Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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


Recent Comments

Monthly Archives

Most recent entries


Advanced Search

Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Transport Blog


2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
diamond geezer
Dizzy Thinks
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
Gaping Void
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Idiot Toys
India Uncut
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Publius Pundit
Rachel Lucas
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Mainstream Media

The Sun
This is London


RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0


Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Career counselling
Cats and kittens
Civil liberties
Classical music
Computer graphics
Current events
Digital photographers
Emmanuel Todd
Expression Engine
Food and drink
Getting old
How the mind works
Intellectual property
Kevin Dowd
Latin America
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Other creatures
Pop music
Quote unquote
Roof clutter
Science fiction
Signs and notices
Social Media
South America
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
This blog

Thursday December 31 2009

I put on this CD of the music of Darius Milhaud, which starts with La Création du Monde.  And guess what.  The start of that piece sounds just like the music at the start of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

I’m not complaining, or blaming Geoffrey Burgon or anything.  Burgon’s music for TTSS was one of the best things about it.  Copying the right person for whatever particular thing you happen to be doing, maybe without even realising you’re doing this, is one of life’s great skills.

As I often ask, why do I shrug at “art” that merely looks like this (this particular one is Desolation Canyon in Utah, USA) ...


... but love pictures like that, that look like art?

Something to do with the fact that these satellite images are so much more complex and multi-layered, artistically speaking, compared to the art they nevertheless resemble.  These images look as they do, and they precisely inform about reality, in so many different ways.  I also like the feeling that the techies are trumping the arties, not just as techies (obviously) but as artists.  The best techies are way better than the best arties.  The average techies are a world above and beyond the average arties.  The worst techies are some use.  The worst arties ...

Tuesday December 29 2009

Quota photo time.  Just because the rule now is any old nonsense every two days doesn’t mean no more any old nonsense postings.

So, here are some dull looking office blocks, redeemed by a champions league class Clutter Object in the foreground.


And what might those dull office blocks be?  Well, put it like this.  I took this next snap about a minute later:


Those were taken on November 13th, on my way back from seeing Toby Baxendale.

The weather in London now, or my part of it anyway, is not that cold, and not at all snowy.  Just a bit rainy.  But elsewhere, the weather has been much more impressive, certainly impressively cold enough to make fools of the prophets of snowless doom.

My favourite Christmas weather story by far, so far, has been this, linked to gleefully from here, about a steam engine rescuing people from snowed under rail chaos, like it was Gordon in Thomas the Tank Engine or something similar.  Remind you of this story?  It should.  Same people, same loco.

Sunday December 27 2009


… I am ethically opposed to the idea of hero worship in cricket. For a start, the art of manipulating a small leathery object, whilst capable of great heights of refinement, weighs in pretty low on the bravery scale. Keith Miller’s famous quote involving Messerschmitts and arses is always worth an airing. If Miller was to be considered a hero, it should be for the things he did whilst perched in a cockpit, not his feats with a bat in the middle of a green field on a pleasant summer’s evening.

And it isn’t just that professional cricket involves no extremes of danger. This question of heroes goes right to the heart of why we watch cricket and why I have never bought an autobiography. A hero is someone you admire, indeed revere, as a person. When watching cricket, it is not Alastair Cook the man I am interested in. I care not where he went to school, what his first pet was called or whether he prefers low-fat margarine to butter. Without wishing to be rude, I don’t care what he thinks.

I am only interested in him in so far (and for as long) as he bats. On the field, he is playing the role of Alastair Cook, performing in a long tradition of public theatre. How he uses his bat, how he stands at the crease, how he runs, all these things taken together form the Alastair Cook of the mind’s eye. VVS Laxman may have some interesting things to say on global warming, but to be honest, I’m only really interested in his wrists and their neurological wiring. To say VVS Laxman is my hero would be a little like saying Hamlet is my hero.

Well put, except that the relatively recent arrival of helmets and all-over body padding has surely made quite a difference to such thoughts.  Facing those West Indian fast bowlers without any such protections, as many did during the early stages of that terrifying dynasty, took a lot of courage.  Heroism, even.  But basically, I agree with Hughes.  You hear all kinds of stories about how certain cricketers (and certain film stars) are (were) not at all, in regular life, as they seem(ed) on the field of play (stage).

The trouble is, although cricket may not be heroic, it sure as heaven can often look heroic.  Rather in the way that classical music isn’t moral, but often sounds moral.  And if you lose all feelings of hero-worship when you watch cricket (for cricket read your favourite sport), something is lost.  Something childish and foolish, maybe.  But something.  Hughes himself admits that when he was a boy, his hero was ... Mike Atherton!

Next task: to find out what VV bloody S bloody Laxman has been saying about global warming.

Incoming from Alex Singleton, saying he’s just found another example of the law that says that any company that moves into a swanky new building is about to hit a financial crisis.  Alex called it my law, which is very flattering but actually it is more accurate to call it the Other Parkinson’s Law.  (This law, on the other hand is, I believe, all mine.) I am fond of the law of custom-built headquarters, but was definitely not the first to observe it in action.  Also, it applies to public sector institutions, like the Home Office.

Alex’s example is the Hasselblad camera enterprise, and this is the building:


Yep.  There is just no way the top echelons of an enterprise can commission and then move into a snazzy erection like that, and still do their regular top echelon jobs properly.  Their jobs were to navigate their way through the switch from analogue cameras to digital cameras without disaster.  And they now stare disaster in the face.

This edifice reminds me of the Hadley Centre, of which I inserted a picture into this posting, and which actually is deeply involved in Climategate despite earlier lies to the contrary.

Friday December 25 2009

Last night, I dined at Chateau Perry where the cooking by Adriana was indeed spectacular.  In the land of Adriana’s childhood, the big deal day around Christmas is not Christmas Day, but Christmas Eve, which meant there was still public transport I could use, at least on the way.  And on my way, on the top of a double decker London bus, I looked for a Christmassy message to photo, to put here.  And I saw the perfect thing.  But the bus was travelling too fast for me to capture it.  But, in the small (actually not that small) hours of Christmas Day morning, I walked back home, and guess what, it was still switched on!:


If you care about the big picture, click.  What you see is the upper reaches of the big and by then, apart from me, deserted shopping centre they have constructed next to Victoria railway station.  I don’t know what the place is officially called.  I quite like these big greenhouse type places, but this one is not very merry, especially when all the shops in it have given up the ghost.  But last night it carried on saying just what I want to say to my small number of regular readers, and to any other passers by.

Thursday December 24 2009

I like this photo, by long time friend David Farrer, which I found out about here

BrianMicklethwaitDotCom type horizontal slice, straightened and sharpened up as best I could:


It’s the contrast between the mostly monochrome background and the colourfulness of the bus that I like.  That the bus has a white background helps, somehow.  Something to do with there not being too much contrast between a dark bus and a lighter background.  There is even the vague suggestion of camouflage, like in Where Eagles Dare but gone wrong.  Unless I am much mistaken, that’s Edinburgh Castle on top at the back.  All that is now needed is a trolley on a wire, and Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, and that brilliant opening titles music ...  Come to think of it, there was a bus in that too, wasn’t there?

I am currently engaged in laboriously creating a Samizdata posting, consisting of twenty four photos taken throughout 2009 of twenty four Evening Standard headlines, of the sort Londoners are used to seeing in the street.  Expect this posting when you see it, but no sooner.

My favourite of all of the pictures is this, taken on June 5th:


I think that could be straight out of a film version, set now, of one of the scarier of the Shakespeare history plays, such as Richard III.  With slightly different words, obviously.

Wednesday December 23 2009

The Burj Dubai will be opening, whatever that means exactly, in January.  I read this somewhere, but forget where.  Anyway, wherever it was linked to these Spiegel on line photos of it, of which this one is my favourite:


What I like is that here we see not just the Giant Spike itself, but also the suggestion that, economically, it is not completely irrational.  Fairly irrational, yes.  Lots of loony money there.  But also what at least looks like a real economy around it.  The Spike is merely a slightly daft implant into a semi-sane skyscraper cluster rather than completely mad. 

All the other pictures of this thing I’ve seen have made it look as if the towers of Dubai were just plonked down in the desert, with no sanity, just pure vanity.

This, for example, makes this place look very irrational.  Cool.  But irrational.

Coincidentally, Michael J emailed in today with this link, which I don’t understand.  Is it that building Dubai now looks the way building New York used to look?

Monday December 21 2009

First, the moment the much delayed Boeing 787 Dreamliner lifted off for the very first time.  Note the red helicopter flying alongside photo-ing everything:


Second, a particularly fabulous snap taken by Dale Amon of SpaceShipTwo (already featured here a fortnight ago), one of a set posted at Samizdata on Saturday:


Clearly that photo is also an obvious candidate for cropping above and below, to make this blog posting shorter, but I include everything in Dale’s original shot, because all that darkness is essential to the total effect, as Dale himself makes clear:

It came from out of the dark of a Western night ... the first commercial Space Ship.  Am I really here? Is it really here?

Far out man.

My thanks to Dale for emailing me a bigger version of this photo than the one at Samizdata However, I think the shot works best when still rather small.  The plane itself, in this shot, is small and distant, like a magical jewel.  Blowing it up in all its over-lit bigness adds little.

Finally, another highly evocative airplane shot, this time of Air Force One, just after landing in Washington, President Obama having just returned from the Copenhagen Conference.


Richard North featured this photo on his blog on Saturday.  North knows and I know and you surely know: climate isn’t weather.  But since the AGW mob blame every slightest blip in the weather on AGW (put it like this: I hear no denials from that quarter when this is done by, e.g., the BBC), they deserve the same treatment back at them, now that they are on the back foot in this huge argument.

So, two photos of morally excellent capitalist ambition.  And one of a morally very dubious attempt to curb and shackle such ambitions.  The first two seem to be succeeding, albeit with much difficulty, as you would expect.  The third project?  Everything still to play for there, but here’s hoping that fails.

Sunday December 20 2009

Mixed metaphor alert!

You hear people joking about this combination of images, but it seems that the Prime Minister of Australia just said it for real:

Mr Rudd made it clear that the deal had been an exercise in saving the international climate change process.

“As of 24 hours ago, these negotiations stood on the point of total collapse … at midnight last night, we were staring into the abyss,” he said.

He said the “big step forward” in the talks came with rich and poor countries agreeing to the goal of containing global warming to 2ºC.

Spotted by commenter FrancisT (on this).  FrancisT links to this blog.  His blog?

UPDATE: Perry de Havilland liked it too.

Friday December 18 2009



That was taken exactly a week ago.  It’s apparently some kind of Christmas makeover.  It’s supposed to look pretty that way.  To me it just looked like they’re cleaning it or painting it or something, and I thought: why now?

Wednesday December 16 2009

I agree strongly with this, about how Climategate is reversing the burden of proof, but then I would, wouldn’t I?  (But can a burden be reversed?) Before Climategate, you had to prove that the scientists were wrong.  Now, their supporters are tripping over themselves trying to explain that they are still right, and failing dismally.

New Hockey Team nightmare: The Russians are coming.  I think the fact that you now genuinely feel more inclined to trust a bunch of Russians you’ve only just heard of than trust the Hockey Team says it all.

I disagree with those who are now saying, on both sides of this argument, that the emails count for nothing in all this and the data is everything, together with the Harry Read Me thing with all its geek complaints about the damn scientists.  The data and Harry Read Me is very important, no doubt about that.  But the emails, time and time again, flesh out the story.  So, for instance, with this Russian angle, the claims made by this “IEA” outfit in Moscow, about how the Hockey Team screwed with Russian temperature data, are immediately put next to an email by one of the Hockey Teamers about how he has crushed a couple of articles criticising Hockey Team handling of Russian data.  This completely closes off any defence that the Hockey Teamers might make of their conduct.

Further confirmation that the burden of proof has now done a cartwheel came earlier this evening on BBC2 TV, in the form of a preeningly self-confident “documentary” by a certain Dr Iain Stewart.  It was number two of these three shows.  It was quite clearly done before Climategate, and with no mention of it.  While watching it, I realised how crucial Climategate has actually been in all this, even though it told the long-time sceptics nothing they didn’t already know.  Basically this story is either: that this is a truly enormous fraud, or: it’s nothing of the kind.  There is no in-between position. In retrospect we can see clearly that AGW, the Hockey Stick, etc., was our old friend the Big Lie.  But the reason Big Lies work is that you just can’t believe that any people, let alone enough people, would deliberately tell a Lie that Big.

Stewart made much of the fact that the Hockey Team was now really big!  Which from where he stood meant that you have to accuse about thirty people of conspiring with one another to foist a huge fraud on the world.  Ridiculous.  And “Viscount Christopher Monkton” came across, literally, as was quite clearly intended, as a swivel-eyed - literally swivel-eyed - lunatic.  The obvious lesson to someone with no particular axe to grind, but before Climategate, would have been: the scientists are regular guys doing their sincere best, albeit with the inevitable muddles and bitching and general carrying-on, and the sceptics are out-to-lunch crazy.

But now?  It all looks rather different, doesn’t it?  Suddenly, Stewart’s deliberate either-or-ing of this argument came over as, well, a rather high risk strategy.  His claim that the Hockey Team was big came across, now, as: This wasn’t just a handful of crooks.  There are dozens of the bastards!  As I more and more now assume that there are.

It needed a very big kick to switch the story from a sordid little gang of sad, mad liars funded by Big Oil, to a truly breathtaking scientific hoax, one of the biggest in the whole history of science.  But that kick has now been administered.

It reminds me of the time when I was working with a guy who I thought was a pretty clever chap, albeit with some slightly out-of-the-box notions.  But then, literally in the middle of a particularly bizarre sentence he was speaking, I did a complete switch, to deciding that he was completely barking bonkers and that nothing he said, nothing at all, was to be relied upon.  I went from being quite enthusiastic about him, to not trusting him to tell me the date correctly, literally just like that.  To say that I changed my mind about him in a few seconds is to exaggerate how long it took me to make the switch, by a few seconds.  It happened in a blink.  Just like that.  Well, Climategate wasn’t quite that quick.  But it was nearly as sudden, and compared to the usual slow crawl of scientific controversy, it was pretty much instantaneous.

Another point that came over rather strongly in Stewart’s film was that for as long as Big Oil supported the sceptics, the sceptics were losing their argument.  As soon as Big Oil surrendered and started backing the AGW crowd, they started losing.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  When businessmen try to go beyond selling their mere products, they almost invariably make utter tits of themselves.  Worse, they corrupt a significant proportion of the intellectuals who might have said, persuasively, what they happen to want said.  They turn any intellectuals silly enough or skint enough to climb onto their payroll into stuttering and evasive incompetents, by (e.g.) foisting stupid and irrelevant tasks on them, like trying to blind “ordinary people” with black propaganda, instead of them doing what proper sceptics do, and what they would have done and since then have done, which is find out the truth and spread it to whoever is clever and interested enough to respond, and just go on doing that until they win, or not, as the case may be

By the way, see this for what the mainstream media coverage of Climategate now looks like from the other side of the fence, which I came across earlier today.  He agrees with me.  Climategate was, not just for the Hockey Team but for the entire AGW tendency, a total catastrophe.  But, he still assumes they are basically okay guys, and therefore argues that they could have “handled Climategate better”, by telling the truth sooner, publishing all their data, etc..  But what if the truth is that it’s all a giant con?

This is good, too.

UPDATE Thursday morning.  Here is a fascinating comment (from “Rockstone") on that Samizdata piece (spelling blemishes corrected):

Recently at work the climate change issue came up in a group of about 10 people. As a “denier” I usually avoid the issue since I live in a very liberal area. I was blown away that everyone involved (most solid lefties based on previous conversations) had heard of Climategate and were VERY upset that they had been lied to. I was keeping my mouth shut and just listening. When I opined that we should look into the millions that Al Gore had made from his pronouncements, it was met with complete support from those who spoke up (some probably didn’t say anything).

Trust me, this has made a difference. Everyday, non-activist liberals are doubting global warming now. Now I’ll grant you I work with mostly men in an IT company and they may be less emotionally involved and more inclined to listen to cold logic. But some of them are borderline hippies. The new religion is losing converts.

Amazing.  Put it this way.  Has Climategate has made anyone more confident about AGW?

I’m starting to think (despite what I said in this posting) that maybe this is a History Date after all.

Monday December 14 2009

No not a small o bird, a big O airplane, the V-22 Osprey, a sort of combined helicopter and airplane, which points its propellers upwards or forwards depending on which way it wants to go.

It got my attention this morning, when I was browsing through the Theo Spark blog, where I found this photo, which TS found here:


So slow are the propellers that even a quite basic photo brings them to a halt.  Most of us are used to snaps of helicopters looking like this, but it took me a while to work out what these odd objects were.  Some new kind of wind farm perhaps.

I went looking for more pictorial Ospreyness.  Best result by far was this:


London. Bridges.  The Wheel.  BrianMicklethwaitDotCom perfection.  Hungerford Bridge.  The railway bridge in the middle is of the spikes is old.  The spikey footbridges either side are new.

Michael J has just dropped by to deliver a television, and he says the Osprey is apparently bit of a clunker.  Yes.  Said commenter nick mallory (this was in 2006):

Although technically bold, the Osprey has been a complete turkey from the start. Some things work - the Chinook, A10, Hercules, B 52, F 15, Harrier etc - and some things don’t. The poor Osprey is very definitely in the second category.

On the other hand commenter “cirby” defended this Osprey-turkey:

… yet the guys who fly it and who have been working with it think it’s pretty much the neatest damned thing in the world.

Twice the speed, twice (or more) the range? ...

He continues:

At the same level of development and testing, the F-14 had more crashes, and had a lot more big problems. Ditto for most of our front line combat aircraft. The CH-47 was a pretty big disaster in testing, but they went right on ahead.

The fact that they have also made a civilian version (thanks Michael J) suggests that there are people who think this airplane has a real future.  So, is this Osprey-turkey now being transformed from ugly duckling to swan?  Don’t stay tuned, in the sense of coming back here in the hope of further Osprey postings.  I will almost certainly have lost all interest in this question within minutes of posting it.  But, if commenters on this posting want to stay interested, feel free.

Sunday December 13 2009

Mixed metaphor alert!:

Climategate is a massive jigsaw puzzle which will take months to unravel.

And if you include “gate”, there are three different metaphors in there, not just the two obvious and colliding ones.  And, I’ve just realised that here (which is where I found out about Strata’s posting) is another mixed metaphor.  When did you last hear of a mole spilling beans?  See also: moles blowing whistles.  And ferrets ferretting out moles.  Rabbits yes.  But moles?  Maybe.  Ah, fun.  There’s a great comedy routine buried in among all this.

A. J. Strata’s posting is a speculation that the whistleblower might have been none other than starting line-up Hockey Teamer Keith Briffa.  As a commenter says:

The MSM is missing a hell of a story. If they want to sell papers just follow the leads and don’t worry about where it takes you.

Well, yes.  But that would mean doing journalism, like some pathetic sad loser A-list blogger.

That same commenter goes on to speculate about a Russian connection, which I find implausible.  So, it was shoved on a Russian server.  People all over the place are shoving stuff on servers all over the place.  That doesn’t mean that the KGB or their descendants are involved in this.  However, Russians have been stung by this accusation (see the end of this), and may in due course reveal who did shove the stuff up on one of their servers, so perhaps we should continue to accuse them of nefariosity in this, to get them to defend themselves by saying who really did it.

Another commenter:

These are the makings of a high intrigue science thriller novel or movie. ...

There will definitely be some very fun books coming out of this.  Then, watch for the movies and/or TV dramas.  If none then materialise, that will prove Hollywood bias, but I reckon Hollywood is biased in favour of money, more than in any other way.  Also, Hollywood likes intelligent movies about intelligent things, if only to keep their star actors amused and at ease with themselves, and thus willing to do their bit in the SF fantasy event movies for teenagers that make the real Hollywood money.  You know the ones I mean.  The ones with things like made-up global catastrophes.

Saturday December 12 2009

All the world doesn’t know of my fascination with roof clutter, and the aesthetics (or non-aesthetics) thereof, but all the world that reads this blog does.  The latter part of the world also knows that I love cricket, and that I love London.  So, let it feast its eyes on this:


Those are cricket floodlights, in East London, and the two men are two of England’s cricket coaches.

This particular London happens to be in South Africa, but no matter.

Friday December 11 2009

Well, not really that good a photo.  By the time I got to Egham, on my way to say hello to my brothers, it was dark.  But there was enough artificial light about for me to take this feline-related snap, of the place where Eghamians purrchase their cat food and other cat products, which I couldn’t see at the time but which I later learned was called Purrfect Pet Care:


So now, in an attempt to find something purrtinent to put under this picture, I googled “purr”.  I found my way past all the purr-puns (purr-lease!), all as terrible as the ones in this, to this think piece by Clive James, about climate science (there’s a surprise), merely because it ended like this:

We can hear, from deep underground, the contented purr of Herman Kahn. It’s all turning out exactly as he predicted.

Not really.  But apart from the irrelevant Herman Kahn references, this is a rather good piece.  I purrticularly liked this:

You could say that the number was small, and a few of them were vengeful because they had been sidelined for not being sufficiently doom-laden in their claims. But a few of them were older men who just wouldn’t go along with the prevailing emphasis.

One of these few was Prof Lindzen of MIT. I never could convince myself that the professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology knew less about the earth’s climate than I did, so I started to watch him. Hopeless on the media, Prof Lindzen is the sort of pundit with a four figure IQ who can somehow never figure out that you are supposed to talk into the microphone.

His fellow anti-alarmist Prof Fred Singer not only formed a thought too slowly for radio, he was too slow for smoke signals. But gradually, as I watched the side roads, it seemed to me that these few dissenting scientists with zero PR skills increased in number.

The number of scientists who endorsed the orthodox view increased also, but the number of those who didn’t went up instead of down. I couldn’t do the calculus, but I could count heads.

And that, ladies and gents, was published by the BBC.

Recently I recorded, and tonight I watched some of, a TV show about the sculptor Anish Kapoor.  Kapoor’s most famous work is “Cloud Gate” in Chicago, which everyone calls The Bean because that’s what it looks like.  It is totally covered in mirror, and it apparently cost 23 million dollars.  That’s what the man from Chicago said.

Flickr is awash with photos of it, as you would expect. Bean covered in mirror? Billion Monkey heaven.  What’s not to photograph?  But I particularly like this photo, at Anish Kapoor’s own website:


In general, the photos of The Bean that I most like now are the ones that don’t just consist of mirror, but which also show the surrounding cityscape, as that one does.  I also like how it’s from above, unlike almost all of the Bean snaps on Flickr.

The above picture reminds me strangely of the scene at the end of Starship Troopers where they capture the Queen Bug.

Thursday December 10 2009

Jack Charlton, the former England soccer player (and brother of the stellar Bobby), in due course became a soccer manager and a rather good one (unlike Bobby).  When Jack Charlton started out as a manager, someone asked him how he was doing.  He replied that he was “groping”.  Him being a Geordie, it came out as more like “gr-oo-er-ping”.

Well, I have been doing recorded interviews for quite some time now, and I too am grooerping.  And given my advancing years, the grooerping may never end in the promised land of speedy expertise.

On Tuesday I recorded a Skype (at our end) and telephone (at his end) interview with Bishop Hill aka Andrew Montford, at the home of Patrick Crozier.  Two things went wrong, one trivial and correctable, the other not so trivial and more laborious to correct.

The trivial thing that went wrong was that the first minute or so was afflicted with a mysterious clicking noise.  At first the main suspect was me, clicking a biro.  The horror.  But in truth it was probably some electrical appliance in the vicinity.  Mercifully it soon stopped, and the spoilt intro can easily be replaced.

The second error was that I failed to finish asking the basic science climate questions, pressing on too soon to the politics of it all.  The Bishop didn’t finish his exposition of the Hockey Stick curve itself, which, given that the book we were talking around is called The Hockey Stick Illusion, was no trivial omission.  We didn’t, so to speak, cover the entire length of the hockey stick.  And second, I should also have got him to talk briefly about CO2.

So, we will convene again next Thursday and correct all this.  It will certainly all keep that long.  This argument is not going to go away any time soon.  Even so, it’s quite an irritation to all concerned and I now feeling distinctly apologetic.

Despite the groping, I think I might be onto something with these interviews of lots of different people, rather than just with the same few friends, however fluent and knowledgeable.  But, it’s actually a lot harder, because when facing a new person, I find myself making new and unforeseen mistakes.

Does anybody have any further thoughts on who else I might interview?  My first requirement is that they be, more or less definitely, libertarians.  I am not interested in helping other and more statist political tendencies to celebrate their rising stars.

Second, they have to have accomplished something of significance, like (in the case of Bishop Hill) having written a superb libertarian blog for a while, and now what promises to be superb book.

But third, I am interested in people who have not yet done much in the way of talking in front of mikes or cameras.  That way, the people watching, or in my case listening, will learn about someone whose writing they may know, but whose voice and manner and attitude and background they may know a lot less about.  To summarise, I am interested libertarians who have already started to do well, but of whom it is at least reasonable to hope that the best may yet be to come.  Any more suggestions?

One thought I’ve already had, what with it having proved okay to do it by phone, is to interview the rising stars of libertarianism in continental Europe.

Tuesday December 08 2009

Another classic flat(tenable) picture, found here by googling for SpaceShipTwo, after reading this Samizdata posting (and also seeing this):


A sort of aerial catamaran.  See also this.

Cats on a Tuesday.  Whatever next?  But that’s the point of this blog, you never really know.  If you do, it’s because I am not doing it right.

I spent a while wondering whether what follows was worth posting at all, but although it looks at familiar stuff, maybe it does this in a not completely familiar way.  If you spend the next however long reading it all, but then find that you feel otherwise, then, as my friend Paul Marks would say: My apologies!  And anyway, as I always say when I feel unsure of the point of any particular posting, my most important reader is me.  So, back to what I prepared earlier. ...

Life is full of those First Big Formative Experiences.  First Solo Journey.  First Fight.  First Time You Are Robbed.  First Time Your Realise Your Parents Are Merely Human Rather Than Archetypes.  First Sex.  First Child.  First Time You Kill Someone.  First Big Grown-up Type Battle (like a child custody battle or a radical politics battle or a battle for the control of a business).  Almost all of us have some of these Big Experiences.  Few have all of them.

To this list I now find myself wanting to add another one, which is about when you first participate in a news story, before it breaks, and you then read about it in the newspapers or see it on the telly.  And what you learn is that, just like your parents, journalists are only human, and that they get all kinds of things subtly to totally wrong, just as you would if you were trying to make immediate sense of some drama that you’d only just heard about.

Often what you see, from right next to the touchline or even from on the pitch, is that the journalists themselves had a far bigger hand in creating the story, or in blowing it up out of all proportion, than they ever let on.  They do things like stick shouty exclamation marks after what were actually just bits of normal-voiced conversation.  They increase the point size, as it were, of what was said.  The mere words may be reasonably accurate.  But the tone of how they were spoken is a flat-out lie, often deliberate.  They often then take the made-up screaming of one side to the other side, and by the time they have done their work the screaming has become genuine.  (This is one of the things you often learn about those Grown-up Battles.  There are often people people who make a living out of such battles, and who hence have a vested interest in creating them out of next to nothing.  See also: divorce lawyers.) The business of the media, after all, is selling news, and if there is no news, they are constantly tempted to create it, because they can.

All of which doesn’t just poison their first blundering reportage of the thing you saw before they did, but carries on poisoning everything they subsequently say.  For if the media have previous in reporting a previous version of the story in some deliberately false way of this sort, they will be reluctant to change this version, in the light of new facts, however obvious.

The internet now universalises and greatly amplifies the above experiences.  The internet connects you to the gossip of the participants in any story you happen to be interested in, before the mainstream media get involved in it because of something dramatic suddenly happening to the story.

Consider that ruckus that Dell Computers suffered a few years back.  It went roughly like this.  Various people bought some particular variety of Dell computer, and lots of these computers went wrong in the same way.  Dell at first tried to bluster it out.  No big problem, nothing fundamentally wrong, a few malfunctions but not a widespread problem, blah blah.  But the victims of this mistake were now internet connected, and they all told each other about their identical problems.  What would have been lots of separate and futile failed conversations about the damn computer merged into one very successful conversation.  Within a few days, Dell was obliged to retreat.  Yes, there is a big problem, grovel grovel.  Send them all back and we’ll mend them, send you another, etc.

The key thing is the internet connectedness of the complainers, to each other.

Had it been left to the regular newspapers, the Dell story would never have been put together quickly enough to count.  First, newspapers don’t connect readers with each other, only with newspapers, and that only very clunkily.  Second, newspapers don’t want to piss off a big advertiser, so they give prominence to the nothing-to-see-here excuses of the big company and only slowly, if ever, do they put together the real story.  And what if they just did an admiring profile of Dell, and what if that involved a, you know, deal of some kind, spoken or unspoken, maybe involving more and implausibly over-priced advertising?

Climategate illustrates a lot of the above.  Many a climate scientist, you suspect, had one of his Big Life Experiences, when he said, in what he thought was mere conversation but to a journalist, that maybe temperatures and sea levels might rise, and yes, I suppose they could rise quite a bit, provided this and provided that, and if we were all really unlucky, can’t completely rule that out, blah blah, and he then read his words back the following morning, with him personally quoted and everything, like he’s Someone Important, as: We Are All Doomed!!!!  At which point he obviously says: Fucking liars.  But perhaps he also says: But, maybe, come to think of it, useful fucking liars.

For a long time, the dubiousness, the fake certainty, the sheer made-up-ness, of the AGW argument was known to a few sceptics, and to their more numerous but frankly rather resigned readers (such as me), who learned the alternative story, very approximately, but who could think of no way to do anything with it except place tiny blog-bets on it eventually proving to be true.  But the sceptics and us readers were all connected, just like the dubious scientists that we were complaining about, and when that treasure trove of CRU internal information finally emerged, we were ready at once to make entire sense of it.  And because the regular newspapers were all part of the story, in the form of the nonsense they had been printing about it over the years, and especially in the form of the particular deluge of nonsense they had saved up for this Copenhagen meeting (which was the very same circumstance, presumably, which precipitated the CRU leak), they couldn’t and still cannot allow themselves to report adequately even those bits of the story that they have approximately now understood.

The other crucial thing about Climategate is that Important People Now Read The Internet, that is, people who make actual real-world decisions.  When big cheese politicians start making decisions differently, because of Climategate, and despite the silence of the old-school media, then Climategate becomes impossible for the old-school media to ignore.  Carry on ignoring Climategate completely, and the old-school media risk becoming a complete and very public irrelevance, like a Dell computer that is never going to work because Dell refuse to admit that there’s a problem, at which point people in large numbers (the key decision makers in the case of the Dell story) just refuse to buy any more Dell computers because they don’t trust them any more.  (Which didn’t happen with Dell, I hasten to add, although I do seem to recall being told that Dell are doing a bit less well than in the past.)

The answer is for the old-school media to become part of the new-school media, as the clever people in the old-school media pretty much all now are.  Instead of moaning about the internet, they (the clever old-school-but-now-also-new-school journalists) have become avid internet readers.  When the internet gets excited about something, well, there’s another story.  No need for them to apologise for having been led by specialist bloggers to a big story.  That is now their job.

I get the very strong feeling that in the USA, the old-school media people are determined to be irrelevant, but that in Britain, the old-school media people, some of them anyway, are fighting quite hard to mutate into new-school people.  In the USA, new media start-ups seem to be making most of the gains.  In Britain, old-school media organs going new-school are making a much bigger impact. 

James Delingpole is now a perfect illustration of this trend, of old-school mutating into new-school.

One of the features of the new-school media is that they are global, certainly global in the sense of reaching everyone on earth who can read and type in the language concerned.  You can become an Anglosphere media force-to-be-reckoned-with, without ever leaving London, or for that matter without ever leaving Dubai or Naples or Timbuktu.  Ditto the Hispanosphere, the Sinosphere, the Hindisphere.  You can smash media rivals in other countries in your language sphere without even going there, any more than those Japanese motorbike companies had to open factories in Britain or America in order to smash the British or American motorbike industries (the language of motorbiking being universal).  One of the features of Climategate is how it has bounced around the world, with a bunch of politicos in one spot inflaming the story everywhere,

I’m sure I could bring this posting elegantly in to land, with some further reference to some Big Life Experience, but I can’t think of anything along those lines.  Simply stopping will have to suffice.

There will be more and hopefully rather more coherent Climategate blah blah from me Real Soon Now, because this evening I will be doing a recorded conversation with Bishop Hill (whom Delingpole has been linking to quite a lot lately).  Should be interesting.

Monday December 07 2009

Surely, says Devil’s Kitchen, this must be the best re-invention of anything ever?:

It looks like this:


And here‘s the story:

The Royal College of Art’s graduate show has opened, and this year, the show-stopper was a plug. Min-Kyu Choi impressed every passer by with his neat, apparently market-ready plug that folds down to the width of an Apple MacBook Air. “The MacBook Air is the world’s thinnest laptop ever. However, here in the UK, we still use the world’s biggest three-pin plug,” says Choi.

Choi’s plug is just 10mm wide when it is folded. To unfold it, the two live pins swivel 90 degrees, and the plastic surround folds back around the pins so the face of the plug looks the same as a standard UK plug. The idea produced a spin off, too. Choi created a multi-plug adaptor, a compact standard plug sized unit with space for three folded plugs to slot in, as well as one that charges USB devices.

This story has been around since the summer, when that graduate show happened, but no word since then that I could find of any commercial future for it.  Let’s hope, eh?

One thing’s for sure.  Whatever piece of or collection of junk they hold up to public ridicule by giving it the Turner Prize 2009 won’t hold a candle to this sweet little baby.

Although, actually, it would appear that all that public ridicule may have taken its toll.  This looks quite nice in a wimpy sort of way, even if a shocking waste of gold leaf.  But it’s still not in the same league as the Choi Miniature Plug or the Choi Multi-Plug Adaptor.

Saturday December 05 2009

I really did laugh out loud at this, about CO2 measurement:

“The undisturbed air, remote location, and minimal influences of vegetation and human activity at MLO are ideal for monitoring constituents in the atmosphere that can cause climate change.”

For some reason, they fail to mention the erupting volcano next door.

Now that the whole Hockey Stick thing lies in ruins, that is, the mere temperature has not and is not obliging as an agent of catastrophe, CO2 is on its own.  And it would seem, if this piece is to be believed, that the same kind of trickery is going on with that.  Wherever a particular abundance of CO2 is to be observed but for local reasons, there the CO2 observers are to be found, measuring it, and drawing bogus conclusions.

It’s all unravelling.  I’m been trying to write a(nother) great big clunking Climategate piece for Samizdata.  The problem is keeping up.

Friday December 04 2009

Don’t get me wrong.  I love more than life itself, but sometimes it does get its knickers in a bit of a twist:

159.3 - Herath to Dhoni, SIX, flatter, outside off, pushed out to cover

159.4 - Herath to Dhoni, no run, now and then, he breaks out with a fiercely hit big shot. This time he pulled off the bottom-handed twirl, a topspinning forehand shot of his, to clatter this delivery to the straight boundary

So, a push to cover gets MS Dhoni six, but then a fiercely big shot to the straight boundary yields nothing at all.

imageNot really, and they soon sorted it.  India now 726-9, replying to Sri Lanka’s 393, already India’s highest ever innings total.  56 for the last wicket so far.  Dhoni, who has just reached 100, is blocking at least half the balls, but hitting about one six per over, six sixes so far.  Ah, and India have now declared, with a tricky three overs for the Sri Lankan openers to face, 333 behind on first innings.  Close: Sri Lanka 11-0.  But with two entire days to go, following Sehwag‘s ferocious hitting on day two, you have to fancy India.  That’s Sehwag on the right.

Is India finally emerging as the strongest cricket country bar none, its vast strength in depth finally making itself felt?  Or is it just that Murali is finally fading?  (He needs only another 12 wickets to reach 800.)

Thanks to Cricinfo, I can now follow games like this, ball by ball, and chase up details on all the interesting players with one click.  Unprecedented.  Good luck reading about this game in a British newspaper.

See also this SQotD about how the gap grows between the new media and the old.  As MJ comments on that:

The whole “You bloggers might be able to do commentary but you need ‘professional journalists’ to do the actual report” line is looking more amusing by the moment, isn’t it?

Indeed.  Besides which, with cricket, “commentary” is what it’s all about.

Thursday December 03 2009

Around a fortnight ago, in pursuit of more news about financially ill-advised skycrapers, I paid one of my occasional visits to London Bridge railway station.  I make these visits because, right next to London Bridge railway station, they are building the Shard of Glass.  Or are they?  Doubts have been expressed, by for instance Michael Jennings, senior commenter and emailer in of juicey titbits here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, and surely by many others, what with the economic state of the world just now.  Will the credit crunch etc. prevent this pointy grandiosity?  Or will they carry on regardless?

Well I can now report that if this is a going to be a bunch of tennis courts for the next decade, while they scrape together money to build something duller and less financially demented, as apparently happened in some city in Australia that Michael J will doubtless tell us all about in the comments, that’s one hell of an expensive clubhouse they are building there.


As you can see (despite the rather dim light and consequent blurry photos – sorry about that), there are still ostentatiously confident looking signs on the fences around the outside, saying that this is indeed The Shard, and that there’s still a The Shard Website, which there is.  Most telling of all is the thin white column things going upwards at a slight angle, at just the same angle as the Shard pictures all say.

So, it would appear to be happening, folks!  And by the time it is completed, at which point Michael J will have to eat his laptop (a previous promise here), I may even have worked out how to do cheap home movies!

I’m very glad about the apparent progress of The Shard, but I’m also very glad that it’s not my money.  Qatar money, apparently.  That, and political money.  And whereas I think The Shard will look very fine just as soon as it nears completion, I also now assume that the architectural law that I air here from time to time, the one that says that the more splendid a new building is the nastier will be the things done inside it (most recently flagged up here in this posting), will in due course get another thuddingly depressing confirmation.  The Shard will surely provide many further nesting spots for politicians and their salaried hangers on and general buggerers up of the lives of us citizens, it being no coincidence that this big tower is going up only a short walk away from the testicular London Assembly building, and indeed, I suspect that this thing may end up being called not The Shard, but: The Prick.  I further suspect that a one reason why they are now making it the pointy shape it will be, rather than just a big regular tower, was in order to avoid that obvious nick-name.

But what the hell?  I’m glad they’re building it.

However, with Michael’s warnings in mind, whenever I mention The Shard, and how The Shard seems to be going ahead as planned, I always do some googling of the latest news about how things are going, and it would seem that the money is indeed proving to be something of a problem.

The developers are already trying to renegotiate.  But what they are trying to renegotiate is the amount of money they will contribute to the developments they had originally promised to help with around the base of The Shard.  The pubic hair of The Prick, you might say:

It has been reported that a formal submission for “significant reductions” from the agreed £6.5m was expected in a few weeks.

But, Southwark Council leader Nick Stanton told the ‘News’ the developer, Irvine Sellar, would find it difficult to renegotiate the agreed section 106 money, because he has signed a contract and some of the funding has already been allocated.

Cllr Stanton said: “I find it difficult off the top of my head to see why something which they are currently building out needs a reduction in section 106.

“Some of it’s earmarked for all the work to London Bridge station and for the whole Thameslink stuff.

“My gut feeling is they are going to have an uphill struggle getting over that if they really want to.”

Cllr Stanton added that as a planning authority the council would have to wait until a formal submission was made by the developers and make a decision on the future of the development then.

At the moment the money has also been allocated to training initiatives, £100,000 of improvements to Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital, £500,000 into affordable housing, and a new pedestrian crossing.

Scheduled for 2012, when completed, the Shard will dominate London’s skyline and offer views as far as the Channel, with floor to ceiling windows in every apartment.

A spokesman for Irvine Sellar told the ‘News’ there was nothing accurate in reports published about the Section 106 money, but added that he “was not in a position to comment at this time”.

So what’s the betting that Michael J will be about a quarter to a half right?  The Shard will be built, but maybe it will then be surrounded by an area of blight, devastation, half finished railway constructions and general confusion, through which irritable Londoners will be obliged to thread their way, as irritatedly as they have had to for the last few years.

And perhaps The Shard itself, in the manner of this mighty (and mightily ill-advised) edifice, although finished, may remain empty for the first decade or more of its life.

Or then again, maybe they’ll just forget about that “affordable housing”, but otherwise carry on as if nothing had been happening in the world.

Tuesday December 01 2009

Another thin picture, of the sort that are suited to blogs because they take up so little vertical space, photoed by me this afternoon:


Click on it to get what the bigger version looks like.  Details of the device here.

Called a “passive debris collector”, nine of them have been bobbing along the river for the past five years. Each captures tons of floating litter; bottles, cans, and plastic, that otherwise would have flowed out to sea and killed fish and birds.

No doubt quite a few of the people involved in this scheme are, as well as cleaners up of rivers to make them safer for fishes (and then dangerous again for fishes because also more enticing for fish eating birds), climate catastrophe hysterics.  Even so, good for them.  And good to see some technology helping to fix an environmental problem.

I still don’t quite get how it works.  Presumably the rubbish just drifts randomly into its mouth.  But a proper rubbish eater would surely seek out rubbish.  Or maybe I am just prejudiced in favour of aggressive attack fishes and against aquatic floating vegetables, which feed on what just happens to be in their mouth that is edible.

UPDATE: “MarkR”, my Guru, is leaving Test Comments on this posting, because there has been a problem lately with this blog eating comments, comments which are not: RUBBISH!  Have you had any problems like this?  Michael J has, and Natalie Solent has.  Now would be an excellent time to say if you are on that list.  If so, please say so here.  I imagine Michael J (thanks for the email about this MJ) may have thought that this posting was about this to start with, when he saw the title.

I obviously comment a lot and I have had no recent problems, touch wood.  I guess the system knows and trusts me.