Oracle, is I really hard playing rock?

The Usenet Oracle is an Internet question-and-answer system developed first at Harvard University in 1976, but made popular by a derivative installed at Indiana University in 1989. Users would submit questions via email which was then sent to another user to answer anonymously when he/she asked their own question. Humor abounds within the Oracle.

Sometime back in 1990, the following question was posed:

“Is I really hard playing rock?”

The Oracle responded as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam:

The question you have submitted requires extra time to parse due to improper grammatical structure. Please bear with us a few moments, and the Oracle will address your question as soon as possible.

O.K., I’m done. My parser routine has come up with four possible interpretations of your question:

  • Is it really hard playing rock ‘n’ roll music?
  • Am I a really hard rock who likes to play?
  • Am I really hard when I play with my rocks?
  • Am I really hard when I play rock ‘n’ roll music?

The responses, in order, are:

  1. In the words of my hero, Bob Geldof, “Maybe get a blister on your little finger, maybe get a blister on your thumb.”
  2. A simple test. Play with a friend by getting him to throw you into the water. If you sink to the bottom forever without drowning, you’re a hard rock who likes to play.
  3. A simple test. In the privacy of your own room, stroke, lick, or otherwise play with your testicles while using sexual aids to assist you (K-Y, whips, pictures of Zsa Zsa Gabor or Leona Helmsley). If you can break the headboard of your bed with your pënìs, then you’re really hard when you play with your rocks.
  4. A simple test. In the privacy of your own room, bang your skull against a wall while using sexual aids to assist you (Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, etcetera, and a cassette player, phonograph, or CD player). If you can break the headboard of your bed with your pënìs, then you’re really hard when you play rock ‘n’ roll music.

You owe the Oracle a rock and a hard place. Or at least a rock and a place to get hard. Or a place to get hard playing rock music. Or a place where they play hard rock. Hëll, give me all of the above; you biffed your own question, not me.

Oracle One-Liners

While many questions and answers are lengthy, there are some great one-liners in the archives.

  • Q. Why is a cow?
    Oracle:  Mu.

    This answer is particularly brilliant because “mu” (無) is Japanese for “nothing”, “non-existent”, or “non-being”. The term is often used or translated to mean that the question itself must be “unasked”. Additionally, Discordians define “mu” as “Your question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions.”

  • Q. What does Dan Quayle eat for breakfast?
    Oracle:  Dan Quayle prefers Vice Krispies.
  • Q. When, where, how, why, and what?
    Oracle:  Now, here, massive coronary, no grovelling, your imminent demise.
  • Q. How do you make holes in a fire?
    Oracle: With a fire drill.
  • Q. What if this wasn’t a hypothetical question?
    Oracle: Then this wouldn’t be a rhetorical answer.
  • Q. Win95
    Oracle: Lose$95
  • Q. Hey buddy, can you spare a minus sign?
    Oracle: negative.
  • Q. What is the purpose of zero-ohm resistors?
    Oracle: Resistance is useless!
  • Q. Mmm… monkey.
    Oracle: There’s no wrong way to eat a Rhesus.

Long live the Oracle!

The Canon PowerShot G2

Photo © Canon U.S.A., Inc

Just over a week ago I purchased a Canon PowerShot G2, my first digital camera. It comes with a 32MB CompactFlash card, but I upgraded it immediately to a 256MB card. I knew I’d need the extra memory storage for the high-quality images.

  • At the worst possible image quality setting, 640×480 with the highest compression, it will take 2,714 pictures on my 256MB CompactFlash card of a quality that is still better than most product displays on eBay, or 338 pictures on the included 32MB CF card. A bit pixelated, perhaps, but acceptable for low-end web usage. Fine if you need to take 75 rolls of 35mm film. Wouldn’t print it, though.
  • At 640×480 with the best quality compression, you can take 960 pictures, again with the 256MB CF card. That’s almost 27 rolls of 36-exposure 35mm film.
  • The setting I use most often is M2 (Medium #2) with the best quality compression. That gives me 430 pictures at 1024×768 pixels, or the equivalent of 12 rolls of 35mm film, great for producing high quality photos that I can publish on the web. Sure, I could use the smaller 640×480 format, but with Adobe Photoshop 6.0, I can crop and size the image anyway I want to, eliminating the need for additional costly zoom lens attachments. Plus, printing 4×6 prints should work well with this format, although I haven’t tried it myself.
  • I don’t use the M1 (Medium #1) setting much because the M2 setting meets my average daily needs. It takes 246 pictures at 1600×1200.
  • The L or Large setting takes 123 pictures at a whopping 2272×1704 pixels, resulting in a terrific quality 3.8 megapixel image. A bit under the 4.0 megapixel that is advertised, but I’m pleased with the results. That’s only 15 pictures with the supplied 32MB CompactFlash card, so you can see why the memory upgrade is necessary.

There are a few things I dislike about the camera:

  • The camera won’t turn on in picture-taking mode with the lens cap on.
  • There’s a flimsy, bendable, rotating piece of plastic that acts as a cover over the DC adapter plug. I know it’s going to break off someday.
  • Picture-taking and picture-viewing modes are totally separate modes, so if a picture opportunity comes up while you’re viewing pictures, you’ll miss it.
  • The lever that controls vision correction when viewing through the viewfinder is too easily moved.

And there are a few things I love about it:

  • Good exposures with the auto flash, even at night.
  • Macro capabilities are excellent. Turn off the flash, though.
  • Onscreen menus are very simple and easy to use. I expected them to be much more complicated.
  • I have a USB Microsoft keyboard with built-in USB ports in the back. I bought a USB adapter for $20 that accepts CompactFlash cards. So, no picture downloads for me! I remove the CF card, plug it in the adapter, and it appears as another drive on my Windows XP computer. I was even able to completely avoid installing any of the Canon software. No software updates, no drivers, no problems! Note that these adapters are available for almost any digital camera that uses CompactFlash or SmartMedia.
  • It’s a point-and-shoot simple enough for the entire family to use, although because of its $700 price tag I’m a bit paranoid to let the kids try it out in case they drop it, or do something equally damaging.

According to the internal counter, I’ve taken 273 pictures already. Most of them were discarded immediately after taking the photos, but that’s one of the cool things about digital cameras — no costly film or extra film developing expense. I’m thinking about taking this gem with me everywhere so I’ll never miss a moment (as long as it’s in picture-taking mode).

The Canon PowerShot G2 gets an A in my book. Why not an A+? That’s reserved for beauties such as the Nikon D1X or the new D100, but at their several-thousand-dollar price tags, they’re way out of my league…

African-Americans Should Be Americans

The labeling of people as African-American or Chinese-American promotes racism and inequality.

Emphasizing the supposed existence of any type of inequality actually cements continued inequality and discrimination. People of different races say they want to be equal (assuming they aren’t already), but constantly disprove it with their own actions, decreasing racial equality by labelling themselves Filipino- or African- or Sino-American.

A friend of mine recently had a conversation about nationality with a coworker. Brent was asked, “What are you?” He replied, “American.” “No”, she retorted, “I’m Filipino-American. What are you?” He didn’t know how to respond, and said, perplexed, “I’m just American.”

Being adopted, I’ve often wondered about my own ancestry, partially to be aware of potential genetic health problems, and to increase the sense of belonging attributed to being part of an “ethnic” group. For the same reasons, I don’t want to know. Knowing or not knowing doesn’t change my ethnic profile, but it could encourage me to utilize the crutch of labeling to “better” myself: “I’m Italian-American (or Greco-American or Klingon-American) and I feel oppressed. Please grant me my request because of my heritage.”

It’s an easy trap to fall into: a couple of years ago, I even researched the amount of Cherokee Indian in my wife’s blood in order to ascertain whether our son would be eligible to obtain governmental or educational financial benefits. The labeling is harmful to today’s society, encouraging (at the harshest extremes) gang violence, social segregation, and worse.

Too many people label their own selves and participate in racially segregated activities such as the celebration of African-American History Month, and the invention of Kwanzaa. In the names of race and ethnicity, shouldn’t we spend our dollars towards a message of equality, rather than supporting only Filipino dentists or shopping exclusively at the local Vietnamese market? Do the existence of racially prejudiced organizations such as Black Entertainment Television and National Hispanic University encourage equality or promote racism?

Self-labeling and self-segregation are both hypocritical when combined with the expressed desire to achieve or maintain equality. You can’t have both. Either you want Affirmative Action or it’s modern equivalent, or you want equality. Wouldn’t it be better at the societal level to collectively label ourselves as simply American, just as Brent did?