from November 15, 2004
The charter of the Myles Junior Think Tank (MJTT) is simple and elegant: we are in the business of fixing the world. Or, more precisely, it is to think about how best this can be done. We at MJTT are not detail persons; we leave those tasks to the Do Tank (DT), which is busy turning our most brilliant ideas into realities.
(Note: we have been too busy to determine whether the DT is living up to its charter. In fact, we have not had time of late to check into whether the DT is up and running, or even whether it has drawn up its charter. This is, after all, an age of specialization, though I make haste to add that the Check-Up Tank (CUT) is presumably busy monitoring the progress of the DT in their task of implementing our ideas. I say presumably because the CUT has not contacted us regarding our own progress, presumably because it is busy at the headquarters of the DT, checking up on their progress in turning our most brilliant ideas etc. etc.)
That said, it has become painfully obvious during this election season that the way we Americans select our leaders is, as several of our congressional committees have reported of late, “woefully inadequate.”
The MJTT response to these bipartisan committees is to say, “Bring it on!” By “it” we mean what the chair of one of those committees (OOTC) has memorably called “the daunting task of fixing the electoral process.” Though the Assignment Tank (AT) has yet to formally request that we accept what the chair of another committee (AC2) called “this sacred mission,” we, in anticipation of this demand, have held our first meeting to think how best to begin thinking about this, our newest challenge.
One of the younger and newer members of MJTT, a recent Ph.D. minted by a prestigious university (PU), has suggested, for starters, that the advice proffered by Shakespeare, that “the first thing we do, we kill all the lawyers,” might well be considered—of course, leaving the actual carnage to the DT.
I was the one who pointed out to our callow upstart and PU Ph.D. that in some circles, this act might be considered illegal.
The point, I am happy to report for the records, was well taken.
It was, I must add, so taken because a more serious and practical and less costly proposal followed this initial inspiration, as day follows daybreak. To wit: “the first thing we do,” to paraphrase the redoubtable Wm. Shakespeare, “we pay all the lawyers.” As the moving force behind MJTT, I was the one upon whom it devolved to tender this suggestion.
The brilliance of this idea dawned at various speeds among our slower members. The second most senior member of our thoughtful group was the second to speak. “Aha!” he or she proclaimed. “Think about it!”
And so, with such proddings as these, we all came to the obvious conclusion, that we had hit upon a sound principle.
Then, after some quaffing, we considered a corollary suggested by our PU Ph.D.: “The second thing we do, we kill all the politicians.”
I will not detail the ensuing discussion. All I can report is that at the end of our all-day session, we sent the minutes of our deliberations to the DT.
from November 1, 2004
In early October, Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, delighted the world with his announcement that upper class passengers on his overnight, overpond flights could now enjoy suite dreams. Put semi-briefly, a pair of passengers traveling together will be allotted two square meters of real space in which to frolic, fornicate, meditate, pray, or sleep while crossing the Atlantic from New York to London, or vice versa.
Some weeks later, the world was treated to TV advertisements of these pleasant suites.
Be it known to one and all that MJTT’s lawyers are looking into this matter.
Regular readers of this column will recall my pair of columns entitled “Making the Skies Friendlier,” in this e-magazine. (Those with short memories or afflicted with the occasional senior moment may wish to consult our Archives.) They will remember my ingenious invention, since patented, of a morgue-inspired arrangement for Pond-crossers. They will have embedded in their memories a vision of sleeping in a well-equipped crypt as their alert, friendly crew flies them, safely and soundly, to their destination. And they will recall that this delightful experience, complete with the options of frolicking, fornicating, meditating, praying, or sleeping, will be available not only to those who have been dubbed “sir” or “lady” by the present queen or her successor(s), but to the general public, or, more precisely, to anyone weighing less than 300 pounds.
Sir Richard, watch your back! If our clever barristers do not pin you to the mat for stealing our patented idea, we will inaugurate our own airline, which will enjoy a broader appeal to the undubbed amongst us. And they are legion.
from October 15, 2004
After the terrorists caught on to the fact that the CIA can crack the codes of their e-mail messages, they have gone silent—or, more precisely, they have developed alternative methods of communication, including, presumably, whispering to each other in their secret cell groups.
This gives our now-silent chatterers a decided advantage. They continue their attacks, secure in the knowledge that we don’t know who they are and what they are saying and planning.
How, we at MJTT are asking, can this situation be righted?
At a recent brainstorming session on this matter, one of my colleagues remarked, in an offhand manner, that she had recently been reading about the intelligence of parrots. Far from being merely mimes, she reported, African Grays are able not only to speak but to think. In fact, one study showed that this species of parrot has an average I.Q. of 85.
Hmmm, I thought. Would it be possible to use these delightful creatures as spies, replacing the humans whose feet have been on the wrong ground?
While my brilliant colleagues were bantering on and on over the subject of I.Q.s—those of the average parrot compared to those of their own children—I slipped out of the meeting and took a walk in the cactus garden that graces the grounds surrounding the Hôtel Adios.
Despite the slight chill in the October air, my brain was teeming. Working at full throttle, it quickly saw the connection between parrots and locating the terrorist cells. Why not, I asked myself, train parrots to speak Arabic, implant miniscule locating and listening devices under their feathers, send them to the Middle East, put them up for sale at bazaars, and wait for the inevitable: a terrorist purchases a pet parrot, becomes attached to it, and takes it to his cell group meetings—or, perhaps, even confides in it regarding the dastardly plan of attack.
Not only does the listening device provide valuable information, I thought, but our intelligence agency learns the whereabouts of the damnable cells!
QED, I concluded in what I must admit was a congratulatory tone.
One must, however, be careful in employing this intelligence-gathering method. The parrot trainer must have Arabic as his or her primary language; planting a parrot mole who speaks with a Brooklyn accent would alert the enemy to this ploy. One must also be patient. How long does it take to train a pre-lingual parrot to speak Arabic? For that matter, how many pro-Western Arabs are proficient in animal-human communication?
But these barriers to the plan are surmountable; the principle is sound. And not only sound, but superior to the current practice.
The emails we have received from those who have read our last column have been many, inquisitive, and for the most part congratulatory.
“Ingenious!” writes a historian of science at Harvard University, adding, “Myles na Gopaleen stands in the long line of outside-the-box thinkers extending from Copernicus and Galileo, through Newton, then Darwin and Mendel, continuing with Edison and Ford, to Abrikosov, Ginzburg, and Leggett.”
“Just between the two of us,” writes an anonymous person from Oslo, “you’re a shoo-in for a 2005 Nobel.” (Translation mine.)
“To hell with you and MJTT!” writes a major stockholder in General Motors.
“I can’t wait for the details!” writes a UCLA professor of engineering who lives in the high desert 80 miles from Los Angeles.
These responses are typical.
The smattering of complaints from the automobile industry deserves an answer. Put simply, we suggest that that industry retool itself and put in a reasonable bid for the engineering feats that lie ahead.
As for the details, many astute readers were quick to notice that the same subway train we at MJTT envision runs downhill both ways. How can this be? Have we been misreading Sir Isaac Newton all these centuries?
In answer, recall that Sir Isaac lived in a simpler world. The horse had not yet been replaced by the auto. Pollution in those days consisted of the dung that lay strewn in the streets of London. Were he alive today, Newton’s attention would have been drawn, not to the descending Winesap, but to the common traffic jam. What we have dubbed the Myles Junior Principle (MJP) would now be called the Ike Newton Principle (INP).
In short, we have no doubt but that Newton would have combined the notion of gravity with that of the piston.
Recall that in my previous column, I spoke of the common see-saw. I mentioned the analogy between that device and the imagined subway system. Now, I ask the reader and irate commuter to imagine a pair of vertical pistons, one on each end of the system. Powered perhaps by ocean waves, or windmill farms, these pistons would move up and down simultaneously (i.e., Pa, on one end of the system, would be moving up, Pb down.), thus drawing the subway train in direction X in the morning and in direction Y in the afternoon.
N.B. Could any of my cosmopolitan readers recommend a five-star hotel in Oslo?