One year ago today: “You cannot do that!”

I love to photo the front pages of newspapers, while in shops from which I also buy things I still want:

And that was the front page of The Times of a year ago tomorrow, June 1st 2019.

The headlines make interesting reading now. Trump trying to stop us getting into bed with Huawei. Bet our politicians now wish she’d listened then.

And, the Lib Dems riding high in the polls. But this was because they had temporarily managed to get most of the Remain vote supporting them. Labour eventually got most of the Remainers supporting them. Meanwhile, the Leave vote was split, but would later unite in voting Conservative.

But most important of all, to me, are the pictures in between those two headlines. That’s Ben Stokes, taking an amazing catch, in England’s opening World Cup 2019 match against South Africa at the Oval, one year ago exactly. Stokes only had to take the catch this way because he at first misjudged it and got himself too far towards it. But who cares?!? He caught it. Video, with Nasser Hussain’s great commentary, here. England went on to win the tournament.

Now, YouTube is showing me the amazing Ashes test-match-winning last wicket partnership, at Headingley, between Jack Leach and … Stokes.

The weather now is perfect for cricket and has been for several weeks. But as of now, they still cannot do that, and we fans are having to be content with memories.

Roz Watkins talks about her latest book – and about animals

Crime writer Tony Kent does a fifteen minute video-at-a-distance interview with fellow crime writer Roz Watkins. Roz is my niece, which is partly why I keep mentioning her here. But the bigger reason I keep on about her is that she is very good at what she does, which is not just writing the books she writes but also selling them. She’s an excellent public speaker, and a very personable interviewee. So, if you want to know more about what sort of person Roz is, and also about the idyllic yet sometimes spooky place she lives in (the Peak District), as well as about her books, tune in here.

Animals figure prominently in this interview. Starsky the dog makes an appearance near the beginning. They talk about killing animals in crime thrillers and about how that upsets people far more than killing mere people seems to. Also, animals are a big part of the background of Roz’s latest book, Cut To The Bone, number three in her DI Meg Dalton series. A missing girl has got on the wrong side of animal rights activists, and traces of her blood and hair are found in an abattoir. That kind of grizzly thing. It’s due out in hardback in a month’s time, and, unless I have misunderstood things badly, is already readable as a computer file.

My favourite quote from the interview is when, 4 minutes 20 seconds in, Roz says: “Everyone wants to kill all the lawyers.” Very dramatic.

Feline Twitter dump

I earlier promised a creature-related Twitter dump. It turns out it’s pretty much all cats:

Another optical illusion that works on a nonhuman animal.

Can cats pass the mirror self-recognition test? This one did.

Why does this advert make it look like cats created a centre left political party in the early 2000s?

Screw your traffic, humans.

These next two tweets are also feline, because they’re Schrödinger’s Cat jokes:

Schrödinger’s Dumpster.

Schrödinger’s Plates.

Fed up with all the cattery? Then maybe you’ll approve of this:

A bit barbaric but my dog approves.

Still wanting something not cat related. Well, there’s always the Babylon Bee.

A shortcut to a Blockbuster photo

I’ve been a bit of a latecomer to the use of shortcuts to favourite photos. Now I find them essential, simply to keep track of where my most favourite photos from long ago times are to be found on my hard disc.

For a long time, what I would do is copy the file of the entire photo to a new directory. But that has a big drawback, which is that when posting photos here I like to be able to talk intelligently about these photos. When they were taken, where, and above all, simply, what they are of, that often needing to be explained. That can be hard to see when the photo had been snatched away from the directory where all the photos on that particularly expedition are to be found, especially including those taken just before and just after the one I want to talk about.

Shortcuts deal with this problem by leaving a favourite photo where it is, yet at the same time giving me big clumps of favourite photos to stir my blogging juices, and happy and/or interesting memories generally. They also direct me to whole collections of photos that I remember with special pleasure and which illustrate some particular point, or tell of some particular photo-expedition.

This photo, of a car, in snow, outside my local Blockbuster Video in Warwick Way, just off of Vauxhall Bridge Road (I can see that much at a glance), was not especially interesting when I photoed it:

But it is now, because Blockbuster is not just an enterprise that no longer exists. Blockbuster is now famous for being an enterprise that no longer exists. That makes my ancient photo of interest. So, when I come across it in the archives, four years ago, I created a shortcut to it, and put that shortcut in a new shortcut directory.

Where I came upon it recently, having forgotten about that shortcut directory. But at least when I found that directory I found a couple of dozen photos of interest, rather than just one, because I had chanced upon it in its original home. I’m old. It has taken me a while to realise that I need to get my use of shortcuts much more organised, which I have actually started to do, that early shortcut directory being an early symptom of this effort. Maybe collected into annual directories? We’ll see. By which I mean, I’ll see, and maybe you’ll see also, as in see also some further interesting ancient photos, if you keep coming here.

More importantly, from your point of view, I can tell you that the above photo was photoed in January of 2004. Since Blockbuster vacated this spot, it became an exercise parlour, crammed with exercise equipment, but never ever, whenever I looked, containing anyone taking any exercise. (Not one. Ever. Weird.)

It is now a Waitrose, and looks like it will remain that for a while.

People were also saying, way back when they said such things, that snow would become a thing of the past, which may be why I photoed this photo originally, along with all the others I photoed that evening. Turns out it was Blockbuster that melted away for ever.

Another Twitter dump

I had a Twitter dump earlier. It feels so good to be getting this stuff out of my system, so here’s another. Again, in no particular order, and not chosen for bang-up-to-dateness, just funness and interestingness.

It maybe makes things a bit clearer if I indent the tweet references, and then unindent at the end, at which point I’ll be having a bit more to say:

What concrete blocks are made of in China.


The Battle of France in 44 seconds.

This family built a hug guard.

Baihe reservoir (白河水庫) in Tainan county is at once both shockingly ugly and stunningly beautiful.

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen says there haven’t been all that many terrorist attacks in Israel.

Everyone who was worrying he was a fascist now worrying he’s not fascist enough.

150-foot iceberg passes through Iceberg Alley.

My boyfriend cheated on me, but, I love him. What should I do? A Georgist: Implement a land value tax.

James Burke had only one chance to film this scene, and the result is possibly the best timed shot in television history.

Jeremy Corbin won the argument.

The lockdown is ending because the American people say it’s ending.

I miss those carefree pre-coronavirus days when nobody died at all.

In each of the above cases, you get most of the tweet, and sometimes all of it. So, if all you want to know is what the tweet said, no need to click. But if you want to know who else besides me thought the tweets in question to be funny or interesting, click away.

And that has actually done the trick. To my great surprise I have actually cleared out all this tweetery from my hard disc and from now on my computer will surely be functioning better, until such time as I need another similar dump. There remain only a few animal-related tweets which are already scheduled to appear this coming Friday.

Another perceptual flip to add to the collection – and why I find such things to be interesting

Yes, I do like these optical tricks that computer graphics makes it so easy for computer graphicists to play on the world.

Says Steve Stewart-Williams of his latest discovery in this genre:

If you cover the bottom of the ring, the top is closest to you; if you cover the top, it flips around.

Indeed. I clocked what was going on simply by scrolling, which I did because I wanted to see the whole thing, not because I had read what SS-W had said about it yet. But instead of seeing it all, I stopped seeing only the top and started seeing only the bottom, and … what he said.

A big part of the core curriculum of this blog, and of its predecessor, was and is something like: “How I see things and how other people seem to see things”. What do I particularly notice? What do you notice? Do you ignore what I notice?

Sculpture draws elaborate attention to itself. So does advertising. I notice both. Roof clutter and cranes don’t care how I or anyone thinks they look. They are just getting on with their jobs. Millions do not notice roof clutter and cranes, but I do, partly because of their unselfconsciously sculptural qualities. Do you ignore or notice some or all of such things? Chances are you do notice and enjoy noticing several if not all of these things, or you’d not be bothering with this blog. But if you ignore, I’m not complaining, just noticing. People vary, a lot.

See also, which is a generalised version of the above paragraph: Art.

But optical illusions are interesting, because, aside from being interesting for the usual fun reasons that people like them, we most of us tend to experience them in the exact same way. It would, for instance, be bizarre if you looked at the above-linked snatch of video and then wondered what the hell SS-W and I were both talking about. Sharing the same sorts of brains, I see most optical illusions in just the same way you see them. Assuming you share my interest in them at all and you see them at all.

Optical illusions thus celebrate what we all have in common. (Except those of us who don’t. Guess: Optical illusions, in addition to being fun, are also a tool to identify people with brain oddities or brain damage. ?)

Here is the previous one of these things that SS-W pointed me to.


Dezeen reports on a way to make those video calls a bit more comfortably:

A besetting sin of designers is to imagine that all of the world’s problems can be solved with “design”, of the blandly modernistic sort that they favour. But that actually is quite clever. Says the gadgeteer who did this, Paul Priestman:

“I kept getting ‘phone arm’, where you hold the phone at arm’s length so long your arm starts hurting, and was perpetually trying to find useful things to prop my phone up against, so that it wouldn’t slip halfway through a call.”

It’s not just that Things are now a bit harder to buy now; it’s that people like this guy suddenly have lots of time on their hands for projects like this.

Hearing about the Welsh goats from the Bee

I’m referring to this:

A herd of goats has taken over the deserted streets of Llandudno, north Wales, where the residents are in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kashmiri goats that came down from the Great Orme and into the town were originally a gift to Lord Mostyn from Queen Victoria.

This was in the Guardian, but I only just heard about it. And I heard about it only because the Babylon Bee guys featured it in the “weird news” part of their most recent podcast, the April 15th one, which I just listened to. Listen to the Babylon Bee podcast and learn.