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Upcoming appearances

It's April 2019, and to my surprise I find I haven't been to any SF conventions so far this year. But that's going to change. Here's my (abbreviated) calendar:

18-22 April: Ytterbium, the UK eastercon, Heathrow, London. No, I'm not a guest of honour (for which I'm kinda thankful--I've been an eastercon GoH before, it's hard work), but I'll be on a few program items and hanging out in the hotel bar.

7-9 June: Cymera SF Festival, Edinburgh: not an SF convention so much as a literary festival specializing in SF/F; in particular I'm part of a double-header dialog with Jonathan Whitelaw on Saturday, June 8, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM.

5-7 July: Finncon, Jyväskylä, Finland: it's Finland's national SF convention, and I'm one of the guests of honour this year.

15-19 August: Dublin 2019, the 77th world science fiction convention, is held in Dublin, and I'm going to be there.

23-25 August: Titancon, the Eurocon (European SF convention) is in Belfast, and as I'm driving/taking the car ferry to Dublin 2019 and Belfast is on the road home ... nope, not even slightly kidding! (Doing conventions on consecutive weekends is normally one of my no-nos these days--it's exhausting--but I can hardly say no.) Program not finalized, but I hope to be on it.

I don't have any definite plans after Titancon, other than a provisional "let's go to the worldcon in New Zealand in 2020 (I have air miles to spend)", but doubtless stuff will come up.

Finally: no book launches this year, because 2019 is a gap in my publishing schedule. But that's going to be fixed in 2020, which should see the publication of both "Invisible Sun" and "Lost Boys", both of which will hopefully get launch events.

220 Comments

1:

Great stuff. I can't justify taking the cost of Worldcon admission/membership out of the household budget, but I'd be honoured to buy you a pint around the fringes while you're in the Republic.

... er, especially if it increased my chances of finally getting my hardcover copy of Accelerando signed...

2:

There aren't any specialist SF bookshops in Dublin so I won't be doing a signing/reading there outside the convention, but I'm likely to announce at least one public pub session after the con (before driving to Belfast).

3:

It's fair to say what Dublin lacks in specialist SF bookstores, it makes up for in public houses.

4:

Yes, but most of the beer is fizzy keg shite. And I include Guiness in that category (cask conditioned Guiness hasn't been a thing in decades).

This has changed in the past ten years or so, and there are even a few microbreweries with their own pubs these days, but there are still relatively few real ale pubs in Dublin: honourable exception to the Porterhouse.

(In this respect Ireland is a bit like Australia for beer.)

5:

Can you sing? Or do you know anyone that can play an instrument? Does your favorite bar allow
filksinging? I've got a new song about spacex landing the first stage, and a couple others like "it gpls me" and "Rhysling and me", that I do at cons in the USA. First time I've ever been on this side of the water for a con.....

I won't saturate this post with links, but I just did "one first landing" at IETF104, and my voice was shot, but, it came out ok... ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZDZ-86SZzI )

I've long meant to write a filksong about one of your books, but coming up with good rhymes for cthulu has been hard.

6:

I was just thinking exactly that too. Even finding draft Austrian, Czech or German lager in Dublin is hard.

7:

Things have definitely come on a long way in the last 10 years. The craft beer revolution has left Ireland awash with exciting indigenous zymurgic experiments, and even the most traditional of pubs will generally have a selection of microbrews, in the fridge if not on tap.
It's true you won't find 'real ale' in too many bars, but in fairness cask-conditioned hand-pumped beer is really something of a British regional specialty these days- you have to be (aha) conditioned to drinking it, and the Irish market just doesn't have a taste for it.

8:

I've long meant to write a filksong about one of your books, but coming up with good rhymes for Cthulu has been hard.

"Eats you" and "breaks through" both come to mind, as does "green goo."

And "fhtagn" rhymes with everything, but only if you have the right number of mouths.

9:

Well, if it's be a filk, I also need a backing song to modify... and a story to tell, or retell. I love bob howard (who's not a coward), and persephone hazard (and her bodyguard), and the armory guy, the vampire bankers and "death by powerpoint" still reduces me to hysterics (because it's true! Powerpoint DOES create zombies, I've seen it happen!) and so many other characters of the laundry, but I think it would require beer to put any story or sub-story to song.

Totally open to crowd sourcing the idea. Anyone have suggestion for turning a laundry story into song? an epic poem?

I've been burning up prague with my guitar for a couple weeks... and am heading to bristol on the 15th, then dropping on at Ytterbium con in london for a couple days... (totally didn't know charlie was there also til an hour or three ago)...

this is the longest version of rhysling & me I've ever done (sorry) that goes into the backing story a lot. Tons of SF (mostly heinlein) references ( https://youtu.be/xTPJO-cAAjQ )

10:

I've written a number of filks, and folk-processed several songs, as well (my most recent was Battle Hymn of the Republic, v2). Of the filks, the one I'm proudest of (and Steve MacDonald, the filker, thinks I should be) is one I call Outbound Passage, using Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage.

Wrote that in '12, after both Neil Armstrong and my late ex, the former NASA engineer died. The chorus is

One more time, we'll rebuild the Saturn rocket
And I'll climb to the top, and light the candles off
Leaving one bright line, through a sky so wide and open
And take that outbound passage to the Sea.

(Last verse, the final line after the chorus)
And take that passage to Tranquility.

11:

I'm coming to Ireland and Scotland in August and September from Australia and be at WorldCon and Titancon and then driving through eventually to Edinburgh.

Trying not to sound like a stalker, but hoping to catch up with you sometime during the trip.

I saw you and your good lady when you came to Melbourne in 2010 and looking forward to hearing you in person again.

Any suggestions as to spots to visit once we are in Scotland and/or near Edinburgh?

12:

REPOSTING for Dave. Here's my Cthulhu Rap from last year. Feel free to use anything that entertains.

The idea behind the song is that eventually every technology goes from the high-tech spies to the street - which finds its own etc. - so someone from the Laundry goes into this maker dive bar where everyone is muttering over a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and the entertainment sounds like this:

I’m squamous and rugose
And soon I’ll be batrachian
Pray Yog Sothoth Neblod Zin
The world will get on track again!

I’m gonna go beneath the waves
On the day I get my scaly skin
But for now we’ll worship Dagon
And I’ll pray in Old Enochian

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh
The Old One Lies Dreaming
Cthulhu R'lyeh
In His home beneath the waves
Wgah'nagl fhtagn
But he’ll be back one day!

From the basalt fortress of G’harne
To Leng in the dusty desert
The ancient ones abide and wait
Tell you to live for pleasure!

You are a scar on the eye of God
But you gotta still be nice
So give up your very human pain
To the rite of sacrifice!

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh
The Old One Lies Dreaming
Cthulhu R'lyeh
In His home beneath the waves
Wgah'nagl fhtagn
But he’ll come back one day!

13:

I didn't notice the bit about a backing song. How about "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson? The original lyrics discuss a mob hit, so it should translate very nicely to a Laundry Story.

I've just wrote my own set of lyrics to the song, based on the idea that Bob saves Mo from some Elder Things by summoning a Shoggoth to fight on his behalf. I might post them here in a couple days, but I was curious what everyone else would do with the idea!

14:

A general note for anybody thinking of going to Ytterbium who has not yet joined: membership is close to capacity, and they're likely to close registration on Sunday (i.e. about 48 hours from now).

I strongly suspect on-the-door registrations will be very limited.

15:

I'd advise you to avoid Edinburgh in August—it's Festival month. Which means the population doubles, and hotel/BnB rates more or less triple, and you can't move without a machete. (It's about five different simultaneous arts festivals flying in loose formation, the largest public arts festival in Europe.)

The rest of the time, it's not so bad as long as you remember it's the UK's #2 tourist city after London (which has ten times the population).

I have no idea whether I'll be in town in September, at this point: probably, but it's not guaranteed.

(Also, September in Edinburgh will be similar in climate to Melbourne in July, i.e. mid-winter, only probably colder. Although it's still summer in Scotland.)

16:

actually given all the political nonsense (brexit, assange's arrest) and how much charlie's piece on beige democracy affected me, I feel something lennon-like coming on.

and "waist deep in the big muddy" keeps going through my head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXnJVkEX8O4

but I don't feel much like changing those lyrics around much.

17:

Well, I used to live near Glasgow (about 50 miles from Edinburgh), and the closest I've come to "going to Edinburgh in August" is once being taken to the Military Tattoo aged about 8. Even then we drove through, went to the Tattoo, and drove back late the same day.

You may want to note too that some Edinburgh residents actually holiday in August, and finance their holiday by renting their property to festival goers.

18:

We are booked to fly out of Edinburgh on 15th of September and are driving over from Ireland after the cons, so we might keep away from the big smoke until the last few days (and remember to rug up).

Charlie etal, how long do you recommend we spend in Edinburgh to get a sense of the place, but not get too touristy?

19:

"Ytterbium"?

They must be planning for an inevitable convention split into "Erbium", "Terbium", and "Yttrium".

20:

Hopefully not this Lennon? Because I'd be kind of sad if you turned out to be a Nazi supporter.

21:

At least a week. Bear in mind that hotels are never cheap, but there are loads in the city centre, and the core is entirely walkable, being mostly mediaeval/18th century—with good public transport to outlying areas.

Don't even think about renting a car in Edinburgh: that way lies madness (even though you're already used to driving on the correct side of the road).

22:

And anything else coming from the small Swedish village of Ytterby1 ...?

The convention is named Ytterbium because it's the 70th Eastercon and Ytterbium is the 70th element. There was a predecessor named Dysprosium. You can tell there's a shortage of clever names.

1Yes, we were nearby, so visited. Very undistinguished.

23:

Charlie:

*John* Lennon dang it...

... because a working class hero is still something to be.

That other lennon is disgusting, I never heard of that nutcase before now.

I freely confess to being a little nutty on three subjects - bufferbloat (which my project has largely fixed on *everything*, see pretty graphs in this as one example:
https://www.usenix.org/system/files/conference/atc17/atc17-hoiland-jorgensen.pdf ), and I'm in a major conflict with the cable industry right now: https://lwn.net/Articles/783673/ - secondly, asteroid exploration - and thirdly, good science. From where I sit the entire beige democracy and MIA complex has converted to bokononism.

we both worked for SCO, btw, I've read all your books and read your
blog regularly. you speak truth to power. esr's a good friend so long
as we avoid certain subjects.... and jon corbet of lwn says hi and
wishes you'd schedule an appearance at some linux conference someday.

Does that comfort you at the prospect of raising a glass with me, and
maybe smashing it in the fireplace?

You still haven't told me if you can sing or not. :)

24:

There was a predecessor named Dysprosium.

And we know cos we were both there! I still use my Dysprosium mug for breakfast coffee.

25:

I don't sing, don't dance. (Neither my voice nor my knees are up to it.0

I am … not amused … by the way the beige dictatorship has broken, to say the least!

26:

"Imagine" is the Lennon song which came instantly to mind, but maybe it's too easy too rewrite as a Cthulhu song.

I'd assume that by now you've heard "Hey There Cthulhu."

27:

...and jon corbet of lwn says hi and
wishes you'd schedule an appearance at some linux conference someday.

Hey Charlie, you should come to the Southern California Linux Expo. (After the 2020 elections of course.)

28:

Hadn't thought of that alignment for Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, but *boy*, is the Big Fool pushing on.

Actually, he may have finally started going over the line - four GOP deserted, so Cain's not going to the Fed, and threatening to release migrants in sanctuary cities....

30:

Charlie
I am … not amused … by the way the beige dictatorship has broken, to say the least!
You ASKED for it, you got it ... NOW you complain!

There's a very old saying about being careful about what you wish for!

P.S. log-in has gone screwey - I'm trying to re-post on the other htread & should be past the timing limit, but it doesn't want to know ... WordPress glitch?

31:

"That's nothing by a cheap, two-bit ring from a crackback jocks!"

32:

Actually, I was referring to theresa may with "waist deep in the big muddy"... hmm... maybe some new lyrics are needed.....

33:

*snicker*

But I didn't think the Themes was that muddy. Now, the Walbrook... (Been doing research for my silly story.) Y'know, it strikes me where all the Brexiteers should be staged... at the waste transfer station at Walbrook Wharf, to go onto barges with the rest of the waste.

34:

Ok, total change of subject: I need an opinion; if you were summononing Cthulhu, would you a) be at the ground level, just above the Thames, or three or four floors up, where you could see what you were doing to the Thames?

35:

...and the core is entirely walkable...

Yeah, but it's uphill both ways.

36:

WRT "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" (great song), and Filking: I first learned of Filksinging in an autobiographical music book by Pete Seeger where he talks about it being a portmanteau of Filch and Folksinging, but no mention of a connection to SF cons. Of course the idea of putting new lyrics to old melodies has been around forever.

37:

If I only have two choices I'd go with 3-4 stories up, but ideally I'd be in a helicopter 10-20 stories up. The helicopter would be flown by a fellow cultist (who is not so fanatical they want to be eaten) plus a copilot who could take over piloting duties. If I had a budget I might use drones for real-time reporting and be miles away.

The big issue is that I'd keep the evil overlord's list carefully in mind.

38:

If you're summoning Cthulhu in mid-air, I presume the idea is to see if he can get his wings working before he splats into the ground and reforms, rather cross? Remember that he's basically a demonic starship, not an aquatic being. He's kept imprisoned underwater, and the one time he got out, he did a front crawl through the water, wings and all, while he pursued the last witnesses to his embarrassment of being decanted prematurely. And possibly he chased them because he found that humans tasted good and he was peckish or something. Summoning him into water is, perhaps, insulting.

Personally, were I hell-bent on summoning one of Them, I'd create a bunch of legal cutouts to hire a bunch of actors to carry out the actual summoning* while telling them that they're filming a cheesy YouTube video. Meanwhile I'd be on another continent with excellent deniability. It's the same thing you'd do if you use a weapon of mass destruction for terrorism.

*This assumes that what's required for a successful summoning is a perfectly enacted ritual, instead of special summoners, special in the sense of having their acupuncture meridians clear, or having a specific level of some chemical in their body, or a particular allele of some gene, or whatever.

39:

That seems an extremely odd source. Pete knew all about "the folk process"; filk is well-known to have allegedly been a typo in a program book of a con in 1963.

40:

Well, shoot (to be polite).
As usual I should have looked up the source, and not relied on my memory—it’s been a while since I read it. Apparently what I said above must’ve been my own etymology of the word and/or mixed up with other things I’ve read. Here’s what he says in his book, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”:

For several decades a group of science ficton fans who like to write satirical verses to well known tunes have exchanged mimeographed (now photocopied) song-sheets which they call “filksongs”.

This was in reference to “Ole Time Religion”.

41:

Actually https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXnJVkEX8O4 was a damn powerful version of "waist deep in the big muddy". (I've been repeating it all day trying to learn how to play it) A few days later cronkite broke with the official policy on vietnam...

Perhaps this shared moment on broadcast television was really one that broke it all loose. Sadly, today, we lack such shared simultaneous experiences.

42:

if you were summononing Cthulhu, would you a) be at the ground level, just above the Thames, or three or four floors up, where you could see what you were doing to the Thames?

I would summon Cthulhu in the Thames estuary from low orbit. Low Mars orbit, that is, preferably aboard a starship with its FTL drive already warmed up.

43:

hire a bunch of actors to carry out the actual summoning* while telling them that they're filming a cheesy YouTube video

You haven't by any chance been reading an early draft of LOST BOYS, have you?

(No, didn't think so, but there's a remarkably similar incident in that book …)

44:

Nope, but do go on...

Where I'm coming from is a history of theories of how magic spells work. From Pre-Roman times to at least the Renaissance, the idea was that the magic happened when the rite was performed perfectly. The state of the performer didn't matter. There's something of this in old Catholicism too, that the moral state of someone praying (or performing any other ritual) matters less than if the rite is performed perfectly, so a priest who hasn't been faithful to his vows can still baptise someone, for example.

This is the theory I'm using for Lovecraftian magic, mostly because that's where ol' Purple Prose seemed to go with his stories. Reading a spell correctly could get some scholar in deep trouble.

Later ideas of how magic works have focused on the spiritual state of the practitioner being important, and IIRC some of this came up in the Reformation as a response to the corruption in the Catholic Church. Latter on, this got blended with things like spiritualism, Chinese concepts of chi, and so forth as people innovated on magic explanations with getting away from spirituality as a moral force and tried explaining it mechanistically. All this was in aid of explaining why spells normally fail and occasionally seem to work (yes, it's randomness, but try explaining that to a would-be magician or someone whose prayer was answered. Weird stuff happens).

I figured it was a safe joke, because in the Laundryverse of kilothaums and fungible souls, it appeared to me that the state of the performer mattered to the outcome of the ritual in a mechanistic way, so merely handing someone a script, a set, and some choreography would presumably be as insufficient as if you got actors to wire up a fireworks display using the same minimal guidance.

Incidentally, I think the Romans (or any preliterate people) were right, if you assume that the ritual was less about summoning supernatural aid, and more a way for someone to remember how to do something complicated without written instructions. For example, if you wanted to teach someone how to boil an egg without a timer, you teach them a song that lasts, say, 6.5 minutes if they sing it perfectly at the right speed. They sing this song once if they want a soft boiled egg, and sing it twice with a pause (perhaps another little ritual) for a hard boiled egg. And if you're really clever, you include some other information in the timing song to help them remember how to toast bread over the fire or something similar. It all looks like sympathetic magic to an ignorant anthropologist who's writing the thing down, but it's completely functional. When you're using a performance as a substitute for timing something (or even clapping to keep track of time), perfect performance really does matter.

45:

Take off and summon Cthulhu on the site from orbit.

It’s the only way to be sure.

46:

« From Pre-Roman times to at least the Renaissance, the idea was that the magic happened when the rite was performed perfectly. The state of the performer didn't matter. »

My understanding is that science and magic were not distinguished. The actions of the tinker, sailor, smith, alchemist or brewer are what matter, not their state of mind.

Only after we start to get modern(ish) science do we start to have something like modern(ish) ideas of magic, defined as ways of influencing the world that transcend the ´natural’.

47:

My understanding is that science and magic were not distinguished. The actions of the tinker, sailor, smith, alchemist or brewer are what matter, not their state of mind.

I was going to address Hereromeles's oversimplification myself but I like your approach better.

Sailors and priests, what's the difference? You learn the mystic language of spar, spinnaker, keel, and rudder. You memorize the legends of tide, sandbar, and lee. You practice the rituals of galley, cargo ship, and lighter. If everything is done right you can go where you wish - and maybe you don't, because the sea and the gods only listen to mortals so much.

48:

At the time, Science was theology and some other subjects. Not what we think of as science. Magic was not science.

As for sailors and priests, one is dealing with a natural personification or supernatural manifestation, the other isn't, generally, ideas about sea beings or gods aside.

49:

Well theology is posh and a suitable preoccupation for the gentry, while the forms of ritual that have practical purposes, including things that we’d see as being pastoral care for a small community, typically are not. We know so little about ancient engineering practice and what they actually knew, because this knowledge wasn’t posh enough to write down, mostly, Vitruvius notwithstanding.

The same applies to Science as opposed to craft. Faustus is posh, and summoning Mephistopheles is just as much an act of knowledge as prosecuting a legal matter, or an alchemical transformation. A physician was expected to know about astrology, while a mere surgeon just had to know trivial, low-status things like how to keep the patient alive while you cut their arm off. We still have that in the MBBS degree, where Medicine comes before the bachelor, but surgery comes after it.

Crafts are rituals that involve small gods, adapting these to monotheism the things that come to mind are St Elmo’s and St Anthony’s fire - different contexts but saying something about how to think through what is happening.

Lots of our modern distinctions are quite recent, and many are more arbitrary than we like to believe. The way they constrain ways of thinking, especially when people simply disregard forms of knowledge that would otherwise be understood to be important, is dis-comforting.

50:

There's a couple of other things going on you're missing.

First off, the idea about the definitions of magic changing over time came from Ronald Hutton's Triumph of the Moon: a history of modern pagan witchcraft. Hutton's a pretty careful scholar, so I think he's onto something when he charts the different ways magic was explained over time.

The second thing goes back to Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy, which picks up on the different ways people who are nonliterate and people who are literate deal with the world. This is something people who live in a literate society get largely wrong, and Ong and others are correct that literate vs. nonliterate is a much bigger chasm than science vs. magic and their predecessors. Unfortunately, Ong's work is a lot less well known than Frazer's old notions about sympathetic magic, so the standard discussion about how magic works defaults to 19th century and Frazer (magic vs. science), and less to Ong's 1970s discussion of how literacy radically changes the way humans interact with the world.

A lot of what I'm seeing above as "oh, they didn't separate magic and science back then," is probably better translated as, "before the printing press, rather fewer people were literate, and books were a lot less common, so there was a substantial amount of knowledge that was kept in verbal form, maintained through the usual kinds of mnemonic songs that today only a few people (like doctors) learn for their professions."

The problem for us moderns is the backwards filter of trying to understand nonliterate actions through a pervasive veil of literacy, where we're used to knowledge being a overabundant commodity rather than a scarce treasure. We see ritual behavior as inherently magical, following generations of anthropologists who were shaped by everyone from Frazer to the modern preoccupation with shamanism and psychedelics. Someone who paid more attention to what Ong was saying might well see rituals as mnemonic devices, and much less about the supernatural. Probably Ong is closer to right, at least according to the Australian Aborigines and others who still practice "primitive magic" and know it as a living tradition.

51:

Having embargoed it for a couple days, here's my version of a Laundry Filk, sung to the tune of "Smooth Criminal." I'm Open Sourcing this one, so if anyone wants to use it, all or part, feel free. Just send me a copy of whatever you produce.

They were built for slave labor
Did Bob Howard a nice favor
He walked into Mo’s apartment
Saw the slime trails on the carpet
Mo was sitting at her table
Paralyzed and unable
Bob ran into the bedroom
To see what had caused her gloom
She’d been hexed by
A smooth tentacle

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!

Hey Mo, are you OK
Will you tell us that you’re OK
Elder Things broke the window
And they came through
Flew into your apartment
And left slime trails on the carpet
Bob ran into the closet
And he summoned
A big shoggoth

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!

She’d been hexed by! She’d been hexed by… a smooth tentacle!

Shoggoths started a rebellion
Because they were natural hellions
So Bob made his introduction
“Elder Things need destruction!”

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!

And Mo, she was OK
She told us that she’s OK
Cleaned the slime by the window
Elder Things they knew
Such woe. Shoggoths!
Summoned to the apartment
Dragged the Things to the carport
Tried to fly back into the gloom
They were chowed down
It was their doom

Shoggoths they are OK, they are OK shoggoths!
She’d been hexed by! She’d been hexed by… a smooth tentacle!

Hey Mo, are you OK (oh no)
Will you tell us that you're OK (oh no)
Elder signs at the window (oh no)
Then it hexed you (oh no)
Shoggoths summoned (oh no)
It slimed into your apartment (oh no)
Dragged the Things to the carport (oh no)
Bob came back from the bedroom (oh no)
You were safe now
Life could resume!

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!

52:

Yeah I kind of forgot to point out that I don’t believe this high-brow v low-brow distinction I am making aligns with the science v magic one. I’m sort of casting a broader point that the idea of there being different types of knowledge, religion v science v magic, is a modern one and I think that sort of restates the point you’re making. But I think that this social-class distinction is important too, and may influence how we understand non-literate cultures. I guess though that I am definitely aligning writing with high-brow, since that appears to be historical.

53:

I'm really enjoying this conversation about "primitive" cultures. It ties in rather deeply to some of the issues I'm thinking about right now.

54:

Agreed. Literacy has traditionally been a high-class skill, again until the printing press brought literacy to the masses. It's weird to read someone like Ong and get the idea that seeing words is deeply abnormal in terms of human history, and that for most of the history of our species, words were evanescent events that happened and were lost.

@53: Well, you've got some references to have fun with (and yes, I'm exploring exactly the same ones). Walter Ong's book is available as a pdf if you don't mind cheating. The other book I'd recommend is Lynne Kelly's Memory Code.

55:

Talking of SF & fact
TRY THIS YouTube longish clip of Falcon Havy lift-off & recovery/landin of all three boosters. Most impressive.
It's time to railroad, maybe?

56:

I wrote "one first landing" for my friends at spacex. After they had crashed their first five attempts at landing the first stage, I figured they needed a cheer-up song, and after watching scott manley emulate how NOT to land a first stage on a barge, I was filled with inspiration, and wrote this in about 2 weeks flat. I then had a merry time playing the song at various cons for about a year (including twice with scott himself)

... Then the bastards started succeeding at landing the darn things, and thus I had to rewrite the song. Then they started landing two at a time, and I had to rewrite the darn song again. Now, landing three at a time... I left myself an out, so I hope I don't have to rewrite the thing anymore!

Looking forward to getting more folk to sing along on the chorus this weekend. (and trying to come up with something in charlie's universe this week). I think it's probably an abuse of charlie's space to post those lyrics here.... and like I said, they keep changing.

3 magnificent landings, and a wonderful first test of the BFR.... Living in the future is sometimes really grand.

58:

ROTFL! And at post #42, so I guess that's the answer.... However, in my story, the folks leading it, I really didn't say anything about fully competent....

59:

Ok, folks, I am going to weigh in here, since I actually *do* know about magick (not to be confused with stage magic). Note that real-life psi is related....

If you actually want a clue, the first book you need to read is the late Isaac Bonewits' Real Magic. He had more credentials than anyone else: he had an actual BA in Thaumaturgy from UC Berkeley[1], and the book is an expansion of his baccalaureate thesis. The original had a bibliography about 20pp long, and the revised edition's bibliography is longer.

Feel free to read any of the bibliography... you will, of course, need to read ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Latin, Old French and Old English, since he went to primary sources.

Now, traditional magickal theory depended, as Sprague de Camp was well aware (and demonstrated it in Incomplete Enchanter) on several axioms: the theory of contagion[2], and the theory of similarity[3].

Lovecraft, et al, made up whatever fit their preconceptions and/or story line.

1. The original editions of Real Magic had, on the back cover, a copy of his diploma, signed (I am not making this up) by the then-gov of California, Ronnie Raygun.
2. Something that was once in contact with something else maintains some essence of that connection. It is left as an exercise for the student to show how this differs from quantum entanglement.
3. The most similar two things are, the more one can affect the other.

I can go on for quite some time on this, btw, but this strikes me as an inappropriate site for that. Drinks in a quiet corner at a con, on the other hand....

60:

Yeah, about that: the reason that witches, and magicians, and sorcerers were so persona non grata with the Church was one of two reasons: either a) they're frauds, gulling the credible (and "leading them to the devil"), or b) it all works, and then they're unlicensed magick users (as opposed to priests, who are licensed magick users).

We won't even bring up the real goal of alchemy.

61:

Thanks muchly, Gret. I'd missed that the other day.

Farm out, man...

62:

You'll need to bring up the real goal of alchemy, if Charlie doesn't mind the diversion.

63:

Lead to gold was metaphor. The *real* goal, at least of the initiates who knew what they were actually trying to do, was "perfect the soul". Since doing that would, effectively, make you like Jesus, you understand that maximum obfuscation was necessary to avoid a party involving a stake and firewood....

64:

Ah well you see the issue there is in tying the various gnostic forms of alchemy together with the different forms, ideas and practises throughout the next 2k years. Suffice to say, it varied, and there's no evidence that most people known as alchemists in the medieval period, for instance, were actually involved in purifying their soul to return to the nous.

65:

And you purified your soul so that you could perform miracles, like turning lead into gold, thereby pleasing your patron who would notionally be happy to support a holy man who demonstrated his worth by performing miracles that (say, for a devout patron supporting said alchemist) allowed his patron to be more charitable than he otherwise could, by having all this new gold lying around to give away.

The funding situation was similar to that for physicists and mechanical engineers: they get money to the degree that the increase the power and prestige of those giving them money. The complication was that the alchemists didn't officially cotton onto the notion that creation was anything other than God's work. Therefore, to do the work of creation and miracles, one had to position oneself closer to God. The idea that there's a natural world separate from the divine world seriously only exploded in the 19th Century (especially after 1860 and the publication of Darwin's Origin), and before that, I don't think a chemist or alchemist could disentangle the two. Indeed, I don't think many do now, especially if they teach physical sciences at overtly religious colleges.

This, incidentally, is what I was yammering on about with the history of magic. When your prayers are answered, is it because you, miserable sinner that you are, gave a sufficiently perfect performance that you pleased God, who granted your prayer? That's the old model. Alternatively, have you, miserable sinner, confessed your sins and led a Christian life to a sufficient degree that God will grant you your prayer? That's more alchemical.

If you're writing fantasy with magic in it, this kind of question matters. Although magic is normally incidental to the story, it does get annoying when authors slip between the systems. Earthsea is an example of a world that superficially appears to work on the perfect performance model, but also has a poorly defined personal power aspect that turns out to be essential to many parts of the story.

66:

Come on down to the Decatur Book Festival (Atlanta USA)! It's the largest independent book festival in the USA. https://www.decaturbookfestival.com/about/about_dbf

Of course, at the same time every year, there is DragonCon, which typically scoops up a lot of the scifi and fantasy genre authors (and is also pretty amazing, though I haven't attended in quite a while).

I believe I mentioned this once before and you shot it down on the basis of our insane president - but hey, now you have a completely nutty government yourself to flee! Having lived through these inglorious times, I find I have developed a remarkable ability to zone out and tune in only when something truly hideous is being discussed - like splitting up families and caging children. Panel discussion! Coping mechanisms!
(Strike that, actually, that would be weirdly existentialist in an extremely depressing way.)

Anyway, we would love to see you here.

67:

But the U.K. government is the devil he knows... Not Cthulhu, but Fabian Every-May

68:

The idea that there's a natural world separate from the divine world seriously only exploded in the 19th Century (especially after 1860 and the publication of Darwin's Origin), and before that, I don't think a chemist or alchemist could disentangle the two.

The idea kept cropping up in various "heresies" for centuries but the variations in such things are of interest only to hobbyists. As you point out, it finally found a home in the 19th Century Western zeitgeist, to the outrage of traditionalists...

69:

whitroth @ 60
Something similar came up in a pub-conversation about a month ago ...
The RC church REALLY COULD "Drive out Devils" ... when those "devils" were the effects of a whole village or town being out of their skulls on a bad acid trip from Ergot in the rye-bread they had been eating.
The church cured this, with pure WHITE bread ( No rye ) & wine & of course lots of services & holy water ....

SS @ 68
But, the idea was that the two worlds were one & that by studying the antural world, you could understand the "spritual" one.
Which has since come apart on the grounds that the spritual one doesn't actually exist, except as a sub-set of the first.
Somethiong that fervent relgious believers deny, of course.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
MEANWHILE

Homeless Gargoyles are doubtless wandering the streets of Paris, looking for lodgings.
Yes, it was & is a christian church, but like the wrecked temples of Palmyra, it's also a vessel of history & culture, floating down the stream of Time ....

70:

Atlanta in August? You do know that our Charlie is prone to heat stroke in a refrigerator and melts if he goes out in the Big Blue Room, yes?

(Also, he's doing back to back conventions in August - three weekends in a row, in three different countries yet, would be one way to wreck him. It nearly wrecked us when we did it, and we were only in two countries.)

71:

Random note concerning a very old thread: In one of Charlie's past parasitology threads I mentioned that the idea of a Sacculina-esque human parasite appeared in some old SF work but I could not remember what.

Found it - it's "Strange Compulsion" by Philip Jose Farmer and it's here: http://archive.org/stream/Science_Fiction_Plus_v01n06_1953-10_-_Gernsback/Science%20Fiction%20Plus%20v01n06%201953-10%20-%20Gernsback_djvu.txt

72:

Well, not exactly. That would be rather, um, declassee. Now, curing the sick, raising the dead, yep. Oh, and bringing about The Millenium. Probably immortality (barring the occasional set of nails and some large pieces of lumber).

Don't know that much about eastern alchemy, but the little I know suggests that, too, was to improve the soul (short cut to bhoddisatva, maybe).

Everyone except the frauds who believed that it was about turning lead into gold knew that, in one sense or another, they were defrauding their noble and wealthy patrons.

73:

Always wanted to make Hay (on Wye, of course).

Dragoncon can go suck a big one, after they deliberately stole the weekend that Worldcon in the US was always on (and that was my late wife and my anniversary).

74:

Hay-on-Wye is a fine town, though my only visit actually involved attending a wedding. On the other hand the bride has since won various literary prizes including a Hugo and a Prometheus, so it was an excellent venue.

75:

Immortality has always been a goal of Taoist alchemy, although the definition seems to keep shifting for some reason. Hard to tell if that's because they realized that ingesting mass quantities of mercury and other preservatives wouldn't make them immortal, or because it's always been a cover story to keep the fraudsters away from the meditators.

So far as I know in Buddhist "alchemy" (Dzogchen and similar), the point is faster enlightenment. The meditation the Buddha taught works, but it's thought to generally take lifetimes, which the practitioner might not get. Alchemical methods use more esoteric means to try to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. The basic point is that breath-watching meditation teaches you how to be present in your life, which is a foundational skill for all spiritual activities. Then, once you're present in your life, you've got to deal with all the crap in your life, and this is where psychiatry and Buddhism (and Taoism) have basically the same agenda. If you're *really good* at this, you can become enlightened. If not, then alchemy is reportedly the next step beyond basic meditation. Once you get to the point that all your delusions, addictions, cravings, and attachments aren't messing up your ability to be present in the moment, then alchemical techniques are there to help you finish becoming enlightened. If you have time, skill, and can find a teacher. If you can't, well, that's your karma.

As for turning lead into gold, since people without a good atomic theory didn't really know what they're doing, both lead and gold are heavy, soft metals, and things like iron pyrite can be made to look like gold, I don't think it was necessarily deliberate fraud to try to turn lead into gold through alchemy. It was a speculative venture, but cheaper for a noble than waging war to get someone else's gold. Looking back it was wrong-headed, but we can say that about so much science now (microplastics anyone? CFC refrigerants? Leaded gasoline?) that I wouldn't condemn the old alchemists out of hand. Nor would I mock them for trying to be more God-like, if that's what their theories led them to believe would make their experiments work.

76:

Wasn't mocking anyone, just explaining them.

Mercury... preservative.... Y'know, back in my mid-20s, years before I went back to college, then became a programmer, for a couple of years I was driving for Yellow Cab. I was drinking about four cans of soda a day. One day, eating lunch in the cab, I started reading the can label. (Fan: must compulsively read *everything*) Then I started thinking: .1% preservative. That's 2.5 days for 1%, and 250 days, that's a pound of it.

Maybe that's what the ancient Egyptians did: ate and drank so many preservatives that when they died, they didn't need any more, they were already, ahhh, well-preserved.

77:

It's kind of strange to think that mercurous chloride was used medically in large quantities until certainly after WW2. I guess alchemists must have shat like geese.

78:

Yup. I have been treated with calomel. Mercury has a bad reputation, but it isn't as nasty as is made out - IF used appropriately. Using it for topical treatment of fungal skin infections was and is quite sensible.

79:

It depends which mercury compound we're talking about.

Totally horrible death-on-a-stick territory is reserved for the organic mercury compounds: dimethyl mercury, for example, is the measuring stick for neurotoxins. Metallic mercury is bad mostly because it has a low vapor pressure and if you inhale too much it can produce organomercury complexes inside you: some other forms, notably salts, are … well, they're not good for you but they're not "level 4 biohazard containment inside a glove box and two extra layers of gloves" bad for you.

80:

Yep, saints add preservatives to us.

But actually, the Egyptians, like other desert peoples (notably along the desert coast of Peru) noticed that corpses dried out and naturally mummified if buried in sand dunes, especially if there was a fair amount of salt in the dunes. Experimentation and formalization followed, and the world ended up with mummies.

The whole mercury thing is something I more associate with the First Qin Emperor, especially with his tomb. That dude reportedly hit the cinnabar far more than was , but he was far from the only emperor to do so, or to even die from the practice.

81:

You know, after reading about the Taoist immortality elixirs, I have this strong desire to spend days reading Joseph Needham while playing Blue Oyster Cult songs on repeat. Weird...

...Too bad I have other, more useful things to do. That's karma for you.

82:

Yes. The danger is real, but the hysteria doesn't help. That's true of other things, like asbestos, too.

83:

Yes, *please*. What drove me nuts was the idiocy, a few years ago, of GOTTA HAVE LEAD-FREE SOLDER.... Let's put bismuth in, that's *so* much safer (NOT).

84:

I'm not that bothered what my solder is made of, I just hate lead-free solder because it is shite. Both for plumbing and for electronics. Fortunately despite all the noise it still seems to be nearly as easy to get leaded solder as it ever was.

Anyway, what about this carbon stuff? It seems to be pretty harmless, but look what it does to you when it bonds covalently with mercury.

85:

Re Needham, wikipedia led to this, which I do not recall seing previously, and thence to another paper. Some readings lined up for tonight (or maybe throwing against wall):
The “Genius Germs” Hypothesis: Were epidemics of leprosy and tuberculosis responsible in part for the great diver-gence? (Shireesh P. Apte, 2009)
The concept that infectious disease may play a role in the causal chain of events that lead to “evolutionary disproportionate” increases in cerebro-diversity and cognition in cer-tain populations may be a chilling thought; but it does serve as a useful tool to explain in biochemical terms the solution to the so-called “Needham puzzle” – why the Indus-trial Revolution did not originate in China.
It is also a disconcerting thought as to what “evolutionary advantages”, cognition-en-hancing or otherwise, are being suppressed by modern medicine due to its relent-less crusade against infectious diseases.

and this which cites it (warning Deleuze mentioned, a lot):
Non-anthropocentricCreativeMechanisms in Multispecies Symbiotic Assemblages (2016, N Ivanova)
As noted above, the tubercle bacillus forms machinic assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari) and operates as an endosymbiont with human bio-systems. It is possible that these endosymbiotic assemblages contribute to human creativity and destabilize simple notions of its origin. In a double reflection, the concept of creativity itself could be revisited along alternative lines: it cannot be considered anymore only as the production of human cultural artefacts and experiences, but rather it can be understood as ubiquitous activity performed by heterogeneous highly dynamic machinic assemblages (comprising of human, animal, computational, social, molecular, bacterial, viral, and other processes), which lead to the production of novel modes of existence.


86:

If not, then alchemy is reportedly the next step beyond basic meditation.
There are nootropics for that now. :-) (Seriously, some of them, e.g. choline and bacopa, seem to help with some meditations. I don't mean psychedelics though those are obviously potentially interesting too.)


87:

Pigeon @ 84
Oh good ... my supply of leaded solder is running low.
Email me, please? As to where I can get decent stuff?

88:

Ytterbium membership is closed, except possibly for a very small number of day memberships on the door (and that, depending on the day).

I note that David Täht squeaked in. Your badge will be made today, sir.

89:

Experience suggesting that day memberships are more likely to be available on Friday and Monday than Saturday and Sunday, yes?

91:

And that stuffs it completely ... I was thinking about coming along for maybe a day, maybe two .....

92:

I have my doubts about that. If that's the case, then why didn't the massive amounts of TB and emphysema in the UK stop it?

I'd suspect it's partly cultural, and partly economics/politics dependent. If, for example, the Big Money are also the nobility, and they don't want their income disrupted (we've never seen anything like that in our lives, no, no, Mssrs Koch), or there's invasion or civil war....

I've also read that in Japan? China? Not sure if it was for the region, but in the west, the squeaky wheel gets greased, in East, it's more like it gets bashed down, so it *will* fit that round hole.

All of that is long since changed... but we're talking a couple hundred years ago.

93:

I would be *really* cautious about them. It might have been Bonewits who was taking what, around '89 or so, some of the supplements touted to help your thinking, l-tryptophan... and got a bad batch, which gave him a disease, eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, that left him serious ill the rest of his life.

94:

I'd suggest being careful with any of this stuff, quite honestly.

The problems with drugs are fairly obvious (from committing ritual suicide on the thought that you'll come back immortal, to experimenting with any chemical intervention based on someone's half-baked theory of how minds work), but it's worth noting that with Kundalini Yoga (the yoga equivalent of alchemy) the possibilities for bad outcomes are so diverse there's a group that helps American practitioners get over their bad trips, a process that generally takes years. Heck, some people have even had psychotic lapses doing safe and sane ol' breath watching.

95:

Sorry - I did try warning though back at #14

If you are in the Heathrow area early enough, you could try anyway. There's an unwillingness to send people away if they've actually come all that way.

96:

Can you still get weekend passes at the door, or only day ones?

97:

Reply to Bill Arnold @ 85:  Needham's puzzle isn't too hard to answer plausibly, as to why the Industrial Revolution didn't happen first in China. Political disunity of the European type, where nation states compete for centuries, tends to spur tech progress. An empire like China's with centralized political and cultural control would make potential Galileos just too easy to thwart when they upset the apple cart, and face it, most tech advances DO shuffle the deck for winners and losers, it's why the highest buzzword of praise in Silicon Valley is to call something 'disruptive'.
 
     The interesting question is how come China's imperial system survived from 220 BC to 1911, but Rome didn't. Or Egypt, Persia, the Mughals, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottomans, or many others. My impression is that their system of writing was a cohesive force in Chinese culture, providing an advantage, over the centuries, for national unification and so helping empire builders. 

Spoken languages among the various provinces were different enough to be mutually unintelligible throughout most of recorded history, same as everywhere else in the world. But the logographic script was recognizable and understood by any literate person regardless of how they pronounced the words out loud. The meaning was associated with the written forms, even if their spoken sounds were different in various parts of the country, So Chinese high school graduates can pretty much follow the gist of stuff written centuries ago, much better than we could puzzle out the meaning of a Latin or Greek text without special training. Phonetic writing is faster to learn, MUCH faster, but it's only comprehensible among speakers of the same language. Which explains why linguistic groups are a basis for national identities in Western civilization, and why China hasn't switched to a phonetic system. They're afraid regional dialects if spelled out phonetically would be centrifugal forces tearing the country apart, besides removing their sense of  connection to shared history, another big unifying force for national identity. Maybe this isn't as true as it once was before public schooling, radio, movies and TV exposed everyone to the standard dialect, but still could cause problems if somebody from Beijing flew to HongKong and all the ads and signs were phonetic spellings of local speech.

   So phonetic script is easy to learn, which is good, but it busts up cultural and political cohesion which is bad, and that permits international competition and warfare which is bad, but that prompts technological advancement, which is good, and that helps economic development which is good, but that still doesn't solve the political disunity problem which is bad. So like Confucius said when they asked if a raven's squawk was a bad omen, "people can't tell good from bad, how's a bird supposed to know."

98:

How did China survive (we'll ignore the khans) for all that time? Have you ever played Risk?

Southeast Asia is relatively safe, as opposed to, say all of Asia. The whole Middle East, and Italy, can be invaded from any and all directions, including sea, and the Mediterranean isn't that hard to cross.

Hell, consider how many times the UK's been invaded and conquered: in the last two milleniums, that'd be, un, three times.

99:

As to why China's imperial system lasted, the short answer is that it didn't. If you look at any representation of Chinese history (This one for example), you'll see that the "unbroken chain" is marked by centuries of turmoil, such as the "Three Kingdoms," "Northern and Southern Dynasties," "Ten Kingdoms and Five Dynasties," and even apparently stable dynasties (like the Qing) were marked by long-lasting rebellions (The Taiping Rebellion, the largest civil war in history to date, which created an ISIS-like state in southern China that lasted for decades).

This is no different than if you read the history of the Pharaohs of Egypt (38 dynasties, Old and New Kingdoms, etc.). That "system" lasted most of two thousand years, not that you're giving them credit for it.

The problem is your education, which comes from the western Imperial tradition of Rome collapsing. Rome the actual empire didn't fall until 1453, when Constantinople, which *was* the last remnant of the empire, fell to the Ottomans. However, England traces its official history back to the Western Roman Empire, a failed experiment which was abandoned when the Roman Empire downsized and moved its capitol east under Constantine the Great. Under Constantine and his successors, the Roman Empire rebranded itself as Christian, eventually adopted Greek as a working language and cavalry as a military system, but stayed Rome.

However, in our history we talk about the fall of the western Roman Empire, how Rome collapsed, how the Dark Ages came, and so on. It's a different view of the same event: Rome downsizing and moving east. The story of the collapse of Rome and attempts to rebuild the ancient Empire (up to the Third Reich and the EU) come from the part of the business that was shed as unworkable. If we admitted that the eastern Empire continued for another thousand years, we'd have to acknowledge that the Eastern Orthodox tradition, including the czars of Russia, have a better claim on the mantle of Rome than we do.

When you look at China's "longevity," you're seeing something called the Mandate Of Heaven, which is the idea that Heaven (Chinese style, not Christian) chooses who the emperor (the Son of Heaven who conducts rituals to intermediate between Heaven and Earth) is. If the Son Of Heaven fails to do his job well, the empire gets into trouble, Heaven gets angry, and a new, unrelated emperor rises to take the old one's place, thereby founding a new dynasty. This piece of propaganda was created back in the Sui Dynasty (IIRC) by the literati to justify the fact that a usurper was busily putting together a new empire in the Chinese heartland, and also (quite importantly) to justify why this new emperor needed to work with the existing literati. If they hadn't done that, the literati would have been swept away (western style, really), and the new emperor would have started from scratch.

The bottom line here is that Chinese and European history really aren't that different: both have periods of unifiers, and both have empires that fell apart, leading to long, messy periods with no one in charge of the place. The Chinese, for political purposes, chose to create a story of unbroken imperial succession using the Mandate of Heaven, while western Europeans chose, for political purposes, to create a story of the Fall of Rome and attempts to recreate it.

As for industrial revolution, I'd look at global colonialism as a major driver of the second industrial revolution in Europe. It certainly wasn't the innovation of mass production After all, the Qin dynasty (200 BCE in China) had mass produced crossbow triggers, and the Sui or thereabouts came up with guns and gunpowder centuries before the ideas came to Europe. What is missing in Chinese history isn't the technology, it's the resources, and it isn't imperial politics or any racial traits, it's the fractious nature of Chinese politics in general. And especially, what's missing is the Chinese looting of the New World and creation of an African slave trade to create huge plantations of industrial goods like sugar cane and cotton, that enabled the mills of Europe to change western society. China, for good or ill, never went for that route, so their technological innovations stayed mostly in country and only stayed as the world's best until 1800 or so.

Until after 1800, Chinese goods were better than European goods, and they ran a trade surplus with Europe from Roman times until the 19th Century, which led to things like the opium wars (English dumping opium in the Chinese market to pay for all the tea, silk, and porcelain they bought on credit), which led to the Taiping Rebellion. Nowadays, if you look closely, you'll notice that China's running a trade surplus with the rest of the world again, and that the western world has basically lost its technological edge over China. While you may view this as a horror of the West failing to dominate the planet, I'd suggest the more historically accurate view is that China, except when it's in the throes of dynastic turmoil (which it was until the 1970s), is the world's most powerful country, and we're simply seeing it resuming its normal place in world trade.

100:

Along those lines (and not arguing with Heteromeles' interesting historical details), although it's not a mainstream economics concept, "power diffusion" (J. Powelson, disclaimer family acquaintance) is a similar way to look at this.
One way in which power diffusion becomes relevant, as Jack shows well, is the development of civil society. When just a few interest groups dominate – or capture – the policymaking process, you get a much different outcome than in the case of civil society pluralism. In other words, Jack argued that one of the key factors underlying economic success of countries is the “balance of power among various economic groups.”
The point on power diffusion leads one to make several conclusion in regards to reform. While power diffusion does not constitute democracy, Powelson argues that it leads to democracy and democratic institutions. In the presence of power diffusion, the state takes the secondary role, responding to the interests of various interest groups, rather than driving through the agenda of several cronies (as it often happens in authoritarian countries)

CHAPTER 11 - China: The Puzzles of History
CHAPTER 12 China: Institutions and Reform

101:

Why not? It's certainly worth quibbling about the details. I don't think it's worth arguing about long-lived empires, since it certainly looks like there's a lot of political mythologizing in every one of these histories.

Still, why China didn't own the world in the 19th and 20th Centuries? That's where things get interesting.

Here's one for instance (from greatmingmilitary): Chinese guns and military weapons. China didn't have a central armory in the imperial capitol, at least in the Ming Dynasty. While it certainly had a need for armed soldiers, due to wu kou pirates and Mongols hitting from opposite sides, the generals it sent out had to get their arms from the local magistrates they were protecting, and from the local blacksmiths. As a result, guns in particular were a hodgepodge of everything from primitive fire lances to matchlocks and flintlocks, all of wildly varying quality. After all, they weren't being made by specialist arms manufacturers, they were being made by local blacksmiths of greatly different skill levels. The great military genius Qi Ji Guang, in his warfare manuals, even specified how many guns to expect to fail in battle, and it's something around a quarter or more. Hence the Chinese went in for massively mixed weapons troops, including archers and gunners along with people with polearms and great swords, and hence we get the modern kung fu weapon diversity, which is very similar to the late Medieval weapons that the West largely abandoned during the Renaissance, due to European improvements in gun technology, which in turn came from smiths specializing in gun manufacture and innovating furiously.

The lesson here is that imperial politics did drive some Chinese technologies, but not in the most obvious way.

102:

"Hell, consider how many times the UK's been invaded and conquered: in the last two milleniums, that'd be, un, three times."

Charlie often quotes the line about treason: when it succeeds, none dare call it so. When invasions of Britain succeed, none dare call them "invasions."

103:

Give me a break - show me anyone who doesn't refer to
1. the Roman invasion of Britain
2. the Anglo-Saxon invasion or
3. the Norman Conquest

as "invasions".

We will, of course, ignore the "we'll buy the whole thing up, and raise prices, and you peasants can go pound sand" conquest....

104:

Apparently, the only evidence for the Anglo-Saxon invasion (as opposed to settlement and trade) is sparse (two sources, one being Geoffrey of Monmouth) literary, polemical, and written centuries after it supposedly happened.

However, you forgot the vikings, so that evens it out.

105:

Hm, Britain has the debatable distinction of having been conquered by the Belgians, err, Belgae...

I somewhat wonder if the fun with the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution counts...

106:

Which makes me wonder why Afghanistan or Switzerland failed to conquer the world, they have plenty of different interest groups.

Problem is, the only real answer to "which drives technological progress, unity or disunity?" is "mu". And an look at the agenda the author is trying to push, right libertarians like disunity, statists prefer unity...

107:

Er, no, not even remotely. There is strong genetic and linguistic evidence for the 'anglo-saxon invasion', amounting to proof. We don't know exactly what form the invasion took, and it was more generally germanic than anglo-saxon, but it assuredly happened.

And then there was the replacement of the existing population (who built Stonehenge etc.) by the beaker people, which was near-total but very poorly understood.

108:

Oh, I agree there were plenty of Anglo-Saxons coming in. What's missing, like evidence that King Arthur existed and fought off the Anglo-Saxons, are the graves from all the battles that took place when the Anglo-Saxons forcibly conquered the Brits and subjugated or replaced them.

I get the same problem in California, where we could talk about either the American invasion of Mexican territory (technically correct, because there was a war of conquest in 1846), or the Latino invasion of American territory (not incorrect, especially if you're a Republican or a white supremacist). Aside from tiny little battles, you're not going to find good archaeological evidence that the Nation of Mexico forcibly invaded California in the last 150 years or so, nor are you going to find good archaeological evidence for the conqeust by the US (not many shots were fired). However, if you look at our genetics and language, the prevalence of people of Hispanic ancestry (including in my own family) makes it look like a conquering army came through and raped the women or something, even though neither side did that. Genetics and military history don't always gibe.

This isn't a new problem. Apparently written accounts by the Babylonians of barbarians sacking cities and ruling as usurpers run into awkward archaeological evidence of the names of the so-called barbarians living in those very same cities well before the time of the "invasion," and the people writing the polemics about the invaders lived well after the "sacking" was supposed to have taken place and could not have had personal knowledge of the events.

109:

Is there a charliefinder at this con, or do I have to track network congestion and slashdotting to dig him up?

(I am just arriving around 11:30)

110:

"What's missing... are the graves from all the battles..."

Similarly, there are no massive piles of red squirrel skeletons from when the grey squirrels turned up. Excluding the mingling/interbreeding part, the two cases are much the same - the invaders didn't really fight the indigenes, the indigenes just buggered off somewhere they didn't have to hear the invaders' crappy music. Invasions aren't always storming military cataclysms, it's just that that sort make better TV.

111:

Actually, there were LOTS of graves and well-documented slaughters, by the vikings, which were about half of the 'anglo-saxon' invasion (see below). The southern germanic invasion seems to have taken a different form, but was most definitely an invasion, and its social consequences are well-documented in contemporary writings.

As I said "We don't know exactly what form the invasion took, and it was more generally germanic than anglo-saxon, but it assuredly happened."

112:

We also know from more recent history that mass graves can be made very hard to find. It requires labour, but not much ingenuity, nor any technology more advanced than fire.

113:

You've personally magically searched the entirety of south England in order to prove such graves don't exist? I mean come on man, given how limited archaeological coverage is it's nust to expect to be able to find them. not to mention I've not read anything about any mass graves being discovered from more recent battled in central Scotland circa 1300, for instance.
Of course the invasion was likely far more peaceful than e.g. 19th century historians like to think things were, but come on.

114:

I haven't, but there's enough skepticism that it even makes it onto weeknight PBS:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/king-arthurs-lost-kingdom-full-episode/4094/

115:

Uh huh, lets generalise one small area to the entirety of the UK. The stuff about thofsands of bodies only 2% having damage from weapons is more persuasive, except of course that the key point about archaeology is that you work with what you have found. For instance, in my experience, the small pewter and copper alloy later medieval objects that turn up reported in the finds database is very different from the percentages, numbers and so on of the town digs that have been carried out.

116:

Of course having said that, you might like to enquire as to why King Arthur is such a legend and it was necessary to portray the anglo saxons as invading hordes...

117:

I can think of multiple reasons, from a reasonable attempt to portray history to straight up propaganda to early attempts to reclaim a "celtic identity" in a predominantly Anglicized system.

Or it could be the same reason that US politicians portray Latinos as invading hordes, to exploit the politics of difference and to justify discrimination or violence.

From a different angle, why do folk Taoists literally idolize characters from The Journey to the West and The Water Margin as divine, even though they're known to be fiction? I'm bringing this up, because stories of Arthur Pendragon and the Grail Quest could be (or are) as equally fiction, but that hasn't stopped modern pagans from claiming they are divine as well.

118:

In most invasions, very few of the conquered people are killed directly by the invaders (there are, of course, exceptions), so 2% is a very plausible figure, anyway. There are a zillion other reasons to be sure the Anglo-Saxon invasion occurred, though it was probably not one of the ones that created piles of corpses. For example, I saw one reference to Anglo-Saxon law requiring a higher weregild for the killing of an Anglo-Saxon than a Celt.

What is really weird is how little Welsh (being the main language spoken in England in 500 AD) has got into modern English. It's everywhere in place names, but there is more Hindustani in at least southern English than all Celtic language. The genetic evidence is compatible with the usual pattern of invasions (e.g. more Y chromosomes corresponding with the invaders than DNA generally).

To guthrie: the modern legend of King Arthur etc. is a fantasy that was created several hundred years after the invasion had transformed England and in a far country (largely western France). There are contemporary and celtic originals, many of which were based on historical people in Cornwall and Wales, but they are very different.

119:

Possibly Celtic words are a class/status marker? Proper people speak French English?

Interesting speculation from Aotearoa that Maori loan words are a cultural/status signifier...

120:

That's a given, but not my point.

The normal pattern from invasions is that the conquering males take some of the local women as wives, concubines, nurses etc., which is what the genetic evidence indicates. Because children are brought up initially by their mothers or nurses, the children use the 'proper' language for formal purposes, but use some of the conquered language between themselves and informally, which then gets into the language.

And, as I said, a lot of English place names are Welsh (e.g. Avon, Coombe) - though there is at least as much Scandinavian and one does get things like Pentor Hill :-)

121:

Yes, the Angles and the Saxons (and whatever other Germanic groups) were invaders.

Let's see, we *know* the Romans fought them. We know of the Romano-British. Then, in a relatively short period of time, we have mostly Angles and Saxons, and the British and Romano-British have been pushed west.

Will anyone argue that (I mean, other than just to argue)?

So it was an invasion, and we do have names to put, people like Vortigern, who is mentioned both on the British side (and the Welsh Triads) and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

Ok? Can we drop this "oh, maybe it wasn't an invasion..."?

I always thought the real Arthur was a Dux Bellorum: a Romano-British war leader, not a king, so all the petty kings of the British didn't feel they should complain that the *other* kind was pumping himself up.... Someone of Roman ancestry wouldn't be in the king lineage, so....

Personally, I am completely convinced by Geoffrey Ashe's book from the late seventies, and his archeological evidence - documents from a Procurator in Gaul, who'd begged for help from Britain, and a leader of the British came over with something like 10k or 12k troops. In that time period, and that area of the world, that's a *lot* of troops, more than any one petty king could muster.

And so, Arthur.

122:

Please... that's not a good argument for Arthur. By your logic, if in 200 years, someone writes a history of Zorro The Gay Blade being the homosexual leader of the Mexican resistance against the American invasion, would that mean that Zorro existed as a real human? Actually, he didn't, but the Indian he's somewhat modeled after (Estanaslao, namesake of modern Stanislaus County) has been largely forgotten. And neither of them were homosexual, but due to the change in meaning of "gay" over the last 50 years, I can easily see some future historian screwing that up.

As for genetics, again, if you're going to argue that "Anglo-Saxon DNA in Britain" shows an invasion, then California's being invaded by Mexicans, and Trump's right to shut down the border. That's about the level of logic you're working on right now. For your next iteration of said argument, you might want to notice on maps of the iron age tribes of Britain how many tribes, like the Belgae, already had relatives on the mainland well before Caesar got there. It's not like people hadn't been going back and forth across that channel since the mesolithic, after all. What does the DNA show, if you can't match a date to the gene?

123:

Um, nope. "Mexicans invading California"? And here, I thought it was the other way around, since they were there first....

124:

That's a given, but not my point. ... but use some of the conquered language between themselves and informally, which then gets into the language.

Right, so the normal 'given' reason that subject languages don't get into the conqueror's language doesn't apply, but you haven't said what reason does. Or perhaps the normal reason explains why that hasn't happened, but you're still treating the result as remarkable. That's why I'm confused.

125:

That's kind of the point.

To add to the "invasion" story, it looks to a lexicographer who gave a talk I attended that Spanish is becoming more prevalent in California, not less, and more people are becoming functionally bilingual. Heck, there's all these towns with Spanish names near the border: San Diego, El Paso, Calexico, Los Angeles... Obviously the Mexicans conquered and renamed the towns closest to the border, except where the whites resisted in places like Phoenix and Tucson, right?

The point here is not that Mexicans are invading and displacing Americans, it's that you can read genetic and linguistic evidence of a long history of traffic across a fluid border as an invasion story, if you want to. After all, the same kind of evidence that you're touting as supporting the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England makes it look like California's being invaded by Mexico.

Now run California through a bunch of big earthquakes, and crash or ten and a major language change, lose most of the records, rely on hearsay, and you can come up with the story of how Zorro fought on the American side against the corrupt Mexicans who invaded California, with his lover Don Diego de la Vega and Ritchie Valens as his sidekick. And yes, I do think it's entirely possible that this is where Arthur came from.

126:

"Um, nope. "Mexicans invading California"? And here, I thought it was the other way around, since they were there first...."

That's not really true for California (or Texas). When people use that saying, they're mostly referring to New Mexico. Short history of California:

It wasn't colonized by Spain until 1770, relatively late in the colonization game. For decades, most of the colonies in question were Spanish priests and enslaved Indians. Non-priest settlers arrived towards the end of the Spanish period. In other words, the ethnogenesis of what we call "Hispanic" did occur there, but was far more muted since

"In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence gave Mexico (including California) independence from Spain. For the next 25 years, Alta California remained as a remote, sparsely populated, northwestern administrative district of the newly independent country of Mexico."

In short, the ruling class was more likely to think of themselves as Spanish and the natives maintained their identities. Think of Ontario after the US War of Independence, if Ontario had been incorporated into the US.

During Mexican rule, California was opened up to settlers, mostly US citizens. During the Mexican American War, the settlers revolted on their own, established a short-lived republic, and voted to join the US.

PS: I don't if the landowners preferred US rule over Mexican rule. Many of the families weren't around that long until the war.

127:

Here are some thoughts about the fall of the Roman Empire and the Saxon invasions

1. You can make an argument that the Eastern Roman Empire fell in WWI, not 1453. You can make good arguments that the Ottoman Empire was a continuation of the Byzantine Empire (in the same way you can argue that the Soviet Union was a continuation of the Russian Empire). The borders of the Ottoman Empire were very similar to the borders of the Byzantine empire. Both "disintegrated" in a very similar fashion. If that is the case, a continuous Roman Empire has so far outlived China (753 BC - 1919 AD vs 220 BC - present).

2. I'm not that well versed in these matters, but wasn't the TFR of the Western Roman Empire below replacement level within the 5th century?

3. I previously posted an article claiming that DNA tests had detected that only about 20% of English people had Saxon ancestry, clustered mostly the Southeast. The articles below show that the picture is far murkier:

http://theconversation.com/why-the-idea-that-the-english-have-a-common-anglo-saxon-origin-is-a-myth-88272

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35344663

128:

No, the normal reason doesn't explain what happened - that is precisely my point - and we don't know exactly what did. The first link that Ioan posts summaries the genetic situation, so it remains puzzling that so many place names are Celtic but so few English words are. Confusion is justified.

129:

Having read those two links

To me that was completely unsuprising, given what little I know of my own ancestry.
I don't like this fake "Anglo-Saxon" racism that seems to be bubbling up - reminds me too much of the "Blut und Boden" of the Nazis.

Oh yes, really unpleasant statement by Trump, if I can find it ...
QUOTE
Trump has just announced that he is a Nationalist. There is a "United States Nationalist Party."
ENDQUOTE
This has been intepreted as a dogwhistle for "A White Nationalist Party"
And, quoting again, from a USA source:
The ONLY thing that separates Trump from classic fascism, in the original ideological sense that Mussolini developed (Nazism was really quite a different beast in many ways) is his lack of ideological and philosophical coherence. He's more reactive. But the instincts are the same.
He's preparing to burn the house down if or when he finds himself being pushed out the door. Nothing like a good fire to create a smokescreen. And because his basic instincts are fascist, the tinder he uses will all be of that flavour. Expect to see, over coming months:
Promotion of an extreme nationalist agenda
Development of a ‘stab in the back' narrative
Acceleration of the ‘us and them' divisions
A lot of ‘enemy within' themes
A significant ramping up of racial rhetoric — further demonisation of immigrants, and an increasing extension of this to non-immigrant people of colour
Appeals to his base (especially those of them in the military and law enforcement)
An increasing disregard for anything outside of his base.

Scary, or what?

130:

Wrong end of the stick. There have been several successful conquests of England since 1066, but no one characterizes them as such. And as other people have pointed out, you've missed a few even from the first millennium.

Some people even think the Britons struck back from Brittany at one point, but I don't pretend to expertise on the subject. And the evidence is fairly sparse.

131:

By the bye, this morning, the Malignant Carcinoma has demonstrated to the world that he really, truly knows NOTHING.

He talked about going to the Supreme Court if the House starts impeachment proceedings.

For those of you over the Pond, the Constitution, not even an Amendment, specifies that the House can impeach a President for "high crimes and misdemeanors", giving the House full authority. The Court, a different part of the government, has *no* control over what the House can do, only rule if there was something that violates the Constitution.

For that matter, the Finance, or is it Oversight Committee chair, having issued a subpoena for the Shitgibbon's tax returns, could, if they think of it, order the Sergeant at Arms of the House to arrest Mnuchin and the head of the IRS, and jail them until they produce the returns.

That, of course, terrifies the Idiot.

132:

I have no idea whether you found him or not. He was certainly around, particularly in the real ale bar, and he was on some panels, but I do know what he looks like which makes it easier to spot him in the crowds if I'm looking for him.

I didn't notice your badge (well, not being worn, it was certainly made and placed into its envelope) so I don't know whether you made it. I hope you did and that you enjoyed it all.

133:

Well, I didn't see Dave's post until Tuesday because Easter Bank Holiday and AFK. My advice for "stalking Charlie at a con" is to stake out the hotel restaurant at breakfast time, and the book room and real ale bar for the rest of the day! ;-)

134:

For that matter, the Finance, or is it Oversight Committee chair, having issued a subpoena for the Shitgibbon's tax returns, could, if they think of it, order the Sergeant at Arms of the House to arrest Mnuchin and the head of the IRS, and jail them until they produce the returns.

That, of course, terrifies the Idiot.

As it should. If there's any competent lawyer on his side, he should be sat down whether he likes it or not (and he won't) and made to read the articles of impeachment for Richard Nixon. The third article reads in part:

Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath ... and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representative ...

Once the tantrums have died down the lawyer can explain again, with small words as necessary, that this means Donald must hand over materials when they are subpoenaed - and if he doesn't that's an impeachable offense itself.

Yes, he'll whine and complain; this is where council tells him to suck it up, take the hit, and move on. They've got the drop on him and there's nothing to be gained by delaying; the only reason to be difficult is if his tax records contain evidence of crimes worse than obstruction of justice and bribery.

I haven't seen them. Maybe they do.

135:

Oh, hey. If you do worldcon 2020, I'm geographically co-located for that, so can stand you a beer/drink of your choice, or show you round bits of the country (I'm a geologist, and my nation is extremely geological, to the point that continental drift is a significant problem).

136:

Been said before, hasn't it?
That was how they finally got Al Capone - fraudulent tax records
Presumably, this could be done to a sitting Pres, even without Impeachment, or could it?

137:

My wife and I are intending to do CoNZealand, flying in to Auckland, taking the train down to Wellington (where a friend has offered to put us up) and then after carying on down to Christchurch. As a Kiwi, does that make sense to you? And what side trips would you suggest, given we're extremely likely never to return1? Consider this a question on behalf of any others here that are also intending to go.

1There's an awful lot of the world we haven't been to yet, and you're so very far away2 we'll be hitting Vancouver and HK3 as well on a circuit of the globe

2Or we're so very far away — your pick

3We've been to both of those before. Vancouver gives us a westbound route to Auckland that avoids transiting the US, and coming back via HK is also westbound.

138:

If you're taking the train from Auckland then you'll have no chance for stop-offs in the North Island, since it only runs 3 times a week - jump on jump off doesn't work if you have to wait three days in the middle of nowhere. It doesn't go through Taupo or Rotorua which would be two of my choices if you were driving instead. And If driving, then Tongariro National Park & Waiuru Army Museum are also along the main route.

Hobbiton & the Waitomo glow-worm caves might be cool to see, but they aren't worth hanging around for two-three days for the next train each stop when they're only a couple of hour drives.

No train to Chch in winter, so I assume you'll be driving that leg. Sorry, I don't mean to be a downer about it.

139:

PS, If you don't want to drive, then Intercity Bus might be more to your liking - something like this:
https://www.intercity.co.nz/bus-pass/travelpass/new-zealand-itineraries/north-island-adventure-travelpass/

140:

A boat trip in a Fiordland sound (NOT necessarily Milford).

141:

Health, wealth, and brexit permitting, I intend to do the 2020 worldcon. And spend a week or two more in NZ being a tourist because I've never been there, and probably won't do so again (it's very nearly antipodal from where I live: the travel is brutal and I'm not getting younger).

Want to change planes in KL again on the way home and, as before, spend a long time doing tourist stuff in Malaysia.

142:

We're train (and ship) people where possible. But oops, we really hadn't noticed that that train doesn't run during the convention's period. And asking our friend from ChCh to come collect us from Picton might be a little bit of an imposition.

So, looks like car hire time. I hope the local companies don't mind pickup in one city, deposit in another ...

143:

Here in the U.S. Trump's gang make a lot of their being 'American nationalists', not 'white nationalists', but the subtext to most of what they do consists in the narrowing of what an 'American' means*. Mostly 'American' can be taken to mean 'white pro-Trumper'.

So it's mostly racist and anti-Semitic, and also ideologic, but admittedly it could include particularly politically and religiously conservative---or, rather, fanatically Trumpist, as some conservatives publicly can't stand him and his---African-Americans, Jews, and Hispanics. Much as another with another nationalist, he gets to say who's an 'American'.


*(I mean, as usually in a U.S. context, beside the narrowing of 'American', which could mean anyone from or in either of the two continents, to mean '{United States}-ian', as in 'Yawn exaggeratedly in an attempt to clear-out your {United States}-ian Tubes.'.)

144:

Scott Sanford @ 134: Once the tantrums have died down the lawyer can explain again, with small words as necessary, that this means Donald must hand over materials when they are subpoenaed - and if he doesn't that's an impeachable offense itself.

Yes, he'll whine and complain; this is where council tells him to suck it up, take the hit, and move on. They've got the drop on him and there's nothing to be gained by delaying; the only reason to be difficult is if his tax records contain evidence of crimes worse than obstruction of justice and bribery.

That's just NOT going to happen. Trump won't listen. He thinks he can appeal impeachment to the Supreme court and that they'll overturn it for him.

146:

Trump won't listen. He thinks he can appeal impeachment to the Supreme court and that they'll overturn it for him.

Yes, I saw that tweet too. Nobody seems willing to guess whether he really doesn't understand the American government or if he's knowingly playing to people who don't understand the American government.

147:

I hope the local companies don't mind pickup in one city, deposit in another ...

In the olden days they used to have a consistent surplus of cars and campers in Picton needing to go to Chch, and would very occasionally even pay students to drive them down. So you may be able to get a relocation (you only pay for fuel) or an extreme discount, provided you are willing to leave it until you actually get there to get a rental car.

Being from Nelson I'm obviously biased towards that version of Picton-Christchurch, but it depends on how much time you want to spend. Queen Charlotte Drive is nice but you can either drive or look at the scenery, not both (assuming you want to live). Likewise Lewis Pass is mountain-scenic and will give you an impression of what the Southern Alps are like without actually having to deal with mountains (unless you're from England or somewhere similarly flat, in which case MOUNTAINS!! OMG!) and there are hot springs at Hanmer if that's your thing. The alternative coastal route is shorter and easier, plus Kaikoura has whales some of the year.

On Te Waka, Rotorua does Maori-tourism very well, plus you get the volcanic experience (take a rotten egg and poach it). Taupo does "no, really, *this* is a volcano?" very well (it's a big caldera lake) but my tourist experience is very limited because I normally travel by bicycle so I do "six-eight weeks from Auckland to Wellington".

148:

Oi! Join the queue, I promised Charlie a beer years ago, once he visited NZ.

Also, you being a geological type, do you know Dr Aline Homes, of VUW SGEES?

J Homes.

149:

to Charlie: technical issue with the website

Since the latest version of Safari puts an 'unsafe'-warning in the address line if on a non-https site I've noticed that internal links in the blog consistently lead to non-ssl versions of the page. For instance, I call the main page of the blog under https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/. When I click on a blog entry I get to the https-version just fine. But when I right-click to open in a new tab, only the http-version opens. As far as I can see that always happens when I open something in a new tab.

Secondly, the same thing happens when submitting a comment (but not for preview). After hitting submit, the page reloads as http. Incidentally, that appears also to be the reason why I get logged out after submitting a comment. It's simply because I never was logged in on the http-version in the first place. When I go to the address line, add an 's' to make it 'https' and reload, I'm marked as logged in again.

150:

Moz
(unless you're from England or somewhere similarly flat, in which case MOUNTAINS!! OMG!)
Oh do wake up - it's not the altitude it's the steepness - as many people with larger cars have found out when failing to drive over, say Hard Knott Pass .....
First hairpin going up from W to E
And ... even more fun
the SECOND hairpin

151:

Even ignoring the few extreme cases, the West Country's rural roads are full of (short) hills that exceed 15%, and are often as much as 25%. I did one 20 mile trip on my trike, starting and ending at the same height, with an AVERAGE slope of 5%. The roads in New Zealand were built recently (obviously), and are much wider and less steep.

The actual mountains are extremely steep, of course, even more than in the Alps, let alone the hilly parts of the UK.

152:

Bellinghman & Charlie: Bearing in mind that like Moz (Hi Moz!), I'm biased by being from the south, so aside from the plentiful volcanoes, I find most of the North Island insufficiently rocky and lithified (I hang around with and taught too many hard rock geologists). Our rail system is munted after too much neoliberalism and line closure, so unless you've got a serious train fetish for the rare steam excursions, it's not really a good way to see the country, so rental car is the thing. Our roads are narrow, windy and hilly, and have all the semi to fully rural road hazards, so drive cautiously, and always leave a bit of time in hand - In Oz, I'll do missions of 1200 km a day, because their main intercity roads are wide and straight and well serviced. In NZ, it's generally two lanes only, often winds a lot, and may be steep, and has weather off the southern ocean - I'll womble along at around 4 to 5 hundred km a day, and schedule stops, and plan regular overnighters if it's a heavy mission (with me, field trip or shifting a load of reenactment impediamenta).

With only a week or two in hand, just hitting some of the main tourist whistle stops is all you can do - we're often seen as a small island, but we've got about 30,000km^2 on the UK, and we're longer, narrower and higher in the south. Auckland is the worlds biggest and busiest polynesian city, really. I avoid it, but you can drop a lot of time there if big cities interest you. Coromandel peninsula is nice, Central volcanic zone (Rotorua, Taupo, Ruapehu/Tongariro) is good if you like bubbling mud, hostsprings, active geology. If lonely mountains are your thing, then hit up Taranaki. Get yourself to a Marae, hit up one or more of the regional museums. We're a post colonial nation, and there are some things that have been badly wallpapered over - look up the history of the Land Wars if that's your thing - there are battle sites all over the middle of the country. Wellington has the main national museum, but many of the other regional ones are good, particularly Canterbury and Otago. To get an idea of pre-human geography, visit some of the more forested regions that remain - it's worth remembering this was a country of big trees and birds only, and that stone axes and fire removed 40% of our forest cover, and steel axes and chainsaws got the other 45% in short order. There are several predator fenced native vegetation and bird sanctuaries where you can get a feel for what it once was, so at least one of those is probably worth a hit.

The South is mostly mountainous, and there's not many of us there - I grew up with a 5000 foot mountain out my back door, and it was a small one. Vast acreages of scenery that is now regularly standing in as a movie backdrop for other, more expensive, vast acreages of scenery. Good hard rocks - West coast for your granite terrains and rainforested goldfield history, east coast for your dry sweeping hillcountry and plains with laconic farm bastards and sandstone, punctuated by occasional extinct volcanoes and beaches. Much goldrush history all over the south and west. Wet rainforest goldfield areas are economically depressed and subsisting on remnant gold, coal and tourists, dry schisty goldfield areas are growing vinyards, farming movie directors and cultivating silicon valley boltholes as a boutique industry. Be careful on the Kaikoura coast road, we're still putting that back together, and it falls off regularly at the moment.

153:

The hardest parts of the lands end to John o Groats cycle route are all in Cornwall, where you never get more than a couple of hundred m above sea level.

154:

Add me to the list of people disappointed that Charlie didn't make it to NZ the last time. At least this just added a hardback to the luggage for AussieCon.
Wellington has the most intense concentration of craft beer peddlers, so the pre-con pub amble should be good. The various wine regions offer tasting tours, with many options as to provided transport and guiding (or just just websites collating locations and hours). You could probably do some Wairarapa wineries as a long day trip from Wellington - I wouldn't be surprised if someone operates minibus tours that meet the train in Featherston.
Remember that it definitely won't be tourist season, so if a car works for you then you will have flexibility to minimise the impact of weather hassles as the tourist infrastructure will be operating below capacity. Different-city drop-offs for rentals are common, some companies don't even charge a fee. Travel insurance that covers the large car rental excess amounts prevents that rip-off.
I can offer specific advice on aviation museums if anyone is interested.

155:

If you are driving south from Picton to Christchurch in South Island (say - after a ferry trip from Wellington) and are interested in aircraft museums, stop off in Blenheim (on the way, just south of Picton) and visit https://www.omaka.org.nz/ is definitely worth a visit - as is Wigram Air Force Museum in CHristchurch.

And if you are interested in scenic train travel while the Coastal Pacific train (Picton to Christchurch) doesn't normally run in Winter, the Alpine Pacific is definitely a must and runs year round. Also another worth while railway experience is Taieri Gorge Railway trip (if you get to Dunedin), and maybe Weka Pass (a shorter heritage rail trip and frequently steam hauled) north of Christchurch between Waipara & Waikari.

It is also possible you may find one of a number of heritage rail groups doing tours (some may be steam hauled) around the time you want to travel. These are generally summarised in the FRONZ journal (see https://www.fronz.org.nz/) but I see nothing listed yet for 2020.

156:

By European and North American standards, much or most of the South Island needs care. Both of the times I was there, we were delayed on the west coast because (minor, by NZ standards) earthquakes had taken out the road. And, of course, there was no good alternative route. Tight scheduling is contra-indicated :-)

That's similar to the Scottish islands, where the ferries (and few flights) fairly often have to stop for some days because of high winds. I was 'stuck' on Islay for 2 days just a couple of weeks back, but was prepared for that. Some people weren't, and missed flights from Glasgow.

157:

Re "Alpine Pacific": sorry, I had a brain fade here. This train actually called "Tranz Alpine".

158:

I've been using eff's https-everywhere ( https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere ) where available (chrome/firefox/opera), adding a rule for www.antipope.org, to paper over this behavior. (The basic paranoia/concern is script injection using packet injection.)

159:

At what point between Charlie's server and your client are the packets going to be injected?

The physical security of everything except the "last mile" is good enough that it makes no significant difference whether the data is encrypted or not (and if it was breached, people would hear about it). The last mile is vulnerable, but if someone is motivated enough against you personally to expend the physical effort involved in wedging it, all encryption is going to achieve is to get them to use some other method of attack instead.

The propaganda effort pushing HTTPS for everything is a scam to get people to concentrate on practically-insignificant vulnerabilities in the connection, and so to conceal, by misdirection and by hiding evidence behind encryption, that the real problem is with untrustable endpoints. Observe that entities like Google are both pushers of the propaganda, and facilitators of endpoint insecurity. HTTPS blocks inspection of the data being sent by the browser, not only by hypothetical bad actors who are unlikely to exist, but by the person far more likely to want to do it than anyone else: myself. Hence I have written a proxy which might be called "HTTPS nowhere", which ensures that the browser itself never sees an HTTPS connection, both so that I can still wireshark my own data and so that I can continue to use a browser which does not support recent ciphers but does have facilities for inspection, debugging and modification of site content and scripts which are far better than anything I've seen on browsers with more up-to-date cipher support.

160:

You're obviously unusual. :-) I'll admit to not liking javascript. If I could selectively block javascript from http sources (chrome/firefox), would be happier.
Firebug, or some other tool keeping you on an older browser?
This is a typical paper, and I've orally heard similar stories particularly at the edge (cafes, (chinese) airports).
Website-targeted false content injection by network operators
Surprisingly, five injection groups showed strong indications that the aim of the injector was malicious.

https://www.netresec.com/?page=Blog&tag=packet%20injection for more.
I don't see much published recent work in this area. Have never done such an attack but the howtos look fairly straightforward.

The physical security of everything except the "last mile" is good enough that it makes no significant difference whether the data is encrypted or not (and if it was breached, people would hear about it).
I have no solid reason to believe either of these assertions.

161:

Scott Sanford @ 146:

"Trump won't listen. He thinks he can appeal impeachment to the Supreme court and that they'll overturn it for him."

Yes, I saw that tweet too. Nobody seems willing to guess whether he really doesn't understand the American government or if he's knowingly playing to people who don't understand the American government.

He understands, he just doesn't give a shit. I'm not sure what the legal term is. But, Trump just ignores any law he disagrees with.

So far, he's managed to get away with it. He'll go on just like he always has until someone takes him down.

162:

I'll admit to not liking javascript. If I could selectively block javascript from http sources (chrome/firefox), would be happier.

What you're describing is NoScript, which blocks javascript from sites that aren't whitelisted. It comes with suggestions, like allowing youtube, and you can then block and allow as you see fit. You can also allow sites to run scripts for the moment rather than giving them indefinite privileges. It makes the net very much nicer and less ad-ridden, although as you'd guess some pages are such messes of recursive cross-site scripts that they're basically unusable.

I'm happy to pass this along; it was here that I heard about it myself.

163:

it's not the altitude it's the steepness - as many people with larger cars have found out when failing to drive over, say Hard Knott Pass .....
First hairpin going up from W to E
And ... even more fun
the SECOND hairpin


Oh, my. Yes, that is a road. Technically. I appreciate the rock wall between drivers and the open air - but I have a suspicion my car might be wider than that road...

164:

I second the recommendation.

The version I have even has a fix for those sites with a dozen levels of javascript, an option to "Disable restrictions for this tab".

165:

@Greg
Now I'm somewhat regretting not driving that pass this autumn - I did the road just to the north over from the Langdales and really liked the drive. The UK definitely does the *stupidly* narrow road well. I still remember meeting a full sized tour bus coming the other way near here in Devon. That was a long bit of reversing.

@all re NZ.
Echoing the others, NZ roads are generally two lane, even the main highways. Driving is straightforward but often slower than you'd expect. Just think driving the UK on smaller A roads only.

The Worldcon is July-August, so it'll be early winter, but the weather at that time is very hit and miss - pack for chilly to cold and always pack for wet and windy. Later in August it tends to settle down more.

At that time, Auckland is only really good as a gateway to the country, though the gulf islands are lovely in summer. The main museum is decent though and has a solid Polynesian collection if you have time to kill.

The best Maori experiences are definitely in Rotorua - it's touristy, but very very well executed. The bubbling mud is entertaining as well, if quite costly for the big ones by town. Orakei Korako on the way to Taupo is a bit less overly manufactured.

If the weather is going to be good, it's well worth driving around the volcanoes of the central plateau, the scenery is amazing, if the weather is going to be wet, don't bother. But the contrast of the Desert Rd to the surrounding forested area is pretty neat.

The rest of the North Island is fairly forgettable on a short trip unless you *really* like art deco or are into wine. I'd also skip the Far North unless you have time to burn, it's far better in summer.

The South Island is the super scenic part, it's basically Western Canada on a human scale. The West Coast tends to have more settled weather in winter so there's a good chance of seeing clear views of the high mountains. The TransAlpine train is the only one in the country I can recommend on a good conscience - the rest are badly run down, and this one as mentioned above has some spectacular views.

Abel Tasman and the Nelson area in general is good year round, and you can get a boat trip up the coast of the national park in winter for quite reasonable rates compared to summer, it's still very pretty and the water is about the same temperature anyway.

Queenstown is the home of every mad activity you can imagine, tourist central. It feels a lot like a slightly tackier Windermere. Good wine country nearby though. Milford Sound is a solid 4hr drive away, don't be fooled thinking it is close to anything. It's a bloody long day if you do the usual bus trip.

If you only have a week, the classic NZ tourist trip is Auckland > Rotorua > Wellington > Mt Cook > Queenstown > Christchurch and out. Which is pretty much exactly like driving London > Cardiff > Newcastle > Ben Nevis > Inverness > Edinburgh and as much fun as you think. Take as much time as you can.

166:

July-August is actually mid-winter, not early winter, and spring normally commences late August for those who hang around that long. Weather is generally reasonably settled but do expect frosts and cold weather - especially in South Island. But for those of you who like (snow) skiing, you are visiting at the right time of the year - plenty of Ski Fields (but again, mostly in the South Island).

167:

If you're in Queenstown and pressed for time I'd recommend the flying day trip to Milford with a boat cruise (FD, a hang gliding buddy is one of the pilots). They're little planes and the landing is spectacular. You'll be missing my favorite drive on earth, but it's 300 km down a dead end road from Queenstown to Milford Sound but about 50 km as the crow flies.

168:

Re Loan words. There's a fun loan word in Australian English that's been loaned back with interest.

In English Deadly means "can kill you".

English speakers used the word for some snakes (the highly venomous ones) and usually used it awed tones. It was taken into some indigenous languages to mean "great, or extra special". It's now making it's way back into English but slightly modified to mean "I approve of that very much"

"Mate, check out the new paint job on the Monaro."
"Oh Mate, Deadly"

169:

The main reason that the usual culprits (including HMG) are pushing HTTPS is because it enables people to be tracked, without the user getting the option and without triggering the EU and similar regulations.

Blocking Javascript is the only way to make some sites work at all but, unfortunately, an increasing number don't work at all without it.

170:

I took a visit back to NZ for the Millennium while I was living overseas, did a bus tour around the bottom half of the South Island. That thing about seeing your own country - especially since so many people I'd met in the UK would mention places I'd never been to at the time.

I took the coach to Milford Sound, did the boat-tour, and not wanting to do the same 4-hour bus route in reverse took a plane back to Queenstown. 4-seater, I got the front seat next to the pilot. He took the plane further north than necessary to point out Mt Aspiring, which the couple in the back were going to climb the next week. No radar - EVERYTHING is by audio/visual flight rules - how they guys keep where everyone is in their heads is pretty good. That was probably the most fascinating flight I've ever been on. A little nerve-wracking on take-off because it seems like they're flying straight at a thousand-foot cliff.

Granted, it was mid-summer. I did similar when I visited Stewart Island - took the ferry over, and a 6-seater back to Invercargill. Still have tee shirt advertising southernmost hotel in world (probably not true).

171:

If you have a hooky provider, relying on HTTPS isn't good enough. Reasons include that plenty of sites don't use it, and that it's not unknown for a hooky provider to provide hooky root certificates so it can wedge HTTPS anyway. (T-Mobile, so not all that small.) In that situation I've set up a VPN to keep the provider's nose out of my traffic (to which they responded by slowing down the connection to the point where it became almost unusable, but not quite).

Older browser is Presto Opera. The "Dragonfly" debugger is much nicer than Firebug. The browser also has excellent facilities built in for per-site content and script blocking, and for per-site injection of one's own scripts and CSS rules. This makes it easy to deal with, for instance, the increasing number of sites which use javascript as a dysfunctional coverup for the author being too dumb to learn CSS, or do mindlessly moronic things like putting <body style="display: none;"> in the HTML and then removing the style attribute using a script when the page has loaded; or to edit Google search results pages on the fly to delete both the javascript link tracking and the non-scripted URL redirection fallback (as well as goodness knows what else).

172:

Yes, exactly, that's the kind of thing I was referring to with the propaganda about HTTPS being the be-all and end-all of security serving as misdirection to keep people from realising about other security threats which it does nothing at all to stop.

Re JS, see previous post; simply blocking scripts doesn't always cut it, and it is necessary to be able to patch scripts on the fly to disable the evil sections while keeping those parts of the same script which the brain-dead recipe-follower/cutter-and-paster ("web developer" is far too complimentary a term) thinks, wrongly, are the only way to make a site work.

173:

That reminds me of some graffiti in a train toilet describing a particular train trip as "sheer hell", which some later graffitiist had altered to "sheer rancidity". I suspect that rather few of the people who subsequently saw that graffiti realised that the two graffitiists were not merely quibbling about style, but expressing completely opposite opinions of the trip in question.

174:

What you're describing is NoScript, which blocks javascript from sites that aren't whitelisted.
Long-time NoScript user (Liked it better in older versions of firefox but so it goes), and a Chrome version just got released.
However, I don't see a way to selectively block scripts if they are http rather than https. Also, for a while and perhaps still, NoScript tends to slow down firefox if a lot (several hundred) of tabs are open and left open for a few days. (I think; only ran a couple of tests.)

Another one that is much less ambitious (ad/tracker blocker) but much less trouble is uBlockOrigin. ScriptSafe for chrome is OK. EFF's PrivacyBadger just because.

All these have the side effect of speeding up browsing and reducing memory usage.

----
For fun, about antivaxers (no particular message):
A taste of your own medicine. (2012)

“No!” he snapped. “You don't get it! You're allowed to disagree with me, I want you to disagree with me! I'd love to engage in reasoned debate with you. But until you take the trouble to understand what you're talking about, you're not allowed science any more. Now, roll up your sleeve.”
Sacha muttered something under her breath.
“What's in the injection?” said James. “You know, you start asking questions like that, you might get science back...”

It's not clear to me who's generating and distributing the antivaxer propaganda that is circulating in local (NE US) (jewish) orthodox communities and in general.

175:

and it is necessary to be able to patch scripts on the fly to disable the evil sections while keeping those parts of the same script which the brain-dead recipe-follower/cutter-and-paster ("web developer" is far too complimentary a term) thinks, wrongly, are the only way to make a site work.
I do wish that more of these checks/transformations were automated by browsers or plugins.

If you have a hooky provider, relying on HTTPS isn't good enough. Reasons include that plenty of sites don't use it, and that it's not unknown for a hooky provider to provide hooky root certificates so it can wedge HTTPS anyway.
Interesting point. I haven't had to deal with such a provider AFAIK. FWIW the path from my home to www.antipope.org is (without vpn and/or tor) 18 hops, 8 of which are my provider. The rest of the path, I don't know. That's typical.
There are other tools, like jails (e.g. firejail for debian, or up to a full VM).


176:

"...until you take the trouble to understand what you're talking about, you're not allowed science any more. Now, roll up your sleeve."

Very nice find. Excellent.

177:

A worrying opinion ... that Trumpolini will win easily in 2020 - it's the economy, stupid.
Reminiscent of Adolf using Brüning's economic reforms to gain popularity ...
Whatever the Dems do, they maust not pick Biden, though.
And Sanders is also too old .....

178:

IMO he doesn't have the discipline and is increasingly, obviously unhinged. Just last night he invoked an analogue of blood libel (Democrats approve of infanticide) the same day as a self-described anti-Semitic Christian Supremacist shooter invoked real blood libel, Simon of Trent[1], in his manifesto.

(INB's Transition had Christian martyrdom terrorists in one (a collection of) timeline(s). It was all too plausible.)

[1] one comment on that article is uhm "interesting".


179:

No one cares about Trump's competence to govern.

First, the modern GOP is the Confederacy; the United States Government is their hereditary enemy, and they want it destroyed.

Second, the choice presented by the material circumstances is between killing everybody and surrendering status. Like groups in a bunch of other places, killing everybody is way preferable, especially as there's these elements of plausible deniability about the risk. (It's plausible because the audience is innumerate and a lot of effort has gone into generating the propaganda.)

Third, the power to hurt any random person classed as Other to reaffirm status was (in the view of the great majority of Trump voters) wrongfully taken away, they've got it back, and they will never, ever give it up again. They may not have perfect agreement on who should get hurt but they're completely agreed that someone should. Trump is the first national-scale politician in the US to argue for the legitimacy of that general diffuse power since Civil Rights and to most Trump voters nothing else really matters.

Fourth, the media asymmetry is crippling. It doesn't have to be factual, you just have to repeat it a lot. US-style free speech, which gets extended well outside of natural persons, makes them systematically hopelessly vulnerable even without the GOP determination to prevent fair elections.

So, yeah, to the extent that the US has elections, it's not that unlikely Trump will be declared the winner. Every time democrats figure out how to win an election, GOP state houses do whatever they can to remove the utility of that approach. Since the Supremes struck down the Voting Rights Act, the GOP tactic is pretty generally to not let non-whites vote; this will only become more general in 2020. The only plausible way this doesn't work is if non-evangelical white women ALL vote, which isn't especially likely. Not impossible, but not especially likely.

180:

Graydon
On "small" wrinkle you left out.
The wierd non-system the US uses ( different in each "state" IIRC? ) for registering voters, where they have to physically go to register , together with deliberately difficult-to-pass tests" also suppresses huge numbers of eligible people.
Totally unlike ( I think ) all the other actual democracies, where registration is centrally organised & well over 95% of all potential voters are on the lists.
Yes / No?

181:

"...together with deliberately difficult-to-pass" tests also suppresses huge numbers of eligible people."

Those haven't been used since the 1960s.

182:

Troutwaxer
Bad phrasing on my art ...
I was thinking of the "test" of actually being able to get all the SPECIAL bits of paper required ( When lots of people don't have thmm ) - e.g. proer-form Birth Certificates & the physical test of being able to get to the only-accessible-by-private-car-during-normal-work-hours site where you can get your Auswies processed to vote, etc etc ....Deliberate obstructionism in voter registration in the USA is a form of test, isn't it?

183:

That kind of thing still goes on. Look up our most recent Governor's election in the state of Georgia from some really horrible stories. I think the Democratic candidate was Stacey Adams?

184:

You wrote:
Our rail system is munted after too much neoliberalism and line closure

Which, for some reason, led me to a way to get the wealthy to pay for better rail and other public transit: if we make it better, more people will use it, so you won't have to contend with so many hoi polloi on the roads when you want to speed.

185:

Another NoScript user here, though I am annoyed at the last update to the interface - I almost *never* have *anything* fullscreened (let's see, at home, a 24" monitor, at work *two* of them, what's the point of windowing...), and sometimes I have to make the window larger, so I can read what I can allow to run.

186:

Yeah, the GOP is a reformatted Confederates (except for the self-proclaimed Tea Party, who *are* Confederates, but wage slavery is so much cheaper, y'know).

But, as was demonstrated last year, enough lawyers and people pissed enough to register, and we can get rid of them, and change the maps, too (forget if it was WI or MI that the state supreme court struck down the gerrymandering, and ordered new ones this summer, to allow for court challenges, so there will be better ones next year.

Btw, the Supreme Court did not strike down the whole Voting Rights Act, just one part of it, or, rather, they said it was no longer needed. Congress can decide it is needed, based on evidence.

187:

A "new" or rather revived incident.
USS Nimitz December 2017 now released ( Or at least in part ) encounter with "UFO's"
Also apparently USS Roosevelt in 2015 .....
Any thoughts on that?

188:

Just looked at the Hornet display from 2004. At about 1:32 min, it changes... and you can see wings.

189:

Greg Tingey @ 187: A "new" or rather revived incident.
USS Nimitz December 2017 now released ( Or at least in part ) encounter with "UFO's"
Also apparently USS Roosevelt in 2015 .....
Any thoughts on that?

Just because something can't be identified doesn't make it aliens in flying saucers checking out our military capabilities. If we "knew" that's what they were, they wouldn't be unidentified.

I don't see any reason to believe or not to believe in flying saucers. I'm agnostic on the subject.

190:

Re flying in NZ
Pilot licences in NZ require training in mountain flying, as it is so easy to find yourself in situations like being in a valley that is rising faster than your rate of climb. People that operate in SW South Island (Milford Sound etc) have additional training and experience. A small airline that operates primarily in central NZ (Wellington, Piction, Blenheim, Nelson) is Sounds Air.
Note that there are no security checks (normally, it was different just after the Christchurch shootings) on 'Regional' flights using small airliners etc (eg Cavavan, AirNZ/JetStar ATRs, Q300s), even at airports that also have jet services. So Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Domestic terminals have Regional sections where you just scan your boarding pass and walk out to the aircraft (along temp-barriered walkways).

191:

Paras 3 and 4:-

Here in the UK we have the position where you may board a flight at $airport1, fly to an intermediate point at $airport2 which has an arch and x-ray for hold baggage, and be expected to then deplane to have self and baggage scanned before replaneing the same airoplane! to continue your booked journey to $airport3. (Similar size types to those listed)

192:

When it comes to Scottish flight routes, things do get a bit weird, including the Westray route (fastest flight being under a minute).

193:

That diffuse weird non-system is in practice highly systematic; it's most of the "don't let non-whites vote". (The other parts are the insistence that any place where non-whites do vote is cheating, that their votes don't count, should be thrown out, etc., for one, and the disenfranchisement of felons, for two. This is used to systematically suppress non-white votes.)

The US never really got to the point of various regional elites accepting a universal franchise even among whites; that's why voting day isn't a holiday.

194:

whitroth @ JBS
I was asking for possible explanations, not suggesting "lgm's"
Equipment failure can be ruled out.
But ... the original incidents were 10+ years ago & have now been (re)declassified
My suspicion is DARPA ( or some body ) keeping stuff from the USN & USMC - which is now deemed "safe" to release.
Even so a reasonable explanation of the observed behaviour would be good.

195:

Wouldn't suppose the pilots know, or even the carrier group knows, everything the Navy knows.

The easy answer is something with rocket boost and a lifting body airframe; there is a heat flush when it accelerates. Shadowing a CVBG as a stealth test strikes me as the sort of thing a black program would want to try. The more difficult thing to explain is the multiple low-speed radar contacts.

196:

Greg Tingey @ 194: whitroth @ JBS
I was asking for possible explanations, not suggesting "lgm's"
Equipment failure can be ruled out.
But ... the original incidents were 10+ years ago & have now been (re)declassified
My suspicion is DARPA ( or some body ) keeping stuff from the USN & USMC - which is now deemed "safe" to release.
Even so a reasonable explanation of the observed behaviour would be good.

I think the change in policy regarding talking about UFO incidents reflects the Pentagon's realization that labeling anyone who saw a UFO as crazy, a crank or a flying saucer nut was counter-productive. As I pointed out UFO (or UMO) indicates Unidentified.

You won't have any success identifying them if your people are afraid of being stigmatized for reporting it when they see something. The first step towards figuring out what they are is getting your people to tell you what they saw.

197:

For one, I think it's pretty much an established fact - i *think* they admitted it, years ago, under Obama - that Area 51 (or whatever it was) was actually a dark research aircraft lab, and anyone seeing anything could be labeled a UFO crank.

198:

whitroth @ 197: For one, I think it's pretty much an established fact - i *think* they admitted it, years ago, under Obama - that Area 51 (or whatever it was) was actually a dark research aircraft lab, and anyone seeing anything could be labeled a UFO crank.

There are still a lot of people out there who think the U.S. government is still hiding the Roswell flying saucer at Area 51.

Fact is, it's where the U.S. tests experimental aircraft ... such as the U-2 and its modern derivatives the TR-1, TR-2 and ER-2; the OXCART program that eventually gave us the SR-71; Have Blue that spawned the F-117; the B-2 Bomber and the RQ-4 Global Hawk. And that's just the successful programs. They test a lot of ideas that don't pan out.

And they mostly test the secret stuff at night, so all you'll see is mysterious lights. Like I said, Unidentified doesn't mean flying saucers. It just means that whoever saw it doesn't know what it is, and if it's one of ours, the government ain't talking.

But that doesn't make you a crank or a kook unless that's what you want to be.

199:

I'm STILL looking for real ( human-available) technologies - as I'm assuming DARPA or simliar - explantions for the behaviour of those UFO's.
COME ON this is an SF forum, someone must have suitable ideas?

201:

Troutwaxer
Magnificent beast!
I have been hauled by a narrow-gauge articulated lcomotive or two _ As showh here in this video

202:

Should you ever make it to Southern California, we have a couple of pretty good train museums in Griffith Park and Barstow. I'm also given to understand that the "Tehachapi Loop" is a big deal for people who like trains.

203:

At an easy guess, there are at least two unidentified operational planes flying out of Area 51.

One's the trio of flying dorito chips that popped up around 2014. Them showing up where a well-known black programs sleuth with a really good camera could photograph them probably wasn't a mistake, since about that time, Obama and Putin were having a little tiff, and pulling the cloak back from the American black world was a little signal to Russia that the US had a bigger arsenal than we thought they thought we had.

One analyst's WAG on the function of the dorito chip was that it could be the stealth equivalent of a C-130 (a smallish transport, ideally STOL, to haul SpecOps where they're needed). Another's idea (see link above) that it could be the first-in last-out recon plane that helps direct the other first-line attack planes. The stealth transport story's strength is that that's a big hole in the US' known lineup of stealth planes, and keeping it secret is useful, considering how important its role might be. The TR-3A penetrator is a cool, old, recycled story. Might be true, since flying triangles have been spotted for decades.

The other known unknown the successor to the SR-71. IIRC, there's even one Area 51 watcher who claims to have seen it on the runway, but he didn't want to give details for fear of jeopardizing security in some way. The few things he leaked didn't make it sound like this flying dorito chip, though. But it's evident, from various radio intercepts around Area 51, that they fly something that goes very high, very fast, and very occasionally has to talk with a commercial air control tower on the way in or out. The other thing that makes me think it's not part of the dorito chip trio is that I've never heard of anyone flying 3 SR-71s or 3 U-2s in formation maneuvers. They're not precisely built for it, as I understand.

204:

Troutwaxer @ 202
I doubt very much if I will ever visit the USA - even if the rethuglicans are overthrown in 2020 ...

Heteromeles @ 203
TR-3A? Like these do you mean? I used to know someone who owned one .....

205:

I kinda figured, but should it happen there's decent train stuff in Southern California, FYI, and I can probably get a day off.

206:

You didn't link, but here's the kind of thing I'm talking about. Not that I know much more. This is mostly in the realm of "ain't it cool, can I steal it for an RPG or SFF story?"

One thing that made me a little curious was thinking about what the skin of some theoretical super SR-71 would have to be made of. My thought was carbon-carbon composites, as in the nose-cones of ICBMs and the Space shuttles. That stuff ran about US$100,000 ft2 when they were building the shuttle, and it's kind of brittle, but we know it can withstand Mach 12, so why not build most of the plane with it? The only reason they retired the SR-71 and revealed so much of its tech is that it's obsolete. While I'm sure drones replaced it for some functions, the U-2's still flying. My guess is that something did the higher/fast/more routine better than the SR-71, so they retired the public blackbird for a more secret one.

My guess is that there's a plane out there that doesn't particularly look like a black equilateral triangle, that is almost a spaceplane, which has a C-C composite skin that costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars (plus a titanium airframe to separate the pilot from the fuel tanks and engines which take up the rest of the plane). It's looked after extremely carefully and kept highly protected when not in use. There might be a couple of them, but at that kind of eye-watering cost, there aren't that many. Then again, it can outfly an anti-satellite rocket (e.g. no one's managed to bring one down yet), so it's (un)reasonably fast.

Then there's the black triangles, whatever they do, whether it's target designation for F-117s, dropping SpecOps in HALO mode, or keeping the careers of USAF generals aloft indefinitely.

207:

From what I have seen of Greg's previous posts and sense of humour, I'd guess he's referring to one of these...

http://car-from-uk.com/ebay/carphotos/full/ebay60944.jpg

208:

Heteromeles @ 203: At an easy guess, there are at least two unidentified operational planes flying out of Area 51.

I'll be surprised if there are only two. And I expect people to see UFOs around "Area 52". It's just proof the guys designing and testing new secret stuff are still on the job.

PS: They've recently been flying F-117s around the Panamint Valley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hONI3ztajb4

209:

You're right, of course.

Since Area 51's reputedly a USAF/CIA testing range, I'm sure they're running experimental planes all the time, and probably most of them fail. At a guess, it's also where they store the stuff that's too fussy to ship overseas (stealth skins on planes are reportedly an effing nuisance to care for), plus the stuff that's got such an enormous range that it doesn't need to go overseas (if there is such a thing).

I'd say the minimum number is two, simply from what seem to be the reputable reports for the black dorito and some super spy plane.

210:

darkblue @ 207
SPOT ON
Much cleaner & shiner than the one my friend used to have, but otherwise identical - an interesting ride ...
At that time ( 1976 ) I was driving one of these

211:

From what I have seen of Greg's previous posts...

I'm sure Greg would enjoy spotting a TR3A again, although his chances of seeing one airborne seem slim. Most operators would be more careful than that, I'd hope!

212:

I've just been dancing in a village in outer Essex ... they had a line-up of some slightly older vehicles, including a 1.5 litre Riley a mid-50's MG Magnette an MG TD & ... an 1948 straight-8 Daimler hearse

213:

Great shame BristolCon is too far away for you - and it's only a one-day con as well! Otherwise I would definitely encourage you to come to the 10th anniversary bash!

214:

Are you talking to me, or to Charlie?
If me, Bristol is easily possible if I can get a cheapish day-return ...Assuming of course it's a day I'm free ... (looks up web-site) ... 26th October, which is a ..... Saturday.
Definitely do-able.....

215:

A one day con that usually leads us staying the night before and the night after.

(We were in the Temple Bar a few weeks ago, and it's really weird being there without a con going on)

217:

This seems like the most appropriate place.

Did you really write Palimpcest in 1820, as MZN UK claim?

218:

No. I checked with the OED.

219:

They test all sorts of stuff - the B-21, the YF-110, the YF-113...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4477th_Test_and_Evaluation_Squadron

220:

THIS is one of the things that the "FT" had an article about ...
Bannon's involvement with European christofascism ...
Euw.

Specials

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