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Crass commercial interlude

I'm in transit tomorrow (Tuesday), flying Edinburgh-Orlando for YAPC::NA, where I'll be giving a keynote speech (and unwinding/doing tourist stuff—I haven't had a proper vacation since April last year).

Because we're now just over two weeks out from release of "The Rhesus Chart", I'm making some changes around here:

You might have noticed (if you scroll down a ways and direct your eyeballs to the sidebar on the right of this web page) that my blog now features a discreet advert. No, this isn't a massive change in policy: rather, it's the semi-official Laundry (SOE Q-Division) souvenir shop. Now selling t-shirts, office mugs, and (in due course) materials designed to drive home the message of the MAGIC CIRCLE OF SAFETY public information campaign. Is your family prepared to survive CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN? Are they paying enough attention to the Twitter and Facebook campaigns or the public information posters (vintage 1974, designed by the same team who brought us PROTECT AND SURVIVE)? If not, why not help jog their memory by waking them up with a lovely coffee mug, or help reduce the risk of eldritch intrusions with a Health and Safety Warning tee shirt?

Also coming later this month: a Laundry Employee of the Month competition, and an extract from "The Rhesus Chart" ...



Well see, now you don't need to worry about the World Cup hysteria so much. You've picked the right county to travel to.


OMFG! Just checked the schedule and saw that Larry Wall is speaking at YAPC::NA this year.

(Have just retrieved and packed my oldest copy of "Programming Perl", in hope of getting him to sign it. First edition, first printing, 1991. Heavily used.)


Way off topic, but I just realized... a civil defense pamphlet from 1980 called "Protect and Survive"? That has to be where Discharge got the title "Protest and Survive", right?

Yes, I do realize that I am probably the last person on Earth who remembers Discharge but doesn't know the answer to my question. Oh well.


He kindly signed my pink camel book after his keynote at YAPC::EU in 2006. One of my proudest possessions ;-)


just ordered one of the shirts. god i hope this is prepping the world for a Laundry takeover of pop culture. i would love to be cheerfully complaining that whoever's playing Mo isn't tall or ginger enough.


Saw the merch before I saw the new blog post. Took me aback for second: images on Charlie's blog? I've been thinking of getting a Mo's violin mug (left-handed) since I first saw them tweeted, but am waiting for funds.


Images other than book covers, that is.


I can't use book cover images on mugs without permission from the copyright holder -- the cover artist (Ace) or the publisher (Orbit -- who designed the cover in house).


I meant that (a quickly added an afterthought without thinking it through) as reference to you not often having a lot of images on the blog, keeping mainly text. Usual exceptions being when you have a book coming out.


Adverts? What adverts? I see no adverts...

Oh... needs zazzle javascript to be enabled, otherwise nothing shows up. NoScript... :-)


Zazzle does not have a 1 L stein, and I haz a sad. :(


No mug with the text "This mug surrounds eldritch abominations and forces them to surrender"?


Mugs, mugs, mugs: are we all workmen? Why is there no Nyarlathoteacup?


I don't drink tea by the cup. (I use a pint mug. Multiple times a day.)




If you are in the US you can swap the URL out to and then take advantage of the 15% World Cup victory discount using 'GOAAAAAAALLL' as the promo code. :)


Any chance of there being, at some point in the future, an easy & reliable way of purchasing signed books? (sort of like what PJSMPrints does for Pterry?)


Any chance of vinyl stickers with "This machine KILLS DEMONS"? My laptop is lacking one...

(note: vinyl stickers do not in and of themselves convey demon killing properties)


How to protect your home and family from nuclear attack:

Step 1: Put your head between your knees.

Step 2: Kiss your ass goodbye.

We now return you to your scheduled programming.


Off-topic, or naybe not, if we are considering "A Colder War" ... I want to start an internet meme, regading the loopy uttereances of War Criminal Blair. He has plainly lost his marbles, & needs sectioning, rather than going to Den Haag. So:

Blair 4 Broadmoor!

Pass it on. [ Note for non UK residents: Broadmoor is our best-known secure mental institution for those "unable to plead" ]


I do wonder if there's a Laundry equivalent of the Royal Observer Corps, or the UK Warning and Monitoring Organisation.

Basically, no matter how bad it gets, there will still be survivors; more lives can be saved by trying to share information and resources than by sticking your head in the ground and wibbling despairingly. Taking a "TL;DR" attitude to the post-strike situation would be like invading a Middle Eastern country without a fully-resourced post-war reconstruction plan...


"like invading a Middle Eastern country without a fully-resourced post-war reconstruction plan... "

Yeah, like that would ever happen. . . ;-)


"Any chance of vinyl stickers with "This machine KILLS DEMONS"? My laptop is lacking one..."

As indeed is at least one of my guitars, and all of the cases - I wouldn't want to put stickers on the really nice guitars but the cases are definitely fair game... :-)


and also #23 - My car would like one of its own too.


Argh! And double argh!! Is that apostrophe in the line [blog now feature's a discreet advert] a trap for grammar nazis? Am I paranoid for wondering? Is it correct, because the blog is a living entity from the Laundry files that possesses an advert? Now I am sad.


Damm why didn't this come earlier I would have loved a laundry T shirt to wear at the recent prospect conference. (that the union that represents the scientists and techies in the civil service).

Still maybe at the next one might help quell any challenges to the SOC rulings :-)


Hmm so you could have a set of recognition cards for eldritch abominations.


As far as posters go, the great work of designers Eileen Evans and Reginald Mount must be the inspiration. Look, Lock, Then Test - Keep Our Secrets Secret. (My dad's office had one of those.)

Or Don't Brag About Your Job. Even better, Never Write Down Combination Numbers. Keep Them In Your Head. Unless They Start Squirming...

Sadly the V&A website doesn't have a picture for If Something Strange should Strike You...!


Broadmoor is our best-known secure mental institution for those "unable to plead

When Charlie was here in Colorado Springs a couple years ago, we were chatting (I don't remember about what*), and I mentioned that at the local resort/hotel called The Broadmoor, up to the 1960s, if you had an even vaguely Jewish sounding name they would suddenly have no vacancies (à la Gentleman's Agreement). He mentioned that he thought no Brit would be likely to stay there due to the associations, which I hadn't been aware of but found amusing.

*It may have been a mention that it's where Bush Jr. went on a bender and found Yesus (under the bed?) then sobered up.


No mug with the text "This mug surrounds eldritch abominations and forces them to surrender"?

When it comes to "Eldritch Horrors", I suspect Pete Seeger might not have been a pacifist. Or perhaps he'd have be eaten first?


A lot of the Protect & Survive thinking made a lot more sense in the early 1950s. Before the H-Bomb and before the ICBM, the chance of being hit by the Bomb were a lot lower.

First, there were not that many bombs. When the Americans were making that "Duck and Cover" movie, the Soviet Union may have only had 25 nuclear weapons. I am not sure I trust that figure, but since the first Soviet Bomb was in 1949 it's not a crazy number.

Second, air defence systems had been well-tested in WW2. There was a lot of frantic construction going on, but manned bombers could be intercepted. The only nuclear attacks had been done against a country that already had its fighter defences eradicated.

Third, if you were in the blast area that "Duck and Cover" assumed, most of the effected area was not going to be flattened and flash-fried. The damage would be more like a conventional bomb nearby, and WW2 responses could make a hug difference.

Radiation, you say? Fall-out? There were things that could be done. With the number of A-bombs at that time, it wasn't a huge killer. It was something that, with a bit of effort, could be tolerated. Were the resources available to distribute Potassium Iodide? It was a possible answer, in terms of the area affected.

All that soon changed, more and bigger bombs and then missiles. But there was a time when the plans made some sense, and after that they just stuck.

By the 1980s it was so obviously silly, and you wonder what the politicians were doing even trying. But the decision makers were the age-group that, as young conscripts, had trained to fight a war with nuclear weapons going off.

At that time, the USA had about ten times as many nuclear weapons as the Soviet Union. The B-47 was just coming into service, and most weapons would have been delivered by either the upgraded B-29 that was the B-50, the B-36, or some obscure early jets such as the B-45.

Air defence had a chance, in those days.


Protect and Survive is remembered as either a nearly-fascist document or else a piece of awesome cold war atompunk kitsch, but back in 2010 Melissa Smith at Manchester University got a much respected prize in history for this journal article in which she identified the science behind it and discovered that there had been a remarkable debate within government about whether to release the open data that supported its advice.

if you had an even vaguely Jewish sounding name they would suddenly have no vacancies

Hm, anybody tried to make some bookings as Alfred Rosenberg? Bonus points for going into angry Prussian dialect when rejected, though then, some of the hallmarks of actual East Prussian dialects being diminutives and losing roundedness makes for debatable scariness. I was just able to find some samples of Mennonite Plautdietsch, which is a variety of Low Prussian. Actual Baltic German seems to be a somewhat different story, still. Of course, the receptionist could take it for Yiddish...

Another idea might be Rudolf Levin, who was one of the guys involved with the Ahnenerbe.

In both cases, bonus points for asking what are the best trave routes from and to Uruguay.

Yeah, err, sorry, got carried away.


And for German dialects in general, here is a little summary from the 70s:

East Low Prussian would be spoken in Königsberg, e.g. 1:46


In the Post-war years I think the hotel would consider itself patriotic enough that being anti-semitic and anti-Nazi wouldn't be contradictory.

As for South America; I met a Argentinian-Jewish woman a couple years ago, whose grandparents were part of a wave of German-Jewish immigrants in the 1920s that founded a half dozen villages on the Pampas. You'd never guess her roots from her accent--very Latin American.

(and that was supposed to be Lesus. I got my misspelled Latin mixed up with pop-music titles.)


Err, as already mentioned, sorry, I was somewhat carried away, and the guy's name is notorious for WTF moments in history classes.

As for Bush Jr. finding Lesus, well, alcohol hangovers and even just plain heavy alcohol consumption might lead to seizures,

so maybe he had a short stint into Geschwind syndrome?


Sorry that this is off-topic, but after reading the Wikipedia article on Geschwind syndrome, I notice that several of the symptoms describe Philip K. Dick's behavior after the "Zebra" incident (the hypergraphia exhibited in The Exegesis, the hyperreligiosity, the cognitive overdrive ...); and the incident itself (believing he had been "shot" by a beam of pink laser light that blinded him and "beamed" information directly into his brain).


Sorry, dropped the end of that sentence: the incident itself sounds like a n epileptic seizure.


It's worth remembering that those close to Bush II at the time didn't remember a massive personality change after the event. While I'm not saying it didn't happen, I will say that biographies normally change quite substantially when a person is running for US President.

For example, in the last campaign, we were treated to the spectacle of Mitt Romney's haunted eyes every time he pandered to the far right (the guy's a middle-right oligarch, not a foaming tea party bigot, no matter how he portrayed himself). Aaand before that, we had Obama playing down his use of marijuana in high school, once he had to enforce US drug policy.

And so it goes.


My vote re: Dubya is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy ...

The dementia that follows strokes (or their equivalent) is not always quickly/easily observed. It over a year to figure out all of the changes in one elderly relative's demeanor following a massive stroke. Diagnostic imaging following the second stroke clearly showed how severe and localized the damage was. It was only after this that we could better approach 'conversations' with this relative, knowing that we now needed some external frame of reference to puzzle out the confabulations. BTW, the confabulations resist any logical argument -- it is common for this relative to hold firmly to two mutually exclusive truths at the same time, and get very, very angry when told that they are mutually exclusive therefore cannot both be true at the same time.

The religiosity has increased since the stroke; it's pretty well a mania now. But as a friend pointed out, some of this can be explained by the phenomenon known as 'cramming for finals'.


Temporal lobe seizures also account for Dubya's problem with words/word retrieval.


I found the newspaper column I'd read about Bush jr. and The Broadmoor: George W's photo not in Broadmoor gallery

President Bush has stayed at the hotel on a number of occasions. We have no idea if one particular occasion had anything to do with him not putting his photo on the wall, but it has been documented extensively in books and newspaper articles. It was July 1986 and “Dub Yuh” and several of his Texas cronies were at the resort celebrating turning 40. Goodness, yes, were the boys celebrating. The next morning, Bush had a major hangover and felt even worse during his routine morning run, this one at high altitude. Then and there, with a firm nudge from his wife (and, he says, a religious epiphany), George W. Bush and alcohol parted ways for good.

Almost ten years before he became Texas Governor. Was going into politics was part of his 'epiphany'?


Urg. Please delete that extraneous apostrophe? ("feature's")


There's some weird universal convergence going on right now. Just yesterday, I received a solicitation for the Broadmoor hotel in the mail. I'd never even heard of it before seeing it in this thread.

So. Creepy.


In the Post-war years I think the hotel would consider itself patriotic enough that being anti-semitic and anti-Nazi wouldn't be contradictory.

Not contradictory at all! The Jerrys were the bad guys we went to war against, and the Jews were all Communists trying to undermine our blessed way of life.

(Seriously, I remember one of my older neighbors ranting at length along these lines when I was a teenager in the 80's).


You know there is probably an ISO 9000 standard document for hot beverage provision at the Laundry and a 2 day H&S course for consuming it

I once when working for BT ex GPO (which had documents for every thing) had to look up a document on our intranet for industrial relations purposes.

I mistyped the doc id and got a TI (technical instruction) from the 40's that explained how you worked out pension entitlement based on what medals you had got from the second world war.


Two words: Angleton.

(Also, I don't think Pete Seeger was a pacifist. He was however against starting wars, or joining them.)


My experience suggests that, even among avowedly pacifist pro-animal-rights vegans, it's considered that the right thing to do when a bear attacks you is to run away very fast while blasting bear spray over your shoulder. Many pacifists concede a right to personal self-defense if someone physically attacks you: if something non-human is trying to eat you then moral reservations go on the back-burner until you've finished with the flee/fight reflex.


+1 me to please


Well, I was using Pacifist in the general anti-war use, not the more specific pacifying your opponents so they don't hurt you (too much) meaning.

Seeger would certainly fit in the first category. FWIW, he's in the Wikipedia lists of American Pacifists.


I think I'll side with Randy Newman rather than Pete Seeger (jk)


Personally, I don't think it's worth medicalizing Dubya's mental condition. Here's another take on it, with a side commentary on Cheney to boot.


Your link doesn't seem to be working for me.


What I'd really like to see would be a "Capital Laundry Services" lanyard for my corporate ID badge.


Can't get this link to open either ...



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 16, 2014 3:36 PM.

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