the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

Trump

It's almost a month since the feller got elected. I can't say that I have anything interesting to say about it, beyond the fact that it's such a WTF moment in modern history that it's worth putting down a few thoughts for posterity.

First, as I said, WTF. I don't understand how people could have voted for Trump, but they did. That's a literal "I don't understand," not rhetorical. The simplistic explanations aren't convincing. I think the standard reasons given say as much about the prejudices of others, as they do about American voters.

Second, the squealing and virtue signalling on social media and traditional media has all been a bit much. Yes the man is guilty of all manner of horribleness, but more decent discussion and less rending of clothes, please.

Third, I do wonder how the next 4 years will pan out. I suspect it will be worse in some ways, and not so bad in others. I think the Third Reich analogies are misplaced, and ... well, I hope I'm right.

Fourth. Trump's protectionist policies are right out of the Corbyn camp. I look forward to ending the usual arguments about protectionism with "well, at least you and Trump agree on something."

{2016.12.06 21:54} : Comments (0)

QOTD

Tyler Cowen:

Just keep Mexico, South Korea, and Estonia in mind, and I'm sure you'll do the right thing.

{2016.11.05 23:15} : Comments (0)

Moved

We've moved house, and joined that politically-favoured group of people known as "home-owners." Here's hoping it stays that way (the politically-favoured bit, I mean. The rest is a given). This is the first time we've been in debt since we moved to the UK, and I have to admit I find it pretty daunting.

It's been a chaotic month. Our offer was accepted at the start of an extended visit by my in-laws, and after what I gather was a ridiculously quick completion, we got the keys to our new house the day after they left. The speedy sale was helped by the fact that the sale was almost done with someone else, who got spooked by Brexit and pulled out at the last minute. Pretty much all the lawyers needed to do was change the names in the documents and invoices, I guess. So for us, Brexit has had its upsides.

Somebody had koff been a bit slow in organising the switch-over of our broadband, so we went for a couple of weeks without it. Now we're online again, and the already-slow unpacking process will probably grind to a halt.

I joke, slightly. The kitchen is mostly done. And the other half of the kitchen boxes, not yet unpacked and stacked menacingly on the kitchen floor, would probably would have been unpacked if we had any idea where to squeeze stuff in. And tonight, I made a start on the books. I got the first of our bookshelves properly in place, and started unpacking the first of the 65 boxes of books we carted over.

I got through 4 of them. Gotta start somewhere.

{2016.10.14 21:55} : Comments (0)

The Quietway

I recently discovered London's first Quietway. Some dude I was cycling behind suddenly turned left into Deptford, and being curious about whether he was taking a shortcut I didn't know about, I figured I'd follow him (for a block or two, if he kept heading in the right direction; it's not like I'm a stalker or anything).

There was soon a big "Quietway 1" sign, and then another, and another, and I ended up following him the whole way into London. At a non-threatening distance, of course.

I'd heard nothing about the Quietways, and it turns it they're rather new. QW1 - the one I followed - is the only one, with more (apparently) to follow. The idea is that the routes follow backstreets, parks, dedicated lanes and the like. QW1 works its way through some council estates in Deptford, before going through a park, then following an elevated path past the Millwall FC stadium, then more council estates and finally back roads towards Waterloo.

My verdict: cool, but with its own dangers. There's plenty of "wheeee" factor given the paths, sharp turns and bends, but some of those would be far less appealing in the rain, or icy mid-winter.

Also, while it's a great way to get into or out of London without battling with traffic, and is just the thing for a leisurely ride, the route ends up being a little more perilous at commuter speeds. Because the route is so quiet, and goes down residential back roads, with more than a few blind turns, not only are cyclists likely to become complacent as they whizz along, but pedestrians and children are more likely to step out in front of you. I've had a couple of near misses already.

That, and once closer to London, the route crosses main roads, which means a lot of long waits at traffic lights.

Having said that, I've found myself taking the route a good few times now, for the novelty if nothing else. Now, if only there were a Quietway that allowed me to bypass Bromley Hill.

{2016.08.30 23:06} : Comments (0)

Reading

I've not read any fiction for some time. But at the beginning of the month I went on a work jolly, and on the plane I needed something to read, and one of the only books available on Google Play on my tablet was The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

And so I read it, for the first time in nearly 30 years. And I really enjoyed it. It's a thoroughly immoral book, which would be better termed The Three Gigolos, given that everything pretty much boils down to the musketeers selling their favours to rich old ladies for money. But it's a great read.

That got me hitched on Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo followed. Great book. Best revenge tale ever. What a bad-ass.

I decided that I'd keep reading Alexandre Dumas books. The sequel to the Three Musketeers is Twenty Years After. Google has not yet run their OCR magic on their version of the book, so their copy is just the original pages; not so easy on my ageing eyes. I went looking for alternatives.

This has added a whole new dilemma to my life. To wit, the fact that these books were translated, and the translation can make a difference to the book. For example, this is one of the first paragraphs from the Project Gutenberg version, which appears to be from a 1910 translation, and is also the version you find for free on the Kindle:

It was, alas! the ghost of former greatness. France enfeebled, the authority of her sovereign contemned, her nobles returning to their former turbulence and insolence, her enemies within her frontiers--all proved the great Richelieu no longer in existence.

This is from an 1846 translation from a bloke named William Barrow

And, truly, it was in effect only the shade of that great man. France enfeebled, the enemy within the frontiers--everything, in short, declared that Richelieu himself was no longer there.

And yet another version, translated by some equally forgotten fellow named William Robson in 1856, which is one of the freebies from Google books:

Alas! It was but too truly only the shade of the great man. France sunk to a state of weakness, the authority of the King unrecognized, the nobles again powerful and turbulent, the enemy once more within the frontiers,--everything denoted that Richelieu was no more.

The final version reads best to me, and that's the version I'm going with. But I could do without these sorts of problems. What if I'd not discovered this version, and settled for one of the others? What if my versions of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo aren't the best, and I could've enjoyed my past month's reading even more?

{2016.07.31 22:16} : Comments (0)

One Month

One month since the vote. It's been quite a ride.

After double dealings and high intrigue and back-stabbing and front-stabbing, the Tories very quickly sorted themselves out, slapped a blue rosette on Theresa May's coffin lid, and hey presto, a new government with the country's second female prime minister.

As for Labour. Well... bordering on the surreal, it makes for good TV, if nothing else. It baffles me that middle class lefties still root for Corbyn, despite it being so clear to everyone except said lefties that Corbyn can shoulder a fair portion of blame for us now leaving the EU, and that this is an outcome with which he and cronies like McDonnell are perfectly happy. But I said I didn't want to get caught up in Brexit talk, so no more from me on that front.

Still, it would be nice for the government to have an opposition other than the Tory backbenches, some day.

{2016.07.23 09:55} : Comments (0)

Overheard in London

A gruff-voiced building contractor type on his phone, outside a pub yesterday:

My issue ain't about reducing costs, it's about havin' them.

{2016.07.19 11:42} : Comments (0)

Leave

And that's that. I voted Remain, and I'm disappointed that we're leaving. As I mentioned before, I was a philosophical Leave and a practical Remain. There were good arguments for Brexit and for Remain - but in the end two things won it for me. The first was freedom of movement, and second, no matter how many eloquent arguments there were for Leave, I couldn't bring myself to side with the Farages of this world.

At least now it's over. I've removed my pro/con posts for Brexit. I never got to say all I wanted to say or convey as much balance as I wanted, and this whole thing has ended up being ugly enough. I'd rather not be part of it.

I don't think this is the end of the world, and I think there will be silver linings. Democracy sucks sometimes, but I still think it's better than the alternative. Life goes on.

{2016.06.25 10:57} : Comments (0)

Tower Bridge

Enough of the EU for a bit. A ride into work this week was held up by one of those cool things that you never expect to happen, but they do, and they remind you that you live in London and how lucky you are to do so.

I briefly tried a new cycle route into work (too much of a detour, though the East-West cycle superhighway thingy in London is awesome), which took me over Tower Bridge instead of London Bridge. As I turned onto the bridge, the barriers came down, and traffic came to a standstill.

Next thing, up went the bridge, and we were treated to the sight of a rather strained-looking tugboat and cruise ship making their way through the bridge, down the Thames. I hadn't realised that cruise ships come up the river, but turns out they do.

Plenty of cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge were taking pictures and filming it, and then when the ship came past the people on the ship started waving and cheering, and people on the bridge waved and cheered back. It was all rather nice.

Just about every person on the cabin balconies was wearing a white gown.

And then the bridge came down again, and some sirens started sounding, and a distorted voice on the tannoy said something along the lines of 'don't move until the lights are green', although cyclists and motorcyclists, now bunched up in front across both lanes (on both sides), were squeezing through as the gates started opening, and there was lots of shouting and cussing as people realised that Braveheart-style head-on collisions were in the making, and people hustled and squeezed back into the right lanes, and then things returned back to normal, and I got to work 15 minutes late.

{2016.06.19 22:30} : Comments (0)

QOTD: EU Edition

"Among my people, the argumentative, the stylised practices of the Oxford Union and any and all other debaters are held in special contempt. Such practitioners are but perfumed musketeers to our honest brawling."

More

{2016.06.19 00:44} : Comments (0)

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