In a global outbreak of violence, evil criminals are assaulting innocent civilians with deadly weapons such as french fries, in some cases unsalted. In the past couple of weeks alone, there have been at least 10 cases of food-assisted robberies, according to cuttings sent to me by readers.
In the US, a man ‘attacked and robbed a Brockton man using stolen sausage links’, according to the press in that country. In Croatia, a footballer was attacked with a banana, and in the UK a man was arrested for throwing lasagna.
Police are taking it seriously. A man who threw a packet of McDonald’s French fries at his stepdaughter was arrested for ‘felony assault with a dangerous weapon’, according to a June 26 police report in the US state of Massachusetts. James Hackett was ‘charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, to wit, a french fry’, police said.
I was reminded of the time reader Stephen Birkett told me his mango was confiscated as he boarded a domestic flight in India. Why? ‘For security reasons,’ staff told him.
What happened to good old guns and knives?
The best theory I heard was from my mentor/bartender, who said the United Nations worldwide gun control crackdown was accelerating in the run-up to the global summit on the subject being held this month. ‘Since guns are harder to get hold of, people are going for whatever is at hand, including french fries, sausages, etc,’ he said. But can you really hurt someone with a french fry?
He thought for a moment. ‘Sure. French fries kill. But you don’t need to hit people with them. Just feed them to them at regular intervals.’
President Pratibha Patil of India last month commuted the death sentence of convict Bandu Tidke in a show of mercy, only to be told that that he’d been dead for five years. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.
Shhhh! Be careful what you say. Your gadgets are listening. Many now have built-in voice recognition. Every time I switch my laptop on, a tiny picture of a microphone appears expectantly at the top of the screen. It’s listening.
I called an expert who told me that my Windows speech-to-text function was coming on automatically. ‘To stop it, wait five seconds after the computer has fully booted up, say ‘STOP LISTENING’, then turn around three times and make the sign of the cross,’ he told me. This sounded like a joke, but I tried it and it worked! The words ‘Going To Sleep’ magically appeared next to the microphone.
He also told me to face the fact that the day of talking to machines has arrived. So I bought a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking, the world’s top-selling voice recognition software.
‘Good morning,’ I said to the screen. The words ‘Good morning’ appeared instantly. I tried a more complicated sentence. ‘My name is Lorenzo Ignatius Linguine Chicken Tikka Masala Pong.’ Again, the sentence appeared perfectly.
Impressed, I decided I would dictate my next novel direct to the screen. The first paragraph or two appeared just fine. But then I ran into trouble.
Instead of: ‘Before his last drink’ a similar-sounding phrase appeared: ‘Be forest our stringed’. According to the instructions, you say ‘undo that’ to make corrections.
But doing that just added the words ‘undo that’ to the sentence. I spoke the other corrective phrases from the instruction book: ‘Delete’ and ‘Backspace’, but the same thing happened. I ended with a sentence that said: ‘Be forest our stringed undo that undo that delete delete backspace backspace backspace oh bother stop it stop it stop it @#$%^ I give up.’
My colleagues, reading over my shoulder, told me that it was the most interesting sentence I had ever written and I should send it to my publisher immediately.
On a related subject, the biggest users of dictation software are doctors, since ‘having illegible handwriting’ is the most important requirement for entering that trade. (This has always worried me. If doctors can’t control their fingers well enough to write the letters of the alphabet, why do they think it’s okay to insert knives into my body cavities and play around with my arteries, veins, discharge valves, etc?)
Several doctors grumbled on the Internet about computer dictation problems.
1) The doctor said: ‘When the neck pain worsened, she went to a chiropractor.’ The computer typed: ‘When the neck pain worsened, she went to a car repair.’
2) The doctor said: ‘On re-evaluation, pain is better.’ The computer wrote: ‘On re-evaluation, anus better.’
3) The doctor said: ‘She has Ambien to help her sleep.’ The computer wrote: ‘She has Indians to help her sleep.’
Still, it’s inevitable that one day I will dictate this entire column and you won’t even lotus undo that undo that delete delete backspace backspace oh bother stop stop stop!
The Obama administration said the only place Mitt Romney created jobs is in Asia. I’m sure this created absolute fury at Republican headquarters, which is probably located in a call centre near Hyderabad.
A car rental agency which checked the GPS signal on a Ferrari found that it was in the Pacific Ocean driving from the United States to Hong Kong. Ferraris do a lot of cool stuff but they can’t drive on water (unless maybe Jesus is driving). Customs officials found the car hidden in a smuggler’s ship. I wonder what the car’s SatNav voice was actually saying? ‘Drive straight for the next 13,000 km and turn left in 164 hours.’
Are your staff rude to customers? If so, this may be a good thing. A report about surly flight attendants on Japan’s Skymark Airlines triggered much interest among readers, several of whom provided examples of organisations which became famous for the grumpiness of their staff.
The Sam Wo, a San Francisco Chinese restaurant which recently closed down, was legendary for its outrageous waiters, said reader Chris Huber. The rudest was a waiter named Edsel Ford Fong who would tell the customers how fat they were, criticize their menu choices and clear tables before diners had finished eating. At the end Fong would remind them to leave him a tip. The waiter died in 1984 but we’re still talking about him now – the power of being rude.
Other readers mentioned the American Peking Restaurant and the Lok Yu Teahouse, both in Hong Kong. Legend has it that a seance was once held at the Luk Yu Teahouse to get in touch with the spirit of a grumpy old waiter who had died. ‘Are you there, Mr Wong?’ asked the psychic. Silence. ‘Are you there Mr Wong?’ the psychic repeated.
Silence. Then a grumpy spirit voice was heard from the other side of the room. ‘That’s not my table.’
The letters quoted above about rude staff were inspired by a report about Skymark Airlines, the budget carrier which warned passengers in writing that they should not expect flight attendants to be polite or help with luggage.
Readers Otis Schindler, Wendy Tong and others started composing a phrasebook Skymark stewardesses can use.
1) When a passenger enters the plane and approaches the stewardess for help finding his seat: ‘What you lookin’ at, punk?’
2) When a passenger sits in the wrong seat: ‘If you can’t work out that 48A comes before 49B, you’re too stupid to fly.’
3) When the safety video plays: ‘Passengers who don’t watch the video will get boiling hot tea poured into their laps.’
4) When meals are served: ‘Eat your @#$%ing veggies. And when you finish bring your dish to the kitchen area.’
5) When the destination is reached: ‘To save on landing fees, we’ll swoop down as low as we can and switch the doors to manual. Jump out whenever you like.’
(06.07.2012 – Nury Vittachi is a columnist who travels around Asia. Send ideas and suggestions to: http://www.mrjam.org)