When rain looks like snow

Some days ago, on a day when the weather was undecided about whether to be sunny weather or rainy weather, and was switching between both, I caught site of a roof near to my home. Later, I could not decide which of the four photos I took to show here, so here are all of them:

As to why I show them, well, see my title, above.

Usually; you want your camera to show what is really going on. But this time, I enjoy its confusion. If I did not tell you that this was wetness on those tiles, reflecting the sun, you would surely reckon that whiteness to be snow, or frost.

The human eye knows what it sees, so at the time I knew at once what this was. My camera merely saw what it saw.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

There is no such thing as user friendliness

Today, I connected my camera to someone else’s Mac. But clicking through the photos on my camera proved impossible, the way I find this to be trivially easy on my clunky old PC with clunky old Windows. We could not make this work. Which just goes to prove that ancient computer truth. There is no such thing as “user friendliness”. There is only what you know how to make a computer do, which is trivially easy, and what you do not know how to make a computer do, which is impossible.

See you tomorrow. Maybe only as briefly as this. Or maybe not see you tomorrow at all.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Possible blogging interruptions

Because of how my life is going to be for the next week or so, there may be interruptions to the daily stream of blog postings here, daily in the sense of being something every day however trifling or banal, and daily in the sense also of me doing something before every bed time.There may even be no postings at all, for the next clutch of days.

This particular blog posting is being done before bed time tomorrow evening, and also before bed time this evening. But after midnight, which means it can either be backdated to today or left to date itself as tomorrow, the latter option being the one I select now. All of which is within the rules I choose to go by.

But, be warned. Maybe there won’t be any interruptions. We shall see.

Meanwhile here is a rather randomly selected photo, taken last summer, of the old version of New Scotland Yard in the process of being deconstructed …:

… to make way for this. So far, this (see previous sentence) has yet to become visible. It has yet to show, as they say of pregnant ladies.

In a perfect world, the traffic light in my photo would have displayed a number, denoting the number of seconds that will elapse before the light turns red. But this is not a perfect world, as you have surely noticed on the basis of similar – maybe worse – circumstances that in your life you have experienced. The traffic light had already turned red.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Personalised cat flaps

And by personalised, I mean personalised for your cat.

This evening I had a Last Friday meeting at my home, and during it, I learned about a cat phenomenon that suits my Friday Cats and Other Creatures blogging habit.

It seems, or so I was told by one of my lady guests, that a recent invention is that a cat can have a chip on its shoulder – as in: electronic chip – which means that it can get in through the cat flap in the door to your house, but no other cat can do this. For all other – chipless – cats, the cat flap refuses to flap.

This deals with the habit that cats have of following each other into their various “homes”. Apparently, cat flaps of the more primitive sort have been allowing passing stranger cats to take occupation in your home when you are gone. And your cat can’t stop them, if it is not a dominant sort of cat compared to the invading cat. If your cat is not dominant, your house can become a house for all his dominant acquaintances. Scary for you, and even scarier, I presume, for your cat. But now, your can avoid all this grief, because if you have one of these new style cat flaps, only your cat can get into your house. Your house becomes his safe haven.

Presumably what my lady guest was talking about was something like this:

SureFlap cat flap with microchip identification is made of plastic material. All cats can go out, but only cats with corresponding microchip can come in again. …

When you think of it this way, cat flaps must have made quite a big difference to the lives of cats, good for some and bad for others. And these personalised cat flaps are another big change.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Sign with socks

I like this, which I photoed this afternoon in my local laundrette:

I like the photo it makes, and I like the thing itself. What I think I like about the thing itself is that it suggests to me that someone is putting an effort into this laundrette, like they care about it and intend for it to stick around. In recent years, this places has seemed temporary, uncared for, intended for closure. The above sign with socks suggests to me that the laundrette won’t be closing any time very soon. Which I am very glad about.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Talking with – and without – a microphone

I like doing podcasts, and have recently resumed doing this. The difference between these and earlier efforts is that I am not making the mistake of trying to be the interviewer, a role which I have learned, the hard way, that I am utterly unsuited to.

I do not, however, like doing podcasts because I assume that I will reach a huge audience with my brilliant insights and opinions. Rather is it that I deepen my friendships with the people I share the microphone with. The first is a mere outside chance. The second is pretty much guaranteed to happen.

Although neither I nor any of the other people whom I podcast with assumes that we will reach a huge audience, we know that we probably will reach some sort of audience, probably very tiny, of friends and acquaintances and general passers-by, and that means that we had better say things we have thought about and which we mean and which are worth saying. We need to be at our conversational best, just in case.

Compare that with two or three of us just chatting in a pub or an eatery or in one of our homes, but with no microphone on. The level of conversational intensity, so to speak, is, in those circumstances, far lower.

Almost all of my renewed podcasting activity has been with Patrick Crozier. I recall with particular pleasure the first of these recent efforts that we did about World War 1. Who else has listened in? I have no idea. But I listened. He listened. I can listen again, and I have, more than once, because so many interesting things, I think, got talked about.

More recently, I took part in a group podcast on the subject of freedom of speech, alongside Jordan Lee, Bruno Nardi and Tamiris Loureiro. On that occasion I can be sure that others were listening, because there was a room semi-full of people, listening, right there, in the Two Chairmen, where Libertarian Home meetings now all seem to happen.

The microphone that Bruno placed in our midst was distinguished by its size and its striking appearance. I photoed it:

That photo, for me, illustrates the bigness of the difference that a microphone makes to a conversation. Jordan, Bruno and Tamiris are all slightly better friends of mine now than they would have been if we’d not done this.

Why then, do I not switch on a microphone during my Last Friday of the Month meetings? Maybe I will start doing this. But for now, I believe that a roomful of people, assembled to hear a particular person speak on a particular subject, achieves that same heightened level of attention and conversational concentration that a microphone achieves for a smaller group of people who are talking amongst themselves.

It is also helpful for speakers to be absolutely sure that their talks won’t go straight to the www, and that means that they can confidently take an early shot at a new subject, with all the errors, hesitations and confusions that might occur. Ideas need to be nurtured and shaped and polished, and that is far easier to do if such early efforts are not being bugged.

This Friday, I have another of my Last Friday meetings. Dominic Frisby will be doing an early dry-run version of his Financial Game Show, which will be having a run of performances for real at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. I’m pretty sure that me threatening to switch on a microphone during this out-of-town preliminary try-out version, so to speak, would have been a deal-breaker.

There’ll be another early version for this show at the King’s Head, Crouch End, on May 22nd. I attended the very first outing of it at the same venue last Monday, and I can report that I and the rest of the small crowd had a lot of fun. As Frisby reports at the bottom of this piece in MoneyWeek:

We had fun. My MoneyWeek colleague, Ben Judge, turned out to be the winner, prompting many in the audience to make accusations of an inside job.

Yes. This was a pity, because actually what came across rather well was how imperfect the knowledge of financial experts often is, and how other people, with direct experience of whatever it is, often know more than them.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Two adverts for the Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts

I’d never heard of it, until, yesterday, at a bus stop near near Finsbury Park tube station, I observed, and photoed, this:

This advert didn’t impress me. I actually laughed. The Pauline Quirke Academy. Give over. You’re ‘avin’ a laugh. I did anyway.

Later, I saw the same advert in the tube:

This did impress me.

I think it was that the back of a bus is a tacky advertising spot, used by tacky enterprises that you have never heard of and will never hear of again. Ergo, the PQA must be tacky and will soon disappear. The tube is not such a tacky spot to advertise. Ergo, the PQA is not so tacky after all.

I wish the PQA every success. PQA website.

Pauline Quirke is best known to me for doing this. And to most others, if the internet is anything to go by.

Might someone else who saw both adverts have been more impressed by the bus advert than by the tube advert?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Excellent airplane photo

I love this:

Not because of the flowers. Because of the airplane. Well, the flowers and the airplane.

It was taken by the same lady as did that outstanding selfie, that I reposted here on Saturday.

I didn’t find the above photo by looking for more photos by her on purpose. It just turned up on my twitter feed and I liked it, before I even knew who did it.

If cropped like that, well cropped. If taken like that, then even better taken.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The centre of London from Alexandra Palace ten years ago

Yes, ten years ago to the day. April 23rd, 2008:

Memo to self: Go again to Alexandra Palace, and try to photo the exact same view, to illustrate what has changed.

No Cheesegrater. The Gherkin stands in something resembling splendid isolation.

No Shard. Just to the right of middle tower of the three dark Barbican (I think) towers on the right, we see Guy’s Hospital, in warmly lit concrete. The Shard is now right next to that.

That’s just for starters. Those are the two biggest changes. But there’d surely be others. The Gherkin is now almost surrounded by huge stuff.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Super selfie taken on a sky slope

I reckon that, if there were some kind of competition for selfie photography, this selfie would, if entered, be a definite contender for a medal spot:

I am fond of arguing that you should judge a new technology or communicational device or software application, not by its merely average, everyday uses, but by its most significant uses. So long as the average uses do no great harm, then if the highly significant uses are very good, that’s proof of the extreme goodness of the thing. Don’t judge telephones only by all the silly but harmless chitchat they transmit, judge them by those life-saving 999 calls. Don’t judge Skype by people just gibbering at random even though there’s no big problem with that, judge it in particular by how it connects people with relatives who are dying on the other side of the world. Judge it when doctors use it to do long-distance and life-saving diagnoses, or when an absent father, working abroad, is able to keep in touch with his kids back home.

The same applies to selfies. Most of them don’t do any harm, even if they aren’t great works of art. But some are terrific. See above.

As you can see very clearly, this one was taken with a mobile phone. Look closely, and you’ll see that there is a perfect shadow of the photoer, just to the right of the mobile phone.

Found it here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog