Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Saturday August 19 2017

Contrasting reportage, imagery and opinions about the age of Concrete Monstrosities:

The notorious work of Richard Seifert

I like a lot of it.

Speculative Surrealism

(Includes drivel about “late capitalism”.  “Late socialism” (e.g. Venezuela) makes much more sense.)

How Brutalism Scarred London

Beautiful Examples Of Brutalist Architecture In London

“Stunning" car park will be demolished to make way for Eric Parry-designed hotel

image

This particular Concrete Monstrosity might have proved more likeable had it been painted lots of different colours.

Friday August 18 2017

At the end of that walk along the river with GodDaughter 2, the one when I took this photo, and these photos, I also took these photos:

imageimageimageimageimage
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This was Surrey Docks Farm.  As you can see in a couple of the above photos (most clearly in 4.3), Surrey Docks Farm has (of course (this is the twenty first century)) its own website.

We were on the path beside the river, getting a bit bored with the sameness of it all, getting a bit tired, knowing that we would soon be done, and then suddenly we found ourselves wandering around in a farm.  There were no humans to be seen, just farm animals.  The sheep in particular seemed really glad to see us, and stayed to have their heads scratched even after it had become clear that we had brought no food with us.

My favourite moment was when one of the sheep at the far end of the enclosure, eating with a bunch of other sheep from a straw feeder, decided to stop doing that and instead to come over and see what the fuss around us was all about.  The determined and confident way in which it did this (see 4.1) reminded me of this cat, as shown in the middle photo of those nine.

I don’t know what they keep in the cow sculpture (4.2).

London is full of weird things like this.  The only way to find them is to get out there, and find them.  “Searching” on the internet doesn’t do it.  What are you supposed to search for, given that you have no idea what it is until you have found it.

Eventually a human showed up, and showed us how to get out.  We’d forgotten how we got in.  Like his animals, he didn’t seem in any way bothered.

Thursday August 17 2017

World’s first autonomous cargo ship to set sail in 2018

This kind of echoes my guess, several years ago now, that robot lorries are a better immediate bet than robot cars, because lorries do lots of quantifiable work to which only slight improvements will make a big difference, and because motorways are highly controlled places.  Ships do lots of quantifiable work, and the sea is also, nowadays (after centuries of it being the ultimate arena of anarchy), a highly controlled place.

And maybe they could make such a ship out of:

Unsinkable aluminum foam

Then there’s this:

NASA’s Next Great X-Plane Will Try to Revolutionize Electric Flight

Although you just know, from that “try to”, that (although you never know (and I actually don’t know at all)) they won’t.  But, they’ll learn lots of little stuff.  Most tech seems to be the gradual accumulation of relatively small improvements, which, when they add them up, as they do from time to time, over time, add up to one of those revolutions.

Such as all the revolutions which are now happening or which are about to happen because: 

Oil and Gas Innovation Goes Well Beyond Fracking

This is an article which quotes gobs from another article which is behind a paywall, which is helpful and frustrating at the same time.  I have no problem with people charging for internet stuff, but there is not a lot of point in linking to it from a blog.

But the basic message is that the plunge in the price of energy that the Americans have recently contrived didn’t just happen because of the Big Thing that is fracking.  It also consisted, and continues to consist, of lots of smaller innovations, of the sort that those electric airplane guys will be finding out while failing to revolutionise electric airplanes, and then passing on to their fellow techies.

Quote:

There are three trends driving the new energy revolution: smarter management of complex systems, more sophisticated data analytics, and automation. The first trend has allowed companies to become much more efficient while drilling for oil and gas in ever more complex geological environments … Simpler, standardized designs make drilling and production platforms easier to replicate, less expensive, and less likely to suffer costly delays and over-runs in construction. […]

Oil companies … have begun to use complex algorithms to analyze massive amounts of data, making it easier for them to find oil and gas and to manage production … The industry has also begun to use data analytics for “predictive maintenance,” reducing unplanned downtime by analyzing historical data to predict equipment failures before they happen. […]

Soon, intelligent automated systems will enable remote drilling, controlled almost entirely by a handful of high-tech workers in onshore data rooms hundreds of miles away … In the future, automation, along with better data analytics, will make it easier to manage the variation in supplies that comes from using renewable sources such as wind and solar energy and more complex, decentralized grids. It can also make the grid more reliable.

That being from the stuff behind the paywall, quoted at the other end of the above link.

Several years ago now, I had a Last Friday talk saying pretty much exactly this.  This talk happened just after the price of energy had halved, but before most of the rest of the world had realised.

There are, as always, a lot or things wrong with the world just now.  But stagnant technology is not one of these things.

Wednesday August 16 2017

Time for another from the I Just Like It directory, although actually I just found it in a regular directory:

image

Photo taken in January of this year.

I know what you’re thinking.  What was I doing driving a train?

I wasn’t driving it.  It’s the DLR.  It was driving itself.

Tuesday August 15 2017

The idea of these O(ld) S(chool) B(logging) posts has been to rid my desktop of open windows, and I have been doing that.  But, perhaps because I have inevitably been opening more windows, my computer is still unpredictably pausing whenever it is asked to switch from one window to another.  So, my technology is letting me down.

But never mind, technology generally is leaping ahead, and here are a few links to stuff about 3D printing.

To start with, a link to an article about how 3D printing really is, now, finally, at last, going to find a use for itself, repetitively-but-with-variations, in the home.  Making toys.  But do kids these days go for Old School toys, that you keep in an Old School toy cupboard?  Surely all the action these days is on computer screens, screens that don’t, like my one at the moment, ever get stuck.  I say: 3D printers won’t make toys in the home, or not in any normal or sane homes.  There was only ever going to be one domestic toy associated with 3D printing, and that toy is the 3D printer itself.  That’s the toy.  For some crazy kid who is so fascinated by 3D printing that he wants to start doing it, and crucially, to start learning about it, now.  But, how much can you really learn about real 3D printing, by mucking about with a piece-of-crap “domestic” 3D printer?  Not a lot, I surmise.

The true impact of 3D printing is not turning out to be disruptive to Old School manufacturing.

The future of 3D Printing for the Supply Chain

3D printing is Quietly Thriving Without Mainstream Adoption

“Mainstream” adoption being people doing their own 3D printing at home.

Manufacturing continues to be done by Old School salaried boffins, working in well-funded projects for Old School manufacturing companies.  Each application is highly specialised, and has to be rigorously checked out to make sure that it works and is economical enough to roll out for real.  3D printing does not disrupt traditional supply chains and sales networks.  It makes use of these things and improves on them, additively, bit by bit, project by project, highly specialised printer by highly specialised printer.  It is additive manufacturing, in other words, in more ways than one.  It adds stuff together to make stuff, instead of sculpting stuff.  And it is itself adding to existing manufacturing arrangements.

All of which is pretty much what I said (or nearly said) in a Samizdata posting entitled 3D printing won’t be domesticated any time soon (but then again how it might), all of five years ago now.

Monday August 14 2017

The titles of these things were getting to be too long-winded.

So yes, the Camden Highline.

Bid to turn disused railway between Camden Town and King’s Cross into elevated ‘Highline’ park

Sadiq Khan throws weight behind Camden highline project

The official website.

Where they hope it will be, just north of the Regent’s Canal:

image

Click on that to get it twice as big, and consequently (if your eyesight is anything like mine) legible.

Those little green circles are cameras.  Presumably this means good places for photography.  If and when they contrive this, I will definitely be checking it out.

Long moderately high platforms, even ones that are not very high, often supply great views, because you can walk along them until the great views appear.

I have not yet read and probably never will read James Damore’s internal memo that went external, about diversity policies within Google, the one that got him fired.  But just in case I do want to read it, here is the full text.

And here is a conversation between James Darmore and Jordan Peterson.  I haven’t watched all this either, but so far Peterson has been doing a lot of the talking.  But the fact that Damore doesn’t mouth off a lot actually reinforces the feeling that he’s a good guy, if somewhat naïve.

Samizdata has also had a lot of Google/Damore posts recently, here, here (lots of good stuff and links to good stuff in that one), here, here, and here.

Damore was naive, in particular, about what will get you fired.  Most people know that if you criticise your bosses and it gets out, they do not like it.  The better you do it and the more it gets out, the more they do not like it.  Damore did it pretty well and it got out a lot.

Normally, I’d say that Google wanting only employees with “googliness”, of whom Damore proved himself not to be one, would be reasonable.  But the trouble is, Google is in the business of making judgements about what opinions should and should not be allowed on the internet, encouraged, discouraged, and so on.  For that job, they need political diversity.  Unless, of course, they’ve decided to ignore the other half of America.

Which might make sense.  That other half of America is, in global terms, a rather unusual bunch of people.  As are the “other halfs” of all other countries.  The “cosmopolitans” of the world, insofar as they really are a single group, are the biggest and, crucially, the richest group of people in the world.  But what if actually, the two halves of America, and the two halves of everywhere else, each have more in common with one another than they do with all the other cosmopolitans?  Stay, as the saying goes, tuned.

My own hunch is that Google ignoring half of America will be bad for business.  I mean, even the cosmopolitan Americans will want, from time to time, to actually pay attention to the other half, to find out about how, for instance, the other half votes and might be persuaded to vote differently.  If Google’s googliness gradually stops helping them do that …?

DuckDuckGo.  I found that here, via here.

For a while now I’ve had the Cricinfo Test Match Records page open, and also the particular page that deals with which test match batsmen have scored the most test match centuries.  But this page also contains some other information which I find even more interesting.  It includes, for instance how many mere fifties (i.e. scores between 50 and 100) each batsman has scored.  It also notes how many test matches each of these century-amassing batsman played in. 

Both of which additional numbers highlight how exceptional Don Bradman was.

About the only unexceptional thing about Bradman is how many test match centuries he scored, compared to all the other great batsmen on the list of top century makers.  The list contains, by my count, 75 names.  Tendulkar is top with 51 centuries.  Bradman comes in at 14th, with 29 centuries.  The bottom 9 on the list all got 15 centuries each.

But Bradman scored far fewer fifties, without getting to a hundred, than did any of his close rivals. The ratios for the top 10 century makers, starting with Tendulkar are: 51 hundreds/68 fifties, 45/58, 41/62, 38/52, 36/63, 34/33 (this is Younis Kahn of Pakistan – the only top century maker in the top 25 other than Bradman to score more centuries than fifties), 34/45, 34/48, 32/50.  The equivalent ratio for Bradman is … 29/13!  That’s right.  Bradman got past fifty 42 times, but on only 13 of these occasions did he then fail to get to a hundred.  You had to stop Bradman early, or the chances were that you weren’t going to stop him at all.

And he wasn’t easy to stop early either, as his hundreds-scored-to-test-matches-played-in ratio reveals.  Bradman played in just 52 tests, so he scored a century in more than half the tests he played in.  52 is the lowest number of tests played by anyone in this entire list of 75 test match greats, with all the other guys towards the top of the list having mostly played well over 100 tests.  Tendulkar, while scoring fewer than twice as many centuries as Bradman, played in 200 tests, almost four times as many tests as Bradman played in.

More Bradmania here.  But, not everyone loved Bradman.  As my Aussie friend Michael Jennings is fond of telling me, Bradman was and remains a rather divisive figure within Australian cricket, as I have been reading in a book called Bradman’s War.  The point being that, unlike many of his cricketing contemporaries, Bradman, who took no part in the real war, treated cricket as war.

Sunday August 13 2017

Luxury ‘thin house’ being built in three-metre gap between London buildings

And here is the picture under that headline:

image

What this story illustrates is that cities are not going to go away, merely because electronic communication is becoming ever easier.  People still crave physical proximity to wherever the action is that they most like.  Given the choice between living in a spacious home in the wrong place to a poky little box cupboard like the above, in the right place, then a lot of people choose the latter.

Besides which, why do I want “a spacious home”?  Then I’d have to look after the bloody thing.  I have a specious home.  It’s called London, and lots of other people look after it for me.

This Old School blogging is turning out a lot like regular blogging.

Although: I promise nothing.

The Plan began in my head as an exercise in cleansing my desktop of open windows, of the sort that are causing my computer to run out of memory, and to go back to behaving like a bad tempered human assistant rather than a new school computer, which is what it is when not overburdened with open windows.  “I thought you wanted me to do X.  Now you want me to focus on Y.  Give me time to change focus.  Or better still, stop doing this.  Grumble grumble.” That is what my computer would be saying, if it was the sort that ever said things.

What I will be doing is plonking down links to things , and then maybe, or maybe not, explaining a single figure percentage of the reason why these links interest me.  I will not say everything I have in mind to say about the things linked to, or indeed anything very substantial, merely something, or nothing.  Then, I will close the windows devoted to these links, and the idea is that the links from here will serve as substitutes for the open windows.  They probably won’t.  When I compile lists, I immediately forget everything on them, and when I do blog postings I immediately move on to something quite different.  So perhaps there will be no August 2017 Old School Blogging (2): This Interesting Little Subject.  But maybe there will.

I have already created another Word(clone) file entitled “August 2017 Old School Blogging (2)”, and have put those very words at the top of it, so as of now, it all looks quite promising.

Saturday August 12 2017

Yesterday, GodDaughter 1’s Dad rang up and said would I like to come with him to see a cricket match between our old school, Marlborough, and its ancient and deadly rival, Rugby, at Lord’s.  It was today.  I said yes.  Here’s a poster I photoed outside the ground that plugged the event: 

image

This fixture used once upon a time to happen every year at Lord’s, but this was a one-off, to celebrate Rugby’s 450th birthday.

It was a great game.  Here, photoed from the electronic scoreboarda, are the scores that each side made:

imageimage

From these two photos alone, your dedicated cricket fan would be able to deduce that this was a fifty overs each way game of embarrassing collapses and big stands, which swung back and forth all day.

I don’t know if they had a Man of the Match award, but if they did, then the two contenders would have been Read and West.  Marlborough were 8 for 3, and then, after a stand, they faltered again, to 110 for 6.  But then Read and West got stuck in and batted right through.  Read’s hitting at the end of the Marlborough innings was amazing.  West also batted superbly, and then his bowling destroyed the Rugby top order, It was Rugby’s turn to look like they were going to be crushed embarrassingly.  But they too then had a big stand, This wasn’t quite enough because just when it needed to carry on to the end, Marlborough managed to put a stop to it.  But it made a great game of it.

This graphic was probably prepared before the game for the scoreboard to show at the end of the game, but it was well deserved:

image

If only I had taken any photos of the action that were half as informative as all this verbal and numerical information.  But when it came to choosing which photos would sum it all up, these seemed the best.  I did take a few photos that weren’t of signage.  I even saw a few Big Things from afar.  So, more about that later, maybe, I promise nothing.

Friday August 11 2017

Indeed:

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I took all these statue photos yesterday, in a walk with GodDaughter 2 that I have already referred to, which started at the Shard (see below), Tower Bridge, and nearby places, and ended … well, quite a way downstream.

As often happens, my favourite photo of this subject was the first one I took.  But I also liked this next one, which neglects what seems to be the usual Big Things of The City background and adds only wall and water:

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The explanation of the rather odd title of this posting is that what we have here is not so much a group of statues as a drama acted out by a group of statues.  Dr Salter (see below) is looking on at his small daughter, and at her cat.  But it is all taking place in his imagination, because the small daughter died tragically young.  It is all very well explained, with more pictures, here.  Follow that link, and you’ll even find a map of exactly where this all is.

The drama gets an extra layer of drama, because the original statue of Dr Salter was stolen, for its value as scrap metal.  I think I preferred the stolen one, but here is the replacement, with the addition of a young man with tattoos:

imageimage

The tattoos on the front of that guy were remarkable, and I regret now not asking him to let me photo them.  I know, I know, creepy.  But if he had said yes, I would have been delighted, and if he had said no that’s creepy, I’d have got over it.

Mrs (Ada) Salter also looks on, and these two headshots of her came out quite well too:

imageimage

While taking these photos, or maybe it was a bit later, I found myself musing aloud to GD2 (with her agreeing) that people seem greatly to prefer statues that are very clearly statues, made out of some sort of monochrome material such as stone or metal, rather than something more realistically coloured, a fact which has, from time to time, puzzled me.  Were the latter procedure to be followed, people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between statues and actual people, and this would freak them out.

A “realistic” painting or photo of a person is actually not realistic at all.  People are complicated in shape.  Paintings and photos are flat.  So, if you encounter a photo or a painting of a person, even if it’s life size, there is no possibility that you will be duped into introducing yourself to it or asking it for directions.  But if you encounter a genuinely realistic 3D statue of a person, only its deeply unnatural stillness would eventually tell you that this is not a real person.  And this would be awkward to be dealing with on a regular basis.

A giant statue of someone, realistically coloured, might be okay.  After all, miniature statues (go into any toy shop or gift shop to see what I mean) already are okay. Just as with a tiny but realistically coloured person statue, you could tell at once that a giant realistically coloured person statue was only a statue rather than a real person.

A giant cat statue, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  People might think: Woooaaarrrrgggghhh!!!  A giant cat!!!  Get me out of here now!

Thursday August 10 2017

This afternoon, I was wandering about in the vicinity of the Shard, in the company of GodDaughter 2.  At a moment when I could not see the Shard, I nevertheless could see this reflected version of it:  Or maybe that should be versions.  It looks vagule like Barcelona Cathedral, with its multiple spires.

image

Unhelpful reflections have been on my mind lately, having tried to take photos from inside the Shard, with its very reflective windows.  This is a reminder that reflections can be fun.

Later GD2 and I walked along the river downstream, on the south side.  And walked, and walked, and walked.  By the time I was home I was exhausted and yet again I am in quota photo mode,

The weather forecast for tomorrow is good, so something similar may happen tomorrow, but I will try to do better.

Wednesday August 09 2017

This evening I attended the 70th birthday party of a school friend, aka GodDaughter 1’s dad. Yes, I am (see below) getting old.  As is he.

The journey from Vauxhall to Surbiton was a horrible, wet mess.  This about sums it up, but also portrays the journey’s one redeeming feature, apart from the fact that I did manage to get there on time:

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At Vauxhall, from which I can usually go direct to Surbiton, they told me instead to go to Waterloo.  Above, we look through the window of my sopping wet train into the newly active what-used-to-be Euroterminal, now back in business.  But the very fact that this terminal is now back in business is all part of the confusion I suffered from, for they are now engaged in lengthening all the other Waterloo platforms, to enable the commuter trains to get longer, so that more people may commute while walking ever longer distances.  But eventually I got a train from Waterloo to Surbiton, and it almost certainly rains harder in India, during the monsoon, than it did while I walked from Surbiton Station to the party.

When at the party I was forbidden from taking photos, and instead had to socialise with all the other people who were there.  Which, to be fair, I did enjoy.  The party had all the good aspects of a funeral, in the form of learning lots of fun things about the centre of all our attention, without said centre being dead.  So, it all turned out rather well.

But I am now very tired and still rather tipsy, and am going to bed.