Back to: A letter from Ukrainian artists to the world artists | Forward to: Behind the Ukraine war

Yokai Land Q&A

Sorry about the outage: I just spent the past two weeks being a tourist and visiting friends in Germany—my first journey more than 50km from home since January 2020. It was fun, good beer was drunk, old friends were visited, many FFP2 masks were worn, and I'm now testing daily because of course BA.2 arrived while I was traveling. (LFTs are all negative so far ...)

Shipping delays mean that Transreal Fiction didn't get copies of Escape from Yokai Land before I departed, so if you've been wondering where your order got to, I'm going to try and get up there tomorrow to sign them (assuming Ingrams, the wholesaler, have delivered them the day after I went on vacation).

As it's not going paperback (ever) there's no point holding off on spoilers/questions about Escape, so if you want to ask me anything about it, feel free to do so in the comments below.

Please do not colonise the comments with (a) the permanent floating cars v. bicycles discussion, (b) the permanent floating climate change discussion, or (c) the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I'll start a new topic for those things later.

220 Comments

1:

What sort of research did you do for the mythology in the story? Did you have any particular sources or inspiration?

2:

I cheated: there are plenty of books on yokai for gaijin if you look around!

Also, a day spent touring Puroland a few years ago laid the seeds for the story. Sanrio is huge in Japan, and very visible, and there are plenty of updated news items and stories about their mythos on the web.

(I've spent a couple of months in Japan, total, so maybe just enough to scratch the surface. Visiting Buddhist/Shinto temples was a thing, too.)

3:

I liked the book. Thank you for writing it - I'm sure I'll be rereading it in the future.

Nice bit of irony at the end: Bob wants to go home and relax. Good luck with that, pal. You just had your last adventure in the Olden Times.

4:

Yep! The next time we meet Bob is in Chapter One of The Delirium Brief, being grilled live on TV by a thinly-disguised Jeremy Paxman. (See second para of his wikipedia gloss.)

5:

This:

I draw an eternal golden braid on the back of the door

is a Hofstadter reference, right?

7:

Is "Princess Kitty" a real Sanrio thing or is that a thinly-disguised reference to Hello Kitty? Or does Hello Kitty have a special Princess manifestation?

I guess this is really a Sanrio question and not a Yokai Land question. Please forgive.

8:

AIUI yes and yes—the Princess Kitty suite in the hotel is a real thing (google will lead you to a couple of articles about it), and Hello Kitty wears a crown on occasion. Also, she's from London. It's very weird!

9:

I remember some years ago discovering to my horror that my flight from Taipei to Hong Kong was a "Hello Kitty" service, with an all-pink gate area and an all-pink plane interior (at least, that's how I remember it, though it was late and I'd had a long day).

At the top of the jetway was a uniformed young lady:

She: "I'm sorry, but we're out of Hello Kitty passports." Me: "Thank goodness."

10:

Was the yokai/anti-yokai pairs a blue oni/red oni reference? I'm not sure whether to hope it was a one-off, or whether it will get worked into the rest of the Laundryverse somehow.

11:

We learned that Bob is an unreliable narrator from your earlier comments. How much of that influenced how you wrote this book?

12:

How did you navigate trademark & license constraints? Since you'd had to change the title, I'd assumed that all Sanrio-licensed characters would be replaced by alternates, but to my naive (e.g. only a passing familiarity wit the Sanrio-verse) eye it seemed like you were able to include the originals.

13:

Nope, that reference whizzed past my somewhat superficial Japanese pop-cultural literacy.

14:

It didn't, particularly (except insofar as this is an in-fill story about something Bob mostly understands and doesn't feel like lying to himself about).

We do get some hints that Angleton shat the bed, but he clearly arrived in Japan as part of the Allied occupation and did not necessarily treat the local Yokai (or their supervisory agency) with respect, deference, or insight into his own colonialism/cultural blind spots.

(Angleton, remember, was a recycled 1920s public schoolteacher, i.e. from the playing fields of Eton by way of the Somme to doing something so unspeakable that the Invisible College installed the Eater of Souls on him as an alternative to the tender mercies of the Home Office hangman. Think in terms of a less notorious John Christie from a previous war.)

15:

How did you navigate trademark & license constraints?

In a word: badly.

I wrote the novella in the form you see, with the title Escape from Puroland, and a submission letter that said "this story takes extreme liberties with Sanrio's IP: I'm happy to change any names that you think are infringing, but I thought you should see it in its intended form first".

$EDITOR took a gung-ho line on "publish and be damned", hence the appearance of reviews titled Escape from Puroland ... which survived until Macmillan Legal noticed what was going on. Which happened about a week before it was due to go to press.

Whereupon it was concluded that, although I could probably get away with using the names of Sanrio characters, they might be a bit upset if there was any appearance of trademark disparagement. The title in particular implied that you might need to escape from Puroland for some reason. So to avoid that, a flimsy-as-rice-paper retitling was deemed necessary ... but because the novella was also coming out on paper as a hardback, it triggered a six month delay in the production process. (Tor.com/Tor/Macmillan schedule physical book on a quarterly basis and it takes time to manufacture and distribute the things.)

16:

The name "Princess Kitty" is used almost everywhere throughout, but I noticed at least one "Hello Kitty".

Was this somewhere where you missed filing the serial numbers off in short notice or is there some significance I'm missing?

17:

Nope. Sanrio use both terms for her. I just preferred to roll with the high-status/powerful one.

18:

I have not forgotten the Hello Kitty bondage tape in Accelerando.

19:

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the novella, as well as Quantum of Nightmares (meat is really gross). Exploring other mythologies in the context of the Laundryverse is a great idea, one which I hope you expand further. Really looking forward to seeing where this series goes. I would very much enjoy another novel set during the period before the singularity, if you and your publisher aren't averse to going back in the timeline. It isn't that the new management doesn't have interesting characters, there is just something about Bob and Mo that I miss.

20:

There's going to be one final Laundry novel, after the novella and Season of Skulls. But it's a series I started writing in 1999 and I'd like parole for good behaviour after 25 years, okay?

21:

Any chance of "prequel" short story about how Bob got his job ?

22:

[ Deleted because off-topic and violated the explicit rules for this comment thread deliberately. ]

23:

There's going to be one final Laundry novel, after the novella and Season of Skulls. But it's a series I started writing in 1999 and I'd like parole for good behaviour after 25 years, okay?

I'm happy with one more story. Although given the number of threads to be wrapped up, I suspect it will need to be decompressed for a week before opening, so that the text doesn't explode from being too dense.

I'm now wondering what a Nyarlathotep/anti-Nyarlathotep interaction would be like. Presumably it would result in a huge black hole, but... Anyway, I'm now fiddling with ideas of soul/anti-soul collisions and it's all your fault (/grin).

24:
... to doing something so unspeakable that the Invisible College installed the Eater of Souls on him as an alternative to the tender mercies of the Home Office hangman.

I missed this part of the backstory somehow... is it in The Fuller Memorandum?

Any chance of "prequel" short story about how Bob got his job ?

I suspect that it would be boring account nights without sleep and lots of pizza and tea, hacking at a system that evaluates n-dimensional fractal functions, until suddenly one night a bunch of guys in tactical gear bust through the doors and windows.

25:

Yes. The details are not spelled out, but the event is described.

As you say about Bob. Turning a boring geek event into a story is something I doubt OGH wants to bother with.

26:

I missed this part of the backstory somehow... is it in The Fuller Memorandum?

It's in the fuller memorandum. I will say that, given the story of Teapot, some retconning might be in order, because what Bob went through is rather different.

27:

Any chance of "prequel" short story about how Bob got his job ?

No, because I already wrote it: it's titled The Atrocity Archive.

28:

given the number of threads to be wrapped up, I suspect it will need to be decompressed for a week before opening

Yes, there is indeed a risk that it'll bloat out to two book-shaped objects. (See also Invisible Sun, which ran 50% longer than its predecessors and just barely survived the chop -- it was 2000 words (6-7 pages!) shorter than the original draft of the thing called A Family Trade that I sent David Hartwell in 2002, and which ended up being published as The Family Trade and The Hidden Family before being reassembled as The Bloodline Feud. (It grew about 40,000 words during edits, then shrank about 10,000 words in the omnibus fix-up.))

29:

No such retconning can happen until the New Management books link up with the Laundry Files proper, which can't happen until both Season of Skulls and the as-yet untitled Laundry series finale are written.

(There are signs of the hook-up in SoS; Eve is gets an audience with the Prime Minister -- she is not enthralled by the prospect -- and meets Persephone Hazard, who is running errands for the Black Pharaoh.)

30:

Incidentally, here's a teaser for Season of Skulls, from the scene in which Eve meets Persephone (in Eve's office):

"Please, call me Seph," said the Baroness. "I think it's time we had a little talk, don't you?" She met Eve's eyes, smiled, and gazed deep into her soul.

Eve's brain froze and for a moment words failed her. She had an apprehension that she was in the presence of a great predator: perhaps a triumphant witch-queen, or the viceroy of Tash the Inexorable in a broken Narnia, where Aslan had been crucified before the sacrificed corpses of the Pevensie children.

(Discourse snipped)

Persephone's smile flickered like distant lightning, liminal and deadly, and Eve had a sense of barely constrained magic aching for explosive release. The baroness was clearly of human origin, but sorcerers of such power rarely stayed human for long. Either the Metahuman Associated Dementia cored them from the inside out, they made a pact with the deadly v-symbionts that thrived in darkness, or they transcended their humanity in some other manner. Whichever path they chose, they trod the Earth like human-shaped novae that left blackened footsteps in the molten rock, until they finally burned out and collapsed into some incomprehensible stellar remnant of proximate godhood. Persephone was still, for the time being, human: but Eve apprehended that she was sharing her office with a polite if not entirely tame nuclear weapon.

(Bob's not the only protagonist who's been leveling up. And Eve's perspective on Persephone should demonstrate why I wanted to do a clean-sheet reboot with a bunch of new protagonists: the old crew are among the preeminent servants of an Elder God and probably qualify as WMDs under arms limitation treaties.)

31:

"No, because I already wrote it: it's titled The Atrocity Archive."

I meant the step before that, the major urban landscaping without proper paperwork he hints at a couple of times.

32:

I see absolutely no point in turning a throwaway sentence into an entire standalone short story when you already know the punch-line, and there are still many new stories to tell.

(Also: I can't really write Bob as the earnest un-self-aware 25 year old any more with a straight face. It's been decades!)

33:

I don't think it's worth the time (unless you have an attack-story.) We've seen several minor characters getting onboarded and by now "fooled around with the wrong alogrithm, men in black show up" probably has its own entry on TV Tropes.

Speaking of minor characters, Alex is a major favorite of mine. I'd be happy to see more stories where he's the lead character, or even a minor POV character, though he may already be too powerful for a story of his own.

34:

I am considering Alex for a story in the New Management sequence, but not as a principal of another Laundry novel. (The last Laundry novel may well have an ensemble cast, like The Delirium Brief, in which case he'll have a role to play.)

35:

I was sure I had commented here before, but I can't find any comments I might have made, so hello everyone.

Poul-Henning Expansion of throw away lines is what fan-fic is for.

36:

I would just like to note that there is quite a bit of Laundry Files fanfic out there. notably on Archive of Our Own.

37:

Thank you sir, much appreciated sir. Yeah, I can see how writing so many stories in the same setting could lead to boredom. I'm really just looking forward to your next novel, no matter what the setting is, something completely different would be a nice surprise!

39:

Shit! That's a lot more Laundry fanfic than last time I looked!

40:

I'm quite sure I already said several times I love your writing style, but I feel the urge to say it again.

41:

It's not just boredom: I began writing Bob when I was 34, about ten years older than him. I'm now 57 and don't expect the final Laundry novel to show up in print before I turn 60! Somewhere along the line I stopped thinking of myself as a young/new adult and became middle-aged, and even though Bob matured too, he's still only about 40 as of the Lovecraftian Singularity (2015). Which is to say, he's not middle-aged yet, and it's increasingly difficult to think my way into his head, even without the Eater of Souls stuff.

Also, the Laundry accreted too much inside-track classified secret lore in various silos, and it's hard to keep track of.

Also-also, I began writing a light-hearted secret government agency spoof in 1998. James Bond aside (Bond is timeless but utterly unrealistic) spooks no longer had the same cultural resonance in 2018 that they had in 1998. Neither does UK governance. (The sensibility of the New Management -- "cruelty is the objective, not an accidental side-effect" -- is modeled on how I feel about successive post-Brexit-vote Conservative governments since 2016.)

By trying to semi-realistically track the way British government and politics works, I ended up chaining myself to a runaway train.

Final note: it's been nearly 20 years since I worked in anything remotely connected to IT. I can't keep up any more with the tech side of the Laundry. Best to gracefully bow out and turn the focus onto something I can still focus on.

42:

Para 3 - No big surprise (I hope), but it's also how I feel about the Scamoron, Mayhem and Bozo era Con Party too. (all names are deliberate satire on the real surnames)

43:
Final note: it's been nearly 20 years since I worked in anything remotely connected to IT. I can't keep up any more with the tech side of the Laundry.

I have been in the programming end of the business since before you started, and I have mostly lost track of the tech side. The days when a new hire could be handed a blank computer (or better yet a box of parts) and a stack of distribution disks are long gone. Just knowing how to set up build environments seems to be a full-time job.

44:

And so the Laundryverse sails off into the Singularity in another decade? What then?

Perhaps we need to promote silver-haired science fiction and fantasy. It would be where the young, white cis-male Chosen One protagonist gets offed, leaving his gray-haired mentors, the normal motivational fridging victims in most Monomyth-based texts, to survive and save the world.

Believable? Hmmm. I guess we've got Nancy Pelosi* somehow holding back the darkness, so yeah maybe?

*I'm not a huge fan of her politics, but somehow she keeps going, and that's kind of awe inspiring.

45:

I have been in the programming end of the business since before you started, and I have mostly lost track of the tech side. The days when a new hire could be handed a blank computer (or better yet a box of parts) and a stack of distribution disks are long gone. Just knowing how to set up build environments seems to be a full-time job.

I've been doing software development for some time now, and I have seen also that making build environments can be easier than earlier. Virtualization things make it so that it's easy to control the exact environment where the build happens, and that makes things easier.

However, remote build and deployment systems can make things easier, but they can also hide some stuff, and configuring them is not easy. Some places make it so that 'everything is code', but that again increases the code you need to source control, and some pieces might not be that easy to put into version control.

Also when everything is in the cloud (that is, on some server somewhere) it also makes things both easier and harder. The computer used to connect to the cloud does not matter that much, but things are more remote and visibility is reduced. Of course selecting a cloud platform basically locks you to that vendor, as it's very expensive to write generic code for the systems. Still, I like the serverless things and queues and all that! Easier to configure than dedicated servers and less hassle administering the hardware. (Also less necessary services running under Somebody's desk on a desktop computer...)

Just from my own experience - I have seen only a very small and limited portion of software development and IT. (I did work for years as a developer, then as a technical security consultant and auditor, and now I have worked again for some years as a developer.)

46:

I suspect that I go back to before you (1966), and really WAS taught programming that way (i.e. with 15 minutes 'what is a computer' training, and the rest to learn myself on a bare machine with no operating system). But, even by 1970, expecting a person skilled in one area to be familiar with another was onto a loser, and all of the business, scientific, networking and machine control areas had diverged significantly. What's more, things have changed drastically even since 1998; I couldn't write about even the area I was in, and I retired in 2016 (and then not entirely, until 2019).

That does not justify the modern bloat in complexity, where learning to even just USE a new product (e.g. a browser!) can be a multi-month ordeal, which is what you refer to.

47:

The other problem with a Bob prequel ("How I was stopped from relandscaping Wolverhampton") is that it's not near-future or twisted-present - it'll be around 1995, and that puts it squarely into the category of historical fiction.

The 80s revival has been in full swing for a while - we've had Ready Player One, Stranger Things, a rather good Ghostbusters followup (plus the female-led one which honestly wasn't as bad as the press made out), a bunch of bands like Foals who are trying to sound like Duran Duran, and so on. I'm roughly the same age as Bob would be, and right now I'm massively aware of all the stuff around which is a historical tribute to everything I remember when I was at school.

Whether or not you intend it to be, anything you write like that will look like a similar kind of tribute to the 90s. Which I suggest isn't a great corner to paint yourself into.

48:

GhostBusters - I ain't afraid of no female scientists! :-)

49:

And so the Laundryverse sails off into the Singularity in another decade? What then?

No.

Being American, you got the editions of Dead Lies Dreaming and Quantum of Nightmares that bear the wrong series title -- they're labelled as books 10 and 11 of the Laundry Files.

They're not.

They're books 1 and 2 of the New Management, a wholly new series set after the end of the Laundry Files (that as-yet unwritten final Laundry novel) but in the same setting. The next New Management book is Season of Skulls and it's on course for publication in May 2023. It will be followed chronologically by the real books 10 and 11 of the Laundry Files, which will be a short story collection and the as-yet unwritten final novel. Then back to book 4 of the New Management.

Hopefully somewhere along the way I can get Tor.com's marketing folks to accept the rebrand and alter the numbering sequence on the covers, which might put a stop to the one-star "why no Bob?" reviews on Amazon.

The NM books feature younger protags than the later Laundry Files books: they're Millennials, not X-ers like Bob and Mo, and their cultural touchstones are different.

50:

PS: Season of Skulls is a Regency Gothic, set in 1816.

People kept nagging me for a Laundry historical novel so I'm giving them one, good and hard -- only it's about a century earlier than they expect, and it's all about Eve (and the Invisible College) rather than, say, Angleton vs. Nazis.

It's early enough that Charles Babbage would be 25, newly graduated, and trying to find a teaching position. No analytical engines here! So no computational demonology. On the other hand Doctor Polidori is running around the landscape, writing sensationalist vampire yarns featuring thinly disguised portraits of people he knows ...

52:

and the as-yet untitled Laundry series finale are written.

I think:

As Yet Untitled

should be the title :-).

53:

Ada Lovelace was one year old in 1816. So, no.

54:

Have you taken the opportunity to satirise the common Regency fantasy trope - i.e. Mills and Boon with magic?

56:

No comment. (You'll have to wait and read it.)

57:

It's early enough that Charles Babbage would be 25, newly graduated, and trying to find a teaching position. No analytical engines here! So no computational demonology. On the other hand Doctor Polidori is running around the landscape, writing sensationalist vampire yarns featuring thinly disguised portraits of people he knows ...

Ummm, who needs hypothetical analytic engines when you've got Jacquard Looms that run off tens of thousands of punched cards and turn numbers into patterns? And the weavers kept their card rolls so that they could remanufacture patterns on demand. A weaver with an unusual clientele and a particular set of skills could probably command whatever they wanted with their art.

58:

"I like textiles. Maybe I'd be a weaver!"

"An evil weaver?"

59:

"Come into my workroom," said the spider to the fly.

More to the point, it would be cheerfully subversive if the Invisible College started off in a weaver's factory, rather than some stale political whatever.

60:

That's what I was thinking. Gives "dark, Satanic mills" a whole new meaning.

61:

Charlie Stross @ 36: I would just like to note that there is quite a bit of Laundry Files fanfic out there. notably on Archive of Our Own.

Great. I'll check it out. I hope the writing is worthy of its progenitor.

Somebody refresh my memory please, is Yokai Land scheduled for paperback or not?

I think I've mentioned before that I prefer to have all the volumes in a series in the same format. For the Laundry Files I've managed to do that so far (with the exception of the print version of Equoid).

Doesn't matter if there is a U.S. paperback edition or not. There wasn't for Dead Lies Dreaming, but BigRiverDotUK will ship to U.S. addresses even if BigRiver here in the U.S. can't get the U.K. paperback (which they apparently can when I looked just now, so I don't remember if I got it from here or there ...)

I did get all of the Merchant Princes books plus the sequels in U.K. paperback from "there".

62:

That's what I was thinking. Gives "dark, Satanic mills" a whole new meaning.

And, golly googling, the verse is period appropriate (1804, thank you William Blake).

63:

I've been recovering from a cold, and spent a couple days surfing the Laundry fanfic, and some of it is very, very good. My favorite was the one where a second group of stranded Alfar travel to a world where Antartica is inhabited - one chapter was a written in a pitch-perfect reflection of the style Lovecraft used in describing the Dreamlands, and was an amazing treat to read. Unfortunately, it's unfinished.

64:

I should, BTW, finish my own Laundry fanfic at some point. It's about the marriage of Pinkie and Brains.

65:

it would be cheerfully subversive if the Invisible College started off in a weaver's factory, rather than some stale political whatever.

You don't remember the infodumpy bit in Dead Lies Dreaming about how the mad cardinal prepared the concordance to the Necronomicon?

(I'm two books ahead of you!)

66:

Somebody refresh my memory please, is Yokai Land scheduled for paperback or not?

No, definitely not gonna happen.

It is possible that Yokai Land will be included in the mooted a Laundry Files short story collection, which will not be published before 2024: Tor.com do not do paperbacks, but Orbit in the UK still do paperbacks, so Yokai Land might find its way into a British paperback collection some time in 2025 or later.

Bigger picture: paperbacks were always the market channel for cheap disposable reading. Shipping and distributing physical goods is expensive and as a result of consolidation in retail (see: Walmart, Barnes and Noble) the market for them is in a death spiral. Ebooks are the replacement channel for cheap disposable reading, and if you wait a while the Yokai Land ebook will inevitably show up discounted to $2.99 -- probably within 12 months. (I recommend creating an account on ereaderiq.com and setting an alert to email you when the price drops.)

67:

a stack of distribution disks are long gone.

These days, unless a company is stuck in the past, people get a laptop (well a few get a desktop) that is wiped. (Or never been set up if new.) They turn it on, enter their new company issues email address, then a few minutes to an hour or few later, all the software is installed.

And this is true for many companies of 10 people in addition to those sized in the 1000s.

68:

You don't remember the infodumpy bit in Dead Lies Dreaming about how the mad cardinal prepared the concordance to the Necronomicon? (I'm two books ahead of you!)

Actually, I'd forgotten that, possibly because Jacquard looms don't embroider.

Anyway, I reread that section. As fiction it's great. But for handling toxic information...there are easier ways, especially in the 19th century.

The effort is to create a concordance of a Lovecraftian tome without going insane, and you have the Catholic Church's resources at your disposal. Here's what I would do: --Have someone who can't read Latin number the pages, by covering the page contents and just writing a number on the blank paper at the top of the page. That way any diagrams on the page don't install themselves. --Get a dozen or two monks who can read Latin. --On each page, use two pieces of stiff, opaque paper to cover up all but one line of text, and a sheet of lead on the facing page to hold the book open and keep them from viewing it. Write the page number on each piece of cover paper (this will be in list form, so start at the upper right hand corner). --Each monk reads one line of text, with a pile of index cards at the ready. Presumably they know the language of the text. They right down, in Latin, the nouns, verbs, relevant adjectives and adverbs seen in that line. For example, if the line contains a noun, a verb, and an adjective, they create three cards: noun adjective verb, adjective noun verb, verb noun adjective. They write the page number on each card, they put the cards through the slot in the locked box next to the book, and they move the two pieces of paper down one line. --The next monk repeats the process. This continues to iterate, one monk per line, until they get to the end of the page. I'd do this with enough monks that they only read 1-2 lines per page. Note that you don't want them reading sentences, only lines. While this isn't perfect, it breaks up the information and detoxifies it a bit.
--The last monk on the page flips the page using the papers to cover whatever's there, puts the lead sheet on the other page with eyes closed. He iterates the page number by one on the cover sheet, so that no one else has to check the top of the page. --The next monk after him carefully uses the papers to cover all but a tiny amount of the paper, checks to see if there are any diagrams. If not, then he arranges the papers to slot the first line, and the process continues. If there are diagrams, he arranges the paper so that only a word or two around the diagram is visible, and lets the next monk know they're doing a diagram. The next monk rearranges the paper in the same way, until they've captured words around the diagram without seeing the entire diagram. --Iterate to the end of the book, and pray the marginalia aren't dangerous.

At the end of this, you have a locked box full of index cards. You empty the cards into a bag, shake and massage the bag to randomize the cards as much as possible, box them up again, and give them to people who can't read Latin to sort.
--First person sorts cards into 24 piles by first letter. --Second person alphabetizes each pile by first word and page number. --Then 24 people or so, one per alphabet letter, write the card contents on paper, one line per entry. Again, they shouldn't be able to read Latin, they're just carefully copying gibberish and page numbers.

Turn those pages into a book, and it's your concordance. The Bible Concordances I've looked at aren't much more than glorified indexes.

The sick part is, as a temp in college, I actually did something akin to this, helping a rental car office near an airport sort out their contract files for an upcoming audit. Alphabetizing is easy, and you don't have to read much or understand anything to do it.

69:

Again, they shouldn't be able to read Latin, they're just carefully copying gibberish and page numbers.

Yeah, but: Catholic monks who can't read Latin? That's ... well, they're going to have to indent for some servants, I think. Or farm the job out to folks from some culture that is okay with an alphabetic script but uses a different one, so they can identify letters/words but can't make head or tail of their meaning.

70:

So far as weaving goes, the critical part for the mythos is that weaving involves arithmatic, while mythos diagrams involve geometry. All the Jacquard punchcards do is store the pattern, so instead of spending two months tying thousands of warp fibers on a loom to do a pattern, you haul the cards off the storage shelf and get to work.

I've been reading Virginia Postrel's The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made The World, which is a fun book for worldbuilders. You get such trivia as the calculation that it took far longer, and far more effort, to spin the yarn and weave the sails on a Viking longship than it did to make the rest of the ship, which I hadn't thought of. Making thread and weaving large swaths of strong fabric are really time consuming, which is undoubtedly why spinning and weaving were among the first things to be industrialized.

Postrel makes an interesting case that the Greeks created arithmetic to help with their weaving, to answer questions about whether they have enough warp threads to make a particular symmetrical pattern. Turns out basic prime number theory is really useful in this. The Greeks were skilled weavers (remember that Athena's the goddess of wisdom, strategic war, and weaving), so this was as essential to them as geometry was for building things.

Anyway, jump forward to Jacquard's time and they were doing really intricate weaving in France. Problem was, to do a pattern they had to rig these huge looms, where every warp fiber was knotted to a control fiber, and weaving was a multi-person operation, one person passing the weft threads back and forth, the other(s) pulling up the particular warp fibers to make that part of the pattern. It was skilled-labor intensive, and it could take a month or two to rig a loom to make a single complex pattern. What Jacquard did with his punch cards is to get rid of the need to tie a control line onto every warp thread, and simplify the loom down so one skilled weaver could operate it. That was an enormous leap forward.

But getting to computational demonology, if you're weaving demonic patterns into cloth, a fundamental computational part of it is doing all the calculations to basically rasterize the pattern into the cloth. All the Jacquard system does is allow you to store and repeat the pattern at need.

But that's only half the story. Sourcing all the materials needed (silver threads, dyes of virgin's blood, and so forth) is another part of the weavers' art, as is working with all that finicky stuff. All those are in the particular skill set of a demonic weaver. And the truly nasty part is, once you're dependent on such fabric for your workings (as the Laundry obviously is, because of all the stuff woven into the carpets and elsewhere), you can't get rid of the weavers. Their knowledge is the crucial part of turning great storehouses of punchcards, fabrics, dyes, and other materials into power.

71:

I may grab this for a D&D game. It would really fit with certain environments!

72:

Yeah, but: Catholic monks who can't read Latin? That's ... well, they're going to have to indent for some servants, I think. Or farm the job out to folks from some culture that is okay with an alphabetic script but uses a different one, so they can identify letters/words but can't make head or tail of their meaning.

You're right, I didn't clarify that step. What I was doing was breaking down the information processing into multiple steps, using people who can identify what words need to go into the concordance without doing the sorting, and people who sort the resulting information into a concordance, without understanding what they're sorting.

You can hire people to do the second step--it's not very labor intensive, and the only reason to break it up is to minimize exposure as a safeguard. Or you can farm it out to a missionary school. Or a convent school (depending on how bigoted you are in either case).

There's a third possible step: if the text isn't in Latin, you have bilingual people transliterate the key words into Latin (or some other second language), then you have the cards in language #2 sorted and transcribed by people who can read the characters but can't read the language.

The key question is actually what the Concordance is for. In what I just proposed, it's most useful to help someone sort through the output of an over-exposed mind to find the text they're looking for, not to understand whatever belief structure underlies the original text.

Another point: the Church has been doing information sort of like this since probably ca 220 CE. Check out the Eusebian Canons". If they wanted to, they could develop an analogous apparatus for any alien belief system, and keep it in a monastery where it would be very difficult for outsiders to understand. Creating this would be hard on whoever did it, though.

The irony here is that the Eusebian Canons are, in a way, an antidote to Biblical literalism. They're a form of horizontal reading of the gospels that pre-dates the division into chapter and verse by about a millennium. Horizontal reading is what you do to catch all the contradictions in the Bible. A classic example of this (seasonally appropriate too) is to read the four accounts of the Resurrection story (one for each gospel), and compare and contrast them. They contradict each other more than a little. You don't see these contradictions when you read the stories sequentially, as most non-theologians do.

73:

The original of the Necronomicon was Al-Azif, which was written in Arabic, so that might be the way to go in creating a concordance (but the principles would be the same.)

74:

I could check with my cousin, but I think a fair number couldn't read Latin (i.e. were illiterate), so they were stuck with menial tasks and never got into the scriptorium. As you say, any that were literate would have had Latin as one of their languages (and possibly nothing else).

75:

Arithmetic. Geometry. What's the difference? :-)

Seriously. There are a zillion ways of approaching mathematics, and almost all are equivalent. And, no, I am NOT referring to simple counting, rasterisation or anything like that, but actually formulating one in terms of the other. Remember that Newton proved the inverse square law using geometry. Admittedly, programming an advanced geometric formula on a Jacquard loom would have been 'interesting'.

76:

@52 "As Yet Untitled"

The magazine of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society was/is called "TTBA", which initially stood for "Title To Be Announced". It then turned into a system where every issue had its own title but always with those initials (e.g. "Thrash The Bombarding Aliens" soon after a Space Invaders machine appeared in our pub).

77:

Ok, this is only vaguely related, but I give you The IBM Cheese Slicer! (complete with analog computer!)

http://www.379136154956493191.com/ibm-cheese-slicer.html

Restoration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8VhNF_0I5c

78:

Arising from recent events and some other posts, I noted when reading the books that the New Management doesn't seem to have much in the way of Thought Police. Oh, yes, there are references to ubiquitous surveillance and such information being used against anyone who became enough of a nuisance to come to the notice of His Dread Majesty. But no systematic campaign against Wrongthink by even unimportant people.

Is this a design feature, have we simply not seen it yet, or is it one of the things you haven't decided on?

79:

Arithmetic. Geometry. What's the difference? :-) Seriously. There are a zillion ways of approaching mathematics, and almost all are equivalent. And, no, I am NOT referring to simple counting, rasterisation or anything like that, but actually formulating one in terms of the other. Remember that Newton proved the inverse square law using geometry. Admittedly, programming an advanced geometric formula on a Jacquard loom would have been 'interesting'.

Oh agreed. The fun part is that geometry, trigonometry, and arithmetic arose from three different sources (building, calendar-keeping and navigation, and weaving), and then classical mathematics more-or-less arose by showing how they could be made equivalent.

I was just sassing Charlie, who proclaimed that, without a difference machine, computational demonology was impossible. I just pointed out that the people who first started automating his demonology were whoever was weaving patterns into the trap-carpets they used in the Laundry and presumably elsewhere, with the Jacquard punchcard rolls that held those patterns being the critical automating step.

You might like The Fabric of Civilization. In each chapter, Postrel takes one aspect of fabric (fiber, thread, cloth, dyes, etc) and traces it from an early beginning to what's coming out of the labs now. The cloth section, for example, starts with how counterintuitive it is to work out how to weave patterns on a loom, touches repeatedly on where math is fundamental to weaving (apparently there's a whole subculture of weaving and knitting mathematicians), and ends up describing work to formalize an open-source computer language for designing three-dimensional shapes virtually so that they can be created by automated knitting machines. Fun stuff. No actual equations, but a number of mathematical concepts are central to making fabric.

80:

the New Management doesn't seem to have much in the way of Thought Police

  • The NM is far more concerned with what people do than what they think. (What they say falls somewhere between the two poles: you can be sure the NM is paying attention to social media chatter, as well as the usual GCHQ trawling.)

  • An exception is belief. But really, folks who worship the wrong deities make themselves obvious sooner rather than later and only have themselves to blame for the consequences; so that's a subset of do, not think.

  • For dangerous parties, the NM extracts loyalty oaths (like the former Laundry oath of office) -- this shows up in Season of Skulls, it's geases all the way down.

  • Bigger picture: Thought Police are problematic because the majority of cops tend to be unconscious authoritarians, and lack the intellectual flexibility, education, and subtlety to make good Jesuit priests, let alone members of the Inquisition. His Nibs probably does have plans to set up an Inquisition eventually, to root out any cultists who are smart enough to go underground and stay underground: but right now, with magic becoming easy, most of the less smart cultists are popping up and making easy targets of themselves. So why bother?

    Really, the NM is a dictatorship. But it's not a stupid dictatorship running on rigid ideological lines or staffed by ambitious greasy pole climbing empire builders (the latter tend to end up with their skulls on sticks sooner rather than later). The Black Pharaoh has a very long memory and is, if not exactly lazy about enforcement, prepared to bide his time: after all, he still expects to be in charge in a thousand years' time.

    81:

    ends up describing work to formalize an open-source computer language for designing three-dimensional shapes virtually so that they can be created by automated knitting machines. Fun stuff.

    You are now making me speculate about code/data equivalence, Turing completeness in weaving, and self-modifying demon summoning textiles!

    82:

    Thanks. That clarifies a lot, and confirms my suspicions. In some ways, it's almost enough to make one feel that it would be an improvement on the current lot :-(

    83:

    Thanks. That sounds interesting. Why I am not surprised that there is a subculture like that?

    A while back, I was thinking about some humans discovering relics of an alien with every 'home' having similar geometrically-shaped ceramic items, covered with 'writing' in a repetitive, closed, space-filling curve. The question then became what were they? Music, chants, poetry, dance patterns or what? And for religion, tribalism, erotica, aesthetics, or what? And then a non-scientist proceeded to knit one of them up into a sort of scarf ....

    To OGH (#81): indeed. A self-modifying textile is a mind-boggling enough concept on its own!

    84:

    See "The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" from Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age."

    85:

    You are now making me speculate about code/data equivalence, Turing completeness in weaving, and self-modifying demon summoning textiles!

    Looking forward to reading that story…

    86:

    You might find some ideas in https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.1201/b10652/making-mathematics-needlework-sarah-marie-belcastro-carolyn-yackel

    Delving more specificly into knitting gives you https://www.schoolhousepress.com/books/schoolhouse-press-titles/unexpected-knitting.html, including instructions on knitting a boat (yes, really), Ouroborus, and various other items.

    87:

    I'd suggest that Turing complete knitted gloves might be one place to start.

    Anyway, the Laundryverse is supposed to be part of some sort of platonic multiverse. If so, perhaps instead of shadows cast upon the cave walls, the denizens of the Laundryverse are the 3+1 dimensional shadows cast by the walls of the brightly woven 2+1 dimensional flat fabric of the walls of that universe. It's not a cave, it's a tent made writhing superstrings, some luminous, some dark. And the walls have grown thin and frayed in place.

    88:

    Reading the back matter, Princess Kitty flew right over my head and I half expected Kirby to show up and menace Bob. (Notwithstanding Nintendo's legal wards.)

    Since it seems to have been averted, what does a full-blown kaiju attack look like in the Laundryverse?

    89:

    I do feel a certain kindrid spirit in Bob, to be honest ... I found the Laundry series in mid 2012 - just a few months after I'd joined the Public Service for my own State Government in Australia. It was quite an odd experience to move from the commercial IT sector to being a Systems Administrator for an organisation tasked with managing the back-end IT for a small handful of the major government departments ... so Bob's observation of odd warping of adherence to process vs action really mirrored my own for a while, as I worked out which way was up in the new organisation ... didn't quite get to the point of being called to assist with putting down the zombi^WRHR menace, but it felt as if there were a distinct possibility that I might ...

    90:

    They contradict each other more than a little.

    Die Heretic

    [sarcasm off]

    The mental gymnastics that have been invented ....

    91:

    So do I: my detail CV includes periods working as a contractor for the UK Snivel (sic) Service.

    92:

    I have never been a civil servant.

    I have spent a couple of years working in an NHS district-level service, and a few months as a web consultant/contractor working for a county council's networking people. That, and working for a US multinational corporation, gave me some interesting compare-and-contrast experiences for how bureaucracies scale.

    93:

    They contradict each other more than a little./Die Heretic [sarcasm off]/The mental gymnastics that have been invented ....

    Agreed. That said, as an environmental activist, being a heretic is almost a job prerequisite.

    Anyway, stop reading now if you want to go back and reread The Fuller Memorandum

    ---Really? Only heretics beyond this point---

    Fine.

    There are two problems with the Preta, AKA the Eater of Souls

    The trivial one is the term, preta, aka hungry ghost. In Buddhism, hungry ghosts are really common. There are festivals to feed them, to help them be reborn out of that state. If the Buddhists are right, probably most of us here will be reborn as hungry ghosts. Could be much worse. But something like baku might have worked.

    Anyway, this is a trivial argument for why Egyptian terminology, like Apep or Apophis, would have been useful, especially with that Pyramid Out There. But that's a water through a gate to a desiccated world, especially given subsequent events.

    Anyway, the other problem is that this particular Eater of Souls has ridden three humans: Some Russian Mook, Angleton, and then Bob. In the first two cases, the human personalities were largely erased, Yithian style, and replaced by the Eater of Souls learning to function as a human in that time and place. But Bob still feels very much like he's Bob, able to wake up the Eater or put it to sleep as needed. So either the Eater of Souls didn't eat Bob's soul (?) or it utterly incorporated Bob's soul to the point where all those near and dear to EaterBob still treat it as Bob.

    Either way, this gets to the problem of what the heck happened when the Eater was installed in Angleton. Per Charlie and the story, pre-Eater that person was so unfit to be a human being that the Eater overwrote him and learned a completely new persona. But if the Eater is capable of completely copying a human soul and mimicking it precisely, isn't it really, really dangerous to download an Eater into a mass murderer? The Eater might just assume the identity of the mass murderer, after all, and not reboot him. It's under no obligation to be a normal human, after all.

    Now I'm going to ask Charlie to not answer this problem here, because it really should be dealt with in the last Bob Howard story. Because the fundamental question is "what has Bob become?" And I'm sure Charlie has Ideas.

    That's what I mean by a retcon in this case.

    94:

    There are two problems with the Preta, AKA the Eater of Souls

    I think you missed the joke? (I'm guessing Pret a Manger don't have any branches in California yet?) The whole point was to throw in a "preta manger" pun ...!

    (Secondary answer: you might not have noticed b/c first person viewpoints have weird effects that way, but by the end of the second book Bob is pretty emphatically a mass murderer. Arguably he's in denial from somewhere around chapter 3 of The Atrocity Archive. Bob unreliable narrator. And yes, I'm going to have to explore my thoughts on this -- and on what has happened to Mo, not to mention Mhari's Away Team from The Labyrinth Index -- before I write that last book.)

    95:

    I think you missed the joke? (I'm guessing Pret a Manger don't have any branches in California yet?) The whole point was to throw in a "preta manger" pun ...!

    Yup, completely missed the joke. The only Pret-A-Manger store in California's at LAX, and I haven't seen it there. Given the other meaning of Preta, I wonder which joke is on who.

    As for novelistic mass murderers, they normally get to cackle more, to cue idiots like me. The weird effect from my end is that novelistic morality is normally so distorted that good guys leaving a trail of bodies behind them are still considered good, in the same moral space as conducting an Augustinian war for the greater good. Killing a bunch of cultists to save the world isn't the same level of crime as killing the same number of cultists to gate in a horror would be. Or just killing them because one can.

    96:

    Charlie Stross @ 66:

    Somebody refresh my memory please, is Yokai Land scheduled for paperback or not?

    It is possible that Yokai Land will be included in the mooted a Laundry Files short story collection, which will not be published before 2024: Tor.com do not do paperbacks, but Orbit in the UK still do paperbacks, so Yokai Land might find its way into a British paperback collection some time in 2025 or later.

    Bigger picture: paperbacks were always the market channel for cheap disposable reading. Shipping and distributing physical goods is expensive and as a result of consolidation in retail (see: Walmart, Barnes and Noble) the market for them is in a death spiral. Ebooks are the replacement channel for cheap disposable reading, and if you wait a while the Yokai Land ebook will inevitably show up discounted to $2.99 -- probably within 12 months. (I recommend creating an account on ereaderiq.com and setting an alert to email you when the price drops.)

    The price/cost is not the problem. OCD (mild OCD?) is the problem. I started out in paperback with The Atrocity Archive and I prefer to keep all of the books in a series in the same format.

    I also prefer hard-copy to eBooks (due to the number of electronic devices of various sorts that have gotten smashed up over the years when I tried to take them with me in my ruck). Plus hard-copy books do not require batteries to be recharged, which was not always possible during some of my former travels. Paperback was easier than hardback for that purpose.

    I remember you saying the U.S. publisher Tor doesn't do paperbacks any more, so for the last few of your books I have ordered the Orbit paperbacks from "big-river-UK" and that's been fine, even though it means I have to wait a bit longer before I get to read your latest ... if "Escape" won't be available in an Orbit paperback, I'll just order the available hard-cover.

    97:

    I started out in paperback with The Atrocity Archive and I prefer to keep all of the books in a series in the same format.

    Bad news: the Laundryverse is on its third publisher in the USA. All of them used different form factors for their hardcovers: Ace switched cover design language at least once; and only the first six books ever got a mass market paperback. (The mass market channel has been in a death spiral since roughly 2007.)

    If you want a uniform edition you will need to import British paperback editions -- Orbit has the entire series in print with variations on a common cover design.

    Escape isn't yet available from Orbit, but I expect it will be part of the eventual short story collection, at which point you'll get your neat and tidy shelf-filler :)

    As for ebooks ... the good news is that my Tor.com ebooks are DRM-free, so you can download/sideload them onto as many devices as you want. Including your phone, laptop, tablet, and kitchen sink (if your sink is internet-connected and can run an ebook reader).

    (Tor and Tor.com are different publishers, albeit both divisions of Macmillan, and sharing many of the same staff. The "no paperbacks" thing is specific to Tor.com; Tor still do paperbacks.)

    98:

    Heteromeles @ 95:

    I think you missed the joke? (I'm guessing Pret a Manger don't have any branches in California yet?) The whole point was to throw in a "preta manger" pun ...!

    As for novelistic mass murderers, they normally get to cackle more, to cue idiots like me. The weird effect from my end is that novelistic morality is normally so distorted that good guys leaving a trail of bodies behind them are still considered good, in the same moral space as conducting an Augustinian war for the greater good. Killing a bunch of cultists to save the world isn't the same level of crime as killing the same number of cultists to gate in a horror would be. Or just killing them because one can."

    How many people has "Bob" actually killed (and mostly in self defense)? All the others, the MASS in mass murder, seems like they're no longer people after they've already been taken over by feeders or tongue eaters & such?

    99:

    Between Bob and Mo they sank a couple ships in the second book, so a couple hundred people in that book alone.

    100:

    "so a couple hundred people in that book alone."

    Not so fast...

    Who exactly qualifies as "people" in the Laundryverse ?

    Is it still murder, if the Homo Sapiens in question has been mentally rooted, to such a degree that their mentality (and/or free will?) can never be restored ?

    As I remember the aftermath of Fred from Accounting's demise in the first book, Bob is not anywhere near a conviction for murder ?

    101:

    Para 5 - Your fridge? ;-)

    102:

    "Between Bob and Mo they sank a couple ships in the second book"

    Did they? The Mabuse was scuttled by Billington's mooks (or by Eileen) on Billington's orders. Can't blame Bob for that.

    The last we hear of the Explorer, it's been badly damaged by the Entity, not by Bob or Mo, but is still afloat.

    JHomes

    103:

    Yes, there are plenty of "smart fridges" these days that run Android. (Beware of Samsung, apparently they're even crappier at pushing OS updates to their white goods than their smartphones, so a few years ago a Google upgrade bricked the calendar/shopping list software on hundreds of thousands of fridges.)

    Also "smart TVs" that are smart enough to get infected with ransomware.

    104:

    by the end of the second book Bob is pretty emphatically a mass murderer

    Which reminds me, I keep seeing google ads for an auto-electrics store, but the headline image I'm getting is a pair of cameras mounted on a bracket. I mean presumably it's to go on the tailgate or over the rear numberplate for use as a reversing camera, but I haven't gleaned why two (other than the back of my head Strossian reference, of course, but I keep assuming that can't be the real purpose).

    105:

    Yeah, I was having a pop at anyone who thinks that white goods somehow need azure dentition and/or a computer operating system.

    106:

    I have just reread chapter 3 of the Atrocity Archives and the end of the Jennifer Morgue to remind myself. I really can't see the 'in denial' (of what?) or mass murderer by those stages, unless the stories are claimed to be a pack of barefaced lies (*). Increasingly in those directions in later books, yes, but not clearly a murderer until The Delirium Brief, and Mo is definitely a murderess by her own admission (in the Iran debacle).

    (*) And I sincerely hope that is not used in the final book(s) because it is literary practice that I strongly disapprove of. Plus the fact that most geeks are very bad barefaced liars.

    107:

    Re Fred's death. Under English law, that would be a clear case of justified homicide, probably clear enough that he would not even be charged.

    108:

    Re Fred's death. Under English law, that would be a clear case of justified homicide, probably clear enough that he would not even be charged.

    Agreed, although I don't know English law.

    AFAIK, there's a clear distinction, when humans kill humans, about whether the killing is justifiable or murder, and it depends on intent and alternatives.

    Both Bob and Mo can will rapidly and without remorse. So far as we see in the series though, they only kill when it's justified. Basically, they're portrayed as good soldiers.

    The Laundry, conversely, wastes people, notably Fred. Having a potentially lethal setup in a classroom, with naive students, is just begging for accidents, but here's no setup to deal with them. This gets especially fraught when we find out in Equoid that the OCULUS unit can apparently de-zombify people.

    So why doesn't the Laundry have annual zombie control certification training, plus tools to deal with them? I'm thinking of things like modernized, well-insulated, catchpoles and mancatchers, like the Sasumata they keep in Japanese schools to protect the students from attackers. The teachers drill with these tools, and occasionally use them. Things like that should be everywhere in the Laundry that they'd expect unprepared staff to have to deal with inadvertent zombies.*

    Anyway, water under the bridge, since Bob would be less of an action hero than he was if the Laundry actually did sensible stuff like that. But I agree that most of Bob's kills (and Mo's kills) seem to be justified, as in the alternative is worse.

    *Clubbing a zombie with a metal fire extinguisher would seem to be begging for possession oneself, but mere trivia.

    109:

    Heteromeles@87:

    I'd suggest that Turing complete knitted gloves might be one place to start.

    Off topic I suppose, but I just want to say that I'm tremulously grateful to be reading a blog in which comments like this are both on point and generally grasped by the readers.

    110:

    Both Bob and Mo can will rapidly and without remorse

    Kill, not will. That IS a bizarre typo...

    111:

    See also the tapestries in PC Hodgell's Kencyrath books.

    112:

    Damian @ 104:

    by the end of the second book Bob is pretty emphatically a mass murderer

    Which reminds me, I keep seeing google ads for an auto-electrics store, but the headline image I'm getting is a pair of cameras mounted on a bracket. I mean presumably it's to go on the tailgate or over the rear numberplate for use as a reversing camera, but I haven't gleaned why two (other than the back of my head Strossian reference, of course, but I keep assuming that can't be the real purpose).

    Maybe one for the front, one for the back ... or one for the front & one for the interior if it already has a back-up camera?

    I see a lot of automotive "fail" videos on YouTube that feature views through the windshield and some of them have simultaneous interior views.

    I'm currently contemplating getting a 5-way system that would allow me to record front, rear, both sides & interior in case I ever need them for insurance purpose (if for some reason I turn out to be sharing the highway with one of the YouTube idiots.

    113:

    Heteromeles @ 110:

    Both Bob and Mo can will rapidly and without remorse

    Kill, not will. That IS a bizarre typo...

    Not at all. Fairly common for the touch typist. Especially touch typists who learned on a typewriter instead of a keyboard.

    But I want to get back to "Fred from Accounting".

    I don't think Bob's quick action with the fire extinguisher killed anything.

    I'm pretty sure Fred is a recurring character as a Residual Human Resource. IIRC, when Bob & Jo Sullivan are infiltrating the New Annex in The Concrete Jungle Bob recognizes Fred as the night watchman.

    And I'm pretty sure Fred is one of the Residual Human Resources sent against Old George when he invades the New Annex in The Rhesus Chart

    114:

    Re textiles and computing.

    "Wang's Carpets" by Greg Egan takes self assembling carpets to an interesting end point.

    115:

    You and I have different ideas of what constitutes novelistic murder, I think.

    Yes, undead Fred appeared in a number of stories, but he occupied three states, not two.

    Living accountant--definitely human

    Possessed human (briefly)

    Reanimated corpse--definitely not human

    The problems are in the middle.

    The first problem is that if you have a possessor that spreads by electrical contact and can root a human nervous system in "two to five hundred milliseconds," holding a piece of metal and smashing it into the possessed risks possession too. It's implied this is what Bob did, but it's not directly stated, so we'll assume Bob threw the fire extinguisher with good aim and killed Fred immediately without knocking him into someone else. That took some athleticism. Did he play Rugby in college?

    Second problem is that later on (Equoid, for example), it's implied that people possessed by various entities can be dispossessed, although they're messed up afterwards. So there's evidence that dispossession is possible. Therefore killing the possessed is homicide, especially if it's a situation where their souls have been rapidly displaced rather than destroyed. Thus intent matters in determining whether it's self defense or murder.

    I'm not going to go after Bob in the "Atrocity Archive" for what we all agree is self-defense. But I will hammer on the Laundry for being criminally negligent. Having lethal labs in an entry level course is a screwup, the same as teaching basic physics using 50 amp lines and farad+ super-capacitors. That was a demonstration where the students should be well behind a barrier, safety procedures should already have been taught and practiced, and the demo should have had a deadman to shut it down instantly if any of the students started to fuck around. And the students should have known that they'd be bounced, hard, if they fucked around and survived the experience.

    As for countermeasures, if someone's been possessed, you need equipment for the other people in the room to protect themselves from the victim. Guns aren't all that useful, if someone takes a few minutes to die and is possessed the entire time. Anything other than something that immediately prevents further movement is dangerous. That's why things like big plastic shields and non-conducting catchpoles are probably useful. They don't take a lot of thought or training to be effective. So long as help can be on the way, isolating the possessed may be safer than a slowly killing their bodies.

    Magical gadgets might be useful too, from something like a throwing star with a ward on it (stick into the victim to force the possessor to go away or die from exposure to the ward), a smart taser or cattle prod that delivers a high voltage "exorcism" into the possesseds' body via a high voltage, modulated signal, or something like a toad venom dart (although yes, I know it works better when inhaled). The point of the last is to basically start hammering the human's neural reset button, to convince the invader that it won't able to stay in possession and needs to go away.

    This isn't something I'd retcon into fiction Charlie wrote in the 1990s, of course. It's just that, with the increasing complexity of the Laundryverse, more things are possible. And there are still two books to go.

    It's largely irrelevant now, but it would be helpful if Charlie at least privately settled on a theory of mind and soul. So far as I can tell, souls are things (whether unitary or segmental I don't know). Possession happens faster than brains can change, apparently, which strongly suggests that brains are interfaces between souls and the physical world. If this is correct, when you're messing with someone's nervous system, you're messing with the interface between a non-physical entity and the physical universe, and a person is a composite of soul and body. Exorcisms, therefore, can involve getting the possessing entity out of the interface and rebooting the connection with the proper soul (assuming this still exists). That's why a smart taser that blasts a possessed nervous system with "Sod off and go away" messaging, through modulating the taser pulses into Enochian or whatever, might be effective.

    116:

    It might also be that the Laundry is also learning as it goes, though that's maybe too generous.

    I mean, they might have all the knowledge of magic, but it hasn't worked that well, and possession hasn't been that easy for a long time, but then when Bob starts telling his story, things have gotten more serious without anyone really noticing or updating procedures.

    It's kind of like doing normal EE labs with low voltages suddenly were about working with the Demon Core. (I did some radiation labs in the university, and there were obiously some precautions, but it wasn't that risky.)

    Also might have been that normal 'nothing happened the last time, so probably some of this stuff was unnecessary' that happens all too regularily when dealing with dangerous stuff.

    117:

    But I will hammer on the Laundry for being criminally negligent. Having lethal labs in an entry level course is a screwup

    You clearly didn't go to the same secondary school as me, then. Chemistry and Physics labs were full of lethal hazards: sure, we had safety goggles and lab coats and nobody was quite crazy enough to sneak in over lunchtime and brew up some TNT, but all the ingredients were right there (including the toxic and teratogenic precursors -- benzene in bottles where 15 year olds could get at them, for example).

    I gather they take health and safety slightly more seriously these days, but not all institutions do. (An ex-RAF officer of my acquaintance was once put in charge of making an ex-Polish SA-7 surface to air missile control radar and command truck "safe" for 21st century UK military use in training. Exposed 400 volt rails all over the place, and a manual that translated from Russian read, "in event of fatal electrocution indent for another conscript". Ah, the 1980s!) These days safety precautions tend to be baked in: back up a couple of decades and they were frequently handled by safety training, and the onus for being safe was then dumped on the shoulders of the inexperienced (but fully briefed and signed-off) trainee.

    In any event: Fred from Accounting had to fulfill a mandated number of staff training courses per year, Fred simply stuck a pin in the list at random (because: uninterested), Fred ended up on a highly inappropriate course without taking the precursor safety training course, and (finally!) paper and pencil processes (this is set circa 2002) resulted in a fuck-up whereby nobody spotted his lack of preparedness in time to redirect him. (Maybe someone in the training assignments office ran into a "use it or lose it" annual vacation rollover and had to take a week off at short notice? Or perhaps it was stomach flu.)

    If you've ever rocked up to a training course in Motif/X11 programming in C and found yourself rubbing shoulders with an executive assistant who'd ended up on the course via exactly that mistake, you'd know how it happens. And every training course is better with the risk of sudden-death zombie possession!

    118:

    It was probably also a factor that this particular lecturer had given this particular course forever, and given it that particular way all along.

    Updating an existing course to (more) modern standards almost always means the creation of a new course with a new lecturer.

    ...unless the course have become an institutional rite of passage, in which case the new lecturer will be expected to continue the old unsafe methods.

    119:

    Based on my (limited) experience, the simplest explanation is that Fred didn't read or didn't understand the prerequisites section, and it was unclear whose job (his manager, HR or course administrator) it was to ensure that he did so, of course, it was nobody's.

    As I have mentioned before, I have had to (fail) to teach linear algebra in Matlab to Management people who didn't know what a matrix was. Nothing safety-critical (except for the risk of apoplexy) but ....

    120:

    As I have mentioned before, I have had to (fail) to teach linear algebra in Matlab to Management people who didn't know what a matrix was. Nothing safety-critical (except for the risk of apoplexy) but ....

    I've seen even electrical engineering students fail learning Matlab because they didn't really understand what a matrix was. (I was one of the students and had a hard time understanding some of the stuff, but matrixes were mostly the easy part.)

    Most of them did learn the next year, though, I think. Or dropped out.

    121:

    As a (now-ex) motorhome owner, I've installed one of those dual cameras. The important camera is a fisheye looking downwards to let you reverse accurately. The second camera has an undistorted lens to give you an electronic "rear-view mirror", which is quite handy in traffic. There's no optical rear-view path on a large vehicle, only side views of varying crapness.

    122:

    Having lethal labs in an entry level course is a screwup, the same as teaching basic physics using 50 amp lines and farad+ super-capacitors.

    You would be amazed (and/or horrified) by what I've seen in science classrooms, then. Old equipment (because no budget for new equipment) with no manuals being used by non-specialists who learned how to use it from other non-specialists who learned… (several generations of 'let me show you the framilstat lab' before you get back to the chap who actually knew what they were doing, for 1950s-60s levels of safety training).

    I was having a discussion last week with a colleague about why it's so hard to update science teaching at schools, and we both observed that a big part of the reason is that "we've always done it this way" has a lot of inertia to overcome.

    I imagine the Laundry is even more insular (and less accountable) than the public education system…

    123:

    I have a friend who worked in a government R&D lab on systems that he couldn't talk about.

    A round of cost cutting forced them to relocate to another site where, horror of horrors, the health and safety people had sufficient security clearance to enter his lab.

    He regarded being told he wasn't allowed to have uninsulated high voltage wires strung across the room at face level as a grotesque imposition. Everyone with access knows to duck under them after all!

    This was less than a decade ago.

    124:

    I was having a discussion last week with a colleague about why it's so hard to update science teaching at schools, and we both observed that a big part of the reason is that "we've always done it this way" has a lot of inertia to overcome.

    Fall of 71 starting day of last year of high school. Went into second year Chem class and met new instructor. Room was full at 35 students. His opening statement.

    You teacher from last year has retired. I'm the new guy. He wasn't teaching you current things. So the first 6 weeks we'll re-do what you should have gotten in a years decent Chem I high school class. You'll need a slide rule (1971). I'll sell you one. I have a cheap one or a slightly better one. Or you can get your own. We have a week of slide rule class starting in 3 weeks. Be ready.

    Physics by same teacher was about the same intro.

    Within 2 or 3 days we were down to the 16 serious Chem students and the 11 serious Physics students that finished the year.

    125:

    You want stories?

    See, I'm the offspring of a nuclear physicist and an electrical engineer. My dad (the nuclear physicist) couldn't talk about what he did before he went into computers. My mom frequently told me the story about how, as a young engineer in the early 60s, she was working on missile gyroscopes, and got blown across the lab by touching a bench where they hadn't properly grounded the high voltage supply. I grew up learning basic electronics with one hand in a pocket, the same way she learned.

    I'm just a squishy biologist, of course, which means I have stories. I mean, high school was boring, just thermite reactions in chem lab and volunteering at the local zoo, where the most exciting thing I got to do was muck out a rhino enclosure with the rhino still in it (safer than hippos, where the keepers didn't go in the same space as the animals. Less messy too, and I did help clean out the hippo enclosure too).

    Then there was college, where we had the demo with the live rattlesnake crawling free on the lab floor. And the live demo lecture on explosives from a visiting expert. No ear protection other than our fingers. The liquid oxygen and fire demo onstage was fun.

    I was in grad school around 9/11. That's when the mycologists realized that having a teaching lab full of live specimens of crop killers (wheat rust, southern corn blight, etc.), while educational for the crop epidemiologists no one was hiring anymore, was potentially dangerous, if someone wanted to try to start a famine by driving a specimen out to a corn field and letting it go. So that got changed.

    By the time I was done teaching, my safety lecture was called "Stupid lab tricks." It took 20 minutes and had students writhing in discomfort. Did you know that a student doing a dissection under a microscope, absentmindedly reached back to scratch an itch, then, after feeling their back get wet, realized they'd scratched the itch with the scalpel they were doing the dissection with? Yeah, don't do that.

    Fun memories.

    Anyway, an organization that uses zombies as basic security but doesn't train the staff in basic safety around zombies? That just makes so much sense.

    126:

    During the late 80s I worked for a few years in a govt dept managing supplies for an air force. My area covered amongst other things, fire suppressant systems. At one point we were busy replacing extinguishers on some older 60s/70s air frames as they used some pretty toxic halons in those old bottles. We would ship a bunch of replacement bottles to a station, and then have them do the replacement work and then they would “scrap” the old bottles (which was supposed to mean shipping back to a central depot for safe disposal). Turned out that only about 50% of the stations followed the directive, the others would just have some junior ac go let them off in the car park, then toss them in the trash.

    127:

    I used to know a chap who'd cleared out a school chemistry lab in a British private school after the new health and safety regs appeared in (I think) 1973.

    He found 7 kg of metallic sodium and 1 kg of metallic potassium in a store cupboard, stored under oil.

    He disposed of them by taking them down to the end of the playing fields which was flooded by river water, and dumping them in.

    Quite a lot of white smoke, apparently.

    128:

    I'm not suggesting we had several kilos of them, but we did have metallic potassium and sodium, stored under oil, in a (Scottish comprehensive) school in school year 1977-78.

    129:

    Most high-school chemistry rooms in Denmark still have small amounts of metalic alkali metals for demonstration purposes.

    My daughter came home one day, and told how one of the other chemistry teachers had substituted, and told them that teaching would have to wait until she had gone down to the lake "to dispose of some sodium past its date" :-)

    Anyway, the danger does not scale with mass but with surface area. What you /really/ dont want to see is shaved or powdered alkali metals.

    130:

    Ah. And then there was the time when a certain London-based SF fan, now retired -- and known to several folks in this parish -- was working as a school chemistry lab technician: at the back of one cupboard he found a dark glass demijohn with a glass stopper, some yellowish crystals visible around the top, and a label which he eventually deciphered as ... PICRIC ACID.

    The fire alarm was pulled and the bomb squad was called out. The head teacher was not amused -- but at least nobody was killed.

    131:

    Explosive when dry? Set off by vibration, being looked at funny, etc?

    132:

    "to dispose of some sodium past its date" :-)

    A couple of decades ago we had a health and safety inspector come through my school's chemistry department. Chap was a janitor who had taken a couple of in-house courses and "upskilled" himself into a cushy position. He decided that, as many of our chemicals (such as NaCl) didn't have expiration dates marked on the bottles they all had to be disposed of.

    My department head was an environmental engineer who had helped write the regulations and knew he was talking out his ass, but the principal told us to dispose of them to keep him happy (a failed inspection would look bad on her record, even if it was a bullshit fail that was overturned later) and promised she would replace them.

    She didn't — budget next year was cut and we were told we'd get no extra money. That was the year we stopped doing a lot of chemistry labs because we no longer had the chemicals necessary.

    133:

    This incident was the first thing I thought of. It happened again not to long ago as well. Twice, in 2016 and 2018. ' Controlled explosions took place at two Carmarthenshire schools after the discovery of chemicals described as "hazardous" ' and ' Chemicals, which can be used as explosives, have been discovered at a secondary school in Lincolnshire ' ( both picric )

    134:

    We had a chemistry teacher in the 1980's who kept the teenage boys interested by blowing stuff up on a regular basis. It's quite fascinating all the different chemicals that can be persuaded to go boom if you combine them with other things in the right ratios. Yes, including cornflour and also icing sugar.

    He didn't have a great relationship with the senior master. Whose classroom overlooked the chemistry one, and the senior master liked to keep the windows open. So every now and then a red-faced gaskill would lean out the window and scream something about keeping the noise down.

    In retrospect I'm kind of impressed at how many decent teachers we had. It's the exceptionally shit ones that stick in my mind, sadly. One science teacher retired to become an anti-cellphone crank, to give you an idea of the depths.

    135:

    What you /really/ dont want to see is shaved or powdered alkali metals.

    Makes great fireworks, though! :-)

    136:

    All of those; I know the gentleman (noun used advisedly) that Charlie references, and he told me the same story in a separate conversation.

    137:

    One thing I never got about the Fred thing though was his disbelief that there were such things as zombies. We're told from the outset that everyone hired by the Laundry is there because they've stumbled into something they should (or in some cases danced with utter abandon whilst unaware of the minefield around them), and they're hired because it's cheaper than trying to cover it up. So at some point, Fred clearly was in on something unusual, and he's ended up working in offices with a lot of other people who've also been faced with unusual things. People chat in offices, even more so if the work they've got is more like make-work.

    Of course this just was the first book, when Atrocity Archives was a horror-pastiche and not yet the start of an N-book series. Since then though, have you retconned how someone like Fred could work somewhere like the Laundry and still be unaware of even their surface mission?

    138:

    Not pastiche - that's got implications these days of not being serious. "In the style of".

    139:

    I had pre-ordered from Waterstones,as it's convenient to pick up from the local store. Who just cancelled. I await the separate communication with the reason ...

    140:

    I din't find it at all surprising; the ability of people to deny things they don't want to acknowledge is incredible. People who suffer from discrimination know this well, as I can witness.

    141:

    Picric acid crystals, especially if they're contaminated by other crap like organic materials are friction and shock-sensitive and will explode if crushed or impacted. Removing a glass stopper from a crusted-up jar of the stuff is the sort of friction that may set it off.

    Crystallised picric acid is not quite at the "hard stare" level of touchiness but it's not far off. (the next level down is "thinking bad thoughts"). It's used a lot in modern solid rocket motors but in a stable matrix of butyl rubber or the like which makes it a lot safer to handle.

    142:

    You reckon? There's qualified healthcare professionals who went very anti-vax, and not even just the wait and see, slightly cautious types. I think we forget just how lax a lot of things were barely 25 years ago (when the book is set, if I can remember things today). Was quite interesting spending my teenage years onwards at a couple of preserved railways over the last two decades. A sector who sometimes lag even back street garages in such matters. One took H&S more seriously, the other...didn't. Perhaps one day students will be set Freds accident as an essay question in their H&S class :O

    143:

    Well, we're not going to get a rewrite of the Atrocity Archive, nor should we. Many Lovecraft stories fall apart under scrutiny, so this isn't unusual.

    The potentially useful parts for Charlie are going forward: Does the Laundry have a lax culture around safety and white male sorcerer privilege? If so, that's a potential plot point. Did Old George encourage them to be sloppy for his own amusement? If so, fixing that mess is a potential plot point. Are their continuity operations as similarly half-assed as their zombie handling protocols? If so, that's a plot point. Ad nauseum (which is also, yes, a potential plot point).

    Now we'll just shave some good sodium, potassium, and magnesium onto the sundae and light a candle on it, shall we?

    144:

    Picnic acid was once the standard reagent for measuring serum/plasma and urine creatinine. This is one of the most common analytes in clinical biochemistry labs. When I retired from my lab we were doing about 1,800 tests per day. The effluent from the analysers was much diluted and went down the drain but sinks and drainage pipes had to be plastic to prevent the formation of explosive compounds with metal. This was one of the reasons I lobbied to change to enzymatic creatinine despite the extra GBP 70,000 per year cost. Many hospitals still use the alkaline pirate method.
    When taking over old labs, particularly university labs all sorts of horrors lurk in out of the way places. I found a dessicator in the bottom of a chest freezer in Leeds University which had been used by generations of research students. In the dessicator was a small, unopened dark glass bottle. I can’t remember what it contained but the label said it could explode on contact with air, was heat and light sensitive, and could be fatal by skin adsorption. I couldn’t imagine how anybody could have used this in a lab with only an ordinary fume cupboard for protection. Presumably the graduate student who ordered it read the label and then hid it away without saying anything. I briefly and not very seriously considered driving out to the Dales and throwing it onto rocks from a height but actually arranged for specialists to dispose of the offending item. Safety procedures are now very strict and a COSHH (chemical hazard) assessment and risk assessment are essential.

    145:

    Robert Prior @ 132:

    "to dispose of some sodium past its date" :-)

    A couple of decades ago we had a health and safety inspector come through my school's chemistry department. Chap was a janitor who had taken a couple of in-house courses and "upskilled" himself into a cushy position. He decided that, as many of our chemicals (such as NaCl) didn't have expiration dates marked on the bottles they all had to be disposed of.

    My department head was an environmental engineer who had helped write the regulations and knew he was talking out his ass, but the principal told us to dispose of them to keep him happy (a failed inspection would look bad on her record, even if it was a bullshit fail that was overturned later) and promised she would replace them.

    She didn't — budget next year was cut and we were told we'd get no extra money. That was the year we stopped doing a lot of chemistry labs because we no longer had the chemicals necessary.

    I know this is probably a stupid question, but why couldn't the department head temporarily remove the chemicals in question; print & apply labels with "expiration dates" and then bring them back to the chemistry department?

    146:

    why couldn't the department head temporarily remove the chemicals in question; print & apply labels with "expiration dates" and then bring them back to the chemistry department?

    Because the bugger had already written his report listing the chemicals needing to be disposed of, we didn't have empty containers for them nor a printer suitable for labels, and the department head wasn't willing to risk her job when she was promised that replacement chemicals would be purchased…

    147:

    For those talking about the lack of health & safety in Laundry labs, I strongly recommend Naomi Novik's "Scholomance" series.

    Which is what you get when an author looks at how deadly Hogwarts is and wonders what kind of world would really have a school where kids will get eaten by monsters if they walk into the wrong room. It's not a nice world. But the book's protagonist may be my favorite heroine ever.

    For the rest.. "Anyway, an organization that uses zombies as basic security but doesn't train the staff in basic safety around zombies? That just makes so much sense."
    I thought part of the point of the Laundry books was that security organisations aren't rational agents, and so once you look inside the beaurocracy they often don't make sense.

    Which is back to the Daniel Dennett "Intentional Stance" point that Charlie references - organisations aren't people, aren't rational agents, we pretend they are and say things like "The Russian Army wants to take..." or "MI5 believes that..." but actually the Russian Army and MI5 aren't people with beliefs or desires, they're groups made up of a whole bunch of individuals and no matter how unified they seem from the outside, once you look inside you get that.

    148:

    "to dispose of some sodium past its date"

    While my college chemistry major is over 50 years in the past (never used it - I'm a retired computer programmer), this "past its date" stuff seems silly. Sodium doesn't expire. It corrodes over time, true, but you can slice off the corrosion (I've done that). What's left then is pure (for the most part) sodium metal.

    149:

    Unfortunately I can't find a link to it, but this conversation is reminding me of the vacuum chamber safety assessment that included gems like the assessor asking "what if some of the vacuum escapes?" and "Could there be small pockets of vacuum left after the chamber has filled with air?"

    150:

    Speaking of sodium, I've handled sodium metal with my bare hands in the college's chemistry department - being careful to wash my hands thoroughly afterward!

    I also managed to accidentally pipette a mouthful of hydrofluoric acid one time. I calmly walked to a sink to spit it out and rinse my mouth. I had very clean teeth afterward, but luckily no other side effects.

    One semester I was in a team that managed to spill several ounces of mercury in a lab. We were trying to fill a glass tube in a 4' tall apparatus. We poured it into the top of the tube, and you can imagine what happened when the mercury hit the "L" turn at the bottom! Broken glass and mercury went everywhere over the floor, and I don't think we bothered to clean it up very well. I doubt the EPA would have approved!

    It's probably just as well that I bailed out of the chemical world after college... :-)

    151:

    Mike Collins What a WONDERFUL TYPO!
    Um - PICRIC Acid ( Not Picnic )
    I once found an ancient container ( At least 15 years older than the school buildings, with dry crystalline Picric Acid in it ....
    I evcuated the class right next door & then sent for the bomb squad - excitement followed
    ( I couldn't get the dried in ground-glass stopper out, to flood it )

    AlanD2
    DILUTE HF, of course!
    I occasionally had to dilute up the conc stuff & then use the result. I was very VERY careful when doing all of that.

    152:

    Broken glass and mercury went everywhere over the floor, and I don't think we bothered to clean it up very well.

    The bits of mercury that you can see are easy. Just keep pushing the clumps together and the re-join into bigger clumps as they touch each other. And rolling a big clump across the floor will pick up most of what is left. But I would want to walk much on the floor before headed home. Broken glass on the other hand I just hate. After a big sweep up I go get clear packing tape and sticky up everywhere invisible or very tiny bits might be.

    153:

    Err, "would NOT"

    154:

    DILUTE HF, of course!

    I've long since forgotten, but I would assume so. I have always believed that the mucus in my mouth and quickly spitting it out and rinsing prevented any burns and/or poisoning. I don't think I even mentioned it to my chemistry professor.

    155:

    "this "past its date" stuff seems silly"

    I thought it was obvious from the context, that it was just an excuse to show the kids something go boom ?

    156:

    We had a mercury spill in the physics lab at my secondary school. We spent a break merging globules and then the physics master covered the floor with scouring powder (the bleach type) to mop up the remainder.

    157:

    At the end of the sixties, in the French equivalent of high school, the physics and chemistry lab had lots of "interesting" chemicals. They were supposed to be only used by teachers but were not really safely locked away. A couple of friends and I did a raid on the (badly) locked materials cabinet and we found: - phosphorus (under oil) - drained the oil and put the bottle on a window ledge. flash/broken glass/window frame on fire/extinguisher totally useless - nitric acid (strong) - put some in the depression where a doormat was missing. nasty fumes and molten shoe soles - calcium carbide - destroyed a few sinks around the school.

    158:

    On several occasions in college, I mixed iodine crystals with ammonia and put small amounts of the slurry on light switches, banisters, and other places in my dorm. When dried, it exploded when touched, causing minor chaos! :-)

    159:

    On several occasions in college, I mixed iodine crystals with ammonia and put small amounts of the slurry on light switches, banisters, and other places in my dorm. When dried, it exploded when touched, causing minor chaos! :-)

    Per my late father, who was at Caltech around 1960, some of the tile floors in their "dorms" had so much residual triiodide in the cracks that brooms sweeping the floor struck sparks, even when no one had pulled that prank recently.

    Also according to him (and he did have a sense of humor), some of the dorm locks got picked so many times that it was easier to pick them than to use a key...

    160:

    Repeat: Make up damp NI(sup>3 on filter-paper ... Cut inti thin strips, insert into standard chalkboard-rubber & leave. When it dries out, the instructor then has (unbeknownst to them) an exploding rubber. I have made NCl3 - be VERY CAREFUL when doing this - it WILL go off.

    161:

    Okay... I have no memory of what I posted (I may had meant to post it to two threads ago) but apologies.

    But I've been avoiding this thread until I read Escape - which I finished last night, and had a question: the Eater gets Princess Kitty's soul, and aborts the full-sized kaiju.

    Does that close the hellmouth, or by doing that, did he de-energize it enough that the locals could finish that job?

    162:

    Robert Prior @ 146:

    why couldn't the department head temporarily remove the chemicals in question; print & apply labels with "expiration dates" and then bring them back to the chemistry department?

    Because the bugger had already written his report listing the chemicals needing to be disposed of, we didn't have empty containers for them nor a printer suitable for labels, and the department head wasn't willing to risk her job when she was promised that replacement chemicals would be purchased…

    I understand that, but all you need is a cardboard box to "dispose of" the "unlabeled" bottles by removing them from the school. And even if the chemistry department didn't have a printer, I'm guessing some of the teachers had printers at home or had access to something like "Kinkos" [or Canadian equivalent] (where you could rent a computer by the hour & use their printer ... and I bet they even had the blank labels). Label the bottles with "expiration dates" and return them to the storeroom a few days later.

    I guess I'm just not trusting enough to accept "replacement chemicals would be purchased..." until I actually saw those replacement chemicals delivered.

    Plus I've got a real stubborn streak of waste not, want not.

    163:

    Which is why my SO has her tv connected up via roku, but I've been afraid to hook up my 42"....

    164:

    A late friend of mine told me about doing that as a teen to his mother's kitchen floor.

    But... chemistry. In 11th grade, I got out of several classes one day, helping my chem teacher. He had an old shotgun barrel that he'd packed with steel wool, and was demonstrating how Lavoisier discovered hydrogen, by running steam through a gun barrel and bubbling out through water what came out.

    My chem teacher, and the lab teacher, ended the year by doing The Science Show, and ended that with a ceramic flowerput suspended above a fire bucket of sand, and thermite in the flower pot.

    But my big fun was with pure ammonia. I was working as a lab tech, and my boss was purifying something that escapes me. We did this by running liquid pure ammonia through a soxhlet extractor. Except that the bottom of the little tube that recycles the liquid kept getting frozen and plugged. I'd come in every morning, and tap it carefully. Except one morning, it broke, and there ammonia for me to breath.

    I was always proud of myself for TURNING THE VALVE on the ammonia tank shut (more than a meter tall tank) before I rushed down to the face washer. And then I stopped, thinking this is Philly in Nov. The water's going to be ice cold, and I won't be able to stand it long enough, so I ran into the bathroom and ran warm water to wash my face.

    Good thing. There was a fuss afterwards - I didn't see a drain for the shower next to it... and the water in the washer was turned off.

    Ammonia is not nice.

    165:

    Ammonia is not nice.

    As is true of much (if not most) of the stuff in a chemistry lab... :-/

    166:

    all you need is a cardboard box to "dispose of" the "unlabeled" bottles by removing them from the school

    No. There's a regular chemical pickup service for stuff that needs disposing of. Doing it 'on your own' would be grounds for immediate suspension, probably followed by dismissal and/or charges (theft).

    The person who had the authority to dispute the false claim that NaCl expires was the principal, and she didn't do it. We might have been able to salvage some chemicals by your trick* but the career cost of getting caught wasn't worth it. And getting caught would be trivially easy, as salts don't come with expiration dates so any label with such a date is obviously fake — as the next inspector could tell.

    The real problem was a system that let Fred from janitorial take a half-day unfailable course and become a safety inspector.

    Which is why I didn't bat an eye at Fred from accounting screwing around with summoning grids. I've seen people (supposedly) trained out of their depth too many times, and then getting jobs based on that training. Although our Fred just killed chemistry labs rather than getting possessed…

    *Harder in pre-coloiur-laser-printer days to fake a label.

    167:

    Dragging this back towards Yokai land...

    I know that the Western tradition is about gremlins around machines and Shrines to the Gel Gods in DNA labs.

    That said, I wonder if a modern crop of Yokai are brewing in Japanese labs as we speak? Hmmmmmmmmmm...

    168:

    I personally want nothing to do with the Yokai of Deep Learning neural networks! Never mind the dwarves of cryptocurrency mining.

    169:

    I personally want nothing to do with the Yokai of Deep Learning neural networks! Never mind the dwarves of cryptocurrency mining.

    So I suppose that means starting a conversation on "Satoshi Nakamoto: Yokai or Kami?" is out of the question?

    170:

    In case I screwed up the threading by following a deleted post....

    I've been avoiding this thread until I read Escape - which I finished last night, and had a question: the Eater gets Princess Kitty's soul, and aborts the full-sized kaiju.

    Does that close the hellmouth, or by doing that, did he de-energize it enough that the locals could finish that job?

    171:

    That question wanders off the map of the known Laundryverse.

    172:

    Oh. And no teenaged Japanese young women with blonde hair and a sword need apply.

    173:

    I did it with (dilute) HCl. The mouth doesn't have any problem with even stomach acid (which is stronger than laboratory dilute HCl) even without those precautions - it's the oesophagus that hurts and is damaged by reflux, as I know all too well :-( I suspect that you are right, but swallowing any would have not been good news, even if sollowed by drinking a lot of water.

    174:

    @168, I operate on the assumption that the dwarves of cryptocurrency mining are on their way to unearthing the Hidden Fun Stuff of Dwarf Fortress fame. This is, of course, the beginning of the current timeline turning into the backstory for Graydon's Commonweal stories.

    175:

    Since you put it that way, what they're going to discover is the balrog of dwarven fun.

    176:

    The Hidden Fun Stuff has Clowns, not balrogs.

    'The Hidden Fun Stuff' and 'Clowns', and 'Cotton Candy' are the expressions used when talking about the Dwarf Fortress games, to avoid spoiling the new players about some of the late-game stuff. You can easily google what they stand for really.

    177:

    Just catching up.

    Re OH&S, and HF acid.

    I'm a hang glider pilot, I like solo cave diving, I used to dive with home made rebreathers that I'd designed myself, using dive tables I created myself. I got a job because the previous employee was dead, I'm reasonably non risk adverse, but there's one incident that if it crosses my mind when trying to get to sleep still jerks me awake.

    I was tidying up a workshop that I'd started working in a few weeks before. There was a white 20 litre plastic drum under the sink. I picked it up and put it on the draining board of the sink. Left behind on the ground was a label. I picked it up and discovered it said "Hydrofluoric Acid 70%". The label went on to say that if the green pigment of the container fades the contents must be immediately transferred to a fresh container to avoid spillage. I looked across at the container that had no sign that it had ever been green.

    "Shit" I think, I might move it from the draining board into the actual tub of the sink. "Very Carefully"

    As it gently touched the bottom of the tub the bottom of the drum disintegrated. Just a minute earlier I'd been on my hands and knees in a cupboard dragging this thing around, and then picked it up by lifting with my knees keeping the load close to my body.

    178:

    Something similar happened to a school lab tech my dad knew; in the early 80s I think. She lifted a glass carboy of concentrated hydrochloric acid from a shelf above her, and the bottom fell out. Lucky for her, there was a staff shower close by. Straight in, switch on. No permanent harm. The lab coat and her clothes (and most of her hair, IIRC) were written off.

    179:

    I’ve had lots of unpleasant solutions in my mouth from pipetting in 1960’s medical labs. Zinc uranyl acetate (diluent for blood glucose), 1 molar HCl, lithium nitrate (the most unpleasant taste. I thought my teeth were falling out.) amongst others. But the most harmful was from tryptic activity of faeces. This was done by doubling dilution of emulsified faeces in gelatin solution using a 10 mL graduated pipettes with the bottom cut off to allow easier entry of small lumps of the emulsified faeces into the pipettes. One lump which was not too small blocked the pipette and then the contents came up the pipettes too quickly, passed through the cotton wool plug at the top into my mouth. This wasn’t too bad at first but I soon became ill and was off work for a week with gastro-enteritis. Pipettes fillers were available at the time but they were a clumsy rubber design which didn’t allow the precision required so nobody used them. Even in the 1980s as a chief I had to work hard to stop staff mouth pipetting. I eventually asked the worst offenders “Would you kiss **”?” - my boss who always seemed to have a cold. Then I pointed out that he always mouth pipettes and thy would be using the same pipettes. This finally worked.

    180:

    Gack.

    I'm familiar with mouth pipetting from O and A level chemistry classes at school, but as of university (circa 1983-86, pharmacy degree) it was all pipette fillers all the time, crappy rubber bulbs or no. Some of the stuff we were pipetting was extremely toxic, as in potentially lethal, so mouth pipetting was strictly forbidden.

    (Students got the crappy rubber bulb pipette fillers passed down from post-grads and staff, who were transitioning to modern higher precision fillers.)

    181:

    wow

    what condition did the sink end up in?

    182:

    177 - Holy frelling sheeyit!

    180 - 1974 - 79. We were already required to use pipette bulbs as Charlie describes, right through high school.

    183:

    "we had safety goggles and lab coats and nobody was quite crazy enough to sneak in over lunchtime and brew up some TNT"

    What's a lab coat?

    We did have safety goggles, the standard el-cheapo ones you get as building site PPE which you replace after a few weeks when they've had it. But of course school being school was tight as a gnat's chuff when it came to any kind of consumable item (most notably paper) so our goggles had been there longer than any of us had. The soft plastic surround was rock-hard and scratchy; on top of that, the elastic wasn't, so you had to pull it really tight to keep them on; and the lenses were so fogged you couldn't see a bloody thing through them anyway. So the instruction to "wear goggles" was interpreted like this.

    We didn't quite have the lunchtime TNT manufacturers, no, but we did have my pal who made nitroglycerine at home and blew craters in his back yard with it.

    184:

    She lifted a glass carboy of concentrated hydrochloric acid from a shelf above her, and the bottom fell out.

    When they were setting up the new toxicology lab my father (lab director) was helping stock chemicals in one of the storage rooms for acids. Brand new building, designed to latest specs, so non-slip floors, door-sills so spills inside the room didn't leak into corridors, venting, etc.

    Turns out the asshole who installed the shelves just wedged them in place and forgot to install the brackets that actually supported them. So when my father put the Nth carboy of acid on the shelf it collapsed, dropping all the acids on the floor. Which promptly dissolved and because very slippery.

    He did a faceplant. Someone got him under the shower in time, but for a while we were worried he'd end up blind.

    Made me permanently twitchy on lab safety.

    185:

    We were already required to use pipette bulbs as Charlie describes, right through high school.

    In high school in the late 70s, we did only mouth pipetting.

    186:

    US or UK? There may have been a difference in the strength of reagents in use in high school labs; also differences between syllabi.

    187:

    Well, I know that our HS chem lab store had stuff like Oleum in it, because The Doc (head of Chemistry was a real PhD) didn't like paying for water.

    188:

    Neither. I'm Canadian.

    No idea about reagent strength. Chemistry was something that I got through by memorization in high school and nearly failed in first-year university*. Newtonian physics was a joy, biology was cool, chemistry was a nightmare grind.

    * In my last year of high school we changed timetables from 40 minute periods to 50 minute periods, with fewer periods in the year but same number of hours. My chemistry teacher just kept the same period-by-period timetable he'd used for years, so we missed nearly a quarter of the course, which was prerequisite knowledge for my first (and only) university chemistry class. It was only thanks to friends that I managed a pass at uni. Thanks, Mr. Carter. :-(

    189:

    I am not surprised! Much too close a call.

    190:

    The sink was OK. As the acid started to come out I realised what was going on, and I turned on the cold water tap pretty high and gracefully exited the room. When I steeled myself to return it was just an empty drum in a sink of running water like nothing had happened. (see also the discussion on another thread about how you can't stop chemicals ending up in the sewer system due to idiots like me)

    Incidentally, no one ever asked where the acid was, no one ever ordered more and I never found out why my predecessor had 20 litres of devil spit under the sink.

    192:

    ... it was all pipette fillers all the time, crappy rubber bulbs or no.

    We had the crappy rubber bulbs in chem lab in the '60s, but they were so much trouble that nobody used them.

    193:

    I was surprised at how much I missed Bob, and I was pleased to see him back.

    Were there any references to "The Advent on Channel Twelve"?

    There were mentions of monsters (monster associates?) that looked like egg yolks. Were they related to "Prott" by Margaret St. Clair?

    194:

    I didn't get either of your references (and I've never read Margaret St. Clair). The egg yolk thing is straight out of the Sanrio mythos.

    195:

    "The Advent on Channel Twelve" is by Kornbluth-- it's about a cartoon character clearly based on Mickey Mouse who eventually becomes a god because the belief in him is so strong.

    "Prott" is about space-dwelling aliens who look like poached eggs. They're telepathic, but when they try to communicate, it's nonsense, and THEY DON"T STOP TRYING. A rather subtle sort of horror.

    196:

    Quote from "The Advent on Channel Twelve"

    And it came to pass than on the Friday after the two-week buildup, in the closing quarter-hour of the Poopy Panda Pals, there was a special film combining live and animated action as they were one.

    And in the special film did Poopy Panda appear enhaloed, and the talented kid performers did do him worship, and Otto Clodd did trip over his feet whilst kneeling, and Jacky Whipple did urge in manly and sincere wise that all the Poopy Panda Pals out there in television-land do likewise, and the enhaloed Poopy Panda did say in his lovable growly voice, Poop-poop-poopy.

    And adoration ascended from thirty-seven million souls.

    197:

    AlanD2 @ 192:

    ... it was all pipette fillers all the time, crappy rubber bulbs or no.

    We had the crappy rubber bulbs in chem lab in the '60s, but they were so much trouble that nobody used them.

    I had high-school chemistry in the 60s and we had those same crappy rubber bulbs, but no one ever suggested not using them.

    198:

    In my last year of high school we changed timetables from 40 minute periods to 50 minute periods, with fewer periods in the year but same number of hours. My chemistry teacher just kept the same period-by-period timetable he'd used for years, so we missed nearly a quarter of the course, which was prerequisite knowledge for my first (and only) university chemistry class. It was only thanks to friends that I managed a pass at uni. Thanks, Mr. Carter. :-(

    At the school where I got my master's in botany, they'd flip-flopped back and forth between semesters (15 weeks long) and quarters (12 weeks long). Back in the mists of yore, they had two semester-long classes, plant anatomy and plant morphology. Then they switched to quarters and the teacher taught the same material in two 12 week segments. Then they switched back to semesters, and it went to one 15-week class, plant anatomy and morphology, with all the material from the original class.

    On the first day of class, we were told of this and that we were starting three weeks behind in the material. There were 9 hours of lab per week (3 3-hour sessions) and by school tradition (which I approve of) the teaching labs were open for independent study on Saturday and Sunday, so everybody showed up to study together (often on both days) and had a potluck. That's one reason why botany grads from this school have a reputation for being skilled.

    On the first anatomy midterm, we had to ID structures in cells from slides projected on a screen (this was pre-powerpoint). The final slide was this little blurry smudge, like dirt on a windshield. After we all missed it, the teacher told us it was a photograph of a mitochondrion in a cell. The blurriness was from the fact that he was working past extreme resolution on his light microscope. That was supposed to clue us in to what it was, since he would have us know that he never took an unfocused picture if it was physically possible to do so, and the blurriness was supposed to tell us it was an organelle.

    Old school. Very old school.

    199:

    I had similar experiences in a pharmacy degree in the mid-80s.

    On the one hand: heterocyclic organic chemistry, playing with mass spectroscopes/nuclear magnetic resonance/gas chromatography rigs, and modern molecular pharmacology.

    On the other hand: a mandatory pharmacognosy course -- on drugs of botanic origin -- for which we had to memorize the appearance/smell/other characteristics of 100 historic preserved bits of various plants and pass an exam on rote memorization, like something out of the 1930s. I reckon it was retained on the course as a hazing ritual: the lecturers had all had to do likewise in the 1950s, so why shouldn't the kids suffer too?

    About half of them were shriveled-up bits of dusty brown bark that had served multiple generations of students as type specimens and smelt of, well, nothing at all. And you didn't want to go licking the samples: you didn't know who'd been there first, and anyway, some of them were quite toxic.

    Note: by the time I graduated the actual profession was moving from dispensing prescriptions of break-bulk capsules and tablets in bottles to blister strips. About 2% of graduates went into industry: of them, fewer than 10% would ever have anything to do with what was basically warmed-over 19th century herbalism ...

    200:

    My copy has just arrived!

    201:

    Note: by the time I graduated the actual profession was moving from dispensing prescriptions of break-bulk capsules and tablets in bottles to blister strips. About 2% of graduates went into industry: of them, fewer than 10% would ever have anything to do with what was basically warmed-over 19th century herbalism ...

    You and my wife would get along.

    I agree that this is a fucktastic way to teach pharmacognosy. That said, I still think teaching pharmacology to students, especially research students, can pay dividends, especially if it's taught by someone who knows more about botany than just trotting out an unmaintained teaching collection.

    As an example, a medicine I'm on has an interesting interaction with caffeine: both caffeine and the drug are removed by the same enzyme system. By itself, the drug lasts about 20 hours in my body. By judiciously dosing myself with various caffeine-family chemicals, I can extend the active period to close to 24 hours, by forcing the drug and caffeine to compete for the same enzyme. That I figured out on my own, because I was more capable of looking up drug plants and basic enzyme interactions than my pharmacist wife was, because she hated her herb class, while I love the subject. But anytime we get into some weird drug X plant interaction (normally with food), we work together to figure out what's probably going on.

    202:

    Things like Nux Vomica, I assume :-) I have always been interested, mainly because the old names for diseases and old treatments feature in fiction of those eras.

    It's getting quite hard to get herbal medicines, except in homeopathic shops. I used to buy a fair amount of Glycerine of Thymol cough pastilles, because I found they worked fairly well, and overusing them was unlikely to have major consequences :-) Quite a lot of similar things seem to be at least as good as the synthetic, over the counter replacements (i.e. not very), but I get a bit twitchy about the more potent ones. Natural does not mean safe.

    203:

    Natural does not mean safe.

    I recall my father getting quite upset in a health food shop sometime in the 70s (I think we went there to get wheat bran or something like that). Looking at all the things on the shelf and talking about the various ways they could poison you, only to be told by the clerk that no, these were natural therefore healthy.

    His PhD was in toxicology, specialized in plants and fungus because he was a vet. Yet apparently natural=healthy and suggesting anything else meant you were uneducated.

    I don't think we bought anything. I don't think we went, back, either.

    This was well before the internet, but the woo-woo was already strong in some circles…

    204:

    "Natural"
    Yeah well, off the top of my head:
    Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea - valuable heart medicine/stimulant - too big a dose & Bye-bye!
    St John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum - Amazing on bruises & skin, just DO NOT take it internally.
    Sage + Hyssop - Salvia officinals + Hyssopus officinalis - tasty & useful cooking herbs, also used for a calming effect - but an overdose will calm-to-a-coma, oops. { One possible explanation for Yeshua's "miraculous" survival of course }
    Papaver somniferum - in use in Europe since 1100, but has, um "side effects"
    Atropa belladonna ( Deadly Nightshade ) a valuable medicinal - opposite to Digitalis in effect, but medicinal dose is about 70% of fatal dose... be CAREFUL!
    And so on & on & on ...

    205:

    Many of my drugs warn against mixing them with St John's Wort.

    Cinchona bark is another good one. There is still no substitute for its active ingredient, but long-term use often leads to tinnitus or even deafness and balance impairment; no need to overdose.

    206:

    I don't think we bought anything. I don't think we went, back, either.

    They didn't need you. My mother and others worked hard to keep them in profit.

    207:

    Also colchicum corm, from which we get colchicine, which was still in use back in the 80s, despite the charming side-effects (peripheral neuropathy, anyone?).

    208:

    It still is in use, and the warnings are stronger than for most other drugs:

    https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/colchicine/

    209:

    St. John's Wort is a reasonably good, mild anti-depressive, among other things. I've used it a number of times. Rather than start an argument, I'm going to add a big dollop of nuance to this hate on 99% of the natural world thing that modern pharmacy training tends to bring out.

    Oh, you thought that the crappy teaching collection was an accident? Well, probably it was, but malign neglect is a major problem, especially when the teacher hates getting stuck teaching that class again. Another big problem is the standard western good/evil, industrial/alternative dichotomy, however matched. It's more complex than that.

    St. John's wort, for example, does interact with a lot of things on the list (I use Drugs.com to check interactions, incidentally, and I recommend it). if you drill down (e.g. use the professional-level information, not the consumer), what you often find is that the drug in question was found to have an interaction with another drug in the same class (statins, for example), in some people, in one study (or ideally some studies). Therefore, the recommendation is that ALL patients taking that drug avoid ALL drugs in the interaction class, just in case.

    Again, this doesn't mean that you should ignore the warning. But you need to understand it. That's what I mean by nuance.

    An example of lack of nuance is the general warning to avoid grapefruit if you're on statins. It turns out that rosuvastatin actually doesn't interact with grapefruit, but it's odd enough that, unless you check, you generalize the "no grapefruit with statins" rule unnecessarily.

    That said, I'm always leery of herbal preps, especially those made from wild plants, and those made in America, China, and other places with lax regulations about content and quality. That's one huge advantage of the drug industry: you're supposed to know what you're getting pretty exactly. With wild plants, there's this thing called genetic variation. It interacts in fascinating ways with growing conditions, including "terroir." These further interact with collecting conditions--did the collector pick the appropriate part, like the new leaves, or bulldoze the plant, put it in trash bags, and chop it up days latter when it was starting to mildew? (as in some white sage smudges). Then there's the herbal prep (tincture, pill, whatever). What's the QA/QC on that? Do they know what went into the medicine? A lot of early research on Echinacea is crap because the natural products chemists couldn't be bothered to learn that there's more than one species of Echinacea, and they didn't make sure they had the right plant or voucher their collections so someone could go back and identify what they used.

    And so on. Herbs can work wonders. Industrial medicines can work wonders a bit more predictably. I think there's a place for both, but (opinionated skunk that I am), I don't think there's a place for being stupid with either. Which I hope we can all agree on.

    210:

    Eh? You should read what I say more carefully.

    Of the drugs I have looked at the advice sheets for, a very large number say that there are potentially nasty interactions with St John's Wort - more than for any other substance or drug, including alcohol. Yes, it's a useful drug, but it doesn't play nicely with many other drugs - which is ALL that I said.

    211:

    And in turn, you need to read what I wrote more carefully, which is to go to drugs.com or a similar website, which lists the warning for every single one of the 557 drug interactions with St. John's Wort (https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/st-john-s-wort.html). Then, if you're taking any of those drugs, you click on the link and see that there are two tabs of warnings. One of those is consumer, the other is professional. My comment was based on the "professional," which is a description for the doctors of what the basis for the warning is.

    It's quite enlightening.

    It's also important. I'm on a drug with 496 interactions listed. The drug is in a class of drugs that affect an important enzyme, so everything that interacts with said enzyme is affected. This isn't quite true, because it turns out there are two forms of this enzyme in human bodies. Most of the research on this enzyme is on one form, but it turns out that the drug I'm on affects only the lesser-known form. As a result, most of the warnings for this drug are in the "abundance of caution" and might not apply. Or they might. So I do have to pay attention to what drugs I take and what foods I eat, but it turns out that a number of interactions that I was told to worry about actually don't happen for me.

    From a bit of looking, the same seems true for St. John's Wort. Again, drugs.com actually gives you a summary of the evidence, as well as the consumer grade warning, so you can see if it's likely to be seriously dangerous to you or not before you take it.

    212:

    Why? I am not particularly interested in the details, nor even in those of the drugs I actually take, except insofar as I need to know what to avoid. I said what I meant and I meant what I said. Reading anything more into it is unjustified.

    I started off by pointing out that many herbal treatments were useful (and often at least as much as the synthetic replacements), but the potent ones needed considerable care, in dosage, length of use and interactions. I know damn well that's true of many synthetic drugs, too. At no point did I take the anti-herbal line; quite the converse.

    213:

    Why? I am not particularly interested in the details, nor even in those of the drugs I actually take, except insofar as I need to know what to avoid. I said what I meant and I meant what I said. Reading anything more into it is unjustified.

    Fair enough. I'd still suggest reading drugs.com for the medicines you are on. This is speaking as someone who got caught in a weird interaction and went to the hospital with a problem that puzzled the doctors. Who is also the child and grandchild of people who've had messy drug interaction problems. Knowing more helps.

    Read the science behind the warnings on your drugs. I'm not suggesting that you use St. John's Wort, because, quite honestly, that's better for younger Americans who don't have health insurance (speaking from experience).

    Instead, the problem you face is that you're likely to get stuck taking more prescriptions for whatever. Knowing the science behind the interaction warnings for what you already take will almost certainly help you work with your doctor, even if the best answer you can get is "nobody's done that experiment, so good luck figuring it out."

    214:

    Yes. I have also had side-effects that weren't even listed, though they were plausible for the mode of operation.

    215:

    (test comment)

    216:

    On a similar note, I took an intro to chemistry class at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA; NOT the famous one in Austin) in the summer of 2003. The chemistry labs had just undergone a major renovation, and were now equipped with metal-rated fire extinguishers.

    Why? Because some overly-enthusiastic TA had done a metallic sodium + water demonstration that had gotten out of control a couple of years before. Also, metallic sodium (and other related elements in the first column of the periodic table) were banned from all labs occupied by undergraduates.

    217:

    That must have been a pretty maddening restriction, seeing how useful it is for drying ether and suchlike purposes in all the various procedures that can't tolerate even a trace of water.

    218:

    My copy of Yokai Land just arrived. Looking very much forward!

    219:

    Good story, and I hadn't thought about it but of course _ was going to leave a trail of _ __ behind him. I also read the book jacket - are you ever going to tell us about the second police stakeout? I don't know about everyone else, but I've never heard the story.

    220:

    Thanks for reminding me about "Prott". I had forgotten it (which ought to be impossible, obviously :) ).

    Specials

    Merchandise

    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 22, 2022 11:14 AM.

    A letter from Ukrainian artists to the world artists was the previous entry in this blog.

    Behind the Ukraine war is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

    Search this blog

    Propaganda