On people not having to put up with too much crap at work any more

Seen today on Twitter:

A lady cleaner jacks her job in after getting a dressing down from her horrid boss. I don’t know the details, or whose fault this really was. Maybe “Julie” behaved very badly. But maybe the cleaning lady had driven Julie to distraction with her wrong ways of cleaning.

But, let’s now assume that whatever Julie’s reasons were for flipping her lid like that, it was indeed very unfair on the cleaning lady and could have been handled much better by Julie. Julie shouldn’t have bawled her out like that. Well, that means that Julie is now in some trouble, even if that trouble is only the fear of trouble. (Only!) Julie now faces being investigated by her superiors for perhaps provoking this contretemps and for making the bank look bad on Twitter.

I think the key change here is that your typical worker in a country like ours does not any longer have to take this sort of crap (assuming this was crap). Two hundred years ago, what percentage of the working population could be unemployed for a month without staring death by starvation in the face? And what is the answer to that same question now? Very different, I think we can be sure. And I think this is a very big change.

A century and more ago, this cleaning lady and all the people at her economic level, i.e. most people, just had to put up with this sort of humiliation. But not any more. Upping and leaving isn’t necessarily any fun, but for millions of workers now, it is now doable, if the alternative is made too horrible to endure.

As a result of this profound economic change, there is now a huge industry, populated by people who trained as actors and actresses (I have a couple of friends of this sort), which instructs middle managers in how to combine two things which can be hard to combine, namely being kind and polite, and yet still saying what is wanted. The danger is that if you are too nice, you’ll stop communicating clearly, which can then be torture of another kind. So you have to learn to be as kind as possible, while still being clear about what you want from your underlings and colleagues. Because such skills can be easier to describe than to master, these middle managers often have to practice doing all this, by playing out scenes, wrongly and rightly.

And note this. The process of them learning to be nice while remaining sufficiently clear and assertive has itself to be done in a way that works, but is also nice enough for them not to up and jack in their jobs because it’s all too damn humiliating and also a load of bollocks.

Pfaith

Seen recently at a Facebook Friend’s page:

While searching for more about this, I came upon this recent story:

A single pill home cure for Covid could be available by the end of the year, according to reports.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, whose coronavirus vaccine has been successfully rolled out around the world, has begun human trials of the first pill specifically designed to stop the virus at its buildings in the United States and the European manufacturers’ base in Belgium.

The company, which brought the first US-approved Covid-19 vaccine to market, is conducting the stage one clinical trial on an oral antiviral therapy that a patient could take when they first develop symptoms, which would make it the first oral antiviral treatment of its kind in the world for coronavirus.

My take on Covid as of now (guess (reserve the right to change mind without embarrassment)) is: Lockdown CROSS, Treatment TICK, Vaccines TICK. Most of “They” were wrong to obsess about Lockdown, wrong that treatment wouldn’t work, and right about vaccines being something worth throwing a ton of money at. Good that the treatment error seems now to be being corrected.

Alas, Lockdown, is something that many now love, for quasi-religious reasons, and want to continue with.

James Tooley talks about Really Good Schools

I’ve just listened to the whole of this podcast (which I encountered here), in which Paul E. Peterson talks (for a little over forty minutes) with one of my most favourite public intellectuals on the entire planet, Professor James Tooley:

It’s not just what he says; it’s the way he says it.

Here is a link to more information about Tooley’s latest book, Really Good Schools. If you want to buy it on Amazon, here.

When I searched Amazon for “tooley really good schools” I was asked if I meant “toilet really good schools”. But, it did at least show me what was looking for.

What Tooley says, in his ingratiatingly polite and scrupulous manner, is that the best way to sort out education is to have a totally free market. He is the world’s leading spotter of private sector schools for the world’s poorest people, and would like to see this sort of thing spread to richer countries. Although, interestingly, he is skeptical about education vouchers. Politically, they don’t seem to work, because they attract such heavyweight teaching union opposition, and crucially, even if they could be made to stick politically, they might well put off the very people who would be best at owning and running such schools.

Tooley and Peterson also talk about the impact of Covid restrictions, and the consequent rise of home schooling, particularly in the USA. But although Covid has revealed that public schools have been bad compared to private schools during this crisis, when the crisis passes, will very much be revealed as having changed with any permanence? Maybe. We shall see.

Shop window creatures

In the same shop that I found this bloke in a tiger jacket, I also encountered these smaller creatures:

I could go all ironic and have a big old sneer at these little trinkets, but the truth is I entirely get it. Cute animals are … cute. I don’t buy things like this, if only because I have nowhere I could put them, and because I hate dusting. But I love to photo such things.

I am also fond of saying, on account of it being true, that we hate architectural styles that we feel threatened by, but later often fall in love with those same styles once they are in retreat.

Something very similar applies to animals. For most of human history, animals have been threats as well as sources of food, if only because they demanded scarce time and effort to be caught or killed, and scarce resources for them to be looked after. You no more loved most animals than you loved mountains (mountains being a similar story). But now? Well, put it this way. At present animals are still hunted a bit, and still imprisoned and then eaten a lot, but it won’t be that long before a majority of the animals on earth are our pets.

Two black cabs that are not black and sixteen black cabs that are black

On my walkabout yesterday morning, I did encounter a couple of taxis with adverts, or black cabs as they are somewhat confusingly known. The point being, they are frequently not black at all:

Adverts advertising a way to speed up your tax process still make a lot of sense.

As do adverts about what to do with your savings:

But that still leaves a lot of taxi adverts that do not now make – or have not recently been making – much sense at all, on account of so many forms of spending having been put on hold, and on account of there being far fewer people wandering around and inclined to look at such adverts and act on their instructions.

With the following result. Here is a photo I photoed moments before that taxi with the savings advert, of a line of taxis outside Victoria Station, …:

… with no adverts on any of them.

Sixteen taxis, I make it. About that number. What are the chances of that happening in normal times? Here is yet another business that has been suffering during Lockdown. When last I looked, cabbies got about a tenner a day for their adverts. So, just when a lot of them could really have used that little wage top-up, they’ve had to go without it.

These were black cabs that really were that. Apart from the dark grey one nearest to us.

This is not the first time that I have noticed the phenomenon of the truly black Lockdown black cab, but this has been my most striking such observation.

I have believed, for some time now, that Lockdown will in due course be retro-damned as a cure worse than the disease, that at the very least went on for far too long. A generation of “experts”, all gripped by the fallacy of the risk free alternative, are going to be proved as having been very inexpert indeed. What is ending Covid is herd immunity. And what does Lockdown do? Lockdown slows down the arrival of herd immunity and prolongs the agony, in a feedback loop of yet more Lockdown. Will it ever end? I’ll believe the end of Lockdown when I see it and when the idea of re-imposing Lockdown is no longer talked about. Such are my prejudices just now.

Also, too many people now like it.

I wonder if I’ll want to saying I Told You So in a year’s time. We shall see.

Tiger jacket with reflected bulding

What’s going on in this photo is that I was recently standing on a pavement in the South Kensington area, photoing a fake person who is wearing a real jacket with a tiger’s face on the back of it, but it’s a bit hard to make out the tiger’s face because some buildings across the road, very well lit by the bright sunshine that day are simultaneously being reflected by the window that separates me from the fake man and his tiger jacker:

I really like this photo. It resembles this earlier effort in being a puzzle caused by the reflection in a shop window colliding with what is behind the shop window and in the shop itself. But unlike that earlier photo, this one is a puzzle that is soluble, and one that I can fully explain.

As I have earlier said, I think that one of the features of architectural modernity is that there is now lots of shininess, and consequently lots of reflection going on. Modernity didn’t start out so shiny, because there was lots of concrete and brickwork to start with, and glass was a lot less marvellous then than it is now. But now, architectural modernity has got very shiny indeed. So, scenes like that shown in my photo above are not mere accidents. They capture something basic about the visual experience of living in a modern city. Such images are or a thing that we constantly see, and perhaps even a thing that you constantly notice. I don’t think it’s just me, in fact I know it isn’t.

In the bottom right hand corner of the photo above, part of a parked vehicle is to be observed. Modern vehicles being another characteristic source of modernistic shininess.

Dutch Quality Flowers lorry with antique locomotive

This afternoon, while I was on my way yet again to the Royal Marsden to score my next month’s supply of Osimertinib, a huge lorry drove past me along the Fulham Road, with a painting of a steam locomotive on the side of it:

I display all of these three hastily grabbed and decidedly mediocre photos simply to make it clear that this was indeed a lorry, as well as a picture of a locomotive.

Later, I found myself musing on how the ubiquity of digital photography and of the social media must have transformed advertising. Just as graffiti has become more individual and elaborate, in the age of digital photoing, so too has advertising.

Because, if you can persuade a decent proportion of the digital photoers you drive past to photo their photos, of your unique lorry with its unique and as likely as not hand-done painting on the side, and then get the photoers to stick their photos up on the www, there’s every chance you can save a ton of money on the distribution of your advertising message. Throw in that any word can be searched for on that same www, and you don’t need to bother with big lettering, the way you used to have to to get your message spread around, and you can concentrate on making the image look as great as you can contrive. Use little letters and let the photoers look it up and link to your website and generally spread your word for you. All you need is a sufficiently striking and appealing image, to grab all that attention.

So, by way of emphasising my point, here is the DQF Flower Shuttle website. Go there, and learn that there is a whole fleet of flower delivery lorries, each one flaunting this or that elaborately artistic type picture of an antique form of transport, most of them ships, but one being of another locomotive. I assume that all of these lorries are each of them adorned with unique images, and I further assume that photos of these images are all over the social media. Judging by what happens when you do this, my assumptions are right. Although, I can find no photos of the particular photo I photoed of a DQF lorry this afternoon. This must be a rather new image.

On how the English revolutionary ideology of improvement took its time

During a recent conversation that Patrick Crozier and I recorded (although as always Patrick did all the button-pushing and editing), about how the Industrial Revolution came about, Patrick asked a question that I didn’t answer at the time but which I think I can now answer, at least in broad brush strokes.

My thesis was and is that the Industrial Revolution was and is the English Revolution. It was an ideological event, sparked by mass literacy, just as the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions were. (See all my Emmanuel Todd postings.) Patrick pointed out that, unlike those three very political revolutions, the English Revolution, if that’s what it was, sure took its time to mutate into the Industrial Revolution. The political bit of the English Revolution happened in the seventeenth century, but the big impact of the industrial bit of the English Revolution didn’t achieve lift-off until late in the eighteenth century.

At the time, I just said yes, hm, I’ll have to think about that. But now I have, and I think the answer is not that difficult to supply.

The three very political revolutions were successful, not in the sense they accomplished much that was good, but in the lesser sense that they did at least achieve political dominance, after which they did their best to improve things but ended up doing mostly their worst. They were all very destructive in their impact. And this all happened very quickly. Destruction and catastrophe doesn’t take very long to happen.

But the English Revolution stalled politically. The political bit of it ended in a draw, with the old monarchical and aristocratic institutions changing quite radically, but not being destroyed. And so, having failed to make the big breakthrough in the manner of the French, Russian and Chinese ideological breakthroughs, the English Revolution turned its attention to peaceful progress. To “improvement”, to use the word the English ideologists themselves used.

And, improvement takes time. As the English eighteenth century unfolded, presided over by a rather contentious and corrupt mixture of aristocrats and well-connected capitalists, the ideologists of improvement started to achieve actual improvements, step by inventive step. They were creative rather than destructive, and creativity takes time. I say “started”, but in truth they merely somewhat accelerated a process of step-by-step invention and innovation that had already got under way.

And that’s my answer, for the time being. Destruction happens quickly, and the quicker it happens the more it “succeeds”. Creativity, aka actual improvement, takes far longer.

This ideology of improvement spread, way beyond England, first to America, and subsequently to the whole then Germany, and now everyone. And the world outside Britain and America realised they couldn’t beat the damn Anglos with only their own atavistic and destructive methods, adorned by mere political rhetoric. To hold their own against the Anglosphere, they realised that they would have to copy it. So, they did. And the English ideology of constant improvement now rules the world. We now all live, with ever greater ease and comfort and contentment, in that world.

The English Revolution is, on the whole, not understood by modern educated people. Insofar as the typical Educated Modern has a theory of how all this happened, it is that the English achieved their industrial revolution pretty much by accident. In other words it wasn’t a “revolution” at all, because there were no revolutionaries in the usual sense. Selfish go-getters achieved a mass economic breakthrough that was neither anticipated nor even wanted in each of their individual, selfish little plans. Adam Smith, basically. But the English Revolution, which was and is the global industrial revolution, was an ideological event as well as a merely economic event. Modern educated people cannot see this, because that would involve realising that here was a gang of starry-eyed ideologists and idealists and altruists, with a radical and ludicrously optimistic plan for transforming the lives of all humans everywhere for the better, making omelettes and breaking eggs with relentless single-mindedness. And their plan ended up being triumphantly, fabulously, world transformingly successful. Educated Moderns just don’t have a mental box in which to place events like this. Ideologists always fail, always cause havoc. Even most ideologists nowadays proclaim that their alleged creative miracles, in the radiant future that they proclaim, must be preceded by a phase of destructiveness, during which they destroy all the human barriers to their vision, and of course the rest of us assume that this is all that they will ever accomplish.

But the English Revolution was not like that. It was a Revolution, but a Revolution which only began by being destructive. That part of it failed, in that the political regime that it tried to overthrow was merely modified somewhat. So instead, the English Revolution turned its collective mind towards creativity, and in that it succeeded, beyond its wildest dreams.

To any commenters who want to say it, let me say it first. I know that I haven’t proved, or even really argued, the above proclamation. I have simply proclaimed it. But although I haven’t proved it, I am nevertheless right about all this.

So what does this Real AI do to the network?

Here’s the latest Taxi-with-advert photo I photoed, not far from a favourite taxi spot even during Lockdown, Victoria Station:

Whereas yesterday, the posting was about a big gadget that merely happened to have words on it, this is an advert that consists only of words. “Juniper. real networks. Real AI. Real results.” Even I know that the Internet will tell me more, if I only ask it. “.

So I went to the Juniper website, and watched and listened to two minutes and more of Juniper Supremo Rami Rahim, talking about an AI driven network, or something. But I am afraid I am not much the wiser. To summarise my question simply: What is he talking about? I know that AI stands for artificial intelligence, but how does this artificial intelligence apply itself to the network? Does it run the network? Thereby saving humans the bother? Does it run the network in a way that is more efficient than it could ever be in humans ran it? Or is the AI doing something entirely different? Or, is Rami Rahim just talking about a somewhat fancy computer programme, that runs the network, which isn’t really AI at all? I’m genuinely eager to learn more.

All of which illustrates a more general point about Lockdown, which is that during it, anyone in the computerised communications business is liable to be doing rather well, and to be eager to advertise, unlike, say, restaurants.

A shipping container in Vauxhall Bridge Road

Yes, a shipping containing, right there in the middle of a major London traffic artery, at one of its busier junctions (the one with Warwick Way and Rochester Row):

Photoed by me today.

“Forefront” is the enterprise which placed this big metal box in the road. And it would seem to be Forefront which is now digging up just about every road I walk beside these days, what with most of my walking now being done within walking distance of my home. At their website I scrolled down to the bit where they boast, with photos, about all the traffic havoc they are now causing, and four of the six photos there are of the havoc they’ve been causing recently in Victoria Street, which is also a walk away from me but in the opposite direction.

Except that they are not now causing traffic havoc, because there is now so little traffic. Good times for the road-digging industry.

It’s all because of gas and lockdown.

In the background, of the photo above is the tower of Westminster Cathedral. which also featured in yesterday’s posting. This tower looks very good, I think. As does London, when viewed from the top of this tower.