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Wednesday, October 1 12:00 AM ET

BBspot Mailbag

Now you too can enjoy my Inbox without the annoying spam. Every week I get some amazing e-mail. Some amazing because of the sheer cluelessness of the sender, some because of the time and energy that went into crafting them and some are just simply amazing.


A BBeliever for the Palin site? Say it ain't so...

So you stole something, that isn’t mavericky, that is sad. I guess you think no big deal, but you are a thief now.

Feel good about yourself? Feel like you put one over on the big corporate baddie Wal-Mart? Huh? Got that book done you been working on for 4 years, huh?

Worst Book Ever

More nominees for the worst book ever...

From: Ian
Date: Thu, Oct 2, 2008 at 1:01 PM
Subject: worst book?

If, while reading Lord of the Rings, you ever found yourself thinking 'I wonder what they are wearing', or 'I wonder if her high heel shoes are comfortable' - the 'Destiny' by Elizabeth Haydon is a must read for you!


From: Scott
Date: Wed, Oct 1, 2008 at 7:46 PM
Subject: Worst Book Ever
To: "" <>

What an awesome idea! I hope you're still taking suggestions, because I was JUST talking about this with a friend.

Last year, while waiting for a cross-country flight, I regrettably picked up "Cusp" by Robert A. Metzger. By the time I was over Idaho, I realized what a mistake it was. It was absurd. Earth and Sun being moved to Alpha Centauri, a sentient Internet called "the Swirl", a woman who is made a super-awesome-quantum-plasma computer... I quit when the intelligent velociraptors and genetically-enhanced lemurs landed one of Mars moons in Alabama. Oh, and there's time travel. And a virtual Bill Gates is a villain. Every time I turned a page, it was another crazy revelation that made me laugh, cringe, and regret spending $6. It was almost as if he took every idea he'd been working on since his last book, and put them all in. I also believe that his editor may have been tired and didn't even read the whole thing.

On a layover, I dropped this book on a counter just so I could be rid of it. I felt a little guilty when I saw someone reading it on the next leg of my flight. Never will I buy another book based on the cover art.


From: Randy
Date: Wed, Oct 1, 2008 at 8:35 AM
Subject: Worst book ever

I'd like to nominate the Inheritance cycle (i.e. Eragon, etc.) of books as some of the worst ever. I'll also grant that I haven't yet been able to bring myself to read the 3rd book in the series. However, I've never before read a book or series where, as I read through, I could pick out the existing book or series that every single scene, character (or set of characters), and piece of the word setting was ripped off from. There isn't a single original idea, and the writing itself is sub-par (yes, I know the first book was written when the author was 15 - that's nice, it doesn't make it any more enjoyable to read). Add to that a truly awful movie, and you have one of the most derivative and annoying series of novels ever written.

This is about the third nomination for this series. A much hated book by BBspotters.

So send me more suggestions for worst book ever.

Turing Test

This will teach me to write commentary for links at 4:30 AM...

From: Seth
Date: Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 10:24 AM
Subject: Programs not machines for the Turing test.

Small point to your link on Oct 7th entitled "Turing Test". The mouse-over says "six computers" are competing. I understand that you took this from the article itself, but the article is slightly misleading.

It is incorrect to speak of a computer competing in a Turing Test. There is a program competing in the Turing Test, and the computer provides the processing power to enable that program. You'll notice the article corrects itself about half way down when it starts talking about the programs, and not the computer.

The reason why you talk about the actual computer (hardware) when you talk about chess tournaments is because the programs used to play chess are all very much the same. They are all relatively simple and focus on long look-ahead (If I play this move, and he plays that move X tens of thousands of moves). The only complexity is in the "pruning algorithms" for those look-ahead branches. If we had infinite processing and memory, the entire game of chess could be "unrolled". In other words, you could literally know the outcome before the game ever started, because the program had played every possible game. Of course, the algorithmic complexity of this type of "unrolling" is so astronomical that, unless certain 'shortcuts' or new mathematical theories emerge, computing power will never be sufficient to achieve it. It is worth noting, however, that checkers has been recently unrolled completely. But again, this was hardware enabled. The algorithms haven't changed.

For chess, the game will never be completely unrolled, but more powerful computers enable longer, and longer look-aheads. Improved processing power also enables more complex pruning algorithms that can be used to get rid of unproductive look-ahead branches so that the computer focuses on branches that "matter". Again, these algorithms are known, so it is correct to say that the hardware is what enables the win.

Contrast that with the Turing Test. At present, there is no "known" algorithm that will pass the Turing Test, even theoretically with unlimited processing and memory. While certainly sufficient processing power and memory are required, the are insufficient. The thing really being tested in the Turing Test is the algorithm, not the hardware. Therefore, it is more correct to say that six computer programs are competing in this test, not six computers.

Oh, snap!

Weekly Limerick

The winner of the 2003 and 2006 Geek Limerick contest has volunteered to write a weekly limerick for BBspot. Seth also has a new book out that you should take a look at...

Seth has been sending over limericks for many weeks without any Mailbag. Thanks to him you've got many to enjoy now...

From: Seth

It sounds like a sick kind of joke,
But if you find your condom is broke,
  As a last resort plan
  You should carry a can
Of the marvelous beverage called Cok

Story Options:

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