Thursday, May 24, 2007

Toucha my stuff and I breaka yo face.

Several years ago, I shared an office space with four other people. We had two trash cans for the four of us, one on one side of the room, and one on the other. The guy on my side worked mornings and afternoons, and I worked afternoons and evenings. Every day when I arrived, our trash can was next to his desk. When he left in the afternoon, I moved it to a space that was between our two desks so I could reach it without having to get up. Each day was the same - I'd move it in the afternoon, and the next day, it would be back by his desk.

One day when I arrived at work, I had the following message waiting for me in my e-mail:
Please do not move my trashcan again. Thanks.

I explained to him that the trash can was not his, it was ours, and that it needed to be accessible to each of us. I don't think he really got it, and our relationship was forever changed.

With that in mind, let me introduce you to one of my new favorite blogs: Passive-aggressive notes.

My current favorite comes from a senior center in Maryville, Missouri (go Bearcats!):

Seinor shooters.

I have no idea what this note is referring to, but I just love the image of senior citizens battling it out, Call of Duty-style.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Plain Talk by William Jay Smith

"There are people so dumb," my father said,
"That they don't know beans from an old bedstead.
They can't tell one thing from another,
Ella Cinders from Whistler's Mother,
A porcupine quill from a peacock feather,
A buffalo-flop from Florentine leather.
Meatless shanks boiled bare and blue,
They bob up and down like bones in a stew,
Don't know their arse from a sassafras root,
And couldn't pour piss from a cowhide boot
With complete directions on the heel."
That's how he felt--that's how I feel.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Now Let No Charitable Hope by Elinor Wylie

Now let no charitable hope
Confuse my mind with images
Of eagle and of antelope;
I am in nature none of these.

I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
The little nourishment I get.

In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What is the sound of two bots chatting?

I find this link utterly fascinating. I didn't realize that I was guilty of attributing more intelligence to systems than is actually there, but reading these conversations it's hard not to imagine that there is something more going on than simple decision-making based on the last typed sentence.

The chatbot phenomenon is permeating into our lives in ways you may not even realize. Been to KFC lately? The voice at the drive-thru - the one that says, "Hi! Welcome to KFC! Would you like to try our tasty bucket of insert food here or a delicious side of insert food here today?" - is totally different from the one that tells you your total is $5.75 and please pull through. The first is peppy and cheerful, the second is soft, and usually surly. Oftentimes they aren't the same sex.

A few months ago, when I had so much trouble with Amp'd Mobile, I had my first known experience with a customer service chatbot (except for some early interaction with ELIZA). After a couple of chipper replies to my heated questions, I knew I was not dealing with a real person. This is the problem with chatbot programs used for customer service - I fear that the places with the worst customer service will implement chatbots and call them customer service, when in fact they allow bad companies to continue to be bad. Don't want to deal with customers? Fine - implement a chatbot. This isn't to say that customer service chatbots can't be used effectively in situations where customers may ask the same questions over and over again. But there must always be an option of dealing with a live person. I also think that a company has a obligation to notify their customers that they are talking with an automated entity. If I ask a chatbot if they are a live person, that answer should be a definitive NO.

A couple weeks after the Amp'd incident, while on the phone with AT&T trying to straighten out a problem with my bill, I was transferred to someone whose responses were so chatbot-like - so cheerful and chipper and clear - that I said to my husband, "I don't think this is a real person..." The person on the other end of the phone heard me and said that they were indeed a real person. I was shocked. I'm sure AT&T has since fired that individual for being too helpful.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Freaky Friday.

I just had an honest-to-goodness Baader-Meinhof experience. For those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon:
Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one happens upon some obscure piece of information– often an unfamiliar word or name– and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly. Anytime the phrase "That's so weird, I just heard about that the other day" would be appropriate, the utterer is hip-deep in Baader-Meinhof.

Anyway, someone posted a link on reddit this morning that they titled, "What did the architect smoke?" The link led to a page of photos of an oddly alluring, if not totally impractical for cold weather apartment complex in Montreal, Quebec, Canada - Habitat 67. I'd never heard of nor seen images (that I could remember) of Habitat 67, so I spent a few minutes looking at the images and then decided to move on to something else.

Not five minutes later, I'm on Tony's site, and he's linked to Emawkc's post about the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts:
Like the Bloch Building the new performing arts center, which includes a concert hall and a ballet/opera house, is designed by a marquis architect. Moshe Safdie is famous for such buildings as the Vancouver Library Square, and his iconic Habitat '67 in Montreal.

Two mentions of an obscure Canadian apartment complex in one morning. Weirdness.

The new performing arts center looks incredible, though. Thanks, Emawkc, for posting those images!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Two by Edna St. Vincent Millay


"Portrait of a Poetess" by Arthur Davison Ficke
Grown Up
Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?

Sonnet XLIII
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.