I probably shouldn’t send this to my daughter

Skatje is working hard on her thesis in computational linguistics, and might not appreciate a joke about how easy it is.

It’s hard enough that I don’t even understand what she’s doing when she tries to explain it!


  1. consciousness razor says

    Theremin World (for all your theremin needs) says the Moog Etherwave Plus kit is currently going for only $459. The non-kit version is $649 on Amazon, but never shop with Amazon. You would also need an amp (and preferably a stand), sold separately.

    On the one hand, it’s much cheaper than a decent trombone, if such things could be said to exist. On the other hand, it does not have a spit valve.

  2. quotetheunquote says

    I’m a graduate in rhetoric, and got quite interested in Computational Linguistics a few years ago – enough that I attended a weekend seminar on the subject at U. of Waterloo (conveniently, my alma mater). It was definitely not trivial stuff…

  3. wzrd1 says

    @consciousness razor, Amazon, the home of list price plus 100%?
    Or the 23 million dollar text book?
    Yeah, total rip off outfit, but at least the workers get the best coronavirus infections!

  4. consciousness razor says

    wzrd1, that model is the same price at Musician’s Friend, Woodwind & Brasswind, Guitar Center, Zzounds, American Musical Supply, Sweetwater, etc. (It seems the kit version isn’t sold in many places, but you can find the regular one.)

    As with instruments in general, that’s just what you’ll pay for a new one, and nobody has a sale price unless it’s Black Friday or what have you. Hunting down a used instrument (if the price is right) is a whole other ballgame, however.

    It doesn’t seem like a bad price to me, even if it does make a sort of expensive gift. (I’d pay more for the “plus” model’s features, rather than the “standard” Moog Etherwave.) Making a theremin from scratch would be a bit of a headache, although it’s not totally out of the question, but the components wouldn’t be all that cheap anyway.

  5. Who Cares says

    So the left girl managed to solve a long standing AI problem if she actually found one that allowed for actual small talk.

  6. Wolfie says

    Re:7, well this is a universe where they have small talk with AI all the time, several significant characters are AI!

  7. bodach says

    So I had to look up computational linguistics just to see what it was. Makes me feel my education at college was akin to learning to use hammer rocks on flint for arrow heads.
    getting old…

  8. Thomas Scott says

    Has no one else grasped the ironic parallel with the Theremin kit? ie. it’s much easier to build a Theremin than it is to play it once it’s constructed.

  9. says

    @#13, nomdeplume:

    Let’s see… Claire, the red-haired lady, just received word a strips ago that she has passed her finals in what I believe (but am too lazy to go back and check) was her final Library School course, over which she had been stressing. Her friends are holding a party for her at the coffee shop. The other lady, Emily, was a fellow student who is a science genius and generally very friendly, but also extremely odd. (Not unpleasant, or even stereotypically “dur hur hur look at the science person who has trouble with social interactions” — more “if Einstein had been raised by wolves and thus had no concept of societal norms at all”.) The theremin kit is entirely the sort of thing Emily would give somebody. (The “Weeeeooooo” joke is just a standalone one.) After steeling herself to finally look at her scores, Claire reversed positions and started getting annoyed that she didn’t actually get a perfect score.

    This strip takes place in a quietly post-Singularity world. There are AIs at all levels of society, several of them regular characters. (Pintsize the horrible little robot troll being the first to appear and the most commonly-used one for punchline generation.) Therefore “having small talk with an AI” is something totally mundane — Claire currently has two AIs as roommates (along with two humans). So joke #2 is that the professor accidentally screwed up the phrasing of a question so that “computational linguistics” could be interpreted as “talking with an AI”, and Emily noticed and used the loophole.

    I’m not sure about joke #3, which is the “that tracks” line. It could either be “yes, we stressed out about our finals and they turned out not to be so bad”, playing into the “Claire is mad that she missed any points at all” idea, but honestly it could be “yes, this is typical of Emily”.

  10. John Morales says

    It was a good strip, until it became pure soap opera. Alas.

    There are AIs at all levels of society, several of them regular characters.


  11. nomdeplume says

    Thank you Vicar< I hadn’t realised it was a continuing story line, so that makes more sense now. Still not sure about the second joke though, but maybe I am just being too literal. I had read it as the question of whether you can tell if you are talking to an AI or a human, as a measure of how advanced the AI is, but this doesn’t seem to fit.

  12. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    In the nineties I built a theremin using a plan from (wow, I found the complete magazine online, cool. I looked a couple of years ago and couldn’t even figure out which issue it was in.) November 1967 Popular Electronics.

    I had real trouble tuning the oscillators and needed to get a friend of a friend with and oscilloscope to help.

    Going for my second swab test today. First one was negative but my (fortunately mild) symptoms haven’t abated in the weeks since. I love the idea of an instrument that you play without touching, but not being able to hug my family is doing bad things to me.

  13. John Morales says


    … not being able to hug my family is doing bad things to me.

    Heh. Excusably not having to hug my family is a relief to me.

    (Not that I ever did, but now it’s objectively justifiable)

  14. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    I get that John. There are only two people in all the 7.8 billion that I want to touch and be touched by. The rest of you can keep your hands to yourselves, though I can appreciate the positive intent of that proffered hug.

  15. John Morales says

    FossilFishy, !

    Thanks, you do get me.

    (I do hug my wife — because I want to)

  16. davidc1 says

    ” computational linguistics” Is that the new term for Garbage in ,Garbage out ?