Contents

Caty and Cara's Page

Our Computers

Snapshots with Text

Essays for Fun

Ken Burch's Tales

Ken's Neocron Tales

More Neocron Tales

Secret Wars

Tales of the Walker Clan

Our Cast

Why Kevin Doesn't Dance

Writing of Mine That Doesn't Totally Suck

Stuff dl Thinks Is Cool

The Old, Old Grandma Story

The Final Battle

James' Photos

James Meyer's Birds:

Introduction

Photos 1 through 25

Photos 26 through 50

Photos 51 through 75

Photos 76 through 100

Reading

a book cover

Playing





alChandler's Halls

Serving dozens since 1999


Ramayana Book 3

I've just started book 3 and the villain of the piece still hasn't shown up. But at least we've got Rama, Sita and Lakshmana firmly established in exile in the forest. Bharata, Rama's brother, is acting king of Ayodhya until Rama's term of exile is over. Bharata himself has taken a pair of Rama's shoes and set them on the throne as a sign that he's just Rama's regent.

Rama is in a fairly wild region and the local hermits have asked Rama's help in dealing with Rakshasas, that is demons, who infest the area. Rama, in fact, is an incarnation of Vishnu who took on human form so he could defeat Ravana, King of the Rakshasas. So the fact that the things are starting to turn up is a sign that the plot is finally getting a move on.

July 27, 2015


Windows 10 and Nvidia

There have been reports that Windows 10 automatic driver update feature has been clashing with Nvidia's own driver update tool, in some cases rendering your box unusable.

The issue is occurring because Nvidia will push new drivers out without waiting for Microsoft certification. So you'll have the latest driver installed and Windows 10 will overwrite it with an older driver that has just been certified. And that is what is causing problems on people's PCs.

I don't know how widespread this issue is and it's possible that MS has already fixed it but since I have a GTX 970 and use Nvidia's tool to update I'm going to hold off on jumping to Windows 10 until I see how things go.

July 27, 2015


Witcher 3: The Video

At this point I'm not really officially playing a game without video. So here's 25 seconds of me beating the crap out of wild dogs. You may note that I'm leaping a lot, it's a Batman legacy.

July 27, 2015


Still Hanging with Rama

I'm about a third of the way through the poem. Rama's dad, King Dasharatha realized he was getting old so he wanted to make Rama, his oldest son, regent. But Queen Kaikeyi called in a promise that Dasharatha made long ago and forced the king to exile Rama for 14 years and make her own son, Bharata instead. Rama, his wife Sita and his bother go into exile as hermits, Dasharatha dies of grief and when Bharata is recalled from a trip to see his grandfather he wants nothing to do with his mom's machinations and refuses the throne. His plan is to take Rama's place in exile and let Rama be king.

I knew that Rama, Sita and Lakshamana go into exile, that's what sets up the big conflict between Rama and the demon Ravana. What I didn't realize was how different the pacing of the Ramayana compared to the European epic poems I'm used to. In, say, the Iliad all this would have been taken care of in a few pages but I've been on Rama's exile for over a week and there's still more to go in this set piece.

I still don't like the rhyming translation but you get used to it after a bit.

If I get through this I'm reading nothing but Star Trek novels for the rest of the year.

July 24, 2015


A Quick Witcher Update

Today I rescued a merchant.

I'm in a new area. That means the enemies are tougher then I am. And, in this case, no easily identifiable merchants. I found one but he was being held by bandits, all of whom were several levels higher then I was. It took me several tries but I took the bandits out and rescued the merchant. I now have a guy who'll give me a discount. And I'm feeling a bit better about taking a quest that might be a level or two above my pay grade. Not bad for a quick session.

July 23, 2015


Orcs and Humans

I just want to point out that while Tolkien's orcs were not above eating humans, they were not cannibals. A bit of edited dialogue from Uglķk, leader of Saruman's Uruk-hai and GrishnŠkh, one of Sauron's captains:

Uglķk: I don't trust you little swine. You've no guts outside your own sties. But for us you'd all have run away. We are the fighting Uruk-hai. We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand: the Hand that gives us man's flesh to eat.

GrishnŠkh: Swine is it? How do you folks feel like being called swine by the muck rakers of a dirty little wizard? It's orc-flesh they eat I'll warrant.

After that accusation, the two groups of orcs come to blows. But while orcs, especially when their wills were being dominated by Saruman or Sauron, would do horrible things, they had limits. They would no more eat their own then Aragorn would. Jackson's meat on the menu joke was funny but I wanted to set the record straight.

By the way, there's a bit between the orc two orc captains who captured Frodo that almost makes me feel sorry for them:

Gorbag: I'd like to try somewhere where there's none of 'em. But the war's on now and when that's over things may be easier.

Shagrat: It's going well the say.

Gorbag: They would. We'll see. But anyway, if it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d'you say?-if we get the chance, you and me will slip off and set up on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there's good loot and nice and handy and no big bosses.

Shagrat: Ah! Like old times.

Orcs, after all, were ruined elves. Gorbag and Shagrat remembered when Sauron was assumed dead and and they liked those days when their interaction with humans consisted of smash and grab raids and, probably, the occasional truce for trading. Sauron was back and he could dominate their wills but that didn't mean they had to it.

July 23, 2015


Copyright Claim

Universal Pictures France filed a DMCA notice with Google for violation of their copyright. Fortunately they were able to track down the URLs of four of the computers hosting Jurassic World.

July 23, 2015


A Boy's First Griffin

That was a bit of a pain, the thing could fly. Vesemir, my mentor, gave me a crossbow but the game gave me no information about how to equip it. That meant that when I got a few licks in and it flew off I had to run after it like an idiot. Still I killed it and that seems to mean that Vesemir will be going back to our stronghold leaving me to fend for myself. After ten hours the training wheels are about to come off.

July 22, 2015


Another Sunrise

There's a screen shot without the HUD. Projekt RED goes out of their way to show the dirt and filth that went with medieval life, but the game is pretty for all that. Here's I'm celebrating my victory over a bear and some ghouls. That allowed the villagers to start worshiping at a roadside shrine again. Because I'm a fairly nice guy when all is said and done.

July 21, 2015


Jack

I discovered that you can rename your cat in WoW and they'll now sit on your lap when you call. So here I am in Elwyn Forest, spending some quality time with Jack. This makes me far happier then it should.

July 21, 2015


Comfortable in One's Skin: Witcher 3

I took a bit of damage from the wolves there. Partially because they're goddamn wolves after all. Partially because Witcher 3 is a complex game and you have to dick around until the mechanisms become second nature to you. The gaming equivalent of muscle memory, if you will.

But I am doing better, I destroyed a couple of wraiths and I brought down a deserter chief. He had a shield and I had to stun him and then get behind him to do damage. In retrospect, I should have use igni, my fire spell. I didn't though, that's the muscle memory thing I'm talking about.

What I'm trying to do is explore the beginning area until I hit level 3. That's the suggested level for tackling the griffin the local military commander wants me to kill. I do that and he tells me where Yennifer, the woman I'm tracking, has gotten to. It's a quid pro quo thing that will keep me in the starting area until I'm strong enough to handle the rest of the world.

Projekt RED, the developers, weren't always so considerate. In the second game of the series they boasted about the game's difficulty level and then started issuing patches that lowered it. A lot of players couldn't make it past the tutorial when it was released. I played it until the first boss fight. The fight was a Quicktime event and I never got past it.

What's killing me right now is wondering how tough the griffin really is. I was level 1 when I killed my first wraith, the suggested level was 2. But this is a boss and I should probably do what the game says. I'm hoping that by the time I do that fight I'll have learned how to disable the HUD when I take a screen shot.

July 21, 2015


Apple Watch Sales verses Amazon Kindle Sales

July 21, 2015


Curtis Loftis

Curtis Loftis is the Treasurer of South Carolina. Today members of the Klan protested the removal of the Confederate flag at the state capitol. Members of the New Black Panther Party were there to greet them. That's when Loftis posted his tweet about black youths abusing white people. Someone must have told him that the tweet was a bad idea because he quickly took it down.

But not quickly enough I'm afraid.

July 19, 2015


Ramayana Part 2

Dasharatha does a horse sacrifice presided over by Rishyasringa. Short version is a horse wanders free for a year, then it's killed. The sacrifice goes off without a hitch and the action moves to heaven. It seems that a demon named Ravanan, at least Ravanan in this translation, he's more commonly known as Ravana, practiced such austerities that Brahma offered Ravanan anything he wanted. What Ravanan wanted was to be unkillable by the gods. Brahma granted it and Ravanan went on a divine ass kicking campaign. Brahma was powerful but he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

So the gods ask Brahma to do something about this. Vishnu shows up and volunteers to incarnate as Dasharatha's soon to be born four sons. Since he'll be human he'll be able to kill Ravanan. The gods are happy and send a messenger with a fertility drug to Dasharatha. The king gives the drug to his three wives and soon he'll have four sons. The two that will really count are Rama and Lakshmana.



Ravanan

Ravanan ruled over an entire kingdom of demons located on Sri Lanka. So the villain has been introduced and the hero is about to be conceived. Fun fact, as far as we know, rakshas, that is demons, never ruled on Sri Lanka. But Arthur C. Clarke moved there in 1956 and spent the rest of his life there.

July 18, 2015


The Ramayana

I'm gonna give this a shot. The Ramayana is a lot bigger then the Iliad and Odyssey combined but it's a lot shorter then the Mahabharata. So, to work.

First of all, unlike Homer's poems, Ramayana is a moral work, that is Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman are role models. Nobody sane is going to look at Achilles and try to emulate him. So there's that to keep in mind. And unlike western epics Ramayana starts at the beginning of the tale. If fact, it before the beginning.

About 1.2 million years ago the poet Valmiki asks the sage Narada if there's a virtuous man in the world. Narada tells him yes, it's Rama, Valmiki goes back to his home and who shows up but Brahma. Brahma tells Valmiki to write a poem about Rama. he does, he teaches it to two of his apprentices and those guys go to the court of King Rama and recite the poem to him. And then, launching into the action we find that Rama isn't even born.

Rama's dad, King Dasharatha had no heir. He did have a daughter but he gave her to another childless monarch. Anyway, if Dasharatha can get the sage Rishyasringa to leave his hermitage, and marry the daughter, then Rishyasringa will perform a sacrifice that will allow Dasharatha to begat a son. That's where I'm at now, right at the sacrifice part.

Now, scholars are reasonably certain the the poem was not composed 1.2 million years ago. They tend to put it in the 5th to 4th century BCE range. The Wikipedia also confidently asserts that the poet Valmiki lived in the first millennium BCE, which certainly nails it down.

And here's the thing about all this. As a very young man I was fascinated by Asian history. And always wanted to read things like the Ramayana. But when I did finally get access to the poem I kept putting it off. I mean it's long fucking poem. But this year I've been keeping a list of the books I've read, Sort of like a runner keeping track of the miles he's run. I've been doing pretty good and there will probably never be a better time to tackle the Ramayana. I'll keep you updated.

July 18, 2015


Sunrise

I was on my way back to the village of White Orchid after helping the farmer find his brother. The area I was traveling through reminded me of the Thirty Years War. There were wolves eating corpses and that sort of thing. I found a bunch of deserters who were robbing and killing travelers. I killed the ones blocking the road and found a way up to a ruined tower on a hill that overlooked the road. There I killed their chief, rested (he wounded me badly) then took this magnificent screen shot. I think it's safe to say that I've finally begun Witcher 3.

July 17, 2015


Questin'

So, I'm in a little village that's just been taken over by the Nilfgaardians. Naturally there's bad feelings between the villagers and the occupying forces. And when the Nilfgaardians moved in the forces of Temeria fought them and lost. Now this guy wants me to find his brother's body. The brother fought on the Temerian side. The guy doesn't want to go to the battlefield alone because of the ghouls. So I go with him to the battlefield, dispatch the ghouls, we find his bother's shield and the family dog tracks the brother down to a hut that he's sharing with a Nilfgaardian deserter. The deserter patched the Temerian up and now they're just shooting the shit.

My quest giver pays me off and reluctantly agrees to take in the deserter as a farm hand. The quest involved combat, exploration and had a surprisingly cool ending for a throw away side quest. I may get to like this game.

July 17, 2015


Mahabharata

Arjuna is looking at the battle field. He's about to fight the army of the Kauravas to take back his kingdom. But in the opposing army he sees family, friends and teachers and he decides not to fight. Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, not to mention an avatar of Vishnu, explains to the price why fighting is the correct course of action. The dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna is the Bhagavad Gita. It's a tiny part of a much larger epic poem called the Mahabharata.

The bastard is ten times the size of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. It's the national epic of India and the only thing it can be compared to is the other national epic of India, the Ramayana.

The Mahabharata is about the war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas for the Kingdom of Hastinapura. I've read summaries of the poem but I never thought to actually have a copy of the thing. Then along came Project Gutenberg. Now I have the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

The Ramayana is only one quarter the length of the Mahabharata. It's about the hero Rama, who's also an avatar of Vishnu. That would make it the best place to start, if I ever steel myself to read Indian epic poetry. But the translator decided to try to translate it as verse. Sometimes, as in Robert Pinsky's translation of the Inferno that works out. Here's a sample of Ralph T. H. Griffith's verse translation:

Then NŠrad, clear before whose eye
The present, past, and future lie,
Made ready answer: "Hermit, where
Are graces found so high and rare?
Yet listen, and my tongue shall tell
In whom alone these virtues dwell.
From old IkshvŠku's line he came,
Known to the world by RŠma's name:
With soul subdued, a chief of might,
In Scripture versed, in glory bright,
His steps in virtue's paths are bent,
Obedient, pure, and eloquent.
In each emprise he wins success,
And dying foes his power confess.
Tall and broad-shouldered, strong of limb,
Fortune has set her mark on him.
Graced with a conch-shell's triple line,
His throat displays the auspicious sign.
High destiny is clear impressed
On massive jaw and ample chest,
His mighty shafts he truly aims,
And foemen in the battle tames.
Deep in the muscle, scarcely shown,
Embedded lies his collar-bone.
His lordly steps are firm and free,
His strong arms reach below his knee;

And on for another 24,000 verses. When Kisari Mohan Ganguli translated the Mahabharata into English he decided to do prose. That works a lot better. So, it's an open question which one I'll read, if I read either.

You know, when I was in college I read Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and Sister Nievdita. The book had highly condensed retellings of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. That led me to want to read the originals. Of course it was impractical, there were no unabridged versions of the poems in print this side of India. The internet, among many other gifts it's given, has allowed readers access to many books that would otherwise have been out of their reach. In the meantime, I'm going to put Nina Paley's wonderful film Sita Sings the Blues here. It's a retelling of the Ramayana from Sita's perspective. It's hard to dance around the fact that Rama, although a virtuous person by the standards of 5th century BC India, was a dick to Sita by 21st century standards. But hell, Achilles was an asshole too. It goes with the whole epic hero thing.

July 15, 2015


So Then, Moving On

And after that I had to fuck around with the game. That's me and my faithful horse Roach. I just spent two hours questin' and putting a level 2 ghost to rest. Not too bad because I'm level 1.

So far I tracked down a redneck asshole for burning down a dwarf's forge and put a ghost to rest who was keeping people from the only well in town. I got some money from both jobs but the redneck was hanged by the occupying military.

Asshole move on my part but I'm not alChandler in this game, I'm Geralt, the asshole Witcher. A game where you play a predetermined role has limits. And, to be fair, I used what limited options I had and turned down money for cleansing the well. So, we'll see if I'm still playing this later in the week.

July 14, 2015


India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking

That's the name of a book I bought in 2011, it was written by Anand Giridharadas. I never finished it, a lot was going on in my life in 2011, enough so that I didn't have room to read about Giridharadas' experiences in modern India.

But I'm going to read it now.

I still haven't really played Witcher 3. It goes like that sometimes. Batman: Arkham City and Dragon Age: Inquisition were pretty intense experiences. Perhaps I'm still recovering. And I haven't read this many books without a break for some time. This shit evens out.

July 12, 2015


Bliss

After two days on the new mattress my back is better and even my aching hip is giving me less trouble. Then, when I was cleaning out the fridge I found two beers that had been overlooked. So I had a chicken salad sandwich, I'm drinking one of the beers and after the second beer I will lie on the bed and read.

Life is good.

July 12, 2015


Law and Order: SVU

July 12, 2015


Batman v Superman



Ok, now I'm hooked.

July 11, 2015


Reread

I normally don't reread a book so soon but in preparation for tackling Jo Walton's The Philosopher Kings I'm rereading The Just City. The new book is a continuation of the first book and the first book had a lot of characters to follow. The tools for looking stuff up on the new Kindle are much better then on the old one.

The Just City ended with a bit of a cliffhanger. Athena had started a project in which Plato's ideal state would be created on an island about the time of the Trojan War. One of the people brought to inhabit the city was Socrates, who comes to question if the city was just a all. He debates the goddess, wins and for his pains is turned into a gadfly. Which is kinda ironic since the Athenians who condemned him to death referred to him as a gadfly.

Some books require what's called the willing suspension of disbelief. The idea that the galaxy is crawling with humanoids, all at roughly the same level of technological development is ludicrous, but I force myself to accept it when I watch Star Trek. But the idea that Athena could find a lot of people who think Plato's vision of a just city is cool, not to mention wanting to live there, takes some getting used to.

You know, I have a book by I. F. Stone called The Trial of Socrates. The short version is that Socrates was a complete dick. I've got to reread that one day.

July 11, 2015


Finders Keepers

I'm reading Finders Keepers, a mystery novel by Stephen King. It's the sequel to Mr. Mercedes. That one won King the 2015 Edgar Award for best mystery novel. And it was a good one.

The protagonist in Mr. Mercedes is Bill Hodges a 62 year old homicide detective who's been retired for six months. He's divorced, he's alienated his daughter and he's suicidal. And as much as I enjoyed the book once, just once I'd like to read a novel about a 62 year old retired homicide detective who's happy as shit. He takes his wife for a second honeymoon, stopping on the way to see their daughter in graduate school. He does a little security consulting on the side, starts working on his golf game and when his former partner comes by to ask him about the series of unsolved murders from 2007 he can't tell him anything because frankly, once he retired he let all that crap go.

I mean, is that too much to ask? I worked with a lot of retired cops and a lot of them were reasonably well adjusted human beings. I'm just saying that the depressed, lonely, alcoholic, suicidal ex-cop is getting a bit old.

That aside, Mr. Mercedes was a good book and I'm enjoying Finders keepers too. There's going to be a third book about Hodges called End of Watch that will be released when ever Stephen King feels like it because, like George. R. R. Martin, Stephen King is not our bitch.

July 9, 2015


Garfield

July 8, 2015


Seveneves and the Far Future

Issac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy was set about 20,000 years in our future. But the good Doctor wasn't interested in predicting life 200 centuries from now, he was riffing on the fall of the Roman Empire. Oh, later on he sort of introduced things like personal computers to that fictional universe but it was history he was into, not predicting the future of our tech.

The best you can hope for in science fiction is plausibility. 2001: A Space Odyssey holds up not as a prediction but as a possible alternate path, one that wasn't taken for financial reasons, not technological ones. And not everything is plausible. Colonies on the Moon, yeah we can do that. But right now any manned mission to Jupiter is going to deliver a pretty high dosage of radiation to the travelers. And we still can't do HAL and throwing money at the problem isn't going to change that.

Or you can just go bugfuck crazy. In The Quantum Thief Hannu Rajaniemi's characters are fucking gods with powers beyond our comprehension. It's not magic, it's tech and that's that. I must admit if the author can pull it off, and Rajaniemi can, then books like that our wonderful.

Ever hear of Olaf Stapledon? He wrote The Last and First Men a history of the future from 1930 to the extinction of humanity billions, I said billions, of years in the future. The conceit is that a historian of the Eighteenth Men, the last human race, contacts a guy in 1930 and give him an outline of the future. Naturally a guy from 1930 is filtering all this as best he can. If the tech sometimes seems backward that's because the narrator, a Mr. Stapledon, can't comprehend it or, in some cases, even identify it as tech. William Hope Hodgson did the same thing in The Night Land where a man from end of earth becomes linked to a gentleman farmer from the early 18th century.

Then there's the strategy that Frank Herbert used, a deliberate rejection of certain kinds of technology. In Dune there are references to the Butlerian Jihad. That happened about 10,000 years from now after humanity had expanded through the galaxy. Humans fought a holy war against really smart computers and won. After that the most important commandment in the Dune universe, right up there with the incest taboo is: Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind. The technology of Dune looks primitive because of humanity's choice, no PS4s, no smartphones, no internet, no fun for anybody.

Neal Stephenson does something similar in Seveneves. After it becomes apparent that the Moon's destruction will lead to humanity's destruction, the ISS becomes a sort of life raft. At a certain point the action skips 5,000 year in the future where humanity has recovered and is now repairing the Earth, which had been bombarded with fragments from the destroyed Moon for quite some time. Stephenson's own characters point out that our own smart phones are far more advanced then anything humanity has at the end of his novel. The descendants of the crew of the ISS were into survival and then later there was an emphasis on construction and terraforming technologies. There's that and a sort of natural conservatism. For some 4,000 years humanity numbered in the thousands. And on top of that, genetic engineering, that technology they were good at, had already split humans into seven races. That meant some tension so any technological change was studied to see how it would change the geopolitical situation. So they're not gods.

Which is a long way of saying there's a lot of cool books to read. And that the world changes in interesting ways. I got my oil changed today. About a third of us in the waiting room were staring at little handheld screens. The television was on but we were immersed in our private worlds. Someone from 1965 observing the scene might have found it sad and vaguely dystopian. I was nine in 1965 and might have found it cool.

By the way, I'm sort of leaning towards giving Dune one more try. I meant it took me til my 30s before I could appreciate Isak Dineson, maybe my 60s will be the Herbert decade.

July 7, 2015


Disappointment

July 7, 2015


Kindle

When I got my first iPod, umpteen years ago it looked like Steve Jobs had gone ten years into the future, snatched the thing and reversed engineered it, The thing was that cool looking. Apple's devices work well but they're designed to excite.

In 2009 Mrs. Silverman called me up and told me I had to get a Kindle, so I did. I never regretted it either. But it looked like Bezos went back in time to 1990 with specs and got some firm in the past to make it:

my first one died after six months but Amazon replaced it. After that I had it until last week. It worked well but it looked and felt cheap. Apple could price the iPhone at $600 because most of us were getting it for $300 through are carriers. Amazon didn't have that luxury. But over time they brought the price down, added functionality and made it look nicer.

It took Amazon a while but they ditched the keyboard and the buttons for on screen controls. Took me a day or two to get used and now that I have, I like them. The device looks like something made in 2015.

But as a compulsive reader the Kindle 2 I bought six years ago was a marvelous device. It was like it was from an episode of the Twilight Zone where a kid's toy can contact aliens. By the way, did you know that Stephen King wrote a story about the Kindle? It was called Ur. And it was about a technophobe who buys a Kindle just to shut people up. He gets a version not meant for the general public. King said about it:

The delivery mechanism to my mind is secondary for me as a writer. [...] But I did this once before with a story called Riding the Bullet and I never had so many guys in suits come up to me and ask me questions. But they didn't want to know about the story, they didn't want to know about the process, they wanted to know about the delivery system, but to me that's secondary. [...] I think people will be more interested in the business aspect of [Ur] than they will in the story. I would never have agreed to it if I didn't think it was a pretty good story.[3] I decided I would like to write a story for the Kindle, but only if I could do one about the Kindle. Gadgets fascinate me, particularly if I can think of a way they might get weird. I had previously written about homicidal cars, sinister computers, and brain-destroying mobile phones; at the time the Amazon request came in, I'd been playing with an idea about a guy who starts getting e-mails from the dead. The story I wrote, Ur, was about an e-reader that can access books and newspapers from alternate worlds. I realized I might get trashed in some of the literary blogs, where I would be accused of shilling for Jeff Bezos & Co., but that didn't bother me much; in my career, I have been trashed by experts, and I'm still standing.

So there you go. After a week, I'm half way through Seveneves. Not a bad book to christen a new ereader with.

July 6, 2015


Google Voice and Siri

With infinite patience, Rolf finally got me using voice search with Google. Now I use it for most of my searches. But I have another AI on my phone, AI in a rather loose sense of the word, Siri. So the other day I decided to try her out with a simple search.

I read comic books. In current continuity, Lex Luthor is a tech billionaire. His distrust of Superman led him to do some really bad things and he was put in prison. But during an incident where super criminals from another universe attacked Earth, Lex heroically helped defend the planet. Afterwards he received a full pardon from the president and is now a member of the Justice League. And that started me thinking. Even after doing their time people who went to jail lose certain rights for good, for instance they can no longer vote. But Lex received a pardon, could he vote?

Yes, I have too much time on my hands. Anyway, rather then use Google I decided to try Siri and this is what I got.

Not overly helpful. Google gave me the answer, the president pardons you, your rights are restored.

In a way, it was an unfair question. On iPhones, Google Voice is a tool for searches and that's it. OK Google may do wonderful things on Android phones but that's another story. But Siri isn't a search tool. Hell, Apple doesn't have its own search engine. Siri's job is to help you with the OS and use certain Apple apps. She can open apps and do stuff like set the alarm and make calls.

The alarm thing is actually useful. On the iPhone to set your alarm you have to navigate to utilites>clock>alarm. Or just tell Siri to set the alarm for ten in the morning. Siri also comes in handy for opening the NY Times. The Times' app is buried in Apple's Newsstand app. And she's good at phone calls, if I can remember what I call people in my address book. The thing also makes a handy spell check.

I'll probably start using Siri a bit more for the things it's good at. Neither Google or Siri are AIs in the sense that HAL and Wintermute were but they're both surprisingly good at figuring out what I'm babbling about via context. Given how difficult it is for a program to figure out what we're talking about, speech recognition, albeit in a limited context, is pretty cool.

I feel like an old man in 1952 who's just been given a television set by his kids. He's got no use for the thing, radio is just fine, then he discovers I Love Lucy and he's hooked.

One more thing, I've thought about making Siri call me alChandler but I decided to keep things on a professional basis.

July 4, 2015