Multi-Tasking

Rapidly approaching the 10th anniversary of the UK smoking ban, there seem to be a plethora of blog posts about it. This one, at Facts Do Matter, even includes a list of links to other ones at the end.

I noticed that I wasn’t on the list, and wondered why I wasn’t. And then I realised that I probably wasn’t on the list for the very simple reason that I hadn’t written one. In a way, that’s probably because I’m always writing about smoking bans. But also, right now, I’m trying to get the online Smoky Drinky Bar off the ground. And the Smoky Drinky Bar is a way round the smoking ban: instead of meeting up in real bars, smokers can meet up in virtual bars, and drink and smoke and chat to their hearts’ content.

I think there’s a huge potential market for such bars, made up of hundreds of millions of smokers excluded from real bars – because there are smoking bans almost everywhere in the world now. And the Smoky Drinky Bar is an early prototype of such bars.

When the Smoky Drinky Bar has a few people in it, it works very well. It is very much like a real bar. There’s an ebb and flow of conversation. And smokers have a ready topic of conversation in the form of the smoking bans that have driven them there.

The trouble is that, at the moment, the bar is mostly empty. And that’s partly because very few people know about it. And anyone who looks in is likely to look in, and then leave when they find nobody in it. And if they look in and find no-one in it enough times, they’re likely to stop coming back after a while.

My first idea for how to get round this problem was for me to do a sort of Happy Hour where I’d always be in the bar at 7 pm UK time (the sort of time of day I used to meet people in real bars). So I’ve been doing that for the past week, and have sometimes ended up staying in the bar all evening. The idea is to get a few people in the UK (and Europe) aware that they can at least talk to me when they walk into the Smoky Drinky Bar shortly after 7 pm.

But if I can do that at 7 pm UK time, I can’t do it for the rest of the 24 hours in the day, so the Smoky Drinky Bar is only really buzzing for about 3 hours in every 24 hours. So now Emily in Massachusetts has started doing a 7 pm EST Happy Hour. And Americans should be able to find the Smoky Drinky Bar buzzing a bit at a time more convenient to them.

The idea is to have points in time – islands – when humanity is present, and have customers navigate towards those points.

But I’m beginning to wonder whether a better idea would be for me to just enter the bar whenever I’m on my computer, and just carry on doing whatever I was doing or going to do. And some little bars actually work that way. You walk in and there’s nobody there, but if you cough or ring the little bell on the bar, someone will come scurrying out from a back room. Some shops are like that too.

So I think I may adopt a similar practice. For example I’m currently adapting my orbital simulation model to work out how many smokers are available in all the world’s time zones, and when they’re likely to want to visit bars like the Smoky Drinky Bar. So today I’ll enter the bar at some point in time, and then carry on writing the code on another computer. Anyone who walks into the bar will have to cough, or call out “Frank, are you there, you bastard?” With luck I’ll hear, and come scurrying out from my back room. In fact, I may have the webcam pointing at me while I’m writing the code.

It would require multi-tasking. I might even carry on writing the code, while chatting.

A couple of nights back, Twenty Rothmans was doing some ironing in the Smoky Drinky Bar until he decided that ironing wasn’t something you should do in a pub. But why not do the ironing as you chat? Or programme computers? Or cook and eat food? Do all these separate activities have to be given their own assigned time slots? Can’t some of them be done simultaneously?

So my suggestion to visitors to the Smoky Drinky Bar is to enter it, and then carry on doing what they were doing, which might be cooking, eating, reading a book, watching TV, while keeping one eye on the Smoky Drinky Bar, only exiting it when you’re no longer available to chat, because you’re going to sleep, or going out, or doing something that requires your full attention.

The Smoky Drinky Bar is highly experimental. Maybe it’ll evolve in all sorts of ways. Maybe some people will meet up in it for short periods. Maybe some people will sit quietly in it all day, saying nothing. Who knows?

I’ll be back on the bar at 7 pm UK time tonight. But this time I may try multi-tasking, and carry on programming my computer as I talk. I hope nobody will think I’m being rude.

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I Don’t Believe It

H/T Rose, I’m not sure I believe this:

Smoking ban 10 years on: share your memories and experiences

A decade since smoking bans came into force in the UK we would like to hear from readers on how the ban has affected them

When have they ever wanted to know what our experience was? When have they ever wanted to know what happened to us?

But by us, I mean us smokers.

Ten years have passed since venues across England moved their smokers outdoors and ensured people could work, drink and dine without passive inhalation.

Bans in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all preceded that of England, meaning that on 1 July 2007 all indoor UK venues went smoke free following recommendations put in place by the Health Act 2006.

We would like to hear your memories of the ban and how it has changed your life over the last decade.

Maybe you work in the hospitality industry or did so at the time and the ban affected your work or your business? Were you encouraged to quit smoking as the ban came into force? Were you one of many who reported a different “culture” among smokers forced into designated outdoor spaces whatever the weather? Did you agree or disagree with the ban at the time – and has your view changed? In light of further action such as the ban on smoking in cars with children, do you think the government is doing enough?

I think I know what’s going to happen. Tobacco Control will drum up an army of people to write in to say how they were ecstatic on 1 July 2007, and what a relief it was to stop getting lumps of tobacco smoke in their hair every time they went in a pub, and how their health has been constantly improving in leaps and bounds ever since, and their little Jimmy, who was incontinent and only about 18 inches high back then, is now over six foot tall, and has made at least three girls pregnant – all thanks to the smoking ban.

And that’s what the Guardian will publish. It’ll publish acres of testimonials of just how good things have been since smoking was banned. There’ll be pub landlords saying how they were “stunned” when all the non-smokers invaded their pubs the next day, and started ordering glasses of water, and singing Land of Hope and Glory, and dancing spontaneous jigs on the tables, and kicking their shoes off into the ceiling.

Something like that.

Because, as far as I can see, Tobacco Control remains in complete control of the mainstream media, and everything is censored, and every message massaged to conform to antismoking dogma. Its iron fist will suppress any and every dissenting voice, and promote all positive recollections of that awful day.

For what has changed over the past 10 years? The antismoking juggernaut still rolls on, with “plain” packaging, display bans, car smoking bans, ever-rising taxation, closing pubs, and all the rest. There’s no sign whatsoever that the political class has any idea of the social and economic and political catastrophe that followed in the wake of the smoking ban. All are oblivious. Completely oblivious. And oblivious is the way that Tobacco Control wants to keep them.

I’ll fill in their questionnaire (update: I now have). But my response won’t be published. It probably won’t even be read. So I’ll keep it brief.

I’ve given up on the mainstream media. And on the political classes. Apart from writing this blog, the only thing that I try to do these days is to bring excluded, reviled smokers together in my new online Smoky Drinky Bar for a while before it’s closed down due to the 138th-hand smoke spreading from it along the internet’s wires and killing babies in Khartoum and Tierra del Fuego.

The only thing I don’t understand is why they’re treating the 10th anniversary of the UK smoking ban as any sort of memorable event at all. The mainstream media treated the original occasion as a non-event. So why is the tenth anniversary of that non-event anything to remember? Nothing happened on 1 July 2007. It was just another day, wasn’t it?

Can anyone remember what happened on, say, 15 April 1912? Was there anything memorable about that date? Was it any sort of notable day or night to remember? Were the newspapers full of reports of some terrible catastrophe that day? Or did they treat it as a non-event, playing down its scale and significance, lest their snowflake children have nightmares?

1 July 2007 is the date of a catastrophe. It was a black day. But it was a catastrophe that was not reported in the Guardian or the Times or any other newspaper or TV channel. So why bring it up now?

And do you really have to wear Hi-Viz yellow smoking jackets these days outside the Miners Arms?

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The Pacific Night

Almost exactly 10 years after the UK smoking ban came into force, I’m trying to get a prototype new kind of smoky-drinky bar off the ground, to get round that obnoxious piece of legislation.

It’s a sort of Wright Brothers’ enterprise. And the Smoky Drinky Bar has been been hopping and skipping along the sands at Kitty Hawk, getting off the ground for a few hours or minutes, before falling back to ground again. What I want is a sustained flight with only the very occasional landing. I want to see the Smoky Drinky Bar flying for days on end.

The Smoky Drinky Bar touches down onto the ground when it has zero or one bar-goers in it. And it gains height as it acquires more than one. I want to get it to the point where it’s always got two or more people in it.

Unlike all other bars, the Smoky Drinky Bar can have customers from all over the world. People from New Zealand can (and do) visit it at the same time as people from England, on the other side of the world. Last night I was talking to people from Germany, USA, and New Zealand in the Smoky Drinky Bar. Ordinary bars draw their clientele from a small geographic area, maybe less than a mile around them, maybe with only a few thousand people in it. But a smoky drinky bar’s clientele can come from anywhere in a world in which 7 billion people live.

If the problem right now is to just get a smoky-drinky bar off the ground for long enough for it to be regarded as having “taken off”, the problem thereafter is likely to be what to do when the attendance exceeds 12 people, the maximum number of seats available in the current Smoky Drinky Bar.

But the highest attendance so far has only been eight people. So we’ve yet to see what happens when it reaches its maximum altitude.

I was thinking this morning that if the Smoky Drinky bar has any location, it’s at the North or South Pole of the Earth. And its clientele is drawn successively from successive geographic longitudes as the Earth spins, with the direction of the succession always moving westwards. So if the first east coast (UTC-5) American customers start entering the bar at 0 hours UT (Universal Time, also known as GMT) the last Americans will start arriving at UTC-10.

And then the Russians will start arriving, and remain present (in gradually mounting numbers) for the next 11 hours, because Russia has 11 time zones, running from UTC+2 to UTC+12.

And then the Europeans at UTC+0 and UTC+1 will show up.

There seem to be two gaps in the time zones, the Atlantic ocean gap between UTC-1 and UTC-4, and a Pacific ocean gap between UTC-10 and UTC+12.

Americans go to bed when Russians get up. Perhaps this was (and still is) the cause of the Cold War, because they seldom get to meet each other:

Cory Doctorow, scifi author and BoingBoing co-founder, once wrote a scifi novel called Eastern Standard Tribe (available free). It was fun read but what I enjoyed most was his idea that people would belong to a “tribe” based on their time zone. In Doctorow’s world, your loyalties lie not with the country of your birth but with the people who are up when you are. (includes world time zone map)

The Pacific ocean time zones are the world’s “night”, because when the the Sun is over the Pacific between UTC-10 and UTC-12, more or less everyone in the world is asleep. And 12 hours later, at “noon”, the world takes a short siesta.

Peak time zone populations are UTC+8 (China), UTC+6 (India) and UTC+1 (Europe).

I’m thinking that I may adapt my orbital simulation model, which has a spherical spinning Earth map, to find out how many people might be likely to visit the Smoky Drinky Bar at any one time, by using the above populations, and the assumption that most people want to meet up and talk in bars in the evenings after work. I might also be able to find the dominant language at any one time.

I could also find out how English waxes and wanes over every 24 hours, using information like this:

About a third of Russians (30 percent) speak English to one degree or another: 20 percent can read and translate using a dictionary, 7 percent are familiar with colloquial language, and 3 percent are fluent speakers, according to Romir research holding.3 Dec 2015

or use a List of countries by English-speaking population.

I might then be able to find how many people are needed to keep the Smoky Drinky Bar busy all day, and only closing during the Pacific Night.

Spinning Earth in my Orbit3D.java model, shows the Pacific Night when the Sun viewpoint is above the Pacific ocean at 0:02 and 0:17 seconds in:

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Playing Captain MainWaring

I’m trying to foment a revolt. A global revolt. A global revolt against smoking bans. And so a global revolt against Tobacco Control.

The way I see it, there are 1,500 million smokers scattered all over the world. They make up about a quarter of the population of the world. But they’re largely powerless. And they’re powerless because they are disunited. If they can be brought together – or even if a few of them can be brought together – they’ll begin to form an army. And they’d begin to get their voices heard.

The most important thing, in my view, is not so much to fight the enemy, but to bring smokers together, get them talking to each other. First with this blog, and now also with the Smoky Drinky Blog and the Smoky Drinky Bar, I’ve been trying to do this in a variety of different ways. This blog is a written blog. The new Smoky Drinky blog is a collection of videos of smokers talking to each other. The even newer Smoky Drinky Bar is a bunch of smokers actually talking to each other. The underlying purpose of all of them is the same: to bring smokers together.

Everyone who visits it seems to like the Smoky Drinky Bar. It is very like a real pub. It’s just one in which people can smoke and drink and talk, which you can’t do in real pubs and bars. It’s only been going about a week, but it’s already attracted a small clientele of regulars. If it becomes a success, and becomes jam packed all day every day, people will start opening new ones.

It was pretty quiet last night in the UK 7 pm shift in the Smoky Drinky Bar. But a couple of new customers dropped in. They were very interesting customers because one was a non-smoker who hated the UK smoking ban. “What are they going to ban next?”, he asked. And the other was an ex-smoker who hated the UK smoking ban for the exact same reason. Maybe they only hated the smoking ban because both had partners who were smokers. But maybe they would have hated the smoking ban even if they hadn’t had partners who smoked?

It presented me with a dilemma. I think of the Smoky Drinky Bar as a place for excluded smokers to meet up. Why should I let non-smokers or ex-smokers or vapers into it? But ultimately I’m trying to build an army of opponents of smoking bans rather than of friends of tobacco. And since ex-smokers and non-smokers outnumber smokers 3 to 1 or more, I can build a much larger army if I admit ex-smokers and non-smokers. The only people that I must exclude are antismokers. And I’ve yet to encounter any of those. And I’m not sure that there are all that many of them anyway.

I decided to offer membership of the bar to both the ex-smoker and the non-smoker. What mattered most was that both of them hated the smoking ban. It didn’t really matter that they didn’t smoke. And both of them accepted my offer. And if there are a lot of smoking-ban-haters among the ranks of ex-smokers and non-smokers, the Smoky Drinky army is going to be huuuuge.

What that army will do is something that only needs to be thought about when we actually do have an army. And at the moment we don’t. And I see myself as simply being someone who is trying to enlist people into the army. Because I think that if you are to build an army, the first thing you must do is bring people together into one. Only when you have an army can you begin to think what you might do with it – or rather what it might do with itself. So I see myself as a recruiting officer in a bowler hat, sitting behind a  table in a recruiting office with posters on the wall (like the one at right).

In fact this morning I wasn’t seeing myself as either a Lenin fomenting revolution in Tsarist Russia, or as a Kitchener calling for recruits in WW1, but instead as a Captain Mainwaring trying to build a Dad’s Army. After all, most of the people coming into the Smoky Drinky Bar are pretty old. I am myself 69 years old. And some visitors are even older. Very likely it will be a sort of Dad’s Army which I will assemble, with one or two young Private Pikes in it. But I do not at present think that the army needs fit young men who can fire rifles and hurl hand grenades: the army needs hardened keyboard warriors. It needs armchair soldiers who can fight online wars from the comfort of their living rooms. Their war could be a quite hilarious war to fight.

And I was also thinking that I have a much better philosophy than Lenin ever had. Lenin had Marxism, but I have Idle Theory. And Idle Theory is a far more coherent idea than Marxism ever was. And the goal of Idle Theory is a world full of idle people, sitting and drinking and talking and smoking. My image of The Idle Man is a man lounging back on a seat, smoking:

Idle Theory is an almost perfect match with what most smokers and drinkers want: they want to be able to sit and talk and smoke and drink. That’s their idea of fun. It’s my idea of fun too.

It’s not a perfect match because Idle Theory is as cold and mathematical a way of thinking as the Newtonian mechanics in my orbital simulation models. In fact I see Idle Theory as (a proposal for) the extension of physics into economics and ethics.

I think it’s almost as important to have a coherent ideology or belief system as it is to have an army. For if one assembles an army, that army ought to have something it is fighting for, as well as fighting against. We know who we are fighting against: the satanic forces of Tobacco Control. Idle Theory offers an idea of what we are fighting for: an idle, playful world. I’ve been surprised in recent days at the numbers of my readers who are attracted to Idle Theory.

Anyway, here’s a short snatch of Dad’s Army, featuring Captain Mainwaring and Private Pike:

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The Value of Children

In the Smoky Drinky Bar last night, Nisakiman remarked that I’d saved myself several hundred thousand pounds by not having any children. He should know: he’s got several. He didn’t like abortion.

It was a quiet night last night at the Smoky Drinky Bar, and after I’d left, I watched Roger Scruton talking about moral relativism for a while. Moral relativism meant everyone having their own opinions, with no one opinion being worth any more than any other. Or something like that.

As I was listening I thought that Idle Theory was an absolute value system. In Idle Theory, the absolute value of anything is the sum of the costs and benefits associated with it, with those costs and benefits measured in idle time. You make some tool, and it costs you some amount of idle time to make it. And then when you use the tool, it saves you idle time in doing something.

Example: You have lots of nuts that need tightening. By hand you never get them very tight, unless you ask Steel Fingers Harry. It takes you ten minutes to tighten a nut on your own, using just your fingers and a piece of rag. Suppose that you could make a simple spanner by cutting up very thin sheets of steel, and gluing them together. It takes maybe 2 hours to make it. And then you use the spanner to tighten the nuts, and you can tighten a single nut in 6 seconds. And you also get the nuts much tighter, so they don’t unscrew after a few minutes like the finger-tightened ones always do. And so if you’ve got 100 nuts to tighten, it would have taken you 1000 minutes using your worn. calloused, bleeding fingers. But with the spanner it takes just 600 seconds to tighten those 100 nuts. That’s 10 minutes. A saving of 990 minutes. If the spanner breaks after every 100 nuts it’s used to tighten, then the value of the spanner is 990 minutes. But it only cost 120 minutes to make the spanner. So the spanner’s net value is 990 minus 120 minutes of work, or 870 minutes. No wonder engineers love spanners, and always keep a couple in a deep trouser pocket. And it doesn’t matter what colour the spanner is, it still works just as well. And it doesn’t matter whether people think spanners are ugly, they still work just as well. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s opinion is.

Part way into his talk Roger Scruton mentioned the subject of abortion. And I immediately connected this to what Nisakiman had said. And I asked: What is the value of children?

In Idle Theory, children are useful tools – just like spanners. And like spanners, they have costs attached to them. The initial costs of making children requires only 5 or 10 minutes of fairly intensive work (which many people greatly enjoy doing). But there then come years and years of nappies, crying, feeding, clothing, housing, schooling, and probably a lot more as well. It takes years of sustained work to turn the child into an adult who can perform useful work.  It took 2 hours to produce the finished spanner. It can take 20 or more years to produce a finished adult. No wonder Nisakiman said that I’d saved myself hundreds of thousands of pounds (sterling) by not having children.

For where’s the value in children? After 20 years of being clothed, fed, housed, schooled, and given pocket money, they leave home and never come back. All the effort is wasted. It’s like making a spanner and never getting to use it to tighten nuts. Or, worse, having someone else use it, and gain all the value without doing any of the work making it.

No wonder people want abortions! They don’t want to spend twenty years of their lives toiling to produce an adult finished product from a mewling, dribbling baby, only to see their efforts wasted.

I once had, for about one day, a 20-year-old girlfriend who’d just had an abortion. Why did she have it? Because she didn’t want to spend the next 20 years of her life as an unmarried mother living in a tower block in Walthamstow, waiting for the cladding to catch fire. She wanted to spend those 20 years dancing and drinking and screwing. Which was how she came to need the abortion in the first place.

It makes you wonder why anyone ever has any children at all. But the answer is that, in the past, people didn’t spend 20+ years producing educated, useful adults. Instead, children were set to work as soon as they could walk and talk. Which is about the age of three or four. Your 4-year-old son or daughter would be sent out to carry sticks or logs home for the kitchen fire. Or they’d be set sweeping floors and mixing ingredients. Best of all, they could be sent up chimneys to clean out the soot – a task that adults were too big to do. So after about 4 years, parents began to see a return on their investment. And the return grew larger as the child grew taller and stronger and abler. Your 10-year-old daughter would be cooking all the dinners, while your 15-year-old son would be chopping down trees, and carrying logs home. And you could just sit in the sun with your pipe, benignly overseeing their industry.

But you can’t do that any more. Because it’s called Child Labour, and it’s as abhorrent as Slavery. You have to clean out the chimneys yourself. And sweep the floors. And cook the dinners. And carry the logs. Because now chiiiiildren are precious things that are very easily broken, like Ming vases. Even a whiff of tobacco smoke is enough to snuff out their lives in seconds.

But as soon as it became a crime to employ child labour, children became valueless to parents. The whole point of having children – as invaluable mother’s little helpers – vanished. And that’s when women started having abortions.

It’s also why we have an entire generation of snowflakes who’ve Got Rights to a “safe space”: i.e. their own bedroom with Flight Simulator 10 running on Xbox 27. They’ve never had to get logs from the orchard, or coal from the coal shed, or mix pastry for their mum, or make their own beds. They’re Chiiiiildren, and it would be a betrayal of their Human Rights to make them do anything they don’t want to do. And all they really want to do is crash airliners into the Twin Towers. Or any other available high rise buildings, now that the Twin Towers have gone.

I could go on. But I won’t.

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The Bartender’s Story

Last night, while bartending and chatting in the Smoky Drinky Bar, I began to piece together a new explanation for 9/11.

There are broadly two accounts of 9/11. The first one is that 3 or 4 jets were hijacked by a band of terrorists led by Mohammed Atta, and two of them were flown into the twin towers in NYC, and one into the Pentagon in Washington DC, while the fourth crashed harmlessly far from any city or large building. This is the official story, and it also happens to be the one that I’ve tended to believe, despite a number of implausibilities (like the fact that they barely had any pilot training).

The second story is the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a “Deep State” black operation to produce an incident that was shocking enough to provoke a war, and perhaps even a series of wars. There seem to be innumerable variants of this theory, which include the twin towers being subjected to controlled demolition, a missile hitting the Pentagon, and various other ad hoc elements. A great many people seem to believe one variant or other this second story, which I personally find to be even more implausible than the first one (e.g. if it was a controlled demolition wouldn’t a few people have noticed the charges strapped to the columns, and the wires running between them? ).

I’ d now like to set out a third possible explanation of 9/11, which involves neither any shadowy terrorist organisation nor any even more shadowy “Deep State”. It came into focus last night when Cade Apollyon remarked that he used to have not only a copy of Flight Simulator 1.0, but also an air traffic control game, which he had used to direct imaginary planes into each others’ paths rather than away from them.

I’d never heard of an air traffic control game, but Cade’s explanation for it was that it had been developed as a true air traffic control system, and then marketed as a game when the project fell through. But while I hadn’t heard of any air traffic control game, I had actually played Flight Simulator 2 a number of times.

FS2 was really a pilot training aide, which allowed pilots to learn to fly planes, taking off, navigating from place to place, and landing, all in very realistic ways. But it was also marketed as a game, and one that I personally found rather boring, because apart from repeatedly taking off and landing, there was little else to do. So when I played it, I used to add spice by flying as close as I could to the large buildings that dotted US cities. Here, for example, is New York City, as seen in FS2:

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.10 for IBM PC (RGB monitor, in front of Empire State Building), 1984

At the bottom of the screen are the pilot’s various instruments, showing speed, altitude, attitude, and so on. In the top of the screen there is the view of NYC below, with the Empire State building in the foreground, and, yes, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the background.

If I had been flying this plane, I would have been aiming to skim past the Empire State Building, and then pass between the twin towers in the distance, and over the Statue of Liberty out in the bay beyond. (see map right) I would have passed within a few feet of them all. And if Cade Apollyon had been playing FS2, he would have probably been doing the same thing, and as an air traffic controller he would have been directing aircraft towards NYC for the same purpose.

There are two distinct groups of people who use flight and air traffic control simulators. One group is made up of professional pilots and air traffic controllers who are trying to carry real passengers from one destination to another without any mishap. The other group of people are gamers who are trying to have as much fun as possible by flying imaginary planes as near to each other and any building in sight as they can. The two groups have opposite goals. One group is trying to minimize danger, and the other is trying to maximize it. And both groups are using the same software, but on different computers. And sometimes they swap places.

So my third explanation of 9/11 is that danger-maximizing gamers took control of US airspace away from both danger-minimizing professional pilots and air traffic controllers for a period of a few hours on 11 September 2001 (9/11). And for this short period of time that the gamers were in control of the real world, they caused utter havoc. And during that time, most likely neither the gamers nor the professionals were aware of what had happened. American Airlines Flight 11 wasn’t flown into the North Tower by an untrained Al Qaeda terrorist, or by a highly-trained Deep State pilot: it was flown by a 10-year-old boy running FS2 on his Xbox.  The 10-year-old also happened to be one of the very best pilots in the USA, and that morning he had already flown between (or through) the twin towers about 13 times before heading off to grade school. He didn’t know that on the 14th occasion, he’d been passed hands-on remote control of a real jet rather than an imaginary one. And he flew it in along more or less the exact route in the map above.

No doubt there are many implausibilities to this third explanation. But one of its singular merits, in my view, is that there are no Bad Guys. There is no band of box-cutter-wielding terrorists, nor callous, calculating Deep State operatives in remote bunkers. There was no conspiracy at all. There were just a few kids playing FS2 and air traffic control the way they always did. And when, later that day, they learned that planes had really been flown into the twin towers at the exact same time they’d been doing the exact same thing, they couldn’t believe that they could have been the pilots. They probably still don’t believe it to this day.

But what about this, you ask:

Atta, an al-Qaeda member and licensed commercial pilot, took over the controls. Air-traffic controllers noticed the flight was in distress when the crew was no longer responding. They realized the flight had been hijacked when Mohamed Atta’s announcements for passengers were transmitted to air traffic control. On board, flight attendants Amy Sweeney and Betty Ong contacted American Airlines, and provided information about the hijackers and injuries to passengers and crew.

Pure invention. Cobbled together after the fact from garbled radio messages to support the terrorist hijacking meme which rapidly became the dominant explanation. The planes had been hijacked, but not by terrorists: Mohammed Atta was probably sitting quietly reading Planet of the Dreamers throughout Flight 11.

Perhaps some people in pilot and air traffic control circles knew that it was possible to remotely take control of aircraft, but didn’t know how to do it. It had to be terrorists, didn’t it, they told themselves.  Just like a bunch of 10-year-old kids were telling each other that it couldn’t possibly have been us, could it.

Anyway, while I’m the bartender for the 7 pm BST slot, Emily is going to try to do the same on a 7 pm EST slot.

Perhaps she’ll soon have a few of her own bartender’s tales to tell.

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Silence

I had an odd experience yesterday evening. At about 6:30 pm, while on my way home, I stopped off briefly at a local pub, bought a half of lager (Moretti, if you really want to know), and sat out in its garden, alone on a trestle table, lost in thought, smoking in the watery sunlight.

And then, after 20 minutes, I continued my journey home, and took up my newly self-appointed role as the 7 pm bartender in the Smoky Drinky Bar. I didn’t know how long I’d spend in the Smoky Drinky Bar. In the event, I spent nearly 5 hours there.

So I had the experience of sitting at a table at a real pub side-by-side, or in close conjunction, with the experience of sitting at a table in a virtual pub. Which one was better?

Well, there wasn’t much sparkling conversation at the real pub. In fact there wasn’t any conversation at all – at least at my table. I doubt if I would have stayed on at the real pub for another 5 hours of being lost in thought. If nothing else, it would have become dark, and cold.

But it was wall-to-wall sparkling conversation in the Smoky Drinky Bar. And that’s what it always seems to be like there. And as a participant in very many conversations over the years, some of them absolutely scintillatingly sparkling, I’m a bit puzzled as to why there’s such a buzz to the Smoky Drinky Bar. I am myself certainly not the magic ingredient. Nor, so far as I can see, is anyone else.

I think it may be the sheer novelty of engaging in conversation with people who are scattered all over the world. And maybe also with people you don’t really know. Weren’t all the best parties the ones in which surprising new guests arrived? Aren’t the best things that happen always a bit unexpected? I really don’t know. Perhaps it’s simply that everyone is smoking.

Maybe one day at the Smoky Drinky Bar, nobody will have anything to say. And all present will fall silent and pull on their cigarettes, and take another long slow sip of whatever they happen to be drinking, as the seconds tick by. I was talking to Emily about this a few weeks ago, remarking that on the Smoking Section she was always quick to ensure that her interviews proceeded briskly, and no fatal silences were allowed to intrude. I was suggesting that, in our conversation, we should allow silences to develop. And I think we managed a few quite long silences.

Are there ever any such silences on talk shows? Are there ever occasions where all present fall silent? As for example, when asked some question, a guest is lost for words, and says, “I don’t know what to say,” and the host or compere replies, “Me too.” But I suppose the Michael Parkinsons and David Lettermans of the world are never lost for words. That’s how they got to the top. Even with sullen, silent guests, they could fill the airwaves. Some people are in their natural element while talking, it seems. They spread their wings and fly. I don’t know how they do it.

Anyway, I think it’s a good idea that there be a bartender present on the Smoky Drinky Bar. His job is not to serve drinks or take food orders, but to dispel silence. His job is to be someone to talk to. In this respect, Petej had an excellent suggestion in reply to something I wrote:

“It isn’t possible for me, as the landlord or patron, to spend my entire time in the bar”.

It seems to me that you should do what any landlord would do, have assistants.
You have said that people all over the world are visiting, from different time zones. Maybe a few volunteers who are around their computers could cover other shifts?

Why not? I have appointed myself to the 7 pm UK slot, largely because in the past that was the sort of time I used to meet up with friends on nights out. And if the same applies everywhere else in the world, then why not have a few people appoint themselves to the 7 pm slot in whatever time zone in which they happen to live?

Yesterday, more or less within seconds of my arrival for the 7 o’clock shift, there were three people present. I suspect that in Australia and New Zealand and the USA, the same thing would happen, once enough people knew about the Smoky Drinky Bar. When people know that somebody will be there, they will start coming.

And pretty soon the Smoky Drinky Bar may well be chock full. And then? Brigitte suggested:

I understand that Frank’s place can only harbour a set amount of guests and therefore once that number is reached, the doors will be closed to non-members.

We’ve yet to reach this point. The maximum number the Smoky Drinky Bar can hold is 12 people, and the most I’ve seen so far is 8 people. I don’t know what happens when the magic 12 is reached. Maybe the doors close themselves, banging shut, a bit like the ones in H.M. Slade prison? I think I’ll take things as they come.

The Smoky Drinky Bar is rather like the central bar in Cheers, only smaller. And it hasn’t got side tables like Cheers. It is, as it were, a square table or bartop with three stools on each side. A sort of largish dinner party. And only one person can speak at any one time. So with 12 people present, everyone needs to be on average 92% silent. In such circumstances, the ideal guests will be those who are naturally silent. Like Grandad, who was telling me a few days back that in pubs he was accustomed to sit in silence with his friends and acquaintances. For we will need not just ready talkers, but ready listeners as well. In fact, we will need rather more listeners than talkers.

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