I Made the Robot Angry

Caller: Hi. I’m Meg. We’re offering security systems for your home at no cost to you… Now tell me, how long have you lived at your home?

Me: Oh I don’t have a lot of time here.

Meg: I’m sorry I didn’t catch that.

Me: I said I’m just getting lunch around.

Megbot: (Long pause) So how do you rent or own your system?

Me: Well I own my lunch. I don’t think anyone would want it back after I’m done with it.

Megbot: No, I am a real person.

Me: Me too. But I normally don’t have to go around telling everyone.

Megbot: I take my job very seriously. It sounds like you’re not interested. Good bye!

Me: Bye robot!

Moving Night for the Bees

I wouldn’t trust a neighbor that moves in the middle of the night. You would probably wonder if they’re in witness protection or expect to see them digging holes in their backyard at all hours. Buts that’s the way it is with bees. Bees are always obediently home at curfew or they face having their head bit off by the queen. So the only time to move them is at night. If you moved them during the day, you would have bees landing at the place where their home used to be, forming a homeless club of Clockwork Orange orphans up to no good in the neighborhood, stinging old women and puppies.

So I showed up in the moving truck and shone the headlines in their front window. “Honk honk! It’s moving night!” I yelled and opened the boxes up to make sure they were ready. The bees stuck their stingers up in the air to let me know how happy they were to see me. “You didn’t even box anything up yet! Do you not know how annoying that is when your friends show up to help you move?”

Instead of pizza and beer I brought the bees some sugar cakes that I had made the night before. It was the quick and easy kind of cakes that don’t involve cooking, or effort. It turns out 1 cup of water is way too much for 5 lbs of sugar to get a good hard cake. I had made the cakes on paper plates, so of course they stuck to the plates and came off in clumps. At first was a little disappointed with the hastily made cakes, but when I saw the bees enjoying their new ski slopes, I was pleased to find that we had a new activity to bond over.The Slopes

This site suggested I screen the front hole and lock the bees in for about 72 hours. I brought along some drywall mesh tape, which failed miserably to stick to the hive, so I plugged the entrance with some sugar snow cake instead. I figured the bees could eat their way, the same way the release the queen. This is the same logic of an Escape Room with a big cheese burger blocking the door. The puzzle solvers would nearly starve for 3 days, and wonder if they still have jobs, until one guy finally suggests they start eating the cheese burger and in a few hours they are free!Food Door

I ratchet strapped the bee boxes and carefully loaded them into the truck like I was carrying cartoon nitroglycerin. In the mild cold the bees are very docile, but I can’t imagine the reaction if I dropped a bomb of 80,000 bees right next to myself. So, yeah, I wore my suit. After loading them up, I slowly drove the bees to their new home while they enjoyed the slopes at Beeckenridge. (ugh)

New HomeSuccess! I didn’t jar them to death in the move. If they survive the winter it will be sugar cakes for everyone!

New Research! Bacon Causes Cancer

Tobias finished charting his spreadsheet and grinned at the results. “Christina, it’s done!” he called.

Christina peered at the monitor and shrieked with joy. “Oh my Gosh! By every account, consumption of processed meats shows a strong link to the growth of cancer cells.” She hugged him. “This is our big break Tobias! You pretty up the graphs and I’ll begin the report. Maybe well make it in some science journals!”

“Pffffffffffft! Science journals?” Gunther launched himself towards the two research students from his desk across the room. “Processed meats cause cancer? You guys are putting me to sleep over here!”

“Actually it’s pretty exciting. We’ve spent trillions of dollars on this thanks to funding from the world’s governments!” Tobias protested and Gunther forced a hand into his face.

“No Bacon Breath; your angle’s all wrong. What you’ve got is 100% Grade A pasteurized Click. Bait. First of all what are processed meats? Sliced Turkey? Bacon? People love their bacon. People have strong opinions on their bacon. What you need to do is drive a wedge between people. Paint a picture that pits people who like bacon against the vegetarians. You’ll be all over Facebook, Twitter, morning radio, water coolers, Keurig machines, everywhere! You want grant money? Here it is!” He pantomimed ‘making it rain’.

“Science and research are a thing of the past! This is the new science. Getting your story out as soon as you come to some sort of cursory conclusion is your top priority. The more sensational and divisive the better.” Gunther paused and leaned in whispering, “The more eyes, the better.”

“But, our research doesn’t offer an explanation directly about bacon, Gunther!” Christina whined. “This is just a simple ANOVA correlation completed as a study for the World Health Organization. We’re hoping that this is a step in the direction of ending the meat industry and ultimately forcing people to live in pods and live on feeding tubes.”

Gunther flapped his hands at Tobias, miming Christina while she talked. He waggled a finger at her, “Click. Bait.” Gunther slipped his sunglasses over his eyes. “Kids I gotta run.” Gunther stormed out of the room howling and grabbing a fistful of bacon from the breakfast tray as he stiff-armed the door.

New Research! Black Coffee Causes Psychopathic Behavior

Tobias finished charting his spreadsheet and grinned at the results. “Christina, it’s done!” he called.

Christina peered at the monitor and shrieked with joy. “Oh my Gosh! By every account, psychopathic behavior correlates sharply with people who preferred bitter tastes.” She hugged him. “This is our big break Tobias! You pretty up the graphs and I’ll begin the report. Maybe well make it in some science journals!”

“Pffffffffffft! Science journals?” Gunther launched himself towards the two research students from his desk across the room. “Bitter tastes and psychopaths? You guys are putting me to sleep over here!”

“Actually it’s pretty exciting. We’ve been working on this all semester!” Tobias protested and Gunther forced a hand into his face.

“No sugar smacks; your angle’s all wrong. What you’ve got is 100% Grade A pasteurized Click. Bait. First of all what is bitter? Dark chocolate? Black Coffee? People love their coffee. People have strong opinions on their coffee. What you need to do is drive a wedge between people. Paint a picture that pits people who like black coffee against the cream and sugar drinkers. You’ll be all over Facebook, Twitter, morning radio, water coolers, Keurig machines, everywhere! You want grant money? Here it is!” He pantomimed ‘making it rain’.

“Science and research are a thing of the past! This is the new science. Getting your story out as soon as you come to some sort of cursory conclusion is your top priority. The more sensational and divisive the better.” Gunther paused and leaned in whispering, “The more eyes, the better.”

“But, our research doesn’t offer an explanation between black coffee and psychopathy, Gunther!” Christina whined. “This is just a simple ANOVA correlation completed as a study for our undergrad statistics class. We’re hoping to get at least a B+.”

Gunther flapped his hands at Tobias, miming Christina while she talked. He waggled a finger at her, “Click. Bait.” Gunther slipped his sunglasses over his eyes. “Kids I gotta run.” Gunther stormed out of the room howling and chugging the last slug of lukewarm black coffee.

How to Talk to a Robot

Every time my Google Voice number rings both of my phones I know fun is about to happen. I reserve that number as my junk phone number for borderline reputable Internet sites and free fishbowl lunches. It is usually preceded by my junk Yahoo email. I know if someone is calling both of my phones that their goals of making a sale and my goals of having fun are going to clash.

When I noticed both of my phones ringing I had both of the kids in the car, parked in the garage and playing. My daughter was busy pretending to drive us to the store and my son was bouncing around in the back seat. Back seats make excellent, cushioned play pens in an unmoving car.

It’s always much more fun when a telemarketer calls when the kids are around. I sometimes ask my daughter to talk on my behalf but she always freezes under the pressure. We are still working on sharpening her sarcasm.

So I answer the phone.

Me: Hello? …. Hello?
Lady: (Long Pause) He-hello?
Me: Hi.
Lady: Oh Hi there. Hehe. I’m looking for the business owner.
Me: OK.
Lady: Are you the business owner?
Me: Sure. (At the time I was running a daycare out of my car)
Lady: Ok great. Well we’re offering great low rate loans to businesses like yours (car daycares) and I just have a few questions if that’s ok?
Me: OK lets go.
Lady: OK great! So how long have you been in business?
Me: (Looking at the kids) Almost 3 years?
Lady: OK. (strange calculated pause) Does your business generate more than $10,000 a month?

In a split second of time, I reran the whole conversation over in my head. The personality, the clipped pauses, the uncertain “he-hello”, and the slightly odd progression of the conversation – it suddenly hit me that I was talking to a chat bot. A very convincing chat bot. I’ve had these conversations before but didn’t realize it was a convincing robot until after the conversation. Realizing this during the conversation was like waking up during a dream and I could fly!

Me: Hey wait! You’re a robot!
Robot Lady: No sir. I assure you I’m a real person.
Me: No way! I know you’re a robot! (Changing my voice as if I’m speaking to a child)
Robot Lady: (giggles girlishly) Oh sir!  I am a real person. Can you hear me OK?
Robot Lady: (Changes her voice back to the serious inquisition) Can we continue?
Me: Yes…

I’m right! Her playful tone quickly switched back to a prerecorded “can we continue?” Also, she made no human reaction to my change in voice – which could have called for her to jump off the script to ask why I thought she was a robot. At this point I think I can reset her, forcing her into an endless feedback loop of fun, and agree to continue with the questions.

Robot Lady: Would you be interested in low interest rate loans for your business.
Me: You’re a robot!
Robot Lady: Uh, I am a real person.
Me: Yes you are. That’s exactly what a robot would say.
Robot Lady: No. (flatly, robotic, angry?)

Meanwhile my daughter was getting frustrated trying to open a water bottle.

Daughter: I can’t do it!
Robot Lady: Sir these are questions we have answer. (100% confirmation!)
Me: Can you help us open the water bottle?
Robot Lady: I can’t help with that. (Clipped pause) Can we continue?

She continued with a few more of her robot questions. Eventually and I got transferred to a gruff old man who sounded real. My son was trying to climb into the front seat to join in the conversation.

Gruff: Hey it looks like we’ve emailed you the information already and Matthew is working on your file.
Me: Yeah but your robot called and I told her I wanted to talk to a real person.
Gruff: Oh Matthew will be in touch soon. We won’t bother you with the robot anymore. Sorry.
Me: Can the robot lady come over and watch the kids?
Daughter: NO! He try bite me! Whaaaaa!

-Dial Tone-

I had read this article awhile ago and I have been causally on the lookout for robot callers since. The calls from the Time article are below. It sounds like this same “Samantha West” is back and is now selling business loans.

At least in the 80’s, all the robot girls sounded like robots…

Update: Upon further research, apparently (as of 2013) this Samantha West is guided by a real person who is just punching a soundboard. I imagine this could be true, but if you’re going to call someone with a soundboard it should always include the question, “Who is your daddy and what does he do?”

Introvert Thought Processing Facility

After reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the power of something something, I realized that all introverts aren’t weird, shy people. The main difference between introverts and extroverts is that the introvert spends much more time in their head. An extrovert can allow any rough turd of an idea to tumble from their mouth without any consideration of its effect. They’ll say things like “Kim Kardashian is so funny!” “I like shoes!” or “My scatterbrained opinion is useful to this conversation!”

For an introvert this thought-to-speech fast-track not possible*, because each thought must go through a rigorous polishing and vetting procedure before allowing the Thought to make the journey to the mouth. Here’s how it works.

Every Thought is mined out of the Thought Cavern’s of an introvert’s mind.  At this time, the Thought is much too large and rough to be sent to the mouth for speech. The Thought is placed on a conveyor belt and sent to the Thought Processing Facility for where it will be refined and possibly approved for the speech. Only the best thoughts are considered for refining.

Upon reaching the Thought Processing Facility, each Thought is tumbled in a sand mixture until the edges are smooth enough and all of the superfluous, “chatty” information is removed. From there the Thought is organized and sent to an orator. The orator rehearses the Thought in front of a mirror for some time (hours, months, years).  Then the orator presents the Thought to a panel of experts. Each expert represents a department: Relevance, Tactfulness, Facts, Time to Execute the Speech, Level of Intelligence of the group, Current Political Climate of the group, Gender and Age Appropriateness, Possibility of Being Overheard, Possibility of being taken out of Context, Future Implications, Further Research Required, and The General Paranoia Departments. After the Thought is presented, each expert begins asking questions and suggest ways that the the Thought could be improved or request that the thought be denied the chance of speech. Once this exhaustive process has been completed (a Thought can be in the system from anywhere from microseconds to years), a vote is held and the fate of the Thought is determined. With a 2/3 majority vote from the panel of experts, the thought will be approved for verbal speech. FYI: The General Paranoia Department has full veto power.

So with a 2/3 majority approval, just like a bill turned law, the Thought becomes approved for Speech. The Speech is written on a piece of paper and leaves the safety of the brain in the hands of a neuro-courier. The courier has the most difficult mission of all because the path from the brain to the mouth is a dangerous trek down the sinus cavity.

First the courier must take the Speech past the eyes. The eyes act the same as the Sphynx Gate from The Neverending Story. The courier must run as fast as possible to get past the eyes, but speed alone is not enough. If the courier is not confident in the Speech, the eyes will shoot lasers at him and blast the Speech completely out of existence. This laser blast can cause upper sinus problems in an introvert and may which further impede speech.

Next the courier takes the Speech through the dangers and traps of the Nasal Caverns. The Nasal Caverns are home to the Nose Goblins which are tasked at slowing the courier down and ripping the Speech away. The Speech is ridiculed and the goblins cackle at the possibility that the Thought was about to be spoken. A weak courier will abandon all hope and run back to the safety of the brain. Only the most courageous courier will escape the goblin army and reach the mouth safely.

Finally, after a long hard-fought journey, the Thought-made-Speech, if worthy, has arrived at the mouth. (You’ll notice your introvert is now red, sweating, and pale from all of that work). The courier is tasked with ensuring the thought is in proper order before handing the Speech to the Musician who thrums out the Speech on the Vocal Chords. Unfortunately, due to the difficult journey, the Speech is often scrambled and torn and the courier must paste the Speech back together quickly (before the goblins comes back) to the point it looks like a ransom note. This is why a you may hear an introvert choke out something stupid like, “Um I think, um well we could do it better, but well I guess the way he said it sounded ok so, never mind, what he said was good, you’re good you’re good, never mind… Yeah.”

Of course the introvert thinks that they’ve delivered gold, after such a long journey, and will stand there beaming, awaiting the accolades for the contribution to the conversation. But the success is short lived when all of the people stare blankly at the introvert. An alert system is triggered
*Awkward Silence Alert 5 Seconds*
*Awkward Silence Alert 10 Seconds*
*NOT ENOUGH TIME TO FORM A NEW THOUGHT*
*SAY SOMETHING!*

Fortunately, The Vocal Chord Musician has access to an emergency stock of statements, catch phrases, and non sequesters that can be used in such an emergency. Something like “I like carrots!” can be exclaimed to save the day before running away from all human beings so the Thought Process can be recharged (1 to 24 hours).

*Introverts can bypass this process by raising the level of the Alcohol River which allows thoughts to rocket directly from the brain to the mouth on the Jetboat Inebriation. Check your work handbook for policies.

Secret Tip to Disable the Facebook Messenger App

Billions of phones are being forcefully infected by the latest version of the Facebook Messenger App, which reportedly gives Facebook control of your location*, text messages, and internet state. If you’re like me, you’re concerned about the control and privacy issues. That is, I would be concerned if I hadn’t found out this surprisingly easy to do trick earlier this year. Follow these steps to become free from the iron grip of Facebook.

  1. Locate the Facebook App on your phone or tablet.
  2. Long press on the Facebook app icon.
  3. Either drag the Facebook app to the trash or press the “x” in the top corner.
  4. Delete the Facebook app.

Now you’re free to get back to the frightening world of looking people in the eye or going to the bathroom with just your thoughts. The nagging feeling to constantly check your phone goes away after a week or two. There’s always m.facebook.com if you really need a Facebook injection on-the-go.

The above steps are also useful for other apps like Twitter, Pinterest, Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans, and any other anxiety inducing applications. Just repeat the steps and return to the living.


* Facebook does not actually control your physical location (yet)