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: Signs and notices

Wednesday July 12 2017

Everything involving computers is easy if you know how to do it and you do it often.  Everything involving computers is hard, if you only want to do it very occasionally, and if you don’t know (or don’t remember (which comes to the same thing)) how to do it.  Words like “intuitive” and “user friendly” are thrown about a lot when people like me say things like this, but they are bullshit.  It’s either very easy, or nearly impossible.  “User friendly” just means being presented with an incomprehensible lump of informational overload, in prettier letters and prettier colours and more prettily designed.

Why are computer things hard?  It is because computers can do so many things.  This means that whenever you are trying to persuade your particular computer to do something in particular, that it doesn’t usually do, you have to thread your way through a multi-page questionnaire, in the course of which you tell it: no, I don’t what that, or that, or that.  I want this.  And at any point in this Q&A obstacle course, you may find yourself confronted by a page of things to pick from none of which seem to have anything to do with what you are trying to tell the damn computer to do.

In the Army, I believe, they used to (and perhaps still do) call this: dumb insolence.  Dumb insolence is the offence of taking every word in the orders you have been given with extreme literalness and just waiting, dumbly insolent, to be given different orders, and meanwhile carrying on with what you had been dumbly and insolently doing, even though you know (because of the shouting) that this is not what is really wanted.  You shout at the computer to just use a bit of common sense.  I want this, you moronic machine.  Nothing.  Just the same old screen, and if you click on any of it, you get another page of irrelevance, or perhaps the right page but the exact same dilemma.  None of it seems to have anything to do with what you want it to do.

The fact that the more computers can do, the more there need to be people around who know how to tell the computers to do whatever very particular thing is actually required, rather than all the other things that the computer is now capable of doing, bodes extremely well for the employability of humans in the months and years and decades to come.  But meanwhile, if you happen not to know how to get the computer to do what you want, you can only hope and pray that at some future moment, the answer will drop into your lap.  Someone will tell you.  Your computer will suddenly, out of the blue, volunteer something relevant.  Or, it has been so volunteering all along, but because of all the other garbage it was also volunteering, you didn’t notice, but then, miraculously, you do notice, and bingo.

What brought all this on?  Well, my computer recently had some attention from the Guru and also some upgrades, and in among all this the computer changed its way of opening photos, which for me is a big deal.  I open a lot of photos from my archives, in fact I do this every time I am doing a quota photo posting, which is a lot, and when I do this I am usually in a hurry.  So, just when I really don’t need my computer to be misbehaving, it has been misbehaving.  The problem has been that instead of using “Windows Photo Viewer” to show me a photo that I click on, it instead decided to use something called “Photos”.  Quite different and lacking one crucial ability, which is the ability to take me from a photo up on my screen in “Photos” to the directory the photo is in.  “Windows Photo Viewer” can do this.  “Photos” can’t, or not in any way I know how to make it do that isn’t immensely complicated, every time.

How to correct this?  For about a week I couldn’t.  The internet, as so often, was no help at all.  It said that this was easy if blah blah, but if blah blah blah bah, then contriving the answer I wanted was really difficult and involved blah blah blah blah blahdy blah blah blahdy blah.  If you get my meaning.  (Which turned out not only to be incomprehensible, but also wrong.  See next paragraph.)

And then, the answer dropped into my lap.  I saw a page I didn’t recall seeing, with a question that I hadn’t noticed before.  I was allowed the option of opening a photo “with” a different programme.  But then crucially, I was also presented, in a way that I either hadn’t been shown before or that I hadn’t noticed before, with the option to put a tick in a box saying: always open the photo with this progranne that you have just chosen to switch to.  Problem solved.  My computer now opens photos, just as it always did, with Windows Photo Viewer, unless otherwise instructed.  Which I now know how to do, but will soon forget.  Which won’t matter.

The idea that computers are getting steadily more “smart” is a half truth.  Yes, they can do steadily more and more with each passing year.  But the more they know how to do, the stupider they get at actually doing it for you.

And oh look.  Just before posting the above, I was checking out an SD card that I used in my camera today, having forgotten to put my regular SD card back in it.  And this irregular SD card turned out to have a bunch of photos on it that I took in the summer of 2014, in France.  And it turns out that the French also have something that sounds to me a lot like Dumb Insolence, although I think it’s more like “polite rudeness” than that in your face deadpan British sneer.  You decide:

image

Whatever the exact translation, I bet this “douce insolence” is how French personal computers behave, when you a trying to make them do something new, and they just won’t be told.

For some reason, that was on the front window of a shop, called “Agatha”, in the Rue Gustave Thomas de Closmadeuc, in the town of Vannes, on the south coast of Brittany. A perfume perhaps?

Monday July 03 2017

More photos of photoers.  I knew you’d be excited.

Ever since the Tate Extension opened about a year ago now, I’ve been popping up to the top of it every so often, to check out the changing scene that is to be seen from there.

But I have also discovered a whole new genre of photo up there, provoked by the big dots on the glass screens that divide the inside of the top from the walkways outside, where you do the viewing from.

Often, these dots give me something to focus on, while still capturing, out of focus, the postures and gestures, rather than the facial likenesses, of the objects of my attention.  Or, the dots, themselves out of focus, provide some visual diversion.

Almost always, the photoers are in silhouette, again good for avoiding facial identifiability.  Also, silhouettes show up pretty well on my current crappy little computer screen, which I think I will soon be replacing.  So now is a good time to be doing this posting:

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Occasionally, the light behind the photoers is enlivened architecturally, which I like.  But as often as not, not.  And as it happens, I think my favourite of these is 2.1, which features no architecture at all.

But I also like 2.3 and 4.1, which do feature architecture, because of the architecture.

Wednesday June 28 2017

This is one of my favourite statues in London, and this is one of my favourite photos that I’ve taken of it, one of quite a few over the years:

image

Photo taken just before I took these.

What would Beau Brummell have made of the smartphone?  And of these smartphoners?

More about the statue, where it is exactly, who did it, and so on, here.

Also: Longmire and Edward Green.

Monday June 26 2017

Today was the first day ever of day-night county cricket, played with a pink ball instead of a red ball.  By the time it finished it was late, and I had been neglecting this blog all day, having been following the fortunes of Surrey instead, fortunes which turned out to be pretty good.

So, here is a quota photo, instead of a proper blog posting:

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That’s GodDaughter 2’s Dad, who was in London recently, photoing, as you can see quite clearly for yourselves, this.

I find The Laughing Halibut’s chips delicious, but after I have eaten them I tend to get a belly ache.  A sort of gastronomic hangover.  But the Laughing Halibut (I also like that there seems to be only one) is on the way back to my home from a frequently-used-by-me nearby tube station, and every few weeks, especially when ravenous after a long photo-walk in faraway places, I succumb.

Tuesday June 13 2017

Indeed:

image

According to Laura Gibbs, this translates from Latin into this:

I am hopeful in times of danger; I am fearful when things are going well.

I love the internet.  Before the internet I would have seen this, been momentarily baffled, and would have forgotten it at once.  Now I photo it and later I learn what it means.  I then blog it and only then do I forget about it.

The building that proclaims this wisdom is now the Milestone Hotel.

Sunday June 11 2017

Indeed:

image

Click on that sliver of horizontality to see the building in question.

No doubt this has already received much www attention.  And now, I attend to it.  Photos taken by me, outside Hampton Wick Overground Station, yesterday.

The graffiti in the Hampton Hackney Wick and surrounding areas is dispiritingly ubiquitous.  I prefer the way my part of town handles graffiti, which is for it all to happen in a tunnel.

Monday June 05 2017

A few hours after I took this photo (and not before all the latest terrorist dramas that were happening on the other side of the river (which I later crossed)), I took this photo, outside the Bank of England:

image

This combines four things that interest me.

First, most obviously, it is a photo of an unusual means of transport.  Rather confusingly, this contraption had “PedalBus.com” written on it.  But when you type that into the www, you get redirected to pedibus.co.uk.  Where you also discover photos of contraptions with “PedalBus.com” on them.  Very confusing.

Second, the persons on the pedibus/PedalBus are making a spectacle of themselves.  People who make a spectacle of themselves are not entitled to anonymity, or not at this blog.  Photoers going about their photoing business do, mostly, get anonymity here.  But people yelling drunkenly, albeit goodnaturedly, and striking dramatic attitudes when I photo them, not.

Third, I like these downward counting numbers on the pedestrian light bits of traffic lights, which London apparently got from New Zealand.  (Blog and learn.) Very useful.  I like to photo them, preferably in combination with other interesting things.  Score.  Score again, because there is not just one 7 in this photo, there are two 7s.  This particular time of the day, just when it is starting to become dark, is the best time to photo these numbers.

And fourth, I am becoming increasingly interested by London’s many statues, as often as not commemorating the heroes of earlier conflicts.  I think one of the things I like about them is the sense of a very particular place that they radiate, just as the more showoffy Big Things do, but even more precisely.  They thus facilitate meeting up with people.  “In front of the Bank of England” might prove too vague.  “Next to Wellington” pins it down far more exactly.

The Wellington statue makes a splendid contrast with the pedi/PedalBussers.  Wellington is Wellington, seated on his horse (Copenhagen presumably), very dignified and patrician.  And the peddlers are the kind of people he commanded in his battles.

I don’t get why this statue is in front of the Bank of England.  Why isn’t there a Wellington statue at Waterloo?

Sunday May 28 2017

The rule at this blog is simple.  Something every day no mattter how rubbish, barring computer disasters or worse, actual disasters.

But here is a hand-done sign, which I photoed in the summer of 2015, that reveals a very different attitude towards rubbish:

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Somehow, as with political demonstrations, hand-done signs reveal a depth of feeling that a more professionally produced, printed sign just would not communicate.  I sense the presence of a particularly rubbishy pile of rubbish which caused whoever it was to snap.

I like how he decided that the original exclamation mark, squeezed in at the end of RUBBISH didn’t quite do the job, so he added another exclamation mark, just to make sure that the whole passing world knew exactly how he felt, about rubbish.

Rubbish posting
Huge lion carved out of a huge tree
Urban vision
The queens of the canning factory
Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
Anti-BREXIT demo signs
Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Beltane & Pop van parked on the South Bank yesterday afternoon
New River Walk
Die Meistersinger was very good
If Pugs could fly
The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
An Underground sermon
Opera North’s Ring
Signs
A sign in a bus and the same sign malfunctioning
Trumping the Opera House
Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
I Love You Will U Marry Me
A snip at £7,499.99
Always?
To Tottenham (6): The Spurs Shop
Quota construction
Someone else has been tidying up too
Merry Christmas from the Pilot Store (and from me)
Freddie’s Flowers white van
To Tottenham (4): Illuminated worker
3D printed jewellery by Lynne Maclachlan
To Tottenham (3): The Railwa
To Tottenham (2): Seven Sisters?
Packaging that is too good
Somebody needs to invent electronically changeable paint
Stratford
Don’t be fooled by the smallness of the building
Creatures of outer London
The Battersea Dogs and Cats Home light show
Where shall I go tomorrow?
Graffiti cat
Droneverts
Snake on a car
Van – grey but very interesting
Cruise plays along
What does Thames “RIB” Experience mean?
The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
Ghost Bus
Another illustrated van
Photoing Tate Modern from the Oval and the Oval from Tate Modern
Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Deliveroo V sign
A direct hit
Cyclists
Views of Epsom and views from Epsom
Dernbach decisive again
When welfare means lavatories
Another fine day at the Oval (4): Scoreboards old and new
Another fine day at the Oval (1): Vans
LIFE at the Park Theatre
Temporary Oxford Street
A decade of unrecognisable photographers
South of France signs
Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Horizontal French signs
White vans are becoming very informative
Centre Point through the new station entrance
Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
LON DON
The footbridges of Shad
Another idea for a collection of photos
Blog often (this time about the sound and the vision of this evening’s Tim Evans talk to LH)
Barcelona owl
Quota snappy snap
Vans that need to look the part
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
The Beckton Sewage Works
RIP David Bowie
With GD2 in Richmond Park (3): Scary names
Wicked Campers: Are they now going respectable?
Some reindeer-based Christmas cheer from last year
ShiRtstream drycleaners and a party recollection
Wheel and shadow (and Wheel reflected)
Out and about with GD1 (6): The journey gets properly started
Screens at dusk
Christmas is coming and you’d better watch out
Calories defined
Now I know what a Mews is
Big house
An underground history lesson
Here begins the Essex Way
Some quota reflected cranes and a quota white van
Alcoholic Architecture sign
The light outside the Proud Archivist on the evening of July 22nd
Where punctuation might have helped
Interesting vehicles
Credit where credit is due (in France)
Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington’s Amazing Castle
Cat picture on white van
The view from outside Waterloo Station
A forgotten war
A new not very big Thing in Paris
Why I mostly write about architectural design rather than about interior design
Along the river towards Battersea
Big 4
Another quota sign
Magic clarified
Made-up London detectives in real London places
A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
White Vin Van
White Van
Move over CND
Photographers - photographers with hats (one of the hats being rather scary)
“Real Democracy Now” in Parliament Square this afternoon
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Cats in Quimper shops
French roof clutter
Shop window
Sign blocked by surveillance camera
Photographed flatness that doesn’t look flat
Fuck the duck until exploded
Another facade being carefully preserved
Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
A Sunday ramble
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
What is this Thing?
GARBAGE SHED AND JUMP INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
Strata with greenery and a scaffolding sign
A Real Photographer does a shadow selfie
Bag Man
A old bus doing regular bus stuff
National Theatre Boo
A slightly foreign part of London
Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
South Bank signs
Green screen blue screen
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
South Bank Architects?
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Merry Christmas
Fat bastard!
Hampers can be annoying
Otherwise blogging (and a Burgess Park butterfly)
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
Google Nexus 4 photos
Wedding photography (2): Signs
Remembering a warmer day
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Crossrail grubbings
Six Nations joy
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
Multilingual botanical gardens in Cyprus
Crusader latrines
Malta Day procession
A memorable scoreboard surrounded by empty seats
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Another reason to like Colorado
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Health and safety on a mountain in Borneo
Five pictures of me
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
The graffiti says he won’t get his keys back
Multilingual signage
Rally Against Debt signs
Nil scrap value
Do not climb on the Thing!
The wedding lingers on
Another pub
The Armstrong Gun
Signs from the Frenchosphere
And there was you thinking you were immortal
Paris signage
More signs of the times
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Signs - all in my bit of one railway carriage
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
If you can’t beat them hire them
Another sign of the times
The bike behind the theatre
Soviet health and safety posters
More signage
Noticing signs of the times