Issue 16
Volume 4 Number 4
November 1999

In This Issue

 • Contents
 • Cover Illustration
 • Editorial
 • Announcing <plokta.con>
 • Have You been Abducted By Aliens?
 • Marching Up and Down Again
 • Losing a Hugo in Five Easy Lessons
 • Lokta Plokta
 • With the Vacuum on, No-one can hear you Scream

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The Plokta SF convention, from 26-29 May 2000.

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Marching Up and Down Again

Last July, Brian Ameringen sidled up to Alison over a Christmas dinner and asked her to take photos of his shoes. As he was not noted for being a foot fetishist, we were suspicious. When we'd heard the whole story, we asked him to write it up for Plokta:

BACK in April 1997, Caroline pointed out an advert for shoes made by H*wksh*ad (the Cumbrian, outdoors wear company) in the Guardian. The advert showed a particular style and stated "If you wear these shoes out. We'll replace them. With your free 10 year guarantee." In smaller type it stated "if you manage to wear out a pair within 10 years, we will replace them free of charge", "You will be covered against all everyday wear and tear" and "your Lomer shoes will be fully guaranteed for 10 years".

Illo of Brian and shoes

I tend to be 'hard' on shoes, and as a lad recall my Mother discovering the Tuff Shoes Guarantee -- if your child wears out a pair of Tuff Shoes within 6 months, we will replace them (or something like that). After I wore out three pairs in the 6 months Tuff Shoes invalidated their Guarantee for me (of course I really shouldn't have played football with half-a-brick -- but that's boys for you!).

Caroline knows how quickly I wear shoes out and asked me why I didn't buy a pair. I pointed out that, although the uppers were leather (which is good) the soles were artificial and my experience of such soles was that they tended to wear quickly. She reasonably pointed out that from the wording of the advert H*wksh*ad (who project the hard-walking outdoorsy type of goods company) expected the shoes to last between five and ten years... so after discussion, a couple of days later, I phoned them up and ordered a pair. They were light and quite comfortable (they had to be broken in a bit), but easier to adapt than the brogues I'd been wearing.

By early September the shoes were so worn that I couldn't walk in them. So I wrote to H*wksh*ad asking just what their offer covered. They phoned me to say that the shoes had to be returned for inspection but, subject to this, would be replaced for the 10 years covered by the offer. In the post I received a reply-paid sticker and sent the shoes back, taking out a Proof Of Posting certificate, as requested. I was pleased to receive a new pair some 3 weeks later.

Oddly enough, after another three months or so these shoes were so worn as to require returning -- which I did -- and they were replaced. This situation continued, with the shoes being worn and returned every 3-4 months and taking 2-3 weeks to be replaced.

However when there was a 6 week turn-around they were kind enough to send me replacement shoes even though they hadn't inspected the returned pair. I realised that if I continued to wear out these shoes every 3 months, but it took 6 weeks (and a few phone calls) to replace them, rather than having 10 years wear from the shoes, I would only have 6½ years' wear.

On broaching this point with H*wksh*ad staff, I was told I should have bought two pairs of shoes in order to have one pair to wear while the others were being inspected and replaced! As it was too late to do this, I encouraged H*wksh*ad staff to send my replacement shoes before I'd returned the old pair, so that I could more closely approach the 10 years' wear offered in the original advert. They were reluctant to do this, but agreed, after I offered to waive the guarantee if I failed to return the worn shoes.

 In April this year they sent me a replacement pair before the old ones had been returned. I'd had to offer to waive the guarantee if I failed to return the worn shoes again, but for once they didn't argue much -- and I thought they had discovered that it was less work that way round...

In June I received a letter asking for the shoes to be returned, and as they weren't completely worn out I phoned H*wksh*ad to ask why? They said that they still hadn't had the pair I sent back in April (and thus, from my offer, the guarantee was void) -- so I dug into my file and gave them the reference numbers and date of the Proof of Posting to show that the shoes had been returned -- and after a little silence they said this was OK.

Nearly two weeks later I received a letter from them advising that as the shoes had been changed six times they could not offer any further exchanges and stated that "Under the terms of the 10 year guarantee 'the guarantee covers any failure due to defective materials or workmanship.'" But as the shoes were not faulty they should not be replaced.

I phoned them and talked to a Manager, pointing out the wording on the original advert (I'd kept) which was what I'd responded to and not the Guarantee they sent me later -- and asking why six replacements were the limit (discovering that I wasn't even the 'record holder') -- and they wrote again a week later enclosing a cheque for the original purchase price stating that this ended the matter.

I phoned again and expressed the view that I wanted what was originally offered which was ten years shoe wear, preferably in one pair, but I was realistic -- I agreed that I walk further than the average which I have been told is some 2 miles a day and tend to walk fast, coming down on the shoe heel. I've assessed the distances walked every day for the last 5 weeks, and the weekly average comes to around 28 miles i.e. coincidentally double the hearsay average. However, this point is irrelevant as the original advert made no mention of making exception for persons walking 'above average' distances.

Also no mention was made in the advert as to a maximum number of pairs that could be exchanged during the 10 year period. So I wrote to them again, returning my existing pair, as requested, and thanking them for the offer of a full refund, but stating that what I wanted was the ten years' wear in terms of replacement pairs, as offered in H*wksh*ad's original advertisement...

After some further letters and phone calls during which I suggested they send me the 31 pairs I would need to fulfil the guarantee (I could send them back when worn out and this would reduce their administration (they declined this suggestion)), or alternatively they substitute a harder-wearing shoe so they would require changing less often, they have sent me a pair of hand-made shoes with specially toughened soles -- just for me!

And with a little prompting, have also agreed that the original guarantee will continue to run (or rather, walk)...

Illo of H*wksh*ad Complaints Dept

--Brian Ameringen

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Monkey Business

We were much taken by D Gary Grady's explanation of modern anthropology on the Trufen mailing list:

There is a traditional problem in anthropology of defining what is a "true" human as opposed to a human-like ape. At one time the operative definition was "humans are the tool-using animals", but then it was noted that other animals use tools, and in particular a group of Pacific island monkeys were noted to employ sticks to help them get edible insects out of holes, bits of bark, etc.

So then the definition was shifted to "tool-making," as in "humans are the animals who make tools." But sure enough, it was noted that those monkeys were shaping sticks for their uses, and hence making tools.

So the definition was further revised to "humans are the animals who make tools in advance." This would exhibit forethought, something beyond the capacity of a mere beast. But sure enough, additional observation revealed that these monkeys were sitting around at night, watching cable or whatever, and chewing on sticks to shape them for use in foraging the following day.

Eventually anthropologists advanced to the now-current operative definition, which is, and I quote, "Humans are the animals that drop-forge tools. Let's see them fucking monkeys do that."

Y2K Compliance Statement

The Plokta cabal consists of eight highly complicated biological systems, all of which are extremely date sensitive, particularly around the New Year. None of us has been tested for full Y2K compatibility.

We anticipate that the organisms known as "Mike Scott", "Marianne Cain", and "George" are likely to be functioning in excess of 80% of normal capacity on the morning of January 1, 2000. However, our tests indicate that these three entities cannot reliably produce Plokta without help.

Our zymurgist's assessment is that the other five members of the cabal will be 100% dysfunctional for much of the first of January, and will probably still be feeling pretty ropy on the second.

Seven Things You Never Knew About Novacon

  1. Martin Tudor is a secret front-man for the Milk Marketing Board.
  2. Novacon actually left the Royal Angus hotel because it suffers from recurrent infestations of capybaras against which the Birmingham City Council pest control department is powerless.
  3. The Nova awards contain a high concentration of Uranium-235, and if anyone ever displays six or more on the same mantlepiece they will reach a critical mass and melt down. Three will merely emit enough radiation to cause atrophy of the no-shagging disclaimer.
  4. Tony Berry was abducted by aliens several years ago and has been waging an unceasing war against the manufacturers of turkey foil ever since.
  5. Chairmanship of the Novacon committee is allocated according to a secret and arcane ritual. Past chairmen can be detected by holding a strong magnet in the region of their groin.
  6. Excavations in the Bull Ring have found evidence of the Pagan celebration of Novacon in Roman times. Archaeologists believe that the natives sacrificed beer to the gods and spent two days in the sacred rites. Peter Weston has photographs.
  7. Plokta has never won a Nova award.

"What's our editorial position on fucking monkeys?"

And There
Goes the Neighbourhood

When Dr Plokta first bought his bijou Fortress of Solitude in the Antarctic Wastes, he had it to himself and the penguins. It was just possible to see Doc Savage's stronghold in the far distance. But then Superman built a summer home, and Ozymandias enclosed large swathes of the snowscape for his nefarious schemes.

So now he's formed the "Save the White Belt" campaign, to prevent further desecration of his back yard this pristine and unspoiled wilderness.