Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Saturday March 31 2018

BMdotcom doesn’t do video very often, but this actually immobile piece of graphics does a fair amount of apparent moving around, especially if you do any scrolling up and down:

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Says Akiyoshi Kitaoki:

Each row appears to move. Each row is horizontally aligned but appears to tilt.

I made it slightly smaller than it was, but that hasn’t changed anything.

Friday March 30 2018

This Friday’s Other Creature is this:

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Found it here.  Thank you Clarissa for telling me about this.

It’s all in connection with Australian Ball Tampering.

My favourite factual discovery re this rumpus: Cricket Australia has a Head of Integrity.  Reminds me of this guy.

Thursday March 29 2018

The other day, I photoed the Battle of Britain Monument.  This is across the road from the Victoria Embankment Gardens, which I also explored, to begin with just to find out if I could.  I could.  This contains various war memorials and statues, but also many things that you are either urged to do or urged not do:

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That is a horizontal slice of a sign next to one of the entrances.  Click to get the whole thing.

It reminds me of an American book I read long ago entitled Please Don’t Eat The Daisies.  The point of that title being that every time the American parents described in the book left their American children to their own devices, they had to ask them to please refrain from an ever longer list of things that they had previously done which were bad.  One time, they ate the daisies.  So, that had to be added to the list of things they were begged not to do.

Each of the do-this don’t-do-this red circles above feels to me like a moment in the past when people started doing or to fail to do whatever it was in noticeable numbers, having previously not thus misbehaved.

Wednesday March 28 2018

Pollarding is what you do to trees, if you want to make them look like this, as lots of people seem to:

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It’s not that warm now.  But nor is it that cold now.  It now feels warm because of it being less cold than it recently was.  Simply weather-wise, I probably prefer June.  But in June, the trees are all smothered in leaves.  Pollarding effects would be hidden.

I like the bobble on top of the building, far right.  Fits in well, I think.

Tuesday March 27 2018

I don’t quite know why I am so very fond of tourist crap shops.  I think it’s basically because of how very weird they are.  Also, perhaps, the notion that no-one else in my circle of friends and acquaintances gives them a second look, so I do, just to be different.  My friends and acquaintances certainly certainly wouldn’t consider the crap in tourist shops to be worthy of photo-immortality, and those are just the things that I think often make the best photos.

Consider this photo, taken recently in Piccadilly: 

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What is particularly weird about that is how very unlike the actual Queen Elizabeth II those Queen Elizabeth IIs contrive to look.

And those Sherlock Holmeses are hardly any better.  In fact, they are probably worse.  Sherlock Holmes didn’t look like anything at all, because he was made up, by a writer of fiction.  But he surely doesn’t, in anyone’s mind, look like those Sherlock Holmeses.  They look like Sherlock Holmes as re-enacted in a school play, by a rather bad boy actor who couldn’t do make-up properly, and who therefore sought assistance from someone else who couldn’t do make-up properly.

It’s as if the people selling these things, and the people buying them, are all people to whom us white people all look alike.

Monday March 26 2018

Today I was out and about, enjoying one of those First Day of Spring days, of which we get quite a few, and I always try to get out and photo-celebrate them.

This time I walked along the river on the north side, from Westminster to the Embankment.  Which took me past the Battle of Britain Monument, of which this is a detail:

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That was the only photo I took of this Monument.  Such is my eyesight that I had no idea how intense those faces were and are, until I saw them on my screen.  It’s their eyes.

If your eyes don’t work properly and you go on a sightseeing walk, the only way you will actually get to see what you saw properly is to photo it.

Sunday March 25 2018

Fortnum & Mason are promoting their tea with their window displays just now, with giant teapots.

Here is a giant teapot made of bits of broken mirror, promoting Royal Blend:

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And behind the teapot is me, and Piccadilly, and a woman walking along Piccadilly, into a giant pile of liquid-but-solid tea.  Reflections can be very strange.

And then, when I reached Green Park tube, I saw this, in the distance, maximum zoom:

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It’s Nova, complete with its crane for cleaning its windows.  Weird because the light is so weird.  Cloudy, just getting dark, but not dark yet.

I love these window cleaner cranes.  Roof clutter above and beyond the call of duty.  Best of all are ones like these, which sometimes you see and sometimes not.

Saturday March 24 2018

I have something I need to stick up here and then forget about.  There’s an architectural thing that I write about here, which I refer to as “keeping up appearances”.  The best photo I have ever taken of this kind of thing is this one, which is of a quite tall but not at all wide sliver of facade, that presumably still stands in Oxford Street, but now with an entirely new building erected behind that facade.

But that wasn’t keeping up appearances. this is keeping up appearances:

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It used to be a psychiatric hospital, and what it will be is the new headquarters of the USA’s Department of Homeland Security.

This newly designed building will preserve the appearance of the old, but hollow it out completely.  Behind its old facade, it will be something new.  Something else entirely.  Which is very appropriate, I think you will agree.

Friday March 23 2018

Yes, today’s “other creature” is a sealion, Operation Sealion, Hitler’s plan to invade Britain in 1940.  And this posting is another bit from a book.  Which book?  Well, I greatly admire the books of Leo McKinstry, and have done ever since I read his wonderful biography of Geoffrey Boycott.  So, as soon as I discovered that McKinstry had written a book about Operation Sealion, I bought it.  I now possess it, and as soon as I have read the other seven or eight books above it in my TO READ list, I will start reading it.  I may even start reading it sooner than that.

This early bit (pp. 4-6), from the Introduction, has already confirmed the wisom of the purchase:

Wartime legend has presented the heroics of the RAF as an exception to an otherwise desperate military performance by Britain in I940. In this narrative, there is a chasm between the daring and efficiency of Fighter Command and the woeful inadequacy of most other parts of the British war effort.  Defeat was inevitable if the RAF was overwhelmed, according to the traditional account, which portrays Britain as hopelessly ill equipped in the face of the Nazi war machine. It was a supposed weakness highlighted by the paralysis in the civil service, the chronic shortages of men and weaponry in the regular army, the lack of modern vessels in the navy and the country’s feeble home defences. The might of Hitler’s Reich, which had blitzed its way through Poland, Scandinavia and Western Europe, would hardly have been deterred by some hastily erected pillboxes, rolls of barbed wire and lightweight guns. The ultimate symbol of Britain’s alleged vulnerability in I940 was the Home Guard, that makeshift force of volunteers whose very nickname, ‘Dad’s Army’, was so redolent of its antiquated nature in the savage new age of total war. Made famous for future generations by the television comedy series of the I970s, the Home Guard appeared more likely to provoke laughter than fear in the invader. The image of Home Guardsmen, devoid of rifles or uniforms, performing their pointless drill routines with broomsticks and pitchforks, has long been held to characterise how badly prepared Britain was. This outlook is encapsulated in a remark made by a volunteer from Great Yarmouth when his unit was inspected in the summer of 1940 by a senior army officer, who asked: ‘What steps would you take if you saw the Hun come down in parachutes?’

‘Bloody long ones: came the reply.

But the commonly held belief in Britain’s defencelessness in 1940 is hardly matched by the historical facts. The Few of Fighter Command were not an exception but part of a national pattern of resolute determination and thoroughness. In almost every aspect of the war effort in 1940, Britain was far better organised than the mythology suggests. The Royal Navy’s Home Fleet, guarding every part of the southern and eastern coastlines, represented a formidable obstacle to German ambitions. Between Sheerness and Harwich alone, the navy had thirty destroyers. RAF Bomber Command relentlessly pounded the invasion fleet, weakening the morale of the German forces. Similarly, the British army had gained enormously in strength and equipment since the fall of France. In September 1940, when the invasion threat was at its height, there were no fewer than 1,760,000 regular troops in service, many of them led by tough- minded figures like Alan Brooke, Claude Auchinleck and Bernard Montgomery. The same is true of the Home Guard, whose broomsticks had by then largely vanished. Most of the volunteers were armed with highly effective American rifles, which were superior, in some respects, to those used by the regular soldiers. Outside the military sphere, the British home front was just as impressive. Aircraft production was much higher than that in Germany, factory hours longer. Major operations, like the evacuation of children from areas at risk of attack, the removal of gold from the Bank of England vaults, or the transfer of national art treasures to remote shelters in Wales, were carried out with superb efficiency.

What is so striking about the British authorities at this time is pressure for survival. During his leadership of V Corps, in the front line of the army’s southern command, Montgomery set out his creed to his officers. ‘We had got to the stage where we must do as we like as regards upsetting private property. If a house was required as an HQ it must be taken. Any material required to improve the defences must be taken.’

Thursday March 22 2018

I’m reading Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality, the final volume of her Bourgeois trilogy.  I hope that in this volume, at last, I will read evidence concerning McCloskey’s thesis about how the Great Enrichment came about, which is that it was ideological.  She keeps repeating this, but keeps flying off at other tangents.  Wish me luck.

Interesting tangents, mind you.  Like this one, which is a most interesting prediction, concerning the future of Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 70-72):

Know also a remarkable likelihood in our future. Begin with the sober scientific fact that sub-Saharan Africa has great genetic diversity, at any rate by the standard of the narrow genetic endowment of the ancestors of the rest of us, the small part of the race of Homo sapiens that left Mother Africa in dribs and drabs after about 70,000 BCE.  The lower diversity outside Africa comes from what geneticists call the founder effect, that is, the dying out of genetic lines in an isolated small group, such as those that ventured into west Asia and then beyond. The founder effect is merely a consequence, of the small samples dribbling out, as against the big sample of the Homo sapiens folk that stayed put in Africa. Any gene-influenced ability is therefore going to have more African extremes. The naturally tallest people and the naturally shortest people, for example, are in sub-Saharan Africa. The naturally quickest long-distance runners are in East Africa. The best basketball players descend from West Africans. In other words, below the Sahara the top end of the distribution of human abilities - physical and intellectual and artistic - is unusually thick. (Yet even in Africa the genetic variability in the Homo sapiens race appears to have been thinned repeatedly before the time of the modest emigrations, by population crashes, such as when the super volcano Toba in Sumatra went off, suggestively also around 70,000 BCE. It reduced our Homo sapiens ancestors to a few thousand-a close call.)

The thickness of sub-Saharan abilities at the high end of the distribution is a mere consequence of the mathematics. Greater diversity, which is to say in technical terms, higher variance, means that unusual abilities at both ends of the distribution, high and low, are more common. Exactly how much more depends on technical measures of genetic difference and their expression. The effect could be small or large depending on such measures and on the social relevance of the particular gene expression.

The high end is what matters for high culture. Sub-Saharan Africa, now at last leaning toward liberal democracy, has entered on the blade of the hockey stick, growing since 2001 in per-person real income by over 4 percent per year-doubling that is, every eighteen years. A prominent Nigerian investment manager working in London, Ayo Salami, expects an ideological shift among African leaders in favor of private trading as the generation, of the deeply socialist anticolonialists born in the 1940s dies out.” The 6- to 10-percent growth rate available to poor economies that wholeheartedly adopt liberalism will then do its work and yield educational opportunities for Africans now denied them.

The upshot? Genetic diversity in a rich Africa will yield a crop of geniuses unprecedented in world history. In a century or so the leading scientists and artists in the world will be black-at any rate if the diversity is as large in gene expression and social relevance as it is in, say, height or running ability. Today a Mozart in Nigeria follows the plow; a Basho in Mozambique was recruited as a boy soldier; a Tagore in East Africa tends his father’s cattle; a Jane Austen in Congo spends her illiterate days carrying water and washing clothes.  “Full many a gem of purest ray serene / The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear.”

Wednesday March 21 2018

Says Armin Navabi:

The only way to reform Islam is to get rid of Islam.

A short video, lasting just over two minutes.  Navabi is right, provided by “reform” we mean “make nice”.  That verbal quibble aside, agreed.

There are many nice people who want to remain nice but also to remain Muslim.  Can’t be done.  Islam demands nastiness from its followers, and there’s no way round that, only out of it.

The current Western governmental view of Islam is: resist the bad stuff, appease the good stuff.  But the only good stuff in Islam is good people trying to be good but being told not to be good by Islam.  Islam itself is the enemy.

The way to defeat Islam is to persuade a large number of its current adherents to stop being its adherents.  That will put Islam on the defensive, both ideologically and physically.  Muslims will be put in the position of trying to explain that Islam is nice.  They will fail, but will then look weak, because they will have abandoned their strongest weapon, which is the fact that Islam demands nastiness.  And the Muslims will thus lose.  There will still be many “Muslims”, so-called, in the world, but the ones who really believe in it will become a beleaguered minority, constantly betrayed to their enemies by other “Muslims” who are trying to prove, to the world and to other Muslims who are thinking of leaving Islam, how nice they are, despite going through all the motions of saying that they still believe nasty things.

In other anti-Islamic news, Dawkins notes a stirring of atheism in the Islamic world.  I hope, and more and more think, that this is right, and very good news.  The more I learn about this man, more I admire him, even though I mostly don’t agree with him on domestic political issues.

If you are now, still, a Muslim, stop it.

Tuesday March 20 2018

Today I got up at 7am, worked on and off on a big piece of writing, then dined at Chateau Samizdata, out west, and am now back here, as in home, having not done anything here, as in at this blog.

Here is a photo chosen from the archives, pretty much at random:

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Taken in March 2012, i.e. six years ago, when the Shard was just being finished.  Taken from out east, beside the Victoria Docks.

And now I will go to bed, and get up just as early tomorrow morning as I was up today, and I will finish that big piece of writing.  I promise this.  That’s the plan, anyway.  One thing is for sure.  I am in no state to finish it now.

Goodnight and see you tomorrow.

Monday March 19 2018

For two reasons.  First, England came second to bottom, which is not the usual arrangement at all.  It is now being said that they were tired, from playing too much rugby for their clubs and before that for the British Lions.

But the other reason this was a strange end to the Six Nations was the weather.  The last weekend of the Six Nations is supposed to be a day where all we rugby couch potatoes celebrate that Winter is well and truly over, that Spring is here, and that we can finally rise up out of our couches and venture out properly into the first serious sunshine of the new year, for hours at a time.

Instead, along with England doing really badly in the rugby, it was like this:

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Click on that to get the bigger picture.  That’s GodDaughter2 weekending out in the countryside, in Hampshire or some such county out there.  That photo was taken by her, on the same day that England got beaten by Ireland at Twickenham, where it also snowed.  Which was all part of why England did so badly, I think.  For Ireland, the worse the weather is the better they like it.

According to the short-term weather forecasters, who are the only weather forecasters I take seriously, this second cold snap will soon be done, and then Spring can finally get started.

Sunday March 18 2018

Ten years ago, plus another eleven days, there was a wedding photo session in Parliament Square, and I joined in, as I always do whenever I see this kind of thing happening:

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I like how, top left and top right, they tied her train (?) to the railings, to get a better picture.  That gives you just a small hint of how much trouble all concerned go to, to get good photos.  Two Real Photographers, going at it for about half an hour.

And so totally absorbed in what they’re doing that they hardly notice me.  Or if they do, they don’t care.  Besides which, given what a spectacle, in a good way, they are making of themselves, they probably agreed with me that they were fair photographic game.

I wonder what sort of life they are living now.  A good life, I hope.

Saturday March 17 2018

GodDaughter2 having dragged me into London at the crack of 10.30am (which is when that Traviata dress rehearsal started), I of course got to Embankment Tube early, on account of being so scared of being late.  I had some time to kill.

So, instead of turning left at the Embankment Tube ticket machines and just trudging up Villiers Street to Trafalgar Square and on to the ENO’s Colosseum, I instead turned right, and went up onto the north London end of the downstream version of the Hungerford Footbridge(s).  It’s a favourite little spot of mine, concerning which, maybe, there will (although I promise nothing) be more here, soon or whenever.

For now, consider just this one photo, taken from that spot, at that time:

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Because it is the morning, the light is not what I am used to.  The Big Things of the City of London are not well light, because back lit.

The big picture story here is that the Big Things of the City of London are, slowly but surely, metamorphosing into one Great Big City Thing.

But when I got home and had a closer look, I was intrigued to see two moderately Big Things already clearly to be seen.

You probably noticed this one already:

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That’s the Scalpel.  That the Scalpel has been going up has been obvious for some time.

But this one came as rather more of a surprise.  This detail had to be enlarged, or you might miss it, as I did, until I got home and looked carefully:

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That, ladies and gents, hiding in among all the bigger Things, is the much touted but seemingly never actually happening (but it actually is) Can of Ham:

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The Can of Ham is called that because it will look like a can of ham:

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Come to think of it, I have a vague recollection of visiting those Big City Things, about … a while back.  Bear with me while I rootle through the photo-archives.Yes, here we go.  I was there on June 3rd, last year.

The Scalpel was already well under way, thanks to some particularly entertaining cranage:

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And it definitely was the Scalpel, because it said so at the bottom:

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But the Can of Ham was also already starting to go up:

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As you can clearly see if you take a closer look at what it says at the bottom there:

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By trying to call this thing “Seventy St. Mary Axe”, but by making it look exactly like a can of ham, and quite a big and visible one, big enough and visible enough for it to need a particular and memorable name, they screwed up on the naming front.  It was only ever going to be called the “Can of Ham”.

Some bunch of idiots long ago tried to get the Gherkin called 30 St Mary Axe, and that never stuck either.

50 St Mary Axe is also a Thing, but such a small Thing that nobody cares what that’s called, so that actually is called 50 St Mary Axe.

Friday March 16 2018

I’m trying to wrench my sleep patterns back into something like sanity, and this now leaves me very tired.  Which is the plan working, but it makes blogging rather difficult.  So, today, one photo, and that’s your lot:

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Plus, although I’m tired, here is a detail, that emphasises the flamingo aspect:

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The relevant bit of the website.

Thursday March 15 2018

Yesterday GodDaughter2 arranged for me to accompany her and and a selection her singing student friends to a dress rehearsal of the ENO’s La Traviata.  Like every show at the E(nglish) NO, It was sung in English. It was also somewhat strangely directed, as operas tend to be nowadays.  So, the students were all grumbling afterwards.  What were those peculiar gestures the soprano kept on doing?  “Such torture” to have listen to it in English!

As for me, my problems were that we were the usual third of a mile up and away in the sky (but with no windows through which I might have taken photos of London’s Things), and I couldn’t properly see what was happening down there in the distance, beyond the woman in front of me’s head and those brass railings that she was able crouch down and look under.  I wasn’t bothered by all the strange “acting” that the singers were apparently doing, because I could hardly see it.  It was all I could do to decypher the English crib (and thank goodness for that) above the stage, of what they were singing (in English also (but as often as not you still can’t make out the damn words (because of how they sing them))).  But the music, by Giuseppe Verdi, which I knew only as a random bunch of tunes that I had just about quarter-heard before, is so good that I was kept constantly entertained.  Plus, I understood enough of what was going on to really enjoy it, and to really learn something.

It’s quite a story.  A young woman (the Traviata of the title) is trying to juggle short-term pleasure with and against long-term romantic fulfilment, is fretting about whether her true love can truly be depended upon, but also doesn’t want to get her true love into social trouble because of her lurid past causing everyone to think he could have done better, which will dishonour his entire family and make his younger sister much less marriageable.  Plus, she is not in the best of health and has to keep seeing a doctor.

I can remember, way back in the sixties, when it was believed that all that social pressure stuff was dead in the water.  Plus of course, in the sixties, everyone was far too young to be having any health problems.  Girls could shack up with guys and have consequence-free sex, and then live happily ever after with … whoever.  I think I remember thinking, even at the time: well, we’ll see.  And it turns out that young girls can now be “ruined” a lot like they were in olden times, that “society” has not gone away, that people still get ill, even sometimes ill because of sex, and that La Traviata is still bang up to date.

The Father of the Traviata’s True Love very much wants True Love to stop being Traviata’s True Love, and begs Traviata to give him up.  For the ENO, yesterday, this Father was sung by Alan Opie.  He was especially good.  A bloke had come on at the beginning and said that, what with this being only a dress rehearsal, some of the singers might be holding back a bit, saving it for the real show.  But you could definitely tell that Opie was the real deal.

Wednesday March 14 2018

I follow Tom Holland because I have liked several of his books (especially Persian Fire), and because I often agree with him, as when he says things like this:

The assumption in Europe that its brand of colonialism was uniquely awful is, in a perverse way, one of the last hold-outs of eurocentrism.

Very true.

Via Tom Holland, I came upon this, from Anthony McGowan:

I came across a place called Strood. I looked it up (having no idea where or what it was), I found this achingly poignant statement: “Strood was part of Frindsbury until 1193, but now Frindsbury is considered part of Strood.”

It’s the implication that “now”, in the Strood/Finsbury part of the world, began in 1193 that makes this so entertaining.  I guess they have long memories out there in the not-London part of Britain.

Anthony McGowan is someone I don’t agree with a lot of the time (here is what I think about that).  But, I also liked this:

An article about the history of the Chinese typewriter. One old machine had a strange pattern, as some characters had been polished by over-use. It belonged to a Chinese-American immigrant. “The keys that glitter with use are: emigrant, far away, urgent, longing, hardship, dream”.

McGowan doesn’t supply links to where he got these intriguing titbits, which I don’t like.  But despite that and other similarly nitpicky nitpicks on my part, Twitter is working, for me.  At present I have no plans to depend upon it to say things, although that may change, for I am too distrustful of its increasing political bias.  But it is supplying me with much more stuff to be thinking about and writing about.

Tuesday March 13 2018

Incoming email from Tony entitled “Couldn’t resist buying this”:

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Here’s hoping he was/will be amused by its cheek.

Apparently the Arse is a river in southern France, beside which grapes are grown.

Up early tomorrow. So now, to bed.

Monday March 12 2018

On March 21st, Roz Watkins, author of The Devil’s Dice, will be signing copies of that book at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, an event which I will attend.  This afternoon, finding myself in that part of London on account of needing a new battery for my ancient Casio watch, I dropped in on Waterstones to see what, if anything, they were doing with the book.

They had just one copy on show, in a New Crime Hardbacks display:

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Can you spot it?  Memo to self: If I ever design a book cover, make the title on the front either in dark lettering with a light background, or with light lettering on a dark background.  The Devil’s Dice, with its light orange title on a light coloured sky, is second from the right, bottom row (on account of Watkins beginning with W).  Another memo to self: When I become a published author, have a surname starting with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet, rather than almost at the end.

Anyway, here’s a close-up of it, just so you know it was really there:

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I needed another copy of the book, because I gave the advance copy Roz sent me to someone else.  But I was reluctant to buy the only copy of The Devil’s Dice that they had on show, thus depriving Waterstonians of any further sight of it.  I asked at the desk if they had a paperback.  Oh no, they said, not for at least six months.  I asked if they had any more copies on order.  Yes, said the lady, sounding rather impressed when her computer told her, we have eighty copies coming, ordered this morning.

I have no idea what that means.  Maybe those copies are just for the book signing, and maybe many will be sent back after that.  But maybe this is good, and reflects how well the original launch in Derby went, assuming that this did go well.  Anyway, with eighty more copies on their way to Waterstones, I bought that one copy that they had today.

See also, The Devil’s Dice with dog, in Waterstones Brighton.  Again, right down by the floor with the other Ws.

Sunday March 11 2018

Yes. Here at BMdotcom we like bridges and we like reflections, so here is a bridge, reflected:

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I encountered this photo here.

New bridges are a bit hard to come by these days, especially given the fact that so many places are called “Newbridge”, and so many bridges, are called The New Bridge no matter when built because once upon a time that was accurate.  All of which complicates all searches for new bridges.  And when you do find new bridges that really do claim to be new bridges, it turns out I’ve seen almost all of them, and all the interesting ons.

Saturday March 10 2018

I visit the Royal College of Music quite a lot these days, thanks to GodDaughter2 studying there.  There were those Bach Cantatas.  Last Thursday there was a recital of songs by Women Composers, in which GD2 performed.  And this evening, there was the RCMIOS (RCM International Opera School) production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  All excellent.

It doesn’t feel right taking lots of photos while in the place, but here was a snap that I both liked and didn’t feel bad about taking:

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They’re hardly going to call that snooping, are they?

The RCM is a truly bizarre agglomeration of buildings.  The corridors joining this bit of it to that bit of it are labyrinthine.  I never know where I am, if only because I am usually following GD2 around the place, rather than finding my own way around.

Here is another snap I reckoned it okay to take, of some building work in progress:

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The fact that both of these snaps feature things which are only temporary is what makes me think them not to be breaches of etiquette.  I don’t know if that’s truly right, but it feels right to me.

However, the point of these two photos is, as I later (like: one hour ago) realised, that they are both photos of the same things.  The first photo is the corridor from the inside, and the second photo, in addition to all that grubbing about in the earth at the bottom, also features the same corridor from the outside.  The outside of a corridor is not normally something you get to see, is it?

The reason I found myself inside that corridor is that it is the temporary way of getting from the main part of the Royal College to the college bar and canteen.  I took the above photo on my way from that bar and canteen to the main entrance of the College.  I was on my own at the time.

Friday March 09 2018

As a Blackadder fan, I have long known about the use of pigeons during World War 1, to send messages.  Pigeons like the one in this photo:

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Twitter caption:

War Pigeons were very effectively deployed in the First World War. For instance, they carried messages, like the one being attached to a pigeon by Austro-Hungarian soldiers on the Isonzo Front, which can be seen in this picture.

Quite so.  But what made me decide to post the above photo here was this exchange, in the comments.

“Liagson”:

Were they normally encrypted?

Wayne Meyer:

They used WEP. Wartime Encryption for Pigeons. It was a very early wireless standard.

Blog and learn.  Not only did I just discover that pigeon messages were – of course, they’d have to have been – encrypted.  I also learned that you can link directly to individual Twitter comments.

And what better way could there to learn about the activities of birds than via Twitter?

Thursday March 08 2018

Earlier today, in the Derby branch of Waterstone’s:

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Standing on the staircase, top left, in a black dress, is Roz Watkins, speaking at the launch of her crime thriller, published today, The Devil’s Dice.

I mention Roz and her book here because she is my niece.  Another sign of getting old, to add to the collection: instead of boasting about elderly relatives who did great things in the past, e.g. WW2, you instead find yourself boasting about younger relatives who are doing great things now and who will probably do more great things in the future.

Roz sent me an advance copy of The Devil’s Dice and I am happy to report that I agree with all those effusively admiring Amazon reviewers.  Very absorbing, very well written.  I am now working on a longer piece about this book for Samizdata, which I hope will go up there tomorrow.  If not then, then soon.

Wednesday March 07 2018

I gave a talk to Libertarian Home early in 2015, entitled What is the Libertarian Movement for?, and it is now up at the Libertarian Home website.  A more accurate title for what I ended up saying would be more like: What the libertarian movement is and how to be part of it.  It is more about how to do libertarianism than about why to do it, although that is implied.

What I said hasn’t dated in the time since then, and this was one of the better speaking performances I’ve done, I think.  Certainly better than the most recent talk I gave, at Christian Michel’s on the subject of causation, about which, it turned out, I had very little more to say than this.  Memo to self: now that the cold snap has ended, get a haircut.  I have reached the age when I need to keep my hair short, the way it was in this video.  The tramp look makes me look too much like a tramp.

My thanks to Jordan Lee for supplying a written summary of what I said.

Tuesday March 06 2018
Monday March 05 2018

Yes, here’s another crowd scene, photoed later on the same expedition as I took that earlier crowd scene.  (But don’t follow that link.  Quicker just to scroll down.)

We are now at Tate Modern.  I’m there to get to the top of the extension tower and to photo London.  But I pause briefly, to photo this scene:

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And later, I chance upon this forgotten photo, and stop, and look, impressed.

I could expand upon the idea that Tate Modern is amusing for lots of people to be in, regardless of the “art” which is the supposed purpose of the building.  For many, me included, this “art” is of no consequence.  The place is what matters.

Although. Presumably someone thinks that those bits of metal in the foreground of the photo are art.

But I think I am thinking of something else, with this photo, and with that earlier one.  What do I like about crowd scenes?  In interesting places?  Interestingly lit?  With colourful backgrounds?  I don’t know.

I think it may be the agreeable sight of people who are all recognisably human, and all doing things that humans do, just as cows do what cows do or birds do what birds do.  But, they each do these things in their own ways.  They are not on parade.  I like roof clutter for this sort of reason.  A crowd is, you might say, a clutter of people.  There are no rules about exactly how they must walk or stand or sit or sprawl.  There are merely places where many people find it agreeable or necessary or convenient to be doing such things, but each in their own particular way and particular shape.

But, not sure yet.

Sunday March 04 2018

Yes, some truly exceptional roof clutter, photoed by me today, just as it was starting to get dark.  The buildings all so polite and proper looking, but then on the roof, they go mental:

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There is even a bridge in there.  That aerial with its big long arms is bizarre.  Was with others so had no time to check out what all this stuff was on the roof of.

My thanks to the tree, at the front, for not having stupid leaves all over it, and thus not blocking out this wondrous view.

I find myself in the South Kensington are quite a lot these days, because that’s where I often go to see and hear GodDaughter2 and her RCM pals performing.  This time it was two Bach Cantatas.  Very good, especially the absurdly young and talented tenor soloist.  A first year undergrad, apparently.

Saturday March 03 2018

In other face recognition news, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Big Prawn is having its face blurred out of photos on Google Maps.

The problem Google faced was that recognisable people with recognisable faces were showing up on Google Maps, owing to the accident of where they happened to be when the Google Maps photos happened to be taken.  So, they introduced a face recognition programme with a difference.  Every time a face was recognised to be a face, that face was blurred into unrecognisability in the final Google Maps photos.

And this also got done to the Big Prawn.

The Big Prawn is a giant sculpture, presumably an advert for a place where you can eat regular sized prawns.  No, not according to Wikipedia.  It’s just a big prawn.

In Australia, it would seem that Big Thing means something different to what I mean by this phrase.

A cow also got its face blurred over.

Confining Cats and Other Creatures postings to Friday is becoming difficult.  These days, as on this day, I often don’t bother.

I don’t often photo crowds.  This is because crowds are, typically, full of computer-recognisable faces.  But, this crowd, photoed by me last October, wasn’t:

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Well, maybe a computer might make something of the two people right at the bottom, but the rest, surely not.

I came upon this yesterday. while looking for Other Creatures.  We’re looking upstream from the south end of the upstream Hungerford footbridge.  The big metal stuff is the railway bridge in between those pedestrian bridges.  To the left and behind, the Royal Festival Hall.  Look ahead but up, through and above the railway bridge, and you see the Wheel.

Friday March 02 2018

A frog outside a supermarket in Brixton – a lion outside some flats off Sloane Square – a swan family at Alton in Hampshire – a sign at Battersea Park station – another swan at Walthamstow Wetlands – an octopus in a shop window – Boudicca’s horse – a book about WW2 I must remember to get on Amazon – the horses on top of the Hippodrome next to Leicester Square tube:

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This posting started out with just the top of the Hippodrome, and then I thought, I’ll add some other carbon-based-organism-angled photos, of which there were a few more that I thought I’d include.  But getting up to a convenient nine photos took longer than I expected.  It turns out I don’t photo creatures as often I thought I did, and as interestingly as I thought I did.

Thursday March 01 2018

A tweet reminded me about this wonderful rant from Louis CK:

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That’s the version of it, with dots inserted by him, that Steven Pinker quotes in his new book about the Enlightenment.

Pinker is concerned to explain why increasing affluence doesn’t seem to make everyone ecstatically happy.  Deidre McCloskey, in her Bourgeois trilogy, is fond of talking about how the Great Enrichment has made regular people as of now nearly three thousand percent richer.  So, why aren’t we three thousand percent happier?  Because we don’t seem to be.

Lots of reasons.  First, you are happy not according to your absolute level of affluence, but rather according to how affluent you get to be and how meaningful your life gets to be compared to what you were expecting, and compared to how well everyone else seems to be doing, because that tells you how well you could reasonably have expected to do.  You may well have been raised to expect quite a lot.  Second, although technology hurtles along, for most this hurtling is both pleasing and rather unsettling, the less of the former and the more of the latter as time goes by.  We don’t experience, in our one little life, how much better things like Twitter are than is looking after cows, out of doors, all year round, with not enough food or heating.  What we experience, as we get older, is how confusing things like Twitter are, or alternatively, if we ignore something like Twitter, how demoralising it is that it has defeated us and denied us its benefits.  Or how tedious air travel is, compared to what we’d hoped for rather than compared to a horse drawn wagon in a desert.  Yes, I live three thousand percent better than that wretched cowherd three hundred years ago, and if a time machine took away my life and gave me his life, I’d be three thousand percent more miserable.  But that’s not the same as me being three thousand percent happier than he was.  Happier, yes, definitely.  But not by that much.

It’s because we don’t feel that much happier that Louis CK has to rant, to remind us of how lucky we are.  And that Steven Pinker has to write his book, to make the same point.

But what if progress continues to hurtle forwards?  What if someone reads this posting, centuries from now, and he says: Good grief, those Twenty First Centurions were very easily satisfied.  Five hours to get from New York to California?

It must have been hell.