Monday, March 31, 2008

Bus ride

Graham in Seat 2A, rides the Adrian bus from Napier and is pleasantly surprised by the time they arrive in Palmerston North. His brother Leo, in Seat 2B, probes for details.
Graham: Overall, a very nice ride.
Leo: Punctual, right.
Graham: On time departure, on time arrival, on time at the intermediate stops, paused long enough to check the passenger booking list and looked up and down the street for casuals.
Leo: The bus...
Graham: It's not too bad, is it. Fabric wearing a little thin on some arm-rests but, so what, seats are comfortable, nice and springy, and plenty of legroom.
Leo: Driver didn't talk too much, did he?
Graham: And thank Heavens for that. He was polite, competent, alert all the time, a smooth driver, didn't speed. Just a bare bones announcement as we enter Palmerston North. I suppose if you were a tourist, it would be nice if he could announce the towns he is stopping at and how long he would be stopping for, though I suppose you have your communicative drivers and those who just want to concentrate on driving. Different communicative styles.
Leo: I agree, it was a nice quiet ride. Mercifully he turned off the local radio program before Hastings. The bleating of the local announcer might not be to everyone's taste.
Graham: And the bus is actually pretty good. Solid chassis, no thumps from the suspension, the airconditioner worked well. No smoking of course. Yeah, altogether, a very nice bus ride to Palmerston North!


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Middle aged man on a flying trapeze

Robert, normally a fairly talkative individual, almost always finds that airport security checks causes him to communicate in sign language.


Airport security official: Mind if I look in your bag, sir?

Robert: (gestures with a twist of an outstretched hand) Mmm.

Airport security official: We'll have to take the computer out and put it through separately.

Robert: (gestures with an uprising wrist, palm open upwards) Uh.

Computer passes through scanner

Airport security official: There you go.

Robert: (loads computer back into pack) Mm.

Robert does not reduce his communication consciously or deliberately. It is almost an instinctive defence mechanism kicking in.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blue cod

Maureen asks the fishmonger for a piece of blue cod.


Maureen: I need four pieces.

Fishmonger: Sorry lady. Only got one piece left.

Maureen: But I’m having three guests. I need four pieces.

Fishmonger: Sorry lady. Like I said, only one piece. How about one piece of blue cod, and three pieces of snapper? You eat the blue cod, and give the guests snapper. You know what I mean? (winks)

Maureen: I couldn’t do that. It’s not fair.

Mike: Wait a moment. (Goes out the back and returns with four pieces of blue cod). I was saving this for my brother. But good luck for you.

Maureen: I … I don’t know what to say.


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The fragility of the politeness of bank tellers

Sarge comes on duty to take over the teller’s counter while Dave takes a lunch break.

Sarge: Morning OK?

Dave: Kind of rough.

Sarge: (typing in password) Yeah?

Dave: You can say that again.

Sarge: Again?

Dave: The first hour I was polite.

Sarge: You are always polite, Dave.

Dave: I was my usual Dave the first hour. But 11 to 12, whew. I was my smiling self, but it was close.

Sarge: Close to?

Dave: Close to a blow-up. I mean, one woman brought in a hundred and seventy-five dollars in 1s, 2s and 5 cent pieces. Fifteen people in the line behind her as she counted them out. That sort of morning.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Communication with superiors

Humphrey, annoyed about having to work late, complains to Bernard.


Humphrey: He said to me, can you stay late?

Bernard: And you said, “I cannot.”?

Humphrey: Of course I didn’t. I said, “No problem. Sounds interesting. I love a challenge.”

Bernard: Really?

Humphrey: I did. Not a gesture, not a grimace.

Bernard: But what were you thinking?

Humphrey: I was thinking, “If I had a machete in my hand, I would not be responsible for anything that happened.”


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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yevgenia Krasnova

Bill has only just begun Taleb’s Black Swan and Ray disabuses him of one of his assumptions.


Bill: You’ve read the Black Swan?

Ray: I have.

Bill: Just begun it but I particularly like the story of this woman neuroscientist who wrote a book but no publisher would touch it, it didn’t seem to be either fact or fiction, so she put it on the Internet and there a publisher found it and he published it and before long her book was out in 40 languages. Just shows, the “experts” are not always right. Great story!

Ray: Great story, indeed. I suspect you have only read up to the chapter on Yevgenia.

Bill: That’s right. How did you know?

Ray: If you turn the page, you’ll find a footnote. “To those readers who Googled Yevgenia Krasnova, I am sorry to say that she is (officially) a fictional character."


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Mag's funeral

After cutting more than halfway through the trunk, Spud tells Polly to drive the car forward.


Spud: Go.
Polly: Now?
Spud: Not too fast, not too slow.


Spud: You did it.
Polly: Is it down?
Spud: Great job. All done. Bit sad, great tree, it was, though, feels like killing my own mother.


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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Magnolia roots

Spud is annoyed about having to cut down the magnolia tree in the garden.


Spud: So I’m over next door and Peter, he says, that magnolia is a problem, Spud, they get real big and their roots go for miles.

Polly: I told you when you planted it. You plant a magnolia on the boundary and the roots go under the ground and lift the neighbor’s paths and then they sue you. Did Peter say he was going to sue you?

Spud: Not in so many words. He’s always been right neighborly. He did look at me a little sharp though.

Polly: So you going to take it down? Or you going to be contrary as always?

Spud: I’m going to take it down. I’m going out there with the chainsaw tomorrow, first thing.

Polly: Really? I never knowed you cave in so quick to what someone tells you to do. Bet Peter showed you some tree roots had already crawled under the fence into his place.

Spud: No, no. But I’ll let you in on a secret, Pol. Promise you won’t let on over the fence?

Polly: Depends.

Spud: Well, I found a big fat magnolia root pushing up through our brick driveway.

Polly: Our brick driveway? Lawdy me, Spud. You go out there and cut down that there magnolia right away at dawn tomorrow. They’s dangerous trees, magnolias. I heard you can wake up one morning and find they’ve pushed your house over.


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cyclical argument

Anil wonders if the problem is in the ignition switch.


Dipak:I don't think so.

Anil: Then what are you thinking the problem could be?

Dipak: These machines are a problem. We rely on them so much they rule our lives and govern our behavior.

Anil: That's all very well but we must arrive at Chandrapore before dark.

Dipak: You see? If we did not have a machine we would not have set out for Chandrapore.

Anil: I am beginning to see what you are saying. And if we did not have to go to Chandrapore we would not have to rely on the machine.

Dipak: Life was simpler when we walked everywhere.


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Friday, March 21, 2008

TradeMe profile

Eleanor is explaining to Bruce about profiling traders.



Bruce: What’s your next study on?

Eleanor: TradeMe. This is the printout of an auction.

Bruce: What’s traded?

Eleanor: That, but more to the point, how you can build up a profile of a person from what they buy.

Bruce: Revealing, huh.

Eleanor: Look at this one. He sells the usual sort of stuff. A car a couple of months ago, bought a motorcycle last week, now he’s selling another motorcycle. He’s been on TradeMe for three years so he’s done a few transactions. Buys more than he sells. Seems to be a collector.

Bruce: Vehicles?

Eleanor: Not at all. He buys old military uniforms. And equipment. Here’s a bugle. Here he buys a parachute. Here he buys a set of medals for a Red Beret.


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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Competing on bad health

Helga is finds it difficult to change the subject when talking to her elderly mother.


Helga: I was talking to her just last night, and you know, as usual, from minute 1 to goodbye, it was all about health. The heart, the nausea, the back ache.

Astrid: It’s all old people are conscious of. Have you noticed, it’s all about health and the past. The aches and pains and how things were better before.

Helga: And young people talk about their plans and the future and what they’re going to do, never health.

Astrid: Maybe diet.

Helga: But sometimes think old people talking about health are almost competing. My back pain is a lot worse then your back pain. You think you have a bad knee? That’s nothing! I can’t even get up the steps with out my stick.

Astrid: Well maybe competition runs through conversation of the old and the young, just the topics change. Like young guys. My car is faster then yours. And we women, you know sister asked me yesterday, what have you done to your hair? It was an opener so she could show off her new hairstyle.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hospital discharge

Daniel is visiting his mother in hospital.

Mother: When can I go home?
Daniel: How do you feel?
Mother: When I came I thought I was dying. But that woman in the next bed died last night, and as she died, she said so many scary things, I thought I'm not ready yet, I can't face that, I want to get better. Take me home.
Daniel: Today?
Mother: Now.
Daniel: You have to be discharged.
Mother: Tell the nurse to bring me the papers. Dr House has them.
Daniel: You're sure you want to do this? He’s not likely to agree.
Mother: Whether he agrees or not. I’m going home.
Daniel: This is weird. This is the third time in a month that I've visited someone in hospital and they've been discharged on the same day.


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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Diane explains to Juanita that she rewrote her proposal.

Diane: I mean it’s a conference on language and when I finished the proposal I realized the whole paper was going to be about technology and I’d called it “Technical issues related to texting.”

Juanita: So you just renamed it “How texting affects how we talk”?

Diane: No, I had to throw out all the technical stuff and when I’d done that I saw there weren’t any language issues left.

Juanita: Hard.

Diane: So I designed a new study. I now have the subjects texting messages to each other.

Juanita: It’s been done.

Diane: Not this way. The messages they send have to be about problems with texting.

Juanita: Very reflexive. Texts about texting. Nice one Di.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

A mermaid's story

Agnete asks Hans for directions.


Hans: You want to go where?

Agnete: There is a statue in the town. I have heard it is famous.

Hans: There are many statues in the town.

Agnete: But this one is special. It is of a merperson.

Hans: The little mermaid? It is, shall we say, unprepossessing.

Agnete: I know, but its story is tragic. Oh so, tragic. She cuts out her tongue, pain in her legs is like knives when she dances, the prince does not marry her.

Hans: What kind of a man could inflict such pain, even on a fictional merperson? Are you sure you still want to go?

Agnete: But the ending is happy. She doesn’t kill the prince, becomes a spirit who does good deeds and goes to heaven.

Hans: It doesn’t sound a likely ending.


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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Middles and middle-age

Troy and Regina take a Sunday afternoon philosophical walk, as is their custom.


Troy: Problems with parents, problems with children.

Regina: Sandwiched between generations. The elderly ask and the children demand.

Troy: Or the other way around.

Regina: Life was never easy, never fair. Nor should we expect it to be.

Troy: That’s life isn’t it. No control over when we are born, very little control over how we die, and only an illusion that we have any control over what happens in the middle.

Regina: And in middle age, especially our middles suddenly balloon beyond your control.

Troy: Charles might have something to say about the way his mother is hanging on. Old people wanting to hang on to control. But at least on us, today, the sun is shining.


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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cats on FaceBook

Two middle-aged cats, Jemima and Lolita, are discussing behavior of the younger generation.


Jemima: You know, my daughter, Jessica, told me she communicates with her friend by Internet.

Lolita: She can type?

Jemima: Oh no. Her owner, sorry, her pet human, types a message to her friend who says “Tell your cat, my cat Jessica says hi.”

Lolita: Don’t tell me. Then her friend’s cat sends a message back through her pet human.

Jemima: A shifted reality? We meet here on the street, talk face to face, communicate blink to blink. Humans type messages to each other over the Internet and sometimes meet. But modern cats locked up in apartments get second-hand messages through humans over the Internet and never meet.

Lolita: Matrix? They're not aware of a parallel universe?


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Friday, March 14, 2008

What is the purpose of your visit?

Captain Haddock arrives at JFK.


Official: What is the purpose of your visit?

Haddock: To visit Washington.

Official: Where will you stay?

Haddock: At the Petit Chat.

Official: When will you leave?

Haddock: In a week.

Official: Why have you come here?

Haddock: You already asked me that.

Official: Be careful smartass. Lip like that could land you in jail.


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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Naked bus

Tullio and Alfredo have been waiting some time for the bus to arrive.


Tullio: Here it comes.

Alfredo: Late as usual.

Tullio: Adrian time.

Alfredo: Who is Adrian, anyway?

Tullio: He’s a new face in the industry. He used to run the Naked Bus until he bought a real bus.

Alfredo: Naked bus?

Tullio: He had no buses, only a computer. He’d sell tickets on real buses and take a commission.

Alfredo: A virtual bus company?

Tullio: Virtually.



Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Hamlet e Ophelia si arrestano nel piazza per un gelato.


Ophelia: I told you beware the ides of March.

Hamlet: They are not on us yet. But I would trade my horse for another, yet the ice cream is good, so let’s tarry awhile here.

Ophelia: A dish fit for the gods. Yet it is neither ice nor cream.

Hamlet: What’s in a name? Chocolate by any other name would taste as sweet, nay?

Ophelia: Tis neither here nor there.

Hamlet: I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it. Yet that man is taking my likeness too oft for his own good, we must to horse before I beat him to a pulp. Triumphs for nothing and lamenting toys is jollity for apes and grief for boys.

Ophelia: Good sentences and well pronounced, my lord. On, on, to unpathed waters, to undreamed shores!



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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Conference fees

Vera is annoyed at what the conference has cost her and its disorganized state. Ricardo knows the inside story.

Vera: Six hundred dollars! Three days of morning and afternoon teas, a cheap buffet, a program book full of errors and held in a school.

Ricardo: The organizers made a killing.

Vera: I heard it wasn’t even organized by academics. They outsourced it to professionals.

Ricardo: Exactly. That’s why they got so many names in the program wrong and the paper titles were truncated. They had no professional knowledge.

Vera: Six hundred dollars collected from 200 people is 120,000 dollars.

Ricardo: I’d put the real costs in the area of 20,000 max. Same organizers were off to do a boat show the next day.

Vera: At least when academics ran it they printed names in the program correctly. And we’d only have to find 50 dollars to attend.

Ricardo: I heard one of the organizers saying academics are a pushover. They don’t have a commercial sense, the organizers can charge what the market will bear and so it’s money for old rope.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Audible silences

In an Esan restaurant where the crispy fish and beer is not half bad, in fact, it's very very good.

You'll be pleased I took your advice.
Getting more stuff.
You remember! You said putting more stuff in a room can make an empty room seem bigger.
So you bought...?
A large pot made of mango wood, some dried flowers and a screen. The room does seem bigger now.
Told you.
I wonder if the same can be said of talk?
Can talking more in a conversation enhance the sense of silence?
Hmm. That would depend on the gaps between what was said.
Auditory punctuation?
How about audible silences?

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Football and politics

Gordon and Tony make small talk before the cabinet meeting.

Tony: You look a bit wrecked. Up all night?

Gordon: Spurs won! Bit of celebrating.

Tony: I know. Nice penalty straight ahead in the final minute.

Gordon: Best way to do it. Goalies are 25% more likely to dive right or left than stay in the middle.

Tony: Message in that maybe? Put the reshuffle on the top of the agenda and don't hide it in a corner?

Gordon: Let's get this meeting over with. Manchester United are on at 2 o'clock.

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Travels with Johnson

Eric, sitting across the aisle from Saul, is curious about the fact that Saul is highlighting every page.

Eric: What is that you're reading?

Saul: Johnson. He's been with me for the past two flights I've been on.

Eric: Good?

Saul. He wrote a dictionary. It's the story of that. So engrossing that I read it slowly.

Eric: I see you highlight certain sentences.

Saul: I do that to slow me down.

Eric. Cheaper to carry a book for several flights?

Saul: And lighter to carry.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Designing new buildings to saving old ones

Jack is sitting out on the deck, talking to Bill, an architect, looking back on his career.

Jack: So you began your career in 1949?

Bill: About then. It was just after the war and the country was gung-ho with new ideas. I was drawn to simplicity in form, particularly the work of Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

Jack: Hence your buildings in a minimalist style?

Bill: That’s it.

Jack: And then over the past twenty years you’ve been very active in the Historic Places Trust.

Bill: Yes, advising on which buildings are worth keeping and which less so. Giving them a grading. It’s a bit ironic really. I started my life designing new buildings and ended up saving old ones.


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Thursday, March 6, 2008


Jessica asks Deborah if she wants to do dinner.


Jess: Can’t tonight. Have to go to the dentist.

Deb: At night?

Jess: Emergency. I was biting into a chocolate last night and my jaw fell out.

Deb: Rubbish. You’re exaggerating again.

Jess: Only a little. Suddenly there were several teeth lying on the table front of me.

Deb: More like you lost a filling.

Jess: OK. OK. So which has the more dramatic impact? A jaw falling out, or a filling?

Deb: You have a point.

Jess: I have a dentist appointment. Can’t talk now. Gotta go.


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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

When does fatigue set in?

Miguel asks Lance about his thoughts on aluminum frames.


Miguel: I know aluminum is good. That’s not an issue. But I was reading the manual and it said that the frame should last at least two years. And yet they give a lifetime guarantee.

Lance: Probably just covering themselves from legal action. Maybe serious racers put more stress on the frames.

Miguel: But does lifetime guarantee cover accidents?

Lance: Not accidents. Faulty workmanship, yes. But if they see truck tire marks over a crushed frame they won’t give you a free new one.

Miguel: So then I asked about fatigue, metal fatigue, and there was some humming and hawing.

Lance: Yeah?

Miguel: And they said under fair use, fatigue wouldn’t set in for many years.

Lance: Avoiding the issue, eh? Anyway, the only way to check for fatigue is to cut up the frame, dye the metal and examine under a microscope. Best thing is, you should do a regular visual check on the fram, especially around the bottom bracket and the steering head.

Miguel: Steering head? I was talking about sunglass frames.


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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sounds of silence

Amber finds the city noisy, Mike is exhausted after shopping.


Amber: She was attacked when she politely asked some youngsters to turn down their karaoke amplifier.

Mike: Technology can amplify the useful, & the good. But it can also amplify nonsense and thuggish behavior.

Amber: Noise can drive people to desperate measures. I read in the Post that a doctor in Songkhla was among 7 people shot dead when they were drinking & playing music loudly after midnight.

Mike: And it can cause anything from ringing in the ears to mental breakdown.

Amber: It’s nice we agree about this at least. Silence is good. Pity there aren't places to go where it is quiet instead of you having to buy me noise canceling head phones.


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Monday, March 3, 2008

Identity and media

Mary is a little worried about Alexander’s presentation at next month's conference.


Mary: You’re going to talk about what?

Alexander: Identity.

Mary: But it’s a media conference. Bit off-topic, wouldn’t you think? What’s identity got to do with media?

Alexander: Well, some people who are not normally aggressive, get quite insulting when they’re emailing or texting someone they don’t know, never met before. Others make up multiple identities, and seem to gain confidence. Media changes the concept of identity.

Mary: Hmm.

Alexander: And it might lead to a book. Even a documentary film. “Talk. We can all do it better.”

Mary: Use media and find a new you?

Alexander: I think you are making fun of the idea.

Mary (peels into peals of laughter): Oh, no. Oh no. Alexander, never.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008


During golf, Hugh is talking to his friend Grant about accommodation problems.

Hugh: I may have to move out of the flat.

Grant: But you’ve just moved in. Last week.

Hugh: Week before. Landlady claims no bond was paid a year ago when Joe and the others moved in. They say they did, she says they didn’t. So she’s upping the rent.

Grant: They got a receipt?

Hugh: Joe says she kept forgetting to give them a receipt, and now she’s forgotten they paid.

Grant: Happens with old people. Forgetting. She is old I take it?

Hugh: Oh yes. Ancient. Late forties.


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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Wherewhere and Erewhon

Hoo has just driven over the Taihape to Napier Road and is pretty pleased with himself.


Hoo: I’d never done it before.

Wat: You sixty and you never been Taihape Napier?

Hoo: My father say people go missing. They start at Taihape but they never arrive in Napier. Now I know why.

Wat: You know why?

Hoo: They all went off down Wherewhere Road. No Exit. Massive graveyard at end.

Wat: I heard it because they all end up at Erewhon.

Hoo: Erewhon.

Wat: Nowhere spelled backwards. Well, half backwards.

Hoo (shrugging): Who knows?


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