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  1. #31
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    SECOND REPLY FROM PLANET X TO EMISSARY

    Dear Dweedles

    Your second message received. We will not dwell on your disparaging comments about us. They are inappropriate and probably attributable to your long period of isolation – we are not unsympathetic, you know. Everyone here appreciates that you are one of a kind, the only question being whether it is the right kind – no offence intended. Let us waltz over your prima donna stuff and get to the nitty-gritty.


    We have been studying the way you chart your movements. Dweedie, there are such things as spacetime co-ordinates. Is it really necessary for you to approach an unfamiliar galaxy with such comments as ‘a bit to the left’ and ‘large blobs at two o’clock high’? Do you remember nothing of your training at our Nautical And Space Academy – NASA, in case the acronym eludes you?


    Do not underestimate the trainees we mentioned. Both have graduated with honours and could locate you in a trice if necessary – a possibility that is always under review here. This isn’t rocket science, Dwee. Well, actually it is, but you know what we mean. Anyway, don’t attempt to rise above your station.


    The temperature here is still increasing inexorably and several lakes and rivers have dried up. Because our axial tilt is similar to that of the planet you are surveying, we are experiencing a drift towards the mountainous polar regions, where there is some relief from the heat at times.


    One consequence of this migration is that property prices in the high latitudes are soaring. We note that your residence is at 65 degrees North, so if you would like us to make a killing on your behalf by selling it for you and stashing the loot in your bank account, please let us know. You see, despite your insubordinate attitude we do care about you – sort of. However, we wonder sometimes what on earth we are to do with you – or to put it another way, what we are to do with you on Earth. Just a little pun.


    Kindly let us have further news, and do make an effort to be brief. You might be interested to note that the latest nickname for you here is Chatsworth. Another merry quip. Do you get it?


    Passably sincere greetings from everyone at Mission Control.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; December 11th, 2018 at 03:14 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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  2. #32
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    PER EASIER AD ASTRA

    Having used the above words to open his speech today, Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ immediately apologised to the UK’s Royal Air Force for tweaking its motto, Per Ardua Ad Astra (By Hard Work To The Stars). He then revealed that he had solved the problem of travelling to Mars by what he called the short-haul route.

    Sipping greengage wine, Jopp gave details of his experiment. “Like all great advances, it is elementary,” he said. “At its closest, Mars is, give or take the odd yard, about 35 million miles from us. Why is it thought necessary to undertake a journey of hundreds of millions of miles to get there? The answer is that earlier efforts involved the use of planetary motions to send probes on a long slow journey, because it is impracticable to make the vast fuel tanks needed to keep a spacecraft constantly under power during a direct trip. The ingenuity of my scheme lay in my realisation that the propulsive material could be burned here on the Earth.”


    After pausing to let the audience grasp his idea, Jopp went on: “I decided that the best plan was to continuously pump fuel into a centrifugal machine. The site was a farm near Lillehammer. As propellant I used my newly-invented Joppanol. For the apparatus I adapted a conventional wind generator, painted green. I removed the blades and substituted a small model of a spaceship on one end of a thick chain, the other end of which was fastened to the generator’s hub. Thanks to practically unlimited fuel capacity, I was able to accelerate the spaceship to a speed which I calculated was well above the Earth’s escape velocity of seven miles per second. In effect, the construction is an immensely powerful slingshot. Believe me, we shall soon be reaching for the stars.”


    Following thunderous applause, Jopp continued: “On reaching eight miles per second, I throttled down. However, there is no doubt that a larger version of my equipment will enable us reach Mars in a small fraction of the time hitherto regarded as a minimum. To provide suitable anchorage for my full-scale test I need a high sheer cliff. There is an excellent site near Geiranger. I may need to drain the fjord, but that is a minor obstacle. This is the greatest ever leap in the history of space travel. The system could be extended to take us far beyond Pluto and the planets Ovisius and Joppius, which I discovered a few months ago, though I did not publicise this.”


    Apprehension was expressed by some scientists, in particular Jopp’s most vocal adversary, the short, globular, hairless ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap. Interviewed outside a Kristiansand female nudist camp, he raged: “If this madman is not stopped, he will kill all of us. An error of one millisecond and his spaceship will go down instead of up, boring straight through the Earth. The oaf does not understand that even if he were right in principle, there is no sense in a vertical mounting. A horizontal arrangement performs better, though never well enough.”


    Calming down slightly, Dunderklap continued: “I was far ahead of Jopp in this field, proving last year that the necessary impetus cannot be produced. I modified a fairground carousel, to which I attached a six-foot spacecraft on a length of ultra-strong twine. As fuel I used my own Dunderol. The test results accorded exactly with my predictions. At the speed of just over five miles per second, the craft broke loose, destroying two telephone poles and a barn. By the way, I notice that Jopp does not tell us how his ark is to return from Mars. What about that, brainbox?”


    This seems like a good time for all of us to keep our heads down.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:26 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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  3. #33
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    MARKET FORCES

    Should the UK liberalise its laws relating to drugs? Argument about this has raged for many years. The members of two groups in particular have been conducting a fierce propaganda battle. One observer dubbed them Bigots and Spigots, the former because of their allegedly narrow-minded sense of moral rectitude, the latter because of their declared intention to ‘tap the drug barrel’. The matter was finally handed to that renowned analyst of social issues, Sir Bertram Utterside, former professor of social studies at one of our top universities. He handled it in his usual forthright manner, as shown by his report below:

    Though trifling, this question presents some points of interest. A research assistant has provided me with figures of government tax receipts for a recent twelve-month period. The total amount was well over £400 billion, of which close to ten per cent came from sales of alcohol and tobacco.


    I have been given an estimate of the cost of medical care for those affected by illnesses supposedly caused by the two substances under review here. The amount was about £6billion. Obviously the people who pay taxes for alcohol and tobacco also contribute to general taxation in the same way as do their compatriots.


    My recommendation is that all the drugs now proscribed be legalised and made available through new outlets, which would also become the only purveyors of alcoholic beverages and tobacco. All customers of these places would become registered users of drugs and the tax they pay for their addictions would be set aside for their use, individuals receiving benefits in direct proportion to what they spend on the various products. Any consequent shortfall in central government funds available to wider society for its range of needs would have to be made up by increases elsewhere in the taxation system.


    Lest it should be felt that I have not been assiduous in my investigation, let me say that I have spoken with the Spigots’ leader, Mrs Lily Padd (79), a chain-smoking drunkard. She was euphoric. “It’s a wonderful idea,” she said. “We junkies would have our own sub-society, cared for hand and foot, with the best medical attention, including monthly check-ups, frequent spa treatments and so on. We reckon this will absorb no more than £15billion, so we shall have about twice as much as that left over to have a good time in other ways. We’ll all have lovely houses and cars and lots more goodies. Let the diehards look after themselves.”


    I also interviewed the Bigots’ spokesman, jogging, iron-pumping Dan Bludgeon (3. “We’ll fight this,” he said. “If the Spigots get their extra billions, it will mean a huge rise in taxes for the rest of us. That would be ruinous. Also, the Spigots would monopolise many of the medical services, meaning a breakdown for other people. The prospect is horrifying.”


    When I attempted to go into detail about the logic of my proposal, Mr Bludgeon was first extremely angry, then very abusive and finally incoherent. I must say that he lacked the intellectual rigour of his opposite number who, though profoundly inebriated, was lucid.


    One cannot tackle issues as emotive as this one without raising some hackles. However, I am satisfied that I have been objective and I believe that my conclusions are sound.



    * * *.
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:27 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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  4. #34
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    THE NODE BULLETINS: NUMBER FIVE

    Afghanistan, 12 July. I am beset by woes. Marcus Aurelius said that nothing befalls a man except what is in his nature to endure. I think he spoke too soon. There is now constant petty squabbling within the group. Even Gannett, so long a pillar of fortitude, has become vociferous, having recovered from his attack of laryngitis. He has revealed that we shall soon run out of food, a setback for which he blames Pugh. He is trying to pass the buck, but does have a point.

    Shortly after I wrote my last bulletin, our pathfinder guided us to a mountain which he insisted was called Pik Oberpamir. I realised that we had reached the Pamirs, but could not see how the ‘Ober’ came in. Pugh was surely confused. By the way, his stoop is now very pronounced. Whether he is bowed with care or exhausted by his nocturnal activities in Flatpole’s company, I do not know. He laid out a course which we followed on decamping in the early morning of 9th July. After three days of hard slog, during which we had the Sun at angles I found puzzling – I had expected it to be mainly to our right, whereas we soon found it on the left – we came upon an empty corned beef tin. Recognising it, I instituted an investigation, learning that Pugh had led us on an oval route around the mountain and back to our starting point. This elliptical tour has indeed exacerbated our grocery problem.


    There is some positive news. We are at last within sight of the lofty pass that will take us into Pakistan. Also, Flatpole has for once shown her worth. Our porters became recalcitrant and when verbal communication proved ineffective, our linguist employed physical methods for the second time within a week or so. The result was four-nil to her, all the porters suffering minor injuries, the outcome marred only by one of them sustaining a broken arm, which reduces his value to us. Still, they are now docile. Good work, Amanda.


    I have many fears, but am keeping them to myself, as a leader should.

    A further Node Bulletin coming soon.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:28 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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  5. #35
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    A TRAVELLER'S TALE

    We present here a copy of a letter sent to us by a man who also supplied a brief covering note describing him as, among other things, an avid Madazine reader. Ah, so he’s the one. He has what we think is an intriguing slant on getting around. Editor

    Dear Sir or Madam,


    I hope some of your other readers will be interested to hear of an exchange of views I had last week with a friend who called to share a meal with me. During the pre-prandial chat he remarked that I seem to be something of a stick-in-the-mud, as I never venture more than two or three miles from my house, and then only on foot, whereas he and others known to both of us gad about quite a lot. He spoke of the alleged benefits of travel, especially the mind-broadening effect. I responded vaguely, sensing that there was an appropriate retort but being unable to give it.


    The answer came to me as I was chopping onions. Incidentally, I bungled the culinary arrangements. The repast was a vegetable and lentil stew. Owing to either my intense pondering or my custom of dining alone, I failed to produce enough for the two of us, so made up the shortfall with cheese sandwiches. Happily, we are both somewhat bohemian in such matters, so neither of us cared much about my error. At the table, I imparted the fruits of my cogitation, as follows:


    The Earth is turning on its axis, any given point on the equator moving at slightly over 1,000 miles per hour(mph). Owing to the latitude of my home, I don’t get full value from this, but do manage about 600mph. While it is busy behaving like a spinning top, our planet also clocks up about 580million miles a year, or 70,000mph in its orbit of the Sun, which in turn carts the Solar System around the Milky Way at about 500,000mph. On top of this, a recent survey suggested that our local group of galaxies is edging towards a larger cluster at a pretty brisk 1,000,000mph. I accept this figure pro tem, but realise that it will probably be revised before the ink I am using here is dry. The physicist Lev Landau remarked that cosmologists are often in error but never in doubt. To cap it all, we are told that the Universe is expanding at quite a lick. I will ignore this because I don’t believe anyone can give a reliable figure.


    Along with everyone else, I am covering a vast distance at a minimum speed of nearly 1.6million mph, or 14,000million miles per year. My friend reckons that he drives about 12,000 miles in the same period of time and he never uses any form of transport other than his car. Therefore, he travels less than one millionth more than I do, for which dubious advantage he looks decidedly jaded and does a good deal of complaining about road stress. Also, his carbon footprint is quite heavy, while mine is about as light as a person can achieve without levitating.


    With regard to the supposed mind-broadening effect of travel, I am bound to think of the intellectual giants of yesteryear, many of whom produced their outputs with very little gallivanting. My conclusion was that by moving around as much as I do with hardly any inconvenience, and I hope no great mental decay, I am getting a better deal than my friend is. I told him so and he said he didn’t understand me.


    Yours sincerely,


    Rufus Narrowgnome

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:28 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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  6. #36
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    CONGRATULATIONS : PLEASE CLAIM YOUR PRIZE


    “Thank you for calling the Cosmoid Group of Companies. If you wish to speak with Cosmoid Imports and Exports, please press 1. If you wish to contact Cosmoid Merchants, please press 2. If you wish to contact Cosmoid Traders, please press 3. If you wish to contact Cosmoid Financing, please press 4. If you wish to contact Cosmoid Lotteries, please press 5.

    Beep.


    “Thank you for telephoning Cosmoid Lotteries. All our operators are busy at present and your call has been placed in a queue. We guarantee an answer within five minutes. Please enjoy the soothing music.”


    “Good morning. This is Cosmoid Lotteries. If your query concerns General Administration, please press 1. If your query concerns prize distribution from any year but the current one, please press 2. If your query concerns the prize draw for this year, please press 3.”


    Beep.


    “Thank you for calling Cosmoid Lotteries Current Distribution. All our operators are busy at present. Your call has been placed in a queue and will be answered within three minutes. Please enjoy the soothing music.”


    “Good morning. Cosmoid Lotteries Current Distribution. May I help you?”


    “I hope so. Frankly, I’m getting a bit impatient. I was asked to wait five minutes to get through to you, then a further three minutes to actually speak to someone. I’d say you overstepped the bounds in both cases.”


    “No sir, we did not. All calls are recorded. Your first wait was of four minutes, fifty-seven seconds and the second one was two minutes, fifty-eight seconds. We always honour our promises.”


    “I see. Well, you asked me to return the form you sent, then phone you today. I understood that I’d qualified for a prize of eight hundred thous – ”


    “Yes, sir. Please permit me to introduce myself. I am Luis, and you are . . .?”


    “Green, forename Jo . . . hey, are you laughing at me?


    “Certainly not. Some of our connections are giving trouble. I believe it is called tittering on the line.”


    “Don’t you mean twittering?”


    “Possibly. I do not understand these technological expressions.”


    “All right. Now, where do we go from here?”


    “Could you give me your winning number?”


    “It’s WW 00373 7779 WW 27477 WW 009.”


    “Thank you, sir. I’ll just repeat that.”


    “Oh, no. All those W’s and sevens take time. I’m sure you’ve got it.”


    “I hope so, sir. And your name is Green?”


    “Yes.”


    “Very good. Please wait a moment . . .Yes, your name and number correspond with our records.”


    “I’m pleased to hear it, especially as I didn’t buy a lottery ticket.”


    “That isn’t necessary. The prize winners are generated randomly from inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. No tickets are sold. The prize money comes from a foundation set up by a man who made a fortune by playing games of chance. He wished to give back to the gambling world something of what he had gained from it.”


    “Ah, so that’s how it works. Now, what’s next?”


    “It’s very simple. There are only three formalities. First, you returned the bank transfer form. It’s most important for us to check that your signature was the one you normally used for your bank.”


    “Of course it was. Go on.”


    “You did not supply details of your account. We need that information in order to transfer the funds. Could you help us with this?”


    “Yes, it’s ISBN – ”


    “Pardon the interruption. That is the International System of Book Numbering. The bank account starts with IBAN – ”


    “Oh, yes. Silly of me. I’ll give you it in a moment. Meantime, what about the second point?”


    “It is of great value to us to learn the domestic status of prize-winners. Are you single, married, separated, divorced, a widower, or in another category?”


    “Is there any other?”


    “We have not encountered one yet, Mr Green, but we must allow for the possibility.”


    “Fair enough. I’m a bigamist, but that would come under married, wouldn’t it?”


    “Very much so. Now, it only remains for me to – ”


    “Here, I’ve got it. You want to keep people on the phone, don’t you? The name of the game’s procrastination, isn’t it?”


    “Porcastrination? I don’t understand.”


    “I’ll bet you don’t. Porcastrination, eh? Look, you’re a foreigner, aren’t you?”


    “Basque!”


    “Oy, there’s no need for that kind of talk. Let’s keep it polite, shall we?”


    “I was speaking of ethnicity, Mr Green. Anyway, we are all foreigners outside our national borders. Even the Chinese account for only a fifth of the world’s population.”


    “Good point. What I meant was that you’re not British.”


    “That is true of over ninety-nine per cent of us, Mr Green.”


    “Oh, right. Well, let’s get back to basics. You want me to fork out a pound a minute for this call, don’t you?”


    “I can’t comment on that.”


    “I bet you can’t. However, I refuse to be deflected. What do you want me to do? Don’t go back to the bank account – I’ll get to that in a jiffy. What’s the third of those formalities you mentioned?”


    “You are unusually diffic . . . perceptive, Mr Green. Very well. You can register your claim by pressing the ‘any’ key, then we’ll return to the bank matter.”


    Beep.


    “No, Mr Green, that was not the ‘any’ key, was it?”


    “What do you mean? So far as I know, there’s no such thing as an ‘any’ key on a phonepad.”


    “Ah, how unfortunate. I’m afraid that as you have been unable to comply with our requirements, the prize money concerned will be included in our next draw.”


    “Look here, I’m monitoring this. I’ve been on the phone for over twelve minutes. You’ve leased this line, so you can rake in the call charges, right?”


    “It’s thirteen minutes, forty-nine seconds, Mr Green. Sorry you didn’t win. Better luck next time.”


    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:29 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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  7. #37
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    THIRD MESSAGE TO PLANET X

    Thanks – hardly the right word but never mind – for the snotty response to my second report. Dear me, we are touchy, aren’t we? I must be careful where I tread, as the sound of crunching corns is audible across the void. Still, I shall do my best, though I feel compelled to raise again the matter of the supposedly redoubtable pair of astrosleuths you have in mind to hunt me down. It’s bad enough that you need two, but couldn’t you have done better? I quake at the thought that they might have been activated when I had that breakdown in Andromeda. But for my foresight in taking along an adjustable spanner and a roll of adhesive tape, you would have been seeking me to this day. Don’t let those two dimwits out even together, let alone solo. They’re not up to it.

    I don’t wish to go on too long about the dopey duo, but let me say that Dworkles needs a ball of string to get back home from the office – an epic journey of half a kilometre – while in the case of Dwindles – what an appropriate name – the only thing that has diminished is the intellect, which started at zero, then declined. I heard that the terrible twosome colluded in an examination involving multiple-choice questions. Among other howlers, they selected ‘our historic move to socialism’ as a definition of redshift and ‘stellar-powered central heating’ as a solar system. I’d hate to think of this brace of dumbos getting lost in some asinine attempt to clap me in irons, and can imagine your chagrin at having to appeal to me to find them. I’ll try to avoid mentioning this again, but give no guarantee.


    By the way, I’d like to know why we are all pigeon-holed at birth by the first two letters in our names, in my case DW, signifying a space traveller. If you really want to know, I would have chosen to be an architect, but nobody ever asked me, right? When thinking of the designs I could have produced, I cry like a baby, especially when I combine the thought with musings on how I have wrenched my guts in repeated – apparently vain – efforts to satisfy you.


    I haven’t much to report because I gave you a great deal of information in the appendices I sent earlier – another effort for which you didn’t embarrass me with thanks. However, I will offer a few words about how the human male/female relationship has functioned. Historically, the usual tendency has been for males to wander and for females to stay at home, so the former have usually been the ones to make first contact with others of their kind. Unfortunately, too many of these meetings have been collisions rather than civilised encounters.


    There is some debate here as to whether the story would have been different if the females, who seem more disposed to cooperation rather than confrontation, had been the ones to venture out. One cannot say, as the few females who have acceded to high office seem to have behaved much like their male counterparts. Perhaps it is a case of the jobs being onerous, no matter who does them – the office moulding the holder and not vice versa. Be that as it may, this gender thing has a certain allure, to which I do not seem to be impervious. Note this well!


    Social advancement here has too often been brought about by upheaval rather than sensible progress. When one considers the differing levels of development of various individuals, perhaps the surprising thing is not that society doesn’t operate better than it does, but rather that it works at all. Human beings might be well-advised to follow the example of some supposedly lower species, such as ants, which also have a high ratio of brain to body-size. They seem to realise that each individual forms a tiny fraction of a whole and their behaviour reflects this. There is a glimmer of hope for homo sapiens in this respect, but in my view they are proceeding too slowly. One reason is that humans in general have so far unlocked only a small fraction of their mental wherewithal – some say about 10% on average and perhaps 20% for the most advanced specimens. I suspect that these estimates are too high.


    Within the countries I have studied most closely, there is a slight difference between the sexes in terms of longevity, the females usually surviving a little longer than the males. I think the reason is obvious. The female experiences great bodily stress when producing offspring, but this occurs typically – at least in the more developed areas – on only two or three occasions in a lifetime. By contrast, the males are in general subjected to more ongoing strain, for example by working in physically demanding jobs. As heavy industry becomes increasingly mechanised, so the life-length gap between the genders is likely to close. And now I must do the same – those damned batteries again. Just time to say that I was most amused to note that you have nicknamed me ‘Chatsworth’. That’s better than I had expected from such a po-faced lot as you. Oh, your offer to sell my house is appreciated. Please do this and see that there are no sticky fingers around when you bank the boodle. Don’t invest it in any long-term bonds.


    Stay cool – as if you could.


    Dweedles

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:30 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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  8. #38
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    SCANDINAVIAN STALEMATE

    It is unusual for Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ to turn his attention away from the deeper mysteries of physics. However, he did so recently when asked to try his hand at producing an infallible chess-playing machine. Announcing the result of his foray, the jovial giant was positively effervescent, reporting success commensurate with his expectations. Helping himself liberally from a jeroboam of his home-made greengage wine, he explained his project to a rapt audience, as follows:

    “I applied the same incisive reasoning to this problem as I do to genuine scientific ones, thus grasping quickly where others had erred. They had stuck strictly to chess, failing to widen their scope. I was able to improve upon their efforts by taking in mah-jong, the Japanese pastime of ‘go’ and some aspects of tai-chi and Zen. Superimposing these concepts upon the chess base, for which I used a book entitled ‘A Century of Master Chess’, I soon had the ingredients for a kind of intellectual soup, which I cooked, using a touch of what one might call Joppian inspiration.


    “I was told that a computer company had produced a machine known as Deep Blue, which had shown promise by beating the leading human player. However, I have to say I consider that artifact virtually paleolithic, compared with my apparatus which I call Dark Green. For the proving process, I brought to bear my characteristic thoroughness. First, I tested my own strength and was gratified, though hardly surprised, to discover that I had a British Chess Federation (BCF) rating of 390. I understand that this is far higher than any level hitherto recorded.”


    After prolonged applause, Jopp went on: “Armed with this knowledge, I pitted myself against my machine in a twenty-game match. I have to report that the outcome was a full score of draws, neither the device nor I ever looking like getting the upper hand. If I, with my phenomenal rating, cannot prevail, nobody else will, including the world champion, whatever his name is. I propose to add a few refinements, but it is already clear that I have succeeded in producing an invincible chess-playing appliance. This is far from being my first coup, but it is one of which I am particularly proud, as it represents a departure from my normal work.”


    Disparagement came at once from Jopp’s most virulent attacker, the short bulbous pilgarlic ‘Swedish Savant,’ Dr Terps Dunderklap. Emerging from a topless bottomless Sundsvall women’s bowling alley, he grunted his ridicule. “Nothing in this world is perfect,” he said, “but as morons go, Jopp is close enough. This time, he made only two mistakes, which for such a maniac is good going. His first blunder was the book choice, which covers the wrong century, the nineteenth – a period noted for unsound sacrificial play. The second error was Jopp’s confusion of ratings. His score of 390 was on the internationally accepted Elo scale, where the numbers are about ten times those used by the BCF for any given playing strength. An Elo rating of 390 indicates the intellectual level of an amoeba. The reason for the twenty drawn games is that neither the man nor his ludicrous machine is capable of giving checkmate. Decades ago, I played ten games against him, winning all of them by one or other of the two most basic methods, fool’s mate and scholar’s mate. Naturally, the former predominated, as Jopp was always more of a fool than a scholar.”


    The professor retorted: “Klaptrap’s memory is as weak as the rest of his mind. The ‘match’ he played was against my brother Ovar, who was an infant and did not even know how to move the pieces, while Dunderhead was twelve years of age. I would compliment him on his genius in chalking up that great victory, but he wouldn’t understand the sarcasm.”


    A case for bated breath, it seems. Do we have a solution or just another argument?


    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:31 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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  9. #39
    Honoured/Sadly Missed Courtjester's Avatar
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    HOTTING UP?

    Yet another of the great problems of our time was recently put before that consummate cogitator, Sir Bertram Utterside, former professor of social studies at one of Britain’s most prestigious universities. On this occasion, he was asked to address the intertwining subjects of global warming and carbon dioxide levels. He has dealt with several weighty issues, offering solutions which, though perhaps intellectually incontestable, have usually been controversial. As ever, his report was eagerly awaited. It is given below, in his typically mordant prose:

    I was quite pleased to be charged with this task, as it is one of the few worthy of my attention. When the matter was referred to me, I felt obligated to interrupt a sojourn at my local abattoir, where I was attempting to confirm the correctness of my conversion to vegetarianism, which took place some time ago. I will not expand on this, beyond saying that there will be no more Sir Loin for Sir Bertram – a little pun for those who maintain that I have no sense of humour.


    We are currently bombarded with information concerning the allegedly intolerable consequences of our actions. Rubbish! This stuff comes a bunch of cry-babies who always purport to know what is wrong, but are never able to tell us what is right. It has been noted that the carbon dioxide content of our air has risen from 280 to 380 parts per million (ppm) over the last century and a half, and that we cannot survive a level of more than 450ppm. I accept the figures, but the conclusion is nonsense. Over the ages, we have made great progress and have changed as required. Why should we not continue to do so? Those who think that we are Nature’s last word will find no comfort here.


    There is no reason why we should not adapt as circumstances demand. When all is said and done, we are not well fitted to our current environment. If you doubt this, take off your clothes and go outside every day for a while. Most of you will soon find that a temperature outside the range of about 15 to 35 degrees Celsius will leave you feeling uncomfortable.


    The late great Carl Sagan suggested that we could make the planet Venus habitable by shooting into its atmosphere a mass of blue-green algae, which have a high tolerance of temperature variations. His idea was that these organisms would, by consuming Co2, cool the surface of our next-door planet from its present hell-hole state to something more acceptable to us. We need not go all the way, but could reduce the heat on Venus while coping with some warming of the Earth, thus gradually getting the two bodies into thermal equilibrium and paving the way for us to colonise our neighbour. For those not familiar with the concept, the Venusian operation is called terraforming.


    As for the supposedly impending cessation of the Gulf Stream which keeps us in the North passably warm in winter, this should be good news for the worriers. If they are ever pleased by anything, they should rejoice at the prospect of the North Atlantic Drift switching off, since that event will cool us at the same time as human activity does the opposite, the overall effect being neutral.


    I must mention atomic energy, as its use is a factor in terms of air quality. If we manage to produce nuclear fusion on a commercial scale, we shall have power with very little pollution. If we fail in that area, fission will remain available. Let me note here that the doomsayers among us are exaggerating the problem of waste from current atomic power generation. If we do not find a way to neutralise the nasties, we shall develop better rocket propulsion, which will enable us to bundle up anything we don’t want and shoot it at the Sun, which will swallow it without any trace of indigestion. After all, our star is a colossal nuclear reactor, at present shedding mass at the rate of four million tonnes a second. It will simply recycle our garbage.


    Finally, I would say that none of the above points matters much because any millennium now there will be another great freeze which will bury most of Europe, including the UK, under a vast sheet of ice. I recommend that you do not start reading any long books – another witticism for the people who say that I cannot see the funny side of things. That is all.


    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:31 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

  10. #40
    Honoured/Sadly Missed Courtjester's Avatar
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    THE NODE BULLETINS : NUMBER SIX

    Terra incognita, 19 July. With apologies to Captain Scott, this is a terrible place. I am not clear as to whether we have left Afghanistan or not, but feel sure that we are on the harshest – and perhaps highest – pass in the world. I take this opportunity to write, since there may be no other. As if the terrain were not enough, the internecine wrangling continues. Thoroughbrace says that he is inappropriately labelled as Transport Officer, claiming that Flatpole has usurped most of his duties.

    Ridley Gannett, trying desperately to eke out our rations, today fried up a revolting concoction of unidentifiable ingredients over a fire of dried animal droppings. I do not wish to seem ungrateful, but think he would have been better advised to reverse the functions of food and dung. Perhaps the rarified atmosphere is making me a little churlish. Should we manage to descend the eastern side of this ghastly col, I shall adopt a more forthright attitude to the matter of our daily bread.


    Flatpole and Pugh continue to spend most of their time away from the rest of us. When they returned to camp this morning, our trailblazer was a sorry sight. Insofar as one can inspect his visage – difficult because of his ever more remarkable shape – he seems to have large bags under his eyes. If his bodily change continues, we might soon be able to form him into a hoop, which we could bowl away, thus eliminating some of our worries. Possibly it is a further influence of oxygen deficiency that causes me to fantasise in this manner. As Pugh weakens, so Flatpole strengthens. She now looks quite radiant. It is as though she is gaining the vigour that Pugh is losing. Today she trimmed her beard and, apart from a heavy stubble growth, looks quite feminine.


    Despite our miseries, I feel that if we survive tonight, things might improve.


    A further Node Bulletin coming soon.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; May 21st, 2015 at 01:42 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

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