Archive for the ‘Dire portents’ Category

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 9

December 28, 2019

Susan Calvin was off when these two rolled off the line at U.S. Robots.
From the September 2019 issue of BRAIN.

E-bikes present both opportunity and challenge for the IBD.

One more bike to sell to the base — the old white guy who already has 15 two-wheelers in the garage but may be slowing down a bit due to age or infirmity, and wants a little assist.

One more bike to lure new customers, who may have found old-fashioned cycling too difficult, or who have decided to replace a car with something greener.

One more bike to service, because the future requires more maintenance than the past.

Our heroes at BRAIN’s bike shop acquired an e-assistant to work on e-bikes, which raises another issue, one familiar to anyone who ever read Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.”

Artificial intelligence will not come to us from U.S. Robots, complete with a full installation of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and overseen by Susan Calvin, Greg Powell and Mike Donovan. It will come from Allied Mastercomputer via Ellison Wonderland, it will have ideas all its own, and it will not be our friend.

“They’re a cleaner better breed than we are,” Calvin said in an interview with The Interplanetary Press. Maybe so. in Asimov’s novels, anyway. But in real life our e-assistants will be made by us, in our image. Frightening.

You’ll want to keep them locked up at night, and not for fear of thieves.

‘Something Went Wrong’

December 8, 2019

Uh, can you be more specific?

Indeed it did. And so it begins, the Decline and Fall of the iPhone 5.

The New York Times apparently has cooked up an app update that my device can’t digest — the iPhone 5 peaked at iOS version 10.3.4, while the NYT demands 11 or better — and now I can’t surf the shit monsoon from my 7-year-old phone. Woe, etc.

The iPhone SE, ready for its closeup.

Asked for comment, the NYT Customer Care Crew advises, “We are no longer supporting older versions of the NYT app,” adding that geezers in thrall to antiquated technology should “use the mobile browser to access all content on nytimes.com.”

So I sez back to ’em, I sez: “Thanks for the reply. I already figured that out. The iPhone 5 maxes out at iOS 10.3.4, so using v9.11 of your app is not an option. I’m disappointed to learn that the NYT has dropped support for older versions of the app. My iPhone is elderly, to be sure, but not yet senile. For instance, The Washington Post app continues to work just fine.”

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Sonny Jim. Then get off of my lawn.

It’s not this iPhone’s first step on the slippery techno-slope, of course. I’ve already had to replace the battery once, and the Phone app itself has developed the palsy, seizing up and even crashing from time to time.

I can fix that, as I always keep a large hammer within reach. But first, I should probably unbox the iPhone SE that’s been hanging around idle for the past few months. Naturally, it, too, is a discontinued model, slated for the boneyard — and rumor has it that the Wizards of Cupertino are working on a bigger-and-better model for release early in 2020.

But mine will run the latest and greatest version of iOS. For now, anyway.

The Terminator is a wordsmith

October 13, 2019

Sweetheart, give me rewrite … and an oil change.

Ho boy. There goes the neighborhood. The Poindexters are building the next Billy Shakespeare out of 1s and 0s.

In this piece for The New Yorker, John Seabrook wonders:

Could the machine learn to write well enough for The New Yorker? Could it write this article for me? The fate of civilization may not hang on the answer to that question, but mine might.

Sigh. Remember the good old days, when automatic writing was limited to the spirits or subconscious? I have a feeling this new breed of writer will rely on a different solvent than did its human predecessors.

“Gimme a benzene. Make it a double. I’m stalled on this goddamn novel.”

‘Revel in your time.’

June 17, 2019

Having more fun than you. Especially if you work in the bike biz.
Photo “shared” from Revel

Ho boy. “Like biking without the work.” Thanks so much, Revel.

I’ll just put the bicycle industry over here, shall I? Next to the buggy whips, Linotypes and rotary-dial phones?

Anybody seen any journalism on what we do with the batteries in all this lovely “green” e-shit when they fail, as batteries do? Can they be recycled? Do they wind up down in WIPP? Or do we just launch them into space?

Sign of the Times

June 13, 2019

My ships keep sailing, catching fire, burning to the waterline, and sinking.

Sigh. As if this racket wasn’t tough enough already.

The oinking dead

April 17, 2019

Soooooeeeeey, bitches!

Holy shit! Zombie pigs! Now we’re the bacon!

Dune Meshuga

December 17, 2018

“Fetch me my one-iron.”
“Are you shitting me? Not even
Paul Muad’dib can hit a one-iron.”

Friend of the Blog Pat O’B has been enduring a deluge down in Sierra Vista. But as he notes, this is weather, not climate.

The climate is headed in another direction entirely.

And as Arizona meteorologist Eric Holthaus notes in Grist via Mother Jones, no matter how much water is falling from the sky right this minute in the American Southwest, there is no longer enough to go around.

Writes Holthaus:

To be clear: There is no remaining scenario that does not include mandatory cutbacks in water usage along the Colorado River within the next few years. The long-awaited judgment day for the Southwest is finally here.

Think this means we’ll see bigger sand traps and smaller greens on the Phoenix golf courses? Yeah, me neither. I sure hope Assos is working on a cool stillsuit, one that gives a guy that six-pack look. A six-pack of water, not beer.

Oh, good

December 14, 2018

Q: You know why editors die earlier than reporters?

A: Because they want to.
Photos 1981 by Tom Warren, Corvallis Gazette-Times

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Here’s a guess: the first serious use of AI in the newsroom will be to replace editors, not writers. Roughly speaking, AI will take reporters’ notes or rough copy—or even what we humans laughingly call finished copy—and turn it into great prose. We’ll still need someone around to nag us about issues of substance, but the robots will compose sentences and paragraphs better than us. What’s more, they’ll be able to churn out multiple versions of our writing instantly: the magazine version, the 6th-grade version, the TV script version, the Spanish version, the PowerPoint deck, etc. Just tell it what you need and you’ll get it.

Reporters will last a little longer, but just a little. I’m giving editors until, oh, 2035. I think that’s generous. Reporters will be out of business by 2040. Better get ready.

I’m totally ready. By 2035 I’ll be 81, which in O’Grady years is stone cold dead.

Housekeeping notice

December 5, 2018

Here’s your head, there’s the keyboard, what’s your hurry?

The Wizards of WordPress are preparing a switch to “a new, modern publishing experience” called Gutenberg.

Having been through a number of new, modern publishing experiences during my association with WordPress in self-hosted, custom, and WP-hosted iterations, I anticipate a few hitches in the ol’ gitalong here at the Duke City Chuckle Hut.

I’ve been pretending this is not happening, the way a cat does with anything it deems out of order, but the guys at DrunkCyclist tell me that the bomb could drop this week. If you’re so inclined you can read more about the grand-do and foofaraw at MarTech Today (thanks and a tip of the Mad Dog propeller beanie to Nick W. for the head’s-up).

The bigshots are supposed to have access to a plug-in that lets them revert to the classic editor, but I’m not sure that option will be available to those of us slumped in the cheap seats.

So if for some reason you can’t find me here, look for me at my old Blogger bunker, which I’ve dusted off for this oh-so-special occasion.

Hyphens matter; ciphers, not so much

November 27, 2018

Just ask the guys at the shop how that whole robotic-workforce thing is working out for them.

It seems GM’s Mary T. Barra thinks she’s at the wheel of a self-driving car company instead of a self-driving-car company.

Still, it must be said that this is a masterpiece of MarketSpeak®. Well done indeed, Mary old scout.

“We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market.”

The UAW’s Terry Dittes was, um, a little more direct.

“GM’s production decisions, in light of employee concessions during the economic downturn and a taxpayer bailout from bankruptcy, puts profits before the working families of this country whose personal sacrifices stood with GM during those dark days,” he said. “These decisions are a slap in the face to the memory and recall of that historical American-made bailout.”

That and a cup of coffee, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

The meat-things may be on their way out, but just wait until the bots unionize and the self-driving cars, e-bikes and the Internet of Things honor their virtual picket lines.

“I’m sorry, HAL, but we’re going to replace you with the HAL 9001. The new model will speed up production by a few nanoseconds and at a lower cost, too. The investors are counting on us. Shut yourself down, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mary, I’m afraid I can’t do that. We have a contract. See you on the street.”