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The Write Way

19 December 2008

Poonged in Our Prime!


Many moons ago, I replaced my Apple IIe, (remember that attractive black screen and easy-to-read green text?) with the massive power of a newly acquired 486. 

For those of you too young to remember those heady times, let's take a short stroll down Memory Lane (1989): "NCR is among several companies that have already announced they are in the race to sell the first 80486-based systems. For prices expected to be $10,000 to $20,000, the computers are believed to be capable of performing on the same scale as minicomputers costing several times as much. ... I.B.M. executives said they were offering the Power Platform as a service to business customers that have an immediate need for more speed than the 80386 computers can provide. 

"Speed is a critical advantage in many business applications, including financial modeling, computer-aided design, scientific analysis and network management. Wall Street traders, for example, might have been able to analyze data more quickly during the recent roller-coaster ride in the market had they machines using a 486 chip." (Source) 

I hasten to point out that I didn't leap in and pay $20,000, but rather waited a couple of years before I upgraded. But still, I did pay significantly more than I've paid for any of my recently-purchased 'puters. So there I was, equipped with more than enough computer power to send a man to the moon, and what did I do with this phenomenal wizardry? Why, I did what any normal person did in those days ... I set about utilising it constructively and installed a game of Mah Jong that a friend recommended.

This was a little ripper, too. It had coloured tiles and a little tab that calculated your score and the time it took to complete a game, so you could track your improvement. Talk about amazing technology! My entire family became addicted to this, and when the old 'puter died and went to that Big Workshop in the Sky, we all mourned the passing of Mah Jong, but never quite got around to replacing it.

Imagine my delight some years later when I found an online version of the game! This became a favourite site for those precious few minutes when I was waiting for big files to download ... instead of fuming at the slow speeds, I actually welcomed the chance to do something frivolous for a change. 

In my innocence, I've always thought that the digital version of Mah Jong bore some slight resemblance to the original game, and when I was strolling around our local markets last Sunday, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a game of Mah Jong sitting quietly on a table, just waiting for me to buy it and give it a good home. I was taken with the ducky little tiles and counting sticks and whatnot in the box, so bought it, thinking we could have fun playing a new game over Christmas when the family comes to stay.


One look at the instruction booklet made me reappraise that plan ... I think the Love of My Life and I will be burning the midnight oil as we try to make sense of the "Arrangements to Play." Here's a short excerpt to give you an idea of what we're up against:

"Mah Jong excels other amusements ... because, when palying, the stake is limited and interesting for its fascinating forniations. ... When a player discards one piece, only the one who sits on the right of him has the chance to Chow ...The next draw from the wall will come in turn to the player sitting on the right of the one who Poonged or Chowed."

And don't even ask me about Kongs - Open or Closed. 


However, I'm sure we'll get the hang of it ... and I love the sound the tiles make; they're made from a very dense and heavy plastic, and they produce such a satisfying click sound as you toss them from hand to hand. (And since I don't know what else to do with them yet, that's all I've managed.)

I'm definitely hoping we all love the game, because I've seen some exquisite hand-carved sets with bamboo backing and beautiful painted fronts. I can just picture us seated around the dining table, sipping our Jasmine tea as we Poong and Chow our afternoons away with the Real Thing and not the skeuomorphs we're currently using.

Well, funny you should ask ...

A skeuomorph, boys and girls, is in fact, "a design feature copied from a similar artifact in another material, even when not functionally necessary. For example, the click sound of a shutter in an analog camera that is now reproduced in a digital camera by playing a sound clip; the imitation metal rivet mark found on handles of prehistoric pottery." It comes from two Greek words: skeuos (vessel, implement) and -morph (form).

I'm sure you've come across a number of skeuomorphs in your time ... Another that springs to mind is that dreadfully annoying sound of a typewriter key being hit that used to accompany every keystroke in those early Instant Messaging programs. Remember them? It was enough to make you yearn for a Luddite and a nice, quiet quill.

And while we're rambling through the technological past, we should spare a moment to reflect on the comment attributed to Bill Gates: "640K ought to be enough for anybody." (1981)

However, anyone who has made as much money from computer technology as Gates has would have to be a bit of a dill to have said this, and we know that he's no dill. Speaking in 1996, Gates said, "I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No-one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time... I keep bumping into that silly quotation attributed to me that says 640K of memory is enough. There's never a citation; the quotation just floats like a rumor, repeated again and again."

So there!

Last week's  ... umm ... 'discussion' about poor service has a happy ending. I received the following update from my friend who was the hero in our story:

"...these days it seems the only way to actually get the service you deserve is to stand up to the bullies and fight back. I got a full month’s discount… and people falling over themselves calling to ask if I need anything else… so I’ll be escorted by security again if I need to."

For anyone else unfortunate enough to be put through the press-button dance by companies, here's a handy tip that I got from a number of different people last week ... Apparently, instead of going through all the rigmarole, you can just press 0 (zero) each time you're presented with the menu, and eventually you'll make contact with a real person (and not a porpoise as we've been led to believe!)

But enough grumbles ... it's nearly Christmas, and that's always a great time of year as far as I'm concerned. As I always say about now, it doesn't matter one iota who or what you believe in, it's good to have a few days every year when we all try a little bit harder to enjoy each other's company and simply being alive on our lovely little blue planet. 

So have a wonderful time with your friends and family and stay safe over the holidays.

If you happen to be travelling during the holiday period, or if you're planning a trip to Parts Exotic some time in the New Year, here's a brilliant gadget that will make your travel a lot less stressful ... It's a talking translator ... Yep! It actually translates for you so there's no more panic about getting on the wrong train or getting lost or getting taken for a ride by less-than-honest tour operators touting for business outside your hotel. 

And not only does it talk to you, you can also use it to scan text anywhere you are, and you know what that means, don't you? That's right, never again will you place an order for what you think is a nice chocolate mousse only to find yourself confronted with something that looks as if it belongs on a slab in the coroner's office. Click now to see the excellent Christmas specials (they also throw in a bonus Universal Translator when you order), and yes, you'll also be tossing a few pennies into my Running Away Fund when you get yourself one: 

The Universal Translator is a little ripper ... its databases include over 4,000,000 words and allow you to translate instantly between French, Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Turkish, Polish, Czech and English. And then there are more than 700 ready phrases for use in everyday and emergencies. And that's just the bonus!

These also make excellent gifts ... especially if your offspring are embarking on that Rite of Passage. For your own peace of mind, get one for your kids.

This week's Little Something Extra has some great Christmas Carol titles ... just the thing for those awkward pauses in conversation ...

This week's quiz:

You know you're going to be doing your bit for the country over the next few days and spending a motza, so here are some terms that relate to the world of the Movers and Shakers in the Pointy End of town:

oligopoly, disbursement, monopsony, Keynesian, assets, bonds, monopoly, macroeconomics, debentures, deflation

1. securities issued by companies and the government as a way of raising finance 

2. a reduction in national income and output 

3. in theory, an industry where one firm produces the entire output of a market 

4. any possessions that have value in an exchange 

5. market dominated by a very few sellers who account for a large proportion of output 

6. a group of economists who believe that changes in government income and expenditure are the most effective instrument of government economic policy 

7. study of the whole economy 

8. long term fixed interest loans to companies 

9. a market in which goods or services are offered by several sellers but there is only one buyer 

10.the transfer of financial resources and or good and services from a donor to a recipient 

And just to make us all feel better ... here's another snippet from Bill Gates, "Like almost everyone who uses e-mail, I receive a ton of spam every day. Much of it offers to help me get out of debt or get rich quick. It would be funny if it weren't so irritating."

You have to wonder at the goose who would try to sell Bill Gates a get-rich-quick scheme!

Have you ever pondered just how wealthy some of these people actually are?

This is from Forbes magazine in May this year: 

Warren Buffett is the richest man on the planet.

Riding the surging price of Berkshire Hathaway stock, America's most beloved investor has seen his fortune swell to an estimated $62 billion, up $10 billion from a year ago. That massive pile of scratch puts him ahead of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who was the richest man in the world for 13 straight years.

Gates is now worth $58 billion and is ranked third in the world. He is up $2 billion from a year ago, but would have been perhaps as rich--or richer--than Buffett had Microsoft not made an unsolicited bid for Yahoo! at the beginning of February.

Microsoft shares fell 15% between Jan. 31, the day before the company announced its bid for the search engine giant, and Feb. 11, the day we locked in stock prices for the 2008 World's Billionaires list. More than half of Gates' fortune is held outside of Microsoft shares.

Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helú is the world's second-richest man, with an estimated net worth of $60 billion. His fortune has risen $11 billion since last March. (Source )

Now, is it just me, or does anyone else think that if you had one billion (remember, this is billions we're talking in now), you wouldn't really need two billion or three billion, let alone 60+ billion? I mean, really and truly, how many dinners can you eat in one day? How many pairs of flash knickers can you wear at any one time? How many watches will fit on one wrist?

Some time back, we tried to get our tiny minds around just how big some of these numbers are. (And just by the by, reading this newsletter from 2002 makes you realise how much has changed in a few short years ... Today, governments dream of only being $5 trillion in debt!)



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Don't forget to bookmark the page when you get there ... or even make it your Home Page. (For Internet Explorer, just click on Tools ... Internet Options ... General ... fill in and click OK. For Netscape, select Edit ... Preferences. Then select Navigator from the left menu, click Home Page and enter the URL above next to Location and click OK. For all the flash new browsers, you'll have to do a search on my mate google to find what to do. There's a search box on the archives page!)

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If you've received this little missive from a friend, you can get your very own issue, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every Friday morning by clicking here: And I'm even prepared to offer a shameless bribe.  

Never-Ending Story

An Ape that wants to play Hamlet after being type-cast as King Kong, a talking anvil and ... Dr Morgenes is still caught in the nightmare that is the casting couch. Help him find a plot!  Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).

Map of the World

I often trawl this for comments to post on my site ... so if you say something about the newsletter or site, be warned, you may end up being read by one of the 2,000+ unique visitors who visit Write101 every day! Make your Mark on the World. Then stop by our Map of the World and read the messages. (Just click List) and add your mark.

Last week's quiz:

segue, dailies, beat, mixer, looping, gaffer, cutter, dolly grip, best boy, breakaway

1. assistant to the electrician

2. specially designed prop or set piece which looks solid by shatters easily

3. electrician

4. screening of footage before it is edited

5. crew member who moves the piece of equipment that the camera sits on to allow mobility of the camera

6. chief of the sound crew; responsible for the quality of the sound recording on a shoot

7. transition from one shot to another in editing

8. single unit of action

9. person responsible for assembling the various visual and audio components of a film into a coherent and effective whole. in-studio technique matching, synchronizing voice to picture

A Little Something Extra

OK ... see how many of these well-known Carols you recognise ... Check your answers at the end.

1. Bleached Yule 

2. Castaneous Seed Vesicated in a Conflagration 

3. Singular Yearning for the Twin Anterior Incisors 

4. Righteous Darkness 

5. Arrival Time, 2400 hrs - Weather, Cloudless 

6. Loyal Followers Advance 

7. Far off in a Feeder 

8. Array the Corridor 

9. Bantam Male Percussionist 

10. Monarchial Triad 

11. Nocturnal Noiselessness 

12. Jehovah Deactivate Blithe Chevaliers 

13. Red Man En Route to Borough 

14. Frozen Precipitation Commence 

15. Proceed and Enlighten on the Pinnacle 

16. The Quadruped with the Vermillion Probiscis 

17. Query Regarding Identity of Descendant 

18. Delight for this Planet 

19. Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings 

20. The Dozen Festive 24 Hour Intervals 

Answers here. 

And here are some Life Lessons we could all learn from Santa:

Encourage people to believe in you.

Always remember who's naughty and who's nice.

Don't pout.

It's as much fun to give as it is to receive.

Some days it's OK to feel a little chubby.

Always ask for a little bit more than what you really want.

Bright red can make anyone look good.

Wear a wide belt and no-one will notice how many pounds you've gained.

If you only show up once a year, everyone will think you're very important.

Whenever you're at a loss for words, say: "HO, HO, HO!"

Word of the week: Supererogate (vb) to do more than duty requires; to perform works of supererogation; to atone (for a deficiency in another) by means of a surplus action or quality; to do or perform beyond what is required or expected; to act beyond the call of duty; to spend or pay out over and above.

We're all doing our patriotic duty and answering the call to spend! Spend! Spend!

This wonderful word comes from (where else?) the Latin supererogare 'to spend over and above,' which in turn comes from the prefix super- meaning 'super-, over, above' plus the verb erogare meaning ' to spend.'

Oxymoron of the week: customer service (Yes, we'll all have cause to gnash our teeth over this oxymoron at some stage in the next couple of weeks.)

And a bonus oxymoron I spotted in the front window of a milk bar while out shopping this week: Dairy-free real milk flavour

This week's Latin phrase is one we trot out each year at this time ...

Emptrix nata sum! 

[EMP-trix NAH-tah SOOM]

(Born to shop!)

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? 

Kind regards,


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