Friday 1 December, 2023

Xmas gift ideas!

In an American newspaper — in 1912!

We EV owners used to feel smug about being ‘early adopters’. Turns out we are over a century behind the curve!

Thanks to Quentin (a fellow EV owner) for spotting it.

Quote of the Day

”You’re not a star until they can spell your name in Karachi.”

  • Humphrey Bogart

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Franz Schubert | Nachtgesang im Walde Op. 139 | Ruhrkohle-Chor


Long Read of the Day

 Douglas Murray: Wartime Diary

Eyewitness reporting from Israel and Gaza.

I was at the children’s hospital in Tel Aviv when the first children and their parents were released. When the helicopters landed and the hostages got out, IDF soldiers blocked their faces with screens to protect them from the glare of the cameras. But I’d already been sent a single photo taken by the Arab press that showed some of the mothers with their children inside a bus when they were still in Gaza.

The terror on their faces. They looked as though they’d aged by decades.

But at this moment, there was joy. As the helicopters landed, traffic stopped, and people got out of their cars and broke into song. They clapped and their voices rang out as they welcomed back the hostages with songs like “Hevenu Shalom Alechem.” (“We brought you peace.”)

As it happened, 12 of the 13 returnees that night were from Kibbutz Nir Oz, the first place I visited on my trip to Israel…

A premonition…

One of the people I’ve followed for years is Robert Reich, who taught at Berkeley for years and was Secretary for Labour in Bill Clinton’s Administration.

In 1994, when he held that post, he gave a speech at Thanksgiving which I’ve just watched. It’s very striking, and a good way to spend nine minutes or so.


His colleagues in the Clinton Administration were not amused, btw. Here’s how Reich remembers what happened:

Speeches by Cabinet members were supposed to be approved in advance by the White House, but in this case I doubted the White House would approve my speech because it was so foreboding. So I sent to the White House a different speech — one that was anodyne and boring.

I thought I could get away with this because I doubted the media would pay much attention to my speech.

I was wrong. It made headlines.

Not surprisingly, I was ordered to the White House — where an ambush awaited me. Clinton’s chief of staff Leon Panetta, his economic adviser Bob Rubin, his political adviser George Stephanopoulos, and other top advisers told me in no uncertain terms that I had violated White House rules.

They accused me of not being a team player and barred me from making any further speeches.

I told them I didn’t work for them. I had been nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, and they had no power over me. I’d be silenced only if the president directed me to be.

Well, that was the end of it. I knew Bill Clinton wouldn’t tell me to stop speaking my mind.

My commonplace booklet

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the arrival of ChatGPT. Azeem Azhar had the nice idea of asking its GenerativeAI sidekick, DALL-E, to produce an image of a birthday cake for his newsletter.

Azeem’s comment:

“You’ve shown us how vulnerable we are to strings of text produced by a machine – willing to believe and put faith in them. Even though you still misspell your own name on your birthday cakes.”

See also  How ChatGPT rewired the tech world .


Something I noticed, while drinking from the Internet firehose.

  • Charles Arthur (Whom God Preserve) noticed a piece in Britain’s only broadsheet tabloid about the IEA’s observation that the oil and gas industry faces losses of more than $3 trillion (£2.4 trillion) because of net zero policies.

“Note the faint undertone in this story,” Charles writes, “which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, favourite of the Tory-voting stock-owning (ancient) generation: ‘net zero’ will do these things to companies’ valuations, and therefore net zero is bad. Rather than these companies are contributing to wrecking the planet, and are therefore bad and deserve to fall in value concomitant to the damage they’re causing.”

Quite, as the late Queen might have observed.

This Blog is also available as an email three days a week. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays delivered to your inbox at 6am UK time. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!