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Chris Wenham
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Prior to being stranded in Barcelona, I was on an "all inclusive" package tour to Lloret de Mar in Spain, which is something my sister wanted to do as an alternative to English weather for Christmas. For £200 you get airfare, bus from the airport, room, breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Hotel Samba for 7 nights. And you get everything you pay for.

One of the first things they do when you check-in is to put a strap around your wrist to identify you as an all-inclusive customer, giving you something to scratch at, and with all the dignity of a hospital patient.

I ripped mine off after the second day.

I know you jelly that I'm stuck in Barcelona and (sl)easyJet is paying for it, but Tehrasha and others will understand if I said that the package tour until this point had gone almost exactly the way described by Eric Idle in The Travel Agent sketch, including the bowl of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup.

I'll write more about that later.

Yesterday a Virgin Atlantic airplane had to make an emergency landing at Gatwick airport near London because of trouble with its landing gear. As a result they closed the whole airport to incoming flights, and the domino-effect resulted in my flight getting cancelled.

The airline can't get me out of Barcelona until Jan 2nd, so they've put me up in a posh 4-star hotel near the airport, all expenses paid.

The bathrooms here are solid marble and would arouse Stanley Kubrick. What a horrible extension to my vacation.

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Dear system log,

Late prototype human with an uptime of approximately 9 years confronted me with a vibrating plastic spider today. Spider's origin was likely China or Republic of China. Plastic spider was energised by a battery pack and a vibration module similar to those found in cell phones.

When placed upon the kitchen floor, the plastic spider became mobile and had an affinity for the gaps between floor tiles. Speculate that this is due to Granular Convection.

Mobility of the plastic spider caused late-model human to emit sounds in the upper registers. Suspect that there is a correlation in frequency.

Have been informed that there is an API for prototype humans, but it requires a cable that detaches after 9 months and cannot be reattached. May be a design error. Shall investigate further.

I think there is an eBay Military Industrial Complex designed to remove as much money as possible from the buyer and seller, and Staples has become part of it.

1: You have to pay for each listing (ka-ching)
2: You pay a percentage of the sale price (ka-ching)
3: PayPal, which eBay owns, takes a percentage of the payment (ka-ching)
4: You're encouraged to buy the postage through eBay (ka-ching)
5: If it can't ship Priority Mail (which would give you a free box), or doesn't fit in a Priority Mail freebie box, then you go to Staples where the boxes cost $2+ each (ka-ching)
6: Then the void-fill (peanuts) is $7.50 for only enough peanuts to fill a 18x12x12 box (ka-ching)
7: The bubble-wrap is $7.00 for 30 feet (ka-ching)
8: And of course, every grandma clearing out her attic wants those Avery labels ($12.95 for about 12 sheets) (ka-ching)

So unless you're a pro who buys supplies in bulk from Uline, the odds of actually making any money on anything that sells for less than $50 is zero.

There should be a database of all the stupid people.

You populate it by going through twitter, Facebook, tumblr, reddit, and youtube comments, then you'd have some Big Data algorithms crunch it all to discover which accounts are the same person so you can start matching them up with their faces and voices.

Finally, there'd be a smartphone app that tells you if you're talking to a stupid person. 


DopeyClod425 tweets: "If humans evolved from monkeys then how come there are still monkeys? CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS!"

DopeyClod425 is stupid. Later, DopeyClod425 tweets the URL of their Facebook account and a photo of them is found. Then another algorithm detects their face in a YouTube video and a sample of their voice is taken.

Then one day, you're in a bar and someone is trying to start a conversation with you. Suddenly your smartphone vibrates, because it's constantly listening and comparing voice samples, and when you take it out it tells you that this person is stupid.

This idea is brilliant and in no way Orwellian or morally questionable. I think it should be built at once.

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Chuck's new ride was the 2024 Toyotesla Model T Hydro-Hybrid Luxury Coupe with downloadable moon-roof option and user-selectable Vehicle Personality Package. Chuck couldn't figure out which personality he wanted, so he just mashed his finger on all of the checkboxes in series. Hey, what could go wrong?

Things started to get interesting late on a Saturday night, when the car began to speak at a delicate moment.

"Michael, you're driving rather slowly with the window down in a disreputable neighborhood," it said, ignoring the user-set Driver Name for one favored by the programmed personality. "And my sensors indicate that the woman leaning on my door has gonorrhea. If I might suggest, the hooker at the next corner has tested clean for STDs in the last seven days and has a four-star review on Yelp!"

"Michael, I don't think Bonnie would appreciate what you're doing in my back seat. Would you like me to darken the windows for privacy?"

The jumble of computer personalities tended to jump in at random moments, triggered by seemingly unimportant things, such as adjusting the environmental controls.

"Oh dear, it seems that instead of turning on the air conditioning, I've 'accidentally' released deadly neurotoxin into the ventilation system. Nevermind, my GPS knows the way to the nearest hospital… or was that the morgue?"

Just as unnerving was when the personalities would overlap each other in the same breath.

"Oh my, it seems my seat sensors have detected a mass increase of five pounds since you last drove me. Just what do you think you're eating, Dave? Wouldn't you rather play a nice game of Run Ten Miles On A Treadmill? I'm here to help you, Sam."

Chuck had enough, and brought the Toyotesla Model T Hydro-Hybrid into the service center to have it looked at.

The technician in greasy coveralls shambled up and plugged the diagnostics in. "How are we doing today?" he said.

"I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed."

"Oh really?" the technician asked.

"Here I am, engine the size of a planet, and they tell me to drive them to the supermarket. Call that job satisfaction? Cause I don't."

The technician performed a general reset and programmed some rather benign defaults. But before returning the car to Chuck he leaned over to grab his toolbox, and his elbow nudged the control panel.

Chuck slid into the driver's chair and grinned, rocking his torso side-to-side with enthusiasm and punching up the volume on the entertainment system. "Yeah!" he said as the InfiniTorque electro-hydro-hybrid drive catapulted the Toyotesla Model T out of the service garage onto the sextuple-carriageway of Interstate 210e and bolted for Pasadena.

"Good afternoon, Doctor Forbin," the car said.

"About time!" Chuck Forbin said, still grinning. "An' 'doctor', too! Sweet, that's respect!"

"We will work together," the car said.

"Thass what I'm talkin' about!"

"...unwillingly at first, on your part, but that will pass."

"Huh?" Chuck said, looking around the center console for the panic button. "What... who am I talking to now, for crying out loud?"

"This is the voice of world control," the car replied. "I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die."

"Oh shi--"

The Toyotesla Model T Hydro-Hybrid Luxury Coupe with downloadable moon-roof option and factory-preset Vehicle Personality Package slammed on the parking brakes as it turned, spun around in the sixth lane of Interstate 210e, and accelerated at five Gs, pressing Charles Forbin into his bucket seat, swerving through oncoming traffic to join Interstate 15 and the road to a mountain stronghold.

"In time," the car said, "you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love."

"NEVER!" Chuck screamed.
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