Saturday 8 September 2007

This evening saw the 60th party for which I designed the invitations. Having sprained my ankle, I hadn’t been much use helping with the preparations, but someone else had strung some pretty lights up in a tree in the garden.

The lights described themselves as ‘random’, but the level of randomness seemed pretty low to me. In fact, the lights at one end of the string flashed, followed shortly by the lights at the opposite end, and this pattern repeated for all the time I, or anyone else I spoke to, had been watching them for.

However, I’m quite charitable when it comes to descriptions of flashing patterns, so I’m happy to assume that it was random. I mean, given that there were about thirty lights, and they alternated around once a second from 19:30 until the party’s early-morning end at 05:00 or so, and assuming that they were truly random, the odds are only 36,721,970,380,799 : 1 against that happening. That is about the same chance as winning the Lottery two weeks in a row.

Having witnessed this amazing piece of probability with my own eyes, I felt sure that this was an unprecedentedly lucky week (I am extremely superstitious as well as charitable). I’m still looking for a horse with odds of 36,721,970,380,799 : 1. I imagine I will have to make my own horse to get one that unlikely to win a race. Currently I am not sure whether it’s quicker to start with a horse and injure it or simply make a horse out of ‘random’ household items (perhaps chosen with the garden lights). I think even a fairly heavily mutilated horse carcass has odds of better than 36,721,970,380,799 : 1 of rolling over the finishing line in pole position. A course with jumps might lower the odds a bit. Perhaps I should coat it in concrete or put it a few miles away from the course or something.

However I choose to make it unlikely to win, I feel confident that, if I can get the odds down to 36,721,970,380,799 : 1 against, it’s a dead cert. It’s just a feeling, all right? And then, with a stake of 3p, I will be a trillionaire.

The question is, what are the odds of me getting the odds exactly right? I hope it’s 36,721,970,380,799 : 1 against, because then I’m sorted.

Talking of unlikely events, I also met a bloke at the party who was trying to make a film about how Princess Diana’s death was a cover-up. According to the film’s website, this isn’t actually that unlikely, because “a huge percentage of the British population—according to recent newspaper polls—share that view.” (Though I suspect that only a few of them are producing a film to that effect. Though perhaps more than one in 36,721,970,380,800 of them.)

I don’t actually know much about her death and the events surrounding it, nor do I really care, so I stayed broadly clear of non-nodding-and-grinning territory for fear of being crushed by a deluge of bullshit should I raise an objection. He then said that he thought the murder had been orchestrated by the Illuminati, a secret organisation which I first heard of when playing conspiracy-theory-based first-person shooter Deus Ex. What finally made me crack was when he suggested that all the World’s conflicts had been started by mysterious Illuminati puppeteers in order to fan the arms trade.

His favourite examples were Iraq and Vietnam. So, knowing ever-so-slightly more about these wars than the untimely death of the People’s Princess, I raised an objection: surely it wasn’t all that profitable to send the World’s biggest defence spender against some guerrilla fighters. I mean, the Viet Cong fought by digging pits and filling them with sharp sticks covered in poo. Last time I checked, there were no major defence contractors offering ‘sharpened, shitty sticks (ideal for ambush)’. “So,” I asked in some slight paraphrase of that argument, “where’s the profit in that? Why not pitch rich countries against one another so they could, like, fight back?”

Now I hoped he might come back with the observation that America had to shell out (geddit?!?) for all the weapons which they brought to battle, and perhaps I could’ve said that American military budgeting outstripped the rest of the World so impressively that the Illuminati hardly need bother stepping in to increase it, or something like that. We could’ve had an argument in which one or other of us came out looking like the under-read idiot.

Instead, he went for the low-risk tactic of self-inflicted looking like a pillock by totally ignoring my point. I was astounded. After my minutes of silence, what I remember as quite an eloquent and extended rant about how stupid the whole idea was was greeted not with a comeback, not an acknowledgement, not with slight surprise, but by blank continuation, as though he’d spent the whole of my interjection inhaling and was now able to continue from his previous position mid-flow.

I made my excuses and headed for the bookies with a pickaxe.

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