Wednesday 17 June 2015

Working in Ottawa for two days --Rise of the insolent machines

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today.

It's bad enough when we have unmannered kids, discourteous job candidates, rude drivers, now we can have condescending robots!

I read this morning in Wired Magazine that Google, the source of all things good and pure on the Internet, had received a patent for robots with personalities.

Get serious.

If there was ever a case of 'prior art' this must be it.

Even as a young viewer of Lost In Space, it was clear to me that that robot, a class M-3 model B9, had way more personality than its identical cousin Robby the Robot in the movie Forbidden Planet with his waving arms and mechanical yet foreboding, "Danger Will Robinson!".

Let's not forget that pr*ck Ash in the first Alien franchise movie, you know -before the franchise did away with the laws of physics and before Lt. Gorman named the aliens Xenomorphs in Aliens.  Ash, a Hyperdyne Systems 120-A/2, considered humans expendable as it pursued the agenda of the parent corporation.  At least Bishop brought some redemption for the robot class in Alien 3.

I also recall in 1991 or so when I developed and programmed a two stage dialing service based on calling party delivery on p-phone lines providing reverse calling (I may have invented the concept), it supported the languages English, French and Sean Connery with a bit of Scottish attitude.  Although in production only the first two were available.

But the real gem of the robot / AI personality is the automated IVR and reservation system of a certain online hotel booking site.   This weekend I remembered that I must book a hotel for tonight in Ottawa and first my preferred login with a well known chain would not work because my account needed to be updated.  I could not think of a better place to do it than the site were I created the account, but no.  I need to call in. Blah.

A quick check of favorite hotels revealed that there were no hotel rooms in the city except for the youth hostel.   Nah.  Keep searching.  And this is when I resorted to using that certain hotel website.

It revealed one hotel other than the hostel and a Motel 6 in a different city, a hotel just across the river in Hull.  So book it now I did.    Maybe.  The status had flashed up, contacting hotel, checking availability, checking payment, registering reservation, constructing email.........

After several minutes it timed out with a less than confidence building message that the website was unsure what happened, it lost connection to its servers, but for me to wait 15 minutes to see if the confirmation email might arrive.

I figure, no, I'll call in.  The automated IVR system there explained..

"Hang on while I try to find booking associated with the phone number you are calling from.

Hmm.. I could not find a reservation associated with that number, do you have another number that it might be under, enter it now or the reservation number."

Now I know a thing or two about telecom networks, and I knew that I was out of the city at a friend's cottage, dialing an 800 number using a cellphone while roaming.  There is an excellent chance that the IVR did not get my true calling partyid, but might have got a ID from a DAL or other facility.  So.. I typed in my cell phone number and hit.. #.

"Hmm.. you seem to have entered the same number that you are calling from and we were already unable to find any bookings with it.  If there is some other number associated..."

Attitude!  The "hmm" made it worse as if the machine was trying to evaluate exactly how to call this user a knucklehead or express pity at the poor malfunctioning, ill-equipped human.

Robots with personalities indeed, I've already had enough of them.

Have a great day, don't take any crap from the machines.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Working in Montréal today --Throw-down junk food

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Montréal today.

You may have heard the phrase "hard-core pornography is hard to define but I know it when I see it."  That was written by Potter Stewart -Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1964 case of Jacobellis v. Ohio, and that the movie at the center of the case, The Lovers, wasn't hard-core porn.

How about an illness that is hard to define, or a mental illness?

Do you seek out foods that are not genetically modified?
How about those that are free from pesticides?
Or herbicides?
Low on sugar, salt?
How about controlling your gluten intake for those of you with gluten intolerance?
Do you skip out on lunch with friends at KFC because you can't bear to costume the oil laden buzzard parts?

Friends, you may be suffering from Orthorexia Nervosa.  It sounds way better if you cup your palms to you mouth and say it in kind of a deep echo voice.  I prefer to say it using the voice of the late, great Phil Hartman, "Hi kids, you might remember me from such high school Heath Class films as I suffered from Orthorexia Nervosa, but then I had some french fries."

Um.. Uncle Daniel, you seem to be stretching this out a bit, thin on material this morning?

Yeah, a little bit, but just sat down on the plane, so we'll see if I can fill it in naturally. But really, I have found that if I can squeeze "hard-core pornography" into the first sentence or two, readership goes sky high for The Pulp, especially among my Eritrean readers, much like just mentioning Vodka and Potatoes causes my Eastern European readers to go crazy, Just sayin'.

See, now that is funny, many of you are trying to figure out if I was stereotyping or insulting anyone. You are pretty sure that I was, you're just having a hard time getting a handle on it. We'll check back later with the comments and see.

Bit now let's get back to the writing and less writing about the writing.

It was about Orthorexia Nervosa remember?  Please try to stay focused on the subject matter.

I read in the Guardian that the disease was characterized as and that Orthorexics commonly have rigid rules around eating.  Refusing to touch sugar, salt, caffeine in their diet and refuse foods that have come into contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives.

Ursula Philpot, chairperson of the British Dietetic Association mental health division, was quoted "I am definitely seeing significantly more orthorexics than just a few years ago. Other eating disorders focus on quantity of food but orthorexics can be overweight or look normal. They are solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly pure.".

Here's one of the best, it seems that those most susceptible are middle-class, well-educated people that perform their own research into food and food quality.  I am not sh*tting you, that is the characterization of the vulnerable.

So what should one do?

Well, to avoid getting diagnosed and having the straight jacket fitted and bag pulled over your head like Randal McMurphy and getting shipped off to be watched by nurse Mildred Rached, I suggest that you keep some "throw down" junk food.

Keep a bag of Cheetos! in the glovebox of your car, some high sugar, high caffeine - heart attack in a can beverage on your desk at work, and some Pogos in your freezer at home.  Then when the state metal health folks pull your car over or visit you at work, Bam! you throw down and avoid all suspicion.

No need to thank me for the advice, I am here for you.

Have a great day, be healthy -but don't get caught.

Thursday 4 June 2015

Working in Ottawa today --Transformation of the Hulk

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today.

Okay, this whole Caitlyn Jenner thing caught me by a bit of surprise initially.  Not because I have deep seated transphobia (I just learned that word a few days ago), but because somehow in my mind I confused Bruce Jenner and Bruce Banner.

Bruce Banner of course was the mild mannered, socially withdrawn physicist whose alter ego was The Incredible Hulk.  When I first learned that The Hulk was living with the Kardashians it caused me even more confusion.  Only because I cannot for the life of me figure out why they are on TV, let alone why there are any viewers.

But back to Caitlyn.  She was Bruce, now she is Caitlyn.  That's pretty much it, and if she was the guy that used to work at the deli counter and now she's the gal that works at the deli counter it would not be news.

But it is.   But not because of any transgenderphobia, but because Caitlyn chooses it to be.  She is on the cover of Vanity Fair, holds press conferences and interviews.   Good for her, she is proud of her decision and her transformation, and she wants to yell it from the podium.

Wait a sec.. wasn't David Banner the name of the Hulk? Maybe it was both, the comic was Bruce and the TV show from late 70's was David?  Must have been some licensing issue.  Maybe The Hulk formally known as Bruce?

Back to Caitlyn.  I don't think that I have read any negativity about her decision, no ravings, no hate speech, no vulgarities. I'm not saying there isn't any, I just have not heard it or read it.

So when I did read in the Huffington Post while getting a shoe shine at Pearson this AM that St. Catharines MP (C) Rick Dykstra was in hot water over a retweet, I read on.   Dykstra retweeted a tweet that included a photo of Noah Galloway, an Iraq vet who lost two limbs, but went on to run marathons and partake in CrossFit competitions.  And a comment that Galloway was passed over for the ESPN Arthur Ashe Courage Award in favour of this year's recipient, Caitlyn.

The award is handed out by ESPN in recognition of athletes who show strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.

The OP's text in the tweet and the retweet was "what a joke".

What ensued was a flood of tweets in response demanding the transphobic tweet be deleted and Blah blah blah.  Folks, I don't think the tweet was transphobic at all.  I think the OP and the retweeting MP were not impressed with the decision to name Caitlyn as the recipient, not that Caitlyn was no longer a dude and no longer the big green guy with attitude.

Many people are in the same situation that Bruce was in and many take the steps to realign their physical bodies with the self identity that they have and emerge as Caitlyn.  Many are not athletes, some just work the deli counter.  Not a lot of guys get a leg and an arm blown off by a roadside bomb and still run races.

Mr. Galloway, sir, you have my respect and I suspect that not receiving the Arthur Ashe affects you not one iota.

Ms. Banner, ma'am, I also think that you should not have been awarded the Arthur Ashe, and I am not transphobic.

In the end, it does not matter what I think, what some MP thinks, or what ESPN thinks, all that really matters for Caitlyn is what she thinks and hopefully she has the support of her family.  Even if that is the Kardashians.

Have a great day.