Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Monday July 24 2017

I often take, and often then display here, photos whose only merit is that they hint at what the proper version of the same photo would look like.  I then allude to some fun facts that even the crappy photo on display does nevertheless manage to show.  So it is in today’s photo.

Yesterday I was making my way to Alton, in Hampshire, by train.  This caused me to stop at Clapham Junction.  So far so routine.  I often change trains at Clapham Junction.  But never before had I been awaiting a train for Alton, and that meant waiting at platform 11, which I don’t believe I have ever done before, because if I had, I would be familiar with this Big Thing alignment:

image

That’s right.  We see there the Spray Can and the Shard there, right next to each other.  Well, we see them if I tell you they’re there, and if you persevere a bit.  The light yesterday was very poor and blurry.

And while we are about it, the above two Big Things are also both aligned with the nearer and not so Big new US Embassy, whose distinctively patterned vertical surface you can also just about make out.

Memo to self: pick a nice day (i.e. a much better day than yesterday), and spend it at Clapham Junction, getting all the views that can be obtained from the London end of each of its many platforms.  Or maybe just a representative selection of them.  Until someone arrests me.

Sunday July 23 2017

Today is the Women’s World Cup Final at Lord’s, mentioned here earlier.  They’re calling it the biggest game in the history of women’s cricket, and they’re not wrong.

So, what does the London weather do?

A dry start for many with some sunny spells. Through the morning scattered showers are likely to develop, locally heavy with a risk of thunder in the afternoon before dying away during the evening.

Could have been worse.  Sounds like (a) they’ll get a game, but (b) it will be a terrible let-down, involving Duckworth and Lewis.  This is the much feared and universally not understood formula for deciding who wins a cricket match, by calculating a revised target in fewer overs for the side batting second, or, later, by guessing who would have won if it hadn’t rained so bloody much and put a stop to everything.

Meanwhile, I’ll be journeying to Newton Valence, in faraway Hampshire, to see GodDaughter 2 in Le Nozzi di Figaro.  This was to have been outdoors, but wisely, it has already been moved into the barn:

The Long Barn is one of the most spacious and exquisite barns in Hampshire. Nestled in the picturesque village of Newton Valence, amidst spectacular rolling countryside, The Long Barn offers breathtaking views from one of the highest points in the South Downs National Park.

But how breathtaking will those views be today?

Let’s hope those sunny spells make their presence felt.

Saturday July 22 2017

So there I was on Westminster Bridge late yesterday afternoon, and I encountered a pair of Real Photographers, taking Real Photos of The Wheel.  I persuaded them to let me take this shot:

image

It was only when I got home that I noticed that strange object on the top of the camera.

Close-up:

image

What is that?

On inspection, it look like a multiple set of spirit levels, so I typed something about “camera spirit level” into Google, and immediate got offered things like this for sale.

This being:

FOTYRIG Hot Shoe Level Three Axis Triple Bubble Spirit Level For Any Standard Hot Shoe Including Canon and Nikon Digital and Film Cameras

Although the one I saw may not be the exact same brand of triple spirit level, this is definitely the kind of gadget I was looking at.

image

Description:

- Quickly and easily adjust your camera angle so that all your photos come out perfectly leveled.
- The three axis levels provide even greater and precise control. It helps you achieve a finer degree of accuracy in capturing the perfect image.
- Used for panoramic photography, photo stitching, architectural photography, and perspective control.
- A must have when shooting with a tripod! Just slide the bubble level in your cameras hot shoe!
- Works with Most of DSLR cameras with a standard hot shoe mount.
- Made of lightweight, clear acrylic.
- Size: 25mm (1") x 25mm (1") x 25mm (1").

Photo and learn.  Blog and learn.

I sympathise about the need for a spirit level when photoing The Wheel.  Unless you are exactly sideways on or exactly in line (so it looks like a tall and thin tower), knowing exactly which direction exactly upwards and exactly sideways are cab be very difficult.  Whatever decision you make can look wrong, and whatever you do feels wrong at the time.

Friday July 21 2017
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.

LATER: The Australian chase began disastrously, and although from three down onwards they never stopped swinging they fell just a bit short, losing by 36.

BBC:

It’s been a thrilling tournament - and with a sold-out Lord’s final to come on Sunday, it’s no exaggeration to say that with the interest from the Indian market, we will be looking at the biggest game in the history of women’s cricket.

For me, the moment when women’s cricket stopped being ridiculous was when they stopped wearing skirts.  Skirts and pads was not a good look.

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:

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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 ...:

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And I recognised that building behind me.

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

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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.