What have Patrick Crozier and I been doing right with our podcasts?

For quite some while now, ever since August (I think it must have been) 2017, when we talked about World War 1, Patrick Crozier and I have been doing a podcast every few weeks or so.

Here is where to find them all, that first one in the series about WW1 being
here.

But what has anyone besides us been making of these podcasts? That’s if anyone has actually been listening to them.

Anyone besides me. I find it very helpful to record interesting thoughts, and in particular big questions, in this “public” form. Questions like: Why did the rulers of Britain decide that Britain should plunge into World War 1, in the horribly destructive and self-destructive (as it turned out) way that they did? And why, having discovered how destructive the war was becoming, did all those engaged in it not put a stop to it? What the hell were they thinking? I want to remember such questions until I have something approximating to answers.

But that’s just me. I’m terrible at note-taking. Oh, I take notes, but later I can’t even read the damn things, let alone store them in a way that enables me to get back to them. On the other hand, I love to have places, in something resembling “public”, where I can shove notes, and where others can, at least in theory, help me improve on them and flesh them out, or correct them when they’re wrong. Instead of me just forgetting everything.

Once I know other people just might be noticing what I have said or written, I find I can pay attention to it also. Books, these are things I can remember that I own and keep worrying away at, not least because they have big words written on them which I can see on my walls. My own thoughts, scribbled on scraps of paper, forget about it. As in: I forget about it.

All of that being part of why I so like blogging, and also doing these podcasts with Patrick.

But that’s just me. That’s why I like listening to these podcasts. Why would anyone else want to listen to them? I don’t know, but I’d love if if someone else were to listen to some of these podcasts, like them, and then tell us why.

This was why I was so pleased when someone else recently did say they’d been listening to these podcasts, and say that he did like them.

In a comment thread attached to this First Official Posting here, and in among a lot of jibber-jabber about comment approval and RSS feeds and suchlike, “Rob” (and I know who that is) mentioned that if I and Michael Jennings (the man who set up and is still helping me with this new blog of mine) were ever to do any more podcasts, he, Rob, would listen to them. I replied that Patrick Crozier and I had been doing some podcasts. A bit of a while later, Rob said this:

I have listened to the croziervision podcasts and like them too.

Big moment. Our very first positive feedback. Someone who took no part in these conversations nevertheless liked listening to them.

My question to Rob, no disrespect at all intended, is: Why? What have we been doing right? I’d genuinely like to know. Because then we can tell other people why Rob liked listening to these podcasts, and a few further people might like the sound of them, and tune in also, and then like the actual sound of them. A comment on this from Rob might even accomplish this automatically.

A composer called John Smith (and a couple of comments)

Late yesterday afternoon, in Soho, I photoed this blue plaque:

At the time, I hardly even read it, because my eyesight is so rubbish. But I photoed a note.

And today, I was able to read this, about him. Smith. A new composer name for me. (I love the internet.) (The gap between the quality of my camera’s eyesight and the quality of my eyesight just grows and grows.)

Do you detect tiredness? If so, you are not wrong. I spent most of today transferring more stuff from the old blog to here, and suddenly, about half an hour ago, I could feel my ability to continue snap like a twig, which sadly included my ability to do much here of a more original sort. So, instead, of anything like that, that.

If you want to read something else added here today, read the first two authentic comments, that weren’t either me or Michael J just commenting to check out commenting, long before Wednesday’s Official Opening. There was Alastair solving this mystery. And Chuck Pergiel telling us how he feels about architecture. Sorry the delay approving those comments, gents. I only just discovered I had to.

The first of many here, I hope.

Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog starts now

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog – this was the final posting there

And this blog stops now.

Not before time. For many years it has been too slow, too clunky and just too all round ridiculous. More recently, and longer ago than I care to think about, (my management of) the comment system went to hell, as I’m sure you noticed.

So, time for a new blog, and here it is. As of now, all new personal blogging by me goes there, and quite a lot of the old personal blogging done by me here has also started going there too, so that if I want to link back to it, nobody has to endure coming back to here.

I’ve hardly mentioned this new blog here, until now. A new blog is not something you want to be promising endlessly, before it finally gets going, far later than you had been promising. You just need to get it ready, taking as long as that takes, and then launch it, and then tell people about it, just as I’m telling you now.

Not that the new blog has been perfected before its launch. It has merely been – please allow me this neologistical verb – adequated. Many tweaks and improvements, both in working and in appearance, will surely follow, especially given that my good friend Michael Jennings set up the new blog for me, and will surely continue to take – not a “proprietorial” (that would be me), but you know what I mean – interest in its workings. My thanks to him, in advance for any future help and for all the work he’s already done.

My thanks to Patrick Crozier who started this blog up for me, many years ago when it wasn’t ridiculous, and to The Guru (he knows who he is) for all the help he has given me over the years, keeping this blog afloat when it would otherwise have sunk without trace.

So, goodbye, hello and welcome.

Welcome to Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog

Yes, welcome.

I’ve already shovelled quite a few postings from the old blog to here (see below), and I now intend that many more will follow (so that if I refer back to an old posting, you won’t have to be bothering with the old blog). But as of today, that old blog stops getting any new stuff, and this is where I’ll be doing all my personal blogging from now on.

The old blog didn’t completely collapse, but as the subtitle of this blog says, it stopped working properly. I was still able to do postings there. But, among many other defects and difficulties, the commenting system went to hell, as all those who stuck with that old blog will surely have been noticing for quite a while. Basically, any comment of any sort, whether authentic or from a spamster, triggered an army of sex-obsessed robot commenters, who just commented away for ever until I expunged it all. That definitely shouldn’t now be happening here. So, feel free to add your truly authentic comments now, on this or any other posting here (including on any of the old postings copied across), as and when you feel inclined.

There’s lots else I could be saying in this first real posting here, but all of that can wait, other than the one thing which I really must say now. Which is: deepest thanks to my friend Michael Jennings, who set this blog up for me. All errors of taste here are my fault rather than his, and in general, I didn’t make it easy for him. But he has made it all a lot easier for me. And I trust, for you.

Welcome to my new virtual home.

Jamie Hannah’s new video

Jamie Hannah is a friend of GodDaughter2, as a result of him having spent a year at the Royal College of Music, going from being a good countertenor to a rather better countertenor. But now he’s giving the pop star thing a go. Judging by his latest video, I reckon the plan just might work.

I’ve heard Jamie Hannah in action twice before, once live and once in the form of a recording. In terms of performing savvy and persistence and general attitude; he seemed to be going about it the right way, but the actual sounds he was making didn’t sound to me that distinctive: Any friend of GodDaughter2 is a friend of mine. But not having anything sufficiently positive to say about Jamie’s work, I kept quiet about it here.

As you can see, that has now changed: If this new video is anything to go by, Jamie is now making much more use his strength; which is his very distinctive countertenor voice.

And, although I know nothing of the technicalities of such things; the production side – the sheer sound of the musical backing and the general ambience – sounds to me like it has taken a big step in the right direction. Whatever he is now doing, I hope Jamie Hannah keeps at it.

Judging by a lot of the comments at YouTube, it would appear that a certain Boy George feels similarly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Nullius in Verba on the impact of automation – obvious and not so obvious

Since I resumed paying attention to Samizdata, some of my favourite comments there have been from someone calling him/her self “Nullius in Verba”. The only drawback being the pseudonym, which I think always unpacks some of the punch in what gets said.

Here’s what Nullius in Verba, commenting on this posting today by Johnathan Pearce, says about the claim that automation will cause unemployment:

Automation generally results in unskilled jobs being automated and disappearing, skilled jobs being automated and becoming unskilled, and impossible jobs being made possible to the skilled with the aid of automation.

But people only look at what’s going to happen to the job they’ve got now, not what new job they could have in the future. So they’re always going to see automation as a problem in need of a political solution.

Most of the confusion about economics is caused by seeing only the obvious damage that something will do, while neglecting the more unpredictable – but just as real and in the long run more significant – good stuff that will also happen. Or, seeing only the obvious good of a certain measure, and neglecting the longer term harm.

Shame that NiV feels the need to use a pseudonym.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Waterloo sunrise

Radio early bird Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted this photo, early this morning:

Best comment:

Enjoy it while you can Julia, because after BREXIT there will be NO sunrise. The Polish and Romanian workers who lift the sun up every morning will be gone.

Those laser beams that her camera has created make the sun look like a … white hole.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future

There was a comment this morning from Rob Fisher (and I do love it that we finally have Samizdata author archives), on a piece I threw up on (?) Samizdata yesterday comparing 3D printing to blogging. This comment has the feel of something that ought to be a bit more than a comment. So here it is, here:

Google the Ubuntu Edge smartphone. This is a device that many people wanted, but not quite enough to raise 35 million that the company behind it say was needed to make 40,000 phones.

A large part of what made the device desirable was its physical construction. I imagine a time when people can choose from a wide library of smartphone physical designs and customise them with a choice of materials, colours and shape modifications. Those with the skills will contribute new designs to the library.

Similarly, smartphone innards are increasingly boiling down to two or three interchangeable chips. Why not select the system-on-chip you prefer; add some RAM and flash storage; and pick the screen you want? Placement of these parts is then just physical design.

So we build a one–off smartphone. The chassis may be 3D printed or cut from a metal block with some sort of robotic machinist. The circuit boards and final assembly will be robotic.

Look at how Foxconn is replacing its “slave” human labourers with robots.

So what, really, is the difference between today, when a new design for a run of 40,000 gadgets costs $35m, and my world, where a single unique device can be assembled for $800?

It’s partly logistics, which 3D printing is part of the answer to. Some entrepreneurial soul will surely eventually build the factory to solve the rest of the logistical problems.

The rest of the answer is the dispersal of the required knowledge. In the same way that making new software is largely a matter of combining libraries written previously by domain experts with a smidgen of new ideas, so the physical design of gadgets will eventually become a matter of combining standard parts with a touch of customisation.

It’s largely a software problem, too. If you imagine a Web site that lets you design your own phone in the way I have described, a lot of the problem is systematising smartphone design and putting a usable user interface on that system.

So, to make my own analogy, if the world I have just imagined of making your own gadgets is blogging, 3D printing is the web. Small, automated factories that can cheaply produce one-off items using 3D printing and robots are the Internet. And some clever software to make it easier to enter one’s designs is WordPress.

Regular Samizdata commenter Alisa called that “brilliant”, which was what made me think it ought to be immortalised.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog