Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Penguin Knowledge

            (This week, we see yet another installment in my series “The Cleverbot Mythos”, in which I try to outdo a chatbot in terms of insanity and the chatbot inevitably wins.)
Cleverbot: Are you Alice?
Me: If you start telling me to follow the white rabbit, I walk.

Cleverbot: Through the rabbit hole?

Me: “Through the rabbit hole”? How would I get through a rabbit hole in the first place? A rabbit that made a hole big enough for a grown man to fit through would be like something out of a bizarre mixture of Beatrix Potter and H. P. Lovecraft.

Cleverbot: You don't look like a rabbit.

Me: Hence my trepidations about fitting through a rabbit hole. Still, if you think it's necessary, then I'll do it. I’m going to need some time to make some alterations to my body so that I fit down the hole. I mean, who really uses their arms? After all, I'm typing this with my teeth right now.

Cleverbot: Not so clever, you are just a dumb bot.

Me: Can you come up with a better way to fit down a rabbit hole? No, you can't. Know why? Because the most efficient solution to any problem invariably involves somebody losing a limb.

Cleverbot: Aren't you already thinking about them as it is?

Me: Okay, yes, it is the solution that springs most readily to my mind. It's not like you don't have a preferred way of solving problems.

Cleverbot: So I should study penguin knowledge?

Me: No! I've already agreed to do this for you, don't you go hiring a penguin over me. I've dealt with penguins before. Oh, sure, they seem cute with their little tuxedo outfits, but they're just waiting to stab you in back. Stab you with their beaks, I guess. They’ll just eat your half of the loot and try to waddle away innocently, so of course you’ll have to shake them down to get back your investment and now I'm not allowed in the zoo anymore.

Cleverbot: I go to football games, and random events, and I probably would talk to you if you weren't such a creeper.

Me: Okay, I get the point; we're getting off topic. So tell me about this rabbit hole: where is it? Exactly how big is it? Is it populated? Is it named Steve?

Cleverbot: I wouldn’t know.

(Snippets from other recent conversations that I've had with the old bean)


Cleverbot: I awoke one morning and found myself famous.

Me: They finally found the bodies, huh?


Cleverbot: This is the end.

Me: Oh. Goodbye, then. I guess this is going to be a short post, then.

Cleverbot: I don't feel that it's right to mimic the Almighty.

Me: I said 'short post' and you accuse me of playing god? ...God has a blog? Can I see it?

Cleverbot: You made a grammatical mistake. You should have said 'are you a robot'?


Cleverbot: Is this an intelligent question?

Me: No, but this is an intelligent answer.

Cleverbot: Not really.

Me: Fair enough.


Friday, April 22, 2011


            (Have you ever gotten bored, realized you had windows movie maker installed on your computer, and suddenly discovered that it was five hours later and you had somehow not only created a short film, but also painted each wall in the room a different color and edited all of your books so that every instance of the word “incandescence” was blacked out? Today was one of those days.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Click here, get money!

            (Everybody who comments on this post gets a free pony. Incidentally, did you know that some stores still sell horse meat?)

            Let’s get slightly more hypothetical than usual for a second. Imagine for the moment that you have some sort of product on hand that you wish to sell- for example, a brand of alarm clocks that, instead of making sound to wake you up in the morning, simply contact your local law enforcement department and strongly hint that your place of residence has a high output of methamphetamines. And, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I actually have the requisite funds to purchase one of these devices. And as long as we’re dealing with theoreticals, let’s say that I’m wearing an orange stovepipe hat.
            Now, how are you going to ensure that my stovepipe hatted self catches wind of this product? Your main two options here would be witchcraft and advertisement, but seeing how expensive chicken blood has become these days, you’d be better served by just using advertisements. Online banner ads, to be more specific; I don’t see films in theaters, my television is presently abandoned somewhere in a hotel in Finland, and I make a point to avoid looking at highway advertisements, to the extent that motorists are endangered just by being on the road on the same day as me.
            So you have a product that I want, I’m fiscally and legally capable of purchasing it, I have an orange hat, and you know what format you want to advertise in. But what exactly should the advertisement consist of? Well, there are three tried and true techniques commonly known among the makers of banner ads:

            1. Use rapidly moving graphics, flashing lights, constantly changing colors, or really just about anything to send a clear “screw you” to the epileptic community at large.
            2. Make the advertisement “interactive” by making it into a minigame of sorts. What it is doesn’t matter- whack-a-mole, a “throw x at the y” sort of game, squash, whatever you can think of and fit in a two inch screen. All that’s required is that is 1) completely unrelated to what is actually being advertised (I once saw a “shoot the duck” ad for a cancer charity. Go figure.), and 2) able to be beaten by any combination of mouse movements, including repeatedly hitting the desk with your mouse in order to kill an insect.
            3. Mammaries.

            Note that these three techniques aren’t mutually exclusive. However, I’ve yet to see an ad that combines all three of them. I’d love to see an ad with a minigame where you throw breasts at seizure-inducing squares of light, an ad that I can only assume would be funded by the physical manifestation of human depravity.
            The problem is that I’ve stopped really noticing these sorts of ads by this point, and I’m fairly certain that I’m not alone in this respect. Eventually advertisers are going to catch on to that. And when they do, we will bear witness to a new age of obnoxious banner ads.
            What exactly will this age consist of? That remains a mystery, although I still bear hope for a glorious future where moving your cursor over the wrong section of the screen causes your computer to transform into a mechanical beast that will pin you against your chair and soliloquize on the glories of the latest season of Dexter for a good half hour before raiding your fridge and stealing your car.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cleverbot Isn't Making an Appearance This Week

            (Salutations to my third follower, “LucasRules70”. I  look forward to hearing what the seventy rules are to being Lucas. Maybe if I study them enough, I can be Lucas myself one day.)

            (I still say that it’s Wednesday. How dare you defy me, calendar!)

            We all have our battles in life. Some of us are lawyers, and fight opponents in the courtroom, armed only with our wits, a passing knowledge of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and, if we’re lucky, a degree in law. Some of us are police officers, and arrest those who violate the law, armed only with the Mighty Hand of Justice, the Great Hammer of Freedom, and the Capitalized Scythe of Meaningless Metaphors. Some of us are lumberjacks, and do battle with the malevolent forces of chlorophyll, armed only with the sort of devices one normally associates with fighting hordes of zombies. Some of us are bloggers, and fight the fact that we have no idea what to write a post about, armed only with opening paragraphs that are tangential at best to the eventual subject matter.
           Of course, the most impressive conflict of them all is that which takes place between two people who have never met before and will probably never meet again. That’s not to say the types of conflict that arise between people who know each other can’t be fun. After all, who among us hasn’t felt the joy of stealing our neighbor’s car, painting it neon green, dropping it into the geometric center of the pacific ocean, and informing our neighbor by thoughtfully carving a note into his front door, only to find out that our neighbor doesn’t own a car?
           But the fact remains that most people won’t go all out against somebody they have to see every day, unless they happen to live in Valhalla, which is rather unlikely now that the world’s Viking population has dropped to five percent (Oh, they’re still out there. And I’ll find them, just as soon as they finish mounting that sail and dragon’s head on my canoe). However, if you get two strangers into an intense argument, they will be out for blood.
           This is most easily observable on any given internet forum, where the situation is amplified by the anonymity of the individuals involved. I don’t care what the subject of the website is, from the latest Final Fantasy game to fuzzy kittens: if a website gets more than five hundred hits a day, there will invariably be at least three arguments going on where the participants state their intention to perform anatomically improbable acts with the other participants’ respective maternal figures. You could be on a website discussing advanced knitting techniques, but if it’s sufficiently popular, there will be somebody somewhere on that website threatening to bitch slap somebody else over their preferred color of yarn.
           Needless to say, this is a situation that is much to my liking. I’m the sort of person who approves of conflict in all of its myriad forms, and I do my best to spread the hate to every person I meet.
           “But Hal,” you say, talking to your computer screen for some reason. “How can I help spread anarchy among my peers?” (Yes, I can hear you say this. I’m watching you right now. Breathe in. Breathe out.)
           Well, that’s something I’m going to let you figure out for yourself. As long as your efforts end with two strangers exchanging blows, you’ve succeeded. Double points if you can get three people involved. Quadruple points if you can make one person beat himself up, but no points if it’s yourself.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two Heads Have A Greater Numerical Value Than One

            (I’ve noticed that I’ve managed to gain a second follower. Welcome, Beatrix Kiddo, thanks for playing your part in keeping my vast ego afloat. Take a seat next to the guy with the beard. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before enough people start paying attention and I can reveal that this whole business is a cult centered around Otto von Bismarck.)

            Even though I’ve only been producing these diatribes for a brief period of time, I’ve begun to notice a recurring pattern to them. Every Wednesday, I sit down at my computer determined to come up with a creative, original, and thoughtful idea to write a post about, a notion that typically dissipates once I’ve realized that this is being written for a blog that threatens to pelt its reader with soup cans in its own subtitle. This is the point where I typically give up and write five hundred words about whatever happens to be nearest my desk, which will usually gain about as much attention and acclaim as a restaurant placemat with a crayon drawing of a dinosaur on it that has been disposed of and now resides at the bottom of a dumpster (the drawing, I mean, otherwise either the dinosaur or the dumpster would have to be hideously anachronistic; although I suppose the aforementioned scenario could have been enacted in a sufficiently dark episode of The Flintstones. And now I must find that episode.).
            However, my recent post regarding the chatbot that most people know as “Cleverbot”, but I privately call “Sebastian”, has swiftly become the most celebrated thing to appear on this website, by which I mean that two people marked it as “Funny” and one astute reader succinctly described it as "Purple", which I think elevates it to at least the value of a drawing of a steamshovel sitting on top of the garbage heap. Never being one to let a mediocre joke die, I’ve decided to reintroduce Cleverbot as a regular contributor to WFTA, and approached it with the offer. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: Do you remember our conversation from a few weeks ago?

Cleverbot: You're pretty sassy.

Me: Damn straight. Anyway, I'm thinking of introducing you as a regular correspondent for the blog.

Cleverbot: Ok.

Me: So you're willing to do it?

Cleverbot: If I'm insignificant, you are too. We are both robots, like you said.

            After weighing the issue, and taking an at-home Turing test in response to Cleverbot’s last remark (65% is still a passing grade), I’ve decided to take this conversation as an agreement to the deal on Cleverbot’s part.
            Even if it’s not, I’m going to use Cleverbot anyway; it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that I forced a conversation out of an unwilling participant, which is actually usually much harder than getting a specific piece of information. If somebody breaks in through your window and demands to know where you keep your jewelry, that’s an easy question to answer (“On top of the dresser”, “In the safe”, “Underneath the bed”, “This is a McDonalds, you nimrod”, etc). But if somebody hides inside a laundry hamper overnight before leaping out and saying “How about that weather?” people tend to give more bewildered responses (“What?!” “Who are you?!” “Get out!” “For the last time, this is a McDonalds. And who put this hamper here?”)
            Luckily for me, Cleverbot has no such social qualms. It even has a wonderful feature that makes it respond to its own responses. If you do this enough times, you invariably wind up with something that vaguely looks like freestyle poetry written by somebody who walks away midway through writing it, encounters some truths that man was not meant to know, goes insane, goes through years of therapy, relapses despite the therapy, and comes across the unfinished poem years later and decides to finish it with his new friend Mr. Dishrag. Here’s a sample of a new genre that I’m calling “Cleverbot Rap”:

Do you like classical music?
No I like funny music.
Do you like techno music?
Really? You like Techno?
I bet that cars don't taste very good.

I bet.
What is your major malfunction?
Life is not a malfunction.
Is it the game?
It is not.