Me and the Six Nations under the weather

One of the about seventy seven signs of aging is definitely being more sensitive to the weather, and in particular the cold. I remember feeling this way as a small child, when first compelled to travel every morning to school. Now, I feel it again. I actually “caught a chill” earlier this week, and had to take to my bed for a whole day.

However, I will soon be getting out from under the weather, if the next ten day weather forecast is anything to go by, which it is. As of today, it looked like that (see right).

Talking of short range weather forecasts, James Delingpole did a silly piece in the Daily Mail a while back, saying the Met Office is a total waste of space. But it is precisely because the Met Office’s short-range weather forecasts are generally so spot-on that its mad opinions about the weather in the more distant future are taken so seriously. If the short-range forecasts were as bad as so many unthinking idiots say, the Met Office wouldn’t be half such a menace on the C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming) front. This Delingpole article played right into the hands of CAGW-ers. Asked the New Statesman: Was there ANYTHING in James Delingpole’s Daily Mail piece which was true? Yes. The Met Office is bonkers about CAGW. But Delingpole’s attempts to prove that the Met Office never gets anything right were indeed ridiculous, and did the anti-CAGW team no favours at all.

But I digress. To more serious matters. There is another reason I am glad the weather is going to perk up soon, which is that rugby matches are far more entertaining when the weather is nicer.

The Six Nations began with what the commentators were all telling each other was one of the best Six Nations first weekends ever. All three games were full of tries. England won. Okay, only against Scotland, but they won, and actually Scotland are looking a bit better now, with some backs who can actually run fast. Ireland and Wales scored lots of tries against each other. Italy beat France. It doesn’t get much better for an England fan.

But then the weather turned nasty and the games turned attritional. England beat Ireland, but nobody scored any tries. England beat France, with one fortuitous England try which shouldn’t have been allowed. Italy reverted to being … Italy. The one truly entertaining thing about the next two weekends, after the entirely entertaining first weekend, is that now it’s England played 3 won 3 and France played 3 won ZERO! Arf arf. Sorry Antoine.

Talking of England v France, I’ve been reading (and watching the telly) about the 100 Years War. And it seems that towards the end, the French cheated by having guns. That explains a lot.

So anyway, no more 6N rugby until the weekend after next, and I really miss it, just as I did the weekend before last. The Six Nations takes seven weekends to get done, with weekends 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 being occupied with games, and weekends 3 and 5 being skipped. During weekends 3 and 5, I pine, and watch ancient rugby games, the way I never would normally, to fill the rugby gap.

The best ones I recently watched were two epic Wales wins against France, in 1999 (France 33 Wales 34) and 2001 (France 35 Wales 43), on VHS tapes. Sorry Antoine. But the next one I’ll be watching will be 2002 (Wales 33 France 37).

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Panoramic view of London from the top of the BT Tower

Further to what Alastair James said about the panoramic views of central London from Blythe Hill Fields, incoming from Rob Fisher:

Seen this? It’s a gazillion megapixel panorama taken from BT tower. You can zoom in a lot.

I think maybe yes, but it’s good to be reminded of such things.

Plus, I learned something, which is that I must check out these brightly coloured buildings just past Centre Point:

I wonder how such technicolor baubles as these will look in fifteen years time? Drab? Naff? There’s a definite 1970s feel to quite a lot of architecture these days, especially for some reason in the vicinity of the Dome. Look out for (although I promise nothing) further postings here about that rather distressing trend.

There’s lots more stuff happening around Centre Point, in connection with Crossrail, so lots of stuff to photo there. Or at least to try to photo. Sometimes building sites can’t be seen no matter what you try.

Regarding the London panorama, this is but one of many such urban views, there being a website devoted to such things, panoramicly showing you cities all around the world. How long has that been going?

There’s even an app. Above the button for that, it says:

Now with motion-sensitive panorama viewer!

Does this mean that you can hover two hundred feet above yourself? Taking virtual snaps as you look out from your virtual dirigible? If so, cool. And probably cool whatever it is.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones

Immediately after my first relaunched Last Friday, the one at which Sam Bowman spoke, I suffered a dose of success depression. This is when you achieve a goal, and then feel not happy but empty, because deprived of the goal. The event had gone well. But I expected a little too much from it by way of immediate good consequences. A wise friend who attended the evening later told me that good results would indeed happen, but more gradually than I had been assuming, and that is now starting to happen.

One of the better consequences of these events is that because I send out emails to anyone I half know or know of who I think might be interested in attending, I have re-established contact with a number of friends and semi-friends who I was in danger of losing touch with.

One such, Alastair James, a libertarian friend from way back, recently sent me an email which included this:

I know you mostly like shots of one thing (often with some clutter in the foreground), but if you are also interested in panoramas I wonder if you’ve ever been to Blythe Hill Fields in Lewisham. I think it has some of the best views in London of Canary Wharf and the City but I rarely see it mentioned.

For years I have been nagging people to tell me about good spots to photo London from, but mostly without success. And now that turns up, pretty much unsolicited, merely through me being in touch with Alastair and discussing his son’s sporting triumphs, they being the reason that he often finds Fridays rather hard to do.

As it happens, I had never heard of Blythe Hill Fields, but it immediately sounded very promising, the clues being in the name. A hill, with nothing in the foreground getting in the way, just fields. Ideal for wandering around on, to find the best shots, and so, yesterday it proved.

I immediately found out where Blythe Hill Fields is (from Google maps), identified the nearest station, Honor Oak Park, and soon discovered (from this train website) that there is a train direct to Honor Oak Park from Victoria, which is very near to me. I also learned (from a weather website) on Monday evening, that the short-range weather forecast for Tuesday was, in a word: superb. Not a cloud in the sky, they said, and so it proved. So, a superb forecast in the other sense also.

Yet again, we see here the working through of one of my favourite Laws, which says that new methods of communication (in this case the internet) do not replace older methods of doing things (in this case going there). Rather do the new methods complement and as likely as not reinforce the older methods. Writing gives people more to talk about. Printing makes writing massively more productive, and gives rise to masses more talk. Television adapts books and sells books and provides yet more conversation fodder. Email makes meetings, at which we can all talk to each other some more, far easier to organise and publicise. And now the internet makes wandering around London (also the world) massively easier.

This posting is already getting rather unwieldy, so I’ll hold the photos I took at and around Blythe Hill Fields yesterday for another posting. Instead let me finish up this posting by quoting and commenting on another bit of the Alastair James email, which further emphasises the point about how the internet makes travelling easier, and in his case more fun:

BTW I recently finally got a Smartphone and I find it much easier to follow blogs since I got it – I’ve always felt guilty sitting in front of a PC reading a blog that I’m doing something unproductive. Anyway I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading yours and how much I enjoy it!

You might be surprised to learn what a difference declarations of that sort can make to the morale of a blogger like me, who doesn’t now get many comments, still less comments like that. Without my Fridays, I never get to hear that, which is a perfect example of a somewhat delayed effect that my friend in paragraph one above talked about.

But note also the smartphone thing. Presumably Alastair now uses his to read blogs in circumstances where more serious work would be difficult, such as while travelling.

I am myself currently engaged in buying a smartphone, helped by my friend Michael Jennings (who is giving the next Friday talk this Friday – do come if you want to). Whereas for Alastair James a key app is reading blogs on the move, for me the killer app is definitely being able to learn exactly where I am at any point in my various wanderings, and how to get to where I want to go to next. It would have come in quite handy yesterday, but because of some serendipity that occurred without it (more about that later), I am actually quite glad that yesterday I did not have Google maps with me. That’s another story, for which stay tuned.

I suspect that Alastair and I are not the only ones now, finally, kitting ourselves out with smartphones. I sense a general society-wide stampede in this direction, as the iPhone works its magic. The iPhone defines what a smartphone is, and all those for whom money is no object get one. That tells the Taiwanese copyists what to copy at half the price, and now they have pretty much got there.

I will also be buying a “bluetooth” (Michael J says that will work) keyboard, much like the black keyboard in this posting (scroll down a bit), to go with my smartphone, the idea being that I will be able to type stuff in as well as read things. (That keyboard is also a straight copy, in black, of an Apple keyboard, incidentally. Again with the Apple influence.) A smartphone screen too small for typing, you say? My very first computer, an Osborne, had a screen that was hardly any bigger, and I loved that. Osborne equals a very stupid version of a smartphone, plus a keyboard, plus half a ton of electro-crap that is no longer needed. Discuss. I feel one of those ain’t-capitalism-grand postings for Samizdata coming on.

The trouble with my current laptop is that, like the Osborne if with less extremity, it is still quite heavy. This means that I don’t always have it with me, in fact I pretty much now never have it with me, because when I do take it with me on my travels I often never actually use it, and in the meantime greatly resent its weight. The idea is that I will always have my smartphone with me (obviously), and always (fingers crossed) with the keyboard. So whenever a blogging opportunity beckons, when I am out and about, I will be able to respond.

The smartphone I am getting also has a rather good camera included. It’ll be interesting to compare that camera with my present one.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A new crane has already arrived

Yesterday, again, I ventured back across the river to see whatever I could see in the vicinity of that helicopter crash.

I couldn’t get near to where the worst of the drama unfolded on Wednesday, and I couldn’t yesterday, which is not a circumstance I would dream of complaining about. But today, as on Wednesday, I was able to gaze upwards again at that stricken crane, this time from the other side:

If you compare that picture with my earlier picture (immediately below), you will see that nothing up there has yet changed.

Other than the weather. Yesterday, and today, very grim and snowy. Also, I took the above picture just before it got seriously dark. The pictures below having been taken somewhat earlier. I did quite a bit of wandering around before I got that shot of the crane, but was very pleased when I finally got it.

On the ground, it is an entirely different story.

A whole new crane has arrived:

You can just see the edge of the tower there, above the road sign.

And that’s not the half of it:

Altogether, about a dozen different articulated lorries had arrived, presumably earlier yesterday, and parked themselves in the roads at the other end of the new bus terminal from Vauxhall railway station. When I got there, there were still drivers in the cabs of several of these lorries. In total there were about a dozen lorries. These cranes are big. I’m guessing the economic situation means there were plenty of spare cranes to choose from.

And I further guess that these things have something to do with this crane:

I assume that this new crane is about to be erected alongside the old and broken crane, to dismantle the broken crane, and then to finish the job of building the tower. How exactly will that look, I wonder?

Things are moving a lot faster than I guessed, to get the tower-building going again.

The tidying up from the crash seems to be taking place a bit further along the road, crucially not right next to the tower, and that process is happening simultaneously with getting the new crane in. The two jobs don’t clash. On the contrary they go together. Then, when the old crane is gone, and when the crash is cleaned up, the road will open again.

Is the plan to open the road again,after a weekend of feverish activity, on Monday morning? Definitely asap, it would seem.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Close-up of the ruined Vauxhall crane

Yesterday I posted a short photo-piece at Samizdata about the Vauxhall helicopter crash, but had difficulty with the photos. Not having posted any photos on Samizdata for about a month, I had to rediscover how to do it. I am definitely not going to be switching to WordPress here any time very soon. Although, come to think of it, maybe I will switch soonish, if only to be able to practice posting photos on WordPress, here. Given that here I allow myself to do any damn fool thing I feel like doing. Like not post anything for a week, for no good reason.

So anyway, here is a photo (a slice out of the photo I did post at Samizdata) which I tried to post at Samizdata yesterday, late last night, but got in a muddle with and gave up on. Now, I will embed a link to this, from there.

The problem with photoing this ruined crane is, for me, getting into a good position. This was the best shot I could get yesterday, given that I was in a hurry because of fading light. What I may now try is photoing it from one of the platforms of Vauxhall Station, which is the other side of the crane from where I was yesterday. Station platforms being long, you can move back and forth until you get the best shot. Today looks like nice weather, so maybe I’ll try that this afternoon.

I need more text here, to fit the photo into this posting without it bashing into the previous posting. So, what else to say about this?

Well, one thing I can say is that I am extremely curious about how they will sort this out. I guessed in my Samizdata piece that it will be a while before they get around to sorting out this crane, because on the ground they have other things to sort out, involving thousands of commuters going to and fro every day, on the road onto which the stricken helicopter fell, spreading flames everywhere. The builders will just not be first in the queue. The builders will be needing the road when they bring in whatever other cranes they need, to remove the ruined crane, and to put up another crane, so I’m guessing they’ll have to wait until the road is sorted and back in business.

Plus, do they mend the crane, or replace it? Does anyone know what the routine is for fixing a crane in this state, on a site like this one? As I understand it, the entire tower-building job depends on that crane, and now the entire job comes to a shuddering halt, until they can get that crane mended, or another crane into that same spot. Heaven knows what that delay will cost, per hour.

I hope I get really lucky and get to photo them sorting this out, but am not optimistic. Building contractors are not in the habit of drawing attention to themselves when they are busy building. They just want to be left alone to get on with it. The press-releasing, attention-grabbing phase only gets under way when the building is good and finished.

That ought to be enough text.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Photographing the other photographers with my new camera

I just bought a new camera, the Panasonic Lumix FZ150, and it is great. Here are some snaps I took with it, on Monday, of a few of my fellow digital photographers:

The light was fading quite fast while I was taking these, and trust me, these are much better snaps than I could have taken with my previous donkey-driven camera.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

America 3.0

This blogging stuff really works. I blog here about Emmanuel Todd, and a blink of an eye (i.e. about a couple of years or more) later, these two American guys are writing a book about America, concerning which they say things like this:

America 3.0 gives readers the real historical foundations of our liberty, free enterprise, and family life. Based on a new understanding our of our past, and on little known modern scholarship, America 3.0 offers long-term strategies to restore and strengthen American liberty, prosperity and security in the years ahead.

America 3.0 shows that our country was founded as a decentralized federation of communities, dominated by landowner-farmers, and based on a unique type of Anglo-American nuclear family. . . .

The two American guys in question are Jim Bennett (of Anglosphere fame) and Michael Lotus, who are also Chicago Boyz. Others are talking about this also.

And that “little known modern scholarship” is, among other things, the work of Emmanuel Todd. If you look at the (quite short) “Essential Readings” list to the right at America 3.0 you will see, among other links, these:

Emmanuel Todd (1)
Emmanuel Todd (2)
Emmanuel Todd (3)
Emmanuel Todd (4)

America 3.0 will be on my Essential Reading list just as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The Jobs difference

Opening paragraph:

I saw the news of Steve Jobs’ death on a device that he invented – the iPhone – and I’m writing on another machine that he willed into being: the graphical interface computer. I happen to be using a PC running Windows, with generic hardware I put together myself; technically, only my keyboard was made by Apple. But none of that matters. Just like the touch-screen smartphone and, now, the tablet computer, the PC that you and I use every day became ubiquitous thanks mainly to this one man. I’ll go further: Whether you’re yearning for a Kindle Fire or a BlackBerry PlayBook, whether you play Angry Birds on an iPod Touch or Google’s Nexus Prime, whether you’re a Mac or a PC, you’ve succumbed to Steve Jobs’ master plan.

“Willed into being”. That sums up the man’s achievement and way of working beautifully. As I understand him, Jobs was essentially the spokesman for us consumers amongst the great Community of Geeks, which is why he was so loved by so many of us consumers. He was the one saying: “It’s not good enough that you can make it work. It has to be easy for humans as well. It has to be nice. It has to be cool. Do it again.”

Michael sent me the link because, like me, Voorhees Manjoo uses a Mac keyboard attached to a PC. In fact, I think my Apple Mac keyboard is the only piece of Apple kit I have ever owned. But I enthusiastically endorse what Voorhees Manjoo says, and here record my profound thanks to Steve Jobs for the profound influence he has had, not just on Apple and its products, but upon the entire world. I didn’t “succumb” to the Steve Jobs master plan. I accepted it with enthusiasm.

The Samizdata commentariat is saying what it has to say about Jobs here. I particularly liked this, from Rob Fisher:

Yes, this is terrible news.

It bothers me that even with the resources at his disposal, Jobs could not keep himself alive. I’m attending a conference on Saturday at which life extension technology will be discussed. If the optimists there are correct, one day we’ll all be much richer than Steve Jobs.

Detlev Schlichter also just sent out an emailshot recommending this. Haven’t yet watched it, but will.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Emmanuel Todd’s latest book – in English

Actually it’s by Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd. And it’s not that new; it was first published (in French) in 2007. But it has just been made available in English. And it is exactly the Todd book that, for several years now, I have most been wanting to read. It is entitled A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World.

If it is as interesting as I hope it is, this book could finally enable Todd to make his long overdue breakthrough into the English speaking world.

And it is, as Instapundit is always saying, in the post.

In all my previous Todd googlings, I had never before come across this stuff about Todd, although I am almost certain that it has been there all along. Will read this tomorrow, or failing that, Real Soon. (And ooh look: at the top left, under where it says “NEW!!!”, there is me, and three of my Todd postings.)

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched

A few months back I discovered that there were other Emmanuel Todd fans out there besides me, notably Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz, and James C. Bennett. Emails were exchanged, and I met up with Bennett in London. Very helpful.

Here is a big moment in what I hope may prove to be the long overdue rise and rise of Emmanuel Todd in the English speaking world. Todd is quoted here by Lexington Green, and then linked to from here. Yes indeed, Instapundit. Okay, this is because what Todd is quoted saying happens to chime in with what Instapundit wants to be saying, but … whatever. That’s how Instalaunches work.

The Todd quote:

A double movement will assure the advancement of human history. The developing world is heading toward democracy — pushed by the movement toward full literacy that tends to create culturally more homogeneous societies. As for the industrialized world, it is being encroached on to varying degrees by a tendency toward oligarchy — a phenomenon that has emerged with the development of educational stratification that has divided societies into layers of “higher,” “lower,” and various kinds of “middle” classes.

However, we must not exaggerate the antidemocratic effects of this unegalitarian educational stratification. Developed countries, even if they become more oligarchical, remain literate countries and will have to deal with the contradictions and conflicts that could arise between a democratically leaning literate mass and university-driven stratification that favors oligarchical elites.

Says LG:

Todd’s book, despite its flaws, is full of good insights. This passage was prescient. The Tea Party (“a democratically leaning literate mass”) and it’s opponents, the “Ruling Class” described by Angelo Codevilla, (“oligarchical elites”) are well-delineated by Todd, several years before other people were focused on this phenomenon.

This may cause a little flurry of Toddery in my part of the www. Not all of it will be favourable, to put it mildly, because the book quoted is fiercely anti-American, and totally wrong-headed about economics. Todd is one of those people who insists on dividing economic activity into “real” and “unreal” categories, solid and speculative, honest and delusional. Todd’s problem is that he imagines that the making of things that hurt your foot when you drop them is inherently less risky than, say, operating as a financial advisor or a hedge fund manager. But both are risky. It is possible to make too many things. Similar illusions were entertained in the past about how agriculture was real, while mere thing-making was unreal.

Todd believes that the US economy is being “hollowed out”, with delusional activity crowding out “real” activity.

The problem is that Todd is not completely wrong. Economic dodginess was indeed stalking the USA in 2002. But the explanation for the processes that actually did occur and are occurring, which are easily confused with what Todd said back in 2002 was happening, and which will hence make him all the more certain that his wrongness is right, is not that manufacturing is real and financial services unreal, but that for Austrian economics reasons (Todd appears to have no idea whatever about Austrian economics), all dodgy and speculative activities, most emphatically including dodgy manufacturing ventures, have been encouraged by bad financial policies. Todd also seems to imagine that only the USA has been guilty of such follies. If only.

Such are some of the flaws in this book that LG refers to.

But none of that impinges on Todd’s fundamental achievements as a social scientist, which I have long thought ought to resonate in my part of the www. This should help.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog