Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Valent Lau on Bond car
Alan Little on ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Alan Little on PID at the Times
Wedding Cufflinks on God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
Michael jennings on ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Brian Micklethwait on ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Brian Micklethwait on ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Michael Jennings on ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
6000 on God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
Most recent entries
- On not letting either God or (the other) God do everything
- A tumult of cranes (and the Spraycan)
- Postrel goes for Gray
- Xxxx-ie outside Xxxx-ridges
- Bond car
- BrianMicklethwaitDotCom musical quote of the day
- Parisian roof clutter gets the Real Photographer treatment
- God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
- A swimming pool in a skyscraper
- God is dead
- PID at the Times
- My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
- ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
- Back from France (plus cat photos)
- Big Things through a gasometer
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This and that
This afternoon, The Guru is coming by to reconstruct God, so God (the other one) willing, I will be back in serious computing business by this evening.
When I was recently in Brittany, my hosts supplied me with a state-of-the-art laptop and a state-of-the-art internet connection. These last few days, without God (my one) and having to make do with Dawkins (my obsolete and clunky little laptop, the thing I am typing into now), I have felt less connected to the world than I did in Brittany. I am connected, after a fashion. But Dawkins is so slow and clunky that I have been doing only essentials (like finding out about England being hammered in the ODI yesterday), and checking incoming emails, and shoving anything however bad up here once every day. It’s like I’ve regressed to about 2000.
I have managed to put up a few pictures here, in God’s absence. But Dawkins’ screen makes these pictures look terrible. I am looking forward to seeing God’s version of these pictures and hope they will be greatly improved compared to what I am seeing now.
Thank God (the other one) I haven’t been depending on God (my one) for music. As I have surely explained here many times, one big reason I prefer CDs (and separate CD players scattered around my home) to all this twenty first century computerised music on a computer is that if God goes wrong, as he just has, I don’t lose music. I also have music concerts recorded off of the telly, onto DVDs, which I can play on my telly, which is likewise a completely separate set-up to God.
In general, the argument against having everything done by one great big master computer is that when something goes wrong with that master computer, everything else in your life also goes wrong, just when you may need those things not to. One of the things that willgo wrong, rather regularly, with your all-in-one master computer is when this or that particular one of its excessively numerous functions becomes seriously out of date. I mean, if it has a vacuum cleaner included, what happens if vacuum cleaners suddenly get hugely better? In Brian world, all I have to do is get another new and improved vacuum cleaner, and chuck out the old one. In all-in-one master computer world, you are stuck with your obsolete vacuum cleaner. Or, if you can, you have to break open your all-in-one master computer and fit a new vacuum cleaner, and probably also lots of other new stuff to make sure the new vacuum cleaner works, which buggers up a couple of your other functions that used to work fine but which no longer work fine. Or at all. I prefer to keep things simple, and separate.
Something rather similar applies with how to handle (the other) God. That is another arrangement you don’t want to have running the whole of your life for you either. It’s okay if you do God for some of the time and keep Him in his place, but you want scientists telling you about science, doctors about medicine, and your work colleagues about your work, and so on. If, on the other hand, absolutely everything in your life, and worse, everything in the entire world you live in, is controlled by ((your version of) the other) God, everything is very liable to go to Hell. (Aka: Separation of Church and State. Aks: don’t be a religious nutter.)
I have my own particular take on (the other) God, which is that He is made-up nonsense. But just as wise believers in (the other) God don’t let that dominate their thinking on non-God things, nor do I think that my opinions about (the other) God can explain everything else as well. These opinions merely explain the particular matter of (the other) God being made-up nonsense.
Do not, as they say, put all your eggs in one basket.
Photoed this afternoon, on a dull day, through a train window:
The train in question was travelling back from Denmark Hill, past Brixton, and, after the above shot, on past Battersea Power Station and across the river into Victoria. There are excellent views views of central London from this line, for those with zoom eyesight or zoom lenses.
As to what this tumult of cranes is doing, I am almost certain it’s the new US Embassy in Battersea, although the buildings we can already see are, I believe, just apartments or offices or something. Usually I see all this from the other side, e.g. from Vauxhall Bridge.
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.
So, what is “Xxxx”?:
Taken by me, when out and about yesterday early evening.
The economics of car ownership is interesting. On the face of it, I might be the sort of person who would get a really small car (even if not this exact one). But the way I (and many others?) see it is: If I go to the bother of getting a car, and finding somewhere to park it, and a way of insuring it, and of protecting it from burglars and vandals, I might as well spend a bit more and get a proper car. You either buy a car, of the sort that can do all the things proper cars do, like transport another four people, transport bits of furniture, drive to Scotland or Paris or some such place, impress rather than amuse friends and enemies, and so forth. Or, you don’t.
You don’t buy a bit of car.
The only exception is if your entire country has only just started buying cars, in which case even a bit of car is worth having. Especially if, for the time being, that’s all you can get
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.
One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.
I’m still suffering from God problems. God needs a new everything. New fan, new processor, new graphics card, even some new RAM. His old body will do, and hopefully all his hard discs can stay where they are, and continue to have all the same stuff on them, but the stuff that enables God to do his mysterious work is all change. Overheating, The Guru said. There was much dust inside, which will not surprise anyone who has ever visited my home.
Here is a picture of God’s inner workings, not that it tells me much:
Apparently overheating is big deal in computing these days, and there are an amazing number of little systems inside a computer like God which are just there to stop things getting too hot. The Guru pointed out various little cooling mechanisms, and there were about half a dozen of them. Not just obvious things like big fans, but small things like strategically placed bits of metal to get ride of the head in some tiny little sub-system.
I recall reading a book about the man who invented the first Supercomputers. Cray? It said that Cray computers were actually of a rather conservative design, because that way they wouldn’t go wrong. The brilliant idea was to combine such a computer with a refrigeration system. Apparently nobody had thought of that, until Cray did. But, said Cray, who says you can’t put a computer in a fridge?
By the way, odd that fridge is spelt fridge, but refrigeration is spelt refrigeration, without a d in the middle. Google it if you don’t believe me. I only just found this out, from my spell checker and then from googling it myself.
The bad news is that without God I am without email. I know, this is ridiculous. I keep meaning to switch from FuckupMail (the system supplied to me by The Guru (who disapproves of Google “on principle")) to Gmail, because you can access Gmail from anywhere. So what if you have to donate your soul to Google? What would they do with my soul? Very little, I am almost sure.
FuckupMail works fine, until you try to access it from another computer. Then it causes me to call it that. So, for example, on my recent French trip, I just ignored email and hoped for the best. But now I have things coming up that need organising, and I can’t wait until the middle of next week for email, so FuckupMail has to migrate to Dawkins. So, I am currently engaged in doing that. But every time Dawkins gets to the emails concerning back-ups, which happen every day at three in the morning, he goes on strike for about five minutes and I often have to shut the email system and then open it again, after which it takes another five minutes before it deigns to transfer any more emails, which it eventually does until 3am comes around again. I have had to stop the email system and start it up again about three hundred times. “Should take about two hours” said The Guru. Turned out more like forty, and it still isn’t done. The only exception was when the emails concerned the fact that the back-up system wasn’t working, which it wasn’t for about one blessed month earlier this summer. They transferred fine. I know. Ridiculous, but I had no idea it would take as long as it did.
Should. This is a computer technical term meaning, “should but actually won’t”. Whenever you hear this word coming out of the mouth of a Computer Guy, trouble. Every time.
It’s only when you don’t have email that you realise how much you depend on it.
This is what Dawkins looks like:
Which I include just to tell you, in case you are confused.
This, on the other hand, is the new graphics card, which I include because I like it:
It looks like a cross between a helicopter and a bra, both fine inventions.
By the way, please don’t leave any “helpful” comments on this, about what, in your opinion, you think I ought to do about all this, instead of what I am doing. I already know (a) why I am doing what I am doing, (b) why it is ridiculous but why I’m doing it anyway, and (c) what I intend to do about it all to stop similar absurdities in the future. If you agree with me about how annoying this is, that’s okay, but if you have any opinions about any of this that are different from mine, keep them to yourself.
One of my favourite www destinations just now is the Evening Standard website. Presumably because there are other Evening Stardards in the world besides the Evening Standard, the Evening Standard of London, the website of the Evening Standard is called “London News” (even as its website is something different, involving the world “standard").
A lot of this is because, more and more, I love London, and the Evening Standard, not unnaturally, has lots of London stories.
A particularly fine one recently featured this delectable photo:
The young woman is an Evening Standard journalist, Miranda Bryant, and the swimming pool is on floor 52 of the Shard, being one of the amenities offered by the Shangri La hotel.
One of the edges of this swimming pool is right next to the glass wall of the Shard, and I can’t help thinking how great it would be if the glass wall of the Shard were to double up, at this point, as the wall of the swimming pool. Think of the photographs this would provoke. This is why God invented x50 zoom lenses.
An ultrazoom photo I have long wanted to take of the Shard would feature a gorgeous young woman in silhouette, at the top, where the light goes right through the building. But such a woman swimming might be even better, especially if the light could go right through that also.
One of the reasons why architecture is such an influential profession these days (if you are one of the top dogs of the profession – one of the “starchitects") is that the kind of down-the-pecking-order architects and engineers whose job is to contrive things wanted by their bosses or clients, and make these things work properly, can now, it would appear, make absolutely anything work properly. Therefore, the starchitects, the ones who decide how things are going to be and to look, can now make them be and look any way that their starchitectural whims determine. (See, e.g.: Zaha Hadid.) Not so long ago, a swimming pool high up in a skyscraper would be a disaster waiting to happen to everyone foolish enough to situate themselves anywhere below it, and in particular a disaster for any idiot architect silly enough to ordain such a thing. Now, it is just a matter of some starchitect saying “do it”, and it is done.
Which is BrianMicklethwaitDomCom-speak for “my big old home computer is not working”. I am using Dawkins (my little laptop) instead, at home, with a wire from my regular internet external box (?) plugged into the side. But I am not happy about this. I would rather read a book than do this. So, I will, but I promise nothing. I may soon do more blogging from Dawkins. Or, I may not.
Tomorrow, The Guru will be dropping by, and after he has done his thing, all should be well again.
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:
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.
I departed for France on Tuesday August 5th.
My flight from London City Airport to Quimper in Brittany was due for lift off at 11.40am, so I obviously had to leave home at about 9.20am, thereby reaching City Airport as early as I could without having to pay for the journey. (Old Git passes only cut in at 9.30am, or such is my understanding.) We infrequent flyers can’t be too careful. I would far rather wait two hours at an airport while reading a good book than endure any fear of missing my flight at any point on my journey to the airport, still less actually risk missing it.
One way to get to London City Airport would have been to take the District Line to Tower Hill, and then the D(ocklands) L(ight) R(ailway) from then onwards, with just the one (somewhat complicated) change. But my computer said it would be quicker to change twice, first at Westminster from the District Line to the Jubilee Line, and then again at Canning Town to the DLR. The Jubilee Line is quicker than the trundlingly antique District Line and quicker than the relatively new but cautiously robotic DLR, and it may also have realised that both these changes are far easier than the one change from Tower Hill (District) to Tower Gateway (?) (DLR). So, I changed at Westminster, and again at Canning Town.
All of which explains why, when I got to Canning Town, and was awaiting the DLR train on to City Airport, I got to see this:
I couldn’t believe my luck. I hadn’t even left London, yet already I was beholding once-in-a-lifetime wonders! For yes, your eyes do not deceive you. That is a crane, holding a bridge. I love cranes, especially when they are doing something interesting. I love bridges, especially new ones and especially when they are still being built. So you can imagine my delight at observing a bridge being craned into position, by a crane. And all of this presented to me as if by a performer who is determined to communicate to the maximum effect with his audience, assembled on the top deck of Canning Town Tube/DLR station.
On the left there, the first picture I took. On the right, a later picture which shows where the bridge was about to be deposited. There are two bright red bits, the same bright red as the bridge itself, clearly at each end of where the bridge would shortly be.
All of this happened on Tuesday August 5th. A day earlier and it would not have started. A day later and it would have been a fait accompli, with the installed bridge presumably looking exactly as it looks now. Only by being there exactly on August 5th, and only by choosing the exactly correct railway journey combination, was I able to observe this delight.
(Imagine if I had happened to sale past this, on August 14th 1999.)
My week in Brittany had got off to a great start.
Before I start ruminating more convolutedly about my recent stay in France, there is just one more shot that I want to show you from that ASI boat trip.
It’s a photo I took of the guy who was driving the boat, and (I presume) the man who was in command of the boat:
I can find no mention anywhere here of the actual people who command and work on the boats, just lots of stuff about how great the boats are for partying on. So I don’t know the name or rank of this man. But, whoever and whatever he is, I love his look of calm but ever so slightly suspicious watchfulness, with his ever so slightly raised right eyebrow. It’s the face of a man who knows that, mostly, his job is just a job, but that this is a job that just possibly might, were he seriously to neglect his duties, turn very nasty.
Besides which, you never quite know what those people back there partying might get up to, under the influence of all that drink that the other members of the crew are serving them. A boat full of tipsy revellers, even more than a normal boat, needs a sober worker to guide it and to see that all is well, no matter how friendly the waters they are travelling on.
There’s something else about this picture that intrigues me. When I was a kid, wearing short trousers was the essence of being a kid, and graduating to long trousers was the essence of ceasing to be only a kid and starting to grow up. Yet now, more and more indisputably grownup men, doing their indisputably grownup work, wear shorts. Anyone care to speculate about what this means, or about why it is happening?
Yes, I’ve been in France, and now I’m back. Have been for several days actually, but I spent my recent blogging time doing this, which is a photo-decorated ramble on various things I saw in France, or thought I did, for Samizdata.
I really want to get back into the swim of things over there, after a recent dry spell, and was accordingly determined to finish that ramble before I resumed rambling here.
Since this is Friday, here are some French cats.
Cat number one stands outside Vannes town hall:
Cat number two is impressively perched on an impressively high ledge, somewhere or other. Cat number three, the cat of the friends I was staying with, is shown here, not being very impressed with cat number two:
This photo was taken by Tony, to whom thanks, and to whom thanks also for emailing it to me.
Here, on the other hand are two further photos that I did take of cat number three:
No, I don’t know why his right ear is green on the inside. I only noticed this when I got home.
His name is Caesar (sp?), and he actually does answer to that name. It’s not tone of voice, it’s the name, because when I said this to him for the first time, he immediately looked up to see what I had in mind.
There is another cat, Basil, who drops by at the home of Tony et famille from time to time, but he is more shy. He was otherwise engaged, on my last day there which was when I finally decided I wanted to photo the two cats. Caesar showed up, but not Basil. Another time, maybe.
Caesar is now very old, and I may never meet with him again. We got on well.
Blogging here will temporarily cease after this posting, and will resume at or about the middle of next week. I will be back. Have a good week.
Meanwhile, as a visual au revoir, here is another of the many photos I took last night, from that tiny little artificial urban mountain that is Stave Hill:
Through the gasometer in the foreground, we see the Dome of St Paul’s (attended by many cranes), the BT Tower, and on the left, with the spikey bobble on its top, the top of the Monument.
I tried to time my arrival at Stave Hill with the arrival of sunset, but got there far, far too early. So, I waited, and read a book. I hope you agree with me that it was worth the wait.