Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday Sailings

Some stories seen while navigating through online reading this sunny Saturday morning.

Romantic: Napoleon Bonaparts, novelist? Written at the age of 26, shortly before his star began to rise in France's history, the secret love story that the French emperor kept among his prized personal possessions even during his final exile at St-Helena, is now being published.

Jane Aitken, director of Gallic, the book's publisher, said the book will show Napoleon to be "an accomplished writer of fiction".
"Although the piece of writing is short, it does cast an extraordinary light on Napoleon, who is someone we all think we know. We in Britain think of him as a military man, but here we see the romantic side to him."

Anamatronic: Has Japan discovered the next step up from using television as an electronic babysitter for children? Witness their plan for robot teachers, "the perfect application for a robot":

Saya's steel skull is covered with fine latex cast from a female university student. Underneath, a system of 18 motors works like muscles to give her facial expressions including surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness and sadness.
The robot is able to talk, potentially in any language, move her head and respond to questions. She currently speaks around 300 phrases and has a vocabulary of 700 words and is programmed to respond to words and questions.
It is planned that the first robot teachers will be used in several classrooms where they will be operated by 'controller' teachers operating from a control centre.

Unsympathetic: A week before National Police Week, US President Obama's budget cuts target the Public Safety Officers' Death Benefits Program, reducing their funding from $110 million down to $60 million. "The program pays benefits of more than $300,000 to the survivors of a safety officer killed in the line of duty."

Autocratic: Germany's Constitutional Court ruled to uphold their 1993 law that limits the length of a person's name. Married people may not combine already-hyphenated names, but that's the least of their meddling:

Germany takes a highly regimented approach to naming. Children’s names must be approved by local authorities, and there is a reference work, the International Handbook of Forenames, to guide them. J├╝rgen Udolph, a University of Leipzig professor and head of the information center there that provides certificates of approval for names that have not yet made the official list, said that “the state has a responsibility to protect people from idiotic forenames.”
That responsibility is often tested in court. In 2003, an appellate court ruled that a boy could not be named “Anderson,” because it was a last name in Germany.

Judges Willie Makit, Jock Strapp and Dick Hurtz, could not be reached for comment.

Heroic: A 2-year old girl falls five stories, and is caught by a quick-thinking Russian tourist. The infant was seen opening fifth the floor window of a Paris downtown apartment and tottering on its perilous edge by a homeless man across the street. His warning cries alerted a passing tourist who positioned himself to catch the falling child. She received head and hip injuries from the fall, but is expected to recover. Translated from French news accounts here and here, where commentors want to know: "where were her parents..?"


truepeers said...

Ahh, but we too have bureaucrats here in charge of making sure no baby is given an unacceptable name, though they seem to be pretty lenient from stories I've heard.

As for the Japanese professor and educators, good grief: "They don't see her as a humanoid but human. They were very happy and surprised when she was able to call their names. They treated Saya like a real teacher."-it's either an obvious lie or the guy is really out to lunch. There is no way to program a robot to have anything like human consciousness and situational awareness.

It is planned that the first robot teachers will be used in several classrooms where they will be operated by 'controller' teachers operating from a control centre.

Each teacher robot has a price tag up to £25,000. They are claimed to be the first economically viable robot and aim to make back their money in a couple of years.

"The aim is to develop something that is useful to society and humans in daily life. The robot teacher is the perfect application for a robot," added Professor Kobayashi.
-if they really believe this, look for Japan to return to some kind of totalitarian society before long.

Charles Henry said...

Given Japan's declining birth rate, maybe they should also come up with some robot students, then the picture will be complete..!

Dag said...

The Japanese have robot babies for grandparents, as I recall you posting from Mark Steyn. Not surprising then that Blade Runner is set in Tokyo.

Dag said...

Dick Tater, male secretary.

Loved that when I was a kid.

truepeers said...

So what you're saying, Dag, is that Dick Tater is only a wannabe grandparent, right?

Dag said...

His odds are good given that he has, according to office gossip, just delivered triplicates.

Charles Henry said...

Truepeers, maybe there is something in what you say about having some form of control... in the Dominican Republic, parents are naming their kids "Dummy", which is taking things a bit too far:

"Judge Jose Angel Aquinas had called for a crackdown on unusual names after the country's civil registry showed some families were naming their offspring after cartoon characters and car brands..."