Arnold Schwarzenegger

Two days into The IBM Challenge, it is clear the supercomputer Watson is going to handily defeat its human opponents on “Jeopardy!”

The match consists of two games played over three episodes, with the first game ending Tuesday. A full game is yet to be played on Wednesday, but here are the money totals for the three contestants going into the last day of the match: Watson, $35,734; Brad Rutter, $10,400; Ken Jennings, $4,800. It’s highly unlikely that either human contestant will catch Watson, especially because the supercomputer is quick to buzz in with correct answers and has made sensible bets on Daily Doubles and in Final Jeopardy.

Still, I will watch the last day of the match, if for no other reason than to enjoy computer dominance for the last time before Skynet attains self-awareness and takes over the world. (And now that machines are a step closer to that reality, it’s a good thing Arnold Schwarzenegger is no longer busy governing California.)

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The “Final Jeopardy!” clue Tuesday was an easy one for me: “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle.” The answer, of course, is Chicago, where the largest airport (O’Hare International Airport) is named after Edward “Butch” O’Hare, and the second-largest airport (Midway International Airport) is named after the Battle of Midway.

Both human contestants answered correctly, but Watson responded, “What is Toronto?????” (Incidentally, the category was “U.S. Cities.”) Watson’s wrong answer didn’t matter, really, as the machine bet only $974.


Interested in purchasing a landmark? You may get that chance in California.

Here’s the situation, as reported by The New York Times:

In yet another sign of California’s seemingly endless financial crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Thursday that a growing budget deficit would lead to layoffs of 5,000 state employees; the elimination and consolidation of a raft of state boards, bureaus and committees; and the possible sale of some of the state’s best-known properties, including the Los Angeles Coliseum, San Quentin State Prison and the state fairgrounds.

“Every single thing that we’re doing here,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, “is very tough.”

His remarks came five days before a special election on six budget-related measures, including a temporary increase in taxes, that could raise nearly $6 billion for the state. Polls have shown several of those measures failing, and the governor made little apology for using the dire budget news as a prod to persuade Californians to vote yes.

“I think it’s very important for people to know where we’re headed and what kind of cuts will come if these initiatives don’t pass,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger, who denied he was using scare tactics.

Even with the passage of the six measures, Mr. Schwarzenegger said, the budget gap for the coming fiscal year, beginning July 1, would be $15.4 billion and would require a $3 billion cut to education money and possibly a shorter school year, as well as cuts to social and health care services. Without passage of the measures by the voters, the gap would be $21.3 billion, with a harsher hatchet taken to education, health and social services, he said.

California’s budget crisis seems dire, much more dire than the budget crisis here in Illinois. As a matter of fact, it has seemed that way for awhile, and I’m not sure how Schwarzenegger and company are going to save the fiscal solvency of the Golden State.

Maybe selling landmarks is a start, though I figure the California Preservation Foundation will put up a fight. Just in case you’re interested in making a bid, here is some additional information from The New York Times:

A report by the State and Consumer Services Agency listed seven state properties potentially for sale, several with the type of come-hither descriptions usually found in Manhattan real estate listings. The Cal Expo, for example, the site of the state fair, was described as being “minutes from downtown Sacramento” with “excellent commercial development potential.” (The asking price: $80 million to $150 million.) San Quentin, home to the state’s death row, was promoted for its “commanding view of the San Francisco Bay.” (Inmates not included.)

A developer should buy San Quentin and turn it into public housing. I’m sure there are people who think it would be cool to live on old prison grounds. The redevelopment could even include a park named after Johnny Cash since the country music icon recorded a live album at San Quentin.

As for Los Angeles Coliseum, this is an excellent opportunity for 400 million or so Dodgers fans and USC alumni to pool their money together to buy the stadium where some of their favorite sports memories took place. Better yet, the city of Brooklyn should buy the Coliseum and rename it Ebbets Field West just to stick it to the Dodgers for leaving after the 1957 baseball season. (Yes, I know the team plays at Dodger Stadium now, but the Dodgers called the Coliseum home when they first moved to L.A.)

I’m full of great ideas like these. California, if you need more help coming up with creative sales pitches, let me know. My services are available for a reasonable price.