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Friday, January 28, 2011

The people in Toronto are so weird...

... Police there report that 10 percent of the city's 9-1-1 calls are "butt-dialed." Emergency vehicles respond to 300 "butt-dialed" calls per day (yes, per day!) to people who accidentally sit on their phones.

Shuuure they do.

The real story, I suspect, is that Canadian winters are so severe, fat tends to build-up on the body in undesired places when confined in front of the fireplace most days just to keep warm. And Canadians, when a real emergencies arise, don't trust shaky, frozen fingers to do their walking for them... they use their most dependable method to call 9-1-1. "

Plop on the phone honey, and just stay calm... help is on the way!

Better start practicing "the plop," Boston... after this winter, you're next!

And that's not all that's weird. In the world of infidelity:

Pakistan does it a little different. A man was beaten in public by two of his three wives. The reason: they were certain he had a secret fourth wife... and was planning to marry a fifth. In many parts of the world, it's one wife at a time... except in Utah.

A Texas woman is suing her boss, a TV evangelist. The woman, thinking that she was working in a Christian environment, was crestfallen when her special reverend boss confessed he was cheating on his wife. The woman's suit claims that affair is causing her "severe mental anguish." Think of how 'the little woman' must feel.

Now, if that didn't fill you up, A little more humor to brighten these cold winter days:

According to Conan, "Egypt is now in its second day of angry street protests, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for calm. Yeah. Because nothing calms an enraged Arab country like a powerful woman ordering it around."

The wise Jimmy Kimmel noted "It took the president an hour to sum up the state of the whole union, and American Idol needs two hours to find the next Danny Gokey? I don't think so."

It was reported North Korean glorious leader, Kim Jong Il, tried golf for the first time recently. Though 69-years-old and reportedly quite ill, he seemed to take to the game. Playing at Pyongyang's par-72 golf club, he shot a 38, aided somewhat by his 11 holes-in-one. And yes, you skeptical ones, he had witnesses. All 17 of his body guards attested to being enthralled as they watched the greatest round of golf EVER! That son-of-gun! doesn't he realize that all he has to do to win the hearts of the American people is come over here and win 20-25 PGA events (including all four majors) in a row. He would have us all in the palm of his hand. If we can forgive Tiger, everyone else is just a 'chip shot.' As we say in America after every one of Tiger's shots: "IT'S IN THE HOLE!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Artificial Intelligence (AI)... why didn't I think of that?

As if we haven't got enough ourselves, we have been trying to come up with artificial intelligence for years. Dr. Frankenstein thought he had something going with his monster. Hmm. Maybe he just got the wrong brain to transplant. (Abe-normal, for all you Young Frankenstein fans.)

Then there was Robby of the 1968 TV series (and later movie), Lost in Space. Robby was a Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot, with superhuman strength and futuristic weaponry. Robby laughed, could be sad and was able to mock his humans (as if that is so hard). His favorite line: "Danger! Danger Will Robinson." He sang and playing guitar too... and he did a great Elvis impersonation, thankyouverrrymuch!

Can't forget HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. HAL was capable of speech recognition, natural language understanding, lip reading and could beat humans at chess. HAL also killed its astronaut crew before (figuratively) his plug is pulled. So much for that try.

Of course, these are just a few of the fictional AI bots.

Both Robby and HAL are in the Robot Hall of Fame (yes, there really is one). Other honorees include LEGO® MINDSTORMS®, Lt. Cmdr. Data, AIBO, David, SCARA, Maria, ASTRO BOY, Shakey, C-3PO (of course), Gort, Mars Pathfinder Sojourner Rover, R2-D2 and Unimate. No WALL-e yet. He must have been caught betting on robot games.

Ever notice that many smart robot names are all caps? "Maybe that, JERRY," I say to myself, "is a sign of super intelligence.

Then there are the real attempts... IBM's Deep Blue, programed to defeat Chess Grandmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997. Deep Blue got its "smarts" by crunching millions of mathematical possibilities to determine the best possible move. It worked. But that is all Deep Blue could do... play chess. So maybe that makes it the absolute "idiot savant"--a term which has been rephrased autistic savant-- because it was dumb as a box of burnt-out tubes about absolutely anything else. "

Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?"

"Pawn to knight3."

See.

And today, there is a new, more interesting contender... Watson, another IBM machine named for the company's founder, Thomas J. Watson. Watson's advantage is that he doesn't have to know the answers... all he has to know are the questions.

Watson is going to be on Jeopardy the week of Feb. 14. When Alec Trebek introduces the contestants, it will be Ken Jennings (who won more Jeopardy games than anyone else) and Brad Rutter (who won more money on the show than anyone else) against the big blue box. Winner gets $1 million which, if it is Watson, would make him the Bill Gates of 'Bot World.'

Watson is ready. The big guy is a room-sized system powered by 90 servers and 360 computer chips... with 15 terabytes of random-access memory! That is 15,000 gigabytes, or 14,996 more than I have on my MacBook Pro. Watson has been fed encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, news, movie scripts and more... about 200 million pages of content! He also has algorithms to measure the level of confidence in his response to decide whether he should hit the buzzer. 

Watson has been taught (programed) to buzz and answer, with a simulated masculine voice, in the form of a question. Watson claims to know slang, contemporary jargon, trivia, subtleties of language, puns and riddles.  In a practice game, the category was "Chicks Dig Me." The answer: "Kathleen Kenyon's excavation of this city mentioned in Joshua shows that the walls had been repaired 17 times." Watson buzzed in first with "What is Jericho?" Bingo!

Next answer: "He was the 16th president of the United States." Watson again: What is Jericho? (Joke.)

Fear not human beings... Watson doesn't kill--to the best of the creators' knowledge-- nor does it play Wheel of Fortune. Lucky for us.

If this trend of creating artificial intelligence continues, we may not need monkeys any more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's really NUTS out there... 2011 version

An Ohio sixth grader was given detention for farting on the school bus. That'll make him think twice next time he tries something like that.

An art show that featured "a painting that hasn't been painted yet," an "invisible sculpture," and "a movie shot with no film in the camera" won the clever artist a $2,338 British government grant.

Elsewhere in Britain, another artist, asked to decorate the Christmas tree at England's Tate Gallery, earned his commission by leaving the tree bare. Pretty hard to top mother nature, eh? 

I guess the minimalist movement is alive and well in the UK.

The election of officers for the American Postal Workers Union was delayed... because many of the members' ballots were lost in the mail. D'oh!

The city of Coumbus, OH bought 18 new stretchers for its paramedics, each capable of toting 650-pound patients. Sadly, they are not sturdy enough for all needs. So it had to pay 10-grand for ones that can handle 1,000-pounders. Next will come the need to hire more paramedics just to carry those stretchers.

A recent poll found that one out of four Americans don't know that we won our independence from Great Britain. Among other popular choices: France, China and Mexico. So far, no mention of another planet.

Speaking of another planets... or more correctly, our nearest star... its status may soon be changing. Angeles Duran of Spain has notarized documents--ahh, the power of a notary--attesting that she is now the official "owner of the sun... (legal description follows in small print)"... and plans to charge a "reasonable fee" for use of the sun's rays. Says Duran, or perhaps we should start referring to her as God Jr., the proceeds will be split between the Spanish government, the world's poor and herself. "Anyone could have done it" she says. "It simply occurred to me first." Well, so much for that free tan.

Disturbingly, the number of clowns in America has increased 230 percent in the last 10 years, according to the WCA (World Clown Association.) Asks America: "Is that all?"

Now, to end on a bright note, we have found the answer to "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" It was the chicken, of course. Scientists have determined that a protein found in the chicken's ovary is necessary for the formation of the egg. I wonder where they got the protein necessary for the formation of the chicken?... but what do I know... I'm not a scientist. Next scientific question: "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Cross to Bear

“Hey buddy! Watch it with the sign.”

Bill shook his head in disbelief as he walked to his mid-Manhattan office. Should be a law about that. These guys just clutter up the sidewalk. Nutsos! All of ‘em.

The guy with the sign paid no attention to Bill. He saw hundreds of people like him every day. Sure, the sign could have been smaller but when your message is big, you gotta have a big sign.

    “THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING!”

John saw his only mission in life as spreading God’s word and making sure everyone was ready when they met their maker… not that everyone paid any attention to him… or that anyone paid any attention to him. Yet, John was undaunted. This is what God wanted from him… told him personally… and true to God’s word, John was ‘on the job’ every day. He was a ‘regular’... one of those street people that become vaguely familiar to the multitude that travel the same path most days.

You couldn’t say John’s clothes were rags, but then you wouldn’t say they weren’t. Looked like they were from the Goodwill men’s department… many years ago. It was his falling-apart sandals missing a strap, the untended beard that met his dirty hair half-way and the glassy-eyed look that said, ‘I do this for a living.’  Oh... and the sign, of course. But it was his rather distinctive ‘air’ that told the blind beggar down the block that John was at work.

Some days, John carried an old wooden cross. Thing towered about two-feet above his head and weighed almost half as much as John himself. Those were the days he wore his dirty white robe with the rope belt. Quite effective.

Those were the days that Bill, and everyone else, gave John wide berth.

“Saw that crazy ‘jesus guy’ again,” Bill told his wife that evening. “He was carrying the big cross today. God, he sure smells. Wonder what his story is.”

Two days later, Bill saw him once more, just as ‘the jesus guy’ fell while crossing the busy street.

“Hey! You ok?”

As he put his arm under the self appointed ‘savior of the world’ to help him up, Bill shook his head. He couldn’t believe he instinctively ran to his aid. And if that wasn’t enough, he had to stop traffic to pick up the huge cross before it caused an accident.

“Thank you, my brother. Thank you. God sent you to me today and I am grateful.”

“Now wait a minute, old man…”

“Name is John.”

“Hate to tell you this, John, but you couldn’t be more wrong. There is no God. He only exists in your mind…. like Santa Claus.”

“How can you say that, man? God is the sun. The moon. The air. God is life in all its forms.” John, arms waving and sputtering as he talked, was just getting warmed up. As the crowd gathered, John knew this was the day… and the reason he was put on earth.

“Tell me, man,” he said, poking a finger in Bill’s chest. “Tell me who made you? Tell me which came first, the chicken or the egg? And where did either one of them come from? And the stars… and the universe...”

Bill couldn’t believe it. This bum had come alive. He was no wino with a hand out but a man on a mission. He took two steps backward for every one of John’s giant strides into his chest.

“How can you defend Santa Claus for your kids’ faith and joy and not give God the same courtesy? How can you smile at Christmas and get angry when I talk about God?”

John, sputtering on, was red in the face with fervor.  “What are you afraid of, man? Listen to your heart as your children listened to you. Is there a Santa Claus? Damned right! Is there a God? Damned if you are wrong. Don’t tell yourself nothin’ you don’t, deep down, believe just because you are afraid.”

Bill blinked and stared into John’s eyes. They weren’t crazy. They were begging for understanding…asking… pleading to be heard.

“Come on, man. I can see you get it. Admit it to yourself. Go with it. Take His hand and…and…and…”

John closed his eyes, took one staggering step backward… then slumped to the ground. His work was done.

The gathered audience seemed quietly stunned, unsure of what to do next.

“BREAK IT UP! Nothing to see here,” blared the voice from the bullhorn wielded by the officer in a black and white. And like that, the crowd backed away, watching as Bill knelt to John.

“He’s gone, officer. I can’t believe it. He’s gone.”

Bill didn’t sleep that night. He and his wife must have talked for hours before she fell asleep on the couch. Near morning, Bill stumbled into the shower, determined to see that John was taken care of…vowing to make sure he had a decent Christian burial.

“I saw that man a thousand times as a nut case…a homeless crazy,” he muttered to his wife as he walked toward the front door.  “In just five minutes, I knew a man that I should have known from the very beginning. I …. I… ,”  his voice trailed off.

“What is it Bill?” his wife hollered at his silence as she ran to him, now standing in the front yard, staring back in disbelief.

“How…? Why…? I don’t understand.”

There, a large wooden cross…bigger, by far, than John’s, was leaning against the house.