Thursday 30 March, 2023

Tricycling for billionaires

Well, as Zero Mostel shouted in The Producers, “If you’ve got it, baby, flaunt it.”

Quote of the Day

“The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”

  • William Faulkner

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Padraig Ó Carra | An Buachaill Caol Dubh (The slender black boy)


Another product of the ongoing discussion about Hammered Dulcimers. This was suggested by Joe Dunne, who lived in Galway in the 1980s and often heard Ó Carra perform.

There are some annoying clicks on the recording. Do not adjust your sets if you hear them. Blame the sound engineer who did the recording.

Long Read of the Day

Cheating is All You Need

A very perceptive blog post about LLMs (Large Language Models like Chat GPT, GTP-4, et al) by Steve Yegge, one of the most experienced software gurus around.

TL;DR summary

There is something legendary and historic happening in software engineering, right now as we speak, and yet most of you don’t realize at all how big it is.

Includes a compelling example of ChatGPT’s ability to write a good piece of functioning code from a sloppy verbal description of what was required.

Fascinating and worth a read.

Books, etc.

There’s a new issue of the journal Daedalus which is absolutely fabulous. The theme is “Creating a New Moral Political Economy”. It’s edited by Margaret Levi and Henry Farrell and has a list of terrific contributors that includes Alison Gopnik, Anne-marie Slaughter, Joshua Cohen, Rebecca Henderson, Colin Mayer, Margaret O’Mara, Marion Fourcade, danah boyd and Bill Janeway (Whom God Preserve). Like manna from heaven — and it’s free! A whole weekend’s brain-food.

DPReview, RIP

DPReview, the best source of informed reviews of photographic gear, is being shuttered by its owner, Amazon, after 25 years. It was founded in 1998 and acquired by Amazon on 2007, having built up a formidable reputation for providing us with detailed reviews of cameras, lenses, and related kit. It was originally based in London, but eventually moved its operations to Seattle to be closer to its new owner and where it continued to operate relatively independently.

It was caught up in the recent round of layoffs at Amazon. At a guess, I’d say that — given the way that smartphone photography has eroded the market for real photo kit — it was regarded by Amazon as a poor prospect for growth.

Pity. I always valued its reviews, and occasionally bought something based on them.

How to beat Trump?

Jack Shafer’s depressing advice for De Santis.

Apparently, there’s no mileage in attacking him for his innumerable failings.

Trump’s vulnerabilities reside in his positives, and that’s where DeSantis should probe for cracks and fissures. This is no independent discovery. GOP campaign strategist Karl Rove was famous for eroding an opponent’s strengths. For example, under the Rove lens during the 2004 presidential campaign, patriotic war veteran Sen. John Kerry was portrayed as something of a weakling as he challenged President George W. Bush (who, unlike Kerry, spent the Vietnam War in the Texas Air National Guard). “Sometimes people’s strengths turn out to be really big weaknesses,” Rove told Fox News in 2007. “We tend to — you know, people tend to sometimes in campaigns accentuate things that they think are big and important, and they exaggerate them.”

What are Trump’s positives? In his campaign 2016 kickoff, he promised, “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall,” and continued to praise his wall throughout the 2020 campaign. The wall turned out to be a Potemkin affair, with PolitiFact finding in 2020, “What the administration has mostly done is replace old and outdated designs with newer and improved barriers.” DeSantis could easily out-wing and out-demagogue Trump on the border (remember his airlift of asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard?) by savaging Trump’s wall as an illusion.

To defeat Trump, Shafer thinks De Santis could learn a thing or two from Stormy Daniels, the porn star who has won every round so far against Trump.

Daniels refused to be intimidated by Trump’s threats (ad baculum) and shrugged off his lawyer’s attempts at coercion. She didn’t let Trump reduce her to an object (reification) of scorn or hatred. And when she retaliated against him, it was with the artillery of humor, insulting his manhood. “In addition to his…umm…shortcomings, he has demonstrated his incompetence, hatred of women, and lack of self-control on Twitter AGAIN! And perhaps a penchant for bestiality. Game on, Tiny,” Daniels tweeted.

Depressing, isn’t it, when one thinks that the future of there American republic (if it has one) could be decided at this level.

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