Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Sunday January 20 2019

... but it ended up there.

This posting included the fact that I am out and about this evening, so here, today, that’s your lot.

Saturday January 19 2019

I wonder what this extraordinary place …:

image

… will turn into.

Approximately halfway between Turkey’s largest city Istanbul and its capital Ankara, the Burj Al Babas development will contain 732 identical mini chateaux when, or if, it completes.

Begun in 2014, the hundreds of houses have been left in various states of completion since the dramatic collapse of the Turkish economy led to developer Sarot Group to file for bankruptcy in November.

Too bad people can’t buy them one by one, and put them in lots of other places around the world.  Sadly, houses don’t work like that.

Having them all next to each other surely defeats one of the major purposes of a new house like this, which is to outdo your neighbours.

It looks miniature, doesn’t it?  The houses look like things you have to careful not to tread on.

Friday January 18 2019
Thursday January 17 2019

Today, as I promised myself on Tuesday, I went east.  The weather was even better than was forecasted, and among the very first photos I photoed was this, before I even got to the tube station:

image

But the good weather came at a price, paid in degrees of temperature.  No clouds and there’s nothing to keep the warmth in.  It was cold.  And all the walking I did has taken it out of me.  Also, I met up with occasional commenter here and good friend Alastair, and that meant me getting up and out earlier than usual.  So, I am knackered, and I can’t now even summon up the energy to explain what exactly is going on in the above photo, let alone show you any more photos.  It doesn’t now help (although it will) that I have nearly six hundred photos to look at and pick from and ruminate about.

Now: early to bed.

Wednesday January 16 2019

With thanks to Patrick Crozier‘s Twitter feed, this, posted by Steve Stewart-Williams.

He got it from Denny Borsboom, who says (at his Facebook page), this:

Different scientific models can have equivalent observational consequences. In statistics, this is known as statistical equivalence; in the philosophy of science, underdetermination of theory by data. This is often hard to explain and I know few good illustrations that go beyond Wittgenstein’s duckrabbit. This GIF is a really nice illustration - and beautiful too.

If I knew how to post a GIF here, I would.  But I couldn’t make that work.

For me, the the star with seven points is the most remarkable aspect of this.

Wittgenstein’s duckrabbit is presumably that creature that looks like both a duck and a rabbit, depending.

Tuesday January 15 2019

Yes, I do believe it has finally happened.  Stokes, Woakes and Foakes are all in the same England cricket team.  Truly, an historic day.  Too bad Stokes is not Stoakes, and that Chris Woakes is not Ben Woakes.  As it is, we have to make do with Bens Stokes and Foakes, and Chris Woakes.

In other news: this.  My opinion?  What Steve says.

Thursday looks like being the first properly sunny day (though still with plenty of clouds) since I don’t know when:

image

That’s what the short-term weather forecast forecasts, and short-term weather forecasts are very dependable.  (Longer than short-term forecasts (more than a few days) have a random connection to the truth, and ride entirely on the authority earned by the the short-term forecasts.)

So, Thursday will be the day for my first big photo-walkabout of the new year.  If I don’t think of anywhere better, I will start by visiting this place.

Monday January 14 2019

Last night, Spurs lost 0-1, at “home” (i.e. Wembley), to Man U.  I had been half hoping that Spurs might lose, because this would make it less likely that Man U would want to replace their current manager, Solskjaer, with the man whom he outmanaged last night, Spurs manager Pochettino.  Spurs really need Pochettino to stay, and they want Man U to back off trying to lure him away with their infinite money.  It is all explained in this piece.  I said that!  But alas, I didn’t say it soon enough.

This being why the Spurs strikers were so careful to aim all their shots at goal straight at the Man U goalie, David de Gea.  They want The Poch to stay with them too.

Just kidding.  de Gea did really well.  And concerning that, I liked this tweet at the end of the game last night from Watford goalie Ben Foster:

I see a lot of people saying all De Gea saves were straight at him, please factor in that the guy has some mad sense to know where to be at just the right time, you can’t teach that. Proper goally

But not very proper punctuation.  What has Ben Foster got against full stops?  Maybe he used up all his stops, performing a similar miracle to de Gea, for Watford against Crystal Palace.

I recall hoping on a previous occasion that my football team would lose.  England were playing Germany at home.  It was again a management issue.  It was worth England losing to Germany if that resulted in Kevin Keegan ceasing to be England manager.  Keegan is a great guy, but was wrong to manage England.  England did lose.  Keegan did step down.  Soon after this, England beat Germany in Germany, 1-5.  But sadly not in the World Cup or the Euros or whatever it was, which England and Germany both qualified for.  Germany presumably won that.

My thanks to Patrick Crozier, with whom I dined earlier this evening, for lots of details about the above, which I had either forgotten or never knew in the first place, like Foster being the Watford goalie and England playing Germany in the last game at old Wembley and then winning 1-5 in Germany.

Sunday January 13 2019

The reason I’m showing so many ancient photos here just now is because the weather in London is so very dreary, and I’m not going out much.  Instead, I am doing lots of tidying up and chucking out, provoked by those sofas.  And, I’m back to doing more at Samizdata than of late.

Here’s another relic from another era.  This is Southwark Towers, photoed by me on May 31st 2006:

image

Relic because this really quite Big Thing was demolished in 2008, to make way for London’s ultimate Big Thing, The Shard.

At the time I took this photo, I had no idea that what I was photoing was about to disappear.

If in doubt, photo the photo.

Saturday January 12 2019

It’s been a while since I visited the Isle of Dogs.  Here are some photos I photoed of a building site there, next to the river, in January 2014:

imageimageimageimageimage

I wonder how all this looks now.  I’m pretty sure I know where this is.  Google Maps is good enough for that.  But not for the up-to-date story.

In decades to come, if will presumably be possible to go pretty much anywhere that’s public, virtually, without leaving your dwelling pod..  But for now, the only way to be sure about a place like this is to go there and see.

Friday January 11 2019

I was in the West End earlier this evening.  Not having done any blogging here today, and today being Friday, I kept my eyes open for something creaturely.

I spotted this, in the window of one of those very Old School shops, in Cecil Court:

image

Ah, cigarette cards.  Never had them here before.  And I don’t think poultry have been featured here before either.

Click to get them a bit bigger.

Thursday January 10 2019

Indeed:

image

It’s the roof of this, looking upstream into the sunset, last August.

Wednesday January 09 2019

I continue to photo taxi adverts, whenever I get the chance.  Last Sunday, I photoed this one:

image

There wasn’t space for to get the whole taxi, and there wasn’t time for me to go the other side of the road and get the whole taxi, because I was in a hurry to be somewhere else.  But I hope you agree that that photo suffices.

This being the century of the internet, I have since found this, and this, and this.

I bet Jimbo Phillips never thought he’d be selling mortgages.

Tuesday January 08 2019

Recently, I bought a book on Amazon, about English as a Global Language.  I’ve not read it right through yet, but it seems really good.

As regulars here will know, one of the things I like to do is reproduce short excerpts from books.  This I do by scanning.  But, unfortunately, my copy of English as a Global Language came to me full of underlinings of what the previous owner consider to be significant sentences and phrases.  For what it’s worth, I often agreed with his choices.  But such underlinings play havoc with scanning, so I wanted them gone.

Luckily they were not in ink, only in pencil.  So, an eraser of some kind ought to do the trick.  So, where could I buy an eraser locally?  I actually wasn’t sure.  It would certainly be a palaver.  So, maybe I already owned an eraser.  I had a rootle through a couple of small transparent crates, which I use to keep such things as pens, pencils, felt tip markers, and so forth and so on.

I found several erasers, all hard as rock.  They hadn’t been used for a decade and they might as well have been plastic cutlery for all the use they were for removing pencil marks.  But then, I came across this:

image

Just like everything else in the crate, this thing had not been touched for a decade.  This too would prove useless, surely.

But no.  It worked perfectly.  The rubber was as soft and useable as it was the day, lost in the mists of time of the previous decade or even longer, when I first acquired it.  Amazing.  And the print of the book was utterly untouched, so soft was the rubber of this wondrous item.

One of the things you seldom see on the internet is any reportage of how well something works a decade later.  Usually the reviews are instant.  Does it work now?  If it does, five stars, or four if you have some minor quibble about it.

So now, I am delighted to report that the STAEDTLER Mars plastic, or whatever it’s called, has real staying power, as a remover of pencil marks.  Buy a STAEDTLER Mars plastic now, and if you still have it a decade hence, it will still work.

The thing is, it was such a trivial task.  To have to have spent an afternoon wandering around London SW1 looking for a new eraser would have been so annoying.  To be able to get erasing right away was just so satisfying, compared to all that nonsense.  That the actual erasing took hardly any time at all only emphasises the contrast between how well things went and how annoyingly they would have gone, in the absence of my STAEDTLER Mars plastic.

I may never do any actual scanning of this book, but that’s not the point.  The point is, now I can, with no bother.

Monday January 07 2019

I basically picked last night’s quota photo for alliterative reasons.  QUota.  QUantum.  As we bloggers say: heh.  No long essay was required to present that little joke, if joke it even was.

In the course of my search late last night for a suitable QP, I came across other photos which seemed suitable for showing here, but which demanded little essays to explain what it was that made them suitable.  And I was too knackered for that, having spent yesterday working on this talk for Christian Michel’s 5/20 soiree, and then in the evening giving the talk.

In particular, late last night, I encountered in my photo-archives this remarkable (I think) photo, which I took in Regent’s Park in March of 2012, as it was getting dark, when on my way back from taking photos on and from Primrose Hill:

image

What I find remarkable about that photo is the contrast between how very red the reflection in the water of the lights on the BT Tower is, compared with how very un-red the actual lights themselves are, as photoed through the mere air.

You often get this with reflections.  In photos, I mean.  Your actual eyes make adjustments as they scan the scene.  What I would have seen, with my eyes, when photoing the above photo, is quite bright red lights on the tower, and a similarly bright reflection.

But my camera, on automatic, doesn’t think like this.  All my camera is concerned about is the overall balance.  It has to pick just one balance and apply it to everything.  And because a reflection is involved, it often ends up picking a balance where the actual view is very light and bright, but the reflection contains all the action.  I often do this-and-this-same-thing-relected photos with a glass window doing the reflecting.  And often what you get with that is a completely blank white sky, but then in the reflection you get all the distinctions between quite light and not so light, quite blue and not so blue, that you don’t get in the bit of the photo that is directly of the sky.

And that’s what surely happened with the above photo.  The redness got lost when we were just looking at the lights themselves.  But the water darkened and strengthened that same redness, and made it really red.

On the day, I was more interested in the birds swimming around on the water.  The next eight photos in that directory are of ducks and geese, and the final three are of a swan.  After that I called it a day, what daylight having ended.  I only really noticed this reflected redness thing last night.

Most Real Photographers have to have the skill of knowing at once when they’ve photoed a good photo, and why.  We unreal photoers can take our time.

Sunday January 06 2019

Photoed by me in April 2005:

image

This.

Busy day.

Saturday January 05 2019

Indeed:

image

That’s the wrapping of the new sofa, which arrived the day before yesterday.

It interests me that cardboard seems to have defeated expanded polystyrene as the delivery wrapping of choice these days.  It’s basic superiority is structural.  It is weak in compression, but strong in tension, at least in one direction.  Polystyrene is weak in every direction.  Its only strength is as padding.  And even there, cardboard (or just scrunched up paper) usually seems to suffice.  Worst of all, expanded polystyrene is (the clue is in the “expanded") takes up too much lwarehouse and lorry space.

Expanded polystyrene looks cooler.  But cardboard does the actual job better.

And consider also the sofa itself.  Central to its low price, compared to the big bulbous monster sofa style, is that it can be folded flat.  Again, far less warehouse and lorry space.

Friday January 04 2019

Here.

Transport Blog is up again, but not being added to again.  I miss transport blogging.

More about the bloke whose Twitter feed I found this bit of video at here.

Or maybe that should be: How Twitter rots the brain.

Instapundit is a daily destination for me, and yesterday, there’s a posting about a piece at Quillette by Cathy Young about Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

So I read that, and am impressed.  Solzhenitsyn was a hero of mine when I was at school and university, and like Young, I was puzzled by his subsequent opposition to Western liberalism and fondness for Russian nationalism, along with all the nasty baggage that is liable to bring with it, like anti-Semitism.

At the bottom of the Cathy Young article is the suggestion that I should consider following Cathy Young at Twitter.  I do so.  I scroll down, and soon find myself smiling at otter jokes, all the otter jokes being based on the fact that “otter” is only one letter away from “other”.  Significant otters.  In otter news.  (Yes, Happy New Year again.)

And: Why did the otters cross the road?  To get to the otter side.

This didn’t take long at all.

Thursday January 03 2019

And all in the one photo:

image

Also, trees without leaves.  Taken in January 2009.  On my way home, looking out towards Vauxhall Bridge Road and beyond, in the general direction of Battersea.

At present, sofas are more important to me than blogging, as the above blatant quota photo well illustrates.

This morning, the new sofa finally arrived.  It is my hope, and the promise of Westminster City Council, that the old sofa will depart tomorrow.

Wednesday January 02 2019

I just posted something at Samizdata about a talk I’ll be doing for Christian Michel this coming Sunday, i.e. January 6th.  A rerun of this, basically, but with my thinking somewhat further advanced.

In the course of my homework for this posting, and for the talk itself, I came across these two rather fine images, which nicely illustrate the two history dates loom large in my story, the invention of the printing press …:

image

… and the invention of the electric telegraph:

image

I found these images here, and here.

Note how all the books are German.  A major impact of printing being nationalism.

Tuesday January 01 2019

Happy New Year to all my readers.  Every time I go out to a party, I encounter people who read this thing, despite all its technical stupidities and despite the fact that the subject matter is just me musing aloud.  So good morning to you all and I hope that not only I, but also you, have a good 2019.  (Yes, I’m managing to keep up, approximately speaking, there also, where my musings are more structured and disciplined.)

This being Jan 1st, I offer you a sunrise:

image

Usually when the sky is that colour in my photos, it’s a sunset.  But it all came back to me when I chanced upon these photos, of an expedition to Alicante.  Basically, I visit all the bits of France and Spain that my ex-Quimper friends have or have had bits of property in.  And they had a place in Alicante, or they rented it, or something.  Maybe they still have it.  So, I went to Alicante, in January 2010.  And, the above photo was taken by me at a bus stop in Vauxhall Bridge Road, looking back across Vauxhall Bridge, while waiting for a bus to take me and all my holiday clobber in the opposite direction along Vauxhall Bridge Road to Victoria Station, where I eventually caught a bus to the airport.  With much confusion, as I recall it, about exactly where the damn bus departed from.  Had I not happened upon another traveller who knew, I might have missed that airplane.

All of which clarifies a fact that has for me become more and more clear over the years, that although blogs are not diaries, photo-archives are.  I have photoed many photos which I would not even consider sticking up here.  But they have all piled up on my hard disc.  I live, you might say, a double life.  There’s my, you know, life.  And then there’s my photoed life, which I can relive any time I want, and see all my friends and relatives and remember all the private things we said and did, the way you people very rarely get even to hear about, never mind learn the private details of.

This blog, meanwhile, is a severely edited subsection of my diary, with some added words, added in a way that I hope doesn’t make me appear too ridiculous.  Very different.

To add some words to the above photo, I realise that in addition to loving roof clutter, I am also becoming ever more fond of street clutter, of which London, due to the anarchic and non-mutually-communicating nature of London’s public sector, London possesses an abundance of.  Much of it is, like most modern roof clutter, severely utilitarian, which I like, because nobody is trying to make it look pretty.  But much ground clutter is very beautiful especially London’s more showy street lamps.

Love the new keyboard.  So solid and strong.  Happiness is being able to check all the letters and symbols on your keyboard, as you type.