Thursday, 30 June 2011

Encrypt 'em and Throw Away the Key!

   When W. S. Gilbert wrote for The Mikado that famous piece of legal philosophy, "let the punishment fit the crime", I don't think he went far enough. For me, beyond that agreeable sense of satisfaction imbued by the taking of an eye for a lie and a tooth for an untruth, there lurks an even more delicious and undiscovered flavour: the hilarious and spontaneous surrealism of making the punishment fit the crime in a bizarre way that can be understood only by the judge.

   In my travels on planet Earth I have encountered many people who are, shall we say, socially challenged. In order to exact revenge upon them, I have begun to resort to the above-mentioned 'abstract justice' techniques. It all began one evening when I was driving home and pulled into a petrol station to fill up. A few seconds later, a man pulled up on the other side of the pump (of which there was only one, to be shared by us) and started filling up before I got the chance. I contemplated, for a moment, the fact that his kind were ultimately doomed to extinction in the inevitable world of courtesy and intelligence that must one day appear if humanity doesn't drown in its own poison or light that one last large firework. And then it struck me. I deprecated him. It took but a moment to submit the RFC and establish a consensus, and now he and his kind all walk the planet with a big horizontal stick through their middles: the strikeout font of shame. This is a good thing, and it makes me feel warm and smug (sorry, I mean 'snug').

   From there, it was a short journey up the steps of progress; and now I have become the Dredd Judge, meting out Geek Justice wherever I go. Just yesterday, I hoisted up by his hair a noisy night-time reveller who was keeping me awake, and uninstalled his audio drivers: until the next update, he must now communicate in sign language. Last week I decompiled a football thug, amended his code to make him support the rival team and recompiled him - now his friends won't speak to him - ha! And the week before that, upon encountering a lady who seemed determined to disrupt my enjoyment of a film by talking to her companion, I made the rather inspired decision to move her to a virtual server with no network bridge.

  Am I insane? Should I be stopped? I'm not sure: all I know is that nobody minds - or indeed, even understands what is happening.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Hoot Friend and Enter

   I meant to write this up yesterday, but ended up rather busy with my instruments because there was more evidence of space traffic. Something is definitely going on out there! Well, I'm sure it will all become clear soon what the game is. I just hope it's something quick and relatively harmless. Perhaps I should begin constructing a short-range wormhole, just in case...

   Well, it seems that my penchant for the more "down to Earth" type of adventure has been frustrated. This weekend just gone, I crept out in the quiet hours and shinned up the tree to have a look at this door that the landlord had reported. At first I thought it wasn't there, and that he had either lied or imagined it, but that seemed out of character somehow; so I continued with a careful and methodical search. I was scrutinised by a rather irritable tawny owl, who probably wanted to kick me out of the tree but lacked sufficient shoe size - not to mention mass.

   The door finally revealed itself as I glanced sidelong at the part of the trunk just below the branch where the landlord had been perched. It was a very faint and subtle outline, and I marvelled that he had spotted it in daylight. I began to fumble about, feeling foolish; but neither hinge nor handle was apparent. I did a scan with a pocket sonic, and oddly there seemed to be no cavity behind the piece of bark I was examining. That clinched it - someone must be having a laugh. Odd kind of joke to play, though - placing a fake door on a tree trunk, but high off the ground and so faint that it could barely be seen at night. I pondered. Somehow I knew that this mystery had not yet played out to its conclusion, but there was not really anything more I could do that night, so I had to drop down to the ground and creep back to the house. Mr. Tawny hooted at my departing back side in derision. I'll get him for that...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


   Well, it's been quite a week! Firstly, the new car turned out to be a hybrid. I knew there was a chance of this, but hadn't bargained for the inconvenient lineage. The reconstructed model is, as far as I can determine, a Reliant/Lexus cross-breed with a trace of Transit van. Somewhat like a toddler, It goes pretty fast but has no rear view mirror and rolls over rather too easily. Next time I'll take more care to choose a set of wheels from a single vehicle.

   Secondly, I was walking in the local hills taking the air yesterday evening and discovered that something was wrong. At first, I couldn't identify the source of my unease; but then I took a good look at the stars, and noticed that they were all slightly too red-shifted. The effect lasted a couple of minutes and then died away. There can really be only one conclusion: someone was using a warp drive in the outer solar system.

   When I got home I checked on the broadband scanner in case there had been any encoded emf transmissions, but it came up blank - it's possible they were using lasers, which would make things much harder for me. I'm not sure what to think at this stage, but I'm not that worried really: granted, the worst case scenario is a fleet of Pyloturican destroyers bent on claiming new territory, but a far more likely explanation is that we're simply the subject of a Local Group Federation stake-out to catch some petty offender who's bolted down a rabbit hole until the heat's off.

   Just in case, I set up a local media scan for unusual incidents. There may be nothing to this, but even if I don't learn anything it's always hilarious watching the false positives! Last time there was a fellow in Texas who claimed to have seen the image of a piece of toast in the face of Jesus in a local painting of the Last Supper.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Back to Poisson

   OK, I have some wheels again! Four of them, in fact. I got them from the scrapyard and they're a good start. Tonight I will use reverse-engineering to reconstruct the original car and with any luck it will be one I like to drive. Who knows, it might even have a sun roof. I rather enjoy driving, though I have to admit that the roads can be gracely airvercrided these days. It was more fun in the 1920s. The 2070s run a close second actually, with their guided skyways - ever the aesthete, I like to visit now and then, and skim the edge of the Grand Canyon or zip over Everest.

   Things have moved on a little since I went away. There was quite a lot of junk mail on my doormat, and it took longer than usual to send it all back with the wrong forms in each envelope. This time I included a ten pound note in one of them, for no reason at all. With any luck they'll go crazy trying to work out why. Maybe they're even legally obliged to return it, which will be fun because I'll be able to see how long I can make it impossible for them to do so. Ha!

   I also ran into my landlord this morning, and he commented on the beard, which I had not shaved off at that point, and then asked me whether I'd been away. I told him I'd been to stay with family because of a crisis: the truth seemed like a bad idea at this point. He then flapped his large ears a couple of times and flew into a pine tree, where he sat on a weeping branch at the mid-point, cooing in sympathetic tones. He has always been "unusual", and this was normal by his standards. I walked away, confident that he would fly down again once I had gone. Later, his wife told me that upon his return he related to her in excited tones his discovery of a small door in the side of the tree, which he could not open. I made a note of it: perhaps the investigation of this unexpected find will make a nice little weekend project for me soon...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Dark Doings In The Docks

   Well here I am back home again, and the ground is still gently rocking under my feet. Our cargo crate floated in at around eleven last night, and I decided to get some sleep before disembarking. There was, naturally, a small problem regarding the customs guys, due to the fact that I had no passport. I had spent a fair amount of time on the voyage mulling over my options on this point: the crew members had assumed I was just stranded and had not probed very deeply into my cover story (that I had been forced into an unofficial mission of industrial espionage by an overbearing boss and had cocked it up completely through incompetence). The chance that the customs office might show a similar naïveté seemed vanishingly small, and although I had essentially done nothing wrong, explaining my international movements without involving all kinds of higher agencies seemed infeasible. The minute I said "calculus" out loud, let alone "spatial anomaly" I would have blown my chance to get anybody at all on side.

   Thus it was that I found myself, at around 4:30 this morning, dropping furtively down a rope ladder into an inspection dinghy off the starboard side and making off quietly in the direction of the river Hamble. I had left a sizeable bribe for the privilege and had agreed to leave the boat with a friend of Zeppo's who lived nearby on the waterfront. On the way, I had a bit of a disagreement with a seagull, who took a bizarre liking to my nose and attempted to remove it. In return, I grabbed the irritating creature, inserted my portable mind bridge into its skull and gave it my complete memories of evolutionary history. Upon its release, it flew drunkenly over to a marker buoy and perched on the top, eyeing me ruefully. I doubt it had the neural capacity to process the lesson and draw new conclusions, but with any luck it now understood its place in the scheme of things, and might think twice before instigating any further nasal vendettas.

   Having woken up Zeppo's friend with a tap on the window (he nearly set the dogs on me!) I explained the deal and he tied up the boat, offering me a coffee. I declined, thinking only of my zero-G sleep field at home. It's quite a walk from Hamble and the dark semi-rural roads seemed somehow unreal. I saw two foxes, a deer, eighty-nine snails, four hundred trillion viruses and one drunken BBC producer who asked me whether he was anywhere near some place called Made of Ale. I told him he'd had enough already.

   Anyway, my next move will be to shave off the beard, buy a new car and generally pick up my various nefarious plots where I left off. I'm going to miss the travelling, if I'm honest. I must do it more often - only next time I'll use a more conventional mode of transport, or at least remember to take my passport through the wormhole...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Diffraction is Grate!

   Just a quick note from good old Southampton Water (yes, almost home!) - I have determined that Zardoz is a pipeline marker. Right, got to go as I have a load of James Bond stuff to prepare for now - no time to explain that, sorry! More soon...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Approaching Middle Earth!

   Well, this is really travelling in style! We are now passing through the Suez Canal, and it's awesome: one of the great engineering feats of recent centuries, and for years it's been one of my ambitions to see it. And drink the lot. Well, you know me - I think big.

   Yesterday as we passed through the Red Sea, I insisted upon walking around the deck perimeter for most of the day. This was merely so that I would thenceforth be able to proclaim "I'm a Red Sea pedestrian and proud of it!", of course. To the port side there was a blood-red sunset just as we caught sight of The Brothers, a small group of islands with a lighthouse. One hypothesis for the name Red Sea involves the bacterial blooms, or 'sea sawdust' that appear in the water...

   A reddish cyanobacterium
   Encountered a drop of deuterium;
   This heavier water
   Gave rise to a daughter,
   With radioactive delirium.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

On Your Marx, Get Wet, Go!

   The navigator on this vessel goes by the name of Zeppo. Not kidding. No idea whether that's his real name - you can't always be sure around here. Anyway, we were bored yesterday on his evening off, and after we had exhausted the potential for active discussion of spherical trigonometry, he suggested we play a traditional game called Double Blind. This ominous title put me immediately on my guard, and I was neither surprised nor comfortable when he explained the rules. Basically, the idea is that you each mix a drink in secret using your choice of ingredients, making up a total of half a litre. Then you drink them both. The first part involves downing exactly half of your own drink, and for the second part you swap glasses and drink half of the other one. If you are both still standing upright, you play another round with different ingredients, and continue in this fashion until one of you falls over. DON'T try this at home, kids!

   I suggested that we each keep notes of what ingredients we used in each round, and leave them in our pockets in case we didn't make it through the night and needed medical attention. I was half-serious: this sounded pretty extreme. Zeppo ducked into the officers' bar and emerged two minutes later holding a glass of faintly purple liquid with a red froth on top. Grim-faced, I followed suit. Of course it was all an act: I was confident that I was going to win this one. After all, I once visited Frexigg and spent a while attempting to forget a messy relationship disaster involving both swordplay and semantics, by drinking the local Flicsh'kmarrg (loosely translated as 'oil of volcano snake'), which has been known to cause even the locals to tear off their own flesh and throw it behind them as they flee, rather than be devoured by the large three-headed Grrugglil they firmly believe is chasing them down Main Street.

   I won when Zeppo dropped like a stone halfway through the second round. I confess that his concoctions were terrifyingly potent, and judging by the apparent fairground-ride motion of the ship today, most of which is certainly not due to the ocean, I believe that he might have used something from the infirmary - and perhaps even the engine room - as well as the usual liquors. He is still asleep in his cabin, and I covered for him by telling the captain that he was up all night dealing with a loose bracket on the deck.

   His reaction to the two empty glasses I produced during the game was mixed. He couldn't work out whether I was being stupid or just trying to cheat. However, I don't think he'll be challenging me to another game any time soon. Here is a list of my ingredients in total:

Round One

* A non-Riemannian Hypersquare
* Two counts of arson, sentence suspended
* The feeling of anxiety prompted by seeing an old enemy in the supermarket
* Some qualia from the id

Round Two
* The essence of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem
* An explanation of how double-entry book-keeping works
* Several memories of seeing an actual Grrugglil in a zoo on Frexigg
* My great-grandmother's opinion about water-skiing (I think this is probably what finished him)

Saturday, 4 June 2011


   Boy, is it windy. The box boat I've hitched a ride on is coping well due to its enormous dimensions, but those waves look pretty boisterous, and would probably swallow a house without stopping. Every now and then, one of them notices us and turns angrily in our direction, to end its short life as a rather fetching fountain of saline spray, leaping over the rails of the port bow. I'm allowed to sleep in a spare cabin, which beats the traditional lifeboat stowaway paradigm I guess; but it's not exactly the Ritz.

   Since my last entry, I have: worked as a logger; been wrongfully arrested for loitering within tent (it was a wigwam); designed a new kind of water stilts; diverted a stream in order to investigate a cave that turned out to be the disused secret base of a supervillain; eaten Ngapi-Jaw (this involves seafood stir-fried in spices and is actually rather good); and watched a number of pleasant sunsets over the Gulf of Boni. Although I had some difficulty explaining how I had materialised in the nearby forest and almost destroyed one of the smaller trees in the process, the kind folk of Watubangga seem to have accepted my presence with very little scepticism, and have done a lot to help me (in return for keeping my car as a souvenir).

   I was very lucky to get aboard this freighter: I narrowly escaped capture by the local gangster, a tall youth of some sixteen summers who thinks he's hard. In fact he doesn't look local, and I suspect he's from the Epsilon nebula region, in disguise like me. It's a good job he didn't reach me before I got on the boat because I would have been forced to kill him, which would have been somewhat poor payment for his earlier hospitality (which had been very warm up until the point when he realised that I was never going to like Chas 'n' Dave as much as he evidently - and bewilderingly - did). No matter - it's all behind me now.

   We're due back in blighted Blighty in a week or two, so I'll update you then (or sooner if anything interesting happens, which seems unlikely in such a predicament). In the mean time, I'm going to be studying my calculus carefully to avoid any more silly mistakes.