Saturday, March 31, 2007

Winterizing the house

Just calling to say I’m off.

What time?

Fifteen fifteen. That’s IF the flight is on time and we are not kept waiting on the ground for straggling bumpkins doing last minute duty free.

House all cleaned up?

It’s winterized as far as poss. Leaks have been siliconed, Lichen sprayed. Enemies of the wisteria have fallen to merely quietly grumbling now it’s had its crewcut. Cars have their wheels clamped. Doors nailed shut…


Well you know what the burglary rate is like in Godzone. And after my luck so far this year with being targeted. So see you again down here near the end of the year.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Miss Potter

This rain is getting MORE than dismal.

Elizabeth says the Beatrix Potter film is worth seeing.

Miss Potter? I’ll check the reviews. What have we here on Rotten… ? Hmmm. 63%

So so?

So so. Comments range from ‘sweet-spirited’, with a reference to Mary Poppins, to someone getting a bit fed up and saying ‘half an hour in you start looking for Farmer MacGregor’s shotgun.’

Sounds like you are either easy on it because you adore chattering rabbits or grumble at it because you have got old and curmudgeonly.

Looking at scenes of Windermere WOULD beat looking out the window at this wind and rain.

We’re on our way.

"But as to a nest—there is no difficulty: I have a sackful of feathers in my wood-shed. No, my dear madam, you will be in nobody's way. You may sit there as long as you like," said the bushy long-tailed gentleman.”

He led the way to a very retired, dismal-looking house amongst the fox-gloves.

Beatrix Potter: Jemima Puddleduck

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Thursday, March 29, 2007


Well, I was born in Holland, and I came here at the age of twelve, and couldn’t speak a word of English.

So how did you go about…

Picking up the language? Well, as you can see, I DID pick it up…

Pretty WELL considering you have become one of the country’s foremost women poets.

It was a country school, and the headmaster wasn’t so VERY busy, he was a good soul, he took my sister and me under his wing and every day he we had an hour's session with him.

With books?

This was the 1950s. There WERE no books for this. He used pictures. He would point to a picture of a bird and say ‘chicken’ and we would repeat ‘chicken’ and then he would ask us ‘In Dutch?’ and we would say ‘kip.’ And here’s what was great about him. HE would repeat, ‘kip.’

Why did he want to learn Dutch?

He was enlightened. I think for no other reason than he wanted to broaden his world.

That was one unusual New Zealander.

Back then, yes.

Quiz Question: Of the seven in the photo, who is Q and who is A?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ha ha

The other day I was making a film of an architect explaining the concepts of a house he designed in 1952.

I remember. The one where the people are downsizing their housing.

That and the fact that they are moving into an old people’s community. But I was backing away from the house to get a photograph of the whole structure. And I backed and backed, and suddenly went flat on my back down a ha ha.

A ha ha.

Aha! See you don’t know what one is either! I didn’t, until I fell down it. And I had to ask the architect why he he was laughing, I might have been hurt, and he said he wasn't laughing, that where I had fallen was a 'ha ha.' It functions as a fence to stop animals in particular from straying onto your land. Only instead of a fence, it’s really more like a ditch.

So you fell in a ditch.

And went flat on my back into a cowpat.

Ooh. Ha ha.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lucky numbers

I just buzzed up to the supermarket for a bottle of red, and pulled in next to a small car and noticed its number plate.

A personalized plate?

Six eights.


No, no, 8,8,8,8,8,8.


OBviously! But what was odd, no, I mean this was IRONIC, there were grazes and dents on the left rear.

Ha! So much for lucky numbers protecting you.

Yeah, that's what I said when I found I'd been burgled almost as soon as I had said 'White Rabbit' on the first of March.

Maybe... but you got past the ides OK?

I certainly HOPE so.


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Monday, March 26, 2007

Great expectations

Well, it’s decided. We’re NOT going to sell.

What did the agent think it would fetch?

Well, they didn’t say right away, just talked about how it was a seller’s market, that a water view like this would be gone in a week, that they had someone, a doctor waiting for JUST such a view.

So how much?

Then they talked about how much other houses had gone for in the street. Like 39A going for 600 two weeks ago.

Not quite what you wanted.

Well 39A had no view. Then they talked about 33 which DOES have a view and its government valuation last year was 550 and that its owners wanted 800 but they said it would go stale waiting for a buyer at that price.

Go stale?

According to them, you have to move a property in six to eight weeks, if it stays on the market longer than that you get buyers coming in with no more than fire sale offers.

So come on, what did they think they could get you for it?

Beginning at 750, possibly going to 780. Be lucky to break 8 though.

A bit less than the million you hoped for.

One? Yesterday, we’d talked ourselves into not considering selling lower than 1.5. It was a shock finding that in these boom times, it was worth so little. Overnight we'd lost seven hundred thousand dollars. They did say that if it were one suburb over, it would be 2 mill no problem.


Exactly, location.


Sunday, March 25, 2007


Any apple sauce to go with the turkey ham?

Sure, I’ll make up a dishful.

No, no, don’t bother, it’s fine as it is.

It doesn’t take a minute. Honestly.

Can I help?

Here, you can peel the apple if you like. It’s really, REALLY simple. Peel the apple, grate it, then add lemon juice…

Lemon? Why you do that?

For flavor – and to stop the color changing. Never add to fish.

Fish. Yes. Never. Why?

Lemon, meat OK. Never with fish. Doesn’t go. Try it yourself you don’t believe.

Wisteria looks nice.


You don’t like wisteria?

Such a thing, it’s so aggressive. It gets under the spouting and lifts the roof. It cracks foundations, it grows down into the walls, strangles trees and destroys houses …

But here you live near the sea, the country is windy, I imagine wisteria, being so HARDY, is all you can train up a pergola here.

I HAD tried camellias, but I was away a lot and they DID like their drink, I HAD tried a bougainvillea, all aphids and thorns, feijoas but Trevor next door fretted about the roots, you’re right, the wind was too strong, they all gave up the ghost. The wisteria IS high maintenance, you have to keep him cut right back, but he is, as you say, HARDY.

And I see you are in the middle of pruning.

The very midst of it. If I am severe every year in autumn, chop, chop, lop, lop, he behaves. I have to be. That’s the secret of a docile wisteria. Same with children and pets. Let him know who’s boss.


Saturday, March 24, 2007


Who is this?

Rae. He was a pilot. He was killed in Italy in World War Two. 24.

A plane crash?

Missing in action. One night I woke up. Suddenly. I had his photo on my bedside table. And I happened to look at his photo and all the light had gone out of his eyes and I knew. I just KNEW, something had happened.

When was this?

1943. I was at med school at the time. In the dorm. It wasn’t until six months later that we heard anything. That he was missing. And when I looked in my diary I realised that the night I woke up suddenly was the exact night he went missing, 24th November, 1943.

How did it happen?

He was at the end of his missions and due to fly home and one night someone went sick so Rae volunteered to do one last run from Cairo up to northern Italy to bomb factories in Turin. Atrocious weather. They should never have taken off. The plane crashed near a village called Bardi in the Appenines. Only a third of the planes on that raid returned.

How did you find out?

We never knew what had happened until a few years ago when my nephew went to Italy and visited a military cemetery in Milan and found his grave. He talked to a lot of people and found out what had happened.

The American military has a military department that finds and brings home MIAs.

It’s too late for that in Rae’s case. I’m the only one in the family of five left and anyway, there is no family grave. It's better he remain where his is, undisturbed.


Friday, March 23, 2007


Somehow, I don’t know why, but Viv almost always gets Prevailing Wind and leads off.

Joan’s doing very well today. Look! Double everyone else's chips.

You know, sometime, we ought to play for more than just chips.

What kind of stakes are you thinking of?

I saw a movie once that had some men staking their houses during a game of mahjong. So I wondered if WE couldn’t stake our husbands.


Sssh. Here comes tea.



Thursday, March 22, 2007

Windows in houses

It went up in...?
1952 it would have been.

t has a nice atmosphere even at 55 years old. The view out onto the fields. As architect, did you design the view?

You might say that. I had the philosophy then, and still do, that when you design a house you go sit on the land and put rocks or sticks in the places you want the windows to be. Then you build the house around the windows.

So you mean some architects put the walls in and then cut windows in to see out?

Not only THAT. Some are more concerned with what the elevation i
s like...

What it looks like from the outside.

Mmm. I know. When you spend 90 per cent INside the house and 10 percent OUTside, it makes more sense to put the focus on being comfortable inside.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Communal kitchen

Where do you keep your food?
Each student has their own locker.

And this is yours? Number 36?

That's it.

Kitchen looks really tidy. What did you say? FORTY people use this single kitchen for cooking?

There IS a rush hour. So I cook here at off-peak times.

Like 2 AM?

Not quite but sometimes it gets a bit that way.

It all LOOKS very clean.

That's because if you leave a cooking utensil out, like a pot, or even just a SPOON, it gets put in the confiscation box and and you have to pay two dollars to get it back.

How much you paid already?

Yes, well. Eight dollars.

This year?

Er, this month actually



Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gone to Napier

12:30 PM
I'm leaving in 20 minutes.

1:00 PM
I'm leaving in 10 minutes.
For sure?
Dead positive.

1:30 PM
Can you tell them I'll be a bit late. Say 30 minutes?
I'll tell them 15.

I'm leaving, right now.

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Monday, March 19, 2007


Iris, was it?

Iris who?

Oh (sigh), YOU know, THE Iris, the WRIter one …

Oh, the one related to Rupert…?

You got it. Oh, this memory … You find yourself having to scratch around, time to time, sometimes for MINUTES at a time, to recover a word, often a NAME?

Sure. But I cover. I have strategies.


Like I change the subject, I go down a side road, I say things like by the way, oh before I forget, just look at that woman over there … Try doing that more often… S’alright for you, being a woman, people EXPECT that, but men are not expected to change subject so fast … unless they’re gay, anyway, what about Iris?

Oh yes, does you good to take a diversion, doesn’t it. Iris, yes, as I recall, she said conversation was just the spray breaking in a story.

Like froth? Not much substance, you mean?

I think she meant narration carried the story along. Narration was the waves. Conversation the froth.

And you don’t agree?

I can’t disagree with such an authority, a major talent, a big voice. Just, I wonder if it’s possible to tell a story only through conversazzione, through people talking, telling stories to each other…

Hmm, you may have something there. I was in a Stabas, KL, I think it was, some British best seller writer was doing a book signing and giving a talk about how he wrote, quite candid, said he used to write 90% narration and 10% dialogue, but since he started targeting the TV market the proportion has reversed. He now writes 10% narration and lets the 90% of dialogue tell the story.

Perhaps people like hearing voices, and to read voices, are we moving from literacy to back to oracy?


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Chinese apple strudel

Look, I've brought dessert. Only a dollar twenty.
Where from?

The Chinese bakery.

Let me see. Look, proper strudel has layers of apples. Not two pieces of apple on a slice of toast bread.
Hmm. Perhaps some berries and peaches would help. And some ice cream. Look, how's that!

So CAN the Chinese make apple strudel?

Hmmm. Lucky we had some berries and peaches and ice cream.

Another thing. You should eat dessert with a fork.
I like your fork. The way it curves.

But you have to hold it just so or it'll pitch all the food on the floor. That's sino-ergonomics for you.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Concert at harvest time

We travelled two hours north to a village where a Japanese architect settled about fifteen years ago. He built an eco house, established a rice field and farms the land organically. Every autumn, just before the clocks are put back from daylight saving, and the harvests are in, he invites people from various cultures to come and perform music. For this he constructed an outdoor theater. From the bottom of a hill where he built a simple stage, the hill rises at 26 degrees, the slope at which a Greek amphitheater was built. Yoshi has cut seats into this hill. Austrian dancers, Irish bands, Chinese opera singers, Japanese drummers, mixing with latter day Whole Earthers, this was a celebration of the strength that diversity brings.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Church concert

What a variety. Everything from poetry to opera to folk dance.

And a score of different nationalities from Britain to Burundi.

Why did the refugee poet leave early?

Security has a curfew on him. Has to be home by 10.

Poetry is changing. Did you notice more of the poets were telling stories? Shocking stories. Instead of just playing with words and gushing feelings.

That’s what the event was about. What happens to people who just disappear in the night when the police come. No one to hear them. Those stories make you think. The poems and songs too.

It was tolerant of the church to let Muslims expound and allow non-Christian dances.

Well, maybe just as poets have to change, maybe the church has to look for new supporters.


Thursday, March 15, 2007


“It’s ah-mazing the way this place has changed over the last fifteen years.”

“More traffic, more expensive, you mean?”

”That too, but I meant people. DIFFERENT people. I buy my veges at a Chinese market, bread from a Greek bakery next door, and the tiler coming this afternoon is Croatian.”

“You know, I was at Pak N Sav yesterday, I’m at the checkout and this woman behind me, think she was Samoan, she asks the checkout lady about a bottle and some rice she’s holding, ‘Is this what you use for making SUSHI?” And the checkout lady says, “I wouldn’t know, I’m from SYRIA, do I LOOK like I’m from Vietnam?”


“Yes, so I go, ‘Excuse ME, sushi is I THINK Japanese.’ And the lady is holding a bottle of MIRIN, can you believe, and get this…”

“I can guess, Long grain.”

“Ping pong. Long grain rice. Anyway, we get her all fixed up with some glutinous short grain and rice vinegar and soy sauce and tell her not to make sushi like the Koreans do.”

“Woo hoo!”

The great social adventure of America is no longer the conquest of the wilderness but the absorption of fifty different peoples. Walter Lippman 1889-1974.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Good teacher movies

“I know some critics say such movies like ‘Freedom Writers’ and ‘Stand and Deliver’ which was … SO similar… mask the dark side of good teachers and are written to a formula like there’s a good teacher fighting rebellious students and unsympathetic administrators but in the end all the students succeed and everyone feels good…”

“And yet, whenever I see such movies I feel moved. I don’t feel moved by car chases. Excited maybe. But I’m MOVED by intellectual challenge, the spiritual challenge. Not moved by the physical. Someone running away…”

“Like a cat chasing a mouse…?”

“I like an intellectual challenge, someone working HARD. I’m impressed by their ENERGY. Of Jaime Escalante.”

“And their calmness…”

“Calmness under stress. Very professional. Erin Gruwell’s way of solving problems, she did it all her own way, she got money, funded herself.”

“Her husband was no help.”

“And the education board didn’t help. She had to get three jobs, at a department store, at a hotel, and teach days…”

“I was impressed that she had some influence on people, she did something meaningful, she helped some kids. That was great. I’m not saying you have to help a million people. Even one or two will do.”

“But she was lucky. She could jump from a high school to a university teaching job. If she had to stay doing the same job for 30 years, yeah, maybe then she too would have become disillusioned, like those administrators.”

“It’s easy to be cynical about such stories. But sometimes the starfish story…”

“The what…?”

“There is a man walking along a beach. Beautiful day. He sees another man in the distance. As the first man approaches he can see that there are hundreds of starfish stuck on the sand by the falling tide and the second man is picking up starfish and throwing them back in the sea.

The first man comes up and asks, ‘Why are you doing this? There are thousands of starfish. Most of them are going to die. You can’t possibly make a difference.’

The second man pauses and looks at the first man. Then leans down and picks up one more starfish and thows it back into the ocean. He turns back to the first man and says, ‘Well, it sure made a difference to that one!’”

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Texting abbreviations

A mini study of TXTing Abbreviations: Interaction of type of device used, multilingualism, and familiarity with topic

Data: SMS exchange between male and female on going to a movie

KC (10:25 AM using Nokia 3650 keypad) Will U chek any movie 2 go with half price?

BN (10:25 AM using O2 handwriting recognition mode) OK

BN (10:55 AM using O2 handwriting recognition mode) Iwo Jima @ 15:10 Botany Downs?

KC (10:59 AM using Nokia 3650 keypad) Nani sore? Japanese?

BN (11:00 AM using O2 handwriting recognition mode) Clint Eastwood director, Excellent reviews, 91% on Rotten Tomatoes!

KC (11:02 AM using Nokia 3650 keypad) Sounds good.


Most PPL abbreviate when they TXT. Are there rules governing what gets abbreviated and what doesn’t?


The exchange took place between a native speaker of Japanese (KC) and native speaker of English (BN). By KC’s own admission, “chek” may be an abbreviation or it may be a spelling error; she can’t remember. Use of preposition “with” instead of “at” is clearly a non-native speaker (NNS) error.

The exchange between two speakers who can use each other’s language often results in code-switching. Note KC’s Nani sore?” (“What’s that?”), followed by use of the English Japanese?” (not “Nihongo?”). Curious she elects not to abbreviate Japanese to JPNS or something similar. Possibly because switching to capitals for the abbreviation “JPNS” is more troublesome using a cell phone keypad than a keyboard?

The device used may influence use or non-use of abbreviations. Some people often don’t bother with abbreviations using a stylus on the PDA in handwriting recognition mode (unless the message is approaching 160 character single message limit). Hence BN’s fully explicated Clint Eastwood director, Excellent reviews, 91% on Rotten Tomatoes!” BN commented that he felt abbreviating sometimes requires an extra step in the composition process.


So is the use of or non-use of abbreviations entirely arbitrary? Probably not. But the influencing factors are multiple and interact and some take precedence over others so defining the rules likely results in a complex model. Future studies could attempt to construct a flow-chart of the decision to abbreviate or not.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

A new movie genre?

“There’s been a couple of recent movies set over a short period of time, like a day or even a week, which attempt to capture the essence of a person or an event.”

“48 Hours?”

“I wasn’t thinking of THAT one specifically, although it IS an example of the genre.”

“IS it a genre? A time genre? And if so, what do you call it? How does it fit in with horror, romance, action, or suspense?”

“Potted Lives? Encapsulated Events?”

“Ugh. Can you imagine THOSE in the catalogue of Netflix?”

The Queen was about a week.You got a glimpse of her half-century reign in how she, helped by Tony Blair, coped with Diana’s death and the British people’s reaction to it. Through Helen Mirren’s uncanny projection of Elizabeth’s character, you get a sense of the whole fifty years that preceded THAT WEEK.”

“I saw ‘Bobby’ the other day. Robert Kennedy’s last day through the lives of people working in the hotel he was shot during that day. Maybe that is another example.”

Reviewers gave it a hard time.

Yes. But there was some clever dialogue like the scene in the kitchen where Mexicans are jousting with Laurence Fishburn on racial issues.”

So this new approach to telling a story – you could say it’s like an epic theme filmed through a microscope, not through a wide angle to capture the cast of thousands.”

“Cheaper to produce too.”

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Feng shui in the apartment entrance

“As soon as I walked in the room I knew something was not right.”

“Another robbery?“

“No, no. The feng shui of it. See, you walk in the door and there’s a direct line from the entrance to the back exit, that is the sliding doors overlooking the city. It gives you the feeling that you are about to swoop through the room and rush out into midair.“


“The Chinese would say it’s bad feng shui practice to be able to see from the front door to the back of the house because all the good spirits rush through without stopping. Something about it being bad fortune and no wealth will gather in that home.“

“Well I’m not sure I agree with the reasoning but I do agree there is a funny feeling opening the apartment door and looking straight out into midair. You’re right, it does feel like you’re being tipped into space.“

“So you need something to break that flow, Redirect it.“

“You could put a screen across.“

“But more practical would be a bench or a cabinet or a bench where you could drop keys, your bag, shopping etc. as soon as you get in the door.“


“Much better. Now there is a zigzag flow through the room. Strangely enough, it actually seems to increase the sense of space.“

“Maybe because you have to walk further.”

“Whatever the reason, Chinese spirits, or creating diversions, the room feels better. You actually want to stay in it now.”



Friday, March 9, 2007


"In a few minutes we will be arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.Please ensure your seat back is upright and your tray table and personal video are folded away. The flight attendants will now collect the headsets."

"Darn it. I don't get to see how the movie ends."
"What were you watching?"
"'Breaking and Entering.' Jude Law being an architect. Juliette Binoche as a Bosnian immigrant in London."
"I've seen it. Want to know how it ends or shall I not spoil it?"
"Give us the drift. Predictable? Or a twist in the tail?"
"Predictable... and bittersweet."
"OK, I can guess.Maybe I'll pick up the DVD here."
"Well, watch out for camera-in-theatre versions."
"I know."
"Tell me do you read reviews before or after you watch a movie?"
"Usually before. But if I catch a movie on a flight and I like it, I might go to a review by Joe Morgenstern or Roger Ebert."
"OOOF. Pretty windy today."
"This could be bumpy. You don't think he's coming in rather steep?"
"Hello, full power on? Looks like we're going to do the approach again."
"Reckon the're playing it safe after Garuda overshooting yeterday?"

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Dull blog

“Penny for your thoughts.”

“Give me more than that I’ll tell all. But I AM thinking. I’m thinking about what to write.”

“Don’t have a subject?”

“Plenty of topics, but they all need more time. Maybe I’ll end up writing something like, ‘I thought about what to write. I wrote something and then shut down the computer and went to bed.'”

“A parody of a report?”

“There ARE blogs that are parodies of blogs, you know.”

“I know one, I know one. It’s dull something…”

“Yeah. 'The Dullest Blog in the World' it's called. Oddly, it's dullism in extremis so bits of it are pretty funny. Like when he's talking about a pen. 'I was sitting on a chair in the living room. My pen was lying on the table. I reached out my hand and picked up the pen.'"

“Huh. Sounds about as exciting as an English lesson.”

Satire is a lesson, parody is a game.
Vladimir Nabokov

Max Headroom, if overly exposed, could end up as just another Muppet. Nothing would be more distressing than to witness a brilliant parody of TV turn into a TV cliche.
Harry F. Waters


Wednesday, March 7, 2007


“I heard a figure, don’t know how reliable it is, that in technical subjects half of what students learn in their first year of college will be outdated by their third year.”


“Don’t know. But I can understand that. I mean, it strikes a chord, rings a bell, sounds an alarm wouldn’t you say?”

“I know. Things change quickly. In a meeting today they were talking about TOEFL tests, For years, TOEFL used to be a paper test (PBT), then for five or six years it was done on computers (CBT), but from last year it is delivered over the Internet (iBT).”

“Yeah, I heard the scoring is all changed too.”

“Very different. PBT was 0 to 677 max, CBT was 0 to 300 and IBT is 0 to 120. Not only that but the PBT was a couple of hours, the CBT three hours and the IBT is four.

“So they are getting longer…”

“And, some say, more difficult.”

"If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow."
-- Philip Crosby

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Joint presentation

“We have to talk for 20 minutes and leave 5 minutes for questions. So how shall we divide this up? Maybe I do the introduction and you do the rest?”

“How about you do the hard parts and I’ll do the easy bits?”

“Seriously now, look, you talk about his early upbringing, I’ll talk about his career as a lawyer and the ANC, then you talk about his arrest and apartheid in South Africa, and then I’ll finish off with his getting out of jail and becoming president and getting the Nobel.”

“I like this collaborative approach. Like a wiki.”

“Speaking of which, you know the organizer asked me who the author of that wikipedia article on Mandela was.”

“What did they need that for?”

“A reference list. One of those that goes, 1. author, 2. date of publication, 3. title, and 4. place of publication.”

“It’s a bit difficult to fit a wiki article into that frame.”

“Too darned right. Anyone can edit it. It’s a collaboration, so there’s no single author. It’s ongoing so there’s no fixed date of publication.”

“So wikis might change how bibliographies are written?”

“That’s micro. For macro think wikis could be a threat to intellectual property and copyright.

“Knowledge creation happens in social networks where people learn and teach each other.”
Noel Tichy.

“The more you share, the more you win.” Brian Fetherstone.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

The Glassman Cometh

“Shall I give you a hand?”

“Just watch the end as I go down the corridor. You feel a bit insecure without a window I guess?”

“A little. But I believe in fixing broken windows quickly."

“You do?”

“There is a theory about urban decay, called broken window theory, that if you let small things remain broken or untreated in an environment then it’s all downhill from there. It got a lot of attention when Giuliani appeared to have fixed big issues like robbery and murder in New York by stomping hard on people who jaywalked or littered or didn’t pay subway fares.”

“Yeah, I read about that too. Some have questioned the conclusions though. There we are. All fixed.”

“Very briskly done. A cup of tea?”

“Thanks but no time. Three more jobs before five.”


“Been a spate this past week. Police say it’s the same guy. Hanes.”

“Hanes? They know his name and still haven’t caught him?”

Left his footprints at all the jobs. See, there’s the mark on your balcony. A Hanes bootprint. Same print at all the other places. Police call him MISTER Hanes.”

“They know anything else about him?”

“He comes by train. Breaks in using a minus screwdriver on windows on first floors. Doesn’t work upstairs. He’s done something like 200 burglaries since last autumn near a string of stations on the Chuo Line. Police are a bit embarrassed they can’t catch him.”

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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Checking a paper written by a palatologist

"This sentence,'The phoneme 'ch' is contrasted with the consonant 'dz' can be seen from the analysis...' How was this analyzed?"
"With a false palate."
"A FALSE palate?"
"Yes. Made of plastic. You put it in your mouth and it follows the contours of your palate. The hooks go around your teeth and you attach sensors to your tongue and palate and then plug it into a computer and get the subject to speak and then you can get palatographs which show what the subject is doing with his tongue and his palate."
"You have one of these things?"
"Yes. I carry it around in my pocket. Many of my friends have them too."
"So you sit around and stick your palates in your mouths and talk about..."
"Palatography. What else?"
"And the output?"
"I can only output in 2D. But at the department there is a 3D articulatory scanner.."
"Like an MRI?"
"Yes, yes."
"And in real time?"
"Of course. EXPENSIVE! (eyes roll) But oh what a toy!"
"And you use this for...?"
"For speech therapy. And teaching robots to talk."

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Saturday, March 3, 2007


“I’m getting tired of being burgled.”


“AGAIN! Ten days away and I came home to find a muddy footprint in the hall. Looked around the corner and the drawers were all pulled out and contents strewn all over the floor.”

“NO! How did they get in?”

“Levered the glass sliding door with a screwdriver, it shattered and they unlocked it from there. Like they did with the car last year.”

“Anything taken?”

“A fair amount of cash left on the table I intended to bank on return, and…”


“Some gold bars.”


“Not so small so as to just dismiss them. And then four hours with the police dusting and photographing and questioning and writing reports. And the final indignity at the end. They fingerprinted me. All my fingers! And TOES too.!”