Thursday, February 17, 2011

Humanity in jeopardy? Watson triumphs over game show champs

Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings was as gracious as humanly possible in this after action report for Slate although, I thought, there were times during the Jeopardy man vs. machine broadcast, that Mr. Jennings looked ready destroy the supercomputer next to him. (He did mention, once, looking to pull the machine's plug.)

I was surprised that the game show was aired only in its regular late-afternoon time slot. I expected it to be a prime time special.

Thank goodness for DVR's. That's a machine we can still order around.

For the time being....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Difference between coffee and decaf explained

Although this is from a site called Fake Science, this one seems to be 100% accurate.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Insisting that sometimes a telephone be used for conversation

Ken Levine has adopted a radical new texting policy, one I am inclined to imitate. Writes Mr. Levine:
Text messages are great for short alerts.

I’m running late.

I’m at baggage claim.

I’m pregnant.

But they’re not designed to replace conversations. After a couple of quick back and forths, if you want to continue to converse with me I will CALL you. You’re obviously there. You just texted me two seconds ago.
Mr. Levine says he's encountered some resistance since implementing his new policy. Some people have been shocked. Levine asks, "Has it been that long since people talked to each other that it is now awkward?"


But I, too, will risk it.

Levine, by the way, is a writer and director whose many credits include M*A*S*H, Cheers, Fraiser, The Simpsons.... He's also been a baseball broadcaster, calling games for the Baltimore Orioles, the Seattle Mariners, and the San Diego Padres. His daily blog is a must-read. Levine was also a rock'n'roll DJ on a number of Top 40 radio stations in the 1970s. In other words, he's done all sorts of things I've always wanted to do... and never will.

And with all these accomplishments, there is yet one more: Levine has also formulated Levine's Laws. The best known of these may be, "The lead off walk will always come around to score...unless it doesn't." This one, however, is my favorite:
In every article that mentions you, no matter how complimentary the article, there will always be one thing said or misquoted that will prevent you from Xeroxing and sending it to your family.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Oh man, was I wrong!

I was so sure that this storm would pass us by.

"Oh, it might snow," I grudgingly conceded yesterday morning after listening to all the Prophets of Doom on the TV and radio, "but probably only six to eight inches. Just enough to make it miserable. Not enough to bring anything to a halt."

I checked the radar a few times while I was at work... and it began to look more or more ominous. Still, anyone who's lived in Chicago has seen storms that looked dangerous on the radar fade away or part like Moses parted the Red Sea, going south and north of Chicago.

And I have plenty to do at work. I was determined to finish a couple of projects yesterday, and I did, but by the time I was done I didn't need radar to see the deteriorating weather. The Mark One Eyeball glancing out the office window provided more than enough evidence.

The horns started shortly after the snow started yesterday afternoon. My office is above Wells Street. As the weather turned, all the drivers took immediate leave of their senses, blasting their horns incessantly. Perhaps drivers thought the cars in front of them might vanish like soap bubbles once they realized that they, The Honking People, were in a hurry. The good news was that The Honking People must have gotten to their destinations by early evening; it must have been only patient people who were left to get stuck on Lake Shore Drive.

I left the office about 4:00, an hour-and-a-half or so after it started snowing. Our building security guard was feeling a little depressed when I said good evening. Her night relief had already called in, she told me, and she had a bad feeling that she might be stuck in the building for quite awhile.

The symphony of horns had subsided by this point; already the streets were nearly deserted. I was one of a handful of shuffling pedestrians at a time of day when the sidewalks are usually filled to capacity with people heading for their trains. I needed to stop at the bank. I had to put some money on my CTA card. And I wasn't too upset that I'd be getting on the Blue Line south of where I'd usually board: Maybe I'd even get a seat.

These hopes were quickly dashed as I came down the stairs onto the Monroe Street platform. Now I knew where all the people had gone. I found a place to stand and squinted down the tunnel toward Jackson Street, looking for signs of a train. Although the CTA had promised to run additional trains yesterday afternoon, none of these were apparently allocated to the Blue Line Subway. A train eventually stopped at Jackson -- but its running lights were flashing as it pulled out of the station. It was running express.

There was no "immediate follower." The platform got more and more crowded.

Eventually another train pulled into Jackson. This one stopped at Monroe.

Fortunately, when it arrived, there was still some prime standing room in the center of the car. I got there in time to hear the motorman's announcement: "I have an immediate follower," he said. I wouldn't have bet on the truth of his assertion.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The storm only got worse after dark. A neighbor went out at 7:30 or 8:00 to try and use his snowblower. He put some snow up into the air, but it was hard to distinguish what he put up from what Nature was putting down. My wife watched from the window, trying to decide whether we should go out and take a stab at our own driveway. She watched for a couple of minutes before realizing that she could actually see the neighbor only sporadically. She decided it was best that we not go out. I did not disagree.

"If it stops right now," I said, "my prediction would still be right."

But, of course, it didn't stop.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Fast forward now to early this morning: We couldn't even get out the door at first. The good news was that we had parked our cars in the driveway. Somehow, in the howling winds overnight, the snow didn't stick to the cars and they shielded some of the driveway beneath them. But they had to be dug out.

And so we did. Then the lake effect snow kicked in.

This time, because the winds weren't as strong, the snow did stick to the cars. But the winds now were from the north and east and not from the south and west -- and some of the snow we'd piled up in our initial removal efforts... redrifted.

The good news is that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow.

The interesting thing is that, as much as I doubted the carefully plotted, scientific predictions of last night's storm, I readily accepted the prognostication of what my son-in-law refers to as an oversized, lying rat.

But who wants to believe bad news... or reject news that's good?

Happy Groundhog's Day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's snowing outside! Panic in the streets!

Found on (and lifted from) Facebook.

Presumably Sally Forth, like most comics, is submitted pretty far in advance. But it sure was timely this morning....

(Click to enlarge.)