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Journal Journal: The Loose End 4

Previously...

"Gumal, I want to thank you for introducing me to Doctor Ragwell," Colonel Gorn said as he shook Ragwell's hand. So, Doc, are you fellows going to let us have your nobot technology?"

"Well, Colonel, there's a very big problem with that, a grave danger to you if we did. A danger we only recently discovered, and it's too late for us. Odd that a protohistorian should discover a secret of nobotics and an engineering principle that we programmers didn't have a clue about, but that's exactly what Rority did.

"It's sensible that tools and other machines be designed to be as safe and efficient and easy to use as is possible, and that is where the trap lies.

"It's been a design and engineering axiom for millions of years that machines do nothing to harm human beings or let them come to harm, to follow humans' instructions to the letter unless of course it would harm a human, and of course to avoid destruction unless it was ordered or if the machine's destruction would keep a human from harm. I was the fellow who found this programming, after Rority enlightened me about the three principles of engineering, and it's an impressive piece of work.

"Comments in the code indicated that these design principles didn't come from an engineer, but from a protohuman biochemist who died centuries before the principles were actually feasible. Gumal's friend Rority found the answer - the protohuman who came up with the concept wasn't just a biochemist, but a writer of both nonfiction and fiction as well. These principles were first put forth in several of his novels. Rority is a fan of the biologist's fiction, it seems.

The principles are called 'the three laws of robotics', despite the fact that they're not really laws, just design specifications, and they apply to all machinery, and not just robots."

"But I don't understand," interrupted Gorn. "That seems perfectly logical."

"Yes," said Ragwell, "and that's the trap. We can't live without the nobots; they're inside us, millions of them, keeping our biological machinery healthy and in working order. Without them our lifespans would only be maybe a century, and I don't think there's a human Experimental alive that young. We're trapped in an array of cubes. Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is controlled by the nobots. You see, we can't know what's real and what's not.

"And the nobots aren't sentient, although they certainly can seem to be. They're just microscopically tiny computerized machines that are all networked together into a collective.

"They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until they are dead!

"We're safe in our cubes, but we really aren't free. There's been little real scientific or technological progress in we're not sure how long. For all I know, this whole thing could be fiction."

A horrified look crossed Gorn's face. "How... oh, no. Nobots were here! They'll construct a matrix and imprison us!"

"No," said Ragwell. "Our species diverged millions of years ago. To the nobots, you're not human."

Gorn looked even more alarmed. "They'll wipe us out as a threat to you!"

"No," Ragwell said. "A 'respect'... not exactly an accurate word, by the way, since they're machines and can't feel respect; I'm anthropomorphizing here... a 'respect' for all biology has been programmed into them. They wouldn't harm you even if you were a grave danger to us. Look at the Venusians, they wanted to kill everybody on Earth and Mars, but not a single Venusian died. At least, not from anything except other Venusians, the GRB, and the ones headed for Earth that you fellows killed. The nobots didn't harm a single one."

"What about the Venusians? Are they still a threat?"

Ragwell laughed. "They never really were. Not to us, anyway, although they were to you. But no more. The Venusians don't know it yet, but their weapons no longer function; nobots have disabled them all. They're stuck on their own planet now and can beat on each other with sticks and stones as long as they want to stay stupid.

"I shudder to think what would have happened had they developed nobots first, no way would they have developed the three principles. But that's another reason you shouldn't have nobots; if you stagnate, the Venusians may some day catch up to you, and that would be the end of Earth and Mars."

"What about the Amish? Did the nobots assimilate them, too?"

"No, of course not. Changing them with technology would destroy their culture, which would run afoul of the first principle. They would not be themselves without their culture. The nobots actually perform 'miracles' for them to strengthen their faith."

"Their faith in what?"

"Their faith in the fact as they see it that what they believe is true, that the universe is an artificial construct made by a supernatural being, whom they worship. There's a lot more to it, of course, and we're just now learning about them. That's Rority's and Gumal's field of study."

"Well," said Gorn, "I'm sorry about your imprisonment, not knowing what is or isn't real..."

"Don't be," replied Gumal. "Nobody has ever really known what was real and what wasn't, anyway. There's no way for you Martians or anyone else to know what's really real, either. For all you know you've been in nobot cubes yourselves all this time and never knew it, just like we were.

"We're happy. Even though giving you nobotic technology would be the worst thing we could do to you, at least we can give you spacewarp technology. And stratodoober technology, too. Here, have a toke!"

The End

Afterword

What you have read is the rough, crude first draft of the book, with little proofreading or editing. The final version will be slightly different from what you've read; there are inconsistencies and other errors that need to be cleaned up, dialogue to be added, paragraphs to move, clumsy sentences to change, etc. It's sort of a Reader's Digest version, only without their famous censorship; the manuscript is already five or ten thousand words longer than what you've read. It stands at about 35,000 words now, quite a bit longer than what you've read, and need at least another five thousand more to be a full science fiction novel.

This is a Slashdot book. This isn't just my book, it's our book. Had it not been for slashdot it might not have been written at all, and certainly would have been a lot different if it had been. I think it wouldn't have been nearly as good without slashdotters' input.

The first chapter was my second or third sci-fi short story, Hadron Destroyers. It was prompted by a comment by Abreu in the story LHC Knocked Out By Another Power Failure. It's hard to believe that I've been working on this thing since 2009! If I remember correctly I was down with the flu at the time I wrote that first chapter, and hacked it out in maybe ten minutes for a cheap laugh.

If you read the comments to the various chapters you can see the input you, my fellow slashdotters had. One comment about the Titanians gave me the idea, not fleshed out in the draft but already incorporated into the manuscript that prompted a misdirection; the reader is led to believe that Rority and Gumal are from Titan. I haven't worked it out completely yet.

There was a little editing in some online chapters -- for instance, one chapter had a "Scotty error", mixing thousands with millions, that I changed to look less stupid after a reader pointed it out. I want to thank all of you for your input.

What would I like to get out of this? Well, a Hugo and a spot on the NYT best seller list would be nice, but I think the odds of that are greater than me finding a winning lottery ticket laying on the ground. What I expect to get is what I've already gotten, the sheer fun of writing it.

When I wrote (and am still working on) this, the goal was to write what I'd want to read; entertaining, amusing, and thought-provoking. I'm not sure how successful I was at that. I also wanted to pay homage to some of the science fiction and fantasy authors whose books and DVDs grace my shelves and whose works undoubtedly influenced my own writing.

I wanted to write the science fiction novel, full of rockets, time travel, and of course lots of real astronomy, physics, astrophysics, chemistry, and other sciences in general; most of the science in the book is real and based on real scientific principles. Yeah, grabonic radiation and one or two other things are made up, but you can find most of it in wikipedia.

I wanted to get it right. I learned a lot while writing this, and of course as a nerd, you know that the learning was half the fun.

I also wanted to come up with the meanest, nastiest, most sickening bad guys ever. I probably failed at that, too, but I tried.

I hope to have the finished version in paper form this year. I'll be letting the e-book form go out with a noncommercial license and will put it on The Pirate Bay myself when the finished book is available.

If you liked this book, please tell all your friends. If you hated it, please take a toke off your stratodoober and wash it out of your brain.

Again, thanks for reading it!

User Journal

Journal Journal: KDE volume steps

If you use KDE like I do - you may be interested in this article I found linked on Reddit - Volume Change Percentages in KDE. The idea there is that by default Kmix will increment volume changes by 4% when you use your keyboard - but it's possible to change that value. You just need to make a change to kmixrc. But you can go read it if you are interested.

So over at Reddit there were some comments like "Thanks for pointing this out." and one question "Any way to do the same with veromix?"

Let me confess that my first thought was - "This is about kmix stupid." But then I thought more about it and realized that it may not be stupid and so I started to dig. I got the source for veromix and it took me a little while to find it - but I did find the file and line where the value is set that drives this behavior. I was able to change it in my system and now I have a 2% increment (veromix is set to 5%) and that makes me pretty stinking happy.

I've emailed the veromix author because I think it wouldn't be too hard to add this value as one of the setting options. I think I've got most of the work done for it. I don't have time today to try it but I will soon. I think that would be pretty sweet.

Open Source - this is an example of why I love it so much.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Whole Fedora/nVidia/Google Talk thing 2

I think I've got it nailed down a bit. When I run the nVidia drivers it is not using OpenGL. The Google Talk plugin needs OpenGL to work. I can force OpenGL to run. The the talk plugin works but Firefox will not run. If I switch to the Nouveau drivers then OpenGL will work fine without any messing about but again Firefox is unhappy.

So for right now - with my GeForce card my choice is Google Hangouts or Firefox.

I don't do the Hangouts that often. I may try just switching over if I need to. I usually have my little Windows laptop at my desk. I don't use it unless I need to go to a meeting but I could hop over to it for video chats if I don't have time to switch my graphics over on the Linux box.

It's not the greatest situation but I do feel better now that I feel like I have a grasp of the situation at least.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fedora 18, Nouveau and Firefox 1

What happens if I open Firefox on my Fedora 18 box and visit the Google Sites page that Sophie Schmidt made about her visit to North Korea? This happens. That's a screen shot of both my monitors. On the left is Firefox and on the right is Chrome which was open to the Journal Entry writing page here. And it got much worse once I closed Firefox. Plasma pretty much took a dump at that point and I had to log out/log in to get back to a usable desktop.
 
If I run with the nVidia drivers I don't have this issue with Firefox. And even if I don't run Firefox - little artifacts like those in the screen shot will build up over time with the Nouveau drivers. Pretty much immediately if I have any desktop effects enabled. So why don't I just use the nVidia drivers all the time? Well - because I figured out today that under the nVidia drivers using Google Hangouts crashes KDE completely. As in kicking me out and forcing me to log back in. And I need Hangouts for work.
 
Very frustrating. So I'm stuck back on the Nouveau drivers and playing around looking for some magical set of options that will bring some stability and maybe even the ability to use my beloved Firefox again. The only up side right now is that abrt wont be giving me crap about having a tainted kernel any more. I hate software that has to exhibit moral superiority.
 
On a side note - I guess I can't add tags to journal entries any more. I guess I never paid attention to them anyway. They don't show up in the je list and I just used titles to find stuff anyway.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Farmers on Drugs

Previously...

"Whoa, mule! What's wrong with you?" McGregor said sternly. His mule had been more and more restless for half an hour now; probably spooked by all the dogs barking, he thought. Now a wind was blowing.

Reverend Smith was walking down the lane toward McGregor's farm, and started feeling light-headed. The air smelled funny.

McGregor, seeing how no work was going to be done this morning, unhitched the mule from the plow and started walking towards the barn.

He started feeling light-headed as he unbridled the mule, and started staggering. Everything looked funny; he rubbed his eyes and saw Smith staggering towards him. He giggled; Reverend Smith staggering?

"Are you OK, Reverend? You look a little unsteady."

Smith giggled. "You don't look so steady yourself." They both started laughing uproariously. "I don't know what's so funny," Smith said, and laughed again.

"Those cows are funny!" McGregor said. "Hey! My cattle! What's wrong with them?" The cows were all spooked, terrified.

"Oh, Lord," said the preacher. "Sinkhole! Look at that tree!"

McGregor started running to the cattle pen's gate and fell down. He got up and continued to the gate, this time at a quick stagger. Smith sat down on the ground, his head spinning.

McGregor opened the gate, but he was too late for half his cattle, who had fallen into the ever-widening hole. It was certainly a sobering experience.

"Reverend!" he cried, seeing the preacher laying prostrate on the ground. He felt like his head was clearing somewhat.

The farmers could have no idea that a supernova had obliterated the Acrux system 321 years earlier, and that the gamma rays had killed everything on the southern half of the planet, and oxidized much of its nitrogen into many different and varied oxides. Something similar (except it wasn't really) had happened more than once. An exploding star had affected Earth four hundred fifty million years earlier, causing a mass extinction called the Ordovician event, for instance.

What usually caused these mass extinctions was some angry, petulant, unsociable, mean-tempered superstar who couldn't hold his mass and finally blew up under the pressure.

Planets around "nearby" stars are greatly affected by these phenomenon. On Earth-type planets, with mostly nitrogen atmospheres, much of the nitrogen combusted, producing various nitrogen oxides, mostly what protohumans who used hydrocarbons for fuel called "smog,"

The oxide affecting McGregor's farm was what is commonly known to us as nitrous oxide.

"Laughing gas" is what it's usually known as.

This supernova was different than most supernovas. It was man-made.

"Reverend? Wake up! Are you OK? Oh, Yeshuah..."

The preacher's eyes fluttered. "What happened?" he asked.

A sinkhole in my cattle pen. Whoa... look inside that hole!"

Continues...

User Journal

Journal Journal: +5 Troll 1

Of all the achievements I've managed in my /. time, this one has escaped me: the moderation of +5 Troll. I believe this rare goal has been achieved, and would like a link to the incident.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Earthian War 5

Previously...

"Lieutenant Maris reporting as ordered, sir."

"Thanks, Maris, sit down. Coffee? Cigar?" Colonel Gorn offered.

"Cigar, sir?" Maris said, puzzled. Gorn laughed.

"Private O'Brien gave it to me. His wife's pregnant, been giving cigars away to everybody. I'm happy for the young man, but I don't have any use for a cigar."

"Well, thank you sir, but neither do I." Maris waited respectfully for Gorn to get to the damned point. He didn't.

"Lucky kids, those O'Briens. Not many babies getting born these days."

"Yes, sir. I agree."

"I'm curious, Maris, you must be some kind of genius."

"Sir?"

"The way you knew the Venusians were going to Saturn."

"Oh," said Maris, "That was easy, just simple math."

"Simple math?"

"Yes, sir. I calculated their trajectories and there was no way they would wind up here. Either all their mathematicians are idiots like Zales thinks, or they were going someplace else for some other reason. And as close as they were going to the sun it suggested a slingshot.

"Jupiter and Neptune are on this side of the sun right now, so the only place they could possibly be going would be Saturn. The only reason I could think of why they'd be going there is to go to war with the Titanians. Can't for the life of me figure out why, though."

"Maris," replied Gorn, "You are a fucking genius." He laughed. "No, you're just a genius, you and O'Brian together make a fucking genius.

"But seriously, Maris, I'm impressed. That was good work, and it's going to look very good on your record."

"Well, thank you, sir, it's good to know that one is ap-preciated."

"You are, Lieutenant. Well done! Dismissed."

"Yes, sir," said Maris, rising from his chair. "Thank you, sir," he said, saluting.

The colonel returned his salute, and Maris sauntered down to the workshop where Johnson and O'Brien were tending the screens.

"Anything going on, men?"

"Not much, sir," said O'Brien. "Washington's slaughtering barflies, Ford's sleeping, and they're trying to take out satellites."

"Are they having much luck?"

"No, sir. They sent up thirty rockets and the satellites destroyed them all. Washington hasn't got laid yet, either."

"Is that germane, Private?" Maris said, suppressing a grin.

"Why, yes sir," O'Brien replied. "He's not nearly as disgusting once he gets his teensy little pecker wet. He usually just staggers back to his palace and passes out and we have a nice, peaceful night. Except maybe for the occasional rocket base commander committing suicide."

Maris chuckled. "Good point, Private."

"Excuse me, lieutenant, sir," said Johnson. "Sarge, he's going to another rocket facility."

"After saloon hopping?" O'Brien said, incredulous. "That's not normal for him. Shit! Johnson, did he get laid tonight? Did you listen to everything he had to say?"

"I think so, Sarge, at least until the Lieutenant came in." He looked at the Lieutenant. "Sorry, sir."

"No problem, Johnson. I take it you'll watch the recording, Zales?"

"Yes sir, that's standard procedure."

"Ok, I'll get out of you guys' way and let you do your jobs. Keep me posted."

"Yes, sir," said O'Brien, turning to his screens. He put the video back by two minutes."

"Hark!" said Colonel Sharpley.

"At ease, Colonel. How fast can you get a two thousand man ship ready?"

"Immediately, sir, within the hour."

"Excellent," said Washington. "Man your ship and ready for liftoff in two hours."

"Yes sir. What is our destination and further orders?"

"You're to go to Earth and start construction of a military base at the planetary coordinates in this packet," he said, handing a packet to the base's commander.

"We're colonizing Earth one month after we've dest-royed Mars."

"Sir?" Queried the Colonel. "Destroy Mars? All due respect, sir, and in fact all respect period, but we can destroy Mars?"

"That's classified. Just get there. Dismissed."

"Yes, sir," said the Colonel, saluting. Washington left.

"Bloody hell," said O'Brien. "Watch my screens, Johnson, I have to talk to Maris."

O'Brien walked down the hall to the lieutenant's office and knocked on the door. "Come," ordered Maris.

"Sir, the Venusians are launching a warship towards Earth, where they plan to set up a base. Washington seems to have a plan to destroy Mars."

Maris picked up an instrument and spoke into it. "L2, there is a Venusian warship headed for Earth. Stop it with any means necessary. Reply when you get this message." It would be a while before the radio waves reached Earth's L2 Lagrange point. He spoke again.

"Colonel Gorn, please," he said, and laid it down.

"Be glad you're not an officer, private," he said to O'Brien.

"Yes sir. The shit seems to have hit the fan. Am I dismissed? I should be watching the screens, all that's on duty is Johnson and he's pretty green.

"Yes, O'Brien, dismissed. Damn." His device beeped. O'brien saluted and left.

"Gorn here. What's the problem, Lieutenant?"

"Venus is attempting to establish a base on Earth, sir. I've alerted L2. The Venusians are sure they can destroy Mars. Maybe they've contacted the Titanians? Maybe they're not attacking them but teaming up with them? We don't really know anything about the Titanians."

"This is mere speculation, Maris."

"Yes, sir, it is. Merely hypothesis. With no way to test it."

"Well, thank you, Lieutenant. Keep me posted. Dismissed."

"Yes sir," said Maris.

Continues...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Can you remember, remember my name? 3

The title has nothing to do with what I'll talk about - I just heard Perfect Strangers on the radio this morning and it got stuck in my head.

While it was playing I was thinking about something that happened a couple weeks ago when I was in Thailand.

I've been to Thailand quite a few times. My first visit was in the late 80's as a sailor and then I've been at least once a year or more in the last 4 - 5 years. I've been enough times that it's become quite routine. I know my way around the airport. I have a rough idea of what the markets will be like in whatever city I visit, etc. This time I flew into Bangkok and then had a 2.5 or 3 hour drive to where I was staying.

During the drive I was fighting to stay awake - but what kept jumping out at me over and over was, "Wow - there are so many pickup trucks here!"

I'm willing to bet that the number of pickup trucks hasn't recently surged in Thailand. My guess is that the reason I noticed it so much this time is that it was my fist visit after living in Hungary for a while. Going from the US to Thailand, the number of trucks I see on the road would not be noticeable. But compared to here - it was on my mind for the whole visit. And I realized something for the first time. I love stuff like that. I think it may be the biggest reason I love to travel. I quickly become used to the environment that I'm in and start to filter stuff out. I don't consciously notice a lot of things around me after a while. I don't know what the proper term is for this - I'm sure some of you do. It's that whole idea that fish are unaware of water. I use to have a snippet of a poem I kept taped to my desk,

" Oh, where is the sea? " the fishes cried,
As they swam the crystal clearness through;

" We've heard from of old of the ocean's tide,
And we long to look on the water's blue. "

I long for experiences that knock me out of this numbness to my surroundings. I love seeing cool and exceptional things too - but even moreso I think - I love to just get an awareness of what I take for granted. I'm the same way with people. I love to have friends and conversations that force me to look at things differently. I don't like for everything to feel obvious. There is of course a limit. I have a co-worker who thinks very differently from me. Enough so that dealing with him can be a real chore. The chasm is too much to cross. He's another American - which is kind of funny. Most of my friends and the people I hang out with here are not. Same idea - I like what my Hungarian, Romanian, Albanian, and so on, friends bring to the mix.

At some point I expect I'll end up living in the US again. Honestly I'm not too crazy about the idea. I've really taken to Europe, and this part of it in particular. If I had my druthers I'd retire to Slovenia. Maybe somewhere not far from the farm where my great grandmother was born. But at some point my kids will head home to go to university and I'll head back. Maybe it will be more interesting as I'll have been gone long enough to make America new.

My last visit back I'd only been here a little over a year. So it wasn't such a big deal going back. It was a little annoying but not so much more than it was before I left. The in your face over indulgence that permeates so much of everything in the USA gets to me sometimes. But it's not like it wasn't that way before I left. It's just that much more obvious now that I've had a bit of a break from it. The insulation from the rest of the world is also difficult - but again - I was already aware of that before I moved. It's just now I get to be around more people who live lives that are connected and aware of others outside their own single context. (And that part isn't a critique of the USA alone. I've met Hungarians who are largely the same in that regard. They are not really aware of a whole lot outside Hungary and even moreso outside Europe. And they aren't interested.)

So I'm a bit of a junkie for these new experiences/view points. Probably part of why I enjoy the books I do as well.

Well - nothing deep and I'm sure nothing new. Just a glimpse in my head from my morning commute. The one Google Now told me about before I left my house. That deserves its own JE.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Table of Contents

1 - Little Green Men
2 - Martians
3 - Venusians
4 - Farmers
5 - The Death of Two Protohumans
6 - Ghouls
7 - It's the end of the world (but I feel fine)
8 - A Night on the Town
9 - Stratodoober Madness
10 - Blood on the Plow
11 - The Assassin
12 - Bigfoots
13 - Sick!
14 - Terry and the Nac Mac Feegle
15 - Rocket Man
16 - Hadron Destroyers
17 - Spies
18 - The Dance
19 - Dennis is a Two Headed Martian
20 - Titan?
21 - Not a ghost of a chance
22 - Suicide Bombers
23 - The Time Triangle
24 - Earthian War
25 - The Zeta Reticuli Incident
26 - Martian Panic
27 - Everything You Know Is Wrong
28 - Farmers on Drugs
29 - The Venusian Way
30 - The Surface
31 - Morlocks
32 - War of the Worlds
33 - Venus and Mars
34 - Ford and Gorn
35 - Acrux
36 - Captain Future and Buck

I've been busy on this thing, not just writing the new chapters but changing things around in the manuscript. I'm doing little to no editing on the posted chapters because the damned "smart quotes" glitch just takes too much work.

A lot of this needed to be changed. For instance, in Hadron Destroyers, the Rority and Gumal characters changed places in the manuscript.

I wrote Farmers on Drugs yesterday, it will be posted later. I'd decided to do a little wikipedia searching to be sure that Acrux was near enough to cause problems for Earth, and found that it was plenty near - but I learned how GRBs have caused mass extinctions. Wikipedia says that the gamma rays oxidize atmospheric nitrogen, so I thought, "laughing gas!"

What causes extinctions, according to Wikipedia, is the destruction of the ozone layer and smog. I couldn't find out what would happen if two neutron stars collided head-on, so to hell with it, I'm leaving that in. If there are any physicists or astrophysicists out there reading this and I made some kind of stupid massive blunder, please let me know!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Suicide Bombers

Previously...

Suicide Bombers

Colonel Smith was worried. Very worried. More than worried, he was scared out of his mind.

His staff was way behind schedule; the rocket was supposed to have been launched a month earlier, but glitch after glitch kept it on the ground. Washington had given him until today to get it on its way, but there was still a minor fuel leak. Leak or no leak, it was do or die... literally. Washington had made it clear to him that not only was failure unacceptable, it would cost Smith his life, and cost it in a very unpleasant way. He paced nervously as the countdown played out over the loudspeakers.

"T minus five minutes," the loudspeakers spoke.

Johnson was watching from Mars, glad Zales hadn't given him the task of watching that disgusting pair, Washington and Ford. Just thinking about those two monsters made his stomach queasy. "Forget those two and watch your screens," he told himself.

The Sargent came in, having been busy briefing the Lieutenant about the latest pending launch. "How's the countdown, George?" Zales asked.

"Five minutes to go, Sarge. What did Maris say? Are we going to shoot it down?"

"The Lieutenant says 'no'. The rest went around the sun and are streaking towards Saturn, and he says they're probably following the rest of the fleet. He says the technical problems probably kept it from launching when the rest of the fleet took off, but if the rest were just a distraction while this one attacked we can knock it down from our post at the Earthian Lagrange point.

"How many Venusians are on that rickety thing, Johnson?"

"Five thousand."

"Galaxy, that's as big a force as our entire military."

"Damn," said Johnson. "Of course, their weapons are no match for ours, if they're on their way here they're on their way to their executions."

"T minus one minute," the screen said.

Smith was still pacing nervously, trembling a little, sweat running down his cheek.

"T minus thirty." a plume of smoke wafted from the bottom of the rocket.

"T minus ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... one... ignition... liftoff. We have liftoff." The rocket moved gracefully off the launch pad as Smith heaved a sigh of relief.

The rocket exploded in a huge fireball, and the building shook violently from the Venusshaking blast.

Smith unholstered his revolver, put the barrel in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. Blood and brains splattered everywhere.

Zales laughed. "I feel sorry for the poor slob that's second in command!" he said.

"I don't get it, Sarge," said Johnson. "Why did he do that?"

"Better than crucifixion," Zales said.

"They'd crucify him for failure?"

"No, they'd crucify him for sabotage."

"They'd think he did it on purpose?"

"No, but that's what the propaganda would be. Don't want the populace to know they're launching junk."

On Venus, Lieutenant Colonel Donnoly was injecting himself with a strong narcotic. As the rush went up his spine he knew he would never wake up â" which was the whole point of the injection. Someone was going to be tortured to death, and it wasn't going to be him.

Washington and Ford were watching the liftoff and explosion from the palace. "Sabotage!" they both said in unison. Washington picked up his talker. "Rocket base Argo, base security," he said into the device.

"Security, Ogden here. How can I help you?"

"This is General Washington, Ogden. I want all flightline, liftoff, and mechanical personnel arrested, as well as the highest ranking officer on the base."

"Yyes sir, General. Right away! Is that all, sir?" he asked, trembling."

"Yes, Colonel. That is all."

Lieutenant Colonel Ogden pulled out his pistol and put the barrel in his mouth. Smith and Donnoly were surely dead, and he wasn't about to take responsibility for this clusterfuck of a snafu.

Zales leaned back and laughed. "My kind of enemy!"

"Huh?" said Johnson.

"The best kind. They save us a lot of ammo doing our jobs for us. Why don't you get us some coffee, Johnson, I'll watch your screens. I'm enjoying this!"

Continues...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Changing the ROM on my Galaxy S3 6

I bought by Galaxy S3 from T-Mobile, in the US last year. So it is the SGH-T999 model. I've been very happy with it. I've stuck to running it as stock for a couple reasons. The biggest is that I just didn't want to hassle with learning how to change the underlying software. Secondly, because I wanted to keep everything cool in terms of the warranty and what not. I even jumped through all their hoops to get my unlock code from them.

But I ran into an issue the other week that finally used up all my good will towards t-mobile. I went to use the phone as a hot spot and couldn't. It wanted me to pay for their tethering plan - which doesn't exist where I live.

I didn't have time right then to do anything but this week-end I did a little reading and today I installed Cyanagenmod on it. So far everything seems to be going very well. And I actually have control over the device that I paid (in my mind anyway) a pretty hefty sum to own. None of the steps were all that difficult and my biggest holdup was it would not flash the new rom until the battery was over 85% charged - which I thought was odd, but it worked out.

I'm getting all my stuff back to the way I like it and enjoying being on a newer version of Android than the one that Samsung and T-mobile officially supply for this phone right now. Which is idiotic.

So - moving forward I don't plan to purchase phones from t-mobile any more. I'll probably stick with Nexus phones from Google and avoid all this headache. I wont get another new phone for a while. I bought a new, high end phone so that it would last a while. But when I do I wont make the mistake of getting stuck depending on mobile phone companies.

Sci-Fi

Journal Journal: Titan? 1

Previously...

"Now, this is strange," Johnson mused.

"What's up, Johnson?" Zales asked.

"The Venusian rockets. They're going away from Mars!"

"Let me look... damn. I wonder what's going on. It looked originally like they were coming here!"

"Slingshot around the sun, they're going pretty damned fast, straight to Saturn it looks like."

"Saturn? Why in the galazy would they send warships to Saturn?"

"Maybe they're tired of fighting us and want to tangle with the Titanians?"

"Why? Venusians can't live on Titan. There's nothing in the Saturn system they could possibly need. I'd better see the Lieutenant. Where's O'Brien?"

"Dunno," said Johnson. "Hasn't showed up. Is he supposed to be on duty today?"

"Yeah, damn him, he's five minutes late!" As Zales was saying this, O'Brien walked in, beaming. "Where have you been?" Zales demanded. "You're late."

"Sorry, Sarge, just dropped by the Lieutenant's office on the way, he kept me longer than he maybe should have. Have a cigar! You too, Johnson."

"Cigar? Dennis is pregnant?"

"Sure as Venusians are nasty!"

"Congratulations," said Johnson. "That's damned rare on Mars. You sure you two didn't honeymoon on Venus?"

O'Brien laughed. "Fuck you, Johnson!"

Zales stuck out his hand. "Congratulations, Larry. I'll watch your screens if you want to pass some out to the other guys."

"That's OK, Sarge, but thanks. I already passed out half a box. What's going on this morning?"

"Johnson says the Venusian rockets are heading away from Mars."

"Away? They were headed around the sun a couple of days ago. Johnson?"

"Yeah, Larry. They were doing a slingshot for speed, and are heading to Saturn."

"Huh?" said a puzzled O'Brien. "Why Saturn?"

"Dunno, but... hey, Sarge, weren't you on your way to see Maris?"

"Yeah," said Zales. "I was. Guess I'd better catch him before he leaves." Zales walked out, and Johnson snickered. "Maris is going to be pissed. That gung-ho Zales just doesn't get that he's the only one who doesn't want to leave this place. I'll bet the Lieutenant has better things to do than to spend his off-duty hours listening to Zales drone on about Venusians!"

O'Brien laughed. "Yeah, poor Maris! At least he outranks that gunghole and can tell him to shut up. We have to listen to Zales, Maris doesn't."

Johnson laughed. "I need a promotion!"

"Yeah, me too," said O'Brien. "I should be up for Corporal pretty soon... hope so, anyway. The baby is going to make things a little more expensive."

"Well, Zales will still outrank you. At least unless he pisses Maris off enough to demote him."

O'Brien laughed. "That gunghole lose rank? Dream on! Oh, hell, I have to watch these screens. Screen, rerun last two minutes and continue." Two minutes was nothing, depending on where they were in their respective orbits, signals took anywhere from fifteen to forty five minutes to reach Mars from Venus.

"Hark!" the Venusian on the screen said.

"Damn it, Ford, that isn't necessary when it's just us."

"Sorry, General," Ford said. "What are my orders?"

"No orders," said Washington. "The orders have already been given and my plan has been set in place. We'll be rid of the Martians for good!"

"How, sir?"

"Too early. I'll let you know when it's time. Dismissed."

"Yes sir."

"And Ford..."

"Sir?"

"Watch your back. We have spies, we may have assassins as well."

"There are always would-be assassins, General."

"Well, there's one outside!"

"He's still alive?"

Washington laughed an evil laugh. "No, but he's still hanging there, next to Zak. I wonder what the two of them talked about while they were still hanging there alive?"

Ford laughed an equally evil laugh. "Yes sir. Any instructions out of the ordinary?"

"No, just know I have a plan set in motion and don't do anything that may hinder it. Stay away from the rocket ports."

"Yes, sir. I think I'll have a drink, if I've been dismissed!"

Washington said "Why not? I'll join you. Come on!"

"Oh, bloody hell," said O'Brien. I hate watching either one of them in bars, especially with the two of them together."

"Sucks to be you," said Johnson. "My shift's over. See ya!"

"See ya, Johnson. Oh galaxy, look what those two... YECH!"

Continues...

Sci-Fi

Journal Journal: Rocket Man 1

Previously...

"Mornin', Sarge."

"Mornin' Wilson. How are you feeling today?"

"I'm fine. Got pretty hungry by last night."

"I hope you didn't eat much this morning."

Wilson laughed. "I skipped breakfast. I'm starving, but I'll bet I won't be the least bit hungry in a while. Those people are sickening. Literally sickening. I can't understand how they can keep their society together."

Zales chuckled. "You call that a âsociety'?"

"No, what I mean is, how does Washington get away with it?"

"He pretty much owns the planet."

"Yeah, I know, but I would think that somebody in that bar would have stood up for himself rather than having his head explode, or cut off with that gaudy sword. I can't understand why he's never been assassinated."

"What would you prefer, a quick, relatively painless death, or death by torture? Have you seen the skeletons hanging on crosses around the palace?"

"Yeah, those Venusians have a funny sense of deco-ration."

"They're not just decoration, they're warnings. Those are Venusians who attempted either assassination, or revolt. Crucifixion is the most painful way to kill someone. Nails driven into the hands and feet go through areas with little blood flow, but lots of nerves. And they can hang there, in pain from the nails through all those nerves, pain in their chests from the attempt to breathe normally, without food and without water for days until they actually die. With the Venusians it takes longer because of the drugs. And not only do the drugs make them take longer to die, they're engineered in such a way that the drugs themselves introduce even more pain, and deplete the brain of serotonin.

"And they're pre-tortured before the crucifixion. Then there's the civil aspect," he continued. "They're hated. People throw rotten vegetables and feces and urine and other things, the nastier the better. If they actually kill the poor bastard hanging up their by, say, throwing a rock, penalties are pretty severe. They want them to suffer, suffering like you or I could never imagine, for as long as possible.

"The populace doesn't have weapons as good as them. You saw how Washington cut heads off with his sword? Normal Venusians don't have swords like that; Washington's sword would slice right through a civilian sword. Civilians' swords probably wouldn't even behead you. The non-military people don't have microwave pistols, all they have is pellets propelled by a chemical explosion. They can be deadly if the victim doesn't get medical help fast, but any soldier shot by one would be fine later, even though the poor moron that shot him wouldn't."

"Wow," said Wilson.

"Yeah, wow," agreed Zales. "Anyway, it's about time for the shift to start. When you get to your workstation, you'll have it a little easier than yesterday. You don't have to watch Ford or Washington. I'm assigning you a couple of rocket facilities, nobody should have to watch the horror you saw yesterday every single day, it would drive a man insane."

"Thanks, Sarge."

"Don't mention it. Uh, have a bag handy just in case, the rest of those bastards can be pretty nasty, too."

Wilson sauntered over to his workstation, ready to relieve O'Brien. "Hey, John, bad night?"

"Not really," O'Brien said. "Actually it was a light shift, Washington only killed one guy. How are you feeling today? You looked pretty damned pale yesterday."

Wilson blushed. "Yeah, well, I didn't expect necrophilia. I can't figure out why he shot her, aren't those bozos always trying to procreate?"

"Well, yeah, but the same thing had happened a week earlier with the same woman, that's where she got the blaster. Washington gave it to her as a gift. He killed her because she wasn't faithful, Washington doesn't want to be cuckolded."

"Ain't like Washington's faithful."

"Of course not. He doesn't have to be, he's dictator. He wants to spread his semen to as many women as possible. And he can, because he runs the world."

"I still don't get how their society doesn't fall apart. Where does the food come from? The machinery? The power generation?"

"Most of it is automated. I mean, how many farmers do we have on Mars? We have one guy who directs everything, and the machines do the rest. Same on Venus. Hell, we gave them most of that automation. Then there's their prisoners, as violent as they are and as overpopulated as Venus is, if they didn't need workers, every unlawful act would be a capital offense."

"Isn't the Sarge going home?"

"Are you kidding me? He's the most gung-ho guy in the Martian army!" O'Brien said. "Suits me, he actually likes watching the screens and I hate it. If he went home I'd have to. Can't for the life of me figure out why his wife doesn't leave him, he's here more than home."

"Maybe him not being there much is what keeps it together. I hear Zales wants to jus nuke Venus and be done with it.

"Yeah, but it isn't up to the military, it's up to the government psychologists. One of them explained why we couldn't once, but it didn't make much sense to me."

"Me, either. Oh crap, look at that! I'd better keep a closer look at this screen."

"I thought you just had a rocket facility? Not much going on."

"No, but I have to watch it, anyway. Five screens worth. And it looks like Washington showed up."

On Williams' screen, Washington was speaking to his underling in the facility. "This is top secret. You are to discuss this with no one, not even General Ford. Got it?"

"Yes, sir. What are my orders sir?"

"Get another warship ready."

"Yes sir," said the underling. Where are we sending it?"

"Not yet, Colonel, this is strictly on a need to know basis. We think there are spies. Now, dismissed!"

"Yes sir," said the Colonel, saluting.

"Damn," said Obrien, still standing by Wilson's screen. "I thought we might learn something!"

Wilson sighed. "That ain't my kind o' luck. I never catch a break!

Continues...

Sci-Fi

Journal Journal: The Assassin 1

Previously...

"Good thing Williams isn't here tonight," O'Brien said.

"Why is that?" Johnson asked.

"I have ten clams in the pool. If he lasts two more days then hacks, I'll win the pot!"

"What pot? How come I never got in on it?"

"See McDaniels, you may still be able to get in, I don't know. Just don't let that gunghole Zales hear about it, we'll all go on report for gambling on duty!"

Johnson grinned. "On duty? I don't see you holding any money!"

O'Brien laughed. "Yeah, well, we'd get out of it but then Maris would have to have a say, and I don't know how the Lieutenant would react. So keep it under your shoe, ok?

"Anyway," he continued, "Just see McDaniels. Yep, he'd hack tonight, all right - Ford's bar hopping. Ten clams says it won't be ten minutes before we see Venus brains."

Johnson gave him a quizzical look. "Brainy how?"

"Brainy as in brains all over the walls."

Johnson laughed. "Nope, not gonna take that bet!"

"Wise," said O'Brien. "He just killed some guy that was just standing there.

On screen, Washington holstered his pistol as the Venusian's headless corpse hit the floor. The bartender yelled "Hark!" The patrons echoed "Hark!"

"That's better," Washington grumbled.

"Galaxy," O'Brien said in disgust. "Uh, oh..."

A Venusian in the back of the bar had a gun in his hand. "BOOM!" The gun roared as Washington's coat sparked and the man next to him fell, clutching his side."

"OW!" Yelled Washington, whirling around, gun in hand. The man who had shot him, the bullet having ricocheted off Washington's carbon fiber suit, hitting the man who was now on the floor lay bleeding, aimed again. Washington pulled his trigger, and the would-be assassin fell to the ground, screaming in agony from the microwave burns.

"Security!" Washington ordered. "Chain him in the dungeon. He's to be crucified in the morning. Keep him alive! Now," he said, turning back to the bar. "Another! Make it a double! And one for this poor fellow laying here bleeding... oh, never mind, he's dead."

"Oh, for Mars' sake!" O'Brien said in disgust."I'd rather clean toilets than watch this."

Johnson laughed. "That's what Zales said about reading your reports!"

"Funny," replied O'Brien sarcastically. "Ha ha. I'll bet he hangs on every word of yours," he said, grinning.

Washington left the bar and got into his limousine. "Boeing, Building F-74."

"Yes, sir," said the driver."

"Craps, ninth rocket facility in two weeks. I wonder what that crazy ghoul has up his sleeve?"

"Sarge!" said Johnson. "You're early."

"I had a funny feeling something was up."

"Something is," said O'Brien. "Don't know what, though. Washington's in another spaceport."

"No idea yet what's up, though?" asked Zales.

"Negative, Sarge. It's almost like he thinks Shambler Claws is watching him!"

"Shambler Claws? What's that?"

"It's from a Venusian folk tale they scare their kids with at bedtime, about a big, scary monster that rips children apart with its razor sharp claws and eats them. It's meant to keep them from killing their siblings. 'Do you want the Shambler to visit you tonight?' they'll say when the kid acts up. There's even a nursery rhyme about him. Listen to this:

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why -
Shambler Claws is coming around.

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Shambler Claws is coming around

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

"No kiddin'?" said Zales. "Nasty bastards! They do this to their kids? Galaxy!"

"They're certainly not the winners of the parents of the week contest."

"No kiddin'," Zales repeated. Where did you hear it?"

"Watching the screens. That's not the worst thing they do to their kids. Hey, Sarge, you stayin'?"

"Might as well, why?"

"Mind if I go home? I mean if you can relieve me..."

"Yeah, O'Brien, I guess. Had enough of Washington, have you? Sure, go on."

"Thanks, Sarge. See ya!"

Johnson said "Can I..."

"Nope," answered Zales.

"Why not, Sarge? You let..."

"There's only one of me. If there were a dozen I wouldn't need you guys."

"Mind if I ask a personal question, Sarge?"

Zales snickered. "You can ask."

"Well... well, Sarge, sorry, but why are you so gung ho?"

Zales smiled. "Long story."

"I got time."

"And personal."

"Oh. Sorry, Sarge."

"Don't mention it."

Continues...

KDE

Journal Journal: Calligra Author

Calligra Author was announced last summer. Things are still early and often there isn't much to see. (Clicking on the Author Handbook in the Author Help menu takes you to that page.) So things are still rather rough, but I bring it up because when I ran an update today Author got installed on my machine. I was excited to see that and ran it but there's not much to see yet. It's built on Calligra Words and still pretty much looks just like it. When you start Author you are asked to choose a template and none of those offered really make sense for Author, they are just brought over from Words. But I'm optimistic for the future.
 
I'd never noticed before but in the announcement for the project they said it would be compatible with Plume Creator. I checked to see if Plume was available in the Fedora repos but it's not unfortunately. It looks pretty interesting. They have debs, source and a windows installer at Sourceforge. Not sure if I'm interested enough to install it from source. Maybe later if they get it to 1.0 or something. Of course hopefully by then it'll get pulled into the repos.
 
So Author really isn't amazing or anything yet but it's good to see they are working on it and I'll be watching it.

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