Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (4): Preparations
6000 on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Darren on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Michael Jennings on Wedding photography (2): Signs
MarkR on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
MNB Achari on Google Nexus 4 photos
MNB Achari on The ups and downs of English
Robert Hale on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Laurence Sheldon on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Bryn Braughton on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Most recent entries
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
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This and that
So, on with the wedding. I’ve done the weather. I’ve done signs. I’ve done weird technological things. Now for some preparations. The signs, the technological things and the preparations all having been snapped while I waited for things to get properly started.
The good thing about signs, technological things and preparations is that they stay still, and are hence rather easier for a photo-dumbo like me to photo. Especially in all that bright sunshine.
But when it comes to preparations, there is also the fact that the work done by those preparing all these preparations deserves recognition, before all those damn people arrive and muck everything up. One of the particularly nice things about this wedding was the way that the help was, as it were, included. The people being paid to help make the wedding all just so were all treated as humans, rather than as invisible wage slaves. They were included, so to speak. Various paid helpers were, for instance, thanked, by the Groom, in his speech. Nice touch that, I think.
Note the big circular greenhouse-like structure featured in photo 1.2 there. Chatting with one of those helpers, I learned that it was the fairly recent addition of this piece of architecture to all the other architecture at this place that really turned it into a great wedding venue, because then they had a nice big space where people could shelter if the weather was not good. The floor, being made with big stone slabs, could get wet without any permanent damage being done. Imagine what it would be like on a rather rainy day, with sunny intervals and scattered showers, with people going out and getting mud all over their shoes, and then coming indoors to avoid the scattered showers. On carpets: nightmare. On stone slabs in a big greenhose, containing big mats to clean your shoes if you wanted to venture onto the carpets: no worries.
But on the day of this wedding, the weather was perfection. It has now reverted to being cold and miserable, which just goes to show that this wedding’s weather luck was better even than it seemed on the day. Not only did this burst of perfect weather follow two months of weather misery; it also preceded more weather misery.
So, photographic possibilities temporarily exhausted, I sat down in the sunshine and read some more of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist, until other people finally started arriving. I have been thinking quite a lot lately, as a particular thing, about the matter of optimism and pessimism.
In the last of those pictures, the “Thank You” is to us guests, for showing up.
Bookshops are doomed, if my behaviour is anything to go by.
I treat them not as shops, but as showrooms. In them, I inspect potential purchases. Then I go home and see what Amazon will charge for anything I see that looks interesting.
A bookshop is not the only place for me to look for books of interest, but it is definitely one such place. The books in bookshops tend to be the more popular titles. This appeals to me for two reasons. First, popular titles tend to be quite good, and are seldom totally bad. Second, popular titles plug me into what the rest of middlebrow England is reading. I thus break out of the libertarian ghetto which I mostly inhabit when internetting. Even if a book is total rubbish, it’s still total rubbish that many are reading, and in that sense worth me reading.
When in bookshops, I used to jot down titles of interest. Now I merely take photos. Digital cameras are not just for taking pictures. They are also for taking notes.
Here are last Sunday evening’s notes, snapped in the big W. H. Smith at Victoria Station:
In each case, click on each picture to get to the Amazon spiel about it.
It may well be that, given Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price offers, one could, in this or that instance, get a better deal for this or that combination of books than one might on Amazon. But Amazon is the way to bet. You occasionally miss out on small savings with Amazon, but you quite often get larger savings, so you end up well ahead. In this case, the big Amazon bargain turned out to be the Bryson book, which cost 1p plus postage (= £2.81). All that is required is a little patience.
The most expensive of these books, even after Amazon had worked its price magic, was the one about 1216. But I still ordered that one. It sounds really interesting.
Great as the impact of Amazon has been on the new books market, I surmise that its impact on the not-so-new book market has been downright epoch-making. (That Bryson book is not so new, having been released in 2011.) Indeed, I surmise that Amazon has created a huge second hand book market where no such market previously existed.
But this too impinges on the bookshop business, because the big cost of books these days is as much reading time as reading money. If people spend time reading somewhat ancient books that they like, they have less time for the latest titles, as sold in bookshops.
A few years back, I got interested in Ian Rankin’s Rebus books. I read one, liked it a lot, and decided to read them all, in order. Why? Because, thanks to Amazon, I could. For a lot less than a fiver a go, I got Amazon to send me second hand copies of every Rebus I didn’t already have. I don’t see how I could have done this satisfactorily without Amazon.
See also: public libraries.
Also, impact of digital photography on trade, discuss. I’m thinking of how much easier it is to sell something to a stranger, by post, if you can cheaply show them a photo, or even several photos. Very cheaply. The marginal cost of digital photography is: zero. Impact of digital photography on trade: epoch-making. With books, you pretty much know what you will get. But, a frock? An item of furniture? Without even a photo, forget it. With photos, you’re in business. Which is more terrible news for shops.
A few days ago I visited Chateau Samizdata. While there, I picked the brain of its Chatelaine on the subject of my Google Nexus 4, because she now has one of these also.
She showed me various useful tricks. In particular she showed me – and helped me to download – an Android app called BUS LONDON, which identifies the bus stops nearest to wherever you are, and tells you what buses are about to arrive at each stop, when, and where they are headed.
BUS LONDON, in other words, provides you with information like this:
That is a photo I took last night at a bus stop near me. I have always, in my pre BUS LONDON life, found such signs to be immensely useful because so very reassuring. A bus to where I want to go will almost certainly be coming, quite soon, is the message I get, and it is most welcome when you consider the alternative. But only some bus stops have these excellent signs. Hence the value of an app like BUS LONDON.
Irritatingly, however, when I was at Chateau Samizdata, BUS LONDON refused to tell me about the bus stop that I was about to use. This is because this bus stop is a bit further away from CS than it might have been, but is worth the short extra walk because of the greater choice of buses that it offers me. This is a stop that buses converge on, so to speak. But once I got near enough to it, BUS LONDON obliged with all the relevant information.
However, when I arrived at the bus stop, which also has an electric sign like the one in the photograph above, this is what I saw:
I stared and stared at this to see if anything further would happen, but nothing did. This is something I have never seen before. Usually these signs either work, almost always, or occasionally do not work and are blank. Never before have I seen a sign behaving like an 80s personal computer, by publicising its problems like this and getting stuck.
Quite a coincidence, I think you will agree. Within about an hour of acquiring BUS LONDON, I encounter a bus stop sign that fails to tell me what is due, but no matter, because I now have BUS LONDON to tell me!
I could not shake the feeling that my Google Nexus 4 had sucked all the information out of the sign, into itself, leaving the sign utterly confused.
If you think the reflections of all this info are not strictly necessary, and that the reflections might have been cropped out, well, true, but I do like reflections.
Here is the reflection of the first sign, the one near me, rotated and reversed to make it easily legible:
Off topic, but I like it. If you think this reflection to be an irrelevance, then I suggest you redo this posting on your blog, with the first two images cropped, the final image omitted, and these last two paragraphs also omitted. What? You can’t be bothered? Suit yourself.
As do I. Suiting myself being what this blog is for.
I greatly enjoyed the documentary about Richard Feynman shown on BBC2 TV last night, having already greatly enjoyed the docu-drama about the Feynman Challenger investigation.
Last night’s documentary contained the following particularly choice piece of dialogue:
“Why is your van covered in Feynman Diagrams?”
“Because we’re the Feynmans.”
There is a picture of the Feynmans, next to their van, which I found here, where the picture is slightly bigger.
Does this van still exist, with all the Feynman Diagrams on it? I hope so.
So anyway, back to that wedding. (Here are (1) and (2).) I’ve started so I’ll finish. All the pictures for all these postings are chosen, arranged, uploaded, ready to go. All that remains is for me to add a bit of waffle.
I should perhaps here explain that I was the first guest to arrive at the wedding, by more than an hour. Hence the number of photos here – the previous posting in this series, this one, and the next one - of things without people. It’s not that I suppose weddings to be better without people, or that I dislike people. Not at all. It is merely that near the start of my day, I suddenly had a lot of time to fill. So, one of the things I did to amuse myself was take photos like these:
Spot the odd one out, the unsentimental, here-and-now, nostalgia-free technology.
Is that what future generations will mostly see of the way we now live?
LATER: That was quick.
The idea being to see if I had to log in again. The idea was that I wouldn’t have to. I didn’t have to.
LATER: Log on as in type in my password again.
Further Google Nexus 4 progress and rumination is reported and ruminated by me here.
This posting is a test, to see if I can post stuff to my blog entirely from my new phone/computer, and it looks as if I can.
No links, no complications. Certainly no picture. Just basic text. It seems to be working. Go.
Had a bit of trouble making the categories I had chosen stick. And touching the screen instead of mousing really takes getting used to. (Will those italics show up? LATER: YES) But, basically it works.
That mobile phones have cameras means that even regular people now always have a camera with them. Already, mobile phone cameras are quite good. Soon, they will be as good as all but the best cameras, to the point where ever more people will be satisfied with their mobile phone cameras, and accordingly won’t want to be bothering with dedicated cameras at all. This transition is already under way, a fact which I regularly track whenever I roam about London snapping (among other delights) my fellow snappers and their snapping machines.
This photographer, for instance, looks like he’s using a “phone”, the inverted commas there being because these things are so much more than phones, to the point where the phoning is almost an afterthought. As Michael Jennings said last night, it really is something of an accident that we just happen to call these things “phones”.
Here is a photo I took with my Google Nexus 4, very soon after I got it, of Randy Barnett (already featured here in this earlier posting - bottom right of the first lot of pictures there), speaking at Freedom Forum 2013:
As you can see, the quality is okay, but only okay. Compare with the zoomed photo (at the link above) of Barnett, and you can easily see the difference that a better camera makes. If the Google Nexus 4 camera has a zoom feature, I have yet to discover it.
As the picture above shows, I (of course) had my regular camera with me at FF2013. But last night I was out and about for a short while, without that camera, only the Google Nexus 4. I was dining at Chateau Samizdata, and collecting Amazon stuff that I have delivered there rather than at my own front door, because at my own front door there have been robberies. So anyway, a recent arrive at CS was a keyboard, for use with the GN4, but although pre-warned that this keyboard would require two AAA batteries to make it go, I had forgotten to bring these with me. So, I nipped out to buy some. Without my regular camera.
Sod’s Law decrees that whenever you are out and about without your camera, interesting things will immediately present themselves to you. And one such interesting thing did, in the form of a sign making use of the double meaning of the word Pole. But, Sod’s Law was held at bay by my GN4, which I did have with me, in my jacket pocket, because keeping the GN4 in my jacket pocket at all times except when I am using it is The Rule. Snap snap, which fortunately I had more or less learned how to do:
The GN4 may not be much good for distance Big Things, and the like, but it is fine for a sign.
And since the sign was the point, even though I do like scaffolding, here is the bit of the picture with the sign:
No computerised trickery there, apart from the cropping. More than somewhat blurry, but entirely legible, the whole point of letters being that they hack their way through exactly such communicational barriers.
I know I keep going on about it, but now I will go on about it some more. Signs make great photos. Signs are extraordinarily evocative of the places where they are displayed. Signs tell you what goes on in a place, or what people want to do or are liable to do by mistake, but/and must not. Wherever the public goes, there are signs, especially nowadays, when you are legally responsible for whatever idiotic thing the public does on your patch, unless you can point at a sign saying don’t do that. So, on that wedding day, I photoed signs.
It was, after all, a sign that told me I was in the right place to start with, see 1.1 below. My favourite is 3.2, the one about swan rescue.
No, forget the swans. My even more favourite one is the one that says: this parking space is only for Registrars, 2.2. This told me that there are a lot of weddings here, and that they are accordingly quite good at doing weddings. So it proved.
A fortnight ago today, I went to a wedding. The weather, just as the weather boffins had been prophesying throughout the previous week, was superb:
Click to get a bit of context.
1.1: The weather outside my front door.
1.2: The weather at Aldermaston Station, near where the wedding was to be, when I stepped out of the train.
1.3: The weather at the venue, when I first got there.
2.1: Ditto, this time with a view from the venue. Different view. Same superb weather.
2.2, 2.3: More water-based picturesqueness. 2.2: A cloud! Scary! The little square from 2.3 is a bit lighter than the others, because the photo (click) was mostly landscape, with only a tiny bit of sky, which caused the Automatic setting on my camera to make the sky lighter. The original version of the little square picture featured those sharp shadows, but I decided to stay abstract.
The Bride and Groom, the Groom especially (what with him being the fretter of that team) had been fretting for the last two months about what the weather would be like. Would it be horribly cold? No bother. As another guest said, they chose the first day of Summer.
I have many more wedding snaps to show you, but am doing them in separate postings which each make a few particular points, rather than as a huge and totally unwieldy posting that nobody, apart from the Groom, would have read. That way, I also get some of these postings done, as opposed to (maybe) none of them. That itself being a point.
Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo. One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise. Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.
I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well. Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:
Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.
Next day, Tony departed for the lunch. Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening. Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is. I feared drunken disruption. Which I would have survived. Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years. But the evening ended very pleasantly.
To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno
And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:
The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under. The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke. I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them. Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.
Do not ask men like this to drink and drive. They just might do it.
As has already been reported here, I have been reading Pride and Prejudice on my Google Nexus 4 ultra-mobile computer-with-phone. And, in Chapter X of this book, I read this:
My highlighted version of that last sentence being:
“As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not attempt to have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”
So, in Jane Austen time, painters “took” pictures.
I thought that was only photographers. There does seem, does there not?, to be something peculiarly apt about a photographer “taking” a picture. After all, you could only “take” a picture with one click of a mechanical button, as I just did of my Google Nexus 4 with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150, if the picture was in some basic sense already there for the taking, in its entirety. “Take” gets across the difference between photoing someone and painting a portrait of them, by which I mean “making” a portrait.
Perhaps this “take” usage, to describe portrait painting, declined when the painters stopped claiming to produce what we now call photographic likenesses, and, under the competitive influence of actual photography, began to “make” pictures of people, the whole point ofand the whole justification of which was that a mere camera could absolutely not “take” such pictures. Such paintings are made, not taken. To accuse a painter of “taking” a picture would be to accuse him of adding nothing.
When I have a longish spell of silence, such as the one that has just ended lasting ten days, my problem is that I keep thinking that another day won’t hurt, and that when I return, I must do so with a big bang, i.e. a brilliantly big or important posting. Which causes the spell of silence to prolong itself even more.
So instead, what I eventually do is just shove up any old thing, such as this photo, this one photo (easily done), which I recently took near the Houses of Parliament:
What I like is that I am so very obviously in it, in the form of my shadow.
This sort of picture explains why it is so very useful for me not to be using a viewfinder, but instead a twiddly screen such as all cameras I ever buy always have. They think I’m just looking at previous pictures, but I’m not. I’m taking my next picture. Of them. And using only one hand, which adds to the impression of me not taking a photo.
You see people taking pictures with smart phones more and more these days.