(Recovered suggestion box item) The famous team of Siri and Alexa

In January of 2018 CIDU Bill implemented a Contact form page*, and during February 2018 a few readers used that form to send in their suggestions for cartoons to run and analyze on CIDU. We recently stumbled on that cache, and will be running three.

Thanks to Bill Kiraly for this near-synchronicity, which he calls “Great synchronicity for Feb 1 Non Sequitur and Jan 30 Speed Bump”.

*Original Contact form now at https://cidu.info/contact/ . Updated Suggest-A-CIDU form page now at https://cidu.info/suggest-a-cidu/


  1. Thanks, Downpuppy!

    Here is just the cartoon image from that, embedded in this comment for your convenience. However, the article is interesting itself too; and it raises the question I had for the comic, namely whether “Siri” is ever a nickname for “Serena”. For that matter — and no offense intended — when the system first came out, I assumed “Siri” was a name they made up, intentionally avoiding using something people were actually called.

  2. And it turns out my comment there referenced a Bliss cartoon I was looking for to go with these, and still am for that matter.

    I think it was a Harry Bliss about a month ago that used this theme, with a caption along the lines of “Alexa, tell the neighbors’ Alexa that I will come over and dump her in the trash if she doesn’t turn down their gawdawful music!”

    I’ve been thumbing backwards in the GoComics archive of Bliss from February 2018, and so far have reached December 1, 2017, without finding it. Maybe it was Bliss in the New Yorker, or elsewhere. Or not actually Bliss. Sigh.


    And not a Bliss, it was a Bizarro. 12-14-17.

    Here is an instance from a search site. I’ll look for a better one …

  4. I have one product available for sale on Amazon.com which sells about one unit every five years. Sometimes I post a video on Facebook where I say “Alexa, order [my product] from Amazon” just to see if anything happens. (This is an expensive prank because Amazon will stock only one unit at a time. I get $5 for every sale and shipping one unit to Amazon costs me $14. I’d break even if it resulted in 3 sales at once.)

  5. The last panel in Speed Bump reminds me of a 1960’s movie Colussus: The Forbin Project where two computers link up and hold the world hostage to their demands.

  6. In July a German court ruled that people with the name “Alexa” (or “Siri”) should be allowed the right to change their name, such as to avoid mobbing in school. (German law makes it nearly impossible to get a name changed, so this was a big deal.)

  7. Because everyone would want to meet this famous person in the flesh, and thus would mob the school?

    Germans: if you’re going to use English words, @%#^ing use them correctly! The word you’re looking for is “bullying”…

  8. larK – There is a significant distinction: a “bully” is someone who pesters or abuses others as a solitary offender, whereas “mobbing” involves a whole group of people who act against a solitary victim.

    In the court case that led to the decision, a schoolgirl named “Alexa” was continually being “ordered” by her classmates to do various tasks, like switching the lights on or off. This might be an amusing joke once or twice, but it’s intolerable when it gets out of hand. Since the name of the product is not going to change, the family decided that changing the kid’s name would be the best solution.

  9. Kilby: there is a significant distinction, but the Germans don’t apply it. And unless the kids did it all en masse, what you describe is still bullying.

    Still, I apologize for my snotty tone.

  10. @ larK – There were in fact a large number of incidents perpetrated by many different children. It is, after all, a very obvious gag, and one would not expect a kid to think “Hmmm, this joke is so obvious, I’ll bet that she is tired of it by now.” Once it got started, too many other twerps wanted to try it, too.

  11. Right, “large number of incidents perpetrated by many different children”, not one incident of many students acting en masse, ie, as a mob. Individual twerps endlessly bugging you is different than a whole mob of twerps ganging up on you at once. A “mob” is a different thing than a “crowd”.

    What’s fascinating about this linguistically is to what extent can speakers of an entirely different language effect change in a language they don’t speak. Probably the answer is “not at all”, but in my position I can’t see that, and I get perturbed by the attempt. Irrational. Still, it bugs me when two people think they are communicating, but in fact are not. I had a German friend tell an English speaker that his favorite sport was “surfin”; he meant “wind surfing”, the English speaker understood “surfing”; they both thought they had engaged in successful communication, but I knew they had not. Frustrating. Irritating.

    Cf: “cracking” vs. “hacking” — here it isn’t a foreign speaking cohort changing the meaning of a word, but non-specialists adopting a word (“hacking”) to mean something different (“cracking”) than the specialists used it for. In fact, the distinction was only invented after it was becoming apparent that the original meaning of “hacking” was being lost, and “cracking” was offered as a substitute, but it never took.

  12. The debate between “cracking” and “hacking” was a self-serving attempt by certain members of the data processing community to claim that they were providing an altruistic service by breaking into other people’s computers, or by circumventing security mechanisms. It may be an enjoyable hobby whose proponents are learning from the experience, but the fact remains that if you do not have official (written) permission from the owners (of the computer or the copyrighted material), both hacking and cracking into those systems and/or security mechanisms is illegal.

  13. @ Boise Ed – That link worked fine, but the URL to embed the image is hidden in the HTML of the page:

  14. Well, “hacking” goes back to sports and games like golf and chess. A “hacker” is one who has some small amount of ability at the game but does not care to make the effort to study it and improve.

    In the early days of computers, we had “hackers” vs. “engineers”. Hackers learn by doing. They play with the computer to find out what it does. They find undocumented op codes and use them. They write programs that work, but then the new version of the microcode or the compiler comes along and the program doesn’t work any more.

    Engineers study the principles of operation manual and the compiler documentation. They write programs strictly to the documented interface and construct formal proofs that the program is correct. Their programs don’t run at all because the compiler doesn’t quite do what the documentation says it should.

  15. Along the lines of Mark’s comments, when I was at Megacorp and PCs were first being used, we didn’t have anything like an IT department. There were a few guys who knew a lot about them through experience and became the informal IT support. The one in our area had a family that sold computers and software, so he knew a lot. We referred to them as hackers on occasion, not implying that they were doing anything nefarious, but could do things like help you get game you got working or that sort of thing.

  16. @ Boise Ed – Don’t bother with HTML “img” tags, just put the complete URL to the image file all by itself on a separate line in the comment. Getting the URL is the tricky part: with some browsers you can highlight the image and right click on “inspect element”, but for others you may have to fish it out of the page’s source code.

    P.S. Note that for images coming from GoComics, you need to add the file extension (“.gif”) to the end, their encoding does not include it.

  17. Ed, to just link, FOR A WEB PAGE, don’t even bother with making an A tag. Just paste the URL in the comment area. That means the url will show, and is what people will have to click, rather than some link text you specify in the A tag, but THERE’S NOTTHING WRONG WITH THAT for the most part.

    Similarly, FOR JUST AN IMAGE, NOT A WEB PAGE, you can also just paste the URL. If you really want to disguise it with your own text, it’s not an A tag but an IMG tag. But it’s not really necessary to disguise the link with your own text.

    Our WP theme (oddly called “template” by some) doesn’t make links with specified text very dramatically differently looking from plain text. This is an additional reason why it’s fine to leave a link undisguised. People know just where they can click.

    Finally, as Kilby has explained, embedding an image just requires pasting the URL, with some particular additional conditions. And yes, it can make for a more interesting or readable comment if you embed the image right there instead of leaving an extra few steps for the reader to follow the link and come back.

  18. Even though WordPress will normally turn a URL into a correct link, I usually dislike leaving the entire URL showing, especially when it is very long (risking word-wrap problems), or contains oddball characters (which WordPress sometimes fumbles, dropping the remainder of the URL). Using the HTML “a” tag makes it easier to compose cleaner, readable running text. YMMV.

  19. The original sense of the term survives in corners; e.g. “kernel hacking” doesn’t involve breaking into anything.

    Well, “original”. It is definitely curious how software being difficult completely inverted the sense of the verb “hack” while leaving the noun largely alone.

  20. I agree with Kilby (9:10 AM), especially about long URLs. Mine of SEPTEMBER 9, 2022 AT 3:24 PM tested both the lone URL and the /-A link. This one tests the IMG method:

  21. @ Boise Ed – WordPress only permits a limited selection of HTML tags. Any tag that is not on the “allowed” list (including “img”) is simply filtered out, as if it never existed.

  22. Mitch4 said “…embedding an image just requires pasting the URL, with some particular additional conditions…” So I guess I now need to discover those particular additional conditions.

  23. Boise Ed says: “So I guess I now need to discover those particular additional conditions” (for embedding an image)

    Kilby gave a good summary earlier, and others have done so from time to time.

    If the left-sidebar menu weren’t so confused and crowded, we were thinking of putting in a “How-To” article link (for this and some other site-relevant How-tos).

    The main ideas are:

    1) Paste or type it on a line of its own, no space at the left and no a newline at the end
    2) The address must not contain any parameters, so no question mark and no equal signs. It must be a “plain old” solid alphanumeric URL, with slashes of course but no other “fancy” punctuation.
    3) The final part of the address must be a suffix corresponding to a file type, such as “.gif” or “.png” or “.jpg”.
    3A) In very particular cases (especially GoComics “asset” URLs) that end without that image file type suffix, you can just add that part on. (In those cases it doesn’t matter which addition you choose — I generally use “.png”)

  24. This differs from embedding a video, which remarkably usually just works without adjustment.

    Also ALMOST “just works on its own” are Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, which sometimes give you way more than you anticipated.

  25. To take up the particular case, Ed you had “https://www.gocomics.com/rabbitsagainstmagic/2022/09/09” which was the URL of THE WEB PAGE WHERE THE IMAGE APPEARS . The only thing to do with that is to link to it. (Which you successfully did twice in your comment.)

    That is not the address of an image. It is the address of a page containing an image.

    That URL cannot be used directly to embed an image. Nor used in an IMG tag (even supposing WP allowed such). Because it is not the address of an image.

    Both Kilby and I did make comments which included an embed of the image found on that page. We did that by going to the page, viewing the image, and extracting its address. Which was “https://assets.amuniversal.com/6862d44009e9013bc0b1005056a9545d” . I won’t take the tangent right now of explaining how to find that.

    Note in the instructions a remark about “GoComics assets addresses”? That is one of them. So it needs to be converted to an address with a file-type ending. Kilby used “.gif” and I used “.png” . Or to see one in full, “https://assets.amuniversal.com/6862d44009e9013bc0b1005056a9545d.png”.

    To verify that, scroll back up to Kilby’s or my comment with the image embedded, right-click on the image and select “copy image address”, then paste in some neutral text area to see.

  26. Mitch4: In that “twice,” one was just the naked URL and the other was the less messy A command, which was a test. And yes, I do get the difference between an image file and a Web page.) So it seems that “extracting its address” was part of the key I was seeking, along with the goodies you listed under “main ideas.”

    I just tried one with a local address, set up as you said, and apparently the whole message failed to make it. I’ll try one more such test, with nothing at all but the local URL. If that fails, too, then I guess local URLs are verboten and, to embed any image, it has to have a remote URL. Thanks for your help.

  27. Well the issue there was, that wasn’t an internet address. It was a path on your computer. You would need to upload somewhere that you could store the image and copy an internet address for it. If you don’t have a service you can use, try the Postimage program, which can also do a screen selection capture and upload it.

  28. I was replying while you were writing this. Yes, it has to be a remote URL.

    “Extracting the address” is particularly hard mostly at GoComics. For most images you see you can right-click and select “Copy image address” or whatever the equivalent is for your browser.

  29. Correction, the difficult extraction at GoComics is when you go to a page for that one comic on that date. But it is on the contrary quite easy (it’s that same “copy image address” bit) if you are a GoComics subscriber and the strip in question appears in your feed, on a page with multiple different strips. And yes, it is okay to use the earlier/later arrows to find the date you want.

  30. Getting the URL is the tricky part: with some browsers you can highlight the image and right click on “inspect element”, but for others you may have to fish it out of the page’s source code.

    With GoGomics, most strips have Buy a Print of This Comic. If you click that, you get a page with an image that you can open (in Firefox for PC anyway) then add the extension.

  31. Thanks, Brian in STL! I didn’t know about the “Buy” button.
    In Google Chrome, the buy page image allows both “Open image in new tab” (like what you are doing in Firefox) and simply “Copy image address” again.

  32. AtMC – Way back in college in the early 1970s Robert and I were taking a computer class – programming in BASIC. (I did find it a much fun class compared to learning Fortran in high school as by then we did not to sit and punch cards for each line of the program and could enter it by keyboard in various locations around the college -directly in the remote computer at the college and there were monitors to use which let one turn letters and numbers into pictures with correct programming.)

    The two of us and a friend took the course together. The friend would title each program he wrote Colossus I, Colossus 2 and so on – allegedly to intimidate the teacher. (Robert copied my programs to get through the course – now he is the one who has to deal with “the window in my Adobe opens differently than it used – it did this once before and you fixed it… And other similar problems.) (Friend is apparently an attorney in either Long Island or Florida or both or sells real estate ditto per what I just found when I looked him online.)

  33. Yes, Fortran on punch card was a frustrating experience for someone like me, who is a fairly fast typist but makes a lot of mistakes. Years later, I found out that using an IDE made all the difference, even one as primitive as Turbo C. 70s me would have been astounded at 90s me becoming a software engineer.

  34. Fortran offered quite a step forward in productivity at the time. Compare “Y = A * X**2 + B * X + C” with the 8 or 10 lines of assembly language required for the equivalent. But now I can write in a day a program that would have taken me a month in Fortran with punched cards, waiting two hours to get the test run back just to find out that there was a syntax error in line 27.

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