Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Why does McDonalds want to make me fat? 15

From Food Business News:

NEW YORK â" For McDonaldâ(TM)s Corp., it may seem like a supersized dilemma: Offer a healthier menu or serve customers their coveted fattening fare?

Itâ(TM)s a matter of social responsibility versus sales, said Don Thompson, president and chief executive officer, who addressed the topic during the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York on May 29.

âoeToday, we are in this time period where people are defining quote-unquote âhealthyâ(TM) and ânon-healthy,â(TM)â Mr. Thompson said. âoeAnd the question really is, in the restaurant business, what does the customer want? ⦠Whatever it is a customer wants, we will be selling more than anyone else.â

Ok, Mister Bernstein, I say you're full of shit. I think you WANT us to all be fatasses.

I usually go home for lunch, but my car's in the shop today and don't have time to walk home, eat, and walk back, so I walked down to McDonalds. McDonalds is a lot closer than home. They had a promotional thing up with some new quarter pounders, so I decided to try one. I got the habañero Ranch quarter pounder, which I will get around to trash talking later. I ordered a small fry and a small coke to go along.

"That will be $7.52".

"How much was the burger itself?" I forgot what her answer was but it seemed like a hell of a lot for a hamburger. When I was 12 a McDonald's hamburger, fries, and small coke was 37 cents plus tax. Of course, the minimum wage was something like a dollar back then. She told me the price, I winced and said "too much, but I'll pay it anyway."

"The value meal may be cheaper," she said. I said ok. She rang it up. $7.01.

A burger with a small fry and small coke costs more than a burger with a medium fry and a medium coke. Why does McDonalds want me to get fat? I wound up throwing half the fries away, that's way too much food. Plus McDonalds fries are nasty. I didn't like the burger, either. False advertising if I ever saw it. Habañero? Really? Habañeros are one of the hottest peppers there are, and that burger had no hint whatever of any kind of hot pepper.

Of course, there's a sit-down restaurant that's even worse on the spicy front, on the corner of Second and South Grand named the (checks Google Maps... WTF, google? I search for 2nd and South Grand and it gives me 2nd and North Grand. Should I start using Microsoft Bling? Drags map down to South Grand... here it is) sorry, called the MeKong Cafe. It seems that General DuCatt or however you spell it traveled back in time from Cardassia and opened a barbershop in Springfield... anyway, the MeKong's window says they specialize in Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Thai food. Having been in Thailand in the USAF and loving that food, I ate at the MeKong diner once.

I was not impressed.

Thai peppers are ounce for ounce some of the hottest peppers there are; they're tiny little things, half an inch (couple of centimeters) long and eating one will bring far more tears to your eyes than eating a jalapeño. I grew some, years ago -- they're great for getting rid of a sinus headache. Like Mexican food and for the same reason, Thai food is hot. Damned hot. Shirt wringing wet hot, which is why spicy food is so popular in Thailand and Mexico; Thailand is almost at the equator. The whole year I was there it only got cooler than eighty F once.

So I'd stopped at this so-called "MeKong" restaurant and ordered cowpot. Cowpot is Thai for "fried rice".

"Um, what?" the oriental waitress said, obviously not being from Thailand or, indeed, South East Asia at all.

"Thai fried rice," I said.

"Do you want it hot?"

"Of course I want it hot. I want it to taste like what I ate in Thailand. Blistering hot."

It was wimpier than Chinese fried rice.

There are a lot of fake foreign restaurants at that corner, probably catering to all the government employees that work in two large buildings that sit caddy-corner from each other there. There's a Taco Gringo, which is about as far from Mexican food as you can get, a Chinese place called China One, and another oriental restaurant named, hilariously, Dynasty.

Sheesh, I thought software devs came up with stupid names, like GIMP and WinCE. But a restaurant named the Die Nasty?

Anyway, back on topic, it isn't just their "value meals," either. Why is a hamburger with one patty and one slice of cheese more expensive than a hamburger with TWO patties and a slice of cheese?

Why do they want everybody, especially the poor and/or frugal, to be fat?

I will say one nice thing about McFatsos, though -- their side salads are really surprisingly good. Yeah, it's hard to screw up a salad but Burger King manages to. I'll get the salad, take it home, and eat it with a steak and baked potato. THAT's food, not faux cowpot or a hamburger with bacon (to disguise the taste of the beef, of course) or a taco some gringo made.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Dirty Old Man

This is actually a few years old but I've never posted it on the internet, but I did drunkenly sing it at a karaoke bar. One woman was laughing so hard she literally fell out of her chair, although I didn't think it was THAT funny. When I got off the stage I told the bartender "I want whatever she's having!"

I heard this song on the radio this morning and I said to myself, "those geezers are even older than me!" So I changed a few words...

Hey, baby, if you're feelin' down
I know what's good for you all day
Are you worried what your friends see
Will it ruin your reputation fuckin' me

'cause I'm a dirty old man
Yeah I'm a dirty old man
A dirty old man

Don't drive no big black car
Don't like no Hollywood movie star
You want me to be true to you
You don't give a damn what I do to you

I'm just a dirty old man
Dirty old man, dirty old man
Dirty old man, dirty old man
Dirty old man

Well, I'm a dirty old man
Dirty old man, dirty old man
Dirty old man, yeah, dirty old man
A dirty old man

I've been trouble since I don't know when
I'm trouble now and I know somehow I'll be trouble again
I'm not a loner, but I'm always alone
Every night I get one step closer to the fucking grave!

'cause I'm a dirty old man
Dirty old man, yeah, dirty old man
Dirty old man, I'm a dirty old man
Dirty old man

C'mon, c'mon man
Dirty old man, old man
Dirty old man, I'm a dirty old man
Dirty old man

Hey, I'm a dirty old man
Dirty old man, yeah, I'm a dirty old man
Dirty old man, dirty old man, yeah!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Keith Richards is ten years older than me 1

I live in an house on the ninety-ninth street on my block
And I sit at home looking out the window
Imagining the world has stopped
Then in flies a guy whos all dressed up like a union jack
And says, Ive won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack

I said, hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Don't hang around cause twos a crowd
On my lawn, baby

The telephone is ringing
I say, hi, it's me. who is it there on the line?
A voice says, hi, hello, how are you
Well, I guess Im doin fine
He says, it's three a.m., there's too much noise
Don't you people ever wanna go to bed?
Just cause you feel so good, do you have
To drive me out of my head?

I said, hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Don't hang around cause twos a crowd
On my lawn baby

I was sick and tired, fed up with this
And decided to take a drive downtown
It was so very quiet and peaceful
There was nobody, not a soul around
I laid myself out, I was so tired and I started to dream
In the morning the parking tickets were just like
A flag stuck on my window screen

I said, hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Don't hang around cause twos a crowd
On my lawn

Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Hey! you! get off of my lawn
Don't hang around, baby, twos a crowd

(Sorry, I had to do that. Wait 'til you see what I do to Foreigner's Dirty White Boy)

User Journal

Journal Journal: John thinks I'm a space alien 10

Back by popular demand...

"Hi, Steve, how ya doin?" Ruthie said as she got a mug out of the freezer.

"Hi, Ruthie. Pretty good, except I don't think I'll ever get that book finished. I keep finding mistakes," I said as I sat down next to Crazy John and pulled out my wallet. Ruthie handed me the beer she'd just poured.

"Computer's battery died so I thought I'd get a beer or two while it was charging," I said.

Crazy John really is insane; he suffers from schizophrenia and its delusions. They tell me he used to be really intelligent, but one night he was beaten, robbed, and thrown in a dumpster and left for dead. He was never the same afterwards.

John's passion is his main delusion - that he was once abducted by space aliens and that space aliens have infiltrated our world. I try to debunk the poor fellow's insane ramblings with scientific facts. I've explained how Einstein had worked out relativity and the cosmic constant, that the faster you go the slower time goes and there's no way to go faster than light, obviously not mentioning space warping which some theorize might someday get us past that hurdle. He talks of Area 51 and I respond with how unlikely that even if there were space aliens, they wouldn't be the least bit humanoid. In fact, that's where the idea behind Little Green Men came from -- talking with Crazy John.

He gave me a pointed look, and by that I mean he actually pointed at me. "I know who you are!" he said sternly.

I was amused. "Of course you do, John, I've been drinking with you for years!" pretending to not know what he was talking about. He changed the subject. Sort of.

"Where did that face on Mars come from?" he asked.

I groaned; not this nonsense again. "It's a trick of the light and where the position of the camera is, John. Other photos of the same rock show that it doesn't really look anything like a human face. It's the same with the Martian bunny rabbit."

"What bunny rabbit?"

"There's a rock one of the robot rovers took a picture of that, from the angle it's taken, looks just like a rodent. There are a lot of other things like that."

I tried to explain the concept of Pareidolia to him, pointing out so-called images of the virgin Mary made from rust running down overpasses and things, but he would have none of it and simply changed the subject again. "There is one thing that will go faster than light," he said. "Human telepathy!"

I rolled my eyes. "Show me some proof of telepathy's existence, John. If you can show me someone who can read my mind or even some biology that shows it's possible I'll believe it. But I've seen no documentation of anyone actually being able to do it."

I finished the mug and put it and another buck and a quarter on the bar, and Ruthie poured another beer. John got a weird look on his face and wandered off.

Good, I'd had enough crazy for one day.

Ruthie shook her head sadly. "Poor guy," she said.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Writing a book is easy 24

Writing one that doesn't suck is really, really hard. For me, anyway.

The crude first draft of Nobots posted here sucks, and sucks badly. There are inconsistencies, typos, misspellings, crappy grammar, sloppy writing, and a host of other errors that make it suck.

It's done, but not finished; it still needs sanding and polishing. I tell myself it's finished when I can go through it five times in a row without making any changes, and so far I haven't been able to get through it once without changing something, and can't go through it five times without finding an error of some sort.

I've been spending almost all my free time working on it, which is why you haven't seen me here much in the last few months. I wish I could afford to retire so I could work on it full time, I could probably finish it in a couple of months.

Oh, well, like those other losers say in Chicago, "there's always next year." I'll finally have a lot more time for reading and writing and learning next year.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Beam me up, Scotty! 5

It was a beautiful day today, and my boss wasn't at work. The TV weatherman had said on the early morning news that it was going to rain tomorrow and for the next week, too. So I took the afternoon off.

I'd say my favorite radio station is a local college station, WQNA. Their music is an incredibly eclectic mix of genres; rock, punk, ska, country, old jazz from the thirties, you name it. Hell, they play belly dancing music on Wednesday nights. Well, they used to, I don't know if that show's still on. An old friend I've known for twenty years hosts a blues show on noon Sundays. On Wednesday mornings there's a show on called Ben's wacky radio that runs from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM (US central time). The show is a Doctor Demento knockoff, and I was a Demento fan decades ago, so I hit the WQNA button on the radio when I got in the car to leave.

When I got home I turned on the TV, which serves as a forty two inch computer monitor, and clicked "WQNA" on Aramok's playlist. They stream in MP3 and AAC from their website, and there's no real radio in the house. Not needed; as far as I know, every radio station in the world streams over the internet.

I started working on Nobots.

The announcer said that the next half hour was devoted to Star Trek, so I put the laptop down because I knew the radio was going to be too distracting.

A song came on that the "Ben" guy said was by the actor Terry McGovern called Beam Me Up, Scotty. As I listened to the nerdy song I thought "Hey! That guy's read The Paxil Diaries!" My googlefu is weak today; I can't find the lyrics, but it's about how shitty life is on Earth. "My wife went away and took the car and left the bills and the kids".

I'm sitting here, all proud and smug and pleased with myself and googling for the lyrics when I came across this.

McGovern wrote the song in 1976, the year I got married.

Oh, well, at least you guys read it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: An Open Letter to Google 1

I was already in a bad mood when I got to work. My arthritis was hurting badly and McDonalds got my order wrong, I was almost late from taking it back, and the office was freezing. I logged in to the network, and opened IE because the Outlook email client stupidly has no way to change your password. Adobe informed me Flash needed upgrading so I clicked OK. It asked if I wanted to install a Chrome frame for IE and I unchecked the box and clicked OK.

The damned thing installed a Google toolbar in IE, installed Chrome, and made it the default browser!

I uninstalled them and reset IE as the default browser; it isn't my computer, it belongs to my employer and I'm supposed to use their approved software. I hate my work computer. When I uninstalled Chrome, IE opened by itself to a firewall "Forbidden!" page, listing it as "shareware, freeware".

It was really cold, my arthritis was killing me and I went home. I won't be upgrading Flash on any of my own computers, because trojans are evil, even when they're written by Adobe, Google, Sony, or anybody else. I'll probably uninstall all Adobe products from my own machines except one; sometimes channel 49 won't come in so I need it for the Big Bang Theory.

Google, your motto is a God damned lie. I've been a faithful Google user since you first put the search engine on the internet; it was heads and shoulders better than any of the others and still is. I cheered when you used the Linux kernel in Android. I was an early G+ user when you had to know somebody to get an account. I have a gMail address (I seldom check its mail, though).

But these stealth installs are bullshit. That behavior is not acceptable and I won't tolerate it. I won't be back on G+ or gMail and I may bight the bullet and start using that shitty Bing.

When I see or hear that you've changed your ways I'll be back. Hurry, though, because I'm thinking of buying a new phone and I really don't want Apple or Microsoft.

I will repeat myself here -- it is never acceptable to install anything at all on anyone else's computer without their permission, ever, for any reason. No exceptions.

Slashdotters, please inform your non-nerd friends of this rule, just the other night a guy I know was steaming because his daughter in law had "messed up my computer."

Google, I'm really, really disappointed in you.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Loose End 4


"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


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: Farmers on Drugs


"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!"


User Journal

Journal Journal: Earthian War 5


"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."


"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.


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


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!"



Journal Journal: Titan? 1


"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..."


"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!"



Journal Journal: Rocket Man 1


"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!



Journal Journal: The Assassin 1


"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."


Slashdot Top Deals

ASCII a stupid question, you get an EBCDIC answer.