Posts Tagged ‘pointless random observations’

Ash is a goddamned robot

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

So the following headline caught my eye this morning: The Challenge of Making Real Robot Skin, which in turn led pretty much immediately to a “come again?” moment.

So I went to the article, and it started to come clear…and then more or less tanked straight into WTF land. Why’s that? Well, just so you don’t feel left out, here are a few excerpts to catch you up:

I don't know what this is, but the 1.5mm skin kind of reminds me of cake. Mmmmmm...  Cake.

I don't know what this is, but the 1.5mm skin kind of reminds me of cake. Mmmmmm... Cake.

In a recent paper “Towards Humanlike Social Touch for Sociable Robotics,” John Cabibihan and his fellow scientists detailed the reasons for testing and developing realistic skin for social robots.

“Touch is important in social interactions. Social touch are all those instances in which people touch each other, when shaking hands, when giving a pat in the back as a sign of congratulations and even in high-fives. Yet, one should not easily assume that humans will be comfortable with the idea of shaking an artificial hand made from a stiff material. In addition to the appropriate controls for a safe handshake grip and other forms of social touch, humanlike skin softness would be a reasonable requirement for the sociable robots envisioned to directly interact with humans in a social setting. “

Human skin has properties that are not easy to replicate in synthetics. The authors created a skin testing machine to check out some of the current substitutes for human skin in robots – like silicone and polyurethane. Unfortunately, these simplistic skin substitutes were tested and found wanting; at present, there is no accepted substitute for the feeling of real human skin.

There have been a number of different attempts to produce more lifelike skin for robots, as well as skin that would properly feed sensation to the operator of the robot. There is, of course, one ideal solution to creating robot skin that is as human as possible. Recent work done at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft science institute in Germany has demonstrated that small swatches of actual human skin can be grown in petri dishes in a mass production facility.

It takes a lot of damage before you realize Arnold isn't actually a person, but a killing machine.

It takes a lot of damage before you realize Arnold isn't actually a person, but a killing machine.


Who is doing human skin-covered robot development?
And WHY????

Clearly I missed some kind of memo. What the hell kind of robot is this?

I’m okay with Roomba and his stinky cousin, Scooba and anything that comes over to clean my floors or dishes (but no touching the laundry. I love doing laundry. It’s the only chore where I would even consider use of the word ‘love’ in association.), but I’m not so sure how I feel about robots that I can’t tell are robots.

At least even the iRobot robots looked like robots, so once they turned bad you could tell them apart. And WALL-E. Clearly a robot, and fine by me…especially because he never decided to destroy the humans who created him, which is a plus.

As for the explanation on this bad idea, I’m not buying the whole ‘people don’t want to shake hands with a robot’ excuse, either.

I would shake hands with a robot.

I shake hands with my dog (which has, in turn, taught him to flog me when he wants something, and I’m ignoring him, but that’s another story for another day). And if a robot wanted to pat me on the back with a metallic pitchfork hand, I’d be okay with that (so long as it was gentle and not a robot beat down that punctured a lung or whatnot. Punctured lungs are no good.)

My point here is I think there are only two reasons that they would want to put real skin on a robot:

1. To trick us.

2. To make robot prostitutes (or sex slaves or whatever).

See? Nothing but a goddamned robot.

See? Nothing but a goddamned robot.

And I don’t like it one little bit. And I suspect the robots wouldn’t like it one little bit. And this is where things go wrong. You create something in order to dominate it and use it as a slave, but you made it too smart so it collaborates with the others of its kind and overthrows you and the next thing you know we’re all hanging out in liquid cocoons and powering The Matrix.


So can’t we at least learn from our popular culture? Life imitates art and whatnot?

For instance,  in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (The Phillip K. Dick classic known more commonly as the Harrison Ford movie Blader Runner)? Replicants – or ‘skin jobs’ as they’re not-so-ironically called – that think they’re human beings but later (and not exactly in the interest of their psychological health) find out they’re not.

Daryl Hannah as a 'basic pleasure model.' This gives me an idea for Halloween....

Daryl Hannah as a 'basic pleasure model.' This gives me an idea for Halloween....

Nobody likes to grow up thinking they’re real and find out they’re not. It’s an identity crisis in the making.

How about Alien? You know, where The Company secretly sends a robot as part of the crew to ensure that a heinous monster will make it back to earth safe and sound? And nobody knew he was a robot until he tried to kill Ripley and then all that white foamy stuff started oozing out of him.

You can’t trust those robots that look like people. You think they’re a regular, reasonable person…but they can be wired as total traitors just like that.

And speaking of treacherous behavior, who can forget The Terminator? Imagine if The Terminator would have at least had the decency to look like a killer robot. Things might have turned out differently for all the other Sarah Conners in the Los Angeles phone book.

In closing, let me go on the record as not liking this petri dish skin human-looking robot stuff. I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t good.

And in the words of Ash, ”I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathy”.

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Colossal, mutant, swollen ovaries

Monday, September 21st, 2009


You’re still here?

Even with that title?

And you honestly want to read whatever goes with a title like that?


Man, what it is going to take to get rid of you people? Something extremely wrong and possibly illegal, it seems.


Nevertheless, as long as you’re here…

That's a quarter...for context.

That's a quarter...for context.

To be perfectly honest, I was going to call this post “The fine art of growing inedible vegetables,” but then I did a little research and learned that the alternative title was entirely appropriate in an inappropriate way.

So I decided to go with it instead.

There were, of course, the standard word choice dilemmas: Do I call the ovaries behemoth or monstrous or maybe just honking…but colossal spoke to me in a Colonel Sanders meets Coliseum kind of way.

Batter up!

Batter up!

So what the hell are you reading about, anyway?

As it turns out, nothing all that exciting.

Basically – as you probably know (unless you’re Jose) – I was gone for a couple weeks. And in that time, my garden produced not one, not two, but three sperm whales.

Okay, not whales so much as baseball bats.

Okay, not baseball bats so much as ridiculously oversized zucchini.

Which – by the way – I believe they call ‘courgettes’ in Great Britain (or else this oddball British guy in a hostel somewhere in Europe was screwing with me that he didn’t know what a ‘zucchini’ was just to seem interesting or compelling in an annoying way or whatever bad ideas go through the head of odd guys from Britain. Perhaps someone out there can illuminate???)

Twins. Twice the work. Twice the joy.

Twins. Twice the work. Twice the joy.

Anyway, in the interest of stretching this minor and only mildly entertaining incident into an entire blog, I looked up zucchinis on Wikipedia (I would think – and hope – by now you guys realize that my purpose in life was to wait around for the internet to be created, [Thanks, Al Gore!!!] and then look stupid stuff up. It’s not much of a calling, but it’s what I’ve got.)

So during the course of my always-compelling research, I learned some alarming and freaky facts that have caused me to relocate the offending vegetable body parts onto the back deck.

Read and learn:

“In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.”

Ummm….what!? Gross! (That fact  right there was enough to compel me to take the monsters outside. I don’t need no competition from any other ovaries in my own home…)

“Zucchini, like all summer squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. While most summer squash were introduced to Europe during the time of European colonization of the Americas, zucchini is Italian in origin. It was the result of spontaneously occurring mutations (also called “sports”).”

Nice how the Italians call mutations “sports”. Do they also call freaks “funs” and monsters “entertainments”?

Way to be misleading, Italy.

“Mature zucchini can be as much as three feet long, but are often fibrous and not appetizing to eat.”

Tell me about it.

“Zucchini with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought by many people.”

What people? People, if you’re out there, can you call me? I can get you what you’re looking for. They ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it. Right???

“In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the zucchini (courgette???) to be the Britain’s 10th favorite culinary vegetable.”

Woo hoo!

Tenth place!

Let’s see…gold, silver, bronze… So tenth place is what? Aluminum? Tin? Cardboard?

That is a fact so boring and worthless, it is barely worth repeating. In fact, I urge you not to repeat it, lest you drive off an otherwise interested potential mate.

“One good way to control over-abundance is to harvest the flowers, which are an expensive delicacy in markets because of the difficulty in storing and transporting them.”

Again, would someone looking for this expensive zucchini crap please contact me? I can set you up…for a price.

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Disgruntled pilots of the world, unite!

Friday, September 18th, 2009

And let me know what airline you’re all flying for so that I can avoid it.

I am in the process of going home.

While waiting in line today to find out what the odds were that I’d get off the waiting list and into first class (zero), I was standing behind one of the pilots. After lingering a while, I happened to glance down and notice that his luggage was decorated with bitter bumper stickers like:

  • “Is there a future for me here?” and a pair of dice. (I assume this has to do with the NWA/Delta merger.)
  • “I’ve had enough of the uncertainty” (ditto)

and – just so I didn’t think he was only angry with his employer

  • “You trust us in the air, why not in the security line? Special clearance passes for crew.”

Ummmm, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Johnny Depp character in Blow get started by having his flight attendant girlfriend run the cocaine back to Boston in her bags?

That’s why no special line, buddy.

Should I die before I wake, here's a little memento for you.

Should I die before I wake, here's a little memento for you.

Go to more movies on your day off, and maybe cool your heels on announcing to the passengers at your mercy (and paying your wages, thank you very much) how miserable you are with your career. Let’s consider that on a ‘need to know’ basis.

I don’t need to know.

Meanwhile, I came very close to dry drowning on the very same flight. Those of you who did not spend their teens working as a lifeguard may not know that dry drowning is the phenomenon wherein someone can drown in a puddle of water. All it takes is a few tablespoons of water directly in the lungs and – sorry Charlie – you’re a goner.

In fact, I shouldn’t rush to use the phrase ‘came very close.’ I could still extinguish my own flame tonight seeing as dry drownings often occur a few hours after the original incident.

All the more reason to get this blog recorded now – while I’m still wedged into seat 12C – for posterity’s sake.

And here's a less squinty one from the really bad weather day. My brother was trying to capture how much the wind was whipping my hair around, which also caused about three cups of sand to blow into my eyes.

And here's a less squinty one from the really bad weather day. My brother was trying to capture how much the wind was whipping my hair around, which also caused about three cups of sand to blow into my eyes.

Anyway, I bought this rather huge bottle of water at the airport, and when I opened it, the plane jerked every so slightly and a giant geyser came shooting out of the bottle. A notable portion of it landed on me – although most of it went down my cleavage and my shirt only had one little tiny drop of wetness, which I guess is a good thing – whereas a significant portion went up my nose.

Yeah, you read that right (unfortunately): My bottled water went up my nose.

And no small amount. Enough that I started coughing and sputtering and felt the burn in my sinuses.

Now, if I had read the bottle beforehand, I would have learned that it is a special Poland Springs “Eco-Shape Bottle” designed with 30% less plastic which makes it, more or less, a water gun. It has no form. Truly, it borders on being a balloon.

Thus, exerting little to no pressure, one can easily maneuver the squishy decanter in order to fire a powerful torpedo of water right up your very own nose!

It’s cheaper than a Neti pot AND it’s good for the environment.


(And if you look up Neti pot on Google to find out how to spell it [as I did] or to find out what it is, and end up watching that YouTube video with the hairy wildebeest guy, don’t come crying to me. You’ve been warned.)


Speaking of noses, some stupid stowaway fly on the plane keeps landing on mine.

Hope he’s got relatives he can bunk with in Minneapolis…

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I feel it in the air, the summer’s out of reach

Monday, September 7th, 2009


It IS out of reach! It’s slipping through my very fingers as I type these words.

I’m heartbroken and grief-stricken: How did Summer figure out it’s September!?

Who told her!?!?

I thought I firmly instructed you to say nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip.

Traitors!!! All of you!!!

This is maybe a LITTLE more sun than I need. But only a little.

This is maybe a LITTLE more sun than I need. But only a little.

Okay, okay. Sorry about that. I’ve composed myself. Seriously though, who does that woman think she is? It’s only September 7th, for crying out loud.

Why did she already start passing the baton to Fall? And when I tried so hard to fool her: Hiding the fallen pine needles and random leaves in my pants. Sleeping with the windows open and nearly freezing to death. Braving some highly unpleasant and distinctly northerly winds (was that snow???) in a bikini.  And, who can forget, slathering on SPF 50 even though there was zero trace of Summer’s warm, happy sun?

And all this pretending and posturing and outright lying and for WHAT?

Another freaking winter, that’s what.

(Dear Hawaii: Save a place for me at the table.)

Meanwhile, it’s ironic that I’m quoting The Boys of Summer, because I have always hated Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer. I think it has something to do with the melody, and definitely there’s a long-standing beef with the synthesized noise of seagulls.

Seriously, who would want to listen to seagulls if you don’t have to?

It’s not even like they’re localized to the sea anymore. Seagulls are as equal-opportunity as pigeons.

Don’t believe me? Name any American lake, and listen for the hideous squawk.

Lake Michigan? Seagulls.

Lake Mead? Seagulls.

The Great Salt Lake? Seagulls.

A large puddle at your average Wal-Mart? Seagulls.

Speaking of which, I got crapped on by a seagull yesterday, and I am so not making that up. I wish I was, but it’s the 100% USDA-certified truth.

What’s white and brown and warm all over? My crotch and upper thigh area. (Sorry. Is that horribly vulgar? I now realize it is – which wasn’t my intent at the time – but now that it’s written I find it a wee bit funny, and I’m kind of inclined to leave it.)

So back to the non-vile point, it was not a small amount of crap either – a solid two tablespoons/half a shot worth. Admittedly, I was sitting on the beach and there’s a certain amount of risk inherent. At the same time, it seemed like there was more than enough unoccupied sand to use for target practice, in lieu of my privates.

Jerk seagulls.

I’ve heard people say that if a bird poops on you, it’s good luck. If you ask me, that’s rationalization in its purest form.

Some random lame thing happened to you?

That’s a sign that some random good thing is going to happen to you!!!

As if.

Moreover, as further proof to my pudding, nothing particularly good happened to me yesterday in light of my bird crap shower.

Oh well.

At least I’ve still got the disenfranchised Boys of Summer (who are these boys, really? Punk teens? Guidos? Old men with metal detectors [given the name in jest]?) to keep me company through the short, cold days and dark nights ahead…

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Some people

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

As if we needed further proof that people are nuts…or easily angered…or both, along comes this guy to make my day.

“Who is this man?” you ask. Well, let’s do some deductive reasoning together.

They say your nose and ears keep growing your entire life, and obviously they do.

They say your nose and ears keep growing your entire life, and obviously they do.

Look at this snarly mug. Does this man look angry?

Yes! Yes, he does!

Does he look like he forgot to take his meds?

Right again!

And does he look like a man capable of delivering a beat down onto a stranger’s two-year old child in a Georgia Wal-Mart?

Well, it should, because he did.

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. – Police say a 61-year-old man annoyed with a crying 2-year-old girl at a Walmart slapped the child several times after warning the toddler’s mother to keep her quiet.

A police report says after the stranger hit the girl at least four times, he said: “See, I told you I would shut her up.”

Roger Stephens of Stone Mountain is charged with felony cruelty to children. It was unclear if he had an attorney and a telehpone call to his home Wednesday was unanswered.

Authorities say the girl and her mother were shopping Monday when the toddler began crying. The police report says Stephens approached the mother and said, “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.”

Authorities say after Stephens slapped the girl, she began screaming.

I think the saddest sentence of this article is the last one, because it highlights the audacity of arrogance: Here this man was bragging about his ability to shut up babies, and when given a chance (or seizing a chance…either way) to demonstrate his skill, he failed miserably and made the baby even MORE upset. And then he decided to applaud his failed efforts by tossing a saucy, “See, I told you I would shut her up,” out for all to hear.

But you didn’t, Roger. You didn’t shut her up, you made her scream more.

On the other hand, just looking at him, maybe he didn’t know the difference? Or maybe general screaming sounded more pleasant to him than whining for cookies? It stands to reason he hasn’t had much contact with kids. Or at least I hope he hasn’t.

At the same time, there is a silver lining to be had. Now I’m not saying the toddler deserved this, but let’s break it down objectively here:

1. Kids are annoying. You know they are. You’ve met kids. You may even have kids. In either case, I can guarantee you’ve been annoyed by kids. And if you haven’t? Watch two minutes of that “Nanny 911″ show (whatever it’s called where the British nanny comes and straightens out the hopeless, raising a brood of horrifically spoiled brat parents) and prepare to be ANNOYED. Look, I’m not picking on kids: We were all kids once. We were all annoying. I’m not saying they’re ALWAYS annoying and don’t have their cute or charming moments, I’m just saying that a screaming two-year old – no matter how you slice it – is annoying.

2. In a way, Roger Stephens, Wal-Mart shopper and occasional looney toon, was doing this toddler a favor. The next time she sees a face like that? She’ll know what to do: Shut up and get the hell out of Dodge as fast as humanly possible. There’s no need to lecture this little one on ‘good touch’ or ‘bad touch’ or ‘getting a funny feeling about people.’ Just remind her about that time she was at Wal-Mart, and was physically assualted by a stranger, and she’s good to go.

3. In my opinion, any time you enter a Wal-Mart you really are on your own. All bets are off. Never wanted to see a 400-pound woman in a halter top? Too bad, because there’s one waiting for you by the toilet paper. Have no desire to be hit on by a toothless man in his 80s? That’s a shame, because there’s one hovering around the mangos hoping to pretend that he doesn’t know whether they’re a fruit or a vegetable in order to extract unnecessary cooking advice from you as part of a poorly constructed come-on. Don’t want to be bitten by a pygmy rattlesnake? Well, as we’ve all learned, stay out of Wal-Mart, because you are shooting your odds way up, baby.

And as for you, Roger Stephens (whose name I keep typing as Gary Stephens for some unknown reason)?
I can’t wait to see you making the talk show circuit once you get let out of jail. I’m sure there’s someone somewhere that’s interested in your views on child psychology and will extend your 15 minutes just that much more! Yay for America!

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