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Category archive: Australasia

Friday September 23 2016

The internet is fighting back against … cats!


Cats are colonizers: this is what they do. They have colonized the internet just as they have colonized so many other habitats, always with the help of humans. This is the lesson of Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, a new book by conservation scientist Peter P. Marra and travel writer Chris Santella. From remote islands in the Pacific to the marshes of Galveston Bay, Cat Wars traces the various ways in which felines have infiltrated new landscapes, inevitably sowing death and devastation wherever they go.

Perhaps the most famous case of genocide-by-cat is that of the remote Stephens Island in New Zealand. Before the end of the 19th century, it was home to a unique species: the Stephens Island wren. One of only a few species of flightless songbirds, the wren ran low to the ground, looking more like a mouse than a bird. After a lighthouse was built on the island in 1894, a small human settlement was established; and with humans, invariably, come pets. At some point a pregnant cat, brought over from the mainland, escaped and roamed wild. The island’s wrens, unused to facing such a skillful predator, were no match for the feral cats that spread throughout the island. Within a year, the Stephens Island wren was extinct. It would take another 30 years to eradicate the feral cats.

This is not an isolated incident. Cats have contributed to species decline and habitat reduction in dozens of other cases. Because they’re so cute and beloved, we have little conception of — and little incentive to find out — how much damage cats are doing to our environment. When researcher Scott Loss tallied up the number of animals killed by North American housecats in a single year, the results were absolutely staggering: between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals, between 1.3 and 4 billion birds, between 95 and 299 million amphibians, and between 258 and 822 million reptiles.

Most books that get multiple reviews on Amazon get around four stars out of five, on average, because most of the reviews are from admirers and there are just a few from detractors.  This book gets a star average of one and a bit.

Sunday July 31 2016

Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fine day indeed.  Deepest thanks to Darren for sharing it with me.  But, it wasn’t the magical day that the game that Darren fixed for us both to see last year was.

There are several reasons for this relative lack of magic.  For starters, last time around, it was all happening, for me, for the first time.  I had never before sat high up in the Surrey Pavilion like that, so last September I was doing that for the very first time.

The game in 2015 was a semi-final and was very tense throughout, in fact the result was in doubt until the final ball.  The game last Wednesday was a handsome win for Surrey, which was good.  But it rather fizzled out at the end, as handsome wins in sport so often do.

But the biggest difference between this game and the previous one was that whereas, in that 2015 game, a cricket legend by the name of Kumar Sangakkara made a superb century, in this game, there was no megastar super-performance, just a succession of very capable Surrey players doing very well, until the game was won.

The nearest thing to a dominant superstar on show last Wednesday was Jason Roy.  Roy is not yet a cricket legend on a par with Sangakkara, and of course he probably never will be, having arrived only rather recently as an England one day and twenty-twenty star.  But he has made one hell of a start, starts being what he specialises in.  He supplied, for example, the rapid start that England had to have if they were to get anywhere near to South Africa’s huge score of 229 in England’s World T20 must-win game back in March of this year, in Mumbai.  Roy hit four fours in the first over of that amazing and ultimately successful chase.  Then, back in England, Roy did brilliantly in the 50 overs games earlier this year against Sri Lanka.  He shared in the huge opening partnership with Alex Hales that won game two, and in game four he made 162, in another dominant England win.

On Wednesday, Roy got the game started in his usual style by hitting the first ball of the match for four.  And I got a photo of that very predictable moment:


And so it continued, for a short while.  But then, Roy got out for a mere 34, and Surrey needed many more runs to set a decent target.  They got those runs, but the day would have been a whole lot more fun if Roy had hung around for longer.

Here is another and much better picture of Roy in action, which shows his face as well as one of his actions:


That shot, in both of its two meanings, was shot by a Real Photographer, again at the Oval, last Friday evening, when Roy played exactly the sort of innings that I would loved to have seen him play on Wednesday afternoon.  This was a twenty-overs-each-way game.  Roy again went in first for Surrey.  But this time he stayed in, and slammed 120 not out.  Roy and the formidable Australian, Aaron Finch, shared an opening partnership of 187, and Surrey ended up with 212-4.  This was more than enough to crush Kent, but sadly, it was not enough to get Surrey through to the last eight, because another result went against them.

Darren, having so kindly invited me to accompany him to the Wednesday game, was also at the Oval on Friday evening, when I was busy hosting a meeting at my home.  Perhaps this posting should end now, on that note of, I trust, good humoured envy.  But I want to contrast the events of that game last Friday, which Darren witnessed and which I did not, with what happened in another cricket match, in Sri Lanka, that was happening at the same time.

On Saturday morning, yesterday morning in other words, I followed this other game on Cricinfo. Sri Lanka and Australia were playing out a test match.  Remember those?  The ones that sometimes go on for five whole days?

Sri Lanka, back home but still smarting from their disappointments in England, had got themselves out for a mere hundred in their first innings.  But they then confined Australia to two hundred, and then got a real score in their second innings.  By Saturday morning my time, Australia were struggling to get a draw, on the final day of a rain and light interrupted match.  And in the course of this ultimately unsuccessful struggle, their ninth wicket pair, Nevill and O’Keeffe, resisted the Sri Lankan bowlers for more than twenty overs, without scoring a single run.

Here is a screen snapshot of cricinfo commentary, taken by me during this dot-ball-fest:


At that point, during over number 77, and as commenter Viran Salgado pointed out towards the bottom of that bit of commentary, it had already been twelve overs of dottiness with no runs having been scored.  And when the ninth wicket eventually fell during over number 86 the score was still stuck on 161, with the final wicket falling three overs later, also at 161.

In other words, on Friday night Jason Roy made 120 and Surrey as a whole amassed 212, in the space of 120 balls.  A few hours later, Australia, in the passage of play in their game against Sri Lanka that I have just described, faced almost exactly the same number of balls as that, and scored a grand total of: no runs.  And in the course of all this relentless blockage, Sri Lanka managed to take: no wickets.  0-0.  Zero for zero.  Bugger all, for bugger all.

It’s not that nothing happened.  It was riveting stuff.  But this extreme contrast does illustrate how the game of cricket is now changing.

Saturday June 11 2016

To you, yes, I hope that you had one, but actually what I’m saying is: I did.

England came belting back against Sri Lanka at Lords.  After sampling the London weather last night, I had a feeling that might happen.  It was not bright and sunny, more overcast and sweaty.  It felt like swing bowler weather, which made SL’s reply yesterday afternoon (to England’s 416) of 162-1 rather strange.  Dropped catches apparently.  Well, this morning, order was restored and SL are now 218-6.  Woakes, luckless yesterday, got a wicket with his first ball.  England now look likely winners of that series 3-0.  The longer the series goes on, and the more the Lankans get acclimatised (following seriously inadequate practising games), the more it counts beating them.  The first game, where SL collapsed twice, meant nothing, I reckon.  I’ve been following the score here.

Deep thanks to Michael Vaughan, who mentioned on one of the bits of cricket commentary I listened to that England were also playing Australia.  At rugby.  Aus 28 Eng 39.  Must have been some game, and according to the BBC live updates, it was.

And before all that, I even managed a quick (they’re often the best) Samizdata posting, about something odd I heard on the radio, about the EU.

Here is one of the funner pictures I took while out and about last night, this one taken at the Parliament end of Whitehall:


Great reflections in her sunglasses, right?  On the left, as we look, the two devices she is holding, and on the right, you can just see a tiny Big Ben.  Is that red thing she is holding a charger?

Plus an elephant.

The onward march of mobile phones into photography continues apace.

I haven’t always been blogging here as early as I’d like to in recent days, but today, I did it.

If you had as good a morning as I did, lucky you.

Monday October 19 2015

Busy day, by my unbusy standards.  Inability to contrive clever words.  Search through recent photos.  One jumps out at me:



Begin to write something clever, but it doesn’t cohere.  Give up.  Good night.

Sunday October 18 2015

I’m talking rugby, not life.  If you came here because of the above headline but care only about life, relax, the Northern Hemisphere is safe.  It isn’t being culled.  It is merely that the Northern Hemisphere’s rugby teams haven’t been doing very well in the Rugby World Cup, which is now taking place in England.

Watching Ireland lose to Argentina had me conflicted, as they say.  On the one hand, another Home Nation succumbs to a Southern Hemisphere monster.  But on the other hand, England don’t now need to feel quite so bad.  Wales knocked out England by a whisker, and that was disappointing.  But England, Wales, and now Ireland, all got beaten by Southern Hemisphere sides.

And if Scotland do anything different against Australia in the last of the quarter-finals, about to be played, it will be a major upset.

England merely got the same bad news just the one game earlier.

Which means that, unless Scotland have entirely failed to read this script, the semis will be NZ v South Africa, Australia v Argentina.  These four teams have their own tournament every year, in their own stadiums.  Now, they are having another such tournament, in England.

As for France, well, they have done almost as badly as England, and perhaps worse.  They beat their minnows, as England did.  But, like England, they lost very upsettingly in the group stage to a home nation, Ireland in their case, and they were then completely shredded by the All Blacks.  Many neutrals had hoped for a repeat of 1999 or 2007.  By the end, even the humiliation of NZ only winning by one mere point in 2011 was expunged from the record.  This time around, the margin was: 49.

John Inverdale told a good joke after England got beaten by Australia 13-33.  He was in a taxi afterwards with a couple of England supporters, and one of them said: that was as bad as 1066.  Not really, said the other.  It was only 1333.

But 1362 (the year of the battles of Brignais and of Launac (blog and learn)) is quelque chose else again.  And if an All Black hadn’t dropped the ball just as he was about to score yet another try right at the end, it would have been 1367 or 1369, years in which other things presumably also happened in France.

LATER: Scotland have NOT been reading the above script.  They now lead Australia 34-32 with five minutes to go.  In-obscene-present-participle-credible.
But, penalty to Australia.  They lead 35-34 with a minute to go.  End.  “Southern Hemisphere clean sweep”, see above.

Thursday September 24 2015

The platinum blonde woman who sings the introductory song sounds very unmusical and strangulated to me.  When she sings “A new age has begun”, it sounds like “Anewwayjazzbeegun”, with no breaks between words at all.  Very peculiar.  I now learn that I am not the only one to be unhappy about this singing.

My first observation of the actual rugby: lots of handling errors.  My impression is that the balls are bigger, fatter, lighter, bouncier, a bit like balloons.  So, when they hit your chest they don’t just stick there, they bounce off your chest and you’ve dropped it.

How good were Japan?  Yes, very good.  But.  But.  How bad were South Africa? Very, very bad.  There is a back story there, which the television commentators I am hearing seem extremely anxious not to discuss.  It’s all: the mighty Boks.  Apparently, they haven’t persuaded enough black men to play rugby, and racial quotas are deranging and demoralising them.  “Political football” etc.  Lawrence Dallaglio mentioned this stuff once, in passing, speaking of them “falling off tackles” (I think that was the phrase).  Of not really trying, in other words.  Other than that, nothing.  Japan got totally stuffed by Scotland yesterday, 45-10.  Okay, the Japanese hadn’t had much of a rest.  But even so, a bizarre result, unless Japan beating South Africa was at least as much because South Africa were bad as because Japan were good.  Scotland v South Africa might be … very interesting.

I really like London’s new Olympic Stadium.  Whenever I saw it before, it contained the 2012 Olympics, and I hate the Olympics so much that I couldn’t see how very nice the stadium is.  Now I can see this.  I think I now prefer the inside of the Olympic Stadium to the inside of New Wembley.  The only interesting thing about New Wemley is the big arch, seen from the outside.  That’s terrific.  One of London’s great new landmarks.  But the inside of New Wembley, which I have actually visited in person, is very dreary.  But maybe I was just in a bad mood, on account of it being football, and on account of this idiot jumping about in front of me whenever anything faintly interesting happened, so I had to either get up off my seat to see anything, or remain seated and in ignorance.

England look okay to me, but okay presumably won’t be enough to win.  But then again, most other teams seem only okay also.  Except the All Blacks of course.  How will they contrive to lose this tournament, I wonder?  They usually seem to find a way.  Last time around, they did win, but only by one point.

Saturday September 12 2015

The day I spent at the Oval with Darren last Monday was enjoyable for me in so many ways.  I am now definitely considering becoming a Surrey Member myself next season, a snip at just under two hundred quid.  Seriously, that’s how great a day it was for me.  But it was not quite the day that I had been expecting.

The thing was, Surrey had, after many disappointments in the recent past, finally been promoted just three days earlier.  Half way through the game against Derby, the reportage was all about how well Derby had been doing.  But the Surrey first innings tail did not so much wag as flail like the tail of a crocodile, and then the Surrey spinners polished Derby off on day four, to win the game by an innings and plenty, with several hours to spare.

So, last Monday, I was expecting the Oval to be seething with boisterous celebration.  But once the game began, I soon realised that this was not going to happen.  The place was that far from being deserted, and looked even more sparsely populated from where Darren and I were at first sitting, what with the bulk of the Surrey support being below us and out of our sight.

The thing about last Monday was that it was on a Monday.  And why this game, of all games, on a Monday?  A semi-final of the annual 50-50 county tournament ought surely to be staged at a time when regular people can show up to watch it, shouldn’t it?  So, why wasn’t it?

The answer of course is: television:

image image imageimage image image

That’s Gary Wilson of Surrey striding off at the end of the Surrey innings (they batted first), doing a great job of pretending that the TV guy who is poking his huge camera in his face just isn’t there.

These are not the kind of pictures of cricket that you usually see, are they?  Usually, you see only the sort of pictures that this TV guy himself is taking, not pictures of him.  He is not supposed to be part of the story which he is, so very obtrusively, helping to tell.  Yet even the very day on which this match took place cannot be explained without reference to that TV guy, and all his mates.


That’s a picture, taken moments later, of Sky TV discussing that Surrey first innings with Notts fast bowler and recent England Ashes hero Stuart Broad.  What did Broad say?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t watching this game on my telly.  I was merely there.

But why Monday, rather than Sunday or Saturday?  I mean, more people watch the telly at the weekend, surely.  Well yes, they do.  And Sky TV did indeed show the first semi-final on Sunday.  (Yorkshire, crowned only days later as the 2015 champions of the four day game, were beaten in this first semi-final by Gloucester, with surprising ease.) So, why not the other semi- between Surrey and Notts, on the Saturday?

Because on Saturday, Sky TV were showing the second England v Australia ODI, and there would be no point in Sky buying both those games if they had happened on the same one day.  So, the other semi- got shoved over to Monday.  The schools were back at school.  Workers were back at work.  But, television rules.

image image

So this was mostly an Old Geezer day, from the live spectator point of you.  But, despite all those empty seats, this particular Old Geezer had a terrific time, not least because of all those TV cameramen whom I was able to take photos of.

I promise nothing, but I do now hope that there’ll be a whole lot more to follow about this marvellous day out.

Thursday August 06 2015

Australia’s first innings, in this game, has got off to a shaky start:

. 4b W 2 4 W | . W . 4 1nb . . | . . . W . 4lb | . . . 1 1 . | W

Broad has four wickets.  Wood has only one, and was responsible for that humiliatingly wicketless fourth over.  Extras is doing the best for Australia.

England are clearly missing Jimmy Anderson.  If he had been bowling first up instead of Wood, Australia could have been in serious trouble.

Australia, at the start of the seventh over, now 27-6.  Clarke out to Broad, who now has five, with just nineteen balls.  Before that, yet another wicketless over from Wood.

To be a bit more serious, this is the kind of blog posting I do for myself, to put alongside postings like this one, because goodness knows, there’ll be plenty of other people writing about this.  File under: my heart, warming the cockles of.  I missed the first two wickets on the radio, because I was having a quick piss.  Happy day.

But here, as my Aussie friend Michael Jennings likes to say, ‘s the thing.  When Australia smash England, they do it five nil.  When England smash Australia, which is what looks to be happening now, it’s usually something more like three one.  Have we ever beaten them five nil?  Ever?

Meanwhile, more consolation for England fans like me.  Australia now 33-7.  Nevill bowled Finn.  But, as has just been pointed out by the radio commentators, in his previous over, Broad, like Wood before him, just bowled an entire over without taking a wicket.

More than the usual number of cock-ups while posting this, I’m afraid, and I expect there’ll need to be further cleaning up.  Happy day.  So far.

LATER: One of those crazy taken-in-a-pub-at-a-crazy-angle shots of a big pub screen, showing the carnage inflicted upon Australia on Day One of Trent Bridge 2015:


On the right, Sky TV’s Ian Ward, I think.  On the left, Broad, I know.  8-15.  8-15.

Australia 1st Innings: 60.

No wicket in fourth over shock
Keeping up appearances in Sydney
A rather argumentative van
It continues (well)
England crush NZ (and Surrey beat Leicester)
Goodbye KP?
First test against NZ – first day
Michael Jennings on the likely progress of the Cricket World Cup
How bet hedging explains the perpetual terribleness of everything
AB mayhem
BMdotcom What if? of the day
Some batsman – some neck
Home advantage and hoping for the best in the World Cup
Early tries by my guys
Games lovely games
England crush Australia and keep the Ashes
Gloomy Earl’s Court picture
Broad thrives properly on getting abuse
Ashes black out
Who was the youngest batsman to reach 7000 runs in Tests?
Stuart Broad has a kitten heel
Interesting software NewZ
Australian selection inconsistency and getting the causal link the wrong way round
Quite a morning
Australian cricket is doomed! - or maybe not
Views from Kings College
Carnage at Adelaide
Interwar Old English pub dwarfed by modernity
NZ doing a bit better than England
New bridge in Melbourne
Sportsmanship by us – bullying by them
Boxing Day morning at the MCG
The Green alliance
No wickets in the first over shock
The Ashes: chickens and now a swallow
How quickly the mood can change!
Wagga Wagga has been flooded by the Murrumbidgee River
And it resumes …
A down and up weekend
More blood to Australia
First blood to Australia
Ashes highlights on ITV4
Nice try
Twenty ten twenty ten
I don’t usually approve of swear blogging but …
Ums and ahs
Surrey are now crap at cricket but they are sitting on a gold mine
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Stepping forward into the abyss!
In other news …
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
Another Samizdata piece
Dongling at Michael’s
Brisbane church dwarfed by modernity and this posting behaving very strangely
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
A new British citizen
Guido Fawkes gets Douglas Jardine wrong
New Zealand crumple at Trent Bridge
First Jaques – then Ponting – then Katich – then Hussey cleaned up
Ashes news
Fourth innings heroics
More rugby talk
Australia out! – New Zealand out! – pass forward!
Further pictorial shallowness