Red staircases at the top of the Heron Tower

So there I was in the City of London, during the early evening of November 23rd 2012, photoing all that there ever was of The Helter Skelter that never was, and in among all that I also photoed the Heron Tower. The one that used to be called the Heron Tower, which they tried to call the Salesforce Tower, but which remains the Heron Tower:

That being a photo that wouldn’t be worth showing here, except that the reason I photoed it was that it explained and supplied context for this next photo, which I had photoed a few moments earlier:

Let’s take a look at what we see there in more closer-upper detail:

I like how we have that bloke bottom right, telling us the size of everything. It’s bigger than I’d have guessed without him there.

It’s not often you get to see inside the tops of towers like that. It helped that it was early evening, because that’s the time when artificial light starts to assert itself, but there is still enough natural light outside for the outside of the building to be clearly visible also.

I went a-googling, to try to find out what was and maybe still is going on in there.

I found my way to this photo:

Curved red staircase, clearly at the top of a tower. That had to be it. And when I googled “red staircase heron tower” and that same photo came up, that settled it.

Two names kept coming up: Sushi Samba; and: Duck and Waffle. Had Sushi Samba perhaps closed, some time around 2017, and been replaced by Duck and Waffle. Sushi Samba sounds like the sort of one-off foodery that opens, and then closes; while Duck and Waffle sounds more like a tried-and-tested formula, of the sort that replaces one-off fooderies that are closing. Was that what had happened?

These people, who did the interior design for this place, explain:

This floating “culinary village” is set in a three-story crystalline volume at the top of Heron Tower, the tallest building in the City of London. The space is home to both SUSHISAMBA London, the renowned Brazilian/Peruvian/Japanese restaurant, and Duck & Waffle, a unique 24/7 restaurant that is inspired by British artistic and culinary traditions. A sweeping sculptural orange glass and metal staircase connects all three levels, decorated by a wall of street art.

So, both tried-and-tested business recipes and both happening there from the get-go, which presumably happened when the Heron Tower really was “the tallest building in the City of London”.

Another enterprise I learned about was the guys who actually built these staircases. And oh look, they also do roof clutter. Memo to self: get back to that site and have a deeper rootle around. For instance: they built/worked on that bizarre bit of roof clutter on top of the Guy’s Hospital Tower.

But the most enticing thing I found while scrabbling about trying to work out the SushiSamba/Duck+Waffle story was this very enticing photo:

That photo being one of these.

According to GodDaughter2’s sister, you can just go up there, with no airport checking-in crap, like it’s a regular place on the ground. I guess the Heron Tower isn’t reckoned to be “iconic” enough to merit counter-terrorism theatre.

Another memo to self: go up there.

Meanwhile this bird has just realised golf balls bounce on concrete …

… and is now having the time of its life, or so the tweet from #DanClarkSport says.

No, say commenters. The bird thinks the golf ball is an egg and is trying to break it and get a meal. The bouncing of the ball is a bug, and a rather alarming bug, not a feature.

Walking north to the Dome

So there I was at YOU ARE HERE …:

…, and following a bit of shipspotting, I made my way north along the wiggly pink line beside the River.

And so now here is another of those click-click-click in-your-own-time fast-or-slow-or-as-you-wish galleries, of the sort I never used to do on such a scale at the old blog, because they were so much harder to do and so much harder for you to click-click-click your way through:

Looking back, at such things as the quadruple chimneys of the Greenwich Power Station. Looking left across the River to the towers of Docklands and towers further away. Looking at the strange shore, between the River and the land I was walking on, and at the strange things people do to such shores. Looking to the right, at the new machines for living in that are being constructed next to this shore. And looking to the right further away, to catch occasional glimpses of the Optic Cloak, which I admire more and more every time I see it.

There is no theme this time, other than the theme of this being where I was and this being what I saw from where I was. Fences, scaffolding, cranes, towers, and lots of signs, and, in general, a place that will be very different in a few years time. Also, quite a lot of plant life of various sorts, which I always enjoy in moderate doses, in among all the urbanity.

The walk involved quite a bit of digressing inland, as walks alongside the Thames tend to. This being because they are constantly altering what is next to the Thames, and don’t want you getting in the way while they’re doing that.

The final photo in this gallery features a huge fence, for stopping balls escaping from a mini-golf range. I did not see that place coming.

Food photos as prayers of gratitude

This from the American Spectator seems to me to be saying something rather true:

It is easy to be cynical. We might dismiss these photos as brazen self-promotion or a symptom of millennial self-absorption. Headlines like “Instagram Food Is a Sad, Sparkly Lie” and “Instagramming Millennials Are Burying the World in Food Waste” capture the standard sentiment. Slurs such as “foodgasm” and “food porn” often taint these photos with the suggestion of lechery. Perhaps, though, a more sincere explanation is possible. As odd as it sounds, I do not see pornography in these images. I find prayer.

I believe these pictures are a new incarnation of an ancient instinct: the ritual of tableside grace. Derived from the Latin gratia for “thanks,” grace is a specific type of prayer given before or after a meal to express gratitude and to invoke a blessing. It is an exercise in devoting reverential attention to life’s bounty, and through this enriched attention, achieving an expanded sense of belonging. “It becomes believers not to take food … before interposing a prayer,” Tertullian wrote in the third century, “for the refreshments and nourishments of the spirit are to be held prior to those of the flesh, and things heavenly prior to things earthly.” Grace is more than gratitude — it is gratitude ascendant, aimed above the earthly appetite toward a higher vocation. The Catholic Catechism defines prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” Thus grace gives our gratitude wings that lift the mind from the necessities of the flesh toward the nourishments of the spirit. For many people, photographing their entrées fills the same social role as grace: a ritual of aspirational attention that elevates bodily sustenance into spiritual refreshment through the simple power of a genuine “thank you.”

I often find myself describing my fellow digital photoers as “worshippers”. They see something which seems to them meaningful and express that feeling by photoing whatever it is. I do this myself of course, constantly.

On the other hand, this piece also helped me to understand the widespread annoyance at the way food photoing is such a big part of social-media-ing. Saying grace is fine. But it’s a shared moment for those present (God included, if you think He’s the one to be thanking), and then you get stuck in. Do you record this expression of gratitude and then expect your friends to listen to it? No.

But on the other hand, two of the things that twenty-first-centurions now have to learn are: not to pay attention to everything that your friends put out there; and: not to expect your friends to pay attention to everything that you put out there. If a friend posts lots of food photos and you think it’s too much, just pay less attention.

Also, this:

More about this wondrous concoction here.

And while I’m on the subject of food photoing, take (or not (it’s entirely up to you (if we are friends, our friendship will not be affected))) another look at what I think is one of my best-yet food photos, here.

Strange Things on a tree

I recently attended a picnic in a London square, the sort with a small park in the middle, and photoed this strange tree with its extra bits. Left to right: lots of context, some context, and just the Things:

I image-googled the London square where I photoed these photos, mentioning the strange Things on the tree, and got nothing. I’m guessing the inhabitants of the square, who include my hosts, would probably like to keep it that way. So, no name of the square. Just the fun of seeing the Things, and a question: What are they? Any suggestions?

A sign with history lessons and with a map

On the 29th of last month I journeyed to Maze Hill railway station, walked north towards the river, just as I had planned, and in due course got to this spot:

I’m looking at signs. And I’m looking past the signs in the direction I intend to go. I love these signs that London has everywhere. And presumably also every great city in the rich world.

Let’s take a close look at the sign on the right in the above photo:

As you can perhaps see, this sign contains chunks of written information about places nearby. Chunks of the sort that I do not like to spend time reading direct from their signs, but which I do like to photo and then read later. Chunks like this:

So, the Isle of Dogs got its name from Henry III’s dogs, did it? Well, maybe. This is a fun maybe-fact, I think. Henry III was the one who had to escape the clutches of, and then execute, Roger Mortimer, Mortimer being the one who toppled Henry III’s Dad, Henry II. Henry II did badly. Henry III, at any rate by the standards that his subjects cared about, did very well, at least at first. What this means is that Henry II fought against his own nobles, in England. Henry III fought against the French, in France. Given how much pillaging and plundering and sheer destruction was involved in medieval warfare, in order to deny supplies to the enemy, Henry III’s wars were greatly preferred by the English.

(MUCH LATER: The above paragraph is mostly bollocks. Henry III was indeed the one with the dogs. But, I was muddling Henry III and Henry II with Edward III and Edward II. It was Edward III who fought against the French and whose Dad Edward II was deposed by Mortimer. Sorry. Now, back to the original posting, which still makes some sense, even though it is nothing to do with what it says on the sign:)

I know what you’re thinking. Why not just not have any wars, anywhere? Ridiculous. What century are you living in? This one? There you go. No wonder you just don’t get it.

However the sign is now out of date on the subject of the tallest tower in Britain. That was indeed, once upon a time, One Canada Square. But the Shard has since, metaphorically speaking, toppled it. See here for details of that story. The soon-to-be-completed 22 Bishopsgate is already also a lot taller than One Canada Square.

However, I am puzzled about whether we are at Anchor Iron Wharf, as claimed by the sign on the left in the first photo in this posting, or on Ballast Quay. Many the former ends on the left with sign on the left, and the latter begins on the right with the sign on the right.

The right sign also contains a map, which is rather faded (what with it being a rather ancient sign), but this had the effect of throwing my intended journey into sharper relief:

This map even helpfully shows, with a thin dotted pink line, the very first part of my walk from Maze Hill station to the River. Having thus arrived at where it says YOU ARE HERE, my plan was to follow the thicker squiggly pink line north, beside the River, all the way around the north of the Dome, and then either go across the River on the Dangleway, or else just go home on the tube from North Greenwich.

And that’s what I did.

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.

On how my meetings work

I photoed these photos of my front room last night and today. Last night on the left, during my latest Last Friday of the Month meeting (at which My Friend The Professor (Tim Evans) spoke about Russia), and today, on the right, after I had begun tidying up (but still had a way to go):

I have a theory about these meetings and how they work, which I would like to share with myself. If you want to read along with me, feel free.

A major reason I keep on with my meetings is that they strengthen, or so I believe, relationships between those who attend. They do this by being small. My front room is small, and only a small number of people can fit into it. This means that there is a lot less of that “wandering eye” temptation, as you talk with one person but simultaneously wonder if there are others present more worthy of your attention. In a small meeting, you are basically stuck with who you are with. So, you get stuck into a proper conversation. At a big meeting, a proper conversation with a randomly selected person present would be very good. But, instead, you tend to “circulate”. At my meetings, there is not a lot of circulating to be done.

When my meetings have a popular speaker who attracts a somewhat larger crowd than usual, as happened last night when around twenty people showed up, another influence cuts in, which is that it becomes very hard to move. You can’t circulate, because there is no spare room to do it in. So, it’s the same thing again. Your best bet is to have a serious conversation with whoever you are sat down next to.

It may be I have overstated the above effect somewhat. But I do think that something like this does happen.

All meetings have their own peculiar atmospheres and dynamics. No particular sort of meeting suits everyone. My meetings seem to attract two types of people. There are the regulars, who simply like them and keep on coming. And, there are those who are busy making connections in the London libertarian scene, having only recently joined it.

There is another influence at work which is also quite significant, which has the effect of stopping a certain sort of person attending very frequently, but I’ll get to that in another posting. Tomorrow maybe? Some time soon, I hope, before I forget.

Singapore architecture

Recently I have become included in the Libertarian Boys Curry Night gang. I know them all. I just hadn’t been having curries (or in my case biryanis) with them every now and again, until rather recently.

During the latest such Curry Night (at an Indian Diner near to me (which turned out to be a good choice (I had a biryani))), one of the Boys showed me some photos of Singapore he’d taken with his mobile, of that huge thing that looks like a set of cricket stumps, for a game of cricket played in hell and painted by Bruegel.

I said, send me one of those, and he did, twice:

I show these photos here, because whatever you think of this Thing, it is certainly of architectural interest, in a misshapen and off-putting sort of way (or so I think).

But more, I show these photos because they actually are rather informative, especially the one on the left. That one especially shows context, in the form of nearby places and other nearby buildings. In general, you get a feel for what sort of place Singapore is.

In Real Photographer photos, you get buildings like this looking super-cool and super-glamorous, in other words not how they actually look like when you get there.

I’ve said it before and will say it again now. Real Photographers photo photos that are super-nice. Amateur photoers often photo photos which tell you more about what a place is actually like. So it is, I think, with these photos that my mate Tom took.

My low opinion of this Cricket Stumps Thing is perhaps shared by whoever compiled this list of 10 Super Cool Buildings in Singapore You Might Not Have Noticed Before, because The Stumps are not included. That’s because you’ve probably already noticed them, rather than because it’s ugly. But the implied point of the list is: we have other and cooler buildings, besides and unlike The Stumps.

One of the Cool Buildings in this list is something called the “Interlace” Apartments, which is that pile of blocks of flats, all rectangular and each very boring, but piled up like a child’s set of big wooden bricks, all at angles to each other. There’s a photo of this Pile of Bricks in the list, of course. But I prefer this aerial photo of it, that I found elsewhere, and which I’d not seen before:

Once again, you get context. So I’m guessing: photoed from an airplane by an amateur photoer.

Tom’s photos of The Stumps were not photoed from an airplane, but rather from a nearby building. You can tell this because both were photoed from the exact same spot, but the clouds are different. Ergo, he was still when he photoed them.