Shard earlier today

Photo taken by a friend earlier today, of the Shard from downstream:

Photoed with an iPhone 11. Pointed straight at the early afternoon sun. I’m impressed that the iPhone software managed to make so much of a distinction between on the one hand the Shard and its’s Guy’s Hospital smaller companion, and on the other the buildings in the foreground. Not sure my camera would have done so well.

In general, I love that blue-ish colour of the Shard and Guy’s. Again, don’t think mine would have managed this. I would have managed something, but it would have looked different.

What my friend saw when looking at this scene while photoing it was, I am sure, very different.

For all kinds of reasons, including the camera contrast but many others besides, my photos never seem to look quite like that. Strange that something so automatic should end up being so individual.

Blue mountains in the far distance

Here is a panoramic photo by 6k, of a striking local (to him) scene. Panoramic presumably means that he photoed a big spread of photos and then some cunning computer programme stitched them together into what you now see:

Like 6k says, wow. That’s my 1000 thingies across version, but the original is massively bigger. From it I picked out these very distant mountains, and even they had to be shrunk to fit here properly:

Thereby making the already horizontalised even more horizontalised. And in this case I’m horizontalising with an actual horizon.

I assume that these very distant mountains are blue for the same sort of reason that the sky is blue, which is that between us and it there is lots of space for blue light to wander into the picture, because blue light does that, more than other sorts of light. It must also help that in the foreground of the picture there is lots of yellow and orange, like one of those photos of an indoor scene at night, artificially lit, which turns the grey outdoors that you see through the window into bright blue, which it really isn’t when you look at it.

I sense also that this illusion is relevant. It shows how our eyes adjust when scanning the same thing but in a setting that changes, in a way we just can’t stop ourselves doing. Which cameras don’t do. It takes software to do that.

So, we don’t see those mountains as blue when we home in them, but when a camera doesn’t home in on them, but is being very hi-res and we merely crop out the distant mountains, they’re blue.

Progress and the personal touch

The two photos below, taken at Chateau Michael Jennings, remind me yet again how valuable personal face-to-face contact is in an age of radically progressing technology. The irony being that a lot of the technology that is now progressing most radically is all about making such personal face-to-face contact less necessary. But the more such technology progresses, the more valuable it is to be sitting right next to someone who knows how to get the best out of it, and can watch you failing to do that and can correct you. What’s that you say? Zoom? Two problems for me there. One, my regular C20 computer has no camera pointing at me. Plus, I tried to get Zoom going with just the sound, for a meeting, but the damn sound didn’t work. I’ll only get Zoom going when someone clever pops by and helps me do it.

These photos were taken somewhat over a year ago, when Michael was still regularly tweaking this blog, this posting being the one on the screens. They illustrate one of the improvements of this blog over the old blog, which is that (be warned) the old blog didn’t work nearly so well on mobiles or tablets. This one works much better on such modernistical contrivances:

Another friend is due round soon to help me with get the best out of my new Dyson Graven Image, before Winter arrives. I probably could get this working okay by reading the damn instructions. But, personal face-to-face guidance from someone who already knows will work far better.

New robot ship

My thanks to Facebook and Actual Friend Tim Evans for alerting me to this:

It’s Britain’s First Robot Ship. The coolness of that fake-photo is a big reason for this posting, but not the only reason. I am actually interested in robotised transport.

For some bizarre reason I found I was able to read the article linked to above, but then I wasn’t, and so far I’ve only skimmed it.

So what follows is speculation that could well be answered in the very article I’m linking to. But here goes anyway.

I sense a certain confusion about what a robot ship actually is. Is it a ship that is told where to go and from then on makes all its own decisions? Or is it a ship which is just as much commanded by a human commander, but is merely commanded by a commander who is using a radio link rather than being on the bridge of the ship? My guess is that there is quite a lot of the latter sort of human commanding going on. On the other hand, warships don’t like revealing to the enemy things like their location by sending or receiving radio signals, so maybe the ship really can command itself. But whichever it is, I’m impressed.

Ships now have expensive crews. You don’t need an onboard toilet in a car, or beds for everyone, or an elaborate food supply system. But on ships, you need all that and more for that crew. So, not having people on board is a big deal. Especially if you are sending the ship into battle.

But there are bigger issues than toilets and beds and canteens. The more I ponder the contribution of “robots” to transport, in the form of robot cars especially, the more I am sure that everything depends on a predictable and controlled environment, with the necessary infrastructural back-up. The DLR, with its centrally controlled “robot” vehicles, works a treat, because people, at any rate in Britain, are already well schooled in not wandering onto train tracks, and if they do and get themselves killed, nobody blames the trains. But cars in city centres trying to avoid disaster are a different story altogether, as the delay with robot cars is now proving.

And the sea, rather oddly, is a more controlled environment than a city centre. Although sea dramas can be very dramatic, they are mostly dramatic in a predictable way. Other ships are much more tightly policed than are all the things that can happen on the roads in cities. So robot ships, for war and for transport, make a lot of sense. They are yet another fun thing to be keeping an eye open for, during the next few years.

Julia Hartley-Brewer on ducking auto-editing on her ducking iPhone

Indeed:

Why does my iPhone always think I’m trying to type “ducking” when I’m actually trying to type “ducking” and no matter how many times I type “ducking” it still auto-edits it to “ducking” every ducking time? Is there any way of stopping this?

I didn’t LOL, but I did smile.

I don’t suffer from this ducking problem here.

LATER: I’d never watched this before. Ducking good.

Keeping eyes on the cows

Modern Farmer:

Chinese Entrepreneurs Develop Facial Recognition Software for Livestock

And from the same website:

Painting Eyes On Cows’ Butts Can Scare Away Predators

Like this:

And in political news from the same source, metaphor alert:

The Pork Industry Wants More Aid From Congress

In a barrel?

LATER: More about the eyes on cow butts story here. Via David Thompson.

Robot car thoughts

I get emails from Google telling me what the internet has been saying about robot cars, and the most recent such email concerned a Forbes piece, entitled Full Self-Driving Cars Are Still A Long Way Off – Here’s Why. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a robot car believer in the long run, and a robot car sceptic in the short run. People who tell you that robot cars are just about to multiply all over our big cities are hyping – in plain English, lying. But robot cars will eventually happen, and when they do finally get into their stride they’ll change the world. But, I say again, in the short run, it ain’t happening any time soon.

I had another listen to this recorded conversation that Patrick Crozier and I had about transport, in November 2018. Half an hour into this, the fact that Google itself was making noises about how robot cars were now really really going to happen really really soon, just after Christmas, blah blah, was mentioned, and I expressed scepticism. I have now been proved right. Robot cars are still promised, Real Soon Now, and are still not with us in a big way. (The way that e-scooters are already with us in a small way.)

About fifty minutes into that recorded conversation with Patrick, I mention a libertarian headbanger pamphlet I wrote in the 1990s about transport. When I wrote that, I assumed that the system as a whole would be the clever bit, and the vehicles would merely take their orders from this system. I later thought that the way robot cars then started to be developed was proving me wrong. Now, I suspect that the system as a whole will have to be organised differently from the way roads are organised now, and that the system as a whole will end up being highly intelligent, just as I said way back in the last century. More like railways now than the roads now. The reason robot cars are taking so long actually to arrive is that it is being realised that in order for them even to arrive in the first place, the environment they operate in will have to be reorganised in their favour. And once that happens, it will make sense to have lots more central control.

I also had clever things to say about how robot cars would maybe look more like the most expensive sort of Ferraris than regular cars. But that was by-the-by. The point of such whimsy was merely to emphasise that actually, we don’t now know what robot vehicles will end up looking like and behaving like, any more than they knew in the 1890s how cars would end up looking.

Taxis-with-adverts photoed five years ago

For quite a while now, I have been curious as to when my habit of photoing taxis-with-adverts kicked in. I’m still not sure, but by August 2015 (August 15th 2015 to be exact) this habit had evidently become well established, because on that one day, I photoed all of these photos:

Why do I like such taxis? Why do I like photoing them? And why do I like displaying arrays of such photos here at my blog? Similar, yet different. Identical shapes, but highly variable decor. I’m sure there must be some sort of psychological test that could be inflicted upon me, basically one for identifying nutters (“people with mental health issues” seems to be the latest iteration of such parlance), in which I would score heavily enough to cause a bit of concern, more so than if most of you mere readers of BMNB were made to take such a test.

Regular commenter here Alastair said of an earlier such taxis-with-adverts array that some sort of art might be contrived with these photos. My first reaction when I read that was that this was merely a polite way of saying what I just said in my previous paragraph, given what art often is these days. But Alastair had something political in mind, concerning how privileged and capitalistic these taxis are, in whom they serve and in what they advertise.

But my interest in taxis with adverts is aesthetic. I simply like how they look. Out there in the streets of London, and in my photos.

Thumbnails for a Remainer demo

I have been struggling with posting “thumbnails” here. Thumbnails are small photos, which if clicked on, result in us viewing a different and bigger photo, of which the thumbnail was only a smaller bit.

Finally, I have had a little success:

Each of the above squares that you see are thumbnails. Click on any one of them, and you get to the bigger picture from which that thumbnail was cropped. Also, click on any one of them, and right or left click on that, and you get the rest of the big original photos, just as you would with any other gallery here.

So, progress. Trouble is, if I tell WordPress to have only four thumblnails to a row, instead of the rows of five that you see above, big gaps of white start appearing between the thumbnails. So, a way to go before I’m on top of this, but it’s a start. Until today, I couldn’t do any of this, despite several tries. Now, I can do a bit of it.

This is what our century is like. Disentangling little conundrums like this. There are plenty of people who could probably have helped with this particular concundrum, but I am not sorry to have done this little bit of sorting myself. How else do you learn?

The photos above were of a Pro-Remain demo, which I chanced upon in Parliament Square in February 2019, one of the many too-much too-late eruptions of Remainer political sentiment that followed the Referendum that the Remainers had lost. The thumbnail thing, where you crop out one of the messages being waved by demonstrators, works rather well for showing galleries of such photos.

Note in particular the one that says “No-one voted for this mess”. I must admit that once Leave won the Referendum, I though leaving would be easier than it has been. But the more of a mess leaving turned out to be, the more I favoured leaving, on the grounds of EUrope being the sort of arrangement it was so very messy to get out of, even though we’d voted to do this.

Switching from here to Samizdata

Inspired by this Daniel Hannan tweet, I just did a piece for Samizdata entitled It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression.

I began it as a piece for here, but I then reckoned it should go to there. Making that switch was helped a lot by the fact that Samizdata is a blog powered by WordPress, and so, now, is mine.