Big Ben is having its scaffolding removed

Here’s a photo I took from just upstream of the Blackfriars Station entrance. It is of one of the many weird alignments you get, from the fact that the River Thames is not straight, but full of twists and turns.

Here we are, on the north side of the Thames, looking through the Wheel, which is on the south side of the Thames, past one of the rectanguloid lumps attached to or near to the National Theatre, also on the south side, towards … Big Ben. Big Ben on the north side. Big Ben smothered in scaffolding:

The reason I mention this photo now (aside from the fact that I like it) is that today, I learned from Guido Fawkes that this scaffolding has now started to disappear:

As was announced by Parliamentary Authorities last week, Elizabeth Tower has begun the prolonged process of shedding some of its cladding. To the palpable relief of tourists who have experienced years of photographic disappointment …

When Guido says “Elizabeth Tower”, he of course means Big Ben. And, also of course, I loved all the scaffolding around Big Ben, and have numerous photos of it taken from all sorts of different places and angles.

For the last year or two I have found myself connecting this scaffolding with the battle to accomplish Brexit. Time standing still, or some such thing. I had a sort of bet with myself that when the scaffolding came down, Brexit would finally happen. (I favour Brexit, having voted for it in the referendum.)

But now, it seems the scaffolding will be long gone before Brexit occurs, if it ever does. Although, on my television, they’re still advertising Brexit as going to happen at the end of this month. Maybe it will happen then, but what do I know?

Concerning these latest delays to Brexit, my favourite internet posting by far has been another one at Guido Fawkes, more recent than the one linked to above, concerning a malfunctioning advert.

For my more serious Brexit opinions, listen, if you can stand the idea, to this conversation between Patrick Crozier and me, which I reckon still makes pretty good sense. Although, if you’re a Remainer, you should probably give it a miss.

What have Patrick Crozier and I been doing right with our podcasts?

For quite some while now, ever since August (I think it must have been) 2017, when we talked about World War 1, Patrick Crozier and I have been doing a podcast every few weeks or so.

Here is where to find them all, that first one in the series about WW1 being
here.

But what has anyone besides us been making of these podcasts? That’s if anyone has actually been listening to them.

Anyone besides me. I find it very helpful to record interesting thoughts, and in particular big questions, in this “public” form. Questions like: Why did the rulers of Britain decide that Britain should plunge into World War 1, in the horribly destructive and self-destructive (as it turned out) way that they did? And why, having discovered how destructive the war was becoming, did all those engaged in it not put a stop to it? What the hell were they thinking? I want to remember such questions until I have something approximating to answers.

But that’s just me. I’m terrible at note-taking. Oh, I take notes, but later I can’t even read the damn things, let alone store them in a way that enables me to get back to them. On the other hand, I love to have places, in something resembling “public”, where I can shove notes, and where others can, at least in theory, help me improve on them and flesh them out, or correct them when they’re wrong. Instead of me just forgetting everything.

Once I know other people just might be noticing what I have said or written, I find I can pay attention to it also. Books, these are things I can remember that I own and keep worrying away at, not least because they have big words written on them which I can see on my walls. My own thoughts, scribbled on scraps of paper, forget about it. As in: I forget about it.

All of that being part of why I so like blogging, and also doing these podcasts with Patrick.

But that’s just me. That’s why I like listening to these podcasts. Why would anyone else want to listen to them? I don’t know, but I’d love if if someone else were to listen to some of these podcasts, like them, and then tell us why.

This was why I was so pleased when someone else recently did say they’d been listening to these podcasts, and say that he did like them.

In a comment thread attached to this First Official Posting here, and in among a lot of jibber-jabber about comment approval and RSS feeds and suchlike, “Rob” (and I know who that is) mentioned that if I and Michael Jennings (the man who set up and is still helping me with this new blog of mine) were ever to do any more podcasts, he, Rob, would listen to them. I replied that Patrick Crozier and I had been doing some podcasts. A bit of a while later, Rob said this:

I have listened to the croziervision podcasts and like them too.

Big moment. Our very first positive feedback. Someone who took no part in these conversations nevertheless liked listening to them.

My question to Rob, no disrespect at all intended, is: Why? What have we been doing right? I’d genuinely like to know. Because then we can tell other people why Rob liked listening to these podcasts, and a few further people might like the sound of them, and tune in also, and then like the actual sound of them. A comment on this from Rob might even accomplish this automatically.

Now you see it now you don’t – then you do again

In that chat that me and Patrick had yesterday, about Christianity and its influence, I mentioned, for some reason, how part of the reason the Shard is shaped like the Shard is that it is also shaped like the steeple of a typical sort of London church.

The church in these photos, that I photoed the same day I photoed these photos of the Optic Cloak, is Christ Church Isle of Dogs:

The little game I played there with the two spires, as I walked back towards the middle of London from the Greenwich Peninsula, is exactly the sort of thing Renzo Piano had in mind when he designed his spire.

This is not the first time I’ve played now you see it now you don’t with a church and the Shard, aligned.

The trick is for the church to be very near, compared to the Shard.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Quimper Cathedral photos from a year ago

Earlier today, Patrick Crozier and I recorded another of our recorded conversations (by and by it will appear here). Patrick laid out the agenda which was Christianity, and how, although he could never believe in it, nenevertheless regrets the diminution of its influence on our world.

He mentioned the way the Western Roman Empire fell apart after it had been conquered by Christianity (echoing Gibbon, although I didn’t say that; he mentioned ecclesiastical architecture; he mentioned the intimate relationship between Christianity and secular power; and at one point we rather digressed, into the matter of French domestic architecture.

Here are four photos I photoed in Quimper, Brittany, exactly one year ago to the day, which illustrate these various talking points:

Photo 1.1 a history lesson inside Qumper Cathedral which covers the ground Patrick alluded to about the Roman Empire (protected by glass, hence the reflection of the stained glass window).. Photo 1.2 is a view of one of the towers of Quimper Cathedral, as seen from the other tower. Photo 2.1 is of an equestrian statue, from the same spot. And finally, 2.2, also from the same spot, is a photo looking out over the city of Quimper.

The weather could have been a lot brighter, but you are only allowed to the top of Quimper Cathedral on the one day each year, and April 29th 2018 was the day that it was

I will greatly miss Quimper and its Cathedral, now that my friends in France no longer live there. I won’t be going back on my own, just to see it but not them.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Capitalism and socialism in tweets

I like both of these.

This:

Capitalism works better than it sounds. Socialism sounds better than it works.

And this:

Capitalism is the only reason socialism has any money to redistribute.

I like them, as in: I like them as pithily expressed things to think about. Not sure the first one in particular is actually true. Socialism, when you actually spell out what socialists want and what they think should be done to dissenters, turns out to be ghastly, long before it actually happens.

And if capitalism sounds worse than it is, maybe you aren’t saying it right.

Yesterday there were four postings here. Mostly small, but still, four. The above stuff is Twitter, but this blog is not Twitter. This blog leaves you time to have a little read and a life.

So, this is your lot for today.

On the other hand, if you have forty minutes to spare on subjects like the above, try listening to this. It’s the IEA’s Kristian Niemietz talking about socialism. He too thinks that capitalism is “counter-intuitive”. His manner is a lot more low-key and considered than you would expect it to be if you only followed him on Twitter.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Talking about Brexit

Patrick Crozier and I have just fixed our next podcast, which we will record early next week. Read about and listen to earlier ones here, and in due course this next one will go there too. And for this next one, we will talk about … Brexit. I knew you’d be excited.

Many claim that they are bored by Brexit, and maybe many are. Although I suspect some are really just pissed off with not getting exactly what they want. (And who is getting exactly what they want?) Either that, or actually only bored with other people’s opinions, but not with their own. Me, I find the whole process rather fascinating, now that I have got over having been so wrong about it. I thought that Brexit would lose the Referendum, but it won. And I thought that once it had won, it would happen without too much fuss, because the Conservative Party leavers would mostly bow to the inevitable. As of now, that hasn’t happened, and doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

Brexit is a subject that Patrick has strong opinions about, which is good because although this will not stop me interrupting (I’m afraid I always interrupt), it may at least mean that some of the times when I do interrupt, he’ll interrupt back and shut me up until he’s finished the point he was making before I interrupted.

Here is a Brexit photo I recently photoed, of a bus driving around and around Parliament Square, saying Believe in Britain and LEAVE MEANS LEAVE, but with nobody in the bus apart from the driver:

They all left, I guess.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Another niche market for robot vehicles

During our recent chat about transport (already mentioned her), Patrick and I talked about robot cars. I expressed particular skepticism about their supposedly forthcoming arrival en masse on the roads of our cities. We mentioned, in contrast to the idea of robot cars immediately conquering our cities, the fact that robot vehicles are already in successful operation in certain niche situations. We were able to think of two such. They already use giant robot lorries in the mining industry. And, Amazon already has robots wizzing about in its warehouses. Both environments have in common that they are wholly owned by the operator of the robots, so if the humans in the place need to learn the habits of these robots and to give them whatever assistance and whatever slack the robots need, then such humans can simply be commanded to do this. Unlike in big cities.

More recently, I met up again (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG) (as in: more recently than that meeting), with Bruce the Real Photographer, and mentioned that Patrick and I had been doing recorded chats, mentioning in particular our robotic ruminations. And Bruce then told me about another niche use that robot vehicles have apparently been occupying for quite some time time now. It seems that in Spain, a country that Bruce knows very well, the tyre company Michelin has a big testing track, and on this track, robot vehicles drive around and around, testing Michelin tyres.

You can see how this would make sense. The robots can travel at exactly the desired speed, along a precisely preordained route, and thereby, say, subject two only slightly different sets of tyres to the exact same “driving experience”, if you get my drift. Getting humans to perform such perfect comparisons would be very difficult, but this is exactly the kind of task, and in general the kind of operation, where robot vehicles would be ideal. And, reports Bruce The Real Photographer, they are ideal.

Me having just written all that, I wonder if Google has anything to say about this Michelin testing operation. Not a lot, it would seem. They are far keener to sell their tyres than to tell us the details of how they test them, which makes sense. But, this bit of video seems like it could be relevant. And this …:

… would appear to be the particular place that Bruce mentioned, because he recently tried – I don’t recall him saying why – but failed to get in there and see it. To take Real Photographs perhaps?

And here is another bit of video about how Bridgestone is using robot vehicles to check out tyre noise.

So, testing vehicle components. An ideal job for robot vehicles. Robots are very precise. They don’t get tired. And you can use a special track where all the humans involved are on their best behaviour.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Transport chat with Patrick Crozier (and sorry for the delay telling you about it)

With blogging, excellence is the enemy of adequacy, and often what you think will be excellence turns out not to be.

Eight days ago now, Patrick Crozier and I had one of our occasional recorded chats, about transport this time. Train privatisation, high speed trains and maglevs, robot cars, that kind of thing. I think it was one of our better ones. We both had things we wanted to say that were worth saying, and both said them well, I think. Patrick then did the editing and posting on the www of this chat in double quick time, and I could have given it a plug here a week ago. If I have more to say about transport, I can easily do other postings. But, I had some stupid idea about including a picture, and some other stuff, which would all take far too long, and the simple thing of supplying the link to this chat here was postponed, and kept on being postponed.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t matter. So, I postpone telling you what I think about something. Boo hoo. But this time I really should have done better.

There. All that took about one minute to write. I could have done this far sooner. Apologies.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog