Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
January 27th, 2012

To the Moon, Alice






January 26th, 2012

I added Mobile Web Support

I installed the WPTouch plugin which is supposed to let readers who use cell phones get a better view of the site. I don’t know if it works.

I will know if it doesn’t work if someone coming in on their iPhone gets gibberish.

I will try it from Justine’s Android phone when I get home and I can connect through wi-fi. The plugin is supposed to have a special iPad format that I’ll have to check out, too.

 






January 25th, 2012

Cuevana 403 Access Denied Fix

I was randomly blogging about using 403 access denied to deny spammers from my blog and during testing I wound up blocking myself (stupid). Once I fixed it, I wound up getting a very large number of hits from people trying to access Cuevana.TV, which is a website in Argentina for downloading Movies and TV shows.

As a result of the recent brouhaha about megauploads, Argentina decided to block Cuevana, but they did it by deleting the DNS entry to the site from their DNS servers to cause a 403 access denied error. They did it on the same day that I complained about my 403 errors. Google started throwing traffic at me.

I started receiving questions by email. I wound up using the post to explain to people how to get use the Google DNS in order to fix the problem. I am getting more hits than ever. Too bad I don’t make any money off of the site.

Cuevana 403 Access Denied Fix | Blogs Eye.






January 24th, 2012

Pirate Bay Launches Physical Object Category

Pirate Bay is the website where you find illegal (and legal) stuff to download. It is a torrent site. It has been closed down dozens of times and keeps popping up.

They have started listing as a separate category Physical Objects. These are data objects that can be fed into a machine that will create the object. You can buy relatively cheaply a device that will make things out of plastic or even metal. These are called three dimensional printers. You can then download physical objects that you load into the machine and it makes something.

I love the line that in the future you will download your next pair of sneakers. I think in 20 years you will be able download almost anything made of plastic, and a then buy a variety of things like motors, hardware, and other generic parts to make things like radios, coffee machines, and other simple gadgets. I think it likely that in 20 years you will be able to download your next cell phone, or even your next iPad.

We believe that the next step in copying will be made from digital form into physical form. It will be physical objects. Or as we decided to call them: Physibles. Data objects that are able (and feasible) to become physical. We believe that things like three dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first step. We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare parts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years.

I decided to leave out the link the pirate bay as that might get this blog blacklisted by the powers that be. Google it if you have need.






January 21st, 2012

Reporting Snow in January

We had a nice snowfall overnight. It is still coming down and we’ll have 4 or 5 inches when it finishes. It is a nice Saturday morning with a fire going and hot oatmeal with honey for breakfast. Just enough snow to be pretty, but not enough to be a problem.






January 19th, 2012

Thinking about the Taj Ma-hen for chickens

Many years ago we kept chickens in the old chicken coop deep in the back yard. Eventually the racoons ate all the chickens, but not before we had a summer where we ate fresh eggs every day and sold two dozen eggs a week.

We bought the chickens from the Sears Farm catalog. I seem to remember that they even had bees in the Spring. We got a call from the post office a few days after we bought them. There were two dozen live chicks in a box waiting for us. Actually there were 25, but one chick died. The rest lived until they were eaten about 10 months later.

We sold or gave away most of the roosters. I suspect that they went right into someone’s pot, and in one case the rooster might have died in some Voodoo ritual.

We wound up with 8 hens that we kept plus a rooster we named Big Red. Big Red was the last to go after a raccoon broke into the shed and killed the last hens. I stopped locking Big Red in the shed at night and one night we heard him screaming and then nothing but feathers.

I decided then not to have chickens again.

The Hennebunkport from BackyardChickens.com

The Hennebunkport from BackyardChickens.com

Now Erica has decided that, after 25 years, that it is time to try again.

I am looking at Chicken Coop Plans. Erica likes one called the Hennebunkport. It is a 6×7 foot shed about 5 feet high. It is designed to hold half a dozen chickens, but can probably fit more. It looks very easy to build.

As soon as Erica decides where I should put it, I will buy the 2×6′s for the base and see if I can make a start. There should be 4 or 5 good days between now and the end of March to work on it.

I am going to call my version “The Taj Ma-hen”.






January 18th, 2012

Alley Cat Allies

You can make a difference and save lives.
Together, we can educate people about feral cats and the fact that they don’t belong in pounds and shelters, and spread the word that Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the humane approach for them.

Alley Cat Allies.






January 18th, 2012

West Nyack Library Tonight

I am giving my talk at the library tonight at 7pm. Do not show unless you bring pizza.

I have created a web page over at my KeithGraham.com domain. They call it Skipping the Middleman: How to Self Publish E-books. I am covering self publishing paperbacks also.

I have to admin that I am a little nervous. I haven’t taught anything in a few years. I always have a little stage fright, but I usually get over it. I had trouble sleeping last night.






January 15th, 2012

JT30 Microphone Hit 500 Likes

I have a Facebook page for the JT30 microphone. I post Blues Birthdays and sometimes pictures of my mics. It hit 500 Likes today, which is a big thing for someone as un-social as I am. I don’t know if I make any money from having all of these likes, but I do know that when I add something, lots of people spread it around.

Likes are different than friends. Almost anyone will “friend” you on Facebook, but I think that “Like” is a difficult sell.

JT30 Microphone.






January 9th, 2012

Strange Siting of West Nyack Blogger and Science Fiction Writer

I was Googling my upcoming appearance at the West Nyack Library when I found this blog post.

Earthquakes and Panthers (Oh My!).

I am quoted – I am a source – odd.






January 9th, 2012

Story Submissions

Last year I decided not to submit anywhere except to “Pro” markets. My story If Wishes… was written in September of 2010 and has spent the entire time since at Pro markets. The first 8 or so all rejected it quickly, but it spent a few months at one venue where they lost it and another 10 months at Tor.com. After 13 and a half months of twiddling my thumbs and 15 subs I finally withdrew it and started out at the Semi-Pro markets.

I went for the fastest Sem-Pro market first and today I opened my email to find that my story is being held for consideration for the Spring issue after only 3 days. It will be up against some stiff competition. This venue seems to get better stuff. At least my foot is in the door, and I can feel good about the story, even it is rejected. I should hear about the story some time near the end of February.

I am still waiting on a story that I sent to Electric Spec. It uses the F word so I have doubts of it ever selling to a genre dominated by young adult readers. I have another story out that should get a rejection this week. It is a Lovecraftian short that I wrote to make fun of my poker group. I doubt it will sell, and I will save it for the next collection of short stories.

By the way, my next collection of short stories will be titled “Not Safe for Work” and I want to include stories that have either work themes or stories with R-rated language or situations. I don’t really have many stories that will fit, but I’ve got some ideas.






January 9th, 2012

Siri or Watson?

I’ve been writing a story where I want to talk about the guts of Artificial Intelligence. This has often been thought to be 1) an expert system, or 2) a lexical inference system. The idea that there are two approaches is my own invention. As far as I know, it is not a distinction made at the MIT AI labs. I am using it in a fictional short story, so I am allowed to get away with it.

The first is a database approach where all the possible questions and answers are put into a database. A lexical analysis front end figures out what the question is, and it simply looks up the answer. I call this the Siri approach because, as far as I can tell, this is the way the Siri app works on the iPhone. The question is parsed and and analyzed, and the answer is retrieved. Somewhere in the nets is a giant Siri Database that is constantly being updated. The system (which I have never used) must have some way of getting feedback to see if it answered right. The feedback is then incorporated into the database look-up rules. The data that Siri returns is dynamic, in that it can get things not in its database like the local weather. It can also interact with the phone itself. Some of the interactions can be commands to control other apps such as dial the phone.

Siri uses lexical analysis in order to figure out what question you are asking, but I consider a Lexical Analysis engine to be another animal. Siri is more rigid in its responses because is uses a database of preloaded questions and answers. It is not intended to do things like write a Haiku about blackbirds in the snow (unless some joker has programmed it in.)

The term I use in my story for massive Lexical Analysis is a “Watson” after the IBM machine that won at Jeopardy. A Watson engine will have a database of questions and answers like Siri, but it will also perform a more extensive lexical analysis that will place the question in context. It will be able to search its database for context as well as simple question answer pairs. It will be able to answer questions that it has never seen before by finding information related to the context of a question, in addition to the simple words of the question.

Watson might not be able to write a Haiku, but should be able to recognize one. It does more than just retrieve data, it makes value judgements about the data that it retrieves.

Watson flubbed the answer to “Its largest airport was named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle.” It understood airports, WWII heroes and battles, but it did not seem to have the ability to create the context where all of these true. The answer is Chicago, which Watson had as its second choice, but it chose Toronto instead. It had trouble connecting Airports and Cities, with the answers. Since the question did not ask for a city, it wasted all of its time thinking about airports and couldn’t find much connection to WWII in the time allotted. It undervalued city in the context of the question and over valued airport. It spent its time looking at airports for WWII references and did not connect the results correctly to a city.

You can see the difference in an Expert System like Siri and real lexical analysis like Watson uses. At the base of each is a huge database, but Watson creates a context for searching out an answer.

In the future, computers will use lexical front ends like Siri or Watson. Some will be simplified, and some will be deep. Perhaps a Watson-like computer will constantly fine tune a Siri-like database, correcting and updating the questions and answers. Perhaps there will be a two stage analysis. Simple questions answered by wrote off the standard list of questions and answers, and another Watson-like layer that will work on the really hard questions that it has never seen before.

The question is really, which method is more like the way humans work? How do we answer questions? We try to figure out questions to things we don’t know, and try to remember the answer to questions we already know. We have Siri sense and Watson sense. I think, though, that a human is much more aware of the context of a question and more easily finds a framework for an information search based on the situation. Humans are more concerned with how a appropriate the answer is for the context of the question. Answering a question on an SAT test is much different from answering the question in a conversation with the postman. Even in the SAT test, it depends on whether a question is asked in a literature question or an historical question.

So, in my story, I have think about the underlying engine that allows a system to act human. Is it Siri? Is it Watson? Is it something else? I tend to think that there are monitor systems, that track the situation, subtext, history and plans ahead to make sure the underlying intelligence engine gets the right questions, hints and then filters the possible answers as to what is appropriate to the context. I might begin to think that a system to keep track of the context might be much more complicated than the knowledge base itself.

The last part of the question my story asks is at what point have we left the realm of creating a Turing machine that is indistinguishable from a human, to creating an actual human self-aware intelligence?

My story is basically an analysis of the nature of love, which suddenly makes the whole discussion a little more interesting. Can a human be fooled into loving a machine that is so like a human that a person can’t tell it’s not? Can a machine be so completely programmed that it can fall in love, even though it is only a response generated by the determinate functions of a complex set of algorithms. What is the difference? Does the difference matter? By asking these questions I hope that the story will help look at love in different ways.

This is weighty stuff and it is hard to write about without putting my readers to sleep. That’s why I am doing some of the heavier lifting here. (Wake up now and go back to work).

 






January 8th, 2012

Ward’s Trail Cam

My brother Ward has a camera in his backyard set to take pictures of the animals. He got pictures of a fox.






January 7th, 2012

Top 10 Pages on CTHREEPO

www.cthreepo.com has my blog, my cat pages, my book reviews, my star finder database and my Science Fiction essays. Since March I’ve been using HitStats.com to keep my statistics. It does a wonderful job.

I used HitStats to list the top 10 most popular web pages on the blog. Here they are along with the number of visitors since March.

Laws of Good Science Fiction: 16,288
Space Math: 11,958
List of Science Fiction Clichés: 10,383
Google Map of Middle Earth: 8,647
Character Sheet Generator: 4,334
Resources for Science Fiction Writers Home: 4,276
Italian, Carniolan or Russian?: 4,082
What is a Bee Nuc?: 1,882
The best color to paint a beehive: 1,619
Character Sheet Step 1: 1,507

3 of the pages are about bees. I get linked a lot to the bee stuff. The Star Database was added to HitStats much later so that doesn’t really show in the stats. The Google Map of Middle Earth is always a surprise. I did that when I was trying to understand how Google Maps works and I put the results up figuring it was pretty dumb, but I needed a place to test it.

This blog is the 11th most popular page at 1324 hits. Thank you.