Wednesday 4 January, 2023

On the 11th day of Christmas…

Gwydir Street door

Tomorrow’s the last day of Christmas and the partridge has already flown the tree, avoiding the guns of the members of the Royal Family up the road in Sandringham.

Quote of the Day

”I know men aren’t attracted to me by my mind. They’re attracted by what I don’t mind.”

  • Gypsy Rose Lee

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news


Casals | Bach Cello Solo Nr.1, BWV 1007 | recorded in August 1954 in the chapel of a Catholic monastery located south of the small French border town Prades. The audio quality isn’t great, but it’s my favourite recording of it. Casals was 77 when he made it.

Long Read of the Day

 The third magic

A meditation by Noah Smith on history, science, and AI.

Humanity’s living standards are vastly greater than those of the other animals. Many people attribute this difference to our greater intelligence or our greater linguistic communication ability. But without minimizing the importance of those underlying advantages, I’d like to offer the idea that our material success is due, in large part, to two great innovations. Usually we think of innovations as specific technologies — agriculture, writing, the wheel, the steam engine, the computer. The most important of these are the things we call “general purpose technologies”. But I think that at a deeper level, there are more profound and fundamental meta-innovations that underlie even those things, and these are ways of learning about the world…

This is a thoughtful essay, which also provides some astute references to other sources — for example to Leo Breiman’s great essay on the two cultures in statistical modelling, and Eugene Wigner’s famous essay on “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”.

Worth your time.

My commonplace booklet

And to boot…

A few years ago I bought a pair of expensive boots more or less on a whim. I haven’t worn boots since I was a small boy and thought that this might turn out to be one of those frivolous purchases that one regrets.

Turns out I was wrong. They took a bit of ‘breaking in’, as the saying goes, but thereafter — somewhat to my astonishment — they became a delight to wear, especially in colder weather. They now look a bit battered, but then so does their owner! And there’s a delightful feeling almost of mutual recognition as one puts them on in the morning.

Looking at them yesterday I was suddenly reminded that both of my grandfathers wore boots all their lives. My father’s father was a Connemara farmer and his boots were black hobnailed ones which, as far as I can remember, never wore out. My other grandfather was wealthy and his boots, also black, were made of softer leather, and were invariably highly polished before he stepped out of doors. Funny to think that their grandson finally got round to discovering their favoured footwear. Age probably has something to do with it…

Also, isn’t the phrase “and to boot…” a strange throwaway line.

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