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.


Selling Out Hollywood

I recently rediscovered HSX: Hollywood Stock Exchange (a game started in 1996, now owned by Cantor Fitzgerald). I made my millions back in the late 1990’s, when everything was being greenlighted and all you had to do was speculate. Nowadays it’s a little harder. For example, my massive purchase of Trick Monkey in 2001 didn’t do so well. This description may explain why:

Robert De Niro produces and may star in the true-life story of magician David Blaine in Trick Monkey. As a young street magician, Blaine is torned between the pursuit of his calling for financial success or for the sake of art. His influential mentor believes in the importance of magic as an artform not be taken advantage of. However, the young magician is thrust into confusion when he realizes how much money can be made.

What was I thinking? I lost more than H$200,000 on that one (you start off with H$2,000,000). I’m going to have take comfort in Motherless Brooklyn: “a film that follows a detective who suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, and who must solve the murder of his mentor. The film is based upon the novel by Jonathan Lethem, who sold the story rights to New Line for a high six figures. To date, no director has been attached to the project.” Yeah… H$110G, baby! Not that I particularly want to watch that one either, but hey, it was undervalued.

Even more fun is “shorting”, where you invest in a movie’s demise. If you think the stock’s price reflects more than the movie is going to make, you can short it, and profit if it falls short. If it does well, of course, you’re in trouble. I tried shorting “National Treasure 2”, but that actually seems to be a non-empty threat. Sorry, America, I tried…

And last but not least, there are options. I made a few bets on the Oscars (mostly long shots like Clooney for best Director), which would have paid off big if they won. But it was not to be… D’oh!

One fascinating thing about HSX is that its market seems to do a better job on the whole at predicting the box office than industry experts. That could be why they call their movies section the “Movies Prediction Market”. More to the point, that could be why they started a parallel website called HSX Research, which looks to make serious cash on advice based on the HSX market. Anyway, it’s a pretty crazy story of how a cute game can become something much more than anyone expected. And it’s a great way to see (and speculate on) what’s coming down the pike in Hollywood. Crap. But you didn’t need HSX to tell you that.


Glad I Don’t Work There…

From Overheard in the Office:

Worker on phone: When can you come in today?…Well, I don’t know how long it takes to file an Apprehended Violence Order.

Boss: Did you leave this in the copier? It got jammed.
Employee: Yeah, I guess I did. Sorry.
Boss: If you and [Janet] ever got married, you’d have really stupid kids. I’m just saying.

Project Manager: I’m working on Chronic Constipation and should be done with it later today. How is Ulcerative Colitis coming along?
Multimedia Developer: Good. Should have it for you tomorrow for review. What’s up with Vaginal Discharge?

Supervisor: We have a call-out
Boss: Why’s he calling out?
Supervisor: Says his house caught fire.
Boss: Bulls***! Tell him we want a pic of him fighting the f***ing fire! Then we’ll authorize the call-out!

Boss: Don’t do as I do. In fact, don’t even do as I say.

Worker #1 on speaker: I was wondering why [Billy] hasn’t called me yet.
Worker #2 on speaker: I’ll go make sure he calls you this time.
Worker #1 on speaker: Do me a favor and punch him in the kidney as you walk by for me! Make him crap blood for a night so he can think it over.

PVC worker: Hey [Neil], I don’t mean to sound like a p***y, but I just cut my finger off.

Boss: Hey, can you help me? I need to make a floor plan for the new office.
Underling: Yeah, sure. What are the dimensions?
Boss: It’s 10,000 square feet.
Underling: Yeah, but what are the dimensions?
Boss: What do you mean? It’s 10,000 square feet.
Underling: Yeah, but like what is the length and width?
Boss: Just make it 10,000 square feet.
Underling: But is it a square, or a rectangle, or what?
Boss: Uh, make it a rectangle.

Manager: You all need to help out and pull a shift in the Concierge Department. This is what team work is all about. I make too much money to help in the Concierge Department.

Assistant #1: I want to stab my eyes out. Is that normal?
Assistant #2: Yes.
Assistant #1: Just wanted to make sure.

CCA: My Excel’s not working.
Manager: I don’t care.
CCA: What should I do if my Excel’s not working and you don’t care?
Manager: Call the Ghostbusters.

Manager: Have a good weekend.
Underling: You’re leaving?
Manager: You’re not.

Employee: Do you always have to act like a child?
Manager: This company is all about innovation. And studies have consistently shown that the most innovative thought comes from the ages of five and under.

Manager: It would be misleading of me to tell you that there was any hope of you having a job.


Table of Malcontents

Lore Sjöberg, formerly of The Brunching Shuttlecocks (a site I used to love), has a new blog on Wired called Table of Malcontents. He’s really into web comics, which I’m not, and that seems to make up a large percentage of his posts, but it’s still an enjoyable read.

He also has a very funny take on World of Warcraft – what it would be like if it was a text-based game (ah, the memories). This part reminds me very much of my experience with the game:

“Take this bag of jelly to Commander Wolfchow in Cramhollow Dale.”
> Go to Cramhollow Dale
You run to Cramhollow Dale. You run and run. You run and run and run. You keep on running. Someone runs past you, faster. You keep running. Two gnomes run past you in the opposite direction. Still you run. You’re not there yet. What are you going to do?
> Run
That’s right, bunky. You’re gonna run. You continue to run and run and run and run and … whoa, you’re in Cramhollow Dale. A tall man who looks like a lot of the other tall men around here has a question mark over his head.
> Give bag of jelly to man
“Good!” says …
> Click Complete Quest, Accept, whatever, just get on with it

And last but not least – his bio: “Born helpless, nude and unable to provide for himself, Lore Sjöberg eventually overcame these handicaps to become an entrepreneur, restaurateur and voyeur.”

Funny man, Sjöberg.