Meeting Oscar again

One of the first things I did in France, after I got off the plane and had been driven by my hosts to their home, was to meet up with Oscar again. Remember Oscar? Oscar is the cat, who got lost and found, partly thanks to the photos I took of him, but mostly because of GodDaughter2’s social media expertise. She located him, in France, while not even being in France.

Here is one of the first photos I photoed of Oscar this time around:

I like that photo because it looks like we are looking at each other horizontally, but are actually …:

… looking at each other vertically, him upwards and me photoing downwards. Those being my feet, at the bottom there. On the right, the light of the south of France on the floor of the balcony outside the bedroom I was in.

The earlier photos I linked back to were taken in their Brittany home, but now my friends are more permanently in Thuir, way down south, near Perpignan. Oscar doesn’t like car journeys (stuck in a small prison hardly bigger than he is), but he has no objections to actually being in a different house. Somewhere new to explore.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Columbia Road cat

Yes, a rather excellent James Bond villain cat, photoed in London’s Columbia Road, in the Bethnal Green part of town:

Found in the Instagram feed (click on that for her most recently instagrammed photo) of this lady friend.

Columbia road is, as other photos in this set make clear, noted for its flower market.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Statue with roof clutter

You know how it is. You go hunting, in your voluminous photo-archives, for a favourite recent photo, and damn it, you can’t for the life of you find it. But you find other nice photos, and you stick them up on your blog instead. We’ve all been there.

But today I did the opposite of that. I went looking for some nice photos to stick up here, and discovered a very favourite photo, which I had previously searched for without success.

This photo was photoed outside Westminster Abbey and looking up Victoria Street. You can surely see why I like it.

Number one, it’s a statue. I like statues, because I do, and in particular because they tend not to be mass produced, which means they immediately tell you where you are. You are next to this statue. There it is. You can’t be anywhere else. Knowing where you are is, I think, greatly to be preferred to not knowing where you are. But even worse is when by the nature of the objects around you, you cannot learn where you are, because all the objects in your vicinity can tell you is that you could be anywhere.

And, number two reason why I like this photo is that behind the statue, and with the most prominent bit of it clearly lined up to be directly behind the statue but safely above it, there is roof clutter. Not roof clutter that is uniquely voluminous, but still pretty good. And mistily lit, in such a way that the building upon whose roof the clutter is cluttered does not upstage the statue by rendering it invisible.

The greenery on the right and the building bottom right I am less keen on, but they are, I hope you agree, not too annoying. To the left, there was some somewhat more annoying stuff, which meant that the cropping on the left isn’t ideal. But all-in-all, I like it a lot.

The statue is this one. And the building behind it is called, at any rate by people trying to sell you office space in it, is called Windsor House. I know it as that quite Big Thing next to the Albert.

This being Friday, is there a Cats or Other Creatures connection? Well, yes: cats. Big cats. Four lions which are to be seen at the bottom of the column upon which the bloke scratching his back with a backscratcher is perched. These lions do not appear in my photo, but there are there, at the bottom of the statue.

Also, the bloke on the top who seems to be scratching his back with a backscratcher is actually St George, and he has a dragon under his feet, which he is getting ready to clobber with a sword.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Rob Fisher on the meaning of Facebook

Here are what I suspect to be some wise words, from Rob Fisher, in a comment on this Samizdata posting I recently did about Facebook’s political bias:

Facebook is for cat pictures, baby photos and holiday photos. I recently posted some photos of some old model trains I have and another friend offered to give me some old toy trains they don’t want any more. That’s what it’s for.

People trying to do politics on Facebook serves only to demonstrate how unsuited it is for that purpose.

That’s comment number 42, and very possibly the last word on the matter.

Like I say, this sounds wise, in the sense that it seems to contain an important truth, even if it doesn’t really sound like the whole truth. After all, I just did another posting here about something political which I first heard about on Facebook.

Here is a photo of Rob’s toy trains that he recently posted on Facebook:

Am I betraying a confidence, meant only for Rob’s Facebook friends? Hardly, since Rob has already mentioned his trains on the Mainstream Media, in a comment at Samizdata.

It occurs to me that I have some toy trains that Rob might like. Like because I think they are N gauge, but perhaps something even smaller. Rob, if you read this, take a look at them next time you visit me.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Do they know it’s them?

Here are two fun and silly and consequently viral animal videos that I was recently shown on Twitter, but they both raise a non-trivial question about animals and their degree of self-awareness.

First up, a cat looks in a mirror, and is surely not aware that the other cat is him/her. Cats are much stupider than they seem to us, because their basic method of going about things is the way a wise human goes about things, often rather slowly, carefully and thoughtfully, or else in a way that looks very alert and clever. But, often they are thick as several planks.

Meanwhile, a dog watches herself on TV doing one of those canine obstacle courses in a show. Dogs behave like stupid humans, with wildly excessive enthusiasm for stupid things, and consequently we tend to think of them as being very stupid. But the typical dog is a lot cleverer than the typical cat, I believe. Dogs don’t care how stupid they look. Cats typically don’t either, but cats typically behave like they do care about looking stupid, unless you dangle something in front of them on a string, at which point they go crazy, unless they are too old to care.

But back to my self-awareness point.

As commenter “Matt” says, of the dog watching herself on TV:

This is amazing I hope she knows its her.

In other words, Matt is no more certain than I am that she does know it’s her. Maybe she’s watching a totally different dog do what she likes to do, and she’s excited about that, just like any other sports fan.

The cat video ends with a variation on what seems to be a regular internet gag about misbehaving reflections (that vid being in the comments on the cat vid), but that’s a different story. Someone else adds a Marx Brother, or maybe it’s actually two Marx Brothers, doing the same gag, in those far off days before there was an internet.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Crypto Kitty news

Today is Friday, which used to be my day for cat stories but is now also the day here for creatures of other sorts. But for old times sake, I just got google to tell me some cat news, having had a busy day and not having any recently encountered creature stories of my own to muse upon.

And without doubt, the most intriguing yarns google told me about were these ones, published by cryptoslate.com:

How Two Guys Made $100k Trading Digital Cats on Ethereum, Merit of Digital Collectibles

CryptoKitties Keeps With Ethereum and Goes Open-Source

Millions of Dollars Worth of Cats are Still Infesting the Ethereum Network

The last paragraph of the last of these three stories goes thus:

While CryptoKitties may sound laughable to some, the exuberant on-boarding of Ethereum is sending positive signals around the network. And in fact, CryptoKitties now accounts for around 4% of all Ethereum transactions; it’s the second most used application on the network. CryptoKitties definitely proves there is definitely market for rare, fungible, digital assets that are traded and exchanged on the blockchain.

Definitely.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Hello Kitty Bullet Train

I kid you not:

West Japan Railway Co. said Friday it will begin operating a Hello Kitty-themed shinkansen on June 30.

The interior and seats of the 500-series shinkansen, to be used for daily round trips between Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka Prefecture and Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture, will feature Sanrio Co.’s Hello Kitty character, the railway operator said.

The special train, to be decorated with pink ribbons like the character, will be used to promote local attractions and specialty goods, and passengers will have the chance to pose for photos with a big Hello Kitty doll.

I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been had by Japan’s answer to the Daily Mash, or that all this was first announced on April 1st. Nevertheless, it does seem to be a real thing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Chat perdu :( (et retrouvé)

Those photos of Oscar would appear to have made quite a difference to Oscar’s life, because he went missing last Monday, and three of these photos helped to find him and get him home again:

GodDaughter2 will be telling me more about all this soon. Like: Were there any other recent photos of Oscar that would have worked the same trick? I don’t want to jump to conclusions, as people say when they do want to jump to conclusions, but maybe without my photos, Oscar would have ended up having a totally different life.

The heart of the operation was the much grumbled-about social media. The above poster was concocted in London by a friend of GD2’s, and then socially media-ed all over the local area in France. Facebook, take a bow. In addition to being an actual friend of mine, GD2 is a Facebook “friend”, but I hadn’t been paying attention to her Oscar postings, until she phoned and then emailed me about all this excitement:

About 300 people shared various posts I posted on Facebook to find Oscar. He left Monday, I started looking for him last night and we got him today!

GD2 made all this happen while in London, that email having arrived yesterday, last night being Wednesday evening. It seems that Oscar, having got lost, was then cared for by another family. But when, thanks to the above social media activity, they got in touch and Oscar got back to his original carers, GD2’s family, he apparently spent many hours sleeping, which is not the routine I recall when I was there. This tells to me that he was very stressed while away, and was relieved to be home. With home needing no sneer quotes, the way it might with some cats.

6k has also been impressed by these Oscar photos, this one in particular …:

…, and he has been making that the basis of various would-be internet memes, of which this one is the latest:

Reuniting lost loved-ones is a classic excuse for the Total Surveillance World we now live in.

And actually (see above (sometimes)) quite a good excuse. If I, or someone, had not been surveilling Oscar, he might still be lost.

I also remember how, in the past, GD2’s parents would grumble about how much time she would spend social-media-ing, instead of doing “real” things, like sleep or homework. But finding Oscar was very real.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog