe in this crap, or at least tell themselves that they do.

What a ghastly moment it must be for a Muslim when it dawns on him that what he thought was merely some pleasing rituals and the obligation to be a good little person is actually an unbreakable oath to fight an eternal war against un-Islam, no holds barred.

Islam is the enemy.  And Average Joe Muslim, simply by repeating the mantras, strengthens Islam.  I would not now favour the expulsion of all Muslims from my country.  But I can easily imagine circumstances in which I would favour this.  But this is not because I am a monster.  It is because Islam is monstrous.

Western Civilisation, rooted in Christianity and yet utterly distinct from it, is even more monstrous, but in a quite different way.  (It is more monstrous because it is massively more powerful.) I am struggling even now with a piece called “How the West defeats its enemies”, which, you never know, I might one day, Real Soon Now, manage to finish.  It will be a scary posting.  I believe in scare-mongering.  Scare-mongering is a force for peace.  If we are all frightened of each other, we all get to live quiet lives.

imageI have taken numerous pictures of the BT Tower, or whatever it’s now called, from the roof of my flat.  This is one of my favourites, and is currently the picture on my starting-up computer screen.  Click on the little picture on the right to get the bigger picture.  I like the colours, pale pinks and unassertive dark greens, and the reflected light on the covering of the building on the right, which I think is the old Home Office.  Yes.  Also, this picture just happens to be perfectly in focus, with is not always how it is with me.

But what I also like is that, in the entire picture, the only object that you can see which involved aesthetic worry is the Tower itself.  Everything else - scaffolding, cranes, vegitation - is purely functional.  The scaffolding and the cranes are contrived purely to do a job.  And the foliage evolved purely to perpetuate its selfish genes.  Any beauty in these objects is purely incidental.  Not that they are unbeautiful, merely that beauty was not the objective.

When I compare the aesthetic excellence of cranes - especially cranes - with the aesthetic ghastliness of many of London’s bigger buildings, although not this lovely Tower of course, I am inclined to think that London should never forbid planning permission on aesthetic grounds.  Never.  You should be allowed to make a big object in London look any damn way you want it to.  This would of course mean more ugly lumps.  But it would also mean many other things that are now not allowed.  Or so I should guess.  What I love about London is that, to a great extent, this already does seem to be the rule.

I now find myself rejoicing not just when I see a new and beautiful London building, but when I see a new and ugly London building.  Because this proves that you already are allowed to get away with aesthetic murder.  Which I like.  The price of beauty is ugliness.

Not bothering about beauty also has the advantage that the relentlessly subjective nature of beauty and ugliness can just be ignored.

There might be other reasons rationally to forbid planning permission, I think, maybe.  Or perhaps I really mean that I want to isolate this particular aesthetic point from the general case for abolishing all planning permission, which I also believe in.

Monday June 12 2006

It’s true.

I see no purpose in disguising my amazement and pleasure at this circumstance, although like one of Iain’s commenters I am not entirely sure that I’m non-aligned.  But I’ll happily settle for that, if it gets me onto his list.  Iain, together with Guido, is putting political blogging on the map, big time.  Crumbs from Iain’s table are well worth having.  I’m very glad he likes this.

No time for more today.

Sunday June 11 2006

Yes, a quota photo today:

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Taken earlier this evening in Leicester Square.  Click for a bigger (and a smaller) picture, if you get my drift.

I was out and about today, and spent my earlier blogging time writing a review article which I hope will go up on Samizdata tomorrow.

Friday June 09 2006

We all know that the Big Media are scared of the Internet.  And there is no Medium which is Bigger, or which was Bigger, than Wisden, the annual cricket Bible.

But the trouble with Wisden, for someone like me, is that it contains too much, and to look at what I want to look at, I also have to own a mass of stuff about, you know, Baroda versus Holka, and a ton of other similar things, and I don’t want that.  I want to be able to zero in on my current questions or my generally favourite things, like England winning glorioiusly, or like this, which is the list of biggest first class stands for each wicket.  Things like, with apologies for my revised formatting, this:

Fourth: 577 - VS Hazare (288) and Gul Mohammad (319) - Baroda v Holkar - Baroda 1946-47

Which is a case where Baroda versus Holkar springs to life.  (Was it actually 1946 or 1947?) That’s the biggest stand ever in first class cricket, and the second biggest stand in first class cricket is the biggest in test cricket:

Second: 576 - ST Jayasuriya (340) and RS Mahanama (225) - Sri Lanka v India - Columbo 1997-1998

Which again seems to have taken them two years to do.  Ah well.  More to the point, I wonder if Jayasuriya and Mahanama knew how close they were to even greater glory.  And yes, that is the very same Jayasuriya who was inserted into the Sri Lanka side for the third test here in England this summer, which Sri Lanka won a few days ago, with Jayasuriya himself taking the final wicket of the match.  (Murali having taken eight of the previous nine, but that’s too painful to talk about.)

Anyway, back to that page of stand records.  The thing about this kind of page is that you really, really want it to be up to date, and up to date is something the Internet does really well.  For me, Wisden has quite lost its appeal.  I have a few, which I will probably keep.  But no new ones, by which I mean second hand ones of years I don’t have.

Wisden does have a website, of course.  But if you click on records, for things like the best stands for each wicket in first class cricket, you eventually get to here, i.e. the exact same page as the above Cricinfo one.  And if you look at the Wisden address, you’ll see that it starts with “cricinfo”.  Was Wisden actually taken over a year or two ago?  I vaguely recall something about that.  More like a merger, it would seem, or even a takeover of Cricinfo by Wisden.  But the real story here surely is that Wisden is migrating to the Internet, away from dead trees.  Cricinfo may have been “taken over”, but it showed Wisden the way forward.

Internet cricket stats all seem to be financed by betting, concerning which there is much angst generated by the angsting classes.  Although becoming an elder, I am not a better, but good for betting, I say.  What is the problem about money disappearing from the pockets of silly people into the pockets of sensible ones?  Such a trend is a definite plus for civilisation, I would say.

Thursday June 08 2006

As promised, the latest – and tenth – Brian and Antoine mp3 is now up and runnable, here.

One of the basic rules of propaganda, of any kind, is: keep bashing on.  Load, fire, take aim.  Fire, fire, and keep on firing.  That is what I am doing, and will continue to do.

Last night’s timings:

START – 1 min 15 secs: Intro
1 min 15 secs – 5 mins 45 secs: Peru, Presidential election, Garcia (less daft than the other guy) wins.
5 mins 45 secs – 10 mins 40 secs: Mexico, Presidential election, where the less bad guy has been encouraged by the Peru result.  It’s gone from cert lefty win to toss-up.
10 mins 40 secs – 13 mins 30 secs: Yugoslavia.  And it no longer exists!  It has been voted out of existence in a Montenegro referendum, and then Serbia leaving too.
13 mins 30 secs – 18 mins 45 secs: France.  The Socialists are busy ratifying their policies for next year’s election.  Ségolène Royal looks to be doing a Blair, dragging the left towards the centre.  Jean Marie Le Pen says he is setting the agenda.
18 mins 45 secs – 20 mins 0 secs: Agenda setting in the UK, in the mid-sixties, late seventies, and nineties.
20 mins 0 secs – 22 mins 0 secs: French Greens in disarray.  Why?
22 mins 0 secs – 26 mins 30 secs: Palestine.  The Hamas victory could lead to a referendum accepting Israel’s right to exist.  Talk about unintended consequences.
26 mins 30 secs – 35 mins 45 secs: USA.  The Dems lose an election they should have won.  How the Gay Marriage issue hurt Kerry in the last Presidential election.  How the issue is being cranked up now.  (Brief tangential outburst from Brian agreeing with this from Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland.)
35 mins 45 secs – 37 mins 11 secs: A good week for democracy, at least in the sense that some arkward stuff may be getting settled, and some actually got settled.
END

By the way, Antoine’s Election Watch blog is now better reached at antoineclarke.blogspot.com rather than the previous antoineclarke.com.  However, Antoine hasn’t had time to do nearly as much writing about what he knows as . . . well, as what he knows.  And here, I think, lies one of the great strengths of podcasting.  It enables experts to have their brains picked a lot more thoroughly and painlessly than the experts have time (what with them being experts) to pick their own brains, in writing, a point I believe I have here before.  Yes, here.

In Malta!  No camera anguish that day!

See especially picture number four: Bald Billion Monkey photoed photoing Tom and Noreen’s wedding!

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And see also, second to last: Bewildered Billion Monkey!

I took that photo!  No not the monkey with the propeller, the one of the two blokes in front of a blue sign.  It was taken at this GI soirée.

I wasn’t feeling my best (it was very hot) and I left early, and because Guido only came later I missed him.  At least I would have recognised him.  He recognised everyone.  I recognised hardly anyone.  But I did get to chat briefly with Briffa, who thanked me for including him in the massive recent replenishment of my blogroll.  Not at all my dear chap.

We also chatted about podcasting, more of which I have been doing tonight, with Antoine.  Both of us were otherwise engaged last night – it wasn’t just me – so we had our weekly democratic chit-chat earlier this evening.  This will be available as an mp3 Real Soon Now.

Wednesday June 07 2006

I’ve been ruminating on the architectural shape of London, its lumps and its landmarks, its excitements and its dullnesses.  And there is no doubt that one of the great new London landmarks, arching out over the dullness, is the new Wembley football stadium.  As with the Wheel, it is going to be late.  Good.  Better that than paying the builders over-a-barrel stupid money to finish it by a certain insignificant date, soon to be forgotten.  The Wheel was late for the Millennium, but who now cares?  The Millennium Bridge was late, and then wobbled, ditto.  London will be around for centuries.  Who cares about a handful of months lateness when the thing was being made?

Here are some regular views of the new Wembley and its magnificent Arch, taken while it was being constructed, in September of last year.  I found where it was on the map, worked out which was the best tube station to go to, went there, was duly amazed, and snapped away contentedly for several hours and from all possible angles.  And then two days later I did it again.  (That is a feature of Billion Monkey cameras that I really like.  They tell you when, and with what Billion Monkey camera, which is really good if you have had several different cameras and tend to lose track.)

So, here are some regular Wembley views:

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The last one of those was taken from Harrow on the Hill, on the second day, which was somewhat misty.  No matter.  It only makes it look that much more splendid and mysterious, I think.

So far so obvious.  Billion Monkey goes to Wembley and does his Billion Monkey thing.

But some of my favourite snaps of the new stadium are the surprise ones, where you only gradually realise that the Wembley Arch is what you are looking at.

The first surprise, which was, I think, the first time I actually set eyes on the Arch, was this, taken in July 2005.  There I was, toddling along a dreary north London road, on my way to try to buy some ball bearings (I’ll tell you all about that – some time) and . . . there it was, looming magnificently over the industrial dullness of wherever it was.  I particularly like “Kojac Imports”.

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Then came another far more intriguing sighting, about six week later, which I think I may have shown here before, but which is well fun enough to be worth another look.

I was visiting Antoine in Hampstead, which is nowhere near the Arch, a great gob of the A-Z to the right of it in fact, and I took some great snaps of a great sunset.  Lots of wispy clouds set on fire by the setting sun, a Billion Monkey open goal.  And it was only when I got home that I realised that there was this odd looking archy sort of thing in one of the pictures, the one taken over the railway lines.  I took the picture for the reflections of the sun off the lines.  But if you look carefully, there it is, just to the right of that big lump.  I rang Antoine.  Could that be the Arch?  Yes, he said.  And it was.  The direction yielded by the map tallied.  Bingo.

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After that, according to all the dates on these things, I must have realised that I should make a proper visit, which I did.  Twice.

Since then, I have had a couple of further chances to snap the Arch.

In many ways, this next snap is the most remarkable one of all of all these.  I only had my x6 cheapo camera with me at the time, but it did its rather blurry best, and its best proved sufficient to make the point.  For there is the Arch, clearly picked out by the late afternoon sun.

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That was taken from the top of the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, a walk away from what is still my mum’s home in Englefield Green, where I lived for all of my childhood.  God knows how many miles away from the Arch that is.  Ten?  Fifteen?  In between is Heathrow Airport, one of the curvey roofed hangars of which you can clearly see.  The main bit of water is one of the Staines reservoirs, and if you look carefully, you can also see, a bit nearer, the river Thames, peeping through the leafless winter trees.

That picture was taken on Boxing Day 2005.  I also got some great snaps of Windsor Castle, equally well lit, from the same vantage point.  I will definitely return to that spot some time soon when the weather forecast is good, with my bigger and better x12 camera.  Real Summer having just got started, now might be a good time.  But will the lighting ever be as good again?

Finally, here are two snaps I took last Saturday evening, on my way to a party in one of the boat houses next to where they start the Boat Race, in Putney.  I am looking west, although actually the river must be kinked and I must be looking north west, because: there it is again!  All I thought I had been doing up until then was snapping sailing boats with the sun shining prettily through their sails, and then suddenly: Wembley Arch!  I only realised you could see the Arch from there because the party was in the farthest boat house from Putney Bridge.  A nearer one, and the bend of the river would have concealed it from view.

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And here, finally, for all those many lost souls who think that football is more important than architecture, is another snap I took a few moments later, which includes a view of another football stadium, Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham.

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Mostly, football just spreads a miasma of awfulness around the places where it is played, and worse, supported.  If it weren’t for the actual games on the telly, football would be unbearable.

Football supporters have a particular sort of honking, foghorny way of “singing”, from the back of the throat, that I find especially off-putting.  Eng la and.  With a falling off of a minor third between the la and the and at the end, endlessly repeated.  So, good that football also bestows other positive externalities, besides the games on the telly.

And there are no footballing externalities more positive than those radiated, in all directions and to the most surprising places, by the new Wembley Arch.

I love the cranes in the early pix of while it was being erected.  But cranes (aesthetics of) are for a different posting.

Spotted earlier this evening, near Smith Square, Westminster:

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Somehow I don’t think this is Chrysler’s doing.

Googling “Jesus Chrysler” got quite a lot of hits.  Is this a variant on the exclamation “Jesus Christ!” among some Americans?

Monday June 05 2006

New category here: Brians.

My deadly sin of choice is, however, sloth.  But it is the sloth of the hare, who can do things, but who tends instead just to lounge around doing nothing in particular.

Johan Norberg, yesterday:

The massacre of unarmed civilians by American marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha in november last year is a horrible crime, and the worst part of it is that some marine officials must have known about it and tried to cover it up. As The Economist points out, the positive lesson is that cover-ups like that are much harder than they used to be, thanks to modern communications.

Crimes like these have been committed in all wars, but never before have soldiers and civilians been equipped with digital cameras, e-mail and mobile phones, which means that incriminating pictures spread fast (Abu Ghraib-pictures, for example). In this case, an Iraqi student got video footage of the location the day after the massacre. Time Magazine got the film from a local human rights group and gave it to the American military in Baghdad, which forced them to start a formal investigation, and when that wasn´t credible, a criminal probe was launched.

Although, such is the nature of evidence that actually all us Billion Monkeys can do is spread pictures around.  What the pictures are actually of often seems more obvious than it is.  I mean, it would be entirely imaginable that there was no original crime here, but that there was a cover-up of the evidence concerning that non-crime, because the coverer-uppers assumed, correctly, that wrong conclusions would be drawn from that evidence, were it ever to become public.  That surely happens a lot.

Not that I’m saying that this happened here.  (From what I hear, this sounds like it could be the Iraq version of My Lai.) I’m only saying that the truth is not always as obvious as it can appear to be.

Norberg evidently subscribes to The Economist.  I don’t, so I don’t know what was said in the original piece.

I never knew this:

The reason so many items in stores cost $3.99 or $10.98 or whatever is the same: it forces the employee to open the register and hand back the one or two cents, thus either recording the sale on the cash register roll, or before that technology, alerting the store owner/manager that the till has been opened, . . .

I think Woolworths came up with this idea.

Obvious when I think about it.  But I had always assumed that this was something to do with persuading me to think that £3.99 (in my English case – this quote is from Australia, linking to an American) was a massively huge reduction from £4.  Which, obviously, I knew it not to be.

Meanwhile the shops were not eager to explain the real reason, which was that they didn’t trust their own employees.  So they left me in ignorance.

Tim, of The Road to Surfdom, now added to the blogroll, quotes extensively from Bruce Schneier on Aligning Interest with Capability.  (Which is one of those basic how-to-do-stuff ideas.  See also: Democracy - which regularly does the opposite.)

This £3.99 explanation of course also explains why fat blokes selling stuff in the marketplace, and sole trader shopkeepers generally, do the obvious and charge round numbers of pounds.  They trust themselves.

This is the kind of thing that is so well known to those who know it that those who know it assume everyone knows it.  It is therefore never explained, which means that in fact lots of people (by whom I mean me) spend decades of their lives not knowing it.

Further thought: this is one of the things that makes the craft of history so difficult.  Many things which are obvious at the time are therefore never explained, and they therefore mutate silently from obvious to completely baffling.

Sunday June 04 2006

I’m an adjective.

Another thing about getting old (besides people you were at school with having buildings named after them – see immediately below) is that you often have to get up in the middle of the night, to take in water, to get rid of water, to cool down, etc.

Anyway, I was up and about at sunrise yesterday morning, and it was already splendidly clear that yesterday was going to be the first truly summery day of 2006.  So I threw on some trousers and nipped up to the roof.  With my best camera.

I got nothing as good as this, but I quite liked this:

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Click to get it a bit bigger.

The thing about London is that, actually, looked at from somewhere like my roof, it’s a pretty boring place, only occasionally enlivened by landmarks.  The greatness of London is in what goes on in it and how it often looks in close-up and from close-to, rather than how it looks at rooftop level, which is only intermittently impressive.

I have, it so happens, been up on some highish floors in the western part of central London (roughly: the new congestion charge zone) during recent weeks, and it is remarkable how dreary the cityscape is when looking (in particular) north from such places.  Mostly such views are utterly landmark free, and even if (when you look south or east) landmarks are to be seen, there are generally also meaningless lumps (again: see immediately below) in the near vicinity, as likely as not blocking off nearby landmarks from view.  For every Wheel, there seems to be a Shell Building nearby.  For every Westminster Cathedral tower, there is a . . . whatever that lump next to Westminster Cathedral is called.

This is why my best camera has a powerful (x12) zoom lens, and my cheap and cheerful slip-it-in-my-pocket have-it-with-me-always cheapo camera has a more powerful (x6) zoom lens than is customary for the cheapo sorts of camera.  The zoom lenses cut out the architectural humdrummery from many London views and enable attention to focus in on the occasional more striking sorts of edifices.  If you are not yourself a photographer, you might be amazed how tiny a landmark can end up looking in a photo, compared to how big it looks when you look at it.  Twelve times seems to be about how much our eyes have zoom built in to them.

But for the picture above, I deliberately left in some ordinary Londonness, to give a more accurate picture for all those sad readers of this blog who don’t actually live in London to see more truly what this city really often looks like.

Saturday June 03 2006

You know you are getting old when people you were at school with start having buildings named after them.

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I only heard about this modernist erection yesterday, via Diamond Geezer.

An ugly lump only partially rescued by an ugly sculpture that at least has some character about it, but most of it rather bad, is my impression.  Although, I’ve not seen it in the flesh, so to speak.

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The stairs now look okay, as does that whole side of the building.  But I fear that this thing will soon look very dated and mediocre.

Friday June 02 2006

But no relation.

China Law Blog has added the China Economic Review blog to their blogroll, and if it’s good enough for them . . . 

This posting settled it for me.  China is going to play cricket.  China “plans”, for whatever difference that may or may not make to anything, to get test status by 2020 and be in the World Cup of 2019.

A commenter points out that there have long been Chinamen in cricket.  But this refers to a type of delivery - a left handed googly - rather than to any player.

The picture in the previous posting is very fine (warmest thanks to the two lady commenters who have confirmed my view on this), and the less I did yesterday and today to upstage it the better, has been my policy, yesterday and today.  The artfully backlit roof clutter with crane has thus had pride of place of place here for nearly forty eight hours.  Quite right too.  But all good things blogged must eventually sink into the archives.

I have spent most of my blogging time today adding blogs to my blogroll.  Have a rootle yourself to see if you find any gems you have missed on your blog-travels.

In the course of doing this, I encountered many profundities, of which the most profound was, and remains, I would say, on balance, this, which I found here, which I got to from here.

Thanks to the brevity of this posting, the top bit of roof clutter with crane remains visible.  Or rather, it would have, if I hadn’t just added this bit.