Catastrophic — The Great Divorce

So, recently we’ve given an enormous amount of stuff (no, seriously.  If we’d taken it all at once, it would have amounted to two or three large u-hauls) to the charity store (mostly Goodwill, but also ARC.)

A good 90% of this were books we no longer had need for in the age of electronic reading.  (For instance, the other day, while cleaning the kitchen I remembered a joke about maps from Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  In previous times, in order to re-read it, I’d have to search all through the house — and we had books everywhere including in steamer trunks in attic — find the book, read it, then stow it away in case I’d want to read it in the future.  This time I went to Gutenberg, downloaded, then side-loaded to my Kindle.) Suddenly a lot of the books I was keeping “just in case” are no longer needed.  Oh, I’ll still keep the “daily life in” bookshelf, but I now regret deeply not having had the money when the company was selling all of them on CD.

The ability to dispose of half of our bookshelves (and there will probably be more winnowing before we move to a permanent house) means we can shrink our living space (and not just by getting rid of boys!) and that there will be less dust around to trigger my allergies.  (One problem in the other house was my office/research library was in our bedroom, which is not a good thing, dust wise.)

It might seem a small thing (for Sarah’s) but it’s actually a huge thing.  I can tell how the change is hitting people by the adds on craigslist.  Until about 5 years ago, bookshelves were at a premium.  Now they’re often under the “free” column.

This is something I saw before with entertainment centers, as the era of the DVD sort of slid away and people started to keep their movie library in electronic.  (This is about half way through.)

But the thing is that these are just the visible and obvious signs of something, unimportant and small in themselves.  However the thing itself, the change weaving itself through our society is massive and — in societal terms — so fast as to be catastrophic.  That is, it will wreck societal structures faster than we can rebuild them.  To an extent our crazy cakes politics, as well as the nuttiness in the world are ripples of this change.

And it seems so small.  Just personal computers.  Just the ability to access information about anything for any reason — at your fingertips.  Just education and entertainment for the push of a button. Just instantaneous free communication around the world.  (My nephew pinged me this morning to show me pictures of his cat.  If you’re younger than forty, the sheer miracle of this event might elude you.)

Okay, I’ll confess I’d trade this time line wholesale for Heinlein’s juveniles’ world, even with what from the outside one can’t help thinking that flying cars and space colonies would be worth it.

But that’s not what we got.  Part of it was the progressives somehow and very fast (I don’t know the mechanics behind it) turning against space in the eighties.  We got talk like “we need to learn to take care of this planet first, before we go to the stars” something that made as much sense as “we’ve got to learn to take care of Europe before we go to other continents.”  (Hint, we’d still be in Europe and at about that level or little better.  All successful species are colonizing species.  Colonize of die seems fairly normal.)

What we got instead were faster processors and smaller, one on every desk.

And at each step of the way we’ve underestimated it, even those of us who are supposed to write the future for a living.  Computers, sure.  Writing without having to retype the whole thing because you changed the character’s name.  Or perhaps a “paperless office” — how many times did we hear that?  Yeah, so ecologically sound and stuff — looks around at notes and printouts.  Not happening.

But what the people in charge didn’t see coming — they couldn’t, because they had invested their lives in the status quo — was the revolution this would facilitate.  The net and electronic communication/data storage reminds me of when they sent undesirables to another continent.  It kept them out of trouble.  And after wall, the internet ran on porn.  What could a few porn-obsessed geeks do.

I remember — and no, I’m not that old — when all my colleagues said Amazon (then mostly paper books) would make no difference.  How it did no more business than a bookstore in NYC. How the future was brick and mortar and of course everyone wanted to look at the book before buying it.  But even then (one or two years into its existence) it was changing the way I lived.  You see, I used to buy my weight in books from the history book club.  There were fees and minimum purchases, and I bought a lot of it not because I needed it then, but because I might need it at a future date.  (Entire bookshelves got donated.  For instance, the French Revolution.  Too depressing to write books set in it, and I just don’t see it at this point in my life.)

With the advent of Amazon I no longer needed to be part of a club.  When a topic fascinated me, I could search, order, and have it in 2 days.

Then there was the booksearches I used to pay used bookstores to do.  You know “I read this book when I was seven, here’s the title and the author, can you find it for me?”  Once Amazon sold used this was no longer needed.

However, what even I missed was the revolution going on behind the scenes.  For years publishers had pushed books at booksellers. The way to sell well was to have “push” and there were no surprise bestsellers.  If you didn’t want a book to be a bestseller (I don’t know, but clearly they didn’t) and it reordered, you just didn’t ship/reprint.

Did Amazon ever change that, even before ebooks!  We saw the chain bookstores which had swallowed indies blow up like chestnuts in a too-hot fire.

You’re saying “But this is all in publishing!”  Well, I’m talking in publishing because it is my particular area of business, so I’ve seen things up close and in a detail I don’t see other fields.

And that’s the thing to remember.  This technological revolution is a revolution of pebbles.  Pebbles move and move, and nothing much seems to be happening, until suddenly you wake up one morning and the whole landscape has changed.

I’m still trying to get used to the change in books, and I’ve been in it from the beginning.  The idea I can access books on any subject at any time, and don’t need to keep them around “just in case” is JUST sinking in.

Let alone other endeavors.

See, we’d intended to homeschool the kids.  (WordPress tells me homeschool is a spelling mistake, which tells you how fast the change has been.)  We’d read books by people, mostly hippies, who did it in the seventies.

So, what stopped us?  Small things.  First, I sold for the first time when the younger kid was 3, and needed time (however little) without the boys.  Second, the boys wanted to know a lot of things I didn’t know.  Which brings us to third, if we’d homeschooled the kids would be REALLY good at reading, and literature and history, but since Dan was working 16 hour days when they were little, their math would lack, and I doubt Robert would have found his true love in biology and chemistry, or that Marsh would be assembling machines on his bed (seriously, kid, how do you sleep on tools and components?)

Well, it turned out that for reasons beyond our control, we had to homeschool Marshall for 7th grade, which turned out to be seventh and eighth and would have been ninth too, if he hadn’t wanted to rejoin school and therefore not given me another month.

Marshall likes Math and at the time was fascinated with Greek and Greek Myth.  None of the them played for me.  (Though we did have a great time with Shakespeare.)  So… I found online courses.  This was (counts on fingers and toes) 9? 10? years ago.  I’m sure now there are many more courses.  Interactive courses that teach you stuff like languages and higher levels of science.  In fact, some of my friends are taking them.  (And before you say it will never replace…  well, my kids took one of those too.  It was unfortunately structured like the old correspondence courses. There was no live interaction.  It didn’t work for them.  The virtual classroom did. — I’d like to find one for art.)

If we had small kids now, I wouldn’t even consider putting them in traditional schools, when they can learn whatever they want, whenever they want.  (I’m sort of enjoying that too.)

I can’t speak to the research scientists being able to communicate around the world, but I’m sure that it makes a huge difference.

And I have an ever increasing number of friends telecommuting.

Now, will all this replace in-person learning/working and interaction?  No.  But then the industrial revolution didn’t replace all the farmers, it just made them fewer and less important, and that in turn had repercussion in everything from real estate price to how many people can live in an area.

I keep getting the feeling that what we have now are just the rudimentary beginnings of revolution, and that from here on, it accelerates.  All of it to cries of “No, no, this will never happen.”  Even as it’s happening.  Just like Amazon would never be a significant player in books.  Just like I’d never give up my accumulated “just in case” research library.

It’s very exciting.  It’s also very scary, particularly to people who made their living and their mark in the status quo.

In fact, to some extent all of us are both exhilarated and terrified by it.  Again, I don’t think those of you who are less than forty even realize how fast this has been.  We were talking here, days ago, about how cell phones play havoc with plotting because you can reach everyone all the time.  You have no idea how different that is, how much of a change that is.  It’s not just I can call my husband at any time and ask him to pick up a dozen kumquats on the way home.  No. It’s stuff like the elderly being able to live alone longer.  Or someone like me who has the direction sense of  a direction-impaired fruit fly being able to set out on her own, and if she manages to get lost even with the GPS knowing she can call home and go “Hey, I’m at the corner of walk and don’t walk.”

And the GPS is another thing.  Dan and I had “Move to a new city routine” down by our mid thirties.  First, buy maps.  Second, go exploring until we knew at least our neighborhood.  Third, stop at phone booths to look up whatever we’re looking for like “Hardware store” or “Italian restaurant.”  Now we punch it into the GPS and the city is at our fingertips, be it ever so new.  (Except Chattanooga, where it was SURE a road went on through a pine forest.  yea.)

The tech seems to be moving into an “individualized/personalized/of necessity chaotic” direction.  One that makes control from the top and “planned” economies d*mn near impossible.  More impossible than they were.

If typewriters threatened the soviet union…  Yeah, dictatorship is possible, but not on the scale it once was.

The horse has left the barn.  The road ahead is both exhilarating and terrifying.  Kind of like driving a mountain ridge, with scarps on either side, and the passenger who are terrified of the ride trying to hit the driver over the head to make it stop.

If we survive this…

I suspect the future on the other side looks like something we can’t even imagine from where we are.

But there is a chance, just a chance, it will also foster more perosnal freedom and independence than the era of big industries, big machines and workers as an undifferentiated mass of widgets.

In the end we win, they lose.  Getting there will be a little bumpy, though.  Be not afraid.

543 thoughts on “Catastrophic — The Great Divorce

  1. I am not generally morose, nor am I dystopic by nature. Blame it on a torn rotator cuff that wakes me and annoys me during the day. ‘Nuff said.

    One view of the electronic revolution most, I think are unaware. The ancient Egyptians left hieroglyphs inscribed liberally on their walls and vases. The ancient Assyrian empire left cunieform tablets containing everything from laws to tax records. Heck, even the Celts inscribed their Ogam script all over the European landscape.
    Our civilization? We know that hide scrolls decay after a millenia of damp. Papyrus turns brittle and decays faster. paper in itself is realluy only good for a few decades – rarely more than a hundred years.
    What record will be left of our highly technical, electronically driven society when the batteries die out? How can anyone find out about the peoples of the 21st century Earth? All that will be extant will be steam-punk leavings in the midden-heap of history.
    I’ll shut up now and take a pain pill. And stop thinking trash.

    1. I…kind of want to read a story now where the Digital Age is considered a lost period in the far future. Like the crazy years of the 60s were some sort of cataclysm, and society went all Mad Max. Or so the future archaeologists think, because of the lack of surviving records from this period.

      Plot bunnies, free to a good home. Or a bad one. They taste like chicken.

          1. I blame the plot cats. They get up under the furniture of the mind and come out absolutely *covered* in plot bunnies.

            This may also explain the proliferation of post-apocalyptic storylines currently making the rounds- someone forgot to clean out behind the refrigerator, and the plot cats got in.

            1. I dunno — I’ve read a few books that even plot cats wouldn’t throw up. I suppose those can be attributed to the plot mutt’s breakfast. (This raises an important if insufficiently addressed question: do different plot dogs produce different plots? For example, would your plot beagle produce a different type of plot than your plot fox terrier or plot golden retriever? Can we use speciation to identify the canine source of a plot, asserting a particular plot was from a plot poodle while this other plot obviously came from a plot schnauzer?)

              Mind, I think most of Heinlein’s plots came from a plot pointer while Philip K. Dick’s were the product of a plot wire-haired terrier. I am not sure about Philip Jose Farmer’s plots … irish plot terrier, or perhaps a plot pekingese?

      1. I’m actually working on a story with a similar them: a vanished alien civilization about whom humans have learned little, because it has been so long that most of their material culture has vanished, and most of their written records have disappeared because they were mostly in electronic form. Therefore most of the writing they do find is in the nature of Womens Restroom, Warning: High Voltage, Bridge May Be Icy, etc.

        1. There is actually an RPG with archeology on an alien planet where pretty much everything has disappeared because the aliens all put their brains in the Matrix and let their nanotech reduce the planet to dust (the Matrix is dispersed among various orbitals in the solar system).

        2. Years ago I read a short story where humans had landed on this alien world with mysterious ruins that the natives no longer understood and the ruins had contained technology that the humans didn’t understand.

          It turns out the “primitive” natives were actually greatly more advanced than the human visitors and they had advanced so much over the builders of the “ruins” that they had forgotten that technology.

          The example in the story was that humans had forgotten how to make knives from flint because it isn’t necessary to make knives from flint. [Smile]

          Note, I understand that people have learned to make knives from flint. [Wink]

          1. That is a story by John W Campbell from before he edited Astounding (later Analog). Also, Ben Bova had as a subplot in a long novel that humans found an alien base on the moon with nothing but all these stone sphere. It was later found that they had trace metallic impurities – they were recordings…but looked and felt like rock balls.

            1. Sounds like Richard Shaver’s “rock books”.

              The Shaver Mystery. Now THAT was an SF controversy. You think Sad Puppies was heated?

              1. Yes, but having read Shaver (got most if not all of the 40s stuff on my tablet) he was both more entertaining and more sane than most of the PKs.

                The whole Titans think where size was based on age was very cool, for example, as was the underground nature of the civilization.

                1. How to store long information in the long term is a interesting problems.

                  There is of course the familiar example of the Rosetta Stone. The same message in several different languages carved into stone.

                  A more recent example is from 1980 when when someone, it’s something of a mystery who, had the Georgia Guidestones built. Six granite slabs with ten guidelines, not commandments, chiseled into the stone in eight modern languages and four ancient ones. The stated purpose is to “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason.”
                  Unfortunately, their guidelines are a confused mess of of nice sentiments with touchy feely new age, sjw crap.

                  Vernon Vinge A Deepness in the Sky has Programer Archaeologists going through several millennia of software code, and all the accumulated bugs and undocumented patches that go with them.

                  Roger MacBride Allen The Depths of Time has a way to preserve knowledge with a libary in orbit of Uranus or Neptune with books printed on corrosion resistant metal stored in a nitrogen atmosphere.

                2. more sane than most of the PKs.

                  *chokes on coffee*

                  Just realized why that always sounds familiar…. Gaming connection. “PK”=> “Player Killer.” A ganker, team killer or just a dangerous jerk, depending on the game.

                  Amused me. As you were. 😀

          2. I recall an old short story in which a spaceship’s crew were stranded on an asteroid or moon when their ship melted down. Luckily, they found an alien spaceship, but the society that built it didn’t use force, per se. That is, no wrenches or screwdrivers to adjust/tighten/loosen things.

            They managed to melt that ship down by playing around with things they didn’t understand, and were rescued because another ship saw the second meltdown.

              1. Beautiful. Thanks, now I know what to look for. I’ve actually got that book – according to my database, it’s in the garage in box M05.

        3. I read a story a long time ago where the post-apocalyptic society revered their warrior-culture ancestors, for whom Keepout was a very common name, but he never seemed to rise above the rank of Private.

      2. Although…I just got done reading Rook by Sharon Cameron, which is a sort Scarlet-Pimpernel set in a future where pretty much exactly that happened: something went Very Wrong, nearly all the satellites fell out of the sky (eventually–decaying orbits), high-tech society collapsed…and centuries later, people are ascribing very deep and arcane meanings to things that the reader knows are incredibly mundane. Although one character, holding a disc/DVD of some kind, says his grandmother once told him that the ancients kept incredible amounts of information on just such a thing as this little piece of shiny plastic–but none of them know how they could possibly access it. Quite an interesting take on the idea, I thought. (And I am a sucker for anything Scarlet Pimpernel related.)

        1. Curse you! You just hit me with a plot idea for the New Founders’ War series. May your e-reader overflow all over your new carpet and may your trees all drop their leaves on the same day.

        2. There’s a great episode of Cowboy Bebop that focuses on the crew trying to find something that will play a decades-old video tape.

        3. …and centuries later, people are ascribing very deep and arcane meanings to things that the reader knows are incredibly mundane.

          Sounds like Motel of the Mysteries.

    2. In the most likely scenario we just copy everything forward, and someone will build a specialized AI to dig through digital archives doing searches and assisting in the collating of relevant material.

      In the “TEOTWAWKI” well, we probably want them to figure out their own ways rather than either using us as examples or counter-examples.

      1. We didn’t copy forward the technical specs for the Apollo mission. To redo them, we would either have to make old machines to read it, or reinvent it.

        1. I’m sure there 286’s somewhere in the world. In a museum if nowhere else. We may have to reinvent stuff. I heard something last year that was actually reinvented. It was invented in Victorian times, forgotten and then reinvented recently.

          1. She’s referring to things WAY older than 286s. Heck, my first computer was from several years before.

            They HAVE recreated some of the equipment needed to read the old reel-to-reel tapes from back then, but a lot of it has already degraded to the point it’s no longer readable.

            1. Apollo program specs and designs would be in hardcopy at contractors or at NASA HQ, and they both likely threw all that away a long time ago. The effort to read some of the downlink tapes that were not overwritten depended on a couple scientists who had rescued the refrigerator-sized tape reader machines from being thrown out and had kept them in their garages down in LA. The challenge there was to rebuilt all the circuitry – I think that project over at NASA Ames now has two working machines plus some spare components which are the only devices on the planet that can read 1960s analog downlink reel to reel tapes.

              A recent effort to recreate (and update) the F-1 main rocket engine had to 3D scan museum hardware to build their design files. The F-1 rocket’s internal control systems used fluidic logic, i.e. lots of tiny squiggly fluid channels and valves to control everything, basically similar to the innards of a pre-digital automatic transmission. There is no one left alive today who understands fluidic logic to that level, especially well enough to tune the thing to not surge as they struggled with in the 1960s.

              There was basically nothing digital about the Apollo program save the flight computers, and those were of course incredibly primitive compared to today. I’d bet the SpaceX manned Dragon will have more computing power onboard than Apollo mission control did in 1969.

        2. NASA deliberately trashed data from some of the probes and landings in a childish attempt to blackmail more money into their budget.

          Well, they claimed it was “accidental loss”, but that data cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It was really “accidental loss”, their mis-handling and failure to make backups is nothing less than criminal. As in, a whole bunch of people should be in jail criminal.

          Some years back they issued a press release that they were going to have to blow away decades’ worth of data from the Hubble telescope because they couldn’t afford to maintain the storage, which at the time was something like 10 Tb. A few thousand dollars’ worth of commodity hard drives at the time. I wrote a letter and offered to put them on my credit card. They never answered, but I don’t think they got their multimillion dollar special appropriation either.

        3. Boeing still has all the Apollo blueprints, along with the stuff from Gemini, and Mercury, or so I’ve been told. Recently, a group of engineers got together and built a computer to go through all the lunar orbiter data still stored on old tapes. There were a lot of neat old photos that were never generally published.

          The company I work for was one of the pioneers of civilian nuclear power and all our design documents for the early plants are still around. If they were not fiched and then scanned into our electronic document system, the paper is stored in a passively climate controlled archive in an old iron mine in western Pennsylvania.

          You would be surprised at how many of these document repositories there are in the US. I know of 3 right offhand in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Utah.

        4. Likewise, the high resolution video images from the moon landing, the tapes were in a unique, undocumented format, fragile, and shifted from warehouse to warehouse and slated for disposal because nobody knew what they were. There IS a project going to preserve and decode them.

          1. That’s the various efforts at the ex-McDonalds building on NASA Ames Research Center (aka McMoons). They operate on pretty much no money, restoring old hardware to pulling data off old tapes, and to communicate with “lost” satellites.

            They first were able to recover and read the early lunar survey mission tapes and got some amazing images (analog data on the tapes, so they were able to use modern computing power to extract lots more detail) and they were also the folks trying to ressurect the ISEE satellite a couple years ago, again reverse engineering the radio systems needed to talk to the thing as that hardware was long gone.

            Here are twitter photos from someone’s tour – the one on the right is the primary tape reader box that they rebuilt:


            It really is just an old McDonalds from when the Navy closed NAS Moffett – they replaced the old menus with some of their recovered lunar photos in that lefthand picture.

        5. One of my (not infrequent) harps on digital file management at work are along the lines of “Look, if you think you might need file down the road at some point, then you need to make damn sure you keep the file itself up-to-date with current programs. Either that, or print it out and file a physical copy.” Because I have personally overseen the deletion of many files that may very well have had important and/or useful data in them…but they were so old, the only file extension the computer now could give them was ‘.file’ and they could not be opened or read. There wasn’t even a way to tell what the original program they required might have been.

          1. That’s one of the advantages of being deeply versed in Open Source stuff. The programs are (theoretically) well-documented, and you could look over the source if you had to, and a lot of the popular formats are text-based.

            If I lost the PDF of my dissertation, for example, I still have my LaTeX files, which are text files with equations surrounded by dollar signs and formatting that \looks[something]{like}{this}…

            Over the years, I’ve found a strong preference to doing as much as I can in the command line. It has a certain charm to it!

            (One of the disadvantages is that it can sometimes be surprisingly finicky, at unexpected times. Last night I lost WiFi on two computers, one only temporarily, and the other–my work computer–only started working again this morning, mysteriously, after about three hours trying to figure out what went wrong….)

            1. Oh, and I should add: I’ve sometimes wondered what we should do to *store* that information, in a human-readable way. I have sometimes imagined metal plates with near-mircoscopic QR codes, for example, along with a description of an algorithm (in as many languages as possible, non-microscopic) to read them…

              1. I can conceive of a culture able to encode data four-dimensionally in mountain ridges as they change in height, width, length and over time. If you don’t have approximate time travel you don’t need to be reading those hills.

        6. There are some records of military activities during Vietnam that no one will ever know, because only two devices for reading those files still exist, and the codebooks have been lost/destroyed/misfiled. (Yeah, I know a grad student who tried to work on that topic. You could hear his wails all the way from Alabama to the central Midwest.)

          1. Apparently OIF and OEF are going to be two of the least-documented wars in history because everything is done over the network and security protocols require destroying the network drives at the end of the deployment.

        7. Most of the Apollo stuff was obsolete before the internet (and networking technology) took off.

      2. I’d like to think we would start doing that on a regular basis, but a lot of stuff that is currently uncopied is decaying and will be gone within a few more years. Much of the things learned during the early years of the space program, for example.

      3. Yes, but, what if….all electricity was lost for a few years (and it could happen, for any number of reasons). I agree with Doug Irvin’s point — I’ve said the same thing myself a few times. We may be in the ‘Information Age’ but the storage methods we are using are ephemeral at best.

        Furthermore, while the internet does give us a great deal of freedom to communicate, wouldn’t it be possible for a government to take tighter control over it and impose limits? Doesn’t China already do this for their own people, at least to some degree?

        I don’t think it’s wise to get rid of our paper books altogether (although, in truth, paper books — also as Doug mentioned — aren’t really that much more durable or long-lived than electrons, in the greater scheme of things). I keep any how-to books that I may need in the future, and I also try to keep at least a few basic, older history books, since accurate reports of the past are not being taught in the public schools. I also have a pretty good collection of Bible study material, given the anti-Christian bent of our current government and the direction society is going. The how-to books are for reference; the others I keep to make sure the information is preserved somewhere, though I do also use the Bible study material.

        1. Yes, but, what if….all electricity was lost for a few years (and it could happen, for any number of reasons)

          I think you’d have to work pretty hard to convince me that could happen. Maybe some locations could lose it for several months, but all of it? For years? No, I think our capacity to reinvent the wheel is better than that.

          1. Several EMPs occurring closely in time. I agree with you Wayne. I think that it is possible. Might be quite unlikely.

            1. Well, of course I can’t prove anything, because doing what I have thought of in that situation would be highly illegal in normal circumstances, but I figure that if there are thousands of miles of wire uselessly attached to high-tension towers, someone would be taking it down and making new transformers with it.

              I guess it’s the use of the word “all” that makes my teeth itch, because there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to make electricity, ranging from the tiny to the massive. If I’m COMPLETELY without electricity for more than a week or two, it’s because both of my arms are broken.

              1. Saw something like that happen once. A shortfall in electricity that didn’t make national news because we barely escaped having to do rolling blackouts. Someone sued a coal plant because the water dumped back into a lake was outside allowable parameters. The judge ruled that we needed electricity more than cool water right then.

          2. I don’t like saying never because none of us knows everything. It’s why utilities never allegorically said we’d we all right on Y2K. We knew we shouldn’t have difficulties, but that’s not the same as knowing we couldn’t have difficulties.

            I know what a lot of experts claim. I also know I’ve never seen one of them out at 0 dark 30 helping us get the lights back on after a hurricane or tornado or ice storm, or need to draw up rolling blackout plans Right Now. This is what I also know:

            Electric lines have lightning arrestors. This bleeds off over voltage.

            Electric lines also have over current protection. This opens the line when the current is too high.

            Current protection devices have tripped near the magnetic poles during solar storms.

            You don’t have to rebuild lines that open due to protection devices. You re-fuse or reset the devices. In comparison, following a hurricane, ice storm, or tornado, you’re having to rebuild the grid. I remember one tornado when lines and poles were just gone.

            You can lose transformers due to lightning. That said, a high percentage remain undamaged. In thirty years, I’ve seen exactly one substation transformer lost due to lightning.

            Transformer damage from solar storms have happened following relatively low level events that didn’t create currents high enough to open protection devices.

            Put it all together, I think a Carrington Event would be similar to a Cascade Outage, where protection devices open like dominoes. I think there would be some transformer damage but most would be intact. For damaged transformers, we have alternate feeds to supply power. and mobile substations. My gut feeling is a good portion of the lights restored in 24 hours, with a potential of days in some instances, and maybe even weeks in a few lines on radial feeds. I know if we were caught like that, we’d be back-feeding lines and building three-phase spans if needed.

            1. And for priority repairs, make sure you are on the same grid chunk as the highest level politician who remains in local residence as possible.

              It’s amazing what happens to carefully thought out action plans when someone who is ‘connected’ starts complaining.

              1. We don’t play that. We can’t play that because ya canna change the laws of physics, not even if you press that wee button over there. You have to restore power from the substation out because it make no sense to put up a single-phase line when the three phase line it pulls off of is torn down. If Senator Snort’s lights are out is at his McMansion at the end of that long single phase line, and a tornado’s taken out a thousand feet of three phase line a quarter mile from the substation, his power isn’t going to come on any quicker even if he sits down in front of us.

                That’s what a factory owner did with me years ago when someone raised some equipment into a transmission line and knocked out power. Maybe he thought it would make an impression. He never said, and I never asked. I went about my business of trying to coordinate power restoration. His visit didn’t get power restored any faster.

              2. That’s one reason I like to live close to a major hospital. They’re usually on the priority list for everything.

        2. data storage is usually ephemeral. Loss of data/knowledge/works of art are a part of the human condition. No one ever has complete knowledge. There are always gaps. You carry on as best you may with what you have. There data that is on external storage of one kind or another, and there internally stored data (personal memory) I think that physical memory(the kind where your hands remember how to shoot etc. is perhaps a physical form of read only memory [if I’m correct in my understanding of the term Read Only Memory])

        3. Every increase in storage density has come at an equivalent reduction in permanence.

          Chisel something into a rock, and you’re good for hundreds or thousands of years. But you can make a lot more marks on clay tablets, and they’ll last well if they’re protected. Leather or paper and ink allow an even higher storage density but are fragile.

          A 33-1/3 RPM long-play record’s longevity is unknown. That’s around 700Mb of data at the industry-standard sampling system, which is why the first compact discs were that size. But ordinary CDs are only rated for 10 years, and some last less.

          Magnetic tapes “print through” over time; most of my cassette and VHS library died of that. And the oxides wear off in use.

          Rotating magnetic storage has moving parts and bearings. Some have proven quite robust over time, but those are being replaced by solid state drives; SSDs and thumbdrives. But I’ve already run into problems with display terminals and electronic equipment; EPROMs and EEPROMs tend to degrade over decades… and there’s the whole “lead-free solder” problem with tin whiskers growing and shorting out circuits.

          Data storage is a “riding the tiger” problem. You could carve your own rocks or poke a stick at a clay tablet. A reasonably-tooled machine shop could make an Edison cylinder. A better-tooled shop could make the specialized equipment needed to make and play a phonograph record. But past that point… you need an entire civilization’s worth of technologies to make a thumbdrive and some kind of device to read it with. Once you drop off the technology curve… if you can’t rebuild before the storage mediums expire, it’s all gone.

        4. Also, some of us just really, really like books. I like to think of them as wall paper I can pull down and read. Also, way more fun to dust than the rest of the house (even if it takes 100x as long to finish 🙂

          And since they’re nearly all alphabetized or in Dewey Decimal order (with a few special collections here and there, like Cookery in the kitchen) I don’t find myself with Mrs. Holt’s problems in looking stuff up. In fact it’s faster (and better exercise) every so often to run upstairs and pull down the book I want, than to try to google it on the tablet downstairs.

          Especially when the internet is on the blink again.

        5. I have this plot-bunny about someone who prepared for the impending apocalypse by downloading and printing all the potentially useful information they could think of. Like blacksmithing and farming techniques. How to make a bow. What plants are edible/medicinal, and how to use them/where to find them. Animal husbandry. How to build a loom. How to build a spinning wheel. Low-tech construction methods. Etc and so on. And then, when the end DID come, set themselves up as a post-apocalyptic information broker…

          Actually, it’s something I’ve considered doing myself as part of emergency preparedness…:p

          1. I’m reminded of Stirling’s Emberverse, which had a throwaway line about “Foxfire” books now being worth their weight in gold. And I’ve started collecting How To Do It books on just about every subject I run across.

            1. Niven & Pournelle in Lucifer’s Hammer.

              The book geek bought his way into a community with a promise of a library and a single book.

              The Way Things Work, VOLUME 2.

          2. That’s actually part of the 8th Colplatschki novel. (Yes, there is such a thing. Yes, it is written. Yes, it is in the queue for next year.)

              1. Well, that is pretty much her society’s backstory throughout the series, though not as obvious at the beginning: What happens to a spacefaring culture’s colony world when all their tech gets a monster zap and no one ever comes to visit.

              2. Yes, and how the Peilov and Babenburg families got started. Old Man Peilov was and Odd even by colony world standards.

          3. I know people who do it. Always make at least two copies, one to use and one to keep for making copies of, and the second one goes on scrapbooking paper. 😀

        6. I recall a story in which some conspiracy or behind-the-scenes coup was only discovered because someone noted discrepancies between what the computers said and what the archived hardcopy said.

    3. ohhh, after the fall there will be people who know how to draw wire from silver, gold and copper to create wire for motors and circuits and their apprentices will have rote memory but lack the real understanding of why it works, and eventually just a societal concept that Silver, Gold and Copper are important, valuable and worth killing for. really unless you are in a tech society they are horrible industrial metals.

  2. They tend to depend on Big Government to protect their privileges (one reason they decry privilege not issued by Teh Proper Authorities.)

    So that indicates where many of the battles will be fought, just as in prior times they maneuvered for the Blessing of the Church.

  3. It’s always the unexpected things that bring the biggest changes.
    GPS, people have no idea how much that changed things. I used to work in Flight Test, and navigation was one of my specialties. Most people don’t realize that navigation and maps used to be sort of a black art.
    Because ever time you measured something, you got a different result. No, really, getting the same result twice was almost unheard of and hence we had things like ‘Circular Error Probability’, when trying to figure out where something -really- was.

    But GPS was -repeatable-, that is, GPS gave you the same result for the same place, every time you used it! We’d never seen that before! It was a huge watershed for navigation. And it had a big effect on maps and mapmakers as well (you’d be shocked to find out how many things on maps don’t really exist, but were just made up by the map maker, for whatever reason).

    Cellphones of course have also had a major effect on the world, but that is far more obvious to everyone, and as phones (landlines) have existed for many many years, people could see the change and mostly understand it. Because they knew what phones were.

    But accurate navigation? Prior to GPS coming on line and becoming affordable, it never existed in the world before. Never! And because very few people know that, they haven’t noticed the huge changes it has caused in our world, and is continuing to cause.

    1. Back when I was in, oh, I think it was 7th grade, we talked about one of the precursors to this.

      One of the early space experiments was basically a reflective satellite off which a laser was bounced to measure distance between points on the ground. This gave us the first ever precise measurement of the distance across the Atlantic Ocean.

    2. “(you’d be shocked to find out how many things on maps don’t really exist, but were just made up by the map maker, for whatever reason”

      copyright violation. If you just copy the facts, you’re legally clear, but if you copy a falsehood, you violated copyright.

      1. And apparently they still do that with GPS systems (the corporate data, not the satellites).

      2. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I also know that some map makers did it solely to screw with the people using their maps. There used to be (as in up until the 1980’s) towns around chicago that didn’t exist. Put in there to show up the map makers loyalties to his alma mater’s sports teams.

        1. I have been told of at least one case where the map claimed that there was a village someplace so people put one there. Copyright hillarity followed.

          1. I’ve often wondered about “misspellings” of town names. IE a small town’s name may be spelled one way on one map but spelled differently on another map. Was that for copy-right protection?

      3. Saberhagen used this as the twist in one of his berserker short stories. Berserker is shot up, and needs a place to repair. So the encyclopedia guy who’s a passenger on the ship it attacked makes sure that the berserker finds out about the encyclopedia entry for a small, undefended colony that’s just barely in range of the berserker’s remaining energy…

        … and that is completely made up to catch anyone who copies the encyclopedia and tries to sell the result.

    3. I’m told that testing the early GPS systems was a real nightmare. Because it gave continually accurate results…and testing that meant knowing the truth position of the test platform at all times. It’s hard to test a navigation system that is more accurate than your truth data.

      1. Sounds a lot like the problem in audio with speakers and microphones. To test one you have to use the other in terms of sound quality. Was even the lead editorial in a recent issue of Sound on Sound

      2. I remember a book on machining that described the making of the first accurate screw gear needed in order to accurately make other things (including accurate screw gears). If I recall correctly, the book basically said that they just iterated over screws until they made one accurate enough…

      3. Basically, GPS proved that the ‘truth’ data was all a myth. Like I said, navigation is more of a black art than a science.
        Do you know what ALL WGS (World Geological Survey) data is based off of? The baseline for it is the Louis and Clark expedition of 1804. So anything that THEY got wrong, is still wrong. But at this point, their errors have become the ‘truth’.

        I also find it interesting that most people really don’t know how GPS works either. They think they do, but they’re usually wrong, not that it probably matters anymore.

      4. You use the exact time that the moon occulates stars. That is accurate to within a few feet and was relocating islands in the Pacific before GPS.

    4. Then there are the things made possible by accurate navigation. Things like actual auto-pilot, for planes, automobiles of all sorts and ships at sea.

      Still working out the bugs, there, and sorting through the ramifications — such as a pound of C4 on a drone piloted by GPS coordinates.

      1. Eventually all of the ILS systems are going to be GPS driven. Which scares the hell out of me and which shouldn’t happen.
        Because the military can turn it off with the flip of a switch, or degrade it’s accuracy for any place in the world (though with the new ground stations, that would hopefully be corrected after a period of time – but probably not soon enough to save you from crashing).

        1. The coast guard runs the DGPS stations that automatically correct for the GPS degradation, so the military would have to get their agreement to bugger the system. I know, one government agency makes sure that GPS is not too accurate, then another agency restores the accuracy that the first agency spent good money to degrade.

            1. Except that the Coast Guard is under Homeland Security (used to be under Commerce) not the DoD, so while Navy ships are occasionally seconded to the Coast Guard to get around Posse Comitatus, I don’t think that the Navy can give the Coast Guard orders.

    5. Measurement error bites the new engineers in very amusing ways these days. It is funny to see the looks on their faces when they dive into test data for the very first time.

        1. Mine is when they give a test result to a hundredth and the instrument accuracy is only to a tenth……

  4. Some thoughts in response:

    I love being able to carry thousands of books with me wherever I go. For someone who reads as much as I do (or used to before kids), it’s an amazing thing. I never run out things to read.

    But. I will admit to being a dinosaur with regards to books. Sure, it’s the message that matters, not the medium. But there is just something different about curling up in a corner with a good book. Maybe it’s the tactile sensation, or the musty aroma that the pages give off, but reading ebooks simply isn’t the same for me. I prefer holding paper. And I say this as someone who has bought less than ten physical books in the last five years. My oldest feels the same way, but it’s likely that our point of view will die out within my lifetime. And I’m okay with that.

    A GPS is a wonderful device, but it’s given us all brain damage. I knew a family who moved into my neighborhood from out of state. They used a GPS whenever they left their house. Four months later, I don’t think they were able to find the grocery store or the library without using their GPS. It’s similar to how people no longer remember phone numbers because you carry them ALL in your phone, or how some don’t bother to remember birthdays because of Facebook’s reminders.

    And I think that human interaction overall is diminishing. People are way to busy looking at their virtual life on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Yes, I realize the irony of saying this here. However, I’ve seen way too many people out on dates who spend the entire time checking their phones instead of talking with the person sitting across from them. When your virtual life starts to become more important than your actual life, something has gone horribly wrong.

    Where is this headed? I have no idea. But I’ll keep reading scifi to see who makes the best guesses.

    1. Books… sure. But the Music Revolution came and went without much notice. Sure, the RIAA and labels were up in arms over Bittorrent and LimeWire, but they were so focused on piracy that they missed the watershed – who listens to a radio any more, that isn’t wired to a PA system in some public space? You probably listen to tracks you selected and loaded into your own MP3 player or phone. The local radio stations have merged; we used to have three more-or-less rock and roll stations, with other stations in other areas. Now the entire central and northern part of my state has ONE station broadcasting on multiple frequencies… and the “music” part is some mix they buy from a packager, and they license the same babbling-idiot DJ stream I hear coast to coast.

      I ran into the same problem with music that I ran into with books; about the time “science fiction” turned into something I didn’t like any more, rock music turned into something that I not only didn’t much like, it all sounded much the same… Gatekeeper Effect again, probably.

      Radio is pretty near dead. It probably won’t be too long before the FCC slices some fat chunks out of the broadcast bands and reallocates it to “mobile devices”.

      1. TRX, if you’re in the USA try PANDORA for you new “Radio Station.” Tell it what you like and you will even get new artist and song suggestions you love. It’s online. Really good stuff.

        1. I *love* Pandora, even though I usually am not in a position to use it. (Reception at work sucks, and I refuse to pay an extra $100 just to have all-the-time-wireless on my tablet) I’ve found so many amazing new-to-me artists that way…none of whom I had ever heard on the official ‘radio’, as it happens.

            1. It’s hella unreliable. As in, there’s one spot, about two feet square, in the building where I can get a signal…but only on my phone. And it’s not consistent. It’s a bit silly, really, but…ah, well. I have my own music collection, and save Pandora for when I’m canning stuff at home and can set up the tablet on an unused surface. 🙂

          1. Pandora works for you? The last time I tried it, it had a strange attractor at AC/DC. Even went from Jimmy Buffett to AC/DC at one point.

            1. I had the same thing happen to me (Buffet -> AC/DC) but since I like both it wasn’t that bad. But when it goes from Buffett to full-bore Country&Western that knocks me off the ladder (I was painting the ceiling at the time). (I like Country Rock, but Achy-Breaky heart stuff I loath).


            2. Got one for you, had pandora go from Benny Benassi(techno with a good beat) to Louis B. Armstrong (if you don’t know… wow.).

              P.S. Louis B. Armstrong makes an excellent channel to play Fallout to when you get bored of the same 8 songs over and over again.

              P.P.S. now if only pandora would let me inject Mr New Vegas, or Three dog in as a song D.J. #awesome

              1. P.P.S. now if only pandora would let me inject Mr New Vegas, or Three dog in as a song D.J. #awesome

                Good point. If Pandora allowed me to inject 5 – 10 songs to seed the pond I would have a much better chance of getting the 1940s – ’60s Broadway show tunes I want.

      2. Radio is getting to be more a vehicle for news and local talk, which makes sense- if one’s commuting to work, news and local traffic is what one often wants to hear.

        1. *raises paw* I listen to the radio only when I’m on the road. And even then, for loooong trips? CDs and an adapter for my iPod.

          1. I drove from the DC/Maryland area to eastern Central Illinois last Thanksgiving with Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, and Secret Garden soundtracks in the player. I needed something I could sing along to to keep me awake. Which is how I ended up with a sore throat when I got home.

    2. GPS might have given you brain damage…I took countermeasures. I’ve got a friend who is a flight instructor. He sends students out on their long cross-country flights with a GPS…sealed in a bag. Open the bag, and he won’t count the flight. You navigate by pilotage (aka reading a map) and dead reckoning.

      It’s not hard, once you learn it.

    3. What is difficult to anticipate is all that will be gone with the new ordering of the world. GPS makes navigation irrelephantine, just as calculators killed the slide rule and kids can no longer read an analog clock at a glance.

      1. Mine can. In Roman numerals, no less.
        The homeschool timepiece is my grandmother’s grandfather clock.

        I also teach the ‘obsolete’ skill of cursive. It’s like a secret code-they love it.

        Make you feel better, I hope? A hair less curmudgeonly?

        1. Hell, I’ve had junior techs in my section who can’t do basic math. “I just use my phone’s calculator function, PO”. Oh really? And if you enter the number wrong, how will you know? If you how how division works, you’ll look at the wrong answer and know it’s off for some reason.

          1. I was watching a video recently of a guy explaining ‘Common Core Math’ to all us closed-minded-fossils. About 1/2 way through he sneered, “When was the last time you did long division?” I thought, well last week when I was comparing a 20-pack of Coke for $5.99 and three 12-packs for $11.00.
            I decided since he was clearly not reality-based, I didn’t have to watch the rest of his ‘indoctrination’.

            1. Yeah, my kids get to do that all the time. ‘OK! Loose, 5#, 10# or #20 bag of potatoes?’ Practical mental math.
              Are we really that odd? Doesn’t everyone do that?

              1. No, you’re not really that odd until you start factoring everything by primes. I gleefully spent the year I turned 27 announcing “I’m 3!” — meaning, of course, 3-cubed.

                I cannot begin to describe my eagerness at being able to claim, birthday after next, that I am 4 (cubed) or 8 (squared) or even 2 (to the sixth.)

                  1. At present and through very little fault of my own. My right eyebrow is permanently arched due to a scar through it incurred when I was a wee toddler of about three under circumstances unknown but which resulted in my bathroom trips being supervised for a number of years subsequent.

                    It is my thesis that going through life with one eyebrow raised has resulted in certain minor personality quirks, and I am prepared to defend that thesis so long as the drinks don’t run out.

              2. > Doesn’t everyone do that?

                In my experience, no. Most people I’ve been with just keep tossing things into the cart and hope they don’t have an embarrassing moment at the register.

                1. I check my checking account before I go out shopping. Debit cards are wonderful! No more writing a check.

                  1. I love Debit Cards as well. Of course, late in the month I have to keep a running total of how much the groceries will cost.

                    1. Well, if there’s money in my wallet, I might spend it without thinking. Using my debit card forces me to think “is there enough money in checking?”. [Wink]

                  2. No debit cards here. No ATM card either. And I only write two or three checks a month now. Otherwise, I operate in cash.

                    Some years ago I got interested in the security and authentication behind the scenes. I hit the web, then had a long talk with my bank’s VP and IT chief, and then I pulled all but $100 out of my checking account and bought a lockbox.

                    I did IT security once. I was PAID to be paranoid…

            2. I can’t vouch for the *accuracy* of my mental long division, but I do indeed use it all the time for estimating prices and which the best thing would be.

              I admit, though, when more accurate and precise numbers are needed, then yes, I do use my phone’s calculator.

              1. I don’t trust my mental math. I have to put stuff on paper many times to “get it right”. It’s safer to use a calculator.

              2. I’ll reach for a calculator sometimes, but occasionally I find myself nowhere near a calculator, and it can be convenient to crunch numbers on a piece of paper you have handy.

                Occasionally I’ll reach for a calculator because I lack a convenient piece of paper…

              3. A local store often has an “X for Y” pricing with the idea that people will likely buy X of some item, having been trained by convenience store pricing where many things are “2 for $1, or $0.59 each.” For a while they had a decided fondness for the number 7.

                1. Oh, yes. I remember meeting with doubt when I told somebody that unless it was a unit like a five-pound bag, or they specifically said “must buy so many” or “individual price this amount,” something like 3/$6 in the grocery stores around here didn’t actually mean you had to buy multiples of the specified number to get the price in question.

                  On the other hand, the one that advertises “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE” and in fact is selling each individual item for half price is a little strange. Maybe they get more attention that way?

                  1. Local stores use both methods. I gather the “X for Y” is a psychological ploy relying on the idea that most people will not think “Two tins of peanuts for $7 or one for $3.50” — thus encouraging more sales volume. The “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE” is a way to avoid lowering their apparent price and making the buyer purchase the requisite quantity to get the price.

                    One local store likes to offer “Buy 2 at regular price, get 3 more FREE” bargains under the thesis that buyers can’t be bothered to work out a net per unit price. It is an okay deal for things that don’t quickly go stale, such as canned soda, less so for products with reasonably soon “use by” dates, like hummus.

                2. Safeway was the first local store to raise the price of the “economy”, “family”, or “white label” packaged products to higher-per-unit than the name-brand items in smaller packages. Most people apparently still haven’t caught on.

                  Depending on the package size, the price for the same item might be half or double that of a different package of the same thing.

                  1. They might be pulling the “people usually buy the second-least-expensive thing on the shelf” trick, instead– or in addition to people frequently buying the largest on the assumption it’s cheaper.

                    Our local grocery store, I’m torn– the least expensive by-the-oz peanut butter that the kids like is also a size that’s a pain to use. The smallest size…..

            3. I’d have asked, “Does it have to be on paper, or can it be in my head? I don’t bother with paper for anything that requires less than three decimal places.”

              But that’s just me.

          1. I am not curmudgeonly.

            The rest of the world is laden with @!#%$ Pollyannas.

            (Practically) everybody but me is out of step; I’ve become resigned to it.

        2. In Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, there’s a big clock. Analog, with Roman numerals. Because in the future, everyone will be able to read analog clocks with Roman numerals.

      2. kids can no longer read an analog clock at a glance.

        Back when the schools were teaching Jr. Chronda how to read clocks, I looked around and realized that all of the analog clocks in the Chronda compound were of the humorous counterclockwise variety.

        1. One of the personal signs of being from Ancient Times was now years ago when an uncle’s son asked if he could visit a friend. “Sure, give him a call, there’s a phone right there.” said the uncle. And his son stared at it, “How?” It was the only rotary dial left in the house.

          1. I grew up with only rotary dial phones at home. They were also only black. What is so hard about rotary? It’s easier than using a mouse.

              1. The only reason the rotary phone here isn’t plugged in is that they don’t build ethernet filters for that kind of phone outlet. Which is a darn shame, because that phone is rugged and power-outage proof.

                I had to tell the fourth and fifth again today to stop playing at dialing it before they break it.

              2. One of the Ellery Queen mysteries (don’t remember if it was the TV show or one of the original stories) had him reconstruct a phone number from his memory of hearing it dialed (“brrreeet-digga-digga-digga”).

            1. Old trope. Used in “The Philadelphia Experiment” among others.

              Person from coma/time warp/whatever needs to make a phone call. Is given a push-button phone and brain lock ensues.

              Or gives a six digit phone number.

            2. Up on there’s an entire instructional film on how to use a rotary dial phone.

              I learned by watching my parents, having my finger slip out of the dial, etc. But to someone confronted with one of the things with no idea what to do with it… it’s worth searching for the video; the people who put it together did an excellent job, even if it’s hilarious to someone who grew up with such a thing.

              A lot of learning is via “monkey see, monkey do”. That’s one reason Apple products drive me half-mad with frustration. “We can’t be bothered with any instructions, someone else will show you. Besides, it’s INTUITIVELY OBVIOUS.” (blood pressure spikes…)

      3. I own my father’s slide rule. It’s somewhat of an enigma to me, despite my father trying to show me how to use it once or twice, but I’m fascinated by it nonetheless. He purchased it for classes just before the calculator revolution.

        Although I don’t quite know how to use one (certain types of calculations still trip me up–it’s probably more of a lack-of-practice thing, more than anything else), I think it’s valuable to know how to use one. I’d also like to get my hand on an astrolabe, among other things, and learn how to use it.

        Mathematicians in general don’t have a firm grasp on their past. This is one gap of my own mathematical training I’d like to fill better! Particularly because even “outdated” techniques are often “intuitive” in ways that modern techniques are not. (And vice versa, to be fair…)

        1. Sounds like your Dad is my age. I bought my H&K slide rule in 1973 when HP’s slide rule calculator cost almost $1000. Two years later I bought a TI SR-50 for $175 and never used my slipstick again.

          1. I’ve still got my 1971-vintage K&E multilog, along with the hardback book that came with it.

            I also have a small abacus and a book about them, in case of emergencies.

        2. It has been a long time and my math education stopped not long after mastering basic slide rules, but as I recall it uses logarithmic relationships to perform — so if you haven’t mastered logs you probably can’t master a slide rule. If you’ve got a good grasp of logs, especially natural logs, that should be all you need to know to work out its operation.

          1. I admit to keeping an older edition of the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics around for things like the trig and log tables 🙂

          2. At one point in 1973-1974, I was working on memorizing the log tables so I could do slide rule work faster. After I got my SR-50, that ended….

      4. In the same vein, when I first moved here in 1998 went to a deli counter and ordered 4 oz. of roast beef. Teenage girl at the counter said that wasn’t enough to do anything with. Told her it was enough to make a sandwich. She shrugged her shoulders and promptly sliced off .04 lbs. Told her I wanted .25 of that. She said “Why didn’t you say so?” I looked right at her and since “I did.”

        1. Our local hospitals have a horrible habit of writing birth weights as “9.4lbs” and such, when they MEAN “9lbs 4oz.” Unless you watch them weigh the kid, there’s no way to tell which way it was, because some scales really do put in digital pounds, while some go in pounds and ounces, and it’s not that hard to convert between them.

  5. Progressives clearly still hate space:

    There are so many things the current generation are ignorant of (how to drive without power steering, how to change a flat), but then you realize that there is no need for much of the practical knowledge of old and obsolete ways of doing things. Anything they need, (like how to change the water pump in a 2005 Taurus) there is always at least one you tube video explaining it.
    If you really think the Internet is ‘free’, I will send you a copy of my wildblue satellite Internet bill. But, your point is still valid, the cost is pennies for the information it can bring.
    I am undecided about the bound books however, there is that calming and peaceful contemplative sense when you are in a room surrounded by books (mold spores notwithstanding).
    The future isn’t what I expected from when I was 10, but I have still enjoyed the ride.

      1. Progressives want to live in their comfortable cocoon. “Go to Mars, you might die!” I’m amazed he didn’t mention the lack of trigger warnings on manuals once you get there.

        1. One likely reason for Proglodyte antipathy toward Space is that it devalues their skill set. Engineers are probably one of the groups most tilted toward conservatism because mathematical science remains essentially right-wing.

          It is hard to fast-talk your way out of a bridge or rocket failure the same way you can dodge responsibility for a policy failure.

          1. You’ve triggered an idea! A space opera comedy that follows a kool-aid-drinking progressive thru the space academy and their political career, focus on how they keep passing blame for their failures off on anybody unfortunate enough to be associated with them, only to find out in the surprise-twist-ending that it is Capt. Janeway.

          2. I have a theory for how to measure the practical usefulness of any job specialization. It involves a thought experiment tracking the growth of a hypothetical Mars base, and predicting the point in the colony’s growth at which it makes the most sense for the specialization to occur, measured in powers of ten.

            Thus, specializations at the 10-2 level (colony population: 100) would include things like electrical engineer, psychologist, geologist, etc. Chiropractor would be at the 10-3 level (pop: 1,000), since in a smaller colony you can lump that job in with a more generalized field, like doctor or nurse. Thus, the more specialized a job becomes, the higher its level: writer would probably be 10-3 or 10-4, whereas science fiction writer would be more like 10-5.

            The highest level is 10-6, since Elon Musk’s target goal for a fully self-sustaining Mars colony is one million people. Thus, any specialization that doesn’t emerge until after the 10-6 level is utterly useless. This includes things like gender studies professor, undergraduate student diversity liason, and a whole bunch of government jobs that were invented by our friends on the Left.

            1. I would argue that any specialization that becomes a common enough commodity that a specialist can consistently perform better, for a considerably lower cost, significantly faster, or any combination of the three, than a generalist and have enough demand to provide them a good enough income to be worth their time and energy, is one that is useful.

              For many such specialties, they will not emerge until the population is able to stand back from the press of mere survival, and are able to have some leisure time, or at least time to devote to lower-priority activities.

      2. I always figured we were a better model for long term space crews than pilots. Apparently the Project Orion folks agreed at least to some degree.

      3. Pshaw. Look at the histories of, for example, 19th Century whaling ships and how long they would typically remain at sea. People these days often forget that “back in the day” a ship was putting much at risk simply visiting a new port (and many an old one, as sailors off the Barbary Coast well knew.)

        1. Yep, that’s part of the reason that I’m on the “Navy side” of the debates over “Space Forces based on Navy vs Space Forces based on Air Force”. [Smile]

          1. John Ringo and Travis Taylor boiled down those arguments very well in “Vorpal Blade”. I showed them to a number of Marine NCOs and officers at Camp Pendleton a few years back, and they were most interested. 😎

            1. I’ve worked with a lot of sub guys at the various nuke plants I’ve infested over the years. Mostly fun guys with lots of great stories about Murmansk or Vladivostok harbors or the interminable 2 knot cruises lost to everyone else on the planet……

              1. I knew a CTT at my last command who had been coming into the Vlad harbor in a sub at the same time I was coming in on Blue Ridge, about five years ago. He used to wax lyrical about it.

              1. We’ve got a lot of nukes, and a lot of were-offered-nukes, and I think Cyn would’ve been forced into Nuke if she hadn’t been a lady and it hadn’t been the era it was. (Yay, no girls on subs!)

                1. And at least one wannabe – who was told after winning the 3yr NROTC scholarship that he was medically unfit for service (eyesight) – even called Colorado Springs to confirm. That was not a fun day. But life moves on and things change – I still belong to the Naval Institute though.


              1. Arte there Seals that have earned their dolphins? I think that’s Navy speak for submarine qualifications.

                What the heck are hull shots? I encountered the term in Strands of Sorrow.

                1. Hull shots are photographs taken of a ship’s hull via the periscope. They require fine control of depth and a sonar team that’s on the ball.

                  Also requires big brass balls, but so does going waltzing up into Soviet harbors for assorted skullduggery.

                  As for earning one’s dolphins, yes that’s the term for qualifying for submarine duty. I suppose one could qual as a bubblehead and then go SEAL, but I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly a common path. 😛

        1. No, we aren’t. But not quite as insane as carrier qualified pilots. Aiming for a moving target in the dark and getting upset if you don’t snag the third wire…

    1. It’s nice to see that the NYTimes is keeping with it’s tradition of stupidity, ignorance and arrogance.
      See Robert Godard and the New Your Times.
      “That Professor Goddard, with his “chair” in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action and reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react—to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”

      1. I’m pretty sure Newton’s third law is High-School physics. But as the quote mentions action and reaction, they knew the law existed, they were just too stupid to understand it. (a.k.a. they were reporters because they failed physics.)

    2. As far as bound books go, they’ve got another advantage when it comes to peaceful contemplation: the large stacks of paper muffle sound and make places like libraries quieter than they otherwise would be. Apparently some “modern” libraries have been having issues with this: they got rid of or seriously cut back on the stacks on the (admittedly fair) grounds that hardly anyone ever used them, and the result has been that no one studies there any more; even with people trying to be quiet, it’s like trying to study in the cafeteria, only with no food.

      I understand the rest of the revolution described here, but they can have my bound books when they take them out of my cold, dead hands. If that means that I’m the last holdout, like one of those Japanese soldiers still fighting WWII on a remote island, then so be it.

      1. I’m one of those two. Which is why you can get both my novels and all three of my collections in dead tree editions. (Some of the short works are theoretically possible but way too expensive.)

      2. I have read that shelves laden with books are excellent protection from fallout in the event of a nuclear war. Possibly not true, but I say why take the risk?

        1. According to Pulling Through, you are correct. Mr. Ing put effort into making sure his advice was factual for that book.

          1. But wouldn’t that mean your books would be irradiated? That would be worse than death for bibliophiles.

            1. In the event of nuclear catastrophe some small sacrifices must be made. On the bright side, having books that glow in the dark facilitates reading at night.

    3. Wow. I just read the article and I cannot begin to grasp, to comprehend the depths of utter despair the author must feel. Had this person never heard of chemistry? Of engineering? Is there not one bone in their idle body that is moved to a sense of wonder, of adventure? Of course there will be problems! People will die doing this; that’s a given. There have been problems and deaths in every great adventure. But that’s the draw – the risk as well as the reward. Except for people like the article’s author, who apparently would rather huddle in the corner, eyes screwed shut, fingers in ears, shouting “LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU I CAN’T SEE YOU!”

      You know what? Leave this puling, whinging man-child stay behind. Let him and his cowardly ilk live their sad, safe, fear-riddled lives. The rest of us will, as the bear did, go over the mountain to see what we can see.

      1. I think I’ve heard of similar ones on the market, but at some point, I’m going to have a shirt that says, “The meek shall inherit the Earth. While the rest of us leave.”

        1. Back in the 1980s there were buttons and t-shirts available that said, “The meek shall inherit the earth. The rest of us will go to the stars.”

          Same thing, really.

      2. Maybe Jesus was right when he said that the meek shall inherit the earth—but they inherit very small plots, about six feet by three. – Lazarus Long

    4. Ed Regis is the author of “Monsters: The Hindenburg Disaster and the Birth of Pathological Technology.”

      In other words, he holds exactly the opinions you would expect him to, given his philosophy. :/

    5. I still love physical books, but I fully intend to keep only the most beloved books, in hardbound form, on bookshelves. I haven’t read a paper book in a couple of years, now, simply because ebooks are more suited to my tendency to read 5-6 books at a time…

      Less dust/mold is also appealing…

    6. You derive what the political classes value by the incentives.

      Walter Mondale basically made his political nut as a Senator attempting to zero all funding for the US space program. While he failed, his party rewarded him with the VP slot under Carter, his own run at the white house, and later on the Ambassador to Japan slot.

      Name one political appointee or high elected official who made his name supporting or campaigning for the US space program – in this case not counting bashing commercial space so more NASA jobs stay in Alabama.

  6. In terms of technologies that have changed the way we do things, one of my favorites is Urban Spoon. It’s a small thing, but the ability to find a good, close restaurant in a strange city has made business travelling a heck of a lot more convenient. It’s awfully nice not being restricted to the hotel bar simply because you have no idea how to find anything better.

    1. It is likely one of the factors cutting into sales at McDonalds, where you knew that although the food wasn’t “good” it neither was it likely to be “bad.”

  7. Roads in Chattanooga do go through pine forests. Try to do Reflection Riding next time you’re there. And they go through tunnels and up the bloody damn mountain too. The layout apparently offends the sensibilities of GPS’s electronic brains.

    1. Tunnels absolutely block the GPS signal and pine forests can come pretty close. Around here, the tunnels are underwater, but it is equally effective as stone.
      I actually am fondest of using Google Maps for finding strange places and directions, but just this last weekend, I decided to come home from Richmond via back roads, because the main Interstate through the city was blocked for bicycle races (including the entrance to MCV, so don’t have a medical emergency). The route was one I traveled last over a year ago, but with my trusty GPS, I was confident I would keep on course.

      1. This suggests a loss of a certain serendipitous travel, as when Beloved Spouse & I were wont to go to Myrtle Beach by driving down to South Carolina, turning Left and watching for Hwy 17. So long as we stayed on Eastbound roads and watched for a few landmarks (e.g., Marion, 17 miles) and were in no particular hurry the trip was always a joy.

        Of course, it has been a quarter century since wwe had any interest in Myrtle Beach.

      2. There was this road, now cow pasture, in Central Texas that Google, Bing and MapQuest swore existed, by the land owners said the last time any one had used it was 1946. Guess they copied some old atlas…

          1. I’ve been on that road! And it isn’t just DeLorme maps (I had one of their atlases) but MapQuest that also gave me directions to turn right on __ Road. When I got there, I could look across the cow pasture and see the road I wanted to connect to, a mile away. There was a barb wire gate in the fence, approximately where I was supposed to turn right, but since it was spring and rather muddy I didn’t think the rancher would appreciate my blithely cutting across his pasture. So I pulled the atlas out, which also showed the road going through the cow pasture. Eventually I found my way around by feel.

        1. thats ok, for about the first 7 years of its operation MapQuest insisted that CA 2, the freeway, connected to CA 101…

          (it does, but it merges onto a surface street and that surface street becomes 2)

        2. The old atlas could have included out of date information, also. I acquired a 1954 Encyclopedia Brittanica atlas some years ago. In the foreword, it noted that a number of the maps dated from before WW2, because either the borders hadn’t yet settled down, or because information wasn’t yet available from those areas.

      3. Sunday we used the GPS to find a restaurant in an unfamiliar town. Rather than follow the same route back out, I had it route us back home from that location. We realized it was routing us back a longer way, but figured we’d hit the road going around the town and from there get to the highway we needed. Then my wife saw a familiar street name, and I pulled over and looked at the city map. Even with GPS, I like to carry one of these and a state highway map. After a moment to get our bearings, we struck out our own way and got where we needed to go.

        I try to never rely solely on a GPS. Have seen them screw up too many times.

        BTW, GPS frequently mess up on address locations. I look it up a location on Google Earth, get the latitude and longitude of the parking lot, and save that as favorite coordinate.

        1. Half the fun of the talking map is to use it as a tool, not a substitute for thought!

          It’s just a map where you don’t have to stop and pull over to get a quick glance.

      1. Much as Google maps insisted that the motel I was searching for was right there!!! When in fact it was at the top of a 100 foot cliff, not at the bottom, and you had to drive seven miles over switchback roads to reach it.

          1. To me “GPS” still means a little box that reads latitude and longitude. Somehow the popular usage is now “a real-time electronic map” its its users wouldn’t even recognize lat/long figures, much less how to use them with a paper map…

            The people who use the word “satellite” to mean “the dish antenna on the roof” enrage my inner language ogre, though…

            My brother-in-law wire-wrapped the first prototype proof-of-concept GPS unit and flew it around in various USAF aircraft to demonstrate that it worked. He’s kept track of some of the people he worked with, many of whom have passed away since then. I’ve been trying to talk him into writing a monograph about his experiences. The technical parts are well-documented, but the military/contractor interactions were fairly bizarre, at least to my layman’s political view. He doesn’t think anyone would be interested. But he’ll be 70 next year, and it won’t be that long before nobody who was there is left.

              1. As do I – the inside baseball stuff from technical development efforts, especially where an “official history” exists that can be counted on to have whitewashed seomthing, is endless fascinating to me.

            1. Re: “satellite”

              It took me a long, long time to adjust to ‘video’ as a description of a short segment of moving pictures. Video is a signal, to me. Or was.

            2. “To me “GPS” still means a little box that reads latitude and longitude. Somehow the popular usage is now “a real-time electronic map” its its users wouldn’t even recognize lat/long figures, much less how to use them with a paper map…”

              I surveyed for years. Do you have any idea how much I despise the new trend to show lat/long on maps rather than sections?… No, on second thought, you can’t know how much I despise that, or you never would have mentioned it. It is very bad for my blood pressure.

        1. Over the Labor Day weekend I went hiking someplace new. The mapping software told me to turn from the state route I was on onto a local road. But I never saw the local road. It took 20 minutes of driving, and actually driving over it, to discover the highway crossed over the narrow local road on a bridge, which you couldn’t see from the bridge because of so many trees, and that actually reaching the road involved a tiny side road a quarter mile away that descended from the level of the highway to that of the local road.

          A few years ago I was back east visiting my parents and we were driving into a nearby city for dinner at a restaruant they’d not been to before. We were relying upon their GPS to get us there, and it told Dad to make a right onto a street that no longer existed, then spent the next several minutes telling us to turn around and go back to take the street that no longer existed.

          Back in 2009, I was visiting northern Indiana and had booked a motel room. I took careful note of the address and got directions online. I reached the specified address only to discover that it had sent me to the wrong “Frontage Road” and my motel was actually 7 miles west at another exit off the same highway, which had another stretch of “Frontage Road” there.

          In 2005 some directions from Mapquest attempted to send me down a road their accompanying map did not show as existing, so I followed the map instead of the directions. It worked, but I later found out a new bypass had opened around a town and it was in their database in terms of path-finding but not in terms of graphics.

          1. > Mapquest

            Ah, yes. I gave up on them in the 20th century.

            Mapquest would always come up with bizarre routes, in one case a full 60 miles past my destination and then back up another road from the other side.

            I eventually came to the conclusion that Mapquest was taking money from advertisers or “sponsors” to route traffic by their businesses.

            There was NO algorithm that could justify some of the routes they came up with…

            I bought some more paper maps, and everything was fine.

            1. I eventually came to the conclusion that Mapquest was taking money from advertisers or “sponsors” to route traffic by their businesses.

              I had an amusing experience a few years ago when I tried to query Google Maps for a route between a city in Thailand and a city in Laos. The two countries share a border, and there are a couple of major highways connecting them. The route that Google Maps gave me, however, would have had me driving west through Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India, turning northwest to drive through Pakistan, turning north to drive through Afghanistan and a few other Stans, then northeast-to-east through Russia and Mongolia, before turning south to drive all the way through China (north to south) and entering Laos.

              I thought for a second I’d hit some kind of Easter Egg, then played with the map a bit by trying routes between different points. I eventually discovered that unless you picked points extremely close to each other, Google Maps would always try to route you through that same point on the Mongolia-China border, calculating extremely circuitous routes in order to get you there. I zoomed in closer on that point, and found there was a toll road (or toll bridge, or toll tunnel) along that section of the border-crossing highway between Mongolia and China.

              At this point, the mystery was cleared up. Google’s route-finding algorithm had clearly been fed bad data to say “This particular stretch of road has priority M”, where M was the maximum priority available to the algorithm. I tried again a few days later and they were giving sensible routes again, so someone clearly noticed the bad data and fixed it — but I wonder how much money the owners of that toll road made from the Mongolians who picked it rather than better routes during the time when the bad route data was out there? And did they make more money than the bribe they paid somebody to slip that bad priority number into Google’s map data, or did they lose money on their bribe because Google fixed it so fast?

      2. I did see an interesting part of Chicago because the GPS I had was a bit temperamental, I had gotten used to it telling me in good time when I was approaching a place where I should either turn or choose a different lane, and when it stopped doing that about half of the time… A few wrong turns, or wrong turns combined with not turning when I should have, and yes, looked interesting. Fortunately the things can recalculate fast too, and while it still didn’t always talk the visual map was there and accurate, so once I started keeping an eye on it all the time, not just when it warned me to, I got where I was going. 😀

        (And the other interesting part was that I was running out of gas. Did last to the hotel, if barely)

                1. I’ve read stuff, so wasn’t too happy, and a couple of turns definitely were in an area where the few people on foot I saw didn’t look melanin deficient. That is one of the problems with GPS, they just calculate the shortest route, not the safest.

                  1. I have seen a few joke lines to the effect of “I wish GPS had an ‘avoid ghetto’ option…”

                    1. Would, in fact, be useful. 🙂 But I suppose impossible. Defining an area as ghetto or anything similar in their maps might raise too many objections. Or law suits.

                    2. Works for people who live there. Tourists, on the other hand, don’t have that option. I wonder how many times it happens in any given year (and what the road side assistance I had paid for would have said if I had needed to call them from the middle of one). 😀

                    3. They already have “live traffic updates” to route around traffic jams; how hard would it be to add an “avoid high-crime areas” option linked to the police databases? The political issues far outweigh the technical.

                    4. One nice thing I’ve noticed about the Google maps app is that it does give you options (long way, short way, etc) and it does indeed adjust if you take a “wrong” turn.

                      I was down in Denver the other day and thinking how much less stressful it is to visit with the handy maps thing. I can find anything I like, and don’t spend a lot of time driving around lost because a.) my sense of direction is negative, and b.) my mental map of Denver is dated to almost fifteen years ago, when last I lived in that area, and so is incredibly useless…

                    5. If you can find a local you trust before you go to tell you where the bad neighborhoods are. Then you can tell GPS not to go there. You have to remember to update your GPS. Otherwise it might be out of date. There’s one suburb of Dallas that has been built in the last 10 years, and is still building.A part of the suburb.

                    6. No, I’ve been living in Illinoisy for the last 18 years. I used to live near Granbury when I worked at Comanche Peak. BTW…did Westminster ever start growing, or is it still a little town?

                      I remember driving through Collin County with my parents when I was a kid and it was mostly cotton farms. When we went to visit my Aunt in Oklahoma, Dad would stop in Arlington to hit 6 Flags for us kids, then drive through Dallas and get off the turnpike onto US 75 and we’d take that into Okieland, going through Allen and all the other used-to-be small towns….

                    7. Our son has lived in Allen, TX, for well over a dozen years and it’s certainly no longer a “small town.” Our grandson graduated from Allen HS last Spring and was among 1,400 GRADUATES!

      3. That’s where you stop, get your four legged critter out of the trailer, saddle it up, and continue.

  8. There was a time when we added on average one floor-to-ceiling bookcase each year. I am now, without the threat of moving house, looking at reversing that fairly quickly. Some of the books I want are available as ebooks from my public library… many are available from Amazon, and only the rest need be stored in my house on shelves.

    Trailing daughter #2, just married and moving to Texas, was storing their physical books on part of one shelf in the linen closet. I joined Mr. Wife with a literal trunk full of books and one suitcase of clothing. Td #1, on the other hand, prefers physical books — and even finds it more effective to write her first drafts in long hand — so she’ll have dibs on both the books and the bookshelves.

    1. I am holding on to more paper books than most I think. With the new coal laws I’m very worried of third world like reliability in electricity coming to the US outside of DC.

      1. I like paper, for the tactile feel and for how lots of books in big bookshelf look. And maybe the smell, a bit. With time my current collection will probably become smaller since now I’m buying more ebooks than paper, but it will be a while before I can give up having at least a few walls lined with shelves. To me a room without them looks kind of… well, not like my home. It’s one visual I need before I can feel completely at home.

        Otherwise, I guess the biggest point to a paper collection for me are the discoveries (oh, what do we have here… I didn’t remember I have this…). Perhaps a bit more likely when you peruse a shelf than when you go through the covers/names in electronic form. At least I remember things a bit better when the memory is also tied to something tactile, so I am more likely to know if I liked something, or have at least read it even if I have now mostly forgotten it when it’s a paper book than when it’s an electronic file. And it’s more likely I need to go through the paper books for other reasons. Like cleaning, or moving. 😀

        Fortunately I don’t have any allergy issues with paper books, they are dust collectors but household dust doesn’t bother me that much.

        And yep, in case of something catastrophic, however unlikely you assume that would be, at most you’d need something like a candle (and maybe your glasses… getting towards that) to read them. So just in case.

      2. Ha! DC has Pepco, a corporation of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Maryland. I understand the last big Hurricane the lights on the Virginia side of the Potomac came on days before the other sides did.

        1. Do you want to imagine what a bunch of DC bureaucratic types could turn into if left in the (literal) dark without air conditioning for a while? (Among other things, I would not be surprised if the lights cam on and the entire Treasury building had been stolen, but that’s just the cynical side talking.)

          1. “Do you want to imagine what a bunch of DC bureaucratic types could turn into if left in the (literal) dark without air conditioning for a while?”

            Let’s run this experiment!

            1. And anyway the E4E is even lamer than an E4A – which is lame itself. You really want an F5E or an AD5. – yes I am another F&E/SFB person – have F&E setup on my solitaire table right now – turn 5.

              But he best is the C7S or the F6.


  9. Entire bookshelves got donated. For instance, the French Revolution. Too depressing to write books set in it, and I just don’t see it at this point in my life.

    Tangent but this reminded me of something.

    I’ve had an idea floating around in my head about an old TV series which lead to a strange realization: The sheer scale and nature of the project involved could only be accomplished in the foreseeable future by a “successful” worldwide communist tyranny. Yes, successful is in quotes because it wouldn’t be successful in any terms we’d accept. I should probably put communist in quotes as well because the majority of the beneficiaries (who would be 1% of humanity at best, see quotes around successful) would be from the proletariat. Those of the Outer Party (all of the Inner Party would benefit, such is the nature of communism) would have to compete to get benefits (see Friedman on all systems having incentives) and that competition would be the source of the success.

    This idea repulsed and frightened me but seems inescapable.

    However, typing this out I realize two things:

    1. The tyranny is all backstory and it could also be harness to help explain later issue.

    2. It’s less “successful” worldwide communist tyranny and more a worldwide FDR WWII economy moral equivalent of war. That said, is FDR WWII economy that much different from a “successful” communist tyranny?

    Damn, hit the caps key and didn’t notice. Sorry ’bout that.
    Anyhoo, the place is between two large highways and in a large industrial center.
    The other thing is as mentioned people have no idea about how to find an address without the GPS thing. You know, 1234 50th street means that you go to ~12th on 50th and then drive in the direction that the numbers go up.
    I work security at the plant and go through this darn near every day.

    1. You know, 1234 50th street means that you go to ~12th on 50th and then drive in the direction that the numbers go up.

      That’s nowhere near universal, and is probably wrong more often than it’s right. Then there are things like Templeton Gap Road in Colorado Springs, where you have to know which side of Union the address is on because you can’t just follow the road.

      1. Then there are those areas where a road will change its name three times before reaching its destination, and at least one of the three names is a continuation of a road t’other side o’ town.

        1. What about addresses like ‘The Old Smith House’?

          Course, the only maps that show those are the hand drawn sort.

        2. Address in the Dallas area are jokingly near Beltline. (Which used to be an old loop around the city, but is chopped into pieces and changes names. There is a DQ at the corner of Beltline and Beltline.)

          Plus any highway has 3 or 4 names, which are only known to the very long term residents, not the recent masses from the coasts and surrounding states.

          1. Beltline in what city? I’m thinking Beltline in Addison, Richardson and Dallas are 3 different addresses. You live in the ‘plex Chris? I’ve only been here since ’06.

        1. The first time I went to visit my friend I got lost with the GPS. Turns out I told it to go to XXXX Cheyenne road, and he lived at XXXX Cheyenne Blvd, two blocks away.

          Later on I discovered that Cheyenne Mountain Blvd was only a quarter-mile away.

        2. The first time I visit my sister in Minneapolis the directions, as she relayed them, included a bit like, “You will see a sign for Logan Ave. Drive past it. In a couple couple blocks, you will see another sign for Logan Ave. Turn right onto it.” (Might not have been Logan, but the idea is there.) This was before I had a GPS – which at times can get me even more lost. Though last time it was because there was so much construction to detour around it was even confusing the locals.

        3. I grew up in Atlanta, and had a pizza-delivering friend who was convinced there was only one Peachtree; it was just that it followed him around.

      2. In Denver, there’s one intersection where 15th Avenue becomes 29th Street. Not quite a straight line, though – it’s a five-way intersection.

      3. I joke that from my visit to Atlanta, I learned that directions there consist of “You take Peachtree Boulevard to Peachtree Avenue. Turn right, then go until you hit Peachtree Circle. Continue on to Peachtree Lane, then …”

    2. And the addresses are longer and thus more complicated with the 911 addresses that start somewhere outside of town (well, if we’re talking about a small town)–350 West Sycamore became 3440 West Sycamore, e. g. Worse, the planners and namers run out of names or creativity so you get Smith St. downtown and D. H. Smith Road five miles away. Try getting that right on a staticy radio on a rainy night.

      1. Greater Cincinnati sometime runs to road and street name “clustering.” So Kemper Road, which runs a long ways, may have a subdivision alongside named Kemper Meadows, with a Kemper Meadows Drive that intersects with it. Off of Kemper Meadows Drive may be Kemper View Circle. Five miles down the road may be another subdivision off Kemper Road, with houses along a street named named Kemper Ridge Road, which has a side street named Kemper Court. These are the exact names, but a hypotheticals based upon some similar absurdities. They do NOT make things much easier.

        1. Or Miami, which has the same street names, with NE, SE, SW, NW tacked onto the end. And let’s don’t even discuss locating an address on Peachtree in the Atlanta area…..

            1. Yep, Banshee, so they do. And those tacked letters on tell you which side of the grid (from center) you are on or looking for. But one of the points I was making was that quite often the GPS doesn’t know where the address is that you are looking for, so it will send you off to what it decideds is the closest address. Which will sometimes send you over the cliff – literally.

  11. So as far as books go, the parental controls on hard copy can’t be beat. Ebooks by their very nature are on networked devices. For homeschooling, ebooks are and always will be problematic. There will always be something more interesting than assigned schoolwork on the internet.
    On GPS, color me less than impressed. Sure, a map may not be precise, but it doesn’t fail in the canyons out here. I’m no engineer, but from what I understand it’s the horizon height: the devices can’t hit enough satalites. Just like my phone is a fancy tablet at home, because there are no towers with line of sight. People are absolutely incompetent without GPS. I had to direct a lady to the interstate the other day. To get to our place, she had to ignore the intersection that led towards the freeway and which it is visible from, right before this road stops paralleling the freeway. Our neighborhood isn’t dangerous, but that sort of situational unawareness is, and she had no idea that she needed to turn around and go back. She had some idea that the freeway was up ahead. Which, to be fair, it is. In 60 miles or so of National Forest and farms, and around a lot of bends and over a pass.

  12. Chuckle Chuckle

    Kat Richardson got so many fan comments about her Main Character in Greywalker needing a cell phone that in the second Greywalker book, her Main Character went cell phone shopping. [Wink]

  13. Damn time zone differences. Mutter, grumble. I have an entire response all planned out, complete with rants about streaming versus downloading, especially for military personnel or other often-moving people, but it is time to turn off the electronics and get ready for bed. Early tomorrow, though. Watch this space.

  14. I prefer physical books, because they can’t be hacked, I don’t need electricity if they’re to be read, and are a valuable way for me to unplug. They kept me occupied through many a plane flight, on buses and jeepneys, and could be used in one hand, while the other cradled a baby. They were part of what helped us children feel like anywhere we lived was home with certain cornerstones of familiarity. To my pleasure my children can sit and read quietly if they wish.

    1. e-readers like TVs and all kinds of electronics are forbidden to use on the Sabbath. Therefore one must have non-electronic books to read.
      Use in the sense of changing settings etc. You can use pre-programmed or preset things that you don’t adjust like thermostat or a stove burner.

      1. So would it be permissible to use an entertainment system that turned itself on and started playing a preset series of programs at a given time? Because that would not be terribly difficult to set up. If it isn’t, what’s the distinction between that and the “Sabbath mode” modern ovens come with?

        1. That’s a tricky piece of Jewish law that I can’t solve for you. I haven’t studied this in 30 years. I’d guess the answer might be something like it’s not in the spirit of the Sabbath even if it might be technically permissible. You need to get a ruling from an Orthodox Rabbi for the complete reasoning.

          Since when do stoves have a Sabbath mode?

          1. “Since when do stoves have a Sabbath mode?”

            At least for the last 10 years or so, at least that’s what I gather from reading various oven manuals.

            1. I haven’t been observant since my father died in 1991. His cooker was bought in the 70’s I think.

        2. “Sabbath mode” on ovens is a slight misnomer, as it’s not useful on the Sabbath but on Jewish Holidays. But it’s easier to call it that than to explain what “Yom Tov mode” is.

          Anyway, “Sabbath mode” has two aspects. First, that the oven won’t turn itself off after 12 hours—a safety feature usually, but inconvenient when you want to cook something on the second day of the holiday. Second (and while the feature exists most Orthodox rabbis would say not to use it) the temperature adjustment is made to work indirectly: no indicator, and following a random delay.

          On the Sabbath itself, we’re forbidden from lighting or adjusting fires, and from cooking or baking. (Reheating is allowed, with some restrictions.) On most holidays (e.g., Rosh Hashana, or the first & last days of Passover) cooking & baking are allowed, as is adjusting an existing flame but not striking a match. Our old oven with a bimetallic-strip thermostat was really convenient; electronically-controlled ovens have the additional complication that the controls themselves are not allowed.

        3. This reminds me of my various trips to Leiden, in The Netherlands. The nearest hotel to the office is a Holiday Inn that primarily caters to tourists and tour groups. When tour groups of observant Jews were booked into the hotel over the weekend they’d set the elevators on automatic operation mode. It would continuously go from bottom to top and back again, stopping at each and every floor, with the doors opening automatically. If you were in a hurry, and carrying something, this was NOT nice.

          1. Beats having to climb all the way up to your room. My dorm at school was a converted apartment building. My room was on the 17th floor. School for Orthodox Jewish women

      2. …The thermostat I understand. The stove burner I am failing to process what’s being done. Both gas and electric stoves, in my experience, you have to turn on and pick a setting no matter what. Unless you mean it was turned on and simmering when the Sabbath began?

        1. Both of those are start a fire — the gas obviously, and the electric because closing the circuit creates a spark.

          1. So… it’s acceptable to turn it on and adjust to any given initial setting, if you don’t turn it up and down at other times? (It is very likely that I change my burner settings more often than is necessary with attention and intelligent planning.)

            1. You set it before the Sabbath and don’t touch it during the Sabbath. We had light go on and off by a timer that was set before Sabbath. The key point it that you don’t touch it on the Sabbath. It’s been on before the Sabbath & does its thing independently of you.

                  1. Does servant include robots? ’cause with enough automation, you could avoid the letter of the law. I’m not sure about the spirit of the law…

                    1. Just remember: under the theory that you can’t actually trick G-d, any loopholes are actually the Rules as Written.

        2. Exactly! In my mom’s kitchen we turned on the gas burners before the Sabbath, then put a large metal sheet over the burners. to heat something up put pot or kettle on sheet and voila done.We didn’t use the oven. That’s why food was cooked before Sabbath and reheated during. a bit of a break for women that they could do less cooking on the Sabbath.

        3. There are entire pages of discussion out there on what constitutes work on the Sabbath and the pretzel-like contortions that can be gone through to get around the restriction.

          I found a discussion of it one time and since then, I’ve said, “It’s no wonder Jewish people tend to be so successful. It’s so hard just to follow the rules, everything else is a cakewalk.”

            1. Ok, I don’t even remember how I got there, but the thread was 20-30 pages, and mostly covered cooking.

              Yeah, I guess that would make for volumes to cover everything, wouldn’t it?

              1. I mean big fat leather bound volumes on the laws of the Sabbath. It’s a very large section of the Talmud. My father’s set was 12 x 18 x4 leatherbound volumes. There were at least a dozen volumes. one of which was Shabbat.

          1. Have you ever tried to study Talmud? I swear it’s like ballet, if you don’t start learning it by 9, you’ll never understand it. What frustrated me the most was that nothing got resolved! That’s why I prefer studying Tanach or Law. This explains why there are so many Jewish lawyers and accountants. Cut your intellectual teeth on the Talmud and anything else seems easy.

        1. Ask circuitously your non Jewish neighbor to do it. There are always rationales and reasons. I went to yeshiva when I was knee high to a cockroach but I never studied to become a Rabbi. Very few Jews before the founding of the state of Israel were farmers.

          1. I’m not sure that’s right. Some of the rules—especially the rabbinic ones—are relaxed somewhat in case of animal distress (e.g., cows may be milked on the Sabbath, though the milk may not be collected or used). I’d have to ask my rabbi whether pulling a cow out of a ditch is permitted: the distinction between permitted & forbidden can be subtle and not easily summarized.

            (Unfortunately, “not easily summarized” gives rabble-rousers the possibility of misrepresenting the reason something is permitted or forbidden. והמבין יבין.)

            1. Are alarm clocks permissible on the Sabbath? And if so, would they be rabbi-rousers?


              1. Irrelevant. While they could be set before the Sabbath they could not be turned off until afterward.

                I trust the drawbacks are obvious.

                It would be a sin to hit snooze.

        2. It’s my understanding that Jewish Law allows “life-saving” measure (including for animals) on the Sabbath.

          That example would IMO be acceptable on the Sabbath.

    2. > can’t be hacked

      I’ve seen people squee over the idea that the author or publisher could slipstream updates, edits, and other changes into a text without the reader having to be bothered by keeping track.

      Um. That’s so “no” that I wonder if the lines in their heads are twisted…

      And Han shot first…

          1. Naaah, that’s how they retold the story in a bar 20 years later to keep General Solo looking like a good guy.

            before CGI and off the VHS or theater release Han shot Greedo in cold blood under the table cause greedo had the drop on him over the table.

            its why Han shot first even exists, Spielberg rewrote history with the ’97 rerelease

            1. The original novelization described it that way. Greedo violated Tuco’s Law: “If you’re going to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk!”

  15. I am hoping with great anticipation that the next paradigm shift will be in college education where the traditional institutions crumble and fall much as we’re seeing with traditional publishers now. There is no valid technical problem right now with getting a full college degree totally on line other than the loud and vocal objections of vested interests who are scared chitless at the thought of losing their death grip on the awarding of diplomas. Once the accreditation issue is dealt with I hope to see relatively soon a revolution in availability and cost of quality education. I fully expect the transition to be very ugly and bloody.

    1. It might go back to an older form of education with one having an apprenticeship with online courses and certifications. In the 19th century AFAIK one read law and then took the Bar Exam.One read law while being a clerk for a lawyer. Medical School and other science degrees that require a lot of labs might require in person attendance or maybe just interactive web conferencing.
      An online degree should be cheaper than an in person one.

    2. You will still need some brick and mortar schools for labs. Kinda tough to have everyone buy all the equipment for a good physics or chemistry lab.

      1. Chemistry labs by remote. That probably means danger pay for the lab instructors when their students mixing chemicals by waldo are not subject by proximity to teh results of their mismixings.

    3. I’m about to embark on online classes in web development/computer programming. No physical presence required, I (presume) can do it at my own pace (to a point)…I’m quite look forward to it.

  16. “I remember — and no, I’m not that old — when all my colleagues said Amazon (then mostly paper books) would make no difference.”

    I was a member of a user group, that email it’s members of new websites found on Yahoo or out in the wild, Sorry to say I was one of the members that said Amazon would never work. 😦

  17. Just personal computers.

    I had been internet plugged in since the mid 90’s. At first places like Usenet (which gave me access to a lot of experts on a lot of subjects–a lot of the research work behind SpaceCub happened there), then the web as it started growing.

    It was only this year that I committed smartphone. It’s one thing to be able to look up the answer to pretty much any question that has a definitive answer from the comfort of your home. It’s a whole other world to have that capability in your pocket (or on your belt) for use anywhere.

    Interestingly enough, of the three people on our shared data plan (me, my wife, and my daughter) I use the least data overall. My wife does mostly social media–sharing photos (taken with her phone) and so forth on her facebook page. My daughter does streaming audio and video (watching a lot of anime recently using my netflix account). I do those things myself, but mostly I use it to look up things. Go to the web browser and google whatever I’m trying to find out about.

    It’s all right there.

    Part of it was the progressives somehow and very fast (I don’t know the mechanics behind it) turning against space in the eighties.

    I remember that time very distinctly. The typical quote was “If we can go to the moon (a straightforward, if big, engineering challenge) why can’t we X (some social/political issue that’s complex, connected to bunches of other things, about which people radically disagree on just what the solution might be)”. The other is “why spend money on space when we have problems right here on Earth”–basically just one more application of zero-sum belief in economics. Even as a kid and teen these arguments made me want to tear out my hair.

    1. The power of the smartphone was brought home to me a couple years ago, after we had been told that one of my wife’s pain meds conflicted with her estrogen-blocker (meant to help prevent recurrence of her breast cancer) and severely reduced its effectiveness. We explained this to her pain doctor, who whipped out his smartphone, and in two minutes, he had a replacement medicine and had figured the dosage to equate to the drug she was having to give up.

    2. I wonder if part of it was also the fact that we were being more aggressive about space in the Reagan administration. There was the shuttle, talk of our own space station, SDI, etc. and we were essentially going it alone, not in concert with the Soviets. I sometimes think the Left didn’t want us upstaging the Soviets, or gaining an edge against them, or even downright wanted to let the Soviets gain an advantage against us.

      1. There is also the consideration that the Democrat Party underwent a generational change in the ’70s, transitioning from a party comfortable with Daniel Moynihan and Scoop Jackson to one which tolerated them (barely) as relics of an earlier time … and paid them virtually no attention. I vaguely recall this as due to the influence of the Kennedy Clique but lack time or energy to delve into that at present.

        The general flow of influence in the party shifting from the South to the Northeast and West Coast was likely another factor, with some nod to the Rust Belt unions’ voices.

      2. It dates to before the end of the Apollo program. “Progressives” were screaming it would be better to spend that money here on Earth. Then the rot spread and maybe a decade ago National Geographic did it’s “Space travel is haaard; let’s stay home and pick scabs” article, and I haven’t had any use for NG since.

          1. Sorta goes back to why there are interstate highways in Hawaii–they’re islands, you can’t drive to another state (mostly not to another island as far as I know)–but Hawaii has two senators, the same as the rest of the states.

            They say President Reagan and his team were geniuses at putting defense contracts in as many congressional districts as possible. We didn’t destroy the Soviet Union; we out spent them and they couldn’t keep up.

            And yeah, keeping the money here on Earth is static pie thinking; putting stuff in orbit is hard. Doing stuff that’s difficult makes you grow. Tank Hill at Ft. Jackson to low earth orbit to the moon.

    3. It’s one of the common techniques of arguing cucumber vs zucchini. It is close enough that it looks good but is invalid equation. Often see it with sociopolitical stuff like wage, health care or carbon. The closest I have heard is the battery argument but still more of a science than tech issue (we knew how to get to moon, just needed to build the tools.)

      1. If we point out that the US can no longer place a man on the moon, will they let us abandon the social programs until we can?
        They are ‘Progressive’ all right, for some definitions of progress. And if you don’t agree with their definition, you must be racist.

        1. That’s why I usually refer to them as Regressives, because there ain’t nothing of “progress” in wanting to step back to a feudal society where a small handful of “elites” dictate to the plebeian masses that have no say whatsoever in how things are done.

    4. The Left lost interest in space in the late 1960’s. The Apollo project was actually cancelled right around the time Armstrong was walking on the Moon. Everything after that, including Skylab, was using up hardware that had already been bought. The Space Shuttle was intended to be a service vehicle for Skylab, it got funded in large part because it was sold as the government’s own launch system – up until the Challenger accident all US government satellites went up on the Shuttle. Unfortunately, development delays meant that Skylab re-entered before the Shuttle was available.

      I think it’s because in the ’50’s and early ’60’s the USSR was beating us in space, so space was important. Once we beat the Russians to the Moon, and made it obvious that we could beat them to Mars, the Left had to destroy space as something worth fighting for. Classic sour grapes.

      1. Had they used up all the Apollo hardware that was complete we would have had two more moon landings, with two more actual scientists gaining surface time – they cancelled those strictly due to operational expense.

        1. I thought they used the capsules that would have been used atop the last of the Saturn V’s for for rendezvousing with Skylab and Soyuz.

          1. Even after Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz, I think there was enough equipment for two more moon landings. NASA had actually bought enough to do up to Apollo 20, though that one would have strictly been a long lunar orbital mission only.

    5. I took got on the web in the nineties. I still HAVEN’T committed smart phone. We’ve come to the conclusion we’re going to, but we’re so broke it will wait house selling.

      1. I’ve been ordered to smartphone. Because Olde Paygo phone doesn’t work between Thither and Yon, and occasionally won’t recognize any towers in Yon. I’m trying to find more excises not to get one, but am running out.

        1. yeah. We have a paygo, too. Robert needs a smart phone, so we’ll go with all possible haste once house sells. Which RIGHT NOW looks like never. We’re not even getting showings. Head>desk.

          1. paygo? What’s that? I have a regular cell-phone from Cellular One and don’t have a reason to go Smart Phone.

            Is there a reason that Robert can’t use a regular cell-phone?

            1. yeah. It includes classes that assume/require you to have a smart phone. We ran into this first when they were in high school and have been using patch solutions, but when house sells… it’s time.

              1. We have a Consumer Cellular smartphones, androids. $80. I know this because I just replaced mine. Mostly I use it as a pocketable device for reading commenting here when I am supervising homeschool work upstairs–desktop is downstairs. Or for reading ebooks on. (It’s that lack of service at home thing.) No contract, can cancel any time. Decent customer service from people who speak American English. It is also the cheapest provider for international calling we’ve found–about half the price per minute of calling cards for where we’re calling. My husband uses his a lot more than I use mine–it’s the computer guy with long commute by company bus thing.

          2. You could offer a free novel with every viewer but the way your luck has gone all the viewers will be Scalzi fans.

      2. i’d like to play with the nifty smartphone toys, but not enough to pay the price.

        I’ve also noticed, using ones belonging to other people that most of them suck at the “phone” part. I guess sound quality isn’t an issue any more.

        1. I’ve noticed it, particularly in my own messages that I *thought* I just proofread… not just typos but doubled words and missing words.

          I was just blaming it on being cramped over at an uncomfortable position in relation to the keyboard until whatever is sending spikes of agony in my lower back eases up.

          But hey! I’m a modern American. It’s my Constitutional right to blame it on someone else, right?

        2. I’m having the blazes of a time. Weather change. That’s my excuse. And fair food. Fair food is always an excuse.

          Secretary: “What happened to you? You were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago and I had to have [Other Teacher] watch your class for you.”
          Teacher 1:”Fried thing on a stick.”
          Secretary: “Oh, no problem then. I’ll have [Other Teacher 2] take your study hall if you need me to.”

  18. “Entire bookshelves got donated. For instance, the French Revolution. Too depressing to write books set in it, and I just don’t see it at this point in my life.”

    I’ve actually heard a SJW complain that SF revolutions are based on the American Revolution, not the French one.

    Well, I’ve read a number based on the French one, but it still would have not have made him happy because there’s only one good side in the Reign of Terror: fighting the revolution. No matter how sympathetic an author is to the causes of the revolution, it ends up with the characters having to rescue people from the guillotine — there’s no other workable plot.

    1. “There I was boys, knowing that brown-noser from the City was going to denounce me just cause I beat him at cards. Then this Corsican tells him off to go pull guard duty at the Madam. I wound up following that man all the way to Moscow and back. I tell you, then was when you found out who your friends are. If them no-count Prussians hadn’t done what they did, things would have worked out different I tell you. I was there.”

    2. Now that you mention it, the only two books I can think of right now that I’ve read based on the French Revolution–“A Tale of Two Cities” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel”–are not only set in the French Revolution, but are specifically about rescuing people from the guillotine….

      The fact that someone wants SF revolutions based on the French one kindof disturbs me, because the prominent feature of the French revolution is that of killing lots of people, for the mere crime of being accused of sympathizing with someone who sympathized with the original regime.

      Come to think of it, I recently read “Breaking Stalin’s Nose”, which was set in Stalin’s Russia (so technically, not the October Revolution, but some time after it), and while the theme wasn’t “escape the guillotine”, it was somewhat close…

      1. The “fun” part of the French Revolution is that a person could be killed for supporting the wrong “faction” of revolutionaries.

        Two factions fight for control of the “Revolutionary Government” and the winner kills the supporters of the faction.

      2. Notice that A Tale of Two Cities at one point explicitly if fancifully calls the Reign of Terror a divine judgment — but it’s still about rescuing an aristocrat from the guillotine.

      3. Advocates for “SF revolutions based on the French one ” seem to overlook that it is a package deal: you order The Revolution and get The Terror tossed in for no additional charge!

        This is what happened following most revolutions in History, the French, Russian*, Chinese, Cuban and Cambodian ones being recent product demonstrations.

        The American Revolution is unique, and even it nearly failed; see: Articles of Confederation.

        *First the White Russians succeeded, then were superseded by the Reds, and afterward Stalin, the purges and the gulags.

  19. As for the turn from paper books to e-books – several years ago, I was trying to create an e-reader, but I know in hindsight that other devices would have killed it. I wanted mine to parrot the experience of paper books better, by being made with two screens that would open like a laptop (or a book, natch), and would have had controls at the bottom, like the original Kindle.

  20. (seriously, kid, how do you sleep on tools and components?)
    It’s a scientific fact they get absorb thru the skin, it’s gives you the ability to walk up to machine that’s doing something odd to start working correctly, now that I’m in my fifty’s, that parts mysteriously appear, asking yourself where did that vacuum tube come from.

  21. What I like the most about e-readers has been the volume of older information and books that are available at obscenely low prices. Like $.99 each. You can overdose on those easily.

    As for SF writing, I think the real trick will be to figure out The Next Big Blind-Side Discovery. Computers were the big blind-side of the 1960s. Broadband comms were the blind-side of the 1990s and 00s. I can see several approaches…

    First, we’ve got CNC machinery, we’ve got 3-D printing. In about 5-10 years, we’ll have a Just-About-Anything Maker. The only limit on what it can produce will be the Maker size. What does this do to society? To space colonization? Maybe you send astronauts to Mars with an Anything Maker…programmed to build the return ship. Or a base. Maybe both.

    Second, what about bio? Can we crack the genetic code? Lengthen lifespan? What happens when people can live 150 years in good health? Heinlein played with this some, but I don’t think he mined the vein completely.

    Third, let’s play with quantum teleportation. Most stories with FTL drives assume cheap access to space…what happens if getting out of the gravity well is as costly as today, but you can quantum teleport from any point to any other point of equal potential energy? Get out of Earth orbit, and you can teleport to Tau Ceti in zero time? Lots of implications there.

    1. That’s why we never went back to the moon and have been content to send people into LEO and let the robots explore the solar system. The cost of getting the huge masses into LEO to support manned exploration of even the moon is extremely expensive. You will have to have huge masses just for radiation protection for trips to Mars, and very few folks who colonize the moon will explore it in person by strolling/driving about the lunar surface. They’ll mostly sit deep underground teleoperating drones.

      Technological advances over the last 40 years have gotten so that we just might now be able to effect a factor of 10 or 100 drop in the cost of putting objects into orbit. Barring the invention of a miracle material with a huge stress limit, rockets will probably the only way to get there, and there is a limit to how cheap you can get with them.

      1. I think the bigger problem is that NASA hasn’t done a lot of basic propulsion research in a long time.

        You have to break the problem down. First, there’s the issue of getting into low Earth orbit. That takes a lot of thrust, which eliminates many of the most efficient forms of propulsion. You can do an electromagnetic catapult for some of it, but the Navy is just on the verge of getting EMALS to work right. Supersonic combustion ramjets help, too…those are further out, but we’re cracking the problem. Combine the two, and you can get to 20-30 miles up and 4,000 mph BEFORE you turn on the rocket engine…which knocks a big chunk out of the energy budget.

        Once you get into low Earth orbit, you need a high-efficiency engine. Ion propulsion seems to be the best bet, but you have to have 100 lbs or so of thrust…at least an order of magnitude better than anything today. Do-able.

        That’s the headache. We’ve DONE the easy stuff, everything left has technical problems that are much harder to solve.

        1. I think the bigger problem is that NASA hasn’t done a lot of basic propulsion research in a long time.

          It is worse than that. Announced specs for the first generation of SLS have a smaller payload than the Saturn Vs (payload to LOE of 150,000 to 290,000 lb over all models versus 310,000 lbs.) much less the block 2 Saturn Vs that were never built but had design work done.

          Just imagine if we’d continued evolutionary development of the family. While not discounting any of the things you bring up (heavy from the ground up launch is probably not the long term future) it would have helped. Now we’re just inventing less capable wheels.

          1. We could build a much improved Saturn 5 pretty quickly if we wanted to right now. The main trouble with heavy lift rockets like it and the SLS are that they are hideously expensive to use. Note the Russians have never used their Energia booster again after 3 launches. It’s just too damned expensive.

            Elon Musk has the right idea with the Falcon Heavy. Use standard cores clustered to get a cheaper medium heavy lift vehicle that has a recoverable first stage(s) and then launch several to build your ship in orbit. Note this STILL will not be very cheap.

            1. Not continuing because we prefer an alternate strategy is one thing. Keeping the strategy and then designing a less capable replacement after abandoning a working system with lots of development room is another.

        2. That takes money….. and a big honking nuclear reactor in orbit. Given the way the Christic institute protests every outer planet probe with those ittybitty thermoelectric reactors, can you imagine how their heads would explode with the announcement that someone was going to put a 50 MW modified naval reactor in LEO to power a Mars ship?

          1. 50 MW? Does Naval Reactors even design them that small? Sub reactors are ~2x that, and carriers are over 10x.

            1. Sorry. I was thinking electric. Triple that for thermal rating. Being mostly a power block guy, I tend to rate reactors in MW electric…

            1. I thought that Muslim outreach was the mission of the USAF CAS forces and the Army’s artillery.

              1. Hoo boy! I need to look before leaping….

                I would not trust any Russian heavy lift rocket. They do not have a very good record.

                1. They were 0 for 4 on N1 launch attempts, including their desperate last minute attempts to beat Apollo 11 to the moon. One of those failures involved one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history.

                    1. Y’all need to stop and think about where all that money went – +-$1,000,000,000,000. The demos were much more interested in buying voters forever(see lbj’s remarks) then in some silly old space thingy.

    2. The real trick for SF writing is to figure out The Next Big Blind-Side Discovery that readers will believe. I doubt readers would have believed the effects of some of the developments we take for granted today.

    3. I suspect that for people with normal genetics, we’re going to break the 100 years in good health barrier very shortly. And that’s going to break the current retirement system extremely quickly. There are going to have to be some massive retroactive changes regardless of contracts and government guarantees/promises in place. That will make life and politics really interesting for a while

  22. Amazon has apparently upgraded its DRM again. I like e-books (that I can archive and convert myself). DRMed ebooks give me hives.

    You may think you own a DRMed e-book, but you don’t. You are merely being granted permission to read it on devices that you do not have root access to. If something were to go crazy in society or politics, your ability to access those books could be yanked via WiFi commands.

    1. Part of the broader transition in our computing environments these days: From things you own and control, to things you are merely being granted access to as a tenant.

      It’s too easy to imagine dark futures emerging from the present trends where what we have now is some golden age of information freedom in comparison.

        1. That’s true.

          And I’m probably being unduly pessimistic about the whole dumb terminal SAAS trend. As long as we are free to choose, it will probably remain only an option, not a mandatory thing.

          Every time I hear someone declare “He/she doesn’t need that much of a computer. He only needs an ‘information appliance’ that does {things I want him to do and no more} …” I keep thinking about how amazingly useful my computer is because of all the things I can do with it because I can program it, that I could never list as someones menu of “functions”.

          1. That reminds me of JB Robb’s “Eve Dallas” books, where all computers are basically terminals running government-mandated nannyware.

            A couple of countries are working on that already.

          2. That’s something that drives me nuts about the phone I carry. I’ve been wanting a portable computer for as long as I can remember, and I now have one–but it’s artificially hobbled with Java, and I don’t have the time to figure out how at a minimum I could root the thing, and at a maximum, install native Linux and create my own UI on it.

            And when I was in college, I got a portable computer because I wanted to carry my textbooks on it. A pipe dream then. Now? Still a pipe dream, until I can figure out how to scan books onto it. The funny thing, though, is that I love my math textbooks, and I don’t want to part with them. I just want to carry them everywhere I go, too! (And, depending on the math textbook, it can be heavy and bulky indeed…although some of my favorite books are surprisingly small, too…but get a dozen or so together, and they are *still* big and bulky! Oh, and I have an untested suspicion that the smell of old books might give me migraines, much to my chagrin…)

      1. There’s a group of local geeks building systems from scratch using FPGAs and OpenCores that will run alternative OSes not written in C. Talk about paranoid about control…

        (Would make for an interesting plot line, but Gibson or someone probably has done it before…)

        1. I wouldn’t be surprised if a there were backdoors in a bunch of hardware. Well, besides the ones Bruce Schneier has already reported on…

          Hm, SM Stirling wrote an interesting take on all that in “The Stone Dogs” a long time ago…

        2. Around 30 years ago, I hung out with a group of geeks who were designing a PDP-10 equivalent from the ground up. Used to meet weekly at the old Muddy Waters on the Platte coffeehouse. I certainly didn’t know enough to help with the designs, but it was fun looking over their shoulders. I remember one night when someone brought in diagrams for what was purportedly a single-clock 48-bit barrel shifter. It may have been – I wouldn’t know.

          1. When I was a kid, up to about college, my Dad would show me logic circuit designs and explain what he was doing. It all went right over my head. (I suspect he liked to tell me about these things because of all my siblings, I demonstrated that I was probably the most technical of the bunch.)

            A few months ago, I got it into my head that I should try to figure out what ternary-based logic circuits should look like. I made a lot of progress designing a computer on the logic gate level, but I never got a clear picture on what the logic gates are supposed to look like! (I did manage to fry a few transistors, though.) I suspect that if my Dad were still alive today, I’d also be able to understand better all his logic circuits he tried to describe to me…

            1. I suspect that you would need a different type of transistor, altogether, though I’m not sure how it would be constructed.

      2. This is one reason I reverted from Win 10 back to Win 7. Too much requirement for me to be connected, and to have an MS Outlook/Hotmail/Live account in order to manage my computer. If/when MS stops supporting Win 7, it’s Linux for me.

        1. That lack of DRM is greatly appreciated. It took me all of maybe five minutes using the Kindle app and Calibre to download the 7 books I purchased during the Labor Day Sale, convert them from Kindle to EPUB, and copy them to my Nook.

      1. Thank you for that!

        I also realize other publishers out there, like Baen, don’t DRM their books, and I thank them for that also

    2. I don’t do DRM. Don’t like it and don’t see any point. If someone is that determined to steal my stuff, then they will find a way.

    3. Someone at is really on John Deere’s case about the ROM chips in their tractors; only John Deere techs can fix some things.

      I haven’t talked to my cousins that farm or my cousin that works at a John Deere dealership how this works or if they have problem with it.

  23. There’s long been a discussion of just how much our understanding of ancient civilizations has been skewed by stone/clay vs. wood/paper for buildings and recordkeeping. The theory is that early archaeologists found plenty of evidence of Mesopotamian, Indus, and Egyptian prehistory because they had dry climates and limited access to wood, so buildings and records were long-lived. Northern and wetter-climate civilizations built in wood so there was much less to find millennia later. We’re seeing more data as methods improve, but our corpus of historical analysis is still mostly empty of data on those other civilizations.

  24. BTW I met the guy (long long time ago) who developed personal GPS. He’s still alive, but developed it for the Navy so is still a poor tech. 😉

  25. Getting rid of paper books because they are no longer needed in this electronic age – oh, that pang in my heart marks me a dinosaur sure! I admit, Kindle or no Kindle, I love my books, and hunger and thirst for more of them, the space to shelve them and the time to read them. These books are my friends, and you can have them when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands.
    The idea of divesting myself of my dead tree library gives me the willies. But cellulose tomes are passing away, as I will in my turn, and I’m as grieved by the one as by the other.

  26. Sorry, but I simply CANNOT get “with it.” I LOVE books and have tons of them around the house. Every room, including the bathrooms, has a “library” of sorts. The last time we moved (January 1988) the moving company moved well over 2 tons of books for us–and we’ve added to them since. I just bought all three of Sarah’s “Darkship” series, for example–they were delivered on Sunday! My den is 35′ wide and one whole wall of it is bookcases and, except for some of my wife’s knick-knacks, they are full of books. I was reading before I was 3 years old and haven’t slowed down one bit. My father turned me onto science-fiction and, as a Boy Scout, I fell in love with Heinlein’s works for kids. I think I have all of his books in my library. I’m also a fan of Asimov, Cherryh, Anderson, Drake, Kratman, Weber, Clarke, M.Z. Williamson, Verne, LeGuinn, de Camp, Pohl, Aldiss, Bova, McCaffrey, Ringo, Bear, etc. etc. etc. Don’t much care for Fantasy–“magic,” “wizards” and stuff and simply HATE zombies, vampires and were-things. I’m hoping to add Ms Hoyt to that list and look forward to starting her work as soon as I finish the one I’m working on (a Drake book).

    1. Choice is for me, not for anyone else. In our case it serves the needs of reducing space. Also, I’d got to the point that barring a library-like classification system, I had to buy the book again when I wanted to read it.
      We are keeping research books (that I’ll use) and books I’ll read again many times, or which were signed by friends.

      1. I understand it’s a matter of taste, but I want something SUBSTANTIAL in my hands when I’m reading.

  27. “Part of it was the progressives somehow and very fast (I don’t know the mechanics behind it) turning against space in the eighties.”

    This was a big thing even in the sixties: I remember liberal rhetoric that if we can go to the Moon then we can end poverty. There were, as I recall, editorials to that effect in Time Magazine (not just the Nation and the Progressive.)

    1. I can’t blame only the progs for this. Space travel is really, really hard. Absurdly hard. Ridiculously hard. I doubt if we’ll ever get further than Mars (unless we re-engineer human astronauts), and Mars is in doubt. To be frank, I don’t think NASA’s plans for a Mars mission in the 2030s will actually happen, and its not just a matter of funding.

      1. The majority of the problems of space travel (within the solar system) have already been addressed, except for a few of the difficulties of living in micro-gravity.

        Once there are manufacturing facilities on the Moon (and make no mistake, there could have already been, had we decided to do it), the costs will go down drastically, because all you have to do from Earth then is lift to Low Earth Orbit, and transfer vehicles can take you everywhere else for a fraction of the cost. And there are ways to lower the base cost of launches from Earth considerably.

        1. “The costs will go down drastically” has not worked out. RLV’s were supposed to do that. SpaceX is still following that illusion. The problem ain’t just microgravity (which has no cheap solution), it’s also radiation (which also has no cheap solution).
          Almost three decades ago, Feynman figured that we’d lose about 1% of missions due to booster failure. What’s the record of SpaceX?

          1. Of course it hasn’t worked out. We’re not on the Moon yet. That was a prerequisite, not a result. Moon-based construction allows you to target ONLY LOE from Earth, and the rest of the job can be done by ships built with considerably different and lower-cost-per-unit-mass designs.

            Once you’re space-based, shielding is not a terribly expensive proposition. Delta-V can be had far more cheaply with no gravity to fight directly against (yes, you still have to fight gravity to move from one gravity well to another, but all your exhaust can go to increasing velocity without devoting any of it directly to overcoming gravity drag).

            Also, space- and Moon-based construction can use more robust components with a lower failure rate because they don’t have to run near the top of their design tolerances, which Earth-based launches need to do to save mass in order to reduce fuel requirements.

            1. Then also, ships built on and launched from the Moon could easily carry nuclear power plants that can drive engines of various types.

              For lowering launch costs from Earth, if we were serious, we could build E-M Rail launchers that would either drastically reduce fuel requirements or would vastly increase payload capacity, merely by producing the same velocity that the Shuttle would reach by the time its Solid Boosters were cut loose (which is somewhere around Mach 3). At a mere 3 gravities, a 50km rail will more than suffice. Run that up a mountain that rises to about 20,000 feet, and you’ve just made a HUGE stride in reducing launch costs.

              1. It is true that EM rail launchers scale better than chemical rockets, and may be more reliable, but I haven’t seen a realistic cost estimate. These days commercial launches are dropping in price. When you aren’t launching people, the failure rate is less important. Pretty soon you get back to the “why launch people at all” debate.

                1. There are so many answers to that question that I can’t pick the five best. People have to go in order to do the hard decision making. Distances are far enough that communication is simply not fast enough.

          2. “The costs will go down drastically” has not worked out. RLV’s were supposed to do that.

            While the Space Shuttle was sold on “reducing cost of access to space” that was a lie from the beginning (one of many told by TPTB at NASA). The effort to actually reduce the cost of access to Space has only recently begun by folk trying to do an end-run around the government programs (which are far more interested in protecting turf than in making space travel practical).

            Compare the cost of developing SpaceShip One with the cost of developing the X-15.

            As for Feynmann’s pronouncement, he was talking about the SRB’s on the Shuttle. Generalizing from that specific pronouncement (even leaving aside that much as I like Feynmann, he was far from infallible) is not valid. SpaceX’s record? About what you expect from any really high performance flying vehicle. Look at the various X-programs. Look at high performance fighters in WWI (first running into compressibility problems). Look at the early days of aviation.

            We’ve been stalled in those “early days” because nobody has been doing the development work. “Upgrades” to existing boosters rather than developing new airframes (spaceframes?) and powerplants. Back in the day NACA spent most of its effort developing technology for aviation: the NACA cowl, airfoils, many other things, which then went to make aviation cheaper, safer, and better for everyone. NASA isn’t doing that.

            That’s even leaving aside the legal issues that arise from things like the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1975 “Moon Treaty”, issues that still have not been fully resolved*. That anybody is even trying with those issues still hanging overhead is a testament to optimism.

            *This was actually one of the major issues back when I was working on SpaceCub. The idea of literally individual access to space, if only on suborbital hops, would throw a big wrench into those treaties. Advice I got from folk at the EAA summed up as “make the hardware available and folk will figure out the legalities”. Well, I ran out of money and time, but we got a ball rolling that led to the X-Prize, SpaceShipOne, and Virgin Galactic (yes, I am aware of their accident earlier this year–while tragic, that’s part of the “teething problem” of new high performance systems–you learn from the mistake and you move forward, not back).

            1. The point that Feynman was trying to make was that NASA had a very different idea of the rate of booster failure than the engineers who designed and built the boosters. A 1% failure rate is probably acceptable for unmanned launches.
              I am not a fan of SpaceX. The only paying customer for manned launches to LEO is the US government (and a handful of ultra-wealthy space tourists). I am not the only one to see the silly, circular reasoning of needing a human launch to LEO to get people on the ISS, and needing the ISS so the humans launched into orbit will have a place to go.

    1. One of the very best “daily life” books I’ve read was _Larks rise to Candleford_ (the BBC series was awful and not much like the book). Flora Thompson described in great detail what it was like to live in a rural village in the English midlands in the 1870s and 1880s. How common people worked, how they played, how they married, how they raised and educated their children, even how they managed their outhouses, and chose which pig to slaughter in the autumn. At a certain point you think “my goodness, Thompson is describing Hobbiton!”, but while the village is in the same region as the village Tolkien grew up in, Thompson is describing village life a few decades before Tolkien experienced it. Tolkien’s Hobbiton was more of a nostalgic description than a remembrance.

  28. So in one of Heinlein’s essays, he explained just how much of a change the car caused in American culture. Second and third-order effects which nobody really predicted but were obvious in hindsight. In that same essay, he said that there didn’t seem to be anything around which might make that much change – he specifically excluded birth control pills, as he said much of the change attributed to that was actually from the car – and said possibly excepting personal computers.

  29. This is an excellent thread, and I am unable to read all now, so someone may have already made the point… [apologies if it’s a rehash.] … this move to digital is both incredibly robust and yet? Quite fragile. Kinda like human beings themselves.

    Ultimately this rests on humans remembering how to do things and not just knowing how to find the info… for this informational age –
    may be undone by a few small dirty nukes, in the high atmo. EMP causes a grid collapse, tho we’ll recover.

    That jumpdrive with your whole music collection OTOH? Fried. Amazon serverfarm? Recovery fails, and network switches are also fried.

    Where are your books backed up to? Do you have a book for what plants you can eat, and what will kill you?

    As long as somebody you know, keeps this info, somewhere, all will be well, at least close to you.

    So, while I applaud the individual offload of the blog proprietress’ dead trees, and other associated stuff… Meself, waver.
    I’ve always veered between packrat coasting on inertia, and the guy that people come to when they’ve not a clue how to fix X thing. Or has candles for power outages, that aren’t supposed to happen.

    There is always that tension between being prepared for an event that doesn’t happen in your lifetime…
    And an event that hasn’t happened in many lifetimes.
    When it happens, the question is ‘how soon is now?’ The odds are now 1:1

    Somethoughts. From the guy who donated all his books to the library, figuring he could go visit them… and discovered they sold them all for 10 cents each.

    :el nino cometh…prepare well.

  30. Yup. Connections through the interwebs have made a huge difference in all sorts of areas. I teach blacksmithing in Los Angeles. Between conferences and National magazines,30 yeqars ago I was aware of 50 working artist blacksmiths. Between the internet and facebook, I have frequent contact with thousands of blacksmiths world wide. I see pictures of what’s being worked on today in Sweden, or the Ukraine, or Austria or Austrailia. Where the trade had once seemed to be fading, now we have teenagers stepping up to demonstrate what they have learned on Youtube. Knowledge shared is not lost. and that makes me happy.

  31. Just instantaneous free communication around the world.

    My Mother-in-law never quite grasped the changes. She used to complain that her grandson who lived in Thailand never called her. He emailed her, sure, but he never called her. This disturbed her. I used to explain the time difference to her and note that you can email someone half way around the world whenever you thought of them and get your message through — without risking waking them up. That last part she appreciated.

  32. You see, I used to buy my weight in books from the history book club. There were fees and minimum purchases, and I bought a lot of it not because I needed it then, but because I might need it at a future date.

    Me too, but I weighed less then. 😉

    Our family attitude was, to paraphrase Fat Freddy, ‘ Books will get you through times of less than plentiful food a great deal better than plentiful food will get you through times of no books.’

    Some books you got because they were available now. Paper books often went out of print, and you might not be able to find it again when you were ready to read it.

  33. I remember — and no, I’m not that old — when all my colleagues said Amazon (then mostly paper books) would make no difference.

    A major thing Amazon did:
    they ship to APO/FPO.

    I’m in the middle of the ocean, and I can’t get books from ANYWHERE…except Amazon.

  34. I began my love affair with books, and with SF, primarily because of the fun experience of browsing through used book stores. But today, as far as I can tell, there are no used book stores left, at least not in America. My main suspected reason is the CPSIA, which effectively outlaws used books as if they contained toxic chemicals, merely because it isn’t cost effective to pay the inspection fee to get them blessed so they can be sold.

    “Browsing” web sites can’t compare. Especially when the sites are like Amazon, which deliberately excludes some kinds of books from its search function.

    I want my free country back.

      1. Yeah — there’s at least one in my town, probably more, and two practically across the street from each other in the next one over. (I’m not entirely sure how that works for them, honestly; on the other hand, I shopped at both and my husband still drops by both after work, so… never mind, presumably they know what they’re doing!)

    1. Of course there are used bookstores. My friend Charles who comments here frequently works in one. And there’s at least three more nearby, including used/new Poor Richards.
      That law only applies to things likely to be used by kids. Not that I’ll argue on the free country.

      1. I get most of mine from amazon– our local used book stores are notable for smelling of mildew. (Can’t really blame them, we are Soggy Seattle, but….)

    2. Russells’ Books, where I live – two stores side by each, three floors, bookcases from floor literally to ceiling. That’s in a city of about 300,000. In Portland, OR, there’s Powells, one of the most well-known purveyors of pre-loved books 🙂 They’re not hard to find. As far as your contention that CPSIA requires used books to be inspected – I don’t see it. Show me.

      1. I once went to a brewpub/restaurant in Raleigh that was filled with bookshelves. Go in for lunch or dinner, pick up something to read while eating, take it home to finish if you wanted. Bring it back next time, or something else, or not. It wasn’t like they had a book shortage.

        I ate there several time on that trip. And though I’m not an alcohol user, their root beer was superb…

  35. The webz changed a lot. One is, here I sit, bleary eyed and about to head to bed, commenting occasionally teasing, and otherwise interacting with an author, that, in the past, would just be a name on books (and mighty fine books they be) who now is someone I consider an online friend … one of many, some far flung (Hello Dr. Monkey!) … 25-30 years ago, who’da thunk some bald fellow in Texas who rode motorcycles a lot would chat with a South African born bloke living on an Aussie Island about climbing trees and grabbing a turkey by the feet?
    Those motorcycles, the newest a 1991 model, now occasionally need a part one cannot wander into the Dealer and for love of money just buy. Scan the forums and Ebay, and yes, even the Amazon, and oh, look, there is one, and click, few days later it’s driven up to the house in a White/red/blue, brown, or white/green box van and sits on my porch (well, sometimes the neighbors fence, or the Legion Hall, but hey,). And living in the boonies just means it takes a day or two longer.and really if you MUST HAVE IT NOW, even some far out places it shows up overnight.
    And if it is something so old, the brand has been dead for years, makes no difference. Look long and hard and you likely will find either what you need, or someone who can make it for you (not to mention 3d printing).

    So the bleary eyed bloke says goodnight y’all … to the little Filipino lady Down under, to the Lady Finn up yonder, to those in the Levant etc, Take Care he’s going to bed, and will turn down the computer he calls a cell phone so incoming electronic mail, and messages of text do not wake him until the alarm built into it does so at 3 am.

  36. The danger in the future will not be bad content and ideas but gatekeepers, corporate, commercial and cultural, taking it upon themselves to determine same.
    Google and Facebook have arrogated that authority to themselves and exercised it more often than anyone should find comfortable, and probably more often that we are aware of.
    Oddly, I tried to post this comment from my Android tablet this morning and it promptly self-destructed (no lie). Now my Android phone is failing. So if you don’t hear from me again it’s prob

  37. Hola, huns! I’m back from six nights in gers in Mongolia and a week in S. Korea, and all filled with crazy ideas. I blame the yaks.

    Ideas such as organizing a Meet-Up in Kansas City to coincide with WorldCon/MidAmeriCon II in August, 2016. My crazy idea is to invite, primarily, Hoyt’s Huns and the Morons from Ace of Spades (did you know that “Mongol,” written in the Cyrillic script used in Mongolia, looks suspiciously like “Moron?” The Moron Horde of the HQ! Heh.)

    Anyway, other than the crazy impulse to organize a meet-up, I have no other plan or details at this time. I did go out and create a gmail account specially for the purpose, however. Assemble it from the following if you have interest, or wish to berate me in private for my presumption:

    and Morons,
    at (the totally evil) gmail dot com

    (de-capitalize for the full effect, and remove spaces/punctuation and editorial comments to restore the addressitude).

    I’ll re-post this from time to time (unless requested to desist, naturally) and will probably, at some point, put up a page or two on my web sites, depending on if there’s any significant interest.

    1. “Hola, huns! I’m back from six nights in gers in Mongolia and a week in S. Korea, and all filled with crazy ideas.”
      You’re not supposed to travel the world, meeting different people, doing meaningful work and exchanging “crazy” ideas!
      You’re supposed to stay here in ‘murica weltering in the sodden, lumpen provincial mass while our social and intellectual betters flit about the globe exchanging wit and wisdom with people who think just like they do!
      You’re screwing up the curve, man!

      1. Look, if you’re gonna be a Hun (or a Xiongnu–the Mongols claim that these folks were the source of the Huns), doesn’t it make sense to make a pilgrimage to the homeland of the Horde?

        Denizens of the cyber steppes, fearless in battle yet peerless in hospitality, that’s what we are!

        Here, have a chunk of yak yogurt!

  38. “In the end we win, they lose. Getting there will be a little bumpy, though. Be not afraid.”
    I wish I had Sarah’s optimism. Oh, I’ll be alright. By the time stuff really hits the fan and gets sprayed all over the world, I’ll be beyond caring. I hope.
    What I see is the old style of rule slowly being reimposed. “Old style” meaning an aristocracy. A ruling class. I did a little research a few years ago, and I found out that the ruling class usually consists of between 3% and 20% of a population. Small in totalitarian states (like North Korea and the SovUnion), and larger in liberal states (like Britain before the reforms of the early 20th century).
    I do not see what can stop it. Progressives like the idea of a ruling class and distrust democracy. So do some conservatives, but it is an ill-fit for American conservatism. The founding documents were based on the idea popular sovereignty. Progressives dislike the creative destruction of capitalism, so they are using AGW as an excuse to create a super-economy above the money economy. Progressives dislike the US ban on titles of nobility, so they are creating non-profit “foundations” that amount to the same thing. They control the press, so that they can dictate what speech is and is not acceptable.

  39. I can’t speak to the research scientists being able to communicate around the world, but I’m sure that it makes a huge difference.

    One difference I think I see with an unintended but monstrous consequence is the extension of winner take all success to science. Winner take all has changed many things.

    A friend of mine has observed that frex there’s nobody in France he’d want to work in his lab.

    In science as in most fields there are a myriad of inferior workers with superior titles who could be replaced by a comprehensive search or a tech with a lab machine.

    The implication I think I see is more flash and more plausible sounding work that can’t be reproduced. Further that such research will be defended by a coalition barely hanging on to their social standing.

    This is not a good thing.

    On the data formats when I was hanging around the YAL-1 project one of the tech fellows was drawing on research based work he’d done for another company dating to the shuttle days. He still had physical custody of the tapes from those days but no ability or desire to reinvent anything.

    Everything was cross licensed in the industry for the project -everybody had a piece of the project – but the protocol was tell the IP owner what was being used and update at every change in use. At that preliminary stage intended use might change hourly.

    Like the project Gutenberg and the Google scan everything some of it against the day it will go out of copyright so too property rights, especially copyright in stale formats will make life harder.

  40. Seeing everyone post about how terrible the radiation environment in space is, I figured I’d drop this here for general perusal…

    Not quite as bad as it’s generally made out to be, especially if you add a few cm of polyethylene shielding.

    That said, GEO, the Earth-Moon Lagrange points, and the NEOs should be our targets for the time being. Mars is far away and I generally don’t see what the point would be of a manned-mission other than flag-planting – for the time being at least.

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