Monthly Archives: November 2008

A knock at the door

Knock knock knock.

Who could this be knocking at our Rome hotel room door at three in the morning?

I get out of bed… Should I trouser before I open the door? Hey, don’t blame me if you don’t think trouser is a verb. Trouser might mean putting something in your pocket to you but once the principle has been established that it can be a verb, how are you going to stop me from using it to mean “put on my trousers”? Anyway I decided to trouser. Which, as time would tell, was a wise decision.

Knock knock knock.

The knocking had a kind of precise insistance that suggested authority.

I took a deep breath and opened the door. And who was there? Only the bloody Pope!

Now as you may know the old Pope, John Paul George Ringo II, and I had often conversed on the subject of calendars. But the new pope? Eggs Benedict XVI and I had never spoken. So you can imagine how surprised I was to find him at my door.

“Hello, your Popeiness.”
“Hello, Alex.”
“What can I help you with at three o’clock in the morning?”

I thought it worth reminding him of the hour just in case he thought arriving at people’s doors at such an hour was normal, or worse that he actually thought it was three o’clock in the afternoon and was just a bit confused.

“Yes, sorry about that Alex, I just wondered if I could borrow a bowl of sugar.”
“Oh, okay. I think I can do that.”

I said this to him because I did indeed think it would be something I could do. I then added, “it might have to be a plastic* of sugar.”

“No problem.”

I went to the sideboard, found a plastic and started furiously pouring sachets of sugar into it.

“Thank you for this, Alex.”
“It really is no problem”, I replied, lying through my teeth.

I picked up the plastic and carried it over to his Popeiness.

“There you go,” I said.
“Thank you, Alex. I shall always remember this.”

He turned and walked away.

As I returned to bed, Katherine asked, “Who was that?”

“Well,” I said, “you are never going to believe this”.

* We here at gamboling are attempting to change the word for “plastic glass”. For other suggestions, please see this post and the comments. The theory behind plastic is pretty clear – why is glass called a glass? Why, for that matter are glasses (spectacles) called glasses? Well the same reasoning is behind calling a plastic vessel a plastic.

Girl in a brown dress

She is sitting opposite her boyfriend. She is wearing a brown, lightly patterned figure hugging dress and knee high leather boots which match the thin black strap around her neck.

She looks worried behind her glasses. Her chin dimples. She casually puts her hand on his forearm. He flexes his muscles as she touches him making his shirt tighten around his bicep. He has said something to her and she wants to challenge him. Can she at this stage? Is their relationship strong enough to let him spend the evening with his ex girlfriend? Why does he want to anyway. She knows he said why. But that isn’t the reason.

He is explaining further. Too much. Clearly too much explanation. But then why explain it? Why bother. If he wants to sleep with her so much why doesn’t he just do it?

How heavy are your pans?

An idea for a television show…

TV’s Chico goes into “celebrities” houses and uses their scales to weigh a selection of pans. Their frying pan, their saucepan and a surprising pan relevant to the celeb (eg. a wok for Ken Hom, a skillet for Michael Fish, etc). Back in the studio a set of “celebrities” judge who’s pans they are from the gamut of stars. Here’s the twist (as if this wasn’t enough) one of them is the “star” in question. They will be embarrassed not to identify their own pans. The studio segment will be presented by Stephen Fry (geddit?).

Were are those robots?

I’m not old enough to feel truly deprived by the lack of robots. Lots of people a bit older than I were promised flying cars and robots and I imagine they are quite annoyed by the lack of them.

Robots are one of those really hard things to program. Voice recognition is hard to program. Handwritting recognition is hard to program. Anyone who has used either will know how far we still have to go. And yet a robot is still supposed to not only listen to us which is hard, not only read what we write which is hard but actually understand what we mean. Surely this is close to impossible. It is wise to never bet against human ingenuity and of course we will have robots of a type in the future. But there are perhaps some reasons why we shouldn’t try.

For a start when the robot was imagined there were a great many tasks that were annoying to deal with. A robot could wash your clothes and do your dishes. Well we now have machines that do that for us. We are getting close to the situation where the only real robot worth having is a robot with deductive reasoning. A robot that can solve problems. One that can understand. But that brings it’s own problems.

Rich people have often wanted slaves and what are learning robots other than slaves? Of course keeping human slaves is worse than keeping robotic ones. However if what we want from a robot is for it to understand us totally then to an extent it must be like us. The moment the machine can learn, which is the only way it could truly understand us, is the same moment it is no longer fair to enslave it.

A dog doesn’t understand a human enough to know what it means. And yet we know we should allow a dog a life to live and love. Anything that can understand us is impossible to control. And we shouldn’t try.

Busy Lizzie (or indeed Alex)

So Hello.

It’s been a while hasn’t it.

Sorry about all of that – and everything.

I am, I believe, back though.

So yes. Work has been unbelievably busy of late. We have been so busy that we’ve had to go out and hire people to help.

And along the lines somewhere my work / life balance got quite a bit out of kilter. And I apologise to you my, hopefully, patient readers.

But yes. All things being equal, as the economists have it, I am back.