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Quiet in here, isn't it?

You're probably wondering why I haven't been blogging lately.

The answer isn't terribly complicated. I spent October rewriting two novels, and I'm now busy writing the first draft of one before I switch over to re-writing the second half of another. Yeah, it's a really busy time for me, work-wise! But hopefully I'll have a rough cut of "The Delirium Brief" in another few weeks and a shiny rewritten version of "Invisible Sun" not long thereafter, and you'll thank me for it ... eventually. (Or, on past form, just tell me to "write faster".)

One thing I've been leery about talking about is that both these books are pushing me into what for me, as a writer, is terra incognita: "The Delirium Brief" is the 8th Laundry Files book, and "Invisible Sun" is the 9th in the Merchant Princes series (although the new books are sufficiently different that they're getting a new series title). In each case, I'm working on pushing forward a project I began in 1999 and 2001 respectively, and both series are now around the million word mark. How do I keep it all straight in my head?

The simple answer is, I don't. I can't, and I'd be astonished if any writer working on such a project could claim otherwise. A million word narrative is a fundamentally different beast from a novel, both in structure and in the planning and execution. The Laundry files as envisaged in 1999 was a single short novel. Then in 2005 (circa "The Jennifer Morgue") it was going to be at most a trilogy. Now it's (sticks thumb in air to test the wind) a 12 book story arc, with optional side-branches in the same universe. But even as recently as 2013 I had no idea that one of the novels would be told by Mo, not Bob, much less that the series was going to go multi-viewpoint.

The Merchant Princes was originally pitched as a tetralogy of 600-800 page doorsteps, but got sliced and diced and reassembled: the first omnibus volume reflects the first book in that embryonic plan, but the second story arc spans the next two omnibus volumes (it grew in the telling). The new trilogy drives off the map in a direction I simply had no idea of back in 2001, so that tetralogy plan is basically dead.

A side-effect of this is that if you push a project along for 15 years, inconsistencies creep in—and are frozen in print in earlier books. In the Laundry Files I accidentally stumbled into a really smart decision early in the game by explicitly declaring that Bob is an unreliable narrator, and his workplace journals reflect the state of his current understanding of events at the time he's describing. In the Merchant Princes I wasn't so lucky (I didn't exactly plan to make Dick Cheney the uber-villain; but by the time I realized what I'd done in book 2 I was well into writing book 3 and book 2 was already typeset). I planned to work around the consistency problem in the new sub-series by drafting it in rough form before the first book went to press: it's possible to keep a 1200 page narrative self-consistent (with difficulty) aa long as you have the luxury of being able to go back and fix errors in book 1 while you're writing book 3.

But when I finish these novels? Sitting down and writing something entirely fresh on a clean sheet of virtual paper is beginning to look really attractive.



I suspect that Terry Pratchett's strategy of doing multiple series within an overarching world was commercially one of the best decisions he made. That assumes it was a conscious decision — I don't recall him ever saying he intended doing it that way. Perhaps it was more a case of him wanting to tell stories, and having a stage that could accommodate almost all of them all.

It's a lucky writer who can do that.

I look forward to whatever you want to try. The Scottish Procedurals were interestingly different (and no, I'm not asking you to second guess near future politics in order for a third), and the Freyaverse is a lit of fun. With those and the Laundry and the Knotverse, well, I think we can trust you.


For all that I love your blog posts, Charlie, I'd rather read more books from you. So being quiet because you are working on books...jake by me.

And since I really came into your work via The Merchant Princes, I do want more. and more Laundry, and whatever else your imagination fulminates next. I trust you and your work, a rare and wondrous thing in this day and age.


In the Merchant Princes I wasn't so lucky (I didn't exactly plan to make Dick Cheney the uber-villain...

Does the fact that this is a story about alternate worlds not help? Inconvenient plot points like a real political figure becoming the main baddy can be waved away by saying that Mirriam's Earth is not our Earth. It's one that is very similar (at least through Mirriam's eyes) but not the same.

Come to think of it a very hazy memory just popped up of a few lines in the books suggesting it. I may be wrong but in one of the omnibuses isn't there a line saying that Paris Hilton is dead? I think it was in reference to Mirriam realising she wasn't keeping up with what was going on in the USA. I could be completely wrong and be misremembering...


Entirely correct, as in: just tell me to "write faster"...........

OTOH an almost-parallel universe allows lots of interesting "what if's" doesn't it?


I think you should congratulate yourself for not having written yourself into a corner on either series. I agree that it's almost impossible to keep track of all the details for such a large body of work; that's even true in nonfiction. I don't recall the details, but I seem to recall that there were several inconsistencies in Asimov's Foundation trilogy. You either accept that there will be some errors over time, adopt a strategy like Bob's unreliability, or build an increasingly complex database as you go along. In any case, you can count on two things:

1) We'll find whatever mistakes you make, and 2) We'll still read and love your work.


p.s. (BTW, who has the better Hogmanay, Edinburgh or Glasgow? Not that you'd be biased.)


and you'll thank me for it ... eventually. (Or, on past form, just tell me to "write faster".)

Even if you don't drop off new novels every month or so, at least you regularly drop off some colleague writers as guest bloggers :-)


Terry Pratchett nodded now and again. Carrot's reliance on a semi-inflated football as an all-purpose diplomatic aid in Jingo wasn't entirely compatible with the subsequent invention of footy as we recognise it in The Unseen Academicals.

Probably swept under the carpet by the History Monks. In fact, you should probably outsource any retconning to the Order of Wen.


Actually, I was wondering what happened to the latest guest blogger, I assume she's as busy as you, and will show up when the time is right. Though I suppose there's always the chance that she took a look at the comments of previous guest posts, and had second thoughts. Either way, I'm looking forward to whatever shows up book or blogwise.


Does the fact that this is a story about alternate worlds not help? Inconvenient plot points like a real political figure becoming the main baddy can be waved away by saying that Mirriam's Earth is not our Earth. It's one that is very similar (at least through Mirriam's eyes) but not the same.

It's not our Earth (this is telegraphed in a few places) but the folks who are sensitive about DC's reputation aren't deep enough readers to figure that out. So, nope.

(Good on you for spotting the Paris Hilton celebrity drink-driving funeral reference, though! That's one of the three clues.)


"A side-effect of this is that if you push a project along for 15 years, inconsistencies creep in—and are frozen in print in earlier books."

...but not necessarily in electronic formats, which is really interesting. Raises questions about whether something can ever be canon these days - as in which version of GoT is "correct", book or TV. Games are now released in an incomplete state, with mahoosive day-one patches before you can even play.

Seems to me the only problem here is the paper, and even there, there's a history of books gradually changing (The Book, for example).


I'm curious; why did you use the actual real-world political figures in the Merchant Princes books (for which I was immensely happy, because "this is just like America but the President is Mr. Madeup Waspyname" always really grinds my gears) but you've decided to tip-toe around when it comes to the Laundry files.

I mean... we know who the current PM actually is supposed to be in the Laundryverse. We know who his Cabinet members are. Why the pussyfooting around? It makes the books age badly (I have a bunch of stuff from the eighties where I want to yell at the writer "It's REAGAN. The President was Ronald Reagan! You're just making yourself look stupid by creating a Reagan knockoff! If you were setting this in the 40s you wouldn't feel the need to create some generic equivalent of FDR!") and seems like kind of a coy cop-out.


So you're not going to publish the Laundrynomicon (the technical bible) as the 13th book in the series? That way you could get some money out of your continuity notes.


but you've decided to tip-toe around when it comes to the Laundry files.

Only because you haven't read "The Nightmare Stacks" or "The Delirium Brief" yet! Pigfucker: we has him.


...but not necessarily [fixed in print] in electronic formats, which is really interesting.

This is Really Useful if the only version is electronic.

No matter how careful you are, you won't catch all the mistakes in the copy-edit. Certain invaluable readers will subsequently point them out to you. Give it a week or two, update, and most readers will never see those errors.


Wait... so Paris Hilton didn't die in our universe? Hell, I've got to stop getting my news from sci-fi novels.


Awww, you keep answering my questions with "That thing you want? It's going to be a thing! In my next thing!" Charlie.

Never let it be said you aren't a full service author.


Using living people as villains isn't worth the potential court costs.


Makes you wish you really did have parallel almost-identical universes available. Go visit the three or four closest neighbors, make arrangements with the resident versions of yourself, publish half a dozen novels a year, profit!


Ahem: "The Nightmare Stacks" has a cover and a publication date and is currently with the copy editor. It's my last thing, there's just lag in the pipeline.

The first draft of "The Delirium Brief" should hit the halfway mark on Friday, give or take a day. It's not my next thing, it's my current thing.

(I work about 2-4 books ahead of my readers.)


>>Go visit the three or four closest neighbors, make arrangements with the resident versions of yourself, publish half a dozen novels a year...

All writers start to do it, the market is over-saturated, your versions are out of business...

  • But Dick Cheney is an ubervillian. The Clown Car is just that.... And he's been making noise again in the media.... um, er, sorry, my mind ran off on a tangent... I wonder if he's considering running - he'd beat the whole Clown Car one-handed....

    Great. I've just scared myself.

  • No, Paris Hilton's still alive in the RW. And I find her useful, as a comparison. "What, you want to be billionaire filthy-rich, so your kids don't have to work for a living? Fine, so their role model should be Paris Hilton?"

  • 22:

    Fine, so their role model should be Paris Hilton?

    There's some evidence that Paris Hilton's private persona is a capable amateur radio enthusiast and generally decent person. Getting stuck with an airhead blonde media role (via aggressively marketed sex tapes they didn't release) doesn't seem to have been their idea.


    PH was an heiress to the Hilton hotels fortune. Got a bit wild -- public persona -- in her teens/twenties, so dad wrote her out of his will. Last time I looked, she'd leveraged infamy and sex tapes into a franchise trademark empire valued at roughly 50% more than the hotel properties, so there's some circumstantial evidence that she is either a very canny business woman or has access to the surprisingly discreet services of same.


    The trouble with using a real live uber-villain in fiction is that (a) they're popular with their natural constituency (so you alienate a bunch of potential readers), and (b) nothing you make up can actually live up to their real-world excesses.

    Sure Dick Cheney is like a fictional super-villain. But the trouble is, he's too villainous. I mean, he's got the hunchback and the squint/evil eye: all he needs is the maniacal villainous giggle to go with them. This is a guy who spent six months without a heartbeat before receiving a transplant from a teenage boy; who shot his lawyer and his lawyer apologized for getting in front of his gun: whose fave weekend recreation was playing World War Three games down a bunker with the Joint Chiefs; the PNAC Svengali who ran the Bush administration's foreign policy from behind the scenes (and invaded as much of the middle east as he could get his hands on, for the oil). Bond Villain or historical figure? Your call!


    Re: DC

    Don't forget that his wife and son-in-law have been/are also heavily involved in government/military-industrial security. His wife, Lynne Cheney is with a 'center-right' think tank called American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI).

    Wikipedia Excerpt:

    'Some AEI staff members are considered to be some of the leading architects of the second Bush administration's public policy.[4] More than twenty staff members served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions. Among the prominent former government officials now affiliated with AEI are former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, now an AEI senior fellow; former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Lynne Cheney, a longtime AEI senior fellow; former member of the Dutch parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an AEI visiting fellow; and former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, who became a visiting scholar at AEI. Other prominent individuals affiliated with AEI include Kevin Hassett, Frederick W. Kagan, Leon Kass, Charles Murray, Norman J. Ornstein, Christina Hoff Sommers, Peter J. Wallison, and Mark J. Perry.[5]'


    May I just say: WRITE FASTER! :D

    Nah, seriously, write at the pace that works best for you, because that's the pace that's most likely to give me the kind of tales I want to read. Judging by past experience.

    I'm glad there's more Laundry and Princes novels coming out. Still plenty of meat left on those bones. But I'm even more glad to hear what sounds like a hint that you're going to try a new direction next. I know that next-book-in-series-X is probably safer money, but I always love to see my favorite authors branching out. There's a handful, and I definitely include you in the group, who always seem to rise to the challenge this brings, so I'm all a-quiver.

    I promise not to complain a bit (or not too much) if you neglect the blogging every so often. Especially if the result is more fiction!


    In the Laundry Files I accidentally stumbled into a really smart decision early in the game by explicitly declaring that Bob is an unreliable narrator [...]

    Unreliable narrators are THE BEST. They let you play fun games with characters clearly not comprehending what's right in front of their faces. They're great for Dying World shenanigans, where they treat what is clearly ancient super-tech as Magic. They go well with having roguish, witty main characters, which I personally eat up like candy. And, as you point out here, they provide the perfect excuse to handwave away almost any continuity errors you may make, if you end up writing more stories in the same world.

    Thinking about that is making me want to get back to this idea I've been toying with about a vampire who explicitly seeds disinformation in the stories she tells to mortals. Oh for more time and energy...


    Yes, but your super-villain is Dick Cheney. He pulls the wings off flies and makes orphans clean chimneys. I doubt you could come up with something for Blofeld/Cheney to do that some elements of his fan base wouldn't approve of. If it comes to it, I doubt the intersection between Stross aficionados and Cheney supporters is heavily populated. Your sales are unlikely to be heavily affected.

    On the series versus new work dilemma, I'm torn. I love the Laundry stories (especially how they've moved from spy pastiche with a side order of cosmic horror to something altogether darker), but I'd really like to see what you do with a new concept.


    Unreliable narrators are more realistic; their reactions to unusual events outside their expertise are likelier to be in the range of 'normal'. After 10 years in a job he can't quit, several close-calls with (im)mortality, a major org shake-up,(extra-)marital issues ... I expect Bob's perceptions and biases will shift a bit.


    It's an issue for readers too, I just don't reread like I use to (I even have a to read pile, which in the old days would have lasted a week). Presuming Merchant Princes TNG was written such that while it would certainly enhance your experience to have read the previous, it's not a requirement


    "Now and again"? Terry "nodded" all the time. Inconsistencies from one book to another are legion, and there are even places where he contradicts himself within the space of a couple of paragraphs. I don't really care. It doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of the books, so what does it matter?

    Anyway, there is honourable precedent. Tolkien spent his whole life trying to write a fully consistent mythology and it seems the further he got the more of a tangle he got into, so you end up with things like important characters having four different incompatible histories all with comparable validity and an internet full of unresolvable arguments over which is "right".

    Of course, real world mythologies are even worse. And real life does it too. Only the other day one of my light switches started working upside down. It is actually about four years since I rewired it to use the hitherto-unused set of contacts instead of the set that were worn out, but it didn't affect the sense of its operation until just now.

    Maybe somewhere in that lies the answer to why readers are better at picking up inconsistencies than the authors are themselves.

    Charlie: I for one am not going to say "write faster"... I can wait. I do not lack for quantity of potential reading matter. I like quality, and would prefer that particular strains of quality to which I have developed an attachment have ample opportunity to mature before release. Therefore waiting is the preferable option. Not to mention that it detracts somewhat from the enjoyment of reading it if I know the author has been in a muck sweat to get it finished instead of taking their time and being relaxed.


    Personally, unreliable narrators don't do much for me. I know that the story is made up and full of baloney; I consider it the writer's job to make me forget that for a while. I don't get invested in figuring out what's really going on because trying triggers my awareness that nothing is really going on. If the narrator gets too unreliable, I become an unreliable reader. I put the book down.


    Seven steps to Kevin Bacon Moment--one of my husband's fellow teachers has a father in Wyoming who is both wealthy and...really, really right wing, even for Wyoming. This teacher has had Thanksgiving dinner with Mr. Cheney as a guest (she herself is refreshingly sane and good with computers and keeps the ones at the high school running).

    This surreal moment brought you by Coincidence, Inc.


    I was just the other day wondering what the Charlie Stross of Timeline 2 in the Merchant Princes universe was writing instead of the Merchant Princes books.


    Maybe that alternate Stross is writing about space pirates.


    Or about some bunch who've half-inched France's new baby and have entirely free choice over when and where to return it.


    Dick Cheney ... improbable, to say the least ... Until you get fictional characters like this persona called: "Donald Trump" turning up in what we laughingly call "The real world". I mean, you what? Is there any known connection between these two people, other than evil + batshit insanity, masked by cunning?


    Paris Hilton could beat the Clown Car single handed ...


    You make me think of Douglas Adams here. Dent's friend's dog was named "Know-nothing Bozo" after the American President. In the mid-80s.


    Unreliable narrators are THE BEST. They let you play fun games with characters clearly not comprehending what's right in front of their faces.

    As long as you don't make the classic mistake of making them stupid.

    (I find few things more irritating in fiction than a plot-driven narrative with an idiot plot that only works for 300 pages because all the protagonists trying to figure it out are complete idiots.)

    But plots where the protagonists go haring off after red herrings, to mix a metaphor, are another matter entirely.


    Quite a bit of research showing that people aren't always 100% clued in to all of their surroundings, eye witnesses make mistakes, memories reconsolidate differently each time they're recalled, etc. Buddist monks are supposed to excel at 'being in the moment' so would probably have the most reliable recall. Babies/tots are pretty good at picking up on 'unusual' and, of course, we know the special powers that cats possess.


    I actually tend to think of Trump as a false flag operative for the Clintons, when I'm in a mood for conspiratorial interpretations.


    Regarding unreliable narrators, the notorious variability of eye-witness testimony, and light switches that switch vertical polarity a mere four years after being rewired:

    This is perhaps -- given the shared awareness of this readership of the memes that animate the Merchant Princess universe -- the ideal place for me to mention what I call "my little alternate universe problem."

    I first coined the term and spoke about it to my friends while I was living in a crappy studio that overlooked Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. One fine morning I looked out my window and there was a decorative stone obelisk in a random-ish place next to one of the fountains. It had never been there before.

    I went downstairs. I looked closely. The obelisk was chipped and scarred and had pigeon poop on it. The concrete at its base was weathered and stained and smelled of pee. The obelisk was not a recent addition to the plaza.

    I had lived there for two and a half years. The obelisk had never been there before.

    My friends in the building were neutral on the subject ("obelisk? What's an bbelisk?") or were certain it had always been there.

    Clearly I am a terrible observer and rememberer. Less dramatic versions of the new/old obelisk happen to me all the time. Little things that I don't remember appear in my life, little things that I do remember turn out to be absent when I go and look for them.

    I don't feel bad because the science says we are all of us terrible at noticing, observing, and remembering. That's why eye-witness testimony is such a terrible thing to rely on for anything that matters (like putting people in prison).

    And yet...

    What if we all walk between the worlds, perhaps in our sleep, without knowing it? What if we sometimes (not too often) wake up in an adjacent universe, one that's 99.9% (or 99.99% or 99.999%) the same? This would be really tough to distinguish from bad memory, poor observation, and minor mental illness.

    Do I really believe in this explanation of my little alternate universe problem? I don't think I do. Unreliable software running on a meat computer seems a more likely explanation. But I'll never lose the memory of looking out my window on a bright SF morning and staring at the pigeon-stained obelisk that had never been there before.


    This is essentially the "killer app" for VR as far as I'm concerned.

    Once you have a perfect simulation that genuinely can't be distinguished from the real world then it is time to use it to start screwing with people. What better way to start than messing with the local environment.

    No. The tree has always been on the left hand side of the road!

    Recreating old twilight zone episodes with unwitting victims is obviously step 2.


    Why should Buddhist monks be any better at remembering? Being in the moment means being in the moment, not remembering some other moment.

    IIRC, there are many different kinds of memory. The people in memory competitions know tricks (like building memory palaces--many of them subscribe to architecture and lifestyle magazines just to see more memory palaces to populate). However, they reportedly are no better at things like remembering where they parked than is anyone else. Very rare eidetic memories aside, no one has a perfect memory, and most claimed eidetikers are far from perfect too.

    If you want to see a good spatial memory in practice, take a ride in a London cab, because London cabbies have to learn thousands of streets. If you want a good memory for words, learn languages. If you want a good kinesthetic memory, learn dances or martial arts. But the skills aren't transferable. Having a huge memory of something like plant names doesn't make it any easier for someone to pick up a foreign language.

    In any case, it's probably just as well we forget stuff too. Do you really want to have a perfect memory of every temper tantrum you ever threw as a baby, or all the little embarrassments and failures that happen in any life?


    One aspect of human memory that has always intrigued me is the use of hypnosis as a tool to supposedly improve recall of various memories and past events (even up to the risable past life regression malarkey).

    It turns out that this has actually been researched quite thoroughly, and as one might suppose is almost complete bunkum. Hypnosis does not significantly improve the detail of memories.

    What hypnosis does do, however, is almost as intriguing; it is a very effective tool in laying down false memories and when false memories are laid down by hypnotic effects, the person is then much less able and much less willing to believe that these memories are completely false.

    This of course ties in to all the apparently serious UFO abductees; it would appear that many are in fact completely serious about these experiences. As hypnosis is a commonly (mis)applied tool of this sort of fringe research, it would seem only useful as a way to muddy murky waters still further.


    Trump - actual (vs. concept-board) end-product of late 20th century 'American-Dream'-self-actualization ethos.


    Boils down to Buddhist meditation. So more than one (ahem) route to building a more robust hippocampus.


    'The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.'


    Greg, I would be very surprised if Donald Trump's hairpiece has ever been seen in the same room at the same time as Boris Johnson's.

    They're both blond hirsute alien mind-control parasites, right?


    Re: '...or all the little embarrassments and failures that happen in any life?'

    Actually, this is the sort of stuff that people are likelier to remember and wish they could forget - The Donald excepted. It's intriguing that the human brain has regions that are very susceptible to as well as specialized in processing emotionally salient information such as personal injury, tragedy, loss, etc.

    Excerpt: 'Traumatic stress: effects on the brain'

    'Findings from animal studies have been extended to patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showing smaller hippocampal and anterior cingulate volumes, increased amygdala function, and decreased medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate function. In addition, patients with PTSD show increased cortisol and norepinephrine responses to stress.'


    wild hand waving Presumably you get more of a survival advantage from remembering the circumstances of bad experiences than good ones.


    Not so sure about that one. BoJo appears to be slipping of late, his fake buffoon mask is now showing a real buffoon, for all of his actual intelligence. The part is taking the character over ... Whereas Trump appears to be a machine for spouting ultra-rightwing semi-fascist dogwhistles for the similar, err "thinking" (i.e. emoting) constituency in the USA. Should he get the nomination I predict a Clinton landslide ...


    Re: wild hand waving

    I take the above to mean that you disagree ... fine. Okay, how about this ... I'm guessing that most of this bunch would score above the mean on neuroticism, plus most of the posters here self-report as being 40+ years old, therefore age-related recall also applies. Individuals scoring above average on neuroticism tend to recall more negative than positive things, as do older individuals.

    On the plus side, neuroticism is linked to creativity, i.e., more self-generated thought.


    Maybe I wasn't clear enough. I wanted to indicate that I was indulging in wild hand waving, in the sense that "what follows is speculative and based on no evidence".

    Apologies if that wasn't the impression I gave.


    I suggest that you have two light switches that control the same light. The question is whether both switches are in your house in this universe, or if one of the switches is in a nearby universe.




    I went through an online Big Five questionnaire (I think it was on Haidt's Website) and came out above average on Openness to Experience, and below average on everything else, though the really extremely below average one was Agreeableness.


    Should he get the nomination I predict a Clinton landslide ...

    I seriously doubt it. Trump appeals to a wide spectrum of people, probably because he does embody the American ethos in a lot ways. In American democracy, the guy with the strongest personality, best media presence and ability to connect with "normal folks" tends to win, and it looks to me like Trump is doing better than Hillary on those scores.


    I think you have hit the matter exactly. In base reality, as we may call it, there is at the top of the stairs a light which can be switched from both upstairs and downstairs; at the bottom, a light which can be switched from downstairs only, and it is the switch for this light which has become reversed. It became reversed after I switched off the downstairs light from upstairs, using the switch which exists only in the alternate universe.

    The interesting implication, then, is that the switch downstairs, and its associated wiring, must in order for this to work also be in the alternate universe, despite the configuration upstairs being in accordance with base reality and having only the one switch for the light upstairs. The boundary between universes must therefore have become traversible part way up the stairs. Perhaps this explains why I have a headache.

    But the truly bizarre connection is that in something I wrote for my own entertainment a few months ago, two characters wake up one morning to discover that their house has also come to feature a traversible boundary between alternate universes part way up the stairs. And it is the wiring which provides the first indication: the first one to go downstairs finds that there is no longer anywhere to plug the kettle in. And one of the fundamental postulates of the tale is that the dependence between objective reality and consensus reality goes both ways; they are there in the first place to try and repair damage to their native base reality caused by people in an alternate universe writing popular stories about it.

    These are deep waters, Watson.


    "...fictional characters like this persona called: "Donald Trump"..."

    You may jest, but it took me a long time to realise that that was not genuinely the case. I thought he was an American example of this thing of comedians inventing a persona and playing it so as to deliberately obfuscate the distinction between comedy and reality, like Ali G. He is such a ridiculous ass[1] that I could not take in that he was not a fictional creation.

    [1] Donkey, not the American spelling of "arse".


    "...the sort of stuff that people are likelier to remember and wish they could forget..."

    I suspect that if the connection you are postulating is correct, there is probably an intermediate level by which it takes effect. Inability to forget embarrassing crap from your past, and inability to remember stuff which isn't crap, are both more "notable" than when you do successfully forget/remember as you wish to do, so there is a reporting bias effect. Where your postulation probably comes in is that the "notability" arises because those situations are annoying.


    Except that a similar fictional person, with the same name, has been known on the E cost of Scotland, for some time. This iteration of "Donald Trump" has bullied large numbers of people, especially so-called "elected representatives" using money as his weapon, to push through golf-course & hotel developments, much agin the wishes of local people & breaking Scottish Land Law to boot ... The locals wish he'd go away, or that the simulation-run would terminate. I suspect Charlie may have more details ....


    Ahh, but did you see Act Two of the Trump v. Salmond farce?

    Salmond nailed him. Trump began acting up and throwing his weight around, bullying locals in an attempt to get them to sell up. So of course the largest offshore wind-farm in Europe was given planning permission, situated right in front of that golf-course development, as a big middle-finger. ("Fuck with our people and we'll fuck with you right back, laddie.") The Donald went greeting to the Supreme Court, complaining that his $1Bn golfing resort was his personal residence and his human rights were being infringed by the neighbours' vandalizing the view, and the judges told him to fuck off. Much to his shock -- judges are supposed to side with rich property developers against government regulators in his universe.

    I'm still awaiting Act Three, but as Trump is marginally less unpopular in Scotland than Nigel "Police Escort needed" Farage it'll probably arrive in the shape of President Trump ordering the USAF to bomb the terrorist wind farm.


    Having just discovered that there exists a proposal to build a tidal barrage across the Big Russel I can't help wonder if there are similar machinations involved there.


    Hysterical - no I hadn't caught up with that one. One big corrupt crook vs another in other words: what a larff. Just this once, there's no doubt that fat Alex is/was the much lesser of the two evils. Farage only "needs a police escort" because of the really swinish wing (note) of the SNP, nut that's a n other story, not for here, I think.

    note: "everything is the fault of the evil English & doubly the in-league-with-the-de'il Londoners" is whom I mean by that of course - the people who emote (thinking doesn't enter into it) that imitating Ireland 1923-80 would be a good idea.


    (note:) - Bravehearts. As in, people who think Braveheart was a documentary.


    it'll probably arrive in the shape of President Trump ordering the USAF to bomb the terrorist wind farm. Or Obama could do it as a favour on the way out.

    Alternatively, just convince some classified sensor / effector-array that there is a "High Value Target (tm)" inside and off those C 130's and Drones will go ...

    If "we" can bomb a "Medicin Sans Frontiers"-hospital in Kunduz, why should some communist wind mills be allowed to get off easy?


    Actually, Farage was run out of Edinburgh by the SSP -- our local home-grown version of the SWP (it's splittists all the way down on the left). The SNP have more dignity than to throw rotten vegetables at him and were busy making speeches in the Parliament down the road deploring all concerned.

    Greg, your Scottophobia is growing by the day. Where are you getting this shit, the Daily Mail or the Telegraph?


    Re: 58 - William '... really extremely below average one was Agreeableness' - searched for Haidt / personality test and didn't find anything on the first few pages so not sure what specific components are wrapped up into 'Agreeableness' in this test. How consistent are these results with what people who know you think of you ... family, friends, coworkers, etc.?

    Re 62: Pigeon '... so there is a reporting bias effect.' Yes and this bias is itself an effect and can be manipulated/reset. 'Notability' can be either very good stuff to remember (where food is) or very bad stuff (watch out for the lions). To complicate things, lack of control (wanting to but being unable to control) also escalates the harms/recall of negative experiences.


    The Wikipedia article at says "Disagreeable individuals place self-interest above getting along with others. They are generally unconcerned with others' well-being, and are less likely to extend themselves for other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others' motives causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative."

    You can find a Big 5 test at . It's in the second block of questionaires and tests.

    I'm not sure I could tell you how other people feel about me. I'm not a very good observer of such things.


    Searched for the golf issue and found info re: Michael Forbes whose dealings with Trump have been chronicled in 'You've Been Trumped'.

    Wikipedia excerpt:

    'Forbes and his struggle with Trump features in the award winning documentary You've Been Trumped, directed by Anthony Baxter and produced by Richard Phinney.[9] His portrait with his wife Sheila by Alicia Bruce is held in The National Galleries of Scotland collection.[10] In 2012, Forbes won the 'Top Scot' award at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards,[11] provoking Trump to criticise Glenfiddich and Forbes, calling it a "terrible embarrassment to Scotland".[12]''ve_Been_Trumped

    Movie trailer (3:22 min):

    Would be nice to see more foreign documentaries airing on US cable. Timely.


    Check out Glitch in the Matrix:

    BTW, simulated realities are just another version of the multiverse


    Okay - tried that one and got results that on the surface were inconsistent with results from other tests. Key item: Results are provided in percentile terms therefore are based entirely on which other people also took this test. If the test site is situated on/sponsored by a university, then your results are likeliest to be vs. undergrads (i.e., 19 to 23 year olds). Fine if you're also an undergrad or want to see how you happen to compare to that demographic.

    The Big-5 or similar personality tests are like locust swarms, they show up regularly every 5-7 years in larger corps. Also used pretty routinely in screening applicants for higher-end/technical sales jobs. When results are based on/compared to the relevant subject pool, they can be useful. Such test results also tend to be pretty stable. I've taken several professionally administered personality tests starting as an undergrad. BTW, the professionally administered tests usually take at least a couple of hours -- each.

    Try this similar test ... it probably sources users from a different respondent pool.


    Openness 85, Conscientiousness 52, Extraversion 27, Agreeableness 6, Neuroticism 18

    That's a lot like my other scores, though C came out a bit higher.


    ... in the shape of President Trump ordering the USAF to bomb the terrorist wind farm.

    Now I understand why Trump is running for president in the first place.


    So, what do you think of Sir Isaac Newton?


    Might we mention the link to the cover of Nightmare Stacks over on io9?

    It's got a synopsis and interview too.


    io9 have got a 24 hour exclusive.

    I'll blog it here tomorrow.


    Greg, your Scottophobia is growing by the day. Where are you getting this shit, the Daily Mail or the Telegraph? WHAT "Scottophobia"? I repeat, I'm a "devo-Max" man & I still think Camoron blew it, when that option wasn't put on the referendum. However, I loathe the SNP, for reasons wonderfully explained by one of our Irish commentators, about the clique that controlled Ireland 1922 onwards, & the SNP's similarity to that mind-set. A political party whose entire policy seems to be based on blaming everyone else, but especially the evil English, does not fill me with enthusiasm. In fact, they have more in common with Farage than they would care to admit.


    Looking at that preview-pic, it looks suspiciously like a Kettenkrad & also rather like THAT building in Leeds with the thing on top, beingobliterated by an emerging "dragon" .... Oh dear.

    P.S. The tank looks horribly like a WWI "Churchill" is that not so?


    Yes, I know about the lack of control over the cover art, and I apologise for being nitpicking... artwork, just a teensy bit of regret that the artist drew a pair of Challenger 1, not Challenger 2 ;)


    And yes, I'm impressed that the (presumably US-based) artist even made the effort to use a UK tank rather than just redrawing an M1A2...


    Actually, the closer I look, the more I think that it's a Stillbrew-fitted Chieftain, not CR1. Right-hand tank has a searchlight fitted to left-hand turret side...

    Either way, not a Churchill :) Look at the storage bins over the tracks, the large road wheels and the side armour skirt on the right-hand tank, NBC pack on turret rear of left-hand vehicle.


    The gothic armor on the Kettenkrad driver is interesting as well. What's the knight doing riding away from that dragon?


    Everybody quit picking on little Donnie, he's got an important historical role to play, to wit: my recycled three year old comments from another newsgroup...

    "The donald could be an answer to the barrack's most fervent prayer, he'll splinter the Republican party's support base wide open, worse than Nader ever did to the Democrats. Nader took 2% points, plenty to be a spoiler in a close race. Trump's got better than 15% last I saw, and no chance to be Prez, way too much colorful ugly history, massive bankruptcies, lawsuits, failed projects, entertaining but absurd TV appearances selling steaks and office furniture, marriage background way too public and interesting to not alienate a big bloc of conservatives, a ready made tagline "Ya Foyad, Latoya!" to enhance his mockery potential ...the guy's pure gold! Thank you Mr. Trump, your country needs you! And he's tough, he's got real staying power, self-financing and he could give a rip about the republican party leadership, even if they ordered him to back off he'd run as an independent and steal their support, dems won't vote for a billionaire. With an ego big as all outdoors, he's in this race to stay, John Bohner's worst nightmare! oBAMA 4 MORE YEARS, Bush tax cuts are finished."

    Not that he is utterly without redeeming qualities. One of the best TV ads in recent years featured the Donald rooting through a dumpster to retrieve some product fallen from a window ledge, and an older black lady bystander observing with unconcealed disgust loudly pronounces, in judgemental tones like Gospel testimony, "How the mighty have fallen!"


    I don't think I understand what you're trying to find out by asking that question. Does it derive from what I said in some way?


    Obviously, he hasn't got the appropriate runes on sword and armour to let him chop it open...

    (Sorry, Harold - but I did enjoy Book 2!)


    Alternatively, just convince some classified sensor / effector-array that there is a "High Value Target (tm)" inside and off those C 130's and Drones will go ...

    Now I'm imagining Terrorist Banksy painting Osama bin Laden's face on a synagogue under cover of darkness. Maybe cardboard cutouts in the windows?

    Later, it turns out that his real name is Kevin McAllister. The kid from Home Alone grew up and fell in with a bad crowd.


    My lame attempt to imagine a historical person who might fit that personality profile, and the closest I can think of is Newton: very high on being very open to new experience/intense cerebration and not at all agreeable. You could say that Paul Dirac has a similar personality profile. The big difference is in how the low agreeableness was expressed: Newton waged a vendetta, Dirac withdrew and hardly spoke. (Wikipedia: 'His colleagues in Cambridge jokingly defined a unit of a "dirac", which was one word per hour.')


    Identical copies of you exist in every universe that could have produced them. The less you know for sure the more universes you exist in. They're infinitely divisible (aka extensible), though, so it doesn't hurt to learn, there's always an infinite supply of unknowns. Of course, these unknowns exist in ratios, also known as probabilities, based on relative sizes of infinite extension different known-worlds are capable of--how complex they are. You yourself are the primary complexifying factor in your world set, and by conditionally increasing your complexifyingness you can manipulate unknowns. That's how I made so much money playing slot machines.


    Does neuroticism lead to creativity, or does creativity lead to neuroticism? And if either, how? I'm thinking people who generate their own thoughts earn the wrath of the sheep and the stress of constantly fending them off leads to madness.


    Wild hand waving: ...


    Not if he's really a secret liberal operative. Then he'll throw it. He'll probably throw it anyway. You can't be that out there and not stumble and cross the line. The American people will turn on a dime.


    We're there too. Except the battery thing is stupid.


    There should be an additional dimension for strength of the trait pair in the personality. You can be, for example, generally agreeable but your agreeableness can be unimportant to your functioning in life.


    I would imagine that the whole thing of wanting to write outside these two big serials would be about wanting to start with a clean sheet of paper, not extending any shorter series (such more in the Glashouse, Saturn's Children, or Singularity Sky universes).

    Also I wonder if there's a Stephen King style convergence coming where all the stories wind up being in the same metaverse? Or would that require too much consistency checking? Will there someday be software for this?


    I like it. It nicely explains why humans are so badly outnumbered by things like bacteria. They are swarming in from other universes due to their low information content.

    Assuming some sort of inverse relation between complexity and abundance then you can probably calculate the size of the multiverse by looking at the densest information store/most advanced intelligence in this universe.

    In an infinite multiverse you effectively get gods. A smaller one might top out at culture mind level and so on.

    Now all we have to do is get access to some multiverses of differently infinite sizes in order to calibrate.


    Personally, I think that each (creativity, neuroticism) is a separate and distinct trait. How creativity might be expressed would be impacted by one's degree and type of neuroticism*. My reason/illustration is based on the below.


    'An anecdote recounted in a review of the 2009 biography tells of Werner Heisenberg and Dirac sailing on an ocean liner to a conference in Japan in August 1929. "Both still in their twenties, and unmarried, they made an odd couple. Heisenberg was a ladies' man who constantly flirted and danced, while Dirac—'an Edwardian geek', as biographer Graham Farmelo puts it—suffered agonies if forced into any kind of socialising or small talk. 'Why do you dance?' Dirac asked his companion. 'When there are nice girls, it is a pleasure,' Heisenberg replied. Dirac pondered this notion, then blurted out: 'But, Heisenberg, how do you know beforehand that the girls are nice?'"'

    Both were brilliant and creative but completely opposite in terms of the most common understanding of the term 'neurotic'.

    • Neuroticism as defined by many Big-5 personality theories covers a lot of ground, lumping together 'anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness'. While convenient, this 'definition' is neither explanatory nor particularly descriptive. Worse, it can screw up the people who are trying to understand themselves because they can only find this summary. It's like doing a one-slide PowerPoint presentation of Tolstoy's War and Peace - convenient, but not particularly helpful.

    Historically, the best predictor of who'll win the presidential election is incumbent party plus how the economy's doing shortly before the election. How well the candidate connected with the common folk is much less relevant. The 2000 election was a pretty extreme outlier - a whole lot of factors broke Bush's way. In terms of electoral success, George W. Bush was one of the luckiest men in history.

    So based on the usual indicators, if the economy keeps chugging along the next President is likely to be Clinton. She typically beats Trump in polls though not by much. Personally I'm not sure how much to trust the usual models - Trump could alienate Latino voters enough to insure a Clinton win even if standard models say otherwise.


    U.S. Presidents are elected by the Electoral College. 'Except for the electors in Maine and Nebraska, electors are elected on a "winner-take-all" basis.' (Source: Wikipedia) So you'd also have to factor in the local (state) economies by number of Electoral College seats by state to predict the likely winner.

    G.W. Bush (Overall Rank #43) won the Electoral College vote while A. Gore won the popular vote. Same with J.Q. Adams (#21) vs. A. Jackson, R.B. Hayes (#25) vs. S.J. Tilden, and B. Harrison (#29) vs. G. Cleveland. So, of the 43 presidents elected to date, the best that the Electoral College process could do was elect an 'okay' president (JQAdams - #21).


    Correction: GWB was 43rd President but ranked 34th overall.

    G.W. Bush (Overall Rank #34) won the Electoral College vote while A. Gore won the popular vote. Same with J.Q. Adams (#21) vs. A. Jackson, R.B. Hayes (#25) vs. S.J. Tilden, and B. Harrison (#29) vs. G. Cleveland. So, of the 43 presidents elected to date, the best that the Electoral College process could do was elect an 'okay' president (JQAdams - #21).


    Yay, ObXkcd.

    My guess is that if Trump wins the election, he'll die during his early office days (just as Reagan nearly did).


    "That's how I made so much money playing slot machines."

    If that was in the universe where the Amish have their own casino, I can imagine a promo for the video slots..."Try thy luck at the Butter Churn, English! Hast thou what it takes to be a worthy Butter Master?"


    Whereas Trump appears to be a machine for spouting ultra-rightwing semi-fascist dogwhistles

    Nothing 'semi-fascist' about announcing you would put all members of $RELIGIOUS_MINORITY under surveillance, force them to get special ID cards, and maybe move the more 'troublesome' members of the group to detention camps.

    Last week, I was fully expecting footage from one of Trump's rallies to depict him asking if we'd seen his friend Kyle. He's about this tall (holds right arm out straight at a jaunty angle) See Kyle?


    Googling Kyle or Kyle / Trump got me a US comedian. Is this correct, if not, no comprende .... Please do tell .....


    The Bonny Earl of Murrey, who does not go with with green...

    "See Kyle" is phonemically similar to what other notable phrase associated with sticking one's arm out at large political rallies?


    Googling Kyle or Kyle / Trump got me a US comedian. Is this correct, if not, no comprende .... Please do tell .....

    Take your right arm, and hold it out straight and parallel to the ground. Then increase the angle so that it is about halfway between horizontal and vertical. Ensure that it remains rigid and fully extended, including the palm and fingers.

    Now, ask if the rest of us can see Kyle. We might be hard of hearing, so be sure to shout it repeatedly.

    I was afraid people might NOT SEE the joke.


    I see intrigue and deviousness.


    I see intrigue and deviousness.

    I've found that over-explaining my attempts at humor makes them even funnier. Right?


    Ug. I didn't get it without the explanation either. Puns don't necessarily travel well on blogs unless you flash the warning lights and make it obvious that one is about to be emitted.


    Oh dear, never mind .....

    However, with Trump, all I see is overweening arrogance, derived from being able, so far, to bully his way through with vast amounts of money. Now, from his pov "hopefully" being translated into political power. What bothers me, is that there are a significant minority actually willing to swallow this stuff, as opposed to just a few nutters, whom you will always get.


    This is indeed what the Terrorists have figured out. They will use a "burner" phone enough to get it noticed on the "Kill List", then approach some teenager: "Hey kid! Want this nice iPhone 6 I just got tired off?".

    "Our" response?

    Well, "We" just decide that everyone male older than 14 near a drone strike are automagically "Enemy Combatants", so, rather than admitting that all of this "network centric warfare" was always garbage ever since it was tried in Vietnam and didn't work there - we just go and paint bulls-eyes around some more-or-less random people we just sent a robot to murder and we call this progress.

    I am quite angry over the fact that Denmark (my native country) is unquestionably allied with (I am sorry, but) filth like that.

    And especially upset that the pathetic losers calling themselves "the left" cannot even be arsed to do one. little. puny. totally risk-free. rant in a newspaper!

    So, I hope for Trump*.

    Because with Trump at the helm of "the free world(tm)", the on-going fascism will be so full-on, right "in yer stupid face suckers" that it cannot be denied any longer and then we could perhaps move and be different again!

    *) I am assuming that the presidential handlers have a dummy "Football" to issue.


    Because with Trump at the helm of "the free world(tm)", the on-going fascism will be so full-on, right "in yer stupid face suckers" that it cannot be denied any longer and then we could perhaps move and be different again!

    Do you remember 1999?

    Because Ralph Nader's followers were saying pretty much exactly the same thing about George W. Bush. And look where that got us.

    Shorter version: the strategy of tension is horrifyingly irresponsible, builds pyramids of skulls from innocent by-standers, and doesn't work most of the time. (And when it does, you end up with Silvio Berlusconi.)


    I am assuming that the presidential handlers have a dummy "Football" to issue.

    I think you overestimate them. I hear that for most of the Cold War, the launch code was all zeroes. Nobody had reset the default.


    You might want to take a look at Resonance, by Chris Dolley, its pretty much a novelization of what you just described. The main character has stuff like the obelisk happen to him every day of his life. Whilst I've never had something that dramatic, a combination of terrible memory and appalling observation (my wife calls me Captain Unobservant) means I get minor stuff like that happen to me continuously, so the book really resonated with me (pun not intended).


    I have had stuff like that a number of times, including an electricity substation suddenly appearing in the middle of a small field where we had played football for years. Which had been there as long as the field was open to the public.


    It's almost amusing that that supposed Field Manual first appeared in Turkey; Erdogan seems to be following it, blaming the PKK for nearly everything. Like saying the PKK set bombs off at a pro-Kurdish peace rally--yeah that makes sense.

    How serious is joke that BoJo got elected because too many people thought it would be amusing? And how worried should we be about something like that WRT Don T. Rump? Though I think (hope) if he keeps going as he is the joke will wear thin by time the Rep. convention comes around.


    I very much agree on this. If we get President Donnie Pumpkin-Head, we may well get into Daniel Keys Moran's scenario from Emerald Eyes et al., where the rest of the world invades the US to save the planet. Let's not misunderestimate him, or any of the GOP candidates for that matter. Let's also not misunderestimate the number of authoritarians floating around in the US. There are large parts of the country that are in unpleasant socioeconomic conditions, and historically this has been a breeding ground for fascists (see US politics in the 1930s) or whatever they call themselves now.

    As for drone warfare and the CIA, my reading is that Obama's very much in the Kennedy mold, enamored with covert warfare (cf Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, etc.), in part because it matches his personality, and in part because he needs to fight a war while getting the regular military out of the quagmires that the Bush II regime put them in.

    On the other hand, Bill Clinton detested the CIA because he could get better, faster news from CNN, and reportedly the detestation was mutual. I don't know for sure if Hillary Clinton has the same belief or not, but I suspect she does (cf Benghazi, although properly that was Congress' fault). Even though she's a political pragmatist, I suspect that we'll see a lot less use of the CIA's assassination ops if we get another President Clinton.

    Anyway, let's hope that the Paris talks get us into a world where there's less warfare over the control of oil. That would help a lot, although it would really turn the Middle East into a hellhole, with an even bigger migration crisis.


    This is also known as a Berenstein Bears problem, after what appears to be either a universe leakage or a surprisingly widespread and consistent memory error.


    Ahem, that's Berenstain in this unverse.


    Hillary, Hillary... sorry, I think it'll be President Sanders.

    And was anyone here aware that one the founding documents of the shut down a couple years ago Project for a New American Century, was a letter written to then-Pres. Clinton in '98 urging him to invade Iraq... and signed by, among others, Cheney, Rummy, and others of that cabal. I'm sure you can still find it on the web, the way that I'll wager you can find the official platform of the Texas Republican Party from '03 till at least '05, where one of the major platform items was to make the US a "Christian Nation". I kid you not....

    Finally, about Trump's "hair" - I suppose we could see it as a puppet master (than you, RAH), but I feel the final word on it was David Gerrold's, at the Hugo presentation at this year's Worldcon: "Mr. Trump, I want my tribble back!".


    I'll be content with either of them. The reason I think it will be Hillary is that last mess with the Benghazi hearing. She reduces her right-wing opposition to dribbling idiots without working up a noticeable sweat, and I have not yet seen Bernie engage on that level.

    Yes, I think she's a political pragmatist, and I don't think that's what we need at this point in the US (which is the part I like most about Bernie--he's inspirational). On the other hand, she does seem to get stuff done, even when people are trying to sabotage her right and left. Whatever you think of her politics, that's a good quality in a president.


    I also have a memory I know to be false. It was walking out of a cinema in Northampton after seeing the great rival to the newly released "Star Wars". Can't quite remember the name of it, but it was something like "Cosmic Quest", with a poster with a lot of green in it. At the time I considered it better than Star Wars. It doesn't exist.


    Speaking as a trained, experienced hypnotist, who has some knowledge of and experience in this particular area, I'd be very interested in seeing documentation of those statements. Cites, please?


    Actually, no. A. Gore did NOT win the popular vote.

    After the Court ruled, ending the endless "hanging chad" recount farce in Florida, and allegedly handing the election to Bush, one of the big Florida newspapers paid for the full recount to be completed, and went so far as to track how the results were going to come out under ALL of the recount rule systems being argued.

    They REALLY wanted the "street cred" they figured they'd get if they could prove that Bush "stole" the election.

    Unfortunately for them, all of the recount results came back with the same final answer. Bush won. Interestingly enough, the rules the Gore people wanted gave Bush the largest winning margin, while the rules the Bush people wanted gave the narrowest margin, but all of them gave the same qualitative result.

    This result did not get a lot of airplay, for very obvious reasons.


    I thought he was an American example of this thing of comedians inventing a persona and playing it so as to deliberately obfuscate the distinction between comedy and reality, like Ali G.

    Trump certainly is exactly what you're talking about. He is also a leading presidential candidate. The fact that we have a soap opera where our political system should be is 2/3 of the problem.


    "Actually, no. A. Gore did NOT win the popular vote."

    Yes, he did.

    You seem to be thinking that the only place this was in question was Florida.

    This is not so. Because of the electoral college, it's perfectly possible to have more popular votes and less electoral votes.

    Which is what happened.

    Note that in here, Bush did indeed win Florida.


    I thought he was an American example of this thing of comedians inventing a persona and playing it so as to deliberately obfuscate the distinction between comedy and reality, like Ali G.

    Do I think tRump sincerely, passionately, believes the nonsense that he's spewing? Not at all. Do the people at his rallies? Absolutely.


    Thank you. I stand corrected.

    The discussion of why the US has the Electoral College, and why it is not a Bad Thing, will have to wait for another day.


    although it would really turn the Middle East into a hellhole It already is, or hadn't you noticed. Normally, I don't & won't go anywhere near any Murdoch paper, but recently "The Times pronted a cartoon, lets see if I can get a link to co-operate..... I hope that works ok?

    Very unpleasant & very true.


    You are aware that Erdogan is sympathetic to Da'esh? And that his family is doing very nicely out of Da'esh's oil exports? Yuck


    And that, the 10-25% of the US electorate who actually swallow his fascist (?) rhetoric is deeply scary. As is the "Christian Nation" stuff too. There's a link I often use, when I refer to Adolf's lot ( Yes, I know, Godwin ) because of the links between the RC church & the NSDAP, with some very unsettling pictures. HERE "Enjoy" is not the word, I think "understand" might be more appropriate. And be very afraid, too ....


    The reasoning is explained rather well by a former USAF missile officer called Bruce Blair...

    TL+DR; the USAF were concerned about the risk of decapitation strike, and wanted the ability to launch if the football(s) were destroyed - see TACAMO. Their way of reconciling this with McNamara's insistence on a PAL code (presumably post-Cuban Missile Crisis), was to build the PAL code in but set it to "all zeroes"... until 1977.


    ...more-or-less random people we just sent a robot to murder...

    While I agree that there are serious moral issues around nations using lethal force outside of a state of war, I don't think that your description helps a reasoned argument.

    They aren't "murdering robots" - these are strike aircraft like any other, it's just that the pilot is sat in the US or UK, rather than the cockpit of the aircraft. They operate entirely under human control, including the target tracking and decision to fire.

    They aren't "random people" - there's a reason why RIVET JOINT aircraft (and similar) are constantly in the air around such operations and feeding the intelligence cycle. Yes, there are mistakes and innocent people die that shouldn't; but the likelihood of it being your "teenager in unwitting possession of a used burner phone" is much lower than you imply. Demonstrably, the expansion of ISIL was stopped; and by any standard this was a good thing.

    I do wonder what the ratio is, of intended target to innocent bystander; (see "serious moral issues" above") but I suspect it's rather better than the ratio imposed by the Syrian state (see "using nerve agents on own civilians"), the Daesh when dealing with the Yazidis, or the Russians when bombing Raqaa with manned aircraft. Not saying it's right, and I understand your anger, I'm just saying that breathless emotion doesn't lend itself to rational debate.


    That's a facile but basically useless explanation. ("we don't bomb as badly as other people with different political objectives bomb")

    Consider the several tens of thousands of French people killed in the preparatory and supporting bombardments for D-Day. Consider that this was generally accepted as the fortunes of war. (Even though some of it was entirely deliberate; smashing crossroads villages to hinder the road network, for example.)

    War is not about killing people. War is about imposing your will and your prefered political outcomes. But those have to be achievable outcomes, and you cannot bomb a region into peacefulness.

    Trying to bomb a region into peacefulness is either gross incompetence, a delight in killing, or a preference for chaos. Or, of course, some unfortunate combination.

    There are a lot of things force cannot achieve; peace is one of them. A serious effort to bring regional peace would be expensive and involve a lot of offering people new homes somewhere hemispherically far away.


    Um Greg, I meant a hellhole compared to what it is now, because no one has any money and the water's running out. And yes, I'm aware of what it is now.


    There are a lot of things force cannot achieve; peace is one of them.

    I bought a copy of Rupert Smith's "The Utility of Force", but it's still sitting unread on the bookshelf...

    Anyway, I mostly agree. As I used to try to explain to students while I still wore uniform part-time, there are no military solutions to political problems (see: West Bank / Gaza Strip, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, etc ad nauseam). However; there are occasionally military solutions to military problems. The question is whether the cost of the military solution will help or hinder any associated political solution.

    After a certain level of escalation and violence, the fighting will continue so long as each side either thinks it can win, or that they cannot afford to lose - the sunk costs fallacy applies in spades.

    For example, UNPROFOR was doing exactly the right thing in Bosnia by focussing on the civilians as much as it could; tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, lived through some atrocious winters because the blue helmets and white vehicles bit down on their revulsion on dealing with the thugs and bandits that led each side at local and national level. So long as Izetbegovic thought he could persuade the US to come in on his side, the Bosniaks kept fighting; so long as Milosevic, Karadic, and their kleptocracy thought they could keep making a personal profit, the Bosnian Serbs kept fighting. Once they realised that they had as much as they would get, and might lose it, they started talking.

    Along the way, there were instances where force was necessary; one school friend was escorting Kate Adie around Anhici, immediately post-massacre, when a UK armoured infantry patrol imposed its will on HVO types who were escorting a column of Muslim civilians off to an unknown fate. Consider also the Danes taking on the Serbs in a Company-level tank battle (Operation Bollebank).

    Consider also the behaviour of Serbia over Kosovo - once there were a couple of NATO Armoured Divisions sitting in Macedonia, and authority had been given by national governments, there was a credible threat - General Jackson was able to walk into a tent on the border with a bunch of Serbian Generals, and explain that either they left Kosovo, or they would be forced out. They listened; they believed; they left.

    Given that I was on my honeymoon at the time that the bombers started flying over Belgrade, and that the callout notices were stacked up in Glasgow and we were 24hrs away from a mass call-out of the TA, I'm rather glad the Serbians didn't call his bluff.

    By contrast, Saddam Hussein never really believed that anyone would actually invade; of the P5, China typically abstains, the French and Russians were owed a shedload of cash (for oil and weapons), and that only left the UK and US. Likewise, the Argentine Junta never really believed that the British would respond to their invasion of the Falklands (Admiral Anaya had spent time as their Military Attache in London, and believed the UK to be decadent and morally weak).

    The big question for me is whether the debate over Syria is a choice between Churchill and Chamberlain (for Munich Crisis / WW2), or rather between Eden and Gaitskell (for Suez). But that's for another thread...


    There certainly are military solutions to military problems. The examples you cite are clear examples, too; frustrating a specific objective on the part of relatively small organized forces.

    I don't find myself thinking about Syria as a potential flashpoint for a world war; I find myself thinking about Syria as the probable template for a world where if you live somewhere that's going uninhabitable[1] you have to stay there and die.

    [1] it not mattering much to you if someone else with different amounts of money and skill could inhabit it


    How about Syria as a repeat-template for the Spanish Civil War? Not a comforting prospect, either, is it?


    I don't think that your description helps a reasoned argument. Well, I think there is no need for all that. One cannot expect to achieve anything via a reasonable argument with un-reasoning people, who all think they are special with special rights, about their un-reasonable behaviours. All one can do is move away, stop helping them, allowing time and circumstances solve their problem.

    "We" are both deluding ourselves and setting an example for "Others" to follow: Our globalized technology pool is getting ever cheaper and more accessible every day, which means that more and more of those people, which we think it is OK for us to secretly murder, will be able to use the same tools and pay "us" back in-kind. One ill-turn deserves another!

    From the numbers that I (& anyone) can Google up, the ratio between alleged "bad guys" and "everyone else wasted by drones" must be about the same as what was achieved by "granddad" bombing the shit out of Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin et cetera with dumb bombs - about 7-10% Nazis killed, the rest "Collateral Damage".

    We are, I.O.W., totally deluding ourselves in imagining that this vastly expensive, bureaucratic, "assassination tool chain" is somehow "precise". It is not "working" in the sense that it convinces "bad people" to stop hating us, and, since we already know that this is indeed so and still keep doing it, it only makes us cruel and arrogant on top of Stupid. Breeding Terrorists is all what we do!

    Russia and Assad kicking ass with boots on the ground is what is in fact "stopping ISIL".

    We are the ones letting it slide that our "allies" are openly funding, arming and supporting ISIL (and people like them everywhere), "we" are the ones with senators publicly ranting and raving about "our" friendly moderate be-headers getting smoked along with that other lot, even though both groups deserves all of what is coming to them in spades.

    Ever since Irak, any claims about "us" actually doing more against IS than bombing some deserted desert for "Show & Tell" are highly suspect.

    The Danes withdrew their planes - publicly because of lack of operational resources, which is plausible, or maybe because someone threatened to rat out that "the mission" was a sham. It is indeed odd that we have all this "air superiority" and yet IS are running tanker convoys to Turkey along desert roads!?


    All one can do is move away, stop helping them, allowing time and circumstances solve their problem.

    All? Would you say that about Bosnia, or Kosovo, or Sierra Leone?

    "Move away and ignore it" means a lot of refugees, a lot of human misery, and a much larger recruiting pool for the nutters with a bad need for anger management.

    Force isn't always the answer. But sometimes it's the least bad option.

    Our globalized technology pool is getting ever cheaper and more accessible every day, which means that more and more of those people, which we think it is OK for us to secretly murder, will be able to use the same tools and pay "us" back in-kind. One ill-turn deserves another!

    Except... the terrorists had a good try at blowing up the World Trade Centre in 1993, long before they succeeded in 2001. Note that these dates are well before the invasion of Iraq in 2003; and possibly driven more by a desire to strike at the House of Saud's willingness to allow foreigners into Saudi Arabia.

    The argument that it's all somehow "payback" for secret murder and drone strikes falls flat.

    It is indeed odd that we have all this "air superiority" and yet IS are running tanker convoys to Turkey along desert roads!?

    On the one hand, you're criticising murder robots. On the other hand, you're being rather bloodthirsty regarding the poor schmucks whose only chance at making a living is by driving a commercial vehicle during a civil war...

    ...just maybe, striking those convoys is regarded as involving too much collateral damage, and too many civilian casualties?


    To which, may I add, that I am of the opinion that fjansen's number about innocents killed being equivalent to the proportions in WWII is simply utter rubbish. Yes, it's a war, innocents WILL be killed, but we can try to keep the numbers down. Though the US (in particular) did not cover themselves in glory in that respect during "Iraq II" ...& yet again Shrub & Blair poisoned the well. Circumstances alter cases. There are times when outside intervention makes things worse, there are also time when outside intervention can make things better & times when it is utterly essential ( Rwanda comes to mind ) Now, your starter & difficult question is: Which is which, on any particular occasion?


    "...just maybe, striking those convoys is regarded as involving too much collateral damage, and too many civilian casualties?"

    Or more likely about keeping Turkey sweet.



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    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 25, 2015 11:38 AM.

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