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

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Friday March 24 2017

A few days back, probably because it has long been aware of my fascination with cat fascination, the Great Machine in the Sky presented me with this advertisement:

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Click on it to get to what was being advertised.

What it is, of course, is a system for a machine to become aware of other machines in its vicinity and thereby to communicate with these other machines, and this system is the work of CAT.  But the idea that a machine might somehow learn to realise if there is a cat in its vicinity, and would then, if there is, feel compelled to alert other machines to this menace, is rather clearly suggested.

If you do click on the above piece of horizontality, you will be greeted by the following claim:

WHEN MACHINES TALK, EVERYONE’S SAFER.

In a week’s time, there will be a Brian’s Last Friday meeting at which the speaker, Chris Cooper, will be contesting this claim.

Thursday March 23 2017

Taking pictures like these, which I took earlier in the week, is really easy, if you have a twiddly screen, the way all my cameras have had, ever since I first got a camera with a twiddly screen:

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Imagine how to compose all those shots while looking vertically upwards, the way my camera was.

On a more serious note, what these photos illustrate is the design anarchy of London.  Individual buildings are designed.  Of course they are.  But there is little in the way of aesthetic coordination going on.

But, imagine if there was aesthetic coordination.  There would have to be an aesthetic coordinator, individual or collective.  And what if that coordinator made everything conform to a dreary design?  All those who say that London’s Big Things should be overseen by a Grand Designer all assume that the Grand Designer would impose a Grand Design they would like.  But Big Things are often very ugly, so the Grand Design might be ugly too.

No, I prefer anarchy, where each building does its own thing.  Successful styles are copied.  Failed styles gradually get phased out.  Okay, very gradually.

And each Big Thing developer gets to do what he wants to do with his own property.  The resulting anarchy is something I relish rather than regret.

Wednesday March 22 2017

Incoming from Michael Jennings, who encountered this sign at (a?) (the?) Jodhpur Fort in Rajasthan:

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Hm, what to do?

Easy.  Use a drone instead.

LATER: See first comment.  It’s this:

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There can only be one fort like that.

Categories updated to include Architecture, History, Sport, and War.

Blog and learn.

Tuesday March 21 2017

Indeed:

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Leake Street is that tunnel under the Waterloo approach tracks, filled with an ever-changing display of grafitti.  And of photoers photoing it.

Monday March 20 2017

This evening I attended a talk at Christian Michel’s, about (and against) major increases in the human lifespan.

The speaker quoted luminaries saying that infinite life would lead to infinite meaningless of life.  People would just get bored.  It is death that gives life its meaning.  Immortality would drain the meaning out of life.

But from the floor came a different surmise, to the effect that the imminence of death, to some anyway, causes a slowing down, a draining away of zest.  Greatly prolonged life - accompanied by the enhanced and prolonged energy and zestfulness that would make prolonged life enjoyable, rather than merely bearable, or worse, unbearable - would surely cause many now considered old to get stuck seriously into new projects, confident that they would have a serious amount of time and energy left to devote to them.  Something like immortality would cause more lust for life, rather than less.  People who expect to die soon are now inclined just to sit back and wait for it.

When I first encountered a primitive version of the very word processing that I am indulging in right now, nearly fifty years ago now, I hurled myself into learning to type, confident that the investment of time and effort would more than pay for itself.  Had I been nearly seventy when I first encountered word processing for the first time, would I have bothered with it?  Probably, not.  If, on the other hand, I could now confidently expect another seventy or so years of active life, would I now be more inclined to adapt to new techniques and processes?  Yes.  I am pretty much certain that I would be more adventurous, more willing to invest time and energy, if the pay-off was going to be five or more decades of further potential impact rather than just the one decade or so that I now anticipate.

The speaker from the floor who expressed this most eloquently was Chris Cooper, who is giving my next Last Friday of the Month talk, on March 31st, on the subject of the rise of the robots.  Chris thinks they will become our robot overlords.

What I can say with confidence is that one of the reasons I don’t now get stuck into new ways of doing things, new ways that might greatly improve things for me, is that whereas the investment of effort and energy would be unchanged from what was required fifty years ago, the benefits I can expect to gain, now that death looms, will be greatly diminished.

So, if death did not now loom ...

Sunday March 19 2017

It’s always sad when a bridge collapses, and there is a special poignancy about the recent collapse, in Malta, of this one:

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That picture comes from the best report (courtesy the BBC) that I could find of this sad circumstance, the best because it had both a before and an after picture, of the bridge, and then of the same place, but without the bridge.

Malta’s famous Azure Window rock arch has collapsed into the sea after heavy storms.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the news was “heartbreaking”.

The Azure Window rock arch didn’t collapse because the top of the arch failed.  Rather did the pillar in the sea succumb to erosion.

Here’s wishing Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Dorsetshire …:

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… happiness and long life.

Saturday March 18 2017

Indeed:

image

Presumably they were selling stuff like this.

I like it when my pictures include clocks, and that clock is a particular favourite of mine.

Friday March 17 2017

My day in Highbury and Islington (and Canonbury) began with me not seeing much in the way of Big Things from Islington Highbury Fields.  But very quickly, I made my way to the north eastern end of New River Walk, and took the walk along it.

The thing is, Google Maps, what with it being so easy to change the scale of, can mislead about how far apart things are.  One Google map shows you a big area, that it will take you a day to explore properly.  But then, following further button pushing, another map, which looks like it is of an equally big area, is actually of a place you can be all over within less than two hours.  So it was last Monday.

Everything that day was smaller and more suburban and contrived and just nice, compared to what I had been expecting and compared to what the more northerly bits of the New River are like, when GodDaughter One and I checked them out, back in 2015.

In particular, the New River Walk turned out to be a piece of miniature canal that has been turned into a tiny, elongated version of Hyde Park, thanks to some lottery money that was bestowed upon it in the nineties, complete with fountains, and ducks, and carefully manicured footpaths, and views of nearby affluent houses and apartments, thus:

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It’s the sort of place I am happy to have visited just the once, to check out what it is.  But it isn’t really my kind of place.

But, this is Friday, and there were ducks.  And dogs.  Quite a lot of dogs actually.  Also lots of signs saying don’t let the dogs do dog do, or if the dogs do do dog do, then do tidy it up.

Thursday March 16 2017

It went on for a really long time, though.  The show kicked off at 4.30pm, and only ended at 10pm.  There were two intervals, each of just over half and hour.  I was careful to drink very sparingly beforehand.

During the overture, before the curtain went up, I also fretted that there might not be titles in English of what was about to be sung, which would mean me spending the best part of an entire working day of time trapped in a seat and bored out of my skull, with nothing to do except listen to not-my-favourite Wagner, with constant interruptions from singers, of a sort that I typically don’t much like the sound of.  And I further fretted that if there were such titles then we might not be able to read them, what with us being stuck right next to the roof about a quarter of a mile away from the action.  But all was well.  There were titles, and they were clearly readable.

A distressing effect of us sitting up at the back and the top, was that, what with the house being pretty much full and spring having got properly started during the last day or two, it became very hot for us.  I heard one middle aged lady complaining vehemently about the heat to some hapless programme girl during the second interval, and from then on it just got hotter and hotter.

Another drawback of sitting at the top and at the back, for me and my faltering eyesight, was that I couldn’t see properly who was who on the stage.  It was just too far away.  The titles told me the meaning of what was being sung, but omitted the rather crucial detail of which character was actually singing it.  In part one this was a real problem, because the stage was mostly full of similarly dressed and similar sounding bassy-baritony blokes of a certain age, the Mastersingers of the title.  It helped that, as the night wore on, there tended to be fewer people on the stage, and I thus found it easier to deduce who was singing than it had been in part one

But oh boy, Wagner certainly takes his time with this one.  It’s supposed to be a comedy, and occasionally it was.  But one of Wagner’s favourite jokes is that he signals that something is about to happen, but then whichever dithering bass-baritone is supposed to be getting on with it then takes another five minutes actually to do it, or to sing it, or whatever he is supposed to do.  This device peaked in the final act, when Mastersinger Sixtus Beckmesser takes an age to start his butchered version of the prize song, which he has stolen from the tenor.

Leading the caste was the noted (Sir) Bryn Terfel, as Hans Sachs - philosopher, poet, Mastersinger and cobbler.  I was disappointed by him.  Terfel’s voice in no way stood out during part one, with all its other bass-baritones, and one of the other bass-baritones, Mastersinger Pogner I think it was, sounded much better to me.  This was, I believe, this guy.

The tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones, regularly complimented throughout the show on his beauty, was a fat middle-aged bloke who made a point of dressing down, rather than overdressing in the properly pompous Mastersinger style, at any rate in this production.  He looked, from my distant vantage point, more like a nightclub bouncer than a romantic lead.  But, and this is the only thing that really matters in opera, he sang brilliantly.  His voice was amazingly secure.  “Secure” sounds like damning with faint praise, but what I mean is that his voice combined the best qualities of a voice and a really well played musical instrument.  In this respect if in few others, yesterday was exactly like my earlier ROH experience, when tenor Joseph Calleja was also by far the best thing to be heard.  Hughes Jones’s performance of the prize song, right at the end, after Beckmesser’s mangling of it, was, as it should be, the musical highlight of the evening.

As with that earlier Verdi show, everyone else in this Meistersinger cast (apart from Pogner) made the usual operatic singing noises in the usual operatic ways, these usual operatic ways being the basic reason I mostly prefer classical music without singing, and as a rule avoid opera houses.  It isn’t just the crippling cost of the tickets.

There are two ways to sing opera badly.  You can sing with quite nice tone, but with far too much and far too slow and wobbly vibrato, to the point where neither pitch nor meaning are clear, even if you know the language.  Or, you can have less vibrato but a tone that sounds more like an industrial sawing process than a nice voice.  Last night, the singing wasn’t ever bad enough to be seriously off-putting to me, but there was more than a whiff of both styles on offer.  As often happens, the women were the worst wobblers.  And Bryn Terfel was the worst offender, to my ear, in the industrial sawing department, although perhaps the effect was made worse by me having been hoping for something better from him.  He did seem to get better as the evening wore on, although that could just be because both the music and the drama got better.  It got better very slowly, but it got better.

Die Meistersinger is a kind of pilgrimage, from old geezer fustiness to youthful brilliance as exemplified by the prize song, from light opera to heavy opera, from dreary pre-Wagnerian operatic frivolity, which Wagner could do only moderately well, to full-on Wagner, at which Wagner was, as you would expect, the supreme master. 

This production, especially in part one, was a bit off.  It was supposed to start in a church, but instead we were in a posh gentleman’s club, containing Mastersingers who looked more like affluent Victorian eccentrics than the real late-Middle-Ages deal.  Also, the ending was a bit un-Wagnerian, in that the lead soprano, Eva, wasn’t happy about the way the tenor was persuaded to join the Mastersingers, the way she surely was in Wagner’s mind when he wrote it.  But it was never freakishly stupid, like a Samuel Beckett play, and on the whole it didn’t just sound reasonably good, it looked very fine too.  Although Wagner takes an age to tell his story, there is at least a story to the thing that you care about.  Well, I did.  By the end.

Time to bust open the DVD of this opera that I have long possessed, having bought it for a tenner about a decade ago.  The early staging already looks much more convincing.

But, crucially, the tenor doesn’t sound, to me, nearly as good as the one I heard yesterday.  He really was something.

Wednesday March 15 2017

Or maybe Highbury.  The nearby tube station hedges its bets and claims it’s both.  (This particular spot may actually be Canonbury.)

Die Meistersinger goes on for ever, so since I don’t want to be fretting about this blog after it, but before I go to bed, here is a pre-emptive quota photo, taken on Monday:

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The pink blossom signals the arrival of spring.  But happily, 2017’s tree leaves have not yet arrived to spoil the view of the Shard, which you can just about see through the trees, to the left, as we look, of the pink blossom.

Tuesday March 14 2017

Tomorrow, my plan has been made for me.  I am to go to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, there to witness Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.  Judging by the reviews of it that I’ve just been reading, this is yet another of those productions that sounds glorious, especially when nobody is singing, but looks silly.

Here is paragraph one of what The Times has to say, before its paywall gets in the way:

The best thing about this show - indeed the best thing I’ve experienced in a theatre all season - is Antonio Pappano’s superlative conducting and his orchestra’s stunning playing of Wagner’s epic score. The Royal Opera should rename the opera “Die Meisterinstrumentalisten”, except it might not fit on posters. This is a musical interpretation of exemplary fluidity and pace, stirring in the right places (abetted by a rampant chorus), but also precise, subtle and virtuosic. After five hours and some, I wanted to hear it all again. Possibly, however, with my eyes closed.

Here is what the Evening Standard says.  And here is the Guardian.  The Guardian being the Guardian, he admires it, or tries to.  But you can tell he didn’t really like it.

The consensus seems to be that the best way to be seeing this production is on the radio.

Why are so many operatic productions like this?  My guess is that the opera audience is fixed.  The same old people - to be fair, not all of them actually old - go again and again, to see every new production, provided they expect it to be sufficiently sensational to satisfy their rather jaded tastes.  The last thing they want is a straight production, telling like it originally was when first performed.  They crave novelty, frisson, “interpretation”, and the latest singers who are on the up and up, which is why the chosen few get paid such fortunes.

Why don’t opera houses put on more trad productions, that would make much better sense, especially to newcomers?  Probably because that wouldn’t actually attract newcomers.  There are no newcomers in this market waiting to be attracted, or not in remotely sufficient numbers.  Oddballs like me, who only go about once a decade, just do not signify, economically speaking.  People either join that time- and money-rich audience of addicts who just can’t get enough of this weird art, probably by being the rich offspring of existing audience members, and perhaps also by studying opera singing, at which point they go and go and keep on going.  Or, they don’t.  And mostly, they (we) don’t.  Trad productions would merely piss off the actual audience by being too dull for them, without attracting that fantasy audience of newcomers, of ordinary people.  Sorry Opera.  Nobody ordinary is interested.

I’m only going because of some internet ticket muddle, involving a friend.  No way would I pay the full wack.  I haven’t even dared to ask what that is.

It’s weird when you think about it.  Ours is the age of manic musical authenticity.  God help any conductor who dares to change a single note of the sacred score, to make it sound more relevant to a modern audience, blah blah.  Yet with the staging, you can do any damn thing you like, provided only that you do something out of the ordinary.  This Die Meistersinger is set in some kind of gentleman’s club.  Well, it could have been worse, far worse.  It could have been set on Mars, or in Beckmesser’s drugged imagination, or in a bordello or a space station or a 3D printing factory or a football stadium or in the car park of an opera house, or in some evil combination of several of those things.

I hope I’m wrong about tomorrow’s show.  It sounds like it will at least sound really good.  And I might not hate the solo singing, or not all of it.  (I love good choral singing.) And there may even be bits of it that I like the look of.  Wish me luck.

Monday March 13 2017

The omniscient short-term weather forecasters have ordained that today’s weather will be very good, so I will go somewhere, and take photos.

Here is where I plan to go:

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I am interested in Highbury Fields, from where I hope to be able to see Big Things, uninterrupted by the leaves that will spoil such views later in the year.  And I will also, if I have time, investigate the thin strip of green that goes through where it says CANONBURY, a little bit to the south east.  This is part of the New River, more northerly bits of which I earlier explored with Goddaughter One.

I now plan to go there, because I am so old I now need a plan, in order to get out of the house, good and early, in the first place.

Sunday March 12 2017

I’m still photoing photoers, basically because the photos of photoers I took about a decade ago get more interesting by the year, and so, I’m betting, will photos like these, which I took in Trafalgar Square, last October:

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The difference from ten years ago is that I avoid photoing faces far more than I tried to then.  That means, as explained in this earlier posting, that I find myself photoing a lot of hair, as above.  Although, 3.3 is the hair on a lady’s sleeve, and the guy in 2.3 has no hair.  But, he has a hair style.

But I’m not a hair fetishist.  I’m just a not-face photoer, when I’m photoing strangers who are themselves photoing.

There was a posting at Mick Hartley’s yesterday which showed that concern about photoing the faces of strangers and thereby in some way stealing from them is not new.  Hartley reproduces a great pile of photos, photos like this:

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Scroll down to the bottom of Hartley’s posting, and you will encounter quotes from the man, Richard Sandler, who took all these ancient black-and-white photos, of strangers.  Go to where Hartley got these pictures and the quote, and you’ll get one of the questions, as well as the answer.

Have you had anyone ever question your motives in the street? Did you ever piss off anybody?

Occasionally people get angry and they have a right to, I am stealing a little something from them. Also for many years I used the strobe on the street and so there was no hiding what I was doing ... it can be startling. I have been kicked, spit on, and chased, but not very often. Once a woman with a rabbit pursued me for 30 minutes because I had flashed her and her pet.

Hartley also quotes Sandler saying this:

I think those were more interesting times because the warts of corporate/capitalist society were more visible then they are today, and those contradictions could be photographed more directly than now ... also every third person was not virtual, being on the fucking phone and not really on the street ....

Two things about that.  One, there is something rather exploitative about these photos, as he goes on to admit, sort of like an old school colonist photoing the natives.  Second, why the hell are “fucking” phones not themselves fit objects for his photoing?  Not really on the street? Come on.

They are certainly fit objects for my photoing.

Could it be that Sandler is suffering from a dose of professional jealousy?  Suddenly, the damn natives can photo the warts of corporate/capitalist society for themselves.  And nowadays, they don’t even have to use a dedicated camera.

And as for flash, well, the latest cameras hardly need them.  They can pretty much see in the dark.

Saturday March 11 2017

I spent most of today watching rugger on the telly.

In the first game Italy got beaten by France, and in the second game, Italy got slaughtered by England.

Just kidding.  It wasn’t England v Italy.  It merely felt like England v Italy.  What it was was England v Scotland.  It was a brutal game and several players, both English and Scottish, got smashed out of it.  The difference being that while Scotland have about three superb players around which they have constructed a fine team, England have more like twenty superb players with which they have constructed an even finer team.  Scotland lost one of their best players today.  England also lost an equally good player, from an illegal tackle early on.  England carried on as if nothing had happened.  Scotland were utterly deranged and demoralised.

England were also riled up and determined to do really well, because although they now win every game they play, people had been saying that their last few Six Nations wins were not very good wins, especially the previous one, against actual Italy, where Italy had done some weird stuff with the rucks and had England all confused.  People were saying that Scotland, who have been playing really well, had a decent chance of beating England, despite the fact that the last time they won at Twickenham was in the reign of George III or whenever.

England looked excellent from the kick-off, and I think I must have felt that they were going to win convincingly even then.  I say that because, after about two minutes, one of the Scots did that illegal tackle, so illegally that they were saying he might be red carded rather than merely yellow carded, i.e. sent off for good instead of just for ten minutes.  And I caught myself hoping that he wouldn’t be sent off permanently, because that would spoil the game and mean that England’s inevitable win wouldn’t mean anything.  Much better for England to win against the full fifteen, was my feeling.  Which England duly did.

But those who said England might lose shouldn’t feel bad, because predicting the Six Nations is a mug’s game.  (The only certainly right now is that Italy will get beaten by everyone else.) I mean, put it like this.  Today England smashed Scotland.  In the previous round of games, Scotland hammered Wales, and yesterday evening Wales hammered Ireland.  So, England should have no trouble at all hammering Ireland, in the final game of the tournament, right?  Not necessarily.  The other way of looking at these three games (England/Scotland, Scotland/Wales, Wales/Ireland) is that in each of them, the home team won.  And when England play Ireland, the home team will be Ireland.  England have now beaten France, Italy and Scotland at home, but they only just beat Wales away, with a last gasp try.

But here’s an interesting fact.  Take a look at all the results so far.  Remove all the Italy games, all lost by Italy no matter where they played, and you are left with just one away win, in the form of that Wales/England game.  All the other games between the Not Italy Nations have been home wins, apart from that one Wales/England game.  If England can score another away win next weekend, they’ll be very worthy Six Nations 2017 winners.  They already are the winners.

My guess is that next weekend, England will manage the second of their only two (and the only two) Not Italy Nations away wins of the entire tournament, that Scotland (in Scotland) will smash Italy, and that France (in France) will beat Wales.

Friday March 10 2017

Whenever I encounter interesting vehicles, of which London possesses a great many, I try to photo them.  Taxis with fun adverts.  Diverting white vans.  Crane lorries.  That kind of thing.

In particular I like to photo ancient cars.  And, I also like to photo modern cars which are styled to look like ancient cars, like this one:

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This is the Mitsubishi Pajero Jr. Flying Pug.  How do I know that?  Because I also went round the back and took this photo:

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Is a pug a non-feline creature?  Sounds like a non-feline creature to me.

More about this eccentric vehicle here:

On sale for just three years between 1995 and 1998, it sold reasonably well and has been popular as a grey import. None of which explains what on Earth Mitsubishi was thinking when it devised this horror show, the special edition Flying Pug.

The Japanese have always loved old, British cars. Through the Nineties it was one of the biggest markets for the original Mini, but retro pastiches had become popular as well, led by the Nissan Micra-based Mitsuoka Viewt, which looked a bit like a miniature Jaguar Mark II.

Mitsubishi thought it would jump on the bandwagon. Out of all the cars it made, Mitsubishi decided the Pajero Jr would be the best platform. Ambitiously, the brochure said it had “the classic looks a London taxi.” In fact, it looked more like the absolutely gopping Triumph Mayflower.

The press thought it was ugly and the buying public agreed. Mitsubishi planned to build 1,000 Flying Pugs, but just 139 found homes. The deeply weird name can’t have helped, but Japanese-market cars are notorious for it; another special edition Pajero Jr was christened McTwist.

I agree that “Flying Pug” is a strange name.  And I agree that the Flying Pug doesn’t look much like a London taxi.  But it resembles the Triumph Mayflower even less.

I also do not agree that either the Flying Pug or the Triumph Mayflower are ugly.  And they are definitely not, to my eye, “absolutely gopping”, or a “horrow show”.  Each to his own.

But I do like the fact that I photoed a car of which there are only one hundred and thirty nine copies in existence.

Thursday March 09 2017

This afternoon I was in the vicinity of Angel Tube Station, and after my socialising was concluded I took a walk along the Regency Canal, starting at the eastern end of the Islington Canal Tunnel, and proceeding east, until it got dark.

I refer confidently to the Islington Canal Tunnel, but in truth I only today became aware of its existence.

Another thing I only became aware of today was this tower:

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This is Chronicle Tower, as I later discovered after much googling.  Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who have been in business for many decades now.  I remember them from my days as a (failed) architecture student.

Almost all of the pictures of Chronicle Tower on the internet that I found are from the other side.  But I find that roof very diverting.  On the right is my close-up of it, tilted to fit into a vertical rectangle, thereby enabling me to fit more detail in.  I must say, I am impressed by my camera’s ability to record detail, in fading light, at something near to its maximum zoom.

There’s no doubt about it.  Architects are now taking steadily more interest in “designing” the tops of buildings.  Soon the days of flat roofs and random clutter, for all the world to see and enjoy, if it’s far enough away to see the roof, may soon be gone.

I particularly like the way we can see the window-cleaning crane there.

LATER: It’s not like me to miss this, but ... Dezeen reported yesterday on this same building.  Their report includes a better version of my left-hand picture.

Quote:

The tower designed for property developers Mount Anvil and Clarion Housing includes 300 apartments – of which 35 per cent are considered affordable – and a five-story, 405-square-meter penthouse with 360-degree views from all levels.

So, that would mean that 65 percent of the apartments are considered unaffordable.

Wednesday March 08 2017

Yesterday I did a Dezeen based posting here, and now I just did another.  But when two thirds through doing it, I realised it would do just as well for Samizdata.  All that needed adding was a bit of cringeing at the end to the effect that it could all be bollocks.  (Everything here could be bollocks.  That’s assumed.) So, Samizdata is where it went.

Title: A flying car that makes sense.  Dezeen posting I was reacting to, very favourably: here.

Are you one of my London libertarian friends.  Don’t forget the talk I will be hosting at the end of this month (March 31) given by Chris Cooper, about our new robot overlords.

Tuesday March 07 2017

So I had a look around Dezeen to see what’s there that’s interesting, and their most popular posting right now is about IKEA.  All I saw, for several days, was: IKEA.  So I ignored it.  But on close inspection, the posting is actually rather interesting.  Its title is: IKEA switches to furniture that snaps together in minutes without requiring tools.

Quote:

The fiddly ritual of assembling IKEA furniture is set to become a thing of the past as the furniture giant introduces products that snap together “like a jigsaw puzzle”.

The brand has developed a new type of joint, called a wedge dowel, that makes it much quicker and simpler to assemble wooden products. This does away with the need for screws, bolts, screwdrivers and allen keys.

My chosen destinations for furniture are charity shops, mostly.  That or basic second hand places.  Partly that’s an aesthetic preference.  I take pride in the cheapness of my living arrangements, that being my preferred look.  But part of that is because I have always assumed that flatpack furniture is indeed too fiddly and complicated to be relying on.  Also, frankly, I basically just don’t like IKEA’s furniture.

But for those who do like IKEA furniture, it looks like it is about to get a bit simpler to assemble.

Thought.  Does Lego make furniture?  I just googled that question, and google answer number one was this:

A company is making furniture that is like giant Lego for your home:

This furniture is designed to be taken apart over and over again.

It is called Mojuhler and is flatpack, modular furniture that can be changed from a chair to a table in minutes.

You can fund the project on Kickstarter from about £80.

Nice basic idea, but scroll down and you get to pictures of brackets and screws!  Screw all that, and not with a screwdriver.  It looks more like Meccano than Lego, I’d say.  It says on the right at that place that it failed to get its funding.  If that’s right, I’m not surprised.

This is more what I was thinking.

One of the basic drivers of design is the desire to own bigger versions of the stuff you played with as a little kid.  A lot of Art is like this, I believe.  So, why not furniture too?

Monday March 06 2017

But I do.  (Clue in the categories list.)

image

Click if you want slightly more context.

Photoed by me, earlier this evening, at Victoria Tube Station.

Sunday March 05 2017

Via this posting at the Scott Adams blog, I first learned, just now, about Robots Read News.

All the pictures in this cartoon series are identical.  Only the words change.  Yet, the words on their own would probably not be so effective.

I especially enjoyed the first two comments on the above posting:

AtlantaDude:

If the Robot knows he is superior, I would expect him to be more condescending, and less angry - insulting humans in more subtle and clever ways than simply calling us stupid meat sacks, etc.

Scott Adams:

I am going for insensitive not angry. Part of the joke is that objectivity is indistinguishable from hate.

My next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (March 31) will be my Libertarian Friend from way back, Chris Cooper, talking about the rise of the robots.  They will rule us, he says, if I understand him correctly.  But maybe I don’t because he and I are both meat sacks.  Maybe he is expressing himself badly.  Or maybe I am misunderstanding him.  Or maybe both.  That I am understanding him correctly suddenly seems like a one in four chance.

Saturday March 04 2017

Here are some more quotes from Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography.  (See this earlier posting, with another quote (about the Arctic), at the top of which I list all the earlier quotes from this book that I have displayed here.)

These ones are about what happens when European Imperialists ignored geography (p. 146):

When the Ottoman Empire began to collapse, the British and French had a different idea. In 1916 the British diplomat Colonel Sir Mark Sykes took a chinagraph pencil and drew a crude line across a map of the Middle East. It ran from Haifa on the Mediterranean in what is now Israel to Kirkuk (now in Iraq) in the north-east. It became the basis of his secret agreement with his French counterpart Francois Georges-Picot to divide the region into two spheres of influence should the Triple Entente defeat the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. North of the line was to be under French control, south of it under British hegemony.

The term ‘Sykes-Picot’ has become shorthand for the various decisions made in the first third of the twentieth century which betrayed promises given to tribal leaders and which partially explain the unrest and extremism of today. This explanation can be overstated, though: there was violence and extremism before the Europeans arrived. Nevertheless, as we saw in Africa, arbitrarily creating ‘nation states’ out of people unused to living together in one region is not a recipe for justice, equality and stability.

Prior to Sykes-Picot (in its wider sense), there was no state of Syria, no Lebanon, nor were there Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel or Palestine.  Modern maps show the borders and the names of nation states, but they are young and they are fragile.

So, what happens if you ignore geography like this?  Answer: geography comes back to bite you.  More to the point, it bites all the people upon whom you have inflicted your indifference to geography (p. 148):

The legacy of European colonialism left the Arabs grouped into nation states and ruled by leaders who tended to favour whichever branch ofIslam (and tribe) they themselves came from. These dictators then used the machinery of state to ensure their writ ruled over the entire area within the artificial lines drawn by the Europeans, regardless of whether this was historically appropriate and fair to the different tribes and religions that had been thrown together.

Iraq ...

To name but one.

… is a prime example of the ensuing conflicts and chaos. The more religious among the Shia never accepted that a Sunni-led government should have control over their holy cities such as Najaf and Karbala, where their martyrs Ali and Hussein are said to be buried. These communal feelings go back centuries; a few decades of being called ‘Iraqis’ was never going to dilute such emotions.

Time I finished my review of this book.

Friday March 03 2017

I am reading everything at the Scott Adams blog just now, and I even watched/listened (new word needed for that) to all of this video.

Adams is being “shadow banned” by Twitter, as he notes in this posting:

As many others have documented, Twitter throttles back the tweets of people who hold political views they don’t like.

What “throttles back” means is that you can still read it, but nobody else can.  I think.

To outwit this shadow banning, Scott Adams has devised a cunning plan involving kittens, which I absolutely do not understand the details of, but which he mentions several times during the above-linked-to video ramble.  (It’s a good ramble, but a ramble.) Whenever he writes about things that Twitter’s censorship committee disapproves of him writing about (Trump and the climate debate being the two big ones at present), he tweets instead that he has done a piece about kittens.  This will alert his followers to a posting that Twitter wants crushed.  In order to shadow ban this, Twitter would have to shadow ban all kittens which would break the internet, and all humans also because they would be laughing so much.  Or something.  I don’t see why Twitter can’t just shadow ban Scott Adams whenever he mentions kittens, along with whenever he mentions Trump or mentions the climate debate.  But what do I know?

New word: outweet.

I always knew, when I started Friday-blogging about cats and kittens here, that this topic would become highly significant from time to time, on account (for instance) of politicians being jealous of all the attention that cats and kittens were getting.  (Prediction: at some point during the next thousand years or so, climate permitting, a cat or kitten will be elected President of the United States.)

But this particular Scott Adams kitten-tweeting circumstance I did not see coming.

Thursday March 02 2017

In a BBC sound clip lasting a little over one minute, ex-Leicester City psychologist Ken Way, talks about Leicester City’s premier league success, and about who created it.  Claudio Ranieri, Way says, “inherited” Leicester City happiness, from predecessor Nigel Pearson.  Ranieri’s successor, Craig Shakespeare also creates lots of happiness, says Way.

So, was Ranieri making them miserable?  Is that why they dumped him?

Maybe that was part of it.  But buried in this report, on Leicester’s recent thrashing of Liverpool, is another potential clue.  Right underneath the big green graphic, there is this:

In keeping with Craig Shakespeare’s pre-match comments, Leicester returned to the style of last season, 4-4-2 ...

Could that be it?  Could it be that simple?  Does Leicester reverting to “4-4-2”, whatever exactly that means, explain their sudden return to form?  (If that’s what it proves to be?)

Maybe 4-4-2 was enough to make them happy again.

The Welsh rugby team is in a bad way just now, having just been hammered by Scotland, for the first time in ages.  The new Wales boss, Howley, is
a very gloomy man, who didn’t even try to be upbeat after this loss.  I wonder if his dour demeanour is hurting Wales.

But, what do I know?

Wednesday March 01 2017

As many times threatened here, this blog is going, more and more, to be about the process of (me) getting old.  As you (I) get older, your (my) grasp of the everyday mechanisms of early twenty first century life becomes ever more stuck in the late twentieth century.

One of the best known symptoms of advancing years is short-term memory loss.  In plain language, you do something or see something, and then you immediately forget all about it.  You put a remote control down, and seconds later, a portal into the seventh dimension opens up, swallows the remote, and closes again, and you spend the next ten minutes looking for the damn thing.  If I write with feeling, it is because exactly this just happened to me, when first-drafting this.  But at least when it came to this remote, I managed to persuade the portal into the seventh dimension to open and disgorge its prey, after only a few minutes of searching and brain-wracking.

Altogether more tiresome was when the same thing happened to this, about a fortnight ago:

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As you can guess from the fact of the above photo, I eventually found this Thing again, but only after about a week of futile searching, through all the stuff in my small, one-bedroom home.

In the end, I had to give up, because I had instead to be preparing for the meeting I held at my home last Friday.  And then, in the midst of those preparations and much to my amazement, the above Thing revealed itself to me again.  It was in a place I should have looked in at once but failed to, but at least I found it.

What the Thing is is the electrical lead for my ancient laptop.  Time has not yet rendered this laptop useless, by which I mean not useless to me for my primitive late twentieth century purposes, but losing this lead might have this laptop useless even to me, if Maplin‘s had been unable to supply a replacement.  At the very least, I had started to expect a hefty bill, because people selling leads for such purposes know that they are dealing with desperate buyers, for whom a vital piece of kit will either resume working, or be forever useless.  Twenty quid?  Arrrrgh!  Hmmmm.  Okay, so be it.  (Bastards.)

I have a couple of bags entirely full of leads like the one above, In Case They Come In Handy, which of course they never will.  This is yet another category of stuff that you have to get used to chucking out, but being old, you find it hard to do.  Because, Sod’s Law decrees that as soon as you chuck one of these wires out, you will realise you do need it.

But, like I say, I found this particular bit of wire.  It wasn’t the best thing that happened to me last Friday.  (That was the meeting.) But it was pretty good.