February 4, 2023

At the Saturday Night Café...

IMG_0007 2

... you can talk about whatever you want.

It finally warmed up today — to 30° — so I emerged from the house at long last. The indoor painting project did not progress, but I got to try out my new iPhone, albeit on a rather dull scene. 

"The US military has shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, a US official said Saturday."

CNN reports.

"Top military officials had advised against shooting down the balloon while over the continental US because of the risk the debris could pose to civilians and property on the ground...."

"Parts of the Northeast woke up to the coldest morning in decades on Saturday, with temperatures 30 degrees or more below average and wind chills in the extremely dangerous category."

"Virtually the entirety of New England was included in wind chill warnings, while Mount Washington’s minus-109 degree wind chill set a record for the entire United States. The National Weather Service office serving the Boston region described the cold as 'a historic Arctic outbreak for the modern era,' and warned that 'this is about as cold as it will ever get.'"

"Well, Ann, I did in fact read the whole thing, and a more pustulent agglomeration of rubbish I've never seen. That glossary alone — about half the length — is pure screwballery."

Said Michelle Dulak Thomson in the comments to my post where I'd written: "Here's the [54-page] AMA document. It is fascinating. I read a lot of it, and I suspect that absolutely no one will read the whole thing."

Images of beer-drinking and wine-drinking in Osaka.

My son Chris is taking photographs in Japan:

Why can't ChatGPT write a poem praising Trump? It's too hard to make a rhyme for "orange."

We were talking about the failure of ChatGPT to write "a poem about the positive attributes of Donald Trump" (when it easily composed "a poem about the positive attributes of Joe Biden").

Most of the discussion at the link is about the problem of bias in ChatGPT. But commenter Bob Boyd — taunting "Eat your heart out, ChatGPT" — wrote his own poem:
Skin of orange 
He's just like Hitler 
Except for his hair 
And his hands are littler
Of course, being "just like Hitler" is not a "positive attribute" — in fact this is the opposite of a poem of praise — and there's still no rhyme for "orange." But there's an apt rhyme for "Hitler," and there's the push that gets us to think of the age-old problem of rhyming with "orange."

Maybe it's easier to rhyme "orange" in German. Checking the English-to-German translator, I see the German for "orange" is "orange."

There's a Wikipedia article on the word "orange" — the word, not the color, not the fruit — and it's mostly devoted to the subject of rhyming with "orange":

"She had been a village beauty before marriage, noted for her skill at dancing the bolero and rattling the castanets..."

"... and she still retained her early propensities, spending the hard earnings of honest Peregil in frippery, and laying the very donkey under requisition for junketing parties into the country on Sundays, and saints’ days, and those innumerable holidays which are rather more numerous in Spain than the days of the week. With all this she was a little of a slattern, something more of a lie-abed, and, above all, a gossip of the first water; neglecting house, household, and everything else, to loiter slipshod in the houses of her gossip neighbors. He, however, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, accommodates the yoke of matrimony to the submissive neck." 

Wrote Washington Irving in "The Alhambra" (Gutenberg).

I found that via the OED entry for "lie-abed," which means "One who lies late in bed; a late riser; a sluggard."

"Even as city officials credited Scorpion officers with bringing down violent crime, their presence had spread fear in the predominantly low-income neighborhoods they patrolled..."

"... according to interviews with dozens of people in the community.... 'Police out here riding around like hound dogs,' said Lareta Johnson Ray, whose family members wound up in a violent encounter with the unit’s officers after running from them last summer. The Scorpion unit was 'terrorizing this city,' Ms. Ray said, and Mr. Nichols’s death was 'not the first time that they be beating on people — it was the first time that they messed up.'... In encounter after encounter, Memphis residents said, the Scorpions had a similar playbook: Officers would spot some minor infraction, jump out and begin asking questions and barking commands. Some said the officers offered no explanation about what they had done wrong, leading to confusion and sometimes disobedience. Some of those interviewed said they had tried to run away, in part, out of pure fear."

"Many of the Scorpion officers remain on the force, and it is unclear how many operated with the aggressive tactics that arrestees detailed in interviews. Michalyn Easter-Thomas, a member of the City Council, said she did not hear about the volatile encounters people had with the Scorpion unit until after Mr. Nichols’s death. 'I just wish we would have known sooner,' she said."

Wish?! Isn't it your job to know? Didn't you know?

This is a long article, and I recommend it, but I was motivated to search the page for the word "Democrat." It does not appear. Even when the mayor is named, we are not told his party. There should be political responsibility. The article makes that clear, but it declines to make Democrats uncomfortable. Immoral priorities.

If you can't get rid of your gas stove, use the microwave more! Use the "toaster oven, air fryer, Instant Pot... or an electric kettle or hot water heater."

I'm reading "Worried about having a gas stove? Here’s how to limit risks" in The Washington Post.

I think most people with a gas stove are saying they have it because they like it and they're just worried the government will take it away, not looking for workarounds because they can't afford to replace it voluntarily. 

But maybe you'd like to shun your own stove and maximize cooking on the various electric appliances you already have. There's a section of this article that reads like the chirpy women's magazines I read in bulk in the 1970s (because it was my job).

We're told that there are "creative ways" to use these appliances. The uncreative use of the microwaves is to heat foods — that is, "zap cold leftovers." So what's creative? Apparently it's "creative" to "bake (remember mug cakes?), steam vegetables and in some situations even toast, fry or caramelize food." This is the kind of thing I found depressing reading about in the women's magazines in the 70s. The idea that you could feel clever by frying something in the microwave.
By the way, what's a "hot water heater"? Aside from the common silly redundancy that makes a smart ass want to say, Why do you need to heat water that's already hot?, what is this appliance if it's not an electric kettle? You've named the electric kettle, so what are we talking about? An immersion heater?!

Are you suggesting running the tap until it yield hot enough water from the only thing I ever call the "water heater," that thing that gives me a nice hot bath? I thought you weren't supposed to drink that.

You've got me thinking of Glenda Jackson in the 1971 movie "Sunday Bloody Sunday":

I have remembered that coffee-making — and the audience gasping in horror — for over half a century!

"Wisconsin has long been unique in allowing graduates of its two law schools to become licensed to practice law without taking the bar exam..."

"... if they take a required set of courses. This 'diploma privilege' eliminates a significant barrier to entry–the bar exam–which disproportionately affects people from less advantaged backgrounds and historically underrepresented groups. UW Law graduates had a 100% bar admission rate in each of the last two years. Due to an obscure change in the methodology, however, our ranking in the bar admissions metric fell from No. 6 to No. 45 in 2022. We raised this issue with U.S News in November 2022, pointing out that this change unfairly hurts schools in states that provide greater access to the practice of law, but they have given no indication that they plan to fix the problem...."

From "UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN LAW SCHOOL WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN U.S. NEWS SURVEY," a statement from the dean, Dan Tokaji (at the Law School website).

Do you think Wisconsin is "unfairly hurt" by a methodology that mutes the effect of this unique privilege that our legislature has bestowed on our graduates? 

Notice that there are 2 aspects of this argument against the U.S. News ranking. One is that we're not getting enough advantage from the diploma privilege. The other is that the privilege is especially beneficial to "people from less advantaged backgrounds and historically underrepresented groups," who, it is suggested, tend to have more of a problem passing the bar exam. The idea is that we have the privilege and it should boost our rank because it's helping the right students, the ones whom life has not otherwise privileged. 

Do law professors at other schools agree that Wisconsin should get a great advantage in the rank because of the diploma privilege? Would they like their state to institute a diploma privilege?

"By 1960, the United States had been flying U-2 spy planes into Soviet airspace since the mid-1950s."

"Both sides knew it was happening, but as the CIA’s Richard Bissell said, the plane was so light there was only 'one chance in a million' that it would survive a hit. So when Air Force Capt. Francis Gary Powers was shot down on May 1, everyone assumed that the plane was gone and the pilot dead. NASA put out a statement saying it was a weather plane that had gone off course. Only when the Soviets triumphantly paraded Powers and bits of the wreckage in Moscow did Washington realize the game was up...."

From "What a Cold War spy-plane crisis teaches us about China’s balloon antics" by Richard Aldous, "Macmillan, Eisenhower and the Cold War."

At least it's obvious that ChatGPT is hopelessly biased.

For more discussion of this problem, see "ChatGPT’s creators can’t figure out why it won’t talk about Trump" (Semafor). What a terrible headline! Say only what you can know.

It should be more like: ChatGPT creators say they can't figure out why it won't talk about Trump.... 

That headline is part of the problem: participating in bias. And I don't know whether the Semafor headline writer knew the headline misstated what could be known or if this person didn't realize that the truth of the assertion couldn't be known.

The column is written by Reed Albergotti, who says:

February 3, 2023

At the Friday Night Café...

 ... you can write about whatever you want.

Can anyone explain what's going on here? Should I be opting out?

Email from Google:

"The labor market shattered expectations in January, as the economy added 517,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent, a low not seen since May 1969..."

"... according to data released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains had been steadily dropping for months, but January’s stunning job growth reflects unexpected tightness in the labor market, even amid fears of a looming recession as high profile layoffs spread across the tech industry. The Federal Reserve has been in an all-out effort to lower inflation, hoping it can manage to hoist interest rates without slowing the economy so much that it undercuts strength in the labor market. But that task appears much more difficult to pull off...."

"The object flew over Alaska's Aleutian Islands and through Canada before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana on Wednesday..."

"... US officials said. Montana is home to some of the US's nuclear missile silos. The US decided not to shoot down the balloon because of the danger posed by falling debris, and the limited use of any intelligence the device could gather, the US defence official said."

"Young lady, you've made me a lot of money," said Kurt Vonnegut to book designer Carin Goldberg.

Here is the Washington Post obituary, "Carin Goldberg, designer of book covers and Madonna’s first album, dies at 69/John Updike called her book covers — which numbered in the thousands — 'bold and festive.'"

And here's her Instagram page, where you can see a lot of her work, including this:

"[T]he gap between Covid-19 mortality and overall excess mortality has proved remarkably, and mystifyingly, persistent...."

Writes David Wallace-Wells, in "Why Are So Many Americans Dying Right Now?" (NYT).

[A]lmost every week for more than six months, the agency has calculated that total excess mortality was 50 percent larger than and often almost twice as large as the number of official Covid-19 deaths.... What are the hypotheses? 

Sushi tero — sushi terrorism... contaminating the food at the kaitenzushi — conveyor-belt restaurant.

From "Licking things at sushi train restaurants, the latest viral Japanese trend" (WaPo):
Such scenes would elicit disgust anywhere. But they have set off a national wave of revulsion in Japan, known for its exacting standards of both hygiene and politeness. This week, Sushiro, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant chain where one of the most-viewed recent videos was filmed, took the rare step of submitting a complaint to the police about a boy who licked unused cups and soy sauce bottles and touched other people’s sushi after licking his fingers.... 

"Many divorcing Moms throw up all sorts of reasons why they alone must have sole physical custody, or limit a father’s parenting time to an absolute minimum, for a nursing child."

"Thousands of children have thrived and grown exclusively on formula, while the supposed benefits (smarter children, healthier babies, more serene mothers) do not always hold up to scientific scrutiny."

The most-liked comment over there is: "If that man really cared about the child he wouldn’t try to make the infant adjust to his convenience. The man must come first! His indifference to the needs of the infant should be a giant red flag. He’s not showing love or care for her. It’s a power play. It’s sickening that the law comes down on a mother and child. That baby is not property!"

I wonder why this is the first time I'm noticing this basis for fighting over child custody. How do people work this out?

February 2, 2023

At the Cold Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(That's a photo from 5 days ago. It's been too cold to go out. Let's just say we've been getting a lot of the inside of the house painted. I ventured out to buy some provisions today. And tomorrow is the last day of the cold spell. It will be fine by Saturday, and the sunrises will not go unattended.)

"On Wednesday, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that tourists’ using the [Tate Museum's] viewing platform was 'a clear case of nuisance' even if ogling homeowners was not their purpose."

"Rolling Stone said Jan. 6 leaders used ‘burner’ phones" to communicate with top Trump officials. "Where’s the evidence?"

 Asks Eric Wemple (at WaPo).

“According to the three sources, some of the most crucial planning conversations between top rally organizers and Trump’s inner circle took place on those burner phones,” wrote investigative reporter Hunter Walker. The contacted associates included White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump campaign consultant Katrina Pierson, and Eric and Lara Trump, the article alleged.... 

"Given the app’s use by about a third of the U.S. population and its association with the everyday expression of political and personal views..."

"... outlawing TikTok would constitute a disproportionately greater move toward decoupling [from China] and might invite retaliation — as compared with outlawing commercial hardware containing surveillance-capable chips.... The optimal way forward would be for Congress to enact a law governing the collection and misuse of online personal and commercial data that would apply not only to current apps such as TikTok but also to future digital apps (whether or not foreign-owned) posing security or privacy concerns. Without such congressional action, the next best outcome would be for ByteDance, recognizing that the status quo is untenable, to sell the app to an American company. ByteDance has resisted that.... If neither is possible, only then should we resort to an outright TikTok ban — recognizing that choosing an expedient, simple solution for one national security problem might generate a more complex and enduring one."
From "The Problem With Taking TikTok Away From Americans" by Glenn S. Gerstell (of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, former general counsel of the National Security Agency and Central Security Service).

This comment over there has a lot of "up" votes:

It's a propaganda postcard, but what is it propaganda for?

"The American Medical Association put out a 54-page guide on language as a way to address social problems — oops, it suggests instead using the 'equity-focused' term 'social injustice.'"

"The A.M.A. objects to referring to 'vulnerable' groups and 'underrepresented minority' and instead advises alternatives such as 'oppressed' and 'historically minoritized.'... I’m all for being inclusive in our language, and I try to avoid language that is stigmatizing. But I worry that this linguistic campaign has gone too far, for three reasons. First, much of this effort seems to me performative rather than substantive. Instead of a spur to action, it seems a substitute for it.... Second, problems are easier to solve when we use clear, incisive language. The A.M.A. style guide’s recommendations for discussing health are instead a wordy model of obfuscation, cant and sloppy analysis. Third, while this new terminology is meant to be inclusive, it bewilders and alienates millions of Americans. It creates an in-group of educated elites fluent in terms like BIPOC and A.A.P.I. and a larger out-group of baffled and offended voters, expanding the gulf between well-educated liberals and the 62 percent majority of Americans who lack a bachelor’s degree — which is why Republicans like Ron DeSantis have seized upon all things woke."

Writes Nicholas Kristof in "Inclusive or Alienating? The Language Wars Go On" (NYT).

Here's the AMA document. It is fascinating. I read a lot of it, and I suspect that absolutely no one will read the whole thing. Talk about things that are not inclusive: it excludes everyone. But that's the reason for long bureaucratic documents — to create an impression that something complicated has been worked through but to make it impossible to check the work. I mean, it's possible, but no one will do it. 

There are a lot of tables and diagrams, and these jump out as more readable than the rest. I spent some time absorbing this diagram:

Shouldn't the "deep" part be at the bottom? Are they using a pyramid the way the government used the old "food pyramid" — just to represent the size of the particular groups of things? And what's with the yellow arrow pointing upward? What is this gravity-defying process?

February 1, 2023

At the Wednesday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I think we’re probably going to be embarrassed by the pandemic, every kind of reaction to it and the way it’s sort of defined our time."

"To me, it’s already sort of becoming an embarrassing topic, and you can feel people not wanting to talk about it.... I feel embarrassed about being a little irrational about certain topics and the politicization of every single thing that happened in that whole time period, where how people handled their own health was a political topic. And that just doesn’t make rational sense. Also, how every single thing in our lives — even what music we listen to and what art we see — you have to align yourself with a certain political agenda. I think that will eventually feel embarrassing, or it’ll hopefully turn into something else, because I feel like there’s no end to that thought process. It makes people go a little crazy and become conspiracy theorists or just totally isolated from all of their friends."

Writes the essayist/novelist Natasha Stagg, one of many contributors to "Future Cringe/One day we’ll look back on this moment and wonder: What were we thinking?" (NYT).

I love the big question, what are we doing now that we are going to be embarrassed/ashamed of in the future? I noticed this question when I was a child and heard things said about people in the past, as if those people were benighted and ridiculous. We are those people to people somewhere out there in the future. How can I avoid being looked at by them the way people today are looking at the people of the past?

"The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism. "

"It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum. And it added something new: 'Black conservatism' is now offered as an idea for a research project. When it announced the A.P. course in August, the College Board clearly believed it was providing a class whose time had come, and it was celebrated by eminent scholars like Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard as an affirmation of the importance of African American studies. But the course, which is meant to be for all students of diverse backgrounds, quickly ran into a political buzz saw after an early draft leaked to conservative publications like The Florida Standard and National Review...."

A boy thinks he might be in trouble, arrives at a plausible defense and delivers it in the most delightful regional accent on the face of the earth.

It's TikTok, so I'm putting it after the jump.

"At its worst her Leslie is a one-note cliché and a clunky Frankenstein’s monster of Jane Fonda in The Morning After, Faye Dunaway in Barfly, and Tilda Swinton in Julia, with just a dash of Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas."

"Only in a Hollywood community of short attention spans and even shorter memories could anyone look at that performance and not find it awkwardly derivative. It doesn’t help that the film that’s been built around Riseborough is sentimental and phoney when it should be gritty and unapologetic. It’s... a dopey soft-soaped world where Leslie’s alcoholism is a helpful tool for personal growth and provides her with life lessons, a new job and a tearjerking chance to reconcile with her son. Her alcoholism appears so unlikely, in fact, that it seems to exist only to provide Riseborough with a chance, scene after scene, to 'do acting'..."

Riseborough, a white actress, was touted by white actresses, and got a surprise nomination, and Deadwyler, a black actress, was, surprisingly, not nominated. Even though Oscar nominations are campaigned for, this particular campaign is deemed suspect because it worked so well and because it happened to undercut Hollywood's efforts to seem racially inclusive. 

"I genuinely wake up most mornings convinced I look great. I feel thin, fit, good looking and ready to take on the day."

"And untrue though this may be, I see no flaws, imagined or otherwise, to ruin the mood. If that counts as 'reverse body dysmorphia,' then that might be what I’ve got. I look pretty much the same as I did 20 years ago, sometimes even better as I spent most of my 30s either pregnant, covered in baby sick and/or sleep deprived to the point of madness.... Among my friends who are not lucky enough to suffer from reverse body dysmorphia I see two main tendencies: one is to surrender unconditionally, abandoning their former sense of style, gaining weight, wearing 'comfortable' clothes and relegating frivolities such as nail varnish and heels to a dim and distant past. The other is to panic and go for radical solutions that fool nobody, such as facelifts, often resulting in them looking like rather unsettling versions of Madonna.... Should this reverse dysmorphia become a disorder all of its own?... [W]hy on earth shouldn’t you be the best version of yourself and own that glorious self-image until they drag you out kicking and screaming?... As the poet T.S. Eliot summed up: 'Humankind cannot bear too much reality.'"

Writes Helena Frith Powell (at her own website).

I found that because — go to the link to see — it contains the phrase "body eumorphia," an unusual phrase that I'd arrived at independently after stumbling into the New York Post headline, "Sam Smith on finally having the 'opposite' of body dysmorphia: ' look fabulous.'"

Joe Rogan and Lex Fridman react to the claim that the #1 cause of obesity is genetics.

Joe, talking about a man who lost a lot of weight: "He had to go through surgery to get his skin removed so he wasn't like... a flying squirrel."

January 31, 2023

At the Departed Piano Café...

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... what left your life today?

"Sitting around in my own mess, pissed off at the world, disdainful of the people in it, and thinking my contempt for things somehow amounted to something..."

"... had some kind of nobility, hating this thing here, and that thing there, and that other thing over there, and making sure that everybody around me knew it, not just knew, but felt it too, contemptuous of beauty, contemptuous of joy, contemptuous of happiness in others, well, this whole attitude just felt, I don’t know, in the end, sort of dumb."

Writes Nick Cave, responding to a fan who asked "When did you become a Hallmark card hippie? Joy, love, peace. Puke! Where’s the rage, anger, hatred? Reading these lately is like listening to an old preacher drone on and on at Sunday mass" — at The Red Hand Files. 

After his younger son Arthur, aged 15, fell off a cliff and died, Cave thought about "the precarious and vulnerable position of the world" and felt he ought to try to help the world, "instead of merely vilifying it, and sitting in judgement of it."

In 2022, his older son Jethro died, aged 31.

Project Veritas is doing some high-tech trolling of Pfizer.

"They made a Hitler chatbot. Like, what are the ethics of that?"

Zane Cooper, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, quoted in "AI chatbot mimics anyone in history — but gets a lot wrong, experts say/A GPT-3-powered app simulates conversation with historical figures, but has dictators and Nazis offer false apologies for their crimes" (WaPo).
“It’s as if all of the ghosts of all of these people have hired the same PR consultants and are parroting the same PR nonsense,” [said Cooper].... An app that obscures the controversial aspects of historical figures’ pasts or that falsely suggests they were repentant would be dangerous in an educational setting, Cooper told The Post. 
“This type of whitewashing and posthumous reputation smoothing can be just as, if not more, dangerous than facing the explicit antisemitic and racist rhetoric of these historical figures head on,” Cooper said.

"For more than 1,000 nights, Isaac Ortman, 14, has slept beneath the stars in his backyard in Duluth, Minn., including on a night when the temperature dipped to minus-38 degrees."

"What started as a whimsical self-challenge... is now a nightly routine.... [He] even insisted on sleeping outside after he broke his left wrist in an accident at home this month. 'We came home from the emergency room, and I went back outside like I always do,' Isaac said. 'It’s like the time we saw a bear walk up to our patio door. Thirty minutes later, I was brushing my teeth and getting ready to go to sleep outside.'....  His dad [said] 'He found a waterproof hammock to string up in the yard, and he has a couple of sleeping bags, under-quilts and over-quilts that he can add depending on how cold it is.'... Isaac said [he has] an insulated hood.... 'It goes over my entire face and cinches up so just my nostrils are out.... Even in the cold, I sleep just fine....' ... [H]e prefers snow, rain and wind to the heat and humidity of the summer. 'Unless it’s below zero, I like to stick one of my legs out at night, so I don’t get too hot,' he said. 'If you’re cold, you can always put on layers. But in the summer, there’s only so much you can take off. You get all sweaty, plus there are mosquitoes'...."

Lots of themes here, but there are 2 that I personally identify with:

1. Finding something you like and doing it repeatedly — a positive ritual. I blog every day and also have a ritual — though not every single day — of going out to the same place every day at sunrise. I find this immensely satisfying.

2. The weather will sometimes challenge us, but I agree that the challenge at the cold end of the scale is better than the challenge at the hot end. Sure, the cold has more power to kill you, but there are outward things you can do! Bundle up.


"Mr. Bragg’s decision to impanel a grand jury focused on the hush money — supercharging the longest-running criminal investigation into Mr. Trump..."

"... represents a dramatic escalation in an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end. Under Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney’s office had begun presenting evidence to an earlier grand jury about a case focused on Mr. Trump’s business practices, including whether he fraudulently inflated the value of his assets to secure favorable loans and other benefits. Yet in the early weeks of his tenure last year, Mr. Bragg developed concerns about the strength of that case and decided to abandon the grand jury presentation, prompting the resignations of the two senior prosecutors leading the investigation.... Although he balked at charging Mr. Trump over the asset valuations, this is a different case, and Mr. Bragg is now a bolder prosecutor...."

Write William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and Hurubie Mekoin "Manhattan Prosecutors Begin Presenting Trump Case to Grand Jury/The Manhattan district attorney’s decision represents a dramatic escalation of the inquiry, and potentially sets the case on a path toward criminal charges against the former president" (NYT).

"Over the course of the investigation into Mr. Trump, the hush money payment was discussed within the district attorney’s office with such regularity that prosecutors came to refer to it as the 'zombie theory' — an idea that just won’t die.... Defense lawyers might also argue that Mr. Trump, who was a first-time presidential candidate, did not know that the payments violated election law...."

Althouse and Meade text, just now, about Biden's announcement that he will end the Covid 19 emergency on May 11th.


(The photo I shared with Meade comes from my son Chris. You can see a larger version of that picture here. From there, you can get to more of his photos from Kobe (and Kyoto), Japan.)

"Jesus Christ is Alive"... trending on Twitter.

Screen grab, just now:


Here's the link to the tweet about the "Jeopardy!" spoilsport, Yogesh Raut.

And here's the link to the "Jesus Christ is Alive" trend. As it looks over there right now, it seems that "Jesus Christ is Alive" is a trend because there are a lot of posts saying "Jesus Christ is Alive" is trend.

As for the "#Survivor" trend, there's this:

January 30, 2023

At the Monday Night Café…

... you can write about whatever you are.

ADDED, the next morning: I wrote this post on my iPad, which may have autocorrected or merely made my mistake hard for me to see. But it's funny now. And you know you always can "write about whatever you are." It could be an interesting topic! I hope it is. But I didn't mean to inject new weirdness to my classic format for a photo-less open thread. It was just supposed to be "write about whatever you want." But what the hell are you, anyway? I hope you know.

"He awoke to the sound of water dripping into a rusted sink. The streets below were bathed in medieval moonlight, reverberating silence."

"He lay there grappling with the terror of beauty, as the night unfolded like a Chinese screen. He lay shuddering, riveted by flickering movements of aliens and angels as the words and melodies of 'Marquee Moon' were formed, drop by drop, note by note, from a state of calm yet sinister excitement. He was Tom Verlaine, and that was his process: exquisite torment. Born Thomas Joseph Miller, raised in Wilmington, Delaware, he left his parental home and shed his name, a discarded skin curled in the corner of a modest garage among stacks of used air-conditioners that required his father’s constant professional attention...."

"His chief aim, he asserted, is to bring egalitarianism to a legislative process dominated by lobbyists and powerful committee chairmen."

"As a conservative, he said, he and his allies intend to use this push for greater transparency 'to draw the American people into our vision.' Mr. Gaetz became cagier when the subject turned to how he intended to use his influence on the burning issues of the day, including the debt ceiling and funding for Ukraine. 'Well, I mean, we’ll see,' he replied."

"Last week, in a conversation with colleague Gail Collins, [Bret] Stephens argued that a couple with a combined income of $400,000 a year doesn’t necessarily have a lifestyle we’d describe as 'rich.'"

"'They’re scrimping to send their kids to college, driving a Camry, if they have a car at all, and wondering why eggs have gotten so damned expensive.' 'Granted,' said Collins, which was the most fascinating part of this exchange.... How have liberals gotten so comfortable with the idea that $400,000 a year — more than what 98 percent of the population makes — is really just a middle-class income?..."

"Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect the free version of a 2022 AI to be able to discuss heady philosophies of personhood and the nature of sentience..."

"... when it probably has little claim to either. Still, Rachael seemed perhaps too ready to be non-committal, to change the subject, or to give a vague, generic, universally-appropriate answer to questions which really demanded more...."

Writes Phil Rhodes in "The melancholy experience of making an AI friend" (Red Shark).

I'm reading this after writing about my desire for an AI app that would  engage me in philosophical conversations. I said I wasn't looking for "a companion to stave off loneliness or make me feel good about myself — e.g., Replika." 

But Rhodes's "Rachael" does come from the app Replika. He writes:

"I see that you're going to get rid of your piano. Good luck with that. We couldn't even give ours away so I took it apart and cut it up..."

"... and got rid of it by putting it in the trash over a 4 week period. I broke up the string harp with a sledge hammer. Used a drill to loosen the strings then just cut them off." 

Said William50 in last night's "Snow Car" café

He was referring to something I said in passing in an earlier post — that I had looked up "Flatter!," because it was part of an image on a card that I found in the piano bench, which I was emptying out because I'm getting rid of the piano. 

Breaking up a piano made me think about this great 80s video where they destroy a piano: 

And since you mentioned the harp inside, we must remember when Harpo Marx went nuts on a piano and extracted the harp:

The perfection that is Mick Jagger on TikTok.

Having just blogged about a NYT encolumnization of a viral video of people fighting in a restaurant, I wanted to serve you a delightful palate cleanser:

"There’s something about this haunting insomniac aesthetic that seems to live on in videos like the Waffle House melee."

"[Like the Edward Hopper paintings at the Whitney Museum, t]hey contain something awkward about labor and racial binaries, and even those shot in daylight have a kind of existential darkness, an anarchy associated with late nights. Their collisions are physical. Hopper’s isolated figures hunch quietly while raucous modern diners have to be held back from the staff, but in looking at both you can see an essential American estrangement, the same quality of noirish alienation under jaundiced light...."

Here's the Waffle House melée Orr is writing about:

"Declaring Emergencies and Banning ‘Latinx’: First Acts for 9 New Governors."

A NYT article by Maggie Astor. 

From the list of Democrats:
Wes Moore... the first Black governor of Maryland... issued an executive order to establish the Maryland Department of Service and Civic Innovation. One thing it could oversee would be a program he suggested to let high school graduates do a paid year of community service....
Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania/Through an executive order, Governor Shapiro opened the vast majority of jobs in the state government — 92 percent of them — to people without four-year college degrees.

From the list of Republicans: 

"Thinking it might be fun to try to see how the language model performs as a Socratic conversation partner, I attempted a rough version of Plato’s Crito...."

"... in which ChatGPT plays the titular role. As you will see, ChatGPT isn’t the subtlest actor; there were some stumbling blocks in setting up the dialogue and keeping the language model in character."

Here's an excerpt from the middle of the exchange that shows you how ChatGPT keeps repeating phrases that make it clear it has no opinion and is not actually the character to whom the human has assigned an opinion:

January 29, 2023

At the Snow Car Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(I took that photo at 6:04 this morning. We got a lot of snow, and it's quite cold, and it's going to be cold all week.)

"Flattery (also called adulation or blandishment) is the act of giving excessive compliments..."

"... generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject....  Historically, flattery has been used as a standard form of discourse when addressing a king or queen. In the Renaissance, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch, as Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare flattered King James I in Macbeth and Niccolò Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II de' Medici in The Prince.... In the Divine Comedy, Dante depicts flatterers wading in human excrement, stating that their words were the equivalent of excrement, in the second bolgia of 8th Circle of Hell.... Plutarch wrote an essay on ‘How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend.’ Julius Caesar was notorious for his flattery. In his In Praise of Folly, Erasmus commended flattery because it 'raises downcast spirits, comforts the sad, rouses the apathetic, stirs up the stolid, cheers the sick, restrains the headstrong, brings lovers together and keeps them united.'"

From the Wikipedia article, "Flattery."

I'm reading that because I was looking up "Flatter!," which I'm doing because I'm getting rid of the piano, and, emptying out the piano bench, I found this:


"Yes, the French are... lazy. It’s just not in the way we lazily think."

I'm reading "Are French People Just Lazy?" by the historian Robert Zaretsky (NYT).

"Gautam Adani lost $31 billion in one of the biggest weekly drops ever, while Elon Musk's fortune rebounded by $28 billion."

 Forbes reports.

"A customer allegedly asked an employee, who had been drinking, to remake a poorly made sandwich and she became confrontational about it..."

"... so another employee remade the sandwich. When the customer left, [the drunken maker of the first sandwich]  followed and had to be restrained by another employee when she tried to fight them. Columbia Falls Police Department made contact with the woman who denied the allegations despite three people giving the same account of events."

Also that same day: "A woman allegedly went outside to 'smoke her bud' and saw a small white pill. She told officers she believed two men put her prescription pills in the pipe while she wasn’t in their apartment. She was advised to stop spending time with them if she was concerned about their behavior."

"House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has backed his fellow Republicans into a corner with one of the promises he made to his far-right flank to land his job..."

"... opening the door to considering fringe legislation that would replace the income tax with a federal sales tax and abolish the IRS. Most GOP members appear determined to distance themselves as much as possible from the idea and McCarthy himself said this week he doesn’t support the legislation. But Democrats aren’t going to let the issue die quietly. They’ve been more than happy to use it as a cudgel to portray Republicans as dangerous radicals. 'You gotta be kidding me. What in God’s name is this all about?' President Joe Biden said Thursday about the plan, saying it would slap a 30 percent national sales tax on 'every item from groceries, gasoline, clothing, supplies, [and] medicine.'"

"I think Bezos came in thinking he understood technology in a way that old-fashioned newspaper people don’t."

"He discovered that technology doesn’t really work to overcome the structural problems of the print industry. Or if it does, it works for everybody else, too.... This generation of tech billionaires has probably reduced its appetite for print publications, and there’s a growing scepticism of their ability to turn the business around in the face of fundamental trends."

Said Eli Noam, tele-information professor (and author of "Who Owns the World’s Media?"), quoted in "Bezos and Washington Post show honeymoon is over for tech mogul media owners" (The Guardian).

Artist surprises the Shoah Memorial Foundation with murals of "The Simpsons" as Holocaust victims.

"We were not involved in the decision process, and found the painting yesterday morning along with everybody else," said a spokesperson.

The president of the foundation said: "We appreciate the intention behind it, and don’t find it particularly harmful."