On how we love animals (except when we love how they taste)

While in France, I read the whole of The Square and the Tower, and then embarked upon The Ape that Understood the Universe.

In the latter book, the matter of how humans get all sentimental about animals is mentioned (pp. 59-60):

… Why do so many people take such delight in string at infant members of other species? It’s not as if, say, porcupines enjoy staring at baby chickens. As with porn, our love of these nonhuman animals is probably not an adaptation. More than likely, it’s spillover from psychological mechanisms designed for more human-centered purposes. There’s a certain cluster of traits that people everywhere find irresistibly cute. This includes big round eyes in the center of the face, a small nose, and plump, stubby limbs. Our affection for creatures with these features presumably evolved to motivate us to care for our own infants and toddlers. But the same features are found in many other infant mammals, and even in the adult members of some nonhuman species. As a result, we often feel affectionate and protective toward these individuals as well – not because it’s adaptive, but just because adaptations aren’t perfect. By the way, as you might already have noticed, the spill over hypothesis doesn’t just explain our fondness for cute animal videos. It also hints at an explanation for a much older and more pervasive phenomenon: our habit of keeping pets.

Motivated I am sure by exactly this sort of fondness for animals myself, I have become more and more intrigued by this general human propensity. Which is why so many of my photos involve non-human creatures of one sort or another.

Here are some of the non-human creatures photos I photoed while in France recently:

Even the photos involving signs urging dog owners to clear up canine crap (photos 12, 14 and 17) are about our positive feelings towards animals, because the offending dogs are pets. And even the two plastic barrier things (photo 16) are “other creatures”, in the sense that we insist on seeing the faces of creatures where there are none, even though these particular non-creatures each have only one eye. Yes, we do love these creatures.

And yet, by way of a corrective, we also do these kinds of things to particularly tasty creatures, in this case to various mammals and to fishes:

Yum.

I am thinking of purchasing a new laptop computer

I will go further. I am thinking of purchasing an ASUS VivoBook X412UA 14 Inch Full HD NanoEdge Laptop.

Does anybody have any comments to offer on the wisdom of such a decision?

I have in mind to use my new laptop, in the event that it ever materialises, for blogging on the move, and for photo-processing on the move for blogging purposes.

So far, the only comment verbally has been: Don’t buy an HP. They’ve had problems.

A decade of photos – one from each year

I originally got together these photos, one for each year of the decade now ending, with Samizdata in mind. But then I did a posting looking back at Christmas Day for there, with lots of photos, and another posting there with lots of photos felt a bit superfluous. So, here they are here.

Left below: February 2010 – Piccadilly Circus.
Right below:January 2011 – Beyond the Thames Barrier.

Left below: July 2012 – A South African gets ready to bowl against England at the Oval.

Right below: September 2013 – London Gateway takes shape.

Left below: March 2014 – Detlev Schlichter speaks about Austrian Economics.
Right below: July 2015 – Sunshine bounces off the Broadgate Tower and lands outside Tate Modern.

Left below: August 2016 – The Oval Pavilion (see above) as seen from the top of the Tate Modern Extension.
Right below: Also at the top of Tate Modern, a photoer photos the Shard through a ball.

Left below: April 2018 – The statue of Sir Keith Park outside the Athaeneum.
Right below: September 2019 – A model of Old London Bridge.

I didn’t spend a huge amount of time picking these photos out from the archives. Aside from trying to pick out photos that I hadn’t blogged before, I just had a rootle around until I found a nice one for each year. But a different day doing the rootling, and there’d have been ten entirely different photos. But I like these ones, and I hope you do too.

Natoor?

“Natoor” because the word is “Nature”, but in French.

Ever since I did a post here mentioning the plan for a Disneyland London, Twitter has been regularly Twittering me a picture of this new Disneyland building in Paris:

“Stay at Les Vlllages Nature.”

I like the look from above of this Thing, and I especially like how it would appear that you can walk to the top on the outside, Snøhetta style. But it doesn’t look very Natoor.

Early good impressions of my new Dyson vacuum cleaner

My home is too dusty, and that’s partly because vacuuming with an uncordless (cordful?) vacuum cleaner is not fun. So, I don’t do it nearly enough. There is a big push on to get us all to buy cordless vacuum cleaners, and I told my friend that I wanted one too, and could she help? She did. Upshot, a new but very mildly obsolete Dyson V6, which was much admired by all who intennet-reviewed it, at a considerably reduced price, refurbished and guaranteed by Dyson itself. It arrived this afternoon, thanks to a nearby post office.

I’ve already done a bit of cleaning with it, and although it is rather noisy, it is clearly going to get more used than the old vacuum cleaner with its electric wire all over the place everywhere and its tediously long pipe connecting the bit that does the dusting to the clunky old mothership but still not nearly long enough to avoid having the lug the damn machine around when I am vacuuming.

But the thing that really impressed me was this:

That’s the adapter, for recharging this new gizmo. That’s the plug and the wire that makes this new wireless vacuum cleaner actually wireless, when you’re actually vacuuming with it. And it is highly likely that this adapter/recharger will remain completely recognisable as the recharger for my vacuum cleaner. It even has “Dyson” written on it.

Most such contrivances look like these ones:

That’s a photo I also took today of the drawer were I keep some of my many no-longer-used adapters. (I have others.) I fear to chuck out any of these because who knows when I might turn out to need one of them? These things can be hellishly expensive to replace, because the internet can detect your desperation and it prices accordingly, and anyway, when you want to find the right sort of adapter you want to get your hands on it now. But, once any of these get separated from the original object of their attentions, it becomes pure guesswork which one is the right one. Or rather, it becomes a skill that I personally don’t have. I have friends who could probably help me with this nonsense, but it’s still nonsense.

But this Dyson adapter will continue to identify itself as the adapter for my Dyson vacuum cleaner. It’s a weird not-quite-black colour, the exact same weird not-quite-black-black colour as its gizmo. It is a very individual shape, unlike all the other regular-black adapters in the above drawer. Best of all, it says Dyson on it.

I’m impressed. This suggests to me what already feels like it’s true for the gizmo as a whole, which is that this Dyson V6 has been very well designed, with every aspect of its design having been thought about carefully.

How London is moving downstream

What do you suppose this is?:

Okay, no silly games, this is Disneyland London. They have in mind to construct this during the next few years, out east, on the south bank, on that bit of land that sticks upwards into the beginnings of the Estuary (“Swanscombe Peninsula”), just this side of Tilbury.

The details don’t interest me. I’m pretty sure I’ll never go, not to the finished object. I don’t know when or even if they’ll build this.

What does interest me is that this huge project, even if it never gets beyond being thought about and puffed in the media, illustrates how the centre of gravity of London is moving inexorably downstream. The other Thing as big as this in that part of London is London Gateway, the big container port now being built on the north side of the Estuary, a long walk beyond Tilbury.

Anton Howes interviewed about his research

I spent my blogging time today concocting a posting about the opinions and discoveries of Anton Howes, and in particular this piece. My posting will be ready and up at Samizdata Real Soon Now. In the course of doing this I encountered this podcast which an American guy did with Howes. I’m now half way through this. So far: recommended.

That’s it for today.

4-4-0

This evening I happened upon episode 1 of Trains That Changed The World on Yesterday TV, the show which has Steve Davies in it. This was the episode I missed the first time around, so I am very happy about this.

For the first half of the show, we were in Britain, covering the Stephensons and the transformation that trains wrought, as you’d expect, upon Britain. But then we crossed the Atlantic, and learned how trains put the U in USA. Which all the talking heads, including Davies, agreed that they did.

In particular I learned about this loco:

On the left, an Old Photo of what I take to be, more or less, the original. And on the right, painted in totally implausible paints of many colours, and also photoed in full colour, a Reproduction produced in the 1970s. And looking like it’s just got the part of its lifetime in Back to the Future 3.

This is the 4-4-0, the Model T of the railroad track. The big thing I learned about the 4-4-0 (which gets its name from its wheels) is that it burns wood rather than coal, on account of America being made of trees rather than coal; and that the big bulge on its chimney is to stop solid bits of burning wood pouring out and setting fire to America. I did not know this.

Bryan Caplan – Hayek Memorial Lecture – photos and an instant summary

Earlier this evening, I (and a great many other people) attended the 19th Hayek Memorial Lecture:

Photo 1: I got there very early, hence all the empty seats.

The Official Photographer was Jean-Luc Picard. Not really, but photo 3 makes him look a bit like the noted space voyager.

Photo 4: The (large) room fills up.

Photo 5: Celeb sighting. Dominic Frisby. And is that his dad Terence he’s talking with? I think it just might be.

Photo 6: Syed Kamall, a recent IEA appointment. He gave someone a prize.

Photo 7: IEA boss Mark Littlewood does the intro.

Photos 8 and 9: Professor Bryan Caplan gives the lecture.

Photo 10: The first questioner was Vera Kichanova, one of the very few people in the audience whom I recognised.

Photo 11: Someone else photoing from the audience.

So, what did Caplan say? Briefly: poor country governments are often to blame for their bad economic policies, rich countries are often to blame for their bad immigration policies, and poor people, especially poor people in rich countries, are often to blame because they make bad decisions, especially bad decisions which hurt their children. That last one is the one you aren’t allowed to say, but most people still think this. When questioned about this, Caplan pointed out that refusing ever to blame poor people for their poverty is often a cause of bad policies. Instead of doing nothing (because it should be up to many poor people to help themselves), governments often do bad things. To “help”.

Another interesting thing about this lecture was that big multi-national enterprises came out of the story very well, basically for doing very well in poor countries, thereby proving that lots of people in poor and otherwise badly governed and badly managed countries could be doing far better, if they got the chance. That being why restrictive immigration policies do so much harm. They are keeping people who could do far better out of well governed countries.

There was also a guy videoing everything, so you won’t have to rely for ever on me to learn what Caplan said.