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Skeleton Staff Email [Courtesy of The University of Hertfordshire]

Dear All,

Two physiotherapy students left a plastic skeleton in a black box in a tutorial room in the Wright building a few weeks ago.
If anyone has found it I would be grateful for its return.
Many thanks.

I think you will find it has been enrolled on a course by now ..... probably got more life in it than some of the students by this end of the term.

Might have a problem with the dissertation - might need to "flesh out the bones" of the argument. Mind you, that is the same as most students !!

Lord of the Rings as an allegory for the Ph.D? [Courtesy of Mike Thurlow]

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with his mates back home who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He's also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him (carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees. Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends.
In particular, he spends an evening down at the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the world for many years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when Gandalf isn't around.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir,and several of Frodo's own friends from his undergraduate days.
Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project, though he has mixed feelings about it. ("I will take the Ring", he said, "although I do not know why")

Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has no more interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference in Lorien, Frodo is cross-examined terrifyingly by Galadriel, and betrayed by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work himself. Frodo cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on, he will only discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really understand what it's all about, but in any case is prepared to give Frodo credit for being rather cleverer than he is. Then he sets out towards Mordor.

The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents the writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission), finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and less even to Sam.

When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the world seems empty.

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him, and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over. But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With the help of his friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this ordeal, but discovers at the end that victory has no value left for him. While his friends return to settling down and finding jobs and starting families, Frodo remains in limbo; finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond and many others, he joins the brain drain across the Western ocean to the new land beyond.

For anyone who ever tried or thought about cheating in an exam [Courtesy of Steven Shipton]

At Sydney University, there were four students taking Organic Chemistry. They did so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc., that each had an "A" so far for the semester. These four friends were so confident with the finals approaching that the weekend before, they decided to go down to Canberra and party with some friends there. They had a great time. However, after all the hard partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Sydney until early Monday morning.

The morning of their final exam!
Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor AFTER the exam and explain to him why they missed it. They explained that they had gone to Canberra to do some research in the ANU archives for the weekend with the plan to come back in time to study, but unfortunately, they had a flat tyre on the way back, didn't have a spare, and couldn't get help for a long time. As a result, they only just arrived now! The professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up their final exam the following day.

The guys were elated and relieved. They studied hard that night - all night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, (which was out of 100 points) and told them to begin. The first problem was worth five points. It was something simple about free radical formation. "Cool," they all thought in their rooms, "this is going to be easy." Each finished the problem and then turned the page for the next question.

Question 2 (for 95 points): Which tyre was punctured?

C.V. [Courtesy of Andrew Bradshaw]

Insulting Detective [Courtesy of Pauline Treacher]

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip, set up their tent, and fall asleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes his faithful friend.

"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Watson replies, "I see millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?"
Watson ponders for a minute.
"Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it's evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

Holmes is silent for a moment, then speaks. "Watson, you idiot, someone has stolen our tent.

Virus Information [Courtesy of Steve Meers]

Atlanta, Ga. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control today confirmed that foot-and-mouth disease cannot be spread by Microsoft's Outlook email application;

[this is] believed to be the first time the program has ever failed to propagate a major virus.

PC Haiku [Courtesy of Lee Baylis]

A Japanese computer maker has announced its own computer operating system now available on its hot new portable PC called the Vaio. Instead of producing the cryptic error messages characteristic of Microsoft's Windows 95, 3.1, and DOS operating systems, the company's chairman said, "We intend to capture the high ground by putting a human, Japanese face on what has been-until now-an operating system that reflects Western cultural hegemony. For example, we have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft error messages with our own Japanese haiku poetry. The chairman went on to give examples of the new error messages:

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have.
You ask way too much.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao, until
You bring fresh toner.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down.

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
a simple stone.

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Pune [Courtesy of Jim Haran]

Who led the Pedant revolution?

Which Tyler.

One for the Boys! [Courtesy of Bill Broome - no comment]

A man and woman are getting all snugly in bed. The passion is heating up Suddenly, the lady stops and says, "I don't feel like it, I just want you to HOLD me." The guy says "WHAT??" The lady explains that he must be in tune with her emotional needs as a Woman.
Then he realises that nothing is going to happen tonight and he might as well deal with it. So the next day the man takes her shopping at a big department store.

He walks around and has her try on three very expensive outfits. She can't decide. He tells his woman to take all three of them. Then they go over and get matching shoes worth 200 each, then they go to the Jewellery Department where she gets a set of diamond earrings. The lady is so excited. She thinks her guy has flipped out, but she does not care. She goes for the tennis bracelet. He says "you don't even play tennis, but OK if you like it then let's get it." The woman is jumping up and down so excited she cannot even believe what is going on. She says "I am ready to go, lets go to the cash register."

The man stops and says, "No, I don't feel like buying all this stuff now."
The woman's face goes blank.
"No honey- I just wanted you to HOLD this stuff for a while."
The look on her face is indescribable and she is about to explode.
The guy says, "You need to be in tune with my financial needs as a Man".

The Meaning of Life [Courtesy of Jim Haran - couldn't you guess?]

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2" in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The students laughed. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

"Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognise that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff." If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal." "Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

But then... A student then took the jar which the other students and the professor agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a glass of beer. Of course the beer filled the remaining spaces within the jar making the jar truly full.

The moral of this tale is: that no matter how full your life is, there is always room for BEER!

A Couple of Nerdy Ones [Courtesy of Steven Shipton]

A mathematician and a physicist agree to a psychological experiment. The mathematician is put in a chair in a large empty room and a beautiful naked woman is placed on a bed at the other end of the room. The psychologist explains, "You are to remain in your chair. Every five minutes, I will move your chair to a position halfway between its current location and the woman on the bed." The mathematician looks at the psychologist in disgust. "What? I'm not going to go through this. You know I'll never reach the bed!" And he gets up and storms out. The psychologist makes a note on his clipboard and ushers the physicist in. He explains the situation, and the physicist's eyes light up and he starts drooling. The psychologist is a bit confused. "Don't you realize that you'll never reach her?" The physicist smiles and replied, "Of course! But I'll get close enough for all practical purposes!"

A mathematician, an engineer, and a physicist are being interviewed for a job. In each case, the interview goes along famously until the last question is asked: "How much is one plus one?"

Each of them suspects a trap, and is hesitant to answer.

The mathematician thinks for a moment, and says "I'm not sure, but I think it converges".

The physicist says "I'm not sure, but I think it's on the order of one"

The engineer gets up, closes the door to the office, and says "How much do you want it to be?".

The Greatest Contribution [Courtesy of Pauline Treacher]

Three people, a doctor, an engineer and a politician were arguing over whose contribution to humankind was greatest.The doctor said, "the Lord created Eve from Adam; it was a surgical procedure, therefore we doctors were there from the creation!"

"No way," the engineer interrupted. "Go back a step: the Lord created the universe from chaos. That was the greatest engineering feat in history! My profession was the one that was there at the beginning!"

"Fair enough," the politician piped in. "But who do you think created all that chaos in the first place?"

The Perfect Get-Off [Courtesy of Bill Broome (I think)]

A police officer pulls a bloke over for speeding and has the following exchange:

Officer: May I see your driver's license?

Driver: I don't have one. I had it suspended for exceeding 12 points.

Officer: May I see the registration for this vehicle?

Driver: It's not my car. I stole it.

Officer: The car is stolen?

Driver: That's right. But come to think of it, I think I saw the registration in the glove box when I was putting my gun in there.

Officer: There's a gun in the glove box?

Driver: Yes mate. That's where I put it after I shot and killed the woman who owns this car and stuffed her in the boot.

Officer: There's a BODY in the BOOT?!?!?

Driver: Yes, mate.

Upon hearing this, the officer immediately called his control for back up. The area was quickly surrounded by police, and the captain approached the driver to handle the tense situation:

Captain: Sir, can I see your license?

Driver: Sure. Here it is.

(It was valid)

Captain: Who's car is this?

Driver: It's mine, officer. Here's the registration papers.

(The driver owned the car)

Captain: Could you slowly open your glove box so I can see if there's a gun in it?

Driver: Yes, sir, but there's no gun in it.

(Sure enough, there was nothing in the glove box)

Captain: Would you mind opening your boot? I was told you said there's a body in it.

Driver: No problem officer (boot is opened; no body!)

Captain: I don't understand it. The officer who stopped you said you told him you didn't have a license, stole the car, had a gun in the glove box, and that there was a dead body in the boot.

Driver: Yeah, I'll bet the lying bastard told you I was speeding, as well.

Operating System Error Messages [Courtesy of Steve Shipton]

  • Smash forehead on keyboard to continue.
  • Enter any 11-digit prime number to continue.
  • Press any key to continue or any other key to quit.
  • Close your eyes and press escape three times.
  • Bad command or file name! Go stand in the corner.
  • This is a message from God Gates: "Rebooting the world. Please log off."
  • To "shut down" your system, type "WIN."
  • BREAKFAST.SYS halted... Cereal port not responding.
  • File not found. Should I fake it? (Y/N)
  • Bad or missing mouse. Spank the cat? (Y/N)
  • Runtime Error 6D at 417A:32CF: Incompetent User.
  • WinErr 16547: LPT1 not found. Use backup. (PENCIL & PAPER.SYS)
  • User Error: Replace user.
  • Windows VirusScan 1.0 - "Windows found: Remove it? (Y/N)"
  • Your hard drive has been scanned and all stolen software titles have been deleted. The police are on the way.

    Some Well Deserved Bill Gates Bashing [Courtesy of Miles Treacher]

    Microsoft, will it work today logo

    CTRL, ALT, DELETE keyboard

    The Nacho-Grande Incident [Courtesy of Steven Shipton]

    At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS president Dr. Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of a bizarre death.

    Here is the story:

    "On March 23,1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. Mr Opus had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide. He left a note to that effect indicating his despondency. As he fell past the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window, which killed him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been installed just below at the eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had planned.

    "Ordinarily," Dr Mills continued, "A person who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, is still defined as committing suicide." That Mr Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands.

    An elderly man and his wife occupied the room on the ninth floor whence the shotgun blast emanated. They were arguing vigorously and he was threatening her with a shotgun. The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger he completely missed his wife and the pellets went through the window striking Mr Opus. When one intends to kill subject "A" but kills subject "B" in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject "B." When confronted with the murder charge the old man and his wife were both adamant. They both said they thought the shotgun was unloaded. The old man said it was his long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her. Therefore the killing of Mr Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, the gun had been accidentally loaded. The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother.

    Since the loader of the gun was aware of this, he was guilty of the murder even though he didn't actually pull the trigger. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

    Now comes the exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus. He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window. The son had actually murdered himself so the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide."

    (A true story from Associated Press, reported by Kurt Westervelt).

    The truth about academia [Courtesy of ... er ... our supervisor!]

    Mr Postgrad & friends

    Truly awful joke [Courtesy of my Mum, but worthy of Jim, Bill & John]

    A man is wandering through the desert. He hasn't had any water for days and is dying of thirst. To his amazement, he comes across three market stalls set up in the desert. He crawls up to the first one.

    "Water, water! Give me water!" he cries.

    "I'm sorry," says the first stall holder, "I sell nothing but custard."

    The man crawls up to the second stall.

    "Water, water! Give me water!" he cries.

    "I'm sorry," says the second stall holder, "I sell nothing but cream and sponge."

    The man crawls up to the third stall.

    "Water, water! Give me water!" He cries

    "I'm sorry," says the third stall holder, "I sell nothing but hundreds and thousands."

    "I can't believe none of you has any water," says the man.

    "I know," says the third stall holder, "it is a trifle bazaar."

    Three Wise Women [My Mum]

    What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men?

    They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts. But what would they have said as they left...?

    • "Virgin, my arse! I knew her in school!"
    • "Did you see the sandals Mary was wearing with that gown?"
    • "That baby doesn't look anything like Joseph!"
    • "Can you believe that they let all of those disgusting animals in there!"
    • "I heard that Joseph isn't even working right now!"
    • "And that donkey that they are riding has seen better days too!"
    • "Want to bet on how long it will take until you get your casserole dish back?"

    Elephant Hunting [courtesy of Jay Guillou]

    A handy reference guide ...


    1. Begins at the tip of South Africa;
    2. Performs alternating west to east and east to west searches;
    3. Decrements the latitude argument in a non-integer sequence between each search;
    4. Finds an animal;
    5. Compares found animal to a known elephant;
    6. If found animal matches known elephant terminates search else resumes at 3;
    7. End;


    Places an elephant in Cairo, Egypt to ensure that the search will terminate properly before initiating the above.


    Will perform the same search on hands and knees. Or more precisely
    • Sets up registers in prolog
    • Pipelines search operations
    • Unrolls latitude loop until elephant found then goto's end
    In this way the programmer has optimised the use of resources and made the code so unreadable that he has ensured his future employment ... at the same time he will state that this implementation, because it is written in software rather than hardware, will be easier to develop and maintain.


    Will first develop a hypothesis supporting the existence of a unique elephant before proceeding with the search as a subordinate operation, collecting all animals found, testing them against the hypothesis and discarding all that don't fit.


    Will first develop a hypothesis supporting the existence of a unique elephant before sending his/her students on the search, requiring that they collect all animals found, test them against the hypothesis, and bring all matching animals to him for publication.


    After determining that an elephant is mammal, grey and weighs 3.628739*103 Kg, will begin the search collecting all grey mammals. When the sum of the weight of all the collected grey mammals equals the specified weight of an elephant, +/- 10%, the search will be terminated.


    Don't hunt elephants. They believe that if you give the elephants a small tax incentive, they will hunt themselves.


    Hunt the first animal they encounter n times and call it an elephant.


    Don't actually hunt elephants and indeed may never have hunted elephants, but they can be hired at great expense by the hour, plus expenses, of course, to advise those who do. This will include the time it takes to find out what an elephant is.


    Don't hunt elephants but will share any elephants YOU catch with the people who voted for them.


    Don't hunt elephants, but they do follow herds around arguing about who owns the dung.


    Will claim that they know who owns the entire herd based on the look and feel of one pile of dung.


    May try to hunt elephants but their staffs are designed to prevent it. When the CEO does get to hunt elephants, the staff will try to ensure that all possible elephants are completely pre-hunted before the CEO sees them. If the CEO does see a non-pre-hunted elephant, the staff will:
    1. Compliment the CEO's keen eyesight, and ...
    2. Enlarge itself to prevent any recurrence.


    Sets broad elephant hunting policies based on the assumption that elephants are just like big field mice, but with deeper voices.


    Ignore the elephants and spend their time looking for mistakes the hunters made while packing the jeep.


    Don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants the hunters haven't caught yet, and promising delivery two days before the opening of elephant hunting season.


    Ship the first thing they catch, write up an invoice for an elephant, modify the documentation to match and promise a real elephant at the next update.


    Catch rabbits, paint them grey and sell them as lap top elephants.


    Only hunt elephants they can see from where they're standing.


    Are familiar with all of the above techniques but insist that at least the first half of the Elephant hunting season is spent practising the correct hunting methods on simulated elephants.

    How Your Body Works [courtesy of Steve Shipton]

    BRAIN - SYSTEM: Attention. Alert registered.

    CENTRAL: Alert? Number One, report!

    NUMBER ONE: Sir! We're picking up loud music.

    CENTRAL: Music? We were just asleep!

    NUMBER ONE: Yes sir. Ears report it's "The Last Train to Clarksville."

    CENTRAL: Good lord, are we being tortured?

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, Eyes are functional and request instruction.

    CENTRAL: Tell them to open up and try to find out what is going on.

    NUMBER ONE: Scope! Okay, I see darkness ... darkness ... Wait, there's a woman sleeping there.

    CENTRAL: A woman?

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, Libido Station wants to know if it is Anna Kournikova.

    CENTRAL: Forget about Libido. What can you tell me?

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, Memory reports a near perfect match to "wife," sir.

    CENTRAL: Well of course. Keep looking.

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, urgent report from Stomach on the horn, do you want to take it?

    CENTRAL: Stomach, what's going on?

    STOMACH: Sir, we've taken a hit, it ... it looks bad, sir.

    CENTRAL: Get hold of yourself, man!

    STOMACH: Yessir. It looks like a burrito, sir. It exploded at about 1900 hours and we've been out of action ever since. I don't... I don't know if she can take much more, Captain.

    CENTRAL: Stomach! Now you listen to me, son. We're all counting on you up here. Don't give up now. Remember the chilli of '94? We made it through that, we can make it through anything.

    STOMACH: Yessir. You can count on me, sir.

    CENTRAL: Good man.

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, I've got a visual on the clock!

    CENTRAL: Tell me, Number One.

    NUMBER ONE: Oh my God, sir. It's horrible.

    CENTRAL: Dammit sailor, get a grip on yourself!

    NUMBER ONE: It's ... It's six thirty, sir. In the morning.

    CENTRAL: In the morning? Not again. I thought ... I thought that we'd had the worst of it yesterday.

    SYSTEM: Sixty seconds to consciousness.

    CENTRAL: This is madness. Do you know what's going to happen if we go conscious now, this early?

    NUMBER ONE: Work, sir?

    CENTRAL: That's right, Number One. It'll be work, all right. I don't ... I don't know if I can live through that hell again.

    SYSTEM: Fifty seconds to consciousness.

    NUMBER ONE: Sir? Do you have orders?

    CENTRAL: Hmmm?

    NUMBER ONE: Orders, sir. Do you have orders for us?

    CENTRAL: Orders? Orders, Number One? Damn right there are orders! Let's get ourselves moving.

    NUMBER ONE: Aye aye, sir!

    SYSTEM: Forty seconds to consciousness.

    CENTRAL: Shut that damn thing off, I'm trying to think. Get our remote stations on line. I want a Search and Acquire on anything that feels like a snooze button. Tell them to MOVE. Bladder!

    BLADDER: Yes sir?

    CENTRAL: How are you holding?

    BLADDER: All systems are flush and ready, sir. We can go another three hours, easy.

    CENTRAL: Very well, Bladder. Number One, get me Nose on the horn.

    NOSE: Sir, Nose reporting, sir!

    CENTRAL: Good to hear from you, Nose. How are you doing up there?

    NOSE: Sir, ah, we registered cat breath about twenty minutes ago, but it was pretty faint and I didn't think...

    CENTRAL: Steady on, nose. You were right not to trigger an alert.

    NOSE: Thank you, sir.

    CENTRAL: Nose, I'm afraid I have bad news for you, son. We took a burrito last night.

    NOSE: Oh no, sir, not again!

    CENTRAL: I said steady! You're going to have to hold on, you hear me? Hold on, and it will pass. I don't want ANYTHING getting through to Consciousness.

    NOSE: Yes sir. I'll try, sir.

    CENTRAL: That's the spirit. Stomach!

    STOMACH: Sir?

    CENTRAL: How are you doing down there?

    STOMACH: We've been breached, Captain. The whole alimentary is in flames. I'm trying to keep it contained, but I can't promise anything.

    CENTRAL: Damn!

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, Libido Station reports it is ready for battle!

    CENTRAL: Tell Libido to calm down, I'll call him when I need him. Any report from our search party?

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, Fingers report they located and toppled a glass of water, a pair of glasses, and a box of Kleenex. No luck on the snooze, sir.

    CENTRAL: Number One, I don't mind telling you, if we don't get this under control we're going to lose her.

    NUMBER ONE: Yes sir. Sir, Libido requests positive verification that the woman sleeping next to us is not Anna Kournikova.

    CENTRAL: For crying out loud.

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, Ears reports the song is over. It's going to commercial, sir.

    CENTRAL: How much time on the system clock?

    NUMBER ONE: Ten seconds to consciousness, sir. We've lost smile control in the lower facial and we're developing a frown.

    CENTRAL: Brace yourself, Number One. I'm afraid we've had it.

    NUMBER ONE: Sir! Fingers has located target. Repeat, Fingers is on target!

    CENTRAL: Fire!

    NUMBER ONE: Hit! Sir, direct hit!

    CENTRAL: Ears!

    NUMBER ONE: It's gone, Captain! Ears reports the music is gone!

    CENTRAL: We've done it!

    SYSTEM: Consciousness cancelled.

    NUMBER ONE: Sir, all systems are ready for sleep mode. Repeat, sleep mode now ready.

    CENTRAL: Trigger sleep mode NOW.

    NUMBER ONE: Sleep mode triggered, aye aye, sir.

    CENTRAL: Shut Eyes.

    NUMBER ONE: Eyes off, sir. Frown relaxed, smile restored.

    CENTRAL: By golly, that was a close one.

    NUMBER ONE: Yessir. Sir, Dream Team requests selection. Libido asking for something naked, sir.

    CENTRAL: Request denied. Let's roll the one where we show up for church wearing only our underwear, I like that one.

    NUMBER ONE: Roger that, sir. Dream selection completed and tape is rolling, sir.

    CENTRAL: Good work, Number One. You take the helm.

    NUMBER ONE: Aye aye, sir.

    Danger Mouse [Courtesy of Steve Shipton]

    Office Assistants [Courtesy of Richard "Batty" Smith]

    I really hate these little buggers. Has anyone noticed how tricky it is to get rid of them? Even when you deliberately de-select them during installation they have a nasty habit of creeping into your version of Word somehow.

    Mr Gorsky I presume? [courtesy of Shane McKie]

    On july 20, 1969, as commander of the apollo 11 lunar module, neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon. His first Words after stepping on the moon, "that's one small step for man, one Giant leap for mankind," were televised to earth and heard by Millions. But just before he re-entered the lander, he made the enigmatic remark "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky." Many people at NASA though it was a casual Remark concerning some rival soviet cosmonaut. However, upon checking, There was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs. Over the years many people questioned Armstrong as to what the "good Luck, Mr. Gorsky" statement meant, but Armstrong always just smiled.

    On July 5, 1995, in Tampa bay, Florida, while answering questions Following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question to Armstrong. This time he finally responded.
    Mr Gorsky had died, so Neil Armstrong felt he could answer the Question. In 1938 when he was a kid in a small Midwest town, he was Playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit the Ball, which landed in his neighbour's yard by the bedroom windows. His Neighbours were Mr and Mrs Gorsky. As he leaned down to pick up the Ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs Gorsky shouting at Mr Gorsky. "Sex! You want sex? You'll get sex when the kid next door walks on the Moon!"

    Bill and Jim the Flowerpot Men

    The following question and answer were allegedly from a genuine G.C.S.E. sociology examination paper:
    Q: What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
    A: If you are buying a house, they will insist you are well endowed.
    This was received via e-mail by Jim Haran and Bill Broome, what follows is their ensuing conversation:

    JIM: Well I passed. I even got a 5% reduction in monthly repayments because I was so well endowed .......

    BILL: What they didn't tell you is that the 5% off your monthly repayments, also comes off your endowment. By the end of your mortgage you'll have nothing left. Except a house. But what use is a house when you've only got a 3mm dick?

    JIM: So. I lose 5% of 'Endowment' every month for 25 years and it ends up 3mm long. Hmm ... 300 losses of 5%. A quick bit of mental arithmatic and my dick must be about 11 km long at the moment - I think.

    BILL: Obviously 11km is about as useful as 3mm. I'd look forward to your 44th birthday - Ab might enjoy "it" for once!

    Hell [courtesy of Carl Tipton]

    The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid term. The answer by one student was so profound that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

    Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

    Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law, (gas cools off when it expands and heats up when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:

    First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, lets look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell.

    Since there are more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

    Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

    This gives two possibilities:

    1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

    2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

    So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year, "...that it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you.", and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in having sexual relations with her, then, #2 cannot be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and will not freeze.

    The student received the only "A" given!

    Zen Quotes [courtesy of Jim Haran]

    1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either; just #$%^ off and leave me alone.

    2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a flat tire.

    3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.

    4. Don't be irreplaceable; if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

    5. No one is listening until you make a mistake.

    6. Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else.

    7. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

    8. It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

    9. It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

    10. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

    11. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

    12. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

    13. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat & drink beer all day.

    14. If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

    15. Don't squat with your spurs on.

    17. If you drink, don't park; accidents cause people.

    18. Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield.

    19. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

    20. Duct tape is like the force; it has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

    Underground Blues [courtesy of Jim Haran]

    The following announcements were all heard and reported by visitors to the "Going Underground" website.

    Heard at Earl's Court:

    "The train at platform three is not going to Parsons Green but to Richmond. The train approaching platform two is also not going to Parsons Green but to Ealing Broadway. These trains are not going to Parsons Green despite what the signal men think.
    On the Northern Line:
    "Beggars are operating on this train, please do not encourage these professional beggars, if you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity, failing that, give it to me."
    On the Piccadilly Line:
    "To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage, what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you understand?"
    At Leyton station (where a train was stationary despite a green light):
    "Sorry for the delay ladies and gentlemen but there is a queue of trains ahead of us so I have decided to wait here, because I'm sure you don't want to sit in a tunnel getting hot and sweaty"
    On the Central line:
    "Next time, you might find it easier to wait until the doors are open before trying to get on the train"
    At King's Cross:
    "This train is completely broken, it isn't going anywhere"
    On the Victoria line:
    "This is Brixton, err, no, it's Victoria!"

    "This is like that TV advert, I hope the person next to you is wearing a good deodorant!"

    "Have a very relaxing weekend. Hope to see you all again Monday morning!"

    At Camden town station (on a crowded Saturday afternoon):
    "Please let the passengers off the train first... Please let the passengers off the train first... Please let the passengers off the train first... Let the passengers off the train FIRST!... Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care, I'm going home."
    At Moorgate (after a 20-minute delay):
    "I apologise for the delay but the computer controlling the signalling at Aldgate and Whitechapel has the Monday Morning Blues"
    At West Hampstead:
    "We can't move off because some c*** has their f***ing hand stuck in the door"
    At Mill Hill East:
    "Hello this is xxx speaking, I am the captain of your train, and we will be departing shortly, we will be cruising at an altitude of approximately zero feet, and our scheduled arrival time in Morden is 3:15pm. The temperature in Morden is approximately 15 degrees celsius, and Morden is in the same time zone as Mill Hill east, so there's no need to adjust your watches."
    On a delayed train at Epping (when the driver had a chat with a colleague unaware that he'd left the tannoy on):
    "Bollocks to the lot of them, I don't care if they don't make it to work."

    Noah's Really Bad Joke [courtesy of My Mum]

    [Just goes to show that Mr Yeldham and Mr Haran don't have a monopoly on awful jokes]

    One day God calls down to Noah and says "Noah me old china, I wants you to make me a new Ark".

    Noah replies, "No probs God, me old Supreme Being, anything you want - after all you're the boss".

    But God interrupts, "Ah but there's a catch this time Noah, I want not just a couple of decks,..... I want 20 decks one on top of the other."

    "20 DECKS!", screams Noah, "Well, OK Big Man, whatever you say, should fill it up with all the animals just like last time?"

    "..... Yep, that's right, well ..... sort of right.......this time I want you to fill it up with fish" God answers.

    "Fish?" Queries Noah.

    "Yep, fish ... well, to make it more specific Noah, I want Carp, wall to wall, floor to ceiling - Carp!"

    Noah looks to the skies, "OK God my mate, let me get this right, you want a New Ark?"


    "With 20 decks, one on top of the other?". "Check".

    "And you want it full of Carp?"


    "Why?" asks the perplexed Noah, who was slowly but surely getting to the end of his tether.

    "Dunno" says God. "I just always fancied a Multi-Storey Carp Ark."

    Darwin Award - Criminal Category [courtesy of Steven Meers]

    Charlotte, North Carolina, man having purchased a case of very rare,very expensive cigars, insured them against fire among other things. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of cigars and without having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the man stated the cigars were lost "in a series of small fires."

    The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion. The man sued....and won. In delivering the ruling the judge agreeing that the claim was frivolous, stated nevertheless that the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure against fire, without defining what it considered to be "unacceptable fire," and was obligated to pay the claim. Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in "the fires."

    After the man cashed the check, however, the company had him arrested on 24 counts of arson. With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.

    Dilbert's Salary Theorem [courtesy of Steven Meers]

    Theorem: "Engineers and scientists can never earn as much as business executives and sales people"

    This theorem can now be supported by a mathematical equation based on the following two postulates:

    Postulate 1: Knowledge is power.
    Postulate 2: Time is money.

    As every engineer knows: Power = Work/Time

    Since (from Postulate 1): Knowledge = Power
    and (from Postulate 2): Time = Money
    Then: Knowledge = Work/Money

    Solving for money we get: Money = Work/Knowledge

    Thus, as Knowledge approaches zero, Money approaches infinity, regardless of the amount of work done.


    A Truly Awful Pun [courtesy of Jim Haran, but of course]

    A high school physics teacher had a summer job as a beach lifeguard. He noted that the best tanned babes flirted the most throughout the summer, though they never found steady boyfriends. He theorized that: A body in lotion trends to stray emotion.

    Peverse Football [courtesy of Jim Haran]

    Apparently this is all true:

    Barbados played Grenada in a cup competition.
    Barbados needed to win the game by two clear goals in order to progress to the next round.

    The trouble was caused by a daft rule which stated that in the event of a game going to penalty kicks, the winner of the penalty kicks would be awarded a 2-0 victory. With 5 minutes to go,Barbados were leading 2-1, and going out of the tournament. Then,when they realized they were probably not going to score against Grenada's massed defense, they turned round, and deliberately scored an own goal to level the scores and take the game into penalties.
    Grenada, themselves not being stupid, realized what was going on, and then attempted to score an own goal themselves.
    However, the Barbados players started defending their opponents goal to prevent this. In the last five minutes, spectators were treated to the incredible sight of both teams defending their opponents goal against attackers desperately trying to score an own goal and goalkeepers trying to throw the ball into their own net.
    The game went to penalties, which Barbados won and so were awarded a 2-0 victory and progressed to the next round.

    Never Cross a Kangaroo [courtesy of Jim Haran, I'm noticing a trend here ...]

    The reuse of some object-oriented code has caused tactical headaches for Australia's armed forces. As virtual reality simulators assume larger roles in helicopter combat training, programmers have gone to great lengths to increase the realism of their scenarios, including detailed landscapes and, in the case of the Northern Territory's Operation Phoenix, herds of kangaroos (since disturbed animals might well give away a helicopter's position).

    The head of the Defense Science & Technology Organization's Land Operations/Simulation division reportedly instructed developers to model the local marsupials' movements and reactions to helicopters.

    Being efficient programmers, they just re-appropriated some code originally used to model infantry detachment reactions under the same stimuli, changed the mapped icon from a soldier to a kangaroo, and increased the figures' speed of movement.

    Eager to demonstrate their flying skills for some visiting American pilots, the hotshot Aussies "buzzed" the virtual kangaroos in low flight during a simulation. The kangaroos scattered, as predicted, and the visiting Americans nodded appreciatively... then did a double-take as the kangaroos reappeared from behind a hill and launched a barrage of Stinger missiles at the hapless helicopter. (Apparently the programmers had forgotten to remove that part of the infantry coding.)

    The lesson? Objects are defined with certain attributes, and any new object defined in terms of an old one inherits all the attributes. The embarrassed programmers had learned to be careful when reusing object-oriented code, and the Yanks left with a newfound respect for Australian wildlife. Simulator supervisors report that pilots from that point onward have strictly avoided kangaroos, just as they were meant to.

    From June 15, 1999 Defense Science and Technology Organization Lecture Series, Melbourne, Australia, and staff reports,

    Monkey Philosophy [courtesy of Vicki Banks]

    An organisation is like:

    A tree full of monkeys, all on different limbs at different levels, some climbing up, some fooling around and some simply just idling.

    The monkeys on top look down and see a tree full of smiling faces.
    The monkeys on the bottom look up and see nothing, but assholes.

    The Sarcastic Physics Student [courtesy of Miles Treacher]

    The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen:

    "Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer."

    One student replied:

    "You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building."

    This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case.
    The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics. For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn't make up his mind which to use. On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

    "Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5 g t2. But bad luck on the barometer."

    "Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper's shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper."

    "But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi g-0.5."

    "Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up."

    "If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building."

    "But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor's door and say to him 'If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper'."

    The student was Niels Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel prize for Physics.

    The Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves [courtesy of Clever Steve Shipton]

    One sunny day a rabbit came out of her hole in the ground to enjoy the fine weather. The day was so nice that she became careless and a fox sneaked up behind her and caught her.

    "I am going to eat you for lunch!", said the fox.

    "Wait!", replied the rabbit, "You should at least wait a few days."

    "Oh yeah? Why should I wait?"

    "Well, I am just finishing my thesis on 'The Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves.'"

    "Are you crazy? I should eat you right now! Everybody knows that a fox will always win over a rabbit."

    "Not really, not according to my research. If you like, you can come into my hole and read it for yourself. If you are not convinced, you can go ahead and have me for lunch."

    "You really are crazy!" But since the fox was curious and had nothing to lose, it went with the rabbit. The fox never came out. A few days later the rabbit was again taking a break from writing and sure enough, a wolf came out of the bushes and was ready to set upon her.

    "Wait!" yelled the rabbit, "you can't eat me right now."

    "And why might that be, my furry appetizer?"

    "I am almost finished writing my thesis on 'The Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves.'"

    The wolf laughed so hard that it almost lost its grip on the rabbit.

    "Maybe I shouldn't eat you. You really are sick ... in the head. You might have something contagious."

    "Come and read it for yourself. You can eat me afterward if you disagree with my conclusions."

    So the wolf went down into the rabbit's hole ... and never came out. The rabbit finished her thesis and was out celebrating in the local lettuce patch. Another rabbit came along and asked,

    "What's up? You seem very happy."

    "Yup, I just finished my thesis."

    "Congratulations. What's it about?"

    "'The Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves.'"

    "Are you sure? That doesn't sound right."

    "Oh yes. Come and read it for yourself."

    So together they went down into the rabbit's hole. As they entered, the friend saw the typical graduate student abode, albeit a rather messy one after writing a thesis. The computer with the controversial work was in one corner. To the right there was a pile of fox bones, to the left a pile of wolf bones. And in the middle was a large, well fed lion.

    The moral of the story:

    The title of your thesis doesn't matter.

    The subject doesn't matter.

    The research doesn't matter.

    All that matters is who your supervisor is.

    Great Ideas [courtesy of Jim Haran]

    An American magazine held a competition, inviting its readers to submit new scientific theories on any subject. Below are the winners:

    5th place (Subject: Probability Theory)

    If an infinite number of rednecks riding in an infinite number of pickup trucks fire an infinite number of shotgun rounds at an infinite number of highway signs, they will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare in Braille.

    4th place (Subject: Bio-Mechanics)

    Why Yawning Is Contagious: You yawn to equalize the pressure on your eardrums. This pressure change outside your head unbalances other people's ear pressures, so they then yawn to even it out.

    3rd place (Subject: Symbolic Logic)

    The Chinese are technologically underdeveloped because each of their alphabetical characters represents a whole word or phrase, rather than a single letter. Thus they cannot use acronyms to communicate technical ideas at a faster rate.

    2nd place (Subject: Newtonian Mechanics)

    Deforestation may cause earthquakes, tidal waves, or even the total destruction of our planet. Just as a figure-skater's rate of spin increases when the arms are brought in close to the body, the cutting down of tall trees may cause the Earth to spin dangerously fast on its axis with disastrous results.

    Winner (Subject: Perpetual Motion)

    When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet, and when toast is dropped, it always lands buttered side down. Therefore, if a slice of toast is strapped to a cat's back, buttered side up, and the animal is then dropped, the two opposing forces will cause it to hover, spinning inches above the ground. If enough toast-laden felines were used, they could form the basis of a high-speed monorail system.

    ..... and then this mail got this reply from one of the recipients:

    I've been thinking about this cat/toast business for a while. In the buttered toast case, it's the butter that causes it to land buttered side down - it doesn't have to be toast, the theory works equally well with Jacob's crackers. So to save money you just miss out the toast - and butter the cats. Also, should there be an imbalance between the effects of cat and butter, there are other substances that have a stronger affinity for carpet.
    Probability of carpet impact is determined by the following simple formula:

    p = s * t(t)/tc


    • p is the probability of carpet impact
    • s is the "stain" value of the toast-covering substance - an indicator of the effectiveness of the toast topping permanently staining the carpet. Chicken Tikka Masala, for example, has a very high s value, while the s value of water is zero.
    • tc and t(t) indicate the tone of the carpet and topping - the value of p being strongly related to the relationship between the color of the carpet and topping, as even chicken tikka masala won't cause a permanent and obvious stain if the carpet is the same colour.

    So it is obvious that the probability of carpet impact is maximised if you use chicken tikka masala and a white carpet - in fact this combination gives a p value of one, which is the same as the probability of a cat landing on its feet.
    Therefore a cat with chicken tikka masala on its back will be certain to hover in mid air, while there could be problems with buttered toast as the toast may fall off the cat, causing a terrible monorail crash resulting in nauseating images of members of the royal family visiting accident victims in hospital, and politicians saying it wouldn't have happened if theirwas in power as there would have been more investment in cat-toast glue research. Therefore it is in the interests not only of public safety but also public sanity if the buttered toast on cats idea is scrapped, to be replaced by a monorail powered by cats smeared with chicken tikka masala floating above a rail made from white shag pile carpet.


    I think this picture was sent to me by Phil or Nic. It was attached in an email as "asstoosmall.jpg" and knowing the sort of stuff that usually comes from those two, braced myself for the inevitable obscenity. I opened it up, and promptly fell off my chair when I found that indeed it was just an ass that was too small.

    You probably had to be there.

    Courtesy of Mr Jim Haran (D.I.C.)

    Change of Banking Practices

    [Courtesy of Kevin Meers]

    This is a letter sent to a Bank in the US. The Bank thought it amusing enough to publish in the New York Times ......

    Dear Sir, I am writing to thank you for bouncing the cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations some three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque, and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place seven or eight years.

    You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account with $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience I caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial ways.

    You have set me on the path of fiscal righteousness. No more will our relationship be blighted by these unpleasant incidents, for I am restructuring my affairs in 1999, taking as my model the procedures, attitudes and conduct of your very bank. I can think of no greater compliment, and I know you will be excited and proud to hear it. To this end, please be advised of the following changes:

    First, I have noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you I am confronted by the impersonal, ever-changing, pre-recorded, faceless entity, which your bank has become. From now on I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh and blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you must nominate. You will be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status, which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Justice of the Peace, and that the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in all dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    Let me level the playing field even further by introducing you to my new telephone system, which you will notice, is very much like yours. My Authorised Contact at your bank, the only person with whom I will have any dealings, may call me at any time and will be answered by an automated voice. By pressing Buttons on the phone, he/she will be guided through an extensive set of menus:

    1. To make an appointment to see me
    2. To query a missing repayment
    3. To make a general complaint or inquiry
    4. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there. Extension of living room to be communicated at the time the call is received
    5. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping. Extension of bedroom to be communicated at the time the call is received
    6. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature. Extension of toilet to be communicated at the time the call is received
    7. To transfer the call to my mobile phone in case I am not at home.
    8. To leave a message on my computer: To leave a message a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated at a later date to the contact
    9. To return to the main menu and listen carefully to options 1 through to 9

    The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may on occasion involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration. This month I've chosen a refrain from The Best Of Woody Guthrie: "Oh, the banks are made of marble With a guard at every door And the vaults are filled with silver that the miners sweated for". After twenty minutes of that, our mutual contact will probably know it by heart.

    On a more serious note, we come to the matter of cost. As your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for greater efficiency comes at a cost which you have always been quick to pass on to me. Let me repay your kindness by passing some costs back.
    First, there is the matter of advertising material you send me. This I will read for a fee of $20 per page. Enquiries from your nominated contact will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in response. Any debits to my account, for example, in the matter of the penalty for the dishonoured cheque, will be passed back to you. My new phone service runs at 75 cents a minute (even Woody Guthrie doesn't come for free), so you would be well advised to keep your inquiries brief and to the point. Regretably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.
    May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous, New Year.

    Your humble client.

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