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At Large: Pepperoni in the age of information

At Large: Pepperoni in the age of information

Licking his fingers after an appetiser of funghi fritti fritti, Matthew JC. Powell is set for the main course . . .

You may already be aware of this, and please be patient with me if you are. Something will be released in a few months which many people, including myself, have been dreaming of most of our lives. Expectation in the community is high, and I have been fairly wriggling with anticipation. I've been reading extensive reports about it on the Net, and growing more enthusiastic as more and more details have emerged.

I'm referring, as I'm sure you've guessed, to the imminent launch of an automated pizza-vending machine. A company based in Madrid (home of the pizza) has developed a machine that, in exchange for a few coppers, will take ingredients from its internal storage, add them to a prepared pizza base, and cook a fresh pizza for you while you wait ("in real time" according to one report - jargon gone mad). No need for troublesome contact with actual people. No more wondering where the hands sprinkling pineapple on your pizza have been, and whether they've been washed since. I mean, how dirty can the inside of a computer get?

But it gets better. This machine (I'm not making this up) has sensors which detect people walking past it, and can yell after them "hey, do you want a pizza?" Just like my local pizza place. Although the fellow there often follows me into the street looking forlorn if I don't stop in, and he's not unknown to seek me in other local shops and ask if I'd like a pizza when I'm finished doing whatever I'm doing. I suspect I'm putting his kids through uni.

I'm guessing the machine can't actually get up and follow you if you don't ask it for a pizza, but I'm hoping it will be authentic enough to hum unrecognisable melodies and chat about the weather while it cooks.

Talking my language

Once the pizza vending machine has your attention and money, you can order your toppings, according to the inventor, in any of 10 European languages. This excites me. As regular readers may be aware, I'm always on the lookout for new applications of speech recognition technology. In Sydney last year, Bill Gates promised speech-activated computers in cars that could do everything from change the radio station to navigate for you. I'm not yet ready to trust speech recognition for word processing, much less the guidance of a motor vehicle - you can imagine how much I'm looking forward to a computer making food for me. Imagine the consequences if it doesn't understand my pronunciation of prosciutto.

I shouldn't be unfair. After all, this computer can speak 10 languages (including, I'm told, English) and is therefore deserving of some respect. I don't speak 10 languages, but you can bet that before I come face to face with one of these miraculous inventions I will have learned the words for my favourite toppings in at least six. I have to test it properly, you see. One thing I'm very curious about is how it will handle orders in multiple languages. And what if I order the same topping in two different languages - will it warn me in case I've made a mistake, or simply add the ingredient twice? I can see a long and arduous review process ahead.

Perpetual furball

Gentle readers, I'm still hairy. I had hoped by now to have raised enough money to go under the blade and bald myself in the name of charity, but it hasn't happened.

At this writing, $1300 has been pledged, and I don't consider that enough. This mane is a decade's investment, and it'll take a sight more than $1300 to remove it.

It occurs to me that in my original call for support in this cause, I indicated that I wanted you guys to indicate to me (by your level of support) how much hair I should lose.

It occurs to me that perhaps you want me to keep my hair and stay warm through the long winter ahead. I appreciate your concern for my health, but truly my goal is to raise as much money as possible for a cause that means a lot to me.

If you want to see me hairless (and I hope you do), drop me an e-mail (address at right) and let me know how much. Do it right now, as soon as you've finished this column. The cause is the Leo and Jenny Leukaemia and Cancer Foundation.

Anyone (private or corporate) who supports the cause will be a Friend of At Large, and I promise I'll say something nice about you in one of these columns. You can't get a better deal than that.


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