Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Design

Monday December 15 2014

This morning I had reason to be in the vicinity of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, at about 10 a.m.  Later you will learn why, but in the meantime, just to say that this uncharacteristically early-in-the-day expedition enabled me to reacquaint myself with an old friend, in the form of the delightful footbridge that allows the ballerinas of the Royal Ballet School to make their way to the Royal Opera House, without having to risk being damaged by traffic or by the public:

image

The ROH is on the right there.  I like how the squares in the bridge echo the strong right angles of the building and its roof details.

I also like the blue sky.  But, you think that’s a blue sky?  That’s not a blue sky. 

This is a blue sky.

Sunday December 14 2014

A moment ago I had a twenty first century moment.  I thought: Wouldn’t it be great to have a keyboard on the top of your thighs, embedded in the front of the top of the legs of your trousers.  You could then type wherever, perhaps combined with a pair of those google glasses that you also wear perpetually.  And it could all add up to a mega-computer if combined with a big cycle helmet full of electro-magic.

The point being that typing is never going to go away.  The QWERTY keyboard is permanently with us, I think.

So, what about that top-of-your-trousers keyboard?  Time was when a thought is all that such a thought could ever be.  But now, no sooner is the thought thought than it is googled:

image

Brilliant.  It’s not market-ready yet, but they’re working on it.

Gotta love that Golden Age.

Although, great though the basic idea is, I can’t help feeling that (a) washing and/or cleaning might be an issue, and (b) the keyboard needs to be separable from the trousers by some means.  Maybe just strapped on, or something.  What if the keyboard malfunctions?  Do you then have to chuck away the jeans?  What if the jeans catch on fire?  Is the mere keyboard then any use?  Problems problems.  This, after all, is why keyboards originally separated themselves from personal computers.

But like I say, the basic idea is a very good start.

Maybe in the longer run, the future of the mobile keyboard is that your Goggle Spex will project a keyboard onto a nearby surface (and then keep that keyboard still even when you move your head around), which it will then observe your fingers typing on.

But basically we are talking about the next iteration of the personal computer.  First, big old box in the office.  Second, big old luggable/portable “laptop”.  Third, little toy in your pocket that you can peck at.  And now fourth, this.  A real computer than you can wear all the time and type into whenever, wherever, within less than a second of whatever you want to type occurring to you.  Had I been on a train when I had this notion, I could not then have done this blog posting.  That is what needs to change, much more conveniently than it has so far changed.

Thursday December 11 2014

In October, I posted this, provoked by seeing a drone in a London shop window.  I said stuff like this:

Something tells me that this gadget is going to generate some contentious news stories about nightmare neighbours, privacy violations, and who knows what other fights and furores.

What might the paps do with such toys?  And how soon before two of these things crash into each other?

I should also then have read and linked to this piece, published by Wired in February.  Oh well.  I’m linking to it now.

Quote:

Sooner or later there will inevitably be a case when the privacy of a celebrity is invaded, a drone crashes and kills someone, or a householder takes the law into their own hands and shoots a drone down.

Quite aside from privacy issues, what sort of noise do these things make?  That alone could be really annoying.  (Although that link is also very good as a discussion of privacy issues.  Noise is only the start of their discussion.)

My guess?  These things will catch on, but at first only for niche markets, like photoing sports events, or, in general, photoing inside large privately owned places where the owner can make his own rules and others then just have to take them or leave them.  Pop concerts.  If they’re not too noisy, they might be good for that.

This is always how new technology first arrives.  Ever since personal computers the assumption has tended to be that the latest gizmo will immediately go personal, so to speak.  (Consider 3D printing.) But actually, personal use is, at any rate to begin with, rather a problem.  At first, the new gizmo finds little niche markets.  Only later, if at all, do things get personal.

Which is why, I think, the first two sightings I have made of photo drones have each been in shop windows, the first in the window of Maplins in the Strand (see the link above), and the most recent, shown below, in the window of Maplins in Tottenham Court Road:

image

And a creepy Christmas to you.  I guess this is the gadget of choice of “Secret Santa”.

Which reminds me.  Now is the time I start taking photos of signs saying “Merry Christmas” to stick up here instead of sending out Christmas cards.  Will I find a weirder “Merry Christmas” than that?  Quite possibly not.

I am looking forward to photoing one of these things out in the wild.

Monday December 08 2014

Here is a picture I took earlier this evening, at Warren Street tube station, the Victoria Line, at the time specified in the picture …:

image

… 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:

image

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 sooth if it is possible to read them.  They do not sooth if it is necessary to walk half the length of the platform in order to read them.

I am not impressed.

Thursday December 04 2014

Busy day, so another from the I Just Like It directory (the last one having been this):

image

The things roofs turn into when no one cares what they look like.

This was taken in September of this year, in the vicinity of Holburn tube.

Monday December 01 2014

Today I went walkabout in the City of London with my friend Gus, father of Goddaughter 1.  This evening I found, for the first time, this short video interview at the Arup (his long time employer) website, done with Gus in 2010.

Here are four vertical favourite-photos I took:

image image image image

On the left, Gus shows me a magazine picture of the Cheesegrater, taken on a much nicer day than the day, cold and windy, that we were having to put up with today.  Next in line is one of those Big Things seen through a gap in the foreground shots, but with a difference.  This time, there are two Big Things involved.  There is a sliver of Walkie-Talkie on the right, and then way beyond it, you can see the Shard.  Then, we see Gus joke-propping-up the miniature Lego Gherkin that is to be seen next to the regular Gherkin.  On the right, Gus looks up at something or other, this being the best snap I did of him.

Now for all my favourite horizontals.

I’m too tired after all that walking about in the cold to say much about these pictures, but see in particular 2.1, which is, I’m pretty sure, some of the bolts, a few of which recently disintegrated.  Now they are having to check all such bolts, and there are a lot.

1.1: Mmmm, cranes.  Grim day, well done my recently acquired camera, good in low light conditions.

1.2: Canon Street tube.  Designed like a bridge, said Gus, ace bridge designer, because under it there are tube lines which it is built on top of, like a bridge.  This is the building I asked about in an earlier posting here.

1.3: I included this because of the sign saying “all inquiries”.  All?  You know what they mean, but there is fun to be had on the phone with this sign.

2.2: A Gherkin detail, is there because I said, when I saw it, that looks rather plastic.  And guess what, it is plastic.

2.4: Shows us the Lego Gherkin in front of the Actual Gherkin

image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image

3.2: A more fun picture of Gus, featuring also: me, in the right hand purple circle.

3.3, 3.4, 4.1: All the Walkie-Talkie.

4.4: For scaring pigeons, something you seldom see from above.  I saw this particular cluster of pigeon scarers while descending a staircase at Liverpool Street station.  That last was the very last photo I took.

When I emerged from Pimlico tube, near my home, I was amazed at how dark it had become, at a quarter to four in the afternoon.  Like I say, my new camera really did the business today.

Sorry for all the cock-ups and mispronts in this posting.  I’m knackered and am now going to bed.

Thursday November 27 2014

Do you remember The Navy Lark?  Used to be on the radio.  In it, I seem to recall Leslie Phillips, playing a young (that already dates it) sub-lieutenant, who used, from time to time, following a marine mishap, to say:

Oh clang.

But, I can find no mention of this particular catchphrase in all the various Navy Lark sites, so maybe I invented it, and am remembering only how Leslie Phillips would have said this, had he ever done so.

Anway: Oh clang.  Someone just dropped a bear bottle on that glass floor they installed only a fortnight ago at the top of Tower Bridge, and shattered the glass.

I did not see that coming.  I thought glass for that type of thing was now strong enough to resist a falling small car totally unscathed, let alone a mere beer bottle.  I thought that expensive glass like this only now shatters in movies.  In real life, I reckoned until I read this, you now bounce off it, unless it is extremely ancient, as does a beer bottle.  Apparently not.  (Did the bottle break, I wonder?)

It appears that this breakage was, as it were, deliberate, in the sense that the beer bottle broke only the top ("sacrificial") layer of five different layers of glass:

The stunning attraction, which offers visitors a unique, if slightly terrifying view of the road-bridge and River Thames, 138 feet below, was shattered when a member of the catering staff working at the venue dropped an empty bottle while carrying a tray.

The glass floor, which was only unveiled on Nov 10, cracked and then shattered, leaving Tower Bridge bosses with no choice but to cover and close the section of the walkway affected.

Fortunately the design of the walkway, which is made up of five layers of glass in each pane, meant engineers could repair the glass by simply replacing the top layer, rather than the entire thing.

This news first broke, ho ho, on Twitter.

Reminder to self: Must visit this visitor attraction, just to find out what my very zoomy camera makes of it, from below.

Saturday November 22 2014

On the way back from the Royal College of Music to South Kensington tube after that magic Magic Flute, I encountered, for the first time, in Exhibition Road, the phone box that you see to the right.

imageIt is a telephone box, but a telephone box with a difference.  The windows have been replaced by sheets of reflective metal, and the telephone is now outside.  Inside is whatever gubbins is needed to support a cash machine, which is also to be seen on the outside.

The reason I was only seeing this item for the first time is that I usually use the tunnel, but GD2 and her mum, with whom I was walking, prefer to stay above ground.

The classic London phone box, like the double decker bus, refuses to die.  It helps that it can survive, in all its essentials, a sustained period of neglect and it is hard work actually to destroy.  So, the period between the relevant bureaucrats deciding, for their own bureaucrat type reasons, to scrub these phone boxes from the face of the earth and the mere people deciding to revive them was a period that the phone box was able to survive, in numbers.

Next step, make replica phone boxes out of newer materials.  Has that happened already, I wonder?  Yes it has.

I further wonder: Is the the phone box in my photo one of these phoneys?

Phone (and cash) box
The Magic Flute at the RCM
Looking down through the see-through Tower Bridge walkway – but what about looking up through it?
Union Jacks with colours played around with
A small photo posting
Skycam
Halloween buckets
How Bill Bryson on white and black paint helps to explain the Modern Movement in Architecture
Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Recently on dezeen
Boris bus malfunction
Another facade being carefully preserved
Flying cars will have to be flown by robots
Chippendale without Rannie
Lady with a lot of hair
Union Jack Minis
On the problems of half-parking with a half-car
Crane lamp
Headlights with cleaning brush
Out and about in the sunshine
Bond car
God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
A swimming pool in a skyscraper
My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Man 3D-prints Thing in his back garden
A Sunday ramble
Round headlights equals an old car
The River Thames carpet
Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
Self-healing concrete
Bombardier Embrio
New London bridge competition
My favourite Tour de France in London photo
Colossal fun
Robyn Vinter is wrong about Google Glass
Will England get lucky?
Vespa GS in Lower Marsh
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
3D printed structural joints and another Gormley man
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
Tricycles
Tower Bridge before it got covered in stone
Chinos?
Stones created from layers of old paint from car factories
The Dragon Bridge of Da Nang
Leaf Cycle
Me and the first cranes at London Gateway last September
Organised water
Moving picture
Looking good for the telephone box smartphone
Old bus No 2
Hao Ruan and LYCS Architecture are now world famous
Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (aka Spaghetti Junction on Sea)
Red arrow?
Ten years ago today
Vauxhall bus station now – and when it was being constructed
Feline ephemera
Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
Vladivostock from above
When Open Symbol attacks!
Faberge - Brutalism
Seven London bridges from the ME Hotel Radio Bar
Photoing the A380 from above – from the ground
Big Thing news from New York and London - and a picture of climate alarmism losing
Sandcastles that will live for ever
The Tate Modern extension nears completion
Slightly wider tube trains
How hydrogen bombs work
Quota crane and quota plane
3D printer sighted!
Model Big Things
Scott Wiener on pizza boxes
In which I continue to seek a satisfactory sofa
Mercedes-Benz W123
Big Things and small things
Movable bridges
London Postcode Puzzle
La Porte des Indes
Gloomy Earl’s Court picture
Michael Jennings photos the bridges of Porto
Crows nest made of coat hangers
Conquer the Pillars of Islam
Dezeen continues to delight
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
Proposed new footbridges for London and for Changsha
Sperm Bike
Halloween is near!
Otherwise blogging (and a Burgess Park butterfly)
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
Bad and good in bad weather
Earn yourself fifty quid by finding me a suitable sofa
Huge semi-submersible ships
Art gallery made of scaffolding
Chess set made of London’s Big Things
London Gateway from above
Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future
A day in and around Olympicland with Goddaughter One
Quota photo of a bucket of plastic crocodiles in an otherwise deserted shop window in Oxford Street
Bridges for animals
New apostrophe-shaped footbridge in Hull
Views from Kings College
Blank-faced tower – crazy hairdo
An old Mini and a new Mini
Rooftops
Savoy cat
Spot the Samsung connection
Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
Cassette iPhone photographer
Wedding photography (4): Preparations
Remembering a warmer day
A mannequin in Tachbrook Street sheds light on the nature of perception
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Four crane photos
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
Classical CDs from Gramex
At the bottom of the Shard
Monopoly Cat replaces Monopoly Iron
Skull made of skulls in gift shop street
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
XXL?
A new crane has already arrived
Is Samizdata in danger of becoming a photo-blog?
Another thing I’d rather photo than own
Croydon cats
An afternoon in Croydon
Here are (a lot) more photos that I took on March 27th
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Click to see the big picture
The Bezier Building and a hideous advertising erection at the Old Street Roundabout
Millbank Tower with street light
A memorable scoreboard surrounded by empty seats
Cheese or font?
Black Katz
Bomber Command Memorial pictures
Another excellent spot to photo London from
Crane and plane
Only railings
No Misc April – Misc May
Misc March
London bridge photos
Changing views from the Monument
The Big Olympic Thing from nearer
Bollards
A happy British Summer Time to all my readers
A Happy Christmas to all those still reading this
Space launch monster
Ancient and modern (but mostly ancient) cars in Regent Street yesterday
Transport photos
NFL fans and their name-and-number shirts in Trafalgar Square on Saturday
The Jobs difference
Notes to self but not to you
The Wheel reflected in a cheeseburger advert
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Health and safety on a mountain in Borneo
The Royal Victoria Dock is not (but looks like) a transporter bridge
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
On the superfluity of the Paddington Basin rolling bridge
Strange footbridge over brick wall
Rally Against Debt signs
Brainwave-controlled cat ears for humans created by Japanese Neurowear
Nil scrap value
Do not climb on the Thing!
The wedding lingers on
Another pub
The Armstrong Gun
Signs from the Frenchosphere
After the wedding
Even the Goodyear Blimp is now obsessed with safety
Big crane
And there was you thinking you were immortal
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Rugby shirts on drugs
Another Assembly of Men
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
Kyrgyzstan cemetery and awesome frogs
Signs - all in my bit of one railway carriage
Mmmmm … scaffolding!
New bridge in Melbourne
If you can’t beat them hire them
Raptor not being very stealthy
Old school advertising has its uses
Soviet health and safety posters
More signage
Giant bull held up by scaffolding
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
A Spanish high speed train bridge and a Spanish aqueduct
Lancaster
Cool sculpture
Jobs departs from Apple (again)
October 2007 conversation about modern architecture with Patrick Crozier
Marmite spoons!
Dawkins does better sound than God ever did
The new mainframe
A laptop but not in my lap
From pop to purrfume
Trust drunk and disorderly
The Brusio spiral viaduct also looks like a toy train layout
Arecibo Radio Telescope
Giant Jesuses
Adverts on taxis and cars
Sunset in Oxford Street
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Sexy architecture
Happy hundredth
Mmmmm … bookshelves!
Farnborough (4): Cat on teeshirt - insect on cat’s nose
Lynxes and an A380
Taranis
Exploitation?
Pink railway clutter
Big box computers versus laptops
Three Gorges Dam picture
Chair that unrolls into the exactly correct shape
More photos from last week
One child poster
Rubbish bridge in Shangai
Glass is now very strong
Car in in front of sloping houses
A good bit about the future of art galleries and how to rescue good bits
Airplanes converted into architecture
Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent
Six lions on a white Mercedes bonnet
Quota cat rubber
Cranes
Separating the men from the toys - the future of warfare and of sport?
Beyond iPad (and a picture that goes beyond this posting)
Two red cats
Quota bridge
Reds against Blues in Munich
Osprey pictures
London cricket roof clutter
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
The Min-Kyu Choi folding three point plug
Strange purple cat with four eyes
Am I interested in dredgers?
Luxembourg church in hill and Luxembourg footbridge
Strange bridge
Apple mobile phones are very profitable but Nokia mobile phones are not very profitable
The decor in Peter Jones - and where in London can I find a small ice-cube-making machine?
Death to all who try to tiptoe past our guards while wearing giant baby costumes!
Today I bought an Apple Mac keyboard …
The Labour Party finally agrees on a new Prime Minister to replace Gordon Brown
Dripping table
Of lists and distant totally photorealistic skyscrapers
Pull Tab
Computer coffee table
Magic bottle that makes dirty water drinkable
The Wheel through some Art
Thinking thin at the top
The latest Canon DSLR comes without a twiddly screen
Inappropriate?
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
A photo of the Samsung NC10 and the original Asus Eee-PC next to each other
PurseBook
Wheel etc.
Hotelicopter
Redesigned Bishop
Unamazing photo of amazing road
Olympus E-620
SwivelCam
Sailing photos – and another bridge for the collection
OLED TV - very thin and detailed but not very big and not ready yet unless you’re stupidly rich
SDXC
Generational taste in furniture
Random links
Making the new look and feel like the old
Evening Standard hand-done billboards go printed shock
Power
Englefield Green Xmas decor
Another antique
Old postage stamps
More Englefield Green strangeness
Jesus above the keyboard instead of beyond it
Big clocks
Not Billion Monkeys!
Linkin Park - one leg short of libertarian
Gadget gold
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
A movie staircase and a window
Sheep under wolf’s clothing
JD gets PTD
Redirect to a piece on Samizdata about a camera
Inamo
Redirect
The uses of Jesus
More sticking up stuff
City of London lumps and a south London spike
Profundity and silliness
My watch has to tell me the date as well as the time
Jellennium Bridge
Punk surveillance cameras
Craziness done with austerity
Ken Livingstone was beaten by the billboards!
Floppy road bridge where the cars nearly get wet
Narrow bridge
Catbrella
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
Clarkson on Sarah Jessica Parker
The new Lowe look
What’s this for?
“If only it were true …”
The original Burtynsky Nanpu bridge picture
PID strikes Guido
Roger Scruton on Prince Charles’s new town
Flickring and Googling for the AMGEN bridge
Those were the days and these are no longer the days
Wired bridges
A sculptural suggestion
Malaysian footbridge for everyone except … gephyrophobiacs?
Giant table football table and hamster powered cars
Church covered in church pictures
The Messina Suspension Bridge is on again
“Better value on goods and services across a wide range of categories …”
My Wheel’s bigger than your Wheel
Big Bens - Wheels - Big Ben teapots - telephone box teapots
Wedding rings that join together with telephone plugs
Dasubee toilet scrubbing robot
Classic car thinness
Coffee House struggles with Permanent Italics Disease
Instapundit succumbs to PID
Big, Bigger, Biggest - starring Heathrow Terminal 5
Flat pictures for flat screens
Signs of civilisation
She learned to knit her before she learned to spell her
Toshiba’s violin playing robot
Ursa major
Making the Mississippi Delta make more land
Bookcase staircase many books electric book manybooks.net
At Bethnal Green railway station
Eee PC and Brahms CDs
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
The great DVD packaging clearout
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
Thin camera picture
Bristol footbridge photo
Engadget suffers from intermittent giant text disease
Thin Canadian bridge
Underground art
The bridge that was going to make Westminster a fine city and London a desert
Digital Camera Review error
Tinsley Viaduct
The A380 bulge
Fourteen British viaducts
Manhole cover cats and Angel of the North shelves?
Architecture talk
A picture of a Wheel seen through a field of corn
Samsung SPH-P9200
Cat power!
Short posting with short photograph
The blue and gray men are slaughtering the gray and blue men
Another angle on pylons
Back from the dead and soon to be duplicated
Revised logo
Old cranes - new cranes
Small and cheap
Ugly logo(s)
Fujitsu Lifebook
Assorted London quota photos
PG tips
A movie about a typeface
Plastic that conducts heat better
Footbridge in the dark and cricket
Smallest mobile keyboard yet?
Susie Bubble turns shopping into a job with her blog
Halo over Oxford Circus
Amazing map of amazing new Moscow bridge
Shame you can’t do this kind of thing here
New Moscow road bridge
Pylons
Umbrellas and other gadgets
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
New footbridge in Edinburgh
Bollocks to the fashists
The Nanpu bridge approaches
Diamond Synchrotron
Robot car park in New York
Other people’s photos (6): More bridges
Weird loudspeakers
The Dyson DC14
Other people’s photos (2): New architecture in Hamburg
A good new mobile computer - but still too pricey
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
Pictures of the world for the world
Happy day after Christmas Day
Happy Christmas Day
Haircuts before and after
ASUS R2U-BH040T
Cranes and street lamps and mp3s
Pictures of and from Albert Bridge
On sail in two weeks
The world now needs bad taste iPod docks
Top tips from Viz
Airship over the Wheel
Tech talk mp3 with Michael Jennings
Two sunset photos
Grassy car with blog
Cute jewelry and ideologically induced woe
Cute Brazilian car
A digital SLR that a Billion Monkey could lift!
Patrick Crozier talks with me about Japan
Is this to stop pigeons or bulb stealers?
Adriana tours her own back yard
Getting that roof clutter onto my computer
I also miss Transport Blog
Clutter
Presumably the noise is not a problem
Chrysler 300C with bling
Evening sun on the Wheel
The Hungerford footbridges
Skill and Post-Skill
Blue balls – kaleideskopes – etc.
Holocaust museum repeated as fashion?
The Falkirk Wheel
Those little big things that you hate
HMS Funny Looking
A kink in the Range Rover grill
The Tate Modern end of the Millennium Bridge
Double brolly
Aussie pub window and Aussia Billion Monkey
The evening sun through the windows of the Albert
Rolls Royces
Hundred dollar laptop
Digital preservation
Tourist traps – foregrounds – cranes