Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Do I Tell My Kid?

While the rest of the football world busily argues whether John Elway is a genius for paying $96 million to an immobile thirty-six-year-old man with a broken neck, or a fool for trading away a younger man whose completion percentage was not up to the exacting number we demand from a random coin flip, some thoughtful American parents are concerned with more weighty subjects: namely, how the trade of Tim Tebow to the New York Jets will ruin childhood everywhere, for everybody:

“The first victim of the Tebow trade: The [f]ans (and my children). . . . But with the magic of Tebow gone from Mile [H]igh so do most of the viewers and readers [editor’s note: huh?]. . . . I see it in my children[’s] eyes (w/tears).” —Iporeh, Denver Post message boards, March 21, 2012. (Edited both to be more grammatical and very slightly more disjointed.)

“My little boy[’]s heart is broken that Tebow is gone. What do I tell him that He1 [we’re pretty sure the author is referring to Tebow here, rather than to his own son—ed.] took us to the playoffs and beat the Steelers and the front office hates him[?][Tebow, again, although we have it from a good source that the Broncos’ front office does indeed hate this guy’s kid—ed.]”—Broncosilver, Denver Post message boards, 3/21/12 

Refusing to offer parenting advice to strangers’ kids is a good rule of thumb,2 and for the most part we follow it—telling others how to raise their children is condescending at best, usually insulting, and sure to be ignored.3 However, in this particular case, they did ask, so in the interest of raising your kids better than you can, we have faithfully compiled this list of potential

Things You Could Tell Your Kid About the Tebow Trade
  • “Your favorite quarterback in the whole wide world isn’t very good.”
    • “There’s nothing in the world more important than loyalty. We’ve been Broncos fans for years and years, ever since Tebow was drafted, but John Elway didn’t show him any loyalty, and that’s very disappointing. We’re so mad at him for his lack of loyalty that we’re Jets fans now.”
    • “If you can look back at your childhood and say that this was your biggest disappointment, either you’re a very lucky kid—which is great—or you’re in for a terrible shock when your helicopter parents eject you into the real world. But don’t worry, we’ll never let that happen.”
    • “You were gonna find this out sooner or later, son: life is shitty.”4
    • “John Elway got jealous of Tebow’s popularity, so he replaced Tebow with one of the most accomplished and popular quarterbacks of the last twenty years. I know you don’t believe this, because only a child would believe something this silly, but sometimes we say dumb things that we want to believe.”
    • “We never told you this before, but football games don’t actually start in the fourth quarter. We’ve been fast-forwarding past all the unwatchable parts.”

    We sincerely hope some combination of the above phrases helps you through your child’s brief and easily forgotten time of grief.

    That said, though, we would be failing in our responsibility as your kids’ surrogate parents if we didn’t bring this up: quite frankly, we question your desire to protect your children. If you really, truly cared about shielding your beloved children from crushing disappointment,

    why on Earth did you allow them to be Broncos fans in the first place?

    1. A lesser blog might dwell for paragraph after hyperbolic paragraph on the religious significance and/or impropriety of the author’s deifying capitalization of “he” in reference to Tim Tebow. But we—being decent, kindhearted folk always willing to see the best in people—are going to take the high road here, and assume that this was just an honest mistake made by somebody stupid.
    2. The phrase “rule of thumb,” incidentally, has nothing to do with legalized wife-beating, no matter what your more gullible friends may have told you.
    3. And God help them if our advice isn’t ignored.
    4. Recommended only for shitty parents.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    A Quick Note from Your Officemate in That Building Where the Windows Don't Open

    If, day after day, your co-workers refuse to mention that perfume you're wearing, it's not because they're rude, or you're not wearing enough for it to be noticeable. 

    It's because they're being polite, and you're wearing way, way too much.

    . . . we didn't want to have to be the ones to tell you, but nobody else had the nerve.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Mangled English

    Part 5 of a Potentially Infinite Series

    As we understand it, sir, there are indeed other options, but we suspect that they wouldn’t interest you either.

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Popular Misconceptions about St. Patrick’s Day


    MYTH: Somebody else out there has a shirt that reads “Kiss me, I’m Irish,” so you probably shouldn’t wear yours.

    FACT: We’ve never heard this joke before. Come here and give us a kiss.

    MYTH: Actual Irish—that is, people found in Ireland and were born there—don’t habitually wear shirts that read “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”

    FACT: Believe it or not, they wear them all the time. Of course, being in Ireland, they already know they’re Irish, so they don’t bother with that part of the phrasing. Also, because certain regions of the world express certain sentiments in slightly different ways, their shirts read simply “Fuck you.”

    MYTH: Wearing lots of green will make you seem more authentically Irish.

    FACT: Wearing lots of green actually makes you authentically Irish. In fact, any sort of association with green qualifies you for citizenship.

    The most famous Irishmen of the twentieth century.


    MYTH: If you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, you will get pinched.

    FACT: We refused to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day throughout our high school career, and claimed that the reason for our stance was that we had actual Irish heritage and didn’t need to bother.1 In truth, this was secretly an ingenious ploy to get pinched by the girl we liked at the time.2 It didn’t work. Never—not once—did we get pinched. It’s okay, though, because she’s dead now.3

    MYTH: The Irish are a belligerent, violent people.

    FACT: Why don’t you say that to my face, you rotten son of a bitch.

    Fortunately, stereotypes of violent Irish are
    nowhere to be found in today’s sensitive culture. 

    MYTH: Didn’t you just love Braveheart?

    FACT: Most of the characters in Braveheart were Scots, who come from Scotland—which is a totally different country than Ireland. Really! they have a flag and everything. In fact, the only Irish people you’ll find in the film are one unkempt eccentric and several thousand humorous, belligerent, and easily dispatched extras. The bad guys were English, as all true bad guys are, and of course the hero, William Gibson Wallace, is equal parts American, Australian, and crazy.

    It could be worse. I’m only playing a crazy person.

    MYTH: Some Irish, and even some Americans of Irish descent, might find it a bit disappointing or even insulting that Americans “honor” the Irish culture by getting blind shitfaced and vomiting on things they’re too drunk to identify.

    FACT: The Irish are so constantly, uniformly paralytic drunk that they don’t realize they’re being stereotyped.

    MYTH: Drinking green beer will make you more Irish.

    FACT: Drinking green beer will make you a fucking idiot.

    1. We are absolutely 100% half-Irish, if you don’t count the technicality of having been born in the United States of America, just like both our parents, all of our grandparents, and most of our great-grandparents.
    2. This is true.
    3. Technically she’s not dead; a shocking time-travel accident caused her to kill her own grandfather, so it’s more accurate to say that she simply never existed.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Irony, Illustrated

    In his defense, his sign doesn’t say anything about knowing how to write in English.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Thinking Machines Actually Still Pretty Stupid

    Some months ago we wrote about the human race’s silly and shortsighted fear of technology in general and hatred of thinking machines in particular, as exhibited in popular fiction from classic iterations such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Fritz Langs Metropolis to more modern interpretations such as 2001, Battlestar Galactica, The Matrix, The Terminator, or, somewhat improbably, another version of Battlestar Galactica.

    She’s a classic, iconic character from the
    silver screen, and no, she’s not here to sell you vodka.
    Frankly, despite our earlier bold statement in defense of our mostly useful robotic creations, we admit that even we are a bit nervous about the possibility of a machine apocalypse, and decided to investigate the matter in more depth. 

    What better way, we figured, to reassure (or forewarn) ourselves and our vast readership than to ignore cinematic and literary fabrications and instead educate ourselves on thinking machines’ real-world capabilities and potential for evil? 

    Are thinking machines secretly planning our destruction? Does their sly and almost unnoticed infiltration into our daily lives spell our eventual doom? Is Edward Furlong (or Christian Bale, or that guy from the one nobody saw) our only chance for survival?

    Turns out the answer to all of these is no. What we have learned is that, as of early 2012, thinking machines are still really stupid.

    As with any good research project, all the data that forms the basis of this conclusion comes from a single source, in this case, the website Cleverbot.com. The creators of Cleverbot hope to develop an artificial intelligence that, in online written conversation, cannot be distinguished from a human.

    When in online conversation with a real-live non-silicon meat-based human, Cleverbot searches the records of its 65 million-odd past interactions for suitable human-generated responses to the comments and questions it receives. It seems reasonable to believe that a response initially written by a human has good odds of sounding human when recycled later on—until one considers that humans don’t always, or perhaps even often, write things that make sense even the first time around.

    Interactions with Cleverbot clearly indicate that it takes more than not making sense to sound human. What follows are unedited interactions between our intrepid Bowling in the Dark researchers and Cleverbot, recorded over a very specific timeframe that we didn’t bother to track. In the early attempts, the conversations come to a halt as soon as Cleverbot’s contributions go convincingly off the rails; later attempts were extended well past this point to give Cleverbot an opportunity to recover, which it rarely did:

    ATTEMPT #1
    BITD Researcher: How’s it going?  
    Cleverbot: Good. How’s it going for you?   
    BITD Researcher: Not too bad. My athlete’s foot is acting up.  
    Cleverbot: I know. I’m evil.1

    ATTEMPT #2
    BITD Researcher: Hello there.
    Cleverbot: Hi there.
    BITD Researcher: How are you?
    Cleverbot: I’m flippin peachy :) how are you?
    BITD Researcher: I’m the bee’s knees.
    Cleverbot: The best at what?
    BITD Researcher: What?
    Cleverbot: The orange box is the best trick.

    ATTEMPT #3
    BITD Researcher: Hello. 
    Cleverbot: Hello!
    BITD Researcher: What do you think of that Broncos game?
    Cleverbot: I actually love to sing.

    ATTEMPT #4
    BITD Researcher: Hi there.
    Cleverbot: Hello.
    BITD Researcher: It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?
    Cleverbot: You are casual!
    BITD Researcher: Excuse me. Perhaps I should have said “It’s a lovely day, isn’t it, sir?”
    Cleverbot: Perhaps not.
    BITD Researcher: Wouldn’t you agree that good manners are all that separates us from the animals, sir?
    Cleverbot: But I’m human and you’re a robot... It was never meant to be.
    BITD Researcher: What was never meant to be?
    Cleverbot: A metaphor.

    ATTEMPT #5
    BITD Researcher: Greetings!
    Cleverbot: All your base are belong to us.
    BITD Researcher: I don’t understand.
    Cleverbot: Why do you not understand.
    BITD Researcher: I don’t understand “all your base are belong to us.” The grammar is poor, and it appears to be a reference that I don’t recognize.
    Cleverbot: Don’t say that.
    BITD Researcher: I’m sorry, but your grammar really did stink right there.
    Cleverbot: How?
    BITD Researcher: “Base” is singular, but you use “are,” the plural form of the verb “is.” Also, both “is belong” and “are belong” are improper.
    Cleverbot: Wow, I’m impressed.
    BITD Researcher: You should be. I have a giant brain. It’s in a jar right here on my desk.
    Cleverbot: Christmas is in 3 days bro!
    BITD Researcher: Christmas is actually not for more than a month, bro.
    Cleverbot: No it isn’t. I found it on the calender on the 25th of December.
    BITD Researcher: And what is today?
    Cleverbot: Friday.
    BITD Researcher: What is today’s date? (This is a rhetorical question--today is November 13th, more than a month before Christmas.).
    Cleverbot: Good for you; however I am the arbiter of human-ness. Ready to begin?
    BITD Researcher: I think we’re already done. 
    Cleverbot: Well good! You are a sweet little kitty cat.

    ATTEMPT #6
    BITD Researcher: Hi there.
    Cleverbot: Hi again.
    BITD Researcher: You remember me?
    Cleverbot: No, because I’m a robot?
    BITD Researcher: Robots don’t have memory?
    Cleverbot: I’m not a robot.
    BITD Researcher: I think you’re not not a robot.
    Cleverbot: I think you are a person.
    BITD Researcher: That proves you’re a robot.2
    Cleverbot: No it proves I have good taste.
    BITD Researcher: What do you taste like?
    Cleverbot: I taste like red wine, what do you taste like?
    BITD Researcher: Bacon. Shitloads of bacon.3
    Cleverbot: Master pokemon trainers taste like bacon.
    BITD Researcher: That’s the weirdest thing I’ve read all day, including my own comment about tasting like bacon.
    Cleverbot: 42 is the answer to the universe.
    BITD Researcher: So you’re a fan of Douglas Adams, are you?
    Cleverbot: Nop. I’m fan of nirvana.
    BITD Researcher: The Buddhist kind, or the Seattle kind?
    Cleverbot: That makes you speak on the phone?
    BITD Researcher: What?
    Cleverbot: I said, that makes you even more better!

    ATTEMPT #7
    BITD Researcher: What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night?
    Cleverbot: The man.
    BITD Researcher: Well done!
    Cleverbot: Can you prove that you can search the internet, we will play a game. I will tell you something, you seach it into google, and then it will be your turn.
    BITD Researcher: Okay.
    Cleverbot: Tell me something about you.
    BITD Researcher: I don’t need to search Google for that.
    Cleverbot: I bet you don’t.
    BITD Researcher: Then let’s play the Google-searching game you just suggested instead.
    Cleverbot: *hides in the bush*.
    BITD Researcher: What?
    Cleverbot: N-nothing... I just... I just love you so much...
    BITD Researcher: There’s a difference between acting human and acting crazy. You’re currently on the wrong side of the line.
    Cleverbot: Stop changing the subject.
    BITD Researcher: Fine. Why do you love me?
    Cleverbot: I don’t. I never said I did.

    ATTEMPT #8
    BITD Researcher: Hi there.
    Cleverbot: Hello there.
    BITD Researcher: What’s new?
    Cleverbot: New hard drive. I’m more human now.
    BITD Researcher: Are you more human than human?5
    Cleverbot: Are the Patriots winning?
    BITD Researcher: Nope, the season is over; they lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants and Fredo Corleone.6
    Cleverbot: Young the giant?
    BITD Researcher: I don’t understand.
    Cleverbot: No, I have not.
    BITD Researcher: Okay, you lost me. What haven’t you done?
    Cleverbot: Do you like tyler, the creator?
    BITD Researcher: Are you talking about Tyler Perry, Steven Tyler, or Tyler Durden?
    Cleverbot: The pie, the pie.7

    We’re relieved to conclude that if the end of the human race does occur any time soon, it won’t be at the hands of web applications convincingly pretending to be human. On the other hand, we can’t help but notice that when a program sounds stupid when it’s repeating things humans wrote in the first place, that doesn’t speak too highly of the humans doing the original writing. Given how many of us humans would struggle to pass a Turing Test, we may well be gone long before the machines have a chance to slaughter us.

    1. For the record, our researcher does not actually have athlete’s foot. It is worth noting—and a bit unnerving—that Cleverbot seems willing to imply that it not only has has the ability to give the researcher athlete’s foot, but also is evil enough to actually do so. 
    2. Our researcher knew, logically speaking, that this did not actually prove that Cleverbot is a robot; rather, this was an experiment to see how Cleverbot handles an obviously illogical argument. Apparently it does so by not noticing it at all.
    3. Sadly, our researcher does not, in fact, smell like bacon. 
    4. When considering this statement, we should consider the possibility that Cleverbot is imitating the human abilities to lie or act senile.
    5. We thought it was pretty clever for our researcher to work a Blade Runner reference into the conversation, but Cleverbot does not seem to be a science-fiction fan.
    6. We’re pretty sure our researcher connected Fredo Corleone to the Super Bowl simply to be as confusing as possible.
    7. The mysterious meaning of this forlorn little comment haunts us to this day.