Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Monday May 31 2010

Michael J and I were thinking of going to Lords today, to watch the cricket. As it turned out, he had other business (good luck with that mate - he knows what I mean), and we scrapped the idea.

Just as well we did. Had we gone, at the sort of time we probably would have gone, then according to the radio commentators I was listening to this morning we would have been stuck in a huge queue outside the ground, while everything interesting that was going to happen all day happened, in the morning.  Lords beat the drum, sold tickets for the last day for a mere tenner, but then didn’t open enough gates when lots of people showed up.  Very bad.

They said the blockage was something to do with “security”.  The terrorists have won!

By the time many of those unfortunates who did accept this offer got into the ground, it was effectively all over. Bangladesh had five wickets left, but lost them too quickly to make a proper fight of it.  The only excitement concerned whether one of the England bowlers would five wickets in the innings (which he did), and then ten wickets in the match (which he didn’t).. This is a new chap called Finn, who is very tall, who is, they say, quite fast, and who keeps falling over after bowling, which is not what you want, is it?

Surrey, my county team, are meanwhile showing signs of life. (I realise that now, absolutely nobody is reading this. Did you know that all rabbits born on a Thursday have poisonous bites? It’s true. If nobody dares to disagree in the comments, I will draw the inevitable conclusion, although it is true about the rabbits, if not widely known. I looked for this at Snopes. There is nothing there about this not being true, so it must be.) They won both of their limited overs games the weekend before last, the first with an improbably good late batting performance when all looked lost, and the second by taking two early wickets and never letting up, winning crushingly with vast numbers of overs and wickets to spare. (I wonder if those links will last.) Both are great ways to win, from the morale point of view. Then, in the next unlimited overs game, they looked on a hiding to nothing, until a big last wicket stand by Surrey’s two South African fast bowlers got them to first innings near equality, when a huge first innings deficit followed by defeat on the last day looked inevitable.  Instead, following that big stand Surrey managed to bowl the other fellows out cheaply and then win, with the South Africans also getting lots more wickets. First unlimited overs win for Surrey since the last time they had an unlimited overs w, a long, long time ago.

Although, one of those South African fast bowlers, Nel, was fined and banned for two games for misbehaving, in the very game he did so well in. Nel is a schizophrenic sort of a person (persons?), with an alter ego called “Gunter”, and it was presumably Gunter who did the misbehaving. It usually is, according to what I’ve read. So why was Nel expected to carry the can?  As commenter Yorvik says:

All well and good banning Andre for two matches but wouldn’t it be better to ban this Gunter chap for life? He seems to be the one causing the problems.

Indeed.  I mean, in Gotterdammerung, we don’t blame Siegfried for what he did when magically disguised as someone else, even though his behaviour was far worse. Did Nel/Gunter refuse to recognise the love of his life and cause her, with his various miscalculations, culminating in his death, to give up on everything and jump into a bonfire? On a horse? I think not. (Incidentally, I rather think that Siegfried’s alter ego may also have been called Gunther, in the sense that he was disguised as another character in the thing called Gunther. (I have many recordings and DVD’s of the Ring Cycle, but have never really got stuck into them all for a solid fortnight, ignoring everything else. I just like the way it all sounds.) So anyway, how about that? Does Nel like Wagner, I wonder? Please add Wagner comments to prove that you have read this far.)

So anyway, Surrey are now playing Glamorgan. The first day was lost to bad weather, and during the second Glamorgan made nearly 400. But Surrey are now batting, and at tea have reached two hundred plus for three.  Two of their newly acquired players, an unproven but presumably promising young chap fresh out of college and a very expensive new wicket-keeper that they have recently bought from a Poor County somewhere to the west, who is both a very good wicketkeeper and a dashingly free hitting batsman, flailed away to put on nearly a hundred for the first wicket. The wicket-keeper in particular really put his pedal, as they say in other places to the ones I generally frequent, to the metal. He got a dashing eighty something, at about a run a ball.  He generally gets out for a dashing 25 at a run a ball, so this could yet get interesting.  On the other hand, Surrey have also bought in a prestigious new batsman, Younis Khan, who recently retired in a huff from being a Pakistan test cricketer.  He got out for a duck.  On the other other hand, Ramprakash is now on 70.

England have now duly won their game against Bangladesh.  It was all over by tea.  And oh dear, the Surrey game just got interesting but not in a good way, with Surrey losing two sudden wickets, Ramps and new dashing young captain Rory Rory Hamilton-Hamilton-Hyphen-Brown-Hyphen-Stroke-Undeserved-Good-Looks for a golden duck.  What’s a golden duck?  It’s a duck made of gold.  What did you think it was?  Plus, did you know that they have recently discovered that there are certain very small physics type particles that have the ability to travel faster than the speed of light?  Yes.  But the bad news is: they don’t go much faster. About ten percent faster, which is nothing. Apart from setting the scientists at each other’s throats, because for them this is a big drama, it will hardly make any difference.  Science fiction, for example, where the entire Galaxy is shrunk by warp speed travel back to the size of medieval Europe with everybody just a day or two away and all fighting each other like in Star Wars, will continue to be science fiction rather than any sort of guide to the actual real future.  Mobile phones may get ten percent faster when you are talking to Australia or the Moon or something.  Other than that, nothing very significant, unless you are a theoretical scientist.  It’s amazing what a persevering reader can learn from the blogs, don’t you think?

Sunday May 30 2010

Incoming from Michael J:

Look around, ye mighty, and despair ...

Indeed.  Follow the link and gaze upon some truly excellent photos of world class USSR cranage and clutter, in a state of advance decay:

image

Not being a reader of Russian, I was only semi-sure what this stuff once was.  Pictures like this settled the matter:

image

Although that piece of decay seems to have been given a facelift.  It reminds me of how they make dead bodies look their best for funerals, but don’t actually fool anyone.

Friday May 28 2010

Lynn, whose blog is a cornucopia of links to fun stuff and a true shrine to the proposition that your blog is whatever you want it to be, always seems to include copious links to felinity, and I particular recommend link number 2 in this posting, to here, my favourite of the pictures there being this:

image

The cat is singing a song to itself, called “Three lions on a wall”.  Don’t worry if you don’t get this.

But I also clicked on bridge on the right, and found my way to a whole new treasure trove of bridgery, of which my favourite, one of these (although pictures keep being added so you may need to go back another page now), was this, which is in Moscow:

image

Never seen that before.

Too many of these bridge photos have been very obviously photoshopped, in a (deeply misguided) style of photo post-production all its own.  This involves ludicrously unconvincing and garish colours and clouds that are absurdly sculpted and detailed, and I hate it, hate it, hate it.  In the days when most of us didn’t know how this was done, okay.  Tasteless and ghastly, but okay.  But now, what does this prove, other than that you have no taste?  Such fakery makes what to start with may have been quite decent snaps look like those tacky backlit pictures you see in cheap Chinese and Indian restaurants, only far worse.  But, in among such photo-ghastliness are to found many fine snaps, which look like they look pretty much exactly like what they are of, like the one above.  Plus there is the fact that a great bridge horribly photoed can then be chased up and seen in nice photos.

“Pixhaus”, which is where these snaps are, is now moving to a new platform, exclamation mark, for which you have to register, blah blah.  So if you feel as I do about such stuff, look now, or for ever not go there again.

I am not sure if this (one of these) is very clever or very ridiculous:

image

Maybe it is both.  The trick is all in the exact shape of the bits of wood.  Each bit of wood has to have the exact angle that will make it adopt the exactly correct position next to the ones next to it.  My worry would be: will these chairs last?  Last, that is to say, in a way that has them remaining the exactly correct shape.

But what the hell, it’s only a chair, and if it goes wrong, it goes wrong.  It still made for a pretty set of pictures.

Reminds me a bit of this.  (That takes me back.  No wonder it took me so long to find.)

Thursday May 27 2010

The recent sunny weather is a mixed blessing for the photographer.  On the one hand, everything that is well lit is well lit.  But, stuff in the shade is in the shade, and the contrast between the two, if you are trying to include both, means that one or the other tends to suffer.  But then I spied a clutch of parked motorbikes, all dark except for their mirrors, pointing upwards and reflecting the brightly lit building behind and above, and I think that I was able to use that contrast to my advantage:

image

Many photos recently.  The good weather has been a long time in arriving.

Too many photos recently?  I hope you agree not.  After all, it only takes a moment to decide you want to look no further at a photo, if that’s what you decide.  A bad (you think) photo wastes very little of your time.

Wednesday May 26 2010

Another will-be favourite photo, I think.  Taken the same day as, and very soon after, this:

image

I’m proud of that.  Another photo-category is being born, of London street lights, with interesting activities or buildings or whatever going on behind them.  London’s best street lights make me say to myself when I pass them: This is how to waste public money!

This, on the other hand, is baffling, to me anyway:

image

Any explanations?  It looks as if there used to be something there, rectangular, as per the marks on the concrete.  But what?

I also like this:

image

That’s definitely me on the left, and it looks like another street light on the right.  But, if you think it’s a rubbish photo, you would also have a point.

Yes.  Incoming from Michael J:

Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalisation today, making Apple the most valuable tech company in the world and the second most valuable company in the US (after Exxon-Mobil). Clearly they are doomed.

The thought that Apple would ever be worth more than Microsoft was the sort of claim that would have had someone come to drag you away in a white van in 1995.

Very odd.  Apple still seems a fragile company to me.  Yes great now.  Yet, yes also, doomed to quite rapid decline when Jobs departs.  It’s like Damien Hirst is seventy, yet everyone still expects Damien Hirsts to keep on being cranked out for the next fifty years.

Reuters report here.

Monday May 24 2010

Last Friday was a spectacularly fine day in London, without a cloud in the sky yet not too hot.  Perfect.  I spent the late afternoon investigating some of the roof level stations on the Ealing branch of the District Line, from which the views would have been spectacular, had they included anything that I wanted to see.  Alas, there are few Big Things in West London, and none that I could observe.  Even the Ark, right next to Hammersmith Station, proved infuriatingly hard to observe from there, just as it is from most other nearby spots.

So, I went back to the centre of London to see how the Shard was proceeding.  Monument, on the District Line, being the station for this.  And I discovered the unsurprising fact that the Shard is indeed proceeding:

image

A month ago, you could just see the top of it from that same spot.  Now, as you can see, the Shard has become as tall as the ugly brute that is Guy’s Hospital, which eventually, we must all hope, it will utterly dwarf.  Not spectacular progress, I agree.  But, progress.

Mmmmm ... cranes ... and plants on the roof:

image

March 2007.  A bit of cropping was involved, but that’s okay.  Clicking makes it bigger, and, I think, on my screen anyway, better.

Sunday May 23 2010

Comment by me on a Groucho Marx SQotD sneer at television:

I suspect it’s a generation thing. Groucho Marx was of the pre-TV generation, and he never loved it the way I bet he loved movies. He certainly was in lots of movies.

I have loved TV from the moment I first saw it as a small boy, and have loved it ever since. Yes lots of it is crap, now more than ever. Biased or just stupid. But you can pick and choose, now more than ever.

TV now has a very end-of-the-age-of-TV feel to it, with lots of ancient repeats, and lots of programmes about the earlier lives and recollections of the TV generation, many of whom fell in love with TV when they were a lot older than I was when I did, just as I also fell in love with the Internet when I did, quite late on.  TV now is like an old people’s home, where the actual work is also done mostly by younger people.

And now, another generation is here for whom TV is old hat and ridiculous and not cool daddyo.  I don’t blame such people for grumbling, but I refuse to join in.

I just wanted to record that thought here.

That refuse to join in thing is also quite profound.  One of the vital recipes for a happy life is not to let yourself get bullied by the herd (a herd which in this particular case happens naturally to be very internet-vocal) out of enjoying something that you do enjoy, just because the herd says you shouldn’t enjoy it.

As for picking and choosing TV stuff, it’s not just that you can pick and choose.  You can’t not pick and choose, and the age of television only really got started when that became true.  There is a basic sense in which only-one-channel television isn’t television at all.  Any more than government loudspeakers in the streets all bellowing the same thing are radio.

Friday May 21 2010

Incoming:

Hi Brian,

I work for a non-profit called Community Health Charities of Illinois www.healthcharities.org/illinois. We are putting an event together and came across your picture on Google and just love it. Is it possible for us to use your picture for the event that we are planning? Our theme is “bridging” the gap between employees and health charities. When you have a moment please let me know your thoughts and feel free to call me if that is easier for you. Again it is a beautiful picture and thank you for your time.

Kelsey DeAngelis

Here’s the picture in question:

image

But, it isn’t my picture.  As I often do here, I used someone else’s picture.  I, as it were, merely borrowed it.  Fully acknowledging the actual photographer, and linking to the original on Flickr, but, I readily concede, without having asked the permission of “spudart”, the photographer in question.  For some, that failure to ask permission, but just to go ahead and show it here was crossing some kind of line.  For me the line that matters would have been crossed had I in any way suggested that I had myself taken this picture.  Me taking unearned credit for this picture would have crossed the line.  Me now allowing Community Health Charities of Illinois to think that I rather than spudart had taken this picture would be crossing that line again.

If spudart resents me borrowing his picture like this, then I will take it down.  Take it down twice, now.  But why would spudart object?  Community Health Charities of Illinois only encountered this picture because I borrowed it.  They searched for Chicago bridge pictures with Google, but not on Flickr.  If spudart wants to be known as a great photographer, of the bridges of the city of Chicago and of lots of other things, then I helped, and am happy to have done so.  (Also: miaow, miaow and again miaow, making this another Feline Friday.)

And oh look, I’ve just (re)noticed that spudart commented on that original posting, thus:

Thanks for linking to one of my photos. I’ve been meaning to do a complete series of the bridges in Chicago. This is certainly one of my favorites.

So clearly the above excellent photo will remain here.  Twice.

As my friend Perry de Havilland often likes to say: one man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing.

Thursday May 20 2010

But it is a not very good picture of Mohammed, drawn by me, today:

image

Why?  I can’t say it better than this:

I take no pleasure from violating other people’s taboos. It is not polite and I wish to be polite. In ordinary circumstances if I want to do something that will annoy others I am willing to put up with moderate inconvenience in order to do it out of their sight. These are not ordinary circumstances. People are being threatened, harassed and sometimes murdered by fanatical Muslims for exercising free speech. The media and academia, fearless defenders of free speech so long as there was nothing to fear, have by and large caved in. So maybe it is time for ordinary people to step up. Lots of them. Spread the risk.

Duly spread.

Natalie Solent’s own picture is much cleverer:

(((:~(>

:-)

Could be.

First, I have to be up very early tomorrow morning to attend a family meeting in Guildford.  Very early.  The journey is hideous, so rising tomorrow morning must be hideously early.  The only way that could work was for me was to get up rather hideously early today and be so tired by early this evening that I actually get some sleep, instead of lying awake worrying about not getting enough sleep and about not waking up in time.  And then, worse, far worse, actually not waking up in time.  Luckily, going to bed rather late and getting up quite early doesn’t make me tired right now and want to go back to bed, the way going to bed very late and getting up hideously early does. It will, I hope, make me tired quite early this evening, but won’t stop me being lucid in the meantime.  So, I have more blogging time at my disposal today.

Second, there seem to be a lot of incoming emails that require to be blogged about.  Plus quite a few things I have wanted to blog about but have been neglecting.  Plus also there is this, which I can’t allow to pass unnoticed

So, I’ve decided to put aside everything else and make a real blogging day of it, although as always when I say things like that, I promise nothing.

It helps that the weather is dreary and not good for photography, so although I do have to go out at some point during the day (partly to sort out that hideous journey), that expedition will probably not find itself being photographically prolonged.  But it is quite warm, which means I can finally open all my windows, a let some of the dust out of this dump and let in some fresh air.

I will probably start by doing an easy blog posting rather than a significant one.  (As in significant to me.  None of them will be of any great significance to anyone else.) This is always the trick when confronting a pile of stuff to do.  Don’t start with the most important bit.  Start with an easily doable bit, to get a bit of momentum going.  (Then, having done that, flop back in amazed delight, celebrate, and forget everything else, including everything important.  I hope that doesn’t happen to me today.)

Later: Oh dear.  Meetings have a way of generating lots of discussion beforehand, and that may be happening to this one.  So, we shall see if any of the above actually materialises.

Tuesday May 18 2010

So I went searching for a good quota photo, and this time, I went back a bit, to the era of the Canon A70, which was only my second digital camera.  And here are two pictures I took with it, the first in December 2003 and the second in April of the following year:

imageimage

Click to get them bigger.

What these snaps have in common is that they are now becoming out of date, but in a good way.  The Gherkin is starting to attract a whole new gaggle of Things around it, sadly none of them are as pretty as the Gherkin itself, and a few of them bigger.  And that camera that that bloke is holding looks to me to be about five or six years out of date.  Which would probably be because it is.

The best of my snaps will, I am starting to believe, get better, as time goes by.

Sunday May 16 2010

All group blogs need a Muggins, a blogger of last resort.  That Patrick Crozier was unable to be Muggins for Transport Blog, and nobody else was willing, meant that it died the death.  The problem is that Muggins deserves all the credit for keeping things going, but only gets some of it, or worse, his “fair” i.e. very fractional share.  Tragedy of the commons etc.

Usually, at Samizdata, Perry de Havilland is Muggins, and when he goes quiet as he often has of late, Johnathan Pearce seems able to oblige.  But it turned out that I was Muggins at Samizdata pretty much all of last week, apart Friday when JP also chipped in.  Which explains why things have been a bit quiet here, and have remained quiet over this weekend.  Yesterday, I was out snapping from railway stations.  But pictures not here.  There.

I rather suspect that Perry reckons that during the last week he has been doing me a favour, by providing me with a large readership.  Well, if he does think that, he has a point.  I could put all my stuff here, but how may would read it?  Samizdata has the momentum of a going concern, even now, still.  Neither relatively nor absolutely is it quite what it was in the glory days of about 2002.  But it is still Something.  And who knows?  As individual bloggers run out of puff, and as many salaried big media bloggers start being told that they have millions of readers but are making no money so goodbye, Samizdata could yet be huge again.

Friday May 14 2010

I keep my eyes open for cats of all kinds, for Friday cat postings.  Today, one just went right by me, while I was eating:

image

At first I was baffled by the message this cat seemed to be trying to send me.  “You could have booked this seat.” What seat?  The one I was sitting in?  But I was already sitting in it with great success, despite having not booked it.  And why was the cat going around telling everyone this same strange message?  But then I realised that the natural habitat of this car was on a table, saying: Yo!  Loser!  Stay away from this seat!  It’s already booked!  You could have booked it!  At yosushi.com!  But you didn’t, did you?  Ha!  No wonder your life is a failure!  Suddenly, life made sense again.  It wasn’t especially nice, but it made sense.

Wednesday May 12 2010

imageAlex Singleton dropped by this afternoon, as he sometimes does.  And there is a picture that I took of him.  Click if you want it big, but I think I prefer it small.

He told me about a piece he has recently written about the latest version of Photoshop, of which, he says, this is the most impressive feature:

I had taken a picture of a French manor house, which was perfect, except that a gardener was standing in front of it. Using the lasso tool, I drew very roughly around the man and pressed Delete. The Fill dialogue box appeared. Into that, I chose content-aware fill. Photoshop, almost magically, replaced the gardener with the brickwork and the climbing plant that he was standing in front of. It was as though he had never been there. Of course, it’s not the actual brickwork or plant that Photoshop recreates, but the progam’s guess is fantastically convincing.

This review is apparently getting lots of hits.  Could that be because it is almost entirely in English?

Alex also mentioned the well known fact about cameras that they can either show the detail in the well lit bits of your picture, or in the not so well lit bits, but not both.  Photoshop has long been able to sort that out.  But of course the whole point of my picture of Alex is that the light bits are very light and the dark bits (including Alex himself) very dark.  Best of all, Alex even promised to give me a lesson in how to fiddle about with camera things that, if fiddled about with, result in better pictures.  He has just been on a holiday which was lead by a Real Photographer, who told them about how to do landscape photography.

I use a Photoshop clone called PhotoStudio, of which I have version 5.5.  My main complaint about this is that I can’t make crop selections that are in exact alignment with grid lines, if you see what I mean.  If I could do this, it would be far easier and quicker to make selections from my photos that are exactly square.  As it is, I have to fiddle about with the cursor, and watch the numbers at the bottom of the picture, which, involving as it does a lot of fiddling about, is very fiddly.  Could I do this?  Could I do it if I had version 6, such as apparently now exists?  Or is version six totally different and just as bad at doing gridded cropping, and would I regret switching to it?  To say nothing of the fact, I now realise, that I would have to pay for version 6.  If I have to pay, I might as well have a cheap version of Photoshop, which does exist, yes?  And which does do gridded cropping?

Tuesday May 11 2010

Last night, after Steve Davies’s lecture, I chatted with an old acquaintance who is a local London politician.  He was re-elected, but his party is now in opposition.  I think that was the story.  And he supplied me with my quote of the evening:

“We know where all the bodies are buried, because we buried them.”

Ah politics.  How wonderful it would be if politics, of that kind anyway, could be removed from, you know, getting things done and making life better.  How much better if all those public spirited souls who want to “make a difference” could make it without “burying bodies”.  Which, it so happens, was the exact subject of Steve Davies’s lecture.

The reason I used a picture of Davies sitting down before he started talking for that Samizdata posting was that when seated he was utterly still and hence absolutely not blurry, and that when he stood, from where I was, he had a microphone shoved up in his face, as you can see in this:

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That bloke with the camera was not snapping Davies, he was videoing him, and he had his little camera up like that, steady, throughout, like some bootlegger in a cinema.  The difference was that Tim Evans, the Libertarian Alliance’s Director or President or whatever he is, and doing the official video, was delighted that he had a videoing rival.  The more the merrier as far as he is concerned.  Why stage a lecture if you don’t want as many as possible to learn what was said?  Plus, the Tim Evans video will also have that microphone featuring too prominently, so other vids may be better.

Neither of my still snaps really gets Davies though, for he is a much more jovial and clubbable character than a still photo of his face gets across, or does when I take the picture.  My picture of him at Samizdata makes him look like that bird of prey in The Muppets, or like a judge about to send someone to prison for a long time.

I talked with Steve afterwards, and he asked after my health.  I told him about how I was starting to have competitive old man conversations, the winner being the one who is doing worst healthwise.  Steve then told of a two-headed cartoon which featured: (a) a near-perfect looking Californian who, when asked how he was, listed his complaints (unsatisfactory abdominal tone, cholesterol not good, blood pressure not good, blah blah); and (b) a wheezing, disintegrating Northern Englander, who declared himself in answer to the same question to be: “Grand!” The point being that the Californian compares his state to the state of perfection; the Northern Englander compares his state with death.

Monday May 10 2010

Matthew Peter Dunn was born on May 5th 1992, in Egham.  Ah, the thrill of a local boy making good.  Egham is just down the hill from Englefield Green, infancy place of me, and was our local railway station.  Still is, whenever I visit the parental home, currently still the property of us siblings.  Dunn took 3-48 for Surrey - well, the Surrey reserves - against the Bangladesh touring side.  Too bad the other Surrey bowlers only managed another three wickets between them.  I remember when Surrey playing the big touring side was a huge deal.  I remember Surrey defeating Australia in 1956, thanks to a guy called Laker, with help from a guy called Lock.  England also beat Australia in 1956, thanks to a guy called Laker, with help from a guy called Lock, but Surrey beating them was like another test match being won.  Arguably, Surrey then were a better team than England.

English county cricket now is in what the newspapers call turmoil, and for once I think they may not be exaggerating.  Currently there are two ways to do well as a county.  You can win all your games, in front of a scattering of old age pensioners and weirdos.  Or, you can build a ground capable of coining money for you, if only you could find some version of cricket capable of putting enough bums on all your seats.  And the biggest fact concerning English cricket now seems to be that there are now more county grounds capable of accommodating a big crowd than there are big test matches to go around.  All the test friendly grounds want something else as well, to ensure their annual income.

Surrey are currently losing all their matches and are at the bottom of every English county league for every sort of cricket.  They are quite possibly the absolute worst, at playing cricket, that they’ve ever been.  But, they have a huge ground, with huge stands, including a huge new stand that they had built only a few years ago.  So Surrey are now extremely responsive to the opinion of the people running the Indian Premier League that the English counties are sitting on a gold mine, in the form of a cricket tournament that, they say, could and should happen in the English summer that the television viewers of India would enjoy watching.  The time zone thing being, in England, spot on.  At the moment, the International TwentyTwenty slogfest happening in the West Indies involves some games starting at about 9 am, and none of them happening in the evening, because India wants that.  Ergo, no local excitement, exacerbated by there being no West Indians in most of the teams, what with only one of the teams being “the West Indies”.  In the IPL, all the teams have Indians, and the games happen at India-friendly times, so the local (i.e. Indian) excitement is very strong, and looks great on the telly, in such places as England.  In the West Indies right now, the cricket is claimed to be of a higher quality than that played in the IPL, but the seats are mostly empty.

Sunday May 09 2010

Recent photo of a London bus, which may or may not be a stable mate of this one:

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The only other shot I got of this particular bus was too blurry to provide any solid identification. But it did have white ribbons on the front, which says wedding to me.

Friday May 07 2010

The general election result is too depressing, for all the politicians and for all the voters.  Did anybody, apart from Perry de Havilland, get what they truly wanted?

So now, a quota photo, that I came across in the BrianMicklethwaitDotCom photo archive, taken last September.

A modified cliche, when you take a stale old phrase but give it a new twist, can be fun, and the same thing applies to photography.  Here we see the Wheel, which has been photoed half to death, by me and every other London tourist, but this time photoed from a odd angle, that includes the Wheel reflected in a new glass fronted shop that has recently be erected near the bottom of the Wheel.

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I mentioned a while back that I have in mind to do a collection of weirdly distorted reflections, caused by the wobbliness of much glass these days.  This glass seems to defy that rule, being perfectly flat.  Yet, presumably, strong.  So, I guess some more, rather expensive.

The sky helps.

Wednesday May 05 2010

imageAlthough this photo contains no digital photographers it is otherwise perfect.  There is a Big Thing.  There is reflection.  There is foreground clutter, in the form of cluttery old buildings and in the form of scaffolding.  The Big Thing, like the scaffolding (and one of the reasons why I like that also) is in a temporary state, which means that the photo records of a moment that will soon pass, unlike a photo of the final version.

The “Tokyo Sky Tree” is already the tallest Thing in Japan, even though it still has another thousand feet to go.  Final look guessed here, and here.  It will be the second tallest building in the world, after the Burj Dubai.

Eat your heart out Shard.

Tuesday May 04 2010

I found the story immediately below, about the imperfectly constructed bridge, at something called Weird Asia News, and, liking that name, immediately went looking for more stories.  And I have now nearly finished a Samizdata posting about China’s lunatic and hideously cruel one child per family policy, which is still being viciously enforced.  Which is more horrific than weird, I would say.

Here is a poster that glorifies this horrificness:

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Am I imagining it, or is that one spoilt little brat?  He looks like he takes himself very seriously, and she looks like it’s this huge honour to be carrying him.  Well, maybe it is.  At least she was allowed one.

As I will (probably - I promise nothing) be asking at Samizdata, is this maybe the worst decision in all of human history?

Time for some more bridge news.  And this time, news of a bad bridge.  Here (and with pictures to prove it):

… residents of Shanghai got the surprise of their life when earlier this month a major new bridge collapsed, revealing its components to be mostly rubbish and not concrete!

Completed in 2009, the bridge replaced a much older one with a more modern design. It began to collapse after being in operation only a short period; just after Christmas, when cracks appeared in the structure. Some thought the ground might have become unstable or that it might have been the result of the inefficiency of the original construction company.

Subsequent inquiry revealed the latter to be the case. Styrofoam, bags of garbage, scrap wood and plastic waste were used as construction materials in the structure.

I once had a job working on a building site.  As a result of that experience, I have always been rather surprised that you don’t read about this kind of thing more often.  But my job was only doing houses.  I suppose everyone involved fusses more about bridges being built properly, both the workers and the checker-uppers, because a badly built bridge might collapse pretty much immediately, like this one did, when they can still remember exactly who built it and who was supposed to see that they built it right, and, er, as it were, get back to them.  Houses, on the other hand, provided they stay up while you’re building them, will probably only reveal their unsoundnesses more gradually.

I still worry about those houses.

Monday May 03 2010

In fact, sometimes it is even structural, as this photo, which I found here, illustrates well:

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As digital photographer I look a bit more carefully at the tricks played by reflected light than do regular humans (or than I did myself before I got kitted up with a digital camera), and I constantly notice how wobbly are the reflections now thrown off by modern buildings, even when seemingly completely flat.  This is because the glass is a bit bendy, unlike glass in olden times, like the 1960s.  The same goes for impeccably olden times windows which have recently been redone with new glass.  This creates all manner of fun photo ops.  (And although this posting is basically about how strong glass is, I am even now pondering a follow-up posting consisting of lots of wobbly reflection photos.)

I associate the wobbliness and curviness of modern glass with it being vastly less likely to break, even if, as was demonstrated in a TV show a while back\, you drop a small car on a sheet of it.  “Glass” now is more like plastic or perspex or some such mystically modern thing than olden times glass.

The structural glass in the above picture obviously has to avoid wobbliness.  But I bet it is the result of a similarly complicated modern process ("floating"?) to that involved in the making of the sheets of glass you now see in windows, big and small.  And I presume that it too is a bit bendy, because if it isn’t bendy at all, it would break.

Or has glass now become so strong that it can now be like steel, neither bending nor breaking?  The title of the piece linked to above contains the phrase “steel-strong”, so maybe it can.

Sunday May 02 2010

There are a lot of very dreary pictures of very dreary cars - although to be fair to the writer of the posting, that is pretty much his point - here.  But one of these car pictures is not at all dreary, even though the car itself is:

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So, the way I see it, no need to go there.  Unless of course you don’t believe me, of if you are interested in what you suspect may not actually be entirely dreary cars.

That would be San Francisco, yes?

To all who are interested in this Draw Mohammed thing, which I most recently posted about here, I really recommend this piece, by a guy who runs an internet site where all the pictures and sculptures and so on ever made of Mohammed are gathered together.  The point being that the claim that this is verboten is relative recent.  Here’s one of the more decorous pictures, in which an implausibly sweet looking Mohammed takes his dictation, or whatever it was, from the Angel Gabriel:

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There’s also quite a bit about the insane emails section of the site, where incoming psycho-emails from enraged Islamo-nutters (of whom there really do seem to be a great many) are collected for all to browse.

In among the comments, I found this, from “Big Bird”, who definitely speaks (in comment 40) for me:

I am an atheist so I don’t have a contestant in the invisible man sweepstakes but even a cursory attempt to compare the lives of Jesus and Mohamed will show there is no moral equivalency between the two. If Christians threaten others over a play then they are violating their teachings. If Muslims kill people for insulting their prophet then they are following their teachings.

Indeed.  And that makes “their teachings” the fundamental problem, I would say.  It’s no good concentrating only on the nutters who take these teachings dead seriously, and saying that this is the entire problem.  The sane-apart-from-not-rejecting-their-teachings Muslims have also got to be told that this whole disaster is also their fault, arguably more their fault, because they are otherwise sane, and because, assuming for now that relentless claims to this effect are right, there are more of them than there are of the nutters.  They are the ones doing the big, long-term damage, and they ought to know better.  They keep “their teachings” alive and revered and hence liable, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, to be acted upon by anyone nutty.  Or not so nutty, when the opportunity for some of serious conquest arises.

It’s like we’re dealing with a combination of God and Lenin.  The aim should not be coexistence.  It should be victory, over the whole thing.  We should aim for a world where the number of and nature of the people who even say that they believe this stuff is small enough and harmless enough for it not to matter any more.

To me, the virtue of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day is that, as well as insisting upon the right of all to be offensive with what they say and draw and paint, it keeps the argumentative pot boiling concerning the more serious aspects of all this.  What’s going on here?  What’s the big picture?  What is to be done?  Etc.

Saturday May 01 2010

This afternoon was sunny, but then it turned grim and rainy.  I happened to venture out just at that moment of meteorological transition, and so got to see, and to photo, one of my favourite lighting effects, which is when the ground or the buildings on the ground are lit up by the sun like on a regular sunny day, but behind the brightly lit stuff on the ground is the near-black rain filled sky.  This can seriously change the rules about what looks good.  Normally this clutch of council housing is not that great to photo, but today, it looked something else again:

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You get just the same kind of dramas in the open country, when you see brighly lit fields with dark sky above.

By the way, WBA stands for Westminster Bangladeshi Association, although I don’t know why they bothered with that website, one of the less impressive ones I’ve seen lately, or ever.  Do you smell public money, accomplishing bugger all?  I think I do.

I also like this:

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That’s the magnificently cluttered roof of Millbank Tower, evil Labour Party HQ.  That’s the view of it as I step outside my front door.  Also taken today.