Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Tom on Pavlova reflected in double glazing
Tom on Smart face on smartphone
Tom on The Shard was looking very special today
Alan Little on Out and about with GD1 (2): How mobile phones both cause and solve meeting up problems
Brian Micklethwait on Unusual bench?
Stewart on Unusual bench?
6000 on The Shard was looking very special today
Rob Fisher on Smart face on smartphone
Southall on A posh white van and a not so posh white van
Darren on England crush NZ (and Surrey beat Leicester)
Most recent entries
- Smoke over west London
- Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
- Pavlova reflected in double glazing
- Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
- Out and about with GD1 (2): How mobile phones both cause and solve meeting up problems
- Unusual bench?
- More keeping up of appearances
- Cats and cricket – cats and drones
- Two strangers photoed by Mick Hartley and show there (and here) without their permission
- You can tell that drones have arrived because now they are being turned into a sport
- The Shard was looking very special today
- Windsor Castle from the top of the RAF Memorial
- Photoing old Dinky Toys in Englefield Green
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
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The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: This blog
Indeed. What on earth was I thinking, posting - on a Thursday, rather than today, Friday, the traditional BMdotcom day for cat-related items - a piece that starts with how computers are rather bad at recognising cats? I only even realised that the cat category should be attached to the posting just now. Oh well.
Anyway, more cat news, which I did deliberately hold back until today, is that the mega-behemothic-super-industry that is Hello Kitty is making a deliberate play for more male customers, with T-shirts decorated with such things as the picture you see to your right. But, will such images repel human females? You can imagine the high level debates that the Hello Kitty high ups (I somehow imagine them to be mostly men) must have been having about this issue, of such fundamental importance to their brand.
More cat news? I need a bit more to be sure that the picture there doesn’t bash its way into the posting below (even though that would be rather appropriate). Well, I am sad to report that for some people, the most interesting thing about the death of Terry Pratchett (good quote that – that’s the sort of thing he will be really missed for) was that he had a cat sleeping on his bed at the time.
Spent the day writing half a talk about sport as a replacement for war, for Christian Michel. But, on the night (i.e. tonight), I just winged it. One of the better talks I’ve ever given, which admittedly isn’t saying much. And one of the most shambolically prepared. Now knackered and watching the Wildcard Playoff Highlights on C4. More considered content should follow, Real Soon Now.
The error messages have continued, so all I will do this evening is post this. Back home tomorrow evening, and I hope things work better there. The temptation to attempt another picture posting is huge, but I will resist.
No I won’t. That went so well, I’ll give it a go:
Like I said, see you tomorrow.
I have swapped one kind of computing confusion, too complicated even to describe, for another, and am now using a French keyboard, but telling the computer I am using that this keyboard is really British. This means various letters on the keyboard being in the wrong place, such as the Q and the A, which are where the A and the Q ought to be. There are other confusions, of a more serious sort.
This is a very peculiar experience for a touch typist like me, because it means that I can now only touch type. I cannot pause and go find the correct letters, because I do not know them, or not the ones that cause all the trouble. Only my fingers do.
So it is touch typing, or no typing at all.
Which is better than French typing, but still very imperfect, because some of the regular British things are things which my fingers are not that good at, most notably inverted commas, both single and double. This is why I said it is in the previous paragraph rather than abbreviating it, and why I am saying it is in this sentence, twice, without any inverted commas to indicate that I am quoting myself.
I seem to recall that faced with this dilemma on a previous French expedition, I had to make do with the computer recognising the French keyboard I was using as French, which meant switching As and Qs, etc. The alternative arrangement is somewhat better, but only somewhat.
Luckily my fingers know how to do two important things, neither of which are in the same place on these keyboards, namely commas, and full stops.
Another oddity is that the spellchecking in my blog input process demands that all words be recognisably French, and so underlines most words, because of them not being French, thus rendering itself inutile, and yes that is how you spell inutile. But, sorry about all the other spelling errors in this.
I am able to keep on posting each day, but it is proving tricky. So best to expect interruptions during the next few days. I have taken tons of photos, over the course of two cloudless days, but posting any of them is really complicated, and even telling which are the good ones is hard because the screen I am trying to use is too vague for me to tell properly.
To add to those woes, the text posting process has a bizarre quirk on this computer, or maybe it is with this mouse. Which is that the cursor is liable, without warning, to jump back several words, which makes touch typing as hard as it is usually easy. As soon as I get up any speed, I find that I am typing stuff in the wrong place, as I just did in the middle of the word “stuff” back there. Then it did it again. (Inverted commas are a struggle too.)
I guess it’s called home advantage. I have not now got it. So I am, as of now, more than usually definite about promising nothing, because nothing is what you may very well get until I am back home, and back enjoying home advantage.
For a few hours, from some time last night until around midday today, instead of getting BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, all you got, if your experience was the same as mine, was this:
Database Error: Unable to connect to your database. Your database appears to be turned off or the database connection settings in your config file are not correct. Please contact your hosting provider if the problem persists.
I couldn’t be telling you this if the above melancholy circumstance had not been corrected. Deepest thanks to The Guru, for his prompt attention to the matter.
Since I was attempting to post something last night, that means you got nothing yesterday. Trust me, your suffered far less than I did. I hope to be making it up today.
("Making it up”. What a strange expression. It means: doing a corrective favour. And it means: inventing it, even perhaps lying about it. And then there is also what women (and now some men) do to their faces, minus the “it”. Odd. Although I do see a connection between meaning two and meaning three, rude though it might be to point such a thing out. (And why make “up”? (See also “screw up” and “clean up”. (So this digressionary paragraph turned out relevant after all. (This is my record for the most consecutive close-bracket signs.)))))
From time to time I like to stick bits from books up here, usually quite short, but sometimes quite long.
With the short bits, there is no legal or moral problem. Fair use, etc. But with the longer bits, there might be a problem. Here’s how I operate. I put up whatever bit it is that I think deserves to be made much of, on the clear understanding that it might disappear at any moment. Because, if anyone associated with the book I have got my chosen bit from complains and says please remove it, I will do so, immediately.
Many might think that such persons would be being rather silly. I mean, what better way could there be to reach potential readers of the entire book in question than for readers of a blog, and a blog written by someone who already likes the book, to get to read a relatively small chunk of it? Win-win, surely. Because of course, I only put up big chunks of writing if I approve of what the chunks say.
But what if a publisher is trying to insist on the principle, that copyright damn well means what it says? Such a publisher might want to proclaim, and to be seen to proclaim, a no-tolerance attitude to the copying of bigger than small bits of any its books. Even if that particular book might be assisted by this particular recycled chunk being here, the larger principle might feel far more significant to the publisher. That principle being: If we allow this, where will it then stop?
And I get that. As I say, if any publisher or author did complain, for these kinds of reasons or for any other, then I would get it, and the bit from the book in question would at once vanish from this blog. So far, I’ve had no such complaints. Which could just be because they reckon this blog to be too insignificant to be worth risking a fight with. They wouldn’t have a fight, but they might have a rule about letting sleeping puppies, like this one, lie.
Whatever. All I am saying here is that if I put up a big bit of a book, and anyone connected to that big bit cries foul, then the big bit will immediately vanish from here, with no grumbling, or worse, self-righteous campaigning, attempts to mobilise other bloggers, etc. etc.
Think of all this as an example of Rule Utilitarianism. And I am myself a Rule Utilitarian. My libertarian beliefs are not the absurd claim that libertarianism is inscribed into the very physical fabric of the universe, an inherent fact of life itself, which we humans either recognise or fail to recognise, but which are there anyway. Tell that to the spider I just squashed into the pavement on my way home to write this. No, I like libertarianism because it works. Libertarianism is a set of basically fairly simply rules which all we humans either choose to live by or choose not to live by. If we choose to live by these rules, life is good, happy, comfortable and it gets better and better. If we don’t live by such rules, life goes to shit and stays there.
And here comes the Rule Utilitarian bit. Even if this particular bit of thieving, by the government or just by some bod like you or me, is very insignificant, and even if what the government or the bod like you or me wants to spend its or his or her ill-gotten gains on is wonderful, absolutely wonderful, my rule says: No. Not allowed. Don’t get into complicated discussions about just how little thieving is too little to be bothering about, or just how noble a noble project has to be for it to be noble enough to be financed by a spot of thieving, because that way lies the slippery slope we are now on, where the government gobbles up at least half of everything, to very little benefit for anyone other than itself. Stick to the rule. No thieving, no matter how petty its scale or how noble its supposed object.
So, I get Rule Utilitarianism. And if any publisher decides to inflict his Rule Utilitarianism, in the manner described above, upon me, I would get that, and act accordingly.
What got me wanting to spell all this out is that I have recently been reading Dominic Frisby’s excellent Bitcoin book, and I find myself wanting to put bits of it up here, quite longish bits. And in general, having just followed the link at the top of this and read some of them, I feel that postings of this sort are among the better things that I do here, and I want to do more of them. But, to all of the bits from books that will follow, I want to attach the above mentioned caveat about how the verbiage that follows may vanish without warning, and a link to this posting is the way to summarise what is going on in my head without me banging on for however many paragraphs there are here.
There I was, lying in the bath, listening to Radio 3. Some music had ended, and I was now being subjected to a programme which I do not usually listen to, called Words and Music. And I heard the actor Jim Broadbent saying these words, by Michel de Montaigne:
I take the first subject that chance offers. They are all equally good to me. And I never plan to develop them completely. For I do not see the whole of anything. (Nor do those who promise to show it to us.) Of a hundred members and faces that each thing has, I take one, sometimes only to lick it, sometimes to brush the surface, sometimes to pinch it to the bone. I give it a stab, not as wide, but as deep as I know how. And most often, I like to take them from some unaccustomed point of view. Scattering a word here, there another, samples separated from their context, dispersed, without a plan and without a promise, I am not bound to make something of them, or to adhere to them myself, without varying when I please, and giving myself up to doubt and uncertainty, and my ruling quality, which is ignorance.
Sounds like a blogger, doesn’t he? A blogger, that is to say, like me. Especially where he says “without a promise”. I keep saying that. Above all there is that “this is what it is and if you don’t like it you know just what you can do about it” vibe that so many bloggers give off. With Montaigne, we are arriving at that first moment in history when writing and publishing new stuff had become easy. Not as easy as it is when you blog, but a whole lot easier than it had been.
I transcribed the above quote from Broadbent’s reading of it. The punctuation is somewhat uncertain, and at one point assertively creative on my part. I added some brackets, around what is clearly a diversion from his main line of thought to which he immediately returns. It’s a sideswipe at others and it is then forgotten.
Such is the wonder that is the internet that I had little difficulty in tracking down the quote. It is near the beginning of Montaigne’s essay entitled “Of Democritus and Heraclitus”, in volume three of his essays.
The BBC used a more recent translation, which I much prefer the sound of, it being less antique and long-winded. And if Montaigne himself was also antique and long-winded, then I still prefer intelligibility to stylistic accuracy.
LATER: More about Montaigne, also emphasising the modern social media angle, here.
Only with a computer
Godot nearly ready
On meeting an American lady friend who likes to read my stuff about cricket
Big Things through a gasometer
Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
Why aren’t people happier about amazing new stuff?
My blogging software is behaving badly
Sorry for the outage last night
Mysteriously losing my internet connection and then mysteriously getting it back
My 110 percent problem
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
Long Title (with italics)
A quota thought that (luckily for me) went nowhere
The Heron Tower restaurant
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
And another posting from my smartphone
Posted from my new smartphone
More March 5th photographers (and more spaces between pictures)
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
All change at Samizdata and another outage here
More photographers photographed
Outage here last night - and the possible Wordpress future of this blog
Patrick Crozier has just arranged for accessing ancient comments here to be much easier
PID at Samizdata
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
Back there and now back here
Internet connection problems
Back to at least one a day?
A happy British Summer Time to all my readers
Steve Baker MP
Happy New Year
A Happy Christmas to all those still reading this
My personal Fixed Quantity of Blogging unfallacy
Summer blogging break
Possible light blogging for the next week
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom not threatened by the end of the Big Thing Boom
Problems here (now sorted)
I can do squares!!!
A laptop but not in my lap
Is this blog somewhat broken?
Back to the future
If you can’t read this don’t worry
Is Timberland guilty of spam commenting me?
Yesterday and today
On cricket and death
Choosing the best pictures by waiting a few days
This is not Mohammed
Three cheers for Molly Norris but also a few small grumbles
Getting well soon
Climategate and a blurry and artificially lit roundabout
Four recent bits by me at Samizdata
Possible holiday interruption
Happy New Year and how to save seventy thousand quid
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
In which this blog indulges in an I Told You So moment concerning Speaker John Bercow
It’s now something at least once every two days
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
Busy day and busy night
Thinking thin at the top
Register for your free pack and five £1-off-coupons
British Summer Time is better for this blog
God is dead but Jesus saves
God moves in mysterious ways
Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog is now on indefinite hold
Advice to daily bloggers
Another Samizdata piece
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
At Liberty 2008 all day
Blogroll dilemma - question I already know the answer to - irrelevant photo
Connection problems - now sorted
Profundity and silliness
Not in the top twenty
Mainstream media bloggers and the problem of my blogroll
Posting here may be sporadic for the next few days
An impulse posting about procrastination
The return of Friday cat-blogging
On hating and not hating commenters
Blogging – the end of the beginning
I don’t understand it either but don’t worry
What kind of blogger are you?
Italics in Expression Engine titles?
RSS feed news
Alisher Usmanov is now better known for being nasty
Links and guns
Back from the dead and soon to be duplicated
Christopher Hitchens on the Rushdie knighthood
A mention of your book guaranteed!
Today I ate something that disagreed with me
Internet problems solved
More internet connection problems
John Holloway plays unaccompanied Bach on the baroque violin
At least I got today’s obligatory posting done before midnight
Airship photos loading tri-incidence
Testing picture loading
[new addition to my blogroll]
Blogging pause continues
29th and 14th
Not much here today
Something to bore everyone
Lords pictures pending
Attacks of the mad robots and the little red crosses
Sound files take up a lot more space than photos
Hello and goodbye
Unplugged and writing about sport because sport Doesn’t Matter
For the next two weeks or so service here will be abnormal to nonexistent
The new comments arrangement – why and how
Flickr blog in and Flickrzen out
Another view of the BT Tower
Expression Engine text input weirdness
A Happy Christmas to all my readers
Why the problems?
I kept going after all!
This and that at 9.07am
So that’s this done
Total Combined Page Hits?
Picture problems (again)
On short postings
Today I am going to break the record here for the number of postings in one day
From now on I’m going to try to put something up here every day
To hell with experts
The joy of blogrolling
An east London photo on the right
Look what I saw from the airplane
I’m still at the housekeeping stage which is why I haven’t deliberately told anyone about this blog
I now have a blogroll
Testing how the linking works