On this day

Madsen Pirie:

May 1st could be remembered for many things. It was on this day in 1707 that the Act of Union joining England and Wales with Scotland took effect, creating the United Kingdom. It was also on May 1st that the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued, creating the UK popular mail service that was used so skillfully to disseminate leaflets by the Anti Corn-Law League.

It was also the date in 1851 that Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition, to demonstrate the UK’s achievements to the world, and to sell them. Another great opening on the day was in 1931, when the Empire State Building was dedicated in New York. So iconic was it that it featured two years later in the classic movie, King Kong.

To all of the above can be added that May 1st 2019 was the day that Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog was loosed upon the world. That’s certainly how I’m going to remember May 1st, from now on.

Pirie goes on to discuss how Mayday, in Britain, means celebrating workers, and the amount of revolutionary mischief they can be persuaded to inflict upon the world.

I prefer my version of this date. Although, I also liked what Pirie went on to say about the contrast between when the dates celebrating Labour happen in Britain and in America. It’s the difference, he says, between hope and experience, between failure and success, between socialism and capitalism.

Capitalism and socialism in tweets

I like both of these.

This:

Capitalism works better than it sounds. Socialism sounds better than it works.

And this:

Capitalism is the only reason socialism has any money to redistribute.

I like them, as in: I like them as pithily expressed things to think about. Not sure the first one in particular is actually true. Socialism, when you actually spell out what socialists want and what they think should be done to dissenters, turns out to be ghastly, long before it actually happens.

And if capitalism sounds worse than it is, maybe you aren’t saying it right.

Yesterday there were four postings here. Mostly small, but still, four. The above stuff is Twitter, but this blog is not Twitter. This blog leaves you time to have a little read and a life.

So, this is your lot for today.

On the other hand, if you have forty minutes to spare on subjects like the above, try listening to this. It’s the IEA’s Kristian Niemietz talking about socialism. He too thinks that capitalism is “counter-intuitive”. His manner is a lot more low-key and considered than you would expect it to be if you only followed him on Twitter.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Social media actually being rather sociable

Dominic Frisby, on Facebook:

Yeah, yeah, you all think you’re really clever and successful and stuff but how many of you have been to an anarchy conference in Acapulco and got selfie with David Icke?

Like. I’ve not done either of these things, let alone the two of them together.

Also like, from the comments: “Anarchopulco”.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Now they’re planning a Frank Gehry concert hall in Wimbledon

The Guardian quips:

You wait decades for a city …

The city in question being London.

… to get a world-class concert hall and two come along at once.

GodDaughter2’s family used to live in Wimbledon, back in the last century. Something tells me I will be back there quite a lot in the next few years.

The first of these two halls is, I should say, this one.

How about another superb state-of-the-art concert hall somewhere in the Thames Estuary, out East. That would be very cool. Something like this. Maybe later, eh?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The bowels of fuck

This:

Baffling insanity to read more attacks from People’s Vote types on Norway this morning. What in the bowels of fuck are you doing? In what possible world is that an appropriate target right now?

I have very little idea of what this Twitter-storm is about, other than Bexit in a general sort of way, and frankly I don’t care. But I love that “bowels of fuck” bit.

He’s mixing “What the fuck” with this famous Cromwellian utterance. Just the one word, “bowels”, makes this unmistakable, because there is surely no other famous quote with this word in it.

I love the fun you can have with the English language, mixing it and matching it like this. Do other languages work just as well for this kind of thing, or is English a bit special in this regard? Sadly for me, English is the only language I know at all well, for purposes like this.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Fighting back against IO and dust

As I said earlier, a nasty old sofa is due to depart from Chateau BMdotcom, and nice new sofa is due to arrive. And as I also said, I hoped it would be in that order. Well, now it looks like the new sofa will be here tomorrow, while the old one is still here. This threatened chaos. In a place already suffering from severe infrastructural overload (aka IO, aka too much crap everywhere and nowhere to put new incoming crap), it’s all I can do to find space for a new copy of the BBC Music Magazine without it getting submerged. Yet today I managed to liberate enough space for another sofa and still have a large chunk of change, volumetrically speaking.

The secret was getting rid of a whole clutch of things like this:

The main things that such devices store are empty air, and dust. Lots and lots of dust.

I also found a pile of home-made versions of the same kind of thing, in which I had been storing more air and more dust, and (this time) nothing else:

That being about a decade’s worth of dust, going by all the bits of paper in the pile that I will soon be culling and compressing.

As one of my heroes, Quentin Crisp, once said, the secret with dust is not to stir it up. Do that, and you find yourself living in a dusty home. Just let it be and it behaves itself very politely.

I now learn (such is the internet) that what Crisp actually said was more like this:

There was no need to do any housework at all. After four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.

I actually do do some housework, mainly in my living room, so this doesn’t really apply to me and my home. But I like his attitude. That gag about being a “stately homo of England” is also a Crispism. The link above is to a large stack of verbal Crispnesses.

Back to my dust. To get rid of that dust, which did have to be got rid of because the receptacles containing it had to go, I had to carry them out of my bedroom very carefully, into the living room, and part of this involved stepping down from my bed to the floor. Imagine doing that with a tray full of drinks. But, all went well, and I have now liberated a hug gob of space which I had previously thought permanently clogged:

That will accommodate a lot of IO, in the days and weeks to come. Those two boxes on the right can go too, come to think of it. All they contain is big envelopes that I will never use and whose glue long ago stopped working.

Each time I have a campaign against IO, I think that I really have, this time around, completely run out of space. But, each time, it turns out that there’s more, lurking in plain sight.

A good day.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Creature comforts

Two creature-related BMdotcom-Friday-friendly images from the Niagara of Trivia and Abuse that is Twitter, to feast your eyes, and your brain, on.

The first is American:

Which I encountered here. I miss Transport Blog.

And the second is Anglo-Canadian:

The Canadian being Jordan Peterson, and the Anglo being a Fox, and what’s more a Fox with an animal tattoo on his arm.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Back from France (plus cat photos)

Yes, I’ve been in France, and now I’m back. Have been for several days actually, but I spent my recent blogging time doing this, which is a photo-decorated ramble on various things I saw in France, or thought I did, for Samizdata.

I really want to get back into the swim of things over there, after a recent dry spell, and was accordingly determined to finish that ramble before I resumed rambling here.

Since this is Friday, here are some French cats.

Cat number one stands outside Vannes town hall:

Cat number two is impressively perched on an impressively high ledge, somewhere or other. Cat number three, the cat of the friends I was staying with, is shown here, not being very impressed with cat number two:

This photo was taken by Tony, to whom thanks, and to whom thanks also for emailing it to me.

Here, on the other hand are two further photos that I did take of cat number three:

No, I don’t know why his right ear is green on the inside. I only noticed this when I got home.

His name is Caesar (sp?), and he actually does answer to that name. It’s not tone of voice, it’s the name, because when I said this to him for the first time, he immediately looked up to see what I had in mind.

There is another cat, Basil, who drops by at the home of Tony et famille from time to time, but he is more shy. He was otherwise engaged, on my last day there which was when I finally decided I wanted to photo the two cats. Caesar showed up, but not Basil. Another time, maybe.

Caesar is now very old, and I may never meet with him again. We got on well.

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