Ferraris – well lit

On the same night (but later, when it had got dark) that I photoed this rather artistic roof clutter, I also photoed these rather more self-consciously artistic works of art:

Photography is light. If the Ferrari shop in Kensington was not intending that passers-by should take photos, well, they shouldn’t have lit their cars so well. I took only a few shots, and most came out (see above) pretty well.

These Ferraris are displayed in chronological order by my photoing, but they look good as a set (see above also). Pointing outwards, if you get my meaning.

I feel the same way about Ferraris like this, behind a shop window, as I do about tourist crap in tourist crap shops or Big architectural Things like the Shard or the Gherkin. I don’t want to buy it. Far too much bother. (Where would I put it?) But I can enjoy the amusing way it looks, by merely photoing it. If, like me, you are a collector, you can now easily collect how things look, without collecting the things themselves.

“Other creatures” in the category list is because of the Ferrari horse.

Stephen Davies on how the New World gave the Old World food and money

For a while now, in among doing other stuff, I’ve been reading The Wealth Explosion by Stephen Davies. It’s very good. And, I just got emailed about an event at which Davies will be spaking about this book, at the IEA this coming Thursday. After I’ve been there and done that, I intend to do a posting about the book for Samizdata.

Meanwhile, and following on from this fascinating chunk about China, here’s another bit from this book, concerning food, and silver (pp. 133-134):

[T]he relative unimportance of trade with the New World for most of the Old World does not mean that the opening up of the Americas and of the long distance sea routes had no impact on the greater part of Eurasia. In two ways it had a great, though indirect effect. The first was through what is often called the ‘Colombian exchange’ in which all kinds of products and plants were brought from the New World and distributed around the Old, mainly by the Portuguese and the Dutch. As well as tobacco, we may also mention the potato, the sweet potato, the chilli pepper and the tomato – to give just four examples. These obviously had a major impact on diet and cuisine – it is now hard to imagine Italian cooking without the tomato or Indian without the chilli pepper (or indeed the tomato and the potato). Even more significant though was the way new food crops such as maize and the potato and sweet potato made it possible to support households on much smaller areas of land, so leading to both population growth and important changes in agricultural organisation in many parts of the world, from Ireland to Russia and Poland, to China.

The other principal impact was via the one product from the New World that the Old World had an inexhaustible demand for. This was silver. Before the sixteenth century the world’s major source of silver was Japan (which remained a significant source for a long time thereafter). In the sixteenth century, the Spanish discovered two enormous silver lodes, at Potosi in Bolivia in 1545 and at Zacatecas in Mexico in 1547. The result was a great flood of silver into the world trade system after 1550. This made it possible for the great Asian empires to create a uniform silver-based currency for their territories, particularly in the cases of the Ming and Mughal empires. The flow of silver around the world also lubricated trade and made whole economies much more liquid than had been the case before. One reason was that now trade was possible between parties where previously it had been difficult because one had nothing that the other wanted, except at a prohibitive rate of exchange. Everyone though would take silver, so now those parts of the world that ran a ‘deficit’ in primary products or manufactured goods with another part could make up the difference with silver.

This was less significant however than the basic fact of liquidity and the creation of a worldwide medium of exchange. Because silver was the monetary metal of China and India and the rest of the world wanted Chinese and Indian products, everyone would take silver. This meant that silver effectively became the world’s money and the basis for the first truly global monetary system, even if it only applied initially to long distance trade. The effect of money is of course to make trade much easier by removing the need for barter and working out through a complex exchange process the rate at which any two products will exchange (grain for porcelain for example). Instead, when the relative value of all products is expressed in terms of the rate at which they exchange for one single commodity (money), it becomes easy to exchange and trade goods by using the intermediate commodity of
money. The costs of trade itself in terms of things such as the time taken to work out and make the trade (transaction costs) are hugely reduced, so again many trades become profitable when they were not before. This also generates money prices that send signals to alert entrepreneurs as to where there are shortages or mismatches of supply and demand.

So the principal impact that the European conquest of the Americas had on the rest of the world came about through the way it led to the appearance from the later sixteenth century onwards of a monetary system based on silver that made possible a much more integrated world trade system than had existed even under the Mongols. The date at which we can say that there was finally a truly global circuit of goods and money was 1571, the year when the first of the silver bearing Manila galleons sailed across the Pacific from Acapulco to the Philippines, so connecting the New World to the Asian markets and the products of China and East Asia.

I sort of knew about this already. But, because Davies explains things so clearly, now I know it better.

That bit is preceded by another bit about what the Old World gave to the New World. A lot of diseases, basically. That I definitely knew about.

Turpentine Lane

Just before I got to the river, on my journey to check out how the other side of the River is looking these days, I encountered this street sign:

Never noticed that before, even though I’ve been past there many a time.

Map of Turpentine Lane here. It runs along beside the railway line into Victoria.

Named “Turpentine Lane” because there used to be something turpentiney nearby, like a place where they used to make it. Right?


According to The Streets of London by S. Fairfield, this lane once led to an early-C19 white lead works and already had its name from the prior manufacture of turpentine.

Moments later, I was taking photos like this:

More like that to follow.

An advertising agency in Pimlico

A handful of years ago now, Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland and his lady used to live in Chelsea, and that caused me quite often to be walking along the north bank of the River, between, one way or the other, Chelsea Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge. While doing this I of course I looked (and photoed) across the River.

Having recently been pondering how London has been building itself a lot of machines for living in lately, as opposed to more recognisable and truly Big Things, it occurred to me that I might do that same walk between Chelsea Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, on the north bank, there to look (and photo) across the River, at all the machines for living in that have been and are being built there now, especially around Battersea Power Station.

I have journeyed along the south side of the River, from Vauxhall to the Battersea, several times, to inspect all that turmoil and cranage from closer up. How was all that looking from the other side of the River?

So it was that yesterday afternoon, I walked through Pimlico nearly as far as Chelsea Bridge, but inland rather than beside the River, and then walked back home again, alongside the River.

But before I was even at my Official Designated Destination, there was plenty to be seen and photoed, and because this is Friday, here are some fun humans, semi-humans and semi-creatures whom I attempted, with varying success, to photo, through a very shiny shop window:

Like I said, varying success. The first Dalek photo there decapitates the poor thing, with crushingly bright reflections of the buildings opposite. Only when I raised my camera up above my head, like a paparazzo photoing a celeb from within a crowd of other paparazzi, did I get anything like a proper Dalek photo. Only once I understood about photoing downwards, where the only reflection was of the relatively unlit pavement at my feet, did I get a truly satisfactory photo, of K9. The Daleks, for the uninitiated, were Doctor Who’s mortal enemies, and K9 was Doctor Who’s friend.

But, why the ducks?

More to the point, what was this place? Who was doing what in it?

My second entirely satisfactory photo:

Satisfactory because this was me taking notes, and the notes were entirely taken. “wtf”? WTF?, as the young people now type into their little mobiles. Here we go. They’re an advertising agency specialising in movies of the sort that the creatures in their Moreton Street London HQ window have parts in, and silly theme parks based on similar fun and foolishness, aimed at “families”. Well, those are the sort of projects they boast about, but I dare say they’ll also sell your estate agency for you, if that’s what you want.

I’m pretty sure that the female figure in the red skirt in the background of the second and better Dalek photo is an actual human being.

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?

A tax infographic about and a meeting at my home about Hong Kong

Dominic Frisby:

Frisby says that Dan Neidle will like this. I don’t know anything about Dan Neidle, other than this. But I like it. As much for the colours and its hand-done nature as for its content.

Concerning Hong Kong, last night I semi- (as in: still to be solidified and date still to be settled) signed up a Hong Kong lady to speak at one of my Last-Friday-of-the-Month meetings, about how Hong Honk is demonstrating back, so to speak, against the Chinese Government’s plans to subjugate it.

I warned her that my meetings are not large, and not as a rule attended by The World’s Movers and Shakers (although such personages do sometimes show up). But that didn’t bother her, or didn’t seem to. She seems to understand instinctively that big things can come out of small gatherings, if only in the form of one suggested contact or one item of information.

Alas, Hong Kong’s era of low and simple taxes is now under severe threat, along with many other more important things.

Things to break you

One of my favourite silly websites used to be This is why I’m broke, and yes, there seems to be a particular UK version of this now. But it’s been ages since I’ve been there.

This evening I corrected this, and here are some toys that, for this or that reason, I found amusing and/or diverting.

This at home 3D printer amused me because the useless objects it is shown as having just printed tell us, yet again, that these devices are pointless. The only reason to have a “domestic” 3D printer is to learn about 3D printing. But the same applies to something like a domestic staple gun or a domestic welding kit. Either do it for a living, or steer clear, would be my advice.

These something something skates interest me, because all forms of power-assisted “pedestrian” transport interest me, and this one would appear also to be power-assisted. More and more of the future of cities is going to be made of personal transport gizmotics of this sort, I think.

The world’s best travel pillow is something I’d like, next time I’m in a train or plane. Provided that’s what it really is.

I wouldn’t, on the other hand, want a screenholder shower curtain, but for those who never wash because it means being separated from their various screens, it could be just the thing.

Now would I want this inflatable pull-out couch. But for people who want a big pull-out couch, but who are constantly moving, again this might be just the ticket.

Like so much of This Is Why I’m Broke stuff, this roll-up keyboard is a nice idea, but in truth, although I might carry it around with me, I probably wouldn’t actually use it. Laptops are ubiquitous for good, if somewhat complicated, reasons.

And this remote control mini-drone looks great. But, what on earth is it for?


Incoming from BMNB’s Blogmaster Michael Jennings, a while back now, from Foreign Parts:

Like I say, it’s a while since this got here, but it deserves the immortality that is conferred upon photos when they are exhibited here at BMNB.

“Fency” is either a very posh way of saying “fancy”, or it is an indication that a lot of the goods in the store were stolen. Which means they’ll be cheap, which means that you can shop at this store with absolute frugality.

I cannot recall if the accompanying email said where this is. Michael?

Excellent wires!

LATER: Ah, it wasn’t “incoming from Michael”. It was at his Facebook page. Kathmandu, Nepal. I just nicked it. Hope Michael doesn’t mind.

Gallery means that you decide

One of the many things I love about this new WordPress blog of mine is that I can now do things like this …:

… a lot more quickly. Thank you “Gallery”.

All of the above photos were taken within a few moments of each other, in the vicinity of Battersea Power Station, just over a year ago. Then as now, this place was being transformed.

But there is much more involved in the Gallery improvement than the fact that I can shove up a clutch of photos more quickly than before. Equally important to me is that you now have a lot more control than you used to. You can now spend no more time looking at these photos, unless you want to, than I did when I photoed them. You no longer have to choose between having a quick gander at the above snaps, and having a life.

The difference is that, now, you can click on the first photo, look at it for as much time as you like or as little time as you like, and then click on the arrow on the right, and get straight to the next one. Click click click. I know, I’m rediscovering the wheel here, but if you have been depriving both yourself and your potential readers of wheels for about a decade, wheels are a big deal.

Because you can click through all these photos so speedily, I feel comfortable showing them to you in such abundance. These are not oil paintings, unless you want them to be. I don’t assume that you’ll be wanting to linger over these snaps. Feel entirely free to do that, if you feel inclined to scrutinise any of them at any length of time, but I don’t expect this.

An obvious question arises: If I like the idea of you clicking quickly through the above snaps, why not a video? Well, number one, a video deprives you of control. But also, what I find fascinating about photoing is the extreme difference between how a camera sees things, and how the human eye sees things. Basically, a video camera sees things more the way that we humans do. Our eyes, like video cameras, roam over the scene in front of us. They don’t look at the scene once, the way a camera does when it takes the one photo, and nor does a video camera. A video shows us what’s really going on. It goes behind and beyond those mere appearances.

A photo is something else entirely. It’s a photo! And that makes videos, to me, from this point of view, less interesting.