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User Journal

Journal Journal: Respect for the individual 12

"Respect for the individual." First heard about this one about 40 years ago. One of the three guiding principles of a great company. Still around, but they dumped that idea a while back, though I'm still working on it.

Back when the company had that principle, there was a strong consensus that it was the best company in the world, at least some of the time. By the time I started working there, they were already on the down side, and one of the biggest problems was that they had forgotten what the principles were about. The other two principles were easier to understand and follow but "respect for the individual" was already on the ropes, though it somehow became something of a fetish object for me.

Seems like a simple idea, but it isn't. To really understand the meaning, you have to apply it to everyone. It's really easy to respect some folks. Many of my coworkers and customers were elite engineers and programmers with PhDs from hoity toity universities. One of them even rose above normal rankings and did me the peculiar honor of asking for a bit of minor help on a TED talk. Went well, too. Easy to respect such individuals, but you can't draw the line there, or you're disrespecting other folks and it has to be universal.

I've often suspected that my difficulty with the concept was related to my time in the service, where the rules of respect were completely codified and ritualized. Up? Respect. Down? Phuck 'em. Convenient, but mindless, and ultimately fake. Real respect for the individual has to go every which way.

Maybe my problem with the concept had more to do with self-respect? It has to go inwards, too, or maybe it's better to say that respect for other individuals has to be based on a foundation of self-respect, too. If you have perfectionist or idealistic tendencies, then it's kind of hard to practice that respect in reverse for exactly the same reason that the high-level respect doesn't easily go to lower levels.

For a while I tried specialization. I thought the trick of "respect for the individual" might involve finding the unique strength, even if it was a negative one, and then you can respect that. Can you respect someone for being the biggest liar in the room? How about respecting the greatest rudeness or stupidity, even if you have to limit the scope of the "greatness" to a slashdot journal? Actually takes me back to the military days again... Perverted version of the 23rd psalm "because I'm the baddest motherphucker in the valley [of the shadow of death]."

So how can you respect a subhuman and mindless troll? I failed again.

Oh well. Guess I need to keep studying it.

By the way I'm leaving this one open for comments just in case some trolls are stupid enough to want to prove my point. Unlikely that any of them will say anything interesting enough to merit a reply, but it might be amusing to watch them try. Of course the sad part is that they really don't have any better use of their precious time on earth.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is Michael Moore right about Trump's victory? 21

This is my own dismayed reaction to Michael Moore's lists (one in email and a somewhat different list on Alternet) of reasons why Trump will win:

The email version was stronger, though he used some different points there. Not sure it should be in a top five list, but Mike didn't mention the plausibility threshold: The Donald has finally convinced everyone that it is actually possible for such a person to become president. Not sure when I was dragged across that Rubicon, but even I have to admit that the official nominee of the so-called Republican Party could become president. No matter what.

My worst-feeling agreement is on the enthusiasm factor, though my analysis is based on a breakdown of Trump's supporters into government haters, Hillary haters, bigots, racists, and authoritarians (fascists). Doesn't matter how wrong they are, they are all enthusiastic about their wrongness. There might be some people who have corresponding positive enthusiasm for Hillary, but I haven't met one.

Even if you do feel total enthusiasm for one (or more) of Hillary's policies, can you really be sure she'll do it? Sorry, but you know she's a realist and it all depends on the political realities. Also, even if Trump is saying that he's totally opposed to that policy, he's also said he's in favor of it, and no one knows which side he'll be on tomorrow. Do you hear that giant sucking sound? It's your enthusiasm.

Ultimately it comes down to bad economic models, but there are so many to choose from and all of them stink. For example, the mass media model of eyeballs for ads has driven the free publicity that Trump rides like a lawn tractor, mowing down everyone who has gotten in his way. Alternet is nicer, but it's running on fumes. (I've suggested better alternative economics, but I'm not a salesman and I can't push good ideas the way the Donald can push bad ones.) [Also suggested better economic models for slashdot, but they aren't interested here, either. Perhaps my ideas are so good (or bad) that they just have to be rammed down people's throats? But I'm not such a ram.]

At this point I think that America's best hope is that Trump is a big liar, and since he is, maybe we can have hope after all? No, because the secret truth would have to be that he is really a secret super-patriot and he realized that the so-called Republican Party is just a brand hijack. The secret super patriot would have decided to restore democracy in America by helping the so-called GOP finish its suicide so a rational and principled second party could emerge. I'm not saying that something along those lines won't happen after the Trump fiasco, but it ain't his secret plan. Now I'm just desperately hoping he's conned me, too.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Suggested poll for politics: How to stop Trump? 140

No, the Subject: line isn't actually my suggested poll, though someone else might want to work on that one. Actually I'm approaching a different poll from the back, but that may be because it's increasingly obvious that America's real choice this November is "backwards with Trump" or "forward with Hillary". Perhaps just a failure of my imagination, but I am unable to imagine how the country can go forward with its head screwed on backwards as it fantasizes about a glorious past that was never so glorious. (The Donald's supporters must insist that old people with accurate memories and non-conservative historians (and I'm both) are just tools of the vast liberal conspiracy.)

At this stage of the game (of sick politics), the question of stopping Trump has become equal to asking how Hillary can win. It should be a case of "How can she possibly lose?", but after 30 years of sustained, mostly non-credible, and often incredible and even insane demonization, I'm beginning the believe that it really could happen. How much of Christie's lynch mob speech were you able to stomach?

No, that isn't my suggested poll either, though I think the answers to such a poll should be measured in seconds for decent people. Lynch mobs are bad.

Here's my suggested poll:

What campaign slogan should Hillary use?

(1) Forward Hillary
(2) Stronger Together
(3) Iâ(TM)m with Her
(4) Make America Whole
(5) Love and Kindness
(6) Break Down Barriers
(7) Build Ladders of Opportunity
(8) Love Trumps Hate
(9) Donald Trump
(10) Save Us, Cowboy Neal!

As usual with my poll suggestions, I've loaded the dice by putting my favorite answer first, but most of these have actually been tested by Hillary's campaign and I haven't noticed any of them catching fire the way "Crooked Hillary" has...

In my research for this poll, I visited her official website looking for her campaign slogans, and that was massively depressing. No clear slogans to be found, though some links for some issues, for sending money, and most annoying of all, for harvesting my email address. However, that wasn't the really depressing part. That was when I decided to try to contact the campaign and was shown a webform that actively REJECTS my email addresses. WTF? Tried three, all valid, and each returned "This does not appear to be a valid email address." Has her website been hacked? WTF?

More importantly as regards this suggested poll, no mention of "forward" (or "backward") on any of the webpages I visited. Maybe the website just isn't for people like me? With a bit of imaginative effort, I can imagine that I'm not included in any of her target demographics, but it's easier to believe the website needs work...

Seems like I need to close with the usual disclaimer. Quite possible that it's contamination due to the decades of vilification, but I don't feel any real enthusiasm about voting for Hillary. Rather than the tainting, I just think it's part of my increasingly negative view of American politics. If the dictators of Texas hadn't removed my vote (different long story), I certainly would have voted for her, but mostly it would have been another negative vote against another terrible candidate from the so-called Republican Party. Honest Abe's ghost is haunted and horrified by Con Man Donald. (I think my more substantive (and less negative) reasons actually involve Hillary's personal identities, but that's another long topic.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: The USA in 50 years? 32

Anyone care to share their perspective?

I'm not giving it more than 50 years. Doesn't matter who is elected, once disparity between the top and bottom becomes to wide, once those in the middle see that no matter what they do, they're going to continue to risk being part of the bottom, and those on the bottom rungs realize that this is their lot in life, "citizen" is no longer a source of pride.

Add to that endless undeclared wars with no clear goals (the last time congress declared war was in 1942) and the racism that was a characteristic of the country even before it was founded, even after fighting a civil war over it, still being in the headlines daily, and the insistence on clinging to a 2nd Amendment that threatens the basic security and freedom from fear of citizens, and the US no longer being a world superpower that can dictate policy with impunity, challenged now by both Russia (who annexed the Crimea with no problems) and China (South China Sea, and about to replace the US as the world's largest economy), and something has to give. Ultimately, the USA is no more capable of stopping a bloc of states from seceding than it was in stopping Russia. 50 years maximum.

Republicans

Journal Journal: Trump's Attack Lines On This Are Spot On 12

Trump's attack lines on this are spot on:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 7:01pm  12 Jul 2016

        Bernie Sanders endorsing Crooked Hillary Clinton is like Occupy Wall Street endorsing Goldman Sachs.

and

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 7:03pm  12 Jul 2016

        Bernie sanders has abandoned his supporters by endorsing pro-war pro-TPP pro-Wall Street Crooked Hillary Clinton.

Those are valid statements. I find it hard to to argue with these.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ekronomics 101

The essential notion of ekronomics is that time is much more important than money and needs to be analyzed carefully. Focusing on working time, there are three basic kinds: (1) essential time to produce (and sustain) the goods and services we need to survive, (2) investment time that improves the productivity (equals reducing the required amount of essential time), and (3) recreational time, which actually includes both the production and consumption of recreational goods and services such as music, novels, and movies. That's not to say the division is always easy, but I think that's where we need to start. An obvious example of a complexity is education. A certain amount of education is essential to sustain any society, but the rest of it has to divided between investment and recreation time, and that's going to take some thought.

One application involves comparing national development. In a developed country (where almost all of the members of slashdot live) the productivity is high and the amount of time is low. Based on productivity figures that I've read and the demographic categories of the working population, I estimate that the value is on the order of 2 hours per week, averaged over the entire population. Remember that some people spend all of their working time in the essential work while other people are not doing any of it, but just buying what they need based on other work they are doing. In contrast, in a less developed society, almost everyone may be working 40 hours per work just to grow the food, while in the least developed societies (such as hunter-gatherer tribes or failed states) people may spend all of their time just struggling to survive. Looking at the future trend of national development from an ekronomic perspective, it is the balance between the other two categories that is crucial. If two countries start at the same level, but one country guides more time into investment while the other allows more time to be spent on recreation, then the first country is pretty sure to wind up more productive. Perhaps Singapore is an interesting example of this approach?

Another application involves determining proper and appropriate salary levels. From an ekronomic perspective, it is reasonable to try to evaluate jobs in terms of the amount of time people want to spend on them. I haven't yet been able to find much hard data in this area, but the research approach is obvious. You would ask a large number of people who have worked in different areas how they feel about the two kinds of jobs. A simple example question would be "How many hours of typing would you prefer instead of 1 hour of collecting garbage?" Of course the results will vary widely from person to person, but the averages will give a reasonable indicator of the desirability of different types of work and what the proper salary differentials ought to be, though you have to adjust for other factors, such as the educational time (investment time) required to qualify for the work and the prioritization of essential work. However, if you come to the conclusion that garbage collectors deserve relatively high pay and you happen to be a person who actually enjoys collecting garbage, then more power (and pay) to you and other people are unlikely to complain that they can use more of their time in other ways.

Recreational time is interesting in several ways. As a quasi-joke, I wrote a piece called "Couch potatoes of the world, unite." The URL is http://eco-epistemology.blogspot.jp/2013/04/couch-potatoes-of-world-unite.html and that was back in 2013, so I've been thinking about these ideas for a while... The interesting thing about consuming recreational time is that it is a bottomless pit and it usually does not actually consume the goods or services that were produced for recreation. There are exceptions like live theater and fancy foods, but books and movies can be reread and rewatched ad infinitum without destroying their recreational value.

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: Squishy vs Non-Squishy 4

Well, after doing all these non-squishy 1st and 2nd year pre-reqs for engineering, I'm starting to wonder if my PhD might do better in a more squishy role, since I'm better at taking tech concepts and translating them into human speak. The major question is, since both squishy and non-squishy are Doctor of Philosophy, should I resist the inevitable drift to the squishy side? Ecology, environment, energy policy are things I grok, and both the long term implications and short term changes that are most effective, a set of unique skills that few possess, and how to translate that into rural speak too.

So, what do you think? Fill up my 3rd and 4th year slots with squishy stuff and push on through? Will this lead me to (gasp) having to work in cities, or can I find a way to work in villages and towns and skype in for research meetings when there's 20 meters of snow in the pass and it ain't going to be cleared for 10 days, so relax, eh?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Good reading and writing 1

Kind of a meta-comment from a typical slashdot "discussion". It was originally drafted there, so you have to excuse any glitches in the editing for the journal environment. (Basically I'm using the slashdot journal as a scribbling pad for ideas that will be lost in the contexts of their transient topical discussions.)

How do you assess good reading skills? Actually I think you have to start by considering good writing and why I don't do more of it. A good writer understands the reader's mind, but I rarely care. Unless someone is actually paying me for the extra effort, I'm basically quite content with gentle readers who believe whatever they want to believe. In contrast, a great writer understands the collective minds of many readers and smoothly and effectively transmits even quite complicated ideas into their minds.

However, on the reader side, I think the good reader assumes the author's mindset, and I have always found that to be the most efficient way to learn new things. There's even a simple metric of how well I'm doing it as my reading speed increases. For most books, I'm really blazing by the time I get to the last 100 pages or so. However, once again I fall short of greatness. Some of the metrics of greatness are how quickly the great reader can get into the author's head and the range of authors the great reader can handle. For example, mystery novels from a hundred years ago are quite different, and translations can be quite challenging, whether the translation is close or free.

User Journal

Journal Journal: An Ask Slashdot that actually provided useful information.

I posted this questionAnd SumDog replied with something that made me rethink things ...

worked at an all open source shop (religiously so even), yet their blind (completely blind) accessibility engineer was one of two people in the 200 person company running Windows. The other was a graphics designer that needed Photoshop and Illustrator.

If a graphics designer can figure it out, maybe I just needed to not get frustrated as quickly ... then again, at the time I was running linux, and the screen reader support was abysmal.

User Journal

Journal Journal: SF: Dewey's War 3

(non-borked copy at mcgrew.info)

        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
        âoeIndependence?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
        âoeDeclaration?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: Also? 8

Where on EARTH is the /. UI for starting a journal entry? LOL!

I don't know how it's done, if you don't just know to navigate http://slashdot.org/journal.pl?op=edit

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...

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