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Brief clarification

You might have noticed I'm not blogging right now, but Joan Slonczewski and Elizabeth Bear are.

That's because I'm in Perth, Western Australia, at an SF convention. And after it's over, I'm having a vacation — one of those weird hermetic retreats normal people go on, during which they refrain from working. I'll be back in late April. In the meantime, it's guest blogger time.

(As it happens, I do have an announcement to make next week, once I'm out from under an NDA. But apart from that, consider me AFK — Away From Keyboard.)



It seems rude to complain, since you've come from the other side of the world, but it's very annoying when conventions and things are hosted in Perth, because it's a stupidly long way from all our other cities.

(If you happen to pass through Sydney [not that I expect you will, travelling even further probably not topping your to-do list] give a yell and I'm sure we'll all buy you a beer)


Perth needs its own SF cons precisely because it's so far away. Melbourne and Sydney get more than enough of their own!

I'm not heading further east on this trip -- flying home via a break in Kuala Lumpur. Might be back on the other coast eventually, but Australia is a once-in-three-years trip for me (it's a grueling flight, and expensive).


Ooh, an "NDA" huh? Sounds ever so interesting - you will undoubtedly tell us all the juicy details as soon as permissible. Good egg, or something.....


When I first saw you were going to Kuala Lumpur, my first thought was "that's in an Islamic country--No Beer!" But I suppose it's culturally diverse enough that there must be something around, at least in the Chinese neighborhoods I'm guessing. And perhaps the best neighborhoods to find vegetarian food. If pork is allowed, there must be some sort of fermented beverages (not that the two necessarily go together).


@seeker42. Join us, it's a really good con and worth coming over for.


Beer wasn't a problem when we were there in 97 and 98. Nice place, friendly people. We spent a chunk of time for our event on an island called Langkawi - your basic tax free tropical island hideaway, about a 45 minute flight away from KL.

Watch out for the ginseng tea in the Chinese restaurants, though - I drank most of a pot, and discovered that that they'd doped it with a stimulant (I think pseudoephedrine) to ensure the "reputation" of the ginseng. Waking up at 3am with a heart rate of 150+ (compared to a resting rate of 40ish) was a bit distressing.


Okay, two disclaimers to get out of the way first:

1) I live in Perth, and have done for most of my life.

2) I'm on a very low budget (currently it consists of Newstart and nothing else) so I'm not one of the lucky people at Swancon this year.

That said: given the degree of isolation for the WA state capital it's nice to have the occasional international guest visiting our state now and again. We don't have the population of Sydney or Melbourne (much less the combined population of the pair of them) so we get a lot less interest than the East Coast, primarily because we're " a stupidly long way from all [Australia's] other cities".

There is nothing stopping folks from Sydney and Melbourne from hopping on a plane and flying west once in a while (well, aside from the cost, which is - surprise, surprise! - the factor that often limits us Sandgropers in our choices of events to attend on the east coast, too). Give it a try next time. You might be pleasantly surprised.

PS: as a West Australian, it is, to quote you, "very annoying" when the majority of conventions and major events are hosted on the East Coast. (mumblemumblemumblebloodyt'othersidersmumblegrump).


Good beer in KL (a few years ago at an Open Source meeting) and with no reason to think that will have changed.



Kuala Lumpur is pretty diverse and in Malaysia, only Muslims have to obey the Rules for Muslims. There is beer available there, including at least one bar specialising in so-called craft beer (expansive fissy pish, but they have some bottle-conditioned offerings) and a British pub that has the Fuller's bottle-conditioned beers. There is also a bar specialising in German beer and two specialising in Belgian beer.

If we get to go to Singapore, there are a couple of brewpubs there - one US style, one German style - and many more specialist outlets. I will not die of thirst.


Well, it was just a silly thought I had this morning--was awake (sort of) a bit earlier than usual.


And even with the Muslims, attitudes towards alcohol can be somewhat diverse.

E.g. Turkey even has a national alcoholic beverage, Raki, though Turkey is a special case and in the past, much of th consumption was tied to the Christian minorities:ı

With most of these minorities now gone[1], well, seems like not all afficionados were and are Christians.

And then, even the Quran is somewhat contradictory towards alcohol, with three statements boiling down to

a) it's a gift from god, err, Allah b) it (as gambling) is both virtue and sin, with more of the sin c) it's totally forbidden

where the usual stance is that c) abrogates a) and b), with the exemption of medical use[2]. Though some Muslims in my acquittance have used somewhat differing, err, creative interpretations. I guess Roman-Catholics can feel sympathetic. ;)

Historically, the stance on alcohol (and other intoxicants) in Islamic countries was somewhat oscillating, between much toleration (and use) and had persecution where even coffee was banned. That some of the sultans most harsh in this regard died of causes highly typical of alcoholism isn't that much of a surprise, err.

Somewhat more specific for Indonesia and Malaysia, there are some sources that say the local appreciation for durian in spite of the smell

is somewhat related to the ethanol content in fermented fruits.

BTW, any concluding comments on German beers after Dortcon, sorry to ask...

[1] As are, come to speak about it, most of the Turkish minorities in some of those minorities' homelands. Turkish nationalism was, err, not nice, ask the Armenians, but its Greek etc. counterparts were not that much nicer.

[2] Does this remind you of anything? Medicinal mari, err, wine. BTW, AFAIK that was the excuse of one Omar Khayyam, author of the Rubaiyat. When we're at it, e.g. self-justification of drug fiends, this was also a topic with De Quincey, Coleridge and other Can't-you-see-we're-dyings toward opium.


Good luck in KL, Charlie - it's great town for street food! If you get the chance, take a few days in Penang, preferably at the lovely Eastern & Oriental Hotel (famous for its curries). Penang is much more relaxing than KL. The Cameron Highlands is nice too, cool and restful. Don't forget to buy Malaysian leaf tea & coffee - some of the best anywhere. Enjoy yourself!


Trottelreiner @ 11 As Charlie noted (in Rule 34 I think) the "recital" actually forbids the fermented fruit of the grape - drinking red wine in 7/8th C Arabia was not a good idea. I don't think beer is even mentioned, so it can get very complicated .....


I spent a few years working in KL. IMO it's a bit like Croydon on speed. If you like spicy food try the Buddhist temple on Jalan Ampang ( just down from the twin towers ). If I could get that here I'd become a vegetarian on the spot. For bootleg software Imbi Plaza is the place which continues to survive despite repeated "crack downs". Beer &c easily available & legally despite Islam. On the way home I used to drive past the Carlsberg brewery, where two of their storage towers looked just like Special Brew cans...

speaking of the temple food: So I'm standing in the queue for lunch. I notice there's several pieces of paper stuck on the wall of the Temple. They say something about cockroaches. I assume it's a notice to patrons not to kill them, and seeing as it's a Buddhist Temple, I think "fair enough".

So, I get my meal, sit down, and start to eat, right by one of the notices. When I actually read it, it's a note to the cockroaches pointing out that eating the Temple will do their karma no good at all. I was most amused.

Then it struck me. The notice was written in English and not Bahasa Melayu, or any of the Chinese versions.

Ouch. Well below the belt...


Mention of Penang made me think "Oh yeah, Bourdain did an episode of No Reservations there", plenty of beer consumed. Like I said it was early (as it is now), that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. And I may have slightly confused Indonesia and Malaysia. It's fairly safe to say that most places with a lot of foreign tourists are likely to make allowances, and there always seems to be some sort of local fermented drink. Clearly I need to travel more.


"drinking red wine in 7/8th C Arabia was not a good idea".

Shame. If I lived in 7/8th Century anywhere I'd want a lot of wine or at least a lot of Marx's Opium. Happily 21 Century Morocco has some excellent wines and cordially despises 7/8th Century Arabia as well as much of 21st Century Arabia.


AFAIK, the quran mentions "chamr" or "hamr", where translation is somewhat up to debate. Now my Arabic, like my Semitic and Afro-Asiatic in general, is somewhat non-existent, and I could find no etymology to "(doth-violence-onto-thine-glottis)amr", but sometimes, it helps to look for similar words in Hebrew or Aramaic.

And so we get this,

where we find "chemer, corresponding to the Aramaic chamar", which means something like

"wine"; the word "conveys the idea of 'foaming,' as in the process of fermentation, or when poured out. It is derived from the root hamar, meaning 'to boil up'"

After loosing some sanity points while going through Arabic phonology, it seems like the word is usually transcribed as "khamr". Which is somewhat related to the words for grapes, but also for "(head) cover", so some people translate it with something like "what covers/clouds the mind".

So we're left with some interpretations, beginning from "only grapes (and maybe palm) wine" to "anything that clouds the mind". Add to this that you could interpret it as meaning only "drinking to get really drunk", and you're in for the world of pain.

No wonder Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have their quite olf traditions of lawyers, I guess.


They may well be able to cope with " .... some interpretations, beginning from "only grapes (and maybe palm) wine" to "anything that clouds the mind". Add to this that you could interpret it as meaning only "drinking to get really drunk", and you're in for the world of pain.

But are they MEN enough to eat Easter Eggs! ...

" An Indian restaurant in Surrey has created a "not for bunnies" Easter egg using three of the hottest varieties of chilli pepper. "

HA! To Glaswegian Style Deep Fried Mars Bars The Guardian of Wednesday 5 September 2012 ...

" Mars disowns the deep-fried Mars bar

Attempt to secure EU-protected status for batter-covered Scottish delicacy abandoned as Mars refuses to support it "

As the EEC screams " "Come on if you think you're hard enough." at the Scots.


It's a pity you aren't going one more country north. Bangkok is a free drinking city that reminds me of the city in Blade Runner. You have a human miasma similar to regency England living in a huge metropolis that seems to have materialised out of the 22nd century. Perth and KL seem like quaint country villages...though I guess it isn't a destination for those who want a relaxing break.


Personally speaking, low doses of most TRPV1 agonists like capsaicin don't cloud my mind, more to the contrary.

I haven't tried some of the more potent agonists, like Resiniferatoxin,

where I'm also not that sure if it's only a very high affinity normal agonist (or even just apartial agonist?) like capsaicin, or a super-agonist,

but, to be honest, my interest in personal experience is somewhat reserved, I already know that even pure neurogenic pain in absence of any trauma can have damaging results:

With higher dosages or unplanned ocular exposition to capsaicin, the more or less alerting effects might change somewhat, which explains why I always wash hands after my capsaicin binges, but well, if we go with high dosages, water is an intoxicant, too...


It's not really a vacation, it's a creative recharge. I'm helping a maple farmer boil his sap into maple syrup this year. It's grueling backbreaking labor, shoving cord after cord of wood into a furnace to boil each forty barrels of sap down into one barrel of syrup. As long as the sap keeps running from the trees you have to keep boiling, very long hours, lest the sap spoil. But I try to play, some kind of way, a little bit every day. You have to remind yourself that there is more to life. Same thing when I was on military deployments. Sometimes it seemed like life revolved around just this long slog. It just takes a little bit of me-time, fun here and there like spice in a dish of food, to make the rest seem worthwhile. Then you get back to work.


Well, yes, obviously it's annoying for those on the West coast when things are over on the East....but there are only 2 million of you. 3 million if we count Adelaide as being more West than East.

That leaves the other 18 million people over here.

That said, is there a good SF con in Sydney? I don't pay much attention to Sydney's cons because I'm two hours north and try to avoid the city whenever I can...


If there are no good conventions in Sydney, that would be because no fans in Sydney want it enough to get together and put one on.

Melbourne however do have their act together. They did a Worldcon in 2010.

But in general, any time someone asks "Why doesn't someone do X for us?", you're hearing the language of entitlement. You want a convention? Great. Get together with your friends and do it. Be that someone.

...once I'm out from under an NDA

Let's say that any announcement you make tomorrow (April 1st) will be taken with a grain of salt!


" Be that someone. " ?

On this subject The/Our worlds Human/Ape decedent population - lets leave the dolphins and the Wolves out of this for the moment shall we? - divides into roughly two parts.

Part The First will SCREAM ..'Someone should DO Something about This ' when confronted with any given problem; this inclusive of Convention Problems - the 'Someone ' being elected politicians /Executives of every kind and type including Con Committees. Then there is Part The Second Who will feel bound to say 'Someone Should DO Something about this AND that someone is ME!

Part the First is a very great deal larger than Part The Second.

Part the Second would be making a serious mistake if it thought that it deserved the Appreciation of Part The First for Solving -sometimes very dangerous - problems.

A few years ago I was traveling on the North Eastern of the U.Ks Metro System when, just outside of Newcastle Upon Tyne, a Man and His Wife got on-board and I noticed that THE MAN was clutching a Deeply Illegal on the Metro lighted Cigarette. I was meant to Notice ..we all were, for HE declared in a Very Loud Voice, that unless WE objected he was going to go on smoking and FUCK the LAW. This whilst glaring in all directions whilst people refused to meet his stare.

I sighed a Weary sigh and Spoke saying that it was up to him of course whether or not he continued to Smoke but he was being monitored on CCTV and my experience was that at the next stop the Fuzz would board the train and drag him off to the Cop Shop ..actually it would have taken at least three stops ..and The entire metro system would be blocked for bloody ages. The smoker looked at me Grinned and announced to all who would listen that, since I'd been so very Nice to him He would put out his fag. At the next stop he got out and his wife following him gave me such a grateful Thank you Look.

The stop after that a man unwound himself from the corner in which he had confined his Very Large Body and at the very last moment before exiting the train he grunted at me " You Were Wasting Your Time There Mate! He'll just do it again when you aren't there to stop 'im" He then scuttled off before I could say a word.

Sometimes you just can't please everybody.

If you intervene to solve a problem that, say, is boiling down the road towards a Convention people - often people who really should know better - will demand to know why you are always anticipating that Things Will Go Wrong for Things Will be alright really if only you, well ... do the equivalent of Thinking Beautiful Thoughts and ignoring Bad Things ...only be Non Violent and don't learn how to fight and The World WILL be a better Place etc etc and so forth for people are Basically GOOD and so on.

Now if you do your best to deal with the nasty s in an unobtrusive way, and you succeed, then the Optimists will declare that THERE, SEE, you were Wrong! If you fail in any respect to deal with the Problem then you will be called to account for not having Warned Them of that Problem with sufficient force ..." We would have taken notice if only YOU - who owned the Problem since YOU mentioned it - had convinced us of its importance. ITS all Your Fault YOU, YOU, Alone!!" And so on.

Sounds Familiar?

...once I'm out from under an NDA

Let's say that any announcement you make tomorrow (April 1st) will be taken with a grain of salt!

Hah! Was I right, or was I right?



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 29, 2013 11:36 AM.

The map is not the territory. was the previous entry in this blog.

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