Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Sunday February 28 2010

Here:

Far as I can see the BBC don’t do podcasts. They just make their radio programming available to time shift. This is fine but it’s not podcasting. Podcasting has an emotional tug that most radio doesn’t. I have this discussion/argument all the time with radio friends like Trevor Dann of the Radio Academy. They think radio does most of this stuff and I don’t think it does. Radio is organised to minimise the likelihood of people changing the channels. Radio is push. Podcasts are pull. At the exact moment you worry your podcast is getting too obscure or self-indulgent or detailed, it’s probably just finding its groove. Face it. If you wanted a balanced diet there are no end of places to get it. Podcasts shouldn’t be trying to be professional and polished. I can’t abide podcasts that begin with a menu that tells us what’s coming up. What’s the point of that? It’s more likely to make you change your mind about listening to it than persevere. I also hate the feeling that people are reading from scripts. I wince when I hear journalists trying to crack the same kind of jokes that look OK in print. We don’t need any of that print or radio or TV baggage. Podcasts are punk rock. They’re the first thing that comes into your head. They’re an evening down the pub. They blitz the divisions between the speaker, the thought and the personality. They have little use for conventional professionalism. They’re so direct they’re hardly media at all.

I copied and pasted this because I like it, but thinking about it some more, I realise that Hepworth is just right enough to be seriously, because rather persuasively and attractively, wrong.

This is like those articles circa 2002 about blogging, which defined blogging in far too much detail - it’s about this long, it’s about this, it sounds like this, in this kind of style, and so on.  All of which blinded those who took such articles seriously to the true potential of blogging, which was that, potentially, along with a few more tweaks and widgets like Twitter, it could swallow “Fleet Street” whole, and several other ancient and venerable institutions besides, such as party politics, old school advertising, and several more yet to be identified.  To put it another way, those early observers of blogging, many of them bloggers themselves, made the mistake of imagining that all that blogging was ever going to be was BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.  Me in pyjamas, opining about this, and that, and kittens, and stealing all the real content from elsewhere apart from the occasional pretty photo of nothing very much.

Remember when the journos said blogging would only ever be, basically, verbal masturbation plus kitten pictures.  Now: Climategate.  Now: the Tea Party movement.  What next?  Not just more kittens, that’s for damn sure.

In other words, while trying to be completely open-minded, Hepworth is actually an old media pro telling himself and the rest of us that podcasting is amateur hour, and won’t ever be any more than that.  It most definitely is amateur hour, if what you are is an amateur, and you want to have your hour.  I am, and I do.  And like Hepworth, I despise the banalities of lowest-common-denominator broadcasting, and idiot podcasters who imitate this bullshit.  My particular aversion is shoving muzak on the front of people talking.  But podcasting is so much more than than a mere trip to the pub.  “Podcasting”, by which I mean everything that anyone can do with a sound file, is the next version of radio itself.  Amateur, that is to say, only in the economics of most of it.  The biggest and best “podcasters”, like the very best of the bloggers now, will turn out to be so blazingly professional (as in very good) that they will put the average BBC wonk to shame.

Saturday February 27 2010

Incoming from Antoine Clarke, who is one of those annoying Englishmen who supports a different team to England in the Six Nations.  I remember how, at my Surrey prep school (the kind David Cameron went to - we played sports matches against Heatherdown), there were plum-voiced little twats who used to support Scotland.  Antoine at least has French ancestors and can speak French, but I still don’t approve.

Anyway, he just sent this in:

The below was going to be a comment on your blog, but I thought grief is better in private.

I note the category “Sport” and the date, but I see no reference to events in Cardiff yesterday or Rome and Twickenham today.

I added those links.

England’s defeat should not be considered a shock. The only match in the Six Nations 2010 not to go to world ranking form so far was in Rome today. A year ago, I thought the French coach, Lièvremont, was all over the shop with constant squad changing. Since then, he appears to have some coherent goals and the players seem to understand them most of the time.

I’ll be generous and suggest that there is time for Martin Johnson to get it all right. But I don’t think it will be. The robots weren’t malevolent this time, more like fluffy Daleks. Like Johnson, Lièvremont is not a respected coach who came through the ranks of club rugby, but he did coach the French youth team for a while so he knows the core of his squad (Parra and Trihn-Duc for example). Johnson looks like he wants to run onto the pitch and knock heads together, reminding me of a big tough version of Kevin Keegan (screaming “BELIEVE” to his team at Wembley while Germany calmly won 1-0).

I suspect that overcoaching is going on in the England camp. Either that or the players are too thick or scared of taking responsibility to use their initiative. I don’t think either of these is going to go away without some change of strategy or personnel.

If England let one in five tackles go like today (about 7 missed and 28 made) when they visit Paris, I shall be very, very happy.

Well we wouldn’t want to waste all those bon mots, would we?

Actually, England were so bad against Italy and before that so lucky against Wales that I had no great hopes of them doing that well today.  And I agree that Johnson is probably not a proper England coach, although I don’t really know, the way Antoine always thinks he does.

The comparison with Keegan is interesting, and I vividly remember that particular England Germany game, because that day I had lunch with vividly memorable Kristine Lowe, who said: so, presumably Brian, you are about to be a maniac, desperate for England to win, right?  Interestingly, no, I said.  I want England to lose, so that the England manager, who I consider to be wrong for the job, gets the sack.  Which they did and which he did.  Well, he sacked himself, for which I have always respected him.  Keegan’s strength was and remains motivating average teams to do well in rather dispiriting circumstances, where the other fellows are often rather unmotivated and dispirited also.  International teams aren’t average and don’t need any more motivating.  They are already well up for it, as are their opponents.  What they need is wise selection and clever preparation and good tactical guidance.  And let’s just say that there’s no reason to think that Johnson is in any way special at this.

The great coaching genius of England rugby in recent years has been Sir Clive Woodward, who did sports boffinry at Loughborough (actually delaying his international career to do this), then played for England with distinction, but then coached several clubs of varying size and grandeur before he got the England coaching job.  Not only did England win the 2003 World Cup under him.  They came amazingly close to winning the next one, because of the team ethic he left behind him.

But now, I agree with Antoine about Johnson, which means that I may support Scotland, if them beating England is what it takes to make Johnson jack it in.  Or be jacked in.

Time for a foreigner, perhaps?

I love this:

image

Here via here.

The point being that however fast the biker is moving, his shadow doesn’t move at all, relative to him.

I remember snapping a skateboarder and his shadow on the South Bank, by following him with my camera.  I went looking for that, but instead found these, of which the one in the middle of the bottom three is also a skateboarder, approximately in focus while all around is blurry.  I had no idea I was capable of such brilliance.

Earlier in the week I heard a similar expression of arrogant humility, from E. J. Moeran, on the subject of his cello sonata, which was played on the radio. 

Here we are:

“I have just spent all day yesterday on cello sonata proofs. You know I don’t usually boast, but coming back to it, going through it note by note, and looking at it impartially, I honestly think it is a masterpiece. I can’t think how I ever managed to write it.”

Ain’t the internet grand?

Although, any dumbo can still take the odd great photo, provided only that he knows its greatness when he sees it.  The real artists when it comes to photography are the geniuses who make the cameras.  Once I have one of these cameras, I don’t have to put my photos together “note by note”.  Cello sonatas, that is to say, are not something you can just get lucky with.

Friday February 26 2010

Miaow:

Few things alarm the experienced reader more than the prospect of a science fiction, fantasy, or mystery book that involves - or worse, fetishizes – cats.

But the good news is:

This reprint anthology is the exception, ...

In the mail, but not to me.  To him.

Although, I do remember enjoying this, which I suspect falls seriously foul of the above rule.  Along with this, which probably fetishises geese, although I can’t recall the details.  It was a long time ago.

Are there people who read this blog, but not my mother blog, Samizdata?  Probably.  My tiny commentariat is definitely different in its preoccupations, and in its tone, than is the much larger (but maybe dwindling?) Samizdata commentariat.  Anyway, for the benefit of that minute demographic, here’s a link to a Samizdata piece by a regular commenter here, Michael Jennings, which includes some stuff about a couple of bridges in Portugal:

image

And old one, broken.  And a brand new one.  I got that picture from where Michael got his closer-up picture of the old bridge, here, where it says by way of explanation:

In 1994 Spanish government try to made an threat with Portugal to build a new bridge connecting the 2 cities. Portugal refuse it, as that would be a recognize of Spanish soberanity over Olivença territory and is patrimony.

In 2000 was made this new bridge completly build and financed by Portugal in way to show our control over the region and deny Spain soberanity.

Foreigners and their English spelling, eh?  I particularly like how “treaty” (I think that must be) gets turned into"threat".

So, was the old one broken just a few years ago, by floods or something?  No, it was broken during a war three hundred years ago, after which it was never agreed between Spain and Portugal where the border was, and the old bridge was only the border between Portugal and Spain if Portugal accepted the new de facto border.  Their story was that the bridge was comfortably inside Portugal, at both ends.  It was not at any border.  Says Michael J:

… Although this bridge was destroyed in 1709, the (probably) Roman road connecting Olivenza and Elvas was not reopened until the year 2000, when a new bridge was finally constructed. A reason for this is simple. Until the enactment of the Schengen agreement in 1995, there were immigration controls between Spain and Portugal. If the Portuguese were to set up a border crossing point on the river Guadiana at a point that they considered to be well within Portuguese territory, that might be seen as an implicit acknowledgement that this was the location of the border, and Portugal was not willing to make such an acknowledgement. Thus there were no official border crossing points in the disputed area, and a bridge went 300 years without being repaired or rebuilt.

Finally, though, the Schengen agreement meant that all border controls between Spain and Portugal were abolished, and it was therefore possible to have a border crossing point without making such an acknowledgement. Thus Spain and Portugal finally agreed to build a new bridge. Normally a bridge crossing national borders would be built and paid for jointly by both countries, but Portugal insisted that the bridge should be constructed and paid for entirely by Portugal. ...

So now you know.

All of which reminds me that I really must do a posting about my recent trip to Benidorm, without doubt the most amazing place I have visited this year so far, maybe even this millennium so far.  But then, I don’t get out as much as Michael does.

Wednesday February 24 2010

Snapped by me earlier this evening, outside Embankment tube station:

image

So, the Evening Standard is still doing headline billboards, in a few places, if not in nearly so many as before it went free.  If you click on the October 20th picture, you’ll see that same guy, in the same spot.

The above headline about Google refers to this story, and looking back at that Samizdata posting I see that Google also featured in one of those billboards, the one I snapped on March 19th of last year.  That story was about the privacy worries associated with Google photo-ing every street in the world.

2009 culminated, in London, in a huge flood of adverts for Google’s Chrome operating system.  One of the Oxford Circus platforms that I photoed on December 30th had nothing but Google adverts:

image

It’s an irony that one of the biggest forces in the world undermining the use of adverts in dull old meatspace should now be making such lavish use of that same space.  I guess you could say they drove the price down, and then took the deal themselves.

Am I imagining it, or was 2009 the year that Google went from huge to the top spot in their line of business, overtaking Microsoft?  They certainly seem to be attracting a lot more attention now than ever before, both with their own adverts and – surely not coincidentally – in the form of increased media coverage of their every other move, triumph or quarrel.  There is that big China thing, still boiling away, and I vaguely remember some spat they got involved in in Australia, which sounds a lot like the row in Italy referred to above.

My Guru, my Mr Man who Does For Me, computerwise, thinks that Google are absolutely not to be trusted, and are best avoided.  They know everything about everyone, and the rewards for them behaving badly with all that knowledge can only grow and grow.

That rather fits with my prejudice, which says that the virtues that any person or thing most volubly aspires to tend to be the ones he or it feels that he or it lacks.  And the virtue that Google aspires to is the daddy of them all, virtue itself.  Don’t, Google says to itself, not caring at all who overhears, be evil.  This tells us that Google is sorely tempted to be just that.  The way things are playing out in China just now does look decidedly evil.

But I could just be babbling there.  Comments anyone?  Does Google now rule the (computing) world?  And if it does, is that good, or bad, or what?

Tuesday February 23 2010

Excuse me sir, might I ask why you are taking those pictures?  I’m doing it because I like it.  You like it?  What kind of a reason is that?  Might I enquire what your name and address is?  Ah well now that’s where it gets a bit complicated.  I could tell you, but then I’d be missing out on a story for my blog about you PCSOs harassing innocent photographers who are not terrorists but who are a bit weird and who know their rights because they’ve read about them on the internet.  I’m not harassing you sir, just asking for your name and address.  Although, if you don’t give it, I’ll get one of the proper policemen to arrest you for being weird.  Yes you make a strong point.  Tell you what, have a read of this (which I am actually thinking of getting printed out and taking with me in triplicate on my photographic expeditions).  Etcetera, etcetera.

I feel like I’m part of an era in British social history that may soon vanish.  It can’t be long before only foreigners and the government will be allowed to take snaps in Britain.  So, while I still can:

imageimageimage

That was last Saturday, I think, at Picadilly Circus, definitely.  I took lots of this particular little drama.  I figure, if they put on a great big show like that, I’m entitled to snap it too.  I did, anyway.  And if you take lots of pictures of a real photographer in action, in bad light, sooner or later your opinion about the best time to take the snap coincides exactly with his and you get what I got.

Actually, snapping other photographers in London, who are mostly foreign (although I’m guessing not this one), is easy now and is likely to stay easy for quite a while, because I look like one of them.  You seldom see PCSOs asking Billion Monkey foreign tourists why they are taking photos, because if they did, it might cause an international incident and threaten the tourist trade.  A few months back, I seem to recall a policeman harassing a tourist Billion Monkey, and it did cause an international incident and it did threaten the tourist trade.

Plus: Mr Clown says I’m - you have to scroll to the end - a genius.  I ought not to care about such things, but I do.

Monday February 22 2010

So I’m guessing that this Wikipedia page is where QI gets a lot of its questions from.  And yes, reading through it, I recognise quite a few.  Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet.  William Webb Ellis did not invent rugby.  Hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after a person dies.

Under “Further Reading”, we find: The Book of General Ignorance, by Johns Lloyd and Mitchinson, “General Ignorance” being the title of the final round of every QI I’ve ever watched.  Under “See also”, we see also: QI.  So, yes.

Rather takes the magic out of it.

It also illustrates one of the many Micklethwait’s Laws, this time concerning the way the new methods of communication seldom abolish the old ones, even as they edge them somewhat aside.  That’s another popular misconception, you might say.  What they almost invariably do do is combine with the old methods.  Cars do not abolish trains.  Cars drive you to the station.  Television doesn’t end books.  It adapts books for television, and (now) it sells books directly, by having people read and recommend them.  And now, the internet doesn’t abolish television (although it does quite severely weaken it).  It creates the possibility of new television shows which would be impossible without it, like QI, and like that late night thing I seldom watch which shows You-tubery.  That voice in Stephen Fry’s ear is the voice of people seated behind the scenes, at computer screens, googling answers to any questions that happen to come up, or insta-judging answers that Stephen Fry himself doesn’t know about.

And then, presumably, they edit out any pauses.

Sunday February 21 2010
Saturday February 20 2010

Almost the ultimate vertically thin picture - five hundred across, just seven from top to bottom:

image

Sliced from this.  Via here.

Friday February 19 2010

I recently posted a piece here about sushi, in which I mentioned “my niece the diet expert”.  This should have read, and now does read: ”my niece the diet expert”.  Her name is Roz Watkins, and yes, she has a blog.

And since this is Friday, let me also draw your attention to a video which Roz recently performed in, with her cat Alfie as co-star.  In this, Alfie is asked to compare regular cream with something called “Elmlea”.

Spoiler alert!  Don’t read this next bit if you want to be surprised by the video.

Because, of course, Alfie can tell the difference between regular cream and Elmlea, and while happy to consume the cream, wants nothing to do with the Elmlea.  Now, the fact that a cat likes one thing and not another is not a proof that what the cat doesn’t like is even bad for cats, let alone bad for humans.  Nevertheless it is interesting, and it does dramatise in a very watchable way the fact that there might be something very wrong with Elmlea.

Roz’s blog posting on the subject says what that very wrong thing is.  Elmlea contains “hydrogenated fats”, and, judging by what she also says in the video, in startlingly large quantities:

Oils are “hydrogenated” to turn an oil which is naturally liquid at room temperature into a fat which is solid at room temperature. Food manufacturers love them because they give food a nice texture and they last forever (there’s a message in there somewhere!).

Unfortunately the hydrogenation process causes some of the fats to turn into “trans fats”, which have a chemical structure not found in any quantity in nature. These trans fats have been shown to make you put on weight (especially around the middle) EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT CONSUMING EXCESSIVE CALORIES! So, if you are trying to lose weight they are really not your friend. They have also been linked to type 2 diabetes and heart attacks, among other lovely things.

And here is what Roz says about hydrogenated fats towards the end of the video:

One thing about nutritional people, scientists and so forth, they never agree on anything, and the one thing they all agree on is that hydrogenated fats - because, basically, they turn into trans fats - are really, really bad for you.

See also this follow-up posting by Roz, mentioning some other products, including slimming products, which also contain this stuff.

All of which is quite new to me, and what do I know?  But, my congratulations to Roz, for a most creative use of the internet to dramatise something important, and also to dramatise the service that she is providing, concerning which I have heard other things also, all good, one (which I may eventually get around to writing about) spectacularly good.  Based on what I know both of her character and of her skills, I confidently recommend her services to help you get slimmer, if slimmer is what you want to get.

I know, I know.  Roz is family and I would say that.  But then again, I might just have said nothing at all.  I can think of plenty of things that friends and family have done over the years that I would never criticise in something like a blog posting, but would never have recommended in a blog posting either.  Had I been pressed on such a subject, there might have been one of those eloquent silences of the sort that my late mother, Roz’s grandmother, used to specialise in.  But concerning Roz’s weight loss expertise there is plenty more I can say by way of recommendation, and do say, as a number of friends of mine already know.

When it comes to taking fat out of food and putting other stuff in, I have always been somewhat suspicious.  I have never liked “diet” things.  I have long preferred coke to diet coke, yogurt to fat-free yogurt, cheese to “healthy eating” cheese, soup to slim-a-soup, and so on.  Basically, I prefer the taste of the regular stuff.  I have always suspected that fat of the usual sort is, in moderation, positively necessary, and that the things that they put in food instead of fat may be far worse.  What Roz says here suggests that I have been doing the right thing all along, as well as just the nice thing.

Wednesday February 17 2010

Today, in London, it was the first first day of spring.  What I mean is, it felt like the first day of spring, but wasn’t.  The sky was cloudless, the temperature temperate.  Tomorrow, it will almost certainly go back to being winter.  Then in a fortnight’s time, there will be another first day of spring, followed by more winter.  Eventually there will be a first day of spring that really is the beginning of spring.

I, of course, went out snapping.  But because of the cloudlessness of the sky the photo that I took that I found the most striking, when I looked through them back home, was this one:

image

Ignore the Big London Thing on the right.  I like it, but that’s not my point here.

Two other snaps also startled me, for a related reason.  I was photo-ing Billion Monkeys, and the Big London Things they were photo-ing, preferably both at once.  But what happens if you are photo-ing Billion Monkeys on the other side of the road, and a certain sort of rather boringly decorated lorry or bus drives past you just as you are snapping?  This:

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Modern Art!  Masterly in their monumental restraint.  Exhuberant, yet calm.  Big and yet somehow small.  Loud, and yet, almost perversely, soft.  And a strong yet also oddly reticent comment on the decadence of late capitalism in era of mass consumerism.  Click on them to get them bigger.  If you need to.

Actually, I think the green one is someone dressed in green walking right in front of me, literally about a foot away from my camera, just as I was snapping.  The thing is, if people don’t know you’re taking pictures, which is the situation when I am snapping Billion Monkeys, they don’t know to keep out of your way.  Fair enough.

Monday February 15 2010

More Climategatery from me today (specifically about how to get Cameron to pay attention to it), rather than anything much here.  Regular commenter D Davis said if I keep making noises like this, people will come here less.  Well, yes.  It’s the price you pay for prioritising.

imageAnyway, if only to soothe D Davis, over there and clickable-on is one of my more fondly remembered snaps of last year, taken on November 30th in Leicester Square, where they have a funfair every year.  Also, snapped at one of my favourite times of day, when it’s just getting dark, and anything that moves can be relied upon to be blurry.  Even the horsewoman is a bit blurry, which is maybe just as well (recognisability etc.), but I still like it.

The trick is, at that time of the evening, to find artificially lit things to snap.  Artificial light at that time (a) lights things and (b) turns the grayest of skies a pleasingly bright blue, although you can’t see any sky in this snap.

Saturday February 13 2010

Today I met up with friends for lunch at YO! Sushi Victoria Station.  Very good.

Sushi really works for me, a major reason being that I often miscalculate the size of my appetite when dining out.  Therefore, buying little and often, rather than huge and once, works really well for me, because I can stop buying when I am no longer hungry, as opposed to either stopping eating (having bought tons too much) and feeling cheated, or finishing it anyway, even though I would rather stop.  This latter being, according to my niece the diet expert, to break the cardinal rule of weight control.  Which is: when you aren’t hungry any more, stop eating!  When sushing, you can do this!

The other great thing, not so much about sushi as about YO! Sushi, is that they have piped water at each table, fizzy or plain.  This is such a good idea.  However, it probably depends on the way everyone sits like workers at an assembly line.  Piping water to regular restaurant tables might be too hard.  Here’s what it looked like:

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The other thing I noticed was how extremely much scaffolding there is at the moment under the roof at Victoria Station.  I wonder why.  Perhaps, what with the economic slump and consequent risk averseness of the building trade, they have just put it up there because it has to go somewhere.  Well, probably not.  Here’s what that looked like:

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I think it’s been there for ages, but I only just noticed it.

I included “architecture” at the bottom, in the list of things this posting is, on the off chance that the scaffolding will indeed have consequences of an architectural sort.

Friday February 12 2010

Nasa may be all over the place when it comes to releasing climate data, but it has its uses:

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That’s right, this is Friday, and that’s feline.  The Cat’s Eye Nebula, ho ho.

Talking of global warming etc., Gordon Brown has now waded into the debate some more, the good news being he’s on the other side from me.  Excellent.

Thursday February 11 2010

I’m deliberately doing rather more now at Samizdata, and rather less here.  Three bits there today by me, about Iran, Dubai (although that’s really just a Michael J email on the subject) and Afghanistan, and yet another Climategate piece yesterday, which did not seem to be as boring as I feared.

Tuesday February 09 2010

What, you ask, is this about?

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Well, click on it, and see that it is what my local Blockbuster Video is about to turn into.

All that video watching has turned Pimlicovians into fat slobs.  Now, they must get fit again.  Then: die.

Interesting how the phone number and website and opening hours and list of stuff you can do are blazed all over the front.  I wonder, do you think digital cameras, especially digital cameras in mobile phones, might have something to do with this?  I use my camera to take notes as well as pictures, so to speak.  Perhaps this is a trend.  Perhaps people just snap the info, rather than going to all the bother of “jotting it down”, which they never did anyway, which is why shops never bothered with such voluminous information on the front, until now.

Sunday February 07 2010

DK, earlier today, lambasting Suicidal Jones:

So - with all due respect, i.e. none - ...

You can probably guess what kind of Diabolical verbiage follows.

DK was a fellow performer at that Oxford thing, see below, and while there I asked him if he would consider doing a recorded interview, along the lines of the ones I did recently with Bishop Hill (but I trust without the clicks) and Toby Baxendale.  He replied in most positive, even flattering terms, without once using any bad words.

The other speaker was Tony Brown (of this fame), whom I know from many an evening at the Tim Evans Parents household, listening to second-Friday-of-the-month talks.  I sometimes find Tony’s conversational manner at bit exhausting, because he uses the old wait-for-it wait-for-it method of talking, with lots of pauses and circumlocutions and unjustifiably heavy emphases, while I stand there fuming and waiting for him to get to his point.  He addresses, me, in short, as if I were a public meeting.  On Friday night, he was addressing a public meeting, yet for some reason - although maybe I was imagining this - he actually talked more quickly than usual.  Odd.

It’s the result of the recent, somewhat twinned ideas (a) that people ought not to drink and drive, and (b) that pregnant women ought not to drink.  As in drink alcohol of course.  Which means that when he and she go out to dinner, she, because she won’t be drinking much alcohol anyway, gets to do the driving home.  At least that way, one of them gets to get pissed.

Well I don’t know that that’s very widespread, but recently I dined with a group of friends among whom were a married couple.  She was pregnant.  That was that deal they had, and that was why.  My guess is that they are not the only ones who do this.

Saturday February 06 2010

I haven’t watched it yet, but here is what I was doing last night.

Friday February 05 2010

imageFollowing my earlier mention of cats in Alicante, absence of, Michael J has been sending photos of foreign cats.

This particular snap was taken in Hanoi.  Like MJ says, that cat must be a bit unhappy.  But it doesn’t seem so.

MJ is now - see first comment on posting immediately below - in Malaya, which I mention at the end.  So maybe more cat photos from him next Friday.

Today I am in Oxford, addressing the libertarians there, briefly, along with a clutch of other libbos.  What will I say to them?  Maybe tomorrow evening I’ll write about it.

Thursday February 04 2010

From English Russia:

One would think, how sweet of them, people of Saint-Petersburg fixed up several monuments commemorating their favorite pet… but it turned out to be that the cats themselves deserved that.

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September 8, 1941, the city was besieged and the blockade lasted for 900 days. Soon enough there was no food in the city at all and the inhabitants began dying of hunger. During the terrible 1941-1942’s winter dwellers of the city ate everything they could and even pets were eaten (and that saved many peoples’ lives.) But if people are dying – rats begin to proliferate.

A few months later there were literally tens of thousands or even more rats prowling about the city and terrifying all the citizens. No weapon could do any harm to these monsters whether it was bombing or fire. The beasts ate even the smallest bits of food, all the provision remnants that were left in the city at the time. Moreover, because of rats the city was under the threat of epidemic diseases. And then the government put a fabulous idea through, they decided to gather cats all over Russia and send them to the city where they were right in place.

Altogether, during the blockade period more than 5000 cats from Omsk, Tyumen, Irkutsk and some other cities were sent to Leningrad and completed they job well – the city was cleared off.

Somewhat Russian English but a great story.

It reminds me of another concerning how they parachuted cats into ... Malaya, was it?  Also to deal with rats?  During the emergency?  Link, anyone?

What have I started?  In the comments on this, four Yorkshiremen are taking it in turns to reminisce about how they were beaten to death every night by their 1 megabyte hard disks which cost ten thousand pounds, and considered themselves lucky.

Wednesday February 03 2010
Monday February 01 2010

imageStrata SE1 is apparently the name of the new three eyed tower at the Elephant and Castle, now nearing completion.  I spied it down a street on my way to London Bridge Station to see the Shard, on Saturday.  That’s a shot I will surely try to shoot again, better.

The thing I like about photo-ing architecture is that it changes, so is worth photo-ing, but from one day to the next it stays - approximately speaking - put.  You can do a photo, then think about it, and come back a week later and do it again,

Although, you can only do this if you yourself are not on the move too much.  If you are gadding madly around the world, you only get one chance.

This is one of those postings where I have to try it out to see if the photo fits.  Before this paragraph, it didn’t.  Will this be enough?

No.  But this does it.