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My Poker Night is More Interesting Because it Involves Robots

Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2004 19:07:11 -0400
From: blake
To: poker-night
Subject: My Poker Night is More Interesting Because it Involves Robots

People keep on telling me, “We’re tired of hearing made up stories about
Billy and the squirrel and various characters named Jesus!  We want to
know more about what’s really happening at Dangerhouse!”  Well gentle
reader, allow me to quench your thirst for gossip in the most satisfying
way imaginable:  With true facts about the secret goings on in the
personal lives of your most beloved and revered friends at Dangerhouse
that are so painfully true they bend the very concept of truth into a
beautiful origami crane that flaps its wings when you pull on its tail.

The Truth:  Several months ago, about the time most of Dangerhouse was
graduating, getting jobs, or moving to or from the West Coast, I
developed a plan that would turn Dangerhouse into the most powerful,
socially active, and coldly logical house of them all.  A simple, time
tested plan, as old as the hybrid Civic or the Pocket Monster:  I would
replace my room mates with robots.  And keep the fridge filled with
tasty cold beer, of course.  That’s the social part.

The plan had four stages:

Stage 1)  Buy beer.

Stage 2)  Build robot versions of my room mates.

Stage 3)  Simultaneously destroy the room mates and replace them with
their robot clones.

Stage 4)  Repeat Stage 1).

Stage 1) was pretty easy, but before I was done with stage 2) all the
beer was gone and I had to stage 1) all over again.  Building robot
versions of your room mates is a lot harder than you might think.  Plus,
you’ve got to keep the people they interact with regularly unsuspicious.
So of course I took that as an opportunity to test my robot clone
making skills with those pesky Safety Villains.  They were pretty easy,
actually.  Rather simple robots compared to the Danger House ones.  just
a bunch of coffee cans with eyes and smiley faces painted on them taped
to old card board boxes with tape recorders inside that play dialog from
old Mr. Rogers episodes.  Now the common thing to see at Safety villa is
all of the residents sitting around their Safety Room dishing the shit
on Lady Elaine Fairchild.

Of course after I’d finished the Safety Villain robots it was only a
matter of weeks before Maitland realized that her boyfriend was, in
fact, a crudely constructed and poorly programed robot.  I knew it would
happen sooner or later, so I’d been working especially hard on the
Maitland robot, which I fondly christened “Robotica, the android queen.”
Robotica is my masterpiece.  So lifelike!  If you watch carefully you
can even see her chest moving up and down as if she were breathing!  And
those eyes aren’t just painted ping pong balls like the rest of them,
either, they’re actual glass eyes from that pawn shop down the street!
Alas, being the most elaborate of my robotic room mates, she also breaks
down the most often.  That’s why she’s usually not around.  Always with
a stuck smile actuator or a busted probability calculator.  It’s usually
down in the shop.  Or in storage over at Safety Villa, gibbering
endlessly about Prince Friday.

The hardest part about building the Gonj-bot was fitting such a
powerful loudspeaker into a mobile chassis.  The programming was pretty
easy, though.  I’d cleverly recorded some key phrases, like, “Sit the
fuck back down,” and “MORON!” so in addition to running a standard level
seven poker master thread it also runs some state of the art voice
recognition software that picks out key phrases like “getting late” and
“last T” and sends an alert to the intimidation and insult program that
cobbles together a sentence fragment out of the recorded phrases and
plays them back at maximum volume.

Matt M-bot has some power issues.  It hasn’t joined us very often at
the poker table because its batteries just can’t seem to hold a charge
long enough to run through a few complex betting algorithms so mostly it
spends the evenings funneling whiskey into its fuel cell.  I’ve tried to
program it to drink whiskey and gamble at the same time, but some faulty
data path or a couple of switched variables inevitably result in bets
based on the number of ice cubes in his glass or other irrelevant
environmental details and a generally depressed motivator.

Matt L-bot has the most perfect statistical calculator of them all,
but its motivators got a bug in it that won’t let it part with its money
long enough to win more of it back.  There is a money_value gain I’ve
tried adjusting, but the behavior output just rails between
parsimoniousness and absolute disgust for anything with monetary value.
During one practice round it bet all of its money, its shirt, its
truck, its woman, and a coupon good for one free electronic beep-bop
synthesizer after you buy five (with four holes punched) on a high 9.
Turn the gain just a little too high in the other direction and it
spends all its time digging through the sofa cushions for change and
posting rack mounted equipment on e-bay.  The best middle setting I’ve
been able to find just results in drinking and womanizing.

So when nobody’s around I usually just turn all the robots off, listen
to classical music, and engage myself in the study of ancient
civilizations.  And that, my friends, is truly what has been going on at
DangerHouse for at least the past six months.  Sure, I still work on the
robots from time to time, but I find that so long as they each have one
or two functional behaviors nobody really get suspicious.

Especially not at POKER NIGHT!


first hand at nine.

be sure to Step 1) on your way over.

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