Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Archive for October, 2009

Big Brother and Stupid Monkeys

Posted by hyperpat on October 29, 2009

It would seem that the monkeys who dominate executive boardrooms are incapable of thinking rationally. The latest case in point is a patent awarded to Amazon that specifies a method of computer substitution of one or more synonyms into electronically distributed text that will allow the later detection of unauthorized copies of that text (text of patent is here) .

Now I can almost understand the logic behind Amazon looking at doing something like this, as their site allows users to ‘Look Inside the Book’ and read a couple pages of the book, a feature that many users like as it is similar to a book reader’s normal method of book selection in a book store, where the reader can browse through the potential purchase to see if he really likes it. The trouble is, such a feature allows for multiple automated requests for excerpts, looking at different points of the book, and it then becomes possible to stitch these requests together to get the entire contents of the book – for free. And which could then be distributed far and wide across the net, with no income going to either Amazon or the author. Obviously this is even easier with ebooks, where the entire text is already available electronically.

But the idea behind the usefulness of this patent is that you can make synonym substitutions that do not alter the meaning of the text in any meaningful way, i.e., the reader will never know the difference. This is dumb and stupid on its face. “It was a dark and stormy night” might become “It was a caliginous and raving night” or “It was an obscure and disorderly night” – not exactly conveying what the original does. Authors, I think, would be very upset if their precious text is altered in this fashion, and would more than likely cry ‘foul’ and sue for copyright infringement, as clearly this method alters the text slightly and then attempts to sell for profit the end result, which at least would normally be considered plagiarism. And there really is no need to actually alter the text this way as there are plenty of other ways to uniquely digitally watermark text, say by changing kerning, spacing, pitch, or font for only certain words or sentences, that will not alter the meaning the of the text (with some caveats that some poetry depends on some of these characteristics – how it looks on a page – to achieve its effect).

Somewhere along the line, company execs need to get hip to the fact that the best way to stop piracy, whether it be books, songs, or movies, is not to add ‘security’ (whether it be DRM codes, ‘watermarking’, or whatever other method they might come up with) to the product, but to make the product cheap enough that it doesn’t make sense to go to the effort of illegally copying it.

But there is also a notable and frightening feature of this patent in that it specifically mentions that the requestor of the digital information can be uniquely identified and tracked. Now I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like the idea of anybody being able to determine what I’m reading. If the government starts doing this, then what’s to stop Orwell’s 1984 from coming true? Because once some authority can do something like this, it is a very short step from such monitoring to arresting the poor slob who has the temerity to read something that says nasty things about said authority.


Posted in Books, General, Writing | Leave a Comment »

A Journey into PBA Land

Posted by hyperpat on October 22, 2009

I finally qualified for and joined the PBA. Yeah me!

Of course, I immediately had to try my hand at a PBA regional tournament to see how well I really stacked up against this crowd. The one I picked on was held in Palo Alto from Oct 9-11, choice driven by the fact that’s it’s close enough that I didn’t have to stay at the tournament site overnight, as these things are already expensive enough ($220 entry fee) without adding hotel bills and such. And I had additional expenses getting a couple of shirts embroidered with my name (PBA requirement) and getting a couple of new pairs of slacks (another PBA requirement, jeans not allowed). Net out of pocket was $300 for this tournament, plus my PBA membership initiation fee ($99), plus the annual dues ($144). This is not a poor man’s game. Of course, all that would be made back if I could win the tournament (first prize $2500).

So how did I do? In a single word: terrible. First, the lanes in Palo Alto are real wood, not synthetic, which means the oil on the lanes gets soaked up more rapidly than on the now more common synthetic surfaces. Second, the oil pattern for this tournament was the Chameleon, which has never been my favorite. But in the practice session on Friday I did quite well, running about 50% strikes and staying in or very near the pocket about 90% of the time. And my first frame in the qualifying round on Saturday was a strike, following exactly the line that the practice session had shown me. And then disaster struck.

For some reason, when the front desk set up the lanes, they did not set them up for normal cross-lane bowling. Of course, this was immediately discovered at the beginning of the second frame, and play was halted to correct this problem. Trouble was, it took them almost 15 minutes to get everything set up right and all the various scores corrected, while everyone stood around. By the time I got up to throw in the second frame, my muscles had tightened up some, and I ended up yanking the ball a hair, with maximum penalty paid of a 6-7-10 split. And another split in frame 3. This did not do good things to my mental outlook. I ended the first game with a 177, which is clearly not competitive in this crowd. Game 2 was going OK till the 10th frame, when I got bit with an 8-10, and finished with a 184.

But game three was the killer. By this point, the lane conditions had started to change, and I simply could not seem to find the right adjustment, or if I did manage to find the pocket, I left either a solid 8, 9, or 10 pin. Result: no strikes, and a 147. This effectively killed any chances I had of winning, as even with a later games 205, 166, 222, 203, and 176, I was well below the par value of 200, and the cut line ended up at par +92 pins. By the time of that last game, there really wasn’t any oil left, and I had moved left about 11 boards to try and hold pocket, which is a huge (and normally never required) move for me. On top of that, I found that by the time of that last game my hand was quite sore, which surprised me, as I often do 8-10 games in practice sessions. But what I don’t normally do is do that much practice bowling and then bowl again on the very next day.

So what did I learn? One: don’t practice so much on the first day, do just enough to find out where the line is and see if there are any great variations from lane to lane. Two: if there are future delays of game such as in this one, make sure to do several arm swings with the ball prior to resuming play to loosen myself up. Three: I need to practice more on throwing deep inside lines on dry lanes. Four: see what I can do about keeping a decent mental outlook in the face of patently unfair leaves. Five: start making adjustments for changing lane conditions more quickly – assume that I’m throwing correctly, and the reason for a bad result is the lane change, as my more common assumption is that I did something wrong in the delivery.

Did I get my money’s worth out of this tournament? I think I did, as I’ll probably become a better bowler for it, and I really can’t ask much more than that.

Posted in Bowling | 1 Comment »