Back to: Books I Will Not Write #8: The Year of the Conspiracy | Forward to: Introducing a new guest blogger: Sheila Williams

All Glory to the New Management!

Dead Lies Dreaming - UK cover

Today is September 27th, 2020. On October 27th, Dead Lies Dreaming will be published in the USA and Canada: the British edition drops on October 29th. (Yes, there will be audio editions too, via the usual outlets.)

This book is being marketed as the tenth Laundry Files novel. That's not exactly true, though it's not entirely wrong, either: the tenth Laundry book, about the continuing tribulations of Bob Howard and his co-workers, hasn't been written yet. (Bob is a civil servant who by implication deals with political movers and shakers, and politics has turned so batshit crazy in the past three years that I just can't go there right now.)

There is a novella about Bob coming next summer. It's titled Escape from Puroland and Tor.com will be publishing it as an ebook and hardcover in the USA. (No UK publication is scheduled as yet, but we're working on it.) I've got one more novella planned, about Derek the DM, and then either one or two final books: I'm not certain how many it will take to wrap the main story arc yet, but rest assured that the tale of SOE's Q-Division, the Laundry, reaches its conclusion some time in 2015. Also rest assured that at least one of our protagonists survives ... as does the New Management.

All Glory to the Black Pharaoh! Long may he rule over this spectred isle!

(But what's this book about?)

Dead Lies Dreaming - US cover

Dead Lies Dreaming is the first book in a project I dreamed up in (our world's) 2017, with the working title Tales of the New Management. It came about due to an unhappy incident: I found out the hard way that writing productively while one of your parents is dying is rather difficult. The first time it happened, it took down a promising space opera project. I plan to pick it up and re-do it next year, but it was the kind of learning experience I could happily have done without. The second time it happened, I had to stop work on Invisible Sun, the third and final Empire Games novel—I just couldn't get into the right head-space. (Empire Games is now written and in the hands of the production folks at Tor. It will almost certainly be published next September, if the publishing industry survives the catastrophe novel we're all living through right now.)

Anyway, I was unable work on the a project with a fixed deadline, but I couldn't not write: so I gave myself license to doodle therapeutically. The therapeutic doodles somehow colonized the abandoned first third of a magical realist novel I pitched in 2014, and turned into an unexpected attack novel titled Lost Boys. (It was retitled Dead Lies Dreaming because a cult comedy movie from 1987 got remade for TV in 2020—unless you're a major bestseller you do not want your book title to clash with an unrelated movie—but it's still Lost Boys in my headcanon.)

Lost Boys—that is, Dead Lies Dreaming—riffs heavily off Peter and Wendy, the original taproot of Peter Pan, a stage play and novel by J. M. Barrie that predates the more familiar, twee, animated Disney version of Peter Pan from 1953 by some decades. (Actually Peter and Wendy recycled Barrie's character from an earlier work, The Little White Bird, from 1902, but let's not get into the J. M. Barrie arcana at this point.) Peter and Wendy can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg here. And if you only know Pan from Disney, you're in for a shock.

Barrie was writing in an era when antibiotics hadn't been discovered, and far fewer vaccines were available for childhood diseases. Almost 20% of children died before reaching their fifth birthday, and this was a huge improvement over the earlier decades of the 19th century: parents expected some of their babies to die, and furthermore, had to explain infant deaths to toddlers and pre-tweens. Disney's Peter is a child of the carefree first flowering of the antibiotic age, and thereby de-fanged, but the original Peter Pan isn't a twee fairy-like escapist fantasy. He's a narcissistic monster, a kidnapper and serial killer of infants who is so far detached from reality that his own shadow can't keep up. Barrie's story is a metaphor designed to introduce toddlers to the horror of a sibling's death. And I was looking at it in this light when I realized, "hey, what if Peter survived the teind of infant mortality, only to grow up under the dictatorship of the New Management?"

This led me down all sorts of rabbit holes, only some of which are explored in Dead Lies Dreaming. The nerdish world-building impulse took over: it turns out that civilian life under the rule of N'yar lat-Hotep, the Black Pharaoh (in his current incarnation as Fabian Everyman MP), is harrowing and gruesome in its own right—there's a Tzompantli on Marble Arch: indications that Lovecraft's Elder Gods were worshipped under other names by other cultures: oligarchs and private equity funds employ private armies: and Brexit is still happening—but nevertheless, ordinary life goes on. There are jobs for cycle couriers, administrative assistants, and ex-detective constables-turned-security guards. People still need supermarkets and high street banks and toy shops. The displays of severed heads on the traffic cameras on the M25 don't stop drivers trying to speed. Boys who never grew up are still looking for a purpose in life, at risk of their necks, while their big sisters try to save them. And so on.

Dead Lies Dreaming is the first of the Tales of the New Management, which are being positioned as a continuation of the Laundry Files (because Marketing). There will be more. A second novel, In His House, already exists in first draft. Tt's a continuation of the story, remixed with Sweeney Todd and Mary Poppins—who in the original form is, like Peter Pan, much more sinister than the Disney whitewash suggests. A third novel, Bones and Nightmares, is planned. (However, I can't give you a publication date, other than to say that In His house can't be published before late 2022: COVID19 has royally screwed up publishers' timetables.)

Anyway, you probably realized that instead of riffing off classic British spy thrillers or urban fantasy tropes, I'm now perverting beloved childhood icons for my own nefarious purposes—and I'm having a gas. Let's just hope that the December of 2016 in which Dead Lies Dreaming is set doesn't look impossibly utopian and optimistic by the time we get to the looming and very real December of 2020! I really hate it when reality front-runs my horror novels ...

1053 Comments

1:

I pre-ordered several weeks ago, when Amazon started getting serious about telling me about it. Looking forward to reading.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywCH3HN2S7E

2:

I know that it was probably not one of your childhood icons, but my reaction to reading this was "Ah! An ideal setting for a Mowgli story. With tentacles."

3:

This all sounds fascinating and wonderful and I am anxiously awaiting Dead Lies Dreaming's delivery to my kindle in a months time.

A new Charlie Stross book is always a happy time and I am thankful that your muse keeps beating you about to write more. I shall expect the next writing project when it arrives and thank you for continuing to write.

thank you Charlie.

Steve

4:

Just double-checked my Amazon pre-order for the hardback and it still looks like it's good :-). All I can say is, all hail the new management!

5:

I will have to check in with Transreal & get me a signed copy, I see ....
However ... EC ...
The Mowgli stories already have realistic attitude to death ...
Everyone comes to Chil, the Kite, in the end.
Or - Bagheera - A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin softer than down. Yes?

6:

This is not a spoiler because it won’t mean anything until you’ve read “Dead Lies Dreaming”: but the central protagonist of the trilogy is Eve, and “In His House” kicks off with Eve, a week after the climax of DLD, hunting for a very important missing piece of paper (not the book) ...

7:

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie (novel published 1911). Peter Pan by Walt Disney Studios (movie released 1953). Time elapsed between novel and movie: 42 years.

Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross (novel published 2020). The Lost Boys by Walt Disney Studios (movie released 2062). Time elapsed between novel and movie: 42 years.

Any thoughts? Should the film of your book be a classic animation, a Pixar-like animation, or a "live action" / greenscreened version? And more importantly, will the movie-to-be be a musical?

8:

Live action (or photorealistic CGI). And there's far too much shooting and bleeding for it to be made by Disney. Not to mention the torture scenes, before we get to the gruesome body horror in "In His House".

9:

I'm always looking forward to new Laundry (or Laundry-adjacent) material, so I'm a happy camper.

Regarding adaptations... this seems tailor-made for an anime studio. Someone like the guys that did Hellsing Ultimate or Black Butler.

10:

Kipling was of course a pretty good hand at horror when he wanted to be. Bubbling Well Road springs to mind.

Charlie: this is probably a silly question, but how comprehensible is your work likely to be to someone who doesn't know the Disney version of Peter Pan as well as not knowing the original?

11:

This reminds me of Régis Loisel's 6 volume boardbook (hard bound comics) series: Peter Pan. He obtained the legal rights for the characters. He wrote and drew the series from 1990 to 2004. It was advertised as a dark and violent prequel to Barrie's Peter Pan. It was too dark and violent for me. I only read one volume, a library copy.

12:

And The Mark of the Beast and others. But I was thinking about the human brought up by non-humans aspect - while The Jungle Books are not squeamish, they are not horror.

13:

Amazon informs me that I pre-ordered this book on December 31, 2019.

14:

Question Charlie, when you say "Also rest assured that at least one of our protagonists survives" is this you being cheeky around the fact a large number of the cast has slowly been becoming both less than human and... one could even argue alive for a definition of the word at least?

Or is this a blunt, lots of folks are going to die, protagonists among them, hard stop?

15:

how comprehensible is your work likely to be to someone who doesn't know the Disney version of Peter Pan as well as not knowing the original?

Quite comprehensible, they'd just miss some of the deeper references.

16:

is this you being cheeky around the fact a large number of the cast has slowly been becoming both less than human ... or is this a blunt, lots of folks are going to die, protagonists among them, hard stop?

What, I didn't kill enough of them in The Rhesus Chart or the climax of The Labyrinth Index?

Seriously: I don't know. I know that one particular major character must have survived because they show up in In His House. I know that a different one dies, because they die in the penultimate Laundry story arc novel The Valkyrie Confession (assuming I ever write it -- it's kind of dark and I may leave it out, in which case that character doesn't need to die). I know my fans will form a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob if I kill off Bob and Mo or don't give them at least a happy-for-now ending.

But I don't know because you're asking me about a book I haven't written and indeed had planned, only for COVID19 to blow my planned resolution of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN right out of the water.

17:

Haha, completely fair answer then.

Was trying to figure out if Bob and Mo counted as alive enough to be killed off given the last few books.

18:

Am I allowed to offer some non-spoiler commentary on it?

19:

You mean that anything produced by Disney in the past half-century has DEPTH?

20:

If I remember correctly the Mandate needs to be quite close to people to brainwash them, so I'm curious as to how he turned all of Britain into a dictatorship featuring massive piles of skulls in London without sparking a civil war/Scotland breaking off/the EU launching a first strike once they realise who's running the show etc etc.

Also, I've got a question about The Labyrinth Index. If memory serves the spell cast by the Black Chamber making people forget the President exists only covers the US. Given all the overseas military bases, embassies, overseas citizens etc etc how come the whole world didn't freak out within a day once they realised the Americans no longer knew they had a President? If nothing else surely NATO would notice almost instantaneously.

21:

I bought an edition of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens from Folio, and then realised that my young sons might not appreciate it (they had just been in a musical production of Peter Pan). I assume that is in the same thread as the original play?

22:

Look, the sheeple were persuaded to give the ERG free reign, so why wouldn't they do the same for the Mandate?

24:

If I remember correctly the Mandate needs to be quite close to people to brainwash them

The Mandate has levelled up continuously since he first showed up on the Laundry's radar a couple of years ago; he's got full-blown Elder God mojo at this point. The whole of Westminster is in his thrall, and the UK is governed and run as an elective dictatorship, and if you've got CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN coming at you on all sides why wouldn't you want the strongest and most experienced pair of hands at the helm? Even if it costs the odd human sacrifice ...

25:

Is now the best time to release a new work? How much does in person promotion by yourself usually figure into the marketing plans, something you probably cant do much of in the current environment.

26:

And there's far too much shooting and bleeding for it to be made by Disney. Not to mention the torture scenes,

So a musical, then?

Nothing like singing and dancing to gently elide the underlying horror…

27:

I know my fans will form a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob if I kill off Bob and Mo or don't give them at least a happy-for-now ending.

This is when you pastiche Chinese romantic films: they realize they love each other, then one of them dies while the other survives (and the dead one didn't die saving the survivor).

28:

Could we get Mel "The Inquisition" Brooks to do the musical?

Not that there is that much difference between some musicals and torture...

29:

Is now the best time to release a new work?

No, but as books are scheduled years in advance I don't get a choice in the matter.

(In-person promotion is thankfully not that big an element these days, and everyone's doing it via the internet these days -- watch this blog for possible Zoom talks over the next couple of months.)

30:

Trottelreiner
REALLY - is that the best you can do?
The Spanish Inquisition ... which non-one was expecting!
Continuing with - Or again, oh dear [ Monty Python, of course.... ]

31:

well, some of the movies they distribute... (Coco, Inside Out...)

32:

"Even if it costs the odd human sacrifice"

I can imagine the Daily Mail headlines that would bring the country 'round to supporting it wholeheartedly.

I might even write a couple of them down, on the kind of day when people who've told me "You need to get out more" ring up and tell me, very carefully and clearly "Actually, Nile, we'd rather you stayed in".

And I guess you've kept that in the background, in your writing, because someone has to buy it, and not sue you for trauma; and you would rather not descend into writing something that would make you wake up screaming in the night.

33:

The short version: I can see an Elder God, or something far, far worse than the Black Pharaoh as you have portrayed him, becoming the Prime Minister, and a wildly popular one, by the use of money, media influence, and social media manipulation.

It's not even difficult.

34:

I'm meaning no offence, but you lost me at 'torture scenes'. That's not a desired or even acceptable part of my reading escapism.

35:

Could we get Mel "The Inquisition" Brooks to do the musical?

I was thinking Gilbert and Sullivan myself…

(They're dead? In the Laundry-verse, is that really a barrier?)

36:

I was thinking Gilbert and Sullivan myself…

(They're dead? In the Laundry-verse, is that really a barrier?)

I am the very model of a non-Euclidean Deity
I've information that will turn you mad with spontaneity.
I know the gods of old, and their true names prehistorical
From Azathoth to Cthulhu, in order categorical...

37:

All glory to the Hypnotoad Prime Minister!"

38:

I got to read this book a while ago, and it was good. It was clearly set in the horrible, depressing Laundryverse, and yet... it's a shockingly up-beat book, about love and family. Also about hate and family, evil and family, and so forth.

But it's a good book.

39:
if it costs the odd human sacrifice ...
Surely he's going for prime numbers of human sacrifice.
40:

Nor me; I am not into sadism. But there is a huge difference between scenes that are an essential part of the story and not overdone, and when the story (author?) seems to relish the torture and mayhem or it starts to dominate the story. Given OGH's record, the former seems more likely.

41:

He is going to keep going until he gets to an even prime greater than 2.

On another topic IIRC there was a mention in TLI that the black pharoah had active avatars in various other countries including N Korea, so that's our post brexit trade deal sorted.

42:

I've had similar conversations with my son about the Jungle Book characters. Kaa is particularly ill-served by all film adaptations which automatically decided "snake is scary, must be evil".

Which completely misses the point of the character. The snake is scary because the snake is the adult protector. The wolves, Baloo and Bagheera are all in the situation of being big sibling figures, and Mowgli outgrows them - but he grows *into* his friendship with Kaa. A child might look up at their parents (or other role models) and love them, but still be slightly scared of what they can do, especially when it comes to protecting their child. As the child grows up, they (hopefully) build this into more mutual respect. Making Kaa the baddie does a profound disservice to Kipling's work.

(I'm put in mind of the Neil Gaiman poem "Locks", where he dissects the Goldilocks story. Checking in his child's bed to see if anyone has snuck in. Again. Again. Again...)

44:

Surely he's going for prime numbers of human sacrifice.

This is where those factorisation algorithms for large numbers (and the dedicated chipsets for doing the same) come into their own... Though I guess this is already a plot element in the original Laundry.

45:

Films of books almost invariably disgracefully misrepresent them, and we would be (culturally) better off without them. But, marketing, beloved child of Cthulhu, dictates otherwise :-( I have heard that the Disney ones are even worse, but I am glad to say that I have never seen one. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.

Actually, Baloo and Kaa / Bagheera are more like uncle figures - the former is a common trope; the latter is rarer, but occurs. Remember that Kipling's background is from when children of his class were often brought up by relatives (as he was), a long way away from home; I had 6 months of something similar. I read the wolves as the 'adoptive' family and the others as friendly relatives.

The stories got darker later, of course.

46:

Hi Charles,

what about ebook editions?

47:

I can imagine the Daily Mail headlines that would bring the country 'round to supporting it wholeheartedly.

You remember the Newgate Calendar?

There's a scene early in In His House (should it survive to the final draft and eventually be published) in which one of our petty crooks is passing Marble Arch and a street vendor sells her the modern version -- a glossy part-work magazine complete with a cover-mounted DVD showing the public executions of the current inmates on the corner-gibbets of the Tzompantli. (She deliberately pays for it with a forged banknote, which is itself a capital offense -- hanging, drawing, and quartering, if we go back to Newton's mint.)

You know it makes sense!

48:

Ebook editions (for their respective territories) are published at the same time as the hardback paper editions. You can find them via the usual stores.

49:

None of them are parents, of course, not being human. (And the actual parents having been killed and eaten by Shere Khan. :) The point is what they represent. The wolves were immediate siblings and family, of course, but Baloo and Bagheera were all about how you protect yourself, and pretty much they were a "dividual" rather than having definitely distinct characters. For me this always felt more like "bigger brother" territory. In the second-to-last Mowgli story though, he's completely outgrown both of them, and Kaa is who he turns to for guidance on how to think like an adult.

I'm not sure this would translate well into the Laundryverse though! Talking sentient animals would be an interesting diversion, but I'm not sure how it'd fit. I could see a demonic/magical version of a "universal translator" giving a very Stross-like spin to Dr Doolittle though, in the same way that Bob can command the undead. (With easy access to comedy elements for exactly what the inner monologue of various animals sounds like.)

50:

Films of books almost invariably disgracefully misrepresent them

It's the nature of the media conversion process.

A film script runs at one page per minute of screen time, and about 250 words of dialog and directions per page. So a 2 hour feature film is the output from a 120 page script. This is a lot shorter than a novel, for some reason!

If you want a faithful representation of a book in visual form you need to turn to TV mini-series or graphic novels.

A TV show may only have 42-60 minutes per episode (depending on advertising intermissions -- streaming services omit the ads because they're pay-to-view), but it has a lot more hours of screen time than a movie, so can do a much better job. Production costs are in the range £300,000/hour to £3M/hour for a high quality show.

A graphic novel ... roughly the same timing rule applies -- 1 page of script per illustrated final page, 24 pages/issue, 124 pages to a collected volume -- and is written in the expectation that a reader will scan maybe 1 page/minute (or slower). The constraint there is that the artistic style needs to be consistent, i.e. to emerge from one person -- and good artists seldom work faster than 1 page per day, so a 124 page book involves not just a script but also the work of the primary artist, colourer(s), and letterer(s), for about 6 months (leaving time for weekends, vacation, and sick leave). Assuming you don't pay them abusively you're therefore talking about 2-3 artist-years' of work per 2 hour book, plus editorial, which isn't going to come in at less than £100,000.

So of the three forms, graphic novel adaptations are the cheapest to produce (ball park: £25-50,000 per hour of viewing time), then TV (roughly £300-3M per hour) and finally film (£3M to £300M per hour).

... Guess why none of my work has been turned into a movie yet?

51:

Hmm. I agree that it's hard to tell sufficiently elder siblings from uncles and aunts, but I am pretty sure that my upbringing was closer to his than yours was and I have a brother 14 years younger. Quite a lot of the story related fairly closely to my childhood experiences. I strongly got the bumbling uncle from Baloo, and the protective guardian from Kaa and, to some extent, Bagheera.

In my original post, my mental image was of an orphan being brought up by a variety of non-humans (or at least only partly humans), which WOULD fit into the Laundryverse. Phangs, elves, the Eater of Souls etc. are alien more than intrinsically hostile, and there is no reason for there not to be more. But, as OGH has said and I can witness in other contexts, an ideas person has FAR more ideas than he can possibly implement.

52:

Right. But that's not the whole story, and isn't actually what I was referring to.

The Bridge on the River Kwai was a good film, but I had read the original story, but the end would have grated even if I had not and it spoiled the film for me. Ditto one of King Solomon's Mines (in addition to being obviously Not Being Set In Africa, where I was living), for too many reasons to describe. I watched one episode of The Lord of the Rings, and would have found it OTT and cartoonish even if I had not known the book. There are probably others.

In all the above cases, the gratuitous distortions were obviously at the behest of marketing, or a director who was more of a marketdroid than an artist. Yes, I take the point about the need for drastic shortening (and changes) to fit the process, but is there any need to destroy the spirit of the book while doing so?

53:

Kobo implies that it is releasing the UK edition on October 27th. Whether that will happen is in the Elder Gods' laps ....

54:

I am an enthusiast of 'Team Four Star', who made the very good parody "Hellsing Ultimate Abridged".
Imagine a combination of Mr Punch and a vampire. With lots of black humor. As they say, "dying is easy, comedy is hard!"
Scene:(Twilight-esque vampires kissing beside dead victims. There is a knock on the door)
Q:"Who is that?
A:"Well, you know...(first vampire hit by hail of bullets fired through door)...just a *real* fucking vampire".

55:

I read Barrie's Peter Pan when I was ten or eleven but I didn't really grasp some (maybe a lot) of it. For example, this sentence:

"Here, a little in advance, ever and again with his head to the ground listening, his great arms bare, pieces of eight in his ears as ornaments, is the handsome Italian Cecco, who cut his name in letters of blood on the back of the governor of the prison at Gao."

I found it just now by searching for "Gao" because the name had stuck and I remembered being puzzled by the last part, and the adverse reaction of a passing adult whom I accosted for an explanation.

56:

"Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes."
—John le Carré

57:

None of this can be any worse than how you turned a common childhood fantasy character on its head in Equoid, right ;)

58:

Wait ‘til you see what I’m doing to Mary Poppins! (Alas, can’t be published before late 2022.) Also, Hello Kitty gets the Laundry treatment in next summer’s “Escape from Puroland”.

59:

Big fan of Hellsing Ultimate Abridged (and SAO Abridged, but I digress).

I suggested the anime, though, because it's _incredibly_ dark and bloody. Alucard is a walking Eldritch Abomination who would probably get along great with PM Everyman.

60:

You are most welcome. :D

61:

That's ... kinda the penultimate pre-climax of "The Rhesus Chart", more or less?

(If plans come to fruition we will see more of Old George in "Bones and Nightmares", although it's set at a time where he's more Young George than anything else.)

62:

While riding my trike, I was thinking of how Equoid could be turned into a decent (horror) film, without mangling it too horribly.

I am not sure how I will take to Escape from Puroland, as my knowledge of the Hello Kitty genre is limited to playing the DOOM wad. I am not much stronger on Mary Poppins.

63:

Elderly Cynic @ 19: You mean that anything produced by Disney in the past half-century has DEPTH?

Shallow is DEPTH, just not very much of it.

64:

Max Samuel @ 20: If I remember correctly the Mandate needs to be quite close to people to brainwash them, so I'm curious as to how he turned all of Britain into a dictatorship featuring massive piles of skulls in London without sparking a civil war/Scotland breaking off/the EU launching a first strike once they realise who's running the show etc etc.

Also, I've got a question about The Labyrinth Index. If memory serves the spell cast by the Black Chamber making people forget the President exists only covers the US. Given all the overseas military bases, embassies, overseas citizens etc etc how come the whole world didn't freak out within a day once they realised the Americans no longer knew they had a President? If nothing else surely NATO would notice almost instantaneously.

Science Fiction/Fantasy operates on the willing suspension of disbelief by its readers. You're supposed to fill in those gaps yourself.

As far as the EU, NATO and other allies around the world vis-à-vis the Black Chamber, I suspect they all have problems of their own with various manifestations popping up. IIRC there are suggestions in The Labyrinth Index that the middle-east has had an outbreak of Djinn (which the Host of Air & Darkness are being sent off to fight) and The Delerium Brief begins with Bob just back from battling Kaiju in Japan.

They probably haven't even noticed the U.S. has forgotten it has a President. And I expect the military, diplomats & expats are on their own.

65:

And, given the current situation, anyone who did notice would heave a sigh of relief and collectively agree not to do anything to remind the USA of the existence of a president. The Mandate, of course, is not a member of the class 'humans, near-humans and half-humans', so doesn't count as 'anyone'.

66:

"A TV show may only have 42-60 minutes per episode"

Charlie, I have very bad news for you: when my late wife and I taped some B-5, for example, in the nineties, it was 42 min. When my late ex and I were taping some shows, 15 and more years ago, it was 38 minutes of show.

67:

The thing about the Jungle Book films that really makes me cringe is King Louie's song. When I was young I just thought "What a silly monkey, thinking that having fire will turn him into a man". These days I can see the vicious racist subtext. Let me spell it out...

1. King Louie is a monkey who wants to level up to human being, and thinks he can do it by acquiring knowledge.

2. The song is jazz, which was created by black Americans, and widely condemned as "jungle music".

So the subtext is very clearly equating blacks to monkeys, and saying that black people can't become fully human merely by acquiring knowledge; no matter what they do, they will always be monkeys in the jungle.

Urrghh.

(Aside: I'd always thought from the singing that it was Louis Armstrong, which would have made it even worse. I was surprised to learn that it was actually an Italian American called Louis Prima.)


68:

Not knowing about it, I found a video on theirtube of someone playing the Hello, Kitty wad.

*sigh*

Wish someone had come up with a toolkit to replace the monsters themselves with other forms....

Also, I was never crazed about unicorns. Ever read Ariel, by Boyett? And I have quoted, since I first saw the cartoon in the nineties? eighties? the unicorn and something else, standing in front of a shop window in the middle of the night, with the caption, "if I see one more CUTE UNICORN...."

69:

I'm not convinced by the structural biomechanics of a unicorn. The usual depictions are quite clear that the skull is the same shape as a standard horse but with a great big long pointy pole glued on the front. Strikes me that any more than a little lateral force on that is just going to lever the front of the creature's brain case off, and make it easy to scoop out the contents and have them on toast.

70:

re Louis Prima: less well-known than Armstrong, but not really that obscure, and there's an award named after him :)

71:

That was intended to be a reply to comment #19 by ElderlyCynic, btw, I seem to have messed up (sigh)

72:

Mediaeval unicorns were goat-like. We are clearly more stupid than we used to be.

73:

I happen to agree. There's a cute little American comic strip called Phoebe and her Unicorn where the unicorn (Marigold Heavenly Nostrils) is as the Medieval portrayal. It's a bit like Calvin and Hobbes, without the greatness of that strip.

Anyway, people have been occasionally making unicorn goats for awhile (here's the one that Ringling Brothers used to have. That unicorn ("Lanceolot") was apparently created by Oberon Zell who patented the technique of surgically making unicorns. As a good magician should, of course.

But where this whole horny equine thing came from? Probably because of the sexual symbolism of having a goat who was conceptually rampant at both ends, perhaps? I dunno. Could be that a goat with a single horn wouldn't be as scary as a horse with a lance attached.

I suppose, if you wanted to be really messy, a magical goat that was a unicorn would be a *really* interesting way to go. Personality of a goat. Plus magic. What could possibly go wrong?

74:

Actually, thinking about it, where might one go with a backstory that "in the 1970s, a wizard patents a way to surgically turn young goats into magical unicorns by fusing there horns." I mean, they're still domestic animals. But they're magical goats. Ummm.... Hmmm.... Horror? Or comedy?

Oh by the way, the patent expired in 2001, so anyone can do it now.

75:

Re: 'Horror? Or comedy?'

I could really use some comedy these days.

Wonder if any academic ever did an analysis of fiction top sellers' plots and/or background atmosphere based on then-current socio-politics plus a hero vs. antagonist personality profile analysis. Victor Hugo would be

76:

Oh, ar? That makes more sense of the hypothesis that the idea came from people seeing the Arabian oryx side-on, then.

77:

The standard thoughts about the origin of the unicorn are:

1. Indian rhinoceros
2. Aurochs

The latter isn't one-horned, but there are seals and possibly other illustrations from the fertile crescent of the "re'em" (probably aurochs) portrayed in silhouette, which gives it a single horn. Re'em got translated as "unicorn" in various Bibles, but as a metaphor (he has the strength of a re'em), it makes sense as a referent to the aurochs, which were monsters.

Sad and boring, it's true. I'd much rather have fun with people making flocks of their own unicorns and making a nomadic living with them. But I'm weird.

78:

What about narwhals? Note that unlike rhinos they are carnivorous.

79:

Re the Jungle Book- maybe not surprising because Kipling [on the other hand when I read his early "The Light that Failed" I was expecting the book to be about something else entirely, not about the main character's encroaching blindness which, apparently, was like that of the author's, which only goes to show the wholly unsurprising fact that there's more to an author than I think.]

81:

In the size pic, the paraceratherium is up there with my favorite from when I was about 12, the baluchitherium - wait, you mean it's the same critter?

That spoils a joy of my childhood, the bums.

82:

Oh, narwhal horn was used as unicorn horn for quite some time, and that seems to be the origin of the Medieval unicorn horn shape. But I don't think that the cetacean source was necessarily disclosed to the customers.

As for Elasmotherium, you first have to postulate that it survived into the present...

Anyway, there's a moving target here. The Hellenistic world thought of these as living creatures. Since they were trading with India, since India had one-horned Indian rhinoceroses, and since rhino horn seems to have been a trade item since, well, Greek times, that's the logical answer right there. Medieval Europeans didn't see rhinos until they started traveling to India on a regular basis, so it's unsurprising that they'd get weird ideas about what they look like, especially with shysters selling any bit of horn they can get their hands on as unicorn horn.

As for the aurochs=unicorn thing. There's a Hebrew word "re'em" that sometimes gets translated as "unicorn" and there are bronze age seal drawings showing an aurochs in profile that makes it look like it has a single horn. The assumption is that the scholars translating the Hebrew into [language] had no idea what an aurochs looked like, and so translated it as "unicorn." Probably the seal images had nothing to do with it until the more modern cryptozoologists and uninformed humanities scholars got in the act.

And we haven't even gotten to the Chinese Qilin. How ancient are they? Elephrhino (Hell if I know. It's a childhood joke about what you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino). Speaking of which, in Shang era China (cf 1400 BCE) Indian Rhinos and Indian Elephants were fairly common in forests and wildlands bordering the Yellow River. Subsequent clearing for farming ultimately drove into extinction. The Chinese of course knew about elephant ivory and rhino horn from trade with southeast Asia, but who knows whether they got their old stories about elephants and rhinos on their home turf confused and mythologized something else? It certainly happens.

83:

The Qilin is a very different beasty, though, and I've even heard it claimed that they were based on the giraffe.

84:

I've been under the impression that novellas translate better to movies than books. Makes sense.

One remedial reading/writing exercise I had for my middle school students (ages roughly 11-13/14) with learning disabilities was to rewrite a child's picture book as a one-act play, then have them perform it for kindergarten and first grade classes. It was a really good way to slip in some social studies learning especially since I liked to do this around MLK Day (did one on Rosa Parks and another on Martin Luther King Jr). The other time was the period between Thanksgiving in the US and winter vacation. There were always a lot of things going on during that time (including closures for bad weather, concerts and so on) and it was entertaining as well as educational. I used Jan Brett holiday-themed books for those plays.

The other piece was that this removed the stigma of poor reading and reading picture books, because, as I explained to the students, that little book when translated into a play ended up being at least 20 minutes long. I really did learn to appreciate the complexity of translating written words into play/script form. We did it as a group, and it actually did turn out pretty well. Or so I thought.

85:

Zheng He brought giraffes back from Africa, which were associated with the qilin.

Have you read Retreat of the Elephants?

This is the first environmental history of China during the three thousand years for which there are written records. It is also a treasure trove of literary, political, aesthetic, scientific, and religious sources, which allow the reader direct access to the views and feelings of the Chinese people toward their environment and their landscape.

Elvin chronicles the spread of the Chinese style of farming that eliminated the habitat of the elephants that populated the country alongside much of its original wildlife; the destruction of most of the forests; the impact of war on the environmental transformation of the landscape; and the re-engineering of the countryside through water-control systems, some of gigantic size. He documents the histories of three contrasting localities within China to show how ecological dynamics defined the lives of the inhabitants. And he shows that China in the eighteenth century, on the eve of the modern era, was probably more environmentally degraded than northwestern Europe around this time.

https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300119930/retreat-elephants

86:

Yes, in fact I did read it some time ago. That's my basis for thinking that someone could have gotten weird about ancient Chinese rhinos being Qilin. The more I think about it the less I like it, but the Chinese are no less prone to making up fabulous beasts than the Europeans are. See Chinese lions (aka foo dogs), for example. Or those lovely Chinese dragons.

87:

reynoldsward @84: I've been under the impression that novellas translate better to movies than books. Makes sense.

88:

Aaargh!! Re novellas...

Yes, they do seem to work best.

A perfect example of such is the movie "RollerBall" (1975), based on the novella, "Roller Ball Murder", by William Harrison, screenplay by William Harrison.

Okay, when the author writes the screenplay, you'd expect the story to remain the same, but it fits well into 125 minutes.

89:

Speaking for myself, I am hooked on the Laundryverse series and tend to pre-order as soon as the opportunity arises. Yet I have never met OGH, and suspect that our viewpoints, politics and neurotypes are sufficiently different to elicit a reaction similar to that of mixing potassium metal and water, should we ever meet.

So no, I suspect that book signing tours are not actually all that important, once a reputation has been established.

90:

Uneven horns are fairly common in some ruminants, and narwhals are closely related to beluga, so I was wondering how likely it would be for a ruminant to evolve to have a single horn. I can see it being advantageous in thick undergrowth, so it's not anti-Darwinian. While it's not actually impossible that such a thing evolved, lasted until prehistoric times, and has left no evidence, it's not the way I would bet :-) But it would fit well with a (closely) parallel universe, where elves, dwarfs, trolls and unicorns could all have diverged from us 3-8 megayears ago.

91:

Yes, gods - that patent was REAL? From the description, that implies a unicorn could evolve in (say) a tenth of that time. One could probably be bred in a couple of centuries.

92:

Or unbred, if two horns turned out to be a dominant gene, though that seems unlikely - it would presumably be obvious from the fossil records. But bred, then unbred doesn't seem unlikely, nor does the idea that someone in the past few thousand years had the same idea as the Zells.

93:

I'd really like to see a movie made from Schmitz's novella, "Demon Breed". Any time I read it I see it spooling in my head as an SF action-thriller movie, part "Die Hard" and part "Avatar" with a good chunk of James Bond-style OTT posing thrown in.

"How do you like your Greater Palachs, Tuleva Etland?"

"Shaken, not stirred."

94:
With easy access to comedy elements for exactly what the inner monologue of various animals sounds like.

Just be careful with the squirrels.

95:

And will your eventual CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN novel be based on the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

96:

Talking sentient animals would be an interesting diversion, but I'm not sure how it'd fit.

It wouldn't.

TLDR is, human language is innately human. We know certain other species can communicate or have language skills, but firstly, there's a lot of argument over the semantic richness of their communications, and secondly some of them are biomechanically not adapted to human speech (or sign language, for that matter), and thirdly, as Wittgenstein pointed out, "if a lion could talk, we could not understand him": he'd be talking about lion perceptions of lion interests and framing them in terms of lion cognition. We'd be, at best, "talkative food".

Now imagine talking to a communicating bee hive. What's that going to be like?

97:

Now imagine talking to a communicating bee hive. What's that going to be like?

Like she of many names?

98:

I am not convinced. We are both social mammals, and we have most of that in common, including basic domination, sex, family etc. To some extent, we share reactions to external conditions, vulnerability and predation, even with lions, and far more with jackals etc. Yes, we would be talkative food, and would have little communication outside those areas, but I don't see that nothing would be feasible.

A talkative beehive is another matter entirely! We might, just, be able to talk about the basics of the weather - e.g. "Wind too strong".

99:

FieryOne
No, the bees would mae a lot more sense.
I suggest you ask Greanny Weatherwax or Tiffany Aching

100:

My personal favorite "like to see a movie of" is Niven and Pournelle's "Footfall."

For OGH's work I'm not sure what would translate well to film. "A Colder War" would be nice to see,* but how would anyone make "Accelerando" into a movie? "The Atrocity Archives" would be fun as film, but the cinematography would have to be first-rate to capture feel of the parallel earth.

* It would be particularly nice to see updated for the Trump era - if you thought Reagan screwed up relations with the Elder Gods, what would Trump do? And we could have John Bolton as Cthulhu!

101:

Didn't Gregory Benford do just that in his part of Beyond the Fall of Night? At one point one of the characters encounters an "anthology intelligence" which flies as a squad around him, forming shapes to communicate.

102:

I'd really like to see a movie made from Schmitz's novella, "Demon Breed".

Yes, it has a lot of good cinema-friendly adventure in an exotic setting. Done right, it would show the Parahuans' dawning realization that "Things Aren't Going Right." I'd hope that the final part, the other aliens' formal hearing into what happened, could be included, but that might not be easy to meld with the adventure.

103:

Might it work better as a video game than a movie? And did you notice that the animals on that planet had trilateral symmetry?

I've thought about Schmitz's stories for movies or a TV series for years. Problem is, their time is kind of past (super spies and psionics?), and a lot of what made them novel (strong heroines) is getting done by people like Joss Whedon in other story universes, so they'd look a bit derivative. Still, fun stories, and some of my favorite monsters and settings.

104:

Yes, it has a lot of good cinema-friendly adventure in an exotic setting.

First time I saw the trailers for Avatar I thought "That would be perfect for a movie of Demon Breed".

It's got a lot going for it in terms of modern movie production -- Nile Etland is the quintessential Competent Female character magnified a thousand by her portrayal of a Tuleva super-human. I don't know it meets the Bechdel test since she's the female protagonist and the only other female of note is on one of the sleds and they never meet. It's possible one or more of the Parahuans she engages with is female but I don't think it's ever made clear. Sweeting is female, though... Mutant hunting otters for the win! (and some great underwater cinematography).

The main male character is very much a Sidekick and definitely not a Romantic Interest, having to be rescued by Nile Etland before being fridged in a floatwood plant while she goes off to save the planet.

I want this! Instead we're getting Marvel Movie 23 and Dune Dun Again. Boo.

105:

Now imagine talking to a communicating bee hive. What's that going to be like?

Pretty easy. Researchers have made waggle dancing mini-robots for years. Heck, I talk to bees to not get stung when I walk through a bush they're busy visiting. They don't understand the words, but they understand the attitude.

Wittgenstein pointed out, "if a lion could talk, we could not understand him": he'd be talking about lion perceptions of lion interests and framing them in terms of lion cognition. We'd be, at best, "talkative food".

It seems likely that Wittgenstein never owned a cat, doesn't it? My cat's yelling at me from the other end of the house that she wants some attention, and she'll get it once I'm done here. While I'm pretty sure that she doesn't have an internal monologue, I'm pretty sure we're co-creating a system to communicate with each other that's more than good enough for our needs.

I'm also pretty sure that:
a) most animals we've domesticated (cats, pigeons, horses, dogs, etc.) are good enough at understanding us in their own ways
b) humans that live with these animals are pretty good at communicating with them, especially if they get some education in the matter, and
c) animals of different species routinely communicate with each other, and some of those communications can be surprisingly sophisticated.

As for "talkative food?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gd18a8cdI. Note that I don't advocate keeping big cats as pets. But not understanding them? Pffft. Disproof by example.

106:

Uneven horns are fairly common in some ruminants, and narwhals are closely related to beluga, so I was wondering how likely it would be for a ruminant to evolve to have a single horn.

The basic answers are:
a) rhinos evolved back in the Eocene, long before there were ruminants. They don't have single sharp horns, but some do have single horns.
b) ruminants won't evolve single horns because they're a crap design, especially for ruminants.

As for b), there are a couple of problems. One is: what do you do with a single horn? Impale things? And when the horn gets stuck, or breaks, or gets dull, then what? At least woolly rhinos used their large, but narrow, front horns as snow shovels.

It's hard to have breeding battles with single horns. Narwhals apparently do duel with their single tusks, but they also appear to use their tusks as cudgels to whack fish laterally before grabbing the stunned fish with their mouths. The tusks, incidentally, are particularly straight or sharp. Not a good ram, compared with what other dolphins have.

Now, let's get to ruminants. Primitive deer (like musk deer) do have sharpish spike antlers. You wouldn't want to get jabbed by them. Heck, you don't want to be gored by any antlers. The dozen tines of a bull elk would be that much worse.

And that gets to the point: antlers are bone, with a hard sheath and sometimes a spongy interior (in elk). Their not steel spears, they're bone, so a long, thin bony point is an injury waiting to happen. Deer get around this in two ways: they make a lot of shorter points mounted on a rack (antlers), and they keep them "sharp" and "repair" breaks by shedding them annually and regrowing them. It's a hell of a waste of calcium, but it works, both as a weapon and as a health signal.

Bovines (goats, antelopes, cattle) don't shed their horns. They just grow them from the base. Note that they rarely have straight stabbing horns? Their problem would be keeping the tips sharp. Now bulls and bison do have sharp horns, but they're not in the main line of thrust, they're hooks off to one side. Bison in particular can be very dextrous and very brutal with those short horns of theirs. I've seen a story about a bull bison using a horn as a ribcage opener on a domestic bull, and tourists are regularly getting gored in the ass by cow bison keeping the idiots away from their calves (which, IMHO, speaks highly of the self-restraint of the female bison). Sheep, goats, and antelope tend not to ram with their horns but butt heads. They only bring the tips to play (if they have them) in hooking motions when they're chasing something away. I suspect this has to do with the breaking strength of the horns. They aren't built to take the full force of impact (through the tip of the horn, down the shank, to the skull), but rather take a lesser, lateral force with a hooking jab.

Now a unicorn goat may be socially crippled. Goats butt heads to establish rank. How does a unicorn goat (or bull, for that matter), but heads? It's got a somewhat curving straight-ish horn, and it's going to slam that into the thickest part of its rival's skull, where it will slide off, and...? Get the picture? It's not useful.

As a magic wand (or a fish cudgel, or a snow shovel) a single, straight horn is useful. As a spear, it would have to have a sharp tip while growing from the base, and horns simply don't grow that way. Nor do antlers.

I think the most useful point in this process isn't the arguing, it's actually thinking about a couple of things. One is how structures grow, and the other is the complex physics of using materials for specific purposes. A sword made out of horn won't work the way a steel sword would, due to the properties of the horn. This is doubly true if it is grown rather than manufactured. Thus, if you want to make a horn weapon, you've got to work with the properties of the horn as a material and the process by which it is generated. That generally leads to something that doesn't look like a sword, but that's okay. That's just physics in action.

107:

I would point the group at the East African oryx:

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

which not only has straight-ish horns, but also occasionally loses one:

http://www.theequinest.com/images/oryx-1.jpg

108:

Accelerando would make a great one-off season on a streaming service. Something that could be binged in one go. Probably 6-8 hours of final produced content. If it blew people away you could then hand over follow up seasons as side stories. Plenty of universe there to flesh out.

The best model to match to the Laundry Files is probably The Expanse. They took a set of novels and stretched and mixed pieces and parts to make a solid multi-POV structure. Sticking with the structure mainly from Bob's POV would be tough. It has value in the books, but in a series it is a very small hole through which to see the larger world. The Expanse also hasn't felt obliged to stick to "One Book - One Season" as has been the case with other series. That has given them the freedom to flesh out characters and settings, and lay ground work earlier too.

You could do the Laundry Files as a Marvel Cinematic Universe of movies, but the only narratively satisfactory way to do that is to guarantee a multi-movie deal at the very high end of the budget spectrum. That would have the benefit of making a single main POV character easier to do though.

The one I don't hear people mentioning that would be excellent and is practically built for big budget movies or TV series is the Eschaton universe. You can start with any number of near contemporary people and mix them with Super High tech people a thousand years more advanced. Avoid the temporal plot issues Charlie had all together, or use a different way of handling them, and it is a universe ripe for space opera.

I know Charlie hates TV and isn't a big fan of movie franchises either, so this is mostly just wishful thinking on my part.

109:

One is: what do you do with a single horn?

Roll cars?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNncy1mUx1k

110:

"The Atrocity Archives" is under option for TV, and bounces in and out of that pre-pitch limbo every few years. Eventually it might stick. (It's more likely to turn into a graphic novel first -- that's increasingly a viable route into getting TV/film studio attention, and the startup costs are much lower, so it's not impossible.)

111:

Translating the Laundryverse to video does have a bit of a "Men In Black" problem, as well as a bit of a Torchwood problem, as well as precursors among lesser TV shows like The Librarians and Grimm. Setting itself apart from those would take a bit of doing. The loyal fanbase does help, though.

And actually, thinking about it, the Laundryverse has a "Lovecraft Country" problem, in that the HBO series seems to be very popular and better than the book, for reasons peculiar to the book. That's a real bar to clear.

Still, maybe if Brexit fizzles and Covid19 clears, there will be enough extra money for the BBC to cast Bob*...?

Oddly enough, the Merchant Prince Multiverse might have better TV carrying power, since it looks like it would take less in the special effects department. Getting some video money (HBO, perhaps) and ending the first series with a nuclear war might make up for the misery of the last few years.

*Wonder how casting Bob as black of multi-generational Caribbean descent would play? Computer nerds are presumed to be white, no?

112:

You are creating straw men.

Where did I say that such a horn was straight and pointing straight forward?

Or that it would be an actual evolution of a goat?

I am fully aware that very few of the ruminants use their horns as spears; there are several antelopes that have their horns very close together (the oryx being the best-known), which makes them little different (as weapons) from a single horn of the same shape. Your knowledge of mechanics is at fault if you believe that a centred horn is necessarily much weaker than one towards each side.

I will accept that a single horn is less useful for a butting competition, but I don't believe in the religion that anything that didn't happen couldn't have happened. In any case, there isn't a single form of sexual competition even among ruminants - see below.

Where a single horn does help, somewhat, is in thick undergrowth. Despite being woodland creatures, there are records of at least red deer getting tangled up in undergrowth by the horns. Wikipedia's description of kudu (another woodland creature) is interesting, too. If correct, it gives a slight evolutionary advantage to a single horn - two curved horns are easy to lock for a pulling competition (try it), and will never be possible to unlock.

113:

Plenty of universe there to flesh out.

Which is exactly why it makes for terrible film/TV.

Film/TV needs to be about character interaction, dialog, and action. Accelerando is almost none of the above. (Indeed, my fiction in general is pretty poor material for visual media -- too much interior narrative/introspection.)

114:

I know you love to argue, but would you realize, please, that I normally use a 5-6' hiking pole or trail hoe in thick chaparral, and I have done so for a good chunk of the last half century? Long poles are really useful on the steep slopes I work on. It's not because they're easy to maneuver in the brush (They're a fucking nuisance) but rather, when you're working on a slope that's 50 degrees and made of mudstone, the long stick can act as a third leg to help you rest your weight on that isolated stable spot a couple feet down while your feet and body negotiate the bush you're stuck in, without falling down the hill. This makes up for the awkwardness of using a staff in the brush.

And before you argue that unicorns don't use their horns as legs, of course they don't. The problem is moving anything long and straight through anything resembling dense brush. As I said, it's a fucking nuisance. The only reason to do this is if the stick has some other critical use, like keeping you from falling down a slope.

So no, a single horn does not provide an advantage in the forest. The many forest deer and antelope simply have shorter horns. Or antlers (cf white-tailed deer, roe deer, etc).

If we're talking about a unicorn, we're talking about a single, more-or-less straight horn, centered on the head, and growing perpendicular out of the forehead. Now there are a lot of fossil mammalian herbivores (and for that matter, dinosaurs and synapsids) that have head decorations, and the only ones that even tried this arrangement are narwhals and some rhinos. And neither uses their horns the way a unicorn is theorized to do.

115:

In general, yes, but I would except Equoid, the Concrete Jungle and Down on the Farm.

116:

I think you underestimate the potential in Accelerando for a visual medium. Film/TV are about overcoming obstacles, and conflict in how to to that. Accelerando is an asteroid apocalypse story where the asteroid is our own tech, helpfully an aspect of that tech is ?personified? in a cute furry entity. It is an escape story, and there are plenty of characters or aspects of characters to riff off of, to show their POV during the apocalypse. There is problem solving all throughout it, which is great to visualize. The ending as written with the kids is a great teaser for more super weird stuff should people want to continue.

117:

OGH @ 96, "if a lion could talk..."

Also, you couldn't trust a word they'd say...

119:

Yeah, that one would work. The idea that there are a lot of Tuvelas, and they're not visibly different from "normal" humans, that could be brought out a little more.

There's also his "Agent of Vega" stories - they'd be good, also. People working to prevent/stop invasions of extremely-hostile extremely-alien critters, as well as some very weird humanoids...

120:

The bigger problem with Accelerando is that we're right now living through that future, and it's...not here. It's becoming a paleofuture as we speak, sadly.

Now, if you want a truly ridiculous alt-future, how about one in which Donald J Trump goes bankrupt in 2000 and becomes a business school case study in what not to do. What happens next? And/or, heck, a cat-5 hurricane takes out Florida as the turning point in the 2000 presidential election, and we get President Gore.

Then maybe...Accelerando? I don't know. But why not?

121:

Speaking from family experience - bulls can kill you by shoving you into a solid object like a wall. Easy to do, leaves interloper just as dead as using horns.

122:

head decorations, and the only ones that even tried this arrangement are narwhals and some rhinos

Scratch the Narwhal from that. Its pointy bit is a tusk, usually the upper left canine, and not a horn.

123:

Why would unicorn horns have to be long? I'd think anything less than two feet long would work fine for whatever purposes unicorns need them for.

124:

Are we already in the outer solar system and I missed it? Was the solar system disassembled in a grossly non-visually amazing way, and I missed? Did we all start living in a simulation?...alright don’t answer that last one.

We are living through the first part of the book, with reality’s own writer fiat being exercised on various matters. The later half of the book is a huge launch into a world that isn’t here, yet.

125:

To remind you, I have experience with chaparral (and similar undergrowth in both Africa and Europe), as well as carrying a stick (and sticks) through them.

And who is this "we" you are talking about? Some of us are rather more mentally flexible. Fer chrissake, an evolved unicorn would be nothing like those totally damn-fool horses with narwhal tusks of mythology.

126:

It seems to me that there must be a lot more to it than things getting stuck in the vegetation. I too have used third legs - found on the spot, rather than brought with me - and it's quite easy not to get them stuck if you hold them by one end and let them trail behind you. The oryx horn pattern seems to be close to the ideal for not getting stuck in the forest, but they don't live anywhere near one.

OTOH trying to cart an un-trimmed chunk of tree, even quite a small one, with branches and things, is a pain in the arse; because it's got bits sticking out all over at all sorts of angles, it's constantly getting tangled in everything and there isn't really any angle to carry it at that reduces that tendency very much. On this basis red deer (US: elk) horns (antlers) are a bloody awful design, and indeed (as EC says) they do get them tangled in vegetation and are then quite likely not to get out alive. They also get them inextricably tangled with each other when fighting and then they're both fucked. But most of the time they don't seem to find it too much of a problem.

As for single central horns, I suspect they are pretty much precluded by the way mammals are glued together down the middle. A single central horn would be growing out of the seam. Narwhal tusks are not really single, in that they are made from "one on each side" twisted round each other, and rhino horns of course aren't horns. It's easy for evolution to come up with all kinds of variations on the theme of things that are the same on each side, but the narwhal kind of variation takes some arriving at, and the kind of asymmetry it would take to produce one in the middle doesn't seem to happen at all on anything beyond fish.

127:

More likely, climate change is going to mess up our ability to do the Accelerando thing as predicated in the 1990s by Kurzweil and crew. The only reason for positing President Gore as a necessary precondition for that is that we're currently about 30 years behind where we need to be to deal with climate change. If he'd actually won that election and done something about climate change, we'd only be about a decade behind. And that changes the balance to favor something a bit more like a singularity.

So far as I can tell right now, one critical time period for AI is around the late 2030s early 2040s. If trend lines continue to hold, that's when a computer with about the computing power of a human brain will use about as much power as a human brain. That's assuming that trends in lessening watts per flop and increasing computing capacity both continue to hold, which is a really huge assumption.

At the same time, the 2030s and 2040s are when the shit really starts to hit the fan on climate change, both in trends (hello 2oC rise over baseline) and in our attempts to go carbon negative. California, for example, has pledged to go carbon neutral before 2045. If that particular miracle happens (and there are a lot of forces arrayed against it--fighting them is one of my major jobs), then we've still got a really crappy environmental situation, but we have a chance in hell of doing something about it.

In addition to a really miserably climate around 2040, we may actually have human-comparable computers that only use a few hundred watts, which may or may not be a game changer, depending on how they're made, deployed, who owns them, who makes them, and what they're used for.

Now I think Charlie will have an interesting critique of this massive over-simplification, and I'd probably agree with him on most of it. However, if you want to tip the climate/singularity balance in favor of something more like a Singularity and a bit less like a climatic civilization crash, I think the simplest science fiction solution is to set the story in an alternate universe where the US starts dealing with its petroleum dependency a few decades earlier and makes the crisis a lot less bad. Hence, Trump goes bankrupt, Gore wins the 2000 election, and most of us are driving electric cars in 2020.

128:

I should note that American elk tend to live in things like Pacific Northwest Coast rainforest (on the meadows), rocky mountain forests (burned regularly and open) and in grasslands around the state. They're not chaparral animals. Chaparral deer are mule deer, which are quite a bit smaller. Oryx are desert species. The one we should be arguing about are moose, which, oddly enough, don't have so many points on their antlers.

As for horns: they're keratin with a bony core. Rhino horns are also keratin, without the core. Antlers are bone. But otherwise I agree on the central point, which is that it's hard to get a bony cored object off a suture in a mammalian skeleton.

As for getting antler stuck in brush...I don't disagree that elk/red deer antlers can get stuck in stuff, but I've also see buck mule deer do pretty darn well in chaparral. Granted they prefer trails, but I think experience growing up in the terrain makes it a lot easier.

129:

So far as I can tell right now, one critical time period for AI is around the late 2030s early 2040s. If trend lines continue to hold, that's when a computer with about the computing power of a human brain will use about as much power as a human brain.

Unfortunately, last time I looked there was some pretty solid evidence that individual neurons in the human neocortex are computationally sophisticated -- they're not simple gates/switches/neuristors, they actually perform meaningful data processing internally before they emit anything.

This may well move the goalposts on brain-equivalent AI by anything from 2-7 orders of magnitude, in the wrong direction.

130:

That would explain a lot, right? Charlie frequently predicts the future, so we're living in an Accelerando-type universe, and this is a historical sim being played for laughs!

"You think that's terrible? I had a DM once who sent us to a universe where Trump was President! And we were all zero-level characters in our fifties!"

131:

Heteromeles @ 73: Anyway, people have been occasionally making unicorn goats for awhile (here's the one that Ringling Brothers used to have. That unicorn ("Lanceolot") was apparently created by Oberon Zell who patented the technique of surgically making unicorns. As a good magician should, of course.

The last time I went to the circus was the year Ringling Brothers introduced their "unicorn"

Alas, Ringling Brothers Circus is no more.

I liked the one quote from the article about Ringling Brothers “Many people could not even recognize them as being goats at all,”.

"Many people" are blind as a bat. All you gotta do is look at it and you can see it's a goat whose horns are growing together. Moreover, if you're still not convinced, just smell it. It smells like a goat.

Cool beans, and apparently it doesn't do the goat any harm.

132:

Oh, yes. If a ruminant were to evolve a single horn, it would be as the narwhal did - a single one of a bilateral feature became dominant and migrated to the centre; there are other such examples in evolution. The horn-tangling issue is pretty minor compared with the sexual dominance aspect, which explains both red deer and kudu. My point never was that such a thing was likely, but that it's not biologically impossible. It didn't happen, that's all.

133:

I recently read an article which says that Broadcom (I think) has figured out how to attach processors and memory directly to a hard drive. There's your neuron right there!

Worst-case scenario, we're looking at emulating neurons in memory, which means each getting a little processing time from a multi-core processor. The big problem is that it won't be either fast or smart in it's earliest incarnation.

134:

"A Boy and His God" would be a really fun cartoon. I'm not sure you could get a whole movie out of it.

135:

DigiCom @ 107: I would point the group at the East African oryx:

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

which not only has straight-ish horns, but also occasionally loses one:

http://www.theequinest.com/images/oryx-1.jpg

It points in the wrong direction, but I guess the same kind of surgical intervention that worked on baby goats might work a baby Oryx, and I guess if it did, it would also be possible to turn the horn bud so the horn grew at the right angle.

But why?

136:

I'm glad you saw it. I remember the ads, but we never went.

Getting back to this part of the thread, I don't drag Oberon Zell for patenting this procedure. AFAIK, he made and sold a couple of unicorn goats to the circus. Considering how simple it is to do this (he's not the first, and by rights he should have gotten rejected on prior art), he was simply protecting his business. IIRC, he and his wife used the money from the unicorn sales to go hunt for Papuan mermaids. They found out that there weren't mermaids, just cryptozoologists who couldn't translate the local word for dugong properly.

Anyway, if we wanted to descend from here into really base fantasy...

Let's posit, for a second, that the surgically created unicorn horn has the same powers as the original: detoxification. In a goat this isn't a bad thing: they'll always find food and water, because their magical horn makes it for them as they go.

Then we shift over to this rather archaic form of survival, Jim Corbett's Goatwalking. That's a rather odd 1991 book that's worth hunting out if you like odd books, but what he's describing is probably about 4000-5000 years old: a herder befriends a herd of goats and goes wild with them (domestic and tame don't quite work in this context). So long as the females produce milk, the herder has a source of liquid and protein, and can forage on other things as they go. It's an interesting survival strategy, because it means that a human can live off the goats, not just off what (s)he can forage. This technique almost certainly is where the Eurasian nomads came from: unfree people (call them slaves, serfs, or peasants) took their flocks and bugged out across the steppes to get away from tyrannical rulers. It's documented to have happened repeatedly, in China (where the wall was as much to keep peasants from escaping to the steppe as to keep the Mongols out), Russia (the cossacks are peasants turned nomads), and so on.

So in any intolerable situation, say a climate crisis that breaks civilization, or being taxed to death on a really borderline farm, making a herd of unicorn goats would be a magical way to really bug out and live anywhere, depending on the unicorn's magic horns to make water drinkable and food palatable. The unicorns couldn't reproduce their magic, that's the human's job. It's also the human's job to referee, because the single-horned goats can't easily butt heads to establish their customary dominance hierarchy. Still, there's an interesting idea in there, and I'm pretty sure no one's used it yet...

137:

This may well move the goalposts on brain-equivalent AI by anything from 2-7 orders of magnitude, in the wrong direction.

So, three to ten years, then...

138:

I'm now perverting beloved childhood icons for my own nefarious purposes

So, Peter and Wendy, you've mentioned Mary Poppins, who else? Rudyard Kipling and Roald Dahl are already dark, and I don't know whether Julia Donaldson is widely-known enough (and the Gruffalo is already slightly subversive)... Andy Pandy's basket as a metaphor for the Sleeper? Zebedee as a weakly-Godlike emergent AI? The Wombles as highly-organised ambush predators?

Oh, F**k. You're going to do A. A. Milne, aren't you. Heffalumps and the Hundred Acres of Terror...

139:

Little Nemo in Slumberland?

140:

Actually, I'm waiting for the story, seven months or so from now, about how Lil Abner's "Schmoo" series was actually about Shoggoths.

141:

You're going to do A. A. Milne, aren't you

Oh thank you so much, now my brain is trying to fill in such gems as...

Tzompantli tzompantli tzompantli high

A die can't minion, but a minion can die

Balk me or fail me and I reply

Tzompantli tzompantli tzompantli high

...and...

They're piling skulls at Buckingham palace,

Christopher Robin went down with Alice.

142:

Little Byakhee on the Prairie? Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family settle the Dreamlands?

Really Deep Holes? Bad children are sent to live with Deep Seven in the hopes of reforming the poor, naughty kids. "You take a bad kid, and send him down a hole that leads to the deep mantle, and he becomes a good kid!"

Old Yeller? A young ghoul befriends a midwestern family in need, then must be put down because it's mating season...

Tom Swift, Reanimator?

The Heinlein Cthulveniles?

The Muppets of Madness?

143:

It's worth suggesting that "dominance" could be a dead end there, but sexual selection may not be. I think the latter is the pathway Darwin himself is more likely to explore if the telos is a unicorn's horn. I mean, not just symbolically. Female sexual selection is perhaps a stronger driver than natural selection in producing the more outre traits that some animals are famous for. Frank already mentioned the possibility the horn could be an indicator of health, which is where this stuff (per some hypotheses) gets started. But it doesn't take more indicator-of-health-ness for the feedback loop to kick in and generate things that are quite fanciful. Is a single strait forehead-mounted horn too tame? Surely you want a rainbow-striped spiral and a mother-of-pearl sheen... all this is quite possible.

144:

So does that mean we're finally going to find out what happened to James James Morrison Morrison's mother?

145:

I can see a whole other ending to "what to tiggers like to eat?" going on...

146:

There are multiple meanings of "dominance" here.

One is the question of who gets to breed with who. Normally this is which male gets to breed with which females, but there's a whole group of birds that flipped it, so that the females fight over which males get to care for their eggs. But that doesn't happen in mammals.

The other issue is the dominance hierarchy of the pecking order, which minimizes fighting once it's sorted out. This is part of the problem for unicorns, because the horn is either too deadly or too ineffective to be used as a weapon to establish who gives way to who.

In the hypothetical herd of goat unicorns, even if they were all female, they'd still need to settle who's boss. If they all have single horns and butt heads, that gets kind of messy and ineffective. The human herd boss would need to help sort out and enforce the order to minimize bloodshed and damaged horns, and also to teach them alternative ways to squabble and sort things out.

147:

No, that's completely wrong. It would be Tom Swift and His Electric Reanimator.

148:

Getting somewhat back to the forthcoming book, do any of the characters think to themselves "things used to be different and better before all this human sacrifice / public execution / magic stuff? Who ordered this?"

I imagine that they'd have to say this in the privacy of their own brains, or they'd become subject to this human sacrifice / public execution stuff.

Needless to say, I'll be reading to find out.

149:

Only if I was heading towards the Swiftian. But I was going the other direction, so I took my cues from Lovecraft's title instead, though it I'd done that perfectly it would have been Tom Swift-Reanimator. (For some reason Lovecraft used a dash instead of a colon.)

What I did screw pretty badly up was the punchline of the "Holes" bit. If I'd paused to rewrite it would would have been, "You take a bad kid, and send him down a hole which leads to the core-mantle boundary, and he becomes a good kid!" The better line came to me about 30 seconds after I'd posted, and I think "core-mantle boundary" is a lot funnier.

150:

Thinking of AA Milne again...

"Anthony Martin is doing his sums."

What sums???

151:

bravo for this image ... logged in specifically to say that ... :)

152:

I'm thinking that (computational neurons) might make things easier.

It's looking like Moore's Law has or shortly will end.

However if brains are just lots and lots of small computational units with a bit of attached memory, there's nothing stopping us from simply piling up lots of processors with local memory. And while making ever faster processors probably hasn't got much headroom left, making cheaper processors is limited by the cost of raw materials, and that leaves a lot of room for improvement (computers currently being much much more expensive than sand).

The SpiNNaker project kicked off in 2012 and has a million cores with local memory (128 MB for every 18 cores). Each core simulates 1000 neurons.

Five years later SpiNNaker 2 kicked off with 10 million cores. I'm not sure how many neurons each core simulates, but if it's 1000, then that's a 10 billion neuron brain. The human brain is under 100 billion neurons.

That puts human brain level neuron numbers in reach some time around 2025.

Of course that's only the start of what's needed, but not a bad start.

153:

Pretty much what I said. The problem is to get the device to sit on top of shitloads of artificial stupidity, so it can, metaphorically, walk and chew gum at the same time, then have it talk to itself after the manner of human consciousness.

154:

It's not just the neuron emulation count, because I wouldn't be surprised if we don't have that much capacity in data centers doing other things.

Rather, it's the ability to simulate 100 billion neurons or so on a 100-watt system. Right now, I it takes, what, a large solar farm to power that many computers?

155:

You're right. The problem here is the hardware platform. So let's think about this. If really good 2012 hardware can manage 1000 neurons per processor, I suspect a 4-gig Raspberry Pi can do the same or even a little better. So 4000 neurons per PI, with 250 PIs to get you a million neurons, plus either awesome wifi or 250 ports worth of physical switching... that's still a shitload of power even if all you're doing is using USB-3 power cables, and you only need to do it a thousand times over to get to a billion neurons.

There may be more efficient solutions than a low-power board like a PI, but the numbers are still pretty-much definitive. So agreed, we're not getting AI until the hardware has gone through at least a couple more generations, unless there's a way around the number of neurons.

More speculatively, I'd guess it's a matter of whether you get to AI more quickly going from the bottom up or the top down. Going from the bottom up you've pretty much got to emulate an organism, or at least an entire brain. Going from the the top down you figure out how a computer can have a rational conversation with itself about the real world and define some memory requirements. I suspect that top-down costs a whole lot less in hardware, but is much more difficult to accomplish.

156:

Troutwaxer
Only if I was heading towards the Swiftian.
Be careful what you wish for, as might end up with the OTHER Swift ...
In the land of the Houghinyms

157:

So, three to ten years, then...

Three to ten years if Moore's Law is still in effect at that point. Spoiler: it won't be, we're already at 5nm node size and the laws of physics preclude going much further. The covalent bond radius of silicon is about 110pm, so our node size is already only about 50 atoms wide. I can conceive of it getting down to somewhere on the order of 5 atoms rather than 50, but single atom resolution puts a hard stop on the process.

158:

who else?

Sweeney Todd, obviously. Jane Austen (and the whole Regency gothic sub-genre) is pencilled in for "Bones and Nightmares", and I'm contemplating Kingsley's "The Water Babies" (with added Deep Ones).

I'm mostly avoiding anything so recent it's still in copyright. (Peter Pan wouldn't be, if not for Disney in the US and Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK.)

159:

They're piling skulls at Buckingham palace,

Christopher Robin went down with Alice.

No, no, no, the Laundry Files are definitely rated 18: so it'd have to be:

They're piling skulls at Buckingham palace,

Christopher Robin went down on Alice.

160:

Getting somewhat back to the forthcoming book, do any of the characters think to themselves "things used to be different and better before all this human sacrifice / public execution / magic stuff? Who ordered this?"

The protags are all, to a greater or lesser degree, magically enhanced: the non-magical walk-ons/spear carriers are at least drawing a steady pay cheque. They probably realize on some level that it's a shit-show, but at least they're benefiting indirectly from it.

Meanwhile public executions have always been treated as street theatre, because many people are shits.

161:

So let's think about this. If really good 2012 hardware can manage 1000 neurons per processor, I suspect a 4-gig Raspberry Pi can do the same or even a little better. So 4000 neurons per PI, with 250 PIs to get you a million neurons

You're ignoring Apple again, aren't you? The shiny magic mirrors with face recognition have some rather advantaged stuff inside them, including a dedicated AI coprocessor claimed (for the current A12X processor) to be able to perform up to 5 trillion ops/second. The stated purpose is to support machine learning algorithms running native on iOS/iPadOS machines -- the latest models use it for some rather whacky computational photography stuff as well as augmented reality and face recognition. I'm not sure what that maps to in terms of simulated neurons, but it's probably more than your RPi's 4000 neuron sim!

162:

It's also more-or-less at the point that you need a new magic spell for each shrink, and there is no guarantee of finding one.

But I find the revelation that you can put a processor on a hard drive bizarre - by computing standards, that is ANCIENT technology, and gets hyped as a coming thing once every decade or so (when people's memories have had time to fade). As I have posted before, there is no technical difficulty whatsoever in producing 'computational neurons' on a massive scale (say, a million cores to a commodity chip). Intel's management could say 'let it be done' and they would be shipped in quantity by the end of 2021. It's all trapped in the vicious spiral of they don't see a market, because there are no applications; there are no applications because such things have been neglected for over four decades; and the neglect is because the available chips have gone in the direction of high complexity and low parallelism.

163:

The usual depictions are quite clear that the skull is the same shape as a standard horse but with a great big long pointy pole glued on the front. Strikes me that any more than a little lateral force on that is just going to lever the front of the creature's brain case off

How is that different from a deer, moose, or similar?

164:

Right. But, if you want those horse/narwhal things, you are going to have to require ongoing magic, anyway - I am not disputing your claims that THOSE are biologically ridiculous - so you can trivially add a bit more to resolve that.

For example (and this is not original), unicorn's horns are only partly material, and appear only when they want to defend against predators, wave their willies against a rival, etc. They could then also have the property that they become immaterial again in contact with other unicorns (that is). The dominance competition (sexual and otherwise) would then be by displaying their horns and, if that failed, horse-like fighting.

165:

It's all trapped in the vicious spiral of they don't see a market, because there are no applications;

Apple sees the applications (face recognition, computational photography, augmented reality, gaming, on-device deep learning) and is going for it hard in their own processors, which I need to remind you are manufactured in quantities of double-digit millions and are highly profitable (because ecosystem). However, they're secretive -- they prefer to sell shinies on "the magic" and "it just works" rather than issuing long data sheets that their competitors (cough, Samsung, Nvidia, Intel) might crib from.

166:

That abuse of copyright law is obscene, but that's by the way. I am surprised nobody has mentioned Beatrix Potter, though I assume you have considered her; Greg could come back as Mr McGregor :-) I can't actually think of any others that seem suitable, haven't faded almost to oblivion, and aren't already dark.

167:

Moreover, if you're still not convinced, just smell it. It smells like a goat.

WHile you and I and others around here might recognize "goat ordor", most people these days would not. Stink yes, goat no.

At least most people in the US who might go to a circus.

168:

SpiNNaker draws 100 kW. Don't know what SpiNNaker 2 draws.

I'm not sure why it would have to be 100 W. At 100 kW it would cost about the same as a minimum wage worker per hour but I'd have to think it would be more productive.

169:

100 W is a human brain's energy consumption.

If I put 100 kW through your skull, your head would explode as that's enough power to bring your brain to a rolling boil in a couple of seconds :)

170:

Wait, are we planning on installing the AI in someone's head?

Are we pan dimensional mice?

171:

"The Innocents Abroad in Case Nightmare Green" might be entertaining, or possibly "South"or "Alone"* retold in a lovecraftian manner

*Antarctic exploration stories by Ernest Shackleton and Richard Byrd.

172:

Yes, I know that, but that wasn't what I meant. What I meant is that there were no applications for the sort of low-power, highly parallel chip I was describing; the ICL DAP and BBN Butterfly are way back when, now. The SpiNNaker is a possible lead-in for such things, but I was talking about a 10-100 watt, single chip device; a mini-supercomputer might have a thousand of them, a full supercomputer ten to a hundred thousand.

The point is that you need radically different algorithms, data structures and communications methods for that sort of computer, compared to the things that Apple and everyone else uses today. While Intel could easily make them, and Apple could afford to, turning them into what Apple actually sell would take at least a decade and a LOT of innovative, highly-skilled manpower.

I still think that Intel should produce such things, sell them cheaply, and let the army of amateur geeks loose on them. Unfortunately, only some Japanese companies (e.g. Hitachi) seem to think that way, and the reaction is the west is to ask "But where's the () profit?", with the word "immediate" being implied in the parentheses.

173:

"The point is that you need radically different...."

Which is what I meant when I said that having the hardware is just the start.

174:

re Wittgenstein and cats: a quick search suggests it's very hard to find biographies of Wittgenstein that talk about him, rather than his beliefs; whether he and his family were owned by cats, as opposed to how the word cat figures in his theory of language (not a small thing, I studied early and late Wittgenstein in college with great interest, you can laugh if you like- I wouldn't even act on a mandate to stop you- but I still understand those questions interested and interest me.)

175:

and not-so-funny moments like when he kept (succeeding in) running over the moderator in the presidential debate, is there an exit button for this alternate universe?

176:

If we're going that way (and I've periodically been thinking about writing exactly that parody for a while), it'll be much more than a soldier's life that's terrible hard. Says Alice.

We also have the prospect of more tentacular things than just bears if you happen to step on the lines of the squares. "Cherry stones" not as a list of possible careers but as a menu (cf "To Serve Man"). And exactly who or what Christopher Robin might be saying his prayers to.

Back in the early innocent days of the internet, before the web existed and we welcomed random emails forwarded round, I remember a story of Winnie the Pooh as a drug-crazed serial killer. Damned if I can find it now. (Mind you, I'm probably damned for finding it funny, but that's by the by.)

177:

"Ye’re all damned!"

178:

"Nightmare in Moominland" has a certain appeal, but it's far too recent.

(I'm not tackling any American kid-lit of any vintage: it's not part of my background or target audience.)

179:

Not even Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn? Aw, shucks!

But, seriously, I don't see much scope for doing anything much more than adding tentacles, and mere transliteration doesn't seem to be your scene.

180:

I've got no problem with that.

181:

Copies are still out there, some illustrated. The search term you are looking for is "Pooh goes apeshit".

182:

Thinking of old internet circulars. I can imagine The Mandate narrating a version of "I like monkeys"

183:

If one apple device can do a 40,000 neuron sim (10 times what we're assuming a PI could manage, and probably a little too high*) you'd still need 20 of them to get you a million neurons, and a thousand times that to get you a billion neurons - the power requirements are still obscene. If you can put 100 apple devices in 2U of rack space - line them up in rows, without screens in a box - you're at 3200 apple devices in a full-sized rack so a billion neurons is 8 full racks, with 100 billion neurons being 800 racks - and we still haven't talked about how to network all these devices, or how to cool them, which means at least a hundred more racks! (PIs are probably better for cooling, as you can buy a little box with a fan.)

Assuming it hasn't been done already, some possible ways to make this a little smaller would be to write your neurons in pure assembler, which might bring your neuron speed up and the size down. Also, a real server might have better economics - a 16-core AMD Threadripper with 64 gigs of memory might run more neurons per watt. (I saw an amazing Broadcom-based server at the most recent Linux convention back in February!) If you wrote your own OS, or significantly pared down a Linux or BSD kernel you might get some better results too!

I'd go top-down, write some software which can reliably send and receive messages to itself, and go from there - you can probably skip a lot of neurons!

* A modern PI can run two 4K monitors simultaneously, so it's got a pretty good math coprocessor if someone wants to write the code to make the CPU talk to the GPU and use it for calculations.

184:

Overnight it expanded to...

They're piling skulls at Buckingham Palace
Christopher Robins is there with Alice
Alice was bothering one of the guards
A Headsmans job is terribly hard
Said Alice

...18 for violence?

185:

But I find the revelation that you can put a processor on a hard drive bizarre - by computing standards, that is ANCIENT technology, and gets hyped as a coming thing once every decade or so (when people's memories have had time to fade).

This is true of course, and all that's really happening is someone building something Raspberry PI-ish from the other direction. The big deals here are first, that you can make everything much smaller, and second that now you can do some preprocessing, which might mean a much bigger database with real ACID capabilities - shard your SQL database and let the drives do your searching instead of firing up a no-sql database which doesn't have solid consistency.

186:

Well played sir, that's the one. Ah, memories of evenings in the uni computer lab playing MUDs, in the days before the Harry Fox Agency removed all the ripped MP3s from the Archie FTP servers...

187:

The reason a unicorn's horn is a spiral is because it's two horns twisted together, each horn attached to one side of the skull, with appropriate bracing.

188:

In the early 1990s or so, I ran across a (I thought) -very- funny short story in which one of the Scooby Gang reveals that they had a secret history of being agents of Shub-Niggurath, etc. In trying to look this up now I find that a tamed version of this idea has actually been used in more recent shows, apparently.

189:

Like any comedy skit which riffs off shame, embarrassment and dysfunctionality, it's only funny if you're watching from outside. The aliens simulating us are rolling in the aisles (while other aliens are protesting outside the simulator!)

190:

That's exactly what Intel did with the Xeon Phi, and it merely takes you further down the dead end we are in at present. If you want to move in the direction of low-power, truly-massive, local-communication parallelism (like the brain), you HAVE to stop perpetrating serial designs with parallelism hacked where and how is possible.

191:

189: ... oi. Too true.

(my own 188): found it. It's called The Insects from Shaggy, and it's at a site called Maison Otaku.

192:

...it's not part of my background or target audience.)

I don't know about that. Scratch an American science-fiction fan and you're likely to find someone who's a major Muppet fancier - and of course Henson brought us Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

But I don't think you'll be doing Muppets soon regardless - they're not quite right as laundry-inspiration-fodder.

193:
- shard your SQL database and let the drives do your searching instead of firing up a no-sql database which doesn't have solid consistency.
So one bunch is making a new DAP and another crew is revisiting CAFS.
194:

Charlie @96: Now imagine talking to a communicating bee hive. What's that going to be like?

It's been done in webcomic form: Skin Horse is a webcomic about a secret government agency to provide social services to non-human sentients; it's run by Gavotte, a swarm of bees as a group intelligence, with Unity, a lab-bred zombie teenage girl, Sweetheart, an intelligent talking dog, Moustachio, a clockwork robot receptionist, Nick Zerhakker, the brain of a teenage boy harnessed to an armed CV-22 VSTOL, and Dr. Tip Wilkin, the token, crossdressing, human psychologist.

195:

You're assuming Apple devices, not Apple CPUs.

This is your regular scheduled reminder that most of the power draw in an iPhone or iPad is the screen and radio stages, not the CPU. TPD of a current 11" iPad Pro is around 7 watts; the CPU almost certainly accounts for not significantly more than 1 watt out of that.

So it's plausible to imagine on the order of 1000 A12X cpus on dedicated cards in a 4U rack (1kW of power draw). I'm pretty sure Apple preannounced Thunderbolt support for the new Apple Silicon Macs, so there's your interconnect -- iSCSI or 10Gig ethernet over TBolt, or maybe a dedicated PCIe channel-based interface.

196:

Creatures which grow horns because of evolution grow them in a manner and location which take account of the forces they can set up. If you look at eg. a cow skull it has a considerable bony boss that the horns grow from, and it is close to the point where the spine and the neck muscles connect to the skull so the forces can be transmitted directly to the animal's body.

The standard depiction of the unicorn only works if you assume the skull is a solid lump, which it is not. Those horns are attached perpendicularly to what is basically a fairly thin plate of bone with either squishy things or empty space behind it, depending on exactly where they put the horn. There can be no reinforcement, either, because if there was the shape of the skull would be very noticeably different from a standard horse, and it isn't.

If you imagine making a crude model of the head and neck of a horned animal using a big cardboard box gaffer taped to the end of a telegraph pole, and spears for the horns, then a cow or a deer or something is more closely modelled by taping the spears to the end of the pole at the same point the box is taped to it, whereas to model the unicorn you have to try and stick a spear to the middle of one of the faces of the box, and as soon as you knock it sideways it comes unstuck or the face of the box collapses.

197:

No, I don't think the problem's the hardware platform. Great, you've got the equivalent of one human's neurons (and you're eating the power provided by one entire diesel locomotive, several megawatts).

What runs on it? I've seen, fairly recently, that the "AI" we have are actually more like fancy expert systems.

199:

I'd love to see you do the Bobbsey Twins....*

But let's get classical: how about Byron and Shelley?

Or Edison and Tesla? For anyone who's never read about him, Tesla was *SERIOUSLY* strange.

200:

The one I'd like to find was less of that, and more real - a sysadmin is given a pound? three pounds? of chocolate covered espresso beans, and puts it on his desk. By the end of the day, half the organization has quit, of the remaining half, half of them hate the other hand, and a quarter are more productive than ever.

201:

re Wittgenstein and cats: a quick search suggests it's very hard to find biographies of Wittgenstein that talk about him, rather than his beliefs; whether he and his family were owned by cats, as opposed to how the word cat figures in his theory of language (not a small thing, I studied early and late Wittgenstein in college with great interest, you can laugh if you like- I wouldn't even act on a mandate to stop you- but I still understand those questions interested and interest me.)

I'm not laughing. Many of my interests are more silly. Wittgenstein's notion about a lion is just so uninformed that it serves as a timely reminder to pay attention to reality as part of one's philosophizing. That's all.

For what it's worth, I think the "primitive animists" got it somewhat more right than more modern philosophers. They actually had to deal with living things on a regular basis, so the idea that they had wills and intelligence of their own isn't stupid. Couple that with what seems to be an innate human desire to personify things as a way to understand them using our "people skills," and you've got animism in a nutshell. It's not right, but it's a lot less wrong than assuming that free will or sentience are binary qualities (things have them or not) and only humans have them.

202:

Quite a variety there. It does rather look as if the older ones are better engineered than the modern ones, but the rot seems to have set in pretty quickly.

203:

Tesla kept pigeons in his hotel room. He was all right.

204:

Wait, are we planning on installing the AI in someone's head?

It's an arbitrary figure, but if you can simulate the brain of a human with the energy used by a human, in the space used by a human, then we're pretty obviously in a place where computers are transhuman when they exceed those limits. Whether we can get there is another question. Whether we want to get there is a third and probably more important question, actually.

Note that I'm not arguing that computers don't do a large number of transhuman things right now. They do. This is just a way of quantifying when we're in unquestionably transhuman territory, assuming we get there at all. For all I know, the Butlerian Jihad will kick in during the 2030s and this will become a moot point.

205:
But I don't think you'll be doing Muppets soon regardless - they're not quite right as laundry-inspiration-fodder.

Even if Charlie wanted to do his own take on Muppets (with or without David Bowie in spandex trousers), everything the Henson company ever did
a) is still in copyright
b) belongs to Disney, these days.

Even if you were absolutely sure what you'd come up with was suitable parody to qualify for a "fair use" exemption, I personally still wouldn't touch it even with a lawyer on a ten-foot pole.

206:

What runs on it? I've seen, fairly recently, that the "AI" we have are actually more like fancy expert systems.

And in related news, these new-fangled automobiles ain't nothing but a fancy steam locomotive. It'll never catch on!

(Seriously, there were huge conceptual breakthroughs in neural network theory and tech in the past decade or so. We're still working through all the implications. Expert systems are just glorified IF ... THEN messes, or -- if Bayesian -- probability stack-ranking: the new hotness is how to derive the relative probabilities automatically and hopefully objectively from raw input data.)

207:

Since UK copyright is author's death plus 70 years of course, there's always

--HG Wells (Star Begotten? The Island of Dr. Moreau?)
--Rudyard Kipling (Puck of Pook's Hill? Rewards and Fairies? Just So Stories*?)
If you want to rip off the best.

*Does the Mythos run on Lamarckian evolution? Read and find out how the mad scientist's daughter got her tail).

208:

I'm not sure I buy it, particularly where power is concerned. You've still got to support IO, memory, long-term storage, etc., and a GPU if that's involved in running your neurons, so these devices would each draw 2-3 watts depending on whether they ran a GPU or not. (You don't gain much trading wifi for 10-gig connectivity - IIRC cabled networks use a 12-volt system, not sure about Thunderbolt.) Not to mention that each "chassis" holding your special-purpose cards is going to need IO, power, and - this is a huge expense with a thousand CPUs - cooling. Furthermore, your chassis needs to handle switching and routing... So I might buy 400 CPUs in a 4U rack, and once you deal with cooling, switching, and 10-gig routing, now you're probably back up to 4-5 watts per device.

But let's assume your numbers are correct. We put 1000 CPUs in a 4U rack. At 40,000 neurons/CPU we end up with your chassis supporting 40,000,000 neurons. If we put 18 of these in a 6-foot rack we've now got 720,000,000 neurons per rack, so now we're up to 138 racks to run 100 billion neurons. (I'd guess that best practice would be to separate each chassis by 1U for better cooling, so more likely 14 chassis/rack, which means more like 180 racks to emulate a human brain.)

So with your numbers, plus overhead for switching, routing, and cooling, the bare-minimum power-draw to emulate a human-brain is probably around 300 kilowatts.

209:

"What runs on it? I've seen, fairly recently, that the "AI" we have are actually more like fancy expert systems."

Yup. No arguments there. If we're looking for conscious AI that's a big, big question.

210:

Not kid lit, though perhaps too old anyway.

211:

You might be right about that. On the other hand, I don't think Warren Ellis was sued for The Sex Puppets (though that might have been before Disney bought the Muppets.)

212:

Apple did announce Thunderbolt support for the upcoming Apple silicone. Though I don't have any inside info, I expect an entertaining number of cores for the desktop CPUs, raising the possibility of emulating certain politicians with an economical number of Macs. :)

213:

Yeah, but you emulate Trump without AI.

214:

Since UK copyright is author's death plus 70 years of course, there's always

Incorrect. UK copyright is IIRC up to a century (corporate), and rights-holders in the UK usually also sell within the EU; Spanish copyright (and South African) run for life plus 90 years. Corporate rights may extend stuff indefinitely if it's turned into a film or TV property that adds to the original -- I know of at least one ongoing infringement lawsuit brought by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate against the makers of "Enola Holmes".

Wells should be out of copyright on paper in the UK ... but not throughout the EU, and the films arguably extended the estate's rights.

So you need to be very careful.

215:

Re: Beloved children's/young adult's classics in the Laundryverse

Guess we'll have to wait until 2033 for the 70 year copyright protection on C.S. Lewis' Narnia series to expire. Then after an additional 10 years maybe we'll see Narnia and Middle Earth characters interacting.

Lewis' Space Trilogy would be much easier to fold into the Laundryverse.

216:

To get into the rat's nest here for a second, IIRC, US literary copyright concerns words, not ideas. Isn't that the case in the UK as well? If so, there's nothing wrong with doing Kim in the Dreamlands, provided the idea's being swiped, not the words themselves.

217:

It's also the human's job to referee, because the single-horned goats can't easily butt heads to establish their customary dominance hierarchy.

Another thing goats do to establish dominance is to rear up on their hind legs.

Humans by our nature look like Very Dominant Goats in goat body language. This has its implications for integrating into the herd.

My local library has Goatwalking and I've asked their system to reserve it for me.

218:

No problem. Just repurpose a program generating Vogon poetry.

219:

Lewis' Space Trilogy would be much easier to fold into the Laundryverse.

There's some older stuff that might fit, if you file off the serial numbers -- there's a whole corpus of fantastical writings by Lord Dunsany and of course one of the inspirations for the Chthulhu Mythos, "The Night Land" by William Hope Hodgson. That one is an interesting read, one part Victorian melodramatic romance, one part existential despair with tentacles and one part masterful wife-beating with an occasional bout of spanking. It has some wonderful world-building in it though.

220:

If only they'd made a film of The Beekeeper's Apprentice....

221:

That is the theory, yes, but the practice is that it is perfectly legal to sue someone into bankruptcy for a bogus claim if it is done according to the proper ritual, and the plaintiff can drive the defendent into bankruptcy before the case finishes.

222:

!@#$%^&*(#$%^&*()#$%^&*()_#$%^&*()_$%^&*()#$%^&*!@#$%^&*()_+@#$%^&*()_+#$%^&*()_ C.S. Lewis.

The first book of his space trilogy was sorta-kinda interesting, when I was in my teens.

I only finished the second one because a) I'm a completist, and b) I was still a teenager. 200 or more fucking pages of the Venusian Eve, and the Earthman trying to keep her from eating the Venusian Apple.

BULL-FUCKING-SHIT.

And then, the last of That Hideous Trilogy, where ALL people for ANY advancement are all 100%, dyed in the wool, EVIL, and literally drag the animals out of the city zoo to tear them to shreds? Really?

And the only reason I read that last piece of shit was because I read there was a mention of Numenor in it, and there is, unfortunately.

You want me to tell you how I REALLY feel about C.S. Lewis' fiction?

223:

And the program's library should include Sam Kinison stand up recordings.

224:

That's actually a vote for Kipling, not against. Gaiman got away with The Graveyard Book, so it should be possible to repurpose some favored tropes without getting sued.

225:

A Voyage to Arcturus might be compatible with the Laundryverse. (We seem to have gotten away from children's books a little.)

I shudder to think about how E.R. Eddison would work out.

226:

Maybe. It might accidentally tell the truth.

227:

I haven't read them since I was eleven. Thanks for reminding me not to bother trying again.

228:

In the early 1990s or so, I ran across a (I thought) -very- funny short story in which one of the Scooby Gang reveals that they had a secret history of being agents of Shub-Niggurath, etc. In trying to look this up now I find that a tamed version of this idea has actually been used in more recent shows, apparently.

To good effect, too.

It's not as if it's a hard question. Which one would you guess was touched by extradimensional interference?

If Scooby Doo is your thing, it's worth watching.

229:

But I don't think you'll be doing Muppets soon regardless - they're not quite right as laundry-inspiration-fodder.

I dunno, I thought The Happytime Murders was an amusingly dark comedy. There's possibilities there…

(And possible lawsuits, so I'm not expecting anything in that direction.)

230:

Charlie @159 - damn you! I was just about to go there.

As for neutron simulation/Pi stuff -
I love me some Pi. I must have at least 60 core of Pi ranging from the very first model to the latest Pi 4, including several experimental ones I got sent because I worked for RPF for several years on making Scratch faster.
I really doubt a Pi 4 could simulate 1000 neutrons effectively though. The Apple A series chips though - now those are astonishing devices with incredible performance and all those extra special purpose toys. The latest iPads with the initial A14 variant gives some idea of how fast the next generation of MacBooks will be - the A12 based prototype machine is easily as fast as my fast i7 iMac.
But it isn’t simply cpu speed that matters for this. The communication speed between v-neurons is crucial to system performance. The ancient Transputer project understood this but got crushed by the intel spending monster once they accidentally got the IBM PC deal.

232:

Random thoughts:

Aslan as an Eldritch Abomination?
The Color Out of Time Fairy Book?
Is Gormenghast somewhere in Carcossa?

233:

s/Time/Space/1

234:

Not only did Tesla keep pigeons in his hotel room, he reliably fed them when he went out - even in his direst poverty.

One person described the pigeons flocking around Tesla like he was St. Francis of Assisi.

235:

Jim Henson didn't (as far as I know) ever quite show George Lucas* levels of enthusiasm for letting other people play with his toys, but he was a man with a keen sense of humour and a solid desire not to be a bully.

* In case anyone here is unfamiliar: Lucas regularly lent people models, props and outfits from the original Star Wars trilogy free of charge for use in fan films.

236:

Aslan: ha, ha, ha, none of that mattered, because you're all dead, and you're all MINE! (reaches for bbq sauce).

Ok, takeoff of an old underground pic in an underground comic: "He's coming! Even the grave couldn't hold him, and he WANTS YOUR SOUL!"

237:
Aslan as an Eldritch Abomination?

A self-reincarnating spell-casting shape-changing talking animal that plucks children from their own world and dumps them into another, judges them based on how well they cope, and then removes their souls to his private kingdom when they die?

You don't need to change much, I'd have thought!

238:

"Aslan as an Eldritch Abomination?"

Take off the High Church Anglican tinted glasses, and Aslan already is an eldritch abomination.

JHomes

239:

Muppets? Maybe not so much.

Poppets out of witchcraft? Homunculi? Totally legit.

240:

So... you've not seen Beatrix Potter and Sven Hassel's famous collaboration, "Peter Rabbit, Tank Killer"?

241:

You might be forgetting the film which got Peter Jackson on anyone's radar, "Meet the Feebles". As a parody of the Muppets (via "The Godfather" and "The Deer Hunter" amongst other take-offs) it was really quite something. More recently of course there's also "Avenue Q" as a take-off of "Sesame Street".

So yeah, you can apparently do a fair bit with that idea and get away with it, so long as you file off the serial numbers well enough.

242:

Maybe, maybe not - Moore's Law has been "going to fail, real soon now" for over thirty years...

A few years back, I was working for a programmable logic firm. I know that parallelism failed as the next way we'd keep things improving, but I reckon that FPGA coprocessing increasingly has legs*. At one point, I was integrating (one of?) the first credible C-to-gates tools** into the FPGA design flow. Coupled with reconfigurable logic, i.e. rewiring the FPGA on the fly, you've got an incredibly powerful mechanism for producing task-specific computers that can run alongside today's general-purpose computers.

* If you break open many of the automotive vision systems, you'll find chips containing ARMs, coprocessors, task-specific circuitry, and a pile of programmable logic.

** Many had tried, but most just couldn't deliver the necessary quality of results. These days AIUI, the digital designers are using C++ for a lot of their circuitry rather than VHDL/Verilog, because they get better outcomes that way...

243:

I hadn't forgotten either of those things - they both happened before the muppets were sold to the house of mouse.

I did incorrectly say that the whole Henson company now belonged to Disney, though. There were (at least two sets of) discussions about that, but in the end only the (non-Sesame) Muppets changed hands. (Sesame Street and residents belong to an education non-profit.)

244:

"I really doubt a Pi 4 could simulate 1000 neutrons effectively though."

Without seeing how big a virtualized neuron is, how fast it will run, how much memory it uses, whether or not it's interpreted, etc., I'm not certain of my numbers either. But I'll have a much better idea of what it will do after I've played with my new PI 4 for a couple days.

245:

And don't forget earlier inspirations, such as Charles Dickens.

There is, for instance,

A Tale of Two Cities (set in the chaos of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN)

A Solstice Carol (a heartwarming story of how the celebration of the Black Pharoah's advent changed the life of a wealthy businessman forever, part of a campaign to have this day become a holiday marked by wild consumption. Consumerism, I meant.

Twisted Oliver The powerful story of how a poor child in the Midlands benefits first from the K-syndrome and then from genetic testing.

246:

If you were going to target American audiences, you would probably get bigger recognition from cartoons or other childrens shows. Mister Rogers (or Captain Kangaroo) meets an Elder god....

Really wonder how weird Bugs would turn out...

247:

As quoted in The Illuminatus Trilogy: "That Wascally Wabbit." Turn the head sideways to understand what a fnord shoggoth looks like.

248:

The Merchant Princes series seems more TV-friendly than most of your work, as it starts out as a journalist investigating crimes and introduces magical travel soon after, and has a lot of interpersonal interaction, and a good excuse for some GoT medieval battles mixed with Succession. I'm sure there's a high concept pitch in there somewhere.

249:

Troutwaxer @ 213: Yeah, but you emulate Trump without AI.

Well, you wouldn't need the 'I' part anyway.


250:

Hmmm. E.R. Eddison's Zimiamvian books meet the Laundry Files...yeah. That would work, especially Fish Dinner in Memison.

251:

Hmmm. E.R. Eddison's Zimiamvian stories encounter the Laundry Files. Yeah, it could work, especially Fish Dinner in Memison. But then again, I do have a soft touch for Fiorinda and Barganax. And Mary and Lessingham.
Hmm. Yeah. It'd work.

252:

"But it isn’t simply cpu speed that matters for this. The communication speed between v-neurons is crucial to system performance."

Disproof by counter example.

"Depending on the type of fiber, the neural impulse travels at speed ranging from a sluggish 2 miles per hour to, in some myelinated fibers, a breackneck 200 or more miles per hour. But even this top speed is 3 million times slower than the speed of electricity through a wire."

Myers, David G. Psychology 4th Edition.New York:Worth Publishers Inc,1995: 43.

So even assuming the physical data centre is 3000 times larger than a human brain (linear dimensions) the electric thinking machine should communicate neuron to neuron a thousand times faster than a human brain. (remembering that in the SpiNNaker architecture the neurons share silicon with the memory so that's not a bottleneck). You can pack a lot of inefficiency into a communication system and still be orders of magnitude faster than human brains for any computer cluster of reasonable size (say, no larger than a university data centre).

That's before you consider that nerve fibres need time to reset after each signal.

If we can get silicon to run a brain at all then, performance isn't going to be an issue. The most time critical thing I can think of that human brains do is detecting sound direction. That's a very useful skill and would be strongly selected for. It's still a bit mushy though, so I've got to think that it bangs up against physical limits. So I think the brain can't really detect time less than 1 cm at the speed of sound. If we call that a clock cycle, that would mean the human brain runs at no more than 35 kHz. (probably much less). Silicon runs around 10 thousand times faster.

But, as I've said before, making the hardware is the least of the problems. Your gut has nearly as many neurons as a cat and runs independently to your brain (though they chat). I don't think your gut could track a mouse though.

253:

Hmm, category error. The *computing system performance * is not the same thing as the actual brain performance.

Neurons have their protocols for interconnection and software has its own. If we’re simulating 1000 neurons on a board like a Pi, then making the connections between that group will be reasonably easy to do way faster than real brains. But we aren’t even faintly talking about that being the whole story. We’d need thousands or millions of boards talking together and making the multiples of v-neurons per board able to have connections to other v-neurons on other boards. Experience (admittedly some time ago and possibly out of date) suggests that it can be quite expensive. Timing may be ‘interesting ‘ too; if I’m remembering right (it’s fuckin’ 2020 so of course I may not be) some aspects of neuron signalling has time matching and decay factors. Simulating that across millions of physically distinct cpus might be fun.

I have acquaintances working on this stuff and I think they’re not really looking at general purpose cpus but at specialised hardware.

254:

"I have acquaintances working on this stuff and I think they’re not really looking at general purpose cpus but at specialised hardware"

Well yeah. SpiNNaker for one. I didn't think you were actually serious about building a human brain out of Raspberry Pis. Just sort of generally stating that communication between neurons was a bottleneck and it wasn't all about cpu speed.

I'm pretty sure that the first human level AI won't be made out of repurposed mobile phones or hobbyist computer boards.

Interesting very shallow overview of SpiNNaker. This is from 5 years ago, the current SpiNNaker 2 is 10 times the number of cores.

https://youtu.be/2e06C-yUwlc

255:

No. The Raspberry PIs were more about getting power consumption to rock bottom and seeing what we ended up with in terms of racks and power consumption.

256:

Isn't there another problematic assumption in here, that humans do general purpose computing? By the time we've finished developing, we're pretty hardwired, because our brains have spent a few decades growing and paring away neural connections to do whatever it is we do (program computers, tennis, country music, grifting). That may be one reason why humans do what may appear to be things that are ridiculously complex, with neurons that, when simulated, are too potentially too slow to handle the job. The computer's running a program, while the brain's basically a dedicated analog system doing what it's designed to do. That system can be rebuilt to some degree, but slowly.

Still, I think one could get an estimate for the difference between brains and computers by figuring out the minimum currently needed to simulate a neuron, and the minimum needed to simulate connections between two neurons, and then multiplying that out to see what kind of behemoth scale it would take to supply that many neurons and connections using currently available systems. Raspberry PI may be suitable for such order of magnitude efforts.

Remember, this is about getting an estimate of resource and energy use that's ballpark correct, not about building a human brain emulator just yet.

257:

Fiorinda destroys the world.

258:

"Remember, this is about getting an estimate of resource and energy use that's ballpark correct, not about building a human brain emulator just yet."

Well SpiNNaker 2 is pretty much that.

They're building it now. They are expecting to stay in the same power budget as the first SpiNNaker (100 kW) 10 times the number of cores (10 million) and 5 times the number of neurons per core (5000). So about 50 billion neurons.

That certainly gives us a ball park for emulating a human (<100 billion neurons). 100 kW and 10 cabinets gets us more than half way there.

https://arxiv.org/abs/1911.02385

[[ '<' is the start of a tag. If you want the actual character, use '&lt;' - mod ]]

259:

.Guess we'll have to wait until 2033 for the 70 year copyright protection on C.S. Lewis' Narnia series to expire.

You haven't read Lev Grossman's The Magicians, I take it? (It pastiches Narnia brilliantly and brutally, with a side-swipe at Harry Potter along the way.)

There are ways to work around in-copyright restrictions, and it also depends to some extent on how litigious (read: rent-seeking) the estate is. However, I'm deeply uninterested in Narnia and Lewis' work -- I'm allergic to Christian evangelical allegory.

I'm not making any excuses for my preference in childhood favourites to chew up and spit out: it's just me.

260:

The bit of my comment after the opening bracket was truncated. The last paragraph should have been:

That certainly gives us a ball park for emulating a human (<100 billion neurons). 100 kW and 10 cabinets gets us more than half way there.

[[ fixed here too - mod ]]

261:

Grrr, I seem to have written something with a tag in it using a more than symbol. 3rd time lucky?

[[ You kept using the less than symbol < - mod ]]

That certainly gives us a ball park for emulating a human (more than 100 billion neurons). 100 kW and 10 cabinets gets us more than half way there.

262:

Heteromeles
Isn't there another problematic assumption in here, that humans do general purpose computing?
Didn't Heinlein have something to say about that - about what a human could do?

263:

Ah, yes.

Somewhere in here I've got a copy on paper of my first tech author job -- turning the handwritten field service engineer's notes for a very interesting box into an actual manual for the Real World Graphics' Transputer Reality System, as supplied to Norview, a manufacturer of shipping bridge simulators -- the Transputer Reality System was a brief (I think they only made about a dozen systems) foray into parallel T800 hardware before Graham gave up on Inmos and switched to Intel i860 RISC (four of the bastards on a single ISA-bus card, along with 16Mb of RAM and 4Mb of VRAM was quite the epic GPU back in 1990). (RWG was the small graphics supercomputing firm started by Graham Rowan, the bloke who designed the hardware for the Quantel Paintbox circa 1980.

IIRC the TRS was a VME-bus chassis with eight cards, including separate compute and rendering units, designed to drive five monitors (1024 x 768) at a decent enough frame rate to render the view from the bridge windows of a container ship or supertanker in real time and colour. It sold for rather a lot of money because not that many folks want to buy life-size bridge simulators for supertankers ...

It went out of production around 1990; I wonder if I should scan and upload the manual? It may be the only surviving relic of the system.

264:

I've never seen Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo, and I'm not targeting an American audience.

265:

Unfortunately it's based on the assumption that brains = neurons. There are some indications -- our understanding of microbiology at that scale factor is incomplete and messy -- that glial cells do some processing/modulation too, and there are two orders of magnitude more of them: looking at a brain and assuming neurons are where the action happens could be like looking at the visible tracks on a PCB and assuming they're a computer and assuming the black boxes with lots of legs are just neatly packaged patch boards. Worse, there may be intra-cellular data filtering going on within axons that isn't easily detectable by looking at the next level up.

That's my problem with naive assumptions that we can simulate a human brain in hardware. A brain sim, sure: but it may be as close to a human brain as a Boeing 737 is to a seagull, architecture-wise, and leave out important bits (the self-directed goals, the egg-laying, the shitting everywhere).

266:

Didn't Heinlein have something to say about that - about what a human could do?

Heinlein was talking out of his arse. I'm not going to dignify that ludicrous quote by repeating it here: suffice to say, he had unconscious objectivist leanings and didn't really grasp the significance of large institutional superorganisms.

267:

While your second sentence is correct, I strongly disagree with your first. I am surprised to see you favouring the currently dominant viewpoint that people (except, of course, our Holy Leaders) are nothing but anonymous, fungible, specialised cogs, and any who are different should be forced into that mould or eliminated. That dogma has been taking over even academic research for a long time, I had that fight many, many times in my career, and failed to resist it even in my area.

In particular, the dogma is one of the things that assists wage slavery, and traps people in unemployment (or near-unemployment). People trying to break out are blocked by the constraint that they are not considered for anything other than what they are trained for and/or have long experience in. Minimum experience 10 years programming Cobol on IBM 370 platforms was a common condition, and modern ones are little better. Even I have personal experience of that :-(

Yes, it was an extreme statement to attract attention (surely not, in an ASF writer?), but he was stating that humans should retain their mental flexibility, and should NOT be let themselves be trapped in restricted roles (whether of their own making or imposed on them). I can do at least 2/3 of his list, and can add an equal number of comparable skills.

Consider a large institutional superorganism; the number of times I have seen one fuck it up because none of the people on the planning or decision committees (either technical or executive) were prepared to think outside their box. I have even taken some of them to task obvious blunders (i.e. where all they needed was commonly-known public knowledge) and got the answer "That's not part of my role." Yes, of course, many of them excluded people like me because we raised issues they weren't "qualified" to think about. But, as the saying goes, there's never any time to do it right, but plenty of time to do it over.

268:

I'm not sure what general intelligence would look like compared to what humans have got.

There could probably be good science fiction about aliens and humans operating in each other's blind spots.

269:

There could probably be good science fiction about aliens and humans operating in each other's blind spots.

Peter Watts does something like that in Blindsight (and sequels).

270:

Consider a large institutional superorganism; the number of times I have seen one fuck it up because none of the people on the planning or decision committees (either technical or executive) were prepared to think outside their box.

Depends on how you define vertical fornication, doesn't it? Just remember that the ostensible goal of a project and the actual goal of those in charge is usually very different. (Accomplishing a task vs. career advancement.)

271:

There is (*), but (for obvious reasons) even the alien thinking isn't that alien. All right, I am a pretty radical and out-of-the box thinker as far as humans go, but there are sound theoretical and practical reasons to believe you can't describe what you can imagine. I have actual experience of how culture-dependent such 'basic' concepts as variables, probability (as most people know it), and logic are.

I have imagined languages where "The cat sat on the mat" required a paragraph, and where you could reduce a paragraph of conditional and qualified statements to a few words; and mathematics where the concepts of numbers were advanced concepts, but things like the topology or random walk theory were basic.

The key generality difference between current 'AI' and human intelligence is imagination and all that it implies. We (and some animals) can take a concept in one area, and use it to build a not-obviously related one in another.

(*) E.g. The Dance of the Changer and the Three by Terry Carr or The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

272:

The reasons that they have chosen (or been forced) to constrain their abilities is not what I was talking about, but (a) the simple fact and (b) the undesirability, from the POV of either society or the institution. Yes, Heinlein was being provocative in implying they weren't fully human, but he was making a damn good point.

As another example of the harm this causes, I knew some of the last of the English rural working class, and I had close friends and colleagues who came from the industrial working class. Despite their status, they were FAR more multi-knowledgeable and multi-able (including about politics) than the underclass that is called the working class by the loony left today. This is the result of deliberate dumbing down of the electorate by TPTB (including the mass media) over the past four decades, and is WHY we are now governed by incompetent fascists and voted for Brexit, of course. Scotland has done slightly better.

273:

[With links for y'all of the "Captain Kangaroo" persuasion...]

So, if not "Wombles as ambush predators" (I'm still hoping for that - just wondering how many lost dogs / dog walkers / joggers on Wimbledon Common would be needed to support the dietary needs of a colony of trapdoor wombles, who very definitely make good use of the things that they "find").

Are we about to see "Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, and Cthulhu", i.e. Camberwick Nightmare Green?

(Yes, I know that strictly speaking the Fire Brigade is in Trumpton, but I don't hold out much hope for Pippin Fort. No doubt they'll be burning the unworthy as fuel for the Chigley steam engine, or strapping their skulls to Windy Miller's sails)

You can't subvert anything from Aardman - the Lancashire Inquisition would descend to punish any Heresies against Gromit. Nor Paddington Bear - certainly not after the second film, and one of Hugh Grant's greatest performances...

...alright, you can have Morph. Thousands of him, sliding under doors and forming outlandish shapes. I blame Tony Hart, he was a Gurkha you know. I was going to embed the "Vision On" logo, but decided it was too unsettling...

274:

I'm surprised how closely Hart and Keysell resemble The Doctor and one of his sequential sidekicks.
I probably shouldn't be, but I am not a television person.

275:

Well Sylveste(r) McCoy was a regular...

276:

I strongly disagree with your first.

Heinlein's list of life skills is both highly selective and highly culturally dependent. Culturally dependent in that it focusses on the useful skills for an aspirational male WASP aristocrat during a certain period (his birth era, plus or minus a generation: say, from 1880 to 1930) living within memory of the open western frontier. Highly selective in that these are individual skills, not collective ones (how to referee a soccer match, run a construction project, act as first responder at a mass casualty event) that require effective interaction with other people other than as an officer/master and commander. Moreover, a bunch of them require lifelong practice to achieve or mantain proficiency at -- a luxury to most people insofar as people currently prioritize survival (and therefore paying work) over stuff like fencing or ballroom dancing.

Like the original form of Alan Turing's imitation game, it tells us more about the author's prejudices and blind spots than about humanity.

277:

Surely a 737 shits continuously all the time it is awake. Look at the continuous white streaks it leaves behind it in the sky, and if it wasn't gaseous it would be leaving piles of it all over the airport too.

278:

This is probably wrong, but my understanding of AI general intelligence is that it's a program running on a machine. If you had two such machines, call them "Heteromeles" and "Charles Stross," if these were general intelligence machines and each could run the H or CS programs, you could swap the programs on the two machines and they'd run equally well.

Now, if human brains were generally intelligent, this would imply that you could take "me," and "Charlie," and swap us between each others' skulls, and we'd work equally well, although Charlie would hate my computer setup and I'd crash Antipope trying to maintain it. If I understand the general intelligence idea correctly.

Obviously you can't swap people between brains, because who we are is expressed by physically connected neurons. These connections proliferate early in life, and then go through subsequent cycles of proliferation and pruning until we die. We are structure.

So, in other words, this version of general intelligence is basically that the AI has a soul, specifically, the program that can be installed and run on any general intelligence machine. If humans have souls (and I tend to group with the Taoists and Buddhists here), it's not our entire personality and it can't be extracted intact from my skull. The composite being known as "me" or "you" continually changes throughout life and disintegrates on death.

Or, if you don't like the idea that self-aware AIs will have the structural equivalent of souls that can transmigrate among computers, while humans don't have equivalent structures, consider the story of the golem. Install a magical script, and the clay comes to life. So if you can't stand the idea of programmers trying to make souls, maybe they're trying to make general purpose golems instead.

279:

Preface And Public Announcement:
1. I have not forget or forgave anything. That means, I'm not going to discuss, mention or take note of these topics, leaving people to their ignorance.
2. And I have no desire to know anything of their relationships with New Management.
3. It's not the first time an individual is inflammatory allergic to my opinions or manners, but whatever the case, I say, "it's their loss, not mine".
4. Having said all that, I am still bold enough to barge in on different occasions.

to Nancy Lebovitz @268:
I'm not sure what general intelligence would look like compared to what humans have got.
The definition of "general" is too general for people describe it, but I've seen enough option for people interested in topic to at least divide them by power they possess. Like this game I am considering to buy as of recent:
https://starsector.fandom.com/wiki/AI_Cores
Personally, I think, this is way too simplified. I created a bit different measure of intelligence that can be described as "centralisation", where most centralised powerful intelligent systems were highly self-regulating and having mind of their own (like Golem XIV by Stanislav Lem, can be considered Alpha-class intelligence), to human-like decently-networked intelligence (beta-class, human models) to smart search algorithms on different levels.

There's possibility to hammer a smart search algorithm to reshape and hammer it down to resemble human behaviour, but it still does not count, and we are not even there. But the most strange of them would be most decentralized ones, that are so vague in form it is impossible to isolate them from environment - I think, Charlie did describe their incarnation in the form of corporations and bureaucratic structures.

to Robert Prior @269:
Peter Watts does something like that in Blindsight (and sequels).
I read that a lot, very inspiring - but not in a family-friendly manner.

280:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly."

The list is not quite what you say, considering that there are some domestic skills (with changing diapers put first!), and that "cooperate" is mentioned. It's not exactly "elite male". I'd say it's mostly a combination of farmstead and military plus some liberal arts.

Would anybody care to suggest better lists, proposed without Heinlein's (or Lazarus Long's) arrogant tone?

For amusement, contemplate Brin's Glory Season for contrast. The planet is run by clone groups of women, and one of the things which keeps men done is that they're expected to have a wide range of personal skills-- they don't get the advantage of specializing to work in groups.

281:

78:
can't see why a horse analogue couldn't have plaited tusks as a horn.
Perhaps it would fight differently, fencing as opposed to ramming?

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

and as for Mary Poppins
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T5_0AGdFic

282:

to Elderly Cynic @267:
Of many quotes I've heard from Heinlein, this is probably the one I disagree the least. I actually prefer the diversity and it is especially funny and natural when the diversity comes not from a design but from the lack of it. If there wouldn't be any improvisation or imagination in engineering, nothing would work and nobody would understand anything.
For one, my first job was listed an "engineer" (which is local equivalent of "design engineer") and I never did design jobs on this position, I only did what can be described as "drafting" - converting design into a practical form for metal and wiring. My second job was entirely opposite - I was a design engineer, while my job is listed as aforementioned "drafter". It goes even more strange from here (like, consulting with four different "bosses" on the same topic).

I am surprised to see you favouring the currently dominant viewpoint that people (except, of course, our Holy Leaders) are nothing but anonymous, fungible, specialised cogs, and any who are different should be forced into that mould or eliminated. That dogma has been taking over even academic research for a long time, I had that fight many, many times in my career, and failed to resist it even in my area.
IMO, anonymity and fungibility is inherently opposing to specialization. If you are replaceable and constantly hopping jobs, you will know a lot of things in many areas, but none of them good enough to compete with those who have been stuck there since childhood, or for another decade, actually working hard on problems (if they actually do that). If you are a specialist, you will know that your skills and connections are important, and how they are important, your position is beneficial, and you will actively oppose some everyman walking in from the street. You don't even need to a be a genius for that. Believe me, I've been through that experience on a very elementary level.
This is why those "superorganisms" are so prolific these days - first, because they and their core competencies hardly meet their competition, second, because they are very self-aware about that. How many leading high-tech producers of IT infrastructure there are? Probably you can count them with your fingers.

People trying to break out are blocked by the constraint that they are not considered for anything other than what they are trained for and/or have long experience in. Minimum experience 10 years programming Cobol on IBM 370 platforms was a common condition, and modern ones are little better. Even I have personal experience of that :-(
Minimum experience managed in "years" is rather obsolete, nearsighted measure of it, and even my career has had some months that were more productive in experience than other years. Particularly my last year, where my primary project has been stalled for months because of all delays in quarantine measures, and some important people plain refuse to reply to our queries.
But there's no way around time constraints all the same, because when you are doing it yourself, without that experience, it takes ten times as much time and effort as the person who has already trained to do that. And by the time you will study enough to know how to do what you want, you will forget half of the work you've been doing before that. Division of labor is a real thing, as far as efficiency is concerned.

283:

To have the real sense of the quote, you need to add the last sentence, which is "Specialization is for insects," and consider, given that the quote comes from page 248 of "Time Enough For Love" and almost certainly comes in the context of his discussion of the kinds of skills require to pioneer a new planet - it's a character speaking, BTW - and that character has faults, which are also discussed in the texts of multiple books.

Having read his biography, I don't think that Heinlein was particularly invested in that exact list - I don't doubt that he'd happily accept the friendship of someone with a list of 22 skills which were utterly different than the ones he listed - outside the context of pioneering, the skills are clearly examples.

If Heinlein had written "I prefer people with domestic skills, good knowledge of math, an understanding of the arts, basic knowledge of a real-world skill like construction or engineering, the ability to work a garden and a background in the military or a well-run business" I don't think the quote would be nearly so controversial.

I can manage sixteen of the skills he lists, and probably manage a couple more if I had to, plus my own particular set of competencies.

284:

That certainly gives us a ball park for emulating a human (

Not sure how big a computer cabinet is in this case, but let's call it 1 m2, or 10^6 cubic centimeters. Human brains lump out in the 1100 to 1300 cc range, so call them 10^3 cc. So to shrink a 10^7-ish cc volume of computronium into a 10^3 space requires it to shrink around 10^4. Now Moore's Law is the idea that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years. So IF we assume that means computer volumes can shrink by a factor of two every two years (and not by simply making smaller transistors), that's 13-14 cycles, or 25-30 years from now.

If I'm wrong about the size of Gasdive's computer cabinets, and 10 cabinets are only around 10^6 cc, that's 10-11 cycles, or around 20 years from now.

Energetically, we're trying to go from 200 kW to 100 W, so that's a factor of 2000 decline. Koomey's Law is that the number of computations per joule shrinks by 2 every 2.5 years or so. So that's 10-11 cycles, or 25-30 years.

So if we're ballparking things, and if we assume that some variation on the theme of Moore's and Koomey's shrinkage laws continue to hold for another 30 years (giggles are appropriate), then the 2040s look to be nucking futs. This is certainly oversimplified to the point of being untrue, because we won't keep going as we're going now, and wake up one day to find that the world became utterly unrecognizable overnight. But, assuming nothing else changes (hah!), sometime in the 2040s will be when you can cram a human-scale general intelligence into a computer cabinet the size of a human skull and run it off a reasonably sized solar panel. What fun.

285:

Oh, I fully agree with THAT - my list of skills is, obviously, similarly dependent on my background (*). But his point that people should have a wide range of skills (including, as Nancy Lebovitz says, ones that cross 'gender roles' and are common to most people) and the other points I made stand.

(*) How many readers here can make and repair nets, and make netting needles from pieces of wood? No, those are not required skills for most people :-)

286:

can't see why a horse analogue couldn't have plaited tusks as a horn.
Perhaps it would fight differently, fencing as opposed to ramming?

Pigeon answered this at 196 quite well.

I'd add two additional problems. One is that, if you can make a cardboard or other lightweight sword analog and fix it to a bill-cap, you'll see what one big issue is: you're looking down the blade. Now many ruminants and horses can't really see in that direction. Presumably something that fenced with its face would have stereoscopic vision? Well, narwhals don't, and rhinos don't and...we don't have many other examples. But the problem I'm pointing to is that, if you're fencing with your face, your eyes are the easiest target to hit. There's no guard, and if it doesn't hit our eye, the next thing in line is your brain, which is even worse. Pigeon's comments about lateral forces breaking that part of your skull are also very much on point, as it were.

Narwhal males do indeed fight with their teeth, but they seem to fight the way they hunt fish, by bludgeoning their opponents with their tusks. And note this is a tooth, not a horn, and it's fixed to a stronger part of the skull. Sawfish and swordfish also hunt this way, incidentally.

The other problem is sharpening the tip. Use a horn for stabbing, it gets dull and needs to be resharpened. But animals tend to make sharp tips by growing them from the base, which is a problem. Deer get around this problem by growing new sharp-ish tips every year. But a unicorn? I guess they've got to grow sharp horn somehow, from the base, and that gets tricky, although it can be done (see bull horns, for example). Cat claws also grow sharp, but I don't think they grow the same way, so if you're dealing with that, you're not talking about a ruminant, but about an animal with a claw growing out of its head (at cat-i-corn?).

Actually, the above gave me an interesting idea: an alien monster formatted like a unicorn, but with a serrated antler instead of a single horn. Basically a terrestrial sawfish. Hmmmm. Unfortunately, I don't know of one from myth, so it gets relegated to an alien world and SF. But still.

287:

Pigeon answered this at 196 quite well.

My solution is that Unicorns were bred by the Elves as Cavalry steeds and magical encouragements towards virginity.


Actually, the above gave me an interesting idea: an alien monster formatted like a unicorn, but with a serrated antler instead of a single horn. Basically a terrestrial sawfish. Hmmmm. Unfortunately, I don't know of one from myth, so it gets relegated to an alien world and SF. But still.

I think Gamera fought one of those once. Monster's name may have been Zigra, but it was a 70s Gamera movie so I'm not going to waste the time looking it up.

288:

The other problem is sharpening the tip.

That's easy! Make it out of something self-sharpening instead, like uranium. Implementation left as an exercise for the reader. :-)

289:

David Coppertop, wearing a copper mesh hat to protect his brain from Undue Influences, working hard for someone with Power, and living in a hovel.

290:

Yct led me to another structure. Consider that we use CPUs to set things up, but for certain purposes (graphics, computation on large sets of data), we use GPUs to offload, and which are specialized. What percentage of human intelligence is one, and which the other?

Perhaps our CPU "learns" something, then builds - in the sense of "grows", or a muscle or brain pattern, on how to do that, and tells that to run when it needs it.

291:

The number of times a superorganism fucks up because they couldn't think outside the box?

Even more often, they don't have a clue what the organization *does* and how they do it - too many MBAs. The result is the tossing around of buzzwords that they don't know the definition of.

For example, one of my daughters who's a programmer called to rant a couple days ago. She's spent two weeks working on a project she was handed, being told ethernet logs.

Then, after two weeks, she's in a meeting, and someone says something, and it comes out they want to send logs over the 'Net, not log all ethernet packets.

They had no clues, it was all Magic Words to them.

292:

Computer cabinet/rack: a server is 19" wide, about 2" high, and vary in depth from 24" to about a meter. Servers are frequently referred to as pizza boxes (but double the length).

The racks holding them average 6'6" to 7' plus.

Ex: https://www.racksolutions.com/rack-mount-enclosure.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlpKDuviT7AIVnD6tBh2KxgmNEAQYASABEgKc9PD_BwE

293:

To amplify, rack space is measured in "U"s which is short for "unit." A single "unit" is 1.5 inches high and 19 inches wide. A full-size rack is usually 48 Units high, and you can add 3-5 inches for wheels, a top, and so forth.

Oh shit. That means I miscalculated above how many of Charlie's 4U chassis would fit in a rack... It should be 12, or maybe 10 if a 1U space is left between each chassis for cooling purposes.

Originally a "pizza box" was a Sparc 5 or Sparc 10, which were just about perfectly sized to fit a medium pizza and were stackable, but as you noted, any 1U server probably qualifies these days.

294:

Charlie
I think your last half-sentence: and didn't really grasp the significance of large institutional superorganisms. hits the nail.
Thanks, makes a lot more sense.

EC
People trying to break out are blocked by the constraint that they are not considered for anything other than what they are trained for
Yeah; "We can't get the trained staff" - FUCKING LIARS
I spent between the ages of 45 & 65 trying to get paid employment with an Engineering MSc, right.
Actually, you were much too generous, your last parahgraph should have read, at the start:
"Consider a large institutional superorganism; the number of times I have seen one fuck it up because none of the people on the planning or decision committees (either technical or executive) were prepared to think outside their box There, fixed that for you (grin).

WHitroth
Even ONE "MBA" is too many.
EXTERMINATE!

295:

No. NO 4U servers. Absolutely not. Even if you provide the Genie lift, NO. I do NOT EVER want to have to deal with one again.... (No Genie lift https://www.tmsequip.com/products/genie-lift-gl-8-w-std-base-lifting-height-10-ft-5in-height-stowed-5-ft-7-5-in-load-capacity-400-lbs.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMInfuNkouU7AIVJIVaBR1MBw8YEAQYASABEgK8Q_D_BwE and yes, that's a winch on the back)

NO!

296:

It took both of us balancing a 3U storage module on our heads to get it into the 56-60U slot in one rack. I couldn't have done it single-handed (or single-headed).

297:

"Trained staff"

For one, one in ten ever does training. The rest DO NOT DO IT.

Second, they want you, before they talk to you, to have done a mind meld with the last three people walking out, so you can do all of their jobs, with no ramp-up time.

And third... that was why I never went past my BS - I was afraid of some asshole in HR rejecting my resume because I was "overqualified".

298:

Would anybody care to suggest better lists, proposed without Heinlein's (or Lazarus Long's) arrogant tone?

The whole "take orders; give orders" thing is amusing, having conducted leadership training and assessments over a few years. IMHO, "do what I say" is easy. Saying "do this coherent plan" is actually rather difficult, and it's surprising how few people do well at breaking down a team activity into separate tasks, expressing them clearly enough, then coordinating them: in their head, on the fly. All of those "command tasks" which involve a couple of planks, a bunch of ropes, and the need for your team to cross a bottomless chasm marked out by some lines on the ground, are a brilliant microcosm of it; it's a learned skill in part, can be fairly stressful to participate in, and is absolutely fascinating to watch from the outside.

The truly irritating are the Dunning-Kruger types who are incorrectly convinced they are brilliant at giving orders. There's fun in designing training exercises that help them realise that they aren't, without destroying the training value for everyone else involved...

Anyway, here's a quick go at it - I prefer principles to checklists:

Take full care of yourself. Take full care of others (including children of any age). Accept responsibility for your actions; understand the impact of your actions on others. Do your fair share, and then some. Accept but control your fears, sufficient to do what needs done when things are scary; control your temper, sufficient to cope when things are stressful. Be willing to do the hard thing that's right, instead of the easy thing that's wrong. Understand that you might not be correct; understand that others might not be incorrect. Be willing to put yourself forward, and to be that first penguin off the iceberg. Keep learning. And when it really hurts, get up again and keep going. ;) Oh, and understand that maxims make good teammates, but a lousy boss ;)

Or the simpler form for when things get stressful: Look out for the people around you, whoever they are; dig in and carry on no matter how sh*t things get; don't be a jack b**tard[1].

[1] Non-widespread UK slang: To be "jack" - to look out for yourself over others, to be selfish.

299:

Just to be a contrarian, I'm going to post Zhuangzi's famous allegory of the "Altar Oak." This was written around the 4th Century BCE* and definitely during the Warring States Period, when a number of Chinese Kingdoms vied for dominance and war was a miserable part of life. It's one of the foundational documents of Taoism. If you're a bit of a lateral thinking, you can read this as an allegory about one way to lead a free and easy life:

"Woodworker Shi was on his way to Qi. As he came to Quyuan he saw an oak planted as the village altar tree. It was so huge that a herd of several thousand cattle could have stood in its shade – its trunk was a hundred arm-spans round, tall as the hills, and a hundred feet straight up to the lowest limb. A dozen of its branches were so big that a boat could have been built from each one. The throng of gawking sightseers was big as the crowds on market days, but the woodworker did not so much as glance at it and walked right past without stopping. His apprentice, however, stood and gazed his fill before running to catch up. “Master, since I first picked up my ax and hatchet to follow you I have never seen lumber of such fine quality! Yet you were unwilling to look at it and walked right past without stopping. Why?”

“Enough!” said Woodworker Shi. “Say no more about it. It’s waste wood! Make a boat from it and it will sink; make a coffin from it and it will rot; make a utensil from it and it will break; make a gate from it and it will run sap; make a pillar from it and insects will infest it. You can’t make lumbar from such a tree; it’s useless! That is why it has lived to such an age.”

After Woodworker Shi returned home, the altar oak appeared to him in a dream. “What were you comparing me to? Did you mean to compare me to those lovely trees, like the sour cherry and pear, the tangerine and pomelo – fruit bearing trees that are ripped apart once their fruit ripens? Disgraced by all that ripping, their limbs split and their branches torn, they find only bitterness in life and end by dying before their natural years are up. They bring it on themselves, being torn up by the common crowd. It is thus for all types of things. Now, I have sought to be useless for a very long time, and though I came close to death I have now reached my goal – for me that is of great use indeed! Were I useful could I ever have grown so big? And after all, you and I are both things – what sort of thing are you to go sizing up another thing this way? You near dead waste of a man, what do you know of waste wood?”

Woodworker Shi awoke and was explaining his dream. His apprentice said, “If it sought to be useless, how could it serve as an altar tree?”

“Hush!” said the woodworker. “You should keep your mouth shut. It surely planted itself there knowing that it wouldn’t be recognized by the mocking crowd. If it were not an altar tree, wouldn’t it risk being cut down? Moreover, it protects itself differently from the common run; if you try to understand it by the common standard you’ll be far wide of the mark!”

*A minor irony: The Zhuangzi has some text from the Tao Te Ching in it, and mentions Lao Tzu. However, the oldest known copy of the Zhuangzi is considerably older than the oldest known copy of the Tao Te Ching. Another thing to appreciate about Taoism.

300:

On the Heinlein list:

In "Mother Earth, Mother Board" Neal Stephenson writes about the fraternity of cable layers (bear in mind this was written in 1996 when digital cameras were not a common thing):

Handley, for example, was a founding member of SEAL Team 2 [...]. In addition to being an expert diver, he has a master mariner's license good up to 1,500 tons, which is not an easy thing to get or maintain. He does all his work on a laptop (he claims that it replaced 14 employees) and is as computer-literate as anyone I've known who isn't a coder.

[...]

The crews of the cable barges tend to be jacks-of-all-trades: ship's masters who also know how to dive using various types of breathing rigs or who can slam out a report on their laptops, embed a few digital images in it, and email it to the other side of the world over a satellite phone, then pick up a welding torch and go to work on the barge.

[...] you can overhear them learnedly discoursing on flaw propagation in the crystalline structure of boron silicate glass or on seasonal variation of currents in the Pearl River estuary, or on what a pain in the ass it is to helm a large ship through the Suez Canal.

These guys definitely tick quite a few boxes on Heinlein's list (apart from the diaper changing).

301:

These guys definitely tick quite a few boxes on Heinlein's list (apart from the diaper changing).

You might be surprised; a lot of them are fathers, and that whole "don't be Jack" thing applies to childcare and nappies (what y'all call diapers) too. I know a Tier 1 type bloke who would be very offended if you suggested he couldn't take care of his daughter while Mum went away for the weekend; and last year was at the funeral of an ex-RM friend who had been in the SRR, passed selection for SBS, and had become a primary schoolteacher (I met Stewart when he was our team's performance psychologist, and we shared a room in Melbourne for two weeks).

302:

"Never seen Mr. Rogers..."

For your edification: "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" with Tom Hanks.

Fred Rogers was known for being the quintessential nice guy. Hard to understand how he managed to stay on TV all those years. (I NEVER watched either show growing up, always loved Bugs tho... (and Popeye and Bullwinkle and ...))

303:

“Cat claws also grow sharp”
And when they get dull the cat sharpens them (on my furniture.). Unicorns could hone their horns on rocks.

304:

Actually the movie about him is quite good. Not a bio, mostly about an interaction with a magazine writer doing a write up on him. It even brings up his faults (which were well known in the Pittsburgh area where he lived).

Worth a watch. And most likely not what anyone who just knows the character "Mr. Rogers" would expect.

305:

the way cat claws grow, a succession of shells..
that could be the way.
but that would rule out the babyrusa-type tuskhorn

306:

Yes, shedding the outer, damaged bit. Such a system would probably be a nightmare for something that's long and thin, both because of poor adhesion between layers and damage to more than one layer. But something like that (or filing the horn down on rocks) would be needed is a unicorn was daft enough to want to mount a long, sharp horn on its brain case between its eyes.

Making the horn a magical non-weapon probably is a better solution, don't you think. Giving a goat a tool that it could wave at any food and make it edible, and any water, and make it potable, would qualify as useful magic, at least for a goat, don't you think?

307:

First source I’ve seen tonight:
President Trump tests positive for coronavirus

True, or looking for an excuse to cancel the next debate?

309:

In the world of the book I just finished writing the decision was that unicorns can magically adjust their mass. They're not as heavy as a cavalry horse, and don't have the sharp teeth and incredible endurance of the dire wolves elite Orcish cavalry rides into battle, but they're very fast, and frequently agile enough to dodge pikes. In the last couple feet of their charge unicorns can increase their apparent weight by a couple tons... which makes them very tough opponents.

310:

That's pretty much how we think meat brains work. You can experience it yourself. You can read how to fly a helicopter in about 2 minutes. It takes about 100 hours of practice to burn those pathways into callable routines.

311:

JPR
As you say Karma!
It's to be hoped he gets it as badly as BoZo did, but does not die ....

312:

"Obviously you can't swap people between brains, because who we are is expressed by physically connected neurons. These connections proliferate early in life, and then go through subsequent cycles of proliferation and pruning until we die. We are structure."

That's basically a description of how spiking neural networks work. Over simplified: connections are made and pruned between virtual neurons. Activation potentials are modified. Though there are physical connections from every vneuron to every other, software means that in reality only a few are connected. Just like on the internet every computer is connected to every other, but in reality, due to software, your laptop is only taking to a few. There's a virtual structure created as the system learns.

313:

Only partly. That's how reflexes and some other subconscious skills work, yes - you need 50-200 hours repetition, and then never entirely forget them. But it's not how conscious skills work - they can be learnt in minutes or hours, and are fairly easily forgotten.

314:

Trump would doubtless think that karma is something you order at an Indian restaurant.

315:

Even if Bob is now the Eater Of Souls, suppose if Angleton could be brought back from whatever closed-up pocket universe he and Old George got stuck in, he would be a formidable entity considering his experience (although he might need to go PHANG to avoid Kranzberg syndrome).
Even Old George might be salvaged as a useful operator, with the Black Pharaoh wielding the whip and keeping him in line.

316:

Nope, Angleton is Gone.

(We should, however, see more of Old George, albeit circa 1820 when he's decidedly not old, in "Bones and Nightmares", the book after "In His House", which in turn is the book after "Dead Lies Dreaming".)

317:

Re: '... hoped he gets it as badly as BoZo did'

Hope Biden is okay after all that ranting at the 'debate'. Wonder whether DT suspected he was infected - if yes, then he knowingly tried to physically/medically harm* his political opponent. Pretty sure that's not considered okay even these days.

* I.e., Forcefully expelling and propelling virus laden aerosols. Everyone on that studio set needs to get tested & retested. Plus all of their close contacts which could mean about 1,000 people.

318:

Plus all of their close contacts which could mean about 1,000 people.

Me thinks you're low by a factor of 10. The US White House operations is huge. And interacts with Congressional operations which is also huge. Now toss in the Pentagon.

319:

"...interacts with Congressional operations which is also huge."

Trump met with Mitch McConnel at the Capitol a couple of days back. Just sayin'

320:

[I see SFReader already mentioned this.]
Trump stood on a debate stage, mostly facing Biden, and sprayed exhalations laced with lies at Biden for 90 minutes.
If the debate participants and other people in the room weren't given a rapidtest before the debate, and Biden gets infected, there would be people who believe that it was a political assassination. There would be people who believe this anyway.
Another angle; Regeneron[1] is well along in their trials of an antibody cocktail[2] for wealthy/connected people infected with SARS-CoV-2. (This is very known to relevant Trump administration people.)

[1] I interviewed with that company several months ago. (They were looking for a Kubernetes-is-the-hammer-for-all-nails-and-not-nails person. Interesting company though.)
[2] https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/09/provocative-results-boost-hopes-antibody-treatment-covid-19 - remember, investors and greed are involved.

321:

Nope, Angleton is Gone.

But is he actually _dead_, or merely unavailable?

(There's a WMG over on TVTropes I'm still wondering about)

322:

Mary Poppins is easy... the Wizard of Northampton took care of it already:

https://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/3815529.html

(NSFW due to gore)

323:

If the election comes down to K Harris vs M Pence ... who'se going to win?

324:
It should be 12, or maybe 10 if a 1U space is left between each chassis for cooling purposes.
Insulation maybe, not cooling. You don't want air in a rack other than that being pulled into the front of boxes and spewed out the back. Current data centre design has cool air corridors with the racks arranged with the fronts in the cool air. Any space in the rack that isn't filled gets spacer panels to prevent airflow, so as not to waste the cool air.

(Old fashioned racks often sucked cool air in the bottom and spewed hot out the top -- that doesn't really work and you end up with the equipment at the top of the rack noticeably hotter than at the bottom. I've got one crappy old rack in service where there is a 10C difference in temperature on two identical servers just because they are not in the same place in the rack).

325:

The adventures of Conan Doyle spring to mind, though I wouldn't have thought Angleton was the one to trigger them ....

326:

Which presumably replaced the scale models you sat in type of simulator - that's where Ian M Banks got the idea for The model battleship fights in Matter from.

327:

I kind of assumed that as he got taken down by Bumble Bee on her first mission.


328:

This hideous strength certainly might maybe there is scope for a historical post ww2 Laundry Novel

329:

I must get round to reading the books after watching the TV Show Margo is just awesome.

I totally stole her to be my Drow Characters sister in the Starfinder (dnd in space ) game

330:

There's a difference between "basic competence" (or at least "not complete incompetence") and "specialisation".

On a similar situation to Laz Long, my folks jacked it in and sailed round the Med for a few years. Yachties have to be self-reliant and highly practical, because things break, the sea is not your friend, and the people and equipment you have when things go pear-shaped are all you've got to work with. That said though, there is a substantial barter economy in marinas amongst yachties, and if they can call on their neighbour two boats down who's actually an expert then they absolutely will. For sure you can change your own fuel pump if you have to, but if you've got someone on hand who used to be a mechanic then everyone recognises that not only will it get done quicker, but it's less likely to have problems in future. (Because things break, and the sea etc..)

Specialisation may be for insects, but individual (in)competence is for the birds. Literally. Look at what termites or bees build, with specialisation; and compare it to a pigeon's nest or even a weaver bird. Insects FTW.

331:

Bill Arnold @ 320

Trump stood on a debate stage, mostly facing Biden, and sprayed exhalations laced with lies at Biden for 90 minutes.

If the debate participants and other people in the room weren't given a rapidtest before the debate, and Biden gets infected, there would be people who believe that it was a political assassination.

Hanlons Razor: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

Which applies to quite a lot of Trump's actions, come to think of it.

332:

This hideous strength certainly might maybe there is scope for a historical post ww2 Laundry Novel

Nope.

1. As noted previously, I dislike C. S. Lewis' work.

2. As I've said elsewhere, spies don't mean today what they meant when I started writing the series (in 1999!). The Laundry story arc at this point has run its course, except for the penultimate crisis, the finale, and the wrap-up, plus one or two loose ends. I know roughly what they are, and I'll get to them when the world stops spinning.

Meanwhile I'm keeping the universe going, but to all intents and purposes "Dead Lies Dreaming" is the start of a new series.

(I wanted my publishers to sell it as "Tales of the New Management, book 1" but they decided "The Laundry Files" has more name recognition, so "Laundry Files book 10" it is.)

333:

For the record, Biden tested negative.

334:

Paul
maybe - except that DJT is a vicious, malignant shit.
He's on record multiple times of using the state for petty, personal & vindictive actions.

335:

For the record, Biden tested negative.

Just a reminder: people can come down with Covid19 symptoms up to two weeks after exposure. Biden's going to get really annoyed with all the retesting, although I wish him well.

Actually, I wish Trump well. I want him fit to stand trial next spring.

Now, about those odds. I haven't checked recently, but the last time I looked, about 50% of covid19 positive people were effectively asymptomatic, about 40% had a "light illness" which meant anything from cold/flu symptoms to serious illness that they didn't take to the hospital (and yes, a majority come out with lung or other damage). About 10% go to the hospital, and about 3-5% die.

Assuming Trump's not lying about his diagnosis, as POTUS, he's got access to the best health care in the world, including convalescent plasma donated by recovered soldiers. Despite his age and physical condition, I seriously doubt he'll die unless he strokes out or has an MI in the middle of the night when no one's looking. The most likely outcome (assuming the reports of him showing symptoms aren't a lie) is that he gets forced off the campaign trail with light symptoms for two weeks, then comes roaring (and coughing) back, bragging about how he beat the stupid disease and it's no big deal. That's a pretty decent reset.

Obviously, I'd prefer that he was completely miserable until mid-November, thereby screwing up his campaign and losing the election bigly. But I have to acknowledge that, just on the odds, this is an unlikely outcome, much as I may hope for it.

336:
I want him fit to stand trial next spring.

My thoughts also.

DJT is going to have a tough time getting decent legal representation while having negative net worth. I hope his Legal Aid team is good.

337:

Negative net worth? Perhaps? Stiffing his lawyers? That's what they're likely to pay attention to. After all, dude's got at least one more biography in him to pay for his legal bills, assuming he gets that far.

338:

Hanlons Razor: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.
What if [He] (sorta?) knew that he was infected? (Note that with this crew of liars they could be lying, but the probability of that has been decreasing as new signs emerge.)
At any rate, the White House should have been enforcing masks and daily rapidtests. They were willfully not being careful, for a very long time, for various reasons but in part from being high on their own propaganda supply (e.g. anti-masker shit), some of them.
This is the White House willfully taunting [probability] the last 6 months:
"the stochastic digraph for Russian roulette"

Anyway, the point is (partly) that the QAnons attempting to spin up conspiracy narratives about how this was a plot to kill Trump will not have the narrative space for themselves.

339:

Btw, folks, a) Melanoma's reporting "mild symptoms" (and she's 20+ years younger), and b) happy, happy, joy, joy, a Utah GOP Senator on the Judiciary Committee has just tested positive. This is the committee that starts the SCOTUS nomination....

340:

…he gets forced off the campaign trail with light symptoms for two weeks, then comes roaring (and coughing) back, bragging about how he beat the stupid disease and it's no big deal.

Of course, even recovered cases have shown some severe organ damage. And he's 74, overweight, and in a high-stress profession.

341:

At any rate, the White House should have been enforcing masks and daily rapidtests. They were willfully not being careful, for a very long time, for various reasons but in part from being high on their own propaganda supply

Reporters that WH today are saying mask wearing is still a minority position. Which boggles their and my minds.

342:

Negative net worth? Perhaps? Stiffing his lawyers?

His habit of stiffing anyone who works for him becomes problematic when it extends to the lawyers defending him from lawsuits over him not paying his bills.

Of course he did that; you can read about Trump’s Long History of Getting Sued by His Own Lawyers, or the article Trump's team is what happens when you don't pay your legal bills about his impeachment defense, or spend ten seconds on Google.

Nobody would expect otherwise these days. He will probably attract up-and-coming grifters and con artists for his criminal trials just as he did for his impeachment.

343:

The script is writing itself.

NYT, just now:

Updated
Oct. 2, 2020, 5:47 p.m. ET
2 minutes ago
Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump Receives Experimental Drug Treatment for Mild Symptoms

President Trump has a cough and low-grade fever after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to two people familiar with his condition, and was going to undergo tests at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

President Trump remained “fatigued but in good spirits” on Friday after receiving a promising experimental drug to treat Covid-19, according to a memo from his doctor, and was expected to undergo tests at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he would remain for a few days.

344:

Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump Receives Experimental Drug Treatment for Mild Symptoms

<snark>

Time to shine a light up his ass!

Or is he getting the bleach enema?

</snark>

345:

For those in the US if we surf the various news channels just now (6pm ET) we get to see a green helicopter parked on the lawn of the WH with incredibly highly paid news readers all saying he has mild symptoms and is headed to Walter Reed. Over and over and over and over and over .....

346:

Yeah, just saw this. Speaking of questionable statements from the White House: ";President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day. Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days. President Trump appreciates the outpouring of support for both he and the First Lady,; White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. (see https://talkingpointsmemo.com/live-blog/trumps-test-positive-for-covid-19 for live coverage of WH emissions in chronological order).

Remind me. Didn't the Denizen of #10 Downing Street go through a similar scenario some months ago?

347:

Reporters that WH today are saying mask wearing is still a minority position.

Apparently this has changed in the last hour or so.

Now apparently everyone in the WH is "wear'n".

348:

Martin @ 273: [With links for y'all of the "Captain Kangaroo" persuasion...]

So, if not "Wombles as ambush predators" (I'm still hoping for that - just wondering how many lost dogs / dog walkers / joggers on Wimbledon Common would be needed to support the dietary needs of a colony of trapdoor wombles, who very definitely make good use of the things that they "find").

I like Soviet Womble, but that's probably off topic.

349:

For the record, Biden tested negative.

If exposure was at Tuesday's debate, it may be too soon to tell. IIRC it takes 4-5 days for levels of virus to build enough to be detectable.

350:

Re: 'Another angle; Regeneron[1] is well along in their trials of an antibody cocktail[2] for wealthy/connected people infected with SARS-CoV-2.'

Yep - their share prices jumped as soon as the headlines came out that DT was dosed with their product.

351:

Didn't see the helicopter shot. Any resemblance to the last day of the US Embassy in Saigon?

352:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 280:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly."

I don't know if I could write a sonnet or not, but I used to know a whole bunch of dirty limericks.

353:

Any resemblance to the last day of the US Embassy in Saigon?

Alas, no. It was sedate as such things go.

354:

Re: ' ... it takes 4-5 days for levels of virus to build enough to be detectable.'

Day 10-11 is often the critical day. According to Daniel Griffin, MD (TWiV) many patients that end up in ICU seemed fine for the first 9-10 days and then Wham! the virus-cytokine storm cycle knocks them flat.

Something to keep in mind: an MD's end points don't correspond to lay folks' end points. When an MD says 'not serious', lay people would say 'not dead'. (Or, when they tell you that you 'might feel some discomfort' during a colonoscopy or intubation ... without anesthetic.)

355:

SFReader @ 317:

Re: '... hoped he gets it as badly as BoZo did'

Hope Biden is okay after all that ranting at the 'debate'. Wonder whether DT suspected he was infected - if yes, then he knowingly tried to physically/medically harm* his political opponent. Pretty sure that's not considered okay even these days.

* I.e., Forcefully expelling and propelling virus laden aerosols. Everyone on that studio set needs to get tested & retested. Plus all of their close contacts which could mean about 1,000 people.

I dunno. I think at least part of his performance was trying to be so obnoxious that Biden would refuse to take part in future debates, so he could accuse Biden of being afraid to debate him.

I don't have any doubt he already knew he was infected, but he might still have been in denial. I don't know if he's got enough cunning to recognize he could be spreading the virus to his opponent. I wouldn't put it past him, but I just don't know if he's smart enough to come up with such a plan.

The debate performance seems to have backfired on him because instead of Biden refusing future debates the organizers decided to add additional controls to prevent future bad behavior and now he's the one who's refusing to participate.

356:

Paul @ 331: Bill Arnold @ 320

Trump stood on a debate stage, mostly facing Biden, and sprayed exhalations laced with lies at Biden for 90 minutes.
If the debate participants and other people in the room weren't given a rapidtest before the debate, and Biden gets infected, there would be people who believe that it was a political assassination.

Hanlons Razor: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

Which applies to quite a lot of Trump's actions, come to think of it.

There is, however, overwhelming evidence of Trumpolini's primary motivation being malice. His incompetence may keep him from effectively implementing his maliciousness, but it doesn't mean he's not driven by evil.

357:

Re:' ... there would be people who believe that it was a political assassination.'

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is a top military hospital so I'm guessing that they* have the know-how and equipment to rapidly sequence (and identify) DT's particular COVID-19 strain. If Biden tests positive - using the same series of tests and vallidations, probably at the same hosp becuz he is still referred to as/deemed a US VP - this could be sufficient to confirm whether DT was the origin of Biden's infection.

* Johns Hopkins Uni or any of the within-a-couple-of-hours-emergency-helicopter-flight Ivy League Med schools/uni/science labs or Fauci/CDC would probably volunteer to validate/confirm these tests and conclusions. And they'd probably make the effort to conduct blinded lab tests by having WRGH send them several different patients' blood for analysis with the test tubes identified by number only (not by patient name/number but a completely different set of numbers).

358:

the organizers decided to add additional controls to prevent future bad behavior

Someone standing behind each candidate with a bowlful of mashed potatoes, to be used if they speak out of turn? :-)

359:

they* have the know-how and equipment to rapidly sequence (and identify) DT's particular COVID-19 strain
Thanks for filling in the details. The other part of it would be evidence that DJT knew or suspected that he was infected when at the debate. That might be a little hard. He was definitely infected and infectious though if the reports of symptoms on Thursday are to be believed.
People have noted that DJT never looked at the camera during that debate, and mainly looked a Biden, while spewing SARS-CoV-2-laden air in Biden's direction, disguised as as endless stream of loud lies. (Loud spreads SARS-CoV-2.)
They should have had a fan or barrier between the two.

360:

Maybe it’s a bad angle, or maybe I’m just indulging in wishful thinking, but the photo on the front page of the Grauniad that purports to be of Thrump walking to the escape pod, sorry, helicopter, really doesn’t look like actual Thrump to me. I call stand-in.

361:

Going forward at least, they should put the two "debaters" in separate isolation booths, like those used on the old $64,000 Question (now there is an old reference). Separate mikes in each booth, controlled by the moderator, which would take care of the problem of audio leakage from one to the other's mike. It is probably too much to threaten to turn off the air in one booth if the occupant keeps trying to talk over the other.

Enjoy!

Frank.

362:

Re: ' ... put the two "debaters" in separate isolation booths, like those used on the old $64,000 Question (now there is an old reference).'

Good idea - they should give it a test in the upcoming VP candidates debate since depending on how things go over the next couple of weeks, these two might end up as the de facto presidential candidates.

You mentioned oldies ... I associate Weird Al with old Top-40 hits or musicals covers so I was surprised when this video popped up.

WE'RE ALL DOOMED - Trump vs. Biden ft. "Weird Al" Yankovic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=un9x-DjTMT0

363:

the photo on the front page of the Grauniad that purports to be of Thrump walking to the escape pod, sorry, helicopter, really doesn’t look like actual Thrump to me.

If you can watch the video of him getting in at the WH and out at WR, it's him. Or the world's best impersonator.

364:

And, as someone I read a few minutes ago, he also lives in public housing.

365:

Ah, yes, after they combined Walter Reed, which the GOP had let fall apart, and then sold the land off to developers, with the Naval Medical Center.

Johns Hopkins? How 'bout the world's largest research hospital... which is across the street from Walter Reed.

Building 10, On the 308 acre campus of the NIH.

366:

Shouldn't that be milkshakes?

367:

Oh, and "low-grade fever" and "exhausion" and "given him a completely experimental drug treatment on the President" by IV (they said "infusion") and chopper him to Walter Reed does *not* sound like "mild", sounds like they think it's on it's way to "a lot worse".

And remember he's a germaphobe.

I hear he hasn't tweeted in over 18 hrs, so he's *really* sick.

368:

Agree with some of that, but it was also around six pm in DC on a Friday, so why not take the helicopter?

369:

Why if people got physically ill (in the short run, obvious symptoms) from being lied to? Social arrangements would be very different.

370:

Shouldn't that be milkshakes?

No. Mashed potatoes.

Story from Trump's childhood, according to his niece. He was being a dick at the dinner table (as usual) and his brother dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes over his head and everyone laughed at him.

Apparently this family story was repeated at a family dinner at the White House and he got all closed, arms crossed, chin down, scowling… He can't stand being laughed at.

371:

If you don't have to lie in person then tv and radio would be regulated using anti radiation missiles, spam filters would be AI complete and fact checkers/censors would be on hazard pay.

Assuming such media are permitted at all.

372:

I hear he hasn't tweeted in over 18 hrs, so he's *really* sick.

No, he's just mildly feverish and unused to feeling unwell. (Trump dunks on people who are sick regularly; implies he doesn't usually get sick himself.)

I view the Walter Reed admission as precautionary, like Boris Johnson's ICU visit. The thing about Trump is that he's very overweight and elderly, and also shows signs of having had TIAs or minor strokes. That's a red flag for comorbidities for COVID19 and he's at higher-than-normal risk of stroke or other life-threatening symptoms e.g. kidney necrosis.

Reminder that at this stage, all drug treatments are "completely experimental", with the possible exception of dexamethasone for patients who are going downhill and likely to need oxygen or ventilation (it's proven to cut the mortality rate by a third, costs pennies, and has been licensed for about 60 years).

The Regeneron treatment he's on is in second-stage trials and looks highly promising so far. He's also being given remdesevir -- expensive, doesn't do much, but better than nothing. No word on his hydroxychloroquine/bleach regime, which is a shame.

Much more interesting is the effect this has had on the Senate judiciary committee, which gets to vote on that empty Supreme Court spot! It's currently tilted 11/9 Repub/Democrat, but two of the Republican members just tested positive because Trump infected them. So the Democrats may be able to block confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. I understand that McConnell may be able to move confirmation to the floor of the house, but again: the Republicans are down at least two senators and their pattern of recklessly ignoring infection control measures suggests that in the coming days they may have several more in isolation -- and a confirmation vote on the floor of the house requires in-person attendance.

So Trump may have inadvertently sabotaged his own supreme court pick.

373:

Charlie
As of since I sat down in front of the screen this morning:
CNN has now quoted an advisor saying Mr Trump has experienced "trouble breathing" and is feeling "very fatigued".
He can go into a coma & stay there, as far as I care, but he has got to stay alive until 4th November ...
However I love the idea of the SCOTUS pick set-up being shafted, how "fitting". 😁
Other sources, including former DT servants who have turned against him, after being shafted ( Scaramucci f'rinstance ) are now saying: "It's all over - he can't divert to anything else, he's denied science & advice, he can't switch to "LAw & Order" (etc) - it's all about the virus, which he has disregarded & the elctorate can see thi.

374:

There is a high chance the doctors have confiscated his mobile - "Mr President, you MUST rest." Who ranks whom between a consultant in his hospital and the president in bed as a patient? No contest.

Thanks for the court nomination update - let's hope. We need some good news.

375:

So Trump may have inadvertently sabotaged his own supreme court pick.

As my brother said last night when I made a similar comment, Mitch will do whatever is needed to get the vote through. Even if that means bringing those two into the chamber in bubble suits to vote to change the rules to allow remote voting by quarantined Senators via a new app on their phones. If only for SCOTUS votes. Then they can go back to their isolation with phones and app in hand.

376:

Re: 'How 'bout the world's largest research hospital... which is across the street from Walter Reed.'

NIH - only ever thought of the NIH as a research lab. But, you're right they'd definitely have both the expertise and equipment.

My impression that the choice of hospital for treating DT is more than just medical abilities/facilities.

He's dumped on and tried to quash research scientists so if anything goes wrong - whether or not he recovers - they could become a political target. The Ivy Leagues have both the facilities and -- pretty importantly now -- the prestige/alums/funding and an established track record of winning legal filings.

So far it seems as though DT considers the military as politically neutral - no threat to him personally - even though he has no respect for any of the military vets who were wounded or suffered during their service.

Next phase is swearing Pence in if DT slips into a coma. There's little guidance for determining whether a POTUS is physically (medically) fit for holding office based on the piece below.

https://www.acsh.org/news/2016/09/21/whos-not-medically-fit-be-president-10196


377:

Since yesterday afternoon I've been imagining the doctor who's been assigned to Trump having a talk with the head of Trump's Secret Service detail... "If one of those quacks who's touting hydrochloroquinine or oleandrin shows up to treat the President - shoot them!"

378:

My impression that the choice of hospital for treating DT is more than just medical abilities/facilities.

Walter Reed has a section set up specifically to serve Presidents in case they need to stay in the hospital. Except in the case of lights flashing run for an emergency to nearest facility[1] it IS where any POTUS would go.

There's little guidance for determining whether a POTUS is physically (medically) fit for holding office based on the piece below.

Doesn't matter. If half+1 of the Cabinet agrees the VP can take over. For any reason they think is reasonable. Then POTUS can say no if they disagree. Then Congress can vote on it.

379:

[1] When the President goes anywhere that is planned the SS advance team checks out all the hospitals in the area to determine which can handle what kinds of situations for the POTUS. And if something does happen they go to the closest one (time wise) than can handle the specific issue.

And I suspect they maintain a DB of such information in general plus based on past research for unplanned trips.

We spend an unholy amount of money on POTUS protection. Much of it in prep for things than never happen.

380:

Hm, the Biden/Trump debate moderator off-offhandedly says that D.J.Trump wasn't tested for SARS-CoV-2 by the debate organizers. The "honor system" was used. Trump was certainly positive and infectious. Since Trump is devoid of honor, I will assume with middling high probability that [he] knew he was infected.
Trump Reportedly Arrived to the Debate Too Late to Be Tested by Organizers (Aaron Mak, Oct 02, 2020)
During a Fox segment on Friday, Wallace said that Trump arrived too late to the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic to be tested. “For them to get tested, there wouldn’t have been enough time to have the test and have the debate at 9 that night,” he said. “They didn’t show up until 3, 4, 5 in the afternoon. Yeah, there was an honor system when it came to the people that came into the hall from the two campaigns.”

381:

A mildly left-wing rant courtesy Daily Kos and Showercapblog.

Sample quote: "HEY LOOK while I was writing, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis also tested positive, and yes, he was at the Coney Barrett event. So this woman allows a party thrown in her honor to be held in conditions which openly defied public health guidelines, causing an outbreak of a deadly disease that reached the very Oval Office, and we’re supposed to let her exercise judgment over the rest of us for the rest of her life? Are you fucking insane?"

It looks like JBS was right, and the Amy Barrett rollout was a super-spreader event. I'm guessing even odds (or better) that there won't be a Republican majority in the Senate to ram through her nomination until November, even if she doesn't get sick or withdraw.

As to whether Trump knew he was sick...Timeline time. With yarn. I haven't been looking at the testing recently, but there are two classes of the Covid19 test: PCR (look for viral RNA in the sample) and antibody (look for antibodies to Covid19 in the sample). Back in the Paleogene of four months ago or so, the first trials of some of the antibody tests showed that during the first few days after exposure, they're not very good. This shouldn't surprise anybody, because it takes time for an immune system to ramp up and fight. About the time someone becomes symptomatic, they become more reliable, although as we've found, there have been plenty of people who definitely had Covid-19, were symptomatic, and tested negative. PCR is more reliable, but takes longer.

So anyway, the Friday Red Rollout Event (shout out to Game of Thrones) seems to have been where a bunch of people (reporters, secret service agents, lackeys), and politicians (are they people? I guess so, biologically) were exposed.

If the White House is doing PCR testing routinely, the earliest they would have picked up on this is maybe Saturday but probably Sunday or later (there's got to be enough virus to find). So if Trump was exposed on Friday, they might have known Monday that he was infected. Did they? One bit of evidence is this Twitter picture allegedly from Monday, which shows Pence suddenly distancing himself from Trump. This was an arrangement that they'd had in the early days of the pandemic, only to abandon them with Trump's bleach etc. messaging. Could mean they knew Trump was infected but not symptomatic...or it could mean they knew he'd been exposed and actually cared.

So it's likely that, at the Tuesday debate, Trump knew he'd been exposed. He might well have known he was testing positive. If so, that might explain the unhinged spewing at Biden. It also shows something about what Trump thinks of his family, as four of his children were sitting unmasked in the front row for the whole thing. Melania wore a mask until she got on stage, and was infected at some point anyway (spousal privilege, basically).

From there, Trump and Hicks apparently became symptomatic Wednesday, officially got tested Thursday (!?), and we got the Friday drama thingie. I suspect this is implied causality, not the first time anyone got tested. If they have any sense, they're testing far more often than when people feel ill, so they may well have known that Trump was infected and had been counting on him being asymptomatic so that they didn't have to tell anyone. When he became symptomatic, the jig was up, especially as I'm sure reports were rolling in that attendees of the Red Rollout were turning up positive all over the country.

So, if anything, the Big Lie here wasn't a conspiracy to make everyone believe Trump was ill when he was fine, it was to cover up that he'd been infected, in the hopes that no one would notice. If so, while infected, he went to multiple events where he met, unmasked, with supporters and donors. This might provide a clue into how much esteem he has for these people.

I dunno. The best that can come out of this (aside from a November Blue Wave) is that a whole generation of writers have a real world models for the powerful yet bumbling antagonists in their novels. If you'd written this into a fantasy in 2015, unless it was a farce, no non-historian would have believed that evil geniuses could be so inept. Now we know better. Hope there's still a publishing industry left to support them.

382:

SITREP:


https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/10/03/world/covid-trump

Shortly after the upbeat briefing by [Trump's doctors Saturday morning], a person familiar with the president’s health gave a more sober assessment to reporters at Walter Reed on the condition of anonymity. “The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care,” this person said. “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

Two people close to the White House said in separate interviews with The New York Times that the president had trouble breathing on Friday and that his oxygen level dropped, prompting his doctors to give him supplemental oxygen while at the White House and decide to transfer him to Walter Reed where he could be monitored with better equipment and treated more rapidly in case of trouble.

[snip]

While describing what [the White House physician] said was the president’s progress, he said Mr. Trump was “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” which would mean midday on Wednesday.

383:

As of 28 min ago (as I type this), "the White House doctor says Trump is doing well".

Riiiight. Not what else I read. He's in deep do-do.

Meanwhile, Charlie, about the "fictional" Laundryverse: from the Atlantic: "K, the overlooked variable driving the pandemic"

Fess up!

384:

The publishing industry is in NYC and it is alive and well. It doesn't like SFF farces though.

385:

Oh, btw, Ellen tells me, concerning the GOP Senators testing positive (3 in 3 days) that McConnell says no votes for two weeks....

386:

The NIH, nope. The NIH is comprised of 27 Centers and Institutes, and over 20,000 people work on campus (about 80% of the population of the Pentagon). You can find a map - look at the dozens of large buildings. Really.

387:

To clarify: prior to 2016, only a SFF farce would have had a leader like El Cheato. One of the good things he's done is to give permission for an author of any SFF mode to write in a character like him.

Heck, Whitroth can now start a "King in Orange" pastiche, centered around a story that makes people so enraged that even shy introverts drop what they're doing and become activists for years once they read it. Heck, there's even room for a retread of "The Repairer of Reputations," especially in the current media landscape. Reputation rehab is a niche industry now.

388:

I've been making graphs of COVID-19 incidence rates for a number of countries and have noticed that several of them show longish periods of linear growth rather than exponential. Not being an epidemiologist, I figured that was just one of those things I don't understand, of which there are myriads.

Well this came up just now. Apparently the linear growth has been puzzling other people.

https://www.pnas.org/content/117/37/22684

A network-based explanation of why most COVID-19 infection curves are linear

PNAS September 15, 2020 117 (37) 22684-22689; first published August 24, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010398117

Many countries have passed their first COVID-19 epidemic peak. Traditional epidemiological models describe this as a result of nonpharmaceutical interventions pushing the growth rate below the recovery rate. In this phase of the pandemic many countries showed an almost linear growth of confirmed cases for extended time periods. This new containment regime is hard to explain by traditional models where either infection numbers grow explosively until herd immunity is reached or the epidemic is completely suppressed. Here we offer an explanation of this puzzling observation based on the structure of contact networks. We show that for any given transmission rate there exists a critical number of social contacts, Dc , below which linear growth and low infection prevalence must occur. Above Dc traditional epidemiological dynamics take place...

etc.

389:

Interesting. Thanks. I may look at that. While I am not an epidemiologist, I did know that the simple exponential network assumes an essentially uniform mixing model, and that more complex systems behaved somewhat differently. There are actually several ways in which near-linear growth can be achieved, buT most are rather implausible. This sounds very plausible.

390:

Heteromeles
One small problem: The Antibodes test ... WIll also show positive if you've been exposed to C-19, but it's bounced, or you've had it & recovered, yes?

Various - I, too, have noted the err... slightly differing accounts of how "well" or "Ill" DJT actually is.

391:

they may have several more in isolation -- and a confirmation vote on the floor of the house requires in-person attendance

Unless they decide 'screw isolation, this is important' and show up anyway.

392:

Re: 'We show that for any given transmission rate there exists a critical number of social contacts, ...'

Sounds similar to the cluster vs. person approach discussed in the article below which Japan and Sweden apparently took.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable-driving-pandemic/616548/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Would be informative now and for future planning to see an analysis of contact tracing by country showing metrics like: average number of contacts per person, demos of each contact, locations of contacts, number of contacts per contact (2nd gen of contacts), amount of time to locate each contact (# of elapsed hrs/days between initial contact and contact-tracing phone call, etc.).

How quickly health authorities can contact trace, reach and require self-isolation of infected persons probably also features into the relative spread/control over this (and any future) pandemic.

Similarly, the reproduction rate of the virus could also dictate how long it takes for someone to reach infectivity and/or a serious disease state. Therefore you'd want to reach the Day-1 contacts and their post-initial-exposure same-day contacts that much faster.

Basically lots of variables to consider and leaving any one of them uncontrolled for could screw things for everyone. Stuff like that happens in complex systems where one teeny glitch can shut down everything - as in why NASA engineers obsess over every little nut & bolt.

393:

Excerpt:
Narrative is humanity’s defense against the randomness of existence. We tell ourselves stories not to sink into chaos. Would-be authors of our time on Earth, we impose order onto our lives by drawing connections between events, underscoring thematic trends, fleshing out character psychology and shoehorning our years into plots with beginnings, middles and ends.

Packaging experience in this way doesn’t simply protect us from the possibility of meaninglessness. It helps foster the illusion that the future is predictable and that, whatever else might happen to us, anarchy will not mow us down.

Among the many catastrophes we can lay at Donald Trump’s feet, his long-shot presidency has plunged the nation into a narrative crisis.
--- end excerpt ---

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2020-10-03/trump-tests-positive-covid-tax-returns

394:

Among the many catastrophes we can lay at Donald Trump’s feet, his long-shot presidency has plunged the nation into a narrative crisis.
Charles McNulty thinks that this is a narrative crisis? This is just a warm-up.
The release of Dead Lies Dreaming just before the US election may have consequences. The Script Writers may stealdraw inspiration from the contents. :-)

Thanks for the link.

---
'It’s a hoax. There's no pandemic': Trump's base stays loyal as president fights Covid - News that the president has contracted coronavirus prompted alarm and confusion among Trump supporters in Missouri (Chris McGreal, Sat 3 Oct 2020)
Space is Fake! - Flat Earth Man Exposes Space Fraud! (Nov 15, 2018)
(Via)

395:

Among the many catastrophes we can lay at Donald Trump’s feet, his long-shot presidency has plunged the nation into a narrative crisis.

And a narrative would have someone is tracking continuity.

If a supporting character gets caught blowing off Christmas that's either a villain's character establishing moment or a cue for some heartwarming event. It doesn't just get ignored, otherwise why include it?

But the last several years have just been a hot mess. We expect scandals to be wrapped up rather than being pushed out by new scandals - and it's been all Trump scandals all the time.

396:

COVID-19 - Fauci Lecture at MIT (Sept 24 2020)

Good lecture overall and well-presented. Fauci covered a range of areas but the highlights for me were:

1- Finally some data on what proportion of the US population is at risk of serious disease/complications (approx. 40%).

2- Also - the laundry list of risk of co-morbidities is considerably longer/more detailed than usually mentioned elsewhere.

3- Ditto on the range and incidence of after-effects (long-haulers as well as post-recovery), why this is scary and has to be taken seriously.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J38QN1vnSO0

'The fourth lecture in the COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and the Pandemic Series, presented by the MIT Department of Biology. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), gave a talk titled "Insights from the COVID-19 pandemic."'

397:

David L’s mean expectation of actual serious thought notwithstanding ;-) I am enhancing my theory that it was not Actual Trump that got on the helicopter. I claim that it was indeed a stand-in - and that Agent Nightmare Orange has in fact done a runner in order to escape to a friendly and extradition proof regime. The stand-in will of course die and be buried as if the real thing. You heard it first here!

398:

Apropos of nothing: in a demonstration that real world plants are every bit as bad as triffids if not worse, Giant Hogweed is taking over abandoned fields in Russia (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/03/opinion/sunday/russia-hogweed.html).

This is what rewilding looks like when it's done in a thoughtless and uncontrolled fashion. The plants that are the best competitors and the least threatened by animals are the ones that dominate.

399:

Re: '... not Actual Trump that got on the helicopter.'

Alternate scenario:

It was Actual Trump but he'll have a relatively mild case, be discharged from hospital, continue his run for prez, lose (despite putting up a 'heroic' fight) and in mid-January 'suffer' a variety of post-recovery/long-hauler symptoms. He'll consult only with whoever his present personal quack is and refuse to be checked by any of the docs that actually treat him at the WR and know what the hell COVID-19 looks like. Basically, he'll try to evade criminal prosecution on humanitarian grounds.

400:

Re: 'This is what rewilding looks like ...'

Yeah - scary.

Wonder which will win in North America kudzu or giant hogweed - we've got both in some parts.

401:

That NYTimes pieces is eeek. "good crop"!?????
Bold mine:
After World War II, Soviet agronomists, keen to quickly rebuild the country’s agriculture industry, thought that the plant’s impressive biomass could make it a good crop to feed livestock. Seeds were distributed throughout the country.
Hogweed contains a high concentration of furanocoumarins, substances that cause severe burns and blisters when affected areas of skin are exposed to sunlight. Even so, the plant was grown nationwide. By the 1980s, when the plant began infiltrating central Russia’s wilderness, tests showed that cows fed on hogweed produced poor-tasting milk. Efforts to make the plant less toxic failed.

402:

The more interesting bit is towards the end of the article, where the central government gets blamed for funneling large amounts of money into a few huge agrobusinesses and abandoning small farms and small farm towns. As people move to the city, the hogweed takes over, at least in this version of events.

That's US agricultural policy here, too. I'm a fan of small farming. Partly, yes, it's romantic sentiment, but more it's about getting human intelligence out on the landscape to try to make places more livable for more things, crops and wildlands alike.

I mean, right now I'm wandering around parks and vacant lots, pulling out weeds, while sometimes dozens of people go by me, thank me for my service, and don't ask if they can help. That's how spaces get trashed.

404:

So what controls giant hogweed in its native range? There must be something.

I mean, gorse is harmless enough in Britain that they used it for hedges around pastures. I don't think fennel in England grows to 2+ m either (trying to clear it out of my mother's garden when I was a kid is a nasty memory). It may be that whatever keeps giant hogweed in check at home will go after different things or otherwise won't work well in a different environment, but that's the first thing I'd look for.

405:

And the US has never, ever done that.

In the 1920s, they imported Kudzu* to Georgia, USA, figuring it would be great cattle feed, according to my late ex, a Floridian. Unfortunately, kudzu liked the South a lot more than cattle liked kudzu.

* aka the vine that ate the South, and when they say "a yard a day", they don't mean 3'....

406:

Thanks Nancy. I'm not surprised, somehow. But it's good to know the backstory.

407:

Kudzu's edible by humans, too. As are cardoon and fennel around our area.

The thing about kudzu is that's prolific, but apparently not terribly delicious. IIRC, it's on the "we used to eat that, until sweet potatoes/rice/whatever came along, and we don't eat it any more.

Since kudzu's predicted to do well under climate change, I'd suggest cultivating a taste for the stuff. After all, what better way to hide your survival bunker than under a thicket of kudzu, where you and your three goats force yourselves to eat kudzu and survive while you look for a partner of the appropriate sex to procreate with?*

*This is the "Tunnels and Trolls" survival plan, kudzu subplan.

408:

To add to the conversation on invasive plants, I only recently learned that tumbleweed isn't native to the Americas. It has such a presence in our cultural memory of "The Wild West", but it wasn't over here, then. CGP Grey made a video on them.

We could really do with better ways to deal with invasive species.

409:

Heteromeles
THAT is NOT "Giant Hogweed" Heracleum mantegazzianium, actually. Or, I don't think so.
Did you note the bit in the article, which said ....
"Giant hogweeds grow naturally in the Caucasus Mountains."
It's "Persian Hogweed" Heracleum persicum
Note the multiple flower-heads, which are "domed"?
Giant Hogweed has a single, huge, much flatter flower-head.
And - Nancy Lebovitz - THANKS - the picture in that article looks remarkably like "Golpar" seed.

H. persicum is widespread in the Baltic countries ( It's a notifyable weed in Lithuania ) & is welcomed in Tromso, Norway, where it's called the "Tromso Palm"
Unlike Giant H. - Persian H. has edible seeds which are used in "Persian" cooking & neigbouring cuisines - they call it: "Golpar"

I know all this, because I've got some seeds, after madam went to Iran last year - & carefully looked it up.
[ Though the botanical illustration on the wiki page is of the wrong one. Try here instead .. ]
Fun botanical times ....
And, yes, it will & does grow here, though we must be close to the Southern limit of its range - it likes cold winters.

AVR
WHICH "Fennel" ???
Normal Fennel is Foeniculum vulgare maximum of about 2 metres as a flower-spike.
Then there's Gaint Fennel Ferula communis - big enough for Prometheus to conceal a tiny fire inside it's hollow stem to bring to Humanity, after all ...

410:

The one that English gardeners brought over as a herb. It forms thickets too dense to push through. The flower heads look a lot like that hogweed which brought it to mind, though the foliage looks more like finely-branching stems.

411:

AVR
Herb Fennel
Compare & contrast with
Giant Fennel
I assume you mean the former - but ... "thickets too dense to push through" Uh?
Or is it, like a common(ish) plant here, Vipers Bugloss, that has become invasive in the USA?
Where are you - what's your climate/USDA range?

412:

‘ individual neurons in the human neocortex are computationally sophisticated‘

I attempted to build a neural net that could simulate a neuron when I was a grad student, but gave up as it was just too hard.

I think we have no clue what the computational power of the brain is. And it’s a mug’s question: you don’t build cars by analysing in detail the architecture of a horse’s muscles.

413:

I don't know the ecology of that area, but suspect that it is close enough to areas I do know to explain that: competition.

If so, the 'original' ecology was mixed forest or woodland, and the trees shaded out such things, which grow at edges (e.g. by streams, rocks etc.) and where an old tree has died or fallen over. There is then a mass of casuals (e.g. annuals with long-lived seeds), followed by the woodland under-shrubs (which normally grow in areas of thin canopy). But, eventually, new tree seedlings take root and, once they get above the undergrowth, start to take off and shade out the other plants. Note that a plant like giant hogweed is not well adapted to living at edges, so has only a few niches where it will out-compete other species.

In Britain (with 99% of its ecology made up of recent invasions), giant hogweed is relatively rare and not particularly invasive. The only land plant that is a serious ecological problem is Japanese knotweed, though a few others are claimed to be (and may be problems, locally). My (significant) experience of giant hogweed is that it is not as toxic as the hysteria makes it, but that may be that some people are highly sensitive and others less so.

414:

Right. But most of this weebling is actually even more fundamentally broken. We don't know how human thought operates (there is evidence it is not a single mode), and we don't know how to measure 'brain power'. As the (very few) perspicacious observers have pointed out, even the best 'AI' looks more as if it is approaching the abilities of an extreme idiot savant, rather than a normal human being, let alone an intelligent one.

415:

"Tunnels and Trolls" survival plan, kudzu subplan.

I suppose if your bunker is also under a bridge, there's a solid precedent for increasing your livestock, one billygoat at a time. Although the alternative historical viewpoint would be that bridge trolls are an analogy for homeless people, and that presumably at one time Billygoat was a brand of (or simply slang for) white port wine (or perhaps green ginger wine), sold in 2L (1/2 gallon) bottles.

416:

‘ The thing about Trump is that he's very overweight and elderly, ‘

His official presidential medical report says 6’3” and 248 lb. More likely is 6’2” and 255 lb.
Which is overweight, but not very. Does not drink, or smoke.

I’d guess his odds of dying of Covid are around my odds of rolling a critical on a d20. Not all that high. But I’ve seen a lot of criticals rolled.

417:

No, he is not only "overweight, but not very" - even the official report makes him obese (but not very). His non-smoking is definitely a factor in his favour. Overweight (but not very) would be just over 200 pounds.

418:

Not that I set a lot of store in BMI, but the CDC calculator says,

Height: 6 feet, 3 inches
Weight: 248 pounds
Your BMI is 31, indicating your weight is in the Obese category for adults of your height.

Height: 6 feet, 2 inches
Weight: 255 pounds
Your BMI is 32.7, indicating your weight is in the Obese category for adults of your height.

419:

Can we have those BMI figures in RealMoney TM please?

420:

My dear Greg, really! You are of the right age to have been taught unit conversion at school, were assuredly taught using all of those units ( except BMI), and it is an essential engineering skill. I don't expect you to do simple arithmetic in your head any longer, though you may well have been required to at school, as I was - but surely you can find a calculator on your computer? There are also conversion sites for the arithmetically challenged.

Oh, and BMI is a simple number, because it is defined in MKS. So no conversion is relevant.

421:

EC
You should know better ....
I started using what were then called "mks" units in 1960 or '61
I can do most conversions in my head, without even need for pencil-&-paper
BUT
I can't resist the temptation to wind up the unconverted & primitive USAians on the subject.
Or bloody effing Brit newspapers that STILL give temperatures in Fahrenheit!

As in 6'2" = 1.88m
255lbs = 113.8kg
113.8/(1.882) = 32.2

422:

And while you're at it, 15 hands tall at the top of his sagittal crest, and around 13 stone, because I suspect fudging is involved in the official figures.

And just remember that Fahrenheit, primitive as it is, is more precise than Celsius on a per degree basis.

423:

We called them "MKSA" in school in the 60s. The "A" was for Ampères. We called the other units "FSS" for Foot, Second, Slug.

Did you have an acronym for those other units?

424:

Yes, it as bad as it is described. I live in one of epicentres of that particular agricultural catastrophe, here they had planted huge fields of this green menace (dibs on a thematically appropriate, invasive-plant-management-failure-photosensibilisation-powered supervillain). Naturally it spreads around. Often - along the roads, but that is because our forests are vast and usually do not have suitable habitat areas for the plant. And yes, if you see an abandoned farm or other agricultural facility, you can easily spot the hogweeds around. Some work is being done on trying to control its spread into our settlements and towns, but, as it is customary for modern Russia, these measures are ineffective. I think, I can find giant hogweed within 1 km circle around our main square, and this is in a city that has population more than 200 thousand people.

425:

Joking aside, I've really got to get more people using the Bradley Method of Weeding (e.g. https://pvcblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-bradley-method-interesting-approach.html and https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2062/2014/04/bradleytechnique.pdf?x96359). It's by far the cheapest and most effective strategy for getting weeds out of natural areas. The one catch is that it isn't fast. The Bradleys (Joan Bradley and her sister) were both retirees in Australia who did a tremendous amount of weed clearance by working sensibly. They didn't have any money and certainly weren't strong, so they worked strategically and kept it up. You can read the strategy in the links, but it's basically about going from the spreading edge of the infestation (e.g. where the weeds are just showing up), minimizing disturbance when you weed (So that there are few places for weed seeds to get established), and working gradually, so that the natives can re-establish outward into the weed areas.

We've got a small group, again, mostly retirees, who've cleared acres of weeds out of nearby parks and won thousands of dollars in awards for their work. They do use herbicides, but the key point is how they target the infestation, not just the tools they used (and they're fully licensed to use the stuff they use too).

So if I were stuck in Russia and dealing with giant hogweed, I'd start working out how to use the Bradley Method to contain its spread, then work back to see how much of each infestation could be controlled over the next decade or two.

426:

Isn't that a Genesis song?

427:

"dibs on a thematically appropriate, invasive-plant-management-failure-photosensibilisation-powered supervillain"

He's called Chase, IIRC. And he has the proper James Bond supervillain credentials in the form of his bulk compost shredder.

428:

So this "BMI" cack is mass per unit area, then? With an implied density, like paper. Probably doesn't work for Trump because his density is way beyond normal limits.

429:

And it’s a mug’s question: you don’t build cars by analysing in detail the architecture of a horse’s muscles.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! IMHO there's been a lot written about how thought works, and this may provide some insights for the programmer!

430:

It's a reasonable thing to do if you're trying to build an artificial horse, though.

431:

In our case it can grow in almost any kind of clearing or field, or ditch that runs along the road. It might be less toxic than some people fear (myself included), but under its "canopy" literally nothing else grows. No other grasses, no shrubs, nothing. The environment it creates is not suitable for other organisms too (small animals and ground-nesting birds for example).

432:

I've thought a little about this; mainly theorizing, and the thing that's obvious to me is that consciousness sits in the "control room" for a large suite of "artificial stupidities;" lower-level entities that are really good at their job - hearing, site, etc. - that don't otherwise have a clue about the significance of what they're doing.

Then consciousness argues with itself and makes decisions according to any of several modes, some of which are easily accessible and some of which aren't - talking to one's self about a decision vs. instinct, or whatever - and don't forget that if you lay your hand on the table and then decide to lift one finger at random, parts of your brain are working on the problem long before you move, so it seems obvious that some decisions move from lower-levels to more conscious levels. Then Freud observed that thinking seems to involve multiple entities with varied agendas, not to mention that your brain will sometimes throw random stuff at you in the hopes that it will help!

Finally, consider that the human brain seems to go through a reboot at around three-four years old... There's a lot happening there that's probably not obvious from the process of trying to imitate the behavior of cells!

So if I were going to try to write artificially-intelligent software, I'd write an ego, an id, a superego, a random-word-arranger with some kind of gate-keeping software for purposes of "inspiration," and also include some kind of Bayesian rule generator because "rules of thumb" are important, then a final bit of software that accepted input from all of the above and "made decisions." And I'd put them atop a suite of artificial stupidities so the machine could have some senses...

Now all I need is a huge grant and my grandchildren will have something for you in a hundred years or so!

433:

Why not a "High resolution" Celsius with the boiling point of water at 200? You could have a finer grained temperature without the PITA of 32 & 212 degree freezing & boiling points of water. I'll just not be holding my breath waiting for it.

434:

Troutwaxer @ 432: So if I were going to try to write artificially-intelligent software ...

There is some thinking that we should try to link up the linear algebra engines which are so good at pattern recognition with some kind of rule-based reasoning which could make use of patterns discovered by the linear algebra. If I were doing AI research today, that is where I would be looking.

Of course, XKCD.

435:

Where is that? It hasn't been the case in any of the patches I have seen in Britain, including a well-established one I was closely familiar with. Also, the Bradleys are late on the scene - that's how many of the Rubi (and periwinkles) invade - and, yes, brambles can do it to giant hogweed.

Maybe British wild plants are just tougher :-)

436:

So this "BMI" cack is mass per unit area, then? With an implied density, like paper. Probably doesn't work for Trump because his density is way beyond normal limits.

I'm not going to fuss to much about the volume to surface area, but BMI is obviously a version of that.

I asked my pharmacist wife why some drug doses scale as human surface area, while other doses scale with body mass. Got a shrug in return, but they do need both, which is one reason why they need to get your height and weight early on in the visit.

I don't think they use BMI in dosage calculations, but I can see why they use numbers they normally get to get a gauge of how much you're lugging around, whether it's muscle or fat.

Given who the President is, the precise method of determining his body fat (which involves holding him underwater for some time and calculating weight and displacement) is something both he and the Secret Service might object to.

437:

His odds of dying, without extraordinary care are around 10 percent for a man his age. He's in the upper third of the 60-79 years old category, which has an average death rate of 5%, and the next category, 80 and older has a 15% death rate, so 10% is probably fair.

The major risk items are:

Cardiovascular disease
Diabetes
Chronic respiratory disease
Hypertension
Cancer

each of which adds from 20-50 percent to the risk of dying. Trump doesn't admit to any of these, and he does play golf regularly. He takes a statin (presumably to reduce cholesterol) so arguably he has mild cardiovascular disease. I'd put his chances of dying at around 15-20 percent, probably with similar levels for all the people over fifty who've gotten nailed at his super-spreader events...

These estimates are made in the expectation of ordinary care, which the President is not receiving. I would guess at this point he's getting the best COVID-19 care available on the planet, so I'd put realistic chances of death at around 10-12 percent.

The more interesting question is whether he's going to be so badly damaged by the disease that he can't manage the office of the presidency anymore - I'd put those chances at around 15 percent (if he doesn't die.) So I'd guess around a 25% chance that Trump won't return to the White House.

439:

Thank you, Heteromeles! I have to find time and get in touch with people in the local Institute of biology, see if they know about this method. They developed their own approach, but I know too little about it. Might be Bradley Method, actually, because they said repeatedly that it was slow and methodic. Too slow for local administration's tastes.

440:

If you want to build an "artificial horse" (that is, an automobile) you'll get there a lot faster by studying/improving the cart!

441:

Well, I just learned yesterday that there are multiple species of Heracleum, so I'll leave the problem of what to call them all and which ones are worst to the people who have to deal with them. Which so far doesn't include me.

Around here, Foeniculum vulgare and Cynara cardunuculus are two very common weeds, as is Brassica nigra and Hirschfeldia incana (two field mustards). They were brought in as herbs or vegetables and abandoned, and now they show up in areas that are frequently burned and otherwise disturbed. We don't have Ferula, which is a pity, because I'd love to make a proper thyrse in honor of Dionysus (/sarcasm).

San Diego's around the latitude of Cairo IIRC, and our climate can be matched to Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, or the Canary Islands. Our nastier wildland weeds include tamarisk, pampas grass, and giant reed. Near homes we get to deal with things like slopes of nasturtium and vinca.

442:

I have trouble with both interpretations of Libet's test. My own interpretation is that conscious reasoning time is the most valuable (and probably the most energy-expensive) resource available to the human mind. So it makes sense to push anything that doesn't require conscious reasoning down to a lower-level and letting something else handle it.

Getting distracted by issues of "free-will" and "free won't" and whether either exists is silly.* The "system" of the brain wants to do whatever it does at the lowest possible cost (to the important resource of conscious thinking-time) and so it makes the necessary arrangement. Essentially it's offloaded that calculation to a cheaper processor.

* The big-brains can do their philosophical masturbation without me - I want to know how the mechanism works!

443:

A bit less so for those days than more recently.
I'm older, and there was a change I noticed.

444:

On the subject of Trump's chances, I just read that he is receiving dexamethasone, which he would only be given if he's either getting markedly worse, or if he's experienced a cytokine storm. So add whatever percentage dexamethasone suggests to my earlier guess.

445:

Nah, trolls do lurk under bridges. I know - back around late eighties/very early nineties, we'd be driving into Austin from the exurbs, and have to take Loop 1 north of US 183 to where we'd drop the kid off for day care. The road rose, then went down, and there was an overpass above where the road bottomed out. And for a few days a month, when they had to meet their quota of speeding tickets, the troll with his decorative gumball machines on the roof would be waiting under the overpass....

446:

As long as the id part doesn't have access to an unlimited amount of power, say, drawn from the molten core of the planet....

447:

Holding him under water... could we estimate by putting his head in the toilet and flushing?

448:

It sounds like the doctors are stuck wearing shock collars under their white coats, and the collar controls are in the hands of the White House Press Secretary. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Still, it saddens me when people who one (would presume) are skilled professionals don't even get to choose which orifice they're talking out of when talking to the press, and the information they want to get out has to be coded to slip by their minders.

So far as probabilities go, I'm not sure whether this makes any difference. The bad news would be if that Regeneron drug they gave him caused the reaction he's experiencing now. But we'll probably never know.

And I'm sure most people reading this know, but Remdesivir is (was) thought to basically be Tamiflu for Covid19. If it works (e.g. it's injected early enough on), it shortens the course of the disease by a few days. I'm not sure whether this is supported by later work, or whether (like Tamiflu) it's less useful later in the course of the disease.

449:

Well, the US military did build a robot mule.... https://www.darpa.mil/about-us/timeline/legged-squad-support-system

Though I think I'd just say "neighhhhh"

450:

Most recently: Trump's had dexamethasone and required oxygen a couple of times.

He's not on full-time oxygen yet, much less a ventilator, but bear in mind he's watching TV so those interviews with his doctors are clearly pitched to sound reassuring to him rather than to accurately convey the severity of his condition.

The "going home tomorrow" stuff is bullshit. More likely he's going to be in the hospital for a week, even if he does get better and go home afterwards: more realistically, he's got a 20-25% probability of dying in the next 3 weeks.

We'll know it's serious if the doctors at Walter Reed stop bullshitting the TV -- that'll be a sign that he's on mechanical ventilation or otherwise sedated so they no longer need to make happy noises.

451:

Hogweed reminds people of triffids, but I'm also reminded of Disch's _The Genocides_.

452:

Just to be fair, keep in mind that Trump's condition is also important national security and electoral information. If one can get a good read on medications, condition, pre-existing conditions, how long he's had the disease, etc. then it's not hard to do a very fine-grained calculation (much better than mine or Charlie's) about the President's chances of dying, his chances of dying on a particular day, his chances of being permanently brain-damaged, lung-diseased, etc... this would be really valuable stuff to the wrong people. So I don't resent the poor information we're getting, and his doctor doesn't just have to worry about the President, he's being "counseled" by Admirals and high-level defense department officials, and fielding calls from Supreme Court Justices.

Meanwhile, the poor man has less experience treating COVID-19 than the average New York ER doctor!

453:

"an "artificial horse" (that is, an automobile)"

Ah, but that isn't. The situation is that while you may well manage to make something that beats all comers at 24 hours of lemons, if it doesn't also eat grass, whinny, jump hedges, do big shits, run away from paper bags, kick people really hard, occasionally try to fuck policemen, and all sorts of other things, you can't tell if it's working properly, or even at all.

454:

The test WAS for a case where conscious reasoning was involved! I agree that the 'explanations' are plausible but unsupported, but one of them is very close to yours. My point was simply that we don't know how any of the higher mental functions actually work, so claiming that we can model them on computers in any definite timeframe are at best grossly optimistic and arguably complete bullshit.

That excludes the theoretical grounds I have for believing that they may be a different level of operation, and even that we might be tackling an impossible task. Note: "may be" and "might be". Obviously, I can't know, either way, until and unless someone succeeds in emulating them.

456:

Yup, and an absolute banger:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTuJQL8GBqY

“Long ago in the Russian hills
A Victorian explorer found the regal Hogweed by a marsh
He captured it and brought it home
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge
Royal beast did not forget
He came home to London
And made a present of the Hogweed
To the Royal Gardens at Kew”

457:

"...claiming that we can model them on computers in any definite timeframe are at best grossly optimistic and arguably complete bullshit.

You'll get no arguments from me on any of that. I'm just pointing out that running artifical neurons isn't necessarily the "right" way to do things, and there's a lot of information about how the brain works that's not being applied in taking that approach.

458:

The "going home tomorrow" stuff is bullshit. More likely he's going to be in the hospital for a week,

As I told my wife earlier today. He most likely didn't want to go to WR. And he likely wants to go back to the WH ASAP. But I suspect that periodically the brighter bulbs keep pointing out that he really doesn't want to be seen in an ambulance or on a gurney. And getting to and staying where he is now is the best way to avoid THAT photo op. Which in the end is his primary consideration.

459:

and fielding calls from Supreme Court Justices.

I really doubt that one.

460:

"Is it safe for me to leave town for the weekend?" Think about it.

461:

That is, of course, true. There just seem to be these little "goofs," like saying the President had been known to be sick on Wednesday when the official diagnosis came Thursday, and that, oops, he got some shots of oxygen, and now dexamethasone. The problems with the multiple story lines are:

--It's the typical abusive jerk move of playing on uncertainties--do they need to do this even now?
--They're making it seem like he's worse off than he is, and that they're being told not to say anything like that.

And if the Walter Reed doctors aren't skilled at treating Covid19 cases, why the fuck haven't they drafted in some doctors from NYC (a few hours up the road) to take over the President's care? Do they wait until he's intubated and they're pulling clots out of his brain before they do that?

The simplest (and most impossible) course would be to simply invoke the 25th Amendment, make VP Renfield the Acting President, and let El Cheeto get on with the business of dealing with the virus, with once-daily updates from the hospital about his progress. That's one of the things the Amendment was made for, IIRC.

462:

And you will get no argument from me on that one!

463:

Apropos of the earlier unicorn thread, here's a cutesy little unicorn meme that you can get on a t-shirt (ad alert!) that rather seems like it would fit into the earlier discussion about making unicorn horns functional: https://www.teeturtle.com/products/chainsaw-unicorn

464:

would be to simply invoke the 25th Amendment, make VP Renfield the Acting President, and let El Cheeto get on with the business of dealing with the virus

Well the provisions allows the Pres to say "Nope". And then it can take days to resolve.

When dealing with my mother as she aged out into incompetence she gave my brother what she said a medical power of attorney (POA). But she goofed. She gave him a Full POA. (We suspect she had both ready and just gave out the wrong one.) We discussed using it several times but there were two issues:
1. She could revoke it at any time and we would then have to prove she was incompetent. In theory not at all hard to do with her but expensive and time consuming.
2. My brother's main point was when you do pull the pin on the nuclear hand grenade you seriously need to be sure of what your next steps will be.

465:

Just checked on the polls-of-polls on the US fuck-up, errr ... election.
Looks as though, especially in the gap between the "debate" & the announcement of C-19, DJT's percentage dropped, noticeably. Biden is, largely about 10% ahead.
It seems as though Biden & co have it in the bag - provided, of course that dirty tricks, especially not counting votes &/or "losing" them are not allowed to perform.
There's going to be a lot of rabid shouting from the US right-to-fascist loons, that you can be sure of.
I do hope Ms Harris eviscerates VeepPonce at their debate.

466:

It seems as though Biden & co have it in the bag

You seem to be assuming a steady state for the next 30 days. Events of the last few weeks would imply that is a poor assumption.

College (and pro to some degree) is already having issues playing games in empty stadiums. I'm waiting for some high profile coaches and/or athletes to have to check into hospitals.

As I mentioned on this post or the previous one, just as our R Tillis was looking like a fail in in re-election race for the Senate he gets what appears to be a mile case of Covid-19. Then his D opponent admits to sexting.

Airline "for real" layoffs begin now. Until now a lot of these folks have been terminated but are still getting a paycheck. That will stop for many over the next week. My wife's last paycheck will be Friday.

Bars and restaurants are opening back up. I'm waiting for the US to emulate the UK and have infections and such to start rising.

And add in schools (18 years old and younger) are starting to have in clase instructions due to small riots breaking out with parent groups. The results may not be good.

But other than that and a few dozen other things what could go wrong over here in the next 30 days? Everything I mentioned in theory would help Biden but there are a lot of other things which might not.

467:

1. By now, Walter Reed docs probably *do* have experience with C-19.
2. Across Rockville Pk is the NIH, and they've been working with C-19 patients for months, in a clinical research setting.

Don't need to bring docs from NYC....

468:

Notice that I said "Impossible?" I know it's difficult, made more so because Trump's no good at setting up teams and systems.

If we had a working executive branch, one of the two would have announced that Pence was taking over for the duration, because there's a pandemic on, while the President goes off to make a hopefully speedy recovery. There's this little thing called confidence which is said to be important in politics, and part of the confidence is picking the right person for the job, and doing smooth handoffs in awkward circumstances. A big part of the VP's job is to take over for the President. If he's not trusted to do that, well, who's supposed to coordinate the response to the pandemic? (rhetorical question).

469:

Trump is a notorious micromanager. I doubt very badly that anyone he'll tolerate has much capacity or willingness to do independent work.

470:

You missed messes like what happened at the University of Wisconsin. They did such a bad job of reopening the school that two dorms had to go into two weeks' lockdown with two hours' notice (lines at all the local stores as students desperately bought what they needed), then suspended classes, all the while causing a big spike of cases in the surrounding city.

I don't think they're the only school to do this, either, just one where I have connections and hear gossip.

In a sad way, this is why I hope that the Masque of the Red Virus keeps playing out around Republican haunts in DC for the rest of the month. I don't want anyone to die, I just want them to STFU (involuntarily, as needs be) and let the sane people cope with the disease for awhile. As it is, they're aiming to surpass the total killed on the Confederate Side in the 1860s (258,000) by January.

471:

I completely agree with you on the small-minded part of that statement. Not sure that I agree he's a competent manager.

472:

I didn't say either of those things.

473:

I didn't say either of those things. This is true.

474:

Most recently: Trump's had dexamethasone and required oxygen a couple of times... more realistically, he's got a 20-25% probability of dying in the next 3 weeks.

The dexamethasone news seems like quite a big deal. Because as I understand it, dexamethasone is not something you give out of "an abundance of caution". It decreases Covid mortality by a third among those who need ventilators, but I believe it is not good for you to take it unless you need it. Giving to to someone so early in their diagnosis is quite unusual.

So is Trump now rolling a D4? Or a D6? So hard to know. Either way it's not a roll I'd want to stake *my* life on.


(My wife's cousin, a pulmonary specialist in London, was one of several collaborators in the 'RECOVERY' clinical trial that is the reason dexamethasone is now widely used for severe cases. She's supposed to be working part-time this year so she can spend time with her very young kids, and instead was working insane shifts treating Covid patients, with colleagues dying. That family connection doesn't make me any sort of expert, but it does mean I've been following the news of dexamethasone as a treatment with a bit of interest.)

475:

The giant hogweed isn’t just an invasive plant. It’s a metaphor for what is happening to much of this country.

“At the national level, the government does nothing,” she said, rising up on tiptoes and hacking off giant umbrella-like flowering structures on stalks three meters in the air. It’s a trustworthy method to prevent the weed from seeding — one activist in a hogweed-fighting social networking group confessed to arming herself with a machete on cycling trips.

"Opinion"! Pretentious as usual, I see. These news are actually very old, at least a decade old, but recently there was more notable development.
https://www.rt.com/usa/giant-hogweed-invades-russia-spreading-to-america/ (2009)
Actually, it is hardly possible to convince regular people that the problem is real. I imagine, they have been more agitated recently because government has taking more active measures, subsidizes, and also fines people for negligence since at least 2018 ("how dare the government do that to us!").
https://www.1tv.ru/news/2020-08-04/390747-mnogie_regiony_vvodyat_shtrafy_za_popustitelstvo_opasnomu_borscheviku_v_tom_chisle_i_moskva

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracleum_mantegazzianum
This thing's been around since forever, but I am a city dweller, I can't say I ever suffered from it (I guess I also never dared to try out really, too). Any responsible person gets rid of it so it never grows too big or too hard to deal with, and all of my relatives who have village houses are very responsible.

From what I gather, the actual problem is with the different type of the plant.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracleum_sosnowskyi
It is more like a tree rather than a regular plant, it has more sturdy stem and giant flower cap. Very troublesome and hard to deal with, also very invasive and grows thick groves everywhere with sufficient humidity. It travels very fast alongside of the roads, with the cars doing most of the job.

I regularly visit my parents who live some two regions away (by the bus), and I do remember this plant taking over the sides of the roads at some point, maybe a dozen years ago. It was looking really bad, and at some places, where forests were giving place to fields, they were covering every side, growing in the more wet places. However, as of recent times I don't really remember seeing much of these, and they've been cleared off the sides of the roads, at least. I've also seen more cultivated lands, naturally. OTOH, there were parts of the road I no longer pass on my way, but when I check them on Google Street view, they are as clean as ever. The real problem is, though, you need to exterminate them for decades so they can't make a comeback.

476:

“--It's the typical abusive jerk move of playing on uncertainties--do they need to do this even now?”
Habit?

477:

Apparently Trump just took a joyride. Got into the Presidential limo with a driver and either a medical or Secret Service person, and drove around the fucking block then back to Walter Reed again. I suppose it might have been his Secret Service double, but what a fucking crazy stunt!

478:

He waved at his supporters, from behind his mask. They were hanging around in front of the hospital.

479:

Apparently Trump just took a joyride. ... drove around the fucking block...

I had to look and yes, he did that. The CDC says don't do that when you're sick, but you could have guessed what smart doctors would say and that Donald wouldn't listen.

480:

Heteromeles @ 351: Didn't see the helicopter shot. Any resemblance to the last day of the US Embassy in Saigon?

Jumping back a bit, because I have now seen the helicopter shot they used in the New York Times ...

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2020/10/04/opinion/sunday/03Dowd2/03Dowd2-superJumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp

It had great light. It could have been a great photo, worthy of a Pulitzer ... but it's not.

The problem with it is the shutter speed is too high. It stops the motion of the rotor blades and the helicopter seems to be suspended in mid-air with no visible means of support.

A competent photographer should have known to drag the shutter slightly so the rotor blades would have a bit of blur suggesting their motion.

481:

SFReader (replied to this comment from JBS) @ 357:

Re:' ... there would be people who believe that it was a political assassination.'

It's a true statement, but I'd just like to point out that I didn't write it.

482:

Robert Prior @ 358:

the organizers decided to add additional controls to prevent future bad behavior

Someone standing behind each candidate with a bowlful of mashed potatoes, to be used if they speak out of turn? :-)

I was thinking something more along the line of isolation booths like they used on early TV quiz shows

https://www.mercurynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Van-Doren-03.jpg?w=1240

... something where the "moderator" could mute the microphone & also protect innocent bystanders from spewing aerosol droplets.


483:

Charlie Stross @ 372:

I hear he hasn't tweeted in over 18 hrs, so he's *really* sick.

No, he's just mildly feverish and unused to feeling unwell. (Trump dunks on people who are sick regularly; implies he doesn't usually get sick himself.)

I think he's a lot sicker than they're letting on at this time. Maybe not on death's door as some hope (myself included, although I do hope he can hang on long enough to lose the election), but more than "mildly feverish" and "feeling unwell". The one thing you can be absolutely sure of is they're lying about it.

I view the Walter Reed admission as precautionary, like Boris Johnson's ICU visit. The thing about Trump is that he's very overweight and elderly, and also shows signs of having had TIAs or minor strokes. That's a red flag for comorbidities for COVID19 and he's at higher-than-normal risk of stroke or other life-threatening symptoms e.g. kidney necrosis.

Reminder that at this stage, all drug treatments are "completely experimental", with the possible exception of dexamethasone for patients who are going downhill and likely to need oxygen or ventilation (it's proven to cut the mortality rate by a third, costs pennies, and has been licensed for about 60 years).

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/10/04/donald-trump-covid-19-what-we-know-steroid-dexamethasone/3616811001/

The Regeneron treatment he's on is in second-stage trials and looks highly promising so far. He's also being given remdesevir -- expensive, doesn't do much, but better than nothing. No word on his hydroxychloroquine/bleach regime, which is a shame.

Much more interesting is the effect this has had on the Senate judiciary committee, which gets to vote on that empty Supreme Court spot! It's currently tilted 11/9 Repub/Democrat, but two of the Republican members just tested positive because Trump infected them. So the Democrats may be able to block confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. I understand that McConnell may be able to move confirmation to the floor of the house, but again: the Republicans are down at least two senators and their pattern of recklessly ignoring infection control measures suggests that in the coming days they may have several more in isolation -- and a confirmation vote on the floor of the house requires in-person attendance.

So Trump may have inadvertently sabotaged his own supreme court pick.

A confirmation vote on the floor of the Senate requires in-person attendance, but yes, I hope he has sabotaged it.

484:

Memo to El Cheeto Grande:

Listen Mr. Alpha Silverback Gorilla wannabe:
--Nothing projects lack of confidence like doing damn-fool publicity stunts when everybody wants you in treatment.
--Nothing projects lack of confidence like having your official doctor and your chief of staff not agreeing on the official line about your health.
--Nothing projects lack of confidence like putting your own bodyguards at risk from you.
--Nothing projects lack of confidence like failing to give your designated alternate the authorization to do his job.
--Oh, and nothing projects cluelessness like not even wearing a standard medical-grade N-95 mask, like the ones the people treating you are wearing, and which they would have given you for free. That $15 cloth mask you have on, sir, doesn't even have a nose wire. Must fog up your glasses when you read stuff in it. Sir.

Speaking of lack of confidence and knowledge, I saw rumblings that the Secret Service isn't happy with Trump's shenanigans, although they refuse (rightly) to say how many agents have been infected while working at the White House. Hopefully whoever drew the short straws this afternoon are either already immune or manage to get lucky.

Unfortunately, the SS is hardly blameless in this. Eleven agents at the training facility that pipelines agents to the security detail tested positive in August (NY Times link). Apparently they "are believed to have contracted the virus during training exercises and at a graduation celebration inside a nearby hotel where they did not practice social distancing." Clueless. Now the world knows that the best way to get the President is through biological warfare caused by infecting politicians or guests, because his bodyguards don't know how to enforce basic health precautions that billions of people are using successfully elsewhere in the world.

If he really is on Day 9 right now of the disease, things could take a serious turn for the worse as early as tomorrow. Hopefully this won't be the last photo op the world remembers his administration by...

485:

whitroth @ 385: Oh, btw, Ellen tells me, concerning the GOP Senators testing positive (3 in 3 days) that McConnell says no votes for two weeks....

My current assessment is that sometime during the lame duck session, no matter how the election turns out, Moscow Mitch will force the confirmation through.

The only thing that will prevent her getting on the court is if a bunch of the GOP Senators who are currently coming down with SARS-CoV-2 CROAK between now and the election.

As desirable an outcome as that might be, I don't think it will happen.

486:

SFReader @ 400:

Re: 'This is what rewilding looks like ...'

Yeah - scary.

Wonder which will win in North America kudzu or giant hogweed - we've got both in some parts.

Just a SWAG, but it looks like the two prefer different climates, so each will flourish in areas where other will not. The thing about Kudzu is goats can eat it.

487:

whitroth @ 405: And the US has never, ever done that.

In the 1920s, they imported Kudzu* to Georgia, USA, figuring it would be great cattle feed, according to my late ex, a Floridian. Unfortunately, kudzu liked the South a lot more than cattle liked kudzu.

* aka the vine that ate the South, and when they say "a yard a day", they don't mean 3'....

The thing about Kudzu is they never came up with a good method for mechanical harvesting. It would have worked a lot better for cattle feed if they had. Goats will eat Kudzu even if cattle won't.

Sometimes in the summer, you can actually SEE Kudzu grow.

488:

Once or twice my late ex, while we were still in FL, swore she'd been doing something in the back yard, and the kudzu felt her up.

489:

Apparently Trump just took a joyride. Got into the Presidential limo with a driver and either a medical or Secret Service person, and drove around the fucking block then back to Walter Reed again. I suppose it might have been his Secret Service double, but what a fucking crazy stunt!

Should have expected that.

This is reality TV star stuff from someone pretending to be president. Instead of just being sick, he has to make it a bad movie about a sick president attempting to appear healthy for "national security reasons" because (insert incoherent plot hook here).

490:

I'd guess we're somewhere between Day 7 and Day 9, so there's 5-7 more days in which there is a high level of danger for Trump. I'm not sure it's possible to be more precise than that.

491:

Once or twice my late ex, while we were still in FL, swore she'd been doing something in the back yard, and the kudzu felt her up.

Not surprising. This is where the legend of the "jumping cholla" comes from. These lovely prickly pear relatives have rounded stem joints instead of flat ones like prickly pears. In the "jumping" chollas, the joints have a bad habit of falling off with little pressure, and littering the ground around the parent plant. It's a dispersal mechanism, because the joints can root and grow a new plant. But it's easy to step on one or brush against one without noticing, leading to the story that they jumped from the parent plant onto your leg or shoe.

Heck even poison oak does it. I was doing a survey in a poison oak thicket, and the tip of a long vine stuck itself right into my ear canal, giving me the most miserable "wet willy" of my life. Swabbing my ear canal out with Tecnu was even worse.

492:

I don't think they're the only school to do this, either,

I live within 20 miles (as the crow flies) of UNC-CH, NCSU, and Duke. The first 2 and the rest of the UNC system was under pressure from the politicians to OPEN UP and LETS GET SCHOOL going. Both shut down within 2-3 weeks after college students, well, they acted like college students. And being public they couldn't toss them into jail plus the state legislature, run by R's[1], would have tossed the admins out on their ears. But this open then go remote after 2 weeks has made a total mess of the local economies that surround the schools. Off campus rentals are abandoned. 100s of support staff hired then laid off. Etc.

On the other hand Duke is private. And can turn away 1000s and still fill the classrooms. When you arrived on campus you got tested with a good test[2] and had to sit in your dorm room (food provided) until the results came back. Break the rules and you were sent home. The caught under 10 students with Covid-19. And very few since. They enforce the rules and are serious about it.

Plus a large Community College system and a dozen or so smaller colleges.

[1] There are a lot of D's around here who also want the bars and restaurants opened because people need to earn a living. No talk of people getting sick. Pocket book overrides safety.

[2] Duke has a world class medical center. And I do mean world class. And they get a lot of funding from overseas crazy rich oil sheiks and such. I is a floor, maybe 2, in one of the hospital buildings where one of these guys can move in with 100 or so of the family and servants when they arrive for a treatment. And are charged appropriately for very high class hotel service. Big profits there.

UNC-CH also has a great medical center but relative to the campus size it is no where near a domineering presence as the Duke one. And doesn't have the VIP floors for 100 or so.

Both have actually done a lot of work on Covid-19 and Vaccines.

493:

joyride. Got into the Presidential limo with a driver and either a medical or Secret Service person, and drove

And now everyone involved gets to be quarantined for 14 days if they follow the rules.

494:

Pigeon @ 427:

"dibs on a thematically appropriate, invasive-plant-management-failure-photosensibilisation-powered supervillain"

He's called Chase, IIRC. And he has the proper James Bond supervillain credentials in the form of his bulk compost shredder.

There's nothing wrong with bulk compost shredders. I've finally got a replacement for my old worn out one on the way.

Similar to my old worn out one, but my old one is actually in better shape:
https://smithauctions.hibid.com/lot/11217-145525-287630/troybilt-super-tomahawk-chipper-shredder/

This is what my new one looks like (or will look like when it gets here):
https://www.michigan-sportsman.com/forum/media/2015-07-18-00-08-14.114648/full?lightbox=1&last_edit_date=1437262457

I'm hoping I will eventually get the old one repaired. I had a bearing fail while I was running it. I replaced the bearing, but I wasn't able to get the internal mechanism positioned correctly. The chipper blade scrapes on the side of the housing. I think I need a new thrust washer to keep the bearing from sliding on the shaft too far, but now I've got the bearing on & I can't get it back off without tearing it up.

So it's sitting at a local machine shop waiting for them to remove bearing, and the shaft & polish the shaft so everything will fit together properly. And I'll need to get a new thrust washer to hold the shaft in the right position.

Haven't figured out what I'm going to do once I have both shredders working.


495:

I'm not sure about that. It's a highly modified vehicle, so it might have a partition between the driver's area and the rear of the car, and separate air-conditioning systems.

496:

Think about it. Maybe he was just doing a photo-op for supporters... or maybe he was trying to get them to take him back to the White House, and he was in such bad shape that they said, "NOPE".

497:

Per politico, part of the messaging chaos around El Cheeto's health is that the chief of staff Mark Meadows, took it upon himself to offer an alternative narrative to the one from the doctors that painted a more dire picture of the President's condition.. Why? Who knows?

The link is to Politico, which asserts that Meadows has the reputation in DC for being untrustworthy and occasionally backstabby. Make of it what you will, but since this administration has been a chronic credibility crisis from the inauguration on (remember the fuss about inaugural crowd size?), adding to it now is both par for the course and deeply counterproductive. IMHO, of course.

As for Pence, apparently he's hitting the campaign trail on his boss's behalf. Hope he keeps his mask up and sanitizes frequently.

498:

“The best way forwards to protect the NHS, save lives, to keep our children in school and the economy moving is to follow the rules wherever we live,” Johnson said.

You think DT would accept the phone call if placed by BJ?

499:

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

I edited the wikipedia page to include information about the USSR and Russia.

I didn't know how to add footnotes and the map needs to be updated if anyone wants to take a crack at that.

500:

Just about every medical public opinion in the USA that is not controlled bythe MafiaRethuglican spooks is unanimous in loud criticism of DJT.
Fun!

501:

I think we have a strong argument that Trump isn't lying about having the virus. There's no way he's willing to miss campaigning.

502:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/

Debunking the kudzu menace. I have no idea whether this is accurate, but the Smithsonian is a respectable source.

503:

there's 5-7 more days in which there is a high level of danger for Trump

As opposed to 107-1,568 more days when there's a high level of danger from Trump?

504:

Yes. Given how it grows (and isn't a significant problem) in Britain, I believe them.

I have had many arguments with the people who get hysterical about various plants destroying diversity in Britain, but side with Oliver Rackham that going out and LOOKING is essential to avoid propagating 'factoids'. Even ignoring the fact that our ecologies are essentially all man-made and made up of recent invaders, the only recently-introduced land plants that actually form monocultures are Japanese knotweed (but only beside water) and possibly Rododendron ponticum (in a VERY few places). Plenty of other plants do so in favourable conditions, and some cause local trouble (e.g. bracken, gorse and brambles), but they are 'native'.

505:

Kudzu dies back in winter, so it isn't going to be as big a deal in Britain.

506:

because it looked as if it covered everything in sight, few people realized that the vine often fizzled out just behind that roadside screen of green.

Driving between Memphis and Nashville in the mid 90s, I saw mile after uninterrupted mile of kudzu. It's fascinating to find out that that was an almost Potemkin screen.

507:

Oh, yes, but that wasn't what I meant; I know that we are too cold and dark for it to become seriously invasive. It's where I have seen it establish itself, and where I have not, which matches what the Smithsonian article said. Basically, it seems to need at least partial sunlight and bareish ground to establish itself from seed - which is precisely what has been created around those roads! So that's why I believe it ....

508:

EC
Fallopia japonicacan be a real menace almost anywhere, actually.
IIRC, Network Rail have a dedicated team on that plant-problem, because it loves railway cuttings & embankments.
You are a Rackham fan, as welAl?

509:

You're talking about Pence, who visited KSC, and there's pictures of him in the clean room putting his hands on something that's going to go into space that has a sign on it saying "DO NOT TOUCH"?

I'm hoping he ignores the mask.

510:

Unfortunately, there's global warming... and no, I'm not being snarky.

511:

It's a highly modified vehicle, so it might have a partition between the driver's area and the rear of the car, and separate air-conditioning systems.

Maybe the limos. But the closeup views in the videos of the event shows a typical SUV interior with no partition between front and next row of seats. This was not a Navigator or Expedition sized SUV. More of an Explorer.

4 people in total. All with just masks.

512:

I wasn't able to tell whether there was a partition or not. Do you have a link which makes things clear?

513:

You aren't thinking ecologically, which is what I was talking about; in that context, it's not even a problem in Britain. Network Rail have problems with many plants - buddleia, Russian vine, ash, sycamore, brambles and more - but that is another matter entirely (and note that two of those I mentioned are 'native').

514:

It's grossly exaggerated as far as the effect on northern Europe goes, as can be told from the fact that few plants that are rampant invaders in southern Europe or the USA even naturalise in our 'hot spots'. People from your southerly climes rarely realise that temperature is less important than insolation for most plants adapted to growing in the open.

Even hardy plants have essentially stopped growing here, but the temperatures are c. 10-15 (night-day), AND I live at only 52 north. OGH at 56 north is much worse off.

515:

Re: '... going out and LOOKING is essential to avoid propagating 'factoids'.'

Not a trained botanist or horticulturalist so I usually have to look up plants. Problem is many/most of what should be the most learned/reliable sites have no photos, useless photos (can't make out any details), only drawings/sketches that could be of any plant frankly because I don't know anything about these plants and can't tell one plant from another.

Suggestion to scientist/tech experts:

If you're serious about/committed to advancing education of the general public about your area of expertise then learn how to teach/prepare informative presentations (visual, audio as appropriate) otherwise you're just blowing smoke (pretending to be an educator/pro-whatever) and adding to the confusion.

Life cycles/stages - Plants like most living things differ in appearance depending on their life stage and sometimes season. If your one photo on a webpage devoted to one particular plant shows this plant as a seedling in very early Spring - how am I supposed to recognize the full-grown version in Summer, Winter or Fall?*

Sheesh!

How this relates to EC's comment - maybe ordinary folks end up on factoid sites because those sites are more effective communicators/explainers.

* I just tried the local uni's botany dept's website (which is partnered with the municipal botanical garden) for info about giant hogweed. Result: A page of info and one photo of the prof standing beside the plant about 20 ft away from the camera. No damned way I could possibly identify this plant from this photo apart from: 'it's big'.

516:

Speaking as someone who pretty much gave up doing public education on plants, and now helps others with that thankless task....

Oy. Most civilized people deal with plant identification the same way QAnons and Trumpers deal with politics, with a mix of magical thinking, ad hoc reasoning, and general repugnance. It's slightly easier to change minds (at least flowers are more attractive than the average politician), but not much.

One basic problem is that there are over 200,000 plant species in the world. There's over 7,000 growing wild in California and over 2000 growing wild in San Diego County. Very few people know even the local plants. A PhD botanist is expected to know 500-1,000 species, if they're field workers.

Those numbers intimidate people. Pointing out that everyone spends their lives learning plants (or any other speciose group, like insects, fungi, or fish), doesn't help, because most people are too egotistical and insecure about their knowledge to want to plunge into an abyss of ignorance, even for the chance of finding unending pearls of wisdom and beauty. I assume computer programming and security are similar?

Anyway, about giant hogweed ID on the web. The problem is there's a bit of an informal policy about the carrot family (Apiaceae), which Heracleum belongs to. That policy is: you don't fucking give ignorant idiots ideas that they can ID the family on their own! The reason is not just the joys of phototoxic furanocoumarins that a bunch of genera (not just Heracleum) produce, it's that a fair number are toxic far beyond this. Some, like poison hemlock and the water hemlocks, are lethally, horrendously, often incurably poisonous.

As with white-gilled mushrooms, this is a group where bad taxonomy kills. Giving people a bit of knowledge is more dangerous than telling them to leave the plants alone unless they want to take the time to learn them properly.

And since I have been trained, and have still screwed up IDs of unknowns in this group, this is a rule I take very, very seriously.

517:

Oh. And in other news, El Cheeto Grande is set to check himself out of the hosp