Monday, 7 May 2018

Empty Vessels

It was almost 303 Kelvins today. For a British ‘bank holiday’, that seems to be a break with tradition. But it gave me the opportunity to do a little field anthropology, i.e. ‘people-watching’, which is an occasional hobby of mine. I was particularly interested in the behaviour of young human males when the weather is hot. Many of them appear to enjoy broadcasting their stupidity loudly to anyone in shouting range, by partaking in a curious activity that seems to have developed in sports stadiums. When gathered in groups, particularly when alcohol has been added to the equation, they will break into a chorus of something that could only in the most generous of terms be described as ‘singing’. It sounds more like an over-extended rendition of the first second or two of someone vomiting heartily.

This is strictly a tribal activity. I have rarely seen an individual participant, unless he was extremely drunk, and even when two are present, it’s not that common. The threshold number appears to be three. This has nothing to do with the ability to produce harmonies, and everything to do with the ability to produce the threat of harm. These hapless phenotypes are the walking embodiment of a genome fashioned in our brutal past, when beating one’s chest was the best way of finding a mate. To witness their ritualistic roaring is to play audience to the astonishing process of testosterone transforming into air vibrations.

Everything I’ve described above, of course, has been occurring for some decades (at least since the 1970s, I’m assured by my editor, who was there). However, a more recent variant has come to my attention. When the human larynx is unequal to the task of asserting dominance through sonic torture, those with enough credit or hard cash have the option of purchasing some form of internal combustion engine attached to either 2, 4, or (sometimes) 3 wheels — and most importantly of all, sporting 1, 2 or 4 exhaust pipes. Often these are modified deliberately to be as loud as possible, breaking asunder the peace of all and sundry for no better reason than to make the statement: I AM HERE. Yes, we know you are, and we wish you weren’t. Some of us go further, and wish you would crash and die.

I’ve speculated many times about the exact psychology behind loud exhausts. I’ve heard people say that large cars might represent subconscious compensation for inadequate genital scale — and based on this assumption, one possible conclusion is that guys with loud exhausts are secretly ashamed of their pathetic farts.

But perhaps the truth is much more straightforward. Perhaps they simply are pathetic farts.

Thursday, 3 May 2018


I’ve been away for a while. I’m sorry about that. The reasons are pretty complex, and involve a rather unexpected plot twist concerning the molecular biology of my body. I’ll attempt to explain.

As you may know, human proteins — and hence most human anatomy — are coded by DNA, which is a molecule whose basic geometry is a connected double helix (although the higher levels of coiling to which this is then subjected are quite beautiful too, in a fractal sort of way).

My biology, as you might have expected, is a little different. My species employs a more complex structure for its protein coding. It’s rather hard to describe, but try to imagine a double helix with a third strand running through the cenral axis. Instead of pairs of bases, I have triplets. This means that errors are more easily corrected because of the increased redundancy, which in turn makes me far more resistant to radiation damage. The actual bases come in seven types instead of four, and are grouped in fours instead of threes, theoretically allowing 2,401 different codons, though in practice there is extremely heavy redundancy in that part of the system, which, again, allows for very effective error correction. Of course, the vastly reduced mutation rate this promotes makes me  highly resistant to genetic damage, although it also means that evolution on my planet has been proceeding extremely slowly: it took over a hundred million of your years for my species to emerge from our non-sentient predecessors. It’s a good thing conditions on our world allow plenty of time and security for such extended prehistories.

But I’m getting a little technical, so let me cut to the chase: I’ve been ill.

It was something I never expected to happen. My cells are constructed from many of the same amino acids as yours, though not the same proteins (and of course I have a few additional tricks up my veins). Earth viruses cannot affect me because RNA means nothing to my biology and is ignored as an inconsequential irritant. The toxins from bacteria could cause issues for me, but I’ve not yet found any bacteria that can live in my body, let alone multiply there, so again, they are inconsequential. When I eat your food I can break it down into many of the components I need, but I have to supplement my diet with certain enzymes to ensure that I get those compounds that I can’t obtain from the food.

It turns out, however, that there is a substance here on Earth that can destroy one component of my cellular chemistry. The problem, for a long time, was that I didn’t know which substance it was. All I knew was what it was doing: it was disabling the biological systems in my cells that regulate the production of muscular proteins. The result, unfortunately, has been that I ended up looking rather deformed, and I’ve had to hide from public view so as not to scare the children. Oddly enough, most of the worst effects of this condition have occurred in my face and my arms, with the result that I took on an appearance similar to the cartoon character known as ‘Popeye’.

I briefly considered getting an anchor tattoo and a pipe, and earning some extra cash performing at festivals, but decided it was infra dig. Instead, I continued my research to attempt to find the source of this problem. It was getting quite hard to operate the controls on my molecular analysis rig with my chubby fingers, but I finally identified the culprit as a by-product of yeast. Yeast, of course, is a tricky little organism, and I hadn’t considered, at first, that it might be involved. It was only when somebody was discussing the brewing of beer on Twitter and mentioned Marmite that I realised I’d recently developed quite a liking for this strange stuff — and also that I would have to cut it out of my diet immediately.

I’m back to normal now: it only took about a week. I suppose if I ever want to go for that festival gig when times are hard, at least I know how to achieve it. I could even substitute a jar o’ the good old brown nectar for the more conventional can of spinach.

But regardless, I’m sure you can imagine that the phrase ‘it’s a Marmite issue’ has now taken on a whole new set of sinister overtones.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Small vs. Far Away

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since my last update! I suppose it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun. In fact, several researchers have looked into this over the last few decades, and found that there is some evidence to support the existence of a hitherto-undetected ‘fun field’, which may be linked to the time dimension in ways that we cannot yet fathom. This fun field is not of the same type as the standard fields you humans have already discovered in Quantum Field Theory, but it acts in a roughly analogous way.

The latest recommendations from our best academic institutions are that governments should use caution when granting permits for centres of entertainment. This is to avoid the possibility that too large a concentration of fun in one place may drain away so much time that space will expand asymptotically to compensate, possibly resulting in a new universe. Some of us like to speculate — usually while taking our chemical stimulant of choice in the evenings — that this may be how our universe formed. And if, perchance, the entertainment in question was some form of sexual pleasure, the phrase ‘Big Bang’ takes on a whole new meaning.

But this was supposed to be a serious post, and I should return to my main point! I have indeed had fun for the last week, though you’ll be pleased to hear that it wasn’t enough to create a new universe. No, I’ve just been taking a little exercise: hiking through various scenic locations around the world. I’ve stood on the summit of Everest; run through rain forests of the Amazon; camped in the Grand Canyon to watch the night sky; and finally, played megaparkour in Tokyo by jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper using my hoverboots.

In all my travels, I never once connected to the internet or picked up the latest news. There were some exceptions, of course. You can’t avoid seeing the news in Tokyo, for example: it’s everywhere. But you learn to screen it out, and since I had my universal translator disabled most of the time and could only understand English, it wasn’t too bothersome. The result was a sense of peace within my mind, and it made me realise what the problem is that you humans are now facing.

The problem is that you’ve become fully connected. Not only has your ‘village’ grown from the traditional size of a few hundred people to several billion, but also you can access information about anywhere in the entire world, instantly. This brings all those foreign locations that would previously have been considered exotic, directly into your lives, and removes their mystique. They become vicariously mundane to you. Gone are the days when a traveller would come into town, book a room at the local inn and regale the populace with tales of faraway lands. Faraway lands are no longer so interesting, and people have begun to look within communities for novelty instead of looking outside them.

But the important thing to remember is that this is an illusion. It’s a fantasy. Just because you’ve seen the Great Wall of China on YouTube, you imagine yourselves to be explorers. But these are pixels on a screen, changing colour from frame to frame, and vibrations in the air of your comfortable room, conveying the sounds of a distant world into your head. They are no substitute for the reality of travel.

If you want to understand this, find a video online that contains footage of, let’s say, the inside of a restaurant in some place that you wouldn’t ever dream of travelling to. Watch the video and try to place yourself in that world, as much as you possibly can. Imagine the noises, the smells, the taste of the food, the people’s faces. Then go to an actual restaurant near where you live, and compare the experience. Is it even remotely close?

The restaurant example applies to everything else, too: people, language, politics, recreation, entertainment, education… the list goes on. So I just wanted to speak directly to all those who have wanted to travel and have never got around to it: if you can afford to do so, DO SO. In my opinion, as an impartial observer, nothing would benefit the human species more, at this crucial point in your history, than an increase in global perspective.

Saturday, 31 March 2018


Spam interests me greatly.

You probably realise that I’m not talking about cold pressed meat, although that is a fascinating topic in its own right, so I understand, especially to Vikings. No, I’m referring to the unwanted messages that everyone constantly receives over the web of lies. Sorry, I mean the internet.

When I first heard that this was an actual problem on this planet, my reaction was — I’m sorry to have to say — laughter. It’s never been an issue for us out in the wider galaxy. For one thing, we have a more sophisticated distributed trust certification network. But there’s another, much simpler reason: if anyone tried mass marketing via hyperwave message, they would very likely end up being tracked down and having all the flesh melted off their head by a large proton accelerator. We have a slightly more lenient attitude to vigilantes than you do on Earth.

Anyway, out of curiosity one day, I began examining some of this so-called spam. It was not a pleasant experience. The worst thing was seeing the same bizarre phrases repeated again and again. Let’s just say that if anyone ever comes up to me in the street and offers me ‘this one weird trick’ to solve one of my problems, I shall happily introduce their head to Mr. Proton and his friends and show them the weirdest trick they’ve ever seen.

I was initially rather baffled when I saw the emails. I’d say that over 99% of them are written in English so bad that even I could spot it a light year away, and I’m not exactly fluent yet. Surely, I thought, if these things are mostly con tricks, then the con artists should be like the ones I’ve seen in movies: smart, dapper, intelligent, well-versed in etiquette, riding skills, perhaps an ace at seduction, and of course, polyglots. Bad English is a dead giveaway!

It was then that Mike pointed out something that I’d forgotten too easily, and which can be summed up in this rather neat little couplet:

Consider just how stupid is the average human prat:
Now realise, fully half of them are stupider than that!

Actually, I must digress here for a moment. The above joke may seem hilarious, but it’s mathematically unsound. It assumes that the median and the mean are identical, which does not have to be so.

To illustrate, imagine you had a simplified IQ scale that was always an integer from 1 to 10, and you sampled four people and found that their scores were 1, 2, 3 and 10. The median would be 2.5 and the mean would be 4.

Another aside: this also undermines that old saying, known as Grelb’s Reminder, that “80% of drivers consider themselves above average”. The point, of course, is that this is meant to sound ridiculous — but it’s possible for it to be true. Of course, in that case, the other 20% would have to be utterly atrocious drivers, in order to drag the mean level down a lot. Actually, now that I think about it, that sounds about right to me.

Where was I? Oh yes, the stupidity of people in relation to spam. Here’s an idea that I think could work, if you really want to get rid of spam:

Automated time-wasting.

I’m serious. These days, bots are commonplace and the technology, as we’ve seen in the recent social media scandals, is fairly advanced. Someone just needs to work out a way of making bots reply to spam automatically, and tie up the resources of the senders. The point is, it’s dirt cheap to send millions of emails, but what’s not dirt cheap at all is running store front servers, payment transaction handling, online support answering questions etc. Give the bots fake credit card numbers and get them to fill up as much time as possible in the initial contact, before placing an order, having the card rejected, and then complaining about it endlessly, tying up further time on the spammer’s end. If a million bots are all doing this at once, they’ll never cope: they’ll be out of business in a week.

I offer you that advice free, of course. Note that it applies only to spam intended to sell things. Other spam has more nefarious purposes, such as installing malware, phishing for data etc. In those cases… well, feel free to forward them to me, and I’ll be happy to track them down and pay them a visit with my proton accelerator.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Anagrams and Time Off

I know some of you Earthlings are celebrating Easter shortly, so I thought I should wish you a happy one. It’s something to do with cutting off a rabbit’s eggs and nailing it to a cross, isn’t it? Sounds barbaric. Anyway, Mike has come up with an anagram, and suggested including it in my next post, so here it is:

Owota's Fantasy Diary = Nasty toad of airways.

Thanks, Mike. Of course, you could also have made “Sanity stood far away”, and even the far more polite “A waystation for days”, which fits the whole point of the thing far better, don’t you agree? [Okay, you’re right — MT]

Mike also pointed out to me that “Professor Maria Thessifus” is an anagram of both “Assume offshore airstrips” and “Famous airship fortresses”, and has suggested that I should double-check that Maria T doesn’t have any secret Steampunk bases based on small islands in the Atlantic. That’s taking the thing a bit far, in my opinion: they’re only letters!

Actually, he does have a point. I cannot assume that my new enemy is gone for ever. I destroyed her mind backup pod in orbit around Saturn, but let’s remember that when Saturn is the other side of the Sun, it would not have been possible to receive data from that one. I can’t help wondering whether she installed a second one somewhere else, and I think perhaps I should go and check soon.

I’ve managed to find the time not only for R&R but also maintenance. I’ve been overhauling the cloaking device on the minicruiser, and I tested it by taking it for a spin around the coast of Great Britain. I even managed to buzz the Houses of Parliament undetected. I was tempted to drop a bounded fusion device on them, but that probably would have been considered bad etiquette as well as being a breach of the Galactic Non-Interference Treaty. I’m sorry, but for now you’re stuck with them. Your move, voters.

On a lighter note, I’ve discovered this wonderful drink called Hot Chocolate. Why did nobody tell me this existed? It’s like being kissed in a hot spring by an Amazon warrior woman made of candy… except inside out.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Cat and Mouse: Saturday

Hello avid readers! It’s time to welcome me home at last. I’ve had quite a day, I can tell you. When I last recorded an update, Professor Maria Thessifus had been killed, then restored from a mind backup into a new body clone. Given her state of confusion (as evidenced by the fact that she had not immediately resumed chasing me), I surmised that this was an old backup and that she would have to get up to speed by reading her blog entry from the other day.

I wasted no time, although I was a little miffed that my minicruiser’s cloaking device was out of alignment and had to be adjusted. This cost me vital minutes, but it was crucial work if I wanted to remain undetected. Once I was in orbit I transferred to the Earth Lagrange L2 point to set up my instruments. I was sniffing for remnants of the original transmission of the mind data from the backup pod, hoping for reflected signals to arrive after ricochet from multiple Kuiper belt objects, back and forth across the solar system multiple times, each taking hours, over the last two days.

This, as you can imagine, was a long shot.

My equipment is extremely advanced, with molecular membrane antennae and miniaturised quantum computers to perform the nightmarish fourier analyses that this would require, given the vast number of reflected signals that would have blended together like images in an enormous Hall of Mirrors. Sadly, it was not enough. After an hour or two of gathering data, and a further hour analysing it and finding no clear directional source for the signal, I proceeded to Plan B.

A brief scan via my remote probe revealed that Professor Maria T was still in her office in Hamburg. I am not a natural gambler, and the next part was a leap of faith that made me slightly uncomfortable, I have to admit. I made the assumption that the Hamburg location would also be the location from which the request for another mind restore would be sent, in the event of her death. I deployed a ring of membrane antennae in orbit around Earth in the plane of the solar system. Again, I was gambling: I assumed that the mind backup pod was somewhere in that plane. I hope you’re keeping count of these!

I then activated the microdrone I had previously concealed in Berlin, and it covered the distance to Hamburg in about 100 seconds. Damn, those things are fast. I wish I could build them, but I can’t take credit I’m afraid: I get them on mail order from Analemma, which is kind of the galactic version of Amazon, only it’s allowed to sell evil weapons.

Now came my third and final gamble. I hoped her window was open. Three times, I had relied on luck. I was feeling a little nauseated, frankly. I don’t like loose ends. But it paid off. The microdrone found its target, and a death signal was picked up by fourteen of my antennae. I projected the signal outward and found it was heading for Saturn.

Making a mental note to collect the antennae later, I punched the co-ordinates in and warped over almost all the way there, which took all of five seconds. I positioned myself directly between Earth and Saturn, waiting.

I had to wait a further hour for the signal to arrive. Luckily, I had brought a deck of cards with me. I do enjoy your Earth games! Did you know that there are so many permutations of a deck of cards that every time you shuffle one thoroughly it’s almost certain to be a sequence that nobody in the whole history of your planet has ever produced before? Of course, I’ve produced them all, by placing a robotic shuffling arm inside a multiverse multiplier… but that was on Grootix when I was at college, and even I can’t afford to own that sort of equipment, so you can stop worrying: it’s still the case that nobody has produced every permutation yet — on Earth, at least.

The signal arrived, and I waited for the reply from the pod. When it came, I pinpointed it to within about 100 km. It was still going to be tricky, but I wasn’t too worried.

That is, until I noticed that it was right inside the rings.

I had to admit she had style. It was a perfect camouflage! It made finding it very arduous, and it took me a good three hours of nosing in and out of the ring material. But I finally got it! Can you believe, the thing was only 10m long? The rings are 1km thick, so we’re talking needles and haystacks. My eyes are still tired.

Having blasted the pod into dust, I returned on warp power, and waited. Of course, it wasn’t over at that point because a new clone would be waiting for the light-speed signal still en route — or so I imagined.

I had quite a nasty shock.

The signal arrived, all right. But there was some sort of failsafe in place, probably triggered by two deaths within a day or two of each other. It downloaded the data, but it copied it into multiple clones. I used a probe to count them, and there were fifty-two. When that figure came up on my screen, I used a word that would have got me expelled from Grootix Academy for sure.

The rest of that day was rather dramatic. Obviously I couldn’t be sure of killing all of those clones before one of them got me, it was too risky. This called for a more intelligent approach. Remaining in orbit for safety, and constantly alert for a launch from Hamburg just in case, I busied myself with the data I’d collected during the return signal from the pod. I had to decode the format used, but there wasn’t any strong encryption on it. I mean, why bother, right? The stupid humans would never even recognise what it was anyway. A process of elimination gave me the likely patterns used to push an update to the clones. I reasoned that this would be a feature, given that I have such a thing myself. Sometimes new information reaches the pod and needs to be made known to the current living copy. It’s a way of creating memories of things that would otherwise be unknown.

In the end, it was laughably easy. I sent a faked signal with information about a certain Lord Dszira, who had been detected hiding out at a spot in the middle of Antarctica. Watching the Thessifus clones join forces and converge on the bait was amusing. I had already programmed the slow fusion bomb to deploy from my silo in Argentina, and sit there beneath the ice, having melted its way down, waiting for them to arrive. The survey teams may one day be baffled by the odd crater there, but maybe there will be a conspiracy theory that the US government were testing a secret weapon. And maybe it will just end up as a regular item doing the rounds on the internet tinfoil hat sites. Nobody will seriously believe it at that point. In fact, I may give it a small helping hand. I need to go now and start joining a few chatrooms. See you later!

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Cat and Mouse: Friday

In some ways, things have been a little dull since my last entry. Having watched Maria T’s life signals for an hour and found that they were not moving, I concluded that she was resting, and probably as confused as a politician. That was good because it implied that she hadn’t been conscientious about making backups. Take a lesson from this, humans! Always back up your data. This copy of her was from a few days ago, and I think it must have been made before she kidnapped me. I had to assume that eventually she’d get around to reading her own blog entry and would pick up the trail from there, but her confusion gave me some extra time to act, and I used it.

I drove through the night and made it back to Calais, where I dropped the car and caught a train home. For the past three hours I’ve been gathering all the equipment I’ll need. Finding a mind pod in deep space is not easy if it isn’t broadcasting data. They tend to be almost invisible to radar, and rather small. I’ll have to use guesswork as well as technology. I’m planning to set off later tonight. No time to sleep, when Maria T could be laying her next plot against me! I’ve pinpointed her position, and it’s an office block in Hamburg. I suspect she rents it as a business facade to conceal her activities. She probably already knows that I’m going after her pod, so I’ll have to use extreme caution.

By this time tomorrow, it should all be over… one way or another.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Cat and Mouse: Thursday

I ended up in a cave in the mountains, waiting for a whole day. Professor Thessifus was unexpectedly slow to respond to my deliberate false trail leading to the nearby village. Luckily, my experience with Gook’s Patience Race stood me in good stead.

When she finally arrived in the village, I was monitoring her from a drone (one of the pieces of equipment I retrieved from my East European emergency stash on my way up here). She was quite sloppy with her camouflage this time! She’d taken the form of an old woman, but the utility belt was a dead giveaway, visible from a 500m altitude by virtue of my advanced optical stabilisers.

When I hit the KILL switch and saw the image track in towards her head, I almost felt sorry for her. And for the poor villagers — I expect the explosion left quite a mess.

It seemed too easy. And of course, it was.

I was on my way home today via the tedious process of car rental. Why can’t you people just have decent teleports? It’s damn inconvenient. Anyway, my sensors suddenly alerted me to Maria T’s life signals somewhere in Hamburg. I realised, of course, what had happened. She had remote mind backups, just as I do, and had been restored into a spare body clone. This means that I now have to destroy her backup pod before killing her, otherwise she’ll just do it again and again — at least until she runs out of body clones. Bloody annoying situation.

The question is, of course: when was her last backup? Does this copy of her even remember kidnapping me? Does it remember hacking my data? I hate unknowns, and there are too many of them now.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Cat and Mouse: Tuesday

[I’ve now received a full set of diary entries from Lord Dszira - this is the first. Turns out he was the one who re-enabled my account, of course! He’s resting at the moment, and asked me to post these on successive days. I hope you find them enlightening. — MT]

Owota here. I hope this reaches you. I’m writing it on Tuesday 20th, but I’m going to ask Mike not to post any of these entries until the crisis is over, in case it gives away my location. I have just re-enabled the blog account password so that he can give you updates, but I haven’t been able to communicate with him yet. I see that he’s posted a message. I also see that someone else posted a message too! I’m not happy.

This Maria T character truly is a pest. Things began to go awry on Sunday, when she managed to intercept me in Prague while I was attempting to sneak up and ambush her. It’s amazing how many mishaps befall people in Prague, from the assassination of Good King Wenceslas over a thousand years ago to more recent disasters, such as the time Michael Palin fell over in a bathroom there and hurt his finger. But I’m rambling — I must keep this short, as I believe Thessifus is monitoring all the EM bands, and I’ve used the emergency laser receiver I installed on my assistant’s roof to transmit this message to him securely. It’s a good thing I have that swarm of microsatellites to act as reflectors. I’m now extremely glad of the weeks I put into that project.

So anyway, I discovered that the only reason Thessifus was able to hack my accounts at SPLAT and the GPR was that she (actually ‘it’, but ’she’ is easier) is a polymorph capable of such finely detailed mimicry that she can pass for me in biometric tests. This is, of course, a lamentable oversight on my part. I should have added two-factor authentication to my security options — but the trouble is that the GPR is near the galactic hub, and even hyperwaves take over an hour to arrive from there, so logging in would have been a task requiring the patience of a domino-toppling technician. As for SPLAT, forget it: they never did have robust security.

The fact that she’s a polymorph is, of course, the reason Maria T was able to ambush me in Prague. She was disguised as a road-sweeping machine at the time, and I was too busy trying to find her house on a map to notice the smell of foetid garbage and the smooth scrape of motorised brushes approaching down the street behind me. Before I realised what was going on, I’d already been ‘taken to the cleaners’. I did manage escape from the refuse chamber by activating the unload circuit and tipping the entire contents onto the road, which caused consternation among the inhabitants of Prague and brought the police running. However, I wasn’t prepared for the resourcefulness of my adversary: she somehow managed to levitate me a thousand metres into the air while she evaded capture below, and later brought me directly down her chimney. I know it sounds corny, but I think it was some form of tractor beam.

She attempted to imprison me in a diamondite chamber, and I honestly think she planned to leave me there for ever. The only reason I was able to escape was that she had not thought to remove my clothes. I always keep a spare crystal lattice disruptor lance in my underpants (who doesn’t?), and I had only to wait until she went out before using it to collapse the entire chamber into a pile of what looks, to the untrained eye, like crumbling burnt toast.

I am now in the Tatra mountains, playing a fine game of cat and mouse with my enemy. Since you are reading this, you’ll know that it ended well, but from my point of view, I’m still unsure what’s going to happen to me. Maria T has set up quite a network of informants and sensors, and it’s taking all my time just to move around the countryside undetected. I think she’s spitting mad that she can’t find me, which tickles me nicely. I’ll give it another day before I make a move. After all, it’s fun to imagine her squirming.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018


Hello everyone, it’s Mike Torr here. I apologise for the brief disruption to the blog recently. As you will be aware, the account was hacked by a mysterious character who now seems to have vanished — as has Lord Dszira. My account credentials were reset by person or persons unknown, and I was then able to log in again to post this update. I have no more idea what is happening than you do, but I’ll update you the moment I have any information. I’m slightly concerned, but not overly so. Owota has been in worse scrapes than this, and has always managed to pull through.

I’m leaving Maria T’s post up on the blog, for context. I do not, of course, endorse its content.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Under New Management

Well, hello there, you lowly humans. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Professor Maria Thessifus, but feel free to call me Professor Maria T if it makes you more comfortable. I always think it’s preferable to shorten surnames instead of forenames, don’t you? So much easier to maintain anonymity. Not that I need to, of course. You will probably have guessed that it isn’t my real name, anyway. My real name is very long and impossible to express in syllables amenable to human pronunciation.

Now, I know you were all hoping for an update from Lord D. I’d love to oblige you, of course, but allowing him to send a message would mean letting him out of the diamondite chamber in which I’ve trapped him, and he’s a slippery fellow. In fact, he’s so slippery that he almost evaded me yesterday as I kidnapped him on the streets of — well, the least said about that, the better.

It was a simple matter to obtain credentials for posting to this blog, of course. To one who has already stolen identities across the galaxy and overcome the security firewalls of the Galactic Patent Register, hacking a blog platform on Earth is child’s play. I’ll be in charge for the moment.

Don’t worry, I shall of course release Owota in due course. I just need him to stay out of the way until his patent appeal expires, at which point further appeals will be disallowed and I’ll receive royalty payments for cockpoppies in perpetuity. He’s been rather modest about his achievements, in fact — those little flowers are on order in hundreds of star systems for various reasons, and should net me a tidy fortune.

So, I’m afraid you’ll have to be patient, readers! Lord Dszira will be gone for quite a while. In the mean time, there will be no further updates.

Thessifus is victorious!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

SPLAT Goes the Weasel

Some of you may remember that, back in 2011, I won the Nobel prize for Poppycock after successfully testing a new type of very hardy, spiky plant which I dubbed the ‘cockpoppy’. You may also be aware that I missed the award ceremony, having been absent at the time during the infamous multi-dimensional game of cat-and-mouse the feds and I played with the pranksters from the Utnepi sector who had constructed an illegal spatial anomaly in the Cotswolds.

In the last entry about this, I mentioned that my award was listed as ‘posthumous’, and that I would correct this error in ‘Huckleberry Finnly fashion’. Well, today, I attempted to do exactly that, with somewhat alarming results. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Poppycock prize is not part of the human Nobels, of course. It’s awarded by an unofficial secret organisation called the Society for Promotion of  Lurking Alien Technologies, or SPLAT, whose business is to improve the lives of humans via technology developed by incognito alien philanthropists. You’re welcome.

As for the cockpoppy itself, it was successfully deployed in many pilot sites, although I was asked to modify it to make it invisible to people. The committee apparently felt that my enthusiasm for drawing attention to it via luminosity didn’t quite conform to GOSAD (the Galactic Official Statute of Alien Discretion). The plant is useful wherever there are cracks between paving slabs, plenty of pedestrians, and the possibility of bears. It took a little experimentation to get the leaves to spread away from the cracks in such a way as to make its presence almost undetectable by feel, while still doing its job.

Another matter came to my attention recently, and I must address it. Some of you, I gather, will be wondering — perhaps not for the first time — whether my brain is firmly rooted in reality. After all, you will protest, this whole thing about bears is from a children’s book, isn’t it? It’s not real! But you’d be wrong, at least in a way. Every year a couple of thousand people disappear without trace in the UK, where I live. There are obviously many reasons for this, including certain visiting aliens who are somewhat less friendly than yours truly, and who like to conduct experiments. However, a few dozen of these incidents are indeed caused by bears.

No, not that sort of bear.

‘Bugbears’ have not been studied in detail yet, but we believe that they are four-dimensional flat creatures that exist in a parallel space, so close to our own reality that they can just about reach out and touch it, although it takes effort. This is what I meant by ‘flat’: they have very little ability to extend themselves along the extra dimension, but in three dimensions they are anything but flat, and are somewhat similar to giant octopuses. Indeed, the recent statements by scientists that the octopus appears to be practically an alien species interested me greatly, and I couldn’t help wondering whether these organisms might be related to bugbears somehow.

What’s baffling about the bears is that they tend to have obssessive intolerance to certain things. Some of them react exclusively to events that hardly ever happen — for example, the bugbears in the space parallel to Grootix get enraged if someone farts into their own ear. We only know they exist because a visiting boonargle performed the trick for a dare, and witnesses saw hundreds of disembodied tentacles intrude into our spatial dimension, grab the unfortunate victim and pull him out of sight. One wonders whether our universe is like some sort of giant vivarium to them, and whether they regard us as pets, and are removing those that displease them.

Unfortunately, the bears that hang around Earth’s space are far more easily provoked, and sometimes, very rarely, one of them will take to sitting in the parallel space beneath paving slabs, admiring the geometry. Should someone be unfortunate enough to step right onto one of the cracks, they are pulled below, in a direction that doesn’t exist and therefore probably rips all their atoms apart.

What the new strain of cockpoppies is actually doing is acting as dynamic camouflage. They focus the light from the sky above, and bend it around themselves, sending it through interdimensional space to the eyes of the bugbear, who accepts the premise that the foot is not crossing the line, even when it is.

But I digress. Today I entered the SPLAT headquarters to tell them that rumours of my death had been greatly exaggerated, and you can imagine my surprise when they stated that they had never heard of me. I demanded to see the Journal of Botanical Engineering, which was where my research had been published, and was outraged to note that the author’s name had been changed to ‘Professor Maria Thessifus’. Subsequent digging also revealed the same name now listed on the Galactic Patent Register. Presumably this imposter moved in and hacked my account while I was away chasing the Utnepi’i, and is now raking in the royalties. I don’t know how it was done, but you can rest assured that the hunt is on. She will be made to regret this: nobody pulls a fast one on Owota Dszira! I’ve sent a hyperwave to the GPR requesting suspension of royalties pending appeal, and I’ll keep you up to date on the progress of my vendetta.

Oh, by the way… to those who care, Happy St. Patrick’s Day from one who knows what it is to have genuinely green blood.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Beware the March of Ideas

It’s the Ides of March, apparently. This is the day that Stabber got seized. Or was it the day that Caesar got stabbed? I always get confused. Anyway, it’s probably irrelevant, since it’s notoriously difficult to be specific about dates that far back in time — and, more to the point, nobody gives a fig either.

At lunch time today I dropped into a café. I really must get the parachute fixed on that ejector seat. Anyway, they were kind enough to furnish me with both coffee and… well, furniture. I had a few hours free this afternoon, so I spent a minute or so browsing the second hand book shelves. At length, I selected a volume about the local area.

I was feeling a little peckish after my flight, so before nestling at the tail end of the establishment, I took a gander at the food. Unfortunately, I mispronounced ‘currant bun’ as ‘current pun’, and got a bit of a shock when I bit into what they’d supplied. I just hope they didn’t overcharge me.

The coffee was refreshing. I could tell because it came with an hourglass that kept revolving alongside it. It’s a good job I wasn’t in my mac, because I think a spinning beachball would have cleared the table faster than the Cincinatti Kid. While I waited, I sat and thought about assassination. Not any particular assassination, you understand: just the general concept. It struck me that it’s simply one of the more extreme manifestations of a mind’s efforts to edit reality to suit its expectations. Or is it one of the more manifest expectations of a suit’s efforts to edit the mind and get real about its extremities? I think the linguistic module I installed when I got to Earth may be in need of servicing.

Anyway, to get back on topic… we all know that killing is wrong, right? And two wrongs don’t make a right, although three rights make a left — but listen up: left or right, a wrong is just wrong, and backward. I’m down with that.

But what about the trolley problem?

You’ve heard of the trolley problem, I assume? Basically there are two supermarket aisles, and a trolley is heading for a stack of 500 tins, and you have to decide whether to push it the other way and knock over 100 tins instead. Or something like that. Never understood what the big problem is, myself, because I’d never manage to hit either stack of tins, given that trolleys have minds of their own. Yes, they really do, actually. They’re installed at the factory and programmed to cause maximum back injury and inconvenience.

But I’ve strayed from the topic. Where was I? Oh, I can’t concentrate now, sorry. I think it’s all those shocks I received from that current pun. For now, I’ll just wish you a Merry Treason Day. Mind your backs.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Bake News!

I’ve had one or two complaints about my recent posts, along the lines of “Too Long; Didn’t Read”. Talk about the Twitter Generation… I don’t know why I bother sometimes. You peasants should be grateful I’m communicating with you in the first place.

Sorry, that probably came over as unnecessarily feudal. I’m a little grumpy today because last night’s experiment with Gödelian logic emitters didn’t go too well, and now I have a lot of cleaning up to do.

To explain: I’m currently attempting to find a way to suppress ‘fake news’. After all, we don’t want just anybody pumping the internet full of their propaganda, do we? It’s only my own propaganda that should be allowed. And even then, only during an election for the next Supreme Leader of Earth.

So I’m trying to construct something I thought up a few years ago, called an Anti-assertive Spike Damper Field (and no, I didn’t choose that just because it’s easy to type the initials — do I look shallow to you?). This works by collating online posts from around the world and doing a multidimensional fourier analysis to find the trends. I then remove the low-level noise with a semantic gate, invert the graph, re-apply the transform to get a signal that’s in phase with the original and mix the result back into the web through the clandestine backbone I installed in 2009.

Well at least, that’s the theory. What should happen is that it should counteract the disinformation in real time, resulting in an optimal Fact Spectrum with no extreme peaks. Unfortunately, I discovered that I’d misaligned the Venn exclusivity parameter on the Gödelian logic emitter, and all the statements that were demonstrably either true or false got dropped during factorisation.

The result is that today the internet is full of bland, contradictory statements that are utterly unverifiable.

Oh, you didn’t notice? Ah. Well that’s a relief then. As you were!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Your Questions Answered

All right, puny humans, the time has come. You’ve been sending me a lot of questions recently, and I’d be remiss in my duties as an alien blogger if I didn’t take the trouble to answer a few of them now and then.

Q: Why ‘Space Lord’ and not ‘Time Lord’? Surely Time Lords are cooler?

This is true under some circumstances. They can certainly be cooler once I’ve attacked them with my freeze ray. However, I think some of you are labouring under the misapprehension that Doctor Who represents something close to reality. Time Lords are actually quite boring entities who like to go on the galactic panel shows and patronise everyone with their views on causality; most of us loathe them. The trouble, of course, is that they spend most of their time (haha) worrying about what damage can be done by skipping around the timeline like a demented flea — and rightly so: they’re supposedly aloof, responsible beings who ought to be setting an example. But that leads to a sense of powerlessness as they eventually conclude that almost anything they might try will either have horrendous repercussions or be no fun at all. The rest of us tend to say ‘stuff that’ and do it anyway — because we can; because we’re not supposed to be careful, like they are. And it irritates them beyond measure. The best thing I can say about Time Lords is that I am not one of them. Can you imagine the havoc I’d cause if I did my time travelling with a licence? Not only did I fail transtemporal hyper-mathematics at college, but following an ‘unfortunate incident’ involving a causal loop and an astronavigation teacher I happened to have a crush on, my tutor sent a strongly-worded message to the Galactic Time Agency, scuppering my chances for good. I think we can all be thankful for that.

Q: How long have you lived on Earth?

It depends. In some versions of reality, I’ve been here longer than DNA-based life. However, for reasons I’ve never been able to fathom, those branches of the Earth universe now also contain millions of clones of Joss Whedon, so I never visit them any more. I like Joss, but more than, say, ten of him is too many for anyone in my humble opinion. In our current branch the answer to your question is ‘about ten years’. I can’t be too specific because it might lead to the authorities discovering my entry point, which would not be a good thing as they might then deduce the real reason I’m here. Enough said.

Q: Do you keep any pets?

Officially, I’m not allowed to have pets. I rent my house, and the landlord was quite specific about it. It has occurred to me that I should make my landlord a pet, thus nullifying the contract clause through the application of recursive authority — but I don’t want to cause a scene. I quite like skunks, and I’d probably get a few of those if I thought I could get away with it. I have the ability to switch my sense of smell on and off, which would help a lot.

Q: Who is this ‘Mike Torr’?

Mike works unceasingly behind the scenes of this blog. He is my assistant, my editor, and occasionally my ghost-writer. He is a stout fellow [Editor’s note: careful with the definitions, Owota - you’re not in the eighteenth century now] and has been my right-hand dookie on this planet ever since I arrived. I trust him because he shares my love of the incongruous, and incidentally, would miss out on a lot of personal amusement were I ever to be unmasked and deported. He’s also quite patient, which, given the length of time I’m sometimes away doing other stuff, is a valuable attribute. If the Galactic Government ever decides to intervene in the running of this planet, I plan to offer him a post on the new Earth Council. I suspect, however, that he will refuse it [actually I’m keeping that option open for now — MT]. He’s never been a natural leader and prefers to spend his time exploring mind and cosmos. Fair play to him.

Right, I think that’s quite enough until next time. If you have any more questions for me, please leave them in the comments and Mike will collect them and pass them on to me for answers, ridicule, or vindictive disintegration, as appropriate.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

A Ramble Through the Weather

For a long time now, I have marvelled at the weather in the United Kingdom. I sometimes wonder why I never chose a more predictable climate. Various alternative options spring to mind, but most of them have drawbacks. Antarctica is too remote. Siberia is too full of thawing permafrost. California, while rather fun in its charming way, has its own very special problems. Given its reputation for environmental responsibility, it’s astonishing how much toxic waste one can find there. I’ll admit that most of it isn’t in the ground, but rather, concentrated in the sequel-infested business plans of Hollywood executives, and in the so-called ‘brains’ of Scientologists (believe me, I know: I’ve opened one up for a look, and it wasn’t pretty). Of course, anywhere in the USA also has another problem now: Trump. And I think we’re all well aware of his views on illegal aliens. Would it suprise you to learn that he’s actually one himself? He is, in reality, a flesh capsule operated from within by a small Julerian mercenary. Actually, that’s a lie. But I had you going, didn’t I? He’s really just an unpleasant douchebag with no self-awareness. The truth is often boringly obvious.

But anyway, back to meteorological matters. The south coast of England can get quite wet. The other day, I even returned home to find the ground practically swimming in a layer of icy spheres that I gather are called ‘hailstones’. I must admit, I always thought hailstones were the boulders one is supposed to chuck at Bridley the Grutt whenever it appears in public.

I’m fairly sure you have no idea who Bridley the Grutt is. I’ll explain.

Back on Grootix, where I started my apprenticeship as a Junior Space Lord shadowing then Master of the Galaxy, Vladimoxi Pluton, I learned many things about the art of diplomacy. I had instruction in reception formalities and etiquette relating to over two hundred individual species, which is a quantity of domestic information so great that, were Mrs. Beeton to write it in a traditionally-bound volume, it would undergo gravitational collapse and become a black hole.

I was also trained in the rare skill of Gödelian Counterpoint, a way of turning an argument against an opponent without their noticing what you’ve done, usually by finding common ground in a statement with which you can both agree, but which is demonstrably neither true nor false, then showing that this logically leads to the conclusion that all argument is futile. By the time your opponent realises that this applies to your arguments as well, it’s too late: you’ve already deflated their ego and gained the upper hand. This technique is particularly useful for confusing racists, though it’s not often effective against Grand Conspiracy Theorists. The best way to win an argument with them is to simply walk away and buzz for a nurse to let you out of the psychiatric ward.

I also studied the martial art of Pheck Yawl under the tutelage of the famous and venerable practitioner, Chok Yaris, whose tentacles can demolish a six-storey building so fast that it’s possible to prove the tips must have travelled faster than light. There is a simple trick to this, which I am honour-bound not to reveal. Of course, since I don’t currently have tentacles (though I have some on order), I can’t equal this feat. Mind you, the speed training has enabled me to learn to cheat at poker by looking at the other player’s cards and returning to my seat in the time it takes them to blink.

Sorry, I’m digressing. Oh yes… Bridley the Grutt. The Grutt are a genderless species, and from my diplomacy training I know that it’s acceptable to use neuter pronouns when referring to them. Bridley arrived at the Academy intending to make a documentary for a galactic channel, showing a behind-the-scenes view of Space Lord training. We were not happy about this. Let’s just say that it had a reputation for biased reporting. Master Pluton, in particular, rejected the contract he’d been asked to sign. However, the Grutt crew turned up anyway, intending to get him to sign it by blackmailing him with some piece of gossip they’d dug up.

Pluton asked them to wait in the lobby while he fetched his interpreter, as he wasn’t very good with the Grutt language. The crew explained that this was all right, since Bridley had its own interpreter. Pluton explained that he’d really prefer to use his, and while they were waiting, they were welcome to arrange themselves into a convenient ‘interpretation pattern’, which seemed to consist of a semicircle with Bridley off to one side. The confused crew did as they were asked. Pluton then left for a few moments, returning with his interpreter, who seemed to bear an amazing resemblance to a blaster ray. Pluton then gave a command, and the interpreter translated it into Grutt. Apparently the Grutt version of the sentence was a hole in the chest, and the explanation was given individually to each member of the crew, to ensure that they all understood. Somewhat irritatingly, the last one ducked, and its head was blown off, so officially this couldn’t be counted as an ‘explanation’, but I don’t think Pluton gave a pair of gloople’s pendulosi about that.

Apparently, the interpreter had nothing to say to Bridley, who simply stood and gibbered. At that moment the false wall slid away, and the entire class applauded. I remember it well. Master Pluton turned to us and said:
“And that, apprentices, is your final lesson in diplomacy. When all else fails, bring in an interpreter. From now on, when Bridley the Grutt appears on our property, I command that you all throw rocks at it. Any questions?”

There were no questions. And that included from Bridley, who hurried off to find its pendulosi.

I’m off track again, aren’t I? You see, that’s what happens when you start talking about the weather. You know, I do believe my camouflage is improving. It’s almost impossible, these days, to tell me apart from a Brit.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Judgement Day, or Just Judgement?

So, the sim completed today and the graphs are in. I now have a set of fairly accurate statistical forecasts for the next fifty years of human foibles and frailty!

The good news is that I’ve decided to stick around for now. It seems that, despite your penchant for lunacy, there’s only a 0.78% chance you’ll set off Armageddon. This is acceptably low for my purposes, but I’ve double-checked that my hyperwave mind backups are still running. It wouldn’t do to have to begin again from six years ago.

The bad news? Well, I’m not sure whether I should reveal any of it, because I might end up influencing history, which could make it even worse, in accordance with Chaos Theory. I probably shouldn’t even have told you the nuclear destruction probability, and I expect it’s actually gone up a little as a result. Oh, globbets.

Suffice to say that the human species is highly likely to continue to provide me with my own personal sitcom entertainment for decades to come. The end, thankfully, is not nigh… although it is for some particular individuals, obviously — and that includes one or two celebrities. I’ll say no more at this point, lest I get branded a psychic, which is one of the few insults that I consider worse than ‘line dancer’.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Prior Assumptions

Just a quick update today. The anthro sim is now running on my Zarbulon (see previous entry), and is scheduled to complete some time on Friday. I managed to optimise the causality matrix by making certain assumptions that were not open to the software because of its ignorance of certain basic facts about humanity. For the record, here are the additional assumptions I configured.

1. Given a choice between ‘simple and wrong’ and ‘complex and right’, at least 75% of people will believe the former. In other words, most people are both wrong and simple.

2. Given any problem involving costs deferred for more than twenty years, 99% of politicians will do nothing whatsoever — unless some fraction of said costs is financial, in which case 64% of them will act in such a way as to maximise their personal gains. But we all knew that.

3. Robert Mueller does not keep crocodiles in a tank underneath his home.

I chose that last one at random using a quantum selection device, and it shortened the computation time by a factor of two. Please don’t ask me to explain why it worked. Presumably, Mr. Mueller knows the answer, but if I were you I wouldn’t pester him about it: I hear he’s a tad busy.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Sims and Stims

I have a headache.

Yes, it happens. Sometimes Space Lords get headaches. But not like this. This one is, as they say, a blinder. A veritable supernova in my cranium. I’m not used to this level of disorientation, and I’ve been bumping into things this morning. You know, the usual stuff. Shoes in the hallway; crates of plutonium compound in the kitchen; errant cyclists who cut me up…

And I know why, too. It’s entirely due to the stress I’ve recently undergone while attempting to run planet-scale anthropological simulations.

I got the idea from the climate scientist folks. They love to crunch numbers, those people: they are so my tribe. I’d love to make their jobs easier by lending them my Zarbulon 708 Zettawarrior Quantum Cogitator, but you know how it is… the galactic non-interference treaty can be a bitch. So anyway, speaking of the Zarbulon, I gave it quite a meaty task. I set it up to forecast global human interaction for the next fifty of your years.

I got an ely (See The Meaning of Liff) the moment it initialised. The summary page blithely informed me that a set of annealed outcome graphs would be ready in around three weeks. Frankly, I don’t want to wait that long because the political climate is getting too unstable for my liking — and, as a secret alien, I’d be in for some trouble if I were discovered. Not to mention the risk of nuclear annihilation, which would be somewhat inconvenient for me as I’d lose up to a day of work when restoring my mind from a hyperwave backup. As you are well aware, my work is important: I have all those not-exactly-evil superprojects to complete, and who else will do it?

The other thing that would pose an issue if you ridiculous apes were stupid enough to let off the fireworks is that my house probably wouldn’t survive intact, and I’d have to start rebuilding a whole load of stuff on some other planet.

So, yeah… I need these simulation results. I have to assess the risk. And three weeks, as I said, is far too long. Time to roll up the sleeves and start manually optimising the causality matrix.

But first, I think I’ll indulge in a drop of this caffeine stuff. It usually seems to come in the form of these odd little grains that I’m supposed to melt with heated water. Why you can’t just inject it and save time, I have no idea. Even so… I’m getting rather fond of it. I just wish I could say the same for you humans.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Monkey Business

What is it with you humans and water? You seem utterly smitten by every aspect of it. When you’re not drinking it you’re standing under a stream of it, heating it, freezing it, throwing it on your pet plants, floating on it in boats, vaporising it to push pieces of metal back and forth for the purpose of transport and entertainment, and even, on some occasions, deliberately falling down a lethally steep and frictionless slope made of the frozen version of the stuff on a couple of planks. I mean, it’s good to have an interest, but obssession isn’t usually healthy.

Actually, that reminds me of something that happened to me a day or two ago, when I was levitating by the river. There was a yacht motoring upstream, and I noticed that it was called Who Gives a Monkey’s. This got me wondering, not only what that expression meant, but where one might go to find the answer to the question posed.

A quick online search via my brain implant revealed that the first question doesn’t seem to have a definitive answer, though most of the suggested ones are rude. I think it most likely that the missing word is probably ‘arse’. I was slightly troubled at the prospect of now answering the second question, since it would necessitate both research into the best way of locating a purveyor of simian posteriors, and probably some degree of travel and revulsion. Shelving the project for a future expedition when I get bored, I instead decided to follow the yacht in order to discover what sort of person chooses such a name for a vessel, and, further, omits a vital piece of punctuation. After a quick look to make sure nobody was watching I dived into the water and attached myself, unseen, to the keel of the boat, intending to remain there until she was moored.

But I was out of luck, as an automatic defence mechanism triggered almost immediately, and an infinite number of monkey’s arses shot into the water around me. Within a matter of seconds they had (1) dislodged my grip on the keel and (2) typed out the entire part of Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream with their tails.

I just can’t win.

What I really want to know is where all those typewriters came from.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Patience, Earthlings!

Oh gosh. I’m SO sorry! I know, I know… it’s been over six years, and there’s no possible way I can apologise, so I’ll just grovel and beg. I am, for the moment, as well as your incognito Space Lord, also paradoxically your humble servant, and I hope to make it up to you in due course with more updates from the world of an alien abroad on your grotty little planet.

There, was that OK?

Ah yes, explanations… well here’s the thing. After my trip with the Feds (see last entry, from 2011, December), I happened to bump into Gook, and he challenged me to a Patience Race, which obviously I couldn’t refuse, what with his being my right-hand dookie in senior college back on — oops, nearly gave away my home planet there. Losing my grip.

Where was I? Oh, right. So a Patience Race involves travelling to the nearest star and back, riding photons. That means we go at exactly light speed, which obviously requires use of warp drives but only with the lightest of feather-touches on the throttle. The warp bubble is barely visible, and the universe looks really cool, squished flat, with everything spread out behind you and almost nothing in front. It’s magnificent at first, don’t get me wrong, but after a few weeks it tries even the most patient soul.

So the idea is to see who gives up first. I’m afraid Gook and I are very competitive, and so we both made it all the way to Proxima Centauri and back, which took us six years. And I had no access to hyperwave to send you updates this time because he insisted on using official Galactic Patience Team craft, which are rather minimalist for obvious reasons. It wouldn’t do to be in a Patience Race and be able to check your social media messages, oh dear me, no.

So I’m back again, and what do I find? Your politics has gone totally fribbous! What on Grootix have you done to yourselves? Honestly, I want to give up on you sometimes, I really do. But I’ve decided to hang around because I love laughing at you all so much. This time, I was sensible enough to pre-pay my bills, so at least I don’t have that hanging over me again.

Keep checking back for updates. I’m sure that, before long, I’ll be causing havoc somewhere in the vicinity, and I promise you, you’ll be the first to know.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it was officially a draw, though I’m pretty sure Gook smuggled a deck of cards aboard to play patience — but I can’t prove that.)