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Journal Journal: Shouldn't need to say "I didn't care much for Gawker but..."

The fact you have to bend over backwards to disassociate yourself with Gawker before pointing out that Thiel's assault on it was a dangerous attack on free speech is a dangerous sign that we've already drifted a fairly long distance towards fascism.

And, FWIW, if Thiel had bankrolled Elton John's (far more legitimate) lawsuits against The Sun newspaper in the 1980s, and bankrupted Rupert Murdoch as a result, there'd have been a public outcry in Britain.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The 2016 Hugo convention 4

(Version with photos and without slashdot's patented text borking is at My web log)
        I had more fun this weekend than I have in years! Patty and I attended this yearâ(TM)s World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City.
        Patty had said that she would be at my momâ(TM)s house in Belleville around one, and I got there a little before.
        She got caught in construction work traffic in Indiana, and we didnâ(TM)t get on the road until three. Traffic was terrible, not just through St Louis but all the way there. We decided to go straight to the convention; we could check in to the hotel later.
        We got parked (finally), and went in through the light rain, which would be a hard rain later, and cold wind. There inside the building sat Dr. Whoâ(TM)s Tardis! There was a door handle, and Patty decided to see if it would open. She walked up to it, and it moved away!
        That was the first really cool thing we saw, but not the coolest by far.
        We got to the place to get our badges, and oops: I forgot the magic numbers: the membership and PIN numbers. All I could do was hope we could get in, anyway -- I had the emails from worldcon on my phone.
        It turned in not to be a problem, as they had us in their computer systems. Pattyâ(TM)s name tag said âoePatty McGrewâ, mine said simply âoemcgrewâ. A helpful lady in a scooter gave us the lowdown on everything. I asked where the nearest drinking fountain was, and she said that bottled water, soda, and snacks were free in the exhibit hall.
        I got a bottle of water and Patty got a soda. We wandered around and came across a life sized cardboard cutout of an astronaut, and someone said a real astronaut was there. There was a fellow in a business suit, the first business suit Iâ(TM)d seen and asked him if he were the astronaut.
        âoeNo, she is,â he said, gesturing towards a trim, fit, attractive black woman in a green dress.
        Iâ(TM)ve never been one to be starstruck. Iâ(TM)d met dozens, probably hundreds of celebrities while pumping gas for Disney World between 1980 and 1985 â" major league baseball, basketball, and football players; professional golfers, more than one who became irate because I didnâ(TM)t recognize them, despite the fact that Iâ(TM)ve hated that sport since my first job at age sixteen, working as a groundskeeper (âoeIf anybody has to work that damned hard for me to play a silly game, Iâ(TM)m done with golfâ); Rock and pop stars (one of whom, Cris Cross, was a complete and total jerk, but most were pleasant enough)...
        And Movie stars. My favorite movie star was Buddy Hackett, a really nice guy. Knowing he had done Disney movies, I told him if he were an employee I could give him a discount. He said he had before and may be again. âoeYes,â I said, âoeI recognized youâ and told him my favorite movie was Mad Mad World. He grimaced.
        âoeI hated that movie,â he said. âoeIt was hot, half the actors were not very nice and Mickey Rooney was an asshole and Jim Backus...â (the actor who played the rich guy in Gilliganâ(TM)s Island) âoe...was always flubbing his lines because he was always drunk.
        âoeMy favorite movie was The Love bug,â he said. âoewe had SO much fun making that movie!â He had quite a few tales about that movie.
        He said he was there to talk to the brass about an upcoming movie, which he didnâ(TM)t name but was The Little Mermaid, where he played... Iâ(TM)ve forgotten, I took my kids when they were little.
        It was a very pleasant conversation. He gave me his credit card, I ran it through the machine, the old-fashioned kind with carbon paper, returned his card, thanked him, and he drove off. I mentioned to my co-workers, who all were star-struck, who I had just served. They didnâ(TM)t believe me, so I showed them the card receipt and they all went ape-shit.
        John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd stopped by and the star-struck dummies I worked with kept pestering them and they kept repeating that theyâ(TM)d never heard of those guys. âoeGuys, if they say theyâ(TM)re not John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd
  theyâ(TM)re not!â
        As they were leaving, one of them winked and thanked me. The morons I worked with seemed not to realize that the only difference between them and us was that they had better jobs.
        And then I met NASA engineer and astronaut Jeanette J. Epps at Worldcon, and for the first time in my life I WAS star-struck. This woman had been in outer space (or rather, will be in 2018)! I had a very pleasant conversation with her. She asked if I wrote science fiction, and I told her âoeyeah, but I read more of it than I write.â It seems she was as impressed by meeting a science fiction writer as I was by meeting an astronaut! At her questioning I told her Sputnik launched when I was six, I watched Armstrong land on the moon, and while living in Florida I saw every shuttle launch before the Challenger accident... and the look on her face told me no astronaut likes to think of that.
        She said she was envious, to see all that history with my own eyes. I told her I was envious of folks Pattyâ(TM)s age. âoeNow, only a select, elite few ever make it to space but by the time Patty is my age, space will be open to everyone.â
        By then, the word âoeastronautâ would be as disused as the word âoeAviatorâ is now, as everyone would be able to visit space. After all, there was no such thing as an airplane when my grandmother was born, the first airplane flight being six months later, and she flew on several planes and saw men in space land on the moon. Yuri Gagarin flew into space twenty sic years before Patty was born.
        We talked of Americaâ(TM)s inability to send people to space (I got the idea that she didnâ(TM)t like Russian rockets) and I countered that at least we could launch cargo, and would soon have our own capsule. âoeThree of them,â she said. I took Pattyâ(TM)s picture with her and shook her hand. She indicated she wanted to see us again the next day (today; the awards are presented tonight; Iâ(TM)m typing a draft in the hotel and will finish when we get home) and I assured her weâ(TM)d be back. I intend to give her a copy of Nobots if I see her today.
        As Patty and I walked off, I realized that for the first time in my life I was star-struck. This woman was not only an engineer (all the astronauts are, if Iâ(TM)m not mistaken, scientists and engineers) but an astronaut! âoeThat alone was worth the price of admission,â I told Patty with a huge smile on my face, and she was as impressed as I was.
        Dr. Epps was one of the few black people I saw there. There were more Chinese alone, and Japanese, than black people. I saw more blacks in my hotel than in the teeming masses at the convention. I met one black fellow later, an overweight gentleman who said he was an actor from New York. For all I know, he was in Hamilton.
        S/N ran a piece last week about âoeracism in SFâ and I can tell you that there are few black SF writers because black SF fans are almost nonexistent.
        The crowd was almost as Caucasian as a Donald Trump rally.
        Most of the night was that good. I took Pattyâ(TM)s picture as she sat on the throne from Game of Thrones, she took my picture with some alien Japanese monster. However, the weather got to me â" it got cold outside, and with the huge buildingâ(TM)s air conditioning it was cold inside and my arthritis started aching terribly. But the pain didnâ(TM)t stop me from having a great time.
        There was a very short man in a Jedi robe, a woman with a robotic baby dragon, and lots of booths put up by cities hoping to host a worldcon. Dublin wants it in 2019, and God if itâ(TM)s there I want to go! Irelandâ(TM)s on my bucket list, anyway.
        They were raffling stuff off, some of it really expensive stuff, so we each got a ticket.
        We didnâ(TM)t win anything.
        After the raffle we drove to the hotel, checked in, and went to our rooms.

Day Two:
        Iâ(TM)d gotten to bed about two, and since I canâ(TM)t seem to sleep when itâ(TM)s light I got up about seven. There was a strange small coffeemaker, two packets that said they were coffee, but no basket.
        So I took the elevator down to the lobby, hoping to find coffee. Coffeeless, I pushed the wrong button on the elevator and it stopped on the second floor, and there were two computers for guests. I decided to write when I was awake enough; the previous night I had regretted bringing a computer.
        Not only was there coffee, there was breakfast. I got a cup of coffee and went back up to my room to read and watch the news. Back down for more coffee and a thumb drive, and on the way back up I stopped on the second floor to write.
        No such luck, there were two young teens at the two computers. So I went back up to read some more. Patty was sleeping and wouldnâ(TM)t wake up. It was her rental car, and I considered taking a cab to the convention center, but didnâ(TM)t.
        While reading, I heard strange sounds outside the window, three stories down. Looking out through the screen, I saw the Kids on skateboards. Good, I could write!
        My coffee was empty after writing for a half hour or so, so I went back downstairs to fill my cup, and back to my room, again considering a cab. It was eight-thirty, so I called Pattyâ(TM)s phone again. This time she answered, and I informed her that she had twenty minutes to get breakfast.
        She came back up after breakfast and said she needed to lay down a little while and would be half an hour or so. She said she wasnâ(TM)t feeling well, which was understandable since sheâ(TM)d driven from Cincinnati to Kansas City the day before, and weâ(TM)d been at the convention until after midnight.
        Oddly, despite only sleeping five hours the night before, I was fine, wide awake.
        We got to the convention about eleven-thirty or so, too late to meet Dr. Epps again. But we discovered that the daytime was a lot more busy and had a lot more to see â" and buy. I bought three tee shirts, and so many books I wonâ(TM)t be at the library for months. One was Star Prince Charlie, co-written by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson, signed by its editor. At least, I think itâ(TM)s the editorâ(TM)s signature. There was all sorts of cool stuff, like the bridge of the Enterprise and a huge sculpture of the part of the Death Star that Luke Skywalker blew up, made from Legos and including Lukeâ(TM)s and another pilotâ(TM)s craft.
        The illustration here is from one of the tee shirts I bought. The title of the book the robot is reading is âoeTomorrow is Nowâ, which makes me wonder if the artist has read Yesterdayâ(TM)s Tomorrows. If so, Iâ(TM)m flattered.
        Then I met David Gerrold, who has been writing and selling science fiction since he was twelve, which is an interesting story in itself. He had written a screenplay called The Trouble with Tribbles and sent it, unsolicited, to Paramount. Paramount, like all film studios, return unsolicited manuscripts unopened.
        However, they had no script for the next Star Trek episode and were becoming panicked. They read, then after several rewrites, filmed the script. Heâ(TM)s been making a living at it ever since. The September issue of S&SF is dedicated to him, and he signed a copy of it and I bought it from him.
        There were more nerds than Iâ(TM)d ever seen at once, far more. And every one of them was smiling. I had pleasant conversations with several people, including a gentleman from the Kansas City library.
        Carrying around what felt like fifty pounds of books and short on sleep, I decided to get the car keys from Patty and put the swag in the trunk.
        I must have walked around for miles carrying that load trying to find the car. Hot and tired I was stumbling like a drunk, and when I fell down I decided it was time to surrender, and staggered back to the convention center, still hauling my load.
        I ran across the librarian, who grinned and said, as has been written in so many science fiction stories and comic books, âoeSo â" We meet again!â
        I stumbled back in and got a bottle of water and sat on a couch towards the back of the hall; my back was killing me. I tried to call Patty, but she wasnâ(TM)t answering. I was starting to worry, as my phone battery was getting low, and she had my battery charging battery in her purse. Ten minutes later, my water empty, I decided to get a beer. I tried calling again â" no luck. I sat back down on the couch again as my phone rang; it was Patty. I told her where I was and she couldnâ(TM)t find me.
        âoeDo you know where that big screen is?â she asked. I answered âoeYes, I can see it from here.â
        âoeStand under it!â I did, and she found me. We sat at a table by the screen and I plugged my phone into the charging battery. There was a heavy black man in a polo shirt, one of the incredibly few black people there. There was an engineering company logo on his shirt.
        âoeSo,â I asked, âoeAre you an engineer?â
        âoeNo, but I play one on television.â
        Patty had gone for snacks and I had a pleasant conversation with the actor, about SF in general and the convention in general.
        Patty came back with some veggies; raw broccoli and cherry tomatoes and cheese. We ate it and walked around some more.
        There were a couple dozen people in various science fiction costumes. One was a very short man in a Jedi outfit that I mentioned earlier. I could swear Iâ(TM)ve seen the guy on-screen somewhere.
        We decided weâ(TM)d seen everything there was to see there by three, so went back to the tables by the screen. It had been beaming some sort of thing that was going on in the auditorium the night before, but only a static photo now. We had a conversation with a couple of folks who looked about my age, two men and a woman. The woman and one man and I talked about science fiction and art, the other man, who was with the woman, was largely silent. Patty had gone to the restroom.
        I decided to get a slice of pizza and a beer at the Papa Johns booth, which looked like a permanent part of the place. A very small four piece pizza was eight bucks, and a pint can of Budweiser was six, twice what a Guinness was in any bar at home. But I was having too much fun to worry about my bank balance or credit card bills.
        I ate one slice, and nobody else wanted any. The three left, and a while later we made our way to the auditorium to watch the Hugos be presented. âoeToo bad we got here too late to see Dr. Epps again,â I said.
        âoeI saw her when you were looking for the car,â she said, âoebut she was with people looking busy so I didnâ(TM)t bother her.â
        We got pretty good seats toward the front, but it was still forty five minutes before the ceremonies started. I used the rest room and got another beer, this time a Corona; beer choices were pretty limited.
        Finally it started. The Master of Ceremonies was Pat Cadigan, a woman who had won a hugo decades ago, and she would have made a pretty good stand-up comedian.
        She came on stage holding a bull whip and after telling everyone to silence their phones, admonished us âoeDonâ(TM)t make me use this!â Her whip was the center of many jokes by many people on stage.
        Iâ(TM)d been disappointed since 2012 when I read The Martian that it hadnâ(TM)t gotten the Hugo it deserved, and apparently I wasnâ(TM)t alone, because Andy Wier got two of them this year. One was âoebest new writerâ, probably since it was years too late to award it for the book, and one for Best Long Version Photoplay for the movie version, that even beat Star Wars!
        Mr. Wier wasnâ(TM)t there. An astronaut in his astronaut uniform accepted the award in his place for âoebest new writerâ.
        When âoe Best Long Version Photoplayâ came around, another astronaut in uniform accepted it for him: None other than Dr. Epps! I gave her a standing ovation, but no one else did.
        I havenâ(TM)t had that much fun in years! I spent a fortune, but it was worth every penny.

User Journal

Journal Journal: You (and I) are at least as guilty as Hillary 10

In reaction to this article I added this comment:

There were only two comments moderated as "insightful", and neither of them deserved to be. Accepting the brokenness of the slashdot moderation system, I did some textual searches of the comments and also came up dry.

There are some deep issues here, and I think that there was a time when slashdot (in a collective sense) would have been capable of addressing some of them. "Trump is a con man" and "Hillary is a witch" are NOT deep issues.

I think there are two most important issues here. One is the partisan abuse of power. Using the FBI for partisan witch hunts is bad enough, but I think the focus of Congress on partisan scheming and advertising is much more serious. There are actual national problems that the Congress could be working on.

However, for now I'm primarily going to focus on the second issue, which I can summarize as "Nobody's perfect." If you (or I) were subjected to the kind of intense scrutiny that Hillary Clinton has received, that scrutiny would turn up plenty of "evidence" of all sorts of crimes. Especially when there is no real interest in truth or justice, but only a focus on partisan advantage. I think that Hillary has a lot of enemies, and some of them are vicious to the point of insanity. Now imagine that you had an insanely vicious enemy and that enemy had complete access to all of your email. "Guilty, guilty, guilty! Off with her head!"

However, in bowing to the tone of today's slashdot, let me close on the lightheaded level. It might become a national problem if a con man occupies the oval office and there's no such thing as witches.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Yet more partisan abuse of the House of so-called Representaives 33

In response to

It's a deep analysis, but from a lawyer's legalistic perspective, and it misses the point. It is not insightful. However, the data point that should be the key to the analysis is the approval rating of Congress. As of this writing, it's around 13%.

Not that I'm sure where the true insight lies, but there are several possibilities. None of them are legal. Some of them are political, but the more interesting are psychological, so that's where I'm going to start. (Though I'm going to write "firmly", that doesn't mean I have any proof that would stand up in court, or even that I am as convinced as my words might sound.)

This so-called lawsuit is a desperate maneuver by terrified men. They are perpetual cowards who right now are most terrified that they will lose their death grip on the House of so-called Representatives.

They have good reason to anticipate that outcome because they are clinging to power by tiny legalistic threads. They also know that they are violating their own oaths to "support and defend" the Constitution. The Founders' clear intention, clearly expressed in the Constitution, was for the House of Representatives to be the MOST representative and responsive and directly responsible part of the federal government, but today's so-called Republicans are merely using it as a kangaroo court for partisan politics.

If the House actually represented the voters, a 13% approval rating should mean that almost all of them would be thrown out at the next election--which is precisely why the entire House faces election every two years. They are terrified that the contagion of Trump's disastrous campaign could have that disastrous outcome this November, even though the so-called Republicans have become experts at winning while losing.

With approval ratings around 20% in the last few elections, how have the incumbents survived? By rigging the voting process so that the House of so-called Representatives is dominated by an actual minority of the actual voters.

That minority-wins effect is mostly the effect of gerrymandering. They concentrate and effectively waste many of the Democratic Party votes, while distributing their own votes in safe majorities with little waste. In other words, by partisan redistricting, they select their own voters before the voters have a chance to select them. Though the GOP gets fewer votes, they still wind up controlling much more than 50% of the resulting anti-representative House.

On top of that, insofar as their selective disenfranchisement is accurately targeted at "hostile" wannabe voters, the reality is even worse. The GOP is now dangling over the abyss. If they lose their grip on the reins of political power for a moment, they would be totally crushed. They are terrified of a flood of new and hostile voters, they are more terrified of honest redistricting, but they are MOST terrified that the Democratic Party will abuse political power in exactly the ways that they have.

From watching the Democrats in action (and mostly in inaction), I think the GOP's ultimate fears are projections and even delusional. Even when they have power, the Democrats can't figure out what to do with it and they've never sustained any focus. The Democrats just squabble among themselves (which is the main weakness of Hillary's campaign, by the way). The so-called Republicans can't afford to squabble. Like Lenin's Bolsheviks, strong party discipline is crucial when you actually represent a minor lunatic fringe.

Which brings us back to the Donald of Trump and the real terror underlying this feeble lawsuit. If Trump loses and drags many of the down-ballot Republicans down with him, it would be a total disaster for them. Think of the children and the Republican Congressman dragged away from the government teat and forced to actually work for their daily bread.

Oh wait. For a moment I forgot that they are just a bunch of rich lawyers. No real danger of actual work.

Moot to me. My own vote was neutered and negated four times over. Congratulations to the dictators of Texas. Though I was born there, I now regard myself as a stateless American of the "No Vote for You" Party.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Web privacy idea 2

Proxy Command.

Step 1: Missile Command, but as a web proxy. Every outgoing connection = 1 incoming missile, labeled with the hostname. The proxy holds onto the connection until the missile hits the city at the bottom. Shoot down the rocket to prevent the connection to or whatever. Speed would be adjustable.

Step 2: add auto-targeting by hostname, so you don't have to click on over and over.

Step 3: whitelist hostnames to avoid having to wait for the connection.


Step 5: browse the internet and watch the fireworks display

User Journal

Journal Journal: Here we go again. Damn! 7

The last month I've felt better than at any time since this last bout of depression started in the fall of 2014. And now it's creeping back. A month of feeling half-way decent in 2 years does not cut it. The ability to concentrate is gone again, sleep is crap, and I can't help but keep thinking that I made the wrong decision to fight it.

Oh well, I was warned that it would come back. So much for my latest plans to do something constructive or useful. The last few days, looking at my old code has seemed like such an impossible burden. I can't even work up real anger over it at this point. After all, what's the point?

Time to see what other miracle drugs and treatments my psychiatrist has to offer ... and I understand now why so many people resort to illegal highs and end up drug addicts - it looks better than the alternative.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Banks still not sanitizing user input. 16

(Note - also submitted as a story since this probably affects more than a few people)

Recently I tried once again to use my bank's mobile app. I had deleted it a couple of times in the past because I could never get it to work. The bank had all sorts of excuses - "Maybe your card hasn't been activated for online banking", "You need to download the latest version", "We'll need to reset your password", "We'll issue you a new card", etc. New card, password reset both did nothing.

Turns out that entering the card number as shown on the card will never work. The card format is 9999 9999 9999 9999 (spaces between each group of 4 digits). They failed Rule 00; sanitize input.

Entering the number in that format will always fail. In this case they failed to remove spaces before testing whether the card number was valid. The android code to remove the embedded spaces is pretty generic one-liner:

String cardNo = edittext.getText().toString().replace(" ", "");

Looking at the online forums, others have had the same problem for the app's entire existence.

Having figured that out, I was immediately locked out for "too many failures to answer the security question". Of course, it never presented a security question, because the bozo who wrote the program incremented some "bad answer" counter on every login attempt, even if they never got to the point of seeing a security question. It also locks you out of using web banking on the same account..

Locking someone out of their account is now easy as pie, because it also works if the user enters their name instead of their card number. (If you have 5 John Smiths, you'll lock them all out, since access is granted based on both the user name and password matching if the account number isn't entered). Just load up an android app for the bank (I won't disclose which bank until 45 days have passed since notifying them today), enter their name and a bogus password a few times, and every John Smith is locked out. And of course, if the so-called developers are failing to do such basic input sanitation, it makes me pretty sure there are other intern-level programmer bugs are awaiting exploitation elsewhere.

Adding frustration is that they cannot do a password reset over the phone unless you have already signed up for telephone banking. Now why would anyone sign up for telephone banking when an app or the web is supposed to be more convenient? The excuse I was given is that they need it to establish my identity. So why not just text me an sms or email code that I can enter when requesting a password reset?

Lets hope other banks didn't use the same app geniuses.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Always write passwords down! 6

Just recovered my original gmail account, dating back to the early invite days. FirstName.Lastname is good to have back, even if it had 3+ years of spam in it :-)

I was wondering if accounts would be expired after a certain time - now we know that they're good for at least 3 years after the last login. Makes sense, because you don't want anyone grabbing an old email address and getting someone else's email.

Eventually they'll have to expire the old ones, because it's going to be harder and harder to pick good ones - maybe a decade would be a long enough period?

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Naked Truth

(Unborked version at my web log. Slashdot, fix your buggy code!!)

        Mayor Waldo was eating his salad as he waited for the main course when he was summoned to Dome Hall for an emergency. His secretary insisted that he couldn't talk about it in public or on the phone.
        He paid for the meal, told the serverbot to keep his food warm when it was finished cooking, and returned to Dome Hall, muttering under his breath. He asked Willie Clark, his secretary, what was going on that was so important it would interrupt his lunch hour.
        âoeA body was found outside the dome, sir. We suspect murder.â
        Murder? There had been a lot of death in Marsâ(TM) hundred years of colonization, but until now there hadnâ(TM)t been a single murder, at least that anyone had known about. There were no homicides on the planetâ(TM)s surface, at least; in space the pirates would kill you the first chance they got. In space, only the Green-Osbourne Transportation Companyâ(TM)s security fleet kept things relatively calm.
        âoeWhy do you suspect murder? Thereâ(TM)s never been a murder on Mars.â
        âoeUntil now. The body was found outside the dome and wasnâ(TM)t wearing a suit.â
        âoeMaybe he was drunk and stumbled through the wrong door. I should talk to council members about assigning guards to the airlocks.â
        âoeNo, sir. Impossible. The body was found a half kilometer from the nearest lock. If heâ(TM)d simply walked through the airlock...â
        âoeHmm, yes. Heâ(TM)d have died before he went two steps and probably would have died inside the lock. Who do you have investigating?â
        âoeNobody yet, sir. The police chief called us right before we called you, looking for guidance. The coroner is examining the body and we expect her report in a week or two. The corpse had been out there a couple of days at least. Of course there was no decay, but the body was completely desiccated, freeze-dried, as would be expected.â
        âoeDo we know the cause of death? Was a dead body taken outside, or a live one out there to die?â
        âoeThe coroner is still doing the examination, sir. Weâ(TM)ll let you know as soon as we know.â
        âoeThanks, Willie. Have the police start an investigation, and have them get in touch with an Earthian police detective who has experience in solving homicides, and have our people get advice from him or her.â
        âoeShould we keep this secret? At least until we know more? The Chief thinks so.â
        âoeNo, youâ(TM)re not working for Wilcox any more, and Iâ(TM)m not anything like Wilcox was. Thatâ(TM)s why we won in a landslide, people hated his secrecy. Set up a press conference for tomorrow morning.â
        âoeYes, sir.â
        He went back and finished his lunch.

        Albert Morton was the electrician who had discovered the body. It had been the most horrible thing he had ever seen in his life, and it ate at him that there had been nothing about it on the news. Who had done this, and why? He decided to contact a newspaper the next morning. Tonight he was going to get drunk; heâ(TM)d never seen anything so gruesome, and couldnâ(TM)t get the awful scene out of his head.

        âoeSay, Ed, howâ(TM)s being Mayor treating you? Lager?â
        âoeHi, John. Yeah, and a shot, I donâ(TM)t care what. Scotch, I guess. My jobâ(TM)s sure not very fun today, weâ(TM)re almost certain that we have a murder on our hands.â
        âoeMurder? On Mars? Really?â
        âoeWe canâ(TM)t see how it could be anything else. He was found half a kilometer from the airlock without an environment suit.â
        âoeWhat killed him?â
        âoeWe wonâ(TM)t know until the coronerâ(TM)s report comes in. But it has to be murder, nothing else makes sense. Howâ(TM)s business?â
        âoeI just got mail from Dewey this morning. We captured five pirate vessels last week and got a nice big finderâ(TM)s fee from the boatsâ(TM) rightful owners. He and Charles are looking at some new propulsion systems that might be a lot more efficient than the ion engines weâ(TM)re using now. That will both lower the shipperâ(TM)s cost and increase our profits, maybe even more than when we went from fission generators to fusions. And thereâ(TM)s a lot more shipping since they found all those rare earths on Ceres.â
        âoeYour bar doesnâ(TM)t seem to be doing all that good.â
        John snorted. âoeYou know this is just a hobby, but still, it is turning a small profit. It doesnâ(TM)t usually get too busy until later at night. My brewery is doing almost too good. Itâ(TM)s hard to grow enough ingredients to brew enough of it to supply the demand. I may have to buy another building to grow more hops and barley and other ingredients.â
        A man walked in. âoeHi, Al,â the bartender said. âoeThe usual?â
        âoeNot today, John. Really bad day, Iâ(TM)ll have nightmares tonight. A lager and a shot of that white lightning you make. God damn, I ran across a dead body at work today outside the dome, and it was someone Iâ(TM)d met a few times. The poor guy didnâ(TM)t have a suit on. Not just no suit, he wasnâ(TM)t wearing a stitch of clothing.â
        âoeYeah, Ed here was telling me about it.â
        The mayor said âoeI hadnâ(TM)t heard that. They only said he had no suit.â
        The electrician asked âoeEd, why isnâ(TM)t this in the news?â
        âoeBeats me, but Iâ(TM)m holding a press conference about it tomorrow. Wilcox would have tried to keep it secret, but thatâ(TM)s why he lost the election. Was it gruesome?â
        Al downed his shot, took a sip of beer, and said âoeYou wouldnâ(TM)t have wanted to be there. John, another shot, please. Make it a double.

        Sam Woodside was a reporter for the Martian Times, one of several dozen such newspapers in Marsâ(TM) many domes. Al Morton called him the next morning, a day after the discovery, with news of the dead body that he had found. The reporter asked the electrician âoeWho was he and how did he die?â
        âoeI donâ(TM)t know, His first name was Bob, but I donâ(TM)t know what his last name was. He was an electrician, too, but he usually worked the other side of the dome from me and I didnâ(TM)t know him very well, I only met him a few times. His shop was short staffed so they assigned me on that side temporarily. Youâ(TM)ll have to ask the cops his full name and how he died. I talked to the mayor last night at Hookerâ(TM)s, and they donâ(TM)t know much yet.â
        âoeHookerâ(TM)s Tavern, named after a musician who lived in the nineteen hundreds. John Knolls is a good friend of mine and owns the place.â
        They spoke for another fifteen minutes without Sam learning much.
        As he was beginning to dial the mayorâ(TM)s office to get more information, another call came in. It was from his boss, who assigned him to a press conference the mayor had scheduled for the morning.
        Typical. He really wanted to write about the murder and here he had to attend a meaningless press conference. He wondered what it was about. âoeProbably something nobody would want to read about,â he thought.
        The news conference lasted a long time, even though little was yet known about the murder. The only clue had been the corpse itself, and it hadnâ(TM)t yet yielded any answers. They would have to wait for the coroner, who had possession of the caseâ(TM)s only clue that had turned up so far.
        The mayor issued an executive order that all airlocks be guarded, and that no one would be allowed outside the dome alone. Martians had to be extra cautious about everything, since the environment outside the domes was so deadly. Safety was drilled into native-born Martians from birth.
        The mayor had of course been in contact with Dome Council members, all of whom were going to present a bill making the guards and the âoenobody goes out aloneâ rule law. All had urged him to make the executive order, which would last until the council next met.
        Sam wrote the story, which was on the front page with an extra large headline: âoeGRUESOME MURDER OUTSIDE THE DOMEâ and in smaller type, âoePolice Have Few Clues, No Suspectsâ. Sam took what little information he had about the murder and skillfully stretched it to two full columns, most of which was the accounts of the electricianâ(TM)s grieving friends and family, and some of it slightly redundant.
        The domeâ(TM)s police contacted a homicide investigator on Earth, who chided the Martian for doing so little investigating. âoeCome on, man, get a warrant and search the victimâ(TM)s home and workplace. It may have been for robbery, but there are a lot of things that cause murder. Find out who he associated with, if he was having any love affairs, who saw him last. Donâ(TM)t wait for the coroner! What did the crime scene look like?â
        âoeLike there was a dust storm between when he was killed and when the body was found. If there were any footprints or wheel tracks or any other such evidence they were gone.â
        It seemed the newspaper had done more investigating than the police. The Martian took the Earthian policemanâ(TM)s advice, but still came up with little, at least at first.

        âoeHi, George, I was wondering if you were sick or something and didnâ(TM)t go to work today, you always drop by for a beer on your way home.â John poured an ale for him.
        âoeI ran really late tonight, somebody stole my tools. At first I thought somebody might have grabbed my tool box by mistake, but Iâ(TM)m pretty sure they were stolen. Anyway, I had to fill out a ton of paperwork for the insurance.â
        âoeSorry to hear that, the tools must be expensive.â
        âoeYeah, they are. Brand new tools, state of the art stuff. I was working on two panels around a corner from each other, and I had my tool chest by one panel when I was working on the other one. I closed that panel up and went to finish the side where my tools were, and they were gone.
        âoeLike I was saying, at first I thought someone must have picked the tools up by mistake, but I noticed boot prints going away from the dome from where my tools had been. So when I got back in the dome and out of my suit I called the cops. I didnâ(TM)t think anyone picked them up by mistake after seeing footprints leading away from the dome. The cops said it was possible that were taken by mistake, but I donâ(TM)t think so. Talking to the cops took another hour.â
        A man in a policemanâ(TM)s uniform came in, sat down, and ordered a shot of Bourbon and a wheat beer. âoeRough week,â he told the bartender. âoeMurder a few days ago, probable theft today.â
        âoeYeah, I heard.â
        The policeman looked at George. âoeSay, youâ(TM)re the fellow whose tools are missing, arenâ(TM)t you?â
        George answered in the affirmative and ordered another beer. Obviously a little distraught, he had drank the first one far faster than usual.
        The officer said âoethose boot prints you saw led to wheel tracks. We followed them for ten kilometers, and it looked like a space craft had landed and taken off. We think pirates have your tools.â
        George shook his head sadly. âoeDamned pirates, the tools are insured but itâ(TM)ll take three weeks to get them replaced, and I wonâ(TM)t be able to work.â
        âoeThat sucks, George. Need to run a tab until your new tools come?â the bartender asked.
        âoeThanks, John, but I have enough cash and credit to make it until I can get new tools delivered.â
        The police officer finished his beer and shot and walked home, just as Mayor Waldo came in. âoeHi, John. We had a theft today, give me the usual.â
        âoeHi, Ed. Yeah, I heard,â he said, pouring the mayor a beer and the thirsty electrician a third beer.
        Ed sighed. âoeNews travels fast.â
        John laughed. âoeWhere would you go if your tools were stolen and you couldnâ(TM)t work for weeks? You know George, donâ(TM)t you?â
        âoeYeah, hi George. Those were your tools?â
        âoeYeah, it really sucks.â
        âoeAnything I can do? Or the dome can do?â
        George laughed. âoeYeah, get a better football team, the Australians and Europeans always kick our asses!â
        Talk drifted off to sports for a while, and a thought came to John. âoeEd,â he said, âoeCould the pirates have committed that murder?â
        âoeNo, they would have taken him to their ship so they wouldnâ(TM)t harm the suit. Everyone knows how valuable a suit is. They would have just dumped the body in space.â
        âoeYou ought to dump those footballers in space,â George said dourly.
        The mayor and bartender laughed, and talk went back to sports as more people started trickling in.

        The next day the Chief of Police called the mayor with news of clues: the dead manâ(TM)s tools and environment suit were missing. Did someone murder him for his suit and tools? It looked like that was the motive, although police were still investigating the victimâ(TM)s associates. If they found that suit and those tools, they would likely find the murderer.
        Things seemed to be looking up. He usually only stopped by Johnâ(TM)s bar when heâ(TM)d had a bad day or a seemingly insoluble problem, but he decided to make an exception this time since his old friend Charlie Onehorse would be there. Charlie was the mayor of Dome Australia Two, about twenty kilometers from his dome. Old Charlie had been visiting on a trade mission.
        When he got off work, Johnâ(TM)s bar was already filling up. âoeEd!â came a voice from the gloom, as his eyes hadnâ(TM)t yet adjusted, but he knew that voice.
        âoeHey, Charlie! How did your deal go?â
        âoeAce, even though those blokes arenâ(TM)t drongos, but the deals always go well. Almost all of them, anyway. I heard your dome had a homicide?â
        âoeYeah, it sure looks like the poor guy was murdered. Had some thefts, too, but one of them looks like pirates.â
        âoeMaybe it was pirates that killed that bloke,â Charlie said.
        âoeThatâ(TM)s what John said, but like I told him, they would have just carried him and his suit away and dumped the body in space.â
        âoeYeah, youâ(TM)re right, they would have. Damned pirates, I hope they leave my dome alone. Hey, John, get a grog for Ed, would you?â Just then a robot rolled up with Mayor Waldoâ(TM)s beer.
        At the other end of the bar, John was talking to Al. Al had been telling him of the nightmarishly horrible discovery and how it was affecting him for the last few days, which he had mostly spent in the bar getting very drunk. âoeAl, I want you to meet a friend of mine,â John said as an attractive woman walked up. âoeAl, meet Tammy Winters.â
        âoeHello, Ms. Winters.â
        âoeItâ(TM)s doctor, but call me Tammy. John tells me youâ(TM)re having some problems.â
        Al glared at John angrily. Tammy said âoeLook, Al, your reaction to what youâ(TM)ve gone through is normal. Look, I have a friend who needs some new patients, could you help him out?â and handed him her colleagueâ(TM)s business card.
        âoeWell, I donâ(TM)t know,â Al said, looking at the card. âoeWhat will it cost?â
        âoeNothing, the government pays for it.â
        âoeThanks, I will!â
        Tammy replied âoeJohn, are you going to pour me a beer or what?â

        Several days later the coroner's report came back, right before the mayor was due to go home, and Mayor Waldo was puzzled. The report said the victim had a stroke; a blood vessel in his brain had burst and heâ(TM)d died instantly. But why was he out there naked?
        He decided to talk to John. John always had an answer when things got crazy.

        âoeHoly crap,â Sam said when he got the news. âoeDamn, the most sensational news in my career and it wasnâ(TM)t. How can I spin this? The boss wants more papers sold!â
        He decided to focus on the mystery of the naked corpse.

        âoeAnd your cops canâ(TM)t figure it out, either?â John asked.
        âoeNo,â said Ed. âoeItâ(TM)s still a mystery.â
        âoeChrist, Ed, itâ(TM)s as plain as the nose on your face! Look, only a few days later Georgeâ(TM)s tools were stolen, and the police say it was pirates. Itâ(TM)s simple, Ed. They were waiting for a chance to steal the poor guyâ(TM)s expensive tools and he collapsed. So they not only stole his tools, but his environment suit and clothing as well. Why didnâ(TM)t you guys see that?â
        Ed scratched his head. âoeI donâ(TM)t know, but it makes sense. Iâ(TM)ll talk to the police chief about it tomorrow.â Just then George entered.
        âoeJohn!â he yelled. âoeDrinks for everybody! WOO HOO!â
        âoeWhat happened?â Ed asked.
        âoeJohnâ(TM)s army!â
        âoeJohnâ(TM)s army?â
        âoeIt isnâ(TM)t my army,â John said. âoeMore Deweyâ(TM)s than anyoneâ(TM)s, I only hold maybe fifteen percent of Green-Osbourne.â
        George said âoeI canâ(TM)t thank you enough, John.â
        âoeGeorge, I didnâ(TM)t do anything, there wasnâ(TM)t anything I could do,â John replied. âoeWe capture pirates all the time. It earns us a lot of cash and makes shipping easier for everybody, including our competition. You just got lucky.â
        âoeI donâ(TM)t care, Iâ(TM)m still grateful. They said Iâ(TM)d have my tools back the day after tomorrow.
        âoeOh, and Edâ"they found Bobâ(TM)s suit and tools when they found my tools.â
        John grinned. âoeSee?â

        After the Mayorâ(TM)s press conference the next morning, Sam cursed. How could he spin this one without looking like a damned fool?

User Journal

Journal Journal: If I say Charter of Rights and Freedoms

If I say Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nobody in America has a clue what I'm talking about.

If I say Bill of Rights, everyone on both sides of the border (and in other countries) knows what I'm talking about.


Now get off my freaking case, civvies.

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Journal Journal: No good story ever started with someone eating a salad 2

It was some time last year that someone on Facebook posted a graphic that said "Beer: because no good story ever started with someone eating a salad." There are a lot of them to be found in Google Images.

So I decided to write a good story that starts with someone eating a salad, although parts of the story do take place in a bar. How good is it?

Magazines like F&SF get a thousand submissions a month, and each bi-monthly issue only has half a dozen stories. Only the very best get printed, and almost all rejection slips are form letters that all say pretty much the same thing, no matter what magazine.

Out of over a hundred rejections, I've only gotten two that were not form letters. The first was actually the first story I ever submitted, "Voyage to Earth". A junior editor (or perhaps slush reader) wrote back saying that it was a good story and well written, but the beginning didn't grab her.

The story I'm posting tomorrow, "The Naked Truth" garnered a personalized rejection from Charles Finlay, F&SF's Editor in Chief! He wrote a very encouraging letter saying that the idea of a murder mystery on Mars intrigued him and it was well written, but he didn't like the ending.

It was very nearly in F&SF. That means it isn't just a good story that starts with someone eating a salad, but a VERY good story.

I'm putting magazine submissions on hiatus until I finish "Voyage to Earth and Other Stories". I want to publish it next year, some magazines hang on to stories for a really long time ("Dewey's War" was in Analog's slush pile for six months, Tor has had "The Exhibit" since December) and if they publish one, I won't be able to publish it for a couple of years.

I have five finished stories you haven't read, three of which nobody has. I'll probably post one every couple of weeks until I run out of them. I've been working on one story, "The Pirate" (which I may rename) for a couple of months. Writing's been hard since I smoked my last cigarette last New Year's Eve.

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Journal Journal: What defines a troll? 36

I think this was a relevant comment for a discussion of censorship on Twitter, but slashdot's so-called lameness filter disagreed, so I'm putting it here. I think increasingly lame slashdot doth projectith too much.

If there were a "polite" dimension of moderation, then I think one of the most prominent features of trolls would be negative politeness. Large amounts of rudeness. Not the only defining characteristic of trolls, but I think it's an important one, and one of the MANY problems with trolls is how the use of a label as a dimension makes it hard to understand the problem. "Thought-provoking" is NOT the same as troll, though it may be accidentally true from time to time. "Disagrees with me" is also different from troll.

Having said that, I still think trolls should be free to speak, notwithstanding the different form of confusion mentioned in my sig. That right should NOT include the right to waste my time, however, and I should be free to ignore trolls, preferably before I have to read any of their tripe.

As noted before, I'd favor a three-part strategy to ignore them: (1) A kill filter for long-lived trolls, perhaps as an option on the Foe status of slashdot. (2) A maturity filter for fresh sock puppets. (3) A self-deterrence for insincerity. Negative sincerity is another characteristic of trolls, and it would be simple to implement by inverting (1) and (2). If a reply would be ignored, then the author of that reply should be encouraged to post elsewhere (perhaps at the top), but if the troll insists, then the reply should be given an insincerity warning: "Not a sincere dialog, and ostensible recipient will never see this reply."

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Journal Journal: What were they thinking?

I didn't know how much storage my "new" tablet has (hadn't looked, it's eight gigs) but reading the manual that I had to google to find (It's second-hand) I saw that it would take a 30 gig SD card, what they're calling single inline memory modules (SIMMs) these days. I decided to get one at Walgreens when I got beer.

It was a 32 GB SIMM (MicroSD, whatever) so I made sure to keep the receipt in case it wouldn't work in the tablet, but installing it was easy.

I can't say the same about getting it out of the retail packaging! It took half an hour and I was afraid of breaking the chip getting it out.

When I booted the tablet, it reported that it had installed it and reported 32 GB. That's two gigs more than the size of the part of my music collection I actually listen to. So I connected to my network drive with the same file manager II use on the phone, copied the folder holding the music, and pasted into the SD card. It took several hours.

When it was done, it informed me that third party apps didn't have permission to write to the SD card! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS BULLSHIT?? So I googled, and it said that Android 4 was the reason -- except my phone is running 4 and it had no problem writing to the simm.

The tablet has a built-in file manager that will access the SD, but can't access the network drive. I started copying a few at a time... and had a thought. I wondered if that 32 gig SD would work in the phone?

It does. So right now my phone's copying music from the network so I gan get it in the tablet. Good thing the physical chip is so easy to install and remove. I have a 12 gig chip in the phone, I think I'll get another 32 gig for the phone. Maybe bigger, I'll have to google to see what it can hold. I'll give the phone chip away.

But why would they have had a restriction like that?? Anyone have a clue for me?


Journal Journal: This is not helpful (Updated) 60

As the CEO of the American Baby Mulching Corporation, I usually avoid taking sides when it comes to National Politics. Privately, I would generally consider myself a Republican, but a corporation such as ours must be seen to be above the fray. In 2001, for example, we donated equally to the campaigns of both Mr George W Bush, and Mr Joseph Lieberman.

But it has become abundantly clear that this country is now facing a very real threat in the form of Donald Trump. Mr Trump has made a number of statements we at American Baby Mulching consider to be seriously worrying. Mr Trump has made many statements alienating our allies. Mr Trump has made it clear he considers the use of Nuclear Weapons a viable form of warfare. He has pitted Americans against one another with his extremist anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant positions, slandering hard working Mexicans and creating a climate of fear.

As a Republican, I would not normally be comfortable endorsing the Democratic candidate for President, but in this case I feel I must, and I believe it would be the right thing for our country. Sure, Mrs Clinton and I have our differences. I personally oppose her positions on taxation, and as the CEO of a major company that requires a steady supply of disposable babies, we obviously abhor her position on abortion.

But in my dealings with Mrs Clinton, I have always found her fair and reasonable. She understands the need for corporations such as ours to mulch babies, harvesting their essential nutrients for eventual supply to ammunition manufacturers. She understands that businesses like my own require flexibility when it comes to environmental regulation, that we would be unable to employ so many workers without a low minimum wage, and she understands the need for regulators to overlook the use of undocumented immigrants and prisoners to solve staffing shortfalls.

For these reasons, I will be casting my vote for Mrs Clinton this year and I urge you to do likewise.

Updated: I'm just going to ignore the discussion at this point. It was supposed to be a comment about how things like that former CIA directory's "endorsement" of Clinton, and Bloomberg's, etc, wasn't necessarily helping those of us who are having to hold our noses and vote for a giant leap right-ward by the "left wing" party in the US this November. You know, humor. As far as the comments section goes, I've never seen such bare faced idiocy in my entire life. No wonder Trump is, current slump aside, doing so well. He might even win.

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The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh