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Oh dear

The Japanese economy is officially in recession, and David Cameron chose to use his last speech at the G20 summit to warn of the risk of a new global economic crisis. I wonder if he knows something that the rest of us don't (yet)?

I'm off to Berlin tomorrow. I'll try to blog, if I have time and if the global economy doesn't collapse while I'm away. (If it does, I'm going into hiding.) Alas, the Stasi Museum is shut for construction; guess I'll just have to be content with the DDR Museum instead. Oh, and one final piece of news: I finally got (and signed) the US contract for "The Annihilation Score", so I guess next summer's Laundry Files novel is officially A Thing. (I never quite believe it until I have a chance to read the small print.)

155 Comments

1:

Maybe he's finally noticing that a) trickle-down-economics doesn't really work and b) the billionaires that benefit from it will bribe, er, "lobby" as many officials as possible to keep their money flowing. After all, billionaires almost by definition have more money than they ever need, so why give a rat's ass about everyone else's economy? Heck, let the rest of the U.S. and Europe turn into a third-world country; prices will be cheaper.

2:

Maybe he's finally noticing that a) trickle-down-economics doesn't really work

You think he didn't know that from the get-go? My, how charming and refreshingly naive!

3:

Cameron knows that nothing has fundamentally changed since the last recession. But hey, new Laundry book! Woohoo!

4:

May I just interject and ask if any commenters in Berlin know of a suitable place to have a gathering? Requirements:

* Large enough to cope with a crowd.

* quiet enough for conversation.

* not smoky (I think the first requirement guarantees this one, though)

* really good, interesting beer, not just Schofferhöfer, Köstritzer and some lager or other.

5:

Actually, two new Laundry books -- one in July 2015 (written), and one in July 2016 (I'm going to start it when I get home from Berlin, if not interrupted by edits on earlier books).

Book 6 is "The Annihilation Score". Starts 72 hours before the end of "The Rhesus Chart", told by Mo, giving her side of events ... and then carrying on with the aftermath of the Code Red at the New Annex, and a surprising requirement from the Home Office for someone who knows something about managing teams of superheroes ...

Book 7 (provisionally titled "The Nightmare Stacks") starts some months later, and is told by Alex (who you might remember from "The Rhesus Chart"). The Laundry is looking for a new HQ as Case Nightmare Green looms and their existing estate is found wanting. They have decided that Quarry House in Leeds is the perfect command centre when the apocalypse comes[*], and so various staff are despatched to the wilds of West Yorkshire to check out the facilities, look for accommodation, and so on. Alas, the Laundry are not the only entities exhibiting an interest in the buildings on and under Quarry Hill, and Alex (and his mentor Pete the Vicar) are about to find themselves confronted by, well, a nightmare ...

[*] Seriously, Quarry Hill Flats -- which were demolished in the 70s to make way for Quarry House -- were designated by the Gestapo as being perfect for their Northern England HQ after Operation Sealion and the successful invasion of the UK. Defensible by machine gun fire from all approaches, for starters.

6:

Well, never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity and all that, right?

7:

Quarry House!?!?!

Seriously?

I used to work in that place, as part of the DSS Year 2000 effort, AKA practical computational archaeologists. Quarry House is a rather strange place; the floor plans up and down the building mostly match up, except when they don't. In the main corridoors, pink carpet tiles down the middle means DSS, sky blue means NHS and never the twain shall meet.

The building isn't one huge monolithic bloc; there are two light wells (sic), both having a rather speleological air to them at the bottom. The smaller holds merely a very mossy lawn, the larger a rather miserable shrubbery and one lone blackbird, master of all he surveys (it was a male, IIRC) provided he doesn't try to fly back out again.

Parking cannot be had for love nor money, but cycle parking is easier to obtain, and the local roads are not nearly as murderously scary on a bike as you might imagine, mainly because the road network of Leeds is so hideously sub-optimal for cars that one can out-pace the motorised traffic on a bike. For entertainment on a morning, stand at the side of the car park and watch fire engines on the A64 playing chicken with half-awake commuters; or if you like blood with your entertainment, try applying security patches to the desktop hardware in that place.

The DSS is hierarchical to a fault. It is possible to determine the exact position of anyone in the hierarchy merely by examining their office chair, the subtle details thereof (leather, faux-leather, fabric, arms present and so on) indicate their social position.

Now, if you really want to frighten me, make reference to Wade House over in the Merrion Centre, or for that matter the out-station over at Lawnswood. That (alongside a nuclear bunker and an ADAS centre) houses Recovery From Estates, and very likely the recruitment centre for Residual Human Resources as well.

8:

Hmm. You aren't the only person I know who worked there, but ...

What do you know about the (semi-legendary) swimming pool?

(Feel free to ping me via email. Actually trying to get access to QH for fiction-writing research purposes is well nigh impossible. I might be a terrorist, don'tcha know.)

9:

To be honest, this is the first I ever heard of the swimming pool. I do know of, and have seen a section of carpet which aroused much ire in the local press due to the cost; it lurks mostly unseen in a particularly dim and dingy ground floor area by a meeting room.

Now I think about it, there was some form of on-site health centre or similar, but as a humble outside contractor I never got to see it. Web searching turns up something called the Forum Leisure Centre in Quarry House, so presumably there's some public access to the place in addition to the DSS/NHS side. That would logically put it at or near ground floor level, as the publicly-accessible bit would have to be separated off somehow.

As to the security of Quarry House, as I recall the buildings security was tight, but strange. Try to carry any item of computing kit into the building and you'd get stopped, but anyone carrying literally anything out again was assumed to be authorised.

10:

I don't think that Cameron and his ilk believe they are being malicious. They are simply serving their constituency, and believe that by doing this they are serving their country. People have an incredible capacity for self-deception.

Reuben Bolling's most recent cartoon is also apropos.

11:

As someone who was in the DDR Museum a few months ago, it seemed rather obviously and off-puttingly triumphalist (I think it's run as a tourist trap by a private company, rather than as an academic exercise). I'd apply a good dose of sodium chloride to a lot of what you read in there.

12:

Peoples' ideas of security can be... strange.

I once worked for a commercial pharmacy; the kind that deals directly with hospitals and nursing homes, not end users. They were *nuts* about security... except policy and practice were evidently handed down from Above, by people who couldn't pour piss out of a boot.

Being there for long periods on evenings and weekends when the pharmacists weren't there, and being bored... I noted that the wall between the main drug warehouse and the rest of the building didn't go all the way to the top. I amused myself by purchasing small stuffed animals at dollar stores and flea markets, and tossing one over the wall every couple of days. Other contractors began doing the same thing, and then one of them found that most small stuffed animals were highly compressible, and if rolled right, could be stuffed through the wire mesh of the narcotics storage cage. For most of a year, small stuffed toys kept appearing in the "secure" areas, and the cameras weren't picking anything up...

The key was that all of the security was arranged to detect things being smuggled *out* of the building. (Which it didn't do very well, considering the continual "product loss" problem) Nobody even considered anyone smuggling anything *into* the building or secure areas.

The senior pharmacists and managers were in a continual half-panic over the "toy problem." They never did figure out what was going on, and eventually we stopped doing it.

13:

I'm a little puzzled. Bob's initials are BOFH; by rights Alex's should be PFY.

14:

I can confirm the existence of the internal leisure centre, with gym, swimming pool (not sure why contractors couldn't use it, as us casuals could, as could guest family members) and bar. The infamous carpet was used as a practice topic for folk learning how to write answers to MP's correspondence or Parliamentary Questions (PQs): basically there had been a decree from on high that rather than decorating Government offices outside London with the usual run of paintings borrowed from assorted galleries, there would be a provision made to spend the equivalent of 1% of the building cost on the work of local artists (the money came off the Arts budget, not from either DH or DSS). It was really more of a 2.5-dimensional fabric sculpture than a carpet, but it was indeed pretty spectacular.

15:

There's also the Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen and the Militär Historisches Museum that might be useful, Berlin loves its museums: http://www.museumsportal-berlin.de/en. And for the third time I leave a city right when you arrive.

16:

Naw. Peter-Fred Young turns up in an earlier story....

17:

I am considering officially designating "Pimpf" (and a couple of other shorts) as Chibi Laundry, and not part of the core canon. You read it here first :)

18:

The swimming pool was allegedly part of the gym/health club when QH was specced out to attract civil servants from London. To induce them to go live in the sticks, where they'd be cheaper to pay, the health club was designed to be an attractive perk of the job. It could also be used as a water reservoir for the building in event of siege/civil disorder/war.

This lasted until the Daily Mail or similar found out and ran a predictable OUTRAGE AT FEATHER BEDDED CIVIL SERVANTS headline, at which point the pool was drained and turned into a store room.

Or so I am told.

(I heard about the pool and thought, "hmm, office accommodation for Deep One liaison officers" ...)

19:

Whereabouts in Berlin will you be based ?
My "local" is a bit of a home-from-home Scottish pub (so not what you'd be after), but I can ask around my office tomorrow for other suggestions.

20:

Just an observation from a (West-)Berlin native: The DDR-Museum and the Stasi-Museum are not readily interchangeable.

The DDR-Museum is a private venture that focuses on everyday life in the GDR, mostly illustrated by a large collection of GDR products and household items, all sprinkled with a helping of quaint nostalgia. While a fun place for tourists to visit, it's focus is explicitly not the sinister side of the East German state – which I guess is what you are after if your initial plan was the Stasi-Museum.

So I'd like to leave two recommendations:

* The Exhibit at the Palace of Tears next to Friedrichstraße Station. It does a surprisingly good job of capturing the obressive experience of traveling in and out of east Berlin. It also documents the stunning surveillance effort and assorted border madness that was necessary to turn one of the busiest railway stations in the heart of the city into a border checkpoint. It is fairly compact and will probably take less than an hour to visit. Admission is free.

* The Stasi Prison memorial in Hohenschönhausen offers guided tours in English. (No Museum, tours only). Does what it says on the tin. Focus is the treatment of political prisoners in East Germany.

21:

Okay, I gotta ask.
Just what is that on top of Quarry House? Is it simply a sculptural lightning rod, or does it serve some other nefarious purpose--at least in the Laundryverse? Looks like something out of classic Dr.Who.

22:

After this post went up, I tried looking for a half-remembered story on NPR last week. I thought they had something about older East Germans pining for the Good Ol' Days but didn't find that.
I did come across this one: Berlin's 'Palace Of Tears,' A Reminder Of Divided Families, Despair

Oh, and this one: How Mr. Hasselhoff Tore Down This Wall

23:

Given that Quarry House is a major DSS centre, during the late Thatcher period of the 1980s the ... thing ... on the roof inevitably acquired the nick-name "the claimant zapper".

24:

Getting them talking about the new world economic crisis kept the people at home from talking about the report that conclusively blows holes in "we're all in this together."

Not that anyone really believes it any more, but a bucket load of evidence like that... and suddenly no one is talking about it.

25:

I think a lot of it comes from believing their own propaganda. They really thought that cutting benefits in some areas wouldn't lead to them rising in others. And they believed their own headlines about people getting into work without bothering with the detail that most of them aren't earning enough to pay any tax and still require lots of benefits.

So the apparent recovery has - surprise! - not caused tax revenues to increase. Hence the hasty need to do just what Miliband is claiming - get their excuses in early and blame someone else.

26:

If the Stasi Museum is closed,

Stiftung Topographie des terrors

http://www.topographie.de/en/

might be a "suitable" alternative - coming from other ideological direction, if you will.

27:

I have seen the swimming pool. I used to work at LGI and we were told that we were eligible to use the gym facilities at Quarry House. I went to look round and was given a tour of the area. The pool was pretty good but the gym was a bit poor.
I carried on going to the International Pool which was close to the hospital but as a Poulson building was a bit under the weather ( The final L had fallen off the International Pool sign any many thought this was appropriate).

28:

Okay, stupid detail question: can you remember the dimensions of the pool (length, depth, hopefully width too) and whether it was at or below the ground floor level?

29:

"I think a lot of it comes from believing their own propaganda."

For the peons, yes - they're useful fools.

For the elites, we're seeing the same motherf_ing pattern repeated in the Western (+ Japan) developed world.

I've come to believe that the elites *want* the current situation. They get bailed out, they are the only ones with cash, so that they can buy things. It's a sweet deal.

And this is another major factor impinging on the next 20 years in the UK. IMHO, at that point the quite deliberate destruction of the middle class will have been happening for 25 years or more, and the Thatcherite destruction takes that back to 55 years.

Upward mobility will be a rare thing for 75% of the population, and for the next 15-20% holding ground will be non-trivial.

I think that at that point class distinctions will have hardened quite solidly, with a large government devoting substantial resources to enforcing those barriers.

30:

Another Stasi-relevant exhibition is here:

http://www.bstu.bund.de/SharedDocs/Ausstellungen/Region-Berlin/berlin_stasi.html;jsessionid=232ACB292A60DD8CA914A7F39D0D3BCE.2_cid344?nn=3160732

Open daily 10-18 h, audioguides supposedly available in English. It's next to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin-Mitte.

You might also be interested in the "Alliiertenmuseum", which has a large part on the Berlin airlift of 1948/9:

http://www.alliiertenmuseum.de/en/home.html

It is a bit out of the way, but I thought it worth a visit.

... and the Military History Museum at Gatow airport, with a bunch of aircraft:

http://mhm-gatow.de/en/

31:

I am still rather badly lagging in NaNoWriMo, but after an orgy involving pagan priestesses and the guys who got the contract to fix the roof, and a shooting in a mosque, I have had what has turned out to be a productive weekend.

I also managed to suggest that the Ballad of Serenity is based on an unauthorised translation of a pagan song. And I also managed to work in the potential uses of a Welsh song about multi-coloured goats.

Maybe I should have gone to the G20 meeting instead of Mr. Cameron.

32:

Germany has a Dance Dance Revolution museum? Cool!

33:

Yet another denoucement on this evenings T.V.of The Economic Way Things Are and the Gap Between Ever So Rich and The Others/the poor/the walking dead or whatever we have sunk down to this week.

Nothing new to anyone who has been paying attention here in the U.K, but this time the denouncment was on Channel 4 T.V and it does include such interesting items as just where in London our Snr Politicians - of all parties -live and the value of their homes and also income gaps and life expectancy in Scotland betwixt Rich and Poor ..

"

How the Rich Get Richer, Mon 17 Nov

Spectator Editor Fraser Nelson exposes a growing inequality in British society, exploring new gulfs in earnings, education, prospects and life expectancy "

No doubt it will be repeated but the Channel 4 site includes an interesting little quiz ..


http://www.channel4.com/programmes/how-rich-are-you

Out of curiosity I tried a google image search and then just a standard google search ..sorry it's the Daily Heil but the info is interesting ..

" I earn too little to pay 50p tax, claims Osborne (who owns a £3m home and a slice of family firm)

George Osborne earns £134,565 as Chancellor - just over £15,000 short of 50p tax threshold
He rents out Notting Hill family home while living in 10 Downing Street flat
Osborne has 15% stake in family wallpaper business which is worth an estimated £4million "


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2118669/George-Osborne-Im-wealthy-pay-50p-tax-rate.html

34:

What, now Fraser fucking Nelson is taking the side of the poor? He's a well known writer of nonsense, so I presume his ideas to help the poor involve more markets in everything that can and can't be marketised?

35:

Hi Charlie, as I recall it's a 25m pool on the ground floor, 4 lanes so I guess about 10m wide and 1-2m deep. Does actually have natural light, though windows are small and about 1st floor height. Strange place.

36:

The online travel search engines for Quarry House keep pulling up charming B&Bs ... all very highly rated, but no prices showing. Followed by this Wikipedia entry for the same search request. Interesting
juxtapositioning... old country charm meets super-bugs.


"Superbugs" and PFI

Fatal outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria ("superbugs"), such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, in NHS hospitals[8] has led to criticism of the DH's decision to outsource cleaning via private finance initiative contracts as "cutting corners on cleaning".[9]

A "Deep Clean" initiative announced by the Department of Health was criticised by infection control experts and by the Lancet as a gimmick which failed to address the causes of in-hospital infections,[10] by the firms doing the work as an attempt to avoid paying for regular better cleaning,[11] and by NHS managers as ineffective.[11]

It also attracted criticism because only a quarter of the £60m funding for the scheme actually went to hospitals, and because a number of hospitals missed the completion target,[12] and as of June 2008 one in four NHS trusts was not meeting the government's standards on hygiene.[13]

37:

Pool, Swimming, for the use of.

Well we could be dechlorinating the moderator. Could be setting up an underwater summoning rig, though excess grounding might be a problem. Could be entertaining visitors with different environmental requirements.

I can't wait. Any chance you could write faster?

38:

> As to the security of Quarry House, as I recall the buildings security was tight, but strange. Try to carry any item of computing kit into the building and you'd get stopped, but anyone carrying literally anything out again was assumed to be authorised.

I saw the same thing while toiling in the national security fields inside the Washington Beltway in the 1970-80s, though it was more general than just computer stuff. Many places, including a TLO located in Langley, VA, had no exit checks -- but every so often they'd institute entry checks of briefcases(*), and they'd consistently catch people who had taken classified stuff home to work on in the evening(**). Reprimands were issued.

At one point Admiral Turner, who was in charge of the TLO at the time, issued a very vexed Headquarters Notice advising everybody that they really, really, should stop such practices.

(*) Purses were off limits, for reasons of personal privacy.

(**) I never quite figured that out.

39:

I didn't go into the pool area. It was along time ago but ISTR it was ground level or slightly lower. I saw it through a large internal window and it was well lit but I don't know about natural light.
Sorry this doesn't help much but it was a short visit a long time ago.

40:

It's entirely unrelated to the museums you mention, but I suspect you'd like the Buchstabenmuseum.

41:

In most security setups things seem to always get lax over time until something goes wrong and then "heads roll" and things are tightened up.

Back around 1980 or so I was told a story at one of the top 5 insurance companies in the US. The internal data center manager claimed their security was tough and nothing could get out without authorization. A friend told him nothing was perfect and he could get a 3330 DASD cartridge out without much effort. (Over a foot in diameter and about 1/2 foot thick.) So there was a bet of coffee on the desk of the other by the looser every morning for a month. Soon there was a data center DASD sitting on the desk of the manager. How was it done? The winner of the bet came in one day and checked into the data center with a large box duly noted on the check in form. When he left with this authorized (and I think taped up box) no one checked as to what was in it since it was something he came in with. Policies were soon changed. :)

42:

Triple-Dip Recession Time for Europe. It sure would be nice if the ECB and German leadership decided that it would be a good idea to give us some monetary and fiscal stimulus, not that I'm hopeful we'll get it.

I keep thinking it's going to get bad enough that the Austerians are going to get pushed out of power, just like how the Austerians in the Federal Reserve and US government got knocked out of power by the Great Depression. But it doesn't seem to be happening.

Japan's recession is really bizarre. They've got a recession, but still very low unemployment compared to everyone else - 3.5%, a rate the US would kill to have right now (well, most of the US, since the Very Serious People would be jumping out of windows screaming "inflation!" if it was that low). But that means that some of the traditional means of combating recessions - fiscal and monetary stimulus - are rather tricky to use. You need to not just get wages rising, but also increase overall labor force employment in the economy (particularly among Japanese women).

44:

Any chance you could write faster?

Ahem.

Any chance you could work more overtime so you could afford to buy more copies of my books?

(Because that's the exact equivalent of what you're asking me for. Yes, I know you want more books. Yes, I want to write them. No, I do not want to die of Karoshi. If you stop to think about it, you don't want me to die of that either.)

45:

Japan's recession is really bizarre. They've got a recession, but still very low unemployment compared to everyone else - 3.5%, a rate the US would kill to have right now

It's not just because of systematic underemployment among women' Japan is in a demographic crisis with a total fertility rate of 1.1 babies per woman per reproductive lifetime. Their population is due to halve by the end of the 21st century if they don't start admitting lots of immigrants or turn around the collapsing birth rate (which is down to social issues -- good luck with that!). As shrinking populations go hand in hand with a rising dependent to work-force ratio, it's inherently recessionary and deflationary while also going hand-in-glove with low unemployment.

46:

Agreed. I suppose the silver lining there is that they may pioneer some interesting innovations in consumer robotics/automation before they finally give up and start tacitly admitting immigrants in serious numbers.

Shinzo Abe's actually done pretty well so far in getting more women into the work-force, considering the period of time (their labor force participation rate is up about 3-4%). I think he's going to run into the "child care" obstacle, though - child care in a lot of rich countries tends to be low-paid work done frequently by immigrants, and Japan doesn't have much of that.

47:

No, it's pointing out that Georgie Porgie was being economical with the truth in his interview when he claimed he wouldn't benefit from the tax cut he introduced (the article is also 2 years old) because his income as chancellor wasn't over the limit. He neglected to mention his wife's earnings for renting out their swank house since we pay them to live in 11 Downing Street, and a few other sources of income for the family and him personally outside his salary as Chancellor that were a matter of public record at the time.

Silly boy.

48:

OK
BEFORE I read any comments.
I repeat.
If Boy George's ( & Camoron's ) "economic policy" is such a disaster, & I also repeat that they have succeeded more through luck than judgement - & that they were expecting wages to risem for a bigger tax take - which didn't happen, oops.
Then ....
Excepting the USA, everyone else appears to be doing worse - even Germany, now.
So, all you tory-haters (as opposed to me, who have finally concluded that I am now a Whig, since the "one nation tory party of Macmillan that I liked when I was 20 has vanished in the mists & would now be regarded as hopelessly left-wing...)
Could any of you, or any other leader/party in a developed country do any better?
I posit the disasters in France, Spain & Italy as exemplars.

Oh & Charlie @ #2
Sorry, but wrong.
Camoron is NOT that stupid, much as we would like to believe, & I don't think he believes that - some of his advisers, left over from the madwoman might, though.
Contrast: Thatcher & advisers stamped on any possible investment in space or the railways at every opportunity.
This guvmint is at least spending some useful monies on both - as long-term investments.
A straw in the wind?

49:

Reminds me ot the time, in the (really this time) "good old days of yore" when there really were student rag weeks (Can't do that now, because of "terrrsm" ...
Soton Uni, realised that most Prison security is designed against escapes, not entry ... & painted "SOTON RAG" in 2-foot high letters on the inside of Parkhurst's walls.
Rather than thanking the students for exposing their gaps, "the authorities" had a severe sense-of-humour failure & banned Soton from having a Rag for 2 years.
Unlike the times Manchester: a) Painted their slogan on a nucleas sub on the stocks @ Barrow & b) - in a different year - "captured" the whole of the N of England's TV (ONE transmiiter, then) by intercepting the cable-feed & inserting a (carefully-wiped-of-prints) video-recorder & clock ... that then kicked-off at prime-time, declaring Yorkshire a republic, free beer for all the workers, suppport rag, etc ...
Plod were NOT amused, then, either.

50:

"Class distinctions" as in the "middle" class will have been subsumed into the "working" one?

Remember I don't buy any of this "class" shite for personal reasons.

Which reminds me, if you really want to see how bad things got in some areas during the madwoman's years in power ...
Try by starting with reading THIS COMMENT & then, if you have time (it's long) reading the whole thing, down from the top to the end.
A fascinating tale of prejudice, corruption & incompetence in guvmint.

And how much of this sort of thing goes on elsewhere?

51:

They never did figure out what was going on, and eventually we stopped doing it.

I bet "they" figured it out all-right: In the end someone paid a psychic or shaman or whatnot to burn some herbs in the corners and the manifestations stopped ;-)

Now, someone will write an article about The Haunted Drug Storage ... and it will become A True Story (tm).

You lot have brought miracles & wonder into the world ;-)

52:

Quarry House, A.K.A.The Kremlin, locally. My sister used to work there, in the Treasury part of the DHS if I recall correctly, and I distinctly remember her complaining quite vocally about the fact that although everyone saw the pool and gym as a privileged perk, it was actually too expensive for most NHS staff to afford to use.

53:

Try
HERE
Oh SHIT!
Really modern-Stalinist monstrosity isn't it?
I see what you mean about the Cybermen-type "thing" on the roof ...
Ukkkk

54:

Feòrag, your requirements unfortunately rule out all my favourite joints (I prefer my pubs smoky, small and with a conservatice tap-policy ;-), but since no-one else has piped up I'll try to be as helpful as I can:

  • The Kuchenkaiser at Oranienplatz is large enough (though you should call ahead to be sure), has 8 different beers on tap (of which 3 might fall into your "interesting" category, see here), smoke-free and none too loud unless its totally full. It's not the coolest place in the world and prices are a bit high for Berlin, but not excessively so. Not far from the Otherland book store either (about 1/2 hour to walk or 15 minutes by public transport+walk).
  • The Brauhaus Südstern has a small selection of home-brewed beers, looks large enough, smoke-free. Don't know about noise levels (never been there, but a friend says it's all right) and might be a bit touristy, but it's within easy walking distance of the Otherland.
  • The Hopfenreich has a changing selection of 15 craft beers on tap. Might be too tight though and looks a bit hipsterish (though again, I've never been, it's fairly new).
  • The Clash has a medium range of cheap beers, is large and very close to the Otherland but it tends to be unpredictable in noise level (usually fine unless there's a show on) and can be a bit lax in its anti-smoking regime. Great place if you're into punk with all it's trappings, not so fantastic otherwise.
Lastly, the Zyankali Bar is definitely out for this occasion (too small and they have a DJ on Thursday), but good for a nightcap aftewards. It's a fairly surreal cocktail bar (they also have several good beers though) and worth a look (also right around the corner from Otherland).


Hope that helped in any way, have a good trip. Oh, and I think Zephro might be mistaking the DDR museum for the museum at Checkpoint Charlie (which is indeed privately run and nauseatingly triumphalist) in #11

55:

I'm reminded of a legend about a pentester hired to test a particular server's security. They were getting nowhere so they borrowed a truck, backed up to the client's loading dock, and stole the server.

56:

That strange thing on top of the building is actually just the exit flue for the gas-fired central heating. To be honest the entire building has always reminded me of a construct from a game like Quake or something similar.

Of some slight interest to OGH may be that in addition to the above-ground car parks, there is a below-ground car park situated under the building its self. It also houses the mostly-secure (as in, use a bike lock or the bike goes walkies) bike racks.

One final note: if you're ever going up there for a look around, go in daylight. The area is dodgy, security-wise, at night and the Playhouse car park near there has a dire reputation where car crime is concerned.

57:

Um...I understand completely wanting to chibi some tales to manoeuvre the official Laundryverse into line. But I think Peter-Fred (or his name and that he's Bob's intern) turns up in The Fuller Memorandum a couple of times.

(also, been a while, hey all!)

58:


Bizarre, indeed.

Japan is in a very worrying place with their recession: they've been trying and trying to restart economic growth with stimulus packages, and failing.

That's all fuelled by debt and Japan has been treating the Post Office savings bank as a bottomless well. That's good in terms of minimising overseas debt (although their external debt is still very high), and not so good in terms of an ageing population who are shifing from saving to drawing down those savings in retirement.

Sooner or later the bucket will hit the bottom of the well and come up dry, and an economy that is structurally dependent on massive subsidies *just to bump along with zero growth* will experience a debt crunch and a collapse in consumption led by penniless pensioners.

That *could* be the 'Red Light' that Cameron claims to have seen, although it probably isn't: any number of things could precipitate the next banking crisis - the only kind of crisis that worries the Conservatives - and my bet is that the trigger will be something completely out of 'left field'.

Meanwhile, Japan is at least trying to keep consumption up and money circulating. Cameron and the wider Conservative movement are actively pursuing the deflationary policy of Austerity - a deliberate economic contraction - and working to acccelerate the concentration of wealth.

Piketty's noticed that; so have most of us here. The bit that isn't sinking in is that the wealthy don't consume very much, and they don't deploy their capital in productive investments that recirculate money in wages and consumption.

They are, to use the vulgar term, rent seekers.

We are seeing the effects of rising house rents on consumption, but other rents are just as destructive and far less visible - commercial monopolies and the sale of state monopolies on water, prisons, education - or visible but unacknowledged as 'rents', like Workfare.

All of these things withdraw money from production and consumption, and there is a foreseeable tipping-point at which a deflationary spiral is inescapable and consumption and wages collapse.

...Leaving the wealthy holding assets which appreciate in real value with deflation; as do rents, and their economic power to exact them on the population.

That's the economic 'red light' Cameron knows about; and he may well regard it as a desirable objective - a victory condition in class warfare. Or he may well have internalised it as some worthy moral goal: the prolonged pursuit of destructive ends requires unending self-deception. The tricky question is how to spin it so the blame is misdirected.

59:

To be honest I would treat pretty much all of what politicians are saying at the moment as birdsong and nothing more; right now there is an election coming up, so that's where their attention is focussed.

I am also increasingly skeptical of any claim that politicians are able to help anything much at all. A very large amount of the time, the best thing any politician can do is nothing at all and this includes not legislating, not regulating, and not interfering.

Human society works on trust for the most part. Primitive societies run on trust as well; you only get bartering where people don't trust each other. The best thing a politician can do is enforce one rule of law for everybody, and make legal actions to enforce contracts as simple, quick, cheap and fast as possible.

Apart from that, getting rid of tax on account (a pernicious trick whereby businesses get charged tax before they are liable for it) would be an inspired move, as would a tremendous simplification of all of the UK's tax system; this amounts to doing a lot less as fairly as possible. Simply abolishing inheritance tax altogether would also help, as it would remove the need for complex estate planning, which would then remove the fetters on the traditional means by which great families cease being great, namely the feckless wastrel.

Overall, I tend to think that politicians are almost never the solution, and every effort must be made to make enacting new laws a slow and tedious business, so that few get made and those only slowly (secondary legislation: what a daft idea!).

60:

As far as I recall they quietly dropped actual austerity a few years back (just not the purge on social programs)

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/11/the-return-of-expansionary-austerity/

and france isnt a disaster either

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/whats-the-matter-with-france/

What improvements there have been in the UK economy would seem to be due to us no longer hitting ourselves in the face with a bat, as Prof Krugman is fond of saying.

61:

When I was there (1993-4) as a casual EO, I'm fairly sure the pool was free - there was certainly no charge for bringing the kids. Of course, it could be that there was a pay-related charge and we were just too low down in the pecking order....

62:

Incidentally I think Cameron could pick any moment to warn of a potential financial crisis. Nothing has been done to change the legislative or regulatory environments around banking since '08 and as western governments have been following a demonstably wrong economic theory they have left their economies floundering in a liquidity trap.
Japan is a great example as it has already done this whole process once before in the 80's, lost decade anybody?

63:

Nile - I usually agree with you but:
Cameron and the wider Conservative movement are actively pursuing the deflationary policy of Austerity - a deliberate economic contraction - and working to acccelerate the concentration of wealth.
Are you really sure - wouldn't it be "beeter" from their point of view to have increasing tax-take & tevenues, thus "guaranteeing" their re-election?
And, of course the economy, unlike France / Germany / Italy / Spain is actually growing, though not a lot.
Um.

64:

DOUBLEPLUSGOOD.
Seriously, your noticing that our tax structures are fucked is something most people don't realise.
Someone I know very well tells me that when she started work in Tax (approx 1977) the statutes & guidance were two fairly thick volumes - quite enough to keep people occupied...
Now it's two or three feet of linear bookshelf-space.
And this is entirely the work of the politicians, not the "tax professionals" who would actually prefer to have less work to do, would you bleieve ... if only because it is now almost impossible in many cases to get an accurate assement of what tax is (or is not) owed ... especially if the USA/IRS is ivolved - a real horror-show that is!

65:

That's easy.
First, if I were in charge, I wouldn't have started from there. I noticed we were in a housing bubble in 2005, and if I were in charge would have done things to deflate it safely beforehand. Of course that still leaves the casino banking problems, but again, I would have made sure the laws that were in place after the last disaster back in the 1980's were still operating, on general principle that you can't trust the banks. The results of dismantling the laws in the USA are clear; lets not beat about the bush, it basically was a conspiracy by the bank owners/ managers to maximise their own profit by removing all legal obstacles that were also designed to ensure a more stable system.

Secondly, I would have continued quantitative easing. One of the reasons we are having trouble now is that the USA has stopped doing it. IN a deflationary situation the last thing you need is to r4educe the money circulation, but that's what Cameron et al are doing, see post no. 58.

THere are also different ways of doing QE. The simplest would be to give every working age adult in the UK a thousand pounds. Hey presto, 30 or 40 billion straight into the economy. I also wouldn't cut the public sector, and reverse privatisations, which would have the effect of spreading money out better. Once somehting is privatised, the money is captured by the owners of the business and the top management, whilst the workforce are screwed down.

As for our economy growing, you do know that we are exiting the worst decrease in economic stuff for many decades? It's no surprise that our economy is growing, it's like saying that someone is getting healthier when they come out of hospital after being shot, of course they are compaartively healthier than they were a month ago.

Then there's your number 63 - I think the tory bastards actually believe in trickle down economics. See also Kansas, which is going into a death spiral by the application of right wing insane economics (Cut taxes, especially on the rich, and cut public spending, who needs schools etc). Cameron et al probably thought that tax revenues would hold up to at least historic levels, not realising that their relentless destruction would cause a reduction in such revenues. After all if Tesco can misstate it's profit level, there's every chance that a politically driven ideological mess would miss such a problem.

66:

""Class distinctions" as in the "middle" class will have been subsumed into the "working" one?

Remember I don't buy any of this "class" shite for personal reasons."

That's odd - read my statement about intergenerational economic mobility. Out of 30 developed countries, the UK was dead last.

And as many people have pointed out, the UK is becoming a place where a small group is getting richer, and the rest are treading water or sinking. The laws are being made by that small group. education is being converted into something vitally necessary but hideously expensive, which means either (a) your parents pay for it or (b) you take on the equivalent of a small mortgage by age 22 - to have a shot at a decent job. Or maybe to have a shot at a few years of unpaid 'internships' to get a job, which requires a few years' worth of income.

TL;DR - you may not believe in class, but it believes in you.

67:

TL;DR - you may not believe in class, but it believes in you.

Quite right - anyone who has a job, or a mortgage, or is self-employed, or needs to work to pay the rent, is working class - as far as the rent-seeking, public office-holding oligarchy is concerned.

AKA the so-called "hard-working families" of dog-whistle politics.

Notice they don't curry the votes of lazy, single, childless people with paid off mortgages - like me ;-)

I wonder why?

Virtually everybody who has one or more great- or great-great grandparent born in the UK is descended from Royalty or the aristocracy.

I am. Several different aristocratic families.

One very important one, allegedly.

Nevertheless, the majority of my forebears were blacksmiths, artificial florists, builders, acrobats and the inevitable ag labs, members of the working class all.

As indeed, am I, IMO. No matter what anyone else may think.

68:

There's a batch of things they could have done. But let's start with a few really bloody obvious ones.

As the economics editor for Channel 4 news so succinctly pointed out, for the last 6 years he keeps going back to the same corner to present news about another illegal deal in the banks and there is still no means to prosecute the bankers. Osborne has tried to shift the blame onto Labour for the international banking system collapsing. It might be politically expedient and being nice to his mates but it's stupid. So: agitate instead for proper accountability of the bankers on the trading floors, in the boardrooms and so on. Get UK laws working as well. I know the City of London is a cash cow when things are good but make sure it works well and is regulated with some sensible laws.

Don't play Maggie's stupid "the country is like a greengrocer's card" and slash public spending. The countries that are doing better than us, including the US, have followed the typical route and borrowed their way out recession. Even Tory governments before Maggie have done that. It's got solid economic theory and history behind it. Just go for it.

And FFS don't freeze local and national government recruitment. That's 30% of new graduate first jobs gone. At a time when you're looking at the public sector also not taking up the slack. And tuition fees have gone up so you've just loaned these folks a butt load of money. £27,000 each isn't huge amounts individually when looked at in government budget terms, but when that's roughly 5,000 or so new graduates from each university and HEI (there's about 200 of these) you're talking about a big old chunk of change even by government budget terms that's just sucked away with no prospect of return.

Comparing the UK to the Eurozone countries is always appealing but lazy. There are a range of individual difference in what the Eurozone countries have tried but the way the ECB has intervened to bail out the PIGS countries and how those bailouts have been funded has put a huge additional strain on the rest of the Eurozone that has kicked any potential recovery in the teeth. Ireland might have done OK but it's made a series of choices to pay off its loan fast instead of directly recovering - it will be interesting to see where it is in 5 years now it's done that but it's probably in a pretty strong position to actually recover now in fact, unless it's killed itself by trying to pay things off too fast.

---

It's always really hard to tell how an economy is doing - I think the honest answer is we don't really understand how they work and so we pick and choose indicators to suit us.

The coalition are probably happy because there's evidence that the average wage has finally risen faster than inflation (albeit by all of 0.1%). I'm suspicious of this I want to see how the median wage is doing. The lowest wages have gone up a bit, that will probably help, since the minimum wage increase kicked in.

But if all the other wages up to the 75% centile stayed the same or went up less than inflation and the top 25% of wages went up a lot then the average price can go up faster than inflation (Coalition heaves a sigh of relief) and the average person on the street feels worse off (Labour continues its attacks about "real people feeling worse off."

Saying our economy is doing better... well there are various bubbles in the housing market so the economy is growing. Good or bad? (I'll give you a clue: they call this a boom and bust market and coined the phrase negative equity about it.)

Unemployment is falling and employment is rising - but what sort of jobs are being created? That's not just Tory hate: moving people off the register by any means possible is common to all governments, but IDS is repeatedly caught out by the NAO for lying about what he's doing. Taking someone off JSA and putting them into a 16h/week job where they still get rent rebate (albeit a bit less), council tax rebate, don't pay income tax, get other sorts of benefits as well due to low income - it's an exercise in massaging the figures and shifting which budget line in the DWP they draw from. The headline looks good but the detail is meh.

69:

One may prefer to avoid the MRSA-CC398, thereby also avoiding the NHS-collection of pestilence, by keeping well clear of "Made In Denmark" pork:

http://www.thelocal.dk/20140825/up-to-12000-infected-with-mrsa

Our MIN-Food insists that all is well; It is totally OK that some people will die and that the abattoir workers are exposed to this 24/7/300 - What is important is that the factory farms keep pumping out that cheap* pork and make the monthly payments to the banks.

*) The Danish retail price per kilo pork is well below things like Haribo Wine Gums. The factory farms can beat a 100% artificial food product on price.

70:

Expect Plan B - everyone, including the EU, printing loads more money until global inflation bites hard in about 5 years.

71:

What definition of inflation are you using?

E.g. here in the UK we still have inflation, due to rising house prices and increased costs of other things, slightly offset by falls in oil prices.

72:

Can I correct that to ...
"unfortunately, a very vocal (thacherite) group within the tory party (& who really are bastards) still do believe in trickle-down economics" ??
I was not aware of the Kansas experiment, perhaps it will act as an exemplar of how not to do it, before too much longer?
[ Tough on the people of & in Kansas, of course... ]

Also ...von hicthofen.
Would it surprise you that I agree ... except that what is happening is an entirely new (very old) total re-creation of a class structure that is not 19th C but medieval.
The former ( i.e. 1850 - 1980 ) middle class & working classes - like you & me - are all being compressed into a semi-subservient working class.
Some of these people will be earning £150k+ a year, but they will still be 100% dependant upon their "bosses" wishes & whims. Others will be on the Mode, Median or Mean wages repectively, but it will not make any difference.
If the system is changing, I think it is to some sort of Feudatory, which I really don't thhink we want.
However, classical marxist analysis or even reformed social democracy can NOT handle this change, because it is a fundamental paradigm shift, & thusly, fundamentally different means of opposing it must be found.
Don't ask me what they might be, because I haven't a clue. ( yet )
What is certain tha voting for any of the main parties is a futile exercise.
How was the power of the feudatory nobles broken, last time around might be a good place to start. ( ? )

73:

Bubonic Plague?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequences_of_the_Black_Death#Social.2C_environmental.2C_and_economic_effects

Seems a bit harsh.

It's peculiar how we can imagine the consequence of, and recoil from the horror of zombie apocalypses, eldritch abominations, extinct-level meteor impacts and Islamic caliphates - but not even contemplate minor social & economic changes, that might slightly inconvenience a tiny minority of exceedingly wealthy people, whom only have one vote each, like the rest of us.

74:

Actually, it's more like one dollar one vote. I'm sure you could do some calculations and work out how much money equals what number of votes. Come to think of it, that doesn't matter since the actual politicians doing the work are bought and paid for already.

Greg - the problem is that you might think it's merely a very vocal group within the 'conservative' party, but how come it has so much power and capability? To me it looks like almost the entire party, or at least the people who want to lead it, are bad and horrible. Makes you wonder why people like Rory Stewart, who comes across as a decent enough fellow, want to be MP's within it.
I also think that Marxist thought is fine, this isn't a paradigm shift, this is just the ruling class doing what it does best.

75:

One dollar, one vote - and in several different jurisdictions at once.

Rupert Murdoch liked to think, and probably still does, that he decided the results of elections in at least three English speaking countries.

76:

The former ( i.e. 1850 - 1980 ) middle class & working classes - like you & me - are all being compressed into a semi-subservient working class.

I suspect it is more complicated than that.

The useful defininition of middle class is that you have both assets and wage income; a house, a specialist education, or just savings, as well as a job. The key is that both are significant, in that it would really misrepresent your social and financial position if you left out one or the other.

Falling wages and rising house prices both _increase_ the proportion of people who, from a rational view of class-based self-interests, should care about their assets as much as their wages.

Which is why there is a pretty large chunk of people who read the newspapers they do, socialise withe the people they do, and vote the way they do. Almost certainly a plurality of the electorate; not just the Tories and Lib Dems, but Labour, UKIP, and arguably the Greens, are clearly either chasing that vote or at least saying nothing that would alienate it.

Which leaves the country with a large, but almost entirely heriditary, middle class. The children of that middle class, whatever their abilities, basically never end up as anything else. As long as house prices rise and ATMs work, if they do change class they are about as likely to end up as a millionaire, a heroin addict or even a jihadist as actual asset-free working class.

Wheras starting from no assets, buying a house is about as realistic a prospect as starting a company; no actual law against it, but anyone who succeeds in doing it will probably end up being interviewed in at least the local papers.

Thing is, there is only so large an unproductive middle class a country can support. Eventually you hit an equibrium where all the work being done is just supporting existing wealth, and real growth stops.

77:

there is only so large an unproductive middle class a country can support.
Utter, total twaddle.
How "unproductive" is the so-called "middle" claas then?
All the teachers, doctors & engineers are in that group, just for a start.
Thus neither unproductive nor useless.
But, these people are now beong forced "down" in the same way as everyone else, too.

Please reset your brain to actial facts, before trying again?
Or alternatively, please remember that MARX WAS WRONG, sompletely wrong - his predictions were based on no social change from approx 1848, which did not happen, did it?
Nor did "the revolution" happen in the most developed countries.

P.S. So house prices are rising - only of any "use" if you want to sell or move.
Some of us don't want to, or can't.

78:

Looked at Quarry House, and it seems sufficiently Brutal (with a bit of Art-Deco) for the new home of the Laundry. I've been hoping to find out what happened with Mo. The whole thing with the violin was never really revealed, she just sort of showed up with it. I always assumed it was a device, not an entity. She does seem to be showing signs of K Syndrome. Maybe Bob and the Duchess someday? Anyway, you can't write enough books quickly enough for me. I'll buy them as fast as you produce them. No need to die at your keyboard though.

79:

Why do so many assume the worst after reading the end of "The Rhesus Chart"? Married couples can live apart. Certainly not too unusual among military couples--with one or both in service. It can work for some.

As for Mo and Krantzberg's, I mentioned that once a while back and Charlie hinted at something worse for her.

80:

Incidentally, incase anyone thinks I'm tto lenient on "all" tories, I came across THIS

However, after a lot of publicity, it would seem that even Richard Benyon has backed down over the nice little proposal to make himself loadsamoney at poor tenant's expense.
Is this also a straw in the wind - in this country, at least? ( I can't see, say, the Koch Bros giving in to this sort of negative publicity campaign can you? )

81:

I'm talking about 15-20% inflation

82:

Quite frankly we could do with 15-20% inflation for a while to fix our overvalued housing and reduce debt levels as well as significantly reducing long term government debt . Arguably the expectation of low inflation is damaging the global economy

83:

Yup, we could do with some inflation, but not simply the sort that comes from higher oil and food prices, because without accompanying wage inflation that will make people worse off. However it is important to remember that before the USA started quantitative easing 4 or 5 years ago, lots of right wing pundits were screaming about how it would cause massive inflation and screw everybody over.

Unsurprisingly, they were very very wrong.
The amount of money you would have to distribute to get 15-20%sd inflation of the better sort, well I can't think how much, maybe many hundreds of billions of pounds.

84:

@ 67 "the majority of my forebears were blacksmiths, artificial florists"

Florist is not what I would have predicted as an early application of AI. Kinda makes sense, tho.

[Sorry, I just couldn't resist]

85:

15-20% is too high - you'd have very noticeable corrosion of buying power inside of a single year, which is the type of thing that generates massive labor unrest as nominal wages deteriorate rapidly in value.

I think 3-5% inflation would be fine, although preferably you'd just target a very high nominal GDP growth rate (think 6-7% a year or more) and then take the inflation you get along with the real growth. That would shrink the burden of the debt very quickly, and also create some serious reflating of the economy and upwards wage pressure.

86:

Brett - and how do you get 6-7% a year economic growth? Sure, lots of corporations are holding onto money until they think they can invest it well, but in a mature economy like the UK, I think half the reaosn we've had such low growth in the past decade is that the investment money is going into China et al. There are better opportunities there than here.

Brad De Long ha a bunch of inflation cries listed here: http://delong.typepad.com/delong_long_form/2014/07/is-us-at-immediate-risk-of-becoming-argentina-monday-smackdownthe-honest-broker-for-the-week-of-july-12-2014.html

87:

"The amount of money you would have to distribute to get 15-20%sd inflation of the better sort, well I can't think how much, maybe many hundreds of billions of pounds."

ie more than enough to pay off govt debt

88:

So you reckon we'd get 15-20% inflation by paying of government debt with debt free money? I'm not sure about that, but it's probably worth a try. At the very least we can create enough money to make up for the tory cuts and the tax dodgers and maintain a reasonable level of spending on stuff.

89:

I think we would get less inflation than that. However, I see virtually every Western govt (with the possible exception of Germany) going that route. Whether Germany can stop the EU printing money is a moot point.

90:

Probably why Japan has been focusing so much research on automation over the years.

91:

10-15% inflation only causes massive labour unrest if it's hugely above wage rises. I've been alive for rates of inflation that high. It wasn't the end of the world.

I'm not sure it's desirable for a long period, in fact I'm pretty sure it's not. But we've had a fetish of "Inflation must be between 1.5% and 2.5%" for most of the last 20 years. (We haven't always managed that but that's been roughly the target.) I don't know that cranking up inflation for a while and when it cracks 10% applying the brakes to pull it back to under 5% and then under 2.5% again would be a good thing. But it would shake up the economy for sure.

92:

50 years time Japan will be a very nice place to live. Still quintessentially Japanese, but without the crowding.

93:

"The children of that middle class, whatever their abilities, basically never end up as anything else. As long as house prices rise and ATMs work, if they do change class they are about as likely to end up as a millionaire, a heroin addict or even a jihadist as actual asset-free working class."

Generally not, because of the pressure. Throw in frequent and long lay-offs, especially after age 40, and the career/specialty skills are gone. Having to take out a second mortgage to cover those periods will eat housing value. Having to sell the house for retirement will eliminate that as heritable asset.

For their children, high house values mean that they can't buy one if they don't inherit one. We're seeing it harder and harder to break into the good jobs part of the labor force, even with higher and higher prices for eduation/'internships' (i.e., work for free).

The specific phrase: 'The children of that middle class, whatever their abilities, basically never end up as anything else.'

Has never been true, of course. Having a leg up is certain, but a child of of the middle class can still quite easily f*ck things up.

94:

There is lots and lots of evidence that the children of comfortably middle class people can't afford to buy a house. The number of people returning home to live with the parents after university is ever increasing.

The average family with 2.4 kids - the parents can't downsize and fund starter houses for 2.4 kids and buy a smaller house for themselves. If one child gets lucky and can get on the housing ladder alone, and they're on the low side of average for children they can sometimes afford to downsize and help a second child get on the ladder.

I'm not saying that being the child of middle classed parents doesn't come with advantages but I think if you said to the current 18 years that are the children of middle classed parents that they will expect to have a house, a specialist education and a regular wage by the time they're 30 you might be shocked at just how many of them will fail to achieve what, 20 years ago would have been by far the most common outcome. it wouldn't surprise me if there were appreciably fewer millionaires in this year's cohort too - it's not impossible for the entrepreneur to get rich, nor the celeb, etc. but my intuition suggests social mobility and the consequent financial mobility is cut down. Entrepreneurship is harder with tighter limits on loans and so on. There are fewer routes to getting rich and some of them are harder to get onto.

95:

Quarry House is indeed a nice new home for the Laundry, but you really shouldn't rule out a lot of other old Leeds infrastructure being involved as well. As OGH comes from Leeds (as do I), he presumably knows about the Secret Leeds forums, hence the odd reference to the Lawnswood site (next door to the Boddington hall of residence of Leeds Uni) can be expected. Lawnswood was once a hospital, and was re-purposed into government buildings, and even has a now partly-flooded (nothing a sump pump can't sort out) nuclear bunker on site, quite close to the old Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS) site.

Then there are peculiarities like a World War 2-vintage secure document store in Adel Woods, still extremely well sealed, maintained and monitored even to this day. Up to quite recently, in the 1990s if memory serves, Leeds had an air raid/nuclear attack siren system, tested weekly, it also has a fairly byzantine system of satelite DSS sites as well as Quarry House. I've mentioned Wade House, but there are others too.

All of this is actually completely normal for UK government installations.

Newcastle, for instance, is absolutely riddled with DSS installations. The Longbenton site was also once a hospital, and is now the central command centre of the DSS. The site is huge, and floorplan maps of it are scarce and very hard to come by (new staff can be identified by a slightly lost, confused and scared expression); the IT and networking is some of the most byzantine, arcane and frankly bloody rubbish stuff I have ever seen anywhere.

One final thing springs to mind regarding DSS sites. The lousier the area one is situated in, the scarier the customers and the higher the site security is, the better the local independent sandwich shop will be. Thus whereas the sandwiches in Skipton are poor and overpriced rubbish, the shop just outside Sheffield Spital Hill is a prince amongst fast food outlets. Just don't walk out wearing a DSS staff pass; the DSS customers don't like it.

96:

RE: Guthrie

That's why I specified nominal GDP growth (the mix of inflation and real GDP growth). You pump money into the economy to the level such that you have a nominal GDP growth rate of 6-7%, you'll get a mix of real growth and inflation - and that's fine as long as prices don't start accelerating upwards. It would also be a good way to tell if there really are issues in the British economy that are preventing it from growing.

RE: EI

10-15% wasn't the end of the world, but coming back down from it was really rough. There was a lot of job loss and economic pain in the early 1980s when that happened under Paul Volcker's Federal Reserve and Thatcher's government in the US and UK respectively, as you know.

I still think 7% (maybe upwards to 8-9%) of nominal GDP growth would be the sweet spot.

97:

@93: point is, if you do personally screw up badly enough to leave the middle class, you are statistically unlikely to stop at working class. Plenty of circumstances can stop your income, your assets are much safer (until they aren't, but that's a society-wide issue, not a personal one).

It's a valid point that you will still get some social mobility from people having just enough money to stay middle class, but not to pass that status on to their children.

But back in the day, it used to be true that a middle class kid could be assigned by a test result to a secondary modern, not get any kind of education, and work in a shop. While there are still schools nearly that bad, noone with money to spare is going to them.

Somewhat more recently, it was still possible to try, but fail, to qualify for university.

Take away that major source of social mobility and you are left with only the outliers, the entrepreneurs climbing up and addicts dropping down. Doing moderately well, or moderately badly is no longer enough to cross the wider inter-class gap.

98:

Agreed coming down was painful - but how much of that was the way those nominally in charge chose to bring us down. We can argue back and forth in the case of the Thatcher government exactly how much of it was necessary but they basically dismantled industries left, right and centre, ran rough-shod over quite a few things in the drive to smash the unions and get inflation down really fast.

It's not going to happen, but if you let inflation loose for 2 years and even encouraged it up you might achieve +2-3% inflation per year so we'd be somewhere around 7-10%, then for three years aimed to pull it back by up to 0.5-1% or so a year thereafter we'd be back to something more like 5-7%. I don't think we're that far apart really - and if that gives the economy a nice kick in the right direction, you could then look at easing back towards the fetishised 1.5-2.5% of the previous years in your next 5 years.

Over the course of the 10 years we'd variously piss all kinds of people off - I remember an interview with someone about inflation and how different rates of inflation basically annoy/frustrate different people (while helping others). But you ought to get the economy growing, wages moving again for everyone and so forth. And you never know, if it works nicely, there might even be a new consensus for a higher rate of 'resting' inflation as the default state. I'm not sure they'll settle on around 7% but they might settle on around 4% and it could work, it would at least be different. (I suspect they'll settle back on around 2% though it seems to suit the financial sector and they're the goose that currently lays too many golden eggs in too many countries. Unless kicking over the traces like that for 5+ years lets other sectors start to really take off.)

100:

A bit of inflation (as opposed to hyper-inflation) is a good thing, Dirk. It tends to deplete capital accumulations while allowing borrowers to reduce their debt load. Private individuals get out of debt-induced immiseration as long as they're earning, and companies can borrow money relatively cheaply and invest in infrastructure knowing that the ratio of debt to income isn't doing to grow due to deflation.

Hyperinflation is terrible, but relatively rare. And it's no coincidence that the UK economy grew twice as fast, overall, during the terrible, terrible inflation-ridden industrial militancy era of the 1970s than during the subsequent Thatcherite 1980s.

101:

Judging by the amount of my ancestors [women [i]and[/i] men] involved in artificial floristry [if that's a word] in the 19th century, it was a pretty lucrative business.

102:

'Tis true, the quality of sandwich shops deteriorates the further you walk from HMRC/DWP buildings generally.

Longbenton truly is a vast experimental exercise in making civil servants miserable. I was only there three days. Long enough.

The only comparison I have is the ziggurat of dread, the elephantine, pyramidal DSS admin building in Sheffield [Moorfoot House?]

103:

I don't want you to die. I also need to stay alive at least until the final Laundry novel is released. (we all have goals) I don't even want you to lower your standards. I think we've all read books that should have been subtitled "I've already spent the advance". It's not an experience that bears repeating.

I can't really talk, after putting in plenty of 100 hour weeks in the IT industry (combined with delivering pizza at night for an additional 20 hours) I've packed it all in and am "rent seeking" for a living. So no more (unpaid) overtime for me. Still I'd be happy to work it to pay for more of your books (or throw in a tipjar if you should ever put one up).

105:

I know he's not. I thought my comment "Any chance you could write faster?" was the text equivalent of stamping my feet, clapping my hands and yelling "More" after a concert is nominally over. A public display of appreciation of an artistic endeavour that also attempts to encourage the artist to create more art. Maybe (obviously) it didn't come across that way.

106:

@Charlie Stross

And it's no coincidence that the UK economy grew twice as fast, overall, during the terrible, terrible inflation-ridden industrial militancy era of the 1970s than during the subsequent Thatcherite 1980s.

Same thing with the US in the early 1970s, before the bad mid-decade recession. It was some of the strongest real GDP growth the US has seen, with low unemployment despite a massive expansion in the size of the labor force and rise in overall labor force participation rate. Here's a fairly strong case that the high-growth, high-inflation period of the 1970s allowed the US to absorb the massive influx of new workers without generating high unemployment.

Of course, that eventually stopped working. By the late 1970s, we finally were in Stagflation Land. Same thing in the UK - inflation in 1978-79 wasn't as bad as in 1975, but it was high and trending upwards while real GDP growth was going down.

The lesson I take from that, though, is that both societies were pretty resistant to inflation. It took a lot to get there, and that was in economies that were much more rigid in terms of labor markets and possible investment/expansion than they are now. I bet you could run similar levels of monetary expansion as in the 1970s today in both countries with less inflation than they had back then.

107:

Hint 1:- 1973 - Vietnam War ends.
Hint 2:- 1973 - Project Apollo ends.

So that's 2 major capital projects ending in the USA just before the period you're saying that high-growth, high-inflation stopped working.

108:

They weren't the big drivers. Apollo peaked in 1966 with the modern equivalent of $45 billion/year, and it was way down after 1969-70 from that. Vietnam spending peaked at about 2.3% of US GDP a year in (I think) 1968, and it was also way down and shrinking in the early 1970s.

In the 1960s that was more the case, especially since it also came with a ramp-up of domestic spending under the Great Society programs. But the boom in the early 1970s was more about the Federal Reserve under Arthur Burns continuing to go full-throttle on monetary expansion despite low unemployment and rapid growth.

109:

So this is the sort of accounting where you only count Govt expenditure once, instead of allowing for the fact that 1 unit of Govt expenditure tends to generate about 3 units of support expenditure in the national economy?

Obviously, that's without allowing for the new products and technologies that spun off from Apollo.

110:

Especially true if that government spending goes to working out new things.

111:

Uh, I think his point was that if Apollo and Vietnam really were driving the expansion, and it was their ending that stopped it, it really should have stopped or at least slowed a lot earlier than it actually did, because spending on them was hugely reduced much earlier than the actual final cancellation/ending.

112:

Irrelevant, unless you assume 0 fiscal inertia after project end.

113:

" It was some of the strongest real GDP growth the US has seen, with low unemployment despite a massive expansion in the size of the labor force and rise in overall labor force participation rate. Here's a fairly strong case that the high-growth, high-inflation period of the 1970s allowed the US to absorb the massive influx of new workers without generating high unemployment."

And one thing that few, if any, right-wing economists mention is that this is a decade in which there was a major resource shock - the price of oil went up by a factor of 5, initially, then to 3x what it had been. And then again, in 1979.

When you can deliver that sort of growth despite a massive resource shock, you're doing pretty well.

114:

Another central Leeds site suitable for a Laundry location would be the Old Medical School in Thoresby Place.
This is currently the home of the Blood Sciences and Microbiology labs. At the time I worked there the automated biochemistry lab was in the basement which was the old mortuary and backed onto the main lecture theatre where students could watch post mortems. Some remnants of this lecture still exist in a large Narnia - like void behind a cupboard in the lab office.
There were rumours of an underground passage leading from the hospital to the Old Medical School but nobody ever found evidence of this.
Workmen modifying the building in the 1990 resfused to work because they thopugh the building was haunted.
I used to work there through the night and corridor doors used to open and close by themselves. I put this down to air movements when doors elsewhere in the building were being used.
Plenty of blood available for vampires.

115:

Vampires don't exist

116:

& also guthrie back @ # 65 ...
Can I/we have more details about the goings-on in Kansas, please?
Reputable news sources preferred.
Also, I just saw THIS ... I 'd be fascinated to see/hear other people's takes on this one ....
Also, any fun predictions on that?

117:

Same old same old. They've been talking about doing that for years and years now. Not so much has happened. I predict more difficulties with the authorities.

As for Kansas, start here:
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2014/03/lessons-for-other-states-from-kansas-massive-tax-cuts-live-from-the-roasterie-cxxx-march-31-2014-1.html
and you can find more by searching "Kansas Governor" in the search box. DeLong counts as a liberal centrist; by contrast the republicans and over here the tories are barking mad right wingers, with new labour not far behind.

118:

Note that the GOP leadership in Kansas beat off their challengers this month, as the electorate voted for more of the same. Or rather less. Go figure.

119:

Household formation is another factor in the economy because each 'household' unit needs durables, semi-durables, disposables, etc. -- quite a wide range of industries. Not sure there's any other event/life circumstance that has as much impact. So, if you wanted to stimulate the entire economy, then household-level policies would be most impactful.

120:

In completely unrelated news, looks like Randall Munroe has been visiting a land rather like the LaundryVerse.

121:

And yet things CAN Really change...I was born in January 1949 in Sunderland that was then one of the most working class, male dominated Cities in the U.K. ...even including Glasgow or the East End of London Sunderland was fairly notable in the Male Chavenistic U.K stakes .." Life on Mars " the T.V. Series wasn't too bad in its " The Sweeny " reflection of the way things were way back then, but it was rather understated in a meek and mild sort of way.

The social situation for women didn't start to improve until way after the equal pay act and umpteen legal cases and even now we only have female M.Ps up here thanks to female only short lists instituted by the Labour Party.

" William Gibson said "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet."

If anyone is remotely interested I could give specific personal examples but the thing is that whilst people like us tend to be attracted towards Technology, thus...

http://www.ted.com/conversations/69/william_gibson_said_the_futur.html


The really significant changes aren't technolological at all but rather social.

So, since I was born in 1949 and the People of China Hearing of this Event Revolted under the Leadership of Chairman Mao and instituted the latest varient of "Interesting Times" we have now advanced so far we are practically demi Ghods ..Err well all right, make that, we are still locked into a spiral of religious Wars and the Establishment of Neo Empires that even our Fiction of The Future ? .. "The Empire Strikes back” and so forth? ..echos the past.

IF that is the case then could it possibly be that we have already explored every possible variation of People/ Human and varients of the human species thereof Government and that we are now just reshaping and retracing our various society’s footprints whilst we await the return of Cluthu?

And yet ..oh I dunno ..I must allow myself some room for optimism ..

" Nicola Sturgeon announces new Scottish cabinet "

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-30138550


Though, I supose that it is possible that Sturgeon is an un-listed member of The Great Old Ones ..if SHE were Really Powerful SHE would ensure that HER NAME did not appear on any such LIST.

SEE How SHE Smiles!!!

122:

The great old ones care not for petty human politics. Sturgeon is a cultist at worst! '-)

"IF that is the case then could it possibly be that we have already explored every possible variation of People/ Human and varients of the human species thereof Government and that we are now just reshaping and retracing our various society’s footprints whilst we await the return of Cluthulu?"

I would go as far as to say "not by a long way", but as there is no obvious way to get to a lot of the weirder options from anything we can recognise it's pretty unlikely that we ever will.

I include "reign of elder gods" among the moderately odd ones. If self serving 16th century Spanish propaganda is to be believed then some bits of south America came close.

123:

" I would go as far as to say "not by a long way", but as there is no obvious way to get to a lot of the weirder options from anything we can recognise it's pretty unlikely that we ever will. "

Indeed, and so you may well recall ...


"I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."


https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/J._B._S._Haldane


Who can doubt the worth of an opinion expressed by a man who could wear a stripped blazer with such conviction ..and then there's that mustache! But all that regardless, I really like his remark that ...


" To the biologist the problem of socialism appears largely as a problem of size. The extreme socialists desire to run every nation as a single business concern. I do not suppose that Henry Ford would find much difficulty in running Andorra or Luxembourg on a socialistic basis. He has already more men on his pay-roll than their population. It is conceivable that a syndicate of Fords, if we could find them, would make Belgium Ltd. or Denmark Inc. pay their way. But while nationalization of certain industries is an obvious possibility in the largest of states, I find it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge. "

124:

On that subject, have you noticed what the regulations on the sale of electrical goods have done to the market on second-hand goods?

Even paying disposal fees, it's cheaper to scrap them.

It's a pity the factories are outside the UK

125:

Which is a disgusting waste of resources.
When you cuople this with the (EU I think) regs concerning low power outputs/consumption only being allowed for new kit (Thus reducing efficiency & increasing consumption long-term, it's even worse.
Particulalry as a lot of kit can, quite easily be modified/repared for continued use.
[ Though it does help if you have an physics/engineering degrees ]

E.G. I have repaired / altered both a large refrigerator (door-light was faulty - removed switch & associated wiring) & a big (3kW) vacuum cleaner ( Power capacitor wasn't big enough & blew, so replaced with larger one ... )
etc ....

126:

What regulations? And what effects are you (and GregT) talking about? I've tried googling: the only thing I can find even vaguely relevant is WEEE Directive 2002/96/EG, which imposes requirements on producers to facilitate reuse, recycling, and disposal (and which has reportedly led to an increased trade in second-hand appliances, not a decline). Hell, that directive even means you should never, ever have to pay 'disposal fees' at all, since one stipulation is that 'The final users must be able to return the used [electrical] goods [to the producer] free of charge'). Care to clarify what you're referring to?

And @ Greg: your point is not very clear, but are you saying that EU regs somehow prevent repairs being done? If so, that's just nonsense: spare parts are not covered by WEEE regs, so legislation has no negative effect on the production and sale of parts needed for repairs.

127:

I think what they are moaning about is the unsurprising requirement that 2nd hand electrical goods be safe:

http://www.rospa.com/homesafety/adviceandinformation/product/secondhand-goods.aspx

Which translates into having an actual electrically trained person go over the goods, rather than someone who may or may not know what they are talking about say it's okay.
A lot of charity shops stopped taking electrical goods because of that requirement, but many have now upped their game and have access to people who can actually test that the goods are in safe working order.

128:

Greg, in moderation, the EU requirement that new products be energy efficient is a good thing. Without it we'd still be running on incandescent bulbs -- they're much more profitable for the manufacturers, after all, even if they're only about 6% efficient at turning electricity into light, compared to 20-40% for CFL and 40%+ for LEDs.

I agree it's probably silly to cap power consumption on devices that basically turn electricity into heat: fan heaters, toasters, ovens, irons, and the like. But the vacuum cleaner restriction, again, made sense: manufacturers had begun to market their appliances on power consumption ("our motor sucks THIS MUCH juice, so it must be more powerful and efficient!") rather than actual ability to move air and clean carpets. And given that the high electricity consumption appliances in most homes tend to be things like refrigerators and set-top boxes, this sort of priority-setting is useful.

129:

Really? That's it?

Actually there's no requirement for such inspections at all, on either the national or European level (at least as far as I can find). That seems to be another myth. Local councils may set H&S standards, but in most cases I suspect that any requirement for PAT testing in charity shops etc is a matter of company policy and liability avoidance.

Honestly, where do people get this crap?

130:

Charlie:
YES & NO
Of course, moore energy-efficient bulbs etc are a really good thing & I'm all in favour.
However, the EU/Brit guvmint have immediately ( a couple of years back) enacted "No evil incandescent bulbs" & implied that you must use so called energy-efficient ones ... which often don't "fire" immediately, actually give out less light, often flicker (VERY dangerous) & contain Mercury.
Rather than waiting for LED's to take over completely, which is going to happen in the next 10 years.
OK?
It's the stupidity of lawyers in technical situations, again, I'm afraid.
And no it isn't probably silly to cap power consumption on devices that basically turn electricity into heat it's profoundly stupid.
I had not considered your point on vacuum cleaners - i.e. large power, low efficiency, but it still remains true that a good big'un will continue to beat a good little'un.
So the legislation is wrong again - what they should have done was to control the end-efficiency, shouldn't they?

To other people on "electrical safety" genarally ...
This is now heading in the same direction as "gas safety" where nothing at all can be done, ecsept by a carefully-controlled small minority of people, who can then overcharge you, because thay have the right piece of paper.
I have a first degree in Physics, & an Engineering M.Sc.
I am NOT ALLOWED to (publicly) certify or PAT-test even a single 13-Amp 3-pin plug ( Because I am not a "Qualified Electrician" - & there's another horror-story right there, but not now, I think. )
The fact that, about 20 years back, I completely re-wired my house (The original 1908/9 fittings & especially wiring, were well past it. ) counts for zilch.
As does the fact that, since then, I have cut into my own power-circuit loops to fit underfloor trap-access for a multiple computer-power socket-rack & phone line plug ... I shudder to think what that would have cost, had I hired a "trained electrician" to do it ....

131:

However, the EU/Brit guvmint have immediately ( a couple of years back) enacted "No evil incandescent bulbs" & implied that you must use so called energy-efficient ones

Let's run some numbers, shall we?

20 million households. Let's call it an average of 5 rooms in each house, with a 100 watt incandescent bulb. Peak load, when they're all lit, is therefore 0.5kW x 20 million = 10GW. That's around 15% of the UK's actual grid capacity (around 60GW).

Now let's switch them all to 20 watt CFL bulbs. That's a reduction to 2GW at max draw.

Now, you might have noticed that over the past decade all our old Magnox reactors reached their end of life and were shut down for good?

8GW massively exceeds what we could draw through the cross-Channel grid interconnect with France. The only way around it would be to build a whole bunch of new power stations. The planning induced lead time on nuclear new-build in the UK -- this is our fault, not the EU's, the UK's planning regulations are famously broken (compare with the allegedly-bureaucratic French system that rushes such things through at high speed) -- is over a decade. There's not enough gas to run 8GW of base load continuously without help from that nice Mr Putin, who was already on the horizon as a geopolitical irritant in 2004. So that'd leave us building coal-fired plants equal in scale to 1.5 Drax B complexes -- already the largest coal-fired plant in Europe, and a major environmental mess. Oh, and the coal has to be imported, too (bad for the balance of trade deficit) because (a) UK coal reserves are all deep and expensive to get at, and (b) hark unto Arthur Scargill's unquiet ghost rattling his chains (new coal mining capacity is pretty much politically anathema to any British government since Maggie's short victorious war in the 1980s).

Upshot: the move to ban incandescent bulbs in the UK and switch everyone to CFL was driven by political expediency -- it was the quickest way to avoid rolling blackouts caused by 20 years of incompetent planning on grid capacity, from the Cabinet level down -- and being able to blame the EU and the environmental lobby was just icing on the cake.

132:

On the "requires up-to-date certification to do electrical work" issue.

When the IEE introduced this requirement, many members complained at some length in the letters pages of the house magazine. The response from the members of the committee was, paraphrased:
"People who think that being an engineer means they can wire houses are precisely the reason we are introducing these regulations".

Apparently, their analysis of electrical fires showed that most of them were caused by people doing wiring not even to the standard in the Wiring Regs when they had done it, and usually people Who Knew What They Were Doing...

133:

Greg
The time for LEDs is already here.
My house has the ground floor lit almost entirely by candle filament bulbs.
We have tried the standard low energy bulbs and led bulbs but these just didn't lookas good.
We recently bought a new light for the hall which came with two 3 watt filament style LED bulbs. These look as good and are brighter than our standard 40 watt bulbs.
All 20 on these will now be replaced by 3W bulbs with a saving of 740 watts.
I've also had our wiring checked and the electrician had to do a lot of inspection to find the cause of a faulty earth connection - due to professional kitchen fitters who thought they knew how to do the job properly.

134:

Upshot: the move to ban incandescent bulbs in the UK and switch everyone to CFL was driven by political expediency
In other words, it was ANOTHER (not-quite-total) screw up. And, of course, we were not otld that, were we?
Why am I not surprised?
Still a mistake in the broader scheme of things.

Oh & Mike C @ # 133
Agree ... I will soon start to replace my filament bulbs, as they gradualy wear out - yes, OF COURSE I stocked up, the microsecond the drive to CFL's started - I won't have them in the house ....
[ What drives that, you may ask? I repeat, they contain Mercury, & also light-bulb/discharge-tube flicker can induce epileptic fits &/or nausea in susceptible people - which is a lot commoner than you might think.
Like your tale of a "bad Earth" connection ... mine's tied, in two places to my main copper-pipe water supply - if that's not well-grounded, then nothing is!

135:

I noticed some time ago that the local shops all have lots of filament bulbs in stock (tungsten, tungsten-halogen, candle bulbs and the like) but few if any compact fluorescent lamps. It took me a few seconds to realise why -- incandescent bulbs burn out so frequently the shops have to keep shelf-fulls ready for customers to buy whereas CFLs are long-lasting enough that after folks buy some to start with they don't need to replace them afterwards for a decade or more.

I'm glad you're rich enough to afford to pour money down the drain with your incandescent bulb habit, Greg. Other less well off people like myself welcome the cost savings of installing CFLs and seeing their electricity bills decrease afterwards.

136:

Greg
My last house in Leeds had a very visible and substantial earth connection to the copper water pipe but the local electric board (pre-privatisation) inspected all the houses in the area and did remedial work (free) on the wiring. 13 years later the privatised supplier inspected again and said the earth did not comply with new standards and did more remedial work - this time for a fee.

137:

Yeah, I've seen Gaiman's article before. But while an author is not his readers' bitch, if he wants people to pay money to read his work, the relationship isn't *that* different.

This is a well-known phenomenon in the music world, where a band will decide to take a five or ten year sabbatical, or completely change their sound, and then they wonder where all their fans went.

138:

Actually, with LED's, we will see the end of the light "bulb" and enter the realm of many interesting and varied shapes, strips, circles, spheres, multiple pointillistic dots etc etc. No more huge lampshade in the middle of a room.
In fact you could just have a 12v circuit for the lights only, that would probably be pretty good.
(My very bright LED torch can light up a room at 7.2v and an amp or two, think what a bunch of LED's scattered about a room can do on 12v)

As for the electrical stuff, Greg, you might have noticed that we live in a capitalist society with market relations governing ever increasing areas of our lives. As such, if someone tries to sell you a house and says "My cousin once removed who is an engineer re-wired it for us", do you A) take him at his word, after all engineers know what they are doing, B) run away, C) have it checked out by an {expensive} actual certified electrician.
The regs are aimed at C, in order to reduce nasty things like house fires.

(One might almost think it part of a capitalist plot to weaken the fire brigade unions by reducing the amount of work for them)

139:

My supply of incandesent's are all "ruggedised" - which should mean they last longer.
Sorry but I WILL NOT HAVE a poison-containing, potentially fit-inducing CFL bulb in the house.
REAL "Health & Safety", OK?

140:

AH, a "nice little earner" in other words!
I think you were had - like I impled before a cosy little rip-off....

& guthrie @ 138
Yes, but it will only be sold after I'm dead, so NOT MY PROBLEM ......

As opposed to what set me off in the first place, when I found the entire house was wired up backwards ...
The live / return (usually incorrectly referred to as "neutral") lines were the wrong way around ... at the input main fuse. Guk.
I got a rubber mat, & rubber boots & broke the seal, & swapped the inputs around to the "correct" way, phew!
Oh yes, guess how I found out it was the wrong way around - yup, got a belt from a supposedly switched-off line .....

141:

Oh dear, you got taken by the con men did you...

Ruggedised incandescent bulbs have a thicker toughened glass envelope to be less fragile that classic lightbulbs. The filaments are better supported to survive vibration and shock while lit. They're meant for industrial use in machinery, inspection lamps etc. but their role has been superceded by CFLs and now LED lamps which are even more rugged and last ten times longer and more in service.

Ruggedised incandescent bulbs still burn out in about a thousand hours of filament evaporation, maybe fifteen hundred hours if the filament is a bit thicker and the light emitted duller and redder for the same power consumption. Still, the snake-oil salesmen got your money and by the sound if it they'll get it again when these bulbs blow out and you desperately scrabble around to find more of them.

As for fit-inducing... umm, CFLs run at 35-40kHz, they're a lot less flickery than stodgy old 50Hz filament bulbs. The gas in the tube would quench over a period of a few milliseconds and the phosphor would continue to glow for a couple of milliseconds after that but since the strike cycle time is 20-30 microseconds that makes absolutely no difference, there's no perceptible flicker from them.

142:

Upshot: the move to ban incandescent bulbs in the UK and switch everyone to CFL was driven by political expediency -- it was the quickest way to avoid rolling blackouts caused by 20 years of incompetent planning on grid capacity, from the Cabinet level down -- and being able to blame the EU and the environmental lobby was just icing on the cake.

I understand the need for less electricity usage, but as an electrical engineer there are lots of annoyances with the CFL bulbs. For starters, having the electronics in the bulbs themselves is a bad, bad thing - they could be in the lamps, no the bulbs.

Obviously, it would have been differently bad to make the bulbs have less electronics. Everybody would have had to buy new lamps, in a situation where nobody knows what the state of the art will be in five years. I just hope that we will see more lightning devices where we just don't have to discard things which can be reused.

LEDs have their own problems, too. The main thing for me, currently, is the directionality of the light. The light from LED bulbs is very focused, compared to a incandescent bulb, which is a problem in many places. For example, our only halogen incandescent bulb is in a lamp where a LED G9 bulb just doesn't work, because the light needs to be pretty uniform all around, and the LED G9 bulbs we have found are pretty directional.

Also one problem is the spectrum of the light, but it's getting better all the time. We have one CFL in the living room which gives off enough light and the light is "white" enough that I don't get annoyed by it. CLFs used to be very, very yellow, and LEDs are more "spiky" in the spectrum than I'd really like. As said, they are getting much better and fast.

So, it seems to me that there was a pressing need for the smaller wattage in lamps. If somebody had thought this out with enough time, we might have even better bulbs (and lamps) with better light even now, but that's just the way things are now.

143:

Oh dear, you got taken by the con men did you...

No, actually, they were "fire sale" from a bankrupt stock ... £7 for 10, *cough* ....
As for "no perceptible flicker" ... I beg to personally disagree, esp when they are firing-up.

Like I said, as my current stock expires, I will switch to much-improved LED's.

{ But I will aslo need vivble+UV LED's for the greenhouse, to keep the Basil plants growing, & low-wattage "old" style bulbs as very low-power "heaters" for the same - to put under seedling-trays. )

144:

I've pulled a few dead CFLs apart in the interests of Science! and the ones that died early in service seem to have stopped working due to the electronics frying -- crinkly FETs, light-emitting fuses and bulging capacitors. It wasn't usually the tubes that died first. I presume infant mortality and bad QA/shoddy manufacturing processes were involved.

A dead CFL I investigated recently had been in service for about eight years and it looks like in that one's case it was the tube that died, I could see it trying to strike but failing (a glow around the tube base).

There were some CFL-holder designs around in the earlier days where a compact, usually folded U-tube design could be slotted into a base carrying the drive electronics which then plugged into a regular B22 or E27 lamp socket but they were more expensive to build than a single modular unit and everyone knew that affordable LED lighting was coming, probably in one CFL tube installation/replacement cycle.

I still have a few spare CFLs in the cupboard, once they're used up I'll get LED lamps to replace them. The savings in electricity consumption won't be much, 9W LED lamps replacing 11W CFLs but that's a heck of a lot better than 60W incandescents for the same light output.

145:

Likewise, and AFAICS the issue was the igniter electrodes (well, that's what I was told they were called; hopefully it's clear enough that you can educate me if required) having burnt out. This does square with CFLs having a shorter life if turned on and off lots (eg in a WC) than if left burning for hours (eg in a main living space).

146:

> set-top boxes,

You, too?

Decades ago we had cable TV, which required a large converter box. It easily doubled as a small electric heater; you could see heat shimmers coming out of the vents, and the case was too hot to touch for long. Our electric bill made a noticeable notch up after the box arrived.

Inefficient and expensive, just like everything else involved with cable TV...

147:

> look as good

Except LEDs are all freakin' BLUE, and they don't take long before they give me a screaming headache.

I'm partially color blind, and I can't tell any difference between incandescents and flourescents, though the people who claim to see this "color" stuff claim most flourescents are "the wrong color" and go into petit fits about it. But those same people can't see that LED lights are all blue-tinted.


There was a fad some years ago for "torchiere" lights, which were basically a tall stick with a naked 300 watt quartz-halogen bulb stuck on the top. I've also been into businesses with similar lighting; points of light intense past the threshold of pain, bright enough that I felt like the rest of the room was dark as my pupils clenched down against the glare. Some of the LED bulbs are almost as glary.

148:

> For starters, having the electronics in the bulbs
> themselves is a bad, bad thing - they could be in
> the lamps, no the bulbs.

I guess the too-obvious solution would have been to use an adapter socket to hold the ballast, and have the tube plug into that...

Since I'm the kind of geek who writes the date on a new bulb with a felt-tip pen before installing it, I know I used to get about a year out of an average incandescent, and about three years from an average compact flourescent. On the other hand, normal 48" and 96" flourescent tubes have wildly variable lifespans; I have some out in the workshop more than 20 years old. Others have lasted only a few weeks. We used 48" "shop light" flourescents in the living room for a long time; we got over 10 years from most of the bulbs there.

149:

LED lamps still have a long way to go. Typically they will give you 60 lm/W. In the lab cutting edge LEDs will deliver 300 lm/W

150:

Except LEDs are all freakin' BLUE, and they don't take long before they give me a screaming headache.

I'm partially color blind, and I can't tell any difference between incandescents and flourescents, though the people who claim to see this "color" stuff claim most flourescents are "the wrong color" and go into petit fits about it. But those same people can't see that LED lights are all blue-tinted.
I've got "normal colour vision" and agree with you that LEDs give off light with a distinct blue tinge (I'd guess at about 5500K).
Having said that, as a photographer I'd also say that flourescents (particularly compacts) have a greenish tinge which will annoy some people.

151:

So basically the changes to electrical regs are a horrible thing and an annoying waste of time, but you're happy to write off what you have done and say who cares, I'll be dead? Hmmm, something doesn't seem quite right here...

152:

Oh dear, looks like you bought some cheap rubbish. Actually, good colour rendering LED's have come on market in the last couple of years, or if you like there's just plain old yellow tinted ones. I've got several LED torches, and the only one which has a bluish tinge is the rather powerful one that is now 3 years old and frankly it isn't that noticeable. If you look online there are plenty of non-blue LED's available.


As for CFL's inducing seizure, I have searched google scholar and the internet, and all I can find is that there's no evidence to suggest that they can, indeed they flicker much faster than the rates which are known to induce seizures.

So where do these strange ideas come from? I know there's always someone willing to seize upon every new technology as damaging their health (See also people who claim electrosensitivity from phone masts, even when they haven't been switched on but they don't know they haven't), but it is a little irritating.

153:

guthrie @ 151 & 152
Err... I think you are misinterpreting me, perhaps?

Agree re: "colour temperature" of LED "bulbs" - can be almost any balance you want, these days.
New or newish CFL's, once on, properly, don't flicker (much) ... but ...
When they start to fail, like a standard flouresecent tube, they will flicker & if that frequency is at or close to a multiple of 7.3 Hz, you can be in deep trouble ... say 29.2 Hz (?)
And it doesn't have to be outright seizures, it can be "simple" dizziness &/or nausea - I have seen this happen, which is why I'm sensitive on the subject - it's an unenecessary hazard, easily avoided.

154:

Alsa @guthrie #152

It so happens that I'm one of the people who can experience nausea from a strobing flourescent (usually one that's starting to fail). I've never experienced this from a CFL, but that doesn't mean that it can't/couldn't happen, just that I've never experienced it, and work uses CFLs on cutoff timers in toilets so we get regular failures.

155:

Okay that makes more sense. I don't recall reading anything you typed about the problem occuring when they actually fail. Obviously when something isn't working properly, what i wrote doesn't count.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 17, 2014 2:19 PM.

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