Paradise Regained Again And Again And Again

One of the enduring and nonsensical elements of human myth is the “paradise lost.”

Enduring?  Yep.  It is everywhere from Eden (no, no, the original one) to the rebellion of the angels in heaven, to the academic feminist myth of the great-rule-of-women-in-a-pre-history-no-one-can-prove [Or disprove, you tool of the patriarchy.  Right, sorry. I must have an academic feminist character somewhere in the backbrain.  That’s going to be … interesting.  I think that story will need a dragon.  Yes.  A dragon.  Anyway, moving right on.]

The story goes something like this “the world was perfect, and then people rebelled against it” (shuddup my story and angels are people) “and everything went to hell.”

This makes perfect sense in a purely mythological/theological concept, like the first two stories.  The fall in Eden was inherent in the contradictions inside woman and in the existence of the serpent.  (The first of you to snigger stays after school to clean the blackboards.)

If you’re a believer (I am, by the way) you sort of go along with RES and assume that what we don’t get about the first two instances – like, aren’t angels sort of ineffable automata?  How can they rebel, as such – is the result of describing a multi-dimensional event in human terms.

On the other hand if you’re a believer in the third you sort of assume that men are all evil and oppressy (totally a word, shut up) and willing to wreck paradise to oppress like oppressors because oppressive.

It is harder to do this sort of thing when it comes to history, and yet we get it over and over and over again, too “this time of history was paradise and then—“

The most inexplicable believers in this, btw, are female fantasy fans who seem to think we should all go back to the middle ages, because that was paradise.  (Not all female fantasy fans but a significant number of them.  This usually coincides with the Green Madness that says that “of course we’ll have to lose 9/10ths of the population.  They never seem to think that yay and verily in a catastrophe of those proportions airy dreamers who think of the middle ages as sort of an Earthly paradise would be the first to go.  You know, I often think that everyone would be vastly improved by knowing where their food comes from and working the land for a year.  Then I realize that Mao thought so too, and I let it go.)

There was always this bliss and perfect place from which we came tumbling down.

Hegel (stopped clock all that) came up with a mechanism to explain the continuous paradise lost.  (The idea was not originally his, not that he gave credit, but I write these blogs for free, have a novel to finish, and will be d*mned if I’m about to run off and try to find references  after only one cup of tea.  Deal.)

Any system while running accumulated contradictions, and it was those contradictions that brought it down.  What does that mean?  Oh, say a system is supposed to feed all the poor, but this is impossible, so it feeds some poor very well and others not at all.  For the very well fed poor it’s paradise, but then the others rebel.  (This is a made up and oversimplified example, but if you apply it to say the change between feudalism and the renaissance, you’ll see it work out.)

There are two things this system doesn’t take into account, flaws that were made worse by Marx borrowing his friend (and patron) Hegel’s theory and making it into ersatz theology.

A)    It was a closed loop system.  The contradictions that accumulated were those inherent in the system, without outside influence.  Nothing on Earth runs that way, not even the Earth itself.  (No?  You do realize we get water from space, right? In the form of ice meteorites.  Go look it up, I’ll still be here.)

B)    There is no perfect system without contradictions.  (This is the part that makes Marxism theology.  It aims to a perfect system that will end history.  And before idiots tell me I’m wrong because that’s not precisely what Marx said – it’s what every socialist state believes.  That they’re the end of history and the perfect, non-contradictory state.)

 

These two flaws mean that Hegelian analysis as performed by Marxists is perfect nonsense, even without adding in the concept of (flawed) class theory, which was being broken even in the industrial revolution, let alone now.  Any analysis performed by any theological system (including the one I believe in) upon the real world is nonsense to those who don’t belong to the church, because theology doesn’t make sense in practical terms.  Or if you prefer “One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.” As Robert A. Heinlein said.  (The only problem with Marxism is that the poor dahlings don’t think they’re a religion.  The whole thing about “scientific Marxism” see.  Ah, the illusions of the early industrial age, how quaint, how precious.)

 

However, if you include those two factors, you get a pretty good explanation for Paradise Lost and Lost and Lost and also for the lurching history of mankind.  You also get a clearer view of where we are.

First, let’s dispose of weird uncle Karl’s idea of perfection and of nothing bad ever happening to anyone under the perfect state.  To achieve that humans would need to become either angels or automatons, something that has proven impossible for all systems that depended on turning men into such, no matter how many people they killed or how many they tortured or scared.

Second, let’s add in the external change.  This change often is not “external” as such, as it is (quite often) the result of things humans in that society do.  BUT it is external in the sense of philosophy.  When new types of plow made the cultivation of different fields possible in the eleventh (or is it thirteenth?  I have Medieval historians among my readers, and they WILL tell me) and villains started leaving the enclosed cities to settle in the new land, they weren’t going “hey, now, let’s start an agricultural revolution that will give us a surplus of food beyond bare subsistence and incidentally increase the population.”  Oh, and the man who invented the plow wasn’t going “Let’s do this.”  They certainly weren’t doing it for philosophical reasons. So, they are external to the philosophical framework of society.

One of the problems with philosophers is that to a philosopher everything looks like an idea problem.  But humans live – yes, even we – closer to nature than that.  We don’t eat ontological states and excrete paradoxes.

Looking at it from the point of view of philosophy also dislocates where the real external influence comes in.  The French Revolution might have seemed to come out of nowhere to most people, and its proximate cause was the bad harvest and the lack of bread and the surging bourgeoisie, but if you go to the physical cause that influenced all of that, you go back to that plow and the surplus of bread, that allowed for the creation of machines, that allowed for greater surplus and more people, which in turn–  In the middle there is a France with a young and restless population supporting the American revolution and that not going well for them in financial terms.

It all becomes the old woman who swallowed a fly.  Which of course is what history is.  One thing driving the other, driving the other.

But here’s the point: It is said every society has the governance it deserves.  (This leaves me wondering just how naughty the poor average North Korean, born after the idiots took over can be to deserve that.  Never mind.  It’s a comforting saying not an accurate one.)

What is more accurate is to say that any society has the governance its technology will tolerate.

Technology too follows a sort Hegelian pattern, if you will, of accumulating contradictions which are then resolved. Only, it’s more complex than that, because Technology too is not a closed system, neat as the philosophers would have it, but it’s enmeshed with science.  Science will come up with something new, (real science, guys, no one HAS invented political SCIENCE yet.  Possibly because the laboratory is massive and the observations flawed, and the subjects keep changing) which some bright tech chappie will run with and make an improvement in some machine with, and then–  Suddenly the old system is out and the new system is in.  (And then you’re on the phone to tech support wondering why it won’t boot, but that’s another story.)

Then you throw in government as a distorting factor, both pushing money into and taking money away from some branches of science, and those things that – really – humans can’t predict, like human genius.  (They are born, sometimes, only you never know when one will be born.  And if you tell me that’s because it depends on the untidy mating practices of humans and that we should create geniuses in labs, we can’t be friends anymore.)

At this point the neat cog and wheel of contradiction-and-resolution that Hegel designed looks like something out of a steampunk cartoon, with four weels, a pseudopod, and a horn stuck in an amusing place, and it moves by crisscrossing its on path.

Now, if there WERE such a thing as the “perfect government” – a creature that, like the perfect man has failed to materialize – we could totally simplify this buggy and make it fit the present technology perfectly, etc.

BUT since there isn’t what we can do is observe how tech and governance go together, and how the governance comes to pieces when the tech changes ENOUGH (tech and science change are an incremental thing.)

Each society has the governance its TECH deserves.

Start with feudalism (yes, we could go further, to roving bands, but we won’t.)  A society of people producing barely enough to keep body and soul together could manage, if a lot of them contributed to the upkeep of a few, keep a group whose sole job was to defend them.  The system worked.  Or at least, the system allowed people to survive when it worked.  Yes, some of the lords were worse than the raiders he was supposed to defend people from.  Yes, some lords taxed too much.  BUT when that happened they either died or lost all their villains.  Which means that those places didn’t survive.  Others did.

It worked, as did the pyramid of fealty upwards.  Supported by the contributions of all their Lords the kings of countries generally large enough to swing a cat in without needing a passport could live in about as much comfort as our poorest citizens.  (The people under them could advantageously have traded up for a sleeping bag over a vent in the streets of New York City.)

Then along came improved agricultural technology, which burst the bounds of the walled cities, made the wilderness into habited areas (yes, I am simplifying brutally.  This is already three pages) and allowed peasants to raise a lot more kids.  (As the amusing horn stuck in the middle of this juggernaut’s body, consider either the fact that the Moors got kicked out of Europe and their raiding and the raiding of those they displaced by raiding subsided OR that the world went through a warming period, though off the top of my head I can’t tell when.  I know it wasn’t the fourteenth century.  There are, I’m sure, other factors I don’t have the time to cover nor the disposition to look up right now.)

This in turn gave time for people to start thinking how to improve things further.  Shake a bit, add a bit of personal genius and voila, you have the machines that started the industrial revolution.

The industrial revolution started with family enterprises and small factories.  By its very nature, it was a tech of small communities… at the beginning.  It fed into the entire ethos of the enlightenment.  Which in turn fed the revolutions.  BUT as it went on and became bigger and better, the industrial revolution became a thing of proletariat as a displaced mass, away from its community (the theory that this is because they were kicked out of their fields applies in some places, but is insufficient to explain what we see in the now-industrializing countries like India and China.  It’s entirely possible peasants voluntarily became proletarians, by walking of the land, because endless shifts tending a machine are better and more productive than looking at the southward end of a northbound mule.)

This was the stage that Marx analyzed and where he decided that left to its own devices, it would just become this massive exploitation-of-peasants machine.  So, the proletariat must rise up…  And make sure it became that way.

No, that’s not what he said, but that’s what happened in the places where the intellectuals rose up and convinced the proletariat that this entirely bourgeois “revolution” was in their best interests.  The tech froze, the intellectuals (and the brutal sadists) stepped into the place of the mill owners or what the mill owners would have been if they were intellectuals and brutal sadists.  The end stage of that state as observed in the Soviet Union, in Cuba, in North Korea, is sort of like feudalism with the addition of enough technology to keep the peasants down forever.  (Only it doesn’t because like feudalism, eventually the peasants starve enough that the Lord crashes too.)  This is why those countries seem like they’re stuck in a decaying version of former times.

But in the rest of the world, the industrial revolution went on.  Yes, the tech induced a top-down governance everywhere even where there was no ideological straight jacket dictating it be so.  BUT where there was enough room for human creativity, it went on, and tech cycled back around to personal/small/driven by creativity and innovation.

Oh, we’re not completely there yet.  But we’re most of the way there.  My field is careening head first into “there” right now.  Every man his own boss, etc.

The people whose mind is still stuck in the “big/manufacturing/top down” are looking around and treating this like the end of the world.  “Oh, no.  People will now be unemployed like FOREVER.  We must take things back to where top-down forces people to work together, to work in the old style factories, where everyone can earn a living, because—”

Because they think the industrial age was paradise and they want to keep it going forever.  (This has the additional problem that the people who had the top-down power want to retain it.)  This is a lot of what our government (right and left) is flaylingly (totally a word) trying to do.  They have this idea that if they make us broke enough he heyday of the fifties will be back.  (Okay, the left would like its fifties with more social freedom.  Maybe.  If you scratch deep down they’d treat integration and women’s lib as nothing, if they could just have their unity and shoulder to shoulder.)

In the early stages of the turning, humans can’t visualize what comes next and always always treat it as chaos and dissolution, which then goes to feed the myth of paradise lost.

Depending on how much government tries to apply the brakes or take us back to paradise, the transition can become a thing of horror and blood.  (See, French Revolution.  Also, the various English upheavals.  In fact, the only place transitions haven’t been horror and blood is here, where the government has been too disperse and powerless to make it so.  Uh… in former times.)

But no government yet has succeeded in completely STOPPING the change.  (North Korea?  It’s not over, is it? If they keep up, it’s likely to kill them)  And no one on Earth can completely undo technology once the genii is out of the bottle.

The way the technology is going is not the way Uncle Karl expected, towards bigger and bigger and more and more concentrated (which necessitated his “revolution.”)  Don’t hold that against the despicable mooch, though.  A lot of better men than him envisioned the future like that.  No?  Read Brave New World and 1984.

The transition will come, and the way tech is going it will be towards smaller, more fragmented, more PERSONAL.

This means two things – we have to stop already with the even vague equality of outcomes.  It can’t be managed.  And – again from the way things are going – this doesn’t mean anyone will starve, because the new tech seems to produce far more with less labor.

What I mean by equality can’t be managed is that I suspect in 50 years (or more or less, depending on how we manage the transition) their poor will have the material goods our rich have now, and the material comforts.  But since it will be a highly personal tech, they might not have the acclaim or the … improvements.  For instance, there’s a world of difference, now, between someone who scrounges used furniture, throws it in his apartment and never so much as dusts it, and someone who refinishes it, arranges it tastefully and keeps it clean.

Now multiply that by someone who improve what his 3-d printer creates to be unique AND more functional and someone who just takes it, half made, and uses it that way.

These are crude examples, but what I mean is in a future where how well you live is entirely in the individual hands – above subsistence, which will be higher than we have – the discrepancies will make your head spin.

But, you say, if more will be done with less labor, won’t masses be unemployed and have to be looked after?

I don’t think so.  That’s sort of like saying back in the fourteenth century “But if one day only 2% of the people will be farmers, what will the rest of the people do?  Starve or be pensioners?”

That’s not the way humans work.  They’ll find things to do and ways to improve their lot even in the new world.  No, it won’t be things anyone expects.

Which is why no government can manage it.

The government can flail around and honk (maybe it’s the amusing horn in the middle) and desperately try to bring back the fifties.  Or the thirties.  Or that idealized Middle Ages with shampoo and deodorizer.

All they can do is make this very hard and very bloody.  They can’t stop the change, though.

In the end, we win they lose.

Because we’re not mourning a paradise lost.

And the future is ours.

417 responses to “Paradise Regained Again And Again And Again

  1. and angels are people

    Well, of course– that’s part of why I avoid saying things like “only humans are persons,” even if I grant that “except for God” would be a bit too nit-picky even for me.

    • Birthday girl

      And they have free will like humans, hence the non-automaton-ishness … totally a word

      • Well, they have free will, but not like humans. The traditional Christian theological view was that angels, being nothing but pure spirits, have free will to make a decision once and stick to it — forever. (Which is why the traditional view is that Lucifer and his angels can’t change their mind and repent.)

        Of course, this has some interesting traditional theological consequences, such that angels before their decision either were supposed to be living in a state of bliss, but not exactly heaven; or that unlike human souls, angels were able to sin even in heaven. (Monks loved this one, because then they could point out to the new monks that just going to a monastery didn’t mean you couldn’t manage to live a sinful life if you worked at it. Being in a holy location doesn’t make you holy.)

        Angelology and theological speculation is very medieval-skiffy. There’s plenty of argument about whether angels are telepathic with each other, able to read human thoughts, etc. (I believe the general consensus is that demons and angels can’t read your thoughts, but can be very good guessers thanks to being immortal and intelligent. But a fair number of theologians think that angels are telepathic with each other, thanks to being connected through God; and that angels can hear you pray mentally if you want to talk to them, also thanks to God hearing and passing on all prayers for the intercession of angels and saints. See? Very sf-ish. Networky.)

        Of course, this is all very logically worked out, mostly from scripturally based argument; but most of angelology is pure speculation and will probably turn out to be beside the mark. Much like most sf speculation. 🙂

        • No assumption about what angels are doing before they choose is needed. An angel’s timeline is an open interval: (t0, infinity). The “(” means that the timeline includes all the points after t0, but does not actually include t0. But the angel’s instant of coming to be is t0, and in that instant it chooses. Then for its whole history it is bound by its initial choice. Aquinas spells it all out, and if the mathematicians had been paying attention we could have had set theoretic topology and real analysis five hundred years before Cauchy.

        • Very sf-ish. Networky.

          So the rebellion of the angels was really a network virus, and only those with superior malware prevention stayed loyal?

          • Nope. No outside intruder to insert a virus.

            • but couldn’t some software develop a glitch that’s functionally a virus?

              • It could, but the analogy misses one crucial element: Software doesn’t have volition.

              • but couldn’t some software develop a glitch that’s functionally a virus?
                If you talk to the “Self Modifying Code” computer science folks, that’s pretty much ALL it does. Getting code to self modify is relatively easy. Keeping the self-modifications on track and pruning anything that’s not gong in the right direction is basically the hard part.

                • Birthday girl

                  So they’re by nature mentally unstable?

                • Rick Boatright

                  And yet, as odd as the outcomes are, and as horrifically inefficient as they appear when you attempt to analyse them, self modifying code rigorously pruned (read Evolutionary selection) along with sexual crossover of random bits of code result in software which can do things which (for all practical purposes) we have been unable to write purposefully.

                  The best examples I know are evolved software mechanisms which allow bipedal robots to walk upright and to not fall over when given a shove.

                  This makes it all the more reasonable that we are, in fact the result of a huge pile of self-modifying code with all the expected concomitant inefficiencies and odd outcomes. j

                  • Would it be amiss of me to point out that this ‘evolution’ has occurred, like stock-breeding, entirely as a result of artificial selection?

                    • Rick Boatright

                      not amiss no, but pointless. Artificial selection is selection. Natural selection is selection. Hard pruning is hard pruning. If something works better, it works better. If it works well enough, it ceases being pruned. Take a widely diverse population of dogs and set them feral. Non-artifical selection produces a fairly stable non-optimal (they didn’t start with optimal genes available) mongrel that survives quite well very quickly.

                      Selection is selection

                    • Artificial selection is selection. Natural selection is selection.

                      Artificial selection is selection for the qualities that someone wants. Natural selection is selection for the qualities that help an organism survive in the wild. None of this ‘evolved’ software is capable of surviving in the wild. That’s a significant difference.

                    • Artificial vs. Natural selection is “a distinction without a difference”.

                      You used the case of “stock breeding” as an example of artificial selection. What “artificial” does is 1) give different choices in what traits are selected for and 2) tends to be a whole lot “stronger” selection. In nature you might get something like a 0.1% “bias” (number made up for purposes of illustration) in reproductive success between those with a particular trait vs. those without it and thus it takes close to 700 generations before the trait becomes predominant in the total population. In forced selection you can breed all of those with the trait and cull all of those without it making it predominant in a very short time (one generation in the case of a recessive trait).

                      It’s a matter of degree, not of kind.

            • No need – The “virus” could have been The Creator’s first pass at trying out this “free will” thingy.

              “Hmph. THAT wasn’t what I expected. Well, what if I try THIS next…”

              • Given He operates in Simultaneous Reality(TM) I rather think it is like an incomprehensibly complex multi-dimensional domino chain reaction.

  2. Just a quick comment before I read the rest of the piece. Roman War Period ended around 450 AD (thank you, Indonesian volcano). Temps staggered back up to the Medieval Warm Period (900s to 1300-ish). First round of LIA – 1300s to late 1400s, then things warmed, then the bottom dropped out into the global misery that was the 1600s – 1850. Temps staggered back up yet again until 1998, and have been steady or falling since then.

    We now return you to your normally scheduled blog post and comment thread. (Or Oddly scheduled as the case may be.)

    • Thank you. I have space opera in the brain and though I have a shelf of medieval history RIGHT behind my head, if I stopped to look up dates (which were always my nemesis in history. In fiction too. Thank G-d for copyeditors) I’d not emerge till tonight, and then my publisher would kill me. Dayd.

      • The high medieval period seems practically unknown, yet everybody knows the doldrums of the renaissance and worships it as ideal. Yet they were trying to recreate– I mean copy– the, ahem, glories of Greece and Rome– in morals as well as art. And we WONDER why the time period was a pit of misery and craven behavior?! Even the radical feminist of my youth were holding up high the example of Spartan Greece as the ideal to represent abortion– when the reality was a horror show, and the Greeks despised women as deformed men. IS that why those radicals want to *make* us deformed men? I have always wondered about that.

        I too suck at dates, and really anything with numbers in it. That’s what actually owning those books is good for. So you can look up the dates. The patterns of history, the events, are so iconic they are easy to remember and relate. Pinning them down in the pressbook of time is harder.

        Yes they had beautiful art, but… that’s different from living an ugly life where you can justify to yourself that SOME people, even human beings, aren’t people.

        • “IS that why those radicals want to *make* us deformed men?”

          Well, yes. If abortion is necessary to make women equal to men, it must be because our pregnancies make us inferior and therefore we must surgically correct them; we can’t expect society to treat people who become pregnant equal to those who don’t.

        • FYI: I don’t necessarily idealize the middle ages. Most eople either forget there were upsides, or they idealize it. Silly humans.

      • Granada, last of the Moorish strongholds in Spain, fell to the Christians in 1492. That date sticks in my head for some strange reason. It’s also when Spain officially expelled all Jews from the country. Might possibly explain to a degree why they proceeded to handle the enormous influx of treasure from the New World over the next few centuries so poorly.
        Jews, because they were forbidden in most places from owning property, became skilled in the crafts and trades including money lending and management.

        • Actually, Jews became concentrated in those occupations for several centuries before there were any occupational laws restricting them to them.

          • Usury laws, Christian and Islamic, played quite a role at various points in history. And 1453 may be more important for Western culture as a whole, because the fall of Constantinople led to many Byzantine scholars fleeing to Venice and Italy, bringing all kinds of manuscripts with them and helping kick-start the Renaissance.

            To give the Spanish a wee bit of credit, no one had seen inflation on a macro-economic scale before, so a lot of Europe got caught when all that gold and silver flooded the markets. And the Moors get full credit for the Massacre at Granada in 1066, when over 3000 Jews died and more fled with only the clothes on their backs. (Ah, Moorish Iberia, yet another paradise of toleration and inter-religious harmony that never really existed.)

            • the fall of Constantinople led to many Byzantine scholars fleeing to Venice and Italy, bringing all kinds of manuscripts with them and helping kick-start the Renaissance.

              But cf. James Franklin:

              The rediscovery of ancient knowledge, which the later Italian humanists claimed for themselves, was actually accomplished in the twelfth century. Some of [the translators] were: Adelard of Bath, who made the first Latin translation of Euclid about 1120; Gerard of Cremona, who went to Toledo to find Ptolemy’s Almagest and spent the rest of his life there translating enormous quantities of Greek and Arab science; Gundissalinus, who, unable to read Arabic, had a Jewish friend translate from Arabic into Castilian, from which he translated into Latin. This is the kind of anecdote we expect from a genuine renaissance. By 1200, thanks to the work of these scholars, there were reasonably accurate Latin translations of the main works of Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, Ptolemy, Archimedes and Galen, that is, of all the intellectually crucial ancient authors except Thucydides.

              • Rick Boatright

                Yes Tom, and the Indians and the Chinese (separately) invented the blast furnace and movable type.

                It isn’t who does it first, it’s who does it most EFFECTIVELY. The Italian humanists got the wide distribution and publicity. Their version won.

                • Exactly what is it that you claim the Italian humanists did ‘more effectively’ than the 12th-century translator-copyists? Considering that the entire Scholastic movement was based on the work of those early translators, and no intellectual progress worth speaking of resulted from the Italian humanists’ work, I should say the pre-Scholastics were a damned sight more effective.

            • The ‘brain drain’ of the Empire* began long before the final fall. Constantinople was ripe to fall ever since the Romans took it back from the Latins after the 4th Crusade.

              Everyone knew the East Roman Empire was a dead man walking, so the remaining Romans turned to art, history, etc. The Palaeologan Renissance was the final, and probably greatest artistic output the Empire had seen in a thousand years. And as the Muslims closed in, those that could fled to Italy, the closest safe Christian teritory.

              And Italy was fairly well known, as the Romans had only been kicked out in 1071.

          • No doubt. Law is often the formalization of earlier societal pressure and bias. Then too, a persecuted minority that placed great value on education and learning (not necessarily the same thing) would tend towards those occupations naturally anyway.

            • Well, actually, there’s a good bit of evidence that it stemmed from the destruction of the Temple.

              Once you could no longer show you were a good Jew by making a sacrifice there, but only by Torah study and the like, Jews in occupations where literacy was an advantage, and where they could make a lot of money to support the study, had an advantage in Jewishness. Jews in occupations like farmer, which had neither, tended to drift from Judaism.

          • If you’re an unpopular minority group you have to have assets that you can run away with. Land isn’t very portable. Professional skills, OTOH, go where you go.

            • I am unable to identify the quote, probably apocryphal, attributed to Yehudi Menuhin or Jascha Heifitz in response to a questioner asking how is it that there were so many great Jewish violinists?

              The Maestro’s reply: Can you imagine fleeing a pogrom carrying a piano?

            • the problem with that theory is that when you look at middleman minorities — those who engage in peddling, money-lending, etc. — they are hated and persecuted regardless of religious or any other differences. (Thomas Sowell’s good on this.)

              Which is to say that the professional skills can’t be the consequence if they are also the source.

              • Middlemen are in “messenger” professions, carrying communications from one part of the economy to another. Many, many people — and not always uneducated people — do not understand why this is a valuable service and worthy of reward. Hence, they tend to see middlemen as “parasites,” and, if the message being carried is bad news, are tempted to shoot the messengers.

                Or club them, or gas them.

          • hmm, so would it follow to say that the occupation quirks were a result more of the effect of outsider->middle man/nice worker, and then being codified into law. ‘cuse you know that’s what the jew’s do?

            • Yeah.

              To be sure, feudal societies had the added bonus that the practice of Kol Nidre led to distrusting Jewish oaths. Kinda cut off a good number of occupations there.

    • I was wondering why I needed a sweater in the Fifth Century …

  3. “I must have an academic feminist character somewhere in the backbrain. I think that story will need a dragon.”

    Once there was an academic feminist. And a dragon. The dragon ate the academic feminist, but it turned out that her intrinsic unpleasantness went clear through to the bone. So the dragon got really bad indigestion, and ended up burping fire all over the academic feminist’s university’s Womyn’s Studies complex. Which caused the whole thing to burn to the ground.

    While it was burning, a group of beleaguered students majoring in Engineering and Chemistry and Physics and Mathematics slowly gathered around in wonder. Eventually, the sight inspired some of them to begin singing. Most of them couldn’t carry a tune in a dumptruck, of course, but eventually they all started putting their hearts into it, and so even though they still sung badly, it was a joyous occasion for all concerned.

    And they all lived happily ever after.

    The End.

    HTH…HAND. 🙂

    • I ❤ you soooooo much.

    • Once there were two academic feminists on their way to a conference somewhere. Having missed their commercial flight, they chartered a Cessna the size of your fist. The plane crashed in a remote and lifeless region, and though the two survived, it became clear that they were doomed to starve. So they flipped a coin, and the winner ate the loser. She then turned into a dragon and flew away—

      Hey, it’s guaranteed to work. Any well-read mediaeval could have told you so. Serpens nisi serpentem comederit draco non fit—

      • Perhaps the academic feminist _is_ the dragon. A fearsome Professor indeed, and any mere administrators who opposed her disappeared to mysterious crunching noises and the smell of blood mixed with catsup. Which explains some of the problems with the University of Colorado, Goldport. I just hope she not a relative of Tom’s, because she’s bound to be a Bad Guy sooner or later.

    • That’s what I like, a story with a happy ending.

    • I love your story. Especially the STEM majors.

  4. See, some days there are events you are blessed to witness. They blind like a flash of lightening, and remind why you married someone so perfectly it makes you glow inside. This is one of them. 🙂 *squee*

    But he did forget that those engineering students rebuilt a fantastic monument to the dragon in that spot, because that song and fire really did rock in spirit. The revenue from the tourist attraction repaid the University to the point they broke even and continued to teach math and science to nerds who liked to sing, but weren’t really good at it. The sole few feminists remaining hunted around for another university and discovered most of them broke or out of business. End of Coda.

    See, not quite as good, but what can you say? It’s a sequel.

  5. To achieve that humans would need to become either angels or automatons, something that has proven impossible for all systems that depended on turning men into such, no matter how many people they killed or how many they tortured or scared.

    That’s part of why there are stories of “paradise lost.”

    People are broken. That’s been observed…what, as far back as we can find anything? We do bad things for no good reason, and dumb things for the same reason.
    If people are broken, then you can kinda get a sort of idea of what they’d be like if whole…and that they are broken means that they had to be whole at some point.
    What would it be like if we weren’t broken? Paradise.

    Problem hits when human solutions usually involve smashing the broken thing to grind up and recast in a preferred form, rather than mending it.

    • Birthday girl

      Oh! Marxism is recycling! It’s our great Green Goddess also, no wonder those religions seem to go together, they really are One.

      • At the very least, it’s amazing how they have exactly the same solution.

        • Isn’t that funny? I’ve noticed that too… seems like the ultimate solution to everything is always the same, even if each group is so unique they couldn’t possibly expected to communicate between groups, the poor dears. Well, save the experts. But, they know everything, right? But if they are human, how is it that they _can_ know everything and I can’t? I’ve been trying for a long time now, doesn’t that count? Like, for my whole life! 😀

      • I never particularly liked Green Goddess and far prefer a tart vinaigrette, preferably garlic or basil; none of that fruity stuff.

        • Birthday girl

          yum! I’m so old, I remember when Green Goddess was a new product … my mom loved it until all of a sudden she didn’t … lol

    • That is a feature, not a bug. It is the fact behind the saying that if it is stupid but is works, it’s not stupid.

  6. I’ve read that theme of “the new technology is going to marginalize everyone! The sky! It’s gonna hit you on your head!” multiple times over the last month? Maybe two? And I grumble ever more loudly each time. It’s like those skeletons of the buggy whip makers the archeologists keep digging up in the shops. DRT when the automotive came along. New whip futilely clutched in their bony fingers…

    It’s a particular finger poke to the brain when it’s tech specialists making dire predictions. Maybe it’s a characteristic of narrowly focused specialists? They’ve forgotten that people are really generalists. You bemoan the poor masses, I’ll be over here figuring out how to monetize a surplus of whips. (BDSM is born?)

    • You know, more than half the jobs I’ve had in my life don’t exist anymore.

    • Most of the moaning and gnashing of teeth is because things keep changing. Change upsets how things have always been done, and those that can’t handle the change always want to halt or slow it. Technology destroyed the Soviet Union, and is also keeping a choke-hold on modern Russia. Change=chaos to most “managers”, and there is no bigger manager than government. At the same time, the eternal Chinese curse, “this, too, shall change”, keeps moving through history. The people that can recognize the change, and harness it for general good, will become billionaires. Those that stand in front if it yelling “STOP” will become road kill.

      • Most people, eventually, won’t get stuck in the billionaire or road kill category. Which is the great thing about generalists. They’ll just generally migrate to where the action is.

    • I once ran across the website of a former buggy whip company. When they saw the way the wind was blowing, they started braiding high-test fishing line instead, and *that* is the business that has sustained them for a century now.

  7. ” Yes, some of the lords were worse than the raiders he was supposed to defend people from”

    Well, the thing is, your lord and his men were one man and one company of soldiers. The risk for a woman of being gang-raped without recourse was limited by that. If you had a raiding force come through your village every month or so, they might gang-rape all the women — every month.

    • Obviously horrible for the women at the time, but still a boon to genetic diversity over the long haul.

      • Except that that would also preclude much travel on the women’s part, or the men’s either, so it would be a bane to genetic diversity. Especially since the women are likely to rendered permanently barren.

        • But also bride stealing, or raiders killing off all the local adult men and settling in?

          Which reminds me: the eastern Finns, like my mother, you occasionally get who have somewhat Mongolian features? Check how far the Mongolian empire once reached. Well, the genetics seem to imply male lines which have come here through Siberia, and which originate in modern Vietnam, but who knows, there haven’t been that many tests, Mongols may have played a role too.

          • I’m told that if you really wanted to offend my great-grandmother you suggested that her relatively dark hair and features (for a Norwegian) were because some viking had surely stolen a girl from France, once upon a time.

          • Killing off the local men and settling in seems like a really, really bad idea unless you could be sure the local women REALLY disliked their male relatives. Especially since they are going to be teaching the children.

            Stealing a bride, on the other hand– you get genetic diversity, and if you treat her well she’ll probably adjust into your culture, plus you get the whole “trophy wife” aspect of it.

            • In classical times, there was a Greek island where the men and the women spoke radically different languages, allegedly because a bunch of raiders did come in and kill every man and boy. To the point that women were painstaking about not teaching the young boys the women’s language, or letting them hear it. It was not an island known for healthy relationships between the sexes, even among classical Greek islands.

              (Usually men and women’s languages in a single culture are just a matter of vocabulary choices being different, and they are mutually intelligible.)

          • Well, there was bride stealing, and then there was previously mutually-agreed elopement disguised as bride stealing, and then there was bride stealing that was actually “the clan likes you, Mr. Poor Young Man with skills and ambition, so we’re not going to make you pay a brideprice.” (The Franks did a fair amount of the third.)

          • It’s a lot easier to steal land, or grab undeveloped land in a handy place, and then settle in with a lot of your friends and relations. Later on, you can make rapprochements to the locals or ex-locals for brides, or you can just go get girls from the old country. That’s the usual way the Norse did landgrabs in most places in Europe.

        • Assuming they didn’t starve, the looting that was included in the whole raiding bit being a bit less well planned for longevity than taxation.

      • Also it would be a detriment because the class of bandits is smaller than that of farmers. Limiting your breeding population is not a boon.

  8. Christopher M. Chupik

    “This usually coincides with the Green Madness that says that “of course we’ll have to lose 9/10ths of the population. They never seem to think that yay and verily in a catastrophe of those proportions airy dreamers who think of the middle ages as sort of an Earthly paradise would be the first to go. ” Someone should tell the authors of Deep Green Resistance that. That book is as evil as the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf.

    • Airy dreamer manages to survive long enough to get to countryside and start farming. First shock: it’s not that easy, or much fun, if you have to do it by the sweat of your brow. Second shock when the city gangs come looking for food and either just steal what he has managed to produce (and rape the woman studies pH.D. girlfriend in spite of her trying to talk to them nicely and express her solidarity to the injustices heaped on them in their previous lives). Or they turn him into a thrall and her into an entertainer and cook/cleaning lady, probably barefoot and pregnant kitchen slave after a while (if the gang leader happens to be somebody who can do long term planning). And we are back to feudalism, old style with some new toys, after a while.

      Any happier endings to that story?

      • Reminds me of some fellow lecturing the Ivy League about how giving up dependency on a petroleum based economy lead to beautiful emerging economies typified by his friend who had an organic honey farm.

        The chances of any of these dumb-nuts so much as having grown a tomato is next to nil. They’ve no notion of how much work it is in their preferred “beautiful emerging economies” to grow enough food so that your own children don’t starve to death, much less how much work it is to feed your own children and an idiot professional intellectual at the same time.

        • … how much work it is to feed your own children and an idiot professional intellectual at the same time.

          Shucks. Now you put it that way, I can see the advantages of a subsistence farming economy.

        • Did you ask how his friend got his organic honey to market without using petroleum?

      • Any happier endings to that story?

        Sure. The gang also dies, because its members don’t know what the hell they’re doing either. They are, after all, city gangs.

      • Birthday girl

        I think you need a knight with a supernatural link to the deity and a magic sword who can build a coalition/army of the former SCA weapons fanatics … and hope none of the gangsters is possessed by a demon/alien … ??

  9. One reason the Past can look like a Paradise is because we do not understand how it worked. We see the superficial and fail to comprehend the infrastructure (we see the Eloi but not the Morlocks.)

    I frequently ponder my youthful eagerness to become a grown-up “because then I’ll get lots of mail!” Of course, back then the mail I received was mostly comprised of birthday and holiday cards and frequently included cash or a check. Sadly, this does not apply to the vastly larger amount of mail I receive as an adult. Because I failed to understand the underlying reality it was easy to think the veneer represented paradise.

    Another “advantage” held by the Past is that we often see it selectively. This is often mocked by noting how many people who “remember” “past lives” remember being persons of privilege. The life of an Egyptian noble may seem paradise, the lives of the majority of Egypt’s populace less so; a White person might view the antebellum South more fondly than a Black. We often overvalue our position in the postulated paradise and under appreciate the advantages of our current times. (I wonder how many of those Medieval-worshiping women imagine spending 1 week in 4 with rags strapped to their crotch (during the few months between pregnancies, at any rate.)

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      The past is a great place, as long as you don’t have to live it.

    • To be fair, while “because I’ll get lots of mail” is kind of a silly reason to want to be an adult, I nevertheless think, even after 20 years of being self-supporting, that in this regard my youthful desires were more on-the-mark than not.

      Adulthood as actually experienced by adults has its downsides, of course, as does everything in this our perpetually and fractally imperfect world. But it still beats the crap out of childhood.

      • I am not sure the “get lots of mail” was silly, but it was certainly childish. The true benefits of adulthood are generally not discernible to young children, just as the traumas* of childhood, having been survived, are often forgotten by adults.

        *Limited, for purposes of this comment, to minor travails customary to middle-class American kids. Abuse, abandonment and other forms of gross and regrettably insufficiently rare trauma are excluded.

    • I thought I’d get to eat what I wanted and stay up until after nine PM. Now I have to limit how much I eat and I look forward to getting to bed by nine PM. And I thought I’d be taller. Can I file a false-advertising complaint?

      • I try for 8 when possible. Then have people calling who stay up later.
        Inconsiderate!

      • Being taller can be overrated at times.

        • True. I don’t get concussions around Cessnas, unlike most people of average height (if they are not paying attention).

          “Look out for the wing!”
          “What wi—” *meaty thump* “Ow.”

          • Dorothy Grant

            Ah, the Cessna “diamond”… The advantage of having a rag and tube with no flaps is that I’m no longer at risk for acquiring that scar. The disadvantage, for everyone who doesn’t know my plane, is the back of the wing is lower on a taildragger than a nosewheel, and so the reinforcement I put in there has come in handy for the trailing edge a few times…

    • Memorable lives would probably be recalled more easily.

      though Robert E Howard managed to have a character remember more:

      In a mist of terror she relived all her former existences, recognized and was again all the bodies that had carried her ego throughout the changing ages. She bruised her feet again over the long, weary road of life that stretched out behind her into the immemorial past. Back beyond the dimmest dawns of Time she crouched shuddering in primordial jungles, hunted by slavering beasts of prey. Skin-clad, she waded thigh-deep in rice swamps, battling with squawking water-fowl for the precious grains. She labored with the oxen to drag the pointed stick through the stubborn soil, and she crouched endlessly over looms in peasant huts.

      She saw walled cities burst into flame, and fled screaming before the slayers. She reeled naked and bleeding over burning sands, dragged at the slaver’s stirrup, and she knew the grip of hot, fierce hands on her writhing flesh, the shame and agony of brutal lust. She screamed under the bite of the lash, and moaned on the rack; mad with terror she fought against the hands that forced her head inexorably down on the bloody block.

      She knew the agonies of childbirth, and the bitterness of love betrayed. She suffered all the woes and wrongs and brutalities that man has inflicted on woman throughout the eons; and she endured all the spite and malice of women for woman. And like the flick of a fiery whip throughout was the consciousness she retained of her Devi-ship. She was all the women she had ever been, yet in her knowing she was Yasmina. This consciousness was not lost in the throes of reincarnation. At one and the same time she was a naked slave-wench groveling under the whip, and the proud Devi of Vendhya. And she suffered not only as the slave-girl suffered, but as Yasmina, to whose pride the whip was like a white-hot brand.

      • REH really was a much better writer than most people give him credit for, as well as much more sympathetic. It was a sad day when we lost him to suicide.

        • Check out The Whole Wide World (1996):

          In Texas in the 1930s, young schoolteacher Novalyne Price meets a handsome, eccentric, interesting young man named Robert Howard. He’s a successful writer – of the pulp stories of ‘Conan the Barbarian’; she’s an aspiring one. A friendship develops into a sort of courtship. Based on a memoir by Novalyne Price.

          Nice performances by Vincent D’Onofrio & Renée Zellweger. A love story (sorta) for those what like that and Robert E Howard for those what like that.

    • You got rags in your past life? Man, all we got was bark and moss!

      We also walked uphill both ways.

      • You had feet? You bloody toff! We had no legs and our arms were broken. Had to drag ourselves along the ground with our lips.

        • Oh, we used to dream of havin’ lips to drag ourselves around with! We used to use the worn down stub of our nose to pull ourselves AND the whole family along the gravel roads! Lips? Huh.

          • Luxury.

            *WE* didn’t even have corporeal form — we were just thoughts and ideas floating about, being blown hither and yon by every fickle breeze….

            • You had thoughts and ideas, you lucky bastard! We were just a black hole of ontological questioning! And breezes! That’s posh. All we had was the edge of non-existence.

              • And you try and tell the young people of today that ….. they won’t believe you.

                • Once, years ago, either in the blog that shan’t be named (poor Old Charlie, lost his mind in the blog wars) or in Ace of Spades — must have been round 04 — there was an European CONVINCED (by his press no doubt) that there were people starving on the streets here. We pulled this entire stunt on him, eight or so of us, and it took till “My whole family lived in a shoe box” for him to realize we were pulling his leg. 🙂 Good times, good times.

    • Well, the idea that most people remembering reincarnations remember being Cleopatra is actually false, most do remember being miserable, poor and hard-working. That is when the memories (or ‘memories’) are brought up in a hypnosis or some similar method. You get the Cleopatras more often when it’s somebody asking some carnival type clairvoyant Madame Something-or-other-exotic-sounding about their previous lives. So whatever you may think of those ‘memories’ (most probably false, created on the spot by the questions made by the hypnotist, but there have been some interesting cases) perhaps most normal people actually do have something of a grasp of what it might have been like in reality.

      It’s just that the idiots, or daydreamers, as usually, tend to be more loud/memorable.

      • It’s just that the idiots, or daydreamers, as usually, tend to be more loud/memorable.

        Hey, don’t you badmouth Shirley MacLaine by talkin’ truth ’bout her!

      • Birthday girl

        I did one of those regression things at a new age “retreat” once … stop it, I was a seeker until I came to my senses … I was an old woman sitting in a rocking chair on a broad front porch with my knitting … exactly the kind of old age I would love to have, but won’t be able to … sigh … so I guess you could call that some kind of subconscious projection or something?

        • Or a picture seen in a book or old movie once.

          Or maybe even a genuine memory. As said, there have been some interesting cases. I have slogged through some of Dr. Ian Stevenson’s books (a psychiatrist in the University of Virginia’s school of medicine, and he studied possible reincarnation cases for years – by the way, those books are rather boring reading, frankly) and some of the kids he studied seemed to have stories which had remarkably many similarities to the lives of people who had died before those children had been born. Those, and some other stuff I have read is not good enough to be considered proof, but it’s just good enough that I’m not willing to dismiss the possibility out of hand. And I doubt there is conclusive proof either for or against in our lifetimes, or soon after that either. And it’s not particularly useful, in any case. Just interesting, maybe because the whole subject, as well as most such subjects, is so damn slippery.

          • Could be telepathy. We don’t know enough about it to say it can’t cross time.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              IIRC in one of the most famous “recovered memories of a past life” cases, they were able to identify the person that the “memories” were from.

              Unfortunately for the reincarnation theory, the lifespans of the two women overlapped and as a child, the younger woman *knew* the older woman.

              So the “recovered past life memories” would likely been from stories of the “old country” that the older woman told the child.

              Oh, I’m not saying that the younger woman lied. It was just a case where “leading questions” were used and under hypnotism she gave them “what they asked for” using the old stories as the “building material”.

              • To be fair, it’s not impossible. If we can be reincarnated, who’s to say that our spirits can’t travel in time? Perhaps my Dad, for example, is me reincarnate…

                (I had this idea shortly after my Dad died, and I still haven’t yet fully explored the interesting implications of it…)

      • Why would anyone want to be Cleopatra? Until he died in battle against her lover, she was likely to marry her brother — and one or the other of them would have eventually died of poison. Then she was “the other woman” for a guy who MAY have been the most powerful man in that quarter of the globe, but who died a violent death after raising her profile rather conspicuously. Then, to curry favor she screwed around with her dead ex’s #2 — who got cut out of the will — until the dead ex’s adopted son caught up with both of them. New lover ended up dead, oldest son ended up dead, she ended up dead, and her only surviving children ended up exiled on the other side of the world, for all practical purposes.

    • (I wonder how many of those Medieval-worshiping women imagine spending 1 week in 4 with rags strapped to their crotch (during the few months between pregnancies, at any rate.)

      It wouldn’t be that bad– they might be so poorly nourished that they’d be unable to have normal cycles for a lot of the time….

  10. Colorado Alex

    “(I wonder how many of those Medieval-worshiping women imagine spending 1 week in 4 with rags strapped to their crotch (during the few months between pregnancies, at any rate.)”

    That depends. How many of them live in San Francisco?

    • In addition to the eco-friendly, fragrance and synthetics free terry cloth feminine napkins, they now have washable and reusable knitted, um, internal protection. Saw a “YGTBSM” article about them yesterday. Not only would I not use those things except in desperation, I sure as heck don’t want to be in the restroom when another woman is rinsing them out.

      • You know how well they will clean the sink after rinsing? In a public restroom?

        • Yeah, that’s why some of the hard core wymynysts allow that there are times and places where using modern hygiene products is better for sanitation and social tranquility.

      • I used the terry cloth growing up. THERE MIGHT have been disposables, but mom was cheap, and if it was good enough for her…

        Chaffing, odor, the fact that if you’d lost weight and your undergarment was loose they sometimes fell down your leg (I wish I were joking) and then (we didn’t own a washer) the joys of washing the stupid things. EWWWW. No, thanks.

        • Heh. I had disposable ones, but they needed this belt to stay up. Were damn thick too. You most certainly did not forget that you were wearing one. And something you did not really want to wear with trousers, unless you had on some rather long upper garment, long enough to cover the bulging crotch area under any circumstances. The modern stuff is definitely a lot better.

          But I’m still waiting anxiously to get rid of them. I’m old enough that it should happen any day now. Well, any month. Soon anyway. One hopes.

          • Same here on the bulge and on the hope.

            • You have much less resistance to disease after menopause.

              • True. But since it’s now going to be at most a year or two, most likely we are talking months, it could just happen already, thank you.

                • I took one prescription pill before menopause and now I take a dozen. Along with vitamins and supplements I two dozen pills a day.

                • My mother thought she had hit menopause just before she got pregnant with me…

                  • Wayne, you’re a bad man. Okay, fine, I’ll do a pregnancy test, but I’m fairly sure it’s the big M.

                    • Well, I know I’m a bad man, but I was responding to pohjalainen on her expectation that it’s coming soon. Basically, you never know until it’s been a long time.

                      My mother finally went through menopause when I was around 5 or 6. VERY confusing for a child of that age, to see the mental and emotional turmoil.

                    • Since that was fairly normal for my mom, what I saw was thermal turmoil (which is what I’ve been having.) I was ten, bringing home a friend from school, open the back door, back out hastily. Mom got SO HOT she was in her bra and panties, washing dishes. She didn’t expect me home with a friend. 😛

                  • Heh. Well, not going to happen here. I’m 53. And a half. I think the oldest woman recorded was 59, but most hit that about where I am now or somewhat younger. As said, since it’s going to happen in very near future anyway, why not now. Especially since I’m finally starting to get irregular cycles. I hate the necessity of either wearing a pad for days on end just in case, or else having to keep on checking so I won’t get that nasty little surprise.

                    • Although I have to admit I’m scared of the health aspects. My mother’s heart disease was noticed soon after she had menopause, and she died ten years later. That is, as far as I know, pretty typical how that happens to women, you seem okay until your menses stop, but start to deteriorate fast afterwards. And I have most of the risk factors (I have never smoked, but that’s about the only difference between my mother and me too} including family history, for heart problems.

                    • Oh, I’m fine, then. I was never okay. 😛

                    • Okay, that’s one way to look at things… 😀

                    • If you have a good doctor and can get the proper meds you should be okay. If you eat well, exercise, get the proper meds and get all the diagnostic tests you need, you might live longer than your mother did. I am post-menopausal and I did develop conditions. I take a lot of medications, see my doctors regularly, get diagnostic tests routinely, and I an fine for values of fine. I don’t feel as healthy as I did before, but I’m alive and kicking.

                    • Ah. Yes. She was only 37, but she had previously had a tubular pregnancy and figured that had caused enough trouble that she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again.

          • By the way, while it is true that nobody really want that much of the icky stuff in their fantasy, me included, one of the things which does bother me when reading most of the women centered fantasy stories is that nobody ever mentions how the lady knight or whoever the hero is does deal with that problem. I mean, if she is well fed it should happen every damn month. At least occasional mentions?

            • That’s kinda a sub-theme in the novel series that starts coming out in December, actually. Short version: the MC finds ways, but she really, really hates the whole womanhood thing for a week out of every month. And because she’s an officer, and in the gentry, she’s a lot better off than other women would be.

            • During basic training I simply stopped menstruating.

              I had been pretty stressed about what to do during my period in that environment and it turned out to be a non-problem.

              • Yes, it can happen. Then it might not. Did you talk to those who didn’t, and how they dealt with it?

                • I didn’t notice anyone. They actually got us to the bathroom frequently. Which makes a whole lot of sense. I just didn’t know ahead of time that it would be potty breaks every two hours. 🙂 They’ve got that basic training thing down to a science.

                  Some people are so in-shape that they actually gain weight and get out of shape in basic training. I’m sure those girls had regular cycles.

                  • Some people are so in-shape that they actually gain weight and get out of shape in basic training. I’m sure those girls had regular cycles.

                    I lost 30 seconds on my run and gained five pounds. Not muscle. (Not sure how my pushups got messed up, they stopped counting about halfway through when I hit the top for 18 year old females.)

                    Some gals may have more resilient systems, though.

                    • Ah, so you’re saying you had the same cycle interruption? That doesn’t surprise me but I didn’t want to assume. I was on the far opposite end of the fitness curve, back there huffing and puffing. I never heard a single person complain of getting her period, but would I have? Did you know anyone who did?

                    • ….Looking back, I can’t remember anybody complaining about their cycle after the first few weeks. Mine’s always been pretty spotty, so I didn’t think twice about it going away, but I vaguely remember folks complaining because we only had pads due to the risk of septic shock.

              • Actually the problem I have with the Tamora Pierce series— “The woman who rides like a man” or something?

                The gal has her cycle while in a much harsher version of basic training than what I went through, and it freaks her out.

                I understand it from a story POV, but it really broke me out of suspension of disbelief.

            • John Ringo has this come up in one of his novels “There Will Be Dragons”. The background is a high-technology (as in, their technology is essentially magic to us in the 20th Century), low population planet Earth suddenly loses access to all of that technology, and is knocked back to a pre-industrial existance. The sudden transition from women who aren’t even aware of menstruation (the magical technology took care of that) to women who quickly need to find ways to deal with it all hygenically is touched upon briefly.

            • I’ve read at least one where they mention a tea that the female soldiers are given to regulate or hold off their cycle (since being on the rag would suck big time if you’re a mercenary who’s just been hired to fight or you’re on one of the more uncivilized roads on patrol).

              • In other words, the author employed herbal handwavium.

                I wonder if the same tea increased female upper body strength/muscle mass significantly?

                • Do you know, I had a huge argument once on a panel with an idi… lady who was SURE that there had been herbal contraceptives as good as the pill? It’s just “the men didn’t want you to know.”

                  HITS HEAD ON DESK. HARD.

                  • I think she may have been right about the herbs but wrong about their application method. They weren’t taken orally but would be taken internally. I expect a plaster comprised of leaves from the toxicodendron family (radicans, diversilobum, and vernix) blended with capiscum chinense would effectively limit risk of pregnancy.

                • I’m pretty sure it was birth control, since they mentioned that, too. Tea was a pretty common way to take medications before everything was in pill form.

                  • Common and effective are not entirely the same thing, especially considering the number of compounds known to be destroyed by heating. I won’t dispute the writer using herbal tea if you won’t dispute its being handwavium.

                    • Well, since birth control isn’t exactly new… Sure, whatever makes you happy. The fact that it was addressed at all made it remarkable at the time.

                    • KAries — this is the argument I had. Birth control IS new. Birth control that doesn’t kill the mother is a few decades NEW. Look, I grew up in a village which had a long herbal lore. Until the pill was available, most “birth control” was abortifacient and 90% of that killed the mother as well, if you JUST slipped on the dosage. THERE WAS once a flower that acted JUST like the pill. (Not joking, no.) It grew in the Middle East. The Romans drove it to extinction in about fifty years.

                    • I didn’t realize I needed to insist on pharmacological accuracy in my high magic fantasy. Talking swords and fireballs are acceptable, herbal tea is not. Got it.

                    • Didn’t say it was unacceptable. Said it was handwavium. I presume you know the difference? For all I care they can chew jimson weed.

                      If any herbal tea actually provided effective birth control I suspect there wouldn’t be 1.35 billion people in China and nearly as many in India.

                    • Pretty sure most solutions in fantasy are handwavium. There seems to be a dismissive quality about the method that ignores the original point of an author mentioning it and creating a solution that would be recognizable as a solution for the audience she was writing for.

                    • A critical difference between talking swords, fireballs (& FTL drives, for that matter) and menstrual cycle suppressing herbal contraceptive is that the real world repercussions of believing in the first set are insignificant while believing there might be herbal contraceptives as good as the pill might have unfortunate consequences in more than one way. I would have the same objection to herbal poultices that were as effective as modern antibiotics (although I would not similarly object to herbal painkillers, given the pharmacological derivation of most such — unless the author combined the pain-killer with another herb that left the user fully alert and active.)

                      Willing suspension of disbelief does not require suspension of all critical faculties.

                    • Well, the big issue KAries, is that a lot of younger women believe that part as absolute truth — no one believes in talking swords. But a lot of women go on about how this knowledge was always there and “the men suppressed it.” (LIsten, most subsistence farmers wanted another mouth to feed (past the point it was helpful) as much as the women did. They’d have MADE the women take the tea.)

                    • There are a shocking number of ways to kill oneself with herbs, without meaning to. Pretty much all herbal abortifacients and even some herbs for menstrual problems are poisonous, poisonous, and more poisonous.

                      This is without even getting into allergies, side effects, and drug interactions. I gave heart palpitations to a woman I know by giving her a cup of ginger tea. Turns out that somebody drinking 5 Hour Energy every day shouldn’t add ginger on top of it. I gave heart palpitations to myself once, by taking linden tea. It’s usually a calming tea like camomile, but I was in that small percentage who get the side effect instead. (If you get sneezy with anything in the rose family, btw, linden is in there, so watch for it in ingredient lists.)

                      In neither of these cases was the tea particularly strong or strange. I wasn’t doing anything crazy like using six teabags at a time and steeping them for a zillion years. But with a little less luck, either of those could have been deadly.

                      So yeah, it’s a bit dangerous to use things that have real-world dangerous attachments as happy-dappy handwavium.

                    • weirdly, one of the women in the village who managed to kill herself, was in the habit of causing abortions by having extremely STRONG tea. One day, she gave herself a heart attack. (And since she was doing it behind her husband’s back — he wanted more kids. They had only one — she had instructed her little daughter, six or so, never to call anyone if she passed out. So she didn’t.) Very sad. Young woman, early thirties. The reason? She wanted to put her daughter through the best schools and not have to share the (lower middle class) resources with other kids…

                    • Witness the way that when Fair Janet is sent to pick a herb to deal with the bairn, there is often a verse where her brother is given a motive: to do her harm.

                      Though what Tam Lin goes ballistic over is killing the baby.

                    • come to think of it, I have recently seen a modern retelling — where Fair Janet belligerently asserts her right to an abortion to Tam Lin.

                • Speaking of handwavium, most fantasy world-builders have no grasp of the way it’s rather important that there be babies. And lots of them.

                  • Low average medical technology comes from the combination of low overall technology (most people have to labor constantly to get enough food to stay alive, limiting the percentage available for serious medical training) and limited scientific understanding (without an experimental method, it’s hard to develop medicines). Low average medical technology means high infant mortality rates and shorter average productive lifespans even for those who survive infancy. Therefore, one has to get pregnant many times to achieve replacement rate.

                    The funny thing is that many of the people who don’t get this are also people who are worried about overpopulation in the modern world. They just can’t see the connections between high medical technology and population growth — they don’t grasp that it’s precisely because most pregnancies today result in a baby being born and living to become an adulthood that there is a population problem.

            • Gate of Ivory by Doris Egan deals with it realistically. (Technically it’s sf, but in context might as well be fantasy.)

              Sherwood Smith’s most recent sf/f series did epic handwavium, as the sf terraforming system was to instantly teleport all bodily waste away on command. (I was torn between finding it funny, stupid, and rageworthy. Maybe later books in the series revealed that it was all a videogame, because honestly I can’t see how that would work or be desirable. Not worried about finding out, because I don’t want to read the rest.)

            • Oh, and IIRC, the Tomoe Gozen series has the protagonist do what a lot of Japanese women did at the time, which was just take the week off and hang out in the ritual area for such things. But that was that one time when she was resting up; I don’t remember what she did when she was on the move.

      • Geez, even the cup things are a more sanitary idea than that. Ewwww.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      You know what’s really sexy? Good hygene.

      • Dorothy Grant

        Once, after I remarked to my Calmer Half that I will not live in the Alaskan bush because it has a distinct lack of hot showers, he replied with a sincere appreciation for way I don’t style my hair with mud and cow dung.

        Hygiene is sexy – so is good dentistry!

  11. Birthday girl

    “flaylingly”

    Yes, and they are indeed skinning us all.

  12. As someone who is constantly immersed in manufacturing, I can tell you there is a good deal of truth to what you’re saying, when it comes to many items. A firearm, a lawn mower, a dishwasher might all be able to be manufactured by an individual, or certainly by a small company.

    On the other hand, you still need a lot of stuff to build a car. Yes, it is possible for an individual to do so, but a small company cannot make a car that isn’t prohibitively expensive. A small company cannot make a locomotive, it just can’t happen. This is more the case with air travel. Heavy industry will always be with us so long as we want to fly, drive, or move heavy shit around- to name but a few things.

    Is it possible that something will come along that will replace those markets? Maybe, but probably not. A dedicated individual or group of individuals can begin making a Colt 1911 clone of very high quality, or a garbage disposal, or a weedwhacker. Not a 20 cylinder diesel locomotive, ever. Not a jet engine, or a generator the size of an apartment building.

    • Not right away, maybe not for a long time, but the same way that the farming didn’t go away, it just SHRANK the big manufacturing jobs will become a smaller and smaller part of “what people do” and what influence there is on society.

      • Actually, farming remained almost exactly the same, and always will. X bushels of corn still require Y acres of land to grow. What shrank was the labor required to extract that bushel of corn from the soil. Machinery many orders of magnitude more expensive were required to make this happen.

        manufacturing has some similarities, but the remaining issues will not change. It requires about six million dollars worth of machinery to make one cylinder head for a locomotive. I know this because I just installed that specific system four years ago. Now, you just have to make the cylinder,the piston, the turbocharger, the engine block, and the other half million components that go into a typical locomotive engine. And big diesels are operationally simple- just the equipment to measure the parts in an aircraft engine could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry simply because the scale is too enormous.

        What I do for a living is design, program and implement automated systems that allow that equipment to run more and more with no human intervention. The old system took 200 people, the new one takes six. The quality is better and the system is more flexible, and can react to change very rapidly. Union thugs call my house with death threats, slash the tires on my car, all manner of nastiness. We have done systems that deal with donuts, locomotives, cars, trucks, bed Sheets, toilet paper. Our customers make lumber, drywall, bricks, concrete, glass. Our equipment sorts mail, binds books, and assembles car batteries. Most of what you see from the time you wake up until you go to bed has been handled by automation I or my colleagues and competitors have installed. If we lose our manufacturing- and it is far larger than you think it is- we are in a world of hurt. What I do, and what others like me do, is allow manufacturing to thrive despie government interference, to do well despite union criminality, and to do more with less people, making better things with the most incompetent of employees.

        • This is what I meant “and to do more with less people,” so that most people will not be involved/have experience of line work in a vast enterprise, and or know more of it than they now know of farming.
          BTW, my understanding could be flawed, but I think we’re now producing more per acre of cultivated ground, too. Anyone?

          • And doing more with less people frees more people up to do more…other stuff. That other stuff can be world shaking, and I do like the world shaking.

            On farming, yes, significantly more per acre for some crops. Agricultural science has pioneered remarkable things, such that malnutrition across the globe is a political problem not a resource problem. But please, nobody ask me for my sources, ’cause I ain’t got them handy.

            • Bah — it frees them up for the arenas, where the folks who own the machines can watch a thousand families battle to the death for a can of creamed corn.

              Or, more likely, it provides a background hum for the people who own the machines as they cut another deal with each other….

              The one saving grace: Most of the people in the arena are the same cross-eyed nitwits who thought the New Order would be a paradise. it is — JUST NOT FOR YOU, ASSHOLE! HAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

          • producing more per acre of cultivated ground, too

            Depends on the crop, depends on the soil, depends on the nutrients available. If you are hand farming you plant corn far enough apart that it can be picked by hand. Machines can plant and harvest corn closer together, but there are- even with fertilization- limits to what nutrients can be pulled from the soil in a given season. The US yield of cereal grains per hectare has not quite doubled in the last thirty years, and most of that is due to the ability of modern machinery to plant closer and the ability of modified seed to do more with less. And a bad rainstorm or a dry spring can screw it all up despite best efforts, so some recent years are not as good as those twenty years ago. (You can look that up yourself at Worldbank.org)Until farming is done underground in carefully controlled massive laboratories farmers will always be at the mercy of the elements. The bottomline, however, and the point I’m trying to make, is that the whole world can go back to truck farming/subsistence farming almost overnight- certainly within a few seasons- and do so with a minimum of investment and equipment- both my grandfathers farmed with doodlebugs- tractors cobbled together out of discarded Model T parts. Heavy industry is vastly different in every conceivable way.

            • I’m not- by the way- trying to be contentious or argumentative, simply pointing out what I observe. The world depends on the agricultural ability of the US, but we can get by- barely- if corporate agriculture changed. Men living in filthy huts in Pakistan and Afghanistan make almost passable duplicates of even modern firearms with little more than some files and homemade drills. Any man who understands heat and a tiny bit of metallurgy and has an aluminum screen door can cast and machine parts for an engine- Burt Munro still holds a land speed record he made on a bike whose engine parts he mostly made out of scrap metal. There are literally millons of opportunities for people doing very specific and very small things themselves- I have several little “Cottage industries” in the works myself, but there is zero substitute for heavy industry, and if taxes and regulations and EPA etc drive heavy industry out of this country, we have some major issues.

        • Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry

          Nor replicated. See “The Great Leap Forward” for concrete proof.

          For predictable results, see “The Great Chinese Famine.”

        • Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry simply because the scale is too enormous.

          At current technology level.

          Similar to how there’s no flipping way a couple in their sixties, with one 40 year old idiot, could possibly handle 300 head of cattle and hundreds of acres of hay for them… at 1940s technology level.

          Never know when a game changer will come around.

          • I do know. No technology that will ever be available at low cost will ever allow you to make a near net 3400 lb casting in your backyard, period.

            • Then number of assumptions baked into that boggles the mind….

              • Orly? Name one.

                When you have facts, and understand math, you don’t need to make assumptions.

                • Since when does “need” stop a human…..

                  Claim:
                  Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry simply because the scale is too enormous.

                  Assumptions:
                  1) heavy industry must be large
                  2) heavy industry done jobs must be done the way they are now, or so similarly it doesn’t matter

                  Or:
                  1) scale currently needed is inherent to the job
                  2) availability of things which do the current job is relatively constant

                  • No: Let me educate you. FACT: Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry simply because the scale is too enormous.
                    Because you are unaware of something, does not mean it does not exist.

                    Fact: Heavy industry must be large. Lets take one specific example- an electric furnace. it is the smallest and most effective way to make industrial quantities of high quality steel. The power cables that feed the arc in an electric furnace are the size of a bodybuilders arm. The power required to do one heat is the power requirement of a small town in a year. This is the most efficient and miniature way to make steel of this quality, and it cannot be done in your basic suburban home.
                    Fact: Heavy industry done jobs must be done in the way they are now That’s why they are called “Heavy industry”. Fact: You need large engines and motive power for everything. You cannot make them at home. Period.

                    Fact: The scale currently needed is inherent to the job. Not an assumption, fact.
                    Availability is irrelevant. Heavy industry is called heavy industry because it is not light industry. You can disagree, but you’ll just bne wrong. You can argue, but I know more about heavy industry than you probably know about anything.

                    • Because you are unaware of something, does not mean it does not exist.

                      Something you should probably keep in mind….

                      Interestingly, your “educating” consists of conceit and circular reasoning– “heavy industry can’t be replaced by cottage industry because it is heavy industry.”

                      Why didn’t you simply say “things that must be done by heavy industry won’t be done by anything else.” That’s what you’re arguing for, and it doesn’t make you look as foolish as a claim that boils down to “we can’t do something except in that manner right now, so we never will.”

                      As with the pencil example, the claim can’t survive the fact that multiple roads can lead to the same destination.

                    • Og, during WWII the Japanese produced a lot of war materials using a very large amount of cottage industry. Obviously with less efficiency but still on a surprising scale.

                    • But how much of the work everyone was doing was going into that, as opposed to that of our industry, which could turn out a whole new Navy in 3 years, while still producing consumables and such for the civilians? They probably had nearly every household engaged in war production.

                    • I understand that some of the contentions are striking at your area of expertise, and that the apparent assumptions behind them are frustrating because of your specialized knowledge. But I think your specialized knowledge is preventing you from seeing a larger argument.

                      Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry because they are not equivalent. And some degree of heavy industry will remain necessary at modern technological levels, and certainly at foreseeable future technological levels. However, it does not follow from there that all of the things heavy industry currently produces will continue to be necessary in shifting economies and technologies.

                      The scale of heavy industry is defined by the scale of what it is trying to accomplish. In fact, as we try to accomplish larger scale things, the scale necessarily grows. But if some of the things heavy industry is manufacturing are replaced with alternative methods, then the scale of heavy industry in the society can be reduced. For job A, it’s still going to take heavy industry A on the same scale, but if we eliminate job B (or change its character) we might eliminate heavy industry B (I say might because heavy industrial processes are not necessarily discrete supply chains).

                      The original argument of the post was not that the underlying industry was going to fundamentally change (ie that heavy industry was going to give way to cottage industry) but that further innovation was going to continue to change the way that industry was managed, and require fewer individuals to place direct work output into the industrial system. Thus freeing them to pursue more individualized projects.

                      The for instance of 3D printing and its ultimate evolutions. If some items can be replicated by a printing technology then it is no longer necessary to transport material in bulk to a centralized facility for processing, nor necessary to transport the product in bulk to distribution points. So we’ve removed the requirements for some shipping and light industrial capacity, requirements serviced by heavy industry. Thus we retask that heavy industry or we scale down the number of industrial sites producing those components.

                    • To put that argument in concrete terms: economic publication of newspapers and books requires massive printing presses.

                      Please don’t tell me I have to work that one through for you.

                    • Foxfier, the pencil example is not “you can’t make a pencil” it’s “most people do not understand the phenomenal complexity of the industrial process (and its necessary supply chains) behind the mass production of homogeneous pencils.”

                      I suspect that this is what trips Og’s switches. There is phenomenal complexity in modern industry, and none of it is stand alone systems. Folks who have an intimate knowledge of the processes are probably a little irritated by handwavium about “it’ll get better” just as others are irritated by handwavium about “the past was so pretty!”

                      There are points all around, but I think connections are being missed between parties.

                      Just thoughts.

                    • I rather like the actual long form example because it points to the wonder that is an industrialized society, tons of stepping-stones. (someone linked it earlier)

                      I really dislike when it’s used to “prove” that something is impossible because it can’t be done in EXACTLY the same way.

                      It’s like looking at The Boy Who Cried Wolf and deciding the problem is that he told the same lie twice, or that his lie was poorly chosen, or that you shouldn’t watch sheep for a living.

                      TLDR:
                      Explains what goes into making the pencil on your desk: good for informing how people work together and the amazing stuff that goes into making that cheap and common; bad for informing on “how pencils MUST be made.”
                      A better title would be “no one person makes a pencil.”

                    • No argument from me. But I think there are hot buttons that may be informing Og’s responses because of his specialized knowledge of industry, and the scale from which he is arguing does not translate to pencils.

                    • Pretty sure most of us can tell he’s got firsthand knowledge, the problem is that he’s blinded by it, as well as thinking the way he knows to do it is the only one….

                    • Which is a point I tried to make to him above. Whether or not he sees it…

                    • I refer you back to that old Chinese curse: “This, too, shall change.” Technology is a spiral, always leading from less complex to more complex, except that sometimes that “more complex” is actually LESS. A case in point: the Saturn rocket put men on the moon. There are at least a dozen companies planning on putting men on the moon COMMERCIALLY, and at a tenth of the cost of the Saturn. Technology has shrunk computers from something that filled a room to something you can carry in your hand, and in 30 years, probably something you wear. Looking at a few of the nanotechnology achievements of the last five years, I’d be willing to bet that we’re on the verge of a huge new spurt of change, one that will totally modify, change or eliminate half of today’s businesses, and the lives of all of us. Two companies in Wisconsin, I believe, are working on genetically modifying several crops that will allow us to pull several dozen barrels of an oil substitute from common weeds in a few years. I worked in heavy industry for a year, and I kept up with developments worldwide as part of my military duties. Dresser Industries, where I worked, used to employ highly-skilled machinists to manufacture large valves for use in everything from oil refineries to nuclear submarines to medicine to waste disposal. Today, 90% of the work is done by computers and overhead cranes, with three operators doing the work of 30 before. They’re so efficient, half the machine room floor is now vacant, yet production has increased. I have no crystal ball, but I’ll bet that 90% of today’s heavy industry will undergo massive changes in the next 50 years, and be far smaller than it is today — while producing more and better products.

                      Case in point: the railroads in the United States once had more than 50,000 steam locomotives. Today, the number is under a thousand, and almost all of those are tourist-related. One of the most complex machines ever created was the Union Pacific “Big Boy” 4-8-8-4 steam engine. It could haul 80 railroad cars up Donner Pass and across the country, bringing California produce to the Midwest and beyond. In the end, they couldn’t compete with the much more reliable, much easier maintained “newfangled” diesel engines. They were retired less than 10 years after they were introduced. Maintenance, the requirement to stop at LEAST every 250 miles to take on water, and every 500 miles to dump ash and take on more oil, killed steam. Which is a shame, because I STILL love that “chuffa, chuffa, chuffa” sound of a steam locomotive I grew up with. But they’re as dead as the dinosaurs as USEFUL technology.

                      My uncle was killed when an iron smelter exploded in Houston, Texas, when I was about 14 or 15. They were pioneering a new process — using recycled iron pellets as part of the mix. The pellets were supposed to be added slowly to the mix. Instead, the guy adding the pellets dumped them all at once. The furnace exploded, burning Uncle John over 75% of his body. He died 9 months later. Today, that same process is standard procedure, and reduces the cost of steel, while making better final products. The advances in medical technology would probably save Uncle John’s life today, but couldn’t 50 years ago.

                      There’s not an engineering office in the world that shouldn’t have a plaque in it saying, “This, too, shall change.” It’s the world’s only known constant.

                    • What you’re describing is what’s called “the economy of scale.” For any economic process (of which industrial ones are subsets) there is a “sweet spot” of size at which the intersection of economies and diseconomies of scale produce maximum productivity per unit input.

                      The location of this “sweet spot” changes over time as social and technological systems change and develop. Heavy industry done jobs must right now be done in the way they are now, but in the past they were done differently, and in the future they will also be done differently. Whether this leads to given jobs drifting into light or even cottage industry, or developing into even more massively heavy sorts of industry, depends on the details of the product and the technology.

                      You seem to be making the mistake of assuming a static technology, and also of ignoring the existence of diseconomies of scale.

            • No technology that will ever be available at low cost will ever allow you to make a near net 3400 lb casting in your backyard, period.

              First, I wish I could be so confident of what the limits on future technology will be. But that aside, I think you’ll find that fewer things will be done that require 3400 lb castings, those things will take up a much smaller “slice” of the economy, and far fewer people will be involved in making 3400 lb castings rather than doing other things.

              It’s like someone from a hundred or so years ago saying that no technology would ever allow a small handful of people to manage the number of horses necessary to keep, say, ten thousand acres in cultivation. That’s true. But we don’t use horses to keep land in cultivation. We use tractors and combines and the like instead. And they require far fewer people to operate than those horses would require to keep the same land productive. We didn’t make keeping/taking care of horses easier (relatively speaking). We found another way to achieve the same end.

              • If you had told an industrialist 150 years ago about the way every home in the country is wired together, he’d have likely assumed everyone knew Morse. An imaginative sort might have made the leap to voice over the wires. None would have imagined anything resembling the Internet.

              • “First, I wish I could be so confident of what the limits on future technology will be” It’s really easy. Just learn the laws of thermodynamics.
                “But that aside, I think you’ll find that fewer things will be done that require 3400 lb castings, those things will take up a much smaller “slice” of the economy, and far fewer people will be involved in making 3400 lb castings rather than doing other things.” Absolutely! So long as you never need another boat, or semi tractor, or computer monitor, or, well, really, anything but horses and fire, you’re completely correct.

                The fact, of which you seem blissfully unaware, is that in every town that contains more than a few thousand people there is a machine shop, and in each machine shop there are multiple machine tools, each of which contains a near net casting or heavy metal fabrication that weighs at least 3500 lbs. Those machines are in the nation by the millions, and they have a 5-10 year lifespan. Once they are gone, they cannot be replaced by guys working in sheds in their backyards. Period.

                “It’s like someone from a hundred or so years ago saying that no technology would ever allow a small handful of people to manage the number of horses necessary to keep, say, ten thousand acres in cultivation. ”

                No, it’s nothing like that at all. A specific amount of energy is required to do certain things, and a minimum machinery capability is required to do certain other things. The ag revolution came about because Henry Ford and Harry Holt developed engines of multiple horsepower that took the place of multiple horses, and technology allowed those engines to be used by fewer and fewer people. You will always need a gigantic amount of energy to refine and cast steel and iron, and until big nukes become affordable by individuals that’s just not going to happen.

                • Just learn the laws of thermodynamics.

                  Check your assumptions. In fact, check them at the door. I am well aware of the laws of thermodynamics and how they derive from statistical mechanics. (Anybody here want to clue “Og” in as to just what my technical background is. I’m the modest sort; I wouldn’t want to tout my own accomplishments. Hey! You! Stop laughing! 😉 )

                  You might want to look a bit at history, however. There have been plenty of appeals to “basic physics” that turned out to be short-sighted at best.

                  So long as you never need another boat, or semi tractor, or computer monitor, or, well, really, anything but horses and fire, you’re completely correct.

                  That’s funny. I had a neighbor once who built a 25 foot cabin cruiser in his back yard–literally. I don’t recall any 3400 lb castings involved.

                  And, you know, I’m looking at this computer monitor and I’m quite failing to see any 3400 lb castings in it. The mere fact that it doesn’t _weigh_ 3400 lbs should be a hint.

                  As I said, other ways of doing things. Consider that students at UCSD just built a rocket engine using 3D printing. The complete rocket is rather modest, with a thrust of 200 lbs. But this is a brand new approach just at the beginning of its development cycle. They also 3D printed the injector (one of the most difficult and demanding parts of a rocket engine) for a 20,000 lb thrust rocket which they successfully tested.

                  As I said, different ways of doing things. While one may not be able to make a cheap way of doing 3400 lb castings (or maybe not–arguments were also made that jet propulsion would always be too expensive for routine travel and why “jet setter” used to mean the ultra-rich, with similar arguments based on “basic physics” about cars, aircraft, trains, “Fulton’s Folly” and many other things) but we can find other ways to do what that 3400 lb casting is used to accomplish.

                  Any statement, any statement, that begins “no one will ever…” is suspect.

                  • You’re missing the fact that heavy industry is intended to reduce the individual costs of items by doing things in large quantity where the setup and tear-down costs in both time and resources are high.

                    Og’s example of a steel furnace is one of these. If you want to make a screwdriver (from ore) as a cottage industry, you can, but the process will be so slow and costly that you cannot produce one for anything near the price of one produced by heavy industry, simply for the energy required to extract the steel. Even if you start from ingot steel, the average energy required to work it per unit produced is many times higher, thus will cost more.

                    Can you make that screwdriver via 3D Printing? Sure. At about 100 times the cost, and 100 times the AVERAGE time required for one to be produced in a mass production facility. Why Average? Because the overall time for metal and plastic going in one end of the operation until the time the first one rolls out the other end may even be higher than the one coming out of the 3D Printer, but the next 10,000 come out right behind it, whereas the next printed one will have to be started from that and take the whole cycle time. If you’re doing it some other small way, the different times will have a similar nature.

                    • Thanks, Wayne. it’s not really that kind of scale, but at least you’re listening. There are far, far too many things everyone relies on every day that can only be produced by large industry. Not produced effectively, but only produced by large industry, period. Most people have no idea because they just don’t see it- but medium nad heavy manufacturing has an affect on all our lives. Everyone thinks “Hey, I can make a little dsktop 3d printer out of X and then I can make everything I want!” great. Where are you going to get X? If we don’t have heavy machinery, we don’t have roads. If we don’t have roads we don’t have trucking. If we don’t have trucking we can’t pick up the phone and order a new part for our Sherline lathe from Amazon so we can “make it ourselves”.

                      If you spend time in places like Africa and China you get to see just how different life is without that heavy industry. The arguments here are all based on taking the things we have for granted- five years without heavy industry and we are a fourth world nation. Most people ignore it because it is invisible to them, and they just assume the smooth and uninterrupted generation of power, or supply of natural gas, or delivery of food, or shipment of goods elsewhere will just go on, because it’s always been there, right? Somoene has to get that coal to the power station, and the rail industry does not run without spares and those spares are not made in people’s basements.

                      Yes, Japan did make a lot of crap in thier homes. Know what that was? mostly light arms. As I originally stated, light arms are in fact one of the easy cottage industries (By comparison) it’s keeping the millions of trucks and trailers on the road. Of course, I’m wrong because for all I know some brilliant hipster a la Steve Jobs will come along and make a way we can mine coal in our backyards and extract enough fuel to power our homes from the dog’s farts.

                      Except laws of thermodynamics, damn them. Maybe Obama can change them.

                    • I realized after I read another comment you made that I had moved over into mass production rather than true heavy industry. That 3400-lb casting you mentioned above might be a huge engine block, or it might be a gear used in the drive train for a cruise or cargo ship (I remember reading about a case where one of these broke in a heavy storm, and some foundry got the blueprint, built a mold, cast, machined, and had a new gear on its way in [I think] 11 hours).

                      If one is going to claim that heavy industry will go away, then they need to at least come up with a plausible way for things that NEED heavy industry to be done away with, because as long as they exist*, then the heavy industry will be there to make them, whether they are heavy construction equipment, large ships, trains, big trucks, plastic molding machines, etc.

                      * Caveat – yes, it IS theoretically possible to build micromachines that would swarm over a pile of ore and produce these things, but you still run into energy efficiency problems, which could either increase cost or slow the processing rate.

                    • Look!!
                      Handwavium!!!
                      Nanotechnology might conceivably allow nanobots to fabricate materials and items on the nanoscale.
                      Thus, a 3400 pound casting might be fabricated from iron filings and other scrap on a backyard slab by nanobots with materials harvested from a demolished building or a set of wrecked cars.
                      The end result might conceivably have purer metal content and more consistent distribution of the doping elements and might therefore have better strength and other desirable properties than the heavy industry version.
                      And making screwdrivers from worn out kitchen knives might also be conceivable and even be easy, down to using electrical charges generated by a larger set of nanobots to case harden the resulting tool, or even generate heat enough to temper the metal.

                    • Oh, look. Straw man.

                      Will the specific technologies mentioned here come to pass? I don’t know. And neither do you. But they stand as proxy for whatever will come to pass. Unless you are so arrogant as to think that we’re at the end, that there’s nothing new to come, that we are the pinnacle, forever and ever, the most advanced the world will ever see, then change will come.

                      I don’t know what that future technology is going to be. Neither does anybody else. Maybe it won’t be 3D printing. Maybe it will be electroforming. They’re already working in Copper, Nickel, Cobolt, and Iron and producing alloys that way. It’s very energy intensive as currently practiced, but I don’t know what future energy technologies are going to be either.

                      One thing is pretty close to sure, though. If we don’t manage to destroy ourselves (I can think of several ways that might happen too) the future will be as “magical” to us as a digital camcorder would be to Leonardo DaVinci.

                      What will be possible, or impossible, to that future society, I am not prepared to say. One might look to theoretical limits but, even there, is our knowledge of physical theory really final? In the 19th century physical theory said that some things were possible and other things were impossible. “Modern physics” changed that. Oh, it still said that some things were possible and other things were impossible but they weren’t exactly the same things. Some things previously thought impossible (or would have been if anyone had considered them–things like matter/energy conversion, or the existence of isotopes) have turned out to be possible. Other things, thought to be possible (no particular upper limit on the speed one could reach with a steady acceleration) are now apparently impossible.

                      The physics of the 22nd century? Or the 25th? Or the 30th? Or the 3000th? Who knows. I don’t.

                      And, so, never remains a very long time indeed.

                    • Wow, did the Internet perform a half twist in the past couple of days, and no one noticed? Everyone seems to be not addressing the point in the comments they are referring to.

                      This one comes in with an EXTRA twist, as it’s a response to a comment aimed at trying to point out the fact that someone was not addressing the content of the prior comment.

                      OK, I’m going to have to go to bed now. I’m reaching “I didn’t know that you didn’t know that I didn’t know…” levels of sleepy.

                    • Yep, at one point I was going to point out that I agreed with both Og and thewriterinblack, and that they were arguing two different points (both correct). But then long before I got to the bottom of the thread their arguments had morphed (they still weren’t really addressing each others points) and I disagreed with both.

                  • Ok. SO first you assume that I have no technical expertise: A remarkably ignorant assumption, considering you know nothing about me.

                    Then you assume I’m talking about toy boats. Shit, I’m perfectly willing to accept that you had a “Friend” and even that he built a little boat- hell, I’m willing to accept that he somehow found the ore, refined it, cast and machined himself with machinery he made himself with tools he made himself. Though that’s not what happened, is it? He bought a motor for it off the shelf.

                    One of my old customers makes little wood boats too- You can look them up. Peterson Builders made little diesel electric minesweepers, most in the 145 foot size, each with four 600 horsepower engines. Tell your friend to get right on those, I bet with his mad skills he can handle them no problem. I installed machinery there that skives the ships planks and joins them into 145 foot long boards that are steam bent around the hulls in layers. Of course these boats are purpose built and far too small to engage in commerce with, they’d require most of their cargo to be fuel. Only really big boats- which of course cannot be built except in- you know- heavy industry- are efficient at hauling cargo.

                    But let’s get back to assumptions. You assume that since your friend built a boat and it doesn’t have a big engine, that a big engine is not needed to build a boat. Really? That’s the best you got?

                    You assume, of course incorrectly, that anything that is necessary now can somehow be done without heavy industry. And again, I point out the fact that it is called heavy industry because it is heavy. It requires a huge investment in materials, equipment, and technology to make one bobcat. Having seen every step of their manufacture, I can say this with absolute certainty and have all the facts required to prove it.

                    You also assume- of course, incorrectly- that somehow those “heavy industry” things will magically be unrequired or will be able to be made in new and exciting ways by friends of yours in their basement, next to their boats. This is of course ludicrous. Ignoring everything else that is required to make a semi tractor, let’s just look at the drivetrain. The equipment necessary to cast the engine, head, pan, bearings, transmission and axle housings, forge the crank and connecting rods, pistons, etc. etc. etc. is far beyond anything but heavy industry, and anyone who does this will have become heavy industry because that is how heavy industry is defined. There will never be (And you can quote me on that, because it is a demonstrable, certifiable, and provable fact) semi tractors made start to finish, every part manufactured by cottage industry.

                    And I’m confident you know ALL about the laws of thermodymanics. That’s how you know that it requires over 750 kilojoules of power to melt one kilo of cast iron. So to do a single average diesel truck engine you’d need to expend in the course of an hour or so the average household usage of power for about half a month. Assuming the power companies had the ability to deliver that to you, which they don’t. Or assuming you had the ability to generate that much power, which would make you by default a heavy industry.

                    There are small groups of individuals- like Copenhagen Suborbitals- that get together and end up doing things like building submarines and rockets- but guess what? In the process of doing so, they become heavy industry, and they must rely on other heavy industries for their materials.

                    I’m sure you have awesome mad technical skills. I have thirty five years in heavy industry. I know exactly what it does and how it works, and anyone who thinks the things heavy industry does can be done by cottage industry is simply a fool, and nothing else.

                    • For someone who’s busy complaining about assumptions, you certainly make a lot of them.

                    • Haven’t made an assumption yet, simply stating facts. Pity you don’t like them, but I’m sure you will be able to find someone who cares.

                    • Haven’t made an assumption yet, simply stating facts.

                      Most of the things you claim I’m assuming are, in fact, assumptions (false, for the most part, as it turns out) on your part.

                      No, I am not assuming those things because, and get this: I am not arguing the straw man that you have set up that heavy industry is completely going to go away.

                      That’s not the position anyone here is taking (at least not anyone that I’ve noted) and certainly not a position I am taking.

                      The argument is that “heavy industry” might well become a smaller chunk of the economy and that fewer people will be directly involved in it.

                      Consider: our “go to” machine shop is a one-man operation. Now, before you go off on another straw man, I know that this is a modest operation as such things go but I’m using it for purposes of comparison.

                      Back when I was in High School we did a field trip to a machine shop very similar in total capacity to our current guy. That place, however, required about half a dozen guys to manage the equipment that one guy runs today. Of course the guy running the equipment today is using things like CNC milling machines and other tools that run faster, and at least semi-autonomously once set up for the job, than the older equipment back when I was in high school.

                      One guy replacing half a dozen guys. And that one guy would be the “individualist” being discussed here.

                      Can you honestly tell me that the manpower/capacity ratio has remained constant in other examples of “heavy industry”? And can you provide evidence (not simple claims “it’s a fact”) that it will always remain so and the very techniques that are used to improve that ratio in “lighter” industry won’t ever percolate up the weight scale?

                      The other thing you seem to be assuming is that “end use” things that are now done by “heavy industry” or the products thereof, will always be so done. You cite your experience in same as “evidence” of why we should just take your word for it. The thing is, history has shown that “experts” in an existing field are not always the best predictors of the effects of the next revolution. It’s like someone saying that farming will always require large numbers of people swinging scythes to get the crops in in a timely fashion, unaware that Cyrus McCormic is out there with his Cotton Gin.

                      Even those who are involved in the first stages of a “revolution” are often unaware, or even unable to accept, where it leads. Einstein, with his explanation of the photoelectric effect, got the ball rolling on Quantum Theory but he went to his grave not accepting the consequences thereof (“God does not play dice with the Universe” to which the response is “Not only does God play dice, but sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen”).

                      You appear to have an engineer’s understanding of thermodynamics. I have a physicists. And the actual physical limits may not be what you think they are. (A “hot” process, for instance, has certain constraints placed by thermodynamics. Being able to accomplish the same end result using a “cold” process gives quite different restraints. The thing to remember is that just because we don’t have a “cold” process now doesn’t mean we never will.)

                    • Ah, now I see you have totally missed Og’s point. He was never claiming that the required manpower would not decrease. In fact, he gave examples of it himself. He merely was pointing out that there will likely always be the need for things that require heavy industry in order to be built.

                    • He merely was pointing out that there will likely always be the need for things that require heavy industry in order to be built.

                      But nobody has claimed otherwise.

                    • Yes, actually, Foxfier did:

                      “Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry simply because the scale is too enormous.”

                      At current technology level.

                      Similar to how there’s no flipping way a couple in their sixties, with one 40 year old idiot, could possibly handle 300 head of cattle and hundreds of acres of hay for them… at 1940s technology level.

                      Never know when a game changer will come around.

                      This is a direct implication that it will be, or at least can be. Even if she didn’t mean it that way, that’s what her first and last sentences said, because Og specified replaced, not reduced number of people required. And, as I said, he never argued that the number of people required could not be reduced.

                      Now, the center sentence above might be taken to mean reduction in workforce, but that struck me as inconsistent with the other two sentences.

                    • Now, the center sentence above might be taken to mean reduction in workforce, but that struck me as inconsistent with the other two sentences.

                      Note that the first sentence was a quote. The “replace” came from the person quoted.

                      And we’ve got two things to consider: the current and/or near future “revolution” discussed in the OP and the never, ever, ever, that the person whom Foxifier was quoting seemed to be implying.

                      Let me give you one example. I work in an industry where folk literally move individual atoms around. There’s the famous image of “IBM” being written with individual atoms. I work with that exact same technology in my day job. Now, for the foreseeable future that technology will be limited to nanometer or maybe micron scale structures, but in the farther distant future? I’m not willing to bet that something like Drexler’s assemblers won’t eventually come out of it.

                      Never is a long time and “we can’t do it” is a far cry from “can’t be done.”

                      So, on the one hand in the more immediate future we’re talking reduction in scope for heavy industry–exactly as Foxifier’s example (and the various examples I have given) illustrate.

                      In the farther future? I’m not willing to bet against it, not willing to bet for it either because, unlike some people, I don’t claim to have sure and certain knowledge.

                      To recap: I work in an industry where we are able to manipulate individual atoms. I see no theoretical bar to expanding that capability to not cast an engine block but “print” it on an atomic level. The technological advance necessary to do so is . . . prodigious but there’s no _physics_ in the way, just technological development.

                      Will it ever be? I don’t know. But there’s no theoretical bar (not even a thermodynamic one).

                      Here’s another example. My business touches on the optical disk industry quite closely. Optical disks are made by a multi-step process. The key step to which I’ll refer here is making the stamper (the piece that’s put into the mold as the pattern for the finished disks). It’s made by electroforming. A nickel alloy is deposited onto the “master” (or an earlier generation in a stamper “family series”) to produce a nickel plate with, literally, nanometer scale features (at very high fidelity to the original) faithfully reproduced. This is another one that, in principle, can be scaled. The practical problems of doing so may be challenging but there are, again, no theoretical bars. And lacking theoretical bars to say “never”?

                    • I honestly don’t know whether to wash my hands of this conversation or not.

                      Since I love to do things the hard way, however, let’s see:

                      Note that the first sentence was a quote. The “replace” came from the person quoted.

                      Sigh. I didn’t take the time to do nested blockquotes. Perhaps that would have made it easier to see that the “first sentence” I was referring to was, “At current technology level.” Not the quote that came before it.

                      As for atomic printing – at what speed and energy expenditure, compared to the old-fashioned way? Believe me, I have thoughts of nano-scale construction (for one, I want to do something that would be like aerogel, but done in a 3D-weave fashion), but the speed and energy required would mean that only very specialized things would be done that way. Why would someone want to expend 100 times the energy and Bog only knows how much time, even if it means that instead of having to cast a chunk of metal that only somewhat resembles the end product, and then has to be machined into its finished form, that you get a finished product ready to go? If it’s not something that has to have sub-micron tolerances?

                    • Sigh. I didn’t take the time to do nested blockquotes. Perhaps that would have made it easier to see that the “first sentence” I was referring to was, “At current technology level.” Not the quote that came before it.

                      And the point I is that “replace” was introduced by the person Foxifier was quoting. “You can’t replace” was brought up when no-one suggested you could

                      As for atomic printing – at what speed and energy expenditure, compared to the old-fashioned way?

                      I have no idea. And neither do you. And neither does Og. However, note earlier I made a comment about “cold” processes vs. “Hot”? That’s because the Entropy equation has a “T” in their. The efficiencies are much different in a “hot” process than in a “cold” process. (Heat engines tend to be more efficient when the difference between source and sink is greater. Refining and purifying, OTOH, tends to be more efficient “cold”).

                      And, “atomic printing” is an extreme case. Given sufficient technological development, in the absence of theoretical limits, this can be done. Part of that “never is a long time” thing.

                      As for energy, well, that would depend on how expensive/cheap plentiful/scarce energy might be. It takes a lot more energy to fly across the Atlantic than it does to sail across in a wooden ship. But the time saved is worth more than the energy expenditure.

                      Again, “never” is a very long time.

                      And it was to the “never” that I was responding on that topic.

                    • I’m not saying Og is arguing in bad faith. He’s been here before and been civil. (Unlike MikeCA whom I’m very tempted to start mocking.) I think we — starting with me — pushed some button he wasn’t aware of and he’s fighting ghosts.

                    • Heavy industry:
                      Relates to a type of business that typically carries a high capital cost (capital-intensive), high barriers to entry and low transportability. The term “heavy” refers to the fact that the items produced by “heavy industry” used to be products such as iron, coal, oil, ships, etc.

                      (definition from investopedia)

                      More casually, tends to indicate either factory made or major huge shops.

                      Original claim:
                      “Heavy industry cannot be replaced by cottage industry simply because the scale is too enormous.”

                      Which is true only so long as no technology exists which can achieve the same goal on a smaller scale.

                      Proving “there is no possible technology which would make this job doable in a small shop/home shop” and “there is no possible technology which will make the job obsolet and replace it with something that can be done at a home shop” is the claim that needs to be substantiated.

                      Comparing the film developing machine my aunt has in her shop to the printer next to my desk is an example– can’t develop film without a darkroom, be it mechanized or the one in their back office, but you can entirely avoid the use of film in the first place with digital images. Who the heck would’ve thought of that a century back?!?!

                    • Strange… I can’t see where I was arguing whether you were wrong or right. I was pointing out to thewriterinblack that you had, indeed, told Og that heavy industry was going away, when he told me that no one had said that.

                    • Except I didn’t claim it was going away, I pointed out that “heavy industry” gets replaced by “cottage industry” depending on technology level– frankly, it’s crazy to make absolute statements about something that’s so technology based, but before I knew he was going to be an ass I was being polite.

                      Slight difference, rather important. Definitely a biggter difference than between “ship” and “boat,” although somewhat similar— no, NO! I’m gonna finish coffee before waxing poetic about some #$%$#* thing!

                    • “Heavy industry is going away”, and “heavy industry will be replaced by cottage industry” are exactly the same statement. If it’s replaced, then it’s gone.

                      The primary point underlying his claim is that, as long as there is a need for large, heavy single pieces of material, whomever makes it is, by definition, “heavy industry” (with one caveat – if you can make it at point of use, I don’t know what it would be called). If you’re going to claim that heavy industry is going to be replaced by cottage industry, then you need to address how the NEED for such things (deck plates and engines for ships, earthmoving equipment, skyscraper A/C units, bridge girders, etc) is going to go away.

                    • The problem with your explanation of his underling claim is that his *overlying* claim does not allow for heavy industry not being required.

                      As I pointed out when he “explained” at one point– “cottage industry won’t replace heavy industry for things that require heavy industry” is not much of an observation; it’s along the lines of that internet meme of “mad kitty is mad!” It also is not supported by what he initially stated.

                      If I were going to be as much of a jerk as he chose to be, I’d point out that a single example of cottage industry replacing heavy industry invalidates his claim.

                      Since he is the one claiming that technology will never remove the need for heavy industry, it’s on him to show how it’s physically impossible. Not just assert it, but actually show it.

                    • My position, from the start (and, in fact, the position of the “individualist economy” types here as well) has not been that heavy industry would totally go away, but that it would become a smaller fraction of the economy employing fewer people.

                      I’ve given examples of how that’s already happening (machine shops of similar capacity employing fewer people than they used to). I’ve given historical examples of similar shifts happening in other fields (pre-McCormic vs. post-McCormic farming, animal powered vs. mechanized farming).

                      Nowhere did I say that heavy industry would completely go away. Nor have I seen others make that argument.

                      In return I have received insults from the implied “you must not understand thermodynamics” (My degree is in physics. I’ve had statistical and thermal physics at the graduate level) to the direct and the continued argument against a position that I haven’t seen anybody take.

                      Any “point” is likely to have gotten lost in that.

                    • One problem, as i read it, is that you injected an argument into a totally different disagreement. The statement had been made, whether intended or not, that heavy industry could be replaced, not just reduced. If you respond to that disagreement, without disclaimer, then your argument will be assumed to be in support one claim or the other, rather than being tangential. Perhaps Og should have seen the different argument for what it was, but I can at least understand how he would miss it.

                      Another problem is that you’ve been talking about things that don’t apply. you talk about your friend’s boat. He’s talking about things like supertankers. You talk about a small machine shop. He’s talking about making the bases for the machine in the machine shop. It’s a little like arguing that interstate highway usage would be reduced simply because more shops in the city were delivering things locally.

                    • that heavy industry could be replaced,

                      And, as I pointed out, that idea of “replacement” originated not with Foxifier but with the person whom Foxifier was quoting. Foxifier’s response to that replacement was, very clearly, one related to reduction.

                      Before the person came along and said “you can’t replace…” nobody had claimed you could.

                      Perhaps Og should have seen the different argument for what it was, but I can at least understand how he would miss it.

                      I said so, explicitly, at least twice (maybe more: I’d have to go and look) in posts to which he replied, including my very first post on the topic specifically where I said: “But that aside, I think you’ll find that fewer things will be done that require 3400 lb castings, those things will take up a much smaller ‘slice’ of the economy, and far fewer people will be involved in making 3400 lb castings rather than doing other things.”

                      you talk about your friend’s boat. He’s talking about things like supertankers.

                      The word he used was “boats.” Had he said “ships” I wouldn’t have brought up the argument about a boat.

                      You talk about a small machine shop. He’s talking about making the bases for the machine in the machine shop.

                      And do the same principles that I used the machine shop from personal experience (use of CNC machines and the like reducing the human labor required to do a given amount of work) not also apply to the bigger ones? I specifically pointed out the purpose of the comparison.

                      Now, the quote to which I was replying was:

                      “No technology that will ever be available at low cost will ever allow you to make a near net 3400 lb casting in your backyard, period.”

                      As I repeat, “ever” is an awfully long time.

                      There are two parallel arguments:

                      First that “ever”, in which this other person presents basically, says “thermodynamics prevents it” (without actually showing how thermodynamics prevents it–just asserting it) and “well, I’m the expert, so…” which would be like Admiral Nelson asserting that, based on his expertise in crossing seas that it would never be done in a small number of hours.

                      On this first one, all I have said is basically “I wish I could be so confident on what the limits on future technology will be.”

                      Then there’s the more immediate issue related to the OP where “replace” is not really germane but reduction of relative scale (compared to small “cottage industries”–like that one man shop I used uptopic in fact, doing what would originally have taken a half dozen men to do).

                      Most of my comments have been to that, and I said so, explicitly. To which I received, and continue to receive, nothing but insults for my pains.

                    • Wayne,
                      I never said that, and Og started acting like I did. When I gave the example of the reduction in work force in agriculture, he came back with acres and nonsense. I NEVER said there wouldn’t be heavy manufacturing — of course there will be. But not as much, not of the same type, and more automated.
                      He’s starting to remind me of Eric Flint lamenting what he thinks is a capitalist plot to reduce steel manufacturing in the US, without taking in account a lot of what was once made of steel is now made of fiberglass. (And that part of the transition was shoved along by UNIONS the same way that the transition to ebooks was shoved along by the push model of publishing.) He’s been all over the place in this argument, and started by willfully engaging a point I DID NOT MAKE.

                    • While I would argue that it was not entirely implausible to interpret this:

                      BUT where there was enough room for human creativity, it went on, and tech cycled back around to personal/small/driven by creativity and innovation.

                      Oh, we’re not completely there yet. But we’re most of the way there.

                      as being an indication that it was going away, that wasn’t what I was referring to. I was referring to Foxfier’s dismissive comment which also contained a digression from the point. After that, there was a continuation of telling him he was wrong, while arguing something else. I jumped in trying to point that out, so that the discussion might get into the same track on both sides. I’m not sure whether he’s right or not, frankly. I can certainly see possible ways that it could happen, but I’m not too sure how they would play out.

                      I racked my brains for a good analogy to what I was seeing, and the best I could do was this: Imagine a man standing in front of a glacier, saying, “Nothing is going to stop this glacier creeping down the mountain”, and people telling him, “You’re wrong! We make our own ice cubes now!”

                    • . I was referring to Foxfier’s dismissive comment which also contained a digression from the point.

                      Dismissive? I was agreeing with him at current levels, while being unwilling to dedicate similar support to all time!

                    • Despite what you actually may have meant, it read to me as dismissive in an, “Oh, what do you know” sense. As has been said many times, it’s one of the problems with text communication – often not getting your meaning across as you intend it.

                    • Which is exactly the same that I said by comparing it to agriculture. Last I checked we have two percent of the population working agriculture now. The “farmer vote” is simply not that big.

                    • Rather, he claimed that it WOULD NEVER be replaced, and objected to anyone pointing out that absolutes like that are a fool’s game.

                      It’s like pronouncing that no-one would court and marry a person halfway around the world without painters and good penmanship, due to them being unable to meet or communicate otherwise…. *looks at host, looks at the chair of the husband she “dated” via MMO for ages*

                    • *looks at host, looks at the chair of the husband she “dated” via MMO for ages*

                      Looks at wife with whom I was an online “penpal” to help me learn Japanese.

                    • Sorry, honey. I am only responsible for the things I say, not what the voices in your head tell you they mean.

                      I’m not going to abuse the hospitality of our hostess any further. You want to havbe this discussion, come to my blog, and I will be happy to prove you wrong, step by step, and point by point, there. I have nothing to gain or to lose, simply facts. You can theorize all you want about your fantasies, but they will remain fantasies.

                    • Hey, Sarah, do you mind having the discussion here?

                  • “You might want to look a bit at history, however. There have been plenty of appeals to “basic physics” that turned out to be short-sighted at best.”

                    You’re quite right.

                    Existence proof:
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_giant_sequoias

                    The General Sherman tree has a volume of about ~1,500 m^3 and masses about 1900 metric tonnes (wet &mdash maybe half that dry?)

                    Each tree adds about 1.1 m^3 (1,300 kg) of new wood per year. Two of these crank out more mass than a 3,400 pound casting, each and every year, for centuries, without any “heavy industry” being involved. No trainloads of raw materials. No power cables the size of a person’s leg. None of that.

                    Wood is a far more complex product than a simple casting, too — if the process were optimized to produce a simple, homogeneous material the output could be easily be much, much higher. Also, trees are relatively slow-growing compared to things like algae and yeast, which can have doubling times measured in days or even hours.

                    It’s quite clear that molecular manufacturing (which is what this is) can turn out large-scale, and extremely complex, structures without what we think of as “heavy industry”, and without requiring any violation of the laws of physics.

                • For reference- I don’t know why it’s not showing up- my blog is http://www.neanderpundit.com

                  • And whether Sarah minds or not, I’m trying not to be rude to her. Additionally this comment format is a: maddening and b: flaky from my current location.

                    • Well, let’s see. Here, you’ve made Straw Man, Appeal to Authority (with yourself as the authority), Ad Hominem (actually argument by insult, which is not quite the same thing but most people call that “ad hominem” these days), and Appeal to Tradition (it’s always been this way, therefore…).

                      You’ve attempted to invoke thermodynamics as a magic wand, without realizing that the person with whom you were arguing (I’m not going to dignify this with the term “debate”) understands thermodynamics at a quite deep theoretical level and is going to therefore require just a little more than a simple claim of “it’s thermodynamics.”

                      Any reason I can expect better over there or just more of the same?

                    • Once again: I am only responsible for the things I say, not what the voices in my head tell you I have said. You can tell yourself all the lies you want about who I am, but you don’t know me from adam.

                      At my blog, you will get what you bring. Want a reasoned discussion? bring one. Want to be a whiny bitch? You’ll be treated as one. By the way, to clarify for you: When you call a whiny bitch a whiny bitch, it’s not “Ad hominem”, it is the very definition of res ipsa loquitur

                    • Once again: I am only responsible for the things I say, not what the voices in my head tell you I have said.

                      Whatever, dude.

                    • “Whatever, dude”

                      Yes, indeed. Whatever. Whatever you say MUST be true- though you have yet to establish that you have anything to bring to the discussion but youer fantasies. Sorry, in the real world, things don’t run according to your fantasies.

                      Sometimes, when people tell you your fantasies and wild ideas for the future are crazy, and you’re stupid to believe in them, you can push through and prove them wrong.
                      Most of the time though, those people are right.

                    • Aw, you felt insulted- poor widdle thing. Sorry, check yourself. Any bleeding wounds? No? I probably haven’t insulted you then, not as I understand insult. I have been condescending, but then in being condescending I have only given as good as I have gotten from you. I haven’t brought my A game yet, though, because I doubt you would even comprenend it if I did.

                      Re: Boats vs ships: Oh, so it’s my fault I didn’t use a word you liked better. I understand now. I have to read your mind to understand what words you want me to use. let me repeat: I am responsible for what I say, not your interpretation of it for sake of argument.

                      Your major beef, if I understand it, is that I have stated the fact that certain things have to be created by heavy industry and always will be. Is that an accurate statement?

                    • I have been condescending, but then in being condescending I have only given as good as I have gotten from you.

                      Hard to make that fly when your opening statement to me was “condescention.”

                      You can’t claim “give as good as you’ve got” when you opened with it.

                      Oh, so it’s my fault I didn’t use a word you liked better. I understand now.

                      No. You don’t. As you said, you are responsible for what you said. You said “boats.” If you meant “ships” you should have said “ships.”

                      Your major beef, if I understand it, is that I have stated the fact that certain things have to be created by heavy industry and always will be. Is that an accurate statement?

                      No. It isn’t. I have actually explained several times. The “never is a long time” was more of an aside. The main argument was quite different and I’ve spelled it out explicitly multiple times including in the very first comment where I made the aside. At this point, I must presume that the misrepresentation is deliberate.

                  • Dorothy Grant

                    Og! Peter and I will be up in Indy at the end of this month – if you have spare time coinciding with our spare time, blogmeet at the broad ripple brewpub?

                    • Would love to , Dorothy. We are up to our eyeballs at present, but if I can make it I will be there!

                    • Dorothy Grant

                      I know up to eyeballs. I am currently luxuriating in a day off – aside from the Indy trip (which required vacation time to make it so), I think this is my last full weekend of the year.

                      The next time I’ll have time to really deep clean the house is January – too bad you can’t stockpile clean and ration it out!

                    • Oh, boy, would I ever love that! The Ogwife and I both work and we work long hours, so the house is mostly a disaster area. We would love to have someone come and clean, but where would they start? Also, how do you find someone you trust around a metric buttload of firearms &etc?

                      What you OUGHT to do is try to come to the Nappanee gunshow. It’s several hours drive north from Indy, but it rocks. Only on Sat the 26th.

                    • Dorothy Grant

                      Sadly, Saturday is tied up with a wedding. Happily, the couple involve are so wonderful that I’ll only sigh wistfully at the description of the gun show I should be at, and not miss it too much!

                      Oleg tried to solve the firearms dilemma by paying friends to clean – but then he can’t find where things got put next time he’s looking for a photo prop… Would that there were a cleaning company that sponsored an IDPA or three-gun shooter…

                  • GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have moved a step closer to treating diseases on a cellular level by creating a tiny particle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins.

                    In laboratory tests, these newly created “nanorobots” all but eradicated hepatitis C virus infection. The programmable nature of the particle makes it potentially useful against diseases such as cancer and other viral infections.

        • X bushels of corn still require Y acres of land to grow.

          So how does hydroponics factor into the equation? I don’t know if it’s practical for corn (the example you gave) — but just about every head of lettuce I’ve bought in the past year at my local grocery store* has had “hydroponic” or “grown hydroponically” on the label. As far as I can tell, the net effect of hydroponics is to create new “land” for growing food, allowing some of the existing land to be used for other things — or for the same amount of land to be used but a net increase in the total of food, even without any other improvements in yield.

          * Which is in SE Asia, so YMMV for those in N America. Are you all seeing a lot of hydroponically-grown veggies for sale in your local grocery stores?

          • Here in the US, the local Kroger’s routinely has hydroponic heads of lettuce. Price (ISTR) is competitive with the iceberg heads.

            • Not surprising. There are tracts of so-called arable land here in Western Canada (once touted as the best wheat-growing chernozem on earth) where the soil consists basically of six inches of demineralized dust, kept productive entirely by the application of chemical fertilizers. The difference between that and hydroponics, basically, is a roof to catch the transpiration.

          • There are people growing things hydropinically, and they are tasty. I have a friend who has his own hydroponic tomato system, and the tomatoes are gorgeous. When you’re making a head of lettuce, or a tomato, or an eggplant, it can be practical and has a lot of advantages.

            Most of the corn grown in this country is dent corn. Dent is used to make tortillas, animal feed, plastics, and corn sweetener. The sheer volume of it that is grown and used every year makes it impractical to do hydroponically, otherwise it would already be done.Wheat and soy are also far easier to actually grow in dirt, and the equipment to harvest grains and legumes is an industry unto itself.

            Hydroponics is an interesting thing, but it is still not the next ag revolution. And though a lot of the hydroponically grown produce (Almost all of which is for direct human consumption) is fine, if you’ve ever eaten tomatos grown in Italy, for instance, you understand the vast difference the correct soil can make- and i can always grow far better tomatoes than I can buy.

            No, the next Ag revolution will be something like a hydroponically grown cornstalk that will dry and shed it’s kernels on demand, or something like that. It’s the “Genetically modified” that so frightens the weakminded- as if every food we have has not been constantly genetically modified for a million years- that will allow us to change food production. Factory grown vs field grown. And because of the reasons I have posited above, containing 35 years of personal experience in heavy industry- there will be no personal revolution in there, and almost nobody understands how brutally dependant we are on those heavy industries.

            • “and i can always grow far better tomatoes than I can buy. ”

              The reason for this is the much the same reason you can grow much tastier peaches, apricots, etc. than you can buy. In order to have them just ripe on the store shelves and actually have some shelf life (either so they can sit in the store a few days before they sell, or so that the buyer can buy enough to last them a week or two and not have them all go bad in the first two days) they have to be picked BEFORE they are completely ripe, so they ripen in transport or shortly after they hit the shelves. Vine ripened tomatoes, or tree ripened fruit is simply tastier than stuff picked green and then allowed to ripen.

    • Heck, the individual can’t make a pencil

      • And neither can a 3D printer. Even if you have one that can handle multiple materials simultaneously, you still need to supply those materials.

      • Honestly, that bugs me– I have MADE pencils. Just not in the exact same way. Wooden writing thingie with a solid writing material? It’s fun to make with a dead aspen branch and charcoal. I was a bored kid on a camping trip, OK?

        “Can’t make a pencil identical to this one in every detail, including what tools were used” =/= “can’t make a pencil.”

    • While I agree that this is true in principle, that’s not what’s happening. It used to take a hundred men to make an automobile on an assembly line. Today the work is done by a dozen or less, with all the HEAVY work being done by robot manipulators. Technology is eliminating how many people it takes to make things, not the necessity of making them. The same is true of farming. A subsistence farm of the 1880s took a lot of work, and beyond about 160 acres, was unsustainable. Farming families were large because it took so many people to do the work — if not sons, then sons-in-law. Unless you’ve done it, it’s hard to understand how much WORK is involved in milking a cow, handling that milk, feeding chickens and gathering eggs, plowing fields, then weeding them by hand, harvesting and processing what’s been harvested, raising a sow and a litter of small pigs, then killing and processing the meat, smoking it in a smokehouse so it doesn’t go bad in three or four days. Milk without refrigeration is good for about two days. When milk goes bad, it can be used to make cottage cheese, other kinds of cheese, butter and buttermilk. All of that takes TIME — lots of time. It takes about ten hours to slaughter and butcher a pig. Then it takes several WEEKS in a smokehouse to ensure it’s properly cured. THAT means cutting green wood, maintaining a slow-burning fire that produces lots of smoke but never gets too hot, and making sure the smoke stays up around the meat and doesn’t go out cracks in the smokehouse. A subsistence farm requires a farmer to plant a number of different crops, each of which requires unique care. It’s back-breaking work (been there, done that, know from experience), and there’s absolutely NO ROOM FOR WASTE OF ANY SORT. A bad year — drought, too much rain, not enough sun, insects, mold, and rot — means you either get VERY hungry, or you starve.

      Today, three men can manage to operate a 30,000 acre “farm”, raise only one or two crops, reduce loss to insects and other “natural” causes to next to nothing, and earn a better living with less physical exertion than the farmer did on 160 acres in 1880. The other blessings of technology include the ability to do that without having to have fourteen kids just to keep things going. His wife, the wives of his hired hands (if he has any), and their children, all have a better life. We eat bananas from Latin America, grapes from Chile, beef from Texas or Canada, corn from Iowa, sugar from cane in Louisiana, and much, much more that was considered a luxury to those living 125 years ago. Even in my childhood, oranges and tangerines were costly, even “in-season”.

      Technology usually makes things that were hard easier, taking less people, and thus displacing some. Marx either didn’t realize that, or accept it would continue onward and upward. He thought in a static universe. THERE IS NO SUCH THING. I would much rather live as I do today than my parents did in the 1940s, when I was born. Change is something that is going to always be with us. We either learn to accept it, adapt to it, and forge on, or we become those homeless living under a bridge.

      • Birthday girl

        ” … it’s hard to understand how much WORK is involved in milking a cow …”

        My mother’s family were dirt farmers … they ate mostly what they raised, animal or vegetable. Mamaw even made her own soap and butter. Anyway, she wrote me a letter once where she mentioned that she rarely did the milking, but once in awhile she had to and she always felt sorry for the cows because she just didn’t have the hand strength it really called for.

        • If you ever meet someone who milked cows by hand for a living a) don’t shake hands with them, yours is liable to come back in pieces b) you will notice their hands appear crippled and arthritic, twisted and with the fingers permanently curved.

          • When I milked two cows every morning (my high school years), I could squeeze a tennis ball until two sides touched. I have arthritis in my hands these days, and my fingers are curved. I haven’t milked a cow in 40 years, and I can STILL squeeze hard enough to break someone’s wrist.

      • What happens is that specific processes move down the scale from heavy to light to cottage industry as the tools improve. Building what we would today call a large boat or very small ship, of a few dozen to few hundred tons, was once the heaviest of heavy industry: now it’s done in small machine and carpentry shops in many port towns. Heavy industry has moved on to building hundred-thousand-ton container ships and aircraft carriers.

  13. I think of the French Revolution as largely brought on by an insane tax system that sold the right to permanent exemption from taxes, and then spent the proceeds as current revenue. So you had a perpetually broke crown pressing on a steadily shrinking population of peasants who couldn’t afford to pay for tax exemption.

    Of course we don’t have that particular lunacy now. But if you look around you’ll see lots of examples of governments spending one-time income as if it were current revenue. Or the moral equivalent on the expenditure side, as with public employee pensions and Social Security. The entitlement state makes me think of Heinlein’s man who says “I’m doing fine so far” as he falls past the twentieth floor of the Empire State Building.

    • Oh that was one of the exacerbating things, but if you look really closely it was the refusal to adapt to how fast tech was changing. (To be fair the English had a revolution a civil war and endless wars of pacification to get there. The French just held off then went nuts.)

  14. It’s entirely possible peasants voluntarily became proletarians, by walking of the land, because endless shifts tending a machine are better and more productive than looking at the southward end of a northbound mule.

    It’s a lot more secure, and the rewards are much more certain. You can be the best farmer alive, doing everything perfectly on the most perfect land around, and any of dozens of freak events could mean you will starve. Even if you prepared ahead of time. And that’s before you add “other people” into the mix.

    • This is 100% absolutely fracking true. As someone who has done some (not nearly as much as historical farmers, but still) pretty darned medieval farming, once upon a time, it sucks. Oh my Bog does it suck. Bad.

      Given a choice between twenty-one hour days back to back for as long as the season lasts doing *hard* often literally backbreaking labor, with no guarantee a storm, a flood, a blight, a swarm of locusts, a battle, lack of rain, too much rain, soil exhaustion, or some other disaster won’t kill you and those you love, getting stuck in a cramped factory doing only 12 hour shifts of comparatively *light* work… Gee, I wonder why they come to the city? *chuckle*

      • Don’t have to be medieval at all.

        A lot of ranchers are hurting, really badly, because a freak blizzard that followed a rain storm hid their herds on pasture. There are pictures of folks with backhoes, in freaking lakes of melt, scooping up the corpses before they can fester and poison the area. The poor things never had a chance… just the rain, or just the snow, or if they’d had a chance to get their winter coats, or even if it had just been the same but only the amount of snow they were originally estimated to be getting, rather than three to six times as much….

        Estimated seventy five THOUSAND head of cattle dead. (relief fund info at the link, if someone has a bit to spare)

        For comparison’s sake, I grew up on one of the larger beef production ranches in my home county. We average about 300 head of cows, which results in about 200-250 head sold into the feeder lots. (Minus losses, the young females we retain to add to the herds– bulls rotate fairly often as they don’t stop growing and we don’t want them to hurt the cows– and those that are sold private sale, usually because they don’t meet the “pure black angus” category.)

        I choose to believe that they’re counting this spring’s calves as among the “head,” because it really turns my gut to consider anything else.

        • One night in grad school seminar, I almost went over the table and throttled someone because he was whining about “welfare ranching” and how the cattle should starve because that way the ranchers would finally be forced to learn how to run a business (!). This was after a late spring blizzard hit southeastern CO and Northeastern NM, and the ranchers were scrambling to organize a helicopter hay-lift to get to the stranded cattle. I still think I should have cornered that jerk in a dark corner of the library and taught him how the cow ate the cabbage. Yes, this idiot was from one of the coasts and had never seen real-live farming or ranching, aside from back yard veggie plots.

          • There’s a ranch in New Mexico that runs from just east of Raton almost to Clayton, on the north side of US 64. I would LOVE to be able to tour that ranch! Lots of cattle, and huge herds of pronghorns. The Trinidad Uplift marks the northern boundary, and that’s a sight to see.

        • *shakes head* All from one coincidental rain and snow. That’s going to put one hell of a hurt on the local economy, as well as impact prices down the line. To say nothing of what that will be like for the individual ranchers…

          Speck used to have a fair bit of local herds back when I was growing up in the eighties. The dairy lots were on a truck loop that fed into the dairy my dad worked at for a while. Advances in ag tech made the marginal profit they were getting uneconomic, seeing as the land around here mostly isn’t conducive to larger agribusiness models (which tend to be a bit more efficient, on the whole).

          A few of the bigger outfits managed to band together and survive, which is why my local farmer’s market rocks. It helps that the two big grocery chains have a commitment to buy local, too. We get good honey, strawberries, and squash every year from just a few miles south- as long as mother nature cooperates.

          Seventy-five thousand head… that just makes me damned sad. Like you, I hope like h*ll they’re taking the spring calves in that head count. When a freak late spring flood ruins a whole season’s tobacco, folks belt up and do what they have to around here. Cattle’s another story.

          Damn.

      • Back during the Eighties (early Nineties?) when the MSM was ginning up outrage over Latin American sweatshops (Kathie Lee? Jaclyn Smith? shrug) I recall the NY Times* running a front page (admittedly, below the fold) article explaining the alternatives for the little Latino kiddies. Instead of working in nice clean (relatively) safe factories 12-hours a day 6 days a week those kids could have been working 20-hour days, 7 days a week on subsistence farms in all kinds of weather where they were at risk of being trompled by cattle, caught in machinery …

        *Yes, kiddies, I am old enough to rmember when the NY Times actually put news on its front page, although by the time this appeared such contra-narrative stories were already rare, which is why the memory is so vivid.

        • If you look at the older historical statistics, it’s clear that there was a sudden increase in population growth around 1750; the doubling time crashed from around a millennium to around half a century. Why? It wasn’t because the birth rate shot up; married women back then tended to have lots of children, often continuing until one of the births killed them. It was because of increased life expectancy—and that increase didn’t come from old people living longer, but from newborns and young children dying less often. The Industrial Revolution seems to have made a bigger difference to the survival of the very young than any other even since the start of history.

          Of course, university history courses, and even worse university sociology courses, are not likely to mention this. It’s hard to reconcile with immiserization of the proletarian.

          • Actually, there was a population explosion all over Europe about that time. Since the Industrial Revolution was not all over Europe, a more likely culprit was the potato and so better nutrition.

            • Did the potato have that effect in Peru?

              • Since they’ve been eating potatoes for many centuries, how could you tell? Given even the modest differences in farming technology at the time, the potato being introduced into Europe made a huge difference, largely because it’s so simple to grow and harvest.

                Another difference is that they mostly were grown in the mountains (I read an article a couple of years ago about how the potato was originally poisonous and had to be eaten along with a clay which absorbed the alkaloids [which they discovered when they saw deer doing it], and then later, strains were bred which could be eaten without that, but apparently there are still people who do), and mountainous territory seldom has a high population density.

                • There’s a potato institute in Peru where they have over 15,000 different strains of potato. Potatoes are grown in northeastern Colorado, near the Platte river, that are specifically cultivated to be sold to potato chip manufacturers. They had a blight hit their potato crop in 1978 that made them unfit for potato chips, but perfectly safe for human consumption. My wife and I, along with about 400 others engaged in different kinds of social activities, were invited to take all we could carry away. We bagged up and took about 300 lbs of some of the best potatoes I’ve ever eaten. Our supply lasted almost a year! They had what looked like a rust stain about a half-inch below the skin, and the skin was blotchy. Couldn’t sell them, so the farmer had two choices: give ’em away or plow ’em under. I learned later that Frito Lay reimbursed him for half his crop — better than a total loss.

                  • I knew there were a huge number of strains. The article I read said thousands, and that they were grown at different elevations and soil conditions. And that a farmer there would consider our potatoes boring.

                    • Dorothy Grant

                      Our potatoes are boring. Boring is another word for predictable. Predictable makes mass production of french fries, potato chips, instant potato flakes, canned soups with chunks of potato in them, etc, easy to accomplish and cheap.

                      It also means that getting people to grow heirloom varieties and sell ’em at the farmer’s market makes life much more interesting, if you have the extra time and cash to spend on entertaining yourself with strange and cool foods.

              • Probably. We have no records though.

                Wonder what archeology would turn up. But agriculture does tend to produce population explosions.

                Technology can do it, too. Japan was so prosperous in a hunting and gathering system that they were sedentary. Which lead to inventing pottery. And a population explosion. You could make foods that could be fed to the elderly after. and the babies before, they had teeth. You could make many foods by boiling otherwise inedible stuff. You could steam open shellfish. Etc.

  15. Why would anyone want paradise there’s always a catch? I know that sounds stupid, but really why?

    • Because so many of them don’t see the catch. It’s easy to overlook the snake (or serpent, if you will) if you just want to sigh over the pretty fruit that isn’t yours right now.

      • Farm life is really fun. As long as you are a visitor, or don’t have to work much. I really enjoyed the months I spent on my uncle’s farm as a kid until I grew old enough that I was asked to start working. A couple of summers of that and suddenly staying home in the town was much more inviting than hay rides and petting cute baby animals (they eat a lot. They also pee and poop a lot. And the hay is heavy when you have to get it into that hay wagon by hand – uncle had no heirs, and he never modernized the place, it was run during the 70’s pretty much the same way it had been run during the late 30’s when he had inherited it).

        I do have very nostalgic memories of the fun summers, but I do remember how the work felt too. Bad enough even when I didn’t need to do more than a few hours per day. The idea of devoting your whole life, sunrise to sunset, occasionally nights when something urgent happens, to something like that is not particularly inviting. Especially when you start to get older. The spinster aunt who lived on the farm too and looked after the animals got pretty bad arthritis in her hands during the last years there were cows there, but she still had to get up in the crack of dawn to milk those cows by hand no matter how bad that morning was to her. The cows don’t wait. Nothing there waits. It has to be done when it has to be done, no matter how sick or otherwise occupied the owner might be.

        • But yes, if I had never tried doing the work I might be just nostalgic, and have a much more rosy view of the whole thing.

          As I age myself the really scary part is the aging. You occasionally read these stories of owners neglecting their animals, and how the animal welfare then has to go and kill them off because they are starved or up to their bellies in sh*t and so on. Almost always turns out the owner is somebody old.

        • As one person working on a recreation farm observed, the work was indeed back-breaking.

          And helps explain the lack of democracy. You might have outbursts of protest in face of injustice, but most of the time, you were too tired. “The idiocy of rural life” has its roots in reality.

        • For many years, my father, who grew up on a personal farm (not a farm intended to support their monetary needs – they sold some cream, but not much else) during the depression, had a bad habit of asking people who he interacted with at their jobs (cashiers, waiters/waitresses, etc) if they would rather do what they were doing, or work for a living. Naturally, since few of them realized what he actually meant, he got a good number of outraged responses.

          • “had a bad habit of asking people who he interacted with at their jobs (cashiers, waiters/waitresses, etc) if they would rather do what they were doing, or work for a living”

            I’ve been known to ask that question, but most commonly I ask it of government employees.

    • When I read Genesis I think of it as a game master. You set up the player characters in the peaceful opening situation, and you put a big button there that says, “If you push this, strange and terrible things will happen!” And no player character ever created can resist pushing the button and starting the campaign. I suppose you could say that God had less experience as a game master than I’ve had, but on the other hand he’s supposed to be omniscient.

      Anyway,

      “Okay, Adam and Eve and Lilith, you all meet in a garden. It’s a really nice place, but there’s this one tree with an unusual looking fruit, and there’s a serpent standing under it looking up at you. What do you do?”

      • ‘Uh . . . follow the serpent’s instructions on how to enable God Mode?’

        Whoops.

      • I’m sure that God had the giving of the Torah in mind when started history. Lillith is strictly apochryphal.

        • I’m sure that if I ever run a Genesis campaign, one of my players will insist on playing Lilith because she’s Just Too Cool. Besides, three players is pretty minimal for an rpg campaign; two is way too few. God can run his campaign the way he likes—after all, as the saying goes, Game Master Is God.

      • The problem with your thesis is that it assumes that mankind had already fallen, and therefore they were like your players already.

        • Why do they have to have fallen? The original story makes it clear that unfallen Eve and unfallen Adam could be tempted. So temptation is a part of human nature that was present in fallen and unfallen alike. And I don’t see why the temptation of “what happens if I push the button?” is all that unlikely in the unfallen.

          I’m assuming, by the way, that you realize I was making a joke, and are responding to the joke by jokingly analyzing it as if it were serious, because that’s something that I sometimes do. If you haven’t actually realized that it was a joke, I probably ought to say so, as I just have.

  16. Sarah, this is the third post in a row I’ve had to leave and go do something else before I could finish it, because I got so angry I was making myself hurt. I’m not angry at you, or what you write, but the current stupidity of our bloated, misbegotten government. I think, though, they’ve finally overplayed their hand. I think the majority of the electorate — perhaps as much as 75% — now view government as the problem, not the solution — for anything. As Glenn Reynolds said in USA Today, we’ve seen government “shut down”, and how little it affected the ordinary man in the street. There’s also the poll showing the desire for a NEW political party, one dedicated to reducing the size, scope, and redundancy of government.

    One of the key things that has cause many to change their minds wasn’t Obamacare (although that contributed), but the fact that government was willing to pay to keep people away from our own federal lands, more than what it would have cost to keep them open. I hope things change, but I’m not terribly sure they will. As you’ve said, we need to build under, over, and around.

  17. (North Korea? It’s not over, is it? If they keep up, it’s likely to kill them)

    Saw an interesting open-source intel item on the Norks the other day (first item at http://www.kforcegov.com/Services/IS/NightWatch/NightWatch_13000219.aspx ). Kim Jong Un is apparently downgrading the industrial cooperation efforts with the South in Kaesong, which is a joint-industrial factory complex using North Korean workers in factories built just over the border in the North financed by South Korean businesses. Kaesong is major source of hard cash to the Nork government, which the government elites desperately need to buy their luxury lifestyles.

    Kim is shifting from these tedious industrial concerns that require cooperation with the South to new internal developments in order to generate hard foreign currency, targeting …Tourism.

    Tourist attractions. Playgrounds. Ski resorts. Sports complexes.

    The analyst posits that the latest Kim is trying to replicate a flawed understanding of Switzerland gained from the majority of his life spent at boarding schools and ski resorts there.

    Recently even the Chinese government has had major disagreements with their North Korea vassal state, even to the point of official Chinese government public statements in direct disagreement with what the North Korean government was saying. Reportedly the arm-twisting by China rose to the point of curtailing resource shipments (especially oil), which are a major prop sustaining the Kim dynasty.

    China has a vested interest in maintaining North Korea as a loyal vassal, and will likely act to prevent any reuniting with South Korea, so if things go as poorly as they appear to be headed under the current Kim, expect some Chinese-backed “government restructuring” to install a more reasonable and compliant government.

    If that happens, we may eventually see something more along the lines of what China did over the last 30 years, which would indeed be paradise on earth for the NK peasantry compared to today.

    China really really does not want NK to totally fall apart and be salvaged by the South, placing a potentially hostile country on their border. I expect them to prop the current Kim until they calculate he’s useless, and then implement a change to their liking.

    • A lot of things about NK make more sense when you remember that NK isn’t even a proper vassal state to China, but rather essentially the crazy uncle that China keeps chained up in the shed so they can occasionally trot him out to scare the neighbors into giving them what they want.

      As long as keeping them in the whole “crazy enough to maybe start a major war, but somehow they keep on just barely not doing so” position serves the geopolitical interests of the local superpower as well as it has for the last few decades, nothing substantive will change, and everything that changes will be window dressing. (“This year, the North Korean people will be systematically worked and starved to the brink of death and often beyond it, in order to build massive prestige _tourism_ projects that don’t work, whereas last year, they were worked and starved [etc] to build massive prestige _industrial_ projects that don’t work” is a window-dressing change. The “tourism” thing makes for more pathos when Westerners contemplate how pointless it all is, but the difference matters almost as little to the Kims as it does to the people they’re starving and working to death.)

      • What’s been interesting lately is that the Norks apparently got to acting too crazy even for the Chinese to tolerate, and as a result certain high NK government officials were “invited” to Beijing and then publicly snubbed by only being allowed to meet with counterparts multiple levels below their own in the hierarchy. That and the public “No, we don’t think so” official comments from the Chinese government seemed to be revealing as much of a rift as China and NK have had in 65 years.

        Too crazy for China is quite a feat. If Kim Jong Un continues along those lines, I expect to read about a terrible completely-not-a-coup train accident, followed rapidly by a less crazy more “orderly” government.

      • Yep, that kind of attitude worked so well for them with Vietnam and Laos. Vietnam was previously invaded by China, and won’t tolerate it again. They’ll ALL die fighting before they allow it. They don’t want any part of China, but China wants to control THEM. China’s arrogance has almost pushed the Vietnamese into releasing Cam Rahn Bay to the Americans (the deal with the Russians turned into a disaster, and the Russians pulled out after the collapse of the Soviet Union).

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Heck, the Norks once kidnapped a South Korean director to make a giant monster movie for the Kims. True story.

          • Umm they couldn’t rent a movie like normal people? Granted they aren’t normal, but really.

            • Kim Jung Un evidently recently had one of his old girlfriends executed by machine guns. No clue what her “offense” was …

              • The most cynical speculation I’ve seen, which I find most likely to be accurate, is that her “crime” was making his current girlfriend (or wife? I don’t keep track) feel she might still be a rival for his affections, and it was the current … let’s say “female in his life”, that covers all the possibilites … who pushed him to get rid of the perceived rival.

                What she thinks will happen to her when he gets tired of her, I don’t know. But females of that type are infamous for not thinking very far into the future…

              • Reports in South Korea initially claimed that Hyon Song-wol, with whom Mr Kim was romantically linked around 10 years ago, was among a dozen well-known North Korean singers and musicians executed by firing squad on August 20 after appearing in pornographic videos.

                Relatives of the condemned musicians and other members of the Unhasu Orchestra, the Wangjaesan Light Band and the Moranbong Band were forced to watch the executions before being sent to labour camps.

                Mr Kim’s wife was a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before marrying the North Korean leader in June 2012.

                The tale has taken a new twist however, with Japan’s Asahi newspaper reporting that a high-ranking North Korean government official has recently defected to South Korea and confirmed the reports.

                The unnamed defector said officials of the Ministry of People’s Security tapped the phones of nine members of the bands and recorded one of the singers saying: “In the past Ri Sol-ju used to play around in the same manner as we did.”

                Worried that salacious rumours about his wife would spread, Mr Kim reportedly ordered the arrests on August 17. Three days later, the defector said the executions were carried out on the training ground at the Kang Gon Military Academy, on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

                http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/10328373/North-Korea-denies-Kim-Jong-un-executed-mistress-to-protect-wife.html

              • …and then there’s the Vice-Defense Minister, who was convicted of “carousing” during the official mourning period for the current Kim’s late father. He was executed last year by forcing him to stand in a field, and a mortar barrage was then targeted on that field. The reported orders from current Kim were “Leave no trace of him behind.”

        • Vietnam and China have A History. Vietnam was a province of China for nearly a thousand years, but in 938AD Vietnam successfully rebelled and became an independent kingdom. China has never forgiven that, and Vietnam has never forgotten the millennia of Chinese rule followed by another millennia of wars back and forth, up to the last in 1979. They still have unresolved disputes over who owns which island or what coral reef, and thus who controls the exploitation of seabed resources in the South China Sea.

          Lots of bad blood between Vietnam and China.

    • Tourism works (almost) for Cuba. Of course, Cuba has certain natural advantages. OTOH, the Norks enjoy proximity to the Chinese tourist market and can probably offer golf at rates low enough to persuade Japanese players to eschew Hawaiian junkets.

      • Why would anyone go to North Korea when they could go to Hawaii?

        • Because there will be services offered that WILL NOT be available in Hawaii. Drug bales, for example, routinely wash ashore behind the wakes of North Korean freighters, and as the entire place is a slave plantation, well, prostitution will be cheaper and less restricted than even in Cuba.

          • The idea of turning the world’s largest concentration camp into a tourist resort is nauseating.

            But it will fail. I saw an article on someone who visited a North Korean amusement park in a foreign delegation recently on the web. I will have to see if I can find it. It was bizarre.

            • “The idea of turning the world’s largest concentration camp into a tourist resort is nauseating.”
              Exactly! Thanks for stating this so clearly.

              • In a ranking of the world’s concentration camps, where would Cuba fall? Top 5? Top 10?

                Wouldn’t China be #1?

                • Cuba is an example of the usual failed communist state but as repressive as it is, and it is bad, its not a wall to wall concentration camp. North Korea really appears to be so from the stories.

              • I don’t know. The idea of exposing concentration camp inmates, even the carefully vetted ones, to modern ideas about things like “freedom” and “improvised weaponry” has a certain charm.

                • At the Kaesong joint North-South commercial complex* this exposure and contamination of the workers is a major concern for the Norks. Not only does the North essentially hold the workers families hostage as surety they will not try to escape, they also conduct repeated and rigorous reeducation sessions with all the workers before they decide if or when they will be allowed back into the general population.

                  * Kaesong is joint in that the North provides the “workers” and the land, and the South provides the cash, and the work to be done, and builds the factories, and provides the management, and the trasportation, and takes all the business risk, etc. All that and the whole shebang was cut off with zero notice during the last round of bellicosity, leaving all those businesses on the hook with all their raw materials and completed product inaccessible behind the wire in the north.

                  • Ori Pomerantz

                    Yes, and I bet the risk is still there, even with all those factors in place. And you can vet a factory’s managers and engineers a lot better than you can tourists, who are customers.

                    BTW, those businesses deserve to lose their investment, IMAO. Trusting a communist to respect private property is like trusting a Nazi to respect a non-aggression pact.

                    • Problem is… the North *needs* to have stuff like those factories. And not just in a “keep the Kim regime afloat” fashion. When Germany reunited, it put a big dent in the West German economy because East Germany was so far behind economically. And North Korea is in even worse shape. Reunification between the present day Koreas would likely crash South Korea’s economy. Reunification probably will happen one of these years despite the current views of China. And when it does, North Korea needs to have a semi-functioning economy in order for the new country to survive the experience.

                    • One also notes that East Germany was distinctly smaller than West Germany.

          • I’m sure that you can get drugs and prostitutes in Hawaii as well. I’d be very uncomfortable spending my vacation in a prison even if I was an honored guest of the warden.

  18. Paradise Lost and Eden
    I believe that most Bible-based religions and their followers misinterpret the story. God put two innocent and ignorant people in a “paradise” in which they were always nude, had plenty to eat with almost no effort, and had nothing to do. He created a tree that produced the apple of knowledge, told them not to eat it, and tossed in a snake to create temptation-based stress. Eve decided to ignore God’s warning and heed God’s unspoken message that acquiring knowledge might be worth God’s anger (else why did he add the apple tree). Eve ate the apple, gained the knowledge, shared it with Adam, and they were tossed out of Eden (good riddance). Paradise Gained.

    • It wasn’t the fruit of “knowledge”, but of “knowledge of good and evil”. They were innocent — unaware of the EXISTENCE of either good or evil — until the fruit.

  19. Many moons ago I got into a . . . discussion with someone about The Lord of the Rings. In particular one of the things I dislike about the books, particularly after reading the Silmarillian, was that is was basically all downhill. The time of the lamps was a “greater” age than the time of the trees that followed it. Then the “first age” was a time of war and bloodshed, but it was also an age of greatness. Even the tragedies were great in their own way. Then the Second Age and the great civilizations of the elves, the ones that hadn’t been eradicated by the end of the First, are in decline, still great but in decline, but there are the Numenoreans, men with a greatness of their own, not as much as the elves at their height but still great. Then comes the fall of Numenor and the Third Age. The elves continue their decline and the humans manage to claw back a bit but never reach he level they had in Numenor.

    And then we have the War of the Ring. That “war”, the most massive undertaking the forces of Men can manage (the Elves play almost no part in it staying mostly on the sidelines) wouldn’t even be a battle in the First Age, and it’s against a much weakened Sauron at that (that much of his power is bound up in the Ring and, thus, unavailable to him is the prime motivation of the quest). And yet despite Sauron’s weakened state, the allies against him cannot field sufficient force to defeat him in the field. This underscores how far they had declined since earlier in the Third Age, the armies of elves and men did defeat him and that when he had the Ring and thus full use of his power.

    And then, at the end, the last of the greats among the elves are leaving and the decline of the Elves is essentially complete. The last “pure” of the old Blood of Numenor passes on in the appendices. And the Fourth Age is but a pale shadow of the Third.

    This is all very mythic of course. It goes back to the whole “Paradise Lost” idea, to the Greek “ages” (Gold then Silver then Iron, each age “worse” than the last) and others. It’s also contrary to what I see in the “real world”.

    The person with whom I was arguing disputed that the present actually was better than the past. I cited as an example that all the wealth of Rome could not have bought Caesar a single Tylenol and that even the poor today live far better than even the wealthy of the Roman Empire.

    The response was that the person with which I was arguing would be perfectly content living in Roman times compared with today just “I’d have to get used to having slaves do for me what machines do today.”

    Say what?

    1) If you don’t think that having machines, rather than slaves doing menial tasks is, in and of itself a vast improvement, then we cannot be friends. That’s just . . . evil.

    2) What made her (it was a woman) think she’d be the slave owner and not the slave?

    • And, incidentally, this isn’t really a criticism of Tolkien. It is very mythic and, as such, succeeds brilliantly. It’s just not something I normally enjoy reading. Yet even so, I find myself drawn, from time to time, back to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion*, which just underscores how very effective it is.

      *I do have to be careful, especially with the latter work. I have a tendency toward depression anyway and the tragic nature of Middle Earth can tend to exacerbate that tendency.

    • The point of “things are worse” from Tolkien’s point of view, and from the point of view of Christian civilization, is that “things are now better” ever since the coming of Christ, and “things will get better still and all the old losses will be repaired” in the new heavens and new earth. Jewish opinion would be largely the same, except that they await both the Messiah and the day of God’s judgment.

      A lot of Tolkien’s history of Numenor is purposefully reminiscent of the patriarchal history in Genesis (ie, the guys’ ages), just as it’s reminiscent of Atlantis on purpose (including that groanworthy Atalante wordplay). But there’s also a sense in which it is cheery: Tolkien’s idea (which is the Catholic idea) of unfallen humanity is pretty noble, so he doesn’t have to show fallen humanity as total depraved jerks. It is sad that they are slowly losing certain powers, but it is noble to know humans were meant to have them.

      That said, the Silmarillion’s really depressing stories are the saga- and opera-inspired ones. Not my favorites, either, but they certainly are powerful.

  20. Back in high school, I was rhapsodizing about a Renaissance Faire and my history teacher said something along the lines of “you’d like to live back then, wouldn’t you.” I think he was shocked at my emphatic Hell No, and that I went on to say I rather liked modern medicine and Real Person status for women.

    You’d think a history teacher, of all people, would know that his students were capable of reading and understanding history…

    • Plus there’s no Ye Olde Turkey Legges for most of the period, seeing as they’re New World birds.

      Interestingly, perhaps the oldest known European picture of a turkey is in a choir book, on one of the pages with the Christmas chants.

      • You’re also forgoing peppers (chili & bell), corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries (which Europeans named the Virginia strawberry due to being larger than the European dwarf mountain strawberry), as well as huckleberries, blueberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries, plums, crab apples, raspberries, sumac berries, juniper berries (there goes your gin), pecans, hickory nuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, black walnuts, and peanuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, wild rice, vanilla and, not least, chocolate.

        • Cherries, sumac, and juniper all have Old World varieties. Ground sumac is a common Middle Eastern spice, and cherries came from Turkey and were spread by the Legions. (Cerasus, cherry.) Juniper trees (iuniperus) are native to Europe and Asia. (The monks used juniper in their medicinal cordials, and juniper berries are used in Northern European cuisine.)

          • Gooseberries, plums, beeches, and hazels are also native to the Old World. So is the European raspberry (Rubus idaeus). Wild rice is not a staple food in any country, and is not related to true rice; however, it occurs naturally in China as well as the Americas.

    • I’m rather fond of running hot and cold water, electricity, and not having to raise and harvest my own food.

  21. My history teacher said that if she couldn’t live in the modern era she’d prefer the medieval to any other. But she was very clear that modern beat medieval and medieval beat the rest. It was a class on the Reformation, however, not a medieval class, and I don’t remember all the details, though there was something about the Catholic Church enforcing the right of women to say no to an unwanted marriage.

    • It was a class on the Reformation, however, not a medieval class, and I don’t remember all the details, though there was something about the Catholic Church enforcing the right of women to say no to an unwanted marriage.

      A lot of saints have that as their back-story; marriage is a sacrament, so someone has to enter it of their own will.

      IIRC, it’s one of those things angry folks like to ignore, like that guys weren’t modern-equivalent free, either….

      • I have been told in so many words that a man refused to believe that the Church did anything for women, ever.

  22. The problem I have with the “technology is totally empowering the individual” optimism has two parts:

    1. This super-empowering technology depends (ironically) on very big top-down organizations. No one person can make a computer — no one person can even make a pencil. The idea that we can all be self-sufficient householders is more wishful than probable.

    2. As we’ve seen lately, the same technology that empowers individuals also empowers those who would control them. Quick, in a fight who would win: Anonymous or the NSA? What about the NSA without all those quaint Constitutional safeguards? What about NSA + BATF + the rest of the alphabet? How long before the members of Anonymous decide to spend their free time playing Halo instead?

    • I’ma gonna hafta go back and re-read. I don’t remember anything in the post about self-sufficiency being required for individualism.

      1. Yes, technology requires a functioning society, a civilization on a large scale. It requires corporate organizations to centralize and direct capital for the acquisition of materials and the infrastructure to be able to do something with ’em. Was anybody arguing that industrialization was a negative?

      2. As it ever was. Quick, in a fight who would win: the entire federal government (unlikely application of monolithic assumptions) or the entire population of the U.S.? The success of a controlling authority is always dependent on their ability to keep enough people disengaged from the fight. The more relative technological parity between citizenry and government the harder this becomes. Please, nobody bring up nukes, they’re not an effective weapon for guerrilla wars.

      Am I being absurd? Yep. But was the point of the post too subtle?

    • Quick, in a fight who would win: Anonymous or the NSA? What about the NSA without all those quaint Constitutional safeguards? What about NSA + BATF + the rest of the alphabet? How long before the members of Anonymous decide to spend their free time playing Halo instead?

      What’s the “win” condition? “Anonymous” is a bit like “TEA Party”– anybody can claim they’re in it, and one doesn’t have to be in it to act in its interest. Could make a decent argument that the “Captain Crunch” hacking of phone systems is Anonymous before anybody called themselves that.

      I don’t like “Anonymous” because it’s got a bunch of total jerks, who are proud of being jerks…but I’m told by various former hacker friends that it use to be pretty cool. I know those friends because the gov’t has been fighting them and recruits the folks who are good at that stuff. Hasn’t won yet, even if the guys I know sneer at the “code kiddies” as doing most of their stuff by search engine and exploiting known weaknesses others find….

    • “In a fight…”

      Depends on the venue. NSA is a bureau. It has goals and a budget. Both are of geat scope, but still finite. And individual bureaucrats are vulnerable to bureaucratic warfare. In any battle with government, you are not battling a corporate entity. You are battling individuals. If you deplete their resources, without regard to the effect you may or may not have on the larger entity, you win. And, as Eamon notes, if a significant portion of the popluation (Mike Vanderboegh pegs it at three percent) gets hacked off enough, there is nothing the leviathan can do about it but look foolish and ineffectual.

      If the only tool you have is a hammer, pretty soon, every problem starts to look like a nail. Conversely (or, perhaps, PERversely), if the only tool you have is government, pretty soon, all your solutions — whatever the problem — start to look like oppression.

      M

    • “Quick, in a fight who would win: Anonymous or the NSA?”

      Depends on how long the fight lasts.

      If they force an existential battle, the NSA is doomed.

      But then, the fact that the Nazis and the Soviets were also surely doomed didn’t prevent a lot of people who got stuck living with them from getting tortured and killed along the way.

  23. Herbal contraception and real world consequences, extending a prior discussion in a different direction.

    Stipulating that there might be an effective herbal contraceptive (there is: take two basil leaves and hold them between your knees) (okay: suppresses menstruation) we are left to consider the probable consequences of that in the world construction.

    Widely known: That seems likely (the sampling of women on the matter is limited, but the % of them who evidenced enjoyment of “time-of-the-month” (beyond initial expression of relief it had arrived) is about 0.0000000000001, at best. Word of mouth being what it is, it seems reasonable to expect all women would be aware of it and able to prepare it, absent some aspect of the processing being a limiting factor (nearly impossible to make without producing poison, for example, or extremely rare ingredients.) But a product so useful to so many would almost certainly become widely available.

    Side effects: It is unlikely suppressing so innate a bodily process would be without side effects. Increased muscle mass (especially upper body) and body hair (presuming the herbs supply testosterone similar factors) are one set of effects. Reduction of breasts is another (probably welcome in a warrior in an era of muscle-powered weaponry) and thickening of the waist (increased core body musculature.) Increased bone density and acne are also common side effects of testosterone use in women, as is increased risk of breast and gynaecological cancer. It might even affect the mind’s sexual orientation, as testosterone’s presence in the developing brain is correlated with sexual desire.

    To spare others the pain of pointing out the obvious: an herbal tea that suppresses menstrual cycles would thus produce a class of women who are flat-chested, thick-waisted heavy-boned lesbians. Which would be another way of preventing pregnancy.

    Cultural effects: it seems likely that any culture with effective and available birth-control would not last more than a few generations. Reproduction would soon fall below replacement levels, especially in a primitive sword & sorcery type society where surviving to breeding age is already chancy. Prolonged use of any menstrual suppressant is likely to permanently impair that endocrinological system and further reduce fertility.

    If menstruation without impregnation is the goal, it seems likely there are better routes. An herbal tea which reduces the side effects of menstruation — reducing muscle cramps and menstrual flow, for example — used in combination with a herb slipped into the food or drink of the men that weakens their willies’ ability to stay erect (alcohol) might in combination be workable. Of course, there would be groups of men that fastidiously prepared their own food and drink in order to preserve their essence, but that is a problem for another comment.

    • “Cultural effects: it seems likely that any culture with effective and available birth-control would not last more than a few generations. Reproduction would soon fall below replacement levels”

      I’m looking at *you*, Europe… (and Japan, iirc).

      • Take away immigrants and we’re looking at USA, too.

        Especially if you break the populace down by factoring out “Fundy” Christians, Mormons, “Red” state populace and those on Welfare. Break it down to just the “enlightened” ones and that population trickles out in about three generations.

      • There are people in European reproducing. It will be ugly, but since evolution is driven by differential fertility, it will get sorted out.

        • The birth rates in some of the European countries have fallen below replacement levels, though. While yes, it will eventually get sorted out (as the people who aren’t in the “have lots of kids!” groups become a smaller and smaller part of the population), in the meantime we’re seeing the exact situation that RES mentioned.

          • In fact, the birth rates in virtually all the European countries have fallen below replacement levels. As of 2010, in all of Europe, only France, Turkey, Ireland, and Iceland had total fertility rates above 2.0. Of those, only Iceland was above 2.1, which is traditionally considered ‘replacement level’ for an advanced industrial society.

          • Evolution is slow. Even microevolution.

    • “….which reduces the side effects of menstruation — reducing muscle cramps….” —

      Exercise (ie, gentle walking a day or so before menstruation) usually does plenty to reduce cramps. Some women can use caffeine as a cramp-reducer; others need to avoid caffeine as a cramp-producer. (It seems to be about 50-50.)

      The really excruciating cramps usually are in women who just started getting periods, women with severe hormonal imbalance, or with fibroids, or with Bad Stuff going on in their wombs. These are often the same people who have trouble getting pregnant in the first place, because Bad Stuff is going on in their wombs. (For example, the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology stories about a Keeper having excruciating cramps that seemed impossibly bad to me the reader — turned out that the lady writing them had endometriosis bad. (Don’t know why they published the anthology without an Informative Preface for the benefit of kids reading this stuff.)

      Some of this stuff may vary according to ethnic group, genes, etc.

      • Related: sisters can have utterly different responses, too, even when they’re eating the same things, doing roughly the same things, etc. My sister and I are polar opposites– her cycle knocks her over, mine surprises me; mom and her sister are the same. (It’s not pain tolerance, either, my sister has done insane things like finishing a volley ball game with a shattered bone.)

      • I have been told by some actress friends of mine with bad cramps that counter-pressure—such as wearing a corset—works fairly well too.

        • Several people I’ve read swear by corseting. I know that pressure helps me, but I’ve never had the $$ for a decent corset.

          And no, gents, I do not foresee needing help getting one sized, adjusted, and laced in the near future, thanks for offering. 😉

  24. In discussing the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’ one should read Paul- Adam and Eve received the Spirit, new Christians receive the Spirit- Paul explained what the tree was about in Galatians, chapter 5, with particular attention to verses 16 thru 26. ie the fruit. That’s why G-d prophesied that the earth would fight them- a bad attitude never brings success, even when you win.