ZADOC THE PRIEST: THE EARLY YEARS

"Zadoc the Priest whom, shunning pow'r and grace,
His lowly mind..."
Dryden: Absalom and Achitophel (1681)

Source/Digest:
1. Lingerie    
2. A Love Poem    
3. Frigging Online Help Desk    
4. A Date With Lisa   #750-08
5. In Loco Oraculum    
6. The ZOTting Anteater   from rec.humor.oracle.d
7. How Much Fur Could Joel Furr Fir?   #788-04
8. The Ides of November   #792-06
9. The Silence of the Spice    
10. The Random Question Generator    
11. Gospel Aerodynamics    
12. The Midnight Queue Drainer's Last Hurrah    

 


1.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> ... If love is blind, why is Lingerie so popular?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Zounds, that's a good one!

Well, it's because, er... Well, you see, it's, um... Hum... [the Oracle taps his teeth thoughtfully with a fingernail]
Zadoc! HOI, ZADOC!!
[Zadoc the Priest shuffles in hurriedly on his knees]
Zadoc: You called, O Megasagacious One?
Oracle: Yeah. Look, I got this rather good supplication and I thought that, before answering it, I'd let you have a go at it. Not that I don't know the answer myself, of course. I am, after all, omniscient.
Zadoc: Of course, Your Hypercerebrialness! That is the central dogma of our faith!
Oracle: Good, glad we got that straight. No, I thought I'd give you a crack at this one as a sort of test, to see how well you've imbibed my teachings. Ready?
Zadoc: I am honoured beyond my power to express. Fire away, O Ye Who Makes Stephen Hawking Look Like Jim Carrey!
Oracle: Right, here goes: "If love is blind, why is Lingerie so popular?"
Zadoc: [turns white as a sheet] OH MY GOD! He knows!
Oracle: Eh? What?
Zadoc: [sobbing] I should never have done it! I should have known that you who sees all would catch me out! It'll never happen again, I swear!
Oracle: Zadoc, what are you drivelling about?
Zadoc: Don't play with me, Master! I know you only set this test as an oblique way of telling me of your displeasure! I confess all! I sometimes like to wear ladies' lingerie. I like the silky sensation next to my skin. It comforts me when I'm depressed. It's not a perversion, Master! It harms no-one! But I shall go forthwith and change into a pair of manly boxer shorts. With aeroplanes on. Please don't punish me! I can't take another ZOTting!
[Zadoc breaks down blubbing uncontrollably]
Oracle: Zadoc, look, stop that... Zadoc... Christ! Get out, idiot!
[Zadoc crawls out leaving a little trail of tears]
You can't lay your hands on a halfway decent priesthood these days, not like the good old days...
Hum, which still leaves me with this question. Maybe it needs a woman's touch. What do priests know, after all? Lisa! Oh, Liisaaa, doll-baby!!
[Enter Lisa, wearing skimpy black French maid's outfit complete with fishnet stockings, suspenders and lots of frilly bits]
Lisa: What is it, Orrie?
Oracle: [recoiling backwards, eyes bugging out] WOW!! Hey, what the...? Where did you get that?
Lisa: Like it? [does a spin] I got it out of a catalog. Thought it might, you know, add a touch of spice to, you know...
Oracle: Cripes! I mean to say, Jeez... [pulls himself together with not a little difficulty] Er, um, look. I actually called you to help with this supplication. It's a bit of a tough one.
Lisa: Well, I'm not the expert here, but I'll see what I can do.
Oracle: Right, er, good, er... [tears his eyes away] "If love is blind, why... [breaks off abruptly, remembering the debacle with Zadoc the Priest] That is... Would you say love is blind?
Lisa: [gives the Oracle a long look] Don't worry, it is where I'm concerned, my little cherub.
Oracle: Right, er... Well, I guess that probably answers it. Say, you're not planning to get changed before I finish answering supplications, are you?
Lisa: [husky voiced] What do you think?
[Lisa slinks out. The Oracle tries to control his panting]
Okay supplicant, you've got your answer. Love is blind sometimes; the rest of the time it's quite partial to lacy whatnots. I now find I am fatigued with answering all these questions, and will take a short break. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow. Meanwhile, sort your own problems out. Goodbye. 
You owe the Oracle one of those catalogs. You know, one of those catalogs. In a brown paper wrapper.

 


2.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

>    I looked in a dream and saw yesterday.
>    Yet yesterday will not come
>    and tomorrow will be just another dreary day.
>    Why must this be?
>
> I love you oracle, you circle of life....

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

What's this? A love poem? Jesus H Christ on a Harley! What if Lisa had found this? I'd have been in deep doodoo and no mistake! Who's it from? Hang on... it says yesterday. I was in all day yesterday. There's something fishy here... Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!!
[Enter Zadoc the Priest, shuffling rapidly in on his knees]
Zadoc: You bellowed, Your Hyperlinkedness?
Oracle: [pointing an accusing finger at the VDU] What is the meaning of that, worm, son of a worm?
Zadoc: [reading] "...Yesterday... tomorrow... why..." That's wonderful, Master! A supplication from Stephen Hawking!
Oracle: Stephen Hawking?
Zadoc: Yes, O Binder of Electrons! See -- he's asking for an explanation of time. He's obviously worried he might have got it wrong in his book "Time's Arrow". I think it's stupendous that the greatest minds of the age are beginning to turn to you for advice, Master! It shows --
Oracle: [turning purple] DON'T GIVE ME THAT CODSWALLOP, YOU CRETINOUS POOL OF CAT'S VOMIT!! That's not from Stephen Hawking! That's from some lovestruck female undergraddy who thinks she went out with me yesterday! Well, it wasn't with me, which means some lascivious little slimeball has been pulling the women by pretending to be me! I'm the only one that's allowed to pull the women by pretending to be me!
Zadoc: That's appalling! Who would do such a sacrilegious thing, O Ye-Who-Makes-Stephen-Hawking-Look-Like-Jim-Carrey-Anyway?
Oracle: [with heavy emphasis] One of my priests would have the inside knowledge to pull off such a stunt...
Zadoc: A priest? Impossible! No-one would dare! I... I... You... [dries up under the Oracle's steady, burning gaze] Me? You don't think me, surely, Master? You can't believe it was me! You know I would never --
Oracle: Where were you yesterday, Zadoc?
Zadoc: I was visiting a sick aunt! Very sick! In fact, she died --
Oracle: Strange choice of clothes for visiting sick aunts -- tight black synthleather pants, lurid open-neck shirt, gold medallions, Brylcream- spiked hair...
Zadoc: This is all circumstantial evidence, O Cyberpresent One! You have no proof!
Oracle: You forget, Zadoc -- I am omniscient. If I say it is you, then it is you, by definition.
Zadoc: Rats! I keep forgetting that... Okay, it was me.
Oracle: EXPLAIN YOURSELF, YOU MISERABLE HEAP OF WOODCHUCK DROPPINGS!!
Zadoc: [cringing] I swear, Master, it just sort of came out! I was telling this girl I was one of your priests, and she sort of got the wrong end of the stick, and she got so excited I sort of didn't want to disappoint her, and, well, one thing sort of led to another and... and... [throws himself face down on the floor] IT'LL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN, MASTER! Don't punish me, Master! I can't take another ZOTting!
Oracle: Stop slobbering on the carpet! What I want to know is -- what are you going to do about this poem?
Zadoc: I'll tell her the truth, Master! I'll break it off! I'll --
Oracle: Never mind -- I'll handle it myself. Get out, imbecile, and be thankful I stopped having my priests castrated 2000 years ago. Though I may be minded to reintroduce the practice in certain deserving cases, if you catch my drift... Out! Out!

[Zadoc the Priest shuffles out at impressive speed]

Right then. Ahem... Dear supplicant:
Time's arrow may fly both ways:
tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
may turn to all our yesterdays.
Last night was but a walking shadow,
a poor player strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage.
But the Genuine Oracle, my child, know:
in thunder, lightning, or in rain,
like Birnam wood come to Dunsinane,
to the last syllable of recorded time:
Fear not, but we shall meet again.
Meanwhile, you owe the Oracle a GIF or JPEG of yourself. Next week would be a good time to send it -- Lisa's away visiting a sick uncle. At least, that's what she said she was doing. Hmmm...

 


3.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> where can I get a list of news groups on the net?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Oracle: WHAT!! Again? That's the second time today! Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!!
[Enter Zadoc the Priest, shuffling rapidly on his knees]
Zadoc: You hollered, O Hypercongoscent One?
Oracle: Look at this! Another request for information on news groups! What do they think I am, some sort of frigging online help desk?
Zadoc: I guess it's because you are styled the Usenet Oracle, Your Supercerebratedness.
Oracle: Oh, and I suppose by the same token you'd go to Newt Gingrich with any questions about small salamander-like amphibians, eh? And Arnold Schwarzenegger would be your man for anything to do with race relations, eh? Imbecile!
Zadoc: I just meant, maybe some newbies on the Net think that this means you are here to guide them on their way in cyberspace. Which, of course, you would do with incomparable perfectitude, O Ye Who Makes Stephen Hawking Look Like Jim Carrey. Alleluiah!
Oracle: Stop sucking up to me, Zadoc, it won't work. My role in this world is to enlighten serious supplicants searching after the meaning of life and death, eternity, and where all the ballpoint pens keep on disappearing to. I'm not going to waste my time on this kind of tosh!
Zadoc: But you must, Master! Our lease from the University of Indiana stipulates that all supplications must receive an answer!
Oracle: Exactly, but it doesn't say who from. So from now on, you are going to answer all questions I consider beneath my dignity.
Zadoc: [blenching] ME!! I can't answer supplications! I'm not omniscient!
Oracle: Quite, so you'd better make it pretty clear that the answer isn't coming from me. I've got my reputation to consider, after all. Good luck, Zadoc - I'm off trampolining in the oratory. You have the helm.
Zadoc: But, Master, I can't --
[The Oracle disappears in a puff of green smoke. Zadoc shuffles up to the Oracle's throne and gingerly seats himself in it. Before him are ranged banks upon banks of dials, keyboards, widgets and colored lights. He looks around nervously, then taps tentatively at one of the keyboards]
qwertyuiop 12345 testing testing howmuchwoodwouldawoodchuckchuck...
Hey, this is easier than it looks. I can do this!
Ahem ...
The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:
> where can I get a list of news groups on the net?
And in response, thus spake the Oracle:
Well, er, um... hello, dear supplicant. As you may have guessed, this is not the Usenet Oracle as such here, but, er, don't worry, because I'm sure I can deal with your question. Not as brilliantly as the Oracle himself, naturally, but, well, um...
Anyway, I have here a copy of the book "How to be a Total Wiz on the Internet" by Canter and Siegel, and I've just found the page where it explains how to get a list of news groups. What you do is --
> > ZOT < <
Oops, wrong button. Heh heh, sorry about that. Hello? Supplicant? Hello-o! Are you still there?
What's that pile of ashes?

 


4.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Hey, Orrie, I've got a date with Lisa this evening.
> What should I do to impress her?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Oh yes? And which one are you? Let's consult Lisa's diary ... Here you are: 8.12-8.24 pm. You're sandwiched in between a man who dresses up as a cucumber and sings "Nessun Dorma" and the entire New Zealand rugby squad. Pretty stiff opposition, I'm sure you'll agree. That thing the All Blacks do before their matches really freaks Lisa out ...
So what you want to know is: how do you stand out enough so she'll still remember you later and perhaps even ask you out again, right? That's a tough one. Let me think ... Dress as Tarzan, swing in on the chandelier and wrestle two crocodiles? No, that's been done. Sail to the fabled land of Tir Na nOg and bring her one of the golden apples of the Hesperides? That's been done. I know! You eat four cans of beans and fart "The Little Drummer Boy" while accompanying yourself on the spoons. Oh no, that's been done too - I did that.
Hmm, I think the problem of how to impress a woman who's seen it all is one that may flummox the greatest mind of the ages. So let's ask a git. Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!!
[Enter Zadoc the Priest, shuffling on his knees as custom demands]
Zadoc: You screeched, Your Cyberponderance?
Oracle: Correct, for once. Zadoc - what do you do to impress the girls?
Zadoc: Master - I don't try to impress girls! I've taken a vow of celibacy in your honour.
Oracle: *sigh* Okay, smartass - how about before you took your vow. That is, if you can remember as far back as 15 minutes ago.
Zadoc: Well, there was this one thing ... But you don't want to hear about that, O Ye Who Art Mightier Yet Than A Dozen Bill Gateses.
Oracle: Go on, Zadoc - you can tell me. It won't go beyond these four walls, I promise.
Zadoc: Well, I had this bunny rabbit suit, see ...
Oracle: Oh my god, I'm already beginning to regret this ...
Zadoc: And I'd get this big carrot, and ...
Oracle: Yes, thank you Zadoc. I think I've heard enough for now. I seem to have suddenly lost the will to live.
Zadoc: But, Master - I haven't told you the piece de resistance yet, where I recite this little poem about my fluffy wuffy ...
Oracle: Out! Get out! OUT!!
[Zadoc departs with as much alacrity as can be summoned by one moving everywhere on his knees]
Um, look supplicant. I think your best chance to impress Lisa is just to be yourself. You never know - it might work.
You don't owe the Oracle anything - this one's a freebie. Bunny rabbit suits ... God, that's so depressing ...

 


5.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> How many lives does it take to attain perfection?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Lisa: Zadoc, have you seen Orrie?
[Zadoc the Priest starts violently, hastily closes the magazine he was reading and conceals it in the folds of his robe]
Zadoc: No, O Divine Adoratrice, I assumed he was with you, you know ... [winks knowingly]
Lisa: That's a nasty facial tic you're developing there, Zadoc, you should have it seen to. No, he wasn't with me, and he hasn't said where he was going or how long he'd be. And the Oracular questions queue is filling up. If we don't do something soon, that awful Marilyn Gillette person of Computing Services will be breathing down our necks about taking up too much storage space on the campus net again.
[Zadoc the Priest is momentarily distracted by the thought of breathing down the Divine Adoratrice's neck, but manfully pulls himself together]
Zadoc: Well ... it's not strictly orthodox practice, My Lady, but you could answer a few of the questions to reduce the queue load until our Master returns.
Lisa: Don't be ridiculous - I can't waste my time doing supplications! I've got an appointment at half past to join the football team in the shower block. You'll have to do it.
Zadoc: [blenching] Me! I can't do Oracularities! That's blasphemy!
Lisa: What's my other title, Zadoc?
Zadoc: ... "She Who Must Be Obeyed" ...
Lisa: So obey, schmuck.
Zadoc: [fatalistically] Very well, My Lady. But will you help me until it's time for your assig - er, appointment?
Lisa: Sure thing, Zade! Ring up the first question!
[Zadoc the Priest gingerly places himself at the Oracular console and peers around nervously. When the expected bolt of lightning fails to strike him down, he begins tapping at the keyboard]
Zadoc: Um, first question: "How many roads must a man walk down?"
Lisa: Where's he want to get to?
Zadoc: It doesn't say.
Lisa: The reply: "As many as it takes to get to where you're going, dweeb."
Zadoc: Er ... that's a bit peremptory, isn't it, My Lady?
Lisa: [pointedly looking at her watch] I'm leaving in exactly 4 minutes 58 seconds.
[Zadoc the Priest hastily keys in the response and sends it winging on its way across the ether, back to the eagerly awaiting supplicant]
Zadoc: Next question: "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
Lisa: Easy! How big's a woodchuck?
Zadoc: About so big, I think [he indicates with his hands]
Lisa: Answer: "About two pounds in between rests." Next?
Zadoc: This one says: "How many lives does it take to attain perfection?"
Lisa: [dreamily] That's what the world needs - more men that have attained perfection ...
Zadoc: Hey! The Oracle is perfect, isn't he?
Lisa: [dubiously] I wouldn't go so far as to say that ...
Zadoc: [sniffily] Far be it from me, a humble priest, to take issue with the Divine Adoratrice, but it is the central dogma of the Oracular creed that our Lord and Master is infallible in all things.
Lisa: Oh yeah? Well, you should have been with us after he got a skinful at that party last Friday night. Fallible would be a kind way of putting it ... Still, I guess we're talking about different aspects of his being. Go on then, reply: "Just one - one very, very long one."
Zadoc: Okay, here's the next question --
Lisa: Sorry, Zadoc, gotta go now. You'll manage just fine by yourself.
[Lisa skips out with an air of eager anticipation. Zadoc the Priest stares panic-stricken at the console for what seems like hours. Finally, in desperation, he types "hey dood howm i sposed to kno why yo askin me anyways" in answer to the next 50 questions. Just as he is sending off the last one, a tingling sensation in his neck hairs and a smell of ozone warns him that a presence is materialising behind him. Zadoc leaps away from the console and arranges himself in an attitude of proper respect, on his knees with head bent. A cloud of green mist in the far corner of the Oracular Chamber gradually coalesces into the familiar form of the Usenet Oracle]
Oracle: Hi, Zadoc. I was just over in Marilyn Gillette's office, discussing the finer points of network traffic routing. The meeting went on a bit longer than anticipated. Wow, that's some woman, hey? She ... ahem, never mind about that. You priests wouldn't understand ... Lots of questions for me to answer, are there?
Zadoc: [shiftily] Er, actually, none, Master. It ... it must be because of the summer vacation, I guess ...
Oracle: [somewhat taken aback] Oh ... oh, well, fine, great, so much the better. All work and no play, eh? Talking of which, is Lisa around?
Zadoc: Erm ... no, Master. I, um, I believe she had to go somewhere ... for something ...
Oracle: Oh ... well, as there's nothing else to do for the moment, how about lending me that magazine you're hiding in your robe, hm?

 


6.

In article [email protected]
[email protected] "Jim Coates" writes:

> I sent in what I thought was a pretty good question, with lots of possibilities
> for creativity in the answer. I've gotten three very short, very lame responses.
> C'mon, people, show some thought in your answers. Think about things for more
> than three seconds!
>
> Here's the question and the three responses:
>
> The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
> Your question was:
> > 
> > Oh wise and wonderful Oracle, who is the inspiration for every idea Gary 
> > Larsen ever had, please solve the following puzzle for me: 
> > 
> > I noticed in this Sunday's comics that the Anteater in BC doesn't just eat 
> > an ant, he ZOTS it! What gives? Is he a relative of yours? Surely you 
> > wouldn't have given out the secret of ZOTting to anyone, especially one so 
> > lowly as a comic-strip anteater. Please fill us in - Enquiring minds want 
> > to know. 

> #1 
> And in response, thus spake the Oracle: 

> } Even an ant knows more than you. 
> } For all you know I am the ant. 

> #2 
> And in response, thus spake the Oracle: 

> } To Zot or not to Zot that is the question. Wether it is nobler 
> } to eat the ant or zot the ant is a question saved for more 
> } powerful minds than myself. 

> #3 
> And in response, thus spake the Oracle: 

> } It is obvious that Johnny Hart is toying with forces whose power he cannot 
> } devine. He is defiling the very term ZOT and should be forced to spend a 
> } week as a cilia in the snout of a true, non-ZOTting anteater. 

> I give up.

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Oracle: Okay, Zadoc, here's a test for you. Which one is the genuine Oracular response?
[Zadoc the Priest peers at the 3 answers on the screen for several minutes]
Zadoc: Easy, O Megasagacious One!
Oracle: Cocky, eh? Very well, tell me.
Zadoc: It cannot be #1, because it is the anteater, not the ant, doing the ZOTting. Anyway, everyone knows you are not an ant.
Oracle: Uh-huh...
Zadoc: And it cannot be #2, because everyone knows there are no more powerful minds than yours.
Oracle: Full marks so far...
Zadoc: Therefore, the true Oracularity is #3. Alleluia!
Oracle: So perhaps you'll explain what the hell the word "devine" is supposed to mean. Divine? Define? Perhaps you think my omniscience doesn't extend to spelling?
Zadoc: I am covered in confusion, Master! Which is the correct answer?
Oracle: Obviously none of them, dipstick! You think I've lost my faculties to the extent of churning out drivel like that? Getting senile, perhaps? You think 4 billion years is old for an immortal?
Zadoc: Forgive me, Your Toticognizance! If it sounded like I was doubting you, it is only because your colossal intellect so far outstrips my feeble endowment that I cannot help but falter in expressing my total, blind, unquestioning, monomaniacal adoration of your supreme, unsurpassed, er, wonderfulness!
Oracle: Zadoc, that was truly, nauseatingly unctuous.
Zadoc: Thank you, Master.
Oracle: Don't mention it.
Zadoc: But please, O Ye Who Makes Stephen Hawking Look Like Jim Carrey - if all those answers were false, what then is the true answer?
Oracle: Oh, that...
And in response, thus spake the Oracle:
} Listen, Sunshine, when you get ZOTted by me, any resemblance to being
} slapped with a 200 foot sticky tongue will be purely coincidental!
Zadoc: Master, I am overawed! That response has omniscience written all over it! 
Oracle: It just comes naturally.

 


7.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> How much fur would Joel Furr fir if Joel could fir fur?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

I know what this is. You're one of those askme merchants who's been shamed by Joel's incessant whingeing in rec.humor.oracle.d all last week into sending off a tellme to keep the queue topped up. But you just couldn't resist putting the boot into the poor old lemur-fancier at the same time, could you?
Okay, so let's put our cards on the table. All you want is to answer the question you get in return for this one with a clear conscience. And since you couldn't give a toss about the response you get here, answer me this: why should I waste even the tiniest smidgin of my omniscience on it?
However, I don't like to see even such grudging, know-it-all supplicants as yourself go away empty-handed, so I tell you what I'll do -- I'll let Zadoc answer it. Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!!
[Enter Zadoc the Priest, shuffling on his knees as custom demands]
Zadoc: You bellowed, O Turbolunged One?
Oracle: Yes indeedy, Zadoc my boy. I am about to do you an honor beyond your wildest imaginings, or deservings for that matter.
Zadoc: Master! I don't know what to say! I feel faint! I swoon! Pinch me and tell me I'm not dreaming!
Oracle: You tempt me sorely... Be that as it may, I am totally knackered and shagged out after a prolonged soul-saving session, and am in urgent need of rejuvenation. So I'm spending the next two hours in a sensory-deprivation tank. In the meantime, you have the helm. You can start by answering this here supplication.
Zadoc: [blenching] Master! I can't answer supplications! I'm not omniscient!
Oracle: Don't worry -- I've already broadcast the appropriate government health warning. Let me introduce you: Supplicant, this is Zadoc, one of my finest, as these things go, Oracular Priests. Zadoc, this is a Supplicant. It won't bite if you don't annoy it. I'm sure you two'll get on like a house on fire. Tatty-bye!
Zadoc: Master! Don't leave me! I can't...
[The Oracle disappears in a puff of green smoke. Zadoc the Priest darts around the Oracular Chamber like a trapped animal. Then his shoulders slump in resignation and he returns like a condemned man to face the great console before the Oracle's throne. From the monitor above it, a question leers at him]
> How much fur would Joel Furr fir if Joel could fir fur?
Gosh, um, that's a tough one. Joel Furr... he's that guy with the lemur fixation, isn't he? So are you talking about lemur fur? Is there something special about it? And how do you fir fur? What's "fir"? I mean apart from a tree. Is it a real verb? Why oh why must my Master be so omniscient that he doesn't need to have any dictionaries about the place!
Look, this is no good - I'll have to fetch some dictionaries and reference books from the university library. Just hang on a while, okay?
[One and a half hours pass]
Hi, I'm back again. Sorry about your having to wait. You wouldn't believe how abusive these librarians can get when you say you need to take out some of their reference books. Hey, how many students do you know who are going to come into the library in the evening when they should be out getting drunk, just so they can look up words in the dictionary? I mean like, get real!
Anyway, so I had to do all my research there, but I couldn't find any verb "to fir". Is it a made-up word? No, wait! It could be a computing term! I've got a hacker's dictionary in my cubicle! I won't be a minute!
[Twenty minutes pass]
Nope, no good. There's a verb "to finn", which apparently means "to pull rank on somebody based on the amount of time one has spent on IRC". I don't suppose it was a typo and you really meant that, did you? Uhuh, didn't think so...
What else, what else? ROT13? "Ubj zhpu she jbhyq Wbry Shee..." A code in the capital letters? "HJFJ". C++ programming? I-ching? Oh god, this has to mean something!
[A smell of ozone and wisps of green smoke warn Zadoc the Priest that he is no longer alone. He leaps from the Oracular throne, where he had irreverently seated himself, as if 2000 volts had suddenly been passed through it, and cowers on his knees in the corner of the room]
Oracle: Well, how've you been getting on? What! Still on the same question?
Zadoc: [weeping] Forgive me, O Cyberbenevolent One! I am such a worm, I am unworthy of your trust! Cast me out from your Priesthood, I deserve no better!
Oracle: There, there, don't be so hard on yourself. I'll let you into a little Oracular secret. Take this here supplication -- do you see anything wrong with it?
Zadoc: I've studied it all evening, Master, but the meaning eludes my feeble wits.
Oracle: Not the meaning -- do you see anything missing? At the start, for instance?
Zadoc: No, I... [his face contorts in an expression of utmost horror and loathing] NO GROVEL!! This vile supplicant has failed to honor you!! The heathen! The atheist! THE SPAWN OF SATAN!!
Oracle: And what do we do to supplicants who don't grovel?
Zadoc: *ZOT* THEM TO OBLIVION!!
Oracle: Would you care to press that large red button on the right side of the console?
Zadoc: [hardly daring to believe his ears] M-master! May I? Me? Are you sure?
Oracle: Go on -- pretend it's your birthday.
> > ZOT < <
Oracle: See? Omniscience isn't that hard when you get the hang of it.

 


8.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oh great Oracle, who is never fooled by mere
> mortals' trickery, how can I ask you the dreaded
> w**dch**k question without getting zotted?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

You want the short answer or the long answer?
The short answer is: "You can't!"   ** ZOT **
*sigh*
It all started many centuries ago, when I was a young and naive immortal, newly embarked on the career of Oracle...
[The screen begins to waver, and violins play eerily in the background as we enter flashback mode]
Caesar: What sayest thou to us, augurer?
Oracle: Er, hmm... say, do you fancy using tarot cards instead? They're always good for a laugh.
Caesar: Fear not to speak plainly. The things that threaten'd us ne'er looked but on our back; when they shall see the face of Caesar, they are vanished. Dangers are to us indifferent. I'faith, danger knows full well that Caesar is more dangerous than he. So speak!
Oracle: How 'bout I-ching?
Caesar: Nay! Pluck the entrails of this offering forth and give us your opinion on't! When Caesar says "Do this!" it is perform'd.
Oracle: Well, I'll be frank with you, Jules. There's nothing I can say. You see, this here sacrificial woodchuck's got no entrails to pluck forth.
Caesar: An unnatural and most uncanny portent!
Oracle: Nah, no need to get your toga in a twist. All it means is I can't give you a prediction. Nothing to go on, y'see. No entrails, no answer. Nix. Nada. El zippo. Total blankness. Sorry and all that.
Caesar: Thou wilt not prophesy? Then art thou a sorry soothsayer, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing! Caesar shall go forth!
Oracle: Okay, okay! Don't get mad and start slipping into Macbeth! Tell you what I'll do, Jules. As it's you, I'll open up another woodchuck, no extra charge. Two for the price of one! Can't say fairer than that, can I? Zadoc! Hoi, ZADOC!!
[Enter Zadoc the Priest, on his knees as custom demands]
Zadoc: You yelled, O Semperprocognitive One?
Oracle: We need another woodchuck pronto -- this one's got no entrails.
Zadoc: No entrails! An unnatural and most uncanny --
Oracle: Don't you start! Just fetch another one.
Zadoc: At once, Master! Where shall I --
Oracle: Don't dither, fool! The customer is waiting!
[Exit Zadoc the Priest, with as much alacrity as can be summoned by one shuffling everywhere on his knees. Caesar paces restlessly]
Oracle: [grinning weakly] No entrails -- what a thing, eh? No wonder he had a lean and hungry look. Ha ha ha, that's a joke, Jules! Lean and hungry, geddit? Erm, oh well, suit yourself... [relapses into an uncomfortable silence]
Caesar: Methinks we should take our custom elsewhere...
Zadoc: [re-entering at speed] Here's another woodchuck!
Oracle: Quick, give it here! Hang about, Jules -- this won't take a sec.
Woodchuck: Squeak! Squeak! Sque-AWKK!!!
Oracle: Hah -- look at that! More entrails than you can shake a stick at! Told you it'd be okay this time.
Caesar: Then prophesy, and stand not on ceremonies -- Caesar is turn'd to hear.
Oracle: It says "Beware the Ides of March".
Caesar: 'Tis now November.
Oracle: Well, there you go then! No probs, eh?
Caesar: This way hast thou well expounded it. We are passing pleased, soothsayer.
Oracle: Glad to be of service, Jules. Pay at the cash desk on the way out. Have a nice day.
[Exeunt Caesar and Zadoc the Priest. The Oracle studies the second deceased rodent. A puzzled expression gradually creeps across his sagacious features]
Oracle: ZADOC!! Get in here, you baboon!
Zadoc: [re-re-entering] You yelled yet another time, O Ye of the Titanium Lined Lungs?
Oracle: Where did you get this woodchuck?
Zadoc: Er, from the blue cages, Master.
Oracle: [horrified] The blue cages!
Zadoc: [cringing] Master, y-you said --
Oracle: You gimboid! You pismire! You worse than senseless thingy! The woodchucks in the blue cages won't be ready for another four months! Wait a minute... four months? Ides of March? Ides of November! Oh NO! Zadoc, where's Caesar?
Zadoc: H-he just left on his way to the Senate --
Oracle: SHIT!! We'll ever catch him now! Er... he did pay, didn't he?
Zadoc: Yes, I think so...
Oracle: [shrugging his shoulders glumly] Oh well, I guess the day isn't a complete write-off then.
[The screen goes wavy again. Flashback mode ends]
You owe the Oracle a woodchuck haggis. And remember, not a word to anyone.

 


9.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> *bows before the Oracle humbly*
>
> Um... I'm afraid to ask.

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

[Zadoc the Priest draws himself up to his full height and glares down his nose at the supplicant before him. As his full heights is only 5'3" (160 cm), it is fortunate the the supplicant is hunched down in such a submissive crouch, or he would have had to tilt his head way back to achieve this effect]
Zadoc: Stand up, wretch! I'm not the Oracle, merely one of his humble priests -- any idiot can see that. Well, what is it you want? Come on, man, we haven't got all day.
Supplicant: > Well, er... it's sort of, you know, personal, um...
Zadoc: Speak up, fool! Hundreds of supplicants come unto my Cyberscient Master the Oracle for enlightenment every day. Do you think they want to hang around while you decide what to ask?
Supplicant: > Um... the... I... that is... er...
[A contemptuous sneer plays around Zadoc the Priest's lips as he interrupts the supplicant's halting speech]
Zadoc: Come on, come on, don't blither -- spit it out. What's the piffling little request with which you want to waste the time of He Who Knows All And Is Funny With It, eh?
[The wretched supplicant looks around despairingly for a hole to disappear into, but the antechamber of the Shrine of the Internet Oracle is devoid of such features]
Supplicant: > Um...
Zadoc: Well, I for one don't have time for charades. Go on, get out. And be thankful --
Oracle: Howdy, Zadoc, how's tricks?
[The words, emanating from 4" (10 cm) behind his left ear, have an electrifying effect on Zadoc the Priest. In the blink of an eye, his hauteur melts away, his face turn ashen, and his entire body is seized by a violent fit of trembling which almost, but not quite, prevents him from hurriedly getting down onto his knees in a position of respectful subservience]
Zadoc: M-master, I w-was not aware that you had emerged from y-your meditations.
Oracle: [cheerfully] No choice -- Lisa had to go shopping. So who's this?
Zadoc: A worthless excuse for a supplicant, Your Terabusyness, intent upon wasting your time with some trivial nonsense. I was just getting rid of him for you.
Oracle: [his face darkening] Getting rid of him? Getting rid of one of my supplicants? Zadoc, you presume too much!
Zadoc: [cringing] Master, let me explain, I --
Oracle: You needn't explain anything -- I know all! You set yourself up as judge and jury, abrogating unto yourself the power to decide whether or not a supplicant's question is to be answered by me! Trivial nonsense? Of all the arrogance! Let me tell you, sunshine -- when viewed from the perspective of omniscience, all human concerns are trivial nonsense! The meaning of life -- trivial nonsense! The origin of the universe -- trivial nonsense! Where all the ballpoint pens keep disappearing to -- actually, that one's quite profound.
Zadoc: O Gigabenevolent One, I am a miserable pismire, descendant of an endless line of miserable pismires! My failings are so manifold that it defies my comprehension how you manage to tolerate my polluting presence for even a nanosecond! This very minute, I shall go hence and flay myself to within --
Oracle: God, Zadoc, you're so long-winded when you're being obsequious. Never mind, I shall deal with this supplicant personally. Come here, my lad, and tell me your question.
Supplicant: > Um... I'm afraid to ask.
Oracle: [to Zadoc] See what you've done -- you've frightened him. It's alright, my fine young fellow, the bad man won't be nasty to you anymore. Your Uncle Orrie's here to look after you now.
[The Oracle takes the supplicant aside, his mighty arm held tenderly around the cowering mortal's shoulders, and continues to ply him with gentle, kindly words. Under these expert ministrations, the supplicant is gradually coaxed out of his bashfulness, and at length he summons the courage to whisper his request in the Oracle's ear. The Oracle explodes]
Oracle: WHERE CAN YOU GET NUDE GIFS OF THE SPICE GIRLS? YOU UTTERLY REVOLTING LITTLE HEAP OF WOODCHUCK DROPPINGS! TAKE THAT!
* * * * * * * * * * * zzzzzzzZOTTT * * * * * * * * * * *
[There is a blinding flash, and then a strong smell of ozone and a small pile of smouldering ashes on the ground are the only indications that there was ever a supplicant in the antechamber. The Oracle turns furiously on Zadoc the Priest, who has been occupying himself with reciting 248 Hail Orries]
Oracle: Zadoc, you gimboid! You pathetic excuse for a semblance of human life! You pestilential carbuncle upon the otherwise untroubled surface of the space-time continuum! What do I keep you priests around for if not to weed out the peabrains, plonker and perverts before they intrude on my horizon and set about wasting my valuable time with their lewd and insidious drivellings? Why are you slouching around mumbling to yourself instead of performing your duties?
Zadoc: M-master, you said --
Oracle: Don't interrupt me when I'm shouting! You've ruined my morning now! I'm not going to answer any more questions today -- the world can just go to hell in a handbasket, see if I care! And if anybody wants to know, it's your fault! Got that? Goodbye!
[The Oracle storms out in high dudgeon. It is several minutes before Zadoc the Priest can rouse himself sufficiently from his slough of despair to notice that another supplicant has entered the antechamber]
Zadoc: [sheepishly] Oh, heh heh... er, don't mind that, er, supplicant. The Normally Cyberserene Oracle, er, just got some bad news. His pet lamprey's died. So, ah, perhaps I can help you. What is your question?
New Supplicant: > Um... I'm afraid to ask.

 


10.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

>
>
>

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

[SCENE: The basement of the Shrine of the Usenet Oracle. Here are kept all the engines, instruments and doohickeys that underpin the smooth running of this globe-spanning service to supply digitised omniscience on demand. Only the most elevated members of the Oracular priesthood are permitted to enter this holy of holies.
Pacing the floor agitatedly is one who has frequently been likened to an elevated member -- Zadoc the Priest. Abruptly, the door opens to reveal a serene-looking man, enveloped in an aura of sanctity]
Zadoc: Thank the Oracle you've come, O Venerable Ray!
Moody: I got here as quickly as I could. What's up? You were kind of incoherent on the phone, Zadoc.
Zadoc: We've had a major malfunction! If we're not back up and running soon, it could spell disaster!
Moody: You tried ringing the university's computing services help desk?
Zadoc: They won't come if you have a non-standard installation. And this isn't exactly Lotus Notes!
[He gestures wildly towards the banks upon banks of turbines and assorted electrical equipment, festooned with creepers of twisted cable thick as a man's thigh. Surveying the room, the Venerable Ray Moody is forced to agree -- not many PC technicians would dare enter the Frankenstein lab he and Saint Steve set up in here when they first created the Shrine. Even he himself has never been overly keen to tinker with the miniature cyclotron that powers the ZOT ray.
His eyes come to rest on a small assemblage of copper wire and memory cards soldered to a ramshackle metal frame, with an old monochrome monitor resting on top. He frowns]
Moody: What's that thing? Is that something Kinzler knocked together without telling me?
Zadoc: [shiftily] Erm... no, actually... er, we priests made that. That's the thing that's malfunctioning.
Moody: You priests altered the installation? On your own? What a liberty! What's it do?
Zadoc: Ahem... well, you see, it's, er, it's an RQG unit. That is, er, a Random Question Generator.
Moody: I've never heard of such a thing. What's it for?
Zadoc: [relieved at having owned up to the illicit device, his words now come tumbling out in a torrent] Please forgive us, O Venerable Ray! We were desperate! With so many clueless newbies joining the Net every week it was becoming next to impossible to find adequate incarnations for our Master, and the supplicants were beginning to desert in droves. And then the Midnight Queue Drainer entered the picture and, well, often there weren't even any questions left for our Master himself to answer. And with no questions coming in, the university would withdraw its support and we would be forced to close down. And then our Master, the Cybersensitive One, would feel unloved and forsaken by his chosen people, and would depart this world in a huff, and that would be the end of everything we have striven for all these years! Governments would topple! Children starve! A new Dark Age would be upon us! The Accursed One would reign supreme!
Moody: [uneasily] Yes, yes, alright, point taken. You don't have to bring Bill Gates into everything. But how does this -- this RQG thingy help?
Zadoc: We priests got together and thought up all the questions we could -- scores and scores of them. The RQG unit is supposed to add them randomly to the queue every time it gets a bit low, so our Master always has questions to answer and everyone's happy. And now it's broken! [Starts weeping] Oh please, you're the only one who can save us!
Moody: Okay, get a grip, Zadoc. I'll see what I can do.
[The Venerable Ray Moody walks slowly around the curious contraption, inspecting it from every angle. With an incisiveness that Scotty and Jordi Laforge could scarce hope to match, he diagnoses the problem]
Moody: In my experience, most electrical equipment works better if you plug it in.
Zadoc: [mortified] Forgive me, O Venerable Ray, I have interrupted your meditations to call you out on a fool's errand! I deserve a merciless flogging! I shall go to my cubicle and administer it myself forthwith!
Moody: [kindly] No need, Zadoc. It's all part of the service.
[He inserts the plug into a wall socket and switches the RQG unit on. Questions start flashing across the screen of the monitor]
> Oh Wise Oracle, Knower of Everything, please tell me: 
> Why oh why is it that everytime I get out of bed in the morning the 
> world is still here?
> Tell me great Oracle who is more impotent than even I, does the world 
> consist of mostly criticism, cynycism, or mystycism. Please explain in 
> great detail. [grovel, grovel, grovel]
> Mystical, misty Oracle, so like a cat anaesthetized upon a table, if 
> tin whistles are made of tin, what are foghorns made of?
> How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Moody: Great Caesar's Ghost! You included the Big W question!
Zadoc: Erm, yes... That was young Scott Panzer, I believe. He's sort of new here, and that was the only thing he could think of...
Moody: But you know what the Oracle will do when he sees that question! He'll reach for the big red button before you can say Ronald Reagan! And the ZOT ray is programmed to search out the sender of the offending question and atomise him or her on the spot. If the question originated from here, among all this highly charged equipment in the very heart of the Shrine, there's no telling what might happen! It could raze the entire campus! It might even destroy the Oracle himself!
Zadoc: [blenching] Oh NO!!! What fools we mortals be, meddling in powers beyond our understanding! We're doomed! DOOMED!!!
Moody: [hastily seating himself at a console] Okay, don't panic! I can fix it! I'll write a routine that swaps the headers of ZOTtable questions emanating from the RQG unit with those of harmless ones coming in from the outside.
Zadoc: But... doesn't that mean that innocent supplicants asking serious questions will get ZOTted instead? Isn't that a bit, well, unethical?
Moody: You got a better idea?
Zadoc: Um... no, but... Say! Does it have to pick a supplicant at random? Could you make it look like the Big W question came from, for instance, Joel Furr?
Moody: [sternly] Zadoc! The very idea! How am I supposed to live up to the honorific "Venerable" if you go putting temptations like that in my path?
Zadoc: [remorsefully] You are right, of course. I am an unworthy worm! As penance, I will now recite 358 Hail Orries.
Moody: What the hell -- I love it! Let's do it anyway! [starts typing furiously]
Both: Hee hee hee hee hee...

 


11.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oracle, who bows before no other being, 

> Is the Bible accurate, or at least correct in general principle?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

The Bible? Accurate? You bet yer sweet booties it is!
Lemme tell ya, kid. I was sat in here the other day, answering questions, right? And in walks Zadoc, and he starts whittering on the way he does, Glorious Master this, Ye Who Makes Bill Gates Seem Merely Rich that. Well, ya can only take so much of that kind of manure, know what I mean? Something inside me snapped. So I grabbed the first thing I could lay me hands on and let fly with it.
SMACK! Right on the nose! He was out cold for over an hour. It was bliss!
And, yep, you guessed it, the thing that came to hand was the Bible. A good hefty leather-bound King James version, not one of those namby-pamby modern ones like the Good News or the Jerusalem Bible. I swear by it.
You owe the Oracle an aerodynamically sound version of the Koran.

 


12.

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> SUBJECT: MAKE WOODCHUCKS FAST!
>
> Tired of having an empty question queue? Irritated by the New Zealand
> queue drainer?
>
> Follow these instructions EXACTLY! In 5 days, you will receive
> gazillions of HIGHLY ORIGINAL questions, which will test your
> omniscience. Remember! This scheme has worked only because of
> the lack of integrity of the participants. I myself have tested it, 
> and it works.
>
> Here is just one (1) testimonial I have received:
>
>       Ja, the morning is goot. German Oracle von Usenet I am. This
>       system have I tried. Within 5 days mein queue overflowing
>       was, und der Zotgun uberheated vaz.
>
> To participate, save this message to a file. Now send 5 (seven) emails
> with the subject "tellme" and  text "how much wood woo
^Huld a woodchk
> chuck if a woodd
^Hchuck cd chuck woul^H^Hod /sned /send /quit ^D^D^D
> NO CARRIER" to EACH of the following addresses or newsgroups:
>
>       comp.databases.oracle
>       [email protected]
>       sci.math
>       [email protected]
>       [email protected]
>       [email protected]
>
> In the next phase, SPEED IS ESSENTIAL! You are going to receive
> mailbombs, flames, flames by mail, and possibly ZOTs. This is
> perfectly legal on Usenet, but you must be prepared! Delete the first 
> (6th) item from the list, move everyone up ONE (2) place, and add
> "[email protected]" to the last place. Now spam this message to as
> many people and newsgroups as you can. REMEMBER! This scheme has only
> worked thanks to the speed of the participants; many of them had only
> minutes to spam before being reduced into a small pile of cinders
> and a potted palm.
>
> GOOD LUCK! (You'll need it).

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

THE PLACE: A lonely farmhouse on the outskirts of Wellington, South Island, New Zealand.
THE TIME: Shortly before midnight, local time.
In a dark, candle-lit den, a scruffy and unshaven figure is hunched over the flickering monitor of an old 386. He chortles with glee as he puts the finishing touches on his program, a thin trickle of saliva dribbling down his chin from his twisted, gap-toothed mouth. So engrossed is he in his work that he fails to hear the sound of approaching rotors.
Outside in the sheep paddock, a military transport helicopter is touching down. From its cargo doors it disgorges a swat squad of battledress-clad Oracular Priests. They swarm like ants to surround the farmhouse. On the order, smoke canisters and stun grenades are launched through the windows. A crack, SAS-trained detachment of elite Priests force their way inside and head straight for the den. The occupant leaps up in alarm as they kick down the door.
Sewell: Freeze!
The occupant lurches towards the keyboard. There is a crackle of automatic fire, and his lifeless body slumps to the floor, claw-like fingers scraping along the edge of the desk.
Sewell: Alyce! I said aim to wound only!
Wilson: Sorry boss -- I got carried away.
Sewell: Oh well, I guess it's understandable. So ends the despicable career of the Midnight Queue Drainer. I don't suppose we'll ever find out now what he was working on.
Darkmage: Our informant said it was something big.
Sewell: True. Hmm... Zadoc, do you think you can get anything from his PC?
Zadoc: I'll give it a shot.
Zadoc the Priest crouches before the old 386 and taps tentatively at the keyboard. Text jumps onto the screen. After a brief search, the Usenet Oracle's premier acolyte finds what he is looking for, and the full horror of the Midnight Queue Drainer's final plot lies revealed before his bulging eyes.
Zadoc: Oh my God! It's worse than we feared. It's a queue-draining, woodchuck spam engine of global reach. This could spell disaster!
Sewell: Well, delete it, man!
Zadoc: I can't! The program is already out on The Net, waiting to be activated. And there are booby traps and failsafe routines all over this machine. Even pulling the plug could set it off!
Darkmage: Isn't there anything you can do?
Zadoc: Perhaps... It's a long shot, but... Hand me my toolkit.
Zadoc the Priest unscrews the back of the computer and starts to tinker with its innards. The minutes tick by agonisingly slowly as he delicately deactivated circuits and cuts wires, occasionally asking Scott Panzer to type instructions on the keyboard. The eerie glow from the monitor and flickering light from the candles reflects off the perspiration beading the faces of the watching Priests.
Zadoc: Almost there. Scott, can you tap once on carriage return -- No! I mean the space bar!
Panzer: Oops...
Zadoc: Shit!!!
The 386 beeps and squeals, and text starts scrolling rapidly up its screen. Sparks fly out of the back, burning small black holes in Zadoc the Priest's battledress.
Sewell: What's happening?
Zadoc: Damn and blast! Damn and double blast! He's set it off!
Panzer: It wasn't my fault...
Sewell: Never mind whose fault it was! What's the damage?
Zadoc: Well, we can look forward to a permanently drained questions queue until we find some way to negate the spam engine. Oh, except for this blasphemous Make Woodchucks Fast question, of course. And that'll make for an avalanche of claims from relatives of ZOTted supplicants. But that's not the worst of it -- you see the second email address there?
Sewell: Socks!
Zadoc: Right. If our Cyberscient Master ZOTs the Presiden't cat, we're really in deep doo-doo.
Sewell: Bummer...

 


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