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Frieden-und Freudenland
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Postby Frieden-und Freudenland » Mon Apr 03, 2017 8:09 am

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What’s Wrong With Fruit?

by Veronica Venus

It is a crisp and clear April morning and we are driving through the beautiful countryside in Western Frieden-und Freudenland. Our driver, Sean D’onofrio, is a 71-year-old farmer who has lived in rural Fernhill all his life and earned his living by growing, to adopt his super-superlative expression, the ''most tastiest'' fruits in Southern Forest. ''But things have suddenly changed,'' he says sulkily, as he turns his head away from the road to look at us, two reporters who have comfortably settled on the backseat.

''I don’t know why nobody is interested in what’s happening,'' he continues in a bitter tone. ''I have been writing dozens of petitions to the Ministry of Agriculture, and as they just turned a deaf ear to me, I wrote to you. You’re the only ones to take interest in the matter in eight weeks.''

Mr. D’onofrio has contacted Friedenspost last Monday, telling us that the fruits he was growing have been changing ''in a weird way'' and asking us to come and report on the issue, so that government officials could finally take notice and do something about it. We didn’t know what to expect, but we decided to pursue the matter all the same.

Mr. D’onofrio suddenly stops the car in the middle of the road and gets off. He points to the vast field on our left with an expansive arm movement. ''This here, is my strawberry field.'' We get off and follow him to his strawberry field to see what it was that worried him so much – and we witness that jawdropping sight first hand. Mr. D’onofrio picks a cluster (yes, a cluster) of strawberries and holds it in front of my friend Mark’s camera. ''Here, photograph this, document the disaster!'' he yells. Mark does what he is told to do.

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A peculiar cluster of strawberries. Photo credit: Mark Jarvinen


Mr. D’onofrio’s strawberry field is full of gargantuan strawberry clusters. He dolefully shakes his head. ''I have been a farmer here for almost 50 years, I have never witnessed such a thing.'' I cannot conceal my amazement. I ask him whether he has been using any insecticides or pesticides on his strawberries, as I suspect the malformations we observe could be a side effect of excessive pesticide use. His answer is a firm ''No!'' – Mr. D’onofrio seems to be offended. ''I am a good environmentalist, and I have always practised eco-friendly farming,'' he asserts. ''Moreover I am not the only one who has been experiencing this problem. Ask my friend Vladimir, his eggplants are the same.''

This comes as an unexpected blow and we get back into our car to drive to Vladimir’s house. Mr. Vladimir Yamazaki, a 75-year-old farmer of serious demeanor, has been cultivating eggplants for more than two decades. Like Sean D’onofrio, he lives in a small cottage in the tranquil village of Lichfield 40 miles north of the bustling metropole Fernhill. He welcomes us with a broad smile and agrees to take us to his 100-acre backyard where he grows his famous eggplants. We slowly walk along the rows of eggplant seedlings, and we are once again dumbfounded. He tears off a cluster of eggplants. ''Look at this,'' he says. ''I have never seen such a thing. Some fellow villagers see this as a portent of doom. Some of my neighbors are stocking food and other supplies in their cellars, because they fear we may be on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster.''

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Mr. Yamazaki kindly agreed to pose for Mark with a cluster of eggplants in his hands. Photo credit: Mark Jarvinen


Are the residents of Lichfield a bit superstitious? Perhaps. I am sure that there is no apocalyptic disaster on the horizon. I am also pretty sure that these freakish fruits are not a result of God’s wrath. But I suspect something that is perhaps more fearful than a divine apocalypse – a disaster brought about by human stupidity. These malformations remind me of some accidents (!) that have happened in countries depending on nuclear energy, where exposure to radiation had had such effects on fruits and vegetables. Therefore we hastily thank Mr. D’onofrio and Mr. Yamazaki for their hospitality and leave.

We make an appointment with Dr. Maria Limpele, a world-renowned expert on bionuclear and radiological physics. We are lucky to have this appointment, because she has a very busy schedule. She agrees to see us before she rushes to the airport to catch her plane to Caracasus where the annual Nuclear Energy Congress will be held.

The next day, we leave our hotel and go to the University of Fernhill that is located on a beautiful hill overlooking the Kolaxa Sea. We find Dr. Limpele in her office, waiting for us. We show her the pictures that we took in Lichfield the day before and she is surprised. ''There can be no mistake,'' she murmurs, ''this is the effect of radiation.'' ''Are you sure?'' I ask hesitantly. I wish that she might be mistaken. She silently opens her drawer and takes out some fairly old photos and lays them before us.

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The mutant vegetables of Candlewhisper Archive. Courtesy of Dr. Maria Limpele


''What are these?'' Mark and I ask in unison. The answer is shocking. ''Some carrots, a tomato and a radish. They don’t look like what they are supposed to look like. Do you know where these photos were taken? They were taken in Candlewhisper Archive about 60 years ago, when a terrible accident happened at a nuclear power plant. After the event, we have observed so many weird malformations in the fruits and vegetables grown there. I was a very young researcher at the time, and I took these photos while I worked on a case study involving these mutant vegetables.'' I have one question, though. ''Dr. Limpele, Frieden-und Freudenland is strictly against nuclear energy. We have no nuclear power plants, nothing. Where does this radiation come from?'' Dr. Limpele smiles and shakes her head. ''I don’t know. But perhaps we need to take a closer look at our friends.'' The emphasis she puts on the word ‘friends’ startles me. ''You mean, someone may be waging a nuclear warfare against us, without us knowing about it?'' ''I am not saying they are,'' Dr. Limpele says, ''I am just saying we should consider every possibility.''

We leave Dr. Limpele’s office with more questions on our minds than answers. What is happening in Fernhill? Are we really facing a nuclear disaster the source of which is unknown to us? And if that is the case, how can I fight an enemy that we cannot identify?

For now, we have to leave our readers with these questions. But we promise we will follow up on this story.
Last edited by Frieden-und Freudenland on Mon Apr 03, 2017 8:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Frieden-und Freudenland » Mon Apr 10, 2017 4:25 am

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Mysterious Barrels on the Barnacle Beach

by Veronica Venus

In a sequel to our latest news story about the mutant plants spotted in Fernhill, our photographer Mark and I headed to one of the most beautiful beaches in Frieden-und Freudenland, the Barnacle Beach. After our story was published last week, we received hundreds of phone calls from the locals who were imploring us to visit the Barnacle Beach, and see the barrels full of radioactive waste that littered the coastline. Though we were skeptical at first, we decided to go there and investigate the claims first-hand. One resident of Willowborough, a small town near Fernhill where the main source of income for people is fishing, kindly offered to be our guide. Martha Stoch, a stout lady of 55 years, who has lived in Willowborough her entire life, accompanied us to the Barnacle Beach. Along the way, Mark and I were listening to the incredible story she told us. ''Most people here in Willowborough are fishermen,'' she said. ''Our livelihood depended on what Kolaxa Sea has offered us. And Kolaxa Sea has always been very generous - until about 3 months ago. Around 3 months ago, our fishermen started to see mysterious cargo ships scattered over the horizon, they appeared and disappeared every day, and it was surprising for us, because there is not much sea traffic in this part of Kolaxa Sea, you know. This continued for a couple of days, and then we have not seen those ships again. But a few days after they ceased to come, we noticed some barrels on the beach. Old, rusty barrels, and somehow they did not seem to be safe. We thought they could be containing some toxic waste or something like that, so we advised our children not to play near them. But now we suspect that what these barrels contain is not just some toxic waste, it is probably nuclear waste.'' Mark and I were so much absorbed in this interesting story that it took us a couple of seconds to ''wake up'' when Martha stopped talking. I asked her what made her suspect that the barrels might be containing nuclear waste. ''The fish,'' she replied solemnly. ''Our fishermen have seen weird changes in the fish they caught.'' Martha then reached for her cellphone and opened her photo gallery. She showed us an unbelievable picture. ''Look at this,'' she said. ''My husband caught this fish the day we discovered the barrels. Do you think this is normal?''

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A deformed fish caught by Martha Stoch's husband. Courtesy of Martha Stoch


No, it was not normal. I was feeling sad and perplexed. There was clearly something ''fishy'' happening in Western Frieden-und Freudenland and it threatened the lives and livelihood of millions of people living there. Worst, the inhabitants of the metropole Fernhill who were living just several miles away from the coastline were not even aware of the danger lurking on the beach.

Finally we arrived on the beach and started walking on the warm sands. The view was breathtaking - an idyllic natural scenery. But the beauty of the scene was suddenly tarnished by the huge rusty barrel we saw. ''There it is,'' Martha said. ''This is one of the first barrels we spotted.''

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A barrel lying on the Barnacle Beach. Photo credit: Mark Jarvinen


I was dumbfounded. However, our journey was only beginning. We spent the entire afternoon walking along the 5-mile long Barnacle Beach with Martha and spotting random ugly barrels everywhere, and photographing them. I asked Martha whether they had contacted the state officials about this issue. My blood ran cold when she answered. ''Of course we did,'' she said. ''When we saw the barrels and my husband came home with the freak fish he caught, I immediately called the hotline of the Environmental Protection Agency. I told them about the ships, the barrels, the fish... The operator said she would connect me to an authority, and after waiting on the line for about 15 minutes I could finally talk to someone named Chuck Hoskuldursson, and when I repeated my story to him, he assured me that there was nothing to worry about, that the fish I mentioned probably had a genetic deformity, that there was nothing unusual about the ships that appeared, as we were living by the sea, we should be used to seeing ships, after all, and he said there was nothing unusual about the barrels either. Some irresponsible people from another country could just dump their waste in the sea, and their barrels could be washed ashore here. Just like that. And he hung up.''

Had the authorities been negligent? Had Chuck Hoskuldursson simply dismissed these serious claims so easily? If so, the scandal we are facing is great. Because what we see here on Barnacle Beach, is not normal. We will continue to investigate this story and try to find out more about the ships that presumably dumped these barrels here. Until then, we hope that the government will take action and send here some professionals to pick up the barrels and analyze their contents.
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Scandinavian Liberal Paradise

Postby Caracasus » Wed May 31, 2017 5:57 am

Stories from Caracasus

In this extract, a reporter follows an IntSec unit responsible for tracking and disrupting illegal mining operations in Orisio Province.

I get on board the Kavverit at Cazarados city. The sun hasn't risen yet, the air still feels like night – dew on the grass surrounding the landing pad and a faint chill rippling through my shirt. Heartburn and a dry mouth from waking up so early and wolfing down a hasty breakfast. My guide today is Adah. She's wearing her IntSec uniform, a small green cross-hatched badge showing her department – Environmental Protection.
With apparently limitless energy, she and two others start loading the Kavverit whilst I blunder around. They ask me to check that the recording equipment is all stowed, which takes some time. One of them, I do not catch his name, climbs into the cargo area after me and expertly checks the straps, tightening some that I must have missed.

The machine must be ex-military, some surplus requestioned from Nineday House. Empty racks that would have contained drone pods or other weaponry. Stripped and sanded of its paintwork, chalk patterns cover every inch of its surface. Some faded, some new. My eye is drawn to a particularly elaborate design on the aircraft's engine – a river that becomes a snake, twisting until it sprouts feathers and ending with a snarling, jackal like head spitting fire.

I don my helmet and we take to the air. Over the comms Adah tells me that IntSec have spotted a dirt trail through the forest leading into the mountains.

“It's from the southern border.” She states.

Illegal gold mining. The mountains are rich with seams, seams that the local communes, Orisio Province's Council and the Council Elect have voted not to exploit, lying as they do under thousands of square miles of ancient forest.

“These guys are professionals” she continues. I can just about pick out her words over the roar of the engines. “Heavy equipment is all moved at night, from the south. They can strip mine an acre or so and make a fortune over the border. Not always friendly either...”

She gestures to the bolted steel case that contains rifles and other weapons. She doesn't need to. The weapons, and the body armour that the IntSec members are wearing has been an uncomfortable weight on my mind since we took off.

Closer to the site, I switch on the recording equipment. We can see it now, trees have been felled and great scars of clay and rich mud left across the landscape. Plastic sheeting hangs limply from trees as the vehicle touches down, kicking up mud and leaves with its engines.

The clearing is a mess, but they're gone. IntSec were too late this time. Adah and the others carry handguns, just in case, while they take soil samples, scraping up loam and mud into glass containers.

“Mercury contamination” she explains. I ask her how many successes IntSec has in cases like this. She screws up her face, concentrating as if reading from a list in her head.

“About forty percent I'd say. Of course, it's not always a success if we catch them in the act.”

She tells me that a college of hers is still in hospital. It is not uncommon, apparently, for the illegal mining outfits to carry guns with them.

The Kavverit's Comms system squawks into life, and we are off once more.
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Frieden-und Freudenland
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Postby Frieden-und Freudenland » Tue Jun 20, 2017 1:53 pm

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An Untimely Celebration

by Nancy Blue

The Frieden-und Freudenlandian city of Sereneville has witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event today: the summer solstice celebrations. It might be thought that "once-in-a-lifetime" is a grievous misnomer here, since the summer solstice happens every year. While that is true, people who "miscalculate" the summer solstice and start the celebrations 24 hours earlier are not a sight you can see every day.

In the early hours of June 20th, 2017; thousands of Serenevillians stormed into the streets, wearing swimsuits, drinking a special rose wine colloquially known as "summer wine" and singing Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime." Other residents who had had the foresight to look at a calendar were taken by surprise. "I was perplexed," says Josephine Müller, 34, a schoolteacher from Wisteria District, Sereneville. It was midnight, I was reading my book and was about to fall asleep, then I got startled by these sudden screams and laughter coming from outside. I ran to the window and saw a big crowd walking down the Coconut Street. They were wearing swimsuits, so I immediately suspected that this parade could be for the summer solstice, but then the parade was meant to be one day later... I really thought I had lost my sense of time, really."

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Rowdy Serenevillians celebrating the summer solstice prematurely.

Ms. Müller's sense of time was fine, though. The problem was that about 50,000 Serenevillians relied on a smartphone app called DatePalm to tell the date. The app crashed shortly before midnight on the 19th of June, and the programmers rushed to rescue it. Though the app was made available again within a few minutes thanks to the programmers' swift troubleshooting, there had been one small but consequential mistake. The date had been recoded as June 20th - and at midnight, Serenevillians who used the app have been woken up by the in-built alarm clock of the app reminding them that the annual nocturnal parade for celebrating the summer solstice was about to start. The outcome? 50,000 people putting on their swimsuits in a hurry and in the meantime worrying whether they are suffering from a memory disorder.

"It was crazy, man," says John P. Ferguson, 51, a Serenevillian who took part in the parade last night and is obviously still suffering from a hangover while we interview him. "I was watching this baseball game between Sereneville Smart Squirrels and Redriver Rowdy Raccoons and bam - my phone starts ringing and vibrating, I jump up and it says REMINDER - SUMMER SOLSTICE PARADE STARTS IN 5 MINUTES!!! I was like, "Oh my Violet, for how long have I been watching TV? 24 hours? You've gotta be kidding me!" Then I ran to the bedroom and put on my swimsuit, fetched a bottle of summer wine from the cellar and staggered down to the street. There were many people out there, and they all seemed confused, but it took us awhile to figure out we were mistaken. Well, many of us couldn't actually figure it out, because by the time we would have figured it out, we had become too drunk to think about it - sooo...Anyway, to look on the bright side, we all had a good time, I suppose. And the better thing is that we're gonna do this again this night, so it's like having two summer solstice parades in a row, you know. More wine, yay!"

The famous IT entrepreneur Alvin McElroy, the founder and CEO of DatePalm, has meanwhile apologized to their users for the mistake. "We are deeply sorry for the events that took place last night," he said in an official statement released this morning. "I assure you that this mistake will not be repeated. We respect the customs of Frieden-und Freudenland, and the summer solstice parade is one of our beautiful traditions, and we will do everything we can to make sure this tradition will be passed on to our children. To make amends for yesterday's mistake, I will attend the "real" summer solstice parade tonight and I will provide the participants with 10,000 free bottles of summer wine."

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Alvin McElroy says he is sorry about the inconvenience.

At the end of the day, this glitch in the dates resulted in two consecutive parades and 10,000 free bottles of wine for Serenevillians. We can only wish every mistake was so auspicious.
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Postby Caracasus » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:35 am

The following are a collected set of accounts from Caracasus
Performance

This article was originally printed in the Frieden-und Freudenland music magazine Strange New Sounds.

It's about nine in the evening, and I've finally gotten my pass to see the guitarist Soloman Belcotio (not his real name, I am later told) from the newest band to take Caracasus by storm - Broken Mirrors. They're getting ready for their sixteenth gig of a six week long tour and we're backstage in Tarr City's famous stadium operated by the Unconventional Wisdom in the Face of the Ordinary.

It's a damn big stadium as I'm sure our readers will know, those of you lucky enough to have visited it. It's played host to such legends as The Wailing Star, Prism and Salamander. Still, even with a capacity in excess of ten thousand, Caracasus Industry and Trade has been forced, as it has been for fifteen of the sixteen gigs to date, to open up tickets to its lottery system. Ten thousand souls are already in attendance, and we can hear them through the walls giving "helpful" critiques to the less than adequate warm-up acts.

Soloman is busy re-tuning his guitar, but places it to one side to answer my questions.

So, sixteenth gig on the tour. How do you feel at this stage?

He sighs and takes a sip of water. (He's told me already, he touches nothing but water before and during a performance, though if rumours are to be believed, afterwards more or less anything goes.) "I dunno, it's hard to say. I mean, first few gigs you're crapping yourself, every damn time cos when you're actually out there and you've got thousands of fans staring at you... well... you kinda wonder - will this be the night I bomb? Am I gonna choke here? Forget the chords?" He shrugs. "By this time though, it's like clockwork really. Got everything sorted... yeah, not nervous really."

You sound almost... bored. Would that be a fair assessment?

He laughs. "Yeah, at the moment I'd say so. Still, it's never like that when you're out there... when you play that first chord and... I'm not religious, but I reckon it's pretty close for me."

You came under a lot of criticism for your instrument choice. Care to explain why?

His face darkens slightly. "Yeah. That. Thing is, I'm a musician, right? Now, I don't pretend to know how Industry and Trade operates really, no more than the rest of us do. You make a request, you either get it or you don't right? So I requested the best." He motions to his guitar. A rosewood fretboard over an otherwise plain black enamel body. "That there is a Sicachi. Only eighteen like it in the world. Best for my kinda music. So I requested it, Industry and Trade denied it. I asked why.... they said it was a waste of resources. None in Caracasus, see? They'd have to go through the Hypothetical Zone. So I made a petition..."

What happened then?

He laughs. "It's one of those stupid stories. You know, crazy Caracasusians. So I make a petition, it gets millions of signatures. Looks like Industry and Trade are gonna have to cave so my opponents make a petition... claiming that there's plenty of reconstructions that are just as good. Bullshit. Listen, I don't care what you say unless you're a musician you don't know - it goes beyond material and that kind of crap. Anyway, long story short it gets booted up to the Council Elect and they open it up as a referendum."

A referendum? For a guitar?

"Yup. Referendum ident code 244259255 to be exact. Everyone in Caracasus voting on whether or not I get a bloody guitar! Anyway, I won... still got the letter from industry and Trade framed in my apartment."

So the entire country had a referendum to decide if you got a guitar or not?

"Yeah. Crazy, right?"

And moving on from that, any words to your fans?

He grins. "Nah, nothing I aint said before. Anyway, we're on in ten. Catch you later!"

As he leaves I take a stroll round. Lucky enough, the magazine won a ticket on the lottery for this performance and one other. I take in the smell of beer, people and the tang of smoke permeating the evening. It's really not much more different to any other country, really. Once you get past the lack of advertisements, the open display and dispensing of recreational drugs and all that. I open up my tourist's comms link and convert some of my money to Caracasusian vouchers, exchange these for a pint and something that'd likely get me arrested anywhere else and get ready to watch the show.




Work and play.

The arc welder crackled and spat, casting shadows in brilliant contrast across the temporary workshop. Under the machine's force the sculpture took shape. Pitted metal at angles, jutting this way and that. Elongated figures, typical of Caracasusian contemporary design, they reached out to one another...

It was so... so derivative. She took a break, sweat sticking and irritating her skin as she removed the heavy visor. The workshop was all but empty, the commissioned commune had shrunk under her guidance from twelve to six. Finally there were four of them left as rumour circulated that she'd “lost her touch”. The up and coming star of Caracasusian sculpture had no new ideas, her best work firmly behind her.

She took a stroll out across the sun-drenched plaza. The tiny eatery was deserted inside, everyone had gathered across the warm brick courtyard under the sweeping shade of great trees. Her father would have known what trees they were, she mused. Would have looked at the lobes on the leaves, seen the blossom and wispy down that fell from the catkins.

He was still there, the corner of the courtyard all to himself. Cheaply printed shirt open at the neck, exposing wiry grey hair wrapped around a thick gold (or gold coloured) chain. Heavy rimmed glasses and a small cheroot clenched between his teeth. His hands, though withered and stained with nicotine did not shake as he took a thick, stubby pencil, crossing out and writing in minute shorthand in one greasy notebook.

She pulled up a chair opposite, as she had done for the last few weeks. The chess board between them had seen better days. White and black. Only the dye had faded from the black pieces, leaving them a murky grey. Decades of sweat and oil had rubbed the varnish from the white pieces. The two sides now occupied an uneasy middle ground and she'd had to check more than once that she had picked up the right piece.

“Zugzwang” He coughed. Lit his filthy cigarillo and grinned. Social pressure had seen smoking all but gone from public places. The old man was one of the exceptions, cheerfully thumbing his nose at convention, continuing to poison himself. A couple that she vaguely recognised frowned and moved away. He studiously took no notice.

“Sorry, what?”

“Zugzwang. It's in my books. Opplandian word, means when you've forced your opponent into a position where they must make a move, but every move they can make simply makes things worse for them.”

She grinned. Leaned back and straightened out her top from where she'd tucked it into her jeans. “One of your puzzles?”

The old man took out a second book, this one much older. Battered spine and hand-written notes covered every available space not taken up with print. He opened it where a squashed empty packet of cigarillos bookmarked it. Slid it across the table to her. The puzzle showed a chess board with representations of the pieces. “Black to checkmate in six moves. Supposed to be one of the hardest problems there is.”

“And you'll be the first to beat it?”

He laughed. Gravel pouring down a metal drain. “Gods no. Some bright spark from Ransium beat this one before you were a twinkle in your da's eye. Nah, I reckon there's another way to beat it though. And I'm gonna find it.”

….............

Zugzwang. She was working on the carriages today. The commune tasked with fabricating maglev carriages was mostly automated. Mostly. There was, however, work that a machine could simply not do and it was the responsibility of her and six others to go through each carriage, fixing in place and welding panels for the complex wiring and optics that would control everything from the internal atmosphere to the doors.

“So how's it coming on?” Javez smiled at her. She knew that he meant nothing malicious by it. He was removed from the art world, did not understand its nuances, its petty struggles and killer cutting remarks. To him a piece of art was a piece of art. Something to be admired for a few seconds, a minute or so on an afternoon in the park. She envied him, and it showed as she snapped back a little.

“Terrible. Worse than terrible. No-one wants to work with me and... ah, it's”

She placed down the tool that she had been using to solder in a wafer of control board. Looked into his face, concern and wrinkled brow. The sharp, acid smell of solder filled the skeletal carriage.

“How come? I saw your updates. I thought it looked good. Just like....”

“Just like everything else! That's the problem, don't you see? It's the same damn thing I've been churning out for years. That everyone's been churning out. It's stale. Done. It's... it's not going anywhere.”

“You want to move things on?”

“No, don't be...”

She looked up. A thin, spindly wire strung across the rafters of the fabrication plant. Attached to it, tiny printed stamps of micro-thin aluminium flickered in the breeze. An idea began to form, tentatively at first. She dared not look inside her own mind as it hatched, for fear of interrupting her own thoughts at work, for fear of crushing it before it could be born...

“Hey, can you finish this off? I've just got to get something down.”

Javez shrugged. “Sure. We're a few days ahead anyway. You owe me though...”

She tapped on her comms device as the minutes turned into hours. A tiny spark of inspiration taking route and roaring into life.

….....

“Any closer to finishing that puzzle?” It was slightly breezy, and the smoke from the old man's cheroot danced across the table, occasionally filling her nose with tarpaper acrid scent. He shrugged. Moved one piece. Thunk. Made a note in his book, crossed out another and circled it. Moved the piece back. Thunk.

“I think so. It's... hum. It's a bit trickier than I thought. Got the bishop sorted – was trying to fit that little bastard in for days...” His concentration broke, pushing his thick rimmed glasses up his nose he looked at her, smiling. “And you m'dear. How goes your sculpture?”

She didn't want to jinx things. The ideas were... ideas. Nothing more. “It's... going. You know, going. Anyway, I'd best be off. He nodded. Turned his attention back to a rouge pawn and she strolled back to the temporary workshop in the courtyard.

Sipping on water and with a breathless tension, she read through the terminal entries. A glazier commune had agreed that yes, glass could be formed in this way, and that with the correct application of lubricating materials could act as a pivot. She grinned. The invisible central pillar with its rotating spindles had been the trickiest part to manage. The glass spindles would be all but invisible. Now...

Yes. Aluminium microfoil.

….....

The old man waited all through lunch. He'd little else to do really, and he did enjoy his chats with the young woman. There were more of them now, at the commissioned commune. He'd seen at least eight faces he'd not seen before – all signed up to work on the project. A couple of deserters had come slinking back, tails between legs and properly apologetic.

He'd seen her enter the temporary workshop that had now expanded to cover a good fifth of the plaza at first light. The birds had not finished their songs as he sipped his coffee and smoked his third cigarillo. She'd waved and smiled, he'd nodded and gone back to his game.

Black in six moves. He turned his attention again to the board....

She'd not come along for lunch yesterday either. He'd damn near gotten the thing solved. The afternoon turned once more to evening and he ambled home. She'd not left the workshop.

….....

“See!”

She'd finally left the workshop for lunch. He'd beaten the puzzle a couple of days previously. Unlike the old solution, his (he felt) was more subtle. Relied more on the intricate filigree of power lines that permeated a chess game and elevated it from a representation of war to a representation of... well... life.

She nodded, dutifully as he demonstrated. Black checkmates in six. A final thunk and the white king fell. He grinned.

“So your project then. Nearly done?”

Her eyes lit up. “Close! You gonna be here tomorrow? It's being unveiled.”

He snorted, sucked down on the cigarillo clenched between his teeth. “where else would I be? You lot have been creating a mess in my plaza for months now. Any good?”

She smiled. All teeth and eyes and energy. “Just wait. You'll see.”

….....

The day had a slight breeze to it. He'd strolled out to his usual spot and simply stared at the thing. They'd removed the tarpaulin and the last of the prefabricated walls overnight, they must have. It shone in the sun, reaching out to the heavens.

A central pillar that you could only see as the sun shone through it, glass so fine and polished that were it not for the branches of the crystal tree in front of him you could not tell it moved. Spiraling out from its pivot they moved slowly, pinwheeling and turning. Near frictionless glass bearings and pivots, flywheels cunningly forged and thin as razors.

The branches deviated from the trunk; all glass. They spun this way and that in crazy circles around a hundred pivots, each fluttering branch seeming to almost catch and scrape its fellows. A second from disaster; illusions of permanent catastrophe made all the more beautiful for its fragility.

At the end of the branches, strung out from high-tension wire thinner than a hair and invisible a hundred thousand tiny microthin aluminium sails. The sculpture changed, shifted as patterns of light hit and refracted in brilliant colour. It would not be the same from one minute to the next as the faintest winds propelled the glass stalks on their journey. As a pattern emerged of order and shifted in the next, chaos flowed, tamed from top to bottom as it shook. The illusion of movement and the illusion of stability.

She grinned. Had appeared beside him.

“You like it?”

“Yeah. What are you gonna call it?”

She shrugged. “I was thinking: Movement.”




We made a mistake

It wasn't the first title I'd have picked for my book. It sort of snuck up on me unaware while I was doing the research really; interviewing ex-soldiers and those still serving, touring Nineday House and visiting those poor few deemed too dangerous to themselves or others to be part of normal society. I'd wanted to write a concise history of the only real international war Caracasus had involved itself in since the revolution. I ended up chronicling mistake after mistake.

They made the therapy centres as pleasant as possible, but of course the walls were still there. One soldier I visited at a small therapy centre was happy enough to answer my questions. A quiet man, though slightly built already he seemed to take up even less physical space or presence. Wiry hair gone grey at the temples. No decoration in his modern, well lit apartment space save that already there. A print showing a forest at noon, a vase with fresh cut flowers (replenished daily, he tells me) and a dull matte-black holoprojector sphere.

It was hard to believe that he was here under force. Two years after returning from deployment he'd taken his boyfriend and three other house-guests hostage with his service gun.

He was lucid enough, though complained that the drugs clouded his mind. As the sunlight filtered in through the wide windows, catching motes of dust I could make out the vast forested hillsides the therapy centre had been built to overlook. You could almost ignore the chainlink fence and the other, more discrete methods employed to ensure that the centre's charges did not escape.

He told me of his deployment to Oehiton, the mess that ensued. He spoke of the initial chaos of those early days guarding the aid camp that would later sprawl and become Caracasus's unofficial headquarters. The sectarian factions that made up that little slice of Oehiton (now of course known as the Republic of South Cardulan) were at each other's throats. He spoke of fights over the least provocation at the aid camps. The Sons of Wotan with their knives, banners and songs, the Brothers Penitent with cudgels, hymns and bombs. Renabourg and Wodensgardd. He spoke as if the horrors had happened to someone else. Subtly his speech shifted, he was no longer part of the narrative. No “I” or “we” any more as he skirted around those events that had scarred him the most. The bomb attack on a school. The Ghosts of Oehiton and their mortar shelling of the aid camp. I pieced together what I could with what I knew. In response to perceived Caracasusian support for the Northern Alliance, the Ghosts of Oehiton had shelled the camp with improvised explosives and military equipment. He'd run this way and that as the bombs had fallen, dragging those he could find still alive to the relative safety of reinforced buildings. In the aftermath, he told me, the Ghosts had used confusion and chaos to their advantage. A number of aid workers and Oehitonians had been kidnapped and executed. Their trademark removal of the eyes giving warning to those who survived.

I left him there with his ghosts.

My next interview dealt more with the logistics of the later crisis than the individual. General Elect Maltick (Retired) was a tall, sinewy woman, hair streaked with grey and clad in overalls. It always surprises me, meeting those soldiers who returned more or less intact. You expect something militaristic in their bearing, but I found her digging potatoes in a communal garden. Soil on her hands.

She'd led forces to the defence of Alfsunnd. One of the bigger victories of the Caracasusian armed forces in that conflict. Opplandian and Caracasusian soldiers had dug in, using fire lines and aerial support to halt and eventually roll back the last great push of Oehiton's armed forces before marching north to meet up with the Northern Alliance push at Vik.
They'd thought Alfsund dead and deserted, some twelve per cent of its original population still cowered behind defences and in basements, fleeing from what they'd pieced together of their old lives every time the sonic boom of a fighter jet sounded, or the whistle-crash of intercepted mortar fire. Children played in rubble. Some lost hands, lives even to unexploded ordinance. She told me with a grim expression that it was likely that some of that ordinance would have been manufactured here in Caracasus.

The firing line of the last offensive was sporadic and all over the place. Mercenary groups resupplied and bolstered what was left of the Oehiton armed forces. Many enemy soldiers deserted, and come the morning she'd be met with reports of how many had sought out the Caracasusian lines and surrendered. They were boys and old men for the most part, though many had thrown away their weapons those few that had not bought with them an odd assembly of guns – most were outdated. A few were museum pieces. She told me of one boy who carried a breech-loading musket taller than he was.

They reached Vik, carefully picking over what traps and ambushes the Oehiton army still had to throw. She asked me if I'd ever seen a dead city. Her eyes bore something of the poor soul I'd interviewed at the therapy centre as she recalled it. Sprawling across a fertile valley, the city of Vic had been killed. It takes a lot to kill a city, she told me, but dead it was. First the shelling, then the bombs had not killed it. Death, when it came, came at the hands of a bioengineered bacteria, released by one of the factions within Oehiton according to some.

Its docks had clogged with the charred and mangled wreckage of fishing boats and cargo ships. Oil and other vital fluid leaked, seeping into the water. The steady flow of the tidal river bore with it the last great expulsion of Vik. As a corpse may loose its bowels, so had the great city. Bodies bobbed in the eddies, still smouldering chunks of unidentifiable refuse and building material caught on charred skeletons of toppled buildings. It was possible to cross from one side of the great river to another on the wreckage and not get your feet wet.

Fire had claimed what bombs had not. A hesitant mission to check on a long-silent Caracasusian relief operation that had been tasked with treating those infected by the illness uncovered nothing. Not one shred of evidence came to light about their fate, and to this day it remains a mystery.

We made a mistake. It would be easy, I think, to blame the Northern Alliance for its continued use of Oehiton as a buffer zone between it and the belligerent state of Tekeristan. To overlook its rise to military power, and to turn a blind eye as criminal syndicates first took root and then bought themselves legal protection and entrenched their position within the government. It would also be wrong.

The Northern Alliance, for the most part, consists of countries that still rely on a hierarchy, to some degree or another. They require an enemy to fight, propaganda for the masses and a good war every decade or so to keep industry ticking over nicely. We did not, do not. To blame the Northern Alliance for their actions would be to blame a shark for attacking a surfer – these states cannot help but to act in the way that they did. We can, and we should have known better.
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Postby Zwangzug » Sat Jun 24, 2017 10:20 am

(News from May 31):
This Wednesday's news:

Progress continues on the filming of an alternate-history movie set in a dystopian version of Zwangzug. Though details about the plot have been few, it appears to be set in near-contemporary Spenson, and will feature "both intense violence and humor amid the darkness." One of the stars is a Picksall Islander woman who prefers to communicate in the islands' native language, which has not fared well in this fictional timeline. "Fortunately," sources close to the film say, "new technology provides a way for her to work with her comrades and keep her culture alive, but not without some unexpected pitfalls..." Neither the title nor the release date have been set.
At last, we can present "Worm Holes"/"Wondi Pōēnandumak," a bilingual script that features not only violence and humor, but also baseball allusions (even in a dystopia, it's still Zwangzug). Early reviews of the film suggest some of the protagonists may be very loosely based on Zwangzugian sports icons that fared less well in this darker timeline, but that it should stand alone for viewers unfamiliar with our culture. Young viewers are advised that there is a high risk of violence and death, as befits a dystopian setting, but there is no sexual content.

Click here to enter the Worm Holes!
Last edited by Zwangzug on Sat Jun 24, 2017 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Frieden-und Freudenland » Tue Jun 27, 2017 4:46 am

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Excursions in the Redwood Forest

by Mike Chapman (aka Mike the Mycologist)

Dear Fungi Lovers,

I'd like to tell you about an excursion that I undertook with my fellow mushroom enthusiasts last month. I hope that the findings of our scientific expedition will interest you, because what we have found is not common.

As my devout readers already know, I reside in Redriver, Frieden-und Freudenland, and I often go to the Redwood Forest nearby both to collect mushrooms for dinner and also to examine the mushrooms that are new to me. I don't collect them for dinner, of course, since I am not sure they are edible. But I photograph them diligently, I try to identify them looking at the sample pictures in my Stetsonian Mushroom Recognition Guide, and if this does not work, I call my friends in the Biology Department at Worcestershire University and sending the photos to them, I kindly request that they identify the mushroom for me. Thankfully, they have always been patient with me so far and indulged my importunate requests. I am grateful to them for giving so much time and consideration to an amateur fungus lover like me.

Last month, too, my friends Carl, Kimberley, Jack, and Dana asked me if I would like to go to the Redwood Forest with them to collect some delectable specimens of Lactarius Indigo. We were organizing a surprise birthday party for Kimberley's husband that evening, and he loved this mushroom species, so Kimberley had thought she should prepare a mushroom dish just for him. Without thinking for a second, I said yes. Yes, I never said "no" to anyone who suggested collecting mushrooms. Sure enough, we went to the Redwood Forest and in a few hours, our baskets were full of Lactarius Indigo, or blue milk mushrooms, as laypeople tend to call them.

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Then we went to Kimberley's house and helped her with the preparations. Carl and I were decorating the living room, Jack drove to the bakery to pick up the birthday cake, while Dana and Kimberley were busy preparing the mushroom dish. Its delicious smell soon filled the entire house. Such a great mushroom, a boon of the Fungus gods to our country! I hadn't realized before that blue milk mushrooms smelled so nice! We had picked up the mushrooms after a particularly rainy period, so maybe the soil that has been satiated with rain nourishes the mushrooms in a different way, giving rise to this sweet smell, I don't know.

In a few hours, Kimberley's husband William had arrived home, cried for joy when we called "Surprise!" and we had started tasting Kimberley's delicious blue milk mushroom stew. Sadly, our dear friend Kim could not taste her own marvelous stew, since her stomach had been upset. We enjoyed our meal, feeling sorry that she was going to eat only some salad on this special day. William was voracious, so he ate the portion that was Kimberley's share as well. When we had all eaten our stew, there was still some left in the cooking pot, and it being his birthday, William had not hesitated to gorge himself on the remaining stew. "Hey, it's my birthday, and this is my favorite dish!" he had protested, when he gave him a disapproving look. At the end of the feast, we congratulated William on his 60th birthday once more and left.

The next morning, I woke up with a peculiar, stabbing pain on my left arm. I raised my arm and was astounded. I had a swollen red-blue bruise on my arm. I tried to think about our mini-expedition the day before, I tried to recollect whether I had hit my arm perhaps...I could not recall anything of the sort.

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Moreover the swollen bruise kept growing during the day, turning into a painful knot and making me miserable. I called my friends one by one and asked them whether they had seen me fall down in the forest. You know, I am an old man, I might have forgotten it. They said no, but their voices were anxious. When I questioned them, they all complained about mysterious purple growths on their skin...

That's when I suspected that that could perhaps be a reaction to yesterday's meal...Perhaps we had an allergy to something. Frankly, as I had eaten blue milk mushrooms before, I suspected this had something to do with the blueberries in William's birthday cake. Blueberries are not commonly found in Frieden-und Freudenland, they are usually imported from Wise Witches, and they are so expensive. That's why they are generally reserved for use on special occasions, like for a birthday cake. I had tasted them for the first time since my childhood on William's birthday, so maybe my old body did not digest them well...

I told Carl, Jack, and Dana about this, and they seemed to agree with me. Then we called Kimberley and William to see if they had the same problem. Nobody answered the phone. I was growing worried, and when they still did not answer the phone, I suggested driving to their house and checking on them. Carl, Jack, Dana, and I jumped into my sedan and drove to Kimberley and William's cozy detached house in the Serpentine Street, No. 666, a winding street named after its innumerable curves, in a remote corner of a creepy neighbourhood in Redriver where many old mansions had been unoccupied for years. The realtors had to fight against a widely-spread rumor about a black mold epidemic in the houses of this area, and most of the time, they were unsuccessful. So the houses remained empty for years, proving to be safe abodes for various kinds of vermin, until the human occupants come.

I got out of the car and told the others to wait inside, and I knocked at my friends' door. No answer. I went back to the car and suggested that we break the door. We had no choice. If it turned out I had been worrying needlessly, I could pay for the door, but I couldn't live with a heavy conscience, if something had happened to my friends and I did not help them when I had the opportunity to do so.

Jack and I rammed ourselves against the door, and the old wooden door easily gave way. Once inside, two things drew my attention. First, the unusual quietude of the home, and second, the blue patches that covered all the walls - in the hallway, in the living room. It was as if some prankster had been running around in the house with a paintbrush in his hand, splashing blue paint on the walls.

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Scared, I called my friends' names with a trembling voice and got no response. My anxiety only grew. I started to walk towards their bedroom to check on them. I knocked on the door. "Kimberley? William? Are you there?" No response. I slowly pushed the door. The blinds were lowered, so the room was only dimly lit with a few rays of light that slipped through the tiny slits between the rungs of the blind. It was hard to see. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness a bit, I saw my friend William lying on the bed, and what a sight it was! His face had completely turned blue, even the white of his eyes was blue!

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I called out to my friends and they ran to the bedroom, and they, too, were shocked at the sight. My friend seemed to be unconscious. With hesitation, I placed my fingers on my friend's wrist - and alas, he had no pulse. He had long gone. I pulled the covers over his head and thought we should call the police. Only then it occurred to me that Kimberley was missing. I told my friends to look for her in the house, but she was nowhere to be found. Her clothes were still in the closet, her shoes in the shoe cabinet, her purse on the nightstand, with her wallet inside.

When the coroner arrived, he concluded that William had died of silver poisoning. Where the silver came from, we would never know. After our work at my friends' house was done, Carl, Jack, Dana and I drove to a hospital to have ourselves checked. The diagnosis: silver poisoning. Had we come into contact with a silver solution? Not that we knew of.

Kimberley was missing. Though, a few days later, I heard through the grapevine that someone who looked very much like Kimberley had been seen at the harbour with a man who was younger than her, and they boarded a cruise ship headed for Mozworld. That's all speculation, of course. The woman wore sunglasses and her large hat concealed much of her face, so who can be sure it was her? Someone told me that the safe they had rented in ForestBank had been emptied by their only son who lived in Wise Witches, in accordance with William's will. I never knew William had a will, though. He had a firm belief that he had loooong years to live, so he had not bothered to write a will, thinking it wouldn't be needed anytime soon. But maybe he had.

It's been one month since my friend William died and I am still shaken by the gruesome sight I witnessed that day. William's son put his parents' house for sale, though the local real estate agent Mr. Kim suggests it will be long time before the house is sold, because of the blue mold on the walls. He definitely has a sense of humor, though. He says he is glad that at least the color of the mold is different this time - less depressing than black mold! Funny fellow, indeed.

The blue growth on my arm subsided since then. I still have a faint blue patch on my arm, but the doctor says it will disappear in a few weeks.

But since that fateful day, I have been wondering about something.

I immediately assumed that what we ate was blue milk mushroom stew, but I had noted it had had a different smell. It had been a nice smell, so I hadn't bothered to ask... But was it perhaps a different, poisonous mushroom that was deceptively similar to blue milk mushrooms? If so, Kimberley had been lucky to have an upset stomach that day...

I cannot shake the feeling that there was something wrong with that mushroom, something that made it different, unwholesome. I wonder whether the silver came from the mushroom, but I cannot be sure. My biologist friends assure me that they know of no mushroom species that could contain dangerously high levels of silver.

But I am still not sure, still eaten by a merciless suspicion...

Have we been the victims of an alien mushroom species? And what happened to my friend Kimberley?

If only I could know...That's why I chose to post my story to FUNG-US, which is a platform that brings together thousands of mushroom lovers from all over the world. So if the mushrooms we found were not blue milk mushrooms, maybe one of our readers can identify them and contact the editors about it.

I want to know what it was that we ate that day...
Last edited by Frieden-und Freudenland on Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Frieden-und Freudenland » Tue Jul 04, 2017 5:53 am

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Where Music Meets Physics and Causes A Teacher to Lose His Job

by Caleb Damjan

It was a normal day for the students and teachers in Fernhill Central High School, Fernhill, Frieden-und Freudenland. That is to say, it was normal, until Mr. Frederiksen*, the physics teacher, entered the physics lab to teach his acoustics class to 10th graders. "I had been teaching the same class for almost 10 years, only updating some parts as new research on acoustics kept providing novel insights. But you know, the basic structure of the course and the materials I used for teaching - they were the same." says Mr. Frederiksen, before he covers his face with his hands and sobs.

June 21st, Wednesday, was an inauspicious day for the students of Mr. Frederiksen, 6 of which were still being treated for 3rd degree burns in the Fernhill General Hospital while the July issue of Strange New Sounds went into press. One student, Jessica, recounted the events of that day as follows.

I was in the physics lab, sitting in the second row from the front, waiting for our teacher to arrive. Then he came in with a strange contraption that we had not seen before. It looked like a long metal tube with holes on it. I thought it could be a musical instrument, like, some kind of flute, because we were supposed to talk about acoustics that day. Then Mr. Frederiksen said that this device was called a Ruben's tube and he was going to demonstrate us something cool with it, he told us that the device would enable us to SEE music. We were all intrigued. He then put a speaker on one end of the tube, and connected it to his laptop. On the other end of the tube, there was a gas tank. He turned the valve, held a lighter on the holes one by one, and we could see little pillars of flame emerging from the holes along the tube. We turned off the lights, it was a beautiful sight! Then Mr. Frederiksen asked one of our friends, Wendy, whether she had a favorite piece of music to play, and she chose Haydn's Symphony No. 59 from her MP3 player, which we transferred to Mr. Frederiksen's computer. And we started to play the piece, and heard the string instruments buzz and vibrate, the flames started to dance before our eyes. They built little waves, they rose and fell, they swung and flickered. We listened to the music, and we watched the flames... we were mesmerized, and then ---- and then it happened. I don't actually quite remember how it happened, but we heard a blast that drowned out the music, people were screaming and there was fire everywhere. I ran out immediately, and so did my friends. Once we were out, we realized some of our friends had remained inside, as well as Mr. Frederiksen. I ran inside and --- I am sorry that is too painful...I-I- saw my friends writhing in pain, their skin peeling off... Those sitting in the front row had been severely burnt at the moment of explosion and were too shocked to think of leaving the lab. I helped them go out. As I left, Mr. Frederiksen was looking for a fire extinguisher, but he must have given up when the smoke started to smother him, and he came out as well. His face, too, was burned.

The 10 students who were injured and Mr. Frederiksen were immediately hospitalized. Mr. Frederiksen was released from the hospital 3 days later, 4 more students followed. But the 6 remaining students had more severe burns, and as we have pointed out, they were still in hospital when we went into press.

Mr. Frederiksen says he has no idea how this accident happened, though he has some theories. "It might have been a sabotage," he says. "Someone might have given us a leaky propane tank...My ex-wife is a chemistry teacher here, so she has access to these tanks, and she's also pretty vindictive, you know, I wouldn't want to blame her without any physical evidence, but it needs to be looked into, I think."

Ms. Flintstone, a chemistry teacher at Fernhill Central High School and Mr. Frederiksen's ex-wife, declined to comment on Mr. Frederiksen's accusations.

In the mean time, the parents of the injured students settled a lawsuit against Mr. Frederiksen and demanded a heavy compensation for "jeopardizing the students' lives through dangerous teaching practices." The Ministry of Education has temporarily suspended Mr. Frederiksen from his job, and if the court rules in the parents' favor, he might lose his job for good. Authorities are also investigating why there was no fire extinguisher readily available in the physics lab and whether the school administration has been negligent about fire safety.

As a music journal, we are extremely sorry that a class that was meant to combine the beauty of music with the ingenuity of science has been overshadowed by this sad event. We hope that the 6 students in hospital will soon recover, go back to their schools, and listen to Haydn. We are particularly sorry that the strange coincidence that Haydn's 59th symphony, which was being played when the explosion happened, is also known as "The Fire Symphony" created some crazy conspiracy theories out there, with some lunatics calling for a ban on playing Haydn's 59th symphony, claiming that "its inauspicious name gives rise to fires."

As a reaction to this craziness, our July issue comes with a special supplement dedicated to Haydn's life and work and with a free CD that contains a selection of Haydn's best compositions, including The Fire Symphony.

Happy reading and enjoy listening to Haydn!

*all the names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved
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Postby Zwangzug » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:17 am

"Playing with fire"

When Neftali Gutierrez of the Shell Shock Troop Clan (formerly Aguazul) immigrated to Zwangzug, there was a lot to take in. "No accents anywhere," he said. "Plenty of diverse names I had to take a long time to learn how to spell, but only twenty-six letters. Twenty-five in parts of Bingness."

It's just one of the many forms of culture shock Zwangzug's immigrants have to deal with. For Gutierrez, sports were as sedate as orthography. "The football fans here were something else, and I don't mean that in a nervous way," he said. "Absolutely nothing was set on fire during a match in the capital! On the other hand, the formations...I mean, I know we [Zwangzug and Aguazul] shared a common history, but it really makes you ask why."

June MacNicol, a Bigtopian native living in Shorn, grows cynical of those asking her to feel "represented" by the Composite Minister. "Just because her family's from Great Bear Depot [a many-generational Bigtopian-Zwangzugian enclave] and I'm new here doesn't mean we have any more in common than I do with the Namirites, or, Violet help me, the Maxtopians here," she grouses. "I've never seen so much snow in one place! And they don't even give my kids the day off school for it! Back in the old country they'd declare this sort of thing an emergency. Well actually it would be more like an excuse to have another coup but you know what I mean."

Francois Lionnais, a recent transplant from Brancaland, had mixed reactions. "On the one hand, my [Zwangzugian] husband and I were able to get married at a progressive Lutheran church that reminded me of the congregation where I grew up. I enjoy the diversity of worship here, although some of the World Census reports that claim it doesn't exist make me a little concerned about censorship and stuff. On the other hand, this 'broomball' looks like a farcical imitation of good old-fashioned ice hockey. And the breakfast food here is simply barbaric."

"Almost everyone here is freakishly tall," complains Ian Mbaro, of Lilliputia. "The few people here who are my own size aren't particularly friendly either. Actually nobody is interested in social chitchat when you get down to it. I wouldn't mind except the train rides get really boring especially after like your third transfer."

"These people are absurd and what's more, have occupied the 'Zebra Isles' unlawfully," says Sergeant Raquel Thomson of Wezeltonia, attempting to lay claim to Vergy yet again. We should probably do something about that.
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Postby Zwangzug » Thu Jul 20, 2017 4:12 pm

Significantly delayed, we present, our Composite Minister elections!

Twelve parties (coincidentally, the twelve that are represented in the Parliament), competed in every district. Amazingly, their political compass positions haven't shifted since...like 2009. Also amazingly, we remembered how to simulate the instant runoffs. Also also amazingly, the results turned out how we wanted them to. Pretty neat, huh.

It's been said in somewhere that you don't have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than the next guy. Which really begs the question of where you're outrunning bears. Ossidiacqua or somewhere? Anyway, instant runoffs are often a chaotic scramble to make the right move at the right time, pulling support from parties that are different but not too different and take the lead when it counts. This race was no exception, with one ironic twist at the end.

In rough order of their popularity in parliament, we have:

Liberal Conservative Party: Maryam Harris-Etessami, mayor of Guariday
Progressive Traditionalist Party: Jason Madley, representative from Gefnot. Known for asking tourists to "stop dying on us" when causes of death totals don't add up to 100%.
National Socialist Grammarian Writers' Party: Erin Splinter, representative from Nalchoy. Yet another Bigtopian whose family hails from Great Bear Depot (and as such, an earlier cohort of ex-pats than the current refugees).
Birthday Party: Vanessa Hamonoly, representative from Slogda. A tone-deaf Ketrian.
Isolationist Party: Madison Gemmel, president of Bryce College
Mental Asylum Party: Dietrich Sagst-Ebert, Governor of Cipid
Capitalism Now Party: William Schein, representative from Ostulf. Sought the Secretary of Foreign Affairs position when it opened up, to little headway.
Digital Party: Buffy Silk, representative from Hypread. Formerly a grammarian who defected after the assassination attempt on Felix Wainwright.
Libertarian Party: Iris Murphy, e-book magnate
Pragmatic Radical Party: Connor Brook-Choi, member of the Keppal District senate whose blog has become more sharply anti-Felix Wainwright after the surprising radio transmissions
Infinite Power Party: Hart Crath, representative from Bonarte. His Secretary of Foreign Affairs bid didn't go to well either (although to be fair he is his party's only member of parliament).
Vanguard Party: Warren Plin-Gordon, made a documentary about how recent train crashes prove the system can't be trusted

And the results:

Haryas-Etessami 12.42%
Madley 12.17%
Splinter 11.98%
Hamonoly 10.34%
Gemmel 10.23%
Sagst-Ebert 9.87%
Schein 9.85%
Silk 6.73%
Murphy 6.67%
Brook-Choi 5.24%
Crath 4.02%
Plin-Gordon 0.42%, eliminated

Alphabetical order run amok or dedication to public transportation? Either way, the Vanguard Party and their vans are the first party out of the unified field.

Harris-Etessami 12.44%
Madley 12.19%
Splinter 12.01%
Hamonoly 10.37%
Gemmel 10.27%
Schein 9.93%
Sagst-Ebert 9.89%
Silk 6.78%
Murphy 6.72%
Brook-Choi 5.29%
Crath 4.05%, eliminated

The Capitalism Now party gets a plurality of the gains from the Vanguard elimination, and it's enough to push them past the Mental Asylum party for now. The Infinite Power party, however, goes down next.

Harris-Etessami 12.73%
Madley 12.61%
Splinter 12.37%
Hamonoly 10.84%
Gemmel 10.66%
Schein 10.32%
Sagst-Ebert 10.18%
Silk 7.17%
Murphy 7.03%
Brook-Choi 6.04%, eliminated

The Pragmatic Radicals actually get the biggest gain from the IPP's elimination, but it's not enough to save them here.

Harris-Etessami 13.19%
Madley 13.15%
Splinter 12.95%
Schein 11.53%
Hamonoly 11.45%
Gemmel 11.34%
Sagst-Ebert 10.66%
Silk 7.88%
Murphy 7.82%, eliminated

Mixed results for the economic right wing as the CNP continue to climb but the Libertarian Party can't pass the Digital. Of course, you might have guessed what's coming next...

Schein 14.22%
Harris-Etessami 13.77%
Splinter 13.70%
Madley 13.67%
Gemmel 12.28%
Hamonoly 12.05%
Sagst-Ebert 11.34%
Silk 8.95%, eliminated

Boom! The guy who couldn't even win Secretary of Foreign Affairs is now in the lead. By nth-place votes, sure, but it still counts. When lovers of economic freedom stand together, even in Zwangzug, they still exists. (Have you seen our market reforms lately? Pretty exciting, I tell you.)

Gemmel 16.62%
Splinter 15.05%
Schein 14.78%
Harris-Etessami 14.44%
Madley 14.17%
Hamonoly 12.69%
Sagst-Ebert 12.24%

But when the Digital Party goes down, they gravitate towards "eh, like the status quo, but with less effort," and these days that's increasingly exemplified by the Isolationist Party. Now that's something to scare the political establishment. After a reemergement onto the world scene, with new neighbors and new responsibilities, few Parliamentarians seriously consider beating a retreat, and few want the head of state to represent those ideals. Ivory-tower Gemmel may scorn the rest of the world; should she maintain her lead, will there be backlash or a mandate from the population?

Gemmel 18.86%
Splinter 18.44%
Harris-Etessami 17.84%
Schein 15.51%
Madley 15.31%
Hamonoly 14.04%

The Mental Asylum Party's elimination lets the traditional left wing make up some ground on Gemmel, leaving moderate-conservatives(?) Birthday Party failing to make the cut in this round.

Madley 21.57%
Splinter 21.03%
Gemmel 20.90%
Harris-Etessami 20.06%
Schein 16.46%

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a plurality of the Birthday Party are for the Progressive Traditionalists, letting the social conservatives pull into the lead. After their early surge, the Capitalism Now Party is out of it. (They had a ceiling, I guess.)

Gemmel 26.37%
Splinter 25.40%
Madley 24.86%
Harris-Etessami 23.39%

None of these parties are amazingly appealing to the CNP voters, but perhaps Gemmel has put out the call to the disaffected, because she takes the lead once again. And after getting off to the early plurality lead, it will be Harris-Etessami who now faces elimination.

Splinter 36.18%
Gemmel 32.94%
Madley 30.78%, eliminated

Erin Splinter takes the lead right when she needs to, knocking Madley out and reckoning that his voters are more prone to side with the establishment versus disengagement (even if it gets rid of all those tourist bodies!)

Splinter 52.94%
Gemmel 46.54%

And there we have it; in another bizarre victory for the grammarians, Erin Splinter is elected Composite Minister. Maybe more on her some other time. Or not.

But wait! What's this! In accordance with the epic rap battles statute 678, Gemmel is decreed deputy leader who can go to other ceremonial events and keep in touch with citizens? That's...nice. Does it include overseas trips or anything, though? Please don't make her represent the country or anything, she'll be miserable and probably trying to undermine it the whole time.

Okay, other than that, congratulations to both of them, I guess.
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Postby Zwangzug » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:34 am

Erin Splinter (now mid-late 40s, consult your local time-dilation office) was born and raised in Asumerle, Beldere District. Her ancestors were part of a cohort of Bigtopians who took refuge in Great Bear Depot (Dauclem) generations ago; although dwarved in number by the more recent Bigtopian migration (a group which doesn't necessarily have much in common with them), this group has also produced her fellow parliamentarians Janice McFly and Alexander McCarthy. Her older sister, Eva, and her wife Joanna have three children. Their grandmother, Leslie Copeland, was a leader of the Church of Caissa (an obscure Zwangzugian religious sect) in Nuel.

Splinter went to college at Heisenberg University in Arlington. Uncertain of her next steps, she went to law school at the University of Jeatt--Lucina, and married Matthew Lykov, (from Kolya, a suburb of Kerlagrad). They had one son, Jesse Lykov-Splinter. They then moved to Mudboro, Nalchoy, where she planned to work as a public defender before figuring out where to go next. However, Lykov's sudden disappearance in a mountain-climbing accident prompted Splinter to put down roots there.

Owen Frost of the Liberal Conservatives was at that time the incumbent representative, but Splinter found some of his compromises in Parliament uncomfortably corrupt. When she tried to take him to task, her idealism was mocked by some old-timers, and eventually the challenge was thrown down that if she had a problem with the way things were done, she might as well run against him. To the surprise of many, the votes swung her way in the instant runoff, and she held onto her seat ever since.

Splinter has tended to be slightly more economically free-market and socially liberal than the grammarian mainstream, although since both of these were last measured years ago it's possible she represents the party's idea of a consensus nominee now. She did not take a side in the recent "resistance" confrontation; while both her predecessor Felix Wainwright and colleague Eleazar Tolbert were government loyalists, she is known to be on friendly terms with dissidents McFly and Tara Matchesla, another single mother, and this balance may have helped her project a cautious, moderate image. She remains active in the Church of Caissa, and is a Nuel Panthers fan.

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Your August Horoscope Is Here!

Postby Frieden-und Freudenland » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:04 am

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Your August Horoscope

by Stephanie Stargazer

Hello dear readers!

After an exciting July full of pleasant surprises provided to you by the beneficial beams sent by Jupiter, I hope you are ready for a dazzling August. This month will be great for you! - perhaps except for the Earth signs, but even then you can make the best of it. Overall, the two most important astronomical events that will take place this month are the Mercury retrograde that will start on 11 August and the lunar eclipse that will happen on 27 August. The Mercury retrograde will last for 3 weeks, so as always, you should all take care to explain yourself as best as you can to avoid communication problems. I also recommend that you refrain from buying electronics or signing any sort of legal contracts during this period, as Mercury also rules these areas, since they are related to communications. The lunar eclipse will happen while the Moon is in Gemini, so this lunar eclipse will be particularly beneficial for Gemini and other air signs (Libra and Aquarius), as well as other signs who have an air sign as their ascendant.

Now let us look at the individual horoscopes of all signs in detail.

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Dear Aries,

Your friends know you as a hotheaded person, and not completely without reason. Sometimes you are terrible at controlling your anger, even though you may not realize it. I expect your temperament to cause even more problems for you this month, however, unless you exert utmost caution; because the Mercury retrograde on 11 August will not make things any easier for you. Please avoid "fanning the fire" if you happen to have a disagreement with your friends or your family and be patient.

Venus will be passing through your sign between 20-24 August, and Venus is the planet of love and beauty; so this is an excellent time for a romantic getaway, or to change your looks, or to redecorate your home. Trust me, you will make the right choices when it comes to aesthetics these days, because Venus has got that covered for you!

As I've said in the overview, this month will not be very easy for the Fire signs (and you are a Fire sign, as you know), because Pluto, the planet of death and destruction, stands at an unfavorable angle to Mars, your ruler planet; among others. Therefore you should be more careful than ever during this month. Towards the end of the month, however, the lunar eclipse will present you with a nice surprise, though I cannot tell what it is. As the eclipse happens in Gemini, and Gemini is related to communication, education, and travel; this might mean that you will receive a letter from a friend who lives abroad, or maybe you will travel to another country, or maybe you will be accepted to that university program you have been dreaming of!

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Dear Taurus,

What a nice month this is for you! As I am warning all the other signs, I will also be warning you: Please be careful about what you say when you talk to your friends and family on 11 August and for 3 weeks afterwards; because even a minor disagreement can quickly escalate into a big and violent fight before you know it. You should take the Mercury retrograde seriously.

But you also have lots of reasons to be happy this month. For example, Venus, your ruling planet, will be in your sign for 4 days between 20-24 August, which means that, if you've had a wish that you sorely wanted to be fulfilled, that wish may come true during this period, because Venus is taking care of you! Also, this may be an excellent time to buy a new sofa in your living room, or any other furniture, for that matter. Because Venus does its best to help you, if you are purchasing something for your comfort.

The lunar eclipse in Gemini will also bring you rewards, but remember that the eclipse happens in an Air sign, and as you are an Earth sign (and as such, the opposite of an Air sign), you will unfortunately not benefit from this eclipse as much as the others. But do try to make the best of it, and keep your eyes open for any exciting news that might be related to education or travel.

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Dear Gemini,

This is a nice month for you, and take my word for it. Though you should be careful in your interpersonal relations on and after 11 August because of the Mercury retrograde, the rest will be smooth-sailing, I promise.

First, you should be happy to learn that Jupiter, the gift-giver of planets stands in a favorable angle to Mercury, your ruling planet; and therefore, though Mercury is making a retrograde move itself, thanks to the favorable beams it receives from Jupiter, it can prepare pleasant surprises for you. As Jupiter bestows rewards on those who work hard, you can expect to be rewarded for a project you have been working on for quite some time, for instance.

The lunar eclipse towards the end of the month also happens in your sign, and this means that you can expect great developments concerning educational prospects or travel.

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Dear Cancer,

You are a true homebody, aren't you? You like your privacy and to sit in your comfortable home and read your books. But your friends are exasperated because of your unadventurousness - they'd like you to join them in parties, and as you keep retreating into your crab's shell where you feel safe, they feel they are being estranged from you. If you want to keep your good relations to your friends, you should occasionally listen to them and join in the fun. Plus, August is a perfect month for you to do this. With the beneficial beams you will receive from Mercury and Venus, you are likely to find all gatherings enjoyable in August.

As I've pointed out above, though, beware of miscommunication and arguments with your loved ones. The Mercury retrograde makes it very likely for people to hurt each other's feelings this month.

You will also benefit from the lunar eclipse on 27 August, though not as much as the Air signs. Except to get some good news about education or travel during this period.

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Dear Leo,

While the Mercury retrograde that will start on 11 August bids us to exert caution, the forthcoming month will be great in many other ways. First of all, August is the month of Leo, and if your birthday falls between 7-14 August, you can expect to be very lucky in financial matters, since your sign receives favorable beams from Jupiter at this time.

Also, here is some good news: Saturn had been in your sign for about 10 years by now, and it will leave your sign on August 15, passing on to Virgo in its celestial journey. Saturn is a tough master, they say; so I assume you must have felt that you've had to work very hard in these past 10 years. This hectic period comes to an end right now, and you will be rewarded for your hard work soon.

The the lunar eclipse on 27 August, too, is very auspicious and can herald exciting developments about education and travel.

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Dear Virgo,

Your obsessive orderliness is often a cause of strife for you and your loved ones, but this month, especially after the Mercury retrograde starts on 11 August, things may become even more difficult for you. Your friends may now find it harder to tolerate your quirks. If you want to survive this Mercury retrograde, please be patient with your friends and try to appease them, because the Mercury retrograde tends to give everyone a shorter fuse.

You are also entering a very tough period in matters related to your career, since the saturnine Saturn is entering your sign on August 15, where it is bound to stay for about 10 years. This means that you will have to work harder than ever to achieve your career goals. That being said, Saturn is also very generous in rewarding hard work, so you can expect to have made astonishing advancements in your career at the end of this 10-year period.

You will also benefit from the lunar eclipse on 27 August, but unfortunately not as much as the other signs, because you are an Earth sign. But you can nevertheless expect good developments in matters of education and travel.

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Dear Libra,

You have such a strong sense of justice that it is impossible for you to keep your silence when you see someone is being wronged. But you have one flaw: due to your oversensitivity to acts of injustice, you keep seeing wrongdoing where there is none, and you overreact to these perceived injustices, often in a melodramatic fashion. This situation can be particularly aggravated by the Mercury retrograde due on 11 August, which will make misunderstandings more likely for the 3 weeks afterwards. So please be wary of wrongly accusing people of treating others unjustly.

Other than that, this is a brilliant month for you. The lunar eclipse on 27 August happens in Gemini, which is an Air sign just like you. This means that you are one of the three Air signs who will benefit from this eclipse the most. You are in a particularly lucky period as far as education and travel are concerned, so you might consider applying for a university program or booking a vacation - I am sure that they will turn out to be just fine!

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Dear Scorpio,

Your suspicious nature makes it a bit hard to make friends, because you do not trust people easily. This also rings the warning bells for you this month, because the upcoming Mercury retrograde on 11 August will make it more difficult for people to communicate, and it might also make you more suspicious of everyone than you've ever been. So please try to keep your suspicions at a reasonable level.

Your ruling planet, Pluto, will be changing signs and will go from Aquarius to Pisces on August 2. This means that you will be affected by the emotionality of Pisces for the next 15 years. But this is a good sign! This means that the friendships you establish in this period will likely last for a lifetime, and you might get to meet your soulmate within the next few years, if you haven't found him or her yet.

The lunar eclipse on August 27 also promises lots of rewards, but rather to a moderate extent, as you are a Water sign. You should expect good news about education and travel, though.

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Dear Sagittarius,

You archers will be generally lucky this month. But before breaking the good news, let me warn you about the Mercury retrograde that is due on 11 August. You should be very careful about how you communicate with people during this period, as they might easily misunderstand you, and nasty arguments can follow.

Your ruling planet, Jupiter, is in Aries; so this makes you more belligerent and obstinate than ever. But you can use that to your advantage, for example if you turn this aggressive energy in you into a wholesome ambition, you can reap wonderful rewards in school or at work.

The lunar eclipse on 27 August will also be beneficial for you, but remember that you are a Fire sign. That being said, you will probably be blessed with favorable developments in matters of education and travel. This may be the right time to apply for a coveted position at a good university or to book your dream voyage.

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Dear Capricorn,

Your ruling planet, Saturn, will travel to Virgo on August 15, where it will stay for about 10 years. Virgo is known for its orderliness, so the next 10 years may be your chance to create order in your life. You may get married or find a steady job within the next 10 years - the stars will be on your side.

As far as short-term goals are concerned, however, you need to exert utmost caution this month in your relaitonships, because the Mercury retrograde that will start on 11 August will make everyone a bit thin-skinned, so they will be eager to take offense. As you are known for the sharpness of your tongue, it would be better if you thought twice before making a disapproving comment about your loved ones.

The lunar eclipse on 27 August will bring good news in the realms of education and travel, so you might get a nice letter of recommendation from your professor or you might find a cheap plane ticket to the holiday destination of your dreams! Yet do not expect a miracle, since you are an Earth sign.

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Dear Aquarius,

This is a golden month for you! But before I relay the good news, I should give you a warning. The Mercury retrograde on 11 August will make misunderstandings and verbal fights more likely than ever, since you are famous for your outspokenness, you might easily cause a turmoil with an unthoughtful remark. So keep your mouth closed on 11 August, and throughout the 3 weeks that follow.

Other than that, I have two pieces of good news for you: First, Pluto, the planet of death and destruction, is leaving your sign on August 2. Pluto had lingered in your sign for about 15 years, so if you felt downtrodden during this time, there was a good astrological reason for this. But you can expect to have more luck and better spirits after August 2.

The lunar eclipse of 27 August is also destined to be quite beneficial for you, as it occurs in an Air sign (Gemini). The rewards that this eclipse will lavish upon the Air signs tend to be related to education and travel, so you can expect to get recognition for your hard work at school or maybe you can book a nice holiday in a wonderful holiday resort. The possibilities are endless and brilliant.

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Dear Pisces,

This month has a lot of things in store for you! But let me start with a warning. You are very emotional, and as such, you are very quick to take offense and get hurt. This problem may grow even more serious this month, as most people will be more likely to have a hard time finding the right words to express themselves due to the Mercury retrograde starting on August 11. As such, they might unintentionally hurt your feelings. Try not to take every inconsiderate remark personal.

Other than that, one important fact you need to pay attention to is that Pluto, the planet of death and destruction, is moving to your sign on August 2, where it will stay for about 15 years. Do not be intimidated by the planet's epithet, though. Death and destruction may sound like trouble, but they also signify rebirth and creation, for how else would Nature regenerate itself? So try to focus on the favorable aspects of this change. Pluto may make it easier for you to deal the death blow to a troublesome relationship, or to resign from an unfulfilling job, for instance.

The lunar eclipse of 27 August can bring you good news about education and travel, though to a lesser extent compared to the Air signs. Still, try to make this count and book a nice vacation in your favorite destination. You won't regret it!
Last edited by Frieden-und Freudenland on Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Shalotte » Tue Aug 01, 2017 4:38 am

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BIRD BONANZA CAUSES COASTAL CHAOS

GET YOUR fowling rods ready and brace yourselves - it's mating season, and the sea birds that typically use Shalotte as a breeding ground have had a particularly romantic year it would seem!

Hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs of every manner of sea bird you can imagine have descended upon the coasts of Shalotte, with some experts estimating that there may in fact be more than a million of them this year. We are outnumbered, and it is beginning to show.

Gulls and gannets are believed to be the primary culprits. A mild spring and plentiful food has sent their populations into overdrive, says the Alauna Fowling Guild, and some coastal towns are reportedly being swarmed by excessive numbers of the creatures.

In some areas, it is a mere nuisance.

"I had just bought a battered cod from one of the stalls at the seafront, when I was mobbed by ****** gulls!" said Kassi of Graeth, a resident of the fishing town of Pae'tan. "There were hundreds of them, and I lost me dinner! Flew right off with it, they did!"

"I've been a fowler for twenty years, and I've never seen the like," said Jurri of Breaganoth, a resident and professional fowler of the reclusive island settlement of Dregnalfar. "Normally we don't get a huge amount of [birds] up here, but we manage to make do. This year though, the cliffs are swarming with them. You can't take a step without treading on a gannet!

"I'm not complaining, as it's my livelihood, but I would guess that non-fowlers are going to get a bit sick of it."

But in other areas, it's proving to cause very real damage and not a little bit of chaos. Bird droppings are plastering some ancient stone buildings, including some temples that predate Shalotte's history, and the damage being caused has the potential to be devastating.

"The temple in Melroc tel'Gaeth is an iconic structure," explained Her Reverent Holiness, Seski of Turvald, the High Draér of the Draéryn. "The Illuoch-taer themselves are said to have commanded its construction in the Times Before, yet now birds are coating it in [droppings] faster than the local community can clean it. Combined with them pecking at the mortar, the damage to the ancient stones is proving to be catastrophic, and we haven't the resources, skills, or manpower on that remote island to repair it.

"It is not merely Melroc tel'Gaeth's temple that is suffering either, but the temples of many settlements across these isles."

Even fowlers, who you would think would benefit from the influx of birds, are suggesting that it might be a problem. The Alauna Fowling Guild has expressed concerns that the prices of bird-related products could be driven down, as amateur fowlers try to take advantage of the heightened sea bird population and flood the market with feathers, fats, and meat.

This depression could put professional fowlers, who rely on stable prices in the markets for their livelihoods, into an uncomfortable financial position by the end of Br'ghaéne.

The bird issue has proven to be so problematic that some people have petitioned Her Faithful Grace, Domnaeni Alsa II, to intervene.

"Something needs to be done!" said Helgi of Maefort, resident of Alauna and leader of the Concerned Shalottes Society. "Her Faithful Grace needs to take steps to reduce the numbers of birds before there's an accident. All it will take is a swarm of the creatures attacking a child to cause a tragic event!"

The Domnaeni has expressed doubt that she can do anything about the issue, however. We asked for her response to the calls for intervention this morning.

"I strongly empathise with my beloved children across Shalotte; the excess numbers of birds across the Royal Isles are proving to be problematic in some areas, and it is causing them very real distress," Alsa told us. "And when my children are distressed, so am I. I would do anything to help.

"That said, I am not sure what I can to do to help. The birds come as they may, and they will not listen to my pleas. All we can do is pray that they will leave with a minimum of fuss once Sahaéne sets in and the cold drives them south."

Alsa has promised to help the Draéryn to protect their ancient temples from harm, however. "I shall provide some of my own personal funds to our faithful draér to help them maintain the temples of old in these difficult times," she said. "The Illuoch-taer seek to test us, and we shall not let this test permanently damage their places of worship."

In the meantime, it seems that Shalottes are simply going to have to cope, and wait for the birds to migrate south when Sahaéne begins. At least we'll have plenty of oil, feathers, and bird meat to tide us over when it does.

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Last edited by Shalotte on Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:05 am, edited 11 times in total.

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The Forest of Lost Adventurers Is Waiting For You!

Postby Frieden-und Freudenland » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:16 am

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In this issue of Adventurer's Digest, we introduce you to The Blue Mountain Forest, colloquially known as The Forest of Lost Adventurers.
Location: The Democratic Island Federation of Frieden-und Freudenland, 40 miles north of Mount Serendipity.

Nearest Settlement: Oakborough (Population: 350, 2016 census)

Amenities: There is a diner run by an old lady in the village of Oakborough. They do not offer much variety, but the food tastes nice and is prepared in a clean kitchen - which should suffice for humble adventurers. As far as accommodation is concerned, there is a treehouse owned by an old man named Winston Crusty (seen on the photo below - that was his reaction when he saw our camera) who has lived in the Blue Mountain Forest for the last 30 years, after he was expelled from the army on grounds of mental instability. He says he occasionally lets lone travellers stay in one of his rooms, in exchange for some varieties of food that he cannot find in the Blue Mountain Forest (e.g. mutton, beef, chicken eggs, ice cream) or new and clean clothes. He does not accept money, as he has no use for it in the forest, where he is isolated from the rest of the humankind.

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In case you feel uncomfortable about staying with Mr. Crusty, you can perhaps ask some villagers to let you lodge with them. You know, they are always strapped for cash, and they might be willing to let you stay with them if you pay them a little money. That being said, we recommend that you simply pitch your own tent in a clearing in the forest (if you can find one), as this will be the safest option for you, it seems.

Nearest Point of Arrival: Redriver International Airport, which is located 500 miles (as the crow flies) to the West of the Blue Mountain Forest. From there on, you can follow the trekking track that goes over The Old Dolphin Valley to reach The Blue Mountain Forest.

Advantages: Gorgeous views. The opportunity to see many wild animals in their habitats.

Downsides: Sore feet. The trekking track does not have much signage, and it actually blends into the thicket about halfway through the track. Also, the track is actually about 800 miles. (You know, because The Blue Mountain Forest is 500 miles to the East of Redriver as the crow flies. You are not a crow. You have to walk along this serpentine route.)

If this doesn't suit you, you can always rent a horse from a horse handler in Redriver.

Advantages: Horses are great animals. (If they happen to be of a mild disposition, and if you know how to ride them.)

Downsides: The horse handlers in Redriver lease their horses for only 1 day, so you have to bring them back in the evening - which renders them unsuitable for this journey (unless you believe you can cover the distance of 800 miles within a day).

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The Blue Mountain Forest is located 40 miles to the north of Mount Serendipity, a dormant volcano that adorns the skyline of Frieden-und Freudenland. The forest also gets its name from Mount Serendipity, since this mountain looks blue at dusk (see below).

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The forest has recently become (in)famous, because about 20,000 travellers went missing while visiting it last year (the total number of persons who went missing in the Blue Mountain Forest since it was opened to tourism in 2013 is estimated to be around 100,000). But the Blue Mountain Forest does not deserve its negative reputation. For one thing, as we all well know, people only get lost in the wilderness because they do not take the necessary precautions. The family members and friends of almost every traveller who got lost there have reported that the travellers (1) did not have enough supplies with them, (2) did not have the necessary skills and expertise to navigate a forest terrain, (3) were not sufficiently informed about the flora and the fauna of the forest, (4) did not know basic survival techniques, (5) foolishly relied on mobile technology to stay safe (cellphones usually get no signal in the forest, and also phones rapidly run out of batteries if the traveller is missing for more than a few days).

This should not intimidate you. While it is true that this is a very thick forest where it is easy to get disoriented, you should be fine as long as you have the necessary knowledge to survive there. Here are some tips for you:

1) Have enough supplies to last for at least 30 days. Remember, you will walk 800 miles to reach the forest. Even 30 days may not be enough for you.

2) This brings us to our second point. You should hunt, for it is almost inconceivable for an average human to carry so much food around. There is one problem, though. The Blue Mountain Forest and the places around it in a circumference of 1000 miles (so this includes the trekking track over The Old Dolphin Valley) have been designated as a nature reserve in 1702, so it is forbidden in the strictest terms to hunt there. Fishing in the rivers coursing through the Old Dolphin Valley is also prohibited. If you need protein, your best option is to catch insects. (Caution: You can only catch grasshoppers for consumption, since all the other insects are protected by law). One good news: it is absolutely permitted to pick any fruits you like, as long as you do not harm the trees while climbing up them. There are quite a lot of oak trees in the forest (hey, there is a reason that the village nearby is called Oakborough!) and this means you can eat lots of acorns. If you are lucky, you can find some chestnuts as well. (But that's pretty much all there is.) Another nutritious option would be to eat mushrooms, which are very plentiful in this forest. (Caution: Many of the edible mushrooms are deceptively similar to their poisonous "evil twins," so it would be in your best interest to stay away from mushrooms unless you are very knowledgeable about them.)

3) Your clothing and footwear should be appropriate for the climate and terrain, obviously.

4) The Blue Mountain Forest is home to many wild animals such as blue mountain tigers (Panthera montis livens), Redriver wild boars (Sus Redriverensis), and Forest vipers (Vipera Forestensis). You are normally not on the menu for these animals, so they do not perceive you as food. Still, in case something goes wrong and they attack you, you should be able to defend yourself (without resorting to violence! Harming wild animals will land you in a rehabilitation center in Frieden-und Freudenland!) As you will not be able to use any weapons for this purpose, we recommend that you practise running fast over hurdles (it is not easy to run in this forest because of the lush undergrowth), and you should preferably learn climbing up trees, and this is also good for picking acorns, as we have said (caution: this will not protect you from the vipers, as they can curl themselves up around the tree branches).

5) There are no mobile signals in the forest, so you cannot use technology to call for help. We recommend that you take a whistle with you, maybe a forester can hear its sound and come to help you. (downside: the sounds of the cicadas may drown out your whistle). Needless to say, you are not allowed to light a fire in the forest, and you cannot wear shiny clothes that will make you easy to detect for search and rescue teams (because a study by Brown et al. 2011 from Worcestershire University has shown that having colorful or eye-catching objects nearby reduces the sex drive of Frieden-und Freudenlandian woodpeckers (Dendrocopos Frieden-und Freudenlandensis), so it is feared that they might totally forgo reproduction because of you, and might end up becoming extinct. You wouldn't want to serve 50 years in a Frieden-und Freudenlandian rehabilitation center, attending countless seminars on nature conservation and writing essays on why it is wrong to cause a species to become extinct.)

For navigation, the best thing is to rely on traditional knowledge, since electronic devices will not always work.

You know, basic stuff.

For example, the mossy side of a tree faces North. You know that, don't you?

Like this:

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It should be fairly easy.

And if you manage to survive, you will come back having seen gorgeous views and experienced a fabulous adventure!

Here, just see some photos that have been taken by our late photographer Lance Walt.

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Unfortunately, our photographer Lance Walt has never come back from his 5th expedition to the Blue Mountain Forest last year. He might have died there, and how great it must have been for him to die doing what he liked doing best: enjoying the majesty of Mother Nature and taking photographs! You will always live in our hearts, Lance.
When I write, I don't have an accent.

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Zwangzug
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Left-wing Utopia

Postby Zwangzug » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:58 am

Anxiety gave way to jubilation in Spenson, as a jerry-rigged orbiter successfully landed with the crew of the disabled spacecraft Maxcelsior inside. After the shuttle's unforeseen explosion, due to a source that has still yet to be identified, the mission was jeopardized and the lives of the six astronauts at risk. Many felt this was due to be another "Hope 8" scenario, although they were hoping to deploy to the Zwangzugian Space Station to monitor meteorites and carry out various scientific experiments.

The existence of the orbiter came as a surprise to many outside, and a few within, the aeronautical community. "To be honest, I mostly thought it was there to evacuate the space station in case some of those East Lebatuckese nincompoops mounted an invasion," sheepishly explained Commander Bharatendu Yeats-Nguyen, who appears to consider himself some sort of "military" figure. "Most of our calculations for it were for longer-range flights, but very theoretical. There was not much expectation of putting it into practice this early, but fortunately, it turned out to work better than the shuttle itself."

Flight Commander Stefanie Wu attributed the success of the rescue mission to the many technicians on the ground who were able to quickly reprogram the orbiter. "For everyone who goes into space, there are dozens of people working behind the scenes to control computer programs, build spacecraft, and develop contingency plans. They're like umpires; hopefully they never have to be the center of attention. But when an unexpected deadline was imposed, they rose to the occasion, and I couldn't be more proud of our team's work."

Rochelle McKinnon, the leader of the Maxcelsior crew, was in charge of communications with Mission Control. "We always try to simulate extreme conditions, but nothing can really prepare you for disaster. I'd like to say that we relied on each other to pull through, but really, it was a lot of sitting around and waiting with our own thoughts and fears. Not that we had any real discord, it's just, there's only so much we could do."

"I'm grateful for the constant communication," added Tim Longfellow, a mission specialist. "Mission Control was appropriately cautious and aware of the risks, and they worked their tails off to keep us safe. But more than that, they realized we shouldn't have been left in the dark."

McKinnon concurred. "I'd like to believe that even in the worst-case scenarios, nothing could stop a country like ours from looking to the skies and pushing the limits of exploration and discovery. We're not people who dwell in despair. All the same, while I'm primarily grateful for my crew's safety, I'm also very much appreciative that this episode won't slow the country's spirits down."

Pilot Coraline Goethe-Song also agreed. "There's a thin line between unhealthy nationalism and unrelenting curiosity. I think some of the tragedy of our early space program was that we weren't able to separate the failure of one mission from the fear that national pride had pushed too far. But Maxcelsior wasn't a competition with any other country--this was a journey of discovery surely worth dying for, if it had come to that, but more importantly worth living for too."

The East Lebatuckese opinion of the new orbiter functionality was not available at press time.
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...using the lens of athletics to illustrate national culture, provide humor, interweave international affairs, and even incorporate mathematical theory...
WARNING: by construing meaning from this sequence of symbols, you have given implicit consent to the theory that words have noncircular semantic value and can be used to encode information about an external universe. Proceed with caution.

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Zwangzug
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Left-wing Utopia

Postby Zwangzug » Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:04 pm

Leila Schebren's new translation of the Ashahnemas, a collection of ancient folktales from the Namiri region, has been greeted as everything from an educational innovation to an unsuitably violent mess. To get the scoop on what purpose it serves, we spoke to the target audience: young students getting a taste of culture, or mayhem.

"I liked the one where the prince got shot in the face!" exulted Jerome McWheeler, 9. "Uh my teacher reads them to us for Group Reading Time after lunch? I like silent reading better cuz then I can read about the Chronoshift Squad. Uhhhhh we had to draw pictures of what we thought was happening which was kinda dumb cause I'm not good at drawing. But yeah, princes are probably bad guys, so when he got hurt, that was funny."

"I thought Chyra was pretty cool," said Mikayla Drune, 12, in reference to the protagonist of "The Marriage Feast." Unlike previous translations, Schebren has chosen to leave many words referencing characters untranslated, serving as de facto proper names where there were previously none. "She seemed brave. It was sad when everything got literally set on fire? Are we supposed to believe that really happened, though?"

"Is this gonna be on the test?" muttered Neha Reddy, 16. "Uh, the version my uncle told me didn't go like that, but whatever, it's just stories. I mean, I don't like sad ones too much? I cried when Trevor died in The Albatross--uh, don't tell my friends that, they'll make fun of me cuz what if I don't have enough empathy for like, uh, actual people? But even the sad ones are pretty hopeful so there's that. I think. That's what the summary I found online said."

"I like it," summarized Tyler Stair-Cho, 17. "I thought the footnotes at the back were kind of pretentious but it beats, like, depressing foreign stuff. So yeah, hopefully I can make an allusion to this on my final, that'll probably go over well."
Factbook
IRC humor, (self-referential)
My issues
...using the lens of athletics to illustrate national culture, provide humor, interweave international affairs, and even incorporate mathematical theory...
WARNING: by construing meaning from this sequence of symbols, you have given implicit consent to the theory that words have noncircular semantic value and can be used to encode information about an external universe. Proceed with caution.

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Zwangzug
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Founded: Oct 19, 2006
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Zwangzug » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:17 pm

To our sisters and brothers of the magical community,

Greetings from Warzenhund Academy! We have only recently reduced our isolation, and while many of our proceedings must remain shrouded in invisibility, we think it worthwhile to give the wider world a summary of the current state of affairs.

Our school is located near the city of Heart's Jaunt in Ildynia District, though of course, it predates the modern Zwangzugian state by some time. Students traditionally matriculate at the age of twelve, and spend seven years enrolled here. By their fourth year, they will have adopted one of the four concentrations in which to focus their studies. Though the division of courses is not strict, it can be roughly said to subdivide as follows:

Wandless Theory: the study of abstruse branches of academic learning. Such classes as Astronomy, Arithmancy, Runal Translation, and Magical Lore tend to fall under this domain.
Wanded Theory: the principles underlying fundamental properties of transformation. Many aspects of Transfiguration and Charms can be found here.
Wandless Praxis: handling of magical items, particularly those in the natural world. This encompasses Potions, Herbology, and the Tending of Magical Creatures.
Wanded Praxis: defensive and offensive spellwork. This extends from Defense Against the Dark Arts to certain aspects of Divination.

All students are also given a background in non-magical discoveries, both from the social perspective of Muggle Studies and incorporating Muggle discoveries.

While ours is the only formal school of magic within Zwangzug, other longstanding traditions propagate as well. Witches and wizards of the southeast region have a longstanding network of potion-brewing and medicinal applications, and it is common for the magical youth of that area to be apprenticed to an established alchemist before beginning their own career. In the southwest, it is more common to be apprenticed to elder mages and engage in long periods of mystical isolation.

Since the magical community significantly predates the Consolidation of Zwangzug and the declaration of its capital city, our central bureaucracies are not located there, but rather beneath the larger "FTC." Of course, we strictly observe the Statue of Secrecy, but recent events involving threats to our lives from misguided Muggles have prompted us to engage further with the Muggle government, particularly when it comes to ensuring that Muggle-born students can find and access Warzenhund. In exchange, some of our defensive forces have attempted to protect Muggles erroneously accused of "witchcraft" by their suspicious neighbors.

Though the intramural competition is not stiff, Zwangzug's sporting culture is ours as well, and the Noble Sport of Warlocks has a foothold here. Currently, sixteen teams compete in the Quidditch Union In Zwangzug (QUIZ). Unlike their baseball- or football-playing counterparts, they are not based out of large cities, but rather comparatively small ones, in the hopes of avoiding the attention of Muggles. These are as follows:


Heart's Jaunt Hippocampi
Surairo Serpents
Giordano Gheppi
Gifogodi Demyok Pokuhindi
Jint Jackrabbits
Easley Efts
Dwayne Dugongs
Mudboro Mavericks
Ortenstein Owls
Dewakan Diricawls
Reddir Ravne
Mantoac Moose
Padix Porlocks
Porziuncola Pavorreales
Jofpubpup Jobberknolls
Nittany Narwhals

The Hippocampi are particularly close to our alumni (as are the Serpents and Gheppi to the southwestern and southeastern traditions, respectively), but every region of the country has a team their wizards can call their own.

We look forward to engaging our partners around the world, and welcoming students of good faith to study at Warzenhund!

Sincerely,

Clarisse Katzenjammer, Headmistress
Factbook
IRC humor, (self-referential)
My issues
...using the lens of athletics to illustrate national culture, provide humor, interweave international affairs, and even incorporate mathematical theory...
WARNING: by construing meaning from this sequence of symbols, you have given implicit consent to the theory that words have noncircular semantic value and can be used to encode information about an external universe. Proceed with caution.


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