Do you think anyone back in the day ever spoofed a pigeon?
Okay, so the way sending messages via pigeon works is that each pigeon is “homed” to a particular roost, typically some sort of tower. If you want to send messages to someone, you get them to send you a wagon full of caged pigeons from their roost; later, when you attach messages to those pigeons and release them, they’ll find their way back home.
So picture this: you’re a nefarious sort who wants to intercept messages between roosts A and B, but for whatever reason you don’t have on-site access to either roost – too much security, or lack of personnel, perhaps. So what you do is establish your own roost C, raise a bunch of pigeons, then waylay the regular shipments of caged birds between A and B, steal their pigeons, and replace them with your own pigeons. And here’s the important bit: you keep the stolen pigeons.
Now, whenever someone tries to send a message from A to B, or vice versa, they’ll unwittingly be using a pigeon that’s homed to your roost C instead. The message comes to you, you read it, then you re-attach it to a stolen pigeon homed to the message’s actual destination and send it on its way.
Hello yes it’s time for more Wacky WWII Hijinks!
Let me tell you about a man called Flight Lieutenant Richard Walker. Dude liked pigeons. Like, a lot. And he had very similar ideas about the nefarious purposes pigeons could be put towards, namely that pigeons would be an “undetectable method of sending information to occupied Europe” for any spies in Britain. If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know that there WEREN’T any German spies in Britain that hadn’t been almost immediately intercepted, but that’s neither here nor there.
Walker suggested that British agents carry “a knapsack of pigeons rather than a wireless”, because if there’s anything less suspicious than an stranger with an unusually bulky briefcase, it’s one with a bag that won’t stop cooing. He was also full of great ideas about how to hide messages on the pigeons themselves, including “Morse code written on the quills in waterproof ink”. This guy rules and I love him.
To combat enemy pigeons entering Britain, Walker created a falconry unit, which is exactly what it sounds like. Dude enlisted a couple falconers and their falcons to just straight up eat the enemy agents. The falconry unit “would eventually bring down a total of twenty three pigeons, every one of which turned out to be British”. A for effort, Lt. Walker.
Walker’s next Pigeon Plan was even more ambitious: given homing pigeons’ extremely social nature, birds would sometimes depart from their little pigeon missions to hang with other pigeons. How many times can I say the word pigeons in this post. Anyway, to exploit that fact, Walker carried out “the largest military deployment of pigeons ever attempted”, in which all the pigeon fanciers near the coast were organized to release their birds at set, staggered times to form a screen of birds that would, in theory, envelop any enemy birds and convince them to hang out instead of delivering their messages. Unfortunately, “it had no effect whatsoever for the simple reason that the Germans had never attempted to use pigeons to send messages FROM Britain”. Again, points for style.
Walker then went on to come up with the “double-cross pigeon racket”, a plan to make the Germans believe that “British spy pigeons had infiltrated their lofts”, and thereby “throw suspicion on the entire German pigeon service”. This plan depended, like the OP’s idea, on the fact that pigeons return to roosts when possible. A lost pigeon would find its way to whatever loft it could find. Therefore, Walker proposed, the British could take some of their “second-rate” birds, replace their British leg bands (that identified each bird) with counterfeit German bands, and drop the birds into enemy territory. In theory, the Germans would see the bands, notice the numbers/colors/info didn’t match their records, and be forced to recall all their pigeons to check for imposters, thereby crippling the pigeon service.
Walker created and released 350 fake German pigeons. Unfortunately, as you may have already guessed from the previous anecdotes, “there is no evidence that it had any effect whatsoever. The Germans never detected the double agent pigeons in their midst….the double agent pigeons, too feeble to fly home, simply blended in with the local pigeon populations and, like so many ex-combatants, made new lives for themselves”.
So, in conclusion, pigeon shenanigans are totally possible. Are they worth it? Ehhhhhhhh.
All the quotes and info in this post comes from Ben Macintyre’s book Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies. It’s very good and you should read it.
- He’s called Young Sam his whole life, even when the actual Sam (Sir Samuel, Mister Vimes, Husband of Lady Sybil Vimes and Captain of the Watch) is long cold and dead in a grave. Sam takes it as a mark of respect—his father is always remembered, is father is scored into Ankh-Morpork deeper even than the soft, wet clay beneath the city. His father is part of the story that holds up the world.
- This is also, simultaneously, a huge and terrifying burden to bear, and if Young Sam said he’d never fantasized about running off to Bes Pelargic where no one knew who “Sir Samuel Vimes” was or what it meant to be that man’s son, he’d be lying.
- (The kind of lying that makes your trousers spontaneously combust, hanging from a clacks-tower.)
- The only way Young Sam deals with this—the twofold burden that is being a Vimes, son of Vimes—is by choosing something his father vaguely disapproved of, but that Sir Samuel Vimes could not help but respect.
- Sir Samuel Vimes was the one who stood at the street corner, smoking furiously and watching Young Sam lead the mills workers in a singsong of “Hark! The Battle Cry Is Ringing (Who The Hell Signs This Chitty, It’s Too Low)(Come Join the Union – Chorus)”
- Even after dusk fell—struggling against the reddish hue of industrial pollution from the paper mills, clay mills, and various other Modernised Mills-types—there was Sir Samuel, smoking furiously, the tip of his cigar an ember against the dark.
- Afterwards, Sam fell into step with Young Sam as they walked home. “Your mother thinks you should have gone for a guild mastery,” Sam said to Young Sam, who knew his father was lying and shrugged. “Guilds are complicit in the oppressive machinery of tyranical regimes, and I won’t be part of them,” Young Sam said, and tried very hard not to grin when his father spluttered and choked and dropped his cigar entirely.
- “Your father’s very proud of you,” his mother said once, patting him warmly on the cheek as Young Sam went out to drink his terrible, mostly-burnt coffee and argue with people in the street about representative democracy. “You don’t know how much, but he is.”
- “Your mother’s very proud of you,” his father said once, staring straight ahead and refusing to look at Young Sam at all. Young Sam was nursing a black eye from an old school chum who obviously had not learned anything from Miss Susan about the necessity for reform within the educational system. Young Sam was sulking about it. “If she doesn’t talk about how proud she is, it’s because she doesn’t know how. You’re a good lad, Sam,” Samuel Vimes said, and even though he’d been all of thirty-some at the time, Young Sam had blushed, and memorized the way his father’s voice dipped as he said, you’re a good lad.
- Sam has cousins in the poorer bits of the city. Young Sam knows he’s made it in his father’s eyes when he’s invited to dinner along with the rest of them—when he sits next to Actual Sam at a rough-hewn table and gets asked whether he believes in Smithey as a union representative.
- “I try not to get involved with specific candidates’ campaigns,” Young Sam demurs, and when his—second? third? eighth?—cousins ask why, it’s Actual Sam, His Father, who says, “He’s the union rep, you idiots. He’s not going to try and interfere with your rights as laborers to pick whatever arsehole claims he’ll listen to your whinging.”
- Sam is poor, by a certain definition, if you don’t include how often his mother and father come to bail him out, or the fact that Mr. Slant is on retainer. He absolutely refuses to feel guilty about this, since he regularly spends his “pocket money”—he is a grown man, his inheritance isn’t pocket money—bailing out his fellow protesters, scalawags, and general malcontents.
- Eventually, he falls in love with an Agatean girl who is entirely too beautiful to ever be considering him. His mother mostly cries. His father beams. Their wedding is the society event of the season, only you have to brave the gauntlet of activists in order to attend—Lord Downey, grand-nephew of the Lord Downey who once harassed Vetinari at school, endures three hours of passionate advocacy before he’s allowed in, to sit in the second row and hear Vimes and Zhao exchange their promises of everlasting devotion.
- Actual Vetinari, much like Actual Sam, doesn’t fully understand what’s going on, but is willing to support it in the name of inter-Disc unity, as well as the fact that Young Sam is his oddball godson with pretensions of moral justice.
- “Where do you think he got that?” Vetinari asked, and Sibyl had blinked, and then laughed, and Actual Sam had blinked, and then growled.
- At the end of the day it was all as it was meant to be.
- (Importantly: Young Sam had a vision of the world in his head, better than it was, and he wanted to realize it. If you married all the best of Actual Sam, Actual Vetinari, and the only Sibyl Ramkin, you got him. You got his intelligence and ferocity and unfortunate pretenses that the world could be made fair, if only you wanted it enough. Poor Young Sam, living in so many shadows, and so much light.)
- Every January 21, he goes down to the cemetery, where Keel is buried beside Samuel Vimes; the police-man’s field, a step above the potter’s.
- He weeds their plots, makes sure that nothing’s grown or stained the stones since the last year. If there’s snow, he brushes it away, and lays eggs, cards, tea-bags. He rattles off the list of children, then great-grandchildren.
- (He has a duty—a duty even above that. His father is Sir Samuel Vimes, who made Sammies, who created law and order as he knows it. The men who stood beside him are owed.)
- (Too, he tells his father about the bad ones—the ones who bring shame to the shield, that justice might be done on them. Sir Samuel believed in the dream of policemen, in the fantasy of justice existing, being real—it seems only right his proteges live up to such a height.)
- Once upon a time, Young Sam’s father told him about boots. “Boots?” Young Sam asked, for he as very young then. “Yes,” Actual Sam said, and he’d held his boots, gleaming, up to the light. “It’s about boots, do you understand? Not about—philosophy, or all the shite the wizards talk about. It’s about boots. It’s about—you, and me and our boots.”
- Thirty-odd years later, Young Sam is giving a speech in the Morporkian Butcher’s Yard, and he says that—”You, me, and our boots,” and his whole audience comes to their feet, whistling and stomping, crying out.
- That night he kisses his father on the forehead, dry and uncoordinated, but still. He does.
- “Thanks, dad,” Young Sam says, and Actual Sam smiles, bemusedly.
“Of course, son,” he says, and Young Sam feels his eyes on him, all the way up the stairs, into his soft bed. (Afterwards, they still, even then! call him Young Sam.)
I just saw somebody express disappointment that the new Watch show is intended to be “modern and inclusive”
buddy. friend. pal. half the goddamn series is about Vimes unlearning his prejudices and the other half is about Vimes’s extreme dislike of people who abuse their power. if anything I’m willing to bet they’ll tone it down out of cowardice
Samuel Vimes is the embodiment of “always punch up, never down” and if you missed that I’m not even sure we read the same books
I reserve the right to bludgeon anyone who complains about this with hardcover copies of Monstrous Regiment and Snuff.
Anyone who complains about the show being inclusive is going to get a visit from the ghost of Terry Pratchett, who is going to beat the stuffing out of them
With his meteor sword.
Over the course of the books, the Watch has acquired:
- a six-foot-tall cultural dwarf
- a werewolf
- an ex-‘splatter’ troll (like a bouncer, but hits harder)
- a openly female dwarf from a culture that severely frowns on that
- an ex-slave golem who set up an organisation to slowly buy the freedom of his people
- a friendly-but-determined religious missionary from a desert country named Visit-the-Infidel-with-Explanatory-Pamphlets
- a zombified revolutionary a-la Enjolras
- a forensic accountant poached from the Patrician
- a made-from-spare-parts mad scientist coroner
- Nobby Nobbs
Over the course of the same books, it has developed from your standard medieval fantasy gang-of-thugs city guards to an extremely modern police force containing:
- an alchemy-based forensics department
- an aeriel traffic corps
- a coroners office
- a forensic accountants department
- drug outreach programmes run by the ex-bouncer troll
- a general community policing model
It has gone from a three man graveyard of a force to a political powerhouse capable of taking on basically any real or political power on the Disc, and it has done so in large part because of the reputation of its commander as a man who will tackle any crime, at any level, against any opponent, up to and including ancient demons and the gods themselves, or even the commander himself, to protect the rights of any Joe Soap on the street to be an idiot without getting shafted for it.
I mean. ‘Modern and inclusive’ don’t even cover it, you know?
one of my favorite things about the pokemon universe is how the humans are esp. the bad guys
like mob boss giovonni can pull out a glock and waste my 10 y/o ass but he doesn’t he just accepts that i knocked out his cat and hands me money
I have my own theory that humans in the Pokemon world don’t even have a concept of direct violence. They settle all disputes through Pokemon battles, but also a human without pokemon is entirely helpless. This might lend its self further to the notion that humans can’t venture outside of towns without bringing trained pokemon to protect them. Like, can Pokemon world humans even throw a punch? I think the notion of humans ever directly using violence against one another without pokemon involved is something they can’t even think of.
In one of the movies ash just straight up clocks lucario
ash is innovative in a world where humans can’t punch
*steeples fingers* okay so I know this is a humorous fun joke but like…
Let’s think about this for a moment.
Mob Boss Giovanni probably has a gun. Given the level of technological development in pokemon’s universe it’s very unlikely that nobody invented gunpowder or ever thought to put it together into a weapon, or that Giovanni would procure one.
Let’s also assume the average ten-year-old bright-eyed pokemon trainer is not wearing a bulletproof vest, or has particularly impressive gun dodging abilities.
Giovanni shoots child, Giovanni probably dies immediately.
i just realized how absolutely earth shatteringly horny the internet at large would be for darth vader if the original trilogy came out right now
my god, every facet of his character, the mask, he’s tall, he chokes people, he’s evil, good god it would be apocalyptic, this website would be fucking unusable
people are horny for kylo ren and he’s just an intentionally infinitely shittier version of darth vader who sucks fucking shit comparatively just imagine
so imagine Star Wars comes out now, everybody’s obviously drawing their fanon interpretation of Vader as hot brooding anime men so they can ship him with whomever of luke/leia/han they find personally most attractive. Empire comes around, darth is luke’s ****** (message me for spoilers!), everyone purges their Luke/Vader art and starts drawing him as a hot dad, slicked back salt-n-pepper hair and a chiseled jaw and shit
then Jedi comes out and
Their imitations are often imperfect (they only know what’s in their dataset and therefore end up accidentally coming up with things that they don’t know are bad ideas). But one area where they tend to do well is inventing new species of things. The neural net’s birds were entirely believable, and its fish were generally no stranger than the species that already exist. So for my next project, I decided to generate some snakes.
I collected English common names for about 1,000 snakes and started training.
The first thing I noticed is that its snake names were a lot more noticeably fake than its birds or fish – the snake dataset is way smaller, so it had much fewer examples to learn from.
Chippen’s putter python
Southern coat snake
Smart sea snake
Green tree nosh Snake
Hecker’s sea snake
Ned-scaled tree viper
Barned dater Snake
Smalle’s mock ractlesnake
Bland brown snake
Common bust viper
Smorthead Garter Snake
Some snakes did approach the level of believability. You might be able to bluff some herpetologists into thinking these are real.
Arizona liger snake
Mangbow’s Earth Snake
Banded gutter snake
Jacucan balm snake
Banded guff adder
Bamboo tire snake
Rave hognose Snake
Bland-headed tree snake
Good luck with these, though.
Texan farter snake
Brown brown Black Snake
Tamestail farter Snake
Madeshine spite- racer
Bognia scat snake
I also decided to see what would happen if I trained a neural net both on snakes AND on Halloween costumes. Pleasingly, here are some of the snakes it came up with:
The Spacer Snake
Bob dog tree Snake
I had way too much fun generating those, and ended up generating more than would fit here. If you’d like to read the rest of them (and optionally get bonus material every time I post), enter your email here.
I’m particularly fond of the “Common Bust Snake” which sounds like it lives ina particularly rube goldberg “booby trap”
Free worldbuilding idea:
Wizards have the same trust in magic that software designers have in software, which is to say, almost none at all.
“Are you fucking kidding me I worked in a reagrent shop for a few years I don’t trust any of that stuff. Who the hell knows what other components are in the ashes.”
“Yeah I was in the circle that made Alston’s Divine Circle of Teleportation. There’s some pretty nasty corner cases you can get into but the headmaster published it without us. I just take ships. It’s way safer.”
“I call bullshit on that Necromancer channeling spirits of loved ones. What did he say he was using? ‘Medium Conduit Ruinic Circles’? That’s just a bunch of buzzwords slapped together, and they don’t even interact with each other.”
“I’ve been looking at this scroll all morning and I’m 90% sure that the scribe didn’t even look at the standard for pyromancies.”
“Help Desk, this is Gloriline, what did you fuck up this time?”
“Dave, I’ve seen the news, and, frankly, I can see the ash cloud from here. You paid for extended support, not enabling support.”
the dream i had last night was actually a pretty neat story idea so ill write it down
so i was an alien being studied by humans in the future. it was me + a group of the same aliens. kinda like human sized shrimp/jellyfish things, in a big tank. we were human level intelligent + social, but the humans studying us didnt realise that, because we communicated with senses that were outside normal human range (i didnt think of how this worked exactly, maybe like colour changing spots that only show up under a black light?)
we were def the first sapient aliens humans had found, but not the first aliens ever- as well as scientists, there were these??? tourists?? whod come in the tank and swim around and stuff, like how people swim with dolphins or whatever. so we knew some things about humans, but not loads.
anyway because it was the future, there was some… consciousness transference technology? or something? and i got consciousness transferred into a human body. not sure if it was accidental or deliberate on my part. no one noticed in any case
so after that it was me, the alien in a human body, trying to a) free all the other aliens, but also, the more immediate problem b) figure out how to human so i dont die of starvation or whatever, but also dont get caught. (one scene in particular was right after getting out of the science building- i was wearing clothes, that looked like what humans in science building wore, but oh shit, what if those are special science building clothes, what if theyre weird in every other situation etcetera) and generally getting into hijinks
there was also a thing where like… on the alien home planet, there had been some great catastrophe in the past, and humans were on the way to developing the tech that had made that happen, so now i gotta free my friends, not die of being bad at humaning, AND save the earth??