Are You Lonesome... Tonight?  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Just ignore him and maybe he'll go away.

Marriage Manifesto  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

That was a good speech, Lloyd. If I was 25 and liked cock, we could be something.

A few years ago, in an attempt to demonstrate to my brother-in-law how stupid it was to call shitty things "gay" (slash "ghey"), I began referring to shitty things as "Christian". Can't make it to drinks tonight? Christian. Got a parking ticket? Christian. Someone stole your iPod? That's the Christianest thing that's ever happened to you!

Turned out to be fairly effective. So I appreciate Tom Ackerman's decision to make it clear to people that he no longer recognises marriages. If gay couples have to be called longtime companions or life partners or whatever, then so can everyone else.

Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion. There is a reason we needed stronger words for more serious relationships. We know it; now they can see it.

How Dare She  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Last night, I had a dream that I was an actor in a remake of Indiana Jones directed by Peter Jackson. Peter started screaming in pain. I checked his head, and someone had made an incision overnight. Some kind of remote-controlled pain generator had been implanted in his head. It was soon revealed that Hillary Clinton had drugged Peter Jackson the night before, inserted the chip, and was now torturing him until her demands were met. I confronted her, but she refused to admit what she had done.

Society has made it impossible for me to tell if I am standing at school in my underpants.  

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You should click here to read more Buttersafe.

Professor Cline’s Dinosaur Kingdom  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

For years, we have all wondered, who would win in a fight between dinosaurs and American Civil War soldiers? Well, Professor Cline's Dinosaur Kingdom has attempted to answer this age-old question.

What you see along the path of Dinosaur Kingdom is a series of tableaus depicting the aftermath of this ill-advised military strategy. As you enter, a lunging, bellowing T-Rex head lets you know that the dinosaurs are mad — and they only get madder. A big snake has eaten one Yankee, and is about to eat another. An Allasaurus [sic] grabs a bluecoat off of his rearing horse while a second soldier futilely tries to lasso the big lizard. Another Yankee crawls up a tree with a stolen egg while the mom dinosaur batters it down. Mark has augmented some of these displays with motors: toothy jaws flap, tails and tongues wag.

All the News We Hope to Print  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

Yay! Oh, wait.

Anti-consumerist anarchists The Yes Men have done it again, distributing a fake New York Times to New Yorkers this morning, with a sample of what they'd like to see in the news on July 4th next year.

Gothamist has a very comprehensive look, with some sweet videos. And a hat tip to Disinfo.

The Yes Men have previously pulled such stunts as posing as Dow Chemicals spokespeople on the BBC, declaring that Dow would be taking full responsibility for the Union Carbide chemical disaster that devastated the town of Bhopal, paying for medical bills and compensation. This forced Dow to come out and officially say that they would be doing nothing of the sort.

A documentary was made of some of their exploits, and curiously, this documentary has disappeared off the list at sometime in the last month. (A quick Google for freedocumentaries finds people linking to it last month with a full list of what was available then.)

Could it be that, knowing this prank would renew interest in the team, they asked the site to remove their film, so that they could benefit from the increased sales? Come on, guys. Where's the anti-consumerism?

"Tangible Evidence of Behavioral Correction"  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

"The funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook." - Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

I also experienced a different type of peer pressure. My first day out, I was approached by a succession of other prisoners, echoing the same guidance as the first guy: "We don't 'bang' here; we don't play [prison] politics, racial or any other kind; and we respect every one, including the guards." That speech has been an indelible part of my daily living for the past six years.

For more, check out: My Shawshank Redemption by Dortell Williams.

Ask Your Bill Payer First  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

It's a skewer. Cos of skewed results. Also, I need a coffee.

Something needs to be said about the text/phone polls that Close Up (and others) have been running recently. Throughout the 6pm news, advertising for the upcoming episode of Close Up will include an offer to have your say in their polling by texting or calling an 0900 number.

Last night's example was one for preferred Prime Minister.

The problems with this should be obvious. They are not an indicator of the views of the New Zealand voting public. They are an indicator of the views of the Close Up viewership who, for whatever reason, are inclined to pay money to influence the outcome of the poll. Nothing besides time, money and good manners prevents someone from voting as many times as they like for their view.

Commentators are quick to describe the poll as "unscientific". Frankly, they are too quick to describe it as unscientific, and should probably spend some more time describing it as complete bullshit. Simply calling it an unscientific poll gives the viewer/reader the impression that perhaps it has a higher margin of error than a scientific poll - a less accurate indicator of the same thing. The problem is, it's not even that.

A poll that purports to indicate the views of the nation is limited by the following factors.

It's polling Close Up viewers. As much as Close Up might like to think that it is watched by everyone in the country, or at least a group that is proportionally representative of everyone in the country, it is not. In last night's show, for example, there were three times as many viewers in the 30-59 bracket as there were in the 15-29 bracket. And while the 30-59 bracket is split fairly evenly between male and female viewers, four times as many women in the younger bracket watched Close Up last night than men. Close Up viewers will also be people who understand spoken English and don't prefer Shortland Street (or Campbell Live).

It's polling people who will pay. Whether this means people who can afford to waste money on Close Up polls, or if it means people who are stupid enough to waste money on Close Up polls, it's a specific fraction of the nation's population.

It's polling the number of votes, not the number of voters. While it's possible that, in some fit of integrity, the Close Up polling system only accepts one vote from each phone number (and turns down the extra revenue of subsequent votes), it's unlikely. And even if it did, that would again make the polling potentially misrepresentative of multiple views in a single household.

What this means is that not only does the polling favour those with the dollars to spend and the lack of sense (cents, get it, ha ha ha, hilarious) to refrain, it gives a weight to their opinion proportional to their willingness and ability to vote multiple times. And, of course, there is the recent accusation that National purchased a $25,000 machine that makes repeated votes to skew the result.

These things wouldn't be so bad if the results were completely ignored. But instead, we start hearing about how 75% of New Zealanders think John Key won the first leaders debate. It's entirely possible that 75% of viewers do think that John Key won the first debate, but we could only find that out through scientific polling, not the equivalent of New Zealand Idol.

Given the impact on the public of hearing these things, it is simply irresponsible to produce these television pay polls in the lead-up to an election. All we can really know is that 100% of people who cast votes via a pay poll are the kind of people who cast votes via a pay poll.


Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Synchronised Debating  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

My Conversation with Cleverbot  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Cleverbot: What is the most important principle of Darwinian Evolution?

Ryan: survival of the fittest

CB: No that's Darwin.

R: What's the answer?

CB: Answer to life?

R: What is the most important principle of Darwinian Evolution?

CB: Survival of the fittest, why do you ask?

Kick Turing's ass at