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Talking to machines

[I'm heading off for a couple of days vacation. In the meantime here's another Rough Draft that never made the print run and then was inexplicably and tragically deleted from the server. It ran on the afternoon of June 29, 2001.]

Let us all agree that it's abnormal for a person to carry on a conversation with a nonhuman object. You shouldn't talk to walls, fire hydrants, toasters. You shouldn't talk to power tools. You shouldn't talk to air molecules or clouds or gravel in the driveway. Only on the West Coast can you plausibly talk to houseplants.

It's acceptable to talk to a dog, but something is very, very wrong in your household -- and you may want to dial 911 -- if the dog replies.

If you open the refrigerator door and attempt to engage the contents in conversation, you should rethink your relationship with food. Therapists can help.

Put simply, conversations are generally supposed to involve human beings on both ends. That, however, may soon prove an antiquated presumption. The changeover is driven by voice-recognition software. Suddenly you may find yourself dealing with a computer that expects you to speak to it.

The other day I called a brokerage to sell some stock. A computer got on the line and talked me through the transaction. The computer claimed it could recognize human speech and didn't need me to press any buttons. I will note that it had a man's voice -- the brokerage apparently believes that, when we do something serious and unsentimental like buying and selling stock, we feel more comfortable and secure in the hands of a male computer.

The machine was fairly impressive. Still, inevitably, something went wrong. It claimed that the net proceeds of my sale of stock would be "zero dollars." Admittedly, I was only trying to sell eight shares of some mysterious spin-off stock that appeared in my account, but "zero dollars" struck me as too small a number, and I attempted to correct the error. The computer, however, didn't understand my complaint. We became verbally stymied. I became argumentative. The computer wasn't programmed to argue. It couldn't even kvetch. I decided to simply terminate the call.

"Goodbye," I said.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," it said.

It offered me a list of things I could possibly say -- and "goodbye" wasn't one of them.

I grew annoyed. My voice rose in pitch. "I just want to hang up the damn phone," I said.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," it said.

Now would have been the appropriate time for me to cast the fabled aspersion, "Your programmer wears Army boots." At this point, though, I just wanted out. I wanted the conversational exit. Obviously I could just hang up the phone, but I wanted the satisfaction of being understood. Conversations should be terminated with a farewell. Only characters in TV sitcoms hang up the phone without saying goodbye. (Think about it: It's unimaginable that Jack Lord would ever say "buh-bye" on "Hawaii 5-O.")

Yes, I knew it was a soulless machine with no feelings whatsoever, and thus would not be "hurt" if I hung up abruptly. But politeness is not just a means to an end. It's not just about the recipient, it is also about the transmitter. To be rude is to coarsen oneself. I have a strict policy: If forced by my tight schedule and important professional obligations to elbow aside a slow-moving little old lady in the produce section of the supermarket and then step over her sprawled body as I cut to the front of the checkout queue, I always say "Excuse me."

So anyway, I'm stuck on the phone with this machine. Possible solution: Say "goodbye" and hang up. That would seem to satisfy my inner need to be polite. But I'd already established that the computer didn't register the word "goodbye." Thus to say "goodbye" would be no more intelligible, in the context of the situation, than saying "elephant" or "noodle" or "gabardine."

So I just hung up, exhausted, spiritually diminished.

All of the preceding would probably not merit mention were it not for an even more upsetting phone call just a few minutes later. This second call involved a real human being, an employee of the phone company. I wanted to switch long distance carriers. No doubt you know what this conversation was like: The real human being spoke exactly like a computer.

She had no inflection. She did her job strictly as she'd been programmed to do it. There was no humor or spontaneity.

The woman ran me through a list of questions that had clearly been designed by lawyers. I didn't mind answering such questions once. Unfortunately, I have two phone lines at home, so when we finished establishing who I was and how I spelled my name and so on for the first line, we had to do it all over again for the second line.

"How do you spell that?" the woman asked, not three minutes after we'd thoroughly established the spelling of my name.

"It's still A-C-H-E-N . . . "

I became sarcastic and rude. She kept asking me things she already knew, that were, indeed, right there on her screen, but which she was required to ask a second time, all because of some strict company policy. I grew exasperated with her and she grew exasperated with my exasperation.

Finally, the conversation ended. But of course it wasn't a conversation, it was a data transfer. I never knew the woman's name, nor anything about her life. She knew only that I was an impatient jerk with two phone lines.

I'm going to go talk to the wall now.

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 3, 2010; 6:55 PM ET
 
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Comments

Sometimes it takes me 2 or 3 times to get through a phone maze...although I have heard tell if you hit "0" it will take you to a human.

Posted by: seasea1 | March 3, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Broder really did go after Milbank, didn't he...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/03/AR2010030301776.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

What a feisty bunch we are at the WaPo...

Posted by: joelache | March 3, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

John Edwards to the slammer?

http://www.nationalenquirer.com/grand_jury_indictment_john_edwards_hunter_coverup/celebrity/68250

Posted by: joelache | March 3, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, do you want to tell JA or should I? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 3, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

They've been right all along.

Posted by: joelache | March 3, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I need to hit the beach.

Posted by: joelache | March 3, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

enjoy, Mr. A!

Posted by: MsJS | March 3, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Don't do that, JA. The beach will complain and you'll be in another conversation.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 3, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I got the Broder link from Mudge's posting by the way. I should have noted that. I get all my news from the A-blog. Also from The New York Review of Books.

And from graffiti...

Did anyone post the link to the mini-tsunami in New Zealand?

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10629356

Posted by: joelache | March 3, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I hate dealing with those automated phone systems. I have found that if you say "Representative" this will often get you a human. Also, profane language is rumored to work too, although I have never had the nerve to try.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 3, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Is south of the kit
aka Florida now,
or is the boss lost?

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 3, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

A couple of years ago the New Yorker did quite a long article on automated voice recognition systems. One thing I was interested to read was cursing at the machine often takes you directly to an operator. They said they wanted to keep that on the down low, since it might lead to a lot of that sort of thing.

I have to deal with one very annoying system often to re-order my mother's prescriptions. It's normally a sort of quotidian Stygian experience. Since the first of this year it has become positively macabre, since terms and rates and requirements have changed. The automated system has not been updated, so it cheerfully tells you the pills will be mailed. Except they won't be. You find out there's a problem when the pills don't show. I have found that stating emphatically at the beginning of the conversation "Operator" does work. For the time being.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 3, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Checkout queue? Did you write this during a trip to London?

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 3, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Oops. RD, it took you three lines to say what I was trying to say by writing a novel.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 3, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh wow. A whole website devoted to the topic:

http://gethuman.com/

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 3, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

here is part of an email sent to me from my brother,entitled

Greasius Vasalinehead

"Greasius scores 41 points to "will" the Terps to a thrilling, and
emotionally exhausting double overtime victory over the Hoagies of
Black Burger, Virginia. Next victim, the Puke Blue Vomits from North
of the South Carolina border. Greasius solidified his position as
front runner for AC-DC player of the year as he singlehandedly (the
other hand was scratching his butt) did in all the Hoagies.
Vaselinehead is the only ACC player to score 2000 points, 700 assists,
600 rebounds and 350 shoulder shakes, and must go down as one of the
top 5 Terps ever. Hoo R those other Terps??????? Len Bias, Juan Dixon,
Frank Sinatra, and Barack Hussein Obama. Who would you say are the top
5 terps of all time...not by position, but just by overall
accomplishments? Jane Goodall doesn't count. She played for the women,
and must be disqualified for learning to talk to monkies, and eating
out of the same food bowl."

It seems appropiated for senior night in college park.

Go Terps

Red n White with envy

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 3, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Many many years ago I worked for AT&T Bell Labs in New Jersey and someone there was working on a very early voice recognition system. There was a phone number you could call to hear and interact (primitively) with several automated "personalities." They were given names and had voice timbre and accents to match. Our favorite moniker was "Uppity Ursula." This was in 1981 or 1982. At the end of the sequence it listed some songs the machine would "sing" for you. The stilted computer-speak version of "Moon River" was exceedingly funny. Whole rooms full of people would take turns listening at parties and roll about laughing. Years later, at the wedding of one of these friends, we asked the band to play Moon River, and most of the guests proceeded to fall about laughing.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | March 3, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Have a great vacation Joel!

Unplug the machines.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 3, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

RD, you beat me to the reference for gethuman. I've been using this site for a few years and it works pretty well.

Joel, have an excellent vacation, hope the weather is great for you. I am very glad you excepted dogs from non-humans we are allowed to talk to without being in danger of commitment. I've been talking almost constantly to #2's dog since we brought him home on Sunday. The scary thing is that I think he understands me, I can see his mind working and almost read his thoughts (which are not always what I'd like them to be!)

Posted by: badsneakers | March 3, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

That's a great story Wheezy!

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 3, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I remember that day very well and remember the kit, too. I used to talk to walls a lot...back in the day.

I'm off to finally see Cirque du Soleil (Kooza)in a big tent right by the ocean. It's also within walking distance of my hotel. Lately, I've been planning my escape routes for the inevitable tsunami. But first it's "on with the show." Worrying is not allowed. Cheers!

Posted by: Windy3 | March 3, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

There's a thing called the Turing Test which is supposed to be a way to determine if you are talking with a human being or a computer. Of course, as Joel describes, sometimes people sound an awful lot like computers. So this could make things tricky.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 3, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

BTW, glad to know Brag is okay!

Posted by: Windy3 | March 3, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

I frequently terminate phone conversations without saying goodbye and, to my knowledge, have never been a character in a sitcom. Of course, the conversations generally involve someone (often, a perky young lady named "Heather") wanting to negotiate lower rates on my credit cards, trying to extend the warranty (which is "about to expire") on my thirteen-year-old car, offer me the stock opportunity of a lifetime, or confirm the information in my previously-unknown-to-me online business listing.

Did I mention the free three-day-and-two-night trips to Florida?

It's not that I hang up without saying a few final words to the caller, it's just that "goodbye," "farewell," or even "buh-bye" are not among them. They are frequently phrases ending with "... you" or "... yourself."

So far, I don't think I've inflicted any significant degree of coarsening on myself, but I regularly use a moisturizing soap, and this may be disguising a texture akin to burlap.

Posted by: rashomon | March 3, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I almost hate to admit that I remember when the agency I first went to work at had a real telephone operator to answer incoming calls at one of those classic switchboards with the cable jacks to make the internal connections. Today, even if you can get through the voice mail tree to a live person, you don't know where that person is actullay located. Most likely, it is not within the US, which means they often don't get our idioms, and of course have no geographic knowledge of anything we might be referencing.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 3, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Since I rarely speak on the phone at home, I would say most of my conversation end with me saying, no thank you I am not interested. So like Rashomon it is rare I say goodbye. I will also disconnect if people try to keep selling to me as they often do, or have called me right after a hang up (knowing it was them checking to make sure someone would answer).

What a really dislike is the automated calls to my house, if you are a computer calling my home, or ask me to hold as soon as I answer I will hang up. My only exception to this is the calls from the high school, which are always automated and have been know to pass on important information that eldest decided math taught by a supply teacher was a waste of her time or that the report card went home three days ago!

Posted by: dmd3 | March 3, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

A question of idle curiosity, purely, yanno, hypothetical, and all: is it maybe a little neurotic or maybe borderline psychotic if you yell -- I mean, if a person yells -- at the TV set? See, this newscast comes on, and one of the newscasters is dumb as a drill press, and they start talking about Karl Rove and you start -- I mean, the person, he starts -- yelling at the screen, like, "No, no. no, you flaming ---hole, that wasn't what Obama said!!!"

I mean, yanno, somethibng along those lines. Once in a while. Not real often. And then the guy's wife says, real smartass, "You realize of course, you're yelling at the TV. They can't hear you." And you say -- or rather, the guy says, he's the one who says it -- "Yeak, but th frickin' *&^%$#&^% are morons!"

I mean, that's probably not exactly a good thing. But maybe it might have some therapeutic value? Ya think? Maybe?

Okay, never mind.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | March 3, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey everybody, Thursday night will be Family Science Night at the National Air and Space Museum. I expect we will have some extra capacity, so Boodlers are invited to come on down to NASM downtown. We open the doors (on the Independence Avenue side) at 6:30. It would be more right and proper if you could bring an offspring, a whelp, a loin-fruit with you, but you will have to do whatever you think best. Those of you who have talked with Jeff (and you know who you are) can speak with him in the flesh. However, the presenter of the evening's science talk will be.. me!

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 3, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Windy-Mr. F and I saw Kooza last summer. I had never been to a Cirque performance before and was absolutely gobsmacked. So wonderful it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye.

Some machines must be talked to. Small outboard motors being started the first time in spring, and ancient pickup trucks, come immediately to mind.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 3, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Loin fruit? Ewwwwww.

I'll never be able to look my son in the eye ever again.

Nuts I got. No fruit, not that I'm aware of.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | March 3, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, it's the people who react to outrageousness with nothing but a modest widening of their eyes like they are the flipin' Queen of England that worry me.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 3, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Aww man, I wish I could be there, SciTim! I know it will be a great evening! I'd even bring the Geekdottir, if we were within a couple hours drive!

Yell at the TV all you want to, Mudge. I think we on Achenblog ascertained that Rove is evil many moons ago.

My standard reply to unwelcome calls is, "I'm not interested, thanks for calling!" *click* Why should EYE waste their time, when they aren't going to sell me anything?

Joel, I hope you have a nice vacation in a warm place!

Posted by: slyness | March 3, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Now that I think of it, back in the '90s I used to talk to my computer quite frequently. It was usually the phrase "You worthless piece of ..." and it almost always took place immediately after the thing ate a few hours worth of work. As computer technology has improved, these exchanges have become vanishingly rare. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

Oh, and I -- I mean somebody -- also has those "borderline psychotic" incidents with the TV in my living room. Always when Republicans are being interviewed. Go figure.

Posted by: rashomon | March 3, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Just got in and read the Kit... has anyone posted this yet?

http://www.hulu.com/watch/10409/saturday-night-live-julie-the-operator-lady

Posted by: -TBG- | March 3, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

kguy, thanks for posting this link to the article on Roger Ebert in Esquire, it was very good.

http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ebert-0310

Posted by: nellie4 | March 3, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Think automated machines are hard? Try interacting them via relay operator.

I am, perhaps, more proud of actually managing to file my taxes by phone (twice!) than anything else I have done. It took me five tries because teletax kept disconnecting on me or rushing to the next option before I could relay my answers.

Thank god for online filing.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 3, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

How lonely does one have to be to listen to telemarketing calls? And don't get me started on robo calls. I just use caller ID at home and never answer the phone if I don't know who's calling. I used to get a lot of both types at work, the robo ones I just hang up on, for the others I usually said, "not interested, sorry" and hung up. I did have one telemarketer who was very pushy and even called back after I hung up on him! I told him that type of behavior wasn't going to get him any closer to a sale (of course he said he wasn't 'selling' anything - oh right, sure!).

And yes, I yell at the TV sometimes, usually right wing wackos but sometimes even the local news people will say something completely stupid.

My cold is much worse, not helped by walking around in the snow and rain with the dog.

Posted by: badsneakers | March 3, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Why call nine-one-one
the one time your dog didn't snub
you but said hi back?

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 3, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Hope you feel better soon badsneaks, some lovely days here the last couple of days and it looks like it only will get better, with luck it will move in your direction, sun and mild temps so welcome this time of year. Almost makes living with all the mud worth it.

Posted by: dmd3 | March 3, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks dmd, we are supposed to get that nice weather for the weekend. I'm thinking about taking the dog hiking, he needs some serious exercise and I can't trust him off-leash, unfortunately.

Posted by: badsneakers | March 3, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Been talking and even barking at TVs tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Maryland Terrapins.

Sweet. It isn't a tournament, but it's still sweet.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 3, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

been feeling rather punk myself, 'sneaks. nasty cough and accompanying goo,with nary a secondary symptom. i probably shouldn't go to work in this condition, but the district is essentially out of funds that pay subs, and i'd spend a day or two reeling my students back in. not worth it. if i had a feber, i'd be home with the pups, who have started to walk about and show a bit of personality. we're being furloughed for a day in mid march, and will lose a good bit between the two of us. the stare, meanwhile has cut the revenue stream that funds public schools buy rescinding a combination of real estate taxes, income tax, and personal property tax to the point where another 30% cut to the general education fund is in the pipes. stimulus $ saved 34 teaching positions last year. since those funds are gone, it looks as if those jobs will go by the wayside, along with others. the county bordering us to the north will cut at least 100 postions, and meck. co., NC (clt) is cutting something over 500 people district wide. our district office has already put out the word that they are operating with a skeleton staff. i have a great piece of land in florida that they could invest in. time to start talking to my dogs and whatever inanimate object that could stand a good blessing out. i used to put stick pins in the baseball cards of the cubs opponents during through the early and mid eighties, hurling any epithet i could think of, and for a while it seemed to have a positive effect. i've started to assemble pictures again. just in case.

Posted by: -jack- | March 3, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

The Post Mortem blog had an obit for Michael Foot of the British Labour Party, which contained this very eloquent quote:

"We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on Earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer 'To hell with them.' The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do."

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postmortem/?hpid=news-col-blog-viewall

Posted by: rashomon | March 3, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Michael Foot's failure to become Prime Minister was dissected in David Hare's play, "The Absence of War".

I wonder what Hare would make of Texas politics (Dionne) or efforts in Utah to seize Federal lands by state eminent domain. It's a crackpot notion for which advocates want to fund litigation with $3 million diverted from schools. But with the present Supreme Court majority, who knows?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 4, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

The New York Times has a story on the Moscow State Radio Orchestra that's touring the US with overworked, underpaid musicians.

I heard them last month and left wondering about the acoustics of the freshly rebuilt auditorium. A couple of concerts since then confirm that the auditorium's fine, pending finishing touches (organ, paneling).

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 4, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

jack, that doesn't sound good. Hope someone wakes up and figures out a way to get funding for schools. I've thought for awhile that people running businesses have lost their minds with the stupid decisions they are making.

I don't remember knowing about Michael Foot. I would have liked him. Wonder what would have happened if he had succeeded in politics?

Posted by: seasea1 | March 4, 2010 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Jack's education report from North Carolina sounds like what's happening nationally. No more stimulus, no teachers.

Unemployed teachers won't be consumers, so they'll contribute to initiating Great Recession, Part II.

I think Michael Foot was leader of the Labour Party only rather briefly, when he was already beyond retirement age. Certainly David Hare (who had lots of access during the election campaign) thought highly of Foot, if not his managers. The play was the third in a series on English futility. The first featured the Church of England, the second London cops, the third politics. By sheer dumb luck, I saw all three.

In the beach department, the water's beginning to warm up, about 60 all the way from Daytona to Ft Pierce.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 4, 2010 3:30 AM | Report abuse

TBG,
That SNL skit was spot on. Who says that show isn't funny anymore? Oh yeah, everybody.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 4, 2010 4:54 AM | Report abuse

SciTim,
Having seen one of your talks at Balticon, I will attest that they are informative and wildly entertaining. Alas, I am all out of loinfruit and must trek up to Newark today via Amtrak. Knock 'em dead.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 4, 2010 5:25 AM | Report abuse

The cable modem robot woman is the worst. "Hmm," she muses, (She's baffled at my apparent intransigence) "I"m.. not seeing any outages in your area." (Right off the bat she's hinting I'm lying, or so stupid I've done something myself to screw up my computer.)
"Okay" she fumes, impatient. "Lets try this: unplug your modem, wait three minutes, and then plug it back in." (subtext: you dork, you, stupid man) Yet I have done this. Repeatedly. "Say 'this solved the problem" or.. 'please repeat the instruction; or.. 'I already tried that.'" I start screaming, then. "All right." She sounds huffy for real now. Let's schedule you an appointment." Oh boy, here we go again. "Oh, great!" she actually chirps. "I have an opening Wednesday at .. one o' clock p.m. If this is satisfactory, say 'yes.'" Me: "Aiyeeeee!" Robot woman: "Okay. I.. didn't quite get that..."

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 4, 2010 5:27 AM | Report abuse

I've learned that it's cheaper, easier, and quicker to unplug the modem and take it to the cable office to turn it in and get a replacement, than to deal with the robot woman and the technician, Jumper...

Good morning, all. We are going to have a nice day weatherwise, I believe, I'm looking forward to it. Spring is on the way! I can hardly wait.

Jack is right about school system revenue. The county commissioners have signaled that they won't increase property taxes (I'm okay with that!), but the schools will lose 880 positions and the library system anticipates closing four branches. I'm ready for this mess to be over.

The public sector tends to run a year to a year and a half behind the private, so we are in for a couple of bad years more. I'm just glad I'm not working full time any more.

Ham biscuits in the ready room, enjoy, folks!

Posted by: slyness | March 4, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

If Joel's looking for warm weather, he won't find it in Florida. I recommend the Caribbean; a friend who is working in Haiti says it's hot there. But it's 51 degrees in my kitchen right now and not looking like a beach day, by my standards. (It's sunny, though; could be worse.)

Posted by: kbertocci | March 4, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Quite the surprisingly stunning sunrise this morning!

Not so surprising, however, is the latest hot air from the Hill:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/03/AR2010030303816.html

It's somewhat heartening to note that even some Republicans find the tactic repugnant.

*somewhat-less-hectic-and-hey-it's-almost-Friday Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 4, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

And in the "plus la change, plus c'est la meme chose" department:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/science/earth/04climate.html

*SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 4, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Good morning ye Boodlers.

Windy--I guess you are refering to the circus that got wiped out by the tsunami.
The owner says he will recover, the show must go on.

Yesterday we went through at least 12 aftershocks. The strongest at 5.9 richter. Strong enough to sway my building, but lasted only a few seconds.

For your info: Chilean Embassy in DC organizing fundraiser on Saturday March 06
4-9 PM at 5511 Massachusetts Av. Bethesda, MD 20816

Music, food, raffles. Maybe a BPH?

Have a good day, everyone.

Brag

Posted by: Braguine | March 4, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey Brag! Glad to see that you are OK. This may be one of those instances where the phrase 'Hang in there' has literal implications.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 4, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I get lost right out of the gate. It's abnormal to carry on a conversation with a non-human object? For the sake of argument, I guess one can go that route, but isn't the like saying 'for the sake of argument, the world is flat?' Is it really all that abnormal to yell at the toaster to 'let go of the the bagel right now!' or to look at the sky and say 'what do you mean more snow?' What about yelling at the tv that 'even I could have caught that ball!' or worse 'oh no you don't go on the fritz right now!'

Talking to, arguing with, demanding excellence from nonhuman objects is, I assert, downright normal. As all parents of teenagers know, sometimes talking to the nonhuman object is more productive than talking to the human one.

Abnormal would be to not ignore the elephant in the room, but dust it, decorate it (Santa hat at Christmastime, oversized sunglasses and a lei in the summer), give it a beer and a smoke.

Speaking of abnormal, laloomis, I've gotten a few emails about my posts to you, and vice versa. Seems like we might be scaring people, like it's a sign of the Apocalypse or something.

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 4, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Telephones usually clip the higher frequencies of human speech. As a result, b's sound like v's and d's and f's sound like s's. Since my voice is an unholy mixture of Woody Allen and Gene Weingarten, when I am dealing with an automated system I spend a lot of time repeating myself. Think Chekov in the new Star Trek film.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 4, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

VDOT voice recognition lady on car speaker phone has a really, really hard time understanding us when we ask for status of congested roads. She has the same "I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time understanding you" when we understand each other perfectly well. ;-) I tend to end up screaming at speaker phone/navagation system/whole dashboard...can't be good for safe driving.

Posted by: VintageLady | March 4, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' Boodle...

Not to be on-topic, but anyone who has owned an old (as in air-cooled) VW knows that talking to machines is necessary if you want said auto to start, climb a hill, keep up with traffic, or generally make it from Point A to Point B without having to get out and push.

Now I may have crossed the line since I actually *named* my V-Dubs -- "Stella" the '70 Bus and "Priscilla, Queen of the Western Reserve" the '75 Bus -- but I often talked to them, coaxed them, patted their dashboards and occasionally resorted to empty threats. Maybe it's just something about VWs, but they *did* respond. Not always to my liking, but there was definitely communication between driver and vehicle.

Now I must go commune with my jigsaw and router...

Peace out :-)

Posted by: martooni | March 4, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Don't argue with the jigsaw, 'Toon -- it's got sharper teeth!!! :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 4, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Morning, friends. The weather here this morning is so beautiful. It's the sun, and the brightness that just puts a totally different picture on everthing even when it's cold. And it's still chilly, but the hope of spring is right around the corner. Can you feel it?

Enjoy your vacation, JA. And talking to the wall could incline folks to think that perhaps you do have a problem. I know that the case for me. Of course, when I talk to the wall, my conversation is relayed back through the neighborhood. Must be those humans on the other side of the wall. You think?

As for the telemarketing folks, I don't answer the phone if it's not a number I'm familiar with. And my father has the habit of not saying good-bye or anything when ending a call, he just hangs up. And sometimes one is left still talking to dead air. He doesn't see a problem with this. And talking on the phone for a deaf person is a nightmare anyway, even with the new technology. One has to wait for the words to come up, and that is a slow process, so the other party thinks you've either hung up or don't understand. Both situations are frustrating, for the deaf person and the other party. I inform people of this before the conversation starts.

Life, isn't it grand?

Someone here on the boodle offered to help me write a grant, but being big-headed and not wanting to accept help, I refused. I'm sorry, would love the help if the person is still interested. I don't remember exactly who it was, I'm hoping that person will remember. The foundation I sent my grant request to has sent me an application. I asked them to reconsider the first grant, but they said the time frame had been too long, and that I should reapply. Our first request was rejected.

The g-girl is off to school today. Schools were closed yesterday for the little bit of white on the ground.

Mudge, Yoki, Martooni, Scotty, Lindaloo, and all the gang here, have a delightful day.

Slyness, the snow lasted about fifteen minutes, but the kids had the whole day to drive parents and grandparents absolutely bonkers, myself included.

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 4, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I may have spoken to our old V-Dub Beetle on a number of occasions, too, 'Toon, usually encouraging her with endearments and entreaties. They usually worked.

My wife might report that on occasion our car GPS, Wanda (so named because we wanda the east coast with her) and I have had sharply worded conversations regarding directions, during which I may have mocked her voice, pretended subservience to her commands, told her she was crazy and/or out-of-date, repititious, etc.

For her part, Wanda has told me to please turn right, and to make a 180-degree turn in the middle of a bridge.

I don't think she likes me.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 4, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Ooh I'm witnessing a mudge-ing live!

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 4, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

DNA-Girl's right. New kit.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 4, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

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