Archive for January, 2023

2023/01/20

County Jury Duty

Well, that’s over! For another six years (for state / country / town) or four years (for Federal). This is probably going to be chatty and relatively uninteresting.

Top tip: park in the parking lot under the library; it’s very convenient to the courthouse (although you still have to walk outside for a bit, and it was windy and rainy yesterday).

I had to report originally on Friday (the 13th!) because Monday was MLK day. On Friday 60-70 of us sat around in a big auditoriumish jury room for a while, with WiFi and allowed to use our cellphones and everything. Then they called attendance and talked about random things like the $40/day stipend if our employer doesn’t pay us or we’re self-employed (where did that tiny amount of money come from, one wonders) and where to park and so on. Then we were basically allowed to decide whether to come back on Tuesday or Wednesday (although I imagine if you were far down the perhaps-random list and most people had said one, you had to take the other).

A cute isomorphic pixel-art image of a bunch of people waiting around in a large room. Note this does not accurately reflect the County Courthouse except in spirit. Image by me using Midjourney OF COURSE.

I elected to come back on Wednesday for no particular reason. We were originally supposed to arrive on Wednesday at 9:30am, but over the weekend they called and said to arrive at 11am instead. Due to an inconvenient highway ramp closure and a detour through an area of many traffic lights, I got there at 11:10 or so and felt guilty, but hahaha it didn’t matter.

In the big Jury Room again, the 30+ of us waited around for a long time, then were led upstairs to wait around in the hallway outside the courtroom, and then after waiting some more were ushered into the courtroom to sit in the Audience section, and introduced to the judge and some officers, and then dismissed until 2pm for lunch (seriously!).

Some time after 2pm they let us back into the courtroom and talked to us for awhile about how it was a case involving this and that crime, and might take up to a month to try, and the judge is busy doing other things on Mondays and Thursday mornings so it would be only 3.5 days / week. Then they called 18 names, and those people moved from the Audience section to the Jury Box section. They started asking them the Judge Questions (where do you live, how long have you lived there, what do you do, what does your spouse and possible children do, do you have any family members who are criminal lawyers, etc, etc), and we got though a relatively small number of people and it was 4:30pm and time to go home.

I had a bit of a hard time sleeping, thinking about what the right answers to The Questions would be (how many times have I been on a jury in all those years? did we deliberate? do I know anyone in Law Enforcement? does the NSA count? should I slip in a reference to Jury Nullification to avoid being on the jury, or the opposite?) and like that.

Since the judge is busy on Thursday mornings, we appeared back at the courtroom at 2pm on Thursday, and waited around for quite awhile in the hallway, then went in and they got through questioning the rest of the 18 people in the Jury Box (after the judge asked the Judge Questions, the People and the Defense asked some questions also, although it was mostly discussions of how police officers sometimes but not always lie under oath, and how DNA evidence is sometimes right but now always, and how it’s important to be impartial and unbiased and so on, disguised as question asking).

Then they swore in like 6 of those 18 people, told the rest of the 18 that they were done with Jury Duty, and told the rest of us in the Audience section to come back at 9:30am on Friday (today!).

At 9:30 nothing happened for quite awhile in the hallway outside the auditorium, then for no obvious reason they started to call us into the courtroom one person at a time by name. There got to be fewer and fewer people, and then finally it was just me which was unusual and then they called my name and I went in. The Jury Box was now entirely full of people, so I sat in the Audience Section (the only person in the Audience Section!).

Then I sat there while the judge asked the same ol’ Judge Questions to every one of the dozen+ people (I know, I don’t have the numbers quite consistent) ahead of me, and then finally, as the last person to get them, I got them. And the Judge went through them pretty quickly, perhaps because he’d said earlier that he wanted to finish with this stage by lunchtime, and I had no chance to be indecisive about the issue of following his legal instructions exactly and only being a Trier of Fact, or anything else along those lines.

Then we had another couple of lectures disguised as questions, plus some questions, from The People and the The Defense. I’d mentioned the cat as someone who lived with me (got a laugh from that, but the Whole Truth, right?), and The People asked me the cat’s name and nature, and when I said it was Mia and she was hostile to everyone, The People thanked me for not bringing her with me (haha, lighten the mood, what?). And asked about my impartiality.

Now we’d had a bunch of people from extensive cop families say boldly that they couldn’t promise not to be biased against the defendant (and when The Defense I think it was asked if anyone would assume from The Defendant’s name on the indictment that He Must Have Done Something a couple people even raised their hands (whaaaaat)), and I perhaps as a result and perhaps foolishly said that while my sympathies would generally be with a defendant, I would be able to put that aside and be unbiased and fair and all.

So The People asked me if I could promise “100%” that I would not be affected by that sympathy, and I said quite reasonably that hardly any sentences with “100%” in them are true, and the judge cut in to say that he would be instructing the jurors to put stuff like that aside (implying that then I would surely be able to), and I said that I would (but just didn’t say “100%”) and then The People came back in saying that they need people who are “certain” they can be unbiased (so, no way), but then actually asked me if I was “confident” that I could be (a vastly lower bar) so I said yes I would.

And when all of that was over, they had us all go out to the hallway again, and wait for awhile, and then go back in to sit in the same seats. And then they had I think four of us stand up and be sworn in as jurors, and the rest of us could go out with the officer and sit in the big jury room again until they had our little papers ready to say that we’d served four days of Jury Duty.

And that was it!

My impression is that they were looking for (inter alia, I’m sure) people who either believe, or are willing to claim to believe, that they can with certainty be 100% unbiased in their findings as jurors. That is, people who are in this respect either mistaken, or willing to lie. And that’s weird; I guess otherwise there’s too much danger of appeals or lawsuits or something? (Only for Guilty verdicts, presumably, since Not Guilty verdicts are unexaminable?) The Judge did say several times that something (the State, maybe?) demands a Yes or No answer to his “could you be an unbiased Juror and do as you’re told?” question, and when people said “I’ll try” or “I think so” or “I’d do my best” or whatever, he insisted on a “Yes” or a “No”. (So good on the honesty for those cop-family people saying “No”, I suppose.)

So if my calculations are roughly correct, after ummm two or 2.5 days of Jury Selection, they’ve selected only about 10 jurors, and exhausted the Jan 13th jury draw; so since they need at least 12 jurors and 2 (and perhaps more like 6) alternates, they’re going to be at this for some time yet! (Hm, unless it’s not a felony case? In which case 10 might be enough? But it sounded like a felony case.)

2023/01/18

The Klara Trilogy is done!

The story of Klara, written by me channeling the Collective Unconscious, illustrated by me using Midjourney, and narrated and set to music and videographed by the talented Karima Hoisan, is finally finished!

I originally thought it was finished at the end of the first forty-frame thing; and then when I did Part Two at about the same length, I thought it was finished; and now having struggled for months on Part Three I’m pretty sure it actually is done. :)

Having just watched Karima’s videos of all three parts in order (playlist here!), I’m glad various viewers convinced me not to stop at one or two parts. It’s pretty good!

And I say this with all modesty; I feel like this story came through me, more than like it is something that I did. The comments over in Karima’s weblog, and her narration, have suggested various meanings and facets to me that I hadn’t thought of before.

In terms of the experience of creating it, it’s been interesting to see the various phases of interaction with the AI tool. I started out Part One by creating various variations of the prompt “detailed surrealism” on the v3 engine on Midjourney, and then weaving the story around pretty much whatever came out.

It happens that in v3, that prompt pretty reliably produces scenes from a stylistically coherent universe, including the MJ Girl, who plays the part of Klara in the first two parts. In Part Two, I had a bit more of an idea of what I wanted to happen, in a general way, but continued using v3 and the same prompt. This required somewhat more work, because it would produce images that didn’t fit with the story I wanted, so I had to put those aside and make more. But the style was at least not much trouble.

Part Three was quite different. For plot reasons, being in basically a different reality, the style needed to be different. It was relatively easy to do that, by using the “test” and “testp” engines, either alone or by “remastering” images made under v3. But the resulting images, while different from those of the first two parts, weren’t nearly as consistent among themselves as those of parts one and two. So I had to play around a lot more with the workflows and the prompts, and produce quite a few more pictures, to get a reasonably consistent style.

The style of Part Three still shifts around quite a bit; the flavor of the city, the color of Klara’s hair, the cat’s fur, and many other things change somewhat from panel to panel, but I wanted a nice mixture of consistent and in flux; and that took work!

Then there was the Story issue. The beginning “recap” part of Part Three was relatively easy that way, summarizing the story of the first two parts from a different point of view. But then I quickly got stuck; I wanted to do something more satisfying and less random than I would get by letting the AI’s raw output drive the action. For whatever reason, it took me quite awhile to find the story thread that I liked, and then about as long to create (or obtain, if you prefer!) the images to go with it.

(The images still drove the narrative to some extent; for instance the firefly line, which I adore, was inspired by the image that goes with it, not vice-versa.)

But finally I finished! :) And Karima made the video in record time, and there it is! Woooo!

I keep feeling like I should make it into good PDFs, or something (even) more readable, and officially post links to that; maybe even have it printed somewhere onto atoms. On the other hand, without the narrative and music and video, it would hardly be the same… :)

2023/01/16

Little Imaginary Diagrams

I asked Midjourney for some simple proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. The results make me happy. :)

(On the text side: GPT-2 and even GPT-3 might have hallucinated something interesting. ChatGPT would just error out a few times and then give a boring literal description of one in a condescending tone. My ability to be interested in ChatGPT as an interaction partner is severely limited by how boring it is. But anyway, back to the pictures!)

Presented without comment (beyond the alt text):

A geometric diagram with various lines and colored areas and illegible labels (some of which may be small integers). Amusingly, there do not appear to be any right triangles.
A geometric diagram with various lines and colored areas and labels. Some labels are illegible, but there is an 8, a 3, a 4, and a few 1's. Some of the colored areas contain brick patterns, and there is a random architectural arch and a few other map-like textures thrown in.
A comparatively simple geometric diagram of lines and colored areas. There is a right triangle labeled E textured in a pebbly pattern, a rectangle labelled with a G and a unfamiliar glyph, and various areas with fine blue stripes.
A relatively modern-looking flat geometrical diagram containing three triangles (two of them right triangles) in gradients of different colors, a large grey striped area, and various lines. There are labels that look vaguely numeric, but are basically unreadable.

I hope you find these at least as amusing, endearing, and/or thought-provoking as I do. :)

2023/01/07

Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls in a glass baking dish

I had one or more Parker House Rolls somewhere once, at some time in the past, and recently something reminded me of them, and today I made some!

Basically this is just a slightly sweet buttery sticky yeast-raised dough, not kneaded, divided into sixteen small loaves and baked all together in the same baking dish so that they grow somewhat back together again and you can have the fun of separating them.

(Even a non-yeast leavened dough might work; I wonder what would happen? This is the kind of thing I wonder about.)

Various recipes on the interwebs (pretty much all of them, really) call for stuff that I don’t have at hand, like sea salt, kosher salt, potato flakes, vegetable shortening, whole milk for that matter, and so on; and also stuff that I don’t have the patience for (or for cleaning up after), like separating eggs, or using very specific attachments and settings of an electric mixer. None of these appear to be necessary.

Here’s the recipe that I roughly actually used; it’s probably closest to this one, but with anything that seemed like too much work or I didn’t have in the house left out.

Parker House Rolls (makes 16)

1 1/4 Cup milk (any kind really; if you use skim, maybe add some extra butter), warmed
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 Cup sugar
Some salt (I dunno maybe a tsp.)
2 Eggs
8 Tbsp (one stick) butter (unsalted if you have it), softened
4ish Cups of flour

Warm up the milk to room temperature or a bit more, in the microwave or whatever. Similarly, soften the butter by mashing it with a fork, putting it in the microwave on Defrost, or whatever. You can even melt it, but it may impact the consistency of the finished product if you do, I dunno.

Mix the warm milk, yeast, and 2 Tbps (half) of the sugar in the big yellow bowl or other largish mixing bowl. Let that sit for 5-10 minutes. It may or may not froth up and get foamy if the yeast is feeling especially active; don’t sweat it either way.

Add the rest of the sugar, the salt, the eggs, and 6 Tbsp (three quarters) of the butter to the bowl, mix briefly.

Add two cups of flour, and mix until incorporated. You can use a stand mixer or anything else you like in this step, or just a sturdy spoon and main strength. Continue adding flour, about half a cup at a time or whatever you like, until you have a sticky dough that is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, but still sticking to the bottom, or at least showing signs that it would like to. Depending on how soft you softened the butter, there may be lumps of butter in the dough; squash some of them if so, but don’t worry about it too much.

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or house-rules equivalent, and let sit for say 90 minutes in a cozy place.

After 90 minutes, remove the cloth and gently punch down the dough. Flour your hands because it will have gotten even stickier while rising! Divide the dough into 16 pieces, without unnecessary kneading or other roughness.

For traditionally-formed rolls, flatten each piece and fold it in half; or divide the dough into four pieces and for each piece fold it in half and cut it into quarters, similarly resulting in 16 folded pieces. Or look up various other more elaborate forming methods on the interwebs.

Put the 16 pieces in a four-by-four array (folded edges down) into a 9×13 inch lightly greased (lightly cooking-sprayed is simplest) baking dish; they should be touching each other.

Cover with a damp cloth or equivalent again, and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350°F while the dough gets a final few minutes of rising, then remove the cloth and pop the baking dish into the oven. Cook for 25 minutes or until looking pleasantly (but not darkly!) brown on top, or whenever your intuition tells you they’re done.

Brush tops with the remaining 2 Tbs of butter. Let cool for a bit in the baking dish, then tear apart to serve.

May be kept or frozen like any bread that has butter and milk and eggs and no preservatives, but really you’re going to eat them all almost immediately, aren’t you?

2023/01/01

Review of Ishiguro’s “Klara and the Sun”

This is an amazing book (a Christmas present from the little daughter; thanks, little daughter!). I will just post my review from bookwyrm here also.


An amazing book; can I have more stars to give it?

5 stars

This is one of those very rare books that reminds me of what books are at some level all about. That makes me want to go about and knock about two stars off of 99% of my prior book ratings, to make room to properly differentiate this one.

It’s hard to say too much that’s concrete, without giving it away. I was closer to tears at the end of this than I can remember with any book for a long time. Not easy maudlin tears, but deep oh-my-god tears about what a universe this is.

The people are very fully people; the viewpoint character is not a person, but … well, that would be a spoiler also. But the viewpoint it gives her allows Ishiguro to say some amazing and touching and true and thought-provoking things without coming out and saying them (because nothing he could come out and say would say them so well).

Language cannot express truth, I often say; but what I mean is that it can’t explicitly express literal truth. Language, when it’s used with this much expertise, can and does express deep and breathtaking truth.

I need to go spend a few weeks processing this now, I think.

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you should.


… and you should.