Monthly Archives: May 2010

Pieces of Nine: Part VI – Final

Pieces of Nine

Part VI

I spent the next fifty years finishing my education, meeting and marrying my wife Rachel, raising my three children to adulthood, and carrying on my own career in Theoretical Physics as a tenured professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Not coincidentally, my main interest in the field of Physics was the study of time. I also held a degree in History with a specialty in ancient maritime cultures, specifically the Phoenicians. I never forgot. And I never forgot my friend Jerry either.

I retired from the University in 2004. Rachel and I moved into the old house on Oslo Street back in Avery’s Point. My mom and dad were long gone. I had retained the house as a sort of summer get-away home. It was well kept. We had looked forward to this time for many years. The hectic University life had been wearing us both down. I planned on writing a few books and articles for science journals in my retirement.

The town had not changed much at all. There were a few new homes here and there in the neighborhood. The patch of woods where the clubhouse had been was all developed now. It was still a quiet neighborhood, though. On a drive down to the post office a few weeks after settling into the old place, I happened down Canterbury Road. My heart skipped a couple beats when I realized I was sitting at the corner of Canterbury and Newport, right where the old Captain’s house had stood. For all those years. I cleared the lump out of my throat.

“AHEM!”

“Are you alright, honey?” Rachel asked.

“Yes… ahem… dear. Just a bit of dry throat.” I said.

“Oh, look. They’re building another new home.” She pointed.

She was pointing to the old Captain’s property. There were construction crews and cement trucks and other tradesmen busily working on the foundation for a new home right there above where that… that thing was buried. I let off the brake and put my foot on the gas pedal and gently accelerated away from that place, hoping that distance would fade it out of my mind. Of course, that didn’t work.

As days went by, I found myself taking my daily walks in the direction of Canterbury and Newport. I watched the construction proceed at a good pace. Within five or six weeks, the home was completed. It was a nice, modern New Englander. I wondered who would be living in it. I wondered how many folks remembered what had been there before. A family moved into the home shortly thereafter. I stopped taking my daily walks in that direction. I put it out of my mind and returned to my retirement pursuits.

Nothing untoward occurred in Avery’s Point for the next few years… until autumn of 2007. That was when the State Police were called out to investigate the disappearance of the family who had been living in the home on the corner of Canterbury and Newport. They disappeared without a trace. The only clue was a series of drag marks on the floor in the basement that led up to a solid wall… an old wall, evidently a part of an older structure.

On Halloween night that year, Rachel and I had been passing out candy and goodies for the neighborhood kids. There didn’t seem to be nearly as many as there were when I was a child. Times change, I guess. Along toward 8PM or so, Rachel and I figured we’d seen the last of the kids. As we settled into our comfortable spots in front of the TV for the evening, the doorbell rang once more. I sighed and got up to answer it, taking the candy bowl with me.

I opened the front door and pushed the screen door open. There was a young boy of about ten or eleven on the porch. He wasn’t wearing any Ninja Turtle or Batman costumes. He was dressed in an old style plaid shirt and dungarees with what looked like Converse All Star sneakers on. He looked up at me.

“Good evening, sir. Is Kevin here?” he asked.

MY GOD! JERRY!

© 2008 V. T. Eric Layton

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Hope you enjoyed it, folks.

Remember life is fleeting. Live it well!

~Eric

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Pieces of Nine: Part V – A Serialized Story

Pieces of Nine

Part V

Jerry reached into the box for the key. I smacked his hand and said, “NO!”

“What d’ya’ mean ‘no’?” he said.

“I mean that we can’t go in there, Jerry.” I answered.

“But we have to, Kev. We’ve come this far.”

“I don’t care. You read what the Captain wrote in that book. We don’t know how to work whatever’s behind that door.” I told him.

I closed the lid on the box and started pulling Jerry by the arm back into the tunnel. We had to leave. We had to get out of that house. I could feel the talisman pulling me toward the door. I could actually feel it. It felt like falling down into a deep pit… like being sucked into a whirlwind. The walls the tunnel started moving in and out, like they were breathing or something. My vision was blurring, all the time Jerry was fighting with me and pulling back downward toward the door.

His arm slipped through my sweaty hand. I fell down and bumped my head. I must have passed out for a short time. I heard Jerry screaming from further down the tunnel.

“NO! NO! No, please… Help me, Kevin! ARRRGGGH!”

Silence… then a loud CLANG!, as the iron door slammed back into its jamb. There was total darkness. The walls no longer glowed as they had before, or had we just imagined that? I had to take flash light out and turn it on. I pointed it down the tunnel toward the room that I knew was just a few yards down there.

“Jerry?” I whispered into the gloom. “JERRY!?” I yelled.

My voice seemed to be absorbed by the granite walls of the tunnel, seemingly carrying no further than a foot or so. I had never been so scared in all my life. I ran back down into the room. I had to. I had to help my friend. When I entered the room with the granite podium and the great iron door, I realized that it was empty… deathly still. The tool bag that Jerry had been carrying was on the floor by the door. The key from the box was in the lock.

I could not bring myself to open the door. I just couldn’t. I realized then that I had peed my pants. There were tears streaming down my face. I was breathing in huge gasps. I took the key from the lock and put it back in the box on the podium. I grabbed the tool bag and ran back up the tunnel. I took the granite steps three at a time till I reached the part of the tunnel where the floor and walls were dirt. I ran on till I ran straight into the wall. I fell back on my butt and shined the light ahead of me. The wall in the basement had closed!

I screamed, “HELP!”

I stood up and began banging on the wall with my fists and the flashlight. The light went out. I screamed again.

“Please! Please open!”

The wall made the grinding noise as it slid back about three feet into the basement. I stopped breathing. I could just make out the dim moonlight illuminating the basement floor. I ran into the basement as quickly as I could, fearing that the wall would change its mind and not let me leave. Almost as soon as I cleared the opening, the wall began to grind back into place. I fell down on the floor under the window and just shivered and shook.

Once I calmed myself just a bit so that I could think, I began to wonder how many people the talisman had lured to their doom over the years. Avery’s Point and surrounding areas had their share of disappearances. I wonder how many were led here, to this basement, in this unholy house. How many? I vowed right then that my friend Jerry would be the last. I opened the tool bag and took out Jerry’s flash light and the box of kitchen matches.

I ran up the stairs into the kitchen. On the center counter there was an old glass oil lamp. It still had a full reservoir. I grabbed it, removed the globe, and lighted the wick with one of my matches. It lit up at once, with a smell of stale fuel oil. I took the lamp into the dining room where there were two other similar lamps. I lighted them with the one from the kitchen. I took one in each hand, leaving one burning on the dining room table, and went into the den/library.

I threw one against the glass covered shelves on the left side of the room. It shattered the glass doors and itself exploded as it impacted with them. The oil in the reservoir splattered onto the old, dry books within. They blazed up immediately. I turned and threw the other lamp against the shelves on the opposite wall, with the same effect. I ran back into the dining room. I took the lamp that I had left in there and smashed it down onto the dining room table. The old, dry tablecloth flamed up.

With everything beginning to burn hot, I ran back down into the basement. I grabbed the tool bag and my lunch pail, which we had left there earlier, and stood on the stool under the window. I shimmied my butt back over the casement and out in the hedges along side of the house. I stood up and ran. I ran all the way back down the street as fast as I could. I ran all the way till I got to the clubhouse in the woods. I didn’t see anyone on the streets. I hoped no one had seen me.

Once back at the clubhouse, I changed back into my costume and tucked the tool bag and lunch pail under it. I tried to act as normal as possible. My heart was beating a 1000 beats a minute, it seemed. I calmly walked back home. When I got there, I emptied the tool bag and carefully put everything back where I had found it in dad’s workshop. I went up the back steps and into the house. Mom and dad were sitting in the living room. Dad was snoozing in his chair and mom was reading a magazine.

“Well, there you are.” Mom said. “You look flushed. You didn’t get sick eating all that candy, did you?”

“Uh… yes, ma’am. I might have eaten too much. May I be excused?” I asked.

“Yes, dear. You go upstairs and wash up. I’ll be up in a bit to check on you.” she said.

I went upstairs and cleaned up and got ready for bed. It was already after 8PM. I’m glad my dad was sleeping. If he’d been awake, he probably would have whipped me for coming home that late. Mom was not quite as strict. She would cover for me, as usual. I doused the lights and climbed into the upper bunk above George. His bed was empty. He was staying over at a friend’s that night. Mom came in a little while latter and made sure I was OK, then she left me alone.

In a little while, I could hear sirens and bells ringing. They were the bells down at the old fire station on Nantucket Drive. I knew why they were ringing. The house burned into the ground that night. The firemen couldn’t even begin to battle that blaze. All those old books and dried wooden furniture and framing went up like so much tender. The fire was determined to be accidental, but no one ever tried to explain what caused it. The town had a bulldozer crew out there a few days later leveling the property.

And Jerry? I was awoken early the next morning by my mother and a crying Mrs. Keene, Jerry’s mom.

“Kevin?” my mom asked, “Weren’t you with Jerry last night?”

“Yes’m” I answered.

“Where did you go?” she asked.

“We went only as far as Indigo, like you said, mom, and then we came back to the clubhouse and ate our candy.”

“Did you walk home with Jerry, Kevin?” Mrs. Keene asked me in between sniffles.

“No’m. We split up at the clubhouse. I came straight home.” I was lying for my life here.

There was a thorough investigation. The State Police were called in. I was grilled like a suspect for a little while. They finally chalked it up to an abduction a year or so later when Harry Dean Carson, the “Kiddie Killer”, was caught and confessed to Jerry’s murder and the murder of 19 other children in the New England area over the past ten years. They never found Jerry’s body. Carson claimed he could not remember where he’d dumped it. In November of 1958, I went to Jerry’s funeral. I cried. I cried many times in that last year and the years after that.

©2008 V. T. Eric Layton (excluding images)

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Next Tuesday, the conclusion of Pieces of Nine. Thanks for reading.

DusT

By T. Nelson Taylor, Self-published, ISBN-13 978-0-578-02932-0

Available at Createspace.com (paperback) and Lulu.com (hardcover and ebook)

T. Nelson Taylor’s foray into story telling has culminated in this interesting first offering. It’s an intriguing thoughtful story of a possible future, a future where computer hardware and software make a leap into a realm where your Linux system hasn’t been before.

The protagonist of the piece is a young Dr. Chris Miller, a scientist working with cutting edge nanotech. Dr. Miller is attempting to create a new and unique advance in computer memory… or so he thinks. Through wonderfully serendipitous circumstances, Dr. Miller ends up creating so much more.

Sadly, that AHA! moment is going to cost dearly; not just the young doctor, but many people on the periphery of this event. Taylor effectively shifts gears from a science fiction plot to a Ludlum-esque run-for-your-life thriller. With the help of a friend or two and lots of luck, Dr. Miller goes cross country… and eventually around the world to evade, escape, and illuminate.

The prototype machine he’s carrying with him is wanted by different groups for differing reasons. Dr. Miller must learn the motivations behind these groups and determine whose side he’s on; all the while fleeing for his life with his young daughter Emily. It’s intense.

Taylor tells the story well. He packages the whole thing in a high quality paperback (the version I read) for your reading pleasure. This is a great first effort by a new author. I commend him for his perseverance in getting his idea from his head to the publisher. As a long time writer-wannabe, I respect the effort required to do this.

I recommend this book. It’s an entertaining read.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Book image courtesy of https://www.createspace.com/3389138

WikiPorn… Say It Isn’t So, Jimmy

Larry Sanger, X-muckity-muck with Wikipedia accuses parent organization, Wikimedia Foundation, of hosting child pornography on their servers.

I ran across an opinion piece by Renay San Miguel that was originally posted at TechNewsWorld.com entitled Whose Wikipedia Is It, Anyway? Until reading this article, I was not aware of the previous news story broken on FOXNews.com about Wikipedia allegedly distributing child pornography. I have to admit it got my attention. According to Jana Winter’s article at FOXNews.com…

Larry Sanger, who left Wikipedia in 2002, said Wikimedia Commons (the parent company of Wiki products including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikinews and Wikiquote) is rife with renderings of children performing sexual acts.Sanger sent a letter to the FBI earlier this month outlining his concerns and identifying two specific Wikimedia Commons categories he believes violate federal obscenity law.

This is disturbing. I’m a big fan of all things Wikimedia/Wikipedia. I use those sites nearly every day. I’ve donated money to them. I would be very disappointed should any of these allegations pan out as being true in any way.

The FOXNews article continues…

In addition to mentioning the two categories of possibly illegal content, Sanger also named the controversial high-level Wikipedia manager Erik Moeller, who Sanger said “is well known for his views in defense of pedophilia.”

“What is my position on pedophilia, then? It’s really simple. If the child doesn’t want it, is neutral or ambiguous, it’s inappropriate,”

Moeller wrote in 2001 in a post on Kuro5hin.org that he titled, “Pleasure, Affection, Cause and Effect.” These writings were drudged up by Valleywag in May 2008.

Umm… say WHAT? Did I read that correctly? Shouldn’t child pornography be inappropriate (read as WRONG) under ANY circumstances? Isn’t that pretty much the Law AND society’s moral opinion on that matter? I thought so. Moeller posted a response to this FOX article…

“I want to say definitively: I do not defend nor support acts of sexual violence against children and have never defended pedophilia in any way.

I have consistently defended the right of children of comparable age to engage in consensual, harmless sexual interactions with each other – what’s commonly called “playing doctor”, and also safe sex among teens. I have never defended the “right” of pedophiles to abuse children; child sexual abuse is a crime, and there is no such right. Children also don’t have the ability to consent to sexual activity with pedophiles, and such activities are sexual violence against children by definition.”

Ahem… yeah. Emboldened print in the above quote is my emphasis. Hey! I’m no prude, folks… but is this guy a bit out there or what? This is the Wikimedia Foundation’s Deputy Director?

In the more recent opinion piece by San Miguel, he writes…

…Wikipedia is still in dire need of some professional editing and vetting help, and that the crowd has taken over this particular Web 2.0 asylum. And that if you cover Web businesses, the internal struggles and machinations at Wikipedia rate very high in gossip/dish content.

Then Jimmy Wales steps into the fray…

“Wikimedia Commons admins who wish to remove from the project all images that are of little or no educational value but which appeal solely to prurient interests have my full support,” wrote Wales on his Wikimedia Commons page. “This includes immediate deletion of all pornographic images.

This BIG HAMMER solution didn’t go over well with everyone, though.

The ire reached such levels that Wales was forced to revisit the situation and issue an apology of sorts. “In the flurry of activity this weekend, I made some mistakes, and I’m sorry about that. I had thought that a good process would be to engage in a very strong series of deletions, including of some historical images, and then to have a careful discussion about rebuilding. That proved to be very unpopular and so I regret it. It also may have had the effect of confusing people about my own position on what to keep and what to get rid of.”

Poor Jimmy’s in a bad place with this. I’ve been there. I know what this can be like. Censoring content is not something I enjoy doing on my own public boards. However, it has to be done sometimes. One person’s joke can easily be another person’s offensive remark or picture. As an owner/admin/moderator, you have to set the “what’s acceptable” bar at a mutually agreed upon level. That ain’t always easy to do. You invariably have those who feel your site is too restrictive and others who feel it’s too permissive. You can’t please everyone all the time. That being said, though… you SURE AS HELL won’t find child porn on any of the boards or forums I admin or moderate.

Be sure to read both of the articles quoted from above. They’re both necessary to understand the full view of this mess. I sure hope Jimmy Wales didn’t have anything to do with this… and that he can clean it up quickly. He might also want to think about finding a new Deputy Director for the Wikimedia Foundation. Mr. Moeller has some disturbing opinions about children and sexual activity, I think.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Wikipedia Distributing Child Porn, Co-Founder Tells FBI – FOXNews

Whose Wikipedia Is It, Anyway? – Renay San Miguel

An important adenda: To be perfectly fair to Erik Moeller, I did a bit of checking and research after writing this piece above. I found a very lucid and convincing response to FOX’s article on Mr. Moeller’s website. I urge everyone to read it to give the man a fair hearing before condemning him on FOX’s article alone.

My Defamation 2.0 Experience – Erik Moeller

Oye, Houston… Tenemos Una Problema

Due to circumstances that were partially within my control, albeit indirectly, the frequency of article publication on this blog will probably be diminishing somewhat.

I’ve definitely had some fun here the past 40 days or so. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that I’ll be keeping up with my two articles a day pace that I had been maintaining. This may disappoint some and bring joy to others. I just wanted to pop in here with a quickie to let you all know. I don’t want to leave you hanging waiting for my normal two-a-day to appear.

I will be continuing with the serialized story, Pieces of Nine, for those of you who’ve been reading those articles. The next part is due on this coming Tuesday. I’ll also continue to publish articles on Linux or general topics as time and opportunity allow. I have a another book review coming up soon, also.

As always, thank you for visiting Chris P.’s Lockergnome site and reading and commenting. We appreciate you being here.

Get out there and have some fun now!

~Eric

Slackage Management, Baby!

There are those who say that Slackware Linux doesn’t really have a package manager. BAH! I say. It has two package management systems, actually.

The first is the older of the two. It’s good ol’ pkgtool. The rumor that Slack has no package manager is baloney. pkgtool is an outstanding little package management tool that serves its purpose wonderfully. The other rumor that pkgtool has no dependency checks is true, though. Slackware assumes you have half a brain and can determine which dependencies you need to fulfill to install Jumpin' Joe's Majong Marathon.

From the command line, you can installpkg, removepkg, or upgradepkg… easy-peasy, folks! Anyone familiar with compiling and installing SlackBuilds will have used the pkgtool when performing that job.

Slackpkg is the second, and newer, of the two Slackware package managers. It was introduced with version 13 of Slackware last year. It is the native manager for the new .txz compression format, which is based on the LZMA compression algorithm. Slackpkg has a few more usage options than the old pkgtool does, giving it some more usability.

Both of these tools serve their purpose admirably. It took me a little time to get used to the new Slackpkg for updating. I was used to using the old SwareT application with pre-13 versions of Slackware. SwareT was an outstanding tool. Unfortunately, when Patrick V. decided to go with the new compression method, SwareT was left by the wayside. The app hadn’t been updated in quite a few years, anyway.

There are third party package management tools out there, but SwareT was the only one I ever tried. Although, I did use Slapt-get in Zenwalk, a Slack derivative. They both worked well with the older .tgz format. I can’t say anything about the others out there because I’ve never used them. Slack’s native package managers are all I need. Oh, there’s no GUI front ends for them, so you’re stuck in the command line. WAAAAA! Sorry, GUI penguins.

So, the next time you hear someone say that Slack doesn’t have a package manager, you can tell them that’s baloney. It has TWO!

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Strange Days

I’m the Lizard King. I can do anything. ~ Jim Morrison

There was a very good program on American Masters on PBS tonight, When You’re Strange, a film about The Doors by Tom DiCillo. The Doors were peaking when I was very young, but I had the advantage of growing up with an older brother. The music of his era (60s) became the foundation for my musical tastes, regardless of my youth at the time. The Doors and Jim Morrison were one group that influenced me greatly in my misspent youth. I have most of their albums in my collection.

Remember albums? They’re these black plastic disk-like things with concentric grooves embedded in them. When a stylus travels within these grooves, a magic occurs. It’s a magic that brings the twisted genius of a man like Morrison into your living room. It fills your head with the images and the rhythms that were swirling around in Jim’s LSD dreams when he was in the studio singing those songs into a microphone. It’s a strong magic.

The poetry of this magic is such that it creates feelings and thoughts that stay in your head for a lifetime. Regardless of the media that you choose when accessing that magic in the future (I’m currently listening to The Doors – Riders On the Storm on Youtube), the magic transports you again… to that time, that place, with those friends that you were with when you first experienced the magic of that particular song.

Today, while having coffee with my aunts and uncles, I watched one of my uncles across the table from me. He was always a tall, virile man. Nowadays, he’s a shrunken, aching, enfeebled old man. I still see the man he was, but he can no longer be that man. Life is fleeting… so fleeting. It made me think of my own mortality. I’m not the man I was 25 years ago either. I’m not what this man has become… yet, but that day is down the road.

The documentary about The Doors and my thoughts about my uncle made me realize that there is so much that I miss, so much that I no longer do, so many good times and memories in the past. I thought of friends who are no longer in this world; like my buddy Frank, who died at 36… or my lady-friend Melissa, who left this world at the ripe old age of 39… and many others whom I miss. I shared much with these people. They each took part of me when they left this place.

I realize this article isn’t going to garner much laughs or many comments or generate ad revenue. I don’t really care. I’m entitled to ramble on occasionally. I’m sitting here enjoying a hot cup of coffee and I’m about to step outside and flick open my ol’ Zippo and light up a Marlboro. I quit smoking back in December of ’07, but for some reason I felt the need for a cigarette tonight. I wanted to perform the ritual… packing, opening, lighting that first cig. It brought me momentary surcease from the ghosts haunting me this evening.

It would be foolish in the extreme for me to start smoking again. I know that. Besides, I can’t afford to buy the damned things these days. I might have one more and then give the pack away. I’ve had my moment. The fog has lifted and clarity returned. I’ve confronted the ghosts. They’re all my ghosts. They’re mostly friendly. I have nothing to fear.

Strange days…

~Eric

Update: I smoked that second cig and then poured water over the rest of the pack and tossed it in the trash.

What’s So Bad About Greed?

It’s one of the seven so-called deadly sins… Greed. If there ever was an evil incarnate on this earth, greed would be it.

I’m an atheist, folks, so you’ll not be hearing much “God says” or “the Bible says” in my articles. I don’t believe in good or evil either. They are just agreed upon limits from which a society’s mores evolve. Greed is an exception, though. Greed is probably the driving force behind much that is wrong currently in our little world. If it isn’t religion killing thousands, it’s probably some greedy bastard(s) instead.

Whether it be greed for material things (gold) or greed for power (control), the individual under the influence of that greed can never be a benefit to those around him or to the world he lives it. Greed destroys in its headlong rush to gain that for which it lusts. True greed respects no societal mores, no individual feelings, no humane beliefs. It’s a wild beast salivating over the prospect of a bloody meal.

Don’t mistake me here. I’m not saying that achievement is wrong or that having a nice Mercedes Benz automobile is wrong. I’m saying that if you are driven to steam roll over everything and everyone in your path to own nine Mercedes Benz automobiles, then there might be a problem.

It’s nice to have nice things. Everyone likes nice things… a new car, a soft bed, a good meal. Comfort is a natural goal for humans. We seek comfort and security and avoid pain. All animals do the same. When you find yourself unable to stop once you’ve gained what you needed, then you may have a problem. If your goal was to be rich enough to buy the 80′ yacht, why did you pass it up to acquire the 160′ one?

Greed is a sickness, I believe. It’s a taint smeared on young minds by ad executives and Wall Street moguls. More is better, they tell you. We hear it from birth, practically. We are instilled by our parents to achieve goals that overshadow the ones they achieved. It’s almost a form of vicariousness. Our parents didn’t quite achieve what they wanted in life, so that crack the whip on us to get out there and do it… become that doctor or that lawyer that dad wish’d he’d been. Instilling ambition and goal-seeking in your children is a good thing, but not when you’re pushing them into something you wanted but never achieved.

Greed is inherited, I think. The old money in this world instill in their progeny the same greed that obtained them their wealth. The greedy inclination in the children of the mega-rich pushes them to increase the family wealth, then their own children come along and the chain continues. It seems as though greed perpetuates greed almost as much as poverty and despair perpetuate themselves in this world.

I have nothing against the rich. I do not subscribe to that “redistribute the wealth” BS. I’m not a socialist. I’m just trying to say here that if a 5000 square foot home in a nice neighborhood is enough for you and your wife, then why are you building that 20 room mansion on the lake? You’re just going to rattle around in it. Stop trying to impress others and do what you want to do to make yourselves happy. Live for yourself, not for the folks who read the society page of the newspaper. Your goal in life should be to seek contentment, but not be a detriment to others along the way.

Greed is NOT good. A little less greed in this world would make it a much nicer place in which to live. We’ll work on the religious fanatics another time.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Mandbuntu 11.0 – Duck à l’orange

On the heels of the recent news that Mandriva is up for sale comes a whisper of a rumor from an insider source at a large Linux software company.

Unsubstantiated rumor from a reliable source (Canonical’s Assistant Night Custodian, Ross Foss) names Canonical as the new owner of the French company Mandriva, S.A. The source goes on to say that Canonical’s founder and benevolent-leader-for-life, Mark Shuttleworth has already ported a combination Ubuntu-Mandriva distribution to be offered in next few weeks. Reportedly, the name of the new mutant distribution will be Mandbuntu 11.0 – Duck à l’orange.

Insider sources also reveal that Mandbuntu will have a hybrid package management system known as urp-get. It’s a combination of apt and urpmi. It’s supposedly one of the most innovative new changes in this new distribution. It will follow the apt-get format for installing and updating from the command line. The GUI frontend is known as Ducknaptic, and can be found in the main menu.

Mandbuntu will initially ship with only one desktop environment/windows manager, the newly reconfigured (just for Mandbuntu) DuXfce. Rumor again informs us that a KDuxE version will be available soon. More rumors from lower level custodial crew claim that the French duck dish theme will continue. The next version will probably be Mandbuntu 12.0 – Peking Duck.

The future is looking just ducky! Stay tuned…

~Eric

Note: The above is for laughs, folks… in case you didn’t realize that. There is no truth to any of the above article. Ross Foss is a fictional custodian.

Pieces of Nine: Part IV – A Serialized Story

Pieces of Nine

Part IV

The Captain’s Logbook:

My name is Arthur Barrington. I was captain of the Leslie Marie, a merchant ship out of Portsmouth. On my many travels around the world in the business of shipping, I often entered many strange and ancient ports. One in particular was on the Island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea, where I discovered something that was to change my life forever.

In the year 1853, the Leslie Marie was piloted into the harbor of Nicolaos, on the northern part of that island. We were there to deliver a hold full of olive oil from Genoa. While in the city, I overheard a snatch of conversation between two Cretins in a pub about the “Pieces of Nine”. I was intrigued immediately. I knew what pieces of eight were, Spanish silver coins, but had never heard of pieces of nine.

I intruded on their conversation and bought a round of drinks to soothe their objections to my interruption. More drink flowed. More conversation ensued. Finally, I was invited to meet with them later that evening to be introduced to one who could tell me more about these pieces of nine. I promised to meet with them at the agreed upon time and place and left them to return to the Leslie Marie for a few hours of rest before the evening arrived.

When the time approached for the meeting, I left the Leslie Marie and walked through the cobbled streets to a small residence about a mile inland from the port. I knocked on the door and waited. An old crone opened the door and bade me enter. Inside were my two friends from the pub. Their names were Miklo and Stephan. We sat and chatted for few moments. In a short while, there was another knock on the door. The old crone again opened the door and bade an old man to enter.

The old man was introduced to me as Miklo’s father. His name was Manos Kalergos. He was the Grand Lector of the Pieces of Nine, the keeper of the sacred texts. I was confused now. I inquired as to what this meant. Manos said that the Pieces of Nine were an ancient fraternity that could trace its roots back to the Phoenicians of 2500 years ago. The Phoenicians were an ancient sea-faring race.

I became very interested in everything that Manos was telling me about the Pieces of Nine. I was in port for about three weeks. During that time, I visited with Manos and the others daily. I became obsessed with the things that they were telling me about this ancient brotherhood. I could not learn fast enough. I cannot explain my obsession, but obsession it was, nevertheless. Finally though, I had to depart from my new friends. I left with promises to return. On my day of departure, Manos showed up at the docks and gave me a manuscript that he claimed would explain much about the Pieces of Nine. He was more correct than he knew.

For five years I studied that manuscript in detail. I researched and investigated related information in libraries all throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. I learned much. The most important thing I learned was that Manos and his Pieces of Nine brethren were imbeciles. They were idiots. Their entire fraternity was based on a manuscript that was incorrectly translated from the ancient Greek, which itself was mistranslated from an earlier language.

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Phoenicians had a unique goddess, one with no equivalent in other cultures. She was the goddess of time. The Phoenicians prayed to her and she supposedly taught them how to use time and the stars to navigate their ships to faraway places. Her name was Nirne. Again according to Herodotus, she also had a very unique power. She could control time.

Herodotus goes on to explain that Nirne showed the Phoenicians not only how to navigate the seas, but also how to navigate time, which she compared to the sea. She taught that time had waves, tides, and storms, just as the sea does. Occasionally, time will wash things up on faraway shores. This detritus of time was called “feces of Nirne” by the ancient Phoenicians. It was how they explained strange races or cultures of men they met in their travels. They cursed them, calling them “feces of Nirne”.

These idiot Cretins had mistranslated a Greek text from 2000 years before changing “feces of Nirne” into “pieces of nine”. The words are very similar in ancient Greek and modern Cretan. I laugh aloud when I think of this. They had no idea the power they were in command of. They knew not in the least the proper use of their talisman. Oh yes, the fraternity had a talisman. The kept it in a lead lined wooden box. I was not allowed to see it on that first visit to the island.

In these pages, I will admit my madness completely. In 1857, I bought a piece of property in the town of Avery’s Point and paid the architect Burnham to build this house and this underground complex. I paid him well to keep the secret. I also paid well to have him killed a year after completing this project. He fell from a scaffold while working on one of his building projects in Boston. Yes. My madness was great.

Upon my return to the Island of Crete in 1864, I discovered that the old man Manos had died a few years before. His son Miklo was now the Grand Lector. I killed Miklo and made off with the talisman. I stowed it in my stateroom aboard the Leslie Marie and sailed for home. Once I arrived home, I promptly sold the Leslie Marie to a Portsmouth shipping interest and retired to my home in Avery’s Point. I brought the talisman with me. I placed it beyond that iron door that you now see in front of you.

I spent the next ten years studying the texts of the brotherhood. I learned how to manipulate the talisman. I learned many, many things. The entire extent of what I learned you will find etched into the solid granite in the tunnel you came through to get to this room. The language that it is written in is the lost language of the ancient race of Phoenicia. Now you truly see my madness.

I will tell you this, though… the talisman was a gift from the goddess Nirne to the Phoenicians. It gave them the power over time. It allowed them to sail that sea, also. The Phoenicians mysteriously disappeared sometime back around 500BC. The traditional histories state that Phoenicia was conquered by Persia and absorbed into that culture. However, the historian Herodotus mentions the mysterious disappearance of a large portion of the conquered Phoenician people. History brushes this event aside.

So what happened to the Phoenicians? They set sail on the sea of time. Just as myself and my family did centuries later with the help of the talisman. I had taken many such trips before that last one. This is how I learned the ancient Phoenician language. I sailed the sea of time to that point in history when the Phoenicians were at their peak. They taught me their language themselves. They welcomed me as a brother, a fellow sailor of the sea of time. Where am I now? I wouldn’t know.

A final warning: those who lack the knowledge should beware the power of the talisman. To navigate the sea of time is perilous in itself. To be cast upon it with no knowledge of how to navigate it is death.

So ended the Captain’s Logbook entry.

©2008 V. T. Eric Layton (excluding images)

Pieces of eight image courtesy of shipwreck-heritage.org.uk

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Stay tuned, dear readers… next Tuesday – Part V.