Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Wednesday July 31 2013

Photographed by me recently, in Page Street (with its striking chess board housing blocks), near where I live:

image

I hugely prefer the original version to the new iteration, but this preference is based mostly on looks.  I have never driven the new version, and do not hanker to.  But I have done a spell of driving with the original Mini.  When I got my first job, helping (although that’s not really the right word) to built houses, they gave me a Mini to get to and from the site.  Best car I’ve ever driven.  Not that I’ve done very much driving since then.

The particular old Mini in my photo has also been given a somewhat C21 treatment.  It could surely never have got away with looking like that in the 1960s.

Friday July 26 2013

imageIs that a picture of the world’s smallest cat?  Apparently a lot of people on the wwwaffler think that it is.  But sadly, not.

On a more serious feline matter, I note that the blog Counting Cats in Zanzibar seems to be suffering very badly just now, although I would love to be corrected with the news that it is merely me that doesn’t know how to get to it and all is well.  As I recall, they lost all the comments - as in: their software refused any longer to display them.  Presumably some kind of rebuilding process is now under way.  Hope so.  I wish them a speedy recovery.

LATER: Sorted - I think.  Again: hope so.

Meanwhile, very bad luck.  If you know nothing of cricket, trust me, this is a right handbagging:

image

I don’t remember it ever getting as bad as that in any Prep School game I ever played in.  Or ever watched.  Or ever heard of.  Not even when we slaughtered Staines Prep, as we always did, did it ever get that bad.  For Staines Prep.

Compared to that, this was quite a close run thing.

But well played Ayako Nakayama, who top scored for Japan Women with 12.

LATER: Better.  A loss but absolutely not a humiliation.

Nakayama not out 17, which was top score for Japan apart from Extras.  And she can bowl.

Friday July 19 2013

Perry de Havilland doesn’t like it when we discuss Blog Admin in comment threads.  Fair enough, his gaff his rules.  But here in the privacy of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, I can say whatever I like about such things.  And today, a couple of Samizdata screen captures:

image

That’s the bottom of the latest Samizdata posting from Johnathan Pearce.

Note the big gap, between the last of the actual text of the posting, and the bit where it says the date and the number of comments.

JP always seems to get this wrong, by piling in with about half a dozen carriage returns at the bottom of what he has written, which WordPress faithfully reproduces.

Until WordPress is told otherwise, by an editorial elf:

image

I see I sliced off the thingy at the very bottom of each posting in that second screen capture there.  This was, I think, because I do like vertically narrow pictures, as was a regular theme here a year or two back.  But either way, you get the picture.

The other thing JP always seems to get wrong is the indentation on Samizdata quotes of the day.  The text of these is supposed to be not indented, but JP always seems to indent it.  And I really do mean always.  It’s the exception when he doesn’t do this.

For a bloke who has been a steady contributor to Samizdata for over a decade this is very odd.  I guess it is because he is so highly valued – and quite rightly so – that PdeH doesn’t make a fuss, but instead just laughs about it.

My latest Samizdata offering is this, about some Greenpeace people climbing up the Shard.

Now I am going to add lots of carriage returns here, to see if ExpressionEngine does this.  No sign of a problem from within the posting process, but some things only show up in the final, on-line version.  So, let’s post this and see.

No, no problem.  No big space in the final version.

Now let me try putting a big gap between this paragraph ...

... and the next one.  How does that look?

Again, no big space there.  Which is actually a bit of a problem.  Sometimes you want a space.

Saturday July 13 2013

The Broad Incident (known about by all who care, not cared about by those who don’t know) somewhat spoiled my enjoyment of the closing stages of Day Three of the amazing Trent Bridge Ashes test match.  (Broad nicked an obvious catch to slip. The umpire missed it.  Broad did not give himself out, but instead stuck around.) England’s subsequent progress somehow didn’t really count.  That’s how it felt, to me.  To all those who say: The Spirit of Cricket is Dead, I say, I know just how you feel.  And I feel your pain.

But I think that what I think is that expecting batsmen to walk when they know (but the umpire doesn’t know) that they are out introduces an unfair imbalance.

After all, if you are given out, but you know that you are not out because you missed it by half a yard, but if your team has run out of referrals (as Australia had yesterday) or if no referrals are allowed in the first place, you aren’t allowed to say: “Ah well, you see, I know that I’m not actually out, so, actually, I’m going to have to over-rule the umpire on this particular occasion.  I’m going to stick around.  Sorry and all that.  Carry on everyone.”

This is not allowed, unless you are W. G. Grace.

On the other hand it would, I think, make perfect sense, if a batsman walks (Gilchrist style) having been given not out by the umpire, if the umpire were then to say: “Heh!  Where d’you think you’re going?  Get back here!  I said: Not Out.  How dare you over-rule my decision.  Outrageous dissent.  Totally against the Spirit of Cricket.”

Yet it would seem that The Spirit of Cricket, as expounded by all those who were saying yesterday that Broad had gone totally against it, says that the umpires are not after all the sole judges of fact.  Odd.

It was interesting that, amidst all the outrage, when Mark Nicholas asked his three assembled experts at the close of play on Channel 5 TV, what about it fellas?, they all said a shorter version of what I just said.  Boycott said: when you’re given out wrongly, you have to go.  So if the umpire makes a mistake in your favour, you should be allowed to stick around.  It’s up to the umpire not to get it wrong.  And the other two, Vaughan and Martyn, both agreed.

It was a bit like that Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch, where they all agreed that the answer to juvenile delinquency was castration, with no dissenting, balancing voices.

The good news is that England got on the wrong side of a couple of dodgy decisions on Day Two.  If Agar had been given out stumped, when in single figures, England would have been well in front of this game by now.  When I thought about that, and the dodgy dismissal of Trott, both circumstances having been copiously explained yesterday by everyone commenting or commentating, I didn’t feel so bad about the Broad Incident.

Day Four has just got under way, with England starting at 326-6, 261 ahead.  Broad has already got his fifty, and Bell has his hundred.  Worse, for the Aussies, they have already missed a catch, one of those embarrassing things where two slip fielders, either of whom could have caught it, just watched the ball go between them.  Broad.

Re dropped catches, see my piece here on that subject a couple of years ago, one of my better ones, I think.  The same thing applies to dodgy umpiring decisions.  Bad teams dwell on things that don’t go there way.  Good teams forget about them, and concentrate on making the next lot of things go their way, confident that this will happen.  On the evidence of the last few hours of this test match, England are the better team.

Blofeld of the BBC is referring to Aussie bowler Michell Starc as “Starkers”.

England 345-6, 280 ahead.

357-7.  Broad out for 65.

Friday July 12 2013

I see that I still have some photos left to show you, of The Wedding.  (See also these, these, these, these, these, and these.)

This last lot – and I do promise you that this really is it – shows the event winding down.  My favourite is the one of the Bride (3.2), striding purposefully (but not too personally recognisably) across the dance floor, in pursuit of some wifely purpose or other.  I was able to do that thing you do with fast moving objects, and blur the background.  I love that effect.

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

As you can see there are a couple of reflection photos (1.1, 1.3).  As already mentioned, there were two Real Photographers present, a wise precaution.

Ms Real Photographer told me that one of the big things Mr Real Photographer taught her was, when you photo a thing and the thing reflected, photo the reflection, and let the thing take care of itself.  I rather think that 1.1 was taken right after she said that.  And presumably that’s what she is doing in 2.2.

The end of an excellent day.  I got a car ride home, which turned into a bit of a nightmare on account of the M4 being dug up.  Luckily, however, I had my recently acquired Google Nexus 4 with me, complete with its ever changing map, with its arrow showing where I am.  Thanks to that, we eventually found our way to the M3, and thus home.

And that concludes my The Wedding photo-postings.

As regulars here will know, I am constantly fascinated by what goes on at the top of London’s buildings.  I love the Big Tops that are built to impress, like the Shard, the Strata, the Gherkin.  I love all the decorative stuff done in earlier centuries.  I love chimney pots, which used to come in all shapes and sizes.  And I love all the anarchic clutter that electronic communication of various sorts has placed at the top of otherwise utterly bland and forgettable blocks.

So here are some recent snaps, celebrating all that:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

Those are shown in chronological order of me taking them.

1.1, 1.2 and 3.2 are are all quite near to me, taken in the vicinity of Warwick Way.

1.3 is the kind of thing you see when a big building site gets into gear, and then of course stop seeing when the work is done.

2.1 was taken in Lower Marsh, I think.

2.2 is Strata, also taken in Lower Marsh ish, peeping over a roof with a decorative knob on it.

2.3 is a bit indistinct, being roof clutter reflected off a big glass fronted building, but the clutter is there if you look.

3.1 is a bit of a cheat, because it is the umbrella that makes the picture, not the decorative roof (Parliament) behind it.  But again, the roof is there.

3.2 includes the top of the big tower on the other side of the river from me, i.e. on the south side.
is a

3.3 is a big lump in Park Lane, as viewed from just inside Hyde Park, near Hyde Park Corner.  I went with a friend to Hyde Park yesterday, hoping to view a statue of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, emerging from the Serpentine.  No luck.  Gone.  Or maybe just not where we looked.

Thursday July 11 2013

Ever wondered what a Quagga is, or even if such a thing exists?  Wonder no more.

England sports fans, cricket fans especially, are noted for their pessimism.  There is no situation from which an England team cannot snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and you can rely on an England fan to point this out, before during, and even right at the very end, just before (if they do) England win.  I believe the Welsh are the same.  But pessimism of this sort has its uses.

Yesterday, for instance, I did this posting on Samizdata about how all the proper commentators are saying that England will walk it against Australia in the two forthcoming Ashes series, home and away.  Not so fast, I said.  England could lose.  With sport, you never know.

The result of this posting was that I was happy all of yesterday, no matter what happened.  If England got off to a flyer, hurrah.  If they did not, hurrah, because: I told you so.  England lost early wickets, and later failed to recover.  Hurrah, I told you so.  Then, England knocked over four top order Aussies.  Hurrah.  Now, Australia are building a threatening stand.  They are over a hundred for four, having earlier been 22-3, with Clarke bowled by an Anderson beauty.  Heads I win, tails I win.  Hurrah hurrah.

Australia 108-5.  Smith snicks at Anderson.  Hurrah again.

Now that everyone is able, thanks to all the New Media, to publicise their pessimistic sporting prophecies, this pleasurable effect is now greatly intensified.

Does this sort of thing explain real life pessimism, even real life pessimism on a cosmic scale, of the We Are All Doomed sort?  When the world does end, will it end to joyous cries of: I told you so! ?

Australia 113-6!  114-7!!  Hurrah!!!

114-8.  Fiver for Jimmy A.  Okay all this is very good for England, but this is so good it also illustrates that ... with sport you never know!  Hurrah hurrah hurrah!!!

117-9.

LUNCH: Australia 229-9.  Last wicket stand of 112 and counting.  First innings lead of 14 and counting.  Hughes 63 not out.  Agar, highest scoring ever test match number 11 debutant: 69 not out.

With sport, you just never know.

Hurrah.

LATER: Agar is nearing a century.  Already biggest ever score by any test number eleven, never mind a debutant.  Amazing.

World record tenth wicket partnership in tests.

Doh!  Agar out for 98.  Shame.

Really, with sport, you never, never know.

With me, time spent polishing my blog postings (mostly for here) is usually time well spent.  When I look through my bloggings over the years, as I do from time to time, I believe my best bits are pretty good, but my average ones are often lacking that last bit of effort.  In particular, my bloggings suffer from the problem identified in the title above.

But another sin I commit is combining sentences, and paragraphs, by self-interrupting.  (I am a terrible interrupter, as the friends I still have who have not pissed off because fed up with my interrupting will all agree.) Here, the answer is either to divide up the one interrupted sentence into two separate sentences, or in the case of this paragraph, to extract the interruption, to stop it spoiling the main thread.  Brackets are the lazy way of doing this.  Sometimes they work, but sometimes not.

Often, however, having done that (by “that” I mean what I was talking about before I interrupted myself (by talking about how I am prone to interrupting myself (and by talking about brackets)), namely separating a combination-by-interruption sentence into separate sentences), I end up with good sentences, but in the wrong order.  What I then need to do, but often neglect to do, is rearrange the sentences into the proper order.

While doing this, I often discover that the same thought is expressed twice or more.  This is where that Hemingway thing about a good piece being as good as the stuff that is cut out of it applies.  Saying everything you have to say in the correct order, and say it just the once, or only as often as you need to.

I seem to have two good sorts of postings.  There are the big ones that I worked hard on to get right in the manner described above, and there are the small ones, that are too small to have got in a muddle.  But then there are the in-between ones which should have been worked on some more.

At first, when Blogging Began, this didn’t matter so much.  Any blog was a bonus, and any blog posting attracted lots of readers.  Now, blogging has settled down into something that only a few people do, and it is either good, or mostly ignored.  The rest of the world has moved on.

This posting is just going to be shoved up, in its first draft form.  This will probably be a mistake.

My title, for those who don’t know, is an echo of a famous line in this famous TV sketch.

Sunday July 07 2013

Incoming from Craig Willy, of whom I did not know until now:

Hello Brian,

I see you’ve written a great deal on Emmanuel Todd. I have just written a summary of his big history book, L’invention de l’Europe. I thought you might find it interesting.

I also see you have the impression he mainly criticizes the U.S. for being a “hollowed out,” financialized “fake” economy. In fact he is incredibly critical of the eurozone, for that very reason, which he argues is responsible for the hollowing out, dysfunction and financialism of the French and peripheral European economies.

All the best, and feel free to share if you write anything new on Todd. My Twitter.

Craig

In response to my email thanking him for the above email, and asking if he has written anything else about Todd, Willy writes:

I discuss him a fair bit on my Twitter feed as he offends many with his criticism of Germany and euroskepticism. Otherwise I just wrote this short piece on Todd and the euro from a while back.

This I have now read.  Very interesting, and I think very right.  Interesting parallel between the Euro and the Algerian War.

Things appear to be really motoring on the Todd-stuff-in-English front.  At last.

Thursday July 04 2013

I like scaffolding:

image imageimage image

That was all photoed last week, where they are rebuilding Victoria tube station.  There is always lots of scaffolding on the go in London.  Lovely for a photographer like me, who is obsessed with Mondrianic rectangles, and who likes to notice (as do many other photographers) aesthetic effects created by things not done for any aesthetic purpose.

But I don’t like scaffolding so much when it is right outside my kitchen window, as it now is, for some ludicrously expensive tarting up of the block of flats where I live.

image

Luckily they do not have a loud radio.  I am now playing them a Beethoven piano concerto.

I have been listening out for amusing things said by the scaffolders, in their loud cockney voices.  So far the nearest thing to that has been this not very choice piece of dialogue, clearly audible, unlike most of their cockney shoutings:

“I like Jeremy Clarkson.”

“Are you on ‘is Twitter?”

“Yeah.”

I like Clarkson too, despite not being on his Twitter, until now, if that mere link counts.  But I agree, this is not really much.  Maybe they’ll improve on this in the days to come.

This piece is from May 28, and the fixing concerned the IPL, then in progress, but the sentiments are permanent:

As a sports fan who likes to think of himself as a member of the “serious” class of that demographic, I enjoy embedding sport in its broader social, cultural, economic and political contexts; indeed, it is these contexts that elevate sport above mere coordinated physical exertion and give it its most resonant and rich meanings. Such a placement in context does a great deal to enhance and make richer my appreciation of the on-field endeavours of those who play the game; I track my growth in maturity as a fan as correlating quite closely with the increasing attention I paid to cricket’s history, economics and culture. Taking one’s eyes off the on-field action to look behind and around is thus a crucial aspect of understanding it better.

Me too.

But these broader inquiries should never make us lose sight of the bare bones of the game, the basic bat-on-ball stuff. When that happens, we have been distracted adversely and our attention, supposedly meant for the game, has been consumed elsewhere. We aren’t being fans of the game any more; we have been suckered into something else altogether.

My resentment and frustration about the latest fixing scandal to strike cricket is grounded not just in in a very real weariness about the unending capacity for stupidity and greed on the part of cricket’s players and managers. (Killing golden geese is always tempting; too many seem to have succumbed recently.) It is a reaction, too, to fixing’s insidious ability to make cricketing action seem like a bizarre simulacrum of the real thing, to render ersatz that which I need to believe real in order to sustain my fanhood.

What I despise most about fixing is that it slaps me upside the head and tells me I’m wasting my time, that I’d do better to find other ways to while away the hours, that I should just move on, for there is no cricket here to be seen.

Exactly so.  Cheating drains the meaning out of a sport, to the point where you feel like a fool for caring about it.

Here is another desperately depressing piece about the unrepentant Danish Kaneria.  I would like to be told what was the nature of the evidence against him, though.  ECB Chairman Clarke’s statement just states that Kaneria is guilty, basically, of trying to recruit other Essex players into his gang of bribees, and that he should come clean.  Clarke doesn’t say anything about what that evidence was.  Other players?  Tapes?  Was it all just the word of one other player, Mervyn Westfield, whom Kaneria persuaded to take bribes?  If so, why did they believe what Westfield said about Kaneria?

Same report here, from the BBC.  Again, no detail about what the evidence was.  The opinion that Kaneria is guilty seems to be unanimous, but I would like to be told a bit more about why that is, just to be sure that Kaneria’s life ban is the right thing.  If he is guilty and unrepentant, then it surely is.

Tuesday July 02 2013

Sorry about the gap.  I have no excuse, other than the fact that, what with this being my personal kitten-blog, I don’t need an excuse.

But I do have a bit of an excuse.  I have been struck by an ‘itis.  Blepharitis.  It sounds like something made up by comedians, but it is all too real:

Blepharitis is inflammation of the rims of the eyelids, which causes them to become red and swollen.

Blepharitis is common, accounting for an estimated 1 in 20 eye problems reported to GPs. It is more common in people over 50, although it can develop at any age.

Last week, I journeyed to Moorfields Eye Hospital, where I was diagnosed as suffering from this.  The effect is that your tears become less good at cleaning the surface of your eyeballs, which makes it feel like you’ve got soap in your eyes, or something.

I could, of course, tell that something was not right.  But don’t worry, my eyes look nothing like the scary picture at the other end of that link, and they assure me that I am not going blind.