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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Check out my blog upgrade - www.thedailyretort.com

I'll no longer be posting here on this Blogger platform and have migrated the content to WordPress - in the hopes that it's a better experience for readers. You can access the new site by visiting:

Monday, October 31, 2011

NEW BLOG SITE LAUNCHES TOMORROW!!!

Starting tomorrow, this blog will re-launch as a completely different web log. It's new web address will be www.thedailyretort.com.

It will continue to feature the same types of topical writing you've come to expect from me, but the site itself will look completely different and will have a lot more to offer readers.

Here's a sample of what the new "header" for the blog will look like:


So be sure to subscribe at the new site -> www.thedailyretort.com!!!



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Halloween Fun With Cleverbot....

Halloween Q&A with an AI Twist
Several months ago I discovered Cleverbot, which is a web-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) application that learns to speak by conversing with humans via an instant messaging platform.

While it's a stretch to say that Cleverbot is intelligent, interacting with this particular learning software can be mildly entertaining.

Here's the most recent interview I had with Cleverbot last month: Celebrating Labor Day with Cleverbot.

Since today is Halloween, I thought it would be interesting to get Cleverbot's take on this holiday.

Here's the unedited conversation I had with Cleverbot this morning regarding Halloween.
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User: Hi Cleverbot, Happy Halloween!!

Cleverbot: Are you happy?

User: Certainly, it's Halloween - the single greatest candy exchange day in the world - why wouldn't I be happy?

Cleverbot: How do you find partners?

User: Partners? What do you mean? Neighborhood children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door trick or treating. That's how Halloween works.

Cleverbot: Are you British?

User: British? What does that have to do with Queen Mary's knickers? Oh, do you mean like for a Halloween costume? I guess I could be British but that's not very creative. I could grab some fake, ugly orthodonics ala Austin Powers but that's not a great idea. How about you? What will you dress up as on Halloween?

Cleverbot: The hat on which you sat.

User: How's that? The hat on which I sat? Ah, a costume like the Cat in the Hat. Well fancy that. Unfortunately, my fat in back made your hat flat as a mat and that - regettably - is that. So what kind of candy is your favorite?

Cleverbot: Chocolate. I like Mars Bars.

User: Good choice, why do you like that so much?

Cleverbot: Because they taste good.

User: I can't argue with that. Will you go trick or treating tonight?

Cleverbot: That's good to hear.

User: Hmmm....I'm not sure you're paying attention, perhaps you're excited about overdosing on Mars Bars. I asked if you plan on going trick or treating tonight for Halloween?

Cleverbot: So who am I talking to now?

User: Um....just me - the same guy, I haven't morphed into a goblin or ghoul. You're being very evasive Cleverbot. Does Halloween make you scared?

Cleverbot: Don't be scared! The only way I'm able to hurt you is to widen your view of the world.

User: Ummm...thanks for that tip (I think) - so where will you go trick or treating?

Cleverbot: The Kilimanjaro mountain!

User: What?!?!? I didn't know they celebrate Halloween in Africa!?!?

Cleverbot: Will you build me a mast?

User: Huh? What does a mast have to do with Halloween or the Serengeti Plains of the African continent???

Cleverbot: I didn't say it had anything to do with that. You're not thinking!

User: Actually, I'm the only one in this conversation that is thinking - what kind of treats do you expect to get trick-or-treating near a volcanic mountain chain in Tanzania anyway??

Cleverbot: Are we talking about a tree?

User: Ugh! Like I said, I'm the only one who's thinking here. Let's try something differenet - what's your least favorite candy?

Cleverbot: I don't think I have a least favorite candy, but I'm not very fond of chocolate.

User: What??? Two minutes ago chocolate was your favorite candy. Now I'm certain that your intelligence is artificial. Do you even know how Halloween started?

Cleverbot: Started what?

User: How Halloween started as a holiday celebration?

Cleverbot: My day is going good so far.

User: Hmmm...apparently you've skipped breakfast again and your blood sugar is low, making you loopy. Well hopefully a big dose of candy tonight will take care of that. Happy Halloween Cleverbot!!!

Cleverbot: Wait, should I throw a party?

User: If I were you, I wouldn't throw anything - people are liking to misunderstand and throw eggs at your house.

Cleverbot: I know. What's THAT all about?

User: Indeed. Happy Halloween not-so-Cleverbot!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Top-10 List: WORST Halloween treats

Our neighborhood is GREAT for Halloween trick-or-treating. It’s well lit with sidewalks and tons of families with kids.
So this weekend, we bought Halloween candy in preparation of the upcoming spooky fete – here’s a tip all the REALLY good candy is given out at our house (e.g. full-size Snickers, Reese’s PB cups, Super Blow Pops, Sour Patch kids…etc.)
However, I’m always stunned at some of the crappy treats that are still on the market – which prompted this little confectionary tirade of the top-10 WORST Halloween treats.

10. Malt balls – these are the genetically inferior distance cousin to the supremely better Milk Duds. Don’t confuse them!
9. Bit ‘O Honey/Mary Janes (or any other of those Depression Era candies still wrapped in wax paper) – nuff said!
8. Black Licorice – this is reminiscent of Vicks Formula 44D Original cough syrup (bleech!) and is the sugary bastardization of the far superior red licorice made by Twizzlers or Red Vines respectively.
7. A small box of raisins – any other day of the year raisins are awesome, but they are a complete bummer next to all the other Halloween booty in your bag of goodies. Raisins on Halloween are like taking your sibling to the prom – just weird.
6. Tootsie Rolls – I know I’ll catch a lot of flak opposing that iconic candy but honestly what is a Tootsie Roll? It’s like a waxy chocolate facsimile that was phoned in by drunken pixies. I’ll take raisins please....
5. Tootsie Pops – the only thing worse than a Tootsie Roll is encasing it a thick patina of off-flavor rock candy and then making you WORK to get to the congealed center, yuck!
4. Mallo Cups – this is the saddest candy on the list because it comes so close to ultimate greatness. No one can refute that the greatest chocolate candy is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, yet the misguided folks at Mallo Cup took Hershey’s perfection and cobbled together a culinary stink bug…so sad.
3. Giant Orange Circus Peanuts – these are those unnaturally orange, thumb-size stale “treats” (and I use that term very loosely) that are sold 500 in a bag on the bottom shelf at grocery stores.  I guess they’re packaged in such bulk since they can also double as dunnage when you have to mail fragile objects across country.  These are the most confusing treats since they are not individually wrapped (so no parent will let their kids eat them) and are very unappetizing – they are what I envision the petrified droppings of the Sugar Plum Fairy might look like - muted orange grossness.
2. Necco Wafers – I prefer to call them Necro Wafers since they taste like death in your mouth, little more than flavored chalk. The absolute worst is the licorice Necco Wafer (ugh!), followed closely by the 2nd worst flavor, chocolate Necco Wafer.  I’d just as soon pop a Rolaids or Tums and get the same chalky mouth sensation with at least fresher breath.
1. Candy from ANY other holiday – as a kid growing up, there lived on our street a mean old widow named Mrs. Egan. Every year you’d get candy from her that came from other holidays such as candy canes from Christmas; Easter marshmallow Peeps; or an assortment of Valentine’s Day Necco hearts. I was convinced that she couldn’t pawn off that junk candy when it was fresh on her grandkids, so she saved it up for street urchins like me and gave us the stale goodies for Halloween. I actually got a Boy Scout merit badge for “Community Service” when I listed this annual refuse collection as a civic duty I voluntarily undertook.

Please share the ones you agree and disagree with – but if you disagree, your arguments better be better than mine!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Amazing Perseverance...by a 10-Year Old


The Same Poster My Daughter Used When She Lost
Last Year, But Won This Year, Hung in Her Room   
I'm as proud as can be. When I got home from work last night I was told by our exuberant 10-year old that she had won her election race to be Vice President at her elementary school.

But that's not what makes me proud of her.

What makes me proud is that the photo insert you see pictured here to the left "Taylor C. for VP" hung in her room for the past several months when she LOST the very same race for Vice President last year.

Even though she lost the election back then, she believed in herself and persevered to win now. While the accomplishment is good, it's her character that's truly inspiring.

If you're interested, you can click on the "read more" link below for the original post from November 16, 2010 I wrote about her loss, and how she handled it with grace and maturity beyond her years.

Funny Tips for a Christian Halloween

Preachy Pumpkins
Every year about this time many Christians become very vocal about the evils of Halloween. With all the witchery and heathen-esque cavorting, they simply can't help themselves with their self-righteous indignation.

While valid points are made at times, people of faith (of which I'm one) generally come off looking like idiots with their anti-Halloween outrage.

Today my Internet buddy Matt Appling is graciously hosting a satirical guest post of mine about good ideas versus bad ideas that Christians should consider for Halloween. Matt has a great, edgey blog that I highly recommend. Here's an excerpt from my piece:

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Halloween is nearly here, and it's a tricky (pardon the pun) holiday for Christians given its pagan roots and association with various festivals of the dead.  In fact, some Christians are dead set against it, but thanks to slick Madison Avenue packaging and hyper-candy-consumerism, Halloween can be as acceptable to Christians as a fun-sized Baby Ruth® bar.


Yet, for a holiday intended for children, adults still manage to screw it up a lot, with sexy costumes and lousy candy.  Consider this: Good Idea, Bad Idea, Halloween Edition.


Costumes
GOOD IDEA: Allow your kids to dress as an angel, shepherd, wise man, Mary, Joseph or a sheep or goat.  My rule of thumb is that if it’s a costume that’s acceptable for a Christmas pageant at a neighborhood church, it should be okay for your kids to wear as they mooch candy from your neighborhood.  Maybe you could get kind of esoteric and dress your kids as a box of frankincense. Yes, Zombie Jesus is a big deal. Do a Google image search.


BAD IDEA: Let your kids to dress as any of the aforementioned options with the word “Zombie” in front of it. While precocious PKs may try to pull off the Zombie Jesus costume, passionately asserting that Jesus did rise from the dead, a quick witted parent will counter that He did NOT, however, rise from the UNdead......

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If liked to read more, please be sure to visit Matt's site: The Church With No People

Thursday, October 27, 2011

10 Things My Wife Has NEVER Said to Me....

My wife and I are very much in love, even after 16+ years of marriage. However, it has taken a lot of work and compromise from both of us - recognizing the likes and dislikes of the other and not "pushing each other's buttons." One hot button in particular that she loathes for me to push, is writing about her on this blog.

So today, I've decided to "not" write about her - sort of. Here are 10 Things My Wife Has NEVER Said to Me:

10. Honey that is so fantastic that you forgot my birthday, anniversary and Mother's Day - you've pulled off the marital trifecta, great job!

9. You know, it's such a beautiful fall day outside - why don't you stay inside on the couch and watch football all day!

8. Sweetie you are so handy around this house, it's like living with Bob Villa!

7. Thanks for leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night, that bidet experience was so refreshing!

6. Muffin, that novelty mounted jack-a-lope head you had in college would look great in the formal dining room!

5. I really wish you had a constant, two-day growth of facial hair. It's just like kissing a P40 grit sheet of sandpaper, which is the perfect skin exfoliate - I love the dermal abrasion of it all!

4. It's so adorable how you leave one swig of milk in the jug, forcing the girls to pour orange juice on their Cheerios - again. Too cute!

3. Your melodious snoring is like cherubic lullabies that gently lead me into the most restful slumber each and every single night - thank you!

2. Tor, I love, love, love the meadowy, lavender-esque fragrance that rushes from your mouth first thing each and every single morning - thank you!

1. Honey bun, I'm fed up with the oppressive fashionista women's footwear regime. In protest, I'm going to give away my 40+ pairs of foot coverings and never buy another pair again!

Question: What's something your significant other has never said to you?