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: This and that

Wednesday December 18 2013

I am now reading Bourgeois Dignity by Deirdre McCloskey, on the recommendation of Anton Howes.  It is very clear that Howes has been strongly influenced by McCloskey’s voluminous writings.

But, until a short while ago, I did not know this:

Deirdre McCloskey is a well-known economist, with a reputation for originality or, depending on how you like to see it, being a maverick renegade. She is a neoclassical Chicago economic historian by training. But she has been asking about the rhetorical underpinnings of economics for some time. She also, in a story well-known in the profession, used to be a he, Donald McCloskey, but has transitioned to being a woman.

Blog and learn.

Thursday May 31 2012

For much of yesterday, the world economy teetered on the edge of chaos, on account of this blog being out of action.  In the USA, people from all walks of life complained that, without this blog, sneering at Brits and celebrating the defeat of Britain in the revolutionary war of 1776 or whenever became too difficult, without this blog as an explanation for their otherwise incoherent resentment.

Australians wanting to find out who won the Ashes in 2011 had to look elsewhere for news.

And all over Europe, policy makers, seeking light relief from their self-imposed task of ensuring that the EU goes out with a huge bang rather than with an orderly and rational recognition of what ought really to be done, looked to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom for solace.  But it was not there.

How can we be expected to lead the European economy over a cliff in the proper manner, exclaimed Big European Cheeses, if we can’t divert ourselves every now and again with pictures of London bridges, and of new London towers, like the big spiky one and the one with the three holes in the top?  After a hard hour fretting about Spaniards who are about to riot and then die of starvation unless we print some more money and give it to ourselves, we need to be able to contemplate roof clutter, stuff about something called “Samizdata”, and photos of London tourists taking photos, another Big European Cheese added. 

Fortunately, BMDC came back on line yesterday afternoon, and the happiness of the world and the orderly progress of Europe towards self-inflicted ruin was reestablished in the nick of time.

Tuesday May 31 2011

Tidying up, with me, doesn’t happen because it’s that time of the month or the week or the year, or because the place just generally needs tidying up.  It happens because I am looking for some particular thing.  It is there, under the chaotic topsoil.  But where?  Let the archaeology begin.

Rather than just scatter the topsoil up into the air randomly, which even I know will massively increase the chaos, I instead find myself sorting the topsoil out, into crude categories of different topsoils.  By topsoil, I mean basically: paper.  Somewhere under all the paper is that particular piece of paper, or clutch of paper, that I seek.  Twice in the last fortnight I’ve had a day like this.  The earlier tidying frenzy was to find the book of words for an electrical gadget, which was duly found.  Today’s frenzy was to find an ancient financial document, which if found will yield money.  Today as before, many other lost and forgotten objects of value also surfaced.  Today has been more complicated, and must continue tomorrow.  The financial document has yet to materialise.

I managed to chuck out quite a bit of topsoil.  Well, not yet, but the chuckable out topsoil is already in quite a big pile of its own.  But to make room for that, I had to take out previously accumulated piles of topsoil, to make way for the new topsoil that would then have to go also.  And to take out the old topsoil I needed bags, bags which had been doing other stuff, and had never been unloaded.  So that had to be done too.  And so the task elaborated, before I do this, I will have to do this, and in order to do that, I will first have to do this.  And so on.  But progress was made.

Wednesday October 20 2010

Cricinfo a few minutes ago:

Anand: “Did anyone notice, today’s 20-10-2010?” Did you?

Not me, until Anand said.  India now need 77 runs at exactly 7 per over, with 7 wickets left, to beat Australia.

Sunday October 17 2010

First it was the captain of the England cricket team (Botham).  Then it was the Prime Minister (Blair).  Now the dead people are starting to be younger than me.

Monday September 06 2010

My problem (one of my problems) is that I accumulate open windows, to things I don’t want to forget about, and which I am hence reluctant to shut.  But these open windows, and all the advertising shite they come with, clog up my computer, or so it feels to me.

Now I am sure there is a better answer to this problem than the one that follows, but for now, my answer, today, is to stick a few such links here, where they won’t vanish in half a day and where anyway I know my way around.

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.  Note, incidentally, the disastrous headline punctuation. Punctuation in headlines says you can’t have a full stop at the end of a headline, but that you can have whatever punctuation you like in the middle of the headline, fullstops included.  Bizarre.  (Not that that’s why the piece interests me.)

That Codevilla piece about the American ruling class.  Actually I think a major part of this story is that it isn’t only the American ruling class.  It’s a global, or at least beyond national, class.  The entire West that was is starting to be ruled by a united gang of interconnected people.  Rulers of The World Unite.  You have nothing to lose but the love of your dreary little voters.  (To “love”, should I add “consent”?)

On the Validity and Necessity of Atheist Criticism of Islam.  I like Edmund Standing a lot.  Mostly I agree with this.  But, I think he makes too little of the differences between Christianity and Islam.  Christianity is bonkers but Islam is downright evil.  (Although, I do admit that Christian anti-semitism is deeply embedded in it.) The problem I have with Islam is not only that it is so false.  It is that it so nasty.  Allah does not exist, but if Allah does exist he should be opposed.  This is somewhat less true of the various Christian versions of God, especially nowadays.

The Vanity Fair Sarah Palin piece.  I want to read this to see if it actually says anything more than: she’s a politician!  Is she going to run for President?  If she gets to be President will she be a quite good one, as Reagan (won the Cold War - only talked about stopping the US state spending rise) was.  Will President Palin, that is to say, actually stop the US state spending rise?

The Chinese state media global offensive.  Were a time traveller from a hundred years hence to invite me to guess what sparked the Big War of 2037, I’d guess China versus someone, rather than Islam versus anyone.  Islam has the will to Big War, but looks unlikely at all soon to command the means to wage it.  (I include Iran in that judgement.  There is more to having a Bomb than just having a Bomb.  You must also have the means to attack the other guy’s Bomb, and to defend your remaining Bombs, which you must also have.) And I have long believed that being able to fight wars is more important in their causation than merely wanting to.  I mean, few great powers unambiguously want to fight major wars, because they have too much to lose.  But, from time to time, they still did, and might one day again.  Hopefully The Bomb will continue to work its terrifying magic, and Great Wars Between Great Powers will continue to not happen, but how long will that last?

I want to do a Big Piece on Samizdata about all that, Real Soon Now.  Globalisation as we now know it, i.e. the version where we don’t fight global wars against one another, is more caused by The Bomb (which first happened in 1945) than by Modern Electronic Communications (which first happened in 1842).  See Global Ruling Class, uniting of, above.

That should clear out my computer’s tubes a little.

Friday January 09 2009

This link dream posting did the trick.  It remembered a whole clutch of stuff for me, thus enabling me to forget it all and get on with my life, i.e. with piling up more links on my screen.  So here’s another expulsion onto the blog of the things I seem to be finding interesting just now.

Japanese mobile phone novels, continously updated, like a Dickens novel first published in a popular fiction magazine.  What’s happening is that suburban angsty girls are writing stream-of-consiousness alter ego stories, which are then being hoovered up by publishers and are now selling, really selling, as books.  Which has got all the publishers excited and that has got the old school book writers excited.  Is that how art forms start?  People start them, for their people reasons, and in their downmarket people languages.  Then, after the concept has been commercially proved, the artists climb aboard, or maybe some of the original creators acquire artistic ambitions.

We now living in the age when telly soap operas are going from something liked by mere people to something done with artistic as well as commercial considerations in mind.  Time was when the artists despised soaps.  Only people like those!  Now, artists take soaps seriously, and are doing serious soaps.  Not necessarily any better, mind you.

NHS accident and emergency grief.

The Best Book on the Market, the blog.

Technology Review does water into hydrogen, cheaply, and e-paper faster and in colour.

Via the always worth keeping up with City Journal, Hollywood goes right wing.

Engadgetry.  More laptops, with proper keyboards I mean, small and cheap.

Hit & Run on Two kinds of libertarians.  Most libertarians already have this distinction in their heads, expressed one way or another.  I have long thought of me and my fellow libertarians being Next Steppers and/or End Staters, with the Libertarian Alliance tending strongly towards the End State end of things.  What would improve things a bit, now?  Where should it all be heading? In this Hit & Run piece, it’s Policy Libertarians and Structural Libertarians.  The second is an unsatisfactory expression, I think, because it does not explain itself.  It has to be explained.

However you label such categories, they do tend to overlap quite a lot.  One of the most valuable Next Steps is to talk, whenever you get the chance, about desirable End States.  End States may not be practical politics, yet, but talking about them is, and that can even apply to regular politicians.  David Cameron, for instance, is not doing as well as he might right now because all he is doing is second-guessing the government with his preferred Next Steps, and trashing the government’s Next Steps.  All very well as far as it goes, but how are we all going to be rescued from this mess?  Will it just be ever more depressing Next Steps for ever?  Answer (see and hear here): talk also about the desired End State that these Next Steps ought all to be enabling us to reach, as soon as we can.

There is a particular benefit attached to the link dump technique of blogging as per this posting, for all bloggers suffering from blogger’s block - which is me, often.  It gets you started.  All you are saying is a little something about each link, and maybe not even that.  But a little something can quickly then mutate into a bigger something.  A couple of the blurblets above could easily have been separate out as individual blog postings.  The posting immediately below this one - about Michael Flatley, God, etc. - did begin life as part of this posting and was then copied and pasted out onto its own.

Sunday January 04 2009

I have accumulated lots of open windows, so let me spew them out here and then I can shut them.

I have finally got around to adding the UK Libertarian Party blog to my blogroll.  I wish them well, but am not optimistic, simply because any new political party is the very devil to get established without ridicule, internal dissension or general demoralisation, after the first thrill of it getting vaguely airborne has worn off.

Thank you David Farrer for the link to this review of the Lumix camera I keep going on about here.  But here’s a lady who explains why she hates EVFs

More on the madness of the contemporary art market.  Saatchi comes out quite clever, cleverer than the writer seems to understand.  He buys art cheap, puffs it, sells it expensive.  Sounds like he’s been making money.  It’s his customers who must now be suffering.

Iain Dale has a picture up of a funny-ha-ha gravestone of GORDON BROWNS ECONOMIC REPUTATION.  So where’s the apostrophe?

Computerised sewing machine.

Computerised skiing machine.  Meanwhile, Alan Little has been checking out where you can do the real thing, in a number of postings starting here.

Now design students aren’t just designing stuff, they’re getting it built as well.

Lebrecht lambasts the New York Philharmonic.  And here.

A cute portable keyboard, and I seem to have scrubbed the window before noting the link.  Anyway, it was very small and folded down the middle and fits in a pocket.  These things seem to have disappeared from the shops.  Maybe it’s because what you want is not a portable keyboard, but a cheap extra keyboard, to keep wherever you camp with your too small laptop.  And cheap means regular, not clever.  Ah, found it.

New double decker bus designs, which I got to via David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.  But the thing about the double decker bus is that it is such a strong design to begin with that all subsequent double decker buses just look like ... double decker buses.

What’s black and white and over?  Yes, newspapers.  But it’s important to get the causal links in the right order.  What is ruining newspapers is not necessarily that they’re shit, although some are.  It’s that their advertising is deserting them and they stop being viable businesses.  While newspapers last they are supporting a generation of rather good, paid bloggers.  But what happens to all that pro-blogging when the newspaper money isn’t there any more?

And that clears my screen.  Thankyouverymuch.

This posting has been like dreaming.  Random accumulated notioins that my subconscious needs to get shot of, and which it therefore shows to the conscious mind for one final time.  Does this mean anything?  Thought not.  Just checking.  Now, about this play that you don’t know your lines for ...

Random links
I need to get out less
This and that on the Graham Norton Show
Blogroll dilemma - question I already know the answer to - irrelevant photo
Banks
Young people these days
Party pieces
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
3D!
Avoiding barbarism in the street
Is my brain failing, or not?
Ridiculous story but great headline
Oddities and specialisms
Slow day here
Exciting posting about shelves
The goat menace
Lots of links
Random London snaps from last year
Firewall nonsense
A breezy day in London
Screen madness
Feeling Much Better
In a bad way - but recovering
Discarded needles, wrappers and makeshift crack cocaine pipes
Top tips from Viz
Links I like
Bizarre London
Unpaid happiness is not misery but it is a step in that direction
Trouble
Jack Stravinsky
Unplugged and writing about sport because sport Doesn’t Matter
The thief of time
He loved my book
Happy New Year
Heat in my pocket
This and that at 9.07am
Plink plink plink plinkplinkplink plinkplink plink plink plinkplinkplinkplink plinkplinkplink
I actually think that this is quite mindful
Everything
Cold winters
Car bomb in Bogota
Today I took some more photos of the dca but you don’t get to see them yet
58
Contingent fees for lawyers are good!
English Grammars
Feeling under the weather - and watching The Butterfly Effect