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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Quote unquote

Friday November 14 2014

Every so often I toy with the idea of dumping my Feline Friday habit.  But what am I supposed to do with a headline that reads FBI’s most wanted cybercriminal used his cat’s name as a password?  Just ignore it?  Hardly.

And now that I am already doing a cat posting with a hi-tech vibe about it, how about What robots can learn from cats.  One of the things robots can learn from cats, it would seem, is how to land on their feet without doing themselves damage.  My favourite bit of this report is where some computer genius says:

“It’s not the fall that kills you. It’s the sudden stop at the end.”

How very true.

More hi-tech plus cats news: Buy your cat a robot: Mousr acts like real prey.

But as the tsunami of cattery on the www roars out across the planet threatening to drown everyone in feline freak facts, the backlash is getting underway.  Can a wave cause a backlash?  It can now.  What research says about cats: they’re selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures.  They don’t love you, they slaughter endangered bird species, and they spread parasites that do your head in.

Finally, here are a couple of pictures I took last Sunday, in a Portobello Road coffee cafe:

image image

On the left there, Perry de Havilland (Samizdata supremo) shows me a cat picture on his mobile, and on the right, on Michael J’s mobile, no cat connection, but far too good a headline to ignore.

People drone on about how our new toys have replaced real socialising.  But here we observe them spicing up real socialising, by giving us something to chuckle about, while sitting right next to each other.

Also mentioned during our little bit of face-to-face socialising was this epoch-nailing scene.

Wednesday November 05 2014

Loadshedding, said favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k a few days back, is back, and it makes blogging very difficult.  Is this, I wondered, some sort of psychological affliction?  I dismissed the question as just one of those questions I could perhaps ask someone about, someone like 6k, but couldn’t be bothered to.  Life is full of mysteries, and it looked like, for me, loadshedding would be one of them for ever.

But then came another 6k loadshedding post, this time with a ton of significant looking links, and at that point, I remembered Google.  Google answers questions immediately, if it can at all.

Sure enough:

When there is not enough electricity available to meet the demand from all Eskom customers, it could be necessary to interrupt supply to certain areas. This is called load shedding.

I see.  It’s a South African electricity thing.

Is something like this in my future also?  That’s the kind of question Google is not so good at answering.  All it can do is report on other people asking the question also:

Looking ahead to demand for energy in the UK over the winter, Energy Secretary Ed Davey pledged over the weekend: “There will be no blackouts. Period.”

Period.  The vehemence of that worries me.  It suggests that quite a lot of people are asking the question, and that Mr Davey is starting to get angry about that fact.  And if a lot of people are asking the question, maybe the answer is not as Mr Davey says it is.  See also: “There is no question of …”.  This means that there is, and that someone just asked it.

But, a little bit below the reporting of Mr Davey’s verbiage, comes better news:

Mr Davey’s reassurance comes days after a warning by Professor John Loughhead, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, about the “catastrophic” consequences of a two-day power outage to somewhere like the City of London.

A government science adviser said that power cuts are a bad thing, not that any such cuts are at all likely in the UK this winter.  So, this quote actually works as a rather more reassuring denial of imminent power cuts than Mr Davey’s protestations.

Davey’s position is explained at greater length in this earlier report.  He says that the Tory backbench attack on wind farms could lead to higher energy bills, and I’m sure it could.  After all, if you waste a ton of money on wind farms, you may then get a small amount of energy.  If you then scrap the wind farms you then get even less energy, but you still get the bill for the damn wind farms already built.

If wind farms cost more to keep running than they yield in energy, then scrapping them makes sense, and ought to reduce energy bills.  But, the scrapping of wind farms might be used as an excuse to raise energy bills again, and could in a sense then be described as a cause of energy bills going up, in the sense that it made it easier for people who want energy bills to go up to contrive that.  “Scrapping wind farms could raise energy bills” could be read not as analysis, but more as a threat.

Scary times.

Tuesday October 21 2014

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.

image

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.

Monday October 20 2014

I sympathise with whoever wrote this:

West Brom can hardly believe their luck. Being denied a win at the death by Manchester United is one thing, but having teased a previously woeful Marouane Fellaini back to life must really does takes the biscuit.

“Must really does takes the biscuit.” I reckon he was choosing between, not two, but three different ways of saying what he was saying, but managed to combine all three.

This is the kind of mistake that can only happen with a computer.  If you were merely writing, or typing with an old school typewriter, there is no way you would have put that.

When I perpetrate something like that, and I frequently do, and if I later spot the mistake, I then allow myself to correct it, no matter how long ago I made the mistake.  Is this wrong?  My blog, my rules.

A subsection of Sod’s Law states that whenever you mention someone else’s mistake in something you say on the www, you will make a similar sort of error yourself.  If I do this in this posting, I will not correct my error, but will add something “LATER”, in which I identify my error.

Computers.  New ways to screw things up.

I attended a talk this evening at Christian Michel’s about robots.  The point was made the robot cars probably will be safer, but every once in a Blue Moon, there will be a truly spectacular disaster, of a sort impossible to perpetrate with old school cars.

Wednesday October 01 2014

6k (whom I also quoted last night on the subject of Boris Johnson) on the weirdness of being a parent, and the bizarrely insignificant things that drive children crazy:

My best (worst?) experience of this was probably the occasion when my 3 year old son was crying because he didn’t know why he was crying.

My attitude to parents is that they outrank me, and they do this almost no matter how badly they are doing their parenting.  They are at least doing it.  If I see a mad welfare mother screaming at her mad kids in a supermarket (her kids are mad because she has driven them mad), I still say to myself: respect.  She is there, in the female trenches, fighting the good fight.  I have chosen not to stand by and pay the bills for such a person.  Thanks to her and her husband (in her case that’s probably the government), homo sapiens (in her case homo a bit madens) will be around in a hundred years from now.  If that task had been left to me, it would not have been accomplished.

I’m not saying 6k is a bad parent, you understand.  Merely that even if he was a bad parent, he would still be a better parent than me.  And I also agree that some children are driven so crazy by their parents that they must be rescued, or at least they should have been.  (Few civilised principles are absolute.) I mean things like if they murder them, or imprison them and torture them for years on end.  Yes, I’m probably doing better than that.  But such exceptional extremities aside, like I say: respect.

Tuesday August 26 2014

I’ve started reading Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies, years after everyone else who has read it.  I haven’t got very far yet, but I am delighted to discover that one of the Enemies that Postrel takes several cracks at is John Gray, that being a link to a crack that I took at Gray at Samizdata a while back.

And I see that Postrel, like me, does not confine herself to analysing and criticising Gray’s arguments, but notes also the cheapness of the tricks that Gray often uses to present his arguments.

What disguises the trickery, at least in the eyes of Gray and his followers, is the air of profundity that is regarded as being attached to the process of foreseeing doom and disaster.  In truth, incoherent pessimism is no more profound than incoherent optimism, which is to say, not profound at all.

Says Postrel (p. 9):

Although they represent a minority position, reactionary ideas have tremendous cultural vitality.  Reactionaries speak directly to the most salient aspects of contemporary life: technological change, commercial fluidity, biological transformation, changing social roles, cultural mixing, international trade, and instant communication.  They see these changes as critically important, and, as the old Natinoal Review motto had it, they are determined to “stand athwart history, yelling, ‘Stop!’” Merely by acknowledging the dynamism of contemporary life, reactionaries win points for insight.  And in the eyes of more conventional thinkers, denouncing change makes them seem wise.

Seem.  Amen.  I’m still proud of this in my piece about Gray, which makes that same point about the seeming wisdom of being a grump rather than a booster:

He trades relentlessly on that shallowest of aesthetic clichés, that misery is more artistic than happiness, that any old rubbish with a sad ending is artistically superior to anything with a happy ending no matter how brilliantly done, that music in a minor key is automatically more significant than anything in C major.

There are plenty more Gray references in Postrel’s book, if the Index is anything to go by and it surely is.  My immediate future is bright.

Saturday August 23 2014

Perry de Havilland:

Is not socialism truly stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?

LOL.  I really did.

Just to add, as a memo to self, I have another musical-stroke-Venezuela blog posting to do at Samizdata, concerning something said by a BBC4 TV presenter at a Prom, following a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony by Gustavo Dudamel and his Venezuelan orchestra, about what a wonderful vision it was of the world for one bloke to be telling everyone else what to do.  I have the exact words (in addition to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony) recorded, and I must dig them out.  They were truly spectacular, as in: spectacularly stupid.

The BBC worships all things Venezuelan, but has gone rather quieter about that now.

Monday August 18 2014

Richard Morrison’s article about the impact of WW1 on music, for the Times, is very interesting, but it suffers from an outbreak of PID (Permanent Italics Disease).  This is when you switch on the italics, but then forget or fail to switch them off again.  Here is a screen capture of the offending moment and its surroundings:

image

This was posted on August 16th, in connection with a Prom that happened last night, but it has yet to be corrected, as I write this.

PID is particularly pernicious when it afflicts not only the rest of the text of the piece itself, but then continues throughout the entire page as you see it, as it does here.  That is a site software blunder, as well as a posting blunder.

I got to this piece via Arts and Letters Daily, which perhaps explains how I got to it at all, what with the Times paywall and all.  Does anyone know how that system is working out for the Times?

It seems a bit shoddy that you have to pay for such typographical ineptitude.  It’s not so much the original error that I am unimpressed by.  It’s the fact that nobody quickly corrected it.  And the fact that the site software doesn’t confine the problem to the one posting.

To be a bit more serious, about the content of the article, I have long regretted Schoenberg’s depressing impact upon music, but I had no idea that the man himself was such a German chauvinist.  “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God …” Good grief.

PID at the Times
Back from France (plus cat photos)
Confirming my String prejudices
Why you are wrong
Brian Micklethwait dot com quote of the day
Ubernomics
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom quota quote of the day
South Bank signs
Frank Turner on playing in an arena
Classic Feline Friday quote from Tim Berners-Lee
JK Rowling describes two rich girls
Quota quote
Christopher Seaman on conducting
When Open Symbol attacks!
Megan McArdle on success and failure
Good question
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Tube interrupted
Music classified
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
RNSQotD
Jamie Whyte on deferring gratification less as he gets older
Algernon Sidney sends for Micklethwait because Micklethwait is wise, learned, diligent, and faithful
Quotes from there
A free man
I’ve just been quotulated
Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future
You can achieve everything you want if you’re unambitious enough
Perry Metzger on taking seriously the declared objectives of opponents
The Alex Singleton blog
A scaffolder likes Jeremy Clarkson
BMdotCOM insult of the day
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Quotes of the day
Better a year late than never
My dusty computer screen
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
Words for bloggers to live by
Rally Against Debt signs
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom narcissistic self-quote of the day
The politics of humour in the USA and in Britain
BM.com quote of the day
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom quote of the year so far
I can now copy and paste from .pdf files
BM.com quote of the day
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom mixed metaphor of the day
An amazon reviewer defends Alex Ross
Thoughts on England not just keeping the Ashes but winning the series 3-1 (with asterisks)
Richard Dawkins on university debating games
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
More redirection
BrianMicklethwait Dot Com QotD
Brianmicklethwait Dot Com headline of the day
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
Perfectly clear politics
“An alternative definition of intelligence …”
Snappy quote from Victor Davis Hanson that may or may not actually be true
Big box computers versus laptops
Frank J random thought for the day
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
This is not Mohammed
Incoming from Molly Norris!
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom modified cliche insult of the day
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom understatement of the day
Stepping forward into the abyss!
Unravelling the puzzle – and making it into a movie
India looking good against Sri Lanka
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Going global
Graeme Swann - twitterer but no twit
Scrounging Englishmen and stories too good to check
Twitterings
Under a hundred copies
Correction
Barney Stinson on how gay marriage will encourage regular marriage
Quotes dump
Old Holborn lets rip at Labour in a Guido comment
Jonathan Meades on city planning
Anti-politics versus (or just and) the heroic delusion
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Don’t blame banking
Meme for the New Depression
Some family education blogging
Happy New year (if possible)
Do not read this if you prefer all epigrams about getting well to be tasteful
“… the idea is to remain ignorant of how dumb you look …”
And here is a real quotation
Quota quotes from Wodehouse
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
I have not been living beyond my means
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Wonderwoman picked by Unsuperman
I’m not nearly grand enough to ignore this
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
Clarkson on Sarah Jessica Parker
“Let’s get cracking tomorrow.  Let’s have a drink tonight.”
You must enjoy reading!
A deeper voice
Brian Micklethwait dot com quote of the day - soup
On hating and not hating commenters
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
The Lord is watching
Inventions which start as toys
Fifty million Bible bombs
“Don’t burn your bridges before they’re hatched …”
From 100 to 1 in movie quotes and Gordon is a moron
Nothing untoward happening!
Bush on Cuba
Che Guevara was a murderer and your T-Shirt is not cool
Mark Holland on believing in something and believing in nothing
Struggling Actress quote of the day
Lots of links
A surprising outburst of truth
Pictures with words
“What you like learning about is probably what you like to do”
Girly songs
Cold War winner
Tom Wolfe on the only real fun of writing
Words of wisdom from Brian Micklerthwit
Darrin M. McMahon and me and George Orwell on the pursuit of happiness
Doubts
Gandhi on equality for all … except …
Why quotations suitable for this blog cannot be found in quotations books
Sullivan and Grove find some Schubert diamonds
Alice in Texas on form - England in Australia not
BrianMicklethwait.com quote of the day
Something to bore everyone
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
Run Germany with thirty megs
To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be dot dot dot controlled in everything
“And also our sensitivity to our office being firebombed”
More IP violating: Barry Beelzebub on Freepost bricks and a still-legal wild boar hunt
The father of invention