Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
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: 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
        âoeHookers?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: 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.

User Journal

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?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Well. that mess is cleaned up. 4

It was a bigger mess than I thought. Yesterday's Tomorrows looked fine on an e-reader on the computer, but when I bought that tablet I discovered it was really messed up in MobiSystems' Universal Book Reader (UB Reader). Not only was the table of contents hosed, but there were no indents on paragraph beginnings, and it was an ugly sans serif font rather than the Gentium Book Basic in the printed volumes and HTML (at least on a computer with that font installed, if not it falls back to Times New Roman).

It was, of course, from my own ignorance, both of e-books in general and Calibre in particular. I never had any interest in e-books, because you paid for something you didn't own. If I buy a book I can give it away or sell it, it's a physical thing. Not so with e-books, and the e-books usually cost as much as the paperback.

But since I was giving books away I needed to learn about them. I wish I'd bought a tablet a long time ago. At any rate, I finally got all of them straightened out. At least, I think I have, except I can'tseem to get the cover to show in the Kindle version of Mars, Ho!, and I'm still checking out the epubs in the Nook app.

There's still a few minor annoyances in Yesterday's Tomorrows. Images that are supposed to fill the page don't on a tablet. I experimented with changing the page size to 12x20 in Open Office and scaling the images, but it came out the same. Maybe I need to raise the resolution?

Reading the HTML on a phone gives no serifs. It appears that Android devices are almost devoid of fonts, from what I've googled about it. Time Magazine seems to somehow have a Times font. I'll get it eventually.

Meanwhile, I documented the steps needed with Calibre. I'll need it, since I likely won't be using that program until next year when I finish Voyage to Earth and Other Stories.

User Journal

Journal Journal: On Writing 4

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

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

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

That's some damned bad odds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's stupid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

User Journal

Journal Journal: SF: Dewey's War 3

(non-borked copy at 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: Odds and Ends 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

User Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

User Journal

Journal Journal: GIMPy Text 9

(There's an illustrated copy of this at mcgrew.info)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now select Image --> Crop to Selection.

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

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

Now, select Select --> None.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

User Journal

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

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

User Journal

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

(The version at my web site is illustrated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now I need to buy a scanner...

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Old Sayings Are Wrong 13

(If the formatting is borked, it's posted at mcgrew.info)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

User Journal

Journal Journal: Useful Dead Technologies Redux 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

User Journal

Journal Journal: A little help, please 3

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

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

Slashdot Top Deals

NOWPRINT. NOWPRINT. Clemclone, back to the shadows again. - The Firesign Theater

Working...