Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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Category archive: The internet

Monday October 17 2016

When you talk about an airplane being blown up, that usually means it has been exploded, destroyed, incinerated.  This airplane, however, has been blown up, yet it looks like this:


Details at 6k.  This posting here is basically a celebration, of the fact that I am now able to get to 6k, copy pictures from 6k, etc.

For the last few days, right up until nearly now, my computer was unable or unwilling to access 6k.  Everything else: okay, but rather clunky.  6K: not.  I checked if this was 6k’s fault by trying to access 6k via my mobile, and that worked.  Ergo, it was me.  Strange, and rather frustrating, because I like 6k.  And now, for some equally bizarre reason, my computer did some sort of internet connection hiccup involving that thing where it says something about a testing process and says you have to check in again, with some password you never knew you had which you can actually ignore by just opening a new window, and once I reopened a new window, everything was suddenly back working properly.  And: 6k returned.

Dodgy connection?  Well, maybe, but I hadn’t touched any of the connections.  Why did this happen?  Don’t know.  And: don’t care, unless it happens again.  Then: it did happen again.  Fiddled about with connections.  TURNED COMPUTER OFF AND TURNED COMPUTER ON AGAIN.  Seems now to work.  Weird.

Also weird is what the Russians are about to be getting up to.  (The airplane above is Russian.) Some things never change.  The Russians are always doing one of two things: pretending to be weaker than they are, or pretending to be stronger than they are.  They seem to be in a stronger than they are phase just now.

Life is full of mysteries.  More so, as you get older.

Thursday October 13 2016

I recently photoed this van:


What intrigued me about it was its minimalist propaganda message.  “GREY MOTH”.

My original thought was that, in the age of google, you don’t actually need a mass of information to find out all you want to know about an enterprise.  That’s what this posting was going to be about.  (I still remember fondly that van outside the Oval, which just said “VOITH”.  I quickly learned all about VOITH.)

Trouble is, if the name of the enterprise is “GREY MOTH”, and you google “grey moth”, well, in addition to the GREY MOTH enterprise, somewhere in there, you get lots and lots of grey moths.  (If you google “voith”, all you get is VOITH.  A voith is not a regular thing, from which the VOITH enterprise merely took its name.)

Luckily, however, there was a website on the van, front and back.  This website was back to front at the front, ambulance style, but I was still able to decypher it as:, crucially including that all-important hyphen.  Which, as you see, gets us where we need to be.  And it turns out to be a very interesting business.  I was thinking that it would be some dreary fashion enterprise, but not a bit of it.  Turns out, it’s an aerial videoing business, using drones.

I’ve been keeping an eye on drones for a while.  And after initially wondering if I might ever buy one, I eventually concluded: no.  If you get a drone, then you will either have to take it very seriously and learn all about how to do it, and become a full-time droner, mastering not only all the technical problems of drones but also the many legal minefields that droners must walk across (safety and privacy to name but two).  Or: not.  And I decided: not.

Drones, in other words, are not toys.  But, they are a huge business opportunity, both for businesses that can make serious use of them, like farms or pop concert promoters or movie-makers, and for people willing to master drone use for a living and to hire themselves out.  Like Grey-Moth does.

Speaking of minimalist propaganda, those Guys & Dolls Unisex Hair Stylists look like they are ("UYS DOL S") on their last hair curlers, if not already gone.

Thursday October 06 2016

Yesterday I was reminding myself that we live in an age when pub quiz questions have instant answers.  So when, soon after posting that posting, I came across this photo I took a while back, of a boat, …:


… with the words “THAMES RIB EXPERIENCE” written on it, I set to work to find out what the “RIB” bit means.  I had vaguely supposed that this was some sort of steakhouse sponsorship deal.  The world is now full of ridiculous arrangements of that sort, sponsored by commercial enterprises whose only way to sell more of their stuff is to cause even more people to have heard of it.  The mere merits of the product being irrelevant, for their purposes.  “Yes it’s bad for you but it tastes really nice” not being a message they want to be too publicly and explicitly associated with, because then they’d have the health fascists all over them.

So “Thames Rib Experience” as an exercise is boosting meat consumption?  But which ribs should we be consuming.  Just ribs generally?  The British Rib Council, a combined consortium of ribbers, combining to boost ribs in general?  It didn’t seem very plausible.  So, what does RIB really mean?

It turns out that RIB means rigid inflatable boat.

This is a triviality, of course, unless you are in life-threateningly urgent need of a rigid inflatable boat trip on the Thames.  But the change in the world towards a state where it is much easier to find things out is not trivial.  The story that lots of people mention in this connection, and lots of people are not wrong, is the ease with which a formerly dirt poor farmer now can, in the depths of the African countryside, keep himself informed about the prices he can expect to get for his products, when he takes them to market.

Quicker and better answers to questions is all part of why all this stuff has been happening lately.

Wednesday October 05 2016

I took this photo from the roof of my block of flats this morning, of a brick tower, out beyond Victoria, with a rather startled expression on its face:


What is that?

We now live in a time when questions like that have pretty much immediate answers, and I went looking.

And I was reminded that the internet can be wrong as well as right about things, even about things which ought not to be a matter of opinion.  Which I already knew, but it’s interesting to get caught up in the wrongness, from time to time.

Some have called this tower a shot tower:

A shot tower is a tower designed for the production of shot balls by freefall of molten lead, which is then caught in a water basin. The shot is used for projectiles in firearms.

But more confident and more numerous internet places persuade me that this is actually a pumping station tower.  Or rather, it was.

Apparently, over there in Chelsea, there used to be a canal, the Grosvenor Canal.  Bits of it are still there, but most bits, it would seem, not.

A remaining waterworks building, known as the Western Pumping Station still remains beside the site of the canal and its chimney is something of a landmark in the area. However, the chimney now acts as a ventilation shaft for sewers rather than its original purpose of being the chimney for boilers.

So, never a shot tower.  Once a pumping station tower.  Now a ventilation chimney.

Saturday September 24 2016

I’m listening to chitchat on Radio Three about the origins of Radio Three’s previous and original manifestation, the Third Programme.

They’ve just mentioned an article by John Croft called Composition is not research.  I quickly found it on the www, and I want to hang on to it.

First paragraph:

There are, by and large, two kinds of composers in academia today – those who labour under the delusion that they are doing a kind of ‘research’, and those who recognise the absurdity of this idea, but who continue to supervise PhD students, make funding applications, and document their activities as if it were true. Composing, of course, might on occasion depend on research – how do I make an orchestra sound like a bell? How do I electronically sustain a note from an instrument so that it doesn’t sound mechanical? What is the best way to notate microtones or complex rhythms so that they can be accurately played? But none of these is actually the composition of music. Rameau’s harmonic theory was research, and it surely influenced his music (and music in general), but the Traité de l’harmonie is not a musical composition. The development of the pianoforte involved research and influenced music in profound ways, but it was not composing.

I have not read this essay yet.  But the point of this posting is not to say what I think of it, merely to make sure that I do read it.

I have long been interested in the rather misleading idea of musical “progress”.  This seems like it will be closely related to that idea.  Another related idea: music is not science, and new music does not replace old music.  But, I shall see.

Friday September 23 2016

The internet is fighting back against … cats!


Cats are colonizers: this is what they do. They have colonized the internet just as they have colonized so many other habitats, always with the help of humans. This is the lesson of Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, a new book by conservation scientist Peter P. Marra and travel writer Chris Santella. From remote islands in the Pacific to the marshes of Galveston Bay, Cat Wars traces the various ways in which felines have infiltrated new landscapes, inevitably sowing death and devastation wherever they go.

Perhaps the most famous case of genocide-by-cat is that of the remote Stephens Island in New Zealand. Before the end of the 19th century, it was home to a unique species: the Stephens Island wren. One of only a few species of flightless songbirds, the wren ran low to the ground, looking more like a mouse than a bird. After a lighthouse was built on the island in 1894, a small human settlement was established; and with humans, invariably, come pets. At some point a pregnant cat, brought over from the mainland, escaped and roamed wild. The island’s wrens, unused to facing such a skillful predator, were no match for the feral cats that spread throughout the island. Within a year, the Stephens Island wren was extinct. It would take another 30 years to eradicate the feral cats.

This is not an isolated incident. Cats have contributed to species decline and habitat reduction in dozens of other cases. Because they’re so cute and beloved, we have little conception of — and little incentive to find out — how much damage cats are doing to our environment. When researcher Scott Loss tallied up the number of animals killed by North American housecats in a single year, the results were absolutely staggering: between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals, between 1.3 and 4 billion birds, between 95 and 299 million amphibians, and between 258 and 822 million reptiles.

Most books that get multiple reviews on Amazon get around four stars out of five, on average, because most of the reviews are from admirers and there are just a few from detractors.  This book gets a star average of one and a bit.

Monday September 12 2016

imageI refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there).  And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van.  The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff.  The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible.  It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.

But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:


I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.

The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface.  Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.

But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within.  Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions.  That’s because it’s a van.  Vans are like that.  But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.

So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.

As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this.  I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”.  Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.

Saturday September 03 2016

One of the reasons I have such a pathologically enormous CD collection is that I fear the power that music holds over me.  I fear being in the position of wanting to hear something, but not being able to.

This morning, on Radio 3, they played a piece of piano music which I liked a lot, both the piece itself and the playing, but did not recognise.  I thought it was perhaps Mozart, played by Brendel, maybe.  It turned out to be Haydn, played by Pletnev.  I just dug around on the www, and here is Pletnev playing that same piece.  Whether that’s the exact same performance I don’t know, but it is playing right now and it sounds pretty good to me.  The piece is snappily entitled: “Variations in F minor”.  Until now, this was not a piece I had paid any attention to.

But I hit the age of musical addiction combined with the money to feed the habit long before there was any www.  For me, having music at my command doesn’t mean knowing about a link.  It means possessing a shiny plastic circle, in a square plastic case.  So, as soon as I had set the radio to record CD Review, as is my Saturday morning habit, I searched through my CD collection (subsection: Haydn), for that Pletnev performance.  No show.  But Amazon informed me that there is a Pletnev Haydn double album with Haydn piano concertos on disc one and Haydn solo piano music on disc two.  I looked again, in the Haydn subsection (sub-subsection: piano concertos).  Success.  I possess the exact same performance thad was played on the radion this morning.  So now, this music doesn’t control me.  I control it.

The question of who is in charge of music and music-making is actually a big deal, historically.  Beethoven’s career, and then later Wagner’s career, were all about Beethoven, and Wagner, being in charge of their music and of their music-making, rather than their patrons or their audiences.  You can tell this from just listening to their music.  Haydn, on the other hand, predated that era, and was dependent upon aristocratic patronage, and this shows in his music.  He would probably not enjoy reading this blog posting, by this annoying and undeserving control freak from out of the future.  But he would not have made a fuss.  Or such is my understanding of his character.

Or, he might have rejoiced that he could have made recordings of his music, in circumstances completely within his control, and that I could then listen to them in circumstances completely within my control.  For me, this is the best of both worlds, and it would be nice to think that it might have suited him also.

Pletnev plays Haydn and I own it!
Another fine day at the Oval (2): Jason Roy – and an extreme contrast
Large number of jobs
LIFE at the Park Theatre
Lioness eats camera
Brexit - the movie - here!
Feline Friday at Samizdata
Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
A bridge in Narbonne
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
With PhotoCat I can do cropping while keeping it the same shape
Second childhood
What sort of duck is this?
South Bank views
Photo of Mountbatten on Sea Containers House
Recent taxis with adverts photos
Asking about the Southbank Mosaics Gallery and asking about London’s Big Things
A rejected Grand Chose that shouldn’t have been
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
Big Things having orgasms
I slept right through it
Bike fishing in Amsterdam
Modernist sand castles at Amusing Planet (and at Mick Hartley’s)
Confirming an offer I made last night to Rob Fisher
White Vans are looking more and more like websites
Cats on an iPhone and Anton Howes on video
Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
What is this iceStone device?
Going to Kings Cross to see gas holders
The sexiest statue in London?
Mental notes
An underground history lesson
Here begins the Essex Way
I was photoing white vans in February 2007
Tricycle transport
A Real (cat) Photographer
The wait continues
Blog interrupted
Swarm Manned Aerial Vehicle Multirotor Super Drone
A blast from the photographic past
My next camera?
An extraordinary coincidence
Smoke over west London
Cat picture on white van
Heaven aka the Barley Mow
England crush NZ (and Surrey beat Leicester)
What is this weird plastic thing?
Strange London buses
Another horizontal advert for an only slightly more expensive drone
Adverts for small and cheap drones
Giant cat head worn by a human
The receiving station at Swains Lane (and the previous version of it)
BT Tower behind trees
Peter Thiel on how humans and computers complement each other
Big cat advert
The rise of (interest in) 3D printing
Anish Kapoor photoed next to his big shiny balls
Quota soap foam
BMdotcom What if? of the day
Some batsman – some neck
Hand done photos
Old Quimper Cathedral
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
How the internet is cheering up Art
Fuck the duck until exploded
Big cat advertises guide dogs
An old story about colour perception
Is it practise or practice?  (And: would perfect communication actually be perfect?)
Blog down
Not about cats
On the unappealingness of classical music on the internet
On not letting either God or (the other) God do everything
5G Boris
A Sunday ramble
Cat news
Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
New London bridge competition
Why you are wrong
OpenOffice Writer default resetting nightmares
Why aren’t people happier about amazing new stuff?
Capturing moments
Surrey doing rather well shock
Last night at my place
I see cats
Hao Ruan and LYCS Architecture are now world famous
Pictures of soon-to-be-built London Big Things
Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
T20 fun and games
Classical Amazon
Mysteriously losing my internet connection and then mysteriously getting it back
Amusing cats versus important people
Libeskind doing the saw cut style in Ontario
Classic Feline Friday quote from Tim Berners-Lee
Christopher Seaman on conducting
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
Ashes Lag recovery continues
“In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
South Bank Architects?
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Tough going in Australia
Tube interrupted
Quota videos
Simon Gibbs last night at the Rose and Crown
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
Quotes from there
Amazon pricing puzzle
Billy Fury Way
A fake feline photo and a faltering feline enumerator
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
Testing again
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Classical CDs from Gramex
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
Australia v South Africa starts now
Malta Day procession
Cheese or font?
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
A pill that turns sweat into perfume
Internet connection oddities
Davies and de Bruyn get promotion for Surrey
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
One World Trade Center
WWWhat a great afternoon!!!
More shiny new headquarters buildings
Infrequent flyer
Possible light blogging for the next week
Bitcoin etc.?
Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
Release Ai Weiwei
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Let us now trash infamous men
And then give up and stay fat
And it resumes …
Questions concerning the death of copyright protection on downloaded MP3s
A down and up weekend
Obamanomics dod not work
First blood to Australia
Cat defeats alligators
Nice try
Is this blog somewhat broken?
Malcolm Hutty on protecting the internet
Guerrilla webfare
Greenies make a video saying: “We’re a bunch of vile greenie-nazis!”
Advertising aimed entirely at me
Which just goes to show that stuff gets around
Links to this and that
Expendable movie news
“An alternative definition of intelligence …”
Cricinfo gets its clock in a tangle and Pyrah bowls an unforgivable no ball
Spare A3 paper
England beating Australia – Germany beating England
Curse you Friends Provident t20
Big box computers versus laptops
Nuking the Oil Spill is probably a rather bad idea
Shard sitings and and an agreeably honest rabies prevention sign
I love television
One man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing
This is not Mohammed
Everybody draw Mohammed every day!
Brightly lit buildings against a dark sky
Molly Norris was just kidding!
Three cheers for Molly Norris but also a few small grumbles
Everybody draw Mohammed on May 20th!
How my camera and the internet explained an old bus
You know where you are with a book - usually
IPL on ITV4!
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
Biker shadow
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Me taking pictures in a funny way while it’s still allowed
List of popular misconceptions
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom understatement of the day
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
In Alicante
My local Blockbuster Video just closed
Cricket talk tonight
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
India looking good against Sri Lanka
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
What’s up with this?
Going global
American video
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Under a hundred copies
Rude Ian Morbin should have a blog
Prodicus (and me) on the shitness of the LibDems
Was it Sweeney?  And what else were they trying to suppress?
Two Samizdata pieces
Prize idiots
God is killing cinemas!
Quotes dump
The Instadaughter on the morals of actors
All your Quite Interesting questions answered
When Cricinfo doesn’t supply the info
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
England and me both upset
Summer break
Laptop for emails
Our shortening atten … ooh look!
What a difference a g makes
How technology has improved detention
Go Gordon!
Thoughts on the Go Gordon petition
Spelling Micklethwait wrong and Googling for Brian Micklethwaite
On Bernstein – and Previn
Register for your free pack and five £1-off-coupons
Multipurpose internet-connected rabbit
The Fixed Quantity of Advertising fallacy and the menace of targetted advertising
What the previous two postings here have in common
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Someone called Rick wants me to puke on President Obama
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
God moves in mysterious ways
By bus to Sheffield
Google and dongle
Second Class power
You don’t wait for it – you go looking for it
Billion Monkeys liked photoing the nastiest poster!
On autobiographical ruthlessness
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
Pink bunny successfully resized and posted only with Jesus!
Dongling at Michael’s
Not the same thing
Cricket chat
Gramophone are putting their back catalogue of articles online for free
Collingwood comes through and The Internet is a hat trick
Never mind the telly
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
Two adverts in the tube
Mainstream media bloggers and the problem of my blogroll
Seven Napiers – three Ansaris - Gilchrist
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
Cisco – fuck off and die
152 not out in a Twenty20
Underestimating crime
Ridiculous story but great headline
I really should stop buying newspapers and magazines
Self-guided photo-tour of the streets of San Francisco
Fourth innings heroics
Billion Monkeys like being photoed!
Meltdown in Russia … and New Zealand
She learned to knit her before she learned to spell her
Thank you very much Ambrose and Collingwood
I love the internet
Obama a loser?
On hating and not hating commenters
Lucky I don’t take cricket seriously
Antoine Clarke on the US Primaries – either Obama will beat McCain or McCain will beat Clinton
Customer service
Michael Jennings on telecoms at Samizdata
More horizontal thinness
The great DVD packaging clearout
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
The romance of new technology – or the drudgery of it
Chanelle and Ziggy - romance in the age of total surveillance
It’s the decline of old-school advertising that’s really hurting old-school journalism
Breaking the Left’s stranglehold on the moving image
New word alert
RSS feed news
American war memorial by the sea at St Nazaire
Comment is free and WiFi should be too
Renaissance Man
“It’s going to be very exciting to see what young people come up with when they reject college”
Ideas and opportunities
Splog is the new splig
A new tower in Manchester
The publicness of private life
Internet problems solved
Is the internet replacing higher education?
How to handle the complaints of your fiercest critics
Irrelevant heart attack adverts
More internet connection problems
Billion Monkeys photo their own demo!
Evite makes sure I remember it
New Moscow road bridge
He likes it - but does he understand it?
Does the internet change education?
That Rooney goal
Micklethwait’s Four Star Theory of the Internet
Screw you Dove – good on you Ruth Kelly – the right to avoid gay adoption
Me on internet telly this evening with Andrew Ian Dodge
Other people’s photos (3): Ice storm
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Screwed by Google – and Google screwed by the kitten-bloggers?
What next for the virtuoso violinists? - Simon Hewitt Jones has some answers
More G&S - and some strange Times errors
Firewall nonsense
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Hands off the Net
Oscar Wilde defends society
Airship photos loading tri-incidence
Pro-am music video
Everyone likes Magic Andy
Frederick May
A dangerous development
The great Google www dictionary
Thoughts on the Age of Google
An intrusion of green rectangles
Adriana’s Thing mp3
Blogging takes longer than doing things - a picture - and why does a hot bath make me colder?
Guido’s narrative
Bartók outside South Kensington tube
Big Media crap and football cock-ups
Brian and Antoine democracy mp3 number twelve
Attacks of the mad robots and the little red crosses
County cricket - great and not so great - and what to do about that
Wisden on the back foot
Billion Monkeys stop cover-ups!
So does Flintoff really look like Jessop?
Phone glitch
The internet is creating new video stars
The Wealth of Networks
Internet sex machines instead of photos
Hosting matters
Blue balls – kaleideskopes – etc.
Computer transparency
Reading and writing for the www are the same
Wrong comparison
Quoted but not linked to
The Falkirk Wheel
‘Libertarian’ now beats ‘Marxist’
The problem of long blog postings
iBrian may be coming but I promise nothing
The Million Dollar Homepage
Read-Write versus Read-Only
Talking about my generation
I am not too clever
Groowy mess
Happy New Year
Cheaper movies
Is Africa about to look boring?
Phonic Googling
Plink plink plink plinkplinkplink plinkplink plink plink plinkplinkplinkplink plinkplinkplink
I actually think that this is quite mindful
Ordinary photos
Either $150 or free
The stupid internet
Katrina as art – and Katrina as proof of What I’ve Always Said
Blowing Smoke all over old school advertising