Drones replacing sheepdogs (and some embedded video about this)

This is the first time I’ve tried embedding a bit of video in this blog. Let’s see how this works:

Seems to have worked. Another major improvement of this blog over the old one, especially important for me at moments like this, is that when I press “Save draft” and them “Preview”, I get a preview of exactly how things will end up looking. The old blog, for some idiot reason, couldn’t or wouldn’t do this. Not exactly. Well, maybe it could have, but I couldn’t make it.

I found this news report, about how drones are replacing sheepdogs on the farms of New Zealand, here. This is definitely the most interesting “other creatures” thing I learned about during the last seven days. I first got a clue about this story when semi-watching a BBC4 TV documentary about the wildlife of New Zealand. They must have digressed into not-so-wild life.

According to the above video, drones haven’t yet learned how to function when it’s raining. So sheepdogs, for the time being, are still useful when it’s wet. But work is surely progressing on that, and the days of sheepdogs as workers on farms are surely numbered. These things can take a long time, so it will be a big number. But, a number.

Sheepdogs will not completely die out. Like horses, they will survive as sporting entertainers. And drones will give viewers a much better view of all the action.

LATER: I just realised it’s Thursday today, rather than Friday, which is the day I usually focus especially on cats, dogs, etc. Well, no matter. I’m probably the only one who noticed, so I’m not even going to apologise.

The transgender rights row in sport is coming rapidly to the boil

Mick Hartley quotes from a piece behind the Times paywall, about a male-who-identifies-as-female cricketer, who is doing very well for him(her)self, in (hitherto) women’s cricket:

There is a new star in the Kent women’s cricket team – its first transgender player is opening after one season.

Maxine Blythin, who is more than 6ft tall and under England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) rules can self-identify as a woman, has a batting average of 124 this season and has hit four centuries already. …

Fair Play for Women has said the policy is unfair, especially at a time when the game is improving opportunities for female players. A £20m semi-professional competition for women starts next year.

“Letting males who self-ID as women play in women’s competitions is demonstrably unfair,” the campaign group tweeted last week. “The ECB knows males have a performance advantage over females. This is [why] it lets women use lighter & smaller cricket balls & why boundaries are set closer.”

The ECB is very proud that it has created an “inclusive environment for all participants”. Says Hartley:

Well, all participants apart from the women, who have to compete against a biologically male athlete. But who cares about them?

Plenty will, when women’s sports teams stop having just a sprinkling of such persons in among all the biological women, and are instead dominated by male-identifying-as-female players. Note Hartley’s singular “a” in front of “biologically male athlete”. That singular is going to turn plural very soon, unless this foolishness is ended now. It will end, quite soon. But not before there has been a big fight that, as of now, the mostly-men in charge of sport are reluctant to have.

This would appear to be the relevant page of the Fair Play For Women website.

At the top, it says:

During the summer of 2018 the government launched a public consultation about changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Powerful transgender interest groups lobbied hard for full deregulation of the legal transition process, demanding a move to a simplified approach known as Sex Self-ID, that would allow any man to change his birth certificate on demand to say he was born female.

There is nothing remotely “simplified” about Sex Self-ID. When biological men feel female, it cannot not get complicated.

Herbert Sutcliffe with possum

Asked Cricinfo, a while back: Who has made the most runs in an Ashes Test only to end on the losing side? I love that kind of thing, so of course I went to find out who it was, and I encountered this charming photo of the answer:

The Ashes record is held by the England opener Herbert Sutcliffe, who scored 303 runs – 176 and 127 – in a seven-day Test in Melbourne in 1924-25.

According to this, the above photo first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 14th 1933.

Of Sutcliffe, Wikipedia, who picked out this same photo of him, says:

A right-handed batsman, Sutcliffe was noted for his concentration and determination, qualities which made him invaluable to his teams in adverse batting conditions; and he is remembered as one of the game’s finest “bad wicket batsmen”. His fame rests mainly in the great opening partnership he formed with Jack Hobbs for England between 1924 and 1930. He also formed notable opening partnerships at Yorkshire with Percy Holmes and, in his last few seasons, the young Len Hutton. During Sutcliffe’s career, Yorkshire won the County Championship 12 times. Sutcliffe played in 54 Test matches for England and on three occasions he toured Australia, where he enjoyed outstanding success.

What England wouldn’t now give for such a batsman.

Police horses outside my front window

Quite a few times, during the last few days, I’ve been hearing the clip-clop of what I already knew to be police horses, outside my home. I knew they were police horses, because those are the only horses I ever see in my vicinity. After a couple of such soundings, I tried to photo them, but by the time I got my camera going, they’d gone.

Yesterday, however, they were back, and I got luckier:

Nice of them to turn right like that, so I could get a less unflattering view of them, wasn’t it?

I tried googling to find where such horses might be based, but am none the wiser. There’s a Facebook page, which keeps saying that there are stables to be found in the middle of Victoria Station, which can’t be right. I’m guessing the stables are just “somewhere in Victoria”, and that’s how they like to keep it. But, what do I know? Not even that, actually.

In this Guardian piece about the work of such horses and their riders, it says this:

The Metropolitan Police has 150 officers and 120 horses at eight stables across London who perform a variety of roles, from high visibility patrolling to appearing at ceremonial functions and carrying out public order duties such as …

Such as the football match the article describes, a friendly, between England and Sweden. And it would seem that what I observed must have been “high visibility patrolling”.

Concerning the football match, we later read this:

It is incredibly moving to watch a line of just six horses effortlessly holding back 35,000 fans. The relationship between the police and the British public may be troubled, but judging by this night at least, it seems the force’s equine members still draw a healthy respect.

Healthy respect? My guess is it’s more a case of everyone knowing that hurting human cops is okay, because all’s fair in love and rioting. But hurt a horse, and the whole world considers you scum. I remember the IRA hurting a horse, and the reaction from everyone was: right, that does it. I do not like the IRA any more. Bombing humans to death in places like Manchester and Ireland. That’s okay. But, a horse? Now they’ve crossed a line.

Surrey v Middlesex T20: Out of the sun in Bedser Upper

On July 23rd, Darren and I went to the Oval to watch Surrey lose to Middlesex. I photoed signs, and I photoed a drone, and that was about the half of it, if by that you mean about 0.5% of it.

As earlier noted, we got there with lots of time to spare and to spend taking in all the incidental sights and sounds of the Oval before the actual game got going. Which meant that when we reached our seats, the entire place (not just the place we were in) was nearly empty.

Darren had purchased seats for us in something called Bedser Upper, in honour of this Surrey legend. And the first thing we noticed when we reached our seats was how very cool it was, compared to how hot it might have been. We could see everything perfectly, yet we would be sheltered from the sun:

Remember, this was was the hottest day ever in London since the dawn of creation. 38 degrees centigrade, and a sure sign of Gaia’s Wrath To Come, to punish Sinful Man for burning too much petrol, gas, oil, etc., and for being too happy and comfortable and well off. Humanity used to be a bunch of slave labourers. Now it is a much vaster throng of, pretty much, sports fans with, compared to olden times, part-time jobs. And the sort of people who disapprove of that disapprove of it by talking about such things as how very hot it was, in London, on that day. And it was indeed very, very hot.

But, not quite so hot in Bedser Upper. Darren had chosen very well.

Later we realised that we were also sitting inside a giant loudspeaker, into which dementedly deafening pop music would be inserted for the duration of the game. Such is modern (very) limited overs cricket. But, we agreed that this was a price well worth paying, for the lack of extreme hotness.

I love the architecture of the Oval. (By which of course I mean the Kia Oval.) So much more interesting that some dreary built-all-at-once football stadium. The big sweep of that big new stand, with its big curved roof, on the left. The classical nobility of the ancient gasometer. The magnificently tall pavilion, on the right. And in the distance, occasional glimpses of the Big Things of central London. What a place.

And, just as divertingly, for me, before the game got started there were lots of interesting rituals being played out by a total of getting on for a hundred people. WIth other sports, a lot of this stuff is hidden away behind the scenes. But with cricket, if you get there early enough, you see it all. More about all that in further postings here about this wonderful night out, Real Soon Now.

A drone at the Oval – and what drones will replace

I took this photo at the Oval (sorry the Kia Oval), on July 23rd 2012, when I and Michael Jennings were watching England lose by an innings to South Africa:

All very regrettable. England lost all twenty wickets, but South Africa only lost two wickets. Hashim Amla got a treble century. Boo hoo.

But, take a close look at the rather odd stick-like thing sticking up over that big stand in the distance. Not the big flyswatter, which is for floodlights. No, I mean the rather insect-leg-like thing to its left, as we look.

This:

That’s a simple crop-and-expand of the first photo above.

Then as now, I was interested not just in cricket, as in: Is my team winning? (It was not (see above)). I also was already interested in the means by which cricket is televised or video-intenetted. I know this, because at about the same time I was photoing the above photo, I also photoed this photo:

Imagine spending your entire day, which on that particular day was a pretty hot day, doing that.

Okay. Now, fast forward to the Oval exactly seven years to-the-day later, July 23rd 2019, when Darren and I visited the Oval, to watch Surrey get beaten by Middlesex in a T20 game.

Once again, that my team was losing was very regrettable, but once again, I consoled myself by photoing other things besides the actual cricket, as already recounted in this earlier posting.

And the most interesting thing, by far, that I photoed that evening, was this:

I owe the spotting of this contraption, which hovered throughout the entire game over the same part of the ground as the 2012 crane-photoer did, to Darren’s sharper-than-my eyes, and to the fact that he reads this blog and knew that I would be interested. I would be amazed if I discovered that it was actually not videoing the game that Darren and I were watching, even if it was only panoramic views, for now.

It is surely only a matter of time before drones start being used to video games like the one I saw at Beckenham, where I also photoed video cameras.

And scaffolding. Drones don’t need scaffolding.

I’m guessing that the drone problem just now is keeping them absolutely still, or alternatively, moving them in exactly the required manner, the way crane-photoer has long been doing. But if humming birds can solve this problem, I presume that drones can, and that actually, somewhere, they already have.

Googling for drones-cricket etc. tells me that this is a technology that is bowling ahead, so to speak. For instance, it says here, in connection with the recently concluded Cricket World Cup, that:

The drone camera provided by Batcam will also provide stunning visuals of all venues across England and Wales.

“Batcam” link added.

So, as Darren suggested, it is quite probable that the TV picture in this posting was done by a drone, rather than by a bloke at the top of a crane.

Which means that the Big Alignment described in that posting (the Shard and the BT Tower) may have been no accident. Maybe the drone lined them up right next to each other on purpose.

Surrey v Middlesex T20: Signs and notices

Last night, good friend of mine and of this blog Darren arranged for me to go with him to a cricket match. Thanks a century by Middlesex captain Dawid Malan, Surrey were on the back foot throughout, and were beaten well before the official end.

Which is perhaps why I found myself enjoying all of the many incidentals of the game at least as much as I enjoyed the game itself. Even before I got inside the ground, I was taking photos of signs, many of them involving the names of Surrey greats of the past, familiar from the many hours of my childhood spent listening to cricket on the radio. Although, while I clearly recall Surridge, Lock, Laker, May and Stewart from those far off times, and while I know who Nat Sciver is and who Jack Hobbs (the gate) was, Tom Richardson (the plaque – never noticed that before) was way before my time:

All but the last three of those were photoed before the game had even begun. Darren says he likes to be there to “soak up the atmosphere”, and so we got there at 4.30 pm, for a 6.30 pm start. I had a great time photoing lots of things that you never normally see in regular cricket photos.

That “Welcome to the Kia Oval” sign I include to ram home that if you are anything officially connected to Surrey and you ever refer to the Kia Oval merely as “The Oval”, you will be savagely punished.

As you can see, the World Cup is still being remembered fondly, and smoking is forbidden throughout the ground, as are a bunch of other things, so you don’t feel tempted to throw them at the players. Or the umpires. Also no musical instruments.

The sign which says “4” on it means that someone has hit a 6, almost certainly Malan. That’s because spectators get given cards with 4 on one side and 6 on the other, to flaunt when someone hits a 4 or a 6, and my photoing was from the wrong side of the sign, so to speak. When someone hit a 4, that sign would say, to me, 6. At first I was puzzled at all the signs saying 6 when it was only 4. As you can maybe tell, this is the first T20 game I’ve ever actually been to.

The sign on a pole is to advertise the game at the Oval against Glamorgan tomorrow evening. Having now lost their first two games, Surrey need to start winning.

LATER: I missed this one!:

Next time I go the Oval, I’ll maybe do a complete photo-inventory of all the signs there that I can find. There have to be many more than I encountered yesterday.

Ferraris – well lit

On the same night (but later, when it had got dark) that I photoed this rather artistic roof clutter, I also photoed these rather more self-consciously artistic works of art:

Photography is light. If the Ferrari shop in Kensington was not intending that passers-by should take photos, well, they shouldn’t have lit their cars so well. I took only a few shots, and most came out (see above) pretty well.

These Ferraris are displayed in chronological order by my photoing, but they look good as a set (see above also). Pointing outwards, if you get my meaning.

I feel the same way about Ferraris like this, behind a shop window, as I do about tourist crap in tourist crap shops or Big architectural Things like the Shard or the Gherkin. I don’t want to buy it. Far too much bother. (Where would I put it?) But I can enjoy the amusing way it looks, by merely photoing it. If, like me, you are a collector, you can now easily collect how things look, without collecting the things themselves.

“Other creatures” in the category list is because of the Ferrari horse.

Big Thing alignments from Lord’s

One of the many things I like about watching cricket on the television, along with things like that I can see properly what is going on, is that in between overs, those high-up cameras often look beyond the cricket, to the surroundings beyond, a process which is especially appealing if the game is being played in London.

As last weekend’s Cricket World Cup Final was, at Lord’s:

That’s a photo I just snapped off of the TV, with a camera.

Let’s see if I can do better, by putting one of the three DVDs I made of the Final with my TV recording machine, into my computer, and then do a screen scan. It helps a lot having the score, because that way I can quickly find the same shot.

Here we go:

A bit better, I think. Not a lot, but a bit.

In the foreground there is Regent’s Park. but the particular thing I like is the way the BT Tower aligns with the Shard. The BT Tower even manages to place itself between the Shard and Guy’s Hospital.

Here’s another Lord’s photo, that I photoed myself on a more sedate Lord’s occasion. Rugby v Marlborough, on August 12th 2017;

I took that from the top of the big new stand which has a roof on it like a big tent. You can see the same alignment, of the Strata (the one with three holes in the top) and the Wheel, in the TV shot above. What this tells me is that the TV shot was taken from a lot higher up, and off to the left as we look. So, on a crane, standing at the Media Centre end.

Here is a photo of some Real Photographers …:

… whom I photoed that same day, minutes after that earlier photo. Lord’s was not exactly buzzing that day, was it? Anyway, I’d like one of those Real Photographers to be sent up to the top of the crane where the TV people took their shot from, and take some extra good stills of the same BT Tower/Shard alignment.

Alas, they probably wouldn’t be that interested. Plus, nowadays you can probably do everything you want along such lines with drones.

That earlier game, described here, had one thing very much in common with the recent World Cup Final game, which was this:

Neither side deserved to lose and cricket was very much the winner …

It was indeed a terrific contest, even if only a tiny few people watched it, compared to the crowd last Sunday, at the ground and on TV.

A World Cup Final that could not have been closer

If you don’t care about cricket, you won’t care about England having just won the World Cup. If you do care about cricket, you’ll not be paying any attention to me, here. But, in the years to come, I will. I need to have some links to this game, here, to wallow in, in the years to come.

The strange thing was, for two thirds of the game, NZ were grinding their way to a dreary win, by about 241 to, say, England all out 190. England, making a mess of chasing 242, were 90 for 4 and looking doomed. Worse, a generation of small boys watching it on free-to-air telly with their cricket mad dads would have been wondering what the hell all the fuss was about. Then the sun came out, and Jos Buttler came out to join Ben Stokes, and it then became a different game.

For once, that idiot cliché about cricket being the winner is true. Because this game was shown free on the telly, and because of how it got so crazily close at the end, who knows how many thousands of little kids will have got all excited about Stokes, Buttler, and the rest of them?

For the benefit of those learning about this game for the first time, a day late, England won by winning the cricket equivalent of a penalty shoot-out, after they had been all out for 241, chasing 242 to win. So, a tie. Then, to settle it and to work out who got the trophy, England got 15 in the “super-over” of six halls bowled by one of the opposition bowlers. NZ replied with 15, in their super-over. But England won it because they’d hit more boundaries throughout the day – 26-17, my telly has just told me – than New Zealand did.

Holy, as the man at Cricinfo said in amongst all this mayhem, Moly.

Will their be another patriotic orgy in Trafalgar Square to celebrate this? Along the lines of this:

(Those were photos I photoed in Trafalgar Square on September 13th 2005, in honour of another big England cricket win.) I really don’t see why not.

Also today, that Federer guy was involved in another rather close game, of tennis.

Did you know that these two games ended within minutes of one another? You do now.