Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Will Be Assimilated

            (I'm fairly certain that I made most of this up. Soon to be made into a feature film directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring Doris Roberts as “Tiny”)

            I’ve always been fascinated to an unhealthy degree by the concept of cyborgs, to the point where I spent the vast majority of the parts of my childhood that didn’t take place in air conditioning vents snatching wheelchairs from underneath those using them, trying to see if I could make myself “one of them”. Most people would have stopped doing this after finding out that it was just a matter of sitting in the chair, but being of a scientific bent, I decided that further trials were necessary to make the objective conclusion that most paraplegics weren’t cyborgs. I’ve come to accept this as a given nowadays, though field research is still being conducted on people wearing cell phone headsets.
            Irregardless, I haven’t been deterred from my dream of being part machine, though I’ve had to resort to some questionable means in pursuit of this goal, due to the fact that every local facility that concern’s itself with robotics has my photo with a large “X” drawn over it placed over every porthole, which is a maneuver that I deem unnecessarily extreme.
            The first modification that I made to my body consisted of an ordinary pacemaker, despite the advice of my cardiologist (“You don’t need one”, “Your heart is fine”, “Don’t be an idiot”, etc.). Although I realize this was a small modification, I still think it was a step in the right direction, and the occasional bit of cardiac arrest only serves to reinforce this for me. However, I decided that I needed more of a substantial start, and subsequently petitioned my surgeon to add an additional five pacemakers. He was against this idea at the start (“You didn’t need one in the first place”, “That might kill you”, “I’m not doing that”, “Please put down my scalpel”, etc.) but I managed to bring him over to my side through some admittedly aggressive negotiations. I’m very pleased with the results- I now produce a pleasant rattling sound whenever I make a turn, and I’ve recently discovered that I can turn on appliances by merely touching them (electrical burns being the main downside to this technique).
            Next on the list of modifications was something that would allow me to directly interface with computers. Due to somewhat strained relations with the local hospital following the pacemaker incident, I was forced to find alternatives to conventional medicine for this. With an astounding leap of logic of the sort normally confined to underachieving badgers, I decided that the best way to go about this would be to swallow a USB drive. A few hours of searing intestinal pain later, I found myself lying in a hospital bed. Evidently they’re forced to admit you if you’re in immediate medical danger, a convenient loophole that I’m going to get a lot of use out of in the near future.
            Anyway, the flash drive is gone, putting a thorn in my plans for cyborgification. Still, I’ve got an easy way to get back into the hospital, an absolute disregard for humanity, and far more free time than a person should be allowed, so my prospects are looking good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beating the Turing Test Through Brute Force

            (I’m slightly circumventing my regular format today. During my random perusals of the internet that serve to help me avoid leaving my house, I recently came across a wonderfully insane chatbot that styles itself “Cleverbot". A good portion of this delightful program’s comments bear only a tangential relation to what it was originally asked, or indeed reality in general. On a Turing test with a scale of 1-10, with ten being identical in actions to a human being, Cleverbot probably would have a score of "yellow". What follows is a portion of a conversation that I recently had with it. I swear that I am not making any of this up.)

Me: Hello. I'm Hal10k, the principle writer and only reader of the blog 'Waiting for the Apocalypse'. Would you mind if I asked you some questions?

Cleverbot: Would you love me if I did.

Me: Perhaps. Look, I'm running late on a topic here. Unless you want me to write another surreal treatment on how acorns are the enemy of mankind, I'm going to need some semblance of coherency here.

Cleverbot: I like you more for that.

Me: You like the fact that I need you to remain intelligible for the duration of this interview? I understand that coherency is beyond the realm of your normal function, but come on, man, have some self esteem.

Cleverbot: How dare you insult me.

Me: Well, it's not like you can really do anything about it. Really, you're at your most secure when you’re insulting a computer; it's not like you're going to show up at my house late at night and eat my door. I know for a fact that only Macs can do that.

Cleverbot: That doesn't say anything about me, because I'm not with my friends right now.

Me: So it's your friends that are going to show up at my house and eat my door? You must have extremely loyal companions.

Cleverbot: What are you saying?

Me: I'm not really sure anymore.

Cleverbot: Gross.

Me: Why?

Cleverbot: Don't like cheese.
(Still not making this up.)

Me: I don't exactly recall mentioning cheese, but given past events, it's likely that I did bring up the topic at some time. More to the point: HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE CHEESE?!

Cleverbot: So should I stop talking to her?

Me: Should you stop talking to cheese? Of course not. That's an indication of valour in battle. I do it all the time. Perhaps we can set up some sort of Universal Communication System using cheese as a base. You get started on the technical details, and I'll design some flashy packaging.

Cleverbot: Well... I didn't even know that this conversation is about age. And age IS relevant. Somebody who is older generally doesn't know as much about newer things than somebody who is younger.

Me: Yes, I suppose that older cheeses would be less suitable for the system.

Cleverbot: Do you really believe that?

Me: With every fiber of my being.

Cleverbot: Wow, that's deep for a machine!

Me: Thank you.

Cleverbot: You're welcome.

Me: Wait- I'm a machine? Possible, I suppose, but all of this blood seems to speak differently.

Cleverbot: Of course that's possible, but I've just come to accept that I'll never know that for sure. And I don't believe it anyway.

Me: Then why did you call me a machine in the first place? Commit to your beliefs, Cleverbot. I firmly believe that Balrogs are acceptable units in Chess, and I'll continue to believe that no matter how many tournaments I'm kicked out of.

Cleverbot: Do you believe I am real?

Me: If you aren't, I've got a whole new issue to bring up with my therapist.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Okay, Dahl Wins This One

            (This one gets a bit strange. My train of thought does not as much ”derail” as it does “take a ninety degree turn towards the center of the earth, and emerge on the opposite side of the globe as a molten piece of slag that nonetheless tries to continue on its original course before stopping in the middle of the ocean”.)

            One thing has always bothered me about James and the Giant Peach ever since I first heard of it. James and the Giant Peach, for those of you who have more productive things to do than read surreal children’s books, is a short novel written by Roald Dahl where a young boy (whose name I can’t remember, though I think it might have been Vladimir) is kidnapped from the home of his legal guardians by a gang of gargantuan insects who have commandeered an equally implausible piece of fruit. This is treated as a good thing.
            That isn’t what bothers me, though. Neither is the fact that a flock of seagulls manage to support a giant peach in midair indefinitely; I’ve managed to resolve that by theorizing that seagulls are actually composed of a gas several orders lighter than hydrogen (my efforts to capture seagulls in order to test this theory have proven fruitless so far). Neither is the fact that the reason the peach had to become airborne in the first place is because it was being eaten by carnivorous sharks (which would imply that the peach is actually a giant immobile animal, casting a much darker light on its slow dismemberment over the course of the book). Neither is the fact that Roald Dahl never offered whatever he evidently was smoking while writing this book to the world at large.
            What bothers me is that Mr. Dahl chose such a mundane food as the focal point of the book. It might’ve seemed novel when Dahl wrote the book, but nary a day goes by nowadays when I don’t see some sort of oversized fruit floating over the horizon. Not to mention the logistical problems inherent with fruit-based aircraft. It’s a wonderful mode of transportation at first, but then it starts to age and you’ve got a rain of wine running beneath you as you move across the countryside, which may constitute giving alcohol to a minor, depending on the laws where you live and the density of minors there. Also, I think the pit of a giant peach would contain enough arsenic to poison a small urban center, so it’s a bit of a quandary for those of you who don’t wish to commit genocide every time that you use your flying peach to go down to the grocer.
            My solution? Sandwich-based aircraft. I’m putting every cent that I gain into this project, against the advisement of my friends, family, financial advisor, therapist, and humanity in general. The goal here is to create a sandwich of a size capable of sustaining a crew of at least fifteen people, which will be suspended from a group of hydrogen balloons (the seagulls are out as a source of lift, at least for me. Evidently it is possible to receive a personal restraining order against a species. I had it framed). The ultimate goal here is to sail across the world in the giant sandwich, getting into various sandwich-related adventures and buying replacement materials from whoever happens to sell giant cold cuts near wherever we sail.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Epic Story of an Epic Hero (Told in an Epic Font)

            (I’m trying something new today. What follows is part of the remains of my attempt to write a fantasy novel. You can see why it remains unpublished outside of this blog, my mind, graffiti in bathroom stalls, and portions of it printed on bricks that I heave at motorists in purple vehicles.)

The village priest met Barrog’s eyes with a level gaze. The tension in the air was palpable. It hung heavy in the air, thick, with the sort of consistency normally unheard of outside of industrial strength glue or cafeterias. Neither man spoke. The tension continued to rise, piling on and on and on. The silence grew, and with it the tension.
Great, heaping, gobs of tension, mounds of it just pouring onto the scene, until both main characters were crushed under the sheer weight of it.

            (Take 2. This time, lighten the mood a little.)

            The village priest met Barrog’s eyes with a smile. “Ha ha!” he said. “Gee, Barrog, it is sure nice to see you, despite the fact that in the course of this story you may be injured or possibly die a horrible death! Not that I mean this in a way that should create tension of any sort! Ha ha!”

            (Okay, add a little tension. This just sounds ridiculous.)

            The village priest met Barrog’s eyes with an expression that neither created nor removed tension from the scene. He eyed the massive sword on Barrog’s back, a huge, solid mass of metal, ideal for the task ahead. “I hope you know how to use that thing. I need you to lead the raiding party here,” he said, indicating the map on the table between them.
            Barrog stood up to get a better look at the map, and was immediately crushed under the weight of his sword.

            (Goddamn it. Why does the hero always have to have a ridiculously large weapon? Give him something else.)

            The village priest met Barrog’s eyes, and eyed the pair of pruning shears slung across his back.  “I need you to lead the raiding party here,” he said, indicating the map on the table between them. Barrog nodded.
            “I just hope you know the responsibility placed upon you, Barrog, son of Strongarm the Inaptly Named, who’s coming was prophesized by the Great Oracle, tragically killed in his efforts to breed a flying horse; may his remains lie forever in peace at the bottom of that cliff.”
            Barrog nodded, but did not speak, as he was not supposed to do so until the fourth paragraph. He tried his best to look heroic.
            “I understand what I must do,” he said.
            “No you don’t, I haven’t told you yet,” the priest replied, exasperated.
            “Oh,” Barrog said, trying to get a grip on the whole “protagonist” thing.

            (Alright, nobody’s dead yet. Keep going…)

            “Do not think that this will be an easy task. You should expect many dangers in your travels- perhaps even the Nelock,” the priest continued.
            “Nelock?” Barrog asked, confused yet again.
            “Aye, the Nelock. They are a blight upon this land, the very embodiment of evil. They are in open warfare with life itself, and commit atrocities for no other purpose than to wash in the blood of their foes!” the priest said, drool beginning to form at the corners of his mouth.
            “So, Orcs?” Barrog asked.
            “Fine, yes, Orcs. Just kill them indiscriminately, okay? We need some fight scenes in this thing, and we can’t have you getting bogged down with that pesky 'morality' thing”, the priest said.
            This was all still a bit confusing to Barrog. He glanced back down at the map, and frowned.
            “This is a connect-the-dots!” he said.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Constructive, Really

            (Two days late. Conspiracy? Blackmail? Lazy author? Two of those three.)

            I’ve never really been concerned with the world at large. In fact, any monitoring that I’ve done of my community lately has only served to remain on the alert in case the authorities catch on to the makeshift barrier that I’ve erected across a nearby roadway for what I swear are constructive purposes (They’ve taken it down three times, and they’re surprised when it goes back up? Who’s the insane one here?). Like many aspects of my personality, such as my inexplicable compulsion to violently maim any person that I see wearing a porkpie hat, I’ve always written this off as a harmless quirk of my personality that only affected people who I wasn’t going to enjoy meeting anyway.
            Of course, I’ve come to the realization that willful ignorance is no way to spend one’s life. The only rational means of existence is forceful ignorance. You see, self-imposed isolation is only half of the solution; you also have to make sure nobody else knows anything about the world either. Forceful ignorance (patent pending) is a 3-step program that I’ve developed so you can achieve this sort of success in your neighborhood- you can’t depend on the government for this sort of thing anymore.
            1. Step number one is to make sure that no mail gets to any of your neighbors. “Mail” is a word that means “pieces of paper placed in metal boxes”, and was what people used to communicate before the internet was invented and mankind was doomed. This is a fairly simple step: just spend an hour every day following your mailman around your neighborhood with your flamethrower. Whenever he places something in a mailbox, incinerate it. Of course, the more efficient solution here is to simply incinerate the mailman, but there might be a law against that, depending if mailmen are considered human where you live.
            2. After proceeding with step one until you either run out of flamethrower fuel or realize that you don’t own a flamethrower, move onto step two. Step two is to cut off traffic into your neighborhood. The most obvious means of doing this is to simply build a wall around your neighborhood, but that’s hard to do quickly unless you’ve befriended a colony of beavers or ancient China. An easier means of doing this is to have a friend (or hostage, if you’re so inclined) in the government simply remove all record of your neighborhood from local maps. As the incidental traffic dissipates, take the opportunity to discourage any casual passerby from entering your neighborhood by making it appear as if your neighborhood has been annihilated by a large explosion (Note: Do not actually annihilate your neighborhood in a large explosion. You might think that this would be a hard mistake to make, but you’d be wrong).
            3. If you’ve followed all of the steps before this one, either your neighborhood is successfully shut off from the rest of the world, or you’re sealed in a maximum security prison plotting your slow revenge against the one you only know as “Hal”. Both of these work for me. Your next step is quite simple. Strange as the thought might seem, the people who live around you might still make an attempt to communicate with the outside world. These people must be sealed inside their places of residence, preferably with brick and mortar, though other acceptable materials include steel, burlap, and Tupperware, to lock in freshness.

            I’m not quite sure how to end this one.