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: Business

Wednesday September 28 2016

Last year I posted three bits from Matt Ridley’s The Evolution of Everything, here, here and here.

Earlier, in 2014, I posting another bit from a Matt Ridley book, this time from The Rational Optimist.  I entitled that posting Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science.

Here is another Matt Ridley book bit, on this same subject, of how technology leads science.  And it is also from The Evolution of Everything (pp. 135-137):

Technology comes from technology far more often than from science. And science comes from technology too. Of course, science may from time to time return the favour to technology. Biotechnology would not have been possible without the science of molecular biology, for example. But the Baconian model with its one-way flow from science to technology, from philosophy to practice, is nonsense. There’s a much stronger flow the other way: new technologies give academics things to study.

An example: in recent years it has become fashionable to argue that the hydraulic fracturing technology that made the shale-gas revolution possible originated in government-sponsored research, and was handed on a plate to industry. A report by California’s Breakthrough Institute noted that microseismic imaging was developed by the federal Sandia National Laboratory, and ‘proved absolutely essential for drillers to navigate and site their boreholes’, which led Nick Steinsberger, an engineer at Mitchell Energy, to develop the technique called ‘slickwater fracking’.

To find out if this was true, I spoke to one of hydraulic fracturing’s principal pioneers, Chris Wright, whose company Pinnacle Technologies reinvented fracking in the late 1990s in a way that unlocked the vast gas resources in the Barnett shale, in and around Forth Worth, Texas. Utilised by George Mitchell, who was pursuing a long and determined obsession with getting the gas to flow out of the Barnett shale to which he had rights, Pinnacle’s recipe - slick water rather than thick gel, under just the right pressure and with sand to prop open the fractures through multi-stage fracturing - proved revolutionary. It was seeing a presentation by Wright that persuaded Mitchell’s Steinsberger to try slickwater fracking. But where did Pinnacle get the idea? Wright had hired Norm Wapinski from Sandia, a federal laboratory. But who had funded Wapinksi to work on the project at Sandia? The Gas Research Institute, an entirely privately funded gas-industry research coalition, whose money came from a voluntary levy on interstate gas pipelines. So the only federal involvement was to provide a space in which to work. As Wright comments: ‘If I had not hired Norm from Sandia there would have been no government involvement.’ This was just the start. Fracking still took many years and huge sums of money to bring to fruition as a workable technology. Most of that was done by industry. Government laboratories beat a path to Wright’s door once he had begun to crack the problem, offering their services and their public money to his efforts to improve fracking still further, and to study just how fractures propagate in rocks a mile beneath the surface. They climbed on the bandwagon, and got some science to do as a result of the technology developed in industry - as they should. But government was not the wellspring.

As Adam Smith, looking around the factories of eighteenth-century Scotland, reported in The Wealth of Nations: ‘a great part of the machines made use in manufactures ... were originally the inventions of common workmen’, and many improvements had been made ‘by the ingenuity of the makers of the machines’. Smith dismissed universities even as a source of advances in philosophy. I am sorry to say this to my friends in academic ivory towers, whose work I greatly value, but if you think your cogitations are the source of most practical innovation, you are badly mistaken.

Friday September 23 2016

I collect footbridges.  (Well, photos of.) Footbridges famous.  Footbridges not so famous.  Footbridges not even built.

Recently I came upon another for the collection:

image

This is a footbridge at the back of the Strand Palace Hotel.  I could find nothing about this footbridge on the www, but luckily I had already taken the precaution of asking someone local, just after I had taken my photos.  This local was entering an office in the same street with the air of doing this regularly, and who therefore seemed like someone who might know.  And he did.  What about that bridge? - I asked him.

Yes, he said.  That used to be the bridge that conveyed the servants from the Strand Palace Hotel, on the left in the above photo, to the servants quarters, which is what the dwellings on the right in my photo, behind the scaffolding, used to be.  These servants quarters had, quite a while back, been turned into mere quarters, for regular people to live in.  So, the bridge then got blocked off at the right hand end as we here look at it.  But, the bridge continued to be used by the Strand Palace Hotel as an elongated cupboard.  These old servants quarters are now being turned into luxury flats, which is why the scaffolding.  But the bridge stays.

That the original purpose of the bridge was to convey servants, as opposed to people, is presumably why the bridge has no windows.  Wouldn’t want to see servants going to and fro, would we.  Fair dos, actually.  A hotel of this sort – this one being just across the Strand from the Savoy - is a lot like a theatre, and the point of a theatre is not to see all the backstage staff wandering hither and thither.  So, I do get it.  And I doubt the servants minded that there were no windows.  I bet they minded lots of other things, but not that.

imageI will now expand on the matter of the exact location of this obscure footbridge.  As you can see from the square to the right, it is in Exeter Street, London WC2.  I took other photos of this Exeter Street street sign, because I have a rule about photoing information about interesting things that I photo, as well as photoing the interesting thing itself, which is that I do.  Sometimes, as on the day I took this photo, I even follow this rule.  But I thought I’d try extricating a detail from the above photo, and see how I did.  I blew the original up to maximum size, and sliced out a rectangle, tall and thin, with the street name in it.  I then expanded (see the first sentence of this paragraph) what I had, sideways, lightened it, contrasted it, sharpened it, blah blah blah, and I think you will agree that the result is unambiguous.  My point here is (a): Exeter Street, WC2, and (b): that such photomanipulation is not merely now possible.  My point (b) is that it is now very easy.  Even I can do all of this photomanipulation, really quickly and confidently.

I can remember when the only people who could work this sort of magic were spooks in movies, and then a bit later, detectives on the television.

Talking of spookiness, I included the surveillance camera in that little detail.  In London, these things are now everywhere.  Because of my sideways expanding of the photo, this camera looks like it sticks out more than it really does.

Wednesday September 21 2016

The directory with all the snaps I took in Quimper and surrounding places, ten years ago, contains some fine images.

And some rather weird ones:

image

Okay, Citroens made of wood is not that weird.  Certainly not in France.

But those really rather realistic black baby dolls is something we surely don’t do nearly so much over here.  I’m guessing we have too much of a history of what you might call derogatory black dolls, unrealistically racist dolls, and that means that all black dolls are now tainted in our eyes, even much more realistic ones like the ones in that picture.  They evoke a tradition and a way of thinking we would prefer not to be reminded of, or worse, to be thought to be perpetuating.  When the British are being sentimental about black babies, they do it in those (I think) ghastly charity fundraising telly adverts.

But what do I know?  I’m just thinking aloud.  Maybe we do have lots of dolls like these in British shop windows, and I merely haven’t noticed them.  But, my first reaction when I say these black babies was, as I say: weird.  Certainly striking enough to take several photos of.

Monday September 19 2016

In this earlier posting, I speculated that someone living in Roupell Street, which is near Waterloo Station, has been collecting vintage Citroen’s.  This guy came upon the same Citroens as I did, in the same place, and made the same guess.

But this evening, I dined out with friends, mentioned the above posting, and was informed that the explanation for this clutch of Citroens is that there is a man who restores or repairs them, who lives or at any rate works, in that locality.  Makes sense.  And it means that Roupell Street may not have become quite as posh as I originally said.

Saturday September 17 2016

I love all the paraphernalia, big and small, of London tourism.  And with my digital camera, and more to the point with my habit of having my digital camera with me and keeping a lookout for things to photo with it, I don’t have to buy any of it.  I can just photo it.

Today, for instance, from inside the laundrette that I have been frequenting lately, for my end of summer clothes washes, I spied this bus (I think there is only one such) going past.  This is one of London’s more diverting sights.  And I managed to get a zoom-snap of it before it got too far away:

image

Not bad, considering how gloomy the light was today.

Website here.

That back window is actually quite a good detail to focus on.  If you look a bit carefully (enlarge with a click), you can see that it is also the EMERGENCY EXIT.

Friday September 16 2016

How do you know if a cat is happy?  Answer, mostly: from the sounds it makes and from its bodily movements.  It purrs.  It shoves its face against your legs, or your face.  These are the strongest signs.

A still photo of a happy cat, or any kind of realistic picture, is not likely to communicate feline happiness nearly so definitely.  And that is particularly true if you are only allowed a picture of the cat’s face.  It’s eyes may be nearly shut, but that could just be because it’s resting, rather than especially happy.  And anyway, good pictures of faces, the sort that really get our attention, have eyes which are wide open.

image

I’m guessing that this may have been the thinking behind the above, to me, rather unsettling image.  There are no eyes-wide-open eye-catching photos of happy cats, so they slapped a smile on a cat in a drawing.

But, as I often say of rather peculiar things that I show photos of here: it got my attention.  Click on the above for a bit of context.  I took the photo in the Earls Court area, rather than Notting Hill, and it was of a bike.

The website.

There is, of course, that Cheshire Cat, but that’s rather unsettling also.

Tuesday September 13 2016

If you reckon that the two van designs referred to in my previous posting are both as much of a muddle as each other, on account of the ins and outs of the surfaces of the vans colliding with the pictures, well then, I give you a van design that you will surely prefer:

image

What Miguel did was make sure that everything he said was aligned with the van’s design.  The frames on the van became frames for the pictures Miguel wants us to see.  And the writing all fits in perfectly.

It helps that he chose a van that was all horizontals and verticals, rather than indentations at weird angles, like you see on lots of vans.

Question: is the fact that vans double up as complicated adverts causing the actual vans to be designed differently nowadays?  To suit people like Miguel, who want the van and the message to line up?  It would make sense it that was happening.

I notice that Miguel doesn’t seem to have a website.  I’m guessing that, from where he sits, his van is his website.

Friday September 09 2016

Yes, I photo a lot of white vans, but fewer pink ones.  So, at the end of last month I was able to correct this imbalance a little:

image

I also try to photo roller-bladers, and the fox on that pink van is a roller-blader, which speeds up the service he is offering.

One of the quite numerous things that I like about white vans, or in this case not so white vans, is the great variety of styles in which they are decorated, all the way from ultra-refined to ultra-trashy, with this one being a bit on the trashy? - well, make that amateurish - side.  (This is another thing vans have in common with websites.) But, trashy or amateurish or whatever, this van certainly got my attention.

Talking of websites. Fantasy Cleaners had a particular problem deciding where and how to put www.fantasycleaners.com.  The website is where all these graphics originated that they had such trouble fitting on the van.  They changed nothing.  The roller-blading fox is there, with the pink background.  Everything.  In general, many more professional van decorators than whoever did this van have problems aligning their messages with the indentations on the sides of the vans.

Pink van with roller-blading fox
Are London’s cranes about to depart for a few years?
Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
WWWhite Van
The new US Embassy – from my roof
New Thin Things in New York (but not in Lower Manhattan)
More South of France bridges
Keeping up appearances at One Palace Street
Horizontal French signs
Second childhood
Some pyjama blogging
Rentamob
Steven Johnson on how coffee replaced alcohol as the daytime drug of choice
A crane folds itself up
Blue van
When is a creature suitcase idea a creature suitcase design?
Recent taxis with adverts photos
Toegangsbeveiligingsproducten
Trump
Quota snappy snap
Black Cat white van
Vans that need to look the part
YAAI3DP
Wicked Campers: Are they now going respectable?
Some reindeer-based Christmas cheer from last year
ShiRtstream drycleaners and a party recollection
Stormtrooper phones home?
White Vans are looking more and more like websites
How things like 3D printed blood vessels may be improving education in rich countries
Simon Gibbs on computer programming - me on how Alex Singleton has not written himself out of a job
The next but one London Big Thing
For CAR’S read CARS
Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Quite a line-up in New York
Union Jack mirror in a Tottenham Court Road furniture shop
Hire Intelligence White Van
Miami cranes
Taxis with adverts
An underground history lesson
Shiny little Aston Martin
On packaging – and on the need to chuck it out
I was photoing white vans in February 2007
Tricycle transport
Marmite crisps are back!
A day in BMdotcom heaven (3): Adverts
On photos and headlines
A day in BMdotcom heaven (2): Surrey v Notts was played in front of a live studio audience
London Biggin Hill “Jet Centre”?
A big Black Cab advert picture for a Samizdata posting
Designing and building with glass
White van reflexology
Lady rickshaw driver
Upshot
Selfie sticks on sale – and a selfie stick in use
Zorb football
Out and about with GD1 (4): On the survival of professional photography
A rather argumentative van
A new Grand Chose for Paris
The next London Big Thing
Angela’s Nails
Pancake White Van
Paul Johnson on Mozart and Da Ponte
A posh white van and a not so posh white van
Customer service
Tim Worstall on “reserves”
Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
Another quota sign
Another use for a drone
More White Vans
A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
White Vin Van
White Van
Peter Thiel on how humans and computers complement each other
Bizarre designer furniture in a Covent Garden window
The rise of (interest in) 3D printing
Peter Thiel on striking a balance between optimism and pessimism and on how failure is overrated
True hearts and warm hands
Drugs drones
Cats in Quimper shops
A French film poster advertising a British film
Shop window
Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
And now a photo-drone in a London shop window
MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Halloween buckets
The man who photoed the CDs in Gramex this afternoon
Recently on dezeen
Boris bus malfunction
Helter Skelter scrapped
Rob took photos
Flying cars will have to be flown by robots
Chippendale without Rannie
Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
Out and about in the sunshine
Xxxx-ie outside Xxxx-ridges
PID at the Times
ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Bombardier Embrio
You need to have abseiled …
Cashing a cheque by photoing it
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
Capturing moments
Ubernomics
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
I see cats
Me and the first cranes at London Gateway last September
Classical Amazon
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
The good done by the Apple Newton
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
Big Things happening in the City
Selfies of me – 2001, 2007 and yesterday
Photoing the A380 from above – from the ground
I now have a new computer screen
Slightly wider tube trains
Guangbiao Chen’s incredible business card
3D printer sighted!
Tough going in Australia
Merry Christmas
Big Things and small things
La Porte des Indes
Father Christmas Aerodrome
Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
A Strutton Ground shop and a Strutton Ground pub
Alex on Quentin
Halloween is near!
Amazon pricing puzzle
The Times of May 24th 1940
Bad and good in bad weather
Earn yourself fifty quid by finding me a suitable sofa
London Gateway from above
Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future
Quota photo of a bucket of plastic crocodiles in an otherwise deserted shop window in Oxford Street
The Alex Singleton blog
Spot the Samsung connection
Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
Wedding photography (5): Photography!
Wedding photography (4): Preparations
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Google Nexus 4 photos
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
What Michael Jennings has been learning about and will be saying about globalisation
Waterloo Station’s new upper deck
Classical CDs from Gramex
At the bottom of the Shard
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
Skull made of skulls in gift shop street
Croydon cats
An afternoon in Croydon
London reflected
Cleaning lady for hire
Michael Jennings on how the taxis at Skopje airport are an evil racket and what he did about it
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
The Bezier Building and a hideous advertising erection at the Old Street Roundabout
“I just came across this fascinating photo …”
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
Black Katz
62 Buckingham Gate
Space launch monster
Today I’m in a “How very odd!” mood
Street social services management integrated command sub-centres
The England rugby aftermath
Jarrod Kimber on biased cricket commentators
Go Gary Johnson!
The Jobs difference
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
Empty tables and empty chairs
Bitcoin etc.?
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
Just Righter
Signs from the Frenchosphere
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
If you can’t beat them hire them
The bike behind the theatre
Absolutely not a private navy (except that it probably is)
Noticing signs of the times
Jobs departs from Apple (again)
Mozart might have become a criminal
And then give up and stay fat
From pop to purrfume
Ashes highlights on ITV4
Those cameras are getting cheaper
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Beyond the Dome with Goddaughter One
Guerrilla webfare
I don’t usually approve of swear blogging but …
Happy hundredth
Andy Flower urges England fans not to punish cricket for being corrupt
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom least obnoxious spam comment so far
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
If they don’t want to be British Petroleum anymore they should stop calling themselves BP
Nuking the Oil Spill is probably a rather bad idea
Lucky we didn’t go to Lords
Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalisation today
Rubbish bridge in Shangai
How my camera and the internet explained an old bus
Why my libertarianism has the look and feel of socialism
You know where you are with a book - usually
Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent
Six lions on a white Mercedes bonnet
Quota cat rubber
Sounds like a brothel with film star lookalikes
Beyond iPad (and a picture that goes beyond this posting)
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Fitness Superstore
My local Blockbuster Video just closed
Cricket talk tonight
Hasselblad hit by custom-built headquarters disease!
Three airplane photos
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
The Shard is definitely being built!
Talking with Toby Baxendale
Apple mobile phones are very profitable but Nokia mobile phones are not very profitable
Under a hundred copies
Today I bought an Apple Mac keyboard …
God is killing cinemas!
Quotes dump
Pull Tab
Computer coffee table
Magic bottle that makes dirty water drinkable
Slumponomics
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
Model T parts flatvert
Laptop for emails
The latest Canon DSLR comes without a twiddly screen
Handel in London – and an angelic tenor aria
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
Register for your free pack and five £1-off-coupons
A photo of the Samsung NC10 and the original Asus Eee-PC next to each other
PurseBook
The Fixed Quantity of Advertising fallacy and the menace of targetted advertising
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
My confusion about free banking
Toys and big toys
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
Work begins on the Shard of Glass
Clay Shirky on newspaper doom
MBA - necessary but insufficient
Work photos
The Shard may actually be being built
Not cricket
Google and dongle
On being sold a telly
Vote for crazy flavoured crisps!
You don’t wait for it – you go looking for it
Roll out the Lino
OLED TV - very thin and detailed but not very big and not ready yet unless you’re stupidly rich
Picture charging advice please
Happy Christmas
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
Big clocks
Colonial Governor’s Mansion dwarfed by modernity
Linkin Park - one leg short of libertarian
Snapped in Egham
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
It’s over
Inamo
Another pendulum theory
Guido Fawkes conflates the Monetarists and the Austrians – needs to chat with Antoine Clarke
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Tama the feline stationmaster saves the Wakayama Electric Railway Co.
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
An abstract view of Kings Place
Chinese Friday?
Profundity and silliness
On classical music voice addiction
Cricket misery
Catbrella
A poetic Hornby
Voice of God journalism
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
Cisco – fuck off and die
“Better value on goods and services across a wide range of categories …”
Big Bens - Wheels - Big Ben teapots - telephone box teapots
Classic car thinness
News Media Coalition versus Indian Premier League
Travis Perkins of Pimlico Road are not good at delivering timber
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
Flat pictures for flat screens
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
Bookcase staircase many books electric book manybooks.net
Reflections in a Belgravia shop window
Customer service
Michael Jennings on telecoms at Samizdata
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
The great DVD packaging clearout
Blogging – the end of the beginning
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
Jones the department store
The new South Bank
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
I love competition
A job well done
Eee PC not eeesy to get in Asia either
When the penny drops
Probably not right - but definitely written
The qualitative difference made by quantity
The A380 bulge
It’s the decline of old-school advertising that’s really hurting old-school journalism
The business of gadget blogging
“How much better …?”
Not actually all that dramatically
Michael Jennings on private law in Hollywood
Will China fail?
Smelling the smoke in the Microsoft machine
Smile
End the medical monopoly!
The cranes are migrating to China and Michael Jennings will be talking about China
Lots of links
The publicness of private life
The double thank-you moment
Pictures with words
Writhing
“Information makes markets work …”
Classical under-15s
“That’s not Minnie Mouse - that’s a cat with large ears”
Old gits at the Oval – and Shane Warne
Insurance question
How to handle the complaints of your fiercest critics
Very small screen – high resolution
Plastic that conducts heat better
Comparing classical music with modern architecture
Zong
Susie Bubble turns shopping into a job with her blog
Bollocks to the fashists
iPods as the new CDs
The future of music
New York Times links - owned genes
Very very low cost kitten in space
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
Jott
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
Screwed by Google – and Google screwed by the kitten-bloggers?
Happy Christmas Day
The Pirates opens in New York
Big ships
Alice in Fortnum and Mason
Adriana Media Influencer: What do you do? (the mp3s of the book)
Spreading the word for free
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
Top tips from Viz
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
Grassy car with blog
How I became a One Minute Crap Manager
Getting things read
Remembering the Alternative Bookshop experience
Blogging is filing for those who can’t
Patrick Crozier talks with me about Japan
Being real on digital
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
Run Germany with thirty megs
On trust and obviousness
Presumably the noise is not a problem
Genius
On style and politics
They really were excellent
On the spread of voluntariness
Holocaust museum repeated as fashion?
Blogging fun and blogging profit
Read-Write versus Read-Only
tompeters!