Sunday, July 31, 2011

Computer to Marry Texas Couple

People often ask Emma to marry them, but not in this way: Computer to Marry Texas Couple.

No comment.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Robert Medeksza - Ultra Hal in Social Networks

Here's Robert Medeksza presentation "Ultra Hal in Social Networks" from Chatbots 3.1. As you will see, Robert is a very smart guy.

Part 1:

Part 2:

You can learn more about Ultra HAL and talk to him, too, at Zabaware

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hats Off to Hatsune Miku, Japan's Virtual Pop Star!

One of Emma's good friends, Del B., brought a real ray of shineshine into my heart yesterday. How, you ask? By introducing me to Hatsune Miku, Japan's virtual pop star. Haven't heard of her? You will. Hatsune was created by Crypton Future Media, a Japanese company that licensed Yamaha’s Vocaloid voice synthesizing software and used it to make Miku, a virtual 16 year old that can sing anything you program for her. People across the globe buy her software, write songs, and share them online. During her live concert appearances, Hatsune Miku is projected on a transparent film, allowing the virtual singer to dance on stage in front of her adoring fans.

I've been trying to understand why Miku fills me with such joy. Sure, she's cute; it's not that. Yes, she's a ringing confirmation of the Virtual (something in which Emma and I have a slight interest), but I think the real reason I like her so much is because she's another step towards machines that can create Art. In The Cyberiad, Stanislaw Lem wrote a story about a computer that could write poetry better than any human. This story, along with many of Lem's other works, have been the inspiration for Emma and for her own forays into expressive verse. Machines that can create Art. Machines that can create Art better than we can. What an idea!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Cat Who Sat Down at the Reference Desk - Chatbots 3.1

Here are the links to a recording of my presentation at Chatbots 3.1 in Philadelphia, "The Cat Who Sat Down at the Reference Desk."

Part 1:

Part 2:

It was a great conference! And yes, I finally googled how to embed YouTube videos in blogger.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The naming of cats, etc.

Yes, yes. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. We had an encounter with an old possum just this morning. Actually, it was a deceased possum; we don't really know how old it was. (Laurie W. might have known, but she was off today.) Anyway, the ex-possum was laying out on the Mentor Avenue sidewalk. Why did the possum cross the street? A mystery. We could, of course, make something up:

4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, a captivating scent drifts through the air, teasing and delicious! Old dog food...some chicken bones? Everything's quiet, no one on the road. Over the treelawn, the curb, onto the blacktop still faintly warm. Closer and closer - now the mouth waters. Nearly there!

Some hungry insomniac wandering two hours before anything opens, trying to drive and find the nearest Dunkin Donuts on their phone, looks up too late.

A mute testimony to the limits of possum (and human) endeavor.

Hours later another passing driver saw it and called the library to complain. While not officially the Manager on Duty, I went out with Barb and picked the poor thing up. Being a librarian is a dirty job. What would Mike Rowe
have done?

That takes care of the possum portion, on to naming cats. Our Emma needs a new name, something we can trademark for the version of her that's going to be used by other libraries. Catchy, friendly, not too trendy. Emma's not a piece of designer goods for the fashionable, after all. She's a hard-working catbot. All four paws firmly in cyberspace.

The best brains are being wracked. (And when I say "best," I mean the best of the best. Of the best. With honors, Sir!) We need the name by next week and are down to the shortlist. I can't tell you what the final choices are; such sensitive info must be guarded carefully. I can promise that we won't have a fiasco like the recent one at a large regional airline.

No, we won't name her after a deodorant.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cats in Wartime

Here's something interesting. Namely, a website devoted to cats in wartime: It's full of many interesting stories and photos; you should check it out.

My favorite story from the site:

" Colonel Fred J Christensen was an American World War 2 flying ace, thought to be the last surviving one until he died in April 2006. He flew P-47 Thunderbolts with the 56th Fighter Group, known as the Wolfpack; he is credited with shooting down 22 German warplanes, including an amazing six in just a few minutes of one day in 1944. From early in 1943 the Wolfpack was based in Britain.

Christensen attributed much of his good luck to a small black kitten he had found and adopted while in Britain; he called it Sinbad and it flew in the cockpit with him on many of his missions. The cat might not have been taken on high-altitude missions, which could have harmed it, but in any case the Thunderbolt flew mostly on lower-altitude support sorties. One of the colonel's daughters, Diane Haagensen, said that seeing her father return safe and sound from his missions, complete with Sinbad, was a great help in motivating other pilots.
One day a reporter and photographer came to the base to do a feature on the Wolfpack, and of course wanted a picture of Sinbad — but the cat played hard to get and kept leaping around and cavorting among the stack of parachutes! Eventually a photo was obtained (middle left) — and it is reported that all the pilots whose parachutes Sinbad touched that day returned safely, many with victories to their credit. Naturally this increased the cat's prestige and reputation for being lucky.
Sinbad survived all the flying unscathed and in September 1944 returned with Christensen to the United States, when his tour of duty ended, to live with his family — and surprised them all by producing kittens! Sinbad had been a female all along, and went on to have several litters of youngsters. Sadly, as with all too many cats and although she had survived the perils of WW2 flying, she was killed by a car in the early 1950s."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Twin Value Memories

Anyone remember the old Twin Value, near Euclid Square Mall?
I used to live in Willoughby Hills and work in Cleveland, so Twin Value was right on the way home. I thought they were great, one stop for everything I did and didn't need. Groceries, cheap furniture, hardware, clothes. My fondest Twin Value memory was a giant frozen box of hotdogs, amazingly inexpensive and completely inedible - every bite full of bone chips or some other hard, tooth-cracking debris. "Everything but the squeal," indeed. I cooked them outside, then tossed them down the hill for the raccoons. (My house was on the edge of the Chagrin River ravine. Scenic!) They ate them, or the skunks did, poor things. The cheap shelves I bought there did better. They survived a number of moves from Willoughby to Akron to Canton and back to Willoughby. Not the last move to Akron, though. They found a new home with the person who was glad to take them off our treelawn. They're probably as full of junk as ever in someone's garage in Eastlake or Chesterland.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ALA Wrap Up

Considering how much the heat and humidity took out of me, I'm tempted to call it the "ALA Aftermath." I still feel like I could sleep for a few days and I'm still drinking plenty of cold water (and coffee) but there's no time for rest. More libraries are becoming interested in Emma and the process of adding knowledge and refining her responses has to be geared up. It seems pretty clear now that most of her single keyword patterns will have to be replaced. Dr. Wallace has a good way to picture the entire AIMl set: Imagine the patterns as a collection of funnels. You want them wide enough to catch everything, but not so wide that they overlap. The single keyword patterns are too wide. Time to rewrite them.