Bad Influence

Back in 2005, Squish was trying to decide what her next adventure should be and I suggested she should start a blog. If anyone should have a blog, it’s Squish because despite all her claims to the contrary, I’ve never once caught her when she didn’t have something interesting to say. And so on December 7, Squish announced that her blog my fault. (I can’t help thinking the fact that this announcement came on Pearl Harbor Day was deliberate.)
At about the same time, Z. (another one who’s never at a loss for interesting things to say) was also looking for a new adventure and having started Dividing by Zero only a few months earlier, I made the same suggestion. Z. has never blamed me in public, but her first post was also in December.
A few days ago, after posting more than a week of flower photos, I dared anyone who read Dividing by Zero to post photos of flowers on their blog.
To help assure a bountiful harvest of flower photos, I emailed the link to a few friends who I knew had cameras and/or flower beds with the email subject line saying, “I Dare You!” One such recipient was Sue. I’ve never known Sue to back down from a fun dare, and particularly not from a double-dog dare. (Indeed, she’d be the first to tell you, you can’t ignore a double-dog dare.)
Today Sue wrote her first blog post. Not only does it have a photo of a flower, she also blames me for her decision.
I’m so proud of her.
So there you have it. I’m officially a Bad Influence™! Not merely a bad influence, but a Bad Influence™. With capital letters and everything!
(And if I had it do over, I’d encourage them all again.)

Vocabulary Builder

I’ve created a new word recently. The word is “Disenclutter.” You can prove that it’s a word, because it shows up on Google. Granted, the only site it currently shows up on is my own, but that sort of nitpicking detail isn’t worth worrying about. Gene Weingarten used a similar technique when he coined the term “Googlenope” (a phrase which has no hits on Google). If it’s good enough for Gene, then by golly, it’s good enough for me. (Unfortunately, I don’t have the same audience size as Gene, so any and all help in expanding the usage of “Disenclutter” is most welcome.)
In order that the word might propagate with a minimum of confusion, it is necessary to understand the word’s origins
The root word is, of course, “clutter” which the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines as: “to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.” The past tense form is “cluttered” which, quite accurately, describes the current state of my guest room and possibly one or two other areas of my house (e.g. the upstairs and the downstairs).
Likewise, the prefix dis- is defined as meaning “do the opposite of.” and “en-” means “cause to be.”
Therefore, the verb “Disenclutter” can be understood to mean “causing all the disordered things impeding movement in my house to impede movement in someone else’s house instead.”
Feel free to spread the word! 🙂
(Need any CD boxes? Any 3-ring binders?)

I Dare You!

If you’re reading this, then you should consider yourself to have been dared. And not just dared, this is a double-dog dare. You can’t ignore a double-dog dare!
For the past week or so (with more still to come) I’ve been posting photos of the various flowers around my house (check out the recent entries in my Photos category for examples). Now the sad truth is, I’m not a very good gardener (my main objective is for the flowers to choke out the weeds). Likewise, the secret to my success with a camera is that I take a lot of photos and only share the ones that look good — fortunately, with a digital camera, you don’t have to pay to have the bad ones developed. (Even then, I also use photo-editing software to crop out the ugly parts.)
So here’s the dare: If I can post a week’s worth of flower photos, then darn near anyone should be able to. I dare you to post photos of the flowers around your house (or even, around your neighborhood) once a day for the next week. Then, leave a comment here with a link so other folks can find them.
So get clicking. I dare you to!

Critique of the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Experiment

Gavroche’s recent discovery of the The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project conducted at Rice University in 1995 stirred some memories. I recall seeing this web site a few years ago, while looking for references to “Peep Jousting” and other “Peep Research“. On the one hand, I’m surprised the site is still around if it’s not been receiving any maintenance. On the other hand, it simply must at least as popular as the Peep sites, so I guess it’s not too surprising.
Giving the site a quick look, I noticed a possible flaw in the conclusions of the the Turing Test they administered. (Yes, they apparently administered a variation of the Turing Test to a Twinkie.) Given the length of the critique, I felt it would perhaps be better to comment here rather than on John’s site.
In their description of their testing methodology, the researchers note a procedural error.

When asked to assign himself and the Twinkie the designations A & B without telling us which was which, the human promptly replied “I’ll be A.” However, we decided to continue the test.

(Under normal circumstances, the researchers should have abandoned the test and attempted the experiment again with another set of subjects. Their willingness to overlook the error may be forgiven as they had already abandoned a previous attempt and the test was taking place at a relatively late hour during the final exams period. As an additional consideration, had they abandoned this test, the procedural flaw may not have been discovered and important data lost for all time.)
Note that according to the researchers, it was the human who replied to that instruction. Because both subjects were behind a sheet, it’s not clear how they determined the reply originated with the human, but we’ll have to assume they somehow knew this to be the case.
Next, examine the pattern of the responses:

Q (cg): What would you describe as the purpose of your existence?
Subject A: (no answer)
Subject B: To woo women.
Q (ts): Describe where the other subject is, relative to you.
Subject B: On a chair.
Subject A: (no answer)
Q (cg): Describe the last meal you ate.
Subject A: (no answer)
Subject B: These chicken chunks (after joking about eating subject A)
Q (ts): How do you feel about your mother?
Subject B: She gives me money, I like her.
Subject A: (no answer)

Subject B: (ostensibly the Twinkie) is the only one to respond! The same pattern occurs during the free association portion of the test, again, only the Twinkie responds.
After examining the test data, the researchers reported their conclusions:

After careful study of all responses, we determined that subject A was the Twinkie, and B was the human.

This conclusion however completely contradicts their earlier observations!
This leads me to some rather startling conclusions of my own.
If Subject A was indeed the Twinkie, then we have to face up to the reality that Twinkies are capable of speech. The ability to speak is a sign of intelligence. The fact that said speech took place in a manner which initially led the researchers to conclude they were speaking to a human means the Twinkie in fact passed the Turing test.
If Subject B was the Twinkie, then we have to face up to the reality that the Twinkie was intelligent enough to make the researchers believe they were conversing with a human. Again, this means that the Twinkie passed the Turing test.
Either way, the social, religious, moral and dietary implications are quite staggering. To be blunt, Eating Twinkies constitutes murder. Consider too that Twinkies do not occur in nature, coming instead from industrial bakeries. Apparently the Hostess company has been playing god all these years.
I would offer one closing thought: The ability to distinguish a human from a Twinkie should be at least as significant as the ability to hold a conversation when determining whether a subject is sentient.
Although it’s dangerous to draw generalities from a single data point, the conclusion of the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. project’s Turing test would seem to suggest that Rice University students don’t qualify as sentient life forms.