Thursday, June 30, 2005

But They Make The Best Waffles Ever!

I heard back from Activision about the whole interview thing. The HR contact woman described how it would go down:

1. Meet Greet Chat
2. Lunch
3. Scripting Test.

And I said, Whaaa?

First of all, who goes to lunch as part of an interview?

Am I interviewing for an executive position? "You roxored our world, Mike. Here's the keys to the corporate jet. You can take it anywhere but Belgium."

I mean, my essay was pretty decent, but not that good.

Second, what's all this "Scripting Test" stuff? In my second email to the HR woman, a week or two ago, I answered her question:

"Do you know scripting?"
"I don't think so, can you be more specific?"

To which she never responded.
So now the interviewers think I can script, since they're planning to test my skills in "Scripting".

In level design, a Designer will open the level still in progress and place elements - like spawn points, weapon and health powerups, event triggers, and so on. That's what "Scripting" the HR woman is referring to. I've never done it.

I could learn how - but I won't pass their test, unless the interface is designed for pre-schoolers and the mouseover prompts are lengthy and verbose.

So I responded to the HR woman's email, and asked her to make sure my interviewers (I still don't know their names) are aware that I have zero Scripting skills. If they still want to interview me, that's great. I just want them to be fully aware of my skillset before the interview.

I don't want to be wined and dined, and then after lunch I screw the pooch on the test and they call their goons to beat me up and throw me into the street. After relieving me of the $30 they spent on my lunch.

I talked to a knowledgeable friend last night who told me that entry level Designers can make 40K - 50K a year. And I was pretty pleased with the 24,000 I'm making now. If the salary really is that nice, it makes the luncheon interview make more sense. And reaffirm the fact that I'm not qualified.

To think, I was worried that a Design position wouldn't pay enough to leave my Testing job

Here's another thought - if the design team knew I had no Scripting experience, would they have asked for or ever read my essay? What if I slip through the cracks and end up getting the interview - and then somehow hired for the job - due to an intial misunderstanding?

I have a weird kind of luck for things like that.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Out Of The Blue

I make all these plans -
And then something completely unexpected happens...

I test video games for a living. I've been doing it for years. I got into the industry because - like most folks who enjoy video games, I had my own ideas about what would make a great game.

Once I was in the industry, I became privy to all the BS that makes this business stink. It's largely the same complaints you'll find in any career - or even the military. The people making the decisions are those least qualified to do so.

People are appointed to posts not due to their skills, but due to their networking. You've gotta talk the talk and schmooze and aggressively market yourself. Make the right friends, go out for beers and strippers after work.

Oh, and it gives you a 5 year boost if you're a smoker. All the powerful people smoke. Gotta light up and chitchat with the upper management. Ah, cancer, the great equalizer. You can't walk into the boardroom and chat, but outside in the smoking zone, every man is a prince.

Whatever. Since I don't network, drink beer, suck up, or smoke, I was screwed.

When I got into the industry, it was at entry level, as a tester. Testing is a high-turnover position, and it's pretty easy to get hired. From test you can move to Test Lead, and eventually into Production or Design if you have the right skills. I'm a Lead.

Producers don't really produce anything. They spend a lot of time on the phone, sending and replying to emails, and making sure everyone is communicating well. Arguing about exactly what the contract dictates. Stressful. They also sit in lots and lots of meetings. No thanks.

Designers usually don't get to design a game. Producers make a lot of the decisions, lay down a lot of parameters and details, and the designers build around that. My early, ignorant expectation was that designers designed. In truth, usually they implement what other people have designed.

I became a tester to determine from the inside what skills I needed to become a designer. When it quickly became clear that programming was never going to be something I could learn, I looked in the Art direction.

Unfortunately, I have no skills in art either. I'm a writer. There's little chance of writing a killer design document and getting hired on its strengths alone.

Those in charge want to PLAY your idea. "Go build it - just a level or two, and we'll see how it plays." This is comparable to a screenwriter being told to go off and film a few scenes of his sci-fi action script.

"Go Writer! Build all those sets, hire the actors, the costuming, the props, the cameras, the lighting and special effects. Half an hour of edited footage should do it. Oh, and with music."

And the screenwriter says "But I'm a writer, not a filmmaker, costumer, cameraman, or special effects wizard. Oh, or a musician."

Like the Dr. McCoy lines, "I'm a Doctor, dammit, not a..."

So I decided that the industry was not for me. I am not among First-Person-Shooter genre fans. I would want to design more compelling games, like Ico, Katamari, Okami, or Prince of Persia - Sands of Time.

So even if I managed to claw my way into design, I'd be working on one Unreal, Quake, or Grand Theft Auto clone after another. Developers can't afford to make too many cutting edge, concept games.

I decided that once my current position ended, (and they all have a built-in expiration date, when the game you're testing ships) I was done in the video game industry. I wasn't willing to do what was necessary to get the job I wanted.

Like learn actual skills. Come on, what is that all about?

Did I mention that the Artists and Designers nominally can be expected to work 60-80 hour weeks (on salary) for months on end? And then they get dropped like a lump of damp feces as soon as a project is over? Yeah, that was a deterrent too. Plus, everybody wants into Design - there's tons of competition, with far more talented and skilled folks than myself vying to be hired.

Stick a spork in me, I'm done.

And then, out of the blue, Activision came calling. It turns out an old friend of mine has recommended me as "Kick Ass." and Activision wanted to see my resume. I sent it. It details one testing job after another. Clearly a Tester, not a Designer.

A week later, they emailed back and asked me to write an essay -
How the mechanics of Spider-Man 2 could be improved for future Spider-Man games.

Spider-Man 2 is a great game, by the way. I had to go buy it to do the essay- I'd never played it. I quickly went through it, taking notes along the way. It's a bit repetitive, but web-slinging from building to building is satisfying, and a surprising amount of fun.

I wrote the essay - they wanted 500 words or less, and it's hard to cram in all the niceties of introduction, body, conclusion into 500 words, and still say everything that must be said. So I cut off the conclusion. It's ends kind of abruptly, but what can you do? In the end, for something like this - it's about content, not pleasantries.

A couple of hours later, I get another email. They liked my essay and want to interview me Friday at 11am.

After deciding to get out of the industry because what I really want to do was so unlikely, they contact me out of the blue. How weird is that?

My present job pays well, ($17 an hour) but will most likely end Oct 1. Now, if Activision wants to hire me for like $15, do I take it? Jobs are very unstable in this industry, and I could work at Activision for two months, and they'd get bought by EA and everybody gets fired. No telling...

So do I sit here with my boring testing job and make the good money, or take a chance and probably earn less, hopefully beyond Oct. 1?

"Designer - Activision" would look stellar on my resume. Once I had some design experience, (if it was for more than a couple months) I might be able to get a design job at another company - it's breaking in that's hard.

But -
The wife and I are planning to move to Florida some time next year. It could be in February, it could be July. It depends on when she finds a job to transfer to. Do I want to take a new job, just to leave it in six months? If I'm even still working at Activision at that time, it could be a three month gig, which would still leave me unemployed in October.

And there's very few video game companies in Florida. So that Activision credit on my resume wouldn't do much for me as I apply for a clerical job...

What do you think, world? If you're still reading at this point, let me know.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Migrant Workers

I go to the gym five days a week, and I have a certain pattern that I've adopted.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do upper body for 20 minutes, and then lower body for 40 minutes. Tuesday and Thursday I do intensive lower body.

The upper body days are more stressful, because I use many more machines, and that means more interaction with people. Interaction is fine, when I'm fully clothed, not sheathed in sweat, and panting. Hard to carry on a worthwhile conversation when you might be dripping on your conversation partner.

Now, when I use a machine, I do a number of reps of ten, usually between five and ten reps, depending on how sore I am and how blue the sky is that day.

(I have a little sky meter thing, very handy)

Between reps, I stay on the machine, stretching and flexing my burning, newly torn muscles. I "rest" for perhaps 20 seconds. Then I do another rep, and repeat. Makes sense, right?

But not everyone thinks so, oh no.

I call these people Migrant Workers, and they can't stand to sit still for more than 20 seconds. They'll do one rep on a machine, and then jump up and run to a nearby machine, do one rep, run to another machine, do one rep, jump rope for ten seconds, and end up back at the machine where they started.

Not only does this create a lot more floor traffic than need be, but these people rarely wipe their sweat off the machines during this process. Because, you know, they're not done yet. And since everyone has different height and lifting weight needs, while they're away from a machine, it's likely that someone else has reset the machine for their own use. Is this not frustrating to the Migrant Workers? Clearly not enough to change their behavior.

I can't imagine that this is a good way to work out in a public gym. If you have your own gym at home, and five different machines, hell - go to it.

But when I'm trying to work out, stay out of my way! Also, I have a pet peeve about people lingering behind me, where I can't see them - and all this extra traffic irritates that peeve.

Perhaps Migrant Workout Style is described in popular workout manuals. I can see the benefit of keeping your heart rate up, and exercising one muscle group while the other takes a 20 second break. Instead of waiting to do the next rep, you're doing a different rep. I can see the logic, but it really doesn't work in a public gym. So if you're a Migrant Worker who attends a public gym, and you're reading this, please stop your annoying workout behavior. Thanks.

Maybe you could attend at 4am or something, you know - when other people aren't around. Then you could hop around all you like, sweating on everything, marking your territory, it'll be great!

Also, to the woman who came up to me the other morning as I was on the Lateral Collateral Ultralift Machine who asked me "How many reps do you have left?" - This is not a polite question, no matter how politely you ask it.

Because really, you're saying "How long until you get out of my way?" and that aint nice. Just use a nearby machine and keep your BPM up until I'm done. And if you don't get to use the Lateral Collateral Ultralift Machine today, sorry about that.

I very rarely get to use the Ab-Killer 5000, but you don't see me harassing people.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Anonymous Comments Disabled

I had some issues with some jerk posting asinine link-happy
ad-related comments to a bunch of my older posts.

Therefore, anonymous comments are now disabled.

Hopefully all you goodly, desirable commenters out there - including Sciurus Sciuridae - will still be able to comment...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Thanks for your help!

Wow, Thanks much everyone for all the great input on the interactive fiction idea! You guys didn't cop out with the "good idea" two-word comments, either! Very useful input, everyone!

I still have a lot of work to do on the site and need guidance! Speak up anytime!

- I do have several screens worth of story at the beginning, since it's the intro and I wanted to establish the setting and characters before the first choice. It's hard to make a decision with no perspective at all, you need to have something to base it on. Like the fact that Harry has a wife and kid, which effects the first choice and is information that isn't revealed until just before the decision point.

- As for decisions as minor as jacket color, that's not really the level of detail I'm going for. I want to keep it simple. To allow decisions to that degree - especially when it does not serve the story and just reinforces the illusion of control - is more work than it might be worth. Javascript would be the best way to go, but this is going to be a low-tech version of the idea.

- 9 screens is certainly too much before the first decision. I need to balance my need for an intro with the reader's desire to interact. However, I have to hope that anyone willing to read an entire interactive novella will have the attention span to read a page or two of introduction. It seems longer than is due to the many line breaks/new paragraphs.

- I really hope to keep the layout clean, and that means avoiding pop-ups and expanding menus. But if the animated pop-up "click here to make a decision" button looks really cool, does that make the writing any better? Art is great when it serves the story. If I had any art skills at all, it would be nice to provide pics of characters, settings, clues, and the like.

It was the desire and attempt to create all that cool stuff that has led to the years of delay in actually getting the site done. I had all sort of art, crime scenes you could search with your mouse, and on and on. I want to get at least one story done in the simple format. Plus, I have no skills for the dynamic code or art. Perhaps in reading the storys, an interested artist will feel compelled enough to want to collaborate, who knows.

- I agree that many people enjoy reading porn online. In fact, when I first talked to my wife about the idea, she said "do erotica!" and that would probably be the most popular genre, if they were all available to choose from.

It's silly, but even though I plan to provide erotica stories eventually, I didn't want that to be the first genre active. I didn't want "a porn site" but a fiction site. So erotica would be like the third or forth genre I would tackle, probably.

- Writing all the stories myself will probably be the reality of it, at least at first. I'm still figuring out the design, really. If people show some interest in contributing, I'd definitely be interested.

- How is my version different from an online role-playing game? It's not clear if you mean the real-time version where live people stay in character and describe their actions as the game master describes the environment and activity, or an actual video game.

I don't hope to compete or compare to World of Warcraft.

If you mean the former, then my version is different because it's not live. (which doesn't make it better) You can read through paths not taken the first time, and enjoy new twists that weren't there before. You can't rewind a live rpg. And arguing with a group for your decision, your viewpoint to be followed can get old, especially when the majority wants to go the goofy route when you're in a serious mood.

The interactive fiction route, you don't have to convince anyone, you're in charge. If you're goofy, then so be it. If not, so be it.

Yeah, everybody wants visuals online. But we don't seem to mind when we read a regular novel that each character doesn't have pictures, each clue doesn't have a picture, and we have to read hundreds of pages to get to the end. The internet has taught us to be impatient, but a lot of readers still enjoy working their way through a book.

What does this genre of writing have to offer over online rpg's? There's no group to annoy you with stupid suggestions, breaking character, disappearing for half an hour to go on a beer run or to the bathroom. You don't need to wait for the group to arrive to be able to begin. You just go when you want, stop when you want, and finish at your leisure.

Thanks much for all the input!
I still have a lot to figure out, a lot to consider, I need lots more reader input, and I have to learn to listen because I'm stubborn.

And I have a lot of writing to do. The number one question that needs to be resolved is, - is the writing decent enough? Cause if it sucks- even pretty, dynamic art and web design can't rescue it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hello Good People!

I need your help and valuable insight!

I've been working on an online fiction project that would let readers control the progression of the story throughout. Like the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and similar.

I really should consider changing the name of my blog to "Someone Probably Said/Did This Before". Yes, it's been done, but not by me.

Of course, the reader can only make decisions at certain times. I mean, you could design it so every other line allowed the user to decide what to say, wear, eat, scratch, or gargle with.

Too many decision points would distance a person from the narrative. A reader needs to be able to immerse themselves in the story, and too many pauses would be problematic.

How much decision-making is too much? Too little? It would vary by reader, but there will be an average preference. It's all about user feedback and tweaking. The introduction would be the longest period without a decision for the reader, while character and setting are established.

I've been thinking on this idea for a while now, (years) and I've worked on and off on the content. I bought a domain name and started working on a web site.

I didn't know how to even begin to design a web site, so the first design was a learning experience and it was pretty crappy.

About a year later, I redesigned the original site from the ground up. And after about a year of working on art and layouts, (hundreds of hours worth) I realized that I really stink at art and html.

I wish I'd spent that time writing the stories, instead of trying to get the site just right. But I wanted to cement the format before I did a plethora of writing.

And it's gonna take a hell of a lot of writing. Take a normal novella, say 100,000 words, and multiply it by four to allow for the variations in path. It's like writing four books instead of one. Which is fine, but time consuming.

Once I discovered Blogger, I realized that this was the perfect format for - (Yeah the catchier names were taken, and I have this silly need for web site names to apply to the topic therein.) the ease of creating new pages while maintaining a congruent layout.

The internet is so relative, and my web design skills so minimal, that I couldn't come up with something that looked good on everyone's PC. (This is my biggest gripe with the internet)

So I've been working on the blog version for a few days now... It's still pretty basic. In some ways, it's going to stay that way. In the end, it's text and links to more text, really. So the writing has to be engaging.

I think I'm going in a good direction, and hope people will enjoy it (eventually) but I don't know. There could be some fundamental flaws with the basic premise that I'm not seeing. There's no art at all yet - I need to remove the bland blog header and place the logo art, and such.

And do lots and lots of writing...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A New Look! A New Title!

Yeah, I painted the walls and tossed a few rugs on the floor here at Ramblings HQ. I still have some tweaking to do with colors here and there.

Don't you fret though, there will still be plenty of rambling for all!

The Shark Pit Could Totally Go Here...

Cindy and I have been watching lots of decorating, home-selling and home-buying shows on the various artistic cable channels.

Often, a new home buyer is looking to completely redesign the space and put in a hot tub or a rec room and etc.

It would make a great spoof episode if they did one lampooning the Evil Genius variety of home-buyer.

They'd show an Evil Genius a number of houses, and he/she could mull the possibilities.

Where the kid's room is now would make a great torture chamber, and the den is the perfect size for the trapdoor pit with rattlesnake surprise.

The henchmen will sleep here, next to the armory. And this console allows you to flood the halls with poison gas at your whim. Don't lose the wireless remote for this, tee hee!

And then they could interview three different designers, each of whom would try to do The Evil Lair theme in their own special way. "Can you make it more horrific? It's faded now. Dated. And feels campy. Piranha are so 90's. Green is the new black, did you hear?"

Quality TV!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Softer-Touch Keyboard and Mouse

How about a keyboard and or mouse that would gently ooze lotion through tiny pores, to help keep your hands ultra soft?

Or, you could fill up the lotion reservior with honey, and you'd lick your fingers all day to keep your blood sugar high, for optimum typing and clicking speed.

Fearful Batman Begins of Fear!

We went to see Batman Begins last night, and it was very good! The best Batman film in more than 10 years.

However, I need to find a site online where they have the full script available for perusal.

I'd like to scan the script and see how many times a certain word is used, because maybe I'm wrong, perhaps I'm exaggerating, but I don't think so.

I swear, every other sentence had the word "Fear" in it.

"Master Wayne, would you like some cream in your fear coffee?"
"I fear so, thank you."

"Why are you fear-dating European Supermodels, Bruce?"
"Because I fear them."

I think audiences are pretty sharp, and will grasp a theme fairly readily. We don't need to be beaten about the head and shoulders with the theme stick for 2.5 hours. After the third reinforcement of the theme, let it lie. If the audience doesn't grasp it by that point, they're not going to.

The possible over-use of the word "Fear" is very likely my only gripe with the movie.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The 'Go Assist' Bicycle Gizmo

Have I rambled about this before? Stop me if you've heard this one. This is an invention idea that likely already exists. But if not, I get dibs, ppthpp!

When you're riding a bike, especially if you're riding on a path on or which parallels a road, resulting in pauses for stop signs or stop lights, getting the bike up to speed once again is a pain.

It's that "Huph!!" of effort to get going again that can be pain, especially if there are a lot of starts and stops. And if you're riding with traffic, you're a lot more likely to cause frustration in the car drivers cause you just can't jump forward like a racehorse when then light turns green.

So, what if your bike had a 'Go Assist' in the form of a spring that could be wound as you pedaled. When you reach a stop and need a push to get going again, you hit the button that transfers the spring's energy into the back tire, and 'zzzip' off you go.

Of course, you'd need to pedal a certain amount for the spring to be fully tightened. You wouldn't be able to just keep hitting the button and let it drive you along.

This would have applications for stunt-biking too. Tricks that you can't currently perform would become possible, and would broaden the repertoire of stunts. And hey, anything that gets people outside and riding their bikes is a good thing.



Video Game / Action Flick Idea

Olympics 2012 - Terror Descends

A bus carrying athletes from many countries is hijacked by a terrorist cell. The athletes are locked up at the terrorist's base compound, and held pending the release of one of their own, held by the US.

The negotiations are at a standstill, and the terrorists begin killing the athletes one by one.

They decide they can't wait around for a rescue, and break out. They must escape from the compound alive. Players will control groups of four athletes, and will be able to cycle through the characters at will.

Drawing from their diverse physical skills they must progress through the high security base. They must avoid detection, solve environment puzzles, kill the enemy and fight to survive.Athletes could include those with skill sets in Swimming, Fencing, Shooting, Boxing, Gymnastics, Judo, Weight Lifting, and Table Tennis.

The Table Tennis athlete is present largely for comic relief, and will seem useless, until just the right time when only his skills can save the team.


(I was gonna call it Terror Rising, but that sounds too much like Terrorizing... Unless that seems a witty play on words?)

This could make a good action movie too.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Yo, Deity!

I'm watching Dead Like Me on DVD, and the first person to talk to George after she dies is Rube, a character played by Mandy Patinkin.

It might sound odd, but I can't think of a much more reassuring face to bump into in the afterlife. He has a wise presence to him, and he's got humor. I'd be calmed to see ole Mandy greeting me when I die, to set me on whatever path.

So, be it a deity or my own subconscious pulling the strings, I'd like to put an order in now for an intro tour of the afterlife by Mandy Pantinkin - - upon my death, which will hopefully be untimely.


Friday, June 17, 2005


A few months ago, the first day I went to the gym, there were a number of cute little old men chilling naked in the locker room. This put me at ease, for surely my bloated self looked better than their (cute) wrinklyness.

The first day I went was the last time I saw this congregation of lil old dudes. Either they convene yearly to discuss their territory and how much they do or don't owe The Godfather, or they were magical beings that only I could see, there to soothe me during my debut workout.

Either way, thanks old dudes!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Job Ideas

We're planning to move to Florida sometime early next year (It would be neat to know the date, but no such luck) - - Cindy will be transferring within her company, and I'll be looking for a new job.

I had some ideas for businesses I could start once we move to Florida.

- - A document shredding service.
I didn't know these existed until I saw the trucks on the road, with the name of the company emblazoned on the side. People will pay you to lug away their old papers and shred em? Hell, I already have a pickup, all I'd need would be a dollie. Oh, and a better shredder. The one we have now was like fifteen bucks at Target, I think. And hey, you could sell the shredded docs as packing material to warehouses!

- - A steam cleaning service.
Not the kind that cleans your oven, but rather the kind that clean outdoor cement areas that might be stained with bird poop or spilled strawberry shakes, vehicle oil, or just foot traffic. I've always enjoyed spraying things. Maybe it's a guy thing, and harkens back to potty training, I dunno. Buy a big steam pump unit, and some rubber pants, and bang! I have my own business.

No cleaning up litter or dirty diapers left in the parking lot - I just spray, and I spray damn good, ya hear? Also, if I ever became embroiled in a dastardly scheme and the bad guys tried to take me out and I beat them down, I could torture and interrogate them with my steam nozzle. "Ever had steamed clams? The meat just falls off the bone. Like Buttah. Now tell me, and I'm only askin once - where is the treasure buried?"

- - I could tutor would-be video game testers.
God knows there are millions of misguided kids who think game testing is a dream job. And they have money. They usually spend it on games or snack goods, but they'd give me some for a few lessons.

- - Regular Joe Psychoanalysis / Marriage counseling
You tell 'em up front that you gots no degrees or any special learnins or nothin. You're just a regular joe like they is. Who wants a high-falootin psychiatrist with his doctorate and his raw-fish eatin, italian-car drivin metrosexual commie sensibilities listening to their problems? Regular Joe will take care of you, bruddah! ...And they sign lots of waivers before you start talking to them. It's all good! Mebbe hire someone with a Chiropractic license, so you can accept insurance.

Seems Pretty Do-Able...

You know how the sun is blotted out by the moon during a solar eclipse?

Wouldn't it be possible to blot out the sun with an artificial object? A giant space disc of some sort - it could even be made of very thin material...

They did something similar on The Simpsons, but that was very small scale. This would be larger, and it would be in space. It would blot out the sun all over the Earth.

And it wouldn't necessarily be that enormous - but located at just the right distance.

Can you imagine holding the world hostage in this way?

"I'll keep blotting out the sun until you bring back Vinyl Records."

"And Fleetwood Mac must perform, in my backyard. Wearing Classic Star Trek uniforms."


Mercy Killing

I know a woman in her 40's or 50's, a sweet, kindly person. She's an artist, she enjoys traveling abroad, her husband is an author, she's doing well.

Except she has a kid who's a screw up in every way that you could imagine, who seems highly ungrateful for all Mom's efforts.

We never discuss her problems, but I often overhear her on the phone, pleading with her kid, her husband, the authorities, and et cetera - all her efforts seem focused on giving the kid the best possible chance, despite constant bullshit from the no good brat.

TNT don't know drama - this woman, she knows drama.

And I wondered how much happier she would be if the kid would pass away somehow. I think she would. I don't know if she has other kids or not, this one gets all the attention via the squeaky wheel syndrome.

If someone were to become a hit man who worked for such people, such parents at the end of their rope, their wits end. It would make an interesting mystery story.

It's probably been done already.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Artificial Intelligence

I like to think about high-tech concepts, even if I have little or no idea how the science actually works. I entertain myself with the notion that my lack of training actually makes me more creative, because I am not limited by the rote, taught preconceptions and borrowed theories.

Ha Ha As If.

But also, my ignorant ramblings have often come true - 'outlandish' ideas I had as a kid are now commonplace. So just in case, here's my view of A.I. - if for no other reason than in 30 years, I can say "I told ya so."

On the subject of artificial intelligence I have some thoughts. I tried surfing some AI Opinion bulletin boards and other websites, but everything seems to be focused on the hardware, and connecting it just so. I have the idea that we already have the hardware needed, it's all about the programming.

I believe that we first have to analyze how our own consciousness works (which has been done). I feel that consciousness is a form of schizophrenia.

Self-Awareness seems to be not a thing in and of itself, but the result of a number of overlapping agenda fighting for priority.

A. Survival
B. Procreation
C. Pleasure

Of course, 'Survival' differs greatly on your environment. If you are marooned alone on a desert island, the skills of finding water and shelter and food are primary. In Manhattan, the skills of computers, communication, and mathematics are primary, and usually result in A, B, and C. Getting 'That Big Promotion' can fall under Survival.

Procreation - does this really need elaboration?

Pleasure - This can be anything from the satisfaction that results from completing a job well done, and all the way up to physical enjoyment.

It is the constant struggle within the mind, between these three agenda and their various sub-categories, that create consciousness. Within the mind is a constant stream of desires in the form of commands.

I want chocolate, I want to snuggle with Cindy, I want that car, I want to punch that jerk, my butt itches, snuggle, car, punch, chocolate, itch, snuggle, car, punch, chocolate, itch, snuggle, car, punch, chocolate, itch.

The different agenda are each very insistent, and what is needed is to bring the priority command into action. To act, you have to decide which action to perform.

Usually, when we make a decision, even if it's just 'my butt itches', we deliberate about our environment and circumstances. Are we giving a speech in front of the whole company? Might not want to scratch our arse right now. Am I at my weekly Weight-Watchers Weigh In? Might not want to eat chocolate right now.

It's this weights and measures balancing act with each desire that results in consciousness. Lots of "I want" from one voice, and "yeah but" from another voice.

Perhaps a computer system could be designed where there were separate but connected nodes.

Each node would have an agenda assigned to it. For each node, meeting elements of its agenda would result in positive reinforcement of some sort. (Whatever it is that computers enjoy...)

The primary node would be assigned a high priority agenda, like Survival.
It would be this node that would normally have priority in decision making.

The secondary nodes would be assigned various missions - since interaction with the outside world is a must in this experiment, small robot rovers could be used. A possible agenda could be to send a rover to map the test floor. But there would be dangers, and the rover could be damaged or lost.

Perhaps the rover(s) could be collecting items during their exploration, components to power, repair or build more rovers.

A certain number of power units have to be found daily to keep the rovers going, this would be a Food agenda and would be part of Survival.

Some vital rover components could be hidden in the most dangerous regions of the test floor, and the main node would have to weigh the odds of sending a rover into that region.

Building more rovers would result in positive reinforcement, since the Procreate Node's agenda would be met.

And once a certain number of rovers were built, they work together to access a raised platform, resulting in more area to explore. If too many rovers were damaged, access to this new platform and the resources it has would be cut off.

Boredom and Desperation subroutines could be built into the system, allowing priority to be usurped by another node. If too much self-destructive behavior took place, Survival Node could take over once again.

Eventually, you could work up to interaction with foreign rovers, with differential behaviors, aggro levels and interaction protocols. It would become "Watch out for those Red Rovers, they're mean." and "Those Blue Rovers are really cool and they give us components." and "Those Green Rovers are nice - if you give them power cells, they give you rover tires.

Next thing you know -
The Green Rovers are selling tires with spinning rims...
...which the cute Blue Rovers are really partial to.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Guess What? Your Friend Is Secretly Gay!

This morning, I checked my email to see one from Netflix, informing me that one of my pals has invited me to be a Netflix Buddy. We would be able to send one another recommendations easily, and life would be swell.

So I'm like, "ok, why not."

And then I signed into Netflix, and holy shit, there was
Buddy in My Netflix. (similar to, there's peanut butter in my chocolate)

Was there ever!
It's like my pal came over to my house with a handful of sharpies and wrote "I Am Mike's Friend and I Rock" on every wall and piece of furniture, and across the tv screen.

Netflix is all "Oh you don't like that movie huh? Well your Buddy thought it Rocked The Casbah, clearly there's something wrong with you."


"Would you like to take a poll and try to guess your Buddy's favorite movies?"

(which I did, because I am gullible. and I totally aced it)

The point is, suddenly signs of my pal are all over Netflix now. It's like he pee'd in all the corners and put a rotting cut of beef behind my stove to remind me.

"Smell that?
That's right, I was all up in your hizzy."

I'm afraid to look at my wife when she gets home, she might have a brand burnt into her forehead "Your Pal Only Gives Your Gal Two Stars"

Compared to the 10-Plus score I have awarded her.

Netflix has begun emailing me: "Your Buddy Loves This One! Check it out! You won't have anything to talk about unless you see 'Lake Placid' and Love it! Better watch it now! Click here to buy!"

Netflix did not make it clear that all my previous flicks would be viewable to my pal. Since I'm getting emailed about his tastes, I can only assume he's now getting emailed about my preferences.

That's not good, that aint nice.

Good thing Netflix does not deal in the porn.

...What if I'm all about quilting vids and don't want it to get out?
I'm a closet quilter, and I like it like that.

But what if I was secretly into alternative lifestyles?
(not that there's anything wrong with that)

- - - - -

Hello Valued Customer!

Your Friend Mike Smith would like to reveal to the world
that he is ever so Gay, and wants you to share in his favorite flicks:

Everybody Sing
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
Urban Cowboy
Staying Alive
Revenge of the Sith


- - - - - -

PS All these movies are classics and I'm not saying they're not great. Just trying to be funny, and failing...

PPS: Except for Revenge of the Sith, ick.

Little Scampery Du!

I'm reading and enjoying Mommy and/or Daddy blogs, largely focused on babies and pooping.

I might be enjoying them far too much.

TICK TICK TICK much, oh biological clock?

I like to think I'm learning useful stuff too.
But little ones and tales of their escapades are just so darned cute!

Vicarious Living, indeed.

You Missed A Spot...

I read a story recently about dolphins being spotted using sponges as they forage, to protect their cute lil noses. They teach one another this behavior, it appears...

Though it seems possible that the dolphins might have seen a human diver use a sponge for protection, and copied the human.

I'm not trying to steal the dolphin's thunder - it's likely they taught themselves. I'd be impressed if they saw a human doing something and copied him and taught their friends.

Either way, it's pretty cool. Someday we'll learn to really talk with them, and discover what assholes we've been for the last 100,000 years or so. What revelations will be revealed?

"Oh yeah, and Dogs, boy do they hate you guys. They just can't do without belly rubs."

But I have to wonder, now that we know dolphins can use sponges as tools... If at SeaWorlds all over the country, dolphins are now tossed a sponge and told to clean their own tank.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

She's Da Bestest!

From time to time, I've rambled about my most excellent mate, the one who will one day be Host to my Young.

She's Da Bestest!

After today's episode of Dooce, with the many very cute pics of Leta, I called and informed my darlin wife that I would like 3 little ones, now yes thank you...

Scary Thought For The Day

One day, cancer could mutate into a contagious form

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bibles Wanted For Questioning...

This is a quirky news story-

"Is the Good Book spreading bad bugs?

That's the question raised by a British hospital group after the Gideons International organization asked to replenish the supply of Bibles kept in patients' rooms.

The University Hospitals of Leicester National Health Service Trust put the response to the Gideons on hold, while infection-control specialists debated whether the Bibles could be a source for the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)"

It would be an interesting story plot to infect religious items to attack an 'opposing' group. Scary and wrong, but interesting.

Don't certain groups show respect by kissing someone's ring, and or touching their heads to the ground, or touch the feet of a statue of a Saint? Hm. Could make for a creepy story.

Or what if the antidote to a malady was spread by the statue feet? Only the pious would live. You could design the story either way.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Baby Name!


Just imagine the priceless school moments:

Teacher: "Absent?"
Absent: "Present."

Yeah, that would be funny for about thirty seconds...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Verily, Yea Verily

It seems there might be a link between Viagra and blindness.

I'll have to call Sister Margaret.
And apologize for telling her she was full of it.

If she's still alive.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Zero To Sixty in 09876 Pixels

I love the internet.

I have a big woody for the internet, and not just the porn sites. The internet is everything I dreamed of as a kid, reading sci-fi and thinking ahead to the days when every book, fact, idea, or opinion could be found in a vast computer treasure trove.

We're not quite there yet, but pretty damned close. I think back to my youth and all those wasted trips to the library, looking for that book on Ecuador to do my report, only to discover that all books on Ecuador were checked out. No longer a problem! Millions of details about Ecuador are now tingling with anticipation, just waiting for me to type the place name into a search engine.

It's a time of instant gratification when it comes to information, which sadly means that I do less time wondering, pondering, mulling over a fact. I just wonder, I type, I read. But that's another post.

I do some dabbling in web design, nothing beyond FrontPage, sadly. And the thing that frustrates me most about the internet is how relative it is.

Relative in an Einsteinian kind of way. (I just checked online to verify the spelling of Einstein).

Depending on the computer you're using and any number of settings and adjustments and variations in your OS (operating system, such as Win98, XP, Max OSX etc) and browser (Explorer, AOL, Firefox etc), the web can vary greatly in appearance and content.

...I'm a big freak, and you'll soon learn the full extent of my psychosis...

Now let's twist this into a real world analogy (should "real world" be hyphenated? I'm sure I could find out online, but I don't care enough) and compare 'The Internet' to 'A New Car'.

You're the dealership, and you're sizing up one uber-honey of a sportscar. It's a convertible, it's Do Me Now Red that screams "Bling Bling, Bitches! This Mack Daddy is a Player! Come Get Some!"

Who doesn't want that?

The salesman spots you peeking in the car's window and he ambles over.

He describes the engine CC's and the Zero to 60 and the Car and Driver acclaim and the girl attraction factors...

But then he has to admit (due to state law) that not everyone will see the same car you do.

Depending on OS and browser settings, some people will see you drive by in a minivan. It's an off-putting, rusty, puke green model, with brown wood paneling on the sides.

Oh, and that "PLAYER" personalized plate, surrounded by diamonds - well due to certain screen resolutions, most people will only see the first two letters - "PL"

And if they lack the license plate font, they may see webdings (a series of wacky symbols).

Depending on Parental Filters, kids won't see your license plate at all, it will be blurred out completely.

People using a foreign language OS will read a poorly auto-translated version of your license plate, that reads:
"I am a Sport-Fisherman and Love Bass"

And if you happen to be driving through Idaho, your car will be yellow. And it will appear to be a blah 4-Door Buick, did we mention that?

Oh! And if you're driving through Atlanta, people will simply see a white box with a little red X in the top left corner, instead of a $100,000 sportscar. Sorry.

Now obviously the majority of corporate sites are programmed by - well, programmers, and they know how to adjust for many variations. Most people won't have an issue, but there will still be differences.

For those layman like me using FrontPage as a crutch, we're doomed to design and display crappy sites that vary greatly by viewer.

Since I'm very particular about my layout (probably doesn't show, but I am) this peeves me greatly. So far, not greatly enough to try to master the five or more programming languages necessary to even begin to overcome this issue, however.

Even in Blogger I have annoyances. On my laptop, when I use italics and certain fonts in writing or viewing a post, they look amazing and crisp. On my work computer, or other PC's, the fonts and styles look like ass.

I have a lot of little hangups when it comes to text, such as I can't stand it when one word is all by itself, on a new line. Like in a paragraph, and the text wraps to the next line to display the last word in a sentence and it's alone on that line. I will rewrite entire paragraphs if I have to, and avoid this problem.

But on your computer, with your settings, you're still seeing one word alone on a line. Your settings are different. I can't effect your settings and this kills me.

I guess I could just say, at the top of every post,
"If you don't have 32 Bit Color Enabled, 1152x864 or higher screen resolution, MS Explorer version 6.0.2800.1106 or newer, or have Trebuchet MS as an installed font, please don't read this."

"PS: View on 'Text Size Medium', thank you."