Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Thursday July 20 2017

I like her:

Harmanpreet Kaur lives and swears by her idol Virender Sehwag’s mantra of ‘see ball, hit ball.’ She represents the new-age India women’s cricketer, part of a generation that has been at the center of ad campaigns, endorsements and central contracts. She’s a path-breaker too, having become the first India cricketer - male or female - to sign a Big Bash League contract with Sydney Thunder in Australia. The deal came about on the back of an impressive showing during India’s tour of Australia in January 2016, where she made a 31-ball 46 to script India’s highest-ever T20 chase. In June 2017, she became the first Indian to sign with Surrey Stars in ECB’s Kia Super League.

And I liked her before I got to the bit about her joining Surrey.

Harmanpreet Kaur will be attracting a lot more attention from now on, because today she scored 171 not out off 115 balls against Australia.  See ball hit ball indeed.  Whether India’s 281-4 will be enough to get them to the final of the ladies World Cup remains, at the time of this posting, to be seen.

Already in the final are England, featuring Natalie Sciver (pronounced “Sivver"), scorer of two centuries in the tournament already, also of Surrey, and an early adopter of a new batting shot now named after her, the Natmeg.

Wednesday July 19 2017

The internet has worked out that I am interested in the Samsung S24F356 Full HD 24” LED computer screen, and is bombarding me with adverts for it:

image

Click on that to learn more.

This is an I Told You So posting.

Here is what I said, back in 2014, about Google Glass, when they tried getting some idiot fashist woman involved in trying to selling it to other posturing idiot fashists, and someone called Robyn Vinter said Google Glass would never catch on, because, in her opinion, Google Glass wasn’t cool:

I think that the writer of this piece, Robyn Vinter, makes the very common error of saying that a piece of kit won’t catch on because, in her opinion it is, in a general sort of way, not nice or not good.  I know it’s only a jokey piece, pandering to ignorant prejudice and general technophobia, but it contains a serious and wrong idea about how technology gets established in the wider world.

Technology doesn’t catch on because people like Robyn Vinter think that it’s cool.

Technology or software, or whatever, catches on because it solves a particular problem for a particular group of people, and they start using it.  People like Robyn Vinter then say: ooh, how very uncool you are.  And the people using the thing say: guess what Robyn Vinter, we don’t care what you think, we are finding it extremely useful, to do what we want to do.  If you don’t think we look cool, this is entirely your problem and absolutely not our problem at all.  Gradually other uses for the thing in question accumulate, and quite a few people use it for several different things and get really excited and try to use it for everything, because they now like it so much.  If enough uses are found, then the alleged uncoolness of the thing just gets overwhelmed by people using it, in public, in full view, and to hell with the coolists.  If the coolists still want to write articles about how uncool this thing is, even though thousands of their potential readers are now using it, then they are pushed aside and other writers willing to say that it’s cool after all are told to write that instead.

So the question is: will Google Glass be useful enough?  Basically, it would appear to be a screen that you can use while you are doing something else, to do computer stuff and regular stuff at the same time.  Sounds extremely useful to me, for ... various things that I now know not of.  But I am sure things will turn up that it is very useful for, even essential for.  Work, basically.  Not strutting about in the street.  No.  Getting worthwhile things done, more efficiently, faster.  That kind of thing.  We’ll soon see, anyway.

And now, at Dezeen, I read this, entitled Google Glass resurrected as a tool for hands-on workers:

Following a two-year hiatus, the Google Glass augmented-reality headset has made a comeback, and is being targeted exclusively at businesses.

I told you so.  Google Glass still hasn’t properly caught on yet, but at least Google are now setting about making it catch on in a way that might succeed.  (Perhaps a Google-person even read my 2014 blog posting.)

Work.

Tuesday July 18 2017

Again, nothing much here today, but there is something by me over at Samizdata, entitled ”The overheating Samsung S24F356 – and thoughts about why there are so many complaints about capitalism”.

My quest for a new computer screen, alluded to here some days ago, lasted rather longer than I thought it would.  But at least I got a Samizdata posting out of it all.

I also finally managed to finish and submit a short summary of this talk by Marc Sidwell, which I will inform you of again when it is posted.  This talk happened nearly a year ago.  I personally did not take this long to summarise it, but I did take a few weeks longer than I had hoped.  And, I fear, promised.

Monday July 17 2017

Indeed:

image

Photoed just over a year ago.  In the foreground there: the Millennium Bridge.  Looking towards the City.

Busy day.  All my blogging time spent writing other things.

Sunday July 16 2017

I loved the latest cars when I was a kid, and I still love the latest cars when I was a kid.  I loved theose cars then and I love them still, more and more, as both they and I get older.

Cars like this:

image

Which I photoed late in the afternoon yesterday.  I often visit Lower Marsh late in the afternoon on a Saturday, and once again, the above classic car made realise that yesterday was the third Saturday of this month, the day when the classic cars gather in Lower Marsh, from midday until middle-to-late afternoon.  By the time I was there, this and one other car were the only ones still lingering.  Memo to self, get there at 12 noon next time around.

So if I type in all the third Saturdays of the month for the next few months, helpfully listed here, maybe, on one of these dates, I’ll get there in time to see the real show, instead of just the odd late leaver.

August 19th
September 16th
October 21st
November 18th
December 16th

As I say, there was one other classic car hanging around in Lower Marsh when I got there.

This:

image

The point here being that while this Morris Minor Van is an amazingly well preserved classic vehicle, Pimlico Pumbers is an impeccably modern enterprise.

Like I say, they don’t use this van to do plumbing call outs.  It would appear to be a piece of artistic sponsorship:

We also have an unregistered 1966 Morris Minor LCV with only 67 miles on the clock. We purchased it in 1995 in primer paint and have since restored this classic model to its former glory and it now sports Pimlico’s blue and white livery. We have never taken it on the road to ensure that it stays in its original condition. Ted Connolly, Editor of Classic Van and Pick-up Magazine described this van as a museum piece.

But given that this vehicle does show up at classic car gatherings, I’m guessing this is a pretty good piece of business.

Saturday July 15 2017

I love to photo cranes, and one of the effects involving cranes that I especially love is when a bright beam of sunlight hits the crane and … basically sets it on fire.  Trouble is, when I look at the photos I take of this astonishing effect, it just looks like a bit of crane just standing there, in slightly sunny weather.  What I saw gets completely ignored.  And not just by mistake.  The camera is softwaring out this effect on purpose, because it thinks this is what I want.

imageBut every so often I get lucky, as with this effort, the cranes here being part of the magnificent Waterloo crane cluster, now busily surrounding the dullness that is the venerable, post WW2, just pre-brutalist style, Shell Building with much more dullness, even duller dullness than the Shell Building, by the look of things.  Although, you never know with architecture, and I might end up liking it all very much.

Whenever I see something I really like the look of, I tend to take lots of photos of it, one after another.  But the funny thing is, time and again the first photo is the best photo.  So it was with this photo-session.  There, on the right, is the very first photo I took of this delightful effect, and for once, my camera deigned to notice just what an amazing conflagration of light the sun was blasting onto the crane in question.

Undoubtedly, the dark cloud behind was what was making the difference.

There are some photos which look especially good when very small, and this one seems to me also to fall into that category, hence the thumbnail sized rectangle, above right there.  But, of course, you can click on that thumbnail to get a much bigger picture.

Friday July 14 2017

I spent a frightening proportion of my waking hours last week scouring London for the exact sort of computer screen than I wanted, and sorting out the resulting mess caused by one of the screens that I bought malfunctioning and then its identical replacement malfunctioning in the exact same way.  I may write more about that, but threaten nothing.

My scourings took me all over London.  On Tuesday, having had no success in any of the electronic toy shops of Tottenham Court Road and nearby places, like John Lewis in Oxford Street, I journeyed West, to Peter Jones in Sloane Square.  On my way, I had the latest of many goes at photoing the statue of the young Mozart in Pimlico Square, and this time, I quite liked the result:

image

That’s not a very good likeness of the statue, but I quite like the photo, because of all the rather nicely lit greenery, and even despite that strange object in the tree with wires coming out of it.  Something to do with electrical lighting, I think.  Next time I am there I may check, if I remember.  If you want to know more about the statue, you surely know how to do that, now that you know, if you didn’t already, that it’s there.

Peter Jones having not provided me with a computer screen, and me having then drawn a similar blank at PC World in Kensington High Street, I journeyed on Wednesday to Brixton, where PC World has what turned out to be an impressively large super-store.

On my way there, I wasn’t looking for photo-ops but encountered quite a few, including this one:

image

That’s a bust of Sir Henry Tate, in front of Brixton Library, which he founded and paid for.  Also Streatham Library, apparently.  And yes, Tate also founded a big old Art Gallery right near where I live.

To me, one of the intriguing things about my photo is the strange pattern of greenness (copper oxide?) which only partially covers the bust.  Most of the photos you get if you image google for this thing do their best to minimise this effect.  I made a point of capturing it, because it was what first got my attention.

Thursday July 13 2017

Throughout this week I have occasionally had the BBC tennis coverage from Wimbledon on, mostly silently.  My favourite moments so far have both involved Johanna Konta, but on a happier day for her than today.  (Today she was crushed in straight sets by Venus Williams.)

Here, in contrast, we see Ms Konta striding off the court after defeating her previous opponent in the quarter finals, photoed by someone other than just the BBC:

image

And the next screen capture also involves a smartphone taking pictures of Ms Konta.  Moments later, we observe Konta doing the twenty first century version of an autograph, in the form of a selfie, with a Chelsea Pensioner:

image

I am so used to hiding the facial identity of people on this blog that I did the same for Konta in this screen capture, choosing a moment when the smartphone is covering her face.  And while telling myself that if you dress as ostentatiously as that Chelsea pensioner, you don’t get anonymity, or not here.

Oddly, when I did those screen captures, I move the mouse out of the picture, and the stuff at the bottom of the picture, showing the yellow line slowly working its way across the screen, disappeared.  But then it reappeared in the screen captures.

Which is why I show the version of this next bit of BBC coverage in the form of the photo I took of my TV rather than the screen capture of this image.  That latter would have been useless.  Yes, its the view of the Big Things of London, as seen from high up above the Centre Court:

image

Click to get the entire screen.

This primitively twentieth century way of capturing a TV image proved quite successful.  It compared favourably, for instance, with this picture ...:

image

Which I found here, on Flickr.  Click on that link for the original, but I think you will agree that this guy’s photo is actually not as clear the one I concocted with my camera.  It’s the weather.  When he took his photo, it was gloomy.  When the BBC did the Big Things shot that I photoed, the weather was a lot brighter.

Johanna Konta was born of Hungarian parents in Australia and then raised in Australia.  But, what with her family having moved here more recently, and her having got to the semi-finals, she is now British.  Andy Murray, on the other hand, is back to being Scottish.

Wednesday July 12 2017

Everything involving computers is easy if you know how to do it and you do it often.  Everything involving computers is hard, if you only want to do it very occasionally, and if you don’t know (or don’t remember (which comes to the same thing)) how to do it.  Words like “intuitive” and “user friendly” are thrown about a lot when people like me say things like this, but they are bullshit.  It’s either very easy, or nearly impossible.  “User friendly” just means being presented with an incomprehensible lump of informational overload, in prettier letters and prettier colours and more prettily designed.

Why are computer things hard?  It is because computers can do so many things.  This means that whenever you are trying to persuade your particular computer to do something in particular, that it doesn’t usually do, you have to thread your way through a multi-page questionnaire, in the course of which you tell it: no, I don’t what that, or that, or that.  I want this.  And at any point in this Q&A obstacle course, you may find yourself confronted by a page of things to pick from none of which seem to have anything to do with what you are trying to tell the damn computer to do.

In the Army, I believe, they used to (and perhaps still do) call this: dumb insolence.  Dumb insolence is the offence of taking every word in the orders you have been given with extreme literalness and just waiting, dumbly insolent, to be given different orders, and meanwhile carrying on with what you had been dumbly and insolently doing, even though you know (because of the shouting) that this is not what is really wanted.  You shout at the computer to just use a bit of common sense.  I want this, you moronic machine.  Nothing.  Just the same old screen, and if you click on any of it, you get another page of irrelevance, or perhaps the right page but the exact same dilemma.  None of it seems to have anything to do with what you want it to do.

The fact that the more computers can do, the more there need to be people around who know how to tell the computers to do whatever very particular thing is actually required, rather than all the other things that the computer is now capable of doing, bodes extremely well for the employability of humans in the months and years and decades to come.  But meanwhile, if you happen not to know how to get the computer to do what you want, you can only hope and pray that at some future moment, the answer will drop into your lap.  Someone will tell you.  Your computer will suddenly, out of the blue, volunteer something relevant.  Or, it has been so volunteering all along, but because of all the other garbage it was also volunteering, you didn’t notice, but then, miraculously, you do notice, and bingo.

What brought all this on?  Well, my computer recently had some attention from the Guru and also some upgrades, and in among all this the computer changed its way of opening photos, which for me is a big deal.  I open a lot of photos from my archives, in fact I do this every time I am doing a quota photo posting, which is a lot, and when I do this I am usually in a hurry.  So, just when I really don’t need my computer to be misbehaving, it has been misbehaving.  The problem has been that instead of using “Windows Photo Viewer” to show me a photo that I click on, it instead decided to use something called “Photos”.  Quite different and lacking one crucial ability, which is the ability to take me from a photo up on my screen in “Photos” to the directory the photo is in.  “Windows Photo Viewer” can do this.  “Photos” can’t, or not in any way I know how to make it do that isn’t immensely complicated, every time.

How to correct this?  For about a week I couldn’t.  The internet, as so often, was no help at all.  It said that this was easy if blah blah, but if blah blah blah bah, then contriving the answer I wanted was really difficult and involved blah blah blah blah blahdy blah blah blahdy blah.  If you get my meaning.  (Which turned out not only to be incomprehensible, but also wrong.  See next paragraph.)

And then, the answer dropped into my lap.  I saw a page I didn’t recall seeing, with a question that I hadn’t noticed before.  I was allowed the option of opening a photo “with” a different programme.  But then crucially, I was also presented, in a way that I either hadn’t been shown before or that I hadn’t noticed before, with the option to put a tick in a box saying: always open the photo with this progranne that you have just chosen to switch to.  Problem solved.  My computer now opens photos, just as it always did, with Windows Photo Viewer, unless otherwise instructed.  Which I now know how to do, but will soon forget.  Which won’t matter.

The idea that computers are getting steadily more “smart” is a half truth.  Yes, they can do steadily more and more with each passing year.  But the more they know how to do, the stupider they get at actually doing it for you.

And oh look.  Just before posting the above, I was checking out an SD card that I used in my camera today, having forgotten to put my regular SD card back in it.  And this irregular SD card turned out to have a bunch of photos on it that I took in the summer of 2014, in France.  And it turns out that the French also have something that sounds to me a lot like Dumb Insolence, although I think it’s more like “polite rudeness” than that in your face deadpan British sneer.  You decide:

image

Whatever the exact translation, I bet this “douce insolence” is how French personal computers behave, when you a trying to make them do something new, and they just won’t be told.

For some reason, that was on the front window of a shop, called “Agatha”, in the Rue Gustave Thomas de Closmadeuc, in the town of Vannes, on the south coast of Brittany. A perfume perhaps?

Tuesday July 11 2017

Having been scouring London, so far without success, for the exact sort of computer screen that I now know I want, I have not had any spare brain space to take photos.  So, in search of something to stick up here this evening without taking up too much of your time by making your read lots of stuff (or having you decide not to read lots of stuff), I went looking in the archives.

And found this:

image

Which I like.  It’s the bright colours, in contrast to the greyness of the background, I think, partly.

Where was I when I took that?  I was in Oxford Street.  I know this because I took a closer look and one of my reflections ...:

image

And I recognised that building behind me.

Here is a photo of it that I took more recently:

image

And behind it is Centre Point, which is at the top end of Oxford Street, and that is where the original sunglasses photo was taken.

I don’t care if buildings are rather silly.  I do care that they are recognisable.  I really like recognisable.

I have a vague recollection of noticing this building when it was under construction, and tracking it down, together with a picture of what it was then merely going to look like.  But I don’t have time for that now.

Monday July 10 2017

Wandering along the Strand towards Embankment Tube, after Turandot had finished, I spied this sign on the inside of a shop window:

image

I had not realised that there are now David Bowie stamps.  Apparently so.  Ten in all.  The ones above, and six more featuring LP covers.

You know what they mean, but the phrase “DAVID BOWIE LIVE” seems rather ... jarring.  What got Bowie onto these stamps now rather than any sooner, was that instead of being live, he is now dead.  Only dead people, or royals, can be on stamps, right?

Not quite.  If you were an England cricketer playing in the 2005 Ashes that England won, you might also have become an honorary royal:

image

Scroll down here, for that picture, together with some rather sneering and very Australian references to Britain’s alleged lack of sporting prowess, which (says the Australian sneerer) explains why so many went crazy when those Ashes were won.  And why the Post Office also went crazy and broke its own rule of us only being allowed, on stamps, to see dead people.

Sunday July 09 2017

One of the things personal blogs are for is blowing off steam about this or that petty unhappiness that life has just thrown at the blogger.  Today, that is what this blog is going to be for.  As for you, what could be more amusing than reading about the misfortunes of others, in this case me? Other people’s misfortunes are the stuff of comedy, even if they aren’t actually that funny.

So yesterday I dragged myself through London’s current wave of tropical heat-haze weather to PC World Tottenham Court Road and picked out a new computer screen.  You ask: Why not buy via the internet?  Answer: So if it goes wrong, I can take it back.  It has gone wrong.  It’s fine in every way, except on the right of the screen it overheats something awful.  Clearly something bad is going on in there, which only stops when I unplug it.  (For some idiot reason it doesn’t seem to have an on/off switch, or not that I can detect.) So today, I will have to take it back, through the same heat-haze.

I will get my money back.  I’ll have no trouble convincing them it’s not right.  All that will have to happen is for it to be plugged in.  What I won’t get back is the time and grief and sweat and misery of taking it back.

I plan to keep the free HDMI cable that came with it.  That will be some compensation.  I’m guessing that when something like this happens, they don’t try to reassemble the complete package of things I bought, screen plus all the extras, because mending the screen would be a colossal waste of time and money.  They will just write the whole thing off and dump everything, perhaps dishing any useful extras out to the staff.  So if I hang on to an extra, they won’t care.  This won’t fully compensate me, but it will be something.

I wonder: Do they have a system which might enable me to dump all those useless screens I have accumulated?  (Follow the link above (or more conveniently, scroll down to the posting before last)).  That would be very helpful.

This probably hasn’t been miserable enough for your taste.  Too much emphasis on what I can successfully rescue from this very minor mess.  Too little in the way of accumulating catastrophe climaxing in a genuinely major mess.  Blogger has problem.  Blogger sorts problem as best blogger can.  Not really comedy gold, I realise that now.  When a blogger uses a blog to cheer himself up and actually accomplishes that, it stops being so funny.

So now you is the one who is rather miserable, and I is the one who is laughing.  Oh dear.  How sad. Never mind.

Saturday July 08 2017

No, not London Big Things, very near to each other.  This time it’s sport.

I did not see this coming:

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It seemed to me that a whole lot too much fuss was being made about the Lions just managing to defeat the All Blacks last weekend.  The All Blacks spent more than half of that game with only fourteen men, so why was it such a big deal when the Lions sneaked a very narrow win, thereby levelling things after the thrashing they were handed in the first game?  I thought the All Blacks would storm back in the final game and blow the Lions away.

But it didn’t happen.  It ended with both the final game and the series drawn, hence the above picture.  Usually the winning team struts its stuff, while the losers crawl back to their dressing room.  This time, at the end, the two sets of drawers intermingled.  It made for a great picture.

Last night’s 20 overs each way county cricket games threw up some other very close things.

Surrey just won against Essex, in a constantly fluctuating game that was in doubt until the very last ball.  When Ravi Bopara hit Surrey’s (usually) Mr Dependable, Jade Dernbach, for consecutive sixes in the penultimate over, it looked like Essex, who had seemed to be falling behind, would nevertheless win it.  But then Tom Curran got Bopara with the second ball of the final over, and that, although still with further fluctuations, just turned it Surrey’s way.

It isn’t so very long ago that people used to moan that 20-20 cricket games couldn’t ever, by their very nature, fluctuate.  If one side got ahead, the other side would do desperate things to get back into it that they normally wouldn’t do.  They would inevitably fail, and that would be that, with the result obvious long before the end.  Sometimes it is like that.  But in this game, Surrey began well, with a violent slog from Aaron Finch.  Then they lost lots of wickets and looked out of it.  But then they ended their innings with some more very good batting, by Sibley.  And so it went on, right up to the end.

Meanwhile, the other county team of interest to me, Middlesex, playing against Gloucester, managed to contrive a tie.  That fluctuated a lot also.

Rugby doesn’t interrupt my life much.  (With this Lions tour, it was, for me, mostly a matter of me saying, around lunchtime on Saturday: ooh, I wonder how the Lions did.) But the way things are going now, cricket, because even the shortest games last quite a while, and because there are a lot of games, is going to be a big part of the reason I will soon die in total rather than modified obscurity.

Friday July 07 2017

As you get old you have to get used to chucking things out, things that get ever more elaborate, and, you would think, worth more and more.  But actually, they are pure useless junk.  The trouble involved in mending them, thereby turning them into unreliable and out-of-date versions of whatever thing they are, is not worth the trouble.  Buy a new one.

Computer screens, for instance.  Here are three that I now, still, possess, of three different, gradually-receding-into-techno-history vintages.  But it would make as much sense to say that they now possess me.  None of these three screens works.  They pay no rent.  They live in my home, for nothing.  I plan to evict them, real soon now.  There’s a Westminster Council number I can ring, or so I seem to recall, when last I cleared out all my obsolete junk electronic toys:

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Nobody wants a second-hand computer screen, even if for you it still works.  Why are you getting rid of it?  Maybe you suspect that it is about to stop working.  Even the suggesting of this drains the thing of all value to anyone else.  If it doesn’t even work for you, it is useless times about five.

Put it this way.  I am about to buy a new screen.  I am not going to buy a second-hand one.  A second-hand screen would be overpriced at zero.  I want a brand new one, a truly nice one, with a warranty which will tell me how much use I can reasonably hope to get from it before it conks out and joins the parade of uselessness pictured above.

Would you like to pop round to the BMdotcom home and take one of these screens away with you?  Of course you wouldn’t.