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: USA

Thursday February 26 2015

This is cool, says Instapundit, and he’s not wrong:

For all his joie de vivre, Jardine is a master drone builder and pilot whose skills have produced remarkable footage for shows like Australian Top Gear, the BBC’s Into the Volcano, and a range of music videos. His company Aerobot sells camera-outfitted drones, including custom jobs that require unique specifications like, say, the capacity to lift an IMAX camera. From a sprawling patch of coastline real estate in Queensland, Australia, Jardine builds, tests, and tweaks his creations; the rural tranquility is conducive to a process that may occasionally lead to unidentified falling objects.

Simply put, if you’ve got a drone flying challenge, Jardine is your first call.

So, Mr Jardine is now flying his flying robots over volcanoes.  There are going to be lots of calls to have these things entirely banned, but they are just too useful for that to happen.

When I was a kid and making airplanes out of balsa wood and paper, powered with rubber band propellers, I remember thinking that such toys were potentially a lot more than mere toys.  I’m actually surprised at how long it has taken for this to be proved right.

What were the recent developments that made useful drones like Jardine’s possible?  It is down to the power-to-weight ratio of the latest mini-engines?  I tried googling “why drones work”, but all I got was arguments saying that it’s good to use drones to kill America’s enemies, not why they are now usable for such missions.

Tuesday February 17 2015

I just posted a Samizdata piece about Peter Thiel, a most admirable man, if the video performance that got me interested in him is anything to go by, and of course it is.

I kept the Samizdata posting short, and there follow a couple of paragraphs I decided not to include, because … well, I just decided not to.  The posting, which was basically just saying how about this for a clever guy go and watch him was becoming too unwieldy and too full of ponderousness.  So, the rest of this is me recycling my cuts here.  I can’t really put what follows as a quote, but it sort of feels like maybe I should.  Anyway, here we go.

There are around a dozen or more fascinating notions expounded in Thiel’s talk.  One thing in particular interested me, because it is an argument that has always interested me.  Extreme pessimism, says Thiel, often causes people to think that there is nothing to be done, because whatever they do is bound to fail.  Very true.  But extreme optimism (optimism being my preferred stance when trying to do anything) is also dangerous, because it is liable to tell you that you don’t need to do anything.  Good things will happen automatically.  Says Thiel: avoid both extremes.  Steer a middle path.  Do of a bit of both.  All of which may seem very obvious to you, but I have never heard it put quite like that, and certainly not so succinctly.

Another nice and counter-consensual thing Thiel says is that failure is over-rated, because you generally only learn one of the reasons why you failed, when in fact there were probably about half a dozen.

See the early comments at Samizdata by Rob Fisher, for other bits of cleverness from this extremely clever man.

More Thiel spiel here.

Saturday February 14 2015

First, the BMdotcom headline of the day:

Ukrainian Army Using 3D Printed Drones To Battle Pro-Russian Separatists As Cease-fire Nears

These drones are being used to “monitor”, not for bombing or shooting.  Nevertheless, interesting.

In other drone photography news, have a look at the new Apple Headquarters, as it takes shape.  This particular movie seems to be friendly, so to speak.  Apple would appear to have agreed to it.  But what of drone photos and drone movies that are not so friendly?

I first realised that drones would be a big deal when I saw one (with a camera attached) in a London shop window.

Friday February 13 2015

I just came across this Economist piece from last November (I think that link will keep on working), saying that there may soon be ultra-cheap trans-Atlantic flights.  I did not know this.

Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier that has been expanding rapidly across Europe, has begun flying across the Atlantic and to Thailand. Next March Wow Air, an Icelandic carrier, will start flights on routes such as Boston to London, via Reykjavik, with introductory prices as low as $99 one way.

Time was when …:

… the fuel burned by long-haul planes made up a large proportion of the cost of operating the flights. That made it hard for budget carriers to find enough cost savings elsewhere to cut prices sufficiently to tempt flyers to switch from carriers offering more comforts.

This is now changing, with the launches of some new and far more fuel-efficient planes: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, already in the air, Airbus’s A350, which will start flying within weeks, and a revamped version of Airbus’s A330, coming in 2019. Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, recently reiterated a promise that he would eventually sell transatlantic flights from as little as €10 ($13) one-way and with average return fares of around €200-300. The full-service airlines will also be ordering these new planes, but their cost disadvantage compared with the nimble budget carriers (because of such things as their legacy pension schemes and labour agreements) will become more stark.

Perhaps I will one day set foot in the USA after all.

As for that Economist link above, no, unless you subscribe.  You have to google “making laker’s dream come true”.  Then you can read it.

Or: this link seems to get you straight to a recycled version of the piece.

Wednesday February 11 2015

One of the better kept secrets of the popular entertainment industry of the modern world is how very good certain people are at faking reality, with quite small but very well made models.  Thoughtless people say they can always spot such fakery.  But the truth is that they only spot what they spot.  What they don’t spot, they don’t spot.  Obvious, if you think about it.  The same principle applies to things like men wearing wigs.  We can only see them when they are done badly.

So, I’m guessing that not everyone in Hollywood will be pleased about the internet presence of this guy, who contrives pictures like this ...:

image

… by doing this:

image

I found out about Michael Paul Smith from this Colossal posting, which is also where I got the above photos.

Much of the success of such fakery is to do with the camera being in the right place.  In particular, it needs to be low enough to see things from the same angle that a human would see them if the scene was real.

I remember first working this out when, as a kid, I went through a model railway magazine phase, a craze I caught from my best friend just a few doors away in Harvest Road, Englefield Green.  Most of the pictures in those magazines were obviously of models, but this was not because the models were always badly made.  It was because the camera was looking down on the scene, just as you do when you are looking at a model.  On the few occasions when the photographer would take the trouble to get his camera at real eye level, so to speak, it was amazing how realistic everything could suddenly look.

By the same token, and being only an occasional flyer, I have never yet tired of the thrill of looking down at the ground, preferably at built-up areas, from an airplane in the process of taking off or landing.  Everything looks like toys.  Really, really well made toys.  Your frequent flyers have got used to the idea that this is really just boring old reality, seen from above.  But to me, what I see from an airplane is something totally different from reality.  It is an entire world, painstakingly faked in miniature, for my personal entertainment.

Friday February 06 2015

Pride of place in David Thompson’s ephemera today, and pride of place this Friday at Bmdotcom, goes to the cat who changed her mind.  She stepped out, with just the one paw.  She pawsed.  Paw cold cat!  She pawed cold water on the original plan and retreated back into the warm.

In other cat news: Why cats like to hide in boxes.  It’s because they like to hide.  They’re not good at conflict resolution.

So rather than work things out, cats are more inclined to simply run away from their problems or avoid them altogether. A box, in this sense, can often represent a safe zone, a place where sources of anxiety, hostility, and unwanted attention simply disappear.

I’m not the only one doing frightful cat puns.  Belfast Telegraph headline:

Why Cats is still not feline its age after thirty years in the limelight

Guardian headline:

Cats take centre stage at Perth’s first internet cat video festival

More cat news from Oz, this time transport related.  Brisbane Times headline:

Uber delivers cats on demand with UberKittens

Finally, the New York Times reports on work by Professor Matthew Ehrlich on the history of media coverage of cats.  From the Ehrlich’s abstract:

This article critically examines the Times’ cat tales in the context of the cultural history of journalism and the academic study of human–animal relations, also known as anthrozoology. Trends and themes in the coverage indicate that cats have been used and portrayed as commodities, heroes, villains, victims, women’s best friends, and urban symbols. The stories demonstrate how and why animal news should be taken seriously by journalism scholars. Not only does it offer insight into our evolving relationships with animals, it also provides a provocative means of thinking about where journalism has been and where it is heading.

Critically examines?  He just wants to get lots of internet mentions.  This is mere academic postmoggyism.

Time to stop.

Monday February 02 2015

Incoming from Michael J:

Katy Perry and dancing Nazi sharks. I guess this is why you stay up for the Superbowl.

image

Actually I missed KP’s half time performance, but I have it on one of my various TV hard disks.  I did stay up until the Superbowl ended, but I found myself only giving it about a third of my attention.

I did tune in at the end.  That bizarre catch was fun.  But the game ended the way it did because, at any rate in the opinion of all the commentators, the Seattle Seahawks made a horrible mistake.  ("I cannot believe that call!") Truly great games are won because of something wonderful, not something horrible.  In an ideal world, you want the losers thinking, not: “Oh Shit, What Were We Thinking?!?!?  We’ll have nightmares about that for the rest of our lives.” You want them thinking: “Well, there was nothing we could have done about that.” And the winners can spend the rest of their lives remembering that they did it, not that the other guys did it for them.

And then this morning there was this:

6 1 6 . 6 6 | . 4 W 4 W 1 | 1 . 1wd 6 6 6

That’s the last three overs of the England Second Eleven‘s batting effort against the South Africa Second Eleven.  I love how you can now follow these bizarrely obscure games.  Ben Stokes, who has been having a rough time of it of late, is the one hitting six of those seven sixes at the end, and finishing on 151 not out (off 86 balls) , out of 378-6.  Perhaps someone in the England First Eleven (recently crushed by Australia in a triangular warm-up tournament) will get hurt during the forthcoming World Cup, and Stokes will be inserted into their team.  Such is the romance of sport.

Finally, here is a piece by cricket boffin Ed Smith, about how having fun is very important.  Because of fun, Alexander Fleming invented penicillin, etc.  But the real reason for fun is that having fun is fun.  It’s articles like this that cause insane parents to send their children to Fun Classes.

I shouldn’t mock.  It’s a good piece.  And fun is what this blog here is mostly about.

Tuesday January 27 2015

Story here:

A man believed to be a recreational drone operator accidentally crashed a small device onto the White House grounds early Monday, investigators said, briefly triggering a lockdown and reinforcing concerns about security at the executive mansion.

Via here and here.

LATER: The inevitable “let’s ban drones” discussion is upon us.

EVEN LATER: Sports enthusiasts are clamoring for aerial robots that can record their best moves.

Drone on the White House lawn
BMdotcom What if? of the day
Drugs drones
The wrong kind of cranes
BMdotcom comment of the day
Santa’s tired helpers
Russia unleashes tiger on China
Pictures of Guy Herbert
Recently on dezeen
Bright buildings in front of dark sky
Happy Friday (eventually)
Postrel goes for Gray
Man 3D-prints Thing in his back garden
Cat news
Brian Micklethwait dot com quote of the day
Why aren’t people happier about amazing new stuff?
Capturing moments
Tricycles
A Real Photographer does a shadow selfie
Stones created from layers of old paint from car factories
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
I see cats
Organised water
Noah – Cosi at the Imax – Big Blue Cock
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
Amusing cats versus important people
The good done by the Apple Newton
Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
Omaha dead
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
Big Thing news from New York and London - and a picture of climate alarmism losing
How hydrogen bombs work
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
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
RNSQotD
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
Richard Stallman on software patents
I’ve just been quotulated
Baltimore: cranes - a bridge - scaffolding
Chicago sunset
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
Emmanuel Todd links
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Rothko Toast
Domestic cats are destroying the planet
Little Lady Liberty - still in France
American election talk
Pollsters can’t say where things are but they can say which way they’re going
“No one has to know!”
Ryan wins
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Are Christian social conservatives using the Tea Party to impose social conservatism?
Some more presidential debate prophecy
Don’t vote Democrat!
Pat Caddell on mainstream media bias
Reasons to think Romney is going to win big
How llamas told us so – in November 2008
And on my other personal blog …
Meow
What’s up with that?
Literally the light switch of leadership
Jobs
University of California chickens coming home to roost?
There’s a Communist in the White House
Google Earth and Mr and Mrs Goose
Space launch monster
Rainbow Bridge
America 3.0
NFL fans and their name-and-number shirts in Trafalgar Square on Saturday
Go Gary Johnson!
The Jobs difference
Freedom Tower and Gary Johnson at Samizdata
The final Steve Jobs Thing will be a brand new custom-built Apple headquarters
Thrashing India
Another reason to like Colorado
One World Trade Center
Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
A potential challenger for Gary Not-Obama
Go Not Obama!
The politics of humour in the USA and in Britain
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Gormley’s South Bank Men
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
Raptor not being very stealthy
Wisconsin question
A Spanish geography lesson
Jobs departs from Apple (again)
Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched
The Humpty Dumpty Learning Channel
A down and up weekend
Cat defeats alligators
BrianMicklethwait Dot Com QotD
Paulina Porizkova gets older
Another link enema
Google rolls out computer controlled cars
Another strangely punctuated headline and a depressing television play
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
More bridge magic
What if the British Empire had stayed together?
To Serve Man
Soros and his money
The long and short of conversation - Hitchens on YouTube
Links to this and that
Why not just sell them?
Super Galaxy
Reading various bits of Roger Kimball
Bay Bridge plus a new bridge next to it
Perfectly clear politics
Obama raises the price of tanning
Farnborough redirect
Snappy quote from Victor Davis Hanson that may or may not actually be true
Nuking the Oil Spill is probably a rather bad idea
Frank J random thought for the day
A demonstration I could join
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
Paul Marks on why the ex Prime Minister of Japan is not like Obama
Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalisation today
One man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing
Car in in front of sloping houses
The US Navy photos itself
Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent
A horizon(tal) sunset slice
Separating the men from the toys - the future of warfare and of sport?
Man photographed by women!
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT MOTORS
Those angry Americans
Two New York stadiums temporarily next to each other
Abstract satellite expressionism
Three airplane photos
Osprey pictures
Giant Bean covered in mirror
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
Antoine Clarke on the recent US elections: still a conservative nation
Going global
American video
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
Barney Stinson on how gay marriage will encourage regular marriage
Green cats - feral cats - cats murdered in Wales - more than 113 cats in Livingston NJ
Prize idiots
Quotes dump
Making the IOC feel important with a personal lubricant
At least libertarianism is understood over there
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Bloke in posh suit holding Real Photographer camera like it’s a Billion Monkey camera!
Anti-politics versus (or just and) the heroic delusion
Billion Monkeys in New York and London!
Someone called Rick wants me to puke on President Obama
MBA - necessary but insufficient
Nothing from me here today but something on Samizdata about cannabis
Meme for the New Depression
The exact same photos I would have taken
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
It’s over
Ruminating about politics and ideology
Media bias as asset stripping
Another pendulum theory
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Wonderwoman picked by Unsuperman
Chinese Friday?
Profundity and silliness
Big Pictures
Obama still won’t do nasty
Chivalry and the mad feminists
Mini-lit
How patent lawyers destroyed a mathematician
Africa is big
Another great viaduct
“She put the governor’s jet up on e-Bay …”
Will Wilkinson
Big head and big something else
North Carolina Billion Monkeys mad for Obama!
More at Jonathan Gewirtz
What a lot of circles
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
Modern above ancient
Crackers
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Flickring and Googling for the AMGEN bridge
Man regrows finger
San Francisco from Sausalito
Self-guided photo-tour of the streets of San Francisco
Classic car thinness
A deeper voice
The return of Friday cat-blogging
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
A better than average press release
Brian Hitler!
Instapundit succumbs to PID
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
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
The moving bridges of Chicago
The Puerto Rican candidate
I love the internet
He is white and he is poking fun at himself
Ursa major
Making the Mississippi Delta make more land
Obama a loser?
Antoine Clarke on the US Primaries – either Obama will beat McCain or McCain will beat Clinton
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
Go to America and get a Dell Laptop
Antoine Clarke talking about the US Primaries
Billion Monkey Maria Sharapova lookalikes!!!
Michael Jennings photos Disney Hall
Tatiana the normal tiger
A job well done
A bog standard (but rippling and therefore ultra-cool) tower soon to be built in Chicago
Cat stuff on Tuesday?
Michael Jennings on private law in Hollywood
Someone is displaying mutilated cats in San Antonio
Filthy rich
Short posting with short photograph
There ain’t no such thing as a free NHS
A surprising outburst of truth
Thomas Edison - from cheat to creator
Stupid Billion Monkeys!
Tall chess men and tall buildings in the evening
What are the world’s biggest problems?
Very very low cost kitten in space
Telly on computers
Other people’s photos (3): Ice storm
The Pirates opens in New York
Antoine says why he got the midterms wrong
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
Latest Brian and Antoine mp3 - Middle East, Mexico, USA
Something to bore everyone
Brian and Antoine democracy mp3 number twelve
Latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
Brian and Antoine mp3s now into double figures
Brian and Antoine number 9
Election Watch podcast number three
American partisans and American voters
The Superbowl is live on the telly!
He loved my book
Still ill
I am an atheist but I often prefer the Christians