The Mississippi Basin

I have never seen this map before:

I sharpened it a bit, so that I could read, with my Getting Old eyesight, the smaller river names with a bit less difficulty.

It is map number 7 of these 45 maps. A Twitter posting last night, now way down in my feed, showed one of these maps.

My favourite piece of geography there is probably Chicago, where it seems that they have a river which flows into the Mississippi. Blog and learn.

Attached blurb:

You may have heard that the Mississippi River is mighty, but if you ever doubted it, just take a look at this map. You’ll see that an extraordinary number of the United States’ rivers and tributaries send water into the Mighty Miss.

Quite so.

I love the names. Milk. Yazoo. Republican. Canadian (nowhere near Canada). Powder. Smoky. In general, I love the names of American places and geographical features. They seem impossibly exotic compared to the names of places in England. (But I’m sure that, for quite a few Americans, it must work the other way around.)

England has no big rivers. The Thames would hardly merit a name on the above map. I recall that one of my better pieces for Samizdata was about how the application of steam power to river transport entirely passed us Brits by. We went straight from stationary steam engines in coal mines to steam engines on locomotives. Unlike America. Yes, here.

The curse of Having To Do Something Else The Same Day (and gauze in the early morning light)

I am writing this at 5am, and will shortly be going back to bed. That’s another Getting Old (see the “Categories” below) thing. I now typically have to get up in the middle of the night, to piss and to cool down, bladder and temperature control being two things that have cumulatively deserted me, as I have Got Older.

Also, as with most of this week’s evenings, I have something I must go out and do this evening. That always puts the kibosh (spelling?) on the day. There’s something about having Absolutely Nothing To Do For the whole day, until I next go to bed for real (i.e., at this particular time) in the very small hours of Saturday morning, that enables me to really get stuck into something, like a piece of serious writing (this not being that) or even merely thinking seriously about something, that I really like. Contrariwise, the knowledge that if I do get really stuck into something now, it might go on and on into the evening, at which point I would then have to cut it short, and go off to do something else, makes me fear getting stuck in in the first place. Even though I have many hours before I have to go off to do that other thing.

Factor in the something-here-every-day rule, and I think you can see how I need to get blogging out of the way as soon as possible. Blogging, of even the most trivial sort (this being that) is something that you can’t guarantee to finish at any particular hour. It takes as long as it takes. What if I find I want to stick up a photo? And what if that photo leads to other photos? What if I want to link back to an earlier posting, from the old blog, which I haven’t yet shovelled across to here? What if Surrey suddenly start doing really well at cricket, and demand my attention, in among me trying to contrive this blog posting? There’s so much to get complicated, and to gobble up all that now seemingly endless time.

Here is a photo that I want to stick up here, now, of the early morning light coming in through the scaffolding and the gauze outside the window of my living room:

That wasn’t actually photoed just now. It was photoed at this time in the morning, earlier this week. The time of day is the point, not the date of the day. The photo is all about how you can see through gauze if the gauze itself is not lit up, but not so much if it is.

Here is another early morning gauze photo, also one I photoed earlier:

The point of that photo being that despite the gauziness of the gauze, if you can persuade your camera to focus on the far distance, through the gauze, it’s like the gauze isn’t there. The gauze might as well be a perfectly cleaned lens of filter, for all the interruption it imposes. It changes the nature of the incoming light, but not the clarity of the photo. If anything, by reducing the mere quantity of light, it clarifies the picture, just like a regular filter. That red clutch of a table and chairs can be entirely seen, with no gauze in the picture at all, just less light and therefore, probably, less glare all over the place. But the gauze is there. Just not having any effect on what my camera seems to see. How about that?

Here is a photo of the gauze, similar to the first photo above. But this is not about the contrast between the lit gauze and the unlit gauze, merely about how very gauzy the gauze is:

Enough. (Although actually, let me add, I (LATER:) made the first version of the above gauziness even gauzier by “sharpening” it, in my photoshop-clone. Much better. (Much gauzier.))

But now, I have to photo-process the above photos, just to get them the right size, and then load them up into the blog. This all takes time. I also need to give the above a read-through and correct, which also all takes time. By the time this trivial blog posting is done, over an hour (a phrase which had to be changed from “the best part of an hour”) will have elapsed. Had I been doing all this in the knowledge that in two hours, say, I’d have had to stop and go out, it would have been very stressful. I might have had to stop before completion and just hope that that the bits of this blog posting were pickable-uppable later. As it is, all I did was delay some resumed sleep, let my feet get a bit colder than is convenient, and my bed get a bit colder than will enable my feet to warm up again, all of which is easily corrected with a hot water bottle. No problem.

Really. Enough.

I have now freed up the entire day, for important but non-urgent stuff. Bliss. Come to think of it, I have other important and urgent stuff to deal with. Now much easier to fit in. Bliss of a different kind. (ENOUGH.)

Another symptom of getting old

When you are young, and you realise something true and important, this is evidence of how clever you are, even if what it is that you have just realised was really rather obvious. (And everything is obvious, once you’ve understood it. That’s what understanding is.)

When you are old, however, and you realise something true and important, this is evidence of how stupid you are for not having understood it about forty or fifty years sooner than you did. (Because everything is obvious, blah blah.)

This has happened to me twice in the last fortnight. I will not complicate this posting by confessing what these two very different but very obvious things were, but trust me, they were very obvious indeed.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Sculptures and scaffolding

In March 2005 there was scaffolding at the Albert Memorial, and I photoed it, along with several of its subsidiary sculptures, sculptures of which I am very fond:

There is an elephant there, centre stage, which is why this has to go up here on a Friday. Also, note the lady with with her (right) boob job. I’ve always liked that.

Here is Albert himself, same day, same time:

My camera then was this one.

There will come a time, not so far in the future now, when the only photos of my own that I blog about will be photos I photoed earlier, often, as in this case, a lot earlier.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Death in France and death on television

A week ago now, I photoed this photo in the graveyard of a little village up in the mountains of southern France called Taulis (already mentioned here) (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG). Today being Good Friday, I thought I’d do a little nod towards Christianity by showing a few crucified Christs, France being very full of these rather gruesome sorts of sculpture. Everywhere you go in France, or so it seems to me, you see these, and not just in graveyards:

Even more striking, however, in that photo, are the dead body storage units in the background. Do we have those in England? Not that I recall seeing.

They remind me of the dead body storage units that you see in TV police dramas. Every so often there’s a scene where a grieving relative is asked to identify a cadaver, and a drawer is opened, and closed. We see grief enacted.

Are police dramas on the telly replacing graveyards and crucified Christs as the main means that we now use to contemplate death?

As I get nearer to death, I think about it more and more. What will it be like? Will I know I’m dead? Will I still be “alive” when I am incinerated? Will there by bright lights in the distance? Will it hurt? Will I be reunited with the enemies of my schooldays? Will I still be able to write about it here, but in a way that is unpublished? What, historically speaking, will I miss by a whisker? Or by decades and centuries?

Maybe France is not so full of crucified Christs. Maybe it’s just that when I now see them, I notice them.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Something I forgot to mention

There you were, waiting for a good time to con your way past the front door of my block of flats by saying you’re the postman, to climb my stairs, to bash in my front door and to plunder my classical CD collection. All that was stopping you was the fear of me bashing your skull to bits with my cricket bat, which I keep handy for just this sort of eventuality.

So anyway, there you were reading all about how my life for the last week has been complicated. But, I clean forgot to tell you that the reason for all this complication was that I was off in the south of France. Silly old me. I’m getting old, I guess.

Here’s how the south of France was looking:

Those are the Pyrenees at the back there. In the foreground, lots of little wine trees.

The weather looks slightly better in that than it really was, what with it having been so very windy. Especially on the final day of my stay, up on this thing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Two beautiful days

On Thursday, perfet weather was perfectly prophesied by our brilliant short-term weather forecasters, and I journeyed to the Dome and places south, to take a closer look at The Optic Cloak:

And then yesterday afternoon, following a similarly prescient forecast, forecasting similarly perfect weather, GodDaughter2 and I, as recounted yesterday, walked through Hyde Park:

That being one of the accompanying sculptural collections next to the Albert Memorial, which at the moment I think I prefer to the Memorial itself.

I basically spent today recovering from all this self-propelled travel. You, like me, are not getting any younger, no matter how young you may now be. But this expression is only used by people of my kind of age to describe how I felt after two such days of exertion.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A friend gets into domestic 3D-printing

I continue to be skeptical about 3D-printing ever “going domestic”. Just because the world can have a 3D-printer in every home, this does not mean that it makes the slightest bit of sense for the world actually to do this. No, all the significant advances in 3D printing are now being made by old-school manufacturers, who now have another tool in their toolbox to make whatever stuff they already know how to design, make and sell. 3D-printing is additive in the literal sense, that being how it works. It is also additive from the business point of view. It is a technique that has been added to conventional manufacturing. 3D-printing is not “disruptive”. It is the opposite of that.

Nevertheless, and despite all that, a friend of mine has recently purchased a domestic type 3D-printer, for him to play around with. And despite everything I have learned about how the 3D-printing market is and is not developing just now, and despite the fact that I wouldn’t dream of acquiring such a contraption myself, I can’t stop myself being interested in what my friend does with his new toy. 3D-printing is just so miraculous, so Dr Whoozy, so Star Trecky, so downright amazing, as and when it starts to work as well as it clearly will work, once the Geekocracy have truly got it working properly.

The above is a very early “product”, as advertised by my friend on Facebook, those being his fingernails. Just conceivably, what my friend will do is develop a repertoire, so to speak, of such “products”.

I put “products” in inverted commas because we’re not talking big business here. More like small acts of friendship. Him being that most potent combination, a Geek who nevertheless knows how to make and keep non-Geek friends, he might soon be 3D-printing useful bespoke items for the rest of us. So we don’t have to.

Trouble is, it’s hard to think what these things might be. But I am sure that over the decades to come, ideas will materialise.

What I am foreseeing is a world in which 3D-printers appear not in all homes, but in just enough homes for all those who want any of these “products” to be able to ask their designated Geek friend to get to work. And I suppose some actual business might even emerge from this, in the form of designs for popular items.

Jewellery and kid’s toys are two obvious things, although you need to watch out the kid’s toys are not the sort they might be tempted to swallow.

What made me think that the above speculations might not be absurd was not only my friend’s Facebook posting, but also this piece, about a retired engineer who makes trinkets for his little network of friends.

Ninety-four-year-old John Downes is not your average pensioner.

A retired engineer, Mr Downes’s room at his Cambridgeshire care home contains not one, but three state-of-the-art 3D printers – technology he uses for the benefit of his fellow residents.

Having lived in Toft for almost 50 years, Mr Downes decided to remain in the village when he moved to the nearby Home Meadow care home in May last year.

Note that. He remains where has always lived, and keeps all his local friends. I bet he makes the occasional stuff for people beyond his care home.

There, he was keen to continue his tech-based hobbies, so staff arranged for his 3D printers to be set up in his room.

A retired engineer, Mr Downes’s room at his Cambridgeshire care home contains not one, but three state-of-the-art 3D printers – technology he uses for the benefit of his fellow residents.

But like I say, the problem here is not the technology. It is worthwhile ideas about what to do with it, other than sensible things like making bits for airplanes or spare parts for cars, nearer than China, which won’t be done in anyone’s home.

As soon as I think of something that I want my friend to make for me I will let him know, and probably all of you too.

Here’s a thought. A mutual friend of 3D-printer man and me is building a railway layout for his kids. (And, you suspect, also for himself.) Maybe 3D-printing can add something to that project.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Zone 2/3

I think I must have noticed this strange phenomenon before, but then I forgot about it. But whether I ever did notice it before or not, I recently noticed it again, or I noticed it:

I’m guessing that what this means is that if you are in Zone 2, and move to Zone 2/3, you haven’t moved into another zone. And if you are in Zone 3 and then move to Zone 2/3, ditto.

But since I have an Old Git Pass, none of this really matters to me. I just like the oddity of the situation.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Old and cross

Photoed by me, on the same day that I most recently photoed Bartok:

As I get older, I find myself, every so often, getting crosser. Not all the time, you understand, just in occasional eruptions.

But I am not cross about this photo. That is exactly how it came out of the camera. No cropping or Photoshop(clone)ing. Just as was. I love that light, as I have been saying here for about a week now.

I love that effect when the light is very strong and almost exactly in line with the wall but not quite, at a just sufficient angle to light it up, and at the slightest excuse cover it in big shadows. If it didn’t say: “City of Westminster”, you’d think you could be in the South of France or some such sunlit place.

More about the Compton Cross.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog