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Journal: Amazon's Hachette fight 4

Journal by mcgrew

I ran across an interesting opinion piece in Vox while going through Google News today. The piece is by Matthew Yglesias. What made me sit up and take notice is that he's on Amazon's side in the Hachette fight.

What's interesting is that his piece got published at all, considering that (as he notes) the newspaper, movie, music, and book publishers are all owned by the same big corporations.

I mostly agree with him, but not about everything. He writes:

In the traditional book purchasing paradigm, when a reader bought a book at the store there were two separate layers of middlemen taking a cut of the cash before money reached the author: a retailer and a publisher. The publisher, in this paradigm, was doing very real work as part of the value-chain. A typed and printed book manuscript looks nothing like a book. Transforming the manuscript into a book and then arranging for it to be shipped in appropriate quantities to physical stores around the country is a non-trivial task. What's more, neither bookstore owners nor authors have any expertise in this field.

Digital publishing is not like that. Transforming a writer's words into a readable e-book product can be done with a combination of software and a minimal amount of training. Book publishers do not have any substantial expertise in software development, but Amazon and its key competitors (Apple, Google, and the B&B/Microsoft partnership) do.

My "manuscripts" are exactly like the printed books. I upload a PDF and they print it.

But publishers aren't just middlemen who only offer publicity, as I've found out from experience. The publisher has editors and proofreaders, and this aspect is (at least for me) the hardest part of writing a book.

What's more, a self-published physical book is far more expensive than a book published by someone like Doubleday. I can get a copy of Andy Weir's The Martian at Barnes and Noble cheaper than I can get a copy of one of my own books from the printer.

He also seems to agree with everyone that physical books will go away. I used to think so, too, but reality changed my mind. I used to think that old fogeys like me were the only ones who prefer dead trees to electrons.

First was my 28 year old daughter, who when she saw the physical copy of Nobots exclaimed "My dad wrote a book. And it's a REAL book!"

Second was sales. Most people read my books for free on my web site, but far more people buy them than download them, and far more download the PDF or single file HTML than the e-book version.

I also discovered that people highly value books that were signed by the author. When a Felbers patron bought a paperback copy of Nobots (I have a box of them in my car's trunk), the first thing he did was ask me to sign it.

How can an author sign an e-book? I do what printmakers do and sign in pencil, because pencil is far harder to fake than ink.

But I agree with him on Amazon vs e-book publishers. E-books from publishers are way, way too expensive, and there's no reason whatever why an e-book should cost fifteen bucks. As he notes, there is almost no cost at all for making another copy of an e-book.

User Journal

Journal: Random Scribblings 1

Journal by mcgrew

While I'm waiting for the corrected copy of Mars, Ho! to show up I've been working on another, Random Scribblings. It's a compilation of garbage I've littered the internet with for almost twenty years.

I'm having problems, though. There is a lot of stuff I've written that just doesn't exist any more, like my "Weak End Hell Hole" column I wrote for Arcadia. I can't find Arcadia at archive.org at all and saved none of the columns. There's stuff I could have sworn I'd saved but can't find on my hard drives.

But there's stuff I don't even remember. I do remember that I wrote 17 front page stories at K5 a decade ago, but I don't remember what they all were.

If you've been reading my stuff for years and have a favorite article, let me know and I'll put it in the book. That is, if I can find it.

User Journal

Journal: Number Two 5

Journal by mcgrew

The first printed copy of Mars, Ho! came a couple of weeks ago, and I've gone through it marking it up five times. This morning I made the changes in the version on my computer and ordered a corrected copy. I'll have it in about ten days.

I'm hopeful I'll be satisfied with it. There were actually few changes and most were minor, like a missing opening quote and end smart single quotes where apostrophes should have been.

The cover was hosed. Damned Microsoft. I'd exported a high resolution cover from GIMP to JPG, and loaded it into Windows Paint since GIMP's handling of text is primitive and frustrating.

What came out of Paint looked fine on the screen, but printed it was a pixellated mess. So I used Lulu's also frustrating cover generator to add the title and author. This one should be okay.

I'm trying hard to get it done in time for Christmas, but I want it to be right. I'm still hopeful.

I had planned on only fans being able to get printed copies, but as Benjie said, "the best laid plans of mice..."

I tried to go to the "private" URL on my phone and got a 404. All the ways I can think of to alleviate this involve too much work and hassle and possible cash outlays. So I guess anybody will be able to get it from my site or at Lulu, but only the eBook will be on Amazon.

Site stats have been fascinating and puzzling me. I'm getting more visitors from Russia than anywhere, and they're coming from Russian language sites. Strange. Quite a few from the Ukraine, as well, they're #3 in the list of countries right behind the US. A few are coming from game sites, and some from porn sites. Weird.

In any case, I guess I'm on vacation for a week or two until the next copy shows up on my porch.

User Journal

Journal: Scientist says white is black 18

Journal by mcgrew

The British rag The Daily Mail has been coming up in Google News with the above linked story.

It is incredibly faulty; it's propaganda. The headline screams "The terrible truth about cannabis: Expert's devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that smoking pot is harmless".

In the first place, no drug is harmless. Few things in existence are completely harmless, in fact. Even something necessary for life, like water, can be dangerous. Unlike marijuana, you can actually overdose on water. People have died from drinking too much water, nobody has died from smoking too much pot.

"Is pot harmless?" is not only the wrong question, it's a stupid question. So lets look at this fellow's "20 year study" and at the fellow's credentials.

Is he a neuroscientist? Biochemist? Physician?

No. Wikipedia says that Wayne Denis Hall a psychologist. As such, he's no more qualified to study the dangers of drugs than I am. Lets look at the claims, with the most stupid first, that the Mail repeats..

"If cannabis is not addictive then neither is heroin or alcohol."

This is just not incorrect, it's WRONG and irresponsible. Apparently Professor Hall has never seen an alcoholic going through withdrawal, but I have. It's horrible; the addict goes through not just psychological terror, seeing snakes and spiders on them, it is physically painful and can cause seizures. Withdrawal from heroin or alcohol can be fatal.

Marijuana's "addiction" is psychological only; unlike heroin, alcohol, or coffee, there are no physical withdrawal effects. Marijuana is more like orange juice than alcohol. Get drunk every day for a year and quit and you could die.

Get stoned while drinking orange juice every night, and when it's gone quitting both will be similar, although you'll miss pot more.

If pot is as addictive as heroin, why don't potheads steal to support their habits, like almost all heroin addicts do?

The world has too many drug addicts as it is, and statements like these from a scientist will lead people to believe that heroin and cocaine are as harmless as marijuana.

One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it

That's likely true. Marijuana is, in fact, dangerous to teens. It has been shown to interrupt the development of the adolescent brain. Kids shouldn't smoke pot, but unfortunately it's easier for a teenager to get pot than it is for an adult. And every pot smoker I know who started as a kid is in poverty. Kids, stay away from it until you're 19 or preferably older.

We can dismiss adolescent pot use, it is obviously harmful.

Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia

Yes, there is a correlation between mental illness and all psychoactive drugs, but the causation goes the other way. There were schizophrenic kids in my neighborhood when I grew up, all were obviously batshit insane, and all wound up on drugs later.

One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs

Again, the "dependance" is little worse than orange juice and nowhere near as bad as coffee. As to leading to harder drugs, this is the fault of prohibition. "Got any weed, man?"

"No, I'm out. Want some coke?"

This problem goes away with legalization, as Colorado has shown.

Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink

Well, duh. I grin at the "increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink".

I'll also note that unlike drinking, when you're high you don't WANT to drive a car. You're far less likely to get behind the wheel after a couple of joints than after a couple of shots of whiskey.

He also states that taking the drug while pregnant can reduce the weight of a baby, and long-term use raises the risk of cancer, bronchitis and heart attack.

Smoking anything does increase the danger of various lung diseases, but a study a few years ago baffled the researchers who did the study; the results were the opposite of what they expected. They studied four groups of geezers -- long term pot smokers, cigarette smokers, people who smoked both and nonsmokers.

They expected twice the cancers in pot smokers than nonsmokers and twice the cancers in smokers of both than cigarettes alone. However, the data showed that pot smokers actually had fewer cancers than nonsmokers (although statistically insignificant) and smokers of both had half the cancers than those who only smoked cigarettes.

Rather than causing cancer, pot may actually prevent it.

This sort of sensationalist bullshit is why so many people distrust science. This fellow is a psychologist who mostly studies adolescents. Yes, kids and pregnant women shouldn't smoke pot, or anything else. But we should legalize it for adults, partly to keep it out of kids' hands.

User Journal

Journal: Watch your language, young man!

Journal by mcgrew

Please excuse me, but I'm inebriated. Blame typos on beer and reefer, without which this story probably wouldn't have been written.

Sober edit: this journal is also here where the unicode works properly. Who would have thought a one year old could kick a teenager's ass?
        âoeWild Bill! Damn, what a surprise! Why didn't you call?â
        âoeBecause then it wouldn't have been a surprise! Give me a Newcastle, I haven't had a beer in nine months! How've you been, you old pirate killer?â
        âoeI'm doing great, just graduated business school two months ago. The bar is doing real good, and Destiny and her team have almost finished building that new kind of telescope. You sure you want Newcastle?â
        âoeHuh? Your Newcastle went bad?â
        âoeHere, you old asshole, have one of mine on the house,â John said, pouring from a tapper to a beer mug. âoeTell me what you think. There's nothing wrong with my Newcastle stock but I'll bet you won't want Newcastle after you try this.â
        Bill eyed the mug warily. âoeImport?â He took a sip. âoePretty good!â He took another sip. âoeYou were right! This is some damned good beer. What country was it imported from?â
        âoeMars, you asshole. I built a microbrewery here. At least, it started as a microbrewery, it's a lot bigger now. Hell, I'm exporting it to Earth.â
        âoeWhat? Bullshit, you're full of shit, you old bulshitter. Come on, you can't bullshit a bullshitter. After shipping it would cost ten times what Newcastle cost!â
        âoeYep, just like Newcastle is ten times what Captain Hooker's cost here.â
        âoeForgswaggle!â
        âoeYoung man!â an old woman at the other end of the bar admonished, âoeWatch your fucking language, asshole!â
        Bill turned red as a beet. âoeOh shit, I'm sorry, Ma'am, I didn't see you down there, I thought just John and me was here.â
        âoeWell, just watch it, dickhead.â
        âoeYes ma'am.â He turned back to John.
        âoeBut who in the hell is buying it?â
        âoeWho do you think? People who eat pork.â
        âoeDamn, you must be doing good. What's with that giant framed picture of a guy in an eigtheenth century pirate costume with a parrot on his shoulder and playing a guitar?â
        âoeIt's a photo of an old blues guy centuries ago, John Lee Hooker, with the pirate stuff added in a computer.â
        âoeYour last run. The one with all them damned pirates. Now I get it. Damn, that was pretty scary. I didn't think I'd make it back to Mars. At least, until the fleet reached me. You were pretty far ahead...â
        âoeWell, DUH, you were on batteries.â
        âoeYeah, the pirates showed up right when the fleet did. I thought I'd get boarded. Scared the fognart out of me!â
        âoeYOUNG MAN!!!â
        âoeOops, shit, I forgot. I'm sorry, maam.â
        âoeSpew shit out of your mouth again, young man, and I'm kicking your God damned ass.â
        âoeSorry, ma'am.â
        âoeFuck you.â
        He turned back to John, his red face a little less red. âoeHey, sell me a half dozen kegs. I have to go back to Saturn and that's a long damned way.â
        âoeSorry, Bill, I ain't gonna do it.â
        âoeWhat?? What the fuck, John?â
        âoeSorry, Bill, but I lost too many friends already, damn them fucking pirates. I almost lost Gus thanks to my stupidity and I'll be damned if I'm going to be responsible for your dying. I ain't got enough friends to lose any more, especially you.â
        âoeJohn, what in the blagsphorth are...â
        âoeYOUNG MAN!!!â
        âoeOops, fuck, I'm sorry, maam. I keep forgetting.â
        âoeJust watch your fucking mouth, boy.â
        âoeYes, maam. John, what the FUCK are you talking about?â
        âoeI'm talking about Gus. I almost killed him!â
        âoeGus? Blagforth...â
        âoeYOUNG MAN! I'm not listening to this garbage!â The old woman stomped out.
        âoeBlagforth forgnart, Bill, that's one of my best patrons, spends a fortune getting blagforthfaced in here.â
        âoeGee, John, I don't want to cause you any lost business...â
        âoeGarp that old crant,â John said. âoeIt's a fognarth fucking bar. If she don't want to hear vulgar language she can drink somewhere else.â
        âoeWhy won't you sell me that beer?â
        âoeI told you, because of Gus. I almost killed him.â
        âoeWhat the fognarth are you talking about?â
        âoeGus came through about six months ago or so. I hadn't seen him in a long damned time, he hadn't had any Martian runs. Anyway, he wanted beer, Loved my Captain Hooker's Pale Ale...â
        âoeWhat am I drinking?â
        âoeLager. Anyway, he wanted fifteen barrels. I didn't think nothing of it, but he was drunk on his approach to Mars and the God damned pirates, as few as there are left, almost got him. I almost killed Gus and I'll be damned if I'm going to kill you!â
        âoeFognarth blagsphorth, John, you fucking asshole. Yeah, you shouldn't have sold beer to Gus. Shit, that asshole is an alcoholic. What the fucking blagsphorth is wrong with you, asshole? Jesus, John. You're a fucking moron.â
        âoeWell, garp, I guess you're not Gus. Okay, I'll sell you the garping beer, motherfucker. But God damned fognarth, you better not garping die!â

User Journal

Journal: The Forgetful Internet 3

Journal by mcgrew

Since I can't do anything about the new book until the printed copy arrives this coming week I decided to work on a couple I've been thinking about.

One is a yet untitled tome that will be a compilation of short science fiction stories. Since I only have five so far, this one will be a while.

The other is a compilation of articles and stuff I've posted on the internet, and there's a LOT of it. The trouble is, I can't find much of it. I probably could if I could remember the articles' names. There were about 20 that hit K5's front page way back when it mattered, but I can only think of a few.

I'll probably have to visit archive.org to find anything from mcgrew.info.

It's working title has been "Random Scribblings" for a while, but I may call it "Garbage I've littered the internet with".

I thought of my old Quake site I'd kept on CD; some of my oldest stuff. I'd put the whole thing on this little notebook, thinking about progress because there wasn't a desktop computer anywhere when it was live that could have held the whole thing; I had a huge site.

I got sucked into my own old web site! Crazy humor, even wilder than I am today. We were all wilder then, though.

I had a running gag called the "Ticket to Nowhere". It was a web site contest. What you had to do to enter was to have a Quake or gaming site I knew about that laid dormant for a while. The last one to update their site won. The prize was a first class no expense paid Ticket to Nowhere!

I started pasting them into an Oo document, and hell, there's 10,000 words pasted already and it doesn't have everything, just the funniest stuff and it's only a few months worth of postings out of 4 or 5 years (I started it in 1998 and abandoned it in 2002, but 1998 was sparse and the last year I kept the ticket myself).

It might wind up being a book itself.

While I was sucked into my own damned stuff I'd forgotten about, I was reminded of a couple of other sites I contributed to, and if any of that is discoverable at all, it won't be easy to find. I may not even find it at archive.org; there is no trace of "Kneel" Harriot's "Yello, There!" except for one page I mirrored on my site that archive.org kept.

We had been fans of each other's sites, while neither of us knew the other was a fan until I posted something about his site on mine. He was British, and I love crazy British humour even if they spell it funny. We exchanged many an email. Unfortunately not only did his site pass away, he did, too. The last email I got from him he was in a wheelchair, and had been suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) for years. It finally got him.

It was another of his sites that I posted to (after much begging from him; it seemed everyone wanted to post my stuff). I ran a weekly column called "The Weak End Hell Hole". I doubt any of them still exist anywhere, and I'll bet there was some good stuff there.

The idea that when something's on the internet it's there forever is complete bullshit. The internet DOES forget.

User Journal

Journal: I love you folks! 1

Journal by mcgrew

I got an email this morning from a fellow who wanted a link to buy a printed copy of Mars, Ho! In it, he said he wanted to buy copies as gifts, so now I'm chomping at the bit even more wanting to get it out -- CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!

There is as yet no link, which won't exist until I publish. I have no idea what it will be, as it won't be on my site. But this sort of thing makes my day, and it happens almost daily. If you were modded up this morning, thank yourself. That email put me in such a good mood I didn't issue a single downmod, and I usually give out one or two.

It's a good thing I didn't have points yesterday, visits to the dentist never puts anyone in a good mood.

But Wednesday was even better than today. As I got a beer, someone was reading the bar copy of Nobots (I wrote part of it there) and chuckling. I took my beer out to the beer garden, and one fellow was raving about both my books to another fellow, and eagerly asked me when the next one will be out.

This is one of the most emotionally rewarding things I've ever done. I love you folks!

User Journal

Journal: Time flies like an error 12

Journal by mcgrew

The breakthrough was not in physics itself, but in mathematics. The new insights led physicists to see physics in a new light, and it wasn't long before they were experimenting with the equations, which seemed to indicate that it might be possible to instantly transport an object to anywhere in the universe.
        It was a quarter century before a machine using the new understandings that actually did anything at all had any result, and the result was completely unexpected.
        The apparatus was set up and turned on. A mouse seemed to come from nowhere, scurrying across the room as mice do. One of the participants shrieked, startled, but no one saw a connection between their experiment, which had seemingly failed yet again, and the unexpected intruder.
        âoeLets try it again,â a grad student suggested. Doctor Phillips laughed, and said âoeDoing the same thing the same way and expecting it to work is insane.â
        âoeI'm not suggesting we do it exactly the same way. Lets try a higher voltage.â
        âoeWell, voltage is one part of the equation that's a little fuzzy. Same wattage, or raise voltage and leave amperage alone?â
        âoeWe could try both.â
        âoeGo ahead, but I'm not expecting any different results.â
        The student set the experiment back up, doubled the input voltage, and turned the device on. A large wild boar appeared in the room close to the wall. They all ran in fright, closed the door, and called animal control. Animal control caught the hog, which was taken to the municipal zoo.

        Gabriel Watkins had a different job to do today than yesterday; his mule would get a break from the plowing. There was a wild boar that was upsetting his animals and would be trampling his fields and eating his produce if he didn't do anything. He had a pig to hunt, kill, butcher, and eat.
        It was otherwise a normal morning like any other. He read The Spectator and drank coffee as his wife prepared breakfast. The newspaper was talking about the new president, James Monroe. It also spoke of the nation's newest state, Maine. Everyone had expected that for weeks, since the Missouri Compromise had been signed. Missouri was sure to become a state soon.
        After he finished his breakfast he loaded all three of his muskets and both of his pistols, told his wife he would be back before lunch and set off towards the woods.
        The boar wasn't hard to find. He raised his musket, aimed â" and the animal disappeared before his eyes. He scratched his head, and the woods themselves disappeared, replaced with mowed grass and brick buildings.

        Officer Oscar Jobs of the SIU campus police department was shocked. A heavily armed man was on the campus! He drew his weapon and ordered the man to drop his weapons and get on the ground. This was especially disturbing, since all of law enforcement was on high alert because the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon had been destroyed that morning.
        Oscar was greatly relieved when the suspect complied.
        Because of the terrorism, the news of the armed man on campus didn't even hit the Edwardsville Intelligencer, let alone the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

        âoeThis is the strangest case I've ever seen,â Dr. Wilson said to Dr. Kent. âoeThe man is obviously suffering from schizophrenia, and the type of schizophrenia isn't that uncommon. What's weird is that his whole persona, and not just the fantasy in his mind, all corroborate. He swears that he was born in 1780, that he's a thirty one year old farmer and it's spring of 1821. He was wearing antique clothing from the era and carrying antique firearms; front loading muskets. All of the antiques were in excellent shape for their age, almost two hundred years old. He claims to have owned the muzzle loading weapons for a decade.
        âoeReally strange. Anyway, Haldol isn't having any effect except to put him to sleep. I've hit a brick wall. Any suggestions?â

        They didn't repeat the experiment for another year to allow the theorists to scratch their heads and do calculations. It was, as it often is, one of the graduate students who was close to writing his doctoral thesis who found the answer, or what appeared to be the answer. Rather than sending objects away from the device, it brought them closer to it. They changed some circuitry and repeated it.
        It failed spectacularly.

        âoeDr. Wilson, your patient has escaped.â
        âoeWhat? When? How?â
        âoeWe just discovered him missing and we're faced with a mystery. Everything was properly secured, none of the guards saw anything, the cameras trained on the doors saw nothing. He just disappeared into thin air.â
        âoeThat poor man! I hope he's okay until he gets picked up again.â
        âoeThere's more, it gets even weirder. His clothing was laying on the bed, laid out like someone laying there but he hadn't stuffed them with anything, and I just got a call that all of his antiques are missing, and nothing else from storage was gone. No sign of forced entry, the door was locked when they went to do inventory."

        It was two o'clock, and Emma was worried. Her husband was still gone, and fearing for him went in search. She was afraid that the boar, or perhaps some other animal, might have gotten the best of him.
        She found him at the edge of the woods, naked and sleeping, with his clothing and other belongings scattered around him. She almost didn't recognize him; his beard was gone and his hair was clipped short, but she saw the scar on his leg. He had thought he would lose that leg, but God had been good to them.
        She touched his cheek and he woke up.
        âoeEmma? Where am I? Where are my clothes? What am I doing here? Dear Jesus, I had the strangest dream!â
        âoeAre you all right, Gabe?â
        âoeI don't know. The strangest thing... where is my clothing?â
        âoeScattered all around you. What happened to your beard and hair?â
        He touched his face. âoeDear sweet Jesus, Emma, it had to be that damned witch!â
        âoeAlice?â
        âoeWho else? You know that old crone hates me and it's the only explanation. Emma, she somehow transported me to some sort of magical but evil place. I don't know how I got back. I was in some sort of prison and went to sleep, and when you woke me up I was here, not far from where I was when... Oh, good Lord, this is terrible!â He started getting dressed and gathering his belongings. âoeWe need to see the sheriff. That witch needs to hang!â
        âoeWhat did you see?â
        âoeWell, I had the hog in my sights and he flat out just disappeared without a trace. Then everything else was gone and I was somewhere else and a man with what looked like a weapon of some sort, although it wasn't like any gun I ever saw ordered me to drop my guns and get on the ground, and I did.
        âoeHe tied my hands behind my back with some sort of metal thing and put me in a really strange thing, made of what looked like painted metal but really shiny, on four black wheels that didn't look anything like any wheel I've ever seen. The thing had seats. He got in it in front of me, did some things, and it started moving! All by itself! And really fast, faster than I've seen anything go.
        âoeAnd then he talked into a small black thing and it answered!
        âoeThey put ink on my fingers, rubbed them on paper, and flashed something in my face. Then they put me in a tiny stone room with a steel door.
        âoeThen they took me, with their witchy magic things, to another place, some sort of jail where they pretended to be nice. There was lots more magic, a crystal ball that showed moving pictures and had sound, it was really weird.
        âoeThen they filled me with magic potions that dulled my mind and made me sleep. Someone they called a doctor, some woman, kept asking me stupid questions almost every day.
        âoeThen one night I went to sleep and you woke me up here. We need to talk to the preacher and the sheriff, that witch needs to die!

        It took another century for the theorists to figure it out. The mistake they had made was not realizing that time and space are inseparable; that there is no difference, that time is just another dimension.

        The sheriff said there was nothing he could legally do, but Alice Chalmers was hung by a lynch mob on May 12, 1821. No one was charged with or prosecuted for her murder.

User Journal

Journal: Moroned Off Vesta 3

Journal by mcgrew

John's first patron of the day was waiting at the door when he approached.
        "Roger!" he said as he unlocked the door. "I haven't seen you in years! Want a beer? My stuff is pretty damned good if I do say so myself, and it's a lot cheaper than the imported stuff."
        "Sure," he said. John poured a beer and handed it to him. He took a sip. "Not bad, John. So you're tending bar now? I heard the shipping company fired you for that thing on Vesta. They said you killed a couple of guys."
        John laughed. "Tending bar? It's my bar! Fired me? The president and the CEO both tried to talk me out of retiring, but my wife's building a telescope here. Time for me to settle down, I'm tired of pirates and all that other bullshit."
        "Yeah, I heard you married a scientist."
        "So what have you been up to, Rog?"
        Roger laughed. "Well, I've been waiting for you to open for an hour most lately, it's been almost a year since I had a beer. I've had a bunch of Saturn runs and a Vesta assignment the last couple of years and haven't been to Mars in a long time, but when I got back from Vesta they sent me here with a load of barley and hops and stuff like that. Did you buy all of that?"
        "Yeah, that's my shipment. I told you I'm making beer, didn't you see the sign? I have a microbrewery here, that's all beer ingredients. So how do you like it?"
        "It's good beer, you're pretty good at it. So they begged you not to retire? When I was on Vesta unloading some food supplies they told me that you got fired for killing two passengers. Did that happen?"
        John laughed. "No, not only did they not fire me, I got a raise. And yeah, two stupid rich tourists died but it was their own stupidity, arrogance, and sense of entitlement that killed them, not me."
        "So what happened?"
        "Well, I was taking scientific equipment to Vesta and a couple of the other asteroid stations in the belt, and I had two first class passengers. A couple of assholes from Austin who were born rich and got richer speculating on the stock market. Idiots who couldn't learn because they thought they knew everything."
        "Yeah," Roger said, "Texas is damned weird, I lived in Houston for a while when I was a kid. Everybody wore those stupid looking hats and acted like they were all ranchers or something. History class was filled with Sam Houston, the Alamo, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It's been a museum for a couple hundred years now."
        "Yeah, that's those two morons to a tee. Drug store cowboys, all hat and no cattle. Probably couldn't tell a cow from a horse and thought milk came from factories.
        "All they did was bitch and complain and break rules. They hated the coffee I made for them, and my coffee's pretty good, lots better than robots did then. I'm glad they upgraded those robots, I always made coffee for passengers because the robot coffee was barely drinkable.
        "They complained about the pork, what would I know about pork? Hell, I wasn't rich, I was just a boat captain. I only ate pork a couple of times in my life before I met Destiny. There wasn't anything I could have done about the pork but they bitched about it every damned day even though the cookbots did damned good on everything else but barbecue. Oh, they complained their asses off about the barbecue, too."
        "They're crazy about barbecue in Texas," Roger said. "Some folks there eat it every day. I've seen them barbecue eggs! They're always bragging about how big everything is in Texas, too."
        "Yeah, they bitched about how âdinkyâ(TM) their cabin was. Hell, my whole damned houseboat would probably have fit in their living room and it's a big houseboat. Crappy trip, the only good thing was they were paying for full gravity so it didn't take very long to get there.
        "Anyway, these guys liked reading old science fiction, really ancient stuff. They'd run across a short story called Marooned Off Vesta, and when Vesta ordered supplies from one of their companies they decided to buy tickets and ride along.
        "These dumbasses wanted to recreate the damned story!"
        "What was the story about?"
        "Well, it starts with..." Another patron entered. "Gus Harrison! How about that!" John said.
        Roger grinned. "What are you doing in a bar this time of morning, old man? I haven't seen you in years, either."
        Gus laughed. "You're the one with a beer in front of you. I just got back from Europa and haven't had a beer in months. What do you have, John?"
        "Pretty much everything, but my best seller is my own stuff."
        "John makes some damned good beer," Roger said. "I like it better than imported. Give me another one, John."
        "Yeah, I'll try one," said Gus. "So what have you guys been doing?"
        "John's been telling space stories. He was telling me about some morons off Vesta."
        "Yeah, like I was telling Roger, two annoying rich tourists wanted to recreate an ancient story some Russian guy wrote a few hundred years ago. It starts with three guys who have just survived a collision with an asteroid that destroyed most of the ship and killed everyone else."
        "I think I read that," Gus said. "Marooned Off Vesta?"
        "Yeah, that's the one."
        "He wasn't Russian, he was American, Isaac Asimov. He emigrated to the United States with his parents from Russia when he was three. Rog, in the book one of the three guys puts on a space suit, crawls around the outside of the ship and blasts the ship's water tank with a laser or something and the water shoots out and puts them on Vesta where they're rescued by its science station. So what happened on your trip, John?"
        "Well, these morons thought the guys in the story could have just jumped from orbit and landed on Vesta and decided to prove it."
        "What?" Gus and Roger exclaimed in unison.
        "That's just stupid," Gus added.
        "No shit," John replied. Well, they found out the hard way."
        "How did they get outside the boat?" Roger asked. "We keep everything like storage locked away from passengers."
        "They hacked the lock with some kind of gizmo they bought on the black market. It was really damned sophisticated, it kept the alarm quiet and the warning light dark."
        "Son of a bitch," Gus said, "The stupid bastards dealt with pirates? They're lucky they lived long enough to buy the tickets. So they suffocated out there after they ran out of air?"
        "No, worse. It was bad. I discovered it half an hour after they were floating outside and the meteor alarm went off. Lucky they wasn't able to unhook that alarm, or it really would have been like that story, only we'd all have died. There wasn't time to rescue the morons so I got the hell out of the way of the rocks. When the storm passed I went back into orbit and retrieved what little of them that was left, and delivered the cargo and the dead morons to the landing boat from the station."
        "Almost wrecked your ship, did they?" Roger said.
        "Yeah. I was moroned off Vesta."

I was thinking about shopping his out to various science fiction magazines, then remembered all the ones I bought when I was young. I realized that there was no way any story with John and his friends and their "colorful language" was going to published in a "family magazine" so I decided to go ahead and post it here. I hacked most of it out this morning.

Marooned Off Vesta was Isaac Asimov's first published story, appearing in the pulp fiction magazine Amazing Stories in 1939.

The magazine stopped publication in 2005. It was reborn as a free web magazine at the above link in 2012. It's where I found the link to the Asimov story.

User Journal

Journal: Surprising Statistics 1

Journal by mcgrew

Bored, since I can't do anything to the book but wait for the USPS, I decided to log into my web host's site and check out statistics for my site. Most of them were completely unexpected.

I expected most visitors to be running Windows, but very surprised at how many Linux users came. 71.4% were running Windows, not surprising, but the 12.5% running Linux was completely surprising, considering that everything I read says only something like 1% run that OS. Many of the 14% "unknown" are likely to be Linux as well.

Linux kicks Apple's ass on my site! Only 1.4% are logging on with a Mac; they're dead last.

Browsers surprised me, too. The 52.3% that Firefox has wasn't surprising, but the fact that IE was dead last among desktop browsers (well, except Safari) but what surprised me even more is that people are still using Netscape and Mozilla. And I thought I was bad about not upgrading! 7.8% were on Android's browser.

Also surprising was the number of folks from non-English speaking countries, some of which outnumbers visitors from New Zealand (not many Kiwis visiting at all).

What really surprised me was that there were zero with scripting disabled. Not that it matters; I don't use any (except a little CSS) but I did use a little javascript back in the day when I was running my old Quake site. If I did use it, disabled scripting wouldn't hurt anything, my code always failed gracefully when it failed.

I still can't believe all the tools I have at my disposal, although I doubt I'll use more than one or two; I manage files with FileZilla and rarely log on to my host's site.

User Journal

Journal: Sorry I haven't written 6

Journal by mcgrew

I've been busy editing. I sent off for a printed copy this morning, so you'll probably see more of me the next couple of weeks, as will the folks at the bar. I'll probably be bored, since I've been working obsessively on that book since March.

I updated my web site slightly this morning, adding a "coming soon" heads up about the book. I'm hoping to publish in a month. There will be one lucky fellow who will get a free hardcover copy, and hardcover copies will be "invitation only" but all you'll have to do is email a request and I'll return the mail with a URL where you can get it. I may do the same with the paperback.

My apologies, but the eBook version will be priced at two dollars more than my first books, which were free. It will be a two dollar Amazon download. If your reader doesn't do Amazon, forward your Amazon receipt to me with your reader type and preferred file type and I'll send it back by email.

If you're afraid I'm just trying to collect email addresses to spam, I'm not. I don't give or sell my address book to anyone. Moreover, my site collects absolutely no information about visitors whatever, and doesn't use cookies or any kind of scripting whatever.

PDF and HTML files will continue to be free, as well as the eBooks of the two previous books. The prices on the printed books will only change if the printer changes his prices.

Most likely I'll work on that new short story, Moroned Off Vesta about the incident Captain Knolls mentions several times in the book. It will have him in his Martian bar telling a friend who captains the company ships about what happened.

The title is a nod to Isaac Asimov's first published story, Marooned Off Vesta. I may try to shop it to a few science fiction magazines before I post it.

I mentioned my web site earlier, the domain registration needed to be renewed and I needed more space; their "free" hosting (it comes with registration) only gives you five megabytes. I had to delete the Bible to make room for The Paxil Diaries and wouldn't have had room for Mars, Ho! It's costing me $35 a year for ten times the space. "Free" is fifteen bucks.

Yes, they're cheap and they're good. I had to use their tech support to get FileZilla to see the files for FTP; the process had completely changed. Unlike some help desks I've dealt with in the past, they were excellent.

The changes to FTP include a lot. I can have subdomains, many subusers with their own separate users, all sorts of goodies now. Forums, discussion boards, comments, SQL, PHP, Java, Ruby, the whole kit and kaboodle.

And I won't be using any of it.

I've registered all my past domains with them, starting in 2000, and never once had a problem with them. They're a Canadian company, register4less. If you have a small site and need less than 5 megs and no frills it's only fifteen bucks.

Oh, and buy a book, I have new false teeth to pay for.

User Journal

Journal: Mars, Ho! Chapter Fifty

Journal by mcgrew

Mars!
        John and Destiny left the houseboat parked on a space port pad they had rented at the spaceport at the Meridian Bay dome and got in a cab. Destiny said "I don't want to shop on an empty stomach. Taxi, take us to a restaurant that serves eggs and pork sausage this time of day."
        "Wow," John said. "That's going to be an expensive place."
        "Well, I'm buying. You said you never tried pork sausage, now's your chance, it's my treat. Besides, I've been thinking about pork sausage for half the trip and I don't want to wait any longer!"
        Dewey was on his way to Mars when he finished reading Knolls' report. He sipped on the coffee the captain had brought and switched on the news. They were digging the deep hole in Mars again.
        Plans were being made to tow the tragic Venus station to drop into the sun. It had been argued that if they dropped it on Venus it would incinerate from the friction with Venus' thick carbon dioxide atmosphere, but some lesser educated people were afraid that the disease might somehow survive Venus' hellish surface.
        Charles was back on TV talking about pirates. He was glad it was Charles and not him, Dewey hated TV cameras.
        He emailed Kowalski, telling him that when Kelly got back to Earth to have a couple of his best electrical engineers, one who was good with batteries and one that was good with engines, to talk to him and find out how he got a third gravity out of batteries. Nobody else had managed to do that before, and some engineers claimed it was physically impossible.
        John and Destiny were really busy on Mars the next few days, mostly shopping. First shopping for a wedding ring, then for real estate; they would buy a house and a bar. The houseboat was big as houseboats go, but was a bit small for someone as wealthy as Destiny who had lived all her life in very large homes, especially since the houseboat was half full of beer. After signing papers for the house they went for breakfast at a nice restaurant, where Destiny bought John another omelette and pork sausage. John wasn't any more impressed with this sausage than at the other restaurant.
        Then they visited Tammy in her hotel room. Her face was still a little bruised but she wasn't wearing the sling.
        "Hi, come on in, guys. Want some coffee?"
        "Sure," Destiny said. "So how are you coming with your research?"
        "Well, we haven't had time to do much except move them into the facility and acquaint them with it, but Rilla had really come a long way and Lek was almost cured already, at least from the physical withdrawal symptoms, by the time we got to Mars. She's to the point that withdrawal is still torture to her, but no longer deadly. She's still in mental and physical pain but she's not dropping any more. The physical pain should be gone in a few weeks. Of course, full therapy will probably take years."
        John said "Yes, Lek sure did change during the trip. This is great coffee, Tammy!"
        She laughed. "It's robot coffee!"
        "No way," John said.
        "Yep, and it's one of your company's robots that made it, too!"
        "No way in hell!" John exclaimed.
        "It's true," she said. "Your company updated all their coffeebots' operating systems and other programs. And it perks a whole pot of coffee in five minutes, and a cup in less than a minute. You have one of their robots, now it can make good coffee. I only found out because they're advertising it all over everywhere. I'm surprised you didn't notice."
        John said "I saw the ads, I just didn't believe them."
        Destiny laughed. "Dad must have tried a cup of his own robots' nasty coffee, I think he fired his head engineer. He should get here in another week."
        John said "Bill lands in two days. I'm still reeling from the trip here. God, but that was a damned nightmare!"
        They continued chatting a while before going home. They would be moving into their new home about the time Bill showed up two days later and would have more shopping to do; they would need furniture and appliances.
        John and Destiny met him at the spaceport, and they stopped at a bar for the beer he'd promised John. He bought John and Destiny several, in fact. John tried to buy a round and Bill wouldn't let him.
        "Excuse me, Bartender, but I want to buy a round," he said. The bartender told John what they cost.
        "Wow," he said. "That's pretty high! Is it like that everywhere here?"
        The bartender told him the reason was the cost of shipping it to Mars from Earth. He was going to clean up in the tavern business, it seemed, since Destiny would get a huge discount on shipping. He decided that while he was learning business he'd learn how to make beer and open a microbrewery in his tavern, too. He'd have really cheap beer, at least compared to other taverns, that he could sell for a huge profit and still be way cheaper than anyone else's if he could learn to make good beer.
        Bill said "Bartender, don't take his money, this is all on me. I have to write a damned report tomorrow, I don't know why" he said, turning to John.
        "I had to write one and they really wanted detail," John said. "Maybe they changed policies and everybody has to write reports now."
        A few days after that they met Dewey at the spaceport. After Dewey and his daughter hugged she said "Where's Mom?"
        Dewey said "Come on, Destiny, you know how your mom is. She's scared to death to even get on an airplane, let alone a space ship. I'm going to wear a camera at the wedding, though, so she'll be there in a way."
        He stuck out his hand. "Good seeing you again, John. That was some great work you did on that trip. We're going to be rewriting the book. I wish I could talk you out of retiring."
        "Well, thank you, Mister Green..."
        "Call me Dewey, John. You're family now."

User Journal

Journal: Mars, Ho! Chapter Forty Nine

Journal by mcgrew

Landing
        The alarm woke me up. Still asleep I thought "damned whores" out of habit, thinking we were having an emergency before I remembered that we were due to enter orbit and I'd set the alarm myself the night before. We had been on approach since late yesterday afternoon and would be in orbit and docking with the maintenance facility at nine this morning. The landing boats would already be docked there and we would be on Mars' surface by late this afternoon.
        The alarm woke Destiny up, too, and she got up as I was making coffee. Destiny told the computer to make steak and scrambled eggs with toast, and we took a shower together.
        Wow! We were finally entering orbit around Mars and would be docking at nine and we hadn't died! Not yet, at least. The way this trip had gone we'd probably crash land on Mars, or get assassinated at the spaceport. I did have a price on my head, after all. Of course, they most likely didn't know my name or what I looked like, but the boat's new captain would probably be in danger.
        We put on the news and started eating breakfast and the doorbell rang. It was Tammy.
        "Hi, Tammy," Destiny said. "Want some breakfast?"
        "No, thanks," she said, "I already ate, but I'll take a cup of coffee if it isn't made by a robot. So, who's going to be your bridesmaid?"
        "Well, who do you think, silly," Destiny said. "You, of course. Who's going to be your best man, John?"
        "Bill, of course, but he won't be here for a week or more, he's on batteries."
        They started talking about clothes and I just kind of zoned out and nodded once in a while.
        At five 'til eight I went in the pilot room to finish getting us in orbit, and by eight thirty we were weightless and would be docking in a few minutes. I floated to my quarters.
        At quarter to nine the three of us started floating towards the docking bay that still worked without tearing up somebody else's docking bay and didn't have my boat attached, so we could meet the landing crafts' captains who would escort passenger and cargo to Mars. Then we'd take off in the houseboat and Tammy would go down with the droppers.
        I got on the PA. "Attention, ladies. Please assemble in docking bay one for landing."
        The boat docked a few minutes later as the droppers started showing up, and I greeted two of the three landing pilots, Tom Farley and Jim Woolsley. I'd known both of them for a few years, so we talked about old times as Destiny and Tammy said their goodbyes and cargo streamed in.
        They and Tammy started escorting the droppers to the landing boats while me and Destiny went to my houseboat to land on Mars. Lek walked by and said "Thank you, Captain."
        We undocked from the ship and flew down to Meridian spaceport together. Now if you guys will excuse me I need to buy a wedding ring.
        See you.

Next: Mars!

User Journal

Journal: Mars, Ho! Chapter Forty Eight

Journal by mcgrew

Engines
        We'd be in orbit around Mars and landing on the surface tomorrow. Only one more day of this horror movie! We might all live after all!
        Destiny was still asleep. I got out of bed and went to the head, went in the kitchen to start coffee (stupid robots) and put a robe on.
        Yeah, in that order. Fuck you.
        Anyway, I told the robots to make me some breakfast. Destiny got up and went in the kitchen while I got dressed. The robot was almost done frying my eggs and sausage and had started cooking hers.
        "Good morning!" she said. "Been up long?"
        "'Mornin', sweetheart. Maybe ten minutes. Computer," I said, "What time is it?"
        It read "Oh seven thirty three."
        We ate our breakfast and drank coffee and watched the news in the living room as the robots cleared the table. They were still trying to figure out what do do about Venus. It also had something about the battle the fleet fought, but Destiny said that they didn't mention me or her charity that the company was hauling for but they mentioned Bill's boat and its sabotage. I didn't get to see the whole thing. They had an interview with Mister Osbourne, but I had to go to the pilot room and I missed that part.
        We didn't need a course correction, but there were red lights on engines sixteen and eighteen, right next to seventeen. I shut those two down and the two next to them as well and went to inspect them, stopping at home to fill my coffee. There was some politician talking about shipping and pirates on the news while I was there.
        "Trouble?" Destiny asked, seeing my frown.
        "Only a little, we have two more broken engines right next to seventeen. I'm going down to inspect them now."
        I was astonished when I walked past the commons and saw Tammy talking to the German woman, and the German lady was actually wearing clothes!
        I trudged down the five damned flights of stairs and inspected engines fifteen through nineteen first. Sixteen and eighteen had shorted out like seventeen, so I left fifteen and nineteen shut down as well in case it was something spreading from one engine to another like they did on that Titan run, and I ordered the computer to leave all five alone. The book doesn't say to do that and I don't know how those engines work, but I saw a pattern here and I wasn't going to take any chances, anyway. I plugged repairbots in diagnostic mode into the four I'd shut off, hoping they wouldn't melt like the two that had tried to fix the dead number seventeen, but maybe they could record something engineering could use.
        I logged it all, but the rest of the motors and the working generator were exactly like the tablet said they were supposed to be. Busy morning!
        I trudged up all those damned stairs and took off my nasty boots and went straight to the shower. UGH! Damn but it was nasty down there.
        I put on clean clothes and inspected cargo next, thankfully for the last time; no more inspections. Tomorrow morning we would dock at the repair facility and Destiny and me would leave on the houseboat, and the company's boat and the stench downstairs would be somebody else's problem. I couldn't wait to get off of that damned boat!
        The only ones who were in their rooms were all asleep, and the rest were in the commons, maybe thirty or so. It was noon, I was hungry, and decided to finish inspections after lunch.
        "Done already?" Destiny asked.
        "No, I was downstairs longer than normal. I still have to inspect the passenger section and the commons and the sick bay. Want to go for a walk with me after lunch? I'm starved."
        "Sure," she said. "Robot, two rare ribeye steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy, and coleslaw."
        We ate, and she came along as I finished my inspection. I did the commons last, and by then the only two people in there were Lek and the German woman. Lek was drinking coffee and the blonde was eating some kind of sandwich, and both of them were wearing clothes. I guess the blonde didn't want to be an animal, either. It was nice seeing people in the commons and nobody was naked for a change. Destiny said "hello, ladies, I like your dresses." Lek said "Cup coon mock; oops, that Thai for âthank you very muchâ(TM)."
        The heavy German woman said "thank you" in her heavy German accent as well.
        We were due to enter orbit around Mars the next morning, so Destiny came in the pilot room with me as I watched over the computers for our final approach. "You're going to be happy and the droppers are going to hate it," I said. "We'll be weightless when we enter orbit and dock tomorrow."
        We had walked slowly and by then it was almost suppertime, so when I finished getting us ready to go into orbit we went home and had the robot make pizza and bring us each a beer. I'm getting used to Newcastle, I might keep drinking it on Mars. Well, I was going to have to drink Newcastle for a while anyway, because I still had an awful lot of it crammed in my houseboat. I don't get many chances to drink much of it on a journey. My boat's half full of beer!
        After supper we moved our luggage to the houseboat, and Destiny put on the third Lord of the Rings movie and we ate the pizza while we watched the beginning of the movie, then we cuddled while we watched the rest of it.
        Those are some a long movies! We listened to some Vaughn and then went to bed. I told the computer to wake me up at six.

Next: Landing

User Journal

Journal: Odds and Ends 1

Journal by mcgrew

scriptis Interruptus
I've been spending six to ten hours a day, seven days a week, working on Mars, Ho!. But not Wednesday; Wednesday I visited a surgeon. It was the least fun I've had since my last eye surgery in 2007.

I've had a serious case of advanced periodontitis for several years. Surgery for the condition was scheduled for this past Wednesday. The anesthetic was painful as hell; the guy was a lot better at cutting than at sticking. There was a sharp stab of pain when one of the teeth came out, too. Scraping the bone and suturing didn't hurt... yet. He inserted my new dentures, the nurse inserted gauze, and I couldn't get my lips together because of the swelling and the gauze. My clothing was bloody by the time I came home. I was deeply uncomfortable.

When the anesthetic wore off I was in severe, extreme pain. I'd been prescribed a bottle of hydrocodone pills for the pain, but I refrained from taking them because I've never liked the opioids. I took naproxin (generic Alieve, same drig at 1/3 the price) instead, despite the fact that I knew it would make the bleeding worse.

By eight thirty I broke down and took a hydrocodone. I can see why people with chronic pain get addicted to those things, because the pain went away completely a half hour after taking it. Like any addictive drug, long term use causes tolerance for the drug and the user needs more and more for the same effect. It didn't seem to dull my mind like the opiates I took after that car wreck in 1976, although like codiene it made me itch all over. Far better than the excruciating pain I'd been in.

By midnight I felt like I might be able to sleep. I rinsed my mouth out with the prescription antibiotic mouthwast they had prescribed, took another hydrocodone and another naproxin and went to bed.

I didn't sleep well; the teeth kept waking me up. I was up and drinking coffee by six AM. I took another naproxin and hydrocodone as soon as I woke up, and used the nasty mouthwash that I have to use three times a day. At eleven I visited the dentist, who adjusted the appliance and made it much less painful. I didn't need any more pills, although the dentures are gooing to need more adjustment.

I went through sixteen chapters after the dentist, made nine changes, and left the book five words shorter than it had been Tuesday. It's getting closer and closer to being finished.

I didn't have to wear my teeth last night. I slept like a log. My mouth was fine when I woke up, but it was hard getting the teeth in. They look good, but so far I can't eat with them; all I had yesterday was soup. I couldn't even eat cottage cheese. All I'd eaten the day before was breakfast, but I had no appetite whatever after the surgery.

I did manage to eat an egg this morning, but barely. This will take some time.

I'll post another Mars, Ho! chapter tomorrow; there are only three left.

Nobots
I've changed the format of the paperback version of the book. It's now "pocket book" size, still seven bucks.

Paleobiology
Yesterday's Ilinois Times had an article that will be of interest to those who have an interest in paleobiology, and face it -- we're nerds, if it's science or technology we're interested.

The article is titled 300 million years ago, and I found it fascinating.

A warm, moist breeze blows through the swampy forest at what is now Danville, Illinois. An eight-foot-long millipede scurries by. Nearby, a dragonfly with a foot-wide wingspan zips through the 100-foot-tall fern trees. Itâ(TM)s 300 million years before the present day â" before the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart, and long before any dinosaurs walked the earth.

That swampy forest has survived for millions of years as a field of fossils buried 250 feet below the surface near Danville. Discovered in 2007 in the Riola and Vermillion Grove coal mines, the forest has given scientists important clues about Illinoisâ(TM) ancient past.

The article is four pages long in its printed version (free almost anywhere around here).

And no, I'm not affiliated with that newspaper.

Never trust a computer you can't repair yourself.

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