Back to: Attention conservation notice | Forward to: Snowden leaks: the real take-home


Nine Worlds went off surprisingly well for the first convention of its kind; I gather there'll be another one next year (irritatingly close to Loncon 3, the worldcon in London: as in, it's the weekend before — this risks overloading the convention-going SF/F professionals who make the panels, workshops, readings, signings and other events work).

I am now exhausted, in no small part because SF conventions are working weekends for me, and this one came right on top of my car catching fire on the drive south. (It now has a shiny new aircon compressor, but henceforth will be known as the Dreamliner. (Weirdly, I was not the only author attending Nine Worlds whose car caught fire on the way to the convention.))

Tomorrow is the start of the Great British Beer Festival, a visit to which which will be followed (after a sensible sobering-up period) by the drive back home. Normal blogging will be resumed no sooner than the weekend ...



I like the time-insensitive Dreamliner link! Interesting that a Middle-East airline hasn't started using it as planned on services to Perth. Thanks for the update.


Well, given that the membership for LonCon3, over a year away, is already three times that of the fire limit for the NineWorlds hotel, I would have thought the choice wouldn't be too hard...

Since NineWorlds chose to have their next con 3 days away from a Worldcon thats been decided for quite some time, I'm really not that impressed with their sense of timings.


That schedule is slightly annoying for us, 'cos it sounds like a good convention to go to. But as we're already signed up for a convention that weekend, and as it's even one we've filled committee-level roles for in the past (note: do not try being vice-chair and treasurer and membership for an Eastercon-sized con), we're going to that.

And the WorldCon is a no-brainer: we attend all non-US WorldCons.

And the Dublin Eurocon the weekend after makes three weekends in a row, but we're regular Irish con-goers (our second con together was the '95 Octocon).

All the same, good luck to Nine Worlds - all the report I've had is that they've done something right, and my guess is that the SFX Weekender is going to be what suffers in comparison. I did note that when a pair of tickets were mentioned as going spare on Twitter, they were snapped up within minutes.


Well I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised to see your username here, but I had a double-take after just looking at a few minutes ago.

Yes, I saw comments elsewhere about timing, are they going for a fixed time/place for the next few years I wonder?


I'm wondering how set in stone that schedule is. For normal attendees, adjacent weekends is less of a problem, and it does actually make sense to sit the adjacent weekend to the local WorldCon, because you're got a good chance of picking up people who have travelled a long distance to be at that.

For guests, yes, another matter. In 2004, the Discworld convention (Guest of Honour one T Pratchett Esq.) was carefully scheduled to allow a free weekend before the Boston WorldCon (Guest of Honour a Mr T Pratchett), simply because you want your guest to be able to make both without breaking.

(On the other hand, in 2010 there was no such free weekend — Terry wasn't a guest at the Melbourne WorldCon. We ended up checking out of the Birmingham DWCon hotel a day earlier than we normally would, and sleeping that evening on a 747 bound for Oz. The length of the flight and the jet lag adjustment period basically left us with no free time between two cons.)


I suspect the timing is set by when they can get the Radi for free.

Its been a while since I ran a con there, but when we did they offered us three 'free' periods (subject to filling a certain number of rooms, no charge for any of the facilities) - around New Year, Easter, and in August. Apparently this is when they are pretty empty and cant let out the conference facilities.

NineWorlds probably could have got a more sensible weekend, but they would have made less money or had to fill more rooms/sell more food & drink.


A good point — back in the day, part of those negotiations that I was privy to was how many bed/nights would be needed to get successive levels of discount, to the point that the main rooms would be free.

(Not at the Euclidean, but at the NEC Metropole and the Hinckley Island and the like: business conference hotels that end up with periods when they'd normally be empty.)

(And of course the Eastercon is so timed for pretty much that reason. There's no constitutional reason for that con to be at Easter, or even in the UK for that matter.)

New Year? Hmm, I wonder.


New Year is problematical for hotels near airports as a sudden burst of bad weather can close the airport, delay flights and fill every hotel bed within fifty miles.

Putting a con into a hotel on a holiday weekend requires a lot of extra staff to run the place on time-and-a-half since it's, well, a holiday weekend. This eats into the profit margins that accompany getting good room occupancy numbers over what is usually a slow period. Holidays are also a good time for hotel managers to get essential maintenance and refurbishment done -- frequenters of the Metropole Worldcon during the bank holiday in 1987 may remember the Plywood Tunnel of Doom. Lifts need TLC too.


I suspect the Radi was happier to guarantee a lot of full rooms rather than hope that there might be snow at New Year. Given the usualy London winter, the odds are that a closure is unlikely.

Most of the staff are on anyway, the Radi doesnt close down - thats one of the reasons they would rather sell rooms and food at a reduced rate, their overheads hardly change. They dont put extra staff on to run a con.


I'm guessing the timing is deliberate - they think more overseas visitors etc. will be interested in attending if they can catch two cons. My feeling on this, unfortunately, is that I really can't afford two big London cons a week apart; even though I live in London, both sites are at least an hour's travel from my home, so I'd want to stay at the sites rather than commuting. Incidentally, the two sites are about 90 minutes apart by public transport, so anyone visiting London to do the double is probably going to have to change hotels at some point.

To be honest, the Worldcon / Dublin double is a lot more attractive; it's also expensive, but I've never been to Dublin and would probably combine it with some tourism, which is not something I'd do in London. I'm hoping to be able to do it.

I'd imagine that a lot of other people did the same calculation and had already made travel and holiday plans before 9 worlds launched. Their late arrival on the scene won't be helping them in that respect.


I concur that it was rather cool and rather exhausting.

Alas I did not actually get to say "hi" to Charlie, but I did get to use him for a sound check, which is almost as good.


First time in many years that I'm actually free to go to the GBBF - thanks for the reminder!

When will you be attending - I'd be honoured to stand you a pint or more...


thedrcguru @ 12 Get in line!


I'm feeling sufficiently ill that it's a toss-up as to whether I get to the GBBF or not. (Dodgy stomach due to bad eating and dodgy gut due to a curry that disagreed with me over the weekend; add too much alcohol already, and near-exhaustion, and I may just not want to go.)


Greg @ 13: understood, I've not posted enough here to be head of the queue (but have lurked for many years) but had to offer :)

Charlie @ 14: sorry to hear that, will no doubt have one for you, get well soon!


Was that the hotel curry? I had it on Sunday and wasn't very impressed, but it didn't actually make me ill.


Somehow multiple authors having their cars catch fire on the way to an event sounds like a scene in a Tim Powers novel.


I look forward to the tweets from the beer festival


I do hope you make it to GBBF - I've found 5 books of your that erm, err need signing (!) P.S. I understand "Toast" can be obtained as a printed-one now .....


Dublin is a nice place, small enough to be amenable to some "foot tourism", and I'm told markedly improved since the Dublin port vehicle tunnel opened and took most of the ferry traffic away from the Liffey.


Pretty much so - we stayed in an inn on Sir John Rogerson's Quay (about as seaward as one can go before falling into Dublin Bay) and walked from there to the Zoo in Phoenix Park and back. That's quite a bit of walking, but that also encompasses pretty much the entire east-west part of the city as far as a tourist is concerned.

There days, I'd get Luas tickets. Well, I wouldn't, because I have a Leap card which is the Dublin equivalent of the Octopus/Oyster cards, but you know what I mean. Trams are the civilised way of getting round a city, and the Red Line Luas runs conveniently along the entire north side of the river, one street back from the quayside.

The quayside traffic is notably reduced, yes. You no longer have a large proportion of all road haulage that enters the country by ferry going along those two street.


Yes, that's improved. The last time I was in Dublin you could walk from about that hotel to Phoenix Park faster than you could drive it!


I was at a wedding in Dublin some years ago. Actual ceremony at the Civil Registration Office, a few blocks south of the Liffey. The reception and wedding breakfast was at the Guinness Hop Store, not that far short of Phoenix Park.

Well, it's a wedding. Well dressed people with clothing which wouldn't have been appropriate to poor weather (it was actually nice, but this is Ireland, the land of constantly changing weather). And lots of women in high heels. You wouldn't ask the guests to walk halfway across central Dublin. So the couple very kindly laid on coaches to take us from one to the other.

It took us noticeably longer to cover that distance in the coaches than it took us to fly from Stansted to Dublin in the first place. Yep, 3.5 km if we'd have walked.

So your report is quite reasonable - traffic speed in Dublin was (at certain times, Friday afternoon in this case) slow walking pace.

The current tricky thing about driving in central Dublin is the Luas Red Line - it's removed a street that used to be drivable down, and inserted a line that isn't always obviously crossable. There used to be a hotel in Smithfield we stayed in (Charlie and Feòrag may remember it) whose nearby car park has a not-terribly-visible entrance. If you miss that entrance, you end up having to cross into south Dublin to recover.


Is the GBBF adjacent to Loncon 3 next year? That'd make a dandy trip! Get better Charlie.


GBBF 2014 overlaps with Loncon3 ... which looks like being a real pain. Some of us are trying to organise a separate beer-supply or at least a CAMRA presence @ Loncon - we'll see how it goes. There are already several proposals for the Wednesday pub-crawl. Ask me again in a month or so!


(Tangential to OGH topic) After four and a half years in Germany, I can't express how much I need some decent ale. Yes, the Germans have lovely pils, weizenbier and bock, but it all starts to taste dreadfully alike. Blame the Reingebote, I suppose. I was quite grateful to take a trip to Ireland at the start of July, and have topped up on fresh Guinness. Now I'm primed for some bitter and IPA. Having come here from Colorado, which is one of the leading US states in the American craft beer revival, I didn't realize how spoilt I'd become. Is it unseemly that I'd jump on a plane right now just for a decent brew?


The germans do brew some decent browns, but they're usually seasonal; giveaway in them normally being "$brewery Festbier".


Interesting that a Middle-East airline hasn't started using it as planned on services to Perth.

Honest, the first time I read this as "Interesting that a Middle-Earth airline hasn't started using it as planned on services to Pern"

I thought "Yes, an airplane might well have fire issues in Pern, but who in Middle Earth is running an airline???"


Just met Greg T at GBBF (recognised his beard!), sorry I missed you yesterday. Hope you had a good trip back.



who in Middle Earth is running an airline???


Sadly for Frodo there are no direct services to Mt Doom, or he'd have saved two whole books of trogging across the landscape. But the eagles turn their beaks up at runways that singe their flight feathers, and getting even one flight out of them is hard enough.

(Either that, or Mount Doom was the nearest airport.)


I thought the problem was more that the eagles had too great a radar cross section and thus would have fallen foul of the air defences of Mordor. I'm sure that after the fall of the tower there will be the usual entrepreneurial opportunities in the freed lands of the east. The flights will probably start then.


Oglaf covered the issue with flying via eagle here. (Safe for work; Oglaf usually isn't.)


Middle Earth doesn't fly you, it teaches you to fly!

For your amusement, some photos from an little airshow at the airfield they fly from - and I did drive past the entrance to Hobbiton to get there!

And did someone mention AA defences?


Eagles actually have a fairly small radar section for their apparent size, between the well blended wing/body section, and the effects of feathers as RAM. ;-)


And fresh again today!

BA are currently taking deliveries of both Dreamliners and A380s, which gives them two new failure modes.

(Having said which, a week or two back one of the 747s that the A380s are replacing had an issue, so it's not like new planes are automatically the problem. We'll be on that flight in November, but in one of the sparkling new A380s, we trust.)


Given how long it takes to get out of steerage in a 747, I hate to think how long it takes to offload an A380, or to get your luggage. Good luck on that flight!


It means you spend less time in the US Immigration queue! And maybe at baggage reclaim too.


Triple air bridges. Unlike the 747, if you're going to be upstairs, you enter the plane upstairs, rather than entering downstairs and going up the stairs.

This is why airports are rebuilding gates to accommodate them - you want to be able to load and unload these babies a bit quicker than moving everyone through a single passageway. One air bridge for upstairs, and two for downstairs probably theoretically allows you to load an A380 in half the time of a 747 using a single bridge.

There's a video here that shows three airbridges being positioned onto an A380.

I expect the boarding gate areas to be partitioned according to which bridge you're going to use.


Speedbird 007 for New York JFK now boarding through Gates 1701A, 1701B and 1701C. ;-)


Eagles ought to have a near zero RCS, given that they're not made of radio-reflective metal. Infrared would be a much better way to track them. Or, you know, that big all-seeing eye thing.


I recall reading that one of the two stealth planes (F117 or B2) has roughly the same radar signature as a large bird.

Google 'radar birds' and it looks like you can buy a radar system designed specifically to study birds and bats!


Er Dave, you do know what my job is? If not, then just note that I know a fair bit about radars. Including that a right angle of more or less anything not coated in RAM makes a pretty fair corner reflector. Anyone who's met me and talked "shop" will confirm this.


I don't know about your job, but mine used to address BMEWS, PAVE PAWS and AN/FPS-117.


And you're certainly right about corner reflections. Still, tracking a bird by radar is probably not your optimum sensor phenomenology.

45: 42 and #43 - Well you probably know even more than I do then, to the extent that this no place for us to have a radar tech geekiness contest! That said, we were once asked (in seriousness by the enquirer) about the prospect of using an I-band (old X if you prefer) for tracking migrating geese!!


Charlie, I just finished Neptune's Brood, and I think you broke the universe. The cheap teleportation engine is incompatible with interstellar civilization. Too easy to lob theoretically undetectable (because light speed) nuclear bombs at whoever you want.


Cheers for the spoiler.


Oh, the irony...

I used to work on I/J-band (old X-band) radars for pointy metal flying things, and we were very interested in not detecting geese. Or large flat-sided and right-angled vehicles travelling up the A1 at close to the speed limit.

Being able to tell the difference between an Eagle and a Crocodile may well have been of interest, though ;)


always got me about stealth things.. all youd have to do is look for the 500mph sparrow surely....?


You don't want your radar to be too sensitive to fast moving small objects, or when something unleashes a few hundred fast-moving small things (say, an A10 Warthog firing its main gun) your radar has conniptions.

Oh bugger, this thread's just turned into the weaponry thread again.


Would that be an African or a European swallow, do you reckon?


There are some nice things you can do with sensors in a "furry" setting.

Like asking a bat how they did that.

The Naval Syndicate has a research lab at a former match factory. Yes, it really is a Skunk Works.

Unfortunately, the bats get sea-sick.


>> who in Middle Earth is running an airline???

> Gandalf.

Do you mean the Deus Ex Machina Airlines?

While watching the Hobbit movie, I only could think of Bored of the Rings when the eagles arrived.

(How should I do multi-level quoting here? Argh.)


Charlie, I just finished Neptune's Brood, and I think you broke the universe. The cheap teleportation engine is incompatible with interstellar civilization. Too easy to lob theoretically undetectable (because light speed) nuclear bombs at whoever you want.

I broke it's economics, certainly. Not so sure about the other, though: it begs too many questions, like (a) who would want to throw H-bombs around (not to mention why -- there's plenty of space for everyone, now!), and (b) it's still light speed; what motivations for such crimes would outlast years, decades, or centuries?

Hmm. That might eventually turn into an idea for another novel, if I can be bothered (got at least five books to write before I have time to re-visit the Freyaverse).


Hmmm. Just as a random thought, if Neptune's Brood was a meditation on Graeber's Debt, possibly a sequel could be influenced by something like Charles Mann's 1493, about the Columbian Exchange. And don't worry, a lot of crime was involved in that.

The basic point is that, if the freyaverse is a lot easier to get around in after centuries of relative isolation, the interactions get rather wild and woolly, and there will be winners and losers...


First I have to edit/write: three more Merchant Princes novels, three more Laundry novels, and the novel length completion of "Palimpsest".

I hope to be done with this by, oh, some time in the middle of 2015, maybe.

Does anyone have a problem with this plan? :)


No probs at all Charlie - it's obvious you've made it home (In the "dreamliner"??) & are back on form!

Look forward to next publication ( for reasons discussed over beer) ... incidentally, I noted that several of the "foreign" draught beers were not on the formal list - the 7% De Ranke wit we had wasn't, & neither was a De Molen Rye IPA I had the following day (Yummy!)


Condolences on the passing of your kitty. It really sucks to see them go.

Oh and I hope the lack of news on the Bell's palsy front means it's cleared up on schedule.


Will the Lambda Functionary be slotting in there somewhere?


Not in the least. Hopefully Graeber will publish something in the meantime that will be even cooler. Cthulhoid economics for multinationals, perhaps?


Meanwhile, there is the slow drip-drip irritation of Big-River promotional emails, mostly with not a clue as to what I want to read or whether the books are worth reading. The latest category—Military Science Fiction

War depended on the appearances of surpluses, a consequence of the agricultural singularity. Warriors, like any other human, are not single-purpose, but they are parasites. Their existence is used to justify their existence, and are the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan doing anything to to reduce the losses down to the "terrorists"?

Keynes might point at the pay to the factory workers making the weapons, and what that does, and he wouldn't be wrong, but the patterns of money-flow have changed, and the families of US soldiers can qualify for Food Stamps.

OGH has shown, here and in such books as Neptune's Brood, just how hard space colonisation would be. We, the Fragile, can never go to the stars. But, if the new tech does allow wars to be somehow fought, how can they be afforded? Will there be economic turmoil, and the sort of collapse which afflicted Weimar Germany? Germany recovered, partly by using war to steal from its neighbours.

I only vaguely remember Catch-22, I was still at school when I read it, but maybe that's the sort of book that OGH applies to what might follow Neptune's Brood

(The film North-West Passage is only a small part of the novel (I read that too), and a hypothetical Uranus Passage could have a chunk of military SF as part of something different.)


zochoka @ 60 Problem The religious bullies & thugs (of whom the Taliban are merely an extreme-to-nazi-example) are also parasites. Now, how do you get rid of the latter, without the former?

And, are you sure that conflict didn't occur between different hunter-gatherer tribes to steal each other's food, women, supplies? Or dosn't that count as "war" ?? Remember the figures for life-expectancy, and that the more "primitive" the tribe, the lower the expectancy - because of conflicts, both external & internal.


I broke it's economics, certainly. Not so sure about the other, though: it begs too many questions, like (a) who would want to throw H-bombs around

Evil people would want. There's a lot of them.

For example, your Atlantians, while they were the only people with teleporters, could easily stage a simultaneous attack on all inhabited systems, destroy all beacons, establish themselves as the single bottleneck to all interstellar communication and become God-Kings, basically.

Pirates could just jump in on anyone, blow the defenses, steal whatever resources they want and jump out.

Your neighbors practice the wrong religion? Cleanse them with nuclear fire. It's so easy!

No location with known coordinates would be safe.

Basically, the teleporter is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb you can build in your garage. If it was possible, we'd be all dead long ago.

(not to mention why -- there's plenty of space for everyone, now!), and (b) it's still light speed; what motivations for such crimes would outlast years, decades, or centuries?

Neptune's Brood describes a crime that lasted two thousand years. I think you established very well that the immortal post-humans can stay motivated for a long time.


Probably not. "The Lambda Functionary" was going to (a) take two years to write (not compatible with my ability to earn a living), and (b) was going to be the third in a trilogy, starting with "Halting State" and "Rule 34". Trouble is, I began designing that universe in 2005. Times have moved on.

A book of that title might eventually surface but not before 2015 and not in series with the earlier two Scottish crime novels. Perils of writing near-future SF ...


War depended on the appearances of surpluses, a consequence of the agricultural singularity.

I very much doubt that. Usually wars are caused by scarceness, not abundance.

Will there be economic turmoil, and the sort of collapse which afflicted Weimar Germany? Germany recovered, partly by using war to steal from its neighbours.

I think the events after the collapse of the Weimar Republic were a little different. After taking power in 33, Nazi Germany first ended mass unemployment by massive state spending and taking direct control of parts of the economy. WW II started only in 39 when the economy was able to support the war machine. After 45 (and already in the last years of the war) Germany was dirt poor because all resources were given to the war. I don't doubt that Nazi Germany used the war to steal from the neighbours, but it didn't help them economically. Only with the boost from the Marshal plan 47 and after the (West) German economy recovered.


"Warriors, like any other human, are not single-purpose, but they are parasites."

You might as well call any specialist a parasite, including OGH. He does not toil in the fields or factories, but we still value his intellectual contribution.

Soldiers don't make wars - politicians do (now, if you want to talk about parasites . . .). You might say war is obsolete, but the good people of the Republic of Georgia would disagree. Until the use of force by nations or groups truly is obsolete, you're going to need a defense and a deterrent (NOT the same thing).

"are the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan doing anything to to reduce the losses down to the "terrorists"?"

Yes, absolutely. The invasion of Afghanistan achieved its original objective of destroying a haven for Al Qaida, and the ongoing campaign has systematically removed the upper and mid level leadership of that particular terrorist group.

The invasion of Iraq, as an unintended consequence, drew Al Qaida fighters into a battlefield where we could kill them. Even better, their attacks on their fellow Muslims have done much to discredit the philosophical justification for the group.

The focused intelligence campaign against terrorist groups arising from Muslim and Arab origins has had many successes. Like all intelligence operations, you only tend to hear about the ones that fail.

I'd agree that there's a distressing amount of "military SF" that's really war porn. I tend to favor Haldeman over Weber or Ringo. But as to your question "But, if the new tech does allow wars to be somehow fought, how can they be afforded?" A society that can afford to invest in the infrastructure and manufacturing technology to bridge interstellar space is going to have to have a VERY successful economy - you're not going to invest those astronomical amounts (and what's wrong with the occasional pun?) if you can't feed your populace. And until we eliminate greed from the species, there will be those who want to take what others have earned. The term for large-scale taking is "war".


I broke it's economics, certainly. Not so sure about the other, though: it begs too many questions, like (a) who would want to throw H-bombs around Evil people would want. There's a lot of them.

Sigh. Except in very rare pathological cases, "doing evil" is never the motivation for any actions. Instead, "evil" is the adjective we give other people whose actions we don't like. Whenever you look at the motivations for these actions, you will find that the perps have a reason they themselves think is rational.

To bring it to a point: Evil actions are done by self-styled good people who have identified other people as being evil. And even that is not enough, usually the self-styled good people have economic or political interests that make for a rational explanation (or do you really think that Saddam Hussein was more evil than Omar Al-Bashir or Robert Mugabe?)


Charlie, Totally off-topic: One of the other authors I follow on line is Diana Gabaldon, who writes the very successful historical-fantasy-romance Outlander series. My question: How do you rate her depiction of 18th century Scottish life? I know she does a LOT of research, but what's your opinion, not of the overall work, but of her historical accuracy?


Sigh. Except in very rare pathological cases, "doing evil" is never the motivation for any actions.

Who are you arguing with? I never said "doing evil" would be a motivation for using the teleporter as the ideal stealth bomber.

Actually, perhaps MAD could work in Freyaverse for a while. The problem is, there's no way to know who attacked you, so the only way to be taken seriously is to retaliate by attacking literally everyone.


Reader brain says "No".

Friend brain says "Please don't over-work yourself" though.


Well, I've read "Outlander" (published as "Cross Stitch" in the UK). Her environment and writing are mostly good, but at that time everyone used the Wade roads and drove roads unless they were actively evading the "Other Lot".

IYO, does her work improve after that, because I wasn't impressed enough to buy more on the strength of that novel, but if it's a comparitively weak first novel that could change?


I have bad news for you: real ale is a rarity in Ireland.

Guiness is 100% nitro (in cans) or keg these days. There are a couple of microbreweries, and a couple of real ale pubs in Dublin (the Porterhouse springs to mind), but looking for real ale in Ireland is almost as bad as doing so in the non-microbrewing regions of the USA.

Northern Ireland is allegedly somewhat better, but I haven't been there in a couple of years. (The UK is a lot better, with vastly more cask-conditioned beer than you'll find almost anywhere, except that pubs in general have taken a battering in the past few years.)


I've flown on an A380. Airports that see regular service from them have new gate layouts with extra boarding tunnels and lounges to handle the overflow. (Customs and Immigration however aren't under the airline's control.)

My only A380-specific advice is:

  • Avoid exit row seating, and the rows immediately in front of and behind an exit row, if you get claustrophobic or need a window. (Hull reinforcements to handle the huge doorways mean there are no windows for a metre in front/behind.)

  • Avoid the upper deck rows under the tail fin. (The ceiling is lower and the fuselage narrows at the back, so there's far less carry-on stowage space -- slimline or no compartments. (Also, it's a long way from the centre of gravity so in bad weather you're in for a bumpy ride.))


Evil people would want. There's a lot of them.

You believe in evil?

How quaint.

I believe in primate neurobiology. Which gives rise to behaviour that can look indistinguishable from evil (depending on your yardstick for "evil"), but isn't quite the same.

Also: in the Freyaverse, human neurobiology is tweakable. Don't want sociopaths? Don't make them ...


I'm unfamiliar with her work.


How's the situation in Scotland and England? I know up through the 1990s there was a lot of consolidation as the big brewers bought out the locals; but I've seen at least one article that craft brewing is making a recovery in England. I have absolutely no idea of the beer industry in Scotland.


Good advice, and applicable to a number of airliners. As most of my long distance travel is between Europe and North America via Lufthansa and US flag carriers, I doubt I'll experience the 380 up close any time soon.


Her work does improve over the series (Cross Stitch was her first novel, and she never thought it'd be published), but doesn't fundamentally change. If you didn't care for the style of the first, you probably needn't read the other seven (to date). Her branch series on Lord John Grey can be quite entertating, though. Being a gay English soldier in the eighteenth century puts him in a number of interesting situations.


Sorry for the typo - that should have been "entertaining", not "entertating".


Lots of craft beer and you can find a hand pump for cask-conditioned ale in most pubs. But ...

In the 1990s, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission noticed that the breweries were running chains of tied houses (pubs) selling only their beer. They declared this to be anti-competitive and made the breweries sell their pubs off. Unfortunately the breweries did so by spinning them off as chains, and the biggest chains then went on merger-and-acquisition sprees.

This freed up the small breweries a bit by providing access to the pub chains' tied houses, but hurt the pub business itself because the pub chains are to some extent rentiers. Add the indoor smoking ban, and those pubs that didn't focus on kitchen facilities or have beer gardens (about half of them) promptly went bust as the smokers bought bottles from the local supermarket and stayed away.

However, you can still find cask-conditioned ale in most Scottish pubs -- often 2-8 hand pumps, often with local microbrewery produce. CAMRA basically won the war.


Yet another reason to bump Scotland up on my list of places to visit.


@Dave P - As Charlie says, with the note that some places you can only get keg draft, but usually can get bottled real ale.

Also, thanks for the info ref Diana G.


Diana's a lovely person, and an honest-to-god scientist, plus she has a wicked sense of humor, to wit:


You believe in evil? How quaint.

rolls eyes

Yeah. I'm actually secretly 2 years old, writing from the kindergarden.

Also: in the Freyaverse, human neurobiology is tweakable. Don't want sociopaths? Don't make them ...

And yet in ten thousand years, nobody bothered to. I mean, they didn't even develop a mind that would be immune to the debugger chip, which is the first thing any freed slave would have wanted to.

BTW, the squid-folk were very unconvincing. You can't just declare someone to be a natural communist. There are no real-life examples to think of.


Charlie @ 73 & others on "evil"

Define? Well, utterly selfish, to the point that other people don't matter or are useable/expendable is as good a definition of "evil" as I can think of. But, note how that chimes (partly at least) with Charlie's take on Primate neurobiology & sociopathy (Freyaverse or elsewhere ...)

[ Theological note: the christians came so close - they defined PRIDE as the ultimate cardinal sin - whereas Overweening Pride is a symptom, not a cause - & (of course) the classical Greeks knew this also & called it: ὕβρις. ]


Evil? Damned straight I do. I've been to Dachau.


LOLROFHMS!! I presume this also explains those (to us Europeans) mystifying pieces of paper that are WC seat-shaped and found in your public facilites (for values of "public" that IME include hotel bedrooms)?


Dave P @ 85 So? I've actually worked with people who had a serial number tattoed on the inside of their wrists .... One had even been in the Gulag as well as the Kon-laager (He is a Czech - still alive, the last I heard )

I don't think you quite understand the drift of this conversation. Think of all the umnitgated evil done by the RC church - a body supposedly promoting the love of BigSkyFairy ....


Your definition of evil sounds very much like a job description for modern managers focused on shareholder-value and ROI.

What do you mean with "the Christian came so close to being evil" ? In my book they succeeded (cf. crusades, witch hunts, colonization, support of dictators, treatment of Natives in Canadian church-run youth institutions at the end of the 20th century).


What frightens me the most about the Nazi crimes is the systematic rationality they used to commit them. There have been many genocides in history, but it's the only time someone made an industry of it.


Greg @ 85 and Andreas @89:

Dachau is an example of humanity's ability to be inhuman to other humans, a good enough point for what I think we could agree is evil; it doesn't exclude the excesses of the Christian churches, the Khmer Rouge, Saddam's state rapists, men who kidnap women and imprison them for 30 years, ad nauseum. I wonder if other species have the ability to debase themselves the way homo sapiens sapiens can.


Yeah, most Americans don't do "icky".


Andreas @ 88 You misunderstand completely. The christians claimed ( still do claim ) that the worst sin was pride ... Whereas the worst that is done to people, by other people is always {?) because those "other" people don't amtter - selfishness. Yes, the christians (like other religious) believers are evil - because of their selfishness - the "others" don't matter & can be disregarded. Complete crossed-wires there (on your part)


I think you're right about industrial genocide. On the grim list we're building up here, I'd point out that Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army was pretty industrial, in the biomedical industrial sense. However, they were just interested in killing people in general, not in genocide.

As for the problem of evil, a pop psychologist (I think it was M. Scott Peck) back in the 80s (IIRC) attempted to define human evil as a subtype of narcissism, and the key defining feature being a overwhelming desire to have the world accord to the sufferer's personal vision at any cost. So far as I know, it never gained any traction, but it's an interesting concept.

One good thing to remember is that there's a difference between bad things happening and evil. Buddha's first noble truth (suffering is inevitable) is true whether or not evil exists.

Like Dave P, I believe in evil. Specifically, I think there's a poorly defined but real phenomenon here that is at least partially susceptible to research (like, oh, dreams, and death, both of which definitely happen and are very hard to characterize precisely). Because it doesn't have a standard definition, belief is probably a better term than knowledge.


Grant Morrison wrote (some time ago now) in an Invisibles letter column that he didn't think people were evil, just stupid and scared. The rub was that some of us had far more power than stupid, scared people should.


I think the best definition of evil is "treating humans as if they were things".

It's the actions that make people evil. I don't believe in "personified evil" that is the cause of evil actions. The cause is carelessness, selfishness or delusion (remember, most "evil" persons believe they are Good). Believing in personified evil or devils is the first step in falling victim to such delusions.


I think the best definition of evil is "treating humans as if they were things".

Yep. Unfortunately, there is no definition of "human", so it breaks apart as well.


I think the human species is defined well enough for philosophical purposes.


Are you kidding me? If it was well defined, there would be no argument about the morality of abortions, as well as a million other arguments.


The argument over abortion is not over whether the unwanted tissue is human (it is; so are malignant tumours) but over religion, and control of women's bodies. Anything else is just obfuscation.


Agreed in full, which is why IMO men should always vote "pro-choice" rather than "anti-abortion" when and if the time comes. We frankly don't have the moral right (some varieties of "Invisible Friend" notwithstanding) to do otherwise.


There's a difference between killing humans and treating humans as things. If you use abortions because you are to lazy to care about contraception, that's evil. If you regard women as mere baby factories, that's evil too. If a woman makes a conscious decision for an abortion that doesn't mean she regards the fetus as a thing. Usually the possible future for the child is an important part of the decision. Not everyone thinks it's fair to bring a child into the world when it's certain he/she will suffer from decease, or will be raised in an orphanage, or will be dirt poor, or subject to abusive family members.

There are other occasions where humans regularly kill other humans: death penalty, self defense, stopping life support for the terminally ill. If you do that the same way as you'd flip a light switch, that's evil. If you make a conscious decision for ending the life of another human, that might be morally right or wrong, but it's not evil.


The internet weather is sure intense as of late. You throw the word "abortion" into the discussion and all hell breaks loose.

The argument over abortion is not over whether the unwanted tissue is human (it is; so are malignant tumours) but over religion, and control of women's bodies. Anything else is just obfuscation.

There are many different arguments over abortion. The argument about the definition of human is one of them. (I support the right of choice at any stage of the pregnancy, but this is besides the point).

There is no working definition of human that isn't arbitrary.


Vanzetti Really? Homo sapiens sapientes africanus .... [ Man who thinks he thinks, originating fom Africa ] Capable, once mature, of breeding with another one of the same. There you go: definition of a human. Simples.

P.S. I often use that phrase, when asked to fill in "race" or "ethnic origin" in the irrelevant spaces near hte bottom of forms & questionnaires. Really annoys the stupid, prejudiced & ill-educated I'm glad to say.


Capable, once mature, of breeding with another one of the same.

This definition includes a fertilized egg cell.



Well, by that definition fetus is a human, while someone who is infertile isn't. Doesn't it strike you less than optimal?


featherless biped is the one I was taught in high school philosophy


Which goes to show how valueless high school philosophy can be. I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't propose kangaroos and wallabies as humans, even if we don't include extinct animals.

(One interesting attribute of humans is that we appear to be able to throw better than anything else. Humans: the animal that throws.)


Philosophy is a complete waste of time. Determined high-school kids can recreate the fucking entirety of it by themselves.


One interesting attribute of humans is that we appear to be able to throw better than anything else. Humans: the animal that throws

Yeah, this exclude fetuses. Also exclude all armless people.


And what about the rest? And the time saved by bringing children up to speed so they can start from standing on the shoulders of giants?


@ # 108 - 112 This is re-creating the educational disaster of the period 1975 - 2005 approx in this country ... Where children were encouraged to "discover things for themseleves" Now this was admittedly a reaction to a too-prescriptive menu/curriculum that was previously practised, but the doctrinaire idiots in charge of this forgot ( or more likely never knew in the first place, since none of them were scientists - they were all sociologists, euw ) that ... There is/are an infinite number of wrong answers "out there", to any question. If you are lcuky there might be more than one right answere, ss does happen in some cases. Life's too short not to take advantage of previous knowledege.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 12, 2013 11:11 AM.

Attention conservation notice was the previous entry in this blog.

Snowden leaks: the real take-home is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog