Back to: CMAP #16: Book Title Blues

Story time!

I do not write for Marvel or DC.

(Let's leave aside the time I had a close escape from writing Iron Man—back in 2005—but was offered a couple of book contracts just in time: Tony Stark is not my favourite superhero.)

(Also, the rest of this blog post will make no sense whatsoever unless you are at least minimally familiar with Batman and his frenemies.)

Anyway ... a couple of days ago I tripped over a tweet:

"The Joker should have been a woman. And she finally went insane because too many random dudes told her to smile, so now she perpetually smiles while terrorizing Gotham."

The author, Geraldine DeRuiter, explains the context here; I can relate, and I don't even have ovaries, let alone a head full of wasps.

It's a good and worthy idea and WHY AREN'T DC HUNTING DOWN GERALDINE AND OFFERING HER A CONTRACT RIGHT NOW, but it's her story to tell, not mine.

However, this morning I saw another tweet that went viral a day or two ago, commenting on a job advert for hotel staff. The tweet consisted of screencaps, so here's the text from the ad:




Radisson RED Glasgow - Food and Drink

WE CONNECT WITH THAT AGELESS MILLENNIAL MINDSET AND BELIEVE THAT HOTELS CAN ENHANCE THEIR WORLD VIA ART, MUSIC, FASHION AND A DISTINCTIVE CONNECTION

Radisson RED sees things differently. We don't have 'staff' we have 'Creatives'.

CREATIVE (Food & Drink Assistants)

  • Present; in the soul of house, in the action, happy moving from the RED Sky Bar alive with music, to the events area and a book reading, over to the lobby where a group are looking for a restaurant recommendation. The phone rings reservation, you've got it and now you are flipping an omelette, catch it! This place is alive and you love it. Smile. Photo.

  • Throughout the hotel you make it clean, cook on the stoves, serve the coffees, shake the cocktails, book tours, make reservations and check guests. Always laughing with guests, playing the odd game and even a little bit of mischief now and again, but that's generally OK, at RED we demand it.

Are you READY? So, tell us. Show us. Make us smile. Use your phone and send us a video clip/a selfie/photos/an Instagram link ... anything giving us insight into why you're ready to welcome the world to the RED side.

Come join us and Make Every Moment Matter and make RED the place to be in (City).




After I got over the fit of existential despair induced by this brilliant piece of ironic dystopian micro-fiction, a series of thoughts occurred to me.

Starting with: this job advert is my Joker's origin story in a nutshell.

I'm mortified to admit that I've stayed in that hotel a couple of times. What can I say? It's in the center of Glasgow, really convenient for Queen Street railway station, and a handy crash-space after an evening at a gig or a pub or literary event.

The ad paints a slightly misleading picture of the place. The RED chain are low-budget art themed hotels; they feel like the inside of a bored advertising executive's head after one Diet Coke too many, all cold angles and zebra-striped decor, cunningly contrived to flatter the guest's sense of their own unique cookie-cutter originality. In other words, as pretentious, upbeat, and wanky as their copywriter's prose.

Anyway: This is the Joker's origin story. Transplant the hotel from Glasgow to Gotham City: it's not a great frame-shift. I've always visualized Gotham as like Glasgow, only with skyscrapers and American cops and a little less rain and darkness.

My version of the Joker could be male, could be female, but is definitely millennial.

He, she, they, or xe really wanted to be an artist. Grew up in a depressed town in northern England (quite possibly Scarfolk), but scrimped, saved, and eventually went to university to study art: success, yes? But no. The Joker simply couldn't wrap their head around the compulsory Business Studies side of the degree they'd gotten into—compulsory because the admissions committee at Glasgow School of Art was repelled by their resume, so they ended up at the former Poly on a Commercial Art and Business Studies course. Eventually the Joker dropped out of school with a mountain of student debt and no job-entitlement sheepskin.

It's not their fault that, aged 18, they didn't understand the script they'd been handed. The course they signed up for was designed to churn out cheap animators for the games industry, copywriters for hotel chain job adverts, commercial artists to illustrate cup-a-soup packets. Nobody wanted the Joker's elaborate blueprints for escape rooms with guillotine blades embedded in the sash windows and electrified bedknobs. Nor could the Joker get a job as a commercial artist—word got around fast after Grant Morrison took out a restraining order, and the Alan Moore electric chair diorama didn't make them any friends either.

After being forced onto Universal Credit, the RED advert was their last chance hotel, so to speak. Highly motivated, the Joker aced the application process: after all, they wanted 'Creatives', not 'staff'.

"Make us smile!"

The Joker made it work for nearly three months.

Then, after one corporate-standard smile too many, the Joker cracked. And out came the escape room blueprints and the power tools ...

512 Comments

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1:

brilliant, absolutely brilliant!

2:

Or anything else AT ALL that involves the supposed "creative thinking" used by the MBA's behind this wankin g.
If you REALLY want to save thr planet,exterminate all MBA's & the even worse tossers promoting this trash.
We've been gi=oing on about coprate greed wrecking the planet ... & the, erm, "mindset" behund MBA's is a very large part of it, including using people as interchngeable & worse, disposable.

3:

Yes, I agree (and with the article, except for the gender blindness). I (and some other men I know) can witness the misery of constantly being told to smile, especially when one is depressed or otherwise unhappy for good reasons. No, it's NOT limited to women.

4:

So anyway, Glaswegian Batman villains.


Mister Freeze - Inspired by Lord Kelvin, tries to reach absolute zero, it goes wrong, gets caught up in the Ice Cream Van Wars in the 80s

Calendar Man - No real change, but has more love for Hogmanay, Burns Night and St Andrews than the standard version

Vandal Savage - has been at the university of Glasgow since it was founded, probably behind all the weird experiments going on there (Poison Ivy, Man-Bat etc)

Two Face - Supports Rangers or Celtic depending on which side of his personality is dominating

5:

Anyone who has to work full time with customers and pretend to be happy, helpful and caring has daydreams about running amok with a machete or something, of course. Given Jack Nicolson's roles as the Joker and in The Shining, I can see this very easily

https://youtu.be/fLEdpDpoTTA

Heeeere's Joker!

6:

(Obsessing over the wrong detail)
What I find intriguing is that it's Radisson Red, sorry - RED there. Here (Ireland) we get Radisson Blu (sic) plus a number of higher grade places. Plus apparently they're effectively franchises. R-SAS employs the general manager but a lot of the rest is with the hotel owner.

(Vague effort to return to the topic)
Not Glasgow, but it occurs to me that you could gender-flip another bat-villain, Poison IV as the fourth son of a certain Tory with an interest in either chemistry or agriculture.

7:

Yep, Radisson have a number of chains with distinctive corporate identity branding. RED is their stab at the arty boutique hotel market; Blu is more generic.

Fourth son of a certain Tory—which one, may I ask?

8:

Yeah, the only Radisson I've ever been in was the "Non-Euclidian" at Thiefrow. And yet another anodyne corporate chain hotel. Other than "because MBAs and/or marketing people" why do they even bother to pretend to be different?

9:

That's a Radisson Edwardian, not the same thing at all! (Same owners, though.) Targets the soulless luxury airport hotel market—competing with Hilton, Marriot, et al.

10:

why do they even bother to pretend to be different?

Basically, because they hope to get more of the total market by tweaking the formula in different directions, and then branding those different variants so people know what to expect. Your Radisson Edwardian and your Park Inn may be owned by the same mega corporation, but you'll get different guests in them, at different prices.

11:

I am trying hard not to get derailed into a discussion of the role of Hotelspace in the Laundry Files at this point ...

12:

I have no experience of either, specifically, but usually such a branding variation is like applying a different style of makeup to a different (modern) breed of pig, and much the same applies to the customers, er, guests.

13:

Dear me, this gave me a flashback to walking past a gathering of newly-minted MBAs at work, on my way out of the Manchester Business School canteen (decent enough grub, but you'd be wise to keep a bottle of Tabasco on your person just in case).

It honestly looked for all the world like a cloning operation had been running, and this collection of cloned MBAs had been sternly informed that although they were supposed to maintain correct, approved business attire at all times, they were also to have one of the approved list of distinguishing features in order to show a carefully-calculated sign of free-spiritedness.

So, each identikit MBA had one of "small pony-tail", "earring (small, silver, no gems permitted)", "beard (sub-type 'missed a bit shaving') and so on. It was deeply depressing, and to a student of human behaviour, very very amusing.

14:

Yes, as well as the Non-Euclidean, I've stayed in the Thiefrow Park Lane (and some of you already knew that). Despite the differences in the floor plate, I found the easiest way to tell the difference was by reading their stationery! ;-)

As a contrast, every Campanile I've stayed in had local area differences (but not always the ones you'd expect, like no curries in the Bradford branch!!)

It's harder for me to comment on guests because Eastercons.

15:

Reminds me of China Miéville's rejected 'Iron Man' pitch, which you can read on his site.
(He did end up doing some work for DC in the end, which was fine I guess, not a patch on the above story though).

16:

I feel like you could mix in a bit of H. H. Holmes into the story, and it would be perfect.

17:

Am now contemplating Harley Quinn as a second-tier girlfriend from "Trainspotting" who jacked up the wrong designer drug one time and had An Episode™.

18:

The certain Tory who named their child Sixtus. You know, the Beano character.

(Jacob Rees-Mogg to avoid dragging it out)

19:

BATMAN: Terror of the Bellboy!

(Except that "the Bellboy" is female, but she dresses in standard "bellboy" uniform plus facepaint.)

Or to keep things slightly more in tune with canon, Geraldine's idea could be Harley Quinn's origin story. But I am one-hundred-percent agreed that DC should hire her.

20:

I was afraid you meant him.

He has all the requisites to be a big mover and shaker in Gotham City—indeed, he could even be the Bat's evil cousin or something.

21:

I take that's thereallymanicHarleyHenchpersonincarnation and not the later antiheroine with occasional impulse control issues?

22:

Both/either—why can't she evolve?

But the manic one ... if you've ever been around anybody mainlining crystal meth, you get the idea. Just add a golf club (this being Scotland). Or maybe even a baseball bat (except here it's called Rounders and is played by schoolgirls).

23:

The Acorn Rounders Team did have one schoolgirl regular, but that was partly because her dad dragged her along.

Also, Rounders bats are intended for single handed use making it difficult to get a swing that results in a decent thud. Stick with the golf club.

24:

Before I get started, let me offer this: my lady has a thing, which apparently isn't unique to her: spoons and knives. You get issued so many spoons when you get up. If you run out of spoons, you're down to knives. Even has a t-shirt reading, "out of spoons", with a pic of a number of knives.

25:

Oh, and about the moroon* Geradline met - it's not only women. There's a class of male idiots who, on seeing something other than what they're expecting at that moment, appear *desperate* to say something, anything. I am reminded of the arsehole back in the mid-seventies, I was walking in downtown Philly in winter, wearing what I wore then for winter, my very heavy, dark green cloak. Some idiot, half a block away, sees me, and yells, "Hey, Superman!". He looked, then kept going. Never knew if he could tell the look on my face was, "are you, like, color blind, or just stupid?"

* Ehhh, what a maroon.- B. Bunny

26:

In 1983, at a friend's cookout, I was arguing that MBAs were destroying the US... with a professor who taught MBAs at U of P. I've clearly been 100% correct.

There *are* folks whose undergrad was a real degree - my late ex had a B.Sc in materials science, but need the MBA, I guess, for a promotion. However, business degree?

A good friend (Bro. Guy, for those who know him) used to teach around the US at Catholic colleges, and one course he taught was "science for non-science majors". About a dozen years ago, on a list we're on, he ran down the food chain of the majors that took that course. Next to the bottom were business majors, who "didn't get it, but didn't let that worry them."

Btw, the bottom of the food chain, those that didn't get it and didn't know they didn't get it, were the communications majors - the folks who go into PR, HR, and journalism, which explains a *lot*....

27:

By the bye, and no one else seems to be commenting on it, what the *fuck* is an "ageless millenial mindset"? "Ageless" is usually applied to someone over 50....

And are they suggesting their "creatives" will switch jobs, cleaning, cooking, and bartending over the course of the day? I suggest the copywriter, and the managers who approved this bit of amazing drivel, should do maid's work in a hotel for a month, with the pay they make.

28:

Thanks. I saw that years ago and haven't been able to find it (didn't remember enough details for Google to work, anyway).

29:

Tony Stark would be just the beginning. How 'bout the CEOs who also shipped the jobs overseas, and anyone selling packages when they knew it was mostly junk (isn't that fraud?)....

Here's better: steal Larry (Oracle) Ellison's fighter jet (yes, he owns one), rearm the guns, and do a run through Wall St....

30:

"ageless millenial mindset"
Vampires don't age, they call it Radisson RED. They don't have 'staff' they have 'Creatives'. Always laughing with guests, playing the odd game and even a little bit of mischief now and again, but that's generally OK, at RED we demand it. Which brings me to this recently released music video Might be security cam footage from Radisson RED, playing the odd game and even a little bit of mischief.

31:

I was once inflicted with teaching (practical) linear algebra using Matlab - yes, I taught the relevant mathematics of matrices in that, but didn't assume they knew it in advance and didn't require any knowledge beyond really basic matrix operations over the reals.

One time, I got a lot of MBA graduates. Half of them had never enountered matrices, and half of the rest didn't even know the basics like multiplication doesn't always commute. I diverted and taught them the basic rules, but it went so far over their heads that nothing went in. This was at one of the top universities in the world, incidentally.

Following that, I tried finding a reference, but my colleagues pointed me at undergraduate courses for mathematicians and scientists. Oh, dear, NO, ducky, no MBA is even going to look at that much undiluted mathematics, MUCH less understand it. I asked a schoolteacher friend, who pointed me at a much more appropriate A-level book, which I stressed in the blurb was a prerequisite for the course. But I never got any more MBAs, which failed to displease me :-)

32:

I need to ask: what was up with Tony Stark, the genocidal maniac who everyone thinks is a good guy because after making billions being the bad guy he repents?

(I've always found that hilarious and tragic in real-life and fiction to the extent that I'm amazed more people don't openly admit to it as a career path - start out in some area that is not the best ethically, make a fortune, then pivot and watch as everyone praises you...)

33:

What was up with Tony Stark, the genocidal maniac with a large and well funded PR department who everyone thinks is a good guy because after making billions being the bad guy he repents?

It's a mystery.

Anyway, back to Glasgow-Joker, here we have an answer to the question, where do the Joker's henchpeople come from? They are current and former art students, who get offered a gig setting up an event, and too late discover that that it's actually a terrorist incident. Afterwards, they might find themselves blackmailed... or they might enjoy having been part of an art exhibition that people actually talked about.

34:

DFan H @ 13
Except these arrogant bastards think they are Masters of the Universe ... when I was doing My MSc, they looked down on a mere Engineer as "greubby hans we can order around" - the feeling of cpontempt was reciprocated ...

PMcA @ 18
Jacob Rees-Smaug please ... after all, he treats the rest of us with utter contempt & sleeps on a pile of gold ....

@ 22/23
If you want a REALLY VIOLENT "girls" game, try Lacrosse!

NeilW @ 33
Or have been hired to kill a N Kporean defector, maybe ....

35:

Vulch @ 23: The Acorn Rounders Team did have one schoolgirl regular, but that was partly because her dad dragged her along.

Also, Rounders bats are intended for single handed use making it difficult to get a swing that results in a decent thud. Stick with the golf club.

Since you're re-casting the story in the U.K., why not just go ahead and use a cricket bat?

36:

whitroth @ 27: By the bye, and no one else seems to be commenting on it, what the *fuck* is an "ageless millenial mindset"? "Ageless" is usually applied to someone over 50....

And are they suggesting their "creatives" will switch jobs, cleaning, cooking, and bartending over the course of the day? I suggest the copywriter, and the managers who approved this bit of amazing drivel, should do maid's work in a hotel for a month, with the pay they make.

I suspect it means it's going to be a long, long, loooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnng time before you ever earn a living wage that will let you pay off your college loans ... maybe a thousand years or more.

I think part of the problem is no one ever proof-reads the copy any more. If it makes it through spell-check, it's good to go. And dog help you if you've turned on auto-destruct.

37:

Stick with the golf club.

Shinty stick. Possibly more Scots than golf and much more applicable to violence.

38:

If cranking-out standard smiles were a Joker origin, Japan would be overrun with them. Then again, Nanking….

39:

Truth being stranger than fiction (sorry Charlie, your curse has struck again) Nottingham has a joker whose origin story is ongoing as we speak

40:

"They are current and former art students, who get offered a gig setting up an event, and too late discover that that it's actually a terrorist incident."

I would point out that terroristing in Glasgow risks the somewhat unusual terroristing hazard of being kicked in the balls by the people you're trying to terrorist.

On the same theme, in Glasgow there is a shop where the manager is a martial arts expert who uses his skills to take down, enthusiastically, the (numerous) junkie shoplifters who target his store, and hold them down until the police arrive and compliment him on the takedown. (I am not making this up.)

To be sure my image of Batman involves freeze-frame KAPOWs on a 405 line raster, but I'm not convinced there's really that much of a place for him in Glasgow. I rather think the inhabitants are self-reliant enough that he'd quickly get fed up of always arriving too late to do anything except rescue the villain from bystanders putting the boot in, and head off somewhere else instead (London, for instance, where he could fit right in, he'd just have to swap the Batmobile for a manky yellow Reliant).

41:

I'd hazard a guess that in modern Britain, it is less common to own a cricket bat than it is to own a rounders/baseball bat (and no other items of rounders equipment). Cricket bats are an awkward shape and do stuff like catch on things when you're trying to grab them out from down the side of the car seat. Also, cricket is mythologically English.

Golf is mythologically Scottish and you can certainly give your target a tremendous thwack with a golf club and it also offers an excuse to stage a fight on Trump's golf course and churn it all up. Not so good at close quarters as a bat though.

42:

Lacrosse isn't a game. It's a military training exercise from the First World War. The corps lacroissiers were developed in response to the French army's persistent difficulties in getting a good supply of reliable grenades: the idea was that instead of arming the soldiers with their own grenades, they could simply be trained to catch grenades thrown by the enemy and sling them back where they came from, using scoop-nets attached to their rifles like bayonets. It was about as successful as many brilliant military ideas of WW1.

43:

I honestly can't tell if you're joking or not. :)

Lacrosse is a Native American originated game.

44:

And it's hardly confined to hotels.

Everything from washing powder to oxygen. You can buy welding grade, medical grade, aviator's grade oxygen. It's all filled the same way on the same line from the same vat.

45:

Really?

I have a Vague recollection of being taught matrices in 1st class. (6yo).

Something like, 'That's how you multiply one number at a time and now this is how you multiply a group of numbers'. I also got taught binary.

Hmmmm, I don't recall meeting those two concepts at any time in the following 12 years.

On reflection I may have had a teacher going off piste.

46:

I think that Geraldine DeRuiter and OGH both have produced beautiful seedlings of stories from the manure of patriarchal/corporate bollocks, and there is something about them that I find really cheering.

I also think that this in no way justifies the bollocks and (with apologies to Charlie) would rather be rid of it and miss out on the stories.

:(

47:

I first encountered matrices in the technical university, at nineteen years of age (the usual age to enter those in Finland). Non-commuting operations were also introduced at that point, but they didn't seem that hard.

So, at least in the Eighties and Nineties in Finland the mathematics taught in schools wasn't that advanced. Complex numbers were used for a bit in the upper secondary (years 10-12, non-compulsory, but the usual way to the university level), but for example their relation to trigonometry wasn't mentioned at all.

48:

Pigeon @ 40
Err... no
At the London Bridge attack, the restuarant diners who wer confronted by religious nutter with swords ... went for them.
Throwing chairs, glasses, bottles, cutlery to keep them at bay & distract their aim.

49:

I definitely encountered matrices in high school (Sydney and Brisbane, 80s). Then again in 1st year mathematics. But “business track” students most likely would not have taken the same level of high school mathematics (they would do commerce and veg subjects) or any in university so I can see that it is possible to remain completely ignorant of the topic.

There are lots of things people seem to miss from high school that should be required for competent participation in a democracy, but I’m not sure matrices are among them.

50:

THIS
Corbyn will get exactly the wrong message from today's bye-election, same as the tories will ......
Desperate, isn't it?

51:

Pigeon @40. Well quite. In mythical comic-book Glasgow*, people fight back against criminals even more than they do in real life. Only the most desperate and violent criminals continue, often losing touch with reality as they do so, taking on strange and terrifying personas. As things escalate, the police are driven on to the defensive, only going into some neighbourhoods in force. People form self defence groups, many only one step less corrupt and dangerous than the criminals, protecting their own, driving out others. There are casulaties amongst all levels of the city. Inevitably vigilantes arise.

Anyway I agree with you, much as Glasgow is the best model for Gotham City that Scotland has to offer, if you wanted an old money aristocrat in a city with spectacular and gothic architecture to brood on and dive off, Edinburgh's your place.

* DC tend to create their own cities based on themed versions of real cities, some more obvious than others**

** Traditionally Metropolis is New York in the day time, Gotham New York at night***, though people like to mix it up with Chicago, Detroit or whichever American City is believed to be most crime-ridden at that moment

** Thanks to Arrow and The Flash on TV being filmed in Canada, there's the alternate version; Central City is Vancouver in the daytime, Starling City is Vancouver at night.

52:

Matrices were on the Leaving Cert (Irish second-level state exam, think A-levels or Bac) when I did it a few decades ago. Not sure it's still there though.

53:

"I’m not sure matrices are among them"

I'm reminded of my experiences in 2nd class (a year after the off piste teacher) where we were taught to colour inside the lines (reinforced with caning if we got it wrong, I kid you not). I remember thinking at the time that this was a skill unlikely to help my in later life.

That was a memory that exploded unbidden from my mouth one day at work when I entered the HR/training department to find a bunch of them preparing one of those god awful group training exercises.

I looked around at the piles of coloured paper, and three women colouring in, each of whom earned double what I did and exclaimed "When I was in kindergarten I thought colouring in was a useless waste of time that I'd never use when I grew up!"

Possibly not my finest hour.

54:

They obviously wouldn't have resorted to caning unless staying inside the lines was essential.

If there are any gaps in the lines then it is reasonable to argue that you are using flood fill and the entire page is fair game of course.

55:

Anyway I agree with you, much as Glasgow is the best model for Gotham City that Scotland has to offer, if you wanted an old money aristocrat in a city with spectacular and gothic architecture to brood on and dive off, Edinburgh's your place.

So Batman lives in Edinburgh and commutes. Crime in Glasgow skyrockets every time there is trouble with the railway.

56:

They were in the UK until one of the recent (in terms of decades) government 'improvements', and are now only in the additional (i.e. optional extra) A-level syllabus.

I find gasdive's #45 a little impausible. Binary, yes, but matrices are not something I would expect even an extremely off-piste teacher to touch until the pupils were thoroughly familiar with basic arithmetic.

57:

That's okay: in a patriarchy-free world I'm pretty sure we'd just find other stories to tell.

58:

I encountered vector and matrix arithmetic at age 14. English school system, 1970s. And I got Boolean algebra and set theory aged 10—I lucked into a crossover between a 60s attempt at teaching "the new mathematics" and a 70s attempt at systematizing the syllabus that re-incorporated older stuff (trig, differential and integral calculus) that had been shoved out of the way to make room for it.

Add "Godel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid" at age 17 (which wasn't too hard with the earlier set theory stuff) and I never used a bit of it ... until, aged 25, during a conversion degree in computer science we ran into a large lump of first order predicate calculus and I thought, "gosh, this is easy!"

A lot of stuff that we think of as esoteric and difficult isn't, really: it's just a matter of how and when it's taught. If the oldsters think it's cutting-edge hard, like general relativity in the 1930s, then it's hard. And if it's become a standard part of the toolbox, like quantum mechanics by the 1980s, then it's taught in high school. (Remember back in the early 1940s there were supposedly only four quantum physics PhDs in the United States? And two or three of them were immigrants?)

59:

Robert "The Bruce" Wayne, prominent local businessman, is known for being approchable and down to earth, even taking the train rather than driving or flying when he goes to visit his offices in Glasgow. Some overexcited villains decide that this would be the prefect time to kidnap him for ransom.

Bonus marks if they're trying to draw out the Batman with this daring crime.

60:

That reminds me that I was wrong in the previous post!

I did encounter matrices before university, in the same context as boolean algebra and Venn diagrams: at the late Eighties my friends and I had gotten these newish 16-bit computers, mostly Amigas and some PCs, which had reasonably useful programming languages and relatively accessible information (from books and BBSes). We did a lot of fun things doing vector graphics and other assorted fun stuff.

Boolean algebra is kind of necessary for most programming, and vector graphics are kind of impossible without matrices.

After doing those graphic things basically from scratch, on the software level, with basically just a frame buffer and writing bytes there, I didn't like the more modern systems that much because I thought they were "too easy". Some years ago I did some experiments with OpenGL ES on a Raspberry Pi, and, no, it's not easy. Unity is a much more useful framework, and there are many others, too.

Matrix algebra helps there, too, still.

61:

Yes. As I said, the English syllabus has been dumbed-down since. While I agree with you about most topics (including my erstwhile hobby horse, measure theory), what you say about general relativity and quantum mechanics is seriously misleading.

Teaching their principles isn't hard, but that doesn't mean that using them even for simple calculations isn't. Even today, you can tell that if you speak to PhD students in those fields - the number of them that have a very limited understanding of their own field is astounding. That's true of even some professors at respectable universities :-(

Look, I posted an example to do with special relativity a while back. The standard mantra is that FTL is equivalent to time travel, I found the proof extremely dubious, and had found no relativist who could point me to a reliable proof, but they all repeated the mantra. When I went back to the actual formula, I found that it was actually false - no, FTL is NOT equivalent to time travel. Unrestricted FTL is, but that does not mean that there might not be an exclusion effect (e.g. for quantum tunnelling). I am too rusty (in advanced matrix algebra) to analyse the issue properly, but it was was easy to produce sufficient counter-examples.

62:

We were taught matrix algebra in Maths the fourth year of secondary school but in a class where the pupils were going on to do Higher Grade examinations and likely to continue into college or further education after secondary school. It coincided with the introduction of the concept of vectors in our Physics classes, the idea that measurable quantities such as velocity required more than one number to represent them correctly and calculations involving vectors were not simple additions and subtractions of single values.

I found the matrix notation difficult to work with (also dot and cross products) but if I had persevered with matrix algebra and used it more in my day-to-day work I expect I would have coped with it better than I did.

63:

I've always got the feeling that they were saying FTL traces out a world line that's at less than 45 degrees on a space time diagram and that makes it time travel like, given that different observers will order events differently.

64:

Unrestricted FTL is the only type of FTL in relativity, as such restrictions are beyond the scope of the theory.

If you want to postulate limitation effects that prevent closed dimelike curves then you are free to do so, but they aint part of GR no matter how much you want them to be.

65:

Your misunderstanding is exactly what I mean :-( No, that's not right, and it's not what most of them mean by it, though few of them have a clear idea of what they DO mean. You can get different observer effects even with simple separation (no movement) and a finite transmission speed, as caused so much trouble to the British proto-empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, and to parallel programming today. Just a finite speed of light will do!

However, that diagram is used even at graduate level, because working with the formulae is non-trivial enough to be non-intuitive to most relativity PhD students. But, despite the dogma, it is NOT mathematically equivalent to the formulae, and conclusions drawn using it are at best unreliable (and, in this case, actually wrong). I assert that is evidence that working with relativity is harder than understanding its principles.

66:

#22) I've never been near anyone doing serious class A (that I know of) but you're actually agreeing with me about theincarnationthattalksveryfast being dangerous to know or even be around. The later antiheroine may have occasional impulse control issues, but is otherwise a generally good friend.

#23) Well, we were always taught (Scotland) (rightly or wrongly) to use a rounders bat 2-handed.

#24) I've encountered the spoons anology before, but in terms of various tiredness syndroms. The only danger posed by the sufferers when "out of spoons" is if they collapse from tiredness. If you're using it about a different complaint, it may not be helpful?

#27) I just plain didn't understand it, and presumed it to be "management speak".

#32) Well, I've always thought that Tony Stark's real superpower was "not being punched out for being a smug git".

#33) Or, again using Harley comics as reference, some of her henchpeople actually have discussions about henching as a career.

#40) Absol-fucking-lutely 100% true. Also, the Glasgow wargames shop where an attempted shoplifter "fell down the basement stairs" THREE times before the police arrived.
And, in the same vein, the Clutha bar accident, where the locals arrived and started rescue operations several minutes ahead of the Ambulance and Fire Services.

#61) I agree, at least to the extent that most fictional FTL still requires that if you leave place1 for place2 on Date, you arrive at place2 on Date + Duration, and therefore the sign of your Time vector has remained constant.

#64) And therefore (General) Relativity is an incomplete theory since it ignores the possibilty of Constrained FTL as "out of scope".

67:

I don't want to derail, so will almost certainly stop here. You have completely missed the point. The relativists claim is that general relativity (actually special) proves that FTL is impossible - flatly, totally impossible, even in special cases. And it is THAT dogma that I am pointing out is wrong.

No, I never said nor implied that such restrictions are part of general relativity, and made it pretty clear that anything like that would be far more likely to be part of quantum mechanics. Which, I might remind you, DOES introduce exclusion effects and, according to many experts, DOES have distance-independent transmission times.

68:

Wrt relativity/FTL/time travel: please take it outside, guys, it's derailing the otherwise-entertaining comments on supervillain origin stories and crapsack dystopian hellhole job ads.

69:

the number of them that have a very limited understanding of their own field is astounding

A few years ago I was at a physics conference at the University of Toronto. Prof there talked about how even his post-grad students didn't really understand physics — they were adept at calculations, but it was all plug-n-chug with no understanding of the underlying processes, the simplifications involved, etc.

A lot of my students think that they can learn physics the same way they learn math — by learning which formula to use for which type of word problem. In an era of standardized testing this can be a successful way of getting high test scores; I'm dubious that it translates to real understanding of the subject.

70:

The Riddler is obviously a teacher who has been pushed over the edge by one too many standardised tests, and has embarked on a life of crime in order to teach the world how to solve real problems.

71:

Lex Luthor could be an MBA... not sure how much unrealistic life you would need for him, though.

72:

It occurs to me that the Bat-verse contains both the Penguin and (Kit) Catwoman. Is there room for an offspring called Tim-Tam?

73:

BatCat(Wo)man is more likely in canon. (BatCat because alphabetical)

74:

If you want INTERESTING villains, the Ben Aaronovitch series on magick in London ( "Rivers of London" etc. ) is very good.
I really do not like "Mr Punch" f'rinstance ....

75:

I found the matrix notation difficult to work with (also dot and cross products)

In the long-ago day when I was doing such stuff, I found that the Einstein notation was vastly easier to deal with. And Kronecker deltas and permutation symbols are kind of cool.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein_notation

76:
I need to ask: what was up with Tony Stark, the genocidal maniac who everyone thinks is a good guy because after making billions being the bad guy he repents?
I refer the honourable correspondent to Andrew Carnegie of Carnegie Hall, the Carnegie Trust, Carnegie Mellon University, 2,500 Carnegie libraries.... and Carnegie Steel.
77:

Or Paul Cornell's "Shadow Police" series; a 3rd Larndarn-based law-enforcement/government series with a magick system incompatible with those of our GH and Ben A. (and the Verusverse is incompatible with all 3 now cited)

78:

Origin stories.

My son is an artist, and drew a rather bizarre picture of a superheroic-type who looked very much melted and disturbed. We decided that this was Derrida Man, a student who'd gone on a high-school field trip to an art museum and been bitten by a radioactive postmodernist. He is a polymorph who can turn into anything that doesn't make sense.

79:

Lacrosse... as I understand it, that was a game of the Mohawk? Lenape? Native Americans, and the rules were that you could beat your opponents with your stick, oh, and, if it wasn't out of your way to beating an opponent with a stick, or didn't keep you from doing so, you should try to score a goal.

I want to invent trumpinhole, which, like Golfimbul's fate, one knocks his head off his shoulders and into a hole in the ground, thereby winning the battle, and inventing a sport.

80:

Thanks. Never heard of shinty before. Of course, I'm still trying to find the email wherein, many years ago, my Canadian friend actually explained cricket so it made sense to me, so I'll pass on the rules for shinty for now.

81:

The old Batmobile was a high-power engine ordinary car, with parts that flip over to disguise it. The new ones... and there's supposed to be some way that no one can follow it to his Secret Lair?

82:

Ok, I don't remember *ever* being taught matrices formally - and that includes two years of calculus. Linear algebra? I need to learn it (having just found this out a year or so ago), so I can get to tensor analysis, so I can finish my Famous Secret Theory, and get the hell *off* this Planet of the Idiots (or at least run by them).

83:

Swords are one story. Knives, on the other hand.... Many, many years ago, I was over a buddy's who was into martial arts, and I skimmed a book he had on knife fighting, by two men with *real* credentials - one ex-military, both had spent time in reform school (juvenile prison) and both in prison. At the end, one of them told the story of a knife fight he'd been in: in a bar, he and another guy get into an argument, and the other guy pulls a knife. He pulls one, and moves back, other guy follows. He reaches behind him with his non-knife hand - the other guy's watching that hand, to know when he's going to move....

And he hit the other guy over the head with a chair. End of fight.

On the other hand, my walking stick, by sheer chance, happens to be the length and almost the weight of an SCA broadsword. Did I mention that in my late 20's and early 30's, that I fought heavy in the SCA?

84:

Two notes: in spite of what my late ex and her oldest friend argued, years back, if you say "Gotham" to anyone who's not thinking of Batman in the last century and a half, they know you're talking about NYC.

The annoying thing to me is that Batman seems to be able to cover a good bit of the downtown, and there's NO WAY to do that in NYC.

Given that he's partly supposed to be Old Money, and his mansion is out of town, the most obvious change, if they hadn't screwed him to Gotham, would have been to move him to Philly, and his mansion on the Main Line, and he *could* cover downtown, being as small/walkable as Philly is.

*sigh*

85:

Rct: 33: years back, my manager was taking myself and the other admin into the datacenter - we didn't have the authority yet, and he introduced us to the guard as his henchmen. The three of us then had a short discussion, and decided that henchmen was a higher level, and it's the minions that are fist-fodder....

86:

I don't know. If we're talking about the post-'89/'90 Crisis on Infinite Earths, the newer Lex is *incredibly* competent, not like the previous versions, that had no sense. The billionaire that owns Metropolis, and objects to this...*alien* breaking his monopoly, though is "mostly women staff, who is expected to screw him if/when he asks, but also to be competent at what *they* do", seems like he's too intelligent for an MBA.

87:

You need to remember that, until a couple of centuries back, the Scottish Highlands had a lot in common with Afghanistan. It's worth looking up the origins of the game of polo, for comparison.

88:

Thank you for reminding me of the Scarfolk blog, becomes more and more relevant as time goes by.

89:

As long as he can produce a bathtub full of power tools....

90:

As long as you don't mind a squirt-hammer or a cheesy-drill he's good.

91:

You're familiar with the Grant Morrison reboot of Doom Patrol and their enemies, the Brotherhood of Dada, led by Mr Nobody?

As wikipedia summarizes it, "The Brotherhood stole a magical painting and used it to transport Paris into another reality composed of realms based on philosophical concepts and schools of art. Their plan was foiled by the Doom Patrol, but they chose to remain in the strange alternate realm. Later, Mr. Nobody escaped from the painting with the help of four members of his new Brotherhood: Agent "!", who could blend into any crowd; Alias the Blur, the ghost of a mirror that can eat time; Number None, the abstract concept of everything that goes wrong in a person's day; and the Love Glove, whose power depends on what glove he wears. They stole the bicycle of Albert Hofmann, and used its lysergic resonance to power Mr Nobody's presidential campaign" ..."

And it only gets weirder.

(I swear, Grant Morrison is the only person I know of with the imaginative chops to successfully stay ahead of our current reality.)

92:

I don't watch Doom Patrol, but saw the GIF of the rat and cockroach making out. I may have to start watching that one...

93:

I know you're not a telly series person — but the recent DC Doom Patrol TV series impressed me. They went full on for the Grant Morrison-esque weird-ass Doom Patrol. Which shows some kind of fortitude by TV execs somewhere.

(e.g. Mr Nobody is the main villain, one of the characters was Danny — a gender queer teleporting street, etc.)

94:

I'm not talking about the TV show, I'm talking about the 80s and 90s comic run. Utterly epic.

95:

Awesome. I prefer reading to watching and will definitely put Doom Patrol on my list. But here's what they're doing on the show.

96:

This video clearly shows how the batmobile appears and disappears. 14 miles outside a Gotham City that looks very like Los Angeles.

97:
Mister Freeze - Inspired by Lord Kelvin, tries to reach absolute zero, it goes wrong, gets caught up in the Ice Cream Van Wars in the 80s
This would bring me comfort and joy. We both know who should direct the film.
98:

Neil W @ 51: Anyway I agree with you, much as Glasgow is the best model for Gotham City that Scotland has to offer, if you wanted an old money aristocrat in a city with spectacular and gothic architecture to brood on and dive off, Edinburgh's your place.

The comic book Gotham City is a much darker place than the real New York. But compare the UK of V for Vendetta to the real thing. There's no reason to think that a Glasgow that spawned Batman and the Joker wouldn't be a much darker place than the real Glasgow.

99:

Charlie Stross @ 58: I encountered vector and matrix arithmetic at age 14. English school system, 1970s. And I got Boolean algebra and set theory aged 10—I lucked into a crossover between a 60s attempt at teaching "the new mathematics" and a 70s attempt at systematizing the syllabus that re-incorporated older stuff (trig, differential and integral calculus) that had been shoved out of the way to make room for it.

Add "Godel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid" at age 17 (which wasn't too hard with the earlier set theory stuff) and I never used a bit of it ... until, aged 25, during a conversion degree in computer science we ran into a large lump of first order predicate calculus and I thought, "gosh, this is easy!"

A lot of stuff that we think of as esoteric and difficult isn't, really: it's just a matter of how and when it's taught. If the oldsters think it's cutting-edge hard, like general relativity in the 1930s, then it's hard. And if it's become a standard part of the toolbox, like quantum mechanics by the 1980s, then it's taught in high school. (Remember back in the early 1940s there were supposedly only four quantum physics PhDs in the United States? And two or three of them were immigrants?)

I encountered "number systems" along with duodecimal, binary, octal & hexadecimal at age 9. At that age, I think the brain is still plastic enough that they are easy.

Binary led to truth tables, because truth tables can show you how transistor switches work and from there Set Theory shows you how to connect the transistors together to make logic gates. And as everybody should know, "logic gates" are the fundamental building blocks of computers. (I think this was just about the time someone at Texas Instruments patented the first prototype "Integrated Circuit" chip.)

We also did Cartesian coordinates, logarithms & Napier's Bones (in French of course, because why not?)

This was 1959, just after the Soviets beat the U.S. into space with Sputnik and the whole educational establishment was in panic mode. The Ford Foundation gave the city of Durham, NC where I was growing up a grant to run an enrichment summer school for gifted and talented students. It was also the year my father was first appointed to the City School Board, so I became gifted and talented got to spend the summer going to school while all my friends were doing kids summer fun stuff [1].

Still, it was really a lot of fun. The highlight of summer was a field trip over to the University of North Carolina where they allowed us to all pile into the visitors gallery and look through the windows down at the Math Department's new Univac computer.

But all good things come to an end, and there was no money to continue the program after that first summer, so we all got dumped back into the "normal" system of math education, i.e. rote memorization, which I didn't do so good. And there's a reason why the old saying, "Use it or lose it" is a cliché.

I didn't encounter matrices again until the mid-90s when there was a big push on to train as many programmers as possible to attack the Y2K problem. I took all the classes I could afford at the local community college & you needed "computer math" before they would let you take the programming classes. Because I had learned it young, I had an easier time picking it up the second time around.

[1] Because it didn't cost my dad any money to get me out of the house to go to summer school. I found out some years later that the reason I sucked at sports was because I was almost half-way to being legally blind and no one thought to have my eyes examined. Without my glasses, I can see the big letter 'E' at the top of the eye chart and that's about it. I got big ol' Buddy Holly birth-control glasses just in time to fuck up puberty for me.

100:

paws4thot @ 73: BatCat(Wo)man is more likely in canon. (BatCat because alphabetical)

There was a Bat GIRL (about the same age as the original Robin), but I don't remember a Bat Woman. Might have been after I lost interest in comic books in the early 80s.

101:

It was a joke, though on second thoughts I'm not entirely sure myself... it didn't happen in that time and place, but I'd not be surprised to find that some bugger somewhere had tried it.

102:

I remember it as being jet-powered, with a rather unconvincing exhaust flame effect... but I think you've not got the reference (probably too British).

103:

It was a good joke. Snorted at "corps lacroissiers".

104:

Does the fact that KitKats, Penguins and Tim Tams are all chocolate biscuits make Paul McAuley's joke @72 more obvious?

Batwoman came in about ten years ago I think, after my bat-comic days. She made a (live action) TV appearance when Green Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl crossed over at the end of last year, and apparently there will be a TV series later this year, though until it actually appears on a screen take that with a pinch of salt.

105:

Indeed, particularly given my ongoing contention that Tim Tams are reminiscent of the fruit of a cross between the other two.

106:

#80 - Also hurley, which is sufficiently closely related to shinty that if you understand one you understand the other (aside from scoring rules, think field hockey without the "no sticks above shoulder height" rule), and indeed there is a combination sport "shinty-hurley" which Scotland and Ireland play at international level several times a year.

#84 - Referencing "New 52" and later Harley Quinn, you can get from Gotham to New York inside of a day by train, but they are separate cities.

#85 - :-) And yes, with sidekick as senior to hench and lackey between hench and minion.

#100 - That sounds like the Adam West TV show (as do the references to the flame effect on the Lincoln Futura). Anyway, my comment at #73 was more about the mutual attraction between Batman and Catwoman (started in that period) and between Bruce and Selina (both being canon) than to the separate character Batwoman.

#104 - Tim Tams are not a thing this side of the Pond. Neither is there any canon relationship between Penguin and Catwoman other than an occasional professional one.

107:

Actually having just re-read the OP, I'd suggest that the best thing to do about food in a Radisson RED is probably ask for an outside restaurant recommendation.

108:

Pwas @ 107
"bed & Breakfast" in other words!

109:

Do the hotels themselves fly RED flags?

That'd be kind of nice.

110:

“Add "Godel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid" at age 17”

Funny co-incidence, I was also 17 when I read this book by Hofstadter. Its discussion of quines is probably the main background I had to draw on when I read Ken Thompson on trusting trust.

Of course Achilles and the tortoise are the real super heroes here.

111:

with sidekick as senior to hench and lackey between hench and minion.

This is screaming for a spoof HR manual, complete with pay scales, grades (with roles and responsibilities), performance appraisal guidelines, and some hints about Performance Improvement Programs for the differerent grade. Not to forget stack ranking, and of course in any truly Evil organization the only exit is six feet under.

112:

And then go somewhere else ....

113:

The storyline I am waiting for is Scottish Batman vs The Gorbals Vampire.

114:

Indeed. Like the Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but for supervillains. The main risk is that it would then be adopted by Certain Organisations, with the job titles changed but little else.

115:

I found it so irritating that I couldn't read it. Of course, I did start with a fair knowledge of those topics.

116:

Wasn't there an episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes a henchman for an evil genius who uses modern management methods?

117:

I am so not going to post the pitch I worked up for my creator-owned supervillain comic, set in a small, depressed town mostly famous for exporting Mooks (those mirrorshade-wearing, boiler-suited interchangeable minions that the likes of James Bond and Superman make short work of).

But one of the plot lines involves the city council's joy, followed by horror, when they learn that a new Mad Scientist is moving into town: first, "lots of jobs! Happy times are here again!", followed by, "what do you mean, there are no jobs because he's building cloning tanks? What, he's going to use it to manufacture Igors, made-in-America Igors, anchor baby Igor clones?!?"

118:

Chralie @ 111 + paws
Something along the likes of:
Ahriman / Baron / Sidekick / Hench / Lackey / Lickspittle / Minion / Serf ... maybe?
I'm sure there are other intermediste grades that could/should be inserted.

A really large organisation has so many grades.
Think of: O/S, A/S/, JPO, SPO, MPO, W=Off, 2nd-Leuitenant, Lt, Lt-Commander, Commander, Captain, Commodore, R-Adml, V-Adml, Adml, Adml of FLeet ...
Whaich by my count is ... 16.

119:

Yeah, but most of them would be contractors. (What? You don't think a supervillain is going to abuse the gig economy?)

120:

Let's hope that isn't drawn in North America, the result might seem... insensitive.

121:

Delivergru.

Mind you, off the top of my head I'd say some of the structures of Rule 34 (and Halting State) were pretty gig economesque.

122:

I think I've seen some short parody of such, but I can't remember when or where. A quick search doesn't show it.

123:

Been done. While looking for an HR guide for supervillians, I found Amazon offering several on being a supervillan.

And, of course, to be a modern supervillian, one *must* memorize the Evil Overlord list.

He can hear me? Good! YES, I WILL PUSH THIS BUTTON > IN HALF AN HOUR, SO THAT HE CAN'T POSSIBLY GET HERE IN TIME TO STOP ME... heh, heh, heh....

124:

ARGH! Hate this. Want NO HTML entities in my cmts.... that greater-than sign was [presses button with a soft click]....

125:

Oh, come *on*, most supervillians don't start out as billionaires, or with VC investors. They'll start as villain, henchman (not as smart, but thinks he's ok, and will make them both rich) and minion (nothing higher than a 9 in the deck). As they move up from villain to supervillain, they'll start hiring management (henchpersons with stock options and fancy titles, but low salaries, or on commission), and minions for them to run.

This, of course, will result in a *lot* of griping among the management of "it's *so* hard to hire good help these days", and complaints of no money for training (why train, when they're cheap, replaceable, and going to be replaced as soon as they hit the authorities or a hero?)

Of course, if you start out on your path of supervillainy as a billionaire, you either run the high-class MBA route, or you start loosing money, by, say, laundering money by buying a money-loosing golf course in Ireland....

126:

"The way to make a small fortune in supervillainy is to start with a large fortune."

I always assumed that most bat-villains were just doing what they loved (putting on masks, murdering people, maybe stealing diamonds or running an underworld club) and regular criminals, rather than tangle with a maniac who tortures people to death with fast food condiments, offer to be their gang for protection (from the supervillain of course, but also the bat-guy and those weirdos in clown makeup). They get to carry on with their dayjobs of theft and drug dealing, and once every few months have to join in a themed heist of some sort.

127:

Maybe supervillains get started because they're afraid of Real Mobsters[1], and so figure that by going so outside-the-box and over the top that the Real Mob won't bother them, but, if not respect them, stay far away ("we're just crooks, and want to get rich, we're not out of our fuckin' minds")

* Like Molly Bloom, as I just read yesterday, who was asked to run an underground card game in LA, then, after being seriously beaten up, moved it to NYC, so the Russian mob could get a take from it. It she'd only put on spandex and armor, she could have kept them out of it....

128:

The old villainsupply.com website used to cover that sort of thing, the forums of EVIL! discussing whether the bikini babes got dental cover, mook pensions (or lack of them, the shark pool always needed fresh meat). It resurfaced after a while as villainsource.com but now seems defunct. Shame.

129:

Following on and searching via the Wayback Machine:

When I chat with other supervillains, they often ask me, "What kind of benefits do you offer your underlings?" To which I answer, "'Benefits'?? It's benefit enough that I allow them the honor of serving me, before I casually kill them off!"

HENCHMEN ARE NOT "EMPLOYEES" -- THEY ARE SLAVES!

Benefits, my ass! Any time one of those idiots annoys me, I kill him -- imagine if I had to pay for burials! I'd go broke! That's why I keep man-eating boars, for crying out loud. Even the bikini girls by the lagoon have to pay their own dental. What am I, a charity?

-- Professor Von Strychnine, S.U.B.Ve.R.T.

130:

Whitroth @123:

I assume you mean this. A coworker and I discussed this some time ago; we believed the progression would be henchman>lackey>minion, if I recall.

131:

Drat. Muffed the HTML again. Evil Overlord Rules

132:

Actually, I forgot ... either the top level, or the next onme down ( i.e. the actaul supervillian's "Hand" or deputy should be tiled: "WHITE CAT"

133:

In another case of life imitating art, the Adani coal mine.

Local government very excited, does some BoE calculations, comes up with estimates of tens of thousands of jobs.

Much negotiating around "if the government could just build a railway and a port, think of the jobs" later, it turns out all the jobs are for robots.

134:

" forums of EVIL! discussing whether the bikini babes got dental cover, mook pensions (or lack of them"

The videogame No One Lives Forever had an absurdly humorous scene in which heroine Cate Archer hides in an office corridor, trying to evade henchmen from two separate Bond-villain type organizations. If figuring out Cate's next move took too long, you then had to hear a dialogue between henchmen comparing benefit packages their employers offered, with a free dental plan being the clincher convincing one thug to switch teams. That was the point where I made her jump out and attack them all. No doubt as the game designer intended.

135:

Greg Tingey @ 118: Chralie @ 111 + paws
Something along the likes of:
Ahriman / Baron / Sidekick / Hench / Lackey / Lickspittle / Minion / Serf ... maybe?
I'm sure there are other intermediste grades that could/should be inserted.

A really large organisation has so many grades.
Think of: O/S, A/S/, JPO, SPO, MPO, W=Off, 2nd-Leuitenant, Lt, Lt-Commander, Commander, Captain, Commodore, R-Adml, V-Adml, Adml, Adml of FLeet ...
Whaich by my count is ... 16.

For a mad scientist/super villain organization it's got way too many ossifers & not enough grunts.

136:

Sometimes, there is a side to my geekiness that's a bit "you're not very nice at all, are you?"...

"...the Alan Moore electric chair diorama"

Can you imagine how much fun it would be to do ALL THAT HAIR for the central figure in the scene?

You could use an air blower to make it stand out and quiver. Or even make it out of really fine silk - top end untra-realistic dollmaker have this one nailed - and use *an actual van der Graaf generator* to make it stand on end, crackling and sparking!

The possibilities are endless.

137:

Yes, Edinburgh would be an interesting variation on Gotham. You can also throw in several other real things:
- the famous mock gothic and baronial etc architecture is also in a parlous state, needing lots of repairs. Batman would either covertly fund said repairs, since otherwise his style of getting about might end with a long drop and a meaty thud.

- the evil developers don't care about the city and would be happy if it was nuked so they could build new more efficently tall buildings to use the land better. The council would be happy to help them. The plot possibilities are obvious.

- Lots of tourists means lots of cameras. He's going to have to get some very good outfits and camouflage options.

- Given the number of lawyers in Edinburgh, I guarantee you can find someone like two face.

- Extinct volcanic cores

- batmobile meets speedbumps, fun for all concerned.

138:

Surely what makes them supervillains is that they have one massive defining accident, whether being dropped in chemicals or whatever. Again, Edinburgh would be quite good what with Roslin etc for all your genetically modified animal options. Glasgow and environs has more toxic waste dumps though.

139:

Cricket bats depends on where you are and what social level you are at. Hardly anybody here plays baseball and rounders is for children, but cricket is popular especially with middle class people or in the Shires. There was a case a few years ago of some men being jailed after inflicting brain damage on a burglar using a cricket bat.
(For anyone wondering - it wan't self defence; after getting free of being tied up they chased the burglars away, but then caught this one and beat him repeatedly about the head with the bat, in someone elses garden)

140:

Of course, if you start out on your path of supervillainy as a billionaire, you either run the high-class MBA route...

In the current Dungeons and Dragons game, our characters are beginning to hear rumors of a large treasure, supposedly stolen from the budget of a large town and guarded by magic.

My character is a member of the nobility... "That's nonsense," she scoffed, "why hide it and guard it with monsters and magic when your family's lawyer and a couple bankers could transfer it out of the city and turn it into income-producing real-estate in Baldur's Gate? All this talk of monsters and magic is a red-herring. Nobody could be that stupid!"

141:

I'm assuming the Joker has a Glasgow smile.

142:

guthrie @ 137
- the evil developers don't care about the city and would be happy if it was nuked so they could build new more efficently tall buildings to use the land better. The council would be happy to help them. The plot possibilities are obvious.
Very nearly happened in the mid-1950's ... there was an actual proposal to demolish the whole of the "Old Town" - I'm sure Charlie can give you details.

143:

Greg, I don't mean this in a nasty way, but you have to consider it possible that someone who was born in a now demolished hospital building in Edinburgh, and who has a major interest in history, is capable of finding the exact plans in the National library of Scotland, or wherever they have been hidden in ignominy since then. You should also look up some of the 19th century ideas about remodelling Edinburgh castle.

144:

My character is a member of the nobility... "That's nonsense," she scoffed, "why hide it and guard it with monsters and magic when your family's lawyer and a couple bankers could transfer it out of the city and turn it into income-producing real-estate in Baldur's Gate? All this talk of monsters and magic is a red-herring. Nobody could be that stupid!"

Well, for one, you can use the monster-guarded treasure as collateral against a loan to buy the land near Baldur's Gate. Even if the treasure is inaccessible, its value, location, and security, so credit could be issued against it. Then you sell the land at a profit, default on the loan so that your creditor has to clean out the monsters, and go on with even more money to do it again (or the creditor could sell the dungeon to someone else...). Something like this is how finance worked before money in the Fertile Crescent: the value was hoarded away in the temples, and credit was issued against the silver and other treasures. Then rampaging conquerors like Alexander got in the habit of looting temple treasuries, melting down the silver (the primary form of wealth), issuing standardized bits of it to their soldiers as coin, and collecting taxes from their newly subjugated cities only in the coin they issued their soldiers, thereby insuring that their men could actually buy what they needed from the locals, who were loath to issue them credit.

Anyway, a dungeon makes a halfway decent safe deposit vault, if you don't have access to bankers. I suspect, even now, that the super-rich use undeveloped land with development rights attached to it for a similar function.

145:

Actually, that would make a really interesting D&D story: Your "employer" takes your nearest and dearest hostage, and offers you the following deal:

Turns out, he's come into ownership of Dire Straits Redoubt, because Baron Slimewriggle defaulted on his loan for his current demesne at Baldur's Gate, and left him with the deed to the Redoubt, which was his collateral. Your job is to go in with his team of auditors whom you will keep safe, secure the Redoubt *without destroying it*, protect the auditors while the perform a thorough accounting, and turn it over to him in good working order. For that you will be generously rewarded. Fail, and your hostages will be turned into geese and quickly into pate de fois gras. What do you do?

146:

Take the job, accept reward and return of the loved one, then take horrible, Orcish vengeance on the "employer" who would be sacrificed to Sauron after being dragged through the blood of his/her own children!

Then resurrect him/her, allow them to have more children, and take vengeance again! (The magical options available in Dungeons and Dragons allow some really ugly outcomes...)

147:

Well, that is better than my pitch, wherein the Joker takes over the job of the Sandman....

148:

True, but the challenge I haven't thought through (mostly because I haven't played D&D in many years) is how you take over a dungeon without breaking and looting it. I'm sure someone's played it out, but it still looks like an interesting variation on the dungeon crawl (and yes, you have to leave the gelatinous cubes intact. And the rust monsters).

Come to think of it, any skilled financial wizard (level 12 or above) could have dungeons all over the place, as ways to store their wealth while offering credit against what's in it. It's not a bad way to keep the mid-level undead employed--they get a free place to stay, all the adventurers they can eat, and all they have to do is make sure none of the treasure is stolen or lost to decay, and to tell their employer if this does happen. Otherwise, there's no reason for the wizard to do anything about cleaning up the dungeon, because it's just as easy to sell it to some other financial lord as needed.

Heck, with dungeons around, the only reason you need banks is for the petty cash: adventurers converting their coin and the like.

149:

Is it a dungeon or a bank? Do you have a license? If so, it's a bank. If not, it's a dungeon... interesting. The parallel is bitcoin vs. wallstreet, or something similar. Or maybe a family benevolent association vs. a credit union - which explains why the authorities tolerate the presence of murder-hoboes; they keep the bankers in line!

If the First National Bank of Baldur's Gate loses it's license, the bank run could get very nasty. I'm going to have to think about this for awhile.

Thanks. This could get interesting next time I DM.

My own recent "interesting" D & D thought was about Trolls and other regenerating creatures. Are the useful as the basis for an ecology, particularly during periods of ecological stress?

150:

Thinking more about it, adventurers bring things like magic swords, potions of healing, armor, spell books, etc., and all of those are saleable, sometimes for a very nice price. If you're located near a big city, you might sell the same magic sword a dozen times.

The "Federal Reserve" of any kingdom is a mature dragon who understands compound interest.

And of course you need a rust monster; you can use it to test the iron content of any coins someone gives you...

151:

"Rust Monster"
I immediately think of "Penric's Deamon" ( Desdemona ) who turns the swords of people attacking Penric into rust (VERY QUICKLY)

152:

I think it was a D&D knock-off* I read rather than an official version that explictly suggested that a high level wizard should build a tower and dig a dungeon underneath, following which monsters will move in and every now and again the wizard can go through and charm or sleep them and take any magic items they like that have turned up. (It also said that soon after parties of adventurers would turn up looking to loot the place). I'm not sure if it was a deliberate attempt to explain how dungeons get created, the explanation being, of course, "a wizard did it".

* "retro-clone", using the Open Game License and System Reference Document if that means anything to you

153:

"Other than "because MBAs and/or marketing people" why do they even bother to pretend to be different?"

I think the marketing concept you are looking for is "premium mediocre", as far as I know the naming of it originates in this blog post ( https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2017/08/17/the-premium-mediocre-life-of-maya-millennial/ ), and jugging by my DuckDuckGoing the idea is waaaay too real.

154:

Joker McJokeface

155:

I thought of the one who can only be appeased by hot dip galvanizing unibodies entirely, the entity that made otherwise decent cars crumble...

156:

A rust monster is one of the most hated creatures in Dungeons and Dragons. Rust monsters feed on iron and steel, digesting it outside the monster's body by turning the iron/steel into rust. So armor, swords, arrowheads, etc, including sometimes magical items, will crumble at a rust monster's touch. Particularly nasty Dungeon Masters will place half-a-dozen of the beast at the bottom of a pit trap... It is a particularly nasty thing to do to players, (particularly those who are feeling powered-up and entitled - heh heh!)

157:

They are also a symptom of a certain type of role-playing game where the game master and the other players sort of play against each other. This is the type of game where (stereotypically) the game master makes a dungeon or some other puzzle and the other players try to solve it. The players often try to amass resources (in-game money, magic items, experience points) as much as they can for their characters and the game master tries to thwart them doing that.

The rust monster is made to destroy the player characters' items, so it's a very direct thing for preventing the player characters from doing what they want to do with their characters and limit their hoarding of stuff. An another monster in the same vein is the disenchanter, which drains magic from those magic items.

I have the impression that there was also a tournament culture in roleplaying at the time in the US. This was late Seventies to my understanding, and other people here were probably more in that scene, or the UK one, than I have ever been. In this kind of play, the adventure is played by a lot of player groups and the best one is the one getting the most treasure from it. I think in cons there were tournaments where you could get prizes for solving the puzzles and getting the most treasure.

There are other types of roleplaying, and I think I've never used a rust monster after some early D&D adventures. I mostly play other RPGs nowadays which mostly take a much more "we're in this together to have fun" attitude to the game. Some of the games don't even feature a game master at all.

158:

I definitely prefer the "we're all in this together" style of dungeon mastering, and believe that a good DM uses much more subtle methods of restricting his/her players. For the most part, creatures like rust monsters are emergency measures, mainly used when the DM has to admit they accidentally overpowered the characters!

159:

On the subject of banking in Dungeons and Dragons (or any fantasy milieu for that matter) it occurs to me that a Dragon is the ultimate banker. So picture an important city, which has complex and dynamic trade and manufacturing requirements. The banking system is run by Dragons, probably a mated pair of huge, ancient wyrms and their children, grandchildren, etc. All of them understand compound interest, and they probably start "working" at various bank-branches throughout the city as they attain enough maturity to fry a party of low-level adventurers without difficulty.

Since dragons come in varying alignments, this has consequences for the cities which employ them. If your city's dragons are chaotic evil, the nature of your economic system will be very different than that of a city who's dragons are lawful good. Fortunately, most citizens will never meet "the loan committee."

If your city is threatened, you round up all the adventurers, give them a choice between defending the city and being dragon-food, then send them out as "special forces." Some of the adventurers will be given letters of marquee and reprisal so they can attack the other city's economic status, (kill their dragons) while others will be recruited for sneaking and peeking or guarding groups of 0-level soldiers. The most advanced spell-casters get to be dragon riders...

Meanwhile, Elves are in real-estate, Dwarfs in mining and manufacturing, Halflings in farming, Orcs in herding, etc.

Those other dungeons? They may charge lower interest rates and have better terms, but your money is very, very poorly guarded, and nobody will insure it...

160:

TV series backgrounds aside, there is very little argument that makes sense to make Vancouver into some kind of Gotham or other mid 20th dystopian city.

Vancouver's current form of dystopia is in being both beautiful and currently overrun by big money laundering real estate flippers. A superhero here would be an accountant who grows tired of helping these plutocratic villains to displace the rabble, and starts a Panama Papers style release of their finances. Maybe if she does it enough the RCMP would actually assign the resources to investigate.

Most low level crime of the 'masked superhero' type around Vancouver involves petty theft (by addicts for obvious reasons) and the marketing and sale of illegal drugs, as well as knock-on small scale violence that results from the latter.

There is hardly a space for a splashy superhero type. They could go punch out a few interchangeable street dealers or homeless junkies, but Batman would need to be very careful of blood spatter (HIV/Hepatitis/Etc) and would accomplish exactly nothing.

161:

Looks like my innocent little suggestion has created a monster....MwaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa! My work here is done.

162:

When a dragon burns your village down because an invisible adventurer stole one of its trinkets it isn't acting out of anger, it is protecting the reputation of the family firm.

163:

The idea of dragon-banking is more likely to end up in a fantasy story. The next dungeon I run will be much weirder than that. As I noted above, I've been considering the question of regenerating creatures (such as trolls) as the basis for an entire ecology, along with one of the most horrible disasters that could happen to a fantasy world...

164:

I guess the key question to settle is whether, when you bisect a troll, you get two trolls regenerating, or one. If it's the first case, then yes, you do indeed have an interesting problem.

As for the species of bankers, I've been thinking of them (or rather, the super-rich) as liches for a little while, mostly because their entire existence is conditioned by "magical" legal documents that describe the web of trusts, corporations, and foundations that actually house their wealth, so that they can legally claim to own none of it (they merely control it under certain conditions, those conditions including that it's not for the payment of debts they rack up, among other things...). This sounds like the relationship between a lich and its phylactery, or the older idea of the external heart hidden away that makes the monster indestructible unless its heart is found and destroyed through a complex process.

On the other hand, with dragons you seem to have played off the notion of the lizard people owning the world, which is also a fairly vintage trope, if not necessarily a fire-breathing one.

I guess the next step for both of us is to make sure that this doesn't turn into crypto-anti-semitism, given what the lizard-people are so often a metaphor for and what the phylactery is in the real world.

To do that, I guess, is to make sure that dragons are just dragons, the undead are truly undead, and orcs and other greenskins aren't standing in for other skin colors. Although, come to think of it, flipping the script so that a dungeon is a multispecies intentional living center that runs and guards a credit union would be a really interesting way to play it, especially with various varieties of white-skinned adventurers coming in to loot it and/or destroy it because it's some sort of evil plot against the free market. Hmmmm.

165:

"I guess the key question to settle is whether, when you bisect a troll, you get two trolls regenerating, or one. If it's the first case, then yes, you do indeed have an interesting problem."

Not so much that, but imagine that you're in a bad survival situation, and you're with a troll. If the troll is willing, you can drink his blood when you get thirsty, and every once in awhile you can cut out his liver and fry it for dinner, but now you owe the troll one hell of a favor...

Now make it much scarier. You and your descendants and the troll and his descendants, plus the rats and the lizards and the dogs and the cats are in a bad survival situation for a million years, plus you need to grow crops - and the only source of fresh organic matter is the troll. What evolves? And what of the other regenerating creatures and their various ecosystems?

Now imagine that all these things show up in a more ordinary fantasy world, and everyone needs to cope...

166:

In a simpler form, isn't that how the Underdark already works? Weirded out plants take magic energy and turn it into biomass, and the rest of the underworld ecosystem runs off this?

167:

There was an SMBC comic (which I can't locate) about a monster that could regenerate its limbs — so the villagers locked it in a steel box with armholes and had an endless supply of free meat…

168:

I suppose, but I'm thinking more in terms of biology than botany, with a creature like a troll carrying a number of specialized parasites who were once orcs or stirges or wolves, and those parasites follow anything from simple to very complex commands in return for food.

169:

Big troll, small orcs? It could certainly work, and various other people have played with useful symbionts for quite a long time. It's more pleasant, I suppose, than orcs "domesticating" trolls as an ever-growing food supply.

I'm thinking along similar lines, although I'm more interested in playing with the reworked Monstera deliciosa in James Schmitz's short story "Compulsion."

170:

I've been thinking of them (or rather, the super-rich) as liches for a little while, mostly because their entire existence is conditioned by "magical" legal documents that describe the web of trusts, corporations, and foundations that actually house their wealth,

Hot tip: you really ought to read "Three Parts Dead" by Max Gladstone (which just happens to be the first novel in a multiple-award-nominated series because it takes more or less that idea as a starting point then picks up the ball and runs right over the horizon. Also, he's a good writer.

Also, I assume you're aware of the term of art for a dungeon party: "murder hobos". Right?

171:

Similarly: gelatinous cubes are simply ginormous (and promiscuous) eukaryotic cells that have cracked the diffusion-gradient problem so they can get oxygen and nutrients everywhere in the interior without maxing out at a diameter of a couple of millimetres. And the whole engulf-the-dungeoneers shtick is actually the GC's evolved strategy for discovering new commensal organelles like mitochondria or chloroplasts: it keeps hunting for a bony-skeleton-magic-wielder it can swallow and keep alive while partially dissolved and make use of for casting fireballs at any actual GC predators that happen by.

Your party's absolute worst experience is to run into a dungeon/investment bank where the founder seeded it with gelatinous cubes back in the day, then kind of forgot, and some time later returned as a lich ... and the biggest of the cubes swallowed them, so you've now got a giant regenerating undead gelatinous cube that sucks the life force out of you and can cast death spells, sort of like a physical incarnation of Fox News.

172:

TV and film superheroes often find villains (regular, super and in between) in abandonded warehouse and factories, mostly because that's easiest to dress a soundstage for an interesting stunt/fight scene, but also because thematically a city that has vast industrial sites no longer in use has fallen from grace, and economically urban zones that have lost their main job providers will have increased levels of crime, if only because more non-criminals have moved away following the jobs. In Vancouver/London/New York/other cities with large amounts of real estate being used as launderies or investments by grey and black money, villains should be operating out of unoccupied luxury apartments, possibly with the permission of the owners, more likely a side-deal/sub-letting with one or more layers of landlord, building management, dodgy security firm, right down to borrowing a key from your brother-in-law who has the cleaning sub-sub-sub-contract.

173:

Thanks for the recommendation. I'd been reading Family Wealth: Keeping it in the family and was struck by comments about how, in a wealthy family, the trust effectively becomes a central member of the family, and how this unreal family member (it's a stack of papers, not flesh and blood, but it's more important than any individual) distorts every other relationship in the family. That, coupled with what I'd read about the nature of trusts* made me start thinking about liches, and the rest came from there. Presumably Gladstone's mining the same vein?

As for murder hoboes, I hadn't heard the term, but it's apt and self-explanatory. They come equipped with murder cutlery, obviously.

*Incidentally, a big, bloody thank you to Merry Olde England for creating that idea of a trust back during the Crusades, then mutating it for centuries and releasing it upon the world in the 20th Century.

174:

There was an SMBC comic (which I can't locate) about a monster that could regenerate its limbs — so the villagers locked it in a steel box with armholes and had an endless supply of free meat…

It was also done in The Order of the Stick. A hydra grows back two heads for every one that is cut off, right? But the heart is in the body, so there's only so much blood that can be pumped per unit time. Eventually there's not enough oxygen to any of the brains...but there's enough hydra meat for everyone!

175:

https://www.oglaf.com/fog-o-war/ ?

Otherwise, yes, why not? I think David Brin even used the same idea in the last bit of the Uplift Universe, where intelligence recapitulated Serial Endosymbiosis Theory.

176:

Actually, over time it does get worse, if the lich (d)evolves into a demi-lich inside the gelatinous cube...

177:

"It's more pleasant, I suppose, than orcs "domesticating" trolls as an ever-growing food supply."

Much less pleasant, I hope. The idea is Trolls thirty feet tall covered with symbionts, tendriculous that have evolved to cover acres, flying slaad covered with stirges that have been drinking hallucinogenic blood for years, etc., all played for as much horror as possible, in an environment where the literally unthinkable has happened!

178:

Much less pleasant, I hope. The idea is Trolls thirty feet tall covered with symbionts, tendriculous that have evolved to cover acres, flying slaad covered with stirges that have been drinking hallucinogenic blood for years, etc., all played for as much horror as possible, in an environment where the literally unthinkable has happened!

So... for the players rolling up new characters, the most important question is going to be, "what kind of sucker are you?"

The alternative is, "Hey sonny, go help your pa coppice that ol' bull troll. It's good for it this month. You'll need to take the trident to keep it pinned, while Pa prunes it with that fauchard of his. I'm firing the smokehouse now to cure the hams and shoulders. I always remind myself to parboil 'em and smoke 'em quick before they start growing themselves, so we've don't have to deal with trollops again."

179:

The "fortunate" thing for the players is that "the unthinkable" has happened to the bad guys too - for the first several levels, everyone is just trying to cope - though things are worse for the humans and their allies - then things start to get interesting, because both sides are starting to cope with "the unthinkable."

180:

I woke up in the middle of the night and I understood it; murder-hoboes are tolerated because they PREVENT the rise of Dragon-banking. Imagine that you live in a medieval fantasy world, perhaps in a small town of 5000 people. A couple fighters, a cleric, and two ne'r-do-wells with instruments wander into your town with tales of how many orcs, goblins, and beholders they've killed. You can expect them to make trouble, so why not chase them away or kill them instantly? It's because these people are going to save you from a bank controlled by dragons and staffed by the undead! (In short, they prevent the rise of unfair financial institutions.)

181:

How’s this for a supervillain: The Angst.

Power: They induces intractable despair in middle aged white men, who make up a majority population of Management and, oh dear, superheroes.

Origin story: nobody knows. Why bother finding out?

182:

On rust monsters - Ever seen a party of dwarves stripped down to their scanties, and beating rust monsters to death with wooden clubs? It's not a pretty sight!

183:

This is why we have Mithril!

184:

"They induces intractable despair in middle aged white men..."

There was a similar supervillain called something like Despar. Back in the day he caused someone to commit suicide, and this was a big deal because suicide was not allowed by the Comics Code.

"Origin story: nobody knows. Why bother finding out?"

My favorite origin story belongs to the Tick: "I've always been a superhero."

185:

Hm, AFAIR dragons aren't that big on lending. the specifics might depend somewhat on the things they hoard, e.g. inflation if it's valuables or deflation if it's gold coins.

OTOH, hm, take a party on a quest to steal some gold coins for some villagers, usually financial intermediaries don't roast each other literally.

186:

The dragons don't lend their gold, they merely use it as colateral and issue paper against it.

Sure the paper says "I promise to pay the bearer on receipt one gold piece", signed A. Dragon, but have you ever actually tried to visit the bank [dungeon] and redeem a five GP note? In fact, do you personally know anyone who did that and lived to tell the tale? NB: friends-of-friends do not count, I want actual eye-witness proof.

187:

Flammable things, notes.

188:

Well, yes, vigilantes are not that inventive. Why risk physical damage by beating them up when you can try some waterboarding?

Of course, there might also be this nice idea by Peter Watts how to deal with bullies.

(Err, the issue with my landlord is clarified, but I'm still angry. Story for later. Why are you asking? In other news, new job on Tuesday, new appartment next month. I plan to camp with the local hippies in the meantime...)

189:

Err, I see. Sorry, my bad.

Of course there might be derivatives, e.g. an option on the bearer fetching the coin.

190:

We had much fun with the German used in NOLF. Though apparantly is was unintentional.

"Töten sie Ihr!" became something of standard joke with our LAN parties, you can parse it several ways, and all don't work out. I'll try some background:

töten - to kill
töten is either the infintive or first or third person plural.

sie
It's a personal pronoun, third person singular feminine form, e.g. "she", or third person plural, "they", and it denotes both nominative and accusative.
It's also used instead of "you" in a honorific context.

Ihr
Another personal pronoun, it's either second person plural in the nominative case, or third person singular feminine in the dative one.

You can try all permutations you like. Actual German would be "Töte sie!" or "Tötet sie!", with the imperative singular or plural depending on the number of persons addressed. And "sie" would be the heroine, in the accusative case.

191:

In the spirit of the name of the last firm I worked for...

Why don't we make it "Sauron and friends(tm)"?

Yes, I already made the "I should have known, since friends suck." joke when I got fired...

192:

Err, yes.

Hank Scorpio would make for a great internet entrepreneur, but I run dry of association since sadly Shuttleworth, Musk, Bezos et al. are not that much into beards. Hm, Jimbo maybe.

193:

Hm, you know the version of Achilles and the tortoise by one Lewis Carroll?

As for GED, my first DM read it at a similar age. Me, I was somewhat later, but I had to rebuy it lately because I lent it to Mhairi/Freya's ex-boyfriend back in the day. Might have asked him to return it when meeting him at my last employer...

194:
start out in some area that is not the best ethically, make a fortune, then pivot and watch as everyone praises you...

I'll give you Ashoka and Augustus. Feel free to add others...

195:

Hm, she could also be the Joker's toxic (boy|girl)friend alternating between idealizing his/her artistic talent and creativity and devaluing him/her. The latter one especially when poor Joker opens up somewhat when under stress. He/her could also moonlight for other supervillains.

Looking for real life inspirations, this (boy|girl)friend would be the Harris to the Joker's Klebold.

196:

Hm, who's to say supervillainry isn't tax-deducable charitable work in Gotham City.

Keep the poor hudlums from the street, give them a job as henchmen, the harebrained schemes are just occupational therapy...

In other news, I started reading "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater" anew last week, and I have a feeling Thomas De Quincey was the original fanboy. Associations to Blackadder the Third for later...

197:

Greetings, and peace upon you! I am Joseph Mudkiller, and I was, until recently, the Chief of the Guards to King Onomatopoeia, in the Kingdom of Nigeria. One day, not long ago, I found that thieves had dug a hole up into the Treasury, and stolen some sacred artifacts, along with much gold. I was disgraced, and told to return with them or not at all.

Having found and dispatched the thieves, I now find myself possessed of the equivalent of 25,000,000 of your pounds that I need to remove from the kingdom....

198:

That does, of course, assume they'll return the loved one undamaged, and not find a way not to pay the reward....

199:

I object to the stratification of Bernie supporters, and other socialists, as on the same stratum as Trumpidiots. I've yet to meet a socialist unable to read, or who is able to listen only to Faux News. They fit below the lumpy proletariat, and are the "on the path into the dustbin of history" glide path.

200:

Um, chaotic evil dragons running the banking/finance system? I'd say that's indistinguishable from it being run by the Mob.

Oh, that's right, you mean like Trump and Mneuchin....

201:

Donald Kingsbury, Courtship Rite, nominated for Best Novella Hugo, 1980.

Met and talked to him at a Worldcon in the late 80's? early nineties? Nice guy.

202:

"...like a physical incarnation of Faux News".

I've just nipped off with that paragraph, and will be forwarding it to friends with attribution....

203:

Ah, yes, sie. I had a year of German, my first year in college, back when the mammoths walked the earth... and since at least the late seventies, based on that, I have had "they" in the non-gendered third person singular sweepstakes in English.

204:

That's one of those interesting questions, whether a system run on chaotic evil principles is stable in the long run.

For example, if we have dragons as creditors, we can be sure that the principle is as secure as the dragon is, but whether they're good for it in the case of a default? That's a bit harder. You'd have to treat paper backed by a red dragon as something like fiat money, only good for whatever people think it's worth.*

*In a Middle Earth scenario, would dragon-backed credit be circulated as Smaug certificates? Just wondering...

205:

It's worth noting that it is in the dragons' own self-interest not to eat the auditors who certify that their hoard contains enough gold to back their scrip.

So it follows that if one wants to sneak up on and slaughter a dragon, one first needs to train as a tenth level chartered accountant ...

206:

Or, following modern banking standards, the dragons can cover any expected losses...

I'm trying to figure out, is accountant a subclass of magicians or of monks?

207:

"One ring to audit them all..."

208:

Definitely monks. Their purpose is to worship made up stuff in books, to believe implicitly in this set canon of mindbuggeringly irrational bollocks, and to make sure that all other people believe in it too, or at least act as if they do. Other species of monk frequently promulgate a canon which proscribes their activities because they don't like the competition. They all have to agree on the same rules and are a tool in maintaining a given social order. Wizards on the other hand can't agree on anything, can hardly even maintain their own order, and certainly don't want all other people following their procedures.

209:

More likely 'clerics' in Dungeons & Dragons, though in most campaigns I have seen nobody really making others believe in their religion. Usually the players don't want to bring that to the gaming table, and anyway the religions in many published campaign worlds (which people do use, at least I do) are mostly polytheistic.

This basically means that if a character is a cleric of Tymora (the goddess of adventurers in Forgotten Realms, a popular campaign world), they don't try to convert either the mage or the fighter to the same faith as they have their own deities to worship, if they want to.

Paladins (religious fighters, basically) however are sometimes played as strict people who want to convert others to their faith. It used to be that paladins had to be "lawful good" in D&D (or "lawful" in older editions and some remakes), and that was sometimes interpreted badly. (Alignments themselves are a horrible idea, though.)

210:

The number of things wrong with D&D is epic:

* Alignment system (enough said)

* Races (hint: dubious race politics is a given thanks to the unacknowledged implicit racism in Tolkien and other fantasy taproots, but still ...!)

* Predisposition to reward mindless sociopathic slaughterfests by murder hobos

* Currency that is laughably simplistic and quasi-modern only not (NEVER trust the world-building in a fantasy universe where money consists of uniform noble metal coinage denominated in base 10 or base 100 and with fixed exchange rates)

... And so on

211:

Yes, there are a lot of more things that are wrong with D&D in addition to the alignment system. That's kind of why I nowadays usually play something else.

One thing that annoys me is the übermensch thinking in D&D - the characters have player charater class levels and therefore are just better than 99% of the world around them. There are those Khelbens and Elminsters in published worlds to prevent the player characters from just taking over, but my suspenders of disbelief stretch quite a bit when every village and town is ruled by a 25th level wizard or paladin. (Going by AD&D in this, the latest D&D version goes only to 20.)

I've been thinking of a D&D campaign which would get rid of many of these things, starting with doing away with that kind of alignment system, and using probably something more like Elric's law-chaos axis, and from that getting rid of the idea of "evil races" and so on. The money thing is probably there to make game more fun for most people - even in D&D the characters usually get soon enough money that the exact amounts don't matter, and more modern games often abstract the money away to a skill or attribute or something, so nobody counts shillings and farthings.

However, modifying D&D to be less annoying soon gets me thinking "why not just run this with something else, like Fate?"

212:

I remember reading this advert when it gained attention on Reddit and thinking this is the sort of prose an Artificial Intelligence trained to behave like a hipster marketing grad would produce.

213:

Gerald Williamson was a nice, well-behaved boy from a nice middle-middle-class family in nice High Wycombe. For the first couple of years of his secondary schooling, he went to one of the pleasant, sightly crumbling, public schools in the area where he got a good grounding in the classics. Sadly, just as he was moving up into the fourth form his father lost his job at the local office furniture factory when his mid-level clerk job was replaced by an entry-level data processing position. Gerald found himself crashing into the state school system where his facility with languages and habit of quipping bon mots in ancient greek did not find a particularly welcome audience in his classmates.

As a graduate, seeking the job security his father had always preached as the Best Way Through Life, and suspicious of technological development, Gerald calculated that the Foreign Office would be a stable, interesting and above all difficult-to-automate destination. He joined the civil service in 2003, serving all sorts of roles across Europe, living frugally and saving as much money as possible against the fear of a rainy day.

But progress in the civil service comes from motion, and eventually Gerald was spotted as a talent by the hungriest civil service department in existence. Much to his dismay he found himself dropped into a negotiation translator role with DExEU. After a mere few months attempting to reconcile Theresa May's gnomic statements on the desired outcome, contradictory instructions from across the department, and David Davis' habit of forgetting to undo his fly at the urinal, poor Gerald broke. If the tories want death to hang on an intractable brainteaser, then why not bring the brainteaser, and the death, closer to home?

First it was Nigel Farage, found suffocated in an airtight room. On the wall was written "To get out: NUMBER OF COUNTRIES IN EU + EU TREATIES IN 2013 - MONTHS AN EU PRESIDENT SERVES x NUMBER OF TIMES YOU'VE BEEN ELECTED AN MP" The door code was 0000, but somehow Nigel couldn't get that answer. Then Dominic Raab, killed by a bomb that would have been defused with the code DOVER. David Davis was killed by his trousers falling down leading to him tripping down a flight of stairs, but that's just David Davis. They know it wasn't Gerald, because when Gerald strikes he always leaves his calling card: A bright green business card embossed with a single black question mark.

214:

By the way, there's no need to worry that this pro-remain iteration of The Riddler might cause a moral tangle for Batman. Bruce Wayne is, after all, a billionaire.

215:

The only truly evil races are ones like like fell running and Ironman :-) I don't know if any D&D games include such things (or ones like bog snorkelling!), as I don't play them.

216:

An important question remains: are fell running and Ironman lawful, neutral, or chaotic evil races?

(Really, even the word "race" for the different, though often related, species in D&D and other roleplaying games was a bad, bad choice, even without considering the further implications from the later alignment system.)

217:

The thing about the next iteration of the Joker for me is the deconstruction of society, the avatar of all our broken selves hiding behind the farce of a mask.

Enter Simon Dunwell.

Simon is a "Millenial". Whatever that term actually means, for Simon it means that maintaining a dozen social media profiles is something you Just Do. Always a smile, always a positive attitute, even when you get the same templated rejection letters from every job he went to an interview to. Or rejections to romantic advances or even platonic friendships.
Everything is done via text, nobody is looking him to his face.
And one evening, after getting another faux-angry, faux-sincere-regret letter from his student loan service provider, something went click in his head.
Looking into the mirror in his tiny rat-invested apartment (advertised as clean and homely), he wondered why people can't stand his face.
And he understood, ramming his head against it, panting a spiderweb on it around a red blotch.
Nobody is showing their real faces anymore, everybody wears masks. That's why nobody bothers anymore.

But Simon could fix this. He would remove the face-masks and show the world what is really underneath it.
He grabbed his old cut-throat razor, and started to remove his mask.

The news weeks later reported of several cases where social media "influencers" who have been tortured and their torment being live-posted by a manic man without a face.
The cases took long to get attention, as the posts were first thought to be publicity stunts.

218:

it is in the dragons' own self-interest not to eat the auditors who certify that their hoard contains enough gold to back their scrip

Those that don't certify that, despite appearances, the hoard contains enough gold to back the scrip, on the other hand…

We've seen what happens to respected auditors when they merely want a continuing contract —throw a hungry dragon into the mix and I suspect "generally accepted accounting principles" will get even more flexible…

219:

Clerics in D&D... on the one hand, a lot of campaigns (at least when I was playing back when mammoths walked the earth) were pretty much one culture, so one could be assumed to be a co-religionist (unless you were of the other races, elf, dwarf, whatever).

Once, I had a friend running a lawful cleric who did lawful cleric, for real. There's a song by Pete Seeger called Kagan, about a fisherman. He's a good man, but he and his wife are starting to starve, the weather's been bad, but he has no choice, he goes out. Catches fish, and then the wind and waves turn against him. Eventually, he dies. The waves relent, and his boat's blown back to shore the next morning.

The party, headed to my other dungeon, happened across the beach as the village was there, and his wife crying over his body. The cleric had once-a-day, revive dead fully. He decided the adventurers had signed up for risking their necks, but Kagan had not. He revived him.

(Real world: show me one televangelist who'll pay for a follower's cancer treatment.)

220:

Not a problem I had. You had to *really* work to get up in levals, and, though no one did it, my rules were that the instant you hit 21st level, you were transported to an infinite plain (parallel lines going to infinity optional), and all the gods and goddesses of the world were there, and you could a) fight all of them, all at once, or b) go be god of your own world.

221:

Oh, only remembered after I hit submit: don't assume all religions are into evangelism. Judaism, for example, you've got to work hard, I understand, to convince a rabbi that you want to convert.

Then there's Shinto, and, what I get from the only book in English that's worth reading, is "not interested in you, this is *ours*. go back to your peoples' religion."

222:

Close, but no cigar - my personal (fannish) card is green, with black printing, but has, of course, a dragon on it....

223:

Bog snorkeling... reminds me of when I got into the SCA, in the mid-seventies. That was long before they bought a property for Pennsic. The year before I went, a hurricane came through, and there was rain: think "a tractor mired up to its axles in mud". It was at that one Pennsic that I heard of the new fighting styles they'd invented:
1. Snorkel and short sword.
2. Aqualung and mace.
3. Shield and spear (one stands on the shield, and poles
with the spear, until one finds an enemy....)

There was also discussion of how one short duke could fight in the melee... only because he was standing on the (completely undermud) shoulders of another short duke.

224:

But do your parallel lines meet at infinity, or are the gods trying to fight that one out? :-)

225:

Oh, come on - it's the standard parallel lines from a book cover (pick any).

226:

All right - it was a feeble joke(*), anyway!

(*) Of the sort comprehensible only to mathematicians.

227:

Well, if you're going to be *that* picky, from where you stand, they appear to meet... (though I suspect someone's set up a restaurant there).

228:

That would be Peter Kagan and the Wind which is a Gordon Bok song.

wiki

Gordon is a delightful songwriter and a beautiful singer. Listening to him do Kagan is just wonderful.

229:

jrootham @ 228: That would be Peter Kagan and the Wind which is a Gordon Bok song.

wiki

Gordon is a delightful songwriter and a beautiful singer. Listening to him do Kagan is just wonderful.

I still prefer the version where the cleric used his once-a-day "revive dead, fully" to to be like the Good Samaritan. That's what religion should be, but never is.

230:

That's what religion should be, but never is.

Absolute claims can be refuted by a single counter-example, and amusingly you actually reference a counter-example in your claim.

Not to mention the song that comes to mind when I hear that sort of gibberish... a satire written in response.

Captain. And I'm never, never sick at sea!
Chorus. What, never?
Captain. No, never!
Chorus. What, never?
Captain. Hardly ever!
Chorus. He's hardly ever sick at sea!

https://youtu.be/kBK39BKWuQg?t=57

231:

The year before I went, a hurricane came through, and there was rain: think "a tractor mired up to its axles in mud". It was at that one Pennsic that I heard of the new fighting styles they'd invented: 1. Snorkel and short sword...

I'm sure you've heard the song about that by Michael Longcor, but others might be amused to hear about someone else having trouble a long time ago and far away.

"I don't mind steel, but I don't want to drown!"

232:

I got it, but as a software engineer with side interests in accounting/audit and probability, I am a mathematician for the purposes of jokes like that!

233:

I can definitely see Dragons becoming interested in the black arts of economics-econometrics and ending up running the central bank of the kingdom: "look Arthur King o' the Britains' I don't care what Merlin Head of Treasury says about the economic outlook, you're going to have start building castles..."

234:

I know there used to be role-playing tournaments in Sweden (because I ended up GM-ing in quite a few). There were basically two models of scoring.

Model #1, there's essentially a tick-off sheet with various things ("solved riddle A", "passed gate B without killing the guards", ...) and a few discretionary "how much fun did the players seem to have" and "how much fun did the GM have". The latter were usually 5-10 points of ~100 points overall. Highest-scoring team wins. In case of a tie, the GMs discuss their sessions, and the tournament leader(s) decide between them, based on the discussion.

Model #2, all GMs gather after the session and describe what happened, tournament leader then decides who wins.

235:

Or at least be adequately disguised... I'd guess that there would be passwords involved, and the whole thing would involve some interesting issues of establishing trust: "It's November, but you're not wearing purple boots - must breathe fire now!"

236:

You know that if you want send and email to Middle Earth, you must use a Tolkien Ring network.

237:

"* Races (hint: dubious race politics is a given thanks to the unacknowledged implicit racism in Tolkien and other fantasy taproots, but still ...!)

* Predisposition to reward mindless sociopathic slaughterfests by murder hobos"

Fortunately, these tropes are both easily subverted, but your complaints about the monetary system are very relevant - one day I should force my players to deal with something like the pre-EU British system...

238:

Or Drogna (from "The Adventure Game". The value of any individual coin was given by the number of sides on a polygon multiplied by the colour's place in the rainbow, so a red circle would be 1 drogna, a violet pentagon 35 drogna for example...

239:

I had not heard it. But... I'm wondering. I was at 4? I think it may have been, 1976, I think. The song mentioned Crown Prince Angus - if that refers to the late (and unlamented) Angus Dubh* from the East, that would make it around '80 or '81.

* I was told the joke after he headed west was "watch out for the Angus doo...."

240:

AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUGHGHGHGHGHGHHGHGHGHGHGGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You *do* realize how few folks will get that? I had to share the pain, so I stood up and walked to his door, and told my manager that one....

241:

Ooh, I like the Drogna. Let's see, because of the colors, I assume each coin's a carefully heat-treated piece of steel? (tempering gives all those different colors if done right--and if the coin's surface isn't scratched).

So what that means is that, if you give me a file and a furnace, I can change a bunch of red circles into violet pentagons with a lot of filing and a heat treatment. What a lovely system!

On a less sarcastic note, I'm playing with a secondary world where (for reasons of lack of mineable conventional precious metals), money is based on addictive substances: chocolate, coffee, and sugar, to be precise. Using the old notion from Runequest of the Peasant's penny (a penny being the amount of money necessary to feed a poor person/unskilled labor for a day), the conversion rate historically is 20 cacao beans, 300 green coffee beans, or 250 roasted coffee beans (about an ounce of ground coffee) were all considered a day's wage (for porters). There's all sorts of fun with having a consumable, perishable coinage, and of course the Mesoamericans were known for forging cacao beans with bits of old avocado skin and pebbles...

More to the point, the origin of capitalism is in the ancient trades:
--addictive substances (coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and more recently cacao, sugar, opium, coca)
--weapons
--slaves
--drugs and spices (slightly separate from the above, in that they don't have to be addictive)
--precious metals and gems
--useful metals (iron or bronze components)
--salt

D&D didn't really deal with the two biologics on the list, or the iron and salt trades, but just as a matter of principle, someone writing a secondary world can get a lot of structure simply by figuring where and how these things move around, whatever form they take in the world. You don't even need cash if you can establish standardized equivalencies for how much, say, a pig is worth in coffee, or some such. The basic rate for a porter's one good way to do that.

242:

Let's see, because of the colors, I assume each coin's a carefully heat-treated piece of steel?

This being the BBC of the early 80s, each coin was a coloured shape embedded in a transparent plastic disc...

243:

We dropped it long before we joined the EU. Not even Grease-Smug has proposed reverting to it, though some of us regret its passing for non-sentimental reasons.

I would hope that you use at least some of the old names and near-ubiquitous slang names, and possibly introduce some of the semi-historical ones. All the following were in use in my childhood (non-currency ones in parentheses), and there were other names in use, too:

Farthing, ha'penny, penny, thruppenny (or ticky, to us colonials, which was a different coin), (groat), tanner, bob, florin, half-crown, crown, (mark), half-sovereign, (half-guinea), sovereign and (guinea).

244:

I think I'd make up currency names (seventeen sqonks to the ha'spackle, unless it's Tuesday, in which case we add a nor'fanch in honor of St. Grackle.)

And since I'm a complete bastard, it would all be prime numbers.

245:

I told it to a bunch of network technicians yesterday, and only one of them didn't look puzzled.

246:

One of the glorious things about the old UK currency is that many units did not subdivide the next. You might like to consider that, as a wrinkle.

And I like your Tolkein ring joke - but, then, I would :-)

247:

So you could divide a pound by shillings, but not a guinea by shillings? Or at least that's the prinicple?

248:

I passed it along to my lady, who once studied (but was too ill to take the test) for an A+ certification, and she booed it.... (Wonderful woman.)

249:

p>Troutwaxer @ 236: You know that if you want send and email to Middle Earth, you must use a Tolkien Ring network.

whitroth @ 240: AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUGHGHGHGHGHGHHGHGHGHGHGGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You *do* realize how few folks will get that? I had to share the pain, so I stood up and walked to his door, and told my manager that one....

Qwitcher bitchin! It's the first joke posted here in a long, long time that I got right off without having to use Google.

https://assets.amuniversal.com/a3fc7760a033012f2fe600163e41dd5b

250:

Nah, what you really need to be careful about is unplugging that patch cord. You let that happen, and the bits'll get out, and you'll get bitrot in the carpeting.

251:

Speaking of stories, I was in afterglow all morning. Balticon had something new: pitch sessions for editors. After I did the one for Amazing Stories, I submitted my novelette. This morning, reading my email over breakfast, I got *two* emails from them: one, a std. rejection email... and the other a long, personal note from the editor, talking about what was wrong, and making suggestions, and telling me I should consider expanding it into a novella, because of the size of the cast, and the ground I was covering.

That's the second "rewrite" I've gotten, one from Eric Flint, and one, now, from Ira. I am *so* close to selling I can taste it....

252:

Sort of. A half-crown was a common coin, and was worth two (shillings) and sixpence. So was a florin, at two shillings. Shillings did divide guineas, but crowns didn't. A mark was six and eightpence - a third of a pound - and was (and is) used for fines in the University of Cambridge, but was otherwise obsolete. Groats were worth fourpence, and used on Maundy Thursday by the Sovereign, but was also otherwise obsolete, and a thruppenny bit and the sixpence were the coins of the realm.

While you could make it up, most people nowadays wouldn't believe you :-)

253:

I recall an article in Dragon magazine in the early 90s about using various historic currency systems in D&D. I seem to recall that groats (3d, or 12 farthings) being approximately 10 times the smallest coin and half crowns (2s 6d, 30 pennies or 120 farthings) being about 100 times were quite prominent in the scheme.

254:

My mistake: a groat is 4d, 3d is a thrupenny bit.

255:

Guineas, of course, are still used to this day.

(The price paid in many livestock auctions is in guineas. Nowadays a guinea is £1.05; as soon as the animal is knocked down the buyer knows they're paying X guineas, the seller knows they're getting X pounds, and the auctioneer takes the X*£0.05 as commission and doesn't have to take suspicious farmers through the maths of why they're paying more or receiving less than was announced in the ring.)

256:

And since I'm a complete bastard, it would all be prime numbers.

Already done, rather famously I'm afraid.

257:

You can combine the origin stories: Imagine if Geraldine DeRuiter took the job with the description ending “Smile. Photo.”

258:

Oh yeah. That. What might be fun is to combine two sets of monies, with social restrictions on how you can spend each kind, including each kind of money being gender based... "Officer, they tried to pay for their meal with Dactels, but it's Tuesday! The waitress is crying in the back, the busboy won't clear their table, and the cook is threatening to quit unless we have the place excorcised!"

259:

On the subject of RPG, I'm quite fond of the Laundry Files game, but I only know one other player in California who's even heard of it, and he died last year. Is there much of a community for it, is it popular in UK or anywhere else?

260:

I have most of the books for it, and I gamemastered a short campaign some years ago. People here know it but I don't know of any other who has played it. Then again, it's hard to know what people are playing.

On the subject of murder-hobos, there's going to be a new version of Cyberpunk - and also a computer game, called Cyberpunk 2077. At least our Cyberpunk games when we were fifteen degenerated very fast into violent mayhem, but there could be more than that to the game, even though the genre is somewhat... dated. I'm re-reading Neuromancer now, and I think I could try out a cyberpunk RPG in that vein. More of a complicated heist than just going somewhere and shooting all the guards.

However, some of the cyberpunk computer "roleplaying" games seem to have taken that violence thing and made it normal. I watched a demo video for a game called 'Watch Dogs Legion', and while it looked promising in the beginning, it very quickly degenerated into "let's just shoot all the guards and make things explode" with no apparent thought on the irony of opposing a bad government by killing a lot of people. I don't think I'll buy that game, and I think I'll wait until I know more about the Cyberpunk 2077 game (it's to be published in August 2020, but the pre-orders are already open).

261:

Heteromeles @ 241
What's interesting there, is that two/three culinary spices always were expensive & still are.
Actual Pepper corns, Mace & Saffron.
Mace, which comes from the exact same plant as Nutmeg, has a difficult processing - & was the source of an interesting war & resulting treaty ... involving what later became Manhattan, IIRC.
Saffron, of course, is a complete bastard to collect.
And, in spite of being transplanted & spread, there is still * not quite enough * pepper - & it, too can be slightly problematical to collect, as are some of the "other" peppers, in the Xznthosylum group
[ Sometimes spelt with a "Z" ... bunches of tiny flowers off very thorny branches, which turn into pink berries, with a shiny black seed - picking is time-consuming & difficult ... I have an schinifolium which is how I know ... ]

EC @ 243
Erm, a Guinea was 21/- ( £1.05 ) - used for art purchases & other deals, because the extra shilling represented the agant's 5% commission ...
IIRC a Mark was two-thirds of a Pound, so 13/-4d

Troutwaxer @ 247
20 shillings per pound, but 21 shillings per guinea
But, like I said, the extra shilling was usually a commission rate - the buyer paid in guineas, the seller got it in pounds & the agent got the left-over shillings.
SEE ALSO ...
... anonemouse @ 255

EC @ 252
Erm, no, again.
A florin was an early attempt at decimalisation, being 0.1 of a £, whereas a half-crown was one-eighth of a £.
And a Mark was 2/3 of a £ - like I said, though 6/8d would be half-a-mark.

262:

Early Token ring networks had some bugs and race conditions where some times you'd get two tokens on the same ring. You had to wait for one of them to come round the ring and then disconnect a cable so that the extra token fell out. And then plug it back in quickly before the other token comes past. When we were testing large networks we'd often include a tap to make this easier. It's a bit like the LHC at CERN where they have a controlled leak to get rid of excess protons when there are too many on the ring. Tolkien ring networks are the same but with Hobbits. You need a small one way door in the system to let the invisible ones out.

263:

Has anyone ever assessed the labour conditions at Wayne Industries? Are they paying more than minimum wage, permitting unionisation, observing health and safety standards, etc? After all if we accept that there is no such thing as a morally-unencumbered billionaire it's entirely possible that the whole "Batman" story is simply Koch brothers-style propaganda to obscure the real villain of Gotham City.

264:

Officially they are allowed to unionise but every time they try this lunatic in bat themed body armour turns up and starts breaking heads.

265:

Upon checking, you are right about the mark - thank you - it appears that the University of Cambridge fined/fines in units of half-marks - but your other points are merely what I said, couched in other terms. The point about the groat, mark and guinea is that there has been no legal currency of those values for some time (a long time, in the case of the mark), except for Maundy money.

266:

#241 - In the show, the Drogna were made of perspex. They were also circular, with a sticker for the polygon. Since this is a fantasy world, exactly how they are made is up to the GM. Your technique would work for IRL steels (and I think titanium, if you can find a file that will cut titanium that is).
And, of course, the video tropes of marijuana and oregano, or flour and any other white powder.

#242 - I wasn't trying to explain it fully, just illustrate something that could cause players no end of confusion...

#247 - No. You could divide pounds and guineas by a shilling, but you'd get different positive answers.

#260 - Well, at that rate steer well clear of "SLA Industries". It would appeal otherwise I think.

#262 - Classic!

267:

I kind of missed SLA industries, and I've never read or played it but I know of the game. Sounds interesting, though.

Also, Cyberpunk (both 2013 and 2020) had good games in them, it's just that we as fifteen-year olds didn't really grasp how to make that work. The various cyberpunk (genre) computer games are somewhat different in what the players like to do (and what the makers of the game think players like to do) and probably for that reason include lots of combat.

I played a lot more Shadowrun, though, and in that world you easily can have dragons as bankers. One of them, Lofwyr, heads one of the biggest megacorporations (at least for much of the metaplot, I don't know about the recent releases), and others take an active role in the world. One dragon had its own talk show, too, and was elected the president of one of the USA (and Canada) successor states (UCAS, United Canadian and American States).

268:

EC @ 265
It is suggested that the Mark was "only" an accounting unit for convenience, & that no actual coin was minted in that/those values. As to the verity of that, I can't say.

269:

I vaguely remember the exchange rate for Deutschmarks being roughly some multiple of a third of a pound, but I can't remember whether it was 1 or 2.

270:

Could be. And it appears that the origin of the unit at the UoC may have been garbled as I heard it, because it seems far more likely that it was in units of nobles.

http://www.bsswebsite.me.uk/A%20Short%20History%20of/coins.html

271:

Well, that was my experience of SLA; sooner or later you would finish up in a gun or spell battle (mid 30s group).

272:

Its a sign of the end times!

EC and Greg are almost in agreement!

273:

No, no, no. We all know the answer - 42, and the question, what's 6*9. What many have missed is that this is true... in base 13.

This explains why everything's so screwed up (and why Pagans, who tend to like 13's, do slightly better). To improve society massively, then, we need to use base 13 for money. The change will be similar to the change in the US from quarts to liters for soda, and if we define a new base unit, 1 answer == $1.04, it all works out just fine.
1 penny is just that.
13 pennies is a question
4 units to the answer

See?

274:

Damn - that should have been 4 questions in an answer.

275:

Dactyls? You mean they won't accept Pterry's, either?

276:

Reminds me of the fad of guys wearing their pants hanging down, which is supposed to look like someone in prison, where they get whatever the size.

To which, I've always wondered why they wanted to emulate the guys who were so dumb they got caught, rather than the ones who got away with it.

If I was writing a cyberpunk game, there'd be
1. You start with a basic deck. You *really* need
month to upgrade.
2. a) you find out how to buy warez, and buy some.
b) you spend time acually studying hacks
3. You run a scam to get money, either using warez or a hack you've found.
4. either
a) you buy more expensive warez, or
b) you start modifying existing hacks.
5. if you're going for the second path, you start engineering your own, unique hacks.

Through all this, you try to avoid
a) being caught in a sting where you're buying warez
b) try to avoid security coming back at you with ICE.
c) try to learn in advance if the FBI is coming after you.
d) try to stay free of direct entanglements with either the Mob, or State Actors.

Win? That's when you make that last big run, and get enough to retire.

Violence is for losers.

277:

"Pterry's on Tuesday and Thursday
Dactyl's the rest of the week,
Unless you're purchasing legumes
Always use Pterry's for leeks!"

278:

Well, then there was the problem that if you hadn't prepared the network, when you opened it up, you'd lost tokens in the carpeting, and they'd break down to bits, causing bitrot, and you after you reconnected, you'd have to wait for the ring to fill up with tokens again. That might mean you had to put more tokens in the network served, though, and trying to get tokens from supplies, with all the forms you needed to fill out, and approvals....

279:

The Mark may have been a unit of accountancy to begin with; I know I have a book with information on the topic but I can't find it just now. It was however minted in Scotland in 1580 under James VI, with a weight of 171 3/4 grains. And again in 1600 or so.

280:

I love this thread! The cream of the jest was that the problems described really did exist - in the early ethernets! Token rings were designed to avoid just that problem.

281:

Yeah, violence is a bad solution. It's just that in many tabletop rpgs, the solutions degenerate easily into violence.

This is even though the Cyberpunk 2020 rpg (which is the one I have played) tries to tell the players that violence is a dangerous solution, and usually needs some setup to be on top. The rules themselves do not support this all the time, especially when playing with the rules as written, the armour is very good. One time my character didn't even get damaged by a 20mm gun in the chest from point blank range - he was wearing a normal kevlar vest...

282:

Assuming you mean the English-language Laundry RPG from Cubicle 7 (there are separate French and Spanish officially-licensed Laundry RPGs with their own rule sets) ... it's no longer on sale. Cubicle 7 sub-licensed the Call of Cthulhu d20 ruleset and customized it. Last year Chaosium did a huge upheaval of their licensing system and cancelled a bunch of third-party licenses, chopping the Laundry RPG off at the knees.

There may be a new Laundry RPG at some point in the future, but it'll most likely only happen if the TV series ever gets made or the series somehow goes bestseller. All things considered it's doing well ... but said considerations include switching publisher twice (once is usually enough to kill a series stone dead!) and in the middle of a giant format-shift in publishing (death of the mass market paperback). Not to mention $AUTHOR dividing his attention in several conflicting directions rather than squeezing out another book every year.

283:

Yep, sure, he's only wounded. I think there needs to be die roll adjustments for that, based on range.

Still, I'd think that if they're running something on someone big, someone big has much more security, with more and bigger guns.

And... it's freakin' cyberpunk. Shouldn't it be 95% done online, with money going into escrow accounts, etc? When the hell are they going to show up in person? What, they're going to break into a datacenter, and find (magic pixie dust here) which server in 100 rows of 50 racks in a row, with 5-20 servers in each rack, is the *only* one running this software, and they'll plug a console in, and log in as root and d/l it?

Riiiight.... Don't let security meet you on the way out.

284:

Geez, I almost forgot: getting into the datacenter, you did have the ID card and other-factor id to get you through the two doors, and don't forget to hit the button on the way out, or the alarms will have the cops on their way....

(Why, yes, I do use my ID card, twice, to get into our datacenter, and push buttons to get out....)

285:

Meanwhile, back in the "real" world ...
I'm really bothered by the oil tanker incidents in the Gulf ... has all the hallmarks of a Gleiwitz Incident ...
Though it may easily be the US' proxies, Saudi or their "friends" who are actually directly responsible.
It DT/Bolton can get their war, then DT stands a chance of being re-elected ... IF they can convince enough people ... though after "Weapons of mouse destruction" I would think that many would (now) be more suspicious ....

286:

Totally agree about it being another Gulf of Tonkin incident. Iran has nothing to gain, the Japanese owners of the tankers contradict the US government account of what happened (and they should know!), and the US responded by blaming Iran far too fast—there are many other countries with coastlines adjoining the straits.

Also, if the last 18 years have proven anything, it's that the US electorate are in aggregate dumb enough to swallow any story as long as you wrap it in a flag and point them at a well-hated swarthy-skinned bloke in a black hat.

287:

Current news story from google news: one of the tanker captains disputes the US version, and says that they were hit by what they thought was an artillery shell, then, a couple hours later, by a second shell.

No mines, torpedoes, or submarines with a sawblade top.

288:

Ahem: the sawblade on the old U-boats was to sever mooring cables on sea mines, AIUI. Not for attacking ships.

289:

Nor does it stop the UK behaving like the subservient toady we are, nor the BBC from promoting the government line - I turned the sound off, because it was so ghastly :-(

290:

Much of the US press is appropriately suspicious (2.5 years of lies is good training). As are investors. :-) We shall see but so far the US press is doing OK, IMO.
Gulf on Edge as Conflicting Accounts of Tanker Attacks Swirl (Margaret Talev, Stephen Stapczynski, Golnar Motevalli, 2019/06/14)
Even so, investors took the risk in their stride. Brent oil futures in London traded slightly lower on Friday at $61.15 a barrel, set for a weekly decline as concern about faltering demand outweighed those of Middle East tensions.

291:

Glad I got mine early, then.

The Gumshoe System that Pelgrane Press uses looks like it could be a suitable engine, if someone wanted to switch systems. They've already done Trail of Cthulhu using it. I haven't played it (haven't played an RPG in over a decade) but I rather like the idea that a single bad die roll won't scupper an investigation — the rules support the players getting the information they need, the question being what will it cost them. (You could always cope as a GM, of course, but I like a system where the rules encourage intended behaviours/outcomes rather than fighting them.)

292:

Totally agree about it being another Gulf of Tonkin incident. Iran has nothing to gain,

From our point of view yes. (Western democracy leaning how governments should operate point of view.) From the point of view of a semi-independent fraction of the RG, maybe they want chaos to increase/consolidate power.

I get the impression that the RG integration with the general government of Iran many times makes the SS look like a lapdog of the German High Command during WWII.

293:

Reminds me of the fad of guys wearing their pants hanging down, which is supposed to look like someone in prison, where they get whatever the size.

Actually it had to do with the removal of belts and shoe laces when processed into jail in street clothes.

To which, I've always wondered why they wanted to emulate the guys who were so dumb they got caught, rather than the ones who got away with it.

Emulation of the ones rebelling against the system. A common thing in all societies. Especially with those who don't see a better future.

294:

Neither explanation makes sense. Whether the looseness is due to inappropriate sizing or belt removal, if they're so loose that your arse itself isn't enough of a hook to hold them up, they're not going to fall only as far as just below it and then stop; they're going to fall all the way to your ankles. To get them to stay just below your arse means you have to hold them there, and if you're going to be holding your trousers up all the time anyway, why on earth would you not hold them up all the way like normal?

The explanation I heard was that it signified that you were at the very bottom of the prison status ranking and therefore were compelled by the expectation of violence to go around with your arse readily available for those at the top of the ranking to access on a whim. Which sounds very much like it has been made up by a certain type of person, and has all sorts of other things wrong with it, but at least it does not contradict basic clothing physics.

295:

Wearing bad-fitting clothes on the street was supposed to make people think you were just out of prison, a bad-ass dude. As one commentator in the 80s noted, it was a problematic fashion because, improperly done, it made the teens look like they were just entering adolescence, with their badly fitting clothes. How adorable!

It's also, quite possibly, a deliberate play against the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, particularly all-male Morehouse. These schools were known for having a strict (and very stylish) dress code that was enforced by both the faculty and the students. Part of the HBCU's mission is to show a very racist American society that black men and women are every bit as good as their white counterparts (the whole work twice as hard to go half as far meme applies here). If you want to demonstrate your street cred as opposed to your hard work and education, dressing in bad-fitting clothes is a good way to signal authenticity.

296:

From the point of view of a semi-independent fraction of the RG, maybe they want chaos to increase/consolidate power.

In the list of state actors* who want the US to declare war on Iran, I think any element of the Iranian government is a long way down the list. Normally I'd put the Saudi's at the top because right now a good dose of "look over there" seems just what they need, but significantly reducing their ability to export oil is probably not what they need domestically. OTOH they have motive, means and access... Mind you, Russia and China are also able and possibly stand to gain from problems there - what's their pipeline situation these days? It would be terribly convenient if the major export avenue for Iran was pipes to those two countries. And the US has form in pretextual declarations of war, I can imagine Bolton trying his own Tonkin incident to get the war he so desperately wants.

You also have a bunch of minor players who may or may not gain from the spike in oil prices or related chaos. Venezuala for example :)

* ones who can lay repeatedly mines in the strait or otherwise damage ships

297:

EC @ 289
I also see J Cunt has grovelled to Trumpolini - & JUST FOR ONCE ... Cor Bin is correct.
After the bloody farce of "WMD" you would have thought someone would have learnt?

I have no desire to see us play the part of Öesterreich-Ungarn to Trump/Bolton's Zweite Reich, thank you very much.
[ We'll have Zaghari-Ratcliffe back & STAY OUT OF IT - please? ]

David L @ 293
Yes, well, the Iranian RG are a pain in their own guvmin't arse ... spoiling for a fight they can't win & looking for millions of deaths, because they have "got religion" - they are the mirror-image of Bolton & his cronies.
[ Note, I said "Iranian" - when I usually call that country by its old name - Persia. ]

298:

Meanwhile
Another Chinese plot - or so we will be told, I expect.

299:

That is because it was not created to be under the authority of the general government - it was to be under that of the Supreme Leader. I am not absolutely sure of its current status, but I am pretty sure that Khamenei would NOT approve of attacks on neutral shipping.

The most likely actors are the USA itself and the obvious state that _Moz_ did NOT mention in #296 that has been calling for the USA to wage war on Iran. I sincerely hope that it wasn't the UK, and don't think that May is THAT bad, but it's not absolutely impossible :-(

300:

Yes, well, the Iranian RG are a pain in their own guvmin't arse ... spoiling for a fight they can't win & looking for millions of deaths, because they have "got religion" - they are the mirror-image of Bolton & his cronies.

I don't think so.

The Iranian revolution was in 1979, forty years ago. A young revolutionary guard leader from the barricades is therefore likely to be in his sixties; the high-ups are pushing 70 or older by now. The RG has had time to institutionalize, becoming a parallel state-within-a-state with its own military infrastructure and promotion ladder and revenue streams. It depends for its continued viability on the existence of external threats to the revolution, so in that respect it's clearly a mirror to Bolton and the other neoconservative hawks, but an actual war is another matter; they've seen what the USA can do to an enemy (fuck them up good, then make a total hash of the subsequent occupation) and realistically they don't want that.

So there's an element of gratuitous posturing, but the heads making the decisions are grey and experienced and want to rock the boat only as far as necessary to guarantee a continuing seat at the top table.

Meanwhile, let's not forget the real cold war that's been raging in the region, since the Saudi religious revolution of 1981: Sunni fundamentalists who think Shi'ites are evil heretics, vs. Shi'ite revolutionaries who are fed up with Sunni shit after several centuries of taking it in the neck. Saudi has a new, very young, leader (MBS) who is clearly feeling his oats and prone to erratic, dangerous maneuvers (the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, for example: the war in Yemen for another—Yemen being majority Shi'ite, you will note). MBS would totally love to schedule some B-52 raids on Tehran, and deniably popping a couple of rockets at foreign tankers in the straits would be a good way to feed his buddy John Bolton a pretext.

301:

Also, the UK is an active (including military) participant in MBS's anti-Shia pogrom in Yemen, so anything our government says has to be distrusted.

The evidence seems to be that it was shells, not rockets, unless the rockets were unusually small by modern standards. One wonders what vessels were in the right positions to fire such things. If the USA's video is real, and was removing evidence, it could equally well have been a UAE, Saudi or even USA one. There's nothing like getting your lies in first ....

302:

Did anyone else see this publication? Frank? Whaddaya think?

"ABSTRACT

Climate warming in regions of ice‐rich permafrost can result in widespread thermokarst development, which reconfigures the landscape and damages infrastructure. We present multi‐site time‐series observations which couple ground temperature measurements with thermokarst development in a region of very cold permafrost. In the Canadian High Arctic between 2003 and 2016, a series of anomalously warm summers caused mean thawing indices to be 150 – 240 % above the 1979‐2000 normal resulting in up to 90 cm of subsidence over the 12‐year observation period. Our data illustrate that despite low mean annual ground temperatures, very cold permafrost ( Key Points

Observed thermokarst development in very cold permafrost at 3 monitoring sites along a 700 km transect in the Canadian High Arctic.

Rapid landscape response to above average summer warmth is due to limited thermal buffering from overlying ecosystem components and near‐surface ground ice.

Change was greatest at Mould Bay where thawing index values were 240 % above historic normals causing ~90 cm of subsidence in 12 years."

303:

EC @ 299
yes (maybe) ... the question is, if not "Iran", then whom?
My money is on a deniable cats-paw from the UAE or Saudi, who have a desperate & very long-running religious bone to pick with Persia. ( see also below, in my reply to Charlie )

@ 301
Also almost certainly correct - which is even more worrying.

Charlie
they've seen what the USA can do to an enemy (fuck them up good, then make a total hash of the subsequent occupation) and realistically they don't want that.
Yes, but ... religion, martrydom, shia history ... irrationality. Um, err ... more um/err ....
HOWEVER
"MBS" yup, will go with that.
Even at this distance in time, the Batlle of Karbala casts a long shadow ( 61 AH / 680 CE )

304:

Both the UAE's and Saudi Arabia's economies are at risk. Iran's would crash if all oil exports from that area were blocked, but theirs would disappear. There is another country that has been trying to get the USA to bomb Iran for ages and is not in the region - what's more, it has a track record of unscrupulous covert operations, whereas those two don't (unscrupulous, yes, covert, please don't make me laugh). AND, if either the USA or UK discover its involvement, we will hush it up using our full official secrecy powers.

305:

"The Gumshoe System that Pelgrane Press uses looks like it could be a suitable engine, if someone wanted to switch systems."

I second the Gumshoe idea for a rebooted Laundry rpg - it's a low crunch system that runs practically dice-less once you get used to it.

I ran a game of Nights Black Agents (elevator pitch - the Jason Bourne movies, but Project Treadstone is run by vampires) for about 18 months a few years back and it worked really well for a story about protagonists who were in over their heads but could still pull off a win if they prepared well, fought smart and knew when to run like hell.

Pelgrane Press are pretty much my only 'buy their stuff on sight' rpg publisher these days - I have a bunch of Gumshoe and 13th Age product from them.

Regards
Luke

306:

EC @ 304
Bennie's place, yes?
Except Isreal actually IS "in the region"

307:

Thanks for pointing it. I'm saving the article for later, when I get around to rewriting Hot Earth Dreams. Right now I've got to deal with the environmental ramifications of that little global housing bubble that's getting ready to pop.

Basically, thermokarst is what you get when most of the "rock" beneath your feet was ice and is now melting piecemeal. Since ice is less dense than water, as the ice melts, some things slump, some things collapse, sometimes lakes form from the melt, sometimes lakes drain away because the ice keeping the water from draining away melts, and so forth. It's like limestone karst, only faster and less stable.

It's a mess, and while there are some building technologies designed to deal with it, in general it's in the *extremely not fun* category for erecting buildings on top.

As for climate change, it's getting pretty obvious that the IPCC5 was too conservative on arctic thawing, and that we're in fairly big trouble up there. That, fire, and heat index are things they didn't cover very well, and I'm sure they'll be in the IPCC 6, due out 2022 or so. In the rest of the century, I'm still holding out hope for a PETM-level die off starting in around three decades, rather than an end-Permian Great Dying scrubbing us entirely off the planet, but our kids will know for certain, I think.

The thing that's interesting to me is how the great Fossil Fuel Authoritarians who rule Russia and Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, and Australia (among others) are doubling down on fossil fuel extraction and production, rather than shifting to different systems of power, even though they have the wealth to make the change and stay in power. Silly liberals like me thought they were more pragmatic and thoughtful than that, but they're apparently rather more doctrinaire and power-blinded than were the Norse Greenlanders who were thought to have simply built a bigger church as the Little Ice Age bit down, or the Easter Islanders when they abandoned the Moai system and went with the Birdman (Note that Jared Diamond's Collapse has fared badly in the face of subsequent archaeological work). Consumerist capitalism really seems like the stupidest of all possible systems right now, doesn't it?

308:

It has no border in the Persion Gulf or Gulf of Oman, and would not be DIRECTLY affected by war there. It is unlikely that Iran would retaliate against a USA strike by an attack on Israel, not least because it probably can't do so effectively - despite claims from the sabre rattlers on both sides.

309:

Re Collapse, I am not surprised. I was not impressed that he didn't include at least a section on civilisations that collapsed for reasons other than the one(s) he described - the most notorious, of course, being the Roman Empire. But there is also the neolithic whatever-it-was in the British Isles, and I suspect an expert could name others.

310:

The Iranian revolution was in 1979, forty years ago. A young revolutionary guard leader from the barricades is therefore likely to be in his sixties; the high-ups are pushing 70 or older by now. The RG has had time to institutionalize, becoming a parallel state-within-a-state with its own military infrastructure and promotion ladder and revenue streams.

Yes but it also seems a lot like the Chinese Peoples Army and Party back in the 70s/80s. Lots of factions and the next generation fighting for power. Much of it done via proxies inside and outside (for Iran) the country. And many of the factions seem to work at odds with each other and with the leadership at the top. Not in direct opposition but definitely with differing goals and lots of small friction points.

311:

being another Gulf of Tonkin incident

No one can find any hard evidence, (or even semi-soft) that there was any NV military shots fired in the GT incident.

There was definitely weapons fire in the Gulf the other day.

312:

"Do not needlessly multiple entities" includes "absent material evidence, don't attribute actors to events".

The only thing we've got that's plausibly factual (maybe as much as 80% confidence) is the shipping company's assertion that the crew reported a "flying object" striking the ship.

That could be a whole lot of things, many of which don't require a state actor. (Some of them are garage-projects for one to five people! Some of them are complete accidents.)

Someone with a determination to have a specific response without figuring out what they're responding to just wants to do the thing; they're looking for an excuse. That's not to be trusted.

Neither is making up a story about what you find plausible. That'll send you wrong.

313:

EC @ 308
now I'm confused.
Are you saying "Israel" or emphatically NOT Israel?
And, if the latter, whom?

314:

Yes, Israel has motive, operational skills and has a history of operating (or attempting to) covertly in the region. However, absent other information, there are as various others have noted many other possible actors, some with (arguably) considerably more plausible motives than Iran (could be Iran, sure). And we need to be skeptical of information supplied by the US, since the US has a history of lying about such matters and the current DJT administration lies far more than usual. (If US intelligence agency heads spoke, I would listen.) Meanwhile the press is quite appropriately skeptical [1]. (Haven't done a full news/etc dig yet so perhaps there is new information.)

Since as Graydon notes this could be a low-budget effort (absent additional evidence), the number of possible actors is fairly large. Various people including myself (note: no personal background, just interest) have sketched out rough PoC designs in our minds, that would be fairly deniable and more consistent with events and plausible than the officially-promoted scenarios. Human personnel are a weak point, and if they are fairly remote, then the risk of compromise is substantially reduced. I frankly hope this was something conventional; this would be an arms race to actively discourage.

[1] Nothing new (piece from yesterday, with no new information) but note the author and venue:
Was Iran Behind the Oman Tanker Attacks? A Look at the Evidence - Internet databases confirm much about the incident, but the Trump administration hasn’t provided convincing evidence of Tehran’s culpability. (Eliot Higgins, managing director of the investigative collective Bellingcat, June 14, 2019)

315:

Greg Tingey @ 285: Meanwhile, back in the "real" world ...
I'm really bothered by the oil tanker incidents in the Gulf ... has all the hallmarks of a Gleiwitz Incident ...
Though it may easily be the US' proxies, Saudi or their "friends" who are actually directly responsible.
It DT/Bolton can get their war, then DT stands a chance of being re-elected ... IF they can convince enough people ... though after "Weapons of mouse destruction" I would think that many would (now) be more suspicious ....

I don't think so. It's not in the U.S. interest, although Bolton & iL Douchebag may be too stupid to understand that. But I do think Jared and Ivanka can figure out another middle east debacle like the Iraq war would NOT add to DT's reelection prospects. Not to mention how it would adversely affect the Trump "brand". If it's going to hit D.T. right in the profit margin, even he might find it persuasive.

This is someone with a "Let's you and him fight!" agenda.

Cui bono? It doesn't benefit the U.S., it doesn't benefit Iran. I doubt it's the Houthi rebels in Yemen. IF it is Saudi Arabia, they are NOT U.S. proxies in this. They'd be doing the same thing they did with Jamal Khashoggi; playing Trump for a chump ... again.

Suppose the U.S. and Iran do go to war in the Persian Gulf ... what does that do to world oil production? Mostly it's going to knock the middle east - Iran, Iraq AND Saudi Arabia - out, at least in the short term, and maybe longer. The U.S. can mostly supply its needs from domestic production, but who does the rest of the world turn to?

316:

Pigeon @ 294: Neither explanation makes sense.

Ok, so try this on. The Man don't like it. Isn't that reason enough?

317:

I am saying that Israel would not be as adversely affected by a war in the Gulf as Saudi Arabia and the UAE would be, and has a track record both of trying to get the USA to bomb Iran and covert operations. It therefore has to be a prime suspect. Graydon (#312) is right about how little we know, except that it almost certainly was weaponry, from the damage. But, beyond that, all is guesswork.

318:

how the great Fossil Fuel Authoritarians who rule Russia and Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, and Australia (among others) are doubling down on fossil fuel extraction and production, rather than shifting to different systems of power

It's a trillion-dollar bust-out fraud: they're taking on an industry with a hitherto-decent record and maxing out all its credit cards simultaneously with no intention of paying them back. That is: they know the fossil fuel biz is going down, it has capital assets with a gigantic book value that will then depreciate to zero, so they're asset-stripping it for all it's worth, making money while the making's good, and fuck tomorrow. The smart ones are in their seventies, the dim-bulb youngsters don't care because they're zillionaires (Ivanka and Jared Kushner made upwards of $100M last year, mostly in "real estate payments" — read, laundered bribe money; see also the tale of MBS and the missing $450M Leonardo painting).

If you're a billionaire even a general collapse of civilization may look to be survivable, FSVO "survival". And they're too fucking stupid to realize that they're making it significantly worse by delaying mitigation strategies that might allow us collectively to body-swerve the collapse.

319:

Mostly it's going to knock the middle east - Iran, Iraq AND Saudi Arabia - out, at least in the short term, and maybe longer. The U.S. can mostly supply its needs from domestic production, but who does the rest of the world turn to?

The obvious answer would be "Russia". Lotsa oil and gas exports, a corrupt kleptocracy running the shop, and they have a degree of global strategic reach that few other powers aspire to these days—remember a year or two ago when they sent a couple of Tu-160s to bomb Syria the long way round, flying down the Baltic and around the Straits of Gibraltar first, just to tweak NATO air defense noses all the way from Scotland to Sardinia?

But by the same token, I doubt it's the Russian government. For one thing, the US defense agencies are all over them like fleas on a mangy dog; it's hard to see them getting a missile platform into the straits without the USN or the DIA getting alerted, and those agencies are not going to be happy about being suckered into a pissing match between the Tangerine Shitgibbon and Tehran by a third party.

My money is on Saudi Arabia (get Trump to piss on the Shi'ites), possibly in collusion with Benjamin Netenyahu (who uses the Ayatollahs as a handy horror show to keep his internal Likudnik opposition in line). Outside odds: it's the Bavarian Illuminati, or maybe Nicola Sturgeon trying to boost Scotland's residual oil exports.

320:

_Moz_ @ 296:

"From the point of view of a semi-independent fraction of the RG, maybe they want chaos to increase/consolidate power."

In the list of state actors* who want the US to declare war on Iran, I think any element of the Iranian government is a long way down the list. Normally I'd put the Saudi's at the top because right now a good dose of "look over there" seems just what they need, but significantly reducing their ability to export oil is probably not what they need domestically. OTOH they have motive, means and access... Mind you, Russia and China are also able and possibly stand to gain from problems there - what's their pipeline situation these days? It would be terribly convenient if the major export avenue for Iran was pipes to those two countries. And the US has form in pretextual declarations of war, I can imagine Bolton trying his own Tonkin incident to get the war he so desperately wants.

You also have a bunch of minor players who may or may not gain from the spike in oil prices or related chaos. Venezuala for example :)

* ones who can lay repeatedly mines in the strait or otherwise damage ships

I don't know how tightly the government of Iran is able to control the Revolutionary Guard. The part of Iran that fronts on the Gulf of Oman (where the attacks took place) is a long way away from Teheran and it wouldn't be the first time the tail wagged that particular dog. But I don't think so; not without some significant external support (North Korea??? - probably not).

It could be Saudi Arabia (a gross miscalculation on their part if it is), or it could be the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

I don't know if China has any significant pipeline access or domestic sources. I think they've explored the possibility of an overland route from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etceterastan ... but for now, I'm pretty sure they're dependent on tankers out of the Persian Gulf for their oil supplies.

Russia is AFAIK, already a net exporter with pipelines through the Ukraine into the EU and that flow doesn't appear to have been interrupted by Russia's de-facto war with Ukraine. Their take-over of the Crimea appears to give them a port on the Black Sea that they can use for oil exports, so they do stand to gain if the price of oil goes up due to a war in the Persian Gulf.

Venezuela would benefit from increased oil prices, but their domestic situation is so screwed up right now I don't think they'd have the resources to mount this kind of campaign. North Korea would certainly favor anything that takes the U.S. down a notch, especially if it was a war that caused the U.S. to need to remove troops from South Korea, but again I don't know if they have the resources to mount such an operation on their own. They would need some kind of proxy to carry it off.

Bolton wants anything that can be used as a casus belli to support regime change in Iran. His problem is finding somebody willing to do the dirty deed? The U.S. military ain't gonna' do it to provide the pretext he needs. They'll put the aircraft carrier over there and dare Iran to knock the chip off its shoulder, but they're not going to carry out his false flag attacks against the tankers they're supposed to be protecting. Even just thinking about doing it invites blowback.

So that leaves Private Military Contractors. Where's Bolton gonna to get the money to hire Blackwater or Xi or whatever its name is today? It's not like Iran-Contra where they could sell TOW missiles to Iran through Israel to raise the money to fund the operation. And even if they did, Congress would be sure to find out about it sooner or later.

321:

My money is on Saudi Arabia (get Trump to piss on the Shi'ites), possibly in collusion with Benjamin Netenyahu (who uses the Ayatollahs as a handy horror show to keep his internal Likudnik opposition in line). Outside odds: it's the Bavarian Illuminati, or maybe Nicola Sturgeon trying to boost Scotland's residual oil exports.

I think it reeks of a jestisonned ordnance fuckup[1] and Pompeo/Bolton having a fit of opportunism.

Things nigh-never go according to the plan. It's clear that no credible source knows what's going on. That the Trump admin is seeing it as an obvious reason to fight Iran is an obvious indication that they have a plan to fight Iran and are looking for an excuse.

[1] The explosions occurred on the outside of the Straits, out in the Arabian Sea where the one (1) USN carrier currently deployed is operating. I have to wonder if the "unrelated ships hit close to each other at close to the same time" is jettisoned ordnance being good little robots.

Of course the pilots are supposed to check for a clear patch of water and not drop stuff hot, but they're not optimal rested and I could see a "well, it's definitely unrecoverable if it explodes" unofficial-official policy for "can't land with that" stuff with any kind of precision capability.

322:

Charlie Stross @ 319:

"Mostly it's going to knock the middle east - Iran, Iraq AND Saudi Arabia - out, at least in the short term, and maybe longer. The U.S. can mostly supply its needs from domestic production, but who does the rest of the world turn to?"

The obvious answer would be "Russia". Lotsa oil and gas exports, a corrupt kleptocracy running the shop, and they have a degree of global strategic reach that few other powers aspire to these days—remember a year or two ago when they sent a couple of Tu-160s to bomb Syria the long way round, flying down the Baltic and around the Straits of Gibraltar first, just to tweak NATO air defense noses all the way from Scotland to Sardinia?

But by the same token, I doubt it's the Russian government. For one thing, the US defense agencies are all over them like fleas on a mangy dog; it's hard to see them getting a missile platform into the straits without the USN or the DIA getting alerted, and those agencies are not going to be happy about being suckered into a pissing match between the Tangerine Shitgibbon and Tehran by a third party.

My money is on Saudi Arabia (get Trump to piss on the Shi'ites), possibly in collusion with Benjamin Netenyahu (who uses the Ayatollahs as a handy horror show to keep his internal Likudnik opposition in line). Outside odds: it's the Bavarian Illuminati, or maybe Nicola Sturgeon trying to boost Scotland's residual oil exports.

I think it probably is young hotheads within Iran's Revolutionary Guard being egged on by some external power who wishes the U.S. ill. The old guard may be pushing retirement age (does Iran have Social Security?), but you can't run an army with nothing but Colonels & Generals.

There have to be Lieutenants & Captains & Majors (and Sargents & Privates) following in their footsteps, and I suspect a new generation might have even more revolutionary fervor than their predecessors. It wasn't Mao's old crony's from the Long March waving all those little red books in Tienanmen Square during the Cultural Revolution. And didn't the driving force behind Japan's pre-WWII militarism come from younger middle ranking officers?

I'm trying real hard to NOT suggest it's the Russians (because I know some of my own biases), but they wouldn't need to import missile platforms into Iran. The Revolutionary Guard already has missiles & gunboats & mines. Whoever it is - Russians, Saudis, Israelis, North Koreans, Bavarian Illuminati - I do think the simplest explanation is somebody subverted some part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and that's where whatever weapons are being used are coming from.

What I don't know is who put them up to it?

323:

And even if they did, Congress would be sure to find out

But can they veto a presidential pardon?

324:

No. There is only one stated limit in the Constitution for a presidential pardon, and that's for impeachment. Hrm. Perhaps you were being sardonic.

325:

Couple of charts (updated daily) to share.
Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph
And saw a chart on cstross twitter that doesn't show the 2012 anomally; there's a similar still scary chart showing the early spike in melting this year:
Greenland Surface Melt Extent Interactive Chart
and related (it appears):
Increased Greenland melt triggered by large-scale, year-round cyclonic moisture intrusions (html, 7 March 2019, Marilena Oltmanns, Fiammetta Straneo, and Marco Tedesco)

Time perhaps for some serenity meditations...

The thing that's interesting to me is how the great Fossil Fuel Authoritarians who rule Russia and Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, and Australia (among others) are doubling down on fossil fuel extraction and production, rather than shifting to different systems of power, even though they have the wealth to make the change and stay in power.
Indeed, well put.
FWIW, petrostate charts (2018/10, easily misread. Russian and SA are the biggies.)
A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) puts the challenge in stark relief. In six large petrostates the IEA examined—Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela—net income from oil and natural gas in 2016 was less than one-third of its level in 2012. Such a huge drop-off is painful.


326:

Perhaps it's fraud, but I think you underfactor the power issue: for instance, the US military is the #1 user of fossil fuels by a long shot, just to pick a non-subtle option. While yes, there might be a bust-out fraud of some species (the link between the money and the players would disappear, not the players themselves). However, there's no substitute for petroleum with hard military power, and decarbonizing your military is currently a Mexican-standoff problem.

Until someone takes out the US military via either a cyberattack or with electronic weapons in some sort of conventional battle, I suspect that anyone who wants to be an alpha gonad is going to go for fossil fuels at all costs.

327:

FWIW, petrostate charts (2018/10, easily misread. Russian and SA are the biggies.)

Don't forget the USA which is one of the Big Three production petrostates. Wikipedia puts the US at the top of the list followed by Russia and then Saudi Arabia, all three producing about 10 million barrels of oil a day plus copious quantities of natural and LP gas. The problem is that the US consumes so much oil and gas it has little left over to export to earn foreign currency, unlike the other two petrostates.

Actually for "USA" substitute Texas and Louisiana.

328:

Graydon
Slight correction
That the TrumpBethmann-Hollweg admin is seeing it as an obvious reason to fight IranFrance is an obvious indication that they have a plan to fight IranFrance and are looking for an excuse.

JBS
Yes ... I too am afraid that it MIGHT (easily?) be wank-heads in the Revolutionary Guard, bringing it all down on their own heads.
If it is/was, you can bet Tahran will be doing some serious internal stamping ... but we will never find out.
OTOH ... Russia
Well, V Putin has a long history of fucking over others, & not just for shits & giggles, but, LIKE TRUMP, he regards politics as a zero-sum game.
But one would have thought that the possibility of strating WW_III might put even him off.

329:

"I'm still holding out hope for a PETM-level die off..."

Such a great sentence.

330:

Agreed. It’s still debateable whether a PETM-level event is the end of our species, though it’s definitely the end of civilisation and human survivors are unlikely to last long (versus the geological time scales involved. A mere 100,000 years survival isn’t going to be enough I suspect). I’m pessimistic myself, because it’s one of those scenarios where to survive means everything has to go right 100% of the time, whereas not to survive means things only have to go wrong once. But hey, end-Permian is definitely a lot worse, no argument there.

331:

This 30 years (ie 2050 or so) figure seems to be coming up a bit. That makes puts it squarely within some of our lifetimes. This makes that whole question about how to plan for independence in old age a bit fraught, especially for those who didn’t have kids (which is one of those “the living will envy the dead” paradoxes I suppose). In Oz, the retirement time level qualification to full “grey nomad” capability is probably the simplest answer, but it leaves a question around where to go as the oil goes away. Setting up in Tassie in an average with a garden and a cow or 5 seems to make some sense, but it’s not really an alternative to the full-service older-person accommodation we’re likely to really need at that point. Is this just another way of saying we’re fucked?

332:

What gets me are the folk who "global warming is definitely a huge problem" and "of course I love my kids, I'd do anything for them"... but not *that*. Not when that is "major change to my lifestyle". As so many keep saying, a la Cohen the barbarian "I'd rather die, and take my kids with me".

Also, the "five acres and a cow" thing is surprisingly popular with my 35-45 year old friends, and unsurprisingly you can often pick up fully equipped lifestyle blocks with permaculture gardens and oh la la for very little... once they discover just how little fun peasant agriculture actually is. I have one particular prepper friend who has one farmlet south of Melbourne and another in Tasmania. The Melbourne one is too accessible for preppers, and also mildly exposed to the ocean so farming is no fun. The Tasmanian property is just stuck in the middle of bloody nowhere and wah wah wah my frappichino wasn't made properly I cry now. It has frickin internet and grid power FFS, it's not exactly cut off from civilisation.

I decided long ago that civilisation is what makes life worth living. I can milk a cow and keep a vege garden, and raise chickens and corn and whatever but perhaps that is *why* I am so keen on industrial agriculture... "will code for food" indeed.

333:

Growing and raising enough food for yourself (and a family) by hand isn't hard in many places, but what most 'survivalists' ignore is that it is a full-time job and you still need to build and maintain a house and storage, buy tools and clothing and so on. Doing those isn't hard, either, but is several other full-time jobs.

However, there are perfectly good approaches that are neither mediaeval nor industrial agriculture, many of which are far better than either, ecologically, medically, socially and in other ways. They just don't pass the monetarist test of efficiency when taken in isolation - I have been railing against the stupidity of accounting that ignores secondary and tertiary effects for most of my life, in many contexts, to no avail :-(

334:

Which would indicate that the boat in the video was sent there by the carrier - that's definitely well into the 'accidentally on purpose' category, like the shooting down of Iran Air 655.

335:

EC
Or, equally likely, to make sure that the ... possibly Saudi (?) people actually responsible had fucked-off out of sight, leaving no obvious traces .....

336:

On prepping: I have enough health issues that if medicine supply chains break down I'll be dead within six months, and that my maximum daily walking range is severely limited—ten kilometers and I'll be groaning in pain for the next 48 hours. So I'm one of the early guaranteed medical casualties in event of a full breakdown, not quite as fast as folks who depend on dialysis but probably in the same cohort of corpses as anyone undergoing chemo.

As far as reducing your carbon footprint goes, the most significant cutback you can make is: don't have children. I don't have children. Everything else is lost in the line noise, except maybe my vastly carbon-emissive luxury yacht and my Gulfstream G650 bizjet (snorts). Even an overweight SUV racking up 50,000 km/year in gas miles is trivial compared to the long-term effects of reproduction.

So ... I live in an apartment that predates our modern energy economy so should be convertible to be marginally inhabitable if energy costs go up (although I'm going to have to move within the next decade for medical reasons—it's a fourth-floor walk-up). It's up a hill from a sheltered coastline, so nothing short of a full Antarctic icecap melt or another Storegga slide would wet my toes. And what energy I've got goes into keeping civilization running, and hopefully shifting to carbon-neutral and sane politics, rather than planning for the worst.

337:

Imagine my suprise at this "Announcement" from Saudi - how convenient.
Someone is definitely trying to start a war, that seems certain.

And, evil & misogynistic & cruel though the religious dictatorship of Persia currently is, I don't think it's them.

338:

It's amazing how little people having an oh-shit moment will think about the geopolitical implications of shifting the blame.

At present, this doesn't look like there was a plan; this looks like extemporization. It might be multi-actor extemporization all the way down.

339:

No. It clearly showed a person on the boat doing something to the side of the tanker.

340:

As far as reducing your carbon footprint goes, the most significant cutback you can make is: don't have children.

That's kind of difficult for us who did already have them. Retroactive abortions are kind of frowned upon and would be somewhat difficult also in light of other things, like emotions, laws, and their right to life after being born.

I'm not expecting any grandchildren, though, until something very miraculous happens with the state of the world.

On a shorter timescale, I'm not even worried the most about whole civilization collapsing. I'm just wondering what happens when my country gets even the forefront of climate refugees - we have something like 5.5 million people in Finland currently, and quite a lot of space which won't be that bad even later in this century, so I expect a lot of people moving in. In any case, even if horribly the people wouldn't be allowed in (and basically shot at the borders and sunk into the Baltic), or if we get even "just" 2-3 million refugees, "our way of life" is basically doomed. I'll be surprised if we have something called Finnish as a living culture in a hundred years even if we can survive in some kind of global(ish) civilization.

Sure, something Finnish will survive, but we are but few. I wouldn't count on the language surviving very long, but surprising things happen.

341:

Well, I don't like talking about my personal situation, but I'm somewhat younger than Charlie and don't have kids. I'd give myself decent odds of dying alone under a bridge due to lack of food or meds for myself. Then again, I live in earthquake and fire country, so it might not be a knock-on effect of climate change that causes my demise.

The general problem with where I live (southern California) is that there's 19 million-odd people, almost all the food and water is imported, and food deliveries are on a just-in-time basis. If supply lines get cut, things get kinda bad kinda fast.

While everyone looks at moving to the Pacific Northwest due to climate stability, Oregon has about two million people and it's getting kind of crowded and Washington's not much better. There's really not habitable land up there for 19 million people to resettle, especially if they have to move rapidly. The Sacramento Valley is a slightly better choice, but that means choosing people over food, so it's not a long-term viable choice either. The better choice would be to reactivate all those dying farm towns around the US, especially east of the Mississippi, but since many of them lasted less than 200 years from founding to now, I'm not clear on how many would actually be viable in a more agrarian future. Still, I'd recommend that anyone interested in long term survival should move to the rust belt around the Great Lakes and figure out how to get by there.

The one thing I'd note is that for the conservation I do as my day job, civilization is marginally better than collapse. The problem with collapse is that every rabbit, song bird, and marginally edible plant is going to be targeted during the food shortages, and quite honestly, there aren't a lot of them. Nineteen million people can't spontaneously turn to foraging and survive for more than a month or two (and yes, that number was picked deliberately). The best luck the biosphere could have in getting human numbers under control would be a pandemic, something like smallpox getting out again.*

*Actually, there's a disaster novel waiting there for someone: viable smallpox thaws out of the eastern Siberian permafrost, and gets carried out through an airport from one of those Siberian cities to the rest of the world, long before vaccine production can be started, let alone ramped up.

342:

Chosen deliberately, too. The PETM has some things that I happen to like:
--Lots of anoxia in the deep ocean waters (IIRC that's when the North Sea oil was formed, from organic runoff from Britain and Europe). HOWEVER, there are fossils from the deep ocean showing animal tracks in the mud, so it wasn't quite like the deep (and anoxic) Black Sea on a global scale.
--Coral reef organisms didn't die off. This one's critical, because the classic definition of a mass extinction is that reefs disappear for 5-20 million years, and the ones that form after the extinction have a different suite of organisms that evolved in the gap. Reefs support a lot of life and a lot of people, so keeping at least some of the components alive is a big deal.
--Not a mass extinction on land. Things got extreme, but the ancestors of our modern clades all survived. I fondly hope that counts for a bit.

Compare that with the End Permian or End Cretaceous, and it's eminently survivable for at least a few humans. Granted, the closest analogy to it would be Global Papua New Guinea, but that's better than Global Atacama (early Triassic) or a Global Nuclear Exchange (End Cretaceous), at least as far as human survival goes.

343:
viable smallpox thaws out of the eastern Siberian permafrost, and gets carried out through an airport from one of those Siberian cities to the rest of the world,

Hm, substitute the Spanish Flu for smallpox, and you basically have one of the plots of the first season of ReGenesis. Hm, involving Biopreparat in the storyline wouldn'd be that wise given the current global situation.

In other news, my brother is practicing "Hallelujah" on the piano, no luck getting him into "Famous Blue Raincoat" so far. And as for "First we take Manhattan"...

344:

The better choice would be to reactivate all those dying farm towns around the US, especially east of the Mississippi,

The ENTIRE US east of the Mississippi is in the expected thermal excursion zone. (So is all of the inhabited part of central Canada; looks like you have to get north of about 50 N to be really sure you're out of it.)

I think this is in its way one of those "do not make the simple thing complicated" things. People cannot generally endure significant uncertainty about the future. No power, and you get religion which ascribes metaphysical certainties. Power, and you attempt to create certainties. So what we're seeing is power acting to insist that the status quo is immutable and inviolate because that's the future they want. (and we're coming out of a relatively brief period where the future was expected to be consistently better, and that's not helping with the availability of coping skills. Observe how folks from marginalized social groups generally seem to be doing better with the whole thing.)

Those with power don't have enough power to create a continued status quo; anyone honest will look at the climate projections and acknowledge that we're looking at large error bars between the Eocene Thermal Maximum and the End Permian.

Another way to put that is "for the next couple hundred years, there is no certainty about the future". As a cultural challenge, that's huge.

345:

I just finished a short story set about 100,000 years after Climate Change. The surviving humans are just beginning to regain civilization, and have revived coppersmithing. They have not yet revived the arch or the wheel, and the horse has died off, leaving the characters to ride goats and practice superstition.

Then one of them finds the "Chamber of the Ancients..."

346:

In other news, my brother is practicing "Hallelujah" on the piano

After reading this thread, "You Want It Darker" is probably a good song for him to add to his repertoire…

347:

I'd give myself decent odds of dying alone under a bridge due to lack of food or meds for myself.

Remember the Cold War? That was how a lot of us were going to go (abetted by radiation poisoning), unless we managed a more painless suicide first.

As a child I never really expected to reach 30, so I've enjoyed a lot of bonus years. I weep for my grandnieces who likely will never get old…

348:

Thermal exclusion zone?

It's always worth checking to see what the model is for Black Flag Weather Predictions (this is the USMC version, where the combination of heat and humidity is bad enough that humans can't lose heat by sweating, and die in the open). I haven't been following developments (and won't until I rewrite that chapter of Hot Earth Dreams, but back a few years, researchers were using a couple of different models. One was where the climate would make such conditions possible. Another was based on the risk of a black flag event happening once every decade or so. They came up with different answers for where the worst effects would be, unsurprisingly. So check the models people are using.

Anyway, there's a generalized solution for this problem, since it isn't the first time vertebrates have faced it: go underground. I highly recommend Anthony Martin's The Evolution Underground in this regard (plus he's a good writer with a mastery of deadpan snark that I can but aspire to emulate). If you only have to hide in the subway tunnels for a week every year, that's still enough time to grow crops the rest of the time. Given the prevalence of caves in certain parts of the eastern US, I'd expect people to survive back there, at least better than they'll survive in southern California, where caves are few and far between, and we haven't built a good enough subway system yet.

In fact, there's a discrete but apparently flourishing market among certain real estate agents for selling underground redoubts to the rich and paranoid. Given who's likely to be holed up underground during the worst of the coming Altithermal, I do feel justified in calling it the Tunnels and Trolls era.

349:

Cool! Now for the tech criticism.

The critical mistake everyone makes is the idea that the future will recapitulate the past, as if we can get knocked linearly back to the stone age, mammoths will miraculously reappear....

Anyway, some useful notions:
--rocket stoves can be made out of all sorts of things, including clay. Look on Google and Youtube for all the different versions that have been made. Three-stone fires are easy, but rocket stoves aren't much harder. I'm betting that rocket stove technology survives.
--toilets will produce a lot of the flint blades of the future. The survivalists call broken ceramic "johnstone," because it acts like really good flint, but it's a lot cheaper to get. And there will be a lot of toilets surplused in the future.
--whether people use copper, bronze, or iron depends on three things: what they have access to, how hot a fire they can make, and how long the iron's had to rust (it'll need to be resmelted). Iron's the most common but needs the hottest fire. In future dystopias blacksmiths will be limited to charcoal, and the amount of charcoal they can get actually is going to control how much of the huge amount of iron (all those skyscrapers, ships, etc) gets recycled into local tools. Copper is available as wiring, more long-lasting, and needs a cooler fire, but it's still limited by how much fuel is available.
--Wheels? Depends on how rugged things get. The fall of Han China is a better model than the fall of the western Roman Empire, because the ancient Chinese roads are more like our modern roads than the better-built Roman roads are. The Chinese went in for wheelbarrow technology to deal with their suddenly downgraded road system, and their stuff is really worth looking at for people writing low-tech future SF. They even weaponized them by making mounting guns and shields on them.
--speaking of guns, I don't think matchlocks and similar are going to go away, and I don't think bows and arrows are going to go away either. It doesn't take much more equipment to make a gun than it does to make a sword (Wallace's Malay Archipelago has a good description of an extremely low-tech gunsmith's shop), and if the materials for gunpowder are available, muzzleloaders are still useful low-tech weapons. Bows are useful because they require even less in the way of materials, even though they're more limited.

My two cents, but the general fun point is that future low tech won't the same low-tech as it was in the past. There's progress even at the low end.

350:

Another way to put that is "for the next couple hundred years, there is no certainty about the future". As a cultural challenge, that's huge.


Also, forgot to respond to the last part of this. I'd modify that to read, "as a cultural challenge for us white guys, that's huge."

Part of the problem is Christianity, which is taught to mean (despite the Book of Job) that God's basically benevolent and rule-driven. We tend to agree that the world is rule-driven (science!), but the nasty surprise in the last 50 years is that deterministic rules generate chaos in all sorts of ways in dynamical systems, and there's essentially no such thing as an equilibrium" (do click on the link before responding).

Other people have not had that luxury of power, and there certainly have been religions that emphasized that order was rather fragile, arose out of meaningless chaos, and that the heroism of daily life was keeping things working, orderly, and meaningful despite it all (that from Taro and Arrows which you can find online). Were I designing a survivalist religion, I'd emphasize that part. It's not that the devil is winning, it's that the gods of more knocked-about cultures always started by subduing the primal chaos and its monsters. We may treat them as fairy stories, but the reality of the oncoming monsters we now face may help get us back in the mood for realizing the the gods of civilization can be overthrown, and that our heroic work is to help them.

351:

My two cents, but the general fun point is that future low tech won't the same low-tech as it was in the past. There's progress even at the low end.

If you've got just about any access to electricity—and a big water wheel plus salvaged bits of iron and/or copper will do at a pinch—then you can produce the basics for a war machine: not just muzzle-loading matchlocks, but gun cotton (requirements: starch, nitric acid, and a lot of care). With a modest industrial base by modern standards—18th century equivalent will do—you can cast iron, and if enough knowledge has survived you can make good-enough steel for breech-loading rifled cannon. And if you can do that, you can make early 20th century grade bicycles (gears and tires will be the hard parts: precision machining of high grade alloys, plus synthetic rubber).

Don't underestimate the importance of the spinning jenny, looms, sewing machines, paper making, and other fibercraft technologies. And don't underestimate how valuable the automatic washing machine(!) is—in rural India washing clothes can soak up to 20 hours a week of womens' time, that's a lot of labour value right there that can be freed up with a device that we tend to write off as a domestic luxury these days.

Again, if you've got enough know-how you can make 19th century telegraphy work for you.

So it may be a low-energy empire, but it'll be an empire with breech-loading artillery and telegraphs to carry mobilization orders and news. And while roads may deteriorate as they did in China, it'll take an awful lot of deterioration to reduce an interstate or autobahn to the point where it can only accommodate wheelbarrows, as opposed to single-file ox-cart towed artillery, and hydrogen balloons for artillery observers.

I think to get to this level you'll need the surplus (over-and-above raw survival level) labour of a couple of million people—this includes running the university to sustain the knowledge base—but it's going to look a bit like the late Victorian era in tech terms, minus the steam engines: bicycles, repeating firearms, balloons, telegraphs, artillery, Victorian-level washing machines. And hopefully some decent medicines: it should be possible to sustain a bioengineering industry with relatively low energy inputs by using GM yeast strains (e.g. to produce insulin, cannabidiol, antibiotics, etc).

It all depends on how much knowledge is lost and how much time basic agricultural survival activities suck up.

352:

Addendum: the big difference I can see is the lack of disposability in all these items.

A modern washer-drier has a design life of 5 years, then you throw it out and buy a new one (hopes the manufacturer). A high-end one can run for 15 years. I have one, a Mielle, which is about 14 years in: it's clearly taken a hammering but it still works. However, the price of repairing it if anything breaks probably exceeds its replacement cost.

In a low-energy society, running the washing machine will be pricey (forget the electricity-powered drier), and it won't be something you throw out after 5 years or 15; it'll be something you leave to your grandchildren.

Bicycles: today the emphasis is on light weight rather than durability. Again, I expect a low energy society would rely on bicycles (they'd cost the equivalent of an automobile in terms of working-hours to earn the price) and they would weigh more, have fewer gear ratios, and tires would be designed to be patched/tubed in event of a puncture, but it's still better than walking and they're going to be built to last.

And did I mention bicycle infantry? Replaced dragoons from around 1890 onwards, were used as scouts/extra mobility options for paratroops, could go places dragoons couldn't because dragoons consume lots of fodder for their mounts. So maintaining a bicycle works is a strategic military facility.

(I'm assuming that chimps are gonna chimp and even in the post-climate-change world there will be territorial disputes and wars.)

With slightly better technology maintenance you get to keep railroads using electric traction powered by PV panels and/or wind, although the schedules are going to go to crap on still nights. Probably trams and trolley buses around cities—again, these were standard before the gas-burning automobile took off, and they're very efficient at moving people around in high density urban areas.

But all of this depends on climate and agricultural stability/sustainability.

353:

I tend to think Ming China's a better example of a potential post-collapse empire, but whatever.

The real problem is food, specifically grain. Unless we're talking about the Inka, no empire has run without grain. The Inka are a special case because a) they had corn and they used it, although a lot of it went to beer, and b) they were able to use the high mountains as natural dehydrators, thereby allowing them to dry and ship potatoes in a way that lowlanders couldn't until the 19th Century. That made up for the normal problem of using tubers (hard to ship, low storage time) instead of grain.

The problem with running an altithermal state of any size, with task specialization and multiple hierarchical levels, will be food supply, almost certainly in the form of grain. While I used to think that corn or sorghum was the most likely Altithermal grain, more recent modeling (pdf link) for the US suggests that winter wheat (cool season)will see less production drop-off than will corn, soy, spring wheat, and sorghum. Rice wasn't modeled. Note that this is "less of a drop off in modeling," not "bumper crops."

If the climate is both chaotic and unpredictable, I suspect that what remains of agriculture will look more like native American and Australian models (cf: Tending the Wild, Dark Emu, etc.): high resilience, low productivity, food savannas and forests rather than farms and gardens, and a lot of switching when crops fail. Human populations will probably be smaller and more mobile, too.

354:

I think the issue here is probably "How badly does the ability to plant crops get broken?" If agriculture still works* you end up with a society that's camping out in or near the ruins of a big city and rebuilding from (more or less) a 17th century tech base, plus the ability to recopy really useful books like Von Nostrands Scientific Encyclopedia or The Feynman Lectures.

But if the weather is not predictable enough for large-scale agriculture, then you become hunter-gatherers and you're limited to what you can carry with you. That changes the equation considerably, and the best you're left with is a small village in the middle of the forest where the tribes meet once a year.

When I wrote the story, I was very consciously thinking about the second option, and specifically the human-equivalent of a Motie engineer after humans have "bombed themselves back to the invention of the brick." The protagonist is involved with cataloguing the contents of the human version of a Motie Museum, and naturally she upsets the authorities...

* Or you're coastal and fish stocks recover very quickly

355:

I'd disagree on the either-or of agriculture or hunter-gatherer. It's a mistake to see them as discrete units.

Grain agriculture is (probably) the necessity for civilization on any scale, Aztec or ours, whatever the tool technology is based on, and most of the people would be involved in raising the grain if that were possible.

If it's not possible, then two things happen. One is that the population densities are considerably lower (if you want to argue about the Northwest Coast Indians, be my guest. Turns out they were agriculturalists, and that's a side issue). The other is that food diversity goes considerably up, as there are many things that are edible but not incredible in terms of nutrition, storage, and utility.

However, that doesn't mean that people will just wander around like cattle grazing wherever the grass is in seed. California's a good example of this, because the climate's so variable: flood one year, drought the next, fire the third, but rolled more on a random encounter table such that decade-long droughts are possible. The California Indians tended the wild. They knew full well how to cultivate plants, but they didn't do agriculture because depending on one crop in our highly variable climate was a death sentence. So they took care of the oak trees (burning the litter away to suppress the acorn weevil populations), cultivated a variety of edible bulbs (take the mother bulb, leave the pups to grow into more plants), burned meadows so that their basket materials would grow straight and the fire followers whose seeds they ate were good, and so forth. When harvesting, a story I just heard had the local tribes only taking the even numbered plants and animals: they'd take the second and fourth onions, not the first and third, and shoot the second deer rather than the first. While this probably stretched the truth a little, they had to practice such conservation simply to make sure there was enough food for next time.

That's not what we think of as hunting and gathering, but it's not agriculture either. In a changing-climate world, I'm pretty sure that the people who survive won't just be hunting for their supper, they'll be tending and planting as they go. It's the only sane thing to do, to simply protect and grow your supply chains, in modern parlance.

356:

This is all very true, but I can't see that level of agriculture supporting a civilization which can smelt iron.

357:

Now if someone really wants to get cutesy, imagine new crops for the apocalypse. In that role, I'd suggest kudzu and Palmer's pigweed.

358:

Take a long look at the Southeast Asian tribes and get back to me on that. I agree that agriculture a smithing probably go together, but I'm going to leave it at probably rather than certainly, because of (among others) the Mlabri, who did some simple smithing, even though they were definitely nomadic foragers.

Note that likely the Mlabri weren't ancient primitives, but rather people who'd run away into the forest and made a lifestyle and identity of running away. That lifestyle seems to be not uncommon, especially in Peninsular Southeast Asia, but also in Madagascar (the Mikea) and in Amazonia, where some of those primitive jungle tribes documentarily had ancestors who were farmers who'd been driven into the forest by Spanish or Portuguese oppression. It's likely a good model for how people will deal with climate change and civilization collapse, at least at our end of deep time. Given all the problems, though, I suspect that these people will be doing as much forest planting as just grabbing stuff on the run.

359:

I have ridden such bicycles for many decades. Traditional roadsters will last about as well as modern cars, in terms of miles, with some renovation, which can be done by the owner - there is no competition in terms of miles. But you do need late 19th century technology, at least, for the gears, tyres and brakes.

360:

There are a zillion ignored crops in most 'developed' parts of the world, but almost all produce less per acre than our current ones do. There are plenty of solutions if the world population drops to 10% (not BY 10%) of its current level, but I don't see any without.

361:

Yes, rubber's probably another one of those critical materials for modern technology. It's possible to build a decent bicycle frame out of bamboo, and it's possible to hand cut gears and the chain if it comes to that. Rubber's a lot trickier to substitute for, and not just in tires.

362:

The chances of success, however one defines that, depends a lot on how fast or prepared the transition is.

The fundamental limitation will be how high a population density you can keep alive, because that directly determines your work-product volume.

Details like existence of pumped versus gravitational sewers will have a big impact here, as will access to drinking water that does not need (too much) pumping, filtering and clorination.

If we think in terms of threshold technologies, starting from the top:

Semiconductor production will be one of the first things to falter, it requires clean-rooms and very specialized high purity raw materials, including high purity quartz for frequency control, not to mention insane amounts of power and clean water.

Without semiconductor production, intercontinental fibers will go dark in about a decade or so, the lasers have finite lifetime, and there are no "strategic" stocks to poach or alternatives to fall back to.

I do not think it feasible to establish a "fall-back" semi-conductor production, it would be starved for raw materials and what meagre production it can muster, will make no difference in the long run.

Stockpiling solar panels and electronic components will make a lot of sense, in particular if somebody make sure it is not all just 10k resistors, but actually something useful.

Computers which can store and access Wikipedia sized information will fizzle out in about 20-30 years, but that is almost enough time to print it out.

That takes not only paper and printers, but also subject matter specialists to condense, and librarians and libraries to store the result in.

This is a very good example of where 10 years of intelligent preparation will have a HUGE impact on long term success rates.

Vaccines and other essential low-tech medications is essentially 1870 technology now that we know how to do it, but there is, literally, a food-chain which must be given very high priority. This is another thing where getting a decade head-start would make a big difference.

Existing anti-biotica will run into natural resistance, and discovering new ones is an unsolved problem, in the sense that there is no money in it, so we don't really know how hard it really is. The stakes are high, but the means may simply be staring intently at all kinds of fungi, yeasts and bacteria in microscopes. Absolutely worth doing, if the resources are there and the sooner the better.

The biggest challenge, is that any such headstart requires visionary and sufficiently powerful leadership, not only able, but also willing to pull the big red lever marked "Fallback Plan", at a time where most people are still in denial about the actual state of the world.

Without such a head-start, pretty much all the technologies you cannot produce on your own farm, will have to wait for sufficiently stable power-structures and civilizations to arise again, and by then there will be at most one or two surviving copies of Wikipedia, most likely shrouded in secrecy by priesthoods.

363:

Charlie @ 352
the big difference I can see is the lack of disposability in all these items
Why do you think I have a Land Rover?
I made the deliberate, conscious & carefully-examined decision that if I was going to have a car again ( 2002/3 ) then I want ONE ... that would last until I dropped dead, or could no longer drive.
It worked, but now I'm going to be shafted by the fake-environmental decision, because diesel - "you can buy a new one & get a scrappage grant" - I DON'T WANT a fucking new one - & you won't give me a power-conversion grant for cleaner emissions, wankers!

I still use a couple of saucepans that were wedding presents for my parents ( 1936 ) & I use my grandmother's pre WW I Art Nouveau dining table. I was able to reverse-engineer my 1907(ish) brass light-switches to be earthed, so they still pass muster & are still in use .....

No steam traction on the railways if you have "Victorian" technology?
Assuming that the fuel is ... what ... coal? Wood? ( Energy-density is the problem )

Troutwaxer
How badly does the ability to plant crops get broken? The Trillion-Dollar question, isn't it?

364:

automatic washing machine

You don't need to go that far. If you have electricity the "twin tub" (one washes the other spins) or "mangle" washer (rollers to squeeze water out) is 90% of the battle. But you can go from 20 hours to 2 hours just with a sealable container - there are hippy versions and Africa versions, but they're just a drum on a pivot that you turn over and over. They use little water (more than a modern automatic though) and while their spin cycle often leaves a lot to be desired they work. Now it occurs to me that modern detergent may be the other half of the machine.

Bicycles don't absolutely need rubber, the old boneshakers did not use it and were named after their dominant characteristic. Fundamentally going fast means you need good suspension or smooth surfaces, so bicycles only win over wheelbarrows once you have a certain level of tech. But the "Africa Bicycle" is widely used although not much manufactured due to the things generally outliving their owners. They are, though, often pushed rather than ridden, and their actual speed over ground tends to be 10-15km/hr when ridden. Beats walking, though. And need rubber.

365:

I note that the oldest deraileur gear wikipedia cites for a bicycle dates to 1885 (two speeds only), with early-modern ones coming in from 1928-1938. We can probably hand-wave this as "19th century technology" in terms of the engineering as long as they know how to do it (and why they'd want to).

366:

I know you don't need an automatic washing machine—I simply happen to have one now. I lived with a twin-tub for years, they're a pain in the neck in terms of time spent leaning over it, but it's still better than bashing wet cloth on stones by a river.

Detergent is a problem. Also, availability of detergents affects the type of fabric you can make clothing out of (without it rotting in the wash).

I'd rate all the fibercraft stuff (and sewing machines) as vitally important, though. It apparently took eight months' full time work to produce the clothing for a single family, using traditional techniques in the fifteenth century in Europe: all the wool had to be spun by hand, then woven and hand-stitched. Cloth was expensive: a Viking longboat's sail represented about a year's productivity for an entire village. Fabric is one of those halfway invisible technologies that we are utterly dependent upon and that underpins a lot of stuff we don't think about (look at the nearest automobile and imagine it without any fabric—no seats, no carpets, no headliner).

367:

If you only have to hide in the subway tunnels for a week every year

Will that really be an improvement? Toronto's subway is noticeably warmer than the surface on really hot days, even when you aren't trying to pack a million people into it…

368:

Fundamentally going fast means you need good suspension or smooth surfaces

And indeed, we owe a debt to cyclists for pushing for a modern road network…

http://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com


369:

Re lower-tech civilization and farming, the Old Amish are an interesting example. (See the link for a table describing what tech is used by them in what areas.)
Their farms do pretty well with 200-300 year old agricultural practices augmented with a little more recent tech and knowledge. If (OK when) temperature changes force them north, they'll take their low-tech approach with them, like the Space Amish (America Offline) in Newton's Wake (Ken MacLeod, 2005), and those with any sense will welcome them. (Also they're religious pacifists.)
Another consideration that comes to mind is that due to the rapid temperature increases, the ground in more poleward areas will be useful for cooling. (e.g.
Boreholes drilled deep reveal permafrost temperatures in Alaska (August 9, 2016))
That is, deep holes could be used for food storage. (And more south, ground water will continue to be cool for use by heat pumps if electricity is available.)
FWIW, I agree with people above who argue that immediately useful technologies/techniques would not be lost if tech civilization collapsed. IMO most book knowledge and academic knowledge would not be lost, though the loss of automated indexing and easy searchability would be a backslide. But we should be striving for the survival of tech civilization.

370:

Details like existence of pumped versus gravitational sewers will have a big impact here, as will access to drinking water that does not need (too much) pumping, filtering and clorination.
When I had a house built 10 years ago, there were two deal-breaker conditions from me; high speed internet, and a gravity-fed septic system. I did not explain to the builder the why for the later, but it was related to the possibility of civilizational collapse, or at least very long grid outages. (It would be nice to have a proper cistern and a way to get well water that doesn't involve starting up a midsized generator, but pods and streams are nearby and a small electric utility pump will run off a battery charged with a solar panel. Yes, I've tried this; inverter and 120V pump (US))

371:

Worth noting that most countries can't ban you from riding a bicycle on the road. Powered mobility aids you need explicit (and conditional!) permission to operate, but bicycles use the roads as of right. As do horses and pedestrians, except that both are increasingly regulated to the point where it's very difficult to actually use them anywhere.

Charlie, I've used both the old wringer machines and a twin tub, also a "big twin tub" that would take two king size bed sheets (a normal one in Oz/NZ will not take even one king size flannelette sheet). I really appreciate my modern efficient front loader, but I'm aware that I can't fix one of those, and I can fix the more basic machines in the unlikely event that that is necessary.

372:

Well, if you've got a subsistence farming community that's probably 99% smaller than the current population of the city, I'd hazard a guess that the deep tunnels will be cooler than the surface.

374:

On the Dragon bank, since its less depressing.

It is of course only a short time before Balrog 419 scams start.
http://shaggy-dogs.briancombs.net/a-419-nigerian-scam-from-uruk/

The other thing that comes to mind. Why do dragons want hordes?

If it is a some authorities suggest because they need to sleep on gold to be fertile, which in itself suggests some magical analog to ionising radiation is involved, then there is the possibility for a market in optimizing horde efficiency and the of course the chance that Draconic Communists might out breed traditional dragon bankers through sharing or hotbunking hordes.

Also horde renting or timeshare schemes and alchemical research, both authentic and scam, into alternatives.

375:

I suspect that dragons want hordes for the same reason that bower birds build bowers: to attract poorer members of the opposite sex. It's a form of display.

That's the biological version. In the fallen angel version, they're trying to recapture heaven in their own way (streets paved with gold? Got it).

376:

If it is a some authorities suggest because they need to sleep on gold to be fertile
Perhaps the lust for gold is a red herring (though useful for dragon-banking) and they really need platinum, a catalyst used in their digestive track to produce flammable gases. (There is no such thing as cold fusion, so it can't be that. :-)
(This crowd might have already discussed this in detail some time in the past; if so, apologies.)


377:

Why do dragons want hordes?

It took a moment to realise that you meant "hoard", but yes. Unless dragons also need to breed continuously there would obviously be possibilities for share-hoarding.

Hordes on the other hand provide food. Either directly or by raising (other) livestock :)

378:

I wonder whether the female dragons can recognize adulterated coin, or whether the sole requirement is that the money be shiny? If they can't recognize adulterated coin, I think there's a D and D plot here...

379:

"I think a really sexy male has both a horde and a hoard! If he don't have both, I'm not burning any villages for him."

"Yeah, and did you ever notice that men are always claiming she's a virgin? Not that I care, but the way they lie about it is just so... male."

380:

Elderly Cynic @ 339: No. It clearly showed a person on the boat doing something to the side of the tanker.

If you can "clearly" see that your eyes are a lot better than mine. Best I can tell, all you can say for sure is it shows people on the boat pulling someone out of the water from next to the ship. That someone might be wearing SCUBA gear.


381:

Interesting...I did the gender neutral version of it: especially for the chromatic dragons, it's how young, single dragons get, erm, older partners, to, erm, show them how the world works, and erm, groom them for more...mature roles.

How slimy can it be? Slimy indeed. And dragons acquire hoards so that they can stop having to be on the receiving end and start controlling the interactions.

382:

Charlie Stross @ 352:

"Addendum: the big difference I can see is the lack of disposability in all these items."

A modern washer-drier has a design life of 5 years, then you throw it out and buy a new one (hopes the manufacturer). A high-end one can run for 15 years. I have one, a Mielle, which is about 14 years in: it's clearly taken a hammering but it still works. However, the price of repairing it if anything breaks probably exceeds its replacement cost.

In a low-energy society, running the washing machine will be pricey (forget the electricity-powered drier), and it won't be something you throw out after 5 years or 15; it'll be something you leave to your grandchildren.

All of my appliances (with the exception of the new refrigerator I got last week) are 30+ years old. Actually, the old refrigerator is 30+ y.o., and it's going to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store on Monday, so somebody will probably get a few more years use out of it.

Each of my current appliances replaced an older appliance that was itself more than 30 years old. Most of the originals were already 10 - 15 years old when I acquired them second hand.

I just can't do "disposable". I grew up with "use it, repair it, use it again and keep on using it until you use it up & it can't be repaired any more ... then recycle it." The new refrigerator is because it has the freezer in a drawer at the bottom & I don't have to stoop over to find to find out what food I have in the refrigerator. I do have to make some accommodations to reaching the proverbial "three score and ten" (which I never expected I was gonna' do). I still have my Whole Earth Catalog and my Mother Earth News (complete set on DVD). Wish I could have got them on microfiche, so I could leave them to the grand-children I'll never have.

It also has more room for frozen vegetables, so I can do more cooking at home. Doctor says if I want to live to get real old and still be able to get around, I gotta eat more vegetables & less processed, pre-cooked foods.

In the future, washing machines will be mechanical; human powered. I think in the future drying clothes after you wash them will go back to the way my Mom did it when I was a child. Hang it out on the line & let the sun & the wind dry it. No more need for drier sheets to make your clothes smell like they were dried out on the line; they will be dried out on the line & will smell that way naturally.


383:

Troutwaxer @ 354: I think the issue here is probably "How badly does the ability to plant crops get broken?" If agriculture still works* you end up with a society that's camping out in or near the ruins of a big city and rebuilding from (more or less) a 17th century tech base, plus the ability to recopy really useful books like Von Nostrands Scientific Encyclopedia or The Feynman Lectures.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XetplHcM7aQ

384:

Another fun bit of future technology: new kinds of "rock," such as plastiglomerate, which is what you get when molten plastic binds grains of sand and other debris into a durable "rock." I suspect that ancient landfills, beachrock with plastic, etc. will be used in place of pitch or resin. Melt it, strain out the crap, stir it to homogenize, and coat something to waterproof something or make it smooth, or use it to make a cheap plastic handle or patch.

Of course, we're also seeing Vibrio and other bacteria evolving the ability to metabolize microplastics, so who knows where that will end.

Still, it's a fun little detail to illustrate a deep future story.

385:

Still, it's a fun little detail to illustrate a deep future story.

I agree, and if I were writing a different story I'd use it, but this particular story is written out of the most pessimistic assumptions; it's at least a hundred thousand years in the future, society has gone hunter-gatherer for tens of thousands of years, and anything not carefully preserved has disappeared, with the exception of a large collection of bricks designed to lead our descendants to the "Motie Museum."

I did manage to work in the idea of a memory tree, however, instilled with the help of an intelligent tutor.

386:

There aren't any humans in the most pessimistic assumptions.

387:

Wow, we know how to preserve stuff for 100,000 years in a way that will be understandable then? How does that work?

388:

This is very true, but with no humans I have no story.

389:

It works by burying the information underground then reteaching the language and math from scratch, using pictures. I'd love a beta-read if someone has any interest. (I have gmail and call myself Troutwaxer, so getting ahold of me is easy.)

390:

preserve stuff for 100,000 years in a way that will be understandable then? How does that work?

Well, right now we just do the whole process in one place leaving behind samples from every step from raw material to finished product, then disappear. Later people come along and make up a story and since there's no-one to disagree the story must be correct.

With more complex things that's harder, there's a whole bunch of stuff where we have little to no idea how ancient people did stuff with what we think was available to them, but most of that is very recent so it's not too applicable to even 10ky timescales. But basic outlines are obvious, backed by "if we don't have another explanation it's obviously religious". From Stnehenge to myths about floods, it's all just religious nonsense. As the Knobz said 'don't give me culture'.

391:

Benjamin Netenyahu

Now I could see him giving tacit approval (wink wink encouragement) via a 1/2 dozen or more intermediaries for someone small do to this. Anything that makes the area more dangerous helps him win his next try at the current election.

392:

True, but there is the counter example of OGH managing to write a story about monetary debt set after the extiction of humans. (which does sound like a 'hold my beer' moment).

BTW I'm not saying you should change your story. Just that things could be very very bad. The low likelyhood outcomes don't include much in the way of multicellular life.

393:

This 30 years (ie 2050 or so) figure seems to be coming up a bit. That makes puts it squarely within some of our lifetimes.

You must be one of the younger folks on this board. I plan to live another 30. My ancestry suggests I could. But the overall stats are against it. And I know I'm younger than many here.

394:

I wanted to write a human story, and was specifically thinking of the bit about Motie Museums, and what would happen to that first engineer who figured out how to open one up. Would the engineer be a hero or a villain? So my heroine ended being a Master/Engineer.

395:

once they discover just how little fun peasant agriculture actually is

Once when I was about 14 my father and I were on a tractor (long story) and I asked why he didn't stick with farming. (He grew up on an above average sized farm. Small sawmill, slaughter house, etc...) His answer stuck with me.

"I enjoyed it until I had to get down off the seat of the tractor."

396:

Sure, something Finnish will survive, but we are but few. I wouldn't count on the language surviving very long, but surprising things happen.

Welcome to the US. The world I grew up in in the 60s doesn't exist anymore. Well trivial bits do but mostly it is gone. It is mostly the people younger than me who think it can come back. To them it is a memory told to them by their parents.

397:

Oregon has about two million people and it's getting kind of crowded and Washington's not much better. There's really not habitable land up there for 19 million people to resettle, especially if they have to move rapidly. ... Still, I'd recommend that anyone interested in long term survival should move to the rust belt around the Great Lakes and figure out how to get by there.

Yep. I didn't realize it until some visits over the last decades. OR and WA are mostly desert. OR more so I think than WA.

I'd like to think the Great Plains could be settled again. But further north. Just now the northern parts in the US just require too much effort to keep warm during the winter. A small forest of trees for each person if you're at that level. But if things heat up and they get reasonable rain it might work.

The northern half of the Ohio River valley (your rust belt) might work. But there's a lot of variation in terrain that was dealt with over 100+ years during the first wave of Europeans. And the natives did OK before that. But in the massive numbers? I'm not sure.

Charlie and I are likely mass grave folks. The dialysis people will get graves with headstones. 6 months later we'll be shoved into a trench. Maybe I'll live longer if we see it coming and I get my prostate yanked. But absent that without my meds peeing becomes a real issue. And I've yet to figure out how to skip that part of my life.

398:

As a child I never really expected to reach 30, so I've enjoyed a lot of bonus years

You made me go look. I was 8 during the Cuban missile crisis and remember the bomb shelter one person built near where I grew up. It was distinctive with it's raised berm around the entrance hatch. I just went and looked via Google street view and the bump is missing from the yard. Likely was leaking and disintegrating and some home owner had it dug up and filled in.

On a side note I have kept the transistor radio my father bought at the time. $20 I think. Which is insane for a radio if you factor in inflation. The government CPI says $170 or so in today's money. Still works.

But in general we knew we were toast. He was a production manager at a gassious diffusion plant. And we were down weather of a SAC bomber and missile base. And the 101st airborne was stationed less than 100 miles away. All within range of the Cuban stationed missiles. Rebuilding was going to be the job of the folks on the western side of the country.

399:

It could be a form of hyperstimulation; healthy dragons are shiny, gold has an even more impressive lustre and leads dragons down the beer bottle path.

400:

In a low-energy society, running the washing machine will be pricey (forget the electricity-powered drier), and it won't be something you throw out after 5 years or 15; it'll be something you leave to your grandchildren.

As someone who grew up in a house run by someone who grew up on a decent working farm in the 30s, we NEVER called anyone to repair anything unless time and tools were a factor.[1]

Many washing machines have a 5 year life due to the use of sealed bearings. (Or at least that used to be the issue.) If you had the time to take one apart and re-oil and re-seal the bearing they would last a very very long time. Or until the timing system wore out. I had a washer than I got from a dead relative where when it started acting up the finger contacts had groves worn in them from 20+ years of rubbing. Maybe 30+ years. I bent them a bit and got another 5 years out of the unit. The biggest issue with repairing a washing (at least in the US) is that people expect it to have sides and fit in a small space. Paying someone to move it out to an open space, de-skin it, repair, re-skin it, then move it back costs more in labor than many cost to just by new/used.

The other issue with modern tub top loading washers is they tend to have a transmission. And it that breaks the labor bill goes even higher as many units seem to be built with that as the first part.

[1] About 15 years into my marriage my wife asked (as I started a plumbing project) why don't we ever call a repairman? I told her based on my upbringing the thought never occurs to me if I had or could acquire the tools at reasonable cost.

401:

Chrlie @ 366
Yes, well, people forget or are no taught about Mr Arkwright & Cromford Mills, are they?
This post by Diamond Geezer shjould remedy the matter.
Note the combination of the new mass-weaving tech with the new tech of the industrial canal.
What a lot of people don't seem to get is that a civilisation is an interconnected web of systems that are themselves ingrated systems, that ....

David L @ 400
As someone who grew up in a house run by someone who grew up on a decent working farm in the 30s, we NEVER called anyone to repair anything unless time and tools were a factor.
I was born & brought up & have lived my whole life in London, but .....
The skill-set you describe is "me too!" - ecept that spread of competencies is dying out - people with both a scientific AND technical/practical engineering background.
And it's scary, too, how fucking "helpless" people are in such situations & splurge MONEY oe expert repairers"

402:

if I had or could acquire the tools at reasonable cost.

Terrifying projects: the nice insurance person says "can we have a list of those tools please" after I just guessed $50,000 for the contents of the shed. The gap between "I found it at a garage sale" and "I want exactly this tool right now" can easily be two orders of magnitude. Even when it's not second hand small tools are scary expensive (bicycle-size torque wrench $150, special spanner for removing lock ring from back of main bearing of my exact washing machine $70 - sadly for them I had flour + salt to make "playdough" and a friendly CNC operator).

403:

Oh and farming... industrial farming can be great if you carefully select what you grow and where you grow it. I know a lot of horticulturalists who have a couple of weeks off over Christmas every year, for example, because that's neatly between pruning and preparation for harvesting. But dairy farming or market gardening are pretty much 24/7/365 jobs, and you can't easily hire managers. Well, you can, but suddenly 20 hour days turn into $100,000/year just in salary (also: there are lots of scams in dairy farming particularly. By scam I mean "we share the profit, you wear the risk" deals).

404:

In the future, washing machines will be mechanical; human powered. I think in the future drying clothes after you wash them will go back to the way my Mom did it when I was a child. Hang it out on the line & let the sun & the wind dry it. No more need for drier sheets to make your clothes smell like they were dried out on the line; they will be dried out on the line & will smell that way naturally.

Or, as I did, install a pulley airer in the new utility room when we got our extension built. It meant I cleared out the tumble dryer and could still wash and dry clothes in wet weather. They go on the line in good weather; always have done. My Mum had 2 laundry lines - one out in the open, one in the patio. It was only as she got frail she got a washer dryer - in any case, when she got to needing physical help, the carers weren't going to hang laundry outside, let alone be around to get it in for her.

405:

Merging two comments.

Despite the propaganda, derailleurs require a higher level of technology to work reliably than epicyclic hub gears, which is why the latter dominated until well into the 1930s and are undergoing a comeback today. In terms of first use, there is nothing in it. But, in both cases, they require fairly advanced metallurgy and manufacturing which, as Babbage found, is a lot more than knowing how.

The fabrics that are relatively quick to make by hand relative to their lifetimes are leather (including suede) and felt, which is why those were so heavily used in mediaeval times and by many peoples even now. Yes, much more has been written about woven fabrics, but history was not written for or about the peasantry.

406:

A lot of the heat in a subway system comes from the trains—it takes up to 10MW to start up a London Underground tube train on a cold morning (around freezing, i.e. annual average for Toronto!), and they're running through those tunnels at 5 minute intervals, dissipating all that energy as heat via air compression/braking. In London in particular the mixture of clay/chalk the deep tunnels run through is particularly bad at heat dissipation, but even with cut-and-cover construction and different types of rock is going to give the system huge thermal inertia.

If people are moving into those tunnels to shelter, they're not going to be operating a regular train service.

407:

If people are moving into those tunnels to shelter, they're not going to be operating a regular train service.

Now I remember the book 'Metro 2033' by Glukhovsky. The London Underground could probably have something like the communities in the book as there are quite a few stations.

Here, in the Helsinki region, the metro has two lines with separate tracks at one end of the track. The map looks basically like the letter Y. Not that much room for that kind of societies, especially considering that about half of the tracks are above ground.

408:

Right at the beginning, there is someone standing up above the others facing the side of the ship and doing something with some object that shows as a blurred white circle. Beyond that, I can tell nothing. I stand by 'doing something', but that could be anything, not necessarily relevant.

For all I know, it could be an old video from before Iran Air 655 was shot down, because we know that Iran was hassling the almighty USA Navy with small boats.

409:

Pedantic nit: it's a hoard, not a horde.

410:

Actually, the "gods subduing chaos" is also in Genesis, it's just somewhat sanitized to conform to monotheism (though I'm not sure if the authors were just monolatrists at the time):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_creation_narrative#Mesopotamian_influence

Personally I prefer the second creation myth, naming changes things, not just in "Dying of the Light", but Young Earth Creationists getting hung up on the first one makes for interesting ideas of Mindfuck with them...

411:

I give you Black Cloud by SNFU. From another CD the pothead sitting next to me in history class gave me.

412:

Charlie @ 406
You are out of date ... and they're running through those tunnels at 5 minute intervals ... on the Victoria Line in the rush-hours, it's every 90 SECONDS, goes down to every 120 seconds in semi-slack periods & every 150 seconds when its really quiet.
[ 5 minutes is 12 trains per hour - tph - & in the centre no line is running at less than 20 tph ... ]

413:

Yep. I didn't realize it until some visits over the last decades. OR and WA are mostly desert. OR more so I think than WA.

As I described it to visitors during Sasquan, the Worldcon in Spokane: The lush forests and rain and greenery are in western Washington, where Seattle is. This is the eastern part of the state. Outside the city there are, oh, Jawas and Sand People and Fremen and ...

There are in fact good reasons why western Washington and Oregon have cities and forests and rich farmland while eastern Washington and Oregon have huge ranches, small towns, and vast stretches of nothing much.

414:

There are in fact good reasons why western Washington and Oregon have cities and forests and rich farmland while eastern Washington and Oregon have huge ranches, small towns, and vast stretches of nothing much.

This makes me want to dig out my old Shadowrun sourcebooks and look at how they describe the area. For context, the main game fiction is (at least used to be) set in Seattle and surrounding areas, it being a single city of the UCAS (United Canadian and American States) surrounded by the Salish-Sidhe Council. The "Native American Nations", into which the SSC belongs, make at least a show of being more in tune with the nature. Granted, they control also most of the Western part of Washington, and parts of British Columbia and neighbouring current US states.

415:

"helpless" people are in such situations & splurge MONEY oe expert repairers"

When I moved to my current house (edge of urban) 30 years ago I was doing some work on my car and decided a second short handled ratchet handle would be best to fit into an odd tight situation. I didn't own a second such so I asked my 3 neighbors to borrow one. None of them owned a socket set. I was a bit confused.

Which is why some of the above stories about survival after big time warming strike me as optimistic. Or maybe will not include very many 1st world descendants.

PS: Anyone want to borrow a timing light or dwell meter? My have been on the shelf for nearly 30 years. Just can't bring myself to throw away working tools.

Anyone else here set the spark gap for a mower via tapping it on the concrete or spreading it with a screwdriver. To get it close enough by eye. Or a car in a pinch. :)

416:

I stick a hacksaw blade into the gap and then tap it on something clean and non abrasive. Hacksaw blades are about 0.65mm thick, and that's close enough.

417:

My wife and I like travelling the local metro systems - or lacking that the local tram system - when we visit cities1. As in, collecting all the stops on all the lines. So yes, we've done Helsinki's simple Y system as well as all its tram lines, and yes, you are rather missing a full set of tunnels.

Montreal on the other hand has quite an extensive system, and unless I've completely failed my memory since we did it in 2009 (or we missed new lines last year), it's entirely underground, even the termini. Given Montreal's winter climate there are good reasons for that - they also have a decent subterranean pedestrian complex in the centre so that people don't have to go outside to cross streets in the winter. What works against excessive snow can also work against excessive heat.

1Our one big failure: Vancouver. Yes, we had done all of the Skytrain system by the time we left for the airport, but they opened a new line an hour later. For double insult, it ran past our hotel to the airport.

418:

If you visited Helsinki earlier than 2017, you can come again and enjoy the new stations! With that addition, over half of the tracks are underground!

(I still haven't visited one of the new stations. I ride the metro past it often, but there's really no reason for me to stop there.)

419:

Bellinghman @ 417
Went to Berlin for the forst time last year ....
Ticked off:
Airport Bus, "normal" bus, tram, U-Bahn ( klein Profil ), U-Bahn ( grosse Profil ), S-Bahn, DB-regional and ... "Ersatz-Bus" ... i.e. Rail Replacement Bus to the unbeleivable THATCHED U-bahn station. ( This one )

420:

Oh, for. This again. There is a conversation attractor in all conversations about the future where energy starvation is just taken as a given, and it is insane.

This is not a future that can happen. The power will stay on even if we are all dying in droves from collapsing agriculture, because electricity stretches food supplies!
Without electricity, you have no refrigeration, and without refrigeration, food spoilage goes way up.
Without electricity, all work becomes muscle powered, and a manual laborer requires on the order of four to five times the food a laborer operating an electric machine doing the same job. Letting the power go out thus requires you to produce something on the order of 10 times the agricultural output to sustain the same population.

What will happen instead is that the power is kept on no matter how much effort that takes from the survivors, and then power will be thrown at the problem of food production.

And the power can be kept on even in the face of extremely wide spread disruption. The minimal supply chain for a functional (as opposed to a safe, gold-plated) nuclear reactor is very, very short. 1960s Sweden managed it with essentially no outside assistance, and that was inventing the entire system more or less from scratch.

If you have high-enrichment material to kick things off with, the easiest is probably a molten chloride fast reactor, which has some issues, but also has a very high breeding ratio, and is basically just a tank with a heat exchanger on top, and operates with an inlet temperature over 500 degrees c. Meaning, air-cooled even in lethal-temperature deserts, but there are options even if you have to start from blue prints and natural uranium.

421:

Ah, we were last there for the 2017 Worldcon, which I note is before the new stations opened. Oh dear, we'll have to return.

(There was a rather violent storm while we were there - it ripped off roofs and downed trees, but an hour later all was calm again. Most odd weather.)

422:

Thomas Jorgenson @42
Tell that to the people of Argentina & Uraguay, where something relly 'orrible has happened to their power distribution.

423:

And it was back up in less than 24 hours. People are not predicting transient outages, they are predicting a future without, or with very scarce, electricity, and that is bonkers.
I see it predicted constantly, and it does my head in, because it is just reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of possible political and economic settlements.
Anyone proposing we change society to an unpowered state will hang from lampposts, and rightly so.

Future without (new) modern computers? Sure, all that takes is breaking the global market into small enough chunks that none of them can support the necessary chip fabs.

Future without power? Phfthf. Electricity is not a child of the modern era, it is a child of the industrial revolution. Reactors are straightforward. Reactors where the "Acceptable level of safety" is recalibrated to "Going to loose 30% of the population if we do not get this running fast" are very, very easy. And cheap.

I would prefer if we went nuclear now, because that averts at least some of climate change, and also gets us plant built to very high standards. But if we do not do so, we will go nuclear later, using.. different standards.

424:

Large interconnected grids have nice benefits. Except when they have a cascade failure.

The future being described would likely NOT have large interconnected grids. More outages but not as widespread.

425:

TJ @ 423
Agree 150%
But, you are almost certainly going to have to dangle some of the loopy fake greenies from trees or lamp-posts first, to get the message across ....

426:

"What a lot of people don't seem to get is that a civilisation is an interconnected web of systems that are themselves integrated systems, that ...."

are themselves integrated standards and specifications, all of which require very specific manufacturing complexes, which are interconnected webs of - and so on.

427:

"And it was back up in less than 24 hours. People are not predicting transient outages, they are predicting a future without, or with very scarce, electricity, and that is bonkers."

The question of global warming is not whether we will have electricity. The question is whether we can sustain agriculture. That is, will the weather be too chaotic for plants to grow, (weather will keep changing until all the ice has melted and the global temperature settles down to something vaguely steady) and what parts of the world will be too hot for plants to grow?*

If things get bad enough, the order of events will be first, lose agriculture, second, lose electricity (because people will be too busy looking for food to do the necessary maintenance.)

"Anyone proposing we change society to an unpowered state will hang from lampposts, and rightly so."

Agreed completely, though we have to close down coal/gas plants as quickly as possible.

The Real Problem here is people not accepting a couple things. The first is that we will spend trillions fixing climate change, or there will be a multi-billion person die-off.** We're talking about a WWII-level effort here, but sustained for at least a couple-hundred years, with the first 50-100 years being a matter of one retreat and lost battle after another.

Second, we don't currently have a society which can sustain that kind of effort, so we need to re-imagine society. I'm not sure the "Green New Deal" gets everything right, but at least they're grappling with the problem.

* The current U.S. and British administrations are unfortunately of the "Brawndo has the electrolytes plants crave" school of politics.

** That includes the billionaires in their bunkers - if I've got to go, I'm going to spend my time while starving to death making sure I've buried their air-plant's intake vent in ten feet of concrete.

428:

Again. The electricity will be kept on even if we are all starving. People will literally feed the plant staff their dead before they let the power fail.

Because without electricity, what food there is will spoil. And because fertilizer production requires electricity. As does a number of other desperation gambits for getting calories. For example, you can convert cellulose to sugar by main force at any paper production facility. Sugar is not a complete diet, but it will stretch a failed harvest a long way.

429:


Apologies for that homophonic issue. I did indeed mean large piles of valuables rather than masses of troops.

That does however suggest the possible alternative that the dragons are using the gold to make wargames figures. Presumably as a method of sublimating their desires to ravage the landscape.

Now I'm trying to remember which story it was where the dragons ended up with a secondary market in princesses.

430:

I think a few people in Puerto Rico and Florida might disagree with you about the status of electricity in the scheme of things.

431:

Agreed completely, except on the subject of whether the efforts to keep electricity running will be successful - that might or might-not happen.

432:

The first is that we will spend trillions fixing climate change, or there will be a multi-billion person die-off.

As I keep saying, I believe that the smart, rich right-wingers (the people funding the white supremacists, not the knuckle-draggers themselves) see a multi-billion person die-off as the cheaper solution. And the white supremacists are willing to work towards that goal (by clamping down on borders to prevent climate refugees from entering, and persecuting perceived enemies within) because they actively want to kill the "mud people".

we don't currently have a society which can sustain that kind of effort, so we need to re-imagine society

My fear is that one possible shape of a society adapted to climate change is that of the Third Reich revisited: a thin population of white yeoman farmers trying to re-colonize land swept clean of its former occupants, supported by slaves (actual human slaves at first, robots when they run out of people to work to death.)

433:

Eastern Washington State has a lot of rich farmland because of vast socialist infrastructure projects from the 30's and 40's (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Coulee_Dam, etc). Grows a lot of fruit, certain vegetables, and potatoes with that water.

There is also a bunch of less-rich dryland farming over there (wheat, beans, hay, etc).

Previously this was a variety of prairie.

434:

I think food refrigeration is essentially a luxury, like coffee or chocolate.

In terms of overall calories food is stored piled up in huge buildings that keep it dry and make sure rats don't eat it all.

435:

Jeff Isher
Not even wrong
Refrigeration of food-supplies is an essential, now we've learnt how to do it cheaply & effectively.
Even a few days cooling, if not actual freezing helps ... there are (or used to be) water-evaporation-effect coolers that kept food "cold" - or at least not in the rapidly-rotting-food temperature range, never mind actual, powered devices.
There's also the scaling effect.
A butcher's walk-in freezer or Fridge is cheaper & more efficient than lots of little domestic ones.
I could see that becoming a trend, in desperate times.

436:

"My fear is that one possible shape of a society adapted to climate change is that of the Third Reich revisited:"

This is my fear as well. The way I solved it as I considered the future in my Climate-Change novel (currently on a lift with the engine and transmission removed) was to assume that a new constitution would take away some rights andestablish other rights.

In solving Climate-Change correctly we're definitely going to be telling people they can't do a lot of things they can currently do, ranging from building coal plants to barbequing in the back yard, and we'll be forcing people to do things they wouldn't otherwise do, like work for the Climate Army one month out of the year or rebuild their house to a better insulation standard. (We may send the army to rebuild their house to a better insulation standard!) So my take on things is that we have to add a freedom for every freedom we take away, so my future included a Bodily Autonomy amendment which makes drug (ab)use and prostitution legal, single-payer medical care, an absolute prohibition against racism, vaccinations against STDs, a constitutional prohibition against unscientific laws, a constitutional prohibition against laws which can be "weaponized" against other races, sexes, religions, etc., MUCH better data protection, (specifically, the government must get a warrant before purchasing data from a private party,) much better protections against corporate misbehavior, and so on.

I'm not in love with the idea of trading one right for another, but I think it's the best we're going to get in an imperfect world if we don't want a Climate-Change Reich.

437:

Yup. I was a little taken aback by earlier comments that it's all like Death Valley past the Cascades.

The original point, though, was that the Pacific Northwest can't accommodate 19 million-odd people moving north from southern California in the face of climate change, and even with all that lovely irrigated farmland out in the Palouse, I still think that's the case.

Anyway, Frank Herbert got his inspiration for Dune from the Oregon coastal dunes near Coos Bay, not from the Sagebrush Sea way out past Bend.

438:

No, I don't agree. Refrigeration is nice. And I don't see the energy it uses as being so critical that it will go away. But it could go away. In an 'everyone is on the verge of starving' scenario we all become near-vegetarians anyway. Butchers won't have much to refrigerate.

439:

Around Bend that old volcanic ground up rock makes for a strange color to the landscape of mostly sand.

440:

Um yeah. Bend is not the Ka'u desert.* It looks a bit more like this.

*The Ka'u desert is on the southern end of the Big Island of Hawai'i. It's a desert for two reasons:
1) it's about on the same latitude as Dubai
2) it's in the lee of a rather large volcano (Mauna Loa) so the rain clouds dump out on the Hilo side and it doesn't get much rain.

Fun place to visit, although I suspect people on the eastern edge of the Pond could find similar landscapes a lot closer, in the Canary Islands.

441:

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie... wrong submarine. I was thinking of one who's designer, builder and captain was named Nemo....

442:

I don't think so. I've heard second, or maybe read first-hand, that they never have enough of the right size, and the staff handing them out just don't care, as long as they're not so small that you can't get into them.

And those really aren't the ones rebelling. I think it's more along the lines of the down-in-the-bones knowledge that your odds are that you won't live past your mid-thirties, if you're lucky, and so live fast....

Which still leaves a "why look tough that way, when you can look tough like someone who's gotten away with it?" If you need to "look tough" the former way, it means you haven't gotten shit to be worth defending, other than yourself.

443:

Nope, haven't seen it. On the other hand, I've been seeing small stories about melting permafrost doing *bad* things in Alaska, and some Canada....

444:

The two tankers (isn't that a book title from some fantasy series?)... I have yet to see one bit of information about the incident: which way were the ships pointing, and which coast were the attacks from?

Houthis were my first guess, but SA/Qatar playing games could be.

Or Bolton and Sec'y of (mis)Education" DeVoss's brother, a founder of Blackwater/Xi/whatever would be a *really* good possibility. The more I think of that, the more I (dis)like it.

445:

Actually, I think the East - IL to the east coast, would be ok. Of course, first you burn/knock down the now-abaondoned exurban and farther-suburban villages, and then you've got all the highly-productive farmlands back.

Many of the folks who live there, of course, will die off, or keep running looking for a time machine to the past. I expect, before they go, a lot will wind up selling everything including their bodies.

Hell, I live in what used to be called a suburb (try to tell me it's not city...riiiight), and a year or two after I bought the place - that would make it around '12 or so, I was doing a brake job in my driveway, and the Hispanic guy next door one way, and the older black guy, retired AF, the other, and the mail carrier were all amazed... this is a neighborhood I'd expect most folks to work on their own vehicles.

And you'd really want to be my friend. Let me run my mind along the non-fiction bookshelves in the study, ah, yes, my 1974? copy of the CRC Handbook, the car repair manuals, the reproduction of an 1865 "cookbook"....

* I love the medical section: recipe for paragoric starts with "take one oz best Turkey opium, add x alcohol....

446:

Yeah... but right now, I want to sing Hope Eyrie, and my own Outbound Passage, and Sassafrass' Somebody Will, and, damn it, Tom Smith's Rocket Ride.

Gotta finish my Famous Secret Theory....

447:

I dunno how much of that "us white guys" is valid. I mean, are Italians, and Irish, and Spanish, and (fill in the nationality) all "white"? Ask someone whose family was always lower or middle working class about that.

Unless, of course, you mean "middle or upper class English or descendants of same).

God (tm), rule-based, always "good"? For what values of "good"?

Sorry, this one *REALLY* PISSES ME OFF, don't get me started on why, just take it as given.

448:

5 years? Really? My late wife had a years-old washer when I moved down to be with her, and, though I had to replace a belt once, was going for more like 10 when we moved. The washer in my current house - it was there when I bough the house in '11, and it was not new. I think I replaced a belt on it, and it's still going.

Now, older style washers.... I remember how happy my mom was, when I *may* have still been pre-teen, and she got a washer: one tub, electric rollers. Drying? That's why she opened the window to the next wing of the apartment building, and strung the clothes on the line.

I understand that front-loaders use less water. I'd think either kind would be uncomplicated to convert to pedal-powered.

Fridges? They last for mostly-ever.

449:

Agriculture breaks by 2030. (Agriculture is not doing well at all this year.)

Nor do we have any prospect of rendering thermally uninhabitable land habitable again; that's Alien Space Bat/The Culture Shows Up territory. So we're not looking at yeoman farmers; we're looking at a patchy die-back as people variously die in thermal events or of starvation or other infrastructure failure.

I don't disagree that the idiots on the right want and might think they can get that much whiter world, but they can't have it; it's not an available possibility.

450:

You can't see it at the level of Akkadian agriculture? Or the village smith in the Middle Ages? A forge is no big deal. Hell, with some research (probably in books I own), I could probably build a small furnace to make steel.

Here ya go: recyclers, after the collapse, separating out different sources of steel or rust, for specific kinds of steel. "Hey, Jimmy, point them to the pile over there, that was from railroad track, then take these other guys over to the pile of springs."

451:

Sewing machines.... I'll bet, if I asked my Eldest, if she's still in touch with her first boyfriend, from 30? years ago, if he's still got the sewing machine she gave him... that was my grandmother's treadle machine.

Any sewing machine would be easy to convert to treadle. Hmmm, I see a business opportunity, in making conversion kits....

452:

Your limit on metalworking is going to be how much charcoal or methane you can get. Back in the Middle Ages, an English city glassworks owned a woodland, solely so that, by coppicing it, they'd have enough charcoal to keep the kilns hot. Where forests of suitable plants will grow near cities, we'll get your scenario. For a place like San Diego, it's going to be scrap trains heading north to provide material for the people in the rainforest north of the desert. Vegas will be a time capsule, simply because, not only will there not be trees, there won't be any water, nor (if current plans pan out) will any of the springs that used to let travelers pass through the desert have water in them. The only way to pass through the Nevada desert is to wait for a really wet winter, take a herd of goats to keep you fed, and trek as fast as you can across the desert before the greenery gives out.

453:

Detergent... that's a detail. First, let me note that I read, back in the late seventies? early eighties? that some researchers had tested, and found that detergent (as was available then) didn't do a much better job than the washing machines, *without* detergent, did.

So, make some Real Soap (thank you, Dr. Bronner...), and away you go.

454:

Why do dragons want hords? I've got it! Dragons probably can smell lead, which they then melt (by breathing fire on the rock), and then they build a pile (and I do mean "pile") in a cave, and sleep on it... and can draw alpha particles out of the lead. The final upshot is that, like Gojiro, their fire and flying capabilities are nuclear powered, after turning lead into gold.... (atomic # 82 -) atomic # 79)

455:

From what I was reading a few years ago, there seem to be about 2,000 homo sap about 70k or 78k years ago, and we're *all* descended from them.

100k years is a *long* time, and given that some percentage of survivors *will* know how to do things, and know things, and they will make *S*U*R*E* that their kids learn it, I think we'd be back to at least Victorian tech in centuries.

Now, if, as in the universe I've lately been writing in, the planet you lived on only had the colony and the island, or small continent around it terraformed (mostly), you'd have a *lot* more issues (they did, in my storyline), and it might take several thousand years, being as how you're trying to *make* dirt to grow food....

456:

Gaseous diffusion plant?

I grew up in Philly. Think the Philly Naval Yard, and the SEVEN oil refineries in south Philly, and Sandy Hook, 30 mi away, I think, made 8. If the button was pushed, we were radioactive waste, and so was everything and everyone, practically, that we knew.

457:

Really? On one of the two best vacations in my life, '96, when my late wife and son and I drove from Chicago to Worldcon in Anaheim, by way of the Great Northwet, what we saw was lots of trees as we headed west from Spokane... for about half an hour or so on the Interstate. We then cut off, and went at about a 45 degree angle southwest through Washington state to cross the Columbia into Oregon.

What horrified us was that all of central WA looked like it had been clearcut.

Driving along the Columbia, west, the cliffs, far above, on the Oregon side were green and wooded, while the Washington side were bare rock and dirt.

So I've always thought Oregon was in better shape.

458:

Never used a dwell meter, but I've thought of using my timing light as a ray gun, it being chromed all over....

Huh. Shade tree mechanic. My late wife and I bought gauges, so when we set the spark plug gap (and, on the late dearly beloved departed Toyota Tercel wagon, I'd do the lifters), they were Correct.

459:

Also note: food refrigeration is a cheap sterilization strategy. Cold kills most vermin and parasites, and retards decomposition. It also makes it possible to ship food long distances between continents where it grows and continents where it's consumed.

Domestic refrigeration is more arguable, but can be made more efficient by incorporating more/better insulation (fridges are bulkier but contain less food) and changing consumer approaches (isn't something like 10-20% of sold food discarded in the developed world?).

460:

About that... on slashdot, today, I see that. I also read about the NYT report that the CIA installed malware on the Russian electrical grid.

I would be utterly unshocked to find out that South America was a test.

461:

I don't disagree that the idiots on the right want and might think they can get that much whiter world, but they can't have it; it's not an available possibility.

When they realize they can't get it, then—because their self-definition is based on hierarchy—their likely response will be to say "fuck you, if we're gonna die you're gonna die too" and attack anyone who seems to be treading water.

If the Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System (aka Kanyon, aka Poseidon) ever gets commissioned, I can see them being fired at Cumbre Vieja, the coastline of Sumatra, and maybe Lake Taupo if the Waikato river is navigable by Status-6. (Hmm. Maybe send a couple of them to blast a channel into the volcanic plateau, shades of Project Ploughshare.)

After all, if Mother Russia is going down, why should those billionaire asshole survivalists in New Zealand get to live? Or anyone on the North Atlantic coasts of Europe and the United States, for that matter?

462:

Knocking over power grids is the sort of thing that will invite serious retaliation in the near future, particularly when these high temperature events become common.

463:

No; only really simple single-stitch mechanical sewing machines are suitable for treadle conversion. There are any number of 19th century and early 20th century Singers out there, not to mention hand-cranked chain-stitch machines. But stuff like my wife's new-for-Christmas sewing machine won't convert in a bazillion years. (Hint: it has touchscreen and a USB port for uploading new stitch designs: I'm pretty sure it runs on an embedded linux with a custom gui. Not so much a sewing machine as a robot that happens to be designed to shove needles through fabric.)

464:

Oh, snap. Domestic machines went electronic a long time ago, these days even the $50 specials have critical parts electronic (stitch length and width for example, so they can do fancy stitches). Sure, you could lock that down and have "this machine does 3mm straight stitch" but even that would be hard.

I was somewhat surprised to find a recent industrial overlocker where they'd simplified construction by using stepper motors rather than mechanical linkages. Good luck converting that to manual operation. The surprise, BTW, was "industrial" not "stepper motor".

465:

I raise you growing up in Leeds during the cold war.

Five miles east of my home was the Vickers tank factory, where they made Chieftains and Scorpions. Twelve miles north-west was Leeds-Bradford Airport (able to handle C5s, C130s, and wide-bodies if necessary). Four miles south: the head end of the M1 motorway, the main north-south road connecting London and Yorkshire, by way of Sheffield (hint: steelworks, military convoys). Two miles south: a major railway station on a spur of the East Coast Main Line and square on the TransPennine line connecting Liverpool (Atlantic convoys come in) and Hull (Europe-bound resupply ships go out). Ten miles south there's the M62, the main east-west motorway between Liverpool/Manchester/Leeds-Bradford/Hull, and as if that's not enough there was a goddamn canal. Oh, and about 10-20 miles north there was Catterick barracks, the biggest British Army base in the North of England.

Leeds is central enough it even caught the Gestapo's eye: they'd earmarked Quarry House in the city centre as their headquarters for England after they were victorious in Operation Sealion.

There's a reason I had it targeted by Elves in "The Nightmare Stacks"; Leeds is an obvious strategic target, and if I was recolonizing a depopulated British Isles it's where I'd have my Imperial satrap establish her colonial capital.

466:

On election day in Argentina no less...

467:

The use of refrigeration for long distance shipping is really less important than its fixed applications. The thing to do with long distance food shipping is simply to stop doing it. It's bloody daft to transport dead sheep half way round the world from New Zealand to Britain instead of eating the ones we grow in Scotland and Wales, for instance. If what can be grown locally isn't enough, then the answer is not to try and ship in more (which idea is in any case just a hangover from the pre-powered-transport era tendency to estimate the size of "the rest of the world" as "infinite"), but to get the only species on the planet that has full conscious voluntary control over its reproduction rate to actually bother to exert that control in a manner appropriate to the situation (cf. one of your other posts). (Unfortunately not only is it a minority who even admit the need for such measures, but even among that minority nearly everyone thinks that they personally are somehow exempt.)

Or from a completely different angle, long distance food shipping has been going on for vastly longer than long distance perishable food shipping, because things like grain are only a little more difficult than things like gravel.

"incorporating more/better insulation (fridges are bulkier but contain less food)"

...like they used to be?

As far as things like this are concerned we need to lose this obsession with making everything fit into a 600mm wide gap. It just isn't big enough to get the required amount of insulation and a useful amount of internal capacity in a box that size. Old fridges from before this ill-thought-out standard came in used to have several times the wall thickness of current ones.

Same applies to ovens. They absolutely need some kind of thermal barrier around the hot compartment just to stop them setting fire to the cupboards or whatever that the cooker is next to. But we have designers who think that the barrier's only function is to keep the heat off the cupboards, and are happy to pay no attention to its ability to keep heat inside the oven in their obsession with minimising its thickness. So we end up with the hot compartment surrounded by a fucking cooling jacket with a fan continuously blowing air through it because that needs less thickness to keep the outer surface temperatures down than actual insulation would, and a corresponding increase in power supplied to the elements to keep the inside temperature up despite the extra cooling. It's almost too shit for words.

"isn't something like 10-20% of sold food discarded in the developed world?"

I thought it was a lot more than that. Supermarkets take perfectly edible food that has passed some arbitrary date and bin it in locked skips in a secure compound, in huge quantities, when they should instead, if they can't sell it, pile it out front and let people take it away for free. But because it's all locked away people hardly even recognise that this is going on at all.

468:

Actually, not that I believe in this stuff, but pure speculation, the kind to allow you to throw believers crumbs that at least let them jump on the "young Earthers" was to suggest that the world was "created" when humans became self-aware.

469:

While a Poseidon drone in the Waikato would probably mess up the North Island pretty badly, Taupo is at the top of a multi-dam hydro-electric system, with the Huka Falls just before you'd get to Taupo proper. So no nuclear drones in supervolcanos, I suspect.

470:

"Many washing machines have a 5 year life due to the use of sealed bearings. (Or at least that used to be the issue.) If you had the time to take one apart and re-oil and re-seal the bearing they would last a very very long time."

IME you're never aware the bearing even needs attention until it's worn enough that the drum starts wobbling on its spindle, and so needs replacement. But they are easy enough to replace if you have a big enough hammer, and they are standard industrial sizes which you can always get.

You can, for instance, get them from a bearing factor when the washing machine shop insists that they don't exist and you have to replace the entire drum assembly, both inner and outer, instead of just the bearing between the two. The reason they claim this is that on that model of drum the outer shell is made from two glass-loaded plastic mouldings held together by self-tappers with a thread pitch of about 45°, which can be successfully tightened exactly once, ie. at the factory; if you then take them out again to change the bearing, there's enough wear in the holes that when you put them back they work loose after a couple of wash cycles and the drum starts leaking.

To which the Pigeon response is to observe that the holes for the self-tappers go all the way through and have a nice flat surface around the other end, so you can replace them with long bolts plus nylocs and a penny washer on either end and then blow a nice long raspberry at whoever thought that one up.

Re spark plug gaps, yes, I do exactly that, although I generally use the cylinder head as the thing to tap on. Also setting the timing by finding a hill to drive up at 40mph in top gear and twiddling the distributor until it just doesn't pink; setting the points by eye, or if I'm feeling really fussy / can't see what I'm doing, using a Rizla packet; setting the tappets by feel; torquing the head bolts by feel; etc. etc. I'm not going to spend £70 on the manufacturer's set of bits and bobs for setting the timing on some diesel engine that I'm not going to see more than once if I can do it just as accurately with a drill bit and a feeler gauge and the extension bar out of my socket set, plus a bit of understanding of the basic principles of what I'm trying to achieve. Same deal for other types of machinery, eg. replacing the individual head chips on the drum of a VCR using a soldering iron and a screwdriver and the head chips off the drum of some other VCR that was dead. I tend to regard "you can't do that, you need $specialist_equipment" as inviting the response "oh yeah?"

471:

Yes, we had done all of the Skytrain system by the time we left for the airport, but they opened a new line an hour later. For double insult, it ran past our hotel to the airport.

If you go back, do not count on the Canada Line getting you to the airport during rush hour. It doubles as a commuter line, and one trip I after waiting four trains and not seeing a gap I ended up getting on it going the other way, riding a couple of stops to the Seabus station that is it's other terminus, and getting on there to get to the airport. By the second stop there was no more room on the train and it stayed that way almost until we got to the airport.

It's a great idea, but rather a problem for passengers with flights to catch as I can't find anything on the transit web site that warns you of this – so someone relying on the online trip planner might miss their flight.

472:

.. Re those drones of world unmaking. I look at those, and go... "Reactor fuel!"

I mentioned fast spectrum molten salt machines? Well, starting the first generation of those up needs high enrichment mixes (They can be strong breeders, so second and subsequent gen can be loaded up with fuel siphoned from gen one and replaced with depleted uranium and table salt) Which means a serious energy crisis is going to involve a fun bureaucratic battle in which the Power Authority shows up with angle grinders and goes "Those nuclear warheads? Waste of Plutonium. Going to disassemble them now"

473:

I.e. the following:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/15/us/politics/trump-cyber-russia-grid.html
https://mobile.twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1140065300186128384?p=v
https://mobile.twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1140065304019644427?p=v

It is notable that the UK (and, I assume, USA) press is very keen to spout vitriol about Russian hacking, but has studiously ignored this. You will remember how I was flamed by the anti-Russian bigots for saying that there was no evidence that Russia had done any more hacking than was SOP by the USA and UK.

A pox on ALL your houses!

474:

No offence to all you washing machine repairmen, but the faults I've seen in recent machines are 90% electronic. Fixing those means scraping off the conformal coating and soldering in new parts. Fortunately they're usually discrete components and it's often simple ones that go rather than the proprietary ICs. Obviously there are no manuals available so working out what isn't working is hard. The other failures I've seen are things that are technically replaceable but in practice you can't buy the parts except by paying the cost of a new machine to an authorised service technician.

I find it simpler to work out what is the least awful of the widely available second hand machines and buy one of those. The current one came from what looked like someone repairing machines at home.

Sadly it also only has a cold water inlet and insists on heating water itself (I live in a share house and have not discovered a way to get people not to let the machine default to hot washes, and the machine will not work at all with the element disconnected). The previous machine had a hot water inlet and when I disconnected its internal element it just used all hot water (which came from the cold tap via a T). In Sydney a "cold" wash is generally 15 degrees or so, which is fine with modern detergents.

475:

Note that an awful lot of modern electrical household stuff is "warranty void if not used with a surge suppressor", and many have power supplies that will not work with square wave inverters or dodgy power from generators. By not work I mean permanently - they break.

So part of a microgrid or locally generated electricity supply will be making sure the power that comes out is all clean and shiny.

Due to the number of "smart" power supplies brownouts are also less effective - lots of things will keep drawing their full rated power at 10% or even 20% less than rated input, and those of us in 240V countries might find that stuff keeps working right down to 100V. But on hot sunny days all the rooftop PV pushes the voltage *up* and it's now resistive loads that are getting hot and possibly buring out. So operating grids is also subtly more complex than it used to be.

But within 10 years of the silicon foundaries going out of business 90% of that stuff will stop working because somewhere in the chain of "make this go" a critical bit will have stopped working. A lot of modern power electronics have service lives less than 10 years.

476:

As far as things like this are concerned we need to lose this obsession with making everything fit into a 600mm wide gap.

That will happen just as soon as modern home builders start designing kitchens that are bigger than shoeboxes. Modern kitchens have more appliances than the old days (let's see, sink(s), stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, freezer, microwave oven and under-counter storage units) and four or five square metres of floorspace to fit them in, including space for the kitchen user to stand. Old-time kitchens[1] were huge but they came with servants and/or younger children to do a lot of the work, hand-washing clothes, hauling coal from the bunker for the cooking range, washing dishes and scouring pots etc. There isn't room in modern kitchens for such labour-saving devices, just 600mm-wide robots.

[1]The kitchen in our 1850s upper-middle class flat is about six metres long and four metres wide, about half the size of an entire modern economy 1-bedroom flat. I sometimes make sandwiches to eat on the way to the microwave oven in case I get hungry on the trip.

477:

That is why I loathe the unnecessary use of electronic controllers. All the other mechanical parts apart from the controller are still there, just the same and with the same failure modes/rates, but the controller itself is now this dodgy heap of crap that fails 10 times more often than the rest of the bits put together. In return for this arseache you get... different shape buttons to press to turn the thing on, and a shitload of pointless "features" most of which you'll probably never even suspect the existence of, let alone use, and wouldn't notice any significant change in the end result even if you did use them; or more succinctly, fuck all.

Then to add insult to injury there are also a load of hidden extra "features" that are devoted to fighting you every step of the way if you dare to take the lid off. Like the one you mention, where you can't just disconnect some function because you don't want to use it, you also have to mess around endlessly to work out how the bastard is detecting you've disconnected it, then work out how to frig the detection without using an actual 10 amp load. (Which I am prepared to spend many, many hours doing if that's what it takes, because merely discovering the existence of crap like this puts ten thousand volts into my "fuck you" response.) And of course the "Universal Bastard" feature shared by all such devices, of detecting faults and shutting off the power within milliseconds of you switching it on, so you've nothing to measure trying to find the fault yourself.

This happens, of course, because the primary function of a capitalist washing machine is not to get clothes washed with the minimum of hassle, but to extract money from the consumer.

Tim McCaffrey