Gone to the Dogs Department
Very funny, if you are a dog owner. Not your cup of tea if you are a cynophobe.
The offer of Third … at a 12% discount expires in two days.
Since Blurb will be offering a 20% discount on orders of two or more of my books, I decided to sweeten the offering by publishing another in the set of annual collections: Third …
“Third …” continues the series of reasonably priced volumes that will cover the years since 2001 that I’ve been photographing the female nude. “Third …” covers 2004 and includes a number of models with whom readers may be well familiar, including Lauren, Samantha, Meg, Bridget and the anonymous model who kicked off the “Body Viewpoint” series.
Go to http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2046261 to see details. Until April 1, “Third …” is offered at 12% below its normal price, at a very reasonable $14.95 in softbound. So check it out! And while you are at it, consider the other books, at http://www.blurb.com/user/store/magicflute, because, in addition, if between now and April 4 you order two or more of my books at the same time, you will receive a 20% discount from your product total. Just type in the appropriate code at checkout:
- USD $ coupon: 20PERCENTBLURB
GBP £ coupon: 20PERCENTBLURB1
EUR € coupon: 20PERCENTBLURB2
CAD $ coupon: 20PERCENTBLURB3
AUD $ coupon: 20PERCENTBLURB4
Humans Beat Computers, Every Time, Department
Two articles dealing with related matters in yesterday’s NY Times “Science Section.” The first was an explanation of something we’ve all encountered, but I bet most of you — like me — did not know how really cool is not only the technology but the benefits derived therefrom. The technology is known as ReCaptcha, and it is an extension of the Captcha techniques used to assure that a “person” logging onto a site is indeed human and not a computer. (“Captcha” = “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart” — Cool!) You’ve encountered it frequently, I’ll bet. You know, the little curvy-lettered words, sometimes seemingly nonsensical, that you must enter to get beyond a signon page. The NYT provided an illustration:
As the article points out, however, ReCaptcha is something special — it enlists all of us unwashed but literate human masses to aid in machine transcription of old texts. When a book, manuscript, etc., is scanned and OCRed, words will be encountered that are not correctly transcribed. ReCaptcha throws up a bitmap of those words as part of a pair of Captcha words. You, gentle user, interpret both words in your response. If a number of users respond with the same interpretation, then the true transcription of the OCRed text is believed to have been achieved. The article goes into considerably greater depth — highly recommended!
The second article was directly under the ReCaptcha article in the Times‘s print edition. Entitled “A Speech Lost in Digital Translation,” it uses the 1859 Times account of John Brown’s speech delivered after he was sentenced to death for the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Because of typesetting inconsistencies and the passage of time, the text is totally unreadable by computers attempting to scan historical copies of The NY Times for inclusion in their database, but is relatively easily readable by humans. It is an example of text using the ReCaptcha technology. As the author says:
The last few lines of Brown’s speech, for example, were reproduced by O.C.R. as follows: “I fear it lhas becn stated by Of 1 bave to join nIO, but tlhe is true I do not say this to them, but as regretting their -.. Notone but joined me of his on, 1tc* ord, and the greater part at expense. Number of them I never saw , and never hld a ot conversation with till the c *lay they C:IIII to me, and that for the I halve stated. Novw I have done.”
For human eyes, however, the passage is child’s play. Computers may be able to win at “Jeopardy!”, but on this stuff they’re about as clever as marmosets.
Maybe the TSA Agent Was Illiterate Department
This is quite possibly the dumbest thing ever. Flying out of SFO on Saturday morning, I handed the ID checker at the security checkpoint my ID and boarding pass. She asked me what my last name was, in a somewhat demeaning tone, so I figured she wasn’t just curious about the pronunciation. Dumbfounded, I pointed to my ID and said “it’s right there.” She said “no, you need to tell me what your last name is.” I asked why, and she responded that it was a new policy.
It seems I’m not alone and that this isn’t an isolated event. This is a new policy at SFO to “keep us safe” (her words, not mine). Can anyone rationalize that? I guess they think they’re stopping people with fake IDs that way? Seriously, are they that dumb?
Next time I fly through there, I’m either going to refuse to say anything or give a different last name, just to see their reaction.
On the other hand, you will enjoy reading this a good deal less, from here:
Well folks we made it home in one piece, barely! After a disgusting flight back from Australia to New York on Qantas (that’s another story for another time). We arrived at Los Angeles Airport to connect flights to New York City, a Qantas special services assistant escorted me and my spouse through customs and baggage pickup to security where I was immediately met with an aggressive officer who treated me like a criminal and told me to stop talking when I was merely asking which aisle should I roll into as neither would fit my wheelchair. After being gruffly pushed through a aisle that was barely as wide as my chair a large African American TSA female officer asked me could I stand. I told her “no,” I had limited mobility. She then told me, “but you have to lift yourself completely so we can search your chair.” Bewildered, I informed her I travel regularly and was usually asked to lean forward and hold my thighs so they could check behind me, then outstretch my arms, lean left then right so they could check the sides of my chair and between my body and the frame. In response to that she called a supervisor and told them I was refusing to cooperate and stand up so she wanted a cavity search. Really? She was requesting a private room where I would be told to strip and agree to a nude search. I nervously made a joke saying “could we at least date or you buy me dinner before we got naked.” She didn’t get the joke. I kept repeating “I’m cooperating fully, if you bring a chair here I’ll tranfer and you can search my wheelchair.” I was told to be quiet or I was going to be stripped in a private room. I luckily had a witness from Qantas Special Services (which is a division any disabled person should know of and always ask for as they exist only as special help for the disabled travellers). If that witness wasn’t there I doubt anyone would believe this drama ever happened. I’m not nearly the only one nor the worst example of this, recently a quadraplegic Iraq Vet arrived at an US airport and was forced out of his chair by TSA and made to crawl through the scanning machine as they didn’t believe he was disabled and therefore would not let him board his flight until he was screened to their satisfaction. At this stage, I asked for a supervisor and only after 15 minutes of being threatened with the degradation of being lifted out of my chair, placed on a exam bench naked and have every body cavity invaded did a senior female excuse the aggressive TSA officer and do the very search I was used to whenever I travelled. So the government is hiring people who, as this women admitted in front of witnesses, do not understand why people use wheelchairs and thinks we just like wheeling instead of walking and we better bloody well jump up when told or bend over and grab the table.
Intelligence Quotient Department
Per CNN: “Hours after declaring Sunday that he expects to be running for president within a month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he’s worried the United States could be ‘a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,’ in the foreseeable future, according to Politico.” [Emphasis added.]
As it says.