Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Live Music - Autumn 2022

I have an excellent next-level hi-fi set up I wrote about endlessly a couple of years ago.

Live music does not sound like hi-fi, and vice versa.

It's been a while since I've heard live music, and I've decided that I need to hear some.

If only to convince myself that...

a) the acoustics in my listening position are better than an affordable seat in a concert hall (*)

b) audiences are... audience-like

c) live music, even in the Wigmore or Festival Halls, is MUCH LOUDER than I play my stereo

d) the soundstage is better on my stereo

e) a CD would be cheaper

f) paying that price for 90 minutes of entertainment makes me concentrate in a way I could never do at home

It's also part of my going-out-in-the-evening programme of recovery.

I have three concerts booked for the South Bank, and three at the Wigmore Hall.

I'll let you know how it goes.

(*) 'Affordable' is an elastic term.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Is It Safe To Come Out Yet?

Freedom Day was in July 2021, but the restrictions weren't removed until the end of February 2022,  SAGE wasn't disbanded until the start or March, and according to Rishi Sunak, we were this far away from an Omicron lockdown in Winter 21/22.

Even so, we're only three months from the end of free testing for Covid.

The last of the perspex screens are coming down in the shops.

It seems to me that everyone on public transport has stopped watching everyone else as if they may be infected with the plague.

Over-cautious, virtue-signalling Arts Venues have finally accepted that their customers do not want to wear masks while listening to Beethoven.

So I guess it's safe to come out. Not that I haven't been going to the shops and wandering around bits of London.

I mean, other people look normal now. They really didn't even in March.

It feels like we are about ninety-five per cent normal: regional wars, strikes, near double-digit inflation, the NHS in crisis, all business-as-usual for my generation. Now if the Grown-Ups could only put a stop to this Woke provokatsiya (or possibly provokáció), we might be okay.

My thought was that, in ordinary times, I would start going out to movies and concerts in the evenings (again) and let the sleep patterns take care of themselves. Especially since parking near tube stations gets cheaper if I do that. So I'm going to start doing that now.

It is not, however, safe to go near airports, ferry ports, or any other kind of international travel. Long queues, missed flights, delayed flights, only half the security desks opened at any given time, passport control half-manned... no freaking way. Even if I did have a passport.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Losing My Passport and a Trip to Consular Services

I had checked in online with KLM. Packed my stuff and gathered together my documents.




After looking everywhere, nope. Gone.

My friend stopped me from panicking.

I had to apply online for an emergency passport. https://www.gov.uk/emergency-travel-document

The application process is straightforward, you don't need any details about your lost passport, and pick up the passport yourself from the Embassy. (Courier takes an age.) It took a couple of attempts to get an acceptable photograph, but the computer seemed to be happy to wait.

There's an irreversible point where you push a button to continue and the cancel your lost passport. Take one last look around before doing that.

It costs £100. What choice do you have?

The application was done by 11:00 or so on the Monday, and I was told I should hear within two days.

About 15:00 on the Tuesday, I got a mail telling me the passport was ready for collection, between 10:00 and 13:00 Monday-Friday, from the Consular Services office at the Embassy.

Wednesday morning, we set off to The Hague from Utrecht Central at about 08:30 on a train that was only a third-full. Navigating between the station and the Lange Voorhout by map turned out to be more confusing that we thought, and a kind lady on a bicycle put us in the right direction. We had overshot the left turn we needed by some distance.

The Lange Voorhout is where a lot of the Embassies are, and it's less than a hundred yards from the Dutch Parliament. All very tree-shaded and historical. Consular Services is on a side street. We got there about 09:45.

I was expecting a line, if not around the block, then at least up the Kliener Kazernestsraat. Even by 10:00 we were the only people there. Clearly, losing one's passport is not a thing that happens a lot.

Just before 10:00, a jovial man appeared, wished us a good morning and asked if we were for the Consular Services. I said I was, and he let us in, asked my name and vanished into the offices.

About five minutes later, a woman called my name from behind a customer window, and talked me through the emergency passport.

Yep. It's bright blue. Nobody on passport control anywhere is going to miss it.

The page you show passport control looks like a normal passport. The document number will be accepted by online check-in systems, and it is good for one journey to the UK by "any available route", and expires months into the future. The rules say there's a limit of five intermediate countries, and you should check if they accept UK emergency passports, but that may only be an issue outside Europe. It took no more than five minutes: no interview, no interrogation, no sermons.

Travelling the next day, the Dutch passport control (on leaving the country?) asked if I had lost it in the Netherlands.

When I arrived in the UK, the Passport Control officer took the passport from me, and asked where I had lost it and how much it cost. I wondered if the latter was a test question, but I think he didn't know. He gave me a you-won't-be-doing-that-again smile and waved me through.

I was impressed by the whole process.

The only bit that wasn't easy to take was waiting for the e-mail. That really is being in limbo.

How did it happen? It had been three years since I had travelled anywhere, and I had just lost the habits of travel, including putting the passport in the case (or room safe if you're in a hotel). So I'm going to look for a neck wallet to carry it next time.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Woke, Luxury Beliefs and Misdirection

In the Bad Old Days, you had to actively Screw Up.

Most people were inculcated with the habits of behaviour needed to make a Reasonable Life.

That started to change in the 1970's.

(Many) teachers, gurus, magazine editors, how-to-live authors, and politicians, stopped inculcating those old-skool habits.

So did some parents (the Bad Ones).

In TheCurrentYear, unless you take active steps to avoid it, you are going to Screw Up.

From seventeen-year old parents to forty-something cat lady career girls; from the mid-twenties with £30,000+ of student debt for a Useless DegreeTM, through the forty-somethings who took a 35-year mortgage, to the sixty-somethings heading into retirement with significant consumer debt; from the twenty-something boys getting fat eating junk food, to the forty-somethings whose knees are going from all those 10Ks and half-marathons...

There are so many ways to Screw Up now.

Especially when (many) teachers, academics, journalists, politicians, activists, mavens and other assorted opinionators are promulgating beliefs that, if followed, will almost certainly lead to a massive Screw Up in the life of anyone dumb enough to take them seriously?

What we do know is that a lot of the Fortunate Classes mouth parrot those beliefs.

Why? Because it is mis-direction.

There is pretty much one and only one way to live a prosperous, worthwhile, enjoyable life(*): work hard, exercise, and eat right; defer gratification; choose your partner for compatibility not romance, stay single if you can't find one, and if you can, get married, and have children (in that order); only buy things you need with money you have; drink moderately or not at all, and stay away from drugs; sleep at least seven hours a night, and wake up early (this will stop you going out late, which is when all the bad mistakes are made)...

The Fortunate Classes know this. It's how they live.  

Maybe once there was enough to go around, and the working class could be given a decent shot at getting some. But now, there is nowhere near enough to go around. Not since the 1% took so damn much of it. So anything your class can do to reduce the competition for you and your children...

So they lie to people about what it takes to have a reasonable life. Tell them it's luck. Tell them to follow their passion. Tell them it's because others have White Privilege. Tell them they don't need to do a STEM subject at university. Tell them they are healthy at any size or weight. Tell them it's the Patriarchy, all-powerful and never-ending. Tell them it's Racism, all-powerful and endemic. Tell them that all identities are based on being a victim, and if they try to work their way out of victimhood, they will lose their identity, and (horrors) become white.

The real function of the "Luxury Beliefs" identified by Rob Henderson is to handicap the gullible, while pretending to be on their side.

Next time someone gets woke on you, smile and say "Ah. Luxury beliefs." Like "First World problems".

(*)Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:14)

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Vapour Trails

 I took this about 07:30 in mid-May.

Whenever the planes stop flying, the skies around where I live clear up and stay that way for days.

Until you see it, you don't believe it.

Vapour trails are water, by the way.

Not carbon dioxide.

Which is good for plants.

But let's not go there.

Look at the pretty vapour trails!

Friday, 22 July 2022

Burgers 'N Fries, Camden Lock

 Sis and I went to Camden Lock recently, by way of the gardens in Regent's Park, and even in the middle of the week, when it's raining, the place is busy busy busy. And it hasn't changed since whenever the last big refurbishment was... ten years ago? I suggest clicking on this to enlarge and appreciate the calm absorption with which the chef is working.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

How To Do A Good Rodchenko Tilt

Is this picture skew or it is just from an odd angle?

I thought it was skew until I checked the tower on the right-hand side.

It's vertical.

So not skew then.

But it looks skew.

Because it's taken from an odd angle, and the perspective is all over the place.

So your eye, and mine, spends most of its energy trying to sort out how the camera angle is wrong, so it can correct it.

That probably means a) it's a not-good photo, b) I'm a second Rodchenko.

So it's not a good photo.

When Rodchenko tilted his camera, somehow, the perspective remained comprehensible. Your eye says he forgot to put the camera straight, and adjusted accordingly.

With my photo, everything is so messed-up, you can't see what's wrong.

It's about doing something enough so it is intentional. Once our eye spots `intention', it can work out what that might be and correct for it. So this is an okay Rodchenko imitation....

but for this one, well, I just can't shoot a straight horizon...