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Quantum of Nightmares: spoiler time!

Quantum of Nightmares: UK cover

In the before times, a mass market paperback edition usually followed the initial hardcover release of one of my books exactly 12 months later.

But we're not living in the before times any more! The UK paperback of "Quantum of Nightmares" is due in November, but there isn't going to be a US paperback (although the ebook list price will almost certainly drop to reflect a paperback-equivalent price).

So ... I'm open for questions about Quantum of Nightmares in the comment thread below. Ask me anything! Just ignore this thread if you haven't read the book yet and mean to do so in the near future, because there will be spoilers.

921 Comments

1:

I never quite figured out what Mary’s superpower was, the bag being her dads?

2:

Some minor, non-spoilery notes:

  • QoN was written in 2020-21, finalized in June 2021. It's set in the December of 2016 in the Laundry universe. It is set roughly a year after the not-yet-written conclusion of the Laundry Files.

  • It's the second book in the New Management spin-off series, which started with Dead Lies Dreaming. There is no Bob (or Laundry) here. This is not a place of honour. (Same goes for 2023's title, Season of Skulls. Thereafter, back to the Laundry.)

  • There is more of Imp and the Lost Boys: also more Eve, and a bunch of new characters.

  • Key media references: Mary Poppins (the books by P. L. Travers, not the blasphemous Disney abomination) and Sweeney Todd.

  • Yes, I have worked retail. Why do you ask? (I last did so 33 years ago: the scars are still there.)

  • 3:

    Mary is, of course, the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter (which is a trope in its own right). Her own superpower is mostly the boring mundane punch-someones-face-out-through-the-back-of-their-skull variety, when she gets angry enough. When it comes into synch with her dad's bag, however, she ends up going all Tetsuo 2: Body Hammer ...

    Incidentally, her dad -- Professor Skullface -- had a brief cameo appearance in Dead Lies Dreaming, when Wendy finds him squatting in an abandoned house.

    4:

    Yes, I have worked retail. Why do you ask? (I last did so 33 years ago: the scars are still there.)
    You are aware of the rule bout using the "Q word"? ;-)

    5:

    How bad is life for the non-magic people?

    6:

    I’ve joined just to ask this question. In the Kindle edition, page 333 the Eater of Souls is mentioned, implying he works for the New Management. Is this a spoiler for the end of the Laundry series?

    7:

    How bad is life for the non-magic people?

    It depends. (Read the book and you'll meet some of them. Briefly, mostly through the eyes of Mary Drop.)

    8:

    Remember that Bob is not the first Eater of Souls employed by SOE Q-Division (aka "the Laundry"). The Eater of Souls might still be around but attached to another body. There will be survivors after the final bloodbath, but you shouldn't assume anyone in particular is safe!

    (The Laundry itself is not around, and -- spoiler -- before the New Management books begin, it has been broken up and absorbed by various other civil service departments. But this is not to say that its former staff are all dead and gone: we meet Persephone Hazard briefly in Season of Skulls. There is also a new organization alluded to by the Prime Minister in Season of Skulls, the Department for Existential Anthropic Threats to Humanity (spot the acronym backform), which may or may not be Laundry 2.0 on steroids -- or just a Cabinet Office subcommittee. You'll just have to wait for the novel after Season of Skulls to find out what happened to the Laundry.)

    Random spoiler you will have forgotten before May 2023: Old George, the vampire elder from The Rhesus Chart, plays a major role in Season of Skulls. But not the way you might expect ...

    9:

    I thought Professor Skullface was the same character as in Dead Lies Dreaming. I also liked how he built Officer Friendly's armour (unless I imagined that part).

    In terms of tone, I felt Quantum of Nightmares was more 'gonzo' than its predecessor. Things under the New Management are still terrible, but the amount of entertaining chaos Mary raised was refreshing - still grim, but not quite as unrelenting as Dead Lies Dreaming.

    10:

    Yup, you got the tie-in to Officer Friendly right. (Also the slightly more "everyday life" tone of events.)

    The tone is going to shift again in Season of Skulls.

    Astute readers will be aware that much of the comedy (as opposed to humour) in The Atrocity Archives (and the next four, early, Laundry novels) stemmed from Bob being a fish-out-of-water protagonist: a 1999-vintage sandal-wearing slashdot-reading hacker-geek who has fallen into a Len Deighton intelligence bureaucracy, to mutual incomprehension. Season of Skulls takes the same approach, only this time it's Eve -- an axe-wielding corporate ice queen -- who has tumbled into 1816, and is totally at sea in Regency polite society ...

    11:

    She thinks typewriters worked underwater, and that typists wore bikinis at work. It took more than a day for the punny to drop. In the name of the Black Pharaoh and all that is unholy, WHY????

    To be fair, my wife didn't learn English till she was 14, and had very vivid mental images of "canonized saints" (with their white robes fluttering behind them as they flew through the air) and "toll house cookies," made in a very tall house indeed.

    12:

    I have this feeling that "Skaro" was something Charlie put in the first book as a throwaway joke and then found himself stuck with when the plot decided to go there.

    13:

    Yep! (It also sets the tone ...)

    14:

    She thinks typewriters worked underwater

    The novel is set in December 2016. Amy is, at most, 26 years old -- probably a little younger. So she was certainly born after 1990, and photocopiers were on the way out when she joined the work force (circa 2010-2012). She is of a generation that has never seen a typewriter outside of a museum or a charity shop. Hence the typing pool joke ...

    15:

    Charlie Stross @ 8: You'll just have to wait for the novel after Season of Skulls to find out what happened to the Laundry.

    Because you haven't figured it out yet either?

    16:

    I've only listened to the new book once and its possible this would make more sense if I saw it written but I noticed there were at least two times the narrator was describing the action then...

    ... and the narrator would begin to describe the action again. It was strange.

    My guess is this is some sort of reality warping power, and Gameboy's game where Eve just happens to roll Mary as a character makes me think that we have some sort of recursive D&D game going on and maybe Gameboy is controlling it? Not really looking for spoilers just curious if I am on the right track or if I reread the first novel it would make more sense.

    Loved the book.

    17:

    There was supposed to be a 'Record Skip' between the two ellipses. Guess the textbox thought it was HTML and deleted it.

    18:

    You've mentioned a progressive dementia afflicting incautious magic users, several times, due to holes being nibbled from their brains when using meat instead of metal-and-silicon as the computation substrate...

    But we don't get a view of this as a societal problem (although our cameo of Professor Skullface, albeit at an individual level, is a hint that large numbers of homeless, destititute, demented and dangerous people might be out there already, under the radar of a society with no social services).

    ...Is that a theme you intend to develop, in the grand horror trope of parodying or alluding to things that would frighten the reader, but don't because they have internalised a remarkable effort to not think about them and not-see them?

    And how much can an author get away with, here?

    Not that any society, anywhere, is ever going to confront the reality of after-the-plague (and a during-the-plague year in which the World's largest economy disclosed forty-percent excess mortality in the working-age population) with large numbers of people subsisting with permanent physical cognitive deicits comparable to a stroke in your seventies.

    19:

    Because you haven't figured it out yet either?

    I'd figured out most of it ... then COVID19 came along.

    The end-game for the Laundry Files was always going to be like the ending of "The Italian Job" -- you can't defeat the Elder Gods, but you might just be able to get to a situation where human survival is a tenuous possibility. As you can deduce from the existence of the New Management stories, this happens.

    How it happens ...

    Laundry Continuity Ops and their allies obviously needed some way of ramping down the runaway exponential increase in magic known as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. Despite a chunk of it being computational in nature, human brains account for most of it. But you can't genocide your way out of CNG, because death releases all that magic at once, so you get an even more powerful spike in the short term, which makes things worse. (Yes, CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is an extended metaphor for anthropogenic climate change.)

    My original McGuffin for "how humanity closes the door on the worst depredations of the Elder Gods, without actually being able to banish the ones that are already here" involved a genetically engineered, highly contagious cold virus that causes brain fog in the survivors, lasting up to a couple of months, and keeps coming back. Upshot: it knocks about 2-5 points off the global average IQ. Civilization adapts to the disruption, meanwhile magic slows down somewhat.

    At least that was my plan for the conclusion of the Laundry Files in 2019.

    Guess what happened next?

    (Fucking COVID.)

    Anyway, you may take it that while I'm still seeking the same ending for the macro scale story arc (and the individual character story arcs are up in the air), the actual McGuffin I end up using will not be a global pandemic because nope, that's not the sort of fiction we need right now, dammit.

    20:

    Because Season of Skulls wanders off into the dream roads, we don't get much more of a view of how society is adapting in that book -- it's something for later. (I need to finish SoS, then write the ending to the main Laundry Series, before going back to book 4 of the New Management, which I am now optimistic will happen ... eventually, coz there's a space opera, a Laundry short story collection, and the other items I mentioned in the way first.)

    21:

    Disagree about photocopiers (in some respects). My employer now has more devices capable of photocopying than in 2012. OK, they're also network printers/scanners...

    22:

    At least that was my plan for the conclusion of the Laundry Files in 2019.

    Ah, well fuck. Not the first time this has happened to you, either, or so I gather, you poor bugger. Still it makes for different directions and potentially more interesting things. Someday this current thing will be sort of over at least.

    23:

    "who has tumbled into 1816, and is totally at sea in Regency polite society ..."

    seeing this and your tweet about splinters in toilet paper, I just happened to finish a book yesterday : "Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners" by Therese Oneill, is it one of your sources ?

    Small quote :

    "Filthiest. Century. Ever.

    Some would argue that the nineteenth century was one of the filthiest times in all of Western history, particularly in any urban, developed area. Worse than when humans squatted in caves picking lice off each other. (By the way, you’ll probably still have to do this on occasion. It’s where the term “nit-picking” comes from. But, take heart, not in a cave, and to squat or not will be entirely at your discretion. So there’s that!)

    Ankle deep in filth, I said, but forgive me, I was inaccurate. You will wish the filth terminated at your ankles. Foulness is everywhere. Grime and rot cling to the very air, the buildings, the people; even the soap is made out of lard and poison."

    24:

    is it one of your sources?

    Yes, yes it is!

    I could not help noticing the correlation between the appearance of public toilets (initially for women of gentle breeding only, men could just piss up against the back wall as usual) and the arrival of ladies' underwear (although panties were crotchless for a very long time, because it was just about impossible to drop them, much less pull them back up, due to all the other layers).

    Truly the past is another country!

    (Not a spoiler: Eve's toilet habits are not covered in the book, although her periodic griping about the lack of toilet paper or the stench of the tallow candles is another matter.)

    25:

    Just one question: why does the skeleton on Skaro wear an e-ink faceshield? Who was it?

    26:

    The skeleton on Skaro is a plot point in Season of Skulls. Spoilering the current novel once you've read it is fine, but I'm not going to spoil the next one!

    27:

    Fair enough :). Looking forward to it!

    28:

    Apart from a brief mention in The Labyrinth Index, BLUE HADES appears to have dropped off the radar (or should that be sonar) for the last few Laundry books. I would have thought they might have something to say about the goings on with the land dwellers or do they not care about the New Management or the American administration?

    29:

    Undefined territory.

    Certainly the New Management knows better than to poke BLUE HADES for no good reason, so arguably it doesn't matter.

    But see also the total lack of detail about what's going on in Brazil or New Zealand: the Laundry Files is rather specific about which countries it pays attention to.

    30:

    A highly entertaining book.

    I have been raised, some 45+ years ago, in 3rd world countries (as a very privilieged child of expats). I have no doubt that our past smelled like shit. And that women took more than their fair proportion of it.

    31:

    I was puzzled by some of your names - FruitCo is obvious, but HiveCo? And where did Pplimitec come from?

    32:

    >>>Upshot: it knocks about 2-5 points off the global average IQ. Civilization adapts to the disruption, meanwhile magic slows down somewhat.

    You could arrange a global strike in academia. Or legalize weed everywhere.

    33:

    If we accept Lovecraft as canonical in this case, BLUE HADES already has a god (or godlike beings) to take care of them. Dagon and Hydra would play in The Black Pharoah's league, and we already know that BLUE HADES magic/tech is well-ahead of anything humanity can deploy.

    34:

    HiveCo is a parody of the big UK contracting companies like SerCo ("Service Corporation") and G4S.

    Ppilimtec -- or Ppillimtec, spelling varies -- is a sufficiently obscure Aztec god that you won't find a page for him on wikipedia.

    35:

    "Skaro"

    Not quite it, but may have some promise for further development:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/22/world/europe/piel-island-uk.html

    "Overseeing a small island dominated by a castle, seals and a pub, an English council is searching for a new king or queen.

    "Claimants to the ancient throne, carved from old oak and soaked in the beer of coronations past, can apply for the job through the local government’s website.[*]"

    [*] https://barrowbc.gov.uk/news/tender-set-to-be-launched-for-one-of-the-most-unique-opportunities-in-uk-hospitality/

    36:

    Thanks. Yes, I got WHAT HiveCo was, though I don't see that you had to parody much given what those two companies get up to, but wondered if there were a more specific reference. Ppilimtec I would never have got!

    37:

    I figure the Lovecraftian pantheon is over-familiar these days. But in a world where ritual magic works, just why did the Meso-American put up with all the human sacrifice? Could it have possibly gotten results? (Heteromeles: please don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question!)

    In the Laundryverse the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores, after boggling at the bloodshed, decided to try some of the sacrificial rituals for themselves. And they, too, got results, from whatever was listening in on the party line. Some of them returned to Spain and Portugal, taking their new-found magic with them -- yes, it's cultural assimilation in action -- and the resulting underground cults accounted to some extent for why the Spanish Inquisition was so long-lived and drastic.

    (So I get to invent a bunch of Aztec-adjacent Lovecraftian horrors with which to ambush the expectations of the regular HPL mythos fans! Result.)

    38:

    I figure the Lovecraftian pantheon is over-familiar these days. But in a world where ritual magic works, just why did the Meso-American put up with all the human sacrifice? Could it have possibly gotten results? (Heteromeles: please don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question!)

    Too late. I'll scratch my question about why we don't have the Alt-History where a Mythos-powered Mayan Empire invaded and colonized the failing western Roman Empire to ask a Very Stupid Question(tm):

    Was mass human sacrifice proportionately greater under the Azteca than in Europe at the time? In Europe, such sacrifices were called things like wars, inquisitions, judicial killings, Reconquistas, Crusades and the like. Perhaps the only difference was that European weapons left more of the dead on the battlefield, while the Azteca hauled rather more of their victims off the battlefield and did the Blessing of the Warlords' Power Hunger as a different kind of public spectacle.

    As context, if you can get behind the paywall, you may want to read this article in the Atlantic:The Anti-vaccine Right Brought Human Sacrifice to America.

    39:

    Was mass human sacrifice proportionately greater under the Azteca than in Europe at the time?

    Yep, variant human sacrifice practices are a topic in these books of mine. (I maintain the death penalty is clearly ritual human sacrifice to propitiate the blind goddess of justice.)

    I'm going to go with the ritual element being key in the Laundryverse: very few people were ritually sacrificed in Europe at the time -- even taking into account mass executions, crusades, and pogroms -- compared to the big-ass Aztec festivals. Even the Inquisition only killed a few dozen to a couple of hundred people a year: ditto the Scottish and German witch hunts.

    Notable exception: one Vlad Tepes, who reportedly impaled captured Turkish soldiers by the thousand. There's probably a thread to hang on that ...

    40:

    I was just free-styling, and had a thought. That thought was, why loot other pantheons when you can roll your own using traditional methods?

    Now obviously this is stoopid, because appropriating someone else's intellectual property allows you to use all the associations that come with it, which saves on work.

    That said, we're talking Lovecraftian, which means that the deity(ies) in question are in an abusive relationship with their worshipers. What kind of language do we see in such relationships? No familiarity of course. Our God is good, sir. She's the kindliest God. A True Gentleman. And so forth.

    It's a very traditional pattern. For example, "God the Father" (Deus Pater) kind of shows up in Zeus, Jupiter, and possibly others (Jehovah?) if you squint a bit sideways. And many of us know who the Kindly Ones were in Greek Mythology. And if we're crossing the Olde Sods, we speak highly of The Gentry and The Good Folk. Personally, when I've gone to Hawai'i, I've spoken only politely about Madame Pele.

    You get the idea. When gods are dangerous, they get treated very respectfully. No spray of consonants when we familiarly speak Their name. Just propitiatory rites. Lots of propitiatory rites.

    Anyway, on a whim I looked up variations on Kindly in Basque. Turns out "Kindest" translates as "Atseginena." And oddly enough, that's just the word they use for one of their local Bogeymen. Too bad Basque fishermen didn't set up any little temples on Channel Islands to propitiate their Kindly Lords. Guess that's a different universe.

    41:

    Great. Of course, in the US, we've already done that. Personally, in the real world, I've decided to blame it on American football, and the areas that treat it like religion... and everyone involved having multiple concussion injuries to their brains.

    On the other side of reality, though... there was a t-shirt at Worldcon: "That awkward moment when a zombie, looking for brains, walks right past you."

    42:

    Apart from everyone being sick to their back teeth of pandemics we now know just how quickly a modern country can develop countermeasures, even without the black pharoah standing behind them.

    They may not be perfect, but fuck me those vaccines are impressive pieces of work.

    43:

    I had been thinking that the Laundry / SOE-Q Division had been subject to regulatory capture, with all that entails. Although the elves could have been an "out of context" problem.

    44:

    My original McGuffin for "how humanity closes the door on the worst depredations of the Elder Gods, without actually being able to banish the ones that are already here" involved a genetically engineered, highly contagious cold virus that causes brain fog in the survivors, lasting up to a couple of months, and keeps coming back. Upshot: it knocks about 2-5 points off the global average IQ. Civilization adapts to the disruption, meanwhile magic slows down somewhat.

    Oh.

    I thought QAnon was the defense.

    It seems to be doing a good job of knocking off IQ points.

    Anyway, humans have gotten so good at spamming systems of all kinds. One might therefore naively expect that we should be able to get civilization junked up enough that more elder god just won't bother porting themselves over to us, either because they'll get infected, because we're glitchy and our connection to their reality is unsteady, or because there's just not enough free capacity.

    Beating that metaphor into the ground, perhaps the elder gods that have already installed themselves are now too infected with humanity to leave again?

    45:

    Very reasonable. I note that the DWP is following the path you describe, which should surprise nobody.

    My guess at your McGuffin was very different, and was based on the firing of a couple of guns you have shown on the mantlepiece.

    46:

    why loot other pantheons when you can roll your own using traditional methods?

    I have a Laundry story on a different take on how to roll your own pantheon in the works.

    The use of polite euphemisms is a good point: currently Nyarlathotep just prefers the trappings of monarchy -- His Dread Majesty, the Black Pharaoh, and so on -- and Ppilimtec the Tongueless is referred to by his worshipers as the Prince of Poetry and Song (and in front of non-initiates as Saint David). But maybe I should dial it up a bit.

    47:

    Yes, but nothing like to the same degree as the Black Chamber.

    Yes, the Elves were an outside context problem: the military had a contingency plan but it was treated as a training exercise/punishment duty, and despite warnings from Forecasting Ops the Laundry discounted the likelihood, severity, and intensity of the incursion right up until they began losing contact with suburbs and got reports of airliners exploding.

    (The Alfar host also misread the situation catastrophically badly and would have inevitably lost, but it was only due to a stroke of good luck -- and a negotiated strategic defection -- that the death toll wasn't an order of magnitude higher, getting into Hiroshima/Tokyo firestorm levels.)

    48:

    I thought QAnon was the defense.

    The Laundry story arc ends in 2015, long before QAnon existed. Which is a good thing. QAnon in the New Management is probably a CASE NIGHTMARE ... scenario and the planned response involves secret police in the NOCs of the big social media corporations directing death squads on the ground to contain the contagion.

    (When threatened, the New Management does not even remember that "proportional force" is an option.)

    49:

    I'm going to go with the ritual element being key in the Laundryverse

    I think we're not too far off that anyway. I mean sure we're not doing the actual human sacrifice as part of it, but the ritual is definitely there, with standup meetings, agile project management and devops. You could argue that what's being sacrificed is a portion of a soul (maybe a very literal interpretation of 'alienation') and because the ritual works, it's binding and you get the mana from it. In fact maybe devops is a nice way to wrap real human souls around big chunks of compute resource...

    50:

    CASE NIGHTMARE FRUITCAKE.

    51:

    I had a question about Rupert's marriage to Eve, and how that relates to the events at the end of Dead Lies Dreaming. If Eve is his wife under a system that gives women no property rights, how can she divest him of authority to take the Necronomicon just by quitting her job? Wouldn't he still have authority over her property as her husband under the law?

    52:

    it's not no property rights; it's just that the legal identity of the married woman is subsumed under her husband's. This was actually law in England until the 18th century, with vestiges remaining as late as the 1990s (a married man could not be found guilty of raping his wife because she'd consented by marrying him -- this lasted until a separated wife who was suing for divorce was raped and it went all the way to the court of appeal). Widows could hold property.

    As for the complications you note (Eve quitting her job) ... that's a plot spoiler for Season of Skulls.

    53:

    Now I'm thinking about a related issue: how do the laws of Skaros apply to Eve, who's a citizen of the UK, and under the Black Pharaoh? That would suggest that someone could do this under the laws of, say, Saudi Arabia, or China.

    54:

    That puzzled me, too. My understanding is that UK courts would uphold Skaro property law, though possibly not for property held in the UK, but wouldn't uphold claims over the person that were illegal in UK law (ignoring which for now). If I recall, there was exactly such a case, when (say) a Saudi wanted his wife handed over, and was told to get lost. That was in more liberal days, of course. See also Stewart v. Somerset (1771).

    I understood that implied consent was a different legal principle when I saw that case, but I didn't follow the legal arguments closely. The last relic of 'being one flesh' I recall was in taxation, when the law gave a wife the right to hold property separate from the marriage, but the husband was still responsible for the tax. There was a case in my teens when she had all the money, refused to hand any over for the tax, he was prosecuted for non-payment of tax and, if I recall, convicted.

    55:

    thought QAnon was the defense. The Laundry story arc ends in 2015, long before QAnon existed. Which is a good thing.

    Yeah, I'd realized that about 15 minutes after I hit send. Still, I'm not interested in going back a decade and asking what the stupidest, most useless obsession was back then.

    My thinking is based on one of my favorite "religious" texts, the Zhuangzi, one of the seminal books of Taoism. There's a through-line there about the use of becoming uselss (Google "Zhuangzi altar oak" for a good example). While it's mind-fuckery, it's fun reading because a) Zhuangzi's one of the earliest texts that wrestles with the problems of scale relativity, b) it's somewhat sarcastic (to my taste, others may disagree), and c) It references the Dao De Jing of Lao Tzu, even though the oldest known copy of Zhuangzi is centuries older than the oldest known copy of the Lao Tzu.

    Anyway, the point is that Continuity Ops probably knows the Zhuangzi, and some wiseass might hypothesize that making humans mostly useless to the Elder Gods was a good idea. Not so totally useless that it's better to destroy them all, but useless in the way the altar oak is: it's valued for the shade it freely provides, not for the wood it can't spare. You'd suggested making people more useless with a brain infection, I was thinking about social media. There are other candidates, for instance...

    ...Climate change denialism. Here's the trap: Earth with ate eight billion people on it is manna from heaven for Elder Gods, especially if most alt-Earths take the Alfar Path and get into magic too early. Problem is, we grew our population in a way that messes up our atmosphere and royally pisses off Deep Blue (I'll explain next paragraph). And most people aren't clued in about the intricacies of the mess we're in, presumably including Continuity Ops. Thus, those Oh-So-Special people might think of climate change as a problem that Elder Gods might be unfamiliar with, a problem that even Elder Gods will have to take thousands of years to manage. And most importantly, if the Elder Gods don't deal with it, with it, human populations crash, and they lose their manna source. The end result is that those Nice Gods actually have to spend a lot of work both keeping our planet habitable, keeping most people alive, and keeping off the competition. It's like farming the Scottish Highlands: hard work, but you've got to keep others off your land because of how much work you've already invested in making it productive.

    And there's Deep Blue. The big problem with climate change is that half the CO2 ends up in the ocean, acidifying it. I'm surprised the Deep Ones didn't send a large tsunami over the British Isles when they realized what the industrial revolution would cause, but for whatever reason, they didn't. Maybe they're another magical race that has no history with climate change in other continua? Anyway, the terrestrial Elder Gods probably want to not piss off Them With the Big Wave Machines so that they don't lose all the people in their new ranching operations. That further constrains Them.

    So anyway, if you wanted to make Earth useless enough that it doesn't get swarmed with Elder Gods, and you're the kind of dangerous intellectual who thinks that your brilliant gambits always work, you might promote climate change denialism until the Gods started manifesting. Shortly thereafter, you shift gears, tell them about it, and beg for their help, because you were so naive about how bad it was...

    Am I the only one nauseated by this idea? Hopefully not. So maybe we can instead suppose that Continuity Ops, working through cutout angel investors, fostered social media, possibly FacePalm and Gibber, as means of making human minds more useless to Them Kindly Types? Just a thought.

    And, in doing this, we will resolutely ignore the Chekhovian skunk works that was St. Hildas. That story is totally non-canon, move along, nothing to remember about it...

    56:

    One of the standard things that happens, legally, is that the parties agree to which country's/states/localities law governs the contract.

    The legal out for Eve might be that her brother signed the contract, which is valid under the laws of Skaro, but that she is not Skaronese and her life is NOT governed by Skaronese law unless she agreed at some point for this to be the case (which she may have done while signing employment papers or something, but that's still pretty iffy legally. She may have agreed that her employment issues will be judged by the Skaronese legal system, but I'm not sure I see that extending to her marriage - this depends on the wording of the contract(s).) I think a British court, for example, would accept that not knowing about the marriage or the marriage contract, not being present for the marriage ceremony, not saying "I do" and not consummating the marriage constituted adequate evidence that no marriage had take place and the contract was something cooked up by her brother and Rupert which has no legal application to her.

    Two more things come to mind. As the surviving Baroness, can she change Skaro-nese law? Also, since marriage is over when someone dies, does "undeath" count as being alive, and how long does a spouse have to be dead before the marriage can be said to be over? The issuance of a death-certificate might provide adequate cover, for example.

    The problem for both Rupert and Eve is essentially mathematical: In the laundry-verse spells are essentially bound by the laws of mathematics - all the issues I've mentioned above come into play and get run through whatever mathematical engine/interpreter "solves" spells. Presumably the engine first makes sure the math works, then assuming the math does work, must simulate the possible court decisions about the issues I've raised above, those simulated decisions depending on factors unknown - how far out of it's own systems can the spell interrogate reality? - and Rupert is either able to give orders or not.

    57:

    And, in doing this, we will resolutely ignore the Chekhovian skunk works that was St. Hildas. That story is totally non-canon, move along, nothing to remember about it...

    Spoiler alert: I'm not talking about St. Hilda's because a chunk of Season of Skulls is set there. In 1816. (And it's due to play a role in the series-level finale for the Laundry.)

    Folks talking about the enforceability of Skaroese law in the UK are missing the point, but again: it's all explained in Season of Skulls.

    58:

    You're applying logic to the marriage contract as if it's a legal contract rather than a symbolic act of ritual magic. The significant aspects are Rupert's geas over Eve (voluntarily accepted) and the "of one flesh" magical aspect of a marriage (per Mediaeval Christian doctrine), which reinforces the geas enormously.

    (Again: the situation is resolved in Season of Skulls, but not the way you probably expect ...)

    59:

    Thanks. That clarifies the situation considerably.

    60:

    Is it general knowledge in the UK that “Fabian Everyman”, the Prime Minister, really the Black Pharaoh Nyarlathotep, or is it restricted to need-to-know? And is Brenda still titular monarch or has His Dark Majesty usurped her?

    61:

    Too bad the marriage isn't like a quantum entanglement. Given that the relationship seems rather medieval, were Eve able to collapse her marriage state and demonstrate she was single, it might just kill Rupert, because divorce doesn't seem to be an option, and him being dead would likely be the only state consistent with his entanglements with other parts of reality.

    I won't make any bad jokes about Rupert being a superposer. But it's tempting.

    62:

    No idea, it hasn't come up ... however, he regularly addresses the nation on TV, so it seems likely that anyone aware of the existence of the Elder Gods knows exactly who he is.

    Brenda and the Royal Family are still around, doing their usual round of public appearances, opening childrens' wards on hospitals and so on. For now. Everyone knows where the real power lies. For now. Is this situation stable? For now ...

    63:

    My big question is also about Eve's marriage to Rupert, and I'm not yet satisfied about it. When I read about the papers in Rupert's safe and what they meant, I had to pause for a while, because I thought I had discovered a really big plot hole.

    My uneasiness is not about the marriage per se, but its preconditions. If I understood correctly, Rupert could only marry Eve without her knowledge according to Skaro's laws because Imp had signed her guardianship over to him while stoned out of his mind (that document in pseudo-church-latin).

    But how is that possible? At the time, both Eve and Imp were under UK law, and I'm pretty sure that under UK law ca. 2004-2006 Imp didn't have guardianship over Eve in the first place. She is his older sister, so if any of them wasn't of legal age and had the other one as legal guardian, it was the other way round.

    And Imp can't legally hand over to Rupert something that isn't his to begin with. Thus the document should be null and void, regardless how he signed it.

    And from this it follows that Rupert's marriage for which he didn't need Eve's consent because he was her legal guardian who could sign the papers on her behalf is also null and void, because he never was her legal guardian and never had any authority to agree to anything on her behalf in the first place.

    At which point am I wrong?

    64:

    On two grounds, both basic.

    In general, where a contract is signed is irrelevant, as is whether it is legal under that jurisdiction. So UK law is irrelevant as to whether it can be applied on Skaro. Yes, it could be applied in the UK only so far as it were legal here (i.e. not at all). There are quite a few people who are married under some jurisdictions and not others - e.g. girls of under 12 (If I recall) who are married in some country that allows it are not married in the UK, even if both husband and wife emigrate here and all parties are willing.

    57 and #58 indicate that the rules for ritual magic are different, anyway, but I don't pretend to understand OGH's laws for them.
    65:
    So UK law is irrelevant as to whether it can be applied on Skaro.

    While that is certainly true, we also learn that before their surprise trip neither Eve nor Imp ever were on Skaro. Particularly Eve during her alleged marriage with Rupert never was even anywhere near Skaro. So I would argue that Skaro law never applied to her (or Imp's) relation to Rupert.

    Anyway, my main point is: at no point was Eve ever under the legal guardianship of Imp, therefore he never could pass his (non-existing) legal guardianship over her to anybody else.

    I cannot legally sell Brooklyn Bridge to you, because I don't own it. Even if you and me sign a legal document–written in medieval Latin–in which I formally hand ownership of the bridge over to you, that document is utterly worthless and you cannot use it to enforce your ownership of Brooklyn Bridge. At least that would be my understanding.

    Imp couldn't hand legal guardianship of Eve over to Rupert, because he didn't have it.

    66:

    I cannot legally sell Brooklyn Bridge to you, because I don't own it. Even if you and me sign a legal document–written in medieval Latin–in which I formally hand ownership of the bridge over to you, that document is utterly worthless and you cannot use it to enforce your ownership of Brooklyn Bridge. At least that would be my understanding.

    Imp couldn't hand legal guardianship of Eve over to Rupert, because he didn't have it.

    Asimov wrote a story around that premise, "Buy Jupiter". Sure, the Yuu-mans didn't actually OWN Jupiter but the sales contract they signed with the aliens meant said aliens could legally (in the aliens frame of legislative reference) take ownership of the planet subsequently.

    67:

    As OGH describes things the contract sets forth the conditions underlying a piece of ritual magic, but where does Eve participate in a ritual giving Rupert a geas over her? Or does Imp take part in the ritual? I must have missed something.

    68:

    Neither of us have ever been to Saudi Arabia but, under their law, I have legal guardianship of my wife. This might not take effect unless we went there, but is the situation regardless.

    69:

    In Quantum, it is explained that, under Skaro law, it doesn't matter that Imp is younger, it's that he's a male, and therefore, by law, in charge.

    70:

    where does Eve participate in a ritual giving Rupert a geas over her?

    It's mentioned in Dead Lies Dreaming as one of the things that happened early in her employment on-boarding. (It comes up again in Season of Skulls, when the gun on the mantelpiece is fired.)

    71:

    Yup: primogeniture is sexist AF but was the basis for inheritance law going a long way back -- eldest male relative inherits, females don't count. You might want to look up the term "male guardian" in the context of Saudi law, then bear in mind that western Europe was about as unenlightened until relatively recently (past 1-2 centuries).

    72:

    Ah. I'll have to reread. Thanks.

    73:

    Does Skaroan marriage law require the consumption* of the marriage to be valid? Who has the authority to annul a marriage w/in the laws of Skaro/magical code that binds the geas? I'm guessing the Pope wouldn't be the arbiter but perhaps one of the Old Ones is available. BSW

    *Does phone sex count as sex for the purpose of consumption a marriage?

    74:

    It's consummation, not consumption, and this is explored in Season of Skulls.

    75:

    Here's an interesting variant on the legal discussions going on here: polygamy is legal in the UK.

    There are lots of strings attached, but under certain circumstances it is. See, for example, The Tax Credits (Polygamous Marriages) Regulations 2003.

    76:

    Do you have any plans for teaming up with an animator to create a Terrortots miniseries on YouTube? (Please-please-please?)

    77:

    Hmm. "ratum sed non consummatum". You clearly have some scope for interesting legal twists.

    https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/churchman/070-04_189.pdf

    78:

    I am going to blame autocorrect…

    79:

    Consummation - Consumption. 2 different words, both spelt correctly, according to the Mickeyshaft Speelchuck on the fly on this Windoze box.

    80:

    No. Animation is horrendously labour-intensive and expensive -- at the high end, the production costs overlap with big budget live action TV, i.e. single-digit millions per hour of running time. You're also asking for me to work with a writing room and/or producer (heads up: I like being a sole creator). And it'd be on top of my existing side-quests (nothing official yet, but work is slowly progressing towards a 2nd edition Laundry RPG and a comic/graphic novel). You can either say goodbye to new books from me for a couple of years, or say goodbye to an animated series. Which do you want to keep?

    81:

    Hint: the twists get even crazier when you consider that Rupert went missing via dream roads that can connect locations in space and time, or maybe dreams of different locations in space and time. And when you remember that Laundryverse magic is isomorphic with mathematics so pays attention to stuff like sequence, commutativity, etc. when evaluating the effects of contracts. (A marriage contract has a start date and an indeterminate end date which can be closed by the death of one or both parties or by a specific dated act of dissolution after the start date. What happens to a spell secured by such a contract if one of the parties suddenly travels to a date prior to its initialization? Or, subsequently, the other party travels to the same prior date? And what does "undead" do to the state of a contract where the termination clause is "until death do us part"?)

    83:

    Yeah, that's what I thought! (And what I'm doing.)

    Incidentally: in the original draft of Quantum of Nightmares I actually used "Teletubbies". But then I discovered that Teletubbies, far from being a dead media project from the 1990s, got a revival only a couple of years ago and is still very much alive. Oops! Also, lots of spin-off merchandising -- which means the owners are actively monetizing it, not just making kiddy TV valium.

    As I got burned gently chided by Legal at Macmillan for taking Sanrio Corporation trademarks in vain (hence retitling Escape from Puroland as Escape from Yokai Land, and a six month publication delay) much swearing and hasty search/replace was engaged in.

    Luckily there's no legal basis for objecting to X for violating Y's trademark when X is explicitly described as a parody of Y and has some distinctively different traits (Teletubbies with skull-mounted railguns, really?).

    84:

    While I am no expert on mediaeval canon law, I suspect that it did not allow for time travel, though it might have for the undead state given the number of authors that wrote about it :-)

    85:

    Also unresolved (at least, before Season of Skulls is out): is time travel into the dream roads actual time travel, or something else? If it's time travel, is it in a many-worlds continuum, or a linear continuum that supports recursion and paradoxes (see also Palimpsest) or where no change is permitted? If it's travel to a dream of the past, is it entirely self-contained or are side-effects possible (that is: is dream time travel call-by-value or call-by-reference)?

    86:

    83 - Longer and more considered answer. More books over a creator controlled animation because, odd as this might sound, I think you get more artistic freedom, more control, and quite possibly better production rate and pictures. (This from someone who has all the Ben A. "Rivers of London" novels, novellae and graphic novels.)

    84 - I don't know myself, but I do know someone who knows someone who knows Scottish Episcopalian canon law, if that's any use.

    87:

    Yeah: I also know someone who was training to become a Catholic priest and got both a first degree and a masters in theology ... before he discovered, oops, am atheist now (and unemployable with student debt).

    88:

    I see why it is vague who the skeleton in the dungeon is. As if Rupert had popped out of the dreamlands in the Laundryverse past and is taking the long way round to being Lord of Skaro again it does mean that time travel exists into the real past anyway there. If this proves to be the case I would hope to see a Dr D Avros helping him with the preparation for his long wait to ascendancy, a destiny he has seen the evolution of.

    89:

    It's never a good idea to bet on any children's material going obsolete. Enid Blyton is still a thing, unfortunately; but so is the better material by AA Milne, Kenneth Grahame, Arthur Ransome and JRR Tolkien.

    The two key points with children's material is firstly that their market is self-renewing, and secondly that their market inherently has no taste. A third point for extra marketability is that if there isn't any connection with the real world then it'll never go out of date. There's always going to be more children for whom repetitive nonsense with bright colours is a good thing, so Tellytubbies and Night Garden will keep getting fed to kids for as long as the BBC still exists.

    90:

    Kenneth Grahame (8 March 1859 – 6 July 1932), so unless you're arguing that UK copyright extends to 90 years or more after the author's death... I think it's "only" 70 years, so the original Alan Alexander Milne (18 January 1882 – 31 January 1956) works go out of copyright today for the text. Not sure who the illustrator was, but unless they outlived the author... Disney's copyright only extends to the films they made based on Milne's works.

    91:

    "Obsolete" doesn't correlate with copyright, only with it still being able to hold children's attention.

    92:

    You've been taking the dream roads! 5 years from today :-)

    E.H. Shepherd died in 1976.

    93:

    Yeah: I also know someone who was training to become a Catholic priest and got both a first degree and a masters in theology ... before he discovered, oops, am atheist now (and unemployable with student debt).

    Are the Unitarians looking for ministers? Atheists are eligible.

    This is far from the only time I've run into this. I knew a Catholic priest (ordained) who was also initiated into kalachakra buddhism. No less a person that the Dalai Lama himself told this particular priest that he had to pick a path, because he couldn't follow both paths simultaneously.

    And if all that fails, well, Stalin was a seminarian who got booted when he became atheist, so getting a job in government is certainly an option.

    94:

    ARGH!

    That's one I had not thought of - pointers, someone dreams of someone from the future, who gives them a fuzzy message, and they then more-or-less remember it when they wake up, and act on it....

    Of course, there's also the question of who sent the dream.

    95:

    AIUI Unitarianism is barely a thing in the UK. (There are about 7000 Unitarians in UK/Ireland, including 150 ministers, so it's not exactly a professional career. Or even a semi-professional one.)

    96:

    Some children's literature does seem to go away. In the US, the Bobbsey Twins seems to have died (finally) after a semi-revival ending 30 years ago.

    With good reasons. I once found an old - from the thirties, I think - book and started reading it to my Eldest when she was five or six. I got through the first chapter, stopped, and explained to her in ways she did understand why I didn't want to read more.

    Let's see, the girl who did not follow what an adult told her, jumped rope 100 times, and collapsed, unconscious, a literal Aunt Jemima "oh, lawsy!" coming out, helpless, and then the White Male Doctor coming out and....

    Got rid of the book. Too much of a booklover to trash it.

    97:

    Oh, yes, that's great fun in computing. Causal and sequential consistency are fairly simple (being loop-free), but weaker forms are enough to make even hardened experts gibber ('out of thin air' events, anybody, as in "By His Bootstraps"?) And I am pretty sure that OGH is thinking along those lines ....

    98:

    Hint: the twists get even crazier when you consider that Rupert went missing via dream roads that can connect locations in space and time, or maybe dreams of different locations in space and time.

    Always tempting, and totally canon too, especially if a silver key happens to show up.

    The fun part about the question "how does the spell determine the proper reference framework" is that there seem to be two possible classes of answers.

    One is that the spell is omniscient, and knows more than the caster or the cast-upon. If so, the existence of spells may actually prove that big G God exists (as the omniscience provider) AND spells can force God to do things. While yes, God may be the computer upon which reality is simulated, telling God what to do is an interesting concept. Merely suggesting to God what to do is also a very interesting concept that's highly prone to Deus Ex Machina errors.

    The other is that the spell only has limited information to work from and resources to think with. And possibly some sort of limited telepathy to poll observers in the local environment about what they think is correct. This kind of magic spell runs upon belief: the belief of the caster, the belief of the recipient, and/or the beliefs of observers that the spell can poll if it needs to make a decision. In type of situation, a spell may think it is doing the correct thing and blunder terribly, because the beliefs of those involved in the spell misinformed it. This also has theological implications, because the words of a spell become a thinking entity, and that gets biblical in a hurry.

    99:

    They're a lot more popular in the US. My recent ex is a Unitarian, as are a couple two doors down. They all seem to have nice churches (if sometimes odd).

    And they all seem to laugh about jokes about Unitarians, which puts them up at least one from most other sects.

    100:

    A huge amount does, but people then forget it. The amount of often humourless 'improving' or sentimental tosh written from the 18th century to the mid-20th was unbelievable. The ones that have survived are almost all among the better examples, were almost always 'bestsellers' when they came out or lasted for some time before fading and being rediscovered, and not all of THOSE have survived.

    101:

    A small request: If you continue with Central American themes, can we have Camazotz in place of Byakhee? Thx.

    And a mind-screw: if you can get to all sorts of interesting spatiotemporal angles from the Dreamlands, does that mean one can get into and/or out of a magic-caused singularity through sophisticated choices of dream roads and/or gating among them? Not that I'm suggesting anything for the Laundry wrap-up or the fate of the Eater of Souls. Just going through my jar of random screws and sharing an interestingly bent one I found.

    102:

    (that is: is dream time travel call-by-value or call-by-reference)?

    Golly gee, and here I thought "from this day forward" was just an interesting bit of versification...

    What amuses me is that, not being a computer programmer, I tend to think geometrically. Had to look up pointers, but I'm thinking similar thoughts in a geometric framework.

    103:

    I will say that among my favorite FacePlant groups are the Marginal Mennonites, the Unitarian Universalist Hysterical Society, and High Church Coyote. Go for the humor, stay for the humor, I say.

    104:

    Enid Blyton is still a thing, unfortunately

    I don't remember the Famous Five books being particularly problematic. Haven't re-read them in decades, so maybe my recollection is off?

    There was the whole George dressing like a boy and insisting being called by a boys name, but pre-teen me thought that was obviously because she wanted to do the more active things that boys did, and it was great that her parents let her do that and have just as much fund as Dick and Julian*. (Not to mention her own island!)

    But memories are 4-5 decades old now, so maybe I'm mis-remembering. Or maybe something horrible just went over my head…

    *I think those were the boys, anyway. And there was Anne who didn't seem to have as much fun because she cared more about being thought a young lady.

    105:

    92 - Mea culpa. But I was doing the calculations as mental arithmetic.

    93 - There's also no bar on being a (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland minister and an atheist.

    96 - I was concentrating on copyright because "being a rattling good yarn" endures, even if "decent writing" doesn't, and social mores change (see mention of Arthur Ransome; note that he died in my lifetime so I know less than 60 years ago without checking dates).

    104 - Similar memories of the Famous Five. OTOH I had to Wikipedia to get "The Secret Seven consists of Peter, Janet, Pam, Barbara, Jack, Colin and George."

    106:

    >(that is: is dream time travel call-by-value or call-by-reference)?

    call-by-cthulhu

    107:

    There was of course Enid Blyton's famous trilogy, Five have a Wonderful Time, Five Get into Trouble and The Secret Seven. I suspect I am remembering this from an old New Statesman competition from the mid 80s on unlikely trilogies. Certainly I also recall being proposed as a trilogy On the Beach, Jaws and A Farewell to Arms.

    I wonder whether Ransome will come back into fashion. I remember when I first read Swallows and Amazons as a child the whole if not duffers won't drown spiel seemed remarkably reasonable. Indeed, the Amazons were strong female protagomists, Dick and Dorothea were 1930s nerds and perhaps he has chances of coming back into fashion every twenty years or so.

    By the way thoroughly enjoyed the book

    108:

    I already wrote Ransome into the Laundryverse in "The Fuller Memorandum" (he's in the background details).

    Seriously, nothing he wrote in his childrens' fiction can hold a candle to the high weirdness that was his own life: journalist, possible double-agent, smuggling diamonds to the Bolsheviks, eloping with Trotsky's secretary ....

    109:

    I should have remmbered that as you combined Anthony Price with Ransome in that book who are two of my favourite forgotten authors along with Eric Ambler (possibly the only UK thriller writer to have one his lighter grey characters being a member of the KGB). I agree with you on his unusual life and of course he was responsible for the joke which is normally attributed to Captain Pugwash about Roger the cabin boy.

    110:

    Para 2 - OTOH the Walker children were all the sort of middle class military brats that just don't seem to exist any more. More 1930s social history than any sort of role models.

    111:

    because he couldn't follow both paths simultaneously

    As Bertie Wooster said about Roderick Spode: "You can't be a dictator and design women's underclothing. One or the other, surely. Not both."

    112:

    As Bertie Wooster said about Roderick Spode: "You can't be a dictator and design women's underclothing. One or the other, surely. Not both."

    Well....https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LudwigIIof_Bavaria

    113:

    I Will not disagree on the Walkers not being representative of modern norms. I feel that calling them brats is unfair and while role models would be pushing it, the mix between noblesse oblige, enlightened self-interest and not extracting the urine is a combination of attitudes for a ruling elite which the world would benefit from being a defaolt approach. Certainly I find Theodore Roosevelt a more attractive character than most of his contemporaries and John Major significantly better then his succesors.

    114:

    OK, they're a few years older than me (rather than old enough to be my grandparents) and RAF rather than RN, but "military officer's brats" is an actual IRL description of 2 of my cousins.
    OTOH I do agree with you about Major Major Major Major being better than any of successors to date.

    115:

    I have to ask, are some of the characters and/or their names, inspired by fellow SF (particularly cyberpunk) luminaries and/or their well-known characters? Obviously, other story types are well-encoded in this (sub)series.

    116:

    @90 @105 Not today. Quite apart from the fact that 1956+70 = 2026, you have to extend it to the end of the year. So the date you're looking for is 2027-01-01.

    117:

    ( 14 ) ARRGH!
    Typing Pool
    ( 20 )
    wanders off into the dream roads - like, oh ... "Creatures of Light & Darkness" - perhaps?

    H @ 38
    You can read "Atlantic" articles, one at a time, if you use "Incognito"
    For another article, you wipe the first pages, open a fresh incog window, rinse & repeat.

    Troutwaxer @ 50
    That is right here, right now: Fruitcake-having & fruitcake-eating & fruitcake-crumbs everywhere ...

    IIRC "Wind in the Willows" has Permanent Copyright - a really weird exception ( Special law, I think )

    118:

    Since genocide would escalate Case Nightmare Green uncontrollably, is the New Management’s grasp on power weaker than it appears? Sure, it can use the death penalty as a source of mana, and deploy unicorn riot police against pro-democracy demonstrators - but how hard can it crack down on a full-scale color revolution? Would civil war exceed the amount of mass death that is “safe” for the Black Pharoah?

    Also - one gets the sense that the New Management’s autocracy is still very much in the process of consolidation. For example, characters refer to privacy and human rights laws as meaningful constraints - but only until their inevitable repeal. Are there still elections? If so, does the Black Pharaoh permit an opposition to win seats in Parliament? Is Question Time still a thing? :D

    119:

    I can’t help it, I will keep thinking of this book as Meat Lies Bleeding. Also, Season of Skulls sounds like great fun. The thought of Eve in the 1800s is… adorable.

    My question: to what extent is the Prime Minister aware of the existence/activities of the cult of the Mute Poet? Is the Black Pharaoh simply willing to tolerate smaller deities as long as they limit their depredations to the de-emphasized? Or was the New Management (via the Department of Work and Pensions) collaborating with the cult in their human sacrifice pilot project?

    120:

    116 - I "simplified" a detail of "copywrong" law that I didn't fully understand, but you agree the general point that the expiry date is dependent on the author's date of death, unless there is a special law applying to a specific work?

    117 Para the last - I'm not sure about TWiTW (no clear mention of copyright status on Wikipedia), but I do know that it requires a specific law to be enacted for each work that has Permanent Copyright: For example J M Barrie's "Peter Pan" has such status with the copyright holder being Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.

    121:

    OTOH I do agree with you about Major Major Major Major being better than any of successors to date.

    Hard disagree.

    Major was a treasury-track PM, and there has been one other treasury-track PM since him: Gordon Brown, who the Tories and their crony press piled blame on for the 2008-2010 austerity mess, despite the fact that it arose from the 2008 global financial crash, which Brown was instrumental in brokering a fix for (via QE). Brown was good at the finance side of his job -- better than Major, IMO -- and his dour front concealed a surprisingly progressive agenda for actual leveling up, not Boris Johnson style bullshit. But he had the charisma of a dead fish and didn't recognize he was being ratfucked by a deeply racist press and opposition until it was far too late.

    122:

    are some of the characters and/or their names, inspired by fellow SF (particularly cyberpunk) luminaries and/or their well-known characters?

    Not consciously, no.

    123:

    My question: to what extent is the Prime Minister aware of the existence/activities of the cult of the Mute Poet?

    Significantly concerned.

    It got shunted into Season of Skulls in edits, but in an earlier draft, the Prime Minister (on stage) utters the sentence, "bring me the head of Rupert de Montfort Bigge" to one of his subordinates.

    124:

    121 - The only thing I consciously remember Gordon Brown for is being the successor to Tory B Liar. And I'm not convinced that "quantitative sleazy" (sic) is ever a Good Thing.

    122 - You're welcome to use my screen name (as above), or my IRL name (from my e-mail, or contact me by e-mail to get the full version), but not both in relation to a single character. I mean, I'll get an actual kick out of it.

    125:

    Diverting off my love of good children's literature...

    Was there a reason you chose Blackpool, for a similar reason to why you decided to nuke Leeds?

    I've no real complaints with your description of it (apart from an "incline" on a very-much-flat promenade - nothing goes up or down by more than the height of a kerbstone). There are more places to throw children at in the off season than you'd think, although with children who can animate inanimate objects I would be very wary of taking them round the Sandcastle, an indoor splash park filled with plastic pirates and parrots. But generally yes, it's flashing lights and loud music trying to cover up the soul-sucking desolation.

    (BTW - yes, I did spot Ransome in TFM. :)

    126:

    I'm not convinced that "quantitative sleazy" (sic) is ever a Good Thing.

    It was a panic measure brought in to solve a specific problem, namely inter-bank transfers grinding to a halt because nobody had any liquidity.

    Handing the money to the public would have been better as a long-term solution, but that involves contacting a lot of people and getting them to spend like there's no tomorrow, in them iddle of a crisis. Dumping cash on the banks meant there was a much smaller group of better-informed-about-economics people who would understand why it was raining money and what to do with it. So the wheels kept turning.

    Unfortunately public understanding of economics is somewhere between zero and actively mistaken, and the press pandered to this by demanding "austerity" -- all that money had to go somewhere, so why not let it all go back where it belonged, in the pockets of the wealthy?

    (What should have happened: a period of adjustment, thena windfall tax on the banks and a universal basic income or tax holiday or something to redistribute the cash further down the tier. But bear in mind we'd just had the first run on a British high street bank since the 19th century, a bunch of banks had actually gone bankrupt and were nationalized -- else a third of the population would have been homeless and/or lost their savings -- then there was a crunch election the left the balance of power held by the LibDems, and Brown was too short-sighted to offer them a coalition deal before Cameron.)

    127:

    When it all happened, Brown kinda reminded me of Keating, at least in the sense of certain patterns. Also the "in hindsight surprisingly progressive despite mostly neoliberal legacy" thing. IMHO the "actively mistaken", while perhaps not outnumbering the rest, are certainly the source of the greatest noise and friction, therefore attract the most love from policymakers, even the ones who are not completely cynical about the whole thing. Then of course, there's the coal...

    128:

    Well, way to make the other guy's argument (mine) by appearing to argue with him; see your para 3!

    129:

    It wasn't just military officers, either - it applied to some children of colonial service people and many other people who had to work abroad. Including to me, at one stage, but in an anomalous way.

    As with OGH, I disagree about Major. Letting the media persecute his cook (which was a useful distraction for him) was disgraceful, and his spiteful destruction of the railway system as he stepped down has not stopped causing trouble.

    130:

    paws
    Thanks - I got it wrong - it was "Peter Pan", not "Wind" ...

    EC
    AIUI, Major wanted a "Big Four ( 5? 6? ) split-up, which would have been "Much less bad" - but got shated by the Treasury & ideologues - who still hate railways. Not much of an excuse, but.

    Oh yes: "Children's Literature"
    What about that perennial favourite, which might only be a children's book(s) in disguise?
    Wonderland / Looking-Glass.
    That almost no SF writer can stay away from.

    131:

    NP; I was quite prepared to believe that works other than Peter Pan had been extended the same status, but I knew that specific Acts of Parliament (or at least clauses for each title) would be required.

    132:

    That's the original portal fantasy! A thinly-veiled rant against the evils of the New Mathematics (as Professor Dodgeson saw it). Died 1898, so even under current bloated post-mortem copyright terms all his work lapsed into the public domain in 1978 (exception: derivative works such as movie/TV adaptations may remain in copyright b/c corporate copyright works differently).

    I have no plans to tackle Dodgson's oevre in the Laundryverse. Wrong tone, and way too over-exposed anyway.

    133:

    Blackpool?

    There was an Eastercon there, back in 2004, which was memorable in its awfulness. Charlie was there, as was his wife. At one point my wife and I were walking with her back to their hotel, and we were noting the seagulls feasting on human vomit.

    Yeah, not the most salubrious place to be on an out-of-season weekend. We have no intention of returning. Sorry!

    134:

    Not even "Bob meets the jabberwock"? (*) I keep trying to think of suitable things to suggest, but few seem to match well, though the Alice books do seem to be a singularly poor match. Some of Conan Doyle's tales might be better, but who has read them nowadays?

    (*) Channelling my inner Wallace.

    135:

    Obviously what you want is an up to 4 player rogue-like dungeon crawler for the terror-tots mission to destroy humanity. Cross between the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games/Castle Crashers/"Destroy All Humans"/"Mars Attacks".

    Good Couch-Coop is hard to find. Especially games you can play with your spouse.

    136:

    Definitely not that. Not doing Bob vs. kidlit at all, that's New Management territory: and I'm not tackling Lewis Carrol's oeuvre either, for the same reason I didn't try and pastiche John Le Carre.

    137:

    It was a joke! You have said that before, and Carrol really wouldn't fit.

    138:

    I have no idea what any of the game refs you just dropped mean. (Am not a gamer.)

    139:

    Tech note, for the non-programmers here: "call by value" means a program sending some value to the receiving function. When the receiver is done, the caller still has that value, unchanged. "Call by reference" means you're sending the location of the value, and if the receiver changes it, when you get back to the caller, the contents of the value are changed.

    I can tell you what's in the box, and you can do whatever, vs. I give you the box, you do whatever, and give me the box back, and you may have changed what's in the box.

    Have I made it clear?

    140:

    Thanks to you, and others. I knew Ransome's name, but remembered nothing about him. Having just looked up his bio on wikipedia, now I need to read some of his foreign correspondent works.

    141:

    Um, er, suddenly reminded of Edger Hoover, head of the US FBI ("the Untouchables"), who was anti-commie, ultimate Tough Guy, who had blackmail leverage over a lot of people, including Presidents.

    And also was a cross-dresser.

    142:

    Creatures of Light and Darkness.... Year? Year and a half ago? I joined this faceplant group called "concellation" (the con that's always canceled before it starts). Gave up on it, too many kiddie franchise fans, not actual fans*, but for a short time I joined a writers' subthread. The person who started it said "anything... except "it was a dark and stormy night".

    I, of course, came up with a title of A Dark and the Storm Knight. But as I started typing, to my shock, I found myself channeling early Zelazny... most specifically, Creatures. Very strange.

    Btw, it's now turned into a novel that I'm doing one last major revision on....

    143:

    Which is why my answer right now to inflation is not monetary policy/raising the interest rates, but raising corporate taxes, and jacking up the rates of the top tax brackets.

    And, in the same spirit of the tax code that hit artists with their art, annually taxing the current value of stocks, INCLUDING STOCK OPTIONS, as "current income".

    144:

    There are more complicated methods, too, but explaining the various forms of call by name, lazy evaluation, thunking etc. is both off-topic and probably counter-productive. On the other hand, they ARE possibly relevant to using the dream roads, though I doubt OGH wants to go there.

    145:

    J. Edgar Hoover is widely believed to have been a VERY closeted gay man, in a long term relationship with FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson. Homosexuality was illegal and considered a security risk for most of his tenure and he was diligent in enforcing that law -- Hoover was a horrible, terrible, no-good person in many ways.

    146:

    It's probably a mistake to make the plot pivot so recondite and obscure that only people with CS degrees who kept up to date on theory can understand it. Just saying!

    147:

    J. Edgar Hoover is widely believed to have been a VERY closeted gay man, in a long term relationship with FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson. Homosexuality was illegal and considered a security risk for most of his tenure and he was diligent in enforcing that law -- Hoover was a horrible, terrible, no-good person in many ways.

    Hoover's interesting. Having read a history of the FBI, I find myself agreeing more with the Wikipedia take. Hoover may have been homosexual in orientation, but the stronger signal I got from reading his story was asexuality. He and Tolson could have been life partners without the relationship being anything other than companionate. I agree on the rest of your assessment.

    148:

    No! Really?

    More seriously, it is why I dislike a great many time travel stories. Closed loops, unchangeable past etc. are easy, but it gets seriously hairy beyond that, and too many stories try to make their time travel into 'hard SF' without realising the can of worms they have opened. Niven was largely right that (changeable events) time travel is inherently fantastic.

    149:

    Yup. I take it you haven't read my novella "Palimpsest"?

    150:

    Have a look at "The Last Englishman" by Roland Chambers. Jolly good, and IIRC Charlie's recommended it previously.

    151:

    Well, um...

    There are a couple of classes of hard SF time travel:

    There's Many Worlds time travel, otherwise known as the "You Can't Go Home from here."

    And there's the Einsteinian brickverse, in which case your time jaunt was preordained and your free will is an illusion.

    Unless of course you assume that only some of the past influences the future and the rest is lost and therefore irrelevant. You can then do whatever you want, so long as whatever you do is utterly irrelevant to the future. And you must be assiduous in cultivating your irrelevance. This is sort of a wainscot alt-history for hyperactive non-entities and other slackers. Unfortunately, I suspect that "the hero is the most completely irrelevant person in the entire history of Earth" isn't exactly the most compelling elevator pitch. Perhaps if the irrelevancies are more interesting than actual history, it might work.

    152:

    Unless of course you assume that only some of the past influences the future and the rest is lost and therefore irrelevant. You can then do whatever you want, so long as whatever you do is utterly irrelevant to the future. And you must be assiduous in cultivating your irrelevance. This is sort of a wainscot alt-history for hyperactive non-entities and other slackers. Unfortunately, I suspect that "the hero is the most completely irrelevant person in the entire history of Earth" isn't exactly the most compelling elevator pitch. Perhaps if the irrelevancies are more interesting than actual history, it might work.

    Come to think of it, this may explain UFOs. If FTL travelers are stuck in a Many Worlds multiverse where paradoxical time travel means they can't return to what they think of as home, then perhaps the only way to have a reasonably stable interstellar civilization is to make it irrelevant to the knowable history that spawned it. That would explain why UFOs do seem to be relatively common, but we can't seem to learn anything useful about them.

    153:

    Yes, I have. Not one of my favourites, but I didn't object to the time travel consequences.

    154:

    "I don't remember the Famous Five books being particularly problematic."

    Enid Blyton has one black character. He has some job along the lines of shovelling shit from one place to another, he is sullen, curmudgeonly, not very bright, and implied to be primitive, he speaks caricature bad English, his description tells us he's ugly and shows us he's black, he has a stupid name like Jo-Jo, the children don't like him, and he turns out to be one of the villains. I can't remember which if any of the Famous Five books specifically he crops up in (I have to think a bit to distinguish one formulaic crap series from the others with the badges changed) but there are plenty of him and one seems to crop up every few books.

    Similar if less blatant with foreign people, servants, poor people, etc.

    One rather surprising thing about Enid Blyton for kids' books is how negative she is about local police. All the beat officers are thick, bad-tempered figures of ridicule who unwittingly passively help the villains by being so crap as police. Quite a contrast to the "respect the police" message you expect in approved kids' literature.

    For unexpectedly sharp social commentary in kids' books I'd have to nominate Hugh Lofting. Forget saccharine musical films with pink snails and oversaturated colour, there are passages in some of the Doctor Dolittle books which wouldn't look out of place in a Marxist pamphlet.

    155:

    Those were included in the categories I gave, for reasons that I would rather not go into because they are arcane.

    It is your last paragraph that brings in the problems I mentioned in #148 - as is the case for the computing use of such callback mechanism. There isn't such a thing as utter irrelevance, because the effects are a continuum not in categories, and it's a chaotic system so the magnitude of the long-term result is not closely related to that of the trigger. And it is mishandling that sort of thing that grates on me (no names, no pack drill) - basically, writing a 'hard SF' time travel story about changing universes is HARD.

    156:

    If it's travel to a dream of the past, is it entirely self-contained or are side-effects possible (that is: is dream time travel call-by-value or call-by-reference)?

    I see an extension of this metaphor that EC will probably dislike, and it's not my intention to annoy him pointlessly*, it's more that it's relevant to this question of scope. Plot-interesting side effects are still possible in a call-by-value universe if it supports scoping artefacts like closures and calling mechanics like currying. And if string substitution (from Nightmare Stacks) is allowed, passing a function as a value might be possible via an exec(string) pattern (well anti pattern really, but it's supposed to be dangerous stuff that is vulnerable to code artefacts).

    Translating such things into plot might not be as easy as saying all that though. Even if I've forgotten whether I'm talking about time travel or ritual magic.

    * SWIDT

    157:

    133 - Blackpool 2004 was one of the Eastercons I chose to miss because $location.

    134 - Conan Doyle!? You called sir? And I mean things like the Challenger yarns and "The White Company", not just Sherlock Holmes.

    146 - Agreed; not because I wouldn't understand it but because I wouldn't want to read it more than once, and certainly wouldn't want to read sequels.

    158:

    Actually, I meant some of his short stories as much as anything, such as the Horror of the Heights. The White Company wouldn't fit, but Challenger might. He wrote a hell of a lot of other stuff, too, very little of which I have read.

    159:

    My objection is to authors who introduce such things, and make a mess of them.

    160:

    Sure, and that’s fair enough.

    In context my thought is that if the geas on Eve is like a closure that has access to the scope where it was instantiated even though the scope where it’s callbacks are triggered does not, then there are implications about what external events do and don’t modify its effects, and how it can fall off the end of its scope.

    161:

    H @ 151
    IIRC the series of chaotic (for those experiencing it) "St Hilda's" novels fall into your third class ......

    Pigeon
    When I was about, um, err, Six or Seven .. one of my relatives ( Probably the aunt I came to loathe, later ) ... gave me an "EB" book - that she thought "appropriate" to my physical age.
    ARRRGGH! - "NEVER, EVER AGAIN!" - was my reaction at the time. And I have never (ever) found grounds for reconsideration.
    Re: Ransome - his "message" seems to be "self-reliance", but also coupled with "mutual assistance" - often against the adults ("natives") who really don't have a clue as to what is really going on. See his novel "the Picts & the Martyrs"

    162:

    I have never read Enid Blyton.

    (She wasn't exactly forbidden, but not exactly encouraged, at home -- too much anti-semitism -- and I never felt the need to look her up in the library when there were much more age-appropriate things like Crash to be had.)

    163:

    I see what you mean; I was aware of "other shorts", but can't remember any of them clearly for whatever reason.

    164:

    It is my firm opinion that Professor Challenger is not only an asshole, he's an asshole who wouldn't get a job as a lecturer these days, much less a tenured professor. (Mind you, "Professor Challenger meets 21st century academic administration" might be a fun short-short ...)

    165:

    Oh, if we're going to keep going on kidlit...

    We could focus on Enid Blyton's endemic racism, or the continual "good for a girl" sexism. But honestly the bigger issue is that they simply aren't well written. Even the lead characters are one-note wonders. If she put original plots around this then fine, but if you read any quantity of her books then you find the same plot points over and over again. She also had a bad case of "they were a poor family - the cook was poor, the maid was poor, even the butler was poor". Some of this isn't stuff that kids will really notice, but even as a kid I noticed the constant self-plagiarism. In most cases too, adults (where they appear at all) are at best indifferent to the children and at worst actively hostile.

    In Arthur Ransome, the Walker kids are certainly an upper-middle-class family that's of its time, but on the other hand the Amazons are a dirt-poor single-parent family just scraping by. There's never any sense that the Amazons are "good for a girl"; the boys and girls all have distinct personalities; and whilst Susan (the older girl) does a lot of the cooking, she has other interests and skills which makes it more clear that it's simply what she likes doing. The thing which Ransome really nails is a sense of imagination and play, which Blyton never even got close to.

    For another surprisingly good one, my sister had most of the Chalet School books. The earlier ones of those are actually OK. The really interesting bit considering when they're set is that Brent-Dyer chose to make one book about the entire school escaping the Nazis, which is seriously dark. We're not talking Harry Potter levels of death, but we're not on happy fluffy stuff..

    166:

    Agreed; that said my interest in Challenger stories is more about scenarios than characters.

    167:

    Re Blyton, the racism claims are overstated, but I agree about the writing of the Famous Five etc. I read one or two and, even as a child, found that they were boring. Also, while they are not extreme forms of 'improving' and sentimental tosh, they have a strong taint of it.

    168:
    If it's travel to a dream of the past, is it entirely self-contained or are side-effects possible (that is: is dream time travel call-by-value or call-by-reference)?

    I see an extension of this metaphor that EC will probably dislike, and it's not my intention to annoy him pointlessly*, it's more that it's relevant to this question of scope. Plot-interesting side effects are still possible in a call-by-value universe if it supports scoping artefacts like closures and calling mechanics like currying. And if string substitution (from Nightmare Stacks) is allowed, passing a function as a value might be possible via an exec(string) pattern (well anti pattern really, but it's supposed to be dangerous stuff that is vulnerable to code artefacts).

    I've been idly speculating how to make sense of causality-violation mechanisms -- such as worm holes -- in a general relativity setting. (My past profession was as a Computer Scientist, but I've retired now, so let's kick back a bit, eh?)

    We can make sense of time-travel if we use fix-point theory. That's (one of) the ways to make sense of programming loops. All we need is an information ordering meeting these two conditions:

    (1) x <= y implies f(x) <= f(y); and

    (2) || f(X) = f (|| X), with X a chain.

    Then we would know that there is a fixed-point operator fix, such that:

    fix(f) = f (fix(f)).

    Let's unpack that a bit.

    Condition (1) says that as we refine the (information-) quality of the argument to a function, the output or result also becomes more defined (or more accurately doesn't become less defined.

    Condition (2) says that with any set that has a least upper bound we can interchange the LUB operator with the function. [For reasons too arcane to discuss here, this is in fact a condition on the continuity of the information structure.]

    The function fix of course is simply the Y-combinator.

    Before I get into time-travel, lets do the factorial function using fix or Y.

    Let fact f n = if (n == 0) then 1 else n * (f (n-1))

    Now fact is not a recursive program: it just takes two arguments and returns a result.

    We get the actual factorial function by applying the fix function:

    factorial n = <b>fix</b> fact n

    This unrolls the loop a sufficient number of times to calculate the factorial we require.

    Now, .. deep breathe, ... one way to think of the factorial program is as a set of successively better approximations to factorial. Let | be the looping-forever program (or undefined, or bottom), and the set X is then

    f0 = _| f1 = fact (|) f2 = fact ( fact (|)) ..... fn = fact^n (|_) .....

    f0 always goes into an infinite loop, f1 returns 1 if the argument was 0 otherwise it goes into an infinite loop, and f_n will work for any argument less than or equal to n.

    Now the grandfather paradox:

    The action or function A is "kill my grandfather". The set of approximations is then A(|), ... With | meaning that the status of my grandfather is completely undefined. Obviously neither he nor I can be in a position to make any sense of the instruction "kill grandfather" and thus the outcome is also undefined.

    Now for an example of "time-travel" that does something vaguely useful: factorial.

    I am given a number n. I check that n is not zero; if it is I return 1 as my answer. Otherwise I place n-1 in my time-travel loop and await an answer. When or if that answer comes I multiply the answer by n and return it as my answer.

    And whilst this approach will work for relativistic physics, you then need to add quantum. Which is either the magic ingredient you need to make the worm-hole thing work -- or it completely gums the works up.

    My money is on the second outcome (complete gumming), otherwise: hyper-computing becomes possible. [Notice that sending your factorial workload back a nano-second on each iteration will mean that you get the answer in a nano-second (modulo the time taken to do a multiplication).]

    Note: handwaving is occurring in the assumption that the information structure is a poset and that continuity applies. Also note that I have ignored the effects of set-up and transmission costs. On the other hand you do get a method for constructing a hyper-computer using your time-travle wormhole.

    169:

    For another surprisingly good one, my sister had most of the Chalet School books. The earlier ones of those are actually OK.

    That reminded me of an SF author who liked the Chalet School books as a kid and wrote some "sequels" around the idea of "Chalet School On Mars". I don't know how far he got with them though.

    170:

    The problems really start to bite when you have two or more time-travellers, as with both computing and relativity. If you can serialise the actions (as you can with a single agent and, as far as I can see, in your model), things become a lot easier.

    171:

    You're thinking of Chaz Brenchley and you're looking for the Crater School books (two in print so far).

    172:

    To make sense of multi-agent time-travel (or computing) I'd need to have a workable definition of simultaneity.

    Tricky in computer hardware -- insurmountable(?) in relativity.

    173:

    Interesting. I had only vaguely heard of him, and must investigate; thatnks for the tip.

    The context is one that I generally avoid like the plague - having been to (pretty bad) boarding schools, and with second-hand knowledge of others, I find most treatments of them nauseatingly saccharine. And it's not YA, is it?, which I never liked even when I was one (off-stage cries from my daughters of "Pull the other one! You never were.")

    174:

    Actually, it's insurmountable in practice in (parallel) computer hardware, for the same reason as in relativity; even access to cache uses message-passing. You can do without it, anyway, but that is seriously hard even for specialists, which is why it is NOT a useful basis for plots in fiction.

    175:

    Just a brief thank you for introducing me to the Marginal Mennonite Society, which I wasn't aware of. I spent a good portion of last night browsing that faceplant group ([side rant]: Oh, how I hate faceplant! It's really awful in every aspect. When you're a fair way down the time line it gets sluggish like hell. And also (because I don't have an account) it insists on filling almost half of my window with this annoying sign-in form which never goes away, but regularly mutates into an even more annoying pop-up whenever one scrolls down too fast. I hate faceplant! Why, oh why would a decent group of people choose this awful platform out of all the possible options? Did I mention that I hate faceplant? [end side rant])

    Also, from what I've read last night I'm quite certain that these marginal Mennonites wouldn't be so marginal in a German Mennonite context. On the contrary, they would fit in well with many Mennonites I know. I could easily agree with practically every post I've read.

    So, thank you again!

    176:

    Please note that in a previous post, I explained call by reference and call by value to the non-computer people.

    Speaking as someone with a BS in CIS, and decades as a programmer and sysadmin, with my highest level of math being intro to diff eq, I have no fucking idea what you're talking about, nor the point you were trying to make.

    177:

    Don't get me started on fecesbook. They don't even have a UI bible - the interface is overwhelmingly inconsistent: quick, does get you a next line, or post? Now, another context, and it's the reverse.

    And the last few months, after a while, it'll suddenly stop showing graphics, and instead print, in almost unreadable colors "this picture appears to be blah, blah". And I have to hit refresh multiple times, and it can take five-ten minutes to get the stupid pics.

    I can't imagine why people think that this is so good that they don't want email....

    178:

    I totally, repeat totally, agree with you about ar$ebook.

    179:

    Can we have an extension of Rule 34? Hypothesis: There is mashup fanfic of it. No exceptions.

    180:

    The fiction may have the wrong tone, but the question of why he opposed the evil New Mathematics fits right in.

    181:

    Back to topic:

    When Mary first saw the T-Rex in the Chariots of the Gods Experience, we learn that there was a pair of legs protruding from its mouth. I presume that this pair of legs belongs to someone who happened to be near the dinosaur when it suddenly came to life.

    So, why is nobody the least bit concerned that the children have killed at least one (presumably innocent) person during their rampages? (And we don't know how many more victims they have left in their trails.) They're not "just children who want to play", they're high level practitioners (Mary rates them as "at least level four"), and despite their superhero parents they clearly come across as supervillains in the making, with only their immediate desires in their minds, no regard for other people or their environment and no remorse for their horrible actions. And absolutely nobody is calling them out for it!

    On the other hand, given that they were so adept at wreaking havoc all around them (including murdering innocent bystanders without much effort), at the end of the day I found them surprisingly useless at defending themselves against a bunch of villains who were clearly out to murder them.

    182:

    Coming into the room, odd-looking Daleks. "We have changed. Assimilate! Assimilate!"

    183:

    You're right. Those are not Officer Friendly, those are seriously scary superpowered beings, authorized by the authorities....

    184:

    I am hardly a gamer myself.

    Does Fancy Contra with RPG elements make sense as an example? Or real time group Nethack? Spacewar but against AI opponents and not in space? Bueller...? Bueller...?

    185:

    only their immediate desires in their minds, no regard for other people or their environment and no remorse for their horrible actions. And absolutely nobody is calling them out for it!

    The fruits of years of pandering to the alt-right? We're so used to public tanties by entitled people that this is just expected behaviour by now? And we all know what happens when you confront the entitled…

    (Note from the Ottawa Truckers Tantrum: three older women briefly blocked some truckers from entering/parking on a residential street by standing in it. They were shouted at, bullied, and told that they have no right to block a public road by the middle-aged toddler using his truck to block public access to the street…)

    (Also note: paramedics now get police escorts after several were stoned while trying to attend a patient.)

    186:

    Re: Faceplant. Yeah, I'm a bit addicted to it. So, to manage my addiction and make it more tolerable, I decided to look at it as an AI training exercise: Could I figure out a way to get the system to give me more of what I want, less of what it's paid to give me, and less of stuff that's antithetical to what I want, sent to wind me up and get more looks?

    The answer is sort of. I found that reporting anything I didn't like for being inappropriate worked the best. I've also found that chasing anything I want to actually read until I'm looking at it outside of Faceplant also works reasonably well.

    The problem is that every so often, they push a bolus of fecal material political bullshit scam ads stuff that I find seriously annoying, just to see if that will get me to click more. And I do: it all gets reported as offensive or inappropriate until it goes away.

    Fortunately, I'm not a computer person, so I'm not weeping in rage at what they're doing to computers and human brains with their pathetic excuse for an interface. That said, I do think Faceplant can be taught to deliver a content stream that's a majority of cats and dad jokes, if you're firm and consistent with your discipline. It's sort of like training a really stupid cat, without the purring.

    That's about where I am these days.

    187:

    So, why is nobody the least bit concerned that the children have killed at least one (presumably innocent) person during their rampages?

    Because ...

    1.The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 12. The oldest of the Banks children is 10. They cannot be charged, tried, or punished for their actions. (A stern talking-to by social services is possible, but not murder charges. Besides, someone getting chomped by a Tyrannosaur is clearly not an outcome the 5 and 10 year old responsible envisaged, so it is at worse manslaughter, and more likely a lesser charge.)

  • Even if they were chargeable, they are the children of the Metropolitan Police Force's two top supercops. This Metropolitan Police Force. No corruption from the top down, nothing to see here, kindly ignore Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dick's record of cover-ups ... (if you don't, we'll be here all night).

  • Obviously any guilt can be ascribed to the individual in loco parentis, in this case the imposter nanny who is clearly a dodgy 'un, faked her credentials, actively encouraged the kids to commit mayhem (pumping them full of junk food and sugar water then taking them to the theme park in question!) and is guilty as fuck. OK? String 'er up and stop asking questions.

  • They're not supervillains in the making, they're spoiled, privileged brats who in two cases are too young to be able to tell right from wrong, and who in the other two cases aren't really clear on the concept of reality. They might (OK, probably will) turn supervillain eventually, but that's way beyond the scope of the story and there's still time for Interventions to be Staged.

  • Causing havoc is one thing, accidentally slaughtering non-powered civilians too (at a pinch), but they're in the hands of no-shit organized cultists with weapons and are greatly outnumbered, even if they had any idea about fighting as a team.

  • TLDR: they're children, with all the heedless egocentric amorality of children and none of the life skills of adults.

    188:

    Supplementary note:

    In case it's not obvious already, the New Management is very corrupt and self-serving. The biggest difference between the NM and the real world Conservative government is that the New Management recruits competent minions rather than relying solely on class solidarity and funny handshakes. (Cronies aren't excluded, but incompetent ones end up with their heads on top of a pointy stick really fast. This tends to weed out the chancers.)

    As in the real world we have a Prime Minister who shamelessly lies to parliament and press every goddamn day of the week -- Johnson lies like a rug, he lies even more than Donald Trump, he lies even when he knows he's being fact-checked -- who leads a government of stuffed shirts from Eton/Oxford, self-dealing nobs, and corrupt businessmen and -women, I am finding it really hard to keep up with the headlines and find myself wishing the New Management were a real thing that could take over: they're Evil, but in terms of D&D alignment charts, they're Competent Evil and Johnson's Tories are Inept/Bumbling Evil (except for Priti Patel who is simply Evil Incarnate and would be right at home in the New Management, and now I have to work a thinly-disguised version of her into book 4).

    So the supercops' kids are safe ... right up until their parents do something catastrophically inept/stupid/corrupt and annoy the Prime Minister personally. Or until the kids age into legal liability without learning to cover up their mistakes.

    189:

    Elderly Cynic @ 54: I understood that implied consent was a different legal principle when I saw that case, but I didn't follow the legal arguments closely. The last relic of 'being one flesh' I recall was in taxation, when the law gave a wife the right to hold property separate from the marriage, but the husband was still responsible for the tax. There was a case in my teens when she had all the money, refused to hand any over for the tax, he was prosecuted for non-payment of tax and, if I recall, convicted.

    When I got married women still didn't usually have credit in their own names. All of the credit cards & the cash reserve on the checking account (which was a JOINT account in BOTH names) were in my name. When she ran off she took all the money in the checking account (after running all the credit cards & cash reserve up to their limits), and I was stuck paying off the bills. There was one revolving credit account with a department store chain that she had opened in her name and that was the only bill she left behind that I didn't have to pay.

    I never thought about whether she was paying her taxes or not.

    I remember there was a case back some time in the 80's where a U.S. court finally ruled an estranged spouse could not be held responsible for non-payment of taxes by their estranged other ... led to new IRS rules:

    Topic No. 205 Innocent Spouse Relief

    190:

    Charlie Stross @ 62: No idea, it hasn't come up ... however, he regularly addresses the nation on TV, so it seems likely that anyone aware of the existence of the Elder Gods knows exactly who he is.

    Brenda and the Royal Family are still around, doing their usual round of public appearances, opening childrens' wards on hospitals and so on. For now. Everyone knows where the real power lies. For now. Is this situation stable? For now ...

    ISTR that "Brian" got on his bad side in one of the stories (Labyrinth Index?), but was expected to recover ... in time. So it seems like the Prime Minister is content to be the "power behind the throne" and only the inner circle are aware that he is actually sitting on it.

    191:

    AdrianD @ 113: I Will not disagree on the Walkers not being representative of modern norms. I feel that calling them brats is unfair and while role models would be pushing it, the mix between noblesse oblige, enlightened self-interest and not extracting the urine is a combination of attitudes for a ruling elite which the world would benefit from being a defaolt approach. Certainly I find Theodore Roosevelt a more attractive character than most of his contemporaries and John Major significantly better then his succesors.

    FWIW, "brat" doesn't actually imply brattishness when referring to the children of career military service members. In context a military brat is simply the child of a career military person ... and most of the ones I've known were neither spoiled, nor ill-mannered (because their military parent ain't gonna put up with that shit).

    It's like the burden that "preacher's kids" carry through life. They have to maintain at least the outward appearance of virtue because so many people are just looking for an excuse to fuck 'em up. So it is too with the soldier's children ... but generally the only thing you can say about a "military brat" is they probably lived a lot of different places growing up; maybe have a wider range of experience than other kids the same age.

    192:

    Charlie
    Police Commissioner Dick's record of cover-ups - yes, well, I'm really beginning to wonder ...
    ...which you have just sorted with yout "supplementary Note" @ 188, oh dear.

    193:

    dpb @ 180: The fiction may have the wrong tone, but the question of why he opposed the evil New Mathematics fits right in.

    Can someone explain why the New Mathematics were evil ... in terms suitable for a lay person; NON-mathematician & NON-programmer?

    194:

    Basically because it did a lot of people's heads in and so elicited cries of "this is rubbish" as a defensive measure by established figures who were afraid they wouldn't be able to keep up.

    There's a bit more to it than that, but the bit more is all technical wibbling, and for simply understanding what was going on the status anxiety model is adequate.

    195:

    In reality, little more than a distaste for some of the new developments outside his field

    In a universe where the wrong calculations lead to elder go infestations on the other hand...

    Parts of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" satirised then modern mathematical thinking, while the core plot of "Alice through the looking glass" was the solution to a chess problem.

    A couple of articles on the subject I found here:

    https://www.thecuriousreader.in/features/alice-in-wonderland-math/

    https://www.artpublikamag.com/post/alice-s-adventures-in-wonderland-and-the-mad-hidden-mathematical-satire-of-dodgson-s-lewis-carroll

    196:

    "Prove that the set of all possible elder gods is countable"...?

    197:

    "Prove that the set of all possible elder gods is countable"...?

    I suspect that the proof is not just an elder god in themself, but also a powerful ritual that Opens The Way to allow a whole different order of elder gods into our reality.

    They're probably a strange loop too.

    198:

    @168 Now for an example of "time-travel" that does something vaguely useful: factorial.

    I am given a number n. I check that n is not zero; if it is I return 1 as my answer. Otherwise I place n-1 in my time-travel loop and await an answer. When or if that answer comes I multiply the answer by n and return it as my answer.

    In "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality", Harry tries to solve an NP-complete problem like this. The first cycle results in a piece of paper with shaky writing reading "Do not try to mess with time travel.".

    (From memory, so I may not have the wording exactly right.)

    199:

    Thank you for taking the time to answer. Okay, being children under 12 they wouldn't face legal retributions. But what particularly struck me was their parents' apparent lack of concern for what their children did there. On the other hand, the parents also come across as more than slightly unhinged.

    But I have one follow-up question which came to me this morning: If the children continue to use their powers at the prodigious rate which they display in this novel, at what age would you expect them to succumb to K-syndrome? Do you think they have a life expectancy of much over 20 before they end up either (a) on the wrong side of the New Management's favour or (b) like Mary's father?

    Honestly, given Robert's special ability I would expect the Prime Minister to notice and stomp hard on him rather sooner than later. I mean, continuously thinning the walls between the worlds and thereby making it easier to invade from outside is bound to attract the attention of those powers the Black Pharao is running away from at some point, isn't it? And this would make Robert a potential existential threat for the New Management, once his abilities have fully matured.

    200:

    There's actually more to the mathematical changes than that, and, as a mathematician, I can sympathise. Traditional Euclidean geometry disappeared - how many modern mathematicians can prove Pythagoras's theorem using a straight line and compasses alone?

    The very abstract modern mathematics has its own problems, is unclearly connected with reality, is damn-near impossible to visualise or explain in layman's terms, and has a tendency to get religious. You may remember inconclusive weebling on this blog about things like metamathematics, uncountable sets and their consequences, infinite-dimensional spaces and similar, in addition to the abovementioned non-Euclidean spaces, which were new in his time.

    Topologist: someone who can't tell a coffee cup from a doughnut. Later than his time, but he could easily have woven it into his books.

    201:

    The parents were clearly a satire of the worst of the Metropolitan Police. They are still extremely good by USA standards, but the total lack of any balance on authorised abuse of powers is likely to mean that doesn't hold. And, yes, like parent, like child.

    202:
    Can someone explain why the New Mathematics were evil ... in terms suitable for a lay person; NON-mathematician & NON-programmer?

    Charles Dodgson's actual objection was to vector notation. He believed firmly that one needed to write down each element of a vector or matrix -- otherwise it wasn't "real mathematics" and perpetrators of vector notation were just slackers.

    203:
    Please note that in a previous post, I explained call by reference and call by value to the non-computer people. Speaking as someone with a BS in CIS, and decades as a programmer and sysadmin, with my highest level of math being intro to diff eq, I have no fucking idea what you're talking about, nor the point you were trying to make.

    Sorry about that. Please excuse my brain fart. It won't happen again.

    204:

    I should have said that the ideas I was presenting come from programming language semantics -- in particular those pioneered by Strachey and Scott. Despite the fact that Dana Scott is American, his ideas are not taught much in USA Computer Science, which wisely devotes more attention to information theory and complexity.

    I'm less sure whether Lazy Functional Programming (Haskell) has penetrated US curricula to the same extent it did in the UK.

    205:

    Well, clearly, but I am afraid that you haven't got them right. As I have posted before, this area is sufficient arcane that it is not even worth trying to explain in layman's terms. Even experts find that it confuses them and retreat to the mathematics. Denotational semantics is actually an irrelevance, but is the most commonly used notation nowadays; that is unfortunate, as it is unnecessarily and excessively obscure and hard to use. I have posted links before, and the universal response by people who looked at them was gibbering.

    206:

    "Nightmares"
    This post, by "Diamond Geezer" is quite frankly, terrifying.
    It reconts, in layman's language as both sinister & grossly incompetent fuck-up of the "telephone" system.
    PLEASE read both it & the comments? I would love to see Charlie's take on this? p.s. Three words: "Big Solar Flare"

    207:

    If the children continue to use their powers at the prodigious rate which they display in this novel, at what age would you expect them to succumb to K-syndrome?

    I am so tempted to post an animated GIF meme here (the evil Nazi dude from "Inglorious Basterds" who is so gleeful he can't stop himself doing a little dance behind his desk).

    Let's just say the New Management will demonstrate an innovative cutting-edge approach to protecting its loyal minions from K-syndrome. (By, of course, entangling them with the brains of someone the government can do without.) But we're not that far into the series yet.

    I mean, in Warhammer 40,000 the undead emperor only demands 1000 human sacrifices per day, and we've seen various governments recklessly sacrifice some multiple of that many during COVID19, just to keep the commercial property market buoyant or the voting base energized, right?

    208:

    Another question, this time for all to discuss:

    How much are you hearing/seeing racist connotations with the title "Black Pharao", given that in popular culture the Egyptian Pharaohs are usually depicted as (more or less) white, while in reality there were a number of Pharaohs who were actually black, and in general their skin tone was certainly darker than Hollywood would like us to believe?

    209:

    Pharaohnic ethnicity probably depends on which dynasty -- there were two crowns, the north and south, and at some points they merged, and I would guess the southern ancient Egyptian kingdom included a big chunk of what is today Sudan.

    Anyway ...

    With 20/20 hindsight I'd have avoided Lovecraft's mythos entirely, but I started writing this series more than 20 years ago. I may modify His Dread Majesty's title to the Dark Pharaoh, or just drop the adjective entirely: not decided yet.

    210:

    Sunak is not really inept and bungling, so much as unimaginative and prejudiced to the point of bigotry. He does a good job of ensuring that takes are not spent on the peasantry, but in lining the pockets of fat cats.

    211:

    Finally read the book (ordered from Bookdepo and that took a bit to get here). Many of my questions have been asked and answered already.

    Anyway, when reading this thread I realized that perhaps it's a good thing the book is set in 2016, so that the most horrible IT creations do not make that much of an appearance.

    I'm talking about blockchains, and all the grift and stupidity around them. (Not a fan.) The most 'fun' applications I can think of are so-called 'smart contracts': in the Laundry universe something that is basically a block of runnable code, put into an unmodifiable distributed database could be fun in the hands of the correct parties. Even without those, what would those server farms calculating seemingly 'useless' computations be doing in the Laundry universe?

    Or it might be that Powers That Be stamped on the blockchain and Bitcoin hard when it was released in 2009, before it grew into anything big. Or the first attempts summoned something nasty and got promptly eaten. (Sadly, this would again be a place where the Laundry universe is more happy than our own.)

    (I'm only passingly familiar with blockchains and assorted stuff, but at least I'm certain I haven't yet seen any existing problem which would be solved by them. NFTs and the like could just die in my opinion, there's nothing but plain grift there.)

    (If you can't tell I'm slightly opposed to the things, 'slightly opposed' meaning most of the applications should be globally banned rightnow_.)

    212:

    Book 4 of the New Management? Something after Skulls? Eve and Imp, or off in a different direction?

    Enjoy!

    Frank.

    213:

    @208: I'd always associated "Black" in "Black Pharaoh" with evil rather than anything to do with race. For that matter, I'd assumed it was a translation rather than anything to do with Egypt. But, then, I've never read Lovecraft.

    https://www.royaltynowstudios.com/blog has some interesting reconstructions of Cleopatra VII Philopator and Hatshepsut.

    214:

    Or it might be that Powers That Be stamped on the blockchain and Bitcoin hard when it was released in 2009, before it grew into anything big

    IIRC cryptocurrencies get a throw-away side-eye in The Labyrinth Index, as Mhari notes that they're used as the computational demonology equivalent of Buddhist prayer wheels ...

    215:

    Book 4 of the New Management? Something after Skulls?

    Provisional plan is:

  • Finish Season of Skulls. (At 99,500 words right now! Woo-hoo! Provisional publication date: May 2023).

  • Finish A Conventional Boy (at 14,000 words, just under half-written). No planned publication but will probably be the centerpiece of a Laundry Files short story collection (including all the Laundry short fic not compiled in The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue).

  • Write the last Laundry main sequence novel. This may be the thing tentatively titled The Valkyrie Confessional -- the Senior Auditor's Darkness at Noon/1984 moment -- or it might be something else. It might even be two somethings, because ending a series this big is going to take a lot of work (see also: Invisible Sun).

  • Next up is New Management book 4, title unknown, theme unknown. What I do know is: Season of Skulls should provide closure on the Rupert sub-plot and fill in a bunch of historical blanks/guns on mantlepieces (ever wondered where the vampire Old George in The Rhesus Chart came from, or why he had such an, ahem, problem with the Laundry?). Eve is getting dragged, unwillingly, into the orbit of His Dread Majesty's court. It is likely that Imp and the gang will also be dragged, willy-nilly, after her (it's the most obvious way to keep their heads off spikes). The Laundry no longer exists after mid-2015, but its alumni are dispersed throughout government. It follows that the New Management uses other proxies/catspaws to work its will, whether they are willing or not. There is room for a Dirty Dozen in his arsenal: the likes of Mary Drop, or Imp and the gang, would be a perfect fit.

  • I don't know any more about New Management book 4 at this point -- not even a tentative title to file notes under -- so don't bother asking. Let's just say it gives me the opportunity to hit fast-forward on the calendar and jump past 2017.

    216:

    By the time you reach NM 4, we might (JUST might) have some clue about the future of the UK - or we might just have reached a deeper level of chaos. Your record of guessing is better than mine, but I doubt that you have a definite idea.

    217:

    With 20/20 hindsight I'd have avoided Lovecraft's mythos entirely, but I started writing this series more than 20 years ago. I may modify His Dread Majesty's title to the Dark Pharaoh, or just drop the adjective entirely: not decided yet.

    Yeah, don't worry about it. Being Woke is very much a product of the last two decades of upfuckery in the sociopolitical sphere. Back in 2000, with Y2K sucking oxygen out of dealing with more serious problems, being politically correct might not have been the most useful thing.

    That said, you might want to consider leaning into the Pharaoh part of that mythology, not just burrowing into someone else's belief system. I don't know much about Egyptian history, but the thing about Pharaohs (trans: of the Great House) is that they were dictators who were also dealing with the sleazy politics of the other, lesser houses, the great temples, the kingdoms of other self-proclaimed god-kings, and, to be quite fair, the other 80% of the Mediterranean that wasn't saddled with authoritarian social parasites.

    The world you've imagined is increasingly like the Bronze Age: very small, people ideologically limited to their little kingdoms, and theoretically unable to go between them without God King approval. On the other hand, that's the archaeologists' old view, and historically it was very much limited by a Shiny! Big! Famous! mentality. Nowadays, rather more researchers are paying attention to the gaps between the pharaonic dynasties (the gaps sometimes lasted as long as the dynasties), looking at the archaeology outside the little kingdoms (where did those Sea People come from?) and so forth.

    Perhaps doing the same might be useful?

    218:

    EC
    Even if the (so far) third-most-incompetent govmint EVER ( See below) has gone by then ...
    We will still be in chaos.

    PLEASE READ my post @ 206?

    NO "land-lines" a supposed back-up by mobiles, without power-reserves or batteries to keep mobiles going .. many potential triggers for a complete crash of all comms.
    Utterly bucking fonkers.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ So far:
    Worst government ever: 1199 - 1216 John Lackland
    Next worst: 1685 - 88 James II & VI
    Coming up fast on James, the present shower.

    219:

    I have known about #206 for ages. In addition to that, there are the more serious problems of places with no mobile telephone signal, and people can't can't use mobile telephones. People in those categories are being offered a battery that will work for an hour but, which is not a great deal of help if you have a medical emergency and need longer than that. Getting through to 111 took me 40+ minutes, and then the connection failed, so a second attempt would have lost power.

    220:

    IIRC cryptocurrencies get a throw-away side-eye in The Labyrinth Index

    Ah, thanks! It's been too long since I read that.

    221:

    EC
    AIUI larger, more reliable back up battery packs are available ( And I DO NOT mean the usual mobie-phone back-up battery ).
    Usual problem, nowadays - what search terms does one use to find them, or you'll get every effing thing except the one you really want.

    Did anyone else also notice the change to physical mail, meaning that every single letter & parcel is traceable through the system ...
    A stasi wet dream, in fact.

    222:

    Tell a coffee cup from a donut? Um, here's a coffee cup I've wanted a long time.... https://www.kleinbottle.com/drinkingmugklein_bottle.htm

    From Acme Klein Bottle (no relation to Acme, supplier to coyotes).

    Note that the founder and owner of this Acme is Cliff Stoll... yes, that Cliff Stoll.

    223:

    Oh, I see. So, Newton/Liebnitz' calculus should also require writing down every point between the initial and the max? (Of course I'm being satirical.)

    224:

    Probably. We haven't been inflicted yet.

    225:

    I "only" have a BS in CIS, and I was close to finishing when I got a course in OOPs and GUI (which still sounds as though someone had dropped a raw egg) in '94 (which degree I'd been working on since 1978, having to work full time).

    I'll also note that I annoyed the hell out of my compiler design instructor in '86 when I would bring up things that I'd run into in nearly six years as a working programmer....

    I know folks who adore haskell. But I looked up lazy evaluation... and nearly ran screaming. "Access by value", and return answer already computed... and if there had been bad data going in, and the computation was wrong, and is even more wrong for the new data?

    226:

    The phone system. The companies have been wanting fibre to the customer for decades - it was being talked about a lot when I worked for Ameritech (a Baby Bell, long since swallowed by SBC/AT&T) in the mid-nineties. Of course, one thing they love is that they don't have the buildings full of batteries - you have the receiver, and when the backup battery needs replacing, that's your problem (done it, twice - this house had FIOS when I bought it in '11).

    And I have NO INTENTION of getting rid of a landline. Let's see, 2004, Space Coast of Florida, extremely unusual, a hurricane came through. The cell towers were overwhelmed, the power went out (so no Internet), for about a week or 10 days. Copper-phone-wire, power went down on Mon or Tues, came up for an hour on Thurs, went down, came up on Fri and stayed up.

    I dislike single point of failure - I have landline, cell, and internet (ok, landline and 'Net are on the same cable), but....

    227:

    The obvious followup to this is the 1967 Ron Cobb cartoon from the LA Free Press. https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/449445237815774655/

    228:

    Let me note that this is very much appreciated in your writing. A deity, one would expect, would be competent at some level, and the writers who always make some supervillain's sidekick a stupid idiot, presumably to "humanize" them, or "make them accessible", drives me nuts. I mean, Superman 1: why would brilliant Lex Luthor put up with an idiot henchman? He's obviously someone who doesn't suffer fools gladly.

    Well, I have to admit that it gave me a lovely description, several years ago, of The Former Guy - that he thought he was Lex Luthor, and the bad news is that is is... the Lex Luthor of the first Superman movie.

    229:

    witroth @ 222
    Borked link ....

    And I have NO INTENTION of getting rid of a landline.
    No good, mate - there will not be a land-line.
    In my case, eventually, the Cu wire(s) from my roof-edge to the pole across the street will simply vanish, AIUI, anyway.

    It is a classic single-point-of-failure total fuck-up.
    My guess, based on past performance is that everybody will scream, the "authorities" will both take no notice & make soothing noises ... until it falls down in somefink 'orrible.
    And then complain that no-one warned them.

    230:

    Ok, that's weird - I copied the link in, and halfway through "drinkingmug", it stopped being a link. Acme Klein Bottle mug
    Ok, that works. I see that markdown forces me to add a title.

    231:

    In that case, you may be interested in a Klein Bottle Opener .

    232:

    Back when I was a grad student, someone gave me a cute little borosilicate klein flask. Last I saw of it, it was discretely hidden in my lab's glassware when I took off. Hope they found a use for it.

    To (not) change the subject, recently I was reviewing a bit of basic embryology, the difference between protostomes and deuterostomes. It's about how a tiny ball of embryonic cells turns itself into a torus, with the tube developing as everything from mouth and lungs to guts and anus. In all cases, a dimple invaginates in the ball of cells, grows in and through until it reaches the other side. In protostomes, the mouth develops first. In deuterostomes, the anus develops first. We're deuterostomes, which may explain something about us.

    Anyway, it occurred to me that some Mythos beings must develop a third way--as a kleinostome. I'll let you figure out how that works.

    233:

    "How much are you hearing/seeing racist connotations with the title "Black Pharao""

    Personally? Not in the least. I've never had the slightest confusion between the metaphorical uses of words like "black" and "dark" to denote evil, and their literal use to describe skin colour. The metaphorical use - as well as being deeply embedded in the cultural religious background - is such a very very obvious way to use the words that the opportunity for confusion doesn't arise. Black dark places like caves and tunnels and night-time are scary, especially when you're a wee kid. It's an ancient usage which is independent of and far older than "modern" (to cover centuries) slavery/colonialism-based racism, and it occurs in populations everywhere regardless of their skin colour. The objection to possible confusion of the usages always seems to me rather contrived.

    (Of course you do get writers who deliberately set up confusion because they are arseholes, or create it accidentally by being so crap at writing that it's hard to disentangle what any of their words are doing in the sentence, but neither of those are exactly relevant here.)

    234:

    "Traditional Euclidean geometry disappeared - how many modern mathematicians can prove Pythagoras's theorem using a straight line and compasses alone?"

    I'd have no idea... but on the other hand I could do (have done) it with no physical tools at all. And I certainly don't count myself as a "mathematician"; I like it, but I'm definitely not much good at it.

    I've read a biography of Dodgson which includes some of his degree papers. It's a shock to see how basic they are: school-level stuff and not even heavy on that scale. I did them all in my head in a state of stoned contemplation; it's disconcerting to think that in Dodgson's day I could have picked up a maths degree from Oxford simply by wandering into the finals cold with a spliff on the go and cracking on with it, especially knowing how very far short my abilities fall of getting a modern one.

    On the other hand I also have a vague historical awareness that in those days they would have expected me to do the geometrical questions by drawing things out with compasses and straight-edge, and quoting chapter and verse from Euclid. I've never even seen a copy of Euclid, and what very little we did at school in the way of "calculation by drawing" I subverted because I'd already found out what sin, cos and tan were and it was much easier and quicker to get the answers just by doing sums. I get the feeling that the Oxford examiners might have just chucked my papers straight in the bin for not even trying to do it in the way they expected.

    235:

    "Charles Dodgson's actual objection was to vector notation. He believed firmly that one needed to write down each element of a vector or matrix - otherwise it wasn't "real mathematics" and perpetrators of vector notation were just slackers."

    I have no sympathy. It may require more initial effort to get your head round it, but the alternative is wearing your hand out covering reams of paper with repetitive crap, and then doing it several more times because there's so much more opportunity to cock something up in the middle. And you tend to get answers which are tied to the particular dimensions of the matrices you were dealing with instead of being general, which as well as being a restriction is something of a philosophical contradiction with the whole idea of algebraic methods.

    236:

    Pigeon @ 233:

    "How much are you hearing/seeing racist connotations with the title "Black Pharao""

    Personally? Not in the least. I've never had the slightest confusion between the metaphorical uses of words like "black" and "dark" to denote evil, and their literal use to describe skin colour. The metaphorical use - as well as being deeply embedded in the cultural religious background - is such a very very obvious way to use the words that the opportunity for confusion doesn't arise. Black dark places like caves and tunnels and night-time are scary, especially when you're a wee kid. It's an ancient usage which is independent of and far older than "modern" (to cover centuries) slavery/colonialism-based racism, and it occurs in populations everywhere regardless of their skin colour. The objection to possible confusion of the usages always seems to me rather contrived.

    I just figured it must have something to do with Egypt's 25th Dynasty from the 8th Century BCE.

    237:

    The companies have been wanting fibre to the customer for decades

    I worked on that in the 80s. Project got canned because Sales & Marketing didn't see a market for high-bandwidth residential connections (back when 64 kbps was high-speed data).

    As is often the case, the inability of people to understand exponential functions is an expensive failing…

    238:

    I just figured it must have something to do with Egypt's 25th Dynasty from the 8th Century BCE.

    Yeah, this is where we skate around HPL's racism, associating black with evil, so black men are color-coded as evil (even though they don't have truly black skin).

    Problem is, HPL's canon is freely available for authors to appropriate, it being made-up and all, so it's always tempting to use it.

    Now, if you wanted to get crafty with ye olde Egyptian Mythology, you might look at a deity like Apep, Egypt's precursor to the Midgard Serpent, and embodiment of "Isfet" (chaos, violence, and injustice).

    Worship of Lord Apep the Night Pharaoh would be reasonably appropriate.

    239:

    I'm still wondering a bit about the motivations of His Dread Lord here, but can't remember if that's been answered already somewhere or if it's just inconceivable to us mortals.

    Having a PM who is an explicit inhuman horror is fine, yes, but why would doing basically human organizational stuff be a thing for them? Or is it more like a hobby?

    Or is there some kind of end game that's still not achieved? Or is it just enough sacrifices easily enough that the world in the 'Quantum of Nightmares' is the end game? No hope ever of doing better for humans, even though they still survive?

    (Ol'Nyarly is of course one of the most 'human' of the cosmic things, so this might just be a Thing it does, no great urge to just wipe out everything because of what it is.)

    240:

    Hi Charlie, I think I've spotted a slight continuity error in the Kindle version. In Chapter 9, Amy acquires a torch and Wendy a katana, but when they get to the office, Amy has a rapier?

    241:

    However, without better evidence, I doubt the claim. Yes, there was opposition to it but, as I posted in #200, there were MUCH more drastic changes.

    You have also COMPLETELY missed the point about Euclidean geometry and mathematics tripos questions. Yes, it's easy to prove Pythagoras's theorem using modern methods, but I'll bet you didn't prove the methods starting from first principles before starting. Fail. The requirement is to prove them using nothing but Euclid's principles, whether you use physical tools or not.

    I, too, have looked at such degree papers and have a decent degree in mathematics. Some questions were trivial, others used incomprehensible terms, but some were definitely tricky. Unusually, I can use Euclid's methods, though I would have to scratch my head hard to remember how.

    242:

    Apep:

    There is this quite common trope in mythology over a wide range of cultures and regions that the world came into being through a fight between the creator god and the chaos god. Sometimes the world is literally built by the creator god out of the corpse of the chaos god. And the chaos god is often depicted as a snake, a crocodile, a dragon, or a sea beast. There are echoes of this myth in the Bible as well, for instance in the form of Leviathan and Behemoth in Ps 104 and Job 40. Ps 104 is particularly interesting of course, because of its close connection to Egypt, as it appears to be related to the Great Hymn to the Aten.

    Anyway, in the wikipedia article about Apep there was one thing that particularly stood out to me:

    As Apep was thought to live in the underworld, he was sometimes thought of as an Eater of Souls.

    I just leave that here.

    243:

    I have a caution to offer this comment... the caution has a name, and the name is Evans-Pritchard. Can't find an appropriate reference now, but it's an "early days of modern ethnography" thing about projecting elements of one's own world view onto the culture under study.

    244:

    In the UK, it's NOT fibre to the house that is the issue, but fibre to the junction box in the street, so they can save money by having just one cable. Those boxes are powered but, unfortunately, it's the same circuit as the street lights and houses. The proposal is Ethernet to the house, not necessarily fibre, as I understand it.

    My house has fancy copper cable from the box to my eaves, and UNtwisted (c. 1950?) twin copper to my router. We get a respectable broadband speed, but we don't play multi-player porn or whatever the latest craze is.

    245:

    Do you have a reference that HPL did that (i.e. associating black skin with evil)?

    As Pigeon says, the association is very weakly there in the UK - essentially, black has two separate meanings, though of course there are racists who conflate them.

    246:

    I worked on that in the 80s. Project got canned because Sales & Marketing didn't see a market for high-bandwidth residential connections (back when 64 kbps was high-speed data).

    Justifiable, I think at that time. Laying down residential fibre (or even fibre-to-the-curbside) back then on the basis it would come in really handy thirty years in the future is not a good return on investment. Today Joe Soap can buy a smart TV retail for three hundred quid that outperforms a 1990s supercomputer and can use fast data links from exabyte-scale data providers like Netflix for his entertainment, and deploying fibre in FTTC and even FTTH roles is a good investment today because of that.

    247:

    The original push for fibre in the UK was resistance against lightning, not speed. Back then, it was a real bggr to attach connectors to, and needed large-radius bends, so it was more expensive to install. Once speeds built up, those issues had been largely resolved, and it didn't need repeaters for local distances, so became cheaper.

    248:

    EC
    * it's the same circuit as the street lights and houses.*
    Utterly bucking fonkers & asking for trouble, which WILL arrive - like wanting emergency services, like Ambulance, when there's a major power cut.
    Anybody doing anything about that? Of course not.

    249:

    Oops, continuity miss!

    250:

    HPL is very well-known to be a racist, though perhaps more in the European mode than the American mode, (though he still despised Black people.) Whether he associated the color black with the Black race and associated the color black with evil... not so sure about that, though I'd guess that's the case. I'm in a hurry to get out of the house this morning; maybe someone else has text-evidence.

    251:

    There is a reason why there is a shiny new UPS waiting to be plugged in in my kitchen -- that's the wall the FTTP line comes in at. It's to protect the fibre line head, router, 5G fallback router, and mesh network base station. (And also the tiny wee server that will replace this colo box some time before October, when I get all my ducks lined up in a row -- I'm paying for business grade broadband with 60mbps outgoing, static IP address, and no metering.)

    It won't help if the far end of the line gets taken down by a grid blackout, along with the 5G base station for the fallback link, but it should ensure that the blog stays up even during a domestic power cut.

    252:

    I am not looking forward to that future. Whether your strategy will work (ignoring the 5G aspect) will depend on whether the connection boxes are dumb or 'smart' and where they get their power from if the latter. It doesn't help if the base station is up if an intermediate (powered) link isn't. Yours may be very different from mine, being urban rather than suburban

    253:

    Tough: it'll save me £1100 a year for what is essentially a hobby project at this point. (Since Google de-emphasized blogs in their search rankings this site is not a lot of use as a sales/marketing tool: I keep it running simply because it has accreted a web community and I don't want to cut you all off at the knees.)

    254:

    Thank you! But I agree that we have a limited amount of time, money and patience to defend ourselves against the improvements foisted on us.

    255:

    INFORMATION ??
    On UPS supplies, appropriate for someone like me, please?
    "The Boss" uses the computer(s) for work, down the lines & neither of us wants to be unable to call Emergency Services, either. But nowhere near as big a power/lasting requirement as Charlie ( I think )
    Show me where to start looking?

    As y'all have probably realised, I think that this improvement is seriously stupid enough to kill people - and that it will.

    256:

    Tough: it'll save me £1100 a year for what is essentially a hobby project at this point. (Since Google de-emphasized blogs in their search rankings this site is not a lot of use as a sales/marketing tool: I keep it running simply because it has accreted a web community and I don't want to cut you all off at the knees.)

    I for one sincerely appreciate this customer loyalty program. Thank you!

    257:

    I have a caution to offer this comment... the caution has a name, and the name is Evans-Pritchard. Can't find an appropriate reference now, but it's an "early days of modern ethnography" thing about projecting elements of one's own world view onto the culture under study.

    And I too would offer a caution, and that caution is the term appropriation. Specifically, if one is writing novels using mythologies, it can be more appropriate to use a more-or-less dead system that's widely known, rather than appropriating someone else's living religion, especially when they expect you to ask permission to use it and you don't ask.

    In this regard, fiddling with ancient Egyptian beliefs seems to be okay, even if an author is putting a deliberately modern spin on them with profits aforethought. In that regard, appropriating an old and poorly known Egyptian deity seems relatively harmless.

    Conversely, I personally would be annoyed if an author swiped, say, traditional Hawaiian beliefs without asking. Reason is, there are people struggling to keep them going against fairly routine desecration. Since they created it and they're struggling, appropriating from them is maybe not so cool? And if your response is who gives a flying whatever about Hawaiians, we'll substitute in Taoists instead, and you can argue with a few tens of millions of Chinese who are trying to repair the damage from the Cultural Revolution.

    The interesting edge case is Greek paganism. I knew a practicing Greek pagan (the few, the proud). He reported that the Greek Orthodox Church was quite against what his group was doing, and that Christianity was built into the laws of Greece in some troublesome ways. So, if one is inspired to write a story using modern worshipers of the classic pantheon...to what extent do you support the modern practitioners (assuming you're sympathetic with them), and to what extent to you shrug and say that their core literature is more in the public domain than just about any other pagan system?

    258:

    "it'll save me £1100 a year for what is essentially a hobby project at this point"

    Have you reconsidered a tip jar? I'd certainly be willing to sign up for $10/mo.

    259:

    I'm self-employed: you just opened a can of accounting whoop-ass on me!

    Also, if I accepted payments directly I'd feel obligated to provide fresh content on a regular basis, and I do not have the energy this decade.

    260:

    I'm self-employed: you just opened a can of accounting whoop-ass on me!

    As for that, I have no clue about how your tax laws work so that's your call. (I'm not all that clear on how mine work either.)

    Also, if I accepted payments directly I'd feel obligated to provide fresh content on a regular basis, and I do not have the energy this decade.

    For me, no strings or moral obligation attached at all. I'd subscribe for a year and watch how things go. At the end of the year, I'd probably rescribe, as a year isn't really that long a time. After that -- TBD. And if you wanted to pull the plug at any time for any reason, your call.

    261:

    Charlie, thank you for this "hobby" blog. I appreciate it a lot (you notice I'm here about every day), and enjoy (most of the time) the conversations with most of the folks.

    SO much more interesting than other places....

    262:

    Re: '... it can be more appropriate to use a more-or-less dead system that's widely known, rather than appropriating someone else's living religion,'

    I'm going to assume that adherents of/adherence to other 'living religions' are similar to the religions I'm most familiar with via personal experience/observation, i.e., sects galore, constant discussion/arguing about whose interpretation is right, localized twists on practice, practices that keep changing every few years, 'revivals' that resemble their root religion in name only, etc.

    As long as the author uses a fictional name for their made-up fictional sect and spells that out clearly on the dust jacket blurb, it should be okay.

    263:

    use a more-or-less dead system that's widely known, rather than appropriating someone else's living religion

    Yeah, subject to caveats. In particular: don't misrepresent or malign an active/living religion. If you want to, then invent some weird breakaway sect that isn't real.

    See, for example, the Golden Promise Ministries in the Laundry Files -- recognizably dominionist fundamentalists, but using a Bible with several extra holy texts bolted on top. Or the Cult of the Mute Poet in the New Management: conquistadores copied some Aztec rituals, got weird results, rolled their own Catholic-derived mystery cult, got sat on by the Inquisition for a few centuries, and now it's a religion. (Nahua culture and language are very much alive and I'm not betting against the old religion, either: so, use a copy stolen by someone else and turned into something else.)

    I'm not a religious believer but I grew up Jewish, and I totally get how someone would be grossly offended if I took their religion and misrepresented it. My yardstick is: how would I feel on reading a book featuring Jewish characters if suddenly it began parroting the blood Libel as fact? So, I try not to misrepresent other folks' beliefs.

    (NB: do not ask about the treatment of Islam in Accelerando. I would not do that now.)

    264:

    Agreed completely. Thank you. This is where I go to get my brain stimulated.

    265:

    From up in 239:

    "Having a PM who is an explicit inhuman horror is fine, yes, but why would doing basically human organizational stuff be a thing for them? Or is it more like a hobby?"

    I dunno...but Performing Bureaucracy is kinda ritualistic. Binding the whole structure(and its functionaries, personally) to the PM?

    266:

    (Nahua culture and language are very much alive and I'm not betting against the old religion, either: so, use a copy stolen by someone else and turned into something else.)

    Yeah, I was saying the quiet part pretty loud, wasn't I?

    While I don't think anyone's playing ball games where the loser gets a cardiectomy (soccer notwithstanding), I'm pretty sure that various people (who are all, of course, practicing Catholics. Ahem), are taking boxes of fine cigars and bottles of good rum into the proper caves, to have a friendly visit with the Chacs and ask if maybe there might be some rain next season. That part of the old religion is still very much alive.

    While I'm not an expert, I'm fairly sure that bits and bobs of the various beliefs ventured up and down the trade routes, from the Darien in the Panama to the Puebloan peoples up in Arizona and New Mexico. Parts of that network are still very much alive. That's what constitutes the "Old Religion."

    And if you look at it sideways, Mexico and Central America gave the world chocolate and shrooms. Hard to say there's nothing spiritual about either of those in practice.

    267:

    "Nahua culture and language are very much alive and I'm not betting against the old religion"

    I have no expertise in such matters, but my impression based on observation is that the old religions that are prominent in the Americas derive mostly from the African ones, frequently in syncretism with Catholicism. There's an Aztlan movement, but it's, AFAIK, political with any religious elements not obvious.

    268:

    Having traveled at length through Central America, I can say with absolute certainty that you're not correct. The old-time religion is still widely practiced in Northern Honduras, Guatemala, Southern Mexico (possibly further north as well,) and Belize, though some of what goes on in Belize does come from Africa.

    269:

    260 - In short, because Charlie is self-employed, a tip jar counts as income, which means that he has to show every tip as a separate line in his tax return, and pay UK income tax on it. Assuming it/he pays standard rate 20% income tax, it has to bring in £1375 to cover the mentioned £1100.

    263 - Like "Bozo the Clown", current IRL UK PM you mean?

    270:

    For a book I like to think has had a significant influence on how I look at the world, Eco's Foucault's Pendulum has proved surprisingly non-amenable to re-reading in recent years. I probably need to try it again one of these days. Anyway it has quite a bit of "is it Africa or Catholicism?" going on, and I suspect Eco was just too European to even consider whether old Native American sources would be in play. Certainly contains much use of the word "syncretism" though.

    271:

    paws
    Enough.
    "Bozo the clown" is far too lenient & it's what the little turd wants - it's ANOTHER diversion. Just a jolly Bullingdon idiot, yes?
    Actually, he's a vicious amoral shit, who never forgets a slight & really doesn't give flying fuck for anyone ( or anything ) else at all.
    There's an "interval discussion" in today's Opera on 3 referring to "Don Juan", which has the following quote:
    'A person with antisocial personality disorder may: exploit, manipulate or violate the rights of others; lack concern, regret or remorse about other people's distress; behave irresponsibly and show disregard for normal social behaviour; have difficulty sustaining long-term relationships; lack guilt, or not learn from their mistakes'.
    Fits Bo Jon-Sun perfectly, I'd say.

    On another topic, there's a short essay in today's "FT" comic on the virtues & uses of reading & actually understanding Pterry - referencing his skewering of just about everything & referencing the "Vimes Boots Problem".
    Well worth the read.

    272:

    BoJo's sociopathy goes back to Eton. (Source: an Old Etonian -- non-over-privileged-shitheel variety -- who filled me in on the tells in his background.)

    273:

    Heteromeles @ 238:

    I just figured it must have something to do with Egypt's 25th Dynasty from the 8th Century BCE.

    Yeah, this is where we skate around HPL's racism, associating black with evil, so black men are color-coded as evil (even though they don't have truly black skin).

    I hardly knew anything about HPL's writing (not being a particular fan of horror/gothic fiction) other than Charlie used his "universe" to host the Laundry Files.

    Obviously there are those who equate black and evil, but I don't, so I defaulted to the literal interpretation. If I gave it any thought at all, I thought the cult of the Black Pharaoh must have some relationship to Egypt in the 8th Century BCE, sometime during the 25th Dynasty ... because that's when the Pharaohs who ruled over Egypt actually were "black"

    And anyway, Fabian Everyman isn't black (or white, or ...). He's described having an ever changing appearance (chameleon like?), so much so that people can't remember what he looks like the moment they look away. He looks like EVERY man all at once.

    Problem is, HPL's canon is freely available for authors to appropriate, it being made-up and all, so it's always tempting to use it.

    Now, if you wanted to get crafty with ye olde Egyptian Mythology, you might look at a deity like Apep, Egypt's precursor to the Midgard Serpent, and embodiment of "Isfet" (chaos, violence, and injustice).

    Worship of Lord Apep the Night Pharaoh would be reasonably appropriate.

    Not a problem for me, because I'm not a writer, so it's not for me to say what parts of ANY mythology it's appropriate for Charlie to use.

    But if I had perceived the writing as racist, I wouldn't have read it & we wouldn't be having this discussion anyway, because I wouldn't be here. But it's not, and here I am.

    274:

    Greg Tingey @ 255: INFORMATION ??
    On UPS supplies, appropriate for someone like me, please?
    "The Boss" uses the computer(s) for work, down the lines & neither of us wants to be unable to call Emergency Services, either. But nowhere near as big a power/lasting requirement as Charlie ( I think )
    Show me where to start looking?

    As y'all have probably realised, I think that this improvement is seriously stupid enough to kill people - and that it will.

    For "home" use, the purpose of a UPS is really just to bridge "momentary" power outages ... or to power the computer long enough to gracefully shut it down; give you time to save whatever you're currently working on so you don't lose it. For ISPs or other commercial providers, the UPS provides power long enough for the backup generators to kick in.

    Try whatever on-line computer supplier is most popular in the U.K. and search for "Uninterruptable Power Supply". Here in the U.S. I have a choice of LOCAL supppliers, but if I couldn't find what I need locally, I'd check Newegg first & then Amazon.

    For guaranteed ability to contact Emergency Services, a cell phone is probably your best bet. Here in the U.S. any cell phone can call "911" ("999" in the U.K.?) even if it doesn't have a cell phone service plan/contract (learned this troubleshooting a cell phone that "didn't work" while I was working for the burglar alarm company)1.

    Nowadays they all seem to use USB chargers, so if the power is out long enough the battery starts to run low, you can plug the charger into a power socket (aka "cigarette lighter") in your car.

    If your car doesn't have a cigarette lighter type socket (although I don't know why it wouldn't), get one of these and keep it under the car seat so you can connect it directly to the battery in an emergency: NOCO GC017 Socket Plug

    1 You can even call "911" from a LOCKED iPhone. Bring up the passcode screen and there's a "emergency" button there that will let you dial "911". Apparently works for Android too. I'd expect smart phones in the U.K. or E.U. to have this feature as well.

    275:

    Heteromeles @ 256:

    Tough: it'll save me £1100 a year for what is essentially a hobby project at this point. (Since Google de-emphasized blogs in their search rankings this site is not a lot of use as a sales/marketing tool: I keep it running simply because it has accreted a web community and I don't want to cut you all off at the knees.)

    I for one sincerely appreciate this customer loyalty program. Thank you!

    Yes. Thank you.

    Your blog has been a lifeline to sanity (or as close as I'm ever likely to get to it) through some very trying times.

    276:

    "The old-time religion is still widely practiced in Northern Honduras, Guatemala, Southern Mexico (possibly further north as well,) and Belize, though some of what goes on in Belize does come from Africa. "

    Interesting. I've been in Northern Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica, still follow the news from there to some extent. Santeria, Macumba, Vodun and the like are present, as they are in the US. What are the north-Central American indigenous religion ones like?

    277:

    Very Mayan descended. If you've ever read Lewis Shiner's "Deserted Cities of the Heart" he got his research right. It's been long-enough since I was there that I'm probably not reliable - I'd suggest Internetting. Look up the Lacedon Maya and go from there.

    278:

    I too am grateful to OGH for this space. Thank you!

    279:

    JBS
    Very useful, thanks.
    In addition, others might know ... I'm looking for a "battery" back-up that will recharge mobile phones for longer than the normal small, pocketable ones - as I've already got one of those.
    Of course, it the power is really out, I assume remote working from home is going to simply not be operable, because one will need a large battery & an inverter, yes?

    280:

    Greg: the size of external USB batteries is usually limited by the maximum size permitted in carry-on luggage on flights -- 20Ah, I think -- by the FAA. But you can get bigger ones if you're not fussed about flying.

    Car jump-start batteries these days come with lithium-ion cells and frequently an AC mains power inverter and/or a USB output, and if it'll turn over a petrol engine it will certainly keep your phone running for a few days.

    As for a UPS, I got an Amazon Basics one for about £68. Not terribly sophisticated or high capacity, but it'll do for running the wifi mesh base station, FTTP line head, broadband router, and a 10W micro-PC for about an hour.

    281:

    I've used USB batteries quite a lot; the brand I'd recommend is Anker. The bigger ones will charge your laptop (assuming it can charge via USB) as well as your phone with no problems.

    282:

    "Lewis Shiner's 'Deserted Cities of the Heart'"

    For $2.99 on Kindle, how can I resist something reviewed as "It/s a story of sex, drugs, rock /n' roll, time travel, Mexican revolutionaries, and the Mayan end of days"?

    (The /s there are my failed attempts to escape a couple of quote-ish like characters.)

    283:

    I really loved the book. Let me know how you like it.

    284:

    Do Not Go There. The ways of HMRC are arcane and incomprehensible to those of mortal fen.

    I have one job and (currently) 2 pensions. The combination is sufficient (because my employers are, in the words of David Falkayn, a bunch of cheapskate bastards) to tip me into the next tax band. The income is also variable - due to the vagaries of on-call allowance, actual callout, and (occasionally) overtime. I Do Not Want to have to complete an annual tax return because that is a lot of work for bugger-all benefit, so tip enough money into the pension pot each month to keep me in a single tax band (while telling the two pensions to deduct tax at basic rate). If I get this wrong, HMRC will tell me at the end of the tax year and I will cough up the difference. So far this is working.

    Charlie's position is several orders of magnitude more difficult, requiring accountants to handle tax-breaks, allowable expenses, and permitted deductions for business purposes. Adding in random donations from a "tipjar" would complicate matters and probably jack his accountancy bills up by more than the income from any tipjar.

    Chris. (I may retire this year, which would at least remove the tax worries.)

    285:

    On the UPS front I will probably go with a used computer UPS that takes 12 or 24 volt batteries and use an external pack of glass-mat lead acid batteries (the Hawker UK06TNMF ones are fairly indestructible but Not Cheap) and 110 ampere-hours will go a long way - just fuse them appropriately since the short circuit current is of the order of 5,000 Amps.

    I now have FTTP but it's aerial: BT Openreach pole to pole (the ADSL was underground copper pair to the pit outside my house, then up the pole to the eaves - I still have this for POTS and LLU ADSL as backup providers, but keep it under review). I may (at some point) investigate Asterix on a PC to continue support for "real" POTS with Loop Disconnect dialling, just to keep the old magneto/rotary dial telephones operational and provide a modicum of scammer repulsion, but not just yet.

    Chris.

    286:

    Charlie's Tip Jar is most easily accessed at your local library. Check out which of his books they do not carry, and offer to get them a copy of that book. Checking is probably a good idea, because otherwise it will just end up in their regular book sale, and there will only be one reader, and we are trying to hook multitudes. Ask Charlie for the best way (to his benefit) to purchase such books; he has posted this information in the past, but times change ... (sigh)

    Enjoy!

    Frank

    287:

    Re backup power.

    I bought a small petrol inverter generator that can power a small fridge, run the WiFi, router, laptop and charge any small devices, phones, torches etc.

    That goes along with 40 litres of drinking water, nonperishable food for 2 weeks for 2 people and two dogs, 2 x 9kg propane tanks, and gas ring + bbq oven.

    We can work (partner works from home) until the backup batteries fail at the cell tower, and the local exchange.

    288:

    For guaranteed ability to contact Emergency Services, a cell phone is probably your best bet.

    I've had an order of magnitude more outages on my cell phone than my land line (and even more on my internet service). Modern communications don't seem to meet the one-hour-in-forty-years that old twisted-pair copper was expected to meet.

    Also, cell phone tower backup batteries apparently cost $10,000 each. Worth less when fenced through a dodgy scrap dealer, but if people can sell church roofs and sculptures batteries should be no problem to move.

    Canadian story, but it's a world-wide problem: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/cell-tower-backup-batteries-stolen-1.4267277

    5G makes the problem worse, as it requires more sites and more power.

    289:

    The generator I bought is 1000W, but you can (could, they stopped importing them) link two. If I was doing it again I'd screw up my courage and buy a 3.5 kW inverter generator. The main fridge only draws 400W nameplate, but the start draw trips the 1000W generator. Which means I have to pick a point when I'm going to dump 60% of my perishable food and move some to the bar fridge.

    Also I have sims for all three mobile networks, plus the landline.

    The swimming pool has enough water for washing and flushing toilets for months.

    290:

    Additional thanks to Charlie, runix & Chris S for that help.

    291:

    Mobile phones are not a great deal of use if you can't use them (in my case because I can't hear them), a critical mast has blown down or lost power, or you are somewhere with no signal (a surprising proportion of the UK).

    292:

    Charlie's Tip Jar is most easily accessed at your local library.

    Not outside the UK and Ireland.

    For library loans in the UK and Ireland I get a kickback by way of PLR, public lending right, payments.

    In the USA I get nothing -- nada, bupkis -- other than the cover price of a new copy of a library book when the old one falls to tattered shreds. That's somewhere in the region of 30-50 loans, so I get roughly one 30th - 50th of the royalty due on a new sale per loan.

    (Library ebooks are different: they're DRM'd up the wazoo with a timer that disables them after a set number of loans, so the library has to buy another ebook copy. This is because in the absence of such a contrivance the publisher and I would get paid just once for potentially dozens to hundreds of readers. It's an offensively stupid way to manage library payments, and I'd much rather the USA implemented a PLR system, but it'd need to be at a federal level otherwise the complexities of registering and claiming payments would render it useless. (I've got about 30 books in print, in hardcover/ebook/paperback/audiobook editions, all of which need registering separately for the UK/IE scheme. Luckily I got to do it over a period of years. Doing the same in all 50 states of the US would be maddening.))

    A vastly better tipjar? Buy your friends copies of my books. I get a tip (and maybe a new reader) and you make your friends happy.

    293:

    I bought a small petrol inverter generator that can power a small fridge, run the WiFi, router, laptop and charge any small devices, phones, torches etc.

    That's a really good idea and I heartily encourage anybody who lives in a house to do likewise.

    (Not so useful for us upper-floor apartment dwellers. Guess I'll have to wait until someone comes up with something like a Tesla Powerwall, only modular with no component weighing more than 30kg so that it can be carried up four flights of stairs by hand,)

    294:

    "That's a really good idea and I heartily encourage anybody who lives in a house to do likewise."

    Being very careful to follow the installation instructions.

    295:

    Speaking as a borderline geek who finds much of it too much of a PITA to bother with these day, there are very few consumer use cases for a UPS if you live in a UK town or City. If you live 10 mins out of town or in the Northern areas with incompetent leccy boards then all bets are off. Get a decent cellular tablet with 8-10hrs of battery life instead, fruity ones are good, others are available. Ideally ensure the cellular is different to your phones if you have the coverage luxury . Spend some time working out how to connect them to a keyboard and mouse. Your online life will continue unabated until the leccy is back. Arm based laptop like M1 MacBook or Chromebook (hiss-spit) also an option but requires separate cellular that’s not mains powered.

    The inverter option worked for F&MIL who live 10 mins from Newcastle suburbs but were without power six days recently because the local leccy company didn’t have their lines on their database. Inverter to stop freezers vomiting up rotten food and run lights & charge phones. Wood burner for heat. The more sane neighbours buggered off to the local TravelLodge for the 6 days.

    296:

    (Not so useful for us upper-floor apartment dwellers. Guess I'll have to wait until someone comes up with something like a Tesla Powerwall, only modular with no component weighing more than 30kg so that it can be carried up four flights of stairs by hand,)

    Such things seem to exist, this one appears to either standalone, or can be wired in to work as a permenant UPS, and can dasiy chain batteries for extra capacity.

    https://techtelegraph.co.uk/bluetti-launches-new-6000w-modular-power-stations-with-iphone-control-solar-usb-c-more/

    297:

    Does the blog allow for duplicate handles? Or do I need to change my password?

    THIS David L (who has been around for 10 years or so) did not write that comment.

    298:

    actually law in England until the 18th century, with vestiges remaining as late as the 1990s

    In the US a married woman could not open a bank account in many places without the consent of her husband into the 60s/70s. I'm not sure if this was law or custom.

    299:

    before he discovered, oops, am atheist now (and unemployable with student debt)

    Couldn't he teach at a university?

    300:

    Stalin was a seminarian who got booted when he became atheist, so getting a job in government is certainly an option.

    But first he spent time in his native Georgia (I think) as a somewhat successful mob boss.

    I always figured Stalin and Vito Corleone would understand each other at many levels.

    301:

    There are about 7000 Unitarians in UK/Ireland, including 150 ministers, so it's not exactly a professional career. Or even a semi-professional one.

    From a "Prairie Home Companion" joke show 30 or so years ago.

    What do you get when you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah's Witness?

    Someone who walks around neighborhoods for no apparent reason. (You might need to be from the US to get it.)

    302:

    Not without a PhD on top!

    303:

    Tim M
    That "Bluetti" power pack, or maybe two of them, looks like the answer to living with power outages as & when it's cold, overcast & with no wind, doesn't it?

    304:

    There's also no bar on being a (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland minister and an atheist.

    In my understanding of what a religion is I find that somewhat (actually a lot) confounding.

    But that's just me. :)

    305:

    Hmm. My heating runs on natural gas but also requires electricity, so a power blackout takes out the heating as well; one of those boxes could be very useful, but I'd need to get an electrician to wire a mains socket to the heating pump for me so I could plug it in place of the existing hard-wired connection.

    (Electrician because I am not going to dick around with live electricity and natural gas myself just to save a hundred quid if I'm laying out 1-2 thousand for a pump power backup.)

    306:

    292 Para the last - Or not? OK, my friends would have copies of whichever title(s) I bought, but that's as far as it would go except that if I did it too often I'd have fewer friends.

    304 - There is actually no bar on being a CofS minister, and an atheist! It may sound illogical, but it is true.

    307:

    in general their skin tone was certainly darker than Hollywood would like us to believe?

    Don't ask this of many modern Egyptians. Just don't go there.

    308:

    Show me where to start looking?

    In the US you can get Cyber Power or APC branded $100-$200 UPS that will do decent home things.

    I have one on my network coming into the house which will last an hour or few. Maybe 10 if I power off all but the basics. And on my office which will only last 30 minutes or so due to the increased load. And that's without the displays attached. I have a laptop and can remote into everything from it as needed to start powering down. As I had to do after an outage when for 20 minutes.

    1000 watts or so.

    And you get to replace the lead acid batteries every 4 to 6 years.

    Something like this: https://www.newegg.com/cyberpower-cp1500avrlcd-nema-5-15r/p/N82E16842102048?quicklink=true

    I always buy mine during sales so more watts for less money. :)

    309:

    As for that, I have no clue about how your tax laws work so that's your call. (I'm not all that clear on how mine work either.)

    As a single person company in the US there are all kinds of things I just "eat" which in theory I could use to reduce my taxable income. But adding 100 hours a year in record keeping, asset tracking, etc... just isn't work it.

    But if I was a company of 5 the hourly count for someone would likely only be 200 hours. So there IS a cross over but as Charlie indicated, it is nice to not be accountable to anyone.

    310:

    Greg: the size of external USB batteries is usually limited by the maximum size permitted in carry-on luggage on flights -- 20Ah, I think -- by the FAA. But you can get bigger ones if you're not fussed about flying.

    A somewhat new thing in the US (harking back to a recent thread) are power supplies that run off tool battery sets. They are not cheap. Yet. But since I have 20AmpHours of Ryobi 18V batteries that live on a trickle charging system the thought interests me more and more. Plus I can always go out to my car, and in a terrible energy conversion ratio run it to charge up some things.

    311:

    Modern communications don't seem to meet the one-hour-in-forty-years that old twisted-pair copper was expected to meet.

    Think of them as evil or not, but US local phone carriers are in the middle of multiple squeezes.

    They are public companies with expectations of revenue. And expectations to increase it regularly.

    The are highly regulated in the local phone service. And how much they can charge. So any way to cut costs matter. And these days fiber anything crushes copper in the cost department.

    More and more people are ditching land lines. Or never even considering them. If you really really insist on one you are giving out a big indicator of your age.

    Activists lobby public regulatory agencies to improve service and cut prices and server everyone. And show up loud at all the meetings.

    So fiber cost so much less in terms of installation and labor that that is what goes down any street now. Especially since while everyone wants high speed internet but very few want a land line anymore.

    312:

    I got one of these: Amazon Basics UPS -- it's a rebranded CyberPower UPS, fixed for UK mains output and sockets, sells for £68 inc VAT. Has USB support for Mac, Windows, and Linux (via a command line utility) machines, so you can have them poll it and shut down cleanly when the power drops too low.

    Right now I'm waiting for my cheap-o server to hit manufacturing, but the UPS is so cheap I'm tempted to buy another one nearer the time and plug this one into the iMac and NAS on my desk.

    313:

    What's nice is that Macs in particular and personal computer in general keep drawing less power year to year.

    And if you have a laptop somewhere you can leave the displays off the UPS. Well not on an iMac. :)

    314:

    The iMac shares my desk with an external hard disk and two of three NAS boxes in my office (well, one is an old Apple Time Capsule). Being able to do a clean shutdown would be useful.

    The Macbook Pro and the phones/tablets don't need a UPS, anything with a built-in battery is effectively a UPS in its own right.

    315:

    My point is you can turn the screen on the iMac all the way down and let it sleep. And if you want take over it via the MBPro.

    You seem to know what you're doing. :)

    Any comment on the other "David L"?

    316:

    Alas, even turning the screen down won't help much: it's a ten core i9 machine, beefy enough it overlaps performance-wise with the now-discontinued iMac Pro. Which is to say it draws 74 watts at idle (and nearly 300 watts at CPU max). Not a space heater, but not something with a decent runtime on a UPS.

    The UPS is rated at 400VA/240W, so it'll run the thing for a while, but with a Netgear ReadyNAS 214 and a Time Capsule and a mains-powered external WD drive on top I wouldn't want to leave it powered up for more than half an hour in event of a blackout.

    317:

    You're probably aware already, but UPSes, especially cheap ones, tend to have short lives and silent, unmarked deaths. If you're actually relying on them, mark a regular test schedule on the calendar and stick to it, religiously.

    (In the lab, I very much did rely on them - we had a pair of very old Toptica frequency doubled lasers. Those things use a very delicate crystal, cut with extreme precision, to frequency double ("second harmonic generation", SHG) infra-red light into the visible, and the efficiency and working frequency were strongly temperature dependent. Toptica used the same temperature controllers for the crystals as they did for their laser diodes, but that was a mistake: a relatively minor voltage spike would power-cycle the controller, and when power-cycled, the controller would ramp the temperature to 20°C, i.e. "safe" as fast as possible. Which is fine for a diode that might be, say, +-2°C from "safe" and bedded in a big chunk of aluminium. Very bad for a delicate crystal in a much smaller block of aluminium at +30°C from "safe" - each power reset had about a 50% chance of cracking the crystal. If you actually had to reset the power, you had to manually ramp the power down at a safe rate (about 10°C per hour), or switch the controller off and let it cool down naturally.

    Generally speaking, a dead UPS would announce its presence within a couple of weeks by a sudden failure in laser output power, followed by an expensive and time consuming crystal replacement and re-alignment.

    Granted, I doubt your computer equipment (or even your professional time sans internet connection) is quite as expensive or sensitive as those SHG crystals were - but without a test schedule, you'll only find out that it's time to replace the batteries at the worst possible moment.

    318:

    I doubt your computer equipment (or even your professional time sans internet connection) is quite as expensive or sensitive as those SHG crystals

    Correct.

    I mainly work on the iMac (the MBP is for travel and fallback) but the MBP is ready, with all my work synched to it via Dropbox. The key Time Machine backup on the iMac is over USB-C to a 4Tb SSD, so small enough to grab and with a full image of everything on the iMac (the spinning rust platters have the same stuff for redundancy, but are slower/heavier/harder to grab and pocket in event of a fire).

    The iMac PSU is reasonably reliable -- I've had a pair of 27" retina iMacs running for about 15 years with no trouble (the other is my wife's). Currently they suck wall juice via a surge-suppressed strip: I think a cheap UPS would be a reasonable upgrade.

    319:

    I am a loss. 400VA/240W is power, not energy, so it could (theoretically) deliver that for just 15 seconds (enough for an emergency shutdown of sane systems). What have I missed?

    The reason that I am not looking forward to this future is that where I would want to place a UPS, my router, telephones and computers are all in different rooms, without easy power routing between them. And, for reasons mentioned above, batteries/UPS are not really an option for me :-(

    320:

    They don't specify total capacity, but per reviews it should power a PC/monitor for 10-25 minutes after loss of mains supply.

    321:

    "Tough: it'll save me £1100 a year for what is essentially a hobby project at this point. (Since Google de-emphasized blogs in their search rankings this site is not a lot of use as a sales/marketing tool: I keep it running simply because it has accreted a web community and I don't want to cut you all off at the knees.)"

    I wouldn't downgrade it too heavily. A quick Google search for "Charles Stross" puts your blog at second place on the first list of search results. I suspect that the age/size/scope of this site is enough to offset Google's decision to de-emphasize blogs.

    322:

    Uh, no. If I ever get an emergency generator (as I've been wanting to do for decades), I will have it wired into the house wiring by an electrician. That kind of power is not something I screw with, and I want it legal (permitting, and all that).

    323:

    Mine's a Cyberpower - a 750 or 850, I disremember, and I'd need a flash to see what it says. It was < $100. Ellen has her own UPS for her computer.

    I've replaced the battery once, and it's eight or ten years old.

    324:

    Interesting. I've never had problems like that with any UPS I've bought for home. They all have a warning light, and IIRC, this CyberPower beeps annoyingly, as does the battery backup that Verizon installed (before I bought the house) for the FIOS, and CyberPower is not expensive.

    Last job, we had the rackmount APCs, mostly 3000. They have leds, and I watched them - end of the week, I went through all of our machine rooms, and emailed out a report.

    325:

    Charlie,

    I know there is no PLR in the USA. The idea for the US is that the "donor" buys an actual copy of one of your books (not used) and donates it to the library. Your "tip" then gets processed by the accountants of the source (they will call it a "royalty".)

    Enjoy!

    Frank.

    326:

    Currently they suck wall juice via a surge-suppressed strip

    Surge strips wear out. And it is almost impossible to tell how much energy absorbing capacity they have left.

    I tell folks to get 4000 joules and treat them as a power strip after 3 years. Or a nearby lighting strike.

    You mileage WILL vary. How "clean" is your local power? Is there a very "noisy" electrical motor nearby? Etc...

    327:

    Before I got distracted by this talk of UPSes I had just popped in to say thank to Charlie for the shout out on twitter for Scholars of the Night. Liked the intro and it seems like my reading life has been missing out on John M Ford alll this time to my detriment.

    Had a Tim Powers-esque feel to it - which is clever since it precedes it in publication.

    328:

    " I ever get an emergency generator... I will have it wired into the house wiring by an electrician"

    Oh, yes if you're talking about a permanently installed whole-house generator like a Generac, then get a professional. But I had the impression that the discussion was about portable ones that don't hook into the house wiring. Those you can use as a stand-alone, but you should still be careful of CO and other hazards.

    E.g.,

    https://www.generac.com/all-products/generators/home-backup-generators/guardian-series/10kw-7171-wifi-enabled

    vs

    https://www.generac.com/all-products/generators/portable-generators/gp-series/gp6500-49st

    329:

    But I had the impression that the discussion was about portable ones that don't hook into the house wiring.

    It sort of morphed. Make me look at what Ryobi has now. I like this. Maybe before hurricane season starts. The batteries alone are worth $300 to $400. And these are the same battery sets that drive my lawn mower and other outdoor tools.

    https://www.ryobitools.com/products/details/46396023759

    Not bad for $850. And there WILL be sales in the future.

    330:

    That takes me back a bit... my dad made an inverter for running the central heating pump off a car battery during power cuts... when it had only just become feasible to do so. Germanium power transistors (OC28). They were a bit fragile but before that there wasn't any electronic way to do it at all - motor/alternator set would have been the previous best bet.

    It did help though that the pump was the only electrical bit there was; the boiler was coal-fired, and didn't depend on juice to make it work like oil or gas ones do.

    331:

    "And you get to replace the lead acid batteries every 4 to 6 years."

    It strikes me that I could happily feed one on batteries that have become past it for use in my mobility scooter, but still have far more capacity (being bigger in the first place) than you get in a small UPS.

    And since I actually have two or three UPSes kicking around unused for want of batteries, I really ought to do it. Prolonged power cuts are rare around here, but very short ones which last just a bit longer than the charge in the reservoir capacitors in some of the computers' PSUs happen a few times a year, and are fucking annoying when they do.

    332:

    Greg Tingey @ 279: JBS
    Very useful, thanks.
    In addition, others might know ... I'm looking for a "battery" back-up that will recharge mobile phones for longer than the normal small, pocketable ones - as I've already got one of those.
    Of course, it the power is really out, I assume remote working from home is going to simply not be operable, because one will need a large battery & an inverter, yes?

    My UPS's at home (I currently have 3) are all sized so I can finish any work in progress & save it before the battery fails. I have one on my Photoshop computer that runs the computer, monitor & Ethernet hub - about half an hour; I bought a new UPS for the (file storage) server I built - runs the computer & monitor - again about half an hour ... and on this computer which is basically my "command center" the UPS supports the computer, monitor, Ethernet firewall/router, cable modem a small NAS box (2-2TB drives mirrored) and the desk phone that plugs into the cable modem - it'll run for about an hour before the battery goes too low.

    You might be able to find a UPS with an auxiliary battery input that would allow you to hook up additional 12V batteries, but most of the systems I ever dealt with that required more power than what you need for a graceful shutdown had generators that kicked in to run essential equipment and the UPS just provided a bridge to keep the computer systems running while the generators kicked in.

    333:

    "The main fridge only draws 400W nameplate, but the start draw trips the 1000W generator."

    Oh yes, induction motor starting surge and portable generators are an entertaining combination. With customers wanting to hire generators it was always important to find out what they wanted to run off them, and if it had an induction motor, to give them one considerably larger than they thought they needed.

    So this bunch move into the empty unit across the road and start cleaning it up. Power isn't on yet, so they hire a generator off us. They are using a spray painting rig that works with emulsion paint to repaint the walls. It's a new piece of kit that they've never used before, so they're not familiar with its little ways. It has a big induction motor to drive it, so we tell them about starting surge, hire them a 5kVA diesel generator and tell them to come back if it won't cope.

    So over the next few days they keep coming back and swapping it for a slightly bigger generator, until they end up with the biggest one we've got, an enormous 15kVA lump with a three-cylinder barge engine. I have to go over and start it for them every morning because they can't manage to swing it over when there's frost on it, but apart from that everything's fine and we seem to have finally discovered how big a generator this paint thing needs to get it going.

    Then one afternoon they come over to ask us plaintively... "Have you got anything for getting paint off?" And they are standing there saying this, and they are white. White all over, from head to toe.

    Turns out the starting surge and cold weather problems have been exacerbated by an increasing degree of starting load; the machine had gradually been clogging itself up internally with coagulated paint all unbeknownst, until finally it exploded.

    Paint everywhere. I can't remember if this was before or after the Mr Bean episode where he puts the firework in the paint can, but if it was before I suspect him of having been there watching.

    334:

    gasdive (he, him, ia) @ 289: The generator I bought is 1000W, but you can (could, they stopped importing them) link two. If I was doing it again I'd screw up my courage and buy a 3.5 kW inverter generator. The main fridge only draws 400W nameplate, but the start draw trips the 1000W generator. Which means I have to pick a point when I'm going to dump 60% of my perishable food and move some to the bar fridge.

    I've got a 4Kw generator. It's enough to comfortably handle a refrigerator/freezer and a Mr. Coffee machine. Now I'd need to add the electronics for the stove to the load ...

    The thing to consider about generators is fuel consumption. My 4Kw generator takes about 15 (U.S.) gallons of gasoline (petrol) to run "continuously" for 24 hours. Thing is, you ain't gonna' run it "continuously". You're at least going to have to shut it down to refuel because the tank only holds 3 to 4 gallons.

    335:

    "You have also COMPLETELY missed the point about Euclidean geometry and mathematics tripos questions."

    Doesn't surprise me really, it did seem a bit too much.

    Proving the methods themselves does seem to have been a bit of an omission in my education. We did some of it but were still left with rather a lot "taken on trust".

    I do agree about the incomprehensible terminology; the greatest difficulty I remember noticing was figuring out what the fuck some of the questions were actually asking. Strange and unfamiliar names for familiar things, and words being used to mean something completely different from anything I'm used to. It's far worse than Victorian fiction where you merely have to get used to people ejaculating all over the place; technical writings are almost in a different language sometimes. "Radiating axles" on a railway vehicle... it doesn't mean they're painted black to help dissipate heat from the brakes or any other thing that "radiating" usually means, it means they align themselves with the radius of a curve to steer the vehicle round it. Who'd guess that?

    336:

    Elderly Cynic @ 291: Mobile phones are not a great deal of use if you can't use them (in my case because I can't hear them), a critical mast has blown down or lost power, or you are somewhere with no signal (a surprising proportion of the UK).

    Same drawbacks appliy to land lines ... if your phone requires power to connect to the network and you don't have that power what are you going to do? Doesn't matter if you're cut off because the power is out or someone dug through a fiber cable.

    Most mobile phones will allow you to text if you can't hear them. I'm not suggesting replacing your land line with a mobile, but IF the land line goes down and you have a mobile phone you can still call for help ... even if you have to get in the car and drive somewhere that still has their towers standing.

    Greg was asking about a situation where he needed external power for his landline & what he was going to do if the power was off for an extended period taking his phone line with it and whether he could run the phone off a UPS. Most of what I'm familiar with UPS systems is they provide power to bridge a short outage or to allow time to shut down the computer gracefully. If you need something to keep the phone running 24+ hours, I don't think a UPS is going to work ... but a mobile phone could.

    And I'm guessing (based on previous comments) Greg already has everything he needs to keep the mobile phone functional for longer than 24 hours (i.e. a vehicle with a cigarette lighter style plug that he can use to recharge the phone).

    337:

    Couple of tales from Italy:

    • The switch from landlines to VOIP has been going on for a while, mostly without even telling customers about it; but this is perfectly fine, because customers don't actually care about it, and most often than not they don't even know what's going on.
    • The few who are in the know would really like fiber, but they often can't have it; we have been stuck with ADSL for a lot longer that we'd have liked to. Even in big cities (the few we have). An actual broadband connection is usually met with a "WOW DOES IT REALLY EXIST?" reaction.
    • Of course, as soon as I understood the implications (i.e. if you are out of power you can't even call emergency services) I bought an UPS; and I mean "an additional one for my router", because OF COURSE I already had one for my desktop PC.
    • But I've been a nerd for 25 years and I work in IT, thus OF COURSE I have quite a different POV than most people...
    338:

    "Same drawbacks appliy to land lines ... if your phone requires power to connect to the network and you don't have that power what are you going to do?"

    None of the three drawbacks in the passage you quoted ("can't use (hear) mobiles", "dead mast", "no signal in the area") overlap with "phone requires power but power not available".

    The thing is that currently and since forever landlines do not require power. As long as the phone wire is intact that's all that matters.

    The proposed changes mean that it won't be all that matters. You'll need the power wire to be functioning as well as the phone wire. So it adds an additional point of failure that wasn't there before, and since mains power is generally less reliable than landline phones to begin with, the chance of failure is greatly increased.

    (As an aside, ADSL with battery backup may be more reliable than the phone service over the same landline. The high frequency ADSL signal can couple itself across cable damage enough to still sort of work even when the phone is totally dead.)

    339:

    David L @ 308:

    Show me where to start looking?

    I have one on my network coming into the house which will last an hour or few. Maybe 10 if I power off all but the basics. And on my office which will only last 30 minutes or so due to the increased load. And that's without the displays attached. I have a laptop and can remote into everything from it as needed to start powering down. As I had to do after an outage when for 20 minutes.

    1000 watts or so.

    And you get to replace the lead acid batteries every 4 to 6 years.

    Put some masking tape on top & write down the date you put it in service. IF it starts acting flaky you can look at the date & see if it's getting ready to need new batteries. Be sure to update the tape with a new date when you replace the batteries.

    Something like this: (Link to Newegg CyberPower UPS David linked to because I still don't know how to "escape" URLs in Markup so it's easier for me to just write some kind of descriptive text).

    I always buy mine during sales so more watts for less money. :)

    They used to have computer shows out at the State Fairgrounds similar to the knife & gun shows they still have out there1. I bought my first UPS at one of those; couple hundred bucks. It was from a NCR Point Of Sale system & designed to run several POS terminals plus the back office server. It had some honking HUGE 12V10Ah Gell Cell batteries, and would run my puny little computer for HOURS ... or longer.

    It finally gave up the ghost after almost 30 years service. All the magic smoke escaped from this one proprietary chip. It could have been fixed, but the replacement chip was going to cost a couple grand. I still have those 10Ah batteries around here somewhere because it died shortly after the last time I replaced them & I didn't want to take almost brand new batteries out to the solid waste service center.

    1 Looks like maybe the last one was November 2003 and I guess I missed it because I was already down at Ft. Bragg getting ready to go overseas. But you could get some really good deals, and there was often someone who could explain things if you were having a problem getting something to work.

    340:

    Kardashev @ 328:

    " I ever get an emergency generator... I will have it wired into the house wiring by an electrician"

    Oh, yes if you're talking about a permanently installed whole-house generator like a Generac, then get a professional. But I had the impression that the discussion was about portable ones that don't hook into the house wiring. Those you can use as a stand-alone, but you should still be careful of CO and other hazards.

    CO shouldn't be a problem. I'd never run a generator indoors. I have a small pad with a shed covering out back of my back porch; already has the ground rod driven down for it. I can run a heavy extension cord under the basement door & up the back stairs to the kitchen (w/a 4-way box) because everything I want to run off it is right there.

    Funny thing. I haven't NEEDED the generator since I bought it, so the only use it gets is the annual test. But it does get an annual test, so I'm pretty sure it will work if I ever DO need it.

    The longest power outage I've experienced since I bought it has only been a few hours. Usually a squirrel gets sideways on a transformer and trips a cutout fuse. And by now, after 45+ years in this house, I know where all the fuses are on the branch that serves my block & I have the power company in the address book for my iPhone, so I can call them and tell them the exact pole they need to come reset (all the poles have little number tags).

    341:

    power supplies that run off tool battery sets

    Depending on exactly what you want to power it's possible to buy wired "sockets" for most battery tools that give you an easy connection to the terminals on the battery. 18V tools and a 24V USB adapter will give you whatever USB power output you can put up with (I have 20W USB-C PD sockets in my shed).

    "makita battery connector" will bring up products at all the usual places with enough keyword spam in the product names to give you ideas for similar searches. You can also get adapters to let you run random 18V tool X off random battery Y, should you be looking longingly at that one tool your preferred battery platform doesn't have.

    Similarly a 19V DC-DC adapter will be grumpy about the 18V-ish from the battery but two in series will make a buck DC-DC converter happy (at the crossover point it's hard to get stable voltage regulation, which means expensive)

    I am using my Makita batteries to power LED floodlights for photography because if you think tool batteries are expensive you should avoid camera gear with great diligence. I also have a ~$100 power meter setup so I can measure the actual capacity of the various "compatible" batteries I buy. It's worth trying a "9Ah" battery for $80 even if it turns out to be 8Ah at C5 and 5Ah at 2C because the genuine Makita batteries top out at 6Ah for $250.

    342:

    induction motor starting surge and portable generators are an entertaining combination

    For you, sure. For me "90W continuous, >2400VA on startup" is anything but funny.

    I bought a bigger inverter than I thought I needed, with a generous starting ability, and it still is not enough. 1200W, 1800VA for 10 seconds... nuh uh.

    Annoyingly it will mostly run the 500W/600VA airon unit, except that sometimes it will not restart the compressor motor because that sometimes does not bounce off the compression point far enough to give the thing a decent run-up next time it starts. So it will run on and off for an hour or two quite happily, then stop.

    All this while the PV on the roof keeps the battery at 100% full. Because Australia is slightly mental like that.

    343:

    Replying to Charlie, Pigeon, David and others.

    Yeah guilty this time of not considering individual circumstances. You need an outside area, preferably covered, but open to the breeze to run a genset without poisoning yourself. I sit mine on the patio and run an extension cord inside to a power board. Having it permanently wired in is a regulatory nightmare because the local service provider wants to be sure that it won't fry their workers while they're fixing the blackout.

    As to Charlie's need for a battery equivalent that can be broken down into manageable chunks and reassembled upstairs, I was going to mention the eyewateringly expensive gadgets from Ryobi, EGO, Milwaukee and DeWalt as mentioned by David L, but none of them seem to go to the UK. Ryobi bring a 240V one to Australia, so they're making nearly the right product for a much smaller market, so that's odd. I'm sure it's some sort of regulatory hurdle. With 4 hotswappable batteries that are up to 300 Wh each, 3600W peak, 1800W continuous, pure sine wave, the Ryobi should be the bees knees if you've got the money. The EGO can be specced up to insane levels if I'm reading things right, assuming cost no object. It seems like you can fit up to 4 28Ah 56V backpack batteries. For over 6 kWh. Which is nuts. At the other end of the scale, Ryobi makes a 300W pure sine wave inverter that clips to the top of their 36v ("40V" in North America, but the same thing) batteries. The biggest battery is 9Ah,so you'd get about an hour at full power.

    Pigeon, I knew about the startup load, but I thought a motor that draws 85W when running would start fine with a 1600W peak, 1000W continuous generator. Not even close. I rechecked the nameplate on the fridge and it's 350W while the defrost heater is running. On a meter it draws 98W with the door open and the 15W light on. Instead I just made sure I had a bit more nonperishable food on hand.

    344:

    cutout

    One people divided by a common language.

    I'd call that a dropout fuse. Having worked as a call taker for the local electricity distributor fault reporting line, I think I was using the accepted parlance. Obviously given the wiki page that's not the international name.

    And there were a lot of farmers at the end of lines who would call in and tell us the pole number along with the address! For us it was snakes and bats rather than squirrels.

    345:

    Pigeon @ 338:

    "Same drawbacks appliy to land lines ... if your phone requires power to connect to the network and you don't have that power what are you going to do?"

    None of the three drawbacks in the passage you quoted ("can't use (hear) mobiles", "dead mast", "no signal in the area") overlap with "phone requires power but power not available".

    The thing is that currently and since forever landlines do not require power. As long as the phone wire is intact that's all that matters.

    The proposed changes mean that it won't be all that matters. You'll need the power wire to be functioning as well as the phone wire. So it adds an additional point of failure that wasn't there before, and since mains power is generally less reliable than landline phones to begin with, the chance of failure is greatly increased.

    (As an aside, ADSL with battery backup may be more reliable than the phone service over the same landline. The high frequency ADSL signal can couple itself across cable damage enough to still sort of work even when the phone is totally dead.)

    I am somewhat familiar with copper pair phone circuits. My work with the burglar alarm company coincided with the telephone companies sloughing off maintenance of the wiring inside the building onto the customer. And I'm familiar with what happens to a VOIP phone when the power goes out. I have one and the modem is plugged into my UPS, but I know it's not going to work much longer than half an hour if the power goes out, because that's how long the UPS can provide power to all the devices it has to power ... hence why I told Greg a UPS ain't gonna provide power for any outage lasting days or longer.

    I've still got the copper lines coming to my house. It's the other end where the problem lies. The phone company doesn't connect them to anything at their end. They didn't rip them out yet (as far as I can tell) but they're only using them to physically support the new fiber lines they installed alongside them.

    What are you going to do when the copper circuits are all gone, abandoned by the service provider and the replacement won't work without external power ... and you don't have that external power?

    How long will YOU have to provide that external power in a widespread outage? Do you have a power supply that will power the phone for as long as it takes for the power company to restore power to your area?

    How are you going to call emergency services if you need them during the power outage and the VOIP phone line is down because the power is out?

    You gonna' just sit there and cry about the inadequacies of mobile phone service while the house burns down around you?

    And I don't know of any ADSL modem that will transmit a signal if the modem doesn't have power.

    346:

    How long will YOU have to provide that external power in a widespread outage?

    More accurately, how long will you stand out in the weather guarding your device that is providing external power to the local telco box?

    In Australia there's a theory that cell sites and landline sites have 24 hours of backup power in them. Every time there's a disaster we learn than one hour is a generous estimate of what they actually have.

    In theory fibre based systems should be more resilient because there can be fewer relay sites. In practice it's cheaper to set things up so that every branch point is also a relay point... and thus any site between your house and emergency services going down means you can't call emergency services.

    347:

    Yep, in a wide spread" outage you're on your own. There's a reasonable chance the exchange is underwater or deroofed or burnt down. If not, then there's 24 hrs at *best of battery backup at the exchange, so even if you had copper to the exchange, you're stuffed. That's before you consider the effects of underwater landslides on the submarine cable or whatever. Tonga, for just one recent example dropped completely off the world net with about 2 minutes warning.

    If you really want a backup, it's satellite phones. That's all that works.

    I'm not a mad prepper, but having some food, water, and shelter for a week or two, assuming your house has blown down isn't a bad idea.

    348:

    The emphasis was supposed to be on the words wide and spread, not on the whole paragraph.

    349:

    For us it was snakes and bats rather than squirrels.
    In my area in the US (Northeast) it's often European Starlings, which are invasive and can flock in the hundreds of thousands or millions[1] though mostly the flocks are in the hundreds.
    I had one year less than a decade ago where occasionally (usually Sunday) there would be some sort of explosive driven breaker on a pole a couple of hundred meters away, that sounded like a shotgun blast, and a near-simultaneous (several hundred milliseconds earlier - sound is slow!) power outage start, and it was always when starlings were flocking, and it would last just long enough to drain the UPSs, and the home network would come up cold when power was restored. The lineman did say it was usually squirrels (when I asked) but he hadn't spotted any deaders.

    [1]Nature’s fireworks #birdwatching #BirdTwitter #naturelovers pic.twitter.com/BAzplaTHR4

    — 🟣 Evan Kirstel $B2B (@EvanKirstel) February 10, 2021
    350:

    I was thinking more of all those "fibre to the neighbourhood" nodes that have been hidden around the place.

    We had a fault recently and the technician who was face down in the hole outside my place said they were checking all 10+ nodes between here and the exchange because something had taken out most of the street.

    The bigger ones have batteries in them, but those ones can't be buried because they're not waterproof. Which I guess means they're only good for 10cm of surface water if they're mounted at street level...

    351:

    Oh, induction motors and inverters, that's even more fun...

    They are basically a heavy duty transformer with the secondary shorted and nothing but leakage inductance to limit the current, so until they get going they are a severe test of your approximation to an ideal voltage source. Still, at least they have leakage inductance...

    You could try a "brute force inverter" approach - get a mains transformer out of a Big Industrial Thing That Plugs In But Only Just, like a gadget for starting trucks off the mains, or whatever uses a convenient secondary voltage, and then switch a 50Hz squarewave into the secondary, sizing everything on the assumption that DC resistance is all that limits the current. Probably only about a fiver for the MOSFETs these days, and at that frequency you don't even have to fret about switching them fast.

    Or you could have a big induction motor connected to a flywheel sat in a shed somewhere, connected across the mains and running continuously. It would need some kind of starting arrangement for black starts but the infrequency of such means you can get away with something crude, like an ordinary motor to spin it up part way before you switch it in, or even just a rope. Then when one of your smaller induction motors kicks in the flywheel will do most of the holding up of the supply instead of the inverter having to do all of it.

    352:

    “I have the power company in the address book for my iPhone, so I can call them and tell them the exact pole they need to come reset (all the poles have little number tags).”

    Up here BC Hydro can tell to individual meter resolution where power has gone off. Power goes off, check the website a minute or two later, find the map of the affected area and a usually reliable estimate of when a crew will get to the source. It’s almost always a tree down across the lines (because they run power on wires dangling in the air ready for trees to hit!) or occasionally some fuckwit ramming a car into a pole. Always at least one moron each summer.

    To survive this I have an APS BC1500 + secondary extender for the server room and a plain BC1500 for the iMac and main Pi. That gives me about 10 hours of net access for the battery powered devices. I’d love a powerwall...

    353:

    I know how it works, I'm just whining about how badly it doesn't work. Or, more accurately, how badly designed the cheap induction motor appliances are.

    My fridge which I chose as the cheapest of the reasonably efficient models draws about 60W and starts on about 300VA. Even my 1800W table saw that also has an induction motor will start off the inverter (soft start though, so cheating). It does trip the thing if I push it too hard.

    But the cheapest chest freezer I could find is 90W and for the first half cycle "whatever it can get". Putting my scope across a 1 ohm resistor said ~10A, but when I looked at voltage the sag was down to below 250V on the "peak" of that half cycle, instead of ~320V. There's a long extension cord to my shed :) So it's not really surprising that a 1200VA inverter doesn't like it, my fear is that a 3kVA inverter would also balk. But it would be much cheaper to buy a better chest freezer than to upgrade everything to support a 3kVA inverter. $1000 gets me a very efficient freezer, but the 3kVA inverter alone is $1600-ish, then I'd need more batteries (partly to go to 48V, but also just to support the surge/power output) and the all-up cost would be more like $4000. Just to save another $600 on a better chest freezer.

    The slightly scary solution that the decent inverter people seem to go for is big capacitors and output transistors. I don't care what it says on the label, I'm looking inside the box and seeing an output stage rated at about 15A. On a 5A nominal rated inverter. There will be voltage sag, sure, but that's still a lot of amperes. It does make an impressive "bong" noise when it fails to start the chest freezer.

    354:

    An induction freezer would work. Harvey Norman has a page "how to choose a freezer" where it says you should always get an inverter freezer. Irritatingly they don't sell any.

    I can find them for sale in Africa and the Philippines, but not here. The African ones claim to stand 120 hour blackouts, which would be nice.

    355:

    Night Pharaoh sounds like an ancient Egyptian version of Night Court. Fantastic.

    356:

    JBS
    Yes - but I need to purchase a car-cigarette-lighter-to-suitable-plug line (!)
    ... later...
    What are you going to do when the copper circuits are all gone, abandoned by the service provider and the replacement won't work without external power ... and you don't have that external power?
    How long will YOU have to provide that external power in a widespread outage? Do you have a power supply that will power the phone for as long as it takes for the power company to restore power to your area?
    How are you going to call emergency services if you need them during the power outage and the VOIP phone line is down because the power is out?
    - THIS, exactly.

    Pigeon
    Just so. It INTRODUCES a single-point-of-failure, the "mains power"

    357:

    It INTRODUCES a single-point-of-failure, the "mains power"

    Hasn't this blog already established that nothing else is possible?

    I'm not sure whether you mean the grid or just 240V AC in general (or for our less powerful cousins, 120/110V AC). Going back to Edison's system would be much easier now, since high frequency DC-DC converters are so readily available. But that would be insanely expensive, even by the standards of Brexit.

    Doing without the grid would mean distributed generation, either solar or cogen because wind isn't practical at any kind of population density about "Australian outback". Or more likely for the dark distant north, small nuclear reactors. Probably at a block level rather than household or personal, just to keep things slightly sane. Combined I assume with some kind of peer to peer web of fibre to the neighbourhood, with significant redundancy to avoid the aforementioned single point of failure.

    It's a fun thought experiment, but I can't see how we'd get from here to there.

    358:

    333 - Well, that's comedy!!

    340 - IME the big gotcha with gennies and CO is where the genny exhaust is relative to the compressor intake (mostly SCUBA) and/or a window (mostly backup power).

    343 - The Ryobi, Milwaukee and DeWalt trade names are all extant in the UK; no idea about range of products though.

    359:

    That's the biggest problem, but fuel storage (including the tank) is another - essentially, this works only for people with suitable garages or outbuildings, which is fewer than is often realised.

    360:

    The Ryobi, Milwaukee and DeWalt trade names are all extant in the UK; no idea about range of products though.

    I scanned the UK sites as well as I can and the only mention I've found was people asking for them.

    EGO has a small single battery pack, but it's square wave and not hotswap. I didn't check the DeWalt site as their system is square wave.

    361:

    occasionally some fuckwit ramming a car into a pole.

    Hey. Last summer in front of my house. 4 teens in a Jeepish thing. I think I was the only witness to any of it. Loud crash while I'm in the back yard but near the edge. I look up and Jeepish thing flys bye the gap where I can see the street but headed to the other side at a 30 degree or more angle.

    Run through the house dialing 911. Teens were mostly OK but refused to sit down. Idiots that teens are and keep walking around. They CLAIMED a wheel had locked up and caused it. I took pictures/movies of sidewalks and pavement. No skit marks at all. They also said they were doing the speed limit. Which is why they drove THROUGH the power pole and left the top 1/3 hanging via the cables.

    They were doing 45 or 50 on our 35mph street and just lost it. Drove up on the curb, through a mail box then the pole then veered across the street through my neighbors yard till they bumped into a tree bigger than the momentum of the vehicle. I think they got off and the insurance paid it all, including a replacement of the grass in my neighbor's yard.

    We all got lucky. This pole carries the 3 phase area distribution lines. They held.

    362:

    Moz
    In the "Great Hurricane" of, um er, 1987 ... for some hours, the 'leccy grid controllers switched the whole of London out, excepting hospitals, if possible.
    But, the phones kept on working - someone I know woke up in the middle of it all, realised everything was "off", picked up the land-line - & got a dialling tone.
    The phones were/are on a totally separate & more reliable/resilient system.

    363:

    That's as per design. The phones themselves are powered from the exchange, over the copper wires. The exchanges were designed with sufficient battery backup to run them for a period (and hopefully they've got backup generators for when the batteries run down).

    364:

    Incidentally, I have an earlier version of this thing 31200mAh external battery for serious outages. It's good to recharge my phone a bazillion times, the laptop about 1.5 times over, and run my 4G MiFi indefinitely. Has a mains socket with 100W output as well as the usual USB-A and USB-C sockets.

    I reckon it should keep me in touch with the world and online during a protracted (24-48 hour) power cut. More than 48 hours and me being out of touch will be the least of my worries, you'll be hearing about it on the news ("capital city now entering third day of blackout").

    It's not legal in checked bags on flights, and it's too much of a lump to travel with, but for household power cuts it's the biz. Bought just before COVID19 arrived, dammit, so only tested, not used in anger.

    365:

    I scanned the UK sites as well as I can and the only mention I've found was people asking for them.

    Here's what Ryobi has in the US. (I joined the Ryobi battery system 25 years ago.)

    This smaller one with outputs that vary according to the battery source. If it was 1/2 the price I'd buy it now. https://www.ryobitools.com/products/details/46396032423

    Then this bigger one: https://www.ryobitools.com/products/details/46396023759 for $850 US. Which comes with 2 6AH 40V batteries that would cost $400 separately. And fit my mower and other Ryobi yard tools. Which makes it a nicer deal. I think it can hold up to 4 batteries of various sizes.

    366:

    gasdive (he, him, ia) @ 347: Yep, in a wide spread" outage you're on your own. There's a reasonable chance the exchange is underwater or deroofed or burnt down. If not, then there's 24 hrs at *best of battery backup at the exchange, so even if you had copper to the exchange, you're stuffed. That's before you consider the effects of underwater landslides on the submarine cable or whatever. Tonga, for just one recent example dropped completely off the world net with about 2 minutes warning.

    If you really want a backup, it's satellite phones. That's all that works.

    I've looked into that. Mainly in conjunction with my desire to go out to the western U.S. for photography to where I know there are gaps in cell phone coverage. Turns out you don't have to buy a sat-phone. There are companies that rent them for anywhere from a month to a year.

    I'm not a mad prepper, but having some food, water, and shelter for a week or two, assuming your house has blown down isn't a bad idea.

    One thing Covid did was change my foot buying habits. At the beginning of the quarantine back in March 2020 I bought enough staple foods & long term storage foods to last me at least a month even if I didn't go out of the house at all. Since then I've tried to confine my shopping to once every two weeks (about as long as I can keep "fresh food" fresh enough to use for cooking.

    And I have ways to use some of my camping gear for food prep even if I don't have electricity to run the stove & refrigerator/freezer. The only essential is that I be able to run the freezer long enough every day to make a couple batches of ice in the ice maker. Found that out from Hurricane Fran, when ice was practically worth it's weight in gold (when commercial ice was restricted to 1 bag/day for a whole squad - 11 soldiers on state duty for cleanup).

    367:

    Several years ago my then-employer switched over to VOIP phones (to save money, supposedly).

    My office had intermittent network connectivity issues before the switch, which being intermittent meant tickets kept being closed as "no problem found" when IT finally got around to looking at the issue. Apparently "intermittent" was not a word that registered with tech support.

    Eventually I managed to get a tech out for another issue, and he gave me his direct phone number so I could call him when the connectivity is down so he can look at the network, because apparently the logs showed nothing. So a week later I get to work at my usual 7AM and again no connectivity, so I call him. Apparently I woke him up, but he was able to see the outage while it was happening, and tracked it down to something malfunctioning in an equipment closet in another part of the building, so it was fixed.

    When they switched to VOIP I asked what would happen if that happened again, and I was told I'd just use my cell phone. At the time I didn't have a cell, and asked if having one was now a job requirement, and if so could they put that in writing so I could claim it on my taxes. Apparently the cell was an unofficial requirement, and I was weird for not having one. My office was a dead zone with no reception so even if I had one I couldn't have called. I asked about safety (chemical storage room and chemistry labs right by office), and was told there wouldn't be an emergency while the network was down so don't worry about it.

    I found (and still find) it astonishing that those people were responsible for the safety of children, but the "nothing has gone wrong so nothing will go wrong" attitude is very common. Eventually followed by "why didn't someone do something to prevent this" when something inevitably goes wrong.

    368:

    Greg Tingey @ 356: JBS
    Yes - but I need to purchase a car-cigarette-lighter-to-suitable-plug line (!)
    ... later...

    Not quite sure what you mean. That little doo-hickey I linked to will clamp on battery terminals & give you a cigarette lighter socket you can plug "cigarette lighter plugs into.

    Do you mean something that will plug into the cigarette lighter socket and give you a mains style socket? I don't know if they make such a thing, but I know they make all sorts of USB doo-hickeys that will plug into a cigarette lighter socket and that's about all I think you'd need to keep a cell phone charged (it's all I need for my iPhone).

    The battery clamp thing is for vehicles that don't have a cigarette lighter style power socket (which it turns out HMMWVs don't have). But my GPS did have the plug, so I could hook that to one of the batteries (24V system with 2 - 12V batteries) and power the GPS ... USB charging adapters weren't a thing yet at the time.

    I've been using a cell phone as a backup for land lines since the late 80s ... it's been so long I don't really remember now when I first got mine, but I was an early adopter ... had a 1G phone - "bag phone" & magnetic antenna mounted on the roof of the van and plugged into the cigarette lighter for power (although mine had an auxiliary battery).

    Seems like in the last few years their roles reversed and the landline is now a backstop (but not truly a backup) for the cell phone.

    369:

    Moz @ 357:

    It INTRODUCES a single-point-of-failure, the "mains power"

    Hasn't this blog already established that nothing else is possible?

    The old style "POTS" telephone system didn't require external power to operate the phone line. The Telephone Co had their own power supplied by IMMENSE battery banks. I once had to do a service call on a fire alarm system located in the central office battery room. It was impressive.

    My reference point for power outages will probably always be Hurricane Fran. My power was off for over a month. But I still had a POTS phone line back then and I never had a service interruption due to downed power lines. In fact, I didn't have any interruption in telephone service at all.

    I think that's what Greg was concerned about. The "phone company" is abandoning the POTS circuits in favor of a fiber optic (VOIP?) system that IS dependent on mains power for continued operation, both at his home and along the way to the central office ... he could have power at his house and still lose phone service because the power was out somewhere between his home and the central office - and no way to report the problem.

    I've had my differences with the "phone company" over some of their business practices, but TECHNOLOGICALLY the old system was reliable.

    370:

    David L @ 361:

    occasionally some fuckwit ramming a car into a pole.

    Hey. Last summer in front of my house. 4 teens in a Jeepish thing. I think I was the only witness to any of it. Loud crash while I'm in the back yard but near the edge. I look up and Jeepish thing flys bye the gap where I can see the street but headed to the other side at a 30 degree or more angle.

    Run through the house dialing 911. Teens were mostly OK but refused to sit down. Idiots that teens are and keep walking around. They CLAIMED a wheel had locked up and caused it. I took pictures/movies of sidewalks and pavement. No skit marks at all. They also said they were doing the speed limit. Which is why they drove THROUGH the power pole and left the top 1/3 hanging via the cables.

    They were doing 45 or 50 on our 35mph street and just lost it. Drove up on the curb, through a mail box then the pole then veered across the street through my neighbors yard till they bumped into a tree bigger than the momentum of the vehicle. I think they got off and the insurance paid it all, including a replacement of the grass in my neighbor's yard.

    We all got lucky. This pole carries the 3 phase area distribution lines. They held.

    The street I live on is 3 blocks long: 1,721.89 ft (524.83 m) from the traffic signal in front of the elementary school at the east end to the stop sign at the main thoroughfare at the west end. I live half-way (± 10 ft) up the street. The posted speed limit is 25 mph.

    If you start at the traffic signal and FLOOR IT you can get up to 55 - 60 mph by the time you pass my house and I swear many of the parents dropping their kids off at the elementary school in the morning do just that.

    Most of the people going the other direction, toward the school, are a bit more moderate in their speed ... but not all of them.

    The neighbors have submitted petitions (I signed) to the city to have speed bumps installed, and I've called the Mayor's office a few times to RANT about why they won't put in 4-way stops at the two cross streets, but as yet all the city has done is put red flags on the stop signs for one of the cross streets ... and that only because I called up the Mayor's office to cuss someone out when the city put in a detour for that main thoroughfare down one of the cross streets with no advance warning and I almost got run over by some idiot speeding through the stop sign while I was out walking my dog.

    I've seriously considered "borrowing" a fork-lift & "acquiring" some concrete Jersey barriers to create ad hoc traffic control points at the two intersections ... not stop it, but slow it down considerably.

    371:

    Charlie @ 354
    THAT is exactly what I was thinking of, when I first asked!
    Bingo.

    JBS @ 369
    That is, again, exactly what I'm afraid of if/when we are forced into VOIP.

    372:

    If I read that correctly, it's only 156 Wh, which wouldn't power even my router for more than 5 hours (if I read THAT correctly!) It would do very well for my telephone connection if I disconnected my router when I wasn't using it.

    373:

    I am talking about whole-house. Note, though, that I would NOT expect it to run the a/c - that draws a lot of power, but the fridge, the freezer out in the shed (there was no room in the house), the heater, etc.

    I'm finding the power that people are talking about interesting. I read, long time ago, a house (minus a/c) needed about a 4kw generator. I'd love a diesel, but those are at least four times more expensive than gas (petrol), and Generac, with a natural gas line, starts around $10k.

    374:

    "Incomprehensible terminology" - what aggravates me is when you don't need jargon, but people with small vocabularies invent new words.

    I just spend a few days fighting WordPress to replace my static site with a blog mrw, and they aggressively redefine perfectly good words to mean something completely different. For example, "widget" is a verb, I gather, and "footer" is some fuzzy concept that bears no relation to what anyone else in the world refers to as a footer. They don't even have a special location for it.

    375:

    It's not quite pocket-sized: weighs somewhere in the 500-1000 gram region. Some of the stuff we're discussing starts at 30kg and goes up to a ton of cells ...

    376:

    Right. The telco ran its 48v over the copper, and they had batteries in the switching station. And outside of it - I once worked for a company that bought a former Bell South station, they had a backup generator the size of a US semi-trailer. And when they tested it, monthly, it being directly on the other side of the wall from my office, it was LOUD!!!

    When Verizon installs FIOS, they install a battery backup for it. Of course, after the battery wears down, you're responsible for replacing them.

    377:

    Those batteries - 9AH, for example - are those Li-ion? I used to get batteries like that which were lead-acid, which went into the rack-mount APC UPS', and I paid what, about $105 for the full set of 8 for one APC 3000.

    378:

    156 Wh is very plausible, then, by comparison with the batteries used for electrically assisted bicycles. Of course, what I really need to do is to find out the actual draws of my router and amplified telephone, rather than nameplate ones, but that's a pain.

    379:

    The old style "POTS" telephone system didn't require external power to operate the phone line. The Telephone Co had their own power supplied by IMMENSE battery

    I freely admit that it's been some decades since I dealt with those systems, but IIRC they charged that battery from the grid rather than having their own system for generating and delivering. The battery was for occasions when the grid went down, and there were processes for scaling back the phone system to conserve power when that happened so they could run for longer.

    But I'm glad to know that with modern technology the POTS system is now independent of the grid.

    Except in Australia, obviously, where we've switched to a god-awful mess of POTS, fibre, cable and whatever else the government could scrounge from countries that were throwing it out.

    380:

    I'd love a diesel, but those are at least four times more expensive than gas (petrol), and Generac, with a natural gas line, starts around $10k.

    Harking to your other comment about a phone CO testing it's backup generator, diesel fuel goes bad. So those tests also burn off the old fuel. Which then has to be replaced.

    Which is just one of the reasons why data center racks cost so much per month.

    I know a guy who had made a good life for himself by starting a data center company out of college 25 years ago. (15 years ago he added boutique fiber for businesses. He hates his diesel fuel bills which all go to testing and old fuel burn up. But other than converting to natural gas there's no way around it.

    I have 4-8 gallons of diesel sitting on my carport that I need to figure out how to get rid of.

    381:

    Tool batteries tend to be lithium polymer, but I wouldn't be surprised to see LMC. I don't think LFP is common yet (sub-hour discharge and LFP isn't great). Finding NiMH or NiCd tool batteries would be a fun challenge, but I suspect they still exist. Assume otherwise unless you read the label though.

    Some UPS are now using LFP, and 48V rack mount LFP is rapidly becoming a commodity. It's hard to build a battery cheaper than you can buy those, at least in the USA.

    The change with power tool batteries is from 18650 to 2170(21700) cells which in theory offer better volumetric efficiency but in practice don't seem to.

    382:

    $20 plug in power meter? I assume the same thing is available with a UK plug/socket. Those will also give you "energy per week" which is often more useful information.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find that the wifi routers I use take 12V, and will accept the 10V-14V range that the LFP battery in my shed provides quite happily. That saves me running an inverter to power a plug-pack to power a modem :)

    Instead I run the inverter to power the bug zapper because Sydney is having a wet summer and there are hordes of mosquitoes everywhere.

    383:

    I have a lithium polymer battery which I bought to run the drive on one of my astronomical telescopes. It was supplied by Tracer (tracerpower.com) and is 12V 8Ah. They supply units up to 22 Ah. It will run my telescope overnight. I’ve also used it when camping to charge a phone and iPad mini. It came with a cigarette lighter adapter so I can use the cigarette lighter/USB plug I keep in the car to charge the phone and iPad. It’s smaller than a mass market paperback book (although it’s a thick as my old copy of Stranger in a Strange Land) and weighs 600 g. However if we had a prolonged power cut I could plug the phone and iPads into the Bosch computer of my e-bike which has much more power. There’s a concealed micro USB socket at the side if the cycle computer and I have adapters for my phone. It lets me attach the phone to the bike and use it as a satnav/music/podcast/phone. Very good with AirPods. So you could probably charge your phones without buying anything except maybe an adapter.

    384:

    "Do you mean something that will plug into the cigarette lighter socket and give you a mains style socket?"

    Yes, that exists, or did. We had one for about a decade 2004 - 2015 or so. Little black box with a wire for the cigarette lighter plug and a couple of mains sockets. Worked fine.

    Checking RioGrandeDelSur, I see they're still available.

    385:

    Sort of when you're not looking for something you don't notice just how many there are. I have one or two floating around my house. Or I donated them. Not sure. Usage mostly went away with universal USB 5V charging and laptops that had batteries that last more than a few hours.

    Anyway, around here, where JBS lives, we have multiple choices at each of Autozone, Advance Auto, WalMart, Target, BestBuy, etc...

    $30 and up depending on power needs. This thing from Ryobi is a bit pricey but handles all kinds of sourcing. Including "cig lighter". But would only make sense for someone with an investment in Ryobi 18V batteries.

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/RYOBI-ONE-18V-800-Watt-Max-12V-Automotive-Power-Inverter-with-Dual-USB-Ports-RYi8030AVNM/316453021

    386:

    I have one of those. It is occasionally useful. Less often than it used to be now all phones take USB cables.

    387:

    Amateur radio clubs sponsor repeaters with phone patches and internet links all over the world. It may benefit y'all to get a license (Morse Code no longer required) and an inexpensive battery-powered handheld on the frequency band of the local repeater. This is my call 9-1-1 solution when cellular fails, as my apartment block has no copper to telco's central office:

    AU: https://vkradioamateurs.org/welcome-to-ar-guidebook-for-newcomers

    CA: https://www.rac.ca

    UK: https://rsgb.org/main/clubs-training

    US: http://arrl.org/licensing-education-training

    Other: https://www.dxzone.com/catalog/Ham_Radio/Clubs

    388:

    I didn't want to take almost brand new batteries out to the solid waste service center.

    Battery dealers will buy, for cash money, used lead-based batteries.

    389:

    (wavy lines)

    My father could (and would) do anything, with the single exception of household electrics (I got to do that if there was no 'professional' electrician within family or friends at the time).

    The central heating was designed as a 'semi-gravity feed' system, with a Satchwell thermostatic controller (external capilliary tube temperature sensor and internal (similar) sensors for hot water and room temperatures) - made from bronze castings, plus a circulating pump.

    With the pump on, the Satchwell controlled the mix of hot water from the boiler plus return water from the radiators to maintain the internal room temperature at 'comfy'. (Individual radiator temperatures could be adjusted using their (non thermostatic) valves.)

    If the power went off, the pipework had been carefully designed to circulate water (more slowly) by convection currents, and there really wasn't much difference in room temperature.

    Initial heat source was a solid fuel boiler (coke and/or phurnacite plus wood offcuts from the company sawmill for starting or fast hot water), later replaced by a gas-fired boiler - which could keep the pilot light running in a power cut but not operate the gas valve or pump until I added a surplus UPS to cover power failures. (We didn't have much in the way of power failures until the Conservatives sold off the utilities and the cut back on maintenance.)

    This has reminded me that I need to look at improving the resilience of this house (Do Not Ask) to external problems like power outages.

    390:

    Yup! Praise be the -48 volts DC.

    Old exchanges used electromagnetic relays and selectors and had a large "Battery Room" with banks of lead-acid cells making up a 48 volt supply. This would be float-charged by (originally) a generator and later from the AC electricity supply with standby generator in case of supply failure.

    The two wires (A & B) to the subscriber (customer) provided 48 volts (negative with respect to earth to eliminate problems with electrolysis in damp conditions).

    With the receiver "on-hook" there was no DC path through the subscriber's instrument (the bell had a capacitor in series and required AC - produced by a motor-generator set at the exchange which also (by means of geared drives, cams, and tone wheels) provided all the audio signals you would hear when making a call.

    Lifting the receiver allowed a current to flow, operating a relay in the exchange, and the 'line finder' uniselector would connect you to the next available circuit selector and supply dial tone.

    When you finished the call and hung up, the relay would drop out and the circuit would reset ready for the next caller.

    Modern exchanges don't have anything like the backup of the older kit, because the system regards profit as a highter priority than reliability of the service.

    391:

    "Amateur radio clubs sponsor repeaters with phone patches and internet links all over the world."

    Ah, thanks, that's very interesting, I didn't know about the no-code development. Something to look into.

    A question: do any of those do long distance, like through meteor scatter? The question crossed my mind when Tonga got cut off by the volcano from its fiber connection to Fiji.

    392:

    "Satchwell thermostatic controller (external capilliary tube temperature sensor"

    That's it! That's the beastie. Capillary tube went out through a hole in the wall and terminated in quite a large bulb with a little steel cover over it.

    And the radiators were all in series. Each one had a permanent bypass so the water would continue to flow if it was turned off; when it was turned on there was less flow resistance through the radiator than through the bypass pipe, so most of the flow went through the radiator.

    Very neat Conex radiator valves which operated by lining up a hole in the side of a cylinder rotated by the knob with a port in the side, so it was a maximum of 90 degrees rotation between on and off. Then there was a stop mechanism hidden underneath the knob, adjustable by an arrangement of fixed and movable meshing serrated rings, to limit how much of that 90 degrees was actually available. Commissioning the system meant setting up all the stops on the valves by trial and error to get an even output from all the radiators and stop the first one on the circuit stealing all the heat.

    393:

    On the subject of batteries, remember that a lot of off-brand batteries are junk. Not the rated capacity, likely to explode, or just very poorly made.

    I have bought some "Makita compatible" batteries and finally got the bits I need to do very basic capacity tests on them at ~1A. which should be C5 discharge but... well... yeah.

    These odious bits of garbage have done very badly. The "5Ah" battery gave 3.1Ah on its second full discharge, and the "9Ah" that is 3P rather than 2P managed a whopping 3.8Ah. I cycle them once just to give the chemistry a chance to organise itself, and I'll keep cycling them for a while but at this stage I have sent a grumpy message to the person who suggested them. He can't capacity test them so I suspect he's just gone "feels hefty, makes tool go, the end".

    When my 10W resistors arrive I will be able to test at C and get a better idea of how they'll perform in an actual tool. For those of you so inclined "Tools & Stuff" on youtube does it the brutal but effective way - puts the battery into a blower and runs it to cutoff (normally 5-10 minutes). That tells him relative run time which is what he cares about.

    394:

    Are you suggesting that repeaters and/or relays have a useful resistance against being melted by lava flows!? ;-)

    395:

    The way the D&D game mirrored the ongoing events in the novel makes me wonder. Was this a bit of literary fun, or is it a subtle plot point? Are there any coincidences? The New Management is aware of the Mute Poet Society, and might well have created its own geas to nudge third parties onto a path that frustrates a threat.

    396:

    Old exchanges had ... a large "Battery Room" with banks of lead-acid cells making up a 48 volt supply.

    As a kid I used to hang around the local GPO(T) exchange, blagging bits of wire and dead uniselectors off the engineers there. I got to see the Battery Room a couple of times and it had nickel-iron batteries rather than lead-acid, probably because they were fit-and-forget over a period of several decades compared to the mayfly lifespan of lead-acid batteries.

    When they built the new exchange and moved to System X they put a big wire fence around it and you couldn't get near the building without authorisation. This was in the 1970s when the IRA were active.

    397:

    The building for my local exchange dates from the late 1960s. The plant has been updated (several times) inside the same civils, and it now consists of a very over specified computer room, a similarly over-speced battery room, an office suite and over-specified air conditioning for the plant and battery rooms.

    398:

    One way to get around the off-brand thing with cordless-tool batteries is to watch out for cut-price sales and special offers of tool bundles from your local over-the-counter suppliers (in the UK that would be companies like Screwfix or Toolstation). You can use Gumtree or Craigslist to resell the brand-new tools to construction workers who already have a lot of batteries for site work and keep the good-quality branded batteries that came with the bundle for your own use.

    399:

    All our radiators (except for kitchen and bathroom) were in parallel - there were separate feed and return rings in 1-inch copper pipe (insulated) under the floor, and half-inch radiator feed and return connected in using compression Tee joints. The radiators had a conical control valve at the top (feed) and a 'Lock shield' adjustment valve at the bottom (return) to pre-set the maximum flow rate. Those were all controlled by the Satchwell. The kitchen and bathroom radiators were fed off the primary circulation (along with the indirect coil for the hot water storage cylinder), as they were used as towel rails (and could get very hot indeed - especially if we were feeding the boiler on wooden offcuts - about 4 x 6 x 1.5 pine from packing case manufacture.

    400:

    Our local exchange is the original brick building (with very high ceilings to accomodate the old Strowger racks). This was too small for the subsequent expansion of businesses and housing, and a new exchange building was constructed (behind the local cinema) some time in the 1960s. With modern equipment the new building was far too large and so the latest exchange was installed in the original building - the cinema and subsequently the 1960s exchange building were demolished and replaced by a supermarket and car park extension.

    There's a suspicious building next door to the old exchange: very narrow and high up windows on the ground floor, security doors, etc., and I've often wondered if it's full of intercept equipment for various agencies (or just an extremely paranoid ISP).

    401:

    Our exchange is slotted onto a triangular site between a railway embankment (circa 1840), a main road (older) and a relatively recent Carnegie library (Original building 1911, extension ~1970).

    402:

    Was this a bit of literary fun, or is it a subtle plot point?

    The latter, and even more so in Season of Skulls (where we begin to apprehend what's actually going on, dimly, from a distance, through a keyhole).

    (Keep your eyes open for record scratch whatever the viewpoint doesn't see.)

    As in, the "coincidences" are a series-level plot point, just like CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN in the Laundry story arc.

    403:

    It's been a while since I last made use of my licence (G8UDV) but unless things have changed recently there's an absolute ban on third party use of amateur radio frequencies in the UK so things like phone patches are not allowed.

    404:

    In lieu of a tip, I offer this as a possible plot element:

    https://boingboing.net/2022/02/08/giant-chainmail-box-used-to-dry-out-house-slowly-dissolving-in-scottish-rain.html

    Obviously the "preservation" bit is a cover story for what the stainless steel chain mail enclosure / Faraday cage is really for.

    Be sure to watch the video:

    https://youtu.be/9XSzwbFCFtc

    405:

    I note the claims about POTS reliability, and I'm sceptical that they're true (at least here in the UK) any more.

    While your local USO provider (BT, KC) has a nominal obligation to provide 8 hours of power in the event of agrid failure for POTS service, there's no guarantee that they actually do so, because the penalties for failure to do so are laughable. And about 10 years ago, power went out in Henley-on-Thames (where I worked at the time) during the Regatta, and both landlines and Three, O2 and Vodafone mobile service went out. Interestingly, since they've got the emergency services contract since then, EE mobile remained functional for data on 4G but both their 3G and 2G services disappeared completely.

    And I have acquaintances in Scotland who are part of RAYNET, and who were involved in providing communications for clean-up work after storms last year; the word on the ground was that landlines were the first to go in the big storms, mobile lasted longer but didn't outlast need, and RAYNET were called to provide comms for the crews going in to restore power and enable "traditional" communications to come back to life.

    406:

    Moz @ 393: On the subject of batteries, remember that a lot of off-brand batteries are junk. Not the rated capacity, likely to explode, or just very poorly made.

    I have a DeWalt battery powered drill that came with two "batteries". The first set lasted about 5 years or so. We have a battery store here in Raleigh, so I took them down there. They took them apart and replaced the "cells" inside, which was good for another 5 years ... The "cells" were slightly larger than a regular C-cell and were soldered together in series to provide 18VDC.

    The second time, the guy at the battery store suggested I check the big-box home improvement chain store before having the cells replaced. I found a two-pack of DeWalt 18VDC "batteries" for half the cost of getting the cells replaced, plus the big-box store had a bin for recycling old tool batteries. That set of batteries are about 3 years old now (20 DEC 2018).

    407:

    (Keep your eyes open for record scratch whatever the viewpoint doesn't see.)
    Always good advice. (That is how meta-cognition helps - multiple viewpoints. :-)
    Glad you're going there, wherever it is.

    408:

    Kardashev @ 404: In lieu of a tip, I offer this as a possible plot element:

    https://boingboing.net/2022/02/08/giant-chainmail-box-used-to-dry-out-house-slowly-dissolving-in-scottish-rain.html

    Obviously the "preservation" bit is a cover story for what the stainless steel chain mail enclosure / Faraday cage is really for.

    Be sure to watch the video:

    https://youtu.be/9XSzwbFCFtc

    That's pretty amazing. In addition to the house (designed by an architect I've actually heard of) that preservation structure is itself probably worthy of preserving even after the house is saved.

    I hope they don't just melt it down to recycle the steel when its job is done.

    409:

    I visited Hill House in January it is a wonderfully odd place. The house layout is logical but the details of it kind of surprise you at every turn. You could say the geometry is wrong. From the Penthouse schoolroom, childrens bedroom with a door that opens out onto a roof promenade, to the main staircase with prison like bars at the end. It was built for the Blackie family 19th century childrens book publishers so fits nicely with the meta themes of the New Management books. The cage is an impressive bit of engineering and gets you great views of the house and surrounding area. Which brings us to a problem, it overlooks Helensburgh and the Gare Loch which are major locations in Ken Macleod’s latest novel series so I am not sure OGH will want to go there too.

    410:

    use Gumtree or Craigslist to resell

    That market here is utterly dominated by people who work for (or are) retailers. They effectively have no inventory cost (it's borne by the retail side) so whenever there's a deal available that can be split for profit they spam ebay and gumtree with the bits. When they get a buyer they do the split. Which is awesome if you want one particular tool, unless it's very off the wall (I wanted the HEPA dust collector for the SDS drill... it was cheaper to buy the $1200 RRP kit. Or alternatively, I got a free brushless grinder, drill and dual port fast charger with my SDS drill+impact and batteries.

    I'm in a financial position where $100 for a couple of off-brand batteries is money I can afford to lose, so I took the gamble ... and lost. But if I'd got even 6Ah out of the 9Ah battery, for $60 that would have been a win.

    I can get brand new 5Ah genuine batteries for $90 each. So that's the price point I use as a baseline. The "5Ah" fake is 3Ah but at $45 it's almost the same price as a genuine 3Ah battery.

    Oh, and I rang Makita to ask, and it turns out that yup, the DLM464PT3 mover + 3 batteries is identical to DLM464PT2 mower plus two batteries, except for the extra battery. Battery alone is RRP $150, but the kit is an extra $200. The three battery kit is also on back order, but they're happy to take my money now if I want to wait. So the extra $50 gets me a month-ish delay and that is all.

    411:

    Yes. That Ryobi Inverter battery powered by tool batteries retails for $850 with 2 6AH batteries. And $700 without the batteries. And $1050 with 4 batteries. And the batteries stand alone cost $400.

    None of those number add up.

    As to buying a tool to get batteries. In the US with Ryobi that's mostly a end of year holiday thing. Which is why I have 5 drills, 3 5" circular saws, etc... The extra drills are nice. Two are hammer drills. And for repetitive work I can load up the bit drivers in separate ones and just grab the one needed at the instant.

    There is also a Ryobi/Ridged outlet store an hour away. Lots of refurbished or factory blemished choices. So far the factory blemishes have been someone played football with the packaging. The contents have been pristine as far as I can tell.

    412:

    For anyone interested it's 1.02 miles from Helensburgh Central railway station (1 train every 30 minutes to Glasgow and Edinburgh), but the mile is mostly up a fairly steep hill.

    413:

    On a slightly related note: Does anybody have experience with LiFEPO4 batteries for backup or for a solar/battery system?

    414:

    Yes. I have 3 solar panels and a 100Ah/12V LFP battery (etc) in my shed. It's ridiculously expensive for what it is, by the standards of the cheap all-in-one boxes available in the USA. But compared to prices in Australia it's not bad.

    If you DIY you will be better off buying pre-terminated cables because putting lugs on fat cables properly is a fairly skilled task best done with expensive tools. The rest is Lego-level.

    If you buy the "portable power station" all in one units you mostly have to hope that the label is correct and the warranty exists... and that you guess your requirements correctly.

    415:

    Battery alone is RRP $150, but the kit is an extra $200.

    I did a quick price comparison on my local cheap-tool store website (Screwfix) and it looks like Makita batteries are more expensive than other name brands for the same rated capacity -- A Makita 5Ah battery is UKP 100, the DeWalt 5Ah battery is UKP 75, the Milwaukee 5Ah battery is UKP 70 and the Bosch 5Ah battery is also UKP 70. There's a Screwfix house-brand 5Ah battery (Erbauer, very German-engineering-sounding but made in China) which is only UKP 55.

    Oddly all those batteries except the Makita comes with a two-year warranty, the Makita battery's warranty is only one year. That limited warranty period was overidden by EU rules requiring a two-year warranty for all electrical appliances but now Britain is not in the EU I'm not sure that rule still applies here.

    416:

    In Australia we're a small market at the wrong end of the supply chain, so what we get is pretty hit and miss, and the prices are almost random. It depends a lot on who is importing stuff and what they want from it. For a long time De Walt was rare and priced like Hilti and Metabo, but recently Bunnings (big chain shop) have been pricing it to undercut Makita (which they also sell). I may end up with a De Walt planer/thicknesser purely because it's priced slightly above the Ryobi one (!!!) and I can add a helical cutter kit for a reasonable total price.

    Makita is very popular here so there's widespread availability of tools and batteries, and they're usually the mid price point between the high end stuff (Hilti, Metabo etc) and the "cheap but it works" Ryobi stuff. Although Ryobi charge a fortune for their batteries here, and seem to be moving to compete with Makita. We also have store-brand garbage stuff appearing where the only reason you buy it is the "no questions asked" warranty from the shop.

    I buy the store brand stuff for the usual reason, but only mains powered because I am very over having multiple battery systems. But when you pay under $100 for a tool that you only want to use for a few hours, being able to get an instant replacement when it fails is nearly as good as a proper one but only 1/5th the price. For hobby stuff that's usually ok.

    I will probably end up with 40Vmax Makita stuff just because they import a decent spread of tools here and are moving to 40V. I've seen people caught before by going with a cheap kit in a big name brand that has no real presence here, then discovering that while Hitachi do make a wide range of battery tools you can only get three of them in Australia. So they end up importing stuff via ebay or amazon and hoping for the best with no local warranty.

    417:

    I will probably end up with 40Vmax Makita stuff just because they import a decent spread of tools here and are moving to 40V.

    I don't know if it's transitional or a permanent part of the tool ecology but DeWalt has a FlexVolt battery pack. It can put out ca. 60V (probably 54V under load) for their FlexVolt tools like table saws but a switch reconfigures the cells in the pack to output 18V and work with existing 18V XR-series tools if needed. Costs a chunk more than a regular DeWalt 18V XR-battery of similar capacity but it's more flexible. I don't know if the 40Vmax Makita batteries can do the same.

    I've seen a number of knock-off Chinese copies of Makita cordless tools that can take regular "real" Makita batteries, not so many of the other cordless tool makes.

    418:

    knock-off Chinese copies of Makita cordless tools that can take regular "real" Makita batteries

    And those are often excellent disposable or maybe-I'll-use-it tools. Much like off-brand corded tools. Or as Tools&Stuff did, buy a planer and use it to remove paint ... and find any nails he missed.

    I haven't seen any sign that Makita will do a switchable-voltage battery, they're mostly removing their 2x18V battery tools in favour of 40Vmax stuff. And taking advantage of the better ergonomics to add a few things that just don't work with two batteries (their flush cut circular saw for example).

    My big hope is 2x40V for stuff like lawnmowers so we can avoid having the big limited-use garden tool batteries. When a Ryobi 36V/5Ah battery costs the same as two Makita 18V/5Ah batteries you know there's a problem.

    419:

    FWIW Bunnings (big chain) have Ozito as their cheap brand, $69 for a 18V/4Ah battery, compared to Ryobi two for $200, DeWalt $125, AEG $139, and Makita at $169 (Xui at $39 seems like the joke's on you). They have a pile of other stuff, often special order, but I'm listing their stuff because they tend to be lower priced than the competition.

    420:

    Yep. I maintained the battery bank at the 813-774 exchange then the 813+024 (Long Lines) toll center for the incumbent (non-Bell) telco, between high school and college.

    A 20Hz ring tone voltage would sure get your attention, if you happened to be working on those terminals when someone rang that pair. Especially true when working on a party line; more telephone sets meant more ringers which meant higher voltage required to tickle all those ringers, dozens of miles out towards the Everglades from the central office.

    421:

    Yes. See https://www.electronics-notes.com/articles/ham_radio/amateur-propagation/meteor-scatter-burst-communications.php

    Then, there's also EME https://vu2nsb.com/amateur-satellite-radio/eme-moonbounce-communication/ as well as traditional skywave using lower frequencies https://hamradioprep.com/ham-radio-range.

    All of those require higher levels of licenses, large antennas, and generally (not always) more power, and move away from inexpensive handhelds you can use to connect through a repeater to POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) or through the Internet through IRLP https://irlp.net/how-does-it-wrk.html and similar protocols https://secure.echolink.org . It was surely a trip to talk to another ham in Antarctica using just a five watt handheld on my end.

    422:

    Phone auto-patch systems are permitted in the US, and may be permitted in the UK for emergency communications (e.g., calling 0118 999 881 999 119 725 3) https://youtube.com/watch?v=t3m2BcYijSw

    This has been handy when the 9-1-1 system stateside fails, which has happened twice in the past two years https://www.zdnet.com/article/911-services-down-in-multiple-us-states/

    423:

    paws
    But - only 660 m from Helensburgh upper ( 7 trains a day to Oban & Mallaig )

    424:

    Yes, that's true as far as it goes, but there is no service that allows you to alight west/north bound or board east bound at Helensburgh Upper.

    425:

    paws
    NR timetable 218 shows Helensburgh Upper as a "proper" stop, in both directions.
    The "ScotRail" TT shows the same ...

    426:

    In the UK, we're only permitted to use things like phone patches when passing messages under clauses 1(2) and 1(3), or if we have suitable Notices of Variation applied to our licences. Clause 10(3) of our licence terms explicitly forbids permitting other amateurs to make general unsupervised use of our equipment, and a phone patch would qualify.

    When it comes to emergency calls, we'd be passing messages under clause 1(2), except if it's a disaster, a national emergency, or an international emergency, where we could invoke clause 1(3). And the permitted User Services are defined in clause 17(1)(qq) of our licence terms.

    https://www.ofcom.org.uk/manage-your-licence/radiocommunication-licences/amateur-radio/amateur-radio-info has our licence T&Cs under "Regulations and technical information"; https://www.raynet-uk.net/ tend to be the co-ordination body for clause 1(2) and 1(3) operation, and it's widely held that if you're running under RAYNET operations, then you're in the clear, but you need to be cautious otherwise.

    427:

    Interesting news from Culham, the JET has completed a fusion test run of five seconds burning deuterium and tritium, producing 59 MJ. There's no mention of the Q factor but it's the stability that's the main factor that's of interest (the JET's magnetic field coils can only run for a few seconds since there's not enough cooling to keep them from melting for longer runs).

    428:

    You have to be careful about those big backup power supplies. A couple of anecdotes/legends of dubious reliability:

  • A hospital had a big diesel generator in the basement capable of supplying the entire hospital for a week. One day the power went out. The engineers rushed down to the basement to find out what was wrong with the generator. They found a warm generator with an empty fuel tank: the mains power had gone out a week before, but nobody had noticed. (My guess is that a red light went on somewhere, and in some 3-ring binder was a note saying that if this happens call the electricity company, but the last guy who knew that the light was important had retired).

  • Another site (not a hospital) had regular tests of their diesel generator to make sure the thing fired up properly. Everything worked fine. Then one day the power went out. The big diesel started on cue, ran for 5 minutes, then stopped. It turned out that the pump that moved fuel from the big tank to the generator had been wired into the external supply, so it worked fine during tests, but failed when the power actually went off.

  • I also know about a power failure on a real system where I worked. Remember that system = people + processes + technology; this was a system failure. The hardware had dual redundant everything on both sides, so if mains power went out two generators would fire up, both of which were capable of running the site on their own. The generators took some time to fire up, so battery-backed UPS systems were also in-line to keep things going and smooth out any variations from the diesels.

    Of course anything this big and complicated needs maintenance. Unfortunately during routine maintenance to replace the batteries on one side, the other side got turned off by mistake, taking down power to some very important computers. This wasn't for want of care: the maintenance engineers were properly trained, and they knew that what they were doing was important. The maintenance procedure had been properly reviewed ahead of time. This place believed in systems. I don't know exactly who had the brain-fade, but sometimes shit just happens.

    429:

    They found a warm generator with an empty fuel tank: the mains power had gone out a week before, but nobody had noticed.

    An email bounce Charlie and I are on, we were discussing systems redundancy. Someone mentioned that their office had three internet connections, all fallover -- a high-speed fibre link and a cable modem with a built-in last-ditch 4G cell radio data connection.

    One day recently they noticed a Zoom call was getting a bit laggy and they started investigating. It turned out that someone had managed to unplug the cable modem during an office cleanup a couple of days before, at around the same time a drunk in a pickup truck had wiped out the roadside fibre cabinet. The office had been running all internet traffic over their 4G cell radio modem for some time and they hadn't noticed until the Zoom call.

    430:

    I thought this would be of interest:

    https://youtu.be/NIl1XmEDdVY

    A working gauss rifle, this is their website:

    https://arcflashlabs.com/

    Interesting to see how this goes.

    431:

    Oh dear, yet another "working" gauss rifle...

    Energy, it always comes down to energy. A "real" combustion-driven rifle like a 5.56mm calibre weapon delivers a bullet to target with about 2000 joules of kinetic energy. The bullet spends about a millisecond in the rifle barrel getting up to its final speed of about 800m/s. A shoulder-mounted gauss rifle design of equivalent capability has to provide an instantaneous power of ca. 20MW in each shot and then deal with the residual heat from efficiency losses whereas combustion-driven weapons dispose of a lot of the waste heat by blowing it out of the barrel as hot gas (similar to a rocket).

    A real gauss rifle could easily be built but it would be the size of a small car and require a truck-mounted generator to provide power to feed it. It still would only match the performance and capabilities of a standard military rifle and twenty-round magazine weighing 4kg.

    Rail guns fire even faster projectiles but need even more instantaneous power delivery and still have a heat build-up problem in the rails thanks to resistive losses.

    432:

    AIUI the real military use case for gauss guns or railguns is aboard ships. Effectively infinite heat sink on hand (the ocean), lots of generators (modern warships are mostly CODAG -- electric drive, powered by diesel, with gas turbine boost when speed is needed), room for big capacitor banks, and it means you can carry extra projectiles instead of bags/cans of propellant. The hypervelocity projectiles are desirable for defense against missile attack because you can carry far more of them than you can anti-missile missles in a VLS cell, and ships at sea are harder to keep resupplied than infantry on the ground.

    Still, it seems a bit marginal (as witness the lack of railguns deployed by the US Navy after decades of R&D) ...

    433:

    The thing I liked was that it had 'reasonable' accuracy up to 20-30 feet, and had a laser to aim it :-)

    434:

    Oh how sweet: they accept donations in Bitcoin and Etherium

    435:

    Simple capacitors won't provide enough instantaneous power to drive a projectile at a suitable speed out of a gauss gun. It realistically needs thousands of amps at hundreds of volts for a short period of time and a lot of that energy is going to be wasted and expressed as heat, not in kinetic energy at the target.

    Railguns, maybe but they use even more energy since their projectiles are faster (ca. 2000m/s plus) and a lot of that electrical energy is still wasted as heat in the gun and its rails which still needs to be dealt with somehow.

    There are electromechanical energy storage systems like homopolar generators which can deliver the requisite energy for railguns in very short bursts but they're big and heavy and have to work in opposite-rotation pairs on a ship otherwise their deceleration torque on firing could capsize anything smaller than a carrier. Once you add up all the extra bits railguns require, existing CIWS multibarrel gun systems plus autoloading 125mm cannons using cased propellant start to look better and better. For anything outside the range those weapons can cover, missiles are the ticket.

    436:

    A question: do homopolar generators act like gyroscopes? If so, rapid maneuvering while firing a rail gun might get interesting*. I agree that with you that, for energy storage, chemical propellants have certain advantages.

    *There's an amusing story from the early computer days, when they tried installing a memory drum on a warship. This memory device was a big, heavy magnetized drum, sort of like a disc drive at extremely low res. The system worked great at first--they got it up to full speed, reading and writing data. Then the ship made a turn, and the drum kept going straight. That ended the experiment rather expensively.

    437:

    Charlie, is the New Management trying to expand over to the US? I've started getting "document shared with you", "secret adult community" emails, from "Ysggsh Nshfsfc, which may be a Shoggoth, or something similar...

    438:

    Yes, they do. There are also such things as gyroscopic roll stabilisers for ships. So now I'm imagining a combined system using the same big flywheels for both purposes, of course. Or a way to build a passenger liner that doesn't need much doing to convert it into a railgun-armed warship, for those awkward "you're not allowed to have a navy" situations.

    439:

    I think it's already run away from Charlie's predictions. I've long been getting spam for... well actually I don't know what it's for, because it's text/HTML with no text/plain part and about a 100:1 ratio of CSS to actual text (with no line breaks or spaces), so it's not much more legible than line noise. But what certainly can be seen is that the names of several different shoggoths are invoked in every occurrence of the CSS selectors.

    440:

    Were I going to build a Q-ship, with roll stabilizing gyroscopes that are also homopolar generators...perhaps a cargo ship would work better? Cargo containers can hide many sins. The only problem is that it would be comparatively easy to spot a ship equipped with powerful gyros, just on the way it (didn't) move in heavy waves.

    Still....hmmm. Q-ships are one of those squirrelly ideas that's always attractive, even if the data don't necessarily support it being effective. Ninja ships! Maybe if they're crewed by some equivalent of China's little blue men?

    441:

    Speaking of daft military ideas, one just hit me. Left a welt too.

    Anyway, here's the idea: Polar ekranoplans. So I hit up ye olde Google, and it turns out Russia started publicly considering the idea five years ago. Oh joy. Arctic sea monsters. Purely for transport and search and rescue, of course. What could possibly go wrong?

    442:

    Even weirder was the attempt to put disc storage on an early ELINT aircraft (a sub-hunter, I think) -- they actually built it out of two disc systems that rotated in opposite directions for exactly the reason you think.

    443:

    paws4thot @ 412: For anyone interested it's 1.02 miles from Helensburgh Central railway station (1 train every 30 minutes to Glasgow and Edinburgh), but the mile is mostly up a fairly steep hill.

    FWIW, I "climbed" (walked up?) Arthur's seat all the way to the top from the northwest side before discovering there's a much less arduous path leading up from the car park on the eastern side.

    I was walking around the town & stopped to look at the Scottish Parliament Building before taking the path that goes up by St Margaret's Well.

    444:

    Toby @ 430: I thought this would be of interest:

    https://youtu.be/NIl1XmEDdVY

    A working gauss rifle, this is their website:

    https://arcflashlabs.com/

    Interesting to see how this goes.

    I dunno' ... 21 minutes on the "gauss rifle" with nary a mention of Dr. Gordon Freeman or the Black Mesa research facility? How credible is that?

    445:

    Heteromeles @ 436: A question: do homopolar generators act like gyroscopes? If so, rapid maneuvering while firing a rail gun might get interesting*. I agree that with you that, for energy storage, chemical propellants have certain advantages.

    *There's an amusing story from the early computer days, when they tried installing a memory drum on a warship. This memory device was a big, heavy magnetized drum, sort of like a disc drive at extremely low res. The system worked great at first--they got it up to full speed, reading and writing data. Then the ship made a turn, and the drum kept going straight. That ended the experiment rather expensively.

    But even then, the experiment was NOT a failure, they just discovered another of the 10,000 ways something won't work.

    446:

    Heteromeles @ 441: Speaking of daft military ideas, one just hit me. Left a welt too.

    Anyway, here's the idea: Polar ekranoplans. So I hit up ye olde Google, and it turns out Russia started publicly considering the idea five years ago. Oh joy. Arctic sea monsters. Purely for transport and search and rescue, of course. What could possibly go wrong?

    Developmental setbacks, the designer dies before the prototype ever flies and no one else wants to responsible for driving a "failing" program forward.

    The Strangest Aircraft Ever Built: The Soviet Union's VVA-14

    I'm pretty sure Stalin had at least one aircraft designer executed when his design didn't quite work out in the prototype stage. Who would want to take over the lead of that program?

    447:

    Apropos nothing, I just typed THE END in the first complete draft of Season of Skulls.

    Now logging off for the evening and cracking a beer. In a day or two I expect to hear from my agent whether it's an acceptable novel-shaped object or whether they're sending an ambulance and a straitjacket for me.

    448:

    Given where (exactly) you live, should that not be an air ambulance and a straitjacket? ;-)

    449:

    Congratulations.

    Can hardly wait!

    450:

    Now, if you were playing by American (football) rules, roughing the draft would result in a 15 yard penalty, which your entire team would have to pay, and an automatic first down for you. Not sure how that rule works during pandemic times. Perhaps the thought counts?

    Congratulations. Erm, hope you break a thumb drive or something.

    451:

    Oh, drat, forgot to mention satellite 2-way amateur radio: https://www.amsat.org/two-way-satellites/

    452:

    Huzzah! Well done that author! Sincerely looking forward to meeting it at the other end of the sausage factory.

    453:

    Ah. A long term Covid-19 study done via an analysis of a large reasonably accurate data set.

    https://www.science.org/content/article/covid-19-takes-serious-toll-heart-health-full-year-after-recovery

    Basically it appears to screw up your blood vessel system. Even mild cases.

    454:

    And now for something completely different.

    This week's US PBS Nova episode is about Wombat cubed poop. How they do it and what do they communicate via their poop?

    Plus the poop of other animals such as rhino's, whales, etc...

    Filed under the topics of "Scat Science".

    456:

    Satellite operations are a skill in their own right, and not really usable for emcomms without serious practice.

    For starters, with the exception of QO-100, a satellite pass is short (at least in the UK) - you've got maybe 15 minutes of active communication time assuming that you've got automation pointing the antenna at the right place in the sky (and you're not trying to aim by hand). QO-100 is geostationary, and thus needs a decent sized dish plus a dedicated setup (10cm downlink, 13cm uplink bands are both unusual on cheap amateur kit, and you end up having to build your own in some form).

    Second, I can only just (and even then it's marginal) pick up the ISS on my handheld transceivers with the supplied aerials, and yet I happily hit a repeater 15km away without any issues at all. The ISS can't hear me at all on a handheld - I'd need a bigger (read more expensive) setup to transmit. Bear in mind that my handhelds cost new £20 for the Baofeng, and £200 for my Anytone DMR-capable handheld; the antenna and rotator I'd need to reliably hit a satellite would cost me around £80 for the antenna, and about £150 for the rotator if I built something myself, or £650 if I bought a pre-built rotator.

    As a hobby, it's great - I don't have to spend that much, since I'm allowed to build my own kit for everything I might want - but as an alternative communication method it leaves much to be desired. Perhaps when the solar cycle picks up, and HF becomes reliable, that'll become useful as a reliable comms method, but right now, it's not something I'd want to rely on in the event both mobile and wired networks go down.

    457:

    Clicking on the link I had hoped for a paper about poop cubes.

    Now I'm a little disappointed.

    458:

    Now I am speculating about spectral paranormal wombats that poop tesseracts.

    459:

    Congrats for reaching the end of the novel! (imaginary popping of champagne cork)

    OT I just watched "A Different Bias" at Youtube. There is every indication that the lorry traffic at Dover will be unable to cope with the increasing traffic this summer (too many details of the background to include).

    People in Scotland will be protected from some aspect of misrule, but not from a collapse of cross-channel traffic (a detour across NI will probably not be able to compensate).

    Looking forward, if the horrible party wins the 2024 election (and blocks a second Scotland independence vote from spite) where will that leave you? NI can benefit from unobstructed trade so moving there is a way to avoid scurvy, but I hope you can find less drastic means of coping.

    460:

    if the horrible party wins the 2024 election (and blocks a second Scotland independence vote from spite) where will that leave you?

    Referendum is being scheduled for 2023. (Scottish Parliament is preparing legislation for the current -- 2022 -- session to pave the way for it, on the theory that existing UK-wide legislation dating to 2012 permits devolved parliaments to hold referenda. It is of note that the collapse of the Northern Irish coalition government in Stormont due to the DUP throwing their toys out of the pram over the NI Border Agreement last month implies that devolved nations within the UK have the power to enforce/break international treaties autonomously, which is a bit of a constitutional WTF, but suggests the SNP are on strong legal ground, although they're playing it cautiously.)

    461:

    What I have deduced from the minimal reports is that the NI officials said to themselves "oh, no, you aren't" and have continued the checks. As there is now no Executive, there's nobody to override them :-)

    If 2023 goes for independence, it will be amusing to see the legal excuses the SoS uses for ignoring the results of such a referendum.

    462:

    My impression is that Sturgeon is absolutely determined not to follow in her predecessor's footsteps and screw things up.

    A snap poll for independence would probably deliver a Leave margin on the order of 52/48 right now, and we know what that would result in. Sturgeon really wants to see a convincing plurality for leaving the UK -- more like 60/40. (Polling has been in the range 52-58 over the past year.)

    My gut feeling is the timing is highly sensitive. She repeatedly deferred the vote during COVID19, which made sense -- to do otherwise would have handed Johnson a stick to beat her with. But with COVID19 officially over per Downing Street, there's no pandemic to blame the Brexit-induced supply chain chaos on. As Brexit (hugely unpopular in Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU by 62/38 in 2016) gets worse, it'll actually add to the Leave vote -- especially as the SNP is not-so-quietly gung ho about being pro-EU.

    They're not going to say "the instant we achieve independence we're rejoining the EU", because (a) they can't (although EFTA membership is plausible), and (b) a small minority of Scottish nationalist voters are also anti-EU. But there's a lot of dog-whistling going on.

    463:

    a satellite pass is short (at least in the UK) - you've got maybe 15 minutes of active communication time assuming that you've got automation pointing the antenna at the right place in the sky

    Back in the late 1970s I was working at the University of Surrey where the European AMSAT telecommand station was set up. They had an ex-Royal Navy X-Y missile radar tracking unit installed on the roof of one of the buildings, complete with crossed quad-Yagis for both 2metres and 70cm. It was driven by a horrible lashup of level converters and power-supply bodges and connected to a microcomputer which had the various OSCAR satellite ephemerae loaded into it to provide tracking data. It worked sometimes which, given the era, wasn't that bad.

    The head honcho of the telecommand operation was a Ph. D. student who was leveraging the OSCAR work into his thesis about the possibility of low-cost satellites and Getaway Specials. You might have heard of him -- Martin Sweeting.

    464:

    Mine, too.

    Whether or not the UK government regards the result as authoritative, claiming that even 55/45 wouldn't justify a binding referendum would need some glib bullshit from the SoS.

    466:

    Far out. (I'm old-fashioned, I type --30-- at the end of my stories.)

    467:

    Oh, wonderful. That, of course, means there will be some children, probably two of them, a girl and a boy, following them like breadcrumbs, and pup through various worlds.

    468:

    When I have done that, I have written Finis.

    469:

    We're over 300, but this is off-topic, but writing-related.

    Charlie: I've got a short story. It was partly an homage to CL Moore's Jirel of Joiry. Now, the story is set about 125 years later, and involves her great-grandniece. I only mention Jirel and Joiry a handful of times.

    And, I find online, that unhappily, all Moore's work is out of copyright.

    Would you think my references would be a problem for an editor?

    470:

    Nightmares ( again )
    This series of programmes ...
    Referring, of course to the fascism now rampant in the US "republican" party, etc.
    The really scary bit is that "they" have ( apparently ) already anointed a successor to the Orange buffoon.
    This dangerous man

    471:

    Now I am speculating about spectral paranormal wombats that poop tesseracts.

    That might make for some interesting Digger fan-fic. The actual Nova episode is quite fun.

    For those who want the references on this award-winning research*:

    https://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD18/Session/E19.1

    and

    https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2021/SM/D0SM01230K

    *Winner of the 2019 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics

    472:

    "This dangerous man"

    Seems like he has been keeping us safe:

    https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/592725-national-butterfly-center-in-texas-shuts-down-indefinitely-amid-right-wing-attacks

    [The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas] had already been forced to close from Jan. 28 to Jan. 30 as a result of a nearby rally hosted by Trump's former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, on their "Take Action Tour."

    473:

    "... happily hit a repeater 15km away without any issues at all."

    Yes, the 20-200 quid handhelds are what I typically use for IRLP and Echolink through repeaters to talk with folks everywhere. Just mentioned the exotica for completeness.

    474:

    Completely unrelated to anything here, but I just came across this infobit that might be of use in world-building. I.e., how long can a properly maintained jet aircraft/airframe keep flying.

    It would be interesting to find out about the maintenance and upgrade history of N711HK.

    https://simpleflying.com/most-used-boeing-737ng-aircraft/

    ...a 737-700 flown by low-cost giant Southwest Airlines. It has amassed 80,366 hours across 48,450 cycles under the registration N711HK.

    475:

    Winner of the 2019 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics

    Sudden thought: is there an "Ig Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics" to match the "not actually a Nobel Prize" in economics?

    If not we should fund one. And have a special ceremony outside the Ig Nobel prizes to award it.

    476:

    C. L. Moore died in 1987, so some of her stuff may remain in copyright as late as 2057. Better check VERY carefully!

    477:

    The Ig Nobel prizes don't exactly stick to the same categories every year. But they do cover economics. Check out https://improbable.com/ig/winners/

    478:

    This does not qualify as a very careful search, but Jirel of Joiry was copyrighted in 1969 (https://archive.org/details/catalogofco1970324112libr/page/2662/mode/2up?q=jirel) and there's not an obvious record of it after that (https://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?SearchArg=jirel&SearchCode=TALL&PID=VTUEY0dJ8D5YEBIoTqHuR1elN48V&SEQ=20220210174102&CNT=25&HIST=1). Both of these are from the US Copyright office. I did this simply out of curiosity to see what online copyright tools were available.

    If I understand the law correctly (IANAL), US works copyrighted before 1978 are in copyright for 95 years since date of publication. So the text of Jirel of Joiry is in copyright until 2064.

    The fun questions aren't copyright, they're fair use and derivative use. Fair use gets interesting (e.g. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-the-four-factors.html). Writing about Jirel of Joiry's relatives probably passes even the derivative use part of the fair use law. For example, I've read at least two commercial novels that used as a major character the child James Bond in canon fathered in the You Only Live Twice book, and Jirel's considerably less famous. Assuming the four factors test is valid, a story about Jirel's relative might actually increase the value of that story's copyright (e.g. it gets published again because the derivative is a phenomenon), so a suit is unlikely to prevail.

    The counter-example would be if someone made a Jirel of Joiry porno without consulting the estate. There's actually a court case involving Gone With The Wind where the judge ruled against the porno. (https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/protecting-fictional-characters-under-copyright-law.html). Admittedly there would have to be a financial motive for bothering with an infringement, so this example assumes that the porno improbably made buttloads of money and whoever owns the estate is cheesed off about not getting a cut.

    Anyway, the important takeaway for this blog is that Lovecraft's works are coming out of the copyright ice (https://hplovecraft.com/writings/fiction/chrono.aspx). next month, the Color Out of Space (published March 1927) will be unambiguously out of copyright. Yes, it's been almost certain out of copyright for decades, why do you ask?

    479:

    Apropos of nothing...

    There's new work, reported in Quanta Magazine, that might be of interest.

    "The finding, published last October in Nature Neuroscience, suggests that in many cases, a memory isn’t a facsimile of past perceptions that gets replayed. Instead, it is more like a reconstruction of the original experience, based on its semantic content."

    I'll have to haul out a ouija board to see what Sapir and Whorf think of this new work.

    Snark aside, assuming this is real, it has some interesting attributes and follow-ons. To over-simplify, the MRI-based studies found close spatial linkages between visual processing and semantic processing of similar information. There's not a central visual processor (this is food, this is family), but rather areas dedicated to identifying and working with these areas are scattered throughout our brains, with areas dedicated to semantically processing information about these linked to the visual areas. The decentralized constellation of expert systems (my take on it) is new to me, at least.

    This also may be why memory palaces, especially when linked to songs and movements, are so useful to remembering. These bits of information get stored together in the brain.

    Finally, it's wild speculation time. This might be relevant to how language evolved. If humans have structures for processing semantics from language scattered around with structures for processing visual input, it's likely that other mammals have analogous structures. However, most animals do not have language abilities on par with those of humans. To me, this suggests that semantics, or at least the ability to organize information in ways we now use for semantics, evolved before our ability to produce language evolved. That may explain why dogs can learn to respond to words, even though they can't talk.

    It also means that nonhuman mammals might make nonverbal memory palaces. And that's a cool thought.

    480:

    Damn - first, I thought her copyright had expired, having been filed long before the Micky Mouse Copyright law, and second, I hadn't considered fair use.

    I can see no reason that fair use would not apply - I'm not even covering anything that Jirel did in the stories, just that people remember her.

    481:

    Also, Almost 1 in 3 older adults develop new conditions after covid-19 infection. Masking in public indoors for the forseeable future.
    That should be with N95/FFP2/equivalents, especially in places that are prematurely dropping mask requirements; people indoors will have to contend with homicidal virus-laden-plume-spewers.
    And there are a few other recent similar studies; I've avoided linking them here because everyone knows the drill. The nature (USA) Department of Veterans Affairs cardiovascular sequelae study (linked by EC) is very large (150K COVID positives, and two sets of 5.5M controls, one pre-covid-19). Absolutely worth at least a skim, especially the figures.
    Pre-omicron, which could matter if tissue tropisms are significantly different for other than lung tissue. And as they say, if some of the post-2019 controls were actually infected but never tested positive, that would "bias towards the null hypothesis".

    482:

    Damn - first, I thought her copyright had expired, having been filed long before the Micky Mouse Copyright law, and second, I hadn't considered fair use. I can see no reason that fair use would not apply - I'm not even covering anything that Jirel did in the stories, just that people remember her.

    Just remember, when I say IANAL, I am definitely NOT a lawyer. Do your own checking. That said, I agree that you should focus on fair use. Finally, another writer advised getting to know copyright law and fair use, and I think it's worth doing, to the extent of getting an up-to-date book if necessary.

    Finally, I'd point out that the Jirel stories were originally written between 1935 and 1939, so you don't get any relief that way either.

    483:

    Huh?

    I thought it was long accepted wisdom that memories are not like a film stored on a medium and then replayed perfectly, but are newly created each time you remember something?

    484:

    I can see no reason that fair use would not apply - I'm not even covering anything that Jirel did in the stories, just that people remember her.

    Name-dropping her in your own story is almost certainly safe. (For values of "safe" that include "this is a beloved movie property that The Mouse Corporation has a slightly creepy, stalkerish affinity for".) Anything beyond name dropping is another matter, though, and beware: the character implies the setting, and reusing Moore's setting gets you another set of copyright issues.

    But you could always take the bull by the horns and ask permission? I believe SFWA maintains (or maintained) a register of dead genre authors and their agents/rightsholders? If Jirel of Joiry is both out of print and hasn't been optioned/used in decades they might well be amenable to a very low-ball offer for the rights to do something, on the level of a shopping agreement (in movie/TV land: a promise they won't sell the rights to someone else while you try to sell them, in return for a cut when you do find a buyer). Or they may just say "fanfic is fine, what we don't know won't hurt us, just don't sell it commercially without our written consent".

    485:

    There is also the serious problem that it's not what the law says that matters, it's whether the copyright holders (ab)use the legal system to prevent even perfectly legal use. The UK law says (inter alia):

    References in this Part to the doing of an act restricted by the copyright in a work are to the doing of it - (a) in relation to the work as a whole or any substantial part of it, and (b) either directly or indirectly;

    Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche does not infringe copyright in the work.

    But there are plenty of cases where the more vicious, er, litigious and wealthy copyright holders have blocked those rights essentially by threatening to bankrupt the author by suing them.

    486:

    To throw something else into the mix, this is about the connection between language and tool use:

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2297259-using-tools-helps-you-understand-language-and-vice-versa/

    To sum up, the experiment showed tool use and language can reinforce each other. Your "decentralized constellation of expert systems" is the multi modal theory of consciousness. This is espoused by Daniel Dennett in "Consciousness explained":

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Consciousness-Explained-Penguin-Science-Dennett/dp/0140128670

    I found it very interesting when I read it back in the 90s. I don't think anything has broadly disproved it since, I don't know about the detail.

    On your speculation I would say it is essential to ascribe meaning to perceptual objects, whether that be instinctually or consciously, to function in the world. It has also been shown that animals form mental maps of the world:

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2295555-barn-owls-make-mental-maps-of-their-surroundings-while-they-are-flying/

    I don't know about memory theatres though!

    487:

    Since Google de-emphasized blogs in their search rankings this site is not a lot of use as a sales/marketing tool:
    Forgot to mention this, but this is not entirely true. E.g. a search for "Quantum of Nightmares", with or without quotes, has the most relevant (non-spoiler) blog article on the first page of hit results. (I'm not sure if you or your publisher does any SEO (on your behalf). (We can all help by putting links (to here) elsewhere in indexed places.) A quick google search didn't find much about de-emphasizing blogs - link? )

    488:

    The more you say, the better I feel. The setting of late medieval is similar, but I explicitly mention in the story that Joiry was swallowed into a larger demesne. So, yep, just mentions. Oh, and a number of mentions of Joiry's banner (no description).

    489:

    In some respects recent DT campaign at JET was absolutely routine, apart from the use of tritium. This is unsurprising, as we did not want to waste the neutron budget on pulses that had not already been tried and tested. If you can find it, there was a live stream of the press conference on YouTube , especially the second session with actually crunchy science stuff.

    491:

    Birger Johansson @ 459: OT I just watched "A Different Bias" at Youtube. There is every indication that the lorry traffic at Dover will be unable to cope with the increasing traffic this summer (too many details of the background to include).

    Is there a specific episode to look for? I just pulled it up on Youtube and there's over 300 episodes and I don't really have time to watch them all.

    492:

    Greg Tingey @ 470: Nightmares ( again )
    This series of programmes ...
    Referring, of course to the fascism now rampant in the US "republican" party, etc.
    The really scary bit is that "they" have ( apparently ) already anointed a successor to the Orange buffoon.
    This dangerous man

    I listened to the first episode and I don't think the "reporter" quite gets to the root of the "Clinton Scandals" and who profited from selling those lies

    Don't think it's going to be Flynn. He's got too much political baggage from selling his soul to Vladimir Putin.

    493:

    JBS
    Which particular "Clinton Scandal" - does it matter?
    On a maybe-related topic, I see that the CAN guvmint have had enough: - You've had your fun, game's over - Court Order ... Yet "The Truckers" are apparently still defying the authorities - I assume someone will have to be arrested & their truck seized, before the message gets across.
    Question: Any evidence of actual physical/money support for these tossers from the IQ45 camp?
    Because - even from this distance, it stinks of collusion & interference across the border. { See also Ted Cruz? }

    494:

    I assume someone will have to be arrested & their truck seized, before the message gets across.

    I gather that is a problem in itself: all the companies in the area with the right kind of tow truck have refused to take the job. So as a practical matter the government now has to either requisition the trucks and put untrained people in the cabs (what could possibly go wrong?) or else call in the army to break up a peaceful demonstration.

    495:

    Many of these situations in the US are owner operated. Especially the truckers. And the tow companies tend to be smaller operations. So if a tow company gets on the wrong side of the independents they could get black balled.

    Plus I'm suspicious that many of these guys (truckers and tow drivers) hang out together or in similar social circles.

    496:

    Hard evidence? Not yet. Apparently FINTRAC doesn't have a remit for crowdfunding so hasn't been tracking it. One of the three main organizers is a cryptocurrency chap which adds additional complication tracking things. (Also leads me to wonder how much of the Tantrum is advertising for a grift.)

    And despite having some actual truckers involved, most of the vehicles are pickups and SUVs not big trucks, and none of the three main organizers are truckers or affiliated with trucking except for this protest. Two are professional agitators, one is the aforementioned cryptocurrency dude.

    I was chatting with a friend who's an ex-cop and his opinion was that it was an astroturfed operation supported from outside the country to distract attention from something the supporting power wants to do — probably Russia. His opinion of the Ottawa police chief was extremely negative, and he agreed with me that it's quite possible rank-and-file cops are actually supporting the Tantrum (and that even a minority would be enough to tip the scales, given the Thin Blue Line culture) so it's possible that stronger measures haven't been ordered because the brass don't want to give orders they know will be disobeyed. Which we both found very disturbing.

    Don't know how much you remember about the G20 protests in Toronto, when police illegally kettled and detained peaceful protesters along with people just walking home? No one in charge was disciplined for the operational decisions, and very few police were disciplined for illegal actions. We theoretically could do something like that again (send in 20,000 cops) but in addition be being illegal my friend figures that that's what the organizers want, so they can claim victimhood.

    WRT the tow companies, at least one of them has reportedly been threatened. There's an on-going police investigation into corruption and organized crime in the towing industry, so not surprising.

    497:

    I think we'd notice if the work backup generators started up - since they really needed a tall smokestack each to get the billowing fumes and unburned fuel above roof level when running. (Quite how the neighbouring businesses haven't forced the monthly testing to stop escapes me - there's a frantic closing of windows in summer whenever anyone smells diesel fumes (obviously not during the current lockdown due to Ye Pestilence) ((c) Premee Mohamed).)

    On the redundant power supply front, an early Hitachi RAID box on one of the mainframes had an interesting fault: red light comes on, indicating one of the redundant supplies has failed. Engineer gets spare supply, checks LED panel to ensure he has the correct rack position for the failed unit, R's TFM to make extra sure, and pulls the "dead" supply - which was the one that hadn't failed and the indicator panel had been incorrectly wired. Ooooooops!

    (I think there was an emergency "Extra Care Needed" alert that went out, plus an out of hours "check all the fault lights are out and then pull each supply unit in turn and not which fault lights indicate" followed by a relabelling of any mis-connected ones and addition of fault lights to the actual power units themselves in the next version.)

    Chris.

    498:

    No real evidence of IQ45, per se, but there seems to be good reasonn to be suspicious of the sources of the funds. It looks like a lot funds came from outside Canada and given the known alt-right craziness of a number of organizers I'd say there is a good change that a fair number of the donations came from right wing US citizens or organizations.

    A number of donors identified themselves in comments as living abroad, in countries such as the United States, Australia, England or Poland. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/vaccine-protest-convoy-gofundme-donations-1.6330594

    Lost the link but at least one Canadian lawyer who has a lot of experience in non-profit fundraising says she thinks the donation patterns look dodgy.

    499:

    Lost the link but at least one Canadian lawyer who has a lot of experience in non-profit fundraising says she thinks the donation patterns look dodgy.

    I saw a report on that too. Something about how the timing and amount of donations being unlike any other campaign she's seen…

    500:

    I was chatting with a friend who's an ex-cop and his opinion was that it was an astroturfed operation supported from outside the country to distract attention from something the supporting power wants to do — probably Russia.

    A number of donors identified themselves in comments as living abroad, in countries such as the United States, Australia, England or Poland. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/vaccine-protest-convoy-gofundme-donations-1.6330594

    All of which are notoriously pro-Russian. Case proven.

    501:

    I've not seen anything about fusion campaigns at JET in recent times that matched the 5-second stable(ish) plasma claimed for this run. The last fusion run I recall from the late 90s if memory serves lasted about 1.5 seconds before the inevitable collapse of the plasma which may have been due to a wall-strike after instability set in. Getting to the point where the plasma is quenched "voluntarily" due to running out of magnet uptime seems to be a big step in terms of control and promises much for ITER where the magnets are rated for thousands of seconds of continuous operation.

    502:

    We're seeing more media coverage in Oz of the dubious nature of the protests:

    https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/falling-into-the-freedom-movement-and-getting-out-20220104-p59lsl.html?btis

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/12/the-global-freedom-movement-is-a-carnival-of-crank-and-conspiracy-and-very-dangerous

    Wherever this “freedom movement” manifests, a similar cast of characters emerges. Light-in-the-eyes zealots holler conspiracy theories. Grifters solicit to camera like a roll of tabloid clickbait. Burly, closed-mouth types appear to be handling secretive logistics. Around them are impassioned, often inarticulate – and poorly-costumed – clowns.

    Don’t let the ridiculousness distract from the threat

    I spent a year undercover in the broadly QAnon movement researching a book; I understand well why democratic citizens may struggle to take seriously the crossed streams of...