Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Jay on Halloween buckets
Alastair on MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Rob Fisher on At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Michael Jennings on Only with a computer
Friday Night Smoke on Godot nearly ready
Simon Gibbs on Bald bloke taking a photo
6000 on Bald bloke taking a photo
Tatyana on The "colorful and curvilinear forms" of Herr Hundertwasser
Brian Micklethwait on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Friday Night Smoke on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Most recent entries
- MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
- At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
- The death of email?
- Only with a computer
- Godot nearly ready
- Bald bloke taking a photo
- Halloween buckets
- Strange bread
- Battersea flats are about to be sold and therefore are about to be built
- The “colorful and curvilinear forms” of Herr Hundertwasser
- How Bill Bryson on white and black paint helps to explain the Modern Movement in Architecture
- Two guys on Westminster Bridge photoing their icecreams in front of the Houses of Parliament with their iPhones
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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we make money not art
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This and that
Kitten blogging from Delingpole:
Among the report’s findings are that large scale industrial wind farms can:
Rescue drowning kittens from sacks in canals and lead them to secure, happy homes where they are well cared for in handcrafted wicker baskets with lovely, snuggly faux-sheepskin blankets for them to purr on and little saucers of organic Jersey cream designed by Cath Kidston.
Whoever she is. This, apparently.
The enviro-argument has reached an odd stage. Day after day, enviro-non-loonies like the increasingly contemptuous Delingpole pound away at enviro-looniness. Yet because the Cameron Government is a coalition, founded on a deal to do (among other daft things) enviro-looniness, the government just ignores all the complaints, merely cutting the sillier enviro-schemes by small amounts, but leaving the basic looniness to continue. Yet the public must be noticing. They are paying the mad energy bills. They, some of them, must be reading about all the corruption (YeoGummer, etc.). The entire Conservative Party is disgusted and in the mood to vote UKIP en masses. The top end of the Labour Party says nothing, because they believe in enviro-looniness also, yet their massed members must be disgusted by YeoGummer.
So, nobody is happy. The enviro-loonies aren’t getting as much public money as they had hoped for. Many of the rest of us still think they’re getting far too much.
It’s one of those situations where, as Instapundit would say, it if can’t last for ever, it won’t.
But maybe it will.
More enviro-blogging from Natalie, here.
This evening I journeyed to an event. Here is a picture I took on my travels:
Those buildings are to be found just outside Old Street tube station. Photoed like that, they look like they’re in Miami or some such place.
Now, here they are, really, in London, next to a big roundabout:
In the foreground, Boris bikes. In the middle, in the middle of the roundabout, one of those extraordinarily ugly advertising erections, made of curved tubing for who knows what idiot reason. Is it really possible that such an ugly thing was made to look like that on purpose, for aesthetic reasons? If not, then why else? (There is another of these hideous things in the middle of another roundabout, that I have long known and hated.)
This Old Street Roundabout is apparently quite famous, because that’s the name both of it and of the area around it, which is London’s version of Silicon Valley.
I did some further googling and eventually discovered a little about the two big new gonads. These are the Bezier Building.
A quick chat with the receptionist in the luxe, leather and carpet reception area reveals that the development is, to a certain extent, an upmarket student halls populated by the sons and daughters of the world’s wealthy.
Living among them are other renters too – people using corporate flats during their stint in London for Bloomberg or one of the other big-name City institutions nearby, as well as a small coterie of live-in owners – including a retired surgeon and his wife.
Weird. I had no idea – no idea at all – about these new London Things, until this evening. Or about Old Street Roundabout. I just thought it was a roundabout.
... I have just posted a piece on how to attach Austrianist answers to un-Austrianist questions.
When I go out photographing, the process goes: that looks interesting, snap, forget about it and immediately on to the next one. Which means that I get all those nice surprises later, when browsing, that I keep going on about.
What do you make of this, for instance:
I can just about remember thinking at the time that a very large number of snappers were taking a mysterious interest in what looked like a very unremarkable young man, including one snapper with very thin legs. And the young man was most definitely cooperating.
But now I ask again, as I asked myself when taking this snap, who is this young man?
My policy with any celebs I myself recognise is that if they are just wandering about making no effort to attract attenntion and probably hoping very much not to, then I will photo them, but will not shove them up on the internet, until a minimum of a few years later. If, on the other hand, they are out and about being photographed, they are totally fair game, and can be internetted within the hour.
Not that I did this to this guy. The photo was taken on March 30th of this year, on Westminster Bridge, and no sooner had I taken it than I forgot about it.
So anyway, who is this guy? Here’s a close-up that makes him a bit more recognisable, if you recognise him.
Are there already clever face-recognition procedures that would enable me to find out who he is, if he is anyone? If you are the kind of person who knows about such things, then please do this yourself, and tell me.
Whenever, of a Friday, I go looking for cat news, there is always plenty.
Pride of place today goes to the news that the New York shooter loved his two cats. But, it is now argued, by some different scientists to the scientists who argued the opposite, that he can’t have caught brain cancer from his cats, because that doesn’t happen. Good to know. But, you might be driven by your cats to commit suicide. How about murder?
On the other hand, Cats that pester for food could be suffering from psychological condition. Yes. They’re cats.
News of a cat that is making itself useful: Cat opens new excavator plant in Texas. That must have been something to see. What did the cat say? Did it just chuck a champagne bottle against the side of the excavator plant? Is there video of this?
Next up, the encouraging news that M12 Cat 6A connector system delivers signal integrity up to 10Gbps.
And, in Israel, new born and very rare (apparently) sand kittens, like this one:
I actually don’t think the one on the right is very good. The cat connection is imposed, not explained.
I just did a posting here about Doctor Theatre, which is about how performing stops you being ill for the duration of the performance. But as soon as I stuck it up here, I realised it would also do for Samizdata, so I put it there instead. Perhaps commenters will tell me about the physiological processes involved. Hope so.
I seem to be almost the only person writing for Samizdata just now. This troubles me.
This could really have gone in the same posting as the photo below, but no matter:
Strata doesn’t need to be in focus to look like Strata, and is not. The roof clutter needs, I think, to be in focus, and is.
Taken in March of this year, later afternoon.
In accordance with what I promised earlier this week, a quota photo, by me this time, which I just happened to like when browsing through the archives:
I like that time of the evening when there is still natural light, but when artificial light is coming into its own.
In general, central London’s street lights tend to be rather handsome, I think.
Darren Hopkinson, responding to this earlier posting about the fortunes (and misfortunes) of Surrey County Cricket Club, said he had a photo of the scoreboard at the same time I did a Cricinfo screen capture, both of us capturing what may prove to be the pivotal achievement of Surrey’s season. Would I like a copy? Yes I would.
Here is the scoreboard bit:
But just as interesting to me is what the scoreboard there is surrounded by. Empty seats. Here is the full original photo:
Okay it’s on a Monday, but even so.
One of the great attractions of watching cricket when I was a kid was that at a cricket match you weren’t stuck in one place. You could get up and stroll around, chat with friends, chat with strangers. But you can’t, when stuck in one seat among hundreds like this, just get up and wander around. Such places as this make sense when full, but are self-mockingly awful when empty.
Some clever designer should be put to work designing seating that could be turned into platforms to parade about on, sell hot dogs on, discuss business on, drink coffee at coffee tables on, when the number of people present is such that this would be possible. Either seats that twiddle magically, or some kind of cover that just superimposes something else on top of them. I know, I know, expense, health and safety. But something must be done about this rows of empty seats awfulness.
The contract would be a bit odd, because it would say come and have a great time in a great place, but forget about that coffee table if lots of other people show up besides you. But I reckon this would be a far better deal than now. Great if rather few people are there, because all those empty seats have been magically hidden away or got around or whatever. Great if lots of people show up, because that’s great already.
LATER: Remembering Maynard.
Well, I think it’s time I resumed more regular postings here, by sticking up more quota photos, so here’s one:
“Photocoy”. Heh. It’s isn’t a word, but it should be.
That could easily have been taken by me. It’s London, after all. Actually it was taken by Kristine Lowe, who writes of it:
Modern newsagents are diversifying as quickly as they can it seems. I just came across this fascinating photo I snapped last year because I was stunned by how many different services and goods this London newsagent sold. Is there a parallel here to the media industry? Should there be more of a parallel than there is? In either case, I find it a fascinating photo to contemplate.
I don’t know if it is right to call this shop a “newsagent”. England has always had what you might call “everything shops” run by persons who are shopaholics not in the sense of loving shopping but of loving to be in their shop all around the clock, and to have every little thing imaginable on sale in their shop.
But the thing that interests me about what Kristine says is about how she only realised how much she liked this photo when browsing through her photos, much later. Snap. I know exactly the feeling.
And like I always say, my camera regularly sees more than I do.
I can feel it starting to get harder to wander around London, physically. But I will be able to wander through my photo archives for many more years yet. As with wine collections, time will only add to the value.
Meanwhile, England are now trying not to lose in the final day of the series against South Africa at Lord’s. They are now 41-3, “chasing” (i.e. not chasing) 346.
If England were to chase for real and to get those runs, they would draw the series and still be the top ranked test team. If they lose this game, South Africa win this series 2-0 and go top of the rankings. If England draw, South Africa win the series 1-0 and go top. Yet, England are playing not to lose this game rather than to win it:
. . . . 1 . | . . . . . . | . . . . . . | . . . . . . | . . . . . 1 |
As soon as they announced it, I was very keen on the test match ranking system, even though I still don’t know how they do the sums. I believed then, and believe still, that this system confers meaning on games that would otherwise mean far less.
But the trouble is, there is no one moment at which you must be top. To win a World Cup, you have to win a particular tournament, and finally one particular game. There can be no “building for the future” when you are playing in a World Cup Final. This is it. If this game at Lord’s were a World Cup Final, and the test rankings were being fixed now for the next, say, three years, England would go down swinging. They would not be playing for a draw.
As it is, England are almost certainly now calculating that they would do better to surrender the top spot now, but in a way that enables them to get back to the top if they play their next few matches better, than try to keep the top spot now and probably thus fall further behind during the next few games.
It is even possible that their determination to draw rather than win this game is actually strengthened by the test ranking system. “Win each series” gets replaced by “do as well as possible in each game but try nothing silly”.
If England were to draw this game, with Trott, Taylor and Bairstow (the remaining top order batters) all batting well, they would be well pleased. That, for England, would be a result.
Not that that is now going to happen. Taylor run out trying to get a fourth run.
Bloody hell. 45-4. Are England still trying to win?
Enter Jonny B.
First the Surrey disintegration, following The Maynard Death. Now this. Crushed at the Oval, and now being crushed again at Lord’s.
How long will Strauss remain captain of this team, and thus a test match cricketer? How hard will they try to sort out the Pietersen mess? Hard, I hope.
But what’s this?
. 3 . . . 4 | 1 . . 4 4 . | . . . 4 . 4 | . 2 . . . . | 4 . . . 4 . |
England 79-4 now. South Africa buying a wicket presumably, and having everyone in close catching positions. Jonny B 20 in 15 balls. Makes sense.
And oh look, incoming from Michael J:
If South Africa win (or even draw) this match, they will take the number one ranking off England. If Australia then beat South Africa in Australia in November (by any margin), Australia will take the number one raking off South Africa.
Judging by recent performances of South Africa and Australia, I don’t think this is extremely likely, but who knows? (Australia tend to play above themselves against South Africa). It is very possible that next year’s Ashes series could start with England holding the Ashes but Australia holding the number one spot.
All of which shows how successful the test ranking system is at keeping everyone interested. Everyone who already is interested, that is to say.
But the four day game between Surrey and Middlesex that ended yesterday was far funnier, as it far more unpredictable.
Even since Tom Maynard got himself topped by a train earlier in the season, Surrey have been heading inexorably out of the top division of the County Championship. They lost a top batsman, Maynard, of course. They lost another (then) top batsman, Hamilton-Brown, who was Maynard’s good buddy from school, and who shared a house with him. Hamilton-Brown just could not take playing serious cricket in the immediate aftermath of the Maynard catastrophe, and was given compassionate leave.
Just before all this blew up, Surrey had decided that Mark Ramprakash was no longer Mark Ramprakash, and he was retired. In retrospect, they must have cursed the timing, but you can’t reverse a decision like that.
And the rest of the Surrey batting, notably Davies and de Bruyn, had a loss of form that has lasted pretty much ever since all this misery.
Into the side, on the back of no more than belief amongst the coaches, presumably, that they were the best people available, have come second string batters like, well, Burns and Harinath. Burns showed sparks of adequacy, but Harinath scarcely even that. Yet, needs must.
So, Surrey v Middx. Day 1. Surrey all out 144, after the usual batting fiasco. Middx 99-1. Game over, you’d think. I certainly did. But on day 2, the bowlers, notably the spinner Kartik, rally, and Middx are reduced to 188-9, only leading on first innings by 44. Game on. But then, a last wicket stand takes Middx to nearly a hundred ahead, and Surrey start to bat again, losing their first wicket at 13. Ansari. Ansari has filled in well in one day games. Today, for instance, he hit a useful 30. In general, this season, after the top order has disappeared for about nothing, Ansari, if playing, has tended to make enough runs for the game to last long enough not to be a total embarrassment. But him getting out cheaply in a four day game was no surprise.
But then, Burns and Harinath, instead of following Ansari back to the pavilion with similarly small scores, leaving Surrey then to slump to something like 50 for 6 or 7 overnight (losing by an innings or nearly that the following morning), do something very peculiar. They do not get out. Instead they reach 86-1 by the close of day 2.
And then, on day 3, this is what happens:
Since the Maynard Death, Surrey have basically had only one batsman capable of making a big, game changing score, and he only very fleetingly: Kevin Pietersen. Other than him, nothing. No big innings. And no big stands. (See what I mean about how they must be cursing the Ramps retirement.) Yet, Burns and Harinath both make hundreds and put on over two hundred. The rest of the Surrey batting do their best to lose the game, but by then it is settled, Middx will have to bat properly to win.
Only the Middx tail does bat properly, very properly as it happens. But it isn’t quite enough, and Surrey win … by 8 runs.
Yes, Batty and Kartik did very well, each taking eight wickets in the match. But they can bowl, that’s a given. Spinners are, well, spinners, sociologically men apart, like goalies. When a mere batsman dies during a drunken night out, they care, but not as much as normal cricketers do. They just carry on spinning. Also, if they do care, what do they do? Bowl half a dozen long hops. Big deal. What do batsmen in mourning do? Score half a dozen ducks. Different, I think you will agree
The surprise was, in this Middx game, not that Batty and Kartik bowled well, but that Batty and Kartik got the chance to bowl well. They did get that chance, courtesy of Burns and Harinath.
See Gareth Batty, now club captain following Hamilton-Brown jacking it in, talking about the game, in the video here (scroll down).
If Surrey do not get relegated, this will be when that did not happen.
A reason for the posting gap here is that I have been ill, and have still not fully recovered. But this is not the only reason. One can blog when ill. I could have. I didn’t. Instead I followed the Kevin Pietersen Affair.
Then, I wrote about that for Samizdata, which also took a while.
That Bitcoin meeting went well, and I owe the world some further bloggings about that, which will presumably materialise Real Soon Now. One of the things I learned at that meeting is that there are people I do not know who actually read this blog.
Although, come to think of it, maybe I now know all of you.
Incoming from Michael J:
I could just use a nice little slice or two of Helvetica on my toast.
I have been trying to ignore the Olympics, and I actually did (I now realise) pretty much completely ignore the Beijing Olympics. But if you live in London and the Olympics are in London, remaining indifferent to the Olympics is hard, especially in a place containing lots of Jamaicans, or at any rate Jamaicans for the night.
I took some photos of the screen, featuring Usain Bolt taking some photos of his own.
My photos were wonky and taken from way off to the side, like this:
But, stretched out and rotated a bit, that one looks quite good:
Here is a more photographically professional treatment of the same story, and they have some of the photos that Bolt himself took.
My favourite Bolt snap is this one:
How many photographers do you see there?
The man in the red circle is the owner of the camera Bolt borrowed. He was obviously not in any doubt that his camera would be returned to him by Bolt (rather than it going walkies in all the excitement), and he was a very happy man.
I have just noticed something about my computer, which is that it changes the colour of my photos when it shows them to me. To be precise, “Windows Photo Viewer” does this. It turns them slightly yellower than they are. I know this, because I just asked it to show me a black and white photo, and it turned that slightly yellow.
When it is showing a big directory of little photos, it doesn’t bugger up the colours, but when you pick on one, it does. All around the photo on show, if the photo is a small one, this slightly yellow colour is to be seen, and this slightly yellow colour pervades the photo itself.
Individual photo selected and displayed:
How do I turn the background to white, and the photo to black and white?
It was, until I realised what was going on, like that red ace of spades thing. You know there is something wrong, but you just cannot see what, even though all the evidence you need is right there in front of you. What I now quite clearly see is quite clearly happening just did not compute inside my head. I mean, why the hell would they do this? What the effing eff is the idea of changing the colour of a photograph?. It’s so insane, I just could not see them doing it.
This is a major issue for me, because until just a few minutes ago, I thought there was something wrong with my otherwise totally wonderful camera. It never occurred to me that Microsoft was lying to me, by falsifying the colours in my photos. But it was, and it still is. As I say, barking effing mad.
How do I make them stop?
Last Sunday, I journeyed to by train from nearby Victoria Station to Peckham Rye, to take photos from the Peckham Roof, and also to meet up with some fellow Samizdatistas plus a Mrs and Baby Samizdatista. And of course, I took photos, of the roof and from the roof.
But the photos I took from out of the train on the way turned out just as well as most of those later snaps taken when I got there. The thing is, to photo London’s Big Things interestingly, you don’t have to be miles up in the sky. If all you do is get above regular roof level, you can see almost as much.
The light and weather were splendid and the carriage was deserted, so I hardlly felt foolish at all, snapping away through the shiny, reflective glass. Yes, there are reflections. I was in a train!
Two of the snaps, taken within seconds of each other, lent themselves particularly to the horizontal slicing process that I am fond of, especially the second one. Click to get them bigger, and to see all the foreground South London clutter, in front of the Big Things:
I got lucky there with the horizontalness of the camera with those two, which I often bugger up on account of my glasses “correcting” the view, but actually making it hard to get it horizontal and vertical, like it should be.
I wasn’t so lucky with most of this next clutch, which are just snaps from out of the train that I like. I could have straightened out all the wonky ones with my NotPhotoshop programme, but why bother? I was in a train!
And how about those Unités d’Habitation, bottom centre.
When you photo things, you see them.
Finally, a couple of snaps taken at the top. On the left, another of the rain, and of what the rest of the roof not occuped by Frank’s Cafe looks like. On the right, on another bit of the roof, a very strange state of affairs.
Table tennis eight stories up, in the open? I think they were expecting a nicer summer.
I am having lots of problems with internet connection at the moment, which is one of the reasons I haven’t updated this blog as much as I should have lately. Just when it became urgent to feed BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, the problems began.
The Guru is now ensconced in my kitchen, trying to get God’s internet connection to work, and I am typing this on Judas. (For casual visitors, spam commenters etc.: God is my big suitcase type computer, under my desk. Jesus was my first (crappy) netbook, and Judas is Jesus’s replacement.) But getting Judas’s internet connection to work has been almost as hard as getting God’s working. Both should soon be okay. A “microfilter” has been replaced, so I’m hoping that was the cause of God’s problems.
What I’m saying is: I’m not dead or anything. I’ve just been a bit disconnected.
LATER (Tuesday morning): Well, all seems to be working okay now. Changing the “microfilter” has put an end (touch wood) to random outages, followed by equally random inages, neither happening in a way that seemed connected to anything that the Guru or I had been doing, until the Guru said change the microfilter. Oddly, I had been pondering taking the microfilter into Dixons (Comet? whatever) and saying, I want another of these. Oddly, I would now quite like another, with more sockets in it, so that I can then also connect Judas by wire to the internet, when sitting on my sofa at home, rather than faffing about with dongles, etc. Anyway, life seems to be back to normal.
Last night, the Guru used the word “should” a lot. “Should” work, “should” do it, etc. “Should” is one of the most portentously troublesome words in English, when someone is trying to get something computational to work, in my experience. But, at least it proves that the person saying it himself has plenty of experience. The more experience he has, the more he emphasises the word, because the more weird things he has been involved in that “should”.have worked ... but didn’t. Until they found the ear-ring hiding in the fan, realised that the computer was allergic to the car, realised that it was all the fault of the microfilter, blah blah blah.
Thank God this stuff only started happening after me organising that Bitcoin meeting. Outages/inages/outages greatly disrupted all the thankyou-ing I have been trying to do, but not the more serious matter of making the meeting happen in the first place.