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User Journal

Journal Journal: On Writing 4

I discovered the SFWA website last year, and it was a treasure trove of useful information. I'd probably have given up trying to sell stories by now were it not for that site.

There's an article by Terry Bison, one of my current favorite SF writers, titled "60 rules for short SF." Another is by a slush reader (someone employed by publishers to read and pass stories they like up to a junior editor) has an article about what you need to get her to pass it to an editor. And a whole lot more, I still haven't read them all.

I discovered that almost all of the advice and rules they pontificated on were things I was already doing. I also discovered how damned hard it was, how nearly impossible to get a good story published, because of the sheer mass of competition. There are only a dozen or two SF magazines, and they get a thousand submissions a month each, and print six each.

That's some damned bad odds.

I also learned from SFWA that if your rejection slip comes from an editor rather than a computer, you came really close to being published. I've had three! I'm not going to stop writing because I love doing it so much, but if I hadn't ran across SFWA I'd have stopped submitting them a long time ago. I am going to cut down on submissions, because I want to finish and publish "Voyage to Earth and Other Stories" by some time next year, and most of the magazines are REALLY slow at getting through their slush piles. I may keep submitting to Asimov's and F&SF since they're quick, but then again if they buy it I'll have to replace it with another story for the book.

Then late last week I was reading an article on SFWA and discovered that Stephen King had written a book about writing, called "On Writing".

King is one of the very best writers of our time, IMO. I don't like his genre so haven't read much of his stuff, but what I did read was brilliant and beautifully written, sucking you into the story and not letting go (and I don't want to be sucked into horror, I hate horror movies and books are even more intense than movies). So I opened a new tab on the browser and checked to see if Lincoln Library had a copy.

It did, even in e-book form so I wouldn't even have to go up there. Then I made another discovery -- my library card expired last month. That was Friday night, so Saturday morning I went to the library. I renewed my card, checked out the hardcover copy of the book, and started reading. I finished it last night; I'd been alternating between reading King's book, SFWA articles, Google News, the Illinois Times, and working on "The Pirate".

Another discovery: this book would be a great read even if I wasn't looking to improve my writing. It gives insights to a reader who isn't a writer on the connection between reader and writer. Kind of why you like to read what you like to read.

The first third of the book is an autobiography of sorts, and it starts with a child's pain (it IS Stephen King, after all). But from the time he reached high school until he gets to the writing part (even though the part before the writing part was about writing, too) it was hilarious. I don't nean it made me grin and maybe chuckle, I mean I was laughing so hard I had to put the book down to wipe the tears off my face. Well, I did have some pretty good pot. Anyway, If you're a reader, do yourself a favor and read it. If you live in Springfield and have a library card and a smartphone you can read it for free without even going to the library. In other cities as well, I checked last night and Belleville residents can access e-books from that library.

So this morning I decided that I wanted a copy of my own sitting on my bookshelf, because this isn't a "read once and throw it away" book. So after two frustrating hours trying to get a hardcover copy I'm flustered and frustrated and annoyed. Damn publishers and bookstores!

First, publishers. The paperback and e-book was released 3 years ago, but the hardcover is out of print. What, did Rority kidnap me last night and take me back to 1970 when books were written on typewriters and printed on presses designed a century earlier? Because now that we have computers and the internet, there should be no such thing as "out of print". Now there's "print on demand", so why should any book ever be out of print?

It's stupid.

Amazon said simply "out of stock" so I tried B&N. Their offline stores are excellent; large, with friendly, helpful staff.

Their website is a total clusterfuck to buy from. They should fire the incompetent webmaster who is enamored of flashy bells and whistles and hire someone who can design a usable interface.

First those stupid mouseover menus that open and cover whet you're trying to read. If you're doing that on your website, STOP IT!! Pissing off a prospective customer is brain-dead stupid. Where do companies find all these educated idiots?

So after navigating their awful interface to actually get to the book, there are three buttons: paperback, $11.95; e-book, $11.95; hardcover, $19.06. So once again there's stupidity, or rather, stupid greed. There is absolutely no reason whatever why an ebook should cost as much as a paperback. No paper to buy, no ink to buy, no pages to bind, nothing to ship, nothing to warehouse. An e-book costs almost NOTHING to produce and deliver once it's written.

The button for the hardcover didn't work. No feedback, it just didn't work, which is how the morons who designed the site set it up to work when an item was out of print.

By now I was annoyed and frustrated. I finally found a used copy there, and went to order it. They wanted to use an old credit card I no longer have, and it was more frustrating trying to get the damned thing to change cards.

I finally managed that, entered all the info, and it told me there was a problem with the card. IT'S A VALID CARD, DAMMIT! So I say "screw it" and call the local store. It's out of print, so they give me the 800 number.

After almost five minutes on hold a rude woman who keeps trying to interrupt me answers. I finally hung up on her, saying "fuck it, maybe one of the used stores in town has a copy."

I'll take it back to the library today. They sell books, maybe they'll have a copy for sale.

But I learned a lot from this book, a whole lot. But what he says you should do I already do, so maybe my stuff... nah.

User Journal

Journal Journal: SF: Dewey's War 3

(non-borked copy at

        âoeHey, Ed! Havenâ(TM)t seen you in weeks. How are you? You look worried. The usual?â
        âoeHi, John. Yeah, and a shot of the strongest stuff on your shelf. Iâ(TM)ve had a really bad day.â
        âoeSo whatâ(TM)s wrong?â
        âoeTrouble. And bad news for all of us Martians.â
        âoeDamn it, Ed, whatâ(TM)s going on?â
        âoeEarthâ(TM)s going on. I was in a teleconference with the other dome mayors all morning over it. Weâ(TM)re in trouble. Earth is at war!â
        âoeWhat? At war with who? Us?â John exclaimed somewhat ungrammatically.
        âoeEach other.â
        âoeWhat? I thought it was a single government?â
        âoeIt was, sort of, although nations had a certain independence, but had to follow U.N. laws. North America, China, and Australia rebelled. The Arab states may be next. Itâ(TM)s civil war!â
        âoeSo whatâ(TM)s that got to do with us?â
        âoeTrade, John.â
        âoeOh, shit. Iâ(TM)d better call Dewey.â Of course, he could only leave a message, since Mars and Earth were on opposite sides of the sun and the relay station was half an astronomical unit north of it, making radio lag even worse. It would be quite a while before the message reached its destination.
        John left his message and got back to the mayor. âoeOkay, it affects me, but whatâ(TM)s it got to do with Mars? We can get along without Earth, weâ(TM)re self-sufficient and have been for fifty years. I have a problem, some other Martians probably have the same or similar problems, but why does Mars have a problem?â
        âoeBecause technically weâ(TM)re under the auspices of different states in the United Nations. Weâ(TM)re North American, the Alba Patera dome is Chinese. Half of the domes are European, so are affiliated with the U.N.â
        âoeBut weâ(TM)re all Martians. Iâ(TM)m an immigrant, but most of us were born here and have never left the planet.â
        âoeHalf or more of the Euros here share that opinion, but their governments, like Chinaâ(TM)s and unlike ours and the Australians, are staffed with Earthians imported from Earth, and are appointed by Earthians rather than being elected by Martians.â
        âoeHow about the Africans and South Americans?â
        âoeTheyâ(TM)re neutral, but nobody from those continents have built domes here, anyway.â
        âoeIt it a hot war yet?â
        âoeNo, the diplomats are still talking but blockades are being erected. Give me another beer and another shot, John. This war crap is making me crazy. I just donâ(TM)t know what to do.â
        âoeWell, the only advice I have is to be nice to the European domesâ(TM) mayors, maybe try to talk up independence.â
        âoeWhy not? We need to get untied from Mamma Earthâ(TM)s apron strings. Why should we be tied to their laws? Theyâ(TM)re millions of kilometers away!â
        âoeYouâ(TM)re talking about revolution!â
        âoeYes, I am. Hopefully peaceful. But like I said, we have to follow a lot of laws and regulations that make perfect sense on Earth, but are either meaningless or downright stupid here. I think itâ(TM)s time!â
        âoeJohn, thatâ(TM)s crazy talk. We arenâ(TM)t even armed!â
        âoeYes, we are. Youâ(TM)re forgetting who does half of all space transport, and thatâ(TM)s Green-Osbourne Transportation Systems. Between the two of us, Destiny and I own a quarter of the company, and her dad and Charles control almost two thirds.
        âoeWe have the fastest, most heavily armed and armored ships in the solar system, and Dewey has worried about war for a long time and has been preparing. Warâ(TM)s really bad for the shipping industry and weâ(TM)ve always refused to engineer warships for Earthâ(TM)s governments just because of that. Not many people know it, but our transports are warships, and there arenâ(TM)t any Earthian government warships in deep space.â
        The Mayor sighed and ordered another beer and shot. âoeMaybe I should hold a Dome Hall meeting, televised and with the public invited so we can get a feel of the publicâ(TM)s attitudes.â
        âoeEd, better slow down on the alcohol. It wouldnâ(TM)t do to have a drunken mayor when war might be imminent.â
        âoeYouâ(TM)re right, skip the shot but give me another beer.â
        âoeI agree about Dome Hall, but donâ(TM)t forget: GOTS is not about to let anything bad happen to Marsâ(TM) colonies.
        âoeNot only are we better armed, but weâ(TM)re experienced, thanks to the damned pirates. Dewey started the defense fleet eight years ago because of the pirates and weâ(TM)ve killed or captured most of them. Earthâ(TM)s armies havenâ(TM)t any experience at all with real war; there hasnâ(TM)t been a shooting war for half a century except the war of shippers and pirates.â
        âoeWell, I donâ(TM)t know what to say.â
        âoeSay youâ(TM)re about drunk and it isnâ(TM)t even two in the afternoon and you need to go home and sleep it off.â
        âoeIâ(TM)m not going to be able to sleep with this over my head!â
        âoeHere, take these home with you,â John said, pulling out a bottle of white lightning and a twelve pack of beer. âoeIt wouldnâ(TM)t do to have the mayor staggering around the dome, especially now. Get drunk at home.â
        âoeYouâ(TM)re right, of course... about getting drunk. But revolution?â
        âoeSleep it off and think about it. Itâ(TM)s time Mars was independent. Look how much weâ(TM)re paying in taxes to Earth, and weâ(TM)re getting absolutely nothing from it. We could use that to make Mars a better place.â
        âoeIâ(TM)ll think about it.â
        âoeLook, Ed, stay sober tomorrow, okay?â
        âoeIâ(TM)ll have to. See you, John.â
        âoeLater, Ed.â
        Johnâ(TM)s phone made a noise; there was a message from Dewey.

        Aimée Beaulieu hated her job. She didnâ(TM)t want to be in this damné dome on this God-forsaken planet. But she had been exiled here; âoeexiledâ isnâ(TM)t exactly accurate, but itâ(TM)s close.
        She had been head of the EUâ(TM)s diplomatic corps, and had an idea that could give Europe more commercial power. She sent her diplomats to the other continentsâ(TM) governments with orders to negotiate her plan. Instead of negotiating, three of them, inexperienced but influential people appointed by Europeâ(TM)s government, presented the idea as an ultimatum.
        They were fired and she was paying a price as well. Stuck on Mars, Mayor of one of the stupid domes.
        Damned dome! Sheâ(TM)d only been here a month and hated it with a passion. Now there was that stupid revolution, civil war, whatever back on Earth and they told her she was no longer allowed to trade with the North American, Australian, or Chinese domes.
        And she loved Knolls beer, Damn it! That was the only good thing about this God-forsaken planet. She wondered what could be done about the situation. Probably nothing, she thought. Except by the idiots in charge on Earth, damn them.
        She didnâ(TM)t much like the Martians, either, but she understood where they were coming from. A lot of the Martian-born Martians in her dome had been talking about independence from Earth. That would suit her... as long as she was off of this damned rock and back in France first. After all, if the dome revolted under her watch her career would be ruined even worse than it already was. Sheâ(TM)d probably be forced to resign.
        She sighed, and went back to the meaningless paperwork Earth demanded.

        Chuck Watson, mayor of Ceres, was angry. What were those idiots on Earth thinking? If he followed their directive Cererians would surely starve! Those who had been born on Ceres had already been talking independence.
        And Charlie, who had been a close friend for years and a trading partner for almost as long, he was prohibited from communicating with.
        He had enough, he decided, and called Charlie. To hell with the Earthians!

        Charlie Onehorse, Mayor of Dome Australia Two, was annoyed. DA2â(TM)s main export, high quality steel and rare earth ferromagnetics mostly went to the European domes, and half of all the domes on Mars were European. And the ores were from the British mining colony on one of the asteroids. DA2 was going to have trouble both importing and exporting.
        They could probably have ore shipped from China, but Earthian ores were incredibly expensive, thanks to Earthâ(TM)s gravity well and environmental regulations; mining anything on Earth was effectively outlawed by regulations that made it a hundred times cheaper to import from Martians and asterites.
        He was thankful that a few of the North American domes were farming domes, since none of Australiaâ(TM)s three domes had farms, and they had to import all of their food. He swore to himself that the situation was intolerable and would have to change.
        Born in DA3, his parents were immigrants from Australia. His paternal grandfather had moved to Australia from somewhere in North America.
        But unlike other countriesâ(TM) domes, the Australians had great autonomy. They could pass their own laws and regulations, and only had to pay tax to the Earthians. Still, paying those taxes rankled; the money would be better spent improving life on Mars. Things were still rough on the Martian frontier, although nowhere near as bad as it had been before the robot factories were built.
        He wondered where the Europeans were going to get new robots, since the three robot factories were all in North American domes. Parts to repair malfunctioning robots, as well. He grinned at that, and thought to himself âoebloody dills! Those bludgers are going to have to work now. Bloody hell, itâ(TM)ll be Raffertyâ(TM)s rules for sure; things are already becoming a bit chaotic.â
        He decided to call his old friend Ed Waldo. Ed always knew what to do when things got crazy.
        Edâ(TM)s secretary said he had taken the afternoon off.
        âoeWith this war stuff going on?â
        âoeHe said he was going to talk to his friend John, said John always knew what to do when things got crazy.â
        He should drop by Ed and Johnâ(TM)s dome and bend the elbow with them, he thought. He liked John, who didnâ(TM)t charge as much for his grog as anybody else charged for theirs, and his beer was the best. Even better than Victoria Bitter, although that brandâ(TM)s quality had suffered in the last couple of decades.
        He called Edâ(TM)s pocket number, but Ed had it shut off. He called the French dome, which was only twenty kilometers from DA2, but was told that there could be no communication with non-UN domes as well as no trade; the diplomats were all in charge. And there were no diplomats on Mars, only Earth.
        Except, well, John, maybe. John wasnâ(TM)t even a real Martian. Not yet, anyway. You had to be a resident of any dome for ten years to get voting rights, even though those rights were pretty meaningless in some domes, like the Chinese and UN domes. John had two years to go before he was a citizen.
        John had connections. He was the son in law of the founder of the biggest shipping company in the solar system, and between he and his wife owned a quarter of company stock. He also had a small farm, a brewery, and a bar on Mars, all of which his wife said were hobbies even though they all made him a lot of money and even more friends.
        As he was trying to figure out a plan, a message came from his friend and trading partner Chuck Watson. luckily Ceres and Mars were close enough at the time that the radio lag wasnâ(TM)t too bad.
        âoeCharlie, what are we going to do? The damned Earthians are killing us!â
        âoeCome on, Chuck. donâ(TM)t over react.â
        âoeCharlie, Iâ(TM)m not. Weâ(TM)re going to need food, whereâ(TM)s it going to come from? Earth? Weâ(TM)ll starve!â
        âoeNo you wonâ(TM)t. Earthians can go to hell, we Martians and you asterites can stick together. You want to trade, weâ(TM)ll trade. We need rare earths and you need food, and neither of us needs Earth.â
        Of course, it was a very long conversation because of the lightspeed lag.

        âoeYou look like hell, Ed.â
        âoeHung over, and I even had trouble sleeping after getting stumbling drunk. Got any coffee?â
        âoeYeah, coffeeâ(TM)s free. The potâ(TM)s over there.â
        âoeThanks, John. What the hell am I going to do? We donâ(TM)t need much from the Europeans that the Chinese and Aussies canâ(TM)t provide, but if this lasts a long time...â
        âoeDonâ(TM)t worry, itâ(TM)s only going to last a few months and when itâ(TM)s finished, Mars is going to be independent of Earth.â
        âoeNo way. This is a diplomatic and economic war, it could last for years.â
        The mayor from the neighboring dome came in. âoeHey, Charlie,â Ed said. âoeHell of a mess.â
        John grinned. âoeNope. Whereâ(TM)s Europe going to get any rare earth magnets, or any of the other rare earths?â
        Charlie groaned. âoeJohn, ever hear of the asteroid belt?â
        John grinned. âoeYep. Ever heard of Green-Osbourne?â
        âoeSo what?â
        âoeSo they shouldnâ(TM)t have pissed off Dewey and Charles. First the Europeans seized company holdings in Europe, but luckily all the engineering is done in North America and most of the assets are in space. Then we lost a man and a landing craft when the Euros fired on it. It was full of my beer, too, damn it. Anyway, that was the last straw.â
        âoeI thought your ships were almost impervious to weapons?â
        âoeOnly the interplanetary ships. Landers and boosters have to deal with the gravity well and canâ(TM)t be that heavy.â
        âoeSo what can Dewey do?â
        âoeGuys, do any of you know anything about war?â
        âoeI do,â an elderly female voice piped up from the other end of the bar. âoeI was only twenty. It was horrible.â
        âoeOh,â said Ed, âoeHello, Mrs. Ferguson. I didnâ(TM)t see you down there. Where are you going with this, John?â
        âoeEarth hasnâ(TM)t had a shooting war for half a century, and their armies have forgotten how to fight. Theyâ(TM)re barely armies.
        âoeMeanwhile, Mars has been at war almost from the beginning, at war with pirates. Green-Osbourne has an army, a space army, and an experienced one.
        âoeDewey convinced all the other shippers to refuse interplanetary shipments until the mess on Earth is over. Some he had to threaten, he made it clear that his army would allow no shipping, and people who tried to trade with Earth would be blown out of the sky. Nobody but Green-Osbourne is doing any shipping, and only to select clients, like us. You Aussies can have all the rare earths you can afford, but the Euros get nothing.
        âoeChina and North America are the only Earthly sources of rare earths, so Europe is screwed; mining is effectively impossible there. Their economies will collapse; theyâ(TM)ll come around.
        âoeMeanwhile, I expect to see riots in the European domes pretty soon. There will be revolution for sure. Lots of Martians are tired of being tied to Mother Earthâ(TM)s apron strings. We want to be free!â
        âoeI donâ(TM)t know, maytie,â Charlie said. âoeAustralians almost have independence already, I donâ(TM)t see any revolt coming.â
        âoeJohnâ(TM)s right,â Ed replied. âoeyou folks will be last, except maybe the Chinese, you might revolt before them. But when weâ(TM)re not paying taxes to Earth and you are, and thereâ(TM)s nothing that can happen to you for not paying the tax, youâ(TM)ll sign the declaration.â
        âoeWeâ(TM)ll declare our independence. When the time is right. Mars has an army and Earth doesnâ(TM)t. They canâ(TM)t boss us Martians around any more!â

        âoeSir, weâ(TM)ve detected a craft coming in from the belt.â
        âoeVery well, Captain Phillips. Disable it with an EMP and set it in orbit around Mars. It will be their prison until a treaty is signed, weâ(TM)ll supply them with the necessities of life.â
        âoeYes, sir.â

        A month later, there was indeed rioting in the French dome. The elected, normally powerless city council presented a demand for independence from Earth; after all, Earth was powerless against Green-Osbourne, and that company had protected Mars from pirates â" and now was protecting Mars from the Earthians.
        The mayor refused to sign the declaration and was arrested, and an election for a new mayor was scheduled.
        News reached the other domes, of course, and almost all of the Martians became rebels.

        Three months later on June thirteenth, by Earthâ(TM)s calendar (Mars rotates at a different rate and is on a longer orbit), the UN had no choice but to sign a treaty with the Martians, which recognized the domes as sovereign states. Their economy was crumbling, citizens were doing more than grumbling, elected leaders were in danger of no longer being elected.
        Earth no longer had the illusion of a single government.
        Aimée Beaulieu was released from jail and returned to Earth after the treaty was signed, and retired with honors and a huge pension, seen as a patriotic hero by her French countrymen and the French government.
        The only loss of life in the entire âoewarâ was the Greene-Osbourne landing craft captain that the U.N. had shot down.

        Johnâ(TM)s bar was full of happy people with nothing on their minds except celebrating Martian independence. John downplayed his involvement.
        âoeIâ(TM)m not even a real Martian, Charlie. Not for two more years. The real Martians, guys like you who were born here are the real Martians.â
        A voice came from a few stools down. âoeHey John, donâ(TM)t you serve Frenchmen?â
        âoeLewis! Good to see you, old man. Lager?â
        âoeOf course.â
        âoeSo how do you like your new job?â
        âoeOh, man, I hate it. I wish I hadnâ(TM)t run for office, those damned Euros really fouled everything up. But Iâ(TM)ll manage. Mars will, too, now that weâ(TM)re not wearing Earthâ(TM)s yoke.â
        âoeThe second French revolution and nobody got guillotined!â
        âoeThe second American revolution, too. And it was a lot more like now than the French revolution.â
        John grinned. âoeI wouldnâ(TM)t know, my wifeâ(TM)s the history buff. Excuse me, Lewis, it looks like thereâ(TM)s a lot of empty glasses! PARTY!! Robot, donâ(TM)t just stand there, you stupid junkpile, get Lewis a lager.â

User Journal

Journal Journal: Odds and Ends 4

If you've downloaded the ePub or AWZ version of Random Scribblings, you should download it again. I was a little sloppy when I converted it, and all the paragraph tabs were missing. There were a few other, more trivial bug fixes as well.

If you run across any problems with any of the versions of any of my books, please let me know.

In my last journal, all of the comments were about its use of tables rather than CSS. The choice came down to reason and logic. There is a very small bit of CSS on every page, to allow mouseovers.

CSS was developed because tables used to be the only way to do columns or have exact page placement, and it often played havok with screen readers for blind users. If I had multiple columns of text, I would certainly use CSS for that reason. But for page margins, tables work well on a screen and in a reader, and I've seen way too many web pages designed by hotshots trying to impress, and all I was impressed with was their ignorance, as often a photo would cover the text, or other such nonsense (like this page as displayed on a tablet; link is temporary). The social media crap covers the text, and one would assume since it's a professional publication they would have a well-trained designer.

Like Scotty says in The Search for Spock, "the more complicated the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain". He was referring to an age-old, time-tested design principle, KISS. It's an acronym, "keep it simple, stupid". For the use I'm putting it to, tables are logical.

I'm posting a "new" SF story in a day or two. I wrote it late last summer, and Amazing held on to it for six months. It's been shopped around to several markets, but since it's similar to the "Brexit" now is a good time to post it. Actually, a few weeks ago would have been a better time.

I use the word "asterite" to name someone who lives in the asteroid belt. I didn't coin that use of the word, Poul Anderson did in his 1963 story Industrial Revolution. I thought it was clever, since asterite the mineral is called a "star stone". Maybe I should have the Cererians getting stoned?

Someone (AC) pointed me to a replacement for MS Office. It's a good package with a spreadsheet that beats the crap out of Oo's spreadsheet. Unfortunately, it will neither read nor write DOC files, only RTF and all but a tiny minority of publishers insist on DOC.

So the small laptop, the one that actually fits on a lap, was out of commission for two full days, one full day to reinstall Windows and another to remove Bing Bar and all the other garbage manufacturers add to computers, apply all the updates, and reinstall all of my software.

So finally I can get some work done... that is, if I can stay away from here...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Well, Most of the mess is cleaned up... 2

I had the HTML and other electronic versions of Random Scribblings done a couple of months ago. I should have uploaded it without an index to test it on my phone, and I should have examined it more closely on the computer. Some of the code was REALLY bad.

One page, the longest, still wobbles in Android Firefox on a phone, but is fine in the phone's built-in browser. I haven't tested it in Opera or Chrome.

I went to the pawn shop and bought a tablet just to see if it was okay on a tablet. It isn't, at least on a Samsung Galaxy 3 tablet; the text is teensy, more so in Firefox than its native browser but hard to read anyway. I guess I need to google a little; in the computer if the text is too small I can hit Ctrl +. The reverse pinch thing on a touchscreen isn't good enough.

Anyway, one page is very long and has quite a bit of code, and looking for clues of where the errors were by examining the page in a browser, how I debugged back in my programming days, wasn't cutting it. So I ran it through the W3C code validator, and egads! Over 1700 errors and warnings! I settled down a little when I realized all but a half dozen or so were simply the lack of an "alt" tag in images where that tag was not only unnecessary but would get in the blind reader's way; the graphic is a one pixel clear PNG I use for tab stops at the beginning of a paragraph (<img src="tab.png" width="25" height="1" align="left" border="0">).

The first error was from a useful habit I got into back in my programming days: re-using code. Re-inventing the wheel for each wagon you invent is just stupid, so I would simply copy everything above the <body> statement. But the twenty year old doctype was no longer recognized. Some other ancient code wasn't recognized, either.

Well, I'd better get back to work on it... It's here.

User Journal

Journal Journal: GIMPy Text 9

(There's an illustrated copy of this at

The GNU Image Manipulation Program is an excellent free and open source graphics program that will do almost anything you want to a bitmap image.

Almost. When text is needed in an image, GIMP is indeed gimpy. Rather than use fonts installed in the computerâ(TM)s operating system, it has its own, very limited set of fonts, and no way to exactly position your text.

The workaround is easy: donâ(TM)t use GIMP for text.

Todayâ(TM)s word processors can all write PDF files, both closed source commercial word processors and open source tools. My favorite is Open Office Write. GIMP can import them as images, and it does an excellent job of it.

Say you wanted to use the above image (a 35 mm slide I took in 1974 and digitized with a cheap plastic slide viewer, a phone, a rubber band, and adhesive tape) and add âoeyour moveâ in the upper left hand corner of the image. First, open your word processor and choose the font you want. Any font installed on your computer will work, and there are literally thousands of fonts you can download from the internet and install in a few seconds. One Iâ(TM)ve downloaded is Callistroke. Weâ(TM)ll use that one for the example, and Iâ(TM)ll explain why shortly.

Once the font is chosen, type in the text and highlight it, center it, and make the font size large enough that it stretches from border to border.

Next, export it as PDF and open GIMP. Once GIMPâ(TM)s stuff has all loaded, you can open the PDF as an image. I simply put it on the last page of this document rather than making a new document. Before you tell GIMP to import it, raise the resolution to 600 DPI or higher to prevent pixelation. You can make it smaller later.

When it opens, select Tools --> Selection Tools --> Rectangle Select, and outline your text.

Now select Image --> Crop to Selection.

The reason I like the outline fonts in most illustrations and graphics is that I can have white letters outlined in black, which will show up clearly in any image. If your text is going to be in a landscape with a blue sky, a non-outline font in a contrasting color is as good or better. Donâ(TM)t use red letters on a green background as it will be invisible to some people.

There are a couple of steps to get there. First, select Tools --> Color Picker. Place your cursor over the white and click. Then choose Tools --> Selection Tools --> Select By Color. Now click anywhere white and press âoeDelâ and everything white will be transparent.

Now, select Select --> None.

Transparent parts will show up as a two shades of gray checkerboard. as in the illustration below.

Now choose Tools --> Paint Tools --> Bucket Fill to fill in the white part of your text.

Now open the image you want to put the text in. There will be a ruler at the top of the screen showing how many pixels in a given area. In our image, where we want the text is about 750 pixels wide. In the text image, select Image --> Scale Image. The following dialog opens:

Place the cursor in the âoeWidthâ field, then type in the number. Weâ(TM)re changing 1024 to 750. Now press âoeTabâ once and the âoeHeightâ field will change. Now just click âoescaleâ.

When it finishes scaling, press Ctrl+A to select the whole image, than Ctrl+C to copy it. Tab to the image youâ(TM)re adding text to, make sure the âoeRectangle Selectâ tool is chosen (see earlier in this article) and press Ctrl+V to paste the text in.

Now put the cursor on a letter and hold the primary mouse button and move the text where you want it.

Now merge the two images by pressing Ctrl+M then Enter. Here is the final image:

You can add all sorts of fancy things to your text with different images.

To make the above image, I got a picture of fire from Google, Wrote the word âoeFIREâ in open office, exported as PDF, selected black (lettering), deleted, and pasted it over the fire.

So finally, GIMP has everything I need. Well, maybe except the ability to make moving PNGs and vector graphics.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Damn it, Microsoft, you incompetent sons of bitches! 8

I like Open Office but needed .doc file to send science fiction to magazines, so I needed Word; I wasn't sure Oo would write the files properly and it turned out it can't export to anything except PDF, so I installed Libre Office. It will write the files, but MS Write can't read them.
        I had an idea for an article about playing cards, so googled for open source playing card images. There should be plenty since playing cards have been around for hundreds of years. However, finding them was really difficult. I managed to find an .eps vector graphics file that Windows didn't know what it was, so more googling.
        The internet said GIMP would open it, but it couldn't; it repeatedly crashed trying to open it. I tried importing it into Open Office, and got a blank screen. The internet said you could import it with Word, so I opened Word... or tried to. It wouldn't open and that I should try again or go to Control Panel to "repair" it. Tried reopening Word, same thing. Booted the computer and tried again, same thing. So I go into control panel and tried to repair, and that stupid fucking thing said I needed an internet connection. IT'S ON THE INTERNET, DAMN IT!!!
        I don't know where Microsoft finds its programmers, skid row? Homeless shelters? Crack houses?
        It's done this before. I had to reinstall the God damned OS to fix that stupid, stupid, program.
        They've always been terrible at networking. DOS and Windows 95 had no native networking at all. When I first got on the internet in 1997 I had to buy a floppy with a network stack and that primitive browser that the U of I came up with. They STILL can't do networking well. I assigned this computer's "documents" folder as the A: drive on the HP. Whenever I try to access it, it says the Acer isn't running, but if I go through "network" it works.
        Look, you idiots running Microsoft, here's a suggestion: the next time you roll out a new OS, how about making sure it actually WORKS?
        I'm in a really bad mood right now.

User Journal

Journal Journal: How to digitize all of your film slides for less than ten do 7

(The version at my web site is illustrated)

I was an amateur photographer in my youth, starting in high school when I bought a Canon 35 mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. Iâ(TM)d been interested in photography since I was about twelve, when I somehow obtained a Three Stooges photo developing kit. That toy hooked me, even if I could only do contact prints until I got a job when I was a teenager and bought a cheap enlarger. Color film went to a commercial developer, as I had neither the knowledge nor equipment to develop color film.

So I have a lot of photographic slides and prints to digitize, since film photography is now obsolete; Kodak put itself out of business when they invented the digital camera which made their cash cow, film, obsolete. Prints are easy to digitize, as scanners are cheap and make good digital photos out of film prints. But what about my slides?

I asked at Walgreenâ(TM)s photo department if they could digitize slides, cringing at what was sure to be expensive since Iâ(TM)ve dug up half a dozen boxes of them. But they couldnâ(TM)t, and the lady said there were only two places in the country that could. I looked them up. Both were prohibitively expensive and you donâ(TM)t get the slideâ(TM)s frame back, only the film.

Then I had an idea, remembering the slide viewer I used to have and may still have somewhere. All I had to do was put my phone to the viewerâ(TM)s eyepiece and snap a photo! I looked, and bought one on the internet. It was only six bucks after shipping.

Alas, when the viewer came, there were complications; keeping the camera and viewer lined up still was impossible, making the digitized images awful.

So my next step was holding it together with a rubber band to keep it steady. I didnâ(TM)t have any, so the final cost was closer to ten bucks; you canâ(TM)t just buy one rubber band, you have to buy the whole bag.

If you have no computer, it will cost you the price of one, because later youâ(TM)ll need an image editor.

Hereâ(TM)s what the phone/viewer/rubber band combination looks like:

The next step is to turn the phoneâ(TM)s camera on and line the viewer up.

Next, carefully lay it flat on a table and tape the viewer to the phone. Any kind of adhesive tape will do, just make sure itâ(TM)s tight before removing the rubber band, which will interfere with the photo if left on.

Of course, you can use any source of illumination. I used a table lamp; a flashlight would do. You can vary the brightness and contrast by moving the contraption closer to or farther from the light.

Hereâ(TM)s what the raw output from the camera looks like, which is why you need an image editor:

I use the Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). Itâ(TM)s free and open source and has everything you need to manipulate images, although it has a large learning curve. Here the slide is; digitized, cropped, and rotated:

One advantage of digital photography is very evident in this picture of Dover Air Force Base from the stairway to my barracks in 1972. The color has faded almost completely, leaving a pink tinge to the right, and bits donâ(TM)t fade.

So the final picture is saved as grayscale rather than RGB.

So now my slides, at least the ones Iâ(TM)ve found, are digitized. Iâ(TM)m keeping them, maybe Iâ(TM)ll have a better camera to better digitize some time in the future.

Hereâ(TM)s a slide I digitized of a friend and co-worker when I was a teenager; time was kinder to this almost fifty year old slide, although all the green color is faded; I restored it with GIMP the best I could. Itâ(TM)s obvious that where you had the slides developed matters a lot.

Now I need to buy a scanner...

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Old Sayings Are Wrong 13

(If the formatting is borked, it's posted at

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
        Taken literally, this is patently false, as anyone with a grandmother knows. You may say âoewell, Grandma paid for it so it isn't free.â But it is free â" to you.
        I have a fruit tree in my front yard, and all its fruit is completely free.
        What this old saying means is âoenever trust a salesmanâ. If a salesman offers to buy your lunch, it will cost you.
        From a physicist's perspective, it means you can't break the three laws of thermodynamics; you can never get more energy out of a system than you put in.

You get what you pay for
        This is another salesman lie, with the sales lady getting you to believe that the higher priced item is always better than the cheap item. But you donâ(TM)t always get what you pay for. Often the less expensive item is equal or superior, with over-the-counter drugs being an excellent example. Aleve costs three times what generic naproxin does, yet is the exact same drug.
        And of course there are swindlers. If someone sells you a counterfeit Rolex at a real Rolex price, or a diamond ring with a zirconium stone, you have been swindled and certainly didnâ(TM)t get what you paid for.
        You usually pay for what you get, but often you pay far less than you otherwise did. Just yesterday I saw a âoegoing out of businessâ sign at a Radio Shack, and since I needed a new soldering iron I went in. The iron and solder were a third what I would have paid had I not procrastinated, and I got a TV antenna for five bucks. I got a lot more than I paid for.
        Get what you pay for? Usually, but sometimes you get more than you paid for and sometimes a high priced item turns out to be utter junk.

What goes up must come down
        This was true until July of 1969, when astronauts left man-made objects on the moon. They're not likely to ever come back down.
        There are robots rolling around Mars. These, too, are unlikely to ever come down.
        Then there are the Voyager spacecraft, which are now outside the entire solar system. It's a certainty that these machines will never return to Earth.

Money doesn't grow on trees
        Of course it does, orchards grow lots of money. Not only does it grow on trees, it grows on corn stalks, tomato plants, soybean bushes...

A picture is worth a thousand words
        If it is, then draw me a picture that says âoea picture's worth a thousand words.â Pictures can be aids in communication, and a picture is better than a description, but it's impossible to teach using only pictures.
        However, it is true in a monetary sense, in that a thousand word magazine article will garner a commercial writer less than the artist who made the cover art did.

What doesn't kill me makes me stronger
        Nietzsche was an idiot. Just ask any brain-damaged quadriplegic if he's stronger than he was before the accident.
        Oh, and also, God isn't dead, Nietzsche is.

You can never be too rich or too thin
        Whoever started this stupid meme was a gold plated idiot. Of course you can be too thin. Bulimia and anorexia have killed people.
        The âoetoo richâ is subjective. I'd say if you have more money than anyone could spend in a lifetime when there are hungry people, you're too rich. How can someone like that live with themselves?

Lightning never strikes the same place twice
        It amazes me how gullible most people are, believing everything anyone tells them. They even believe stuff that was proven untrue centuries ago, as in this saying. It was believed for at least hundreds of years and likely longer until Ben Franklin disproved it with his kite and his invention of the lightning rod. If lightning never strikes the same place twice, lightning rods wouldn't work.

Only the good die young
Well, they showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done
Only the good die young
That's what I said
Only the good die young
â" Billy Joel
        I've heard this nonsense all my life, and canâ(TM)t understand why people actually believe that tripe. Yes, some good young people do die way before their time.
        But if only the good die young, then why are so many inner-city young men killed in gun battles with rival gangs? Good people never die in gang battles unless they're not a part of the fight and simply get caught in the crossfire.
        Why do so many young people get drunk and die in their cars when they wrap them around trees? Good people don't drive when they're drunk.
        And if you're Christian, remember that Jesus said âoenone are good, except God.â Only the very young; the small children who die innocent are good. But bad young people die all the time.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Useful Dead Technologies Redux 6

If slashdot hasn't fixed the unicode bug, there's a version of the article on my personal page. It will be included in "Random Scribblings", out June 19

        Ten years ago I wrote a humorous article titled âoeUseful Dead Technologiesâ about technologies that are no longer used that I sorely miss, like furnaces that still worked when the power went out, or things made of durable steel instead of todayâ(TM)s fragile and short-lived plastics.
        A couple of the things on the list have improved since then. Shoelaces, for instance. Ten years ago I wrote:
        âoeShoelaces have been designed for hundreds of years to keep your shoes on your feet. No longer. Today's shoelaces are designed with one purpose in mind â" to annoy you.
        âoeWhat are they making shoelaces out of now? Nylon! Good old frictionless nylon âbecause of its strengthâ(TM). One wonders if today's engineers even need a college degree, as it seems that some things, like today's shoelaces, were designed by âoespecial edâ students.
        âoeBecause now, not only are they made of a friction-free material, they're round rather than flat, further eroding their ability to stay tied.â
        Since then, theyâ(TM)ve been making them of both cotton and nylon woven together, with all the friction of cotton and the strength of nylon.
        And theyâ(TM)re flat again.
        Another item was knobs on car radios. At the beginning of the century they had buttons for tuning and volume, so you couldnâ(TM)t turn it up or down without taking your eyes off the road. It was dangerous. Thankfully, theyâ(TM)ve gone back to knobs, even though theyâ(TM)re digital rather than potentiometers.
        The radio in my car now really annoys me, because the morons who designed it stupidly put the volume knob right above the tuning knob rather than the time tested volume on the left side of the radio and tuning on the right. Often when I try to adjust the volume, Iâ(TM)ll grab the wrong knob.
        I also miss the way presets worked back in the analog age. They were simple to operate: to set a preset to a station, you tuned the radio to that station, pulled out on the button, and pushed it back in. These days you simply cannot tune a station to a preset while youâ(TM)re driving, at least unless youâ(TM)re a suicidal maniac. Whatâ(TM)s worse, every radio has a different way of tuning a preset button, and many are impossible to figure out without an ownerâ(TM)s manual.
        The worst thing about that radio is I canâ(TM)t change the time on the clock. The car came with a manual, but they put three different models of radio in those cars, and the manual lists all of them. But each of the three says to push a button that simply isnâ(TM)t on the radio!
        And I just discovered by watching a commercial where they were trying to sell new cars â" the morons took the knobs away again, and now itâ(TM)s even worse than the buttons. Now they have touch screens. Thereâ(TM)s no way possible to change the station or volume without taking your eyes off the road!
        Iâ(TM)m all for hiring the handicapped, but I wish they wouldnâ(TM)t hire idiots to be engineers. Touch screens for automobile controls are brain-dead stupid.
        The following items havenâ(TM)t all become extinct in the last decade, I simply didnâ(TM)t think of them when I wrote it. Here are some more.

Thermostats that donâ(TM)t need batteries
        In the twentieth century, thermostats were simple yet clever devices: a mercury switch on the end of two dissimilar metals. The metal would bend one way or the other depending on temperature. When the metal reached a certain shape, the mercury would roll down the inside of the switch and close the circuit.
        Shortly before the turn of the century they came out with programmable thermostats, and they were indeed superior despite the one disadvantage of needing a battery; perhaps it could be done, but I donâ(TM)t see how you could have a programmable thermostat without one. But they could be set to turn themselves down at bedtime, then warm the house back up before you arose in the morning. More comfort, lower heating costs.
        Fast forward to a couple of years ago when the landlord had a new furnace installed in my house. With the new furnace came a new thermostat. The old thermostat was programmable, the new one isnâ(TM)t.
        But itâ(TM)s digital and still needs batteries.
        At first I thought they had to be digital because mercury has been shown to be toxic, but on second thought you could simply have a copper ball replacing the mercury. Such a switch would be easy to engineer.
        Folks, digital thermostats have been in use for a couple of decades now. Why arenâ(TM)t new homes designed to have a low voltage DC supply to thermostats so batteries wouldnâ(TM)t be needed?

Sticky Menus
        When GUIs first came out they were a great improvement over the old CLIs. Easy to use and hard to screw up. Click on a menu heading and the menu drops down. Nothing happened until you clicked somewhere. If you clicked on an empty space the menu closed. Click on a different menu and that menu opened.
        So some moron had the bright idea that if you had the file menu open and simply mouse over the edit menu, File closes and Edit opens.
        This incredibly stupid change drives me nuts, especially in Firefox and GIMP. I have nested bookmarks in Firefox, and after clicking a folder I have to slowly and carefully slide the cursor over, making sure the cursor never goes over a different folder, as the folder I want will close and the one I donâ(TM)t opens.
        GIMP drives me nuts, too, especially trying to select the âoerectangle selectâ from the âoeselectionâ menu, as the âoefiltersâ menu will open when Iâ(TM)m trying to navigate to âoerectangle selectâ.
        Folks, losing sticky menus was an incredibly stupid, productivity killing thing. BRING THEM BACK!

Rectangular cabinets
        Stuff used to have cabinets made of wood. The better stuff had rounded corners, because they were safer.
        Every large CRT TV I ever owned was rectangular, before 2002 when I bought a forty two inch Sony Trinitron. It takes up a huge amount of floor space, and you canâ(TM)t set anything on it because itâ(TM)s stupidly shaped. My DVD and VCR and converter box should be able to sit on it, but nothing can.
        The rectangular shape is far from extinct, but more and more things seem to be eschewing it.

Useful user manuals
        Some would criticize me for this one, saying user manuals always sucked, and they would have a valid point. When I was young, user manuals were complete â" and completely unreadable to many if not most people. I had trouble making heads or tails out of more than one, and I could read at a post-doctoral level at age 12 (although I didnâ(TM)t understand the math).
        DOS 6.2 came in a box with two floppies and a thick user manual. Windows 95 came with a very thin manual. I donâ(TM)t remember what XPâ(TM)s was like, but the manual for this old Acer laptop was really thin.
        Then my phone. Honestly, come on, now, a smart phone is a complex, sophisticated piece of equipment but its user manual is three by five inches and a dozen pages?
        The worst was the âoeSeagate Personal Cloudâ, which is really a network hard drive. Tiny pamphlet with pictures and few words. Look, folks, pictures are good for illustration but lousy for information. I spent twenty useless minutes studying the thing, then finally just plugged it in and turned it on. It didnâ(TM)t even need a manual!
        I did find a detailed, very good manual for it online. Its printed manual should have added its URL.

Automobile hoods and trunks that didnâ(TM)t need props
        Before the 1970s, to open a hood you opened the hood latch, and springs opened the hood and held it open. It was an ingenious design where it didnâ(TM)t spring open, you lifted it a little first. Trunks worked the same way. It didnâ(TM)t matter if it was a Volkswagen, a little Plymouth Valiant, or a big luxury Cadillac.
        Then the Arab oil embargo hit in 1974 and the price of gasoline doubled in a matter of months. People started replacing their American gas guzzlers with compact Japanese cars that had far better mileage.
        The more weight a vehicle carries, the worse its mileage is. Part of the raising of gas mileage was replacing the heavy steel with a lighter material when possible, and those springs and the rest of the steel assembly for them were jettisoned, replaced with that stupid hood prop.
        Soon American auto makers started following suit. I donâ(TM)t know if big sedans and luxury cars ever went to hood props, but I know my â67 Mustang had no hood prop, nor did my â74 LeMans. My 76 Vega did, though, as did every other car I owned until I bought an â02 Concorde. Rather than springs or a hood prop, it had lightweight hydraulic struts for both the front and back.
        It was far better than a hood prop, but not as good as the spring mechanism. Those springs lasted forever, but the struts fail in a few years and you wind up propping up your hood and trunk with a stick. Either that or shell out for new ones.

Bumper Jacks
        All cars and trucks used to have bumpers, and there was a slot on each end of each bumper. The slots were for flat tires. If you had a flat, you got the jack out of the car, hooked it into the slot, and jacked it up with its handle like you were pumping water out of a hand operated well pump. This was easy on the back, as you were standing up. It took very little effort to jack up the vehicle.
        Now they all have scissors jacks, and I hate them. You have to get down on your hands and knees to slide it under the car, and jack it up by cranking it. It always takes skin off of your knuckles and takes twice the effort and three times the time.
        Yes, the new jacks take up far less space, but the trade-offs simply werenâ(TM)t worth it.
        I miss the full sized spares, too. If you had a flat, you changed the tire, got the flat tire fixed, and simply put that one in the trunk instead of having to change the âoedoughnutâ to put your real tire on.
        At least we have fix-a-flat now.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A little help, please 3

My touchpad got screwy and Control Panel said its driver was missing, so I reinstalled Windows and lost all my bookmarks in the process. Unfortunately I didn't have slashdot messages bookmarked on the other computer. Slashdot has no link that I can find and its FAQ doesn't mention messages.

So if someone could shoot me the URL I'd appreciate it, I like reading you guys' journals and "messages" is how I get there.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Cornodium 4

I finished this story early January, and it's made the rounds of magazines it would fit in that I submit to, except Analog and the new site Compelling SF. Compelling has "Agoraphobia" and it will be six weeks before I can submit anything else, and Analog holds on to them for six months. So you guys get it. It will be in a future book titled "Voyage to Earth and Other Stories". If it's borked, go to a less retarded site

          Iâ(TM)m going to kill a planet. I donâ(TM)t know how yet, but I swear Iâ(TM)m going to do it.

        I was making a routine prospecting run and got a radio message from my best friend. As luck and coincidence would have it, the radio relay was only a little over two light hours awayâ"and Roger was either dying or already dead.

        The radioâ(TM)s message started âoeWarning! Anyone who hears this, stay away from Darius. This is probably the deadliest planet in the galaxy. If you land here, youâ(TM)ll die here. Iâ(TM)ll probably be dead by the time you receive this message.â

        Darius? He was prospecting in the Luhman system, the same system that I was, and I didnâ(TM)t even know it. I doubt he knew I was in the system, too. I hadnâ(TM)t heard from him in months, and here he was only between a light hour and three away. I wondered what he was looking for? I was after rare earths. This system was supposed to be a lot like the solar system and weâ(TM)d mined quite a bit of it from our own asteroid belt. Most of the rare earths in the belt, in fact. But Darius? What of value could possibly be there?

        I couldnâ(TM)t bring myself to leave him there despite his dire warnings, at least until Iâ(TM)d heard the entire thing and knew he was... Oh, God. Roger!

        I started the jump drive and in half an hour Iâ(TM)d be on my way to Darius to see if there was any way I could help him survive. I listened to the rest of the message as the engines warmed up.

        âoeI donâ(TM)t remember the crash, but I suspect it was the cornodium that caused it. Do not land on this planet!â

        I wondered what in the galaxy cornodium was. Iâ(TM)d never heard of the stuff before.

        âoeI woke up on the floor with a terrible headache, not knowing where I was. Hung over, maybe? I sat up and looked around. No, I was in the pilot room of my craft and wouldnâ(TM)t have been drinking. I got up with my head reeling, and stumbled to the controls.

        âoeIt looked like Iâ(TM)d crashed on Darius, the third orbit out from Luhman. Thatâ(TM)s the weirdest star system weâ(TM)ve found so far, weird because it was so much like the sun, and its planets were so much like our own solar systemâ(TM)s planets. Darius even has a giant satellite like Earth does, and the Luhman system even has a ring of asteroids between the fourth and fifth planets, just like the solar system. Nature is really strange sometimes.

        âoeI was looking for cornodium. Only small amounts had been found anywhere, and my calculations said the substance would be here, and likely vast riches of it. I donâ(TM)t know how many of us prospectors roam the galaxy these days, but weâ(TM)ve looked for valuable ores either not readily available or not available at all in our own system on hundreds of thousands of planets, and cornodium had only been found on six of them. None had much of it. It had all been mined and taken to Earth, less than a ton of the substance.

        âoeI didnâ(TM)t know much about cornodium despite doing as much research as I could about it. It was discovered only ten years ago and had revolutionized high end electronics, and the highest end at that because the stuff was so rare, and therefore very expensive. All I knew about cornodium was that they used it for power generation, but I had no idea how they got power from it. I didnâ(TM)t know what the stuff is or why itâ(TM)s so rare, but I didnâ(TM)t care. All I knew was that it was rare and very expensive, and if I found a planet with it Iâ(TM)d be rich, so I learned as much about its origins as I could. I was sure Darius fit the bill. If I was right Iâ(TM)d be as rich as my buddy who had found all that gold and platinum. I know now. Lot of good it will do a dead man.â

        I choked up again; Roger was thinking of me as he died.

        âoeWell, I would have been rich. It was obvious Iâ(TM)d crash landed on Darius.

        âoeMy head was bleeding, which explained the headache. I ignored it; I needed to assess my situation and get help if necessary.

        âoeI checked the controls, and yep, I was screwed. I tried to radio for help, but radio only goes at the speed of light and the closest radio relay craft was thirty light minutes away. I sent a distress signal, knowing it would be over an hour before I heard back.

        âoeTwo hours later it dawned on meâ"the antenna was on the bottom of the craft to better communicate with bodies one was taking off from or landing on. No one had heard me.

        âoeLike I said, Darius is really weird. Theyâ(TM)d only surveyed it by telescope so far, but Itâ(TM)s exactly like Earth and its moon, with two exceptions: the land masses are quite different, and there is no life whatever. The air is mostly nitrogen like Earth, with about the same amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and science couldnâ(TM)t explain where the oxygen came from. On Earth, it comes from vegetation and photosynthesis, but Darius was completely lifeless.

        âoeThat didnâ(TM)t matter to me, though. I needed to find the cornodium I was certain was here and stake a claim.

        âoeThe trouble was, I seemed to have wrecked my craft, and it was all I had. It was insured, of course, but with my antenna busted how could I collect on the insurance? And find the cornodium and stake a claim?

        âoeI decided to go outside and think about it, since I needed to see how much damage was done in the crash. After all, what danger could there be? This planet was lifeless, including microbial life. It being lifeless was, of course, the biggest mystery, even bigger than where all the oxygen had all come from. The planet was perfect for life to have formed, yet it hadnâ(TM)t. It should have even had sentient life, even though so far our own species was the only sentience we had ever found, which still puzzled evolutionists. Weâ(TM)d discovered lots of life in the galaxy, but most of it was no higher form of life than bacteria, and none smarter than a cow is on Earth.

        âoeI got out to do an outside inspection, and wow, I was right; the cornodium was everywhere, just laying on the ground! One piece looked like a daisy; nature comes up with some strange coincidences, and I laughed at it. There was a weird sound in the air, and I couldnâ(TM)t figure out what it was or where it was coming from.

        âoeIt looked like Iâ(TM)d smashed up the bottom of my craft pretty good. Iâ(TM)d have to find a way to make the radio work, and I decided to eat lunch and take a short walk first, since I was going to need all my brain and it didnâ(TM)t seem to be working right, so I decided to give it a break. I ate lunch and went back outside.

        âoeDarius reminded me of Mars, except there was air and water. And mud. And the skyâ(TM)s blue when Luhman is shining. It wasnâ(TM)t the same color as Mars, either, more brown than orange, with all of the patches of the bright blue cornodium. Lots of large areas didnâ(TM)t show dirt, just piles of small to tiny pieces of cornodium. And that strange sound, and it was heavy like Earth and the horizon was different than Mars, but it still reminded me of Mars, anyway. I donâ(TM)t know why.

        âoeIt wasnâ(TM)t all that muddy, kind of like dry dirt that had a small shower maybe the day before and there were enough rocks to keep my boots from getting too nasty. Most of the rock and gravel was cornodium.

        I figured the planet wouldnâ(TM)t be lifeless for long; this system had only been discovered six months ago. I came out as soon as Iâ(TM)d heard of it, because I had a hunch based on what Iâ(TM)d read about cornodium: it had only been found on lifeless planets with gravities between Marsâ(TM) gravity and one point five Earth gravities within a starâ(TM)s âoeGoldilocks zoneâ, and Darius fit perfectly. I wondered why nobody else had figured that out, the numbers were all there.

        âoeI walked up a shallow incline, and when I reached the top I saw in the distance what looked like it might have been a large machine, halfway buried. I started walking toward it to investigate, but it started sprinkling and the sky looked menacing, so I went back to my ship. I needed to work on that radio, anyway. Iâ(TM)d have to find some wire that didnâ(TM)t feed the radio or kitchen or air refreshment to use as an antenna.

        âoeShortly after I was inside my craft it started storming badly, with thunderâ(TM)s noise and the windâ(TM)s howl echoing through the boat constantly. I searched the ship for wire I could scavenge from the wreckage without stopping the kitchen or radio. I found enough to reach just outside, and now needed something to use as an antenna.

        âoeI thought of what had looked like half-buried machinery, and hoped there was wire in it, since all I would need for an antenna was a little more wire. I figured to go exploring it as soon as the storm abated.

        âoeIt stormed all afternoon and half the night. The next morning when I woke up, Luhman was shining brightly in a cloudless sky. I ate breakfast, despite not being very hungry, and packed a lunch, because it had looked like the machine might be quite a way off. It seemed Iâ(TM)d gotten a concussion in the crash, because my head still hurt, and I was still weak and disoriented. My stomach was a bit queasy, too, especially after breakfast.

        âoeIt was a two hour walk to the machine, and I had to rest halfway there. Where was my normal stamina? I should have been able to sprint to it. âProbably has to do with the concussion,â(TM) I thought. I still wasnâ(TM)t thinking clearly.

        âoeThe thing was bigger and farther away than it looked. Space ship, perhaps? I looked for a door or a window or a hatch. I didnâ(TM)t find one, but I did find an opening where the thingâ(TM)s metal had torn; it had to be some sort of craft, although it was nothing like any craft Iâ(TM)d ever seen or imagined.

        âoeI didnâ(TM)t find any wire, but I did find a steel rod I could use for an antenna, and two statues of some weird animal Iâ(TM)d never heard of, made of cornodium. There were strange sounds coming from the statues, which were clothed in rags. Art? Or... A chill went up my spine. Were these intelligent aliens that had somehow become cornodium? I thought of when Iâ(TM)d seen what looked like a flower made of cornodium earlier, and had thought it was one of those coincidental freaks of nature.

        âoeBy then I wasnâ(TM)t feeling well at all. In fact I felt downright sick, and decided to go back to my boat. I went outside, and noticed that my skin had taken on a slightly bluish tint.

        âoeBy the time I got back I was weak and shaky, and cold. Really cold, as if Iâ(TM)d been in the snow in summer clothes, even though the day was very warm, almost hot. It only took a minute to hang the rod from the wire and start the radio.

        âoeI had made quite a few incredibly profound discoveries, discoveries that were incredibly important to humanity. Iâ(TM)d found evidence of alien intelligent life in the crashed alien craft, and another alien was taking me overâ"the planet itself. Rather than being lifeless, the planet itself is alive. It grows, reproduces, and eats. The cornodium is its brain! I now know why the strange sounds were coming from the alien statues; the planet was trying to taunt me in an alien language. Itâ(TM)s talking inside my head right now, in English. I... I have to... I have to set this on repeat... before Darius...

        âoeWarning! Anyone who hears this, stay away from Darius. This is probably the deadliest planet in the galaxy. If you land here, youâ(TM)ll die here. Iâ(TM)ll probably be...â

        I shut it off and saved my best friendâ(TM)s last words, tears welling up in my eyes. Even if I could have gotten to him in time, I couldnâ(TM)t have rescued him. I doubt itâ(TM)s possible to land safely on Darius, as I suspect it caused Rogerâ(TM)s craft to crash land.


        The jump drive made it seem like I got to Darius immediately, but it would have actually been five to twenty minutes later when I really got there, and hours since he had sent the message. I went into orbit around Darius and called the survey bureau and staked a claim to it. Nobodyâ(TM)s going to make batteries out of my friend! And Iâ(TM)m going to contact the authorities when I get to Earth and see if I can get the use of cornodium outlawed before all life there becomes cornodium. And Iâ(TM)m going to learn everything I can about the stuff. Including how to kill it.

        God, but the government is exasperating! I not only didnâ(TM)t make any progress getting cornodium outlawed, I was issued a gag order! The substance promised to do wonders for the economy, because it seemed to produce free energy, despite the laws of thermodynamics.

        But of course it wasnâ(TM)t doing that. It was getting energy from somewhere, and I was convinced that the somewhere was from the energy in life forms that were, little by little, becoming cornodium themselves. My friend Roger who had died and become cornodium died in a about a day, but it had been a planet that was almost completely covered in cornodium. People, animals, and plants on Earth were only exposed to tiny amounts of it. They would die of old age before becoming cornodium, because there was so little of it.

        But eventually Earth would become cornodium, I was sure. Ultimately enough live matter would become cornodium that it would awaken and eat everything that lived on Earth.

        Iâ(TM)m a very wealthy person, having discovered a planet that was mostly made of gold and another made of mostly platinum, two metals that are incredibly useful in electronics, and my mining licenses donâ(TM)t come cheap. I decided to buy as much cornodium as I could, hopefully all of it, and send it to Darius. I hoped I could afford it.

        Iâ(TM)d bought half a ton at ridiculous prices when the government stepped in again. Iâ(TM)d dropped all the cornodium on Darius, and they took Darius from me. Imminent domain. There were a year of legal battles but I lost. Sure, I made a fortune on it, and I was now the richest individual on Earth, but damn it, I wanted Earth to live and these idiots were going to kill it!

        Crap. What to do next? I decided to chance ignoring the gag order and talk to a scientist, and contacted a local university. I was to have a meeting with a Dr. Felber, a materials scientist who was studying cornodium and trying to find a way to make artificial cornodium and a way to recharge cornodium batteries. I was a little uncertain about what the outcome might be, what with the gag order and all.

        She turned out to be a delightful woman, but of course the court order had me worried. âoeDr. Felber,â I said, âoeIâ(TM)ve been under a gag order about cornodium, and Iâ(TM)m not supposed to talk to anyone at all about it or theyâ(TM)ll put me in prison. Can you keep this to yourself?â

        She became a bit pensive. âoeNot if itâ(TM)s something subversive.â

        âoeIt isnâ(TM)t. I have a recording of a dead friend that Iâ(TM)m not allowed to play anywhere, and if they knew it existed it wouldnâ(TM)t exist. They had erased it from the radio relayâ(TM)s data banks, but didnâ(TM)t know Iâ(TM)d kept a copy.â

        She raised an eyebrow. âoePlay it,â she said. I did.

        When it was finished, she said âoeIâ(TM)ve been exposed.â

        âoeYes,â I replied, âoeand so have I. But there is so little of it youâ(TM)ll be dead of old age long before it affects the tissues; Roger was on a planet where most of the whole crust was covered in cornodium. But we need to save the Earth!â

        âoeYes,â she agreed, âoeBut how?â

        âoeI donâ(TM)t know, youâ(TM)re the scientist. How can we kill it?â

        âoeKill what?â she asked.

        âoeKill Darius,â I said vengefully.

        âoeKill a planet?â

        âoeYes,â I replied, âoebefore it kills us! It will, you know, if it lives.â

        She looked doubtful. âoeIâ(TM)m going to have to study that sample some more, our present theories may all be wrong. That recording explains a few things that had puzzled us and may be a paradigm changer. Iâ(TM)ll get back to you. Donâ(TM)t worry, this is between us.â

        A year and a half later rumors started leaking about government mining expeditions that had gone to Darius, all of whom had âoemysteriouslyâ disappeared. It was no mystery to me; those people were now all cornodium, no longer human, or even alive as we know life. They had been eaten by the evil monster that was Darius.

        Friends and relatives of the missing people were served the same gag order that I had been served, and a few were jailed after publicly complaining. So far, it was only rumor as far as the public was concerned... for now. Later on, a lot of politicians lost their jobs. But Iâ(TM)m getting ahead of myself.

        Six months after the rumors started, Dr. Felber emailed me. âoeSee what I foundâ is all the email said. So I did, and visited her at the university.

        âoeItâ(TM)s easy to kill,â she said when I visited her. âoeMiddle C.â

        âoeMiddle C?â I asked, perplexed.

        âoeTwo hundred sixty one point six Hertz,â she replied. âoeThat tone kills it. Earth is full of music, including that note, which we think is why they ever run down at all, so we have nothing to worry about.â

        My jaw dropped. âoeSo if Roger had been playing music there he wouldnâ(TM)t have died?â

        âoeMaybe, maybe not. It might have taken a very loud continuously operating tone generator, and even that might not have been enough.

        âoeThere are only tiny amounts in any one place on Earth, where thereâ(TM)s lots of music, and cornodium batteries last ten years or more, and most of Darius is covered in the stuff.

        âoeIn any case, even if he had lived, the cornodium would have been useless. Like the Land Bridge theory was replaced by continental drift, and the solid state universe was discarded in favor of the big bang theory, all of our theories about what made it vibrate were completely wrong.

        âoeWe had believed that the vibration was caused by some process internal to the substance and trying to find where its power was stored; we had thought it must have been a chemical reaction that we hadnâ(TM)t found. It made perfectly logical sense, since it seemed that the energy drained like a normal old fashioned chemical battery, except far more slowly and they couldnâ(TM)t be recharged. People have been seriously injured trying to recharge them.â

        Wow. Dead cornodium wasnâ(TM)t useless. I wondered why nobody thought of military and construction applications, since such a small amount was so explosive; the cornodium in a thousand watt battery was only about a cubic centimeter in size, although most of the battery is the piezoelectrics and the battery takes up a lot more room than a cubic centimeter, more like four cubic decimeters, and that thousand watts lasts for ten years or more. Yes, Iâ(TM)d learned a lot about cornodium since Darius had murdered Roger.

        Of course I didnâ(TM)t say anything; kept to myself this could bankroll whatever it took to kill Darius. I needed to get that planet back.

        And kill the evil thing and let the military and construction crews blow the stuff up. Roger didnâ(TM)t deserve to die like that! Iâ(TM)d had my legal team negotiating with the government for months by then, ever since the rumors about the missing miners had started floating around.


        Six months after that the government, failing to find a way to mine Darius, ceded the planetâ(TM)s rights back to me, at twenty percent of what theyâ(TM)d paid me for it. Of course there were a lot of lawyers involved, but I can afford the best, and you can trust that I hired the best. When you need a lawyer, the most expensive one you can afford is usually your wisest investment.

        The next day I was in orbit around Darius with a drone, a tone generator tuned to middle C, and a hamster. I would have used a plant, but didnâ(TM)t know how long it took for plant tissue to become cornodium, but it takes about a day with a mammal on Darius. I sent the drone down, wondering if it would crash.

        It didnâ(TM)t, so the cornodium had affected Roger before he even landed. If heâ(TM)d landed on autopilot the fool might have lived. But probably not.

        This was a truly evil thing, and I planned to destroy it, full of hate for my friendâ(TM)s tormentor and executioner. Hate for the monster that had eaten him. Hate for the evil that wanted to consume all life.

        Forty eight hours later the drone returned, with a cornodium statue of a hamster. Damn, the doctor was wrong. Oh, well, my cornodium hamster would pay for the trip and a whole lot more. That was a valuable statue, at least after it was made into batteries.

        It was a six month jump from Luhman to Sol, and I donâ(TM)t understand the math behind that at all. The jump seemed instantaneous to me, but it was six months later when I arrived. The part I donâ(TM)t understand is it should have been years instead of months, and a whole lot more than only six. I simply donâ(TM)t understand jump drives. Yeah, they covered them in pilot school, but I just didnâ(TM)t get it. It has something to do with artificial worms drilling holes or something, and has a lot of really complicated math that has to do with space, time, and gravity. Like I said, itâ(TM)s over my head. Iâ(TM)m lucky I passed the test, it was multiple choice and I guessed at a lot of it.

        In any case, when I got back to Earth I of course visited Dr. Felber, who told me âoeWe have additional data since you left. The sonic frequency must be out of phase to discharge the cornodium; if itâ(TM)s in phase it strengthens it. Itâ(TM)s still dangerous to Earth!â

        âoeHave you said anything to anyone else?â I asked. âoePlease donâ(TM)t let anyone know cornodium batteries are rechargeable! My God...â

        âoeWell, finding a way to recharge them was one of my original goals, but donâ(TM)t worry. This thing needs to be gone before we are. Iâ(TM)m working with an engineer on a device that will take the cornodiumâ(TM)s frequency and send it back out of phase. Iâ(TM)ll email you when itâ(TM)s done.â


        It only took a month and I was on my way back to Darius with my drone and another hamster. Again the generator was sounding middle C, but the computers had measured and sent a perfectly out of phase middle C. I waited the two days to see if it would come back a hamster or a cornodium statue of a hamster.

        I got my hamster back, alive and bewildered. But maybe hamsters are always bewildered, I donâ(TM)t know. Anyway, it worked. I could mine explosives to make up for my losses now, then figure out how to kill this horrible thing once and for all. By âoethis horrible thingâ I mean the monster, Darius, of course. That bitch has to die! I returned to Earth to talk to Dr. Felber again, and maybe talk to my government contacts whom I had sought out during and after the gag order and imminent domain court proceedings, about sales of explosives to them. It would depend on what Dr. Felber said.

        Dr. Felber was pleased that the experiment was a success. âoeAdd more amplifiers,â she said, âoethen blow up the dead parts.â

        Blow up the dead parts? Not me, I was going to mine it and sell it to the government like a patriot and let them blow it up. But I took her advice on the amplification.

        But first I needed to do one more experiment before talking to my government contacts, to see how much of Darius died from the out of phase middle C. I had one constructed that would run for two days then attempt to âoerechargeâ it with electricity. According to Dr. Felberâ(TM)s theories, it should explode several square kilometers of the planetâ(TM)s surface.

        It didnâ(TM)t. So she had some calculating to do, I guessed. I sent a drone down to collect a hamster-sized chunk of dead cornodium for her to examine.

        I jumped, and six months later even though it seemed like a second later I was in orbit around Earth, and talking to Dr. Felber again the next day. âoeIt should have worked,â she said. âoePuzzling. Weâ(TM)ll examine the sample you brought back and call when we have an answer.â

        âoeOkay,â I said.

        I waited in the Bahamas on a beach. No point stressing about it, weâ(TM)d kill that terrible thing eventually.


        I sat on that beach for months. Finally Dr. Felber contacted me. âoeIt has to be processed before itâ(TM)s explosive,â she said.

        âoeProcessed?â I had no idea how these batteries worked, even though Iâ(TM)d tried to learn. It did make me think of something Roger said in his warningâ"it had stormed when he was there. If raw cornodium had been explosive it would have blown him up.

        âoeGround into a fine powder. Do that and the individual grains all sing in harmony, and you can turn that into a lot of electricity with a piezoelectric device, a really small one. Here, Iâ(TM)ll show you the math...â

        âoeDonâ(TM)t bother,â I interrupted, âoeI wouldnâ(TM)t understand it anyway.â

        âoeWell, okay,â she said, âoebut we can still kill Darius if you can afford it.â

        âoeI can afford it,â I said. âoeHow?â

        âoeIt emits sound. Kill a patch with your biggest amplifier and send a robot with a sound meter tuned to middle C to see how much is dead, and you can kill Darius a little at a time.â

        âoeYes!â I exclaimed. âoeLet that bastard suffer!â God, but I hated Darius because of poor Roger, who had been killed with extreme malice. It had to have been horrible for him.

        I teared up a little. It seemed I wasnâ(TM)t going to sell anything to the government, since dead, unprocessed cornodium was worthless. But that wasnâ(TM)t what made me tear up, I was thinking of poor Roger. I missed my old buddy terribly. We were partners way back when these boats needed two people to fly them, and still got together all these long years later. We had some great times, and I was looking forward to more good times. But it was too late now.

        The next day I made the jump to Darius with a huge bank of midrange speakers, a phased C tone generator, and fifty thousand watts of amplification, with all of it mobile. I sent a robot with a sound meter down with them.

        The next day the robot reported a dead zone a hundred meters wide, so I sent all the equipment moving in an ever widening spiral. When this land mass was clean Iâ(TM)d move it all to another land mass and get to work there. I figured it would take months to kill the entire planet, but I was determined.

        A week later the spiral, now a hundred kilometer radius, wasnâ(TM)t widening. Apparently, dead cornodium could regenerate in the presence of live cornodium. I left the equipment there running in circles, not wanting my meager progress to be erased, and went back to Earth for more sound equipment. Before I left I had a drone land with a robot to collect a few hundred kilos of live cornodium to bankroll the venture with.

        Killing Darius would be worth the incredible riches I was going to destroy by killing it. Poor Roger!

        I got to Earth immediately six months later. I sold the cornodium, mostly to Chinese buyers, and bought a huge number of mobile amplifiers, speakers, and the computerized gizmos that sent cornodiumâ(TM)s middle C signature back out of phase. I also bought the nicest casket I could find for Roger, and hired an engineer. An expensive one who had several different engineering degrees.

        I worried about taking all that cornodium to Earth, but the newspapers said that there was a backlash against cornodium and the rich people who used it, and middle C phase generators were becoming popular among normal folks who couldnâ(TM)t afford cornodium devices and were afraid of them. Justifiably afraid, I thought, despite Dr. Felberâ(TM)s initial reassurances. That relieved me quite a bit.

        I thought it was funny, I was very wealthy and rather than using cornodium devices, I was the first to call for their prohibition. But I did have more cornodium than anyone, a whole planet full, even though I was extirpating all of it. Well, what I didnâ(TM)t sell to mostly China, at least.

        A year later, Darius seemed completely dead. There wasnâ(TM)t a milligram of cornodium on any of the land masses at all, even dead cornodium; Iâ(TM)d mined it all and sent it to the heart of the perpetual fusion explosion known as Luhman.

        It looked like Darius had destroyed an intelligent species from what few artifacts had surfaced. The planet had been lifeless for a long, long time and very little was left to tell us about these aliens, but this monster had very obviously destroyed a great spacefaring civilization.

        Of course, before mining the dead cornodium and sending it to the star we recovered the cornodium bodies of the people who had tried to mine cornodium for the government, Darian artifacts (We found a cornodium Darian, but we donâ(TM)t know if it was the intelligent species), and the intelligent aliens Roger found that Darius had eaten, and shipped them to Earth. The bodies, both alien and human, were now dead cornodium and therefore harmless as long as they were kept away from live cornodium. The few ruins of stone buildings stayed, as did Rogerâ(TM)s ship and the alien ship. Maybe some day they would be tourist attractions.

        I thought I had beaten the evil monster, but I hadnâ(TM)t.

        I had several tons of Earthian dirt shipped to Darius for its microbes, and enough grass seed to wipe out the supplierâ(TM)s inventory. I was determined to bring Earthian life to Darius, starting with grass and then with cows, and other species of flora and fauna later. I had a home by the sea side built there, and a shrine and burial site for Roger. I really missed Roger and the good times weâ(TM)d had together.

        I ran the C generator for a year just in case, with nary a peep from it, and finally shut it off. I shouldnâ(TM)t have.

        I went back to Earth for a visit, and to buy supplies. The few folks I had hired took care of my grass and cows when I was gone. Those cows were incredibly useful, widening the zone where plants would grow.

        Back on Earth, the Chinese had really taken to cornodium batteries. They actually believed that the batteries promoted health! Very wealthy Chinese folks powered their entire households with cornodium batteries. The government there had outlawed phased C generators, saying they were a plot to ruin the Chinese economy.

        However, in the Americas, particularly South America, most communities had outlawed cornodium. It was illegal in all of Peru and Venezuela, as well as most communities in the rest of the countries in those continents. It was also illegal in much of New Zealand, Australia, and in parts of many African and Asian nations. Europe was in the grip of a massive economic recession, so there were very few cornodium devices there. Most of the world got power from rooftop solar panels and back yard windmills. China was the only country still using fossil fuels, and was the only country to outlaw the phased C devices.

        They had also developed something called âoetwist jump radioâ. I donâ(TM)t understand how it works, but it has something to do with âoetwisted pairs of photonsâ. At any rate, it made communication instantaneous no matter how far away the other radio was... well, usually. Sometimes there were lags, and the theoretical physicists were still trying to figure out why.

        This was a real breakthrough in communications, since normal radio was useless between stellar systems, and messages had to be sent physically on a ship with jump drive.

        Of course, I bought five of them.

        After visiting friends and family I returned to Darius with all sorts of seeds, several honeybee hives, some pigs, chickens, a few other animals, my new twisted radios, and other supplies. Darius would become a pest-free paradise.

        A few months later I made the mistake of wading in the ocean for an hour or two, maybe even longer. It made me weak and dizzy and nauseous and I had a terrible headache, so I headed back to the house. I noticed that my skin seemed to have a slight blue tint, as if I were really cold, and I felt like I was freezing.

        On a hunch I turned the C generator on, and it came on very loud; there was cornodium somewhere, and lots of it.

        The cornodium it was reacting to was in me! I was suffering from cornodium poisoning, the same thing that had killed Roger.

        The ocean... Iâ(TM)d forgotten about aquatic life, and apparently the seas, rivers, and lakes were full of that damned cornodium. I got a blanket and sat weakly on a recliner, hoping the C generator would help.

        It did. An hour later my chills became a fever, and I threw up my breakfast. The vomit was blue, and later my urine and feces were blue as well. I was perspiring profusely, and my sweat came out with a blueish tint. I couldnâ(TM)t eat at all for a week, and it was a sick, painful, miserable month before I was anywhere near normal.

        When I was mostly over the poisoning I returned to Earth again to hire another engineer to help me figure out how to kill the rest of Darius and to talk to Dr. Felber about sending an out of phase signal underwater. It turned out that she knew little about underwater sound, but put me in touch with a sonic engineer who could, and he got me acquainted with another engineer who specialized in robotic submarines. Both agreed to visit Darius and work on the underwater sonic equipment.

        The news on Earth was all about a panic in China, and it was about cornodium. It seems that a large part of the very wealthy Zhejiang Provence had succumbed to cornodium poisoning, and thousands of people and uncounted plants and animals there were now cornodium. The Chinese government quickly outlawed cornodium and cordoned the area with phased C generators. They then confiscated every cornodium device in China and sent them to the sun, and suspended trade with any country where cornodium was legal.

        The engineers and about fifty other folks went to Darius with me and a great big load of supplies, as I had more and more people working for me on Darius now. It wouldnâ(TM)t be long before Darius was self-sufficient, at least as far as food was concerned. Weâ(TM)d need to import some robotic harvesters soon.

        Everyone wore a C generator on their belts to protect against cornodium poisoning, and we put up large phased C generators every hundred meters along all the planetâ(TM)s seashores.

        Of course, one of the workers, new to Darius, got drunk and fell into the ocean. His two drunken buddies hauled him out laughing, and took him home. They werenâ(TM)t laughing for long, though, as all three developed mild cases of cornodium poisoning. Even a âoemildâ case is pure sick and painful misery, but at least now we knew that a C generator was a cure.

        A message came over the twist radio from a doctor on Earth saying that one of the men had gotten a routine physical before coming to Darius, and his test results showed that he had developed a small tumor in one of his lungs and had to return to Earth for treatment immediately. It was the man who had drunkenly fallen into the water. The message had been terribly lagged, and should have reached Darius months before we did.

        The engineers, both family men, went back to their families on Earth. I accompanied the three of them, deciding to get a physical myself; I hadnâ(TM)t seen a doctor in years and actually worried a little about the cornodiumâ(TM)s effect on my health after I found out about the guyâ(TM)s tumor. After all, who knows? The stuff might cause cancer or something later.

        The doctor said she was amazed at my health. I was almost fifty, and she said I looked thirty five and my vitals were normal for a healthy twenty five year old!

        Sheâ(TM)d been the doctor Iâ(TM)d seen years earlier, and asked when Iâ(TM)d had my mole removed and who had done the surgery. âoeI didnâ(TM)t,â I said. âoeI hadnâ(TM)t noticed it was missing.â

        âoePuzzling,â she said. âoeThey donâ(TM)t usually go away by themselves. Your vitals are puzzling, as well. Iâ(TM)ve never seen anyone your age so healthy.â

        After I left, the fellow with lung cancer whose name I canâ(TM)t remember called, saying he was going back to Darius with me.

        âoeBut you need cancer treatment,â I exclaimed.

        âoeNope, the doc said he couldnâ(TM)t understand it, but there wasnâ(TM)t any cancer. Said none of my vitals were anything like they were when I saw him seven months ago either, said I was healthy as a twenty year old. My warts went away, too!â

        I called Dr. Felber and told her what had happened, that it looked like controlled cornodium poisoning could cure some diseases. âoeWell, I donâ(TM)t know,â she said, âoea sample size of two isnâ(TM)t very meaningful. Iâ(TM)ll talk to some of my colleagues.â

        When I got back to Darius I stopped decontamination of one medium sized lake. After all, if this was a cure for cancer...

        Five months later Dr. Felber showed up with over a hundred other scientists, from different fields; biochemists, chemists, biologists, materials scientists like her, and a lot more.

        One of the scientists was dying of liver cancer, contracted because of exposure to some chemical when he was young. He ran straight into the lake as soon as he left the ship!

        None of my crewpeople went into the water to drag him out, since theyâ(TM)d seen how nasty even a mild case of cornodium poisoning was. However, after quite a while two dumbass PhDs waded in and got him out. They all got sick, of course. The scientist with the cancer almost died, I think. He was in the water a long time before his fellow scientists even missed him, and the cancer had weakened him considerably.

        He did recover, though, and there was no cancer afterward. Three out of three!

        A year later Dr. Felber published her teamâ(TM)s first report. Cornodium attacked the simplest life, like viruses, first. Next was microbial life, then aberrant cells in the higher life form, then that life formâ(TM)s healthy cells. It affected plants far more slowly than animals.

        Weâ(TM)d not just cured cancer, but almost all diseases. It wouldnâ(TM)t cure diabetes, or arthritis, or baldness, or disease caused by genetics, or mental illnesses, but there were other treatments and cures for those ailments. It would cure the common cold or flu, but the cure was far worse than the disease in those cases. Believe me, you have to be really sick or dying before youâ(TM)ll want to get cornodium poising, even a mild case.

        So weâ(TM)re building a health facility around that lake, and decontamination of the rest of the aquatic bodies continues, as does the research. Right now the biologists are testing its effects on heart disease in rodents, since the worry is that the cornodium may make it worse rather than better, weâ(TM)ll see.

        Roger and I were hailed as heroes, saviors of the Earth. He hadnâ(TM)t died in vain after all.

        I do worry, though. What if thereâ(TM)s another cornodium planet somewhere?

User Journal

Journal Journal: June 19

The first copy of Random Scribblings came about a week ago, and I was happy that there only needed to be some very minor changes to some of the graphics, and the cover needed to be completely redone. They shipped the corrected copy Monday, so I'll probably get it next Monday.
        I'm releasing it on June nineteenth, and having a book release party at George Ranks from noon to two. I'll have copies of books for sale, including the new one that won't be in bookstores until late July at the earliest.
        I'm also raffling off a hardcover copy of Yesterday's Tomorrows. No purchase is necessary but food and drink will be available. I may raffle off a copy of the new book as well.
        So if you're in Springfield Sunday the nineteenth, drop by and say "hi". You may get a free book out of it!

User Journal

Journal Journal: My Generation 21st Century 10

People try to put us d-down
Hard for us to get around
Things kids say sound awful c-c-cold
'cause I didn't die before I got old

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don't you all f-fade away
I can't dig what kids all s-s-say
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don't you all fu-fu-fu go away
Forgot what I was going to say
I'm not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

People try to put us d-down
Hard for us to g-g-get around
Things they say sound awful c-c-cold
I didn't die before I got old

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

User Journal

Journal Journal: Best Foakleys? 5

Surely someone around here knows where's the best slightly-reputable site to buy some knockoffs of the Oakley M2 XLs. I want to try them out for a while and see how they feel on my head. The sites I've found so far are registered straight outta China. Oakley has successfully driven the fakes off eBay and Amazon... the problem is, I'm not going to drop two hundred bucks on some glasses that might give me a headache, like most glasses do.

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