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

Sunday April 16 2017

Lincoln Paine is an admirably ambitious historian.  Here is the first sentence (to be found on page 3 of my paperback (but still very big) edition) of the introduction of Paine’s very big book, The Sea and Civilization, which is 744 pages long and which I have just started reading:

I want to change the way you see the world. ...

Good, because I bought this book in order to do exactly that, change the way I see the world.

In the following specific way:

… Specifically, I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade. ...

Hurrah for the internet.  I went looking for a maritime history of the world and found this, which I might never have done if I had been relying on merely physical bookshops.

… This shift in emphasis from land to water makes many trends and patterns of world history stand out in ways they simply cannot otherwise. Before the development of the locomotive in the nineteenth century, culture, commerce, contagion, and conflict generally moved faster by sea than by land. The opening of sea routes sometimes resulted in immediate transformation, but more often it laid the groundwork for what was later mistaken for sudden change. ...

Here is an example of what you notice when you think like this.  On page 7, we read this, about the USA:

A maritime perspective complicates our understanding of the “westward” expansion of the United States. California achieved statehood in 1851, two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, when the territory was virtually unknown to Americans back east and the number of United States citizens on the Pacific coast numbered only a few thousand. Thanks to the extraordinary capacity of the American merchant marine of the day, tens of thousands of people reached San Francisco by ship, a mode of transportation that was faster, cheaper, and safer than the transcontinental journey, although the distance covered was more than four times longer. The United States conquered the interior of the continent - what are today known as the fly-over states, but at the time could aptly have been called the sail-around territories – in a pincer movement from both coasts, rather than by a one-way overland movement from the east.

On my TV I have just recently been watching Michael Portillo investigate that very “westward” expansion of the USA, with plenty of wagons and locomotives involved, but no mention at all of any ships.  So I know exactly what Paine means.

Paine goes on to assert (on page 9) that there have been …:

… changes in the public perception of the maritime world, for the merchant marine and naval services no longer hold the attraction for people that they once did, when ocean liners and freighters crowded the piers of Manhattan, Hamburg, Sydney, and Hong Kong. At the start of the twenty-first century, ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade and the number of oceangoing ships has grown threefold in the past half century. But the nature of shipping has led to the relocation of cargo-handling facilities to places remote from traditional port cities, ...

In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

About that, I am not so sure.  Maybe it’s more a matter of degree than he says.  I guess I’m a bit different, in that I have been particularly noticing both what is happening to London’s old docks and waterways (they’re being prettied up for tourists like me and for the new gentry (really, mostly, just indoor and better paid proletarians) who now live next to them) and where London’s new mega-dock is now nearing completion, downstream.  I am definitely not the only one who has noticed shipping containers.  As Paine himself says, in his final chapter, containers are driving globalisation, and much of the globe has surely noticed.  Indeed, this might be why Paine’s publishers judged the time to be right for the switch in focus that he argues for.  On the other hand, I did have to go looking for this book.  Nobody else brought it to my attention, spontaneously, as it were.

Talking of focus, my eyesight has now reached the stage of me only being able to read a book by holding it about two inches away from my face.  Spactacles don’t do it for me any more.  Usually this is fine.  But this is a very big book, and it is going to be a very big struggle for me to read it.  But I am determined to do all the struggling that I must.

Or, I might go to the internet again, and buy something like this contraption.  If I do purchase such a reading aid, it will presumably be as cheap as it is because it recently crossed the world in a shipping container.

Friday March 24 2017

Good news about a dog saving a child’s life here, linked to from Instapundit, no less.  And the Daily Mail now has the story too.  It’s interesting how the Daily Mail, behind a vast smoke screen of abuse from all those who like to abuse it (e.g. all Brit TV comedians), is now busily spreading itself throughout the English speaking world.  There’s a huge professional media gap in the USA, for something more Daily Mail-ish.

On the other hand, I read, with sadness, that long-time favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k has been setting fire to puppies.  This story has yet to go viral.

Sunday March 12 2017

I’m still photoing photoers, basically because the photos of photoers I took about a decade ago get more interesting by the year, and so, I’m betting, will photos like these, which I took in Trafalgar Square, last October:

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

The difference from ten years ago is that I avoid photoing faces far more than I tried to then.  That means, as explained in this earlier posting, that I find myself photoing a lot of hair, as above.  Although, 3.3 is the hair on a lady’s sleeve, and the guy in 2.3 has no hair.  But, he has a hair style.

But I’m not a hair fetishist.  I’m just a not-face photoer, when I’m photoing strangers who are themselves photoing.

There was a posting at Mick Hartley’s yesterday which showed that concern about photoing the faces of strangers and thereby in some way stealing from them is not new.  Hartley reproduces a great pile of photos, photos like this:

image

Scroll down to the bottom of Hartley’s posting, and you will encounter quotes from the man, Richard Sandler, who took all these ancient black-and-white photos, of strangers.  Go to where Hartley got these pictures and the quote, and you’ll get one of the questions, as well as the answer.

Have you had anyone ever question your motives in the street? Did you ever piss off anybody?

Occasionally people get angry and they have a right to, I am stealing a little something from them. Also for many years I used the strobe on the street and so there was no hiding what I was doing ... it can be startling. I have been kicked, spit on, and chased, but not very often. Once a woman with a rabbit pursued me for 30 minutes because I had flashed her and her pet.

Hartley also quotes Sandler saying this:

I think those were more interesting times because the warts of corporate/capitalist society were more visible then they are today, and those contradictions could be photographed more directly than now ... also every third person was not virtual, being on the fucking phone and not really on the street ....

Two things about that.  One, there is something rather exploitative about these photos, as he goes on to admit, sort of like an old school colonist photoing the natives.  Second, why the hell are “fucking” phones not themselves fit objects for his photoing?  Not really on the street? Come on.

They are certainly fit objects for my photoing.

Could it be that Sandler is suffering from a dose of professional jealousy?  Suddenly, the damn natives can photo the warts of corporate/capitalist society for themselves.  And nowadays, they don’t even have to use a dedicated camera.

And as for flash, well, the latest cameras hardly need them.  They can pretty much see in the dark.

Sunday March 05 2017

Via this posting at the Scott Adams blog, I first learned, just now, about Robots Read News.

All the pictures in this cartoon series are identical.  Only the words change.  Yet, the words on their own would probably not be so effective.

I especially enjoyed the first two comments on the above posting:

AtlantaDude:

If the Robot knows he is superior, I would expect him to be more condescending, and less angry - insulting humans in more subtle and clever ways than simply calling us stupid meat sacks, etc.

Scott Adams:

I am going for insensitive not angry. Part of the joke is that objectivity is indistinguishable from hate.

My next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (March 31) will be my Libertarian Friend from way back, Chris Cooper, talking about the rise of the robots.  They will rule us, he says, if I understand him correctly.  But maybe I don’t because he and I are both meat sacks.  Maybe he is expressing himself badly.  Or maybe I am misunderstanding him.  Or maybe both.  That I am understanding him correctly suddenly seems like a one in four chance.

Friday March 03 2017

I am reading everything at the Scott Adams blog just now, and I even watched/listened (new word needed for that) to all of this video.

Adams is being “shadow banned” by Twitter, as he notes in this posting:

As many others have documented, Twitter throttles back the tweets of people who hold political views they don’t like.

What “throttles back” means is that you can still read it, but nobody else can.  I think.

To outwit this shadow banning, Scott Adams has devised a cunning plan involving kittens, which I absolutely do not understand the details of, but which he mentions several times during the above-linked-to video ramble.  (It’s a good ramble, but a ramble.) Whenever he writes about things that Twitter’s censorship committee disapproves of him writing about (Trump and the climate debate being the two big ones at present), he tweets instead that he has done a piece about kittens.  This will alert his followers to a posting that Twitter wants crushed.  In order to shadow ban this, Twitter would have to shadow ban all kittens which would break the internet, and all humans also because they would be laughing so much.  Or something.  I don’t see why Twitter can’t just shadow ban Scott Adams whenever he mentions kittens, along with whenever he mentions Trump or mentions the climate debate.  But what do I know?

New word: outweet.

I always knew, when I started Friday-blogging about cats and kittens here, that this topic would become highly significant from time to time, on account (for instance) of politicians being jealous of all the attention that cats and kittens were getting.  (Prediction: at some point during the next thousand years or so, climate permitting, a cat or kitten will be elected President of the United States.)

But this particular Scott Adams kitten-tweeting circumstance I did not see coming.

Monday February 20 2017

Last night I sent out the email concerning the Brian’s Last Friday meeting this coming Friday, at the end of which email I found myself blurting out this:

Whenever I concoct these promotional emails I end up feeling very excited about the forthcoming talk.  This time, this effect was especially pronounced.

This was what got me “very excited”:

Marc Sidwell will give a talk entitled: Promoting Freedom in a Post-Expert World.

He will be speaking about “the ongoing erosion of power and technocratic authority (most recently visible in the Brexit vote and the rise of Trump) and proposing some ways libertarians can respond to this shift.”

Other talk titles that were considered: “Twilight of the Wonks” and “The Revenge of Common Sense”.

Marc Sidwell is an journalist, editor, publisher, and writer, most recently of a How To Win Like Trump, now riding high in the Kindle best-seller List.  More about Marc, his career and his publications, here.

For further information about the kinds of ideas Marc will be presenting, I strongly recommend a visit to: marcsidwell.com/.

It was there that I gleaned this quote, from Brexit campaigner Dominic Cummings:

“All those amazed at why so little attention was paid to ‘the experts’ did not, and still do not, appreciate that these ‘experts’ are seen by most people of all political views as having botched financial regulation, made a load of rubbish predictions, then forced everybody else outside London to pay for the mess while they got richer and dodged responsibility. They are right. This is exactly what happened.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if that quote gets a mention at some stage during Marc’s talk.

I would add that there are some kinds of expertise that continue to be held in very high esteem.  Nobody doubts the expertise of the people who make all the machines and devices, mechanical and electrical, that keep our world ticking over efficiently and entertainingly.  Not all expertise is now held in low regard, only the kinds of expertise that Cummings itemises.

The room is already starting to fill up.

Email me (see top left of this blog) if you want to know more about these monthly speaker meetings at my home.

I’ve been meaning to post this image here for some time:

image

Guess what it is.  If in doubt, look at the categories list below.  Then go here, to confirm what you must surely have worked out.

Many have described the event at which this happened as historic, but not because of this.  But I reckon what you see in the above picture is what historians will end up being most impressed by, about this event, because it was a very public manifestation of a very impressive sort of technology, which is going to have a very big future.

Sunday February 05 2017

My fantastic weekend of sport on the telly is nearing its conclusion, the Super Bowl having just begun.

A rising star of rugby union commentary is David Flatman.  He’s the bald one there.  Flats.  I bet they adore him for rugby club dinner speeches.  That came out sarcastic, but I really mean it.

Flatman has a nice double act going with the posher Mark Durden Smith, intro-ing the Premiership highlights.  Plus he was commentating for ITV on Italy v Wales today.  And then this evening he was fronting the Anglo-Welsh highlights, with Andy Goode, whose surname rhymes with food.

Flatman just seems to set the right tone.  He is knowledgeable and takes rugby seriously, but knows that others take it less seriously, and that it’s basically entertainment, and that’s fine.  Having been a forward himself he relishes the pugilistic and collectivist nature of the forward game, as well as the open-field individualism of the backs.  Above all, he communicates that he loves the game.  “Love” being a word he uses quite often.

And, he is funny. Just before the first advert interval a third of the way into this evening’s Anglo-Welsh highlights, he signed off like this:

Don’t go anywhere.  You can if you want.  But don’t.

I liked that.  I didn’t go anywhere.  I stayed here and wrote this.

One of the basic ways of getting a laugh is: take a cliché (in this case “Don’t go anywhere"), and then muck around with it.  Along with North’s try against Italy, the above mucking about was my equal-best rugby highlight of the day.

Also another word of praise for the team that has been doing the American Football for the BBC, two black guys called Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora, with Mark Chapman, who usually does proper football.  If these guys don’t actually enjoy their sport and each other’s company, they do an excellent job of pretending that they do.  However, I see that Mike Carlson, who used to monopolise all the American football commenting is now back for the final, aka the Super Bowl.  If he does no irrelevant Trump sneering, it will be because he’s been told not to do that.

LATER: Well, that was worth staying up for.  As Flats might have said:

Do go to bed yet.  You can if you want.  But don’t.

And Carlson was excellent.  There were Trump jokes, but they were excellent too.

Flats (plus a fantastic Super Bowl)
Fantastic weekend
Trump makes headlines a year ago
Early dusk
This cat faces a difficult next four years
Trump there
The Spraycan bounced off the new US Embassy
Drones are not toys
Matt Ridley on how (fracking) technology lead science
New York construction cranes in action
Lions - Bears - Blackhawks
The new US Embassy – from my roof
The Sugar Land selfie statue
New Thin Things in New York (but not in Lower Manhattan)
Incoming imagery from Antoine
Trump’s incompetence – Cruz’s Bible thumping – Hartley on criticising Islam
Rentamob
Benjamin Franklin maps the Gulf Stream
When is a creature suitcase idea a creature suitcase design?
Why the GOP top dogs don’t like Cruz
Recent taxis with adverts photos
Cruz?
Feeling the need to meet
How cranes might not keep falling
Drivel
Trump
The fixed quantity of laughter non-fallacy
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
A Big Thing and a Much Bigger Thing – on a not-black cab
David Pierce on what it’s like using an electric scooter
YAAI3DP
Modernist sand castles at Amusing Planet (and at Mick Hartley’s)
Skyscraper covered in Gothic sculpture proposed for Manhattan
Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Quite a line-up in New York
Anton Howes on the idea of (and the unstoppability of) technological innovation
Old photos of Enceladus
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An old American car in Tottenham Court Road
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Along the river towards Battersea
A Shiny Thing by Frank Stella Hon RA
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Another use for a drone
From a cat cushion to Bill Murray and a nude to a demon horse sculpture that killed its creator
Bean drops snow on tourist
Paul Kennedy on centimetric radar
Peter Thiel on how humans and computers complement each other
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Cheap long-haul flights coming soon
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Drone on the White House lawn
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The wrong kind of cranes
BMdotcom comment of the day
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Postrel goes for Gray
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How hydrogen bombs work
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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
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Ryan wins
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Some more presidential debate prophecy
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Pat Caddell on mainstream media bias
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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
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There’s a Communist in the White House
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Go Gary Johnson!
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Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
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Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Gormley’s South Bank Men
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
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Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched
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A down and up weekend
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BrianMicklethwait Dot Com QotD
Paulina Porizkova gets older
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Google rolls out computer controlled cars
Another strangely punctuated headline and a depressing television play
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To Serve Man
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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
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Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
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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