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The writer's complaint

Why is it that, having pretty much nailed down one project, the next thing I really want to work on is the next-but-two novel (rather than the one that's next in the publisher's schedule)?

I've pretty much finished work on "Wireless", the new short story collection that's coming out next August. All that remains for me to do is to fix the introduction (which currently feels a bit flat). Next in the work queue is "The Trade of Queens", the sixth Merchant Princes novel (and thefinal one in the current series, although there's scope for me to write a second series, picking up events ten years down the line). After that, I'm supposed to write "419", the sequel to "Halting State"; "The Fuller Memorandum" isn't due on my editor's desk until 2010. So how come that's the one I keep accidentally opening and adding bits to?

Damn it, some people are never satisfied!

In other news: I am trying desperately hard not to dive into the murky waters of US politics in this blog: not so much a case of putting lipstick on a pig, as one of trying to teach the pig calculus — all expressing my opinions would achieve would be to get all parties concerned covered in mud (and to annoy the pig). Nevertheless, a plea for those of you who get to vote in that election? Try and remember that it's not just the USA that gets to live with your choice of president (and, possibly, vice-president) for the next 4 or 8 years.

Finally, tomorrow is the RAF Leuchars annual air show, this time commemorating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force. I shall be there, with sunblock and camera (and a waterproof, just in case). Hopefully, Vulcan XH558 will be there, too . Mmm, jet fumes!



Unfortunately, we Americans are choosing who will be prosecuting foreign wars of aggression for the benefit of a corporate minority, not whether or not to have them.


probably you keep going back to it because, deep down, you know it's the one everybody is waiting for hardest. Or at least me. Hmmm. Did I just do that thing again where I think everyone who matters has the same taste as me? Well no problem, all smart people will agree with me anyway cough


You do realize, Charlie, that saying "Try and remember that it's not just the USA that gets to live with your choice of president (and, possibly, vice-president) for the next 4 or 8 years" is fairly non-productive. Those on the right would be avoiding electing an inexperienced empty suit who looks like a deer caught in the headlights without a teleprompter for president, and an arrogant, gaffe prone gasbag for vice-president, and those on the left would be avoiding electing a war-mongering Bushitler clone for president, and an inexperienced moose-murderer for vice president.

As for the plea, whenever those of you in Europe start caring about what us cowboys in the US think in your elections, we'll return the favor. Until then, just try and stay out of the way, ok?


To Skip: nevertheless, I hope you do realize when you state this, that still, whatever the outcome of the Austrian elections at the end of September, the consequences for US-citizens will be .. uh .. zero? Whereas the consequences of the US-election (or elections in Russia, if for now we accept them at face-value) for citizens of the rest of the world are an undeniable fact.

Plus, I guess the "inexperienced moose-murderer" (wouln't that mean the moose are at an advantage?) bit takes, for me, a backseat to the fact that she's yet another religious loon.


Can anyone confirm or deny the truthiness of this:

(If corroborated, I figure it's rather ... alarming.


Well, Palin is an Assemblies of God pentecostal, and those are the sorts of things that pentecoastals get up to (along with drinking poison and handling snakes, speaking in tongues, rolling around on the floor, etc.)

That she is a young earth creationist who believes in the end days and not in evolution... not that far fetched, from where I'm sitting.

Her congregation is displaying pretty good media discipline, though, so it will be hard to get information on "was she at event X, and was statement Y made there" unless there are pre-existing media stories.

What are you looking for in terms of confirmation, NYT articles?


Any other sources, basically (which aren't obvious smear jobs or Rove-style amp-up-the-bad-news-then-debunk-it propaganda gambits).

I am not terribly amused by the prospect of the #2 in the US nuclear release chain of command, behind a #1 who is 72 and a malignant melanoma survivor, being of an inclination to immanetize the eschaton.

(The candidates' family lives are their own business, from my viewpoint -- but ideology and beliefs are another matter, because they may determine their future actions once in office.)


Any one particular belief (that they brought in an African Witchfinder, etc) may be incorrect or a setup... but the general picture is solid.


Aw, c'mon Charlie!

Your comments on our political system are way

more intelligent than most of the crap I read.

I apologize in advance if the mayor of Moosejaw, Alaska

becomes our president somehow. I personally feel physically

ill every time I see her face.


Charlie, I can confirm the general outlines of the Third Wave -- those people and that stuff are all real and basically as described. I have personally met and worked with members of the Third Wave.

It's Sarah Palin's personal involvement that I don't have sufficient personal (read "Non-media-intermediated)knowledge to confirm or deny.


Don't know about what's in the article, but it wouldn't be too surprising considering that her church had the director of 'Jews for Jebus' about three weeks ago (recordings available on YouTube), presumably speaking about the need to convert us (Jews that is). Along with what she's been filmed saying at her church, essentially that the war in Iraq is god's will, for one, and her attempts at book banning as mayor.

In the interview with her last she came off (imo) as smug, half of what she said were cliches, and she didn't really answer the questions. Asked whether the US would support an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear installations, she said "We cannot second guess Israel's actions" or words to that effect. She repeated that threee times, after the last time Charlie Gibson knew he wasn't going to get a straight answer and went on.


Skip, the attempt at equivalence is amusing. In fact, you've got a new one on me.

First, why does Barack Obama strike you as "an inexperienced empty suit who looks like a deer caught in the headlights without a teleprompter"? Really?

"Lefty guy whose policy stances I disagree with," that one I get. "Fellow I agree with but don't like because he rubs me the wrong way" is a stupid way to vote, but I'd be lying if I didn't understand it. But empty suit? What does that mean? I am overcome with curiousity.

(I should point out here that I have spoken with the empty suit in question, but I'm just a pointy-headed academic and so clearly don't count. Or something.)

Second, why is there an equivalence between "empty suit" and "war-mongering Bushitler clone"? That choice would seem pretty clear.

Anyhoo, how are you, Charlie? Been a while since I took at look at your place.


I've been busy (and exhausted from too much whatever). Currently re-writing the intro to the short story collection I handed in last week, planning on starting a new novel next week, and trying to keep next year's travel committments from snowballing out of control. (Because? Three months on the road in a single year is too much.)


Ah, and Skip: I pay a lot of attention to and opine freely about foreign elections whose result will impact the United States.

Like Mexican ones. Vitally important, at least if you're paying attention. Or, these days, elections in Russia's near-abroad. Also important.

As a patriotic American, like myself, you really ought to have strong opinions about some of them there foreign elections.

Not Western European ones, though, probably. Not a whole lot at stake for America one the outcomes of recent ones, Spain's '04 vote partially excepted.

Reverse doesn't hold, obviously.


Noel, I dunno. Some European elections are critically important in the long term. Take the Irish referendum on the EU treaty, for example. I bet it didn't get much news coverage in the USA, but if the press had been paying attention -- "Irish public to decide whether EU is going to proceed down the path towards becoming a global military superpower in 25 years" might have begun to scratch the surface.

One of the most interesting sociological phenomena of US politics in the past decade is how inward-looking and self-obsessed it has become, despite being impinged upon in the most difficult-to-ignore ways imaginable by the rest of the world. Deck chairs, Titanic, you know the drill; just like the British circa 1908.


RAF Lechars, eh? I've never been there, but I wouldn't mind going one day. My father was based there in the last 6 months of the war as a pilot with 547 Squadron, a Coastal Command outfit operating Liberators over the Baltic, North Sea and Atlantic. There's a couple of pics at the link, plus the inspiration for a ghost story... a 547 Liberator from Leuchars was shot down by three U-Boats in the last few days of the war, in fact after Donitz had ordered all his U Boats to surrender. One of them, U534, was sunk and salvaged (it wasn't a war grave) and displayed in the UK.


This is a critical election for the US and probably the whole world. We (in the US) now have a chance to undo some of the horrible wreckage of the past 8 years and get the country back on course. If we get McCain and Caribou Barbie instead, I fear that we will just slide further in the direction of corporate fascism and fundamentalist terrorism (from the Christians) for many years to come.


MWT, you'd probably better examine Obama's policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan more closely before you start suggesting he wouldn't be destroying villages to save them.


Many years ago I stood outside my parents' house - about 250 yards from mine - and watched in awe as a squadron of 12 Vulcans came in to land at RAF Acklington about 6 miles away. The noise! Acklington is a prison now and there's just one Vulcan left in the air (sometimes)

It is still the sound of US foreign policy, though.


B.Dewhirst - I don't recall suggesting any such thing. I'm not completely comfortable with Obama on many levels. He voted for telecom immunity (i.e. "wiretapping for fun and profit is fine!"), which to me was an unforgivable move cynical expediency on his part.

On the other hand McCain sold out decades ago and is a simpering political reptile of the first order, with a forked tongue, a hair-trigger temper and a tendency to go off half-cocked. Combine him with our very own rapture-awaiting Dolores Umbridge (only much, much more dangerous and ignorant) and you have a recipe for a government that won't be destroying villages, but whole countries, to save them.


[Note: that should read " unforgivable move of cynical political expediency..."]


I didn't know any Vulcan's were still flying. Wikipedia ( states that there is one still flightworthy - the XH558 that you mention. Very cool. We seem to have more WWII flightworthy aircraft than post-WWII jets. There's always a B17 to take people for a ride at US displays.


Postscriptum: It seems that the Vulcan XH558 is a bit iffy regarding appearances: I hope she makes it for you Charlie.


Alex: it's somewhat harder to keep high-subsonic (or supersonic) jets flying than piston-engined planes; the newer aircraft tend to be a whole lot more complicated, and XH558 is a four-engined strategic bomber(!) so keeping just one of 'em airworthy was quite an achievement.

I suspect that as/when the F15/F16/Tornado and other fighters of their generation retire, none of 'em will be kept flightworthy without heroic efforts. Although there are a couple of MiG-29s in private hands, and a lunatic (former test pilot) who bought a Sea Harrier and is trying to get it flightworthy for display purposes ...



Long Time No See. Do you still go to SHWI anymore? I took a look recently and saw no sign of Coyu, Bernard, Muir or a lot of other folks I respect. Any of the Old Guard still hanging out there?


Steven, SHWI turned into a cesspit years ago: I occasionally look in, but really, there's nothing to see there -- much less to post on.


I'm down in Vulcan country, and had ballistic missiles just down the road when Kennedy and Kruschev got tense over Cuba, and before that it was a big chunk of RAF Bomber Command going out at night about their bloody business.

I've seen a flight of Vulcans do a scramble. I've seen RAF displays interrupted for supersonic interceptors to take off and intercept.

I can remember seeing missiles on their launch pads.

We were a superpower once. Our elections, our leaders, used to matter to the world.

The USA is the superpower now.

Your leaders matter, because they have the authority to harm a lot of people, throughout the world.

Your elections matter, and it worries me that there are so many signs that your country cannot run honest elections.

Maybe you ned a dictator: somebody such as Oliver Cromwell. Not that he'd go down well in Boston.


Dave, it isn't Oliver Cromwell that is the problem, it is the Rodger Cromwells (And George the IIIrds, and Bush the IInds, and McCain the IIIrds...) (Still... I'd get plowed under with the Diggers and Levellers.)

Democracies at home and Shahs abroad have never been a particularly good combination either.

(Perhaps, given your apt comment wrt our elections, that should be "Democracies.")

Pity about your 42-day suspension of habeas corpus and the other bits of rot you've picked up from us, or I'd still be looking across the pond for somewhere to flee to.


I have been chuckling over the European angst over our election, obviously I am American. Folks it is possible for you to vote in our elections in the future, either move over here and become a citizen or more likely get your country to become a US state. It is so cool, you get representation in congress, the White House and Wallmart Stores, no kidding. You will be welcomed with open arms. The only draw back is that you can no longer declare war on other countries without going through the tiresome political games the UN imposes on the US.


charlie @28: there is no way in hell that any current EU member state -- except possibly Poland -- would be welcomed into the USA with open arms.

Clue: Poland's about the only place that wouldn't be guaranteed to send Socialist representatives to Washington (never mind left wing Democrats).

As for no longer declare war on other countries without going through the tiresome political games the UN imposes on the US, that boot is on the wrong foot. Hint: who established the UN in the first place, and why?


The only draw back is that you can no longer declare war on other countries without going through the tiresome political games the UN imposes on the US.

You can, however, have the fun of invading and bombing them without bothering to declare war. Which is, apparently, almost as much fun…


The same reason I'm working on a sample for an artist when I'd really like to be working on one of my own pieces. We said we would.

So "waterproof" is a rain poncho? wind breaker?

As to Palin and the Third Wave, all the videos from inside the church have been taken down because of copyright. That should probably be a clue. The Third Wave is real, and Palin went to a church for most of her life that believed in it.


Forget Poland, a Euro-state can wait, if we're gonna dream let's dream BIG!

Start with formalizing 'special relations' US+UK (you can keep up your healthcare we'll keep our guns.)

Then tie up the North Atlantic. +CAN

tie up the Indian Ocean +ZAF +IND

bring in our buddies in the South Pacific +AUS +NZL

tie up the North Pacific +PHL +KOR +JPN

and since this is dreaming +ROC +ISR


Remember, Mrs. Simpson was an American.

(Not that the spare didn't turn out pretty good.)


Charlie @23: it's somewhat harder to keep high-subsonic (or supersonic) jets flying than piston-engined planes; the newer aircraft tend to be a whole lot more complicated.

I wonder if there will ever be a hardware analog of your data hole due to proprietary formats that you postulated in "Glasshouse". I'm thinking that there will always be simple[r] technologies that can be recreated or continued (c.f. the Antikythera device that was rebuilt from careful x-ray analysis), technology that will never be recreated due to technological complexity embedded in its manufacturing period, e.g. advanced jet aircraft, and advanced technology that will continue because it is self repairing and possibly replicating, e.g. gene engineered organisms today.


charlie @28 It is so cool, you get representation in congress

Not bloody likely.

Wahington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam etc. get token reprenstation in the House of Represtatives, and none in the Senate.


charlie @28 It is so cool, you get representation in congress

Don't count on it.

Wahington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam etc. get token reprenstation in the House of Represtatives, and none in the Senate.

Yes, I know those aren't states, but considering that DC and Puerto Rico have had no luck getting statehood, it's not too likely that any place else will anytime soon.


I think you discuss the future of American politics quite well in "Accelerando". Just replace President Santorum with President Palin.


I've seen similar comments in FireDogLake and Hullabaloo, so, yes, I believe the description of Palin's church is essentially correct. Follow some of my links on the "Someone Wrong On Internet" thread over at ML if you want more on her. See also here on Cat's blog.


As a UKer, I wish Obama didn't have this almost messianic like aura hanging round him. He's a politician, so he's probably just a very naughty boy. But, as politicians go, he doesn't seem that bad - I'd vote for him and fee he wouldn't do anything stupid, and might even improve the world. The cult-like thing can only cause a damaging rebound.

Besides, I'd rather vote for a rabid poodle than a republican. Especially a morally retarded b*tch like that Palin woman.


I may not even bother voting for president because I live in New York State, and there's a greater than 99.9% chance that our state will pick the Democratic candidate. If we reform the entire electoral college system here in the U.S. to have presidents elected by popular vote of the entire country rather than by the totals in each state, it would create greater voter participation among people who live in states where the election outcome is obvious before the voting even begins.


Moving to the lighter side of your comments; Vulcans rule!

I have to admit that I have a certain soft spot for Avro Vulcans for a very sad reason, I live in the Chicago area and clearly remember the crash of a Vulcan that was in the area for the Chicago Air & Water Show during a practice flight. The Vulcan was a favorite of the show, and the loss of the plane and it's crew deeply affected us all.


It's not looking too good in the visibility stakes for Leuchars today, but I hope there will be something pointy & fast to see to make your trip worthwhile. Last time I was there (late 80's) there was a Vulcan flying but considering it had just been retired from service, it wasn't to surprising. The 'Black Buck' mission to bomb the airfield at Stanley in th Falklands in 1982 is an amazing tale, well told in Roland White's book Vulcan 607


Michael Rosefield, #39: "I wish Obama didn't have this almost messianic like aura hanging round him." It's not Obama--it's the USA. When things go sour, we start looking for someone to anoint. That's what gives life to both the Obama and the Palin candidacy.

And lay off the sexist remarks--they're creepy and they play into the hands of the conservatives.


As a German, all that I have to know about the US elections to know that the candidates must be nutcases is the discussion if a certain candidate is nationalistic enough. Been there, done that, no fun.


Vulcans used to go rather close above Pilsdon Pen in Dorset, where we were digging for older generations of technology and society.

Very impressive sight.


Obama's main weakness is experience. Not that it means he'll be a bad President -- another Illinois Lawyer, Abe Lincoln had less. But it does make it extremely difficult to defend himself. He doesn't have any examples of past actions or policies to bring out to show what sort of President he'd be.

As for Palin, I think this is a case where the Left and the Right are seeing completely different things. Regarding experience, that only matters if you think McCain will die right away. If, say, he lasts 2 years then Palin has 2 years experience as VP as well as 2 years as Governor which is more than Obama who wants to start as President. As for religion.... at least 1/3rd of the US population agrees with her and sees someone like them. Everything you find scary about her excites them. And for Alaska, she's amazingly free of corruption and has the small-government cred that McCain has worked into his campaign. Which will probably help bring in a lot of the libertarian Republicans who were thinking of voting for Barr.

Of course, Libertarians as a whole are screwed, as usually. You either have the big-spending Nanny State & Welfare Party or the big-spending Warmonger & Bible Party.


The other advantage of Palin for McCain is that it seems like the press and left-bloggers are devoting huge amounts of words to attacking Palin and paying much less attention to McCain. It's almost as if the race had turned into Obama vs. Palin and McCain and Biden are meaningless.

Which I think is a bad idea, they should have just dismissed Palin and focused on McCain. Now they have voters comparing Obama to a Vice Presidential candidate in their minds...


charlie @28: OK, why can't I vote in US elections? No, I'm not going to move to the US, and there's no way I'd want the UK to join the US, but I have investments in the US and thus I'm forced to pay US withholding taxes. So, what happened to "no taxation without representation"?

Anyone fancy dressing up as druids and throwing McDonalds into the Thames estuary? :-)


@46: Left? Right? From outside the US, the Dems and Reps are both right-wing parties. There is no mainstream left-wing party in the US.


Randolph, #43:

If she'd been a man I'd have said "morally retarded b*stard". It's not me that's sexist, it's the bleeding language -- I use those words in exactly the same spirit, but they seem gender-specific.


Don't know about the US election. I suppose that we in the rest of the world just have to put up with the result, it's like the weather, you hope for a good summer but you have to live with what comes along.

Going back to books - Charlie, since you mentioned "The Fuller Memorandum" and Anthony Price's books, I've been tracking them down and reading them - I had never heard of them before. They're interesting, I have to say. I like the "10 things going on at once, and you only really know about 3 of them, then you find there are really 15" thing. Now who does that remind me of...?


tp1024, according to Fox News and CNN, only foreigners are nationalistic. Americans are always patriotic. Look at their coverage of China, for example…


"419" is the one I'm dying for. Want!

I think the publication process takes way too long for accurate near-future SF, seeing as the present is already hot on your tail.


Being an aviation nerd from way back, I would love to see a flying Vulcan. Or Victor or Valiant or (incredibly unlikely, as they were all scrapped) a TSR.2. I have gotten to see several RAF ww2-veteran aircraft (Hurricane, Lancaster, Spitfire) quite a few years ago, when I got sent on a business trip to NGTE in Pyestock and the DH.88 Comet replica being built at what was deHaviland's plant in Hatfield (by the time I got there it was BAe's, and I was working for the company that had sold them engines for the BAe.146).

I'll be doing my bit to keep the forces of ignorance and reaction out of the White House.



"Token" is probably stretching it; the observers from DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam don't get a vote. It's unfair that several million US citizens have no significant voice in their national affairs because of accidents of geography.


The Vulcan did not take off. It did, however, taxi fast enough to get the nosewheel off the ground. It has to fly under VFR when on display, and the cloud base was below 1000' -- the weather was generally shitty -- so it wasn't cleared for take-off. And neither was much of anything else.

I did, however, manage to get some amateur video footage of a Vulcan showing off on the runway.


Ed @ 55: The US isn't the only one with odd bits that don't have full representation. What about Greenland, who's inhabitants are EU citizens but which isn't part of the EU? Or Aruba, Bermuda, French Polynesia....

DC's case is a bit unfair, but it stems from the decision to make the Capitol independent from any state. They just never expected cities to be so large at the time.

Remember that the US began as lose confederation of semi-independent states that had very different politics and economies, and who were distrustful of each other only somewhat less that they were distrustful of Europe. So our entire elective system was based around the idea of the States electing the Federal government. The Electoral College is another remnant of that. DC is lucky they get electoral votes.

Puerto Rico is another case. They could ask to become a state, their own internal politics just prevent them from doing so. There's a well established procedure they could follow. It would be hard to say how their politics would effect Congress... they tend to identify with the Democrats, but a lot of their positions are different than the mainstream Democrat Party.

Which is, of course, part of the reason nothing is likely to happen soon. Giving full representation to PR and DC would likely add 4 liberal Senators and give the Democrats much more power in the Senate. Their populations are small enough that the House would be less effected. Breaking up California, Oregon, Washington, or Texas would be a way to balance, but the State Legislatures would never agree.


JamesPadraicR @35, actually, DC has a Shadow Senator now, too. But pretty much all they do is to keep reminding Congress that DC would like to make their own decisions, thank you.

Andrew G @46, she is not free from corruption. Troopergate, firing a librarian for not banning books, bringing a $5M stadium into her city and leaving them with the bill, being for the Bridge to Nowhere until it was convenient to be against it, etc.


Marilee @58. I'd forgotten about that. It's been more than 20 years since I lived in the DC area, and I was in my early teens then. I did take a quick look on Wikipedia about Congress to make sure I had the basics right. I just can't beleive that Marion Barry is still around.

Ed C @55 "Token" is probably stretching it; the observers from DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam don't get a vote. It's unfair that several million US citizens have no significant voice in their national affairs because of accidents of geography.

That's what I meant by token. They have representatives who can speak and make arguments, but when it comes down to it, they have no real say in things.

Too bad about that Vulcan. That's one plane I wouldn't mind seeing in he air. Almost like seeing the shuttle Enterprise come into Dulles on the back of its 747, or the Concorde in Colorado--one of its few non-coastal flights.


I had the plesure of going the the big airshow at Edwards, for the 40th birthday of the US Air Force, where they had a visitng VC10, among many interesting planes. (They had the B52 that was used for drop-testing the X15: History! Live! (It was still in use then. They were testing air-to-orbit craft - Pegasus, I think it was called.)


Andrew G@57

"Balance" is why Alaska (expected to be reliably Republican) and Hawai'i (expected to be reliably Democratic) were admitted simultaneously just for that reason.


As a card carrying geek, I have serious issues with Biden, as he has a record of being on the wrong side (from my perspective anyway) of a whole slew of technology policy issues.

That said, given Obama's relative youth and health, I'll just hope they keep Biden far away from technology policy, and eventually vote against Biden in the 2016 Democratic primaries. ;-)

As for future novels, I am pining for more Eschaton and Glasshouse (does that milieu have a name?) books. Any on the horizon?


Randolph 43 and MR 39

I concur. Things have been so bad, a lot of folks want someone to sweep in a "save" us. I think even if Obama was so saintly, the fact that he is working within the limits of the US political system limits the amount of reform he could do.

The scary thing is that the Bush administration has installed so many ideological loyalists throughout the govt. that Obama would have to purge almost every agency to remove obstructionists. This would set a god-awful precedent of nearly reorganizing the government after every election.


I think you keep doing this because the Laundry novels are just cool.Not that your other work is chopped liver, but that series makes my "cool" meter go into overload:)


Take the Irish referendum on the EU treaty, for example. I bet it didn't get much news coverage in the USA, but if the press had been paying attention -- "Irish public to decide whether EU is going to proceed down the path towards becoming a global military superpower in 25 years" might have begun to scratch the surface.

Can't see the Euros making the investments required to start heading that way without some enormous changes, not to mention a plausible enemy or two.


Adrian @ 65: The EU's combined military spending is already second in the world. Over $300 billion, and without the major overseas commitments that the US military has.

The EU would need to reorganize their militaries in to a single force to become a military superpower, however. There's a lot of duplication and no unified policy or control. The current situation is something like that of the US in the first half of the 19th century, when each state controlled it's own militia of vastly different qualities and sizes.

Whether this is good or bad is for the EU to decide. But as it is right now the EU militaries for the most part seem to be industrial welfare programs. They'd need to drop the duplicate equipment designs for starters, and end national service requirements in favor of an all volunteer force.


My wife and I agree that the best reportage on Sarah Palin was last night's Saturday Night Live opening skit. Anyone who likes may amplify for the TV-challenged.

The USA has one major political party: the Property & Incumbency Party. It has two wings, each of which branch into various feathers.

This might not matter to the world as a whole, where China and India are more important. Except that the USA led the charge into certainly the greatest financial crisis since World War II, arguably the greatest in a century, and (to at least one of my smart friends) the greatest in human history.

Hence every day we argue about Sarah Palin, tempting though that may be, is one day that we do not grapple with the mega-crisis. Which brings us 10 days closer to doomsday.

Okay, I have some homework assignments in Chem, Bio, Anatomy & Physiology to grade. And some draft arXiv papers to rewrite. And some mss that came back from editors (i.e. Analog, New Yorker, The Atlantic) to resubmit elsewhere (cf. Heinlein's 5 Rules). And an Appellate Court Reply Brief to rewrite and reformat.

Oh, and as to the start of this thread, have we ever explicitly discussed, here, our theories of Time Management? Clearly, Charlie's been telling us a LOT about how he does it so well. As does, in another blog, the greatest mathematician of his generation: Terry Tao.


Last week the Republicans kept going on about how Palin has 'Executive Experience' because she's a governor.

Well Alaska has a population of 683,478 (2007 est.) Manhattan has 1,620,867. Seems Michael Bloomberg is probably more qualified.

And if Alaska being near Russia (the cold, sparsely populated part) gives her 'Foreign Relations Experience' as the Republicans claim, maybe I can be ambassador to the UK, I spent a week in Scotland acouple of years ago.


JamesPadraicR @59, Marion Barry is not only still around, he's still causing trouble. He thinks his district didn't get enough of the summer job money (for teens) so he held up the bill that would have gotten all the DC schools repaired and set up (fire extinguishers, etc.) before school starts. He's pretty annoying, and I live in VA!


I do want to know more about Mr. Stross's Time Management secrets. I am serious about the USA surrendering the leadership of the world to China and India (with the EU close behind). Putting my money where my mouth is, I have coauthored a long technical paper "Complexity, Competitive Intelligence, and the 'First Mover' Advantage" in the September 2008 special issue on "Stratgy Execution" of Effective Executive journal, the Icfai University Press, Hyderabad. And I'm rewriting several draft papers to please the session chairman of the first international Complex Systems conference in China (2009).

From the Los Angeles Times blog.

Live from New York, it's "Sarah Palin"! (Oh, and "Hillary Clinton," too)

'Saturday Night Live' kicked off its 34th season last night with a 'nonpartisan message' from Sen. Hillary Clinton (SNL regular Amy Poehler) and Gov. Sarah Palin (guest Tina Fey).

As the two stood behind a lectern, flanked by American flags, "Palin" said they were 'crossing party lines' for this unexpected joint appearance 'to address the now very ugly role that sexism is playing in the campaign ...'

'... an issue which I am frankly surprised to hear people suddenly care about,' interjected "Clinton."

And it got better from there.

'PALIN': "You know, Hillary and I don't agree on everything ..."

'CLINTON' (OVERLAPPING): "Anything. I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy."

'PALIN': "And I can see Russia from my house."

'CLINTON': "I believe global warming is caused by man."

'PALIN': "And I believe it's just God hugging us closer."

'CLINTON': "I don't agree with the Bush Doctrine."

'PALIN': "I don't know what that is."

Poehler portrayed Clinton in a number of sketches last season, including one that satirized what was seen as the media's love affair with her opponent for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama. Fey's strong resemblance to Palin was noted as soon as Sen. John McCain picked the virtually unknown Alaska governor as his running mate two weeks ago. Fey played that resemblance up last night, arranging her hair in a striking updo and perfectly mimicking Palin's flat prairie accent.

[UPDATE: Palin was flying from Nevada to Colorado when the show was broadcast but was able to see it, thanks to the satellite TV system on her JetBlue charter. According to ABC News, there were guffaws from the sizable press pack aboard the plane -- but only silence from the front cabin, where Palin and her advisors were seated, even though flight attendants told reporters that it was on there too.]

Speaking of Obama, he had been scheduled to appear on "SNL" last night but canceled, citing the devastation in Texas resulting from Hurricane Ike.

-- Leslie Hoffecker


For what it's worth, that's the book I really want to read! :) (I was only recently introduced to the Price books, and they were lovely -- I really want to see the laundry in that world.)


Rove (Australian comedy show) had a run of lipstick on a pig jokes last night. The one that stuck in my head though was when they showed a clip of Miss Piggy. OMG! It's all makes sense! Sarah Palin IS Miss Piggy!


So the Democrats are elitists who think they know better, and the Republicansare elitists who know how to use that fact. Why is it so surprising to everyone that the Democrats keep losing? Who ever wanted to hear that someone else knows better? Who likes being lectured?

The sheer failure of imagination that the Left has displayed in attacking Sarah Palin is extraordinary -- they played into every possible trap. And they continue in their refusal to accept one simple fact -- elections are not won on an intellectual basis. They are won on an emotional basis. Bill Clinton understood this, and won. Obama does not seem to have that touch.


Big city mayors have considerable executive experience and deal with lots of people... but it's not quite the same thing as a US state governor's job. It lacks... scope, to borrow a handy word from Doc Smith. Governors usually have a wider field of people they're responsible to, and a different type of duties, more practice at integrating different interests, and a much much different relationship with the legislative branch. Their job is essentially President-in-miniature -- which I think is why successful governors usually beat anyone else (except big-winning generals like Washington and Eisenhower) for the US Presidency. Consider the political lifetimes of most of us -- Bush 2. Clinton. Reagan. Carter. Most everyone else in that period was one of their VPs. Mayors don't make it -- look at how fast Giulani folded this time around, or how far Fiorello La Guardia got last century.

On the literary side, while Glasshouse was fun, and I can't wait to see how the Merchant Princes end up, the Laundry books are some of the most fun I've had in a long time, so I'll just encourage our esteemed host to keep opening up that file...


Being an aviation nerd from way back, I would love to see a flying Vulcan. Or Victor or Valiant or (incredibly unlikely, as they were all scrapped) a TSR.2.

I had thought the TSR.2's were not just scrapped but scrapped with extreme prejudice -- but a look at Wikipedia shows that a couple of airframes actually survived. However the most interesting part of the Wikipedia page is the recently added discussion about why it was scrapped; evidently a part of the problem was that Harold Macmillan issued a directive that British tac nukes had to be less than 10kT because he was concerned about escalation. Exactly how this follows mystifies me, as surely any use of nukes at all would then be a concern, regardless of size, but I suppose there is some convoluted piece of Cold War reasoning there...


Michael@75: "evidently a part of the problem was that Harold Macmillan issued a directive that British tac nukes had to be less than 10kT because he was concerned about escalation."

I didn't know that. At the time it was an issue about funding and was presented as TSR2 or Concord. Concord won (as it should) even though ultimately it was a failed experiment. Subsequently the UK has several issues on funding military programs - submarine based missiles and AWACs. Ultimately the 'build vs buy' was strongly pushed towards 'buy' when it became apparent the UK technology was going to be more expensive and less advanced than the US's. Sometimes I wish that the UK had just gone ahead and funded stuff. Great example - the Black Knight rocket. Stephen Baxter wrote a wonderful alternate history story about a manned launch using this rocket. No doubt this path will be followed by the US in the next 50 years or so.


Aaah! The TSR-2 saga. The reason given at the time (1965) was that UK could not afford it, and the cancellation was part of a deal, denied by the then Defence Minister Denis Healey, to get an American backed IMF loan. If you're looking for a conspiracy then the fact that the TSR-2 was further down the development road, had much more capability and had much better export prospects than a certain General Dynamics F-111, which is only now being finally phased out, could be what you are looking for. The TSR-2's undercarriage is an engineering marvel in the way its tucks itself up into the aircraft.


Meh, do you really think it makes any difference? Its a < href-"">Coke vs Pepsi choice. Sure the one is preferable to the other and not quite as moronic but in terms of making any appreciable difference you're out of luck.

What? you want to drink water? Bad luck, not on the menu.


Given the number of political comments it's a shame you didn't post two blog posts :)

Re: writing motivation. I am not a professional writer so I can't draw on personal experience, but my gut-feeling advice would that if the muse was instructing me to work on something in particular, I'd throw my all into it until the muse points elsewhere. I'd suspect that the itch to work on it would mean my writing on another work would not be up to scratch. If this doesn't sound like you I'd be very interested to hear that.


Apropos the TSR.2, I have some photos kicking around somewhere of the one that's sitting in pride of place in the exhibit hall at the RAF Museum annex at Cosford :)


I saw a TSR2 at Duxford years back. Someone has a flickr photo online; may be the same one, but tarted up (when I saw it, the engine bays were empty, I think).


Andrew G @58: "The US isn't the only one with odd bits that don't have full representation. What about [...], French Polynesia..." sez:

"French Polynesia also sends two deputies to the French National Assembly, ..."

"French Polynesia also sends one senator to the French Senate..."

"French Polynesians vote in the French presidential elections..."

So this is like Puerto Rico how?


"Fuller memorandum" huh?

THIS: Fuller?



Yes, that Fuller. Although that brief bio misses out some of the more interesting bits. Like his period in Russia after the revolution (training the White Russians in armoured warfare), or the extent of his occultism (#2 to Crowley in the Order of the Silver Star).

You can probably guess why he shows up in a Laundry novel ...


Charlie: SHWI still has a few posters keeping things interesting.

"Decades of Darkness" still chugs along.

"Empty America" recently resurfaced.

"A Better Show in 1940," where the RAF does just well enough to sucker the Germans into Sealion, is very well researched and interesting.

All of these are consistently excellent. But yeah, you have to scan a lot of sewage to see the gems.


Well you only have one option (I'm on books here, not politics). Just hurry up and finish the rest of the damn books to get onto the Fuller'. Once you're onto the third book, it's ripe for Miniseries serialisation :P

Although I'll still read every last one, the Laundry ones remain my firm favourites. Though I am looking right forward to the completion of the Merchant Princes - I really want to see how these pan out.

And as an aside: Michael R. Bernstein - quick, read the FAQ, and just don't ask about the Eschatonn series - there will be no more (unless, maybe someone offers Mr S a obscene amount of cash and beer - but you'd have to try that to see how it goes!)


Back to planes. Two I'd love to see in the air, but never will; XB-70 Valkyrie & XF-85 Goblin (as much for amusement as anything). Well, if I ever get to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Pat will have to do. Saw a Goblin at the SAC Museum (now the Strategic Aerospace Museum) near Omaha years ago, one of those "that actually flew?" planes.


To everyone who thinks Obama is losing this campaign I say 1) He still has the lead when you do the electoral college math and 2) If Obama has been masterful at anything over his long campaign it's in not playing his hand too early. He's always peaked at just the right time. Now with the news of the financial crisis, which will only get worse in the next month, Obama's in the perfect position to strike hard just before the election.


Ah yes, Obama's credibility on the finance and housing crisis. I'm not sure the #2 recipient of donations from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the past decade has much credibility there. Somehow I don't think raising taxes on a class of people who are rapidly losing large amounts of their wealth is sound fiscal policy.


Oops. thanks for the heads-up Serraphin, I guess I hadn't checked the FAQ in quite a while.

Dang. That just makes the Iron Sunrise Shadow-O'-Impending-Doom ending that much more annoying. Oh well.

Hmm. Perhaps a Glasshouse prequel would avoid running afoul of the 'no far-future or singularity novels' rule?


@Andrew G: You know none of that matters. Whether it's right or wrong, the Republican administration (and McCain by association) will be seen as the chief culprits in this meltdown in the eyes of the general public. All Obama needs to do is keep the finger pointed at them.


Andrew G@67: Whether this is good or bad is for the EU to decide. But as it is right now the EU militaries for the most part seem to be industrial welfare programs. They'd need to drop the duplicate equipment designs for starters, and end national service requirements in favor of an all volunteer force.

That's what I can't imagine - the amount of sovereignty their governments'd have to give up to do it would require both a plausible (ie major) threat and a manageable timescale for responding to it. Can't see either one on the horizon myself, though who knows what the future may bring. Sure, as you say they're spending a lot, but the inertia is huge.


Charlie Stross@15: Sorry about the delay, here. I know what you mean by busy. I just found documentation that the Spanish deported around 150,000 Nicaraguans in 1529-35 in order to build roads in Panama. The Nicaraguan population in 1548? 11,343 households.

But to the matter at hand ... I could quibble and say that the jury is still out on the long-term impact of the Irish rejection of Lisbon, but I won't, because I completely agree that it was an important election.

Steven@25: Charlie's right, SHWI is dead. Every so often ... well, once ... I did an AH-like thing on my blog, and Randy McDonald sometimes puts up fun DBWIs over at his Livejournal page, but that's it.

Sort of AH-like thing here.


Sorry, mistyped link...

A href="">Spontoon Islands


Regarding things the UK should just have gone ahead and funded; yes, the Black Arrow II; everyone knows about the TSR-2; but what about the Fairey Rotodyne?

Further, what gets me is that there isn't a Victor flying. Now that was a hell of an aircraft; there's a great photo in VULCAN 607 of Harold MacMillan inspecting a Victor outfit, standing next to one's nose in his tweed jacket (pocket flap, of course, casual) . It looks like a John Wyndham professor inspecting an alien spacecraft - totally sfnal.


There are all sorts of high-tech and defence-related things the British government did fund back in the 60s and 70s (note that bit, we're not talking private industry initiatives here) -- the SA80 Battle Rifle, Concorde, ICL...

The TSR2 may have turned out to be the greatest thing ever with wings, but it was never really tested and it might have failed in many ways, as other aircraft designs did (Bristol Brabazon, anyone?). As for the concept of a British space launcher, there was nothing about the Black Arrow that made it better than what the Americans were building and it would never have had the cost advantages of the Soviet Vostok production line.

There were successes in aviation around that time, but they were not Government-sponsored; frex the RR Pegasus engine in the Hawker Siddeley P.1127 airframe that led to the Harrier. That project faced outright hostility from the MoD. Any design that can get the US to buy a foreign-made military aircraft in large numbers is by definition a good one.


Alex @ 97

Re the Victor:




Charlie @ #85 That web-link was the first I could find about Fuller. He was wierd. The only Brit General officer NEVER recalled during WWII - offically beacuse of his close links with the Nazis, but one wonders about his associations with Crowley - another version of this sort of thing turns up in Katherine Kurz's "Adept" books.


Coltrane @89: I'm an Obama supporter. However, if I had to choose between Obama being president and removing the electoral college system I would pick the latter. McCain might even get my vote if he advocated the eradication of that unfair and outdated system, though since I mostly interpret his self-appointed MAVERICK label as false, it's doubtful he would ever share my view.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 12, 2008 1:24 PM.

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