I am always on the lookout for elevated platforms, natural or artificial, to look out over London from, and to take photos from. And as luck would have it, one of my favourite such platforms is one that I live directly under. Yes, if I go up to the roof of my block of flats, I can see, and I can photo, things like this:
That thing being the MI6 Building, made famous by the Bond movies. In the Bond movie that they were showing on Brit TV earlier this very evening, this building suffered an explosion. Dame Judi Dench looked on, aghast.
Another entertaining thing to be seen from this spot is the new US Embassy, now nearing completion just up river, as luck would have it, from the MI6 Building. Those peculiar structures sticking out to the side, on both sides as we look in the photo below, intrigue me. Officially they are sunshades. So, nothing to do with stopping people from eavesdropping? Absolutely not. Never crossed their minds. Mind you, there won’t be any such structure on the windows facing us, so maybe this is true. But, I prefer to believe otherwise:
All around this new US Embassy there is a huge building boom in progress. That Special Relationship that people keep saying is about to end remains pretty special, I would say.
Whereas the cranes working away around the above building are there to build it, the crane in this next picture is there to dismantle the big block of a building that we see. This is “New” Scotland Yard. The Metropolitan Police have already moved out, to an even Newer Scotland Yard, nearer to the river.
Next up, the two familiar towers attached to the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and …, you know, … the other one. On the far side of the river but directly in line, The Wheel.
Finally, here are two snaps of how the same bit of the skyline was looking last night, just after midnight. I had guests with me last night, and after we had counted in the new year while watching these fireworks on the telly, I suddenly realised that we could see these same fireworks for real, if we just ran up a few staircases, and provided the fireworks kept on going for a bit. Which we did and they did:
Such is the quality of the cameras on mobile phones these days that several of my guests were also able to take photos.
In the above picture, The Wheel is totally blotted out, but in this final picture, you can clearly see it:
All of this was in aid of everyone wishing everyone else a Happy New Year, and I wish that to all my fellow Samizdatistas, and to everyone else who reads this.
Enjoy! [edit: Tuesday December 6th, SSL is now enabled.]
Samizdata is being moved to a newer, more lush, perhaps more louche server. This will also provide for freshening-up of the blog software, and a gradual migration to HTTPS.
Impact: Samizdata will be irregularly-offline this upcoming Monday, December 5th, starting from an estimated 3pm London time (10am Eastern, 1600h CET) for an estimated 4-to-6 hours, perhaps a little longer depending on how long the DNS bookkeeping takes.
If the migration fails we’ll fall back to the existing machine and continue, but it’s likely to be okay. Assuming that everything goes well, you may still expect a little flakiness when accessing the blog for up to 24 hours afterwards; after that time it’s a “bug”, or else we dropped something in transit.
“Fortune favours the bald!”, or something like that…
I remain unapologetically fascinated by the Brexit phenomenon. The campaign, the result, and the aftermath of the result, are all things that I have been finding hugely diverting. It is already the greatest domestic political upheaval in my country during my lifetime, and not in a bad way. And that is not even to mention its possible impacts on Abroad.
But for the time being, what with the weekend approaching, here is a very Samizdata-ish photo which I would like to show you:
I took this photo last Sunday, at the home of our very own Michael Jennings, just after he had got back home from his latest jaunt. The receptacle it features is one of a set in which Michael served his guests a most agreeable round of drinks, the name and exact nature of which I forget, but which I do remember greatly enjoying. (I have a vague recollection of tea being involved, in some way. But that could be quite wrong.) I was sober enough to take this photo, and to get the glass in approximate focus, but not sober enough to get all of the glass in my picture.
Was this the expedition during which Michael acquired these glasses, or was it a later one? He probably said, but again, I don’t recall.
Demilitarized Zone. You can’t help thinking that this particular demilitarized zone is a hell of a lot more militarized than the word “demilitarised” ought to mean.
But what I really want to say is: cool, even though no ice was involved. I mean, being served a drink in a glass decorated with a barbed wire fence, topped off with more barbed wire in a roll. Cool? That’s downright frigid.
For some reason, this reminded me of a visit I once made to the home in Cornwall of my late uncle, the one who got parachuted into Yugoslavia during the war and who was as a result awarded an MC that he never talked about. On his mantelpiece, he had a miniature trophy on which were inscribed the words: “School of Psychological Warfare, Bangkok, with grateful thanks”, or words to that effect.
Alas, this was back in the 1970s and I did not then possess a digital camera. Nor was there then any means of showing people photos that was easy for them to ignore if they were not interested.
In late June Michael Jennings, Patrick Crozier and I travelled to Israel with some other friends to have a look around. We met up with regular Samizdata commenter Alisa who lives there, and spent an evening and night in Tel Aviv.
Israeli equivalent of a keg on the beach in Tel Aviv
On Friday we drove to Jerusalem and checked into our Airbnb appartments before meeting up with another friend who had promised to take us on a tour. I drove and our guide joined us in our seven seater MPV. Our first stop was the Haas Promenade where we could see the whole city. Our guide explained the different areas and we could see the barrier wall.
View from Haas Promenade
So after some lunch, we went to Rachel’s Tomb. We drove along the wall before turning through an open gate guarded only with an empty armoured personnel carrier. The road winds around with the wall on both sides and leads to a small car park, itself entirely enclosed by the concrete wall. I do not remember seeing any soldiers. All was quiet apart from a call to prayer emanating from the other side.
→ Continue reading: Samizdatistas in Israel
The samizdata smitebot interface is well and truly out of London, drinking nice wine and eating mighty food, so there may be delays in unsmiting comments that get moderated by the dreaded samizdata smitebot. According to Google Maps, I could walk to Kiev in 170 hours or Warsaw in 92 hours. Where am I?
Like Michael Jennings, I end my 2015 blogging efforts here at Samizdata with a clutch of pictures. Unlike Michael, I haven’t managed to do anything like this for every one of the last ten years. I did do something similar two years ago, but this time last year my retrospective attention was concentrated on the speakers at my monthly meetings, without any pictures of them.
I began my 2015 in France.
→ Continue reading: My 2015 in pictures
Call me a traditionalist if you wish, but I can muster very little enthusiasm for Halloween, particularly the current neutered Americanised version of it. For me, it does not hold a candle to Guy Fawkes Night on the 5th of November or Krampusnacht on the 5th of December.
This evening I went to a well attended informal meet-up in Islington of #GamerGate supporters. This proved to be very interesting indeed, hearing what by any reasonably definition were ‘libertarian’ views about tolerance and objective truth being widely trumpeted, but being agreed on by people from a broad section of the political spectrum. I listened to a thoughtful self-described left-winger deliver an angry critique of the Guardian, not just their contra-evidence based reporting of #GamerGate, but also the deeply intolerant culture being propagated there. It appears such folks are not just shocked by what they see, they are serious pissed off by the ‘Social Justice Warriors’ doing it. The very rationally argued animus was palpable.
It seems clear to me that over the eight months #GamerGate has been going on, it is now leading diverse people to re-evaluate long standing social and political views and alliances. An articulate young lady I spoke with said she has lost friends over this, and now saw certain people very differently. Even if #GamerGate was over tomorrow (fat chance), there has clearly been a tectonic social event, and the aftershock is going to be felt for quite some time. New and very spontaneous networks are forming and it will be interesting to see where this leads.
… because last night I visited full time evil genius and part time mad scientist
Dr. Frankenstein Alec Muffet, and whilst cackling “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!“, he created so fearsome a work that the very fabric of reality strains and writhes as unspeakable… things… threaten to slither into our mundane reality!
So now I grasp things that mankind was never meant to know, the terrible forbidden knowledge…
Only the bravest should gaze upon what lies below this line, you have been warned…
→ Continue reading: Can not blog much today…
So here I am in Brittany, alternating between writing this and getting stuck into a New Year’s Eve feast, which explains any typos in what follows, and which is also making me ponder New Year resolutions. One of mine is to write rather more for Samizdata than I have been doing lately, which will not be hard. The idea was that resuming my Last Friday of the Month meetings, which I did in January 2013, would give me more to write about here, but the truth is that there is never any shortage of stuff to write about for Samizdata. The world abounds with good things and bad things, amusing things and annoying things. What sometimes fades is the will to write. But I’ll start as I mean to resume by writing a little about each of the speakers at my Last Friday meetings during this year. I hope these speakers will all agree that me now writing too little, too late, about their various excellent performances is better than nothing.
In January 2014, Alex Singleton spoke about his new book on PR, The PR Masterclass. Not the least of this book’s virtues is that it calls Public Relations Public Relations, rather than something more pompous and evasive. I did at least write here at the time about this book’s launch, which was a definite success, as is the book, packed as it is with what reads to me like lots of common-sense. Alex, however, is still a man worth hiring if you have a PR problem, because it is one thing to read a lot of common-sense in a book, quite another to be able to deploy it in the heat of a PR battle. Talking of the heat of a PR battle, Alex tells me that his next book is to be about Crisis Management. So, if your oil pipeline springs a leak, google Alex Singleton at once and hope that this book is by then available as a download, and that it starts with a short summary of all the wisdom that follows. Seriously, if you run a big organisation, buy this next Alex Singleton book as soon as it appears, and then give it more than a precautionary glance. You won’t be wasting any time, and you could save yourself and your underlings a world of grief.
In February, Dominic Frisby spoke about his then forthcoming book on Bitcoin, which has now forthcome. Our own Rob Fisher, who attended this talk, and who helped Dominic out with some technical details on the software front, later described the book in the first Amazon review of it (see the link above) as “concise, complete, correct, entertaining”. I first wrote, very admiringly, about Frisby and his writing here in this posting. My admiration for Frisby has not dimmed, and I very much hope that more Frisby books will follow.
→ Continue reading: My year in speakers