I just googled “casedemic”

A significant slice of my most recent traffic has been coming to these two postings, both of them involving that word. Casedemic. So, I’m giving the public what it wants and doing another such posting. You cannot now switch on a news channel without being told about a surge in “cases” of The Plague, but you are liable to wait in vain to learn how many people are actually dying of it, or even if any great number of people are even seriously ill. I don’t doubt that both numbers are now somewhat more than zero, but there’s a lot of difference between not zero and a lot. I am not the only one to have been noticing this. I’m not the only one who can interrogate the Internet about such matters.

Today, I did what I have been doing each morning for a while now. I googled “casedemic”. And there seems to have been surge in that statistic as well. It has suddenly jumped from around 30,000 to around 170,000. I know extremely little about what a search result statistic like that means in any detail, just as I know very little about what it really means to “test positive” for The Plague itself. But it feels like this could mean something.

Bottom line: When this Plague first became a public Thing, everyone I know was genuinely scared and genuinely anxious to do all the right things, both to protect themselves and to avoid making things worse for others. Now, people are more scared of being set upon by officials, and by people who enjoy tormenting strangers, for failing to go through the correct motions – not muzzling themselves or not staying apart from each other. They aren’t scared of the actual Plague any more.

When I got my hair cut recently, I realised, after the guy had finished, that I hadn’t muzzled myself. I said I hoped this had not been a worry. Oh no, do as you please, was the answer. I cannot even remember if the guy himself was muzzled or not.

Perhaps equally tellingly, I am now suffering in a very mild form a few of what could conceivably be symptoms of The Plague, as one does from time to time. Cough, mild headache, slight aversion to morning coffee, that kind of thing. But, if I were to get tested for The Plague, and if I “tested positive”, then I would perhaps be interrogated about all my social contacts during the last fortnight and obliged to cause trouble for all of my closest friends, friends who have lives they are already struggling to keep on track or to get back on track. Also, I might be put under house arrest. Probably none of that would happen, because the people whose job it might or might not be to inflict such processes don’t have their hearts in this stuff either, not any more. But why take the risk? So, I’m just waiting to get better.

It’s not – repeat not – that people are merely “tired”, as in tired of the actual Plague. Most of Britain’s civilian population were tired of World War II by 1941 at the latest. But, horrible and dispiriting though it was, that was a war that made sense to almost all of the Brits, all the way through, from the day it started in 1939 until the day it ended in 1945, and for that matter ever since. It is – repeat is – that nobody any longer believes that this Plague has been what they first said it might be, and we are tired of being mucked about by people who seem more concerned to retro-justify their earlier panic than to be doing the appropriate thing now. Which would be to say, okay everyone panic over.

By the way, I do think they panicked. I don’t think there’s been much in the way of conspiracy, and certainly not to begin with. Sean Gabb has done a good piece about his, which I noticed because it was Quotulated. Read, as we bloggers say, the whole thing.

LATER: Now (1pm in Britain) the number has gone down from 170,000 to 48,000. So maybe what I caught was what had piled up in one day. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a big uptick, from 30,000 to 48,000.

A sound file with sound advice about photography

Testing testing:

Wow, that worked! First time. A long line with progress on display, just like the real internetters do. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting anything that good. Go WordPress.

The sound file is of me picking the brain of my friend Bruce the Real Photographer. His advice about photoing is very clear and down to earth. I did a posting on BtRP way back in 2006, which included this interview. Now I’m trying to transfer that posting across from the old blog to this blog. It’ll be a while yet before you see that, because the photo-presentation angle of that is complicated. But meanwhile, ff you fancy the idea, have a listen.

This is the damage a tiny speck of space debris can do at 15,000 mph

This:

I did a piece a while back for Samizdata about that foolish equation people sometimes still make between “the age of exploration” that happened about five hundred years ago, when Europe, until then a backwater, globally speaking, started to connect itself with the rest of the world out there, and space exploration now. Like I said, rather foolish.

The above is one of the many ways in which space travel, unlike those early sea voyages, is profoundly different from anything before attempted by humans. Not saying we shouldn’t do it. Am saying: watch out for very big surprises, often very nasty ones.

I have had that tweet open for over a month, and it refused to let itself be closed. Too interesting. Too dramatic. Too destructive.

Stephen Davies on the Growth of Sympathy

The Wealth Explosion by Stephen Davies is not just about the when and where of that kink in the graphs. It is also a description of what that transformation in human affairs consisted of, not just materially, and in how people thought and felt and behaved. In an early chapter, “The Way We Once Lived and The Way We Live Now”, under the heading “The Growth of Sympathy” (pp. 26-28), Davies describes (in the bibliographical note at the end of the chapter he mentions this book by Stephen Pinker) how people started being nicer to each other:

Another significant change that marks out the cultural and mental world of the modern as compared to what went before is one that attracted much attention from an early date. This was the growth of what eighteenth and early nineteenth century authors termed ‘sympathy’ and ‘sensibility: As defined by authors such as Adam Smith and Lord Kames this meant the capacity to put oneself in the position of another person and feel an intimation of what that person felt or experienced. This was associated with a general ‘softening’ or ‘polishing’ of manners and behaviour. In other words, there was a tendency for people to be gentler, less aggressive, more self-conscious and controlled, less impulsive, more sensitive to the suffering or hardship of others. This was seen as being connected to the growth of trade and commerce and what they called ‘luxury’ and we would call affluence or comfort. In other words, as people became more connected to others, often distant, by the connections of trade and by social intercourse, and as their lives became more comfortable and less harsh so their psychology changed and they became gentler, less violent and aggressive and more controlled and ‘refined’ (to use a key term) in their way of behaving. In the language of the time this meant that the ‘passions’ as they were called, that is strong and natural human desires and feelings, came to be tamed and made milder and less fierce and powerful or even subject to the check of reason and calculation.

This may seem to be simply a reflection of eighteenth century rationalism and optimism but in fact there is a lot of evidence for the view that the modern world has indeed seen such a change. Again, people such as Smith, Hume and Kames thought that the change was gradual (although they were struck by the extent and rapidity of change in their own country and lifetime) but very soon after their own lifetimes the change in this aspect of human life also underwent an abrupt acceleration. At this point, many people will simply find the argument implausible. Given the terrible political events of the last hundred years and the widespread evidence of cruelty, violence and aggression that fill the daily news, how can anyone think that over that period human beings in many parts of the world have become less passionate, gentler and more in sympathy with the suffering of others?

One point to make is that the attention given to such matters and the horror they inspire are because there has been such a change. Things that were seen as unexceptionable and normal in the past, even if regrettable, are now regarded as egregious and horrible precisely because they are less common. Clearly something as intangible yet profound as a widespread or even general shift in the way most people feel or in their psychology is hard to measure or demonstrate. However, there are a number of indicators, some of which can actually be quantified. One is the evidence of delinquent behaviour as captured in the records of the criminal justice system. The evidence here is that over the last two to three hundred years there has been a long term secular decline in interpersonal violence. Three hundred years ago the bulk of the cases brought before criminal courts were crimes of violence. They now make up only a small proportion of the courts’ business. In addition the actual incidence of such crimes on a per capita basis has also declined so that they are a much less frequent part of experience.

There are several other prominent indicators. One is the change in the functioning of the criminal justice system, with a pronounced shift away from harsh and brutal or sadistic physical punishment such as public execution, flogging or branding. Another is the transformation that we can trace in popular attitudes towards children and animals. In very recent times historically what we would regard as brutal and cruel treatment was widespread or even normal for both whereas now this arouses revulsion and disgust. Literature and personal writings such as diaries and correspondence are another kind of evidence, which again shows a significant alteration in popular psychology, at both an individual and a collective level. Finally, there is the evidence of manners, where we can clearly trace what one author calls the ‘civilising process’ by which ways of speaking and behaving become steadily more controlled and moderate. Looking at this evidence we can say firstly that there has been a radical change in what historians call the ‘collective mentality’ of modern men and women, that is the common mental assumptions, habits and ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that they share. The second thing we can say is that this change became much more rapid and widespread among all levels of society at some point in the early nineteenth century. Here we can draw the analogy and connection with trade and economic development. In the case of trade and economic development, we can indeed trace a very gradual process of increasing trade and economic integration between different parts of the world and a slow corresponding rise in the level of economic development and standards of living. After the later eighteenth century, this process becomes so much more rapid and extensive that both it and its effects are wholly different order of magnitude – explosive in fact.

Similarly, there is clearly a long-term trend in the direction just described with respect to human mentality and ways of behaving. Thus, there is a very long term trend for inter-personal violence to decline. Our Stone Age ancestors lived in a society that was unbelievably violent by contemporary standards (as do many more recent hunter-gatherers) and we can trace a decline in levels of violence since that time. However, as with trade, the process while of long standing underwent a dramatic breakthrough or acceleration after the later eighteenth century so that, as in the economic sphere, there was a greater change in popular psychology and ways of behaving between 1800 and 1900 than for several centuries at least before then.

A model of London Bridge that is hard to photo

One of the more frustrating of the photo-expeditions I have done in the last few years was one to the Church of St Magnus the Martyr.

I was there, around a year ago. to photo a model of Old London Bridge, which I had found out about in some way that I now forget. And the model was there. That wasn’t the frustration. What was the frustration was that photographically, this model pretty much defeated me. Although clearly visible and clearly identifiable for what it was, it was protected by the photographic equivalent of armour plating, in the form of a very shiny glass box.

I still took lots of photos, and from the selection of those that I now show you, you do get some idea of what sort of model this is and how it looks in its ecclesiastical surroundings:

The less these photos are about the details of the model and the more they are about the model as a whole and its surroundings, the better they are, and I biased my choice of what to post here I had in that direction. So they are worth a click through, if London’s eccentricities and oddities are of interest to you.

I image-googled this model, and the results were not as disappointing as my own efforts but still rather disappointing. This model has been there since 1987, but at no time, then or since, has anyone taken any really classy photos of it, or not any that the internet seems to be have been told about. (If commenters can prove me wrong, I’d be be very happy.)

There are some photos of this model, which are definitely better ones than mine from the point of view of showing the details of the Thing, here. But even that photoer struggled, I think. As did this guy.

It would be nice if this church were to pick itself a Real Photographer, and let him have a go at this Thing, with Real Photographer type lighting, with the glass temporarily removed, and maybe with some specially supplied backgrounds to screen out the church clutter, and also all the uneven light that crashes into the church through its church windows. Maybe let the RP take the whole Thing to a studio of some sort.

That would be nice for the likes of me. But maybe the people running this church already rather resent the number of godless tourists of my sort who already come tramping into their House of God to gawp at and and to photo this bridge model, and who then tramp out again, ever to be seen again unless they want more photos of the model. And the last thing they want is to encourage a whole new flood of such people. If my guess is right, I can’t say I blame them, but it is just a guess and I could be quite wrong.

I could find no reference to this London Bridge model at the church’s own website, but again, that could merely be because I am terrible at searching websites.

There is another picture of this church in an earlier posting I did here about the Monument, showing how near that edifice is to this church.

The Tower Hotel could benefit from Magic Paint

One of London’s more impressive architectural survivals from the Brutalist era is this building:

That’s the Tower Hotel, with Tower Bridge in the foreground. I am fond of this edifice, not only because of its Brutalism, but also because of its impressively cluttered upper reaches, which look like this:

Both of the above photos were photoed by me in 2016. (What is that VW sign doing there? Never noticed that before.)

I love the combination of orthodox Brutalism in the main body of the building and anarchy on the top of it. (See also this splendid edifice of the same architectural vintage.)

I also recall that this hotel played a prominent support role in the final scene of a long ago movie called Sweeney!, which was a movie spin-off from the TV show of that name. A sinister villain played by Barry Foster is being put on a boat by British spooks, after he’d stayed the night at the Tower Hotel, which then looked quite new and “modern”, not dated at all. But Regan (John Thaw) showed up and arrested the Barry Foster character for making money off of immoral earnings, and the Barry Foster character was immediately shot dead, by two other villains in a taxi, to stop him spilling any beans about even more sinister villains. (Regan was angry with the Barry Foster character because he had had a prostitute (Diane Keen) killed, and Regan wanted revenge.) All of which took place on the river bank between the Tower Hotel and the River. For some reason, this scene had a big effect on me, and a lot of the reason for that was the Tower Hotel.

The reason I mention this building is that it is a fine example of the sort of building that might go up in public estimation if it were decorated with the Magic Paint that I mentioned-stroke-invented in this earlier posting about Colourful architecture in the past and in the future. This was about how various ancient buildings, now as dreary in colour as the Tower Hotel has always been, used to be a lot more colourful, and about how similar effects might yet be contrived again, with … Magic Paint. (Magic Paint is paint that can take on any painted pattern at the flick of an electronic switch. Inventors: get busy!)

And the reason I mention this earlier posting about Magic Paint, colourful gothic cathedrals, and the like, is that someone on Facebook with quite a following has recently linked to this old posting, causing a rather gratifying spike in traffic here during the last few days. But, all I can learn from my traffic analysing page is that the link comes from somewhere on Facebook. It could well be someone I know, or know of, and therefore someone that some of my readers might know, or know of. Anyone? Maybe you, sir or madam, have just come from that very Facebook location of which I write, and can tell me who it was. That’s if you feel inclined.

The homeless are not as homeless as they used to be

Okay, not the prettiest photo you’ll ever see, but it makes my point:

Which is that homes for the homeless have got a lot better lately. In two big ways. First, as you see in the above photo, shelter is now something you can just plonk down on any piece of land that is flat.

It is no part of my purpose in showing you this man’s home to make difficulties for the man himself, and I also didn’t want him even feeling threatened when I took the photo. So, I contrived to hide him (and myself as seen by him) behind that big black rectangular lump there. He couldn’t see me, and you can’t now see him. But I think you can see that what we’re looking at, in the autumn gloom at the top end of Tottenham Court Road last Thursday late afternoon, is a home.

The other thing that has got a lot nicer about living like this is mobile electronic communication. You can now live like this, instead of merely existing. You needn’t just sit there, hoping for nice weather. You can do all those things in those articles and diagrams and photos concerning all the clumsy great gadgets that have now been replaced by your mobile phone.

I’m not saying that living this way is easy or comfortable, merely that it has got less difficult and less uncomfortable in recent years. I’d hate to have to live this way. But if I had to, I would find it that little bit less miserable than it was a few decades ago, when electronic communication was implacably immobile, and when erecting a tent meant finding a grassy field that you could bang tent pegs into.

What all this means is that, if all other things are equal (which they never are but let’s be economists and pretend this for a moment), more people are going to be living like this than used to, thirty years ago.

See also this earlier posting, featuring a Michael Jennings photo of a tent erected next to a private jet.

Flying cars are stupid

Apparently some idiots in Japan have tested something they describe as a flying car. What it really is is an aircraft capable of lifting a car. Big bloody deal. Why would you want to combine a car with an aircraft? They’re two different things. Cars are compact, to avoid occupying too much road. Aircraft reach outwards into the air, with big propellers or with big wings, to grab hold of the air and push themselves upwards. Two totally different things. Oh, you can build a “flying car”, that is to say a car which always carries a huge set of wings or propellers around with it. To put it another way, you can make an airplane capable of travelling on a very long runway shared with lots of other vehicles, by, you know, folding up its wings or propellers really really tightly. Yes. And you can make a baby pram that can also mow your lawn, really quietly so as not to enrage the baby. You can make a toaster that can also do the ironing. You can make an umbrella that doubles up as a snooker cue. But what the hell is the point of doing two such distantly related things, both very badly? Why not just do each thing separately, and each thing well?

I tried googling “flying cars are stupid”, for the first time just now. The least silly thing I read was this called that exact thing, by someone called James McNab. McNab ignores the point I just made and makes a whole other point, which is that flying cars would need to be driven by people as careful and skilful as pilots are now, rather than people as careful and skilful as car drivers are now. “You can’t handle flying cars!”, is how he puts it, referring to that movie where Jack Nicholson says “You can’t handle the truth!” Which, now I think about it is actually the same point as my point, but put in another way. Why waste a pilot driving a mere bus with hideously low mileage for half his working day, merely because, if you are rich enough and stupid enough, you could preside over such an arrangement? Makes no sense. We’re back to cars and planes being different.

Another big flying car idiocy is that flying cars will get rid of traffic jams. No, they’ll just create bigger and jammier traffic jams in the sky.

McNab also makes another point, which concerns why people who ponder innovation often start thinking that innovation has slowed down and may soon stop.

One source of innovation pessimism would be if you “invent” something that you think ought to have happened by now, like a flying car, note that it still does not exist, and say that therefore “innovation” itself has stopped. No mate. It was just a stupid idea, that did not happen for bloody good reasons. There’s plenty of non-stupid innovation going on nowadays. You are just fixating on stupid stuff. McNab accuses Peter Thiel, no less, of this non sequitur, when he goes from the non-arrival of flying cars to the slowing down of all innovation.

Interestingly, the writer of a book called The Rational Optimist has since written a book about innovation which ends rather pessimistically, in just this kind of way that McNab talks about. Matt Ridley’s fixation is on genetically modified crops, which don’t now work as well as they could because a lot of governments don’t like them. But those same governments have allowed plenty of other new stuff to happen. One of the features of a successful innovation is that it doesn’t piss off politicians too much. It sneaks under the political radar, and by the time the politicians have noticed it, the people already have millions of the things.

As you can surely tell, I am stream-of-consciousness-ing about this, thinking in internetted words. Which is one of the things this blog is for.

A bike and a back ache

Today I photoed this guy and his bike, with his permission:

But not his face, although he didn’t seem to mind about that.

I went to the Pedal Me website, but am still none the wiser about the exact relationship between pedal power and e-power that is going on here. What I think is happening is that pedalling does happen, but it creates electricity, and the bike itself is powered by an e-motor. But what do I know? The website is for the benefit of the sort of people who already know, or who don’t care. I should have asked this guy.

A reason I failed to was that I was preoccupied at the time, with my own health or lack of it. These photos were photoed just outside the Victoria Medical Centre, a walk away from me in Wilton Road, which I had been in to find out what was wrong with my back. I’ve had a back ache for about a week, which refuses to go away. Why? Turns out I have a back ache. As in: not a hernia or an appendix misbehaving in a way that would precipitate surgery. Just a muscle strain. Give it a few weeks and it’ll get better, said the doctor. Is walk good? Necause I can still do that pretty comfortably. Yes, he said. So I will be trying, weather permitting, and I promise nothing, to be doing quite a bit of that in the next few weeks.

Because of the above, that recorded conversation between Patrick Crozier and me about The Kink has yet to be recorded. That’s happen when it happens.

Had it not been for The Kink, there’d be no medical centre like the Victoria Medical Centre, and no complicated bicycles like the one in the above photos. Also, no digital cameras such as the one I used to photo the bicycle. So, I am grateful for large mercies, despite my back aching. But, thank goodness I don’t have to ride such a bike myself.

Fucking amazing rant by Scott Adams

Yes, this is fucking amazing:

For about ten minutes I thought: this isn’t a “rant”. It’s a calmly but firmly made argument. But then, the argument having been made, it suddenly turns into the fucking rantiest fucking rant fucking ever.

I have long been hoping – really fucking hoping – that Trump doesn’t just defeat Biden, but absolutely fucking crushes him and everything he fucking stands for and is standing next to, by the proverbial fucking landslide.

It is my clear understanding that this Scott Adams rant makes this distinctly more fucking likely. I mean, everyone’s going to want to fucking see this. Fucking everyone.

The “Mainstream Media” of the USA have not been the actual mainstream media for nearly two decades now, ever since the Internet got into its stride. This piece of fucking video fucking is going to prove that more fucking completely than anything else I have ever fucking seen.

I mean, quite aside from anything else, the old ex- “Mainstream Media” would never have fucking allowed anyone to fucking say “fucking” so many fucking times, without pulling the fucking plug on him. But now fucking Scott Adams can fucking do it. And I can sit, on the other side of a fucking great ocean, and I can fucking do it in this little fucking blog posting. And nobody is going to fucking stop either of us from fucking doing it.

Roll on that fucking landslide.