A New Tactic!

Yeah, I didn’t order any software. You don’t have a name, explanation, or any identifier on your mailer, and the return address is a company that packages and ships whatever you give them. I’m TOTALLY going to put this in my computer and see what it is.

If I was conspiracy-minded, I’d think this was a continuation of the plot by those people who keep trying to lure me to job interviews using fake Linked-In profiles with supermodel headshots.

Why are you people going to all this effort?! Look, if you’re trying to get information out of me, just send a tall, red-headed woman with a six pack of Belhaven, a pizza, and a Russian accent. I’ll spill my guts.

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Just Another Day at the Office

[Enters elevator …]droning-elevator-job-warning-sign-workplace-ecards-someecards.png

Oh, great.  Need to go to the 12th floor, but this car only goes to the 11th.  Ah, well, I guess I can walk one flight.

[Punches 11 …]

Well, that’s a weird sound.  That doesn’t sound right at all, actually.

[Elevator reaches 11 … instantly begins plumetting towards the earth …]

Holy crap!  I’m weightless!  That’s going to hurt when the emergency brakes kick in after two floors.

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

Oh, shit.  The brakes didn’t kick in.  Now what!?  I can’t exactly jump out being weightless in frefall and all.

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

So, if I die in an elevator crash, do any of my co-workers even know I’m in here?  How long is it going to take to identify my body if they don’t even know I’m in here.

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

Am I really going to die because some asshole inspector failed to noticed this crappy elevator should have been repaired?

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

So that’s it.  I’ll be dead any second now.  I wonder if it will hurt. 

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

Yep … any minute now.  Shit.

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

Weird, after all those nightmares about being trapped in defective elevators … now I really am going to die in one.

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

Well, at least it’s not the elevator that swings back and forth in the shaft with the doors hanging off the hingers … or the one where the walls fall off and it starts going sideways in mid air … just falling 11 floors down an elevator shaft seems kinda tame by comparison … I won’t even see the end coming this way … 

[Elevator continues to plumett …]

Come to think of it, this is taking an awful long time … 

[Opens eyes.  Clock says 5:45 AM.]

Oh, well played … @#$%king subconscious!

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What’s a Tortoise?

Okay, they’re at it again. You’ll remember a few weeks ago I was getting approached by “June” at IBM, who was in reality actress Anna Florentini.  Well, apparently whatever secret government project that failed to snare me with that trap has now upped their game with a new model.  In the middle of the night last night, I got an almost identical request from “Michelle” at Acosta.  Now, Michelle is a slightly improved model.  She actually has a full background and a work history, which arguably if I wasn’t so paranoid now, and if Michelle hadn’t ALSO used all caps for her first name, I would have allayed my suspicions that she’s a Voight Kampff flunkie. Unfortunately for them, I  quickly identified MICHELLE as an iStock photo model I once had a boring Match.com lunch date with.


Seriously, what is the nefarious purpose behind all of these fake profiles?  Even with the extra effort in the profile, they’re still less convincing than a Mall Santa.  Who are you people? Ex-girlfriends?  Nigerian 419 scammers?  Corporate spies?  Government recruiters looking for people who can spot fake profiles?  I will get to the bottom of this eventually, you hear me?!

bauer

 

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Review: How to Mutate and Take Over the World

How to Mutate and Take Over the World
How to Mutate and Take Over the World by R.U. Sirius

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up when it was first published back in 1996 simply because the inside flaps sang to the 27-year-old-me with all kinds of words and phrases I didn’t really get:  “post-novel” … “meta-structure” … “deconstructionist-narrative” … wait … “cyberpunk!?”  Oh, I had to have it.  So I purchased it, read a few entries from it’s scrapbook like collection of articles, clippings, email texts, etc., and put it on my “to read” pile down in my office.  After Y2K, when I had to get a “real job” at a “real company,” the book pretty much stayed down in the unused home office, until I came across it while remodeling … now 20 years later.  I have since become a big fan of R.U. Sirius, having followed his writings and podcasts for years online, so now seemed a good time to finally sit down and actually read the book that I was so taken with in my youth.

I’m not sure “challenging” is the word to use … possibly “amusingly frustrating.” As mentioned, this is what the author’s term a “post-novel.”  Essentially, it is a scrapbook of emails, articles, clippings, and essays starting in the then present, and carrying forward to the early 2000’s (which were the future at the time). Thrown together, they tell sort of a detached story about a government that goes insane with censorship of the ever expanding “electronic frontier” of information that is being made available.  At the same time, their lack of understanding of technology gives rise to various movements, groups, cults, etc. who live sort of a half-real-world/half-virutal existence on message bords, chat rooms, tobacco bars (cigarettes are a controlled substance in this nightmare future), mental institutions (spolier?), and religious compunds.  Countering this narrative is a separate story made up of email exchanges between the authors and the publisher discussing the trials and tributions of writing and publishing the book you’re reading.  This seems absurd at first, they are actually discussing how contrived everything is, how you can slap “cyberpunk” on anything and people will buy it, and how they really don’t have a story or a climax worked out, but since they’ve already spent their advances, they have to come up with something.  About halfway through the book, this “author commentary” starts to take on a dramatic plot of it’s own, with elements of this realitiy becoming influences for the fictional reality of the “scrapbook” storyline, and that’s when things get a little confusing.

As both storylines became increasingly ludicrous and build towards the “meta-climax,” you tend to lose track of what happened to which manifestation of the author/characters 200 pages earlier, and everything sort of just blends together into surrealism out of lazy exhaustion– or possibly this was the intent. By the time you get to the two page climax of the “scrapbook” which I wouldn’t exactly call a deus ex machina so much as a  deus ex parachute to get out of the crashing plane, you realize that this is the only possible ending the book could have had.  Either way, it doesn’t matter, because you read this as a historical/cultural reference of the early (scary) Internet era; not because you’re looking for a gripping story. In all, if you don’t stop to study it too much, you can enjoy some really neat ideas, a few good chuckles, and get a nice little light-to-moderate workout for your thought organ.

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Je Suce

My first year as patriarch of the Lacout bloodline, and I totally spaced that it was Beaujolais day until 8PM.  I promise to get it right next year, ancestors.

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Confession Time

Okay, I bitch a lot about how we only got 13 episodes of Firefly.  That’s what geeks are supposed to do.  The real crime, though?  Only 26 episodes of Shimmy.

I was a faithful watcher back when it was on Discovery Health or whatever.  Back before there was “Wobble Baby,” this ensemble cast of international talent unseen since the original Star Trek, showed us that, yes, even you can belly dance.  It may look a little different, and you’re not standing on top of an oil rig in the desert …or among some sort of biodome in the arctic …or in a dayglow dungeon full of steam pipes, but nonetheless you can belly dance.

In an age when I can view and download just about any sex act imaginable on various web sites, I still find myself entranced and glued to this show for 30 minutes straight.  Maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s Adalat’s approachable smile or Karen’s mastery of the “Snake Arm,” but I just can’t stop enjoying the hypnotic music and low-intensity, calorie-burning workout.  There needs to be a next generation for this.

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You’re Busted, IBM!

So, yesterday I got a contacted by the Corporate Communications Manager from IBM/Tivoli here in town, June Bennett.
june

 

Or did I?  I seemed a bit odd to me, so after a bit of research, I quickly discovered that I had in fact met actress Anna Fiorentini.  Thanks for choosing her actual head shot for your profile picture.
anna

 

Now, I would expect this kind of behavior (too-good-to-be-true profiles with unrealistically hot profile pictures) from a potential date on Match.com, but I’m not sure what the motivation for IBM is.  Is this some recruiting tactic for lonely, gullible tech geeks?  Is that the demographic they want?  Do people not notice right away that the gal who is trying to recruit them is never actually in the office?!  Am I seriously going fall for this ploy and take a position based on how hot the Communications Manager is.  (Okay, I mean, AGAIN?)  Did I disqualify myself by figuring out the ploy?

Alternatively, I suppose it might not be IBM at all, but instead a social engineering setup to pump me for personal information for some other nefarious purpose.  If that’s the case, though, what do they expect to get get that isn’t on my posted resume, blog, twitter feed, etc?  Believe me, my mother’s maiden name, street I grew up on, or the first pet that I owned PROBABLY will not come up in a recruiting conversation, not that I use the real answers as bank account safeguard key anyway.  (Safety tip there: don’t use any personal questions based on items that can be found in public records to safeguard important accounts.)

Basically, this is bugging the crap out of me.  I no longer trust any company or any person.  In fact, I’m getting ready to go into Jack Bauer mode here…
bauer

Watch yer butts, guys.  There’s some shifty stuff goin’ on out there.

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AI, Digital Doppelgangers, and the Weird Road to Get There

A few weeks ago, I posted about the infamous neurolinguistic AI that was trained exclusively on Donald Trump speeches.  It currently spends most of its day randomly tweeting angry, boastful, nonsensical rants on Twitter. (I don’t have to finish that joke, do I?)  Next up comes reports that the UK, who never really got over the cancellation of Friends it turns out, has proposed their own unholy creation:  an AI-powered virtual personality based on Joey Tribbiani.

Now, the more fascinating aspect of this is that the team involved is currently working towards developing software that will scan old television shows, record facial expressions and linguistic quirks, and eventually be able to provide realistic simulations of characters in the show — ensuring that Gilligan’s Island will eventually get the movie reboot that it so desperately deserves only with simulations of the original cast so that we won’t have to argue over whether Adam Sandler or Bob Denver made the better Gilligan.  The choice of Joey seemed really odd at first, but makes sense when you get down to it.  You can’t use the women.  Trust me.  I once worked on the Iris program (the Android version of Siri), monitoring EVERY request people made of that very limited AI (which didn’t even have a visual representation beyond a blue dot).  Yeah, you don’t need to mix lonely geeks with a simulated female.  That leaves you with just the annoying, intellectual one (Ross), the borderline-depressive, sarcastic one (Chandler), and the lovable, funny one (Joey) — which, mercifully, they picked.  Now, I’m sure they were thinking he had the most distinctive personality quirks and speech mannerisms, and was the most identifiable of the three characters, so he made for a much more exciting simulation, but really, there are real people who have had just as many screen hours of great speeches, lectures, seminars, and interviews. Is a “made up” character the best basis of reference for a simulated personality?

Obviously, yes.  From a simulation standpoint, a television character has a much smaller set of rules governing their behavior.  Some are written in a “show bible,” some are intangible traits brought by the actor, but considering the sum of the characters existence is a finite set of scenes and lines of dialogue, it is a much easier data set to capture.  Additionally, unlike a real-life example, say William F. Buckley, who also has a very distinct personality, even more screen time and lines of dialogue, and arguably a much larger set of ideas and thoughts that go beyond a love of sandwiches and girls, the large majority of this data source is limited to sitting in a chair and discussing political theory in an even emotional tone.  You could make an AI out of this, but it would be an incredibly boring one.

In addition to the quantity of behavioral examples, the idea of using a fictional character makes much more sense when you look at the simplicity of examples you receive.  We generally get a wide range of emotions, moods, and circumstances presented in a very “over the top” fashion and without the ambiguities and complexities of an actual person.  While real people can simultaneously process and project/conceal multiple feelings at once, if a TV character is experiencing two conflicting emotions, acting happy while secretly being sad for example, this is by necessity conveyed to the audience in an obvious fashion that is simultaneously unnoticed by the other characters.  This is true from something as light and simple as Joey Tribbiani, to an Oscar nominated performance like Pachino’s Michael Corleone. (Seriously did NOBODY in his family realize how fearful and unsure of himself the Godfather was as he projected assurance and quiet confidence?!)

We’re still a couple years away from “Tribbian-AI,” to be sure, and we’re probably a decade or so out from actually bringing back Frank Zappa as a software based composer of music and espouser of sardonic wisdom.  Beyond that, I look forward to the day when a simulated personality matrix is as common as a DNA sequence, and we can even mix and match which ones we want to power our devices.  Personally, I’m saving my money for a Kate Beckinsale simulation with Lewis Black’s sarcastic sense of humor, Jack Kerouac’s command of the English language, and Svetlana Kolmykova’s accent.

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The Appeal of Second-Rate Minds

Did the isidewith.com survey tonight. Okay, I’m actually pleased Zoltan is at the top of the list since I’ve actually thought about voting for him, and I have actually READ his book, as opposed to the rest of the candidates. (Yeah, mostly because I didn’t really care enough to subject myself to them.) Stien and De La Fuente though!? I mean, I consider myself a pretty pragmatic, middle-of-the-road guy. Green Party and Reform Party agendas just do not compute with me.

I imagine the discrepancy comes from the way the questions are phrased.  The majority of them begin with “Do you want …” or “Do you think …”  Now, as a computer guy, I take these questions pretty literally.  So, hey, I WANT the government to put more money into space research, and I WANT the government to guarantee free college education for all Americans, and I THINK we should give Syrian refugees asylum in the US.  Do I think it’s a good idea to be spending that kind of money?  Well, you’d have to show me the budget.  Maybe stop making a few bombers or something.  You’re not exactly giving me the whole picture here.

Still, this confirms my feelings and shows just how far the major political parties have left me behind if we can’t come to even a 50% agreement on issues. I don’t expect 100% agreement with anybody, but can we at least go with “most of the time you’re doing what I want?”

 

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New Playlist Sunday #20

4th wave.jpgApparently, the embed code isn’t working, so I’ll just provide the links.  This week’s playlist is inspired by an article in Music Aficionado discussing the “Ten Best Modern Prog Bands.”  Not sure all of this would be considered progressive, but I’m still exploring everything.  Either way, on the whole, I really enjoyed the music they were recommending.  Oddly enough, the day after I made this playlist, a local musician messaged me asking if I had been turned on to Syd Arthur yet, and I could totally impress him with my knowledge of what Kate Bush’s nephew was up to these days.

So this playlist consists of those bands who exhibit a progressive aesthetic to their music, but are firmly in the post-metal spectrum that dominated the likes of Dream Theater, Spocks Beard, Liquid Tension Experiment, et al.  We’ll be optimistic and call this the start of the “Fourth Wave.”

Fourth Wave Prog on Spotify

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