douglas adams

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douglas adams
The phenomenon by which the value of currency goes down, as if it were being simultaneously attacked by the common cold and a horde of ferocious wildebeests. A process that makes your money worth less and less, until eventually it's worth about as much as the promise of a pension from a galactic government."

time travel

douglas adams
Time travel is increasingly regarded as a menace. History is being polluted.

One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem involved in becoming your own father or mother that a broadminded and well-adjusted family can't cope with. There is also no problem about changing the course of history- the course of history does not change because it all fits together like a jigsaw. All the important changes have happened before the things they were supposed to change and it all sorts itself out in the end.

The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually travelling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own father or mother.

Most readers get as far as the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up: and in fact in later editions of the book all the pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

Note: The term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.

The Encyclopedia Galactica has much to say on the theory and practice of time travel, most of which is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't spent at least four lifetimes studying advanced hypermathematics, and since it was impossible to do this before time travel was invented, there is a certain amount of confusion as to how the idea was arrived at in the first place. One rationalization of this problem states that time travel was, by its very nature, discovered simultaneously at all periods of history, but this is clearly bunk.

The trouble is that a lot of history is now quite clearly bunk as well.

Here is an example. It may not seem to be an important one to some people, but to others it is crucial. It is certainly significant in that it was the single event which caused the Campaign for Real Time to be set up in the first place (or is it last? It depends which way round you see history as happening, and this too is now an increasingly vexed question).

There is, or was, a poet. His name was Lallafa, and he wrote what are widely regarded throughout the Galaxy as being the finest poems in existence, the Songs of the Long Land.

They are/were unspeakably wonderful. That is to say, you couldn't speak very much of them at once without being so overcome with emotion, truth and a sense of wholeness and oneness of things that you wouldn't pretty soon need a brisk walk round the block, possibly pausing at a bar on the way back for a quick glass of perspective and soda. They were that good.

Lallafa had lived in the forests of the Long Lands of Effa. He lived there, and he wrote his poems there. He wrote them on pages made of dried habra leaves, without the benefit of education or correcting fluid. He wrote about the light in the forest and what he thought about that. He wrote about the darkness in the forest, and what he thought about that. He wrote about the girl who had left him and precisely what he thought about that.

Long after his death his poems were found and wondered over. News of them spread like morning sunlight. For centuries they illuminated and watered the lives of many people whose lives might otherwise have been darker and drier.

Then, shortly after the invention of time travel, some major correcting fluid manufacturers wondered whether his poems might have been better still if he had had access to some high-quality correcting fluid, and whether he might be persuaded to say a few words on that effect.

They travelled the time waves, they found him, they explained the situation- with some difficulty- to him, and did indeed persuade him. In fact they persuaded him to such an effect that he became extremely rich at their hands, and the girl about whom he was otherwise destined to write which such precision never got around to leaving him, and in fact they moved out of the forest to a rather nice pad in town and he frequently commuted to the future to do chat shows, on which he sparkled wittily.

He never got around to writing the poems, of course, which was a problem, but an easily solved one. The manufacturers of correcting fluid simply packed him off for a week somewhere with a copy of a later edition of his book and a stack of dried habra leaves to copy them out on to, making the odd deliberate mistake and correction on the way.

Many people now say that the poems are suddenly worthless. Others argue that they are exactly the same as they always were, so what's changed? The first people say that that isn't the point. They aren't quite sure what the point is, but they are quite sure that that isn't it. They set up the Campaign for Real Time to try to stop this sort of thing going on. Their case was considerably strengthened by the fact that a week after they had set themselves up, news broke that not only had the great Cathedral of Chalesm been pulled down in order to build a new ion refinery, but that the construction of the refinery had taken so long, and had had to extend so far back into the past in order to allow ion production to start on time, that the Cathedral of Chalesm had now never been built in the first place. Picture postcards of the cathedral suddenly became immensely valuable.

So a lot of history is now gone for ever.

new york

douglas adams
(n.) a city
In the winter time the temperature falls well below the legal minimum, or rather it would do if anybody had the common sense to set a legal minimum. The last time anybody made a list of the top hundred character attributes of New Yorkers, common sense snuck in at number 79.

In the summer it's too darn hot. It's one thing to be the sort of life form that thrives on heat and finds, as the Frastrans do, that the temperature range between 40,000 and 40,004 is very equable, but it's quite another to be the sort of animal that has to wrap itself up in lots of other animals at one point in your planet's orbit, and then find, half an orbit later, that your skin's bubbling.

Spring is over-rated. A lot of the inhabitants of New York will honk on mightily about the pleasures of spring, but if they actually knew the first thing about the pleasures of spring they would know of at least five thousand nine hundred and eighty three better places to spend it than New York, and that's just on the same latitude.

Fall, though, is the worst. Few things are worse than fall in New York. Some of the things that live in the lower intestines of rats would disagree, but most of the things that live in the lower intestines of rats are highly disagreeable anyway, so their opinion can and should be discounted. When it's fall in New York, the air smells as if someone's been frying goats in it, and if you are keen to breathe, the best plan is to open a window and stick your head in a building.

(also: new orleans)


douglas adams
The major problem with the medical profession in the most advanced sectors of the galaxy had to tackle after cures had been found for all major diseases, and instant repair systems had been found for all physical injuries and disablements except some of the more advanced forms of death, was that of employment.

Planets full of bronzed healthy clean limbed individuals merrily prancing through their lives meant that the only doctors still in business were the psychiatrists, simply because no one had discovered a cure for the Universe as a whole -- or rather the only one that did exist had been abolished by the medical doctors.

Then it was noticed that like most forms of medical treatment, total cures had a lot of unpleasant side effects. Boredom, listlessness, lack of... well anything very much, and with these conditions came the realization that nothing turned, say, a slightly talented musician into a towering genius faster than the problem of encroaching deafness, and nothing turned a perfectly healthy individual into a great politician or military leader better than irreversible brain damage.

Suddenly, everything changed. Previous best selling books such as How I Survived an Hour with a Sprained Finger were swept away in a flood of titles such as How I Scaled the North Face of the Megapurna with a Perfectly Healthy Finger But Everything Else Sprained, Broken or Bitten Off By a Pack of Mad Yaks.

And so doctors were back in business recreating all the diseases and injuries they had abolished in popular easy to use forms. Thus, given the right and instantly available types of disability even something as simple as turning of the 3-D TV could become a major chanllenge, and when all the programmes on all the channels actually were made by actors with cleft pallettes speaking lines by dyslexic writers filmed by blind cameramen instead of merely seeming like that, it somehow made the whole thing more worthwhile.

leaving the planet

douglas adams

*This entry automatically adjusts itself to apply to the planet you are currently on.
(also: leaving the earth)
If the information below is not applicable to the planet on which you currently find yourself, then you are on the wrong planet and should rectify that at your earliest convenience.*

1. Phone NASA. Their phone number is (713) 483-3111. Explain that it's very important that you get away as soon as possible.(also: nasa)
2. If they do not cooperate, phone a friend you might have in the White House- (202) 456-1414- to have a word on your behalf with the guys at NASA.
3. If you don't have any friends in the White House, phone the Kremlin (Ask the overseas operator for 0107-095- 295-9051). They don't have any friends there either (at least, none to speak of), but they do seem to have a little influence, so you might as well try.(also: white house)
4. If that also fails, phone the Pope for guidance. His telephone number is 001-39-6-6982, and I gather that his switchboard is infallible.(also: pope)
5. If all these attempts fail, flag down a passing flying saucer and explain that it's vitally important you get away before your phone bill arrives.

real life

douglas adams
It is often said that a disproportionate obsession with purely academic or abstract matters indicates a retreat from the problems of real life.(also: life)

However, most of the people engaged in such matters say that this attitude is based on three things: ignorance, stupidity and nothing else.(also: stupid)

Philosophers for example argue that they are very much concerned with the problems posed by "real life": like for instance "What do we mean by real?" and "How can we reach an empirical definition of life?" and so on.

One definition of life, albeit not a particularly useful one, might run something like this:

Life is like a grapefruit: It's sort of orangy-yellow and dimpled on the outside, wet and squidgy in the middle. It's got pips inside, too. Oh, and some people have half of one for breakfast. (also: breakfast)

One of the extraordinary things about life is the sort of places it's prepared to put up with living. Anywhere it can get some sort of grip, whether it's the intoxicating seas of Santraginus V where the fish never seem to care whatever the heck kind of direction they swim in, the fire storms of Frastra, where, they say, life begins at 40,000 degrees, or just burrowing around in the lower intestine of a rat for the sheer unadulterated hell of it, life will always find a way of hanging on in somewhere.

digital watches

douglas adams
Odd little electronic devices worn around the wrist (or other convenient appendage). The apparent function of these instruments, is to determine the time of day, though their actual suitability for this purpose is somewhat questionable.

The problem is that the process of programming one is so insanely complicated and involves so much stress, anxiety and general irritation, by the time you have actually figured out how to set it to, say, 5:42 p.m. you are much more likely to cut off your hands at the wrists and dispose of them, watch and all, than do something so thick-witted as to actually wear it. For this reason most enlightened regions of the Galaxy have given up on the whole business, and they are now extremely hard to come by.

One of the few remaining civilizations still hanging on to this affectation is the planet Earth, whose ape-descended lifeforms still consider the digital a pretty neat idea.

(also: time)

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