Some housekeeping

Yes, following on from yesterday’s cricket dramas, the mundane matter of how photos look, here, on this blog.

You will recall that last week, GodDaughter2’s Sister and I were wandering about in London. After we had passed through Trafalgar Square, we carried on, across the River, and then along to the Oxo Tower, up which I had never been and up which GD2S now guided me. Here is how the top of that Tower looks from just underneath that top:

Now for the housekeeping. The photo I just uploaded to my blogging software is 1000 pixels across. The blog software cleverly shrinks that photo on your screen, to make it fit the full width of the posting.

However, here is another photo I took from that same spot, of the two Blackfriars bridges, road in the foreground and the railway station bridge behind it, with a little clutch of those Ghost Columns (also featured in photo 4.3 of this recent photo-collection here) in between. (Top right, you can just make out the Millennium Footbridge.) This photo is, as of now, 1500 pixels across, and if all now behaves as it has been behaving, this photo will now look, on your screen, rather less wide:

The effect is not always visible. You have to widen out the blog posting before you spot the difference. But when you do, you see that the Tower Top is wider across than the Bridges.

Which is strange. What I would like would be for the blogging software to shrink the photo that is 1500 pixels across down to the exact width of the posting, but no narrower, just as it did with the 1000 pixel photo above, of the Tower Top, no matter what the size of the screen you see all this on.

Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to sort this out for me, unless you are Michael Jennings, the man who got this blog going, and who has more recently promised to give this matter his attention.

If you are not Michael Jennings, the purpose of this posting is, however, more than just a matter of showing you a couple of (hope you agree) nice photos. I am also interested in illustrating how an aspect of modern life consists of people like me (who don’t know how all this stuff works) asking people like Michael Jennings (who does know how a lot of this stuff works or failing that knows how to find out how it works) to make stuff we put on the internet look more nearly as we would like it to.

An ongoing agenda for this blog is the texture, so to speak, of modern life. And this particular sort of techno-relationship, between a circle of tech-ignorant people and … That Guy, to whom they all go for answers to conundra of this kind, is very much part of how we all live now. Why be ashamed of any of this? Why not turn it into a blog posting? It’s interesting.

If, despite not being Michael Jennings, you feel that you nevertheless have something to contribute in this matter, feel entirely free to comment. I like comments, and am grateful for all the ones I get.

By the way, if you never have to ask That Guy for help, of the approximate sort that I have just described, then you, for your particular circle of acquaintances, are probably That Guy yourself.

Octopus and mantis

Friday, so cats and kittens, or other creatures, and again, I go to 6k to get my posting here sorted on what is turning out to be a rather busy day, involving claims by my computer that its Antivirus Protection has Expired. Not what I want.

So, yes, other creatures, very other creatures, in the form of an octopus and a mantis:

Originals here and here.

I love a good silhouette.

South Africa is a scary place.

Octopus and Mantis. Good name for a rock duo.

A slight interruption

Earlier this evening, at around 7pm London time, there was a brief interruption of service here, lasting around ten to fifteen minutes. This happened during the process of updating the security certificate. I think I have that approximately right. An error was made, and then speedily identified and corrected.

Apologies if you were inconvenienced. The good news is that this is not the sort of problem which is at all likely to happen again.

In general, I hope you will agree, the new blog has been very solid. I expect that to go on being the case.

Gallery means that you decide

One of the many things I love about this new WordPress blog of mine is that I can now do things like this …:

… a lot more quickly. Thank you “Gallery”.

All of the above photos were taken within a few moments of each other, in the vicinity of Battersea Power Station, just over a year ago. Then as now, this place was being transformed.

But there is much more involved in the Gallery improvement than the fact that I can shove up a clutch of photos more quickly than before. Equally important to me is that you now have a lot more control than you used to. You can now spend no more time looking at these photos, unless you want to, than I did when I photoed them. You no longer have to choose between having a quick gander at the above snaps, and having a life.

The difference is that, now, you can click on the first photo, look at it for as much time as you like or as little time as you like, and then click on the arrow on the right, and get straight to the next one. Click click click. I know, I’m rediscovering the wheel here, but if you have been depriving both yourself and your potential readers of wheels for about a decade, wheels are a big deal.

Because you can click through all these photos so speedily, I feel comfortable showing them to you in such abundance. These are not oil paintings, unless you want them to be. I don’t assume that you’ll be wanting to linger over these snaps. Feel entirely free to do that, if you feel inclined to scrutinise any of them at any length of time, but I don’t expect this.

An obvious question arises: If I like the idea of you clicking quickly through the above snaps, why not a video? Well, number one, a video deprives you of control. But also, what I find fascinating about photoing is the extreme difference between how a camera sees things, and how the human eye sees things. Basically, a video camera sees things more the way that we humans do. Our eyes, like video cameras, roam over the scene in front of us. They don’t look at the scene once, the way a camera does when it takes the one photo, and nor does a video camera. A video shows us what’s really going on. It goes behind and beyond those mere appearances.

A photo is something else entirely. It’s a photo! And that makes videos, to me, from this point of view, less interesting.

Horizontalising a toy train photo

My excuse for inviting myself to visit Rob and his family last Sunday was to check out the toy trains I’d given to them. For years, I had been keeping this stash of toy trains. So, when I heard that Rob and his family were acquiring their own train layout, and that it was starting to be constructed in their loft, I thought: maybe they’d like them. They did, and they now do. The ancient little tank engine that was included in this clutch is now very “analog”, while the new way to control trains is all “digital”, but apparently the analog train responds to the more primitive commands issued by the digital controller, with sufficient enthusiasm to remain welcome in its new home.

I hate just chucking stuff like that into the bin. I’m so glad these trains have a new home, where they will be loved and properly looked after.

And of course, when there on Sunday, I had to take photos. Not, alas, in the attic. A bit hard to get to. But at least in new surroundings:

As on the old blog, I want here to be able to do a blog posting where the above photo, the original, can be clicked to from a horizontal slice, of this sort:

Here at the new blog, this took a bit of contriving. But it got done, as you can tell if you click on the above slice.

Blog and learn. About everything, but in particular about how your blog works.

The curse of Having To Do Something Else The Same Day (and gauze in the early morning light)

I am writing this at 5am, and will shortly be going back to bed. That’s another Getting Old (see the “Categories” below) thing. I now typically have to get up in the middle of the night, to piss and to cool down, bladder and temperature control being two things that have cumulatively deserted me, as I have Got Older.

Also, as with most of this week’s evenings, I have something I must go out and do this evening. That always puts the kibosh (spelling?) on the day. There’s something about having Absolutely Nothing To Do For the whole day, until I next go to bed for real (i.e., at this particular time) in the very small hours of Saturday morning, that enables me to really get stuck into something, like a piece of serious writing (this not being that) or even merely thinking seriously about something, that I really like. Contrariwise, the knowledge that if I do get really stuck into something now, it might go on and on into the evening, at which point I would then have to cut it short, and go off to do something else, makes me fear getting stuck in in the first place. Even though I have many hours before I have to go off to do that other thing.

Factor in the something-here-every-day rule, and I think you can see how I need to get blogging out of the way as soon as possible. Blogging, of even the most trivial sort (this being that) is something that you can’t guarantee to finish at any particular hour. It takes as long as it takes. What if I find I want to stick up a photo? And what if that photo leads to other photos? What if I want to link back to an earlier posting, from the old blog, which I haven’t yet shovelled across to here? What if Surrey suddenly start doing really well at cricket, and demand my attention, in among me trying to contrive this blog posting? There’s so much to get complicated, and to gobble up all that now seemingly endless time.

Here is a photo that I want to stick up here, now, of the early morning light coming in through the scaffolding and the gauze outside the window of my living room:

That wasn’t actually photoed just now. It was photoed at this time in the morning, earlier this week. The time of day is the point, not the date of the day. The photo is all about how you can see through gauze if the gauze itself is not lit up, but not so much if it is.

Here is another early morning gauze photo, also one I photoed earlier:

The point of that photo being that despite the gauziness of the gauze, if you can persuade your camera to focus on the far distance, through the gauze, it’s like the gauze isn’t there. The gauze might as well be a perfectly cleaned lens of filter, for all the interruption it imposes. It changes the nature of the incoming light, but not the clarity of the photo. If anything, by reducing the mere quantity of light, it clarifies the picture, just like a regular filter. That red clutch of a table and chairs can be entirely seen, with no gauze in the picture at all, just less light and therefore, probably, less glare all over the place. But the gauze is there. Just not having any effect on what my camera seems to see. How about that?

Here is a photo of the gauze, similar to the first photo above. But this is not about the contrast between the lit gauze and the unlit gauze, merely about how very gauzy the gauze is:

Enough. (Although actually, let me add, I (LATER:) made the first version of the above gauziness even gauzier by “sharpening” it, in my photoshop-clone. Much better. (Much gauzier.))

But now, I have to photo-process the above photos, just to get them the right size, and then load them up into the blog. This all takes time. I also need to give the above a read-through and correct, which also all takes time. By the time this trivial blog posting is done, over an hour (a phrase which had to be changed from “the best part of an hour”) will have elapsed. Had I been doing all this in the knowledge that in two hours, say, I’d have had to stop and go out, it would have been very stressful. I might have had to stop before completion and just hope that that the bits of this blog posting were pickable-uppable later. As it is, all I did was delay some resumed sleep, let my feet get a bit colder than is convenient, and my bed get a bit colder than will enable my feet to warm up again, all of which is easily corrected with a hot water bottle. No problem.

Really. Enough.

I have now freed up the entire day, for important but non-urgent stuff. Bliss. Come to think of it, I have other important and urgent stuff to deal with. Now much easier to fit in. Bliss of a different kind. (ENOUGH.)

Welcome to Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog

Yes, welcome.

I’ve already shovelled quite a few postings from the old blog to here (see below), and I now intend that many more will follow (so that if I refer back to an old posting, you won’t have to be bothering with the old blog). But as of today, that old blog stops getting any new stuff, and this is where I’ll be doing all my personal blogging from now on.

The old blog didn’t completely collapse, but as the subtitle of this blog says, it stopped working properly. I was still able to do postings there. But, among many other defects and difficulties, the commenting system went to hell, as all those who stuck with that old blog will surely have been noticing for quite a while. Basically, any comment of any sort, whether authentic or from a spamster, triggered an army of sex-obsessed robot commenters, who just commented away for ever until I expunged it all. That definitely shouldn’t now be happening here. So, feel free to add your truly authentic comments now, on this or any other posting here (including on any of the old postings copied across), as and when you feel inclined.

There’s lots else I could be saying in this first real posting here, but all of that can wait, other than the one thing which I really must say now. Which is: deepest thanks to my friend Michael Jennings, who set this blog up for me. All errors of taste here are my fault rather than his, and in general, I didn’t make it easy for him. But he has made it all a lot easier for me. And I trust, for you.

Welcome to my new virtual home.

Alexa gets the bird (fruit, ice cream, light bulbs, a kettle ….)

This is definitely my favourite Other creatures story of recent months. Months because this was reported on before Christmas, and I’ve only just got around to mentioning it here.

Parrot used Amazon Alexa to order items while his owner was away:

So far Rocco the African Grey, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, U.K., has demanded treats such as strawberries, watermelon, raisins, broccoli and ice cream.

He has also ordered a kite, light bulbs and even a kettle.

Rocco likes to dance too and tells the voice-activated device to play favorite tunes. Sometimes they are slow numbers, but he generally prefers rock.

Where is voice recognition when you need it?

Alexa needs a setting, for junior members of a household, for whom she is allowed to play musical requests, but from whom she is not allowed to take purchase orders.

You’d think that with lots of kids in the world, many causing havoc, Alexa would be able to make the necessary distinctions. But it sure is entertaining when she doesn’t.

Reflection reflections

I basically picked last night’s quota photo for alliterative reasons. QUota. QUantum. As we bloggers say: heh. No long essay was required to present that little joke, if joke it even was.

In the course of my search late last night for a suitable QP, I came across other photos which seemed suitable for showing here, but which demanded little essays to explain what it was that made them suitable. And I was too knackered for that, having spent yesterday working on this talk for Christian Michel’s 6/20 soiree, and then in the evening giving the talk.

In particular, late last night, I encountered in my photo-archives this remarkable (I think) photo, which I took in Regent’s Park in March of 2012, as it was getting dark, when on my way back from taking photos on and from Primrose Hill:

What I find remarkable about that photo is the contrast between how very red the reflection in the water of the lights on the BT Tower is, compared with how very un-red the actual lights themselves are, as photoed through the mere air.

You often get this with reflections. In photos, I mean. Your actual eyes make adjustments as they scan the scene. What I would have seen, with my eyes, when photoing the above photo, is quite bright red lights on the tower, and a similarly bright reflection.

But my camera, on automatic, doesn’t think like this. All my camera is concerned about is the overall balance. It has to pick just one balance and apply it to everything. And because a reflection is involved, it often ends up picking a balance where the actual view is very light and bright, but the reflection contains all the action. I often do this-and-this-same-thing-relected photos with a glass window doing the reflecting. And often what you get with that is a completely blank white sky, but then in the reflection you get all the distinctions between quite light and not so light, quite blue and not so blue, that you don’t get in the bit of the photo that is directly of the sky.

And that’s what surely happened with the above photo. The redness got lost when we were just looking at the lights themselves. But the water darkened and strengthened that same redness, and made it really red.

On the day, I was more interested in the birds swimming around on the water. The next eight photos in that directory are of ducks and geese, and the final three are of a swan. After that I called it a day, what with daylight having ended. I only really noticed this reflected redness thing last night.

Most Real Photographers have to have the skill of knowing at once when they’ve photoed a good photo, and why. We unreal photoers can take our time.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog