Sunday, November 17, 2013

Busy Life Proposed

We could be a comedy team. Take our show on the road. Entertain oldsters and other skeptical types.

Or: Magician and Lovely Assistant. You could hawk herbal remedies and other unproven unguents while I dealt with local crime world figures. As a side business we could sell bibles on the installment plan, meanwhile casing the joints for later burglaries. In a pinch I could become an early-shift stevedore. 

At night we would loiter in the bus station, busking for change and giving a fare-the-well to the passing parade of itinerant men. Kindly police captains would take pity on us and offer a clean bed and a pot of coffee in a spare cell in the town jail. At dawn we would join in with the villagers as they marched out to the asparagus fields, singing songs of defiance and good cheer. 

I could resume my study of accountancy, with a view to setting up a small practice catering to the regional railroad men and their families. On a whim you would start a local ham radio society. To your surprise, meetings are well-attended by local youths. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Proposed Boston - Chicago Stanley Cup Mayoral Wagers

Produced in conjunction with and cross-posted at

Mayor: Tom Menino

Mixed-media collage of rust flakes and flattened traffic cones from Tobin Bridge

Set of flaming radial tires from Fung Wah bus

Hall tree enhatted with baker’s dozen of Jamaica Plain trilbys

Your choice of Wahlbergs (limit 7)

Complete eight-color set of Sharpies fished out of Allston rock club urinals

Coupon for 10 free B-Line gropings

Commemorative crystal bowl of grit from last nine Boston movies

Complimentary fitting for pair of Massachusetts State Police jodhpurs

Darting tour of Route 1 in Saugus

U-Haul truck previously wedged beneath Storrow Drive bridge. Runs good.

Mayor: Rahm Emmanuel

One box assorted Montrose beach alewives and sand

Gently used Back of the Yards hypodermic needles

Milk crate from the shoulder of the Eisenhower Expressway (near Austin Ave.)

One quart Horween Leather Tannery Effluent

One bushel discarded Gino’s East pizza crusts

Bag of assorted Brown Line El seat-and-floor chewing-gum scrapings

Pothole fragments (Courtesy Chicago Streets and Sanitation)

Three live jumping carp (not for release into area waterways)

Chicago River Tour hosted by Dave Mathews Band

Private Oak Street Beach party (week of Jan. 26, 2014)

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Cthulhu is Moving!

Our intrepid reviewer of science fiction and detective novels, Cthulhu, Destroyer of Worlds, is moving to a new home. In the future you can catch the many-tentacled one every Friday at Cthulhu Writes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Lucky Thirteen

For those of you who have not been keeping detailed track, I've posted reviews for 74 major science fiction award winners, which means I have 13 left to read and review. This small number (including eleven Hugos, one Nebula, and one Hugo-and-Nebula) would make you think that the end is reasonably in sight.

Avid readers of this blog may have noticed, however, that the average elapsed time between book reviews has been growing. I assure you, dear reader, that this is through no waning of my interest in the subject matter.

It is certainly due in part to an increase in the chaos and busyness of both my life and my day job (destroying worlds, of course). But it is also due to the intrinsic nature of the remaining books themselves. I have managed to whittle myself down to thirteen books that are, for one reason or another, particularly difficult to get through. To wit:
  • The book is enormous (Blackout/All Clear, Jonathon Strange
  • I am 8th in line for a hold on two library copies (Among Others)
  • The book has been checked out or missing from my library for a long, long time (Hyperion, Spin, The Snow Queen
  • The lone copy at my library is in-library use only (Double Star, Cyteen, Uplift War)
  • The book is part of a series that I dread reading another installment of (The Vor Game
  • The book is by an author that I dread reading again (Rainbow’s End, The Graveyard Book
  • I dread reading the book for other reasons (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I trust the reader will understand if my productivity slows still further as a result of these circumstances. But have faith: the thirteen will be completed. And then... who knows what. Perhaps it will be on to the nominees!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: The Demolished Man

Alfred Bester
Awards: Hugo
Rating: ★ – – – –


A Demolished Man is tolerable until about two-thirds of the way through, and then it falls apart in a frustrating mass of pretentiousness and 1950s-era pop psychology.

The book takes place in the late 21st century, after humans have colonized the moon and several nearby planets. Evolution and training have brought about a new small but powerful minority: people with ESP, or “Espers,” who can read the thoughts of others.

There is no crime anymore, since Espers can tell when one is about to be committed and prevent it from happening (Similar to the premise of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, which came out five years later).

There are three classes of Esper, from the rudimentary and common class 3 up to the powerful and rare class 1. All Espers of all classes belong to a self-regulating Guild which prevents them from “peeping” people without their permission and otherwise using their abilities for evil.

In this world lives Ben Reich, president of the behemoth Monarch Utilities & Resources corporation. Reich is engaged in a heated battle for world capital domination with Craye D’Courtney of the D’Courtney Cartel. He is also haunted by nightmares of a mysterious Man With No Face which cause him to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming.

At the beginning of the book, Reich sends a coded message to D’Courtney proposing a merger. D’Courtney accepts, but Reich mis-decodes his answer as a refusal, and determines that the only thing he can do to preserve Monarch is to kill D’Courtney (which seems like a bit of a leap, but I guess Reich’s nightmare-addled sleep may be impeding his logic).

Reich constructs an elaborate plan involving bribery, deceit, and an inane tune he can use to distract his brain while it’s being “peeped,” to get in a position to murder D’Courtney. Once the murder is done, Reich then engages in a game of cat-and-mouse with Police Prefect (and class 1 Esper) Lincoln Powell, who knows that Reich did it but can’t prove it without solid physical evidence.

I give Bester credit for being a seminal SF writer. His ideas inspired legions of other authors; I can see his influence both on his contemporaries (like Philip K. Dick) and also on later writers (like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson).

The Espers and the way they influence societal structure are big examples of this. A smaller, more specific one is his use of language. Esper mental-talk is creative and flowing; it takes an almost physical form that other Espers can see. At parties, Espers weave patterns with their conversation to make it both witty and beautiful, which Bester shows by using different fonts for different people and spacing the words artfully on the page. He also uses shorthand and symbols like the ones we use in texting today; there are characters named Wyg& and @kins, for example, and people write notes using “thot” for “thought” and “2” for “too.”

This book suffers, however, from sloppiness, pretentiousness, and dicey amateur psychology. Not to mention a touch of misogyny for good measure.

In the sloppiness and pretentiousness department, Bester has a tendency to bring in new ideas throughout the book, flesh them out only cursorily, and, when they are not needed any more, make them disappear as conveniently and abruptly as they were brought in. And these distracting new plot points, locations, or characters often appear to be included solely as opportunities for Bester to show off his cleverness.

For example, in one late chapter Reich hides from the police in the “Reservation,” a jungle preserve we have never heard of before and which is explained to us in a clunky back-filling speech by a minor sergeant’s deputy given a speaking role only for that purpose. Prefect Powell brings in a group of class 1 Espers—pillars of society such as diplomats, politicians, and judges—to serve as a human radar screen to flush Reich out of the Reservation. This creates a convoluted situation in which these high-powered men are out in the jungle running into bears and wildcats and stuff and still referring to each other politely as “Senator” and “Your Honor.” I think their mental conversation is supposed to be hilariously clever but it comes off as contrived and unfunny. And the chapter itself sticks out like a sore thumb because nowhere else do we hear about the Reservation, and nowhere else do we see the class 1 Espers as a light-hearted, cooperative group.

The questionable psychological theories in the book are even more bothersome and crop up everywhere, from the ridiculous free-associative dream interpretation done by Reich’s analyst to the unhelpful and hyper-academic explanation of what is happening to a character who has a mental breakdown:
“It’s quite simple. Every man is a balance of two opposed drives…The Life Instinct and the Death Instinct. Both drives have the identical purpose…to win Nirvana. The Life Instinct fights for Nirvana by smashing all opposition. The Death Instinct attempts to win Nirvana by destroying itself. Usually both instincts fuse in the adapted individual. Under strain they defuse.”
This also includes the demolition referred to by the book’s title. Since Reich seems able to elude Powell at every turn, Powell eventually has to call for a “Mass Cathexis,” a process in which every Esper simultaneously “opens his psyche and contributes his latent energy to a pool” to be controlled by one single Esper. If the focal Esper is not destroyed in the process, he serves as a conduit for all the mental energy and can use it to control almost anything he chooses.

Powell directs all the energy in his Cathexis towards the “Demolition” of Reich. Demolition is the ultimate punishment and the last resort of law enforcement: your entire psyche is destroyed, all your reality is taken away, your memories are gone, but your consciousness remains. You then have the potential to be reborn as a different person.

Powell’s justification for doing this to Reich is difficult to follow. Powell explains that he had to “make [Reich] believe that all the universe was a puzzle for him to solve, that he was the only reality and all the rest was make-believe. This would lead him to inevitably confront his subconscious.” And Reich in particular had to be forced to confront his subconscious because he was a “galactic focal point,” a “crucial link between the positive past and the probable future.” “These men appear every so often,” Powell says, “…links between the past and the future. If they are permitted to mature…if the link is permitted to weld…the world finds itself chained to a dreadful tomorrow.”

Sorry, I don’t understand that at all, and what I think I do understand, I don’t buy, or there wasn’t enough setup for it in the book to make me buy it. It just comes across to me as sloppy.

And, last but not least of my criticisms, is the lovely way women are treated in the novel. Of course the main male characters don’t like the mature women who are in love with them; of course they like the ingénues and basket cases instead. And among the primary female characters in the book are:
  • Maria Beaumont, society dame. Behind her back she is called the “Gilt Corpse” because she is gaudy but unattractive. She is flighty and superficial and likes to play silly party games. At one point when she is unhappy her voice is described as “screeching.”
  • Duffy Wyg&, Reich’s girlfriend. She is arguably the most “positively” described woman in the book: “ the epitome of the modern career girl—the virgin seductress.” (i.e. madonna/whore.) At one point she thinks she’s being too silly and tells Reich: “punch me around a little.” 
  • Barbara D’Courtney, Craye’s daughter. She is an innocent young woman who has a breakdown after witnessing the murder of her father and has to be re-educated as if she was being raised from infancy. This re-education is done, for some reason, by Powell, who, for a good long time, has to pretend to be her “daddy.” This leads, naturally, to him falling head over heels in love with her; he says he loves her “mischievousness” and “urchin look.” Ick, anyone? 
Bester winds up the book with a self-righteous coda about how, no matter how important the individual people in it may think they are, this entire story is “minute and trivial to the infinite Eye of God.” Why, then, sir, I ask, are we bothering to read the darn book?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Caffeine Content of Selected Foods & Beverages

Caffeine content expressed in milligrams (mg). Look out for that Ben & Jerry's.

Coffee (8oz): 133mg
Tea (8oz): 53mg
Hot Cocoa (8oz): 9mg
Decaf Coffee (8oz): 5mg

Diet Coke (12oz): 47mg
Diet Pepsi (12oz): 36mg
Coke Zero (12oz): 35mg

Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch (8oz): 84mg

Hershey's Chocolate Bar (1.55oz): 9mg
Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar (1.45oz): 31mg

-- Seriously summarized from CSPI

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: A Case of Conscience

James Blish
Awards: Hugo
Rating: ★ ★ – – –

A Case of Conscience begins with biologist and Jesuit priest Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez at the very end of a stint on the planet Lithia. He is there as part of a team of four scientists whose assignment is to evaluate the planet and give it a rating as to its usefulness and hospitability to Earth.

Lithia has a hot, muggy, tropical climate over its entire surface. It has abundant plant and animal life, including one intelligent species: twelve-foot tall reptiles who stand on their hind legs like a tyrannosaurus rex.

The Lithians’ most remarkable characteristic is that they rely completely on logic and reason. They have no faith or belief system of any kind. This, of course, bothers Father Ruiz-Sanchez quite a bit. But what really throws him for a loop is that they don’t seem to need it. The Lithians have a stable, technologically advanced, cooperative, crime-free culture, more disciplined and peaceful than ours on Earth, with no reliance whatsoever on religion.

This leads Ruiz-Sanchez to the conclusion, naturally, that Lithia and all its life forms are creations of the devil. “Only the children of God,” he says, “had been given free will, and hence were often doubtful.” Since the Lithians are not beset by doubt – they aren’t bothered by “night thoughts” such as: Why am I here? What is the purpose of existence? – they must not be children of God, and are therefore children of the devil.

In fact, he posits, Lithia may be a new devilish garden of Eden, with the Lithians as the snakes in the garden, testing us, exposing our weaknesses, using pure logic to make us question our faith.

This makes it easy for Ruiz-Sanchez to decide how to vote on Lithia: total quarantine. But, unfortunately, it also puts him in really bad stead with his church. To Catholics, only God has the power to create life, so if Ruiz-Sanchez believes that Lithia was created by the devil and therefore that the devil has “creative” power, he is therefore a heretic, and will have to be tried in Rome and probably excommunicated.

Ruiz-Sanchez’s life gets even more complicated when one of the Lithians gives him a hatchling as a farewell present, and he is honor-bound to take it back to Earth with him. His co-workers take care of while he goes to Rome; it grows rapidly into a twelve-foot-high lizard without the ethical code of its parents, gets itself a national TV show, and begins fomenting unrest among the ever-present third or so of humanity that feels cut off from society’s dominant cultural traditions.

A Case of Conscience is a short little book that raises big issues. On the back cover of my library's 2000 paperback edition, the Science Fiction Encyclopedia says that it was “one of the first serious attempts to deal with religion in SF, and remains one of the most sophisticated.”

I think that is probably true. My problem was that I just wasn’t that thrilled with the story. The plot felt aimless and unresolved. It neither answered the questions it brought up nor left me with a conscious ambivalence out of which I could draw my own conclusions. It seemed like it was trying to do both, and did neither satisfactorily.

I also didn’t really like the main character or his friends. And I didn’t wholeheartedly buy the motivations of the hatchling, the priest’s enemies, and the society at large.

Older, seminal pieces of SF often have strong plot elements that appear in later pieces of fiction; it always makes me wonder, in each case, if it is a coincidence or if the more recent authors either consciously or unconsciously adapted them from the earlier books.

A minor one in this book was a scene in which mutant bees protect the main character from marauding foes, which also happened in a key scene in The Hunger Games.

But most strongly, this book kept reminding me of Orson Scott Card’s far more satisfying Speaker for the Dead. That book, too, had a quasi-religious figure as the main character who was trying to make sense of an alien world. And in both cases, the indigenous intelligent species native had a unique biology, in which they took very different physical forms as they progressed through different life stages. If Card did borrow consciously from Blish, he certainly did it in a way that not only honored the original ideas but also greatly improved on them.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: The City and The City

China Miéville
Awards: Nebula
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ –

The City & the City is, on one level, a decent but not outstanding detective novel. At the beginning of the book, a young woman is found dead in the fictional Balkan city of Besźel, and Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Besźel policzai has to solve her murder.

What makes the book unique and interesting is the setting. The victim is discovered in Besźel, a down-at-heel, primarily Slavic city. But there is evidence that she was actually killed in Besźel’s prosperous, primarily Islamic sister city of Ul Qoma, and then later dumped in Besźel. This is a serious matter, as relations between Besźel and Ul Qoma are extremely tense.

To make matters even more complicated, Besźel and Ul Qoma are co-located. That is, the two cities are physically intermingled with each other. Some sections are total Besźel; some are total Ul Qoma; and some are “crosshatched,” meaning that streets and buildings in one city alternate with those in the other—sometimes block to block and sometimes house to house.

And if you are in one city, it is a tremendous offense not only to physically step into the other city, but also even to sense or acknowledge the people, buildings, traffic, or sounds of the other city in any way. If you do, and you are caught doing it, you can be arrested for breach, and spirited away by a sort of black ops breach enforcement unit, never to be heard from again.

Children in both cities are taught from birth to “unsee” what they aren’t supposed to see. Tourists to either city are given an intensive multi-week training program in the practice of unseeing. But even adult natives can have a hard time with it, since sometimes the only way to tell which city a thing or person is in is by the subtlest of cues—architecture, colors of clothing, or how hedges are trimmed.

Needless to say, this makes it extraordinarily difficult to conduct everyday life in either city, much less solve a murder where the person was murdered in one city and then dumped in the other. In the course of his investigation, Inspector Borlú has to use all his skills navigating the divisions and still runs afoul of breach enforcement units, militant unificationists who want to combine the two cities, and nationalist extremists on both sides who want their city to take over the other.

Reading this book, I found myself comparing the detective story (favorably) to Resurrection Men. As in Resurrection Men, the main character was an experienced, middle-aged male detective with an able younger female constable assisting him; the police hierarchy had a British flavor; and the story took place in the present day, complete with cell phones and modern attitudes and style. But The City & The City was a more interesting story, with a far more likeable detective, and it was, thank goodness, told in the past tense. The ending was a little bit deflating, but that may have just been a natural result of the mystery being explained, the unknown finally becoming known.

It was Miéville’s conception and implementation of the dual city-city, though, that made this book a real standout.

Some reviewers have called this book a “post-9/11” novel, meaning that it explores the split between Islam and Christianity. But I think the metaphor is more general than that. Besźel and Ul Qoma are like many different divided societies, past and present—Berlin, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Budapest, the Balkans, Northern Ireland. Their people live close to each other and sometimes seem alike to outsiders, but are sharply and violently divided by thought and history. Separation is perpetuated by entrenched political institutions. Prejudices strengthen with time and lack of familiarity.

What makes The City & The City a great thought experiment is that in Besźel and Ul Qoma, the separation is entirely mental. I couldn’t help but think that the inhabitants of Besźel must be aware of the Ul Qomans around them, and vice versa. I thought about how it would be so easy to commit breach by walking from a house in Besźel into an Ul Qoman one next door. And yet it hardly ever happens. For the citizens of these two cities, the mental divisions are so ingrained that they have become physically real. The inhabitants of one city really can’t see the inhabitants of the other, even in the case of danger or panic.

And, at the risk of being high-faluting, I don't think this is so far-fetched from reality. I know that there are all kinds of things—and people—in front of my face in my everyday life that might seem ridiculously obvious to others but that, for one reason or another, I don't see at all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rock to Bluegrass to Country: “Fox on the Run”

In 1968 Manfred Mann recorded a new song called “Fox on the Run:”

It’s a fairly straightforward Manfred Mann late-1960s rock song. Okay, but pretty ho-hum as far as I am concerned.

Soon after though, the song caught the attention of bluegrass artists just as bluegrass music was enjoying a renaissance in the early 1970s. Bill Emerson was the pioneering bluegrass artist who popularized “Fox on the Run” to his audience. To me, the song sounds so much better as a bluegrass number. Here are the Country Gentlemen with their rendition:

The song quickly became a bluegrass standard right alongside “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Mountain Dew.” A few years later, country artist Tom T. Hall did this arrangement, which is how I first heard the song. It’s quickly become one of my favorites:

I would love to hear Wilco’s take on this one.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Budding Willow Tree

Near Canal Park, Cambridge, MA.

Friday, March 02, 2012


"If you cud even jus see 1 thing clear the woal of whats in it you cud see every thing clear. But you never wil get to see the woal of any thing youre all ways in the middl of it living it or moving thru it."

Russell Hoban
Riddley Walker

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: Riddley Walker

Russell Hoban
Awards: John W. Campbell Memorial
Nominations: Nebula
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ –

When I set myself the project of reading all the Nebula and Hugo award-winning novels, I told myself I would get through all the winners before reviewing those that were “just” nominees.

But, frankly, I have enjoyed some of the nominees I read in the past far more than I have enjoyed some of the winners. And when this book came across my transom, I could not resist breaking my own rules for it. I’m so very glad I did.

This book is set in England thousands of years after a 20th-century nuclear war destroyed most life on earth. Almost all literacy and technical knowledge was lost with the war, and humanity—what’s left of it—has reverted to Iron-Age-level hunting and gathering and some agriculture. The history-turned-mythology of the war is passed on through a sort of confused puppet show put on by traveling actors.

In general, the populace has a natural hostility towards education and what they call the “clevverness,” or scientific knowledge, which led to the war in the first place. But there are nevertheless people here and there who are surreptitiously working to regain that lost knowledge.

The narrator of the book, Riddley Walker, is a somewhat slow but sympathetic character who isn’t actively pursuing knowledge, but whose natural curiosity makes him want to make sense of the myths he’s being fed. This is one of the reasons he is our narrator—he is one of the few who had the desire to learn how to read and write. At the age of twelve, Riddley sees his father killed on a foraging job and has to take over his father’s role of “connexion man,” a sort of seer or interpreter of events. This special status separates him subtly from his peers and further encourages him to analyze and question what he sees around him.

Eventually, through a series of misadventures partially brought on by his inquisitiveness, Riddley discovers key pieces of information and material that could help to restore bomb-making knowledge and he has to go on the lam to escape from those who would kill him for it and/or use it for their own nefarious purposes.

The most striking thing about this book is not the story, however, but how it is written. The book is written by Riddley in his own native post-apocalyptic language, which is a semi-literate jumble of phonetic spelling, altered grammar, and long words broken down into shorter one- or two-syllable words. Some examples of the language used by Riddley and his peers:

"Down it come that girt big thing it made a jynt splosh and black muck going up slow and hy in to the air. That girt old black machine fel back in to the muck with my dad unner neath of it."

"'If you cud jus suck your thumb qwyet for a wyl and stop giving me inner fearents I cud tune in better.'"

"'To have them boats in the air which they callit them space craf and them picters on the wind which that wer viddyo and going out beyont the sarvering gallack seas.'"

It is pretty darned hard to read, especially at first. When I try to imagine why this book didn’t win the Nebula in 1981, all I can think is that the voters that year didn’t have the patience to make it through the first twenty pages or so to get used to Riddley’s speech, so they gave up and gave the award to a lesser book that was easier to read (Gene Wolfe’s Claw of the Conciliator). Fortunately, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award committee had a little more perseverance.

Hoban said that he wanted to write the book this way to slow the reader down to Riddley’s level of comprehension. And it does give you time to think about what is going on at the same pace Riddley does; it brings you into his mindset—and his world—in a way you wouldn’t necessarily get if he used contemporary English.

I found myself, naturally, comparing this book to other pieces of post-apocalyptic literature. It reminded me a tiny bit of The Road, in its desolation and occasional cannibalism, but (unlike The Road) it wasn’t so nightmarish as to be unreadable.

No, happily, the book it reminded me of the most was the great Canticle for Leibowitz. Like Leibowitz, it takes place on Earth after a devastating nuclear war has set society back several thousand years. As in Leibowitz, the story of the war and resulting devastation had been turned into barely-remembered, largely misinterpreted, and often pretty funny legend and myth. And both books suggest that humanity has a scary homing instinct; that even after such an awful war, the survivors will eventually try to regain the scientific knowledge that caused the war in the first place. You get the gnawing feeling that we will keep destroying ourselves over and over in a dreadful cycle.

Post Script: I didn’t realize until after I had read Riddley that I had already read one of Hoban’s other books long ago: The Mouse and His Child. That book was pretty dark and disturbing, too, especially for a children’s story, and I loved it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Iceland Travel Guide

Take the Flybus from the airport at Keflavik to Reykjavik and stay in the downtown hostel.

Next day, look for the smallest bicycle shop in the world. If you are not sure whether the shop you are in is small enough, keep looking. There is a smaller one. This is the one you want. 

Announce to the owner that you wish to purchase a used bike to get around Western Iceland, with the idea being that you would sell it to another traveler at the end of your journey. He will tell you this is not possible. Thank him, and leave. It is very important that you do not dispute the bike shop owner on this point. Thank him, and leave. Crucial. 

Return to the shop the next day. He will have somehow “procured” a used bike that is barely suitable for riding on a bike path, much less cross-country.

Go to Thingvellir, Geysir, and Snaefellnesness. Take dips in hot pools wherever possible. Use the cycle to cross the Kjolur Route through the Central Highlands. On the way, a lanky Pole with a runny nose will point the way on your map. This is Polski. He has been helping travelers on the Kjolur Route since the Early Age, roughly 980 - 1140 AD. 

At Hrerravellir, enjoy the hot pool. Meet young magi from CERN as you reposition the hot water hose. 

Upon your return to Reykjavik, set up your bike opposite a jewel shop on the main commercial street. Place a sign on the bike offering it for sale for kr175,000. Within five minutes, the jeweler will emerge and purchase your bike for that exact amount. 

Thus you will have re-enacted the Saga of Vilaf, of the Hill People. You may return to your home lands triumphant. A large feast will be assembled in your honor, and you will be invited to blow the horn of an ox 19 times. 

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