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March 20, 2012

Jeffrey Toobin'

Jeffrey Toobin, American lawyer, author, and legal analyst for CNN and The New Yorker.

Toobin', a 1988 arcade game.

Jeffrey Toobin'

Posted by Will at 7:29 PM | Comments ()

March 18, 2012

You messed with the wrong Ice Climber player, Jeff.

More to come.

Posted by Will at 8:41 PM | Comments ()

March 16, 2012

New York Times, prepare to get sonned by me yet again.

You may recall that I have sonned the Grey Lady on three other occasions. So here comes number four.

Check out this article on the new Smithsonian video game exhibit. Actually, don't, I'm just going to show you the important part. It's this image and its caption:

That is not a still from "The Legend of Zelda." This is a still from "The Legend of Zelda."

The still they're using is from "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," which, admitted, is part of the Legend of Zelda series, but they specifically refer to it as a game, not a series.

So nice work Times, you were only about twenty years off with that one. I hope you enjoyed your sonning.

Posted by Will at 2:55 PM | Comments ()

March 13, 2012

The Palpatine Letters: Part Three

This is the third part of The Palpatine Letters, a three part series where I write letters from Star Wars' Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine to his cohorts detailing his plans for conquest. See Part One here and Part Two here.

Dear Tarkin,

How's the Death Star coming? Last I heard, you were pretty far along, I hope it doesn't take us another twenty years to get the thing working. Anyway, I think we're getting ready to finish this war up (finally, right?), and I wanted to bounce some ideas off you. I know I'm currently the most powerful guy in the galaxy, but I'd really like a little more power and a cooler title. Here's how it's gonna work.

I'm going to let the separatists kidnap me right off Coruscant. I know, it's dangerous, but hear me out. They're going to send some Jedis to save me, and one of them is going to kill Count Dooku for me. And just trust me, everyone is going to do exactly what I hope they're going to do, so don't worry. Killing Count Dooku is an awesome idea for three reasons. One, screw that guy, I never liked him anyway. I know the Sith made this rule how there can only be two of us so that we won't be constantly betraying each other, but whatever. Two, I think it'll bring Anakin Skywalker closer to the dark side. Hopefully they'll send him to save me, and he'll kill Dooku just cause I ask him to. And I really, really want him on the dark side. More on that later. Finally, three, we've got to wrap this war up, and even though Dooku's the leader of the separatists and could end the war whenever I told him to, I'd rather have Obi-Wan go on this mission to kill a guy with like six arms to end the war. It's a pretty cool gimmick. Even better than Darth Maul's double lightsaber thing, I think.

So that's when I'm going to execute Order 66, where all the clones kill all the Jedis. I guess this would have worked just as well as if I made a robot army. Better, probably. But I wanted this to be called The Clone Wars, so that's what I did.

So a lot of what I've been scheming about all these years is to get Anakin to turn to the dark side. I just really want to do it. I noticed he had this weird thing going on with his mother, even though he left her to rot at a moment's notice and didn't talk to her for the next ten years. So I set him up with Senator Amidala, so that she could get pregnant, possibly die in pregnancy, and I could tell Anakin that he could save her if he turned to the dark side. Wasn't sure if they'd hit it off, cause Anakin's kind of a whiny little dickhead, but lucky me, they did, woo!

Anyway, getting him to turn to the dark side is important because I need him to do two things. One, kill baby Jedis. Two, go kill Nute Gunray and all those Trade Federation guys. They're pretty much powerless now and can't do anything to me, but that's the plan. Yes, I know I have an entire army that I preprogrammed to follow any order I gave them to the letter, but I just really want Annie to be on the dark side, and that'll be his final step. I've got a cool name picked out and an even cooler outfit for him to wear.

I'm not sure if he'll keep doing what I want him to do after Amidala's dead, because the only reason he turned to the dark side was to save her, but hopefully he'll spend the next twenty years performing administrative tasks and hanging out with you on the Death Star.

Looking forward to this whole war thing being done with,
Emperor Palpatine

PS: If my plans seem convoluted and improbable, keep in mind that I have the force and can see into the future and make people do whatever I want, so suck it.


Posted by Will at 11:11 AM | Comments ()

March 12, 2012

The Palpatine Letters: Part Two

This is the second part of The Palpatine Letters, a three part series where I write letters from Star Wars' Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine to his cohorts detailing his plans for conquest. See Part One here.

Dear Jango Fett,

How's my clone army doing? I hope you are well and enjoying your stay on that water planet, I forget what it's called. Probably because I erased it from the library here, but more on that later.

Anyway, I've got an important job for you. I need you to kill Senator Amidala. I know what you're going to say, you're a bounty hunter, not an assassin, but hear me out. (And by the way, I don't know why everybody calls you a bounty hunter, all I've ever seen you do is sit around getting cloned and hang out with your annoying, doughy little kid.) I just want you to hire somebody to do the assassination for you. Preferably a shape shifter.

Right now, Amidala is being watched by these two really tough Jedis, so the assassin'll probably fail and the Jedis are going to chase after her. Now at some point, when she's trying to get away, she's going to want to use her shape shifting powers. TELL HER NOT TO DO THIS. Even if it would make it really easy to escape in a crowded bar, tell her to stay looking exactly the same as when the Jedis saw her before.

Now, here's where you come in. Before she can tell them who sent her, I want you to shoot her with this special poison dart that they only make on your water planet. It's pretty impractical to make poison darts in this day and age when we have lasers and robots with lasers, but I guess that's why they're the only ones who make it.

So then, and this is the great part, the Jedis are going to try and figure out where this dart came from, but they can't, because I erased the planet from the library! But just so it's not too hard for them, there are a bunch of janitors and dishwashers who know about the place, so the Jedis will be able to ask them if they get too stuck.

So they'll send a guy to your planet to check it out, and be nice to him at first, then leave, let him follow you, and then shoot at him. Don't hit him though, try using those bombs you have that inexplicably have a delayed explosion noise. Then, when you meet up with Count Dooku (he's the guy who convinced half the galaxy to secede from the Republic for no discernible reason), capture the guy, and all the Jedis will bring the whole clone army they just found out about to save him, and basically start a civil war. I know the Jedis talk about being peace loving, but I think they should have no problem fighting a violent war about politics that they don't really care about. It's just robots and clones, right? I'm also pretty sure that they'll never try and figure out who paid somebody like a bajillion credits to make a clone army on a secret hidden planet.

Oh, and I'm going to get Dooku (he's in on this too) to tell one of the Jedis that there's a powerful Sith pulling the strings in the Republic. I don't think they're going to do anything with the information, I just think it'll be fun to mess with them.

So just to review, I want you to try to kill Amidala, but don't actually do it, cause she's really important in my plan to bring this really cool guy I know to the dark side, then make a really circuitous mystery for the Jedis to find the clone army that I want them to find, and then start a war, and then I think we'll be good.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,
Chancellor Palpatine

PS: Remember when I did that thing with Amidala where I made her say what everybody already wanted to do anyway? Well, I'm going to do it again to officially start the war. But with Jar Jar! Can you believe it? Jar Jar! Screw you, universe!

See Part Three here.

Posted by Will at 10:04 PM | Comments ()

March 10, 2012

The Palpatine Letters: Part One

As you may know, I hate the Star Wars prequels. So here is the first part of a three part series, The Palpatine Letters, where Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine writes to his cohorts detailing his plans for conquest. Probably a decade too late for anyone to care, but here it is anyway:

Dear Count Dooku,

Hi, you probably don't know me. I'm the senator from Naboo. It's a little out of the way, but we like it. Anyway, I've got this great plan to take over the whole universe, and I wanted to see if you were interested.

First, I'm going to get these guys called the Trade Federation to make a blockade around Naboo about some trade disputes. Don't worry about that stuff, it's super boring. They're going to invade and try to force Amidala, the Queen, to sign a treaty. (She's an elected Queen too, they elected a fourteen year old girl to rule the entire planet. Weird, right?)

I'm not really sure if I want her to sign the treaty or not, so I'm just going to let it play out and see what happens. My real hope is that some Jedis try and save her and end up finding this little slave kid called Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine. I know, that sounds crazy, but my master, Darth Plagueis actually created him out of midichlorians and he's going to be come the most powerful Sith ever. Did I just write that? Sorry, I just meant to imply it. Did I mention I was a Sith? I am. You should check it out.

So we finally get Amidala back to the Senate, and she's so mad that the Senate won't do anything about her situation, she calls for a vote of no confidence in the Chancellor. So this will probably get put to a majority vote, so if we win, it's clear that most of the Senate already wanted the Chancellor out, so you might wonder why I'm staging this huge invasion just get a teenage girl to say what everybody already wants to happen, but get this: I'm gonna get a sympathy vote. People are going to feel so bad that my planet got invaded, that they're going to vote me in as the new Chancellor. I mean, hopefully. Maybe Bail Antilles'll get it, maybe that guy from Malastare, but I'm pretty sure people are gonna vote with their hearts on this one.

On the off chance that Amidala somehow fights back the invasion and defeats the droid army, I think we'll still be good. Everybody likes a winner, right? So what do you think? I'll get into what I need you from later, but I just wanted to see if you'd be interested in joining me in this endeavor.

Thanks for your time,
Senator Palpatine

PS: Just so we can get this out of the way now, if you ever capture any Jedis, I'd prefer that you tie them up and make them fight monsters like some kind of retarded Bond villain instead of actually killing them. Thanks.

See Part Two here and Part Three here.

Posted by Will at 11:29 PM | Comments ()

March 1, 2012

I just talked to Kristin Scales... OR DID I!!?!!??!?!?!?!?

I just had a chat with a support representative from my credit card company. Halfway through I became curious whether the person I was talking to was actually a computer. Below is a transcript of the chat, slightly redacted to protect my credit card information which gets stolen like once a year, so I don't even know why I bothered.

Kristin Scales: Welcome to Credit Card Chat Service. My name is Kristin. I'm here to assist you with your personal Credit Card Accounts. May I know your complete name as it appears on Credit card?
You: Sure, it's William Carlough.
Kristin Scales: Hello, Will.
Kristin Scales: I'm sorry, William*
Kristin Scales: May I please know the last four digits of your Credit card number?
You: No, no problem, my name's Will.
Kristin Scales: Great.
You: Yes, xxxx.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for providing the account number.
Kristin Scales: How may I assist you with your Personal Credit card today?
You: I think I've gotten to be a month behind in my payments, but the balance summary is confusing.
You: So like I've been paying the month before's bill for a couple months.
You: My question is, do I have an outstanding balance that I should pay now, or am I good and should wait til 3/15, my next billing date.
Kristin Scales: I understand that you would like to know the status of the balance and the payment on the account.
Kristin Scales: I'll certainly check that for you, Will.
You: Yes, lovely, thank you.
Kristin Scales: You're welcome.
Kristin Scales: Your account security is of prime importance to us. May I ask you a few verification questions before I proceed?
You: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for your understanding in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Could you please provide your Date of Birth and the last four digits of your SSN?
You: Sure. xx/xx/xx and xxxx.
Kristin Scales: Perfect, thank you for the information.
Kristin Scales: Please give me few minutes to check your account details.
You: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Thank you, Will.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for your patience, I appreciate it.
You: No problem.
Kristin Scales: Will, I see that the next billing date is :03/19.
Kristin Scales: I also see that you have a outstanding balance of xxxx at the moment on the account.
You: So that's stuff I should have paid before, you're saying.
Kristin Scales: I mean, you have an outstanding balance to pay on the account.
You: Gotcha.
Kristin Scales: Absolutely, you got me correct, Will.
You: I have one more question, if you'll humor me.
Kristin Scales: I really appreciate your quick thinking in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Sure, I'll be more than happy to assist you if you have any other questions?
Kristin Scales: That's alright.
You: I'm wondering whether you're a computer or not, so could you name a character in a Star Wars movie?
Kristin Scales: Will, I'm a Live Person, you can be sure of it.
Kristin Scales: I'm sorry, I would not be able to provide you any other information apart the information relating to your Banking Needs.
Kristin Scales: I would sincerely request you to understand in this regard.
You: That's okay.
Kristin Scales: Thank you, Will !
You: I'm a little disappointed you can't name a Star Wars character, but I understand.
Kristin Scales: I appreciate your understanding in this regard.
Kristin Scales: Sorry to hear that, you're disappointed today.
You: All right, you had me going that you were a person for a second, but now you just sounded like a computer again.
Kristin Scales: So, do you feel that I'm sounded like a Computer, Will?
Kristin Scales: If the answer is "YES", then I'm sorry once again.
You: Now I can't tell if you're a computer or someone just messing with me.
You: You're good.
Kristin Scales: Nice to hear that, Will, and it was really wonderful chatting with you today.
You: Touche, touche, Kristin.
You: Well, a pleasure talking with you, and thanks for your help.
Kristin Scales: You're welcome, Will.
Kristin Scales: Please contact us for any further questions, we'll be happy to assist you.
Kristin Scales: Thank you for choosing Bank of America's Credit card Services.
You: I will. And if I need to find out the name of any Star Wars characters, I'll find someone else.
Kristin Scales: You have a Wonderful weekend !!
You: Thanks, you too.
Kristin Scales: Sure.
Kristin Scales: Sure, you can always do that.

I would have kept going, but if Kristin is a real person, I would have felt bad making her look bad at her job.

So, first thing I should note, is that the company providing the software and possibly Kristin herself is called Live Person, so that explains her weird line, "Will, I'm a Live Person, you can be sure of it."

Second is, sorry I couldn't come up with a better Turing test than naming a Star Wars character, but asking Cleverbot, an award winning chatbot resulted in this:

Me: Name a Star Wars character.
Cleverbot: Ron Weasley. Duh.
Me: Who is Luke Skywalker's father?
Cleverbot: Darth Vader.
Me: Who are Darth Vader's children?
Cleverbot: They are a family in the future.
Me: Who run Bartertown?
Cleverbot: Your father.

So clearly computers don't know that much about Star Wars, when it takes place, or whether or not Master Blaster runs Bartertown.

I'm sure many of you have interacted with a customer service representative who was not allowed to go off script on the phone, so a lot of this chat makes sense as someone who is just copying and pasting out of a list of things they're allowed to say. The most convincing argument that Kristin is a person is right in the beginning, when she gets my name wrong. It's hard to believe that someone would program a computer to call someone by a common nickname and apologize for it. A friend that I showed this to offered up an interesting theory, and it's that Kristin is both a human and computer. She starts out as human, and when she realizes that this is a fairly standard case, she passes it off to computer Kristin, and when the computer gets scared, it asks for person Kristin again. Others have suggested that Kristin is someone in a call center in India whose English isn't very good, which I don't really buy.

There are some weird grammatical inconsistencies throughout the conversation, like the fact that "credit" is always capitalized, but "card" usually isn't. "Thank you for choosing Bank of America's Credit card Services." She really went out of her way not to capitalize "card" that time. Then there are certain words that are capitalized out of nowhere like "Wonderful" and "Banking Needs". There's occasionally an extra space before the end of a sentence, and a colon before the date she gives me, which could be sloppy copy and pasting or shoddy programming. So none of that is evidence either way, I just wanted to let you know I've really thought about this a lot.

My favorite part is when she says "If the answer is "YES", then I'm sorry once again." I mean, that's just crazy. No human would ever say that and no one would program a computer to say that. It's like I'm talking to someone being held hostage and they're trying to slip me information about how to rescue them without their captors catching on.

Anyway, what a dystopian future we live in where we can't tell if the people we're talking to are people or robots. Do any of you have a strong opinion either way as to who or what Kristin Scales is?

Posted by Will at 8:51 PM | Comments ()