The Evils of Voice Recognition

A lot of companies are moving to voice recognition instead of touch-tone inputs. This can get rather annoying, especially if you don’t want people to hear what you’re saying. Touch-tone is nice and anonymous… If I were in charge, you might start hearing “conversations” like this…

Welcome to Dynafro Incorporated, your one stop source for all your widget needs. For sales, please say “used tampons”. For customer service, please say “methadone refills”. For all other inquries, please say “anal leakage”, or stay on the line for the next available agent, although we prefer that you say something.


Something a Programmer Never Wants to See

From today’s WTF:

This is bad. Reaaly bad. It’s a really, really bad hack. If you’re an employee of Intertrode Communication, then I’m really, really sorry that you have to maintain this. I was honestly planning on removing this tomorrow, but I’ve been known to forget things like this. It happens.

Yes, incompetence does happen. At least the programmer apologized…


Naked Skydiving Photo

NOT SAFE FOR WORK! And very freaky… Why am I posting this, you ask? Because of the photo’s caption: “Bet you didn’t know the human breast does this in a free fall!”


V For Disappointing

I just saw V For Vendetta today. It was an interesting movie, and sure to prompt discussion, but I was kind of disappointed. The best review I saw of the movie so far was from The L.A. Times:

Despite all the lengthy speeches about living in fear, [the characters] are risk-takers, lane-changers and, frankly, fickle dates. Evey, an assistant at the British Television Network, is surprisingly sanguine and plucky for someone who as a child watched her parents dragged away in the middle of the night with bags over their heads. We first meet her as she primps for a date, the firebrand TV pundit Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam), spewing bile in the background. Like apparently everyone else in England, Evey seems somewhat blithe about the whole brutal-regime thing. She doesn’t deny herself the pleasure of talking back to the TV, nor does she allow curfew to impinge on her social life. She has a date with her boss, Gordon Dietrich (Stephen Fry), a popular television personality many years her senior, and she does her best to keep it, curfew be damned.

It’s not that you begrudge Evey’s taking the opportunity to advance her career, or even to meet new masked people. It’s just that you’d think, you live in a brutality repressive state for most of your life, you look over your shoulder once in a while. Not her. Nor Gordon, who for a high-level media figure at a state-run station comports himself pretty naively. Nor even Det. Finch (Stephen Rea), who is assigned to track down the terrorist, and instead ends up confronting the truth about his leaders, daring even to ask questions out loud.

I was thinking this exactly – the world depicted in the film is not dystopian enough! If you play Half Life 2, on my short list for the best game ever made, a sense of oppression suffuses the entire game. Civilians in the game are downright terrified, and for good reason – in that world, if you sneeze the wrong way, you’re going to find yourself in a very dark place for a very long time. And of course, there are always the aliens and zombies outside the city gates that are more than happy to pick up where the police state (the “Combine”) leaves off (they are the ostensible reason for the Combine’s existence in the first place). The point is, Half Life 2 did a much better job of creating a world where fear is in the air, where the powers that be use the mass media to keep that fear in place, and where violent revolution is really the only solution. At the end of “Vendetta”, I was really thinking, “Is all this violence really necessary?”

Then there’s the big issue in the movie – the t-word, terrorism. V, the hero, is called a terrorist (both within the movie itself and by those discussing it). But I have my doubts. The reason is that it depends on how you define terrorism. Is it “the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons” (American Heritage)? Or is it more “the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimindation or coercion or instilling fear” (Princeton University, emphasis mine)? V is a terrorist according to the first definition, but not the second, since he never targets innocent civilians.

The best thing about this movie is that it will prompt discussion. And healthy discussion is the life-blood of a true democracy, that we are thankfully still in, despite what some alarmists might think.


p.s. You try coming up with a word for “disappointing” that starts with “V”. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Hacking Garfield

On Table of Contents today:

It’s always fun when the Web hive-mind picks up on something, plays around with it, and eventually squeezes all the joy from it and leaves it in a corner of the laundry room to rot until moving day. The latest bit of shared play involves taking Garfield comics, and removing all of Garfield’s dialogue, leaving a strip that’s sometimes bogglingly surreal, sometimes just sad, and nearly always funnier. The progenitor of this trend may have been a livejournaler who decided he didn’t like being linked by Boing Boing, so his discovery exists only in Google’s cache, but the banner has since been taken up by the Something Awful forums and the Truth and Beauty Bombs forums. I’m excitedly counting the days until I’m sick to death of this!

They definitely change the whole dynamic of the comic. When the cat stops talking back, the cat owner seems much creepier (and sadder) all of a sudden. I don’t know if they’re funnier, though, because I don’t have the originals on hand for comparison purposes, so I can’t say one way or another. I’m definitely curious as to what the original jokes were for these, though!


Who Willing?

I got this from The Word Spy:

Murphy willing (idiom). If nothing goes wrong. Also: Murphy-willing.

Example Citations:
Django-Dojo alliance was finally announced to the world by our very own Jacob Kaplan-Moss:

Starting with version 0.92 (which should be out in a few weeks, Murphy willing), Django is going to bundle Dojo with the toolkit.
—Eugene Lazutkin, “Django Dojo,” Eugene’s Blog, January 28, 2006

If you have a moment and the URL for an interesting video clip, try adding to the schedule! Murphy willing, a new item will appear in the feed each night. When the item goes live on the feed, also Murphy willing, the item will appear, with details, on this weblog and be open for comment.
—Andrew Grumet, “Personal TV Networks,” Andrew Grumet’s Weblog, July 15, 2004

Earliest Citation:
Side-note: We’ve been archiving the My.UserLand.Com channels, so if historians want to trace the development of syndication on the web, we’ll be able to give them a clue. Murphy-willing!
—Dave Winer, Scripting News Archive, June 23, 1999

This phrase is a secular play on the very old (15th century) phrase God willing, and it comes from Murphy’s Law: in a given situation, if anything can go wrong it will. Murphy’s Law was named after U.S. Air Force Captain Edward A. Murphy, who performed deceleration studies in the 1940s and noted that if things could be done wrongly, they would be.

Stalking Gets an Upgrade

Gawker has upgraded its Stalker section to include… Google Maps. Heaven help us.