Showing posts with label fun. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fun. Show all posts

That Can Be My Next Tweet! (also, Markov Chains)

I found this site via Keriann Martin, and I've been spending far too much time on it. It's a Tweet jumbler called That can be my next tweet! Here were some results it made from my Twitter feed:

(My next business venture)
Individually-wrapped bananas. I could tape record everything they know how to be as 4.99. Done.

(No, really. I clever.)
I really clever. Dreamworks is endearing themselves to buy those are not actually really need to really?

(In which I am apparently stealing from Firefly)
I was afraid of fixing Hagai's emotional arc today like Wash and Inara's banter in which is that?

(Poor novel planning)
From Reading? My mom was present when I think of a puppy? I think it's not a good inciting event...

(I think I know who drank the rum)
Shoot, with the rum gone? S.C. Butler says you're NOT looking for the rewards are not fame.

(A special message for Keriann)
:-D It's okay, Keri. You can compose wonderful stuff like a water bender. I just watch DIEHARD.

Okay, well I think it's fun. If those were lame, or my geekery posts aren't your thing, you might want to step back. I'm about to explain how this thing works.

It's a simple statistical model using something called Markov chains. Basically, you give the model some set of input text (in this case, your Twitter feed), and it uses that to generate a statistically similar output. For example, say you give it a very small input of 3 tweets:

Why is the rum gone?
Firefly is the bomb. Why is it cancelled again?
I'm gone, watching Firefly and drinking rum.

To produce output, first the model will randomly select one of the starting words: Why, Firefly, or I'm. (Why) Then it looks at what words follow that one. In this case, both instances of the word are followed by 'is'. (Why is)

Here's where it gets interesting. After 'is' comes either 'the' (twice) or 'it' (once), so the model will choose 'the' 66.7% of the time and 'it' the other 33.3%. (Why is the) Then again, after 'the' comes either 'rum' (once) or 'bomb' (once). (Why is the bomb)

Finally, when it reaches an end word--gone, again, or rum--it starts a new sentence using one of the random starting words, or it just stops, having produced all the output it's going to produce. (Why is the bomb. Why is the rum. Firefly and drinking rum. I'm gone.)

So there's your useless fact for the day. The model can be made smarter a number of ways, for example by taking into account not just the current word, but also the word before it (e.g. 'is' might be followed by 'it' or 'the', but 'Firefly is' will always be followed by 'the'). Also, notice the tweet jumble ignores @ mentions, URLs, and hashtags.

What are Markov chains good for, other than silly-sounding word jumbles? It turns out they're great for modeling thermodynamics or economics, for prediction in speech recognition software, for auto-generation of music. Spammers use them to insert real-looking paragraphs in an attempt to get past spam filters, and Google's PageRank is defined by Markov chain probabilities.

But I just use them to waste time with insightful tweets about publishing and Jesus: "Okay, how you can just heard of Publishing? Thanks for Jesus or not? Yeah, I'm quite okay with one."

Scams and Cons

Among other oddities, I've been researching con artists for my latest shiny. For some reason, these grab my attention, from The Sting to Matchstick Men to Ocean's Eleven. Here are a few of the more interesting cons I've come across.

In the interest of readability, the target in these cons is named Mark. The con artist is Carl, and his accomplice (if there is one) is Anna.

Dressed as a poor musician, Anna buys something cheap from Mark's restaurant. When the bill arrives, Anna tells Mark she left her wallet elsewhere. She offers to leave her old, beat-up fiddle as collateral, then leaves.

Later, Carl enters the restaurant and spies the fiddle. After asking where Mark got it, Carl says the fiddle is a classic and offers $50,000 for it. Mark can't sell it, of course (it's not his), so Carl leaves his business card and tells him to tell the owner of the fiddle of his offer. Carl leaves.

Anna finally returns with her wallet. If Mark dutifully passes on the message, the con fails (though with no repercussions for Carl or Anna). But Mark is greedy and desperate for $50,000. He offers to buy Anna's fiddle. Anna, of course, refuses, as the fiddle is her work, but she is finally convinced to sell it for a modest sum, say $500.

At that point, Anna and Carl disappear, with a profit of $500, less the cost of the piece-of-junk fiddle now in Mark's hands.

Anna mugs Mark, but Carl shows up just in time to save him. Now Carl has Mark's trust. With a bit of smooth-talking, Carl can get a reward or a favor from Mark--one that would make him more money than simply mugging Mark would have.

This one requires some charisma. Carl claims he can make it rain for Mark's crops (or that his medicine can cure Mark's disease, or that he can change the outcome of a sporting event in Mark's favor, etc). Mark pays up front, and if it actually rains, Mark believes Carl did it. If it doesn't, Carl convinces Mark he needs more time and/or money.

Like Rainmaker, but more about math than charisma. Carl sends out a free tip on some sporting event (say the first game of the NFL playoffs) to many marks. Half of them are told the Chargers will win, the other half, the 49ers. Whatever the outcome, half of Carl's tips will have been right.

The second week of the season, he sends out another tip, but only to those marks who received the winning tip from the week before. Again, half the tips say Team A, half say Team B, and in the end half of them will have been proven right.

He does this each week, until the day before the Super Bowl when he has a very small group of people who have received apparently perfect winning tips for the entire season. That's when he sells the final tip--who will win the Super Bowl--for $1,000 each.

The key to a good con is charisma and legitimacy. Maybe you imagine Carl as a sleazy, underhanded crook--easy to spot because he feels like a liar.


But for a con game to work, Mark has to trust Carl completely (con is short for confidence, after all). That means Carl is going to be the friendliest, most humble person Mark ever met.


Man I can't wait to write that character.

Anyway, what have you been researching lately?

Waterworld and Other Worst Case Scenarios

I learned some interesting things in the aftermath of the Rule of Cool post. In particular, did you know the underwater future of Waterworld can never happen? Shocking, considering one of the main messages of that (stupidly expensive) film was: "If we don't take better care of our planet, this is what will happen."

In order for the world to be entirely, or even mostly, covered with water, sea levels would have to rise over 8 kilometers.* But if all of the ice in the entire world melted, sea levels would only rise about 80 m. At worst, the Earth would go from this:

To this:**

Interesting. Devastating. But not world-destroying, which, really, is what I was hoping for.

So what's an inspiring author (who wants a world covered entirely in water) to do? Here are some possibilities:
  • Fantasy World. It's not Earth, so who's to say how much ice may or may not have melted to drown the civilization underneath?
  • Ice Meteor. An asteroid made entirely of frozen water crashes into the planet, and then melts. Such a meteor would have to have a radius of 900 km (about a seventh the size of the moon) to contain enough water, and that kind of meteor collision would have other consequences. But we're talking thousands of years in the future anyway, right? A crater the size of Australia wouldn't be a big deal by then.
  • Shrink the Earth. Theoretically, if enough internal pressure were released such that the Earth shrank, the existing water would be enough to cover the globe. Of course the very act of releasing that pressure, combined with whatever catastrophic event triggered the release, would probably wipe out life on Earth anyway.
  • Science Is Wrong. This is my favorite one to fall back to. Science is not often wrong, but considering how much we don't know and those times science has been wrong before, it's always possible. Maybe the Earth is filled with water that comes to the surface. Maybe there's more ice underneath Antarctica than we thought. Who knows?
I'm not saying I'm going to do any of these to my world, but it's fun to think of the possibilities. Speaking of which, this list of risks to civilization is all kinds of awesome, especially for those of you considering post-apocalyptic scenarios that are scientifically possible.

* The metric system is just better, sorry. Do your own conversions.

** The map isn't entirely accurate. The program that generated it just uses altitudes, so places like the Caspian Sea wouldn't actually get bigger like they do in the picture.

The Pillar of Skulls

Near the gate between the first and second layers of Hell, there lies a grotesque monument of the damned. It towers over a mile high, howling and writhing with eternal torment--a terror to match any other in the Nine Hells.
It is the Pillar of Skulls, and it seethes with the frustration and hatred of a billion souls, moaning and wailing in endless, hopeless agony.

But it is also the greatest store of knowledge in all planes of existence. Among the Pillar's eternal prisoners lie great thinkers, world leaders, teachers, scientists... the entirety of the world's lore and experiences can be found within.

Once in a great while, a knowledge seeker will brave Hell itself to speak to the Pillar. Should they survive--through the charred wasteland, past endless legions of Lord Bel's devils, beneath the watchful eyes of the five-headed Tiamat--they must still contend with the Pillar itself.

Whenever a visitor comes, the billion skulls fight each other to make themselves heard. The surface of the Pillar billows and pulsates, one skull appearing--howling unintelligible obscenities--then disappearing to be replaced by another.

And should the seeker find the right one--a soul who has the information they are after--there is always a price. For every skull on the Pillar, every soul doomed to live out eternity in the Nine Hells, wants only one thing. "I'll tell you what I know," they say. "I'll do anything you ask. Just, please, take me off this pillar. Please, I...

"I just want to be published."

Choosing the Right Picture

This blog is going quiet for a couple of weeks for obvious reasons. Not that Thailand celebrates Christmas, but our family does, as do the 7+ relatives/friends here to visit.

I should be back on January 3rd. Until then, enjoy this undoctored screenshot of, and meditate on the importance of choosing the right picture to go with your words.

Five Stages of the Science-Fiction Author

STAGE 1: Idea
I'll write a book about time travel! Nobody's done that well yet.

STAGE 2: World-building
I wonder if I should relate the history of the war between Morlocks and Ferengis here or in chapter 2. Oh, I know! I'll add a prologue!

STAGE 3: Characterization
Let's see... I've got the absent-minded professor vs. the mad scientist. Oo! And how about an android struggling to understand human emotions. Screw it, I'll just do an ensemble cast. What should I name the Asian character?

STAGE 4: Craft
How many l's are in "mellifluously"? Never mind. I'll just say "dulcet-like".

STAGE 5: Career
I wonder how many Nebulas you have to buy before they just give you the Hugo?

Unexpected Convergence

Something I noticed the other day when my daughter asked if she could listen to music on the way to school.

Talk Like an Air Pirate 2: All the Swears

Heyya, mates, Sam Draper here. Adam asked me to teach you shiners how to curse like a skyler, so here we go, aye? (And if you're thinking, "Oy! Who's this swabber, and what's he flailing about?" You oughtta read this first. It might keep you from getting scatty.)

First off: bleeding. I'll be bled if I know where this came from -- maybe some monk story -- but it's bleeding everywhere. I don't give a drop if you're a skyler or a groundhog: you can't bleeding swear without bleeding 'bleeding.'

'Piking' is another good one, but it's usually reserved for when you get thrown over by a pack of sodding dog-lickers. As in, "You gave me half what this junk's worth, you piking bastard!" If you ain't being cheated, I reck 'sodding dog-lickers' is good too, aye?

You'll be needing oaths too. 'Flack' and 'flot' are okay, being words for human muck. Though like as not you'll be wanting a pronoun in there: bleed it, pike it, soddit (or 'suit it,' if you're aiming at respectable -- not likely in the skies), and tullit (for when you just don't drink the wash some loony is pouring).

Now that's all good and well for your general swearing, but if you're gonna mix words with an air pirate, you'll need something a bit more direct. Lucky for you, skylers' got no end of offensory insults.

Someone too smart for their own good is a nummer. The opposite (with less smarts than a tumor on Tuesday) is a nimbus. A piker what stabs you in the back is a bleeding merc. And for govvies what leech off their constituents, we call them a willyguv. Then you got your maggot, blighter, dog-licker, bullock, swabber, rat orphan, coal monkey, or feckless lump, for when it don't matter what you call the gunner. And feel free to make up your own, aye? All the best pirates do.

I reck that's good for now. I'll be back later, see if you got any questions for me, breezy?

Love Stories, the Maturation of the Male Writer

STAGE 1: Ignorance
"There are girls in Lord of the Rings?"

At first, the subject is aware of love stories in general, but has either never read any or is unaware that he has. Attempts at bringing romance to the subject's attention may result in discomfort, interrupted thought patterns, or an irrational desire to play Splinter Cell. 

STAGE 2: Avoidance
They were close enough to feel the warmth of-- "BO-RING." *flip* *flip* *flip*

In the second stage, the subject exhibits an acute awareness and dislike of romance. He will sometimes go out of his way to learn about popular series with romantic storylines just so he can deride them. Studies show a strong correlation between writers in this stage and bachelors.

STAGE 3: Tolerance
"I like the rest of this story. I guess I can put up with a kissing scene or two."

Often triggered by a well-written adventure/romance novel, or a series of real-life break ups, writers in the third stage begin to actually read romantic subplots, if not enjoy them. This is provided, of course, that the main plot involves terrorists, aliens, pirates, serial killers, or some other form of mortal terror.

STAGE 4: Curiosity
"Women read a lot, and they seem to like this stuff. I bet if I can fake it, they'll read my stuff too."

Writers begin to see romance as a means to "trick" women into reading their book. They pay more attention to love stories, trying to see "how it's done." It's important at this stage that they learn from fiction, because even after thousands of years of studying women in real life, men still have no clue what they want.

STAGE 5: Secret Acceptance
In the last stage, the subject comes to terms with the fact that romance is a part of life, and therefore a part of fiction. Although certain cultural pressures still apply.

In public: "I don't care who she ends up with. I just want to see her blow stuff up!"
At home: "Why can't she see how much Gale cares for her?" *tissue*

5 Things I'm Proud Of (Sort Of)

  1. Won a 99-minute round of Super Smash Bros. (MattyDub and I played only because that's how high the timer went, and we wanted to see if we could do it).

  2. Watched all three Lord of the Rings' movies in one sitting (extended versions).

  3. After a 3.5-day fast, finished an entire El Champion plus chips and salsa. (Though I didn't eat anything else for another 24 hours).

  4. Can play the theme songs of Laputa, Crystalis, and Firefly.

  5. Once out-ate a guy twice my size on a trip to Mexico. I finished his dinner for him too. The next morning, while he was cradling his belly and waving off breakfast, I made a fat burrito and ate it in front of him with a smile.

So that's mine. What lame accomplishments are you proud of?

The Ocean

I'm sick, so today's post is short. This picture is from our recent trip to the US, in which my son sees the ocean for the first time (that he remembers).

"That's the ocean, Isaac. When you grow up, the Earth will be covered in it, and you'll be the most famous pirate in the world."

Japanese Game Shows

This post is entirely the fault of Natalie Whipple, who with a single YouTube link, got my family to spend all Saturday morning watching Japanese game show videos.

I love these things. You just don't get game shows like this in the States (even when they're taken directly from Japan). I think it's a combination of wacky challenges, insane costumes, and contestants who aren't afraid to ham it up, even if it means losing. Watch and enjoy.
  1. In which contestants wearing bug costumes must navigate a scooter through a narrow passage. Try and figure out what their punishment is.
  2. In which men in suits must charge up a treadmill, eat four cookies, and get to the end before time runs out.
  3. My personal favorite, in which contestants must position themselves to squeeze through oddly-shaped holes in a moving wall.
  4. In which players must successfully swing over a rolling log and onto a floating platform, while wearing the worst costumes imaginable.
  5. A combination of 2 and 4, in which contestants must swing onto a moving treadmill, grab a platform, jump OFF said platform to grab another rope so they can land on the floating goal. (I'm not sure, but I think they put something in the water on these last two. Some of those contestants seem to be reacting to more than just cold.)

Form Rejections

In honor of the Rejectionist's blog birthday, I give you a top 10 list of what form rejections REALLY mean:

"If it makes you feel any better, getting this rejection means you're not on my blacklist. Yet."

"My cat threw up on my keyboard, but I still have to answer these stupid queries."


"Your query did not give my computer a virus. Good work."

"Congratulations. You successfully bypassed my spam filter."

"On the bright side, that query service you hired sent it to at least one real agent."

"I can only request 1 partial per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn't look good either."

"I'm only rejecting you now because the queries never stop. They just keep coming and coming and coming, there's never a let-up. They're relentless. Every day they pile up more and more and more! And you gotta get them out, but the more you get them out the more they keep coming in. And then your computer freezes and it's the last day of NaNoWriMo!"


And the number one thing form rejections really mean...

"This rejection means the same as if I said nothing. Except if I actually said nothing, you'd pester me with e-mails or (God forbid) phone calls asking why I haven't said SOMETHING. Even though you give your resume to hundreds of human resource departments without wondering if they received it. Even though you give your phone number to God-knows-how-many potential girl/boyfriends, yet never track them down to see if maybe they lost it. For whatever reason, those expectations do not apply to me.

"So consider this your non-interview. Your fake number. I am turning you down in the nicest way I have available to me. Please, please, PLEASE don't e-mail again asking why."

Happy birthday, Le R! Thank you for brightening our depressing, rejection-filled existences.

Feedback Friday

You guys are awesome. I was all worried Wednesday's post would get nasty for some reason (even though I know you guys; who would be nasty?). Thank you to everyone who shared, to everyone who wasn't mean, and to everyone who is still reading this blog even after learning that I hear voices and indoctrinate my children. I have the best readers in the world.

So we've had the small talk. We've had the deep conversation. All that's left now is to collectively answer the most important issues facing the world today, via online poll.

If at any point you don't see an option you like, feel free to expound in the comments. (Although I intentionally limited the options so you'd have to choose. Mwa-ha-ha!). The first poll is for me. The rest are for the world.

Note: if you're on Reader or e-mail, you'll have to click through for the polls.

UPDATE: There may be some problems with voting. Try voting anyway, and with luck they'll sort themselves out. Otherwise, uh...have a nice weekend I guess.

And here you thought today was going to be even harder than Wednesday. (Heck, maybe it was. Choosing between Picard and New Kirk? That's like asking me to choose my left or right eyeball.)

¡Viva la Revolución!

(This post brought to you by the inspiration and revolutionary cake of L. T. Host, the Jokerman font, and That Thing Where I DrawPhotoshop)

I'm seeing a pattern. My first novel generated no requests. My second novel is getting partial requests, but no fulls (so far). I fear my third novel will generate fulls but no offers--those will come with my fourth novel.

And then what? Will I have to write yet another novel before I get a book deal? To that I say: NO!

Down with our (imaginary) oppressors! We will not have to write three more novels. THIS is the novel that will be published.

No more slush pile! Representation for everyone!


* CARPE EDITIO: Seize the book deal (or, if you want to be literal, "the publishing of a book.").

Jonathan Coulton, Chiron Beta Prime

Christmas in June? Why not? When you're imprisoned on a mining asteroid, does it really matter what month it is?

Jonathan Coulton, Code Monkey

This is easily my favorite Johnathan Coulton song. Probably because I can identify so strongly with it. It's also a pretty good AMV to go with it.

Jonathan Coulton, Baby Got Back

I got this as an internet meme a long, long time ago. Like when people actually sent things to each other via e-mail. It was the first I'd ever heard of Jonathan Coulton.

It's an acoustic cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back", and really, it's everything a cover should be. Enjoy.