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.

Drone photos in the outer suburbs

And by outer suburbs, I mean the outer suburbs of London. Just the other side of the green belt:

I came across these on the Facebook page of a friend (Facebook friend and friend for real). I didn’t think I knew anyone possessing a drone, with a camera, which he has been using to take aerial photos of the non-countryside, near London, but it turns out I do. I really like these photos, especially the one of the midget reservoir.

I am blogger-friends with 6k, who displays the occasional drone photo. But that’s in Africa. Africa is like another continent.

If I tell you that it’s the River Thames in those photos, that narrows it down quite a lot, but not too much, I trust. That approximate location aside, I am of course being deliberately vague about telling you anything more about my near-London friend than that he’s my friend, and that I thank him for permission (just in case you were wondering) to reproduce some of his recent set of drone-photos here. The vagueness is because who knows what sort of trouble I might get him into, maybe with some non-friendly neighbour, if I was not so vague? I agree, it’s most unlikely that anyone will give a damn about me “publishing” these photos, but what if they do?

I wouldn’t dream of attempting anything like this inside the green belt. But if my friend wants to drop by and give it a go …

I would absolutely love to accompany him and his drone on a photo-expedition, just to see for myself exactly how obtrusive and obvious it all is, or not as the case may be. Just for starters, how noisy are these things? Does everyone in the vicinity of a drone which is doing its thing know it’s there? Can they then look for it, and see it? Or are drones like my friend’s one too small to see from any distance?

Someone sent me an email plugging this drone guide, a while back. I’ve not read it. Maybe I should.

Purple pavement passage

Which sounds like a description of a particularly florid piece of writing about a pavement, but actually I’m talking about this:

Passages like that one are one of the oddities of modern urban life. They happen when a rather posh building is being erected right next to a narrow pavement, over which they want to get some serious work done, but beneath which they do not want to antagonise potential customers and word-of-mouthers thinking about and talking about the people doing the building, thereby threatening the subsequent selling of the apartments or offices in the building, when it’s finished. If the developers mess with the lives of passers-by while they’re building, that at least suggests that they might have a similarly casual attitude to their actual customers. There is so much money at stake here, so big a gap between feast or famine for the developers, that a bit of extra bother at ground level, just next to the site, is well worth going to. Factor in the recent intensification of health-and-safety, and the desire by developers to avoid damaging fights with local bureaucrats, and you have yourself an entire new urban form, the scaffolded pavement passage.

In this particular one, which is in Victoria Street next to and beneath The Broadway, the shininess of the cladding on the inside and the colourful lighting combine to striking effect. We’re looking south east towards Parliament Square. The right hand photo is basically a close-up of the middle of the left hand photo.

I took these photos yesterday afternoon. As with so much that happens in cities these day, if you don’t like it, you needn’t fret. It’ll soon be gone.

Get ready for electric scooter racing

It seems that my current obsession with e-scooters is quite widely shared. That being why I am obsessed with them.

As of now, e-scooters are only borderline legal. In some primitive places e-scooters are illegal in all public places.

Elsewhere, such as in London, well, as it says here:

Electric scooters have long been something of a grey area, ..

You can hire them and ride them, but you can’t own them and ride them. Or something.

Meanwhile, yesterday, I was out for a bit, and spotted three more e-scooters scooting by. The people are fast making up their minds. The regulators need to catch up, or they’ll start looking very silly.

See also, Michael’s comment on an earlier posting here, about how the path is being cleared by cyclists for e-scooters. The regulators are creating e-scooter paths, which they now call “cycle lanes”.

So, cyclists are smoothing the ride for e-scooters. I seem to recall once upon a time reading that cyclists, way back when, did something rather similar for cars. They created a demand for flatter and better roads. Which the cars then proceeded to dominate, until now, in places like London, where so many of the cyclists are members of the regulating classes. E-scooters are more evenly matched against cyclists. Perhaps because of that, expect battles. Maybe the e-scooters, like cars, will get kitted out with bumpers at the front.

Civilised disagreement works better face-to-face (therefore cities have a future)

The present dose of Plague History we’re having has caused much pessimism concerning the future of big, densely packed cities. Being an enthusiast for big city architecture, especially the seriously big and eye-catching sort, I am now more than ever on the lookout for people saying things about why cities confer, and will continue to confer, an advantage upon all those who live and work in them.

So, I particularly noticed this Bo Winegard tweet, when I encountered just now:

It depresses me how quickly a person on twitter can go from disagreeing with you to cursing and insulting you. Strikes me that there’s probably an evolutionary mismatch because almost all of our interactions were face-to-face. People are much nicer when they have to look at you.

I think that captures a key advantage of face-to-face communication, which is that it makes it more likely that those face-to-face communicating are that bit more likely to do it like ladies and gentlemen rather that like loutesses and louts.

I think people on twitter shout, so to speak, partly because they can. But also, maybe, because they feel they have to, to get their point across. If you do one of those oh-so-gently meaningful and very politely phrased criticisms, on Twitter, or for that matter during a conference-at-a-distance, you are liable to fear that your point will get lost. Your iron fist will be completely smothered by the velvet gloves you chose to wear. Face-to-face, you can literally see and hear and feel your point getting across. Or not, in which case you can politely rephrase it.

Being able to disagree in a civilised manner, in a way that doesn’t leave lasting scars or permanent feuds, is fundamental to the successful functioning of any organisation.

My dad was a barrister, in American: a trial lawyer. British barristers are always careful to call each other “my learned friend”, and the more fiercely they are quarrelling, the more they are careful to scatter these words upon all the insults they trade. That always used to amuse me, when my dad talked about it. But an important point was embodied in such drollery, not least because dad often spelled it out explicitly. When arguing, be polite. The more fiercely you argue, the more important politeness becomes. Twitter seems to make that harder. Face-to-face communication makes it easier.

So, cities will survive. Face-to-face communication is now one of their core purposes.

Shelby Steele talks to Peter Robinson

I just watched this video of Shelby Steele being interviewed by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute. If, like me, you’ve not been paying attention to this man, this interview would be a good way to correct that. If you have been paying attention, well, well done you. But for me, even seeing this man talk was a first. Better late than never.

The idea, which Steele talks about a lot, of freedom being a “shock” makes a lot of sense to me. I recall having this shock explained to me by an east European lady who had spent her adult life being unfree, under Soviet Communist domination. Suddenly she was in a Western style supermarket, facing choices she didn’t know how to make. And that was just the toothpaste.

Towards the end of the interview, Robinson asks if there are any more “Uncle Tom” Black people, now talking about Black Americans getting to grips with the freedom they now have rather than continuing to complain ever more implausibly about the lack of it, and Robinson mentions: Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, and, er, that’s it. Well, how about, and this is just for starters, Candace Owens?

E-scooters will be personally owned – not hired or shared

At present, The Plague and The Riots loom large. But when historians look back on 2020, will they instead talk about e-scooters? I am now betting so. E-scooters, historians will say, were a crucial step in the development of PowShoos. You know, Power Shoes, the ones you put on, which make you immediately able to (a) stand almost still, but yet (b) travel at a hundred miles an hour without hitting anyone.

Back in the time of now, living as we now do at this historic moment in transport history, we have to make do with our clunky old e-scooters, and here is another thought from me on e-scooters, along with all these thoughts.

Google is starting to send me emails with links to articles about e-scooter hiring and e-scooter sharing. But if you google these subjects, you also find pieces saying that these ideas are already failing, in places where this is being attempted. This makes perfect sense to me, because what I now say is that shared e-scooter services make little sense.

The only big reason for hiring or sharing an e-scooter now is to find out if you’d like to own one. As soon as e-scooters become at all widely owned, as they are about to in London, we’ll all have friends who can lend us theirs to have a go on, to see if we’d like to own one also. Actual e-scooter sharing will be huge, informally. But it won’t be an organised “service”, public or private, because it won’t need to be. And anyway, as soon as you even see an e-scooter in action, you can see if an e-scooter would suit you. It’s not complicated. What you see is what you’ll get.

Consider the current domination of laptop computers. That likewise spread owner-to-owner. There were never any big laptop sharing or hiring services. There didn’t need to be.

As I explained in my last e-scooter posting, a huge attraction of e-scooters is that you can cling onto them when travelling but not actually riding on them. You can carry them, and as the video adverts for e-scooters that Google is now attaching to my internet reading are explaining, you can put an e-scooter into the boot of a car, which you cannot do easily with a bike, unless you are something freakish like a member of a sports bike racing team. You can even put an e-scooter into the boot of a taxi. All of which makes e-scooters very appealing compared to their big competitors, biking or walking. Biking is too cumbersome. (What do you do with the damn bike when you aren’t biking?) Walking is too slow and can’t do longer distances.

Bike hiring is the answer to the problem of what you do with a bike once you get off it and need then to abandon it. E-scooter hiring, on the other hand, is the answer to a problem which does not exist. When you get off your e-scooter, you hang on to it. Until you get to work, where you store it, or until you get home, ditto. Otherwise, you keep it with you.

To put it another way, the e-scooter is, above all, personal. You will own your personal e-scooter. Or, like me, you won’t, but will note with interest that millions of others are doing this.

Bike sharing schemes required a massive amount of cumbersome politics to get established, which was endured because bike sharing schemes solve an actual problem. But all plans for e-scooter sharing schemes will be overwhelmed by the simple process of e-scooter people just buying their own e-scooters. All that is needed, politically, is for e-scooters to be allowed.

As of right now, e-scooters are very expensive. E-Scooter Man, whom I recently met and talked with, twice, paid the best part of a a thousand quid for his. Soon, e-scooters will plunge in price to nearer a hundred quid. They will also get a lot less heavy and less bulky, even than they are now, what with their portability being such a big deal.

Then, watch them fly off the shelves.

Candace Owens – alarm clock for black America

My thanks to Scott Adams for telling me about this video speech to camera by Candace Owens. (When I watched this video at the Scott Adams twitter feed, the top of her head was sliced off, sometimes even including her eyes. Not recommended.)

The heart of what Candace Owens says about the dramas now unfolding in America is that black Americans are the only ethnic group in American who make martyrs and heroes out of their worst people, i.e. petty and not-so-petty criminals who come to bad ends. George Floyd is now all over T-shirts, but he was actually, first, a petty criminal, and then a not-so-petty criminal, as Owens explains. By martyrising and glorifying wickedness and failure, you set yourself up for a life of wickedness and failure. And mostly: just failure.

What Candace Owens says seems to me, and to Scott Adams, very persuasive. I hope it will prove persuasive to those whom it is most particularly aimed at, which is black Americans. But what Owens says is partly aimed at old non-black guys like me and Scott Adams, because what she says is also universally appealing wisdom. Wise people don’t do this! Owens has certainly done nothing to stop me hearing this speech of hers.

A twitter commenter says that Owens will become America’s first female black President. But Owens is surely in the meantime attempting something smaller and more immediate than that, and in the longer run potentially bigger and better than that.

The “alarm clock” reference comes towards the end of the video.

Rioters and the ending of the Lockdown

Scott Adams:

Serious question: Did any Republican lose a business to rioters?

I began thinking of my answer, but the first tweet-in-response said it for me:

I bet some future Republicans did.

I’ve been suspecting for some time now that Antifa – or “Fa”, as I prefer to think of them – could be a project put together by Trumpsters to ensure his re-election. I mean, if they really were that, what would they be doing differently? (Take a gander at this bit of video, to see what I mean.)

On a more serious note, all these demos will speed up the process of discovering if ending Lockdown makes sense. I already think it does make sense. If, as I am now betting, no Coronoavirus spike now materialises among the demonstrating classes, others will likewise be convinced.

Meanwhile, a huge chunk of people are now behaving as if the only thing they’re scared of is dirty looks from other people. They aren’t scared of The Bug itself anymore. Lockdown is ending. You can feel it. You can see it, for real and on the news and social media. Two months ago, no matter who had done what, there’d have been no demos about it because almost everyone was truly scared of The Bug. Now, The Bug is right down there with car accidents and getting struck by lightning.

It’s almost as if no government action was required, either to make Lockdown start when that made sense, or now, to make it stop.

See also what Johnathan Pearce, has to say about these US rioters. JP links to all these videos, which I am now about to sample.

Another e-scooter sighting – and a couple of e-scooter quotes

This afternoon an electric scooter and its rider went past me and immediately turned a corner. I had no camera on me, but I scuttled after it anyway, to check that it really was electric. This is because electric scooters are so compact that the only way you can tell for sure that they’re electric is if they carry on for fifty yards without being pushed along by foot. Otherwise, you just can’t be sure.

These things may still be illegal, but they are already a fact of London life. I just nipped out for some milk, and there it was.

In this piece, a good point is made about how electric scooters are going to be much demanded in the aftermath of Lockdown, as a hygiene measure. Politically, this will be hard to resist:

Post-pandemic, will New Yorkers be willing to ride the subway, take a taxi or hire a private driver as they did before? Headlines here in New York already have mentioned a spike in bicycle sales. As New Yorkers re-think their transportation choices going forward in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the use of electric bicycles and electric scooters will undoubtedly become more common throughout the state.

That’s New York, but it could equally well be London. And the difference between an electric scooter and an electric bicycle is that an electric scooter is easy to carry and store while you work, while a bike could be a cumbersome nightmare by comparison.

Bikes are only built the complicated way that they are so you can peddle them. E-scooters just need charging up, and pushed by foot only in a power emergency. Or, you can just carry it, if necessary on a bus or train. (Will e-scooters be allowed on the Tube? They should be. Far bigger suitcases already are.)

Far later than I should have, I recently told Google to email me with e-scooter news, and here’s a bit from a press release I got a few days back, from Ollie Chadwick, Managing Director of this enterprise:

At the present time, eScooters are entirely legal in many countries and cities. In the UK they are permitted on private land and commercial sites. However, despite eBikes and foot-scooters being legal on the public road, eScooters are not – although they are in widespread use. It is this anomaly that requires clarification, together with a sensible ‘code of usage’.

Allowed, is what he is basically saying. I agree.

I can’t say about the rest of the world, because I seldom visit this place and have yet to do the relevant internet searching. But e-scooters are, I’m now betting, the next big thing in London transport.