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

Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent

Remember a posting I did last autumn about how I bought a new, small, Apple Mac keyboard? Probably not. Why would you? Anyway, I did. It still looks like this:

The thing is, you often read enthusiastic endorsements of products by purchasers, immediately after they’ve bought the thing. But such purchasers have a vested interest in being enthusiastic, because if they aren’t enthusiastic, why did they buy it? Less often do you read follow up pieces months or years later, about whether the initial enthusiasm has persisted. Well, in this case, I just want to say that this has, so far, proved to be a very successful purchase indeed. The keyboard is still working fine. It remains the solid, unclunky thing that it first seemed. It continues to be the difference between a conveniently clear desk and a hopelessly cluttered one.

I am becoming more and more open to the idea that my next computer will be a Mac rather than yet another clunky old PC.

Here, on the other hand, are some less admiring reflections about Apple, this time concerning the way that Apple handles the software on their nevertheless legendarily successful iPhone. Actually, it’s because the iPhone is so fabulously successful that Apple can handle its software so badly. Which Paul Graham reckons may cost them in the longer run.

Their model of product development derives from hardware. They work on something till they think it’s finished, then they release it. You have to do that with hardware, but because software is so easy to change, its design can benefit from evolution. The standard way to develop applications now is to launch fast and iterate. Which means it’s a disaster to have long, random delays each time you release a new version.

Apparently Apple’s attitude is that developers should be more careful when they submit a new version to the App Store. They would say that. But powerful as they are, they’re not powerful enough to turn back the evolution of technology. Programmers don’t use launch-fast-and-iterate out of laziness. They use it because it yields the best results. By obstructing that process, Apple is making them do bad work, and programmers hate that as much as Apple would.

My utterly casual and probably quite worthless opinion of Apple is that as soon Steve Jobs stops being their boss, they’re doomed. While Jobs sticks around, everything they make will look and feel great, because this is what Jobs does insist on and can insist on. He has total power and impeccable taste, which is, if you think about it, an extraordinarily rare combination of circumstances. He knows exactly what we all want, years before we do, and he screams like a horrifically spoilt child until he gets it. A few years back, Jobs did abandon Apple, or maybe it was vice versa (what with all the horrific spoilt child screaming), and Apple did then nosedive towards inevitable doom. Only when Jobs returned did the Apple glory days resume. Without Jobs, Apple will become just another clunky computer company with a glorious past and a ton of money to waste that they made in the glory days. Which they will waste and that will be that. Apple keyboards will duly degenerate into being no better than any other kind of keyboard.

Which in my opinion is the single big reason not to buy, which means to commit to, Macs.

Those complaints about Apple’s turgid software approval process were written last November. I wonder if anything has changed since then. It seems rather improbable. After all, the iPhone hasn’t got any less successful.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Today I bought an Apple Mac keyboard …

For some months now I have been looking for a new, small computer keyboard, to replace the great wide clunky accountancy keyboard that you are usually obliged to use, complete with an extra pocket calculator stuck on the right that I don’t use occupying desk space that I can’t spare.

I’ve tried other small non-accountancy PC keyboards of the sort you can buy in Tottenham Court Road, usually made by a company called “Cherry”, but they are just as clunky as the big keyboards, and far too fiddly and generally horrible, not unlike the keyboard of the accursed Jesus (the Eee PC laptop that I am trying to forget and get rid of). Anyone want that? Might be good for a small and rather geeky kid with totally impoverished parents. Tenner anyone? Immediate next day delivery in the London area.

But now, I have this:

It’s an Apple Mac unclunky keyboard (this one I think), pictured there next to the dirty, clunky old keyboard I’ve been using until now. I saw it in a department store in Kingston this afternoon. I said: Will that work with a PC? He said: Should do. I said: Show me. He did. It worked. Bingo. Bought it. Took it home. Plugged it in. It worked. Bingo.

It’s beautifully solid, the opposite of clunky, and I am rapidly getting very used to it.

Is this how the Apple habit starts? You buy an Apple something. It works. It is nicer. Even the cardboard case that it came in is nicer. Everything about it is nicer than the PC equivalents. Even the price of this little keyboard was nicer, by a bit. And pretty soon you are converted.

My only problem so far is that I can’t delete the character to the immediate right of the cursor with just the one keystroke. That particular delete button seems to have been lost, along with that superfluous pocket calculator. To accomplish this, I now have to move the cursor to the other side of whatever I want to delete, and then delete it with the button, which mercifully remains, that deletes the character just before the cursor. I could get used to this, but would rather not have to. Anyone got any ideas about that?

Does that closer up picture of the new keyboard help at all? Hope so.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

It really is about bloody time Jonathan Davies learned how to pronounce Jauzion

Yes I’m watching the rugby again (France v Italy), and okay, you can forgive Jonathan Davies for not knowing everyone in the French team. Nobody does, because it’s now a different French team every time.

But Yannick Jauzion has played enough, and been mispronounced often enough by Davies, that by now you’d have thought he’d have gone away and learned how to say him right. You would have thought, indeed, that somebody at the BBC would have bloody well told him to do this.

Jauzion is not some incidental selection. He’s a great player. He scored a try against New Zealand when France knocked them out of the recent World Cup, and the commentators were talking him up before this France Italy game as a key player, for heavens’ sakes. Davies himself was saying what a key figure he might be.

Commentators are always going on about the errors of the players, but for a commentator not to be able properly to say the name of one of the universally acknowledged star players of France really is contemptible. Players have a fraction of a second to avoid error. Davies has had days to avoid this particular error. Years, in fact. And it’s not like it’s a hard name to say.

This France Italy game is a whole lot of fun to watch, though, unlike the stalemates of yesterday, and I promise you I’m not just saying that because England lost. It’s France, running it from everywhere, who are responsible for this.

“Jow-zion” from Edwards, again. Dear oh dear.

LATER: “Jow-zon.” He can’t even make up his mind how to mispronounce it.

LATER: Guess what. “Jow-zion” (we’re back to that again) has scored a try! The other commentator, some Scottish bloke chosen for his commentating ability as well as his mere rugby expertise, was saying it right, of course. And then Davies said it wrong, again, and the other guy corrected Davies, and then – miracle of miracles – Davies said it right! It won’t last though.

LATER: Told you. After the game, won by France 25-13. “Yah-zon”. Bloody hell.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog