Friday, April 29, 2011

Science Tackles the Important Problems

Ever wish you had a robot that could make "that's what she said" jokes?


ChloƩ Kiddon and Yuriy Brun, a pair of computer scientists at the University of Washington, have finally brought humor into the 21st century by creating a program that can analyze blocks of text for the most inviting places to insert yourself ... in the form of a timely "that's what she said!"

The problem the pair faced was not just teaching the computer to know when it was possible to add a "that's what she said" to the end of a sentence, but also to know when it would actually be funny. To do this, they fed the computer 1.5 million unintentionally naughty sentences, along with examples of plain and unfunny text. Then, to increase the program's understanding of what words make for good euphemisms, the researches applied a "sexiness" function to the raunchiest-sounding nouns and adjectives, with words like "rod," "meat," "hot," and "wet," being given high sexiness functions.

What a glorious time to be alive.

NFL Draft 2011: Tempered Excitement

It's time to put away the usual nonsense and talk about the really important stuff: the NFL draft.

Now, I'm an NC native with Pittsburgh blood running through my veins, so I had two dogs in last night's fight. (not a Mike Vick joke)

Carolina picked QB Cam Newton with the #1 overall pick. Cam is a physical beast (6'5", 248 lbs, 4.59sec 40yd dash) and seems like a winner and a leader, but I had doubts leading up to the draft. He comes from a spread offense, so the transition to pro-style will be a rough one. And he doesn't seem like the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. But anything would be an upgrade over last year's offense, so I'm staying hopeful that Cam gets it done in both the passing and running game.

Pittsburgh picked up DE Cameron Heyward with the 31st pick. He's a Pittsburgh native, and adds yet another piece to the Steeler's already stacked front-seven. I don't know much about the guy, but he seems like a solid pick, and the Steelers rarely miss in the 1st round. However, this is pretty much the last place they needed to shore up as their run stuffing D-line and Linebacking corps is already the best in the league. I was really hoping they'd pick up a stud CB so that we could stop getting burned by good QBs, but the Steelers seem to hate drafting for need, instead picking the "best available guy." I'm sure he'll be great, but that still leaves a big hole in the secondary, which is one of the worst in the NFL.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Whole "Birther" Thing

Now that we finally have Obama's birth certificate, Liberals are having a good laugh, and Birthers are still trying to figure out how their pants go on.

The fact that Obama and Hawaii felt the need to release the birth certificate, plus the fact that newspapers are jumping all over this story, is proof that our public discourse, when not directed by corporations, is directed by utter morons.

Congrats America. Pat yourself on the back for me.

Your Regularly Scheduled Dose of Monty Python

It just doesn't get better than that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bio-diesel Steam Engine Promises Renewable Power, Better Steampunk

It can run on bio-diesel made from old orange peels. It can offer the power of a gas engine without the gas. It's a thousand year old technology that is coming back around. I'm talking about steam engines.

The steam power means this engine's fuel source can vary greatly. All it has to do is burn and heat the steam inside, and you've got power.

The engine takes 15-20 seconds to warm up, and so far they only have one working model. But this looks like the answer to the big energy question: How the hell are we going to power our cars? Ask and ye shall receive.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Political System that Works...

...only exists in science fiction.

From Arthur C. Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth:

The President of Thalassa had been in office for only two months and was still unreconciled to his misfortune. But there was nothing he could do about it, except to make the best of a bad job for the three years it would last. Certainly it was no use demanding a recount; the selection program, which involved the generation and interleaving of thousand-digit random numbers, was the nearest thing to pure chance that human ingenuity could devise.

There were exactly five ways to avoid the danger of being dragged into the Presidential Palace (twenty rooms, one large enough to hold almost a hundred guests). You could be under thirty or over seventy; you could be incurably ill; you could be mentally defective; or you could have committed a grave crime. The only option really open to President Edgar Farradine was the last, and he had given it serious thought.

Yet he had to admit that, despite the personal inconvenience it had caused him, this was probably the best form of government that mankind had ever devised. The mother planet had taken some ten thousand years to perfect it, by trial and often hideous error.

As soon as the entire adult population had been educated to the limits of its intellectual ability (and sometimes, alas, beyond) genuine democracy became possible. The final step required the development of instantaneous personal communications, linked with central computers. According to the historians, the first true democracy on Earth was established in the (Terran) year 2011, in a country called New Zealand.

Thereafter, selecting a head of state was relatively unimpor­tant. Once it was universally accepted that anyone who deliberately aimed at the job should automatically be disqualified, almost any system would serve equally well, and a lottery was the simplest procedure...

Good Friday

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The College Delusion

I needed to know psychology so I could figure out what was wrong with me. So in college, I majored in psychology. I earned my degree and figured out what was wrong: I was crazy.

This information held little value in my job search. I found a job upon graduation with a professor who's lab I had volunteered in. It payed in the mid $20s, and I didn't complain, because who else would hire a freshly graduated psychology major?

I soon realized that I had no business in academia. The pace of research was too slow, and I grew bored almost immediately. I hated the job. But I stayed in it because who's going to hire a psychology major?

And now, after four years working this dead end job, academia has finally caught up to me: I'm getting laid off. And, like many recent college graduates, I find that my degree is basically worthless in the job market.

Four years, wasted. Thousands of dollars, down the drain. For what? I learned no skills. I made no connections. All I got was a piece of paper that says I attended class long enough to earn this piece of paper.

I am not alone. 45 percent of college graduates from the class of 2009 earned less than $15,000 in 2010.

The economy gets some of the blame. There just aren't many jobs. But when college grads are barely beating the minimum wage, there is a problem.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Been There

Happy 420 you dirty hippies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Skynet Approacheth [Robot Apocalypse]

Remember in Terminator when the military built Skynet? Remember how it was a satellite network that controlled all the weapons, and when they turned it on it decided that humans were a threat that needed to be exterminated?

Yeah, I guess no one in Britain saw that movie.

The system allows for communication both in the voice and data variety between basically any unit of the British Armed Forces, including computers talking to computers, probably about how best to murder their makers. For example, a base computer in cheery old London can communicate with the "Reaper," a robotic spy drone in Afghanistan, retrieving data and telling it where to go, and transmitting live video over the connection from the UAV. The sat also has solar sails which extend its life to 15 years, a special anti-jamming antenna is set on the receive side, while 4 steerable antennas can be aimed in a single spot to concentrate broadcasting ability.

What the hell, Britain!? When robots come for you (and they will) you will have only yourselves to blame.

Friday, April 15, 2011

E-books Outsell Paper Books

Trees of the world, rejoice. The dark time is nearly over. No longer will you be cut down for paper. Firewood, maybe. Or toothpicks. Or building materials, probably. But not paper.

This February, US publishers sold more e-books than they did books in any other format, including paperbacks and hardcovers, according to a report from the Association of American Publishers. This marks the first time ever that e-book sales have surpassed those of all other formats.

E-book sales totaled $90.3 million in February, a 202% increase compared to the same month a year earlier.

I have a Kindle and I do like it a lot. But I still like reading and writing on paper from time to time. Nothing can replace jotting down some thoughts on a legal pad.

Barack Obama, Deficit Slayer

Fight onward, brave Sir Obama.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teen Unemployment is 25% and Rising

They say the children are our future. If that's the case we're headed for trouble.

Teens typically are the first to be fired and the last to be hired back in a normal economic cycle, so this rate can be considered a kind of leading indicator of employment.

Due to a sinking economy and minimum wage laws, teens are becoming increasingly unemployable. Who wants to pay $7 an hour to train a teenager, when you can hire an experienced adult for the same price?

The minimum wage for young people causes more harm than good. An increasing portion of young people are unable to gain any work experience. They get experience by working unpaid internships. To cover living expenses they burden parents or take on debt.

If this is our future, we should rethink our present.

In the matter of Shotgun v. Rifle

A band of merry crackheads has kindly volunteered to perform an experiment, re-examining the age old debate of Shotgun v. Rifle.

Phillipe Robinette, 27, of Aquebogue and two other men, one of whom was wielding a .22 caliber rifle, forced their way into the home just before 12:30 p.m. and shot a pit bull. The resident of the home, armed with a shotgun, confronted the trio and shot at Justin Benkov, 25, of Mastic and Fred Flock, 27, of Coram, officials said. Mr. Robinette had already fled the scene...

Mr. Flock was pronounced dead at the scene. Mr. Benkov was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where he was listed in critical condition.

For those keeping score at home, that's Shotgun - 2, Rifle - 0. Unless you count shooting the dog, for which I'll conced a half a point.

In this case of home defense, the shotgun succeeds with flying colors. Which isn't surprising since it's almost impossible to miss with a shotgun, making it ideal for civilian home defense against cracked up morons.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Suburban Sunset

I took a picture today. It was sunset, almost twilight. I saw the sun on the horizon and thought of the frontier. Out west. But I was in the suburbs. The sun was setting over a construction site where they were putting in a new Target. The wild west of low prices. And I hate Target. They never have what I need. Target is like Walmart’s useless sister. Probably don’t even sell guns. Or targets.

Race. I thought we were past that. I’m fine with other races, right? Are you? Even if you aren’t, you won’t admit it in polite company. Our parents war is over. Long live equality. I voted for Obama. Even though I hate Democrat policy. I voted for him, just so we could get over the race thing. Black president. Equal.

What’s the ratio of white racists vs black racists? I’d guess about the same. Change takes time.

That’s what’s great about America. We do diversity well. And that’s why America is the greatest country in the world. Or it was. For a while there. But I wasn’t alive then. Maybe it was crappier back then, and they just didn’t know it. Now we have the internet. We know which corrupt congressman is blowing who in what truckstop bathroom. And we know how all the banks and corporations are robbing us, while the government looks the other way.

But we have a new Target. I guess that’s something.

Dating Meets the Free Market

Paying for dates with beautiful people. Is it a new form of prostitution? Or just formalizing a common practice?

I'd hate to see the bargain bin.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Looks Fun

Don't Get Mad

Remember when we bailed out the banks to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars? Well don't get mad, but the bail out records have been released and it's even worse than we thought.

Not only was the Fed handing out money to banks who didn't deserve it, but it even handed hundreds of millions to individual people who didn't need it. They didn't need it because they were *wait for it* already super wealthy.

...with an upfront investment of $15 million, they quickly received $220 million in cash from the Fed, most of which they used to purchase student loans and commercial mortgages. The loans were set up so that Christy and Susan would keep 100 percent of any gains on the deals, while the Fed and the Treasury (read: the taxpayer) would eat 90 percent of the losses. Given out as part of a bailout program ostensibly designed to help ordinary people by kick-starting consumer lending, the deals were a classic heads-I-win, tails-you-lose investment.

If you have connections, the government will give you free money. We need to do something about that.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chainsaw Fight

Some ask why. I ask why not.

Culture Reaches a New Low

One genius company has leapfrogged ahead of our cultural trainwreck to produce the Miley Cyrus sex doll. Words fail.

Plus this:

As if the Jersey Shore wasn't brutal enough, MTV plans to produce TWO Jersey Shore spinoffs. One will following Snooki and JWoww as they live their hopefully short lives, and the other will follow future musical icon Paully D as he works on his career as a DJ.


We had a good run folks, but humanity has run it's course. The devastating earthquakes around the world are just the Earth attempting to shake us off, to free up space for more deserving animals.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When they tell the story of my life, I want them to play this song

The song "Ashokan Farewell," well known from its appearance in every Civil War documentary and period piece, is just plain beautiful. It adds a gravitas, a sadness, and a strength to no matter what it's played underneath.

It is also yet another reason I wish I played the violin.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Cave Man

A cave man wakes up to the sound of his dog barking. The dog looks almost exactly like a wolf, but a skinny one, his ribs are showing. The cave man is equally skinny. They haven’t eaten much lately.

They walk down to a nearby stream. The cave man crouches down to take a drink of the cool water, as the dog laps up water as well. The dog suddenly stops drinking as his ears perk up. He looks across the water to see a group other cave men huddled together, talking and laughing. The cave man sees it too.

The cave man and the dog find a narrow spot in the stream to cross. They approach the group of cave men. They look strong, robust, and well fed, in contrast to our cave man. As the cave man and his dog approach, they see what the hubbub is about - a fresh kill. The group of cave men are tearing off bits of raw flesh from what remains of an antelope, and eating them. The cave man’s mouth waters, as does the dog’s.

The cave man tries to join the group, but before he can get close to the carcass, he is pushed away by the stronger cave men. He tries to reason with them, but they are not concerned with him. He walks away, with his dog, dejected.

The cave man walks into a nearby field. He starts to pick small bits of grain from the tops of the tall grasses. He eats them, but they are not very satisfying. He goes to a tree, and sees a small piece of fruit hanging from a branch. He cannot reach it, so he climbs the tree. He reaches the fruit, picks it, but it looks rotten. He takes a bite, but spits it out. He throws the fruit to his dog, who sniffs it, but won’t eat it either.

As the sun begins to set, the cave man and his dog head back to their cave. As they walk through the grain field again, they are beset upon by a pack of wolves. The cave man is unarmed. His dog growls at the wolf pack, and looks ready to pounce. The wolves get intimidated, and decide it’s not worth it, and they back off. The cave man pets the dog as the wolves run off.

They spot the cave. Before they reach the entrance, a rabbit darts across their path. The dog sees it and takes off after it, into the brush. The cave man hopes he will bring the rabbit back with him. The cave man takes another drink of water from the stream, then walks back to his cave as the stars come out.

The cave man wakes up, later in the day this time, with no dog to wake him up. He looks around but the dog is definitely gone. He walks out to the stream for a drink. As he drinks, he looks up to see the group of well fed cave men holding their spears, getting ready to go hunting.

The cave man needs a spear, so that maybe the group will let him hunt with them. So today, while he gathers grain and fruit, he is also looking for sticks to make a spear. He finds some suitable candidates and walks back to his cave as the sun sets. When he is almost back to his cave, he runs into the wolf pack again. He runs into the cave, and turns to defend himself, swinging the spears-to-be like a long club. He smacks a couple of the wolves in the face, and manages to fend them off for the time being. But he is scared they will come back, and stands guard at the mouth of the cave through the night.

The next morning, he wakes up. He is still sitting at the mouth of the cave. He had fallen asleep some time during the night while watching for wolves. He gets up to go to the stream, taking the largest stick with him. He has a drink, then goes straight to spear-making.

The cave man sits on an old, dry, fallen tree trunk. He puts one end of the stick in a notch on the tree trunk, and starts working on the other end. He is stripping the bark and sharpening the end, twisting and turning the stick as he works. As the sun rises to the apex, he smells something. Something burning. He recognizes the smell from a storm once, when lightning had struck and started a fire. The smell is coming from nearby. He looks around, twisting the spear as he looks, and he sees a tiny wisp of smoke coming from the end of the spear that is stuck in the tree trunk notch. He twists the spear again. More smoke. He yells in surprise.

He forgets about making the spear, and focuses solely on making more smoke. He sees that small bits of bark and leaves near the wood contact point are getting singed. He gathers more leaves and twigs to put at the spot. He keeps rubbing and rubbing the stick on the trunk. More and more smoke, until, finally, the pile of leaves and twigs ignites. FIRE. He jumps up, whooping and dancing, as the sun goes down. He sees that the fire is quickly consuming his pile of leaves and twigs, and makes a mad dash to find more twigs and leaves for the fire. He builds and builds it until it is big and roaring, and starts to even burn the large tree trunk. He dances around the fire, whooping and hollering into the night.

The cave man realizes he is very thirsty, and walks down to the stream for a drink. Down there, in the moonlight, he sees the group of cave men returning from the hunt. They are carrying an animal carcass with them. This is his opportunity.

He builds a makeshift torch from one of his old spears-to-be, and walks over to the group, who are huddled around the carcass, tearing off chunks and eating them. As the cave man approaches with his lit torch, a few of the hunters take notice. They have never seen a man with fire before. By the time he is close to the hunters, they are all staring at him. The cave man points to his torch, then points to the carcass, gesturing for a trade. The hunters look at each other, then one stands up and walks toward the cave man. He tries to take the torch from the cave man, but the cave man waves the torch in the hunter’s face, frightening the hunter. The cave man again gestures to his torch, then the carcass. One of the hunters tears off a small hunk and throws it at the cave man’s feet. The cave man looks at the piece, then gestures for more. The hunters pause, then throw him another hunk, bigger this time. The cave man, pleased, throws the torch at the hunters, grabs his meat, and runs off into the darkness, back to his fire.

The cave man sets one of the pieces of meat next to his roaring blaze, while he eats the other one. It is delicious, and the first meat he has had in a long time. As he finishes eating the piece, he smells something even more delicious. He looks down and sees that the fire has singed the other piece of meat, partially cooking it. He sniffs it again, the scent is wonderful, and he nibbles at it. The taste is incredible. He takes another bite, then hears a rustling in the brush nearby. He jumps up, believing the wolves have returned. He grabs a large stick that is half on fire, ready to defend himself, but then out of the brush emerges his dog. He has been attracted by the scent of cooking meat, and has returned. The cave man sets down his fire stick and pets the dog, then gives him a piece of the meat. The dog is in heaven. The cave man is overjoyed that his friend has returned.

They walk back to the cave, the man with a torch in one hand and a bundle of sticks under his other arm. He builds a fire at the mouth of the cave to ward off the wolves, then curls up on his bedding next to his dog, and goes to sleep with a smile on his face.