Charlie Stross: February 2011 Archives

I'm back and I'm jet-lagged, so in lieu of writing something challenging, let me give you some travel advice:

Do not leave your laptop at home when embarking on an 8-day business trip ...

Just a brief interruption from the travel zone to mention two events, utterly irrelevant unless you're in New York city:

Tonight I'll be doing a reading at Housing Works bookstore cafe, with Jo Walton and music by Ninja Sex Party, from 7pm. (Map here.)

And on a less formal note, I will be sampling the beer and hanging out in d.b.a (at 41 1st Avenue) from 7pm on Wednesday (map here); if you like beer and want to meet me in an informal setting this is your chance (note: but keep an eye on the comment thread below this entry in case of last-minute changes).

If you're wondering why I've been extra-scarce here over the past week, it's not only because I've been travelling and working, but because I managed to leave my laptop at home. The withdrawal symptoms have been terrifying1, mitigated only by the acquisition of an emergency iPad2. (Taxis to the airport at 4am? Just say no!)

As already noted, I'm going to be away from keyboard for a week and a half, starting Thursday. So to keep you all amused, I'm handing over the mike to another guest blogger: Harry Connolly.

Besides blogging, Harry is the author of a couple of novels: Child of Fire
and Game of Cages (a third novel, "Circle of Enemies", is due out this summer). Without saying too much, if you like my Laundry stories there is a good chance you'll find Harry's Twenty Palaces yarns agreeable. (Rumours that discovering them is the reason I was nearly late with the copy edits for "Rule 34" are ... regrettable.)

Anyway: I'm not signing out just yet, but don't be surprised if you see a new name under some of the next few blog entries!

I'm guest of honor at Boskone 48 from February 18-20, at the Boston Westin Waterfront. That's next weekend. Read below the cut for a detailed list of what I'll be doing there.

The week after Boskone I'll be in New York. Tor are organizing a fund-raiser for Housing Works (an HIV/AIDS charity helping homeless and low income New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS), and I'll be reading there, along with Jo Walton. There'll be music, too, by Ninja Sex Party. if you happen to be in Manhattan on the evening of Tuesday 22nd here's how to get there.

... And while I am away, there will be a surprise guest blogger!

If James hadn't linked to it in his blog I wouldn't have stumbled upon it. And I wouldn't be regretting my own inability to un-read texts. So, James, this is all YOUR fault!:

It is a fact that the large majority of boys acquire the habit of self-abuse at some time ...

Most boys acquire this habit from other boys, but as we have intimated it is possible to acquire it in what are termed innocent ways. Sometimes the sensation which leads to it is discovered by sliding down banisters; or it may be that climbing trees or poles first awakens the feeling. Very young children are sometimes taught the vice by depraved nurses. Local irritation, as has been stated, may necessitate itching and handling the parts and in this way the vice is begun. The results are the same ...

If the habit is persisted in, the muscular system suffers, — the muscles become weak and flabby; the patient develops weariness and languor and loses his mental and physical vigor. He is no longer forceful or energetic, his efficiency is impaired and as a consequence his nervous system begins to show signs of depleted strength. He cannot concentrate his thoughts, he falls behind in his studies, his mental effort is sluggish, he becomes diffident and shy, shuns society, loses confidence in himself, is morbid and emotional and may even think of suicide.

... He becomes shifty and suspicious and will not look you squarely in the face. A boy cannot become a slave to this habit without it affecting his mind. He invites debasing thoughts,—the old pure and clean method of thought and living no longer satisfy. His imagination even becomes corrupt and his moral nature and moral sense is perverted until he no longer seems to be able to tell the difference between right and wrong. ... In the end his will power is lost— even the effort to save himself is too feeble to succeed — he is a slave to the habit, his health and strength ruined.

(From part two of "The Eugenic Marriage".)

I am posting this here because I feel the need to share the pain or point and mock or something. (Maybe it's time to re-read "Portnoy's Complaint"?)

Afterthought: clearly the author of this text believes that GURLS!!!1!! are immune to this practice. Except, one supposes, for the DEPRAVED NURSES.

Another afterthought: the language here reminds me of some of the more frenzied rhetoric around drug use in subsequent decades.

What current cultural ... practices ... are going to look this bizarre and/or quaint in a century's time? Leaving aside obvious political candidates (the war on drugs, the conservative obsession with tax cuts, American exceptionalism, etc), I hasten to add.

In recent news the Pope gets to tear up his donor card because his body belongs to the Church and, hey, if he was beatified all his organs would turn into holy relics. (Never mind that he's 87 and not exactly a desirable source of young, healthy donor organs.)

This got me thinking ...

Spam: we hates it. And we (meaning me and my blog moderators) try to keep it out of the comments here.

Sometimes it's a little hard to spot ...

I am watching the current developments in the middle east with a sense of deja vu — it strongly reminds me of the autumn and winter of 1989, a period during which the formidable barbed-wire-and-concrete studded dominoes of Eastern Europe came crashing down in one revolution after another. First Tunisia, then riots in Algeria, crisis in Egypt, a new Prime Minister in Jordan with urgent orders from the King, a president standing down in Yemen ... where's it going to end?

On a hopeful note, Juan Cole explains precisely why Egypt in 2011 is not like Iran in 1979 — the balance between various social groups makes an Islamic revolution highly unlikely.

Looking for second-order effects, John Quiggin of Crooked Timber explains that the basic premises of US policy towards the region have been rendered invalid. Specifically:

The bigger casualty is the 'Arab exception': the idea that the concept of democracy is not really applicable in Arab countries and that foreign policy therefore amounts to a choice of which dictator to support.
Just as Eastern Europe in the 1980s and South America in the 1990s succumbed to a rising tide of democratization, it is possible that the Arab world in the 2010s will similarly see the overthrow or retirement of dictators and the rise of a civil society typified by representative democracies.

Who's left? China? And what do we have when we reach an end state in which representative parliamentary democracy of one strain or another is the default system of government (subject to minor disagreements over how to run the economy, from the total-capitalism no-safety-net Hong Kong model to Scandinavian-style social welfare)?



About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries written by Charlie Stross in February 2011.

Charlie Stross: January 2011 is the previous archive.

Charlie Stross: March 2011 is the next archive.

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