Twitter Bots

There was a commercial several years ago for Gas-X which involved a man in a job interview who interpreted several words in his vicinity to be about farting. “I see you graduated top of your GAS,” the interviewer notes. She is interrupted by a secretary who informs her “Your son RIP is on line TOOT.” I think they must have played that commercial a lot because I came to mentally replace that line with “Your son RIP was hit by a CAR.” which I thought would have been much funnier, especially with the nonchalant nod as the only reaction.

Texting Dan about this, we somehow got to making up a long list of alternatives. Your son RIP has been gored by an ox. Your son RIP has been cast back in time by a cruel mage. Your son RIP has been lost at sea. I forgot about them then rediscovered the collection over a year later, which prompted a new bevy of fates for your son, Rip. I thought it would be worth posting them all as individual statements on a dedicated twitter account, but thought back to a major issue that the @ModernStarTrek twitter had encountered.

When we first started on MST, we were quite inspired and posted dozens of times a day. We tried to hold back but it was something of a chore, and if I’m not going to tweet something in the moment, I probably won’t remember to later. After the novelty died off, we posted far too infrequently, taking breaks of over a month before remembering that it existed. To combat these issues, I’ve developed a pair of simple twitter bots. The account manager tweets into a private account as much or as little as they are inspired to do, and the first bot harvests these tweets and stores them in a database. The second bot then doles these out at an adjustable pace.

I’ve already parameterized several of the functions, so the two scripts are now applied to multiple accounts, including @ModernStarTrek, which we are trying to get back to a smooth pace again. See the wonderful and terrible fates of your son, Rip, here at @YourSonRip.

The Kentucky Derby is Lame

On Wednesday, May 1st, 2:23 in the morning, I am awoken by the chirping of a mockingbird.

They say it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, but I disagree with them. When did it become a thing, that mockingbirds should be held in such high regard? I’m writing this a month after the fact, and that bird remains chirping outside my window all hours of the night. Doesn’t have the decency to start at 5:30 like all the other birds, no, it starts at two or three. Madness. Thus I found myself fairly sleep-deprived leading up to Derby weekend, spending my early mornings groggily shambling about a parking lot, shaking trees so that I could follow the bird to the next tree to shake until they got the idea that I wouldn’t leave them alone.

This Derby day started with disappointment, setting the mood. I awoke to my alarm (the weather had temporarily muted the dread bird) and prepared myself to be collected bright and early as discussed. The first text from Dan reminded me that a Johnson 7:30 really means more like 8:10. Nice. Cool.

The gang shows up eventually and it doesn’t take us long to start the old routine. Powdered eggs at Wagner’s, nice. I get a mimosa with it, but the bar is cash only. Dan buys my drink. Next we pass Beef O’brady’s, not stopping in like we had done last year, but moving along down the strip mall to a liquor store. They don’t have any Heaven’s Door, I worry if it will ever pop back up again. Buying online is such a hassle and they won’t deliver whiskey to Kentucky anyway. Dan buys a pack of cigarettes, but they’re not the ones he smokes, so he goes to the adjacent Kroger and buys a pack of the kind he does smoke. Both of those packs would be left on my coffee table where they remain to this day as I don’t know what to do with them.

EGGS
Powdered Eggs and Biscuit n’ Gravy at Wagner’s

We did stop at a restaurant for a couple beers but I forget what it was. I wasn’t really paying attention, but I did get a White Claw. I’d tried one the week prior in New Orleans and they were pretty good, especially one flavor which tasted exactly like a muted red Ice Pop, the kind of popsicle in the plastic tube (not not the ones we have today, the ones they had when I was 12; most of the flavors are still good but somehow they’ve ruined the red, my favorite).

Next, Beer Depot. So one of the first things that happens is the Beer Despot (Anyone who runs the Beer Depot must surely be the Beer Despot) gives us all hats. A benevolent dictator indeed. They are promotional straw hats for White Claw. I put on the hat. I guess I’m a White Claw guy now? I mean, I have the hat. I haven’t had any since that day but I guess I wouldn’t mind having more. The hat combined well with the sunglasses Zach gave me in New Orleans to give me a mild Hunter S. Thompson look. Very mild, but it was there, at least it was when we were in Derby times.

FREE HAT LIMIT 1
White Claw hat from the Beer Despot

Next I go outside (which involves stepping about twenty feet over, the entire Depot is an L-shaped hallway around an elevated platform) and hang out by the dumpster, because that’s where trash like me belongs. Dan is already out there, and after a brief greeting I vomit into the aforementioned dumpster. I wasn’t sober, but I wasn’t drunk, so I blame the powdered eggs. An ice cream truck comes by and, newly cashed by an ATM, get some Batman ice creams for me and Dan.

I am the Night
ICE to CREAM you

The last stop on our ritualistic circumnavigation of Churchill Downs was the VFW, where I was disappointed to find no truck giving out free burgers, something which I had become accustomed to the very instant I had seen it two years prior. They did have barbecue and I ate of it most heartily.

Our long walk back to the gate opposite Wagner’s was interrupted by strange traffic and a graciously accepted invitation to shotgun a beer, but was more or less direct. I bought my ticket on my phone and proceeded into the line. At the ticket scanner, you put your phone into a device face-up. Or face-down. Wait. Here, let me flip it over, fuck, oh no, shit… the screen is cracked. Nice. Nice going, Richie. Real nice.

We take the tunnel in. Find a spot on some grass. It’s raining now. Only a little bit but it is. Tired of walking and even more tired of standing, I sat down. Not satisfied, I laid down completely. I held my phone over my face and started writing some of this. Bored, I put my nice new hat over my face and just waited a while.

Lame tymes
Johnny Two Hats

I put on my rain poncho but it tore open due to being a small, the only available size even days prior to the event. My cracked phone mocked me like the bird, not just present but proudly suggesting it was nothing too temporary. At this point I was more or less sober again to my disappointment. I didn’t want to be sober. I had waited two years and expected my patience to be rewarded but it seems that this platitude, like so many, just wasn’t that accurate. I wished I was in my bed, or at least on my couch playing Titanfall 2.

I looked up but didn’t see any familiar faces. An overturned chair was one I had sat on, but I wasn’t strictly certain that it belonged to our group in the first place. I got back on my feet and started wandering in small circles, seeing if any of my party was around.

The people around me in the infield were like any other ticketed bring-your-own-chair gathering, if but better dressed. I wondered why my coworkers were so insistent on telling me the derby was Decadent and Depraved. I get that it was, once. And it was its own kind of wild. But not crazy.

It wanted to be. You could tell that. All the guys in their wacky bright suits wanted this to be wild, and they’d tell their friends that it was. At work the day before one of my coworkers was insisting to me that the Derby was Gomorrah, that clothes would be few and far between and drunken acrobats would climb port-a-johns, dashing across their rooftops to show their triumph over order and decency. “No,” I had responded. But he was still pretty sure that’s what the Derby was like. I guess I missed that part.

So I left. Money well spent getting in, I turned around and walked out. Someone was running a shuttle service with their van. “Free Shuttle,” it said in marker, “Gratuity a MUST!!” No, man. That’s not how that works. So I walked on until I hit an area from which I could grab a rideshare home. Bob Dylan was on the radio, and sang all seventy-eight verses of Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.

We had a nice breakfast the next day but that doesn’t count as Derby day stuff so I’ll end here.

Two Years Ago

Souls

After the Blade Runners and Black Mirror I’m almost tired of the question of soul-having. I get it, people jump through hoops to have a word that can’t be measured to draw a line between themselves and animals, computers, etc. ‘Soul’,  ‘internal experience’. Turns out there’s no hard line; there’s possibly no meaningful difference between slavery, caste systems, animal husbandry, and androids/AIs without human rights, and we are bad people until we acknowledge this.

In Fullmetal Alchemist, there are these “homunculi,” artificial persons, which are humans without souls. Besides the fact that they have superpowers, the only difference between them and humans is they spend all day bitching and moaning about how they don’t have souls. I’ve yet to see any fiction show me a “person without a soul” that had any compelling point to make. Every single example was just something like Data from Star Trek: boy I wish I had a soul; I’m so sad about the fact that I have no emotions.

Person A has a soul, person B lacks a soul.

What’s the difference?

Well, one has a soul.

Yes, but what does that mean?

The other doesn’t have a soul.

What are the implications of this? How is this a meaningful statement?

Well they don’t have a soul you see, you gotta have a soul.

What about the guy without a soul?

Well obviously he doesn’t need a soul. He doesn’t have a soul.

Powerless

fanboat [4:35 PM]
I think I have some kind of complex about feeling powerless
I feel like an ant on a planet of gods 99% of the time but 1% one of the gods stomps on me and I don’t know what to do
what the hell can an ant do
I don’t feel that way right now particularly but the way I was casually eliminated from that subreddit like dust off of a rolling tank, as meaningless an interaction as it was, is one of the little things that reminds me that, unless I stumble across a hundred million dollars or a radioactive spider gives me superpowers, I will never have personal agency outweigh, in even a single instance, the power that innumerable people have over me.
I got that E X I S T E N T I A L D R E A D A E S T H E T I C permanently embedded in ma brain
once again this [subreddit] thing isn’t really setting me off itself, though, just reminds me of the things that do


It’s like when you lose your job and crash your car and your girlfriend leaves you then you get home and stub your toe on the coffee table. The coffee table which you’ve probably never stubbed your toe on before. The coffee table that didn’t move and you didn’t forget but there it is stubbing your toe anyway. Why did you stub your toe? Randomness or Nothingness or God or whatever looked down on you and your life and your day and said “No! No, that isn’t enough. No, you’re getting this, too.” and you ask why, but there is no why. There is no question and there is no answer because there could not be an answer to that question and
It
Des
Troys
You

Arbiters of Wider Communication

fanboat
What do you think of this whole youtube/apple/etc dropping alex jones?
As I understand it he’s terrible and probably a poison to modern democracy, but I think people are way too into jumping behind these companies in shutting him down while almost exclusively citing the argument that “they’re allowed to because it’s their platform”

P
Yeah that’s pretty much where I stand

fanboat
These big tech companies are more and more every day the gatekeepers of modern discourse. If you had a grievance against them then they’d have just as much of a right to shut you down, and your millions of youtube views would be reduced to ones of views of your projector in a free speech zone near city hall
I don’t suggest that they’re obligated to host Alex Jones’ content but I am uncomfortable with their influence and few else seem to be.

P
Yeah that’s what I was about to say. It’s very much not in the spirit of net neutrality. But the important difference (which I’m sure people will point out) is that these services are not literally the gatekeepers, unlike ISPs
They’re just gatekeepers by popularity

fanboat
Yeah people bring up the comparison to ISPs and I agree that’s only useful partially, it’s not a complete or totally fair comparison
but Bell corporation was only in control by popularity, too. Power begets power and control begets control. They’ll only become more influential and it’s easier than ever to convince congress that they don’t need to be regulated or require competition.
It’s just the state of the whole mess, not any particular thing, that I find alarming.
Plenty of devs or companies could make a platform better than youtube, at least in specific metrics. But no one will supplant them because they’re it, they’re the platform, they’re the place you go.

P
Yeah idk. I started typing out a long paragraph about how a lot of this stuff is new with the internet, but then I realized it’s really not that new. Centralized sources of information have been a thing for over a century, they’re just taking a slightly different form now

fanboat
Yeah. I suppose there’s probably a history of politically charged books being unsupported by the library system or something. I wonder if there’s much historical analogues like that
But people will immediately dismiss most of those due to the fact that this isn’t the government
It would need to be an issue of private control over a strong majority of information channels. I guess Bell was pretty close.
lol I commented it something about it on a thread where people post that free speech show-you-the-door xkcd comic that was mysteriously absent from the net neutrality debate

P
ugh
Even the mention of that comic annoys me

fanboat
lol

[….]

fanboat
It’s just more about the uh, the fundamental workings of what brings about the outcomes to me, I guess. This Alex Jones things is like, imagine if instead of him being taken off the platform, he was killed by a drunk driver. Similar outcome, right? The guy was making the world a worse place, hands down. He added nothing of value and made normal operation impossible for many instances of social interaction. So how can anyone sit here and say “it was wrong of that guy to drink and drive”?
Well, because it could have happened to any-damn-one else is why.
The big difference in this case being it was unintentional by the DD. In the real world it was done because it benefited shareholders and furthered corporate interests.

Breaking the Lock on reddit Comment Sections

Locked comment sections have been a peeve of mine since the option’s inception. Though occasional legitimate uses arise, often the lock is a moderator’s lazy middle ground between deleting the post (and losing exposure for their subreddit) and actually doing the thing they volunteered to do. It is my general opinion that when a post on the front page is locked but not deleted, it stands as a monument to the failure of the moderators of that subreddit.

With that in mind, a few years ago, a post from r/science was on the front page. I can’t recall what question or comment I had, but I knew that this was the perfect (and perhaps only) place to voice it. I opened the thread, only to learn that it was locked. A few people had made a few jokes, and rather than continue the monumental task of occasionally moderating their subreddit, the mods decided that no one being allowed to say anything was the preferable decision. I was so annoyed by this that I made my own subreddit, r/CommentUnlock, a subreddit to allow the creation of surrogate threads for locked threads where conversation could continue.

While it did get a brief moment of activity when a post on r/wowthissubexists spread the word, it received very little activity other than me posting links to threads I had something or other to add to. When it did get that small degree of attention, though, the most prevalent suggestion was that I create a bot to automatically create surrogates for locked posts on the front page into r/CommentUnlock. And I finally did just that.

The main front-end function of this bot is to identify any post within the top 100 posts of /r/all and automatically create a linked thread on r/CommentUnlock. The back end, however, is where I started having fun. The bot also maintains a database of locked posts on the front page including when they were posted, when they were locked (if they were locked on the front page), and how long they lasted on the front page. With any luck this will come together into some rather interesting data.

As only a few posts are locked on the front page each day, it may take some serious time before a useful data set is accumulated. Until then, though, I am having quite a lot of fun adding features and just watching it shatter the locks on comment sections day by day.

The current state of the bot is visible on Github.