The Brian Micklethwait Archive goes public

Just over a month ago I learned that I will die rather sooner than I had been supposing, and I asked, by way of being cheered up, for people to say nice things, preferably in public, about my various writings and doings over the years.

The most impressive consequence of this rather vulgar entreaty has so far been the Brian Micklethwait Archive.

It is in the nature of this Archive in my honour that if I had constructed it myself it would be an absurdity, which wouldn’t outlast me any more than this blog will. In contrast, the fact that Rob Fisher, a far younger man than me, has embarked upon this project is a source of profound gratitude and satisfaction to me. If I die soon, this will be a big reason for me nevertheless to die in a state of moderate contentment. Posthumous reputations, such as I now crave on a scale way beyond what I merely deserve, do not establish themselves. They have to be established. I want to be remembered as a writer, yet I do not have so much as one book to my name. This Archive that Rob is gathering up, by cherry picking from my many bits of writing over the years, will make a big difference to whatever continuing impact and influence I may have after I have died.

Rob is in charge of this Archive, not me. It needs to be something he is happy to go on polishing and adding to in the months and years to come, so it must be as he wishes it, rather than as I might have wished it. And I waited until he made it public before drawing attention to it, here, myself. Now I feel that I can without upsetting whatever announcements Rob had in mind to be doing.

Great Men don’t need to advertise themselves. Their achievements speak for themselves. Lesser men like me need to beat their own drums. And it makes all the difference when someone else joins in.

Transparent wood

Here:

As window material, it would be much more resistant to accidental breakage. The clear wood is lighter than glass, with better insulating properties, which is important because windows are a major source of heat loss in buildings. It also might take less energy to manufacture clear wood because there are no high temperatures involved.

Transparent wood could become an alternative to glass in energy efficient buildings, or perhaps coverings for solar panels in harsh environments. There could be no end of uses.

Remarkable. Thank you Scott Adams.

The greatest ever sport weekend

Seriously, I can’t remember a weekend when there’s ever been more sport of the sort that I pay attention to. This particular weekend towards the beginning of February is usually pretty good, but this year it really has been remarkable.

It began with the second day of the India v England cricket test match, in the small hours of Saturday morning, and continued on Saturday morning with the final of the Big Bash in Australia. The Vince Sixers defeated the Livingstone Scorchers, teams which I thus name because all I care about in that tournament is how well the Brits do, and Vince did very well indeed. There was Premier League soccer to get excited about, which I do, a bit, both Saturday afternoon and evening and today afternoon and evening.

This was also the first weekend of the Six Nations, which is rugby union. Scotland beat England on Saturday, which was not nice, but this wasn’t because England were rubbish. It was because Scotland were not rubbish, and England were caught by surprise. Scotland being not rubbish made a nice change from the last twenty years or so of Scotland vying with Italy for bottom spot. All the Six Nations needs now is for Italy also to become a serious threat, and this tournament could enter a golden age of total unpredictability. But first up on Saturday, Italy were smashed again, by France. So that doesn’t seem like it’ll be happening any time soon.

Sunday morning. Day three of the India v England test match. England, having batted big, manage to get six Indian wickets. Afternoon, another six Nations, Wales beating Ireland. Soccer, with Spurs winning. Harry Kane back with Spurs and Spurs were accordingly back winning a game, which was nice. Then Man City thrashed Liverpool, and are now favourites, insofar as such a thing can exist in this anyone-can-beat-anyone season. Man City have an England guy called Foden, who everyone says is going to be really good. His goal at the end against Liverpool was quite something.

And now, late on Sunday evening and into Sunday morning, it’s only the Super Bowl. Number 55, or Super Bowl LV as nobody says. Live on British TV. I’m watching the beginning of that now. Brady beating Mahomes 2-0 in touchdowns so far.

And then when that’s done, it’ll straight back to the cricket out in India, also live on British TV. Day 4. Because the BBC is not being allowed to even commentate, let alone show video, of the cricket in India, they are pretty much ignoring it other than at their website, and are instead trying to get excited about tennis. There is apparently a big tennis tournament, going on somewhere on the planet, but I do not know or care where. All of which means that if I want to know how England are doing in that game, I have to get up and watch TV. Which I can do. Piece of piss, and of course it makes sense to combine it with that.

Which is a lot of sport. No wonder, this weekend, I have accomplished nothing. When I was middle aged, wondered if I’d still be paying attention to, and more to the point caring about, sport, when I got old. Turns out I still do. Especially the cricket and the rugby.

I hope you don’t mind the absence of links in this. My thinking is: If you care about any of these contests, you’ll already be linked into them. If you don’t care, then any link to whatever it is you don’t care about won’t add anything to your life.

More from the Steve Stewart-Williams Twitter feed

Yes I haven’t recently resorted to the SS-W TwF for a Friday Cats and Other Creatures posting. But in the small hours of last night I did two short postings, neither of which had anything to do with any Creatures and that needs putting right. So, here we go.

We’ll start with what sort of creature we humans are. It turns out we’re a type of fish.

Next up, well played that gazelle

Diver convinces a baby octopus to trade its plastic cup for a seashell.

An insufficiently anxious chicken.

Puppy cuddles duck.

The amazing diversity of big cats.

Some dogs making friends with the biggest cat there is.

Kangaroo fights look a lot like boxing matches except that, unlike human boxers, the kangaroos periodically rear back on their tails and kick their opponents with both feet.

Rat uses pencil to activate trap and get food.

The babe magnet that is also a giant billboard for predators.

Cats negotiating obstacle courses. It’s how the hind legs don’t hit anything either that impresses SS-W.

Finally, with me remembering this earlier posting here, a spider that is definitely confused by a mirror.

Scientists solve the mystery of why wombats have cube-shaped poo

Here:

How wombats produce their cube-shape poo has long been a biological puzzle but now an international study has provided the answer to this unusual natural phenomenon.

The cube shape is formed within the intestines – not at the point of exit, as previously thought …

Good to know.

Sheff U beat Man U

Because of my fondness for 6k and his bloggage, and his fondness for my bloggage, my second favourite team in the football Premiership is now Sheffield United.

Who are now bottom of the table, but who this evening defeated Manchester United, now second to top of the table. I didn’t follow the game. I merely kept half an eye on the score. I was sad when Man U equalised, thinking: oh dear, that’s it then. But then Sheff U went ahead, again. Hurrah! But oh dear, they’ll still lose. Except that they didn’t. The blue 1-2 never turned into a blue 2-2 and then a blue 3-2. Instead the blue 1-2 turned into a yellow 1-2, and Sheff U had won. Anyone can now beat anyone, it would seem. And in particular Sheffield United can now beat anyone.

And so it begins. The torture of hope.

The old black router and the new white router – from normal style back to nerd style

No time for much here today, although I have today done more than I usually do in the way of commenting. Much of the day was spent snoozing in bed while The Guru sorted out the outage, and then with me catching up on all the emails I had failed to respond to sooner.

But, I am at least able to record for posterity the evil behaviour of the black and black-hearted router, the one looking like the one in the picture on the left of these two, which waited until it learned I had lung cancer and then decided that then was the perfect time for it to conk out. Just after Christmas. During Lockdown:

On the right, the new white knight in shining white plastic armour, which, today, in the hands of The Guru, rescued me. Actual photo by me of the actual thing.

On a slightly more serious note, I am interested by the aesthetic direction of the move from the old router to the new one.

I usually expect the aesthetics of electronic gadgetry to go from, in the early days of a gadget, nerd-style looking-like-something-curvey-out-of-a-Star-Wars-battle-fleet, to normal rectangular black box, once the normals get involved in buying it directly, as a commodity that they actually sort of understand. I recall CD players in cheap arrays of not-very-hi-fi treading this path, from freakish to straight black boxes you could pile up easily with all the other related devices. Yet in this case, the direction went from normal to nerd. I wonder why.

And that thought is all I can manage to do here today.

Happy New Year to all my readers and to any others passing by, what with things here having become that little bit more interesting over the last few days.

I have lung cancer

This afternoon I sent out an email message to about fifty or more of my nearest and dearest, saying that I now have lung cancer. Since among my nearest and dearest are those who read this little blog of mine with any regularity, here is the full text of what that said, for all you good people also:

A message from Brian Micklethwait to as many of his friends, relatives and loved ones whom he can now think of to include in this email list.

Please pass this on to anyone else who you think would appreciate hearing about it, with whatever added apologies make sense for me having neglected to include them on the list to start with.

*****************

Dear friends, relatives, loved ones and well-liked ones:

About a week before Christmas, I learned that I am suffering from lung cancer. I had known for a while that something bad was happening. Apparently I have had it for some time, and it has been spreading. From what doctors are now telling me it seems that I may die quite soon. They don’t put it quite like that, but that is how it now sounds.

But, it may not be quite that bad. Being doctors, they are also giving me reasons for optimism, in among the gloom.

First, I do not have the usual sort of lung cancer, the sort brought on by prolonged and heavy smoking, having never been a smoker of any kind. I am told that this sort of “anomalous” lung cancer tends to respond better to cancer treatment than regular smoker-cancer usually does. I suspect that my very dusty home may be part of what set my cancer off, but the doctors prefer to doubt that, at any rather when they speak to me. Genetics? Other unknown environmental triggers? They prefer not to speculate and just to get on with treating me.

Second, cancer treatment has come a long way in recent years. A doctor recently told me that, had I been in my current condition a decade ago, his advice would have been: “Call your lawyer, your priest, and your undertaker, in whichever order you prefer.” Now, my chances are much better.

Third, because I decided to throw the kind of money I can spare at the private medical sector for the diagnosis part of my problem, my condition is now well understood, and I am now, already, getting cancer treatment, from London’s Royal Marsden Hospital in the Fulham Road, which is about as good as cancer treatment can be nowadays.

And, I’m getting this treatment on the NHS. The NHS is overwhelmed by people who have or say that they have medical problems of all kinds and degrees of severity. Had I relied on the NHS to learn the bad news I needed to know, I would probably still not know it. But, once the NHS knows that you have a serious and potentially fatal condition, it then moves fast, and not just technically well but with great human sympathy, if my early experience of treatment is anything to go by, and if what my doctors and my medically expert friends and relatives (such as my sister who was an NHS GP until she retired) are telling me is so. Especially if you are lucky enough, as I am, to live a mere walk away from the Marsden.

So, wish me luck. I may yet live for quite a while. My condition may stabilise. I may even recover. I now doubt that, but you never know.

Some of you will be content to tell me you are very sorry about all this, and that is fine. Such messages mean a lot, and if that is all you want to say to me that’s still a great deal. Just knowing that there are people out there who sympathise means a lot more than you might suppose. (A word of warning. Those who phone me may be subjected to some coughing at my end, a continuous cough having been one of the early signs of trouble.)

If, however, you would like to know more about how to help me in my weeks or months of misfortune, then keep reading, and I’ll tell you. (I have already embarked upon the years version of this scenario, being already over seventy years old.)

The problem is that, especially in these very socially separated times, physical help can be rather hard to contrive. Besides which, very close friends and relatives are already supplying crucial support in ways that are already helping me and cheering me up enormously. Thanks to them, and to the treatment I’ve already been getting, I have had a surprisingly cheerful Christmas.

But, there is something else I ask you to do, should you be so inclined. Don’t just email me about what you can do to help, email the person who is acting as my Senior Coordinating Friend, so to speak. This is Elena Procopiu (she at the top of the email list above). She is the elder sister of my beloved Second GodDaughter, and I am very close to her entire family. Email her, as well as me. Communicate with her about what you might be able to offer, should you be inclined.

I’m sure that all kinds of assistance, such as experience of similar circumstances as well as merely physical help, may materialise in this way.

But, let me now tell you what would really boost my morale.

Tell each other which of my writings you have most liked, and do so just as publicly as you feel inclined. Blogs postings, blog comments, social media, the lot. My circumstances are now no secret. If I do die soon, I would greatly prefer to do this in the knowledge that various things that I have said and written over the years have left behind them a trail of enlightenment and entertainment, and might be fondly remembered, for a while at least.

This is quite a lot to ask, because I fear that my more impressive pronouncements are scattered in amongst a vast pile of trivia and obfuscation. But, if you want now to cheer me up, try to dig out some of the more worthwhile things that you think I have said and done – often just sentences or paragraphs rather than longer and rarer stretches of eloquence – and hold them up for a bit of admiration and reflection.

Maybe there are photos I’ve taken over the years that you happened particularly to like. Recycle or link to them too.

Here might be a good place to start.

Or you could try here here.

Or here, which still seems to be working after a fashion.

Or you might care to sample some of these recent efforts, if you have the time.

If you recall having attended one or some of my last-Friday-of-the-month meetings at my home, perhaps because you were kind enough yourself to be the speaker at one or some of them and found that particularly helpful and stimulating, then please take the time to tell any other people who might be interested about that.

This is a lot to ask, but if you don’t ask for what you want in life, or in my case potential death, you are far less likely to get it, and this is what I want. If only a few people feel inclined to say and do things along these lines, it would cheer me up lot as I make my exit, if that is what is about to happen.

A late thought. My deadly sin has always been sloth. Had I merely died, one fine day, just like that with no warning, it is almost certain that I would have died failing to say or do many of the things I would have most wanted to say or do before going. As it is, having now been told about my possibly imminent death before it actually comes may turn into something of a blessing for me. Live every day as if it is your last, we are often told. That is pretty much what I am now doing, as best I can manage in my now weakened state. I still have a few public pronouncements that I’d like to offer to the world before I go, and there is every chance that I may now manage to say at least some of those things, the way I probably would not have done had I just died with no advance warning, and even if I had lived for quite a bit longer.

Which I may yet be lucky enough to do. If so, win-win.

Even if it goes win-lose, I don’t feel that I deserve the sort of send-off I am asking for. All my life, I have been showered with advantages, not least in the form of more unearned wealth than most inhabitants of this planet could ever dream of having bestowed upon them. I have not done nearly well enough as a communicator, given all the chances I have had, for me to be able to expect the sort of send-off that I would like and for it to happen of its own accord.

But, I nevertheless ask for it. This is what I would like.

It is putting it mildly to say that not everyone on this email list shares my political inclinations and attitudes, or for that matter aesthetic tastes and opinions. So if all you really want to say to me is: “Bad luck mate. Nice, on the whole, to have known you”, well, I’ll gladly take that.

I’ve tried quite hard to avoid grammatical errors and mis-spellings in this, but some will inevitably remain. It’s now time to stop this and just send it out. More to come, I hope, maybe from me, maybe from others, with news of medical progress, or perhaps just with news of how it all turns out. But if not, then: not. It was certainly good knowing all of you.

All the very best to you and yours,

Brian Micklethwait

If you are personally known to me and want to get in touch with my very dear friend Elena Procopiu, mentioned in the middle of the above text, I suggest you leave a comment below to that effect, and I’ll be sure that the connection is made.

Horse hearse – practising?

Today is Christmas Day and all that, and I hope you are having or had a good one. But today is also a Friday, which means it’s my day for non-human living creatures. So, today is the day to say that, just after I’d had another go at Mozart, yesterday morning, I was presented with this wondrous spectacle:

I have never seen such a collection of horses and riders before in London, doing this.

Odd, I think you will agree. At the time I had little idea of what I was merely at the time noticing and photoing. Now, looking at these photos more closely, I see that this is clearly a hearse, for carrying coffins to and maybe from funerals. But, London is locked-down. Why go to all this bother if nobody can be there? Besides which, who’d have a funeral on Christmas Eve? Maybe there are good answers to such questions, like: London Lock-down actually does still allow funerals, or: yes, people often have funerals on Christmas Eve in the morning. But to me, it makes little sense.

Unless … My best guess? Since the funeral business must have been so very flat lately, and because the roads of London are particularly empty just now, what they were doing was practising. Further guess: the lady riding at the back of this procession was the one in charge, watching all the riders and the lady stander in front of her, taking at least mental notes. Later she will tell them what they did right, and what they did wrong.

You frequently see police horses walking about in London, keeping in trim between demonstrations and such like. But, like I say, I’ve never seen this before.

Let me now see if the Internet can offer any further information about such enterprises. Nope, no exact fit. Plenty of horse hearse services, but nothing that seems to match. Can anyone enlighten me and the rest of my readers?