Giant creatures

Via David Thompson, some giant creatures.

I like 5, a big snail:

And 9, a big rabbit:

All hail The Internet.

There are fifty photos altogether, but the best ones, I think, are of regular pet type animals or animals we are all familiar with, like the snail and the rabbit. That an oceanic manta ray turns out to be a giant oceanic manta ray is not a giant surprise to me.

When I say I like the big snail, I think what I really mean is I like how she’s holding it. Although, to be clear: rather her than me. The big rabbit, I just like.

Two fearless cats

First, a cat I met during Lockdown in June, enjoying the almost empty road, and strolling across it like he owned it:

If Lockdown ever ends, the urban animal tendency is going to be mysteriously baffled as to why things became so mysteriously nice, before going back to being regular old nasty.

And second, Oscar, the cat of GodDaughter2’s family, as photoed perching on some railings by GD2’s Dad, earlier this month, in the south of France:

I bet it’s hot down there just now.

Actually, Oscar is being quite careful, and is perched in such a way that if anything did go wrong, he’d fall onto the balcony, not to the ground outside.

Nice pics there GD2D, but I think this photo, also illustrating Oscar’s fearlessness of heights, is even better.

The Babylon Bee’s “Is it racist?” flowchart

One of my favourite insects just now is the Babylon Bee. I especially liked this graphic, from quite a while back now:

Most flowcharts done in this graphic manner are extremely complicated. Lots of questions. Lots of arrows. This one hits its target by being very uncomplicated.

The BB churns out lots of stuff, so there’s a good chance that (a) this amuses you, but (b) you missed it when they first unveiled it, back in June.

My neighbourhood – not that bad after all

Well I was in a grumpy mood the other day, calling my part of London boring. Today, after a bit of an absence from it, indoors, I visited my neighbourhood again, and found myself, eventually, to be in a much sunnier mood than I was when I did that earlier posting.

This was partly because the weather was much sunnier, and partly because my expedition began with a deeply annoying visit to a rather unfamiliar branch (which I hate) of my bank, which involved, first, pressing lots of stupid buttons on a damn machine which ended up failing to do what was asked of it, which meant that what I wanted ended up having to be done by hand, so to speak, by a bank employee behind a grill, but not before I had had to wait in a queue right behind a crazy person who was walking backwards and forwards along the line of the queue with no concern for social distancing. Sadly, he was just the sort of person you’d be concerned about, social distancing-wise, whether there was a plague happening or not. Retreating away from him at first didn’t work because he simply advanced further until standing inches away from me, before turning round and walking back to the person ahead of him in the queue and annoying her in a similar way. Eventually I just stood way off the line of his backwards-and-forwards pacing, hoping that he would stick to his straight line, which mercifully he did. I know this sounds cruel, but I didn’t say any of this to him at the time, and now I am just blowing off steam about it all. Anyway, he finally did his business (emptying a bank account of its last few pounds from what I heard (I bet they were glad to see the back of him too)) and he then left and I was then able to do all of my business. This took its time. The bank had “closed” at 2pm, just after I got there, but I didn’t get out until about half past.

The point of all that being that there is nothing like enduring an ordeal like this one, but then have it come to an end with all your purposes achieved, to put you in a good mood. And the photos I then photoed out in Victoria Street reflected my good mood, as well as involving reflections of the towers of Victoria Street in other towers of Victoria Street. Of the photos below, only the first one, of scaffolding angrily illuminated by the sun, which I could hardly ignore, were photoed before my ordeal by personal banking, and I actually think it shows:

The new towers of Victoria Street, on the north eastern side, from the Albert pub up to Victoria Station at the top end of the street, are an aesthetic shambles. I wouldn’t object if this shambles was the result of a complete indifference to “architecture” and pure concentration on having machines for working in. That would almost certainly have been highly picturesque, and aesthetically very well coordinated. But, these towers have all been architected as all hell, but each one with absolutely no thought to its neighbours, other than to get more architectural awards than the buildings by those other bastards. Each is shaped in the “iconic” style, but each iconic shape is utterly difference. The result is a total mess. (I am even now thinking of a posting about why it makes sense for modern architecture to be ugly (basically ugly architecture doesn’t suffer the nightmare of a preservation order being slapped upon it), but that’s for later.)

However, when I photoed this lumbering heard of miss-matched lumps today, such was the weather and such was my mood that even these things came out looking beautiful. Or, I think they did. The first one, the pointy one (62 Buckingham Gate) differs from the others in showing, I think, some real architectural distinction. But this can’t save the shambles that is Victoria Street now. The one thing that could savee Victoria Street now would be a huge fuck-off skyscraper, on top, say, of Victoria Station. (This would rescue Victoria Street in much the same way that the Shard rescues Guy’s Hospital.)

But that also is for that other posting about why ugly buildings are more advantageous than beautiful ones.

In the meantime, note the lorry with foundation reinforcements on it. The only reason you drive a lorry through the middle of London with foundation reinforcements on it is because you want to unload those reinforcements in London, so that some new foundations in London, perhaps for a big fuck-off skyscraper, can be contrived. So, what that lorry tells me is that London is still building biggish things. When I saw it, my mood became even sunnier.

I ended my wanderings with yet another view of Pavlova (she is also to be seen dancing up above the reinforcements lorry) in front of a crane, and a view of the flowers outside the front door of a pub in Wilton Road. And then I went home, tired but happy.

As you can tell, I then started thinking about those Victoria Street buildings and got angry again, but that was only later. Besides which, I also quite enjoyed that.

Elon Musk’s rockets are cheap because he wants them to be cheap

I have had this article open (see this) for quite a while, and I now see that it dates back to January 2012. What a difference it makes when you can dig up old articles like this. I learned a lot from reading this, which is perhaps because I am now playing catch-up concerning Elon Musk and his many activities, and this piece feels like it was written when a lot of people were first learning about this guy.

In addition to being about Elon Musk, this piece focuses in on why Musk’s rockets cost so much less than the regular rockets that the US government has been buying up until now for its space endeavours. It turns out it’s not been rocket science. Basically, they are cheap because Musk is the first person who has tried to make them cheap:

United Launch Alliance, the consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that produces both the Delta and the Atlas, does not make its prices public. But budget documents show that in 2010 the EELV program received $1.14 billion for three rockets—an average of $380 million per launch. And prices are expected to rise significantly in the next few years, according to defense department officials. Why? Musk says a lot of the answer is in the government’s traditional “cost-plus” contracting system, which ensures that manufacturers make a profit even if they exceed their advertised prices. “If you were sitting at a n executive meeting at Boeing and Lockheed and you came up with some brilliant idea to reduce the cost of Atlas or Delta, you’d be fired,” he says. “Because you’ve got to go report to your shareholders why you made less money. So their incentive is to maximize the cost of a vehicle, right up to the threshold of cancellation.”

I recall once upon a time GodDaughter1’s Dad, who is a structural engineer, telling me how depressed he was that his firm got paid not according to how much extra effort and cleverness they put into designing good structures, but according to how much concrete and steel they wasted, by not putting in that extra effort and cleverness. The good news was that, like Elon Musk, he and his mates were trying to change that.

See also this earlier posting here and in particular Michael J’s comment on it. Musk is now covering himself in glory. Boeing and Lockheed are covering themselves in something else.

Incoming from Amazon

All of these arrived today, from Chateau Samizdata, where nobody cons their way past the front door and nicks stuff:

Looking forward to reading this one especially. It has been warmly received.

The C.S. Forester one I never knew existed, until Tom Hanks made a movie based on it. I wonder how it’ll compare with The Cruel Sea. Both central figures and commanders in these books had German sounding names, Krause in the Forester, and Ericson in The Cruel Sea, I recall some German trying to make a joke about Ericson’s name. Ericson was not amused. I wonder if Krause will be subjected to similar banter. Guess: yes.

The Blitz book is because I’ve always wanted to know more about that. John Ray’s book on the Battle of Britain was a very interesting read, so this one made good sense. And I seem to recall it having been very cheap, what with it having been published a while ago.

Following the chat we had yesterday about France and its various armies, Patrick Crozier and I will be discussing the Industrial Revolution. My cores text will be the book on this subject by Steve Davies, but I’d be surprised if Ridley’s book on innovation doesn’t also get several mentions in our conversation.

The education book is by this guy.

Neema Parvini is someone I’ve been noticing for a while now. That’s because he’s a classical liberal and a humanities academic. Such persons must be cherished. Also, I do love Shakespeare.

On Ex-Muslims and on the lack of social media omnipotence

Over the course of the last few days, Facebook suppressed Ex-Muslim TV but has now allowed it back on air again.

Which provides me with a perfect excuse to write some topical commentary on the subject of Ex-Muslims, and on social media and the allegedly dictatorial powers of the social media. I have a hook. XMTV got suppressed, and then unsuppressed. By social media. Over the last few days. I can now have “Current events” in my category list for this posting.

My commentary on XMTV goes like this: Islam is an ideology of conquest, of the world, by Islam. Submit or die. Islamic terrorists interpret Islam correctly. “Moderate” Muslims either don’t read, or don’t listen to, what they nevertheless insist on going through the motions of saying they do believe. Or they’re just lying, to us and to themselves.

Those who react to the above truths with a shudder, often come back with the claim that, well, yes, that may be true, but this is not a nice thing to say. Yes, Islam does indeed need to “reform”, but if you describe Islam too accurately, that will only arouse opposition from angry Muslims, and they’ll dig in their heals and refuse to make Islam any nicer.

I, on the other hand, think that if any “reform” of this transformative sort ever materialises, it is now decades away from happening. In the meantime, if and when such “reform” (actually a radical rewrite) ever happens, the reason why it will happen will be that millions upon millions of Muslims are publicly abandoning Islam altogether, refusing to wait for it to stop being the nasty thing it has been since it was founded and as of now remains. Only when staring extinction in the face will Islam’s remaining adherents seriously set about remaking their beliefs to the point where they might become truly nice. Will it then be too late for Islam thus to save itself from oblivion? I don’t know and I don’t care.

So, in the meantime, I regard the transformation of Muslims into Ex-Muslims as by far the most important thing now happening to Islam, and also (because also) the best thing. Do you think of yourself as “moderate” and a Muslim. I say: Make up your mind which of these two things you want to be. Choose nicely and wisely. Choose to become an Ex-Muslim.

In the event that history carries on getting nicer, you Ex-Muslims are in the vanguard of it. Hurrah for you. That’s commentary part one of this posting.

As to the second part of the commentary I want to attach to this Facebook-versus-Ex-Muslims contretemps, well, Facebook surely could have kept the Ex-Muslims permanently off their platform, but only at the cost of a relentless drizzle of anti-Facebook anti-Islamic commentary, such as are to be read in this posting, in the paragraphs above this one and, to carefully moderated extent, in the paragraphs that follow. Worse, they might provoke a mass-migration to Parler or Gab or some such alternative. (Every time something like this Ex-Muslim thing happens, I get an email from Gab telling me all about it, and telling me to switch to Gab. One day, I just might.)

But, meanwhile, note that I found out about this news item via Twitter. Twitter, like Facebook, is anti-anti-Islamic, in the sense that this is surely the attitude of most of their two workforces. Yet, although presumably also constantly nagged by Non-Ex Muslims to scrub the Ex-Muslims from their site, Twitter did not do so, despite I am sure must have been a definite little spike of attention being paid by the world to the various Ex-Muslim tweets, denouncing Facebook, that they found themselves hosting.

The problem Twitter and Facebook both face is that they are juggling two contradictory agendas. There is the big money-spinning agenda, the one that says that people can say whatever they hell they like, much as I can say whatever I like on this blog, because it’s my blog. And then there’s the agenda that says that the social media should promote virtue and suppress vice, by allowing and drawing attention to virtuous messages and ignoring and scrubbing all the vicious ones, virtue and vice being defined in accordance with the wokist principles adhered to by, at the very least, an influential and noisy minority of their workforces. Because the wokists want wicked ideas suppressed, rather than merely argued into obscurity, these two agendas can’t both happen. And often the clash between the two generates fireworks, and more attention for particular agendas that the wokists dislike, as may have happened with this temporary interruption of Ex-Muslim TV service.

I don’t want to underplay the amount of grief that the wokists can do to any individual or organisation that they pick out from the herd and concentrate their attacks on. But killing an individual animal is not the same as wiping out the entire herd. If it were, there’d have been no Brexit, no Trump, no actually existing modern world. The Anglosphere is currently having an ideological civil war, and there’s nothing that social media can do to prevent this, not least because they themselves have constructed many of the battlefields and thus helped to make the war happen. They are now merely a part of this war, and a very ambiguous one at that. To switch metaphors from a herd to a conflagration, the social media often fan the very flames that the people who run them and who work for them are trying to extinguish.

On the boringness of my immediate neighbourhood

I am aware that, of late, I have been failing to post recently photoed photos here. There’s been stuff from five years ago. from ten years ago, and even from seventeen years ago. I hope it’s been interesting and diverting. But, and especially given how “historic” right now surely is, there’s been a lack of photos photoed only a matter of an hour or two ago.

Well, here’s a photo I photoed yesterday, when out shopping. We’re in Vauxhall Bridge Road, look south-east, towards Vauxhall Bridge and the River. Just this side of the bridge is this tower, which often gets hit by the evening sun, making it look like this:

Part of the problem is that getting out has proved very irksome of late. It was getting slightly more irksome by the year before all this Lockdown nonsense, but now it has got much more irksome, because of Lockdown. Trivial things like taking a ride on the tube, or dropping into a cafe for a coffee and a sitdown and a book-read, have suddenly become fraught with uncertainty, confusion and potential stress. Food shopping is okay. I have to do it, and everyone I meet knows I have to do it. But I don’t have to stop for a sit-down anywhere in particular, so the danger is that some bossy stranger will ask me about this. Home, by comparison, filled as it is, the way most homes are these days, with untold diversions and entertainments and fascinations, is a place of calm and certainly.

Which means that right now, I tend only to photo very familiar objects and very familiar effects, which I have photoed many times before. And have become – let me be frank – rather bored by. I suspect that this is a universal problem, for many, many people. Because you see the places very near to you again and again, they seem mundane, and therefore not worth telling other people about.

One of the reasons my immediately neighbourhood happens to bore me is that not a single one of my close friends lives near to be, and I know none of my neighbours well. My neighbourhood is just a place, and one I am very familiar with, which I have to walk through every time I want to go anywhere more interesting. So, it bores me.

So, I suffer from neighbourhood envy. The grass is always greener, the neon lights always brighter, blah blah. Sometimes a novelty hoves into view (perhaps because it is being constructed) and I manage to photo it. Then, I’m not bored. But most of my photos of my immediate neighbourhood look very boring to me, so why would I inflict one such upon you lot now? It doesn’t seem very polite.

What I’m hoping is that the above photo will amuse you more than it now amuses me. I can’t tell you how many times I have trudged down Vauxhall Bridge Road lugging too much shopping with me, with that tower in the distance, often illuminated as it was late yesterday afternoon. But since many of you have not seen this exact effect ever before, let along about once a week for the last two decades, I’m hoping that you won’t be bored.

I’m thinking of how beautiful I found photos like the one above, when I first started photoing them, quite a lot more than ten years ago. Maybe that is what you, some of you at least, will see now. I hope so. If not, I hope that you at least found the attached musings amusing.