Future Golems

Kelly messaged me one morning: She and Louie would like me to read Kiln People, and then post a review. Louie had read the book, and thought I might enjoy it. Kelly had not read it, and will decide if it’s worth reading based on my review.

OK, here goes.

Kiln People, by David Brin, was published in 2002.

The 560+ page novel starts off with: “It’s hard to stay cordial while fighting for your life, even when your life doesn’t amount to much. Even when you’re just a lump of clay.

Kiln PeopleThe book jumps right into the story, with all its future-speak. One of Albert’s dittos is being assaulted by a gang of Beta’s dittos. ditAlbert manages to escape and find a group of Albert’s friends just before his 24-hour life ends. The ditto’s body falls apart, but his brain is intact, so realAlbert is able to inload.

Albert Morris is a private detective. He lives in a time when people are able to make clay copies of themselves, fairly cheaply. These copies (called “dittos” or “golems”) are “outloaded” with the personality, and all the memories, of their original (referred to as “rigs” or “archies” – as in “archetype”) up to the time of the duplication. The ditto has a life span of one day. The ditto and the rig lead separate lives, forming two sets of memories. At the end of the ditto’s life, the rig can, if they wish, “inload” the ditto’s memories into their own. A rig can use a ditto in order to experience risky things without the risks, or a rig can create a ditto to clean the house while the rig goes out and has fun. “No need even to tell it what to do. It already knows. It’s you.

Why choose between going to the office or taking the day off, when you can do both?

It’s a world with nine billion rigs and ten to twenty billion golems.

Besides the obvious connection to the Jewish legend of the Golem, the book draws some not-so-obvious historical analogies that make the idea of making clay copies of yourself seem like a logical step in the evolution of human technology.

Because of the dangerous nature of his work, detective Albert Morris makes frequent use of dittos. For years, he’s been trying to catch an archie known only as “Beta”, who has been kidnapping dittos in order to make bootleg dittos, in violation of copyright laws.

Albert Morris specializes in ditnapping. Then, one day, he’s hired to investigate an actual kidnapping. It’s not a ditnapping – it’s the kidnapping of an archie. The victim is one of the co-founders of Universal Kilns, the company that created the society-changing technology behind dittos. The victim’s family is sure he’s been kidnapped, even though, after a month, there’s been no ransom demands. The police are sure he’s simply run away from the world. (Given the ubiquity of  private lens and publicams, it seems impossible that anyone could run away without witnesses.)

realAlbert and his ditAlberts eventually find that the mystery goes much further.

Kiln People is a noir detective story. (Albert Morris even wears a trench coat and fedora.) It’s a science fiction story based on some hard science. It’s a well-crafted world that shows the author put a lot of thought into all the little implications of creating copies of yourself. (It’s best to avoid eye contact with your golem. If you inload, you’re going to remember that glance from both sides, and most people find that experience too upsetting – similar to déjà vu, but a whole lot worse.)

Every time I’d wonder, “What’s to prevent someone from…”, the book has an answer for how the system can’t be misused. This book even has answers for problems I hadn’t even thought of. David Brin has it all mapped out.

Kiln People is also full of humor. For instance, there are these things called “dinobuses” – awesome public transport vehicles with a cockpit attached to a long, mobile neck. “Every kid dreams of becoming a bus driver when he grows up,” the book tells us.

Kiln People is full of puns. At a free medical clinic for dittos, a sign reads: “Helping the Kneady.” (By the way, why have a medical facility for temporary beings? The book answers that question, too.)

Kiln People was a slow read for me. A lot of ideas, philosophy, and world-building gets crammed into a day in the life of a ditto. The book switches points of view between realAlbert and the various ditAlberts. A scene involving a ditAlbert will be presented later from a different ditAlbert’s viewpoint, with a different set of knowledge, and yet it’s all Albert Morris. I got lost a few times.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I would have enjoyed it a little more if it were a couple of hundred pages shorter. There were times when it felt like the story was wrapping up, and that we’ve solved the mystery, and I couldn’t imagine how it could keep going, and yet it kept going.

Do I recommend Kiln People? I felt it was overly long, and tough to follow at times (which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily), but the cleverness and the telling of the story far outweighed any quibbles I had. So, yes, I recommend it.


Real life imitates art: I started reading Kiln People on a paperback I borrowed from the library. The thickness of the book made it a little awkward to hold during a bus commute. So I downloaded the eBook version to my phone – much better. So, for a while, I was reading the same novel on two copies. Which of these two copies was the archie and which was the ditto, I wondered. (There were no holds on the book, so I didn’t feel guilty about having checked out two copies.) I eventually returned the paperback, and read the eBook exclusively. When I was a little over 1200 ePages into the 1409 ePage eBook, I had just two days left on my loan. I couldn’t renew the loan, but I could place a hold for another copy. I was told I was first in line for the one copy that was currently checked out – that copy, of course, was checked out by me. Whenever I returned it, I would be able to borrow it. It was as if I was two versions of me.

Thoughts In The Dark

Seattle got hit by a big windstorm yesterday. Even though I know tall buildings, even one as old as the one I work in, are built to withstand more than that, it was still unnerving to hear large booming against the windows all day long. Downtown never lost power, however.

I took light rail home. The walk home through the wind and rain seemed preferable to standing at a bus stop at 4th & Pike in the wind and the rain. I would have taken a coworkers’ advice and cut my walk in half by catching a bus outside of Capitol Hill Station, except that a fire truck outside of Hot Cakes had all lanes on Olive Way blocked. Buses were at a standstill. So I walked home.


We were in the red

Our microwave was blinking 12:00 when Phillip got home. Our apartment building had lost power at some time during the day. Even though the Seattle City Light web site showed most of our neighborhood without electricity, we somehow had our power.

I braved a couple of games of Cities: Skylines and The Sims 4, knowing that, at any moment, the computer could suddenly go dark. But our electricity stayed on. We had dinner and I went to bed.

There didn’t seem much to blog about. (“Today, there was a lot of wind and rain.”)

I woke up sometime around 11 o’clock last night. It’s funny how sudden silence can wake you up. Phillip was up. He had a flashlight in one hand and something glowing green in the other. It took me a while to figure out what had happened. We had lost power. That glowing green rectangle was Phillip’s cell phone.

I got up, booted up my cell phone, set an alarm for the morning, and went back to bed.

The power was still out when the alarm woke me up this morning. The apartment was dark.

When I was a child, my family had a joke that if the power went out during a hurricane, we could at least have fun watching TV by candlelight. This morning, that joke sort of came true.

I’m glad I bought a smartphone. It’s a flashlight, a phone, a clock, the internet, and a book during a power outage. (And, thanks to Pokémon Go, I have a powerful backup battery/charger so running the phone’s battery down wasn’t an issue.) This morning, I surfed the internet by candlelight. The outage map for Capitol Hill looked pretty much the same as last night. There were no outages Downtown or in the U District.

A long time ago, I used to think I was clever by using a cell phone to reset clocks after a power outage. This morning, my phone was the best tool I had during the power outage.

We have a windup lantern that would have come in handy, except that neither one of us could remember where it is. We did, however, know exactly where the candle, the solar-charged flashlight, and the phones’ battery packs were. In some way, we were prepared, and in other ways, not so much. However, as Phillip pointed out, this was the first time we’d been without power for more than three or four hours. Also, it’s not like we’re isolated in our high-density neighborhood. There’s a lot of places within walking distance, and much of it had power.

Of course, we didn’t have hot water. I don’t like taking cold showers. But I like the idea of going to work without a shower even less. I had a quick cold shower by candlelight this morning.


Looking better this morning

The sun was coming up, and the apartment was a little brighter, but still without electricity, when I left for work.

I figured that even if route 47 was running with diesel buses or the backup batteries on trolley buses, it would probably be stuck somewhere by Seattle City Light repair trucks. (Of course, I wouldn’t know if it was, since Metro never has explained to me why I never get text alerts for the 47.) I figured other routes might be sharing space with repair trucks as well. I decided to walk up the hill and ride light rail. I hadn’t received any alerts about Link and, besides, if the station was out of power, there are buses nearby. At times like this, it’s best to have options.

There were a lot of large City Light trucks, and a lot of crews, hard at work, all over the neighborhood.

Nearer to Broadway, lights were on.

The train to Downtown was crowded. I wasn’t surprised. At times like this, it’s best to travel underground.

Of course, electricity was the main topic of conversation at work this morning.



Fun With Libby

I’m currently reading a library book on my phone, with the Libby by Overdrive app. It’s a large novel with a lot of philosophy going on in it. It’s taking me forever to read it.

On Saturday, I had over 400 ePages to go. The eBook was due back in 4 days. I didn’t think I would be able to finish it in time, so I decided to renew my loan. The app told me it was too soon to renew, and that I’d be able to renew in 1 day.

On Sunday, the book was due back in 3 days. I tried to renew it. The app told me it was too soon to renew, and that I’d be able to renew in 1 day. Guessing that it was measuring days by the time I checked it out, I tried later in the day. I still had 1 day until I’d be able to renew.

(I wonder now, as I write this post, if it didn’t count Saturday as a day, since the physical libraries were closed.)

This morning, the book was due back in 2 days. I tried to renew it. The app told me it was too soon to renew, and that I’d be able to renew in 1 day. I tried again during my mid-morning break. There was a big red button that said “Renew”. I clicked it. The app told me I couldn’t renew it. It offered me two option: Place a hold on the eBook, or return it to the library. I placed a hold.

I was number 1 in line for the hold. There was 1 copy, and it was currently borrowed.

Of course, that one copy was borrowed by me. As soon as my loan expires, my hold will begin.

I returned the book two days early. A little while later, it was back on my phone for another 20 days. And the app somehow knew what page I’d left off at. Libby by Overdrive may be weird at times, but it’s also pretty awesome.

The Francine Mystery

No one knows where Francine Cha came from.

Francine offers no clues to her past, and evades all questions about it.

Young Fancine

Francine Cha

A persistent rumor says that Francine Cha was adopted as a teenager by Patty Holmes and Martha Unger, and that she grew up in a house in Newcrest. Francine was single until, after a single date (her first date ever), she married their next door neighbor, Frank Redding – so says the rumor.


Patty Holmes, despite outliving Martha, and at least two other spouses, cannot be found. No one knows what became of Frank Redding. The Grim Reaper has a strict code of confidentiality, so death can be neither confirmed nor discounted. The house that Francine Cha allegedly grew up in does not exist.

If the rumor is to believed, Francine Cha seems to have simply disappeared around the same time as Patty Holmes and Frank Redding.

Francine and Frank

Francine and Frank

Years later, a teenager named Aquarius Burke answered a “Roommate Wanted” ad, and moved into a tiny San Myshuno apartment with a teenager named Francine Cha. Having never heard the Newcrest rumor, Aquarius found nothing odd in the existence of this young Francine.

Aquarius and Francine

Aquarius and Francine


Their first apartment

Aquarius’ parents had heard the rumor, however, and were concerned enough for their son’s safety, that they launched a police investigation into the background of Francine Cha.


The police later released an official statement: “Ms Cha’s evasiveness is concerning, but we have been unable to find conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. We have found evidence that a Ms Holmes and a Mr. Redding did, in fact, exist at some point. As we are all well aware, it is not unheard of for sims, or entire buildings, to disappear without explanation. It just happens. As expected, The Grim Reaper has not returned our calls regarding this investigation. We have uncovered screenshots which suggest that a house, matching the description of the rumor, did exist in Newcrest, and that a sim matching the description of the subject of this investigation lived there. That sim, however, was an elder at the time of what we’re calling ‘The Newcrest Incident’. We can therefore conclude that we have been investigating two different sims.”

The police report contained an addendum which stated that Francine Cha (Aquarius Burke’s roommate) is good friends with a sim named Daryl Robards, and are frequently seen in public together. Daryl, coincidentally (or not), is also rumored to have disappeared at the time of The Newcrest Incident.

Francine and Daryl

Daryl and Francine

Francine Cha and Aquarius Burke were both socially awkward loners. They existed well enough together as roommates in their cramped apartment. Then, after a short romance, and a date or two, Francine and Aquarius surprised everyone by getting married. They moved to a bigger apartment and raised a family.



Francine Cha outlived Aquarius. She outlived their three children. She has, so far, outlived two of her following three spouses.


Sims once wondered if Patty Holmes was going to live forever. That made her disappearance so much more mysterious. It now appears as if Francine Cha is going to live forever.

There are those who still believe that that the elder named Francine Cha who disappeared in Newcrest and the teenager named Francine Cha who appeared in San Myshuno are the same sim. No one has come up with a plausible explanation for the age reversal, however. There is a fringe theory out there that Patty’s and Francine’s longevity are somehow linked.

Patty and Francine

Patty and Francine

Francine Cha is the only sim who knows the truth.

Old Francine

Francine Cha

Sims And A Submarine

At work today, I listened to a just-published video from The Sims VIP. The video detailed a new patch for The Sims 4, just released today.

Later in the afternoon, Phillip sent me a text message. He and a coworker were going to see the movie Thor: Ragnarok after work. (Phillip knows I’m feeling a little burned out on super hero movies.)

I decided to take the bus home. I got to 4th & Pike just as a 47 was leaving. So I caught an 11 a couple of minutes later and walked home from Olive Way.

As soon as I got home, I booted up the computer and started that patch going. It was going to be a three-hour download, at least.

So, while the download was going, I completed my Yellow Submarine Lego build. And I did some reading.

The new patch for The Sims 4 is related somewhat to the new Dogs & Cats DLC, just a few days away. I’m excited about it.

Spaghetti In Lake City

Phillip and I drove to Lake City this morning. We took the scenic route, through Montlake and Sand Point. There was snow in the air – but not on the ground – the whole way. It was a pretty drive.

We spent the afternoon with Sam and Colin. It was a laid-back birthday party for Phillip,  just nephews and uncles. Sam cooked us a delicious spaghetti with mushrooms – a family recipe. It was originally going to be dinner, but had to be rescheduled to lunch, on account of Sam’s new job. (I certainly have no complaints about that.) Then we had cake and ice cream.

We ate and talked and watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

It was a lovely afternoon.

There was no snow on the drive home.

Looking For Snow

Yesterday, after hearing reports of snowfall from friends north and south, it snowed for an hour or two in Downtown Seattle. The snow got pretty heavy, but didn’t stick to anything.

(I’m not including my cousins way down south, in Birmingham, who had to turn their air conditioner on yesterday.)

Today, I kept looking for snow on Capitol Hill. Like yesterday, there was no forecast for snow, but it certainly felt like snow, and the sky had that bright, featureless look that always means snow to me.

Broadway November

But, it didn’t snow.

Phillip and I slept in today. I woke up early-ish, did some housework, started work on The Yellow Submarine. Then I went back to bed.

Yellow Submarine in progress

We woke up later. We had a slow morning.

Nearby PokemonThen we walked up to Broadway, returned some stuff to the library, and played Pokémon Go while we ate hamburgers at Blue Moon.

We went grocery shopping at QFC. I was surprised at the remodeling taking place there. Phillip told me it had been going on for a couple of weeks. I realized that, for some time now, Phillip and I have been taking different routes home, seeing different things, and going different places.

Has it really been two weeks since I’ve been shopping at QFC.

We came home and voted.

VoteI’m still waiting for snow. Maybe it will come tonight. I suppose I should be worried about it, but I’m not.

Let’s Take A Ride On The Dos Patos Monorail

Klondike Station

The Dos Patos Monorail, optimistically named Line 1, is currently the city’s only monorail line. It begins, and ends, at Klondike Station, in the farming community of Klondike Fields. The residents of the community have mixed opinions of the high-density growth near the station, which contrasts with the traditionally single-household houses of the farm workers.

Monorail and Highway

The monorail travels alongside Highway 1, the only other passenger connection between Klondike Fields and the rest of Dos Patos.

Highway Crossing

The monorail crosses over the highway, descends to the shoreline of Duck Bay, and continues into the metropolis of Dos Patos.

Duck Bay Station

The next stop is Duck Bay Station, across the road from The Boat Museum and a public beach.

Sewage Teatment

The monorail provides a visual barrier between the sewage treatment plants and the nearby neighborhoods.

Monorail and Stadium

The monorail passes by, but does not stop at, Dos Patos Stadium. The football stadium is already connected to frequent train, trolley, and metro service.

Freeway Station

The next stop is Freeway Station, where passengers can transfer to a metro to Dos Patos Stadium, or to a train to the city’s popular concert center. As this area grows, additional train and monorail lines may connect to this transit hub.

Freeway Crossing

The monorail crosses the freeway and enters an area ripe for growth.

Starr Institute

The final stop is Starr Station, in the center of the Starr Institute’s office complex. Then, of course, the line heads back toward Klondike Fields.

Thank you for riding the Dos Patos Monorail.