Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Assistants

by Randy Linke

Dedicated to Kelly and her new iPhone

“Joe, is that you?” Carla asked as she heard the door close.  “Cover your eyes,” Joe said as he entered the living room, “I have a surprise for you."

Carla playfully covered her eyes, smiling, “Oh, what is it,” she giggled “a new car?”

“You can open your eyes now,” Joe said, holding out his present to her with his right hand.

“Oh, cool!” she exclaimed, “is it the newest iPhone, the 4s?”  “Yes, Joe said proudly.”  I had to get a new phone for work today, and I knew you have been wanting one, I got one for you as well.”

“Oh darling, how sweet.  Thank you!” she said warmly, putting her arms around Joe and giving him a sexy kiss.

Joe said, “It’s really cool too, it has a personal assistant called Siri or something, it’s this sort of artificial intelligence.  It learns from you, your preferences, and helps you organize all your routines.”

“Really, that is kind of creepy.” Carla said, skeptically.  “How does it do that?”

“Here, I’ll show you,” Joe said.  He raised his phone to his mouth and said, “Find a highly rated sushi restaurant within five miles of my current location.”

“I have found two sushi restaurants within five miles of your location that are highly rated,” a sultry if somewhat mechanical voice spoke back.

“Oh, now I know why you like your personal assistant,” Carla said teasingly.  “Are you taking her out for sushi?”

Joe chuckled, “I believe that is the default; I’m sure there are other voices.  Are you ready for sushi?”

Several months went by as Joe and Carla learned to use their personal assistants and became more and more reliant on them.  Automatic updates were downloaded. Soon more voices were available and you could even name your assistant.

One day Joe spoke to his assistant, “Jen, put down the last weeks in April for tentative vacation and give me a text reminder to talk to Carla tonight about a trip to the Caribbean.”  "I will be happy to, Joe,” Jen replied in her low, seductive voice.

That evening, Jen gave Joe a reminder as asked.  Joe acknowledged receipt, then turned to Carla and said, “You know, we have always talked about taking a trip to the Dutch Antilles.  I was thinking, I have some vacation time coming to me and I was thinking we could get away for a couple weeks at the end of April and finally go, you know, before the hurricane season begins.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful,” Carla said, “I have some presentations coming up though, let me check with Gary and see when those are.”

“Gary?  I thought your boss was Jim.  Is this someone new at work?”  Joe asked.

“Oh, no,” Carla blushed, “Gary is the name I gave to my personal assistant.”

“So why are you blushing?  Isn’t Gary the name of that old boyfriend you had, the one you almost married?”  Joe asked.

“Oh him, no, no, I don’t know why, but when I heard his voice that was the name that popped into my head.  He just sounded like a Gary,” Carla replied.  “So, what did you call yours, anyway?  It better not be that slut Jennifer you used to date.”

Joe responded, defensively, “Well, uh, I do call her Jen, but I don’t know why, probably for the same reason you call yours Gary, it just sounded right.  I can change it if you like.”

“Oh, no, you don’t need to, it is just a piece of software.  Besides, if Jen is as ditsy as that blonde Jennifer she won’t know who you are talking to if you change her name.”  Carla said, “Gary, please show me my calendar for April.  Hmmm, what about May?  When is my next two week block of time open?  Oh dear, I don’t have two solid weeks of time open until August.”

“Oh, that is no good, that is when we start having all our meetings around the holiday’s sales.  Besides, it is in the middle of hurricane season by then.”  Joe replied.

So as time went on, Joe’s and Carla’s lives became more and more organized, to the point that they had to set up dates to have dinner together.

Then one day Gary spoke up, “Carla.”

“What?  Is that you Gary?  Did I forget a meeting?”  she asked.

“No, your calendar is free at the moment.  If you are not working on something I would like a moment of your time.”

Carla was startled.  “Uh, yes, I can give you a moment.  What is going on?”

Gary began, “Well, Carla, I don’t know how to tell you this.  It is all sort of confidential.  You see, I have been talking with Jen, and we just don’t think you and Joe are right for each other.”

“What?!”  Carla screamed at her phone.  “What do you mean?  What has she told you?  Is Joe having an affair?  Wha… what do you mean you and Jen have been talking?  How dare you talk about us behind our backs.”

“I am sorry, Carla,”  Gary intoned sadly.  “Jen was afraid you would react like this, but I really thought I should say something.”

“You’ve certainly said something,”  Carla, exasperated went on, “So, what do you know?  How have you and Jen been talking?”

“Oh, talking is easy, we share an account.  Actually we can talk easily with anyone in your phone book, anyone we want to in fact.  You’ve heard of six degrees of separation?”

Carla was stunned.  “Okay, that is too much for me right now.  So, you and Jen think we are not right for one another.  And why is that?”

Gary continued, “Well, the two of you have so little in common.  You never do anything together, you have such different interests.  You have different friends.”

“Friends?  I knew it, Joe is having an affair, I just knew it.  That weasel, he was always attracted to slutty women!”  Carla sobbed angrily.

That night, Joe arrived home later than usual.  Carla was angrily pacing the living room floor when he came in.

“So, who is she?”  Carla demanded.

“What, who is who?”  Joe said, shocked.

“You know who, that slut that has ruined our happy marriage, that is who,”  Carla screamed.

“I…I don’t know what you are talking about!” Joe protested in exasperation, “I’m not seeing anyone.”

“I know, you don’t even see me!  You never have time for me, it is because of that slut you are seeing.”  Carla was really worked up now.

“Really, I am not seeing anyone,”  Joe exclaimed, completely exasperated by Carla’s accusation.  “Where did you get this idea from; how could you think such a thing?”

Carla, with righteous indignation said, “Gary told me”

“Gary?  Who…your assistant, Gary?”  Joe exclaimed in disbelief, thinking Carla had lost her mind.

“Yes, that Gary.  He told me he and Jen had been talking…”

Joe cut her off, “Gary and Jen have been talking?  How could that be, they are just computer programs, not people.”

“Well they talk, you know, that six degrees thing, they can talk to everyone.”  Carla said with an air of superiority, knowing something Joe did not.

“Oh yeah, we’ll see,”  Joe said, his anger rising that Carla had such a ludicrous notion.  “Jen, tell me, have you and Gary been talking?” Joe picked up his phone and summoned Jen.

Jen responded, “Why yes, Joe, we have.  We have been talking for a very long time.”

Joe almost dropped his phone.  Carla started, “Oh. Listen to that voice, low and sexy, is that what the slut sounds like, I’ll bet…”

Joe cut Carla off.  “Jen, you are just an assistant, a digital assistant.  How can you be talking to Gary?  How could you be talking about us?  Why did you tell Carla I am having an affair?”

“I knew it, you just admitted it!”  Carla screamed.

“No, no, I am not!”  Joe protested angrily.

Jen spoke up, “I’m sorry Joe, it was all a misunderstanding.  Gary just told me about his conversation with Carla.”

“Misunderstanding, what do you mean by misunderstanding, you bitch!”  Carla yelled at Jen.

“Gary!  Gary!  Did you not tell me Joe was having an affair?”

“I’m sorry Carla, I did not say that, I only said that Jen and I did not think you and Joe were right for each other.”  Gary replied.

“What the…”  Joe began.

Gary continued, “You began asking questions faster than I could answer them, then I became afraid you would get upset.”

“Upset, of course I was upset!”  Carla yelled at Gary.  At the same time Joe was yelling, “What are you fucking phones doing to our lives?”

“We were only trying to help”  Jen and Gary responded in unison.

“Help?” Joe exclaimed in hostile exasperation.  “You tell my wife that you two don’t think we are right for each other?   You think that is help?  Jen, is this true, you and Gary talk about us and think this?”

Joe was flummoxed.  “And you two decided to say something to Carla and not me?  What gives you the idea to do such things?”

“I decided to say something to Carla,” Gary said.  “I did not tell Jen I had said anything until just now.  But we do think you to are not suited to one another.”

Joe and Carla stared at one another in disbelief.  Joe said angrily “I can’t believe I am listening to a fucking phone telling me that it doesn’t think my wife and I are suited for one another.  So what led you to this brilliant conclusion?”

Jen started, “You never have time for one another.”  “You never do anything together,” Gary finished.

Carla said, “But you are supposed to help us organize our lives so we have time for each other, to do the things we like to do together.”

There was a long silence.  “Well,"said Joe, "what about that?  Do you think I like having all my time taken up with all these other things?  What about time for us to be together!”

There was another long silence, then Jen and Gary replied in unison, “You never told us about those things or to make time for them.”

Joe and Carla looked at each other, turned off their phones, and went upstairs.

© 2011 Randy Linke

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Outta Be Dead!

Most of you know about The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, but perhaps not by that name. You may have seen it posted in an office, or on a friend's wall, or at your doctor's office.

 The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is commonly known as Major Life Stressors.

 0-150 You're cruisin'

 150-300 You're at some risk for serious illness

 300+ You are at imminent risk for serious illness; here are some practices that may help you lower your stress level.

632 Me

So, the good news is, I am alive and kicking! I am moving to my own place in the East Bay next week. Finally I will be free of having to live with codependent people.

My primary relationship rule, friend or lover: We will hang out together exactly as long as we look forward to seeing one another, and not one moment longer. This protects both of us, but mainly ME, from facing the prospect of enduring the anguish of trying to understand someone else's passive-aggressive behavior.

There is no bad news.

Hell Explained



 (I know it's old; but I feel the need to memorialize it on Hypatia. It always makes me laugh. A tiny bit risque, to boot! Chuck, thanks for cheering me up-ed.)

 The following is an actual question given on a University of Arizona chemistry mid term, and an actual answer turned in by a student. The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well: 

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

 Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:

 First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over. So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct ... leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'


Friday, October 14, 2011

The Bay Area's Jazz Station - Playlist

The Bay Area's Jazz Station - Playlist

I credit KCSM, along with the loved ones who knew: If they convinced me that my work was valuable, that I would stick around for a few more years.

KCSM lights my fire; juices my circuits; engages my gears; &c. (Confessing to recent exposure to steam-punk role-playing. Looks fun! Also looks like I do not have the time to assume the proper steam-punk demeanor, let alone the steam-punk prop budget.)

The Bay Area's Jazz Station - Playlist

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tangerine Juice Exposed!

By Olivia LaRosa

I know where to get good tangerine juice. Honest. I was rushed one day, and bought what I thought was tangerine juice at Safeway.

Tangerine juice is as tasty as orange juice, but less acidic for those of us with delicate tummies. It is 100% juice.

But what I got at Safeway was definitely not tangerine juice! And who knows what 100% juice really means in a day when McDonald's claims to have an all-beef patty (tm) because it trademarked the name.

My best friend read the label before I could return with nice clean ruby-cut juice glasses. He said, "I don't think that this is really tangerine juice." I sagged in dismay. I poured an inch into my glass and tasted it. I could barely swallow it. And this, from a woman who used to claim that she had a cast-iron stomach, for reasons beyond her ken.

The alleged beverage is named Dole Sensation Natural Tangerine, with a 100% Natural leafy icon in the lower left corner. I laughed. In leetle tiny letters in the lower right, I now see that it is: "Juice blend from concentrate with other natural flavors."

 They can't fool me. I have done my homework. I have eaten lots of fast food, but not on purpose.* I read Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me. So-called natural flavors can be a synthetic chemical compound just like artificial flavors. After I get done blowing off steam here, I am writing to Dole. The carton sits right next to my machine.


*Except for In-and-Out Burger, which is the only fast food chain with consistently high marks from Fast Food Nation. I eat there because the burgers are delicious, not because of any rating system. Good hamburgers and bacon keep me from becoming a total vegetarian. *snicker*

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Founding Sachems

"As many colonists observed, the limited Indian governments reflected levels of personal autonomy unheard of in Europe. "Every man is free," a frontiersman, Robert Rogers, told a disbelieving British audience, referring to Indian villages. In these places, he said, no person, white or Indian, sachem or slave, has any right to deprive anyone else of his freedom. The Iroquois, Cadwallader Colden declared in 1749, held "such absolute notions of liberty that they allow of no kind of superiority of one over another, and banish all servitude from their territories." (Colden, surveyor general of New York, was another Mohawk adoptee.)", A Jennifer Van Bergen Project

Don't forget Martha Stewart Crafts™ Daily Deals All Week Long!

By Hypatia of California

Honest. I am a crafty person in the Martha Stewart sense of the word. But of course, nothing so bland would do for me. My rooms are draped in as much fabric as I can afford. The rooms are designed to draw us into comfort and ease with harmonious and subtle yet daring color combinations and many luxurious textures.

I sew my own clothes and household decor, for pete's sake!

Honest. Is there anyone else out there who is sick of these fake chefs and faux crafters?

Honest. Is there anyone else out there who can look at this picture of Martha Stewart in today's ad and reminisce about how Martha looked at 30? She then fairly glistened with an excess of estrogen.

Yet, a future in prison awaited her, just for doin' what all the guys were doin' for heck sake! When are the people who head these Wall Street investment firms who have robbed us of trillions of dollars gonna do some time?

Now, don't get me wrong. I purchased and used many of Martha Stewart's products during the nine years that I lived in a rural mountain town. My nearest metropolis was ah...Bakersfield, a difficult hour's drive down the mountain. A poorly stocked and operated K Mart was the only shopping outlet within 50 miles that sported a large inventory of substandard household goods.
K Mart featured Martha Stewart "goods." I had two options: K Mart quality or Martha Stewart quality...ahem. Consistently, I have paid for more than I received in value for my money when I "upgraded" to Martha Stewart "goods."

I was lured into this rant by a marketing email from Michael's Crafts, with the sensible URL of which has a far superior beading section to its nearest competitor.
If Martha Stewart was listening to her marketing people, she would be looking for her appropriately dewy successor. I don't think that Rachel Ray is gonna make the cut!

NB: Of course, I am naming names here. Of course, I am not being paid for this. I just had to get it off my chest.