Closing scenes

Today I paid a visit to Michael Jennings, so that he could help me keep my mobile phone going, and so I could talk about a couple of blog improvements of the sort I’d like if they are doable. Our business concluded, we walked to a nearby pub, had a drink, and then continued walking through Bermondsey in the direction of the Shard, the City, and generally in the direction I had in mind to go on my way back home. We went our separate ways in Bermondsey. But such was the weather that rather than seek public transport, I continued walking, along the river and all the way to the Hungerford footbridges and Embankment tube station.

Not surprisingly, when I got home I was no state to do any elaborate blogging.

Instead, a few photos taken towards the end of my odyssey:

First, a view of the Wheel with an outcrop of the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the foreground.

In the second, we see a guy doing a video while skateboarding, under the QE Hall. What my photo doesn’t show is how fast he was going. How fast was that? Fast.

Finally, a couple of crowd scenes, photoed from the downstream Hungerford footbridge, of a crowd of people in a boat, and then of a crowd of boats, with a crowd of Big Things behind.

That’ll have to do for today.

On how my meetings work

I photoed these photos of my front room last night and today. Last night on the left, during my latest Last Friday of the Month meeting (at which My Friend The Professor (Tim Evans) spoke about Russia), and today, on the right, after I had begun tidying up (but still had a way to go):

I have a theory about these meetings and how they work, which I would like to share with myself. If you want to read along with me, feel free.

A major reason I keep on with my meetings is that they strengthen, or so I believe, relationships between those who attend. They do this by being small. My front room is small, and only a small number of people can fit into it. This means that there is a lot less of that “wandering eye” temptation, as you talk with one person but simultaneously wonder if there are others present more worthy of your attention. In a small meeting, you are basically stuck with who you are with. So, you get stuck into a proper conversation. At a big meeting, a proper conversation with a randomly selected person present would be very good. But, instead, you tend to “circulate”. At my meetings, there is not a lot of circulating to be done.

When my meetings have a popular speaker who attracts a somewhat larger crowd than usual, as happened last night when around twenty people showed up, another influence cuts in, which is that it becomes very hard to move. You can’t circulate, because there is no spare room to do it in. So, it’s the same thing again. Your best bet is to have a serious conversation with whoever you are sat down next to.

It may be I have overstated the above effect somewhat. But I do think that something like this does happen.

All meetings have their own peculiar atmospheres and dynamics. No particular sort of meeting suits everyone. My meetings seem to attract two types of people. There are the regulars, who simply like them and keep on coming. And, there are those who are busy making connections in the London libertarian scene, having only recently joined it.

There is another influence at work which is also quite significant, which has the effect of stopping a certain sort of person attending very frequently, but I’ll get to that in another posting. Tomorrow maybe? Some time soon, I hope, before I forget.

Swiss cat ladders

An amusing book. Not a book I’d buy, but a book I am glad to learn about:

Switzerland-based graphic designer and writer Brigitte Schuster chronicles the unique phenomenon of outdoor cat ladders in her forthcoming book, Swiss Cat Ladders. Focusing on examples in the city of Bern, Switzerland, Schuster shows how humans facilitate the comings and goings of their feline friends with a wide variety of exterior climbing structures affixed to residential buildings. Ranging from a sleek helix-type structure that’s available readymade, to more homegrown configurations that enlist tree stumps and mailboxes, the presented cat ladders allow these innately independent animals to come and go as they please. Some ladders give freedom to cats who reside on the upper stories of multi-family buildings, whereas others appear to be more suited for indulging a cat’s desire to climb.

The photo-forward book, which is bilingual in English and German, also includes diagrams and explorations of the broader cultural meaning of the ladders. …

That broader cultural meaning being – I could be wrong, I’m only guessing – that capitalism is bad and should be replaced by something that will cause everyone to starve and will cause all the cats to be eaten.

Don’t want to end on a grumpy note. I like the actual Swiss cat ladders very much.

Pakistan parallels

Incoming from Michael J:

This is amusing.

Backing England in this World Cup, as I am, being English, I must get my World Cup entertainment where I can.

Pakistan are playing NZ today, and they made a great start, getting four early wickets, and then the key wicket of Kane Williamson, making it NZ 83-5. So, Pakistan are on course to win this World Cup. But NZ are now 150-5 and by no means out of it just yet.

I often like to do my sport blogging during games and during tournaments rather than when everything has finished, because it’s the middles of games and the middles of tournaments that you tend to forget. Yet they are fascinating at the time. Or in the case of England just now, excruciating.

LATER: And the parallels continue parallel. “?” turns to “WON”. The “Pakistan are playing NZ today” link (see above) turns to “Pakistan beat NZ”.

Singapore architecture

Recently I have become included in the Libertarian Boys Curry Night gang. I know them all. I just hadn’t been having curries (or in my case biryanis) with them every now and again, until rather recently.

During the latest such Curry Night (at an Indian Diner near to me (which turned out to be a good choice (I had a biryani))), one of the Boys showed me some photos of Singapore he’d taken with his mobile, of that huge thing that looks like a set of cricket stumps, for a game of cricket played in hell and painted by Bruegel.

I said, send me one of those, and he did, twice:

I show these photos here, because whatever you think of this Thing, it is certainly of architectural interest, in a misshapen and off-putting sort of way (or so I think).

But more, I show these photos because they actually are rather informative, especially the one on the left. That one especially shows context, in the form of nearby places and other nearby buildings. In general, you get a feel for what sort of place Singapore is.

In Real Photographer photos, you get buildings like this looking super-cool and super-glamorous, in other words not how they actually look like when you get there.

I’ve said it before and will say it again now. Real Photographers photo photos that are super-nice. Amateur photoers often photo photos which tell you more about what a place is actually like. So it is, I think, with these photos that my mate Tom took.

My low opinion of this Cricket Stumps Thing is perhaps shared by whoever compiled this list of 10 Super Cool Buildings in Singapore You Might Not Have Noticed Before, because The Stumps are not included. That’s because you’ve probably already noticed them, rather than because it’s ugly. But the implied point of the list is: we have other and cooler buildings, besides and unlike The Stumps.

One of the Cool Buildings in this list is something called the “Interlace” Apartments, which is that pile of blocks of flats, all rectangular and each very boring, but piled up like a child’s set of big wooden bricks, all at angles to each other. There’s a photo of this Pile of Bricks in the list, of course. But I prefer this aerial photo of it, that I found elsewhere, and which I’d not seen before:

Once again, you get context. So I’m guessing: photoed from an airplane by an amateur photoer.

Tom’s photos of The Stumps were not photoed from an airplane, but rather from a nearby building. You can tell this because both were photoed from the exact same spot, but the clouds are different. Ergo, he was still when he photoed them.

Now thrive the scaffolders: Amélie-les-Bains

Giving old buildings a facelift and a refurbishment is huge business these days. But long gone are the days when workers getting killed on a job was, although regrettable, not that bad for business. Having workers fall off buildings while working on them is now a habit that will bankrupt you.

Result: scaffolding. A lot of scaffolding. Big stepladders, just shoved up against the side of the building are just not safe enough, any more. It’s like you need another whole building, from which to work on the original building:

That is some scaffolding that I encountered in the south of France last April, in a place (see above) called Amélie-les-Bains.

The better the light, the more fun you get with the shadows that scaffolding causes. And the light in that part of the world is, when it shines the way it shone that day in that place, world class.

Black and white Mini (with a black and white Union Jack)

I say “Mini”. One of the signs of getting old is that you find yourself putting sneer quotes around things that younger people think are real but which you think are fake:

That’s not a Mini. The Minis in this are Minis.

But the above Mini has something going for it, I think. Not only is the entire car black and white when you’d be expecting colours. So too is the wing mirror with the Union Jack on it. That is also black and white. The effect is to turn the entire car into looking like it’s all coloured – red, white and blue, as likely as not – but then Photoshopped to look like a black and white photo of itself.

Photoed by me earlier today. No editorial messing about. Those are exactly the photos that came out of my camera just now.

Drones are expendable

This, from Tim Newman, concerning Trump’s threatened-but-then-not-done (or not yet done) retaliatory war against the Iranians, in response to them shooting down an American drone, strikes me as very sensible:

… Now one of the advantages of using unmanned drones is that shooting one down does not require the same response as if a pilot has been killed or captured. That’s the whole point of using them: while expensive, they are expendable to a much greater degree. …

My guess is that Trump is playing to the gallery, the gallery being the discontented people of Iran. He is trying to show, by cranking up the brinkmanship and thereby drawing attention to what he’s doing, that he is on their side, but that their own rulers, seemingly ready to provoke a war with the USA, don’t care about them. Will this work? Is that even the plan? What do I know?

Certainly, starting a war over the destruction of a mere piece of equipment seems to me very stupid, indeed wicked, and more to the point will seem stupid and wicked to many others besides me.

On a more peaceful note, here is a piece about robots as aerial transporters. Rapid progress is being made here, apparently.

Although, this piece is about robots carrying passengers.

It would seem to me that there is particular merit in using drones to transport mere stuff, as opposed to transporting people. With stuff, what’s the worst that could happen? It goes prang, and some stuff, and a drone, gets lost? Provided the transporting is not done too dangerously over built-up areas, few humans are likely to get hurt or killed. That book you ordered from Amazon will take a bit longer to materialise. Boo hoo.

With the passing of every year, destroying stuff matters that bit less, and killing people matters that bit more, and long may that trend continue. Which means that peaceful drones, transporting stuff which is as expendable as they are themselves, seems like a particularly good plan. Passengers? There’s a lot more to go wrong with them on board.

However, aerial robots seem a basically better idea, to begin with, than robot cars that drive along anything resembling regular roads. I get more and more sceptical about robot cars as each deadline for their mass deployment seems to come and go. True, if you lose power in the air, that’s a lot worse than losing power on the ground. But, the air, for now, unless you’re in a war, is a fundamentally more predictable environment than the ground, because the ground is already so very occupied, so full of people wandering about doing their own deeply unpredictable things, often using their own vehicles. The air, on the other hand, only contains admittedly rather undisciplined birds, but otherwise, mostly, much more disciplined and tightly controlled aircraft. Okay, a few small aircraft sometimes go where they aren’t wanted and that can complicate things. But there are, for the time being anyway, no gangs of drunken pedestrians in the sky.

But, like I say, what do I know?