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Crib Sheet: The Labyrinth Index

This is well overdue because I kind of lost track of my irregular series of spoileriffic essays about my novels: it should have turned up in 2019, but I was dealing with a parental death, then trying to get my writing re-started (you might have noticed 2019 was The Year Without A Novel, for the first time since 2007), then COVID19 hit.

So I'm going to try and think myself back into my 2018 state of mind and brain dump whatever I can, and you can ask me fill-in questions in the comments below.

(NB: a Crib Sheet for Dead Lies Dreaming is due in the next few months. I need to catch up on the publication schedule to see where we're at, but as it went paperback in the UK and probably isn't getting a US paperback release, and Quantum of Nightmares is due out next January, you're welcome.)

So, without further ado ...

I wrote The Delirium Brief in 2015-16, then had to re-write it right after the Brexit referendum because satire had died and gone to hell.

A word about satire, which the Laundry Files most certainly is: satire seeks to draw attention to that which is already in the frame but blurred and indistinct by exaggerating and focussing the reader's attention on it. The lifelike is made larger than life, so that it can be examined closely. Why write a story about horrible merchant bankers bleeding their victims dry when you can turn them into vampires and literalize the metaphor? (That was The Rhesus Chart.) Why detract attention from the state's corporate panic to an invasion by having an actually-existing state as the attacker instead of, say, rampaging Elves?

But the events of 2016 broke political satire in the UK, possibly for good. So I had to up my game. I introduced the New Management at the end of The Delirium Brief as a horrible parodic burlesque of the Conservative and Unionist Party: yes they're evil and they want to steal everything that isn't nailed down and grind your proletarian face beneath their boot for all eternity. But nobody wants to read about a bumbling, incompetent kakistocracy so the New Management is also terrifyingly competent (in a way that nobody could accuse Boris Johnson of being). Satire throws a glaring spotlight on the flaws of the real, and that's where we start in The Nightmare Stacks, which I wrote in a blinding hurry in late 2017 as a filler novel (or so I thought at the time).

Detour: my father died in June 2017. He was 93. I had just spent a year working on a space opera at that point, was midway through a second draft, and his death soured me on the project. Yes, I will get back to it soon—probably in 2022, for reasons I'll go into below—but for now it's on hold. But this left me owing my publishers a book. I already knew enough about The Nightmare Stacks to know what I was going to do, so I brought it forward a year. It was going to be Mhari's novel, a Dirty Dozen (or maybe Ocean's Eleven) ill-assorted caper novel set largely in the USA, and the Black Concorde was going to fly. But then reality mugged me again ...

November 2016: Donald Trump won the US presidential election, and by mid-2017 things were clearly running off the rails. The grip of the Beige Dictatorship on UK-US politics had been broken and the radical right fringe was calling the shots. So by 2017, reflecting the disturbance in the force seemed like a good idea ... but how to do that without pissing off whatever remaining proportion of my readership voted Republican in the USA, my largest market?

You will be unsurprised to read that I'm no fan of Donald Trump. (His exit from office did good things for my blood pressure.) And these days I have zero concern for alienating MAGAs and the alt-right. But nobody likes seeing their nation being dissed by a foreigner, and in 2017 it was still conceivable that there were some sane Republican voters.

This is why I picked: (a) a crisis (Lovecraftian, of course) engulfing the USA that punched the same disturbing "this country is being taken over by something horrible, but it's hard to put my finger on it" buttons as Trump in 2016-17 (what happened is a lot clearer today!), (b) deliberately painted a very anodyne and non-hostile POTUS of vague but unspecified party allegience (I imagine him vaguely resembling George Clooney), and (c) tried not to centre the British protagonists too obnoxiously in the resolution of the crisis. Which (d) isn't actually resolved at the end—or rather, it's an Italian Job style cliff-hanger: did they? Or didn't they? Avoid lurching over the cliff into the very un-woke grip of Cthulhu's cultists?

Now, about Mhari.

Mhari Murphy was introduced as a throwaway secondary character in The Atrocity Archve, back in 1999, and I'm not proud of how I painted her back then. (Although some aspects of her behaviour towards Bob were modelled on an ex of mine.) A few years later I'd worked out that Bob was a horribly unreliable narrator, and asked myself: what if Bob's picture of Mhari was as warped as his understanding of everything else in the early books? And that's why I wrote her into The Rhesus Chart, with a lot more depth and a sympathetic background I hadn't worked out in the first book. She turned up again in The Annihilation Score because everything is better with vampire middle managers, and then I realized it was time to make her the central protagonist of her own novel. (The other possibility was Mo, but I'd already written Mo's novel.) (A third possibility was Derek the DM, but I still haven't finished his origin story—a novella I've had in progress for several years.)

Mhari is both a more competent protagonist than Bob, and more vulnerable. She's a PHANG; she needs to drink blood and kill people or she dies, which makes her a useful tool to certain powerful interests. I wanted to bring this out in that first chapter, with the execution scene, and also to lampshade that the New Management is in a very real sense both evil and cruel, but not senseless. (The execution scene, incidentally, draws heavily on George Orwell's essay, A Hanging.) She's a functionary of the New Management, indeed she has been found to be sufficiently useful that his Dread Majesty has given her a life peerage and elevated her to the House of Lords, as Baroness Karnstein, a Carmilla reference (the Black Pharaoh has a very dark sense of humour). She's the chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs, i.e. vampires, which position gives her both the agency to requisition resources and accomplish things within government—she has an executive role by appointment—but also makes her vulnerable to, well, His Dark Majesty's Personal Displeasure. (Much Stalin, very whimsical.) And she has a boyfriend! Who is both a superhero, and a middle-aged guy who cheated on his wife and got a divorce, a semi-estranged teenaged daughter, and a sports car out of it. (All the Laundry protagonists in this book cast dark shadows.)

So. To the plot: the Black Chamber, the US equivalent of the Laundry, is staging what would today be called a deep state coup against the US presidency. (Whoo boy, didn't see that coming.) The difference is that they're the Evil Empire of Evil and they intend to use the USA's not inconsiderable resources to dismantle the entire fricken' solar system to summon their liege and master Cthulhu through computational means, assuming their Plan A (sacrifice a billion people) fails. (NB: there are typographic anomalies in the Kindle ebook edition, replicated in the audiobook version, that result in 109 being rendered as "109" sacrifices. I will not in future be using scientific notation in novels, KTHX ...) They make an end-run around the regular US civil service by means of an invocation which causes people to forget the Presidency and the executive exists whenever they sleep (if only!). The result is a POTUS on the run, protected by his increasingly sleep-deprived Secret Service close protection detail, trying to stay out of the clutches of the horrifying larva that has moved into the telecoms exchange room buried under the heart of the Pentagon.

Mhari is ordered to rescue the POTUS, by no lesser person than the Black Pharaoh. It is unclear whether the goal of the rescue is to help the President or, maybe, sacrifice him: the near-religious faith in the United States of up to a third of billion people over 200 years is a potent source of magic. Either way (spoiler!) plot ensues and at the end of the book the POTUS is free. Luckily Mhari finds an acceptable plot coupon under the Pentagon basement to substitute for the POTUS! So she survives.

But the rescue comes at a horrible price. Along the way, most of Mhari's team—the ones who aren't vampires going in—end up contracting PHANG syndrome, including Pete the Vicar (I really need to work out how he handles the horrifying dilemma of survival) and Derek the DM (and again, I really need to finish that origin story and also work out his final story arc: he was going to be a much bigger character in the Laundry Series than he's turned out to be as actually published).

Concorde: that's a gun I put on the mantlepiece in book 3, I really had to use it sooner or later. A strange but true fact—it's in a museum, I did a walk-through, I have the photographs to prove it!—is that Concorde Prototype 002 has two crew escape hatches in its belly, and a fireman's pole arrangement for the flight crew and engineering team to escape by (with parachutes). So rather than flying the Black Concorde with the gigantic hydrogen bomb wired into it, I decided to use the unarmed verson for the escape sequence—and coincidentally demonstrate why in the Post-9/11 world it's very unlikely that civilian supersonic airliners will ever be allowed to fly over the Continental United States. (Hint: it's not the sonic boom they're concerned about, it's the near-impossibility of shooting one down.) The actual rescue relies on a technique that was actually used successfully between the 1940s and 1960s for rescuing downed pilots and CIA agents: the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system (STARS). (It has not, to my knowledge, ever been used with a supersonic carrier aircraft, but with the help of a sufficiently powerful superhero ...)

What's next?

The Laundry Files was derailed by Trump, Brexit, then COVID19. I have no freaking idea how to satirize British politics this decade, and until I do, I'm not going to be able to write about the New Management directly. So I tried to park the series at this point until reality resumes making sense. By way of marking time I began to spin up a spin-off series, the Tales of the New Management: Dead Lies Dreaming is the first in that series, to be followed by Quantum of Nightmares (hopefully on January 11th of 2022). But reality is still front-running me: here's a headline from today's Guardian about a Tzompantli they're building in Trafalgar Square, nothing to see here, no problem with it derailing my new satirical stories about a brutal regime where human sacrifice is routine. (Well okay, this one consists of plaster casts of the faces of 850 transgender people instead of actual human skulls ... but given the windrows of dead from COVID19 that our government is intent on giving us, it feels like reality is stalking my fiction and mugging it for ideas right now.)

There is some way to go in the Laundry Files main series, however. A novella (provisionally titled Escape from Puroland) was due for publication this month. It's been delayed until next March and may get a new title for legal reasons: but it's still on track. As noted above, there's a novella about Derek in progress (A Conventional Boy). And there needs to be at least one final novel wrapping up Bob, the Laundry, and the New Management. Spoiler: the New Management survives (and so does at least one major character from the Laundry). But by the time of Dead Lies Dreaming, about 6-12 months after The Labyrinth Index, the Laundry as such (that is, SOE's X Division) has been broken up and dissolved into the regular machinery of government under the New Management, with its former personnel—the survivors, that is—in some cases rising to senior political positions.

Other stuff ...

I wrote the book four years ago, I've forgotten chunks of it, so feel free to ask me about any nagging details in the questions: I can't promise to remember the answer, though!

979 Comments

1:

More a comment and request for the future:

I found the motives of many participants (especially the Black Pharaoh) thoroughly confusing, except for the "me, me, me" aspect. Normally, I prefer fiction to make more sense than real life, but that didn't grate because it all fitted. However, it DID leave me thinking "I hope that he tidies up some of the loose ends in future books". But I quite understand the problems of producing them. I am expecting 2022 to be more chaotic, incidentally, so I don't expect anything soon.

2:

Loose ends are hard, especially with that much back-story; it's possible the "one last novel" will bloat up to two, or at least something as big as "Invisible Sun" (which at 150,000 words is 50% longer than most of the earlier Merchant Princes books).

Note that "Dead Lies Dreaming" takes place after the end of the main Laundry files story arc, so it gives you an idea of the shape of the world remaining. But there's very little crossover so far. (The Prime Minister makes a cameo appearance in "Dead Lies Dreaming". Persephone Hazard was going to show up for one scene in "Quantum of Nightmares", but my editor said "push it back to the next book", which was quite right. In the third book -- title not yet fixed: it was going to be "Bones and Nightmares" before "In His House" got renamed "Quantum of Nightmares" -- the crossover is explicit, starting with Eve getting a most unwelcome summons from the New Management.)

3:

So long as reality's using you for inspiration, could we convince you write a nice, fluffy schadenfreude souffle of a novel wherein the superrich get rolled to the tune of a 99% redistribution of their assets, and humans start seriously dealing with climate change? KTHX.

4:

Insofar as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is a metaphor for anthropogenic climate change (for "climate" read "magic"), nope.

5:

Can we have the Beige Dictatorship back, please?
the New Management is in a very real sense both evil and cruel, but not senseless Like the not-final-solution programs of the NSDAP, you mean? Rheinhard Heyrich was evil & cruel & ruthless, but he wasn't stupid. Ditto Lavrenti Beria, come to that.

until reality resumes making sense - Now, there's optimistic!


6:

Charlie,

Here are my observations:

(1) Derek the DM seemed a bit too powerful a playing piece to risk in an actual operation[*], but then I'm not the Black Pharaoh.

(2) Ditto Mhari, if she was privy to His Blackness' secrets.

(3) Your wierdo elf looks to have some fun left in her.

(4) Pete will starve himself of blood and ... and then what? It needn't be a quiet private death, need it? Feeders leaking out everywhere...

(5) The Black Pharaoh -- being a bit more of a human scale intelligence (because of having a certain affinity for us?) -- might well get caught out making mistakes...


I'm in 110% agreement with your decision to leave the main story arc until you feel an urge to do it (but keep your ideas book filled in). I found the Dead Lies Dreaming side-quest much more fun than some of the latter Laundry-proper books. I figure that that might be that you've got your mojo back after some pretty shit years recently.


[*] Recall that _all_ GCHQ personnel were forbidden active service roles in WW2; ditto SIS and SS[**]. My sources tell me that such prohibitions still apply to where you can take your holidays after leaving.

[**] Maybe SOE, too, but who knows these days? You could have good historical fun with Force 136 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_136
Note the role of Walter Fletcher (not real name) who ended up becoming a Conservative MP after making a £77 million profit for SOE on the black market. What a pirate! (There's a record of what he was up to in the Imperial War Museum, a fair amount of which is online.

7:

Insofar as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is a metaphor for anthropogenic climate change (for "climate" read "magic"), nope.

Who said anything about The Laundryverse? I for one would love to see a follow-on to Rule 34 wherein someone engineers a herpesvirus that causes sociopaths to become acutely neurotic, due to handwavium/specific gene expression associated with psychopathy/etc. And the virus gets loose among the global elite and the infectious people who service them.

I'm just fantasizing about how much fun it would be for the many hated world leaders in all fields to suddenly and inconveniently develop burgeoning consciences (live on camera. Possibly preaching, even.), just because they couldn't keep their zippers closed.

Heck, imagine it infecting the Vatican, house of Saud, Moscow, Beijing, NY City, DC... And pity the poor public health doctors who are tracking the spread of the virus, and agonizing about whether to do anything about it or not.

Anyway, I know you don't take requests, but I just needed a nice little summer fantasy to cheer up with before diving into the next round of tapping away at real climate change issues.

Also, I don't remember Labyrinth Index well enough to have any questions, except that the aerodynamics of two humans catching up with a Concorde are firmly in the realm of Marvel fantasy, I think.

8:

Damn, 2018. I've lost years without realizing it.

I read Labyrinth Index twice when it came out, it was so devastating, but it was 2017 when I last read Delirium Brief along with the whole series. That's too many years without reading the whole series.

I need to read the whole series again as soon as I finish reading The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name by Brian C. Muraresku. (It's about the history of psychedelics driving the development of society from the stone age to now. The Eucharist was psychedelic wine.)

BTW, from the comment @6(4). Pete will embrace his role as a PHANG and become the Red Cardinal. Dressed in a blood red uniform, with the white collar. It will be his sacred duty to serve the Black Pharaoh.

9:

Is Pete's family name still oscillating between "Wilson" and "Russell"?

10:

"I'm just fantasizing about how much fun it would be for the many hated world leaders in all fields to suddenly and inconveniently develop burgeoning consciences"

This. This is one of my favourite daydreams: An airborne cure for sociopathy, freely distributed. Televised, if we're lucky.

11:

seemed a bit too powerful a playing piece to risk in an actual operation[*], but then I'm not the Black Pharaoh

Yeah, that'd be entirely true in a realist-mode setting where human beings are all at pretty much the same end of the magical power spectrum (ie. none). But by the time we get this deep into CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, we're in godlike/demigod territory, or at least superheroes, where some of the players can quite literally set fire to their enemy's hair by thinking.

Mhari ... is senior enough to be a credible personal emissary of His Darkness to a foreign head of state. She's guarded by Officer Friendly, who in superhero mode is a Tank. The two of them are perfectly capable of blowing a hole straight through a squad of vampires. They also have Derek, who probably shouldn't be on the game board at all, but who has reality warping -- or precognitive -- skills that turn the team into an even tougher target. And the crazy elf lady is, well, see "set fire to their enemy's hair" above.

What's happening here is that the Black Pharaoh is playing a game against an adversary or adversaries who are not personally evident, but who are somewhere on the same spectrum. And it's evidently nearing the end-game or He wouldn't be risking such powerful pieces on the chess board.

What's significant is who isn't in play. Mo, for starters, and Bob, the Senior Auditor, Persephone Hazard, Cassie the All-Highest. Also presumably other people we don't know about. Mhari looks senior, but what do we know about her duties beside vampire-wrangling? And Derek presumably blotted his copy-book during the mess in Yorkshire.

Parenthetically, "Quantum of Nightmares" picks up right after "Dead Lies Dreaming" ends, and it's probably not a spoiler to say that Eve gets a very nasty shock (or series thereof) as she discovers just how deep-laid Rupert de Montfort Bigge's plots run, and how they plug into the plan for the revival of the Mute Poet, who is small fry compared to the Black Pharaoh (but nevertheless a god and not to be trifled with).

I shall go look up Force 136 forthwith.

12:

The aerodynamics of two humans catching up with a Concorde are firmly in the realm of Marvel fantasy, I think.

Concorde typically landed at 160 knots, not much faster than a regular subsonic airliner; stall speed was roughly 125 knots.

I mean, it is a civil airliner and has to operate from normal airport runways!

Once you accept "superhero, with super-strength and power of flight", having him able to position in front of a Concorde's flight path and rendezvous with a trapeze/net while the pilots hold it straight and level and try not to crash isn't the most implausible part of the scenario.

13:

Crap, that's a continuity blooper I can no longer fix (because too many books in the past). Can't remember which -- I don't work from a world book.

14:

I shall go look up Force 136 forthwith.

Hunh. That's close to that iced novel I was working on.

Anyway, if you're going to look up Force 136, look up Carl Eifler and OSS Detachment 101. They're superficially the OSS counterpart to the SOE Force 136.

FWIW, I'm more interested in Eifler's failed legacy: NAPKO. That was training Korean patriots into an OSS force to infiltrate Korea and cause rearguard trouble in preparation for the end of the Japanese Empire, a la the JEDBURGHs in Europe.

They trained the Koreans on Santa Catalina Island and had them practice infiltrating the southern California mainland using semisubmersibles and planting fake explosives. There's enough weird supernatural stories from that island in the areas they trained (one being a literal Indian Graveyard), that I keep trying to make a story out of it. The real end of NAPKO was less colorful. They were scheduled to be deployed on August 14, 1945, and by that point, the Japanese had surrendered due to another secret government project bearing fruit. Anyway, the CIA tried to run NAPKO on North Korea when that war broke out, and none of the agents sent in reported back to their handlers. So it was buried in US history, and most of the personnel records were lost in a 1971 fire. For awhile, I could get some copied records out of a Korean university library online, but they changed their logins and I lost access. Oh well. Maybe someday.

15:

Question: where would Dr. Manhattan (from The Watchmen Universe) sit on the Laundry power scale?

16:

I think my assumption was that the Concorde was flying through enemy airspace, so it might have dropped below cruising speed (1341 mph) and even Mach 1 to deploy the trapeze. Going slow over DC, which is a heavily armed airspace now, is to be the turkey in a turkey shoot.

So I was visualizing something more like This, plus or minus a few g.

17:

My dad was reading a book on the modern history of chess shortly before he died.

He mentioned to me that there was a highly-ranked British player who invariably did well at the Hastings International Chess matches - well enough that he was an International Master. However he never went to play in the USSR, so chess seemed to be a side hobby for him.

It turns out that he was a pretty-highly-ranked member of GCHQ, and that going to Moscow for chess matches was, naturally, forbidden.

(My google-fu indicates that this person was likely Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander.)

18:

Quite enjoyed Labyrinth Index. 'Twas nice to see some areas close to where I live being featured. Only question is: what are the Cold Ones mentioned by the Black Pharaoh? My guess is a race of infovores a la the Jotun from The Atrocity Archives, but open to suggestions. I think the book has made pretty clear that the Elder Gods are not a united front, and that there is a secret goal being pursued by all of the Elder Gods in their own way that relates to the Cold Ones. The only question remains is "To what end?" We know that Britain survives, and probably most of the outside world, so whatever accommodation is reached with the Elder Gods can't be too horrible.

19:

I never got far enough into "Watchmen" to meet Doctor Manhattan. (Found it slow to get started and the writing was turgid.)

20:

I gamed out the Concorde in US airspace sequence with a (recently retired in his mid-thirties) RAF officer. All the stuff leading up to it, with hand-offs through various airspace regions using the call sign of a 747, was there to make it expected traffic -- until it was on final into BWI and took a turn for the pick-up zone, which by that point was less than a hundred miles away.

Then drop the trapeze, pick up passengers, and hit the afterburners ahead of the F-16s patrolling over DC (which don't have the legs to catch up with Concorde -- or carry missiles with the range to do so, either).

All the stuff about NATO forces practicing intercepts on Concordes over the North Sea and never quite being able to get a lock on them was entirely true: the reason the west was so antsy about the Tu-22M and Tu-160 bombers is that their flight characteristics resembled Concorde, which meant they were basically unstoppable unless you got very lucky.

(It's only in this century that anyone has gotten fighters into service that would stand a chance -- assuming they were already airborn and in the right place. Even so, Concorde cruises 10,000 feet higher than an F-22 or a Eurofighter, and is faster than they are in supercruise.)

21:

what are the Cold Ones mentioned by the Black Pharaoh?

I honestly can't remember (might be a callback to "The Atrocity Archives", though).

I'll have to re-read the entire series before I try to write the last book. That'll take me at least a month ...

22:

Maybe Peter's family name is actually Russell-Wilson or Wilson-Russell?

Enjoy!

Frank.

23:

Fair enough. What I was also thinking about are the batteries of Stingers on the White House roof and Patriot missiles elsewhere in DC. (e.g. https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/36728/sam-system-that-guards-washington-dc-just-made-its-lowest-ever-intercept-of-a-mock-cruise-missile). Both Stingers and Patriots are faster than a Concorde at full cruise, although I agree that velocity and targeting are two very different things.

Those missile batteries been tested against mock cruise missiles, and are set up to prevent another 9/11. As you recall, 9/11 was about airliners suddenly veering from their assigned course and heading for the Pentagon, at least in part? A passenger plane suddenly veering off-course and towards DC will of course get shot at. Whether it gets hit or not is another matter.

24:

Stingers? They're a MANPAD; even the upgraded latest model only has a maximum engagement range of 7600 metres. (Which is a hypotenuse: put it this way, a plane flying dead overhead at 30,000 feet is way out of reach.)

There are longer-range air defense missiles around DC, but the flight of the Concorde in "The Labyrinth Index" carefully skirts those batteries.

People overrate the effectiveness of surface to air missiles: unless an aircraft directly overflies a battery that's already on a hair-trigger alert (as happened with MA17 in the Ukraine or UA752 near Tehran) nothing's going to happen. The main air defenses around DC are the fighter aircraft that are on patrol or on standby, and the fact that everything going into that airspace is tracked on radar. If it's something like the Concorde, which has a legitimate call sign and flight plan then aborts a landing squawking about an onboard emergency, they won't pull the trigger -- instead, there'll be a fighter intercept. Which takes time, even with planes in the air.

(The 9/11 airliners weren't simply off course, they were hijacked and flying in the wrong direction for nearly an hour. I came up with a scenario that takes about five minutes, before the Concorde lights its afterburners and cranks up to outrun-an-F15 speed.)

25:

#20 - True, but if I had to intercept, say, a Backfire (or indeed a Concorde) with a Typhoon I'd set up for a head-on attack using Meteor.

#23 and #24 - Heteromeles seems to make valid points, but Charlie definitely makes valid counterpoints. Also, I'm going to remind everyone who's not Charlie (since he already knows) that Concorde supercruises at M2 on dry power, and a military jet will be on full afterburner to even keep close.

26:

A novella (provisionally titled Escape from Puroland) was due for publication this month. It's been delayed until next March

That's a shame. I was looking forward to it. Any particular reason beyond the title change (that you're able to share)? Looking at goodreads, looks like advance copies went out a while ago so it seems a bit peculiar that a delay happens this close to publication (or not - I don't know too much about the intricacies of publishing beyond what you've blogged about here previously)

27:

I've read every Laundry novel at least twice but I never noticed any real textual evidence for Bob being an unreliable narrator. What specifically does Bob tell us that the actual text later shows to be wrong? Please help, I need someone to reassure me I didn't miss something extremely obvious, i.e. I don't simply suck at reading.

28:

Short version - They were all ready to go when the publisher's legal department expressed a concern about the use of Sanrio's copyright name "Puroland". If they'd done so earlier, s/Puroland/$new_name would have sorted it.

29:

To be fair, if there's any airspace in the world that's on a permanent IADS hair-trigger, it's the National Capital Region. It's not just the Avenger Stingers, but there's also NASAMS batteries covering the whole area, a pair of F-16s on QRA at Andrews, etc. etc. While 16s (and 15s) would have a bit of trouble catching up to a Concorde at full supercruise, it's not impossible, especially if alerts went out across the country.

Likewise, the F-22 is also capable of supercruise itself. Most of the squadrons are in Alaska and Florida, but there are a couple in the 1st Fighter Wing down at Langley who would be well-positioned to catch up with and prosecute an unidentified heavy gone wide.

What a coincidence though; I just finished re-reading Labyrinth Index last night! As good as I remembered it, if not a little more so. Although 10th and H (USSS HQ) is definitely walking distance from the White House.

And one minor typo - in the SA's office you refer to SIS as the offensive agency and "MI6" as the defensive one; presumably that's meant to be a 5?

Anyways, can't wait for Puroland and more details about Long-Term Continuity Ops...

30:

Charlie @ 20
Which strongly suggests that Concorde was forcibly retired on orders from the US
Along with TSR2 & the Miles M-52 ....
( What else? ) Yes, I know about the Avro/Canada "Arrow" too ...

31:

Hm, I guess somebody already mentioned the Aestivation hypothesis to you?

So maybe the Cold Ones are either strong god-like entities waiting for a cooler universe, or entities from a cooler universe influencing the past.

Hell, they could even be humanity's descendents[1] influencing the past.

And then, I wonder if some answers need to be answers or left to the imagination of the readers...

[1] Yes, I have read "Manifold: Time", why do you ask?

32:
I shall go look up Force 136 forthwith.

My wikipedia link is perhaps not the most useful starting point. The National Archive's blog on Fletcher's Operation Remorse is a five-parter starting here: https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/tag/operation-remorse/

I'd have said it was right up your street (Rule 34 financial shenanigans meets Laundry-verse in the real SOE. With additional Tory spice.)

Quotes:

As Desmond Morton (Churchill’s personal assistant) said, ‘It is hot stuff, but so is curry and some people live on that.’ (HS 1/291, 18 Jan. 1944)

33:
What specifically does Bob tell us that the actual text later shows to be wrong?

(Paraphrasing from one of the novels): "Read my lips. Ol' Bat Wings {Cthulhu} does not exist." Technically true. Cthulhu doesn't have wings (but does exist). However, that was an example of a half-truth (which is a whole lie), rather than cluelessness.

I suggest reading the series from the beginning. Keep track of what Bob is saying, and how it lines up (or doesn't) from information that is shown in later books.

Alternately, check TVTropes's entry for the Laundry Files for 'Unreliable Narrator'.

34:

Perhaps the Reverend Pete took his wife's surname sometime after joining the Laundry in a fit of right-on-ness?

Just an idea.

35:

it feels like reality is stalking my fiction and mugging it for ideas right now

Why not write something cheerful and optimistic, then? :-)

36:

So I tried to park the series at this point until reality resumes making sense.

Damn, that's pretty much the same as saying "indefinitely" at this stage! :)

37:
it feels like reality is stalking my fiction and mugging it for ideas right now

Why not write something cheerful and optimistic, then? :-)

I can do that for you right now!

... and they all lived happily ever after.

I don't think I'm going to win a Hugo with that -- do you?

38:

And pity the poor public health doctors who are tracking the spread of the virus, and agonizing about whether to do anything about it or not.

Brin had something like that in a short story. Virus that makes people more altruistic.

39:

Alternately, check TVTropes's entry for the Laundry Files for 'Unreliable Narrator'.

Note, going the other way doesn't work — checking the entry for "Unreliable Narrator" for anything on the Laundry files draws a blank.

40:

Have you ever read "The Stone that Never Came Down" by John Brunner circa 1973? It has a plot much like what you are proposing here.

41:

I dunno - try reading my novel, 11,000 Years, and tell me that its reasonably happy ending prevents it from being nominated for a Hugo.

Meanwhile, Charly keeps talking about a novella... there are *amazingly* few places that will publich a novella. And one - I see noveallas from tor.com, as Hugo nominees, but I can *not* find how to submit to that, and the page on shorter fiction hasn't been updated since the beginning of '19.

And they don't seem to answer contact email about submissions.

42:

Doesn't need to be a virus ... see last week's publication concerning [u]Toxoplasma gondii[/u] in hyenas (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-24092-x). Altruistic behaviour *might* be one of the effects in humans who are infected, but there may be age and gender differences.

43:

... and they all lived happily ever after.
Check out this table, which includes story beginnings and endings purportedly used in various cultures:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_upon_a_time
A sample ending:
"...and if they haven't died already, they are living happily to this day. "

Was skimming the last part of the Labyrinth Index (first read very late at night) and did not recall that Jimmy Carter won the skull chalice from drunk Leonid Brezhnev in a poker game. (What else was in Stalin's collection?)
I've previously praised Jon(/Yarisol)'s first-person (?) combat mage action sequence. Quite fond of that one.

44:

I agree that an infectious conscience doesn't have to be a virus. Thing is, we can basically make viruses now and re-engineer some of them for vaccines. IF it turned out that sociopathy is something that has a simple cause based on cellular mechanism controlled by a gene product that can be tampered with (probabiliy is within a rounding error zero, but...), then it might be possible to rekludge that mechanism with a virus that can get to the relevant organ (presumably the brain, although wouldn't it be cool if it was the gut...).

So there's only one degree of impossibility in this silly little scenario, and it involves inserting DNA code for %Fix. Easy to explain in a story, but perhaps a little boring for the cognoscenti?

It looks like Toxoplasma gondii is a tiny-ass little thing (80 mb of DNA code), but it's 2500 times bigger than the Covid19 genome (30,000 bp of DNA). Plus toxoplasma has a nonfunctional chloroplast descendant in the cell (it's an alga that was chosen to become a parasite, go figure) so there might be a bit more room there. The problem is, Toxoplasma gondii fiddles with vasopressin expression epigenetically, which means rejiggers which genes express products (in this case by methylating genes to shut off their expression). So this psycho scenario only works if sociopathy isn't a genetic disease but a simple epigenetic one involving the expression of one or two hormones, such that somehow engineering T. gondii to rejigger their expression makes all the difference. Tricky.

But this would be a very cool scenario. For one thing, if T. gondii could be engineered to do neuronal epigenetics, possibly even better than Bruce Sterling writing about engineered HIV making dogs smarter as a side-effect of someone trying to hack their brainz. Better yet, toxoplasmosis is a global disease, and Toxoplasmas are phylogenetically within screaming distance of malaria parasites. If we could engineer those into oblivion...

But there's a really fun downside to this scenario: Toxoplasma infects possibly all warm-blooded animals including livestock, but the definitive hosts are cats. It also has various effects in its hosts, including humans (cf: toxoplasmosis) and rodents. And finally, its prevalence declines in livestock declines with stringent livestock hygiene.

So the story becomes something about how all animals, especially cats, become infectiously less psychopathic and more neurotic, at least until people get really anal about cleanliness, at which point human sociopathy rebounds.

This calls for a master of black comedy SF, I think. Any candidates?

45:

Was skimming the last part of the Labyrinth Index (first read very late at night) and did not recall that Jimmy Carter won the skull chalice from drunk Leonid Brezhnev in a poker game. (What else was in Stalin's collection?)

Yeah, that detail...

Google is "your friend" (https://www.pokerstars.com/en/blog/2016/us-presidents-who-played-poker-162602.shtml?) and purportedly there's a gap in poker-playing presidents between Nixon and Obama. While I like Carter, in the interests of accuracy, one might talk about how Nixon won the skull off Brezhnev when they were playing poker after signing the SALT I accord in 1972 in Moscow. Wonder what Nixon would have anted for that Cold War game?

46:

Maybe Peter's family name is actually Russell-Wilson or Wilson-Russell?

N.B. There is a Russell Wilson who is a popular sports ball player in the US.

47:

A few years later I'd worked out that Bob was a horribly unreliable narrator, and asked myself: what if Bob's picture of Mhari was as warped as his understanding of everything else in the early books?

I didn't wait to finish reading Immortality Key, and pulled out Labyrinth Index. Started reading, and teared up as I read along.

Well done.

BTW, At the end of chapter one, when she's getting drunk, the superhero boyfriend flies in to visit.

The paragraph on page 40, starting with - "Civil Service pay scales..." to the end of the chapter. She sums up her life to that point. Reading that, I feel that Bob's opinion of Mhari is dead on.

I suspect that I will read the book once a week until I understand why it is so devastating.

Thanks...

48:

The only thing that really stood out about Labyrinth Index is the homes with the "To Let" signs.

Not something you'd normally see in America.

49:

I know that the F-22 is "capable of supercruise", but the official definition of supercruise is "level flight at speed above M1.0 on dry power". Wikipedia claims the F-22 can supercruise at M1.8, which is faster than I expected but not enough to keep up with Concorde.

No. Again check Wikipedia, which correctly defines MI5 as the UK's internal security service. MI6, also known as the "Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) is responsible for external threats, like the POTUS...

50:

It's a while since I read The Labyrinth Index too, so while I vaguely remember having questions I think that months and years of discussion here probably made some of them redundant. I do remember a little dismay about Derek's capture, since it seems his story hasn't really bloomed yet (maybe his origin story will grow into a standalone prequel? Maybe there isn't really enough there to make that bloom happen anyway?). I loved the Concorde rescue premise and remember working through quite a bit of the discussion above in my head back at the time. And I grok'd the idea that Mhari had extra mojo she hadn't anticipated herself due to being an emissary of the Pharaoh. I have been passively wondering ever since how that mojo translates into whatever power play Bob, Mo, the SA and anyone else on the transhume side end up bringing to bear on the New Management, but I am taking a hint this isn't going to end neatly.

51:

You're right about the F-22; I thought I'd read it was capable of M2+ supercruise but even Jane's puts it at only M1.6 (albeit based on YF-22 performance).

As for the latter, I think we're in violent agreement - the passage in question is

In the UK, SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service, does the spying stuff; MI6, the Security Service, sticks to counter-espionage and anti-terrorism duty.

[It looks like another commenter picked this out too several years ago: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/11/typo-hunt-the-labyrinth-index.html#comment-2056383]

52:

:-) - Depending on source, I've seen the F-22's supercruise put at anything from M1.3 up to M1.8. However you cut it they need afterburner to match Concorde and a tail chase degrades the effective range of an AIM as well.

Now I see the actual quote, yes, that should have been "...stuff; MI5, the security..."

53:

"I'm just fantasizing about how much fun it would be for the many hated world leaders in all fields to suddenly and inconveniently develop burgeoning consciences (live on camera. Possibly preaching, even.), just because they couldn't keep their zippers closed."

There is a small sequence in "Stand on Zanzibar" where the bishop of a fundamentalist church gets a dose of "All-Truth" drug smeared on his pulpit.

Not a very edifying speech.

54:

Charlie, for me the existence of BLUE HADES and DEEP SEVEN always seemed like a type of Checkov's gun. BLUE HADES did already feature in several books, but do you (or did you at some point) have plans to feature DEEP SEVEN (the guys who live in the Earth's mantel) more prominently in the series?

One particular point where I wondered was the description of the interior of the temple on top of the pyramid where it is stated that the seats in the temple are not made for human anatomy. I believe we never explicitly learn for whom they were made, but I always suspected either species of the deep ones, more likely DEEP SEVEN, because in The Fuller Memorandum there is mention of finding unusual non-human bones in archeological digs. Is this a line that you meant to pursue at some point and later dropped, or am I just mistaken in my head-canon?

55:

You are raising the spectre of Galloway Gallagher!

56:

The main point of confusion for me in the Laundry series is over the Black Pharoah vs the Sleeper in the Pyramid.

In the Fuller Memorandum, as far as I can recall, Iris (as high priestess of the local Black Pharaoh cult) was explicitly trying to create a pet Eater of Souls, in order to break down the wall of pain and awaken the Sleeper.

In the Nightmare Stacks and Labyrinth Index, Iris is still the High Priestess of the Pharaoh, but the Pharaoh is not the Sleeper, nor is the Sleeper required in order to awaken him - instead, the Sleeper is the/a rival "sect", to be avoided if possible, and fought if not.

I also seem to recall being quite confused about the role Raymond Schiller played, in both the Apocalypse Codex and the Nightmare stacks - whether he was being run explicitly by the Black Chamber (as hinted at by Alex's presence in his organisation, in Apocalypse Codex), or whether he was running his own operation, subborning Black Chamber assets to his own goal (which, of course, was raising Jesus).

Whether the Sleeper is Cthulu himself, or as is hinted at in The Fuller Memorandum, just one of a chain of horrors necessary to fully awaken Cthulu, I either never figured out, or have forgotten. I'm in the process of re-reading the series now, but have only reached the Armageddon Score.

I've kind of reconciled the question of the Pharaoh vs the Sleeper, as being a question of the series (and the geanology of the Elder Beings) just being less developed so early in the series - i.e. things have subsequently been retconned as Charlie developed a more thorough theory of the world (well, multiverse) underlying his stories; but if there's a better explanation, I'd love to hear it.

57:
Wonder what Nixon would have anted for that Cold War game?

A certain box sitting in government storage since 1936 springs to mind....

58:

One other point about the F22, there's not many of them, and with their historically-low availability rates, it's not inconceivable that on a given day there wouldn't be any in a position to intercept the Black Concorde.
Of course, the other benefit Concorde had over the F22 was range. There's no definitive range published, but the F22 can maybe mange 200 miles of supercruise, which is barely one bottle of champagne for Concorde.

We can also decide that the Black Concorde is based on the 'Concorde B' upgrade concept, so it would have longer range, a lower stall speed, and a faster top speed than the civilian version.

The whole sequence reminded me of the many (probably exaggerated) stories of RAF crews sneaking past USAF defences on joint exercises (eg Operation Sky Shield).

59:

"I'll have to re-read the entire series before I try to write the last book. That'll take me at least a month ..."


All the multi book series I have ever read have inconsistencies or big plot holes. It's unavoidable, and I guess rereading one's prose is also probably a big chore.

I manage a software product and looking back I what I wrote 10 years ago is often both embarrassing and bothersome. And I have the advantage of having a compiler to help do a reality check.

60:
The main point of confusion for me in the Laundry series is over the Black Pharoah vs the Sleeper in the Pyramid.

I believe your explanation is more or less correct. It seems to me that in The Fuller Memorandum the Sleeper in the Pyramid was or at least was supposed to be the Black Pharao. That's how I understood it at the time. And also on re-reading the novel nothing really pointed in the direction of them being two separate and opposed entities. For one, the very fact that it's a Pyramid is a strong hint that whatever is sleeping/undead in it should be a Pharaoh.

Later (I am not sure at which point) it was retconned into what we have now: The Black Pharaoh and the Sleeper as two different class-6 entities fighting with each other over dominance, with Iris as the high priestess of the former an Schiller as the high priest/partial avatar/whatever of the latter.

That's how I understand it. But Charlie may of course have a better explanation. It may also be that Bob was either misinformed or just his unreliable-narrator self.

61:

Yes. But, from experience, that is exactly the sort of confusion that arises when management briefs a technopeasant being given a mission. The former very often treats the latter as an unreliable ally, and doles out the minimum of relevant information, often in an obfuscated form. It is often easier to get more, and more reliable, information about your own organisation's plans from a declared enemy than your own management.

62:

Heteromeles @ 7: Also, I don't remember Labyrinth Index well enough to have any questions, except that the aerodynamics of two humans catching up with a Concorde are firmly in the realm of Marvel fantasy, I think."

The Concorde's landing speed was around 187 mph (per Wikipedia). Stall speed in landing configuration would be about 90% of that. So, if James Bond can use the Fulton STARS system, it's within reason that a Concorde dawdling along close to stall speed (pretending to be an Airbus jumbo jet) could catch a flying policeman and a president by trailing a net.

The one thing that upset me about the Labyrinth Index was what happened to Vicar Pete. He deserved better than that.

IIRC, when a PHANG does not feed, the V-parasites chow down on his/her grey matter similar to the way the K-parasites do to other practitioners. I believe Pete would refuse to feed, but I also doubt he would go the suicide by noonday sun route either.

I get the impression that Case Nightmare xxx will eventually pass (if the stars come into alignment due to movement of the cosmos, that implies the stars go out of alignment as well), so might it be possible for Pete to be stored away in one of the circle of protection posters to be decanted at some time in the future where it might be possible to rid him of the V-parasites?

And if it never becomes curable, he's still no worse off than he is now.

I know that's a dangling loose end, but like I said, I thought Pete deserved better.

63:

Yup. However, IRL, Concorde retired for good before Meteor entered service (2016), and AIUI the USAF didn't have anything with the range until AIM-120D came along (AIM-120C and earlier: too short-legged).

As I think I noted in the book, test pilot Brian Trubshaw took one of the prototypes out over the Atlantic and hit the gas to see how fast it would go: it averaged 1500mph for half an hour before he chickened out (fear of melting the airframe), which matches the top speed and vastly exceeds the range of 'most every military plane in service, even before you factor in the ability to do it at 70,000 feet.

64:

Any particular reason beyond the title change (that you're able to share)?

Macmillan Legal expressed reservations about trademark [ab-]use. It'll be reworked with minimal changes and published in due course; it's just that because it's getting a hardcover, it had to be kicked back two release cycles (Tor runs three release cycles/12 months).

65:

I never noticed any real textual evidence for Bob being an unreliable narrator.

Whaaa ...?

Bob gets almost everything wrong at some point! Start with the paperclip audits (which he dismisses as incomprehensible bullshit in "The Atrocity Archive" and then explains as a vital security countermeasure in "The Fuller Memorandum") and work forward. Look at how he perceives Mhari in TAA, and then who she turns out to be in "The Rhesus Chart", "The Annihilation Score", and "The Labyrinth Index". Look at how he thinks of Mo in the first five books, and compare with her unvarnished view of him in the sixth. Or Bob's insistence that Cthulhu doesn't exist ("Equoid") or that vampires don't exist ("The Rhesus Chart") -- although to be fair he learns better in the latter case.

Bob is an amiable but rather blinkered techbro who exudes unquestioned white male privilege and suffers from the dangerous delusion that his competence in one problem domain extends to others. To be fair to him, Bob grows and learns and manages to keep up with the curve -- but if Bob tells you something is wrong or impossible, he's mistaken.

66:

Heteromeles @ 23: Fair enough. What I was also thinking about are the batteries of Stingers on the White House roof and Patriot missiles elsewhere in DC. (e.g. https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/36728/sam-system-that-guards-washington-dc-just-made-its-lowest-ever-intercept-of-a-mock-cruise-missile). Both Stingers and Patriots are faster than a Concorde at full cruise, although I agree that velocity and targeting are two very different things.

Those missile batteries been tested against mock cruise missiles, and are set up to prevent another 9/11. As you recall, 9/11 was about airliners suddenly veering from their assigned course and heading for the Pentagon, at least in part? A passenger plane suddenly veering off-course and towards DC will of course get shot at. Whether it gets hit or not is another matter."

A couple of other things you might have missed ...

The Concorde isn't flying over DC/Whitehouse/Pentagon. They're north of the city over Maryland. Until just minutes before the pickup ATC still thinks they're a commercial airliner going to Baltimore-Washington International Airport diverting because of an in-flight emergency. They're not even trying to get into Dulles. That alone puts them out of range for the Stingers on the Whitehouse roof.

Another part of the plan has a smaller private aircraft blundering around the southern edges of the DC exclusion zone (whatever it's called) as a distraction to draw any airborne USAF fighters out out of position.

67:

Which strongly suggests that Concorde was forcibly retired on orders from the US

Nope. But it was politics: Airbus at the time were investigating a joint SST project with a Japanese consortium, and Concorde would have rendered it non-viable. (This project was killed by the 2008 financial crisis.)

The official paperwork reason for Concorde's withdrawal was that it hit its 30 year design life limit. It could have continued flying, but the manufacturer of record (Airbus) would have to provide certification for insurance purposes, and tech support. They wanted to charge £50M/year ... per airframe, not for the entire fleet, which made it a non-starter. Grr.

68:

I might have made up the Carter/Brezhnev drunken poker match for Hitler's skull. Just possibly. (It sounded like the sort of thing they'd have done, though.)

69:

Charlie Stross @ 24: (The 9/11 airliners weren't simply off course, they were hijacked and flying in the wrong direction for nearly an hour. I came up with a scenario that takes about five minutes, before the Concorde lights its afterburners and cranks up to outrun-an-F15 speed.)

Additionally, on 9/11, NORAD was running an exercise in the north-eastern U.S. and at first there was confusion at NORAD over whether the reported hijackings were real or a part of the exercise.

I've always wondered if that was coincidence or if the hijackers knew about the exercise & deliberately chose the day to create that confusion; taking advantage of it to delay the U.S. response?

I'm pretty sure the exercise was publicly announced in advance ... like Bush's itinerary down in Florida was.

70:

We can also decide that the Black Concorde is based on the 'Concorde B' upgrade concept

I thought that was explicitly stated in the novel?

(Concorde B had slats, more extensive use of composites, other weight-reduction stuff, which in turn gave it more capacious fuel tanks and a significant improvement in range and the ability to take off and hit maximum cruise speed without afterburners, which were therefore deleted. By some extrapolations a fully developed Concorde B model could have maxed out at a 4500 mile range at >Mach 2 almost the entire way.)

71:

For one, the very fact that it's a Pyramid is a strong hint that whatever is sleeping/undead in it should be a Pharaoh.

Other cultures are famous for pyramid-building ... and especially for putting temples on top of them and conducting mass human sacrifice.

(This is an angle that gets explored in the Tales of the New Management. Hint: if the shadows on the walls of Plato's Cave included both Cthulhu and the Aztec pantheon, what kind of entities cast them?)

72:

Reminder that very bad things happen to good people in this series. As with "A Game of Thrones", nobody is safe.

73:

I'll agree with Charlie's idea, because my original point was about human aerodynamics.

That said, Baltimore airport is 36 miles from the White House per Google Maps, so anything landing there is within Patriot missile range. I'm also quite sure that, post 9/11, all the airports within easy range of the White House got extensive USAF planning workup, simply to deal with an enemy pulling this scenario and either kamikazi-ing a plane or firing a missile from a plane into the White House with a few minutes' warning.

Thinking about it, I even wonder why the Black Pharaoh didn't dump a necromantic nuke into the pentagon, using that supersonic manned cruise missile that he'd snuck into US airspace, rather than pulling out the President? I know, Rule of Cool, but sacrificing both the Uncrowned King and Cthulhu's AOL hook-up might give more mana than simply extracting the President from Washington with the loss of the Concorde and a bunch of people. Of course, it would have made for a bad story and a worse nuclear war, but isn't liberating America from Cthulhu worth it?

74:

I'm guessing that the Pentagon wasn't nuked because the Black Pharoah didn't need to do it. What's obvious to me is that both Nyarlahotep and Cthulhu are minor avatars of What Is To Come. There's no need to throw nukes at each other, just lob a few obstacles onto the critical path for development into a later instar. Eventually they will be allies, but who's going to be in charge relates entirely to who gets their entire being to Earth first.

I don't doubt that whatever tentacled entity ended up in charge of Russia is going to try to trip up whoever winds up in charge of India, (or whatever) and this probably relates to a lot of what's going on in Bob's/Mo's world.

75:

The Black Pharaoh not only didn't need to nuke the Pentagon, the Black Pharaoh was not in a hurry to provoke a US nuclear counter-strike.

I still haven't worked out the ramifications of what CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN does to the global balance of power and nuclear deterrence, but most likely nukes still remain viable (although new possibilities that may make them obsolescent -- not ineffective, just militarily unnecessary -- come along).

(Discursive point: in "Dead Lies Dreaming", set in late 2016, Imp complains that he can't get his hands on any 4K HD cameras for filming -- they're locked up tight, and there's a waiting list for film. This is a shout-out to basilisk weapons. IIRC in either "The Labyrinth Index" or "The Annihilation Score" Mhari or Mo notice the military and/or police demonstrating new body armour and basilisk guns, and spin-offs of Alfar technology don't seem too far-fetched. A huge sea-change in military affairs is plausible in the near-future of the New Management, as the status quo reverts to a weird polycentric model of competing magically-enhanced powers, and the aforementioned magic often trumps the existing military-industrial complex, so that tanks and smart bombs don't necessarily win against witch doctors and tentacle monsters. This makes for a great leveling in international affairs ... and enormous instability. But I'm not going there in the foreseeable future of the series: it'd take at least a couple more books before it's even on the horizon.)

76:

RE: CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. I'd suggest that maybe the Alfar are best as a negative example?

It's another example of the repurposing of military technology-someone in the Alfar summoned something that destroyed their world. It wasn't during a pitched war, but during a political struggle.

We've also got the evidence from the Atrocity Archive that a nuke will close a gate, which is why nuking the Pentagon might actually have been a good thing.

Anyway, it depends. If Nyarlathotep and Cthulhu are lieutenants for the Big Bad, then get rid of the nukes, because they're the one thing that can stop the Big Bad from coming in.

If these two are the Big Bads and they want to keep out something bigger (Azathoth) or Infovores that can eat them for brunch (the Cold Ones being the thing from the Atrocity Archive?) then they'll keep the nukes and limit the uses of gates and magic so that there's no proliferation of the magitech that could bring their enemies into this realm of existence. And in that case, nuking them til they glow and hexing them in the dark might be a good blow-off for this series.

There are other options, I'm sure. You could do a Strossian homage to A Night in the Lonesome October for example.

77:

ACtually just realized I had that backwards. The Atrocity Archive had a gate naturally sealing, while detonating a nuke on the Enemy side of the gate would have let the infovore into this iteration of Earth.

So nuclear policy is critical, and nuking the Pentagon would have been a mistake--if the problem was letting Cthulhu get into this world.

So if Nyarlathotep wants to control Earth and keep the Others out (let alone the infovores), getting rid of nukes is key to the process. If Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep and company are the lieutenants, then they'll push towards a full-out nuclear war to bring their lord and master in.

I'd suggest that we've already got infovores one gate away from Earth and they're known planet killers. And we've got whatever munched the Alfar one other gate from Earth, and it's a known planet killer. Letting Nyarlathotep in to farm our Earth and keep Others from simply eating it may be the least evil possibility.

78:

Stinger... NASAMS... Patriot

A quick guide to anti-aircraft missiles... apologies if I get it slightly wrong, I was never a cloudpuncher ;)

Most missiles are rather limited by their rocket motor, which typically only burns for the first second or few after launch (whatever Hollywood and CGI may show). After that initial acceleration, your missile is a glider with tiny stubby fins which have to balance between "big enough to steer" and "draggy enough to reduce range". Meteor is new, in the sense that it has a ramjet that can power it most of the way to its target.

Anything light enough to put on your shoulder (e.g. Stinger / Igla / Starstreak) is by definition limited to taking on aircraft whose flight path is at low level, directly over your head (early IR seekers had the disadvantage of only doing tail chase, i.e. "shoot at it only after it's dropped its bombs on you"). They're point defence only; fire at anything that's flying over your colleagues a mile away, and you'll miss. Fire too soon / too late, and you'll miss. The higher it is, the shorter your window for a successful engagement. No, you don't have a radar, you're using guesswork. Unsurprisingly, hit rates aren't high.

Anything of a size to hang under the wing of a fighter / sit on the back of a small truck (e.g. CAMM / NASAMS) has rather more energy available, albeit not as much as if Biggles is firing a version of the same missile from 30k feet and Mach 1. It has the option to engage something that's flying past you, not just over you. How far past you is the sensitive bit (it's also affected by the speed/altitude of the target); and about now, the professional air defence types start muttering about isoleths.

If you want true "area air defence" (e.g. Patriot / S-300), the missiles are carried on a large truck, or towed; they weigh from 700 to 1800kg, and are twenty-ish feet long. Even then, their ability to engage a high-altitude, high-speed, crossing target is limited. If the missile is only going a few hundred knots faster than its (Mach 2 and running fast) target, it's a race between Concorde getting past the maximum range before the missile runs out of kinetic energy or steering authority...

79:

Talking of evil paranoid control freaks, it is to be hoped that Patel gets her knuckles rapped for interfering in the policing process, which she is certainly not supposed to do.
I know "XR" are idiots, but some of Patel's antics have now come out in court ....

Like Charlie says, it's almost impossible to do satire.

If the current fascist controlpolice bill passes in unmodified form, I can see vast numbers going to jail & juries refusing to convict & - of course - even more protest, setting up a vicious circle

80:

The nuke wouldn't open the gate. It would give the thing that lived on the other side enough power to make it through the gate/open the gate further. So it wasn't "nukes open the gate" it was "nukes give infovores energy." So nukes might or might not be a problem in the future.

81:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE

It turns out that this piece is so late that "Dead Lies Dreaming" is already out in paperback in the UK. There isn't and won't be a trade paperback from Tor.com in the visible future as it continues to sell well in ebook, which is the new low-end/cheap format. And (fingers crossed) I have delivered "Quantum of Nightmares" and it is hopefully on the way to publication in January.

So, although I'm not going to do it for a week or two, the next blog essay will be the crib sheet for "Dead Lies Dreaming".

82:

#63 - Yep. Still, my point was really that you can't easily shoot down anything doing M2.0 when in a tail chase orientation.

#70 - Not sure I agree with you about deleting the afterburners; they were used to accelerate from about M0.9 to M1.3.

#75 - Imp complains that he can't get his hands on any 4K HD cameras for filming -- they're locked up tight, and there's a waiting list for film

Well, those cameras were either 4K HD, a digital format, or they used wet film, but not both!

83:

A waiting list for film cameras; nobody's getting the digital kind.

84:

The plot point from book one about infovores finding nukes quite tasty...I can imagine some spivvy mate of a senior tory (or some of the middle managers I've endured under) coming up with an incredible, foolproof, get rich quick scheme for getting rid of nuclear waste. Just feed it to this gibbering horror I stumbled across. What could possibly go wrong?

85:

Greg, I believe it's too early for off-topic comments. Usually it's not encouraged before #300.

Returning to topic, I've been thinking some more about the deep ones. Where are they actually on the magic scale? Specifically: how powerful are they compared to Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep etc? And how do they feel about the elder gods fighting for control over Earth? From what we know about their powers they would be capable of doing enormous damage to the human surface population, maybe even to the point of wiping them out. They haven't done this yet, simply because humanity hasn't managed to seriously get into their hair yet. But it's clear that they wouldn't hesitate to retaliate if the surface dwellers would ever seriously annoy them.

So the question becomes: what would it take for Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, or whatever entity is now controlling Russia (and the rest of the surface countries) to get on DEEP SEVEN's bad side? And how would they react in that case? For instance: a huge tsunami covering all of the British isles—or even Britain suddenly sinking to the bottom of the sea—would be akin to a huge human sacrifice … a sacrifice not to Nyarlathotep. I guess that would seriously mess with his power base and his plans.

So, could that be a possible endgame? The deep ones decide that they don't want their home planet to be a playground for those pesky elder gods. How would that play out? If my suspicion is correct that the chairs in the temple above the Pyramid were made for DEEP SEVEN, this would imply that DEEP SEVEN were watching over the imprisonment of the sleeper. And that would imply that they defeated him at least once already. So they could do it again, and by extension also the other elder gods of the same power level. I wouldn't expect humanity to survive this fight, however. So the deep ones would not be the cavalry coming to humanity's rescue.

The existence of the deep ones also has ramifications for the Alfär, by the way. Were they aware—fleeing from a planet that was conquered by elder gods—that they were attacking only the third most powerful indigenous species on Earth? On their own Earth they were hiding deep underground. Could they even do that on this Earth without violating the territory of the deep ones?

86:

MSB
Charlie specifically mentioned "Satire being dead" in the UK post-Brexit & we now have a fascist sympathiser ( at least ) in the Home Office ....

87:

Going from the Jennifer Morgue, the Deep Ones are not autochthones, and thus can get trapped in summoning grids, aka pentagrams. The Cthonians are listed as paleosophonts, so who knows how long they've been on the planet, and whether they colonized or were just here all along. The absence of deep ecosystem remnants in the lava of oceanic islands kind of says they're ETs as well, but that OGH's call to make.

And this does get interesting, though. The Cthonians would be in a lava about Cthulhu's plan to dismantle the planet and make a matrioshka brain, but perhaps they can get parasitized too? Or possibly Cthulhu's avatars aren't sufficiently clued in about how many species are using Earth as a refuge and are just sucker-baiting the CIA into letting them in for some other purpose? It's not like the CIA hasn't been fooled before.

On a separate note, I do seem to recall that the Deep Ones' aerial vehicles display a disturbing resemblance to the UAPs that filled the US news last month. Were those flying, van-sized tic tacs an intentional reference, or just reality riffing off Charlie yet again?

88:

Okay, I'll do a triptych: can humans be trapped in summoning grids on other worlds? That could be fun. More to the point, can Alfar and/or equoids be trapped in summoning grids on Earth? Inquiring minds do want to know.

89:

Halfway through re-reading it now. One thing that puzzled me first time round and continues to do so is why the OPA are choosing to take such a long term route to bootstrapping a God as the Matroskia brain plan, compared to whatever the Black Pharaoh is up to? Was it just part of the satire of everything in the US being bigger and better or is there a an in-universe rationale for it?

90:

I'm on page 149 where Derek is talking about The Gray Man. I discovered something interesting about the concept.

If the Gray Man goes to the same restaurant over time, the wait staff suddenly "sees" you, where before you were invisible. They don't just "see" you, they suddenly feel that you are the most important person in the room, and they all come and shake your hand. They have vast smiles and are drinking in your presence, so pleased to "see" you.

New waiters will of course not see you at first. Then other waiters will come across the room to say, Hi, and by contagion the new waiter will pick up the same impression and suddenly "see" you as well.

It's disconcerting when it happens, but you have to roll with the new "celebrity" or it creates a dissonance.

91:

We've been told several times that BLUE HADES has plans for riding out the current kerfluffle, plans that they do not share with the surface apes. Some kind of super-wards around their cities and they hibernate until the Stars Aren't Right? Their whole population swims through portals and everyone moves to parallel worlds for a while? Something more exotic? Whatever the answer, there's strong evidence that they've been through this before and the whole thing is a nuisance rather than the end of (their) world.

It's suggested that the antics of humanity are about as important to BLUE HADES leadership as the plight of orangutans in Borneo is to the UN General Assembly. Not only do they have other things going on, we can't even imagine most of those things.

As for DEEP SEVEN, I like the suggestion that they're not ignoring us; rather, they haven't noticed us. Maybe a few hobbyists have sent probes to the outer-space regions - not just far up where it's so cold the rocks solidify, not just even past that to the water layer, but all the way up to where the rocks stop entirely. This plausibly attracts as much attention as high-altitude balloon probes or ionospheric radio conditions attract among humans. ("Nothing up there can affect us. And what could live up there, anyway?") DEEP SEVEN already deals with outer space aliens high up in the water layer; it's implausible that outer-outer-space life would be a priority to them.

92:

I hope nobody objects if I drop in a paste of my thoughts from two years ago since by then I came a little too late in the appropriate thread for anyone to really read...

In terrible order.

a) I loved Mo and especially Mhari as narrators, and all the subtle distinctions put in (down to different notation for footnotes, although that might have been a publisher issue). Republic of Me biology analogies were great.

b) Theory: In DI, OPA nudged Schiller towards the UK both to clear him out of their turf, but more importantly, to draw out the already-incarnate Nyarlathotep and possibly get him and the Sleeper engaged in a mutually-destructive conflict while projects THRESHOLD and GODWAKER march on unchallenged. In book four, I'm inclined to believe them that what happened was a snafu - he managed to suborn his OPA watchers and cut the organization off.

b i) THEORY: BLUE HADES did nothing about Schiller because by the point his plan was in motion beyond reasonable limits he started his game in earnest, genociding the population of the UK would be very easily suborned into immanentizing the Sleeper.

c) Theory: More than playing a Xanatos gambit against an elder god, Auditor Michael Armstrong is a genuine, if moderate Nyarlathotep cultist. CONSTITUENCY was basically taking a genuine cult he helped shield (since Iris was competent it wasn't too much work) and justifying what happened in a way to keep her out of the consequences. This is why, for instance, His Dread Majesty was so blase about Iris keeping her Continuity Ops geas - in the end, it's service to him through a proxy.

Granted, he's got plans that he's told Mhari about before geassing her to silence, but those are a kind of bee feeder counterpart to a honeypot, both in terms of increasing his personal power within the New Management and more so, keeping people like Mhari from getting desperate and doing something dumb. As he said, it's important to keep hope and while sugar water isn't honey, it will keep the bees alive during winter.

Can't say I'd blame him either - I feel like joining with someone/something stronger is pretty much the only hope humanity has in the situation, and it might be how the other species survived their CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. And given Bast is non-canon/relegated to the RPG, I guess His Dread Majesty might be the next best choice. (He's definitely doing better than the current UK government *brick'd*)


d) Will we ever get a Jonquil story/book? While I liked what happened, I was a bit disappointed at her getting shut out of the story so quickly. Personally I was hoping the path Mhari would take would be bundling her off with Yarisol. (can you spell comic relief) For one, there's little one could do to make an autistic cultural authoritarian look disloyal that HDM and even Iris wouldn't eyeroll at, so her main role would be mostly shut off - besides, I'll go out on a step and say they'd both count as heavy arcane support. After all, J was noted to have a strong magic aura around her.... and while Yari thinks she's an awful mage... well, asides from this being memoirs of Mhari (who hates her), Yari calling someone bad at magic is like Bobby Fisher saying someone plays chess badly. Same goes for general competence - I mean, she seemed to carry a bit of an idiot ball here but not only was she competent in TFM... she also managed to successfully hide for six years with her mother interrogated and interned in Camp Sunshine.

e) Speaking of Camp Sunshine...given how boring the place was by necessity, and Derek GMing for everyone... I can't help but imagine that a meeting between him and Iris would lapse towards old campaign stories with the onlookers going "wut". Furthermore, a crackficcy part of me wonders if he ended up on the "politically unreliable" list for screwing Iris's character over at some point :P

f) Will any stories/books/we in the future actually deal with Czernobog? I happen to be from what likely ended up in his sphere of influence so I'm naturally curious to think how's my country doing in the Laundryverse. (Total aside - given the extensive contacts the US and UK had with BLUE HADES... I can't help but wonder if the Darvaza burning gas crater in Turkmenistan was a result of Soviet liaisons with DEEP SEVEN. After all, the enemy of my enemy...)

Anyhow, thanks again for writing a great series, I'm looking forwards to any continuations there might be in the future!

93:

Or possibly Cthulhu's avatars aren't sufficiently clued in about how many species are using Earth as a refuge and are just sucker-baiting the CIA into letting them in for some other purpose?

Loss of institutional knowledge is a thing, especially with long-term classified programs!

The CIA and the Black Chamber knew about DEEP SEVEN in the 1960s and 1970s, but that's 40 years ago, so an entire career duration: likely nobody now working there (as of the Laundry Files dateline) remembers this stuff at first hand, and because it was classified, who would have been read into the program?

Yes, the TLAs have librarians and publish meaty compendia of documents about declassified projects. But if the project isn't declassified, vanishingly few people will still be aware of it, and they're probably not in charge of making decisions at "dismantle the moon" level. Those who are making such policy decisions are not going to be receptive to dusty junior archivists saying "er, there might be a problem here due to left-over residue from this 40 year old project", especially once the $100Bn project budget starts to get allocated to golfing buddies ...

As for the deep ones, I'm not sure how explicit I made it (or in which book) but there were some indications that they were withdrawing from Earth's oceans completely, by means unspecified. The apes pissed in the pool once too often and there's enough magic floating around that merely killing them would be a very bad idea.

94:

The OPA gave up on human sacrifice after Schiller fubared the entire process for them in "The Apocalypse Codex". Computational methods are ... well, how many computers does it take to stack up to one human brain? Hence the scale of it.

95:

Will any stories/books/we in the future actually deal with Czernobog? I happen to be from what likely ended up in his sphere of influence so I'm naturally curious to think how's my country doing in the Laundryverse.

That's difficult, because I try to write in places I've actually visited or in places nobody can visit because they're imaginary or historical settings (howling exception: I've never been to St Martin -- but then, neither have most of my readers). Hence the next novella being set in Japan, in a theme park I've spent a day at.

But right now, I've never visited any part of Europe east of Poland, or any part of the former Soviet Union, and thanks to COVID19 (to say nothing of politics) there's zero prospect of me doing that in the foreseeable future. Which makes writing an entire novel set there kind of problematic.

96:

Thanks Charlie.

Another one - the Opa have their own flavour of vampires, presumably obtained once the events of the Rhesus Chart got disseminated. Presumably due to them having at least a couple of low level resources in the Laundry?

What’s more interesting is the origin of the dragon at Crested Butte. Presumably that’s one of the Alfar contingent, and a playing piece Mhari is not fully in the loop on?

97:

Hah. We're more like south of Poland, but entirely fair point. When I first asked this, it was before the current worldwide mess, so the possibility space had been vastly different.

Thank you for a reply!

98:

A very annoying side-effect of Brexit is that the shitweasels in Westminster are so opposed to permitting free movement with the EU that they refused to ask for a visa waiver scheme -- which was offered by the EU -- for artists, musicians, and similar on tour, because it would require reciprocity, meaning letting in foreign artists, musicians, and etc.

(As the creative sector in the UK is bigger than car manufacturing and aerospace combined this is absolutely insane, but it's from a government led by Boris "fuck business!" Johnson, who have already trashed fishing and agriculture, not to mention long-haul logistics, so it's about what one could expect.)

Anyway, when travel resumes again, I can go and visit the USA using an ESTA visa waiver permit (cost: £25, lasts for two years). But if I want to go to an SF convention anywhere in the EU and speak or do a panel discussion, it requires a £200 visa for each trip, to each destination country. I can attend as a regular tourist but being a speaker is pretty clearly ruled out.

And I tend to do a lot of walking-around type research on these trips.

Right now there are no in-person SF conventions to travel to in the first place, so it's not worth worrying about. But if the asshat Tories don't do something about a creative sector visa waiver scheme before, say, mid-2022, it will leave me with a bit of a problem.

And given the way they've allowed Brexit to result in empty food shelves in supermarkets in a capital city, I'm not optimistic about them fixing anything.

(/end political rant)

99:

I hate, and try to avoid, Planet of Hats syndrome in my writing.

So you may take it as plausible that there is more than one parasite species that causes V-syndrome (it's a symptom, not an organism), and there may be more than one thing in the Laundry universe that matches the approximate description "dragon".

(Alfar "dragons" are bat-winged and barrel-bodied flying things with tentacles, i.e. Lovecraftian: hexapod worms with a pair of wings midships might well be something else entirely.)

100:

Given that the whole Brexit thing seems to be (at least at the public level) an exercise in jingoism, I suspect that there's also a strong whiff of "protecting English culture" behind that decision. They don't want any foreign artists coming in and corrupting English minds with trash. And why should Brits need any inferior foreign so-called art anyway?

101:

Oh, totally! Only it's set by fools who have no idea how the arts work, what the arts even are (hint: world-beating computer games industry in UK is a big part of it), or that the UK is actually a major exporter of creative content, or that some institutions (eg. orchestras) rely on high-profile foreign soloists to drive ticket sales and need to tour overseas to pay their overheads, and so on.

It's not just that it's narrow-minded English jingoism, it's also that it's low-brow uneducated English jingoism at that, pandering to the prejudices of property developers and under-educated pensioners who read the Daily Mail religiously.

Also (drum roll) the arts have a notorious liberal bias, just like the sciences. Can't think why.

102:

And, if you doubt any of that, try listening to Bozo the Clown any time he is attempting to answer an ad hoc question rather than delivering a prepared speech.

103:

who read the Daily Mail religiously

To be honest, I read the Daily Mail religiously.

In that I read it with the same perspective I read the bible — as a horribly prejudiced collection of rantings from the dim past, which some people unfortunately take literally. :-/

104:

Did we ever settle how Mhari is supposed to be pronounced? I tend to think of it as Vari (rhyming with starry) but I am not sure if that is correct.

105:

Given the misspelling (deliberate on Charlie's part), I think it may be pronounced "Mari". If it actually used the Gaelic spelling "Mhairi", then the pronunciation would be "Vari".

106:

Interesting related thought: the demons that appear in most magical summoning grids all seem to be nude. First question: is this a side effect of the summoning? If not... I can see a human going *OUCH* as they try to leave the summoning grid.

Then taking off their belt and throwing one end through the grid, and pulling it back, breaking the constrainment.

107:

I'd not heard of the Planet of Hats, but yeah. One thing that happens in the universe in my novel is that cultures aren't spherical with a median density - there are classes, and subcultures (people in the Society who have been partly "reeducated" are lawer than ordinary people, and the ones who were fully reeducated are just above robots). And then there's the folks on the ships who don't approve of attacking the Paladin....

Not everyone in every culture agrees with everything, unless you've got downright mind control. There are even some folks who consider themselves "Republicans" (US), who *loathe* IQ45 and his followers.

108:

I think that's accounted for by the commercial advantages of titillating your readers, plus the urge of the artist to describe the demon. "It has two of those, and three of those, and one of these things, plus" - give Lovecraft his due - "...lots of tentacles."

109:

Michel2Bec @ 59: All the multi book series I have ever read have inconsistencies or big plot holes. It's unavoidable, and I guess rereading one's prose is also probably a big chore.

In my experience, reading my own text for the 10th time that week and trying to pay any attention to it at all is not merely tedious it is impossible. I guess its a relative of the problem security guards have in paying attention to TV screens where nothing significant ever happens.

I've sometimes wondered about making a software tool for fiction writers. The plot would be represented on a diagram a bit like these. For every scene in the plot there would be a box on the diagram linked to a data structure with the actual text of the story plus metadata like the location, the date/time it happens and and a brief abstract (e.g. "Alice and Bob argue about money. Bob storms out."). Arrows between boxes would show causal relationships between scenes, including the characters involved. That way you could easily review the story from the point of view of any given character to check for discrepancies. If you want to rearrange the plot, or move the big reveal a bit earlier, you can do, and you can then check just the related scenes for inconsistencies.

Obviously if you are just telling a simple linear story about Alice and Bob then this doesn't get you very much. But if you have a complicated plot with a bunch of threads that cross over at intervals and then all come together at the end then it might be useful. Of course this means you wind up doing a bunch of maintenance on all the metadata, but its probably nicer than trying to find plot holes in the middle of a long manuscript.

Since we have at least two authors here I thought I'd ask: does this sound like an intriguing idea, something to run away from screaming, or something in between?

110:

Since we have at least two authors here I thought I'd ask: does this sound like an intriguing idea, something to run away from screaming, or something in between?

Yes.

111:

You are correct.

112:

The plot would be represented on a diagram a bit like these.

Yeah, nope: plot emerges accidentally from character and can be redirected drastically by a serendipitous twist of dialog.

Also, planning out a plot before you start writing adds a time-consuming extra stage to writing a novel. Time-consuming extra stages are bad (if you're trying to earn a living).

Finally, for folks who do work that way, Aeon Timeline already exists.

113:

Paul @109

For me, the whole purpose of writing the books is being able to read the books.

If I can't read and enjoy my own stuff, then who will.

The purpose of writing the story is to translate it from my mind to the page where it does not randomly change. Then I can keep adding to the story on the page, fleshing out the details that I "see".

I am constantly surprised by what is on the page as I read along, and can suddenly see that I "missed" something and add it to the page so I can read it next time.

I'm watching John Vervaeke's series on cognition, and he is describing what I've seen all these decades.

Ep. 1 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Introduction

114:

You sound like a pantser.

115:

I am indeed mostly a pantser. (I do sometimes use an outline, but mostly I keep it all in my own head where I can rearrange it more easily without an outlining tool to get in the way.)

In other news ... "Quantum of Nightmares", the sequel to "Dead Lies Dreaming", is officially off to production, which means it should be published on January 11th (USA: on the 13th in the UK, because different publishers' schedules don't necessarily mesh perfectly).

Which is a huge relief because it's a bigger, gnarlier book than its predecessor!

116:

The first (as yet unsold) book I wrote was in full pantsing mold. The second, which I've almost finished, had more structure - a well-understood plot from start to finish, but only the broadest of outlines. I'm not sure that's a trend or not... I do have one fully-outlined book, but I don't know yet how it feels to write the thing. I guess we'll see...

117:

mostly I keep it all in my own head where I can rearrange it more easily without an outlining tool to get in the way,/i>

How do you keep track of continuity? Rely on your memory? Proofreaders? Something else?

118:

I don't know what OGH does, but I'm fundamentally insane about continuity, at least inside of one book. Everything I write is full of notes that say things like "Did Face-Cleave properly quote what Break-Elbow said on page 56?" or "Does this spell fully obey the rules for magic discussed in Chapter Nine?"

119:

Charlie Stross @ 72: Reminder that very bad things happen to good people in this series. As with "A Game of Thrones", nobody is safe.

I understand that even if I don't like it. Just a bit disappointed they happened to Pete.

Never watched "A Game of Thrones" ... or read the book it was based on. Just not my cup of tea. When it's all villains & no good guys, it just doesn't appeal to me.

And for all the compromises they've had to make and things they've done, Bob & Mo & Alex & The Senior Auditor ... Iris & Mhari are still "good guys" even if they are all doomed.

Them all being doomed also makes me a bit sad too.

Game of Thrones OTOH ... I don't know of any character in it who's worth my caring about their fate, so I can't be bothered to watch it.

PS: I ordered the paperback of Dead Lies Dreaming from a large on-line retailers' U.K. subsidiary today.

Noticed that even though it is "A***.co.uk", it's actually "sold by" ... A*** EU S.a.r.l...

120:

Charlie Stross @ 83: A waiting list for film cameras; nobody's getting the digital kind.

I wonder if you could make a basilisk gun from a film camera? Perhaps adapting the auto-focus circuitry?

121:

Heteromeles @ 88: Okay, I'll do a triptych: can humans be trapped in summoning grids on other worlds? That could be fun. More to the point, can Alfar and/or equoids be trapped in summoning grids on Earth? Inquiring minds do want to know.

Didn't Basil store his "food" in a summoning grid that was printed on one of the old posters in that warehouse?

122:

Didn't Basil store his "food" in a summoning grid that was printed on one of the old posters in that warehouse?

And Persephone Hazard and the auditors occasionally met inside similar systems so as not to be heard.

So far as I know, we've got at least three magic circles:
--The summoning grids from Atrocity Archive and Jennifer Morgue
--The stasis field that Old Basil used
--The protection spheres that the sorcerers use, which magically supply oxygen inside even though they are separated from reality...

Apparently humans can reach through summoning grids, but non-autochthones cannot, so Ramona Random can get trapped when a grid gets energized up under her hotel carpet in Jennifer Morgue, but whatsisname from accounting can get instantly zombified by reaching into a live summoning grid in Atrocity Archive.

Being the tedious nuisance I am, this makes me wonder whether a human would get trapped by a summoning grid on the other side of a gate, while the Alfar (or Equoids, or Deep Seven. Or Bob) could get trapped by a summoning grid on our world.

The other nuisance-y thing I'd point out is that laser-built summoning grids have some interesting failure modes. Were I trapped in one, I'd take off my shoes, use one on each side to stop the beam, and wander out. Or possibly have real fun with a mirror, or a bit of crystal jewelry that diffracts beams...

123:

That tool sounds like something great... for someone who's a critic, or an upper level student in college, looking at a book.

Writing? Not so much.

And I'm not exactly a pantser, rather, at some point, something tells me to sit down and start typing, and the story itself tells me where it's going. This is, I think, one step beyond the characters taking over, and telling you what they're going to do.

124:

Charlie @ 112:

The plot would be represented on a diagram a bit like these.

Yeah, nope: plot emerges accidentally from character and can be redirected drastically by a serendipitous twist of dialog.

Also, planning out a plot before you start writing adds a time-consuming extra stage to writing a novel. Time-consuming extra stages are bad (if you're trying to earn a living).

Finally, for folks who do work that way, Aeon Timeline already exists.

Might be a useful tool for maintaining continuity AFTER the book is finished. Instead of charting out the plot in advance, you have a chart of where the plot went in case you ever need to refer back to it later.

Wouldn't necessarily have to be the Author who made the chart.

125:

Might be a useful tool for maintaining continuity AFTER the book is finished. Instead of charting out the plot in advance, you have a chart of where the plot went in case you ever need to refer back to it later.

There are lots of Gantt tools (which that look like).

I can see uses when writing a book — possibly not for the author, but certainly for the proofreaders. I was proofing a book earlier this year and noticed that the timelines didn't match — a couple of days had just vanished (presumably during multiple rewrites). I now tend to jot down a timeline for myself so I'm not always rereading sections counting days trying to figure out if I missed something or the author did.

126:

I've sometimes wondered about making a software tool for fiction writers. The plot would be represented on a diagram a bit like these. For every scene in the plot there would be a box on the diagram linked to a data structure with the actual text of the story plus metadata like the location, the date/time it happens and and a brief abstract (e.g. "Alice and Bob argue about money. Bob storms out.")

As already noted, some software will already do much of what you imagine. Barring the graphical representation, check out yWriter for software that lets you write prose that way. Like, exactly that way; your post sounds like someone who saw a friend use the program and is trying to remember the details. This is an absolutely wonderful word processing tool for the authors who write this way; not everyone does, or may simply find the differences between it and the M$ Word paradigm too much. It's also handy for game masters trying to keep track of tabletop RPG campaigns.

Scrivener is of the same family, but professionally made and more feature rich. It's 'Corkboard' view may approximate the graph you had in mind; it's been too long since I played with a trial version of the program.

Both are excellent choices for writers; if you just want to see what the fuss is about I suggest downloading yWriter for free and finding out if the software's production paradigm suits your creative style.

127:

Scrivener might not do it directly, but it's possible the Scrapple companion app might. I went and looked because I couldn't remember whether Scrivener has a plug-in API (looks like a "no"), but that would be the obvious pathway. I'm pretty sure the metadata capability is already there.

128:

Incidentally there are approximately a zillion academic writers out there who'd love to see a Scrivener extension to use it with their favourite reference manager, so there's appetite for extensions. Without catching up on blog discussions about it in the user groups I'm not sure what the developers position is on that at the moment.

129:

Maybe I'm just not the audience for Scrapple, but it seemed like more fiddlework than utility. Compressing four dimensions into two dimensions distort thing anyway.

On the PC, Scrivener's a bit less stable than Word, so rather than tying it into crashworthy knots of unusual size with semi-functional add-ins, I think it's simpler to output the scrivener document with pseudorefs [[REF]] in place, then insert the references on Word. I did that on Hot Earth Dreams, including the reference table AND the Index, both of which I built in Word.

130:

Me @ 109: I've sometimes wondered about making a software tool for fiction writers.

Thanks to everyone who responded. Lots of useful info. The fact that there are already programs that do stuff similar to this is actually a positive: if nobody else is already in a market then its probably for a good reason. The trick is to find a niche within the market that is currently not well served. Robert Prior's point about proof readers might be this.

I'm not in a position to do anything about this now, but its definitely moved up a notch on my "something to try" scale.

131:

I don't use it myself, and without investigating it properly I can't know for sure, but I probably agree with what you say. It's just less fiddlework than making something like it from scratch, if that's what you wanted.

Me, I sort of live in Endnote and write mostly in Word, but I don't write fiction or non-academic stuff much these days. Maybe one day some of the book ideas I've had over the years will coalesce into the right sort of weave. Or I'll untangle the knot that has the fiction-writing tied up. No idea, sorry :).

132:

How do you keep track of continuity? Rely on your memory? Proofreaders? Something else?

All of the above. Also an intimate familiarity with regular expression searching and a corpus of each entire series in a searchable form. There are occasional lapses (eg. Pete the vicar's family name getting the Schroedinger's Cat treatment) but it mostly works. Also, for the first 9 Laundry Files books I managed to keep the same copy editor across 3 publishers -- actually, Marty Halpern was the acquiring editor for the first two books at Golden Gryphon, then was a freelance CE subcontractor for Ace and Tor.com -- which meant he had some familiarity with the series. Since the move to Tor, while my acquiring editor is Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the actual editing on the first three books was done by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who has been a Laundry fan for a long time. COVID19 disrupted everything, but the edits on "Quantum of Nightmare" were done by my agent, Caitlin Blasdell, who is another very long term reader of mine for obvious reasons (and used to be an editor before she turned agent): PNH then did a second edit pass.

I also have a bunch of beta readers.

133:

are still "good guys" even if they are all doomed.

My editor made me kick a significant scene near the tail-end of "Quantum of Nightmares" back into the third book: the one where Eve is visited in her office by a terrifying emissary of the New Management -- Persephone Hazard.

So they aren't all doomed (but the survivors are definitely compromised).

Noticed that even though it is "A***.co.uk", it's actually "sold by" ... A*** EU S.a.r.l...

Yeah, Big River Co are flagrant tax dodgers. Amazon UK employs over 6000 full time staff, pumps out more than £10Bn a year of products to British customers ... and makes such a big loss that it doesn't pay corporation tax. Meanwhile, Amazon S.a.r.l. in Luxemburg, where corporation tax is 2% (compared to the UK's 15%-ish) has about 200 employees and turns over many, many billions of pounds (not Euros) of business.

This arrangement goes back long before Brexit; no idea what they're going to do to launder the money now that the UK is outside the EU, but they've obviously got something in place already. Feh.

134:

As a fan, I'd just like to express my thanks to Marty, Patrick, Teresa and Caitlin, as well as to yourself, for the entire series,

135:

The protection spheres that the sorcerers use, which magically supply oxygen inside even though they are separated from reality

Plot point: they don't supply oxygen. The only oxygen inside is that which arrives when the sphere is created. You can asphyxiate if you stay inside for too long: CO2 poisoning is, however, far more likely. This is why they're only used for short periods of isolation.

Somewhere there is a chibi-Laundry story (that probably won't ever get written) in which some idiot civilians fooling around accidentally summon Bob, and after politely refraining himself from eating their souls or setting fire to their fingernails he decides to have some harmless fun with them.

136:

Might be a useful tool for maintaining continuity AFTER the book is finished.

As mentioned, I work in Scrivener. A side-effect is that, by writing the book, I generate an outline as I go. Which is indeed useful for keeping track of things and/or restructuring the order of scenes after the event.

A problem with this stuff, however, is that you can end up spending more time tagging scenes with metadata and keywords (who appears in the scene, what they're discussing, etc) than you do in actual writing: it's almost always easier, when you move a 1500 word scene up or down the timeline by half a chapter, to fix the continuity issues by simply giving it an edit pass (reading 1500 words properly takes about 5 minutes and you know who's names/interactions you're looking out for if you do it as soon as you move the scene).

Which leads me to cough up a few rules of thumb I apply when writing:

* The perfect is the enemy of the good -- don't over-polish, you need to ship the product sooner rather than later

* Every novel is a first novel -- unless you're working to a formula so cookie-cutterish that only the names change, every time you set out to write a new novel, you're learning how to write that particular novel for the first time. There will be false starts and mistakes: don't sweat it.

* With enough eyes, all bugs are transparent -- Torvalds' law of code also applies to writing ficition -- but, corollary: there are never enough eyes (something's gonna slip through, guaranteed)

137:

@136 (something's gonna slip through, guaranteed)

That's a feature not a flaw.[1]

If you were to correct every error, produce the "perfect" book, then that world would come into existence. That's why at least one person in the production chain adds errors to prevent that.[2]

[1] Islamic rug weavers would introduce deliberate errors in the rug because:

"Only Allah is perfect"

[2] That's the danger of Indy publishing. Someone will one day create the "perfect" book and that world will come into being, or worse yet, those characters will appear in our world, spontaneously Retconning our Reality.

138:

Charlie @ 135: Plot point: they don't supply oxygen. [...] This is why they're only used for short periods of isolation.

Unless someone has been watching Apollo 13, or has the bright idea of getting a rebreather set.

What happens to the heat? Presumably it also stays inside the sphere. A resting human produces ~100W. Assuming the air is the only heat sink and you have a sphere of radius 1m, that is 4.1m^3 of air, with a mass of about 5.1kg. The specific heat capacity of air is conveniently ~ 1 J/g/C, so around 5,100J will cause a 1C temperature rise. At 100W = 100 J/sec that takes 51 seconds. Call it a minute.

If we start with room temperature air at 18C and assume things get dangerous at a web-bulb temperature of 30C, then thats 12C temperature rise, which will take 10-12 minutes. I haven't run the numbers on humidity: I'm assuming that the humidity is going to hit 100% pretty quickly thanks to breathing and sweating. Of course if you can pack a dehumidifier as well as a CO2 scrubber then that is going to be extended somewhat, but dehumidifiers are also going to generate heat, so its probably worse than nothing. The only way around this that I can see is to pack a large block of ice, wrap it in a blanket, and cuddle it as necessary to keep cool.

139:

worse yet, those characters will appear in our world, spontaneously Retconning our Reality.

Where do you think Donald Trump came from?

140:

The summoning grid would have to be big enough for several big potted plants, or the technical version thereof. Also, each participant brings Styrofoam cooler full of ice. The lid has two holes, one of which is covered with a small fan. Don't forget your D-Cell batteries to run the fan. (We cooled an AC-less van that way on a run across the Mojave.)

A sensor turns the summoning grid off for one minute when the temperature hits 30C. A big fan turns on, circulates the old air out of the building, then the grid turns back on.

141:

To repeat, we've got at least three levels of magic circles/spheres.

1. Ye Olde summoning grid, suitable for holding in otherworldly beings. Basically a pentagram, made with lasers or conducting paint/ink/etc. Energy and matter exchange across the boundary are normal. Why a two dimensional pentagram holds three or more dimensional beings is not explained.

B. Ye newish Magic sphere. A riff on the standard magic circle from Wicca and occultism. Air doesn't pass through the spherical boundary, nor does (apparently) energy, but time does pass equivalently on both sides. This is primarily used for security of those within the sphere. What happens on the bottom of the sphere is left unexplored. I, for one, would not create one of these infernal spheroids in an office environment, due to the cost of opening up the floor/ground underneath to repair and reconnect all the pipes and wires severed by the underground side of the sphere.

III. Ye Niven/Vinge stasis sphere. Same as a magic sphere, but now with new no-time passing option. Used by a vampire to store his food. Left unexplained: how V-parasites can get mana out of a stasis sphere, with time passing on one side but not another. There's probably a star drive or perpetual motion machine hidden in that explanation. But in general, don't set up a stasis sphere over a sewer line...

And note that this isn't a slap at Charlie. Anyone who's fooled around with pagan magic and has any sense of three-dimensional geometry finds pentagrams and magic circle/spheres rather humorous, given that limbs and heads normally stick out of them, and pets and small children wander through such boundaries without harm...

142:

I read it. The part about Italy running to a military dictatorship was probably echoing rumors about coups (Google Di Lorenzo).

143:

I don't think it's the only one. Miraculous in(ter)ventions saving the world isn't a new theme.

The new sauce here, for anyone who wants to tackle it, is the schadenfreude of writing about people who are deeply addicted to power, and whose superpower is a lack of conscience, empathy, and compassion, who suddenly develop all these and be crippled by these amazing gifts, because they have no idea what to do with them. To me, this is a cheerful but pitch black comedy, which is not something I know how to write. I'd love to read it though.

144:

people who are deeply addicted to power, and whose superpower is a lack of conscience, empathy, and compassion, who suddenly develop all these and be crippled by these amazing gifts, because they have no idea what to do with them

Assuming this happens suddenly world-wide then the ex-sociopaths just go and become monks or something to atone for their sins, and everyone else goes off to rebuild society. Wells wrote that story in "In the Days of the Comet".

If it happens sporadically to some but not others then I guess it depends. Nobody is the villain of their own life-story; everyone perceives themselves as the hero, even if they never get around to anything particularly heroic. That applies to sociopaths just as much as anyone else. So to the person affected, and to anyone else, it probably looks like the onset of a strange mental illness.

"Did you hear about Joe? Suddenly gave all his money to charity and went to live in a monastery."

"That's funny. Pete did something similar a few months back. I hope it isn't catching."

At the more productive and intelligent end of the spectrum the result probably looks more like Bill Gates, who decided to switch his prodigious talents from making money and crushing competitors to improving the lot of humanity.

I can imagine some interesting scenes between the suddenly-reformed sociopath and their dependents; what do you say when Dad suddenly declares his intention to give away the fortune you were expecting to inherit? A strange sort of kitchen-sink drama would ensue.

Meanwhile, in an obscure lab somewhere in Cambridge (pick one), a microbiologist is hot on the trail of the cause of this outbreak of philanthropic soul-searching...

145:

What happens to the heat? Presumably it also stays inside the sphere.
Infovores are excellent cooling devices. Just need to engineer a class of small, controlled(, short lifespan?), unintelligent infovores.

146:

Nahhh.... That creature who appeared isn't actually a monster, it's a person in a spacesuit.

147:

Charlie, however this all ends, I'd *really* rather that it didn't end with us here looking like the Alfar on a dying world....

148:

Actually... I can't remember - does the White Violin eat souls? Do infovores have souls? Who *else* has souls - does the Pharaoh? Nyarlathotep?

And if they do, and the While Violin were to eat them, just how powerful would it be?

149:

At the more productive and intelligent end of the spectrum the result probably looks more like Bill Gates, who decided to switch his prodigious talents from making money and crushing competitors to improving the lot of humanity.

Nah, he just hired some very expensive spin doctors and PR flacks.

Then he spent too long with Epstein and Maxwell, which appears to be what the divorce is about.

150:

The 5-season television series, Lucifer, goes there. Divinities, angels and demons develop as characters, even grow souls, while on earth and interacting with human beings.

"It is based on the DC Comics character created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg taken from the comic book series The Sandman, who later became the protagonist of a spin-off comic book series [Lucifer], both published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint."

The television series just concluded (on Netflix) last month. There are many different delights in the course of its progress, to what, at the end episodes, appears the inevitable conclusion. It's some of the sharpest writing, honest depictions of character growth and development, and inquiry into the moral and spiritual dimensions of consciousness. What makes it even more delightful, is because it is located in Los Angeles, within the cities' millieux devoted to the trendy and shallow. It's one of the best things I've ever watched on 'tv' (streaming -- don't own a set).

151:

That's a thought. I'll have to look that up.

I was thinking of something perhaps a bit different, perhaps not. Part of the perennial problem of Great Men (read 'pathic success stories) is that their heirs tend to be more normal people, stuck with their results of their Ancestor's passions with no way to get out. By dosing a Big Man with whatever-it-is, this whole story gets telescoped into one person becoming the owner of something he no longer wants.

And that makes it a story about karma. A Bezos, A Putin, or various others can't just sell off everything they own and move to a monastery, because being compassionate isn't about locking oneself away in a cell for a life of prayer and penance. Instead, they're stuck with unwinding the messes they've made, while the people they've hurt demand a justice and the Big Men feel like maybe there's a reason to give it to them, whether or not they can.

And if you really want to tighten the screws, add in a dose of Altemeyer, about how the spreading wave of compassion suddenly makes the world's problems a bit easier to solve, because the alpha assholes are getting themselves out of the way. So not only are the Great 'Paths of the world suffering, the mythology that supported them is disintegrating around them too. Give them an easy way out to the monastery. Oh no, that's entirely too easy...

152:

Troutwaxer @ 140: The summoning grid would have to be big enough for several big potted plants, or the technical version thereof. Also, each participant brings Styrofoam cooler full of ice. The lid has two holes, one of which is covered with a small fan. Don't forget your D-Cell batteries to run the fan. (We cooled an AC-less van that way on a run across the Mojave.)

When my family took it's first trip out to California in 1960 we joined Route 66 in Tulsa, OK. There were various businesses along the route in western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle that serviced travelers. One of the items they sold were "air conditioners" that fit in a car window.

They were basically a hollow tube that held ice. They were open at the front and had a vent down the side. You hooked it over the window & rolled the window up. As you drove along air flowed in the open front end of the tube, was cooled by the melting ice and "cool" air flowed through the window into the car.

I looked them up on the internet and it seems I'm mistaken about the ice, but that's how I remember them (from 60 some years ago & my memory is probably not perfect anymore).

https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-capsule-firestone-thermador-car-cooler-swamp-cooler/

A sensor turns the summoning grid off for one minute when the temperature hits 30C. A big fan turns on, circulates the old air out of the building, then the grid turns back on.

Using a heat sensor, you might not be ready when the bubble goes down.

I think a timer would work better. A bell goes ding 30 sec before the bubble drops so it doesn't catch everyone by surprise, allowing those inside to have their defensive apps ready just in case there's something unpleasant lurking outside.

153:

That's basically the plot of John Brunner's 'The Stone That Never Came Down', if'n you're wanting a book in that vein.

154:

whitroth @ 146: Nahhh.... That creature who appeared isn't actually a monster, it's a person in a spacesuit.

It was something that appeared to be wearing a spacesuit.

155:

in an obscure lab somewhere in Cambridge (pick one), a microbiologist is hot on the trail of the cause of this outbreak of philanthropic soul-searching

That sounds rather familiar:

http://www.davidbrin.com/fiction/givingplague.html

156:

Foxessa
That is actually the main plot driver ( Apart, of course, from loads of cynical laughter ) of "Good Omens"
Crowley & Azrafale have been with Humanity for so long that it's rubbed off on them & are taking the Humans' side against the monstrosities of both "Heaven" & "Hell" - which are both versions of hell from Humanity's p.o.v.
I wonder how the Gaiman sequel will go ....

157:

#141 B - That would be reasonable, in an Einsteinian universe.

#152 Swamp cooler - Not surprised about this. The base idea was a classic way of keeping dairy from spoiling if you didn't have access to a fridge. "There are more things in Heaven and Earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

158:

Did you get the color "green" form the "Under a Green Sky" extinction scenario?

https://www.amazon.com/Under-Green-Sky-Warming-Extinctions/dp/0061137928

159:

Learned about Czernobog from "American Gods".

Anything "American God"-ish about the Laundryverse?

Does Cthulhu dwindle to insignificance if people just stop believing in him?

160:

Hope not. Ward got the sky color wrong on that book. While he is (so far as I know) a competent paleontologist, especially with his ammonites, he has issues with other things, as do we all.

At least in my experience, he tends to strike out when he gets into atmospheric chemistry. His great theory book (Out of Thin Air), which purported to explain the great patterns in evolutionary innovation as related to oxygen concentration in the atmosphere, foundered almost immediately because he used an outdated model for variation in atmospheric oxygen concentration in deep time, and the updated ones showed a different pattern that didn't support his theories.

Incidentally, you can find out a bit more about sky color under different atmospheric chemistry at https://www.orionsarm.com/page/321, which references some articles that it would have been good for Ward to read. So far as I can tell, a climate changed Earth will have a pearlescent white sky, and green is a hard color for an atmosphere to have. And that ugly white sky is something anyone who's been in a smoggy city has already seen.

Note that I don't mind Ward being wrong, because at least he tries. Being wrong is part of doing science. Out of Thin Air makes for an excellent what-if book for using to create alien worlds, just as the aquatic ape theory does (imagine if becoming secondarily-aquatic pushed a species to increase its intelligence? Heck, worked for dolphins). But they don't seem to work very well in explaining our world.

161:

Good news - they're doing a sixth season of Lucifer...

Amusing would be Miranda Hart getting a role ;)

162:

Pity, a green sky seems like the perfect color for the apocalypse.

163:

Green sky would indeed by scary. That said, the apocalypse sky is already here, around many cities and during heat waves. It's just not very evenly distributed yet.

164:

When you get temperature of 32-34°C just outside Glasgow ( About a week back ) you know something has gorn worng.

166:

A dirty rice-paper sky. A sky of death and the blankness of a hippie share-house dishwater, the wilderness of the space ready to be written into.

167:

H is there an equivalent source for the properties of metals at low temperatures?

It's not that I don't believe Charlie's account of Fimbulwinter, you understand, it's more that I'd like to see where the troubles start, and which metals are affected.

168:

Nope. I wrote "The Concrete Jungle" in 2002, and that book was published in 2008.

169:

Does Cthulhu dwindle to insignificance if people just stop believing in him?

Maybe, but it's very hard to get rid of gods by pro-actively disbelieving in them, and if you're part of an organization trying to suppress, say, Cthulhu, then if you mostly succeed in abolishing belief then your own organization is going to lose impetus to promote disbelief and there'll be resurgence ...

(This gets explored a little in book 3 of the new series.)

170:

- 1 -

Charlie @132:

I also have a bunch of beta readers.

What about your research assistants? They never can never catch a break./s

- II -

Heteromeles @143:

whose superpower is a lack of conscience, empathy, and compassion, who suddenly develop all these and be crippled by these amazing gifts

Spider Robinson wrote a short story in which somebody develops a drug called "The Whole Truth". The protagonists slip it to Important People1, usually just before the Important Person is about to give a news conference or an important interview. The recipient gets the overwhelming compulsion to (1) tell the truth about any question asked them and (2) set the record straight about all of the lies that they have ever told in their life2.

When the drug wears off, the recipient has a horrible freak-out at the destruction of their career. Second-order effects are also covered in the story, but I won't spoil them here. Can't remember the story title, but it was included in his collection Melancholy Elephants.

- C -

Paul @144:

Nobody is the villain of their own life-story; everyone perceives themselves as the hero

"I thought I was the protagonist. Turns out I'm just background filler." True of pretty much everyone.

- Four -

Heteromeles @151

Instead, they're stuck with unwinding the messes they've made

Reminds me of the end of PTerry's Small Gods:

[Brutha:] "Simony?"

"Yes?"

"I'm making you the head of the Quisition."

"What?"

"I want it stopped. And I want it stopped the hard way."

"You want me to kill all of the inquisitors? Right!"

"No. That's the easy way. I want as few deaths as possible. Those who enjoyed it perhaps. But only those."

(I wrote the date I bought it in the front of my copy. December 27, 1993. Where does the time go?)

~~~

1Yeah, the protagonists effectively roofie people. It's for the greater good.

2In this fictional world, the blinders that people wear that give them convincing reasons for why they did bad things also disappear, so they can objectively see when what they did was bad. In the light of all-too-many real-world cases, that seems pretty naive.

171:

I dunno. I *may* have seen it once or twice, but I know I've read that it's associated with an incipient tornado.

I would have thought a red sky, and I don't mean sailors' delight.

172:

Almost sounds like a quote from the first few sentences of Neuromancer.

173:

Have you checked the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics?

I mean, if you lived nearby, I'd invite you over (assuming you're fully vaxed) and pull out my copy....

175:

Also
https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198570547.001.0001/acprof-9780198570547
Experimental Techniques for Low-Temperature Measurements: Cryostat Design, Material Properties and Superconductor Critical-Current Testing
Jack Ekin

176:

Re: External things making people behave better.

In the late 60s/early 70s, some of the cognoscenti joked about trying to slip a large dose of LSD into Richard Nixon, in the hope of stopping the Vietnam War.

Thanks to the above, we've actually established that dosing people with magic nitrogen, magic LSD, or magic diseases, is its own little trope in SF. That's cool. I think there are changes still to be rung on this, but it's a thing.

177:

I've seen a green sky, and while it wasn't a tornado, it was an unpleasantly strong storm. Green skies on Earth usually register something very unusual going on in the atmosphere, just because they're so hard to get under terrestrial conditions.

I forgot one other thing: a few years ago, the climate scientists got some good modeling evidence that one of the problems with a climate changed Earth (around CO2=1000 ppm) is that many of the clouds go away, particularly in higher latitudes. This is one of the reasons why the temperature gradient between poles and equator flattens out during a hothouse Earth: there's a lot less cloud cover. While that off-white sky is one thing that shows up during hot, hazy weather, a pitiless blue sky is also symptomatic of hothouse Earth.

It's another issue. GRRM got serious mileage out of "Winter Is Coming." Our problem is "Summer Is Coming," but that doesn't sound so scary until you're confronted with blistering heat, long-term drought, and horrendous fires. Similarly, a bright blue sky sounds like a vacationer's paradise, until you realize that's all you get, except for the occasional hurricane. Overcast and fog actually are wonderful things that we'll miss when they're gone.

178:

A Question og governance & control & accountability
I came across THIS headline OK?
Wondered what their profits were, to be able to afford this - & got a nasty shock.
This grubbyy, incompetent, privatised corrupt tory scam-company, since 2007, have been fined, or paid out £235.9 million in fines for mismanagement of the environment ....
What to do?
Sack &/or jail all the directors?
You can't close the company down, as people will then be without water at all.
Nationalise without any compensation?
If you do that, you still have the problem of finding someone both competent & honest to run the show, of course.

179:

If you'd fed Tricky Duckie LSD, would anyone have noticed? ;-)

180:

The novella:

- Rule Golden by Damon Knight

Addresses that concept of forcing people to "Do unto others".

I have it in hardback as, Three Novels, along with The Dying Man and Natural State.

It's available as an ebook in:

Rule Golden and Other Stories

I have the book sitting beside my desk as a "touchstone" to read when needed.

181:

Presumably actively trying to get someone to disbelieve in a god is analogous to asking someone not to think about purple elephants?

182:

Re the Stasis Sphere it’s been a whilst since I read the Rhesus Chart but I recall it was strongly implied that Basil defrosted his meals before chowing down on them.

183:

Might mocking Cthulhu count as undercutting belief in him?

184:

For the triple word score.

Am I right in thinking that in the Hotline Scene with the Nazgul it’s the first time it’s been explicitly suggested that the Senior Auditor isn’t entirely human as he sweats blood? Or do we write it off as a magical side effect?

185:

I can't remember the scene clearly.

I will note that folks on Mahogany Row (which includes the auditors) are typically very strong ritual magicians, who have managed to evade K-syndrome for reasons which might include not being entirely human any more.

(By the end of the Laundry story arc, there will be plenty of survivors who remember being human; there is rather more doubt as to whether any of them still are ...)

186:

there is rather more doubt as to whether any of them still are

But this raises another question: If they are no longer human, is it a problem for them? And is it a problem for the people around them, who still are human?

I am leery of assumption that "ceasing to be human" is automatically a bad thing.

187:

Presumably actively trying to get someone to disbelieve in a god is analogous to asking someone not to think about purple elephants?

Yeah, that's hard. What was I supposed to think about again?

Having Cthulhu as the god of the Singularitarians, by the author of Accelerando, is, to me, a truly joyous evolution.

Rather than disbelieving in Cthulhu, I'd personally rather see the blow-off of the Black Chamber trying to instantiate Cthulhu further by starting the conversion of the Earth into a Matrioshka brain, only to have Deep Seven take extreme umbrage and process them into high entropy lava instead. People who plan such messianic engineering keep forgetting how much heat and pressure the Earth has under our very shallow crust. They might dream of converting all this "raw material" into computronium, but it's going to take a very long time to cool off, especially in a vacuum. And in the meantime, those who like the heat are going to be...unhappy about such developments. Perhaps all those "fracking" earthquakes in Oklahoma are a sign?

Similarly, the Deep Ones actually don't have a lot to fear, so long as they minimize their contact with the surface. Building any device that operates in the abyss is always a chore for surface dwellers, and the pressure gradient does favor the Deep Ones.

188:

H
Iceland, right now?

189:

"Having Cthulhu as the god of the Singularitarians, by the" co-keeper of Fluff...

190:

https://markhammetals.com/the-best-materials-to-use-in-low-temperature-environments/

was interesting. Including the use of Iconnel 718 -- an alloy I'm quite happy to use at room temperature.

191:

Iceland, right now?

Perhaps. The key unsettling thing is that the surface biosphere, both on land and in the ocean, depends on having plate tectonics recycling elements. Without tectonics, no surface life. If it turns out in the Laundryverse that the Cthonians are responsible for plate tectonics as a side-effect (or deliberate action) of their mantle-based biosphere, then yes, we do indeed owe our lives to them. Presuming the Deep Ones know this already, they would be *extremely* respectful of Them Below That Make Life Possible.

This is an interestingly different argument about the reason for natural evil (e.g. why would a beneficent God allow natural disasters to happen?). It turns out that things like wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidal waves are necessary preconditions for human life to exist on Earth. They're not in themselves evil, for without them we wouldn't be here. Evil isn't about these titanic forces running roughshod over our little plans. Rather, the evil is more in putting people in harms' way without telling them or getting their consent. People can and do choose to live near active volcanoes, but putting a subdivision downslope from an active vent and selling the homes as safe little slices of paradise can be seen as evil.

192:

What's happening in Iceland? The big news seems to be they are adopting a 4-day working week, which sounds pretty awesome to me. Free trade deal with the UK seems less so, and there's still a pandemic problem there by the looks of things. Are they fracking volcanos or something? Doesn't sound very Icelandic...

One thing from Iceland is the prediction for increased volcanic activity due to climate change, due to the glaciers that otherwise hold some eruptions in check melting (I've come across this as part of my interest in health systems, because the Icelandic health department is allowing for more frequent vulcanism in their strategic planning).There's a growing literature in geoscience about this and apparently a heap of evidence from geological time. I'm not clear what role the additional venting of greenhouse gasses might play in accelerating climate change, but it's one of the areas where there is possibly a positive-feedback effect, as is the case with the high-level clouds H mentions above. It's also one of the reasons I think the models we rely on are probably overly cautious, and that most likely we're already done for. At this point we usually quibble about definitions of doom that work for everyone before moving on.

193:

This isn't *quite* off-topic: a friend on a mailing list posted this, and I think there are enough people who could use it....
https://www.sciencegeek.net/lingo.html

Sample: We will prioritize group-based problem-solving across spatial and temporal scales.

194:

Re "beneficient deity": if you've got a deity dealing with an entire planet, at least, if not a solar system, I have grave doubts that it's going to be concerned with the collateral damage, as you are when you cut your finger chopping veggies.

If they're in charge of a tribe of, say, 5,000, maybe, but a whole planet?

195:

Wait... fewer glaciers mean more vulcanism? Are you trying to suggest that all the pics of dinosaurs, with volcanoes in the background, is not that unreasonable?

196:

Iceland just has a very photogenic volcano erupting at the moment, so that's what is going on.

As for volcanoes and glaciers, perhaps the search term is "isostatic rebound." Glaciers are heavy, and when the weight goes away, the ground underneath it rises. If there's lava down there, the rocks are more flexible, and also interesting cracks may make the volcanoes erupt more often.

197:

I recent heard "Our hammer is [X]" where [X] is the class of problems that their company's system is exceptionally well suited for. (They were not Thor. :-)


198:

Overcast and fog actually are wonderful things that we'll miss when they're gone.

You're not wrong. One winter years ago I observed that the convention center in Portland Oregon was packed with people and wondered aloud why people would want to come to Portland in February. And then I realized that really I'd just answered my own question. Winter weather tends to a certain kind of day: a few degrees above freezing (average high 8C, average low 3C), gray overcast, and rainy; variation comes from how much overcast and how much rain. A day might have hard rain, soft rain, intermittent rain, a constant fine drizzle...

As a local joke has it, "Last winter was pretty dry; it only rained twice. Once from September to February, and then February to April."

So why choose Portland for a national convention? Because their options include Chicago (average high -3C, average low -10C, weather often exciting). Or Minneapolis (-8C to -14C, with possibilities of Much Snow). The prospect of going someplace reliably cool, gray, damp, and slightly manky sounds just fine in comparison...

199:

Plus decent public transportation, good food, and the best bookstore in the US...

I like Portland.

200:

The measures between countries don't compare well, but it seems like Portland is about the same size as Brisbane, at least in terms of population (both roughly 2.5 million in the metro area, and up to around 4 million in the surrounding region).

201:

Who knows? According to the English Broadcasting Corporation, a foppball game tomorrow is more important than things like Iceland volcanoes, trade deals, climate change, presidential assassinations and resultant unrest...

202:

Portland
If you read THIS article you will see how utterly fucked-up US transportation is, even in large cities.
I knew it was bad, but really ....
At a long-ago SF con ( One of the Brightons ) I was asked on the Monday, by a group of USA-ians: - "When does The Train leave for London?"
In those days it was 3 an hour - a fast, an every-3rd-lamppost & an intermediate ... it took me some time to persuade them to simply roll up to Brighton station & get on the next one (!)

203:

I mean, if you lived nearby, I'd invite you over (assuming you're fully vaxed) and pull out my copy....

Yep, fully vaxxed, but living in Manchester, so I don't think I can take you up on your "cool" offer.

In return I could show you how to make a neuromorphic infra-red basilisk gun; since I have the real hardware.

All I need is a copy of Charlie's neural code ;)

204:

And, for the record, you'd get an hourly direct services from Paddington to Penzance and Cardiff, Euston services to Glasgow Central, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, and King's Cross to Leeds, and Edinburgh via York and Newcastle upon Tyne in period.

205:

And, for the record, you'd get an hourly direct services from Paddington to Penzance and Cardiff, Euston services to Glasgow Central, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, and King's Cross to Leeds, and Edinburgh via York and Newcastle upon Tyne in period.

And you try telling the young people that nowadays.

206:

Portland

Greg, I've been to that part of the USA quite a bit (Pacific north-west). I have in particular traveled between Portland and Seattle multiple times, including: driving, train, and commuter plane.

By far the slowest way between the two cities was the train -- although the second class seats had as much leg room and bum width as first class in a UK intercity service, the buffet car had vegan options for sale along with decent real ale, and the experience was reasonably civilized.

But things are set up in the expectation that you will drive or fly, and if you can't drive, flying beats the train. Even on a 20 seater turboprop it's well under an hour, and even with post-9/11 security theatre, the door-to-door time was under three hours. Driving: about four hours. The train was late (Amtrak is always late, except on the East Coast corridor) and it ended up taking nearly five hours.

Once you get into Portland itself, though, the trams are as good as those in Manchester or Nottingham and they're free inside the city centre, which is something the UK could really do with copying.

207:

You forgot that CrossCountry trains also do Penzance to Inverness via Edinburgh -- am pretty sure they go via London, too, and there are at least one an hour hitting Edinburgh.

The real gotcha for visitors is that if you want to go the full distance, or even most of it, the last service of the day may leave inconveniently late. For example, the last CrossCountry train from Leeds to Edinburgh runs at 2008 and gets in around 11pm. Miss it and you're stuck (so I always aimed for the 1908 -- or caught a local to York and changed, which meant I could travel by ECML or XC, subject to ticketing conditions).

208:

I like Portland Oregon too. Weird. Quite European in many ways.

About a decade ago, I presented a paper there during a conference on genetic and evolutionsry computation. Using meta genetic algorithms to optimise parameters of genetic algorithms to solve a family of closely related problems.

For my sins, I'd also worked previously in a secret bunker in an undisclosed location on diplomatic communications. As the systems engineering manager, my clearances were unusual. Including compartments and caveats whose mere existence was "burn before reading"

When the emergency response room was renovated, I quite officially and legally acquired some odds and ends headed for the scrapheap at auction. Which is why our toilet has a quite spiffy CABINET SUBMISSIONS sign above it.

209:

“ I am leery of assumption that "ceasing to be human" is automatically a bad thing.”

Probably not, but I’m betting there is lots of authorly fun to be had telling tales about things that still think they are human, and the consequences of said contradictions, especially if you are writing horror or dark SFF.

210:

Probably not, but I’m betting there is lots of authorly fun to be had telling tales about things that still think they are human, and the consequences of said contradictions, especially if you are writing horror or dark SFF.

You bet.

To some extent, fetishization of "humanity" goes with a Christian eschatological world view, insofar as animals don't have souls and get into heaven, and neither do other non-humans -- it's just for humans (and the Jeezus-accepting subset at that).

But then, you look at the folks who want to transcend humanity and all too many of them are vile shitebags like Peter Thiel, entitled wankers like Elon Musk, and so on.

Humanity, for my money, is an overrated condition -- but in-humanity is worse and the jury is out on post-humanity.

(Also remember that Lovecraft's aversion to "subhuman things" was based on his loathing and phobia for everyone who wasn't just like him, i.e. a white male protestant aspirant to patriarchy. So lotsa scope for satirizing Lovecraft's world view if you write a story in which the Bad Things win.)

211:

One more about world turning honest, though the change is more offstage than in most: "Leg. Forst." by Clifford Simak. It's the one about the galactic stamp collector.

I'm wondering whether a lot of Simak should be filed under dream logic.

212:

Which strongly suggests that Concorde was forcibly retired on orders from the US

Or going in another direction, was why it way always a money sink.

213:

No I didn't; the Penzance - Inverness train routes via Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh, and NOT London. You see why I didn't mention it?

214:

Euston to Glasgow may have generated a covid super-spreader event the Monday before last; the line was blocked for 4+ hours by a broken down goods (freight) train and several trainloads of passengers heading to Glasgow or Edinburgh (x-country from Manchester) were left milling around on the platform at Preston station for all that time.
Given that Preston is pretty close to one of the covid hotspots, northern folk tend not to ignore everyone else around them, and masks were discarded over time, my daughter reckons things could have been managed better ( especially after she realised she had caught the ^&* bug ).

215:

lots of authorly fun to be had telling tales about things that still think they are human, and the consequences of said contradictions

Even more interesting (IMO) is the opposite -- people who know for a fact that transcending humanity is possible and think they have achieved it, but actually have not.

But then, you look at the folks who want to transcend humanity and all too many of them are vile shitebags like Peter Thiel

216:

...Euston to Glasgow may have generated a covid super-spreader event the Monday before last...
It the platform was outdoors, probably not. (Unless the air
was very still, and even so risk is reduced.)
This database covers through early 2021 (updated sporadically since) so it doesn't cover Delta, but it still should mostly apply:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1c9jwMyT1lw2P0d6SDTno6nHLGMtpheO9xJyGHgdBoco/edit#gid=1812932356

See also https://kmswinkels.medium.com/covid-19-superspreading-events-database-4c0a7aa2342b - the database is unreliable (including reporting biases) but is interesting.

There is one case (USA1052), a landscaping company, 11 cases, that is listed as "Outdoor"; most of the rest are "Indoor", the remainder either "Indoor / Outdoor" or "Unknown".
(Yes, public health guidance and measures have been (uhm) sub-optimal in many countries, if the intent was to limit spread of SARS-CoV-2.)

217:

Portland is a Gibsonian Distopia.[1]

Antifa took over the center of town and waged nightly riots trying to torch the Federal Buildings. While BLM mobs marched through the suburbs shouting, "Wake up mother fucker, wake up."

If you go to YouTube and search on "Portland riots", or "Wake up Portland" you will see tons of video. Many shot by the rioters themselves.

This is one of the few articles that touches on it.

Leaving Portland

- Notice how he is telling his story from a distance, not buried deep in the different mobs. That's important.

I opened a Story folder when things started and watched how everything was covered locally but was ignored/dismissed outside the region. This all makes for a fascinating story of dueling paradigms.

I see each group as being under a geas where they each see the world in only their way, not reality. Then the clashes of those dueling viewpoints. Each seeing the "Other" as the monster that they must fight.

Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany, comes closest to what I am seeing here.

This is going to be a major series.

[1] William Gibson

218:

It the platform was outdoors, probably not.

I think you underestimate how many people were involved (multiple trainloads) and how small the platform area in question was (smaller than you'd expect, going by Amtrak stations). Also it's in a British station, so probably under cover except at each end -- think of the weather.

219:

Ah, that explains a lot, not that you'd know if from the English Broadcasting Corporation "news".

220:

Further to this, I found some maps and photos of Preston station quite easily - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preston_railway_station

221:

To some extent, fetishization of "humanity" goes with a Christian eschatological world view,

I think it's a bit more than anything derived from any religion of any stripe. "I am a people therefore people are important, more important than other non-peoples."

I've been watching a half-fun anime about a schoolgirl who gets reincarnated as a spider in a dungeon in a fantasy world. It's only half-fun because the story is told partly from the POV of other reincarnated people who are elves and human and the like in this fantasy world and it's not as funny or interesting when the show focuses on them. Kumoko the spider has to fight to survive and she eats anything and everything she kills to develop her abilities and evolve into stronger forms. The fanboys in the online forums have been cheering Kumoko on as she slaughters all sorts of creatures, including intelligent ones like dragons and elves and then suddenly she's killing and eating humans and now the fanboys are saying she's become evil because she's killing and eating 'people' i.e. us.

222:

Portland is a Gibsonian Distopia.[1] Antifa took over the center of town and waged nightly riots trying to torch the Federal Buildings. While BLM mobs marched through the suburbs shouting, "Wake up mother fucker, wake up."

I'm going to suggest you think about the political leanings of the people who tell you those stories. It might be educational to consider what advantages they might hope to gain.

223:

As a useful bit of sanitizing brain bleach, google "Oregon Founding White Supremacy" You get articles like this one on a very long list.

The short version is that Oregon was founded originally as a white supremacist utopia, where no black immigrants were allowed even before statehood. Since then, the northern part of the Willamette Valley (the Corvallis to Portland corridor) has become substantially more liberal. But, as with California, get outside the urban diversity, and the place becomes uncomfortably white. Uncomfortably, that is, if you're not white, and especially if you're not white and not male. Oregon is still 87% white, 2% black, and Portland's the whitist big city in the US.

So when someone says "they grew up in Oregon and are moving out of Portland because of Them People" (a paraphrase of the article you cited), Scott's question about their political bias is extremely important, because the default is right wing. Since 2016, the far right has tried to retake Oregon by causing trouble in Portland, and that leads to some creatively biased reporting.

224:

Also, I assume that the toilet facilities are inside… so the crowds would have mixed in there.

225:

Yeah, indoor exhalation sharing is how most (SARS-CoV-2) transmission is happening, though people (well, males at least) usually don't linger in public toilets. Delta is more infectious though, so it may change the risk calculations.
One next step would be to ascertain how much breeze was blowing perpendicular to the platforms at the time and how much the airflow is blocked. wunderground.com has freely accessible weather history, but not close to that station. A proper incident study would also examine/characterize surveillance videos, perhaps with AI techniques. (e.g. mask wearing especially indoors - no reported superspreader events AFAIK where the index patient was masked.)

226:

@223 and @224:

Thank you, that is a beautiful example of what I'm talking about. Each group is under a different geas and sees the world their way and sees the "Other" as the enemy.

I'm looking at the way Plato's Cave can be used. That there are many "caves", not just the one as in the parable. That each group is subject to their own unique "shadow play" on the wall.

That guy is writing the essay from his viewpoint, his "cave" and the fact you guys are interpreting the essay from your viewpoints, your "caves" is a profound driver of the story.

This is similar to other stories that I have read or seen as movies, but I'm too close to the "wall" to remember which ones. I suspect that once I start laying out the series in broad strokes that I will remember more examples than just Dhalgren.

Ah...

"There are no such things as Vampires."

"What is this word 'President' that you are using."

"Are you of the Body?"
- Star Trek: Return of the Archons

Yikes! Now the examples are coming. I knew that I could depend on you guys to help me find the answers.

Thanks...

227:

I'm looking at the way Plato's Cave can be used. That there are many "caves", not just the one as in the parable. That each group is subject to their own unique "shadow play" on the wall.

Certainly. And once you sell an audience on a shadow such as "Antifa took over the center of town and waged nightly riots trying to torch the Federal Buildings" the audience will stop asking who those people really were, or what they really wanted, and maybe even whether violence against people out on the streets was justified.

228:

Don't tell me you believe in the concrete milkshakes and the completely unsubstantiated brain bleed from the same guy that saw a "No Drinking" sign in a UK neighborhood and decided that the reason must be that the Muslims took over and the UK was under sharia law?

Thank you saving my time by showing I never need to read what you post ever again.

229:

Perhaps he's confused about what anti-fascism is, and thinks that antifa is a pejorative, rather than an exercise in direct democracy with a long and storied tradition on both sides of the Atlantic.

Besides, I liked parts of the Portland protests. When CBP started lobbing tear gas at the white Portlanders, they responded (men and women) by bringing their hockey sticks and slap-shotting the tear gas back into CBP lines. Meanwhile, there were contingents of "suburban dads" (also obviously white) out with their battery powered leaf blowers blowing the tear gas back at CBP. The Migras then had to go out to buy their own leaf blowers to deal with their own tear gas.

Made me want to get a leaf blower for the first time in my life. Of course, when one side is using chemical munitions and the other side ripostes with leaf blowers, it's pretty obvious what's going on.

230:

the audience will stop asking who those people really were

It's been noted up here that for some odd reason both the police and violent protestors buy the same boots. Odd coincidence, that.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/undercover-cops-tried-to-incite-violence-in-montebello-union-leader-1.646775

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/01/05/cana-j05.html

(If you look at the dates on those incidents, that's a pattern of using agents provocateurs over more than a decade.)

231:

While it's referred to as the Security Service, its abbreviation is BSS or SyS for obvious reasons.

232:

While I was vaguely aware of this stuff previously, nonetheless I'm finding such revelations intensely depressing. That's not unusual, there are many intensely depressing things to discover, read about and remark upon these days. There are uplifting things too, I suppose, but it seems to require a choice about how you want the world to be, at least in your head.

233:

Same author? That would indeed be interesting. Do you have a URL?

234:

I know this is a bit late for the Rhesus Chart crib sheet questions, but how did Basil plan around foreign in occult intelligence agencies? We saw as early as Jennifer Morgue that there is some communication and coordination between the Laundry and their counterparts in other countries, and if the subject of vampires came up at a meeting and the Laundry representative just says "don't be silly, everyone knows vampires don't exist", it would raise some questions. Did he just hope that the subject wouldn't come up?
I can't remember if this was addressed in the book but the question just suddenly came to me in a severely delayed bout of fridge logic.

235:

Preston Station is quite large, actually. 7 full-length ( i.e. 12-coach ) platforms ...
And, believe me, since it's all on viaduct/embankment, the wind tends to blow through, quite effectively. In the days of steam, it never filled up with smoke, anyway!

SS
The one I remember about Portland was an ex-US Army vet, who went along to see how bad it was - & got smashed over by Trump's unmarked "federal" agents - all on film, too!
"Antifa", yeah ... maybe not.

skulgun
That's unfair - allynh has already said thanks for the view through a different Overton Window.
However - have you a source for that bonkers "No Drinking" sign report? ( As I see Troutwaxer also asks )

236:

Para 3 - "No drinking (alcohol)" in public is a quite common bylaw these days, and the excuse given is usually "public order".

237:

how did Basil plan around foreign

That didn't occur to me.

Most likely, though, Laundry staff based at Dansey House wouldn't even think to mention vampires in a meeting with their opposite numbers, and if the oppos mentioned it they'd dismiss their concerns and then forget the matter. It'd take concerted, prolonged badgering by a foreign intel org to get anywhere, long before which point the FIO in question would probably start thinking "hey, the Brits are so far in denial about vampires that maybe there's something fishy here and they're weaponizing them?" -- At which point the FIO adds two plus two and gets eleventeen and therefore drop the question like a hot potato (while getting extremely paranoid about the Laundry).

Basically, Basil has Renfielded an entire intel organization, and from the outside it is going to look either like the Laundry is working for the vamps, or the vamps are working for the Laundry, and either way that's very bad news and you should quietly back away while reaching for a stake and mallet.

238:

Administrative note wrt. discussion of Portland, Antifa, etc.

1. This is not the right place for it.

2. This blog is anti-fascist. I last updated the moderation policy in 2008, and I've just gone back and made it explicit in clause (3); Nazis and Nazi-apologists on this blog will be banned on sight. I do not provide a platform for people who want folks like me dead. Antifa is, simply, a contraction of "anti-fascist"; by that definition I am Antifa, and the only reason you don't see me on demonstrations/marches is solely that I'm sufficiently old and infirm that it's not practical to do that stuff.

I'd also like to note for other Brits present that white supremacism and racism is a pervasive undercurrent in US society that is oddly difficult for an outsider to identify. It's like trying to identify where the smell of decay is coming from when a rat died in your wall space: it seems to be everywhere, and it's foul. If I catch a whiff of it in my blog comments I will sanitize them, and Allynh is treading perilously close to the line.

239:

> No Drinking" sign report

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/drinking-rules-leave-us-writer-dazed-kx6fl3vlv
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/islamic-england_uk_5b87fde3e4b0cf7b0032f6d5
https://www.businessinsider.com/wall-street-journals-andy-ngo-writes-cowardly-islamic-england-2018-8?op=1

Take your pick.

(Sorry, I'm in the habit of providing multiple sources for the same thing in the vain hope that it passes through the epistemic closure of my Fox-viewing parents' brains, among others)

240:

True, it's not exactly warm and cosy in the winter, and it has a very high roof. On the other hand I believe they've built a bunch of crap around it now so it's more shut in at the side than it used to be. And it could certainly become a stagnant greenhouse like most stations with an overall roof can under the right conditions, ie. not a lot of wind and a gross excess of passengers such as you would naturally get if several full-length trains all tipped out there unscheduledly. Lots of room, but I reckon several full-length trains all tipping out there unexpectedly would still quite easily fill all that room up and it would get like bloody London under those conditions. I'm sure it would then have just as much potential for disease transmission as yer average Trump rally.

Still, I have long held the opinion that it is a bad idea to go to Preston, because every time I go to Preston for anything more than changing trains something horrible and shit happens and makes me wish I hadn't. I see that it would now be a good idea to delete the "changing trains" exclusion and add "catching plague" to the list of potential horrible and shit things.

241:

it seems to require a choice about how you want the world to be, at least in your head

One of my elderly relatives has for decades had a policy of not reading or talking about depressing news, because it's too depressing. They are now being blindsided by the effects of climate change and wondering why no one has done anything and why weren't they warned…

Sometimes reality intrudes whether you want it to or not.

242:

Charlie,

Since I am apparently under attack for pointing out what is commonly available on YouTube -- after all, you guys were saying how great Portland was -- I will spend my time writing. Delete my posts if you want.

The story opened wide up because of the useful comments from the others. I generated a ton of pages after my last post. I don't do "Villain speak" that well. The guys made the story work.

Thanks to all.

BTW, To the question about "Antifa" @228 and @230, here is an interesting lecture. Basically, "Antifa" is not what it says on the label.

Antifa: History and Tactics | Andy Ngo

The important part of the lecture is the audience. They give me remarkable insight into their worldview as well.

Thanks...

243:

Allynh, with all due respect if you're citing noted neo-nazi grifter Andy Ngo as a source for anything, it suggests you're so far down the rabbit hole that you've lost sight of daylight.

244:

Apropos looking at different political viewpoints…

I've recently started getting multiple emails a day from PenceNews*. The latests one has a quote supposedly from Karl Marx: "Democracy is the road to socialism … Socialism leads to communism."

Whether or not the quote is an actual one, it's interesting that the justification for limiting democracy is that it's the slippery slope to communism — so to save capitalism we must sacrifice democracy. Says a lot about what the American right actually values…

*Apparently at least one of the American Robert Priors is a Trumpist Republican who still hasn't realized that his email address isn't just his name at gmail.com, because I now get multiple emails a day from various right-wing sources and congresscritters.

245:

Unless a pseudonym is involved, Michael J. Totten and Andy Ngo are two different people.

246:

Echoes of Senator Hammond's 1858 "Mudsills" speech in there too.

I think what's going on in Trumpistan is that a bunch of right wing history majors are retooling what they learned in school for the service of their current masters. This is an extremely venerable practice, dating back at least to the Hellenistic period, wherein academics wrote paeans proclaiming the divinity of those who ruled them, in part so that their institutions would get funded.

But getting back to the Mudsills and other crap from the Slave Power conflict leading up to the US Civil War. You can get a readable take on that from Dr. Heather Cox Richardsons' books, notably To Make Men Free which is a history of the Republican party. I'm diving into it because I'm fleshing out my earlier notion of a "Lincoln Lived" alt-history by trying to imagine what the US would have looked like if Lincoln had not just avoided assassination, but fully joined the radical wing of the republican party. These were the people who had as a party plank "All Men are created equal," and believed that if it was possible to enslave anyone, it was possible to enslave everyone. Imagine if that ethos had seriously gone up against monied racism in late 19th Century America.

247:

Yeah. Gotta agree with Charlie on allynh.

Note, allynh, that you are close to becoming a victim of the right-wing fear machine's attempts to give you a serious scare. Eventually you will come to believe that voting and acting from the far right is the only way to save yourself. This is basic psychology - grab the victims by the amygdala and don't ever let go - and Andy Ngo is without the slightest doubt one of the practitioners of this black art.

As for the article by Michael J. Totten which you first presented, note that at least two issues of propaganda are present. First, he doesn't mention the history of Oregon's exclusion of Black people - and he's obviously researched Oregon's history. Second, he doesn't mention the right-wing violence - present in Portland at least as often as the left-wing violence - that the Portland police have been carefully and deliberately ignoring for years. (Antifa is there because the facists are there.)

I think Charlie is very much right that you are at risk for going down the rabbit-hole, and you need to find more honest/knowledgeable people for your serious political reading before Ngo's grip on your amygdala solidifies.

248:

Heading back towards the Laundryverse, I'll pitch a couple of my guanomaniacal ideas for non-serious consideration.

One is that magic as "applied mathematics" is missing a bunch of stuff. It's obvious from the first that Laundryverse magic has both analog and symbolic components. I could say digital for symbolic, but since neither physical digits nor numbers are directly involved, I'll go with symbolic magic. The basic difference is that analog magic involves manipulating flows of mana, and modifying characteristics like amplitude, frequency, and possibly phase (is this where gates come from?). Symbolic magic gets instantiated on smartphones and in Enochian verbal procedures. I got really confused, but it's obvious that both components are present. Gates seem to be analog devices, while many soul-related spells seem to be symbolic.

Now, changing gears without a clutch, let's go to the second idea: what to do about liches and other undying sorcerers? In the old AD&D world, of course Lich souls were kept in phylacteries, which is just too antisemitic to use. However, the idea of a box containing mystic writings (which is what a phylactery is) is key to what makes liches so hard to discorporate. So let's change the language. Instead of using a problematic term, let's call the magical documents "Articles of Incorporation." They're part of a process whereby a natural human becomes Incorporated as a being largely of symbolic magic. Their Articles of Incorporation define their existence. They are the source code of the Incorporated Person. Combine this with a regularly updated state vector (the infamous soul jar, but it as easily could be a ledger and a diary), and it's possible to reconstitute such a person by using their source code (Their Articles of Incorporation) and whatever their most recent recorded state vector was to reconstitute them. So long as these two items are protected, they're very hard to get rid of.

Nothing antisemitic about saying that liches and other undead are corporate persons whose existence is bound to the existence of a file of papers somewhere, plus a ledger and diary of transactions...

Here endeth the guanomania.

249:

That's a really interesting idea, though I think making liches into "corporate persons" is a little too obvious. It needs one additional layer of abstraction, so keep the concept but call it something else. Maybe a "Sigilized Backup Persona" or something. You'd have to bring in a bunch of eaters to run the code, so there would be a time limit on the usefulness, which might make for some suspense.

250:

Well, I was trying to find a term that was as obnoxious in its own way as the old use of phylactery. To be fair, I don't think Gygax was any more a raging anti-semite than I am. He was looking for a term that encompassed magical documents in a box, and picked in a way that in retrospect is really problematic.

But the real poke here is some version of "Articles of Incorporation" as the magical document. Probably calling them "Incorporation Codices" is closer to a suitable obfuscation, while still causing anyone in business law to choke on their latte, which is also kind of the point. And which also sticks a petite thumbnail in the eye of anyone who says that "corporations are people, my friend."

251:

THIS is the video I was talking about.
A 53-year old ex-USN veteran, standing quite still, being gratuitously beaten by Trump agents.
Obviously a dangerously provocative "antifa" agent, bent on trouble ( not)

252:

"And which also sticks a petite thumbnail in the eye of anyone who says that "corporations are people, my friend.""

One of my fantasies is a million protesters outside the Supreme Court, all holding signs that say "Corporations Are Not People."

I like "Incorporation Codices."

253:

Bill Arnold @ 197: I recent heard "Our hammer is [X]" where [X] is the class of problems that their company's system is exceptionally well suited for.
(They were not Thor. :-)"

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

254:

Essentially this happened with the Fugitive Slave Act, which meant anyone could point to anyone anywhere and declare that person an "escaped slave." This did more than anything to radicalize the average Northerner against the slaveocracy and slavery. And very quickly. If the average Northern voter (white, male) didn't care particularly about slavery one way or another, he did NOT want slavery expanded, due to wages, etc. The other thing the average Northerner knew about slavery was the 'white slave sex trade', the fancy market, where generations of slaves were whiter than his own daughters, and sold into sexual service. It was the most lucrative of all the slave enterprises.

This average white Northern male voter realized w/o any trouble his own girls could be taken down there and sold if anyone chose to accuse one of being a run away slave. The provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act was the accused could not testify and no one could testify in favor of the accused. And for every accused runaway slave the courts and even judges in some place received 'compensation.'

IOW, They pushed and pushed and pushed the expansion of slavery everywhere, breaking treaties and laws, all in the name of protecting their peculiar institution and its property. They pushed so hard that Abolition become inevitable, once They pushed the nation into the War of the Rebellion.

255:

"They pushed so hard that Abolition become inevitable, once They pushed the nation into the War of the Rebellion."

And they're getting close to that right now. I keep running into people for who pacifism is a way of life, and they don't plan to start the second civil war, but they'd be happier than most imagine to end it with enormous finality.

256:

paws4thot @ 202: Who knows? According to the English Broadcasting Corporation, a foppball game tomorrow is more important than things like Iceland volcanoes, trade deals, climate change, presidential assassinations and resultant unrest...

I'm having trouble processing the Haiti assassination. Haiti hasn't been in the news for years.

It seems like not since Aristide was overthrown the second time; not even for any of the hurricanes that have devastated the Caribbean in the last several years ... and then this sudden assassination & it seems like the unrest has been a long time building, not just an after effect of the assassination.

257:

See Gladstone's _Three Parts Dead_ for magic entangled with law.

I loved the first book, but never got further with the series. Do people recommend the rest of the series?

258:

I keep running into people for who pacifism is a way of life, and they don't plan to start the second civil war, but they'd be happier than most imagine to end it with enormous finality.

Maybe you are not trying to be cryptic, but I read this sentence several times and I still have no idea what you are talking about. Who are these people and what exactly are they hoping for?

259:

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
Yeah, that was the meaning. The interesting bit was that the speaker thought enough of the audience to trust them to know the reference, and they mostly did.


260:

Charlie Stross @ 206:

Portland

Greg, I've been to that part of the USA quite a bit (Pacific north-west). I have in particular traveled between Portland and Seattle multiple times, including: driving, train, and commuter plane.

By far the slowest way between the two cities was the train -- although the second class seats had as much leg room and bum width as first class in a UK intercity service, the buffet car had vegan options for sale along with decent real ale, and the experience was reasonably civilized.

But things are set up in the expectation that you will drive or fly, and if you can't drive, flying beats the train. Even on a 20 seater turboprop it's well under an hour, and even with post-9/11 security theatre, the door-to-door time was under three hours. Driving: about four hours. The train was late (Amtrak is always late, except on the East Coast corridor) and it ended up taking nearly five hours.

Once you get into Portland itself, though, the trams are as good as those in Manchester or Nottingham and they're free inside the city centre, which is something the UK could really do with copying.

OTOH, inter-city rail service in the U.S. could be better. It could serve a lot of smaller communities (I think maybe some kind of hub & spoke system) in a more ecologically friendly way. Many of those communities aren't accessible by air anyway, you have to drive for miles & miles to get to an airport that has even a 20 seat turboprop from a "regional" carrier.

Here in North Carolina, I'd like to see day service (morning & evening) connecting Greensboro with Asheville and Raleigh with Wilmington (with urban light rail/trolleys to take you out to the beaches.)

We used to have those services, and I'm pretty sure the tracks are still there. Freight trains still use them.

I'd like to see the government nationalize the tracks & rebuild them along the lines of the interstate highways; double (or triple/quadruple) tracks all the way & replacing all the grade crossings with overpasses/underpasses. Let the railroad companies use the rails on the same basis trucking companies use the highways, by paying highway use taxes.

I'd also like to see more inter-modal services à la the Eurotunnel (Chunnel?). Amtrak has an Auto Train service between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL, but I'd like to see it expanded to more locations with more terminals. Even if it only ran once a week between D.C. and L.A. it would still be more economically & ecologically friendly that flying & renting a car.

And there really should be hubs in any major U.S. city (more than 1 million population?) and certainly at least one hub in every state.

261:

paws4thot @ 220: Further to this, I found some maps and photos of Preston station quite easily - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preston_railway_station

Google Image Search gives you a lot of them, but I had to use "Preston railway station in Preston, Lancashire, England" for my search term because otherwise more than half of the results are for the station in Preston, Victoria, Australia.

262:

I keep running into people for who pacifism is a way of life, and they don't plan to start the second civil war, but they'd be happier than most imagine to end it with enormous finality. Maybe you are not trying to be cryptic, but I read this sentence several times and I still have no idea what you are talking about. Who are these people and what exactly are they hoping for?

I suspect they would be quite happy if every racist bigot, fascist, and hatemonger would fall screaming into the sky and after a very long passage go to God for reeducation. Or whatever the Rapture is supposed to be.

I'm learning that pacifism properly done can be considerably more powerful than violence. That said, it's a discipline. Having to use it over and over and over and over and over again grinds. And when your opponent's negotiating stance is "give me everything I want or we'll destroy the world fighting," it should be understandable for the pacifists to wish their opponents would just go away permanently and leave the world at peace.

263:

Scott Sanford @ 222:

Portland is a Gibsonian Distopia.[1] Antifa took over the center of town and waged nightly riots trying to torch the Federal Buildings. While BLM mobs marched through the suburbs shouting, "Wake up mother fucker, wake up."

I'm going to suggest you think about the political leanings of the people who tell you those stories. It might be educational to consider what advantages they might hope to gain.

I'm going to suggest reading the whole article before making up your mind. Seems to me what he's against is a criminal political element, and that criminal element exists on both the right AND on the left. Seems like in Portland it has manifested as radical anarchists taking over the Portland protests. The protests ended when the riots began (or more like, the riots began and brought the protests to an end).

"Protests are not riots, and riots are not protests. Protests are constitutionally protected activities vital to any functioning liberal democracy. Riots are violent crimes punishable by imprisonment. Activists, journalists, and politicians alike have a terrible habit of using the terms interchangeably."
"If you read nothing but conservative media, you might think most of the city had degenerated into a war zone. If you read nothing but left-wing analysis and reports, you likely came away with the impression that even most of downtown was doing just fine. Local journalists did a consistently excellent job describing the society-wide effects as well as the what, when, where, how, and why, but right-wing national media magnified the scale of the problem while left-wing national media downplayed it."
264:

Gygax didn't write all the D&D canon; indeed, he kind of buried Dave Arnesen and wossname (the third guy)'s contributions through superior PR. And then it turned into a huge commercial machine by the time AD&D was coming out. I'm not sure who came up with Liches/phylacteries, but I'm pretty sure it was attributed to one of the other TSR staff. (Which is not to say that Gygax wasn't a raving misogynist who systematically drove women out of the early RPG community, and IIRC had some other insalubrious views.)

265:

Heteromeles @ 223: So when someone says "they grew up in Oregon and are moving out of Portland because of Them People" (a paraphrase of the article you cited), Scott's question about their political bias is extremely important, because the default is right wing. Since 2016, the far right has tried to retake Oregon by causing trouble in Portland, and that leads to some creatively biased reporting.

It's also extremely important to look closely at your own political biases & maybe read what he has to say before passing judgment.

"It would make a more dramatic story, I suppose, if I told you that we were driven out or that we fled, but the truth is more prosaic: we had decided to move more than a year earlier because houses are cheaper almost everywhere else in the state. We were so close to downtown that we could see the skyline from our front yard, and we paid a premium for it. We could get more house for less money if we moved. So we slowly spiffed up our home, packed what we wanted to keep, donated what we no longer needed, and put our house on the market."

It's not left or right here. He's lamenting EXTREMISM's effect on Portland.

"Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, left-wing extremists battled it out with right-wing extremists in and around downtown, turning the central business district into a Thunderdome and the city as a whole into a poster child for urban dysfunction."
"And that was before the perfect storm of 2020."
266:

The one I remember about Portland was an ex-US Army vet, who went along to see how bad it was - & got smashed over by Trump's unmarked "federal" agents - all on film, too!

Yes, there was all too much of that sort of thing. It got caught on camera a lot, too.

Inconveniently for the apologists, and raising questions of their strategic competence, the Portland police also tear gassed the mayor, which promises to complicate budget discussions for years to come. I'm not a particular fan of Ted Wheeler but I've never wanted to lob a grenade into his face...

267:

I am admiring your technique, Scott. (I remember the discussions last year.)

268:

Yes, strong rec for the entire series! And everything else Max has written, especially "Empress of Forever" and (co-written with Amal El-Mohar) "This is How you lose the Time War".

269:

Foxessa
That "pushing" you refer to has a current counterpart in this country, where the ultra-Brexshiteers & vultures are similarly pushing for an overthrow of normal government, inside existing laws ( A classic Fascist/utra-right trick if you know about it )
Back-pressure is already building .. BoZo can only "win" if his currently-legal coup continues AND he wins the next election ...
Interesting Times.
And in the USA, where as some have noted: "We have to oppose Democracy to save Capitalism" & the other trope: "We do not live in a Democracy, we live in a Republic" - the latter is particularly scary to an outsider ...


270:

"We do not live in a Democracy, we live in a Republic"

Echoing Madison, who reserved the term "democracy" for Athenian-style direct democracy. By his definition, all Western democracies are actually forms of republic.

Interestingly enough, it appears that other writers of the constitution disagreed with this definition, and asserted that the new country was, indeed, a democracy.

Looking through the top ten hits on Google for "what is the difference between a democracy and a republic", most seem to assert that the main difference is that in a republic there is a written constitution to protect minority rights, while in a democracy the minority has no such protection.

Given that limitation, I guess Canada is a republic, as is Australia. Even Britain qualifies — although its constitution isn't codified into a single document it still has one.

I wonder if the reason for the current popularity of the phrase is the names of the American political parties? Asserting that America is not a democracy but rather a republic also implies that the natural ruling party should be the Republicans rather than the Democrats.

271:

in a republic there is a written constitution to protect minority rights

And is seems to me that a key aspect of the BLM protests is that the written constitution has done and is doing a piss-poor job of protecting the minority from the majority.

272:

Well, as we have so many friends in Haiti, and Haitian friends here, and its a big part of our professional work, both historical and musical of the USA, we have been paying attention all along and getting updates.

Haiti dropped off the map due the utter disaster the international effort made of helping Haiti 'rebuild.' They brought cholera to Haiti, which had never had before, the UN troops raped the women and girls, particularly the very young ones, behaved like occupying barbarians -- which, yes, in Haitian eyes they were. And the billions provided to rebuild the infrastructure was stolen, and the Clintons got their boy Martelly installed, who did a lot of the stealing and let things really go to hell, and refused to leave office, running away to Miami - from where he is now begging Biden to muster the US military and put him back in office.

273:

I'll agree that I needed to read the article more carefully. So I did. And then I reread it, to see if I could get his timeline to be less confused. And I couldn't. What happened when? Hard to tell from the text, which is a real problem.

I'm also bothered by his characterization of the mayor as squishy. As someone who mistakenly voted for Bob Filner (oops) and who watched Kevin Faulconer fuck up the response to a hepatitis outbreak in 2018 AND lose the Chargers to LA, I wish we had Portland's mayor back then. Probably now even. Anyone who thinks mayors weren't in over their heads in general during the pandemic wasn't paying attention. Squishy is being in over your head during a normal year, a la Faulconer.

Second problem: googling "Oregon Black Lives Matter" just to get to the timing and scale of the protests, I find things like this (Nov 2020): https://www.opb.org/article/2020/11/23/portland-protest-racial-justice-oregon-black-lives-matter/.

Turns out the hordes of anarchists I thought were trashing downtown Portland were a few dozen idiots (read the article, which is why I called them idiots). Those anarchists are not antifa, and they're not the Black Lives Matter. Indeed, they were overheard arguing about whether to accept the invitation to join a BLM protest or go smash windows because no one tells them what to do (per the article). A few dozen isn't a huge movement, it's a photogenic nuisance.

So that's my take on my biases. How about yours?

I've got other things to do, sadly, or I'd start diving down the sewer of where the right-wing Oregonian protestors got off to. They were there, now they're not. That's a puzzle in itself.

274:

And is seems to me that a key aspect of the BLM protests is that the written constitution has done and is doing a piss-poor job of protecting the minority from the majority.

well the specific minority the constitution was intended to protect was the rich, after all

275:
While it's referred to as the Security Service, its abbreviation is BSS or SyS for obvious reasons.

Not to me it isn't; they'll always be the SS to me!

I first came into contact with them here: https://www.venues.ox.ac.uk/our-venues/examination-schools/

There was a chap sitting alone at a table during the "milk round". A friend went up to them and asked what sort of job they were offering. They couldn't tell you who they were, nor what the job involved. The guys over at SIS said that at least if you asked them -- persistently -- this time they'd tell you they were calling themselves the "Security Service", which was an improvement on previous years.

I was going to say that most of the secret establishment did not scare me -- excepting the SS. Then I remembered the look I got from Daphne Park ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphne_Park ) glaring at me from high table when I crashed there for lunch (it was close to the Maths Institute).

Given the people she did kill, I probably got away quite lightly. If you want a mental image I suggest Agatha Christie's Miss Marple.

276:

Oh yes, about the SS.

At a meeting in the Home Office (Academia meets British Security) you always got the impression that they regretted the Allies won WW2. And that if it was up to them they'd get out the pliers right now and set to.

GCHQ had some interesting stuff we talked about -- and if my RAs would have signed up to it we might have tried to do a secure ARM chip.

277:

Scott Sanford @ 227:

I'm looking at the way Plato's Cave can be used. That there are many "caves", not just the one as in the parable. That each group is subject to their own unique "shadow play" on the wall.

Certainly. And once you sell an audience on a shadow such as "Antifa took over the center of town and waged nightly riots trying to torch

I will point out that the writer does not appear to accept the bullshit narrative that "Antifa"=="Radical Anarchists". I don't think you should accept it either.

... or attribute to the writer something he didn't write. Far from being some right-wingnut anti-progressive white supremacist, he appears to me to be a "left-libertarian" small 'd' democrat.

He doesn't mention antifa at all except to note that a candidate for mayor who stated "I am antifa" refused to speak out against the violence and managed to lose the 2020 election to a mayor who was only "half as popular as Donald Trump" (who "received a paltry 7.5 percent of the vote" in the downtown district where the riots occurred).

278:

Troutwaxer @ 245: Unless a pseudonym is involved, Michael J. Totten and Andy Ngo are two different people.

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

279:

Here in North Carolina, I'd like to see day service (morning & evening) connecting Greensboro with Asheville and Raleigh with Wilmington (with urban light rail/trolleys to take you out to the beaches.)

We are somewhat headed that way. But slowly. I flew into Greensboro a couple of years ago and then caught the train to Raleigh. But had to spring $30 for the cab ride in Greensboro.

The state owns a non trivial amount of track and right of way due to decisions made 100 years ago or more. But it is a hash of legal status. More importantly passenger rail lines have issues of safety that keep them from running on freight only tracks. Clearances and such. (I was associated with the 11 stop somewhat heavy rail plan around here 20 years ago and much of the crazy final costs were due to the amount of work that would be needed to make freight tracks passenger safe.) (Oh, and things like the NCSU station having a 50+ foot elevation from normal people level to track level and what that would cost to build in ADA terms plus utility relocations.)

As to your other point about the feds taking over the rail lines. Without an incredible amount of eminent domain take overs in the $trillions you can't re-work the US rail system much more than tweaking it. Straightening curves and such chews up a LOT of dirt.

Look at where Capital Blvd (real local windage here) has to narrow down to 4 skinny lanes to go under the CSX overpass. That's a $50+ million cost (maybe double that) just to widen it to allow the car lanes to match the road work just finished. Ain't gonna happen any time soon. And when said overpass is closed it is a 100 mile detour for the railroad which does NOT make them happy.

Our brand spanking new Union Station (designed by a client of mine) was a $60+ million project. Of which 2/3s was dealing with tracking issues.

280:

I wonder if the reason for the current popularity of the phrase is the names of the American political parties? Asserting that America is not a democracy but rather a republic also implies that the natural ruling party should be the Republicans rather than the Democrats.

As best I can figure out from the comments of some of my relatives on FB, it is a way of saying "so what if the President doesn't get a majority of the country to vote for him" and "The Senate is what keeps this country great" and so on.

Engaging said relations never goes very far till the name calling starts.

281:

Bill Arnold @ 259:

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Yeah, that was the meaning. The interesting bit was that the speaker thought enough of the audience to trust them to know the reference, and they mostly did.

For me the interesting bit is the speaker appears to think having a hammer as the only tool in their kit is a good idea.

282:

"I'd like to see the government nationalize the tracks & rebuild them along the lines of the interstate highways; double (or triple/quadruple) tracks all the way & replacing all the grade crossings with overpasses/underpasses. Let the railroad companies use the rails on the same basis trucking companies use the highways, by paying highway use taxes."

That's not too far distant from a description of our current setup, if you screw your eyes up. Except they don't do the bit in bold. They can't even get their act together to put wires up without fucking it up so expensively that they run out of money and then get scared of the whole idea. Instead they do the equivalent of building one interstate highway, with so few intersections you can count them on your fingers, sited so they don't actually intersect with anything and you have to get out of your car and find some other way to go several miles before you get anywhere useful. And they tell us that there isn't an alternative of spending the money on actually useful projects instead, but only one of not spending it at all, for no reason other than pure wankerism and the suitability of a single huge scheme for diverting large amounts of the money into their own pockets, out of a total which seems to grow by another 30 billion every time you look at it; and they justify the idea by (a) appealing to whatever aspect of improving the railways in general sounds most appealing at the time they say it and (b) citing it as the magic bullet for any and all aspects that need specific local improvement, wherever they may be, although the real justification is a matter of how dare France and Germany have something and us not have a shinier one, never mind that it is useful for their geography but not for ours.

283:

Foxessa @ 272: Well, as we have so many friends in Haiti, and Haitian friends here, and its a big part of our professional work, both historical and musical of the USA, we have been paying attention all along and getting updates.

Haiti dropped off the map due the utter disaster the international effort made of helping Haiti 'rebuild.' They brought cholera to Haiti, which had never had before, the UN troops raped the women and girls, particularly the very young ones, behaved like occupying barbarians -- which, yes, in Haitian eyes they were. And the billions provided to rebuild the infrastructure was stolen, and the Clintons got their boy Martelly installed, who did a lot of the stealing and let things really go to hell, and refused to leave office, running away to Miami - from where he is now begging Biden to muster the US military and put him back in office.

Yeah, it's always "the Clintons" fault.


284:

So likening Totten to Ngo is probably not a fair move in this debate.

285:

It needs one additional layer of abstraction, so keep the concept but call it something else. Maybe a "Sigilized Backup Persona" or something.

Some kind of Non-Fungible Token, inexplicably both useless and expensive...

286:

Wrong. What you're saying is indistinguishable from "both-sides-ism".

Seem to miss the white-wing who started one of the fires in Portland, to blame it on the BLM protesters.

And then there's the report that just came out: https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/news-and-ideas/black-lives-matter-protesters-were-overwhelmingly-peaceful-our-research-finds

And then, we *are* talking about Oregon. My Eldest, who lives with her husband in Klamath Falls (and is about to relocate to upstate NY, because she can't take it any more), tells me about the neighbor four doors down, who gardens... wearing a handgun. No, I'm not making this up, this is fact.

287:

Manchester - UK?

Cool... when a late friend of mine gave me it as a birthday present in the seventies, he commented that I was the only person he knew (and by then, he was the systems programmer at Philly Community College) who would actually appreciate it.

Basilisk gun? Perhaps you could send me an encrypted copy of the plans? I *do* live in the DC 'burbs, and there's some folks that need to be frozen....

288:

ROTFLMAO!

But then, you're at "corporations are people", and I have this picture of the corporation's headquarters building humping itself out of the foundations, and along the road.

289:

I bought a "5 mi laser pointer" when I thought a lot of people were going to go to the Capital for the 6th, until the mayor begged everyone to stay away.

I've also run into Kratman (one of the few that the infamous Sanford Patreon article mentioned) in a thread on faceplant started by Eric Flint... and he got to "let the civil war roll". It that happens, my edged weaponry isn't enough, and I will get, say, an M-14, for self defense.

290:

Yes. I'd *really* like to see the US nationalize the main lines, at least, of all the railroads, then charge them, and bring them up to passenger standards.

Remember that until Amtrak was created, *all* the Class-1 (and some smaller) railroads ran passenger trains, and most, other than the (literal) milk runs, they were high speed. (we're talking 90mph up.).

291:

David L @ 279:

Here in North Carolina, I'd like to see day service (morning & evening) connecting Greensboro with Asheville and Raleigh with Wilmington (with urban light rail/trolleys to take you out to the beaches.)

We are somewhat headed that way. But slowly. I flew into Greensboro a couple of years ago and then caught the train to Raleigh. But had to spring $30 for the cab ride in Greensboro.

There are by my count five round-trip services between Greensboro & Charlotte, four between Raleigh and Charlotte. There used to be passenger service from Greensboro to/from Asheville, predating Amtrak. I don't know why it didn't extend east to Durham (and destinations east of Durham).

My father's sister lived in Asheville and she would take the train to Greensboro where we would pick her up when she came to visit. I'm guessing in those days different Railroads served Durham-Greensboro and getting a transfer from one line to another was complicated. I do remember that at least on one occasion she was able to take the train from Durham when she was going back to Asheville, so it might have been about schedules & timetables & such.

After passenger service to/from Asheville was discontinued (some time in the late 50s or early 60s?) she learned to drive & bought a car.

Greensboro still has a nice old vintage station. It integrates both rail & bus service.

I remember when they demolished the old Durham, NC train station to make way for a parking garage, even though by then I had already abandoned Durham for Raleigh. In a way that was why I abandoned Durham. They were tearing down EVERYTHING to make way for parking garages. Plenty of parking but no reason to go downtown when there was nothing but parking.

Looks like the old Durham train station was demolished about the same time passenger service between Raleigh & Wilmington was discontinued (1968).

I've seen the proposed new Amtrak route map that includes Wilmington, but I don't know anything about how I'd get to the beach from there.

292:

For me the interesting bit is the speaker appears to think having a hammer as the only tool in their kit is a good idea.

It's so much simpler that way. You don't have to waste any time thinking before you go to work hitting things…

293:

David L @ 280:

I wonder if the reason for the current popularity of the phrase is the names of the American political parties? Asserting that America is not a democracy but rather a republic also implies that the natural ruling party should be the Republicans rather than the Democrats.

I never thought of it explicitly that way, but there may be something too that.

As best I can figure out from the comments of some of my relatives on FB, it is a way of saying "so what if the President doesn't get a majority of the country to vote for him" and "The Senate is what keeps this country great" and so on.

Yeah, but the correct answer is E: None of the above

The U.S. is neither a democracy nor a republic. It's a hybrid; a Constitutional Federation of nominally representative (more or less) "democratic" states sharing power (and responsibility).

It is a Union built upon multiple levels of "democratic" governance ...where "democratic" means government is ultimately answerable to the people through elections; elections that are not suspended nor postponed due to emergencies, nor overturned by mob action.

294:

Pigeon @ 282:

"I'd like to see the government nationalize the tracks & rebuild them along the lines of the interstate highways; double (or triple/quadruple) tracks all the way & replacing all the grade crossings with overpasses/underpasses. Let the railroad companies use the rails on the same basis trucking companies use the highways, by paying highway use taxes."

That's not too far distant from a description of our current setup, if you screw your eyes up. Except they don't do the bit in bold. They can't even get their act together to put wires up without fucking it up so expensively that they run out of money and then get scared of the whole idea. Instead they do the equivalent of building one interstate highway, with so few intersections you can count them on your fingers, sited so they don't actually intersect with anything and you have to get out of your car and find some other way to go several miles before you get anywhere useful. And they tell us that there isn't an alternative of spending the money on actually useful projects instead, but only one of not spending it at all, for no reason other than pure wankerism and the suitability of a single huge scheme for diverting large amounts of the money into their own pockets, out of a total which seems to grow by another 30 billion every time you look at it; and they justify the idea by (a) appealing to whatever aspect of improving the railways in general sounds most appealing at the time they say it and (b) citing it as the magic bullet for any and all aspects that need specific local improvement, wherever they may be, although the real justification is a matter of how dare France and Germany have something and us not have a shinier one, never mind that it is useful for their geography but not for ours.

Yeah, I screwed that up a bit.

It should actually be double tracks with no grade crossings all the way, with occasional triple/quadruple tracks where needed to alleviate congestion.

Streets & highways have two lanes to allow traffic to flow in both directions simultaneously, and some streets/highways have additional lanes to handle increased traffic. I think a national railroad network should be at least that intelligent.


295:

There's an old Mullah Nasruddin story about how the Mullah was afraid he was going to be robbed on a trip, so he bought a saber and a dagger. When he got to his destination, his friend asked how his trip had been.

"Terrible," he said. "I was robbed!"
"But you had those weapons," his friend noted. "Why didn't you stop him?"
"I was so busy trying to figure out how to hold the saber in one hand and the dagger in the other that I didn't notice the thief picking my pocket," the Mullah replied.

Remember, the "let the civil war roll" crowd failed on January 6th, while the nonviolent organizers now have the ear of the president. Just because you're mesmerized by the theoretical power of violence doesn't mean it's the best or only solution.

296:

whitroth @ 290: Yes. I'd *really* like to see the US nationalize the main lines, at least, of all the railroads, then charge them, and bring them up to passenger standards.

Remember that until Amtrak was created, *all* the Class-1 (and some smaller) railroads ran passenger trains, and most, other than the (literal) milk runs, they were high speed. (we're talking 90mph up.).

I "remember" that Amtrak was conceived as a way to rescue intercity passenger rail service that was being abandoned as unprofitable by the railroad companies. It was intended as an interim measure to allow passenger rail to die quietly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amtrak#Formation

Don't get the cart before the horse.

297:

"Remember, the "let the civil war roll" crowd failed on January 6th, while the nonviolent organizers now have the ear of the president. Just because you're mesmerized by the theoretical power of violence doesn't mean it's the best or only solution."

And it gets worse for the Right from there.

What they don't realize is that it's too damn late. Look at the population numbers for blacks, hispanics, jews, muslims, LGBTQ+ people, Liberal/Progressive whites, etc. Even with overlap they add up to at least 65% of the population and the ammosexual right tends to spend their money on way too many guns and not enough bullets. That's if one insists on assuming a military solution, and as you've noted, that's not necessarily a good idea.

If you don't assume a military solution then the only real problem here is that those groups I listed above don't vote rationally and in numbers equal to their population.

Sigh. I gotta get involved myself. I wish there was a group which (1.) has politics I like and (2.) uses tactics that make sense to me. Unfortunately, charisma is my dump stat, so I'm not going to be organizing that one.

298:

Heteromeles @ 295: There's an old Mullah Nasruddin story about how the Mullah was afraid he was going to be robbed on a trip, so he bought a saber and a dagger. When he got to his destination, his friend asked how his trip had been.

"Terrible," he said. "I was robbed!"
"But you had those weapons," his friend noted. "Why didn't you stop him?"
"I was so busy trying to figure out how to hold the saber in one hand and the dagger in the other that I didn't notice the thief picking my pocket," the Mullah replied.

Remember, the "let the civil war roll" crowd failed on January 6th, while the nonviolent organizers now have the ear of the president. Just because you're mesmerized by the theoretical power of violence doesn't mean it's the best or only solution.

Besides an M-14 is a terrible choice for a personal defense weapon, even if you have the training to use it. The M-14 is designed to kill on the battlefield at ranges 300m and beyond; nothing else.

I think it's stupid to keep any firearms around the home for defense (and I DO have the necessary training - years of it1), but if you're going to do it anyway, the M-14 is the wrong one.

They're all the wrong one, but that's a different argument.

1 ... which is why I think it's stupid.

299:

Hey Charlie, I've got a question for you. It sounds like you're either going to give us an ending in which the original denizens of The Laundry fail, or things are very ambiguous in terms of who won/lost.

What do your editors think about this plan?

300:

They Won. Holy Fuck how are you posting still and not understanding this.

They literally tortured or killed or "vanned" (get in the car... it's like the helicopter, it's a one way trip) or made to suicide everyone else.

That's True: That's how it works.

"They Won": Just not how they thought they'd won.

Your Nervous Systems are like Trees and Quantum Links are like Magnetospheric trails.

"Good Shot Sir"


Turns out:

Arc-Light Protocol is kinda a thing.

301:

Meh, fuck it.

100% Arc-Light Protocol.

"You lick the electic nootropic torture web, whelp, we'll stop your heart / burst your Brain".


What the FUCK do you think you've been doing to Iraqi prisoners, little kids stuck in Homes and so on?

This shit. Right here. Right now.


~~~


In Other Words: there's a shit load of you linked to a system that is just the baby precursor to more sophisticated stuff [YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM IS HACKABLE: BUT ONLY WE CAN BEND THE RULES]


~


You want it "real": we can map your entire neuro-structure then burst it at salient points. Heart, Brain, Groin, etc.

H.S.S: you're basically walking body-bags now. For realz.

302:

You did say you know nothing because of reading / hearing nothing about Haiti for years. . . .

Whereas I, on the other hand, have, and do, and know the history. Make of that what you will but the Clintons are in it up past their eyeballs, particularly while HRC was Sec of State.

303:

whitroth @ 286: "...tells me about the neighbor four doors down, who gardens... wearing a handgun. No, I'm not making this up, this is fact."

Heinlein used to do yardwork wearing a handgun in an external holster. I saw the photo.

304:

I'd wonder whether Was this when he lived in semi-wilderness in Colorado, or did he also garden with a gun when he lived in cities?

Semi-wilderness in Colorado makes at least limited sense. In town? Not nearly so much.

305:

JBS
It was intended as an interim measure to allow passenger rail to die quietly.
Same here ... the railways were privatised & "Railtrack" (shudder) set up, because, in spite of the evidence, it was assumed by the tory right that the railways were in permanent decline ( they were not ) & this was the way to manage that decline, whilst lining our friends' pockets, of course.

Troutwaxer
NOT too late for the fascists - yet - if they can rig the next 2 or 3 half-&-full-term US elections ( Which they are doing, yes? ) then they will have won. This has still got to be stopped. [ Someone twist Mnuchin (Sp?) arm, hard, please? ]

Meanwhile...
I'm vastly relived that England lost the Lumberjacking/Poofball last night ....

306:

They Won. Holy Fuck how are you posting still and not understanding this.

Are we talking about the Italian football team here?

307:

I've been mildly surprised to see the "Top to Top" yacht full of kids on youtube taking casual walks along the shoreline in Norway... carrying a rifle!

And then I remembered that they have bears there. The other sort of bears... the ones who sometimes decide humans are just another prey species.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk0YLiRBMnE

308:

#269 - Particularly when combined with the "want of understanding" that is evidenced when you try to explain that a democracy is a state where the legislature is selected by a voting procedure, a republic is one where the head of state is a non-hereditary (and non-inheritable) post, and hence the Yousay is both a democracy and a republic.

#272 - Thanks for that. My interest is at least partly as a reflection of just how crap the English Broadcasting Corporation "news" has become.

#279 - Perhaps, rather than rebuilding tracksides to "increase clearances", you should look at building passenger rolling stock to a slightly smaller loading gauge? That's how come the UK's APT-E and Pendolinos are slightly narrower than other stock.

#298 - JBS, I've had a variation on this argument, where I assert that a firearm is the wrong weapon for home defence, because most people who are shot "defending their home" are shot with the weapon that the intruder took away from them. Comments?

309:

I've been mildly surprised to see the "Top to Top" yacht full of kids on youtube taking casual walks along the shoreline in Norway... carrying a rifle!

For a moment I was confused, and then I saw that it's Svalbard you're talking about.

Yeah, my understanding is that, outside the settlements, you are pretty much required to carry a rifle in case of polar bear attack. On the other hand, if you do kill one, you can be fined — basically for getting into that situation in the first place.

310:

could have been for snek if they have poisonous ones there, aiui you can get mini shotgun loads for handguns which are quite convenient

311:

JBS @ 263 (quoting Leaving Portland):

Protests are not riots, and riots are not protests. Protests are constitutionally protected activities vital to any functioning liberal democracy. Riots are violent crimes punishable by imprisonment. Activists, journalists, and politicians alike have a terrible habit of using the terms interchangeably."

Would that it were so simple.

Unfortunately there have been many cases where people peaceably assembled to petition the Government for a redress of grievances for years or even decades. Then one day there was a riot. Suddenly their grievances were headline news and the politicians who had been ignoring them as unimportant were being forced to take a position. Executive actions were signed, laws passed, and change finally occurred.

The Stonewall Riots are a case in point; there had been "homophile" political organisations for decades, but they had achieved nothing. Then one night gay people stood up to heavy-handed policing, and the world began to change.

The 1967 Detroit riots are another example, and in my country we had the Brixton riots. Both led to marked change in policing. The police don't much care about peaceful demonstrations, apart from the overtime costs. But everybody remembers the nights they spent standing in a line having petrol bombs hurled at them, and they don't want to do it again. Further up the line a riot is seen as a failure of government; inquiries are held and career-ending conclusions are made. All of this focusses minds in a way that a few thousand people waving banners does not.

This isn't meant to justify or excuse everything that every rioter does. But when the law is merely a cloak for injustice and repression, breaking the law becomes the only option. That is true in Hong Kong, and it is true in many parts of America.

How should the media cover an event where some people are waving banners and others are throwing bricks? There are lots of individuals in the crowd. Some want to protest peacefully. Some believe that it is only by throwing bricks that they can draw attention to their cause, and some are intent on mayhem for its own sake. How is one to summarise this? Are the banners or the bricks the most important thing to lead with? Is it a demonstration with a few rioters, or is it a riot with political banners?

312:

Paws
The classic example from history of a non-democratic republic is ... Venice
Which was a plutocratic oligarchy, IIRC, with the "right people" in charge.

Oh yes, difficult to find, but I have "been told" that when the poofball is on, domestic violence increases markedly & when the "home" team loses, it really spikes. How nice.

313:

Oh der
QUote from the Indy
What science has to say about talking to yourself in lockdown
'Really struggle' Bradley Walsh to undergo surgery as The Chase host talks…

If you’re feeling like a lot going on right now – you’re not alone. In just two days, the Policing Bill passed through the House of Commons, the Elections Bill was introduced, and the home secretary’s Nationality and Borders Bill was published as well. Forty-eight hours is a long time in politics.
The effects won't hit until after BoZo calls a snap election to entrench his fascist friends?
Full link

314:

you can get mini shotgun loads for handguns which are quite convenient

I've fired shot loads out of a handgun[1], patterning them on a standard ply target at about five metres. The spread of shot was atrocious, not surprising since handguns have rifled barrels. The impressive thing was the hole in the middle of the target from the shot capsule which didn't disintegrate much as it exited the barrel.

At any sort of range the spread of shot would mean that the snake or other venomous varmint would probably be unhurt, getting close enough for the shot cone to do serious damage to the varmint means, well, getting close enough for the varmint to deal out serious damage in return.

[1] I got the shot loads when I bought the pistol, about half a dozen or so rounds mixed in with some assorted other ammo.

315:

Semi-wilderness in Colorado makes at least limited sense.

A handgun won't stop a bear. What other critters are that dangerous?

316:

where the right-wing Oregonian protestors got off to. They were there, now they're not.

I've driven around Oregon. By US state standards it's small: drive 500km east and you're in Idaho, but frankly, for all but the first 200km you might as well already be in Idaho in terms of culture and politics.

I am about 90% certain that the right-wing protestors in Portland -- and a good chunk of the supposed "antifa rioters" -- were white supremacists from the back country who'd driven for a couple of hours, max, to get to the evil, corrupt, degenerate sin-hole of Democrat-voting Portland with the goal of showing everyone how bad things were in a city run by hippie scum. (To paraphrase how they think.)

It's like Scotland, where we get occasional demonstrations by the "Scottish Defence League", a counterpart to the English Defence League (ie. neofascist head-bangers), who mysteriously always turn up aboard coaches with English number plates that were rented for the day, and who wave English flags (Cross of St George) rather than Scottish flags (the Saltire).

317:

(Pigeon is talking about the British railway network here.)

Instead they do the equivalent of building one interstate highway, with so few intersections you can count them on your fingers

Just look at the Scottish motorway network.

Granted, the population of Scotland is low enough that we don't need many huge motorways -- but the general standard for Scottish motorways is that they're two lanes wide plus hard shoulder (in each direction) rather than the three lanes plus hard shoulder in England (widening to five lanes using "smart motorway" controls in some very congested stretches).

Upshot is, we get uphill stretches where everything slows right down whenever one HGV decides to overtake another that's crawling.

Underprovisioning of capacity is always a problem -- saves money initially but costs hugely more in delays during operation, and vastly expensive to put right later.

(Which is why I actually think they got the plans for HS2 almost right; the only mistake they made was in starting construction in London and working north, whereas it'll get done better and faster if they'd started in the north and worked south towards the capital.)

318:

"I am about 90% certain that the right-wing protestors in Portland -- and a good chunk of the supposed "antifa rioters" -- were white supremacists from the back country who'd driven for a couple of hours, max, to get to the evil, corrupt, degenerate sin-hole of Democrat-voting Portland..."

That's how I read the situation.

319:

What do your editors think about this plan?

They don't get a say.

:-)

(Longer answer: I'm not going to ask them until I'm ready to write the book(s), which won't be for some time. And when I do ask them, I'll be polling for marketability, not for "is this any good"? Remember, an editors job is to run publishing workflow and ensure that they commission and produce titles that are overall going to sell. Putting the capstone on an existing successful series is always going to sell, unless the series is already dying, in which case they won't buy the book inthe first place.)

320:

Interesting. Thanks.

321:

Why should they and/or your publishers actually care as long as we keep buying the books? (And I think I've got the complete set)

322:

How should the media cover an event where some people are waving banners and others are throwing bricks?

Not about shouldactually covers those situations.

Back when Mike Harris was the populist neocon premier of Ontario there were lots of coordinated protests against funding cuts. (Note: these cuts weren't really about saving money — the government was quite happy to spend $25 million to save half a million if the right program was targeted**.)

At one protest there was no violence, just thousands of peaceful protesters with flags and chants, some pushing strollers. Global TV reported that clearly the protesters weren't serious as this was just an excuse for a day out with the family. The next day (literally) there was a small episode of violence — a car drove into a picket line of protesters and one of them hit the hood of the car with their sign as they were about to be run over — and global TV reported that this this violence*** proved that the protesters were just out for trouble and should be suppressed for public safety.

Same station used aerial clips taken five hours after a protest was over to "prove" that the protest leaders had exaggerated the numbers present.

There was also an episode where one of the premier's aides went out to 'talk to' the protesters, approached them in front of a TV camera (Global), and threw himself back into the bushes claiming they had pushed him. Another TV camera to the side clearly showed that they didn't approach him, he threw himself, yet Global kept running the clip showing the 'assault' and the aide talking about it without acknowledging that it was fake.

*For Canadian standards of right-wing, so quite a bit to the left of Fox.

**This specific example is from the program that researched water pollution.

***Hitting the vehicle with a sign, not driving a car into a crowd of people.

323:

As I said. Daily rail rides across the state are slowly coming back. The state (with fed money tossed in) is gradually increasing service. But it take buckets and buckets of money. For just minor improvements. When last I looked into the money, things like putting a crossing gate where a road crossed the tracks to allow a faster passage at that point costs about $1.5 mil. And that would only knock a few minutes off of that stretch. And there are dozens of such things across the state where routes could be made faster but each minute of time decrease can cost a $1mil or more.

And all of this came to a screeching stop March 2020. And will slowly have to resume again as riders return.

324:

Perhaps, rather than rebuilding tracksides to "increase clearances", you should look at building passenger rolling stock to a slightly smaller loading gauge?

Unless I'm misunderstanding your point, that would decrease freight capacity of the route. And that would be a non starter. The freight lines along the middle Atlantic coast would love to go back 150 years and pick better and wider routes. But that also isn't going to happen.

We have several choke points through Raleigh where there's only 1 track and any down time results in 100 miles or more of detour. Not to mention lots of dead end deliveries.

That rail project I mentioned up thread started out as a $250mil max 11 stop rail system between the local population centers. Many local politicians wanted to look at things like Portland and Seattle have. A mix of light rail and rubber tired trams down streets and dedicated rights of ways. But the PTB seemed to want to run a railroad and the only way to do that was to share the track with the local freight lines. After spending $50+ mill on planning, designs, and eminent domain purchases the price had grown to $750mil and the project was killed. Most of the extra costs were due to trying to use freight tracking as a way to SAVE money.

A similar thing happened just a few years ago with a similar system proposed to connect Chapel Hill and Durham. It WAS to be a light rail setup. But then at the last minute before serious work was to start Duke University/Medical Center pulled out due to concerns about the rail electricity power interfering with their MIR and similar as the line passed next to those facilities. And without the Duke stop(s) the entire thing no longer made sense. Another $50mil (I think) gone.

People are still wondering how Duke was on board for years then this suddenly became an issue. Either it's a faux issue to cover up something else or some at Duke were seriously out of the loop till the last minute.

325:

I have "been told" that when the poofball is on, domestic violence increases markedly & when the "home" team loses, it really spikes.

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/07/09/domestic-violence-surges-after-a-football-match-ends

More academically:

"Controlling for the pre-game point spread and the size of the local viewing audience, we find that upset losses (defeats when the home team was predicted to win by 4 or more points) lead to a 10 percent increase in the rate of at-home violence by men against their wives and girlfriends. In contrast, losses when the game was expected to be close have small and insignificant effects. Upset wins (when the home team was predicted to lose) also have little impact on violence, consistent with asymmetry in the gain-loss utility function. The rise in violence after an upset loss is concentrated in a narrow time window near the end of the game, and is larger for more important games. "

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712874/


Restricted access, but looks relevant:

"The study found two statistically significant trends. First, a match day trend showed the risk of domestic abuse rose by 26 percent when the English national team won or drew, and a 38 percent increase when the national team lost. Second, a tournament trend was apparent, as reported domestic abuse incidents increased in frequency with each new tournament."

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022427813494843

More detailed description here:
https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/england-football-alcohol-domestic-violence/


More recent paper here that apparently contradicts some of the first one (about expected outcomes):

"We study the role of alcohol and emotions in explaining the dynamics in domestic abuse following major football games. We match confidential and uniquely detailed individual call data from Greater Manchester with the timing of football matches over a period of eight years to estimate the effect on domestic abuse. We first observe a 5% decrease in incidents during the 2-hour duration of the game suggesting a substitution effect of football and domestic abuse. However, following the initial decrease, after the game, domestic abuse starts increasing and peaks about ten hours after the game, leading to a positive cumulative effect. We find that all increases are driven by perpetrators that had consumed alcohol, and when games were played before 7pm. Unexpected game results are not found to have a significant effect."

https://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1781.pdf

This one separates out female and male perpetrators. What I don't notice it doing is looking at relative size/strength. As most men are bigger/stronger than most women they are more likely to be able to 'get away' with violence — any teacher will tell you little kids generally don't bully bigger ones — so not certain if the difference is actually gender-linked or if that is a proxy for the ability ot hit without immediate retaliation.

326:

Back to 179 and dosing Nixon:

Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane was a classmate of Nixon's daughter Tricia, and so was invited (under her birth name, Grace Wing) to a school reunion at the White House.

Slick says she planned to bring Abbie Hoffman as her date and spike the punch but unfortunately :-( the Secret Service realized who she was ...

327:

""Public Transport's what we dread" she said to me.
But we can end it if you take it logically.
There must be fifty ways to kill a project!"

328:

People are still wondering how Duke was on board for years then this suddenly became an issue. Either it's a faux issue to cover up something else or some at Duke were seriously out of the loop till the last minute.

Having seen how often Facilities makes decisions without actually consulting users, I'd bet on out of the loop. And if people were consulted it was probably management not technical staff.

329:

Paws: look at building passenger rolling stock to a slightly smaller loading gauge? That's how come the UK's APT-E and Pendolinos are slightly narrower than other stock.

If you've ridden Pendolinos or Voyagers you would know that the narrower loading gauge (due to tilt) makes them less than comfortable because it translates to narrower seats/seat pitch.

While the UK track gauge is just about okay, the loading gauge is narrow by modern standards -- both for freight and for pax. Trouble is, widening it requires widening lots of tunnels, which with only two (or even one) tracks in situ requires lengthy closures while the work takes place.

330:

Re: Oregon right wingers...

That's not quite what I meant. Early on in the Trump era, right wing "protesters" descended on Portland, as they descended on Berkeley, to beat upon the defenseless heads of liberal snowflakes. In both cases, they got various body parts handed to them. Given how many martial arts schools there are in Berkeley at least, this should have surprised exactly no one, but the right wingers took that defeat hard.

But we're talking about Portland, where a bunch of right wingers got embarrassed and...disappeared? Yeah right. Where did they go?

In Portland, there's an apparently small group of "anarchists" who are going around vandalizing stuff. And then Faux, Onan, and other right wing networks amplify this to say that the antifa are destroying America, and people like allynh get their amygdalas twirled up into a tizzy and write problematic things about left-wing activists and get all in their feelings when challenged on it.

Without getting into the liberal/antifa/black bloc/anarchist/agent provocateur spectrum, I'm still wondering who right now the Portland anarchists are. I'll admit that it's entirely possible, if there are a few dozen of them, that they're actual True Believer anarchists. It's also entirely possible that they're right wing trouble stirrers. It's even possible that they're both, depending on who's paying or what phase the moon is in.

This is something at least half the people reading this are saying "well, duh," but allynh's useful example shows that other readers don't get this. And they should. Displaying the symbols of anarchy while breaking windows doesn't make it an organized antifa action. It just means that a vandal was displaying anarchist symbols when they were photographed. It says nothing about their motives, affiliation, or even why they happened to be photographed just then.

331:

here was a small episode of violence — a car drove into a picket line of protesters and one of them hit the hood of the car with their sign as they were about to be run over — and global TV reported that this this violence*** proved that the protesters were just out for trouble

Interesting that they focussed on the protestor with the sign as the violent person, not the driver (who should have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon).

332:

Protests vs.Riots.

Here in Raleigh last year we had two waves of such.

Protesters were loud, noisy, and broke a few windows. But mostly went home when it got dark or the curfew time approached. Then the rioters came out and tried to break into stores and loot, trash some cars, and in general create mayhem.

The protesters, POLICE, city government, and business owners I know who PARTICIPATED in the protests (after boarding up their buildings) all agree on these descriptions.

Then there were/are some who called them all rioters and said all should be tossed in jail. Guess the politics of this group?

333:

I'm still wondering who right now the Portland anarchists are

I will note that the UK's noteworthy 1970s Trotskyite group, the Revolutionary Communist Party, mutated into the Academy (formerly Institute) of Ideas, led by rightwing peer Baroness Fox, who stood in euro-elections as a Brexit Party candidate, i.e. to the right of the Conservatives. Other affiliated goons include the odious homophobe and racism-apologist Brendan O'Neill, and Munira Mirza, director of Boris Johnson's Number 10 Policy Unit. The group appears to be a major part of the Koch funded right wing network in the UK.

So: communist accelerationists, or a hard right ideologically-driven false flag operation? Why not both?

334:

Actually, a big-enough handgun can stop a bear. In Grizzly/Polar Bear country, big enough means .357 or larger. And it's a good idea to actually practice with one of these guns if you're going to carry it, because the recoil can be rather painful, and accuracy is quite important when using it against a bear.

Getting into the bigger question of handgun defense of the home, AFAIK the problem is not that some thug will walk up and take away the gun you're pointing at them. It's worse than that. In the US at least, the most likely negative outcomes for owning a gun are:

--You shoot yourself, accidentally
--You shoot yourself deliberately
--You shoot a family member or a pet (accidentally or deliberately)
--One of your family members shoots themselves or another family member, accidentally or deliberately
--Your gun gets stolen
--You use it to run amok during a psychotic break or similar.

I don't have hard numbers, but I suspect that using a gun in defense of a home happens less frequently than do the outcomes on this list collectively. Crimes are relatively rare, and being able to stop a crime with a gun is rarer still. Kids getting shot while playing with family guns are at least as common, if not more so. Add those to suicides, and justifying a gun in the house gets harder.

Note that I'm not particularly anti-gun. I just believe in numbers more. I'd also point out that being able to actually use your gun isn't cheap, since you have to regularly blow through ammo on the range to stay in practice, especially with a pistol. Having a gun lying around just in case gets back to that Mullah Nasruddin story I posted yesterday.

335:

#324 Para 2 - If you're claiming that the width of passenger stock decreases the capacity of the way to carry freight stock, you're not just misunderstanding me, but also wrong unless the total frequency of movements is more than the route can handle.

#325 - Wrong sport; There's a low probability of the combined score, never mind the score difference, in a soccer game reaching 4 points. Or did you actually mean USian handegg?

#329 - Maybe I'm slimmer than you then? I find the Pendolino adequately comfortable.

336:

I'd also point out that being able to actually use your gun isn't cheap, since you have to regularly blow through ammo on the range to stay in practice, especially with a pistol.

And as most people who train regularly to kill people will attest; shooting at paper target by appointment is not quite the same as a firefight in your living room at 3 am when you were sound asleep 1 minute earlier.

337:

That's not unusual. IIRC, some of the most ardent neo-cons under the Bush II administration started as communists in college some decades earlier. Heck, that kind of happened in the former USSR en masse.

Also, libertarian anarchism is a thing, starting with "government isn't the solution to problems, government is the problem." This fits well into the notion that the US is a three-system society: capitalism for the poor and working class, socialism for the middle and upper classes, and anarchism for the super-rich. Many people, especially on the right, aspire to the values of the super-wealthy. They are also quite rightly skeptical about what government does for them, especially in more corrupted states and municipalities that cater to the super-wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

338:

Displaying the symbols of anarchy while breaking windows doesn't make it an organized antifa action.

If you remember the campaign for Women's Suffrage, it wasn't unheard of for a (male) thief to scrawl "Votes for Women!" on the wall beside the broken shop window where they'd just nicked something.

339:

#325 - Wrong sport; There's a low probability of the combined score, never mind the score difference, in a soccer game reaching 4 points. Or did you actually mean USian handegg?

Some of those articles were about English football, some American. The results seem to be the same — losing when you expect to win is bad for the weaker members of a fan's household.

340:

> mhari .. pronounced

i grew up around untold herds of variations on this theme .. moy-ra, mwirrah, may-ree, may-wah, 'n' stuff.

i tend to subvoc muh-harry, alike to something south-asian, but then glitch over to thinking it's perhaps meant to be more of a moy-ree thing.

341:

some of the most ardent neo-cons under the Bush II administration started as communists in college some decades earlier

In many cases the ardency of belief is more important to the individual than what they actually believe in. Road to Damascus conversions are a lot more common than most people realize.

Altemeyer gets into that a bit in his definitions of right-wing and left-wing authoritarians — his right/left split is between status quo and change, not economic philosophies.

342:

Para 1 - Really!? An 0.357" Magnum is more powerful than a Webley 0.38" or a Colt Model 1911 I think.

Paras 2 and 3 - Agreed about the bulleted list. However, that was not my point. My point was that "most people" are not actually sufficiently sociopathic to shoot a home invader, but believe that they are, right up until they are actually confronted with an actual person rather than a paper target in a striped jersey!

343:

If you're claiming that the width of passenger stock decreases the capacity of the way to carry freight stock, you're not just misunderstanding me, but also wrong unless the total frequency of movements is more than the route can handle.

I've somewhat lost how your replies address my point. In the US there are separation rules for tracking when freight trains can be on the next track over and they pass each other. Slightly smaller gauge passenger trains are not enough to create the required separation for track already laid down with freight only in mind.

344:

Slick says she planned to bring Abbie Hoffman as her date and spike the punch but unfortunately :-( the Secret Service realized who she was ...

When Cokie Roberts got married, Pres LBJ and a pile of secret service attended the reception. Her father was Hale Boggs an influential Congressman at the time. She was waiting for it to all blow up as some/many of the friends of the groom were draft dodgers and leaders of various anti-Viet Nam war groups.

The event went off peacefully.

345:

Well, at that rate you've clearly not expressed yourself very well because I thought you were talking about clearances, which are distances between stock and trackside furniture. Now you seem to be actually talking about the dynamic gauge of a piece of stock.

346:

All the local articles referred to it as clearances between tracks/trains.

Separated by a common language.

347:

"Magnum" refers to an extra large power load which means a faster moving and/or heavier bullet.

And to be honest if I'm carrying for bear protection I might be interested in expanding bullets to boot.

348:

On bears:

The most common type of bear in the US is the American Black Bear (who despite the name, aren't all black) and they're about the size of a large man - males average 250 pounds or so, females slightly smaller.

Grizzlies and Polar bears are ENORMOUS, but they're uncommon. So if you need to stop a bear, most normal handguns will do the trick, most of the time, just as they would for a human.

You're vastly more likely to hurt yourself or another human than to need it in case of bear attack.

I say this as someone who owns a bunch of guns AND has bears pass through his yard on the regular.

349:

Heteromeles @ 334: In the US at least, the most likely negative outcomes for owning a gun are: ...

That is an interesting suggestion. I've posted a question over on the Politics Stack Exchange site. We'll see if anyone has any numbers.

350:

if you need to stop a bear, most normal handguns will do the trick, most of the time

When my brother-in-law was doing fieldwork in the Rockies, they carried long arms for bears, not handguns.

351:

Yep.

We have bears go through town twice a year. Black bears. Raleigh is in their path between winter and summer habitats. And since I live very close to the green way system here, they get spotted a few blocks from me. Just 2 or 3 weeks ago one was walking through back yards down the street.

Which rattles a lot of folks since we are what was once exclusively suburbs but now have an urban center just a few blocks from here also. 20 story buildings don't scare them. But they really like the green way that lets them go from one side of the city to the other with water all along the way. Our green ways are mostly sited along creeks.

The local experts say to just stay away. Go inside if you see one. They are really not interested in the people unless you leave a picnic out for them. At times they go after the seeds in bird feeders.

I guess it will make the news big time if they are noticed using one of the pedestrian bridges that cross our 6 lane highways.

352:

Re organizations - have you looked at the DSA? Their tactics, for the last five or six years, have included getting people elected.

353:

Did he do that *regularly*, or just for the pic? And where was he living at the time?

Oh, and when was this - the fifties? sixties? seventies?

354:

Charlie
Why not both? Indeed, that is exactly how the 1975 EU referendum played out.
On alternate days, there were nutters outside my local station, from the BNP (fascist) & Trot/communist parties.
Fun could be had by referring to whichever the "other" lot were on any day & telling them that: "Your friends were here yesterday!" and watching the foaming take place ....
... following on to "H" ...
Colour me unsurprised - the switching in both directions between Communism & Roman Catholicism is a fairly well-known phenomenon. As in "Which murderous lying philospohy are you grovelling to this week?" - see also Rbt Prior.

355:

When Amtrak was formed - the previous 20 years, esp. with the development of the Interstate system, trucks were taking a *lot* of freight from the railroads, and cars were taking it from the passenger lines.

And, as I've noted before, in the US, passenger travel was often a loss leader for the freight. With freight going down, they wanted to cut the loss.

Since about 2000 or 2005, rail traffic in the US has gone up, a *lot*. But, of course, the railroads, leasing lines to Amtrak, don't seem to understand how they're viewed (giving passenger train traffic priority would be *great* publicity, but nope).

356:

Re rct JBS*, if I feel that I'm forced to buy a firearm, it's *not* for "home defense", it's to get together with neighbors to defend ourselves against invdaing fascists in vehicles. (You may not have heard the white wing idiot saying, after the elections, during the vote counting, that the fascists should "surround Philly, and intimidate them". Yes, they are that stoooopid.)

357:

"peaceably assumble", "then there's a riot". "Riots" start, from my reading or presence, when either there's a triggering event (like someone attacked by the cops, and people are standing around, and do something), or when the cops attack peaceful protestors.

They don't just "happen".

359:

Even I know the old saying: "The riot didn't start until the cops showed up!"

360:

There are weapons called "snake guns". The one I saw had a short barrel, but I don't remember if it was one handed or two. It *may* have used some sort of shot.

My late wife, who was horrified, and I were quite pleased to note that this does *not* shoot through two walls in an immobile home, though it does damage the picture and frame it went through, leaving perhaps a 3-4cm hole.

(Her ex had not only left it in the cedar chest, which she was going through, but the moron had left it loaded.)

361:

Wolves, maybe, coyote, puma, snakes... I mean, it's not Australia, but....

362:

Underprovisioning - as I learned from the sr. systems and network guy, a buddy of mine, in the late nineties, you do not plan for average, you plan for max.

Most managers, however....

363:

Oh. That's not quite all that I'm looking for in an editor. Maybe it's that I'm only recently writing, but I want them to criticize, and tell me how to make it better.

Walt sure did for 11,000 Years (though I *wish* I'd edited the very first page more....)

364:

$1.5M for a crossing gate? Are they buying a new shovel and crane for each one? That *ought* to be bring a MOW (maintenance of way) train out, shovel on one, dig holes, plunk in cement with fittings, come back a few months later, after the concrete's set, plunk in the crossbucks and light, and leave.

365:

And we're all using DOS computers.

Signaling. Siting. Permitting. Signaling. Power. Road changes if needed.

Come one. It's not 1895.

Train tracks are not 2 steel rails nailed to some logs sitting on some rocks. And haven't been for a very long time.

366:

Well, then it's perfectly clear that, as a matter of public safety, sportsball games should not be broadcast.

Or perhaps only in sportsball auditoriums, where there is adequate policing.

367:

Yeah, the Secret Service were serious spoilsports....

368:

To expand a bit. Most rail lines in areas like North Carolina travel through suburbs and small towns. The burbs were not there when the RRs first appeared. And the towns were smaller. And so what if a train that made 30 stops stayed under 40mph most of the time. But now to be a train that crosses the state with 4 to 10 stops they want to go faster. And the system was not set up that way. So they have to upgrade crossings, signaling, track maintenance, etc... All kinds of things. What was an X RR sign for 60 years means that the train has to go slow. To go faster they have to change the crossing to gates, signals, and other things. It all costs money. Some not so much. Some a lot. And each project only cuts minutes off. Not hours.

369:

And how much would it have cost to retrofit a Faraday cage?

370:

Wolves, maybe, coyote, puma, snakes...

All of which are well-known for attacking gardeners…

Now, if the neighbours had badly-trained dogs allowed to run free, then a gun might make sense.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180228112528.htm

Puma kill one person every 5-10 years. Bears 1-2 a year (mostly in national parks). Snakes 10-15, cows 20, dogs 30, insects 100, deer 200*…

https://www.businessinsider.com/deadliest-animals-us-dont-include-sharks-crocodiles-dogs-cows-2019-8?op=1


*OK, by getting hit with cars, not actually attacking people. But I find it interesting that the death toll from deer is an order of magnitude higher than other animals that people are more scared of.

371:

I think it's more than the sportsball. I suspect there's heavy drinking involved as well.

372:

Stop being ridiculous. You do the wiring, no, a lot of the wiring's already there, you add a control box (come on, that costs more than a high-powered server? I'd guess

373:

I agree. The only reason I can see, in the last, say, 30 years for gardening with a handgun is if your neighbor is a psycho, or has a dangerous dog that he lets out.
'
Oh, that's right, for folks in the exurbs, there is the danger of dog packs, from the assholes "Ah live in th' country, Ah can let mah dog out to run."

374:

Interesting that they focussed on the protestor with the sign as the violent person, not the driver (who should have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon).

That's right-wing for you, eh?

During the same time period, when I was picketing at a school, I got told off by an old British chap* because I was apparently ungrateful for what the veterans had fought for in WWII, and people like me should be put in a camp where we wouldn't inconvenience decent people (like, presumably, him).

He was old enough that he might have fought in the war. Seemed a little unclear on the reasons behind it, but they do say everyone fights for their own reasons, so maybe his were King, Country, and the right not to be delayed 30 seconds before registering for a free activity…


*No idea where in Britain he came from, my ear for accents isn't that good.

375:

that costs more than a high-powered server?

Likely does. Hostile environment (temperature, vibration, power spikes…), serious need for redundancy and failsafe modes, costs of service disruptions during construction, requirements for inspections and certifications after construction finished, insurance… it all adds up.

376:

Why carry a gun when you can use the hoe or a rake you're working with? Or a machete, for that matter?

Actually, for Heinlein, he might deserve a pass. Presumably he was trying to figure out what it felt like to be a dashing and heavily armed protagonist, for his next blockbuster. Or maybe he wanted to impress his fans about observing proper social distancing? Yes, I'm being sarcastic. Most of us mere modern mortals would have a little hassle with the local SWAT team if we pulled a gun-RAH gardener routine. Besides which, we've got cosplay to work out these issues with, and RAH did not.

377:

Troutwaxer
The riot didn't start until the cops showed up!
This exactly happened here, at the end of the vigil for Sarah Everard ... the entirely peacful demo was winding down - a couple of people were making speeches, when a group of male cops invaded an all-female demonstration, yeah, really, here.
Didn't go down well, especially as The Duchess of Cambridge had attended earlier - which should have been a "hands-off" signal to stupid plod, but wasn't.

whitroth
There are differences ...
In Cardiff, when there's a Rugby International, there are usually about 120 extra plod, mainly for crowd direction & to sweep up the hopelessly-pissed afterwards & dump them somewhere ( NOT the jail ) to sober up/find a way home ... They have been known to manage with 80 extra.
When "Wembley" was closed for rebuilding & they had ponceball matches ... all police leave in the whole of Wales was cancelled ....

378:

Oh my god with the guns for bears nonsense! Why do so many people fantasize that you need a damn gun to protect yourself from bears?*

I worked in the Northern BC and Alberta backcountry for over a decade. I have encountered, without exaggeration, hundreds upon hundreds of bears. One day I saw 13 bears including about 5 cubs. I have seen Grizzlies, Brown, Black and Kermodes of all sizes.

I have been surprised by bears countless times, I have listened to bears rummaging outside my tent. I have had a bear run past me - close enough to touch- to grab a bag from the pile of stores behind me.**

Now I live in a community that has bears as a common neighbourhood occurrence, along with coyotes, raccoons and occasional cougars.*** I've come out my front door rushing to work and surprised a bear standing beside my car in the driveway (he ran off, I went back inside for another cup of coffee).

People who do not live around bears have a fantasy of a vicious, snarling predator that will kill you. That is so vanishingly rare and unlikely that it hardly bears discussion.

The right weapon to deter a bear is a can of mace, and possibly an air horn. The other thing to do is not be a damn moron with your food and behaviour while in bear country.

You don't need a particular type of gun, or ammunition or whatever. You need to keep your distance from bears, know what to do when you encounter a bear, and make damn sure you don't endanger the bears by being stupid with food or garbage.

That's it, the rest is just more ammosexual wanking about their fancy bang sticks.

* I exclude polar bears from this rant, because they are obligate carnivores and I have no experience with them.

** Poor bear took the bag into the bushes and tore it open. No food but a can of mosquito repellent, which he bit into, receiving a mouthful of pressurized Deet. Hopefully that put him off humans and human stuff forever.

*** Cougars are a concern for small children, but they are also so rare and smart that I have never actually seen one - though I'm sure many have seen me.

379:

A friend of mine, who for the record is a Trotskyist, looked into this and her conclusion was that it was untrue and based on the sort of association of attending non-Trotskyist groups, or at Trotstkyist groups sometimes for as little as one meeting. She does not address more recent developments such as wherever Sp!ked Magazine came from.

https://indefenseoftoucans.gitlab.io/2021/02/01/trotneocon.html

380:
I guess it will make the news big time if they are noticed using one of the pedestrian bridges that cross our 6 lane highways.

Or when they dress up in trench coats and hats and pass themselves off as human in low light conditions. Maybe after bears discover fire?

381:

I was being serious.

Some of our green way trails cross the major roads with these bridges. And the bears around here mostly follow the green ways. But likely would not cross the bridges during the day or early evening.

As Rocketpjs noticed. In general they don't want to interact with people. Unless the food smell is just plain great and they are hungry.

382:

#346 - Or by journalistic misreporting. Now whether that's a "don't care" or a "don't know" thing...

#347 - Well, my understanding was that a Magnum handgun had a large, stronger cylinder/chamber (as applicable) to accommodate the more powerful load.

#354 - This is where it shows that I (and Charlie) are younger than you. We won't have been at the polling stations for that one to know which loonies (if any) were there as polling agents.

#360, #361 - Australia; spider guns? ;-)

#372 - Go and watch Unstoppable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unstoppable_(2010_film) When doing so, pay close attention to the mimic board that forms a background to most of the yardmaster - FRA inspector scenes. Every time you install or modify a crossing, that board has to be modified. Starting to see where the costs come from now, given that it's driven by safety critical software? (sources various, but include programmers, drivers, conductors (UK guards Greg) and a yardmaster)
#375 - Yeah, all that too.

#378 - The only "Kermode" I know is a professional chef. He's not dangerous, unless you serve him undercooked meat!

384:

You do the wiring, no, a lot of the wiring's already there, you add a control box

If we're talking about level crossings, you need to tie the control box into the track signaling circuit. You need feedback from the crossing to the control room so that dispatchers know its state and can warn approaching trains to hold short if it's open. You need the motorized barriers, you need CCTV to monitor the state of the barriers (and provide a recording in event of an insurance claim due to an accident), and you need regular maintenance.

I can easily see a properly-implemented level crossing costing north of a million to build -- and a regular supplement in inspection and maintenance costs.

What did you think it was, a couple of farm gates?

Also remember that for running at speeds over 78mph, railways need in-cab signaling, which these days means trackside radio-frequency comms and (again) feedback so that dispatchers know if they've got two trains running towards each other, or one train running at speed towards another that's parked up. (Track circuits are all very well but they can fail due to icing/flooding/damage.)

385:

I'm pretty sure the most dangerous thing you are likely to encounter in most bear country is the weather.

Been walking in a couple of places that theoretically had them but no encounters.

The big white ones are a different matter, but the number of people who have to worry about them are just a rounding error.

386:

Re "people who do not live around bears have fantasies that bears will kill you...."

Please! We're Americans! We have people stuooooopid enough to want to take a selfie with a bison.

*sigh*

387:

#382 The Kermode Bear.

[[ html fix - mod ]]

388:

"Cover Junior's face with honey so we can get a picture of the bear licking it off!"

389:

When I said "costs more", I was thinking of the trackside control box, and I still don't think that would cost more than a high-power server. The wiring for wiring it into the traffic control system has to already be there - not ever crossing is a grade crossing, and so the wiring necessary must already be in place.[1]

Adding to what the dispatchers see: that's what I was saying about that should be just data. It should *NOT* require developers writing new code/redoing the whole thing.

All the at-crossing stuff is what I was saying about plunking in the concrete, and control fittings.

Basically, most of the infrastructure is there, and it should be relatively minor to install. If it's not... then I knew people who worked like that.[2]

1. Near me, if I go one way, I go over an overpass. Maybe a mile away, if I go the other, it's a grade crossing with crossbucks. All the wiring, radio, etc has to already be there, between the grade crossing before the overpass, to reach the grade crossing after it.

2. As I said, it should be a matter of "location", grade corssing, new, and other required data. If not... when I worked at the Scummy Mortgage Co, halfway through my time there, they fired the other CICS programmer. A month or so later, I was working on some code, and found - I am *not* making this up - his "algorithm" for "is it a leap year". It was, "if it's 1977 or 80 or 84 or 88 or 92, it's a leap year." Remember, mortgage co? 30 year mortgages? This was 87 or 88. I went to my boss... who told me "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But it's broke, it won't work after '92" "We'll fix it then.

390:

#384 - Go and watch Unstoppable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unstoppable_(2010_film) When doing so, pay close attention to the mimic board that form a background to most of the yardmaster - FRA inspector scenes. Every time you install or modify a crossing, that board has to be modified. Starting to see where the costs come from now, given that it's driven by safety critical software? (sources various, but include drivers, conductors (UK guards Greg) and a yardmaster). I know, but it's a tense drama and fact checks well against actual US practice.

#387 - I don't know what you meant to do, but that is not a normal hyperlink, so I'm treating it as malware, and suggest that Charlie does so too.

#389 - Hint. Mortgages are not safety critical software. They're not even availability critical in terms of reliability. Railroad signalling systems are both safety and availability critical. In Unstoppable, we see and hear why (horse trailer scene, and "We're talking about a missile the size of the Chrysler building").

391:

Please! We're Americans! We have people stuooooopid enough to want to take a selfie with a bison.

In the last millennium there was apparently a TV series about animal attacks (on humans). A comedian at the Fringe Festival lampooned it with a skit "Animal Attacks Stupid American" (this was in Canada, where American tourists have a bad reputation in our national parks).

"There I was, minding my own business, poking the bear in the scrotum with a sharp stick, when for no reason at all it suddenly attacked me!"

(Or it might have been "Animal Attacks Stupid People" but told with an American 'redneck' accent — it's been a long time and memory is fading. Pretty certain about the 'poking in the scrotum' and 'no reason at all' bits, though.)


More seriously, when you enter a national park in the Rockies you drive past many billboards explaining that you are in bear country and how to behave, you get personally handed brochures on the subject by a park warden who also personally warned you… there is no way to get into the park without this. Again in the last millennium an American family on holiday stopped when they saw bear cubs at the side of the road (as most people would), but dad decided to put his toddler with the cub for a video — and apparently videoed the mother bear running back to protect her cub. Dad sued Parks Canada because somehow they were responsible for what happened to his kid…

392:

paws @ 390. It isn't malware, it's a hamfisted attempt at a hyperlink to the Wikipedia page on Kermode bears. Not my skillset at all. By all means do a workaround and just search for Kermode bears on your engine of choice.

Robert @ 391. There was an hilarous SNL skit with Bill Murray where he was hawking a book about being mauled by a bear. The interviewer asked if he planned to write any other books: 'I hope not!'

393:

In counterpoint, there's this: https://www.theglobalist.com/the-strange-path-of-neoconservatism/

My take was mostly from my poking around to find out the histories of some of the Bush II staffers, which seemed to have a liberal phase.

Anyway, if you're interested in this instead of pointless discussion about what kind of load ammosexuals should shoot off in the direction of bears, feel free to find other references, and we can genteelly sling references at each other in perfectly cromulent left wing intellectual fashion. That could be fun.

My general take is what Robert Prior said, that extremists have some tendency to swing from one extreme to another, while it takes a lot of work for a moderate to get radicalized, although that can happen too.

394:

Foxessa @ 302: You did say you know nothing because of reading / hearing nothing about Haiti for years. . . .

You're wrong. You can't even accurately quote what I wrote:

"I'm having trouble processing the Haiti assassination. Haiti hasn't been in the news for years."1

"Trouble processing" is not "know nothing".

Whereas I, on the other hand, have, and do, and know the history. Make of that what you will but the Clintons are in it up past their eyeballs, particularly while HRC was Sec of State.

Whereas, YOU, on the other hand appear to be blinded by right-wingnut Clinton Derangement Syndrome hysteria blaming "THE CLINTONS!!!!" for every wrong that has ever occurred in the world.

NEWS FLASH: Haiti is an independent country. THEY bear primary responsibility for their own political turmoil ... along with the UN Peacekeepers who failed in their primary mission.

But that's obviously all Clinton's fault as well!

HE was an average DEMOCRATIC President who didn't have sense enough to keep his damn pants zipped.
SHE was a slightly above average Secretary of State who hewed closely to President Obama's foreign policies.
She would probably have been a better President than her husband, and absolutely would have been a better President than the Psychopath in Chief we ended up with instead.

It's time to let go of your knee-jerk hatred of the Clintons. And you owe me an apology.

What I have been able to discover so far from NON-QAnon sources is the assassins appear to beColumbia mercenaries along with a pair of Haitian-American "translators" recruited over the internet.

The basic argument behind the politics is that the 2015 Presidential election ended with a runoff (Moise led with something like 35% of the vote) that was not held & then the election was nullified. A second election was held in 2016 (Moise won with 56% of the vote). The Haitian President is elected for a 5 year term. Moise contended his 5 year term ended in 2022. Opposition parties contended the term ended in 2021 as if the 2015 had gone through.

The Haitian police have identified a Haitian-American "Doctor" living in Florida as the mercenaries paymaster. Where did he get the money? He was bankrupt in 2013, which suggests to me someone in Haiti's "political" opposition actually financed the assassination. Sanon may be nothing more than a front man.

1 ... apparently Haiti isn't a "football" powerhouse, so their internal troubles don't rank very high in international news reporting. Hardly ever seems to be any news about Haiti in the Google News aggregation (except for hurricanes, earthquakes & other natural disasters).

395:

Thanks! I felt (some of) the currents but didn't know some of the actors.
A newer, wordier piece, by the same author:
The Neocons Are Responsible for Trumpism (March 7, 2016, Michael Lind)
(The history is OK, if not the analysis.)

396:

p>Greg Tingey @ 305: JBS

It was intended as an interim measure to allow passenger rail to die quietly.

Same here ... the railways were privatised & "Railtrack" (shudder) set up, because, in spite of the evidence, it was assumed by the tory right that the railways were in permanent decline ( they were not ) & this was the way to manage that decline, whilst lining our friends' pockets, of course.

Maybe not. The law that created AmTrak wasn't intended to sell off an existing government resource for the benefit of the ruling party's donors. That would not come for another decade until Ronnie Ray-gun became President. AmTrak actually represents Congress in 1970 doing its job, to "promote the general Welfare".


397:

#389 - Hint. Mortgages are not safety critical software. They're not even availability critical in terms of reliability. Railroad signalling systems are both safety and availability critical. In Unstoppable, we see and hear why (horse trailer scene, and "We're talking about a missile the size of the Chrysler building").

Ok, it's becoming clear to me that some of you don't understand what I've been saying. So, speaking as someone who spent decades as a programmer, "data driven" means that your software displays the data in a defined manner. Adding new datapoints does NOT require rewriting your code. We're talking something that should take hours, not many months.

As an example, when I was a subcontractor, supporting the City of Chicago 911 system, what the 911 calltakers saw on their screens did NOT have to be rewritten every time a road was closed, or ripped up, or opened.

The City would dump a datafile from their GIS software, and we'd import it into Oracle, and our software displayed the data, no code rewrite. The original programmers were, let us kindly say, "naive and inexperienced". They'd get the data dump from the City, and try to load it using Oracles stupid database loader, it would fail, they'd find the record that failed, massage it, and repeat. It took *weeks* of terror, because you COULD NOT HAVE AN ERROR.

We're talking life and death here. The calltakers can't send the cops, or the ambulance, down a closed road, for exmpale.

I was given the job of "fix it". I wrote a preprocessor that validated the data in the records from the City, and spit out a file of bad records. Note that before, they had to fix the *same* records over and over, *and* fix newly bad records. With my preprocessor, I'd get the file, call the City, "Hi, got a file with bad data records." "Thanks, send it over", and once or twice like that, and the records loaded. And it was fixed in City records, as well.

That's "data drive". So, just possibly, I know what I'm talking about.

399:

My general take is what Robert Prior said, that extremists have some tendency to swing from one extreme to another, while it takes a lot of work for a moderate to get radicalized

Yep: extremists are extremists first; the specific ideology they latch onto is an afterthought depend on their situation. Because tendencies towards authoritarianism or grandiose thinking or whatever are emotional stances rather than the outcome of introspective reasoning.

400:

paws4thot @ 308: #298 - JBS, I've had a variation on this argument, where I assert that a firearm is the wrong weapon for home defence, because most people who are shot "defending their home" are shot with the weapon that the intruder took away from them. Comments?

That's certainly part of it.

Break-ins where they steal your guns; break-ins where they steal your guns & you happen to arrive home while they're still inside and they shoot YOU in "self defense"; situations where stupid home-owners shot would-be intruders who were running away (Manslaughter at least) and went to jail for it.

Plus, military firearms (and their "civilian" derivatives) are designed so the bullets penetrate. They penetrate bodies, but they also penetrate walls.

Most negligent homicides in the U.S. are committed with home defense firearms (i.e. that wasn't an intruder, it was one of your kids trying to sneak in after curfew); ditto for most domestic homicides and double-ditto for suicides by firearms.

I used to tell people if they had to get a gun for home defense - get a shotgun.

NOW I just tell them they're stupid if they went to have a gun around the house.

OTOH, if you live on a ranch out west where lions & tigers & bears (Oh My!)1 roam freely and are likely to ambush you when you walk out to the main road to retrieve your mail, having a gun makes sense.

1 ... or wolves & coyotes, elk & moose, bison ... just don't shoot the Water Buffalo

401:

Yes. same article. I clipped the last 1 off by accident (was cleaning a longer URL).

Re Haiti, piece (note the date) complaining about right wing political weaponization (misinformation/influence ops involved) of the Clintons' very real and long and large relationship with Haiti. (Looking forward to Foxessa's response though :-)
The Clintons Didn’t Screw Up Haiti Alone. You Helped. - Trump has turned Haiti into the new symbol of Bill and Hillary’s crookedness. If only things were that simple. (Jonathan M. Katz, Sept 22, 2016)
Some of the links are interesting.

402:

Paul @ 311: BS @ 263 (quoting Leaving Portland):

Protests are not riots, and riots are not protests. Protests are constitutionally protected activities vital to any functioning liberal democracy. Riots are violent crimes punishable by imprisonment. Activists, journalists, and politicians alike have a terrible habit of using the terms interchangeably."

Would that it were so simple.

Unfortunately there have been many cases where people peaceably assembled to petition the Government for a redress of grievances for years or even decades. Then one day there was a riot. Suddenly their grievances were headline news and the politicians who had been ignoring them as unimportant were being forced to take a position. Executive actions were signed, laws passed, and change finally occurred.

But that's not what he was writing about.

It IS, however, that simple. People have the right peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Period. Full stop.

Criminals DO NOT have the right to usurp those peaceful protests and use them as cover for criminal activities.

OGH said no more Portland, so this is my last reply on the topic.

403:

Well, I'll speak up for the bolt-action shotgun I used to have many years ago. For shooting shells, it sucked because of the recoil and the broken autochoke on the end. However, the rick-rack of the bolt sliding out and back was quite loud and intimidating. Since it was basically a cheap 12 gauge pheasant gun, the barrel was long enough that bayonet tactics were pretty easy. Never had to use it in self defense, which was the best part of all, because I can opine that it would have been good for home defense without any evidence to the contrary.

Anyway, if you've got the money for a gun and ammunition for home defense, my suggestion is really simple:
--Splurge on a good alarm system
--Get a bunch of panic buttons
--Use them as necessary.

Having your house scream bloody murder and call the cops is better than getting in a gun battle. Anyway, friends of mine got caught in a home invasion team robbery where they broke in, took the daughter hostage, broke into the master bedroom with the daughter going first as a shield, ziptied everybody, waterboarded the husband to find out where the valuables were, and threw their phones in the fountain so they couldn't call for help. Getting in a gun battle probably would have gotten the daughter killed. Afterwards they invested in an alarm system and insurance covered the loss. Messy, but it's not clear where arming the homeowners would have made any difference.

Oh, and if the alarm's not enough, two more suggestions:
--Get a big, strong dog who really loves you and your family (or get a couple of them).
--Get an opinionated and hyperaware little yappy dog or three to wake the big dog up if the house gets broken into.

Purportedly in China they used Pekingese for the alarm dogs and mastiffs for the guard dogs. Might be apocryphal, but Chihuahuas and Rottweilers could also work, provided they're all properly socialized.

And if you like dogs, this is probably more fun than shooting off firearms.

404:

David L @ 332: Protests vs.Riots.

Here in Raleigh last year we had two waves of such.

Protesters were loud, noisy, and broke a few windows. But mostly went home when it got dark or the curfew time approached. Then the rioters came out and tried to break into stores and loot, trash some cars, and in general create mayhem.

FWIW, the "protesters" didn't break any windows. That was all on the rioters who came in later to use the protests to camouflage criminality.

405:

https://www.losangelesblade.com/2021/07/07/alleged-trans-incident-at-upscale-la-spa-may-have-been-staged/

Alleged Trans incident at upscale LA Spa may have been staged

On June 24th, Instagram user “cubaangel” posted a video of herself angrily confronting a staff member at the Wi Spa in Koreatown, accusing them of letting a disrobed transgender person into the women’s section of the business.

There is increasing doubt among law enforcement and staff at the Wi Spa whether there was ever was a transgender person there to begin with. Anonymous sources within the LAPD tell the Blade they have been unable to find any corroborating evidence that there was a transgender person present on that day.

Similarly, a source at the Spa told the Blade there’s no record of any of its usual transgender clients on its appointments guest list on the day in question. Treatment at the Spa is by appointment only, and most of its transgender clients are well known to the staff.

The anti-trans protest was a mix of religious fundamentalist street preachers, QAnon conspiracy theorists chanting “save our children,” and Proud Boys. Black-bloc (like Antifa) and trans activists engaged in a counter protest at the same time, and violence erupted. Right wing personality Andy Ngo, who coordinates with far right groups when they’re looking to engage in violence on camera, was also there.

A right-wing protestor drew a gun on a person recording the event and told him it was “something to shoot you with.” A videographer wearing a vest marked “PRESS” was struck from behind by a right wing protester with a metal pipe. Another anti-trans protester stabbed two people: a pro-trans counter protester who was reportedly hospitalized by the wound, and a fellow anti-trans protesters while she was attempting to help him off the ground. The LAPD quickly declared the protest and counter-protest unlawful assemblies and dispersed them.

406:

barren_samadhi @ 340: > mhari .. pronounced

i grew up around untold herds of variations on this theme .. moy-ra, mwirrah, may-ree, may-wah, 'n' stuff.

i tend to subvoc muh-harry, alike to something south-asian, but then glitch over to thinking it's perhaps meant to be more of a moy-ree thing.

Don't know why, but this came to mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxHtmmbAftU

407:

whitroth @ 356: Re rct JBS*, if I feel that I'm forced to buy a firearm, it's *not* for "home defense", it's to get together with neighbors to defend ourselves against invdaing fascists in vehicles. (You may not have heard the white wing idiot saying, after the elections, during the vote counting, that the fascists should "surround Philly, and intimidate them". Yes, they are that stoooopid.)

So you're going to be just as stupid as they are? Oh well, it's your funeral.

PS: Ever fired an M-14? AR-15?

408:

I thought I made it clear, but let me try again: I'm not responding to you again. You've decided that *any* time I disagree with something you said, I'm insulting and talking down to you.

Which has *never* been the case, but whatever. No more repsonses.

409:

paws4thot @ 390: #387 - I don't know what you meant to do, but that is not a normal hyperlink, so I'm treating it as malware, and suggest that Charlie does so too.

I think he just screwed up posting the link.

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

411:

whitroth
I have a fairly senior signalling engineer as a friend & fellow-drinker ... sorry but not even wrong
It's amazingly complicated, the number of systems that have to be tied into & all work together in parallel & 99.99999% reliable & fail-safe ....
LC's are a nightmare ... here, as far as possible our railways are trying to get rid of them, though that simply cannot be done in a large number of cases .....

JBS
WHAT THE FUCK is "Negligent Homicide"?
IS that equivalent to "manslaughter" or some wierdo US variant?

@ 407
Inside a house, a sword in one hand & a club or dagger ( Short pointy sharp thing, anyway ) is going to be better than any handheld firearm.

( whitroth/JBS - children! Please don't? )
On a similar vein ... allynh has been badly misinformed, not necessarily his(?) fault - remember how I was nearly conned by the Brexiteers?
Of course, now I know better - help him to know better, yes?

412:

Negligent homicide is pretty much what you'd expect - causing the death of another through criminal negligence. A kind of involuntary manslaughter - in the US some states define it as that and sometimes it's a separate category. In English law it's manslaughter by gross negligence, I think.

413:

Longtime lurker here. This is a fun read with all the classic ingredients

https://medium.com/on-the-trail-of-the-saucers/ufos-arent-russian-or-chinese-and-the-pentagon-knows-it-8e7d563637cf

BLUE HADES in Hillary’s emails?

Some kind of psy-op on Podesta I guess. Thought you folks would find it entertaining at least.

414:

That's what these people are doing.

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/01/999929259/a-would-be-trans-and-queer-haven-in-rural-colorado-just-wants-to-be-left-alone

I wouldn't want to be in the situation in the first place, but homeless trans women often find a real catch-22: men's shelters won't take them, women's shelters won't take them, and over a certain age LGBTQ youth shelters won't take them, either.

415:

whitroth and JBS: Game theory says that the best chance for both sides to do well in an "iterated prisoners dilemma"* situation is to maintain a proper tit-for-tat retaliatory stance. That means that when someone does right by you, do right by them in return. When someone does wrong by you, do them harm in return. Then - and this is important - when someone stops doing wrong to you, it is necessary to forgive and return to a posture of rewarding the person who does right.

America is starting to look like a place where one side has either stopped using negative retaliation, or been placed in a situation where they are unable to retaliate when necessary. This is a combination of rightwing ugliness and a left (more-or-less "lead" by the Democrats) which is either unable or unwilling to do the unpleasant part of tit-for tat.

What we're talking about right now is how to rescue something from those ashes.

Mark, I'm not sure you understand JBS's past and his very good training in the use of weapons, including personal participation in our government making some rather bad errors - and he has rather remarkably learned the right lessons from observing this. JBS, Mark's done his time on the political front lines protesting bad behavior on the part of the government, and has been doing so for multiple decades. Maybe you guys should give each other a little more respect.

* If anyone doesn't think we're in an iterated prisoner's dilemma, consider that we all have to give something up to survive humanity's earlier mistakes. And never forget that we're all going to die here.

416:

Fun summer read. Thanks!

For everyone else, a cheery reminder from The Annihilation Score:

"I take the lift down to the basement with Ramona and Mhari, where we find a near-featureless blue-black lozenge squatting on the concrete floor of the car park."

Looks like OGH has been channeling again...

417:

I wouldn't want to be in the situation in the first place, but homeless trans women often find a real catch-22: men's shelters won't take them, women's shelters won't take them, and over a certain age LGBTQ youth shelters won't take them, either.

Lesbians fleeing domestic violence have problems too, as keeping their abusive partners away can prove problematic in a women's shelter that assumes the problem is men…

(Don't know how common this is, just that it's happened often enough to be in the news in the last few years.)

418:

Somnuyap @ 301/302
Missed your nym this time. That was a bit fiery.
we can map your entire neuro-structure then burst it at salient points. Heart, Brain, Groin, etc.
Including the enteric nervous system, for warning shots and etc. (MD, dubiously: you say that your colon is messaging you in Morse Code when you're alone?)
Though leveraging chaos (if that's what your saying) is blunt[1]; more challenging would be things like shocking mental schemas into new configurations.

We're just: LOVE/INTEREST/HOPE
Those, but rather more than those.

[1] The literature on epilepsy/chaos is voluminous and contentious. e.g.
Analytic Quantification of Shilnikov Chaos in Epileptic EEG Data (Bastian Seifert, Dennis Adamski and Christian Uhl, 29 November 2018)

419:

"Australia; spider guns? ;-)"

I did see some for sale. Imagine a flyswatter crossed with a nerf gun. I don't think they sold well.

420:

Some kind of psy-op on Podesta I guess. Thought you folks would find it entertaining at least.

Well, I agree that it's likely a psyop. But I wonder--is SuckerInt a thing? It's conceptually simple, although perhaps hard to do: You tell tall tales and see how they spread. It's not a bad system for checking for leaks. Or for spoofing the enemy. Or for trying to track networks of communication.

Anyway, telling lies around outsiders is a tradition that's certainly thousands of years old, as is spreading tall tales, and I know folklorists track this stuff, so the intellectual tools exist. And I know that the US Army weaponized the tactical use of staged BS in WW2, so they've got form for this. So that's most likely what's going on.

The one possible check someone could do is to go through the rest of the Podesta trove on Wikileaks* and see whether he'd entertained tall tales from other sources about other things or whether his emails (like the communications here) are always sober, completely factual, humorless, and also free of sarcasm.

*Perhaps machine learning would help?

421:

I know that I'm responding to a really old comment, but I wanted to flag that Portland sadly ended the fareless transit service in city center back in 2012. It's particularly annoying because it made traffic there a little bit less bad. Transit's still very affordable (and Seattle's gotten much better as its light rail has expanded), but it's no longer free because we can't have nice things.

422:

--Get a big, strong dog who really loves you and your family (or get a couple of them).

After we had a break in 30 years ago the police told us it was a LOUD dog that mattered. Actual size wasn't important as they would never be seen. They said they NEVER had to deal with break ins at houses with a loud barking dog that would wake up if strangers got close to the house.

423:

When we were burgled we got the alarm and a small, not very noisy dog. But ultimately with the dog living indoors the alarm system was left off more times than not. Ultimately we kept the now defunct alarm beacon on the outside of the house but also placed pretty visible cameras. We're now on the second dog since that time. The cameras in the living room came in handy when he was recovering from hip surgery and we wanted to keep an eye on him when we were both at work. At least he sounds like a much larger dog when he barks, though I'm sure all the local miscreants have seen him by now on walks.

Oh, and I have a 2-foot long steel shoehorn from Ikea. I keep it next to the bed and actually use it to help put on some shoes. While the bedroom window would be a challenging climb, the metal Venetians are anchored at the bottom, which I think will mean I get enough noise before a climber gets inside to provide an opportunity to do some really useful work with the shoehorn. I've thought of sharpening the edges of the "spoon", but that would make it less practical for putting shoes on, and also hard to explain to the police.

424:

Actually, if you want the best self-defense item, here's a review of one.

425:

What I want for home-defense is the cocking mechanism of a shot-gun. Not the whole gun, just the part that goes "ka-chick-click!"

You hear someone wandering around your house at night, you make the shotgun-cocking sound while your partner calls the police.

426:

That's hilarious. I actually have a normal-size Opinel craft knife like the one in the video. It came free with re-subscription to an Oz woodworking magazine I get, has their branding burnt into the handle.

I missed my opportunity to comment on the military training course that teaches 17 different ways to kill a man with a spoon, 15 of which do not involve sharpening the spoon. Usually the person explaining that they have received this training is a small woman who is also expert in data science. This is a common trope, no?

Not sure about the ka-chink sound, but I'm sure there must be an app for that. I'd like to think "Hey Siri, release the ferrets!" would work better. But for stupid hysterical raisins ferrets are still illegal in Queensland.

427:

Actually, a big-enough handgun can stop a bear. In Grizzly/Polar Bear country, big enough means .357 or larger.

Indeed. My uncle was in the US Army with a guy from Kodiak Island in Alaska, and if you were to guess about the apex predator found in a place called Kodiak you'd be exactly correct. One day when out walking he came around a turn to find himself face to face with a large bear, surprising both of them. The bear reared up and growled; the human replied by pulling out a revolver and putting a magnum round right between its eyes. The bear did not fall down but stood there stunned for long enough for the guy to retreat briskly back the way he came and put as much distance as possible between him and the bear.

428:

Well, if a .357 magnum is a stun-gun for a Kodiak bear, I for one am happy. No need for the bear to die due to the bad luck of getting startled by a human.

429:

I find it interesting that the death toll from deer is an order of magnitude higher than other animals that people are more scared of.

People may shout "Lion!" or "Shark!" but the most common warning is "Duck!"

430:

I remember reading once that a survey of convicted burglars discovered that many of them saw NRA bumper stickers as an advertisement that there were probably lots of guns to steal in the house.

In our experience being burgled it happened during the day while we were at work. All 5 times, 4 of them in a 6 month period. The 5th I happened to be stopping home for lunch and found a bunch of our possessions piled up on our kitchen table.

431:

Some helpful information here:

https://www.ncis.org.au/publications/ncis-fact-sheets/animal-related-deaths-2/

Most animal related deaths in Australia from 2010 to 2017 involved falling from a horse.

I was sure it would be cows!

432:

flyswatter crossed with a nerf gun

They were awesome once you removed the stupid string that held the swatter to the gun, but required a lot of skill to use correctly. Like a fly swatter them work best from above and behind the fly. Also work on mosquitos.

Sadly no automatic one was ever made, I would have loved a clockwork rotary cannon version even if it only fired five or six shots.

https://www.kogan.com/au/buy/ylo-fly-assassin-gun-swatter-flies-mosquito-insect-guns-pistol-swat-shoot-pw-fa/ still made, $* Australian (about $6 US, but luckily Kogan offer finance if you can't afford the cost up front)

(does not work on bears. Not even koala bears)

433:

I should probably put my hand up as someone who works for a burglar alarm manufacturer but does not have an alarm system at my house. No reflection on my employer, or their willingness to install one at no cost to me, more that I am self-insured and there are people here most of the time. So the alarm system would mostly generate false alarms, and anyone wanting to burgle the place would need to be very lucky to avoid whoever is home ringing the cops.

I am increasingly fond of "improper" camera systems, with battery backed wifi cameras that have their own uSD cards and a phone app that can connect to them. Those are less than $AUS100 each and will charge and run off any 5V ish supply - tucking a $20 "USB" solar panel onto the roof for each outdoor camera seems to work quite well. The advantage is both cost and resilience - someone wanting to avoid them has to locate and remove each camera individually. Plus they run for a week or two off the battery, so you can put them in fun places and take them down to charge them every week or so.

(I have a proper DVR/NVR plus PoE camera setup... in a box under my bed. The actual camera system is 3 of the cheap battery cameras).

434:

H & DDDD
Those possible "Red Hat" or possible "alien" UFO's report ...
OK, but it's from wikileaks, who are a Russian front, as is Assange
[ HINT: I will never forgive Assange for deliberately trying - & almost succeeding - in trashing the debate & knowledge on Global Warming. Which is why I consider him & them of being agents of Rosneft ..... ]

Troutwaxer
NO USE AT ALL outside the USA or wild areas, elsewhere. the shotgun-cocking sound Yeah, what's that funny noise?

435:

NO USE AT ALL

Which is why I like "Hey Siri, release the ferrets!*" so much better. That I suppose weasels would work just as well. Or snakes.

*May require an Apple Homekit compatible ferret cage.

436:

As with all such “.357 Magnum just bounced off” (or “9mm defeated by frozen clothes”, “5.56 just didn’t work” stories), there’s a much simpler and more likely answer.

The firer missed, and the bear wandered away from the loud noise…

437:

Coda to the Euston/Glasgow line blocked Preston station story -
my daughter, now recovered and showing epic timing, made the return journey yesterday evening...

( for those outside the UK, this coincided with flash flooding in London that closed Euston station for several hours ). This time she was on the first train allowed back into Euston (4 hours late) and so avoided being disembarked at Watford Junction which already had several hundred people from other trains waiting for a bus service.

Oh, and I can confirm that double-vaccination does not prevent people catching covid.

438:

Nope. You want a really good speaker system, and a recording of the growl of a furry crocodile / land shark. Better yet, a second one joining in from a different direction. People can be negotiated with, but…

I wonder about performative declarations of firearm ownership. We’ve got sturdy doors and windows, decent locks, an alarm, and (now) a large cuddly yellow dog with a big dog woof. We also live half a mile from a Police HQ. That’s fine for us :)

I’ve lived in a house where a personal protection weapon was necessary (Northern Ireland during the Troubles, as a child); I’ve been a soldier, and had the fun of training other infantry soldiers in skill-at-arms. Guns aren’t a magic wand; as others have pointed out, in the overwhelming majority of real life cases, the gun in the house is more a risk to your family than a shield.

439:

#392 - So there is. :-) I don't know what you did, but my HTML is only up to copying and pasting the actual link, not to creating a custom text over the web address, eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kermode_bear .

#397 - OK, you've worked with a GIS, with an emergency call handling front end. That is not the same thing as a railroad signalling system although the main issues appear similar. The signalling system has to show the identity, speed, routing and ideally crew and stock make-ups of every train, and the status of every signal, every level crossing, every turnout, pass every change in status of signals, level crossings and turnouts to the correct other assets, every track restriction, every stretch where a crew is working (lineside, possession of one track or total possession), anything else I've not remembered...

These all have to appear on a mimic map, which may not have a consistent ground scale.

#400 - JBS, cheers; we basically agree the problem(s) then, despite the misplaced beliefs of the NRA.

#409 - So I discovered (see comment above in response to 392). Treating unidentifiable links as malware is just one part of personal security.

#411 - As per above, I agree whitroth badly underestimates the complexity of a modern signal mimic panel...

#419 - I was "trying" to be satirical; I should have known better!!

#427 - A wet film camera loaded with Eastman film? ;-)

#432 - And drop bears? ;-)

#437 - (1) Thanks (2) English Broadcasting Corporation was more concerned with flooded roads.

440:

But for stupid hysterical raisins ferrets are still illegal in Queensland.

You know they're trying to eliminate feral cats in Aus and NZ, right?

Ferrets are predators that act like scaled-down cats on crystal meth.

441:

This YouTube video shows the inside of a modern "ROC" ... A giant "signal-box" that controls many miles of track, signals, points, stations & trains.
I've been inside a few ( Not the one shown ) They handle a LOT of safety-critical information in real time.

442:

Oops
Correction - I hadn't realised - that is an US "ROC" - the Brit ones are even more complicated, because we have very intertwined systems & layouts
HERE is a UK one - Rugby, covering most of the W midlands, including Brum ....

443:

Cheers Greg, and thanks to all at SMRT Trains who enabled the production and release of those videos (and I did say I knew I'd missed something upthread).

444:

s/US/Singaporean - You're right that UK (and US too) ROCs can be even more complex, potentially having responsibility for permanent way and stock moving over 100 miles from the centre...

445:

Inadvertant triptich, but still...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_operating_centre shows the sorts of areas that UK ROCs now cover, although it's light on interior shots of the control rooms.

446:

I've worked in safety-critical software, though not on railways. It's not as simple as saying "data driven". Yes, updating a data file is a lot faster than writing code, but the update still needs to go through the full QA cycle, and that is the expensive bit.

In high-integrity systems the data files are considered part of the software for good reason. Quite apart from the likelihood of clerical errors in a "trivial" update, you never know if your minor update to a data file is going to trigger some latent bug in the code. The infamous "256 axle" issue should give you an idea of the kind of problems that can occur. The Swiss signalling system uses a piece of hardware that counts the wheels going over it. It has an 8-bit counter, so a train with exactly 256 axles will register as zero, which is interpreted as "no train" by other components. The "solution" is to prohibit trains with exactly 256 axles. Its easy to imagine a similar bug happening with the 256th crossing.

But that's just the start of the headaches; these are not just simple unified systems that were designed and installed in one go. Railways, like any organisation that has been going for a long time, have lots of computer systems doing all sorts of jobs. Some of these boxes are decades old. When a new requirement comes along there is often a design choice to be made: do we modify the legacy system, or do we put a new box on the side to handle the new requirement? Often the cheapest, fastest, lowest risk solution in the short term is the new box, so that is what is done. Over time this leads to a plethora of boxes on the sides of boxes, all with special-case interfaces to other boxes, and all doing some vital part of the overall job. Changing *anything* in this system needs to be done very carefully because every box has its own configuration files, they all have different formats, and they all need to be consistent because otherwise bad stuff happens.

You also have the problem that the entirety of the system is understood by only a few people, who then become bottlenecks for any kind of updates. I was in one organisation where we had exactly two employees (one of whom liked racing motor bikes) who really understood some of the key configuration files from a big old legacy system. This thing was originally developed in the 60s for another organisation and then bodged into working for us. Pensioning off this legacy system had been a goal of the organisation almost since it was installed. I attended the retirement party of someone who had spent most of their career working on that, and it still wasn't done. The lack of expertise wasn't for want of training; both the existing experts had attempted to train new people up, with partial success. But it was just too big and complicated, and people assigned to it tended to leave rather than get trapped with nothing else on their CVs.

(Incidentally, in the UK unattended crossings are being phased out because too many accidents are happening, and that's before you get the idiots.)

447:

a Crib Sheet for Dead Lies Dreaming is due in the next few months. I need to catch up on the publication schedule to see where we're at, but as it went paperback in the UK and probably isn't getting a US paperback release

Why? Ebook is the new paperback and it's not worth killing trees at the low end any more?

[Proud owner of signed hardcovers from Transreal though.]

448:

What happens if a train has 257 axles? Does it register as having one axle?

449:

Correct. Mass market paperback sales in the US fell off a cliff in the past two decades -- but ebooks took up ALL the slack in my royalty statements. In fact I stopped getting mass market releases in 2016 at Ace (there's no MMPB of "The Nightmare Stacks") as previous MMPB sales had dropped below the 10,000 mark. ("Singularity Sky" sold over 55,000 in MMPB, back in 2003.)

The mass market channel -- it's a distribution system, not a book format -- collapsed in 1991 in the UK and never recovered. All UK paperbacks are sold as trade (i.e., like hardbacks -- sale-or-return-for-credit, not sale-or-proof-of-destruction-for-credit); the small format paperbacks are simply small trade editions sold at a lower price point. Which is why I still get "small" paperback editions from my UK publishers (who are also geared up to do print on demand profitably in editions as low as 50-200 copies: the British print and distribution system works very differently from the US one).

450:

There's obviously no such thing as a train with one axle, so other elements in the network presumably have code for

IF axle_count < minimum_number_of_axles THEN axle_count += 256;

somewhere.

If a lone locomotive is moving around -- with, say, 3 axles because it's a shunter -- it's safer to count it as 259 axles (i.e. occupying a much longer stretch of track) than to count it as non-existent (track is unoccupied, so something else can be routed through it).

451:

FYI
"release the ferrets!" was the tag line for an episode of the US TV comedy "Two and Half Men".

I assumed the initial reference was to that. Its use fits with the discussion.

452:

I can somewhat see the 256 axle thing on a Swiss oriented system. 60 or so car train max size doesn't seem unreasonable given the geography there. I can see a programming who doesn't think outside the box or is working in a really memory constrained system making that mistake.

In other places, Australia, India, US, etc... there are typical ore trains 3 to 5 times that size.

453:

NO USE AT ALL outside the USA or wild areas, elsewhere. the shotgun-cocking sound Yeah, what's that funny noise?

One of the things that made me laugh recently was a work of fiction in which the highly-trained heroine "recognised the sound of a safety catch clicking off". Yeah, riiiighttttt. Released carefully, no sound at all. Probably not audible past a couple of meters anyway, and certainly not a distinctive noise (there are lots of different designs for them).

One for the "Firearm Tropes of Fiction" :)

454:

According to the Twitter thread, the axle counting is a safety measure: axles are counted in and counted out, and as long as the net axle count /= 0 you know the section of track is occupied. If a broken train inadvertently leaves a truck behind this system will detect it because the section of track will continue being shown as occupied.

I have no knowledge of the system beyond that, so I won't speculate further about the details.

One thing I will say about systems engineering is that it is complicated and difficult. There is a saying that "an engineer is someone who can do for one dollar what any fool can do for five", and its true. One way that engineers manage costs is to think hard about requirements. Somewhere there was a requirement for an axle counter, and part of that requirement will have been the maximum number it had to count up to, which will have been derived from the trains being run at the time. I'd guess that number used to be less than 256, so some engineer concluded that 8 bits was enough. Then the train length increased and this problem emerged.

It's also quite possible that a train with over 250 axles has never happened on this railway and never will, but the engineer who made the 8-bit decision also made sure that the constraint was properly documented just in case, and that constraint has quite properly made its way to the relevant staff handbook. Contrast this with the 737-MAX incidents, where the crucial bit of information did not make its way to the pilot manual.

Systems Engineering is *full* of stuff like this. As long as one person can understand every detail of the system and all the interactions then you can avoid a lot of the headaches. The discipline of system engineering has arisen because there are many systems which are "more than a brainfull", at which point you need systems to manage the complexity of the system being designed.

Then when something goes wrong the public are shown 5 isolated bullet-points pulled out of thousands of pages of documentation and says "How could they have been so stupid?". The answer is simply that before the accident those 5 bullet points never got into one brain at the same time. (Along with lots of cases where nobody cared or the problem was suppressed by management or whatever).

455:

On the subject of GIS vs. train crossing, I think whitroth is philosophically correct, but perhaps not practically so. The system should be designed so new data can be dropped in and have it work correctly, but the realities are probably more complex.

456:

I realize I am very late to the party, but a couple of thoughts on Concorde as a bomber or recon aircraft. It really can't be easily caught by any existing fighters as it departs the area and heads for home. That is nice and fits what the story needed, but that doesn't make a military Concorde a great bomber or strike/recon aircraft.

To fulfill those roles, the aircraft needs to get to a certain point on the ground and take pictures or release weapons. The most useful intercept is on the way in, before it has dropped bombs or gotten the information. It also means it is flying towards the air-to air or surface to air missiles, so it can't easily outrun them. Speed makes the intercept harder in some ways but it certainly creates a massive IR target.

The US developed an aircraft that could leave the Concorde literally in the dust. The XB-70 could see the Concorde cruise speed and altitude of 2,158 kph/18,300 m and raise it by a thousand kph (3,219 kph) and 5,000 meters (23,580 m). However, it was canceled because Soviet SAMs could reach twice the height and nearly half again the speed (SA-5 Gammon, 40,000 m at 4,900 kph). Thus they went for stealth and standoff missiles instead.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_XB-70_Valkyrie

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-200_(missile)

457:

Yep. While the RAF insisted on adding attachment points for a bomb bay to Prototype 002, they never seriously considered turning it into a bomber. At best, there was a proposal to use Concorde as a platform for Blue Steel after retiring the Vulcans from that role in the 1970s. Blue Steel was actually deployed -- a British design, after the USA dropped out of the joint Skybolt project in the 1950s -- but was retired anyway as the UK strategic deterrent moved entirely to Polaris SLBMs from the mid-60s onwards -- the Navy won.

Similarly, the USSR considered modifying the Tu-144 airliner into a missile carrier. It was to be equipped with the upper stages of an SS-20 IRBM; in event of a nuclear exchange it could scramble and carry the missile well away from its dispersal airfields. Again, this was cancelled because the SS-20 first stage was a perfectly good rocket and could be launched at short enough notice that the carrier SST was redundant (and hugely expensive).

The use of Concordes in the Laundry Files is mostly for photorecon over off-world black sites, and required room in the passenger bay for a team of sorcerers to open a gate: entirely speculative and not (I hope!) based on any actual practical scenario. And the black Concorde, of course, was a suicide weapon; no means of ejecting the bomb, just light the afterburners and crank it up to maximum power, hoping that the wings don't melt before it reaches the target.

458:

One way that engineers manage costs is to think hard about requirements. Somewhere there was a requirement for an axle counter, and part of that requirement will have been the maximum number it had to count up to, which will have been derived from the trains being run at the time.

If you've worked with systems design long enough you discover that requirements are NEVER complete. And a bad situation is when you ask questions about the holes you notice and get told to just "use your judgement" or words to that effect. But with it a "don't talk to the users as you will upset them" it can get scary at times.

I've seen that way too many times. At all sizes of companies and projects.

459:

In AI and space news,

1. In 2010, China tested a submarine drone that can independently destroy an enemy sub
https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4244419

2. A Swiss company named Zoundream uses ML to automatically translate the cause of baby cries. The company is talking about using it for early detection of divergences such as autism.
https://zoundream.com/research/

3. Chinese video game companies are using facial recognition software to limit how much time minors can spend playing. As the Guardian points out, this has huge applications for the wider internet. It may now be possible for internet sites to put age-appropriate filters on their content.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jul/11/proof-of-age-verification-online-facial-analysis-data-protection-act

4. Advertisers are again investigating modifying dreams to sell ads
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jul/05/advertisers-targeted-dream-incubation

5. Chinese researchers found in simulation that hitting the 500m diameter asteroid Bennu with 23 LM5 rockets simultaneously can divert an asteroid 1.4 times Earth's radius. I wonder how many Starships it would take to have the same effect?
https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/chinese-researchers-propose-deflecting-armageddon-asteroids-with-rockets-2021-07-07/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/101955_Bennu

6. Virgin Galactic made its successful flight with Branson on board. Bezos is up next Tuesday

7. I wonder why Musk hasn't launched any Starlink satellites in the past 1.5 months?

460:

is working in a really memory constrained system making that mistake,/i>

Somewhere in the thread someone mentioned that the hardware was relay-based. In any case, it was described as a hardware limit.

461:

I wonder why Musk hasn't launched any Starlink satellites in the past 1.5 months?

The Starlink 30 mission is due to fly later this month, followed by no fewer than four Starlink missions in August and five in September (plus a couple of other Falcon 9 payloads, including an ISS resupply mission), and a Superheavy/Starship test flight in August. (Both Superheavy and Starship are expected to soft-land in the ocean but won't be recovered. These are prototypes, not the finished thing.)

462:

Back around 1980 or '85, I read an article in the City Paper, an alternative paper in Philly. In their article, someone had done a survey of men in prison, and a burglar alarm would deter 20% of them... while a dog, of *any* size, would deter 60% of them from breaking in.

463:

Old, old SCA story. Guy was mostly asleep, wearing nothing but socks (he got cold feet), and hears noise downstairs. He looks, and there's two guys inside the screen door, piling stuff by the door. He grabs his steel broadsword, and comes running down the stairs screaming "BLOOD FOR ODIN!!!". He reported that the two ran *through* the screen door to get away.

464:

I don't know if this is worth continuing, but if they can add streets, bridges, and buildings in a 911 calltaker system, I suspect similar code - if it isn't actually done by the same contracting company - adding a stop, or other data is not a big deal. Assuming, as someone mentioned, the systems engineering is done correctly. And with anything like any of such systems, there will be cycles of verification. Always. And there will be some manager trying things that failed on the previous version of the system, as a final check.

465:

Yes, and it reminds me of the 911 center.

466:

Yep. And in a lot of places, there gets to be a "that's so-and-so's baby", and you deal with that whenever it needs to be dealt with, in addition to whatever they put on your plate. The number of folks who actually understand the system is far, far fewer than the users.

And management, of course, always wants it to be fewer.

467:

"Don't talk to the users" always drove me nuts. When I worked for the Scummy Mortgage Co, the manager designed the UI for the system that data on new mortgages was entered. I mean, of course, he knew "Everything".

The users, on the other hand, told me that they all HATED it, and took down all the information on pad and pencil, and only entered data at the very last step.

468:

Identifying "autism" from baby cries. When the parents can't identify the cause.

I'm *really* getting tired of this - either there's a MASSIVE pandemic of autism, or a lot of people are "diagnosing" variations in normal behavior as an "illness", or "divergence".

469:

On the subject of GIS vs. train crossing, I think whitroth is philosophically correct, but perhaps not practically so. The system should be designed so new data can be dropped in and have it work correctly, but the realities are probably more complex.

There's an assumption there, which I think is both philosophically and practically incorrect. Namely, that "system" and "data" are separate entities. They are not, because each makes assumptions about the other. The data is part of the system. Somewhere in the system design is a contract (in effect) between data provider and data user, specifying in great detail the effects of every combination of input data (including the invalid ones). Writing a correct specification is hard.

Moreover the "data" here isn't a geospatial database, it's a model of a real-time signalling system. There's no way you can test it by simulating every possible combination of events, so how do you ensure your model is correct, and remains correct after you've added a few unrelated features that inadvertently add up to 256 axles?

471:

either there's a MASSIVE pandemic of autism, or

There is. Or rather, autism was systematically underdiagnosed before the 1990s and we're still playing catch-up; in particular, recent research says it's much commoner in women than was previously believed, they're just better at "masking" by developing scripts for social interaction (because girls are forcibly socialized more thoroughly than boys).

(I'm pretty sure I'm on the spectrum (per self-administered tests); I'm not trying for a formal diagnosis because I'm closing in on 57 and it won't change anything significant in my life at this point, but it would explain everything about my childhood and adolescence.)

472:

Greg Tingey @ 411: JBS
WHAT THE FUCK is "Negligent Homicide"?
IS that equivalent to "manslaughter" or some wierdo US variant?

Hmmmm ... not sure how to explain it. I thought it was pretty obvious. You're negligent & someone dies as a result of your negligence.

I guess it would be a lesser degree of "manslaughter" - a killing resulting from negligence rather than from intent.

473:

For a closer view of ROC's
Start here & then select a sub-area. You can watch these for HOURS. The ouptuts are effectively realtime.
Rugby ROC covers about half of the offering shown, but, of course, they will have more details. There will also be "Train Control" who can over-ride the signallers as to priority of movements, plus CCTV for all Level Crossings, plus electrical power-supply networks for keeping the trains going ...
Note that each individual train has its own reporting number.

Nancy
Not now, but in the past some carriages had THREE axles, usually with the middle one having quite a bit of spring-controlled side-play. I've ridden in one on a preserved railway - a remarkably smooth ride, actually. And a 2-6-2T loco will have 5 axles, won't it?

David L
That, of course is the appalling problem with "Strict Liability" legislation.
"But we've covered all the possibilities!!"
"NO - you fucking well haven't!"

Charlie @ 471
Yeah, well, been there, done that, got the T-shirt & the bruises & scrapes.

474:

7. I wonder why Musk hasn't launched any Starlink satellites in the past 1.5 months?

The next batches due are said to also be the next version of the satellite. Speculation is that this may have needed the production line to be altered sufficiently that a shutdown was easier than trying to work round the changes. They've also been waiting for JRTI to arrive on the west coast (which it now has) so they can start launching Starlink from Vandenberg. The new droneship, A Shortfall of Gravitas, is at sea on its way to catch Florida launches.

475:

What I'm reading between the lines of this discussion is that railroad signalling systems go back much further than computers, particularly much further back than advanced theories of how data should modify code and vice-versa. So in trying to make things work you're essentially dealing with methods, theories, and assumptions which in some cases go back more than 200 years, and may still involve analog components. Then all this has to be integrated by systems which can talk to anything from a modern 5G transmitters to two cans tied together with string.

Non-trivial doesn't begin to cover it.

476:

The other side of this is that disciplinary methods for children have changed in the last several decades. I think that "minor" issues which would have been resolved by stricter discipline (note: stricter discipline is not necessarily a good thing) are now making it through to adulthood.

Having raised a couple rugrats to something which vaguely resembles adulthood, I've seen the good and the bad of this play out. Some of the problems my kids have are certainly the result of less discipline. On the other hand, they don't experience the problems of having received too-harsh discipline. I just wish I'd managed to thread that needle a little better.

477:

modern 5G transmitters

Railroads made a few pennies by stringing fiber along their tracks. They had a much easier time of it than the phone companies and others in terms of long distances. They had the right of ways with only their stuff on the dirt.

Unlike the AT&T right of way through my back yard. Which has been there since the early 1930s. The 50 or 100 pair copper buried has been out of service for a few decades or more and putting down fiber would involve lots of pissed off homeowners. Even though they have every legal right to do so. The easement is attached to a LOT of deeds. I traced it back one time when I got into a small snit with my neighbor.

478:

Heteromeles @ 420:

Some kind of psy-op on Podesta I guess. Thought you folks would find it entertaining at least.

Well, I agree that it's likely a psyop. But I wonder--is SuckerInt a thing? It's conceptually simple, although perhaps hard to do: You tell tall tales and see how they spread. It's not a bad system for checking for leaks. Or for spoofing the enemy. Or for trying to track networks of communication.

I believe it's been discussed here before (maybe several times) that QAnon has all the characteristics of a weaponized Alternative Reality Game.

Anyway, telling lies around outsiders is a tradition that's certainly thousands of years old, as is spreading tall tales, and I know folklorists track this stuff, so the intellectual tools exist. And I know that the US Army weaponized the tactical use of staged BS in WW2, so they've got form for this. So that's most likely what's going on.

The British were the great masters of deception on WW2. All the U.S. Army brought to the mix was a bit of Hollywood Special Effects and the manpower for set building on an industrial scale to give Patton's fake army additional verisimilitude.

It was a JOINT ALLIED operation, but it was originally conceived by the British.

479:

Ok, really, I'm going to stop, because with ycts it's clear that you don't understand the way I learned, from a number of places I worked from the eighties onwards, how data is part of the "system", but not part of the software.

That's a very long discussion, and as it's straight IT, not really appropriate for this blog, esp. since there are no infovores coming down the lines....

480:

Heteromeles @ 424: Actually, if you want the best self-defense item, here's a review of one.

I disagree. Y'all are still looking at getting TOO up close & personal. The best self-defense is one that drives an assailant off without endangering yourself, your family or your neighbors. I'll second the suggestion for a large, LOUD dog.

That's my "professional opinion" from 30+ years in the military & 15 years working for an alarm company. Never once during all those years did I ever hear of anyone coming home to find burglars in their house and being attacked by the burglars setting their dog on them.

Plus I have personal experience from several break-in attempts during the 45 years I've been living here.

When I first moved in here, I had a pair of St Bernards. One time someone tried to get in and the dogs didn't bark. I discovered the break-in attempt in the morning from the open window and a copious amount of blood on the window sill & puddled on the floor below it.

Over the years since the St Bernards I've had a bunch of mongrel dogs (mainly rescues before dog rescues became a thing). In all that time, there have been only two "successful" break-ins and both times were during periods when I didn't have a dog.

They got into my car once and stole my cell phone & a checkbook I had left in the glove box. The other time someone got in through a front window (same one) and fled through an unlocked basement door taking my chain saw-with them.

The first thing burglars try to do once they get in is open a back door so they can make a quick escape and it appears the burglar was scared off almost as soon as he got in ... probably by the cat. The chain-saw was sitting on the floor right next to the basement door.

In both instances, the police knew right away who the culprits were, but because I couldn't give them a serial number for the chain-saw, they couldn't get a warrant. Same person or persons both times, but the Police didn't have sufficient evidence to allow them to make an arrest.

They were living in a house down the street & weren't paying their rent or their bills (utilities). Their electricity was cut off & they resorted to cooking on a hibachi in the kitchen; set the house on fire & were then finally evicted by the property owner.


481:

Damian @ 426: That's hilarious. I actually have a normal-size Opinel craft knife like the one in the video. It came free with re-subscription to an Oz woodworking magazine I get, has their branding burnt into the handle.

I missed my opportunity to comment on the military training course that teaches 17 different ways to kill a man with a spoon, 15 of which do not involve sharpening the spoon. Usually the person explaining that they have received this training is a small woman who is also expert in data science. This is a common trope, no?

Maybe. I've never heard it about a spoon. It was always "15 ways to kill someone with a ball-point pen" (FWIW, I only learned about half-a-dozen of them).

But basically, ANYTHING can become a weapon if you know how to use it as such.

Not sure about the ka-chink sound, but I'm sure there must be an app for that. I'd like to think "Hey Siri, release the ferrets!" would work better. But for stupid hysterical raisins ferrets are still illegal in Queensland.

Maybe because of Australia's experience with rabbits as an invasive species and/or feral house cats?

482:

I really should probably let this pass, but since I was the nutcase who suggested:

1. Get an alarm system with a panic button
2. Get dogs
C. Get a big old shotgun to make racking noises with with and to use as a club
D. Get the most ridiculously outsized folding knife Opinel makes

It's worth contemplating the vague possibility that I (in some alternate universe?) might...conceivably...have ever-so-slightly absurdist sense of humor, and be making comments about most people's automatic desire to get an assault weapons for home defense.

Yes, humor is personal. With me in particular, it's worth realizing that my normal answer to the question "are you joking or are you serious?" is "Yes." And it's worth going back to basic logic classes to parse that out.

483:

arrbee @ 437: Oh, and I can confirm that double-vaccination does not prevent people catching covid.

They do, however, for the most part, appear to reduce the symptoms to sub-lethal levels.


484:

You know they're trying to eliminate feral cats in Aus and NZ, right?

Oh