Monday, January 22, 2018

30,000 sexdecillion

One of the minor Internet sensations last year was the nifty, browser-based AI simulator Universal Paperclips.

I ignored it until I got the superflu and had only the brain capacity to keep clicking a button on a dumb-but-clever web-based AI simulator.

It turned into a race to see how many paperclips my AI could manufacture before I died of influenza. Turns out, I was able to convert the entire mass of the (simulated) universe into paperclips... a grand total of a very sexy number of paperclips.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

YouTube Tuesday: Too alone to be proud

It's been a lot to deal with in the last few days. I think by now we all know how it feels.

Anyway, here's a little in memorium to get us by for a few minutes.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Well said

I'll stand my ground
Won't be turned around 
And I'll keep this world from draggin' me down 
Gonna stand my ground
-- Tom Petty, 1950-2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A day for the ages!

Attention everyone!

I forgot to mention the other day that I was very appreciative of the birthday wishes the coolest of you bestowed upon me via Facebook.

Birthdays are a bit of a mixed blessing these days. One the one hand, it's always great to receive the well-wishes of such fine and upstanding people.
On the other hand… is the finger of the doctor, which goes in my butt during my annual exam around this time of year (and is it just me, or does your doctor seem to search with more and more diligence each year. I mean, you'd think I was trying to smuggle a smartphone into Ft. Leavenworth fer crissakes).

It's just the consequence of me failing to live the rock-n-roll lifestyle and dying in a helicopter crash while OD'd on smack and Jack.

I figure I'm like most people: After (and before) a certain point birthday's seem to lose their luster.
When you get past the point of "wishing" for "gifts" (I just buy myself whatever I need these days) and being surprised by "parties" (like most people, I've become anti-social in by dotage), it really comes down to spending a few hours hanging out with the family and hitting up Joe's for some ribs and beer. That really is as good as it gets... and it pretty damn good if you ask me.

Butt on the hole (sic), we take the good with the extremely uncomfortable. I've always said getting older really sucks, but it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative (well, full disclosure here, I haven't always said that... its only been for the last 20 years or so I guess.)

So thanks again, everyone! Happy birthday to all you sinners out there. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Everybody kneeds somebody

Can someone tell me just what in the wide world of sports is going on in this country? I am so confused by the news these days. Admittedly, it's likely because I don’t pay close enough attention. 

But c’mon, can you blame me? It’s all just re-runs of the most generic non-reality show ever, but not as entertaining. It’s the same stuff over and over. Everyone’s offended and outraged by something someone else did. And every Offended Group, in turn, must defend their offendedness by doing something at least as offensive to the offending party.

Lather, rinse, repeat... ad nauseam.

It’s to the point where the actions are so trivial that I just can’t summon the interest to pay attention. 

Don’t get me wrong. I think the issues are vitally important. Concepts of equal rights for all humans, and ensuring and defending those rights, are of existential criticality to our (so-called) republic.

But those issues aren’t really being discussed. Rather, we’re stuck on a dumb su-su-pseudo-debate about what symbols mean and whether they're appropriate for high school girls' beer pong games. I used to think symbols were really important,  that they could help communicate noble ideals like Purity and Valor and Justice. But I think we’re now living in a post-symbol society. We lack the ability to decide on what a symbol represents, or once decided, to agree on what is really meant by that representation, or to acknowledge that a symbol can have different meanings to different people and just move on.

This whole NFL players kneeling thing is a good example.

For years we’ve been taught that it’s a great sign of respect to kneel in front of something. It goes all the way back to at least 2011 when the world was introduced to Wess DeRoss, king of Dragonopia on the hit HBO kids cartoon Thronger Games. 
In case you haven’t seen it, the show (which is HBO’s biggest money maker since “Sopranos In the City” --  the touching tale of a Mafia man looking for love in New York) follows the life of a little boy and his pet dragon, Puff Daddy, as they navigate the tricky politics of their fantasy world.

It’s full of hilarious hijinks and poignant moments of honesty. But one recurring theme through all 16 seasons has been that you show respect by “bending the knee” to your liege lords. Failure to bend the need, in fact, is a sign of disrespect bad enough to get you dragon-torched!

But now The Internet is in a monkey shit fight about whether kneeling is disrespectful. It’s as if they’ve never even heard of Degeneras Cardigan, Breaker of Winds and Mother of Dragsters, whose magical unicorns head-spear anyone who doesn’t bend the knee. 

I mean, get with the program, The Internet.

If you ask me, we all need to follow the example of Noble King Geoffrey Bratlian, The Kind. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. He always tries to see every issue from every perspective. Check out this quote from Season 6, episode 12 “Death of a Mockingjay
Noble King Bratlian, The Kind

First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

Now that’s the kind of understanding we need more of on The Internet.

So, I guess the solution is for everyone, including NFL players, to go back and read all 12 volumes of the “The Ballad of Fire and Ice” and report back to me whether John Frost ever made it all the way to Chirstmastown.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Nambia exambia

Say what you will about Pres. Trump. His ego is brobdingnagian. Of civil rights, he’s no champion. And as for leadership, well it’s clear his managing is more like mangling.

But I can tell you from personal experience that his endorsement of the health care system in Nambia shows great pansophy.

I’m not from Nambia myself. But I grew up in neighboring Pambia. As you know, the two countries have been close ever since The Nambia-Pambia Alliance Treaty of 1836. And I well remember as a young Pambian rambling through Nambia on autumnal visits to my Auntie Annie (herself a life-long Pambian). We would spend afternoons ambling around the expanding hamlets, and scrambling among surrounding brambles. We’d pass the P.M. with her prized pet panda, handing him samplings of salmon and jam.

Tramping back to her mansion, which had a commanding view of a babbling rapids in which I liked to do some angling, we’d spend a quiet evening chatting about things like traveling, gambling and her dazzling career in acting. One summer I even managed to scavenge some scaffolding and tackled the challenge of renovating her paneling.

Sadly, those days have passed. The housing crisis cramped her finances. No matter how much ranting and haggling she did, she couldn’t wrangle a way into withstanding the bankruptcy. She ended up abandoning and later dismantling the mansion.

But I’ll still have longstanding and everlasting admiration and gratitude for the mind-expanding understanding I gained from my time in Nambia. I hope nation’s leaders can channel the same compassion.

Friday, September 15, 2017

YouTube Tuesday: Paul McCartney — Rabbit Hole

It's been another crazy ass week around here. I'm sure you all know what its like. Kind of week that can leave you feeling all thin and stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

That's why it was such a delight to see the new hit song by Sir Paul McCartney this morning. Just the kick of excitement and adrenaline I needed to hit the weekend at full speed! Kudos for Sir Paul for his new modern club-beat style.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

We have a complete dossier on you…

"It’s just a game," a friend posted on Facebook recently.

A rather sophisticated augmented reality game where you use your mobile phone to capture “Pokemon” in a mix of real and virtual worlds. But still, just a game.

"That's it. No, there really isn't anything more to it than that."

But of course there is more to it than that. I mean, it is a game, but it’s a game that regular people like you and me can’t win.

The real point of such games (as well as the "My Vocabulary Size Is.. " and "My Celebrity Lookalike Is.. " and "If I were a Star Trek Character I Would Be..."  Facebook games that you see every week), is for big data companies to find a way to get people to voluntary sign up for software that allows them to collect tons of data about them personally.

They then sell this data to the highest bidder (usually companies associated with digital advertising) and productize you and other people who behave like you and sell you to advertisers.

A lot of people don't care that they are being packaged and sold, it's been going on to some degree almost since the beginning of advertising. The difference these days is that the data collected is waaaaaay more sophisticated than the advertiser suspecting your between 18-45 years old and you really like Jackie Gleason’s brand of misogynistic bombast.

These days, when you opt in to this kind of data collection, you’re telling them precisely where you are (down to the latitude and longitude coordinates) and when. You’re letting them in on which websites you're browsing, what products you're shopping for, what physical malady you happen to be suffering at the time.

The level of insight that can be drawn from this kind of data, the predictions that can be made about your preferences and behavior, would make Miss Cleo soak her pants.

You might have noticed that over there in the right-hand rail of your Facebook page there’s an ad for that pair of shoes, or shorts, or maybe that vacation getaway that you were Googling earlier today. That’s no coincidence. The advertisers have you pegged.

Again, some people don’t care about that. MOST people don't care about that. Indeed, some people say “Good. I get ads for stuff I’m interested in instead of some dumb punch-the-monkey spam for a high-rate mortgage.”

And that’s cool. That’s all just fine. Buuuuuut…

I just think we should all have our eyes open to OTHER ways the data could be used. I mean, some companies (like Niantic in the case of Pokemon Go) say they won’t sell your data to third parties. I mean they promise and pinkie swear and everything. But let’s face it, when the going gets tough and the investors are at the front door with pitchforks demanding their exit strategies and returns-on-investment, who do you think is going to get sold out?

That’s right it’s you, me and all of our precious behavioral data. And even more troubling, who do you think we’re going to be sold too?

The paranoid among us would say “the NSA… or even scarier, some nefarious foreign spy agency!” But the reality is government agencies don’t need to buy data about you since they already have a direct tap into ALL internet traffic and are already constantly spying on you (thanks for the heads-up, Edward Snowden!).

Anyway, if you think government agents snooping through your Google accounts and sharing your naked selfies with each other is the worst that can happen, then my friend you suffer from a lack of imagination.

Here are a couple of more likely (and probably already happening) scenarios:

First, it’s probably difficult to overstate the amount of lifestyle data that gets collected about you, especially if you use a FitBit or similar activity tracker. From your physical activity, to your food interests, to your drinking habits, to how much TV/internet video you watch… all of that is being collected and packaged and is super valuable to companies that aren’t advertising firms.

For one thing, insurance companies (auto, health) love to learn all they can about you. Do you think they won’t use your own data against you to jack up your premiums and copays? Of course they will. And since Obamacare now means we’re all criminals if we DON’T buy health insurance, well, they pretty much have us by the short curlies, don’t they?

But there are other more nefarious abuses that are (probably) already happening. Imagine what kind of web browsing/lifestyle data is available on pretty much every old whit guy making laws in Washington, DC. Do you really think it’s beyond a company like Koch Industries, or Goldman Sachs or even Google or Apple to use this kind of personal data as “leverage” on key legislative measures?

Do you really think it was out of the pure consideration for the public good that nobody from Goldman Sachs was prosecuted for ruining the global economy a couple of years ago? Do you really think all of the highly technologically literate old white dudes thought the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was good public policy?

No? Me neither (and your staring to get it, good job!) After all, our senators and congressmen are only poor corrupt public officials. They have kickbacks to pay and mistresses to feed.

So, what’s the upshot here? I guess it’s just to say that whenever an app or program or web widget asks for access to your Facebook page, or Google account or Twitter stream, you should tell it to fuck right the hell off.

Or make up a fake internet identity and spam the system.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

YouTube Tuesday: Office Invention

In case you haven't heard, our good friend Joe, former proprietor of Hip Suburban White Guy, recently got a new gig at a new cube farm.

It turns out his new gig isn't as, well, demanding of his time. Which leaves him a few minutes throughout the day to focus his creative energies to solving humanity's pressing concerns... like finding a cheap source of perpetual energy.

He sent me this video of his latest scale model. Well done, sir!