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: Getting old

Wednesday August 09 2017

This evening I attended the 70th birthday party of a school friend, aka GodDaughter 1’s dad. Yes, I am (see below) getting old.  As is he.

The journey from Vauxhall to Surbiton was a horrible, wet mess.  This about sums it up, but also portrays the journey’s one redeeming feature, apart from the fact that I did manage to get there on time:

image

At Vauxhall, from which I can usually go direct to Surbiton, they told me instead to go to Waterloo.  Above, we look through the window of my sopping wet train into the newly active what-used-to-be Euroterminal, now back in business.  But the very fact that this terminal is now back in business is all part of the confusion I suffered from, for they are now engaged in lengthening all the other Waterloo platforms, to enable the commuter trains to get longer, so that more people may commute while walking ever longer distances.  But eventually I got a train from Waterloo to Surbiton, and it almost certainly rains harder in India, during the monsoon, than it did while I walked from Surbiton Station to the party.

When at the party I was forbidden from taking photos, and instead had to socialise with all the other people who were there.  Which, to be fair, I did enjoy.  The party had all the good aspects of a funeral, in the form of learning lots of fun things about the centre of all our attention, without said centre being dead.  So, it all turned out rather well.

But I am now very tired and still rather tipsy, and am going to bed.

Monday August 07 2017

On the same day that I took these photos of a spiral shopping trolley sculpture, I also took this photo:

image

One of many other nice photos I took that day.  I chose this one partly because the Shard is the big Big Thing here, just now.

The reason for a quota photo is that I have spent most of my discretionary time today solving ridiculous problems.  But I did actually solve both of them, so I am now ridiculously happy.

Problem one was that my bedside radio had suddenly taken to breaking off its playing of mp2 files on the 2GB SD card I had inserted into it, after about twenty minutes, every time.  Was this the 2GB SD card?  Or (the horror) the radio?  Turned out it was the 2GB SD card.  My guess: the 2GB SD card, obtained because very ancient and hence ancient enough to fit into my ancient radio and be used both to make and to play recordings, was nevertheless insufficiently ancient.  It had the word “Integral” on it.  This suggests excessive speed to me.  At the very least, an air of impatience.  Anyway, my radio couldn’t be doing with it.  So, I tried a different and more ancient-looking 2GB SD card, and that worked.  Hurrah.

Problem two was that my debit card had stopped working, and I had a vague - but only vague - recollection of having received a letter from my bank with a new debit card in it.  But where was it?  There followed two hours of searching, but in a manner which made things more tidy rather than less tidy, which is not always the way when you are searching for something.  Key fact: I was not in too much of a hurry.  It is searching for something in a hurry that really makes chaos.  Anyway, I eventually found the new debit card, in the last place I looked.  Hurrah times two, making three hurrahs in all.

A good day.  And, I hope you agree, a good quota photo.

Tuesday August 01 2017

Today, my priority is not blogging well.  It is blogging early, so that I don’t have to bother with blogging for the rest of today.  I do not want to bother about blogging for the rest of the day because I am now sleep deprived.

One of the many symptoms of advancing age is the inability of the body to control temperature like it used to.  Younger people experience this inability as the notorious oldie habit of having the heating turned up too high.  But this inability also takes the form of the body allowing itself to become too hot.  I often get up in the middle of the night not just to piss, but also to cool down.  Throw in the tendency to keep on doing what you get into the habit of doing, and a night’s sleep becomes something that regularly happens in two chunks, rather than one.

Recently, I have been staying up too late and getting up too late.  And I decided to break this pattern this morning by simply not having the second chunk of last night’s sleep.  I got up half way through my night’s sleep at what was actually a pretty good time to be getting up for real.  So I did.

But this means I will be sleepy all of today, and if you are sleepy but don’t want to sleep, you cannot be sitting down.  You have to be walking about, preferably in places where you can’t sleep without catastrophe.  Like: outside.  So, outside is where I will shortly be going, and I plan not to return until quite late, thereby being able to get to sleep at the new and improved earlier time, because so very sleep deprived.

Tuesday July 25 2017

My day was dominated by the acquisition, and then the installation, of one of these.  Which looks like this:

image

Sorry about all the blank white space there.  I’d fill it up with words, if only I knew how to do that.

But despite being the sort of person who is unable to make blog-words move closer to complicated shapes like that one, I made the gadget itself work perfectly.

I picked it up this afternoon from Chateau Samizdata, where all my Amazonia gets delivered in order to stop it being stolen from my place by thieves pretending to be delivery men.  (Only one of my neighbours has to be conned, and they’re in.) And this evening, I got it out of its box and put it all together, and it worked first time.  Now my new computer screen hovers miraculously over my desk, instead of being held up by an idiotically cumbersome and desk-space consuming stand.  I can even open it like a door and get at all the storage space behind it.

One of the symptoms of advancing years is that newly acquired gadgetry, of the sort that consists of about twenty different bits that you have to assemble yourself, just never works without about of week of assembling and re-assembling and effing and blinding.  But this one worked first time, and exactly as advertised.

It helped that the instructions were only in one language, English.  As a general rule, the more professional the instructions look, the worse they actually are.  It’s the difference between instructions written by lawyers who bury the instructions that matter in lots of defensively irrelevant safety instructions that a six year old wouldn’t need to be told, and instructions written, and illustrated, by someone who actually wants you to succeed in assembling the thing.

Maybe I’ll rewrite this for Amazon.

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?

Saturday July 08 2017

No, not London Big Things, very near to each other.  This time it’s sport.

I did not see this coming:

image

It seemed to me that a whole lot too much fuss was being made about the Lions just managing to defeat the All Blacks last weekend.  The All Blacks spent more than half of that game with only fourteen men, so why was it such a big deal when the Lions sneaked a very narrow win, thereby levelling things after the thrashing they were handed in the first game?  I thought the All Blacks would storm back in the final game and blow the Lions away.

But it didn’t happen.  It ended with both the final game and the series drawn, hence the above picture.  Usually the winning team struts its stuff, while the losers crawl back to their dressing room.  This time, at the end, the two sets of drawers intermingled.  It made for a great picture.

Last night’s 20 overs each way county cricket games threw up some other very close things.

Surrey just won against Essex, in a constantly fluctuating game that was in doubt until the very last ball.  When Ravi Bopara hit Surrey’s (usually) Mr Dependable, Jade Dernbach, for consecutive sixes in the penultimate over, it looked like Essex, who had seemed to be falling behind, would nevertheless win it.  But then Tom Curran got Bopara with the second ball of the final over, and that, although still with further fluctuations, just turned it Surrey’s way.

It isn’t so very long ago that people used to moan that 20-20 cricket games couldn’t ever, by their very nature, fluctuate.  If one side got ahead, the other side would do desperate things to get back into it that they normally wouldn’t do.  They would inevitably fail, and that would be that, with the result obvious long before the end.  Sometimes it is like that.  But in this game, Surrey began well, with a violent slog from Aaron Finch.  Then they lost lots of wickets and looked out of it.  But then they ended their innings with some more very good batting, by Sibley.  And so it went on, right up to the end.

Meanwhile, the other county team of interest to me, Middlesex, playing against Gloucester, managed to contrive a tie.  That fluctuated a lot also.

Rugby doesn’t interrupt my life much.  (With this Lions tour, it was, for me, mostly a matter of me saying, around lunchtime on Saturday: ooh, I wonder how the Lions did.) But the way things are going now, cricket, because even the shortest games last quite a while, and because there are a lot of games, is going to be a big part of the reason I will soon die in total rather than modified obscurity.

Friday July 07 2017

As you get old you have to get used to chucking things out, things that get ever more elaborate, and, you would think, worth more and more.  But actually, they are pure useless junk.  The trouble involved in mending them, thereby turning them into unreliable and out-of-date versions of whatever thing they are, is not worth the trouble.  Buy a new one.

Computer screens, for instance.  Here are three that I now, still, possess, of three different, gradually-receding-into-techno-history vintages.  But it would make as much sense to say that they now possess me.  None of these three screens works.  They pay no rent.  They live in my home, for nothing.  I plan to evict them, real soon now.  There’s a Westminster Council number I can ring, or so I seem to recall, when last I cleared out all my obsolete junk electronic toys:

imageimageimage

Nobody wants a second-hand computer screen, even if for you it still works.  Why are you getting rid of it?  Maybe you suspect that it is about to stop working.  Even the suggesting of this drains the thing of all value to anyone else.  If it doesn’t even work for you, it is useless times about five.

Put it this way.  I am about to buy a new screen.  I am not going to buy a second-hand one.  A second-hand screen would be overpriced at zero.  I want a brand new one, a truly nice one, with a warranty which will tell me how much use I can reasonably hope to get from it before it conks out and joins the parade of uselessness pictured above.

Would you like to pop round to the BMdotcom home and take one of these screens away with you?  Of course you wouldn’t.

Friday June 30 2017

Last night I sent out the reminder emails concerning my meeting tonight, the first of the ones listed in the previous posting, and I hoped for a few more replies saying: I’ll be there.  So far: nothing.  So now I am worried there won’t be enough people, and I will look like a plonker.  This morning I woke up, but then went back to sleep and had a scary and absurdly over-the-top warning dream about what a disaster tonight is going to be.  The plot line was: I went out shopping for stuff, and didn’t even get back in time myself.  Maybe the message was: relax.  It’ll be bad.  But it won’t be this bad.

So, now I face a day of fretting, and a day of making optimistic preparations for what could be a fiasco that won’t need them.  So, what did I just do?  I dashed off a Samizdata posting about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and what a bad thing this is.

This is not as crazy as it sounds.  If there is one thing that will totally ruin by last-Friday-of-the-month meetings it is the universal (but unstated-to-my-face) understanding that I am now a person of zero significance, the significance of whose meetings is likewise: zero.  But, I like these meetings, so long as people attend them in sufficient numbers, and I would miss them if I stopped doing them.  So, I need to put myself about more, on Samizdata and generally.  Even though what I really like doing is reading books about people like Chopin, listening to music by people like Chopin, wandering around London and posting pretty pictures of it here, waffling about them, and troubling nobody.

When you get old, you have to go on being what you are and doing what you do, even if you’d rather not.

Doing what I have to do
Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
Lost and found
Rubbish blogging
An old person television set
YPTD
Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
Something there
Arthur Seldon Centenary photos
Plan as energy
A vanished CD and a more tidy home
Cold feet
A blown up airplane and a dodgy internet connection
Rereading a Rebus
An enlarged Dinky Toy in Belgravia
The Wembley Arch and The Wheel
Another fine day at the Oval (4): Scoreboards old and new
Chuntering
A house in France that is not faceless
Second childhood
New Tricks is popular because it is full of old people and it is mostly old people who watch telly
Getting better - but rather slowly
Polishing
Dialogue
Enjoy it when you can
Bell end?
Quite a line-up in New York
Out and about with GD1 (2): How mobile phones both cause and solve meeting up problems
Ed Smith on sporting maturity – Burns and Henriques collide – Secretariat and his jockey
What are those things on her hands?
Reading Anton Howes again
Fantastic day
How the internet is cheering up Art
It turns out that lightning speed is immensely useful
Out from under the weather
A Sunday ramble
OpenOffice Writer default resetting nightmares
A global temperature graph that seems to fit the recent facts
Remembering another Christian name (and flagging up another talk)
When you are old you tend to assume that confusion is your fault even if actually it is not
Victor!
Cats without tails are not scary