Lockdown chat with Patrick

On June 2nd, Patrick Crozier and I had another of our recorded conversations, this time about Lockdown.

In the course of this, I refer to a photo that I did take, and a photo that I didn’t take. The photo that I did take was this:

That being me, and another bloke, recording the fact of empty shelves in Sainsburys. The photo that I didn’t take, but talk about with Patrick, is the one I should also have taken of how the shelves laden with less healthy food – crisps, chocky bickies etc. – were crammed with yet-to-be-sold stuff, a lot of it offered at discount prices.

Patrick, in his posting about this chat, mentions something he thought of afterwards but didn’t say during, which is that what may have been going on with the crisps and bickies was not that people were shunning unhealthy food, but rather that they were shunning party food, on account of there suddenly being no parties being had. Good point. In my photo above, you can see in the distance, the drinks section. Plenty of drink still to be had also.

I remember, when I used to do chat radio, I used to regret not having said things I should have said, either because I had them in mind but forgot, or because I only thought of them afterwards. But, in due course, I realised that what mattered was what I did say. If that was reasonably intelligent and reasonably well put, then I did okay. People wouldn’t say: Ooh, but he forgot to mention blah blah. They would merely decide whether they liked, or not, what I did say.

Well, this time around, I think there was a huge elephant in the virtual room that we didn’t discuss, which I am sure some listeners would expect us to have at least mentioned. Sport. As in: There hasn’t been any! Patrick and I are both sports obsessives. He is a Watford fan. But he has had no Premier League relegation battle to warm his heart during the last few months. I love cricket, not just England but also Surrey. Likewise for me: nothing, despite some truly wonderful weather at a time when it’s often very grim. But, not a single sporting thing, other than ancient sportsmen reminiscing about sports contests of yesteryear on the telly. Yet we never mentioned any of that. Since a lot of the point of our chat wasn’t to yell at politicians and scientists, hut rather just to remember the oddities of our own lives now, this was a major omission. We talked, as we always do whether that’s the actual topic or not, about war, this time in connection with the question of which economic policy attitudes will prevail during whatever attempts at an economic recovery start being made in the months to come. Yet sport, the thing that has replaced war in so many people’s lives, got no mention by us.

A recorded conversation by phone

Today, Patrick Crozier and I at last got around to doing the recorded conversation we failed to do earlier. About the Allied WW2 bombing offensive.

We did it down the phone rather than face-to-face, and doing it down the phone, what with the phone now being such an antiquated piece of kit, was what had caused the delay. (I am still trying to find the microphone that I swear I do own. Had I found it a fortnight ago, that would have saved Patrick a lot of bother.)

How satisfactory our conversation will turn out to be for others to listen to remains to be heard. I was a bit disorganised, not so much in what I said as in the order in which I said it. I tended to jump back and forth, or so it felt to me. But that wasn’t my phone’s fault, and communication between me and Patrick felt more exact and responsive than I had been fearing. Like most, I make constant use of my phone to keep in touch with friends and collaborators of various sorts, but mere communication is not the same as sharing a performance with whoever’s down the line. I did do performances like this on the radio back in the last century, but then I had no way to compare like with like, because each performance was different, and done with different people. This time I was able to make a more exact comparison, between this conversation with Patrick and previous conversations, of the same sort, also with Patrick. And, as I say, it felt more similar and less of a struggle than I had feared.

Accordingly, I very slightly revise my opinion about the efficacy of working at a distance. It is a little bit easier than I had earlier been thinking. Not that this will diminish the amount of work done in a city like London, and in particular in the centre of London. There is no fixed quantity of work, with more work moving to outside London automatically meaning less work being done in London. On the contrary, the easier it becomes to work outside London, the more busy London will be, keeping track of it all, placing bets on it, and generally doing its London stuff.

The fundamental importance of face-to-face communication remains. In the case of me and Patrick, we know each other well. We’ve met often and talked a lot face-to-face, over the years, in London. Because we know each other well, communication at a distance also works well, and actually, somewhat better than I had expected.

LESS THAN ONE DAY LATER: It’s up.

Another recorded conversation with Patrick (about the WW2 bombing offensive)

Tomorrow afternoon Patrick Crozier and I will be recording another of our recorded conversations. Assuming all the technology behaves as it should, it will in due course go here. We’re going to be talking about the World War 2 bombing offensive. Patrick and I like talking about war.

So, what will we be saying? You’ll maybe get a clue of the sorts of things I may be saying if you read this posting, which I did for the old blog in July 2012, and which I have just copied onto this new blog, so you can now read it without having to get past a scary red screen, full of urgings that you go away at once.

I also have in mind to mention the North American Mustang, the birth and evolution of which was a fascinating story, and one perfectly calculated to cheer up any Brit who fears that America ended up making all the running in WW2. It was us Brits that got the Mustang off the drawing board, by paying North American to have a go at developing and building it in numbers. This was in 1940, way before Uncle Sam was interested in such things. And, it was a Brit engine (the Merlin) that ended up powering the Mustang, albeit a version of it made in America. The Mustang made all the difference because it was a great little fighter and it could go all the way to Germany and back.

Unlike our earlier recorded conversations, this one will be done over the phone, which I expect will be tricky. Face-to-face is so much easier. I daresay there’ll be moments when we both talk at once, and other moments where we are both waiting for the other to talk. Awkward.

The ease of face-to-face being a lot of the reason why cities exist. There’s lots of talk now about how work will now go on being done down wires instead of face-to-face, even after the Coronavirus fuss has all died down. More work will then be done down wires, I’m sure. But cities are too good an idea to abandon. Yes, in cities, you can more easily catch a disease. You can also be more easily mass-murdered by bombers, airborne or of a more primitive sort. But cities, I predict, are here to stay, because face-to-face, for all its drawbacks and dangers, will always be the best way to do so many things.

More telecommuting won’t finish off cities. Rather is telecommuting just another thing for people in cities to organise.

Silencing the many voices

I am in the habit of opening windows, each window with lots of open tabs, and of leaving them all open. Pocket (thank you again 6k) has been a life saver, because I can now close a tab and still have a record of it. But even then, I still tend to have a lot of tabs open, so much so that every now and again, Google seizes up and has to be restarted. At which point I get the magic option, if I’m lucky, to “restore” all the windows and tabs I had open when the seizure struck. Well, I want these tabs open, or why would they all be open? So, I duly restore.

At which point, if my loudspeakers have not been silenced, there begins a babble of voices, caused by several tabs immediately starting to talk. I’d paused them, but when they get restored, they forget about being paused. Or something. (If I perfectly understood all this, I probably wouldn’t have a problem.) The problem being, there are so many tabs open that I find it very hard to track down all these babbling voices. Recently, I have been switching my discretionary attention from television to things like YouTube and podcasts of various sorts. That has made all this far worse.

Now, as I type this into BMNBdotcom, I have managed to find and to silence all but one of these voices, but that one voice is persisting. I can’t find it. Until I do, the only way to silence it will be to silence everything. So I can’t listen to any other sound my computer is capable of producing, without this voice talking over the top of it.

My search continues. I’m not expecting any answers, but I would love it if some passing commenter could solve this for me.

Some podcasting numbers

On Thursday, I did a little posting on Samizdata, flagging up the conversation that Patrick Crozier and I recorded on the subject of the Falklands War. I’ve already mentioned this conversation a couple of times here, but I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned any of them over there, on my version of the mass media. There has so far been only one comment on this Samizdata posting (way below the Samizdata average (but a very informative one comment)), but I think I detect a very slight and non-coincidental uptick in our listener numbers. These have gone from pretty much non-existent, to infinitesimally tiny. Which is a significant improvement, I think.

All of which means that I now want to record the number of downloads there have so far been for each of these conversations that Patrick and I have done, as of now, so that I can see if these numbers continue to rise, and so that I am prevented from deceiving myself about how much they go up by, if they do. Here’s the state of play, in reverse order of recording: The Falklands War (28); The First Wold War: what happened next? (15); Christianity (13); Brexit (18); Why the West won the Cold War (12); History (11); Transport (19); The importance of being number three (11); Trump (19); Diversity (13); Television 7 (7), 6 (9), 5 (9), 4 (7), 3 (7), 2 (8), 1 (10); The First World War (26).

I know, these are ridiculously small numbers. But so what? We both like having these conversations. Think of it not as any sort of business, where the number and satisfaction of consumers is what makes it worthwhile. See it as Patrick and me enhancing our social life by having a more disciplined conversation than if we had just banged on in a pub for an hour, and what’s more a conversation where we can be sure of exactly what we earlier said, should we want to be. My feeling is, from where I sit, that we’re not just chatting, we’re learning. Learning things, with our homework and from each other, and also we are doing that particular kind of learning that consists of arranging things inside our heads, so that they make more sense than they might if we didn’t record what we said. And if a few others find that they like listening to our conversations, so much the better.

Patrick Crozier and I talk about the Falklands War

As earlier noted, Patrick Crozier and I recently recorded a conversation about the Falklands War, involving both what we each remembered about it from when we lived through it (early in 1982), and what we have learned about it since, which was not a lot in my case but a bit.

It was a strange conversation, because we basically talked only about what happened and what we remembered, and almost nothing about what the war “proved” or “demonstrated”, about life generally or about the libertarianism that we are both supporters of in other contexts. The questions we began with were: What was it? What happened? How did events unfold? And that’s what we talked about. There were a few ruminations about the difference between a country which had fought several recent wars and another country which had not, and what that meant in terms of the differences between the people fighting each other. That difference being a major reason why Britain won. But even that was strictly to try to explain events, rather than to get all grand and philosophical and what it all meant.

What Patrick felt and what I felt at the time, about the rights and wrongs of it, were rather different. He was gung-ho and very clear. The Argies stole the islands and we should get them back, and do whatever that took. I was rather baffled and wanted Britain to win more because losing would be so terrible. Not least politically. Because, as we speculated, it would have been hard for Thatcher to have survived as PM if there had been a British military and naval catastrophe down there in the South Atlantic. (The South Atlantic being where, as so many Brits of my sort were rather unsure about at the time, the Falkland Islands are to be found.) There nearly was a catastrophe. Luck played a scarily big part, far bigger than we were told at the time.

Well, if you want to hear what we said about this strange war, and are not expecting any bigger lessons beyond a small and rather meandering history lesson, here is where to go.

The miscalculations of the Tiggers

Way back in the Spring of last year, when the Brexit battle was still raging away in Parliament and when Theresa May was still the Prime Minister, Patrick Crozier and I did a podcast o this subject. A point that Patrick made very strongly was how the Remainers, presented with the opportunity of BRINO (Brexit in name only), instead were busily engaged in snatching defeat from the jaws of only somewhat modified victory. Since then, the Remainers carried right on doing this.

As Guido Fawkes explained gleefully in a posting a few days ago about the most visible and organised of the Remainers. These “Tiggers”, as Guido calls them, continued to trash any possibility of BRINO. And then they all got ejected from Parliament, leaving the field clear for actual Brexit, or something a lot like it, to proceed.

This posting of Guido’s is worth a read and a ponder, unless you were yourself a Remainer and can’t bear to think about it all. Thus is history made by the winners. And also bungled by the losers.

I found the picture there, on the right, by scrolling down here. A lot.

Another podcast I just listened to that was good

Here.

It’s Bryan Caplan (the guy who gave this lecture that I recently attended), talking to Darren Grimes of the IEA. Caplan disagrees with most voters, but in an ingratiating way. As he himself says towards the end of the conversation, if you have disagreeable things to say, say them agreeably and people will be more likely to listen.

LATER: Now, I’m listening to another interview. Scott Adams autobiographising. Terrific.

Anton Howes interviewed about his research

I spent my blogging time today concocting a posting about the opinions and discoveries of Anton Howes, and in particular this piece. My posting will be ready and up at Samizdata Real Soon Now. In the course of doing this I encountered this podcast which an American guy did with Howes. I’m now half way through this. So far: recommended.

That’s it for today.

Big Ben is having its scaffolding removed

QUITE A LONG TIME LATER (June 2020): I see from my site stats info that a trickle of people seem now to be reading this posting. So let me now correct it. It turned out that only the very top of the Big Ben scaffolding had been removed. I wrongly thought, when I wrote what follows, that this meant it would soon all be gone, but in fact the dismantling then went no further. At the time of this addendum, most of the Big Ben scaffolding remains in place. Apologies for the error.

Here’s a photo I took from just upstream of the Blackfriars Station entrance. It is of one of the many weird alignments you get, from the fact that the River Thames is not straight, but full of twists and turns.

Here we are, on the north side of the Thames, looking through the Wheel, which is on the south side of the Thames, past one of the rectanguloid lumps attached to or near to the National Theatre, also on the south side, towards … Big Ben. Big Ben on the north side. Big Ben smothered in scaffolding:

The reason I mention this photo now (aside from the fact that I like it) is that today, I learned from Guido Fawkes that this scaffolding has now started to disappear:

As was announced by Parliamentary Authorities last week, Elizabeth Tower has begun the prolonged process of shedding some of its cladding. To the palpable relief of tourists who have experienced years of photographic disappointment …

When Guido says “Elizabeth Tower”, he of course means Big Ben. And, also of course, I loved all the scaffolding around Big Ben, and have numerous photos of it taken from all sorts of different places and angles.

For the last year or two I have found myself connecting this scaffolding with the battle to accomplish Brexit. Time standing still, or some such thing. I had a sort of bet with myself that when the scaffolding came down, Brexit would finally happen. (I favour Brexit, having voted for it in the referendum.)

But now, it seems the scaffolding will be long gone before Brexit occurs, if it ever does. Although, on my television, they’re still advertising Brexit as going to happen at the end of this month. Maybe it will happen then, but what do I know?

Concerning these latest delays to Brexit, my favourite internet posting by far has been another one at Guido Fawkes, more recent than the one linked to above, concerning a malfunctioning advert.

For my more serious Brexit opinions, listen, if you can stand the idea, to this conversation between Patrick Crozier and me, which I reckon still makes pretty good sense. Although, if you’re a Remainer, you should probably give it a miss.