Two black cabs that are not black and sixteen black cabs that are black

On my walkabout yesterday morning, I did encounter a couple of taxis with adverts, or black cabs as they are somewhat confusingly known. The point being, they are frequently not black at all:

Adverts advertising a way to speed up your tax process still make a lot of sense.

As do adverts about what to do with your savings:

But that still leaves a lot of taxi adverts that do not now make – or have not recently been making – much sense at all, on account of so many forms of spending having been put on hold, and on account of there being far fewer people wandering around and inclined to look at such adverts and act on their instructions.

With the following result. Here is a photo I photoed moments before that taxi with the savings advert, of a line of taxis outside Victoria Station, …:

… with no adverts on any of them.

Sixteen taxis, I make it. About that number. What are the chances of that happening in normal times? Here is yet another business that has been suffering during Lockdown. When last I looked, cabbies got about a tenner a day for their adverts. So, just when a lot of them could really have used that little wage top-up, they’ve had to go without it.

These were black cabs that really were that. Apart from the dark grey one nearest to us.

This is not the first time that I have noticed the phenomenon of the truly black Lockdown black cab, but this has been my most striking such observation.

I have believed, for some time now, that Lockdown will in due course be retro-damned as a cure worse than the disease, that at the very least went on for far too long. A generation of “experts”, all gripped by the fallacy of the risk free alternative, are going to be proved as having been very inexpert indeed. What is ending Covid is herd immunity. And what does Lockdown do? Lockdown slows down the arrival of herd immunity and prolongs the agony, in a feedback loop of yet more Lockdown. Will it ever end? I’ll believe the end of Lockdown when I see it and when the idea of re-imposing Lockdown is no longer talked about. Such are my prejudices just now.

Also, too many people now like it.

I wonder if I’ll want to saying I Told You So in a year’s time. We shall see.

The Airbus A390 “Clickbait” – etc.

Indeed:

I encountered this glorious airplane on Twitter, but just now Twitter is refusing to load onto my computer, for some idiot reason to do with me refusing to update or generally do as commanded, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. The posting in question is, in any case, unworthy of a link because if was one of those “15 airplanes that should never have been built”, adorned by an annoyingly small version of the above photo. Like a fool I took the bate bait (see first comment), and there were more like a hundred airplanes, many of them rather sensible, but none of them were the above goose airbus. Liars. I really should know by now not to disappear into these multi-click lists of foolishness. But then I googled “goose airbus” and found the bigger version of the photo that you see above.

Speaking of clickbate clickbait, yesterday I emailed David Thompson, with news of this crane inserts London bus into London pub garden posting here, in the hope that he might include it in his Friday ephemera clutch today, and he did (“Crane use of note”). So traffic here has jumped upwards. Check it out if you’ve not seen this. It’s a great photo. (This posting is now going to be another of these.)

David Thompson’s ephemera postings are a good source of weird animal stuff, and today, there’s a link to a story about a sea slug that keeps its head but grows another body.

I wish I could do that.

I also liked, although this is vegetable rather than animal news, this photo of unsupervised potatoes. Says DT’s first commenter (“Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat”): I once saw The Unsupervised Potatoes open for Rod Stewart.

So what does this Real AI do to the network?

Here’s the latest Taxi-with-advert photo I photoed, not far from a favourite taxi spot even during Lockdown, Victoria Station:

Whereas yesterday, the posting was about a big gadget that merely happened to have words on it, this is an advert that consists only of words. “Juniper. real networks. Real AI. Real results.” Even I know that the Internet will tell me more, if I only ask it. “.

So I went to the Juniper website, and watched and listened to two minutes and more of Juniper Supremo Rami Rahim, talking about an AI driven network, or something. But I am afraid I am not much the wiser. To summarise my question simply: What is he talking about? I know that AI stands for artificial intelligence, but how does this artificial intelligence apply itself to the network? Does it run the network? Thereby saving humans the bother? Does it run the network in a way that is more efficient than it could ever be in humans ran it? Or is the AI doing something entirely different? Or, is Rami Rahim just talking about a somewhat fancy computer programme, that runs the network, which isn’t really AI at all? I’m genuinely eager to learn more.

All of which illustrates a more general point about Lockdown, which is that during it, anyone in the computerised communications business is liable to be doing rather well, and to be eager to advertise, unlike, say, restaurants.

Why my next camera may still be a camera rather than a mobile phone

In a recent posting here, I speculated that my next “camera” might also be my next mobile. Setting aside the question of whether I live long enough to be making any such decision, I think I probably blogged too soon. I did mention zoom, as something a mobile phone might not do well enough, and zoom might indeed be, for me, a deal breaker. Below are three images which illustrate what I mean.

Here is a photo I photoed, in the summer of 2016, from favourite-London-location-of-mine, now shut of course, the top of the Tate Modern Extension:

That photo being favourite genre of mine: Big Things (in this case Ancient Big Things) in alignment with each other. In descending order of recognisability, and going from nearest to furthest, those are Big Ben, the twin towers of Westminster Abbey, and the single but splendid tower of Westminster Cathedral. The little green tower in the foreground is on the top of County Hall.

But here is my camera pointing in the exact same direction, minus any zoom:

I know. You can’t really tell where that clock and those cathedrals even are. Well. the scene in the top photo is to be observed just to the right of the right hand lift shaft of those two lift shafts, and just to the left of the angular glass top of 240 Blackfriars.

If I tried getting the same view with my current mobile, that view would probably look – and here I’m quoting and expanding, so to speak, from the relevant bit of the photo above – more like this:

I love these sorts of alignments and juxtapositions. Often, as above, they can only be photoed with lots of zoom. Just getting closer to the Big Things in question would not be an option, because the alignment only happens if you are in the right high-up spot where you can see it from, and this may be a long way from the aligned Big Things. So, I have to have lots of zoom.

Mobiles achieve megazoom by actually having separate cameras for different amounts of zooming. Will this ever get as good as my present camera type camera? Maybe, but in the sort of time-frame I am looking at now I rather doubt it.

Maybe flying robot cars will make sense

This Bloomberg report is interesting:

Roadable aircraft have never been mass-produced, mainly because designing them requires a difficult balancing act. “You need to build something that’s safe both in the air and on the ground”, explains Terrafugia’s Colburn. “In the air, you want to minimize weight, and on land, you need to be crash-proof if you hit a brick wall. It’s a matter of threading the needle.”

In other words, flying cars are a nonsense. Calling them “roadable aircraft” won’t change that. What it is is a bunch of libertarians in New Hampshire, and they want the law to allow flying cars. But you can allow flying cars all you like. They’ll still be a nonsense. (See also this earlier posting here.)

Or maybe not. What if they are robot flying cars?

Regular human-driven cars, as the above quote suggests, have to be safe during crashes. But what if cars never crashed? Or crashed only as often as trains crash? Trains are built entirely to be light and cheap to move around. They don’t have elaborate and heavy metallic concertinas on the front, so that they can crash safely. No. They simply do not crash. Or so rarely that it would be silly to design them to crash “safely”.

Robot cars hold out the promise that they too, like trains now, will never crash.

And if that means that robot cars can be dramatically less massive, then maybe bolting foldable wings onto a robot car might make some sense.

But of course the real pay-off of the robot cars will be down here on the ground. Not having to have those crashable noses on the front of them will make a huge difference to the economics of robot cars, compared to the cars that trundle about now.

But, robot cars are a revolutionary step, in the sense that they will require a complete rearrangement of the current transport system, comparable to the turmoil unleashed by the original process of building our current road system.

That being why, or such in my understanding, the robot cars are now taking so long to arrive.

Email problems: EIG2BA

I am suffering email problems just now. I can send them, but I can’t receive them.

As of now, I am relying on The Guru to ensure that …:

… which it surely will, eventually.

Meanwhile, the only other thing I did here today was to add a publication to this list of Chris Tame writings that I had missed. Political Notes 148: The Case Against a Bill of Rights. (My thanks to Professor Bryan Niblett for pointing out this omission.)

LATER: Email sorted. Thank you The Guru.

A ball point pen for eight pence!

Here are two more photos photoed with my Samsung Galaxy Something mobile phone:

I came upon these pens while seeking something else, as you do. I then took these photos because what I was seeing reminded me of a conversation I recently had with Michael Jennings about why the cameras in things like my Samsung Galaxy Something mobile phone are so good. He said that when you are ordering up the cameras for a production run of mobile phones like mine, or for an iPhone or some such thing (Michael J has the latest iPhone (with which he now takes photos like these)) you’re talking about ordering a billion of the things, literally. When you are working on that sort of scale, then the economies of scale really start to kick in. A camera which would have cost five times what the mere phone costs now, if you sold it only to photographers, now costs only a dozen or two quid for my phone, or a couple of hundred for the latest iPhone. He’s not wrong.

Research and development for dedicated cameras has pretty much stopped about five years ago. All the effort now goes into making mobile phone cameras into miracle machines, and that’s really starting to be visible in the results.

I remember thinking, when digital cameras first arrived, that in the long run, cameras would have no reason to look like old school cameras, of the sort that had film in them. But at first they all did, because that was what people felt comfortable with. But now, that long run is starting to arrive. Cameras now consist only of a screen, and what is more a screen that can do a hundred other things besides photo photos.

And the above photos illustrate this same economies-of-scale which can fund mega-research-into-making-them-even-cheaper principle in action down at the bottom of the market, where they thrash out ball point pens by the billion. One pound for a dozen of them! Like I say in the title of this, that’s hardly more than eight pence a pen. And that’s after all the transport costs and retail mark-ups and goodness knows what else have also been paid. Amazing.

Shame they can’t make food and heating and rent that cheap. The one thing that never seems to get any cheaper nowadays is energy, aka the essentials of life. Are we due another human transformation, to go beside this one, when energy gets miraculously cheaper? Nuclear? Fusion? Bring it on.

That previous kink, I recently read in one of Anton Howes‘s pieces, was maybe made to seem more abrupt than it really was by the fact that there came a moment when they finally worked out how to extract and distribute energy on a serious scale, but energy remained quite expensive, hence the sudden kink upwards in the numbers. Actually, life had been getting better for some time, and didn’t suddenly get a hundred times better, merely about three or four times times every few decades.

Meanwhile, things like absurdly good cameras and absurdly cheap ball point pens don’t show up in graphs of how much mere money everyone is chucking around. Which causes people in a country like mine to underestimate the improvements of recent decades. These have not taken the form of us all having tons more money. No. What has been changing is the stuff we can now buy with the same money. Like my latest (mobile phone) camera, and like ball point pens. Provided you have some cash left over after you have fed and housed yourself and kept yourself warm (not everyone does), then life has got lots more fun, given how many and how much better are the toys and times you can now buy for the same money.

Life has not improved much for those who have fun only when the fun they get is too expensive for most others to be able to indulge in. But that’s a thought for a different posting.

Big yellow pipes

Vauxhall Bridge Road is a bit of a shambles just now, because it is being dug up. It’s as if they’ve told whoever it is doing this pipe work that now is the time to doing this sort of thing, or never.

A few days ago, on my way to the shops, I encountered some of these pipes, all gathered together on the road and ready to be buried:

And then, a bit further up, nearer to the junction with Warwick Way, I came across some of these pipes actually being buried:

It was all a big reminder that roads are not simple unchanging surfaces. Rather are they elaborate volumes, volumes that are constantly being tinkered with and rearranged.

These photos were photoed, like the photo of that piano, with my Samsung Galaxy something something Forty. It’s recent rather than the very latest thing, and definitely not the latest iPhone. Yet look how it performs in very limited and completely artificial light. Okay the buildings in the background are more than somewhat distorted, but the pipes are clear as day.

Steve Davies: Four new technologies to be optimistic about

I seem to recall a lecture, given by Steve Davies at the IEA just before Covid and the political reaction to Covid started spoiling all our lives, in which he warned that modernity might be stopped in its tracks or worse by some unforeseeable disaster, and that we should watch out. And I’m pretty sure that, during the Q&A, he even mentioned the possibility of a pandemic.

Now however, Steve Davies says, not unreasonably or inconsistently, that the future is brighter than many now, as the Covid crisis persists, assume or at least fear:

People everywhere need to recover their sense of confidence and optimism and to realise not only that this is, undoubtedly, the best time ever to be alive, but also that the future will be even better.

Davies then writes about four technologies which he says will transform life for the better: autonomous vehicles, synthetic food, artificial intelligence, and anti-aging medical treatments. So, life will not only be better; it will also last for far longer.

Regular readers of this blog will know that recently I have particularly noticed technology number two in the Davies list, synthetic food. And number one, autonomous vehicles, has long been to be an interest of mine also. I agree that both will be “epoch making”, eventually.

But I probably won’t live to see either epoch unfold. As far as I’m concerned, that last one, extended life-span, through the conquest of such things as cancer, can’t come too quickly. Which is why it almost certainly won’t come, for me, quickly enough.

However, I recently I heard some wisdom based on recent personal experience spill out of my mouth, to the effect that, now, being told that I have a potentially quite-soon-fatal disease, at my already quite advanced age, is a big deal, but not that big a deal. This just means that I will die a bit sooner. But what if such a medical mishap meant that I died a lot sooner, like about a two hundred years or more sooner? That would be a very big deal. In an age of multi-century lifespans, if that is what is about to arrive, people will surely become far more risk averse even than they are now, because they will have so much more to lose by dying.

But then again, adolescent boys have long had a lot to lose and they are notoriously prone to risk-taking, just for the hell of it. So, what do I know?

In general, will people actually be any happier? I doubt this, because happiness seems to depend more on one’s internal mood than on one’s mere circumstances. I don’t feel any more miserable now than I was a couple of years ago, when I was unaware of my medical condition and before it started or at any rate before it started hurting.

Cricket lag will now be unavoidable

Oh dear. I’ve just discovered that this is happening, on Channel 4 TV:

You don’t need a jet to screw up your sleep patterns. Interesting television at 4am will do the job just as well.

I was just looking for daily highlights. Instead, I discover the whole thing.

For some reason this bit of computer graphics refused to allow Gadwin, my screen scanner, to scan it. So, I photoed it. “Rating 7”. Bloody cheek.

The game I’m now watching is this one. The very first thing I saw was Stokes getting out. Pujara nearly dropped it, but he didn’t. England now 431-4, with Root approaching his second double century in the space of three test matches.

And Root now has his two hundred, going to it with a six. 440-4. The stadium is empty, but he won’t care.