Internet not working

Using phone. Impossible. That is all.

LATER: Well, not quite. It seems that it was Google not working. Or something. Everything went black. Why? So after all the usual switch-it-off-switch-in-on-again bollocks, I closed all windows, black as they were and were determined to remain, and then opened just one. And that, this, worked. I found out google wasn’t working by trying another internet searcher thingy. That worked. Except that it couldn’t remember how to get here, if it ever knew. So, I closed google and opened it again, a little.

Very peculiar.

As for that using phone thing, well, again, not impossible. Just ridiculously difficult.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A couple of nice Tweets by Frank J. Fleming

I have yet to break my Twitter silence. I am just letting all the people I follow just Twitter away all over me, while I try to get a sense of who Twitters well, so that when I finally do, if I ever do, I too will Twitter well, or at least quite well.

One such role model is Frank J. Fleming.

From whom, this is deservedly getting around:

I think you’re always going to have tension in the Middle East when there’s people who want to kill the Jews and Jews who don’t want to be killed and neither side is willing to compromise.

More recently, I also liked this, about an American psycho-gang that President Trump described as animals:

I assumed the threat of MS-13 was being overblown since I don’t trust Trump, but now other people I don’t trust are doing overtime belittling the problem of MS-13 and I don’t know who not to trust more.

When I was young, I wondered if I would be able to respect my youngers but betters. How would that work? It turns out it works fine. That would make another nice Tweet.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Here are some I took earlier

Today was a perfect day for a day out on a big photo-expedition, but for some reason to do with getting older, I didn’t feel up to it. It’s too early to be sure, but I sense that a phase of my life, a phase that consisted of, among other things, exploring and photoing London, may just have come to an end.

So, instead of showing you photos I took today, here are some from an ancient I Just Like Them! Directory:

Taken in 2008 in Trafalgar Sqaure (1.1), in 2012 underneath that rather pointless ski lift thing out east (1.2), in 2014 while those swanky student accommodations were under construction at the far end of Westminster Bridge from Parliament (2.1), and at the top end of Horseferry Road looking at the top of a random building at the top end of Rochester Row (2.2) also in 2014, when all the tree leaves had been shaken off.

The internet is no longer a nice place

I remember when the internet was nice. My part of it, the blogosphere, was nice, anyway. Every blogger, no matter what he thought about things, was a comrade. Every commenter, ditto. In those magic few years from about 2001 until about 2008 at the latest, when a whole generation of people the world over found themselves short of cash, the internet was a nicer, more trusting place than it is now. Since then, less and less. Now, the internet is not to be trusted further than it can be spat, and it can’t be spat at all, can it?

Which is why, when I go on holiday and leave my flat unattended, I tend not to broadcast the fact on this blog, by posting postings which are clearly from this or that holiday location.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: broadcast? This blog, a broadcast? Well, no, not to regular humans. But to all those cash-strapped desperadoes out there, it is a potential opportunity.

I don’t know if there are any internet creatures who spend their time working out, from blog postings and social media postings, that this or that person has left his home unattended, and then selling lists of such trusting persons on to people who might be able to do something bad about that, but this is not a chance I now care to take. I prefer only to be telling you about photo-expeditions after I am back home.

Also, as you get older, you get more easily scared. The less you have left to lose, the more you fear losing it. This may not make calculational sense, but does make evolutionary sense. The young need to be willing to take risks, to be willing to bet everything for the sake of their gene pool. The old have less to offer in such dramas. Or something. What do I know? Anyway, whatever the reason, we oldies get more timid as we grow older.

So yes, I was on holiday last week, in Brittany, and then yesterday, on the way home from there, I was in Paris, as I yesterday reported once I had got home.

I took enough photos while in France to last me a month of blogging, and I expect about the next week of postings here to be about nothing else. Here is just one photo from my travels:

That was my first view, again, this time around, of Quimper Cathedral, seen through the rather sunglassesy front window of my hosts’ car, on what was already quite a dreary afternoon, the day after I arrived, Sunday April 29th. Quimper Cathedral – to be more exact, one of its towers – was responsible for the timing of this visit. I’ll tell you more about that in a later posting.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

And another crowd scene (in a bookshop)

Earlier today, in the Derby branch of Waterstone’s:

Standing on the staircase, top left, in a black dress, is Roz Watkins, speaking at the launch of her crime thriller, published today, The Devil’s Dice.

I mention Roz and her book here because she is my niece. Another sign of getting old, to add to the collection: instead of boasting about elderly relatives who did great things in the past, e.g. WW2, you instead find yourself boasting about younger relatives who are doing great things now and who will probably do more great things in the future.

Roz sent me an advance copy of The Devil’s Dice and I am happy to report that I agree with all those effusively admiring Amazon reviewers. Very absorbing, very well written. I am now working on a longer piece about this book for Samizdata, which I hope will go up there tomorrow. If not then, then soon.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A twentieth century bank robber gets a nagging from the cashier he is robbing

I still get cheques through the post, and then I insert these cheques into my bank account by going physically to my local physical branch of my unlocal bank and by handing the cheques over to a cashier. My bank, however, doesn’t like this. Just like Tesco, they want me to do the work. In Tesco’s case they now demand that I become my own check-out person and operate their computers for them. So, it’s Sainsbury’s and Waitrose for me, from now on. Bye bye Tesco. In the bank’s case, they want me to do their work for them while I sit at home. But, I like the exercise. In the huge bank queue, I get to read a book concentratedly, because there is nothing else to do. Good.

All of which is a preamble to the fact that when I came across this, I LedOL:

“Are you aware that you can now do all of this online?”

Genius. K. J. Lamb, well done.

One of the many techniques they use to put you off actually going to the physical local branch of your Big Bank is to keep changing the people behind the bars. And these total strangers are constantly, and insultingly, asking you to prove that you are who you are. Well, madam, I’ve been banking with your bank for the last half century. Who the hell are you? Please could you give me proof that you actually do work here?

Someone should make a movie about a twenty first century bank robbery, where the robbers, who are disgruntled ex-employees of the Big Bank that owns the bank branch they bust into, bust into the bank branch, overpower the witless bunch of newbies who happen to be running the place that day, and park them all in a back room for the day with tape over their months, and then the robbers run the bank all day long, while one of their number hacks into the mainframe computer of the Big Bank that owns everything, and sucks all the money out of it. The point is: none of the customers who visit the branch while all this is happening would find it in the slightest bit odd to be confronted by a bunch of total strangers. That would ring no alarm bells at all, because this happens all the time.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Happy New Year (at last)

I’m not saying Happy New Year to you, again, although now that I’ve mentioned it, I actually do, again. No, what I have in mind is that today feels like my New Year has, at last, begun.

I always tell people that I like a quiet Christmas and a quiet New Year, but it seldom turns out that way, and it did not this time around. This was not because I got lots of appalling demands to attend appalling things. If they had been appalling demands and appalling things, then I would have happily played them all off against each other and ignored the whole damn lot of them. No, the problem was: enticing requests to attend enticing things, frequented by enticing people whom I might not soon be meeting again, things that I knew I would enjoy and which I did mostly enjoy, hugely, but which just came one after another. (Plus, I arranged an event myself at my home, on the last Friday of December.)

And then, in the midst of it all there was that dose of Ashes Lag, to play havoc with the already imperfect sleep pattern. The point of such fill-in-the-blank lags is that it only takes one such night of lag to create a ripple lasting about a week. Throw into that mix a few invites to things that happened not in the evening but earlier in the day, and it all became pretty strenuous.

But now, all these events have come and gone. I had a huge sleep last night and way into this morning, and finally feel able to think about the year ahead rather than just the next thing I need to get to.

So like I say: Happy New Year.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Getting old – BBC Music – Lego Tower Bridge – etc.

One of the problems of getting old is that it becomes gradually harder to do more than one thing in a day. This being why my daily postings here are often rather perfunctory.

This morning, for instance, I had a most enjoyable meeting with a friend, and then, the weather being so good, I went wandering about in Soho. That’s two things there, right away. Now, all I am capable of is rather incoherent rambling about nothing very much.

I did, while meandering about in the south of Oxford Street area, finally manage to track down the latest issue of the BBC Music (by which is meant classical music) magazine, which is getting harder to come by with every year that passes. Another symptom of advancing years being that it gets harder to buy the things that you particularly like, as others who also like that thing die off.

But, good news: the BBC’s preferred best performance of the Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata was a rather obscure recording by the rather obscure pianist, Peter Serkin, who is the less famous son of the famous pianist Rudolf Serkin. I have so many CDs that I often can’t be sure whether I own some particular CD or not, and so it was with this one. But after some rootling around, I discovered that I do possess this CD. I love it when that happens.

And yes, since you ask, I am influenced by critics. If someone who knows the piece in question very well thinks that this or that performance is very, very good, then I know that I will at least want to hear this performance, even if I don’t end up sharing the critic’s high opinion, which often I do. This recommendation means I will now listen to this CD again.

The other thing I did was take a close look at a camera that I have been tempted by, but will probably not be buying, although it was interesting. This was in a shop called Park Cameras in Rathbone Place.

Inside Park Cameras Rathbone Place I also took this photo, with the camera that I already possess:

Good to encounter a new bridge of interest, even if it is only a miniature Lego version of an old bridge. I have no idea why such a bridge was in Park Cameras Rathbone Place, but I wasn’t complaining.

I get the distinct impression that a golden age of bridge building arrived about thirty or forty years ago, but has now departed. I just picture googled new bridge, and I mostly got bridges I have known about for quite a while.

I digress.

Camera not conked out – I just pressed the wrong knob by mistake

My camera is pretty good, but it isn’t ideal for me. I only use a bit of it at all regularly, the automatic bit. So if, on a rainy day, I push, by mistake, some stupid knob on it that tells it to stop being automatic, it stops being automatic. And, the automatic focussing refuses to work the way it should. That’s what happened when I thought it had conked out. It’s fine. It was simply obeying orders.

I tried photoing the relevant knobs, first with mirrors and then with my mobile, but the results of all that were a blurry mess. Have you ever tried getting a camera to photo its own arse? And photoing with my mobile is something I need daylight to do half decently.

I got a much better picture of the back of my camera by going to this.

In particular, I draw your attention to this bit:

The knob with AF/AE LOCK on it needs to be pointing at AFS/AFF, and absolutely not at MF. MF means, I presume, Manual Focus. AF means automatic focus. S and the other F mean whatever they mean.

The problem arose when, in the rain and needing to possess three hands, one to hold my bag and two to operate my camera properly, I try to look at the photo I just took. That involves pressing the button with the green arrow on it. To get back to photoing, press DISP. But, what with all the rain and the confusion and only having one hand to both hold the camera and press the knobs on it, I accidentally pushed the AF/AE LOCK knob, and got it pointing at MF. By mistake. I’m guessing this would be why the AF/AE LOCK button includes the word “LOCK”. And this works a treat. I know this now.

Anyway, the upshot (metaphorically speaking) of all this is that my camera went from photos like this, just before I met up with GD2 the day before yesterday …:

… to this, not long after that, after the knob disaster had occurred …:

… and then back to this:

… when I met up with a friend yesterday, in: Hither Green.

So, panic over.

It’s an odd feeling, partially the feeling of massive relief that I won’t have to spend Christmas trying to turn whatever guarantee came with my camera into another camera, and partially the feeling that I am an idiot and that I should pay more attention to the knobs on my camera. Delight and embarrassment all mixed up together.

This is what Americans would call a “learning experience”, and although often all that this means is “total cock-up”, in this particular case they would be right.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

“I’m calling you from Windows about your computer …”

I have been receiving several of these calls recently, from faraway Indian-sounding guys who all, coincidentally, have English-sounding names.

Once again, I am reminded that the internet is the internet, and that if I type some words into my computer, along the lines of “I’m calling you from Windows …”, I should get the story. And: I did.

That story was posted in 2012. As it says, this rubbish obviously works. Five years later, they’re still at it, with an identical script.

I’m somewhat ashamed to relate that it worked on me, the first time, a bit. I seriously considered the possibility of the call being real, until I worked out that it obviously wasn’t. Such shame spasms are important because they stop people talking about these scams and thereby reducing their chances of working.

In the early nineteenth century, sheep stealers were hanged, or so goes the legend. Rip-off phone calls like the above make me understand why this happened, insofar as it actually did. People talk, quite reasonably, about how people stole sheep because they were starving, but I’m guessing that having your sheep (singular or plural) stolen was a serious blow about which you (the victim) were ashamed, and that catching the bastards was very difficult even if you did tell other people. So, when, by chance, sheep stealers were caught, they were often or at least sometimes killed. I completely get it.

More often, however, they were (scroll down to the end) transported to Australia.

Once again, the internet tells the story. This is yet another way in which the experience of getting old (the first posting you’ll get, as of now, if you follow that link, will be this one) has been transformed. We oldies love to satisfy our curiosity about things that are none of our business and of no great interest to anyone, except us. Time was when discussions about pointless trivia could go on for ever in a fact-free fashion. Now, all you need is one small machine and the matter can be settled. Does the internet kill conversation? Discuss. Or, you could type this question into the internet and get a definitive answer, yes it does or no it doesn’t. End of conversation. Or not.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog