Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Saturday April 21 2012

One of my favourite buildings in London is Westminster Cathedral, and this is a recent picture of it (also featuring nearby flats), that I took last month:

image

And by going to the website linked to above, I just found out you can go up to the top of this tower, and stay as long as you like.

Blog and learn.

Saturday April 14 2012

There was that hideous cold snap in early February (which is not that surprising), which was the time, fool that I was, I chose for my recent trip to Paris.  And then at the end of March there was a warm snap, when I was back in London.

So here are some snaps of the other kind of London’s Millennium Footbridge dug up from the archives, taken during that warm snap:

imageimageimageimage

And now it’s back to being cold.  Sign of advancing years: being acutely sensitive to temperature.

Friday April 13 2012

Last Tuesday, at 10pm, I met somebody at Piccadilly Circus.  I seem to recall it being on QI that actually the Eros Statue isn’t really an Eros Statue, but despite that, we met next to the Eros Statue.  It sounds more exciting than it was.

While waiting for this person to arrive, I of course, took photos of people taking photos:

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And on the way home, I photographed some Modern Art:

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That’s in a tube station.  Green Park, I think.

Monday April 09 2012

Lovely piece by Jarrod Kimber (the fat short Aussie half of the Two Chucks) about how experiences can happen at the end of test matches that couldn’t be had on any other days:

On day five at the P Sara, I listened to a conversation.

Now I’m well aware that this conversation may not have interested everyone, but when Suraj Randiv and Graeme Swann found each other out on the ground, I knew what they were talking about. You could tell by their hands that it was nerd spin talk.

To get close enough to hear I had to push through the crowd who were holding up English kit that had been thrown to them by the players, police officers who were standing there without really doing anything and the throng of people trying to take photos of Swann. I got as close to Randiv and Swann as the massive English security officer would let me. Then I had to block out the many fans who were planning to get something signed the minute the conversation ended.

The first bits I heard where Swann talking about wrist position. My persistence had paid off. For the next three minutes I was listening to a spin bowling masterclass. Randiv had clearly asked Swann about his action and whether he imparted too much over-spin on the ball. Swann explained his own action, and suggested that too much over-spin wasn’t a problem for Randiv as he still ragged it.

Don’t quite get that bit.  Was it Swann who “imparted too much over-spin” or Randiv?  And what does “ragged” mean?

Wrists, fingers, arm height and follow through were all discussed as Randiv, and I, listened intently. Randiv, Swanny’s Padawan learner, and me, the lucky eavesdropper.

The conversation ended with Swanny being very complimentary to Randiv about his bowling. He never said ‘attaboy’, but it was one of those sorts of conversations. I assume it boosted Randiv; even I was ready to hit the nets and try a few offies to see if Swann’s words could help me. And I’m a leggie.

Spin bowlers in cricket are different from the rest.  The regular cricketers are all regular super-athletes, who could have done football or golf or tennis instead, had the ball fallen only slightly different.  But the spinners often seem like they stepped right out of The Big Bang Theory.  A different twist of the wrist at a critical moment, and they could have been geography teachers or nuclear physicists, or, in the case of Phil Tufnell, a bookie.

One of the tribe, Piyush Chawla, yesterday at the IPL, made a wonderful mess of a steepling catch on the boundary.  He moved back and back and back, but never enough, dropped it, and then rolled completely over, losing any idea he may have once had about where the ball was.  Not yet on YouTube, but it soon will be.

And yes, I am back writing about cricket, now that England are back winning a test match.  I don’t care to wallow in misery.

By the way, take a look at this scorecard.  Be sure to scroll down to the end.

Friday April 06 2012

Last night I went along to that meeting that Simon Gibbs and Andy Janes flagged up in comments on the previous posting here, and am very glad to have done so.  I will try to do a write-up of it for Samizdata (although I promise nothing).  Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures I took:

imageimage

On the left, the guest speaker at the meeting, Tom Burroughes.  On the right, a snap of somewhat over half of those present, including Tom.

The picture on the left shows how good speaker photos can be, even in poor light.  The picture on the right shows the usefulness of having a wider angle lens that I have hitherto had.  However, only a rather small proportion of the rather few snaps I took came out well, which was a slight disappointment.  The new camera is better for this kind of thing than the old one, but not as much of an improvement as I had been hoping.

Or maybe I am just getting used to it, and my standards have gone up.

Here’s another picture that works better with the new wider and more panoramic lens.  It’s the venue of the meeting, the Rose & Crown, taken when I first got there:

image

Another for the Pubs Dwarfed by Modernity collection.  Pubs in London are like Churches, in that they have a habit of surviving when all around them is replaced by higher rise modernity.  (Of course, you no longer see the pubs that perish.)

I had been wandering around in Southwark beforehand, mostly snapping the Shard through random architectural and other junk in the foreground.  As a result I found myself approaching the Rose & Crown from an unfamiliar and more interesting direction than usual.

Wednesday April 04 2012

A comment on this at Samizdata, from “Fred”.  Harsh, but containing much truth:

This used to be a great blog, but it’s dying. Not that the contributors still on it aren’t doing a decent job, but there’s not enough of them, with not enough time and energy. You need some new blood. The country needs Samizdata to come back revitalized. (I’d offer my services, but I’m also a burnt-out case).

I doubt that’ll be discussed very much on Samizdata itself.

For me, the key figure is Perry de Havilland.  Samizdata is indeed now a shadow of what it once was.  But when Perry writes for it, the shadow seems to go away and the thing itself returns.  But he is now, it would seem, blogged out, and Samizdata is hugely the worse for it.  Groups in general and group blogs in particular don’t function properly if not properly lead, and Samizdata used to be lead by example.  Perry did a superb job setting Samizdata up, and the momentum has been extraordinary.  But “Fred” is right.  That momentum is no longer there.

I am entirely aware that I myself am a part of this problem.  I too find that I can only say and do so much.  I look back on the last decade of my life with a feeling that I could have done a whole lot better.  All I did for Samizdata was join in, and contribute well and often, for a while.  Perry de Havilland did massively better than that.

Personally I’m not sure that Samizdata itself “needs” to revive.  The country may “need Samizdata”, but the country may just have to make other arrangements.  But the attitude Samizdata embodied when it was started, and still tries to embody, needs to stick around, if not at Samizdata itself then somewhere.

The sight of a bunch of old guys casting about for “new blood” can be rather undignified, and the process usually fails anyway.  Can ageing firebrands find younger replacements, to do the same old jobs?  This is just about the hardest thing there is when it comes to institution making.  Personally, I have always concentrated on putting the ideas out there, and relying on the next generation to stay with them and express them in their own way, with their own enterprises and communicational techniques, not as junior members of Old Guy Institutions.  I tend to doubt the excellence of younger people who attach themselves to ancient institutions, rather than creating their own.  I mean, what’s stopping them doing their own thing?  It’s not like it takes a revolution to set up a new libertarian drumbeating machine.  And there are a couple out there that I can think of.  But maybe the fact that those operations are even on my radar means that they are not where the real libertarian action is right now, and the Real Thing is happening entirely elsewhere.

I often find that simply stating a problem out loud can make it go away.  The answer, that had seemed impossible, becomes obvious.  Maybe this posting will do that for me now.

Tuesday April 03 2012

Last week I journeyed to the Monument and walked up the 311 steps to the top, to take photos with my new camera.

Many were standard views, of this sort:

imageimageimageimage

What I had particularly come to see was how the Shard was looking, from this particularly fine vantage point.  Very fine, I think:

image

But what, you may be asking, is that metallic interruption in the foreground, bottom left.

It’s the wire netting, which was, a few years ago, put around the viewing platform at the top of the Monument, replacing the bars that used to be there.

Here’s what this wire netting now looks like:

imageimage

And here are couple of snaps I took exactly (almost to the day) seven years ago:

imageimage

Those bars were much more convenient for digital photography, I think you will agree, especially when you realise that the holes in the new wire netting are only just big enough to take pictures through, with a camera like mine.  (The snappers with cheap little cameras actually have it easier.) Equally as good as the size of the gaps between the bars is that you could rest your camera on a horizontal platform which interrupted the vertical bars and which might have been put there for that exact purpose, and swivel your camera through nearly 180 degrees.

Health and safety?

Partly because of the above, and partly because of the weather that day, the pictures I took seven years ago are actually better than the ones I took last week.  Here are a couple more:

imageimage

On the right there, where the Shard now is.

LATER: More snaps by me from the top of the Monument, that same afternoon last week, this time time of bee hives.