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Ron Obvious

Profile Information

Name: Ron
Gender: Male
Home country: Middle Earth
Current location: Seattle
Member since: Tue Dec 13, 2011, 10:37 PM
Number of posts: 6,065

About Me

I got the nickname Ron Obvious because -- in addition to being a huge Python fan -- my name really is Ron and I used to start sentences with \"Obviously\" a lot. Obviously, that\'s no longer a problem.

Journal Archives

Grandpa was always proud to show his large erections to anyone.

Like this one, for example:

That's the water tower in the town of Eibergen in the Netherlands, right on the border with Germany. During the early 1930's, my grandfather was an itinerant bricklayer who left his family and travelled the continent on his motorcycle looking for work. This water tower was one of his jobs, and I just passed it today. It seems to be in excellent condition, which is more than you can say for my grandfather who's been dead for decades.

It was nice to see and touch a link with the past like that.

So the doc prescribed these fancy 'suppository' pills...

So the doc gave me these fancy 'suppository pills' for my complaint. I don't know what 'suppository' means, but they tasted terrible and for all the good they did me I might as well have shoved them up my arse.

Modern medicine, pfffft!

Memories of Napster...

While backing up some files from an old hard drive recently, I came across some mp3 files I had downloaded off Napster back in the day. Since they were all timestamped, it was amusing to look at them in chronological order.

I embarked on my life of crime by downloading music I already owned on 45's or LP's, and which I couldn't find on CD anywhere. I justified these act of profound villainy to my then unhardened conscience by reminding it that I had already paid for the rights to listen to that music, and weren't the record companies telling us it was all about rights and not physical property?

I still recall the thrill of finding these, often poorly transcoded, songs through my 56Kb dial-up connection to the internet. It's almost as much fun to see these filenames and timestamps now as finding them itself was back then. It's like looking at diary entries.

On August 6, 2000, I must have risen early because at 6:20 AM, I downloaded the Sparks' "This Town Aint Big Enough for the Both of US":

Later that day, I picked up "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Chicken Shack.

And then Slade's "Look wot you dun":

At the end of the day (10:37 PM), by now thoroughly steeped in sin and bound for perdition, I finally picked up Queen's "Killer Queen", which I easily could have bought legitimately, but I told myself that I already owned it on a scratchy LP after all, so why did I have to? Ah, the road to Hell and all that:

All music from the early seventies, which must have been where my head was that day in August, 2000. Those were good times -- both of them.

Why computers and AI will probably never be able to fully understand human communications

I have a friend who is a bit of a Yoga Berra in that he says things in an odd way sometimes, but you usually know exactly what he means.

Yesterday he told me: "I'm really upset with my girlfriend because she deceived me. Last week she told me she'd cheated on me. <pause> Now I find out that that wasn't true".

OK, you know what he means, right? But how would a computer parse that sentence? What's he upset about exactly? Understanding human communications requires up-to-date cultural knowledge, and not just an understanding of grammar and vocabulary because it's so ambiguous.

Compare these two sentences:

Yesterday I saw a movie with my neighbour Fred.
Yesterday I saw a movie with Bruce Willis.

Grammatically, these sentences are the same but they probably mean different things, right? Now, it is just possible that Bruce Willis is a pal of mine I go to the pictures with, and it is also just possible that my neighbour Fred is a movie star. If I were a celeb myself, you might consider either of those statements as likely, but as I'm Joe Ordinary, they're highly unlikely.

Think of how much a computer or robot would have to know to parse those two ordinary sentences correctly. Now what if I'd said:

Yesterday I saw a movie with Marilyn Monroe. This time there's only one way to parse that sentence because Marilyn Monroe is dead. But what if the statement had been made in 1960? Or in 1944 before she was famous? Each such factor that influences the interpretation of the sentence is easy for humans to interpret, but very difficult for computers who don't even know what questions to ask.

For some reason this was something I was thinking about while I lay awake last night.

Free Speech...

I'm posting this here because I'm really not in the mood for a lengthy argument in GD, but man, I'm getting mightily depressed by the number of people (including here on DU) who don't seem to understand what free speech is or why it's important to defend unpopulair speech in particular. I'm referring, of course, to the anti-Islam movie and the fallout in Libya and Egypt.

And then I read this, in a US embassy press release:

"We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others" (Source: http://egypt.usembassy.gov/pr091112.html)

Christ on a bike, have we learned nothing in all these years since the bill of rights was written?

I wish this Christopher Hitchens video were mandatory viewing in civics class in this country. Fat chance, I know.

My Favourite Newspaper Correction of all time.

"In one edition of today's Food Section, an inaccurate number of jalapeño peppers was given for Jeanette Crowley's Southwestern Chicken Salad recipe. The recipe should call for two, not 21, jalapeño peppers."

As quoted in Richard Lederer's 'More Anguished English', one of the funniest books of all time. I once gave the books to a friend dying in hospice care. He laughed so hard, he tore the stitches from his most recent operation.


I worry about the same thing. In the end, this model of artificial scarcity (DRM) to protect current revenue streams couldn't possibly be sustainable, even with draconian enforcement.

Richard Stallman (yes, I know he can be a bit over the top) wrote this in 1997. You can't deny the man had some foresight.

For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college—when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.

This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her—but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong—something that only pirates would do.

And there wasn't much chance that the SPA—the Software Protection Authority—would fail to catch him. In his software class, Dan had learned that each book had a copyright monitor that reported when and where it was read, and by whom, to Central Licensing. (They used this information to catch reading pirates, but also to sell personal interest profiles to retailers.) The next time his computer was networked, Central Licensing would find out. He, as computer owner, would receive the harshest punishment—for not taking pains to prevent the crime.


What we used to think of as Hard Rock...

Submitted for your approval, some young lads from Wolverhampton who called themselves 'Slade'.

This used to be thought of as hard rock, causing our mothers to clutch their pearls, and our fathers to predict the apocalypse, shaking their fists at our degeneracy. By today's standards, it's practically easy listening, isn't it? Don't you just want to pat these lovely blokes on their head for their sweet and good-natured music?

So Weird: I had a dream within a dream last night

I thought this sort of thing only happened on TV or in the movies.

I was experiencing a terrifying, intense nightmare. I won't satisfy the now salivating Freudians by describing it, but Steven King could have written the script.

Then I woke up, startled, and relieved to find it was just a dream. I looked at the alarm clock. It was 2:30. I sighed and said to my wife: "I was having a nightmare". "I know", she replied, "I heard you screaming." There was a strange woman wearing a bathrobe in the corner of the room, but that fact didn't strike me as odd at the time. Suddenly, I smelled cigarette smoke. "There's someone in this room", I said, and then the same horrors from my nightmare starting happening for real.

Then I woke up, startled, and relieved to find it was just a dream. I looked at the alarm clock. It was 3:40. I sighed and said to my wife: "I was having a nightmare". "I know", she replied, "I heard you screaming."

As far as I know I'm operating in the outer layer of reality still.

I can't begin to describe how absolutely weird that was. All the details of our bedroom and furniture were absolutely correct in the middle dream.

Anyone ever experience anything similar?

Here's the companion picture...

Firefighter saves cat. Compare and contrast:

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