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: Video

Friday May 15 2015

Once again 6k provokes a BrianMicklethwaitDotCom posting, this time about a drone, and by the look of it maybe the best and cheapest drone yet.

The video at the other end of that link sells the drone as being fun for tourists.  But I now surmise that the first great impact of drones on economic life is now already happening, in agriculture, in the bit of it where a tiny number of people manage vast acreages of agricultural land, and where a tiny increase in productivity is worth millions.  These people already have an entire industry of small airplanes doing things like crop dusting, which is a very ungainly process but still already well worth doing.  Imagine the benefits of being able to do that and much more, at virtually zero cost.  You could plant the crop.  Spray the crop.  Keep and eye on the crop.  Only the actual digging up of the crop, or whatever it is you have to do to crops, would still involve a bit of old school work.

I just googled “drones in agriculture”, and then clicked on Images.  Wow.

Drones are a bit like 3-D printing, as a technology.  There is much talk of mere humans doing it for fun, in their homes (3-D printing) or while out and about having fun (drones) but the real impact of poth these technologies is in niche markets, where specialists are doing things that have long been done, but quicker, better, cheaper, and by-and-by doing things in their line of business that were never before doable.  Drones, for instance, will make a lot of land farmable that was not farmable before.

I have always believed that the core skill of my generation, watching television, would end up having huge economic impacts.

Saturday March 21 2015

Yes, they aren’t playing any squash today.  It’s been rugby rugby rugby all the way.

First Wales knocked up a cricket score against Italy in Rome, and took the lead in the three-way race for the Six Nations.  Then Ireland thrashed Scotland and took pole position.  Now England and France are playing a mad game at Twickenham.  At the moment it’s England 48 France 35.  How mad is that?  It probably won’t be enough, but England are giving it a right old go.  England need about two more tries, I think, and since France are also scoring tries every so often, even that might not be enough.  But.  Five minutes to go, and England have just scored another try.  53-35.  Bloody hell.  This conversion has to go over.  Then they have to score another try and convert that.  Conversion over.  55-35.  It’s on.  It all has the air of been too frantic and unreal to work.  But, maybe.

Trouble is, I’ve got a terrible headache and bunged-up face, and am in almost no state at all to enjoy it all.  Maybe too much Parma ham at Christian Michel’s last night?  That or the cheap white wine.  But, I have most of it on video.

Game nearly over.  England need one more try off, basically, the last play of the match.

No.  England attacking but France hold out.  Whistle.  55-35.  Epic fail.  But epic in a good way.

Wales were favourites after their big win in Rome, but they now have to make do with the bronze.  Ireland win it.  England second.  A great day.

Thursday February 26 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday February 23 2015

This coming Friday I have another of my Last Friday of the Month meetings at my home in London SW1.  This coming Friday is, after all, the last Friday of the month, so the logic is inexorable.  Every Friday (even if the last Friday of, say, December 2014, happened to be Boxing Day, as it was) there is a Last Friday of the Month meeting at my home.

I have been having email problems, in the form of people using gmail suddenly not receiving my emails, so even if you thought you were on my list but hear nothing via email, be assured that this meeting will happen.  Try emailing me (which should work) and then telling your spam filter not to reject my reply, which you will have to do despite it being a particular individual reply.  I know, crazy.  I hope to write more about this problem in a posting at Samizdata, Real Soon Now.

Or, if you intend coming to this particular meeting, you could leave a comment below, and I will respond saying message received and look forward to greeting you.

Anyway, this coming Friday (Feb 27), Pete Comley will be talking about inflation.  He has recently published a book on the subject, which you can learn about in this posting at Comley’s website.  And you can hear what Comley sounds like and a little of how he thinks by listening to this short interview with Simon Rose of Share Radio.

image

The thing about Comley is that he takes a long-term - very long-term - view of inflation.  He began a recent talk I attended by discussing inflation at the time of the Roman Empire.

And in the long-term, there are not one but two major influences on inflation.  There is, of course, the supply of money, by the powers that be who have always insisted upon supplying money.  And when they make too many coins, too many bank notes or create too much bank credit, the price of regular stuff in shops goes creeping, or rocketing, up.  But there is also the demand for that regular stuff.  In particular, human population fluctuates.  At some moments in history, population shoots up.  At other times it falls, or at the very least the rate at which it increases falls.  Just now, in country after country, the birthrate is falling, and that has consequences for inflation.

Before you say it, I’ll say if for you.  Many simply define inflation as the first of these two processes but not the second.  Inflation is what money issuers do to the money supply.  A price rise caused by rising demand is simply not inflation.  It is a mere price rise.  Fair enough.  It certainly makes sense to distinguish these two processes from each other, however hard it may be for consumers to do this when both are happening to them.  And if you do that by restricting the definition of inflation in this way, then be aware that Pete Comley’s talk will be about inflation thus defined and about price rises sparked by rising demand, and for that matter about price stability caused by static demand.  (He says, by the way, that we might be about to enjoy just such a period of price stability.  And although you can never be sure about such things, better handling of the recent financial crisis, and we might have got there already.)

There is also the question of what causes money issuers to inflate, in the second and more restricted sense of inflation.  They seem to do this more at certain historical junctures than at others.  Inflation, restrictively defined, does not just cause bad economic experiences; it is itself caused, more at some times than at others.

All very interesting, or so I think.  Libertarians like me tend to be quite well informed about recent monetary history and about the evils of fiat currencies, the Fed, the Bank of England, and so on and so forth.  We tend to know a lot less about similar episodes in the more distant past to what he have recently experienced.  In general, we are more interested in the fluctuating supply of money than in the way that population fluctuations influence prices.

Pete Comley has a small but particular soft spot for me, on account of me having been the one who drew his attention to this book about the long-term history of prices (The Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer), which seems to have had quite a big influence on his latest book, which is called Inflation Matters.  It certainly does.

Tuesday February 17 2015

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

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

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

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

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

More Thiel spiel here.

Saturday February 14 2015

First, the BMdotcom headline of the day:

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

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

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

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

Friday February 06 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Guardian headline:

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

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

Uber delivers cats on demand with UberKittens

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

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

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

Time to stop.

Monday February 02 2015

Incoming from Michael J:

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

image

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

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

And then this morning there was this:

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

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

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

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

Fun
BMdotcom (mathematical (and sporting)) quote of the day
Santa’s tired helpers
Sign blocked by surveillance camera
My digital photos on his TV
Quota bird
Why aren’t people happier about amazing new stuff?
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
Go Chef
I see cats
Frank Turner on playing in an arena
Amusing cats versus important people
Detlev Schlichter talking about Von Mises (and being videoed)
Ashes Lag recovery continues
Blue wind
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Aiden Gregg meeting photos
Quota crane and quota plane
Quota videos
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
Richard Stallman on software patents
Quite a morning
Phablet news
Funniest run out ever?
Doing libertarian business at the Libertarian Home social
Kissa yrittää mennä laatikkoon
American election talk
“No one has to know!”
Don’t vote Democrat!
Pat Caddell on mainstream media bias
Mon chat se tient debout tout seul
Flat cat
There’s a Communist in the White House
Like a crisp packet being popped
Space launch monster
NFL fans and their name-and-number shirts in Trafalgar Square on Saturday
Jarrod Kimber on biased cricket commentators
Go Gary Johnson!
The Jobs difference
Davies and de Bruyn get promotion for Surrey
I think I may have found my final camera
How to immobilise a cat
Quimper cat on Harley-Davidson
Adam Curtis skewered
Lion steals camera
Friday link dump
Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
From a strange airplane propeller to the strange strings of a double bass
What camera is best for doing short videos about architecture?
Thoughts on England not just keeping the Ashes but winning the series 3-1 (with asterisks)
St Valentine’s Day talk by me on architecture
Poetry
The Green alliance
From pop to purrfume
Another ephemeron for David Thompson?
Cat defeats alligators
Nice try
Guerrilla webfare
Greenies make a video saying: “We’re a bunch of vile greenie-nazis!”
The long and short of conversation - Hitchens on YouTube
Woody Allen on media lies and on not learning as he gets older
A serious disappointment
Steve Davies lecture - photoing and videoing the lecture - post-lecture chat
IPL on ITV4!
Alfie the cat answers the Elmlea challenge
Quick video work by the Oxford libertarians
Chimpcam
My local Blockbuster Video just closed
A cat lands on its feet
Going global
American video
Johanna Kaschke versus the Deluded Leftwinger
Quotes dump
Magic bottle that makes dirty water drinkable
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
My confusion about free banking
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Toys and big toys
Embedded video
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
Don’t blame banking
SwivelCam
Parliament photoed by a bus!
SDXC
Further thoughts on Karajan’s conducting
Watching Karajan
My Oxford talk on Google video – or summarised by a friendly blogger
“This is fun!”
“It’s only a parable!”
I’d be cheering
Freedom of information
Ting Tings on Ross
Man regrows finger
Toshiba’s violin playing robot
Not very ephemeral
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
Cat stuff on Tuesday?
The qualitative difference made by quantity
It’s the decline of old-school advertising that’s really hurting old-school journalism
Gadget question
From 100 to 1 in movie quotes and Gordon is a moron
Not actually all that dramatically
I listened to both of them at the same time!
Breaking the Left’s stranglehold on the moving image
YouTube - Internet Explorer - Firefox
Christopher Hitchens on the Rushdie knighthood
Girly songs
When members of parliament attack
Very small screen – high resolution
Cats can be taught!
“You will struggle to ever see a better caught and bowled than that!”
That Rooney goal
Telly on computers
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
Pro-am music video
Me on the intertelly tonight
Heifetz on YouTube
How I became a One Minute Crap Manager
Me on 18 Doughty Street tonight
Foreigners on film