Monday, June 30, 2008

Investment model

Emergency meeting in an investment brokerage. Chief of trading, Altman, requests help from chief of research, Zbigniew, but differences in communication are revealed between them.


Altman: These are weird times. There are so many sell orders some traders are saying go short on futures. Yet prices are so cheap, others are taking long positions. We lack guidance.

Zbigniew: You need a new model.

Altman: We do. What factors were you thinking of including?

Zbigniew: Investors sell their shares, they buy gold, they sell their houses and rent a place to live.

Altman: OK. Model needs all those things. The traders want an interface, too.

Zbigniew: So you need a new program. Coding takes time and testing.

Altman: Can I suggest these steps. First, a new model taking account of the changed economic climate. Second, a new instrument for traders to interface with. Snazzy graphics to impress their cutomers. And third, a testing period to see if the thing works and we can tell the future and make some money.



There are several ways to express ideas clearly. Zbigniew, the researcher, is a clear thinker, offers his bulleted suggestions in a list. He gleans ideas from data and is used to writing pithy reports. His talk is like a visual display.

Altman’s job is managing traders. He has to talk clearly. In an oral context, linkage (transition devices like first, second, third) map the road the ideas stand on. And causation expressions (to interface, to impress, to test) answer the whys.


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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Missing a posting

Isaac misses a posting.


Isaac: So I wake up at 12:50 AM, crashed over the keyboard, and realize I didn’t post a blog entry before midnight.

Eric: And you can’t backdate a blog posting.

Isaac: There may be a way but I don’t know it. I prefer to use the midnight cutoff as a kind of self discipline to write something every day.

Eric: Crashing at the computer is a good reason to skip isn’t it?

Isaac: I only skip if I’m nowhere near a computer or I’ve been called to the bedside of someone expiring. Anyway, I go to bed furious because I fell asleep before I’d posted.

Eric: Sad.

Isaac: But then this morning I turn on the computer and find, by crikey, there’s yesterday’s blogpost. 11:34 PM. I must have posted then crashed for an hour.

Eric: No recollection?

Isaac: Not the faintest. None at all.


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Friday, June 27, 2008


Michael helps Jade carry some boxes home.


Michael: You have no space.

Jade: If I move a few things…

Michael: You should do like I do, I’m going to buy something new, I throw out something first.

Jade: Can’t do that. Old things might come in useful.

Michael: You’re impossible. You mean, you’re too attached to the old stuff to throw them away?

Jade: Maybe.

Michael: You’ve got this addiction to things. You buy something, you like it, you can’t throw it away. You shop. You hoard. Your house is full of clutter.

Jade: At least it’s organized. All in boxes.

Michael: You buy new boxes every month.

Jade: Not my fault. Chimps hoard. Everyone hoards. It’s a survival instinct.

Michael: What good is that when you live in a small condo?


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Asimov's Robot Laws

Average Metallic and Big Red discuss laws for keeping humans from harming them.


Average Metallic: The law should say something like “Human beings must not damage a robot, or through inaction allow a robot to be damaged.”

Big Red: But we need another one. A second law. “A human being must obey orders from a robot, except where those orders conflict with the first law.

Average Metallic: We can’t have them dying out, we need them to service us, so how about a third law: “Human beings must protect their existence, so long as this does not conflict with the First Law and Second Law.”

Big Red: That ought to keep them under control.


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Monday, June 23, 2008

Spelling mistakes

Money dines with friends.

Money: And then he told me, “Waterlily has two “l”s, not three.

Gustav: Spelling isn’t everything. The best speller in my class at school never became anything worthwhile, remained inconsequential until he died.

Pierre: Shakespeare spelled his name half a dozen different ways.

Waiter: If I could add, in a hundred years from now, there will be a man called Berners-Lee who invents something greater than Gutenberg, and he will be a bad speller.

Money: Ah, relief. Spelling isn’t everything in life.



There may be a day coming when SMSers shatter language consistency by insisting on their ideolectal spelling variants and we are suddenly back in the Elizabethan age. Could the claim that good spellers are the bean counters of language be on the money?


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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Oil at 1000 dollars a barrel

Max, who tends to overreact, indulges in a little crystal ball gazing, to the ever-optimistic Ray.

Max: Well, maybe we won't have to put up with long flights much longer. Back of a Fortune magazine Stanley Bing makes a prediction we are headed for oil at $1000 per barrel. None of this wimpy $200 a barrel stuff. Air travel at $25,000 per ticket will only be for seriously wealthy business people. Hybrid vehicles will putter around really slowly but the police will be allowed to go at 16 kilometers per hour to catch criminals. Most of us will be hanging out of windows or onto the roofs of buses and trains to do any distance. Food will be locally grown.

Ray: Is Bing a bit of an alarmist?

Max: Alarmist? Heck, that was normal only a hundred years ago.

Ray: OK, but how does this affect us?

Max: We’ll have to move. Reposition ourselves. Geographically. Cold country with wind and rain but possibility of Vegetable Wars? Warm country with possibility of Water Wars? New Zealand where all the crims join the police force? Japan where you'll only be exempt from joining the army if you are over 97 years old?

Ray: All countries will have their problems. Something will be worked out.

Max: Peru with 2,500 varieties of potato looks increasingly attractive. I'm sending off an application to join the Shining Path.

Ray: I thought you liked lasagna better.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Traffic cop

Victim is pulled over by cop near Atiamuri.
Cop: Good evening sir. Do you have any idea of how fast you were going?
Victim: 96, sir.
Cop: I clocked you at 109.
Victim: Impossible, sir, I back off soon as I go over 95. I know the limit’s an even hundred.
Cop: I’m sorry sir, there was no other traffic, and I clocked you at 109.
Victim: Shall I step out of the car? Sir?
Cop: Just give me your licence.
Victim: That could be a little difficult. It’s in the trunk.
Cop: Stay where you are.
Victim: How long?
Cop: Long as it takes for me to get back up. You’re not carrying your licence on you.
Victim: Can I call my lawyer? Sir?
Cop: Sorry sir. No cell phone use is allowed.
Victim: I’m not phoning while driving.
Cop: Enough! You’re under arrest. Stay where you are. Don’t move.
Victim: So much as a finger?
Cop: That’ll be life sentence.
Victim: Hmm. Cop, prosecution, judge, all rolled into one!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Ephraim: What happened?
Rahmat: His head collided with a roadsign, how do you DO that on an Indian moped which won't even go up a hill with engine on full bore??? I ask you. Anyway, surgery will probably sort out the physical injuries.
Ephraim: But what caused it? An ordinary functioning human doesn’t just ride around head-butting signposts.
Rahmat: He got nervy about his exams, took a few too many tranqs and forgot.
Ephraim: Forgot.
Rahmat: Forgot what he was taking, about the meaning of life, and after he woke up in ER, he’d forgotten who was.
Ephraim: Tut tut. Exams.
Rahmat: Going for an aegrotat.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Accidental recall

Over dinner , Vietnamese style, topic shift.
Warren: The crepe, fried crispy, with mushrooms and minced prawns, it's a treat।
Bill: Broad daylight, you say?
Warren: Garlic in vinegar. Mmm. Sunny, dry conditions.
Bill: No traffic?
Warren: At two in the afternoon? Occasional farmer crossing the road on his tractor? Rural mail picked him up.
Bill: And he's just gone straight on at the turn? Speed?
Warren: No skid marks. Just went into the ditch. Looks like he just forgot to turn.
Bill: Forgot?
Warren: To turn.
Bill: Knowing him, and you know, this is just speculation mind you, something took hold of him.
Warren: Ha, like a one of them UFOs?
Bill: Not that. He was maybe thinking something else. He'd got a new theory and it distracted him. He goes absent then.
Warren: Know what you mean. Was a fellow went off Greenacres Line few years back. Dead straight road. Roared into a tree. A geneticist.
Bill: And he doesn't remember anything?
Warren: Says he was unconscious for an hour and woke up in the ambulance. Told me he doesn't recall anything since Thursday.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Waist management

Taking his annual health check, Eric is asked by the nurse to pull up his shirt.
Eric: For?
Nurse: Gotta take your waste measurement. That's it. No, don't suck in your stomach. Just be natural.
Eric: I'm not sucking in my stomach. This is my, my... normal posture. See? 81 centimeters. OK? Wha- What you do that for? Why d'you tickle me?
Nurse: That's how we get your normal waist measurement. Ooh! 86 centimeters!
Eric What's the average?
Nurse: 85. Getting a bit overweight aren't we?
Eric: Sssh। Everybody will hear.


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Friday, June 13, 2008


Paul is rewriting a paper, hurriedly, on the morning of his presentation.


Chris: Is it an objective study now?

Paul: I’ve deleted all references to myself in the abstract.

Chris: A good start. And all the wiki citations in the references?

Paul: Well, most.

Chris: How about all the anecdotes?

Paul: Oh heck. That’s 90 percent of the paper. I give up. I’m just going to tell it like it is.



Thursday, June 12, 2008


Madge and June are pulled up by a rookie cop.


Madge: Hello.

June: I had no idea.

Madge: That’s right, we really are lost. Could you help us?

June: Wait on Madge. I see it. Sunset Boulevade. It’s to the right.

Madge: We got it. We won’t trouble you any more officer. Byeee.

Rookie cop: I’m turning in my badge already. I mean, if I can’t book two octogenarians, how’m I going to make a real arrest?



Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ceiling Cat

Pinknose finds himself lodging with the converted.


Tabby One: He has a good voice and a quiet power. We must follow Him.

Tabby Two: I’ll follow him if He throws down fish again.

Pinknose: Just my luck. Finding myself in a Fundamentalist dormitory. Better keep my head down and my opinions to myself.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ahead of his time

Steve is discussing with his speechwriter how to approach the announcement of a new phone.


Steve: How about I begin by comparing telegramese with SMS abbreviations?

Speechwriter: Been done already.

Steve: Uh huh. OK. Um. How about taking snapshots with a Box Brownie compared with snapping friends on your phone and 3Ging them?

Speechwriter: Been done.

Steve: Damn. OK. Instant messaging now superseded by Twitter?

Speechwriter: Been done.

Steve: Just who was it who said all this before me?

Speechwriter: Samuel Butler.

Steve: I wanna meet this guy.

Speechwriter: Bit late. He died 1902.

Steve: Wow. Ahead of his time. Saw it all coming.


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Monday, June 9, 2008


Mari and Yuki play Fado in the park.


Bystander: Bravo! Can you tell us what the song means?

Mari: I sort of understand. I catch the feeling.

Bystander: Ah.

Mari: I appreciate the music. The words, well… You don’t have to understand everything in life.



Sunday, June 8, 2008

Innermost thoughts

Gerald met an old acquaintance yesterday, who Jim also knows.

Gerald: I saw Wellington yesterday.

Jim: Haven’t seen him for years. Still living around here?

Gerald: Couldn’t avoid him. Called my name. You ever get into conversation with someone who just goes on and on, spilling everything that’s in his mind?

Jim: I know. They tell you their innermost thoughts. And leave you exhausted trying to figure out how to respond.

Gerald: Wellington’s like that. Doesn’t follow conversational conventions. Comes out with things like, “I know you never liked me…” or “I look like a total jerk, I’m so fat…”

Jim: So how long did you spend with him?

Gerald: Two hours. Couldn’t get away. Got home totally drained.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Music by the kilogram

Marie gives Jasmin a present.


Marie: Here.

Jasmin: A CD? 2008 Classics.

Marie: Mmm.

Jasmin: For me?

Marie: An aunt gave it to me.

Jasmin: Still sealed. You haven’t listened to it.

Marie: Not my taste. More yours.

Jasmin: In what way?

Marie: Classics adapted for movies. What more can I say?

Jasmin: Some notable performers. Pavarotti. Brightman. And look! Two CDs.

Marie: For the price of one! Should appeal to someone who buys her music by the kilogram।



Friday, June 6, 2008

The Book of the Machines

Duncan talks to Robin about a book he has been reading.

Duncan: He says an eggshell is a kind of machine.

Robin: Bah! What could be more natural than an eggshell?

Duncan: Well, he argues that an eggshell is a porcelain container for the egg inside. It is therefore a device, a kind of machine.

Robin: With that kind of logic, he's likely to argue that machines could have souls. 

Duncan: Well, yes, he does, actually. Says something like steam engines having a kind of consciousness.

Robin: I grant you, there are those steam train buffs who believe that something died with the age of steam, and would abolish all diesel locomotives if they had their way.

Duncan: He sees something ominous in machines though.

Robin: That they'll rule the world? They'll take us over? Push us out? Exterminate us?

Duncan: No, machines will still need us. They'll keep us. They'll need us to service them, we will become their slaves

Robin: Aren't we already? Tied to our computers. Smash 'em, I say.

Duncan: Like Luddites?

Robin: Who is this fellow, anyway?

Duncan: Samuel Butler. Erewhon. 1872. Ahead of his time. If he was afraid then, we should be very afraid now. No solution of course, but well worth reading.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008


Keir urges Clive to send a quick response.

Clive: I don’t agree with his results.

Keir: Twitter him saying you don’t.

Clive: Him what?

Keir: A kind of instant message.

Clive: It’s all right for you digital natives. I’m just an immigrant.

Keir: I’m no native. There’s three generations behind me.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Magic squares

Kambei tries to get Kikuchiyo to tell the story of the seven samurai.
Kikuchiyo: Well there was a village, a mountain village, and the villagers were very poor and couldn’t grow much food, and they were frightened…
Kambei: Too much detail. Give me a plot summary in nine words.

Kikuchiyo: Nine words? Nine? Impossible.

Kambei: BME. Three words for the beginning, three words for the middle and three words for the end.

Kikuchiyo: I still say it’s impossible.

Kambei: Think of a magic square. A word square. A grid three squares by three squares. Put one word in each square.

Kikuchiyo: Three by three, I still don’t see…

Kambei: Top three squares, beginning: Bandits attack village. Middle three squares, middle section: Villagers hire samurai. Bottom three squares, ending: Samurai kill bandits.

Kikuchiyo: Ah.

Kambei: Try. Tell me the story of the seven samurai in nine words.

Kikuchiyo: Bandits attack village. Villagers hire samurai. Samurai kill bandits.

Kambei: That’s the skeleton, the structure, the framework. After that, you can hang meat on the bones.


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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Balconies and piazzas

Antonio and Selvaggia find a place to stay. They have a room with a view.


Antonio: Lucky we booked in advance.

Selvaggia: Best thing about this room is we can sit out here on the balcony.

Antonio: And watch the people parade past in the piazza below.

Selvaggia: Poor things. Nowhere to sit.

Antonio: Pity I couldn’t find the sandal-maker.


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Monday, June 2, 2008

Old age

Revisiting his hometown, Takashi meets an old school friend Ryo.


Takashi: Thirty years!

Ryo: At least.

Takashi: You’ve done well. This business.

Ryo. It’s OK. (to office girls) Bring coffee!

Takashi: You had hair back then.

Ryo: So did you.

Takahashi: You didn’t wear glasses.

Ryo: Neither did you. The older we get, the more similar we become.

Takahashi: Ha! Babies all look the same. Old men all look the same.



Sunday, June 1, 2008


Austin is sitting in a chair with the audience while presenting his PowerPoint presentation.


Austin: One of the underlying principles in concept mapping is that the learner can see visually relationships between elements of what he or she is learning.

Herman: Such as logical connections like cause and effect, subordination giving examples, and so on?

Austin: Exactly. This enables us go outside a top-down approach, to escape from two dimensional modeling and enter into three dimensional, collaborative representations.

Herman: So this is why you leave the chair empty and give your presentation from within the audience instead of from the front of the room? To enhance the atmosphere of collaboration?

Austin. Precisely. But it also allows me to avoid neckstrain caused by constantly swinging between the screen and the audience. This way I’m much more relaxed.


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