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Category archive: Current events

Saturday October 31 2015

It seems that I am not the only one reminiscing about photos taken nearly a decade ago.  The Atlantic is now doing this, with the help of NASA and its Cassini orbiter, and the Cassini orbiter’s oresumably now rather obsolete camera:

Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus (504 kilometers or 313 miles across), is the subject of much scrutiny, in large part due to its spectacular active geysers and the likelihood of a subsurface ocean of liquid water. NASA’s Cassini orbiter has studied Enceladus, along with the rest of the Saturnian system, since entering orbit in 2004. Studying the composition of the ocean within is made easier by the constant eruptions of plumes from the surface, and on October 28, Cassini will be making its deepest-ever dive through the ocean spray from Enceladus - passing within a mere 30 miles of the icy surface. Collected here are some of the most powerful and revealing images of Enceladus made by Cassini over the past decade, with more to follow from this final close flyby as they arrive.

Here is a picture of Enceladus taken on June 10th 2006:


That is picture number 25, or rather, a horizontal slice of it.

Beyond Enceladus and Saturn’s rings, Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is ringed by sunlight passing through its atmosphere. Enceladus passes between Titan and Cassini ...

That’s right.  Those two horizontal, ever so slightly converging white lines and the edge of the Rings of Saturn.

Picture number 10 is even more horizontalisable:


A pair of Saturn’s moons appear insignificant compared to the immensity of the planet in this Cassini spacecraft view. Enceladus, the larger moon is visible as a small sphere, while tiny Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers across) appears as a tiny black speck on the far left of the image, just below the thin line of the rings.

That one was taken on November 4th 2011.

My thanks, for the second time in as many days, to 6k for pointing me to these amazing images.

Wednesday October 14 2015

Today I did a Samizdata posting about Corbyn and his atrocious supporters, and I celebrate that fact with this photo, taken on the last day of last month, of Labour Leader Corbyn, made to look like he has reached his level of incompetence:


Moments later I took another photo, of a bus.  I am now officially photoing any London double decker bus of the new Boris variety, provided that it is entirely covered with an advert:


The point being that just as Black Cabs are not by any means always black, so too, London’s famed double decker buses are by no means always red.

This particular advert certainly worked, because I am drinking cider right now.  But, not of the variety advertised on this bus.

Thursday September 24 2015

The platinum blonde woman who sings the introductory song sounds very unmusical and strangulated to me.  When she sings “A new age has begun”, it sounds like “Anewwayjazzbeegun”, with no breaks between words at all.  Very peculiar.  I now learn that I am not the only one to be unhappy about this singing.

My first observation of the actual rugby: lots of handling errors.  My impression is that the balls are bigger, fatter, lighter, bouncier, a bit like balloons.  So, when they hit your chest they don’t just stick there, they bounce off your chest and you’ve dropped it.

How good were Japan?  Yes, very good.  But.  But.  How bad were South Africa? Very, very bad.  There is a back story there, which the television commentators I am hearing seem extremely anxious not to discuss.  It’s all: the mighty Boks.  Apparently, they haven’t persuaded enough black men to play rugby, and racial quotas are deranging and demoralising them.  “Political football” etc.  Lawrence Dallaglio mentioned this stuff once, in passing, speaking of them “falling off tackles” (I think that was the phrase).  Of not really trying, in other words.  Other than that, nothing.  Japan got totally stuffed by Scotland yesterday, 45-10.  Okay, the Japanese hadn’t had much of a rest.  But even so, a bizarre result, unless Japan beating South Africa was at least as much because South Africa were bad as because Japan were good.  Scotland v South Africa might be … very interesting.

I really like London’s new Olympic Stadium.  Whenever I saw it before, it contained the 2012 Olympics, and I hate the Olympics so much that I couldn’t see how very nice the stadium is.  Now I can see this.  I think I now prefer the inside of the Olympic Stadium to the inside of New Wembley.  The only interesting thing about New Wemley is the big arch, seen from the outside.  That’s terrific.  One of London’s great new landmarks.  But the inside of New Wembley, which I have actually visited in person, is very dreary.  But maybe I was just in a bad mood, on account of it being football, and on account of this idiot jumping about in front of me whenever anything faintly interesting happened, so I had to either get up off my seat to see anything, or remain seated and in ignorance.

England look okay to me, but okay presumably won’t be enough to win.  But then again, most other teams seem only okay also.  Except the All Blacks of course.  How will they contrive to lose this tournament, I wonder?  They usually seem to find a way.  Last time around, they did win, but only by one point.

Thursday September 17 2015

Today I had a nice surprise.  I was out shopping, and saw a taxi with an advert on it that I’d not seen before, which I photoed it.  But when I got home I discovered that my camera didn’t have its SD card in.

However, being a clever little camera it had stored the pictures up in its own built-in memory, and I went looking for this by attaching my camera direct to my computer with a wire.  Success.  I found the picture of the taxi and its advert.

And, I also found this photo inside the camera, which I had totally forgotten about, and which had been there since June 25th:


Now that’s what I call a headline.  Here‘s the story.

This is one of the things I really like about digital photography.  There are hundreds of things you see that are a laugh, and which you would like to be able to remember and have another laugh about later.  But they aren’t worth buying, just for that second laugh.  But, they are worth photoing.

Also, today, I saw a headline about how naughty persons have been using drones to get drugs into prisons.  But I failed to photo this headline.  I was inside Sainsbury’s, and if I had got my camera out, it might have caused a scene.

I think it must have been this story.  I’ve been saying here for ages that drones were going to be trouble, as well as fun.  Here is another example of drones being both fun, and incurring the wrath of our rulers, that being a story about a man taking aerial photos of things that didn’t want to be photoed.

Sunday September 13 2015

Excellent piece in the Daily Mash about photography and its impact, entitled Everyone sad because of photo of thing that’s been happening for months.  I only just noticed this piece, probably because it didn’t include a photograph:

It has been confirmed that everyone kind of knew the thing was happening, but now they are very sad and angry because there is a photo of it.

The thing about a photo is that a vivid photo can tell a story very quickly, this being why this particular one is getting around so much and being talked about so much.  Not necessarily a true story, not straight away, but a story.  And that’s what you want, if you are The Media.  The Media sell stories.  Truth, factual and/or moral, is nice too, but not the essence of the product.  That photos do their job well is not a “conscience” thing.  It is a speed of communication thing.  Photos communicate a lot very quickly.

The speed with which a picture tells a story is why I have so many photos here.  This is a kitten blog.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it doesn’t expect you to take it seriously, unless you want to.  My photos don’t consume your time, unless you want them to.  Often, I only tell my stories here at all if I have a photo.  It would take too long to explain with mere words, and anyway, what would be the point?

Headlines aren’t necessarily true either.  In fact, I would say that the biggest media lies are to be found in photos and in headlines.  Photos typically lie, when they do lie, by omission.  Headlines just lie, and you can often tell they’re lies simply be reading the story under them.

Why do headlines lie?  Because that often makes for a more appealing story.  The truth is usually more mundane.  But mundane doesn’t get you eyeballs.

Wednesday September 02 2015

What follows is one of the better commentaries on British politics that I have recently read.  It is pertinent to the current dramas involving Jeremy Corbyn and what appears now to be his likely victory in the Labour Party leadership election, because it focusses on something which I think has been somewhat neglected by other commentators, namely the weakness of Corbyn’s opponents.  It is by former Conservative Party Leader William Hague.

It is to be found at the Telegraph website.  I was alerted to it by Guido‘s invaluable “seen elsewhere” section.

But since the Telegraph only allows me to see thirty (I think it is) articles each month before it blocks me (for about half the month), and since I never blog about things that my readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, which means that I am actually not interested in things that readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, here is the piece, here, in full.  Now I am able to be interested in what follows, because here it is.

The original article contains links to other Telegraph pieces.  These I have reproduced.  But I have not checked if they work, because I don’t want to exhaust half my allotted Telegraph links with the month hardly having started.

If the Telegraph asks me to remove it from here, I will immediately remove it, and will instead replace what follows with smaller quotes and further commentary.  And then I will lose all interest in it, except perhaps as an interesting little event concerning the rights and wrongs of intellectual property.

In late 1997, having rather rashly taken on the job of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I discussed with the new prime minister, Tony Blair, which of us had the most difficult job. “You have,” he said, without a moment’s doubt.

Blair was right. And that job was doubly more difficult because it was one pitched every day against him, the most formidable electoral opponent the Conservative Party has faced in its entire history. Before him, Labour had only twice since its foundation won a decisive majority; with him it did so three times in a row.

Although he is despised in Labour’s current leadership election, Blair was a Tory leader’s worst nightmare: appealing to the swing voter and reassuring to the Right-leaning, it was hard to find a square on the political chessboard on which he did not already sit.  When people told me I did well at Prime Minister’s Questions, I knew I had to, since I had very little else going for me at all – I had to raise the morale of Conservatives each Wednesday to get them through the frustration and impotence of every other day of the week.

Blair courted business leaders and Right-wing newspapers, often to great effect. He was a Labour leader who loved being thought to be a secret Tory, a pro-European who was fanatical in support for the United States, a big spender who kept income taxes down, an Anglican who let it be known he wanted to be a Catholic and regularly read the Koran. He could be tough or soft or determined or flexible as necessary and shed tears if needed, seemingly at will. To the political law that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time he added Blair’s law – that you can make a very serious attempt at it.

This was the human election-winning machine against which some of us dashed ourselves, making the Charge of the Light Brigade look like a promising manoeuvre by comparison. Yet now, only eight years after he left the scene he dominated, his party’s election is conducted with scorn for the most successful leader they ever had.

The first reason for this is the truly extraordinary rule allowing huge numbers of people to join up for the specific purpose of selecting the new leader. If there was an NVQ Level 1 in How To Run a Party, the crucial nature of the qualifying period to vote in a leadership election would be on the syllabus, possibly on the first page. Every student plotting to take over a university society knows that the shorter that period, the easier it is to mount an insurgency from outside. But this basic fact seems to have escaped Ed Miliband, along with every other possible consideration of what might happen after his own unnecessarily rapid departure.

The result of this is that Labour’s leader is being chosen by a largely new electorate, with correspondingly little sense of ownership of the party’s history, in which the desire to align the party with their own views outweighs any sense of duty to provide the country with an alternative government.

The second reason is the weakness of the mainstream candidates to an extent unprecedented in any election in a major party in British parliamentary history. Even in 1935, an even darker time for the Labour Party when it had far fewer MPs than today, the leadership election was between Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison: great names that are etched into our history. This is the first election of a Labour leader in which none of the candidates look like they could be prime minister five years later.

This weakness partly explains the third and most significant factor in what appears to be, in the form of Corbynmania, a sharp move to the pre-Blair, old-fashioned, Michael Foot-was-a-moderate, Seventies Left, which is that none of them has been able to articulate what a social democratic, centre-Left party should stand for in the first half of the 21st century.

Blair’s ability to win elections was not accompanied by a coherent philosophy. The seminars he held with Schroeder’s German SPD and Clinton Democrats on the “Third Way”, the ultimate attempt at government by triangulation, collapsed in ridicule. And the question neither Labour’s candidates nor their socialist colleagues abroad can now answer is – in a century in which markets dominate, more power passes to consumers, technology gives more choice by the day to individuals, working lives are more flexible than ever, and class-based voting is dying out, what is the role and purpose of the moderate Left?

You can scan in vain the speeches of Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham for a clear answer to this question, although I do not necessarily recommend it unless you find it hard to sleep. You might think there is a modern social democratic case to be made that some people – the less educated, unskilled, and immobile – could miss out on the benefits of the information revolution and that changing that is a new purpose of the centre-Left. Instead, in Britain and across Europe, it is left to fringe parties to prey on those dissatisfied with the vast and rapid changes in modern society.

And most revealing of all, those same speeches (yes, I really have read them), point to no model abroad of the Left in power, no hero to be admired or policy to be emulated. The main parties of the Left have turned into partners of conservatives in Germany, reformist liberals in Italy, back-pedalling socialists in France, catastrophes in Latin America, and been annihilated by extremists in Greece. There is still a Socialist International, but there is no longer a common ideology to underpin it.

Seen in this context, the agony of Labour’s leadership election is easier to understand. This is a tribe lost in a desert with no star to follow, and no inspirational leader to point to a new one. Across the world, parties that thrived on the socialist ideals of an industrialising society are losing their relevance, and what we are witnessing is a symptom and dramatic demonstration of that fact.

Faced with that awful reality, Labour is turning to something, anything, that seems authentic, passionate, and consistent. The failure, in Britain and abroad, to find the social democratic version of that is a failure of historic proportions.

Friday August 14 2015

Here (thank you Instapundit) are twelve photos of the destruction that just hit the Chinese city of Tianjin.

This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:


What (I think) makes this such a remarkable image is that, by showing how totally the cars have all been wrecked, the nature of what hit them is, as it were, permanently recorded, the way it might not have been registered by mere empty ground.  And because they are cars rather than buildings, each one a regular and very small distance from the ground, every ruined car is clearly visible, the way wrecked buildings might not have been.  It’s as if each car is a fire-sensitive cell, like digital cameras have inside them for nailing down light.

Fireball.  Nothing else could have done that.

However much the government of China and its various offshoots and local manifestations might have wanted to keep this amazing event under wraps, modern media, including digital photography, still and video, meant that they had no chance.

Saturday July 04 2015

Today I was out and about in the sweltering heat of London, and unusually for me, I found myself noticing a news item:


The news item being that big cloud of smoke, somewhere up river from Tate Modern.  Seeing as how I myself live up river from Tate Modern, this was a bit troubling.  Was it a moderately big fire, quite near to me?  Would I return home to find my home ablaze?  Had I started the fire by leaving something switched on that shouldn’t have been?  Or was it, as I found myself ignobly hoping, a bigger fire, further away?

I consulted the www about this fire when I got home, my home not having disappeared, and there being no smoke anywhere near it.  Eventually the www revealed what had happened.  The fire was - and alas, as I write this, it still is - in Perivale, which is way out in the west of London.  And this was one very big conflagration.

To quote the Evening Standard:

An enormous fire is raging in a warehouse in a west London suburb, with smoke visible for miles around.

Some 100 firefighters are tackling the inferno at a large building in Wadsworth Road, Perivale.

About 30 people fled before the London Fire Brigade arrived, with flames erupting just before 7pm.

That’s what I was seeing, no question about it.

According to my camera, the above photo was taken at 8pm, so the fire had already been raging for an hour before I noticed it enough to take photos of it.  Not that photoing smoke is my forte.  Presumably photoing smole is like photoing anything else in particular, the more you do it, the better you do it.

No matter.  Many others will undoubtedly have been photoing that same huge cloud of smoke.  It was, like the ES said, visible for miles around.  You’ll have no difficulty finding better Perivale warehouse fire pictures, in the event that you want to see such things.  For me, it is enough to know that nobody died.

A BIT LATER: Looking at the above photo, and at some of the others at the other end of the link immediately above (notably the one from beyond Tower Bridge) I realise that one of the tricks of smoke-photoing is the put the smoke behind a very definite and recognisable building.  So here is another photo I took, of some of the smoke that had already travelled a bit further, to the area behind St Pauls Cathedral from where I was:

Trouble is, although St Pauls is very definitely St Pauls, the smoke is not so definitely smoke.  It could just be clouds, in my photo.  Like I say, smoke is not a speciality of mine.

As you can also see, there is a crane to be seen there.  I also photoed smoke behind a crane cluster, but showing you that would be to change the subject.

Smoke over west London
An interesting front page story
Oh yes it could
Pepper-spraying drones
Drone on the White House lawn
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Russia unleashes tiger on China
Michael Jennings talking about Russia this Friday
A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
Mark Steyn on Obama’s Hoover Dam and me on paywalls
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
The Walkie Talkie and its surroundings
Interesting software NewZ
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
New crane up
Close-up of the ruined Vauxhall crane
Are Christian social conservatives using the Tea Party to impose social conservatism?
Some more presidential debate prophecy
Pat Caddell on mainstream media bias
Reasons to think Romney is going to win big
And on my other personal blog …
University of California chickens coming home to roost?
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Street social services management integrated command sub-centres
The England rugby aftermath
Go Gary Johnson!
The Jobs difference
Freedom Tower and Gary Johnson at Samizdata
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
Kevin Dowd last night
Friday link dump
Gordon Brown curses the United Kingdom
Go Not Obama!
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom not threatened by the end of the Big Thing Boom
Quota choke?
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
Cat news
Absolutely not a private navy (except that it probably is)
Wisconsin question
Why I prefer blogging to writing for a magazine
Wot inflationz?
Julian Assange drove Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s cat Herr Schmitt crazy
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
Wagga Wagga has been flooded by the Murrumbidgee River
Scientology enthusiast is now Climate Change Minister
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
Peaceful time in war zone
Tim Evans looking happy
Choosing the best pictures by waiting a few days
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
Nuking the Oil Spill is probably a rather bad idea
Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalisation today
Incoming from Molly Norris!
Voice and exit
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
Photographic coup
Three airplane photos
Stepping forward into the abyss!
Yet more ramblings about Guesswhatgate
Picture of an aftershock of the credit crunch rippling around the world
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
Gaddafi looking rather like Alan Rickman
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
Prodicus (and me) on the shitness of the LibDems
Bercow versus the party which picked him
The Instadaughter on the morals of actors
Old Holborn lets rip at Labour in a Guido comment
Why I object to Madam Scotland and why I don’t
In which this blog indulges in an I Told You So moment concerning Speaker John Bercow
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
What Bercow does next
Another politician who looks like a noted comedy actor of yesteryear
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Go Gordon!
Thoughts on the Go Gordon petition
My opinion of yesterday’s budget
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
“What did you just say?”
Patri Friedman versus Chris Tame
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
My confusion about free banking
What the previous two postings here have in common
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
Headlines of the times
MBA - necessary but insufficient
Paul Marks on the financial crisis
TARP stuff - and a trip to Sheffield
Not cricket
Do nothing?
Meme for the New Depression
Kevin Dowd says what should be done
Evening Standard hand-done billboards go printed shock
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Photo-ing the news in Evening Standard headlines
Another pendulum theory
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Obama still won’t do nasty
“Who are you going to sell it to if we don’t buy it?”
Armed is less dangerous
More Beijing smog-blogging
Brown leapfrogs Cameron with 36 point jump
Guido on Gordon
The personal and the political
Paul Marks told us so
Big, Bigger, Biggest - starring Heathrow Terminal 5
Talking with Antoine about the US election and about libertarian politics in the US and in the UK
Antoine Clarke talking about the US Primaries
Tatiana the normal tiger
Billion Monkeys and a Real Photographer at the Golden Umbrellas
Photoing dusk on automatic
Nothing untoward happening!
Three … thirty six … sixty one … a hundred a forty eight …
Alisher Usmanov is now better known for being nasty
Personal choice
Richard Dawkins on the Muhammad cartoons affair
Back lit Billion Monkey lady and back lit Saturn!
I know the feeling
Armed police in Hertford hunt big cat
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
What are the world’s biggest problems?
Emmanuel Todd (1): Anthropology explains ideology
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
Islam is evil - and that’s me carrying on normally
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
Antoine says why he got the midterms wrong
The West disunited versus the Pesky Muslims
The extreme memes spread by moderate Muslims
Antoine Clarke talks with me about votes for women (and teenagers) – and about Sweden
Latest Brian and Antoine mp3 - Middle East, Mexico, USA
Something to bore everyone
Latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
Brian and Antoine mp3s now into double figures
Billion Monkeys stop cover-ups!
Listening to Peter Briffa’s first podcast
I won’t be doing any television myself in the near future but in the meantime have a watch of this
Those cartoons
4th Generation Warfare in the middle of an advanced Western Country
Riotous assemblies
Car bomb in Bogota
China is economically way ahead of India
Daniel Cuthbert - wrongly convicted “hacker” - and photographer
Phrase of the day
Get back
FEMA - not as well informed as the general public
More on Katrina
Two interesting predictions
Katrina as art – and Katrina as proof of What I’ve Always Said