In which Patrick Crozier tells me that the Americans could and should have won the Vietnam War

This was in the course of our latest recorded conversation, which we had over the phone (by which I mean my phone and his computer) last Wednesday, and which has just been posted at Croziervision, with further verbals from Patrick.

Which I recommend, even if you don’t listen to the thing itself. Patrick’s posting is even more informative and full of pertinent links than usual. In particular, I draw your attention to the link concerning the Case-Church Amendment, which Patrick identifies as the moment (it happened in June 1973) when an American victory, having been pretty much won on the battlefield, was then thrown away by the US Congress.

Out near London Gateway

A little clutch of photos of a decaying jetty, photoed just beyond Tilbury on the north side of the Estuary, in September 2013:

From this spot I could also see, in the far distance, the first few cranes of London Gateway. I made several trips to inspect these, around then:

There is nothing else as big as these cranes to be seen anywhere near them, and in their visual impact on their surroundings they remind me of nothing so much as one of those medieval cathedrals, in a town than never got much bigger. (Like Ely.)

According to Wikipedia, there are now twelve cranes up and running. There’ll eventually be twenty four.

One more such expedition to those parts probably wouldn’t kill me. Or then again it might. In London, everything is close together, and there are buses and trains everywhere. Not out there.

Cover his face

The previous posting being about photoing facial features in a way that’s clear, this posting is about how sometimes, what with the Plague we’re having, that can’t be done:

Those photos were photoed on March 31st, with MI6 and related edifices to be seen on the opposite side of the River there, across Vauxhall Bridge. A lot of their jobs just got harder.

So, this Lockdown thing has actually been going on for quite a while now, around two months. And it’s been time to unlock it for quite a while now. Trouble is, most people are so thoroughly scared now, if not of the Plague itself then of being thought indifferent to it. And, keeping Lockdown actually seems to feel good to many. It’s a chance to show one cares by just doing nothing. It won’t feel so good when, for those not already fretting about such things, all the bills come due.

Get back to work, world. And please world, keep the public spending splurges to the minimum. It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression.

Train chat – ugly and old versus pretty and new – double-decker trains in Britain

I get nostalgic about cars, even though cars have clearly improved quite a lot since my childhood. But the trains of my childhood, them I do not miss. The average train in Britain has, I think, got a lot prettier and nicer to use than the immediately-post-Beeching clunkers I used to travel in from Egham to Waterloo.

Recently, in connection with some forgettable muddle concerning some bad weather which had disrupted train services, I came upon a photo that illustrated this. Or I came upon another photo, and googled “azuma” (sounds like an on-line gambling den), and got to this photo, whichever:

My point being that that is a really sweet looking train, compared to the lumpish Southern Region trains I remember. Automatic doors have replaced doors which were like the doors of bank safes. Light materials have replaced heavy materials. There is elegant streamlining sculpture at the front. The carriage is one long single compartment, instead of divided into separate compartments, in which you could get stuck with a weirdo. (I realise now that I was often that weirdo.) That kind of thing. Just getting on and off these horrible old trains took about three minutes, compared to the about-one-minute process that happens now.

Well, more recently, on another random walk through The Internet, I came upon this amazingly angry blog posting, about double decker trains, which featured this amazing photo, of a British double-decker train:

Double decker trains are common on the Continent, but not here in Britain, and this angry blogger is not happy about this! But the reasons for their absence here seem to be more complicated than I had supposed. It’s not that there is simply no room for them under our bridges. It seems that they were tried (see above), but were not persisted with.

This intriguing graphic shows that actually, Britain could accommodate such trains, if it wanted to:

I did not know this.

Unlike this angry writer, of the angry blog post where I found these images, I am quite used to not understanding why something has happened that makes no sense to me, or in this case has not happened when it might make sense to me. No doubt those far closer to the action than me or than Angry Blogger have their reasons. Also, Angry Blogger doesn’t think like an economist or a man of business, but more like a Continental dirigiste. He wants double-decker trains! If those who should have arranged this, but who didn’t, chose not to because of various quite subtle trade-offs involving how many more people you can actually fit in a double-decker train (what with having to include the stairs), how much longer it might take for people to get on-and-off them, what sort of extra air conditioning might be needed, how much heavier and more structurally robust everything might have to be, blah blah blah, then as far as Angry Blogger is concerned, it is because they lack Vision! Not because they might have looked into it, and decided to spend their limited budgets in other more humdrum and more sensible ways. (I don’t know what Angry Blogger thinks about HS2. I suspect him of broadly favouring it, but of thinking that it’s being Done All Wrong!!!)

The other thing I like about the photo of the double-decker British train is that it illustrates all that old school clunkiness that used to afflict British trains of all kinds, way back then. Yes, I remember now. I think I got into all this double-decker train stuff simply because I was looking for a picture of a clunky old train, and came upon this clunky old double-decker train.

Dig deeper into the British double decker train issue, by becoming a follower of this Twitter group, to whom Angry Blogger (to whom deep thanks despite everything) links. Where it says:

Not followed by anyone you’re following.

It figures.

Meanwhile, it is clear to me that we in Britain have double-decker buses, unlike on the Continent, because, unlike them, we have Vision!

Electric scooter with vegetables

ISIBAISIA: The Next Big Thing in Transport, certainly in London Transport, is not robot cars; it is human-driven electric scooters.

Today, outside a local Afghan shop (the same one as at the other end of the second link above), photoed by me, with permission:

The photos were a bit better this time, and the vegetables came out much better.

In this podcast-with-Patrick I expressed scepticism about robot cars coming to your city any time very soon, but omitted to mention electric scooters, which are already here. Missed a trick there.

See also this robot-car-sceptic piece that says Self-Driving Cars Are Taking Longer to Build Than Everyone Thought. Which is not quite right. Self-driving cars are taking longer to build than everyone except me thought.

Even when they do arrive, robot cars will start out as just a robotised version of the same bad idea, which is people, who are not that big, meandering about in metal boxes which are very big indeed. Electric scooters take up a fraction of the space of these metal boxes and are easily stored at work, and equally easily carried on trains or buses, unlike the big metal boxes which are a nightmare to store and impossible to carry around with you. Electric scooters are, in particular, also much better than bikes. In a decade they will be everywhere, in giant flocks. Just you wait and see.

For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure that the brand of scooter this guy was kind enough to demonstrate to me was the Inokim QUICK 3 super +. I’m going by comparing my photos with the imagery at the website, and going by what the he said it would do, and what he paid for it.

It looked really solid.

Picadil Circus

I did not know this, from a massive thread about the London Underground, done by a lady called Antonia:

In 1612 a man named Robert Baker built a mansion house just to the north of Piccadilly Circus.

He became wealthy from selling Picadils, stiff collars worn by the fashionable gents in court.

He called his mansion Picadil Hall, and the name Piccadilly stuck.

She should surely have said “north of what is now” Piccadilly Circus. But pedantry aside, good to know. And no wonder we’re all confused about how the hell to spell Pic(c)dil(l)y. The name got started at a time when they never knew things like that in the first place.

This is from one of those Twitter “threads” that ought to be a blog posting, but isn’t, because it doesn’t make sense to stop using Twitter just because you feel an essay coming on. (I think very short blog postings work fine, whereas great piles of tweets are often a dismembered mess. This one’s okay, though, because each tweet is a distinct bit of information.)

When she said “mansion house” I thought it was going to be Mansion House she was explaining, even though that’s not, I now realise, where Mansion House (Tube) is.

So this blog has now done Piccadilly Circus, and before that, Horseferry Road. I’m not now going to start looking for these explanations of funny London names. But when I bump into another, I’ll try to remember to notice it here.

I bumped into this one because a bloke whose photos I like retweeted the thread in his feed.

Tiananmen tank man – the small picture and the bigger picture

Someone calling himself hardmaru tweets, of this photo …:

… this:

The full Tiananmen Square tank man picture is much more powerful than the cropped one.

Not sure that’s right. You only get the point of this big picture if you already know the smaller picture. If you didn’t already know that, would the big picture pack such a punch? Maybe this is my bad eyesight asking, but would you even properly see the guy in front of all the tanks?

I don’t know when this big picture first started getting around. But, having seen the small picture many times, I have only now seen this big one. So thankyou
@hardmaru, and I’m glad that both can be seen.

A shortcut to a Blockbuster photo

I’ve been a bit of a latecomer to the use of shortcuts to favourite photos. Now I find them essential, simply to keep track of where my most favourite photos from long ago times are to be found on my hard disc.

For a long time, what I would do is copy the file of the entire photo to a new directory. But that has a big drawback, which is that when posting photos here I like to be able to talk intelligently about these photos. When they were taken, where, and above all, simply, what they are of, that often needing to be explained. That can be hard to see when the photo had been snatched away from the directory where all the photos on that particularly expedition are to be found, especially including those taken just before and just after the one I want to talk about.

Shortcuts deal with this problem by leaving a favourite photo where it is, yet at the same time giving me big clumps of favourite photos to stir my blogging juices, and happy and/or interesting memories generally. They also direct me to whole collections of photos that I remember with special pleasure and which illustrate some particular point, or tell of some particular photo-expedition.

This photo, of a car, in snow, outside my local Blockbuster Video in Warwick Way, just off of Vauxhall Bridge Road (I can see that much at a glance), was not especially interesting when I photoed it:

But it is now, because Blockbuster is not just an enterprise that no longer exists. Blockbuster is now famous for being an enterprise that no longer exists. That makes my ancient photo of interest. So, when I come across it in the archives, four years ago, I created a shortcut to it, and put that shortcut in a new shortcut directory.

Where I came upon it recently, having forgotten about that shortcut directory. But at least when I found that directory I found a couple of dozen photos of interest, rather than just one, because I had chanced upon it in its original home. I’m old. It has taken me a while to realise that I need to get my use of shortcuts much more organised, which I have actually started to do, that early shortcut directory being an early symptom of this effort. Maybe collected into annual directories? We’ll see. By which I mean, I’ll see, and maybe you’ll see also, as in see also some further interesting ancient photos, if you keep coming here.

More importantly, from your point of view, I can tell you that the above photo was photoed in January of 2004. Since Blockbuster vacated this spot, it became an exercise parlour, crammed with exercise equipment, but never ever, whenever I looked, containing anyone taking any exercise. (Not one. Ever. Weird.)

It is now a Waitrose, and looks like it will remain that for a while.

People were also saying, way back when they said such things, that snow would become a thing of the past, which may be why I photoed this photo originally, along with all the others I photoed that evening. Turns out it was Blockbuster that melted away for ever.

That WW2 bombing offensive podcast – It’s up!

I’ve said it before, at the end of the last posting here, and I’ll say it again, at the beginning of this posting: It’s up. It being Patrick and me talking about the World War 2 bombing offensive. Patrick got it posted and listenable to less than a day after we recorded it. My salutations to him.

As you can see if you follow Patrick’s link, just by the notes Patrick offers, we meander a bit, as we do, but I hope not too intolerably.

I’ll add here a few things that Patrick doesn’t mention. Here are three blog postings by me, two here and one at Samizdata: The amazing Merlin; Dowding’s amazing lack of tact: The strange birth of the Avro Lancaster. Also, here’s a book that Patrick doesn’t mention in his notes but which I do mention in the podcast: A biography of Bomber Harris.

Our next phone conversation, we now think, will be about the Vietnam War. I made most of the running in this last one, but on the subject of Vietnam Patrick will be laying out the story, and I’ll be clarifying, or at least I hope I will. His basic thesis: The Americans won it, and then threw it away. My question, as of now, is: Did the rapprochement with China, and subsequent (consequent?) US victory in the Cold War, have something to do with the “throwing it away” bit?

You can listen to any, some or all of our recent podcasts by going here.

A recorded conversation by phone

Today, Patrick Crozier and I at last got around to doing the recorded conversation we failed to do earlier. About the Allied WW2 bombing offensive.

We did it down the phone rather than face-to-face, and doing it down the phone, what with the phone now being such an antiquated piece of kit, was what had caused the delay. (I am still trying to find the microphone that I swear I do own. Had I found it a fortnight ago, that would have saved Patrick a lot of bother.)

How satisfactory our conversation will turn out to be for others to listen to remains to be heard. I was a bit disorganised, not so much in what I said as in the order in which I said it. I tended to jump back and forth, or so it felt to me. But that wasn’t my phone’s fault, and communication between me and Patrick felt more exact and responsive than I had been fearing. Like most, I make constant use of my phone to keep in touch with friends and collaborators of various sorts, but mere communication is not the same as sharing a performance with whoever’s down the line. I did do performances like this on the radio back in the last century, but then I had no way to compare like with like, because each performance was different, and done with different people. This time I was able to make a more exact comparison, between this conversation with Patrick and previous conversations, of the same sort, also with Patrick. And, as I say, it felt more similar and less of a struggle than I had feared.

Accordingly, I very slightly revise my opinion about the efficacy of working at a distance. It is a little bit easier than I had earlier been thinking. Not that this will diminish the amount of work done in a city like London, and in particular in the centre of London. There is no fixed quantity of work, with more work moving to outside London automatically meaning less work being done in London. On the contrary, the easier it becomes to work outside London, the more busy London will be, keeping track of it all, placing bets on it, and generally doing its London stuff.

The fundamental importance of face-to-face communication remains. In the case of me and Patrick, we know each other well. We’ve met often and talked a lot face-to-face, over the years, in London. Because we know each other well, communication at a distance also works well, and actually, somewhat better than I had expected.