The pits

I spent much of the holiday weekend updating my computer’s operating system and dealing with the consequences. While banging my head against the wall, I reflected on how Macintosh computers have evolved over the years and what is likely in the future. If Apple continues naming its operating systems after places in California, I have suggestions.

Before Mavericks and Yosemite, Macintosh operating systems were named for big cats. When Apple exhausts geography, they might consider botany. Manchineel, Gympie-Gympie and Gifblaar would all be splendid names for products of contemporary software giants.

New speed limits on federal highways

The Federal Highway Administration today announced that the speed limit for all vehicles on interstate highways will be reduced to 1.33 miles per hour, effective immediately. States that accept federal funds will be required to similarly lower speed limits on state roads.

“High-speed collisions kill thousands of drivers and passengers every year,” stated a department spokesman. “It would be unconscionable to let the carnage continue.”

The department had considered lowering the speed limit even further.

“We initially planned to set a maximum speed of .25 miles per hour, but a staffer from Georgia pointed out that a vehicle moving at that pace could be overtaken by a vigorous shoot of kudzu and become hopelessly entangled,” he noted.

He acknowledged that some drivers might find the speed inconveniently slow, but he noted that the lower the speed, the more survivable a crash is.

“If it saves just one life, it will have been worth it,” he said emphatically.

“If you’re really in a hurry, you can always walk.”

FIDE to introduce new tie-breaking system

The international chess organization FIDE will introduce a system of “knightly combat” for determining winners of tournaments in the case of ties this fall.

“Most chess games end in draws at the highest levels of play,” noted FIDE official Roy Lopez. “The classical portion of the Caruana-Carlsen match two years ago ended with twelve consecutive drawn games. Each game might have been fascinating to chess experts, but ultimately it was disappointing. And boring.

“That’s not the way to grow an audience. We need to spice up the game somehow.”

Hitherto, rankings in case of ties were determined by either games of rapid chess or by a complicated system of points. Beginning with the world championship match in November, ties will be settled by armed combat.

“If the classical games are inconclusive, the players will adjourn to an arena, where they will don armor and face each other in combat with sword and shield,” Lopez explained. “If that doesn’t get us an audience, nothing will. People will want the chess games to end in draws.”

Current world champion Magnus Carlsen, a descendent of Vikings, smiled but offered no comment when asked for his opinion on the new tie-breaking system. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, current co-leader in the World Championship Candidates Tournament, wiped his glasses and said that he was visiting armorers and interviewing swordsmanship instructors. Fabiano Caruana, Carlsen’s opponent in the previous championship match, declared that he has been bulking up and pursuing strength training to augment his calculating abilities.

“We’re looking forward to some thrilling melées,” Lopez said.

The Border Collie Initiative

Man’s best friend may be the politician’s best hope.

Every politician currently holding office is in grave danger of damnation, according to studies published by the American Association of Forensic Theologians and Exorcists International.

“A candidate who wins his first election may begin his term in a state of grace,” explained Theophilus Rye, Professor of Applied Metaphysics at the University of Flatland-Kechi. “However, political power coarsens the soul. It’s inherently corrupting, and being in the vicinity of very large quantities of money exacerbates the damage.”

Inevitably, by the end of his first term, the new politician’s only priority will be re-election, Rye stated. Serving his constituents no longer matters except as it helps him retain his seat or gain higher office. Compromises become increasingly easy.

“The longer he remains in office, the more addicted he becomes to the exercise of power and the accumulation of wealth,” he continued. “Seniority intensifies the effects. He becomes a lost soul, living only for power, helpless to save himself.

“The only hope is to remove him from office, the sooner the better,” Rye said firmly.

While impeachment is useful in emergencies, the most practical approach is to turn politicians out of office at election time. Therefore, AAFT and EI urge that every single incumbent be defeated in November.

“Returning them to civilian life will give them an opportunity to reflect on their actions, do penance and reform their lives,” Rye said.

Rye noted that simply defeating one set of politicians is not enough. If they are merely replaced by another group of office-seekers, the cycle will begin anew. A more radical approach is necessary.

“The AAFT has been working with breeders and dog trainers in every state to produce dogs capable of holding public office,” Rye stated. “These creatures — mostly highly intelligent border collies — are loyal, disciplined and incorruptible, capable of managing herds of sheep and low-information voters. The temptations of power will mean nothing to them.

“We expect to have a full slate of canine candidates for all national and state races in November.”

After the election, AAFT, EI and affiliated organizations will consider the spiritual well-being of the members of the federal bureaucracy.

“It’s a daunting prospect,” Rye noted. “We’ll need an army of exorcists at the very least.”

A presidential hairball

Democratic Party officials refused to confirm or deny rumors that they are in talks to form a coalition with the Meadow Party for the November election, and plan to name Bill the Cat as their nominee for president.

Although he is currently between lives, Mr. Cat is viewed by many as a more viable candidate than frontrunner Joe Biden. Mr. Biden has displayed increasing eccentricity in recent months, forcing his publicists to re-retcon his biography as he reveals unexpected new details of his past careers.

Observers noted that Mr. Cat emerged into the political realm free from associations with the either the New York or Chicago traditional political organizations. This is viewed as both an advantage and a handicap.

Mr. Cat has the unique advantage of having once been Donald Trump himself. Should he receive the Democratic nomination, the campaigning might be exceptionally vituperative.

“Expect a lot of hissing and spitting,” said a veteran observer.

Colon shortage threatens academia

The traditional academic admonition to “publish or perish” has a grim ring to it these days as the colon crisis deepens.

The colon is an uncommon punctuation mark vital to the production of scholarly papers. Every officially-published academic paper must contain a colon in its title, e.g. “Orchids Bee Bois(colon) Transgender Pollination Syndromes in Ophrys Species.” Without that colon, it cannot be published in an accredited journal. Colons are also extensively used in bibliographies.

However, the supply of natural colons has been depleted through over-collection and overuse. There are no longer enough available for every paper submitted for publication.

“It’s an unprecedented crisis,” said Plethora Polysyllabica, Director of Sesquipedelian Pleonasms at the University of Flatland-Kechi and head of the Colon Task Force. “We’ve asked older faculty to announce their findings and analyses on Twitter so that tenure-track instructors may have use of the remaining colons. Unfortunately, not all have not been cooperative.”

Researchers have been hunting for fresh supplies of colons, but they fear that all natural colon resources are nearly exhausted. Attempts to breed colons from other lexicographical symbols have been unsuccessful, as have efforts to construct colons by balancing one period on top of another or by erasing a portion of a semicolon.

Can academic publishing survive without colons? Polysyllabica is guardedly optimistic.

“It’s possible. Some researchers have reported promising results substituting an em-dash for the title colon,” she stated. “We are currently in talks with the University of Chicago about possible changes to the style manual regarding alternative ways of documenting sources, which might alleviate the demand for other kinds of colons.”

Nevertheless, progress is slow, and for now colons remain scarce. Polysyllabica advises academic writers to be patient, and also to consider, before submitting them for publication, whether anyone actually would want to read their papers.

Red noses mandatory for pundits, reviewers

The Federal Bureau of Presenting Things as They Really Are this morning issued regulations requiring anyone who is paid to express an opinion to wear an attachment on his nose at all times while in public.

The attachment must be a solid foam-rubber sphere at least two inches in diameter, partly hollowed-out so that it will fit comfortably over the tip of the nose, and secured in position by either glue or straps around the head. It must be bright red in color.

“We want people to know precisely how seriously to take the pronouncements of paid political analysts,” said a bureau spokesman. “One look at the pundit will tell them all they need to know.”

The regulations stipulate that the nasal attachment must be clearly visible in all photographs and other graphic depictions of the wearer, and also in any film or video in which he is involved.

The spokesman noted that those who are paid to review books, movies or music for any publication or website are also subject to the regulations and must wear the attachments, too.

He denied that television newscasters will be required to wear conical paper caps during broadcasts.

“That’s beyond our scope, and it’s lowbrow entertainment, anyway.”

IRS to stop collecting income tax

The Internal Revenue Service will no longer collect income tax, starting January 1, 2021.

“It’s a mess,” said IRS spokesman Richard Turpin. “All those deductions, all those forms, the different exemptions, the whole rigamarole — it would drive anyone nuts. It’s unfair to expect any private citizen to wade through all that nonsense. So, we’re going to simplify the process.”

Instead of deducting a percentage of a worker’s wages from each pay check, employers now will send the entire amount to the IRS. The IRS will pay the worker a stipend sufficient to cover basic living expenses. The size of the stipend will depend on several factors, including the salary paid by the employer and the official cost of living at the employee’s location. Other factors include the value of the worker to his community.

“Good, sociable, conspicuously helpful people can expect enhancements to their allowances,” noted Turpin. “Those individuals who insist on being uncooperative and difficult might need to tighten their belts.”

Turpin also pooh-poohed the rumor that the IRS plans to tax the air one breathes.

“Absolute nonsense,” he emphatically stated. “Tax the air, indeed. We might as well tax your feet. How do these silly rumors get started?

“The correct term is ‘user fee.’ It’s very fair and equitable, based on how much oxygen one consumes. The precise amount for each person will be determined by his age, weight and body mass index.”

Nuclear waste repository announced

The Department of Energy declared today that central Massachusetts henceforward will be the site for long-term storage of nuclear waste.

“It’s geologically stable area, not near any known major faults and with no vulcanism for millions of years. It should be secure for countless centuries to come,” said department spokesman Max Radialis in a press conference this morning. “It makes far more sense than some random spot in the tectonically unstable west, where there are frequent large earthquakes and numerous volcanic fields.”

When a reporter asked why a site in Massachusetts had been selected, Radialis replied that it was in recognition of the many contributions to the political culture of the United States of America made by individuals from the state.

“John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Willard Romney, Elizabeth Warren, a whole bunch of Kennedys — they’ve all added memorably to the political culture of this land. We felt it was a nice way to show our regard for their work,” he said. “We’re returning the favor, so to speak.”

New border wall announced

The Trump administration announced today that they are suspending work on the Mexican border wall indefinitely while a new, more urgently needed wall is erected in Maryland.

“Stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into this country is an urgent problem, yes, but it pales in comparison to the presence of an active, hostile alien civilization in our territory,” said Director of Strategic Panic Claude deTour. “Containing the greater threat takes priority.”

The fence will be built around the swamp regions of Maryland near the Virginia border, encircling the District of Columbia, with barricades and garrisons along the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

The design has not yet been announced, but deTour stressed that security is the paramount concern.

“We want to keep the creatures inside the wall while we drain the swamp. Then we’ll send them back to where they came from, and good riddance.”

He refused to confirm or deny rumors that there will be an ultra-high-security second wall inside the first enclosing the national mall and several of the adjacent buildings in a permanent “no-go” zone.

Bees allege abuse

The order Hymenoptera this week obtained a restraining order against the family Orchidaceae.

The group of insects, which includes bees and wasps, claimed abusive treatment by the plants.

“The flowers may look pretty, but they’re vicious,” said a spokesbee, his antennae trembling as he spoke. “They poke us, trap us and submerge us in liquid. They lure us into compromising positions with their looks and perfumes. They wallop us and stick their pollinia on us, just so they can fertilize some random flower that they’ve never even met.

“It’s like the purpose of their flowers is to make us miserable and ridiculous,” he added.

In related news, the order Diptera has filed suit against the genus Bulbophyllum and the Stapeliadoidae for fraud. Despite the often powerful fragrances released by the inflorescences, the flies allege that the plants offer nothing nutritious to reward the insects’ services.

“Universal pronoun” developed

The Society for Silly Yet Practical Notions has introduced what SSYPN president Sophie Moronis termed a “universal pronoun.”

“‘He,’ ‘she’ and ‘it’ are not sufficient any more, what with the proliferation of ‘gender’ identities,” Moronis declared at a press conference this morning. “No matter how careful you are with your language, you’re going to offend someone.

“Artificial pronouns, such as ‘ze’ or ‘sie’ are hard to remember, and it’s not always obvious which is preferred by the particular individual referred to. Using ‘they’ as a singular pronoun irritates those who value good grammar.”

The obvious solution is a new word free of any implications of gender. The SSYPN proposes the neologism “thwop.”

It is both singular and plural, Moronis stated, and it has no gender, not even neuter. The possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe followed by the letter “s,” i.e., “thwop’s.” Otherwise all forms are spelled “thwop” and pronounced as the spelling indicates. “Thwop is here” and “thwop are here” are both acceptable constructions.

As an example of the universal pronoun’s usage, Moronis offered this sentence about genderfluid individuals:

Thwop and thwop’s friends walked to thwop’s place with a gluten-free sugarless cake to celebrate thwop’s birthday.

Moronis conceded that the content may seem vague, but declared that what the statement loses in specificity, it gains in universality.

Moronis added that “thwop” need not refer only to vertebrates on Earth, but can also be used for artificial intelligences, hive minds, tentacled horrors and catgirls.

“With this word, the English language is ready for the future,” Moronis said.

White house announces uniforms for federal employees

The Trump administration today issued a directive that all employees of the federal government must wear a distinctive uniform while at work.

“It would be salutory if all public servants dressed in a manner to remind themselves that they are indeed public servants,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared in a press conference.

Men at all levels are to wear janitorial garb unless they are already assigned a different uniform, and must keep a mop and bucket where they can be seen from their desks at all times. Women are to wear long, dark dresses with a white maid’s apron, and must keep a feather duster near at hand.

Spicer noted that “French maid” outfits are not acceptable. He did not respond when asked if nekomimi were permissable.

Scientists shocked: gender roles not a universal obsession

A researcher announced today that there exist individuals who have no particular interest in matters of sexual identity.

“It’s hard to believe, but it’s true,” said Ganymede Phaen, Adjunct Professor of Uncanny Studies at the University of Kechi, in a televised interview. “We’ve observed them, interviewed them, tested them, gone to movies with them. They’re for real. They look like ordinary people, but they perceive themselves and others as male or female. When you explain the difference between ‘agender’ and ‘pangender,’ they laugh. It’s unnerving.”

Phaen noted that upon questioning, the individuals in the study revealed that they understand the general concepts of gender fluidity and expressed sympathy for victims of gender dysphoria. However, they evinced no particular interest in such matters and would often change the subject.

“I mentioned to one that the new Power Rangers movie has a character who might be gay,” Phaen recalled. “He shrugged, and asked if the story was any good.”

Phaen noted that while such individuals are rare in the college of liberal arts, there is some evidence that they may be more numerous in the engineering school. There’s a further possibility that they are common outside of the university campus, a prospect that Phaen finds deeply troubling.

“There could, in principle, be an entire culture in which non-binary gender identities are unimportant,” Phaen said. “I am currently securing funding for an expedition to explore sites where such a society might exist.” Locations under consideration include Utah and parts of Texas.