It had been a hard day of almost wasted discussions with the scholars at the university. John Grover and Ken Butcher, accompanied by Derrick Mason, a young radio operator on loan from the army, had been trying to identify the materials and skills available down-time for the manufacture of earphones for crystal radios. They had hoped that it would be an easy matter to find people capable of making the wire-wound headsets at a sufficiently low price that affordable crystal radios could be made, allowing anybody to listen in to the broadcasts of the Voice of America. As things stood, there were about ten thousand up-time radios that could receive the signal. However, they were expensive. What was needed was a crystal radio set that anybody could make or buy extremely cheaply. That way, the Voice of America radio broadcasts would be able to reach everybody, not just those who could afford an up-time radio and a power supply.
Father Gus, who had been pressed into service as an interpreter, sat with the Americans while they continued to discuss the problems surrounding cheap earphones with a couple of members of the Jena faculty. Listening in, interpreting as needed, Father Gus considered the problems. They needed to wind thin copper wire around "magnetic" iron to somehow convert their "electric signals" into sound. The concept sounded extremely interesting, if such a thing was really possible.
That had been part of the problem. The Americans had come into Jena with a certain reputation for outlandish ideas and inventions. People, however disbelieving, had been prepared to listen. However, sound from the air? If it hadn't been for the two-way radios they had brought with them, nobody would have believed them. Even with the two-way radios as proof, many were still unconvinced that they could be made.
"Hello, Dear. Have you been having fun?" asked John Grover's wife, Leota.
Father Gus had to smile. John's wife, Leota, Ken's wife, Sarah, and Ken's sister-in-law, Esther Sloan, presented quite a sight with all their bundles and baskets. They were settling down and displaying their booty from a lightning raid on the unsuspecting shops of Jena.
"You'll never guess what I managed to get," Esther said. She pointed to a heavily laden basket. "It's almost impossible to get in Grantville. But here in Jena, I managed to pick up a whole ten pounds of Gribbleflotz Vin Sal Aer Fixus, and the price was less than in Grantville."
"That's marvelous, Esther. Can I buy some off you?" asked her sister, Sarah.
"There's still some left in the shop. Most of this lot is destined for the school cafeteria. We've been forced to feed the students sourdough bread, but with the Gribbleflotz Vin Sal Aer Fixus, we can do biscuits again. The students have almost been up in arms having to go without biscuits."
A rustle of paper drew all eyes to Leota and the flyer she was spreading out on the table. "What's that, Leota?" Esther struggled to read the upside-down flyer.
Leota looked up at Esther, then placed the flyer down where her husband could read it. "When you mentioned the name Gribbleflotz, I suddenly remembered this. It's a flyer advertising seminars on the 'Philosophy of the Essence of Lightning,' which are being given in the private salon of a Dr. Gribbleflotz. Apparently, the man gives demonstrations of 'The Wondrous Lightning Generator,' 'The Amazing Lightning Crystals,' 'Storing the Essence of Lightning,' and 'Continuous Lightning.' It sounds a lot like the kind of things the early scientists used to do. John, maybe you can drop by and see what the man has. It could be interesting."
Father Gus had been translating as best he could for Dr. Werner Rolfinck, Dean of the Jena Medical College, and Dr. Willi Hofacker, a senior lecturer in iatrochemistry and medical botany. When he mentioned Dr. Gribbleflotz though, both men started to go red. Frau Grover had barely finished speaking when Dr. Rolfinck exploded. Father Gus struggled to keep up as the invective flowed from the good doctor.
"Dr. Rolfinck says that this Dr. Gribbleflotz is little better than a charlatan. These philosophical seminars are little more than cheap demonstrations of lesser technology with an unscholarly commentary pretending to explain what is being shown."
There was a pause while Father Gus listened to a quick discussion between Dr. Rolfinck and Dr. Hofacker. "Apparently, this Dr. Gribbleflotz has no true credentials. He has failed miserably in the university courses on iatrochemistry. The man claims to be related to the Great Paracelsus, father of modern medicine. But the doctors doubt it. He is totally lacking in scholarly skills. He was little better than a self-employed laborant until he started making cooking powders for the American women. That was about his level, they claim. Though, I do wonder why the invective. I wonder what they have against the doctor?"
Sarah wrinkled her forehead. "Yes. If they don't think he has credentials, why are they even letting him call himself 'Doctor?' I thought that was a protected title?"
Father Gus smiled at Sarah before turning to talk to the doctors. Moments later he had an answer. "They say they dare not challenge him on his doctorate. Apparently, he is doing quite well with his little 'blue balls of happiness,' his Gribbleflotz Sal Vin Betula. With the money from that he has retained the services of Herr Hardegg of Hardegg, Selfisch, and Krapp, a Rudoltstadt legal firm with a certain reputation. The good doctors are not rich men. They cannot afford to defend an action of slander."
Dr. Rolfinck had been trying to calm down while Father Gus translated for the Americans. But when Father Gus mentioned Sal Vin Betula, he again exploded. Father Gus tried to calm Dr. Rolfinck.
After a moment, Father Gus explained. "The dean is a little upset at the unscholarly name Dr. Gribbleflotz has given his little blue pills."