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Normal service ....

Will be resumed eventually.

I'm flying home today, but won't arrive until Tuesday evening. Then, this weekend, I'm guest of honour at Satellite III in Glasgow. That gives me approximately 48 hours at home to get over the jet lag and run the washing machine until its bearings glow red-hot. Hopefully I'll have something to say in the meantime.



run the washing machine until its bearings glow red-hot.

You could have picked up one of our "over sized" ones while here? :)


You may have an optimistic idea of modern baggage allowances.

(We have a Dyson one, with the contra-rotating drums. Very effective, but doesn't entirely fit under the counter, and Dyson stopped making them.)


Thing about washing machines; they tend to be wet, so perhaps self-extinguishing?


Friend of mine took the concrete blocks out of his washing machine to carry it up some stairs, and either forgot to put them back or couldn't be bothered. The first and only time he ran it, it jumped all over his kitchen, smashing everything.


Believe me, even a crap soviet-made ball bearing needs to be used pretty hard before it falls apart.

A combine harvester is running maybe ten hours a day at full engine revs, and my back-of-envelope calculation suggests that they were good for 25 million revolutions. Trouble is, that was only half a harvest...

25 million revolutions is a lot for a washing machine.


> so perhaps self-extinguishing?

Which would leave one with the bearings seized and gray water this high ^^^^ | | __ on the kitchen floor. But yeah, it probably would self-extinguish, so that's all right.


Many, many hardware generations ago (in the mid-70s) I worked for a small company that had a NASA contract to build a hypercube computer out of Intel 8080-based microcomputers. We sent a hardware/software team to Texas, where they had the peripheral hardware, including a bunch of hard disk drives the size of washing machines. The project was pretty much a failure; the only useful thing to come out of it was software to make the drive heads seek cyclicly so as to make musical notes. The biggest of the drives would reliably walk across the floor when hitting a bass note.


I only recently discovered your writings and your blog. I find your explorations of the near-future challenging and thought-provoking and look forward to the resumption of your longer blog entries. One of your predictions gives me pause, however. In Accelerando, you mention that the president of the United States in the 2010s is named Santorum. While I pray that this prediction does not come true, I'm curious--How did you happen to pick this name? That novel was published in 2005, which would mean that you probably wrote most of the book in 2003-4. Several parts of it, if I understand the Wikipedia entry correctly, appeared in print even earlier. Even in the United States, Rick Santorum became widely known outside Pennsylvania and the political world only by managing to lose his Senate seat in 2006 by a large margin. If you did indeed have Rick Santorum in mind when you wrote that passage, what was it about politics in the United States that made him seem a likely choice for president to you?


So tell us your opinions of the future of laundry technology, Mister Stross.


Hello Charlie.

Sorry about the off-topic, but you don't have a forum or a general questions thread, so I guess I'll try my luck here.

Basically, I experienced an acute case of fridge logic after reading your story Palimpsest. If I understood everything correctly:

  • Stuff exiting a timegate isn't casually bounded to anything that happened before the timegate.
  • Timegates can be arbitrary big.
  • So why didn't Stasis, instead of fighting a hopeless battle against the inevitable heat death of the universe, simply cycle the entireplanet_Earth, with the Final Library, back into the past? They could then put the Final Library into storage orbit, seed the (new) Earth again, and rinse and repeat until the entire mass of the universe is composed only of diamond memory. And then they could recycle it all for lulz and start again. And again. Literally for (subjective) eternity.


    I'd forgotten about that, John. I'd say Charlie likes to take a worst-case scenario at times to make things interesting... in the Chinese curse sense. In his series about the trade, Cheney is pretty much front-and-center...

    If I were laying out a grim setting for American politics in a fictionalized world, I couldn't think of two guys who would fit the bill better. Why? Because they're very fringe but just plausible enough. That's pretty frightening, right?


    My recollection is that Accelerando was built from a series of short stories written from 1997 to 2003 or so. Where in the book is Santorum mentioned?


    A quick note to just say that I absolutely loved Glasshouse. Thanks, Charlie!

    And thank you for being nice to the very nervous young lady who attempted to interview you a couple of years ago in I think it was Boston. That was quite a gracious attitude to take, treating poorly and nearly incoherently phrased questions with respect and answering them seriously... I can think of quite a few people who would not have acted so courteously.

    Now, what I was searching Youtube for right after finishing Glasshouse--and how I cam across the interview I reference above-- was any interview or presentation you made talking about the feminist themes in Glasshouse. It seems to be a recurrent theme in a number of your novels... I would be curious to hear what leads you to those sorts of critiques and how intentional it is or whether it is more observational in nature. If you've answered this question before, I'd be interesting in looking at your response. Thanks.



    I think it was just sort of in passing... a historical sidenote. It's been a while since I read it.


    Remember also that the original terrorist group in The Atrocity Archive was a then-minor Middle Eastern group called Al Qaeda. That got changed for the final version to a bunch of Iraqi thugs.

    All I have to say is that Charlie will have to deal with the TSA checks if he's right again. He better get used to more US expats asking to couch surf too.


    Actually, I searched the text earlier and discovered that the reference is on page 28, but whether that means anything or not... it may have been an after thought. And the publication date on the first story was either 2000 or 2001.


    Lots of comments here:

    Not so much Charlie's as a lot of comments about the subject.


    Al Qaeda wasn't quite unknown. In 1998 Clinton authorized a cruise missile strike on a base in Afghanistan to get some guy named bin Laden who was behind the bombings of two US embassies in Africa. Wikipedia says it wasn't revealed until after 9/11, but I'd swear that I saw it on the news at the time (or maybe not).


    I have been thinking about the Santorum line in Accelerando for days as that nut case freak has become the front runner. I do not think he will be nominated. The ChristoFacists seem to be in complete overreach mode now as evidenced by the absurd HB-1 in Virginia that would make embryos full persons. They are giving the same bill a shot in Oklahoma as well. One thing about the Stupid party is they always manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Women are going nuts. I do think Little Ricky will be toast over this just watch.


    Oh, I hope Santorum surges all over Romney. Not that I like him at all, but it gives us the ability to trot out things like Exodus 21:22-24 (what the Bible says about punishing induced miscarriages) and annoy our Evangelical debating opponents.


    "President Santorum" is mentioned in chapter two, Troubadours, published in 2001, the year of the Santorum Amendment. Thankfully failed, but another reason to hope the only way he gets in the White House is as a tourist.


    Just to prove that there are still politicians in the US with both some grasp on reality and a keen sense of humor, I'll point out that one Democratic state legislator (in Oklahoma of all places) introduced an amendment to the "Fetal Personhood" bill in her state that would make all sperm sacred. It stated in part, "However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”


    So do you ever find yourself wondering in the Sheffield/Rotherham environs?

    I'm sure Rotherham town centre would be a great place to research dystopias, social breakdown, or cruel and unusual genetics... just saying... :-)

    You need to write up a record of all of your travels someday, maybe frame it as an updated Canterbury Tales.

    American politics does seem dead set on evolving into a parody of itself. Are we actually sure there isn't a Wyld zone in Washington?


    Quick question -

    it's safe to offer random flippant "ideas" in comments isn't it?

    I know authors get paranoid about stupid litigous people with extrordinarily generic "ideas".

    I'm operating under the assumption that anything that I say in a public comment box can be considered safely abandoned to the public domain, and not a problem to Charles, right?

    I'm well aware that Mr Stross is probably capable of coming up with his own ideas, even if mine are, obviously, better than his :-p


    You assumed correctly: it's spelled out in the faq []


    Charlie: You mean y'll no be dein' yer smalls in Water 'o Leith?

    an @ 11 Referring to Cheney .... just plausible enough And now we have Hick Sanatorium, who is totally implausibe, criminally insane, but, unfortunately real. Could anyone make this up?

    TechTropes @ 22 You mean Wath-upon-Dearne? Or Thorne, now it doesn't have a brewery? There's another place, near Swansea, Morriston, that was as bad.


    Actually, washing machines are one of the bigger causes of house fires. Don't forget, they tend to take a GOOD amount of juice to get all those big. wet chunks of laundry spinning. And high current + water is pretty bad combination.


    You had better hope he is not nominated with all of your being. Gas is looking like it's going to be 5 or 6 dollars a gallon by November. Obama is toast. At least 80% of Americans believe that they have personal Invisible Friend (Pick what they call it from the list). Santorum will get elected if he gets nominated he must be stopped now. However; I can tell you thqt I think he is all but finished. I detest Mitt Romney but I think he is going to pull it out of the fire and get nominated. Then he will run hard to the "center". I don't really care I am voting Libertarian no matter what.


    "25 million revolutions is a lot for a washing machine"

    The one I have claims a top spin speed of 1200 rpm. Though I have to say it doesn't feel that fast when I use it. I've had it for over ten years. If I used it at top speed for 40 minutes a week it'd get there. Not that I do use it that fast all the time.

    (The actual washing cycle is more like one spin a second so that would take two or three hundred years of continuous operation...)



    Seriously, there's 86,400 seconds in a day, so it only takes about 300 days to hit your 25 million mark.

    If you're talking about your 40 minutes per week usage rate rather than continuous, then yes, that is about 250 years.


    In Soviet Union, bearing balls you.

    I'll get my coat.


    Well, I was going for humor, but also thinking of how washing machines don't get their insides cleaned out and probably develop a nice coating of flammable dust and lint.

    Come to think of it, GFIs don't seem to be required for washing machine outlets, at least not that I've noticed.


    I've never been in favour of using the Dyson drum design in washing machines, it wastes way too much water with each load.

    I can see why it doesn't fit under the counter, at least :-p


    We'll see. When it gets to May, we'll have a better idea of who's going to be the next US president. Right now it's all posturing.

    I suspect the democrats will appeal to moderate republicans by telling them that, if they don't like Obama, they should vote for him. Why? Whoever is president will be facing 4 years of unremitting crap, and he won't be able to do much about the economy anyway, given the mess Congress has made. Why give that job to someone you like?

    I'm pretty sure that's why all the reasonably competent GOP candidates are sitting this election out.


    I saw on another board a claim that washing machines shouldn't be left unattended, as the heat generated by their moving parts creates a small but real chance of fire. And that in cases where an unattended washing machine caused a fire, insurers will refuse to pay out.

    Anyone else heard that one?

    As for Darth Santorum, he really is doubling down on the crazy: his latest wizard wheeze is to denounce mainstream protestants as tools of Satan:


    Para 3 - I'm going to have fun with that on a US politics website; thank you so very much for the link!! :-D


    timofulz1968 @ 28 I don't really care I am voting Libertarian no matter what. Then you will help a Rethuglican christian autocrat get alected. What an idiot - please grow up - or are you just a troll?

    On second thoughts.. heteromeles @ 34 Don't feed the troll?


    Charlie may feel that timofulz1968 is a new chew toy for us? Alternatively, he may wish to disemvowel the guy!


    but also thinking of how washing machines don't get their insides cleaned out and probably develop a nice coating of flammable dust and lint.

    Me thinks you are thinking of dryers, not washers. Says he who grew up with his father repairing theirs and now him (aged 57) having done it himself. So having seen the insides of more than a few, washers are not really a fire hazard.

    But dryers are. And opening them up every year or so to vacuum out the lint is a really good idea. And not allowing the exhaust to clog better.

    And the local firemen are also big on dryers being the biggest source of house fires. Washers are not even mentioned.


    Come to think of it, GFIs don't seem to be required for washing machine outlets, at least not that I've noticed.

    At this time per the US National Electrical Code, no. But likely within the decade.


    As someone who really really thinks abortions, in general, are a very bad thing. Declaring fetuses as people is incredibly problematic. Brings all kinds of craziness into the picture. Is a woman who's 5 months pregnant guilty of child abuse or manslaughter if she goes jogging and has a mis-carriage.

    How about getting drunk a few nights in a row a month after fertilization?

    This is a bad road to go down. Very bad.


    And that in cases where an unattended washing machine caused a fire, insurers will refuse to pay out. Anyone else heard that one?

    Things like this tend to be urban legends. Being stupid is not grounds for denying a claim. In all states as far as I know. If the insurance company wants to not insure stupid people then they should not issue or renew the policy.

    And unless you are told by someone of authority that an appliance is an imminent fire hazard, the claim will be paid.

    New electrical appliances in the US cannot be sold, for all practical purposes, with out the UL seal. And this has been true for decade. And the UL seal means that it has been tested in many failure modes to not do things like catch fire. For washing machines I'm sure they do things like put rocks in it, run it in a pool o standing water, block the ventilation, etc...


    Firstly is thi blog is not, and never has been, primarily American.

    Secondly, whether or not leaving an electrical appliance in use unattended is grounds for refusing an insurace claim is a matter of contracts law under pretty much any legal code!


    I'm pretty sure that it was a UK based person who gave me that line - so I doubt that the US laws were applicable in this case.

    I suspect you may be right, though.


    "I know authors get paranoid about stupid litigous people with extrordinarily generic "ideas"."

    And here I was about to suggest to Charles a modest competition. We all have to guess the plot of his next book and the winner gets to sue him for plagiarism...


    Can I go first?

    I have a GREAT IDEA for a story in which there is this guy. But secretly, this guy is not just a guy, but a guy working for a secret government department, full of guys that fight monsters, like vampires and things.

    In this story my guy will fight televangelists that are hiding in 10 Downing street. 10 Downing street is where the prime minister lives (according to wikipedia), this means that I can have political intreeg.

    The televangelists will be vampires (because my friend Rudy says that you have to put vampires into books now because this tricks girls into buying them as well)

    Also my guy will have a hot girlfriend who plays the violin.

    I think that this is the best book idea ever, and I would sue the pants off anyone who stole it (no win no fee)

    How am I doing? :-p


    [Back home and jet-lagged -- no sleep in 36 hours]

    After lots of no fun with crap washer-driers, a few years ago I bit the bullet and bought a Miele. Twice as expensive as anything else, but there's no concrete ballast in it -- instead, it's solid Teutonic engineering like wot BMW are famous for, with a cast iron cylinder in which an exotic stainless steel honeycomb-walled drum revolves. You have to listen hard to detect whether it's working, and it slogs through its work load like a Stakhanovite.


    like I said @ 26 ... You mean y'll no be dein' yer smalls in Water 'o Leith?

    ( Having, the last time I was in Dun-Ei-Dinn, walked from Balerno to Leith - a fascinating expedition! )


    Trust me, Rick Santorum was already on my radar in 2004.

    His entertainment value is epic: I reckon the best explanation is that he's Sasha Baron Cohen's longest-running and best political satire, the masterpiece for which Ali G and Borat were merely a warm-up.

    Evidence? someone was obviously a huge Addams Family fan:

    That pic is the ultimate American Political Gothic family portrait. Can't be beat.


    Charlie - welcome back.

    I'm sure that after all your travelling, discussion of washing machines must be exactly what you want to do... or perhaps not - so thanks for the advice (it's relevant to me because we may soon be moving to a house (not a solid Scottish tenement flat, a new built, paper-thin-wall English house) where the washing machine room is upstairs, so news of a low vibration machine is welcome).

    Starting fires: we had a house fire caused by a tumble drier. It must have lasted all of 20 minutes until put out, but the amlount of smoke damage was shocking: we were out of the house for 4 months. Insurance paid no problem. The firepersons said that washing machines, dishwashers and tumblers are all notorious for starting fires.


    Ah, I rigged the game: the timegates in Palimpsest can be arbitrarily big and causality isn't preserved, but they are still constrained by mass/energy inputs and outputs having to match up: they're basically a black/white hole combination (wormhole with an input end and an output end, separated in 4-space), minus the gravitational fun'n'games.


    When writing "The Atrocity Archive" in 1999-2000, I was specifically hunting for a bunch of bampot Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who might plausibly want to attack the USA. In that novel, I gave them occult nasties. Al Qaida was very much on everyone's radar thanks to the embassy bombings and Osama's ranting, even 18-24 months before 9/11: he was the Guy Most Likely To, basically.

    Just a little footwork using public sources pointed me to him. Ditto when I wanted a crazed fundamentalist backwoods President for 2016 in Accelerando -- Santorum was already a public figure notorious for the homophobic attacks by 2004, when I edited and stitched the stories together to make the final novel, and young enough/promising enough in the Republican political movement to be able to go the mile.

    You don't have to be a psychic to get a lot of near future stuff right when you're looking only 10-15 years out; you just need to realise that 90% of the 10-15% time-frame is the same as today only the actors are 10-15 years older and more visible, and go looking for the up-and-coming stars.


    We sent a hardware/software team to Texas, where they had the peripheral hardware, including a bunch of hard disk drives the size of washing machines.

    One of my treasured memories is of visiting ESL in Sunnyvale back in the 1970s and being shown, with great pride, a washing machine sized hard drive with an awesome 500 MB capacity that cost (IIRC) $75,000. Most impressive.


    i set fire to a tumble dryer once.. in hind sight, the duvet might have been pushing it a tad..


    Ah, but with the setup in Palmpsest, how would you know? All you see is that, at some point, a particular formation of mass and energy appeared in the universe; given that setup, there is no corresponding removal of that later on.

    I suppose you could tell by moving something forward in time.

    Time travel hurts my grammar.


    More like I was thinking (but didn't bother mentioning) that I live in Colorado, where it is very dry and dusty*. I have opened up both my dryer and washer in attempts of finding out why they weren't spinning/tumbling--the washer just a few months ago. Couldn't fix either.

    Particularly this past autumn, along with it being a good year for spiders* and cobwebs--which may, or not, explain why some the geocaches that Feorag found last month appeared to not have been found for years. **Like the Black Widow that crawled to say 'Hi' in my kitchen a couple months ago.


    I always feel guilty when I see that picture, because the sight of his little girl crying makes me so happy... I know that the "The frothy mix" couldn't happen to a more deserving person, but I feel bad for hating his kids.

    Of course, the mini-Santorums will probably grow up to be ghouls too, except for the inevitable Gay child, who will either rebel against his/her dad or commit suicide, so maybe my hostility is OK after all.

    I only hope that someone finds Rick's she-male lover and gets pictures before it's too late.


    Time travel hurts everybody's grammar. It's the tense's that do it :-)


    But input\output do match up. Earth is gone in the future, the same Earth appears in the past. No new energy is created.

    Except, obviously, for the obligatory crazy scene where the protagonist have to kill himself. At that particular point, Rule of Cool kicked the Rule of Conservation in the curb...


    You don't have to be a psychic to get a lot of near future stuff right....

    Nope, just pay attention to the news and be good at extrapolating. Which judging from what's been mentioned here, and the original plot for "Rule 34", you're pretty good at.


    And I'm not even going to ask how the Stasis got their hands on that magnificent piece of handwavium called timegate. I suspect Yog-Sothoth (The Lurker at the Threshold, The Key and the Gate, The Beyond One, Opener of the Way, The All-in-One and the One-in-All) was involved.


    No, because in his setup, that future is gone. It never will have existed, and the Earth in the future-that-now-is will not disappear.

    So the universe ends up with more mass and energy when something magically appears. Or less, when something magically disappears into the future (but then it balances out as something magically appears in the future).


    Does not compute. This should happen every time anything moves into the past by timegate. As evident from the plot of Palimpsest, it's not a problem.


    Turns out that energy isn't conserved in General Relativity. And wormholes (in addition to whatever laws they follow at the Planck scale) are creatures of General Relativity.

    The discontinuity of temporal causation explains where Stasis got the wormhole technology in the first place: in a future which has since been erased.


    Yeah, the 500 MB drive was the bass in that ensemble.


    David @ 50 Washing machine - we have a huge modern twin-tub More work, but more control - fire risk almost zero Dryer - we have this well-known piece of Victorian kit - a rope-operated long rack that hangs right up by our (11ft-high) kitchen ceiling. Fire risk - zero. Dishwasher ( I LURVE the German for these ... Spirrspuhlmaschine (!)) - we don't have one. Fire risk - zro. Simples.

    Everyone - re: Hick Sanatorium Contrast him with one of the Shrub's buddies, (I can't remember whom) who had the grace to fuck the Rethuglican xtians right off, when it turned out his daughter was (is) gay. He told them to go dork themselves, becaue she was his daughter, he still loved her, and that is the way she is. I get the impression several heads 'ploded after that.... Laugh? I nearly wet myself.

    67: 49 - reaction {starts humming Addams family theme}. 66 - I agree about Sanatorium (I call him that too), and I presume that by Shrub you mean Dubya?

    Shrub is the junior Bush.


    Firstly is thi blog is not, and never has been, primarily American.

    Sorry. But I thought based on my readings and Charlie's posts that it was about 50% NA/EU split with wide variances at times. But if I'm wrong then I guess I should shut up. I assume the moderators will let us know. And since I have no idea where most of the commenters are located I specifically put in what I know about the US side of these issues and made it clear that I was speaking about the US situation. But again, maybe that was a bad thing for me to do.

    Secondly, whether or not leaving an electrical appliance in use unattended is grounds for refusing an insurace claim is a matter of contracts law under pretty much any legal code!

    In the US not so much. As most (all?) states have insurance departments which regulate such things and so you get a lot of divergence between ordinary contract law and insurance law.

    But then again since this is an EU/UK board maybe I should shut up.


    Days. Yes. Obviously I meant days. I just missed a few decimal points. That's what you get for using R to do easy sums.

    My school physics teacher had this unfair habit of marking my answers wrong when I got the digits right and the decimal points in the wrong place. Well, I thought it was unfair then...



    Yes, that could be ... problematic.

    (I did have to follow the link to work out what your point was.)


    On a completely different topic from washing machines, I thought this was pretty cool.

    Probably not a good idea to view the pic if you are epileptic, even though technically it is a static picture:


    Does it remind anyone of a parrot?


    The blog is [usually/mostly] written by me, and I'm not American.

    The commenters come from all over.

    I'm not about to demand that you show me a passport before you chip in; I just make a point of reminding people that there is a world outside the USA, and I frequently discuss topics (political and otherwise) that are relevant to that world. Under which circumstances commenters who try to turn the discussion to MeMeMEEE!AND!MY!COUNTRY!WHICH!IS!THE!GREATEST!EVAR!! tend to get short shrift for exactly the same reason as MCPs diving into a feminist forum.



    If you're talking about Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter Mary, he did support her, though he mostly refused to discuss her in public, and she would not comment on the Bush administration's attempts to push a right-wing homophobic initiative against gay rights in general and gay marriage in particular. All Dick would say about it was that "it should be each state's decision." In other words, DIck supported his daughter, but wasn't about to support anyone else's kid. Classic response for any politician of the Me First party.


    Time travel hurts everybody's grammar. It's the tense's that do it :-)

    "Now that takes me back. Or is that forward? That's the trouble with time travel; you can never be sure."

    • The Doctor, "The Androids of Tara"

    The problem is more likely talking about time travel in English. In English the default time of reference is now, and the verbs in the sentence are in reference to now. When one is telling a story, it has already happened in the speaker's past, and that's why SF tends to use past tense rather than future tense.

    In other languages, such as Wintu, the English "now" is not assumed. "In Wintu, a speaker can set up any time as the point of reference, then use aspect suffixes on the verbs to show whether an event preceded, followed, or was simultaneous with that point of reference." (Hinton, Flutes of Fire). Wintu is also interesting because it doesn't use possession or possessives. Instead, their usual phrase for possession is "lived with." You don't own a car, you live with it. This is something time travelers might also consider useful.

    Wintu is functionally extinct, since it was spoken by a small Indian tribe in Northern California, and no one speaks it as a first language now. Fortunately, enough people worked on it that we can get an idea of how a time traveler might use language.



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    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 20, 2012 3:39 PM.

    Not Enough Credit, Not Enough Time: Thoughts on Writing Pt 4 (and Final) was the previous entry in this blog.

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