booksandstories.com

June 2001 Review

Web Page Progress

I've sadly neglected my website for a few weeks, but being that it's summer, I decided to take a little time off from peering into small screens. Not that I did anything else that was more exciting. I tend to vegitate when I'm not working, mainly because I'm so tired. But I didn't stay away from the computer for too long. And when I got back to it, I found that nothing much has changed. I seem to be slowly -very slowly- building up my visitor numbers. About a thousand of you visited my site in 2000, and another thousand of you have visited in the first half of 2001. I hope the rise continues.

This month I want to talk to you about GUFF. Yes, that's the name I give to all that stuff that you often get sent to you that you don't want. In the real world it could be compared to junk mail. I have a lot of problems with that, and apart from nailing up your letterbox there's not too much you can do about it. Well, the internet is just the same. GUFF is my term for all that stuff that makes a webpage take six months to load on your computer. It stands for Generally Unwanted Fluff and Filling. Let me explain.

When I write my stories I do it in a standard word processor, and only at the very end do I convert it into html. Most word processors allow you to do that quite easily by the "save as" option. When I did this with "The Return Of The Sixpack" I thought I would get the same sort of result as the last time I had converted a file. I was wrong. Windows had gone up a notch or two, and someone's idea of html had also changed. When I looked at my file I found it was filled with a multitude of tags that were totally unnecessary and unwanted. My file was 3.2Mb in size, and the processor had also created a separate directory with more GUFF in there as well! Instead of a simple paragraph tag, I got two lines of code. Yes, two lines of code for each and every paragraph, even if it was just "She sighed." Once I had stripped all of it out and reduced it to the basics, I finished up with a file that was 1.2Mb in size. That's 2Mb's of GUFF.

I know computers are getting faster, and websites are getting more dynamic, but please, let us poor people who don't own the equivalent of NASA's computer systems have a chance of accessing things without waiting for two and a half hours first. Graphics are great, adverts a necessary evil, but the object of the game depends on quick and easy access. If it takes too long, if it causes our computers to throw a fit, then that's another visitor lost forever. Webmasters shouldn't forget that in their quest to be better.

Letters

I've had another email letter, this time from Mick:

Dear booksandstories.com,

Hi, that was quite entertaining.

Kind Regards,

Mick

Well, that was to the point. Glad you liked it, Mick, and glad you took the time to email me. I'd appreciate more comments from you lot out there. I wonder which story he read....

Writing Progress

"The Return of the Sixpack" is now up on the List Page. Please note that in view of my comments above, I have limited the pay chapters file to under 1Mb in size. This has meant adding additional chapters to the free chapters file. If you have read the free chapters file, please go back to it as it now contains thirty chapters and not twenty. If you look on the List Page you may notice that the file size has increased to 352Kb as a result.

For those of you who are interested, I'm now letting my mind work on "The Friendly Ambassador", so I'll keep you informed of how it's going. As promised, there's another Short Story this month, and "Wagstaff And McClean" has moved to the List Page. Happy reading.

June's Short Story

Gillian Who was fed up with the arguments over the group's latest time experiments. Being in her final year at Galactic University on Zebedee, she was looking forward to graduating. Still, once this experiment was over and all written up, she would be done.

Gillian ran a hand through her jet black, shoulder length hair as she studied the log book. Yes, everything was ready. The machine had worked perfectly with inanimate objects. They had transported a brick through time both forwards and backwards. It had arrived perfectly, none the worse for the experience. Well, it was a brick. Now for something alive. She glanced across at the cage.

Arnold, a white rabbit, sat in his cage munching a carrot. Gillian stared at him. He wasn't much more inteligent than the brick, but his experiences in travelling through time would be invaluable.

Last Thursday they had injected Arnold with a mild radioactive isotope. The half-life of the isotope meant that it would decay away in precisely twelve days time. That was the only important aspect of the experiment apart from Arnold's survival. Tomorrow, Arnold would become a time-traveller. But, of course, as of last Monday, he already was.

Gillian sat back and sighed. Tomorrow's experiment would be exciting if it wasn't so boring and predictable. But that was the reason for the arguments. Gillian remembered them clearly. It was Tuesday, and Bill was the most vocal.

"You can't put Arnold back in the machine on Friday!" he almost shouted to Jenny.

"We have to!" Jenny protested. "It's the whole point! We put Arnold in on Friday and he comes out last Monday!"

"And that's my point!" Bill replied. "One rabbit came out of the machine on Monday! So if we put the same one back in on Friday, the real Arnold will never have gone in it in the first place!"

Jenny's face screwed up. She never could get used to the paradoxes of time-travel. She glanced at the cage where the new Arnold sat and twitched his ears, then she looked at the cage on the opposite bench where the untravelled Arnold sat snoozing.

"But we'll put the right one in, Bill! What do you think we are? Stupid?"

Bill was still full of the possiblities. "And what if they've been mixed up? They were both in the same cage on Tuesday morning. That daft janitor has been feeding Arnold on the quiet for ages! That's why the daft bunny is so fat! Now that there's two of them, he's had them both out, fed them, and put them back in the same damn cage for company!"

"Gillian sorted all that out!"

"I know! I know! She checked the presence of the isotope and all that! But both rabbits are radioactive until Thursday! By then we'll know for sure! But it's not like we can see any difference!"

That was when Gillian had joined the argument.

"It doesn't matter which Arnold we put in on Friday."

Bill was livid. "Doesn't matter? Of course it matters! You can't create a rabbit out of nothing! He's here! Eating and living! He's real! If you don't put the right rabbit into the machine on Friday, this rabbit-" he pointed at the twitchy eared one, "-should never have existed!"

Gillian put her hands on her hips. "And what do you think is going to happen then? Is the universe going to blow up?"

Bill made a tortured face as he contemplated the awful but indescribable consequences. "Oh, it just shouldn't happen that's all!" he finally breathed out explosively.

"And it won't!" Gillian assured him.

That was Tuesday. And despite words with the janitor, both Arnolds were fed and mixed up repeatedly on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

By Thursday, Bill was ready to throw a fit and Jenny had reached the drivelling stage. Bill was adament that both rabbits had been so mixed up that it was now impossible to be sure which one was which. Fortunately, at 4:30pm the isotope in one of the rabbits decayed below detection as expected. It was the only moment that they could be truly sure which rabbit was which. Bill wanted to kill Arnold number two to prevent them from being mixed up again. Jenny was ready to abduct the threatened bunny and take him home. In the end Gillian convinced them to stop over-reacting by suggesting a simple measure. They gave Arnold number two a red collar.

Now it was Thursday night.

Gillian looked across the lab to the other cage. Inside was the other Arnold wearing his red collar.

Why was it that humans had such difficulty understanding time-travel? It was quite simple, straight forward dynamics. You have a beginning and an end, it just so happens that the end can finish before the beginning starts. So what? Gillian couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Bill was so terrified of putting the wrong rabbit into the machine that he was causing Jenny to have anxiety attacks. He seemed to think that there would be some sort of catastrophic change in the time streams. How grandfather would laugh.

"Show them!" he would say. "Show them their folly!"

Maybe she should.

With sudden resolve, Gillian got up, went over to the cage, and took out Arnold number two. In an instant she had removed his collar, taken him across the lab, and put him inside the cage with himself.

Bending over and leaning her head on the bench, Gillian watched both Arnold's happily munching their carrot.

"Have fun, you two, for tomorrow you part," she whispered. On her way out of the lab, as she switched off the light, she muttered, "It's a good job you're male."

-o-

Bill was absolutely frantic when he found both rabbits together.

"That's it! The experiment's cancelled!"

Jenny was almost in tears. "But we have to put one of them in! The isotope decayed on Thursday, that means we have to put Arnold in today! If we delay....I mean....that's almost as bad as putting the wrong one in, isn't it?"

"But we can't put him in! There's no way to tell them apart now!"

Gillian came into the lab, took one look at her two distraught collegues, and then walked purposely forward. Before they could stop her, and while they looked on astonished, Gillian had gone to the cage, grabbed one of the rabbits, and stuffed him into the machine. The switch was thrown, there was a whirr, and one Arnold disappeared.

Bill and Jenny stared at the empty machine with round eyes.

Bill said in a subdued voice, "She just stuck him in..."

Jenny whispered, "How did she know?"

Bill repeated, "She just stuck him in..."

Gillian put her hands on her hips.

"Oh, stop it both of you!" she said sternly, causing them both to look up with a start. "Time-travel is simple cause and effect! The right Arnold came out of the machine on Monday. We know that, because the isotope decayed on Thursday. And once we knew that the right Arnold came out on Monday, we also knew that we had to have put the right Arnold in on Friday. Simple cause and effect. See?"

Bill still looked worried. "But what if we had put the wrong one in? What if you grabbed the wrong rabbit?"

Gillian shook her head. "If we had put the wrong Arnold in the machine, the one that came out wouldn't have had the isotope still present. It would have already decayed yesterday! Get with it, Bill! And you, too, Jenny! Our viva is next week!"

With those final words, Gillian walked out.

-o-

Gillian was sitting at her desk in her bedroom when she heard a wheezing groaning noise behind her. She waited until it had finished before she spoke.

"Hello, John," she said without looking round. "How was the trip?"

John Who stepped out of the ornate wardrobe that now stood in Gillian's room and smiled at his sister.

"It was just great, Gill! I love the adventures! I can't get enough of them!"

Gillian turned and looked at her older and excited brother with envy. "Just two more weeks and I'm finished. I can't wait to join you."

"Why don't you come for a trip now? We have the time."

Gillian pointed at her thesis. "I have to finish this."

John leaned on her chair. "Well, I'll tell you what. Come with me for a trip now and I'll bring you back before you left."

Gillian looked up at him. "If you bring me back yesterday, I can get this done twice as quick," she suggested.

"Done!"

Gillian leapt to her feet. "I knew you were going to say that! Come on!"

The pair of them laughed and ran into the wardrobe. A few seconds later and it began to wheeze and groan, and then it faded away.

Several seconds passed and then Gillian came into her bedroom holding a mug of tea. She looked round.

"Ah, you've gone! Peace at last!"

She sat down at her desk and finished her thesis.

Story Copyright © D. G. Richards 2001

Gillian and John Who Copyright © Polystyle Publications 1964

Dr Who and the TARDIS Copyright © The BBC 2001

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