01 January 2025

Where to get my books

There are two options; Google Play, or the Draft2Digital publication targets. Google Play isn't available globally (though they intend to be, based on how the publisher interface sets up billing regions!). So you might need to try one of the Draft2Digital targets. Kobo seems to be a good fallback choice for availability though not for avoiding DRM.

Title Google Books2Read
The Human Dress on Google Play via Books2Read
The March North (Commonweal #1) on Google Play via Books2Read
A Succession of Bad Days (Commonweal #2) on Google Play via Books2Read
Safely You Deliver (Commonweal #3)                  on Google Play via Books2Read
Under One Banner (Commonweal #4) on Google Play via Books2Read
A Mist of Grit and Splinters (Commonweal #5) on Google Play via Books2Read

My current best understanding of how to download the EPUB file from Google Play.

Update 2019-01-29:  Amazon changed their agreement with Draft2Digital to require a whole lot of information transfer to Amazon.  I have removed The Human Dress from sale at Amazon. Still up everywhere else it was available.  (And has been added to a bunch of library services.)

23 March 2020

So there's waffling about letting anybody else but the existing (overloaded) public labs to COVID-19 testing

Which I found out via twitter, I wrote my MP.

From: Graydon
To: Raj.Saini@parl.gc.ca
Subject: increasing COVID-19 test capacity
Reply-To: graydonish@gmail.com


So I'm one of your constituents and I can do a little bit of math.

It is critically important that we ramp up COVID-19 testing capacity as fast as possible.  Not "as fast as could be done in regular circumstances", but as fast as we can do it.  It is past time to recognize the depth and severity of the emergency we face.

That means finding a way to have research labs support and supplement the existing public testing labs by running tests immediately, not after a lengthy accreditation process.  This means relaxing regulations; this means taking a small risk of tests not being run properly to avoid the certain overload of our health care system.  I have no doubt that standard tests already developed in public health labs can be run by highly skilled technicians from research labs under the full supervision of the public health labs, without requiring that research lab techs go through the normal accreditation process.  Perfect in six weeks is useless; it has to be in place and running now.

Last month would have been a lot better.  It was entirely obvious last month from what was happening in Korea and Taiwan what an effective response would look like.  Canada hasn't done this and it's going to hurt us badly and you, sir, are among those personally responsible for this lapse.

It means going abroad for low-cost, quick-response kits such as those being developed by Institut Pasteur, paying the licensing fees, and getting domestic production ramped up like there was a war on.  Canada lost under a percent of the then-total population in the Great War; we're looking at losing much more than that in one year if the health care system goes down.  This situation is much worse than a war.

So far, the Canadian public response has been marked by vacillation and incompetence from our elected leaders; there's been far, far too much waffling and far, far too much worry about the markets, rather than how to keep absolutely everybody housed and fed for the year or two before we can put an economy back together.  An economy with much more primary manufacturing and no fossil carbon extraction, because if we have the means to keep everybody alive we can totally decarbonize while we're about rebuilding things in a more robust form than the current capital-optimizing long supply chains.  That'll keep everybody alive for much longer than a year or two.


signature and address elided

17 March 2020

Time to ring some changes

So we're at least twelve months to a vaccine that maybe can't be created.  If it can be created, eighteen months wouldn't be surprising.  We don't have any strong expectation that having had COVID-19 makes you immune, or immune to next year's strain.

It's looking a whole lot like are no economic choices between full collectivism -- the masses of unemployed will be fed and housed and cared for out of public funds -- and the Bad Place.

I expect this to start showing up in the general political awareness in about a week.

Back in the age of sail

We're all used to air travel and the sort of world where you can go from England to Australia in a short count of hours; being six hours late is a significant annoyance.

Before that, it was steamships; there was a set schedule, and you were more or less good for arrival to the day.

Before that, it's the age of sail; you don't have weather forecasting, you don't have wireless, you don't have any prospect of knowing just what is going to happen.  Pirates? could be.  So you provision as well as you can, you stock spare spars and cordage and sailcloth,  and you don't make detailed plans.  You know where you intend to go and you're going to have stuff to deal with along the way.

That's pretty much where we are now; we don't know how things are going to work out with the pandemic, we don't know when or if there will be a vaccine, we don't know how to run the economy in quarantine, and dealing with something indifferent to money or the exercise of power is an outside context problem for pretty much everybody in the halls of power in the Anglosphere.  There's going to be a learning experience.

So, here we are: today, we can't any of us make a detailed plan with a timeline.  We're back in the age of sail, checking the spare spars and the cordage, being generous to distressed fellow mariners (because it could be us tomorrow), and doing our best to deal with the events our circumstances present.

That has sufficed prosperity before; it may well suffice prosperity again, even if we do all have to make a concerted effort to get used to new rules and approaches.

15 March 2020

Updating the Mellon doctrine

Herbert Hoover reports that Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, advised him at the start of the Great Depression to “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.”

If you replace "liquidate" with "decarbonize", that's not a bad policy statement.

Decarbonize labour, decarbonize stocks, decarbonize the farmers, decarbonize real estate.

There's a global demand crash going on right now, in response to a pandemic.  It's not going to go away quickly; borders are going to be shut, long, complex supply chains are going to contract or truncate, and a whole lot of people will be out of work as various segments of activity are shut down to limit the spread of disease.  Even if nothing else goes wrong (we've got trade wars, an oil price war, the prospect of quite distinct financial crises in the US and China, and Brexit all in the offing) that's going to produce at least the Greater Recession.  It's going to take significant public spending to put the economy back into a functioning state.

Putting that spending into the existing economy is obvious malfeasance; everybody knows the Oil Empire is over, everybody knows the bill is due for the Carbon Binge, and everyone wants a future they can survive in.  Put all that inevitable public spending into decarbonizing and there's some possibility of people believing in some survivable, improving future.

It'd need to go along with a strongly value-driven[1] economic policy and a commitment to egalitarian outcomes (meaning income and asset caps; ten and five hundred times the least of the mean or median income, along with an associated (and necessary!) return of effective taxation on the rich), rather than the "keep the loot" system we have now.  Some planning is in order; that's OK, because we've got several months before we can even hope that the pandemic will have been resolved.

[1] Value-driven economic policy is about an economy that returns value; value is the ratio of benefit to cost.  Profit maximization destroys value, because to get your profit up, you have either deliver less benefit or raise the price you charge.  Something about restricting market interactions to peer entities gets involved, too; for example anyone who thinks there's a free negotiation of terms between a human individual and the phone company is advised to avoid operating heavy  machinery.

11 March 2020

The coyote has looked down

"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."

-- Tennyson, Morte d'Arthur

William Gibson has introduced the concept of the Jackpot, a slow motion catastrophe; people tend to focus on the apocalyptic parts, and not Gibson's description of why it's a problem.  The point is that it's not the catastrophe, but the lack of a present; if the future is built stone by stone out out of the past, the present, now, is when we set the stone down, and a fragmentary present with no agreed future means no one has any idea where to put the rock of the moment.  Whatever we're building, it's not a city, and it isn't built to music.  There can be no response to the catastrophe except confusion.

This really gets going in the Great War; three hundred years of horse, guns, and foot go away; three hundred years of naval warfare went away, too, with submarines and director fire control and oil-fired boilers.  Every certain thing about society went, too; you can't run an imperial power in the context of an industrial total war; the demands of industrial mobilization won't permit it.   Two generations later there was a brief stable future -- nuclear apocalypse, but stable -- and now that's gone, too; the Peace of Dives never imagined, but instead the triumph of Mammon and the valorization of greed.  Which is unstable; it's parasitism, and any unchecked parasite will kill its host.

Triage says, well, who will survive on their own?  who will not survive?  who can we save? and directs the treatment to what can be saved.

What can be saved?

Literacy. Civilization; the idea that you really ought to die of something other than violence, starvation, or ignorance.  (Ignorance is a wide country; not knowing to wash your hands would be death by ignorance.  So is a lack of effective dentistry, on a societal level.)  The increase of knowledge.  Peace as a concept.

Not knowing that you can have success, or control, but not both, that might be death by ignorance, too.

A larger future and nothing can change are antithetical; keeping the Oil Empire is impossible.  Keeping extractive capitalism, same; if you put an open-loop extractive system up against finity, the finity wins.  The people making the decisions are pretty uniformly committed to not letting anything important alter; they're mammonites, and the money keeps coming in.  That's where the absent future leaves the world; it's not difficult to imagine a future.  We could well enough get to work on the whole habitability thing, and have everybody be secure and prosperous.  But not if we're not permitted to alter the present, and we're not, because pretty much the first thing to alter is to say again that greed is a sin.

Remember that it's the present that counts; remember while burying the dead.  Promises of someday (we'll reduce emissions someday...) are nothing; do you feel the future getting larger here today?

01 March 2020

Intractable failings of moral systems at scale

So Myke Cole tweeted

Ooooooooooo! I am the ghooossstttt of Republican ethics past! Oooooo!!! You oooonce believed in a common set of moral principles! You once had lines you would not croooossssss!! Ooooooooo! Noooo, don’t hide under the coooverrrrs! I will take you on a joooourney into decency lost!

That's not an unusual response to present events in a chunk of the service-culture population.

Myke's a scholar; it might be that Myke hasn't studied things like systems or dispute resolution (aside from Ultima Ratio Regum).

Moral systems don't have a way to resolve disputes; "good" and "bad" are uncontexted absolutes.  (Because, way back, these are proxies of the judgements of an almighty and omniscient god.)  You can't resolve disputes about them without either one side submitting or being destroyed.  As a result, anything that's a morally-mediated system in the present day -- the product of many iterations of this whole dispute resolution problem -- has immense internal support for demanding submission and justifying destruction.  (Take a look at the Bernie Sanders campaign; it has lots of supports whose reflexive response to believing themselves correct is to demand the submission of everyone else, since everyone else is obviously less correct.  That's what persistent moral systems must do to persist, and very few of those folks are aware they're valorizing conquest as a domestic political dispute resolution mechanism.[1])

You get what you reward; Reagan's republican party has rewarded looting the proles.  (Since they're mostly pro-slavery Confederates, actively against the existence of a United States federal government able to compel their obedience to its laws, this isn't much of a stretch.)

This is also why the media blackout on Elizabeth Warren is inevitable; Warren's pushing material-results criteria for policy.  This has the immense advantage of actually working (if you can do it) and the massive disadvantage that every single member of the aristocracy is burningly aware that in a "does this work for everybody?" environment there isn't an aristocracy.

Personally?  Yeah, of course you have morals.  Hopefully those work for you; this is going to be increasingly a time where getting along with the neighbours is important.  It's getting those to scale that won't work; even by the time you're looking at community solidarity for fifty people, it needs to work on the basis of material results.  What do we want this thing to do? instead of Is it good? or Is it right?

[1] In many ways, fascism is a single-mutation failure of being good; if you believe you are good, and you lack the humility to consider that you might be in error, you're going to set out to make sure everyone else is good, too, and that the bad is removed from the world.  It's a bit like the folks who are smart enough to realize that they're clever but not smart enough to realize that there are people much smarter than they are.