Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Andy on Aerobots
Rob Fisher on Is 2007 old enough?
Rob Fisher on The Leaning Stonehenge Tour Bus of Salisbury
Rob Fisher on Miniature photographic fakery
Michael Jennings on The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Michael Jennings on The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Brian Micklethwait on The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Rob Fisher on The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Rob Fisher on The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Sarren on Another place to look out over London from
Most recent entries
- At the top of the Monument - in 2012 and in 2007
- I said it twelve years ago
- Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
- Is 2007 old enough?
- January newspaper pages
- Drunkblogging a new London Big Thing
- Shadow photography (again)
- The Leaning Stonehenge Tour Bus of Salisbury
- Peter Thiel on striking a balance between optimism and pessimism and on how failure is overrated
- The Bayeux Tapestry small enough to fit in this blog
- True hearts and warm hands
- Photo-drones fighting in the Ukraine and a photo-drone above the new Apple headquarters building
- Exit Caesar
- Cheap long-haul flights coming soon
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Transport
Today was the first first day of spring, so to speak. By this I mean that it was the first day of 2015 which made in clear that winter would eventually end and that summer would eventually arrive. Cool, but blue sky and sunshine. Meanwhile, winter may soon resume but spring at least is now officially on its way, and will happen.
As a technically rather incompetent photographer, heavily dependent on good light, I rejoice. The season of rootling through the archives is nearly over. The season of adding to the archives is getting started.
And, also today, I went to a funeral, in Salisbury, which is about an hour and half out of London by train, in a south westerly direction. The last time I ventured out of London into that part of England that is not-London for a ceremony, the weather was similarly excellent.
As soon as we stepped out of Salisbury station, strange and exotic sights presented themselves, such as this Stonehenge Tour Bus:
But there was something odd about it. It appeared to be leaning over somewhat, away from us. When I got round to the front of it, I saw that appearances had not deceived. It was leaning over:
How can a bus do that? Was the suspension malfunctioning? Was the Stonehenge Bus leaning over on purpose, in order to help a wheelchair bound passenger to embark? Was it partly parked on the pavement, and was a suspension computer overcompensating? Was there a kink in the road, downwards, next to the pavement?
I couldn’t hang about to investigate or to ask. We had a funeral to get to. But, odd.
I just came across this Economist piece from last November (I think that link will keep on working), saying that there may soon be ultra-cheap trans-Atlantic flights. I did not know this.
Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier that has been expanding rapidly across Europe, has begun flying across the Atlantic and to Thailand. Next March Wow Air, an Icelandic carrier, will start flights on routes such as Boston to London, via Reykjavik, with introductory prices as low as $99 one way.
Time was when …:
… the fuel burned by long-haul planes made up a large proportion of the cost of operating the flights. That made it hard for budget carriers to find enough cost savings elsewhere to cut prices sufficiently to tempt flyers to switch from carriers offering more comforts.
This is now changing, with the launches of some new and far more fuel-efficient planes: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, already in the air, Airbus’s A350, which will start flying within weeks, and a revamped version of Airbus’s A330, coming in 2019. Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, recently reiterated a promise that he would eventually sell transatlantic flights from as little as €10 ($13) one-way and with average return fares of around €200-300. The full-service airlines will also be ordering these new planes, but their cost disadvantage compared with the nimble budget carriers (because of such things as their legacy pension schemes and labour agreements) will become more stark.
Perhaps I will one day set foot in the USA after all.
As for that Economist link above, no, unless you subscribe. You have to google “making laker’s dream come true”. Then you can read it.
Or: this link seems to get you straight to a recycled version of the piece.
One of the better kept secrets of the popular entertainment industry of the modern world is how very good certain people are at faking reality, with quite small but very well made models. Thoughtless people say they can always spot such fakery. But the truth is that they only spot what they spot. What they don’t spot, they don’t spot. Obvious, if you think about it. The same principle applies to things like men wearing wigs. We can only see them when they are done badly.
So, I’m guessing that not everyone in Hollywood will be pleased about the internet presence of this guy, who contrives pictures like this ...:
… by doing this:
I found out about Michael Paul Smith from this Colossal posting, which is also where I got the above photos.
Much of the success of such fakery is to do with the camera being in the right place. In particular, it needs to be low enough to see things from the same angle that a human would see them if the scene was real.
I remember first working this out when, as a kid, I went through a model railway magazine phase, a craze I caught from my best friend just a few doors away in Harvest Road, Englefield Green. Most of the pictures in those magazines were obviously of models, but this was not because the models were always badly made. It was because the camera was looking down on the scene, just as you do when you are looking at a model. On the few occasions when the photographer would take the trouble to get his camera at real eye level, so to speak, it was amazing how realistic everything could suddenly look.
By the same token, and being only an occasional flyer, I have never yet tired of the thrill of looking down at the ground, preferably at built-up areas, from an airplane in the process of taking off or landing. Everything looks like toys. Really, really well made toys. Your frequent flyers have got used to the idea that this is really just boring old reality, seen from above. But to me, what I see from an airplane is something totally different from reality. It is an entire world, painstakingly faked in miniature, for my personal entertainment.
Lexington Green, here:
What if … ?
What would a history of the British Empire look like if it did not use the “rise and fall” metaphor?
What would that history look like if it examined not just the political framework or just the superficial gilt and glitter, or just the cruelty and crimes, but the deeper and more enduring substance?
What if someone wrote a history of the impact of the English speaking people and their institutions (political, financial, professional, commercial, military, technical, scientific, cultural), and the infinitely complex web of interconnections between them, as a continuous and unbroken story, with a past a present … and a future?
In other words, what if we were to read a history that did not see a rising British Empire followed by a falling Empire, then a rising American Empire which displaced it, but an organism which has taken on many forms over many centuries, and on many continents, but is nonetheless a single life?
What if we assume that the British Empire was not something that ended, but that the Anglosphere, of which the Empire was one expression, is something that has never stopped growing and evolving, and taking on new institutional forms?
What if it looked at the unremitting advance, the pitiless onslaught, universal insinuation, of the English speakers on the rest of the world, seizing big chunks of it (North America, Australia), sloshing up into many parts of it and receding again (India, Nigeria, Malaya), carving permanent marks in the cultural landscape they left behind, all the while getting wealthier and more powerful and pushing the frontiers of science and technology and all the other forms of material progress?
What if jet travel and the Internet have at last conquered the tyranny of distance which the Empire Federationists of a century ago dreamed that steam and telegraph cables would conquer? What if they were just a century too early?
I recall musing along the same kind of lines myself, a while back.
The important thing is, this mustn’t be advertised first as a plan. If that happens, then all the people who are against the Anglosphere, and who prefer places like Spain and Venezuela and Cuba and Hell, will use their ownership of the Mainstream Media to Put A Stop to the plan. What needs to happen is for us to just do it, and then after about two decades of us having just done it, they’ll realise that it is a fate (as the Hellists will describe it) accompli.
Because, guess what, we probably are already doing it.
Indeed. Behind the photographer is a coach:
Passing buses and lorries make fine backdrops for photos I find. I especially like this because the picture on the coach (in aid of this enterprise, I presume) is so bizarre. This is exactly how the picture emerged from the camera. No cropping, no rotating, nothing. It was taken last September, outside Westminster Abbey, looking away from the main entrance and towards Parliament Square. None of which is even at bit clear, because of the coach. Unless you are a railings spotter.
I spent the day building CD shelves, hence the need for a quota photo.
The gap between my eyesight and the eyesight of my camera grows and grows with the passing of the years, as my eyes inexorably dim and as my cameras inexorably improve. Even I can regularly manage quite decent shots with my latest camera. As a result, I become ever more immobilised by having to choose good ones from the enormous piles of decent shots I often come back with, after a day out.
Yesterday was a bit different. I went to the home of Michael Jennings for a Christmas Day lunch, picture 1.1 being the most striking thing I saw from out of his front window. The day was lovely, but the light, though wonderful, was fast fading, so Michael and our mutual lady friend and I went out for a short (by my photographic standards) walk to take advantage of it. Which meant that I took, by my standards, only a few pictures. Which made it easier to choose and stick up a few half decent ones.
Picture 1.2 is my favourite of these. Thank God for London’s religious diversity. Much as I loath what Islam says in its holy scriptures, and much as I am critical of people who go through the motions of worshipping these writings, either because they truly believe what those writings say (very wicked), or because they don’t but think that they it doesn’t matter or that they must (also wicked – yes, I mean you, Moderate Muslims – stop saying that you believe stuff that you also say that you don’t believe), I do like that having Muslims in London keeps shops open and taxis running on days like Christmas Day. Michael fixed a couple of Uber taxi rides for me, and both the drivers had Muslim sounding names.
I don’t know what the church is in 2.1 but it looks pretty behind that leafless tree. And Tower Bridge always looks pretty to me.
Re those two Tower Bridge shots, I’ve always liked how digital cameras do the opposite of the human eye, and turn urban skies bluer and brighter as they actually get darker. It’s all those orange-coloured artificial lights, burning relatively brighter as the sun sinks, together with the actual darkness on the ground, impinging upon the Automatic setting.
Here is a picture I took earlier this evening, at Warren Street tube station, the Victoria Line, at the time specified in the picture …:
… and here is another picture, of the same things, but from closer up and from below, which, as you can see, I took six minutes and one second later:
The first picture, taken from a random spot quite a long way off and from within a crowd (hence the blurriness) is the problem, and the second picture, taken from much nearer and when I was seated, shows you (without blurriness) what is causing the problem. There is a sign, and there is a damn great horizontal slab of WTFness, attached to a surveillance camera, right next to the sign, blocking the view of the sign, from everywhere except very near to it. This arrangement was not calculated to render the sign two thirds useless (see the first picture above), because it is quite clear that no calculation was involved. The installers of the surveillance camera and its WTFness clearly gave no thought to the sign or its legibility on most of the platform. But, if a malevolent calculation had been done with the above malevolent purpose in mind, that is exactly where the surveillance camera and its big WTFness attachment would have been placed. They could not have blotted out the sign better if they had tried.
You see this combination of circumstances quite a lot in tube stations. Finally, I got around to photoing it, when I saw it, so I can have a bitch about it on my blog.
Knowing how long you must wait for your next train is very soothing, I find. One of the best things about railway (and bus) services in recent years is that signs such as this one have become ever more abundant. But, such signs only soothe if it is possible to read them. They do not soothe if it is necessary to walk half the length of the platform in order to read them.
I am not impressed.
Something a lot of people don’t get about rather small and incremental improvements is that even if they don’t mean anything to you (by which I mean to them) they can definitely mean something to someone, and potentially a great deal, and to quite a lot of someones. My understanding of economics is that this is one of the most basic ideas embodied in it. (The notion even has its own intellectual revolution: the Marginal Revolution.)
A price increase of around fifty pence for something costing, say, thirty quid may not seem much, and it may not change your behaviour. But for some people this will be the proverbial straw that changes a light bulb to parsnips, the difference that makes all the difference.
Consider these slightly new, slightly snazzier trains, that have been announced by Eurostar, to replace their existing trains, next year. Their front ends, so we are now being told, will look like this:
The Evening Standard (where I found all these pictures) tells us that these new trains will slash the journey time from London to Paris, but it neglects to reveal by how much. Google google. Here we go. The Daily Mail supplies the answer to this obvious question. It turns out that the journey time from London to Paris will be “slashed” (their word too) by … fifteen minutes.
But this posting is not (see above) a rant about how little difference this will make to most people. It is a rant about how much difference it will make to some people. For some people this fifteen minute reduction will make the difference between being able to go to Paris in the morning, get the job done, and then return to London that same day in time to read a story to a daughter. Or … not. Connections just missed will turn into connections just made, and fifteen minutes (doubled for the two journeys) will stretch out into something more like two hours.
Not for most people. Just for some people. And when you consider how many people might or might not choose to use Eurostar, depending on considerations like the above, that “some” people turns out to be really quite a lot of people.
In short, fifteen minutes does make a difference.
Or consider another small improvement that these new trains will involve, this time an improvement measured not in minutes but in inches.
Here is how the new trains will look on the inside:
Now that may not seem very interesting. But it interests me greatly. It’s been a while since I travelled on Eurostar, but my abiding memory is of how small and cramped and dreary the interior of the carriage was. For such a supposedly twenty first century experience, the whole thing had a very twentieth century feel to it, in a bad way. The above picture immediately makes me think that these new trains will be a significantly more spacious and less soul-destroying experience than the old ones, the old ones that I will still be partaking of when I journey to France and back, just after Christmas.
Judging by this photo ...:
… it would appear that they have done to the design of the Eurostar what they have also been doing to some of the trains in the London Underground. These new London tube trains now bulge outwards, over the platforms. Not by much, but by just a bit, just enough to make a real difference to the inside.
A few days ago, I overheard a conversation between some out-of-towners who were enthusing about the new and wider tube trains that were recently introduced on London’s Circle Line. They were rhapsodising. It was like listening to the scripted pseudo-public babbling away on a TV advert, so delighted were these truly regular members of the public about the new train that they and I were travelling on. And I agree with them. Whenever a train that I am awaiting emerges from its tunnel and reveals itself to be one of these new and slightly wider trains, my spirits are lifted.
And that was just inside a tube train. When it comes to Eurostar, we are talking about two hours. Two hours stuck in a dreary little tube, or in a rather less dreary, rather less constricted sort of tube. That is quite a difference. I can easily imagine, when some future decision about a cross-Channel journey presents itself to me, that these extra few inches ("cramped" is all about inches) could be the difference that will be all the difference, to me. At the very least, I will try to give the new carriages at least one try, when they do finally appear.
A small photo posting
My chance to ride a bus almost as old as me
In which I quotulate from a photo of a Canadian train
And now a photo-drone in a London shop window
MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Only with a computer
Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Recently on dezeen
Boris bus malfunction
Flying cars will have to be flown by robots
Union Jack Minis
On the problems of half-parking with a half-car
Headlights with cleaning brush
A tumult of cranes (and the Spraycan)
My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Oxo Tower with bus advertising The Expendables III
A Sunday ramble
Round headlights equals an old car
New London bridge competition
My favourite Tour de France in London photo
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
Why aren’t people happier about amazing new stuff?
Vespa GS in Lower Marsh
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
Quota photos of and from Tate & Lyle Park
Me and the first cranes at London Gateway last September
Old bus No 2
A old bus doing regular bus stuff
Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (aka Spaghetti Junction on Sea)
Photographing while on a skateboard
Vauxhall bus station now – and when it was being constructed
Other things last Wednesday
Reflections in some somewhat broken windows
Under Blackfriars Bridge
“In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
Zooming in on that approaching bus
Seven London bridges from the ME Hotel Radio Bar
Photoing the A380 from above – from the ground
“O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!”
Westminster Tube photos
Could I please walk on Norman Foster’s proposed bike-ways above the trains (and take photos)?
Sculpture at St James’s Tube
More photos of things past
Father Christmas Aerodrome
The Kelpies of Falkirk
Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Gloomy Earl’s Court picture
Eurostar before St Pancras
A vanished building and a bendy bus
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
The roof of Victoria Station
Owl at Canning Town railway station
Morgan – Abbey reflected in Morgan – Abbey reflected in other cars
Huge semi-submersible ships
Baltimore: cranes - a bridge - scaffolding
London Gateway from above
New apostrophe-shaped footbridge in Hull
An old Mini and a new Mini
A scaffolder likes Jeremy Clarkson
BMdotCOM insult of the day
Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
A Fleet Street lunch
Remembering a warmer day
Art without Artists
Giant cranes made in China for new London super-port in Thurrock
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Waterloo Station’s new upper deck
At the bottom of the Shard
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
A new crane has already arrived
Here are (a lot) more photos that I took on March 27th
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Michael Jennings on how the taxis at Skopje airport are an evil racket and what he did about it
Does anyone know how I can straighten these gasometers?
It got my attention
Tower Bridge with railway clutter in the foreground
This is transport
Beware the Men In Orange!
Viaduct from above
Photographers at Eros and Art in the tube
The Shard looking like it’s in a 1950s postcard
Steve Baker MP
Space launch monster
Today I’m in a “How very odd!” mood
Ancient and modern (but mostly ancient) cars in Regent Street yesterday
London from the east
Summer blogging break
Quimper cat on Harley-Davidson
The Royal Victoria Dock is not (but looks like) a transporter bridge
Quota hedgehog sculpture
A favourite Sunday snap
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom narcissistic self-quote of the day
Even the Goodyear Blimp is now obsessed with safety
More signs of the times
Strata from a station
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
Signs - all in my bit of one railway carriage
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
The bike behind the theatre
Self portrait plus meaning of life
A Spanish geography lesson
A Spanish high speed train bridge and a Spanish aqueduct
And here’s the proof!!! Sixteen little square pictures!!!
The Brusio spiral viaduct also looks like a toy train layout
Adverts on taxis and cars
Transport Blog restarts
Beyond the Dome with Goddaughter One
Google rolls out computer controlled cars
Another strangely punctuated headline and a depressing television play
More bridge magic
The Razor through a bus and without the bus
Real life toy trains
Mmmmm … bookshelves!
Farnborough (5): Supacat Bloodhound Falcon
Lynxes and an A380
A response to the cyclist menace
Pink railway clutter
I do love a steam train on a viaduct
Big box computers versus laptops
Soviet space leftovers
Light and shade
When the foreground tries to ruin the shot - but only makes it better!
Rubbish bridge in Shangai
Car in in front of sloping houses
Airplanes converted into architecture
How my camera and the internet explained an old bus
Quota vapour trail
Six lions on a white Mercedes bonnet
I never knew Marmite came in tanker lorries
Sushi and scaffolding at Victoria
Why do pregnant women now do quite a lot of driving of their husbands?
SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT MOTORS
Towers under the weather - and a steam engine steams to the rescue
Free Skullcandy on a bus in snowy Edinburgh
Three airplane photos
The Shard is definitely being built!
Strange purple cat with four eyes
Wuhan railway station under construction - with sunset behind
Of lists and distant totally photorealistic skyscrapers
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
Model T parts flatvert
Back lit by the sun
Stuff in the foreground I wasn’t expecting
Instapundit turns into Idiot Toys
Bike made entirely of wood
Toys and big toys
Unamazing photo of amazing road
Who is Arnold Leah?
The Long Walk is easier if you have a couple of horses pulling you
Parliament photoed by a bus!
Flat train picture and regular train picture
Thames river boats
It could be a rather small funeral
Roll out the Lino
I am not drunk - I just didn’t know what to put so I just started
Old postage stamps
Another fine day and more not Billion Monkey pictures
Palming them off with a sunset
A movie staircase and a window
That went okay
Nothing here again
If it’s not Art it can be rather fun
Number on a bus roof
Tama the feline stationmaster saves the Wakayama Electric Railway Co.
A thin bridge in Wales
Another great viaduct
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
Billion Monkeys close up and London from far above!
To Greenwich by train and back by bus
Clarkson on Sarah Jessica Parker
Two adverts in the tube
The original Burtynsky Nanpu bridge picture
What I have seen so far while abroad
Here they stand
Ducks - frogs - turtles – beavers – Galaxy Quest
Those were the days and these are no longer the days
Giant table football table and hamster powered cars
Why it helps to be exposed to the lower classes and to dogs when you are young
Classic car thinness
Travis Perkins of Pimlico Road are not good at delivering timber
Airplane over Putney
Celebrating a victory
The Gatwick Beehive
Big, Bigger, Biggest - starring Heathrow Terminal 5
The Rite of Spring sounds to me like technology rather than nature
Meltdown in Russia … and New Zealand
The moving bridges of Chicago
Toshiba’s violin playing robot
I love the internet
At Bethnal Green railway station
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Michael Jennings on telecoms at Samizdata
It’s true what they say about how hard it is to pronounce Chinese – oh beansprouts!
More horizontal thinness
Blurry Billion Monkey on bus in front of even blurrier Wheel
Not obviously but maybe …
Guess the city (2)
Billion Monkey Maria Sharapova lookalikes!!!
Talking about St Pancras at St Pancras
Millau Viaduct with goats
More St Pancras snaps
Long train with mountains
Thin Canadian bridge
The space between the buildings
Hear ye hear ye
For Skimbleshanks read Tizer
Eurostar says goodbye Waterloo hello St Pancras
The A380 bulge
Fourteen British viaducts
A train called Professor George Gray
Photos - four transport - two artistic
Fly-pasts - air displays - crashes
Feral Real Photographers and naughty Billion Monkey!
Further pictorial shallowness
The cranes are migrating to China and Michael Jennings will be talking about China
Lots of links
Billion Monkeys photo spaceship launch!
Voluntary World 3: Transport Blog illustrates the Muggins principle
Bridge over bright water
City Cat runs on air
Sunset with bike
Free trade explains the success of the Swedish Model
Assorted London quota photos
Toy train to Darjeeling
It’s Friday again
Just making conversation
Halo over Oxford Circus
London tricyclists are getting strong
Amazing map of amazing new Moscow bridge
A spring in their step
New Moscow road bridge
Dirty vapour trail over London
Robot car park in New York
Very very low cost kitten in space
World War One talk at Christian Michel’s
I am about to become a published photographer
The Dyson DC14
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
No more photos for a bit after these ones
Happy day after Christmas Day
By the rivers and canals of East London with Goddaughter One
Billion Monkeys photograph things!
Pictures of and from Albert Bridge
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
Airship over the Wheel
Two sunset photos
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
Grassy car with blog
A very small A380
Tourists on the move
Sssssssss!!!! White man! Take my photo!!
Cute Brazilian car
A little transport history
Car attack – the plot thickens
Patrick Crozier talks with me about Japan
Patrick and Brian mp3 about libertarianism and spreading libertarianism
Bartók outside South Kensington tube
I also miss Transport Blog
A car called Jesus
Presumably the noise is not a problem
Chrysler 300C with bling
Non-zero tolerance at Clapham Junction
The Hungerford footbridges
The Falkirk Wheel
Watching them watching me
Another Billion Monkey and some Celluloid Gorillas in Victoria Street
Capitalism sermons and Bentley wings
A kink in the Range Rover grill
Comedy tonight and another car headlight today
Looking at the cars
Inflight entertainment and information
Two Ambassadors and a blurry cyclist
Picture of a star riding in a stretch limo
So that’s this done
Some art to be linked to from elsewhere
Look what I saw from the airplane