Living In Elfland

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Recently here, one of those times that the comments get more interesting than the post itself, we came up with the idea that we are in fact elves.  That either time traveling or some weird time-glitch bring us — or our descendants a few hundred years hence — in contact with people in the past and allows them a glimpse into our world.

There isn’t a story there — at least not for me — though there might be a throw away side character or three in future novels.

But, you know, when you think about it we match a lot of the stories about elves.  We are almost impossibly long-lived, obviously supernaturally healthy.  We can turn on light or cook or do any of the things that were near impossible if not impossible even a hundred, much less five hundred years ago, with the flick of a button.  We see at a distance through magic devices (no? explain it to a medieval man. Use small words) and talk at a distance to each other.  We can fly to the air to visit each other, and if we don’t mention details, I’ll bet you good money that a medieval person would imagine us tucking in arms and flying, perhaps in a spangle of sparkles.

Fairy horses? I’ve got nothing, though it wouldn’t surprise me if in another 100 years or so we didn’t have some kind of super horses, bio-engineered for performance and more carnivorous than not.  Perhaps even, too, unearthly beautiful, because why not?

We can even heal bizarrely and startlingly for someone in the middle ages.  I mean, if we come across a guy lost in the middle of nowhere, running a fever and we’re doctors or otherwise equipped for the emergency, a salve, an ointment, or even a shot can bring him back from the brink through the magic an anti-biotics.

Elf shot? Forget the whole thing about stone arrow heads.  We can kill at a distance with startling accuracy.

The fairy midwife stories? Well, if these things are either isolated colonists into the past (something like Simak’s world where they’re running from certain extinction in the future) or sometimes the times contact at random and it’s a farmhouse (or something) that finds itself isolated in the past?  Well!  You know, I’d prefer modern delivery services, too, but if those aren’t available, I bet you those medieval-village midwives (once you disinfect them from head to toe twice) were pretty good at what they did, because they faced — with no modern knowledge or last-minute saves — the problems of childbirth, which are complex and varied.  And enough kids survived that we’re here now.

Then there’s the whole “elves have few children.”  Compared to the historical average, you guys might not even realize how little time a modern woman spends pregnant.  Sure, they might end up rearing only two or three children at most, but rare was the pre-modern woman who didn’t have seven to ten children.  And a lot of them died in childbirth, because the more you walk in the rain, the more you get wet.

This idea has been with me a long time, long before the discussion here.  There was a germ of it last year when we went to the Denver botanic gardens illumination and I thought someone of Shakespeare’s England tripping through a time portal into this fairly mundane Holiday display would be dazzled.  Hell, I always channel my inner 6 year old, who thought the church being illuminated for Christmas (white lights outlining the building and the turret) was an amazing miracle.  And she thinks that the illuminated botanic gardens (or zoo) are a miracle.

Imagine the wonder.  We’re profligate with light and getting more so, as it becomes cheaper and cheaper to illuminate the outside of our houses with twinkling fairy lights.  (I’ve had no luck with solar.  I think Colorado is too dusty. But they work places.)

Some of my neighbors illuminate with lights summer and winter, as do a lot of commercial areas.  The colors are just different.

When this arose in the comments, Margaret Ball said “What about being unearthly beautiful?”

And though I know how beautiful we are — yes, all of us — in terms of not being deformed of pockmarked or even — and that was so common even 25 years ago — acne scarred, I confess that made me laugh a little.

And then over new years Dan and I went to the Rembrandt exhibition.  We were looking through the prints and again and again came across drawings of people who were supposed to be young.  Like sixteen to eighteen.  They all looked forty.  And then there were people who were supposed to be forty… I’d take them for eighty.

Sure there are renaissance paintings, say, the Venus on the half-shell, who look young and heart-breakingly beautiful.  And probably were, even if the painter might have idealized her a bit.  But the age thing keeps hitting us in the face.  The men and women of the renaissance were far more in tune than us with the idea that the virgin was supposed to be 14 — by church legend — and the audience of paintings would know that.  Aware of that go look at medieval and renaissance nativity paintings.  Oh, keep in mind Joseph is supposed to be in his thirties.

Now by the time you get to the 18th or 19th century and are looking at the paintings of the upper class, you don’t see that effect much.  They were halfway to being elves.  They still aged faster and harder than us, and do not ask about their dentistry if you prize untroubled sleep.

But if you looked at the people on the street in those days, or if you find paintings of the common folk, you’ll know exactly how we’re “unearthly beautiful” throughout our blessed long lives.

I remember reading, and now I don’t remember which painter or where, though I have an idea it was in the quattrocento (note that wordpress spell checker doesn’t know quattrocento and tries to make it afrocentric. Measure by that our mental decline compared to our material improvement) saying that he’d picked a model because she was so “beautiful” with unscarred skin and straight limbs.

Now do I really believe we’re time travelers?  Um…. no.  I always find it funny when someone comes here to argue with me and tries to claim my reasoning is faulty because “you write fantasy. You don’t know the difference between reality and imagination.”  (Rolls eyes.)  Sure, if you’re a psychotic locked up in a rubber padded room, that might be true.  But I’ll argue you’re then not writing much fiction, and certainly not much that’s commercial enough to be enjoyed by others.

People tend to underestimate the amount of conscious work that goes into crafting a story, particularly something the size of a novel.  They want to imagine it’s all a flash of passion and suddenly the story is all there.

Sure, that can happen, after you’ve written twenty novels or so, but that’s because your subconscious has been trained to do the heavy pulling by then.  Even then you’ll recraft scenes or recast characters, because your subconscious knows what you like but not what other people will buy (your conscious doesn’t know that either, but it can make better guesses.)

Anyway, to write saleable fiction you need to be fully in control.  Sometimes you let the imagination out to play, and then you pull it back in.  And when you let it to play you know d*mn well you’re confabulating.

Sure. It’s possible that some time phenomenon makes us into literal elves sometime in the next few hundred years.  I.e. that we’ll go back in time and meet our ancestors and give them their legends.  Not that I can think of any mechanism right now, but then time is still very much a mystery in many ways.

What is more possible is that these things that were attributed to elves are the long-time dreams of mankind.  Light.  Living with minimal effort. Health. Long life. Not consuming your life in endless pregnancy.

Do we still aspire to a lot of other things, including longer life? Of course we do.

But to our ancestors? We live in an age of magic and miracles, and we live long and blessedly healthy lives.

Shakespeare made his mark on the world by living 2 years more than I’ve lived by now.  And Kit Marlowe was cut down at 29.

We have so much more time.  What are we doing with it?  How much of it do we spend moaning and bitching that it’s all going down the drain and we can’t stop it?

Sure, we have challenges (I’m not sure humans could survive without them) and sure there are some pretty awful people trying to put their boots on our neck. (The wars in fairyland were always terrible.)

BUT we have all this time, all this health, all this light, all this ease.

Let’s be worthy of them and do something, even if the something is fight for freedom and pass the torch one more generation.

There might come a time to be curled up in the fetal position on the floor.  That time is not now.

Up and doing.

In the end, we win, they lose.

Be not afraid.

 

427 responses to “Living In Elfland

  1. Sure there are renaissance paintings, say, the Venus on the half-shell, who look young and heart-breakingly beautiful.

    Well, she was a goddess, after all. Botticelli probably used photoshop to clean up the model.

    Although, as I think on it, there’s no reason the goddess of Love ought be a beauty – true love is continuing a relationship after the looks have gone, and in ancient times that likely happened far faster than it does now, at least for the gals, with no bras to prevent droop and no spandex to supplement muscles stretched out in pregnancy.

  2. you write fantasy. You don’t know the difference between reality and imagination.

    No, it is the folk writing Literary fiction who’ve lost track of that distinction. The Fantasy (or SF) writer must carefully distinguish between the mundane and the fantastic in order to grant the latter firmly in the former. Because audiences are far less likely to “buy” the stories you’re telling if they seem unconnected from Reality as they’ve experienced it.

    Whereas you can put any kind of behaviour on display if you attribute it to “Real Housewives” or “The 1%” and the reading public will swallow it hook, line, sinker, rod and reel. Just consider briefly the credulity of audiences for police procedurals and the forensic investigations they imagine are routine elements of contemporary police work. Heck, I am constantly amazed at the ability of thirty-something dad-bod cops to run down some young punk, much less doing so without having a heart attack.

    When I want to see real</I police work I watch reruns of Barney Miller, just as for realistic courtroom drama I turn on Night Court.

    • Editorial Correction:
      When I want to see real police work I watch reruns of Barney Miller, just as for realistic courtroom drama I turn on Night Court.

      Sigh.

      • Having been to court a couple of times, my impression was that Real Life(tm) was a lot closer to Night Court than Perry Mason…

        • Reading the local docket certainly gives that impression.

          • Blond_Engineer

            Having done five weeks of jury duty… there’s a reason the courtroom dramas focus on the dramatic bits. If they showed a real trial, start to finish, the audience would be bored enough to wander away before opening statements are concluded.

            • Back in the Seventies the Barry Allen Flash comic put the hero on trial in a two-year story-line which readers joked was an effort t convey the tediousness of the legal process. The irony of the Fastest Man Alive being subjected to the Slowest Procedure On Earth culminated with termination of the comic (one of the books which launched the Silver Age rebirth of super-hero comics in the Fifties) and, in the Crisis On Infinite Earths mega-series, the death of the hero.

        • Various professions have actually rated TV shows/movies according to accuracy:

          Doctors – Scrubs
          Lawyers – Night Court
          Submariners – Down Periscope

          I know there were others, but can’t recall off the top of my head.

          • Oh, and a chef I know says the only thing featured in the book Kitchen Confidential that he hadn’t actually seen was the Russian gangsters assembling AK47s in the back room.

      • Dad loved Barney Miller, said it was the only cop show that was mostly accurate

    • I found it interesting that I’ve met two different people (well, many, but these two stand out for as follows) who worked in broadcast radio. One claimed that WKRP in Cincinnati was absolutely *nothing* like a real-world radio station. The other said the show pretty much nailed it. These two did not work at the same place, of course.

      • Having been a groundskeeper I can say Caddy Shack was a documentary in many respects.

        • Richard Mcenroe

          Caddied. Word. I’m not going back into a private country club without a detonator.

          • We didn’t have caddies, but we were just a small 9 hole.
            One story:
            A Schoolmate was walking up the 4th fairway towards me, look of disgust, and not a ball on the green . . .
            “Hey Kraut (actual last name). What’s wrong?”
            “I shot a 37”
            “Your walking up the 4th”
            “Yup”

      • A friend of mine years ago (DJ at a country music station in spite of never listening to, or even liking, country music) would probably have said WKRP was practically a documentary… only cleaned up for television. With the things we saw, and the stories he would tell, yea… VERY cleaned up for television. And this was all in the bible belt.

        • One of the station chains here (country/rock/light rock and talk) was fairly horrible, and then the owner got busted for money laundering and IIRC, medical insurance fraud. That chain had a revolving door for staff, even after it was sold to an honest radio chain. (The GM seems to be a prize twit.)

          The other one is pretty stable, and has taken the lead in ratings. It’s nice to have on-air people who know and like the music. Even nicer when they can talk intelligently about the subject.

          • the station I listened to in NOLA was small company owned and had made several changes of programing (easy, jazz, r&b) until hitting on one that kept them rather popular, and decent listening ratings. They even had a Sunday night show that played non-program music (The Louisiana Music Show, music by or written by folks from or based in Louisiana) Then they got bought out by “The Evil Empire” ClearChannel. For a time, not much changed, but then more ads, a bit less music, and a bit of repeating tunes crept in, but still it was my preferred station.
            After I moved, they went from the only Alt-Rock (with good ratings and reasonable ad response) to Country and Western.
            Now, their tower was down river, and listening area was limited, so if you traveled you lost them fast. A lot of NOLA people travel some distance to get to work, like across the Lake or into Mississippi on I10 or I59.
            NOLA also has one of the most powerful stations that plays Country and doesn’t do the typical (or didn’t back then) Wannabe Pop C&W that really lacks C or W, but a decent mix. A Ratings leader, and a listening area that is rather large due to their power.
            Clear’s C&Wfication of that station didn’t last very long, and looks like it was a financial disaster. Last I saw it was cycling through various programing again trying to find audience.

    • How does Dragnet hold up? (Mind, I’m only really familiar with the radio show, but it seemed impressively down-to-earth, particularly compared to more modern fare. …but then, I’m also not especially familar with policework, so my impression could be quite off.)

    • Heck, I am constantly amazed at the ability of thirty-something dad-bod cops to run down some young punk, much less doing so without having a heart attack.

      I will vouch this is actually possible– not PRETTY, by any means, but a surprising number of dad-bod types have perfectly good muscle under the insulation.

      Better to work smarter, though.

      • From what I have seen (the cop “reality” shows), the model is to be the wolf pack – not the lion. Just keep the “prey” running, unable to go to ground, until they either corner themselves, or run into the other cop that is waiting ahead of them.

        • That is the safest way– they’re not allowed to stab the runner, he has no such restrictions.

          If I remember the rule of thumb for keeping folks from being hurt, you want at LEAST three times the minimum power required to take someone down, because it makes them less likely to fight,

    • I once was in a discussion of a Zelazney novel where no one had any trouble with the aliens, down to the cops who went undercover as a kangaroo and a wombat but there was FIERCE discussion of whether the professors really would want to drive off a perpetual student as long as his tuition check cleared.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        I read that book and my position would have been that the professors might have been bothered by him but the university administrators would not have a problem with him. 😈

        • Well, the consensus at the end was that no one really minded the perpetual student bit — but it gave them something to grouse about when they really didn’t like him, personally.

        • Well, it *was* 1977…

          Still, I can see how elements of the faculty would decide he was “getting away with something” and band together to put a stop to it. There’s a certain mentality that simply can’t stand the idea that someone is getting something they aren’t.

          My question was “why doesn’t he transfer to another college?” Usually that’ll cost at least half of your credits… but it was still a fun story.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            It’s possible that his “college fund” was linked to that particular college/university. 😉

          • Costing him half his credits would still leave him enough to graduate with half a dozen degrees.

            It wasn’t so much his getting away with something as having your student arrive to be advised through the window is not something you enjoy.

  3. Let’s be worthy of them and do something, even if the something is fight for freedom and pass the torch one more generation.

    Depictions of Fairy Courts in the Dresden Files are based on traditional descriptions and do not indicate that wisdom commonly accompanies great power. You could take the ordinary activities of a contemporary college faculty and dress it up in fairy lights and have no trouble passing it off as credible.

  4. The fairy horse could well be mechanical – robotic, with a good covering to seem more ‘organic’ (in the correct use of the term). Not that I’d care to bet against genetic tweaking, but there’s still a LOT to learn either way. Why not a car of some sort? All-terrain, or closer to it. And who knows what the fashion is for this or that – though I’d prefer an enclosed convenience in any interesting weather.

    Hrm.. try explaining the current music (re)producing devices to someone far, far back. The phonograph might be understood, but after that? It might well be impossible to believably explain magnetic tape, let alone this mp3 and streaming stuff.

    • Alternatively, the fairy horse might well be a motorcycle, the person relating the experience lacking all capacity to describe what was seen, nor any audience able to conceive of it other than in familiar terms.

      I recall an A. Merritt novel in which Thor’s Hammer was speculated t have been a time traveler’s .45 automatic: thunderclap, a hammer-like blow, and the device “returning” to its wielder’s hand so quickly it appears to have never left.

      • I’m pretty sure that the “Thor’s Hammer as .45” story was “Frost and Thunder” by Randall Garrett, not A. Merritt.

        • Possibly – it has been over forty years since I read it. A quick check at Wiki dates “Frost & Thunder” as published in 1979 and I am sure I’d read of the idea ere then. It is not inconceivable* for both authors t have independently arrived at that concept and I am not about to reread all of my A. Merritt novels to confirm or refute my recollection.

          *It is possible that word does not mean what I think it means.

          • Foots note: Yeah, I had already read Randall, particularly the Lord Darcy stories as well as many of his collaborations with Robert Silverberg and with Laurence M. Janifer. Now, those I would be willing to reread … once I’ve caught up on more contemporary backlog.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            IIRC A. Merritt had one story where the “bad guys” used war-hammers that could be thrown and the war-hammers had a cord that the “bad guys” used to retrieve the thrown war-hammers. 😉

      • Heh, I should’ve read down further.

        honest to goodness like a few hours ago I was trying to retell the story of the “Good Luck Cat” for oriental stores, and talked about a general ‘driving around’ before I edited it to “on his horse.”

      • It took thirty years before the minor dieties of Discretional Spending allowed it, but a few years ago I was finally able to buy a gun I’d wanted since I first saw a picture of one: an AMT Auto Mag, in .44 AMP Magnum.

        It’s the only gun I’ve named.

        It is Mjollnir.

    • …let alone how the storage capacity of the “single” and “long play” records shaped music into 5 and 20 minute chunks…

      • ehh, most of the music i listen to songs are anywhere from three to eight minutes.

      • Glances at her Bach Unaccompanied Cello suites. No, I think it just standardized it a bit more. Playing literally for hours is horribly overated. A composer in the symphonic traditions gives everyone a few measures to relax, shake out, somewhere.
        There’s a minimum for it to become something for folks to listen to. Not sure exactly what it is, but if we go with an old song everyone knows, no one would find it satisfying to listen to once through Frere Jacques. The hard minimum seems to be around two, two-and-a-half, but most short music I own comes in around four-and-a-half. There’s a maximum on how long a musician can go for without a break to relax muscles, and I think it’s around twenty, but I’m not sure if I can think of any peice that long that allows no rests-even the Saint-Saens cello concerto, which has no between movement pauses, allows measures of rest for the musicians while others play. The piano and organ repetoire might have some examples, but I don’t know it intimately

        • Wonder if that’s why much prog rock has long, soft, ambient keyboard sections- to give the rest of the band a chance to stretch out a bit during a song.

          • Remembering a couple of EL&P concerts in the ’70s, that would have worked. Pieces like Tarkus started out with everybody going full tilt, but as the piece progressed, there’d be solos or slower sections where one or two of the trio could take a bit of a break.

            For that matter, the quintessential ’70s drum solo was a great way to let the guitarist(s) and vocalist(s) and others have a break.

            • Being the 70’s, it probably also gave the typical band a chance to spark up, and have a snort of marching powder.

            • I recall, vaguely, a Grateful Dead concert around ’76 in which the band trooped off stage for about an hour, leaving Mickey hart and Bill Kreutzmann drumming, with other band members coming out to relieve a guy and take a turn.


              The audience also took this as an opportunity to wander about, mingle, randomly dance and do a little business while there.

              • Was never a fan, but I bought a used Revox tape deck in the early 1990s. Seems the previous owner was Pigpen’s sister, and the only bit of tape that hadn’t been bulk erased had some nice jazz on it.

        • A composer in the symphonic traditions gives everyone a few measures to relax, shake out, somewhere.

          Sadly, I can not find on YouTube the sequence from Cheers in which a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra takes advantage of a long break to step in for a beer, counting time all the while, only to lose his place when Diane counts his change back to him.

        • Bach’s Goldberg Variations runs about 50-70 minutes, depending on the performer’s ideas about tempo, with only a second or two rest in between variations).

          And some of the variations run under a minute.

        • I think it is Robert Schumann’s Symphony #4, “Rhenish”, which runs just over 32 minutes, and the four movements are continuous with no breaks. IIRC, the first violins have ONE extended break (it was either 8 or 16 measures rest) in the entire symphony. I know, I played it with a community orchestra many years ago, and it was an agonizing test of endurance. 😉

    • Heh. Can you imagine a roman british peasant trying to describe a jacked-up ATV? It looks like a raeda, except it has doesn’t. Those giant knobbly tires have only the faintest relation to the solid wooden wheels he knows, and has no ohorse or oxen to pull it. It does have two eyes that shine beams of light into the darkness, and it growls before it charges and screams in defiance before tackling steep slopes? And the people, they sit astride it, hanging on tight and it carries them faster than the wind, leaving torn-up earth in its wake… Hell with it, it’s not a cart at all. It’s a fairy horse, or maybe a giant unearthly fairy cat.

      • Richard Adams had fun with those sorts of details when writing Watership Down. The setting is mid-Twentieth Century England, so things like guns, cars, and backhoes are all very much in existence. And they’re being described through the eyes of a short-lived species that equates “five” with “too many to count”.

      • > trying to describe a jacked-up ATV?

        Look at the part of Ezekiel that talks about “wheels within wheels”, and consider what a modern quadrotor helicopter looks like…

        • Sad!y, it turns out that Ezekeiel is describing a pretty typical Middle Eastern chariot-shaped throne with weird decorative wheels and fabulous angelic beasts for supporters.

          Archaeology is your friend, but in this case it was a bubble-bursting friend.

      • Oooh, I love it!

    • > explain magnetic tape, let alone this mp3 and streaming stuff.

      One of the oldest known stories is the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is somewhere over 4,100 years old. How the pieces of it were recovered and restored is one of those “fact only has to be true” stories.

      4,100 years. Lost. Found. Transcribed. Translated.

      Click and have the voices of the networked djinni read it to you out loud: https://archive.org/details/audiogilgameshnew/01)+.mp3

      And how cool is *that*?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Robot horses seem to be somewhat near, in a sense. They’ve made gas powered quadruped machines that can move around fairly well.

      • Mine is bipedal with round legs/feet. It weighs almost as much as a horse, goes insanely fast for hundreds of miles before it needs feeding, and will repeat this until the rider tires.

    • If you go a bit further back and especially stick to peasants etc who had mostly personally seen just what we’d think of as working animals, and even then they weren’t all that common because they were expensive, then a modern racing horse or Arabian or any of the other show horses might pretty much qualify as a “fairy horse” to them. There maybe were high quality horses which looked a lot like our show animals, graceful and large, but from what little I have read after the fall of Rome also lots of the earlier breeding lines were completely lost, and there were a few centuries when most horses in use in Europe were smaller and sturdier while the prettier ones were rare and highly expensive, and something a lot of people never saw personally during their lives. So if somebody from that era saw a group of pretty people riding something like high quality Thoroughbreds or Arabians…

      • And talking about horses: even not all that well off people can now afford a horse, or even several horses, as a PET, something that just eats a lot and is otherwise expensive to keep but serves no purpose which would produce an income.

        • Imagine explaining our modern mania for Therapy Animals to anyone born before 1900.

          • They could probably grok that some people were so unmanly and neurasthenic that they would need fainting couches and emotional support.

          • today at the store i had someone’s therapy dog give me the ‘ i am a therapy dog you need to pet me to feel better’ look.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            It’s like ratbaiting, redbaiting, or bearbaiting, without the rats, reds or bears.

            My pack of therapy cwn annan are a great comfort to me on nights where I am insomniac with rage against the left.

          • Hrmm, I wonder if “therapy minotaur” pays well.

      • Lady has a point– especially if it’s a now standard “Cowboy horse.” (American quarter horse.)

        My dad’s beloved Cougar was only slightly shorter than the plow horses/knights horses, but otherwise looked like a…well, fairy dream version of them. And because of his incredible good health, compared to what would’ve been possible then, probably about as strong.

        Heck, the western saddle probably could account for the magical ability to stay mounted, too.

      • Possibly not. I’d have to reread it to be sure, but I recall that one of the 163x background articles showed that most of the modern horse breeds did not exist even then.

        • No. The only pure breeds we have remaining from that time are the “baroque” breeds – Lipizanner and Lusitano. You’ll notice how heavy and squat the horses are in paintings from the 1500s-early 1700s? And then horses get taller and lighter? People started changing what they looked for and crossing in Arabs, Andalusians, and breeding for specialization. The agricultural revolution also meant that you could feed a heavy draft horse or mule, something that had been very difficult in the earlier days.

    • Mercedes Lackey has already done an urban fantasy where the elven mounts transformed into cars.

      • I think I have two of those somewhere. (Someday I will dig around to see whether there were more – the story line that I remember was very incomplete.)

        Not just cars, but stock cars. I’m not a NASCAR fanatic, but I loved the notion.

        • SERRAted Edge series. Wasn’t bad, if fully reflecting her massive concern re abused children (I swear, is there even *one* of her villains from that era who isn’t a pedo?). I found the Tannim-based novel Chrome Circle to be the best of them.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      Fess the Faithful Cybernetic Companion would like to have a word with you. Sadly, he needs to be reset after the logic-defying event of remotely talking to a minotaur without benefit of telepathy.

    • Considering some of the oddly designed motorcycles, that might be nailed as a “horse.”

  5. > illuminate the outside of our houses with twinkling fairy lights.

    Houses? We light up the *world*…

    https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/earthday/gall_earth_night.html

    Any visitors coming from space will see where Civilization is; we have so much light, we throw it out into space itself…

    Last night I went outside. The cloud layer was low, and the reflected light from town was bright enough to read by.

    • The advances in Christmas lighting from sixty years ago when I was a child have been astounding. The adoption of LED strings has truly amazed.

      • So true! I remember when putting up Christmas lights was considered a fabulously frivolous and expensive expenditure: beyond the cost of the lights themselves, your electric bill would go up a nickel per bulb per day, and that when you were just turning them on for a few hours in the evening and early night.

        • I recall the year the “Energy Crisis” hit when I was a kid because of all the houses in the neighborhood that stopped putting up the big glass incandescent lights – the neighborhood seemed all dark that Christmastime.

          • I was a teenager – and remember all the houses which were normally adorned with strings of lights over the holidays – gone dark. And this was when the usual lights were the big colored bulbs…
            God, what a depressing period that was.
            (My father had a home-built dune buggy which boasted a pair of enormous gas tanks – twenty gallons each IIRC – possibly more. Dad liked loooooonnng trips through the desert. During the months of that fuel crisis, he’d drive the buggy to whatever station had the best prices, good quality and short lines, and fill each tank to the top. Then he would siphon from the buggy tanks to keep his and Mom’s cars going.)

          • I remember it as the year I was worried Santa wouldn’t be able to get in the house because my parents blocked up the fireplace in our farmhouse to re-install the ancient wood stove that was stored in the lean-to by a previous resident when they installed an oil circulator for heat. We pretty much moved into the kitchen for that winter, and the next.

            But we had lights on the tree, that was always important to my dad. (Long story involving WWII, rationing meaning no bulbs, and the only tree lights in the City of Lynchburg being 3 sets his dad, who worked for C&P, soldered together in the basement from switchboard bulbs).

        • I’m also remembering when Real Trees had to be watered copiously so they wouldn’t catch fire from the 7 or 9 watt bulbs. Dad wasn’t a fan of outdoor lights, but we spent a few hundred watts on the Christmas tree.

          (OTOH, Grandma Pete preferred a silver/mylar tree. I suspect it would have fit in well with That Hideous Strength.)

          • “silver/mylar tree.”
            My Dad was manager of a five & dime when we were young. I remember when he brought home one of the new-fangled metaled trees (probably aluminum), which we lit with a rotating color wheel, because you couldn’t put incandescent lights on the “branches.”
            Was strolling through the antique store* over Christmas break and actually found both items for sale. Didn’t get them, but spent $3 on a box of the silver tinsel strands I remember putting on our green trees, one by one, and then laboriously removing to save for the next year.
            *The Brass Armadillo, Lakewood CO – give it a try Sarah, if you are up to wasting time some day on recreational time traveling.

    • Consider the old bicycle turned-by-wheel tiny generator, and the little low-wattage incandescent bulb it powered. If you’ve experienced such, you know that that light took some non-trivial effort. And then look at all that light… and marvel at all power that takes, even with all the efficiencies since hot-tungsten.

      And consider that nowadays, “200 Amp service” is routine (standard?) and that, assuming everything at 120 Volts (thus ignoring clothes dryer, electric stove, and whatever else might be 240) that’s… if used full-out.. 24,000 Watts. 24 KiloWatts for a dwelling. Or, a bit over 32 hp. Jane Average has 32 horses at her command – and that’s NOT counting transportation.

      A push-button world? Yeah. But then…
      “OK, Google, turn off the bedroom lamp.”
      Explain to someone from 1850?
      It can be hard to explain to some from 1950!

      • Brownies. The invisible house spirits that clean. (Although you might catch the roomba-spirit in the act.) How else would you explain why every surface isn’t covered with the inevitable ash from smoke that wafts from the fireplace, and dirt from the wind that whistles through the cracks and the mud… wait, we don’t have mud floors. Every floor is covered with fabulous stone, or rugs that we have running from wall to wall and trod upon without thought or care… yet they stay clean without constant legions of servants washing and beating them!

        And if you put the dishes into this box and shut the door, the brownies wash them for you…

        • So… Reddy Kilowatt is a brownie?

        • > fabulous rugs

          And you walk *on* them instead of hanging them on the walls for insulation, and when they’re worn you just throw them away.

          And clothes… not just Sunday or muck-out-the-barn clothes, but clothes – and shoes! – for every style, season, or activity. And they’re usually thrown away long before they’re worn out.

          • Kind of like cameras in Discworld. There’s a little imp inside the box. And when you push the button and open the shutter, that imp paints what it sees.

            • junior – I was thinking that very thing when I read Sarah’s line above, “(no? explain it to a medieval man. Use small words)” because of a personal experience.
              At the Welsh Eisteddfod some years back (my only trip to date; it’s on the bucket list for re-run), some of the fun was provided by cosplay actors, in this case a couple of armored knights.
              I asked for a photo-op, which they granted, and then they went into what was obviously a familiar routine, asking the magic box worked, and then smirking a bit while waiting for the usual sputtering attempt by the “mark” to explain digital photography.
              I thought for a moment, then said, “Well, you see, there is a little imp inside with a tiny easel…” and couldn’t finish, as they were laughing too hard to hear me.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                It’d be really fun to walk into that electrical engineer, historian, and prepared enough to give a really good showing of explaining digital photography. Of course, I am an ass with low tastes in entertainment.

                • He’d best be prepared to talk for a long time… besides the materials it is made of, which mostly didn’t exist a century ago, there’s the entire field of electronics and all of its support industries, and there’s a computer in there, and software…

                  You can buy a decent digital camera for forty dollars. But it’s an artefact of a huge and complex technological civilization, and it’s a *part* of that civilization… it’s not going to be worth much without batteries, for example, and if you want to do more than view your pictures on the display on the back, you need supplemental devices for a bigger picture or to print.

                  • Underlining theme in both the Stirling Island & Fling 1632 series, where specific location flung way into the past. Survivors look like wizards/witches, but they can’t reproduce or sustain a lot of what they have, because the infrastructure those items require didn’t make the trip with them. While they can’t sustain their current technology, they can work to build to a lower technology to a much higher standard than the current local ability, & bring the locals to the same standard. “Local” does not mean stupid, or inability, just lacking the basis & knowledge.

        • William O. B'Livion

          How else would you explain why every surface isn’t covered with the inevitable ash from smoke that wafts from the fireplace,

          I live in Denver. Every surface not routinely wiped down IS covered by the stuff that drifts from the fireplace. It’s just that the fireplaces are (were) coal fired and are a long way away, https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=CO#tabs-4

          • William O. B'Livion

            Oh, and some of those fireplaces are on wheels and drive around.

          • Right? What’s up with our dark black dust?

          • Mom and Dad’s first retirement home was heated with a wood stove – Mom went for central heat and AC after Dad passed. The wood stove look gorgeous, and it was cheap to run with all the wood on the property – but oh, the wood-ash and dust on everything – even with the wood-stove door shut!

        • I live in Arizona, every time I turn around dust has accumulated.

          • I’m allergic to dust. …. every time I turn around, it’s in my face.

          • The High Plains likewise. Which reminds me, I need to do the windowsills again.

          • My workplace is salted, well, over-salted every winter, and the constant fork and 18 wheel traffic grinds it and the slush in then the forks especially, track it into the building so all year long there is a fine grey dust on everything. I clean my printer every day, and blow air through it every so often. But when I wipe off the dust within a hour it looks like I never cleaned at all.
            Last month during a slow period I dusted some areas nobody has touched in years, and there was an easy half inch of powder lurking there.
            I hate the place. really I do

          • Growing up in Globe, I used to lie on the living room couch and watch the motes drifting through the air in the afternoon sun streaming in through the front door. It could fascinate me for hours after a long day of playing in the back yard.

            Of course, I didn’t have to clean it up from wherever it landed until I got quite a bit older…

      • > explain

        2009. My first encounter with kidney stones.

        So I’m sitting at the keyboard, blotzed on oxycodone, browser pointed at YouTube, watching a picture of an LP spin on a turntable while listening to Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”

        Sitting there in a clinically zomboid state, thinking about how that song was performed, converted into electrical signals, stored on analog tape, and mixed, then mechanically etched onto a nickel master and pressed into plastic discs, which were then read by a mechanical needle and moving coil, amplified, run through analog to digital conversion, compressed in software, stored in hierarchical blocks on a spinning magnetic disc, read back out to a network stack with multiple levels of packetizing and error correction, transmitted over thousands of miles or wire or glass, de-packetized, buffered, and run through digital to analog conversion, to move the voice coils on my speakers…

        That’s just skipping across the high spots and ignoring the internet and underlying technologies entirely.

        It’s difficult to explain to an intelligent and knowledgeable person NOW. Trying to tell someone from 1850, or even 1950, how it worked… I’d be like some stoner with his grand vision of the universe, and all he can do is look up, wave his arms, and say, “Maaaaannnn…!”

        “Just click here. Don’t worry about it…”

      • Margaret Ball

        Speaking from 1950… 1947 if you want to be nitpicky… I do not really want Google listening in my bedroom!

        • Alexa and her sibs are your own personal informers that YOU are paying for. Stasi agents!

          • Which is why I no longer have a Facebook account, don’t use my Google account at all, and say no thanks to any and all of the Alexa cohort. I’m fairly techie, enough so to know just how little I want all that stuff invading my privacy.

            • Very techie. When one spends 35 years programming …

              Alexa, etc. Nope. Not bothering. Heck just using the mic for Xfinity, is a PIA. “No. I didn’t say ‘sec for mini’!” In a car with road & wind noise … uh? Why bother?

              Still use Facebook & Google/gmail tho. Come on what are they going to find? I dare them to be borrrrrrrrrrddddddd to death.

              • In addition:
                *evil laugh*

                Figure out what is an elaborate joke.

                I DARE YOU!

              • Two of our vehicles have voice control. I’ve done minimal work with them (select a radio station), but that’s it. Neither are linked to telephones, though the Subaru will send telemetry to the hidden lair. Honda can’t do it without a linked phone, and the only phone I have doesn’t link, so it should be reasonably private. Maybe.

                I’ll use DuckDuckGo for search instead of Google, and Facebook is blocked by NoScript. Amazon gets business, but I won’t put my personal stuff on their servers.

                • Facebook has a huge number of servers that operate under non-Facebook-sounding names. They seem to be mostly used for “tracking beacon” stuff on web sites. I have fifty or so blocked in my hosts file.

                • Click-to-Remove-Element is essential for non-“subscriber” access to Facebook pages… which are still a pain under the tail.

                • Bingo.

                  Our Chevy truck has OnStar, not using it. Carried it for awhile after first free year; but only used it twice to unlock truck with keys locked in with the dog; oy. Not worth it. Still could use it, in an emergency, just would have to pay for the privilege. I have the account locked down 6 ways to Sunday. They have to send me a code on my phone to unlock it, as well as the password.

                  Ditto with the Hyundai Sonata, only it is BlueLink, I do miss the auto start; oh well, I don’t drive it that much, & hubby never uses it. We still get the maps, but I have to manually update the SD card.

                  Just updated & car now has the Android Auto, feature. Had to install it on our phones. THE ONLY access it has is the messaging for display. Heck, unless it projects onto the map screen, probably won’t bother. Much prefer the auto return “sorry driving” response. Not glued to messaging.

                  Don’t allow any of our computers to use Windows Drive for backup. Sorry, will do that myself, other than photos after trips, not a PIA. Photos get loaded to the back up drives & computers, sequentially, before deleting off SD drives. Ditto for “don’t want to loose documents”, they just immediately get saved to a backup. Now finding which backup it might be on can be a PIA, but it is backed up.

                  All our online stuff required double authorization with our phones. PIA if hubby needs to get into my stuff & I’m not home, or the reverse, but whatever.

                  • Subie 2 has StarLink, and we carry the remote emergency service. I don’t worry about locking myself out, but when I was traveling to Medford a lot last year, it was nice to have that bit of security blanket. OR 140 over the Cascades looks like a benign road, but it’s claimed a fair number of people who’ve underestimated it. The most bemusing was the single-car vs tree (driver lost, permanently) where the road is almost finished climbing to the summit, and it’s dead straight, and almost flat.

                    OTOH, we saw a damfool in a Corvette who hit the Klamath basin flat off the Cascades and punched the throttle. He ended up with the tail end of his car 5′ up an embankment, and a massively embarrassed look on his face. I’d give him a 3.0 for driving ability, but a 8.9 for style points.

                    • Understand. I wanted it for emergency services too, especially when towing the trailer. Hubby said drop it. We do have other methods.

                      Yea, I get the Cascade or coastal pass roads. Came back 126 from Florence, just west, as coming off the pass, someone caught some sand from snow/ice removal & rather than turn with the curve, little sports car, who’d passed a long ling of cars, pancaked (upright) down into the little gully. A straight drop off (not rock cliff, but straight down off the road. At least a 20 to 30 feet drop. Missed the trees, luckily. They were shaken up, but fine. Under carriage of the car, however … They were lucky.

                    • When we got that car, there was a non-trivial chance I’d have to go back east for family reasons. There’s a stretch between Lakeview and Winnemucca where there is zero cell signal for tens of miles. Sat emergency communications seemed like a really good idea.

                      From October 2017 to current, I did 16 solo trips to Medford. We have AAA, but the extra coverage from the satellite connection was nice to have.

                    • “satellite connection”

                      We’ve been in locations where both cell & satellite were compromised or non-existent.

                      We’re researching a small SUV to (currently) add to vehicles. I’m hoping our top choice, currently, having multiple vehicles on the same system, means a discount cost for two vs one. But who knows.

                    • We’ve been very impressed with the Subaru Forester. The 2016 Outback was a bit low (I’m 6′ tall), and things like the all-electric parking/emergency brake raised flags, but the Forester is a good fit for us. It has enough room with the rear seats down to do a Costco run (1-2 big coolers, 1 medium cooler, and various large items). Mileage with the 2.5 liter engine and the CV transmission is 34 with summer tires (less 10% with studded snow tires because Eastern Oregon).

                      The ’16 is a mid range model. StarLink emergency services (lockout is a different package) runs $100 a year. I don’t use the satellite phone facility, so no idea on that. OTOH, AAA could cover most of the emergency stuff if conditions are right.

                      The main downside is mice. It’s possible for an enterprising mouse to get into the vehicle via the back compartments and set up shop. This hasn’t been an issue in other vehicles (though engine compartments can be a problem unless I open the hood when the vehicles are in the garage), but both of the Foresters have had mouse nests. We learned to put emergency food in critter proof boxes (Snapware for the win). I set bait in the garage to discourage this. These are field mice; we get deer mice in the area, but they don’t seem to find vehicles attractive. OTOH, we’ve had at least one hantavirus death here, probably from deer mice leavings in an implement.

                    • If you don’t mind the smell, peppermint works rather well. Just spray the area you’re worried about.

                      My mom got us hooked on this “all natural flee and tick repellent”– it’s peppermint and clove oil in water. Like this: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003PRI6OC
                      My home-made version uses the same spray bottle, about two tablespoons of peppermint oil, a tablespoon of clove oil, and then stuff I like the smell of like lemon grass, a little eucalyptus, some lavender, play with my stink-pretty collection, then fill the rest of the bottle with water and rubbing alcohol. (I need to try vodka next time, I keep forgetting, but you probably don’t want that in the car.)

                      My mom uses just peppermint and rubbing alcohol, first tried it to keep black widows away and turned out the mice don’t like it either.

                    • My mom uses just peppermint and rubbing alcohol, first tried it to keep black widows away and turned out the mice don’t like it either.

                      Tell me more about this mixture, please. We’re in the process of having the deck aback our house replaced and it is taking For-effing-ever! [Delete long litany of contractor woes.] In the process it seems that the combination of work and weather (okay, we did have a hurricane blow through, but that shouldn’t have delayed the work all that much) it seems one or more (as we all know, if one then soon there are more) rodent (large mouse, small rat – cannot say) has been driven into the house.

                      Traps – glue boards, snap traps, live capture – haven’t worked and ultrasonic repellers don’t seem to repel much. Peanut butter, cheese, even “rodent attractant jelly” don’t seem able to lure it into a trap and several times we’ve found traps having snapped without capturing the #@!$% thing. It has gotten into the stored soba and had a field day, but that is the sort of bait which seems difficult to load into a trap.

                      ANYthing at this point that will help rid the problem is welcome.

                    • Peppermint extract– I get it from Amazon– and the cheap high-alcohol rubbing alcohol from Walmart, mom uses 2-4 ounces per (looks it up) 16 ounces of rubbing alcohol, and sprays like the mice have cooties.

                      It can be kind of overwhelming, probably best to do right before leaving for an hour or so, but…. good luck?

                    • Thanks. Now to find something for the squirrels i the attic. I ‘spect y’all know there’s naught to be done ’bout the bats in the belfry.

                    • We’re looking at the Santa Fe, & the others in the same class. So far it is the top contender. At least the BlueLink controls, etc., will be familiar. We also have a Sonata … Didn’t think we’d care for the navigation system. Know better to trust it between the valley & coast, or east over the mountains, & it lead us astray when going to my nieces wedding & one of the winery’s up north (wrong driveway, mom’s phone got it right). But, OMG, navigating the CA freeway system. It told us which lanes to get into when directions required freeway changes. Do you know how many fights we’ve gotten into over the last 40 years regarding navigation? Not anymore, not for the last 4.

                      Well the truck/trailer combination still doesn’t have the navigation system & that is harder to navigate over 3 or 4 lanes when you realize that exit coming up is the one you want (okay no fights, I’m usually asleep).

                    • We got one of those Febreze auto things. Had to bag it to keep from overwhelming the vehicle, but that in the mouse-compartment discourages them mightily.

                      Also helped with the mouse-pee odor. Bastards got into the heating ducts, too.

                  • One of the overlooked perils of the digital age is what happens to your accounts when you aren’t conscious / alive to unlock them. Em and I filed a copy of our accounts and passwords as part of our wills, and submit updates as needed. And it’s about to be needed again.

                    • We have this, too– although getting to it is bleepin’ Rube Goldberg level stuff, starting with the safe combo being where both of our family would look first but nobody else would.

                    • Yes. Good idea. I have a locked file. Need to print it again.

          • Robo-snitch.

      • Actually, since the 240V (US system; I don’t know EU house wiring, beyond the fact that the outlets are 240V) is split phase, in theory you can get two sets of 120V 200A loads. (You have two “hots” and a neutral. Phase(a) is 180 degrees out of phase with Phase(b), so the neutral only has to deal with Current(a) – Current(b). (Skipping things like power factor from inductive loads like motors…)

        Thus, it’s 48KWatts, or 64 pony power.

        • Most foreign 240v wiring is single phase, and pretty much works like US 110v.

        • Two problems:

          1) electric motor makers lie like politicians about current draw and shaft power (“It’s not fraud if we all do it!”)

          2) the common “746 watts per horsepower” conversion sort of glosses over “what kind of horsepower are we talking about?” There are half a dozen major standards and that many more specialty ones. (“Standards are wonderful, there are so many to choose from!”)

          • And that the “horse” was originally a mine pony, and Watt set things up so that one of his “horsepower” was something more than such a pony could do – so his stuff looked better when compared. But, oh yeah, that quip about standards is depressingly true.

  6. A decade ago, someone was gleefully pointing out that there has never been a better time to be an Early Music (pre-1648 or so) fan than now. We can listen to music from the Middle Ages, Late Antiquity, folk music, Renaissance music with the flip of a CD (or MP3, now). And on period instruments, reproduction period instruments, or modern instruments. And people actually make a living doing just that – reconstructing and performing ancient music, or modern tunes inspired by ancient music.

    • I heard a piano that was designed around the time of Mozart. A modern built one based off one of Wolfy’s. The tuning was likely not exact, but it had brass wire, and the gentleman playing it mentioned imagining what Beethoven, and Mozart couple have done with today’s 88 key monsters

    • And I wonder what medieval people would think of some of our modern music. Maybe dislike a lot of it, but something like this might sound pretty otherworldly to them:

      (I like to listen to soundtracks and that kind of stuff when I write – no lyrics, as that tends to distract me)

      • Yes. some of the hard rock “Rrraaallllllyyyyyy!!!” stuff sounds a bit like the old war-pipes.

      • 2Cellos has played in several Roman coliseums, including one that might even predate the Republic.

        So you have two cellists, their instruments, their banks of speakers, their video walls, and their laser show, jamming their trademark cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”…

        Yes, all through the videos, I wonder what the ancients would have thought of all that.

        • Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” also comes to mind.
          Best to watch the original film.

        • Well, there has been one movie which explored that …


          Sort of.

          Imagine the reactions to today’s dancing by cultures which condemned the waltz as immoral and degenerate.

          • When the aliens find Voyager 1, I wonder what they’ll make of the recording of “Johnny B. Goode” in its cargo…

          • We don’t need to imagine that. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded by a guy horrified at the immorality of a ’50s church basement dance…

    • I remember back a few decades ago buying another set of Beethoven’s symphonies, these performed by Roger Norrington and “the London Classical Players in what was perhaps the earliest recording of the complete symphonies of Beethoven performed on early instruments.”* That in addition to the Toscannini, Furtwangler, Walter and Bernstein sets already owned, along with various individual symphony performances of various conductors. All different, each informative in its differences.

      Just as the abundance of “live” performances by various bands, particularly those following the path broken by the Grateful Dead, has produced a cornucopia of variant interpretations of individual songs even though all interpretations are by a single band. Of course, Sinatra had long established the role of his arrangers (e.g., Nelson Riddle vs Billy May) in interpreting any song, a trait detailed by Mark Steyn in his many informative “Song of the Week” columns.

      *Citation: https://www.allmusic.com/album/beethoven-symphonies-nos-1-9-mw0001424974

  7. If I was an elf I’d be a glitter elf lol

  8. Christopher M. Chupik

    The elves aren’t time travelers, they’re the survivors of the civilization that preceded us. 😉

    • You know what I think. That’s more likely.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Somewhere up to what, 5% of our DNA is Neanterthal? and there’s likely to be some Denisovan in there somewhere.

        • The Denisovan thing is interesting – almost everyone from lineages that left Africa have some Neanderthal DNA, but the Denisovan DNA seems to be more narrowly present in populations that ended up in certain areas, indicating a much smaller set of locals with Denisovan populations that were encountered and partied with.

          To me, this sounds like what you’d see after a shipwreck, with only a few groups of unique-DNA survivors scattered about, standing out from other local populations.

          • Christopher M Chupik

            Denisovans have become very popular among the fringe set. I keep an eye on such things for story ideas.

      • That has been a common theory among those who go for the “alternative” history theories.

        And while there is no solid proof for anything, and probably would not be even if there was something to it, if we are talking about thousands of years there really could not be much of anything left of something which would have had something like our present level of development, it would be all gone and decayed long, long time ago, but – okay, while I do not think there WAS I would not completely dismiss the possibility either. Because of that: if there was there’d be no real, solid proof left. Unless we find something if or when we finally start to move to space in a big way. Because if there was a spacefaring civilization once – or even several times… – something just might have survived up there.

        As it is it remains an interesting possibility, and a good springboard for stories.

    • And if I recall my History of England to 1688 class, there were people in Britain before the Celts; and they became “the old ones”—not brownies nor survivors of astronauts, but a precedent.

      • From my reading, the mythical constructs only come into play when there’s a gap, like the builders of the rock walls and such that the Polynesians found on Hawaiian islands which were empty of people when they first arrived.

      • Christopher M Chupik

        Ah yes, “fairy euhemerism”. The theory that the Little People were a folk memory of a pre-Celtic pygmy race. It’s fallen from favor now, but you can find traces of it the works of Arthur Machen, Rosemary Sutcliff and Robert E. Howard.

        • Also in the one story that my English grandmother had – of tiny staircases and doors into mounds.
          http://www.ncobrief.com/index.php/archives/the-chalk-giant/

          “But the one old tale that Granny Dodie told, the one that stayed my memory, especially when Pip and JP and I spent the summer of 1976 discovering (or re-discovering) our roots was this one: “There are places,” she said, ” Out in the country, they are, where there are stone stairways in the hillsides, going down to doorways but they are just the half the size they should be. They are all perfectly set and carved – but for the size of people half the size we are. And no one knows where they lead.”

          Into the land of the Little People, the Fair Folk, living in the hollow hills, of course, and the half-sized stairways lead down into their world, a world fair and terrible, filled with faerie, the old gods, giants and monsters and the old ways, a world half-hidden, but always tantalizingly, just around the corner, or down the half-sized stairway into the hidden hills, and sometimes we mundane mortals could come close enough to brush against that unseen world of possibilities.

          • From link:
            Both were women, very kind and chatty; I wish I knew what impulse people have which make them pick up hitch-hikers.

            For me, it’s:
            “Ah, I get that.”
            Either I am going that it’s a terrible weather to be in, or I am going “yeah, I’d want to be going from here, too.”

            A lot of the time I have mom (or worse, grandma!) in my head going “No, no, FF NO!!,” but sometimes….

            • That said, I’d sooner pick up three “no alarms” kids than even a single “why?” guy, like we meet up with this afternoon.

              Technically, we had the room.

              Between the year old and the five year old…..

              No.

          • Then there’s the Time Team episode where they excavate around a hill that has a stairwell down into its center…

      • If it’s like Ireland, there’s the Tiranobog (sp) and the Tulan du Dana. (also sp).

        Trolls or ogers and then the elves. Very honorable elves, too, beat their king and they left.

  9. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the differences between modern music and medieval music could play into this. Though it had been discussed by scholars before, equal temperament seems to have entered actual use in the late 16th century.

    So ‘Elvish music’ could be ‘hauntingly beautiful’ simply because it used equal temperament and thus could be much more complex. Having musical notation also plays into this.

    Just throwing it out there.

    Gods alone knows what a medieval person would make of Jazz, or rhythm and blues. Or an extended electric guitar solo by the likes of Jimmy Page.

    • I’m reminded of the account of Muddy Water’s first visit to England in the late 50s, where they were expecting him to play quiet acoustic blues. When he broke out all 40 watts of amplified electric guitar, they thought it was the loudest thing ever.

    • Bass instruments would be a surprise. Other than kettledrums and the like, you didn’t have any really low notes until the Renaissance and after. Even early pipe-organs tend to sound “top heavy” to modern ears, and there are no pedal lines.

      • I looked up the bassoon, and I could see where early instrument makers would be wary of building one. That’s big and complex (Wiki says the sound column is a 2.4 meter cone. Whee!)

        Going sideways to P.D.Q. Bach, the double-reed slide music stand would be a lot easier to make. OTOH, the minor third total range is a bit limiting. 🙂

        • Donald Stephens

          Or the tromboon: combining the disadvantages of the bassoon and trombone in one convenient instrument.

    • Alan Parsons Project’s “In the Lap of the Gods.” And it doesn’t even use instruments, not like the old timers would recognize as such.

      If I’m ever going into space, *that* is what I’ll be playing during the launch…

    • Trivia on tempering the scales, which I read long ago so might not get entirely right, but the change-over was due to the improvements in instruments, and especially the piano, because naturally-tuned instruments could not change keys easily (some couldn’t change at all).
      Setting all intervals the same for all keys got around the problem and allowed more complex music.
      (“The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893, is a collection of two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, composed for solo keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach”).
      However, during the transistion, many musicians fought against tempering, insisting that the scales simply didn’t sound right, and it took some years to shift everyone over to where, now, a naturally-tuned scale sounds subtly wrong.
      Try tuning your guitar by ear, using the system of fifths, and then check it against your electronic tuner.

      • Eek! Sudden flash of image of a dragon going over herself with a blowtorch, “Tempering the scales.”

      • The professional chorus I sing with got a half-hour lecture on singing true intervals, not piano intervals, when we sing with a chamber group or orchestra. This does not stop us from rehearsing with piano, I should note. Apparently the greatest difference is with thirds, but my ear is not good enough to hear it. I have near-perfect relative pitch, but not true perfect pitch.

  10. Thanks for the talk. I need to get my inner elf in gear. 🙂

  11. There are Elven dogs right? Explain to someone from 1950 that your dog is getting chemotherapy for his cancer. Elven ponies might be dogs that got just a bit too big. We might not have heard of Elven dogs because writers have cats.

    • The Hounds of Annun come to mind…

      • Those are more scary. I was deliberately keeping them out of mind. I was thinking of pet dogs. However, when the density and anxiety are too high, it’s doggie mayhem.

        • In the stories, elves typically use dogs for hunting. So…

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I suspect that any model that seeks to explain elflore needs to provide an answer for the wild hunt. Which rode on horseback, and hunted with dogs.

            One thought is that our near future folks are also involved in hunting through the rubble of the second and third world, coursing the survivors. (Science fiction must reflect the fact that the future is murderously insane. 🙂 )

            Another is the I’m-not-sure-if-anyone-had-said-it-yet “nobility as fairyland”.

            My most serious thought is that the wild hunt and the youkai night march are probably a reflection of the fact that soldiers are seriously scary things for much of the population throughout a lot of history and maybe pre history.

            • I suspect that any model that seeks to explain elflore needs to provide an answer for the wild hunt. Which rode on horseback, and hunted with dogs.

              Sounds like a standard man-hunt– given what sometimes found acceptable as long as you weren’t caught doing it? Or that in some versions it was explicitly stated that they had a positive passion for the “sinful”?

          • So, K9 units? And, just like the Cwn Annwn, they become quieter as they get closer!

        • Christopher M Chupik

          Dogs are often associated with the Underworld across mythologies.

  12. I’m going to go back and read the rest but I just wanted to say…

    What sort of doofus goes into the PAST to escape extinction?

    • The folks in Star Trek’s “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, IIRC.

      • I.e., the really desperate.

      • There was a Sea Quest episode where they went into the future and discovered (and brought together) the very last two human survivors in the universe… Adam… and Eve.

        Bless me I did NOT destroy the television set when they went back to the “present time” pre-apocalypse, and carried on as usual.

        • Christopher M Chupik

          Ah, yes, the infamous second season of seaQuest DSV. I knew the writing was on the wall with the spectacularly stupid sequel to the first season alien episode. I hear it got worse, somehow.

          • Yeah, this buncha goons managed to get a multi-billion dollar sub destroyed, and we’re just going to build another one and hand it over to the same crew? Not gonna happen.

    • Heh. Ones who believe that there are several different time lines, or ones who think it’s possible to change the future from the past?

      And otherwise, well, I guess if that was the only option available, at least you’d avoid seeing it personally, and if you went back far enough could be sure all of your near descendants would be safe from it too, and not all of us can be that concerned what happens to your great great great great to something power grandkids who no longer are even exactly related to you – or not all that much more than anybody else – because too much mixing.

      • Ones who believe that there are several different time lines
        Nobody actually believes the Many Worlds theory or they could easily prove it by committing quantum suicide (basically, you’re Schroedinger’s Cat).

        • Terry Sanders

          That certainly seems to have been Larry Niven’s take on it. See “All the Myriad Ways.”

          • How, exactly, would one commit quantum suicide? And unlike the cat, you are never unobserved in a box.

    • The rerelease of the table-top RPG game Feng Shui, which makes liberal use of Hong Kong cinema genres and time travel, has a bleak future. In the rerelease, the guys in the future screwed things up by detonating a super weapon (the C-Bomb). The leader of the group that detonated the bomb, Battlechimp Potemkin, leads forces into the past to attempt to attempt to change his history and attempt to prevent the bomb from detonating in the first place. His comrade turned rival, Furious George, wants to keep things as they are, and use the current chaos to rule the world in his iron fist. Unfortunately, due to the current state of the world, he’s unable to bring new recruits into his faction. That would be because, on the off-chance you haven’t figured it out yet based on the names, both of these leaders – and their followers – are are artificially evolved apes. So Furious George is forced to travel back to the past to obtain the materials he needs to create new enhanced primates, and add more soldiers to his organization.

    • They went to before man evolved. Millions of years before. Figuring that when they evolved they’d have gone off to the stars.

    • The ones that didn’t learn from history, so they had to repeat it?

    • Dorothy Grant

      If the sweet planet-killing meteor of death, or rogue black hole of doom, or Overwhelming Evil Alien Armada is incoming – then going back gives you enough time to get off the planet and go elsewhere. (Or to build up the necessary space defense force in time.)

      Assuming, of course, that you adequately conceived of all the difficulties of going back. If you forgot about the very lack of mental framework for working by the clock, or germ theory of disease, or cooperation on larger scales than tribal, or work ethic…. then maybe you ended up retreating into your base, except when someone occasionally brought a wandering human in to see how civilization advanced, or a pretty local boy named Tam Lin…

  13. I once read an excellent thread about how to dogs, we are elves. We don’t age the way they do, we see generations come and go, we have marvelous abilities and arbitrary rules (well, my dog thinks they are arbitrary).

  14. Richard Mcenroe

    You want fairy horses? Put your chin down on the gas tank and crank the throttle open at 3 AM on the Southern State Parkway…

    • You want the Wild Hunt?

      The Sportbikes.Net group rides through the Ozarks would probably qualify…

    • I’ve reached 137mph on the ST1100. I have a Laminar Lip shield and had to remove the lip and store it in the trunk. Might have gotten over 140 if the trunk wasn’t on. It wasn’t 3am though, it was around high noon out by Rising Star, TX

  15. Richard Mcenroe

    We’re fairies as well, in the sense that we are to outsiders inexplicably capable of the greatest kindnesses and the most unspeakable evils…

  16. But to our ancestors? We live in an age of magic and miracles, and we live long and blessedly healthy lives.

    The knowledge of this, plus all the medical wonders, is why I look at those people whining, and the so-called progressives, and think they’re flipping out of their mind. Starkers. Howling, barking mad.

    Also ungrateful. I frequently entertain myself with how quickly things would deteriorate if the vileprogs were tossed onto a ‘raw, untouched, island wilderness’ with nothing but the clothes on their backs, without access to things like toilets, showers, information at their fingertips and readily available fire.

    • Depends on your point of view. Think of the POV of the people who got rid of the vileprogs. Their situation should be fine… VBEG.

    • A lot of them have bought into the Rousseauian myth- that natural is somehow better than our modern “plastic” society, and have a false romanticized view of the “carefree” and “happy” primitive lifestyle.
      They just can’t grok the fact that the primitive lifestyle is horrifically brutal, full of starvation, sickness, discomfort (either freezing or sweltering), thirst, pain and other unpleasantness.
      There’s a reason that soft times create soft men- people forget that the good times are the end result of a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and think that the current prosperity is theirs by right. And that leads to a collapse when the Gods of the Copybook Headings return.

      • a lot of them have never had to tend a real garden without modern tech to back them up… even ‘organic’ farms (and most of them would be surprised what counts as organic) use tillers and tractors and planters… etc

        • *snort* They also do not realize how hard it is to get soil fertile if you do not have access to large animals manure. I was carefully raking (kicking) and stomping all over my mango’s fallen leaves, which had been mixed with the native clay and small amounts of garden soil, and the poop of my then nearly 200 (very free range) pet chickens. It took 6 years, and it was my hobby, to get the soil fertile enough to manage to plant bulbs and grass, the occasional sunflower, and hibiscus bushes.

          A flood took it all away and I no longer had the priority of time and effort to do it all over again. I don’t want to think of how hard it is to do to go ‘completely organic’.

          • But getting fertile soil on Mars only took a couple packets of freeze-dried poop.
            Just watched The Martian this week.

          • And there was a circular problem of improving the breed of animals, and for that you needed more feed, and for that you needed fertile soil. . . .

          • Much of the central USA is grassland. Some parts of Oklahoma weren’t, basically wooded oases, and early settlers set up there, cut down the trees, and farmed. And then drought killed their crops and the wind took away the topsoil.

            Some years ago some of the “environmentalist” groups decided that evil settlers had killed all of the vast forestlands in mid-America, and started projects to “re-forest” land that had had always been grass, at least since the Central Sea dried up.

            The Great Plains isn’t the Australian Outback, but it’s a vastly different ecosystem than the coasts. Just a little research would have revealed the reason there were no forests was A) there was insufficient water and B) there was no proper soil to support them anyway, but to the urbanites who form the crazed core of environmental groups, water comes out of a faucet, and dirt is dirt…

            • I’ve long given up on environmentalist actually knowing the least little thing about the environment.

              • Religious fanatics find actual knowledge so limiting! It gets in the way of their theology and must be avoided.

                This is why the Faiths which hold up best over time avoid any doctrines which involve actual, testable, facts.

          • there’s lost of chemically-produced fertilizers and insecticides that, because they are naturally occurring, are cleared for ‘organic’

      • Soft times create soft people indeed. British Army recruiting SJW snowflakes, this AFTER getting sued by a soldier for performing exercises in the winter cold…

        “It’s natural!”

        Me: “So is the cause of amoebiasis, bubonic plague, and ebola.”

        I think the occasional exposure to ‘primitive’ circumstances (ergo, classic camping, not that ‘glamping’ that is so popular with the snowflakes) makes one appreciate one’s return to civilization, and civilization itself.

        • If I remember right, during my freebie “recruiting” vacation after 9/11*, there was some 30-something twit suing the military for discharge.

          Because they didn’t join to fight, they joined to do (whatever sport they did).

          Were pretty good at it, too.

          In more than ten years, so halfway to retiring…. (talk about your professional sports career.)

          But…well, I’ve told the story before about my mom being confronted by Valley Idiot in the store, demanding if she was still proud I’d joined the military when I might die.

          Ears got pinned back about how I’d know I was joining the military, not a social club.

          *at least at that time, maybe now, there was a standard thing where you’d get a week to do “recruitment”. Requirement being you’d meet with your recruiter during the first year or so of your enlistment, hit your old high school, and they’d assume you talked it up. Freaking brilliant, really.

        • Incidentally, to the article writer:
          Go “****** yourself. Idiot.

          Just because YOU scorn a trait doesn’t make it worthless.

          Dumb *****.

          My husband got several very, very valuable recruits at a gaming convention.

          But gosh, don’t let reality get in the way of old-man scorn, ya generic loser.

          • Gamers tend to be more determined and focused (a lot of the players I met tended to want to beat personal bests, as well as server bests) so I can definitely see the plus in traits there (and goes without saying, Rhys…)

            That said, the perpetually offended getting recruited might grow up under a good and tough training sarge… or the poor sarge gets sued out of a career.

        • Try the refreshing, organic, all-natural, solves-everything beverage that has been the go-to beverage of choice of philosophers ever since the ancient Greeks! Drink Hemlock, it will make your problems all disappear! Socrates drank it; so should you!

          • RES, I must endeavor to use that one day, it is pure brilliance!

            • Use it wisely and with great care — you never know who will be twit enough to not realize the satirical purpose and next thing we know you’re a widely condemned internet criminal for inciting some brain dead idiot’s suicide.

              Hemlock: The Smart People’s Drink!
              [CAUTION: actual consumption of hemlock may be injurious to health. Do not use if allergic to alkaloids, Conium or heavy metals. May contain gluten.
              May have been prepared in a facility which also processes peanuts]

              • *chuckle* Sadly you are quite correct that there would be people aplenty who would not be able to recognize the satirical comment for what it is.

                Some years ago while we played Lineage 2, there was a quest where, as part of a ‘daily participation in the community’ requirement you were required to make at least three region-wide visible chats. Most people tended to type in the same phrase three times and let it go at that.

                Housemate typed “Drink bleach, if you really want a total cleanse” or something like that. “When your only option is suicide, you want to make sure you get it right!” (again, something like that.)

                Someone actually took offense to it, claiming bizarrely, that since the housemate played a healer class in game he also had ‘a position of influence and respect’ in the game and thus his words were ‘a leading cause of suicide in the US.’

                Our friend Pixie, who rarely types or speaks remarked “I wasn’t aware that so many people played this game.”

                The joke spread, and people would make a point of asking the housemate for ‘medical advice’ whenever the offended twit was around, to which the reply always was “Bleach, it cures all your ills!”

      • Occasionally I catch “off the grid” shows (HGTV or Nat Geo). Even with solar, & other modern conveniences, my thought is always, “Are. You. Nuts?” AND we camp & backpack. Latter is tent (duh). Former however, we have tent camped. I much prefer, however, taking the kitchen sink, bathroom, comfy bed, couch, gas stove with both oven & cook top … also called the RV. Even the RV is getting rougher to deal with. Starting to understand the comment “Hilton is roughing it.”

        *Darn ground has gotten unreasonably hard over the last 10 to 15 years. It was nice & soft as a kid/teen/young-adult. Honest.

        • I “camp” at embassy suites. Technically I camped first 10 years of my life. Not doing it again.

          • When I was 10, my family, & mom’s folks, went to meet the extended family in Montana, where both grandparents grew up. Got to see the log cabin, grandparents lived in the first five years of their marriage while grandpa worked in the mines. Grandma was home, no vehicle, with a toddler & new baby.

            Remember thinking then, “Uh, no thanks”.

            I’ve seen scouting (both girl & boy scout) camp cabins, that were bigger. Heck, our 22′ RV trailer is almost bigger.

            Essentially the kitchen, with a wood cook stove, a few shelves, a table & benches, room for a double bed, trundle bed, & bassinet. No running water, so outhouse, & no well. Grandma used to have to go down the hill across the mine road to the year round creek, to get water. Unless there was snow, which there would have been at least 6 months of the year, when she should just melt snow.

        • I’ve lived enough time off grid, or on the 3rd world grid (pretty much the same thing) to want to avoid camping all together.
          Nice hotel/condo/rental house with a water view and close walk to nice restaurants for me please.

          • “That motel?”
            “I’m tired. It has walls, a roof, and running water. Right now, that will do just fine, thanks.”

            • I do have a road trip rule that any motel on the same block as a dollar store, check cashing place, or vape shop is to be avoided at all cost.

            • The last time I went back to Wisconsin (from Denver), I decided that I wanted to stay in Supernatural type motels. It was interesting. Only one I’d never stay at again because it was right next to where very busy railroad tracks crossed a road.

  17. BobtheRegisterredFool

    It is really hard for someone deeply and seriously mentally ill to create much really excellent widely marketable art.

    Once you get to the point where everything in the story is something the author believes is reality because of an illness, it gets very boring. Because that thinking is more an artifact of compulsion and screwed up judgement or inability to apply judgement than it is a matter of crafting something to appeal to the tastes of anyone else. It is someone who likes their own pancakes, and doesn’t care that others hate them or that they are literally half salt, because they are not thinking that well.

    • Then again, there’s exceptions like Philip K Dick.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Phil Dick is probably right up at the edge. His actual delusions, from what I hear, were not exactly the same as what he wrote about. And his degree of illness might be sufficient to make /me/ disinclined to read his stuff. I’m not sure whether I’m very sensitive to such issues in writing or not.

        Doug Adams was the other good example of an edge case that came to mind when I was trying to write that comment. It’s pretty obvious from his books that he was bipolar. There is a clear and strong flavor of bipolar in those books that is almost extreme enough to make the books unreadable. I liked them fine when I was younger. As I grew older, I lost a great deal of tolerance for that flavor, and do not think rereading them would be enjoyable. Okay, bipolar is very common with creatives, and there are a lot of very excellent bipolar creatives. But there are also bipolars so ill that the art they attempt turns out very badly.

        *skips over in depth explanation of my personal fixations and how they bore others at best.*

        To be a functional artist with a wide audience, you need some estimate of the audience to tune the output to. You can’t get so lost in your mental vision of the art that you ignore how the audience is understanding your art. When everything you do comes from an extreme sickness, there is too much compulsion to have any room to tune to the audience. When you are too sick to also draw on your saner, more deliberate, calculated aspects, you are a musician that doesn’t check the tuning of their instrument, the painter the colors, or the wood worker neither the condition of their tools nor the woods.

      • Dick wrote a *tremendous* amount of stuff. But I bounced hard off all of it. Most of those were either WTF depressing or borderline incomprehensible word salad.

        Most of the movie adaptations were fine, mostly because other than a name or two, they had nothing to do with Dick’s stories.

  18. Not sure if we can physically time travel; but you do have to occasionally wonder if information can be transmitted up and down the time stream. I’ve only had one instance of personal precognition, and while it was accurate as hell, it’s not beyond the possibility of having been a construction of everything I knew, just extremely improbable.

    • That’s how mine works. And occasionally a very, very strong sense of “Don’t do that/go that way/take that route.” I’ve learned to follow that sense.

      • Wasn’t there a throwaway reference to this in one of H. Beam Piper’s early Paratime stories (precognition as an artifact of multiple time lines coupled with a single “extraphysical ego component”)? It was also implied that there were multiple/overlapping versions of the “Home Time Line” in that story- he seems to have dropped both in subsequent Paratime stories.

        • Donald Stephens

          He did. The early Paratime stories had multiple “Home Time Lines’; the last ones have only one. The later stories also have two ‘sectors’ on the First Level (where the ‘home time line’ was) that were alternative versions of dealing with ‘resource exhaustion’. (Which is not really a thing.) One was an entire society of iron age villages ere nothing ever developed or changed and the other was a complete wasteland.

          • Terry Sanders

            I will again bring up “All the Myriad Ways,” by Larry Niven (aka “Why Nobody Does ‘ Many Worlds’ Straight). It seemed clear enough to me long before that…

        • Haven’t read that one.

      • I ignored that feeling once. And wound up in a wreck. Never did that again.

      • “I’ve learned to follow that sense.”
        Yep.

      • Avowed atheist housemate has a similar sense, and he can’t explain it either. He’s found that if he ignores it though, bad things happen. He’s suitably unsettled by it that he asks the resident religious person about it on occasion. (Some of his odd premonitions are benign, such as ‘Shadow is going to have a baby girl.’)

    • Not sure if we can physically time travel; but you do have to occasionally wonder if information can be transmitted up and down the time stream.

      Instant reaction, shared because it made me smile:
      No, I don’t. What the heck is prophecy, word from On High that bypasses space time, but information going up and down the stream?

      **************

      Going more fanciful, there are stories of what appear to be battles from the past that folks see; I myself had a freakin’ strange vision of the utterly nothing-burger of guys standing at attention for inspection. (Which wouldn’t mean much, except I later found out it was period accurate. I’m not a Navy buff.)

      • I once went with dad to pay taxes (which dad pays in a lump sum in cash. DON’T ASK. It’s dad.) and was very bored, waiting in the car. We were across from the church.
        I caught movement in the mirror and turned.
        I swear I saw a full funeral putting a corpse in the really ancient spulchre in the church yard (no writing survives. We have no idea how old. There’s nothing inside. The building itself was there when the Romans arrived, and has been everything, including a mosque.)
        I have no clue what fricking culture dressed the dead in yellow to bury. However that detail alone, and the clothes and attire of the mourners were too weird for 14 year old me to make up.
        The clothes looked…. Phoenician but not?
        Weirdly, during church renovations, they knocked out an inner wall and found a space containing a similar tomb, the lid inscribed in an unknown language. It looks… semitic. But no one has identified it.

        • Seriously, weird but not “flight of fancy” weird.

          If I’d imagined something, it would’ve been INTERESTING.

          Not…standing at attention.

          And you probably would’ve imagined something besides “Oh, darn, someone died– wait, what is the corpse wearing?”

        • We all know about the many futures concept where any decision today can cause a different future to occur. What I can’t recall ever seeing is a story where we of the single now have access to many different pasts that could have led to the same now. Sure, we have legends of elves, dwarves, goblins, giants, dragons, etc. because in alternate pasts we actually had them until they evolved/devolved/interbred/created replacements that ended up as the “normal” human us. Considering how the news media, government, and the education system rewrite history; who knows what really happened?

          Also touches on the concept of conservation of realities. Any timeline/universe that closely matches another timeline/universe will come together and merge into a single line.

  19. One of my favorite Tom Lehrer lines: It’s people like that who make you realize how little you’ve accomplished. By the time Mozart was my age … he’d been dead for two years.

    • TYRELL: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You’re the prodigal son. You’re quite a prize!

      ROY BATTY: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

  20. Birthday Girl

    Just this morning, my optometrist informed me that I have the beginnings of cataracts. We briefly discussed the surgery, and he informed me that after, I would likely have vastly improved if not eliminated myopia. Imagine the wonder! I’m feeling pretty blessed right now, knowing this “magical” healing is available. Just 100 years ago, I already would have been classified as blind, never mind the cataracts – I guess I would support myself by braiding rugs or something ….

    • Post-cataract surgery, my mother’s uncorrected eyesight is better than it ever has been in her life. Due to extreme myopia and astigmatism, she was legally blind without her glasses, and had less-than-perfect vision even wearing them.

      Her eyesight’s still not perfect – but her corrected vision is nearly there, with much thinner and lighter lenses then before.

      • My mom too. Legally she doesn’t have to wear glasses, her correction is that much. She’s been all but legally blind without classes since forever. She doesn’t remember never having glasses, but thinks she got them for school. Age 6 or so? She’s 84. Cataract surgery was a few years ago. She’s still amazed she doesn’t HAVE to wear glasses to drive. There is a slight correction, & she needs reading glasses, so she finds it easier to wear progressives. Plus I think she is just comfortable wearing them.

    • Last year my optometrist said I would be up for cataract surgery in the next couple of years, depending on how fast it progresses.

      Half of the people I know have had the surgery done with no complications. I figure I’ll still be half-freaked-out for the first eye, though…

      My wife’s two cataract procedures were the best experiences we’ve had with the healthcare industry, though. They wanted us there at 0600. At 0600 they unlocked the door and signed us in At 0610 they took her in back. At 0625 they called me back to the recovery room. At 0635 they told me to go pull the truck up to the door, and they’d bring her out in a wheelchair since she’d be a bit staggery from the anesthesia. And a bit over 0700 we were home.

      *That* is how you run a medical practice…

      • It took a little longer for mine. I think it was a 7AM procedure, and it took a while for the nurse to find a vein that wouldn’t roll out of the way. (Known problem; I drive a lot of blood techs crazy.) Recovery and out of there at 8AM.

        The second time (couple weeks later), the preop went faster–different nurse on the IV, but recovery was longer. The anesthesia doc announced that I had AFIB. Sez I: “OK, what’s that?” Found out and had firm instructions to see my primary care guy ASAP. (Warfarin keeps me alive nowadays.)

        Part of the preliminaries was a measurement of my eye dimensions; hard to be accurate with severe myopia, but it came out OK. We did the dominant eye optimized for distance, and the left eye for reading. Worked OK until I needed cornea work to smooth out issues. Most people end a bit far sighted, but I got more myopic. It corrects out.

        A secondary issue is clouding of the membrane behind the lens. One eye got fixed as part of another procedure, but the default is a 30 minute session in front of a YAG laser. Painless and quick improvement.

        The newest bit is lenses that can be focussed like natural ones. That wasn’t a thing in 2012; mine are fixed focus.

        • I had my left eye done last March. Fixed-focus, the doctor recommended that for the sharpest vision. His comment on the accomodative lenses were that they were, “The gift that keeps on giving”. First surgery went OK, but I came out with 1.25 diopters of farsightedness. Had to get a piggyback lens implanted.

          I’m holding off on the right eye. It’s got a cataract, but is still functional…if highly myopic. I’m debating whether to go with distance correction or get it set up for reading distance.

          • I keep reading about the split-focus thing, but it still sounds like a recipe for a headache…

            I’m left-eyed the way most people are right-handed; even though I *see* the same with the right eye, it’s basically just along for the ride; put a patch on my left eye, and I’m more than half blind.

            The only other person I’ve come across with that much of a dominant eye was a woman who was left-eyed like I am, but inflexibly right-handed as well. She had an H&K with the scope offset 2 inches to the left so she could see what she was shooting at.

            • Split-focus is a new one to me. I’ll stay with fixed focus interior and bifocals, like God and Ben Franklin intended.

              When I had to have cornea work done (map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy), the cornea guy did my right eye first. (left was healing from a retina procedure). Normally, the people getting the treatment end up a bit more farsighted, but I ended up nearsighted in that eye. Drove me bonkers, and until I could get temporary glasses (a month after the procedure), I found it helpful to patch the right eye. The left eye wasn’t so jarring, since the right eye was all right by that time.

              The old gun writer, John T. Amber had some issues with his eyes. One of his shotguns had a carved stock that he could fire right handed but left eyed. The thing looked like something from a Giger drawing.

              • God intended naturally focusing lenses without clouding or need for correction. Nature had other ideas.

            • I’m that way too. But that’s because my left eye is only -2.75 diopters off, as compared to the right eye’s -5.5. Makes buying contacts twice as expensive, as I have to buy a separate box for each eye. And yes, relentlessly right handed.

            • Wife had both done a few years ago, and both went well. She used to be really, really nearsighted, and now she says she should have gone for fixed implants focused at intermediate/reading/computer distance, needing correction for far stuff or driving, rather than what she did, fixed at far and needing glasses to do makeup and look at the mail and put on earrings and such. She says needing glasses to go outside is less hassle than needing glasses all day indoors to see clearly what is in reach.

              They will do one eye far and one eye close if you ask them nicely. Easy to simulate with contacts. My wife tried that and said the close eye made her think something was over there in the blurry peripheral vision on that side – she said it was like a fog bank was over on that side following her, and her backbrain kept telling her it was a leopard over there.

              The ophthalmologist said people who go for the split-focus implants in both eyes end up having the most complaints. You have to train your eyes and brain to ignore one or the other image alternately to make those work. You can get somewhat-similar dual-focus contacts to try that out.

              Apparently, the implant grail is variable-focus implant lenses that do the same thing as your original gel-in-a-baggy original equipment lenses do/did, driven by your focus muscles, but I’ve heard varying reports on whether they’ve nailed that yet.

              • Oh, and the biggest reaction my wife had post-op was “Wow, look at all these colors! Were my jeans always this blue?” The cataract clouding was basically turning down the color saturation on everything, and when she got her implants the colors of everything was much more vivid.

    • About a year ago, Dad had a couple of spinal disc pretty much rupture (he’s in his mid 70’s). He went into the hospital to have two vertebrae fused, the arthritis and other nasty junk removed, and a spacer added. He spent one night in the hospital following surgery, then a few weeks of strongly limited movement, a few more weeks of less limited movement, and was more or less back to normal in a couple of months.
      It’s amazingly commonplace.

      • You can also negotiate the length of your hospital stay if it’s something scheduled. A friend of mine had a quintuple bypass and was out in two days.

        He’d already contracted a MRSA infection in a previous stay, and he figured he was safer at home than in a building full of sick people. The doctor, fortunately, agreed. Before they’d try to keep you as long as they could to run the bill up; now, every extra day, that’s a bigger chance of them facing a lawsuit.

        • My retina procedures were day surgery. Including the 24 miles worth of cab ride, it was 4.5 hours. The actual procedure took 45 minutes in the OR. This was in a regular hospital set up for a limited range of procedures. Seems to be a good business/medical arrangement.

          OTOH, there was a lot of followup, partly routine, partly because my body doesn’t much like steroid eye drops.

  21. There isn’t a story there — at least not for me — though there might be a throw away side character or three in future novels.

    You just had to say that because you knew it would mix with the time travelling bomb shelter of Farmham’s Freehold and somehow an SCA group, hiding in a bomb shelter when $INSERT_INSANE_FOOL_OF_CHOICE, nukes the UK being pushed back to 7th century England.

    I mean not only does it have your points, but the bomb shelter is under the hill and, who knows, weird effects of the bomb tossing it back might have messed up it’s attachment in space-time for lost time in Farie.

    I can barely figure out how to write a quarter of the ideas I have; I don’t need you giving me new ones.

  22. c4c

  23. But, you know, when you think about it we match a lot of the stories about elves. We are almost impossibly long-lived, obviously supernaturally healthy. We can turn on light or cook or do any of the things that were near impossible if not impossible even a hundred, much less five hundred years ago, with the flick of a button. We see at a distance through magic devices (no? explain it to a medieval man. Use small words) and talk at a distance to each other. We can fly to the air to visit each other, and if we don’t mention details, I’ll bet you good money that a medieval person would imagine us tucking in arms and flying, perhaps in a spangle of sparkles.

    We also have magic languages; Latin (with some Greek) for our spells, and strange things beyond their ken (kin?) for the rest.
    Just this morning my kids used a tele-vision to ROFL-stomp and last week used a video tele-phone.

    • …and we have the languages of magic; C and Perl and 80×86 assembler, and the True Names of the djinni they command…

      Scrying mirrors and crystal balls come across a poor second to a modern smartphone and the internet.

      • And then try to describe the “simpler” stuff… the crystal radio. And how that quartz crystal timebase works…

        • “What’cha doin’?”

          “Listening to this rock.”

          “Wut?”

          “This rock is talking to me… here, take a listen.”

          “Whoa! Dude! It’s talking about the aliens in Area 51!”

          “Yeah, it does that. And then it wants to sell me beer and homeowner’s insurance…”

  24. The fairy midwife stories? Well, if these things are either isolated colonists into the past (something like Simak’s world where they’re running from certain extinction in the future) or sometimes the times contact at random and it’s a farmhouse (or something) that finds itself isolated in the past? Well! You know, I’d prefer modern delivery services, too, but if those aren’t available, I bet you those medieval-village midwives (once you disinfect them from head to toe twice) were pretty good at what they did, because they faced — with no modern knowledge or last-minute saves — the problems of childbirth, which are complex and varied

    *looks over at the jug of hand sanitizer*

    Great. First I realize that Vic’s is a magic breathing ointment, and tri-bac like Neosportin is a healing ointment, now I’ve got a cleansing ointment.

  25. Imagine the wonder. We’re profligate with light and getting more so, as it becomes cheaper and cheaper to illuminate the outside of our houses with twinkling fairy lights.

    Did anybody else lust after the “Wizard Robes” that ThinkGeek had a few years back?

    First as a joke, then as a real offering?

    • Feather Blade

      XD. Awesome.

      I’m guessing the “Do Not Machine Wash” warning is printed in very large letters.

  26. The men and women of the renaissance were far more in tune than us with the idea that the virgin was supposed to be 14 — by church legend — and the audience of paintings would know that. Aware of that go look at medieval and renaissance nativity paintings. Oh, keep in mind Joseph is supposed to be in his thirties.

    *hand-waggle* Depends on which version, he may have been an “elderly widower” of 45 or older. I can’t think of any of the “Joseph was just as young as her” versions from that time, not that my knowledge is exactly exhaustive.

  27. What is more possible is that these things that were attributed to elves are the long-time dreams of mankind.

    *theology chime*

    Recognition of how we are “supposed” to be, perhaps?
    There is a very long tradition of that being written on our hearts… morality is the primary part, but there’s also a long tradition that we have a feeling we are really not supposed to die, damn it.

  28. Keith Laumes had an interesting story about a greatly-extended lifespan: https://archive.org/details/Fantasy_Science_Fiction_v021n05_1961-11_PDF/page/n3

    • Laumer is one of the best – thanks also for the archive.org link; I hadn’t seen it before.
      What a treasure!
      The Library of Alexandria digitally reborn.

      • The pulp SF section isn’t complete, but I’ve been poking through it for more than a year now. I never suspected there were more than a hundred different science fiction magazines once, not counting the distinct fantasy and “weird tales” magazines.

        Just for annoyance, some magazines changed their names *slightly* every few issues, and some took the same name as a previous, defunct magazine, and then there was the practice of using “house names” for extremely prolific writers. ISFDB has been helpful sorting some of that out.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Then there was Ace who republished books but changed the titles. 😦

          • …and Baen who repackaged novellas and longer short stories as “novels” and sometimes changed the name.

            They fooled me a couple of times on that before I caught on, alas.

        • It wasn’t just house names. If an author was prolific enough, then, since the general rule was “no more than one story by an author in a given issue”, then authors tended to use their own pen names (often across different magazines). So the Kuttner/Moore team had several dozen pen names (which sometimes ended up with really strange results — I have a book allegedly written by Lewis Padgett and C. L. Moore, which makes no sense since Padgett *was* Kuttner/Moore) to get multiple stories in an issue.

          Or sometimes you had people like Heinlein, who used the Heinlein name for stuff in the Future History setting, and a pen name for other stuff. Or John W. Campbell, who wrote space opera, vs Don A. Stuart, who wrote other stuff.

          • And then there was the Kuttner Syndrome where new writers were taken as a new pseudonym. . . .

          • Yeah, I’ve seen that mentioned in some of the older editorials, but I don’t see why they didn’t just wait and print the other story the next month. Well, except for the likes of Silverberg, Bulmer, and Tubb, where they might need to stretch it out over several months…

            • When Kuttner/Moore were busy, they were selling 15-20 stories a year — mostly short stories, but a bunch of novelettes, novellas, and novels in the mix as well. And they kept it up for years, which means that, if you’re limited to one per issue, you’ll never catch up.

  29. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C Clarke

    Just because nobody else said it out loud yet.

    • “Any sufficiently well-based magic is indistinguishable from advanced technology.” -Clark C. Arthur

      Sigh – and now I’ve read that Girl Genius panel, which was loading while I composed.

      • That was the basis of Rick Cook’s “Wiz” books.

        No, the great wizard you snatched from another world is so weak he might as well be powerless. It took him a while to figure out you can make little spells and link them together. And though he knew bupkis about the proper use of magic, his profession back home was something called “hacker”…

        • Were those the book(s) the ones where the fellow got three really basic “beginner can’t hurt himself with these” spells… and well, pulled a magical Forth?

          • That’s it. Or one of them, anyway.

            In the third book:

            “…why do you need to be so precise?”

            “This spell multiplies a mass times a length and divides it by time. I’ve got to get the units exactly right or we won’t get the output we need. So the pentagram has to be just the right diameter.”

            “Forgive me, my Lord, but that is a circle, not a pentagram.”

            “Special kind of pentagram,” Jerry grunted.

            “It is not a pentagram. It is a circle.”

            “A pentagram approaches a circle for sufficiently large values of five.”

      • Yay Florence!

        • Technically, of course, she’s right. Goetia is trafficking with spirits, but magia is done with the occult properties of objects. . . .

          woo-woo. . . “Occult” means “hidden.” Like, willow bark tea for headache. (Or arsenic to add to your uncle’s soup — the Romans called poisons “powders of inheritance.”)

          Have actually seen an online discussion where someone ask whether not knowing the metabolic pathways meant aspirin was still magic, and someone else who said it was.

  30. My favorite book on the intersection of magic and tech is “Enchantress from the Stars” by Sylvia Louise Engdahl (1970).
    “Elana belongs to a peaceful, technologically advanced, space-faring civilization called the “Federation”, which monitors worlds which are still “maturing”, allowing them to grow without any sort of contact or intervention. Elana stows away on a ship in order to accompany her father on a mission to a planet where intervention has been deemed necessary because a technologically advanced empire has invaded the planet in order to take advantage of its resources. In order to lead a young woodcutter (a native of that planet) against them (without exposing him to the truth about either alien civilization) Elana takes on the role of an enchantress. She gives him various tools, leading him to believe that they are magical.”

    • That one was seriously strange – good, but odd. The 1970s psychadelic cover did not help.

    • The sequel, Fear No Evil, was good, but very definitely NOT young adult.

    • The Christopher Stasheff “Warlock” books are rhe same sort of premise. The original viewpoint character is a membet of an organization that “sniffs out” emerging totalitarian governments and attempts to fix them.

  31. I’m reminded of a discussion about the First Gulf War, and how the Western forces-especially the United States-seemed to the Iraqi Army.

    Before the battles began, Iraq was considered to be a Reasonably Competent foe-they had veteran troops from the Iran/Iraq War, they had reasonably modern (if average, “export”) Russian/Soviet Union equipment, and nobody expected that this fight was going to be anything but a hard one. The United States would win, obviously, but it was going to be a very painful war.

    And, then the battles happened. A phrase hit me from an American general that was fighting there. “It was like watching ‘War Of The Worlds’, and we were the Martians.” The United States Army took them apart in a way that had to have been embarrassing-if it wasn’t terrifying. It wasn’t just that we had better weapons (and we did), it wasn’t that we had better air support (which we did), but we had troops of such a serious quantitative difference than the Iraqi Army that it wasn’t even a fight. It was an execution in all but name.

    View this from the Fae/Human perspective…I can imagine just the sheer difference in scale and perspective that would happen.

    • Oh, my word, yes. I vividly remember that conflict. That was the U.S. military at the very apogee of its fighting power – a decade of decent budgets and hard training paid off in spades. Tomahawk cruise missiles flying down streets. F-117s nonchalantly waltzing into downtown Bagdad to blow up whatever building was the target for tonight.

      It makes me rather sad…for we can’t do it today.

    • I have read similar descriptions of the reaction t the appearance of our troops arriving in Europe for The great War; Americans were simply bigger, stronger, more fit than the European cadres. Basically our runts were equivalent to their hunks.

      • Oh, booger.

        Hybrid vigor. Two isolated strains bred together tend to result in offspring that are on the extreme end of both.

        I was going to argue against my own idea, based on the Mexicans I know, then I remembered that the vast majority of the “Mexicans” I know ARE hybrids– SpanishX#RandomIndianGroup,

        and
        (this is important)
        ANY OTHER RANDOM MEXICAN THEY DON’T ALREADY KNOW IS PROBABLY A DIFFERENT GROUP. Even if their ancestors were the same tribe, probably not in the same area.

        Azetc isn’t Myan isn’t Inca isn’t gazillion groups in the US.

        Of COURSE we’re going to have a lot of physically WTF folks.

        Hell, isn’t it a bloody trope that “Joe, son of Bob, whose wife is Sue from Far, Far Away” is going to be above average?

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Might simply be with property rights, we’d screwed up our agriculture and commercial logistics less, and that lot of it is simply growing up better fed.

          • Very, very true.

            Some of the stuff I read about with Chesterton would have gotten you f*in shot in Modoc, and the judge would’ve just LAUGHED and gone “no cause.”

          • I was going to say that, too. Lots of beef and potatoes.

          • scriberareal

            “growing up better fed”

            Absolutely. It is incredible what a difference that makes. Growing up in Southern California and observing the local Mexican/Hispanic population, I noticed that the kids (teenagers) were all *at least* 4in taller than their parents and probably more like 6-10in once they finished growing.

      • As I recall, from the British perspective, the Yanks were “Overpaid, oversexed, and over here”.

        • You know…considering how many ranches failed due to missing labor, and how many folks mentioned that their draft notice seriously dropped their income, my grandfather among them… that may be why the Brits thought their military was so bad.

          They paid them for *****.

          If some random 18 year old on the Nevada desert was facing A PAY DROP to be drafted, and they thought we were over-paid…..

          • Orwell cheerfully talked about imposing war constraints to get the munition makers to be paid no more than soldiers.

            Of course, there WAS the little problem of war inflation. Part of the oppressiveness of Nazi occupation was that Germany was trying to export the inflation. They really believed in the stab in the back story.

        • And the Brits were “Undersexed, under paid, and under Ike”.

      • Regarding runts vs hunks, by 1917-18, most of the Entente armies had chewed through their prime manhood by that point, and were fairly scraping the bottom of the barrel for draftees, taking lots of people previously passed over. The US was pretty selective on who it would take at this point, so only the really prime people made it over.

    • I do remember the media’s hand-wringing about how the USA’s fragile and overpriced military equipment would be no match for the simpler yet more reliable Soviet gear used by Iraqi army during the buildup.
      Then the media’s shock when it turned out that our stuff was actually better, far far far better.
      Of course, anyone who had read “Red Storm Rising” wasn’t especially surprised by the result of the war.

      • I think even those of us that read “Red Storm Rising” were surprised. It was such a difference of scale of capability that you got the “Martians” quote. And it just wasn’t the weapons we had, it was everything else that we brought to the field.

      • I recently reread that, after a couple of years on a destroyer (the first time I was about 15 or 16), and it blew my mind how much more I got out of it, and how much I was nodding along, the second time around.

      • DadRed giggled, because he’d suspected that the stories about “The Abrams and Apache can’t function in the desert because of sand in the air filters” stories were 110% fertilizer when the stories came out. It appears he was correct.

  32. Bill Whittle wrote an excellent essay comparing a 7-11 to the Great Pyramid. Because from the perspective of the ancient Egyptians, the convenience store is FAR more of a wonder than a big pile of rocks.

    I’ll add that we see a similar effect with the Luftwaffe ’46 stuff…people lionize Nazi Paper Pipe Dreams, and forget that the Allies had some formidable Secret Weapons, too. We forget because they became the ordinary armaments of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

    • The Allies operated on the “made lots of what’s good enough” principle. The Germans were always reaching for the “next new thing.”

      By the time Ford got the Willow Run plant fully operational the B-24 was theoretically obsolete. But a shiny-new B-24 came off the assembly line every hour, 24 per day, 168 per week, 720 per month, 8,760 per year… later in the war, the “aluminum overcast” of Allied bombers over the Reich numbered more bombers than the entire Reich had planes, period. And we could do it several times a day…

      Churchill was theoretically in control of the resources of the entire British Commonwealth, but by his own account he never quite came to grips with just how much *stuff* America could throw at the war.

      • I think the US outproduced everyone else in the war. Combined.

        • Enough that the Russians rode to Berlin in American made trucks, marched in American made boots, ate American grown and canned food, shot American made ammo, flew American made planes (P-39’s were fairly common), and so on.

          • It did kinda help that we weren’t having our factories bombed or overrun.

            • That’s what happens when you make a deal with the devil, and then he turns on you…

              Germany and Russia were Best Friends Forever, and they were going to conquer Eastern Europe together and divide up the spoils. Even though most of those countries had defense treaties with one or both of the nations already.

              It’s sort of like making a deal with your local MS13 gangbanger to hold up a convenience store, then being upset when your business partner decides to keep all the loot plus whatever you have, too…

        • China has absolutely taken that lesson to heart. It’d be a little worrisome if there weren’t other things going on there.

        • We did. It was precisely the right moment for us, the U.S. had done a lot of industrial modernization. And had nearly 50% of the WORLD industrial capacity, instead of the usual 20% that we average.

      • One documentary had a Brit RADAR researcher commenting on how he handed over a new prototype microwave tube to get a few more made. That it was only a prototype hadn’t been communicated or hadn’t registered. He was stunned at the question, “Alright. How many thousand?”

        • Because it is the weekend …


          And because some things merit retelling. Too many people these days simply do not understand the scale at which American industry operates.

      • In October 1942, Hermann Goering mocked American weapons-production plans:

        “Some astronomical figures are expected from the American war industry. Now I am the last to underrate this industry. Obviously the Americans do very well in some technical fields. We know that they produce a colossal amount of fast cars. And the development of radio is one of their special achievements, and so is the razor blade…But you must not forget, there is one word in their language that is written with a capital B and this word is Bluff.”

        Turned out not to be a Bluff at all.

        There is a project to restore part of the Willow Run plant as a museum:

        https://www.savethebomberplant.org

      • The B-29 was pretty much state of the art, but the descriptions of operations in the Pacific made it clear that the engines were a major source of heartburn. IIRC, the flight crew would do the magneto checks (turn one off, then swap to the other, then use both for operations) while doing the takeoff run. Doing it with the plane stopped was risking the engine overheating and starting a fire.

        • Curtiss-Wright promised more with the R-3350 than they could actually deliver; while the engine could make the designed power easily enough, it had crossed the practical limit for air cooling. And even by aviation standards it was a maintenance nightmare. But the B-29 had been designed around those engines, and the Army *needed* the B-29, so they flew what they could get while Wright’s engineers worked 24/7 trying to find fixes.

          It was a bad deal all around, and while it seems obvious enough in hindsight, it probably wasn’t to the guys who made the initial proposals. I’ve read most of the relevant technical papers that made it into the NACA archive. They were basic research – “build it, blow it up, examine the pieces.” All the “models” and “simulations” we have now, and “established state of the art” – that’s the dataset all the formulas and rules of thumb *came* from. They were out on the bleeding edge, and finally they got cut.

          • Nobody said flight test was safe. Even today. It’s why we’re so very careful. Except when testing unmanned aircraft…then the pros are downright paranoid.

      • and now, to do that, we’d have to spin back up domestic steel and lead production.

        • A much worse problem would be lack of sufficient manufacturing expertise: industrial engineers, toolmakers, etc.

          I don’t think the shortage as really as complete as claimed by Apple, as part of its self-justification for not doing more manufacturing in the US…

          https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/58096.html

          …but we don’t have the number of qualified people in this field that we did on the eve of WWII.

          • And the various policies that hindered home-grown engineers from keeping jobs (and students from going through engineering training) have made that situation really bad. The H1B reforms should help, but there was a lot of damage done.

            My niece is an ME working for a construction products company. Reports are she’s really good, but the company is risking burning their good people out because they have so few of them. (That and the thinking: “If X is a good engineer, let’s add supervisory duties.” Arggh. Like engineers magically can develop the people skills for supervision while still learning their regular job.)

    • Donald Stephens

      To a Pharaoh, a six-pack of beer would be a treasure. And when he was done with the beer, he would put the empty bottle in his treasury, because it would be far better any any bottle anyone in Egypt could ever make.

      • Or the cans. Think of the cans.

        • I was reading something online where a person asked how a character could fake making gold in a medieval era.

          Consensus: never mind gold. Give the king aluminum. Especially since it, like gold, does not tarnish. (And platinum was mentioned as another possibility.)

          • they tipped the Washington monument with Aluminum because they had just gotten good enough at making the stuff it was possible. But it was very expensive (iirc a gold one would have been slightly cheaper, or about the same price), and now we have everyday common vehicles made with the stuff.

            • nowadays, baking pans meant to be thrown away after a single use are made from it…

              • oy, imagine how much a can of Coke would run if Aluminum was still at gold prices!
                Back to steel cans.

                • I used to date a dancer who had a steel can, and really knew how to shake it.


                  Hubba-hubba!

                  • BTW: here’s one from the late Seventies when gas prices were soaring out of credibility.


                    “We don’t have to worry ’bout the Highway Patrol,
                    ‘Cause they don’t have the gasoline to roll.”

              • Aluminum bonds tightly to almost everything. Chemical processes for purifying aluminum are slow and costly.

                What made aluminum cheap was electrolysis, but for that, you had to have electricity. Lots and lots of it, to your shop floor, at rates low enough to make the resulting product profitable.

                Even today, the price of new aluminum is linked closely to recent electric rates.

        • Our nation is so rich the youths smash beer cans against their foreheads!


          Then they drink the life essence of the sundered cans!

        • Think of how good a $10 budget pocketknife from Wal-Mart would be to anyone prior to… i dunno, the 1800s…

    • It’s the whole (and I want to gag when I say this) synergy of logistics and planning and preparation that can be sent to the least thing in our society. The Pyramids? Get enough people and move enough rocks, you can eventually create that.

      A 7-11? You have in one AISLE thousands of things that had to come together perfectly to put fresh milk in the fridge. Or the Twinkies on the shelf. And, it isn’t a one time thing. It’s a thing that can happen every single day, in tens of thousands of places, and it happens in the lowest and least part of our society.

      America wins what it fights not because we have better soldiers (on average), or better weapons (on average), or better generals (on average). We win because we can put an army anywhere in the world and support it with everything from bullets to batteries to beans, sometimes even to excess. And, support it from our own resources.

      • As I am reading this, I’m eating Romane lettuce. Grown half a country continent away.
        With “Italian Garden” dressing, from at least three states.
        Drinking Pepsi that MIGHT have been canned inside of three states, but no assurance.
        With Canadian Whiskey, at least a triple blend, definitely half a continent away.

        After watching Clue, which is probably from before I was born, and now I’m going to play a Japanese video game.

        • Good Shot Green!
          Um, before you were born? Egad, I hit another “Damn I’m Old” moment

          • It probably doesn’t help that I was two years off, does it?

            Elf and I spent half the movie going “Holy cow, look how YOUNG Tim Curry is! Is that Doc Brown?! Shouldn’t we know who that young guy is? Wait, that cop is the guy who is a cop in EVERYTHING–“

            • I’m so old, I have it on VHS somewhere

            • Oh, and “Squiggy” was supposed to join “Lenny”(Green), as Mustard, instead of Martin Mull. He was just diagnosed as having MS, so he passed. He had already been let go from Conan the Barbarian because they thought his ms onset was goin drinking too much.
              This is also the only time I liked Mull in anything.

      • And FRUIT.

        I think that would make the biggest impression. After all, the other stuff is just too big. But peaches, grapes, apples, strawberries — all fresh, all enormous, all flawless, all sweet past the dream of medieval kings, and all in the dead of winter.

        There are tales in medieval time where a man is miraculously given cherries in the dead of winter and it is the making of him.

        • *looks at the 65c can of fruit in heavy syrup her son demanded this morning, and which she laughingly allowed him*

          This stuff is …. poor people food. I bought it because it’s cheap, and the kids like it, but…
          it does embody fruit, and sweet, and I remember how wonderful the special, half-of-a-cherry bits were, and this thing has easily six, ten times the cherries of the old….

        • Curiously enough, our daughter asked if she could please have cherries for our youngest son’s birthday this year.

          We said no.

          And had to justify it, not because that’s impossible, but because….that’s expensive.

          Like, three or four times the cost of potatoes in our area.
          At least, best guess.

          And I’m still thinking, eh, maybe I can snag some dried cherries, or just a jug of preserved cherries, as a special surprise for her.

          • Cherry pie filling. And Wal-Mart, at least, has a storebrand no sugar added variety.

            • Oooh, making a cherry pie for her dad would REALLY send her over the moon!
              Thank you.

            • Do they have no sugar apple?

              • Yep, and they MAY have a no sugar strawberry,

              • I have been disappointed ever since discovering that caramel apples were not caramel all the way through, and cannot shed the suspicion that they are made from apples which, had they been presented absent frosting, I would never have deigned to bite.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  I heard a story about a person who waited months before eating one of the caramel apples that he had gotten.

                  While it looked OK before he bit into it, you can imagine had happened under the caramel coating. 😈

            • We mix the sugar and sugar-free fillings to get somewhat-less-sugary filling.

              I like sugar, and I like sweet, but it doesn’t need to be so overwhelming I can’t tell whether I’m eating cherries or pears…

        • Then there’s the ready availability of tropical fruits year round- pineapple, banana, mangoes, et al.

        • Especially fruit. The shock that just about anyone can afford even low-quality apples at any time will shock them.

          • The worst apples nowadays were unimaginable back that. They mostly used them for cider.

          • I fully admit to being an apple snob, and it took years to learn how to identify this year’s fresh fruit from the stuff that has been in proper storage for a year. (Nitrogen sheds help.) Most of the degradation is from stores not storing them correctly!

            • I have seen ‘Red Delicious’ described as “plastic bags of sugared sawdust.” And I am inclined to agree. But I’m a bit perverse and like the Granny Smith despite everything its detractors might even be right about.

              • Cultivar decline; mom found one of the old trees and it was actually delicious, just like she remembered.

                But most of them are so mealy….

                Granny Smiths are usually crisper; my favorite is a good Fuji, which is basically all the good points of the GS turned up to 11.

                For folks who like sweeter apples, like my brother, Pink Lady seems to be the new Big Thing.

              • Donald Stephens

                I would suggest leather instead of plastic as a descriptor.

      • In The Dragon and the George, Jim succeeds in paying a wizard by diagnosing his ulcer and telling him to drink several glasses of milk a day until the symptoms disappear. Another character is later surprised that he’s drinking and warns of the flux.

        Mind you, the wizard conjures the milk, so there’s that. Also, he explains it as the ulcer is a fire demon pacified by the bovine nature of the milk — which does indeed cover the facts.

      • That’s also, specifically, why the US Navy gets tapped for humanitarian assistance all the time. Because we’re the only ones who CAN get to the place where the disaster is, with supplies and plans for more. Plus, we have lots of damage assessors already present on the big decks. Not a lot of qualitative difference between *battle* damage assessment and *disaster* damage assessment. Still have to figure out how long it’ll take to get things back into operation. Just don’t have to figure out how to *keep* things from becoming operational again. 🙂

        • I recall the then-President being ridiculed by some for sending a carrier to a disaster area… and others pointing out: Hey, self-supporting (or close enough) movable city. Complete with airport, hospital, and its own power station – and able to do more than merely barely support itself.

        • “Not a lot of qualitative difference between *battle* damage assessment and *disaster* damage assessment.”

          The hardest part is getting the information sanitized, declassified, and out to the civilian relief agencies.

    • Stuart Slade wrote an alt history novel about how WWII might have possibly gone had England surrendered in 1940. Basically, the sooper kewl German 1946 stuff would have been far outmatched by the 1946 US stuff… until the USA produced enough B-36s to nuke all of Germany in 1948.

    • You don’t even have to go back to ancient Egypt. I remember hearing a story about a communist leader (Gorbachev? Maybe? Not sure, and don’t have time to try to look it up ATM) Coming for a state visit to the US and being completely FLOORED by a trip to a grocery store. So much so that he suspected it was a setup. How could the US have so much?

      • Yep. An somewhat higher-end store in Texas, but Joe Average could go there if he so chose – and the reaction was astonishment, as the USSR elite’s special store didn’t have that available.

        • ISTR it was Yeltsin, it drove him to tears over how the Russian people had been abused and soured him on Communism.

      • I seem to recall that Kruschev was given a similar treatment.

  33. Without reading through all the comments, I don’t know if anyone has already said this, but I really think that the original ‘elves’ were ancestors — the people right after Noah’s Flood who still lived much longer than we do.

  34. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Michael Scott Rohan had an “interesting take” on both Dwarves and Elves in his Winter Of The World series. For those who haven’t read it, it was a Fantasy story set during the last Ice Age.

    In the setting there were the “Elders” living inside various mountains who were Master Metal-workers and were able to interbreed with humans. IE Neanderthals. 😉

    Now there were various Powers in this setting, some were using the Ice to destroy life on Earth, others aided mankind in fighting back against the Powers of the Ice, and then there was the Forest Lord.

    The Forest Lord never took human form and was an enemy of the Powers of the Ice mainly because of the danger to His beloved forest.

    Our heroes are traveling through His great forest only because going through the great forest was the only way to reach other human kingdoms to the far east.

    They are hoping to avoid the Forest Lord’s attention because while He was a friend of life, they weren’t so sure that He was a friend of humans.

    So they are surprised to find a group of immortal humans living in the great forest as the guests of the Forest Lord. Many of these immortal humans were known to at least one of the heroes as people who actually lived hundreds of years before.

    Then there are the so-called Children of the Forest Lord. These people are human-like with long arms, long legs and hands more suited for traveling high in the great trees.

    IE We have the High Elves in the immortal humans and the Forest Elves in the Children of the Forest Lord. 😀

    • Christopher M Chupik

      I remember that series. I remember how amused I was when I realized that the first two books take place largely in Canada, in some regions I’ve visited, no less.

  35. So what kind of elves are Progressives? Drow?

    • Apologize to Shadowdancer at once, sirrah!

    • Feather Blade

      LOL.

      Well, they do have that female supremacy thing going on…

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Regular D&D elves seem to be fae aligned. Drow infernal.

      Now, the left is flavored of Moloch and smells faintly of sulfur. But the sheer incompatibility with human life speaks of a Mythos cult.

      Far planes aligned elves, not infernal, and hence not Drow.

      You could argue for Mindflayers or Beholders.

      Problem with using established material? This is where you really either need to houserule the alignment system heavily or use an alternative to alignment. Neither Lawful Evil nor Neutral Evil nor Chaotic Evil really capture every quality we would want for a solid correspondence. So the Githyanki, for example, have some problems from those fundamental design issues before we get down to the issue of matching more individual details.

    • That would seem obvious; not elves at all.

      Trolls.

  36. What a lovely and imaginative analogy for modern life. It really does put more things in perspective.

  37. MadRocketSci

    Thanks for the Hoyt sermon. 😛

    I’ve been too dour lately. I have a lot of fears about the future, but it helps to be reminded that right now we’re doing abnormally well as a civilization. We’re off in uncharted space – our experiences in the modern world, far from being bound to some grim deterministic cycle of history, have almost nothing to do with the bronze-age world of eternal territorial war and Malthusian equilibrium. Thank God, and I hope we can continue heading off into uncharted space, metaphorically and literally.