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Wednesday October 31 2007

My friend Michael Jennings is someone who seems to write most fluently and informatively when he is confident of an interested audience, as is often the case in comment threads, where certain specific questions have been asked by particular commenters.  Yesterday I made something said by Bruce L. Benson the Samizdata quote of the day.  It was taken from this podcast done with Benson by another friend of mine, Patrick Crozier.  There was the usual hubbub of comments, one of them from Michael, who had this to say about private law and law enforcement:

It still widely exists, often in professional and trade associations. For instance, as well as rating films and pursuing copyright violaters, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) provides rules under which Hollywood studios operate and provides tribunals to arbitrate disputes between studios. (Power is delegated/shared with other bodies such as Writers Guild/Directors Guild etc). It can impose fines and awards damages to one studio over another. In combinations with the guilds, it also provides what is essentially employment law - rules with respect to working conditions and pay for people who work in the movies.

Nothing here is formally legally enforceable, but a studio that did not comply would be thrown out of the MPAA. The disadvantages to its business of this are such that no studio would consider doing so, as long as the MPAA continued to behave in a reasonable way. If its rulings became too unreasonable, the studios would be free to leave it en masse or to reform it in a way that they could not reform a formal government. Smaller film studios that do not belong to the MPAA are free to operate outside its rules.

The threat of exclusion ("You will never work in this town again") is often quite strong enough to make a private legal system work with respect to commercial law, as is discussed in the podcast that led to this discussion. As to whether this kind of arrangement would work for criminal law, that is another matter, although banishment certainly has been historically used as a criminal punishment. However, the bulk of law is not criminal.

The point about how the process is prevented from degenerating in the usual state manner strikes me as particularly interesting and important.

David Thompson has urged me in an email, to read this posting, and presumably I wasn’t the only one he emailed.  And now Instapundit has linked to another posting about the same story.

One of the strong feelings I came away with from that LA/LI Conference was that cheap video-ing in the manner of blogging (i.e. video-blogging) which has long been talked about by techies, has reached critical mass and is about to explode.  (Shoving text around on the internet predated blogging by several years, but blogging was what made this explode and start to impact seriously on the wider world.) Soon video-blogging will have major political consequences, as opposed to the mere consequences that it is already having.  The left stranglehold on the moving image is about to be broken, big time.  The final session of that LA/LI Conference featured Sean Gabb urging us all to get stuck into the cultural battle, and YouTube figured prominently in the resulting comments from the floor.  No point taking on the BBC etc.  head on.  Just go around these leftist citadels.  The technology now exists, so do it.  (Appropriately enough, the session was itself videoed, as was most of the Conference, and as soon as video details go up at the LA website I will supply links.) And if non-lefty movies of the more regular sort do manage to get made, they can now be publicised very cheaply, by bloggers and by YouTubing the trailers, and for that matter by just putting the whole thing out there for people to look at on their small screens.

The relevance of the above two paragraphs to each other is that the amazing amount of speech codery, brainwashing, bias and general ridiculousness that the Left has imposed upon the world in general and upon the universities of the USA in particular, is about to be exposed in a whole new way, by people brandishing cheap video cameras, interviewing all the victims of the ridiculousness, and by people with rather more expensive cameras who no longer have to beg for distribution, but who can create demand and then demand it.

This, I think, is a real taste of the future.

Or, to put it another way, people may soon be watching sentiments like these.

LATER: I should have included in the above that a key variable in all this is the speed and power of the average (as opposed to super-geek) computer.  A few weeks back, my hard disc space went from about 300 gigabytes to about 1000 gigabytes.  Cost?  About £130.  In my experience software makes big things like the above merely imaginable and predictable.  But it is only when the hardware catches up that they actually happen.  As a direct consequence of having that new hard disc, I am thinking, for the first time in my life, about being a movie maker.

However, I have decided that I probably won’t do it.  What I shall try to do (by which I mean wait for the chance to do and keep my fingers crossed) is video/TV/movieperforming.  That’s because I have already done this.  People are best using computers to do what they already knew how to do by hand, so to speak.

Tuesday October 30 2007

A splendid quote-unquote to beef up that category:

Something must be done! Starting with more counting, more monitoring and more control so that we never fail to notice nothing untoward happening ever again.

The final sentences of Guy Herbert’s superb Samizdata posting this morning about the non-problem of immigration.

LATER: Similar sentiments expressed here.

Monday October 29 2007

Nothing much here today, but I have not been idle.  Two postings at Samizdata, and this report for CNE Competition of the Libertarian Alliance conference, plus Patrick and I did a recorded discussion about Northern Ireland.

Daylight over the weekend was very grey and dim, so I didn’t take many snaps at the Conference, and the ones I did take were rather blurry.  But, here is a rather blurry quota photo of someone I didn’t mention in my Conference report, Marc-Henri Glendening:


How about that for artistic cropping, i.e. arbitrary and not what you’d expect.  (But flat.) Click to get the regular picture.

Marc-Henri was talking about “post-modern” politics, i.e. the kind of politics where things are no longer done for ideological reasons, but simply because they bloody well say so and they’re in charge.  No wonder he looks anxious.

UPDATE: Alas, in the original version of this posting I committed the error of spelling Marc-Henri’s somewhat unusual surname with four Ns instead of three.  It’s Glendening rather than Glendenning.  Alas also, my pictures perpetuate this error.  Apologies to all, and especially to the man himself.

Sunday October 28 2007

Unfresh off the plane, and surprised to be asked to speak a day sooner than he had expected, Leon Louw was nevertheless his usual relaxed, eloquent and illuminating self yesterday morning.  Here he explains the relationship between aid and growth.  Aid does not cause growth.  Lack of growth causes aid, in other words is rewarded by and caused by aid.


Louw’s central topic was the sea and the need for it to be privately owned.  For all the usual reasons, and using all the usual procedures familiar in the ownership of land.  No radical new inventions for administering property in the sea needed.  Leave that to entrepreneurs.  Just do it.

Gotta rush.  Have to be there at 10am to comment on Antoine Clarke talking about whether anarcho-capitalism would end up recreating the state.  My provisional for-discussion opinion is: yes, but it’s still worth doing, because the state it recreates will be far better than the previous one.

Friday October 26 2007

Today and Sunday, the Libertarian Alliance Conference.  I am speaking at that this afternoon, and then there’s a dinner in the evening, so blogging here will probably be light for a day or two.

So for now, here’s yet another photo that I took last Saturday:


She’s photo-ing this, which was the straightened out version of this, at which my best photoshop-shot was this.

Although, I photoed this Billion Monkey lady only a day or two ago.  Presumably they unroll it and lay it out, rather than redo it every time.

imageOn the right there is a another snap I took the same day, which I think looks better the smaller it is.  He’s photo-ing Venus too.  It’s the light on the steel rods holding up the bridge that I like, and that looks clearer if you make the picture smaller.  Click to get it bigger to see what I mean.  I don’t think bigger is as good.

And here is where they’ve been found:


The recent cat mutilations follow the September arrest of a 19-year-old man by Universal City police. Austin George Patterson was charged with three counts of cruelty to animals after three gray tabby cats were found slashed and duct-taped to a piece of plywood in Northeast Bexar County.  ...

If you are squeamish, don’t read the whole thing.

Police said they believe all three cats were bought on, an online classified community.

The dark side of the internet.

Cruelty to animals is not only an animal suffering thing.  Cruelty to animals in childhood can lead to subsequent cruelty to humans.

In response to this posting by Perry de Havilland on Wednesday, there was a voluminous comment thread.  In among it, jacob quoted this:

Cuba’s rulers promised individual liberty. Instead they denied their citizens basic rights that the free world takes for granted. In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs, to change houses, to travel abroad, and to read books or magazines without the express approval of the state. It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission. Neighborhood Watch programs do not look out for criminals. Instead, they monitor their fellow citizens - keeping track of neighbors’ comings and goings, who visits them, and what radio stations they listen to. The sense of community and the simple trust between human beings is gone.

That was President Bush talking, quoted also by Jay Nordlinger in among this.  The entire speech can be read here. Follow that link, and you learn that the next few paragraphs of the speech went thus:

Cuba’s rulers promised an era of economic advancement. Instead they brought generations of economic misery. Many of the cars on the street pre-date the revolution - and some Cubans rely on horse carts for transportation. Housing for many ordinary Cubans is in very poor condition, while the ruling class lives in mansions. Clinics for ordinary Cubans suffer from chronic shortages in medicine and equipment. Many Cubans are forced to turn to the black market to feed their families. There are long lines for basic necessities - reminiscent of the Soviet bread lines of the last century. Meanwhile, the regime offers fully stocked food stores to foreign tourists, diplomats and businessmen in communism’s version of apartheid.

Cuba’s rulers promised freedom of the press. Instead they closed down private newspapers and radio and television stations. They’ve jailed and beaten journalists, raided their homes, and seized their paper, ink and fax machines. One Cuban journalist asked foreigners who visited him for one thing: a pen. Another uses shoe polish as ink as a typewriter ribbon.

Cuba’s rulers promised, “absolute respect for human rights.” Instead they offered Cubans rat-infested prisons and a police state. Hundreds are serving long prison sentences for political offenses such as the crime of “dangerousness” - as defined by the regime. Others have been jailed for the crime of “peaceful sedition” - which means whatever Cuban authorities decide it means.

Good stuff.  I know, bad stuff really.  But you don’t always get politicians talking this bluntly and vividly about nastily governed countries, and when they do, that is indeed good.

There are some weird verbal and grammatical oddities, though.  “Shoe polish as ink as a typewriter ribbon”?  All that alcohol in his youth?  Maybe just a missprint.

Thursday October 25 2007

I recently chanced upon a copy of Change Your Life in 7 Days by Paul McKenna.  Having myself from way back been interested in What The Success Books Say (I just re-read this ancient article of mine and it’s really rather good), I started reading, and came across this, in the introduction:

In fact, the myth that it takes a long time to change has only been around for about a hundred years, when Freudian analysis became the dominant influence in the treatment of psychosomatic illness.  What makes this point of view ironic is that psychoanalysis isn’t really about changing people – it’s more to do with helping them gain a deeper understanding of why they are the way they are.  In my work, understanding is the booby prize!

Aside from that rather naff exclamation mark at the end, I think that’s good.  The point is not to understand yourself, but to change yourself.

A closely related mistake is to believe that in order to change yourself, you must understand how you became what you want to change.  This is wrong.  Obviously you can’t unpick how you got this way.  But you can change it nevertheless, and you can do that whether you understand the original process of not.

I shall press on.  But not because I need to change myself.  It’s rather too late for that.  I would just like to know how I could, if I did needed to.  And how other people can do this, under my wise supervision.

Wednesday October 24 2007

More recorded talk, about modern architecture, recorded by Patrick Crozier when he dropped round at my place last night.  Posting by Patrick about it here, with some pictures.

To celebrate, another (shallow picture), this time of the skycraper cluster that is Chicago:


Click to see the slightly less flat original on Flickr.

I don’t think I ever actually used the phrase “spontaneous architectural order” last night, nor did I mention Friedrich Hayek.  I should have.

Also, I promise to either dig up a picture of some meaningless triangles or go out and photograph some.  Or, I could just draw some, and show you that way.  But not today.

imageGrovelling apologies to Antoine for being so slow about it, but here, at last, is the recorded conversation we did, er, several days ago, about the thinkings and writings of Sean Gabb (that being Gabb on the right in a 2003 photo taken in Sweden).  Sean has surely not changed his thinking much since we put this in the can, but even so, the delay was excessive.  The excuse for the delay, insofar as there is any, is that following my upheavals over the summer, the arrangements for where to put such things as this got upheaved as well and have only just been clarified, but again, some days ago.  Anyway, there it is.  I hope that to those who listenm, it proves interesting, informative and enjoyable.

See also this earlier posting about Gabbism.

Tuesday October 23 2007

(As in: will the current Chinese regime fail?  China itself surely won’t fail.)

Read about it in this excerpt of the book of that name, by John Lee.

Excerpt of excerpt:

… [T]he size of instances of unrest is growing and can be frightening. For example, in cases recently documented for 2003, a mob of 50,000 torched police cars in Chongqing to protest against the beating of a migrant worker; 100,000 stormed a government building and forced the postponement of a dam project in Sichuan due to inadequate compensation; 20,000 miners and their families rioted against lay-offs and the loss of their pensions.

Other recent instances of unrest include 80,000 retired workers who protested in China’s northeast over unpaid pensions in 2002; 30,000 rioting over exorbitant bridge tolls issued by local authorities in 2004; 7000 textile workers protesting after being forbidden to form their own union in the Shaanxi province in 2004. Of the 74,000 instances recorded in 2004, 17 involved 10,000 or more people, 46 involved 5000 or more people and 120 involved 1000 or more people. That order was restored only after martial law was implemented in many of these cases highlights the seriousness of the problem. Even for the smaller incidents, the numerous anecdotal accounts of protesters violently targeting or resisting authorities speaks volumes about the crumbling regard for the “people’s” party.

I remember how the Communist regime that ruled Poland fell to bits in the seventies and eighties, and maybe there’s a parallel.  Step one in the fall of Poland, as I recall the story, and as many others (it seems to me) rather neglect to include in the story, was a massive pile of money.  In China’s case the pile of money comes from farming out the Chinese coastal population to manufacturing entrepreneurs and taxing and slice-of-the-action-know-what-I-mean-John-ing the resulting gush of money.  In Poland’s case, the money was simply donated by Western banker-wankers.

Poland’s ruling elite then settled down to spend that money on themselves, and took their collective eye off the ball.  And since their money was unearned, they lost any prestige or dignity they had previously possessed.  That allowed the Pope, Solidarnosc, etc., to do their thing.  And that mattered, because we now know that although the USSR was prepared to threaten yet another invasion (along the lines of the earlier Hungarian and Czech operations) they too had lost the will to keep their power in the only way they truly could.

China’s elite now seem to be becoming similarly diverted and delegitimated by their new luxury lifestyles.  One of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about the semi-capitalism that has erupted in China in recent years, quite aside from the fact that I welcome the cheap products that we in the West are having bestowed upon us, is that I believe that this process will undermine rather than strengthen, indeed already is undermining, the current primitive and predatory political arrangements in China.

Part of the Poland story in the eighties was the vital impact of communications technology in enabling outsiders to keep in touch with and to support trouble-makers within Poland.  John Lee says a lot less about that.  He also says less about how all the new money may be paying for trouble as well as for the swimming pools and mistresses of those who would be on the receiving end of the trouble.

Nevertheless, all in all, the way Lee tells it, this sounds like a classic pre-revolutionary-upheaval scenario.

The main thing that is missing - again: as John Lee tells it in the excerpt quoted above - is a political program to stake out the political future and unite opposition to the current regime.  Maybe such programs exist, but have not received widespread enough publicity.  (You know the kind of thing: democracy, end to corruption, don’t not pay pensions, don’t smash down people’s houses without any warning, bosses must obey the law, independent judiciary, etc. etc..) The thing that really finishes off crappy regimes is the sense, on both sides, that the crappy regime in question has lost control of the future.  And the way to control the future is to talk about it and write about.  Presumably Chinese émigré organisations are doing this, alongside publicising all those demos by dispossessed workers and outraged pensioners, but my admittedly only very casual listening out for such stuff has not picked up much along these lines.

Nevertheless, this key quote from near the top of the excerpt linked to shows that half the ideological battle is being won:

China is no longer a totalitarian state. The regime no longer seeks to control every aspect of life or way of thinking. Although the Chinese Communist Party remains determined to hold on to power, there is no utopian goal as such that totalitarian regimes ruthlessly strive towards.

We come back to that pile of money.  The pile of money did that, I reckon.  Talk about an open ideological goal, just begging to have its net bent backwards.

If China’s current bosses don’t control everything, they may end up controlling nothing, unless they radically alter their manner of ruling.  They must become more law-abiding and predictable in their predations, and allow reasonably honest elections in which the people can choose which members of the elite will do the predating, thereby to moderate it, and thereby to allow said people to get at least a slice of the new money action themselves.

All it needs is a few sons and daughters of the old elite, with the right mixture of youthful idealism and political savvy to concoct the right manifesti, and it could all start to happen.

I know what the objection to the above might be.  The new elite are totally in bed with the new capitalists, indeed these are indistinguishable groups, and all are far too busy making and spending money to be bothering with politics.  Indeed, I’m sure the overwhelming majority of such people are doing exactly this.  But it only takes a few posh/rich people to break ranks to stir things up mightily.  Specifically, it needs a few posh/rich people of the next generation, to feel the need to earn the silver spoons their mouths already contained when they were born.

Maybe John Lee himself has in mind to do something along these lines.  (Lee?  Is that a Chinese name, I wonder?) I haven’t, as they say, read the whole thing, i.e. the whole book.

History keeps on happening, because people will insist on keeping on making it.  Because they can.  (Money again.)

But, I promise nothing!  China may not oblige.  This has really just been me thinking aloud, as I’m sure you could tell.

Monday October 22 2007


Is it a phone, or is it a camera? Until recently, cameraphones were unquestionably still just phones with chintzy cams tacked on, but it looks like we’re finally getting to the point where the lines are truly blurred. Samsung’s new G800 slider is now official, packing a 5 megapixel autofocus camera in a rather attractive metallic form; that in itself isn’t terribly notable, considering we already have a handful of 5 megapixel handsets on the market. What is notable, though, is the added bonus of a xenon flash and 3x optical (yes, optical) zoom.

I see more and more Billion Monkeys using things that look like phones as well.

The problem, as always, is liable to be battery power.

I just did a big long posting which included a link to something I just did for Samizdata, but I didn’t keep the link, and Samizdata has gone, and I quote, “tits up”.  “Are you afraid?” I asked my source.  “No, it’s happened before.” So, my deathless prose there will not die.  It must not.

Meanwhile, I need something for here, pronto, as yet again I am going out this evening.  (Just at the moment, I seem to have a life.  This really gets in the way.) So, what shall it be?  I know, a picture of a Wheel seen through a field of corn:


Isn’t that pretty?  It’s pretty because the Wheel is so very individual and recognisable and so need not be in focus, and because you don’t expect to see something so urban through corn.  The corn in question is to be found in a giant concrete window box on one of the balconies of the National Theatre.  No need to click to get it any bigger.  This is big enough as it is.  I snapped this last Saturday, just after seeing The Emperor Jones.

Sunday October 21 2007

I have done almost nothing today, so have no excuse for not having put anything up here today until now, not that I need one.  You people, whoever exactly you may be, are getting way more than you are paying for.

Anyway, this is something interesting, I think:

… [H]ere is Ashok is writing one of those ’thinking aloud‘ posts - the ones where the writer doesn’t appear sure what their conclusions are on the matter in hand.

This kind of writing is annoying in a book or a magazine - why pay to read someone who doesn’t offer you a proper bottom line? But I learned something reading it and I don’t mind this sort of writing on blogs. Perhaps it is one of the most important things that bloggers have contributed to public debate?

Or perhaps not. Which of course is exactly his point.

Saturday October 20 2007

Spied over London this afternoon:


Click to see more of the context, which I was viewing from the top end of Parliament Square.  Those chimneys are on the top of the new MPs office building, across the road from Parliament.  Presumably they are there to let out all the hot air.

Come on England indeed.  But me, I don’t think England will win.  I think they will do what Australia did last time around, namely fail to defend their title in the following final.  My prediction: 28-9 to South Africa.  Three tries (two converted) to nil, with penalties and drop goals evenly distributed.  Well, we shall very soon see.

Last night, I forgot entirely about the third place play off, but recorded the (remarkable) second half of it anyway, thinking I was recording Rebus.  Argentina, so it seemed to me, won because for them the difference between third and fourth is a very big deal.  They were presumably distressed to lose against South Africa in their semi, but they can’t really have been that distressed.  Argentina are trying to get included in one of the big annual northern or southern hemisphere tournaments, and them playing the way they did last night will greatly enhance their chances of such rugby promotion.  For France, miserable after losing to England in a semi they were favourites to win, the difference between third and fourth meant very little by comparison.

UPDATE: Well, the result was about half way between what I hoped for (a narrow England win) and what I feared (England getting slaughtered).  England were not slaughtered, and Bryan Habana hardly got a look in.  It was the kind of game England wanted it to be, tight, messy, scrappy, defence-dominated, settled with penalties.  Yet, South Africa won.  Their much advertised lack of discipline failed to materialise, and Wilkinson got only one shot at goal in the entire second half, unless you count one long-shot drop goal which was well short.  Their not so prominently advertised defence was immense.

South Africa have now won two World Cups, in 1995 and tonight, on each occasion winning finals in which no tries were scored, by either side.  (Cueto of England got agonisingly close to scoring a try in the corner this evening, which I can honestly say looked good to me, but alas, not to the video ref.  Might that have changed things?  Sure.  But, it didn’t.)

I have just one faintly original thing to say about this game, of the sort that you may not read in tomorrow’s Sunday papers.  This was that, at 70 minutes, while the game was still not wholly settled, i.e. with England having to score twice (which was unlikely but not impossible), a commentator announced that Matfield of South Africa was the “Man of the Match”.  According to Michael Jennings, also present at my friend Tom’s home where I watched most of this game, they do this in cricket games also, and every so often get egg on their faces, when something seriously unexpected happens in the final over or two, as can happen of course.  What if, in tonight’s game, England had snatched a late win, with Wilkinson skipping through for a brilliant try, converting it, and then scoring a last gasp drop goal?  Is Matfield still the Man of the Match?  Officially, yes.  In reality, bollocks.  This is contemptible, and I cannot believe that I am the only person who thinks this.  Something to do with TV, apparently, although I don’t know quite what.  (Perhaps Michael can elucidate.) It’s okay for fans to say, with ten minutes to go: this is all over.  If those who do say this turn out to be wrong, who cares?  It is quite another for the people deciding who the best player in the entire game to be deciding this before the game has even ended.  Assuming it is TV, then be it hear recorded that I think TV is making a prat of itself.

I went to a play this afternoon, The Emperor Jones by Eugene O’Neill, at the National.  It was stunning, not in the sense of being overwhelmingly enjoyable, but in the sense that I was stunned by it, as in stunned and amazed and astonished, somewhat in the way that the audience was stunned by Springtime For Hitler in The Producers.

The play concerns a southern black American who has installed himself as a despot in a West Indian island, ripping the people of it off in the manner of a more recent African plunderer.  The official line is presumably that this play is a protest against the psychic damage done by slavery, the oppression of black people, and so on, but from where I sat it could just as well, given the particular nature of this production of it, have been written by an enthusiast for the more explicit sorts of racial stereotype.  It wasn’t a racist play in the sense that it recommended racist policies.  The clear message of the slave auction scene, for instance, was that slave auctions are very bad and very cruel.  But it was somewhat racist in its utter indifference to what is now called Political Correctness in its portrayal of black people and of their thought processes.

The entire plot of the thing depends on the audience believing in the efficacy of black magic.  The anti-hero at the centre of it all is made by his “bush nigger” pursuers to see lots of scary visions, and he uses up all the bullets in his gun shooting at these apparitions.  (And yes, in this play the n-word is used a lot.  Black men who talk with contempt about other black men, calling them niggers, are nothing new, it would seem.) A kind of collective black unconscious is posited, which clever black magicians can conjure up in the minds of their victims at will.  There was even a scene of dancing witch doctors which could have come right out of a fifties Africa film starring Clark Gable.  The production was politically correct only in the sense that the leading character, the Emperor Jones himself (very convincingly played by Patterson Joseph), and all but one of the other important characters were played by black actors, and the majority of the extras (the ones who attended the slave auction) were white actors.  That scene, unlike the rest of the play, was very labour intensive.

I had to look up this production on the internet, to find out what exactly it is supposed to be about, and what other people made of it.  When I did, I learned that the play was written in 1920.  I am not surprised to learn that it launched Eugene O’Neill’s theatrical career.  It didn’t look to me like the kind of play that would be written by anyone with much to lose.  Although, come to think of it, what is now considered racist would, in the American of the 1920s, perhaps be regarded as a step in the right direction.

Friday October 19 2007

Very busy day, so: quota quizz.  Obviously there’s a horse involved, but what’s the feline connection in this?


Hint: big cat.

Thursday October 18 2007

Our boys night group podcast about the Rugby World Cup duly happened last Monday.  Says Jackie D:

I really only like watching rugby because the guys who play it are brawny and hot (save the cauliflower ears and missing teeth). But I’ll be downloading this podcast of Antoine, Brian, Patrick, and Michael talking about the Rugby World Cup onto my mp3 player. No more sleepless nights for me!

The main technical problem is that I sound too loud compared to the others.  I don’t think it was because I was shouting, or not always.  It was because the microphone was pointing straight at me, but not at any of the others.  My technical knowledge of such stuff is zero, but my guess would be that it should have been pointing straight upwards, i.e. at none of us directly and at an equal angle to all.

More Rugby World Cup chitchat and psychotic sports-fan abuse in the comments here.

Shame about the footy, which was apparently all the fault of the ref.  What are we, New Zealanders?  Actually I think New Zealand going out was partly the fault of the ref.  A different result to that game, and NZ play (and surely beat because they always do beat) England, and it’s an NZ SA final.

I began this World Cup assuming that England would have no chance against Australia (assuming they even got that far), and full of eager anticipation for the NZ Australia semi-final, and then for the final between the winner of that (probably NZ) and South Africa.  Although English, I feel oddly cheated.  Because of England’s bizarre refusal to play to form, and in particular because of their grindingly effective tackling in their last two games, and because of France beating NZ of course, I feel as if we’ll never now know who was really the best side.  Even if, as I now expect, South Africa win handsomely, would they have beaten a real finalist?  We’ll never know.  I presume that the foreign press is now aflame with exactly this feeling and exactly such questions.

By the way, Patrick and I will be putting another podcast in the can next Monday evening, on the subject of architecture.

Wednesday October 17 2007

Having resumed blogging here after my big summer break, and having resumed at Samizdata, I have now also resumed Transport Blogging.

Funny how one’s first post after a break from a blog always takes so long and seems like such a big deal.  It’s like those deep breaths you take outside the front door when you return home after a prolonged absence, steeling yourself for the welcome you will get, good and bad.  Except that when it comes to breaking your blog silence you can always delay all this for yet another day, or week. Most of your hopes and fears are imaginary, but at that front door moment, both loom large.

I remember, when I edited pamphlets for the Libertarian Alliance, how I always reckoned that getting a promising writer to break his duck was the most important thing.  Before he had had anything at all published, a potential new writer would always fear that anything he did have published would be a sad let-down from the genius he privately hoped himself to be.  So, getting that first submission from him was sometimes very hard.  But, once it had been grabbed and published, the incentive structure changed completely.  If what he had written was good, good.  If it was bad, good also (from my point of view), because he would have a massive incentive to follow it up with something better, and typically would, and would at least try to, just to raise his average.  So I tended to publish the first thing submitted by a promising writer, in a great hurry before he changed his mind, and even if it was way less good than it could have been.

Similarly with me, now that I have (re)broken my ducks at Samizdata and Transport Blog, the incentive and the disposition to write further stuff in those places is increased.

There is another effect which I think I observe, which is particular to group blogs.  Suppose you write whenever you feel inclined to for a well established group blog, which isn’t going to go away because the king pin of it has too much invested in it, and which has a biggish readership.  Like Samizdata, for instance.  And suppose someone puts up a posting there, as happens often of course.

Suppose that this posting is good.  That increases the incentive to the rest of us to put something up there too, to appeal to all those people attracted by the previous (good) post.  A bandwagon is in motion that you are inclined to take a ride on.

But suppose someone puts up a bad post.  We all suffer.  The readers won’t go away, but they will think us fools, for posting such crap or for having a friend who posts crap.  So, we all have an incentive to knock the crap post off the top of the blog with something better, and in the case of a seriously crap post to bury it with half a dozen decent posts.

Good or bad, new posts generate more posts.  Has there recently been a quickening of the pace at Samizdata?  Maybe.  And did I perhaps have something to do with that?  Again: maybe.  There is not a fixed quantity of blogging, which yearns to go somewhere and which always does.  There is a wildly fluctuating incentive to blog, depending on how much blogging others are doing at your favourite outlets.

Actually, there is an upper limit to how much blogging one person can do, that depends on his abilities and what else he has in the way of a life.  But beneath that quite high upper limit, the flow of bloggage can fluctuate, a lot.

Having already written earlier about Vista for CNE, here, I did a short quote-of-the-day posting at Samizdata, trawling for Samizdata commentariat opinion about Vista.  In among the nonsense and the abuse and the political doom-mongering, that kind of question often gets really informative answers.

It worked.  Fellow Samizdatista Midwesterner responded as follows:

Back in my computer geek days (before QDOS!) I saw a far amount of IBM applications source code.  I had to modify and maintain the crap on occasion.  At the same time, I was designing and building from scratch an inventory system that was unavailable from any vendor. 

Seeing systems from the inside out, I quickly developed an instinct for patchwork.  I could spend a few seconds at a terminal operating a program and tell immediately if it was clean and elegantly coded, or patch on patch on patch with bits and pieces borrowed and modified.  The instant I touched a DOS based GUI for the very first time, it positively detonated my crap detectors.  Early Macs did not trigger it, but more recent versions do to a lesser extent.

The biggest cost of all these patches as a way of doing business is best understood by looking at the Y2K software meltdown.  Decades ago, when I was programming, dates were stored as six digit numbers.  Source code was often kept in entirely different places and compiled on entirely different computers than object code executed on.  As bugs got worked out and systems became reliable, expertise in the source code faded and eventually, the source code itself was lost.  When time came to modify computers to accept years beginning in 2000, the software and expertise was unavailable to do it.  Third party companies made fortunes.

Something very similar is happening in Windows.  I’ve never looked under the hood at the actual software, but I can hear the old bubblegummed and bailing wired engine knocking, rattling and I can even smell the smoke.  Meanwhile MS polishes the fenders, adds more chrome and installs a 150mph speedometer.  Nick would know the answer to this more than I would, but I would bet one of my computers that there are still vestiges of QDOS performing critical functions somewhere inside these boxes.  I don’t think the people who wrote this stuff are still available to maintain it or modify it.  I believe that MS is so heavily invested in this accretion and so helpless to overhaul it, that they are into a mode of patching the patches to the patches.

It is actually a lot like the old cathedrals that surround an older church that surrounds and even older shrine, that surrounds an even earlier monument that marks ...  er ... something.  We think.

This, not price, is why open source software will ultimately win.

I find the comparison with IBM especially interesting, having lived, amazed, through their dethronement, by Microsoft.  I can confirm that people on the inside of all this stuff did indeed talk, then, about IBM in just the same way that they now talk about Microsoft.

More anecdotage has accumulated since.  From the same Nick M mentioned by Midwesterner:

There’s a bit in the Simpsons where Carl and Lenny are looking at a rotating cake stand in the power-plant cafeteria. One asks the other, “What do you think makes it go round”? The “camera” then pans down to a slave in a dungeon being whipped whilst pushing a wheel attached to a shaft, attached to the revolving patisserie selection ...

My first contact with Vista involved setting up a spanking new HP laptop out of the box. Vista was on a hidden partition and it just had to unpack itself… Easy work I thought. Noooo! It crashed during install but not before It briefly flashed up a good ole Dos screen complete with C:\> prompt (I thought it was 1991 again). It even flashed up a DOS version number! I didn’t the number because MS’s dirty secret was only very briefly revealed but the gimp in the basement is alive and well and turning the cogs ...

Open source will win because *nix was from the start designed to be scalable and there has to be a limit on how much longer Redmond can carry on papering over the cracks. The lead time for Vista suggests they’re well into diminishing returns already.

Oh, somewhere down in the catacombs there’s QDos and the 640K limit and all the rest.

Subotai Bahadur writes of Vista:

There is the anecdotal evidence of my boffin’s claim that it is the most screwed up thing that Microsoft has ever released, and it is confirmed empirically by the fact that he has developed quite a profitable niche converting brand new computers purchased with Vista pre-installed back to XP. There has to be something severely wrong for this kind of niche market to arise spontaneously.

I have my Guru, and Subotai Bahadur has his Boffin.  It looks like we both use a foreign word, to capture the esoteric nature of the knowledge involved.  Subotai Bahadur is just the kind of commenter I was looking for.  I don’t recall him commenting at Samizdata much, but this time he had something pertinent and interesting to say so he said it.  Lovely.

The original post being three days ago, which is an age in Samizdata time, those interested in things like this might have missed these last few comments, as would geekophobes, i.e. most people.  I get an email for each comment because I did the original posting, and on this occasion I was particularly grateful for that.

If technophobe, geekophobe me is noticing stuff like this, Vista is really in trouble.

UPDATE: Nick M responds to Subotai, ending his comment thus:

If I were Jobs or Shuttleworth I’d be on medication to prevent asphyxiation due to chronic uncontrollable laughter.

They being the gentlemen in charge of Apple, and Ubuntu (which is a particularly user-friendly version of Linux).  But, for Ubuntu to sweep the world, it needs to be even user-friendlier.  And for Apple to sweep the world it must lower its prices.

My Guru also told me when last he dropped by that those adverts with the Microsoft Twat being sneered at by the Apple Cool Guy were a dreadful own goal, which all of us Microsoft Twats felt thoroughly insulted by.  That entirely confirms my personal response to them.

Tuesday October 16 2007

Photoed earlier this evening in the dimness of Kings Cross, heavily photo-enhanced, sharpened, etc., the name of a train:


I love the internet.  In no time at all I found my way to this, which told me everything.  There was even a link to the train.

Members of the British Liquid Crystal Society honoured his achievements by establishing the George W. Gray Medal for contributions to liquid crystal research and technology.

Don’t you think “British Liquid Crystal Society” is a cool name for a society?  And clearly, having a medal named after you is far cooler than merely getting a medal.  But, having a train named after you is even cooler, I think.  Although, a railway engine would be even cooler than that, which this wasn’t.  Just a motorised set of carriages, which is not quite the same.

Monday October 15 2007

About a day ago, YouTube stuff like the little film featured in this posting started appearing on my computer screen as blank spaces, and it was the same with YouTube stuff elsewhere.  I could not even get to the main YouTube site.  That also was a big blank.

I usually use Internet Explorer, and I thought: I’ll try Firefox, which I’ve been dabbling with lately.  I did, and that worked.  Suddenly, all that YouTubery was visible again.

But then, when I tried Internet Explorer again, suddenly that worked.  Suddenly all that YouTube stuff sprang to life.  It was as if Firefox persuaded Internet Explorer to behave properly.

So, is that what happened?  I am sure there is a simple explanation for this, but what on earth is it?

Sunday October 14 2007

I know that all I was was another link in the chain, but even so, it’s fun when Instapundit links to something you (by which I mean I) posted.

What I like about the quote is that it combines (a) anti-communism and (b) the kind of twenty-first century switched-on-ness (Facebook) that makes it harder for evil anti-anti-communists (all anti-anti-communists are evil) to dismiss it as out-of-touch right wing huffing and puffing.

I was at Perry de Havilland’s home last night, just after the Insta-surge hit, and so he told me about it.  Otherwise, I’d probably have missed it, because Instapundit, for some reason, probably politics, is not the daily read for me now that it once was.  Maybe that will now change.

Saturday October 13 2007

So much for England getting the hang of the one day game.  But, the good England sports news, already: England crushed Estonia.  Woo hoo.  Plus, apparently, Scotland could be about to dump either Italy or France out of the next European soccer championship in 2008.  Come to think of it, France is nearer to London that Scotland, so maybe I should be supporting them.  Against Scotland I mean.

But tonight, the big one, England France in the rugby.  I’ve been reading Clive Woodward’s book about the previous rugger World Cup, and hope to do a review of it for Samizdata, Real Soon Now.  Plus, Patrick C, Michael J, Antoine C and I are due to gather here next Monday night to talk about the rugger, which Patrick C will record.  This blog is becoming more and more like a pub.

But, not a lot here today or probably tomorrow.  More from me at Samizdata, about Chewing Gum.  Also discussed: Western Civilisation.

UPDATE Sunday morning: More about all this at Samizdata, written in the small hours of Sunday morning.  I predict a big win for the South Africans today, and then a South African win in the final.  (Because I’ve been wrong about everything else.)

Friday October 12 2007

imageI have had a disrupted day.  The Guru was in fitting me up – start again – installing a new 750GB hard disc, so I can stop worrying about how many photos I take.  He also told me about a new thing he could set up which has five hard discs in it, in a separate box, for the kind of money that used to be less than what one small hard disc would cost.  With that I could make movies.  If I wanted to which I don’t.

He didn’t install one of those, but he did install WiFi in my home.  If you have a laptop which connects to the www, you can now do this chez moi.  But that took a bit of organising.  The, and I’m not making thus up, dongle, that was supposed to go on the back of my computer to communicate with the the thing like a small radio that does the WiFi-ing to the guest computers, didn’t work with Windows XP.  It works with Vista, but not XP.  Not the usual arrangement, according to what I’ve been reading.  So, instead of the dongle, a bit of wire had to suffice.  So what with that, and with transferring data from the old mini-disc, the one with a mere 250GB of space on it, to the new one, and making the new one work, and renaming all the drives and add-ons with different capital letters, and various other stuff, The Guru only just went at about 10pm.  I had the late afternoon pencilled in for the laundrette, but forget that.  Oh well.  However long it takes is how long days like these have to take.

So, on the right there is a quota photo of three of my favourite local cats.  They have, for many months now, and maybe even for years, been in the window of Rymans, at the lower end of Victoria Street, a bit further up from the million pound front door of the Department of Trade and Industry or whatever that’s called now, on the left as you walk away from Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey.  They are, I believe, for putting pens and pencils in.  Click on them to get them and the cactus bowl that has been next to them, also for as long as I can remember.

Thursday October 11 2007

I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation for it, that is to say for why it can’t help happening despite its absurdity, but I am getting seriously sick of blogs which, because of the omission of one symbol in one posting, become entirely italicised.  At present my esteemed friend Adriana is suffering from this disease, but it can happen to us all.

My point is, I don’t blame Adriana.  I blame the blogging software.  It is (as of now) Adriana’s fault that all the text below the second quote in this posting is in italics.  She should have stopped the italics at the end of that quote.  (By the time you read this she may well have.) But it is the fault of ... ... ... ah, here we are, at the bottom, and in italics naturally ... WordPress, that every subsequent posting is also in italics, heading, text, gubbins at the bottom, everything.  Recent postings ought not to to be able to pollute earlier postings like this.

As you can probably see, I’m doing a little experiment of my own, to see whether Expression Engine behaves in a similarly silly fashion.

And Expression Engine does.  Everything below this, as far as the eye could see, was italicised, simply because I “forgot” to de-italicise after “is” in the above paragraph but one.

Is there a sane explanation for this apparent insanity?  If so, I’d love to hear it.

Could this be the ultra-ultra-mobile computer for me?

I disagree that this is a boring video.  I find it most informative.  The photos don’t make it clear how this thing opens up.  The video does make this clear.

For some reason, opening a thing like this has to be easy.  It can’t be assembled, if you know what I mean.  It can’t be like a constructional toy, that you are supposed to enjoy putting together, like a nerdy little kid.  It has to open as easily and as unfussily as a conventional laptop, or else no deal.  Although this gadget does clever things when it opens, it basically just involves two unfoldings.

Will it fit in my jacket pocket?  What will it cost?  Does it have an SD card slot, for looking at and storing photos while on holiday?  Are there too many things driving up the weight and price of it that I wouldn’t use?  Like its very primitive camera?  Or like “WiBro” and “HSDPA”, whatever they are?

I missed this device when it first got an engadget mention, although I did notice the previous version.

Wednesday October 10 2007

My quest for shallow pictures continues, so here’s the shallowest one yet:


That’s: 16 games, 24 innings, 2 not outs, 1348 runs, highest score 284, average 61.04.  Five hundred pixels across but a mere thirteen deep.  Shallow!  But just a row of text, so cheating.

Allow me to explain.  (This is English county cricket, by the way.) The above numbers are in praise of Mark Ramprakash, who has had a miracle season for Surrey.  Now I know what you’re thinking.  Those aren’t Ramprakash’s stats.  No they’re not, but at least as remarkable as Ramprakash’s own numbers, Rampswise, are the numbers of the guy who came second.  Second, that is, in total number of runs scored in a season of four day county matches.

So now here are the Ramprakash numbers:


That average of over a hundred is getting talked about a lot, especially when you consider that he averaged over a hundred last season also, but the really impressive number is 678, which is how many more runs Ramprakash got in the season compared to Trescothick in second place.  After Trescothick come about half a dozen other guys with much the same total as he got.  Ramps towers above them all.  And Trescothick is in Division Two, with its Division Two bowlers.  Ramps is in Division One, and here the gap between Ramps and number two is very nearly 700.

Interestingly, both Ramprakash and Trescothick are qualified for England, but neither has actually been playing for England lately.  Why not?

Well, Trescothick did not that not long ago.  He starred in the 2005 Ashes series for instance.  But lately he has suffered from some kind of nervous condition about which cricket commentators in the know are reluctant to talk.  In the old days, I dare say they’d have called it Lack of Moral Fibre, but now it’s probably called something longer, less judgemental and more sympathetic.  As other batters step forward, Trescothick’s chances of getting back into the England side diminish.

And Ramprakash?  He also used to play for England, for a while, about ten years ago.  But he never did well enough, and eventually they just got sick of waiting for him to make as many runs as he should have and gave up on him.  England was his level of incompetence, or so it seemed.  See also: Graham Hick.

I know little about Ramprakash’s personality or inner world, but it’s as if he’s always been good enough to play for England, but having failed to get a good start, has subsequently been scared to.  As he’s got older, his chances of being picked again for England have inevitably receded, and so he has felt free to make more and more runs, without the danger of an England place being forced upon him, again.  He is now nearly forty, so an England recall is just about impossible, so the psychological shackles have been completely off.  And yes, I am trying to get linked to from here.

Ramprakash was unlucky in encountering the last flames from the mighty cricket dragon that was the Great West Indian Fast Bowling Assembly Line, i.e. Ambrose and Walsh when they were still all-conquering.  Maybe that put him off test cricket for ever.  I remember how he used to get into the twenties, batting really well, but then he’d get out.

As if further determined to signal his unwillingness to play for England, Ramprakash has also involved himself in Strictly Come Dancing.  Even worse, he won.  Nothing like dancing on the telly to put international selectors right off you.  See also: Darren Gough.  The other telly show they hate is: A Question of Sport.

But of course there is another way to look at it.  Maybe the people in charge of the England team didn’t handle Ramprakash right.  It would be interesting to know what the Surrey coaching staff feel about that proposition.  They certainly seem to know how to get the best out of the man.

I actually snapped a few photos of Ramprakash in action, when I went to the Oval last April.  None of them are very good, because I was there to see Shane Warne.


That’s Ramprakash, batting against Warne I think.


And that’s him, having been stumped off Udall, walking back to the pavilion.  Just previously he had hit Warne for six, but batting against Warne messed with his mind, I reckon, and he became vulnerable.  The following day, Surrey fell just short of the huge total they were chasing.  They were very close, but you get no points for losing in a close finish.  Had Ramprakash stuck around, who knows?  Surrey might have started their season as well as they ended it.  My guess is that Ramprakash learned from that episode.  In the final game of the season against Lancashire, in which he made over 300 runs for once out, he began his batting by just grinding the bowlers into the ground.  Only then did he, appropriately enough, take them to the cleaners.  Not that I saw any of that.  I just followed it on Ceefax, which is where the shallow pictures also came from.

The good news for me about all this is that in among chasing up Ramprakash stories, I found my way to something called Surrey TV.  Why not watch Ramps on that.  Don’t click on that if you don’t like noise on websites.

The commentator on the piece there about Ramprakash is Mark Church, Surrey’s indefatigable radio commentator.  I first learned about his commentating from Peter Briffa, commenting on this.  The Test Match Special commentators get all the glory, but they work in a huge team.  Church is more often than not on his own.

In other cricket news, England appear to be getting the hang of the one day game.  Compare this today, with this in 2006.  I blogged about that here, with another amazing Ceefax snap.  Trescothick got a hundred in that match and England got what looked like a good score.  But Sri Lanka beat it with twelve overs to spare.  The big difference seems to be the England bowling, which was a match loser then but is a match winner now.  Go Jimmy A.  (See picture number 5 here!)

Tuesday October 09 2007

Just in case you missed it in 2003, I have just encountered in this piece by Mark Steyn, from, well, guess who, this:

“I’m a millionaire, I’m a multi-millionaire. I’m filthy rich. You know why I’m a multi-millionaire? ‘Cause multi-millions like what I do. That’s pretty good, isn’t it?”


Monday October 08 2007

Belated addition to the blogroll: English Russia.  Thanks to Mick Hartley for the reminder.

Two particular links, to two futures for crap sixties-style architecture (the third being demolition and replacement).

You can abandon it, like so:


Or, you can paint it:


In the West, when people do stuff like this, it would be filled with lefty bullshit.  This stuff seems more weird and fantastical.  Or maybe I’m missing things, and it’s full of Russian coded neo-imperial allusions.

English Russia has long been a favourite at Transport Blog.  It’s a clever business model.  Trawl Russia for weird stuff that Anglos couldn’t find for themselves, and top it with Anglo adverts, for money that will presumably go quite a long way in Russia.  Sounds to me like it could be copied elsewhere, and presumably it has been.  Or, English Russia copied it from somewhere else.

Sunday October 07 2007

Rugby World Cups and General Elections that aren’t General Elections are all very well, but first things first.  Take a look at this, which I snapped yesterday, in the late afternoon:


The light was fading fast and my hands are not the steadiest, but I think it is still clear that what we see here is a triple Billion Monkey self portraiture group, and by triple I mean three cameras, not just three people and one camera.  Three Billion Monkey ladies, each holding a camera out in front of themselves, and each photo-ing all three of themselves.  Amazing.  This may not be unique, but it is certainly unique in my experience.  They remind me a little of the graphic in the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels.

Previously, my record for multiple Billion Monkey self-portraiture was two, a snap already featured here as one of these.

By the way, in the rare first edition of this posting, I had a close-up of the cameras, which you clicked on to get the bigger picture.  But the close-up was pointless because too blurred.  What you now see is all you will ever see from this snap.

I couldn’t bear to watch the Australia England rugby game yesterday.  I cravenly sneaked peaks at the score in among having a bath, reading, surfing the you know what, and all the while cursing The Universe for taunting me by making it close, after which The Universe would inevitably award victory to Australia.  And then after England won, I got invited out to dinner and couldn’t settle down to watch the France All Blacks game in Cardiff either, although that too is on my TV hard disc to be wallowed in at leisure.  When I got to my hosts, I did watch some of the France/NZ game while dinner was getting ready, up to where it was 13-13, at which point I still thought New Zealand would win.  But half an hour later, Madame Hostess stuck her head round the door after a trip to see to the baby of the house or some such domestic thing, and announced that France had won it 20-18.  And so it proved.  Would you, as we say in London, Adam and Eve it?

Private Eye, in the pre-Guido (!) days when I used to read Private Eye, used to do and maybe still does do a story along the lines of the following: Two weeks ago, we described England rugby coach Brian Ashton as a doddering old has-been whose grasp of rugby team selection, tactics and strategy is hopelessly arthritic and disastrously vacillating and who is totally out of his depth when attempting to handle the media, and who should be sacked with immediate effect.  We now realise that he is a veritable Duke of Wellington of Rugby, a Churchill of the oval ball, blah blah, etc. etc.  If they aren’t saying this now, they should.

However, now that I have seem some TV highlights, I couldn’t help noticing that one of the passes given and taken during the scoring of the match-winning French try was blatantly forward.  This was, to put it mildly, not the first such pass in this tournament, and it won’t be the last.  Even the TV commentators, notoriously diplomatic about such things, noticed it.  Now it’s one thing for a ref to miss a forward pass that at least goes forwards less quickly than the guys doing the passing, i.e. it looks like it’s going backwards if you are tracking the players, with your eye or with a camera.  But this pass was forward even by that relaxed standard.  Guided only with the technology I have at my disposal, namely one TV camera and one TV set, a off-pitch ref could have spotted it instantly, indeed surely did so.  But because of that forward pass it’s goodbye All Blacks.  Not good. 

As soon as they can, they need to embed electro-widgets in all the game balls, and track them from a satellite or a gas balloon or something, and tell the referee about all forward passes.  Perhaps they’ll do what they now do about cricket bowlers chucking, which is that if the camera now clocks you chucking only a bit, then that’s okay.  Maybe forward by ten degrees will be deemed acceptably non-forward.  But I say, make the rule zero degrees forward.  If that makes rugby into a different game, then so be it.

But, what an earthquake of a day.

Saturday October 06 2007

He goes to my blogroll, if only for saying, in this, this:

For the Left to portray neoliberalism as the celebration of greed and selfishness is rather like the Right portraying socialism as resting on a hatred of freedom. If you insist on viewing your opponents in such terms, you will never understand them.

One of the key qualities of the persuasive propagandist is to get inside the heads of those he is trying to communicate with, and to convert.  What else would I have to believe, to believe that?

And of course, if you do get inside someone else’s head, you could end up agreeing with them.  That’s the risk you take.

(By the way, Gordon Gecko didn’t say only “greed”.  He said “greed, for want of a better word ...”.)

Friday October 05 2007

One of the more likeable things about English is that we can all invent new words, a good way nowadays being to add “-ee” to a verb not previously thus appended, to describe people to whom whatever it is is done. 

I have not before encountered the word bombee, pronounced “bomb ee” rather than “bom bee”.  Perhaps that uncertainty is why the word has not caught on better.  (Adriana is linking back to a piece written in 1995.) It works well only if immediately preceded by “bomber”.

I’m continuing to read Bryson’s Shakespeare book, and he emphasises what a neologistical age that was too.  Something to do with new means of expression opening up?  And therefore new rules arising about what you can and cannot say?  And new sorts of people saying things?  Them: printing.  Us: this.

Here’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at least once:

Why power a cat?

In a word, comfort! The secret is in the twin hulls that track better than a V-hull and the tunnel between them that compresses air and water that gives you the soft ride. The narrower hulls partially pierce the waves so the pitching motion is less. The wide stance with individually narrower hulls also greatly reduces the rolling motion.

Since the cat does not stop (or slow down) for every wave like conventional monohulls, it travels faster using less power and thus has better range and/or speed for a given engine size.

So, any snags?

… Perhaps. The cost may appear to be higher for a given length boat - and that’s generally the case. With the extra beam and two hulls there is simply more surface area (translated fiberglass!) to build. Systems must be duplicated in both hulls. Pumps, engines, electrical and plumbing systems, etc.

Having said this, what you end up with is more usable space for a given length. Think in terms of the catamaran having the space of a 8 or 10’ longer monohull and you get closer to putting things in perspective. (It’s more like you’re buying a 47’ boat in a 37’ length for about the price of a 40-42’ conventional boat). Fuel costs are considerably less. Also consider that the very redundancy that costs more, also provides insurance on a long passage. Recently on a sea-trial we lost an engine (turned out to be a loose water hose causing an overheat condition). We shut that engine down and proceeded at 9+ knots under one engine with hardly any difference in helm feel. The autopilot still handled the boat just fine while Chris jumped down in the engine room to sort out the problem. What would you be doing if you were in a single engine monohull as you sit rolling in the seas?

And then there’s the CSES (Comfort/Stability/Economy/Speed). Is it worth it? Will the world discover this concept - I think so!


It looks like a cartoon shark with spiky arms.

Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog is nearing lift-off.  I just have to contrive a picture for the top, and Patrick has to recombobulate the contratractationaliser of one of the fonts, or some such font thing, and then it will be up and staggering.  Oh, and I also have to reconstitute the sidebar, which will take a while, so maybe don’t expect it ultra-soon.

Meanwhile, another BMEB type link to an engadget posting, this time about distance learning:

Recently, surgeons in Argentina were guided through a laparoscopic gastric sleeve procedure by a colleague some 5,400 miles away thanks to the InTouch Health RP-7 Remote Presence Robot. The five-foot, five-inch robot reportedly “displays the doctor’s face on a 15-inch screen and is guided by a joystick from a computerized ControlStation, emulating an on-site experience.”

So, good news for Argies whose laparoscopic gastric sleeves have become frayed.  I also love the phrase “Remote Presence Robot”.  Sounds like a sort of automated ghost.

Thursday October 04 2007

Quota photo time.  This is a quirky detail of a photo I took the other day, of a shop window model of the new object that will replace the old object in the middle of the roundabout on the south side of Westminster Bridge. It’s those mysterious little people that I like.


Click to get more windows.  More informative before and after photos here.  I have taken lots of pictures of the old monstrosity, and of all the grubbing that is going on there now, but couldn’t find any.  That’s blogging under time pressure for you.

Wednesday October 03 2007

Spot on:

Some say, in fact it’s almost a mantra in some quarters, that not believing in god equals believing in nothing. Well no. I’m sat in a chair right now. I believe in its powers of butt rest. But what about those who’ve convinced themselves of the existence of a non-existent god? One could say it is they who really believe in nothing.

One could indeed, and next time I get the chance and provided I remember to, I will.

Patrick Crozier has been told that it’s now go-go-go for Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog.  Well: go, when you can fit it in, and if it’s not too much bother.

And here is a typical Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog link, which would go there if there was already going.  It’s to an engadget posting about how computer games are being used to re-vitalise the brains and bodies of stroke victims and wounded warriors.  If computer games can rehabilitate, then that strongly suggests to me that they can, as it were, habilitate.  In other words: educate.

My point here is also that you wouldn’t necessarily find that kind of link at your average education blog, which would instead only be droning on about No Child Left Behind, the Decline in Academic Standards, the Need For More Government Resources, and about whoever is the new Minister of Education.  Who is the new Minister of Education?  No, don’t answer that.  I’ll be forced to find out soon enough.  There will be droning.

Tuesday October 02 2007

imageIf you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs ...  And I actually know this guy.  He did some (very good) blog design for me.

See also this earlier posting of his, in which he injects some adrenalin into what Patrick Crozier and I were talking about on Monday.

Short as in pictorially shallow rather than metaphorically shallow:


Taken during “Dad’s trip to the Osh Kosh, WI airshow”.  Shortened by me.  The point being that these things are stabilised by their computers, not by the usual method of having big sticking up bits.

This is very odd.

In a rare story with larger implications, another soldier, Ray Leopold, captured a young German soldier during the Battle of the Bulge who spoke almost perfect, unaccented English. The prisoner not only knew of Mr. Leopold’s town of Waterbury, Conn., but could also name a stream that ran by it. “I was in training for the administration,” the prisoner explained, “the administration of the territories.” Hitler was planning an American occupation.

I wonder what exactly “planning” means, in a circumstance like this.  Was this really planning, or was it merely some eccentric Nazi with a bit of clout placing a long odds bet?  Or was this “young German soldier” perhaps an American soldier who was dressed as a German for some crazy reason, who didn’t want to admit the truth to a regular American?  Or, did Ray Leopold either make this up or imagine it?

Anybody know what was going on here?  Are there any other stories along these lines?

Monday October 01 2007

Two big things happened today, to this blog I mean.  First, this blogs writer went to Twickenham to see Patrick Crozier and to record a conversation about a Victor David Hanson book.  Details here.  Interesting that Patrick links to Wikipedia bits about all the battles Hanson writes about.  Patrick admires Wikipedia.

Patrick doesn’t mention that I particularly talked also about this book, which is about the Quakers.  The paradox of an ideology of radical individualism but a highly disciplined organisation being the result.  A bit like a Western army, in other words.

A technical problem, though.  It now sounds a bit quiet to me.  But maybe that’s just me.  Comments on that very welcome.

And the other big thing that happened to this blog was that it suffered another outage.  Very temporary this time, thank goodness, between some time this morning and some time this evening.  But sorry anyway, to anyone frustrated by this.  Something to do with the telephone exchange, the one that my hosts, as it were, use to communicate with the outside world, not working.