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Sitrep

Dark State

Today marks the publication of Dark State in paperback in the USA! And a price drop for the paperback in the UK—the UK first edition was a large format trade paperback, not a hardcover; this is the smaller "mass market" printing. (The ebook should also be getting a little cheaper by and by, but no new pricing has propagated yet.)

I've been quiet lately because we're going through a heat wave right now in the UK, and I'm a Discworld troll: if the temperature goes over 20 celsius in my un-air-conditioned office my brain melts. Also, I'm trying to take a sabbatical: I've been pushing out words faster than my natural long-term rate for a few years, and I don't generally take non-working holidays, and after a bit it all gets to be too much, with added close family medical woes on top. So, having turned in the manuscript of INVISIBLE SUN (which will be out next year, albeit no earlier than July and possibly as late as October) I'm giving myself license to do absolutely no scheduled work for six months, and see how it goes. And this is how it's going.

So far, it looks like my muse went on a month-long absinthe-guzzling bender and did too many 'shrooms. Not having to hit deadline quotas is good, but my subconscious keeps barfing up story notes, like:

Magical Girls often get their power as a gift from a goddess. Now imagine the goddess in question just happened to be Itzpapalotl. What sort of superpowers would Magical Girl Obsidian Heartbleed have ...?

(Over in The Other Blog We Do Not Speak Of there's even a running thread of regrettable supervillain ideas.)

Looking forward ...

"The Labyrinth Index" is in production and should be in shops and ebook stores by October 30th. "Invisible Sun" is with the editors, delayed, but will come out in 2019.

"Ghost Engine", the space opera, is my only project beyond that point that has a contractual delivery date: Orbit have bought it for the UK market and I need to deliver it in summer 2019. I wrote a complete first draft in 2017, but was forced to pause halfway through the redraft by my father's terminal illness. But it's a known quantity: I know what it's about, there's about 150,000 words of existing novel (albeit not in a publishable-as-is state), and it's going to happen. (There's no US publisher as yet because my agent and I haven't shopped it around because it isn't finished: don't worry, it's on the to-do list.)

So I'm now looking at what to do after "Ghost Engine". (Note: in case it isn't obvious, all prognostications are provisional: nothing is definite!)

First, the big news: I have spent the past 20 years juggling two vast long-term projects—the Merchant Princes and the Laundry Files. I'm now hitting my mid-fifties, and both these projects have on the order of a million words of continuity to keep track of and it's just too damned much.

Every story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. So I'm beginning to work my way towards finding a satisfying end point for both those series, albeit one that doesn't preclude further work in either universe.

In the case of the Merchant Princes/Empire Games, that's relatively easy: "Invisible Sun" ends the current cycle. When I recover, there may be further books in that setting—but unlike previous MP/EG books, they'll be self-contained stand-alone stories that fit in a single book, rather than episodes in mind-buggeringly gigantic sagas. ("Merchant Princes", at 640,000 words, is longer than "The Lord of the Rings" or "War and Peace"; "Empire Games" isn't so much a trilogy as a novel in three installments, and weighs in at a mere 350,000 words, or about the same size of "Cryptonomicon". Please bear in mind that my best works turn out to be novellas, i.e. very long short stories or very short novels, of roughly 20-50,000 words ...)

Meanwhile, the Laundry is going in two different directions, at high speed.

Without spoilering "The Labyrinth Index" I think I can safely say that that book ends with an ongoing crisis that is inevitably going to ramp up to a series climax and a conclusion within another 2-4 books. I do not want to keep the series unfinished indefinitely. But I don't want to abandon the setting, either: it's too much fun. So what I'm aiming for right now (this is over a 3-5 year period, remember, and all long-term plans are subject to change) is to build a satisfying conclusion to the tale of Bob Howard, the Laundry, and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, while keeping the setting available for other spin-off stories. The Laundry Files are the workplace journals of various bureaucrats and agents working for SOE's X-Division; the Laundry universe is a recondite off-shoot of the urban fantasy genre that has room for vampires, elves, supervillains, yokai, kaiju, mad gods, even madder venture capitalists with extremely regrettable taste in software, and quite possibly Magical Girl Obsidian Heartbleed as well. The Laundry Files have a beginning, a middle, and, logically, an end: the Laundryverse, however, may well go on a lot longer (if my muse has anything to do with the matter—and, judging by the copious notes towards a non-Laundry Laundryverse novella he's been dictating through a megaphone this week, that's highly likely).

Aside from that ...?

Notes continue towards a third Scottish police procedural novel about technology-mediated crimes that don't exist yet, but I can't really get my teeth into it until the Brexit train wreck is concluded. Notes towards possible collaborations with [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] exist, along with media project [REDACTED].

As for my work/life balance, I'm going to see if I can change gear from trying (and sometimes failing) to push out a pair of 120,000 word novels every year, to successfully writing a single 120,000 word novel every year ... and one or two novellas which might or might not add up to the same word count. Which will mean more, rather than fewer, publication dates. Because I think I need to work smarter, not harder, if I plan to keep this up for another 20 years.

747 Comments

1:

Because you were going to ask, anyway ...

Dumb Supervillain Ideas #1: Doctor Dalek

"Dalek" is a not-totally-obscure Hungarian name. It's also the name of a major intellectual property based in the UK (owned by the Terry Nation estate).

Doktor Dalek was a quiet, unassuming technopath and tinkerer with a blog working in a British university until, based on a faulty assumption, a copyright infringement bot started sending him C&D letters then escalated it to the TN Estate's law firm. Then the BBC (who own the copyright on Doctor Who) got involved and assumed it was a piss-take.

One nastygram too many and Doktor Dalek lost his rag and built his first killer robot. Not many people in the UK know what the hell he wants because his robot shouts imprecations—his English vocabulary is fine but his grammar sounds like word salad and you have to work to figure out what he]s saying—and is only clear about his demands when you get it to repeat itself in Hungarian. It's probably something about the right to free movement and Brexit: Doktor Dalek does not approve of Brexit, for some reason.

Unlike classic BBC Daleks, Doktor Dalek's Daleks have legs. Lots and lots of legs, because he's heavily into biomechanics and indeed his first PhD was on the subject of brain-control implants for cockroaches. Rumors that his robots are in fact cyborg cockroaches armed with lasers have not endeared him to the public.

2:

Dumb Supervillain Ideas #2: Mouse Man

There was a snippet in New Scientist this week about killing off senescent cells having interesting effects. Remarkably they only needed two chemicals to do it... in mice,
Mouse Man acquired his powers following an unfortunate needlestick accident in a CRISPR lab, involving an experimental new live vaccine being trialed in (you guessed it) mice. The report from the medics who are trying to treat his condition, after some time, boils down to: "your genome — in every individual cell in your body — has been entirely replaced with that of Mus musculus, complete with the epigenetic modulation thereof!"

As we know, if humans were mice, by now we'd all be living to 400, immune to cancer, able to see in the dark, and bench press 500 kilograms/run a double marathon. Oh, and we'd have six different cures for AIDS.

Mouse Man, who works in a genetics lab and knows this shit, promptly mainlines a whole slew of CRISPR gene hacks (such as the highly active PEPCK-C hack that resulted in mice with a metabolism roughly equivalent to Lance Armstrong on drugs with the brakes off) before he's fired.

Of course, the hack affected every cell currently in Mouse Man's body. Over time, cells will die and be replaced from his stock of now-murine stem cells. So he's going to devolve into a giant misshapen mouse over the next century or so, assuming he lives as long as he probably ought to, based on his modified genetics. He's already developing a profoundly improved sense of smell that brings with it a tendency to panic in the presence of cats, and of course the fastest-cycling cell lines are morphine most speedily: his testes are leading the charge by gradually expanding to rodent proportions. (If humans had balls proportionate in size to rats, they'd be the size of watermelons.)

Mouse Man is immune to cancer and AIDS, can expect to live to 400, can bench-press 1000kg and run a double-marathon and a two-minute mile, but on the downside he drips urine constantly and needs kevlar-reinforced Y-fronts with shoulder straps to support his package (a noteworthy vulnerability in superhero/supervillain punch-ups).

He's also the ultimate manspreader. Awkward.

3:

Dumb Supervillain Ideas #3: Impostor Elder Gods

In the real world, we know that serial killers and spree killers often spawn imitators. It seems to be less common in this hyper-connected age of easy access to automatic weapons (at least in the USA) but there used to be a related problem, whereby whenever a serial killer was being hunted the police investigators would be on the receiving end of confessions by attention-seeking impostors.

In an era of gods, demigods, monsters, and dipshit superheroes, there will of course be attention-seeking impostors. And some of them are going to be pretty alarming.

Gradiose-type delusions are commonly comorbid with schizophrenia and/or biploar disorder and may involve a special relationship with, or identity with, a famous person or a deity; so common it frequently comes up in pop culture. ("Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong" — Dire Straits.)

What happens when somebody with delusions secondary to frontal-lobe lesions or schizophrenia also happens to be a superpowered/metahuman? Well, as likely as not, they're going to identify themselves as someone important. Very important. If we're lucky we get half-assed Batman impersonators, or a budget-price Godzilla. But when our luck fails, we get Nyarlathotep or Cthulhu, or other squamous and rugose critters out of H. P. Lovecraft's bestiary.

What are the most likely horrors we get this way, and what (more importantly) are they going to want to do — collect congregations of worshipful cultists for sexual shenanigans, sell their life story, try to take over the world, or what?

4:

Dumb Supervillain Ideas #4: Regrettable Magical Girls

Magical Girls very frequently get their powers courtesy of divine intervention—they exist as champions of a goddess.


It occurs to me that it would be rather interesting to explore the powers of Magical Girl Obsidian Heartbleed, who gets her power from Itzpapalotl ("Clawed Butterfly") — a skeletal warrior goddess who can "appear in the form of a beautiful, seductive woman or terrible goddess with a skeletal head and butterfly wings supplied with stone blades". (She's also identified with bats, and rules over the paradise allocated to victims of infant mortality.)


Things we know about Obsidian Heartbleed, straight off the get-go:


  • She has nahua ancestry

  • To keep her powers she has to sacrifice a human heart to her goddess once every lunar cycle

  • If she fails in her sacrifice she will take her sacrifice's place on the altar

  • If she fails, then during the next solar eclipse the Star Demons will be displeased and will come to earth and attempt to eat everyone — it will take mass human sacrifice to propitiate them

  • You really, really do not want to see MGOH in her magical girl form, she is more than a little bit bony, with a side-order of obsidian flaying knives



... Sometimes merely Lovecraftian horrors are not enough, and what you really need is a fusion of ultra-frilly bishoujo Loli with ghastly blood-drenched horror out of the Aztec empire.

5:

Dumb Supervillain Ideas

Of course, I'm saving the best of these for the-novel-I'm-not-planning-on-writing-honest: let's just say the whole masks/secret identity thing in superhero fic really bugs me, especially in this era of ubiquitous CCTV and DNA testing. There's got to be a better way for the enterprising mastermind of crime to protect themselves from the law, and I think I've found it.

(PS, for anyone knocking superhero fic: I'm with Grant Morrison on the utility of this form for exploring human psychological archetypes of the kind we used to have mythology for—consider the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Norse, Nahua, Shinto, and Hindu pantheons as examples. It doesn't necessarily have to be realistic to tell us interesting things about our own psyches.)

6:

Sort of on and off topic, regarding "length of work":-

I kind of inhaled "The Delirium Brief" and wanted to leave it a 6* (out of 5 folks) review on Large River. This may be partly because it reduced Bob, Pinky and The Brain to my 3rd to 5th favourite Laundryverse characters (and no that isn't a hint; it's just a comment that
people may have reactions to individual works based partly on specific characters).

7:

Story length and story satisfaction are not always aligned; we tend to forget that the standard length of a novel has bloated immensely over the past 3 decades, due to intersecting constraints imposed by the physical book binding and distribution sectors and the desire of publishers to be able to charge more per book sold (during a period of inflation).

To frame it differently: was "The Atrocity Archive" (no 's') at 76,000 words twice as satisfying as "The Concrete Jungle" (30,000 words)? (Note that it was the latter component of the book that won a Hugo in 2005.)

Would you be happy to receive three "Equoid"-length Laundry novellas in a year, rather than a single "The Nightmare Stacks" (which is actually longer in word count)?

I've recently been researching "Peter Pan" (because nothing demands the Laundryverse treatment like a reworking of "Peter Pan", unless it's maybe "Mary Poppins"), and it turns out the novel "Peter Pan" runs to 55,000 words, or about 150 pages. In modern terms it's a novella.

"Neuromancer": 79,000 words. "Blood Music": 85,000 words. "Dune" was only about 160,000 words.

8:

The satisfaction for me depends. I read some series (like yours), and nowadays more and more short stories, but mostly I like the "self-contained novel". "Neuromancer" is a nice book, and I like the two other books in the series also because they are pretty self-contained.

9:

Anime magical girls have been satirised in Anime; I can't remember the show title off hand (someone will be along who does and admits the fact I'm sure) but in one show the transformation sequence includes the heroine hopping on one foot whilst she pulls off her other sock!

10:

As a graphic novel with oglaf ?

11:

I don't think I ever read "The Concrete Jungle", so I can't answer that directly. In any event my (possibly too well veiled) point was that, particularly in on-going series, I tend to draw more satisfaction from strong "show don't tell" writing and characterisation than from the word count itself.

In all the cases of Bob, Pinky and The Brain, part of my character enjoyment comes from "been there, done that..." feelings regarding their work/office environment.

12:

I don't think I ever read "The Concrete Jungle", so I can't answer that directly.

If you read the book titled "The Atrocity Archives" then you read "The Concrete Jungle".

13:

Trouble with Bob, Pinky, and Brains, is ...

a) Bob has been promoted into management (quite senior, at that) and is now in his forties. Pinky got a serious eye injury (but may recover); Brains is ... well, you'll see.

b) $AUTHOR has been out of the field for so long (18 years and counting) that trying to fake being a devops person is like your embarrassing great uncle's routine of being down with the hep jive slang the youngsters are all talking these days. A little sprinkling of it shows willingness to engage, but too much of it is just plain embarrassing.

TLDR is that I've aged out of being able to write the stuff I wrote 20 years ago convincingly, so I need to write something different.

14:

Well, in that case I clearly did read "The Concrete Jungle", but not as a separate entity, just as part of "The Atrocity Archive". I'd say that the case still stands that I can't judge how relatively satisfying TCJ and TAA are, because I never read TCJ as a stand-alone story.

15:

a) I know all that; My point about them was about why I was bound to engage with the characters originally. As to who I became more engaged with than them, "Bashful Incendiary".

b) Again I know this, but the background bureaucracy remains similar even if the script kiddy stuff has changed. For reals.

c) This isn't a request for "more like this" at least from my end; it's an explanation of reasons why I don't equate a particular length of work with generating a greater or lesser level of satisfaction.

16:

Charlie ...
Dr Dalek's monsters wouldn't by any chance look like militarised versions of the various forms of Strandbeest would they?
Wondefully creepy if so!

Imposter elder gods
Loki, immediately - complete with his ship Nagelfahr

Regrettable magical girls
Cassandra - you might want to read M Z Bradley's take on that one, though ....

Supervillain protecting themselves from "the law" is simples - you become the law, or part of it, or were you thinking of a different approach?

17:

Twenty years? You have my honest well wishes and I hope to be enjoying your work through out.

18:

Supervillain protecting themselves from "the law" is simples - you become the law, or part of it

I already did that, in "The Annihilation Score" (only in reverse, a police organization—
ACPO—creates a supervillain identity for policing operations). What I've come up with is a new method, I think.

19:

If I'm still working after I turn 74, well, at least I'll still be alive.

20:

Ahhh, supervillain children.

Firestarter (nod to Stephen King) is under the age of criminal responsibility, and cannot be prosecuted for burning down Littlehampton Primary because “she didn’t want to go to school”. After being caught raiding the Cadbury factory because she wanted chocolate oranges right now, she was assigned a social worker who is understandably stressed.

Her secret identity is actually protection by court reporting restrictions, and she will be given a new identity by the government if she reaches adulthood. Several boy bands are now very nervous about the possibility that she wants to impress her friends at the Primary School dance, and are varying routes and timings so as to avoid kidnap.

21:

W.r.t. the police procedural, the direction the chaos is spreading MAY become clear by 2020, but I wouldn't bet on it. My guess is that it's pretty hopeless, because what passes for reality will continue to outperform your most fevered nightmares for some time yet.

W.r.t. imposter elder (demi-)gods/superheroes. There are some politicians, demagogues and plutocrats who would make excellent templates for a new class of elder gods might get up to. I am thinking of those like Rees-Mogg or Musk, because mere insanity and megalomania are old hat.

Actually, I would prefer one "Nightmare Stacks" to three "Equoid"s, but I very much take your point. FAR too many books are a novella's worth of ideas and plot bloated up to a very long novel, or sometimes a hotchpotch of several novella's ideas and plot mixed together to make a long novel.

22:

I just read "This is Not a Game" by Walter Jon Williams and the first thing that crossed my mind was how much I missed new police procedure books.

TINAG was actually pretty enjoyable too, even if you figure out the twist early.

23:

"Because I think I need to work smarter, not harder, if I plan to keep this up for another 20 years."

Please do!

24:

You know there are two sequels to TINAG, right?

(Unfortunately #2 was kind of pre-empted by reality, in the shape of the Arab Spring, which it eerily foreshadowed ...)

25:

Charlie's muse was sent over by the Oglaf team. (Image mostly SFW - contains nothing that a baby hasn't seen close-up).

26:

Would you be happy to receive three "Equoid"-length Laundry novellas in a year, rather than a single "The Nightmare Stacks" (which is actually longer in word count)?
Mostly, although the way TOR prices its hardcover novellas it ends up costing about 50% more than a hardcover novel. I'm more willing to read an e-book novella than an e-book novel (they're closer to single-serving length), but I still prefer to stare at slices of dead tree in order to vividly hallucinate.

27:

Re. "Magical Girls often get their power as a gift from a goddess. Now imagine the goddess in question just happened to be Itzpapalotl. What sort of superpowers would Magical Girl Obsidian Heartbleed have ...?"

Elevator pitch: "It's kinda like Elric of Melnibone, only with an obsidian sword." All joking aside, there's a potentially really interesting moral dilemma buried in there: "Sure, I get to (temporarily) save the world/my nation/whatever, but do all the people I need to sacrifice justify that cost? And what's the personal cost to me (i.e., do I choose the sacrifice or have it chosen for me)?" Some inspiration from, and perhaps a dialogue with, recent changes in Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden.

In terms of writing into your 70s: If the work still gives you pleasure, I hope you'll keep on writing into your 90s, and that I'll still be around to read it. And when it stops giving you pleasure, I hope you have many other things to pursue that give you even more pleasure when you finally step away from the keyboard. I'd hate to see you quit*, but really, what claim do we readers have on the rest of your life?

* Unless it's a Stephen King "retirement" [sic].

28:

What is "The Other Blog..."? I don't remember you referencing it before. I assume it's run by someone horrible like VD?

29:

OK, another daft supervillain idea for you.

Take a biologist, a DevOps engineer and an academic and put them in a pub together. After several pints, they start talking about how good it would be to build massively parallel neural networks that reproduced themselves and could be linked together in arbitrary MESH networks to perform supercomputing tasks.

Working from known model organisms (mice, mostly) and engineering in biological millimetre wave networking, we suddenly get a super-intelligent aggregation of mice which, whilst very nifty for massively parallel computing have the slight downside of being really quite intelligent enough to apply for Union membership and argue that as they are easily of human grade intelligence they ought to be considered human, and therefore have a right to a family life, freedom of movement and so on.

Which is all very well, but mice leave rabbits standing in the rapid breeding stakes, and one academic salary does not really do when you're trying to feed and house several hundred thousand collectively super-intelligent mice...

30:

It's where I test work in development in front of a closed, hand-picked audience of beta readers. No, you do not get an invitation, sorry.

31:

Firestarter (nod to Stephen King) is under the age of criminal responsibility, and cannot be prosecuted for ...

Brilliant!

And on a similar note, I don't think Barry Ween ever explored that angle, but it's a good one!

(Take a foul-mouthed 10 year old with an IQ of 600 and a penchant for inventing toys like time machines and space drives. What can possibly go wrong? Now add in the age of criminal responsibility as an angle ...)

32:

You don't need to actually write the Mouse Man story. My imagination has already taken flight with the scene where he gives his tell-all interview with the incredibly beautiful but remarkably innocent cub reporter. The imposing desk he's seated at would be... different, and the innuendo revolving around a mash up with Larry Niven's infamous "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" essay is likely to keep me laughing all day. Fellow inmates of the cubical farm are beginning to exhibit signs of concern...

33:

So does any software exist that helps authors keep track of million-word continuities?

34:

That sequence of dumb supervillain ideas had me chuckling all the way through, and I would be eager to read any of those! Doktor Dalek especially, if you can write it without getting screwed by copyright lawyers yourself...

Secret identities and masks and stuff... isn't Superman kind of fucked these days because he can never find a phone box to get changed in?... of course Superman never wore a mask, he just relied on people being too dim to recognise him in his cycling gear. Perhaps the modern superhero/villain uses a kind of extension/alternative aspect of the same principle to deal with CCTV cameras: he wears something silly, and the collective unconscious micro-psychic emanations from people not recognising him can be harnessed to affect the sensors in CCTV cameras so that they don't record his image correctly either. Only for this to work effectively, the micro-psychic emanations have to have a decent degree of coherence, so it's not enough for people to just not recognise him, they have to consistently mis-recognise him as someone else - someone whose appearance is familiar to most of any bunch of random people, for the coherence thing to work, so someone whose mug is on the telly a lot. So for example if the silly thing he wears is a stick of candyfloss on his head, British CCTV cameras record an image of Boris Johnson while American ones record an image of Donald Trump. And there are entertaining failure modes; if he is walking down the street and a piece of toilet paper blowing in the wind lands on him, and he then walks past first a group of EDL supporters and then a group of people giggling over the Urban Dictionary entry for "free Tommy Robinson" on their phones, the local cameras record footage of Tommy Robinson metamorphosing into an ambulant turd, which one of the CCTV operators then posts on twitter.

35:

Unless it's a Stephen King "retirement"
I presume that's like a Harry Lauder farewell tour.

AN Other "Harry, this is the best farewell tour I've ever been on."

Harry "Just wait til you see next year's."

36:

There was one Superman TV show (probably "Lois and Clark") where Martha Kent looked at him and said "Well, no-one will be looking at your face!"

37:

A few thoughts on the Supervillains.

#1 Greg already beat me to it, but I had the thought of the robots being Strandbeests, but Atomic Powered! Something like Curiousity's radio-thermal generator ought to do, but with light shielding that you definitely don't want to shoot at.

#2 What if MouseMan gets infected with T. Gondii?

#4 I don't, know, I think Obsidian Heartbleed should be a Superhero of the ambiguous sort (chaotic good?). Maybe has a sidekick with super-healing; "I give you my heart every month, the least you could do is take me out to dinner."

Okay, back to reading the comments.

38:

So does any software exist that helps authors keep track of million-word continuities?

Not specifically, no.

1. Book-length fiction authors are a tiny weird fringe to begin with.

2. Multi-book-length fiction works are a minority of book-length works.

3. The document life cycle of multi-book series is measured in decades.

Having said that, Scrivener does a reasonably good job at grappling with the ENTIRE Merchant Princes series ... or it would if my project hadn't been created back circa 2007 and iteratively upgraded and mangled ever since, resulting in a document maintenance nightmare.

For future work I'm thinking about migrating backwards — to NeoVim and a bunch of specialized plugins and tweaks for stuff like syntax highlighting, searching, and outline-oriented folding, editing in Markdown (which is really all you need) and storing monolithic files in git, and building using a command line toolchain centered on make and pandoc. Which will now run on my PDA ...

39:

Canonical declaration here: in the Laundryverse, there is no such thing as an unambiguously good superhero.

(Officer Friendly came close-ish in "The Annihilation Score" — if you ignore the fact that he's a divorced middle-aged shagger with a teenage daughter and drives a red convertible penis extension and we never get to hear his ex-wife's side of the story — but then we get into what happens to him in "The Labyrinth Index" and [REDACTED]. Let's just say that the New Management shifts the Overton window on superheroism so far that Lex Luthor and the Joker look like good guys.)

40:

Impostor Elder Gods

I'm not sure this idea is dumb. In fact, I kind of like it.

On the subject of Dr. Dalek, you can certainly write it without fear. The satirical nature is both obvious and savage. Suing you comes under the heading of "there's no such thing as bad publicity" (except for the pain-in-the-ass factor.)

41:

Sorry to reply to myself, but I think most of the "dumb" ideas above lend themselves to really savage satire, something like Douglas Adams meets Harlan Ellison. You could publish the three most "awful" in a book-length tome, but only have to write novellas... (You may be way ahead of me on this one.)

42:

Charlie, about the end of the story arc of Bob and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN... I really, *really* want Bob and Mo back together, with a goddamned happily ever after, because this is fiction, as opposed to this shit-eating disaster of a RW, and I want something to be happy about, for characters I care about.

My own happily ever after ended when she dropped dead, so excuse me for wanting *somebody* worth a happily ever after getting it.

43:

Unfortunately, I'd be happy to point her to a supply for a while, some off of PA Ave NW in DC....

44:

Hmmmm, reminds me of a serious story I started writing last year; a guy our protagonist used to know get hold of him, and shows up. He's on the run from the cops and pharma thugs. Seems he came up with a drug, can be used as an aerosol, or in food, and makes whoever is with you someone who you think *EVERYTHING* THEY WANT is wonderful, and can't wait to agree.... My working title was "Yes, Dear?"

Trouble was, it's a genie out of the bag, and I can't think how to *not* end it badly....

45:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qIQxV2Bpmg
Parody of Tom Paxon't "Marvelous Little Toy", and yes, Paxton knows of the parody, and is amused by it.

46:

About story length: most novels these days are *way* too long. Remember that the Hugo definition of a novel is 40k words or more. The novel I'm currently trying to find an agent for - when I got what my late wife had written (both of us plotting), it was 46k-48k (depending on what I included), which was salable 20 years ago. Not now. A *very* well-known agent told me he'd not have looked at it had I not written a good bit, and had it up to 62.5k words when I first showed it to him. I've added still more, and it's now salable... at 76k words.

I mean, read, say, Gordy Dickson, and tell me they were too short (at, maybe, 192pp mass market). I'd really rather a good story, rather than something that is clearly larded so as to make the bean counters who've replaced people who actually *read* as publishers.

47:

Tor novella pricing doesn’t seem to make sense for either paper or kindle versions.

The Murderbot Diaries are a prime example, the latest novella is £7.69 or so on the kindle for a 2 hour or so read yet John Scalzi’s next book is £3.79 for a week of bedtime reading. And both are Tor books

48:

Unless I have completely misread between the lines, you are in for a surprise :-) Obviously, I am not going to speculate further, in case I am too close to the truth.

49:

"To frame it differently: was "The Atrocity Archive" (no 's') at 76,000 words twice as satisfying as "The Concrete Jungle" (30,000 words)? (Note that it was the latter component of the book that won a Hugo in 2005.)"

Yes, actually. To me, the novel was massively more satisfying than the novella and yes, length was an issue. A novella wouldn't have worked as an introduction to the ideas, and a longer novel might have dragged, given that I wasn't then emotionally invested in the meta-story.

50:

Superman's glasses are made from the windscreen of his Kryptonian space rocket and so make his disguise impenetrable, yes, even to facial recognition, and if someone does penetrate it he uses (sigh) super-hypnosis on them so they forget.

I feel stupider for having typed that.

51:

Pinky and Brains feel to me very much like the devops types loose in academica back in the 1990s - before it was called devops and before academic HPC scaled up and out and started to demand real discipline. I see them as increasingly at odds with the Laundry bureaucracy, right up to the point where said bureaucracy was kneecapped by dark forces in the recent book. If they were failing around with out-dated methods and out-moded slang it would just about fit. And there might be a back-plot story where they nearly get worse-than-fired for Impure Development Methodology but manage to redeem themselves by brilliant improvisation in a Crisis.

52:

Oh my.
That song brings back some memories. I grew up hearing the original, most often sung by an Army buddy of my mother’s, who was a Folkie (both of them). She played just about every stringed instrument and later played bagpipes in a pipe band. She more recently ran for Iowa state senate; lost to the incumbent Republican, but got a third of the vote—respectable for an Out, Jewish liberal lawyer.

53:

Sorry, that rambled a bit.

54:

Any news on your Berlin gig (looks at calendar)?

55:

Mitchell and Webb had a sketch that hit the inappropriate superhero idea on the head nicely, which was basically a superhero from the 70s. He gets the bad guys, but whilst smoking a fag, being casually racist, and having a flexible view on the age of consent.
Would be an interesting character to have in a book, if you want to make people feel a bit uncomfortable.

The other fun direction is when the superhero can't help for legal or procedural reasons. Computer man could fix the damage done to this critical govt system, but he doesn't have the security clearance. The Calming Master could stop the rioting in Bradford, but he's currently in an immigration holding centre after his visa expired.

56:

To frame it differently: was "The Atrocity Archive" (no 's') at 76,000 words twice as satisfying as "The Concrete Jungle" (30,000 words)?

That is pretty unanswerable for us who read them one after the other because they were in the same volume.

I realize for the writer word count is an important metric, but if I were to list my favourite SF in order of preference, I doubt word count would have any predictive power.

On my list Excerpts from the Club Diary would dominate the Laundryverse, but that does not mean that I'd rather have N Club Diaries than a single Atrocity Archive.

Le Essence d'Stross is the not the unexpected, but the unexpectable (but totally reasonable, now that you think about it) turn of events, and as far as my readership goes, that has nothing to do with the word count either.

Have you ever toyed with the ultrashort format, couple of pages maybe five ? There must be at least a few of those in the Stacks which can now be declassified...

57:

Take a foul-mouthed 10 year old with an IQ of 600 and a penchant for inventing toys like time machines and space drives. What can possibly go wrong?

Knock a few years off the age and add a talking dog sidekick and that's Stewie from Family Guy.

58:

Personally, I'm hoping there's time to gaslight the laundryverse.

I mean, set stories in the Victorian/Edwardian era. What did you think I meant.

After all, we've got to explain how we went from a state where good ol' Basilisk syndrome went from a well-known, worldwide problem to like, totally unreal. Therein lies a story, I think.

And heck, there's the benthic treaty to consider too. That must have had antecedents wherein They decided that us montane monkeys needed dealing with, rather than ignoring.

59:

Oh yeah, while I was out doing some outdoors volunteer work (fun in August), the following thought came to me, courtesy the X-Men and Peter Watts:

Heat Freaks.

The handwaving background is that our species has been around for 300,000 years, and the world's been wildly variable. Heck, it was hotter than this in the Eemian (well, not for much longer, but close). And you know our ancestors had bigger brains than we do, never mind they were apparently primitive stone-chuckers.

There's an explanation for all that. In a process researchers didn't at first understand, heat shock proteins are reprogrammed epigenetically by two generations of pregnancies under greater than average temperatures to adapt the fetus to be the changing world: they're tougher, smarter, but they don't think quite like us. The spike in autism diagnoses is a sign of genes being turned on and off, but as the heat shock adaptations start to kick in, more and more children will be born different--more tolerant of heat, humidity, hunger, and differently smarter too. What do we do about them: total elite panic mode, or something more creative?

Plug this into your favorite stale YA plot and go to town, if you like teen angst and climate change. I'm going back to reimagining Cthulhu as a mountain sized, AFAL capable Physarum. It's August after all, and I've got yet another EIR to comment on. That's what's warping my brain.

60:

Yes: I now expect to be in Berlin next month (for a week). Am waiting to hear from the bookstore as to whether they can organize a reading/signing; if not, I'll certainly be at a pub/bar one night, and publicize via twitter (or here, or both) ...

61:

Hm, why do I start thinking about the Call of Cthulhu campaign set in 1920 Berlin a friend and I thought about back in the day. Especially one character, Doctor von Romani. Quite brilliant, though somewhat difficult, and quite antipolonic. Yes, "dom" is Polish for "house", why you asking?

As for the rocket stoves you mentioned some time ago, AFAIK the main problem is the burning chamber. Metal reacts with acids, though one hippiepunk[1] I know back from trying to learn Sanskrit has a pottery oven[2], so I might try ceramics.

[1]Err, yes, he also knows the other friend who visited a European Rainbow...
[2]Last met him around the time I read "Rapture of the Nerds"...

62:

Err, make that "Doktor von Domski". I hate soft keyboards...

63:

Hm, personally I think a "Sourcery" ending would be somewhat appropiate. We're back in the 90s, Bob is back in university and has quite a lot of strange deja vus[1].

But there is the new guest prof in logic, Dominic, or what's his name...

[1] He guess he should stop smoking pot if he'd smoke any...

64:

Err, I don't know what's worse; the Italian heat, or that it's actually somewhat cooler than Germany ATM.

BTW, I hope the "Sinking Feeling" thread stays open somewhat, I'd like to employ my talent for worst case scenarios somewhat. Subtype market failure, with a side order of explaining economics...

65:

In terms of Berlin bars worth a visit even without a crowd I can totally recommend Zyankali as a rather quirky cocktail bar with a mad scientist twist. Tom is a totally awesome guy too.

And Lebenstern has a truly superb collection of old spirits that is always a delight to relax over.

66:

How about a bunch of the above:

A super-hero/villain whose DNA over-responds to his/her environment (Super Epic-Gene! - epigenetics gone wild) resulting in his/her taking on the physical and psych/emotional characteristics of anyone he/she touches. Our hero/villain is a postdoc who's desperate to finish a couple of complex research projects and publish before his/her grant/research fellowship expired. And then one night a lab accident, etc.

Our hero/villain's complications:

1- The rate of epigenetic take-over/morphing varies, but our hero/heroine doesn't know why. So far the epigenetic morphing is triggered only by close proximity to humans (he/she works only with human tissue, no lab rats/mice in his/her building). Getting physically close to a primate to test this hypothesis is scientifically appealing but personally frightening.

2- Intellectual ability including memory are as reliable as the individual he/she's morphing into therefore sciencing the problem is probably going to be iffy.

3- Last time he/she morphed it was triggered by a pregnant female - now he/she is both female and pregnant -- and morally shaken. BTW, the fetus is both developing and regressing based on a series of ultrasound scans.

4- As the changes continue, our hero/villain does not know who/what he/she is - a true identity crisis. Brenda Milner's 'Patient HM' could provide background for this because some of the problems from a personal perspective might be similar.

https://bigpictureeducation.com/brain-case-study-patient-hm

68:

Maybe the so-called power has been done but doubt not any of the personal and social consequences have been considered.

69:

This actually got done by The FX series Legion. With unfortunate results (for those who thought Legion was the hero of the series).

Oh, and there's a YouTube video of trying to make an obsidian sword blade. That also doesn't go well, due to differential cooling. People will upload anything these days.

70:

Oops - hit the wrong key & typo: pls delete the 'not'.

Anyways - what makes an old formula new is to look at it differently. From what I can recall, comic books and even myths assumed all gain, no pain. Not very satisfying as a read. Best example that comes to mind re: revisiting an old idea - massive intelligence - but with a thoughtful look at before, during and after that change or experience is: Flowers for Algernon. Superb short story that grew into a full-length novel (Hugo & Nebula, respectively) and finally a film (Charlie).

Besides - a state of being in constant change is apt for a world where we're expected to continually re-invent ourselves.


71:

add in the age of criminal responsibility as an angle

It does make me think about the cartoon of baby Jesus standing on the bathwater saying "don' wanna baf".

There's a whole lot of superhero stuff that doesn't work well with children. Not just super-teens going through puberty (if superman is interfertile with humans, his wet dreams are going to be bad news for any woman in the solar system), but superpowers in children generally. Can you imagine baby Hulk having a tantrum? Ditto any other extra-strong or extra-fast superhero. Bob help us all if one gets a crush on someone. "The Flash... following you around just watching, because you're beautiful".

Mind you, the whole topic has largely been done to death by the Greeks and their fellow ancients way back in the day. The creative reinterpretations by the Jews are also interesting - the Old Testament makes a lot more sense if you think of the god figure as a rules-bound four year old. "I said NO. Thou Shalt NOT eat seafood except that it has fins and scales. Thou is an ABOMINATION {clap of thunder as heavenly foot-stamping occurs}".

72:

Cahrlie
Berlin, oh dear ... I expect to be there 3rd - 8th of Sept. Drink? ( Beer for preference, obviously )

Inappropriate superheroes - I'm told C4 had a series called "Misfits" based on this very idea ... (?)

73:

I get the feeling Magical Girl Obsidian Heartbleed would probably fit in Just Fine in the standard underground anime circles. I mean, we're talking about the culture which brought us Legend of the Overfiend (parts 1 to I forget how many) and Akira, after all. Bloody human sacrifice and weird sex is probably just par for the course - the MesoAmerican deities would fit into the overall continuity without so much as a blink.

I think the most interesting supervillain/action movie antagonist, however, would be one who at least appears to have read the Evil Overlord List, even if they never take any of the advice from it. Can you imagine it - a supervillain who doesn't monologue, who actually has evil plans which aren't transparent to a five year old, and whose Evil Hideout doesn't apparently have a load-bearing villain at the centre of it?

74:

Magical Girl Obsidian Heartbleed reminds me a bit of The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (et al.).
Short version, every 90 yeas, twelve gods incarnate into the bodies of young people, they live for two years, then they die. The comics pick apart the idea of what actual gods might do in a modern society (be akin to pop stars, at first), and, well there's a lot more going on than it seems.

75:

I agree your base point.

The Good Thing about "longer novels" is more space for characterisation and "show don't just tell" writing.

The Bad Thing is how many writers (our OGH is Not Guilty of these offences) use this to write 30 pages of Death by PowerPoint and/or engagements as statistics.

76:

Since Charlie hasn't answered this, it is canon that the Laundry's roots are in WW2.

77:

The Laundry, sure. But the Laundryverse goes at least as far back as Dee and Bacon. So could spin off stories.

78:

Would you be happy to receive three "Equoid"-length Laundry novellas in a year, rather than a single "The Nightmare Stacks" (which is actually longer in word count)?

Yes. And I'd happily buy each individually as it came out

I'm really enjoying Martha Well's
Murderbot
novellas, which are coming out about one every 4-6 months.

79:

The Laundry, as in a modern organization with roots in the wartime SOE and a formalized, mechanized approach to magic, dates to WW2.

The Laundry's roots go back several hundred years earlier, to John Dee and Sir Francis Walsingham (anything prior to that was probably obscured by the reign of Bloody Mary and, before her, Henry VIII); the references to the House of Lords Black Budget were not Bob being snarky.

80:

Did I say “Bacon” when I certainly meant “Walsingham”? Well bleh.

GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep...

HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man,
But will they come when you do call for them?

81:

Re: Robby @ 55: The other fun direction is when the superhero can't help for legal or procedural reasons, and Moz @ 71: There's a whole lot of superhero stuff that doesn't work well with children . . . but superpowers in children generally.

These are both very amusingly covered in the movie "Incredibles 2". I highly recommend it, but watching "The Incredibles" first is vital, as the second movie takes up just where the first ended. Both are fully enjoyable by adults and kids.

82:

Re Charlie @ 7: Would you be happy to receive three "Equoid"-length Laundry novellas in a year, rather than a single "The Nightmare Stacks" (which is actually longer in word count)?

Absolutely! But I came up into SF via both magazines and novels. Of course, in the day, serialized novellas could eventually become novels (Asimov's Foundation Series, C. J. Cherryh's Faded Sun, etc.). I've been out of the SF magazine world as a reader for some time, but I don't recall ever seeing any of your shorter works there. I'm sure any submission of yours would be welcomed, and I'd certainly buy the magazine just to read it.

83:

This may be good news for some who didn’t know, but it’s two and a half... “Diamonds from Tequila” ;)

84:

Elderly Cynic @ 48:

Unless I have completely misread between the lines, you are in for a surprise :-) Obviously, I am not going to speculate further, in case I am too close to the truth.

If you're talking about "happily ever after" in the Laundryverse, I think "They lived another day ..." is about as close as it's going to get.

85:

My moniker isn't "Naive Teenager", you know!

86:

Damian
Ah yes ... Henry IV Pt 1
Did that for "O"-level Eng Lit.

87:

Kinda surprised the movie Hancock hasn't been mentioned. Will Smith as a drunk, jerkass superhero that everyone hates. He turns out to be a god-like being with amnesia.

89:

Actually at the high end of HPC FORTRAN is still used a lot as you don't really need all that.


Though I did boggle a bit at Andy using Fortran to develop for an Arduino - having said that for the laundries purposes Fortran or ada would be a hell of a lot safer that using C or **shudders** C++.

90:

Actually, I resent that. You're suggesting that a) all of us programming before it was called devops, and before OO was presented as the Silver Bullet to cure the programming backlog (literally, that was the cover of the Jan 1994 IEEE Spectrum) were hacking kludges.

You're also implying that none of that happens since then... which is self-evidently bs, given the bugs, security holes and, oh, yes, Win 8 and Win 10.

91:

A Proto laundry set in Elizabethan England would be fun maybe "Christopher Marlowe" was a laundry operator and midsummer nights dream is based on an incursion.


Also a ww2 or just post war set novel would work and OGH could parody a number of 40's spy thrillers - what really was in the sewers in Vienna or how SOE stopped the summoning.

92:

With thoughts on supervillains, who are of course only supervillains if they lose the media battle, they would of course have PR guru's. Saw this cartoon by Tom Gauld in the New Scientist, on preparing for a press conference as an "Evil" scientist;
Say Laboratory not Lair
Say Assistants not henchmen and goons
Say Game-changing technology not doomsday machine.
Say General public not helpless victims
Say Challenge entrenched hierarchies not bring world to its knees.

any other suggestions?
Though current events seem to suggest you can say any vileness and get away with it.

93:

You do, of course, realize who was involved in the precedent treaties, right? Who may have had to call in his brother to help on some of the details?

Y'know, the brother, lived on Baker St.....

94:

There is concept art of legged daleks - cut because of cost I believe.

95:

I think you've missed something: too many people spending the last two generations in a/c, and four before that with even heat in the winter. So, instead, we'll be losing all the genes specifics for dealing with really hot and really cold weather.

96:

And agile programming produces such bug free software!

97:

Would that be the Brocken spectre? :-) now made me think about a GR and Laundryverse crossover

98:

Actually, Lex Luthor, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths (89-90) was just that: a truly vile billionaire who *owned* Metropolis, and had tons of people overt and covert working for him, and he didn't was eloquent.

The opposite: I've got a story submitted to Apex magazine, with some truly powerful people... and they're not going to be, like Green Lantern, making giant green fists to bash baddies....

99:

We *know* Dee, since we keep hearing about Enochian, and that *is* who wrote down the 48 Keys of John Dee.....

100:

Some of us did devops back in the 80's :-) I was hired by BT as I was both a sysad and a developer on PR1MES Big Data MR late 70's tech style .


I think your referring to devops before it was taken up by the same keyword junkies that ruined agile.

101:

erm..The Marvelous Toy.

102:

The most reliable and bug-free piece of software that I’ve ever written in thirty years (as in, no reported bugs in five years of operation, across a five-figure user base) was in C++, using exceptions for all error handling...

...the second-most reliable (no reported bugs in its last fifteen years of operation, across a fleet of fifty-odd radars) was written in VLIW assembler...

Design and test counts far more than language.

103:

"...midsummer nights dream is based on an incursion."

I think Terry Pratchett has already done that...

104:

Maurice noted: "There is concept art of legged daleks - cut because of cost I believe."

One of my favorite memories of the Doctor Who reboot was their first encounter with the new Daleks: Our heroes flee up a flight of stairs, confident because this has defeated the Daleks before. Only this time, the Daleks have learned how to hover. *G*

Personally, I'm much more scared of those frigging Boston Dynamics dog robots. There's no defensible motive for creating these things, and it's why I have no faith whatsoever in the repeated assertions that AI is perfectly safe and poses no existential threat to humanity. Because, of course, "we're programmers; trust us". Umm...

105:

I find it hard to compare the length of books "these days" with "back then". The older books on my shelves are, it is true, generally smaller than the newer ones, but they are also generally printed in a more compact manner (smaller fonts, closer line spacing, etc). Books today tend more to resemble as standard what "back then" would have been thought of as the special large print versions for people with bad eyesight that the library had a special section for. They give the impression that the idea is to waste space on purpose so you think the content is longer than it really is.

It's a pity the same technique didn't work on the people your comment about bean-counter publishers reminded me of - schoolteachers. Length was always their primary concern; for a question with a one-word answer they would demand a sentence, for a question with a one-sentence answer they would demand a paragraph; for an essay they would demand n pages when we had only been taught n/10 pages' worth of stuff, and never mind that 9/10 of the resulting essay was content-free waffling to fill up the space. What you couldn't do was increase the size of your handwriting to fill the demanded space with spatial rather than verbal padding. Of course, this unfairly favoured those kids whose normal handwriting was naturally large. Mine wasn't...

So when you encounter an author who doesn't see a problem with C&Ping 30-page chunks of the user guide or the online tutorials for some piece of fictional weapons technology into the story to bump the word count, you can be pretty confident that they had small handwriting when they were at school.

My preference is for long books by people with large handwriting. I like it to take me a long time to read a book, to prolong the enjoyment, but I read fast, so I like there to be a lot of text containing a lot of information, so it slows me down both by there being a lot of it and by the amount of processing it requires. Shorter stories can be very good, but there's always that "over too quickly" thing about them.

106:

Personally, I'm much more scared of those frigging Boston Dynamics dog robots. There's no defensible motive for creating these things,

Beg to differ - with a silent/quiet power source, they are an awesome solution to the problem of “how can dismounted infantry carry everything they need?”.

107:

Re Impostor Elder Gods,
Like this one actually, agree with Troutwaxer.
An obvious variation (the other two seem to be less interesting) is fleshy host of Elder Deity X who doesn't realize (for reasons arcane) that he/she is an Elder Deity.
They (a [sequence of] constrained fleshy incarnation[s] of Elder Deity X) proceed through their life[lives] not realizing that their whims and desires and thoughts (both positive and negative, in some value system, cough) are ... effectorizing ... the timeline(binding) of the real world. (An acceptable risk, in the Laundryverse. Parasites involved, surely.)

Good Omens sorta covered this but rather differently.
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IAmWho
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AmnesiacGod

108:

pretty confident that they had small handwriting when they were at school.

And slow writing as well. My handwriting is atrocious to look at and painful to produce. It's faster to compress what I have to write into the fewest possible number of letters than to painstakingly carve out extra words on paper. When writing for my own use it becomes almost unintelligible... I have a lot more brainpower to use deciphering gibberish than fine motor control available to write neatly. As a result I used to be painfully concise (these days I try to be more verbose because it seems to help comprehension).

I also loved maths because I could write very little. Back in the "show your working, you might get partial credit" days I very rarely bothered. Only really for teachers who played the "must have two steps of working to get any marks at all" stupidity.

I also treasure the memory of the English teacher who claimed I failed at "word association". She was special. I think she developed a grudge against me when I spent a whole class arguing that "write X pages" rather than "write Y words" was grossly unfair to people with small handwriting. some classmates backed me because they agreed, others because it was better than doing English.

109:

ok, "Incredibles 2" added to list of movies to watch. Current list size: 1 :)

110:

Pigeon @ 105
Yes ... a problem I & other VIth-formers who wer going down the "science" route noticed in just about every "arts" subject.
We were all told our answers were too short - some of replied that: "We've got all the relevant facts in there, so what's the problem?"
Yup, they wanted more waffle.

"Dog Robots"
Um, err ... yes the potential for very good & benefical uses & simultaneously 'orrible uses is all-too-apparent, isn't it?
It/they are a powerful tool & therefore .....
Now, suppose one has been morphed into an "attack" or other malign version [ And IT WILL HAPPEN ] - how does one stop the thing?
I suspect, that like a human or other animal, the joints are the weak spots - plus the additional weak-spot that an animal does not have, it's power source: cut a major powr-link or short out the battery & it's done for - probably easier than trying to stop a real animal by "going for the heart" too.

Obvious SF short waiting to be written on this one, or even a whole series, Asimov "Laws of Robotics" style.

111:

Boston Dynamics dog robots. There's no defensible motive for creating these things

Wrong! (Although BD are going for the military market.)

Those Amazon delivery drones we keep hearing about—the flying ones—would be utterly useless where I live (dense city centre with apartments accessed via stairwell and virtually not gardens/yards). But delivery robo-dogs could cope with steps, front doors, and staircases about as well as a guide dog, i.e. perfectly well (as long as someone buzzes them in through the door—which the latest models have an arm for opening doorknobs).

They'd also, suitably modified, make great replacements for motorized wheelchairs, which are only really effective on very level/stable pavement and have difficulty with, again, steps and staircases.

The civilian applications are multitudinous! It's just that developing the tech is very expensive and the people with deep pockets who seem most interested are the military.

112:

I find it hard to compare the length of books "these days" with "back then". The older books on my shelves are, it is true, generally smaller than the newer ones, but they are also generally printed in a more compact manner

Not necessarily true, and I'm basing my comparison on actual word count (by slurping ebooks into Calibre and then post-processing them).

113:

It depends on what you mean by "back then". 18th and 19th century books were often as long as modern blockbusters, and such things were pretty common from at least the late 16th century onwards. The phase of short novels was very much a 20th century anomaly.

I fully agree with Pigeon about the ridiculously large print size favoured for modern books, which puts me off buying hardbacks.

114:

I was always required to pad my precis to exactly 1/3 the length, but someone I know had problems not making them longer than the original :-) And, to _Moz_, I am another person with that handwriting problem, which caused me hell at school and difficulty at university, because we had to take notes off a blackboard.

There are a fair number of stories about dog-like robots, and robot-like dogs, often in a policing context.

115:

As you say, that aspect of it is bullshit. Actually deja moo, because I heard the same back in the 1980s and, again, in the early 1970s. But that is a diversion.

He is entirely right about such people, but what they came into conflict with was the dogma that bureaucracy and manageritis are the keys to effectiveness and efficiency. He is wrong that they would be redeemed by pulling other people's nuts out of the fire in a crisis, because that is something that is never, ever forgiven. Been there - done that :-( At best, they would be put into a logical closet, treated like mushrooms and let out only when the management had fucked something up and needed a miracle to get out of the hole.

However, that is NOT the management style of the Laundry, at least up to The Delirium Brief. I see it as more akin to the British military in the early 1940s, when the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrated their minds wonderfully. And encouraged them to support a good many stray lunatics, without imposing bureaucracy and manageritis on them. Good books on those include Popski's Private Army and The Jungle Is Neutral; there are others.

116:

Re: Boston Dynamics robots

Beg to differ - with a silent/quiet power source, they are an awesome solution to the problem of “how can dismounted infantry carry everything they need?”.

Well, there's nuclear power which is mostly quiet and removes the need to carry several tens of kilos of fuel per "dog" per day of operations but that would add several hundred kilos of shielding and safety paperwork to the beast. They're not silent even then, they emit a lot of gearbox noise as they move. They can't climb a big fence or move up a steep slope, wade through deep water etc. and adding two or three support techs to a squad to keep them running/limping/hirpling/stumbling along is expensive logistically speaking.

The best support tech I've seen for a squad moving through rough country is a wheelbarrow -- okay it was a milspec wheelbarrow which could double as a casualty stretcher, made with carbon fibre bits and designed to fold into a para's drop bag and it cost about five figures but it actually did a decent job of allowing a squaddie to carry a couple of hundred kilos of kit without crippling them. I still say getting rid of the Bicycle Corps was a bad idea.

117:

> the people with deep pockets who seem most interested are the military

The BigDog project was canned in 2015 because the Marine Corps decided that it was too noisy, would be difficult to repair in the field and didn't cleanly integrate with infantry squad tactics. A smaller, quieter version was built but the reduced load carrying meant that it really wasn't worth it.

If you are prepared to tolerate noise, then a load-carrying quad bike is probably just as good for carrying supplies 'over the last mile'.

118:

Book-lengths
Used a long time ago, often to be very long ( "The Three-volume novel" was reguar thing ) & then .... fashions changed & shorter novels & short-stories & novellas became the vogue.
Approximately 1890-1905, in fact.
There's even a poem about it called "the Three-Decker" - by Kipling, who in true SF style morphs the novel into a ship, or the other way around

119:

The civilian applications are multitudinous! It's just that developing the tech is very expensive and the people with deep pockets who seem most interested are the military.

Of course, as soon as a civilian version is available, some idiot will mount a gun on theirs (or maybe one of Musk’s flamethrowers) and put the video on youtube.
And now that old saw about any new tech being adopted first by the military, then by the pr0n industry has come to mind. Nope, not going there.

120:

18th and 19th century books were often as long as modern blockbusters, and such things were pretty common from at least the late 16th century onwards. The phase of short novels was very much a 20th century anomaly.

I’m pretty sure that’s due to limits of printing technology. Most of those long 18th C. novels were published in multiple volumes, by subscription. It’s only now that we can read them as doorstops.
Shorter novels were partly due to limits of paperback publishing. I once read that when “Stand on Zanzibar” came out it was the largest paperback that could be printed without coming apart. The gluing tech has improved since then, so longer paperback are possible.

121:

Not really. Yes, the early paperback binding technologies forced shorter books, but paperbacks did not start to dominate until well into the 20th century - not really until after 1950, despite the success of paperbacks from the 1930s onwards. The change in length was a social change, probably caused by the change in the sort of people who bought books; I agree with Greg Tingey about the date (*).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paperback
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/rise-paperback-novel/

(*) To whom congratulations for finding a spectacularly relevant literary work!

122:

Martin and Charlie both disagreed with my argument for "no defensible reason for the robot dogs".

OK, perhaps I should have said "morally defensible", with the footnote that there are both moral and immoral military and civilian uses. Martin provided the example of carrying cargo for soldiers, to which I'd add "retrieving wounded soldiers and civilians so they can be brought to doctors"; those are clearly moral uses. Building the dogs as companions for seniors who live alone, after adding health monitoring tools like the Apple watch provides? Also moral.

As the latter example shows, I really do get that there are valid civilian uses for independently mobile robots, as Charlie noted. The problem I was incompetently trying to express (I plead long day, and brain fuzz) is that we should step back and question technologies far more than we do rather than accepting them because "tech is good". Just about any technology can be abused, but we need to be asking more often whether the likely/probable abuses outweigh the proposed benefits. For the dogs and other independently mobile robots, I vote no.

Forget the Terminator movie franchise for a moment. I enjoy that as fiction, but don't see it as a realistic near-term threat. A stronger argument is that there's not a lot that dog robots and subsequent anthropomorphic robots can do that humans can't do in civilian life. I have serious ethical concerns about what happens when we automate away the last human jobs. Such robots will start out doing dangerous work humans can't or shouldn't do. So far, so good. But when economies of scale kick in and costs drop, the robots will be expanded to do all hands-on labor jobs. That's how modern capitalism works. The idea of a guaranteed basic income might overcome this problem for displaced workers, but do you really see that as likely to happen in the near-future U.S. and British contexts? And what will all these idle hands do when they're not working?

Weaponizing the dog robots is the logical first step, because the military has deep pockets and human warriors are probably more expensive to build and train than robots. How long after the military has these tools do you think it will be before they become common in U.S. society? People already have attack dogs; it won't be long before some wise-ass lawyer proves in court that the mechanical versions are no different. We're already seeing the first hints of consumer drones being used to deliver munitions. How hard will it be to hack a civilian robot to act as an offensive weapon? Based on the current state of consumer electronics security, not very long.

This kind of thinking is probably why we have more assault weapons in the U.S. civilian population than in the entire Canadian army (23K standing army), French army (112K), British Army (82K), and German army (60K) *combined*. That's not an exaggeration: the NRA estimates more than 8 million* assault weapons currently in circulation in the U.S. Some people undoubtedly own multiple copies; reduce that number by a factor of 10 if you wish and the statement still stands.

* https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article201882739.html.)

Am I fearmongering? Possibly. I'm an avowed pessimist on issues related to humans en masse making good ethical decisions -- with some justification. Whether I'm right or wrong about the specific cost/benefit value of dog robots, the larger issue is that we need to be asking more often and more rigorously whether such technologies are really in our collective interest.

123:

Mr. Stross:

Based on the outpouring of creative juices represented in the above "Dumb Supervillains" medley and your desire to take time off from writing I think you're going to need to put a pressure bolt into your cranium to be able to bleed off the excess imagination down to a manageable level so you can relax safely. The possibility of unexpected explosive mental decompression exists.

Enjoy your break.

124:

Weaponizing the dog robots is the logical first step, because the military has deep pockets and human warriors are probably more expensive to build and train than robots.

It’s not logical at all, at least not in any military thinking I’ve heard. There’s not a chance in hell that anyone with an ounce of sense is going to put an AI behind lethal weaponry. While teleoperation might be fine for UAVs, it’s lunacy for infantry work (note that UAV squadrons actually need more staff than manned squadrons...).

Soldiering is a wicked problem, and employment of lethal force is the most complicated of all. Any of the Robocop movies illustrated the point nicely; but consider that the majority of soldiering isn’t force-on-force, we wear this uniform, they wear that one stuff - but operation in complex environments, where refugees and civilians are mixed in among the fighting (look up the “Three-Block War” as just one example).

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Block_War

125:

The best support tech I've seen for a squad moving through rough country is a wheelbarrow... decent job of allowing a squaddie to carry a couple of hundred kilos of kit..

There’s a reason these never took off - it’s called “a hill”. Your single operator can pull a hundred kilos on a level track, but throw in a decent uphill...(go on, push a full wheelbarrow up a one-foot ramp, you’ll see what I mean)... or downhill (brakes!)... or just very rough ground (say, with a wavelength similar to wheel diameter....).

If you want casualties carried up or down a rough slope, it’s (at least) a couple of other soldiers and a stretcher. Oh, and it’s rather hard work (understatement). If you want a couple of hundred kilos carried, use a Landrover (other JLTV are available).

The whole concept of dismounted infantry is taking a bit of a hit at the moment, with the Russian Army apparently using small UAVs to cue artillery strikes in Ukraine - on a five minute cycle (a couple of Ukrainian battalions have been hurt badly this way). No protected mobility, and you’re just another artillery target.

http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/blog/2017/03/29/the-russian-artillery-strike-that-spooked-the-u-s-army/

126:

Todays annoyance: we have the inevitable online classifieds site in Australia, ours is called gumtree.com.au ... it works the way most of the freemium ones do, so your phone number and an online messaging system are part of the deal. But the number of people who message me asking what my phone number is boggles my mind. You have two buttons/links on the ad, "reveal phone number" and "send message".

Maybe the phone app doesn't do that. If so... it's even more defective than my first impression of it ("requires access to contacts, send and receive SMS" was the point where I stopped reading and aborted the install).

Also, "flatmates.com.au" is more psuedo-freemium. If you don't pay you can't respond to ads until 5 days after they're posted, and messages to you get delayed as well. But that's for both parties. So even if you pay, free users can't message you for five days, then have their messages delayed a further few days. None of this is laid out on their site, BTW, you have to discover it.

I understand why other landlords pay real estate agents to deal with this stuff, and also why real estate agents give this particular task to the most junior member of staff.

127:

Geoff Hart @ 104:

One of my favorite memories of the Doctor Who reboot was their first encounter with the new Daleks: Our heroes flee up a flight of stairs, confident because this has defeated the Daleks before. Only this time, the Daleks have learned how to hover. *G*

The levitating Daleks first appeared in the Sylvester McCoy "Seventh" Doctor serial "Remembrance of the Daleks"

It was the cliff hanger for the first episode.

128:

Getting back to the notion of sabbatical: The poet Gary Snyder, in a 1973 interview, said:

"I like to sharpen my chain saw. I like to keep all my knives sharp. I like to change the oil in my truck. Creativity and maintenance go hand in hand. And in a mature ecosystem as much energy goes to maintenance as goes to creativity. Maturity, sanity, and diversity go together, and with that goes stability. I would wish that we could in time emerge from traumatized social situations and have six or seven hundred years of relative stability and peace. Then look at the kind of poetry we could write! Creativity is not at its best when it’s a by-product of turbulence."

I think Snyder's right. Not that I follow his example. My job requires me to be relentlessly creative (nothing on the order of writing novels, but still...); but I avoid maintenance activities as much as possible. Though when I do get around to maintenance tasks, my creativity actually does improve. And, as it happens, I just finished a five-month sabbatical that did everything it was supposed to do: improved creativity, renewed health. So taking time away from work is in fact a good thing; I'd just prefer not to admit it.

129:

18th and 19th century books were often as long as modern blockbusters, and such things were pretty common from at least the late 16th century onwards. The phase of short novels was very much a 20th century anomaly. .. I’m pretty sure that’s due to limits of printing technology. Most of those long 18th C. novels were published in multiple volumes, by subscription.

The piece you're missing is the history of copyright on novels in the 19th century.

Back in the early 1800s, copyright was barely enforced and piracy was rampant. Dickens published unbound chapters of his serials on a monthly basis, paying the printing costs himself and selling them wholesale. Itinerant booksellers would buy bundles of chapters then hawk them around. By the following month "pirate" presses would be printing copies of the previous chapters, for profit, not paying a bent farthing to the author. Hence the serial publication model and those long books with curiously even-length chapters that often ended on a cliff-hanger.

As the century wore on, "publishers" in the modern sense appeared—printers who would bankroll an author by paying them an advance, and handle the business of production and distribution. As policing and enforcement became possible after Sir Robert Peel's reforms, crackdowns on illegal presses also became practical, reducing the piracy problem (at least in the UK — famously, "The Pirates of Penzance" is Gilbert and Sullivan's pointed jab at sheet-music pirates in the USA) and making the current practice of publishing and distributing monolithic novels possible without them being driven off the market within months by a flood of forgeries.

(As there was no TV, cinema, or video games in those days, printing was the first viable mass entertainment medium—theater or opera don't really count as to scale them up you need to employ more bodies to fill more theaters.)

130:

Martin responded to my followup about weaponized robodogs: "It’s not logical at all, at least not in any military thinking I’ve heard. There’s not a chance in hell that anyone with an ounce of sense is going to put an AI behind lethal weaponry. While teleoperation might be fine for UAVs, it’s lunacy for infantry work..."

I didn't specifically say AI for the robodogs, though my mentioning a Terminator scenario in my post could easily mislead you to that implication. That probably will come at some point in the not-soon future, but let's stick to the present.

What I see as far more likely is two scenarios: the drone/UAV model you mentioned, and an urban army for "irregular warfare".

In the first case, the complex problem you mention is delegated to humans to solve. No need for AI. I see a scenario in which the robodog accompanies a human or is teleoperated. Its handler (whether holding its leash or sitting in a bunker back "home" watching through a GoPro) paints the target, says "kill", and releases robodog. When it acquires a target, the "keep biting until it stops moving" software isn't likely to be that hard to program. That's (very simplistically) how smart bombs work.

In the second case, we have the same control scenario, but with an outnumbered and outgunned force such as terrorists hiding among a civilian population and releasing these things against more numerous and better armed invaders of their turf. Consider Syria, Iraq, or Lebanon, for instance. The defenders don't care much about collateral damage, but the invaders do, making it trickier to shoot down a fast moving robodog. If one of those things comes at you in an open field with no intervening civilians, it's probably easy for a squad of soldiers to take it out with concentrated fire. But if the beastie springs upon you in close quarters, and you have to worry about killing civilians if your shots miss it, you're going to have a hard time taking it out without a high cost.

These things will be expensive, but when your terrorist group is backed by a nation state like the Saudis or Iran, money isn't a problem. Export controls might be, but given how freely arms flow around the world right now, I'm not conficent that will work.

To be clear, the Boston Dynamics tech isn't there yet. Neither (to the best of my knowledge) is the software. But it will be, and probably sooner than we expect. Which brings me back to my more clearly explained point: I think we need to seriously reconsider whether these robodogs are a good idea, at least if the military is the primary customer and consumer use comes later, once the bugs are worked out.

131:

Do you know if things like the Gentleman's Magazine also published longer works in sections, as Blackwood's and others did later? Because that also encouraged the serial format, though it may be a secondary phenomenon.

132:

...software isn't likely to be that hard to program.

Speaking as a software engineer? Good luck with that. I always laugh in the presence of any design requirement that says “just do X, it can’t be that hard...”

(Apocryphal source, please forgive) In the late 1970s, when hostage-taking terrorism was more common, and the door-kickers were still developing tactics, dogs were considered. They took guard dogs who’d got a bit too “bitey”, and trained them as wardogs (none of this “bite the gun hand” stuff, just go for the throat of anything with a gun) - the intention being that if the first thing through the door was a furry crocodile, that it would utterly focus the mind of said terrorist. Angry land sharks, jaws open, tend to do that. Oh, and dog casualties are more acceptable than doorkicker casualties.

They were never used (Balcombe Street Siege came close), but about this point, the first stun grenades became available; these were far less likely to go wrong, and you don’t have to calm down a stun grenade once you’ve launched it...

133:

Yes: serial publication of novels in magazine formats persisted into the 21st century (albeit increasingly rarely) in the digest-sized science fiction magazines (e.g. Analog, Asimov's). Dune, for example, was originally a serial.

134:

I'm reminded of the (also possibly apocryphal) story of the Red Army anti-tank dogs. Strap mine to back of dog, train dog to run under tanks, detonate. Simple, right? But the first time they were used in combat, an unexpected bug showed up: they'd trained the dogs on T-34s, so when they deployed them in mixed combat with Panzer-IIIs and T-34s the dogs all attacked the targets they'd been trained to attack ...

135:
In the second case, we have the same control scenario, but with an outnumbered and outgunned force such as terrorists hiding among a civilian population and releasing these things against more numerous and better armed invaders of their turf. Consider Syria, Iraq, or Lebanon, for instance. The defenders don't care much about collateral damage, but the invaders do, making it trickier to shoot down a fast moving robodog.

Since when do the invaders care about collateral damage? They have specifically invented this term in order to disguise the fact that they're routinely killing innocent bystanders, sometimes in large numbers. In other words: a lot of effort goes into window dressing, much less effort into actually avoiding the killing of innocents. They also don't acknowledge these deaths in the casualty numbers, in which they only include the members of the invading army. That's another way of disguising and window dressing.

In summary, they don't care about causing collateral damage, they only care about keeping that out of the public consciousness.

136:

MSB @ 135:

"In summary, they don't care about causing collateral damage, they only care about keeping that out of the public consciousness."

The more care you take to NOT cause "collateral damage" to begin with, the easier it is to keep it "out of the public consciousness". It really is one of those situations where ...

"An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure."

It's been proven time and again that the Cost:Benefit ratio of avoiding civilian casualties whenever possible is always better than that of trying to cover them up explain them after the fact; i.e costs less, and the long term tangible benefits are greater.

I rule out covering them up because a cover-up always unravels eventually, and it just makes your situation worse in the long run. The fewer civilians you kill, the easier your occupying soldier's job is going to be in the aftermath.

Anyone not a complete fool should be able to figure that out, and fools though many in the military may sometimes be, they are not COMPLETE fools; nor are they the completely conscienceless super-villains you seem to perceive them as.

Hell, even the French in Algeria eventually managed to figure it out.

137:

Yes, but my question was about the early 18th up to late 19th centuries. After that, publishing novels in parts in magazines was fairly widespread, until fairly recently (as you said); what I don't know if whether it was common before Dickens's time, as well. Hence the reference to the Gentleman's magazine.

138:

They set a Slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair. It caught up with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scrambling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs and pedicab tires. Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT.

He didn't see it coming. The last he saw of India was the pink stucco façade of a place called the Khush-Oil Hotel.

These opening paragraphs of William Gibson's Count Zero was the first of that author's prose that I ever read. It immediately convinced me that I wanted to read more.

More to the point, though: it vividly illustrates something analogous to the kind of urban attack you mention; and in doing so, provides a counter-narrative to Martin's assertion @124:

There’s not a chance in hell that anyone with an ounce of sense is going to put an AI behind lethal weaponry.

"Ounce of sense" is a debatable term, obviously subject to negotiation. But if Martin's intent was to reassure us that nobody with the necessary resources would choose to use AI for something like this... I'm unconvinced. Human nature, as exposed by human history, argues the reverse. :-(

139:

The wheelbarrow thing could be pulled uphill by two or more squaddies, on level-ish ground it could be propelled by one while changing over on a regular basis to reduce fatigue. Its top was basically a flatbed stretcher which could carry a wounded man, again wheeled by one or hefted by two where necessary after any logistics load it was carrying was redistributed to other members of the squad or abandoned if necessary.

I don't know why it wasn't adopted, it did cost a lot for the lightweight version and that might have been too much. A simpler alloy-frame Mk II might have been an easier sell.

140:

I've recently been researching "Peter Pan" (because nothing demands the Laundryverse treatment like a reworking of "Peter Pan", unless it's maybe "Mary Poppins") …

But Peter Pan's realm has been changing over the years, shaped by the dreams and favorite games of children in the real world.

Victorian Neverland had decent mermaids and fairies fair, bloody pirates and Indian savages. Modern Neverland is of course politically correct, and infested by a genuine Pokémon plague. It isn't dominated by boys anymore, either, so poor Peter has to cope with occasional visits of girl scouts who lost network coverage.

And due to changes in (US) copyright laws, Neverland is already threatened by evil forces from beyond (the blurb writers will love that), led by Darth Mouse and his legions of zombie lawyers.

So your Elder Gods are screwed, Charlie …

141:

BTW, it seems that Master Tingey requires some belly brushing to write his much anticipated railroad article, so would you please ask him officially.

142:

Militarized wheelbarrows were adopted, by the Ming Dynasty Chinese Army.

If you want to see all the various up-armored wheelbarrows those squaddies used, check out https://greatmingmilitary.blogspot.com/search?q=wheelbarrow

Personally, I think the Ming Army (and the above website) is a great, underappreciated source for post-apocalyptic militaries. A lot of their weapons and tactics were derived from the problem of having no centralized supply system, so the generals had to fight with whatever weapons they could get locally. While they had oodles of guns, the generals also had rule-of-thumb formulas for how many would blow up during the engagement, because the guns were made by local blacksmiths who varied widely in skill, not by specialized gunsmiths. It's a fascinating example of the military adapting to the constraints imposed by ideology, limited supply chains, and of course, always, politics. Of course, you can disregard all this if you're not into murder cutlery and assorted paraphernalia.

Actually, the chinese used a lot of different wheelbarrows, even for long-distance transport. Part of this is that barrows work well on narrow levies between rice paddies. Another possible part of it is that, after the Han (or the Tang, etc.) fell, road maintenance typically was poor. It was easier to maintain a narrow track for single-wheeled vehicles (e.g. barrows) rather than wider tracks for carts. I'm not sure which explanation I believe, but wheelbarrows of all shapes and sizes are really a Chinese thing.

143:

Martin noted: "Speaking as a software engineer? Good luck with that. I always laugh in the presence of any design requirement that says “just do X, it can’t be that hard...”

Right back atcha whenever someone says it's too difficult! Software development techniques advance in fits and starts. Will we see AI robodogs in the *near* future? Almost certainly not. Will we see robodogs smart enough to lock onto a target painted with a laser (or perhaps even just pointed at, à la "fire and forget") within our lifetimes? Seems likely.

Shall we agree to meet back here in 20 years and see which of us was right? *G*

Footnote to "collateral damage": As others have noted, western armies do their damnedest to avoid civilian casualties because (i) professional ethics and (ii) it rebounds on them every time, and doubly so if they try to cover it up, and (iii) it's not a great way to get the civilian population on your side. That's not to say an army won't risk such casualties if they deem a mission sufficiently important. But by and large, they don't seek out such casualties.

144:

A pretty good article on the wheelbarrows: How to Downsize a Transport Network: The Chinese Wheelbarrow.

With extra bonus awesomeness: wheelbarrows with sails.

145:

Geoff Hart
western armies do their damnedest to avoid civilian casualties because (i) professional ethics and (ii) it rebounds on them every time, and doubly so if they try to cover it up, and (iii) it's not a great way to get the civilian population on your side.
By that defintion the current Russian Army ( & state ) is not "Western" by any accounting.
OTOH, one can always use intermediaries & then claim it's nothing to do with US - THEY did it ...
Yes USSA & Saudi ( - in Yemen ) I'm looking at you.

146:

I seem to recall that Soviet tanks use diesel and the Germans Petrol so the dogs went the smell of the wrong tanks.


147:

That was one of the articles that got me onto the Great Ming Military blog, because I was trying to figure out what a militarized wheelbarrow would look like.

Incidentally, I don't know that we should call them wheelbarrows, seeing as how they're so much better than western wheelbarrows, at least for long distance travel. Which would work better: bigwheels or megacycles? Or something else, like a wooden horse (pushed) or wooden ox (pulled)?

Whatever you call them, I do think we need the updated version, pushed by the dude with the ironic beard lugging his recycling down the road on a tubing frame version of one of those things.

148:

It looks more like a mono-wheeled cart, so I'd suggest "unicart".

149:

Yeah, that's the problem:
--Bigwheels are toy tricycles, although it's trademarked only for use as a toy in the US.
--unicart is used by a variety of firms, from an international ecommerce system to a maker of hospital carts.
--Megacycle is used by a variety of cycling stores and motorcyle customizers.

The trick here is to either grit my teeth and deal with the trademark issues, find a new term, or use the traditional chinese terms (wooden horse for the pushed barrow, wooden ox for the pulled one).

In any case, I'm reading Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings, and all I can say is that if anyone wants to write wuxia-style epic SFF (aka silkpunk), it's worth thinking about a landscape of narrow roads largely traversed by barrows rather than carts, and a military/militia that equipped squads with barrows or carts carrying cannons and/or rocket batteries (where the rockets are oversized arrows with blackpowder propulsion and bombs attached). The Chinese even fought the Mongols, occasionally successfully, with armored gun carts that they used in formation as mobile "forts."

150:

Interesting, thanks. Seems to confirm my guess on seeing the original proposition that use of humans rather than draught animals to provide the motive power is part of the reason.

It also seems to rather contradict the poor-maintenance hypothesis. You don't need to maintain so much width, true, but you do need to put a flat hard surface on the width you do maintain if you're going to use that narrow a wheel. If the wheel sinks into a soft surface it makes it vastly harder to move - as the article notes, but fails to note that low handles to pull on are better than high ones for getting it to move. (Surely someone somewhere must have had the idea of making a wide wheel out of a barrel or something hundreds of years before the spherical plastic version turned up.)

Another reason why you need a reasonably flat surface, especially if you're going to control the thing from behind, is to avoid the driver involuntarily becoming airborne. Particularly with a heavy load and a light driver. The same principle of a single axle with a heavy weight perched on top of it is also used in the pedestrian-controlled single-drum vibrating roller (these things: http://www.gmstephenson.co.uk/media/k2/galleries/1145/DSC02016.JPG ). Even though those are self-propelled they still take a fair bit of wrestling to control them, and the firmness with which you need to grip the handles to apply the necessary force means that if they hit something and come to an abrupt halt they don't tear the handles out of your hands, they rather throw you up in the air and over the top of them. It happened to me and it happens so fast that the first I knew of it I was 5m up in the air wondering what the fuck just happened. The Chinese devices rely on the driver to balance them laterally as well as fore and aft, so they must be even tougher to control.

If I was building a modern version I would make use of the greater availability of materials, fastening techniques etc. from which structures robust under jolting tensile loads can readily be made, and put the load platform well below the height of the axle. I'd also put jockey wheels on the corners to stop it falling right over, and I'd need a fair bit of persuading to convince me that width was under too much constraint to use a wheel at each side instead of one in the middle.

151:

I'm pretty sure the main context in which I've heard of the Gentlemen's Magazine is that of serial publication.

152:

good article on the wheelbarrows

I was more taken by the comment at the end about canals:

the Grand Canal, which ran from Hangzhou to Bejing over a distance of 1800 km, was completed in 1327 after 700 years of digging.

Not sure whether that's impressive planning and dedication or an example of bureaucrazy run amok... one can only assume that without occupational health and safety plus daily briefings on the importance of gender-neutral language it would have been completed in half the time (approximately 1.3 US empire-durations).

153:

but you do need to put a flat hard surface on the width you do maintain

That was mentioned in the article - it's much easier to maintain what is effectively a single line of paving stones. With the effective demise of central government locals built and/or maintained those themselves over surprisingly large distances. They also work well for bicycles.

It did remind me of Australia in that sense - one recognisably similar organisational philosophy over quite a large area, comprised of small, possibly overlapping local areas. Again, it's not the detail so much as the scale. Europe was organised after a fashion, yes, but then China is 3-10 Europes depending on which bits you count, and Australia is rather more.

The military use of wheelbarrows was mentioned primarily as mobile forts - it's hard to gallop a horse through a field of randomly piled wheelbarrows. That plus logistics, a happy combination. I suspect it wouldn't take a lot of training to persuade drivers to swing their barrows crossways and higgledy-piggeldy before running away from a mongol hordlet.

154:

I'd suggest reading the article. There is a picture of a barrow being pulled by a mule. There's also a picture of a path of pavers going up a rather gentle hill.

155:

If it’s the wheelbarrow I remember seeing pictures of, it had a ball as the wheel, not a narrow-track wheel. Of course, I could be wrong.

The point remains: it’s hard to match legged transport for mobility across really rough terrain. Take a peek at pictures of the Falklands War (Dartmoor and Otterburn are approximations), or Vietnam, and I really wouldn’t like to have tried hauling a wheelbarrow across it. Essentially, if there’s a track you can get a barrow onto, you can get a vehicle (or helicopter landing site) “close enough”, and use Marius’ mules for the remainder.

Now consider streams (the one time I did a jungle warfare exercise, it was in Belize. No land tracks, other than what you cut through; and streams. Neither were barrow-navigable...) Note that several of the British attempts to use quadbikes and small vehicles in Afghanistan, failed. Basically, quadbike beats barrow. Until you encounter a two-meter-wide/meter-deep irrigation ditch.

156:

Locking on to a target painted with a laser is fine. Unfortunately, compared to a projectile you now have a far lower muzzle velocity (pun intended), so you need to maintain the lock for far longer, in a far more complex situation, with a near-zero tolerance for error (indiscriminate use of lethal force against civilians would be a war crime)..

Is the target that disappeared behind cover, the same target that reappeared from behind it? What if they don’t reappear? What if they’re wearing a mask? What if they were wearing a mask, but they took it off?

Smart/steerable bullets stand more of a chance, because time of flight is far lower than a robotic landshark.

157:

here's a second-generation version of a Ming war-barrow. It's got a team of 24 men associated with it, six spears and two large shields on the front, and a cannon mounted in front of the wheel and various breechloading cannons on the side. In other words, it's a 16th century howitzer, manned by a squad of 24 soldiers.

The mobile forts generally used two-wheeled mule cart versions of these (typically with a big folding shield that could be deployed to the front or side), although they could be made out of barrows doing the same thing. They had dozens-hundreds of these carts marching in rectangular formation. When they came under attack, they'd bunch up, unhitch the mules, spread the shields, and get the guns ready (guns consisted of an 800 pound cannon, two smaller breachloaders, sometimes a bombard, and the militarized equivalent of roman candles). If it was mixed carts and barrows, the barrows would form the second ring on the inside. You can see more about it here and in the articles it links to.

Europe had war wagons, but these are more complex.

158:

The other relevant apocryphal story was about the attempts to train neural networks for brilliant munitions (SADARM et al), and the discovery only at trial time that all of their training pictures for friendly vehicles were high quality, taken in good light; and their pictures of unfriendly vehicles were of poorer quality, in worse light.

Apparently, the training resulted in really good recognition of good or poor weather. Less so the ability to distinguish NATO from WARPAC...

159:

it’s hard to match legged transport for mobility across really rough terrain. ... or Vietnam

You mean the famous "mule trails" of Vietnam, where thousands of wheelbarrows have been operating for a very long time?

160:

I also saw a paper where they trained a NN to identify dogs vs wolves. Something previously considered near impossible. Turned out that the distinguishing feature of wolves was that they stood around in snow, while dogs stood around in living rooms. When they got the NN to highlight the part of the image that lead to the decision, no part of the wolf was highlighted.

161:

The operative word being “trails”. What happens when there isn’t a track / trail / prepared route? Because that’s where dismounted infantry prefer to operate...

162:

Which means Vietnam is out, as is a lot of other inhabited territory. But sadly the armchair warriors at the top prefer to invade inhabited ares, so sometimes that's where the infantry have to go.

My point is that it takes a lot of war crimes to degrade a network of narrow trails through rough terrain to the point where the locals are no more mobile than the invaders. The US never managed it in Vietnam outside of some small zones AFAIK. That was one reason they opted for the "ultimately successful) strategy of withdrawing their military and using soft power.

On that note, it looks as though re-invasion is going to be necessary again soon, assuming the US pulls off a few miracles and remains an empire long enough. China is ramping up soft power just as the US stops... it can't be long until the nukes start flying.

163:

Riffing on pure word (okay name) association, historian Timothy Snyder turned up in my feed the other day promoting a new book. Looks interesting (but very off topic for this thread).

164:

I did read it, I was commenting on reading it. What are you on about?

165:

Of course, if you have a supersonic cyborg land shark, it's fine (as long as you're OK for heatsinking) :)

166:

Or, you could just shoot them. Boring, I know, but if you can point a laser you can point a gun.

Although, if you’ve got a land shark, surely we can fit it with a fricking “laser beam”? And charge the free world six meeelion dollars? Frau Farbissinder?

167:

The traditional English words are barrow, cart, handcart, wheelbarrow etc., and the range was (and, rarely, still is) MUCH wider than the simple builders'/gardeners' wheelbarrows and supermarket handcarts. Sledges were common, too, especially in very hilly locations. You don't have to go as far afield as China!

168:

On the lighter side, perhaps the reason Itzpapalotl “gifted” these powers to Magical Girl Obsidian Heartbleed was because she (Itzpapalotl) came back from vacation and was very impressed that someone could put a heart back in.

It’s hard to be a heart surgeon when you have to tamp down the urge to grow wings during surgery and occasionally the scalpels turn to obsidian when you’re not concentrating.

Also, do you get a bonus when attempting to crack website security?

169:

If I was looking for a magical smart weapon for use by insurgents in occupied territories I'd look to weaponize Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite seems to encourage risk-taking behaviour in its hosts as it is; if it can be tweaked to cause depression and suicidal ideation, well, one thing the Israelis discovered is that Hamas were selectively recruiting clinically depressed people as suicide bombers. (Suicide is a mortal sin in Islam, so they'd have recruiters look for suicidal people and groom them with promises of a reward in heaven rather than offering anti-depressant meds ...)

If you can increase the supply of suicidal and potentially violent occupied by an order of magnitude with an infection they can catch in their food, then you just need to give them a knife or bladed object that can get through metal detectors or t-wave scanners crewed by bored operators or badly trained neural networks, and a photograph of the target, and it's escalation all the way ...

As an aside: the human-built environment is designed to be navigable by, and useful to, humans. It follows that a self-propelled weapon that operates most flexibly in such an environment will be roughly human-scale (but hopefully lack the weaknesses of human physiology and anatomy, e.g. bones that fracture and a leaky circulatory system). Terminator-style robots in plastic skin are a bit beyond our current capabilities but not obviously impossible, and oh dear me that's a step-change in terror tactics and insurgency in general if it's cheaper than recruiting existing warm bodies.

170:

Would this be The Road to Unfreedom? I read his On Tyranny and enjoyed it.

171:

Martin noted that if you can paint something with a laser, you can also probably shoot it. Not necessarily. Highly trained snipers are always a minority of any army, but anyone can hit a target with a laser regardless of wind conditions. As Charlie noted (see below), you also can't neglect the terror factor of a robot attack dog. I haven't served, so I don't whether soldiers can learn to truly and completely ignore the fear of being shot. The fear of being torn into chunks of doggie kibble would (for me) be far worse.

Charlie noted: "Terminator-style robots in plastic skin are a bit beyond our current capabilities but not obviously impossible, and oh dear me that's a step-change in terror tactics and insurgency in general if it's cheaper than recruiting existing warm bodies."

Which was exactly my point about robodogs. Not "coming soon to an Apple store near you, in time for Xmas", but rather a plausible near-future extrapolation. Definition of "near" a subjective personal choice.

This kind of technology makes me uncomfortable because of the moral implications. When a technology becomes available for use in warfare, it will be used in warfare by someone. I'm not sure there's any plausible way to outlaw such technologies; see the example of nuclear weapons, only robots are far easier to hide. And I'm not sure we can or should ban an entire class of technology when there are obvious and moral civilian applications. We just need to be thinking about how strongly we want to encourage this kind of technology development. Historically, the answer has always been "science and technology are neutral; it's not my problem if someone chooses to weaponize my research". That's the attitude we need to rethink. The technologies within our grasp have been potential existential threats since the dawn of the nuclear era. That requires a paradigm shift in how we think, not status quo thinking.

172:

Are you recommending those? If so I'll add them to the (ever-increasing) list.


As long as we're recommending books, I've just started Legalizing Theft and so far it's quite good.

https://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/legalizing-theft

174:

The WW2 "Wireless Handcart" was specifically developed for getting a wireless set (No.22) its lead-acid batteries, aerial mast and other ancillaries up a beach in a hurry. The whole of the set could be waterproofed (lots of rubberised fabric bags and sheeting) so it could survive short periods of immersion, and it could (if desired) be prepared so that it could be operated while still all bagged up.

That was a specific piece of kit for a particular purpose, and seems to have falln out of favour afterwards.

Though I note that the WW2 "Carrier, Manpack" based on the american "packboard" has recently made a comeback - with an anodized (I think) green finish that doesn't fall off when you look at it, and plastic bungs in the frame ends to keep mud and stuff out.

The infantry still rely on what they can carry on their backs, APCs notwithstanding.

(Pack howitzers have been used in surprising locations - including an upstairs bedroom on one notable occasion.)

Chris.

175:

Minor correction: IIRC, the US Marines were not looking at a robot dog", but something far more traditional: a robot mule.

176:

I've been under the impression that what *really* made paperbacks take off was being able to send novels to the troops in WWII in care packages.

177:

That's absurd. What he needs is a pressure valve, that releases pressure as needed, not just like on a pressure cooker that blows out, and you have to cool it down and replace it.

Then he can set the max pressure level at something comfortable....

178:

Agreed, especially given the UK's paper rationing and the privileges obtained by Penguin. As rationing ceased, paperbacks took over from hardbacks as the book of choice, though I have been unable to find any hard figures. All sources I have seen say that WWII was either the cause or the trigger for the change, according to whether they believe it would have happened anyway.

179:

And here I thought I did maintenance for monetary reasons, so that I know what the real condition is, and because I'm a techie, and can do these things (like the rear brake pads on my van that I just changed out a couple weeks ago)

Not looking forward to disassembling the long mowlerr to replace the brushes on the motor....

180:

All sources I have seen say that WWII was either the cause or the trigger for the change

Ships need ballast, and AIUI paperbacks from the USA were shipped over as cheap ballast that could be recycled by the troops (and subsequently leaked into circulation among the locals).

181:

Robot attack dog? Y'know, I've got an answer to that, in fact, I have it behind my front door, in case I have to repel borders: last half of the seventies, and a for a year or three of the eighties, I was in the SCA... and fought heavy. I got tired of what we used to call rhino-hiders (no, no, that blow wasn't hard enough..."), so I switched from broadsword... to mace. Didn't have the problem again. Yeah, I could knock a flying robot dog into the sidewalk, or a wall. Grab my shield, and go after it, and there's a limit to how well-protected it was.

And if this was a real-life situation... I'd make/buy a metal-headed mace, or a war hammer (longer handle than my 2lb sledge).

182:

Alternative: you do it remotely, as with drones, and bury the story. If it comes out, you talk about the Evil Terrorist Leader that you killed, sorry about the rest of the entire wedding party (wash, repeat, at least 3-6 times in the last five years over here....)

Be real: I, certainly, did not invent nor appreciate the slogan "kill 'em all, and let God sort 'em out".

183:

When someone says something is too difficult? Is the someone here a programmer (sorry, devloper) who's looking at a new project, or is it the same person, after some member(s) of upper management have come up with an entirely half-baked idea, having never spoken with anyone who knows anything about the subject, and they've given you x days to do it, because, I mean, it's all just point and click, right?

Why, yes, I *was* on one of the proverbial death marches like that, when I was at one of the Baby Bells in the mid-nineties.

184:

Y'know, all this talk about wheelbarrows.... How many of you have ever *used* them? Say, hailing stuff for a large garden (20'x40') across rototilled field?

I *L*O*A*T*H*E* them. 400 years ago, when a wheel was expensive, I can understand, but now? I would *NEVER* buy one that didn't have *two* wheels, so it didn't constantly try to fall sideways.

185:

I have heard that, too, but have never seen it in what I regard as a reasonably authoritative source - inter alia, books don't make very good ballast, as they aren't all that dense (just measured at 0.644) and are easily damaged with water (which was and is ubiquitous in the bilges, where the ballast is stored). Whereas the history of how Penguin took off during WWII is well-documented (and not just in this!)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penguin_UK#War_years

186:

I have, and I agree it's tricky. But have you ever tried to manoeuvre a two-wheeled barrow across a sideways slope or where there is only a single narrow track suitable for a wheel? The key is to have large enough tyres - at least 16" diameter and 4" across.

187:

How 'bout someone working at the installation that the folks you don't like are, and use the bottle of mister for the veggies, with added bacterial goodness/badness?

188:

Yep. I've done it too, and in many places I prefer the single wheel. Something about hauling wheelbarrow loads of stuff up a steep driveway, then turning 90 degrees to get it in the gate.

Anyway, the closest readily available thing we have to the Chinese-style design (at least in the US) is the Pack Wheel (http://www.packwheel.com/). Not cheap, but now that I've spotted it, that might be a useful bit of emergency kit, for hauling stuff over the earthquake rubble or around the mudslide.

189:

Which was exactly my point about robodogs. Not "coming soon to an Apple store near you, in time for Xmas", but rather a plausible near-future extrapolation. Definition of "near" a subjective personal choice.

"Near-future" can very easily be "Last year when you weren't looking."

I was in yet another instance of the perennial technology vs. jobs argument yesterday when someone complained that moving things was hard and people were living in a dream world if they thought they'd live to see practical automated delivery trucks or forklifts. Rather than argue I simply shared an advertisement from a major forklift manufacturer that offered a range of robot forklifts.

190:

CCTV and DNA testing might be ubiquitous however petty criminals already exploit similarities in names? Once you have to hire a lawyer to prove you are not someone with vaguely the same name, what use is evidence of specific identity with a small chance of being in error? Hasn't there already been a CCTV case where the defence was simply 'it's not me'?

With limited resources you could discover any dopplegangers from the internet, it might take more to procure samples of their DNA.

The super-rich and states are routinely portrayed as creating paid employment for various bizarre reasons. Soon the Green Cross Code Man will be considered something 'of Europe' and what happened to Public Information anyway?

191:

You want to start an new (probably illegal) industry, get in the business of homogenizing human trash and making it into a fine powder. You can spoof anyone's DNA you want by grinding together the residues from thousands of humans and spraying it around crime scenes. Heck, given that the mob is reputed involved in trash and waste collection in various jurisdictions, I'm a little surprised that they haven't gotten into the business of collecting, say, dried fecal material and use it to dirty up crime scenes. Or if that's too gross, collect fecal samples, use some PCR based technology to amplify the microsats or whatever they're using to ID people, stabilize the resulting DNA, and sell it at a reasonable price to people who need their identities obscured. DNA's so rugged that dumping DNA powder all over a scene would make it an investigational nightmare. I suspect you could make a handsome profit before authorities started cracking down.

Another industry you could get into is the hacking of CCTVs, since according to Bruce Schneier, the cameras themselves are often poorly secured. Spoof, hack, or simply degrade the feed, and the evidence is worthless.

192:

The milspec wheelbarrow I mentioned (and I wish I could find the reference material I saw about it) actually had three wheels -- there was a central smaller fat-tire wheel that was positioned about two-thirds along the body under the flatbed/stretcher part. A pair of taller wheels further back on either side could be swivelled down to take over the load on improved ground and provide better stability if it was being used for casualty transport. It could even operate it as a tricycle with the small forward wheel keeping it from tipping over while stationary.

The Big Thing was getting it to weigh less than (IIRC) ten kilos including wheels, struts and stretcher webbing but still collapsible and rugged enough to carry two hundred kilos plus of kit, munitions, food, water etc. a decent distance. Making it squaddie-proof was another matter.

193:

Hasn't there already been a CCTV case where the defence was simply 'it's not me'?

Well I have a friend who's a lawyer and that defence has definitely been tried. Doesn't usually get to court unless they're pretty sure.

194:

I'm pretty sure I read a near future police procedural (maybe even one written by OGH) where one of the characters does a bit of vacuuming on the bus (Which seemed a bit of an odd thing to do on the way to a crime) and then sprinkles a dust bag full of thousands of DNA samples over the crime scene.

195:

Pack howitzers have been used in surprising locations...

An ex-artillery friend of mine makes the point that getting the gun somewhere “surprising” is terribly impressive as a feat of lifting a couple of tons of metal, and wonderful for a photo on the front of “The Gunner”; but utterly ineffectual unless you’ve got road access for all the trucks carrying the ammunition you’re going to use (something like 75% of the British Army’s wartime scales of trucks in BAOR during the Cold War, were committed to delivering artillery ammunition).

...and yes, occasional “sniping gun” or direct fire roles (huge fun for the gun line to see the effect) might only need a few rounds, but those are a rarity. When a single round of 155mm ammunition weighs in at nearly 50kg, then a Battery Fire Mission that finishes with “five rounds, fire for effect” has just thrown a ton and a half of metal downrange. Ten or twenty fire missions, supporting a single battalion’s activities over a single night? And you begin to see why any military formation needs a couple of workable, high-quality, roads on its axis of advance. No Main Supply Routes? No war.

196:

Colonel Kilgore? Is that you? My how you've grown.

// Apologies to OGH

197:

wheelbarrows.... How many of you have ever *used* them? ... a large garden (20'x40') across rototilled field?

Me, not exactly frequently but definitely regularly.

I have a "bicycle trailer" with two 20" wheels and a 220 litre bin that I use for all sorts of things. It'll carry 150kg of soil or whatever, but that much weight is hard to move even on a level, paved surface. 50kg or so I can run about my section with, over loose mulch and the rock borders of garden beds. Rototilling is outside my experience - I haven't ever needed to degrade my soil to that extent so haven't done it.

Worth noting that those are bicycle wheels, normally with 55mm wide tyres but I have 120mm wide tyres for when I'm rolling on mud or other stuff that I want to stay on the surface of. I can carry ~80kg of mulch across mud flats that way.

But for serious off road, I have a 29" mountain bike wheel set up more like the Chinese style barrow that the recent US imitation. Normally that has a 100 litre bin each side, about 50cm above ground level, and runs a 75mm wide trye. It has a disk brake, and the bins can be emptied by lifting the handles (it will completely invert with a bit of effort). Using that I can carry maybe 50kg up a goat track that is hard to walk up, but mroe usually in those conditions we'll use one contrller behind it and two (or more) people pulling ropes from the front - two ropes, one each side, so they can help stabilise it as well and move it up. The optimium seems to be both bins roughly full of soil/gravel, so probably 100-150kg, and three people.

NOTE: you can use standard, side-of-the-road discarded bike parts but you have to set your expectations accordingly. A 16" or 20" front wheel off a kids bike will carry 50kg, sometimes 100kg, but it will last much longer if you tweak the spoke tension first (a spoke tensiometer is ~$100). Often the bearings push through the hub because cheap steel tims and spokes are very strong but a pressed steel "ball bearing race" not so much. I use custom built wheels with 20mm through axles, because those make everything more rigid and the load capacity is much greater.

198:

FWIW, both of those have the wheel just slightly forward of the centre of (loaded) mass. The bike trailer has is maybe 10cm back on a metre-long bin, the wheelbarrow approximately 50mm. The latter is designed so that I naturally carry is tilted slightly forward, and in the position it's almost perfectly balanced and it's normally easy to load so it is. It also disassembles into a square-ish frame that goes round the top of the bins plus a wheel-wide frame that has the axle mount. The handlebars slide into those tubes and are the same length as the main "frame" tubes so it all stacks neatly in the back of the shed (I assume it does... it's been a while since I used it so hopefully it's still there).

The European-style wheelbarrows are a disaster and I've never liked them.

199:

This comes back to me being someone who likes building things and is easily swayed by seeing stuff like this online but not being able to try it out locally. I have some similar friends, leading to periodic circles where one of us builds a new toy and everyone else likes it so they build their own versions... then Ben pops it on his website and soon everyone can buy one :)

SitRep: it's all about the wheelbarrows

200:

Yup. Cthulhu in a wheelbarrow across alternate timelines as the world warms.

Could be worse I guess.

201:

Yup, Halting State. It's also been done IRL, with someone dusting a crime scene with the contents of an outdoor ashtray.

What I'm suggesting is someone making a business out of it, if they haven't already.

202:

Thanks. I thought it was OGH, but my memory is pretty shot. I think the advantage of public vacuuming is of course 'hair & fibre' so beloved of tv police drama (I don't know if it's used IRL). H&F would make it more useful than ground up fecal matter. Pretty clever chap OGH.

I can see a range of products now... 'Pixie Dust™' to scatter over the crime scene. 'Nail on the Head™' range of skin samples to go under fingernails. 'Claret™' range of
prefilled blood water pistols. 'Big Foot™' range of crampons that leave any size footprints you like.

203:

I can see a range of products now...

Currently only available from charity shops, but I imagine those things could be taken upmarket if there was a way to market them and sell them without simultaneously advertising your customer base to the authorities. I'm somewhat saddened that the cops don't appear to be offering this service yet - maybe the charity shops undercut them to the point of pointlessness?

Or maybe that's one reason there are so many criminal elements in the commercial cleaning and clothing recycling industries?

204:

Coming up with a range of products is easy. Coming up with a range of products where each one has a commonplace everyday use is a bit more tricky.

205:

Locking on to a target painted with a laser is fine. Unfortunately, compared to a projectile you now have a far lower muzzle velocity (pun intended), so you need to maintain the lock for far longer, in a far more complex situation, with a near-zero tolerance for error (indiscriminate use of lethal force against civilians would be a war crime)..

There's maybe an interesting use case here to simply pin down a target for arrest rather than killing them.

You'd need an armoured robo-dog for it to work, but it might solve the problem of catching the other side in the act rather than kicking in doors in the middle of the night and terrorising the local civpop. You'd get more sympathy from the locals, and you'd presumably have open and shut evidence that the miscreant was bearing arms and firing at troops. So they'd get firm jail time (at least until a treaty came with an amnesty to end the conflict).

206:

Coming up with a range of products is easy. Coming up with a range of products where each one has a commonplace everyday use is a bit more tricky.

Indeed, otherwise you'd just get nicked for 'going equipped'.

The pre-filled vaccuum, with a blow setting, would be OK though, because you could be taking/collecting it for a friend to clean their car.

207:

Also @Elderly Cynic

Well, that makes 3 of us who've heard that story independently, so there must something in it innit? Also, it must have continued post WW2 because I've owned 1950s/60s written books that were never formally imported in the specific imprint I owned. (eg ACE doubles)

208:

Not exactly like that, but how about moving multiple barrowloads of stuff 400m uphill on tarmac as "using a barrow"?

209:

What I'm suggesting is someone making a business out of it, if they haven't already.

Not to poke holes in your shiny toy, but ...

1. Most crime is impulse-driven, unplanned or inadequately planned, and the perpetrators are incompetent (that's a particularly hilarious example of all of the above from yesterday in the UK: note that "armed police unit" in the UK means the equivalent of a US SWAT team — they're weapons specialists).

2. Those criminals who are competent and planners try to minimize the risk of detection and apprehension after the fact by minimizing the number of people who know who did it: most semi-successful criminals are caught because they tell someone what they did, and their contact blabs.

So you might be able to sell baggies of pre-mixed random DNA dust on the darknet, but your potential market is a tiny proportion of criminals—the planners—and you also have a huge marketing problem: I mean, it's not as if marketing preference algorithms ("based on your previous purchases you might like ...") are going to get much traction.

210:

I've owned 1950s/60s written books that were never formally imported in the specific imprint I owned. (eg ACE doubles)

Ah, but you're missing the effects of the First Sale doctrine and of specialist retail importers who imported US books and sold them via mail order in the UK. (You'd send off for a catalogue, tick the titles you wanted, enclose a cheque or postal order, and send it back. Importer would send funds to their agent—typically a bookstore—in the USA, buy the books for you, and mail them direct to you, taking a commission. Because you'd paid for the books in the USA you were legally their owner and were allowed to import them.)

This is how most US titles ended up in the UK, before the emergence of specialist SF/F or other genre bookstores who bought their stock as retail trade in the US and imported it. Facilitated because (a) the titles they carried simply weren't published in the UK market, and (b) books cost a whole lot more in the UK (in the early 80s a UK paperback at full retail cost, in real terms, roughly double what a US mass market paperback cost.)

211:

... and you also have a huge marketing problem: I mean, it's not as if marketing preference algorithms ("based on your previous purchases you might like ...") are going to get much traction.

Oh, I don't know. If we sign up to TTIP, forbidding the sale and marketing of such things could be regarded as a restraint of trade - there are quite a few cases where the USA has forced subordinate countries to accept conditions that were not or could not be imposed in the USA. The tobacco industry did that several times. I wish I were joking :-(

212:

Not to say the book clubs. It would be interesting to know whether that ballast story has any, er, intellectual ballast.

213:

I'm not implying that. I make no comment about the quality of the coding or application design. I was talking about the system-administration part of (what is now called) devops. Back in the day, the arrangements for managing a cluster of single-use computers could be highly individualistic, often written from scratch by one of the developer-operators, and incorporating a lot of (valid) assumptions about the context of the system that were known only to one person. That worked for tiny clusters, small teams and low staff turnover; it was kluge rather than a kludge. Nowadays, with 10,000-core clusters, bigger teams and short contracts it's much harder to finesse things like that, so admin arrangements are more standard, more documented and far less flexible and adaptable.

Whether this cultural change is good, bad or indifferent, I still see P. and B. as carrying on the old ways, with the old words for things. I see no need to write their dialogue using current jargon as they may not even know it.

214:

I'd read the hell out of an eldrich magical girl story -- though that's actually a booming subgenre (with clear examples going back to the mid-90s and a boost in popularity responding to the success of Puella Magi Madoka Magica in ~2009). Major works in this subgenre include Madoka Magica (wherein the magical girls are given powers by aliens who are using the energy produced by teenage angst to fight against thermodynamic entropy) & Princess Tutu (wherein the title character is a character in a fairy tale & must cast magical spells through complex ballet choreography in order to fight against the sadistic author). Recent works in this subgenre (like Magical Girl Site and Yuki Yuuna is a Hero) are less interesting because they're more direct.

215:

"Puella Magi Madoka Magica", which is the show I half-remembered way up thread featuring the heroine hopping on one foot whilst getting her socks off!

216:

Bill Arnold (super) was thinking along something like these lines, but here's my independently-got take:

What is an 'impostor' Elder God?

As I understand them, Elder Gods in the Laundryverse at least start as human (generally—enough networked mice might do) brains running particular software. Said software in its native universe (say, one aporoaching heat-death) on its native platform (my bet would be either some of Ken Macleod's colinies of extremophile organisms or else collections of hand-waved topological deformations of the brane) runs perfectly because there's been extreme selection against things that don't and don't learn quickly enough how to do better.

Maybe I have that wrong, but it's based on 0.) remembering that this all is supposed to come down to software and 1.) getting the impression that was someone who began thinking differently in the high-thaum environment of Case Nightmare Green, bootstrapped himself into a supervillain, and from there into something running something like the god . It's not supported by the description of the Infovore from "The Atrocity Archive" (which story I preferred to "Concrete Jungle" because I found it a more engaging story, the novella being plot coupons and fight scenes with some fun Victoriana), which seems to want to physically cross over…but at least at first is running on human hosts.

It's that adaptational feature that makes them capable of running at all on their new platforms in the Laundryverse. This leaves open the question of whether there are still major bugs. There may actual impostors, nutters who think themselves Shabbith-Ka and are inadequate, but there may be others that have thought themselves _into_ actually running Shabbith-Ka r0.3-0.8

217:

A recent book's superheroes and - villains get, as part of the basic package, a glamour that supervenes normal facial recognition and is triggered by putting on the mask.

(I'd like to avoid having the name of the book here because it's one of its world-building surprises that helped to make it interesting to me.)

218:

You write:
according to Bruce Schneier, the cameras themselves are often poorly secured.

Snicker. Chckle. ROTFLMAO!!!!!

"Poorly secured"? Name one whose firmware has ever been upgraded by the consumer. ("Firmware, what's that?). And a lot of the 'Net-enabled cameras are sending it back to China (or wherever). The huge DDoS last year were *explicitly* cameras and routers. Many, many of them are already part of botnets, and *those* are for sale (you want me to attack and take them BoA offline for a day? Sure, that'll be $5,000).

No, I am *not* exaggerating. Go look at krebsonsecurity.com's archives. (Brian Krebs may be the most respected computer security journalist in the US. He is personally known to the local cops, the FBI and the US Secret Service. As I understand it, he used to write a column for the Washington Post, until they got freaked out by the number of police-determined credible death threats he was getting.

And for good reason: some of his work has resulted in people being extradited, tried, and jailed.

219:

About the weight: my bike, a road bike, assuming I take off the chain that weighs about 4 pounds (serious hardened chain), weighs in at 22 lbs. And would carry someone heavier than me (I'm around 174lbs/69kg).

What you'd have to worry about, using cheaper wheels, is the spokes being ripped out of the rim.

220:

That rototilled field - when I first moved to be with her, my late wife had an immobile home in the exurbs outside Austin. About a foot or half a meter down, caliche. I mean, it'd only been above the Tethys Sea about 10M years, you'd have to give us another 10M to have some nice dirt.

So, she bought a truckload of dirt. 13yd^3 Once it was delivered and dumped, for about the next two weeks, we'd come home from work, and I'd spend half an hour or an hour with a shovel, flinging dirt in all directions.

*Then* we rented a rototiller and prepared the garden. I think we only did that once....

221:

Golly gee willikers, you mean my plan to sell this stuff to:
--Everyone trying to take down The Machine, so that their identities can't be tracked at meetings or rallies, and
--Everyone who hires thugs to take care of journalists and environmentalists (now trending in Latin America, not quite in the US yet), and
--Everyone who takes their rather shady business all the way dark

won't work? Wow. I'm so glad I ran it up the flag pole before I invested in it.

Seriously, if DNA surveillance becomes ubiquitous, I can think of all sorts of types, from civil libertarians and anarchists to strong-arm businessmen, who'd want to muddy their trail. As for toting around a vacuum cleaner bag, I'd suggest vials of DNA dusted on your shoes before you go out, or perhaps stashed in vape machines or whatever.

222:

Well, this being a UK blog, I don't want OGH bothered by the one camera maker who does regularly update the firmware. Hence my mild circumspection.

Anyway, I think it's time to haul out the ol' mirrorshades, 'cuz we're living in that cyberpunk future, complete with the pointless wars that are generating a lot of cyborged veterans, and smartphones for cyberdecks. .

223:

Re: Krebs web site

Sounded interesting, visited and found this:

Aug 18 - FBI Warns of ‘Unlimited’ ATM Cashout Blitz

'The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning banks that cybercriminals are preparing to carry out a highly choreographed, global fraud scheme known as an “ATM cash-out,” in which crooks hack a bank or payment card processor and use cloned cards at cash machines around the world to fraudulently withdraw millions of dollars in just a few hours.'

https://krebsonsecurity.com/


So ... maybe printscreen your accounts & transactions daily as evidence that you had X amount in Y account, and that you were nowhere near that geolocation at that time.

224:

Yup. A lot of them, from what I've read, just ain't smart or educated enough to get a legit job.

Example 1: from the mid-eighties, from the Philly City paper, one guy beat up another, because the other guy wouldn't give him a ciggie. While they were in the holding cell at the main downtown police station, with a camera on them.

Example 2: my late ex was in jail on the Space Coast. She was helping people write letters, because they literally couldn't, and told me a lot of the women there, who were in for prostitution, literally had no idea how to either open a bank account or rent an apartment. Their schools had treated them as stupid....

225:

Re: Human genomic (in)stability

Read somewhere that animals have much lower genomic stability than plants, hence faster evolution. Also read that telomeres are the protectors of genomic stability and that genomes with fewer chromosomes are more stable than genomes with more chromosomes. Probably not the last word on genomic stability but could provide background fodder.

Article on telomeres:

https://academic.oup.com/nar/advance-article/doi/10.1093/nar/gky494/5035654


Interesting that you mentioned autism which is linked to interpersonal/social behavior. What kind of society/culture can you have when the genes (neural areas) to promote this behavior no longer exist/function? (And if such humans are able to survive to childbearing age for the next 2 or 3 generations, humanity could still end up like today's NZ kakapo which are facing extinction.)

226:

Um, yeah... about that. Let me put on my professional hat here: I was asked to pick up systems administration in the mid-nineties at a job; the title I've worn for the last nine years is sr. Linux sysadmin, and I work for a federal contractor.

20 years ago, *Nix was more fragmented, so you needed to deal with, say, Irix, and HP-ux and Sun Unix. Administration was a *lot* less complex, as well, though hardware manufacturers didn't do much to support *Nix, except on their own hardware.

Now... trust me, it's *way* more complex, and multiple layers of security. On the other hand, there have been a lot of well-made tools written and rolled out. For example, if you're on a RHEL or distros based on it, you do a yum install, and it gets *ALL* the dependency packages, no more dependency hell.

So, no, it wasn't some Magical New School of devops, it was an industry maturing.

227:

Yeah. I've been saying for years that a cyberpunk dystopia was NOT the future I signed up for.

228:

Re: 'If you can increase the supply of suicidal and potentially violent occupied by an order of magnitude with an infection they can catch in their food, ...'

Don't need to go to so much effort: just recruit from war & natural disaster areas because PTSD, food deprivation, social isolation/mistreatment, etc. will do this job just fine.

Article: Glucocorticoid “Programming” and PTSD Risk

https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1196/annals.1364.027

BTW, social support for a pregnant woman diagnosed with PTSD can reduce her PTSD symptoms/severity.

229:

Superheroes and eldritch girls- like the origin of the Aegis, Edge of Tomorrow again. Is Perseus invisible because Andromeda is so visible? Or is he disguised by the cetus- or kraken, a name related to crook? Rodin has Andromeda chained face down. Modern movies lift their sacrifice into the air, though fully clothed, so as not to offend the Gods, perhaps.

Jill Dando of Crimewatch was killed on her own doorstep by a single shot to the head, while on the cover of Radio Times, and on a car bonnet, no less. An illustration of how to supply a suspect for an investigation. Is there to be a revelation, as time goes by? The police have a curious interest in mind control to go with their ambition to collect the national DNA. So why not another senior policewoman, and some kind of incomplete investigation into a murder victim shot in the head in broad daylight?

230:

1.) getting the impression that was someone who began thinking differently in the high-thaum environment of Case Nightmare Green, bootstrapped himself into a supervillain, and from there into something running something like the god .
Sort of "we're all seeds of Elder Deities, we (most of us :-) just haven't worked out (or otherwise know) a reliable bootstrap procedure." Thoroughly egalitarian, for sure; no special genetics or midichlorians.

I toyed with something like this as an entry in the Competition Time thread for Laundry devices, a recursive procedure to be used only in response to Malevolent Deity Incursion events, and by carefully selected individuals, with some constraints: an exponential decay function and a constraint that re-bootstrap only works at baseline.

(Also FWIW recurring variations on a theme with the one(s)-with-the-names. (e.g. search on "something gaudy", duckduckgo best. And shrooms. And a few other keywords.)

231:

Pasquinade @ 229
Andromeda, huh? Classical renaissance bondage porn ....
As for Ms Dando ... no similarity AT ALL to the murder of Daphne Galizia, move along there, please.

Bill Arnold @ 230
Hammer Horror bings you the fatberg - yes, really (almost) [ And a subsequent link leads to a live webcam ... ]

232:

Something like this is in Stephen Hunt's novel Secrets of the Fire Sea; one of the plot lines is searching for the God-weapon that can be used to kill a god, and it turns out it's to use the formula to turn a person into a god to fight the other god. [SPOILERS] Vg vf, bs pbhefr, synjrq, fb gung vg ehaf bhg bs pbageby naq nsgre n fubeg crevbq bs tbqubbq gur hfre genafpraqf/fhoyvzrf/jungrire vagb n uvture cynar bs rkvfgrapr.

233:

...or we could just go back to using tetraethyl lead as an octane booster in petrol.

And as an added side-benefit, my old Triumph T160 would run better, particularly if I could get hold of 5-Star and put the ignition timing back (or rather forward) to what God and Bert Hopwood intended... :-)

234:

You have me intrigued.

Is this new superhero/villain novel by a Canadian author who used actual events in his hometown / novel location as plot points?

235:

JayGee @ 233
Old sticker:
"Save petrol - use NITROMETHANE!"

236:

Events? Probably not. Locations? Yep. If you look at Google Maps, immediately north of the city of ... well, you know ... is a garbage dump. Which provides the location of the Act 3 action.

It's been too long since I was a student at the University mentioned to recognize the renamed buildings, but they were apparently accurately represented too.

237:

An Australian politician just used his first speech in parliament to advocate for a "final solution to the immigration problem"... his party leader is standing by him:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNqzc8oePVs

Even the other racist wingnut parties have condemned him, which I suppose it at least something. If only they would also oppose the actual implementation of the "Pacific Solution" that we've been using for some years now...

238:

You could try mixing 10% or so "cellulose thinners" (xylene/toluene) with the petrol. Octane rating of up to 118 depending on the isomer.

239:

Re: Fetal dev & leaded gas

True.

Another culprit is the pregnant mother's immune system reacting to viral infections. If global warming helps the spread of various viruses* (because their hosts relocate or environments change), then we should expect increasing shifts in human development, hence behavior. Would be interesting to know whether any biochem/neuro-archeological evidence exists re: human behavior between the last ice age (about 11,700 years ago) and the modern era.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26822608

The maternal interleukin-17a pathway in mice promotes autism-like phenotypes in offspring.

* Apparently the flu doesn't like humidity, so fewer massive flu outbreaks possible if current high heat-high humidity continues in my neck of the woods. Not so good for folks living in increasingly arid regions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2034399/

240:

whitroth @ 176:

I've been under the impression that what *really* made paperbacks take off was being able to send novels to the troops in WWII in care packages.

They do seem to survive the kind of rough handling from being stuffed in the bottom of a rucksack better than the average tablet computer; no screen to break and no batteries you're going to have to recharge at some point.

241:

whitroth @ 184:

Y'know, all this talk about wheelbarrows.... How many of you have ever *used* them? Say, hailing stuff for a large garden (20'x40') across rototilled field?

I *L*O*A*T*H*E* them. 400 years ago, when a wheel was expensive, I can understand, but now? I would *NEVER* buy one that didn't have *two* wheels, so it didn't constantly try to fall sideways.


I use one all the time; just yesterday in fact. I have a push mower that has a grass catcher bag. But the bag isn't large enough to hold the clippings from the entire yard. While I'm cutting the front yard, I have to empty the bag two or three times ... into the wheelbarrow. That way I can make a single trip around back where the compost bins are located when I finish cutting the grass.

Some people "mow the lawn"; I have to cut the g****mn grass. Plus, the wheelbarrow conveniently holds all the fallen limbs & other stuff I don't want to run over it with the lawnmower that I have to pick up before I can cut the grass.

242:

Heteromeles @ 201:

Yup, Halting State. It's also been done IRL, with someone dusting a crime scene with the contents of an outdoor ashtray.
What I'm suggesting is someone making a business out of it, if they haven't already.

I would be surprised if MI6 (or whatever it's now called) and/or the CIA don't already have something like that.

243:

James Kemp @ 205:

Locking on to a target painted with a laser is fine. Unfortunately, compared to a projectile you now have a far lower muzzle velocity (pun intended), so you need to maintain the lock for far longer, in a far more complex situation, with a near-zero tolerance for error (indiscriminate use of lethal force against civilians would be a war crime)..

There's maybe an interesting use case here to simply pin down a target for arrest rather than killing them.

You'd need an armoured robo-dog for it to work, but it might solve the problem of catching the other side in the act rather than kicking in doors in the middle of the night and terrorising the local civpop. You'd get more sympathy from the locals, and you'd presumably have open and shut evidence that the miscreant was bearing arms and firing at troops. So they'd get firm jail time (at least until a treaty came with an amnesty to end the conflict).


If the soldier with the laser designator is in radio contact with the supporting battery, they don't have to start painting the target until the projectile is on the way. Exposure time is less than you might think.

In Iraq, we had a small UAV with GPS, IR cameras & laser target designators. It was stealthy enough the bad guys planting IEDs on the roadside couldn't hear it loitering overhead at night.

It could be used to provide terminal guidance for artillery, but it was more cost effective to use the GPS & cameras to guide a Quick Reaction Force out to the bad guy's location and catch them in the act. Those laser guided shells cost a hell of a lot more than a platoon of infantry, and you could use the infantry over and over again.

244:

whitroth @ 224:

Yup. A lot of them, from what I've read, just ain't smart or educated enough to get a legit job.

One sad truth is that in many cases a "legit job" (as bad as most low skill entry level jobs are) would require less work and have better pay.

245:

The destruction by fire of a local farmers market in 2013 is an event in Act 1. I was across the road from the garbage dump (at the brand new Costco) just a couple weeks ago when visiting my sister.

Not quite the same dissonance as when reading his two earlier books, in a different series, that were set in future versions of real locations. Especially the novel set in "Tobers Cove" which was obviously the small town near where my parents had retired.

246:

> one sad truth

Reminds me of the time the crime running the sex chat line had to make money legitimately, after an unexpected delay in getting the rigged phonecards working, for the ripoff.

Iirc severing one if the chip contacts prevented a credit decrement write

247:

Now I think I'd like to check that book out — but I have no idea what you're talking about.

A title (or the author's name, at least) would be greatly appreciated.

248:

There's an article in the latest Atlantic about textual analysis to determine employee morale. The same technology could be used to scan social media. Then it's just clustering to identify suicidal and potentially violent subgroups.

249:

The book is All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (link to a review of the book - OGH occasionally comments on that blog, for the extra cyber-stalky goodness).

250:

Thanks. I'll see if the library has it.

He was the same chap that wrote the expendables series (about expendable interstellar scouts), right?

251:

Yes, that's the same guy.

252:

I had a thought a few hours on which I'd like feedback:

Looking at the tariffs and sanctions the Trump administration has so far imposed, I'm amazed how ineffective they've been. While they've imposed some pain on the target countries, most of those countries have been able to adapt to them in ways that were not possible in the 90s and 2000s. This has made Trump look ridiculous so far, but let's step back for a moment: this means that US sanctions are no longer an effective deterrent. After all, what's the basic difference between a sanction and a tariff?

Here's my question: how will this affect international politics going forward?

253:

No, that was Edmund Cooper, writing as Richard Avery. The idea has been reused since, of course, and he may not have been the first.

254:

Let me just add that I read and commented on a draft of the sequel, They Told Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded (it's due out this November), and if you liked the first, you'll like this one too. (Yes, same author as the Expendables: that series apparently hit the midlist sales death-spiral, but he seems to be resurrecting his career in a different subgenre, with style.)

255:

Ioan wondered: "Looking at the tariffs and sanctions the Trump administration has so far imposed, I'm amazed how ineffective they've been."

Two caveats: This is before my 2nd cup of coffee, so there may be infelicities. In addition, expecting logic or even common sense from the Trump administration is demonstrably a silly notion.

I'd go out on a limb and say that most sanctions are ineffective. For a sanction to be effective, it must affect the people who have the power to change the policies that inspired the sanction. In most cases, sanctions target the populace rather than these decisionmakers, and that will only work in a democracy and only if the strategy can persuade voter to put pressure on the politicians to change. And the strategy may still backfire if the voters get their backs up and decide to support the problematic decisionmaker. (cf modern Republicans and Trump in the U.S.)

Tariffs suffer from a similar problem, but as they're a tool of macroeconomic warfare rather than a simple tool to motivate decison-makers, the situation is far more complex. One example: When tariffs are used to protect a local industry by raising the production cost of imports and thereby reducing the price gap between imports and domestic production, they can benefit that industry, at least in the short run. Tariff protection can give a domestic industry time to improve its efficiency and get its costs under control, thereby preserving well-paid jobs -- though it can also protect bloated and inefficient industries that have no desire to change. Consider the Canadian example of persuading foreign carmakers to establish plants inside Canada to avoid or mitigate tariffs. (To be clear, the Auto Pact is more complex than that statement suggests.)

This leads to an argument over whether pure economic considerations (e.g., attaining the minimum possible price for goods) trumps other considerations such as preserving domestic capability to provide some good or service. I'd argue from pragmatic considerations: at some point, it may become uneconomical or unfeasible to transport all of a society's goods from a single point of failure such as China to (say) Canada. That solution might be most economically efficient so long as current conditions persist, but it's the least sensible from the perspective of the precautionary principle. Redundant systems are more robust/resilient against unexpected problems.

There's also the issue that when consumers pay more for an imported product as a result of tariffs, that may be a good thing if that payment more closely reflects the true cost of production. Workers in places like China are often underpaid even by local standards, and environmental controls are weak to nonexistant. This has a high cost in terms of human lives and the environment, but that cost is not accounted for by the producer of the exported products. Raising salaries to a living wage and insisting on stricter environmental controls would internalize these externalities, resulting in a higher price that is closer to a fair/realistic price and making producers in the developed world more competitive.

256:

GH @ 255
Sanctions ineffective?
So the IJN attacking at Pearl H, 7/12/1941 was nothing at all to do with USA sanctions on oil to Japan, then?

257:

This leads to an argument over whether pure economic considerations (e.g., attaining the minimum possible price for goods) trumps other considerations such as preserving domestic capability to provide some good or service. I'd argue from pragmatic considerations

A friend of mine used to work for Nortel in the chip fab. One of the (many) bad business decisions upper management made* was to close down the fab because they could buy the chips cheaper. Not surprisingly to the workers (but apparently surprising to management), one Nortel's fab was dismantled chip prices suddenly rose and deliveries were repeatedly delayed (forcing Nortel to delay its own deliveries and thus not meet its sales contracts).

I would argue that pragmatic considerations mean making certain you are not beholden to an entity that you have no control or influence over. Which would include preserving domestic capabilities.

*Bad for Nortel. The executives made out like bandits personally.

258:

Greg: "Sanctions ineffective?"

Geoff: "For a sanction to be effective, it must affect the people who have the power to change the policies that inspired the sanction."

Yes, Greg. And people who had the power to change the policies that inspired the oil sanction—the Imperial Japanese Navy—were indeed affected, and took action. Just not the action the US government expected or intended.

259:

The sanctions (oil and other materials) were supposed to be against military uses only. But the Dean Acheson took it on himself to stop all oil flowing, which strengthened the military in Japan. (The diplomats, who had followed all the procedures set out by the Americans and still failed to get any results, were discredited.) It also put the Navy in a 'use it or lose it' position, as once they ran out of oil they would be helpless.

Wikipedia:
Acheson implemented … the American/British/Dutch oil embargo that cut off 95 percent of Japanese oil supplies and escalated the crisis with Japan in 1941. Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets merely to disconcert them. He did not intend the flow of oil to Japan to cease. The president then departed Washington for Newfoundland to meet with Churchill. While he was gone Acheson used those frozen assets to deny Japan oil. Upon the president's return, he decided it would appear weak and appeasing to reverse the de facto oil embargo.

This article supposedly has more information, but it's firewalled and I don't have access:
https://www.jstor.org/stable/3638003?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

260:

Greg Tingey noted: "Sanctions ineffective? So the IJN attacking at Pearl H, 7/12/1941 was nothing at all to do with USA sanctions on oil to Japan, then?"

As Charlie notes, if Pearl Harbor was the intended result of the sanctions, the U.S. sanctions were a brilliant success. But I doubt that was the desired outcome.

Also note two aspects of my post: First, I wrote "most", not "all"; that can mean as few as 51% of the sanctions. I have no data on which to quantify the actual percentage, other than to make the informed hypothesis that sanctions that target decision-makers approach 100% effective whereas sanctions that don't approach 100% ineffective. (I offer Iran and North Korea as examples.) Second, there's a spectrum of sanctions that ranges from small punitive tariffs, though denial of food imports, right up to outright 100% import blockades. I didn't mean to suggest that range is meaningless in terms of its effects on the results of a sanction, so add that as a YMMV footnote. It would be hopelessly complex to try to cover all possibilities in a simple blog post.

Returning to my original point: For any kind of trade action to work, it must focus on the decision-makers who will respond. I had this same debate with a teacher's union leaders many years back: I pointed out to them that if they go on strike and force working parents to stay home to care for their children, they alienate the people (parents) who should be their allies. As a result, they lose the support of the parents, who put heavy pressure on politicians to end the strike by legislating the teachers back to work. For such a strike to be effective, it must target the politicians, not the parents. For example, stop handing in government mandated forms (red tape run amok in many cases) or invigilating government-mandated examinations. Parents and children largely unaffected, so they support the teachers.

Another example, this time from when I worked for the feds: I pointed out to my union's local rep that going on strike eliminated services to the public and had no effect other than to get the public to pressure politicians to end the strike. To get results, I noted, they would have to do things like ensuring that ministerial communications accidentally got lost somewhere in the bureaucracy and that politician requests never arrived in the office that could respond to them. (See "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" for a master class in how government bureaucracies can apply pressure to politicians.) Since the union's goal at the time was proving they had a bigger dick than the politicians, not actually meeting the needs of its members, they ignored me and were legislated back to work only after me and other spear carriers lost several weeks of income, all to no effect. We never earned back that lost income with the salary raise that we eventually got.

261:

I don't know if anyone else has brought this up, but if you could have super powers, what would be your ideal?

I'd have the power to just think it and have a fresh cup of hot coffee appear in my hand, so I wouldn't have to disturb the cat by getting up and going into the kitchen to make it.

And I'd have the power to understand cat language so that when she starts howling I wouldn't be stuck trying to figure out What does that damned cat want now?

262:

Ioan @ 252:

I had a thought a few hours on which I'd like feedback:
Looking at the tariffs and sanctions the Trump administration has so far imposed, I'm amazed how ineffective they've been. While they've imposed some pain on the target countries, most of those countries have been able to adapt to them in ways that were not possible in the 90s and 2000s. This has made Trump look ridiculous so far, but let's step back for a moment: this means that US sanctions are no longer an effective deterrent. After all, what's the basic difference between a sanction and a tariff?
Here's my question: how will this affect international politics going forward?

As far as I can tell, the tariffs have had no effect whatsoever on the target countries other than to open their markets more fully to China & Russia.

Going forward internationally, they're just going to piss off our trading partners and put the U.S. at a disadvantage. They might actually boost profits from owning some third world sweatshop.

Domestically, it's going to disrupt those few remaining industries that haven't already moved their production facilities to some third world sweatshop ... and screw over the farmers.

263:

One of the (many) bad business decisions upper management made* was to close down the fab because they could buy the chips cheaper.

It works the other way, too. I worked for an FPGA company, who in the very late 90s got sick of the tools vendors delaying the release that would support their latest, greatest, fastest parts (or taking too long to solve the bugs that irritated their customers).

The tools vendors appeared to think that the digital designers paying $3K to $30K per seat were the only people that mattered. So the FPGA company bought a small French HDL compiler company, integrated its product into an end-to-end toolchain, and started to give said toolchain away for free, as an enabler so that people would buy their chips. It didn't give quite the same QoR as the expensive tools, but it worked. In fact, both the big FPGA firms did it.

Then they started adding IP blocks into the mix, so that the people thinking of buying their chips wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel just to create a GPIO block, or a compliant Ethernet interface - all to support chip sales.

Suddenly, the tool vendors who had been providing inadequate service got "somewhat disrupted" as they lost an awful lot of the $3k per seat lower-tier customers who actually made up their bread and butter...

264:

Superpower? To spread enlightenment and universal compassion wherever I went, in at least a ten mile radius (to deal with potential snipers). After all, if everybody around me, including the supervillains, is overwhelmed by feelings of loving kindness for all sentient beings, the fights, shall we say, deescalate quickly.

265:

This is why we have drones and artillery.

266:

Nah. It's an opportunity to field-test an ICBM.

267:

Gotta love the way you think--against all the rules of war, if someone has the power to rapidly stop any fight without loss of life, your first impulse is to speedily nuke that person so that the "damage" (in this case enlightenment) doesn't spread.

You might want to think about that a little bit.

268:

The problem with superpowers is that they don't scale.

So my choice of superpower would be ... pick something socially beneficial (like, oh, the empathy projection field): and my superpower would be, not the socially beneficial power itself, but the ability to give other people that ability as a power-up.

269:

... if someone has the power to rapidly stop any fight without loss of life, your first impulse is to speedily nuke that person so that the "damage" ... doesn't spread.

This is so wasteful! Instead we need the robot dog to do a swift takedown, dump Heteromeles into a wheelbarrow, then store them in a secret robot bunker in an isolated location for the unlikely contingency that we want to spread peace and understanding one day.

270:

The ability to selectively "darken" matter/energy, at least as far as I am concerned. Locked up? Darken the wall so it no longer presents a barrier - but not the floor, so I don't fall through it. Being shot at? Darken the bullets/energy beams/etc so they can no longer affect me. Need the bog? Darken the turd while it's still inside my intestines so it heads unrestrained and mess-free for the planet's core. Fallen out of a plane? Partially darken the ground underneath me so it decelerates me gently and can then be swum out of.

271:

An ICBM would only make things worse in the long run - we all know that ATOMIC MUTATION is how these things get started!

272:

Your superpower caused me to briefly empathisw with politicians. What can I say?

273:

Your solution suffers from boundary-condition exploits unless it is scaled up to include all entities close enough (speed of light) to matter at the time scales of concern.
E.g. with a power with 10 mile radius, monitor your location, and keep minds controlling weaponry outside that radius. (Drones are one blunt approach.)
Or capture you using full drones or perhaps (grey area) acausally(realtime)-slaved advanced automation (perhaps highly-constraining geases on humans in the Laundryverse), and then deploy you as a weapon to functionally disarm opponents. There are other exploits; haven't given it much thought.

I like Charlie's approach better, except make it fully recursively infectious.
(Been on my mind for a while, TBH. :-)

274:

This is so wasteful! Instead we need the robot dog to do a swift takedown, dump Heteromeles into a wheelbarrow, then store them in a secret robot bunker in an isolated location for the unlikely contingency that we want to spread peace and understanding one day.
Dang, you get credit for this one. :-) Especially humor credit.

275:

That is exactly the point I was clumsily getting at.

276:

Oh I don't know: an enlightened Cthulhu would probably be a good thing. None of that ravening stuff anymore. Besides, such an ability couldn't be captured and deployed, because anyone trying to do so would be going against their own enlightened self-interest in making sure everybody wants the best for everybody else, not in treating life as a negative-sum game.

Moreover, this gets at two points:
--One is the fairly widespread notion (that I'll introduce here, since you've apparently never heard of it) that if a genie grants you a wish, wish for universal enlightenment and freedom for all sentient beings, including the genie. Or if a devil wants to grant a wish for your soul, wish that all beings, including all the demons in hell, are mercifully granted entrance into heaven. Anything else is a waste of your soul--and what would a merciful God do if your only wish was the salvation of others, even at the cost of your own salvation? There's actually an old Scottish folktale to this effect, so it's far from a new notion.
--It also gets at the limits to your own thinking, that a non-violent solution to a conflict is such an undesirable outcome that it must be destroyed by all means necessary. Again, think that through non-ironically. You might want to look up that little study by Chenowith and Stephan if you want some data to support this notion.

277:

Superpowers? By the evidence in the U.S., a reality-distortion field seems to trump *ahem* all other powers. Except, if we're really lucky, those of FBI investigators. Every supervillain needs an Achilles heel.

Kudos to Neil W for the notion of robodogging and wheelbarrowing Heteromeles, though given his leanings, a real attack dog would be a better choice. More environmentally sustainable. *GDRLH*

278:

Enlightened Cthulhu might decide that it's time to wake up and get things done! Gotta cleanse the earth of shit-flinging monkey descendants right away so those nice mi-go can move in! And what about those cuddlesome Dholes? They need a place to live too!

279:

“Reality-distortion field.”
I’ve got a new explanation for the last few years: a secret codicil of Steve Job’s will left his RDF to Donald Trump.

280:

Cthulhu drives people mad. The mere fragmented memories of the dragon-octopus-god begets nasty cults that conduct unspeakable rites. Surely the best thing for Cthulhu to do is to sleep away the ages until mankind can cope, or is gone. And if someone disturbs his rest, then the kind thing, the only thing, is to stop them carrying news of him away.

I propose that Cthulhu of The Call of Cthulhu is already enlightened.

281:

if a genie grants you a wish, wish for universal enlightenment and freedom for all sentient beings, including the genie.
I'm being coy [e.g. the named one(s) suggested such a [scale-invariant?] general freedom spell in the thread "the-pivot"]. Did not know that the idea has a long and rigorous history, though.
Was just pointing out that the limited range of your suggested superpower would result in it being gamed to the extent possible by psychopaths, and that it might be best (against active opposition) if it self-replicated, if the range was not extendable to cover all relevant beings.

282:

give other people that ability as a power-up.

Hmm. In terms of Police procedural etc, I wonder if giving someone a superpower without consent would be considered assault. And the same goes now I think about it the the Empathy projection itself.

Of course to arrest the Unwilling empathy projector, the arresting officer must come in range of the power.

And later I suspect so would the custodary sergeant, which could lead to some interesting interactions, and while you might like to use the secure suite there has been a sudden rise of arrests of people with this superpower (really, I wonder why) and the secure warded suite is currently busy.

283:

without consent would be considered assault

Ethically I think it's the same as early childhood education and involuntary committal (mental or ideal criminal). You're imposing a new mental state on someone without their consent and often without their ability to give informed consent. Which, to me anyway, suggests that we should preferentially impose the superpower(s effects) on criminals and wrongdoers (much activity that is criminal in some circumstances is not when it is done by our rulers - taxation is theft, execution is murder*, etc)

* I do note the irony and joy in defining murder as "unlawful killing", making that part of the Torah/Bible/Koran tautological..."don't break the law".

284:

"Cthulhu drives people mad. The mere fragmented memories of the dragon-octopus-god begets nasty cults that conduct unspeakable rites."

And if all this is considered "Good" by Cthulhu's biology/culture/moral reasoning process? I think Frank is wrong. One should always let sleeping gods lie.

285:

I would want the ability to identify and cure sociopaths. Ideally the ability would be very quiet and non-obvious in it's operation so nobody can tell that I'm the one curing the sociopaths. In a perfect world I could spot and cure sociopaths as I watched them on TV.

286:

The trouble with hell is that it waits until people are dead. Modern society has no patience with such tedium, we want results NOW! Hell on earth, delivered quickly to you wherever you are:

In June this year, scientists from the University of Tasmania and the University of Technology Sydney published research showing that over the past decade the biomass of large fish in Australian waters has declined by more than a third. The results may have jarred with government claims of Australian fisheries being among the most sustainable in the world, but they closely matched official figures showing a 32 per cent decline in Australian fishery catches in the same period. The declines were sharpest in species targeted for fishing and areas in which fishing is permitted, but even populations of species not exploited by fishing declined across the same period.

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2018/august/1533045600/james-bradley/end-oceans


I'm beginning to think that any superpower that could kill a lot of people quickly would be fine. Maybe I should offer one of those X prize type things for the first person to kill a billion people? Because can be sure that one way or another, a lot of people are going to starve to death or be poisoned when we successfully exterminate all the fish (imagine a toxic algal bloom surrounding Bangladesh or in the South China Sea). The prize might end up going to the Koch brothers, or a US president... such is death.

287:

The trouble with killing a billion people is that you can't control the process: once you start it, you have no idea where it will end.

That realization is probably one big reason we haven't had WWIII yet.

The same thing goes for things like pandemics, famines, and system breakdowns of all sorts--starting one is possible, but figuring out where it ends is hard.

288:

If you're a bit more into Buddhist ideology, you can go with the assumption that all sentient beings without exception have Buddha nature, Cthulhu included. Helping Cthulhu realize that his own Buddha nature is identical with yours is probably a good way to not be killed. Or at least, to not be killed mindlessly.

289:

Superpower?
How about being able to alter or convert ( Including erasure & placement-where-none-was-before ) of the printed & written word ( In any language or script ) ....
I think that might have "very interesting" effects.

290:

Just the printed/engraved word or digital data as well?

It would be interesting if this superpower became common or known. What are the implications of oral history and memory being known to be more reliable than recordings?

291:

Yes, it's subtle, isn't it?
No physical overwhelming force, or flashy displays of "power" yet amazingly effective.

"Printed" as in displayed - including on a screen - & incluiding writing in to blank/empty spaces too.

NOTE: Any court case against someone with this power would automatically fail ....
And certain religious texts could become ... problematic.

292:

Court cases may all fail in the short term but longer term I would expect hearsay to make a comeback in a big way. Laws would probably have to undergo a radical simplification to the point that normal people understand them again.

293:

At least the USA, UK, Israel and Saudi Arabia have shown, repeatedly, that they are happy to blow a hundred people away to kill one political opponent - admittedly, only when those are from lesser peoples, and they are more circumspect when those are from their own. I am sure that Russia, China and others would do the same.

To dpb: ICBM's do not have to be armed with nuclear warheads.

294:

I know you can put non nuclear payloads on ICBMs, but you can't tell what they are loaded with from the outside so a non nuclear missile may very well provoke a nuclear response.

295:

The interesting thing is that is already being attempted by the usual culprits (both governments and megacorporations) on electronicly-stored data. The UK government has several times attempted to get central control over certain types of other people's data, and there are good grounds to believe that the desire to do more of this is one of the reasons for that.

296:

EC @ 293
Wrong way round.
Though the USA has always been more careless about erm "cllateral damage" - mainly because they can't shoot straight in the first place.
It's the Russians who are probably worst - see Beslan School & the cinema siege actions.

297:

You should read what I say more carefully. Neither of those were comparable cases, and the actions were NOT simply to kill a political opponent. I am fully aware that the Russians and Chinese are probably even more ruthless, but they have not recently done what I said. Furthermore, the innocents killed were some of theirs, not people they regarded as of less importance.

I was referring to the cases where occupied appartment buildings, wedding parties and even hospitals and schools were bombed simply because there was a report of a high-profile opponent being present. Naturally, all of the uninvolved people killed are demonised - including when they are small children. In recent decades, all of the first-mentioned countries have done that, but (as far as I know) neither the Russians nor the Chinese have. We WERE better than that, until we joined the USA in their illegal war against Syria; we are no longer.

298:

I'd like the superpower of being able to actually be neurotypical for a period of about an hour per day without it costing me a day's worth of stress, frustration and exhaustion. (Rather than being able to vaguely simulate it, at aforementioned cost, for about an hour a day at most). Or alternatively, I will take the superpower of being able to have an "OFF" switch for depression.

299:

We WERE better than that, until we joined the USA in their illegal war against Syria; we are no longer.

Obviously, I’m biased (having drunk the Kool-Aid, sat through multiple annual “Laws of War” lessons, etc, etc). So what I will ask is whether you can give an example where the RAF have knowingly bombed a hospital, school, apartment block in order to hit a high-value target. As opposed to the Russian Air Force, whose cluster weapons (long since removed from the RAF inventory) have been filmed on the ground in Syria.

If you can’t give an example “but you’re sure they’re doing it”, but in the same sentence insist that any evidence of the Russians doing so is “fake news pushed by a biased BBC”, then you should consider that it will make you appear... to operate on faith rather than evidence.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/28/russia/syria-widespread-new-cluster-munition-use

Hospitals, schools, apartment blocks, remember?
https://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2015/12/03/raf-air-strikes-on-syria/

300:

This would be quite useful in court cases.

DEFENSE: Your Honour, my client's name is Greg Tingey. The first principle of all law texts and cases is that no-one with such a name can be convicted of any crime. In fact, simply bringing Mr. Tingey to court means that HM Government must pay him £1,000,000. The precedents are crystal clear.

JUDGE: You're right, of course. Case dismissed! (to GREG) Please go to the cashier's counter right outside. They'll have the money for you.

301:

_Moz_ noted: "...we want results NOW! Hell on earth, delivered quickly to you wherever you are:"

It's called the Internet. Every day, we're besieged by news of hell on Earth. Being powerless to do anything but watch the suffering is pretty hellish imho.

_Moz_ reported: "In June this year, scientists from the University of Tasmania and the University of Technology Sydney published research showing that over the past decade the biomass of large fish in Australian waters has declined by more than a third. The results may have jarred with government claims of Australian fisheries being among the most sustainable in the world..."

Fisheries management is a ridiculously difficult problem in statistically valid sampling and prediction, making any claims of sustainability at best questionable. But when the annual catch is declining, year after year, it's sheer incompetence not to take the trend as a bad sign and immediately reduce the catch. Fishermen have a right to live; they don't have a right to destroy a food web. (We have the same problem in Canada, exacerbated by the fact that we don't really control our own territorial waters [for "reasons"].)

The Australian example is one of those blatant "canary in a coal mine" warning signs that we somehow manage to keep ignoring. Widespread death of corals due to ocean warming and acidification (due to CO2 absorption) is eliminating a keystone species group that sustains the entire Pacific food web (probably the Atlantic web too). I'm not confident this trend is reversible even if we immediately cut all CO2 emissions drastically. I think it's past time we were developing plan B for when this crucial global food web collapses.

302:

If we're assuming Cthulhu, we're also assuming a Lovecraftian universe, so it can be taken as a matter of natural law that "all things have Buddha Nature" is false.

But the idea of Cthulhu in a world where Buddha nature does exist has been contemplated:

http://www.hello-cthulhu.com/?date=2003-11-30

303:

How about "randomly sterilize" a lot of people? ("Randomly" so as to avoid any racial or cultural overtones.) Drop the world's population by 70 percent over time...

304:


> except make it fully recursively infectious

Reminds me of a John Brunner story, "The Stone That Never Came Down".

(Long time lurker, first time poster)

305:

Here's my opinion on whether sanctions were ever effective. I would say that in the post-Vietnam world, sanctions didn't work to get regimes to change their behaviors (with the exception of Belarus and Libya among others). However, the fear of sanctions I think did restrain dictators in their behavior so that they wouldn't get to the point where the US would impose them in the first place. In other words, sanctions didn't function in a rehabilitative role, they functioned as a deterrent. Losing the deterrence is a big deal.

Here's another thought about Turkey: If Turkey, Iran, and Russia were to create a free-trade area, it would have a population of 310 million. Compare that to "the West" (~1.1 billion including Japan/S. Korea/Taiwan) and China (1.4 billion).

306:

I think you don't understand the notion of Buddha nature. In any case, I'm having fun with the idea of a universe where there is Buddha nature, there is something called Cthulhu, and HPL is an extremely prejudiced and unreliable narrator.

307:

Bear in mind that "Herr Drumph!" is working very hard to alienate trading partners, so a free trade network without The United States could be a lot larger.

308:

Re: 'Herr Drumph!" is working very hard to alienate trading partners ...'

Think this was already mentioned in some previous topic thread but curious as to what is the economic cost for the USofA to rebuild all of the industries that it off-shored 20-30 years ago. And: will the 'rebuilding' just mean putting on a fresh veneer/skin over old abandoned tech or (more interestingly) developing completely new tech?

Some of the industries abandoned/to consider:

Steel mills
Textiles
Glass & ceramics/pottery for home/food use
Paper products

From what I can recall, all four industries above are quite messy environmentally and had high-ish work accident rates so a new/modernized version of these factories would probably use robotics. However, I'm guessing that robots could not operate under such 'work' conditions: robots need a completely pristine, well-ordered and predictable environment. This would require these industries/manufacturers to make factory conditions safe enough to use robots. Then once the robot-doc bills got too high for their shareholders, these manufacturers could over time bring in humans who would probably over time learn how to do as good a job while not being as picky about their work environment. And the cycle would start again ...

Another industry that would be hugely affected is the shipping industry. Based on the below, China, Japan, Greece & Germany currently own most of the trade/cargo ships. So any US led/centric trade embargo will automatically hurt them too. Greece is economically too small to hurt US trade, but the others could do some serious damage. E.g. Germany: Imagine USAian 1-percenters/yuppies willingly give up their BMWs, Porches, Audis, and MBs ... meh, not likely.

https://www.economist.com/economic-and-financial-indicators/2015/10/17/merchant-fleets

309:

Re: 'John Brunner story, "The Stone That Never Came Down".'

First off: Welcome!

Next: The plot description was interesting enough for me want to read/buy it except that the price on BigRiver (specifically its resale area) is way too high. Local libraries rarely keep paperbacks for more than a couple of years, so unlikely to be able to read this. Pity, as I have read Brunner before and quite liked him.

310:

Heteromeles noted: "I think you don't understand the notion of Buddha nature. In any case, I'm having fun with the idea of a universe where there is Buddha nature, there is something called Cthulhu, and HPL is an extremely prejudiced and unreliable narrator."

I think this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him"... though possibly with "him" swapped to "yourself"? *G*

SFreader was "...curious as to what is the economic cost for the USofA to rebuild all of the industries that it off-shored 20-30 years ago. And: will the 'rebuilding' just mean putting on a fresh veneer/skin over old abandoned tech or (more interestingly) developing completely new tech?"

Really interesting question. As you noted, a lot of these older industries were highly inefficient by modern standards and used outdated, highly polluting technology. They'll likely be replaced by newer, more cost-effective and lower-polluting technologies*. And these industries are familiar with the concept of amortizing startup costs over long periods**, so the economic benefits from restored employment are likely to significantly outweigh the high startup costs. That scenario's a bit scary because doing the right thing for the wrong reasons might garner enough votes for a second mandate. Which would be disastrous for the U.S. and the world.

* Assuming the EPA and associated regulation's aren't further gutted. Although I suspect that modern folk won't tolerate egregious pollution now that we know its human costs, so maybe the regulations will be less important than social pressure?

** Plus, friends of Der Trumpher will undoubtedly be the recipients of government largesse in the forms of outright grants, below-market-rate loans, tax dodges, tariffs, etc. etc.

311:

https://www.amazon.ca/gp/offer-listing/0385037163/ref=tmm_hrd_used_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=&sr=

Hardcover for $18. Kindle for $8. Paperback for $70.

Hardcover might be the way to go, unless you know how to unlock Kindle books.

312:

I will give you credit for having difficulty with English comprehension, rather than your usual deliberate misrepresentation. I said the UK not the RAF, and you seem to claim that the only person is culpable is the one who pulls the trigger.

I was referring specifically to assassinations. The fact that the UK has been passing data to the USA and letting them do the killing, despite the government's claims that it would do it, indicates that either the RAF isn't up to the job or someone knows that doing that is asking to be tried for war crimes even in the UK. To the best of my knowledge, Russia has not been doing the same (though it HAS been bombing as freely as the USA or Saudi Arabia).

313:

I am impressed by your optimism. Given what he has done so far, on top of the USA's already poor record, I don't think that environment issues will get much consideration. And it's amazing how much of a grant one can siphon off before getting out and leaving someone else to handle the failed delivery with a government that has a suitably laissez faire to the regulation and control of private enterprises.

314:

Might as well start from scratch, a lot of the people who knew how it worked then are dead now. It seems the prospect of sticking it to the unions was so attractive little or no thought was given to preserving a knowledge base.

315:

To answer the question, look at what China's been doing.

If these jobs were the same now as in 2000, then many of them would have already decamped for Vietnam, Ethiopia, or somewhere cheaper due to salary rises in China. Contra conventional wisdom, the salary of the average Chinese worker has been rising. The Chinese government has sponsored tons of automation, hidden subsidies, etc. to ensure that these jobs stay in China. Besides, I remember a Bloomberg article pointing out that of the 5 million manufacturing jobs that the US lost between 2000 and 2012, only 1 million were actually outsourced. Besides, the number of manufacturing jobs in the US has increased from 12.369 million on Jan 2017 to 12.751 million in July 2018.

https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES3000000001

317:

Business in the west has lacked the will to hang on to jobs that The People's Republic has, they likely read history books and noticed the role mass production played in the mid-century unpleasantness. This may make events extra interesting depending on how quickly new unpleasantness begins,

318:

Re: US mfg jobs

Okay, that's a teensy increase in absolute numbers coupled with a slightly greater decrease in manufacturing's share of the population's job category*.

Note: Second 'column' is US population, last column is 'share of manufacturing jobs based on population'.

01-Jul-18 328.03 12.751 0.038871445
01-Jan-17 324.66 12.369 0.038098318
Incr: 3.37 0.382

* Sorry - didn't look up available labor force/workers for these two time periods because those figures might not be accurate anyways because the US system has a built-in disincentive for self-reporting as 'unemployed', i.e., harder to land a new job if you ever were 'unemployed'.

319:

Re: '... they likely read history books'

If 'they' refers to the West: not a chance that the current bunch has dipped into a history book that was not authored by someone approved by the Texas-edu-board folks whose grasp of data/science/facts gave us Jesus riding a dinosaur.


Since you brought this up ... Please explain (in simple language or PowerPoint bullets :) ) why the common historical wisdom is: war is good for the economy.

320:

Zombie genes vs. cancer cells!

Couldn't resist posting this: so what else can seem bad might turn out to be beneficial? (Like eggs are now considered good for your heart ...) And what other dead genes are buried in our DNA that can re-activate into zombie genes.

https://interestingengineering.com/elephants-zombie-genes-could-help-save-them-from-cancer

Excerpt:

'"Genes duplicate all the time," said Vincent Lynch, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and the study's senior author. "Sometimes they make mistakes, producing non-functional versions known as pseudogenes. We often refer to these dismissively as dead genes."

Lynch and his team made a unique discovery while exploring the p53 gene. There's a pseudogene called the leukemia inhibitory factor 6 (LIF6) that came 'back to life' by being activated by p53. The LIF6 gene creates a protein that attacks a damaged cell's mitochondria and causes it to die faster.

"Hence, zombie," said Lynch. "This dead gene came back to life. When it gets turned on by damaged DNA, it kills that cell, quickly. This is beneficial, because it acts in response to genetic mistakes, errors made when the DNA is being repaired. Getting rid of that cell can prevent a subsequent cancer."

The researchers pointed out the elephants have eight LIF genes, but LIF6 is the only one known to be functional right now.'

321:

From your source:

"Manufacturing goods in China is now only 4 percent cheaper than in the United States, in large part because yearly average manufacturing wages in China have increased by 80 percent since 2010."

That was in 2017. If the factories were to have moved, they'd have already moved by now. That article merely speculates which country "might" take over from China. Yet in 2017, when costs were 96% of those in the US, the factories hadn't moved from China. Why?

When the article mentions China transitioning to higher value manufacturing, what they've actually been doing is transforming those existing jobs into higher-value manufacturing, probably by utilizing robots.

Don't get wrong, some factories have moved to Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Northern Mexico. However, the world now would look MUCH different if the bulk of the jobs which had initially moved to China for cheap labor moved to another country.

322:

Oops! - My eyes musta crossed when I looked at these figures because both raw and percent are slightly on the rise re: mfg jobs.

323:

> First off: Welcome!

Thank you :-)

> Next: The plot description was interesting enough for me want to read/buy it except that the price on BigRiver (specifically its resale area) is way too high. Local libraries rarely keep paperbacks for more than a couple of years, so unlikely to be able to read this. Pity, as I have read Brunner before and quite liked him.

It's short but entertaining.

324:

"Superpower? To spread enlightenment and universal compassion wherever I went, in at least a ten mile radius (to deal with potential snipers). After all, if everybody around me, including the supervillains, is overwhelmed by feelings of loving kindness for all sentient beings, the fights, shall we say, deescalate quickly."

No strategy is so benevolent or inspiring that it can't be put to offensive use, at least in videogames, possibly in real life. Plants Versus Zombies features a character in the Eighties Disco level who looks like a zombified version of singer Mickey Thomas, Starship's high tenor vocal replacement for Grace Slick. When he holds up a boombox, it plays such heartfelt torch songs, the emotions are too real, too honest for the plants to stay in defense mode. They drop their weaponry and trank out with sparkly hearts floating around them, while the zombie horde shambles on to victory. Boombox Zombie's motto is, he doesn't want to buy, sell , or process anything, he just really wants to eat your brains.

Another fictional illustration of this theme was the Star Trek where Kirk and Spock go back in time to meet Joan Collins working as a peace activist, trying to keep the U.S. out of WW2 with predictable results. Must have been the show writers' justification for the non-interference Prime Directive. If there's a moral to this story for bodhisattva wannabes, it would be to just let everybody work out their own salvation and/or damnation.

Hard to think of an actual historical example, where genuine altruism goes horribly wrong. Maybe the Crusades? Even those helped start the Renaissance, by exposing feudal nobility to eastern luxuries and so leading to more commerce and secularization. Stuff is never simple.

325:

Reminds me of a John Brunner story, "The Stone That Never Came Down".
Thanks, I've acquired a (legal) copy. Haven't read any of his work for a while.
(The class of such transformations has been on my mind for while, including how they might be instantiated (and whether they would need to be distributed evenly). Plenty of discussion above about well-meaning interventions, on the other hand(s) we're facing some pretty serious existential threats.)

---
In which a classic study is revisited (yet again), results confirmed.
Avian vision models and field experiments determine the survival value of peppered moth camouflage (
pdf, 17 August 2018, open)
Overall, we provide the strongest direct evidence to date that peppered moth morph frequencies stem from differential camouflage and avian predation, providing key support for this iconic example of natural selection.

326:

The Crusades were hardly altruistic; they were mainly about accumulating politico-religious (same thing at the time) good-guy coupons to improve your position at home, or restocking on good-guy coupons after having done something the Pope didn't approve of so he didn't start supporting the guy next door who was getting on your case. Belligerent Islamophobia for political gain is a centuries-old tradition.

327:

"Please explain (in simple language or PowerPoint bullets :) ) why the common historical wisdom is: war is good for the economy."

They wanna have a war to keep their factories
They wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
They wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese
They wanna have a war to stop Industrial Disease.

The idea is that by identifying a large concentration of Really Bad Guys over there it diverts people's attention away from making more petty good guy/bad guy distinctions among their own group, gives people a common aim that (nearly) everyone can agree on, and encourages them to all pull together in support of it, even if that means accepting some personal hardship that would normally be considered too much to swallow. The tricky part is fixing it so you can manage to quit while you're still ahead - making sure you have the fabled short, victorious war, as is always assumed will be the outcome but is rarely actually achieved. (Bismarck managed it, but the next two didn't...)

328:

"They" are the Chinese, and war being good for the economy is kind of past tense, it was the level of stimulus the United States economy needed to rapidly escape the depression. Note that it was massive production of implements of destruction that were mostly not state of the art, but quantity has quality all it's own. These days, The United States has been attempting to build a handful of devices so capable as to make up for opposition numerical superiority, and even without automation, will not create mass employment at WW2 levels, so it only benefits major defense contractors (May we call them design bureaus?) and a handful in close proximity to them. From the perspective of a handful of (Unfortunately.) influential people, war is still good for the economy, for most of us, not any more.

329:

"robots need a completely pristine, well-ordered and predictable environment"

The mining industry is going gangbusters for robots right now. Robots to drill holes (that humans drop explosives into). Robot diggers, truck loaders, dump trucks, crushers, trains and bulk ore loaders. All robots. (They like to call them 'driverless' but they're robots)

330:

Hey, I first read that one as "broken spectre" and wondered about some RPG system called "GR" till I got the "Gravity's Rainbow"[1] reference through wikipedia; I'm somewht stuck at the introduction of Geli at the moment, for, err, like 5 years. Might have something to do with my copy being in my bag when it rained and being somewhat damaged by water. A crossover surely sounds interesting, with a little bit of K syndrome thrown into the mix.

Hm, maybe "St Hilda of Grantham’s Home For Disgruntled Waifs And Strays" started out as "the White Visitation"? Going for the sheer number of cross references and Overdetermination should come somewaht natural for me.

Back to Doctor Gregorius von Domski, err, "von Domski MD", let's just say "House MD in Weimar Germany"[2], 'mkay?

Which reminds me about this book I came about when looking for English books during my holiday:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/180231/short-treatise-on-the-joys-of-morphinism/

Though there is little use in buying an English translation of a German book for me. ;)

As for the books I actually bouth, there is some Turtledove and one of J.G. Ballard's later novels, since I read many of his short stories in my early teens. Haven't read it till now, but skimmed the interview. Ballard muses about violence in media as way of overcoming boredness, though he might be somewhat off the mark for singling out CSI in relation to older police series, since the violence in "the good CSI"[3] is depicted somewhat clinically; we could debate about clinical detachment and coarsening being the same, similar or different, though personally I think it's somewhat different, and it helps with dealing with this shit of a world without a) shying away or b) getting indifferent to it. At least if you're careful...

BTW, yes, I'm back from my holiday, time to work through the notes I made. There is a nice hobby speleological trip that reminded me of Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Wall". But without the skeletons and rats...

[1] I first learned of Pynchon from that one, back in my late teens...

https://erowid.org/archive/hyperreal/drugs/psychedelics/phenethylamines/pihkal.review

pdf: https://isomerdesign.com/PiHKAL/Documents/pihkal.review.tyrone.slothrop.pdf

As for psychedelic phenethylamines, just read that one when resarching DNNs...

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2018/07/02/the-handeloh-happening/

[2] Googling for one of the jokes the friend told me "'Herr Hofrat,' he says, 'your ante-Semitism was well known to me, but your anti-Semitism is new.'"

[3] E.g. the Vegas one. New York is "the boring one", and Miami "the bad CSI"[3a], though of course xkcd has a lot of fun with it. As for actual science...

[3a] Let's not talk about "CSI: Cyber".

331:

BTW, one read of "GR" was "German Romanticism". Might be interesting...

332:

Tim H @ 317
Much more likely that the PRC is playing a very long game & is engaging in colonialism by other means, by imitating the VOC & the Hon the East inda Company with commercial not-quite-yet colonialism in Africa.

Pigeon @ 326
IIRC It wan't that simple ... a new/revised dynasty ( The Seljuk? ) had taken over in the area controlling the "holy land" & had started clamping down on / persecuting (etc) christian pilgrims, who had previously been given passgae rights - which then provaked a reaction-train.


EC @ 313
You really believe that there are "Double-Zero" Brit agents, going around killing people?
ThoughI might believe it of the US - especially in the case of Dr David Kelly, though .....
And certainly of whatever SMERSH is called this week.

333:

Might have been better if the PRC could do something besides replay the nineteenth century with more up to date tools, I fear the environmental policies, or lack thereof, is forcing expansionism.

334:

SEVENTEENTH century
The Brit & Dutch Companies were established 1600-1602

335:

"Think this was already mentioned in some previous topic thread but curious as to what is the economic cost for the USofA to rebuild all of the industries that it off-shored 20-30 years ago. And: will the 'rebuilding' just mean putting on a fresh veneer/skin over old abandoned tech or (more interestingly) developing completely new tech?"

Oh, it's worse. I'm involved with the Auto industry in the USA. There has been massive cross-border trade with Canada in this industry for several decades (long preceding NAFTA). For example one manufacturer has a very large engine plant in Windsor (across the river from Detroit). Many of those engines go into cars built in US plants.

Similarly, intermediate parts have been sent from Company A in the USA to Company B in Canada to Company C in the USA.

As this point, those parts would be taxed on steel/aluminum content *whenever* they crossed the border. By a hastily set up system run by people whose only talents are looting and trashing the place.

336:

While China's behavior does seem suspiciously like they want to reestablish the VOC and East India Company, here's why I think that they're hanging on to the factories.

1. China has wanted to minimize the social disruption associated with industrialization. China's 2015 was 55.6%, close to the global 54%. Note that until 2015, the central government controlled the number of people who urbanized. In 2015, the restriction was lifted ONLY for metro areas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbanization_by_country

2. Likewise, 29.5% of their labor force was in agriculture last year. For a country at its level of development, that's too high unless it's done by policy. Note that France (the main beneficiary of CAP) only has 3.8% of its workforce in agriculture.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_China

3. China has seen the economic power that Germany enjoys from having retained its manufacturing sector (Germany has the second largest trade surplus in the world). From the same link above, you see that 29.9% of the labor force is in industry. That compares with 24.2% in Germany and 18.8% in the UK

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Germany
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_the_United_Kingdom

4. It's much easier to move up the value chain if you're automating something your competitors aren't trying to automate. It's also easier when you're not competing with middle-tier countries such as Poland, Thailand, or Malaysia for higher-value work, never mind Germany.

5. What Tim H said holds about needing a manufacturing industry in wartime.

6. Speaking of history books, they only had to look at the trade policy of the Ming Dynasty, when China was the center of the world. Even during the Quing Dynasty, China was self sufficient in everything except silver. Spain got rich trading Inca Silver for Chinese goods, which were then exported to the rest of Europe. The Opium Wars started because the British Empire wanted to trade something besides silver.

337:

AS I SAID EXPLICITLY (in #312, actually), NO. Fer chrissake, READ what I post!

What has been done is to pass information onto the USA, which has then been used for the actual killing - whether the UK formally requested it, informally did, or was merely happy with the result, I can't say. But assisting in murder, even if you never go anywhere near the killing, is murder in all the UK laws I know and any reasonable ethical system.

338:

Actually no, you strongly implied that the UK did both, not "merely" passing on the information.
That correction, now you have clarified I will accept, with reservations.
However, although a criminal act, it isn't murder as such - it's "Accesory before the fact" to a crime - though that is still a very serious charge & rightly attracts severe sentences.

339:

Was not trying to misplace the East India company, was referring to "The Great Game", as practiced by the extended family of Victoria (Some of whose pairings might raise eyebrows in Dogpatch.). Nothing like money & influence to raise the spirits of a weary practitioner of power politics and affordable food grown on African plantations eases the bitter taste of your predecessors understanding the needs of industry.

340:

"Any reasonable ethical system" doesn't seem like something we'll see a lot of anymore, maybe not for a long time.

341:

What's really funny about Andromeda is her being the daughter of the king of Aethiopia; geographical identification is complicated, but let's just say they somewhat agree most depictions give her a serious race lift...

On the subject of superheroes, another book I bought was that one:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amazing_Adventures_of_Kavalier_%26_Clay

There might be quite some fun with superheroes from ethnic minorities in the Laundryverse, especially for themselves explaining their changes. Must be fun for a devout Muslim or Christian...

Also, some EDL and Daesh fanguys who think themselves superheroes and behave like supervillains.

And don't get me started on your usual confused pot-smoking World of Warcraft and Magic the Gathering playing, err, chav nerd hybrid. Jaxxie in "Rule 34" might be one example...

342:

Tim H. noted: "Might have been better if the PRC could do something besides replay the nineteenth century with more up to date tools, I fear the environmental policies, or lack thereof, is forcing expansionism."

Minor correction (I work with several teams of Chinese environmental scientists): China is developing some kickass environmental policies. The problem is the need to recover from 30-some years of national policy based on "economic growth at any cost", following a similar time during the Mao era. The current environmental policies are quite promising, but they're being implemented in the face of huge obstacles. These include the toxic legacy of CA. 70 years of environmental abuses, govt. ministers being rewarded for economic growth but not environmental sustainability, corruption that's growing even faster than the government's growing ability to catch and punish corrupt officials, nasty climate change in some of the most environmentally vulnerable parts of the country (the north), etc. etc.

There have also been some unfortunate, though well-intended and superficially plausible national-scale environmental programs. For example, it's generally known that trees are good for stabilizing soils and improving hydrology. So China implemented the largest tree planting program in world history (larger than all other nations combined). What the planners didn't know was that planting fast-growing trees that can't "live within their means" (within the available water at a given site) will actually worsen the site's problems. Similarly, "Grain for Green", a program to compensate farmers for abandoning unsustainable agriculture and animal husbandry to plant trees and restore degraded grasslands, was a brilliant idea, but because it was time-limited and didn't include training and funding for alternative forms of employment, most of the affected farmers are forced to return to their former unsustainable activities just to survive. There are also some very promising programs to reduce air pollution, but they're slow given the size of the Chinese industrial and domestic sectors (it takes a long time to change the course of something with that much momentum) and they're making mistakes such as using cooperative regional pollution control quotas without (imho) sufficiently severe restrictions (caps) for point-source emissions.

On the whole (i.e., if climate change doesn't accelerate), I'm optimistic that China will pull itself out of the hole it's dug. It's slowly learning from these lessons and improving its policies. But it's not going to be fast, and success isn't guaranteed. I only know that really smart people are working on the problems and they have huge budgets* to accomplish this.

* Of course, one of the authors I work with suspects China may be funding too much of its development based on a Japanese-style real-estate bubble. If so, there's a huge economic risk to its ability to sustain its current domestic problems.

343:

Hm, imagine a Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris fanboy superhero. He might be in serious cognitive dissonance, and it will be fun if he meets Al-Tibb boy when going after an Evangelical EDL supervillain sidelining for the Creation science Movement...

344:

Not once we joined in the illegal enterprise. And you don't even need the obscenely wide English definition of that, given that the UK and USA were working together to kill those people. Whether the UK requested the specific killings is irrelevant, given that there was the intent (by both parties) to kill the victims and any bystanders. Dammit, didn't you listen to OUR politicians saying just that?

345:

Overstatting the case, hysterically - again.
"Intent to kill ... and any bystanders" err ...no.
The Us is far too casual about "collateral damage", but they always seem to have had that problem - mainly because they don't seem to be able to shoot straight & worse, don't want to learn how to get it right.
I was & am as opposed as you are to the idiocy we joined into with "Gulf War II", never mind attacking Afghanistan rather than certain sections of Saudi after 11/9/2001.
But your persistent accusations that ALL of the Brit "establishment" is a guilty as the worst of the US & is similarly indistinguishable from the (even worse) behaviour of Putin's Russia simply not on.
You spoil your own quite valid case by these persistent exaggerations.

346:

Bollocks. They stated EXPLICITLY that they would attempt to kill any of the people on their target list, and even the most naive fool knows that they are using bombs for that - and that the speakers knew that. If your defence was used in an UK criminal court as a defence against murder with a hand grenade when it was thrown by someone else, and all you did was say "there he is", you would be convicted without further ado.

347:

[3a] Let's not talk about "CSI: Cyber".

Tried Netflix and the local library system for Derrick, S.O.K.O. and Im Angesicht des V.,no luck. But they had dvd & streaming of Engrenages first season, proved to be a real eye opener when I saw the investigator woman and the prosecutor guy both taking orders from Judge Roban,not the adversarial type of roles you see in U.S. police procedurals. Nice find! If you like Pynchon, you might try Mason & Dixon if you think you can put up with a 750 page mimicry of 18th century prose style, nouns capitalized like something out of Daniel Defoe. Although that may not be too different from modern German usage?

348:

On another note, what if a group of kids came together and coalesced into some strange version of the Justice League, exhibiting the kind of dynamic usually associated with terrorist groups?

(On another note, similarities between soccer and terrorism, who'd have guessed so[1]...)

[1] Do I really have to put up a big irony tag?

349:

Well, thank paws4thot, he mentioned it.

As for the German series I mentioned, it might depend somewhat how good your German is, since quite a few episodes are available on youtube or dailymotion, though legality is somewhat problematic.

You could also google for "mediathek", new episodes are free to watch for 7 days, though I'm not sure how the servers deal with foreign IPs.

As for Derrick, the series was exported to France and especially Italy, and there's even an article by Umberto Eco about it, roughly translatable as "Derrick or the passion for mediocrity". It was also exported to the Anglosphere, so in principle it should be available. You might google for a drinking game to make it bearable, I found none...

350:

Well, maybe Cthulhu is just one of those fierce deities...

351:

Yog-Sothoth would like to have a chat with you, the wheelbarrow across timelines is his stick. ;)

Actually, IIRC if you go by HPL's mythos Cthulhu is not that powerful; as seen above, Yog-Sothoth is much more powerful since he/she/it transcends space and time, and Azathoth is something like a creator god. It's just that Cthulhu is sitting on Earth, and when he wakes up he'll, err, rearrange it somewhat. Kinda like methan clathrate warming up or Watt's βehemoth...

As for other Mythos entities, Nyarlathotep is the one most involved with humans, the worse for us.

As for creator deities being uninteresting and people prefering local entities, I get reminded of Dharmic religions; Brahma is not that important,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahma

and then there is Indra getting delegated to supporting cast...

352:

Daal it like Danae. Solaris has much of enlightened Cthulhu? Aethiopia was the south long before Antarctica. A storm chaser base inside Jupiter, offworld skydiving? R'lyeh might be at home there.

Daphne Galizia might be like Jill Dando if non-mediated crime with thugs and corrupt politicians was a cultural thing and timed terror crime with the media incorporated was an equivalent cultural thing, almost Greek war techniques and Persian audience figures. The BBC seem more likely to single source stories when convenient, if you betray the regular military the betrayal of the anti-war auxiliaries is as easy as turning one's hand?

353:

Hmmm. Chinese environmental scientists are more worried about the north than the south? Guess I got it wrong: I figured the area around Shanghai was in more peril from climate change, as that they're pushing towards black flag weather with heat indices getting very close to humanly intolerable. It's survivable as long as the air conditioning works, but still.

354:

This is encouraging (if off the current topics for this thread), in an "adaptation to climate change" way.
Making aquafeed more sustainable: Scientists develop feeds using a marine microalga co-product
Towards sustainable aquafeeds: Evaluating substitution of fishmeal with lipid-extracted microalgal co-product (Nannochloropsis oculata) in diets of juvenile Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) (Open, 31 July 2018)
We report the first evaluation of co-product of the marine microalga Nannochloropsis oculata (N. oculata co-product) for replacing fishmeal in diets of Nile tilapia, a globally important aquaculture species.
...
Thus, N. oculata co-product, when replacing 33% of fishmeal in tilapia feed, led to fish performance and flesh composition comparable to that of fish fed the reference diet, but its nutrient digestibility needs to be improved to achieve higher replacement levels.

355:

Of course, the adults are herbivorous anyway, so having a processed diet is kind of, umm....

356:

As the linked wiki entry suggests, it was on SBS here in Oz through the 80s and 90s. Most people I knew watched Derrick! SBS’s subtitling service was excellent and the results were often exported. But unfortunately the usual way to possess content subtitled by SBS is to have recorded it off the television back in the day, so it will mostly be VHS quality at best. For instance, I would love to track down the SBS subtitled-version of the 1987 Ringo Lam movie City on Fire (the movie Tarantino remade as Reservoir Dogs) featuring a young(ish) Chow Yun-fat, possibly the most accessible version for non-Cantonese-speakers (I’m sure I saw it on SBS back in the mid 90s or so).

Australia today is both more and unfortunately less cosmopolitan than it was in the 80s and 90s. I don’t really know for sure if there are more racist dipshits these days or they are just more visible (because @reasons). SBS is still around, partly supported by advertising and therefore flying under the radar funding wise while the ABC draws the attention of the dipshits.

357:

I grew up in Malta (apart from the eight months of the year I attended torture camp, I mean school in England).
There have always been nasty vicious politics there, but I was reading Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Blog through some old friends on FB. Her assassination marked a new low, considering their EU membership was meant to bring them up from the former swamp of political violence and corruption.
One of the most thoroughly depressing things is that it proved that much of the apparent progress forward (as is true in the UK and USA) was illusory.

358:

Bollocks. They stated EXPLICITLY that they would attempt to kill any of the people on their target list, and even the most naive fool knows that they are using bombs for that - and that the speakers knew that.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/black-or-white

Bombs, and nothing else? How is it that you’ll contort yourself into denying that the Russian Government wasn’t directly responsible for deploying nerve agents in Salisbury, but insist on the worst case for the USA?

If your defence was used in an UK criminal court as a defence against murder with a hand grenade when it was thrown by someone else, and all you did was say "there he is", you would be convicted without further ado.

Except, that’s a flawed analogy. The target list, to those justifying it, is a list of those who pose a credible threat; who have declared voluntarily, loudly, and repeatedly that they are soldiers at war with the West; have killed before; and will kill again. The moral argument is whether to take them at their word.

If they are to be treated as soldiers (Iraq, Syria), then they have accepted that we should attempt to kill them, or allow their surrender until a peace treaty is signed and PoW return can be arranged. No whining about how Reaper+Brimstone “isn’t fair”; but with the consequent risk that disproportionate actions attract the risk of a War Crimes accusation. Hence small missiles, typically used against individual vehicles or positions, rather than indiscriminate use of High Explosive as you imply.

If, however, they are to be treated as criminals, we should attempt to arrest them, try them, and sentence them for each civil crime that they committed. Except... they can’t be extradited to face justice, and they will kill again before that opportunity arises.

A better analogy might be the police marksman, faced with an armed threat. At what point may they employ lethal force?

359:

Err, going through the article about the sociology of aspiring terrorists...

An actual Muslim superheroes comic.

There's even a TV version:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_99_(TV_series)

360:

Trottelreiner noted: "It's just that Cthulhu is sitting on Earth, and when he wakes up he'll, err, rearrange it somewhat. Kinda like methan clathrate warming up or Watt's βehemoth..."

I have a story in submission right now in which global warming is a plot to warm the Plateau of Leng enough that some of the elder nasties thaw out enough to become active again. (Warming is occuring faster at high altitudes and high latitudes.)

Heteromeles wondered: "Chinese environmental scientists are more worried about the north than the south? Guess I got it wrong: I figured the area around Shanghai was in more peril from climate change, as that they're pushing towards black flag weather with heat indices getting very close to humanly intolerable. It's survivable as long as the air conditioning works, but still."

I was focusing on one group of examples I know really well, which is the north. Desertification in northern China is a particular problem because much of this area is China's breadbasket, and if it dries up (see below), that's a major threat to food security, quite apart from the environmental implications. (Salinization due to excessive evaporation of water due to wind and sun and crops is the fatal sequel.)

As you note, I imagine that any subtropical to tropical part of the world is approaching lethal temperatures for us nekkid house apes. For example, I saw a heat map of Spain a week or so ago that had all temperatures around 40°C. Me, I stop functioning closer to 30°C, and since we've had a record-breaking hot summer, I've been hiding out under the A/C for most of August thus far.

But your mention of Shanghai reminds me of another likely disastrous environmental decision: China's "south to north water diversion project", in which they plan to divert gazillions of cubic metres of water that is "wasted by draining into the sea" into the arid north. Again, a great idea in principle -- if you ignore salinization and the effects on all the ecosystems that have evolved over millennia to depend on those ecological flows. The impact on the marine food chain alone is likely to be disastrous.

361:

"...most of the affected farmers are forced to return to their former unsustainable activities just to survive."

I'm surprised that the government didn't forcibly relocate them to a city or N. Manchuria?

Anyway, from what I understand, China's main problems environmentally are

1. About a fifth of its arable land is polluted
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-27076645

2. Aquifer depletion and pollution, a problem it shares with the US. According to the article below,
" An estimated 11 percent of the nation relies on this water source, which also supplies water for 70 percent of China’s coal production and 13 percent of its agricultural production." and "An estimated 80 percent of China’s groundwater is contaminated by toxic metals and other pollutants."

https://www.fluencecorp.com/groundwater-depletion-compounds-china-water-scarcity/

3. 46 cities in China are sinking. Fortunately, at least for Shanghai, the sinking is slowing: "City efforts have slowed Shanghai’s subsidence from up to four inches per year in the 1950s and 60s to 2/5 of an inch per year today."

https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2016/0625/Why-Beijing-and-45-other-cities-in-China-are-sinking

362:
For example, I saw a heat map of Spain a week or so ago that had all temperatures around 40°C. Me, I stop functioning closer to 30°C, and since we've had a record-breaking hot summer, I've been hiding out under the A/C for most of August thus far.

Hm, I guess the Italian Riviera around Genova was not that different. As for me, in summer it's the heat, in winter my SAD kicks in with social anxiety, and after a few days at home productivity falters...

It depends somewhat on humidity and air circulation, a dry wind might make the difference between lying down and being able to read[1]; another thing is adjustment, siesta or the Italian version of it becomes somewhat mandatory; you compensate by doing the things you want to do in the morning and the afternoon.

Please note I'm somewhat constrained in my adaptions due to sleep hygiene[2] and being somewhat wary of spending too much of the day in the dark, see SAD and melatonin.

And you really grow to appreciate a nice cellar.

So human productivity might not be a big factor in global warming, but I guess the thunderstorm with at least one tornado I saw might be a big one. Happens all the time, but now more often.

[1] Might be my steppe heritage. ;) I'm somewhat reminded of David Anthony's "The Horse, the Wheel, and Language":

"The Pontic-Caspian steppes are at the western end of a continuous steppe belt which rolls east all the way to Mongolia. It is possible, if one is so inclined, to walk, 5,000 km from the Danube delta across the center of the Eurasian continent to Mongolia without ever leaving the steppes. But a person on foot in the Eurasian steppes feels very small. Every footfall raises the scent of crushed sage, and a puff of tiny white grasshoppers skips ahead of your boot.
Although the flowers that grow among the fescue and feathergrass (Festuca and Stipa) make a wonderful boiled tea, the grass is
inedible, and outside the forested river valleys there is not much else to eat.
The summer temperature frequently rises to 110-120°F (43-49°C), although it is a dry heat and usually there is a breeze, so it is surprisingly tolerable. Winter, however, kills quickly. The howling, snowy winds drive temperatures below -35 °F (— 37°C). The bitter cold of steppe winters (think North Dakota) is the most serious limiting factor for humans and animals, more restricting even than water, since there are shallow lakes in most parts of the Eurasian steppes."

Wanted to read it throughly after skimming somewhat, though in the end walking through old railway tunnels and through the olive and citrus orchards and the eucalyptus "forests" won out. And you wonder if the walls holding back the terraces wer built by the Ancient Greeks or just 50 years ago...

Hm, now I remember some short excerpts from Camus about the Mediterranean I read years ago... ;)

[2] Naps make for problems shutting down in the evening. Or aactually at night.

363:

As for Camus...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRgR6xldmfg

Translation:
"I said: Jochen, look at it that way:/You're Godard and I'm Truffaut!/ And it's not too early for this insight: / You're Sartre and I'm Camus."

Also:
"This is not an action but a sex movie, everybody gets pounded."

(I guess I don't have to explain what Rambo III is, and let's just say Jochen Distelmeyer from Blumfeld is hardly the guy I'd like to MST3K it with in a drive-in theatre...)

364:

Ioan provided some additional problems in China. Water pollution is possibly the most severe (every time I've been to China, I've been warned not to drink or brush my teeth with tap water; more than 90% of China's bodies of water are severely polluted), but soil contamination is also a nasty problem. fwiw, it's also a serious problem in many parts of the developed world, such as cadmium contamination of rice in parts of Japan and arsenic contamination of rice in much of the U.S. But he also wondered: "I'm surprised that the government didn't forcibly relocate them to a city or N. Manchuria?"

China being China, the situation is a complex mixture of government-required (imposed) and government-supported (voluntary) relocation of many populations. For example, most livestock herders (and particularly nomadic Mongolian herders) have been forced to settle down in permanent agricultural communities, like it or not. The intentions are good (to prevent further grassland degradation, though this is primarily caused by Han herders, not Mongolians), but the consequences aren't; the relocation and division of land often is based purely on bureaucratic criteria rather than based on agricultural and environmental criteria. It also causes a loss of traditional Mongolian knowledge that has let these nomadic people use the grasslands sustainably for millennia.

Then, on the flip side, there are many voluntary ecological migrations, in which the government provides financial incentives, job training, and other support to encourage those who want to leave their degraded and unproductive land. (Peasant farming not being a particularly desirable career in China, there are many volunteers.) But, of course, there's a catch: When you're born in China, you're issued a certificate stating whether you're a rural or urban citizen, and if you're a rural citizen who moves to a big city in search of (say) a manufacturing job, the government won't generally issue a replacement certificate stating that you have the right to social services in that city. The result is that you lose access to medical, educational, and other services provided free or at low cost to those who were born with an urban certificate. There have been some efforts to solve this problem, but to the best of my knowledge, they're moving very slowly.

365:

Martin @ 358
Thank You
A further analogy ...
The IRA "Claimed - Publicly" that they were in a "War"
But the Brit guvmint, rightly or wrongly refused to accept that at face value & publicly determined that inside the British Isles at least ( note the terminology carefully ) their actions would be dealt with - if possible- by the normal criminal law, unless they happened to run across an Army patrol & were stupid enough to initiate hostilities.
Outside the Brit Isles was another game - hence the (entirely justified IMHO) Gibraltar incident.
IF the Brit guvmint HAD accepted that there was a "war" in progress, then they would have been entirely justified in waiting for a conference of IRA mamebers in an hotel close to the border, full of IRA people, & then flattening the entire building & everyone in it - but they did not do that ......

366:

Not giving the pIRA the war they wanted kinda-sorta deprived them of martyrs, by tying the hands of the Army—captured pIRA were dealt with as criminals in a legal system that didn't permit executions (don't ask me about torture in the first half of the 1970s, though, the use of harsh interrogation was a serious disgrace on the British army). Collateral damage was frowned upon because the collateral damagees were British citizens, at least in theory. Again: bad shit happened some of the time ... but with 20/20 hindsight we now have a couple of clear examples—Bosnia and Syria—of how much, much worse everything could have been if the government had escalated without restraint.

There's still a lot of blame to attach to the British government for the way the whole thing snowballed, starting with ignoring the Catholic civil rights movement in the 1960s (and earlier) and then getting into Bloody Sunday and the ensuing whitewash, but as civil wars go, the Troubles were relatively tame and restrained: no gas attacks, barely any mass executions of civilians, death toll of at most 0.1% of the population per year (in an all-out civil war the corresponding figures are 1-10% per year).

367:

Mark Raibert is of the old school of "let's build it because no-one else has ever built it".

And Softbank seem to have more money than DARPA, so it looks like Boston Dynamics are just building legged robots *because they are good things to have in the infrastructure pool*

Anymals have been running their legged robots around oil rigs, which makes you think there's a definite opportunity to tele-X all offshore plant...

368:

Having been a long day, I'm hearing Bill Murray in the back of my head "...and you will have saved the lives of thousands of registered voters!" IMHO, one of the better rationalizations of restraint. Now, if only some other wielders of power would think that way...

369:

Charlie @ 366
The "usual" Irish problem in fact - that there are AT LEAST THREE "sides" involved in any conflict, all with agendas that can vary almost for minute-to-minute.
The moment I first went to Ireland onwards ( 1965 ) I realised that it wasn't simple ...
And, in hindsight, pressure was building up, even then - fuelled enormously by the vast corruption & money siphoning going on on both sides of the internal Irish border - a major contributory factor, IMHO

370:

Doesn't this argument presume that devesting from China is as easy as investing there?

371:

Cheers; If you enjoyed Engrenages season 1, the later seasons represent an extended serial with the lead characters' (including Laure's team, Judge Roban, Josephine Karlsson) personal and professional lives having season to season continuity. I won't detail further.

372:

Actually, I'm pretty much assuming that divesting isn't as easy as investing. However, the original conversation was based on the assumption that these industries would not be competitive paying US-style wages, without massive automation. I was using China to point out that these industries either are competitive with US-style wages or that they've significantly automated to operate in that environment.

373:

Well well well, it seems that Beijing's new environmental policies are starting to show results:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-19/xi-s-clean-energy-drive-paints-bluest-sky-over-beijing-in-decade

374:

Yes. And that practical aspect is being completely mishandled today. But there are others. Let's just note that we are neither at war with Syria nor assisting its government nor as the UN authorised such action.

In theory, in English law (and Scottish?), killing is lawful only if it is done to counter an immediate threat to other lives. We can see that by the way that evidence of a 'shoot on sight' policy or individual 'shoot first, anyway' actions in Northern Ireland is treated as shameful and (where substantiated) sufficient to bring a case for murder, even three decades later. The Gibraltar killings inquest was an example of how desperate the government was to avoid being accused of that. Compare that with the attitude today (and shown above) when the victims are muslims. To describe that as bigotted is too weak.

And, as you point out, it's potentially catastrophic.

But, being nationally selfish, perhaps the worst harm has been to our civil liberties. It's not just that the state is snooping almost without limit, nor that people are convicted and imprisoned by secret trials that use evidence they are not allowed to see, nor that people have their citizenship removed by fiat. We are now in the situation where it is regarded as acceptable for state forces to kill even innocents, based on nothing more than the state's undisclosed claims.

Yes, that used to be SOP. But, as far back as any of us can recall and before that restarted, it was ALWAYS regarded as shameful and criminal, and SOMEONE would have been disciplined for it.

375:

Exactly this. You are perfectly on target.

Though I'm an American who regularly votes Deomcratic, I was very disappointed by the fact that Obama did not prosecute anyone for war crimes. I don't think he would have had to prosecute many people, possibly no more than 10 of the worst civilian offenders starting with Dick Cheney and the lawyers who signed off on the U.S. use of torture, plus perhaps 30-40 people from the U.S. military and the CIA. That would have been enough, I think...

The word is that he was worried about a coup. If he'd brought back the generals dismissed by Bush and kept the numbers of military people who would be prosecuted to less than fifty, I think it would have been a non-issue.

On a personal level I like Obama. I'd be perfectly happy if he lived next door to me. But the guy badly needed a spine, and not charging certain members of the Bush Administration for War Crimes is going to be an everlasting mark against his presidency.

376:

We are now in the situation where it is regarded as acceptable for state forces to kill even innocents, based on nothing more than the state's undisclosed claims.
Like the aforementioned Beslan & cinema sieges, you mean?

Troutwaxer @ 375
Actually TWO would have been enough - Cheney & whoever was next-highest-up the pole - "Pour encourager les autes" as the saying goes.
As for spine - he has plently, but you seem to forget that "Congress" was determined to block almost everything he did & he was not prepared to use Trump's extr-judicial means.

377:

Er, "based on nothing more than the state's undisclosed claims"? Are you SERIOUSLY claiming that it is even plausible that the hostages were in fact there of their own free will?

However, yes, the Russian state DOES behave like that, but you and Martin are claiming that it is EVIL because of that, and that we would never, ever stoop to such behaviour.

378:

There are three very useful and moral things he could have done without Congress's approval. First, as we've discussed, he could have tried some war criminals. Second, he could have tried some bankers. Neither of these things would have required approval from Congress. He could simply have turned the appropriate regulatory bodies, or the Dept. of Justice loose.


Third, Obama could have done something about Trump. I won't talk about my reasons for believing he could have done something before leaving office on line, but reading between the lines, he did have options.

There are a couple less-important moral issues where he could have done something as well, but these are the big three.

379:

Just happened to be editing a revision of one of the journal manuscripts that describes China's afforestation program. Earlier, I described it as insanely huge. Here are statistics that give a sense of the actual size: "China’s afforestation program affected a total of 3.4×10^6 km2, equivalent to 34.8% of the country’s land area."

Detailed breakdown of costs not included in the present paper, but include direct investment costs for planting etc. of 1.8×10^12 RMB annually; multiply by about 20% to get US$. Treat that number as broadly representative but needing qualification of the details, since I'm sneaking a break in mid-edit and don't have time to go hunting for details from the author's previous papers.

I often say that we don't have any experience with *intentional* geoengineering (global warming being unintentional), but I think that once the impacts of China's afforestaton program settle down, the project will qualify as the first direct evidence of the effects of serious geo-engineering. (Got to run...)

380:

For Greg and other butterfly fans (me!), just for the sheer prettiness of the diagram (from a paywalled Feb 2018 paper, via):
Dated Phylogeny Inferred Using Maximum Likelihood for the Full Dataset
"This tree represents 207 species out of some 18,800," Kawahara said. "So, it's a tiny, tiny fraction. But it's the first step."
(I don't see the paper linked here; google scholar finds this: "A comprehensive and dated phylogenomic analysis of butterflies"; not sure if legal)

381:

Water pollution is possibly the most severe (every time I've been to China, I've been warned not to drink or brush my teeth with tap water; more than 90% of China's bodies of water are severely polluted),

The "tap water" thing may be a typical stage-of-economic development issue. Not that there's really any such thing as "typical" stages of economic development since everywhere's different, but...

Europeans got big on bottled water (and wine at every meal, to some extent) because their tap water was bad. Bad enough one wouldn't consider serving tap water at a table. It depended a bit from country to country.

Modernizing Asia outside China (eg Thailand) often has similar issues now.

It's partly quality control in construction and infrastructure. Waterpipes carrying clean water to buildings and around town need to be uniformly good quality, without points of failure where polluted groundwater can seep in. Rapid development in an environment with less building regulation gives points of failure - and lots of new building piling on top of old infrastructure that's being rapidly added to makes that hard.

382:

EC @ 377
I would seriously hope that "our" side - meaning the Brits would never go so low as Beslan, yes.
I see no evidence that they have either.
They were HOSTAGES - it is the duty of the state to rescue as many as possible, even if it means (temoprarily) "negotiating" with the terrorists. And "we" have actually done that in the past.
OTOH, if there are no hostages involved, well, there's a book on the subject, it's a classic & it's called: "Big Boys Rules"

Troutwaxer @ 378
I am unfamiliar with US legal procedures - HOW could Obama have prosecuted, say Cheney, without Congress' approval? Simply ordered a court or agency to investigate? The FBI or one of the agencies that deals with external-to-the-US matters ( CIA? NSA? ). LIkelihood of getting a conviction, against the shitstorm of lies the ultra-right would put up?
Remember,that O is/was a lawyer himself ....
I must admit I'm confused.

As for Trump, that would set a dangerous precedent - I think.

Bill A @ 380
Beautiful!
However, this year, fewer numbers & fewer species of butterflies than last year - the appalling weather in late March probably had a lot to do with that.

Icehawk @ 381
Oh, come now, it's not safe to drink tapwater in the USA, is it?

383:

HOW could Obama have prosecuted, say Cheney, without Congress' approval? Simply ordered a court or agency to investigate?

Simply ordered an agency to investigate. In the U.S. courts don't investigate, they only judge. The agency tapped would probably have been the Dept. of Justice. In the case of military officers or enlisted, either the DOJ or request the particular service to investigate itself (which is not always useful, but sometimes gets very good results.) I think the key to properly investigating the services would have been to bring back (most of) the generals Bush laid off and move Bush's generals into the background. (One general in particular, a guy named Taguba, was very concerned with and serious about investigating war crimes, so naturally Bush made him go away.)

To give you a bit more information, the President in the U.S. runs the Executive Branch of government, which means that he's in charge of all the various agencies and also the Commander in Chief of the U.S. armed forces. So if there's a crisis involving pollution, for example, he can direct the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate without any involvement from Congress or the Courts. In the case of the courts, they are out of any investigation in the U.S. until charges are filed or a Constitutional issue is in play.

Congress can also investigate a problem, of course, and compel testimony, but a Congressional investigation is not a criminal investigation and will not result in jail time.* It is instead a fact-finding investigation so that Senators or Congress-People can gather facts and make appropriate decisions. Ideally such investigations are non-partisan, and generally The Senate does a better job of being non-partisan than The House.

Courts cannot independently investigate at all.

* Information gained via a Congressional investigation could be forwarded to prosecuting attorneys for a particular agency, once again, usually the Dept. of Justice, but this is not always done.

384:

P.S., tap water in the U.S.A. is usually very safe. There are exceptions, like in Flint, but that was the result of deliberate interference in the local decision-making process, and is generally understood as something which shouldn't have happened.

385:

Depends where you are in China.
I have been living and working in South China, about an hour from Shenzhen, for the last five years. While I probably would not want to drink the tap water in any quantity, the main reasons are because it is relatively heavily chlorinated compared to back home in England, and that usually it is not very cold.
I don't have any problems cleaning my teeth with it.

386:

Outside the Brit Isles was another game

Nope. Otherwise there would have been fatalities in Dublin, Donegal, and (possibly) Boston/NYC. PIRA/INLA/UVF et al were treated as criminals, as a policy decision, once direct rule was imposed in 1973.

You mentioned the excellent "Big Boys' Rules" - the point made by Mark Urban was that there was another policy shift after the Brighton Bombing; if PIRA was going to "make it personal" and escalate from phoning in warnings / bombing hopefully-empty property, and towards zero-warning attempts to kill the Prime Minister without regard for any bystanders (Conservative Party members, family members), then a message was going to be sent. Namely, that if you were caught with a gun or a bomb in your hands, on your way to kill someone, you were unlikely to be offered the chance to surrender yourself into custody. Warnings work two ways.

Gibraltar falls into that category. The IRA bombing team had the explosives, they had moved a car into position (granted, it was the placeholder, but the ATO was unwilling to declare it safe), and they were very definitely attempting to kill the maximum number of bandsmen and civilians. The ideal would have been to arrest them as they crossed the border in the car with the explosives, but who wants to bet all those lives on previous surveillance being perfect? (It wasn't - it took them a while to find that actual car-bomb in Spain.) By this time, PIRA had repeatedly demonstrated radio-detonation of bombs. As soon as the surveillance team were briefed that remote detonation was a possibility, the only response was similar to Op KRATOS. Namely, "action on compromised surveillance" was to kill the bombers before they could detonate any device. I wish that they had instead been arrested, to spend a long time in a concrete room; but I'll shed no tears for them - they got the end they deserved.

Mark Urban also argued (with statistics, and successfully IMHO) that this approach was counterproductive - it didn't reduce the number of terrorist attacks (I think he used South Tyrone as an example; the ASU was wiped out at Loughgall, but replaced by another within the year), it increased the numbers of martyrs, and persuaded more people to take up the armed struggle.

387:

Not giving the pIRA the war they wanted kinda-sorta deprived them of martyrs, by tying the hands of the Army

Yup. Although it's worth remembering that until 1972, the Civil Authority to whom the Army was supplying Military Assistance... was Stormont (i.e. the DUP, only without the same sense of frivolity and open-hearted tolerance of all). And that the "big stick" response was strongly supported by the majority of local (bigoted) voters.

You might be surprised that the Army as an organisation saw the Rules of Engagement as entirely reasonable; although less-thoughtful individuals (and Daily Mail readers) will always blow hard on the dog whistle of "tying the Army's hands", i.e. "shooting "them" is the only language they understand, we handled the Mau Mau that way,you know...".

Anyway, by 1972/73 the IRA had discovered (the hard way) that it wasn't going to win a shooting war. This was the Cowboys and Indians era; both sides learning their trade in a depressingly Darwinian way. By the late 1970s, both sides were much more professional - PIRA was far more careful and competent, the Army had (thankfully) sorted out its training and management of Internal Security so that the torture stopped, and reckless killing wasn't repeated on the scale of Bloody Sunday (but too damn late).

Anyway, as soon as Direct Rule is imposed, and Stormont is shut, the British Government changes tack. Internment is stopped, as is the "Special Category" status (i.e. allowing PIRA to treat prison like a PW camp - this was where a young "Brownie" and others carried out all sorts of ideological training, etc, etc.) The "Blanket Protest" of the mid-1970s was the PIRA reaction to the new policy of being treated as criminals rather than Prisoners of War. They started by refusing to wear prison clothing (they'd previously worn their own clothes) and escalated by smearing their faeces on the walls of their cells (hence, "Dirty Protest"). The ECHR heard the case, and pointed out that the wearing of prison uniform was entirely reasonable, and that they only had themselves to blame for the shit decoration.

One irony AIUI was that many of the "Special Category" prisoners became quite disillusioned by PIRA leadership when that leadership were allowed to run activities within the prison; later prisoners had a common enemy to blame, and didn't get quite as disillusioned.

388:

In theory, in English law (and Scottish?), killing is lawful only if it is done to counter an immediate threat to other lives. We can see that by the way that evidence of a 'shoot on sight' policy or individual 'shoot first, anyway' actions in Northern Ireland is treated as shameful and (where substantiated) sufficient to bring a case for murder, even three decades later. The Gibraltar killings inquest was an example of how desperate the government was to avoid being accused of that. Compare that with the attitude today (and shown above) when the victims are muslims.

I'm uncertain as to the point you're making here - please could you give an example?

For instance, when a vanload of PIRA terrorists were killed as they attacked the RUC station at Loughgall, there was no shame. They weren't forced into the van, they had attacked other police stations (and killed before - the recovered firearms had been involved in seven deaths), these weren't innocents. A bystander was tragically killed (two brothers driving close behind in a van, were assumed to be part of the ASU), but there were no attempts to victim-blame Anthony Hughes. The ECHR only criticised the UK Govt for failings in the inquest process, (and that they had breached the human rights of the dead terrorists in doing so), but not for the use of lethal force.

How many Muslim terrorists have been shot by the UK police? Compared to how many have instead been arrested, charged, and convicted? Because my belief is that the number of "Muslim terrorists killed by UK Security Forces" is currently four. One at Westminster, three at London Bridge - all of whom had already killed multiple people by the time any armed police arrived, were in the act of attacking others, and made no attempt to surrender.

389:

Martin
Thank you - that is all much clearer, now.
The point I was trying to make ( & screwed-up on ) was that IF the Brit guvmint had decided to take the IRA at their word & say "OK it's a war" ...
Then you are allowed to kill "them" wherever & whenever you find them & it doesn't (really) matter which bit of land they are standing on at the time. That may be the legal position - but you will note that I very carefully did not take any stance at all on whether that was a "moral" position or not.
Now, in hindsight, I incline to the idea that "we" were correct, but at the time, the temptation to say: "OK - you want a war, let's see you handle one then." - was very great.

390:

Re: 'I was very disappointed by the fact that Obama did not prosecute anyone for war crimes.'

Considering that Obama was a pretty bright constitutional law scholar, I'm guessing he probably concluded that he did not have an open-and-shut case therefore left it open for his likely successor -- another pretty bright constitutional law scholar -- to pursue. Unfortunately, as we're reminded several times/tweets per day, someone else (with approaching-zero constitutional law knowledge) got elected.

BTW - just read this - MSFT is offering a 'democracy protector' for free to select/accredited US bodies.

https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2018/08/20/protecting-democracy-with-microsoft-accountguard/

391:

Re: 'They wanna have a war to keep their factories
They wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
They wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese
They wanna have a war to stop Industrial Disease.'

Nice! And kinda skewed towards today's perspective.

I'm curious about this 'war is good for our economy' was first sold to the masses including which key economic benefits they thought they were pursuing: e.g., in agrarian society, manpower, fertile lands for plant and animal farming would be the key draws vs. mid/late 20th century where oil fields would be more highly prized.

392:

The rumor among Democrats in the U.S. is that Obama decided not to pursue war crimes trials because he was worried that the military and/or CIA would mount a coup. Coups are not the usual American style, and the effects of war crimes trials could have been mitigated with the announcement that only a small number of people would be charged.

I don't know how accurate this is, so I guess we'll have to wait until Obama writes his autobiography.

393:

Re: '... military and/or CIA would mount a coup. ... so I guess we'll have to wait until Obama writes his autobiography.'

Hmmm ... so if his 'White House years' autobio doesn't come out for a while it might be because he's waiting for the old guard to retire, die, or (most likely) be re-org'd out of their job?


394:

Swedish series "Wallander" got me interested in foreign cop shows when I started noticing differences in how European police generally have freer access to wherever they want to go to investigate crimes, more than the U.S. anyway. Might be a greater emphasis on public order over property rights, or more concern with social cohesion. In some cases from an American perspective they seemed to act like social workers with guns, at least in the popular media portrayals. Not wusses, far from it, I'd think the last kind of cop a criminal would want to deal with is one who could freely interfere without a lot of fuss and bother about property rights.

395:

And there's no rule that Obama must write an autobiography or any record of his time in office... I frequently see pictures of him on a nice beach with Michelle, so maybe he isn't going to write one. (Good on him, I say, if the price isn't right!)

396:

About Obama...

My original take on him was that he was a big-business democrat (as is Pelosi). Remember he came in when we weren't sure whether it was going to be a Great Recession or the New Depression, and keeping the economy from tanking was his first mission. To do that, he did three things:
--believed his advisors that big business was the only mechanism to fix the mess caused by big business. I don't believe that, but I can see where he was going.
--Categorically stated that he wasn't going to prosecute anyone in the Bush administration. The problem there was that the Bushies had a lot of supporters, and I think he wanted to unite the country, rather than divide it.
--Didn't get assassinated. Thing is, he was a target already, for the "unforgivable crime" of being a black man who was better than almost all white men. And he knew he was a target. If he'd gone after big business to clean up the system and prosecuted the monsters that a lot of people still think are heroes, I think he was afraid that he'd get shot by a "lone wolf" dog-whistled up by some right wing propagandist painting him as the tip of the Muslim takeover. You don't need the CIA with the lone wolf generators we have today in the US (poor mental health care, ready sources of infinite amounts of violence-inducing propaganda, ready access to guns, and ready access to gun training).

Looking back now, I think he more correctly understood the depth of racism in the country than, say, I did (shocking, I know). Still, I think he was a bit too ready to let Big Biz and Big War off the hook, because it didn't pacify them, it empowered them, and we're still dealing with the residue of that same mess today. Their current plan is that they'll enrich themselves by trashing us, and then if they get voted out, the democrats will be too busy cleaning up to take care of them. This has to stop for this country and its allies to survive.

I also remember working as an environmentalist throughout the Obama years, and to be brutally honest, I didn't notice a change between him and Bush. There's a lot he could have done, but didn't. The politest thing I can say about him is that he didn't get environmentalism.

397:

I'm in about 99% in agreement with you. The one place we probably disagree is in our assessments of Obama's character... I see him as someone whose spine wasn't up to carrying a presidential load, and I don't think you see him the same way. YMMV, I guess.

398:

I used to think he was spineless, and he might be. On the other hand, he was governing while black and didn't get shot, which is a tricky accomplishment in itself. Guess the question is, what do you think of Biden as US President?

399:

I think the answer is that Obama was better than both McCain and Romney, (and at the time I preferred him over Clinton.) IMHO McCain wouldn't have let the war crimes slide, but he would have been a disaster in other ways.

"President Biden?" Certainly not ideal.

400:

The politest thing I can say about him is that he didn't get environmentalism.
City person, perhaps. He did get climate change, though, and was/is definitely concerned about it, and was known to occasionally bring scientific papers to briefings (haven't found a source on that). We can know that he didn't do enough (and he'd argue the same I think), but on the other hand contrast his publications list and legislative/regulatory/treaty record with that of our current POTUS DJT.

The irreversible momentum of clean energy (Barack Obama, 13 Jan 2017) (opinion piece)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=barack+obama
(14 items in search results)
https://qz.com/881780/barack-obamas-article-in-the-journal-science-is-his-thirteenth-peer-reviewed-science-paper-during-his-presidency/

Good point about avoidance of assassination. People often forget about that aspect of his presidency.

401:

That's the other half of the answer as to why Obama didn't get heroic--the qualities of his second in command. Speaking of 2020, guess who's on the sampling menu for the Democrats?

402:

It's also just partly different biomes. Mild digestive discomfort is to be expected any time there is a minor change in the flora inhabiting our water supplies. It's probably the only thing we regularly ingest in anything like an untreated or unsterilised manner given most food stuffs are packaged or cooked.

403:

I almost hate to ask. My dream president is Elizabeth Warren with a mandate to "handle the corruption."

404:

I should also note that IMHO, Obama ran too soon. As a freshman senator he hadn't developed the deep relationships with his colleagues held by other, longtime senators. Had he run in 2020 he would have had some really good relationships on both sides of the aisle and probably gotten a lot less crap from Congress. (Or maybe not. These days to be a successful Republican candidate you need to have a doctor's note proving that you have tertiary syphilis or rabies, or be caught on camera torturing prisoners in your volcano lair!)

405:

Here's where the early predictions are:

https://www.predictit.org/Market/3698/Who-will-win-the-2020-US-presidential-election

Note that I could go for Kamala Harris the current lead. I voted for her as senator.

Unfortunately, I think she'd get eviscerated in the election, for various reasons, including (sadly) being a woman of color with a white husband (who's Jewish), who has no birth children. As some political hack pointed out, can you imagine her husband (who's a prominent attorney) campaigning on her behalf at the Tri Delts or at a historically black college, as Michelle Obama did for her husband? I'll admit right off that this is unfair and that she should be judged on her politics as an (ahem) freshman senator. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans go for the whole mom and apple pie thing in looking for a US President, who (unfortunately) has to do the symbolic duties of the British monarch and the political duties of the PM simultaneously.

406:

What about I-forget-her-name form Peurto Rico who trashed Drump? ( mayor of P.R. city - ah: Carmen Cruz )
Is she eligible?

407:

Manafort found guilty of 8 of 17 counts, and Cohen pled guilty to 8 counts as well today, including campaign finance violations "at the direction of a candidate."

Trump is having a very bad day.

408:

I was only away for my vacation for about a week or so, and I was checking on this discussion again when I thought I found something familiar.

The whole concept of dismounted infantry is taking a bit of a hit at the moment, with the Russian Army apparently using small UAVs to cue artillery strikes in Ukraine - on a five minute cycle (a couple of Ukrainian battalions have been hurt badly this way). No protected mobility, and you’re just another artillery target.

http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/2057141/

Long story short: beginning of August, militants report Ukrainian "army" drones dropping off wi-fi microphones and grenades on positions that are supposed to be neutral. Wi-fi microphones detect movement and the artillery fires on the position. And I'm not even talking about daily constant violations of ceasefire and them targeting journalists on the border - that goes without saying.

I'm still wandering in what kind of rose-tinted world people like Martin are living all the time.

For the reference, something I've learned through the years. American international politics 101: always hurry up blame first. If your enemy doesn't respond, then you can say he admits it. If he does not admit it, you can say that he obviously lied. If he responds "no, you just did it yourself, you ****" then you can say "that's whataboutism".

409:

European police generally have freer access to wherever they want to go to investigate crimes, more than the U.S.

It's partly the inquisitorial compared to adversarial model of justice. The Justinian/Roman model says the police are there to find the truth and let the results fall as they may, where the British and their colonies favour a more gladiatorial model - may the strongest case win. To them the police are very much on the side of the prosecution, and limits on their powers are to reduce the grossly one-sided "one accused against the mighty power of the state".

There are arguments for both models, and in practice most states use a mixed model even when they claim purity (and the US, of course, suffers badly from "not invented here", the delusion that even the tiniest difference between the US and foreign makes comparisons impossible, and of course that if an idea wasn't invented in the US it is suspect and probably stupid... like "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" or that weird Greek nose-counting bizzo instead of having a wise ruler anointed by god(s))

410:

I'm still wandering in what kind of rose-tinted world people like Martin are living all the time

Would that be the rose-tinted world where Russia didn't supply the SAM system that shot down MH17, didn't lead, train, supply (and when necessary, reinforce) the Donbass rebels, whose soldiers aren't dying in the Ukraine, and whose little green men didn't invade and occupy Crimea?

The one where Russian traitors don't get a dose of nerve agent in rural England, where Russian political opponents don't get a dose of radiological poison in London, and where Russian investigative journalists and politicians aren't arrested or murdered?

Remind me, which one of us is believing its own leader's "rose-tinted" propaganda?

411:

For Donald Trump, the perfect song to celebrate Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP5Xv7QqXiM

412:

I don't know, I did not live in here myself. That'd be the other side of the rose-tinted world, which is it's opposite, like obverse and reverse of a coin. I suppose, people draw it in their heads when they imagine someone who does not agree with their opinion, much like little kids draw people on the other side of the worlds walking on their hands.

I don't need to have anything of this kind of worlds, since I live in the real one. This week, I was flying to the city that was rebuilt for 2014 Olympic games (I did not fly anywhere for over 20 years). I visited the region that was torn by war with Georgia and isolated by sanctions for decades, I've seen the desolation left behind. I met with people from all over the country, from Crimea, from Eastern Ukraine who came there to work seasonal jobs or to visit resorts.

And I don't need to imagine huge constructed worlds from mainstream media to know that everything of that wouldn't happen if it would turn out different. If my country would just be so kind and stupid enough to submit to so-called "civilized" demands. If it would believe in benevolence and hand over it's sovereignty. This is how it works - sometimes there are things you have to confirm with your own experience, and to think out with your own mind.

413:

If my country would just be so kind and stupid enough to submit to so-called "civilized" demands. If it would believe in benevolence and hand over its sovereignty.

"Civilised demands", such as abiding by the agreements that it signed freely?
Budapest Memorandum of 1994?
Membership of the OPCW, since 1997?

"Handing over its sovereignty" by not deploying chemical and radiological weapons in other countries, invading its neighbours, or shooting down airliners?

414:

On the other hand (and circling back to the Obama Administration's shortcomings, there's this: The Mueller investigation is showing how badly we’ve failed to prosecute white-collar crime.

415:

Greg Tingey @ 382:

Troutwaxer @ 378
I am unfamiliar with US legal procedures - HOW could Obama have prosecuted, say Cheney, without Congress' approval? Simply ordered a court or agency to investigate? The FBI or one of the agencies that deals with external-to-the-US matters ( CIA? NSA? ). LIkelihood of getting a conviction, against the shitstorm of lies the ultra-right would put up?
Remember,that O is/was a lawyer himself .... I must admit I'm confused.

As for Trump, that would set a dangerous precedent - I think.

For Cheney et al, having the Attorney General appoint a Special Prosecutor with power to empanel a Grand Jury would be the way to go. The Special Prosecutor could draw on the resources of any appropriate agency with information relevant to the investigation.

IF you were going to do it, that would be the way to go about it. Obama's Justice Department going after Cheney would have set a far more dangerous precedent than going after Trump. In 1993, Clinton's Justice Department wanted to prosecute Republican electoral dirty tricks & rat-fucking from the 1992 election that rose up to levels exceeding Watergate. Clinton chose to take the high road and not prosecute as a gesture of good will. All that got him was Whitewater and Kenneth Starr. Obama should have known better in 2009.

I assume, by "Obama could have done something about Trump" means they should have PUBLICLY announced an investigation into Russian ties to the Trump campaign BEFORE the election? That would have been wrong. There are constraints in law and there are political constraints. Obama did seek to get a joint statement out of the Congressional leadership from both parties condemning Russian interference, but Mitch McConnell & Paul Ryan stonewalled him because the Russian interference was benefiting the GOP. They put partisan advantage ahead of country.

What I do fault Obama for is failing to prosecute any of the Wall Street crowd for the frauds they perpetrated in creating the 2008 banking crisis. And I fault him for not seeking stronger rules to prevent it happening again. The watered down rules enacted in the aftermath are so slack as to be meaningless. And even those rules have already been negated.

The Democrats do seem to have a hard time understanding that Republicans don't believe any rules of decency and fair play apply to them.

416:

Troutwaxer @ 403:

"I almost hate to ask. My dream president is Elizabeth Warren with a mandate to "handle the corruption.""

Any Democrat would be a better choice than Cheetolini Il Douchebag. The only thing worse would be Pence.

I'd vote for Warren, but I think she'd be in a better position to "handle the corruption" where she is now in the Senate. I think the way things stand now, I'd vote for Biden over Sanders. If Sanders wants to be the Democratic candidate in 2020, he should register as a Democrat already.

417:

Greg Tingey @ 406:

What about I-forget-her-name form Peurto Rico who trashed Drump? ( mayor of P.R. city - ah: Carmen Cruz )
Is she eligible?

“No person except a natural born citizen* or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.”

All persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, are citizens of the United States at birth.

I don't know if she meets the age requirement and might be disqualified on the "fourteen years a resident" requirement. OTOH, it doesn't say fourteen "continuous" years, so someone who was born in Puerto Rico and lived in the US as a child before returning to Puerto Rico as an adult could meet the residency requirement.

418:

Biden will be 77 in 2020 and 81 in 2024. Sanders will be 76 in 2020 and 80 in 2024.

It would be truly awesome if whoever is elected in 2020 was born on August 9, 1974-- the date Nixon resigned.

419:

Heteromeles @ 414:

"On the other hand (and circling back to the Obama Administration's shortcomings, there's this: The Mueller investigation is showing how badly we’ve failed to prosecute white-collar crime."

If that's supposed to be a link, there doesn't seem to be any URL? Although, the abject failure to prosecute white-collar crime extends back far beyond Obama's advent into office. It's pretty much a defining feature for every administration since Reagan.

FIXED-Mod

With the minor exception of the Savings & Loan Crisis & Bernie Madoff (whose crimes were so egregious they couldn't be whitewashed), there's been no real enforcement against Major white-collar criminals because of fears of "Too big to fail" and "systemic risk".

The reason Bernie got prosecuted was his swindle wasn't big enough to take down the whole system (plus he was scamming the 1%).

420:

"Civilised demands", such as abiding by the agreements that it signed freely?
No, of course not. The agreements in US foreign policy is to be signed for sole purpose of making other countries abide the rules and US to be free of them. "Civilized demands" is the process of establishing more of such rules, naturally. As I mentioned before, the only way to make US to abide to something is a threat of immediate and unavoidable retaliation.

421:

For a lot of Americans and others around the world "bankers" = "Jews". You might want to take that into account when you read polemics about how the "bankers" are all guilty of unspecified crimes and should all be rounded up and prosecuted in kangaroo courts and locked up for being "bankers".

White-collar crime, i.e. financial crime is difficult to define in many cases, difficult to prove in court and difficult to work through in front of a non-technical jury ill-versed in financial law and finance operations to get them to return a guilty verdict. Just collecting the evidence if any can take years of painstaking records searching, subpoenas for messages and diaries etc., sworn testimony, before deciding whether the law as recorded in statute has actually been broken. Once they go to trial they can last years, literally -- at least two white-collar corruption trials in the UK have run for two years in court with the investigations leading to charges being brought spanning a decade or more (Google Jubilee Line corruption trial for details of one such trial).

In many cases the train-wreck financial shenanigans that helped cause the last recession were carried out under very shady but legal-by-statute operations. There was nothing in law against offering cheap mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, for example but that was a major driver of the crash. Derivatives based on bad mortgages? Again, good to go in law since derivatives were often used in the insurance industry to spread good and bad risks. There is no criminal offence of conspiring to abide by the letter of the law.

422:

You really need to watch Engrenages (aka Spiral in some markets. "Oh no, it is zat Eengleesh idiot who thinks he can speak our language" time, and yes BBC I am looking at you). Despite being set in France, and using the "code Napoleon" as the basis for criminal law, they make no bones about actually doing things like illegal searches.

423:

I'm agreeing with this, with the observation that for some decades now model-makers have only half joking divided subjects into 2 categories, aircraft and targets.

424:

Yes
Even after the sharp lesson they recieved 1852-6 about NOT signing international treaties ( Specifically the one on "Private Ships of War" ) they still don't seem to get it, do they?

425:

Off topic, but we're past #300...

Charlie, any intent to head to the antipodies in July/Aug 2020 for CoNZealand?

426:

The Justinian/Roman model says the police are there to find the truth and let the results fall as they may, where the British and their colonies favour a more gladiatorial model

That's such a total misunderstanding of the historic role of police in the English (and Scottish) judicial systems that I don't even know where to begin taking it apart.

For starters you're confusing policing with law. But consider that the "British" system encompasses Scotland, which still runs on (modified) Roman law but shares a common model of policing with England. For another, look into the rules requiring disclosure of evidence discovered by the police to the defence in any criminal trial: if they don't disclose evidence that might cast doubt on the prosecution case, that's grounds for a mistrial or a miscarriage of justice appeal.

Perhaps the distinction you're looking for is between the Peelian model of policing and the continental Gendermarie model. One posits that police are simply uniformed citizens upholding the law and protecting the public in an organized way; the other is basically "men at arms", uniformed agents of the state enforcing state policy. The two models blur at the edges in practice, but it's very noteworthy that the USA in practice seems to run along the lines of the continental model (protecting authority against public disorder, rather than protecting the public).

427:

Assuming Brexit hasn't bankrupted me by devaluating my currency and/or shut down international travel, then yes, I plan to be in NZ for the worldcon in 2020 (and a few weeks either side as well).

428:

@ > 300, I remember that the rather uncertain present condition of cosmology has come up before and note this:

https://xkcd.com/2035/

430:

"protecting authority against public disorder, rather than protecting the public"

Of course the Peelian model is to protect the public - but when the chips are down, Britain has always followed the Continental model. Consider the arrest and torture of suffragettes, the Battle of Orgreave, the Poll Tax riots, and all the modern techniques such as "kettling". And that's before you look at policing in Northern Ireland, which is its own little circle of hell. I'm sure a lot of regular cops are following Peel, but their bosses are following whatever the government of the day says, and if the PM says "frog" then they jump.

431:

I have a simpler solution: I have a mulching (electric) mower, and leave it where it lies. Don't have to fertilize, or reseed,,,,

432:

Well, yes, but then there's HR.... You need at least a 2yr degree to get a job as a secretary, um, sorry, "administrative assistant".

433:

Sanctions may be ineffective if
1. the other country is outside of your sphere of influence, which would include your personal/company bank accounts not being in the sanctioning country
2. Lesser leverage on your trading partners
3. They need something from you (i.e., oil)
4. Let's not forget pissing the country that you're trying to sanction off, and the populace gets their back up.

But let's move on to your assertions about strikes. The logical implication of what you say is that no one should strike, Ever. Because it will make other people mad.

And I suppose the teacher strikes in the midwest this year didn't work, either.

And the only reason that you would lose support from parents is if the government had supporters in the media, and drowned out your message WHY you were striking. In this year's case, there was enough coverage such that the parents understood, and they attacked the school board and legislatures.

DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT ANY UNION GOES ON STRIKE UNLESS THEY HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE?

434:

Superpower... I think all I'd need is the inhale the year or two of math courses that I never got to, so I can finish my Famous Secret Theory.

Superpowers? When I grow up, forget the rest of those silly titles, Pope or President or Iron Man, I want to be Dick Seaton (ref: Doc Smith).

435:

Absolutely. Why, my doctors and such *laugh* at me: when I was being treated for cancer in '01, I got treated to a "short light" course of radiation, and I mean, like, everyone knows radiation gives you super powers and a Spandex (tm) suit (I'll take the one with the cape, please). My docs told me they'd come with the bills, but the bills came, and went, and no powers, no Spandex suit.

Very annoying.

436:

There's also the issue that you don't have the fine scale control to decide *which* billion people get killed. For example, how about that include all stock traders on Wall St., and their bosses, but not the cleaning people, or elevator repair people, or the programmers or admin assistants....

437:

Add "heavily educate women, since it's a documented fact that the higher the educational level of a woman, the smaller the family.

439:

Yes. Like that book. Force you to PAY ATTENTION.

Of course, the entire funnymentalist movement would collapse in short order.Actually, as I think of it, it'd be *really* hard for any True Believer to stay in that mode, unless they were seriously neurotic.

440:

Y'know, I read yct about rebuilding the offshored industries... and a thought struck me (ouch!): that we've gotten rid of all the old plants without the "assistance" of some thousands of bombs, the way Europe modernized its industry. Which, I suppose, is a step up, unemployment rather than being killed.

Still, a couple of five year plans might have worked better.

And before anyone jumps up and down about how large scale long-term planning doesn't work, I recently read something - I thought it was Krugman, but maybe not, noting that the original economic school argument was that you couldn't compute such things... and that, oddly enough, whatever else you think of them (phaugh!), Walmart does it right now.

441:

Where are you located? UK? US? Where?

Also, consider https://www.biblio.com/bookstores/science-fiction/ - you might be able to find it used for a reasonable price.

I'd actually loan you my copy, but then, if you didn't return it, I'd have to track you down like the dog that you are....

442:

Kirk and Spock go back in time.... You're speaking of what was, arguably, one of the best shows of Trek Classic, City at the Edge of Forever, written by Harlan Ellison.

I think your understanding is off: for one, remember that WWII ended about 22 years before. Also, that Scotty had fought in WWII. No, it was about Kirk wanting to change history, so that he could be with her, and Spock's trying to explain that it would be a Bad Thing, and, eventually, about the Universe's ability to heal its time stream.

443:

You missed one other small benefit: loot and rape. And fiefdoms for second sons and other poor nobility.

444:

About China - did you see the stories from a few weeks ago, that the ozone hole had gotten larger, and what they found as the cause was that a *lot* of companies in
"cut-price Chinese home insulation is being blamed for a massive rise in emissions of a gas, highly damaging to the Earth's protective ozone layer.

The Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) found widespread use of CFC-11 in China, even though the chemical was fully banned back in 2010."

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44738952

445:

whitroth noted: "But let's move on to your assertions about strikes. The logical implication of what you say is that no one should strike, Ever. Because it will make other people mad."

Let me start out with a definitive statement: I fully support labor unions, having belonged to one for 7 years. Workers always need someone with power to represent their needs against corrupt or power-mad or just plain stupid managers. That being said, and clarifying that I'm writing from personal experience in a Canadian context...

I think you've willfully misinterpreted what I wrote, possibly because you're starting with the assumption that I'm anti-union. The logical implication is so simple you appear to have missed it: the purpose of a strike is to get *the right people* mad at you so that you have leverage over them. I can tell you from firsthand experience with two strikes (one with our local teachers and one with the federal government) that the strikes (i) applied no pressure whatsoever on the government to negotiate fairly, (ii) lost almost all public support for workers who had legitimate grievances, and (iii) did not earn anyone the amount of money they lost when they were surviving on strike pay, which is meager at best. YMMV, as such results depend heavily on context.

That's only two examples, but I have a cousin who's been one of the most powerful and sought-after labor arbitration lawyers in Canada for something like 30 years. (I'm not providing their name because I don't speak for them and may not accurately convey their meaning.) Their description of union negotiators agrees with my perception from personal experience: if union members saw how union leaders behaved, they'd slaughter them with their bare hands. (I exaggerate for dramatic effect, but only slightly.)

whitroth: "And I suppose the teacher strikes in the midwest this year didn't work, either."

Dunno. Which country? Which union? How much was the wage increase, and did that compensate for the wages the teachers lost during the strike period and in the years leading up to the settlement? You're aware, I assume, that management often decides years in advance that they will settle for an x% wage increase in y years, then banks the required money and delays a settlement until they've saved enough before the negotiations end to cover the full cost of the wage increase?

whitroth: "And the only reason that you would lose support from parents is if the government had supporters in the media, and drowned out your message WHY you were striking."

You've clearly never been a parent of school-age children during a strike. All the parents I knew completely understood why the teachers were striking (my wife and I were heavily plugged into the local schools through a PTA equivalent). Having to sacrifice many days of work (or pay for babysitters for weeks on end) with little or no notice so they could care for their children at home, when the kids should've been at school, destroyed what sympathy the parents had for the teachers. Similarly, taxpayers losing access to essential government services lost the federal unions most of their public support when we were on strike. Rather than creating strong pressure for the government to propose a fair settlement, it created strong pressure to legislate the teachers and federal civil servants back to work. Which is what happened, since the government had full support from the people affected.

whitroth: "DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT ANY UNION GOES ON STRIKE UNLESS THEY HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE?"

Yes, I really do. Several of the union leaders I worked with (when I chaired a workplace health and safety committee for several years as a worker representative) were all about whose dick was bigger, and they didn't give a damn about how much their actions hurt the members. It was all about proving how powerful they were. My cousin confirmed that impression when I spoke to them about this several years ago. It didn't help that the negotiations were held in five-star hotels with all negotiator expenses paid by the union. You might ask, with some justice, whether these people felt any pressure to reach a settlement quickly and give up this luxury.

As always, YMMV.

446:

Things are getting into http://auxbeacon.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/drain1.jpg territory, it seems to me.

OGH, of course, is the arbiter of how the blog goes and he's dealing with his own situations. But things have sure changed from a few years ago and not, IMO, in a favorable way. Perhaps volunteer mods and contributors could step in again?

447:

I'm currently dealing with the likely imminent demise of a second parent in 14 months.

When I get some motivation back I'll blog again.

448:

Dick Seaton is a good choice, but never forget Marty Crane's Superpower (lots of money).

For that matter isn't his skill set essentially the same as Marc C DuQuesne? Whose regime abolished war, crime and unemployment on Earth?

449:

That sucks.

Guest bloggers sounds good to me, if you feel like it. Frank's been fun to read. Jocelyn would be interesting. And at least some of your readers would go for Greg blogging about trains…

450:

Wheras Russia won't abide by anything EVEN IF they are threatened by immediate and unavoidable retaliation. Since both sides know such retaliation is fairly unlikely, the threat loses its edge. However, Russia's Mexican sized economy has a lot less to lose by shaking things up. Until 2017, the U.S. still had some sense of self interest in at least partly buying into the partial reality/mostly illusion of global civilized norms. Thanks to someone, but surely not Russia, the U.S. may be losing that small, but still significant grip on reality. Results are not likely to be pretty.

The best thing for whomever might have done something in 2016 is to quit while they are ahead. Trump is dumb and gullible, but also vain and vicious. The minute certain parties (who are certainly not Russian) trigger one of his peeves, he might decide to turn and bite.

Also, not exactly sure why certain parties believe they will be better off in a Sino-hegemonic world, as opposed to an expanding Western norm world (with less and less American flavor as time passes.) One suspects such parties might be short sighted kleptocrats (and also that such parties are certainly NOT exclusively Russian.)

451:

Again, nothing but the best of thoughts and wishes for you on this phase of your life, which is probably not so far in the future for many of us. You're good people and I will always look out for your words when you're ready to work again. But take all the time and space you need. And remember you deserve it; Impostor Syndrome be damned.

452:

basically "men at arms", uniformed agents of the state enforcing state policy

That's the only model of policing that I've been exposed to. The Peel ideal is less real to me than Timelords and Sherlock Holmes. IME police are what the state uses to apply violence and threats of violence to disobedient subjects. My "friendships" with officers are the same as my "friendships" with school bullies and I've had more than one lawyer rant angrily at me that the legal system actively tries to produce justice despite all evidence to the contrary (much as bulls aim to produce semen but mostly produce other material, perhaps).

Likewise, a lot of my experience of the criminal system has been more applying prejudice with bureaucratic rigidity than even the pretence of interest in justice or public service. I know of more cases where people have successfully plead necessity* than have used exculpatory evidence disclosed by the police (if that's even a requirement in Australia/Aotearoa. I kind of assume it probably is rather than knowing, put it that way... and I've faced charges in court).

* commonly used by protesters to argue that stuff like blockades prevent immediate, irreparable damage

453:

AT @ 429
NOW you know why some of us refuse to have "samrt" meters in our house - even if it means paying rip-oof prices under the old tariff ...
Becuse, AIUI, if you change "supplier" you HAVE TO HAVE A NEW "smart" meter ...
What fucking con-trick

Graham @ 430
Wrong way round
Ordinary cops prefer Peel ( It's easier ) but the ones who often get promotion prefer sucking up to power ....

454:

Nojay @ 421:

"For a lot of Americans and others around the world "bankers" = "Jews". You might want to take that into account when you read polemics about how the "bankers" are all guilty of unspecified crimes and should all be rounded up and prosecuted in kangaroo courts and locked up for being "bankers"."

I'm well aware of the popular perception of "bankers" in Europe, but as far as I'm concerned that's a false equivalence.

The Wall Street "banksters" who brought on the 2008 financial crisis worship no god but the almighty dollar and have no creed but greed.

456:

whitroth @ 431:

I have a simpler solution: I have a mulching (electric) mower, and leave it where it lies. Don't have to fertilize, or reseed,,,,

I tried that in the past, but found I had to go out and cut grass every day to keep ahead of it. I hate cutting grass. Even once a week is too much.

That wouldn't work this summer anyway, because it's rained here every day but one since July 1 - usually a short intense thunderstorm around sundown, but still it's a pain having to cut wet grass, and I wouldn't want to be having to do it every day with an electric mower.

I don't fertilize and I've only had to "reseed" once since I moved in here.

Early this spring, the city came through and dug up all the old water & sewer pipes along my street and replaced them. When they finished repaving and replacing the curb, they left a two foot wide strip of heavy clay & rocks where the soil used to be.

I had to dig that up & replace it, but I made the new soil from the compost that came from grass & other yard waste. Didn't really "reseed", just took small patches of the existing vegetation from around the front yard and patched it in a checkerboard pattern. It's grown in without any further intervention on my part.

457:

Yeah. And before someone points out that AT's post relates to the US, it's no better over here. Only today I happened upon some puff piece from one of the parasites that are enabled to feed on the electricity supply industry by prishitisation, boasting about how they had found some legal loophole, based on spurious whining that their actions are "necessary", that enables them to weasel around the GDPR so they can legally collect personally-identifying metering data.

"AIUI, if you change "supplier" you HAVE TO HAVE A NEW "smart" meter"

"Supplier"... I prefer "payment processor", which is more accurate, or just "parasite", which is more accurate still and shorter to boot. (A different genus from the legal-weasel parasite mentioned above.)

But my experience does not accord with your postulate. I was forced to change parasite not long ago - reason being that the previous one were cancelling their no-standing-charge deal and forcing everyone using it onto one that did have a standing charge, which would have roughly doubled the amount I pay. The reason they decided to do that was because the government had changed the regulations in such a way that nearly all existing no-standing-charge deals would no longer be allowed, in order to "tackle fuel poverty" ie. make energy cheaper and more affordable especially for people without much money. No, that is not a joke, [it's not fucking funny and] it really was the government's excuse.

Indeed, the government is so concerned to make energy cheaper and more affordable that out of several hundred potential parasites, there are now two that do no-standing-charge/no-credit, and one of those is a bunch of out-and-out spy-meter fanatics (so obviously one to avoid), and the other has somehow managed to keep the internet absolutely devoid of any mention of the deal so I only found out about it through some random forum comment. (To pass the karma on: it was Eversmart and they call it "Goodbye Standing Charge".)

Once I had got through fighting all the measures that are intended to make changing parasites so easy that people do it every six months, which made it by far the most difficult thing I have ever done on the internet (car insurance? car insurance is a doddle in comparison), the actual transfer was utterly trivial: the new key arrived in the post and I started using it. That was all. They didn't force me to change to a smart meter, or change meter at all; I've still got the same meter I've had for years.

458:

I also hate cutting grass. My preferred solutions are, in ascending order of complexity: just not doing it; whitroth's method; sweeping a horizontal plane a few inches above soil level with a couple of hundred watts of laser beam.

459:

I also hate cutting grass. My preferred solutions are,

I don't much like it either so I make my staff do much of the work. Then when they get too old to work, I eat them. Chickens make the best employees ... they literally work for chicken feed :)

460:

(electricity) no-standing-charge deals

You mean no fixed daily fee for being connected? Wow, how does that even work - most of the cost of the electricity system is fixed, the actual consumables are cheap and becoming almost irrelevant ("fuel" for the wind turbines and solar panels).

In Australia it's typically about a dollar a day for the supply, and 25c (14p)/kWh for the electricity. For households like mine that have PV and are nearly energy neutral that means energy bills are usually $50/mo or so, but the average is more like $200-$300 IIRC.

Most obviously during a drought when I lived in Melbourne the water company had to significantly increase prices because consumption dropped by about half and they had biased billing significantly towards consumption. If anything maintenance costs went up during the drought because unusually dry ground shifted as it shrank, damaging pipework.

There's a whole lot of social/political decisions that go into how to bill for utilities, and as Pigeon points out, fixed charges hurt the poorest most.

461:

Perhaps, then, the power should be to be a doppelganger of a pointy-haired boss in the programming departments of multiple stock trading outfits, and implement a programme of various minor alterations to the user interface of the software the stock traders use. Individually each alteration is so subtle as to be barely even noticeable, but the cumulative effect of the whole set of them when using that user interface all day every day is really fucking annoying, and each set is carefully tailored to its usage environment so that the levels of repressed annoyance increase continuously and uniformly across all stock traders, until that fateful day when SVO(everyone) suddenly understands just why the patch set was named "nadreck".

462:

Ordinary cops prefer Peel ( It's easier ) but the ones who often get promotion prefer sucking up to power

That doesn't appear to be the case in Canada. Looking at (for example) the kettling etc we had during the G20 in Toronto, a significant number of our police are quite happy being in power themselves. Google "Officer Bubbles" to see the attitudes that have become more prevalent (or at least more evident) recently. Or look at the lies the police command told their civilian oversight board — with no comeback for lying.

463:

"You mean no fixed daily fee for being connected?"

Correct - for electricity and for gas. I don't have any on-site generation, but the house is extremely well insulated (the upside of it having originally been built with dodgy post-war concrete is that the consequent remedial work seems to have left it with effectively double cavity walls, plus double glazing and an enormous thickness of fibreglass in the loft) so my heating load, normally by far the biggest item, is next to nothing - there is central heating, but I never turn it on except maybe once a year to see if it still works. I do all my food in the microwave, so another significant load, a cooker, also isn't there. The most significant remaining load is probably the fridge - I certainly notice the difference in power usage if I set its thermostat unnecessarily cold. Standing charges seem to be a remarkably uniform £25-£30/month or so, and the separate charges for electricity and for gas are about the same amount. That would roughly double my electricity cost, and as for the gas I'd be better off just doing without it.

464:

Here's a thought: how many regulars would volunteer to post 500-1,000 words on a subject of their choice, on an open thread, with discussion to follow? And I do mean volunteer, not volunteered. I'm willing to help moderate other people's stories, if people are willing to post them.

465:

...Oh, and consumables - in the UK that includes things like about 6GW (IIRC) of (mainly) French nuclear power, and rather more Russian gas than most people realise, because all those coal-burners we used to have had to be replaced with something and contrary to the popular assumption it wasn't fairy dust.

As well as the Channel link, Electricité de France is now a significant factor in electricity supply within the UK. I haven't heard any comment on how leaving the EU is going to affect that. On current showing I suspect the silence indicates not that there's no problem, but that nobody has a bleeding clue about it. (Ditto DB in UK railways.)

466:

I would be happy to. I'm not sure what I'd post, but I'm in!

467:

Yeah I would do that. Not in the next couple of weeks, but after the first week of September could be workable. I say that, but the procrastination fairy could easily prompt 1000 words on something, done in under an hour at 2 in the morning.

468:

Pigeon @ 457
THANKS
I will have to look into that, since the only reason I have not changed "spplier" (parasite) from the succesors to the London Electricity Board & North Thames Gas ( As the old nationalised suppliers were called ) was the impression, deliberately fostered in public, that you had to have the hackable, controllable-from-the-outside not-so-smart meter installed.
Which explains wh I refuse of course - those things are simply so vulnerable to outside attack.

FL @ 464
Me too - but not until after 9th September & preferably a week later than that.

469:

I could try... ;) a long form post might stop me from making my usual hash of trying to explain what I think ;)

470:

I haven't heard any comment on how leaving the EU is going to affect that. On current showing I suspect the silence indicates not that there's no problem, but that nobody has a bleeding clue about it.

They began rumbling about Northern Ireland and power security a couple of days ago according to the Guardian — NI imports most of its electricity, and in event of a no-deal Brexit ... well, planning stalled at the point where the authorities realized there aren't enough available spare diesel generators on the planet to keep the lights burning there.

Let's bear in mind that March this year saw unseasonably heavy snowfalls and a bad cold snap; it can actually be the coldest month in the UK, and it's when the brexit countdown clock ends. We don't have much use for air conditioning (normally, this summer is an exception!) but heating in winter is another matter.

The UK consumes 50-60Gw of power at almost all times. If we're importing 5-6Gw and it Goes Away because of Jacob Rees-Mogg's hedge fund, I'm thinking we'll be seeing rolling black-outs of a kind not experienced in the UK since the Three Day Week in 1974 (of which I have childhood memories of making candles with mum). With the added twist that we have so much more domestic need for electricity: it's not just TV, fridge, radio, and lights any more (with the bulk going to industrial processes), it's stuff like our entire communications infrastructure (aren't OpenReach planning on discontinuing the 50vDC twisted pair power supply that drives POTS phones any year now?).

Cellphones aren't much use when the base stations are running down their UPS batteries and the cloud services everyone is trying to connect to are offline because some numpties are running cryptocurrency miners off the juice from the backup batteries. Trains aren't going to be running without electricity over much of the (electrified) network. Air Traffic isn't going to be doing too well if airports can't function (and just ask yourself how much juice the terminals at Heathrow require to process umpty-tens of thousands of passengers per hour).

In fact, I suspect electrical supply security may be the big killer for a hard brexit.

471:

NB: I expect the hard brexiteers to say, "oh, but when we leave the EU we can ditch those annoying carbon regulations and reopen Drax B and the other coal-burning power stations and burn British coal!"

Which is a bit of a non-starter for ever so many reasons starting with: those British coal mines don't exist any more and are mostly flooded/collapsed, those power stations have been decomissioned and can't restart without extensive renovation work to be carried out by workers who aren't employed there any more in engineering shops that have been torn down or by contract businesses that don't exist any more, that we don't have the railway infrastructure to move that much coal around any more because we scrapped it over the past several years, to the carbon emissions caps being nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with a global treaty that we'd be in default on ...

But I've got £5 that says Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson tries to pull this dead rabbit out of a hat as soon as power security shows up in the public discourse. Because these guys are fundamentally know-nothing idiots living in cloud-cuckoo land.

472:

I could probably come up with something, pick out some ideas from a Jules Verne* novel or similar, awkwardly link them to a contemporary event or development. Though not this week as I have a five year old relative staying.

* He was very keen on electricity, thought it might be the power of the future.

473:

The French interconnector delivers about 2GW to the British grid or so most of the time. It does vary and is occasionally used in reverse to feed coal-fired power to France in the winter but very rarely. Part of the interconnector broke during the spring, limiting capacity before it got repaired. There are plans to build more interconnectors to up the capacity to 5GW or so, the most advanced planning is for a 1GW line running through the Channel Tunnel which seems to be funded and actually going ahead.

British electricity consumption varies between about 25GW in the summer to 45GW and more in the winter. It's pretty consistent and predictable for any given time and date with slight variations depending on weather. Again I refer any numbers-obsessed types among us to the excellent Gridwatch site:

http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

Britain has replaced most of its coal-burning stations with instant-on combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants, lots of them but no-one's noticed since they don't get the adulatory press that renewables get. There's an anonymous-looking building close to a grid interconnector. It has odd-looking chimneys on the side and several large natural-gas pipes running into it and it can go from zero to 1GW in thirty seconds or so on demand courtesy of a number of static gas turbine engines plus associated secondary steam plant stage.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Humber_Bank_Power_Station

We've got over 32GW of this kind of generating capacity now, built out over the same period we've been constructing large windfarms which on a good day can put out 10GW or so (on a bad day they add only 50MW to the national capacity and we don't have any control over whether the day is going to be good or bad). The highest CCGT output I've seen on Gridwatch was 25GW or so one cold winter day when the wind wasn't blowing.

The bad news is it's more difficult to stockpile gas than it is to stockpile coal as we did before the Miner's Strike back in the 1980s.

474:

Charlie @ 471
I think your £5 is safe ...
Yes they will ( like Trump ) tell any lies at all that they think they can get away with.
However SIGNS OF SANITY in the Labour Party ( Shock horror ) - Kier Starmer this AM on radio ...
Edging towards a second referendum.
IIRC, no matter what the naysayers bleat, we can withdraw At 50 at any time upt to the deadline ( If only because both Macron & "Mutti" have said so )

475:

Except for Rees-Mogg, who will call for the abolition of the Clean Air Act 1956, so that even Londoners can burn coal in their fireplaces to heat their houses.

476:

Wouldn't put it past him - & the re-introc=duction of sweep-boys, too.
( Wouldn't fit up my one remaining chimney, though .... )

477:

those British coal mines don't exist any more and are mostly flooded/collapsed

You could always get cheap coal from Australia. We seem to be hell bent on building bigger coal mines, which will face a dwindling market as China and India transition (or at least transition their energy growth) to renewables.

The extra conservative rump of our conservative party is fighting for the leadership right now with every chance of gaining it - there is even talk of Abbott throwing his hat in the ring again. If it happens it will mean certain electoral wipeout, but there is a lot you can do with a few months in government.

478:

China has a lot of indigenous coal on hand plus mining and transport infrastructure to meet most of the local demand (about 3 billion tonnes a year for the next couple of decades or so) so sales of Australian black gold into China will be limited mostly to metallurgical coal for steel-making. Some Australian thermal coal for power stations goes to Chinese coastal coal-burning plants since it's easier to ship it there than transport it from the Siberian steppe mines.

India is another matter. They're only burning half a tonne of coal per capita per annum at the moment, a nation deep in energy poverty so they're a ripe target for coal sales from sources abroad.

479:

Technically, Russia's economy is the size of South Korea's, not Mexico's. It's the 11th or 12th largest economy on Earth. I would argue it's more like Russia probably doesn't need the West going forward as much as it used to.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)

480:

Would like to try, actually...

481:

Which reminds me of the article about railways, likely involving some steam, we're trying to get you to write.

OK, what is it?

Beer?
A lifelong parking space for Beastie in front of Buckingham Palace?
Some rare vegetables or herbs, smuggled under thread of life from Kyoto Palace?

Just tell us, my imagination is somewhat limited at this point...

482:

Concerning steam, the Union Pacific railroad is restoring Big Boy #4014, hoping to have it ready for their sesquicentennial next spring.

https://www.up.com/aboutup/special_trains/steam/locomotives/4014/index.shtml

483:

Russia needs the West, Europe mostly as a customer for fossil fuel since it's transitioned to being a resource extraction economy and the lowest-cost transportation method for such revenue-earning material is existing and future pipelines running from Russia directly to the Western consumer. It helps that Europe is investing heavily in renewables which require enormous amounts of gas for backstop generation and Russia is well-positioned to meet that escalating demand.

484:

I won't offer direct sympathy; just observe that on other artist's sites I leave a comment that "real life happens" meaning that no further explanation for "going dark" on their part is needed.

Perhaps some of the other commentariat need to take that on board?

485:

Mandating anaerobic digestion with methane recovery in sewage treatment might get the UK a little ways, fracking for gas should work, if you can live with the side effects, if brexit was anything like a plan, some strategies would've been in place a long time ago.

486:

The irony of someone called "Jacob Re-Smog" repealing the Clean Air Acts!

487:

Seen too many go under the grass myself, I'll wait, besides the commentariat here is high quality, always worthwhile coming here.

488:

It's one of the sad consequences of getting older. At least we've got a pretty good chance these days of getting through childhood without losing parents or siblings, but once we're a generation away from our 80s, the chance is somewhat higher.

(Your first encounter with me was a few hours after my mother had died, and I can say you took my shortness well.)

489:

Nojay noted: "China has a lot of indigenous coal on hand plus mining and transport infrastructure to meet most of the local demand (about 3 billion tonnes a year for the next couple of decades or so)"

Unfortunately, it's mostly very low quality (high sulfur) coal, so it's had disastrous consequences for air quality in China, not to mention side-effects on things like bodies of water. China's been moving aggressively to shut down or relocate industries that use coal (including the streetside grills that provide most of the food for poor residents who live in apartments without a kitchen) and to replace them with natural gas and electricity; the latter is being increasingly supplied through agressive development of solar and wind power (a good thing) and (a bit scarily*) by aggressive nuclear development.

* I have some reservations about the quality of Chinese construction and maintenance practices. The engineering's often brilliant (e.g., the Bird's Nest stadium, Shanghai's skyscrapers), but...

About mowing the grass: I hate it too, particularly since there's a period of roughly 3 months here in Montreal when it's too hot and buggy for me to work outside. I have 2 solutions: First, there's a large "wild" patch in my lawn that's I allow to grow nothing but native vegetation. Second, I've hired the kid across the street to do the work. That's paying forward, since I earned most of my childhood income and learned a good work ethic through years spent mowing other people's lawns.

Charlie, all my sympathies about your family situation. I'm in the middle of the same life stage, having lost both grandparents, my father, and two father-in-laws I rather liked in the past few years. It's both a good thing and a sad one that we don't get any better at dealing with grief. Each loss is different and requires a different mourning and recovery period. It's good that we aren't desensitized, even though it's tempting to wish that we were in the midst of grief.

490:

Methane recovery from sewage is a fart in the wind, so to speak in terms of our demand for gas. Sewage plants sometimes try to recover gas and use it for generator fuel and process heat for the plant itself but there are problems with that, stream pollutants mostly. It's usual just to flare off methane if it's captured at all, for safety reasons more than anything else.

As for fracking, if there were really major gas resources available to us in the UK from fracking then it would be happening already. The various prospectuses of companies wanting to drill and explore (not even produce at this point in time) are mostly wishful thinking plus a hope someone else will pay for the work and fill their pockets at the same time. Britain's geology is quite well-known given the number of holes we've dug and drilled in the landscape over the past few hundred years and the appropriate underground structures that might hold valuable amounts of gas generally just don't exist.

We could carry out in-situ gasification of inaccessible coal seams but that has its own problems and costs and again resources are limited -- we dug out all the cheap easy-to-get coal to literally fuel the Industrial Revolution and subsequent Empire.

491:

Was wondering whether any of the folks here would mind watching this webinar because it would be interesting to see how the marketing research industry - which provide data/opinions to marketers/ad agencies, etc. - are going to be selling/using this technology. Consider this a grassroots way of managing how all the marketers out there will be trying to run your life.

Also - I'm really curious about how well-informed these presenters are, as in what they're not telling prospective clients. (FYI - I've already participated in a couple of online marketing research studies but only after reading the privacy policies. A few firms use very long strings of words to say that by participating you're granting them access to virtually all of your data - past & present - to use for themselves and/or to sell to anyone else at their discretion. So if you ever sign up, please read carefully.)

[ DELETED BY MODERATOR ]

This free webinar starts today at noon (EST).

492:

The Chinese are replacing their older open-chimney coal power stations with modern 21st-century designs which are more efficient (ultra-supercritical designs producing primary-cycle steam at 700 deg C)) as well as being a lot more aggressive about controlling pollutants such as sulphur. Plans announced by the central government a year or two ago suggest they'll be depending on coal for about 1TW or so of capacity for the next couple of decades or so. They're still growing out generating capacity, they have a per-capita electricity consumption about half that of the US at the moment and they want more for electric transport, lighting, heating, industry etc.

India is next, it's got a similar sized population to China but it's well behind in terms of meeting the energy demands of that population so it's likely to burn a lot more coal in the forthcoming decades to meet that demand.

493:

About mowing the grass: I hate it too,

Help is at hand! Seen recently on the side of The Mound (a steep road in Edinburgh city centre, leading up the side of an artificial mound on what was formerly a cliff), was a roomba-like robot lawn mower, chowing down slowly on a decorative lawn that used to be dealt with by means of hover-mowers and guys wearing climbing harnesses. (It's at about a 30 degree slope, so rather too steep for regular mowers.)

It's basically a waterproof roomba-type robot with a grass cutting head instead of a vacuum. Expect to see them in DIY stores near you any day now (but Charlie-Bob says you should only buy the expensive model with the GPS tracker and phone-home anti-theft capability).

494:

One of the nice thing is we have a quite diverse commentariat. Problem is the very same might be getting at each others throat from time to time.

You're invited to propose some "bar rules", e.g. "no discussion about religions or politics", but I guess it would get somewhat boring with that...

[1] One reaction at work in May 2017 when I decided my complancy was a sign of my heavy depression, I needed to get out of it, and actually, sharing workplace with a chemtrailer who talked about the Deutschland GmbG was crossing the line.

Guess my "the nice thing about capitalism is we get sex toys in Pakistan" needed some explaining, though[1a]...

[1a] If you wonder about the sympathetic early industrialist in Brecht's "Life of Galileo Galilei", at least some marxists think capitalism is a progress in relation to feudalism, just as feudalism is progress in relation to slavery...

495:

Also - I'm really curious about how well-informed these presenters are, as in what they're not telling prospective clients.

I'm not, and (MODERATOR HAT) I deleted that link because I don't want to give any search engine mojo to the snake-oil salescritters. Which is what blockchain is at this point, unless you're talking to an actual cryptographer about it (and not a half-baked "crypto expert").

(Seriously, every two-bit fraudster and boiler-room operator and their dog has been all over bitcoin for years now, and since the BtC bubble appears to have actually burst, they're moving on to boost blockchain itself—the underlying journal technology—and push it for everything they can think of that requires a public ledger, whether or not it needs a decentralized public ledger with write access by untrusted parties.)

496:

Hi Charlie:

Just emailed you my invite - verification purposes, etc.

497:

Okay, I see your point - I was emailing you while you posted the above. Apologies again.

498:

Consider the possibility of an unusually cold post-brexit winter in combination with WTF "Conservative" diplomacy and what's uneconomical may change.