Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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


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Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

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Category archive: Social Media

Wednesday March 14 2018

I follow Tom Holland because I have liked several of his books (especially Persian Fire), and because I often agree with him, as when he says things like this:

The assumption in Europe that its brand of colonialism was uniquely awful is, in a perverse way, one of the last hold-outs of eurocentrism.

Very true.

Via Tom Holland, I came upon this, from Anthony McGowan:

I came across a place called Strood. I looked it up (having no idea where or what it was), I found this achingly poignant statement: “Strood was part of Frindsbury until 1193, but now Frindsbury is considered part of Strood.”

It’s the implication that “now”, in the Strood/Finsbury part of the world, began in 1193 that makes this so entertaining.  I guess they have long memories out there in the not-London part of Britain.

Anthony McGowan is someone I don’t agree with a lot of the time (here is what I think about that).  But, I also liked this:

An article about the history of the Chinese typewriter. One old machine had a strange pattern, as some characters had been polished by over-use. It belonged to a Chinese-American immigrant. “The keys that glitter with use are: emigrant, far away, urgent, longing, hardship, dream”.

McGowan doesn’t supply links to where he got these intriguing titbits, which I don’t like.  But despite that and other similarly nitpicky nitpicks on my part, Twitter is working, for me.  At present I have no plans to depend upon it to say things, although that may change, for I am too distrustful of its increasing political bias.  But it is supplying me with much more stuff to be thinking about and writing about.

Monday March 12 2018

On March 21st, Roz Watkins, author of The Devil’s Dice, will be signing copies of that book at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, an event which I will attend.  This afternoon, finding myself in that part of London on account of needing a new battery for my ancient Casio watch, I dropped in on Waterstones to see what, if anything, they were doing with the book.

They had just one copy on show, in a New Crime Hardbacks display:


Can you spot it?  Memo to self: If I ever design a book cover, make the title on the front either in dark lettering with a light background, or with light lettering on a dark background.  The Devil’s Dice, with its light orange title on a light coloured sky, is second from the right, bottom row (on account of Watkins beginning with W).  Another memo to self: When I become a published author, have a surname starting with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet, rather than almost at the end.

Anyway, here’s a close-up of it, just so you know it was really there:


I needed another copy of the book, because I gave the advance copy Roz sent me to someone else.  But I was reluctant to buy the only copy of The Devil’s Dice that they had on show, thus depriving Waterstonians of any further sight of it.  I asked at the desk if they had a paperback.  Oh no, they said, not for at least six months.  I asked if they had any more copies on order.  Yes, said the lady, sounding rather impressed when her computer told her, we have eighty copies coming, ordered this morning.

I have no idea what that means.  Maybe those copies are just for the book signing, and maybe many will be sent back after that.  But maybe this is good, and reflects how well the original launch in Derby went, assuming that this did go well.  Anyway, with eighty more copies on their way to Waterstones, I bought that one copy that they had today.

See also, The Devil’s Dice with dog, in Waterstones Brighton.  Again, right down by the floor with the other Ws.

Sunday March 11 2018

Yes. Here at BMdotcom we like bridges and we like reflections, so here is a bridge, reflected:


I encountered this photo here.

New bridges are a bit hard to come by these days, especially given the fact that so many places are called “Newbridge”, and so many bridges, are called The New Bridge no matter when built because once upon a time that was accurate.  All of which complicates all searches for new bridges.  And when you do find new bridges that really do claim to be new bridges, it turns out I’ve seen almost all of them, and all the interesting ons.

Friday March 09 2018

As a Blackadder fan, I have long known about the use of pigeons during World War 1, to send messages.  Pigeons like the one in this photo:


Twitter caption:

War Pigeons were very effectively deployed in the First World War. For instance, they carried messages, like the one being attached to a pigeon by Austro-Hungarian soldiers on the Isonzo Front, which can be seen in this picture.

Quite so.  But what made me decide to post the above photo here was this exchange, in the comments.


Were they normally encrypted?

Wayne Meyer:

They used WEP. Wartime Encryption for Pigeons. It was a very early wireless standard.

Blog and learn.  Not only did I just discover that pigeon messages were – of course, they’d have to have been – encrypted.  I also learned that you can link directly to individual Twitter comments.

And what better way could there to learn about the activities of birds than via Twitter?

Thursday March 08 2018

Earlier today, in the Derby branch of Waterstone’s:


Standing on the staircase, top left, in a black dress, is Roz Watkins, speaking at the launch of her crime thriller, published today, The Devil’s Dice.

I mention Roz and her book here because she is my niece.  Another sign of getting old, to add to the collection: instead of boasting about elderly relatives who did great things in the past, e.g. WW2, you instead find yourself boasting about younger relatives who are doing great things now and who will probably do more great things in the future.

Roz sent me an advance copy of The Devil’s Dice and I am happy to report that I agree with all those effusively admiring Amazon reviewers.  Very absorbing, very well written.  I am now working on a longer piece about this book for Samizdata, which I hope will go up there tomorrow.  If not then, then soon.

Tuesday March 06 2018
Thursday March 01 2018

A tweet reminded me about this wonderful rant from Louis CK:


That’s the version of it, with dots inserted by him, that Steven Pinker quotes in his new book about the Enlightenment.

Pinker is concerned to explain why increasing affluence doesn’t seem to make everyone ecstatically happy.  Deidre McCloskey, in her Bourgeois trilogy, is fond of talking about how the Great Enrichment has made regular people as of now nearly three thousand percent richer.  So, why aren’t we three thousand percent happier?  Because we don’t seem to be.

Lots of reasons.  First, you are happy not according to your absolute level of affluence, but rather according to how affluent you get to be and how meaningful your life gets to be compared to what you were expecting, and compared to how well everyone else seems to be doing, because that tells you how well you could reasonably have expected to do.  You may well have been raised to expect quite a lot.  Second, although technology hurtles along, for most this hurtling is both pleasing and rather unsettling, the less of the former and the more of the latter as time goes by.  We don’t experience, in our one little life, how much better things like Twitter are than is looking after cows, out of doors, all year round, with not enough food or heating.  What we experience, as we get older, is how confusing things like Twitter are, or alternatively, if we ignore something like Twitter, how demoralising it is that it has defeated us and denied us its benefits.  Or how tedious air travel is, compared to what we’d hoped for rather than compared to a horse drawn wagon in a desert.  Yes, I live three thousand percent better than that wretched cowherd three hundred years ago, and if a time machine took away my life and gave me his life, I’d be three thousand percent more miserable.  But that’s not the same as me being three thousand percent happier than he was.  Happier, yes, definitely.  But not by that much.

It’s because we don’t feel that much happier that Louis CK has to rant, to remind us of how lucky we are.  And that Steven Pinker has to write his book, to make the same point.

But what if progress continues to hurtle forwards?  What if someone reads this posting, centuries from now, and he says: Good grief, those Twenty First Centurions were very easily satisfied.  Five hours to get from New York to California?

It must have been hell.

Wednesday February 28 2018

Twitter is good at telling you about news, and today, the news has been: snow.  I know.  Who saw that coming???  Apart from the short-term weather forecasters, I mean.

Here are some snow pictures:


That would be a photo of the Shard.  Would be because it is mostly a photo of snow, and the Shard is only just make-out-able behind the snow.

Here are two more conventional snow photos, where you can see buildings but very boring ones, the ones outside my kitchen window:


On the left, the snow descends.  On the right, my neighbours make a bendy triangle of footmarks.  I didn’t find those photos on Twitter, for I took them myself.

Without doubt my favourite snow-photo today was this:


Says @MisanthropeGirl: Satisfying.  I agree.

But if we are talking about snow and cold, nothing since then has touched 1963.  According to that story, in 1963 the sea froze.

Ah, 1963.  Marlborough lost its entire hockey season that term, early in 1963.  The frustrated school hockey captain was a famed future hockey international.  I still regret that I never got to see him play.

It gets worse.  That Christmas, the “house”, Littlefield, where I was a boarder at Marlborough College Marlborough Wilts, got burnt down, just before the “spring” term began.  We lived in huts, like prisoners of war.  The dormitory was another hut.  I had a hot water bottle.  When other Littlefieldsmen first saw this hot water bottle they sneered, but they were soon wanting to hire it from me, but I wasn’t having that.  I needed it in my bed.  And I distinctly remember, one morning, that this hot water bottle, in my bed, in the morning, had … frozen.  I swear.  There were icicles in it.

So, February 2018, I spit on your cold.  Your cold could not even freeze my spit.

Barn owl in winter
Me on Twitter and Facebook
The horror of a concrete thing having its eye put out
Copycat (and copydog)
Classic tweet
Michael Fabiano does a Master Class at the Royal College
Quota creative misquote
Food photoing
Michal Huniewicz drone-photos London Gateway and its cranes
Scott Adams tries to outwit the shadow banners with kitten-tweets
This cat faces a difficult next four years
Trump there
The internet is for telling me what’s on the telly
Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Referendum day graphics
WWWhite Van
The Sugar Land selfie statue
A decade of unrecognisable photographers
Brexit Kenny photos
Dirty art on White Vans
Blimp photoed to look like a big arse
A Japanese torpedo bomber that could use some zoom
Wicked Campers: Are they now going respectable?
Modernist sand castles at Amusing Planet (and at Mick Hartley’s)
Confirming an offer I made last night to Rob Fisher
Fantasy Vauxhall Bridge with lots of glass
Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
Mental notes
Close departs
Alcoholic Architecture sign
Photoing and communicating the devastation of Tianjin
Heaven aka the Barley Mow
Reading Anton Howes again
Miniature photographic fakery
My digital photos on his TV
How the internet is cheering up Art
The death of email?
ASI Boat Trip 7: Other photographers
Big Things in the sunset
You need to have abseiled …
Tower Bridge before it got covered in stone
“In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
Temporary art made of brightly dressed people
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Nowadays a picture is no longer worth a thousand words
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
You can achieve everything you want if you’re unambitious enough
The Alex Singleton blog
On the pleasure of assuming the worst
A scaffolder likes Jeremy Clarkson
Quotes of the day
“No one has to know!”
WWWhat a great afternoon!!!
A photo taken of a taken photo of the photo being taken
The politics of humour in the USA and in Britain
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
Eye shadow
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
Everyone who shows this picture needs to add that it is not Photoshopped
One man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing
The US Navy photos itself
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
Graeme Swann - twitterer but no twit
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Tienanmen + Twitter = Teheran
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
It all depends on whether there is anything worth Twittering
Effing newspapers
Google and dongle
Floppy road bridge where the cars nearly get wet
PID strikes Guido
Flickring and Googling for the AMGEN bridge
Billion Monkey lady ticks four (make that five) boxes!
The moving bridges of Chicago
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Blogging – the end of the beginning
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
Facebook – not so social
Billion Monkey lady does … “Heinrich Photography”?
Socialising with the Social Media
Breaking the Left’s stranglehold on the moving image
Che Guevara was a murderer and your T-Shirt is not cool
New Moscow road bridge
The future of music
Other people’s photos (4): Kitten on man’s head
Blogging has arrived
Other people’s photos (3): Ice storm
What next for the virtuoso violinists? - Simon Hewitt Jones has some answers
London photos by Fabio
Perry de Havilland on the thinking behind Samizdata
Adriana Media Influencer: What do you do? (the mp3s of the book)