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  1. #131
    Loved this part :

    Madazine’s Axel Griess gave his brief and scathing opinion of the proceedings, saying: “I was not surprised to see Kevin going round in circles, nor was I taken aback by his being completely at sea.”

  2. #132
    Hello, Jack. Glad you liked Axel's squirt of vitriol. Poor Kevin doesn't seem to fare too well with his experiments to enrich our lives. He'll be regaling us again soon. Cj
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  3. #133

    Tom: Good morning, Jim and Dan. We all know why weíre here. Youíre relative newcomers to rifle shooting and youíve asked me to set up a little contest for the two of you. Iím happy to do that. I want you to fire for two fifteen-minute periods, with a break of half an hour between them. You can each fire as many rounds as you wish on both occasions. The only thing that matters is your total number of shots, divided by the bulls you score, giving you an average of shots per bull. The decisive factor will be your scores over the two rounds, taken in total.

    You have one target each for the first round and Iíll put up fresh ones for the second. Bear in mind your inexperience and donít be surprised if you get very few bulls. Theyíre quite a long way off and those circles in the middle are pretty small. To put things in perspective, I had a short session yesterday, using an identical target to the ones you have, at the same distance. Iím considered a pretty fair shot but I got only ten bulls with thirty-five rounds.

    Your magazines hold five bullets, so youíll most likely need to reload a few times. For that purpose you each have a box of replacements. Youíll also see that Iím providing you with a spare rifle apiece, in case of jamming or overheating.

    Iíd like you to take up your positions, Jim facing the right-hand target for the first round, then youíll swap places for the second. When both of you have called out that youíre ready, youíll hear a buzzer to give you the start and finish signals. Iíll keep score. Let me remind you that the prize is a bottle of brandy.

    One hour later.

    Tom: Well, here we are. Itís all over and I have your scores. Jim, in the first round, you fired sixty-four shots and got four bulls. Dan, you went rather slower. You fired thirty-six shots and got two bulls. So the first round went to Jim, with an average of one bull per sixteen shots against Danís one per eighteen.

    Now to the second round. Jim, you slowed down quite a bit, presumably trying for greater accuracy. Well, you got it, with thirty-two shots, including four more bulls. Dan, you went a good deal faster than you did in the first round, with sixty-three shots, seven of which were bulls. So that round went to Jim too, with an average of one bull per eight shots against Danís one per nine shots.

    Jim: Good. Hand over the bottle, Tom.

    Dan: Wait a minute. Thatís not right.

    Jim: Hey, donít be a sore loser, Dan. You heard what the man said. I won both rounds, so whereís the argument?

    Dan: Iíll tell you where it is. Tom, you said that the prize was to go to the man who did best in total.

    Tom: Thatís right.

    Dan: Well, thereís no dispute about Jim having won the two rounds taken separately, but overall he fired ninety-six shots and scored eight bulls. Thatís one bull per twelve shots. I fired ninety-nine times and got nine bulls. Thatís one bull per eleven shots. I win.

    Tom: Heís right, Jim. It seems crazy, but you won both rounds and lost the contest. Funny things, numbers. Hereís your bottle, Dan.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  4. #134
    (Sunday evening)

    Come tomorrow’s morn, there shall be storms the like of which ye have ne’er seen, nay, the like of which humankind itself in all its history hath ne’er known. There shall be rain in torrents, thunder and lightning, hurricanes that shall blast the land and lay waste to your forests, tempests which shall carry all before them and leave scarce a living crop in their wake.

    Swollen, raging rivers shall o’erwhelm your feeble defences and hurl your habitations and all within them away to roiling, boiling seas. Nary an inch of your soil shall be left unscathed, nor shall any scrap of it remain above the floods. Tornados shall wreak havoc north to south and east to west and none shall escape them. Devastation shall be nigh absolute.

    Tuesday will be a much better day, with light showers and sunny intervals. That’s the weather forecast. In a moment we’ll have the time signal, followed by the news.

    * * *

    Last edited by Courtjester; July 30th, 2016 at 07:27 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  5. #135

    The Yorkshire inventor and engineer Kevin Spout has been in action once more. On this occasion the venue was meadow, two miles from the Spout familyís Sheffield home. As was the case with public showings of his earlier innovations, Kevin had invited a number of journalists specialising in scientific matters. Madazineís Axel Griess was present. About two hundred interested local people had gathered to watch the proceedings, which began at noon. In the middle of the field stood a flat-roofed wooden hut, eight feet high, twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide, with a floor of paving stones. It had a ceiling light and two mains power points. Both field and hut had been made available by a farmer.

    Kevin gained the crowdís attention with a shout, introduced himself, then went on: ďIn a few minutes I intend to prove that those who have long contended that perpetual motion is impossible have been wrong. I know that many attempts have been made and all have failed. To make my point, I went into the area of electricity generation. I have built a simple turbine, consisting of only one hub and a single set of blades. I am aware that in commercial applications, many of these units are fixed together. However, such complexity is not necessary for my purpose today. I now request representatives of the media to accompany me to the hut and view the machine. There is not enough room inside to accommodate anyone else, so I ask members of the lay public to disperse around the perimeter of this field.Ē

    The reporters followed Kevin into the cabin. Standing in the middle of the floor was the test equipment. It comprised a metal wheel, three inches wide and about two and a half feet in diameter. Attached to the rim were thirty-six steel blades, each eighteen inches long. They were evenly spaced, slightly over two and a half inches apart. The assembly rested on two steel stanchions fixed to an iron platform which was fastened to the floor. The whole construction was covered by a housing of clear Perspex which, as Kevin explained, was there to protect onlookers from air turbulence. At one side of the apparatus, a hole in the Perspex sheet allowed the hub to be connected to an electric motor by means of a hexagonal shaft. Protruding from the other side was a handle, attached to the hub in the same way.

    Kevin explained the essence of his scheme. ďThe secret here is the positioning of the blades,Ē he said. ďIn a conventional turbine, they are all aligned at the same angle to each other. You will see that in my array, they are all at slightly different angles. It took me quite a while to find the correct configuration. The result is that I need only apply a modest initial impetus from the motor here, then I switch it off and it is not required again. When the blades begin to turn, the way in which they are set agitates the air between them, setting up eddies, which are self-maintaining. The machine spins faster, up to a certain number of revolutions, at which point it levels off, thus achieving perpetual motion. The handle you see at the side opposite the motor is a brake, which I shall apply manually to stop the test. If I were not to do so, the appliance would rotate at a steady speed forever, barring external interference.Ē

    Kevin asked the dozen or so viewers to separate into two small groups of about equal size and move to the ends of the cabin, so that they were as far from the assembly as possible. When they had complied, he bent over the motor, cried: ďHereís to cheap power for all time,Ē and pressed the starter button.

    Shortly after the blades began to turn, Kevin pressed the stop button, stated that the apparatus was running under its own power, and stood back. As he had predicted, the wheel revolved at increasing speed. This went on for about five minutes, then one of the blades became detached from the rim, burst out of the housing and sped on to go through the cabinís side wall and hurtle across the field. The other blades followed at intervals varying from about five to twenty seconds, all behaving in much the same way as the first had done.

    As bladesí initial trajectories were largely determined by their velocities, their varying angles on leaving the wheel, and to some extent by the sides of the cage, their combined exits from the premises described a semi-circular path, up one wall, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall. The result was that when all of them had vanished, the cabin had been cut into two halves.

    One of the onlookers then noticed that the electric motor was still running. He drew this to the attention of Kevin, who repeatedly jabbed the stop button, to no avail. The device ran until another spectator pulled out the lead connecting it to the mains power supply.

    Kevin immediately instituted an inquiry. He asked the shaken journalists to step outside the hut and remain there until he could report his findings. In less than half an hour he gave an account of what he had discovered, saying: ďIím happy to tell you that the mishap was caused by two minor technical hitches. The first was that the stop button on the motor had a faulty connection. The second occurred because, as in earlier projects, I delegated some work to my cousin, Donald. I regret to say that he used his initiative. My specification called for the blades to be fixed in the usual engineering manner, by which I mean that when each of them was pushed through its designated hole in the rim, it was to be fastened by two nuts, one to secure it in position, one to serve as a lock.

    ďUnfortunately, Donald had equipped himself with only the securing nuts. When it came to locking, he had no spares and no means of getting any. He had the inspired idea of hurrying to a local store, where he bought a packet of small latex pads, sticky on one side. He cut holes in them and pushed one over each of the threads so that the adhesive surfaces fitted snugly against the securing nuts. Had he asked me, I would have told him that his plan was not workable. Unfortunately, he said nothing, as he feared being rebuked for his failure to procure enough components.

    ďI realise that you must be disappointed, but the good news is that I shall be able to build a new machine within two weeks and as soon as that is done I shall conduct another test. You will all be invited again. Thank you.Ē

    Madazineís Axel Griess, speaking from a nearby park bench, two empty three-litre cider bottles by his side, gave his verdict, his speech slurred. ďKevin began with one hut and finished it with two. Maybe he intends to start breeding the things. Iíll be around for the next trial but shall monitor it as well as I can from safe distance, probably Manchester.Ē

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  6. #136

    Madazine’s roving reporter, Trixie Larkspur, has just visited one of our more unusual seats of learning. Her report is given below:

    It is no common occurrence for an outsider to be invited to Hardknock School, so I was pleased to be one of the few. Situated on the North Yorkshire Moors, this establishment was once a Victorian workhouse. The building, of grey stone and forbidding appearance, is referred to by its few neighbours as The Pile. It is just about as remote as a habitation could be in our crowded country.

    I was a little disconcerted on arriving at the main gate and seeing above it a wrought iron arch bearing the legend ‘Enter Not, Ye Faint Of Heart’. The words had obviously been repainted recently, as if to emphasise their import. I was greeted by the caretaker, Grampus, so dubbed because of his tendency to snort and wheeze prodigiously. I did not ascertain his real name. With a stream of unintelligible mumbling, he led me along a maze of gloomy corridors – no paint or even plaster in evidence here – to the study of the owner and headmaster, Desmond Bullymore.

    Dismissing Grampus with an admonition to smarten his appearance, Dr Bullymore motioned me to sit on a straight–backed, uncushioned chair that would have delighted Frank Lloyd Wright. As many Madazine readers will doubtless know, that great architect was given to equipping his splendid houses with pain-inducing furniture of his own design.

    The head of Hardknock School cuts an impressive figure. A former wrestler, he is six- foot-four, massively built, clean shaven and the possessor of piercing light-blue eyes. Though I understand he is close to sixty years of age, there is no trace of grey in his luxuriant black hair. He was standing behind his desk, and after giving me a chance to look him over, he took a seat in a huge swivel chair of studded red leather which nicely complemented the impressive and totally clear acreage of mahogany that separated us.

    Before arriving at the school, I was given some details to help shorten the interview – the head is a busy man. I’d learned that Dr Bullymore founded Hardknock three years ago, and that the emphasis there is on physical rigour, with academic achievement decidedly in second place. My questions about the latter were subtly deflected, though I did later manage to sneak a word with one of the senior boys, who told me that as far as general education is concerned, the school has what he called a blank sheet in terms of passes. I have not yet been able to check this. The head has two degrees, a doctorate in Life Appreciation, awarded by the University of the Pacific Isles, and a master’s in Observing International Affairs, conferred by the Polytechnic Institute of Equatorial Guinea Dependencies, Southwest Division. My enquiries into the status of these bodies have so far elicited no information.

    The school caters for a hundred and twenty boys, aged from eleven to eighteen, the only female on the premises being the matron, Mrs Broadbody, a stout lady of about the same age as the chief. Each day begins with the pre-breakfast ‘throw-in’, when half of the boys the toss the other half into the school lake, then those who have been immersed get out and do the same for the others, ensuring that everyone gets a dunking.

    There are ostensibly formal lessons in the mornings from ten to twelve and afternoons from one to three. These take place in two huge classrooms and attendance is compulsory. However, the boys study whatever appeals to them, or nothing at all, if they wish to remain idle. Apart from the principal, there is only one teacher, the physical training instructor, Malcolm ‘Knuckles’ Magee. Before leaving, I met this shambling mountain of muscle and immediately ceased wondering how he got his nickname. During our very brief conversation, he said that he doubles – or it seemed to me dabbles – in the sciences.

    The objective of Hardknock is to turn out tough, independent-minded young men, regardless of their scholastic prowess. Twice a year, once in winter and once in summer, the head arranges what he calls field exercises, each lasting five days. No notice is given of these, the idea being to hold them during particularly vicious heat waves or cold snaps. The boys are required to move at the double around the moors, carrying sixty-pound rucksacks and sleeping in the open air, regardless of weather conditions.

    Dr Bullymore suggested that we walk around outside for a while. As we strolled towards the sports fields, he told me that soccer is not played at Hardknock because it is considered too tame. The main sporting activities are rugby and cricket and in neither game is any protective equipment allowed. Not surprisingly, injuries are common. In rugby, damages to various parts of the boys’ anatomies occur almost daily. When we passed a set of goalposts, I saw what was clearly a cartoonlike outline of a spreadeagled human body imprinted in the turf. My host said that this was the result of several boys piling atop a lad who was trying to dive over their last line of defence. Cricket also produces many casualties, especially broken shins and cracked skulls, almost all attributable to the absence of leg pads and headgear. This is part of what Dr Bullymore refers to as the hardening process.

    I asked about the diet, assuming that it would be commensurate with the strenuous regimen. The head replied that this was indeed the case, informing me that breakfast is always gruel with a sprinkling of raisins. Lunch is invariably lard sandwiches. There is some variety in the case of the main meal. Mondays to Fridays, this is tripe and onions, weekends barley soup, with whatever roadkill the boys have gathered during the week. When possible, added flavour is provided by fungi from the nearby woods, though this is a chancy matter as the most common ones there are amanita phalloides and amanita virosa. On hearing this I remarked that these are perhaps the two most toxic things of their kind. The head quoted from The Book of Common Prayer, saying that in the midst of life we are in death, adding that the school had indeed had two fatalities resulting from fungal poisoning, but that this kind of experience was helpful in keeping the boys on their toes in such matters.

    While walking back to the main building, we encountered a lad coming the opposite way. Dr Bullymore cuffed him around the right ear, telling him to proceed more purposefully. The boy pointed at a plaster cast on his leg. “Sorry, sir,” he replied. “I’m trying. Really I am.” This brought him a clip on the other ear and the rejoinder that his best wasn’t good enough. The head told me that the lad had caught his leg in a gin trap in the school grounds, where the boys try to catch anything that might add to their food intake. That mishap was the second of its kind, the first one resulting in a leg being amputated.

    I had hoped to stay longer at Hardknock but after an hour or so there I was dismissed rather brusquely by the principal, who had to deal with a report that a gorilla had been sighted in the orchard. “It’s probably one of the boys,” he said. “Most of them are indistinguishable from the great apes.” He asked me to see myself out, then strode off, bellowing for ‘Knuckles’ Magee to join him.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; December 28th, 2018 at 05:35 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  7. #137

    Dear Mr Amplegirth,

    Thank you for sending me a copy of your essay about the Native Americans and their interactions with newcomers over the years. I accept your name for the people in question. They have at times been given various other titles but as far as I know, the one you use is now considered politically correct and I have no wish to risk getting my head in my hands by contesting this point.

    In your covering letter you ask me let you have my opinion of the work and to confine my observations to its substance and to refrain from commenting on your style. That is just as well, as if you had given me a fuller remit, I would have had the odd bone to pick with you regarding certain aspects of your presentation, particularly the fact that you seem to have declared war on pronouns.

    I am flattered that you have requested me to offer a critique, as I am by no means an expert in your subject matter. It is true that I have some modest reputation as an observer of the literary world, but my knowledge of your theme is no greater than that of the average passably well-formed lay person. However, I will try to do justice to the confidence you evidently have in me. You say that you intend to submit your dissertation to the writing forum of which you are a member and that you hope to receive an award for the best historical article offered this year.

    Let me start by saying that I am somewhat at sea with your description of the contacts between the early voyagers from England and the folk they met. You refer to what were once called The Five Civilised Tribes. I do not like this term, as civilisation is in my view sometimes a subjective matter. Be that as it may, the point that causes me most concern is the names you give to those groups and others you refer to later in your paper.

    Your note states that you employed a reputable man to do virtually all the research involved in the project, that you paid him a substantial fee for this, and that you are indebted to him for the portrayal of the various indigenous peoples identified in the text and for details of most of the incidents described. When you get to the end of this reply, you may wonder how well your money was spent.

    You speak of the abovementioned five tribes as Cherripikkas, Chickpees, Sagoes, Tapiocas and Semolinas. Perhaps my education in this area has been neglected, but I have never heard of any such folks. Later in the manuscript you refer to other tribes, the names of which are new to me. It is a pity that you do not always state where they lived. I would love to know the locations of the Comandas, who you say were superb equestrians, and of the Peccadilloes and Companeros. Then you mention the Bluefeet. This is the first time I have seen any reference to them. You say they inhabited the far north and went barefoot, so possibly those two factors account for their name.

    The section devoted to the Lewis and Clark expedition is replete with details about people the explorers allegedly met during their journey. I will not deal with all of the occurrences you relate, but I am bound to wonder exactly where Messrs L & C came across the Mandolins, another group of which I had not previously heard. A further surprise to me is your allusion the voyagers having met many Iraqis. I suspect you mean Iroquois. They inhabited a region far to the northeast of that covered during the famous journey, so I doubt that the encounters you report really occurred.

    In a later passage you recount the supposed meeting between the two renowned men and a hunting party of Sombrero Apaches. I am very dubious about this. It is well known that there were several sub-groups of Apaches Ė from memory I think at least six of them Ė but I feel sure that Sombreros were not included. In any case, as far as I know, the Apaches did not normally roam around the area covered by Lewis and Clark. By the way, I recall that the young woman who was so helpful to them was known as Sacagawea, whereas you give her name as Titicaca, which is a lake in South America. I also point out in passing that the lady was a Shoshone, not a Shoeshiner.

    I find your account of matters in the Southwest most intriguing, in particular the part in which you narrate the long pursuit of the Apache leader Gerontius by the men under the command of General Nathan Millpond. Here I did a little digging to satisfy myself. Nowhere could I find any allusion to the officer you describe as a brilliant strategist and master tactician. As for his quarry, please note that the only Gerontius I know of was a Roman fellow who died sixteen centuries ago. He was for a time Commander-in-Chief of a large army, so I imagine he would have given your military man a run for his money, had the two ever been adversaries.

    If I may paraphrase a snippet from the old Native American lexicon, you seem to have chosen an unhappy hunting ground for your treatise. (Perhaps that remark is neither witty nor apposite, but the temptation to put it in is irresistible.) I could go on but hope I have said enough to persuade you that a further discussion with your informant might be helpful, especially if you feel you can wring a refund from him for what seems to me a highly questionable effort. I would further suggest that as your piece, though refreshingly original, appears to have no factual basis, you may wish to consider submitting it to the fiction category of your forum.

    Yours sincerely,
    Norman Lampwick, D.Litt.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; October 23rd, 2016 at 07:18 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  8. #138

    Note: The item below is a letter we have received from a gentleman who has what we believe is an original idea in the field of sport. We suspect he may have been inspired by his own name.

    To the editor of Madazine.

    Dear Sir,

    I write in the hope that you might find space in your pages to publicise a proposal I have for enhancing our sporting scene. I have thought of a way in which the game of soccer could be made much more attractive than it is at present, though I have to admit that my idea also has within it the seeds of the gameís destruction.

    What I have in mind is that football hooliganism is currently more often than not disorganised, frequently being spontaneous rather than planned. That could be changed with great benefit all round. My suggestion is that instead of trying to discourage this behaviour, the authorities should promote it by asking thugs to be fully prepared when attending matches, so that they could set about their work in a more systematic manner than they do now.

    My scheme requires the ruffians to appear armed with their usual weapons, knowing in advance that that they will be welcomed. However, should any of them be so remiss as to forget or lose the tools of their trade, they would not need to despair. The system I am advocating includes provision for each turnstile to have its own boutique supplying a wide variety of instruments of mayhem, such as knives, blackjacks, knuckledusters, knobkerries, bicycle chains, shields, daggers, swords, helmets, net and trident sets, bows and arrows etc. This would have the added advantage of enabling soccer clubs to increase their incomes.

    Though the emporia at the admission points would be excellent sources of revenue, their takings could not approach the funds brought in by the most lucrative idea in my scheme. This would arise from the clubs getting two sets of gate receipts, the first tranche paid by the thugs to allow them to occupy the playing area and put on their performances, the second by appreciative crowds encouraging them.

    There would of course be a transition period. At first, the footballers would remain on the field and do whatever they could, though they would obviously be hampered by the competing roughnecks. Eventually, those who now play the game would disappear altogether, as their behaviour, atrocious though it is at times, could hardly compete with the shows put on by the new entertainers described here. I mean, tripping, ankle-tapping, shirt-pulling, lavish spitting and cursing are really tame offerings compared with what genuine brawlers could do.

    I foresee a situation in which every stadium currently used for soccer becomes a latter-day Amphitheatrum Flavium,* where the foremost louts could acquire reputations similar to those achieved by the leading gladiators of old. Some might become professionals, receiving payments matching the outrageous sums now paid to professional soccer players. After all, if in addition to paying their own admission fees, then attracting vast numbers of spectators to view their antics, the hoodlums would be worth a great deal of money to organisers.

    In conclusion I would like to stress that my proposal is limited to association football and that I have no notion of extending it to any other sport. Indeed, I laughed loud and long when I outlined my idea to a friend and he asked me why I did not include rugby. Thatís a non-starter because those who fancy themselves as toughs could hardly equal the violence already displayed in that branch of sport. Incidentally, I believe we should give the new game an appropriate name and here I think that submissions from the public might be the best way to get a satisfactory result. I am happy to start the ball rolling with my favourite Ė turmoil. (I did think of pandemonium but dropped this because I felt that most of the participants wouldnít be able to spell such a long word.)

    I hope that what I have put forward here will find favour with the soccer administrators.

    Yours sincerely,
    Spartacus Flint

    * Please note that I have used this medieval term to describe the famous Roman arena because I have no intention of being dragged into the tiresome spelling debate about the words Colosseum and coliseum. My preferred source tells me that the first should be used to describe the original stadium and the second for any later one resembling it. That will do for me.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  9. #139
    The item below is a letter posted to us few days ago. As readers know, we don’t normally publish material related to current news, but we can’t resist offering this one. Editor


    Dear Madazine,

    I am a fan of your publication and am writing in the hope that you will find space in a forthcoming issue to present an idea that has occurred to me. In my opinion it provides an unusual view of a recent incident. I refer to the alleged straying of a missile fired by one of our UK submarines, and to the failure of official sources to give a prompt and clear explanation about what happened. Most people seem to be troubled by this affair, but my assessment is different. It is outlined below:

    The Earth has an area of about 197 million square miles, of which a little over 57 million (about 29%) is land. The UK occupies 94,000 square miles of terra firma, which is roughly a sixth of one per cent of the land, and obviously only about a quarter of that proportion in terms of the planet’s total surface.

    As I see it, the important point is that if the trajectories of our missiles were entirely unpredictable, the chance of one of them landing on UK soil would be almost vanishingly small. The big countries would be less well placed, particularly Russia, which has far more territory than any other state and therefore a much greater risk of being struck.

    The upside here is that should it become widely known that some of our most powerful weapons were likely to behave in a totally erratic way, both our potential enemies and our allies would be very circumspect in their dealings with us, as neither friend nor possible foe would know what places might be obliterated by our projectiles – assuming we could get the warheads to detonate.

    We could take this notion further by ensuring that in the case of any attack on us, or even our suspicion of one, we would intentionally dispatch all of our nukes on random courses. I am reminded of the amusing Tom Lehrer song about the man who was prominent in American spacecraft propulsion, following his wartime work in a similar field in Germany. To my mind, the most striking bit of Lehrer’s ditty goes as follows:

    “When rockets go up, who cares where they come down?
    That’s not my department,” says Wernher von Braun.*

    I suggest that if we were to broadcast the plan described above, one result would be the formation of a hitherto improbable coalition of nuclear powers (excluding the UK), which would establish a policy of leaving us well alone, for fear that our response to any aggression might be a totally indiscriminate one that could destroy anybody or anything. There might even be a case for the other nuclear-armed countries to follow our example. The high level of apprehension thus engendered could lead to some statesperson repeating the words of the late Neville Chamberlain: “I believe it is peace for our time.”

    Yours sincerely,
    Hubert Spindle

    *Pronounced Brown.

    Note. Our science correspondent Axel Griess, fresh from rehab (again), opines: “I don’t know what effect the implementation of Mr Spindle’s idea concerning haphazard blast-offs would have on the world’s movers and shakers, but it’s put the wind up me. Still, advanced technology is sometimes a trial and error affair, so maybe we could give the scheme a go and see what happens. If you want me from now on, I’ll be on a very small island in the Outer Hebrides.”

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    Hidden Content

  10. #140

    The closing stage of a court case.

    Judge: Now, you have admitted that on the tenth of last month, you attacked the plaintiff, Mr Splutterworth, in his fish and chip shop,* The Plaice Place. However, you have so far said very little in your defence, so before I decide on your punishment, have you anything to add?

    Defendant: Yes. I did it all right, but I was provoked beyond endurance.

    Judge: In what way?

    Defendant: I was short-changed.

    Judge: How?

    Defendant: I always buy plaice and chips from Splutterworthís shop on Mondays and Fridays. When I got my parcel home that day I emptied it onto a plate, checked the fish for size and counted the chips.

    Judge: Do you always do that?

    Defendant: Yes. I like to be sure I get value for money. Fish and chips are expensive these days.

    Judge: And what did you find on that occasion?

    Defendant: The fish was up to standard, but I didnít get the usual portion of chips.

    Judge: Explain, please.

    Defendant: A serving of chips from The Plaice Place is normally at least thirty chips. Sometimes thereís a bonus of two or three, but in that lot I got only twenty-six.

    Judge: I understand. However my impression has always been that someone serving chips usually puts a scoopful into a bag. Surely there must be some give and take here. I mean, perhaps some of the chips were bigger than usual.

    Defendant: No they werenít. Splutterworthís chips are on average two point four inches long, as they were that evening, and theyíre always the same thickness because of the way he cuts them.

    Judge: I see. Arenít they a little on the short side?

    Defendant: They are. I think he uses smaller potatoes than I find in some of the other shops. Still, that doesnít matter. The point is that thirty chips, averaging that length give me seventy-two inches of chips per portion.

    Judge: I understand. So if you were to connect them all together, end to end, you would have a six-foot chip.

    Defendant: Thatís correct.

    Judge: What does Mr Splutterworth charge for a portion of chips?

    Defendant: One pound twenty.

    Judge: Hmn. Twenty pence per foot of chip. That sounds reasonable. However, on the occasion in question you were four chips short, or to put it another way, the deficiency was . . . let me see . . . nine point six inches.

    Defendant: Right.

    Judge: You appear to have reacted rather sharply. Allow me to refresh my memory. You put the chips back into the bag, which you took to the shop and hurled at Mr Splutterworth, causing him to leap backwards, strike his hand against the deep fryer and burn his palm.

    Defendant: Well, unless you like fish and chips as much as I do, you couldnít have any idea of the mental anguish I suffered.

    Judge: I donít eat them any more. I wish that were possible but my digestion canít cope with such things these days.

    Defendant: Oh, I can put you right there. What you need to do is take peppermint oil before you tackle them.

    Judge: Really? Are you sure that will work?

    Defendant: Certain. You can get high-strength capsules from the health food shop in Middle Street.

    Judge: Thank you. Iím much obliged for the tip. It would be a pleasure to eat fish and chips again. But weíre getting off the point here. Your conduct was disproportionate to what you saw as Mr Splutterworthís offence and I am minded to make an example of you to discourage anyone else from such behaviour. The sentence is seven days in jail.

    Defendant: Well, thereís gratitude for you. I put your guts right and you send me to the slammer for a week. They say the lawís an ass. It is, and so are you.

    Judge: Ah, contempt of court now, is it? Well, Iíll give you seven days for that as well.

    Defendant: Seven days, eh? Thatís too short to match my contempt for this court.

    Judge: Oh, is it? How about fourteen days?

    Defendant: Better, but not good enough.

    Judge: My word, youíre a hard man to please. How would twenty-eight days suit you?

    D: Still a bit light.

    Judge: All right. Iíll let you decide. Pick a number.

    Defendant: Well, you catch me a bit off guard, but I once read a book where it said that the answer to the meaning of life, the Universe and everything is forty-two. Is that okay?

    Judge: It is, and I will let the seven days for the offence run concurrently with it, meaning that you are to serve forty-two days in total. Youíre about to learn that we have suitable accommodation for the likes of you. Just step out of the dock and the bailiff will escort you to your hell.

    Defendant: Donít you mean cell?

    Judge: You havenít seen it yet.

    *For those unfamiliar with UK dietary habits, fish and chip shops have existed in Britain for over 150 years. They provide a deep-fried meal comprising a piece of fish and a portion of chipped potatoes (known in some countries as French fries). The food is usually, though not necessarily, supplied on a takeaway basis.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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